What I Learned in February and the Beginning of March

February

I sat down to write this post on the final day of February, in a few snatches of time here and there. I barely had an opening before I was pulled away, so I left my laptop in hibernation and intended to come back later that night.

It’s the early hours of March 3rd now, and it’s the first time I’ve touched my keyboard since. In a way, I can barely believe I’m even typing these words now. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing it. This time, it isn’t because I have a particular point to make, or I feel witty, or even that the blog stats are down. I think maybe it’s because I need to empty my heart, but my journal pages are already tear-soaked and inky. Maybe it’s because even though my heart feels like it’s shattering, I believe someone will understand what little bits of it I scatter here. For once, I don’t know why I’m writing a post, and I don’t have the energy to figure it out.

February 28th and then March 1st were the hardest days of my life. I can’t remember what I learned in the other 27 days of February, because they seem so distant and blurred now. Anything I do vaguely recall doesn’t feel important anymore. On February 28th, I realized my dear grandmother wasn’t going to make it through the night. And then within the first hour of March’s first day, she was gone. After fighting a terminal illness for ten years, she was called home to Heaven. I know she’s overjoyed right now; I can imagine her running down gold-paved streets, smelling the most fragrant roses and breathing deeply at last. I can hear her telling me to be happy for her, and I am relieved to know she isn’t suffering anymore. But it still hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, because I loved her so much. That’s one of the things I’ve learned, I guess.

Usually, I make a list for this type of post, but there’s another lesson: Life doesn’t fit in lists. Sometimes, the smaller things do, but the desperate, gritty moments are impossible to pin down, or even fully understand.

In the last few days, I learned that words don’t always matter. The writer in me always wants to find the perfect ones, but they don’t always exist. The night Mom-mom passed away, I don’t remember much of what was said. I just remember the family gathering around; the way we blended sorrow and hope; and the moments when someone would hold me tight when I couldn’t hold myself together. The things I really remember, the things that truly mattered, I can’t put in words. They’re too sacred and raw to be contained in a few sentences.

Until this point, I had only watched true grief from the fringes. I had been the one trying to offer comfort for others’ losses; the one unsure what to say, if anything. Now the tables have turned, and I’ve learned what it means to grieve. I have learned we all process sorrow differently. I think it’s because we all love differently; we’re all created differently, and that spills into mourning and coping and going on. Yet despite doing it uniquely, we can’t do it alone. I’ve felt like being alone too much in the last few days, and so I’ve learned not to trust my feelings in this valley. Because isolation won’t help me heal. Yes, I need solitude but I also need the circle of people I can hold onto. Grief is dark and lonely enough as it is, and being constantly alone doesn’t make it any lighter.

I’ve learned that a little gesture can go a long way. Although words aren’t everything, the right ones can help. I shared the news of my grandmother’s passing on my social media first, and the comments and messages I received helped me feel a little less alone. It’s not always a big thing; sometimes the smallest things convey the greatest love. Like a friend sending me a text to make sure I’m okay, or getting me out of the house so I can get away from everything for a while; those things have been lifelines to me.

Something else I learned is that laughter is truly medicine. I’d always liked that Proverb, because I love to laugh, but it wasn’t until this week that I considered laughter medicine. I wondered if I would ever laugh again when Mom-mom passed away, but I have. Even until my sides ached. I felt guilty the first time, but she was a lady who laughed easily and often, so the sound of laughter makes me feel close to her again. And laughing seems to heal a little bit of the fracture in my heart. I think there’s a reason the Proverb compares laughter to medicine. Medicine isn’t taken unless you’re sick; laughter is needed most when you’re hurting.

The last lesson I learned was really more of a reminder: God keeps His promises. His Word promises healing, and my mom-mom has hers at last, in a place far better than this earth. She’s living the promise of Revelation 21:4-5 now:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:4-5, KJV)

And even in my sadness, I take comfort in knowing I will see her again.

One day, when all things are new.

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P.S. One last thing: It probably goes without saying, but I don’t know how soon I’ll be back to posting regularly. February was an unsteady month as Mom-mom’s health declined, and I know March will be difficult for me as well. I didn’t take a formal “leave” from the blog last month, but I am for some time this month. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I do truly enjoy sharing with you here, so it may not be overly long. But I don’t have the emotional capacity to pressure myself, so I’m not setting an official timeline. I’ll look forward to sharing life again with you when I return! Thank you for being here, and reading this far. It truly means a great deal to me. ❤ — Sarah

Forward into ’15

Go forward: 2015

Eleven days into 2015, and zero posts until now. That was definitely not one of my resolutions. I have such high hopes for this year, and myself in it, but the truth is I’m having trouble shifting into this New Year at all.

I don’t mean that I’m still writing 2014 on all my checks and journal entries, although I actually just did that. I feel like I’m still living in 2014, repeating all the patterns I want to change in 2015. This first week and a half has been unstructured and rather sporadic, reminding me of last year.

2014 was filled with changes, most of them out of my control. So much shifted, from my priorities and responsibilities to my dreams and relationships. I spent much of the year split between fighting the wave of change and learning how to ride it. Last year tested my faith and forced me to trust God; to wait on Him. More often than not, it meant simply being still. Which, for me, meant waiting anxiously for something and going partly crazy because I felt like I was doing nothing. For a girl who likes being in control and keeping busy, it’s a hard lesson to learn.

It didn’t go perfectly, and I have a lot more growing to do. Eventually, though, I settled into the stillness. (For the most part, anyway; my family could tell you I still had my “moments.”) Overall, though, I had to accept that God was doing something in the seasons of nothing. I had to learn not to fight those times, and even to give thanks for nothing. Not all the answers in life are instant or permanent, and it’s a little easier to see that now. I stopped trying to figure everything out and gave up my “five-year plan.” (And also my ten, fifteen and twenty year plans.) I don’t know what’s happening next month, or even all that could happen in the next two weeks. Even so, I know God is truly in control, not just because my Pinterest quotes say so, but because I have seen Him arrange my life before. I have seen what happens when I finally get out of the way and give Him space. 2014 was the year of being still and seeing the salvation of the Lord. It was the year Exodus 14:13-14 came true for me.

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…… 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”  

That was hard to accept initially, but it truly worked and now I’m rather comfortable where I am. There are still other things I want to accomplish, dreams for me to chase, yet the routine of 2014 has at last become familiar. I might not be completely satisfied, but I’m safe here in the waiting… In the stillness.

And now that I’ve found the faith to wait on God… I have a dilemma. He’s asking me to have the faith to go forward again.

In verse 15 of that same passage, in 2015 of this same girl’s life, the stillness has ended. To paraphrase that verse, the Lord says, “Why do you cry to me? … Go forward.” (emphasis mine.) 

Go forward? It’s what I was straining for last year, before I learned the importance of being still. In 2014, I didn’t need to go forward. I had been racing forward too long, and needed to slow down. To stop. Breathe. Rest. Wait.

Now? I’ve found that rhythm of silence. And I’m afraid to leave it. It’s puzzling, how last year, being still seemed like the worst thing. I was chomping at the bit for the command to go. It’s finally come, and suddenly I want to curl up and stay still.

It’s what I’ve done for the last several days, fighting the strain of going forward. If I go forward, I have to move into the unknown. This season of stillness has given me a chance to recover my faith and grow it gently. If I move ahead, it will be tested all over. It will be strained and shaken and forced to dig its roots deeper in the rough patches.

In the nothingness, I could dream safely about the someday’s filled with something’s. If I go forward into that someday, and start doing that something, I’m afraid those daydreams will be shattered. What if I fail at everything I’ve been waiting to accomplish? What if I somehow mistake where God is leading me, and derail onto the wrong road entirely?

Forward is frightening. Moving forward might mean falling or failing.

But the time has come. If I want to live my life as a symphony of God’s grace, it’s time to start playing the song. I can no longer be silent, even if it means I’ll be missing beats and playing plenty of wrong notes.

The faith I learned through stillness has to carry me forward now. It’s time.

What are you going forward into this year? 

Forward into 2015!

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New Year’s Symphony

My final post for the year. Already, it has come to this. In a matter of minutes, everything will bear the date of 2015. That’s hard to believe, especially considering I wrote 2013 on something just last month. I was finally getting used to writing 2014, and now I have to readjust again.

I didn’t accomplish everything I planned to in 2014. In fact, most of my plans were turned upside down or torn up completely. Most of my accomplishments were entirely unplanned. In some ways, I’ve changed dramatically, and in others I still have a great deal of growing to do. Still, I don’t feel totally like the girl who crossed from 2013 into 2014, and I know I have the chance to change entering 2015. No matter how many resolutions I failed in the past, something about a brand new year fills me with hope: Hope to do more, see more, be more. To change more and make more.

For a girl who typically resists change, I tend to stack too much of it on the brink of each New Year.  I once made a dozen resolutions, only to forget them all by Valentine’s Day.

So this year, even though I have goals, I don’t want to make them the center of my plans. After all, if there’s one thing I have learned this year, it’s that plans change. I’m tired of making long lists where I either quit and feel like a failure, or succeed yet still feel empty. My desire is for 2015 to be a deeper year, one of true growth. I don’t want to measure my success this year by how much I produce or earn, but by the person I become.

Yes, I’m still going to try the usual things, like getting healthier and becoming more organized. What I really want, though, is to change my way of living. I don’t want this to be another year where I miss the miracles around me, where I go through each day and forget about the One who gave me those days.

I found these beautiful words from William Ellery Channing a while ago, but I’ve adopted them as my mantra for 2015.

 To live content with small means, 
To seek elegance rather than luxury, 
    and refinement rather than fashion. 
To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. 
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars, birds, babes, and sages with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. 
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, 
    grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony. 

– William Ellery Channing, “My Symphony”

To remind me of this each day, I made some simple quote prints. Each time I see them, I hope I’ll remember that life is a miraculous gift. 2014 was a gift, despite coming in an assorted box of good and bad, and 2015 will be the same way.

Symphony bird printSymphony tree print

If you would like to share that reminder, you can download the free prints in 8×10 size here, or in postcard format here. For the 8×10 size, there is a design with birds, a text-only one, and one featuring trees. The postcards are printed with either birds or trees. 

As the final notes of this year fade into silence, and the symphony begins to play for 2015, I hope our new songs will be beautiful. No matter what changes come- both in our control and out of it- I pray we will have courage and strength. I pray that when we don’t, we will allow ourselves to be carried and comforted by God’s unfailing love, and covered in His grace.

Most of all, I pray we will make the most of every new beginning. Of our fresh year, and each fresh day in it.

Happy New Year, dears! May your days in 2015 be filled with unsinkable joy, unshakable peace, and unwavering hope.

I’m looking forward to sharing another year with you.

Blog SignatureP. S. Be sure to check out these inspiring New Years Posts from a couple of my favorite bloggers, as well. 🙂

2014 Going on 2015 from Rana at the Villain Authoress 

Turn to Face the New Year from Miriam at Wishful Thinking 

30 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow is the start of NaNoWriMo, more formally known as National Novel Writing Month. It’s the challenge to write 50,000 words, or one draft of a novel, in a single month.

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Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Or as I like to explain it, thirty days and nights of caffeine, creativity and craziness, all written down for you to admire (or gasp at) come December.

Maybe you’ve been a NaNoWriMo-er before, maybe you’re considering it, or maybe you’ve never heard of it until now.

Whichever category applies to you, if you are a writer, I think you have a reason to become a National Novel Writing Month Writer. 30 reasons, in fact, and probably more. But since there are only 30 days of writing frenzy for November, and because I should really be working on my novel instead of making this list, I’ll just stick to 30 reasons.

If you’re on the fence about NaNoWriMo, maybe this list will help your decision. If you’re wondering why anyone would want to do NaNoWriMo, perhaps this can explain a bit. Or maybe when you’re deep in the heart of your story, shivering and scribbling through November, you can pull out this list and remember why you started in the first place.

Without further ado, I give you, 30 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo!

  1. You like to write. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure you won’t enjoy NaNoWriMo. Why not dedicate this month to something else you enjoy? If, however, you do enjoy writing, then there’s a solid chance you will enjoy NaNoWriMo.
  2. You have a story to tell. Even if you haven’t worked out the specifics, if you have a spark, NaNoWriMo will fan the flames into a wildfire.
  3. It’s a challenge. The goal is to write an entire first draft of 50,000 words in 30 days (and nights. You will be writing at odd hours, I guarantee it.) If you like the thrill of a challenge, what could be better than scaling Mount WriMo?
  4. You will have stories to tell. This isn’t the same as #2. No, what I mean is, after 30 days of crazed writing, you will have some interesting stories about the experience. Like the time you had a packed schedule, exams to study for, and not enough sleep, but still kept writing, thus getting sick and being out of commission for two days. Not like I did that last year or anything… But it does make an interesting story, and it sounds almost noble. Or insane. 
  5. It’s competitive. Even if you’re just competing with yourself, entering that word count is motivating. On the days I fall behind, the feeling of competition gets me writing enough to get ahead.
  6. It’s inspiring. Just logging on to the NaNoWriMo site makes me want to write an entire book in an hour. It makes me feel like I am a writer, despite doubts, and I can tell this story. (Maybe not in a hour, but it’s empowering all the same.) I especially love the pep talks they share. They’re often witty and amusing, and they offer practical advice on how to succeed with both the challenge and writing in general.
  7. It’s global. Writing can be lonely, but NaNoWriMo provides a community. You connect with so many people, and even if you don’t converse, you know they’re in your corner. It can be inspiring just to read other writers’ profiles and see their novel progress (and then compete with them, as mentioned in #5)
  8. You can blog about it. I certainly plan to!
  9. You can do it with friends. NaNoWriMo doesn’t just let you meet other writers. You can share it with the writers you already know! Last year, one of my best friends took the challenge with me, and it’s become one of my favorite memories with her. We spent November sharing progress updates, complaining about stubborn characters, drinking coffee and plotting our next moves. In fact, we got so into the challenge, we invented our own in January to do it all again. If you have any friends who are also writers, or want to be writers, invite them to try NaNoWriMo with you.
  10. It’s an excuse to drink extra coffee, or tea, or both.
  11. It’s also an excellent excuse for getting out of things. If someone invites you somewhere you don’t want to go, you can simply smile and offer an apology, with the words, “I have a novel to write.” (That said, even NaNoWriMo can’t be used as an excuse for everything. Sorry, fellow introverts.)
  12. It’s a great topic of conversation. I love telling people about NaNoWriMo! If they don’t get why you’re taking part in this somewhat crazy event, feel free to refer them back here.
  13. November brings the perfect novel-writing weather. Hot chocolate + knitted blanket = noveling essentials
  14. Writing becomes a priority. This is one of the biggest reasons I love NaNoWriMo. Dedicating the month to my novel means I actually have to write it. It become a real, tangible goal rather than something I’ll do “later.” Even if I don’t feel ready, I have to sit down and write my story.
  15. It shuts down the inner editor. A lot of the time, perfection stops progress. NaNoWriMo forces participants to write fast to keep up. When you’re going at that speed, you have to step out of your own way or get steamrolled by your own story. A novel is never perfect the first time, but it can’t be improved unless it’s written. NaNoWriMo helps get that messy first draft out.
  16. You know how if you talk too much, you lose your voice? It’s the opposite in writing. The more you say, the more you get written down, the clearer and stronger your voice becomes. NaNoWriMo is a month long conversation between you and your characters and story. When I took the challenge, it helped me find my voice because I wasn’t stopping to censor it.
  17. You will become a stronger writer. NaNoWriMo is like a month-long fitness program for writing muscles. There is strain, and sometimes pain, but it builds writing power and endurance that will stretch beyond the month.
  18. It establishes writing habits. Often by the first week, you’ve figured out which writing habits work for you. Do you like to write in the morning, at lunchtime, in the evening? Do you need silence, music or the sound of thunderstorms? Do you prefer to write at a desk or on your bed? Do you need pajamas and messy hair, or do you make yourself presentable first? There’s no single method for writing, and NaNoWriMo encourages you to find the ones that work for you.
  19. After spending a solid month with them, you’ll really get to know your characters. They become real. And they hang out even after the month ends.
  20. It becomes easier and easier to enter your fictional world. Your story’s setting becomes a real place, and the more time you spend in it, the more you learn about it.
  21. You must write. So many times, we wait for inspiration, for the right words, the right moment. NaNoWriMo takes no excuses. Because writing is a priority, (see #14) you have to show up everyday, sit down and do it. NaNoWriMo is a tool for making me stick to that.
  22. Writer’s block gets smashed. That’s not to say writer’s block doesn’t happen during November. I’ve definitely had writer’s block during NaNoWriMo. But because I had a word count to reach, I couldn’t stop writing. NaNoWriMo forced me to write around that block, to push through it. It kept me going even when stopping seemed easier. It taught me the only way to beat writer’s block is to attack it head-on.
  23. You’ll never feel more like a writer. 
  24. It’s exciting. There’s something thrilling about watching your story grow in a month, and seeing your word count skyrocket.
  25. It’s rewarding. In the same way it’s exciting, this challenge really pays off. Your reward at the end is 50,000 of your own words- the first draft of your story. What better prize is there? To celebrate, NaNoWriMo also offers some awesome winner’s goodies, but I won’t spoil that 😉
  26. It gives you confidence. NaNoWriMo proved to me that I can write more than 1,000 words in a day. It boosted my confidence as a writer, and also as a person. Doing NaNoWriMo is like getting author super powers.
  27. You will learn a lot about writing in a short time. By the end of November, I could already tell I had improved as a writer. There’s so much to take in, and packing it into one month avoids gaps.
  28. Your novel needs you. It deserves to be told, and only you can tell it. NaNoWriMo helps.
  29. Someone needs your novel. No one else can tell your story, and if you don’t, no one else can read it. Someone out there needs your words. It could be your best friend, a stranger, or simply yourself. NaNoWriMo will help you write and share those words.
  30. Why not? Just give it a try. If you happen to decide NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, it’s okay. But it could also be just what you need to get your novel out there. You’ll never know until you try.

Are you going to be part of NaNoWriMo this November? Is there anything you would add to the list? Happy Novel Writing Month!

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