Sunday, December 27, 2015

//the power of peace


What is /peace/?
It is not the absence of conflict. It is not the absence of turmoil or hardships. 
It is definitely not the lack of tribulations or trials. 

Peace is something I think we all desire. 

Because even the humans that possess all the world's riches, power and charms still end up committing suicide, or ruining their lives because of their inward misery. 

In simple terms, they die for lack of /peace/. 


In a world that is spinning 1,040 miles per hour, our lives seem to whiz by at even greater speeds.
And even though we never notice the rotation of the planet we spend all our lives firmly planted on, we sure get caught up in every form of stress possible. 

We are addicted to constant activity, to constant entertainment and constant /stress/ - even when we aren't aware that we are. Stress comes in many forms. 

Peace is so much simpler, but sadly, when we let ourselves be overwhelmed with the constant act of always engaging in something, we can lose the connection with the subtle beauty of true peace.
It's easy to do because peace isn't a flashy thing that demands you to notice it. Unlike happiness, excitement or passion, it is quiet and unassuming. 

But even when you sit an do /nothing/ peace isn't inherently there. (it sure is nice to just stop and do /nothing/ but exist now and then though)


Peace is knowing that even though you have enemies, it doesn't matter in the long run. 

Peace is the comfort of knowing that, despite the world crumbling around you, you're going to make it out safe and sound.

Peace is the sense of free-falling when you release all worry or concern over things you have no control about. Everything from major life questions that haven't been answered yet to financial needs and desires for the future. It's a little unsettling at first because you feel like you're dropping out of the air with no parachute. 

You only see the parachute puff out above you until after you make the jump. 

Peace is powerful and life-changing, because it completely affects your being once it settles in your soul. 
It calms your internal tempests when you come face to face with the greatest external hurricanes. 
Only when you are full of peace can you see clearly and sensibly through the trials of life. 
And in the midst of those trials, despite the pain and heartache, you still know it's going to be okay. 

Peace is when you decide you're not going to expend emotion where it's not necessary.
 Peace is deciding to hold your tongue when someone criticizes or insults you,
Peace is not stooping to the level of those who wrong you. 
Peace is not found in getting even or returning evil with evil.  

Peace is found when you cast all your cares upon your Creator, and leave it His hands. 

// 1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you.

// 1 Corinthians 14:33
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace...

I don't know about you, but I am a seeker of peace. 
Being at peace is far more powerful than any other state of being.
And only the peace found in Jesus can truly suffice. 



Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Marathon of Authentic Reenacting


Civil War reenacting is a world of its own.  And not just a world, but an art.
 If only the spectators that gather to watch a battle on Saturday afternoons knew what goes on when they're not around! If only the general public knew what goes into making a truly authentic reenacting impression!
Every reenactor is on their own journey - hopefully to a better state of authenticity. 
However, some folks don't seem to give a rat's heiny for representing the past correctly, and that's just how it is. The sad reality is that there are far too many Civil War reenactors (in Florida, anyway) that just don't care about taking the effort to do it right, and some are even almost proud of it. 
I'll be honest with y'all - these people drive me smack-dab crazy and make me want to smash things. Especially when they're the ones that get covered by the media or local press.
 It bothers me when the spectators crowd around them for pictures, unknowingly calling it "period dress" and believing that what they're seeing is a copy of something from the past. 

It bothers me when you get questions and comments like:
"Is that real fire?" (Why don't you touch it and find out? Har har har. xP) 
"Are you Amish? Mennonite?" (Last I heard, neither of these groups would condone the amount of color in the fabrics I'm wearing for my Civilian impression, let alone the idea of a woman soldier.) 
"See kids, that's how they spent their time back then! They didn't have TV and cell phones so they had to play musical instruments instead!" (GRRRR, JUST GRRRRR WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYING MUSIC INSTEAD OF WATCHING TV?!) 
"Gosh, I'm glad I'm not wearing all those layers! You poor thing, you must be soooo hot!" (If women could do it for over two centuries, I'm sure I'll survive, thanks.) 
"Did that tiny waist just come with your outfit or is it real?" (Ummmmm...?! Excuse me?? No, I got a plastic fake waist installed just so I could fit these clothes. Seriously what the even...) 

By the way, these were all real things people have said to me at some point in my reenacting journey. I know, it's ridiculous. 
Maybe we just have done a poor job of educating people properly; maybe most Americans would rather be watching a popular TV show than spending their free time researching history. 
Either way, the general impression is that most spectators have no idea what's accurate and what's not at a Civil War reenactment. (Kudos to those who actually do, I know you're out there! PLEASE TELL ME YOU DO ACTUALLY EXIST)

I so desperately want to change this. It's part of the reason I reenact to begin with. I know I don't have it all together yet, but I'm doing my best and I'm doing my research. I know my pagoda-sleeved blue day dress is made of cotton instead of wool or a nicer material as pagoda sleeves were usually made out of. I know I still need to buy a quality hoop, for the proper 1860s skirt silhouette. I know my bangs need to be grown out completely. 
It's a work in progress. 
At least I know my goals and I acknowledge my previous mistakes. I live and learn, I adapt and try to conform to what I have researched and studied concerning the War and life in that time period for the region I'm in. 
I know what I'm aiming for in the future. I'm going for as close to true authenticity as possible and even though it will take a while to achieve this, I'm willing to do what it takes to get there. 

Crinolines: the bane of my existence 
Even for no other reason than just to be one other female reenactor who is giving the public an accurate picture of what our American ancestors looked like. It's worth it.

Reenacting is so much more than portraying history, though. 
It is a social club, a chance to get away from the modern world for a little while, and even an opportunity for relaxation for some. It's a way to meet new friends, and form bonds that last for years even if you only see your reenacting family a few times a year. 
Also, if you're single and looking to mingle? You might just end up meeting the love of your life. Who knows? There are a lot of single folks in the hobby!

Florida doesn't have many events in comparison to some northern states, and unfortunately, a lot of our CW events are very farby. (aka, lacking historical accuracy on many levels)
 But you know what? Most of the time, you don't go just for the event itself. You go for the people. For the chance to dress in old clothes, throw modern conveniences to the wind and hang out with your friends for a weekend. 

It's wonderful. 

When I think about how I've only been truly reenacting for three years come January, (five if you count my farby days of dressing in "prairie clothes" at Ocali Country Days in my early teens) I feel very blessed that I got in with a good circle of supportive people. 
Even though I've written a book on the War, and have been studying it for nearly a decade of my life, I keep forgetting that it wasn't long ago I was one of the most-inaccurate-looking girls at the events.
And that kinda scares me. I used to be one of those people that knew what they were /supposed/ to do, but wanted to rebel just because I could. Take for example, wearing my hair down instead of up and parted as is 1860s customary. I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't care. 
Anyway, only in 2015 have I really started putting my research to use and begun 'walking the talk' by taking the jump from mainstream to authentic reenacting. 
God blessed me by putting a few different people in my life over that period who made me feel at home at events, and helped me meet new connections so that I didn't feel like an outsider. 

While I didn't have anyone to guide me and show me the do's and don'ts of reenacting, or point me to research I needed, somehow it all worked out fine. 
Doing my own research and having some kind, thoughtful friends in the hobby was enough. 

exhibit a: from the VERY early days of my "living history impressions". 2013. That look is about what my reaction now is to my hair being down at an event and wearing an eBay special with no corset or proper underpinnings...
Reenacting is awesome, but the reality is, being a beginner in the hobby certainly isn't easy.
Even though I didn't experience the struggle of trying to fit in, and even though I didn't get openly ridiculed for what I was wearing, (surely it happened behind my back, though!) I have witnessed the pressure on newcomers I've met recently. Somehow I miraculously missed the whole phase myself, because I got welcomed into the hobby with open arms. 

 But seriously. The plethora of things you are expected to acquire and knowledge you're expected to know starting out is pretty overwhelming. I mean let's be real here. If you've never reenacted before, what are the chances you'll be able to afford purchasing a full, authentic kit during a phase of one or two events? Even during just one year alone? It's almost impossible unless you've been researching for a while already, or find incredibly good deals or have somebody just give you their stuff for free. 
Or if you just got money sitting around. 

The nice thing is that there are units that will lend you kits for a small cost, and that's really helpful for a beginning reenactor who wants to get the feel of the hobby without investing in it yet. 
But if you're going for Civilian? It's not quite that easy. Unless you have a friend who lends you one of her ensembles, you're probably not going to find anyone else who'll be so kind as to loan you an authentic female civilian costume. (Costume as in, outfit. In the 1860s, this is the terminology they used. Outfit was not a word used in relation to clothing.) 
And so then you have the sutler's row ladies trying to talk you into a calico Garibaldi dress which they insist is completely period correct, especially for your first reenacting ensemble. *SCREAMS* 
So yeah, it's not a minuscule undertaking. Unless you have a circle to jump into with somebody you already know, you'e more than likely gonna feel like the outsider for a while. The reenacting circle isn't perfect and just like any other social group, you're gonna find cliques. It happens. 


But to those beginners who decide they're willing to push through any potential ridicule, and dedicate time to research, I seriously applaud you. We definitely need new faces in the reenacting community if we want it to stay living for future generations. 

And honestly, it's not as bad as I may have made it sound. Most people are actually very nice to you even if you have your accuracy all off. As long as you get in with a family-friendly group or unit, you'll be fine. Even though there will always be folks at events you want to avoid, there will also always be people who are very kind and accommodating. 


A good friend of mine says that reenacting isn't comparable to a sprint, but instead a marathon.
If you aim for authenticity, you're going to working on it for a while. It's going to be a long road, and perhaps even a lifelong journey depending on how passionate you are. 

I sure hope that it will be a lifelong pursuit for me.  Because honestly, it's one of the best things that's happened to me. 


This is the closest I am to accuracy right now, all I need to complete this look is removing the gloves and wearing a larger hoop. 
Going barefoot onto the battlefield at Ocklawaha.
My friend Daniel and I at Ocklawaha. I should be wearing my frock coat but the photographer caught me off guard here during a break period. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

The History of Aprons {a revised historical article}

a gem I found from back in 2012 at Ocali Country Days - look at us chillens, we were so young!
So, a few notes before we move on. I wrote this article back in 2011, for a website called Feelin' Feminine which is no longer in existence. While my research wasn't half bad, I left out information relating to Civil War era aprons which I'm going to include now.

***


Its different forms vary, stretching from the practical full-length cover-all used by cooks and homemakers, to coverings made solely to protect patients from radiation emitted by x-ray machines. 

We know it as the apron, but it's also called the pinafore and sometimes the bib. The list of its uses could go on nearly endless. It has been used for fashion purposes, such as is the case with the dainty half-apron of the 1950's. But when most of us think of aprons, practicality comes to mind first. 

Where did this versatile accessory come from? Who wore it first, who "invented" it? Has it always been used by women, and women alone? 

The truth is, the apron hasn't been always been a woman's thing. Actually, its official wearing by ladies began in the 17th century before that, it was used only by men. Blacksmiths, carvers, leather smiths, cobblers, metal forgers, fish mongers and clock makers were only a few jobs in which a sturdy apron was very useful for both protection and cleanliness. 

Many jobs that required working with metals were quite dangerous and a thick, heavy leather apron could protect its wearer's body from sparks and the heat of the flames and blistering metals.

These such aprons were typically made out of heavy leather but also duck cloth or canvas. Some particular early pen and ink sketches of the 13th century show a blacksmith's forge with master and apprentices garbed in aprons. Even though artwork only started to reflect everyday scenes (like a blacksmith's forge) in the high Middle Ages, it is probable that men wore leather aprons in the centuries beforehand. 

And what about beforehand? The first aprons ever cited (from what I've researched) were from the Middle Ages, but the KJV Bible says that Adam and Eve, after realizing they were naked," sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (found in Genesis 2:7) So you could say that aprons have been around since nearly the creation of man! 
Then there were the Native American men and women, who used aprons for both practical and ceremonial practices.

Now, besides working men, this garment was also used by the Masonic Lodge members, and to the present day, this "secret society" still does. Master Masons don half-aprons decorated with mysterious symbols, letters and encryptions everything, symbolic. But listen to what Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry says - 

"....Lambskin or white leathern apron. It is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason: more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, and when worthily worn, more honorable than the Star and Garter, or any other Order that can be conferred upon is you at this or any future period by king, prince, potentate, or any other person, except he be a Mason and within the Body of a just and legally constituted Lodge of such."
(From Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 1929, Volume I, The New Kentucky Monitor, arranged by Henry Pirtle, 1918)

I have come across several paintings of George Washington, who was a Mason, wearing one of these particular religious aprons. 

But aside from men, when did aprons become used by women? Surely their use has not been a recent thing, as most of us know. 
The actual use of aprons to keep dresses clean began around the seventeenth century, because housemaids, who typically had only one everyday dress, needed a way to complete dirty chores without soiling their clothes. 
Thus the apron became very popular, very quick. Aprons took less material to make and were easier to wash than a whole dress. And instead of changing your entire outfit, you could whisk away that old, dirty apron and tie on a clean new one. All in a matter of minutes! 

When the wave of French and English colonization began, emigrant families had to face the hardships of frontier life. The apron served as a way to carry vegetables from garden to kitchen, kindling from woodpiles to fires, and an "oven-mitt" to handle hot pots and pans with. These helpful coveralls kept bread dough, ashes and mud off the front of a dress. 

During the 1700's and 1800's, nearly every woman owned at least one apron. No matter if you were the mother, maid or daughter, if you were the average middle-class or working-class lady, you most likely worn an apron. Wealthier women had slaves or servants to do their 'dirty work', the work that could ruin their costumes (as outfits were called in the mid-1860s) so for them, there was no real need to wear an apron.  

But for any pioneer woman, homemaker or farmer's wife, aprons were a part of one's dress not just any accessory: they were something which made life easier. In rural areas, aprons were made of whatever materials were on hand - even feed and flour sacks. (this was especially common during the beginning of the 20th century.)

During the Civil War, pinner aprons were common among the working class. Many were made of darker materials to hide grime and stains. 

Some fashionable aprons in Victorian England, were more show than anything else being delicately embroidered and stitched. 

As the 1920's rolled in, women no longer wanted to be solely associated with the home front and aprons, once a symbol of 'domestic pride', according to apron author Teresa Coats. 

And at one point, the half-apron became popular as the full coverall became less esteemed. "Cutesy", "hostess", half aprons were in vogue. 
The 40's saw gingham and cheery cotton aprons replace the white ones and for a brief time, there was a revival. Aprons once again became more popular and appreciated. 
After WWII, the 'pretty' apron again became the uniform of the happy housewife. Blondie of the comic strip is one such example. 

Overall, your apron was a venue to show off creativity, and sort of what you might call "your badge." It was a garment that saluted and celebrated the homemaker. Essentially, the apron became a part of the 1950's professional housewife's uniform. Aprons were usually homemade, with the introduction of the sewing machine and cloth becoming more readily available. Homemade aprons, hand sewn and hand decorated, usually had themes that revolved around housework, sewing, cleaning, or cooking. Besides that, for practicality, homemade aprons were made out of extra kitchen curtains, dish towels, handkerchiefs, and once again, flour sacks. (don't those things come in handy!)

A lady would typically have at least one seasonal party apron, and several aprons color-coordinated to match her outfits. 
During the 60's, aprons again reverted to the half-apron, and even aprons with sayings, and bar-b-q aprons for men came about. Ever since the beginning of the 1900's, they have fallen 'in style' and out.

While their original purpose was to meet a need, they evolved into a novelty item, and an accessory. But even still, there are many aprons today that are still made for practical uses. Many professional cooks and chefs wear aprons, and many women and girls enjoy their aprons for the old-fashioned feel and the help of keeping your clothes clean. 
The culinary world now offers a variety of cooking aprons fit to bewilder the brain. Here are a few of the most common:

Bib aprons - named for the way it ties around the neck. The full length kitchen apron typically contains deep pockets and ties around the waist and neck.
Pinner aprons - get their name from the custom of pinning the apron to the front of a dress rather than tying it. This style isn't used typically in the modern setting unless in reenacting.
Cocktail aprons - the short, sassy and impractical half apron, typically made of gauzy material and associated with alcohol drinking and flirtation.
Butcher's apron - butchers still use these heavy-duty coveralls. The full length apron, made of heavy material, is often the favorite choice for a chef. Blacksmiths also continue to use heavy aprons for protection. 

Overall, I believe the apron to be a thing quite useful. It has proved itself to be helpful around the house. Whenever I am about to go work in the kitchen or make some food, I grab my apron. I also like to wear it in the garden. If I'm wearing nicer clothes while company is over, but am doing something in the kitchen? On goes the apron!

***

Saturday, October 31, 2015

//when dreams turn into reality


Life is pretty crazy amazing right now. 
I mean, I am not sure what exactly happened this year but THINGS OCCURRED and here I am, writing to you guys with some incredible experiences to recount. 
Geez, that was super vague. I can't write any more. -_-

Well, I kinda officially earned my rank as a concert pianist. 

(*insert endless exclamation marks here*)

(*and here*)

(*and here too*)

Okay screw that. Who am I to try and hide my excitement over that statement, when it was pretty much one of the most monumental experiences of my life????

I'M GONNA USE ALL THE BLASTED EXCLAMATION MARKS I WANT TO, THANK YA VERY MUCH. 


I PERFORMED MY FIRST CONCERT EVER!!!!!!!!!! (there!)
Not just a recital. Not just a cameo in another artist's production. 
My own, full concert. (with a cameo from another conservatory included.)
It was intense, it was amazing and it went by so very fast. I loved it so much. 
I was asked to play at Dunnellon Presbyterian about five months ago, through my conservatory teacher Ms. Leslie. In five months, I had to pull together a full program of musical literature. It was a tight squeeze and there were times when I seriously thought it wasn't gonna work out. 

Ms. Leslie and me 
God is so gracious though. I don't know why He allowed me to have this opportunity and not somebody else, honestly. I didn't deserve it. 
All I can express is gratitude. Thankfulness to Him for this chance that took 2015 and turned it into something so unexpected and marvelous. 

Now, admittedly, I don't know if I've ever been so stressed in my life. During the whole practice stage, and the month leading into the concert, I was stresssssssssed beyond stressed. It might sound silly, but heck. I was bursting at the seams with excitement and pressure to succeed with this event. 
I wanted to give it my all, and make good impressions with my audience since it was my premiere event. But most of all, I wanted to glorify my Maker and point back to Him.
Honestly, I was so looking forward to being done with the event so that the pressure would be relieved and I could exhale again. 


It's so strange. All those weeks of practice and missing practice and killing myself for missing practice and wishing I'd gotten more done before the big day rolled in. All those days of dreaming about the concert, all the days of dreading it, and all the days of in-between where I honestly didn't want to think about it at all because my brain was fried. 
Now those days are gone. 
And now the concert is behind me, too. 
What. Happened. To. Time. 

Mommy & me 
The longest wait was actually 30 minutes before the concert started, when I was forced to sit and do absolutely nothing backstage in the choir room. The funny thing is, those moments of build-up seemed to drone on for an eternity, while the actual concert flew by at a remarkable rate. 


Some friends, Daniel and Anna
My program consisted of a myriad of pieces. Some of my own compositions, a little Chopin, a little Joplin and everything inbetween. 
Hopefully I can get some videos up soon, but that's gonna take a while because eesh videos take agesss to edit on my computer. 

But anyway. 

//

One milestone down. 
One step closer to my lifelong aspiration becoming the real deal. 
One dream turned reality. 
I can say now that I'm a true concert pianist because I've done the thing. I can say now that I know what it's like to perform over an hour's worth of music with an audience entirely at my disposal so to speak. 
I've felt the struggles that came with it all, and learned the lessons it offered to teach. 
Thank you so much to my extraordinary teacher Ms. Leslie, because without her, I would never have been able to accomplish this. She was the one who pushed me on. It wasn't pleasant sometimes but she knew what kind of thing I was getting into, and she treated it with according severity. I truly needed that kind of pushing. 

With this event in the past, new windows of opportunity are continually opening. Life is a thrill, even when there are days that it's just the usual grind. 

I can't wait to see what God has in store next. 


 
// theme song for this post: "Do or Die" - 30 Seconds to Mars 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Essence of Humanity // a bit of prose




“Essence of Humanity”

Eyes lacking vigor, hands drained of life
A mouth that only utters empty promises and lies
Aggression leaves its mark in the lines on our faces
Some days we’re proud of them, and some days we hate it.

I run, but it’s not from someone else I try to hide
I cry, but it’s not from the rolling thunder in the night sky
I fight, but it’s not against a person the eyes can behold,
It’s against that blue-eyed girl staring back in the mirror. 

We have good days and bad, but deep down we’re always searching
For an answer to a question that’s beyond our understanding
Cause’ the pain inside won’t go away, without some kind of remedy
And when we try to fix it ourselves, the medicine only turns to poison.

I run, but it’s not from someone else I try to hide
I cry, but it’s not from the rolling thunder in the night sky
I fight, but it’s not against a person the eyes can behold,
It’s against that blue-eyed girl staring back in the mirror. 

Who knew the greatest enemy, could be the essence of humanity
At our greatest, we just amount to failure.
Can’t you see the pain that we’re all trying to hide?

Do you understand the mighty torrent raging deep inside?   

On earth, where can I find the remedy?
If it were here, wouldn't it be clear to see?
 Earth provides not solutions - just clues, pointing Above, subtle signs 
And the essence of humanity overlooks them all the time. 

///

This is a song I wrote earlier in the year when I was going through 'my personal hell'. I didn't really finish it into a piece that I'd feel comfortable actually singing in front of someone, but I think that the conclusion is clear regardless. 


We can't fix ourselves. 
It has to be Christ. 

A supernatural intervention from the Creator of the Universe is the only way to cure the human soul's devolving condition. 

Vaya con Dios mis amigos, 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When You Look Back On the Future


When she recounted the moments of her past year, the past three-hundred-and-sixty-five days, she saw answers to questions hidden in plain view. Her eyes saw them now, but they had been invisible back when she was living at that exact moment. She couldn't see it then, but now it was as clear as the cerulean sky above her head. 
What caused her former self to be shrouded from understanding the things she now knew? When does a soul ripen, transforming from a naive acorn into a discerning oak? 
She still didn't know the answer to that one. The wisdom she craved and the spirit of understanding which she desired so immensely were always things of mystery. Far more valuable than any physical object, and rightly so. 
But now it all made sense. 
She was now living in the future - the future her former self didn't yet know. A year ago, she was a different soul. A little less seasoned. A little less knowledged. A little less wise.
A soul who allowed herself to be deceived into thinking she knew what love was.
He hadn't been her first choice, no. But she was willing to give him a chance just in case God had plans for them. She liked him, and for a time she even thought that she was in love.
Alas, no. That wasn't true love.
It wasn't meant to be.
When God revealed this to her, she changed. She realized the truth.
When she learned a secret she hoped she'd never have to know, everything came apart. The afternoon she learned something far more saddening than she ever wanted to imagine, was the afternoon that changed her life forever.
But it was the hardest month of her life.
She dissolved into an ocean of solitude and misery, a swath of confusion and protest. She tried not to let anger and bitterness take root in her soul. Only God could count the number of tears she wept in confusion and pain.
But when her world was turned upside down, she felt the embrace of Christ himself.
In that time of perceived tribulation, she lost a bit of herself and gained something even more grand.
She gained experience. A jewel of wisdom. She experienced a tiny taste of the fires of God's refining.
And she learned to cherish those flames.

-

It's a beautiful thing to look back on the past, and see how the Lord's mercies work together like pieces in a giant, universal puzzle. To think that, I, just a small fragment of that grand puzzle could even be allowed a place in the picture at all is gloriously humbling!
When I look back on what was, at one time, the future to my past self, I see things that weren't possible to understand then. It's as if I were driving down a pitch-black highway at night, with only my dim-lights on so that I can merely see about forty feet ahead in the darkness.

Of course, on one hand, isn't that what faith is? Walking by TRUST, HOPE, and BELIEF, not by sight. You have NO idea what's yet to come but you know it will all make sense at some point!

Even thinking about what I considered tribulation, earlier this year, is interesting. The truth is? I have no clue what a real trial or tribulation is like. I may have experienced pain, and my soul may feel awful raw and cut-on. But that doesn't mean I've truly suffered. By Jove, gracious, no! Have I been persecuted for my following Jesus? Have I been tortured or my family arrested because of our faiths? No! Am I still alive, thriving and breathing? Yes!

I'm going to be totally honest with y'all. This isn't pretty, but it has to be said.
There were months when I wanted to die.
You might find that hard to believe, coming from a girl with high self-esteem and an incredible amount of drive in life.
*sigh* But it's true. As many days as I've had where my emotions soared and I felt I was truly amazingggg (see, I definitely have tendency to struggle with pride!), I've had just as many where I cursed myself as being a horrible excuse of human, never good enough and always failing and disappointing the ones I loved dearest. It crushed me more than any physical burden could.
When the voices screaming in my head wouldn't be silent and I wanted to end it so I wouldn't hear them, or have to be stuck with my shell of a monstrosity. I hated myself so, in the times when I hit extreme emotional lows that sunk to levels of depression.
I was a mess, I was worried for other people's safety when I was out in public. I never knew when my next meltdown would be. I had a few panic attacks out of nowhere. I couldn't focus, and I was crying every day for no reason other than nothing made sense and I was so sick of myself.
I heard voices saying I was an alien, a monster, and that nobody could understand my condition of being. I was an anomaly. A girl whose emotions were off the charts. Bipolar. Out of control.
The voices wouldn't shut up. I couldn't find peace in my cranium no matter how I attempted to seek it. I prayed in desperation for rest from the chaos enveloping my mind. It just wouldn't come.

I want to say that some of those days were like hell on earth for me. Obviously that is a major exaggeration, but if you've ever experienced any form of depression or manic-depressive symptoms you'll understand. It's truly grotesque, what your mind does when subjected to this kind of crippling emotional...whatever you call it. Actually I reckon the scientific answer is that it's merely an chemical imbalance in the brain. Still, it is crippling.

I don't really know what happened, but for the past several months I have experienced something that has been much prayed for, and almost too good to be true, considering the mental madness of earlier in the year.
Mental clarity, and internal peace. 
NO VOICES. No screaming voices. No slanderous whispers in my ears. No endless tears and meltdowns every single day of the week.
Tears are welling up in my eyes as I say this. (what can I say, I'm still very emotional and this subject is not one I bring up much.)
I've never felt so incredibly FREE. I'm like a wild horse running free on the prairie, with nothing between me and the horizon. The bars of my mental prison vanished. I'm a bird released from its cage.
There are no chains on me, not any more.
I am free.
The only answer I have for this is one word. One name.
Jesus. 
People say you can't recover from mental illness. People say that you can't wipe that kind of thing from your DNA.
My answer is, thank God that the Supernatural Almighty doesn't listen to the scorn and disbelief of mortal humanity!
I don't know if I still have the potential for those bipolar-syndromes to return - maybe it will always be there. But maybe not. Maybe it won't.
 I will say this. My God is powerful, and so far, He's not failed me yet.
He answers prayers, in ways I don't expect or envision.
So if He takes this completely, I won't be surprised.
I will just be immensely grateful.

Anyway, so getting back to what I was saying earlier, I have experienced pain and there were times I thought I wouldn't be able to handle it any longer.
But all in all? Have I suffered? Have I truly suffered tribulation?
No.
No amount of bipolar-symptom trauma or emotional tornadoes could change that.
And even if I lost everything I have, I would still not know true suffering.
No, real suffering isn't anything I'll ever know.
Jesus suffered when He took my punishment on the cross. When He laid down His life to be brutally murdered in one of the most painful deaths a human could experience.
That was true suffering.
So yeah...can I complain about anything I've gone through?
Never.

When I look back on the past, I know that it was a beautiful one. Why? Because even scars and broken pieces are beautiful, when they are redeemed and refined by Christ. 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Around The Riverbend


 Oy, it's sad when you forget you even have a blog. I mean on one hand I feel bad for not keeping up with this thing, but on the other hand, I don't, because seriously, I just haven't had time to keep posting on any of my blogs. I mean, I /could/ make time, but I would rather spend it on other things you know? 

Gah, life is such a roller coaster. That's old news though, isn't it? 

These past several months have been utterly mind blowing. Some days I feel like a leaf on the wind, being blown all over the place and having no idea whether my next moment will be spent plummeting towards the ground or soaring back up into the sky. 

Confession: I've allowed myself to get lukewarm in my relationship with Christ. It's scary how quick it can happen, and how subtlety satan can get his foot in the door. So many temptations that weren't overcome, and battles that weren't won. The victories seem so small sometimes, in comparison.

So many reasons to thank God He's even given me a second chance. And a third, and a fourth, and a hundredth. And a thousandth. Sometimes I wonder how He can possibly forgive me that many times. It's truly beyond my comprehension.

"Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free..."


My days have been spent both in productivity and slackness, I have to admit. I've spent too much time on social media, but I've also done more piano teaching than I ever have before. 

I organized a contra dance for families in my area, which was a new thing. And I also put on a recital for my piano students - another first. Both had tremendous results, I would say! Super exciting. I love starting new things!

I submitted The Rebels of Florida to a bunch of different publishers and agents.

I experienced my first break-up.

I've been searching for my first vehicle. 

 I got to have a dear friend, Cari, from Washington, stay and visit for several days. (we may or may not have done lots of hiking, and gotten ourselves lost on an equestrian trail...)

I've gone no-poo. (no synthetic shampoo or conditioner, only natural alternatives)

I went on a literal roller coaster for the first time. 

I've started looking for a new church to go to. 


"Why do all my dreams extend, just around the riverbend?" 

Some of my dreams are ones I am living, and I am pretty darn happy with that fact. 
But there will always be dreams and ambitions that are 'around the riverbend', yet to happen, Lord willing. I feel like if a soul gives up all hopes and dreams of their own, they lose the essence of what it means to be truly alive. God didn't make us to be creatures of ritual, always stuck on a single track of eat, sleep, work, repeat. At least, I don't think He created us like that. 

Because whenever is stagnation healthy, or desirable?  

Never.

That's why life throws us curve balls, as some people say. We need change to thrive. We atrophy without it. The waters of our soul become lukewarm and putrid, without the heat of tribulations and tests to set us on fire for God. The flames can either be the straw that breaks the camel's back, or it can be the best thing that ever happened to us. 

I don't know about you, but I think I'd do just about anything for the latter. 
Seriously, every time something big happened in my life, that I wasn't expecting, spiritual revival was right down the road. And once you've tasted true revival, you can't get enough. 


Urgh, I'm random. But at least you now know that I've not vanished into thin air, or been sucked away into outer space. *cough* 

 Tomorrow I begin a pretty time-intensive summer piano course at the conservatory, which will be very exciting. I'm so thankful to both sets of grandparents for sponsoring me! 

Well, time to depart for now. It's late as usual. What's been new with y'all peeps? 

Ciao,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The God of Convenience


 
{an unrelated picture, but I saw it and thought it was lovely and reminded me of some of my book characters}

Convenience is the god of the modern, first-world society.
 
We sacrifice everything from relationships with our children, parents, family, to our physical and mental health in the name of convenience. What is easiest, quickest, and involves the least amount of effort. In the end, convenience is always the winning card, because nobody wants to give up the comfort and ease it offers. Little do we know, as we sit comfortably in the fluffy embrace of convenience, that our essences are slowly atrophying.
 
Convenience is our poison, our drug, and it is killing us.
 
It is a subtle serpent, but its demands are high.
Its offers are never ugly or unattractive, and often they may even seem quite logical.
In fact, everything about convenience seems slick and optimal. Why exert the effort if you don't have to? Is convenience not one and the same with efficiency?
 
Ah, but what sort of god have we decided to bow down to? In a society where food can be delivered to your doorstep in fifteen minutes, what price have we unintentionally agreed to pay? As we exchange quick, impersonal texts with people instead of calling or meeting in person for a visit, what have we set ourselves up for in return?
 
What does the god of convenience demand from us, in exchange for the smooth, velvety touch of ease and relaxation?
 
In the name of convenience, we avoid educating ourselves about subjects that truly matter. It's easier to just do what's always been before, instead of opening one's mind to a paradigm change. Lifestyle changes are uncomfortable, and inconvenient. Learning new things isn't exactly easy, either. Why educate yourself about genetically modified organisms or what creates a healthy economical system, when you feel like it won't have any direct impact on your life, right?
 
In the name of convenience, we don't reach for the intellectual stimuli our brains truly thirst for. Instead of consuming literature and media that would broaden our knowledge and build our brains, we opt for petty television shows full of content equal to the consistency of marshmallow fluff. We push away the depth and richness of the classics in exchange for that hot-off-the-shelf romance novel or comic book, because it's easier on the brain. Easier on our attention spans. "Oh, it would take too much time to read that huge thick thing by that old Brittish guy in the 1800s. Fifty Shades of Grey, on the other hand..."
,
In the name of convenience, we choose to run by McDonald's for breakfast on the way to work instead of getting up thirty minutes earlier and fixing a bowl of homemade steel-cut oatmeal or fresh scrambled eggs with green peppers and cheese.
In the name of convenience, we pick up TV-dinners from the frozen aisle or throw some packages of processed junk food on the table, because we've decided that spending two hours in the kitchen preparing a wholesome dinner for the family isn't worth the time.
 
In the name of convenience, we trust almost anything we hear from the government and/or general media, and don't question what the news reports tell us. We don't question their agendas, or the possibility that they are giving the news from a biased perspective. It's too much trouble to doubt whether we're being fed the truth or not. It's easier to just go along with the flow.
 
In the name of convenience, we send our children to institutionalized school, daycare centers and nannies, so that we can get our own work done. Homeschooling is inconvenient. Staying at home with your child, teaching him or her yourself is inconvenient. It's not easy to be a parent, and a lot of the times it's not exactly fun, either. (Single parents, please do not read this and think I am calling you lazy or undisciplined. I am speaking to the families that have two parents involved and the financial stability to engage in homeschooling.)
In the name of convenience, we sacrifice our children into the hands of strangers, to be educated in ways we have no control over. In the name of convenience, we send them to be with people who will spend more time with them than we will, for most of their childhood. We give up the blessing of guiding and training them to follow Christ, because we've placed that responsibility in someone else's hands.  
In the name of convenience, we avoid speaking of our faith to others. We are too worried we will offend someone, or that we might get bashed or mocked. It's inconvenient to go out of your way to talk to a neighbor or complete stranger for ten minutes about the Lord. And it's definitely not 'comfortable', right?
 
Yes, we are comfortable in the sofas of convenience, but as we sit there enveloped in leather cushioning, our eyes glued to our phone or TV screens, we have given up something that can never be replaced by the momentary comfort of "easy".
When we decided to make convenience our idol, always deferring to the easiest path, the most convenient option, we signed over the essence of the human existence. We tossed aside the thrill of challenge and growth, because that was too much trouble. We settled for less than satisfactory, because we weren't bold enough to make the effort for something better. "Something better" was too hard, or took too much time and energy.
 
 We became zombies, enslaved to our master. Dead, though we may appear to be living. On the surface, we feel as though we're living in a way that the rest of the world should be envious of.
But sometimes, I think that the rest of the world sees our convenience-lust for what it really is. We've sacrificed health, intelligence and spiritual growth for disease, ignorance and lukewarm stagnation.
 
And we are slowly dying. 
Little by little, our obsession with ease is draining our souls.
 
We are so enthralled with doing what is easiest, that we have lost the life in living. We cannot thrive and excel when convenience is the ruler of our beings. An obsession with convenience is content with merely being comfortable.
 
 In order to experience life as the riveting, vibrant adventure it was designed to be, our idolatry of convenience must be abolished.
In order to become the mighty warriors of God that we were created to be, the god of convenience must die.
 
In order to live life to its utmost fullest, the god of convenience must be slain.
 

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Storm Called Liberation - Letters to Myself


 
This isn't really a poem, but I don't know what else to call it. Musings? Yes, musings will do.
It's just what happens when you know you need to write /something/ but you aren't sure whether to pen a song, or a poem by itself. This will probably end up evolving into a song though nonetheless.
I will admit that these past two weeks have been among the hardest in my life. I was given counsel by a very dear friend who is like a second-mother to me, to "write letters to myself" when I am feeling more spiritually and emotionally stable, for those times in which I'm struggling. So I'm going to give it a go. Here's the first letter.
 
-
 
"A Storm Called Liberation" 
 
Fallen, my blood seeps into the ground.
Blinded, my mind hijacked and confounded.
I tried to destroy my own soul, I listened to my own lies.
Bound in a tangle of darkness, my throat raw from the screams and cries.
Resurrected, my wounds cleansed and purified by the Creator.
Eyes wide open; I take hold of the clarity and power He bestows.
Snapped me out of my delusions, cut the ties that held me trapped and lost.

 
Keep telling yourself a lie, and soon it becomes the truth.
God is not the author of confusion, He gives us direction on what to do.
Throw off the ropes, shred the lies like paper and toss them to the wind.
Your feet weren’t meant to be stagnant, and your mind wasn’t made to sleep.
Pick your body off the floor, plant your feet firm and grit your teeth.
In Him, you will overcome, you will survive, and you will find peace.
There’s a reason for this tempest, and this hurricane is only one of many.
The torrent of emotions is only a season, and you’re strong enough, you won’t drown.
You’re in a refining fire and in the end you will be like silver, if you fully seek the Lord.
This tribulation will free you, brace yourself and stand your ground.
Freedom isn’t a gentle thing, liberation takes you by storm.
So throw your chains away; allow the flood to envelop your soul.
 
You will bleed, you will plead for the end to come.
The darkness of night only points to our need for the sun.
I see clouds on the horizon, but I am thankful for the storms.
Lighting illuminates the heavens; thunder rolls like an orchestral score.  
Focus on the prize ahead, think to the years of the future, when,
Tried by the fire, having weathered the turbulence, having done all to stand,
Your skin will be thicker, your mind wiser, and your feet closer to the Promised Land.