Good.

Today I realized that I feel good. I feel really good. Like, the best I’ve felt in a really long time. This is not like a super-ultra-high, where everything in my life is completely and totally amazing and everything is fitting together like a cheesy rom-com. In fact, while things could be worse, they are not the best.

A relationship recently ended, I’m behind on homework, and I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

So why do I feel good?

Again, I don’t feel amazing. I know that later I won’t feel as good as I do right now, but this feeling will continue to be here.

Why?

To begin with, I’m in college. I’m pursuing my dream-every day! I am on the road to starting my life-actually, my life has already started! Also, learning is one of my strengths and highest values (this is why I cringe when people complain about any class-how can you not enjoy learning about Brazilian music??), and at college I learn something new every minute. I am fully enjoying this.

I recently had a talk with one of my friends about where I’m going in life. At the time, I wasn’t sure where I was going. This past year has been really hard, and as I result I fear that my creative outlet has been shut down. I stopped reading and writing. I would sit around and watch TV all day (and while TV does count as experiencing amazing stories, I was using it to numb what I was feeling and using it as an excuse to do nothing) rather than doing things that I love, such as reading or writing or exploring the world around me to learn new things. I allowed how I felt to effect me in such a way that it was stifling who I am. I was practically a walking zombie until, well, after I had this conversation. After processing through the conversation, I realized that part of who I am is a missionary. I grew up in a very intentionally relational home; my parents were always having people over because they believe that the best way to show Jesus is through living in constant fellowship with others. This has defined missions for me and influenced what I want my life to be – I want my life to be one long mission, lived in fellowship and community with nonbelievers and fellow believers.

It also wasn’t until after this conversation took place that I had to read a book for class that rekindled my love for stories. The book was a work of fiction that narrated the correspondence between two people during the Roman empire. This story used fiction and history to weave together a powerful story that exemplified the early church and what it means to be a Christian. This book reminded me of the power of a well-told story, and the beauty it can bring about. It reminded me why I am a Creative Writing major, and it encouraged me to continue to have this subject be my main course of study.

I have also realized that by not forcing myself to be happy all the time, I am happier. I know this sounds weird but when I accept however I feel at a certain time, whether it’s sadness, happiness, tiredness (although I feel this all the time), frustration, etc., I am making room for myself. By accepting how I feel (though not always acting on it) I am not conditioning myself to fit inside whatever ideal I think I need to be in. This is incredibly freeing. When you allow yourself to simply be, you are making sure that you are not stifling or bottling things up but rather you are relieving the pressure of your emotions. Granted, this can be taken too far (sometimes waaaayy too far!) so be careful and wise in how you relieve your feelings.

So by following my goals, being challenged by a friend, remembering who I am and what I love, and by allowing me to be me, my life has changed for the better. I feel good, not fantastic, but fantastic isn’t for eveyday. I am more passionate. I am more focused on what’s important (including homework).

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, including conversations such as the one mentioned above and revelations such as these!

-Jess Winter

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Anywhere

Last night I found myself wondering,

If I could go anywhere (and I mean ANYwhere), where would I go? Europe, Narnia, Middle Earth, China, New York, the Land of the Immortals (a.k.a., the North Pole for anyone who doesn’t know Holly Claus)… I found the answer in some of my favorite books. Either the Land of the Immortals (created by Brittany Ryan), or the England of the Old Ones in The Dark Is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper, or The Secret Garden. Why?

The Land of the Immortals is special for me because it has both whimsical and wise characters, and such an enchanting and magical world of snow and nature. The story that holds this place shows the importance and power of innocence and beauty.

The world of the Old Ones. This place of people is important to me because it signifies many things: trial for good, satisfaction in coming through the trial, and the benefit of fighting for something good. The series, The Dark Is Rising, also shows the significance of a close-knit family which I myself have experienced and greatly appreciate.

The Secret Garden makes the list because it has such a peaceful, life-altering beauty about it. The calm and quiet of that place seeps into my soul and allows my to breathe; this is not only refreshing, but needed in everyday life.

While I would LOVE to travel everywhere (both real and imaginary), I wish I could travel through time as well as through space (a TARDIS would be so handy…). So many of the places I want to experience are on my list because of the stories that I associate with those places — for instance, Wales. Wales is a fascinating and magical place simply because one of my favorite books, The Grey King by Susan Cooper, is based there and filled with old English mythology and lore. I would like to cross the ocean and explore the mountains over there, but mostly I wish I could go back in time and watch history unfold in that part of the world.

So many stories to hold onto, to breath in. Stories have a way of becoming a apart of you, accepting you as you hear, see, or experience them, and then they continue to teach you things throughout your life; when you relive a story, it never ends, it continues on and often changes, showing you different things and sides that you had not seen before, thereby changing your perspective and teaching you different things forever.

Because of all the above, stories, and the places that these stories hold, enchant me. Stories are magical places that I journey to in order to grow and learn from their characters; and escape from my own story when I need to pause life and catch a breath of quiet, still, peace.

Where would you go if you could travel inside the world of stories?

Adulting

Dear Readers,

I finished my last final on Wednesday. The strangest feeling I have yet experienced was walking out of said final to discover that I had just finished my first semester of college. One second you’re hanging out with your friends and family, thinking that there will always be someone who will do everything that needs to be done (buying groceries, working, driving, managing finances, and etc.), the next your finding yourself being an adult simply because you tore your first real paycheck from the rest of the receipt.

Before finals week, during “Dead Week,” I was coming to realize two other things about adulthood: one, you don’t change. You will always be the same person you always have been. You don’t magically become a super responsible robot who automatically knows everything that all adults seem to already know. Basically, you are not reborn (or remade, or recreated, or whatever) when you become an adult. Growing up is a process, a very long, boring and depressing process, not nearly as fun as you think it will be as a kid, but also more fun than I’m making it sound. For instance, driving for the first time by yourself adds a wonderful independence that you’ve never felt before.

Two, Childhood and Adulthood are like two different worlds. One is comfortable (you did, in fact, grow up there), while the other is foreign and unknown. And there comes  a time when you have to leave the world you know and venture out into the strange and busy, boring yet exciting, Other World. Much like Narnia.

Imagine you grew up in Narnia. It was home, it was comfortable and known. But then a time you knew was coming finally came, and suddenly, you’re in the real world. Dark, grungy London and away from all the fairy-tale and imaginings of your childhood — but still the same person. Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter did all experience this at one point. They were kings and queens in Narnia, they had been there for so long that they had even forgotten where they have come from, but then they were reminded and later, (SPOILER!) they could never go back. Growing up is exactly like that. You finally feel like you’re getting the hang of things when BAM! Adulthood hits and you have to move to another place, with different responsibilities and you can never go back.

But then I guess there are some pretty great things that come with being an adult as well. Adulthood is not a bed of roses (teens beware!) but it is not completely a bed of thorns, either.

Merry Christmas! May you discover yourself found by God and closer to those you love.

– Jessa Winter

The Most Traumatizing Event of My Life

I wrote this for an essay for my English class. Hope you enjoy.

My sister and I were standing in the gloomy cold shade of the gray concrete porch. The sky was the normal Colorado light blue and the tree that stood in the middle of our front yard was casting its protective shadow over the nearly empty flower bed and the metal bird feeder. I vividly remember the bush that had stiff, prickly brown branches and dark green leathery leaves that stood next to us. I was wearing my favorite shirt at the time, a pink and purple tie-dye made of a cheap velvet-like material.
I had no idea of the horrible thing that was about to happen. It was supposed to be a normal summer day in our suburb. My sister and I could have walked down to the park that afternoon where mean teenagers would squish grapes on the slides so no one could go down them, or we could have gone inside and watched a movie, or played outside in the back yard where the sun was. I only remember turning and looking down at the cold ground and seeing a long, thin, slimy, dark brown earthworm.
Maybe I knew that by squealing I was provoking this horrific event to take place, but my first reaction was not to think of what my sister might dare to do. It was only to shriek and scream at the ugly disgusting thing. It only took seconds for my sister to reach down and, using her index finger and thumb, pick up the natural freak. By now she was grinning in delight and I was shrinking back, utterly shocked at what was happening. She then had the nerve to not only pick up this worm, but to move towards me and then proceeded to place the thing on my shoulder. I jumped away, but it was too late and my jerk reaction caused the worm to go down my shirt. She should have known how I felt about worms and their creepy, wriggling bodies, how much I detested and feared every bit of their anatomy from the lines on their slick brown bodies to how crazy long they were. I was horrified and shocked.
There was no time to waste. I ran inside the house, passing through the dark first room and the huge wooden roll-top-desk, past the stairs with the beautiful dark wood railing and into the small kitchen to my mother. Crying, practically in hysterics, I told my mom what my sister had done. She took me to the bathroom where she found the worm and promptly flushed it down the toilet. I could not even watch it swirl down in the clear water of the white porcelain bowl. This unceremonious death was not enough. I had to get the slime off of me. My mom asked if I wanted to take a shower and I simply nodded, my throat sore from all the crying.

While I was cleansing myself of the slim that I still find so offensive, my sister was in the living room, receiving lectures from my parents and my grandpa. She clearly was not punished enough. If you were to bring this subject up to her now, she would still give you a loud, joyous laugh in response and say, “Yes, that was so great!”. I’m not sure how I ever forgave her, I certainly don’t remember forgiving her, maybe I just decided it wasn’t worth it to hold it over her head forever. More likely, I realized I wouldn’t be able to get her back.

July

Take off your shoes now
You’ve come a long way
You walked all these miles
And now you’re in the right place

This is your party
Everyone came
Everyone’s smiling
I’m singing your name

And the nightmares and monsters
Your biggest fears
Seem lightyears away
No, they won’t find you here

I’ll hold your head my dear
Make sure no one’s gonna wake you
Tomorrow you’ll still be here
No matter where your dreams will take you

Do you realize
All the falls and flights
All the sleepless nights
All the smiles and sighs
They brought you here
They only brought you home

Put down this suitcase
This weapon of yours
The struggle is over
You don’t need it no more
You can’t remember longly
You forgot about bored
And nothing’s the same
Since you walked through this door

This roof is a blanket
That’s keeping you warm
Inside the silence
After the storm

I’ll hold your head my dear
Make sure no one’s gonna wake you
Tomorrow you’ll still be here
No matter where your dreams will take you

And you understand
This neverending dance
This fight, a fading sense
Now it all makes sense
It brought you here
It only brought you
Only brought you
Only brought you
Only brought you home

-July, by BOY

Late Night Feels and Devotional

Ten days. That’s all. Ten days until I’m there.

It certainly feels like I’m moving-deciding to go to bed, then finding myself in the middle of yet another project. Sentimentality haunting me everywhere I go. It’s times like these that I’m scared to go to sleep because I know things will be different tomorrow-tomorrow, it will be nine days…

As if staying up will keep things from changing, as if not going to sleep will somehow stop time. I feel like I should be in a Doctor Who episode…

Change is hard-if you hadn’t noticed. Change is usually good, it makes us throw out old things that we no longer need and gain new things, learn new lessons, acquire cooler things that grow us. But it’s still hard. Who knows what will happen? Who knows what we will have to throw out? Yes, those things are old, and yes we no longer need them, but we love them, they helped us get through so much… Yet God knows exactly what is going to happen. And God is enough.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

“‘Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,’ declares the Lord.” -Jeremiah 1:8 (NASB)

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.” -Psalm 40:4 (NASB)

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life. . . Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become distrurbed withing me? Hope in God, I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” -Psalm 42:8, 11 (NASB)

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” -Psalm 28:7 (NASB)

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory and the One who lifts my head, I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And he answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept, I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. . . Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!” -Psalm 3:3-5, 8

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” -Proverbs 3:5-7

What do I have to fear? Some would say, “plenty!” I don’t know what is going to happen, good or bad. But I know, I trust that God is with me, and if He is with me, I can get through anything.

So this is my after-midnight-I’m-freaking-out-and-reminding-myself-to-trust-God-post. Because I am scared.