John 21: 20-24 (Or, In Other Words, Another Instance of How Relatable Peter Was).

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

     I was sitting at my small group table bright and early in the morning a few months ago when we read this passage. Have you ever had one of those times where you freeze like you've been caught in a spotlight? Where just like that, you can hear God's voice as though he's speaking right beside you? "I'm talking to you, just in case you missed that. You, right there, in the blue shirt." There's no way around it. There's no denying it, or convincing yourself it's just a coincidence. Since you've probably been doing all those things for a while now, it's a hard pill to swallow.

     I'm back in school now (cue the streamers and balloons), but that doesn't mean there haven't been some bumps in the road, especially concerning my health. I'm still pretty sick. So, most of the time, I feel lousy during the school day. It's been a struggle to make it through the required seven hours, which is why I'm completing half days next semester. I'll take two classes in school and two virtual classes at home. This schedule is just what my family was hoping for. We've been wanting me to go to the school I'm currently enrolled in for 10 years, and giving it up after a semester was less than perfect; we're so thankful we were able to find a way for me to keep attending traditional school, even if it isn't full-time. 

     Keeping this in mind, let's take a step back to a few months ago, before I'd accepted my limitations. The first few weeks of school, I was feeling better than usual. I was still struggling to make it through school days sometimes, but just being there was such a big deal for me! It makes sense if I was still struggling, though, and was adjusting to being back at school, clubs should be on the back burner. Simple, right? Not so much. At the beginning of the year, my school administration was pushing for student involvement in clubs. They preached about the vitality of clubs on college applications, and if the idea hadn't been in my head the year prior, it sure was last fall.

     I wasn't in any clubs my freshman year because, you guessed it, there isn't an easy way to form a club when you go to a virtual school where students are dispersed across the globe. I was stressed all year about missing out on the extracurriculars everyone was always talking about. Now that I was in a traditional school, I wanted to be in clubs for school spirit, to meet my new schoolmates and teachers, and have some extracurriculars for my college applications. At the beginning, I was planning on joining one club. To me, that was a compromise; I truly wanted to join two or three (at the very least). I went to informational meetings, signed up for email lists, and assured myself I'd be fine. I have just about the worst way of deciding limitations. To me, not being able to do something is only proved by actually attempting it. If I say I cannot do something based on the knowledge that it would be detrimental to me, I have a hard time accepting it without attempting it. It's been a necessary excogitation for me over the years; when you're always sick, you have to complete daily tasks just the same as if you were feeling well. That doesn't always make it the right philosophy, though.

     The week before the club I'd decided on really began to start meeting, I got sick(er). I felt absolutely terrible. I was very dizzy, incredibly tired (endometriosis causes chronic fatigue), and my mental health problems were horrible. I finally had to admit that it was unreasonable to be in any clubs. At first, it was rough. My friends were still in the club, and I was still on the email list, so I saw all the events I wasn't able to be a part of. It didn't help that people were still constantly talking about how important extracurriculars are when it comes to college. After a while, though, I was able to come to terms with my limitations.

     After the initial excitement of being involved in my school's activities, I'd realized it would be difficult to be in a club. I kept pushing for it, though, from the constant buzz around me. Clubs were the best way to meet my new classmates! Colleges wanted clubs, and they were crucial for most scholarships! I ignored the advice of my parents, common sense, and most importantly, God. Because while I was sitting at my small group table, reading John 21: 20-24, I could sense the lesson was hardly a coincidence. Peter was concerned with the paths of others and not his own path. Every time I'd discussed extracurriculars with my parents, I'd told them how much my school pushed for student involvement through clubs. Every time, my mom had told me she knew it must be hard to not join clubs when they were constantly brought up, but she'd also tell me joining clubs might not be my path. It might be some people's, or many's, paths, but that didn't make it mine. 

     It's not that I regret jumping headfirst into the fantastical idea of immersing myself in my school, even when it was looking more inimical than anything else. It's not a crime to aspire being involved in your school, listen to the advice of your school's advisors, or improve your chances of success with college admissions down the road. I didn't listen to the people who knew me best, though. I could have saved myself and my family a lot of time and energy if I'd listened to God and my parents, who actual know me, other than my school, which can only make suggestions for the majority of its students. God was trying to speak to me as I read John 21: 20-24, and I tried to ignore it. Just like Jesus told Peter, though, I shouldn't be concerned with the paths of others. I haven't been in any clubs, but I've published two books and have a blog. I play two instruments. Due to a sport requirement, I was on the bowling team this year. I hope to do more volunteer work, tutoring, and babysitting once I'm feeling better. I may not have a traditional college transcript, but I have to realize that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

Health Update

     I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but I've also been dreading it. I'm so glad I shared some of my health problems this time last year, and I'm immensely grateful for all the kind words I've received. Even so, it's been hard to give updates since then. There are some things I'll forget to mention and others I don't want to share. The whole story will never be written out, because there's no need for everything to be told. I still worry, though, about how much to share. For someone who's used to keeping many things private, it's a hard line to navigate. People are judgemental, and even the most calculated story can easily be misinterpreted. Apart from that, though, my story's not the one people desire. It's not one of fast recoveries; it's one that continually goes through ups and downs.

     Since my post about why I attended an online school for a year, I switched antidepressant medications. If this was a movie, the ominous, foreboding music would begin playing. This medicine was created in the 1960s. For those of you who don't know, modern antidepressant medicines have some pretty terrible possible side effects. Most people don't experience them at all or for long, but I tend to experience most of them. As you go back in time, possible side effects get worse. My family had been avoiding older medicines for as long as possible, but we'd run out of options and weren't ready to completely halt medication yet. 

     This medicine caused my heart rate to rapidly increase, which meant I was constantly burning a large amount of calories. At the same time, the combination of severe stomach pain from birth control, anxiety, and many other sources caused me to stop eating. I lost a large amount of weight over the next few months, but the bloating from birth control was so severe I didn't realize the full extent of it until I was weighed. After a couple of EKGs and concerned doctor's appointments, I weaned off the antidepressant medication I had been on. I also stopped the birth control I had been on, as it made my endometriosis worse instead of better. From there, though, the weight kept dropping.

     I began having strict caloric requirements and times I had to eat. I cannot stress how painful this was. I had to go from eating a piece of peanut butter toast a day to eating six or more times daily overnight. No matter how upset or full my stomach was, I had to eat on the designated snack times. I was also asked to start eating dairy and gluten again at this time to broaden high-calorie options. While I wouldn't eat gluten, I did begin eating dairy again. Food allergens have always been tricky for me; dairy won't always cause me stomach pain, but it commonly does. This caused additional issues with eating until it was again taken from my diet.

     The weight kept dropping, but it was more gradual. It finally stabilized, and it remained that way for a bit. I'd been religiously eating for a couple months, though, and it was exhausting. I was always in pain, and my family and I hated the routine. My family went to the beach on spring break, and I was sick the entire time. We decided to let the calorie tracking fade away for a week, but it never really came back. I was eating at least three meals and a snack every day, but the weight began trickling down again. Between last October or November and just a couple months ago I lost over 30 pounds, and I hadn't been overweight or near it to begin with. 

     My endometriosis got better during this time, but that was just about the only pro. I'd lost a dangerous amount of weight, and the results were that my body didn't have the nutrients it needed. A couple months ago, my family found out I'm borderline anemic, and that things needed to go back to the way they had been last winter and spring. For a while, I was eating three meals a day and about four snacks; I was constantly sick and incredibly distraught over this (necessary) arrangement. After constantly having to eat last winter, I had a poor relationship with food in terms of how I regarded it. I hated that I didn't have control over what I ate, how much of it I had, or when I wanted to snack on something. I still don't have a fantastic relationship with food, but I have days where I am okay with the way things have to be. I don't think there's any way to look at eating the way I did when I hardly gave it a thought. There was a time I didn't have to choose junk food over fruit; I didn't constantly feel nauseous and drowsy from unhealthy foods. I could turn down an evening snack if I wasn't hungry. I was free to eat a second helping of dinner if I was still hungry, and my stomach wasn't in incredible pain from being so full. The weight gain process has been going on for many painful months now, and it has taken a strong toll on me emotionally. However, I'm very thankful my family has been figuring out ways to ease the process. For example, I wasn't allowed to exercise for a long time. As someone who loves exercising, this was very upsetting. As well, having to eat at least six times a day without doing anything to stimulate an appetite was difficult. While I'm still not allowed to do extensive exercise, I am allowed to do things like walk on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes a day. My family has also been trying to rotate through dense, high calorie foods, which helps immensely. Trail mix, smoothies, and bars have become my best friends.

     Over the past few months, the pain I experience from endometriosis has returned. So little is known about endometriosis that the only treatments are birth control and surgery. Birth control failed miserably, and surgery has been very strongly advised against. The sooner I begin having surgeries, the more often I'll likely have to have them. For obvious reasons, as well as the fact that endometriosis flourishes on scar tissue, this isn't something my family and I want to rush into. We also didn't want to rush into another antidepression medication after the horrible results of my last one. In February or March, however, we began a new medicine. We increased it until August, when we finally began weaning off of it due to (surprise!) its little effect. 

     For better or for worse, all my time and energy has been put into school. I have not missed a single day this year despite being very sick many days, which is a vast accomplishment for me. While my three months at school have always coincided with many health problems, these issues have increased over the past month. It's frankly been torture to attend school every day. I wish I could simply go to school and enjoy it. I wish I could attend school with no problems other than the annoyance of homework, dress code, or unfavorable classes, but that has never been and never will be the case for me. I'm often in pain from endometriosis, exhausted from the chronic fatigue it causes. and struggling with my mental health issues (which cause many problems with my physical health).

     There aren't many improvements in anything to report. I've gained a few pounds, but my doctors aren't satisfied with the slow progress, and there is still a long ways to go. As for my personal life, there isn't much positivity to spread. I haven't been able to do any of the tasks I enjoy, such as writing or playing instruments, hence such a long absence online even though I've hesitantly returned to social media. I finished the (very) rough draft of a new novel at the beginning of fall break in October, but I haven't been able to edit it at all. I've only read one novel that wasn't required by school in at least a year. 

     The thing I've missed the most is spending time with my family. I come home and work until bedtime or later, so there isn't any time to spend with them. As someone who is rarely away from home, this has been hard. This week and the past one, though, I've had some room to breathe. I'm currently on Thanksgiving break, and while I'm surrounded by piles of homework, I also have plenty of free time. I'm enjoying some time with family, much-needed rest, and getting to finish this post (which, full disclaimer, I may or may not have started back in August).

     My doctors and family don't know what the next step in attempting to improve my health is, but it's something we're used to. For now, life goes on a day at a time. What keeps my family and me going is our faith. One of my mom's favorite Bible verses is Romans 12:12. It says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." I won't lie and say that I always go to God first when things are rough. I won't tell you I constantly pray. I won't tell you that my faith takes away all the pain. Even when I am being stubborn, though, it provides constant support. I constantly feel God's love, even when I don't show love to Him. He gives comfort in the midst of the worst days. He makes the unbearable bearable.

"Keyboard"

     I'm taking Creative Writing in school this semester. Since class began, we've covered everything from personal narratives to tall tales to, finally, poetry. We read a variety of poetry, and then came the writing assignments.

     I remembered the file hiding on my computer with poems I've written before, and I was curious to read them after nearly forgetting they existed. I found a piece called "Keyboard," and I went back through and made a few minor edits to it. I don't usually share my narrative writing on this blog. Rather, it's personal writing. I've certainly never shared poetry. There's a first time for everything, though, and I happened to be quite proud of this poem when I stumbled upon it last week. So, without further ado, here's "Keyboard."

When I type, nothing is impossible.
When I type, despair turns into hope.
When I type, I start off slow, crawling along,
But I never give up.
The crawling turns to a slow walk, and then, suddenly,
I’m running. 
My fingers are flying across the keyboard, reminding me of spiders.
Whether it’s the speed or the fact that I’m building a web of words,
I’m not sure. All I know is that it makes me feel like me.
It makes me feel strong, and alive, and inventive; 
It makes me feel confident in what I am capable of.
I don’t always have the right words. I rarely start off knowing what to say.
But as I begin to reconnect with the keyboard, 
And my thoughts, 
And my crudely concealed creativity, 
I am able to find those words.
I dig them from the depths of me, where they were placed lovingly
Before I even knew what the words themselves meant.
I find them, dust them off. 
I kiss them, place them on the page. 
I send my heart out into the world for everyone to see.
My little web grows and grows and grows.
And when a new day comes, and my fingers begin slowly, 
It serves as a reminder. A reminder that
what is hard now will come easy with time,
when the words are uncovered.
And so I begin a new web, a new story, and give up more and more of my heart.
Why do I do so? It isn’t easy. 
No, it hurts. It makes my mind want to shut itself off, 
Prevent me from ever sharing its ideas again.
But I continue on, because writing is in my programing. 
Writing was given to me as a gift, my great purpose in this life.
It was given to me in a way that I need it like air.
And so I begin again, typing out my heart, 
Because it is the only thing keeping me alive.

New School

     Those of you who saw my last blog post know I started a new school this year. As in a brick-and-mortar school, with teachers you don't Skype and students you can see (and almost run into because you're a clutz). I'm incredibly happy to announce that I'm just that- happy. I'm loving my new school so far. It's completely different from any school I've gone to before, from the students (so much politics. And puns. Plus, the popularity of YouTube videos and the love of frisbee) to the building itself (thin curtains separate classes. On a positive note, you can learn from three lectures at once!). I'm enjoying it, though, and that's all that matters. 

     My new school is a lot smaller than my old one. You're mostly with the same people all day, which makes it really easily to learn new names and get to know people. Everyone's been really nice, and I was lucky to find a group of people I spend most of my time with. There's always something interesting (more accurately, entertaining) going on; I've even started a list of quotes by students. There are downsides to a smaller school, like not having the same course options as a larger school, but so far the pros have been outweighing the cons.

     Sure, I miss some things about online school. During the school day, though, they don't pass through my mind. I'm thinking about my next class, the conversation I just had, the assignment that's due soon, and a million other ideas. On Friday, I had a conversation that's stuck with me. As I was talking with some of my new friends, we started talking about enjoying childhood vs. wanting to jump to a few years from now. For as long as I can remember, I've spent far too much energy trying to get myself to enjoy the time of life I'm in. I hate to use the phrase "most kids," because no one is the same. Many of the people around me, though, have always had different thoughts from me. It manifests in a lot of different ways, like while my classmates have typically loved days we do nothing in class, they make me incredibly anxious over the thought of wasted time. 

     Some people really enjoy a laid-back childhood with the focus being on as little responsibilities as possible and lots of time with friends. I've never been able to shut my mind off from thinking of things beyond the here-and-now, or to be content with just being a student. That's simply how I am, though. Mathew 6:34 says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Because of this verse, I try my best to change my thoughts. However, on not being the same as some of my peers, why should I fight it? Striving to think of life one day at a time is one thing. Not naturally being able to relax enough to coast until I turn 18, though, isn't isn't a bad thing, especially when I think of all I've been able to accomplish in 15 years.  

     It's not that I don't love being the age I am, but rather struggling with feeling like being a student is enough. Since this school year, I've hardly worked on the novel I've put over 110,00 words into. Yesterday was the first day in over a month I've picked up one of my instruments. I haven't read very much. These are the things that will matter in the long run, but they're things I don't have any time for during school. I struggle with that, because these have always been the things that obsess over accomplishing. However, although it's bothered me sometimes, I've been alright with simply being a student so far this year. My mom always reminds me that just because I let go of those hobbies now doesn't mean they're gone forever. It's just about the role I currently need to play. 

     In this first month of school, I've been so excited that my health hasn't been too invasive. I'm exhausted most of the time. My endometriosis was acting up the first week of school, and has been acting up this past week. I've had a lot of new health developments since my post on why I did an online school for a year, and while some are good, others are just about as negative as you can get. All of these have had effects on the past month, but none of them have been nearly as bad as they were this time last year. I've been able to get through my schooldays just like anyone else would. I've only been at school five weeks, but I'm thrilled to see where this school year takes me. And who knows? Maybe I'll finally find a balance between being a student and being myself. 

Summer's End

All summer I saw the start of school as a date far, far, off in the distance. I did everything in my power to put on a filter that made the first day of school, the end of summer, as far away as I could. Don't get me wrong; I'm incredibly excited to begin school, but with that excitement comes incredible anxiety. I never forgot about summer's impending end, but I still couldn't believe it when I went to date an entry in my prayer journal and realized that it was the end of July. It was as if a fast-forward switch had been activated. 

     I hate change, which is ridiculous, because everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same, not even for a second. That doesn't stop me from clinging to the past, though, even when it wasn't always positive. This fall I'm going back to school; a traditional, brick-and-mortar school. I'm thrilled to meet new people and start a new academic year, but that doesn't mean I'm completely ready for the school year to roll around. I spent a year away from school. I'm going to a new school with a few familiar faces and a lot of unfamiliar ones. I didn't get all the classes I wanted. My health is still rocky. I really enjoyed spending my days at home, even if I missed a lot of the aspects of a traditional school. 

     Change is scary, but change is good. The timing of my acceptance to my new school was perfect from the perspective of time; we had months to get everything together and finish my old school. It wasn't, and isn't, crystal clear from a health perspective. What my family knows, though, is that it wasn't just luck. My family has been praying for a great school forever, but especially since I actually began school and we realized that it wasn't fun, or challenging, or exciting, or any of the other things you wish school would be. We've been praying for 10 years that I might end up at the school I'll be starting in less than a week. We prayed for what to do for my 10th grade year all throughout our time at my old online school. Then, that dream school became more than just a hope. 

     For all the moments of crying with happiness, there've been tears. For all the time I've spent eagerly talking about school with my mom, we've worked through the anxious thoughts that wrap themselves around the joy and don't budge. I'm right where I'm supposed to be this year; there's no doubt about that. However, that doesn't mean there isn't doubt. That's alright, though, because there's an entire year to have those doubts dissolve. Time was moving too fast a week ago, but now it's moving too slow for an anxious mind. Until school starts, I'll be a wreck. My family will be a wreck. The bulk of the worries won't go away until I've started my new routine; the other ones will take a little more time, and some will never leave. For now, though, I'm just trying to enjoy the last few days of summer, keep my mind on the present, and trust God.

 

Technology for Writers

I'm not going to lie, I almost titled this post "Apps for Writers" because it sounded more catchy. My inability to incorrectly label this post, though, made me go with the word "technology" even if it isn't as attention-grabbing. Of course, anyone can write at almost any time. Only having a pencil and paper aren't excuses to stop working; in fact, sometimes going back to the basics can help. If there's anything that can make writing easier, though, why not use it if you have the opportunity? 

     The first thing I'd like to recommend authors get is Evernote. It's an app and a website, so you can access it from wherever. You can have all different notebooks within it for everything from grocery lists to plot twists. The best part, though, is that everything you write is stored in Evernote, which means you can access it from any device with Internet or the app. Plus, it's free. Score!

     The second thing I'd like to recommend are baby naming websites or apps. If someone saw my search history, it would be a mess thanks to writing research. I've googled all sorts of things that would make me look like I was planning a crime, and I've visited more baby naming sites than some people who are actually expecting. The sites can come in handy, though, when you're searching for just the right character name. A lot of the time, I'll have a letter in mind, but nothing else. On the Internet, though, I can just search for names starting with that letter and get all results I could ever need! You can also research whether a potential name is popular (or when it was popular), its meaning, and its origins.   

     The third thing I'm going to recommend was suggested to me by my dad (hi Dad!). It's called Scrivener, and it's incredibly useful. It has templets for all sorts of fiction and nonfiction documents, and can store everything for whatever you're working on in one place, but in a way that it's organized. That means you can go between all your notes, background information, chapters, excerpts and anything else for your project with ease! You can leave notes for yourself to find later, and there are even helpful templates where you can answer questions about your characters or write information on places in your story. While this is a really cool tool, I wouldn't recommend it to a beginning writer, because it does cost money. I wrote two novels in Pages, and they turned out fine. I love using a new program this time, though!

     My final suggestion is Pinterest. It's known for overflowing with recipes and crafts, but it's also a great tool for a writer (as long as you don't get sidetracked by it!). You can find more story prompts than you'll ever need, advice on writing all sorts of scenes, and knowledge on different situations your character encounters that you haven't to give your story more accuracy. There are tons of tips from authors or bloggers on how to begin writing, editing and revising, and how to figure out what to do once your novel is actually complete.

     Pinterest is also great for when you're lacking inspiration. You can look at architecture, and even look at buildings from a certain part of the world, as a reference. You could find pictures of people that look like your characters or find outfits you could see your protagonist wearing. There are also just beautiful photographs waiting for you to stumble upon; the kind that make you want to get up and write an entire novel at once, run a marathon, or travel the world. That kind of motivation alone can get you through the first 15,000 words. As for the writing slump that inevitably follows, that's a bit harder to tackle. Who knows; maybe I'll have to post about how to tackle that issue someday. 

Yoga

Something I've recently learned about myself is that I love yoga. Do I find it really fun? Yes. Am I good at it? No. That doesn't stop me from practicing, however. I began doing yoga a couple months ago, but it wasn't until recently I found a routine I really like. 

     Yoga, meditation, and God are all things that can be really calming. A lot of doctors recommend meditation for mental health, and yoga is often prescribed for people who might want to stay active but aren't able to do higher intensity workouts. The first time I tried yoga, it was horrible. I hated the pace, despised the moves, and felt worse when I'd finished than when I'd begun. With a change in environment, moves, and teacher, I found out that yoga could be really awesome. 

     I tie my yoga routine in with my faith. I read a Bible verse before I start doing yoga, and use that verse to count how long I hold each pose. If the verse is long, I might only repeat it to myself once before changing poses. If it's short, I might run through it a couple of times. I usually use a routine that I was taught during a class, but there are so many ways to find yoga moves you like! You can find routines to start your day or end it, calm you down or wake you up, and help you get stronger or work on your flexibility. Pinterest is brimming with pre-made routines, and YouTube has some great videos to demonstrate the moves. However, I really recommend seeing an instructor if you can. A tiny mistake in performing a move can cause stress on your joints, so it's best to learn the right way.

     At the end of my yoga routines I like to pray and meditate (in that order). Meditation is a really great way to calm your mind, but it can be rough to know how to start. I really recommend downloading Headspace, or visiting them online. There's a free course called "Take 10" that will lead you through how to meditate, and give you the skills to eventually do it on your own. Once you realize how simple and relaxing meditation is, it'll easily become a new part of your routine. With yoga moves for people of all different goals and fitness levels, it's just as easy to get hooked on. 

Fiddles

You can't always change your circumstances, but you can usually help them. I've been dealing with mental health challenges my entire life, which means I've come up with a few coping mechanisms that really help me. I've seen these things help other people as well, and I'm hoping that they can come to an even greater use if I post them online. 

    When you're anxious, sometimes it can help to have your hands moving. This is where fiddles come in. Fiddles are just objects that keep your hands busy, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Tangles are these things that you can twist. They come in all different sizes and textures, so there's one for everyone. Usually they are fairly small, about the size of your hand when uncurled and in a rough circle, but giant ones are also available. I'd recommend following the link I've provided and looking at the Tangles, or trying to find a video on them.

     Other fiddles could be something simple, like a stress ball. You could buy pipe cleaners and pull the fuzz from them. Of course, none of those things are very convenient when you're in public. That's where jewelry fiddles are great. They look just like regular rings, bracelets, or necklaces, but you can spin or twist them when you're anxious. 

     I realize that all of this is hard to visualize. What does a fiddle ring look like?! So, I've created a Pinterest board where you can see example of some of the different fiddles I've mentioned today. If you have any other questions, though, please feel free to leave a comment here or on Pinterest. If you find anything in this post helpful, stay tuned for future posts, because I plan on making more with similar themes. No one struggling with mental illness should have to feel alone, or struggle more than they have to. 

Bible Verses for Anxiety and Uncertainties

     Anxiety is something that everyone deals with. Some people deal with it mildly, while others face how debilitating it can be. No matter what kind of anxiety you face, though, I think there are some really good Bible verses that would benefit everyone to know. These are only a handful of the many, many verses God gives us about how to handle and address our fears! This won't be a long post; I won't be commenting on the verses, because sometimes it's best to understand them on your own and not associate them with anything other than God. This is just a resource for anyone struggling with worries and uncertainties (which, let's face it, is all of us). 

  • 1 Peter 5:7- Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (NLT)
  • Jeremiah 20:11- But the Lord is with me like an awe-inspiring warrior. (NET)
  • Mathew 6:25- So I tell you, don’t worry about the things you need to live—what you will eat, drink, or wear. Life is more important than food, and the body is more important than what you put on it. (ERV)
  • Jeremiah 29:11- I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. (GW)
  • Psalm 37:5- Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (ESV)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7- For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (HCSB)
  • Luke 1:37- For with God nothing shall be impossible. (KJV)
  • Job 5:9- He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. (NIV)
  • Exodus 14:14- The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. (NIV)
  • Romans 5:3 and 4- Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. (NET)
  • Psalm 94:19- Whenever I am anxious and worried, You comfort me and make me glad. (GNT)
  • Romans 8:18- For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us. (NET)
  • Romans 12:12- Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)
  • Philippians 4:6 and 7- Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NET)

Writing Struggle

     I'm not going to sugarcoat it, or beat around the bush. I've had a lot of trouble writing lately. For at least four months, I hardly wrote a word. I was preoccupied with a demanding school year and unmotivated by a lack of inspiration and a rough patch in my health. I couldn't work on my newest story. My usual tactic of making myself write, even if I don't like the way it's being written, just wasn't working; I couldn't even construct the most basic rough draft. 

     What I found I could do, though, was write poetry. At first, it made me feel productive. It even made me happy sometimes. I was writing, and that was something. After a while, though, I started to feel guilty. Why couldn't I write a book? Surely I just wasn't putting in enough effort. I didn't have enough skill. What I was doing with poetry stopped being productive enough for me. 

     That was the professional author in me talking. That was the part of me that makes writing a job, or a chore, instead of what it usually starts out as: a hobby. The was the part of me that has greatly known strict deadlines and large word counts. 

     The part of me that writes because I love to create stories had to snap me out of my thinking. I'm still a teenager. I don't have to write a certain type of literature to pay bills; the only reason I have to write is because it makes me happy. If that means I take a few months to write poetry, or blog posts, or short stories, so be it. If I can write a novel, that's fine too. If writing is causing me a lot of harm, though, it's okay to take a step back and return when I'm in a better place. I couldn't come to terms with this, and spent the time away from creating characters full of unnecessary shame and guilt. 

     For the last few weeks, I have been writing more. It started as writing 300 words one day; it was hardly anything, but it made me excited. Then I began writing more each day, and some days I even reach the daily word counts that I used to strive for. I feel joy at any progress in my story, whether it's a paragraph, and page, or a chapter. That joy is why I started writing, and I'm thrilled to have it back. I also know, though, that it's okay if I'm not spending every spare moment working on a novel. It's alright if my schedule has changed since I wrote my first two books, and I need to change how and when I write because of it. What matters is writing because it makes me smile, not because I feel it's an obligation. 

Favorite Bible Verses

I'm the kind of person who's open about her faith. If you've read my first book, Wrong, you probably remember the religious aspects of it. More often than not, you'll find me wearing the cross necklace I got when I was baptized. More than any of those things, though, my goal is for people to be able to tell I'm a Christian without having to see or read it somewhere. 

     The other week I was getting to know some of my classmates. I was filling out one of those questionnaires that help share a little bit about who you are when I saw the question. "Favorite bible verse?" it asked. For me, the answer has always been simple; for as long as I can remember, I've had the same favorite verse. 1 Peter 5:7- give all your worries to Him, for He cares for you- has always spoken volumes to me with my anxiety and OCD. However, over the past few months, I've been strongly drawn to a few other verses as well. I felt guilty, though; almost as though I was betraying "my" verse. 

     The thought of changing the verse I called my favorite seemed impossible. I'd wonder if I would even really want to. Part of me was afraid of losing the verse I'd identified with for most of my (admittedly short) life. The other part of me was afraid that I'd say the same verse was my most-liked one forever.

     I had a thought: why was I stressing so much about picking a favorite verse? We pick favorite verses to share a bit of our faith with people. Other than that, it doesn't mean anything. God never says, "Hey, I really need everyone to choose one verse to be their favorite." We're never told that we have a limit on how many verses we can be really fond of. There's no real reason we can't love a lot of verses, or have favorites instead of a favorite.

     So if someone came up to me within the next hour and asked what my favorite verse was, I'd tell them it was 1 Peter 5:7. While that still means a lot to me, and shows a lot about me, it isn't the only verse I really like anymore. To me, that just shows how my faith has grown. The more I learn about God's word, the more stories, verses, and passages I'll find that resonate with me, and that's incredibly exciting. 

Social Media Hiatus

I haven't been on Instagram or Twitter since December 18, 2015. Maybe you've noticed that you haven't gotten any updates from my personal account or the one for this blog. Or, you're reading this and going, "You know, now that I think about it..." Either way, I promise it doesn't hurt my feelings. On my social media accounts, I've always been someone who looks at my feed more than I contribute to others'. That's why I know that a lot of people might not have realized I haven't been on social media. Nevertheless, I really wanted to talk about why I've been off of Twitter and Instagram, what it has been like, and if I'm planning on going back.

     Why did I go off of Instagram and Twitter? Trust me, it wasn't, and hasn't, been easy. Being off these sites means there's a disconnect. Think of all the things you learn when you check your Twitter or Instagram feed throughout the day. Depending on who you are and who you follow, you could hear about anything from a funny moment at school to the name of someone's newborn. Being off of these sites means that I'll be in a group of people and be the only one that doesn't know what they're talking about. It's happened before, and I know it will happen again. 

     It's also hard to do because Instagram and Twitter can be addicting. When you first start an account, you just occasionally scroll through your feed. As you start to understand it more, and follow more people, you spend more time on it. Then, BAM. You spend hours on that one site every single day. Going off of social media was a good way to get away from that obsession, but it wasn't the reason for it.

     If I'm being honest, the reason for my absence on social media has to do with being at an online school. Seeing all my friends in class, laughing at the class clown, meeting up between classes, or screaming out support at a pep rally or football game made me really upset sometimes. I was really happy for the people in the pictures, because even if just for a moment, they were having a fun moment at school. I felt sad, though, because I wanted to be there. I wanted to sit in the student section at a football game. I wanted to go into hysterics over one word that related to last week's history lesson. I wanted to be able to go home from school and have a hilarious story to share.

     I started logging off of Instagram, so that I would have to re-enter my username and password whenever I went on so that I couldn't just mindlessly scroll through my feed in a free moment. I was still feeling down, though, so I decided to delete the app off my phone entirely. Then, almost without thinking, I deleted Twitter, too. I didn't have a Snapchat or Facebook; I did have a Pinterest. That stayed on my phone, but I didn't use it until January. I kept Pinterest because I have a couple of food allergies, and it can be really helpful. 

     What's it been like? Just like I said earlier, there have been a lot of moments where I have no idea what friends are talking about. Other things have been great, though. Overall, I've spent less time on social media. This is great, because my schooling needs a lot of time. Checking your phone just a few moments every once in a while can really add up. I'll be the first to admit that the past few weeks, I've been spending more time on Pinterest. Realizing that, though, and also noticing that I'm not happy with that use of my time, means that I'm slowly opening the app less and less. 

     The goal I had when I went off these sites in the first place has been achieved. That doesn't mean I don't still feel sad about school sometimes, or that it isn't bittersweet looking at a picture sent by a friend. It does mean that it's on my mind less, though, and that's enough. I went to public school my entire schooling career up until this year. It is, and will continue to be, an adjustment in many ways. If I can do something to help with the harder parts of this adjustment, though, why wouldn't I?

     Finally, we've gotten to the big question... Am I going to go back on social media? Yes. Anytime soon? I wouldn't count on it. I may miss the occasional tweet, or wonder about what someone's been up to. I've decided that if they aren't a big enough part of my life that I don't find out how they are elsewhere, though, it just isn't important enough. As for missing a funny or popular post, those are things I can live without as well. 

     I considered going back on Instagram, just once, to post about this blog update. I've decided against it, though. Having people take time out of their day to read what I have to say is really nice. It's not the most important thing, though. What's more important is that I like what I post, or find it important. So weighing the pros and cons, there were more cons to alerting people about this blog post on Instagram. 

     So maybe you'll stumble upon this post by accident. Maybe you'll see it if I ever go back on social media, and I tell you about a future blog update. Either way, it doesn't matter. I'm glad to have you as a reader, and even more glad that I'm putting myself before my writing's popularity. :)

Why I Homeschool

I started kindergarten with a batch of kids, and I stayed with them until 8th grade. New people came, and others left, but I was still with the same group of people almost every day since I was 5. Last fall, though, they all went off to high school, and I didn't go with them. I've been doing online school for the past semester, and today I wanted to finally talk about why we made the decision to go that route. 

I've never exactly had the best health. I can pull countless examples of having to miss school, or playdates. I'm sure I've had more doctors appointments than some people have in their entire lives. Thankfully, God gave my family good friends in the medical field, which has been such a huge blessing. I was never able to be completely 'normal,' but with great doctors and a lot of faith, I was doing okay. Then, very early in my 7th grade year, all of that changed.

In 7th grade, my health started getting worse and worse. I had been on a medicine for years, which we did not take lightly. We had tried all other options beforehand, and even had a plan to try and wean off of it in a few years. Overnight, though, the medicine that had been working for years stopped, and I was left with the crippling feeling of nothing. No happiness, no sadness, no anger, no nothing. Every once and a while I would be able to feel, but only sadness and the lack of hope. It was like I was walking in fog; everything was terribly blurred. It seemed like everything was reaching me with a filter that was keeping its beauty from me. 

The first part of my story is about mental health. I have clinical depression, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and tics. All of these things, spare tics, I was born with. Clinical depression is not brought on by anything, unlike circumstantial depression. I don't feel it all of the time, but it is always there. Even if I were to wake up tomorrow and never feel the mental and physical pain that it brings again, I would still have depression.

I always describe Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a smorgasbord of all the different anxiety disorders. It isn't specific, like social anxiety, or separation anxiety. It encompasses a lot of things, more than I could ever name. 

My number one pet peeve is when people misuse the term 'OCD.' OCD is NOT wanting to keep a semi-organized room or workspace. It is NOT keeping books straight on a desk at school, or wanting pretty handwriting. OCD is being unable to leave the house for days out of fear of the oven catching it on fire, even if you haven't used your oven in weeks. It's going without sleep night after night because even though you have checked dozens of times, you're paralyzed with fear at the thought of the door's lock being turned too much one way or the other. 

Tics are movements that you do that you can't control. They can be verbal or locomotive; I have the latter. They come and go, which means you could have no tics for a while, and then a lot for a bit. You could have all sorts of tics, or just a few. Just a few examples of tics would be wiggling your nose (Bewitched style), eye blinking, or having to shrug your shoulders.  

So, back to 7th grade. My depression was back and worse than ever. My anxiety, which had never really gone away, got worse. It made, makes, and probably always will make me be afraid of being away from home too long, afraid of going out with even my closest friends, and so many other things. Recently it's taken on a more social anxiety twist as well. My OCD was luckily staying under control, as it had been really bad a few years prior. My tics were becoming very frequent, only the main ones couldn't be seen. I had, and still have, a tic in my stomach that causes my ribs to get bruised to the point where I wear a brace.

We tried a few different approaches with our regular doctor, but nothing was working, not even a bit. At that point we were transferred to the main doctor for my problems at Vanderbilt. We embarked on a few months-long journey of going back to counselors (I had gone to one in 3rd grade) and trying every single medicine that she could offer. Nothing worked; not only that, but they all made the problem worse. My body needs a certain amount of anti-depression, anxiety, and OCD medicine, but I cannot even handle a very small amount. So for every medicine we tried, which there were a lot of, I got nearly every side effect that the medicines can cause. It isn't uncommon for people to get a few side effects, but it is to get almost all of them. As well, many times the symptoms go away after a few weeks; that wasn't the case for me, though.

I was shaky, dizzy, lightheaded, had very extreme fatigue (as in falling asleep sitting up, no matter how many hours I had slept the night, or even minutes, before), and many other things. I would almost pass out in stores, and I could hardly walk at times. The doctor at Vanderbilt had exhausted all options, and told us so. That day was one of the worst of my life, as my family stood out in the parking lot wondering what we were going to do next.

We continued trying different treatment options, but I was still very sick from the side effects. It took all my efforts just to make it through a day of school, or even half of a day. At this point it was my 8th grade year. Instead of getting better, things were getting worse. My mental health was still struggling, and so was my physical health from medicinal side effects and the strain that depression puts on your body (such as constant pain, and a weaker pain tolerance). My physical health continued to decrease, though. My stomach had always had problems, less-severe ones being a few allergies to foods, but over the years they had worsened. My stomach was in pain twenty-four-seven, no matter what. It hurt to eat, to move, to even just sit still, all day every day. No one could figure out what was causing the pain, or how to stop it.

My family came to terms with how sick I was, and that there was no way I could attend school the next year. My mom began searching for an online school, and finally found one after months of searching. We decided to enroll, and regular high school was suddenly out of the picture.

After a doctor's appointment one day, I was sent to have a cat scan out of fear that I had appendicitis, or that something else was wrong. We weren't sure what we were missing, as the pain was constant and so severe. They found an ovarian cyst, and they realized that I get reoccurring cysts. As soon as one goes away, another forms. They suspected I might have endometriosis, but the only way to diagnose it is through surgery. 

Being out of school was good for our schedule, and for me, as I can have things like heating pads while I work, but it also messed (and continues to) with my mental health even more. It caused/causes me to get very depressed about not being able to go to school, see friends, and just enjoy school like everyone around me was. When going out in public, my anxiety and and tics would be off the charts. My OCD started coming back in small ways, such as having to stop and straighten all of the plates in Target. I was constantly exhausted, but I wasn't able to sleep. I had a few weeks where I wasn't able to walk, or even sit up; I had to lie down constantly. I developed horrible brain fog that prevented me from working, reading, writing, or even being able to understand what my parents were saying to me at times.

As well, my stomach problems were getting worse. The pain was still a daily thing, and the prolonged depression was making it hard to cope with the pain. We met with a doctor who specializes in cysts and endometriosis in teens, and started on treatment. The treatment didn't help the pain at all; in fact, the pain got a lot worse. I was also getting even more side effects, like more dizziness and bloating.

So, where am I today? We still haven't found an effective treatment for any of my medical problems. I still have very severe side effects from the depression medicines. I still have all of the ones I mentioned earlier, but I have new ones, too, such as overall increased stomach pain and pain when I eat. The treatment for the cysts are effecting my mental health as well. The pain and bloating have caused my depression and self-esteem to go even more downhill, unfortunately. I still have the constant pain, and the cysts are still forming. If school wasn't an option starting my 9th grade year, then it's absolutely positively not possible now. 

My family and I have had good and bad reactions when telling people the truth about our situation and my health in the past, which is why we haven't talked about it much. Now, though, I feel is the right time to finally share my story and my health problems. Not telling those closest to me has been a challenge that I'm ready to diminish.

If anyone has questions, don't be afraid to ask them. If anyone feels someone might be benefited by reading this blog post, then please share it. Posting this should be one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I have such a peace about it. Not having to beat around the bush when talking about anything concerning my health is going to be such a relief for my entire family. I'm also hoping that by this being posted, I can maybe help someone else in similar circumstances. I would appreciate prayers by anyone, and I would love to be able to pray for anyone else who might be going through a hard time as well.

I'm an author; the easiest way for me to speak is through not speaking at all. That's how this came about; a blog post instead of repeating my story over and over, trying to remember all of the details for each telling of it. That doesn't mean that this post is perfect. I'm sure I'll look back and think of things I should have mentioned, or see places that I should have cleared certain things up. It is the perfect way for my story to be told, though, and that's the only kind of perfection it needs to have.

 

 

Blogging vs. Vlogging

If you clicked on this article because the 'vs.' in the title gave you hope for an epic battle, then I'm sorry to disappoint- there won't be any dramatic fights here today. The 'vs.' is for a comparison in this case. Today I'm going to talk about blogging, vlogging, and why I'm a blogger. 

     Blogging and vlogging have the same goal, which is to discuss topics that are important to a person, or to share things from someone's life. The difference is that while blogging is written out, vlogging is a video version. I could be sitting in front of my camera right now, saying all of these things instead of talking, and this blog would turn into a vlog.

     Some people like to watch vlogs because they think that they can get more emotion out of them, prefer watching over reading, etc. They could like making them because they like to experiment with different lighting, angles, or effects. They could also feel like they're better at expressing their thoughts when they're speaking. They could have a weak spot in all things Language Arts when it comes to writing, and don't want that to hold them back.

     Some people like blogs more because they would rather read, think that they can get the same amount of information in a shorter amount of time, etc. They could like making them more because they feel like they're better at getting their point across through words. Maybe they're self conscious about their voice or look, and feel more comfortable getting their thoughts across through words. They could also lack access to a camera or a good environment to film.

     Whichever you prefer, it's entirely your choice, and there are plenty of bloggers AND vloggers who feel the same way that you do. Personally, I'm a blogger. I've considered vlogging, mostly because of all of the vloggers that I love to watch. I'm just more of a writer, though, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, blogging is the best choice. As I get more and more comfortable with putting my thoughts online, I'll begin to contribute my part to the blogging community entry by entry. 

     If you want, feel free to share which you like more and why; I'd love to hear from you!

Why I Love Deadlines

Deadlines are the best things ever for me. It's not because I need someone to force me to write; I love writing. I do have a problem with writer's block, but it has to do with my main reason. It's because if I don't have a deadline, I spend too much time trying to make my writing perfect. 

     I'm not denying that taking time makes a near-perfect story. You can read account after account of authors that took years to write their wildly famous stories. The thing is, though, that you can't be too focused on perfection. Your story will never be flawless; with more and more editing it gets better, but never impeccable. There's a point when you just have to say that you're done working on the story, because you can't work on it forever. You lose experience and opportunities that way. 

     The more stories you work on, the better they get. You won't always feel that way; you may like the way you built a plot in a past story, or the characters from another. With every new narrative, though, you gain experience that you didn't have previously. Deadlines make you work hard to finish a story in a certain amount of time, so that you can move onto the next adventure and give it your all. 

THE BOOK THIEF

What's my favorite book? Alright, folks, if you know me whatsoever, you know that I'm a reader. I will read anything and everything I can get my hands on. Thus, "What's your favorite book?" is a really hard question for me to answer. However, since early seventh grade year, I've always answered with The Book Thief .

      Most books, people like because of A. the plot or B. the writing. For example, I adore Marie Lu's Legend series. What I love is the story, though. That doesn't mean that I despise her writing style; there just isn't much about it that stands out to me. When I was younger, I read books by Wendy Mass. I always loved how small details she would casually add in chapter two would rap up the whole book somehow. And while I loved the stories, her writing style sticks with me.  

     However, with The Book Thief, I don't have a preference. The author, Markus Zusak, tells a story with a plot alone that is stunning. He tells it with a style that I find hard to explain, but that stuns me. The way he describes ordinary elements is unlike anything I've ever read before.  

     So, what is the premise of The Book Thief ? This book takes place during World War II. Liesel Meminger is on her way to her new home when her brother dies. Suddenly, a place where she would have at least known one person becomes a place where she's completely alone. 

     The story follows Liesel as she moves onto Himmel Street in Munich, Germany. She begins to form a bond with her new Mama, Rosa Hubberman, who shows her affection with insults. Her Papa is an accordion player with a kind heart and a desire to help Liesel with her fascination: words. And then there's Rudy Steiner, the boy who Liesel just can't seem to shake. 

     I don't know what to say with this book except that you need to read it. The plot starts off excellent and somehow advances as it progresses. Liesel Meminger is one of those characters that you can't stop thinking about, even long after you've closed the book.

     Have you read The Book Thief ?  What did you think? I'd love to hear your opinion on the book! 

     Until next time, guys.  

Photography and Writing

Currently, I'm working on a multitude of projects. When someone asks me what I'm writing, I have the choose a narrative and go with it. 

     For me, switching between different narrators isn't a struggle- usually. Other times, I can't seem to write any story. I always have ways to try and get into a character's head, though. One thing is that I'll have a genre, artist, or playlist to go with every story I'm working on. A good song with the same tone or message as your story can keep your mind on your narrative. Also, I like to act as my character would act. Part of this includes my camera- I'll take it somewhere and I'll think "How does ____ see the world around them?" and attempt to capture the picture from their point of view. Acting like my characters could also mean I decide to pretend that I'm them, or make decisions as they would. It helps me to better understand my characters. 

     If you have any tips on how to better understand your characters or switch between narratives, feel free to comment; I'd love to hear from you! 

Finding Time to Write

Finding the time to write can be challenging. Whether it's due to a packed schedule or a lack of inspiration, it's really easy to go days without writing when life gets hectic. You could also have a different sort of challenge while writing; maybe your environment, health, or other factors get in the way. What can you do about this? I don't hold all the answers, but I do have a few tips. 

     Tip one- Keep track of how much you write each day. You can put this on a calendar, in your phone, or scribble it on the nearest piece of scrap paper. Just remember to track your word count each day, whether it's zero or in the thousands. It can inspire you to see how far you've come in your story over a few days, which is really beneficial when you don't want to write. You can remind yourself that just a few minutes can make huge strides in your plot progression.

     Maybe you work best with routine. Then, finding the same time every day that you can write might be the best thing. You'll have that time caved out for writing your story each day, and then you'll go from struggling to find time to struggling to find inspiration. One battle at a time!

     Try telling yourself that you have to sit down in front of your computer for a set amount of time. Whether you write a sentence or a chapter, you've spent the same amount of time working on the project. If you're anything like me, you'll realize that it feels much better to see that you've written a lot in a short amount of time than writing a few words in that same amount of time, and you'll try your hardest to be as productive as possible. Another way to help yourself be productive in a short amount of time can be found in an earlier blog post I wrote, which you can find here

     Maybe you spend an hour on social media a day. Or you might mindlessly watch TV for thirty minutes before a lesson or practice. Finding little moments in your day to get work done can do wonders. Sometimes we have a completely packed schedule, and there really isn't a moment to spare. Other times, though, a few moments can turn into an awesome achievement. 

      I want to say is that everyone misses days while writing. That's okay. The important thing is that you're writing most of the time. If you skip a day, or something comes up, there's no need to beat yourself up about it. The second thing I want to say is that I by no means write everyday. When I wrote my first two novels, I did work nearly daily. I have a lot less time than I did then, though, which means it's hard to find time to write. When I type this, it's a great way to potentially help someone else get back on track with their literary projects, but it's also a good reminder to myself of some ways to help get a few more words written during the day. 

     Now that you've finished reading, see if you can get writing! 

     

 

 

 

 

 

Transistions

Writing on a blog, I've come to realize, is much harder than I originally thought. I prefer fiction writing; maybe it's just because I'm so used to it, though. Writing on a blog is more personal; you aren't writing about or as someone else (which I happen to enjoy doing). Don't get me wrong; writing through a character is still honest and truthful, and often a little too insightful for my comfort. You're shielded, though. You could write an autobiography and deem it fiction, and few would ever know. Maybe no one would- I suppose it depends on the person. 

     Also, there are no long periods of editing. I do enjoy that- but, it also proves to be stressful. I worry about making one little mistake, and then sending it live. I think that writing a blog will be good for me, though. New experiences, less perfectionism.