Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 4 - a New Year's song

This one's been in my head lately and was really easy to do, especially because I have piano music for it and didn't have to copy it out of a hymnal, like I did the first two. No, it's not a Christmas song, but it still fits the time of year, and I love the words. So, Auld Lang Syne.

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New Year's was more exciting for me when I was little because I would try really hard to stay up late. Now I'm more conscious of the passing of time New Year's symbolizes and what it means for my future. I pray this new year of mine be dedicated to God, because I certainly can't do this on my own. To those of you looking forward to the new year, resolving, trying -- good for you. But for old time's sake, think of the past. Think of the things God has done for you. Think of old friends. And think of how they affect your future.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creative Projects/Scrivener Review

Home for the holidays means lots of relaxing time for me. I've been in a comfortable sleepy haze which has mostly been spent playing Mario Kart with my brother and visiting friends. Still, I've made room for ocarina practice and finished an ongoing art project. Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be an artist. Interestingly, both these prospective professions were sparked by excellent teachers.

Now I have professors, and though I admire many of them, I'm largely on my own to decide what to do with my career. I'm supposed to be an adult now, after all. I love practicing music. I love drawing. And I love writing. Though I don't doubt that I want to be a writer, I'm starting to worry that my other creative projects might be taking my attention away from writing. It's something I need to practice more than music. It's something for which I need to make long-term goals.

Over my extended family Christmas, I talked to my NaNoWriMo-loving cousin about my novel. It made me realize just how much I love the ideas in my story. Since then, I've been thinking "Hm. I really need to start working on revision." But thinking isn't doing.

Last month, I downloaded the free trial of Scrivener, writing software aimed at breaking down big projects into small pieces. Since the tutorial takes about two hours, I didn't manage to get through it until we started the long drive back to Iowa. Scrivener is a major sponsor of NaNoWriMo, and one of the "winner goodies," at least in past years, is a discount on the software, which is already cheaper for students. My conclusion after going through it was that I'm not ready for Scrivener yet. I'm not at the point in revising where I can start writing scene-by-scene. But once I am ready, I'm getting it.

Scrivener has a ton of features useful for different styles of writing. One writer probably won't use all of them, but there's something for everybody. You can tag different sections by topic or character and then pull out only those sections. You can outline. You can attach different documents to notecards that contain summaries or to-do lists and see what work you have left to do at a glance. You can have documents inside folders which themselves contain text. If you're creative, you can use any number of the tools to work for you. For me, I'd probably have separate documents for all the major scenes in the outline view and then have to-do lists for each of the scenes in the notecard view. I'm particularly intrigued by the ability to track different sections by topics, keywords, or characters -- beasically, whatever you want to tag.

Or you can keep it simple. Outline, write scene-by-scene. Breaking it down is really what it's all about. It appears flexible enough to work not just for novels, but research papers, nonfiction, and other lengthy writing projects.

The only thing I was disappointed in was that the feature for taking notes on different documents just wasn't big or flexible enough for me, which is why I take written notes anyway when typing a story. I need the freedom to write all over the page, draw arrows to things and underline things without having to think about dragging boxes around or formatting. Having to do this by hand is okay by me, though.

If you're interested, I recommend getting the free trial and running the tutorial; after going through it, you'll know what features are good for you and whether or not you want to give it a try for real.

But like I said, I'm not there yet. Today is the day I start revising. I'm reading my novel through for the first time and taking notes on what needs to be done. I'll see what I need to do from there.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 3

This week I wanted to do something that would be a little trickier and particularly suited to the ocarina. I thought Fum, Fum, Fum would sound good on such a flutey little instrument.

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I tweaked a few things the second time around to make it a little different. I've also been experimenting with my brand new four hole pendant ocarina from Songbird Ocarinas. It was a Christmas gift, and I'm delighted with it. I'm not confident enough with the new fingering system yet to try this song in it, though.

Being home is very relaxing. I've been baking, visiting friends, and doing a little more Christmas shopping than I'd have liked... but now it's Christmas. It's another day with the family -- and that's all I need.

Merry Christmas -- for real this time!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 2

This weekend I'm at my grandparent's house, getting ready to enjoy extended family Christmas. Recorded from my grandma's office, here is Away in a Manger, two versions in fact.

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I'm proud to say that I didn't need nearly as many takes to get a decent version of this one, though I was interrupted by my mother asking me to look up the Alton Brown recipe for standing rib roast (Alton Brown's Good Eats is one of my favorite things ever).

Though I'm really excited to see all my family, I'm still in Indiana, and I can't wait to get back home to Iowa. In the meantime, I'm enjoying myself, despite the fact that people in Ft. Wayne are crazy drivers. So soon -- home! Until then, merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ocarina Christmas Carol 1

As promised, here's my first Christmas song on my ocarina.

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Even though it's pretty easy, I could still tell I was improving as I practiced. When I walked back from the music building where I recorded it, the ocarina came off its neck strap and fell on the sidewalk. I was momentarily terrified, but the glaze only chipped a bit. Thank goodness it's sturdy!

I haven't really done a post about writing in a while. I'm trying to get started on revising this year's NaNovel, which is something I've never done before. Last summer I gave a halfhearted attempt at revising last year's NaNovel, and I didn't get very far. Right now, I'm testing out Scrivener, some pretty interesting writing software I think might work for me. Expect posts on that soon. In the meantime, I wish you a merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Music and Goals

This is our last weekend for performances of A Christmas Carol. Our last show is tomorrow afternoon, and I'm sure I'll be both happy and sad it's over. I'll miss the community of it, but now I might have time for community in some other things.

NaNoWriMo is also over, which takes one big chunk of work out of my life. Finals are two weeks away, but right now, I've got some room to think about things and plan.

I've realized lately what goals can do in a person's life. Deadlines have become significant to me through NaNoWriMo and the warnings of my writing professor ("'Deadline' is a literal, not a figurative, term. It means 'pass this line, and you're dead.'"), but goals are a way of putting deadlines with some positive connotations in your life. It means something you've wanted to accomplish is finished. It means you've improved yourself or your skills.

To that effect, there's something I've been working on lately. I love music. I have a decent voice and I play flute, but I've always wanted to play piano. I started practicing by myself in high school, but I think I've improved a lot with the free access to practice rooms here. It may not be Billy Joel's Dublinesque, (which I will be able to play before I die!) but this is a song I've been practicing for some time. It's A Day Without Rain, by Enya, not without some mistakes. I also need to get out of the habit of looking at my hands, but I'm happy with what I've accomplished.

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So, with setting music goals in mind, I've got another idea. I own an ocarina which I don't play very often. (Yes, they exist outside the realm of Hyrule.) In light of the Christmas season, I plan to learn a new Christmas carol every week and post it here to the blog. I still need to pick what songs I'm going to do, but I'm excited to have a new goal and to be working toward something.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaNo Update 2

Before November started, I said I would probably write all the time about my struggles and discoveries this National Novel Writing Month. Now that the month is nearly gone and I've barely mentioned it, I feel slightly guilty. But I was using my time to write my novel, not blog entries.

Time to make up for that.

I've kept up with word count, though it's been difficult. There's been a day or five or seven where I didn't write, too busy or not in the mood. But most of the time, I made it up in the next day or two. I knew I couldn't afford to let myself get too far behind. Right now, I'm at 43,347 words, right on track and close enough to the win that my breath is fogging up the finish line on the other side of my screen. I still don't know precisely how I want to end it, because I have very little idea what the best ending will be with all these scrapes and plot holes, but so far the ending's involved a few explosions, so I guess it can't be that bad.

My first year I tried (and failed) NaNoWriMo, I started with no idea what the story would be like. Halfway through the month, I was busy and still had no idea what my story was about, so I quit. This year, I've been a little better prepared. I had maybe 1/4 of a story idea. There are four days left. I can probably come up with four days of material.

My problems this month so far have been leaving character development to the last minute, loving characters but slowly realizing they didn't fit with the story I'm trying to tell, loving the story I'm trying to tell and realizing I know nothing about it, being too confident, not being confident enough, and being too busy. This last has helped me write my full 1,667 in 45 minutes, however, so I'm not terribly grudging.

Basically, my NaNovel is a NaNovel. It is awkward and lopsided. It doesn't deserve to see the light of day, and it deserves a full revision as soon as I can give it. It's somewhat daft and rather wild. It's like one of your dear friends who likes to do strange and awkward things in public. Right now, it's a little insecure. Maybe it will feel a little better about itself once I figure out how to help it say what it wants to say.

But what interesting things our imaginations can do.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Life, My World

A few moments ago while texting my boyfriend, I mentioned how I just need to figure out specifically what I want to talk about for blog posts. His suggestion was "Your life!", so here goes.

Describing my life necessarily details many others. Recently, I've noticed how people assume a strange plurality of worlds. I think lives have similar properties. For example, in my professional writing class, I hear a lot about the "publishing world", the "writing world", et cetera. In theatre, our director tells us to clear our minds of things not in the "world of the play." How vast my life, that it encompasses so many worlds! Other than just the physical realm this mortal coil inhabits, I also live in the college world, the world of my dorm hall, the waking world, and whatever world it is where I have my daydreams.

And yet, according to John 15:19, I am not of this world. Huh.

People also have lives, or else they're told they need to get them. There are personal lives, sex lives (not that I would know), work lives, home lives, and I've heard it's possible to live the sweet life, the unexamined life, and even that elusive "real life", which apparently people like me haven't experienced yet.

But since I'm not of this world, I wonder if this life isn't mine either.  According to Job 10:12 and John 5:21, God (or the Son) gives life. It was given to me. I don't just have it. There's a purpose to it all. Galatians 2:20 is interesting:
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
So, what am I doing with this life I've been given?

At times, it feels like I'm just sitting tight, waiting to be given something to do. Sometimes I feel like I've been given a thousand things to do, and sometimes I pick those thousand things for myself. I think the gist of it is that I'm still learning. More even than writing, I feel that learning is the talent I've been handed along with my life. I absorb everything new in the hopes that someday I can use it. With all the parallels in this world, I really believe I can use all I've been given. And I've been given so many opportunities and blessings.

And, it's nice to think that contrary to what my younger brother says, I don't need to get a life after all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Musicals

I make fun of chick flicks. My sister hates watching them with me because if I don't like them, I do nothing but make fun of the characters and ruin all the romantic moments. It's a kind of sappy I can't stand. I can, however, sit through the cheesiest of musicals without a single insult. I will shed tears. And when the happy ending comes, as it inevitably does, I dance and sing around the house for hours afterward.

Taylor Theatre's current production is A Christmas Carol. I have about as small a part as there is (yes, yes, "there are no small parts in a show"), but I delight to be part of the production. Tonight, we got our first standing ovation. Then we had our cast party. I was on my post-musical kick, being hyper and singing all over the place, and then I heard the best news I have in a long time.

There is a musical of Lord of the Rings.

I'm pretty sure my heart stopped.

Over the next few weeks I'll listen to it over and over again and learn everything there is to know about it, but I doubt I'll get used to it. I will never lose sight of that joy I find in a good musical. My all-time favorite is Les Misérables. I'm pretty much obsessed, and the joy it gives me never goes away. Every time I listen, it's still wonderful. From the few songs I've heard of the LotR musical, this one seems to evoke the same kind of feelings in me. What beautiful songs! What a wonderful story!

One of the things that I think makes a really good musical, movie, or TV show that started as a book is that it keeps the feel of the original story while being successful in its own medium. Les Mis did that and then some. As a huge LotR geek, I pick at the movies a lot, but I love them and appreciate them.

Here's hoping the LotR musical succeeds in that way. My sappy heart could use another musical.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God's in the Details

Right now I am working on several big things. The most notable of these are the musical and NaNoWriMo, but there's also the day-to-day classes, intramural soccer, classes, and Bible study which make up the dividable portions of my day. But among all these big things, and in part because of them, are scattered many little things. According to Wikipedia, the phrase "the devil's in the details" came originally from "God is in the detail." There is a slight difference in the meaning, but for me, I know God is in the details in my life.

Let me explain. Right now, I have so many things to do and monitor and work on, and I know I can't have gotten through so well as I have been by myself. Little things keep falling together. Small circumstances happen in such a way to remind me of this, help me with that, inform me of other circumstances. Sometimes I'm just barely hanging on and getting through, and if I could I would just lie in bed and not get up. But something's keeping me going, and it's not me. It's all the things that happen, like a friend asking after me at just the right time, or being able to help me at the right moment. It's when things go well in rehearsal just when I'm about to cry in frustration. It's when the thousand "Help me God, I'm drowning" prayers are answered more abundantly than I could have imagined. I am so glad that someone other than me is directing that I can hardly express it.

I can't imagine what my life would be like without God right now. How else could I come up with 1,667 words a day, get all my homework done, play soccer about three times a week, not oversleep, rehearse for five or six or seven hours a night, read, and maintain some form of contact with my friends and boyfriend?

And I know I'm not the only person who feels overwhelmed. The whole cast of the musical is probably there right now, as well as countless people you may know who will never read this, people here at Taylor and people on opposite sides of the country. Some people may need more help than I do, in the big things and in countless small things.

In God all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). I hope you can see it in all your small circumstances and all your big projects. I hope He remains your vision in your difficult times. Because really, who do you want to be in the details?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NaNo Update

November is going to be a crazy month.

This is typical of NaNoWriMo, but I've already complained about how busy I am. It's tech weekend for the musical, which means we're getting lights and makeup and set and costume changes aligned with music, with seven-hour rehearsals and lots of problems along the way. I've gotten most of my writing done in the long intervals between my scenes as the people on stage go over and over scene transitions. I help with that occasionally, but I can still get a lot of work done.

I've been a bit behind on my word count, but I make it up the next day. Today I broke 10,000, which is always a nice feeling. That extra digit really emphasizes just how far you've gone -- and hey, I'm a fifth of the way there.

It's wonderful being able to talk to the people at Taylor about NaNo. I've never had a friend closer than 300 miles away doing it, and now I know several people here who are. It's really fun. Perhaps I should ask about a write-in or some other event and see how it goes.

Still, there is the ever-present homework and a looming research paper, along with all the normal busynesses of life. One of the really cool things about NaNoWriMo, though, is how it makes you maximize your time -- otherwise you can get nothing done.

One weekend down, three to go. Onward, fellow writers!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two Days til NaNoWriMo

I have a cousin who starts getting excited for NaNoWriMo as soon as October hits. She outlines and plans and brainstorms, and her Twitter feed is full of planning updates. She is the person who first got me into National Novel Writing Month, and I am delighted she did. But I am cautious of getting excited for fear of burnout. This year I've ignored it so long that it's jumping out at me unexpectedly.

There are two days left. Really, just tomorrow and a smidge of today. I've been so busy I've only been able to accumulate worry that I won't be able to do NaNo on top of everything else. But that's part of the experience, I guess. My first year of NaNo, I gave up because I was so busy with play rehearsal. This year I'm five times as busy with the musical and myriad other things, but I know how the game is played. Sure, I've only got half an idea, but it could become a wonderful story.

The point is to write. These 30 Days and Nights of Literary Abandon are a chance to let your mind run wild, and even if it's a terrible story, good will come out of it. It is an exercise in willpower to write every day, and it's a discipline to make your imagination work hard enough to come up with a novel's worth of story material in one month. It's not easy. This November, expect to hear complaints and crazy rants from me. This will be my outlet for the craziness NaNoWriMo causes (though it's strange to think more writing will help my writing problems).

My past NaNo novels (two finished plus the one I gave up on) hold a very dear place in my heart. In the future, I plan to revise them and turn them into workable manuscripts. One of them actually wants to be a graphic novel, and that would take a lot of work (especially since I want to illustrate it). I hardly know where to begin. The problem is that these editing and revising tasks are somedays. But NaNoWriMo is for now. Seize the day! Write your story! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Soccer for Geeks

Yesterday I played my third-ever game of soccer. I am not a sports person; though I loved the outdoors as a kid, I was much more often caught reading than kicking around a ball or playing with other children. Still, when my dorm was trying to find people for intramurals, I went "Hey! I played soccer once! That could be fun!"

My team is small and rather unpracticed, but their combined experience and understanding is much greater than mine. However, I might be able to give some information to the rest of you geeks who don't understand it either.
  • Defense means you try to stop the other team from scoring. Offense means you're supposed to try and score. (Okay, I admit I knew this from football. Being in marching band, you pick up on a few things in the game.)
  • You should not get distracted by apparently owner-less little dogs that run onto the field.
  • For our intramurals, the opposing teams wear "light-colored" shirts and "dark-colored" shirts. This is a fine idea, except some people decide to wear a sort of middling grey that they think is close enough to one side or the other. To be safe, don't pass to these people. It looks like they don't want to be on your team anyway.
  • Fate is kind to the people who go out of their way to kick the ball back to your field if it intrudes on theirs. A goalie on the field next to ours did that, and while he was so engaged someone tried to score and thankfully missed.
  • While you should practice scoring shots with your goalie to warm her up, it is not wise to kick the ball in her face 30 seconds before the game starts.
  • "Mark her!" involves no markers at all. It means you're supposed to watch the person on your side of the field who wants the people on her team to kick her the ball. (Hope that she's wearing a light-colored shirt instead of a middling grey one, just so you're sure.)
That about sums up my soccer wisdom. I understand that there are geeks who know how to play soccer -- indeed, where I come from, soccer is the sport all the homeschoolers come out to play -- but this geek is still learning. Feel free to share your wisdom!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Piano Recital

In my last post, I mentioned practicing the piano. This is not to keep in piano-playing shape or refine a particular piece. This is me muddling through a book of scales and exercises I checked out from the library because I want to be able to play real music. At the top of my bucket list is "learn to play Billy Joel's Dublinesque." I adore that song, and I will master it before I die. For now, I might try a different scale.

It is homecoming week here at Taylor, and there have been all sorts of activities and events. Tonight, I went to a piano recital. The alumnus playing was Dr. Richard Fountain, a piano professor with an impressive list of accolades. Though I love music, I am far from an expert, especially on the heavy-duty classical stuff. Still, what I heard tonight was enough to broaden my mind. At times he played so loudly I thought the keys would break. I wondered if people outside the building could hear it. And then the music would drift into silence. Sometimes I thought it was finished, but another part would come trailing around from behind the reverberations. Sometimes the song was long enough that I'd get lost in thoughts, and I'd come back and find that I was still there, in a hall of music. Later, it would occur to me to wonder how long I'd been sitting there listening to a single song. The piece would go on, and it wouldn't matter.

I am delighted that my God made music. I can't imagine any greater created system on earth. Someone sitting in that recital hall might have known more about the pieces or composers, but I could enjoy it as everyone did, because music is something all can love. Isn't that wonderful?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Busy Days

One of the greatest things about Taylor is all of the opportunities to participate in the community. On the other hand, the worst thing about Taylor is all of the opportunities to participate in the community.

Case in point: for the past two weeks I've gone to musical and dance rehearsal, set construction training, worked in the costume shop, done lots of homework, ushered for a play, worked, gone to open houses, gone to small group, worked on projects, practiced piano, and spent more of my time than is feasible being entertained by all the weird stuff people do on campus. This weekend is Homecoming, and I'm going to go to the world-famous Airband tonight, usher for another play tomorrow night, go to a piano recital the night after, help a friend with a photography project, spend time in the library navigating a contorted fortress of databases that seem devoid of information on my research topic, probably work in the set and costume shops some more,  work on a math project, practice piano again, and try intramural soccer. In the next few weeks I'll  participate in a book discussion group and write book reviews for two more books I volunteered to read. That's right, I chose two books when I could have put it off or chosen just one, and my professor wants me to finish them as soon as possible.

There are many people even more committed than I am, and there are lots of classes with much heavier homework loads. Still, I tend to feel overwhelmed. My main problem seems to be that I like things that suck up my time (like theater). I'm glad I'm in such a wonderful place as Taylor and get to be a part of all this, but even more glad that it hasn't killed me yet.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mittens

I love to crochet. It's a major stress reliever. There's little more soothing than working on something while listening to Narnia radio theater. That's what I was doing most of the time when I made these:


When my sister-in-law and I went shopping for college stuff, we stopped at Hobby Lobby. I was intending to make myself mittens with some solid purple yarn I have because it matches my winter coat, but when I saw the marbled yarn I couldn't resist. From far away the marbling may make it harder to see the basketweave pattern on the back, but I'm very happy with them. I have never made mittens before, though I have made hand warmers. Basically, I made up the method as I went and had to undo stuff and fix things as I went along. That combined with classes means these didn't get done for weeks. I can't wait until it's cold and I get to use them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Late Nights

As I understand it, college students often stay up til two or three in the morning or later. I can't do that. If I go past midnight (like tonight), weird things start happening. Hyperness sets in. The internet calls. And when I crash, as I inevitable do, the day following is full of mini-crashes, particularly around three or so in the afternoon.

I am naturally a morning person. For that to work, though, I need a good night's sleep. A slow groggy waking is the enemy of those of us who can annoy people with our morning cheeriness. It turns off our smiles. It demands sweatpants and hot beverages. It makes us morning people ..... grmphple.... just like everybody else.

This next week I am going for an 11:30 bedtime. In theory, this should get me eight hours of sleep, quite the sufficient amount. The reality is, though, I will be up reading or writing, and when that quits, my mind doesn't. I check my roommate's glowing clock across the room. 12:36, again?

The cure seems to be to slowly shift cycles back to my natural equilibrium. But college life is against me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chapel

Taylor University has chapel three times a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00, the entire campus shuts down and all students and faculty, as if being pulled by an invisible force, head to Rediger Auditorium.

So far, chapel time has been used to talk about the different ministry opportunities at Taylor and to showcase guest speakers. This week we've had two of them -- The Improbable Philanthropist and Alistair Begg.

The story of the first is best said here, but the project is a beautiful children's book called The Boy, the Kite, and the Wind, written by Al Andrews. 100% of the profits go to charity, and the wonderful illustrations are by Jonathan Bouw, a professor here at Taylor. I think their goal is fantastic, and I know they will change lives with their story.

Alistair Begg is certainly more widely-known, and I was excited to hear him speak. I used to listen to him on the radio, and I remembered him as much for his Scottish accent as his wonderful sermons. Hearing him in person, however, you become absorbed in the message. He preached on Romans 8, and some of his phrases will stick with me for a long time. My favorite part, though, was a quiet moment in the middle of a prayer:
"All that we've said to You is secondary to what You've said to us."
And all God's people said, Amen.

Some Taylor students don't bother going to chapel. Most do, but one of the unique things about Taylor is that it's not mandatory. Most come because they really want to learn about and worship God. To those who don't, I say you're missing a lot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Writing Community

For the last three years, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, an insane worldwide endeavor to write 50,000 words of book during the month of November. Part of the wonder of NaNoWriMo comes in the pep talks, forum conversations, and general sense of community as you commiserate with fellow writers near and far. During NaNoWriMo, we are plagued with sleep deprivation, self-doubt, plot holes, and the ever-looming deadline. To assuage these problems, many WriMos meet for group writing sessions, sympathy, and fun. I've never attended one of these "write-ins", but I've always wished I could.

On Thursday, my fellow professional writing majors and I ate dinner together. I sat at a table of mostly freshman. We'd seen each other in classes and exchanged a few words, but this was our real meeting. We started with names. And we talked (naturally) about books. Then our favorite authors. What we like about writing. What we want to write.

Even though I love NaNoWriMo, it has never been the kind of writing community for me that it is for other people. But now I am part of a group of writers. We may not be the Inklings, (though for the most part we are C.S. Lewis fans; this is Taylor University, after all) but it is a group of people with whom I can share my writing failures and successes. I know I'll find someone who understands if I complain that my dialogue is dead, or will get what makes this book or that completely brilliant. We're just starting out... but I may have found my writing group at last.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Quick Note on Christian Conformity

I'm afraid I've suffered all my life from a vague assumption that simply isn't true. I knew it wasn't, but it has only recently been banished from my mind by all the people I've seen at Taylor. You might think it too, even if you've grown up in a church family all your life.

It's that Christians are somehow all the same. Boring. Oh, good people, certainly, but don't they all seem rather... normal? Maybe they've dulled by being around each other so much, like they've all become one kind of person.

That view is shattered if you hang around a place like this. We have our similarities, and we are all one body. But different parts of one whole do different things. Here at Taylor, we have people from all over the world. We have crazy dreadlocks, preppy clothes, skateboards, pet jellyfish, artists, scholars, musicians, jocks, dark skinned and fair and pierced. Some have sheltered pasts and others memories of horror. We have introverts, extroverts, insomniacs, geeks and nerds, shy people, gentle people, loud people, energetic people. What we all have in common is belief in our God, and the knowledge that we are all called to do special things and love each other. Only now are my eyes being opened to how God can use and love all of us, no matter what.

We come in all shapes and colors, kinds of dress, and lifestyles. But we have that which unites us -- Jesus Christ, who makes us what we are.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nice

Perhaps it's odd, but I'm always surprised when anyone tells me I'm a nice person. I don't think I'm a horrible person, and I know I'm not really a mean person. But I am a fairly antisocial person, and whenever I act friendly and polite just because I should I feel like I've somehow tricked everyone.

Right now, I'm surrounded by nice people. An overwhelming mosh pit of friendly, caring, genuine and loving people. It's almost terrifying. And it's welcome weekend, which means I am constantly doing activities with these terrifyingly fantastic people.

I came to Taylor knowing, at least in my head, that I was going to change and grow. But I kept those thoughts separate from the rest of me that thinks I like being a lonely person who tells no one anything and fixes everything herself. When I think of it like that, I can again tell myself I'm not a horrible person. Disaster averted. But it's one short slip and a fall from there to condescension, then looking down on others, and all sorts of secret sins which are so easy to slip into.

Maybe this was buzzing in the back of my mind as I tried to smile and be nice to everyone yesterday and decided I couldn't. I was tired. I wanted to be alone. I was trying not to cry all through the afternoon, and by the time we had all-campus communion, I could only think Please God, help.

I wanted to not only be nice, but love the people around me as I knew they loved me. I could tell, because all the wonderful girls from my dorm took care of me. One prayed for me to have peace. And I found it.

Today is another stressful day, but it's been tempered with understanding. I have to come to rely on the people around me, and more importantly on God. I should have figured out by now that I can't do this on my own. It's not about being nice. It's not about trying to smile. I just need to love these people for who they are -- which is easy enough.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Beginning

Over half a century ago, a writing group called the Inklings met at an Oxford pub called The Eagle and Child. They met to talk, sometimes to laugh, sometimes for business, and often, I imagine, for pleasure. Though this young American student can't pretend to be an expert on the society, I profess to be greatly inspired by two of the members: Oxford professors J.R.R. Tolkien, and even more so, C.S. Lewis.

I am also a writer.  Not to say I've written anything I've tried to publish or even had anyone but my friends look at, but I want to do some of the things the Inklings did. I want to inspire people with my words. I want to grow to a point where people can hear my voice through my writing and for them to know what I believe. Obviously, C.S. Lewis did this. There are many Christian writers, but he reached a level of truth with such a powerful use of language that there can be no competition in my mind.

Maybe his is a higher star than I'll ever reach. But I'm off to a start.

Tomorrow, I will be moving in at Taylor University, one of the best Christian colleges in the Midwest. I will learn how to make a living as a writer, but I'm also expecting to grow as a Christian. I have so many questions. I think in time I'll have answers, or at least figure out what the real questions are.

So, right now there are three important things in my life I want to be able to share: my writing and where it's taking me, my time at Taylor University and how it will change me, and my growth as a Christian and the things I will learn and struggle with.

This blog will also help me write more often. That's one piece of advice often given to aspiring writers, along with another: write what you know. I love many things and have many interests, and those sorts of things are impossible to separate from the words that come out of you. That's one reason writing is so interesting.

Maybe a blog isn't an adventure, but college is supposed to be, and life as a Christian certainly is. If you want to find out what will happen, stick around. I don't intend to disappoint.