Engagement Rings and the Millennial Kingdom

Engagement Rings and the Millennial Kingdom

Last Sunday, I received the most significant earthly question of my life. My beloved boyfriend, whom I’ve known for 8 years, became my fiancé. He told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and we pledged, in a preliminary sense, to do just that together. This week has been filled with joy, anticipation, and satisfaction. Our commitment has continually brought spontaneous smiles and hugs. With reassurance of the life to come, our gratitude shines even brighter than it did before the proposal.

Today, I finished the book of Zechariah in my personal quiet time. Chapter 14 moves from the book’s prophecies of alternating provision and punishment for Israel into the final account of Christ’s millennial kingdom. Verse 9 reads, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.” The chapter foretells abundant prosperity, and the intimate, continual presence of the Lord Jesus.

As I finished reading this prophetic book, which has surprised me with its amount of Messianic content, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between this little Old Testament writing and the sparkling, beautiful ring on my left hand.

An engagement ring is a tangible promise of the not-fully-yet. Both parties are present, and yet the fulfillment of this covenant isn’t complete until the altar of the wedding day. There is commitment, yet not completion. There is love, yet not fullness of oneness in life.

Zechariah 14, as one of the final chapters in God’s Old Testament, portrays much the same picture. Reads verse 4, “In that day His feet will stand on the mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east…” To usher in His new Millennium, the Lord, the bridegroom, will return to gather His people to Himself– to live with them. He will protect them, and be fully with them, and His covenant with them will be realized, finally, in its completion: Verse 11 says, “People will live in [the new Jerusalem], and there will no longer be a curse, for Jerusalem will dwell in security.” What is their security? What is the reason they drink of life perfect? The King Jesus Christ.

Today’s culture has lost the God-foundation for our marriages. It’s why premarital or engagement sex is not a problem to the world. It’s why divorce is an option in cases it should not be. Society sees marriage vows as momentary covenants– revokable, conditional, and artificial in retrospect of the conditions having been broken. 

But the world’s first marriage was ordained and defined by the Living God– by Christ, through whom “all things were made,” (John 1:3), and in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). One flesh: indivisible, intertwined. Sin took its twist on marriage; yet we still have beautiful, redeemed, God-ordained marriages that mirror the kind of love Christ had in descending the first time to reconcile us with God.

The entire foundation for lasting marriage, just like the basis for morality itself, has to be sourced from the ideal of both love and morality. Humanity cannot adequately define or defend its own definition of love– we screw it up on a minutely basis. Our views of love– and of eternity– are not complete without the Creator-Bridegroom. We need Him. We are helpless to prevail or succeed without Him.

And Zechariah 14 invites us to take part in the Millennial Kingdom, as well as everything God has planned beyond those thousand years– to take part in an eternal life united with our King. He beckons us, as if saying, This is the future I’ve created for Myself– I want to spend it all, in its incomprehensible eternity, with you. Will you join me?

Christ’s selfless sacrifice paves the way for our forgiveness of sin; the Holy Spirit is our not-fully-yet engagement ring– for as the Scripture says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession– to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). To arrive at a wedding, a woman has to say yes to a man. To arrive at citizenship in God’s Kingdom, one has to say yes to Christ, through whom all are forgiven.

Engagement is an exciting time– a precursor to the surpassing joy of the wedding feast. This past week, I’ve been elated and awed and overjoyed by God’s plans and blessings. Likewise, we are in a church age wherein the Creator-Bridegroom is on one knee, so to speak, offering us a glorious, surpassing forever story with Him. He offers us a brief taste of the wedding cake in Zechariah 14– as if to say, This is the future I want with you.

Will we once for all, and daily, surrender our lives to His perfect plan? 

Benefits of Journaling

Benefits of Journaling

Hello, friends!

My blog has been devoid of book reviews lately: this is mostly because assigned school reading has taken up much of my time, and before I can gather my thoughts on one novel, we’re speeding through the next one on the syllabus. This summer, however, I expect that will change. I’ll be interning with David C. Cook; so the books I read in my downtime will be more personalized. For now, I wanted to grace and edify you with another thought post.

Have you journaled for any length of time? Maybe sporadically? Or during an especially difficult period of your life? Have you kept a collection of these life archives? Journaling can have so many benefits. Here are a handful of the ones I’ve gleaned from my time writing in those gloriously-lined little books (now, over a decade):

  1. Journaling Provides an Archive of your Memories

Remember that trip to Niagara Falls your family took? Remember that borderline-poison restaurant you visited on that road trip when you were 13? How about that crazy high school or college night partying with friends? Life events can slip through one’s memory after a matter of days. Logging your precious memories in a journal—whether it be a physical, written one, or a video log—preserves those moments you’ll treasure looking back upon later. As well, your children or siblings may value being able to gain a comprehensive view of you as a person later on!

A few of the precious memories I’ve recorded include an evening in the hot tub with family, smelling steaks cooking on the grill; my move to college and the adventures and challenges it presented me; and countless quiet times and sentiments throughout my developmental years.

Recording your internal thoughts can give you a daily, and a large-scale, perspective of your development. Emotions, realizations, maturity landmarks in your personal journey: it’s easy to forget these, as well. Journaling provides reference points among which you can draw connections. The ability to see steady growth in yourself can be so enlightening and joyful. I’ve gleaned much gratitude from seeing how God’s grown me throughout the years. Without those records, I would have forgotten the places I’ve been, and how far I’ve come.

  1. Journaling Fosters Peace of Mind

Organizing your sentiments requires you to realize what exactly you’re thinking and feeling. Putting these down on paper, or recording yourself talking through them, is so therapeutic. It’s a form of “getting it out.” This release frees us to distance ourselves a bit—to step away, or to look at things in order to move forward. It also allows for an ongoing synthesis of feelings. Whether you’re working through a breakup, a mental health struggle, a financial or identity crisis, or the hardships of a loved one, being able to organize and examine what’s inside you is crucial. While journaling can’t substitute for the benefits that fellowship with another human, or even the Lord, brings, it can partner with and enhance these outlets. Sometimes, being alone with your own thoughts first is crucial to being able to commune with others.

  1. Journaling Provides Encouragement for Others

This doesn’t jump to one’s mind as a benefit of personal introspection; however, the lessons and insights you discover can be stored to bring up when others in your life need advice or consolation. This doesn’t mean you need to hand your precious archives over to someone else (although, in Youtube vlogs, this is often the case; I’ve exchanged journals with a close friend before, to better understand one another, as well). Trust should be a factor in your decisions here. Filter the information you provide, but utilize what you’ve learned to brighten another person’s day, and life. Others may offer valuable insights, too. This is what the Bible refers to, in part, when it speaks of Christians “sharpening” one another. Just like there are many parts in the Body of Christ, each person has valuable insights to share. Glean from your journals the resources that are fitting to pour into another.

In conclusion, journaling is something God unquestionably uses to foster our growth into His image. I feel so blessed to live in an age where paper and pen are so easy to get. He allows me to jot down daily moments in my spiritual growth—ideas and revelations. I can see my progress, and praise Him for it. I can keep a record of my prayers and see how fully He’s helped me, even in things I didn’t know I needed. I can pour out my thoughts on paper and walk away feeling relieved. In short, if I could grab one thing from my home, it would most likely be my box of journals. They are my story. They are irreplaceable. They are an account of God’s goodness to me.

What are your thoughts and feelings about journaling? Have you done it at all, or for very long? What benefits have you gained from this practice? Leave me a comment below, and have a blessed day! ❤

The #24HoursAsMe Challenge

The #24HoursAsMe Challenge

Hello, reader!

No matter what part of the earth you call home, we each have the same number of hours in one day; we have routines, recreation, and work we fit into our time. This challenge is about expressing the things that make you proud, excited, and thoughtful to be who you are.

If you’d like to join the #24HoursAsMe challenge, create a video, blog post, social media story, or other form of message conveying what you do each day. You can also tag your friends, to challenge them to brainstorm a theme, too! This should be a fun, relaxing activity, and should hone in on the elements of your routine that most convey your personality and passions. Take a bit of creative liberty: combine things you do on different days that share your theme; or leave out unrelated actions. Make your summary your own, and show us what’s fantastic about you! I’d love to hear what your day consists of, so be sure to leave a comment below and link me to your entry!

For my focus, I’m doing my career/major: English studies. This ties into my passion for writing, my love of reading, and most of my daylight hours at this point in life.

Here’s my #24HoursAsMe entry:

24 Hours as an English Major

7:00: Wake Up. Scroll through social media to regain brain function; see pretty art and creative captions. Read a Bible verse or talk to God while lying in bed.

7:45: Drive to School. Listen to artsy Christian or other music. Zone out and brainstorm ideas for latest novel project. Have fake mental conversations. Appreciate the beautiful Colorado scenery.

9:00: Arrive at school (yeahh, it’s in Denver, I’m in the Springs. It’s all good!). Attend History and Structure class to learn about the English language in striking (sometimes grueling) detail. Get assigned a project requiring intricate research into the annals of English history.

11:00: Go to CCU chapel. Worship with a room full of positive people. Listen to a motivational, convicting message. Take a mental notes. Pray about what new thing God wants to reveal.

12:00: Soak in the campus scenery and weather. Walk to Detective Fiction, and eat lunch with smiling English majors. Talk about latest novel, actors, and many other subjects. Eat a variety of yummy foods. Have snarky, in-depth discussion about the craft of the written word.

1:30: Drive home. Listen to more music. Feel sunshine on face. Realize sleepiness has snuck in.

3:00: Arrive home. Take a long break scrolling through social media to unwind. Follow positive Instagram and Youtube accounts. Feel grateful for the variety of expression in the world.

5:00: Realize break has been too long and dinner is soon. Reason that homework won’t get done before then. Continue break. Possible nap, depending on day of week.

6:30: Eat dinner with family. Hear about others’ days. Replenish carbohydrate supply. Feel sleepy again. Make decaf coffee because logic.

7:00: Read theology book for homework. Learn creative parallels between human beings and God. Feel happy (and scholarly).

7:45: Pause to play with cats, because watching them chase a laser pointer is relaxing. Yawn. Sip more coffee. Change into pajamas.

8:00: Text boyfriend while continuing homework. Scroll through social media. Convince self homework is still being done. Actually finish homework. Snuggle into bed.

11:00: Get a glass of water. Set alarm and turn off light. Think through more fantasy conversations. Gently brainstorm for novel. Feel grateful for blessings. Alternate lying on sides until loss of consciousness.

There you have it! That’s most Tuesdays and Thursdays for me, in a packaged form. Love y’all. Send me your entries, and have a good 24 hours! 🙂 

Lessons I’ve Learned from Fanfiction

Lessons I’ve Learned from Fanfiction

Welcome, friends! This post is part autobiography and part encouragement. I hope you glean positivity from it—let me know in the comments what you’ve learned from fantasy and creative expression.

I’ve always been a creative, somewhat distracted human. God is creative, and our imaginative expression mimics Him. As Wayne Grudem puts it in in his Bible Doctrine, “We reflect in small measure the creative activity of God, and we should delight in it and thank him for it.” It’s important to start off this post with the affirmation that these parts of the human spirit are good and holy. If they weren’t, we might not have Christian artists, musicians, writers, painters, chefs, teachers, and other wonderful skilled people. God uses art to draw people unto Himself. Here’s a brief overview of my childhood experience in creativity.

I. The Early Fantasies

When I was about five, I used to play the Lion King soundtrack on my bulky stereo radio in my room, climb on my bed and pretend to be a lion. My first childhood crush was the Genie from Aladdin. Naturally, little girls like getting attention. Using CDs and cassette tapes (represent, 90s kids!) that my parents gave me, I would play songs and construct thrilling fantasies. Usually, these featured Disney characters, along with myself, going on daring adventures and overcoming opponents. My goal was to be noticed by the Genies and other inspiring characters: sometimes I’d be in trouble. Other times, I’d save the day. My imagination romped around my invented world and did whatever I pleased. This was one of my favorite ways to spend time as a girl. As I grew older, it would become more organized, and more in line with my writing passion.

II. The Fanfiction Novels

There’s this nifty site called Fanfiction.com, that’s full of fandoms and teenage hormones and, if you search for it, some fairly good writing. The site lets you choose which fandom you want to write for, shows which characters your story centers around, and lets you pick the genre. Chapters are uploaded individually and can be edited at any time. Basically, it was exactly what 13-year-old me wanted.

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-11-34-06-am

Yes, that is my account, with one of my stories; and yes, my account is still up. After my parents and I came to an understanding on getting an account (To my discredit, I went behind their backs for a while), I began writing a self-insert fanfic about this show I’d just started to get into called Invader Zim. It was a 90s, sassy, sci-fi cartoon about this alien race called the Irkens, who send Zim to Earth to get rid of him. Instead, he ends up continually trying to take over the planet with his robot sidekick, Gir.

As a lover of sci-fi, I plopped my alter-ego down into this wacky universe without a problem. Chapters chugged out of my brain. Soon, I had a novel-length story. It went through a major edit. Throughout this time, I wasn’t just writing: I kept up my fantasizing habit. With the help of more private technology (i.e. an iPod and headphones), I continued dreaming, including things that never made it into my written story at all. Spending hours in my room became daily routine. In class, I’d lose focus and drift into more stories. This was a huge creative outlet, but it started to make me late to the dinner table and distant from friends. I began a second Invader Zim novel: a sequel. There was one character in particular I singled out to be my love interest. It’s safe to say we’ve all had a crush on a character; but my obsession was taking it way farther. I wasn’t just writing a self-insert fanfic. I was losing myself in pursuit of who I thought I wanted to be.

III. University

God brought this to my attention. My Sundays became a series of pledging to give up the fantasizing entirely, followed by Sunday afternoons of relapses and self-hatred. As college approached, I knew it was a turning point I needed to utilize. If moving out couldn’t stave off this habit, what would? Would I be married and spinning around the room with headphones on when my future husband walked in from work?

As it turns out, this decision wasn’t much more effective than the other Sunday morning ones. I still zoned out. I edited the second novel. By this point, I wanted to be done with it so I wouldn’t have a reason to return to that world. While I made friends at university, including a kind, sweet roommate, I still found myself yanking out earphones and wondering if anyone noticed weird things about me. There is one memory that stands out: One day, I held the door open behind me in one of the buildings. There was no one behind me. Standing there, feeling my hand on the door, I seriously reflected on who I wanted to be. Who I was. What this was doing.

IV. Lessons

If you’re still with me, thank you so much for listening to my personal story. Until 2013, I hadn’t shared these things with anyone. Why would I? It would be cute to tie up this post with an, “I quit one day and never looked over my shoulder.” That’s not the reality. I’ll share the reality shortly; but hopefully, these lessons will connect with and uplift you.

  1. Creativity and Fantasy are not Evil.

Putting in headphones, penning a fanfiction novel, losing yourself in a dream world, are not in themselves bad. Movies, music, novels—they all provide escape, and lessons, and growth. These are wonderful things. One thing I learned about my self-hate over the years is that it was partially unfounded. The issue wasn’t my imagination. I didn’t need to give that up entirely. If you’re struggling at all with questions of this nature, be gentle with yourself. Remember that our minds imitate God’s, to a limited extent. Making time for creativity is good.

  1. I Cannot and Should Not Be the Center of Any Universe

Manufacturing praise for myself leaves me feeling empty. It’s hurtful to others who need me. It’s not fair to the God who’s the only one truly worthy of worship. That attention I gleaned for myself felt good for a moment. But at the end of the night, it felt like poison, sucking the quality out of my days. I felt starved for true affirmation. I wasn’t giving back. I was just isolating myself more.

  1. All Human Machinations Fall Short

Whether it’s a skyscraper, a president’s promises, or a quiet, little bundle of words on a site dominated by stories, no human effort can fulfill our souls. God is the only true source of Life; in my attempts to manufacture a synthetic storehouse, God allowed me to realize how inadequate my efforts are. He is the answer: not our creations, our friends, our things, or our potential. These are cherries: enrichment. Blessings. Fruit.

If you’re struggling with the pressure to be good enough, or to be satisfied in things of this world, turn to the One who is worthy of worship. The only One fit to be the center of the universe. The only One whose story is perfect and pure. Jesus has created you as part of His universe for a specific reason. You are valuable because you are His.

V. Final Reflections

So how does my tale end (do our stories ever fully end)?

Well, I still put in headphones and dream. Nowadays, I focus more on original fiction. I’ve left the Zim novels behind; although, sometimes, for reflection’s sake, I remember the fantasy days in that world, and mark how far He’s brought me. I’m surrounded by a wonderful community of real people, who fill my life with joy and peace. I strive to draw close to God, and dedicate my work to Him. My dream is to become a published Christian novelist; and I believe it will happen. Do I still regret the wasted time? Absolutely. What I don’t regret are the lessons, both skill-wise and spiritually, that I learned.

I pray these thoughts will positively impact someone right now. You are loved, and you are valuable, here and now. ❤

“America Through a Glass”: And a Bottle of Rum Review (Audiobook)

“America Through a Glass”: And a Bottle of Rum Review (Audiobook)

Audiobook Info

Author: Wayne Curtis

Narrator: Mike Chamberlain

Length: 10 hrs, 7 minutes

“A rum bottle serves better as a prism through which to see how America changed and developed from the arrival of the first European settlers to the present day.”

As a 21-year-old who’s worked at restaurants, learned cocktail ingredients, and scarcely actually experienced artistic alcoholic creations, the premise of And a Bottle of Rum enticed me. Wayne Curtis presents a history of America in 10 cocktails, in 10 chapters, in 10 hours. Each chapter has a cocktail recipe, followed by the historical framework that brought that drink into being, and explains how rum, in each drink, morphed along with the nation.

Narrator Mike Chamberlain does an excellent job, bringing the tone and humorous anecdotes of the author to life. Curtis’ voice is engaging, conversational. He admits that many answers to origin questions are unknown, and recounts enchanting personal journeys to find authentic pieces of history. He includes an abundance of background facts on pirate crews, colonial tavern atmospheres, and individual key figures who shaped the history of rum. Curtis candidly presents the dark side, and the positive effects, of rum trade throughout the centuries. His depth of research and knowledge is impressive.

A comment on the density of the text: I received the most enjoyment and knowledge out of this book when I coupled it with other activities. For instance, in the car on the way to school, or coloring, I set it playing in the background. There are a dizzying amount of facts, which is wonderful; only, don’t expect to retain everything. Enjoy the storytelling and development of rum and America. Don’t be afraid to tune out every so often if you get overwhelmed. Enjoy the descriptions, the background, and the stories of individual bars and drinks and people.

The element that excited me most, personally, was Curtis’ description of El Floridita in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway used to sit frequently and order Daiquiris—now I really want to try one! That to say, keep your eyes and ears open for details you can file away for personal experience. If you’re young, or simply desire to expand your horizons in the drink sphere, give And a Bottle of Rum a listen. It covers other liquors as well, such as whiskey, bourbon, and tequila, as they interacted with rum. Overall, it’s a handy reference and colorful narrative on the development of an important facet of American culture and autonomy.

That’s about it for this review: Let me know in the comments what your favorite drink, alcoholic or not, is at the moment! And have a positive, light-filled day. 🙂 

Crafting a Story Playlist

Crafting a Story Playlist

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the reality that there is no “correct” method to crafting a collection of music for your WIP. Some people may prefer a set of songs they can write to, while others may pick titles that closely represent characters and plots. However you want to make yours, enjoy yourself! Music is beautiful and inspiring—cultivate a playlist based on your unique methods and imagination, because you are valuable.

Here are a few helpful tips from my experience to help:

  1. Listen for Lyric Lines:

Attributing an entire song to your story isn’t always easy. If you’re stuck, tune in to individual lines that apply to one character or a beloved setting. Then, ponder whether this song has any themes that line up with your own. Of course, you can add songs for a single line’s sake. I’ve found that I sometimes create new attributes to my story, such as a small personality trait for a character, based on a music line that sparks an idea.

  1. Capture the Mood:

Conversely, big scenes in your story can benefit from the inspiration in “big” songs. Have you ever listened to a power ballad or solo that made your spirits soar? See if there are musical numbers that encapsulate the feeling of certain plot points or confrontations. These songs can remind you of the wonder of your story down the road, when you may feel less passionate about it.

  1. Check the “Indie”/ “New Artist” Pockets of iTunes:

Popular lyrics tend to have already nested in our brains and become familiar; but indie music offers eclectic little gems you can add to make your own special playlist. For instance, I recently discovered the cool track “Human” by Aquilo this way. Here’s a screenshot of the cover:

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If you’d like to see an example playlist, check out the ones currently uploaded for my Portal 2 Fanfiction, Birthday Candles, here:

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 1

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 2

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 3

BC: The Playlist: Chapter 4

Do you guys have any other tips about playlists? I hope these encouraged you! Thanks for tuning in! ❤

“Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good Night”: Gaudy Night Review

“Tonight’s Gonna be a Good, Good Night”: Gaudy Night Review

Hello, book fans—hope y’all are doing well. This review is on Dorothy Sayers’s novel, Gaudy Night, which is part of her Peter Wimsey mystery series. This installment, set in 1935, centers not on detective Wimsey, but his love interest, Harriet Vane.

Harriet is a former student at Shrewsbury women’s college at Oxford. She returns to help solve a campus mystery that involves events from petty crimes up to personal assault. To catch the perp, Harriet not only has to grapple with an army of administrators (themselves also under suspicion), but also with her own feelings and thoughts on Oxford. The novel presents a classic psychological battle, personified uniquely, between head and heart. Sayers interweaves this dichotomy into 20th century debates about women’s proper roles to create compelling arguments on either side of the coin. Ultimately, Harriet makes a decision that involves emotion and intellect, though it’s not until the literal end of the book, which makes the suspense hold until the last page.

Sayers’ description of university campuses is beautiful. The one shortcoming I noticed is her lack of physical description of the characters. Numerous faculty because indistinguishable in my mind from one another. The story is dramatic and fun—not just intellectual; and there is also a love narrative, as well. Gaudy Night runs a little long, at 528 pages; still, it’s a relaxing read to take in several sessions. I give it 4.5/5 stars.

And now, for the favorite quotes section. Tell me in the comments what your favorite aspect of reading, or education in general, is!

(xii): “For, however realistic the background, the novelist’s only native country is Cloud-Cuckooland, where they do but jest, poison in jest: no offence in the world.”

(16): “‘It would have been such a bore to be the mother of morons, and it’s an absolute toss-up, isn’t it? If only one could invent them, like characters in books, it would be much more satisfactory to a well-regulated mind.’”

(38): “The moon was up, painting the buildings with cold washes of black and silver whose austerity rebuked the yellow gleam of lighted windows behind which old friends reunited still made merry with talk and laughter.”

(201): “I suppose one oughtn’t to marry anybody, unless one’s prepared to make him a full-time job.”

(255): “In the meanwhile she had got her mood onto paper—and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek for love; and, having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further.”

(340): “How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.”

(389): “Into the horrified silence that followed, Peter dropped three words like lumps of ice.”  

Thanks for reading, guys! Have a good day. 🙂