Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Season of Giving

Four days ago, as a Christmas present to myself, I bought an mp3 player. I have five full CDs of songs for my story that I like to listen to while I write. My problem for the last ten months or so has been that I have to be in my room to listen to them. I had a portable CD player for a little while before it abruptly quit working. I even bought ear buds so I could sit out on the porch with it and not look ridiculous. But that still didn't solve the issue of having to change CDs constantly to go to a new song which happened to be for the same scene, but on a different CD. Very annoying to say the least. So this is something that I really needed. I never buy things for myself. I love spending money as much as anyone, but I'm much too conscious of how much things cost and it's so easy to lose or break things that I just don't splurge often. I have only had it a few days and I'm already in love with it. It's really about time, I think. I've actually started using it while I do housework and exercise and I'm even going to take it with me when I clean someone's house next week. The best part is that I can sit at my window and really get into what I'm writing about. I've come up with such great material since buying it. I really think this is going to help me, and I feel like it's a blessing from God. After all, I feel like He's behind all of this and surely He will provide tools to help me. Does that sound weird? Like saying 'I thank God for this big screen TV...' And why do I need to feel bad anyway? I always feel like people will judge me if I get something for myself since I don't have a job (technically) and since we were very short on money not too long ago. I'm just not going to beat myself up about it. I get into trouble when I 'perceive' that people are judging me when they have never said, or probably thought, anything of the sort.

While playing jolly Christmas songs and trying to figure out my girl's world, I came up with an idea for how she could take what she learned from Alex and put it to good use in the States. I wanted her to grow some and become more generous like the Georgians. That's probably all I can say without giving away a pretty big piece of the plot. If this story even has one. ;-) Anyway, I chose to write about her Christmas break from school since it's Christmas time and all. *sigh* This would make a lot more sense and not be so dry if I could actually tell you what's going to happen! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Translating It Into Words

It wasn't like the pale slate sky of winter, or the very dark clouds of summer storms. Yet it wasn't quite like snow clouds either. I can't put my finger on exactly what the sky was doing that day, but it was inspiring many thoughts. It was the perfect weather for a scene in my story, but I had no camera to capture it, and, as you can tell, I can't very well describe it. Actually, now that I think about it...the sky had a bit of a cream color to it as well. Strange. I just know it was one of those moments where the wind picks up and I feel like something is up in the world and it's not letting me in on its secret. Kind of like the end of Little Women.

So much more to say. I have to get up pretty early tomorrow and it's stifling my muse!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finding Neverland

As a test to see if the DVD player was broken, Mom put Finding Neverland in and ended up getting really into it. I was still sitting at the computer, but listening to it and it occurred to me that my story is not so dissimilar. My two main characters have a very special relationship because they share a common faith, among other things, and a belief in heaven. They're not lovers, just very good friends, similar to Mrs. Davies and Mr. Barrie. I just thought it was interesting to see so many connections between myself and my writing and this movie. =)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Great Thinker

As I've mentioned before, C.S. Lewis' theories have greatly helped my research for this story, more so the heavenly than the earthly. At first he made my ideas seem so ordinary and not even close to what I was really trying to attain. But then I realized that it is not possible to accurately depict the heavenly things. Because no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and no mind can conceive, it's only natural that my imaginings are according to my own understanding. As a dog can't comprehend things as a human can, so a human can't comprehend things as an angel might. That was the first profound discovery.

The second was that the New Earth cannot be all that different from what we know now, only completely pure. Human beings, even human souls, must have an environment for communicating. I had a theory that disembodied spirits could have some form of telepathy in which they communicate--and that may still be true. But if we're going to have glorified bodies one day, then we are surely going to need a glorified location in which we live.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pop! and The Call

I saw him again...only it wasn't a him; it was clearly a woman. I feel stupid now that all the pieces are put together. You want to know what gave it away? The shirt. The shirt was the kind I see my thirteen-year-old cousin wear. It has a seam just below the bust line with cute barely puffed sleeves. She was wearing the toboggan cap again and it was seventy degrees outside, so that must mean that it's not really for warmth. The way she walked suggests a mental illness, which isn't unusual at all, given that there is a mental care place several blocks away. People from there walk in my neighborhood all the time, just usually in groups. I can't believe they'd let her go by herself. The strange thing is that she comes past my house, continues for a little ways and then abruptly stops and immediately turns back. The first time I noticed her she stopped for a second, but then went a few steps, stopped again, and then turned back. It's very indecisive, just like my mother was when she was sick with depression. Decision-making is affected a lot with that illness, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's something this woman has.

I'm just a bit sad that my character couldn't be in the form of someone living. It seriously burst my bubble. It's like waking up from a wonderful dream only to find that it wasn't real.

I think this particular entry is going to be a pretty long one, there's just been a lot on my mind today. It's one of those days that's not just cloudy, but gray and dark and rainy; perfect weather for writing my girl character's death scene. I went out on the patio and just sat watching the wind sweep through the trees, and I knew it was time. The atmosphere was just perfect for it so I grabbed a cup of tea, letting it and myself steep in the moment*. Looking back, I think there's a lot that could be improved on and fleshed out, but it's a good start. The weather tonight very, very closely resembles that which Nikki sees in her last moments, and we haven't had rain in a really long time, so I had to scoop up the opportunity. I even let my dinner sit until I had finished. It's easy to write the facts, but it's difficult to say it poetically and...I guess not in a boring way. So when the poetry flows, I pause everything else to collect it. Sometimes to warm up, I write how I'm feeling at the moment to see if any of my thoughts would mirror the characters'. Should there be any journal entries in the book, you can bet they're based heavily on my thoughts. Here's a small part of what I wrote tonight:

Someday it will never be like this. The cold inside my heart will be filled with His warmth. The dark, bleakness of late fall will be but a memory. The sun really will come out tomorrow--whenever tomorrow finally comes. 

Of course I can't tell you what I wrote, but I hope the finished product will move people to both sorrow and joy. Death for a Christian has that bittersweet taste; the conflict of good and bad that makes it so hard to cope sometimes. It's this struggle that I was hoping to capture by having one of the characters die first.

Most of the songs that I found so fitting to listen to when I write are typically about the story itself, but one song spoke volumes about my own journey through this process and about how my 'sorrow and joy' power the whole project. I first heard it a long time ago, but when I listened to it again, it said everything I never could. This story is partly my story, a collection of all my hopes into a single picture. If I hadn't felt some of the things my characters feel, I don't think I could write this, and I wouldn't care enough to do it anyway. So here's line by line how this song fits in with everything. I've also added links in some of the explanations that take you to a picture. =)

It started out as a feeling - [It started out as love for someone lost and when he died, I pictured doves flying. =)]

Which then grew into a hope - [In a rather wordless, picture-less way I knew I would see him again. I don't have the specific picture that triggered this, hope, but this one should do.]

Which then turned into a quiet thought - [I pictured our meeting...(above pic still applies.)]

Which then turned into a quiet word - [...then put those feelings and pictures into words...somehow I began to think of my papers on strings when listening to this song.]

And then that word grew louder and louder, 'til it was a battle cry
- [A few words became many...and my feelings toward that initial thought grew stronger, and I thought 'Wait a minute...he'll be back!' (pic below)]

I'll come back - [I remembered Judgment Day and thought--very poetically, but not accurately--'will he just show up on the doorstep one day?']

When He calls me - [Word change here...Jesus has to give the sign, of course ;-)]

No need to say goodbye - [We get so caught up in goodbyes to the deceased, when they're really just gone for a little while; therefore, no goodbyes necessary! This picture, in my mind, depicts the characters saying goodbye on earth at the airport.]

Just because everything's changing, doesn't mean it's never been this way before - [Everything will one day be restored to what it was meant to be. Maybe Adam and Eve had a slice of it, hmm? There are too many pictures to reduce this to one, but here's something that works well.]

All you can do is try to know who your friends are as you head off to the war
- [In the meantime, stick with your friends as soldiers in God's army.]

Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light - [In the story heaven is depicted as being a star in the sky, something real, but unexplainable, like the star of Bethlehem. Not accurate at all, but a fantastic idea! ;-)]

You'll come back when it's over. No need to say goodbye - [Yep, not just everyone we know, the characters will make their reappearance on the last day.]

Now, we're back to the beginning. It's just a feeling and no one knows yet - [It's still in the early stages, and most people have no idea what this is all about, or that I'm even writing anything.]

But just because they can't feel it too, doesn't mean that you have to forget. - [Not everyone can understand what I'm feeling. I'm definitely holding on and not forgetting him, though.]

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger, 'til they're before your eyes - [As I'm writing I'm making scenes in my head of what may actually come to fruition. I just picked out a painting that looks very much like my boy character.]

You'll come back when He calls you. No need to say goodbye - [Yep, back to this again. He'll be back one day and until then, I'm not saying goodbye...hence the story so I don't have to. ;-)]

Here's the song if you want to listen to it:

*While I worked, I listened to Long Long Time Ago, The Portrait, and There's No Place Like Home (the latter I will also use for the friends' reunion in heaven).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Together At Last

I feel really odd today; strangely apathetic and yet a bit depressed. I saw a post on facebook between a brother and a sister about plans for Thanksgiving and it kind of got to me. It's hard being apart from those we care about. Everyone is given a unique set of friends and family. We should take more time to be thankful for those around us because we're truly privileged to know them. Won't it be fantastic when we're all together at last? There's no one alive who hasn't lost somebody. Maybe we can all share the hope of seeing the someone we miss.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Out the Window

My tradition of sitting at the window has become an everyday thing. As this has gone on, several sights have become familiar to me: 1) the school buses passing; 2) the setting sun; 3) the minute changes of the seasons--to name a few. Recently, though, there's been a new addition to this list: a person who walks by at about the same time every day. I can't quite figure out the gender or age, but it is my opinion that it is a young boy, probably about 5'6 in height. I'm stationed a bit higher than him so it's hard to tell. I'd usually be looking up to someone of that height. Today he wore a plaid knit toboggan cap, a honey-colored leather jacket, and black dressy shoes. The other thing is that he doesn't walk ambitiously, in a dance-y pattern the way some men do. It's almost shy, like how a child or young teen might walk. I honestly don't even want to know, should 'he' really be an old-fashioned lady. You see, he looks kind of how I imagined my boy character, Alex, and since now I have someone living to study, I'd rather keep the mystery exactly as it is. Perhaps one day I'll give him a name.

There used to be a lady who was between the height of a midget and a very short woman, who dragged a red wagon with a baby doll inside and anything else needed on the day. Some thought she was retarded, but I suppose now we won't know for sure. I haven't seen her in a very long time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"I don't like being teased."

Tonight I sat on my porch on the window seat just staring at the twilight. I remember almost exactly ten years ago when I was thirteen, lying out in the leaves watching the moon float across the sky. What is it about twilight that is so beautiful and yet so painful at the same time? If C.S. Lewis' profound statements are correct--that everything is merely a shadow of eternity--then in the past when we looked up at the sky, we longed for heaven. Now we are simply longing for the past when what we long for isn't in the past any more than it is in the leaves or in the moon but in eternity itself. If we went back to the past it would be a living memory but nothing more. It wouldn't satisfy our craving for heaven. It is merely a tease, and maybe that is why we feel in awe and in agony.  But what could be more beautiful than the sky or the stars? What could be more glorious than the greenish-blue of the tropical seas? It simply can't be even imagined.

As it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." --1 Corinthians 2:9 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One piece at a time


Okay so I thought I had this heaven thing figured out. It'd be all gold and glass and lovely things and...yeah. But this C.S. Lewis book I'm reading made those ideas seem really cliched and dumb. All my ideas are merely symbolism--earthly imitations of heavenly glories that I will never grasp while still bound by human limitations. This is a good and bad thing. I can only depict heaven in human terms; even the Bible does this. That doesn't mean people should stop trying to dig deeper and to create imagery that is uplifting and motivating. C.S. Lewis says, "I am not for a moment condemning such imagery. I heartily wish I could enter it more deeply than I do, and I pray that I yet shall. But my point is that this is only a symbol."

This is all so spiritually-stretching. I'm struggling to stick to this first part of the story as I am so ready to move on to the wonderful things for which I originally set out to depict. I must not be ready for that leg of the journey; that is all I can gather. Like the characters themselves, writers have their own journey in telling the story. I think perhaps I was wrong. In the end I believe I will be the one who gains the most from this achievement. I suppose that was all I really wanted: to give myself a visual place where I could imagine those I've lost and in some way, capture their new home like I'm always trying to capture the world around me. It's difficult for someone like me, with these hidden images inside of me that no one else can see, the presence of which I feel daily. I try and try to bring them out in their entirety, but I never could, in the same way that I will never successfully depict heaven as it really is. It simply can't be done. So while this book is incredibly enlightening, if only to get us thinking, I probably should lighten up a bit and stop expecting the impossible from myself. I have a lot to offer if I can just let go of the perfectionism.  

By the way, C.S. Lewis is great at teaching grammar. I've improved my sentence-forming abilities by leaps and bounds. I think that's how that saying goes. 

The specific book I'm reading is called Made for Heaven and in it are three chapters, one from each of his books that talk extensively about heaven. It's a good Lewis primer at best, but I will have to get my hands on the originals. I was getting frustrated with the local libraries having them split up into so many different locations until I found The Problem of Pain on Google Books. This part of Google may become my favorite! I read A Christmas Carol there instead of getting it at the library so I don't know how it is that I forgot about it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random musings on an autumn night

Last night's thoughts at around 5 or 6pm. 

Autumn has a unique smell, different from summer in that the scent of green leaves has faded to colorful, dying ones. The cicadas have all gone, their absence filled by early evening crickets. The wind seems to pick up, almost in an eerie sense, howling around doorways and windows. The trees thin out and their emptiness becomes more and more evident with each passing day. Suddenly the sky seems huge! The setting sun accentuates the auburn colors and turns even the strongest heart melancholy, as the days shorten and the bleak winter comes, where golden lights seem the cheeriest thing ever seen. All these seasons, always changing...but what would spring be without winter? Would the fresh, green grass be as delightful if it had never once been hidden beneath the snow? Would your heart long for the sounds of summertime evenings if it'd never tasted the bittersweet silence of January? Would heaven be as wonderful without earth to precede it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Here at last is the thing I was made for."

From the early stages of this story I knew that my characters must have something in common; something so strong that it can cross cultural and lingual barriers. Faith in Christ is obviously one of the things that pulls them together. I thought I was satisfied with that, but now I realize that I had never quite put my finger on it. There has to be something else that makes them best friends. There are millions of Christians in the world, but something has to make these two such kindred spirits that separation is absolutely devastating.
      Before I get to what that is, let me mention that I've been reading C.S. Lewis. I found exactly what I had been looking for all along. It explains what I knew, but couldn't put into words. Leave it to C.S. Lewis to put it so beautifully.

       "What I am now going to say is merely an opinion of my own without the slightest authority, which I submit to the judgment of better Christians and better scholars than myself. There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw--but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of--something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you are born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it--tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest--if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself--you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the thing I was made for.'"

I honestly don't know what they will have in common outside of their faith, but I hope it will make a bond that can be as beautifully felt as this passage I've just recited.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letting Your Light Shine

I think I'm finally seeing why this story means so much to me. Bear with me, because I may be repeating myself. It's hard to know with so many blog entries already posted, and this being something that's been on my mind for a long time.
      When I was a little girl I dreamed of the day Jesus would return. I got so excited thinking about Him coming down in the clouds and taking us all home with him. My parents told me not long after that times would get very bad before then, and I think in some small way, my dream was crushed. I had wanted so much to be alive for that day, and I started thinking I'd really rather not be there after all. In those days I was still reading picture books, even though I was nine. My dad thought this was a sign of under-development, like I wasn't intelligent enough to read stories without pictures. I now know this was the most positive thing imaginable: it meant that I loved pictures that much. Clearly I had an early fascination with art, I was just unaware of it at the time. I used to borrow my parents magazines just to stare at the glossy pictures, even if it was just a clothing catalog. Once someone gave me a few photography magazines, and I would go over and over them, like they were the best pictures ever taken.
      For some reason, the Bible became just words in an old book. God didn't seem real to me anymore. I knew the right things to say and I would still tell people about God if I got the opportunity, but I was far from knowing Jesus personally. I was a 'Christian', one of those people that has something to believe, but doesn't walk in it. My faith, and that fantastic imagination, had died from lack of nourishment. I think when I started getting into art again--(simultaneously getting into God)--I unlocked a lot of what had been buried. Those feelings of hope and wonder were revived and unleashed. All that has led to where I am now: this story. I'm finally getting back to what I should be doing. Maybe I was made for this very purpose: bringing that same hope and wonder outside of myself and giving it to those who really need to see it. Isn't that what the Kingdom is about? Eternal life? Not just "God can help you in this life" but that God is promising us a much better existence in the long run, restoring what has always been meant for us. God is a God of restoration; He is continually proving that to me.  
      My concept art has been a crucial part of the development of ideas and storyline, and yet it has been so much more: an ever-changing portfolio of my soul. I used to have dreams that were that big, only now I've come to realize that maybe they aren't impossible! Maybe one day we'll really be doing all these wonderful things, living in a place a thousand times more beautiful than Earth! It fills me with a ton of hope and excitement. I feel as though I'm carrying a secret, some kind of light that's been kept in darkness for too long. Maybe it's the same light, the Truth, that we're supposed to let shine. In my case, I should be shining the truth about our destiny. 

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven". - Matthew 5:16

I do extremely well with this kind of out-of-the-box thinking. Flying. Space. Huge castles over cliffs with waterfalls. That sort of thing. I just keep wondering if this is what I was made for. Like the song More Beautiful You that says "you were made to fill a purpose that only you could do." Maybe this is something only I can do. This is super exciting, and I hope this is indeed what I've been called to because I'm more than happy to do it.

The Big Picture

Craig Ferguson had astronomer Derrick Pitts on his show one night. As I listened to him talk, I tried to imagine what it must be like to see the world without consideration for God or destiny or anything beyond living your life and then ceasing to exist. The mere thought depressed me. It must depress a lot of people because even those who aren't religious believe in heaven. We're created to crave immortality! And heaven isn't just something to believe in, as though it may or may not be there. Like the earth being round or the grass being green, I consider heaven the same as anything else. You don't say "I believe in the grass." You don't need to believe in it. Clearly, it's just there, plain as day. But because heaven is not visible to the human eye--a decaying, material thing--its existence is up for debate. The wind, magnetic fields, atoms, particles, gravity, etc.--these are all invisible forces, but because we've managed to study them, they're considered undeniably real. My point in all this is: just because you can't see it or feel it or study it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

"So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
   'I will open my mouth in parables,
      I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.'" - Matthew 13:35

Maybe God doesn't want heaven to be found. Maybe He deliberately hid it from us, like He has hidden other things. 

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." -- Hebrews 11:1

Maybe it could be seen with our eyes, but He doesn't want us to see it.

"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." - Acts 7:55

We have always assumed that humans are incapable of seeing heaven, but clearly it was shown to Stephen. Jesus was resurrected and showed himself to us, and that means invisible things can be seen, but only when God wills.

I was going somewhere with this. I guess it's just that I don't see eternal or spiritual things as separate from material things. If I see a show about space, my mind naturally thinks about heaven. The same can be said about nature shows. It seems lately my whole world is consumed with thoughts of what lies ahead, after this world is done.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Conversation

Finally I bring you an excerpt from my story that doesn't have any spoilers! It's actually quite sweet, and close to what I pictured in my head. It's just a rough draft that can be filled in more later. The name Nikki will definitely change, too.

      His movements were slow and awkward, but finally he took a seat beside her. Immediately Nikki felt tense and uncomfortable, sitting in uncertain silence, waiting for something--whatever he had come to do.
      Truthfully, he didn't know what to do. There was a strange pull he was experiencing that made him want to help somehow. It was very hard opening that door and coming out to sit with a strange girl, who spoke a strange language, who was visiting at a very bad time. The first thing he had seen was her tiny figure bent low, head bowed, obviously in some form of prayer.
      He reached inside his shirt and pulled out a wooden cross on a black piece of cording, beads uniformly held by knots along the string. He stopped, at a loss for how to communicate his thoughts, then traced the outline of a necklace around her collarbone, first pointing to the cross in his hands.
      She shook her head; no, she didn't have one. For a second she saw a flash of disappointment and pain cross his face. It was difficult to know exactly what this meant, so her cold hands gently took the cross from him and placed the pendant nearest her heart. This is what she did have. His eyes followed it, and when he understood, it was like a light glowed inside their dark brown center, as though the moon had crept up behind her. To further illustrate her point, she held it between her hands and bowed her head.
      A simple, slight smile was quickly evident as he asked, "K'ristian?" It was pronounced a bit differently, but unmistakable.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Death #1

Well, I did it. I killed one of my characters. *Sniff*. It's by far the best piece of writing I've ever done so I'm super excited! Everything just came together nicely and I never struggled to express things. I even changed it a bit from how I originally intended it to come out, and I liked it better! So awesomeness all around. Once again I wish I could share this with you, but it's under lock and key until the story's finished.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alexander is used in Georgia?

I think I'm going to name my boy character Alex instead of David. It's still a popular Georgian name, but I think it's more fitting to the character. Who knew with all the Levans and Iraklis and Dodos there would be an Alex. I'm still unsure about the girl's name. I'm not happy at all with Nikki. Charlotte is a name that is staying with me, but yet it doesn't feel quite right.

Here's something funny, though: I kept thinking I wanted to go with Alex...then I went to one of my text documents (that I hadn't looked at in weeks) and Alex is the first name on the list that I wrote down months ago. Hmm...I wonder if that means anything. How do writers always have such fitting names anyway?!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Beginning of the End

Today I started writing. I don't have nearly enough research done to write anything but those specific scenes that have become ingrained in my head over the past several months. As much as I would love to post the page and a half that I wrote this morning, it does contain a spoiler. I have a feeling the majority of the book is going to be like that. But I can't have my readers knowing every twist and turn, now can I? I was struggling with knowing what kind of voice to use, so I just went with third person because it came more naturally than the others. Also since my main girl character is so much like me--(shh!)--I decided not to do a first person perspective. So my hard work is finally showing itself in my writing! The research has really helped me to visualize things and be able to clearly see what's happening in my head. I just wish my grammar and punctuation were better.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Abide in Me

 A couple of nights ago I found out that I can sit on the screened-in front porch and stare up at the moon. My mother put a bed out there so that she could nap in the sunshine. I used it to lay under the stars and enjoy some good ole quiet time.  That's when I got to thinking about life and death and heaven and all that. Obviously, or I wouldn't be writing any of this.

It's really tough to figure out exactly what salvation is and how it works. As I lay there the words "abide in me" came to mind. I know that when we accept Jesus into our hearts, He comes in. I never really understood what that meant. I always pictured him reclining in a chair or something when he said 'I am always with you'. Lately I had this realization that maybe He's inside us, just like He said He would be. I think that's because it's always easier for us to picture an imaginary friend than to know that something other than us is inside. If you tried to explain that to someone who didn't believe, they'd think it's like possession, which I suppose is correct. 

So what happens when you die, then? If we abide in Christ, then maybe He literally carries us with Him, like a kind of oneness, since He also said He lives in us. Interesting, no?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

He Had Compassion on Them

11:48pm - Lately I've been really disturbed with the level of hate and criticism coming from people I know. It seems to reach to about anyone around who is different in some way. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always accepting and loving like I should be. I was afraid of Muslim people until I got to know some. They're just like every other American I know in so many ways and--believe it or not--really nice. When I'm with people of different races and cultures I actually feel privileged to have the experience. It's not worth being afraid of what you don't know. Unfortunately this has left me feeling rather judgmental myself toward people who judge someone without even knowing them. This notion that Muslims are all terrorists has to cease. It's a perversion of Islam. Period. The worst mistake Christians can make is thinking we're better than other people because we have the umbrella of salvation. Remember Jesus hung out with people like these. We can't love if we don't look past our differences and try to see the similarities.

For example, I was looking at art on DeviantArt yesterday and I found this piece of digital art by a Muslim artist. It had a castle in the clouds and it struck me that it looked very much like one of my own pieces. It was even mostly pink! It was then that I realized we aren't so different. We both have dreams of eternity and paradise. We both want to be pure someday; no longer hopeless sinners.

Now I'm not saying we should be tolerant exactly. But it needs to be a balance of acceptance and truth spoken in love. Not harassment or hate; truth in word and deed. It simply breaks my heart to hear people saying bad things about others who are lost and struggling while they sit in their little Christian bubble like they're not also made up of evil as well as good.

There's a song I like to listen to while pondering this one scene I'm planning. It's called "Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave" by James Horner. Yes, it's from Titanic and its one of the saddest songs imaginable. For the scene I picture my characters going up to heaven with Jesus, then looking back to see people being pulled down through the ground Morlock-style. Put those together and see if it doesn't make you a little more compassionate. Christians should consider any such loss an absolute tragedy, for lack of a stronger word. That's an eternity of living in the darkest dungeon; with pure evil at every turn; nothing but pain and misery that never, ever ends. Instead of scoffing at people who we believe are headed there, we should have a heart that hurts for them, like Jesus does. Every life is inconceivably precious, no matter the life. This story is about God wanting to be with us forever, and Jesus died to offer that for everyone, not just people we deem acceptable. </end rant>

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Know the Plans I Have for You

12:32pm - The list of 'coincidences' keeps growing. Just yesterday my brother's fiancé met someone from Georgia working at Salvation Army. Seriously, what are the odds? To let you in on a little secret, the person my Georgian boy is based on, got lost in a foreign city and met someone from Georgia. That was a pretty impressive incident, and gets me really stoked about maybe going over and meeting this lady. I just never thought there would be someone to study so close to home. It's really hard to write about a place I've never been to, and I never considered that the culture of Georgia could be studied in my own hometown. At least, in part. The possibilities and opportunities from this are endless. I wonder how God can use us for his purposes. I really believe God has a plan in this story...I just don't know what it is yet. 

3:15pm - It's amazing that when you ask for God's help and guidance, He really delivers! I knew I hadn't prayed yet today so I decided to read a little of Our Daily Bread before getting into the shower. Somehow I'm most active mentally in the shower and I thought it would be good to have a fresh dose of God's word in there first. This is an amazing testament of God's perfect timing as well because I'd been asking Him to help me with the story. If you're going to write about someone's city or country, it's best to talk to a resident, right? Why would you dare to write a story about heaven without asking God all about it? The portion I read today was Acts 1:1-11, which talks about Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven. I'd been reading a lot of great stuff lately, but nothing directly related to heaven. So I thought that was pretty exciting. It's also worth noting that I've been experiencing some spiritual warfare in the form of dreams and that can only mean I'm doing the right thing. It's fun to make the evil side displeased. ;-) 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Heaven Is In My Heart

We made our second trip to the food bank today. If you've never been, there's no way for me to explain to you how it feels to be in that position. You can only go so long before money starts really running dry--a fact I've done nothing but try to hide from--and today I was forced to face it alongside my mother.

For the last six months I've been living in a dreamworld. Perhaps I got sucked into it just to survive emotionally through a trying time. This story was never an artsy fartsy good time though; it's literally the one place I have left where no matter how bad life is, there's the promise of something much better. Everyone needs something to look forward to and when life yields nothing in the distance, I will look up. I sincerely wish others join me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Star

I was dragged out of bed at 6:30 this morning by a hungry cat. Its typical for me to wake up sometime around sunrise anyway, and I like to get up and soak in the sunset for a few minutes before going back to bed. On this particular day I looked out a window facing west, instead of going out on our front porch. I saw one very bright star, probably a planet judging by the size of it. For some reason my creative juices flow the most right before bed and very early in the morning. I was so inspired by this scene that I had to go write some thoughts down. I had second thoughts about spilling the beans on this, but maybe it will help light that fire in you that I have.

"People say heaven can't be seen from earth, but you didn't know that you could see it all along. Its like a star in the sky; a distant point in space; a light that's so far away, but shines so brightly." 

This actually reminds me of a problem I'm having.Who is going to tell this story? What is the purpose of it from the point of view of the characters? Is it a story to tell people on earth about heaven? It is in reality, but what about in the story? Telling it like a discovered 'book of secrets' would keep the enchantment factor up for sure. I'm not quite certain about it all. It could be told from Nikki's point of view, I suppose. That would be easiest to write because I love writing journals. Obviously--look where you are. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lost and Found

Not much to post about today, except to share a picture I discovered. Hmmm...David in heaven? =D

Lost and Found by Greg Olsen:

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Have Been There

I can't tell you exactly how or when it happened, but yesterday I had an epiphany of sorts. I love moments when you suddenly understand something you never did before.

There are a handful of people I used to know who have died. I could probably count them on one hand. My story is greatly fueled by their memory, and that's why this realization is so profound. Naturally, I want to see them again, sometimes very badly...I love them, after all. More than anything, it says loads about how much Jesus loves them. I never thought that he would know how we feel in this case. He's up there with's not like he has to be without them like we do. But he does know what it is to love them immensely, and for that reason He completely empathizes with us being apart. Sometimes I think people we've lost would say we need to just let it go--we'll all be together soon...that they don't miss us as much as we miss them because they're in a place without pain. How do we know they wouldn't say they understand? I always pictured them as wiser, somehow super-human...but now I think that like Christ, they're in a place of empathy. So we don't have to feel bad about grieving.

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked.
      "Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" -- John 11: 33-36

Expiration Date: N/A

Original Wordpress post date: 8.27.10

Like the end of the day;
Like the end of the year;
Like the end of summer;
Your end will be here before you know it.

Save a place for me
I'll be there soon.

Quiet Time

Original Wordpress post date: 8.26.10

We went camping this past weekend. It was a really emotional time for me. I can't even put into words all of the thoughts that have raced through my mind with everything I've seen and done. Melancholy is a good word for what it was. Being in the wilderness makes me think of God and life and what all that means. I know there's so much waiting in this life's not all about heaven. I learned this weekend (not in the woods but in the book I'm reading) that sometimes only in pain can beautiful things happen.

On the way home I saw these puffy clouds far off in the distance, directly opposite the sun. It made me sad to see them because I wanted so much to be able to go up and sit on them or just somehow be closer to them. I hate these physical limitations we have now. People are so ambitious to do more and more and more, but I just want things that can't be achieved at all, let alone yet.

All the same, it was so good to be out away from the city where I could feel God a little bit better. For some it's doing lots of adventurous stuff and taking advantage of the summer, but its just so good for my soul to sit back and look at the sky or take a walk in the woods. I don't have to have a lot, just quiet and peacefulness.
The trip got me thinking about a few things, one of them being fire. Will there be fire on the new earth? I think what I'm going to do is go with one simple answer for all: everything good will be preserved, and everything bad will be destroyed. Sounds simple enough...but is fire good or bad? *Headache*

Where Are You?

Original Wordpress post date: 8.20.10

Where are you? 

Are you up with the moon?
Are you sailing above the sea?
Are you friends with the stars,
Or high in the trees?

When the sun comes up,
Can you see it from there?
What about planets and comets
And what the angels wear?

Do you see flowers and clouds
And mist on your feet?
Or castles and towers,
Built high o'er the street?

Can you dance and sing
And speak every tongue?
Do the old and weak
Really look like the young?

I see that star
when I look out at night
I named it for you
Now that you're with the light

Those wonders and joys
I've come to adore
Now that we share them
I love them much more

When life has gone
And I breathe no more
I hope to see you,
There on that shore.

I can't wait to hear you,
speaking so clear
Never did I think
That you'd be so dear

Deep in my heart;
There you will stay
On I'll go living
Until that glad day. 

This is something I wrote tonight when I looked out at the stars and the moon. It took a bit of thought to get the rhyming, but for the most part, it just flowed freely. This one thought has stuck with me all day: Where did they go? I guess this is something I needed to express, so here it is.

Realities in Georgia

Original Wordpress post date: 8.15.10

Excerpt from a blog I've been reading about Georgia: 

"These are a list of things that are usual or normal in Georgia—at least in my experience. First of disclaimer—some of these “realities” are stereotypes and do not hold for all Georgians, so take the comments with some humor and a grain of salt. Here we go.

  • 1. Children driving cars down the village hill (actually more like starting the car to get it rolling and then turning it off to coast down the hill). Of course, this is not unlike farm kids in the US.
  • 2. “We have not such luxuries in Georgia.” – A response from a Georgian when there was mention of movies, but also applies to many aspects of American amenities.
  • 3. Turkey attacks – Yes, there are some rather large, dominant turkeys that lived on my road, and more than once was I forced to wield a long stick in order to protect myself. I may have also had to be saved by a neighbor at one point…Lesson learned: speak softly and carry a big stick applies both to politics and arming yourself against farm animals.
  • 4. Constant awkwardness. Yes, it is inevitable when you enter a village where you know no one and barely speak their language.
  • 5. Pretending you understand. Smile and nod is a way of life here sometimes. But it can also get you into trouble when you agree to marry a Georgian.
  • 6. Constant encouragement to marry a Georgian.
  • 7. Birzha and the birzha-squat. This requires a little explanation. A birzha is typically a group of men that stand around (or squat), deep in conversation, playing cards, or just watching the people pass. There can also be women birzhas or child birzhas, though they are less ubiquitous. And the birzha squat is a way of—for lack of a better word—squatting that most Georgians use if they don’t have a chair or bench. You can ask for demonstrations when I am stateside, but don’t expect much because this squat is acquired from birth.
  • 8. Injuries and illness—at least in our group of mokhalise (volunteers). For me, broken fingers. :)
  • 9. Saying things 3 times. Favorites include: Tchame, Tchame, Tchame. Dalie, Dalie, Dalie. (eat, eat,eat; drink, drink, drink).
  • 10. Animal droppings.
  • 11. Georgian hospitality.
  • 12. Constant/concerned scrutiny (but from a loving place) over everything you do in life. To understate it, Georgians are curious. And when you don’t speak the language well, your actions speak very loudly.
  • 13. Us volunteers being easily satisfied after living in the villages for 9 weeks—i.e. by hot showers.
  • 14. Living by the “gaachina” code. Gaachnia means “it depends” in Georgian and is a great way to answer questions, especially since sometimes it’s hard to boil down every American into one stereotype.
  • 15. The dative case. So, this is a little hard to explain, but in Georgian, there are cases. This means that depending on what verbs you use or how you word a sentence, the way the nouns in the sentence are said/spelled changes. Yeah, it’s fun. However, sometimes the dative form of a word is fun to say. For example, dzghals. Ok, this one might be lost in translation.
  • 16. Your music not being appreciated and soon being replaced by Georgian/Russian techno played on a cell phone (and yes, every Georgian has a better cell phone than the volunteers—though at least we have them at all!).
  • 17. Man-childs. Another Georgian phenomenon in which 16 year olds look like they are 25. Also happens with female Georgians.
  • 18. Being blessed on the way to school. As soon as you pass a bebia (grandmother) in the street and say “Gamarjoba. Rogora khar?” (Hello, how are you?), you will almost immediately be called a “kargi/kai gogo/bitchi” (good girl/boy) and be blessed.
  • 19. The stare-down. This reality happens more upon entering a village for the first time and not knowing anyone. Most of the Georgians would not initiate a hello but rather just stare at us. Now, you could respond by just staring back; hence, the stare-down. However, upon saying hello to a Georgian, he or she would probably try to strike up a long, friendly conversation.
  • 20. Chacha (very strong alcohol made from grapes) as the cure for all evils (including broken bones and the flu)."
[For a little bit more fun, here's a song I found on a Georgian radio station. Somehow I can totally see a Georgian jamming to this in a little soviet car. --Amanda]

The Characters

Original Wordpress post date: 8.12.10

David (meaning: Beloved)
Determined. Hopeless Romantic. Warm and compassionate. Patient and tolerant. Wise and witty. Very intelligent. Do or die attitude. Inquisitive and intuitive. Faithful friend. Sharp thinker. Likes to enjoy life to the fullest. Easy going. Attractive personality. Very generous. Ambitious, wanting to achieve a lot in life.

Nikki (meaning: Victory of the People)
Craves personal expression. Generally enjoys life. Very high creative and inspirational tendencies. Outstanding self-expression, regardless of field. Strives for organization and predictable order. Very ambitious. Sensitive nature. Gets jealous and angry easily. Attention seeker. Very generous. Strong character. Observant. Caring and loving.

Clever, quick, analytical mind, excellent capacity to study and learn really deep and difficult subjects. Interested in deeper aspects of life. Searches for hidden truth, pursues knowledge with vigor. Operates on a different wavelength. Can be a perfectionist. Very logical and rational approach to things. Inner turbulence because of the inability to say what they mean. Easier to express thoughts and feelings through writing. Enjoys literature, poetry, and turns to ideals when misunderstood, retreating for periods to be alone. Likes to dream and more comfortable in circumstances that tolerate reservation. Somewhat timid with strangers.

P.S. I'm thinking of naming her Charlotte instead. It means free, which I think fits the story better. Plus, Charlotte is just stuck in my head. Yet the picture seems to fit Nikki better. I'm torn. Any advice?

Eternal Youth and Beauty

Original Wordpress post date: 8.11.10

In the land of Tir na NÓg music, strength, life, and all pleasurable pursuits come together in a single place. Here happiness lasts forever; no one wants for food or drink. It's the land of eternal youth and beauty.

Many civilizations have their own versions of Tir na NÓg, dismissed by modern people as mere fairy tales and mythology, stories for children. These stories exist in the first place because "God has set eternity in the hearts of men" (Eccl. 3:11). We know that something is wrong with the world.

But exactly what does 'youth' mean? I doubt very much that we'll all be 10-year-olds. Does that mean we'll be in our twenties or thirties? I think we'll be whatever age is most appropriate for who we are. I know we grow and mature to a certain point and then just age from there. So wherever that peak point is for us, that is the 'age' that we will be.

But if a child dies, are they children all of their new life? It's one thing to be eighty on earth and have a twenty-year-old glorified body. But what about children? They never grew up to twenty-something on earth to begin with, so how could they be that mature? I'm leaning toward having children in heaven because it just makes more sense.

The Definition of Love

Original Wordpress post date: 8.8.10

I found a new song the other day that I think may work well for the story. Apparently I need to listen to the radio more often because the song has been around a while. 

I know the song is about love, but since my characters were denied romantic relationships, the strongest bond they had was each other. I think we're going to be much more affectionate in heaven, not restrained and awkward like we are now. I wanted to show a glimpse of that here on earth, and that the characters understand it. Obviously there are lines that are not crossed, they just love each other in a different way. I suppose the only thing you could call them is best friends.

A Different Kind of Nature Preserve

Original Wordpress post date: 8.7.10

A few days ago we had a very brief shower, the sun coming out afterward. It struck me how beautiful the world can be when the grass sparkles and rainbows form. Will the new earth have these wonders preserved? What about thunderstorms? They're one of the most exciting things in all of nature, but they are the result of conflict. It doesn't make sense to have conflict in a world of peace and endless joy. Does that mean everything in nature that is a result of conflict should be thrown out? One book I read theorized that God doesn't just destroy what He says is good. It's a very complicated subject, obviously, and that's just one of the millions of things I have to figure out--which is why I'm leaving that part for last. It gives me a lot of time to mill over it. Any thoughts?

From Rags to Riches

Original Wordpress post date: 8.2.10

Hello, Monday! I kind of dropped everything I was doing to go on this trip, so it's nice to get back to working on my story.

There's this one scene that I absolutely adore, and I really should make some artwork to depict it. It takes place after the children of God rise from their graves. I imagined them coming out in rags, then as they see that Christ has come back they move towards the light. When the light hits them, the rags begin to flake off, revealing white gowns underneath (maybe not gowns for the guys, but you get the idea).
As the scene progresses, Jesus is seen clearer and clearer and they begin to run to him. My ideas are all timed out to this song: My Name is Lincoln.


Original Wordpress post date: 7.24.10

The majority of my research has centered around Georgia: culture, mannerisms, language--anything I think I might need, and a whole lot that I can use that I wasn't even looking for. Thank God for youtube, too. I never would have been able to see Georgians being Georgians without it. It's naturally pretty hard to write about a country you've never been to.  I also chose to address the Russia-Georgia war in August of 2008--a topic people still debate about. I'm going to try to stay out of the politics, though, and just focus on the people affected by it. I tried to go to a different storyline when I thought that might be too tough, but it seems my heart is just set on it.

The first thing you should know is that this is a very emotional story. I really care about these characters, more than I ever have with any other story, even some from my favorite books. It's because they're based on real people, real brothers and sisters of mine. I don't want to keep everything in secrecy, but I simply can't tell anyone the true story--yet I'm trying to be honest, so just bear with me, and maybe someday you'll know what's really going on in my head.

Maybe I can take a chance and explain a little bit to you. When I express Nikki's feelings of pain and heartache during some of the scenes in the winter, it's based on how I felt this past winter, hurt and broken. When she looks up at the sky in wonder, it's because I'm doing that all the time as well. When David tells her to live her life to the fullest, maybe it's because I need someone to tell me that. Since David is based on a real person who really lived, and really died, it's a difficult story to write. Without getting too specific, my own feelings about him and death and life and pretty much everything else is all over this story. It oozes misery and joy at the same time, perhaps because I'm a moody person who can be dancing in the rain one day and crying in the dark the next. The truth is that the universe is made up of opposites: good and evil, happiness and sadness, life and death...the list is endless. So I hope that this story is made up of both, because as everyone knows, life is not always a bed of roses.