Dear Girls

   Dear girls,

   I wanted to write an open to letter to all the females of the world. I want you to slow down and think because there are so many messages you receive and I know that sometimes it’s hard to decipher what to believe and what to ignore. It’s hard when the world tells you one thing and your gut tells you another. I know we live in a cruel world that is especially hard on females. I know you might not be sure who you want to be and that’s okay.

   Dear girls, I want you to know that you’re so beautiful.
   You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. You don’t have to be beautiful like the next girl; you are beautiful in the way you were created to be. Love yourself. Please don’t harm your precious body trying to reach an unrealistic goal of perfection. Please don’t punish your beautiful temple for not being enough. Stop relying on silly numbers to tell you your worth because those numbers are liars. Your weight will fluctuate, your grades will change, your bank account will be full and empty; all those things are a part of life and do not have any correlation to your value.

   Dear girls, be strong. Be independent. Be fearless.
   Be your own anchor. Don’t let your happiness be dependent on a boy. Don’t let the opinions of other people dictate your every move. Be the person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to love the things you love, whether it be sports or Starbucks or video games or makeup. Know that you are complete; you are not a soul wandering around, waiting for her life to start when she meets a man. Your life is now. Don’t be afraid to travel alone or be alone. Fear not the isolation but embrace the adventure. Don’t listen to people who say that boys don’t like independent girls. Be whole on your own.

   But girls, be soft.
   Be gentle. Be forgiving. Know that tears are not a sign of weakness. Your femininity does not make you weak; it makes you strong. Your ability to be kind is a lovely thing. Be humble enough to accept help.

   Dear girls, be modest.
   Truthfully, I hate that word, but I want you to know that you don’t need to show your body to get attention and to be loved. You are not a disgrace for the way you dress. I know that sometimes it can seem like a competition and the only way to get ahead is by showing off the most skin but darling, you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.

   Dear girls, excel.
   Excel in your education, in your work place, in your passions. Don’t dumb yourself down to please people. Do your best. Do your best in sports and business and science and math. Don’t be intimidated by male dominated spaces. You are just as important. You are valuable.

   Dear girls, enjoy your time alone.
   Solitude is a gift. Being single is a gift. Take time by yourself to discover who you are, as cliche as that sounds. Try new ideas. Pick up hobbies. Have adventures on your own.

   Dear girls, love your boyfriend or husband.
   Serve him. Adore him. Honor him. Know that while yes, he is not above you, your desire should be to humble yourself and love him. Love him, love him, love him.

   Dear girls, don’t tear each other down.
   This is not a contest. We have enough crap to deal with, we don’t need it from friends. Girls, we need to stop putting each other down. We need to build each other up and support each other. Give compliments often. Hug one another. Don’t gossip. Be kind. Other girls are not your competition. They are your friends.

   Dear girls, embrace your femininity.
   We can be looked down on for loving “girly” things but you can be strong and wear red lipstick at the same time. There’s seriously nothing wrong with wearing pink and going shopping and doing your makeup. High heels are great and dresses are great. Being a girl is great. Stop letting people put you down for being a female.

   Dear girls, live.
   Dance like no one is watching. Sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs. Be crazy. Be wild. Be yourself. Embrace every part of yourself, even the parts that you hate.

   You matter in this world. Sometimes you need to fight for things. You are worth fighting for. It took me too long to learn all these things and I hope you understand way before I did. I love you so much. I love seeing girls who are confident in who they are. You inspire me. Remember all these things because you never know who’s watching you. There’s a girl somewhere that wants to be just like you. Be strong for her. Girls should inspire each other. So learn from females who have lived longer than you and be a role model for the younger generations.

   Now get out there and show the world what you’re made of.

My Characters: Azlyn Dever

   Let’s talk about Forlorn Hope. The novel I’ve spent the last 2 (and a half?) years writing and rewriting and plotting and editing. I don’t talk about it a lot because frankly, I don’t feel like people care. But lately I’ve been really working on it and I wanted to share it with you guys. I want your opinion. So wanna help me out?
   Let’s start with a super rough synopsis. 
   My name is Azlyn Dever and I am a Christian. I thought I knew what that meant, but now I’m not so sure. Now my best friend friend can see demons. A boy from my youth group is a prophet of sorts. And me? All I can do is watch my world fall apart. 

   Okay I literally threw that together in ten seconds and its okay at best. Sorry about that. Really that’s the only way I can think to put it together. It’s a book about three friends and their battle against spiritual warfare. Today though, I wanted to focus more on the characters. They’re the ones that carry the story. I also made collages to go with their aesthetics and each day I’ll post about a different person.  (All pictures are from Pinterest so sorry if I stole your image. ) 
   Today I want to introduce you to my main character.

Azlyn Dever
Azlyn is the narrator of this story. She’s also the only person in her friend group that is virtually completely blind to the spiritual realm, which obviously adds a lot of frustration for her. She struggles with chronic pain throughout the novel but in no way does she let that stop her from living. Azlyn is sarcastic and pretends to be apathetic when in reality, she cares too much. Her fatal flaw is that she thinks she has to save the world. 
Aside from all that seriousness, Azlyn really enjoys pizza and the color maroon and dislikes coffee. She binge watches Mr. Robot in her free time and really likes to make jokes with her best friend, Sadie. Azlyn has a fierce devotion to Ed Sheeran. She hates the word “hipster” but that’s what she is. She’s sarcastic, sassy, and hecka angsty. 

   If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Azlyn. I had wanted to name a character that since middle school when I read the Star Wars: Legacy comics. But when I started plotting this, I strongly didn’t want to use that name. But then I found out it meant “vision or dream” and I had to. In my first draft, Azlyn had premonitions and nightmares, so that name fit perfectly. So basically, she was inspired by the John Ostrander character.
But besides that, I understand her more than any character I’ve ever written. Writing her is like putting a piece of myself onto paper. Writing her story has inspired and helped me in more ways than I had ever thought were possible. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into when I decided to write her story for my ’14 NaNoWriMo. And as each draft changes, it changes me too. 
I think Azlyn makes the best protagonist because she’s the least qualified of all her friends and yet she matters. By all means, she shouldn’t be the MC, and yet it’s her perspective that the story gets told from. Personally, I think that’s rad.

So that’s her. Also, enjoy a small snippet of a scene starring my lovely Azlyn Dever.

A slight knocking sounded at my door.
“Come in.” My voice sounded so pathetic outloud. I rolled onto my side and the light from the hallway shone right in my eyes, making me feel like I was being blinded. My migraine screamed at the light, forcing me to shut my eyes,
“I brought you some food and a soda.” I recognized my mom’s voice despite the fact my brain felt like pudding. I heard the door shut behind her followed by a clicking noise. When I opened my eyes, I saw she had turned my desk lamp on. Underneath it she had set a plate of mashed potatoes and chicken, alongside a can of Mountain Dew.
Mom seemed sad, despite the fact that she was smiling. Her smile wasn’t one of joy, but of pity. And I hated pity. She almost seemed tired, which wasn’t unusual for her considering how much she worked. Her ginger hair, which was the exact same shade as mine, was thrown up her usual After Work Messy Bun. She had washed away all her makeup, leaving her face red and her freckles stand out.
I sat up, attempting to ignore the pain so I could reach for the Mountain Dew. Upon seeing my hand, Mom picked up the can and, after opening it, handed it to me. The snap-hiss of the can opening relaxed me, in a weird way. I prayed the caffeine would help me this time, even though I was fairly certain it wouldn’t.
“I have your meds.” Mom’s curled palm reached out to me and I took the pills from her. I took them in two’s, as was my usual routine, until they were all finished. I washed them down with my carbonated drink. I could feel the pills being pushed down my throat, followed closely by the sizzling sensation of a soft drink.
“Pain level?”
“Like, 7.”
“Alright, so an 8.”
I gave her the soda back and collapsed onto my bed. Mom set the can on my nightstand. She came over by me and pulled a blanket over my body ever so delicately, like I was a kid again. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t a kid because if I was, then Ariel would still be around and I still would have had time to save her and Sadie wouldn’t be going crazy.
“What are you thinking about, sweetie?”
“What?” I squinted my eyes at her.
“You have your thinking face on. What’s going on?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Despite my unwillingness to talk, Mom sat down on the bed with me. Her hand held onto mine and I felt the warmth of her presence flood me. Mom’s had that effect on people. They were both warming and cooling all at once.
I moved my arm to cover my eyes. “What would you do if you felt God calling you to do something you didn’t want to do? And how would you be a good friend to someone? Like, if you don’t know how.”
Silence followed. I assumed she was thinking of an answer. Or trying to put a context to my question. That was another thing Mom’s do. They always try to figure out what’s going on when you ask a generic question.
“For your first question, I would say to look at people in the bible who disobeyed God and see if that’s the life you want.” She chuckled, probably because she was thinking of a particular story in her head. “And as how to be a better friend…think of how you would feel in Sadie’s situation, I assume this is about Sadie, and think about the things you would want her to do for you.
I rolled my eyes, even though they were still closed. I didn’t know why I hadn’t expected her to name Sadie. She was my mom, after all.
I felt her lips press against my forehead softly. “You’ll figure it out soon. I know you will.”

As she left, the pain in my head doubled. I was fairly certain she left my room. I heard the clicking of a door locking in its socket. There was silence for only a brief moment before I succumbed to tears.

Baseball Has Been Very Very Good To Me

   When I think of baseball I think of packing lunches and blankets to go all over the city for my older brother’s travel baseball games. I think wearing his old jerseys to those games so I could support him. I think of asking for baseball cards for my birthday to add to my collection. I think of afternoons where my dad would explain what was happening on TV with the Cubs and teaching me all the rules of the game. I think about going outside into the courtyard and playing catch with my brother and dad. I also recall that we used to get kids from the neighborhood to play with us. We would stay out in the yard all day. I remember playing softball in a league for 4 years and going to an ice cream parlor for ice cream and fries after each victory. I think of watching The Sandlot. Baseball reminds me of my Alfonso Soriano jersey I never took off in middle school. It reminds me of my family because most of my childhood revolved around that sport in one way or another.

   Baseball has always had a special place in my heart.

   This summer I’ve been blessed to be able to work at the legendary Wrigley Field as a fan photographer and its been the greatest thing in the world. If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes with me, you know this. Because I don’t ever stop talking about it.

   I stopped keeping up with the Cubs when my dad left, because we stopped spending money on cable. My older brother went away to college (where he continues to play baseball for his school.) and so all my huge baseball influences were gone. I sort of let it go for a while. Then the Cubs team I loved fell away; some players retired and others got traded. I don’t know where most of them are anymore. They’ve all sort of fallen off the grid. I had forgotten how much I cared until this summer.

   This summer has been magical. My first day of work I was exhausted. I was standing all day and doing stairs. I was in so much pain on the way home. But I couldn’t stop smiling. Whenever I’m there I can’t help but think about how blessed I am. I mean, I had been asking God for the perfect job. One I loved, one that was close, one that was easy. And truthfully, I only love it. It’s so hard. It’s so far away. It takes a lot out of me. But I am so in love. I’ts worth all that to me. My boss is so great and understanding and my coworkers are gems, honestly.

  One day last week I got to work two hours early. So I sat in the stands and listened to worship music. It was the greatest thing. I mean…who gets to do that before work? I just stared off at the field and thought about all the people that come to the stadium. Seriously. I’m constantly overwhelmed when we all rise to sing the national anthem. That place holds over 41,000 people. Plus staff. And its sold out pretty much every night. I always wonder why they’re there. I think about all those people who all have stories and dreams and people they love and reasons why baseball means a lot to them just like it means a lot to me. I wonder why they’re Cubs fans or fans of opposing teams. Sometimes I feel so small; but most of the time I feel in awe just thinking that each one of those people matter. 41,000 people and each person still matters. I still matter.

   I know most people I know hate sports, and you could be one of them. But think about this: community. That’s what it is. Just like I said about the Oscars; it’s a crap ton of people getting together to celebrate something so stupid and meaningless yet so powerful. Depression makes me think of things I love as pointless. But times like the time I have at work make me remember that we were created to love and live and enjoy the little things. It’s just a game but at the same time, its not just a game. And I’m not sure if that makes sense.

   The other thing about my job is that it’s hard. I hate asking people for photos. I’m shy. I have panic attacks at work sometimes. Yet it’s worth it. Every time I walk into that stadium I’m greeted by a random person with a smile on their face. I swear all the workers there act like each day is the best day of their life. I remember that I’m doing what I love when I hear Shoop come on the loud speakers and Addison Russell walk up to the plate. My second day at work, my favorite got a homerun and the crowd went wild. I think about that and how alive I felt and how I couldn’t stop smiling on the bus ride home.

   I guess what I’m trying to say is that I used to be really sad. Now I’m really happy. If you’re struggling right now, I want you to know that it’s okay and that you won’t be struggling forever. I want you to embrace all those silly things that make you smile because yeah they’re stupid but they matter. If you need a reason to keep fighting today, here it is. Think about all the beautiful things you haven’t experienced yet and all the people you haven’t met. They’re waiting for you. Hang on for them.

   I could talk about this job forever so I’m just going to stop here. This post came out way more scattered than I had planned. But really, I never thought I would get to say my first job was at Wrigley Field getting to do what I love. Never in a million years would I have thought that. Yet here I am. Someday, I hope you get a job that you love so much you’d wake up at 6:45 to take a bus for an hour to get to. I hope you feel alive when you’re there. I hope you fall in love with your life and don’t settle for less.

(PS. I’m obsessed with all the photos I take at work so I hope you love them as much as I do.)

A Short Post In Which I Share Bad News

   A while ago I underwent a surgery to remove half of my thyroid because there was a nodule growing on it. This nodule had been benign for a long time but then it started to press on my wind pipe, so my doctor elected to remove it. After that, he wanted it examined to look for cancer. Well, all the pathologists at my doctor were split. Half said cancer, half said benign. Thus half of my thyroid make quite the journey. It was transported to Wisconsin, and then eventually to New York to be looked at.

   All this goes to say, they found out I have cancer.

   Before you go freaking out, stop. Take a breath. And relax.

   We won’t know what kind or stage until after I have it biopsied. On August 10th, the remaining part of my thyroid will be removed and then I’ll undergo radioactive iodine treatment to disintegrate any traces of my thyroid that were left over.

   I know. I just threw a lot of information out there at once. If you’re not a medical expert or a sick kid, your brain might be spinning. So to summarize: they have no idea how bad it is, but I’m feeling optimistic. My doctors do seem concerned more than they usually are, that’s true. But I know I’ve gone through this surgery before and I handled it well, so that’s good.

   So I thought today though I’d talk about cancer.

   I’ve known for a while now but I didn’t tell a lot of people. I didn’t know how to. There were a lot of reasons I kept it to myself for so long. It’s awkward to come out there and just say “by the way, I have cancer.” I didn’t want people to treat me differently. I didn’t want people to suddenly care about me when they really hadn’t before. I didn’t want all the attention to be on me. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want to just talk about cancer. It’s weird to say that I have cancer because it doesn’t feel real.

   Honestly, I don’t feel sick. I’m now a part of this group of people who are deemed Really Sick, and I don’t feel it. I don’t feel like I should be among them. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I don’t feel like I’m constantly fighting to stay alive or to find a cure. I’m not a huge medical health activist nor will I ever be. I don’t feel sick. I don’t feel weak.

   But for a while it hit me hard. I’m sick. Even though I don’t feel it, I am sick. Some day I may wake up and not be able to walk. Some day I won’t be able to eat. Some day I’m going to be in so much pain I’ll cry all day. And the worst is the not knowing. I don’t know when my body will give out. I’m fine today but how will I be tomorrow? I’m worried because I’m a person that prides myself in being independent and self sufficient. I know someday I won’t have that luxury.

   But I guess that’s what makes me grateful for each day I am normal. I thank God for my health and that seems almost ridiculous for someone who has so many issues going on. But I am. I know that God is in control and if He didn’t want me to have cancer than I wouldn’t have cancer. It’s as simple as that. With that, I guess I just want people to know that having cancer isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s terrible, but there are worse things that could happen. Cancer doesn’t get the last word. Cancer can have a footnote in my story but that’s it.

   And hey, on the bright side, I get to be Hazel Grace now. So I’ll be on the lookout for a one legged boy who carries a cigarette around for metaphorical reasons.

(I had to include this song. It’s great.)
(Anthony Rizzo, first basemen for the Chicago Cubs being a gem. He defeated Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.)
(Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. 10/10 would recommend.)
Thank you all for listening to me talk about my medical problems and being there for me while I rant. Truthfully, I never wanted to share this with you but, as Rachel pointed out in that movie quote above, everyone was gonna find out sooner or later. I’d rather you hear it from me. Be praying for my family in all this; mostly my mom, because she worries. But also everyone else. Because having a kid with medical issues puts a ton of stress on everyone in the family. 
Thank you again for everything.

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What I Wished Someone Had Told Me As An Introvert (But Learned On My Own)

   I do not have an extroverted bone in my body. Seriously. I am not outgoing nor overly talkative. I hate large groups of people. Small talk is my worst nightmare. My brain doesn’t have an off switch. I spend too much time remembering all the stupid things I’ve said or done. And worst of all, talking is hard.

   If you can relate to those things, you’re probably an introvert. Welcome to the club where, despite our reputation, we’re actually all really cool here.

   I have been introverted my whole life. I will continue to be an introvert until I die. It took me a long time (a loooooooong time.) to accept that and move on. There was a point in my life where talking was excruciating. I spent a majority of my childhood thinking I was an outcast because I was shy. I’ve dealt with so much crap for it I’m surprised I haven’t snapped yet. There were times I would cry because of the criticism. I cried because I thought if I only tried harder, I would be more outgoing. People assumed I wasn’t trying because I was still so quiet, when in reality, I was obsessively thinking about it and trying to “fix myself.”

   If you’ve ever been in that boat, I want to write this for you. I spent years fighting this and trying to stop being so shy and it only make me feel terrible. I wished that instead of telling me to “just talk” people would have actually helped me. I hope I can help you out a bit. Trust me, I learned these the hard way.

   First of all, you don’t need to be fixed. Should I say it louder for the people in the back? INTROVERTS DON’T NEED TO BE FIXED. Introversion is not a disease, a fault in your personality, or a defect. It is just who you are. Just because you are quieter than your peers does not make you any less capable or intelligent. It is not a crutch or a weakness. You are allowed to be shy or introverted or quiet. You don’t need to talk more to make people accept you. You need to surround yourself with people who are okay with your silence.

   You don’t need to try harder. Seriously. Stop punishing yourself when you can’t be this person you’ve made up in your head. We all have that person, don’t we? That picture of ourselves where we’re confident and brave and can talk to anyone without feeling the crippling anxiety. Yeah. You need to let it go. Because if you set up this standard for yourself, you’ll beat yourself up every time you do so much as stutter. You’re going to get heavy with the weight of regret from all the times you “should have spoken up.” That weight will crush you. I know because I almost let it crush me.

   Accept your shyness. I talked to a coworker of mine the other day about my shyness and he told me “I don’t think it’s a lack of motivation or desire. I think it’s just who you are.” There are a million lessons in that but let me say this, you’re going to be an introvert forever. So you can either live your whole life in constant worry about not being good enough, or you can learn how to get crap done while being an introvert. I know, the world runs on an extroverted system and it’s messed up. So everyone expects you to do things the way outgoing people would, but you’re creative. So think of ways to do things. Don’t expect yourself to run the same way other people do. Find those loopholes.

   Stop. Comparing. Yourself. To. Extroverts. Or even other introverts. Or literally anyone. Just because some introverts can do things doesn’t mean you should spend the next 3 weeks crying because you’re too scared to do them. Be yourself. (Cliche. I’m over it.) But true. Alright?

   You are worthy of love and respect. Introverts are the recipient of so much ridicule because we are vastly misunderstood. But you are worth just as much as anyone else. You are just as deserving of love as anyone else. Being quiet doesn’t make you any less of a person. It doesn’t make you any less valuable. You still have your place in a group. You still have your talents. You are still a person.

   This one’s from my favorite book, Its Kind Of A Funny Story. The book that literally changed my life. I’ve mentioned it before, but Craig says “I don’t owe people anything and I don’t need to talk to them anymore than I feel I need to.” That quote can pretty much take 100% of the credit for how much I talk now. People will give you crap. You’ve probably heard the sarcastic “wow! Why are you so loud?!?!1” comment. People will try to shove you into uncomfortable situations in an attempt to “cure you.” And guess what?! You don’t need to talk to them. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing something in a group, you don’t need to. If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to. Not talking doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you.

   Those are the biggest things that come to mind right now. But listen, I know for me, once I was able to deal with all that stuff, I actually opened up more. I talk a lot. (I bet now people wish I would shut up.) There are still situations I have bad anxiety with. Some people I don’t open up around. But that’s who I am and that’s okay. You are okay just the way you are.

   I think I wrote this to remind myself of all that. I got a new job doing what I love (photography.) but it requires so much talking and being outgoing. I’m also going to be a leader up at camp (next week!!) and that requires me be outgoing. And I’m going to do it because I know who I am and I know that I’ll have my moments (or days or weeks) but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. So not talking doesn’t make you a failure either. We can do this. Some days we won’t be able to talk. But some days…some days we’ll take the world by storm.

   (With plenty of intervals of alone time.)

The Remnant Review + Giveaway

   First of all, if you’re reading this because you thought it said the Revenant I would just like to inform you this is not a review of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar with. This is a review of the book The Remnant by Clare McIvor. I can’t speak for the film considering I’ve never seen it, so let me talk about this book of a similar title.

   The Remnant is a Christian, dystopian-esque novel that follows the outlawed, underground church that calls themselves the Remnant. Most of the band of believers hide secretly under Shakespeare House where they train seers and prophets, but some of them risk their lives above ground as they convert people to their cause. Our story focuses on Hunter Rhodes, the only son of the Remnant leader, and his group of fellow Christians as they fight for the survival of the gospel.

   Remnant is an action packed tale of the church, persecution, the spiritual realm, and how believers can stand up and fight in the midst of it all.

   The most interesting thing about this novel that really sets it apart is the unique perspective. Although Hunter is the main character, he is not the narrator. An angel is. Because of this, the reader is given insight into things that the characters themselves are not always aware of. Spiritual warfare is one of the main themes in this book, and with the help of the angel as narrator, we can see how supernatural forces shape the events that occur. Demons threaten to thwart plans, angels come to the rescue, and there are battles unseen by the Remnant. The whole dynamic changes when you’re aware of these beings and the effect they have.

   One of the most prominent supernatural beings is called the Muse. He was, to me, the most fascinating thing about the story. He’s a demon that whispers to Lady Babylonia, who fancies herself a psychic. With the help of the Muse, she is able to tell the future to her clients. This demon uses and manipulates everyone around him, and his presence in the story gives it a darker edge, which I personally love.

   There’s some politics involved that remind me a lot of The Hunger Games. (Which doesn’t really say much. All books in this genre sound like THG to me.) But there are striking similarities in how the Presidents in each book respond to perceived threats. Saul Raymond, one of the 4 presidents of the world, operates on publicity and fame. He uses his daughter as an icon to sway crowds, as well as manipulates her love life to meet his own agenda. That plot point mirrors well with Katniss and Peeta in THG. However, Saul isn’t really in charge, and we get to see that his crutch is his devotion to Lady Babylonia and her Muse.

   Then there’s Hunter and the Remnant. I really liked Hunter as a protagonist because while he’s the son of the leader of the Remnant, he has doubts. It’s made very clear he sees himself as an outcast, even among friends. He likes it, in a messed up way, which I think a lot of people can relate to. I know I did. He enjoys being in rebellion, even though its not what God wants. He struggles with his faith, with his anger issues, and with his need to be different. He doesn’t think of himself as the hero, which is why God chooses him to be one, despite his obvious dark side.

   Hunter isn’t the only one who has faults either. In fact, the entire Remnant seems to be a flawed rebellion. While Christ has called them to share the gospel and be brave, they have spent years hiding away underground thinking only of their own self preservation. This is pointed out when one character remarks, “The Remnant have been too scared of their own mortality and reputation to share their eternal truth with a world that desperately needs them to.” I love that McIvor wasn’t afraid to go there in her writing. To openly acknowledge the flaws in this church is bold and yet necessary. Because Christ followers aren’t perfect. I think a lot of Christian novels make believers out to be these Always Faithful, Always Loving type people and completely miss the fact that we are sinners (present tense.) saved by grace. Remnant, on the other hand, stays true to that idea.

   As a whole, I enjoyed the book. It’s not my normal cup of tea, but I really liked the concept of spiritual warfare in it and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read and review this book. It had it’s flaws; sometimes cheesy dialogue and a few typos; but its significantly better than almost all the Christian books out today. Clare McIvor embraces the reality of spiritual warfare, which can be really taboo in some churches. Personally, I don’t think enough people are aware (or even believe in) spiritual beings that have such a major effect on our world. McIvor takes a dystopian world and brings it to hit home. There are so many takeaways in that novel, but if I had to isolate one overarching theme, it would be perseverance of the saints. No matter what you’re going through, you have more resources than you know of. Your prayers are heard and they do make a difference, even if you can’t see it.

   I think Hunter Rhodes sums it up best himself. “Sometimes faith is a feeling, but the rest of the time it’s something you choose to do.”

   Now for the giveaway portion…
   I was so excited to have gotten to be in contact with the author of this great book, and now I have the chance to do my first ever blog giveaway! I will be giving away a code for an ebook of Clare McIvors debut novel, The Shadows Where We Walk. I haven’t read it yet but I plan to over the summer. But now you can help support a growing Christian author and my weird little place on the Internet by entering this giveaway. There are a lot of ways to enter, so may the odds be ever in your favor. 

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Hey Summer

   Hello friends.

   It’s been too long. I’ve been trying to find cool things to say that you would want to read but I decided you can live with a boring life update for now. Because I lost the list of blog ideas I wanted to write.

   But luckily for you, I’ve been up to a lot and I’ve taken a lot of pictures to add too. So this’ll be fun. I’ll just type stuff as they come to mind.

   My life has been quite interesting as of late. If you follow my social media accounts, you probably know a good deal of it. On Wednesday I had thyroid surgery in which they removed half of my thyroid gland because I had a nodule on it. The initial results said it was benign but they’ll examine it more and I’ll know indefinitely on Friday. The surgery itself actually went really good. My mom was surprised at how awake I was afterwards. 2 hours after surgery and I was talking and being my normal self. There was a bit of pain, but nothing simple Tylenol couldn’t help with. I stayed at the hospital overnight and was taken home in the morning. Since then, I’ve done a lot of resting, which sometimes I feel guilty about but mostly I’ve really enjoyed. I mean, I get to sleep a lot and watch Netflix. So, can’t complain there.

   Before my surgery though, I finished my first year of college! I almost got straight A’s too. But biology happened and honestly, I failed the final. (But I still pulled off a B in that class so I think I’m doing okay.) Finishing school was bittersweet. I actually made friends and that’s so weird. A lot of them are moving on to four year colleges now so I won’t get to see them next semester. My favorite professor (from photography class.) also won’t be teaching at my school in the fall either, so I can’t take his class. I’m kinda stressed with the fact that I still haven’t picked my classes for next semester and after talking to my advisor, I realized I’m 3 classes behind, so I’ll have to take another semester instead of just finishing in 2 years. I’m trying so hard to be okay with that. And then there’s the fact that I have no idea where I want to go after community college. That makes me nervous too. So if you have any school recommendations let me know!

   I saw Civil War the day it came out, which was an adventure. I liked The Winter Soldier better. But it was so good to be back in the theater watching a Marvel movie. Now I just need to make it through X-Men: Apocalypse. Which I’ve heard mixed reviews about. (I mean, come on Rotten Tomatoes, 51%??) But I’m not going to let that rating throw me off. I usually enjoy movies that people hate. We’ll see. While a lot of people tend to knock on these X-Men movies, I adore them. Plain and simple. And with all the triggering themes in the movie, for me to come to a place where I actually want to see it…that’s just freaking great. Even Rotten Tomatoes can’t take that from me.

   I’ve been watching NCIS again. If you’re into that show and saw the recent episode, I would like to give you a hug. We need it. My fandom is suffering. But really, I’ve missed that show. There was a marathon on when I was in the hospital and then when I got home, it kept me company as I rested. I honestly forgot how much I love that show.

   On Saturday I got to stop by a convention that my sister was attending and was able to hang at the Star Wars meetup, which was super cool. I was exhausted because I’m still recovering from surgery, but it was worth it. Dayle did a Life Is Strange cosplay as well as a Rey one. Both turned out great, in my opinion. Plus there was a Matt The Radar Technician from the Undercover boss SNL sketch which I loved. That was a pretty neat day.

   So that’s my life I guess. I’m really excited for this summer because this is like, my first real summer. I actually enjoy the freedom. I’m so relived to have no deadlines to meet and papers to write and tests to study for. I can just do whatever. I love that.

   However, I am desperately trying to find a job for the summer because I need it. Money stressed me out, plus I get bored easily and sitting around all day is not good for me. I had also had plans to get a gym membership because I can’t workout at school anymore. I miss lifting so much. So pray for a job for me because it’s really making me anxious.

   But I have a lot of plans and things I’m excited for this year and next. (All of which require money so a job would be great.) But for the first time, I’m thinking about really branching out and being adventurous. It’s a great feeling. Some things I want to do or am excited that I will do are:
   -Go to a convention in August and see my online friend for the 3rd time! Plus meet Sebastian Stan !!
   -Trying to go to Colorado to visit my aunt
   -I officially got tickets for my first real twenty one pilots concert!! It’s not happening until January but I’m still excited.
   -The Black Panther movie is coming out in 1 year, 162 days, 13 hours, and 1 minute. But who’s counting?
   -If I can get a job and work my butt off and really actually figure stuff out and be an adult, I’m trying to go to Star Wars Celebration Orlando next spring, which would honestly be a dream come true.
   -Getting matching tattoos with my mom
   –Mr. Robot comes back in June and I can’t wait to watch that with Dayle
   -Writing! And maybe even finishing my third draft of Forlorn Hope. And maybe sending some to betas
   -Hoping to visit Boston for my birthday
   -Possibly more traveling adventures with my best friend

   That’s all for now. Thank you for reading my lovely randomness. What have you guys been up to? What are your plans for the summer/year? What are you excited for coming up?

What I Want You To Know About My Illness

   It’s been too long. Finals week is coming up for me. I just walked out of my bio final and I’m kinda just praying I passed and I thought I would write this blog that’s been in my head all week. Now, you might not know that this month is lupus awareness month. (Also fibromyalgia and lyme month!) I don’t post a whole lot about my lupus. On this blog, I post a decent amount. But on most of my social media I just don’t. I don’t criticize people who do, it was just a personal choice I’ve made for now. But having lupus is a huge part of my life, and so with it being lupus awareness month, this also marks the 3 year anniversary of my diagnosis. In fact 3 years ago I made a Facebook status about it. It read “Please be praying for me as I go to the doctor. I’ve been feeling awful the past few weeks. On and off fevers, joint pain, and swelling. And I’ve been feeling very weak and experiencing fatigue. Please pray that it’s nothing serious.”

   Poor me had no idea.

   Anyhow. There’s a lot that I want people in my life to know about me and my sickness, so I wanted to share that today. This is by no means a reflection of all spoonies; in fact, most of the time I can’t relate to a lot of those chronic illness posts. So it’s really just me and how I feel. So here’s what I want the people in my life to know about my illness.

   I’m not the person I used to be but sometimes I think that I am. I think that I can be as active as I used to be. I think that I can keep up with all my friends. Sometimes I can too. And when I’m feeling okay, I can forget that I have a chronic illness and push myself too hard. Some days my body can take it, and some days it can’t. I don’t need you to tell me I shouldn’t have done that. Trust me, my body feels the regret. I don’t need you to tell me what I can and can’t do or for you to hover over me and say “Faith, remember not to push yourself.” I got it. Okay? Trust me. It’s been 3 years. I’m 19. I have a brain. While yes, I will make stupid decisions. Sometimes you just have to let me make stupid decisions. I’m sick, but I’m also just a kid and I have to learn and grow and experience things on my own. Sometimes I will push myself and be sick the next day, but don’t try to force me out of stuff just to ease your conscious. 

   My body goes through changes and I’m self conscious about it, don’t be that guy and point it out to me. I know when I’ve put on weight. I know when my moonface is there. I know when I’m more or less active than I used to be. I get it. But I’m trying to learn to give my body a break, and it kills me when people tell me how I’m looking. So just accept it. Yeah, I’m not a model. I’m trying to get used to the fact that my body will looked different each day. Don’t point it out to me.

   I’m a person with lupus but I’m also just a regular person. I go to the doctor a lot and get sick a lot and have medical issues going on. But trust me, I have a lot of other interesting things in my life. Sometimes I like talking about other things besides my latest health crisis. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want people to ask me how my health is doing, because I really appreciate it. I just want to talk about more than just that. I have goals, aspirations, and dreams. I’m in school. I run an online ministry. I write novels and do photography. I have emotions. Interests. (I just saw Civil War. I would much rather talk about Marvel movies than my upcoming surgery.) Ask me about different things too.

   Please don’t tell me you can cure me. I don’t tell people this, but I struggle with feeling like being sick is my fault. That if I ate better I could fix it. Or if I exercised more and didn’t sit around so much. If I cut out processed foods and sugar I wold be okay. I’m working on being healthier, and there’s a lot of emotional crap that tangles into that, but I’d rather not go into it. Point is, please don’t tell me how I can get better. I’m glad that Cure All Thing helped your great aunt’s mom’s boyfriends cat groomer get better. But let my treatment be between me and my care team, alright?

    Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I don’t want you around. I’ve noticed that when I’m sick, people tend to leave me alone. But sitting in a room all by myself gets incredibly lonely. Sometimes I need to be by myself, but other times I crave company. So when I’m sick, just ask. “Hey, need someone to be with you?” I’ll be honest with you. I know, it’s really hard to be with someone who’s sick. It’s boring. I’m high maintenance. You feel bad for me. And I’m sorry for those things. But people always ask what they can do, and I think just being present is good. I like to listen when I’m sick. Just because I close my eyes doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to you. I shut my eyes because it’s easier to not feel so sick that way. But I listen and imagine the places you describe. Sometimes I just need someone’s company. Even if we sit in silence and watch Netflix, I feel a little less alone.

   You’re allowed to make jokes. Seriously. I like laughing. You can call me ITP after my blood disorder or Spoonie. You can say the big C-A-N-C-E-R word. Really. Y’all can chill out.

   I’m not strong for a sick kid, I’m just strong. I work my butt off in the weight room at school. I ride my bike. I can do 10 pushups. I squat 55lbs. Maybe those things aren’t impressive to you, but they’re impressive to me. 3 years ago I couldn’t walk. Now I can hold a wall squat for over 2 minutes. I’m strong as frick. I’m not lupus’ victim. I’m crushing it right now. And I know a lot of people with chronic illness say that but it’s true. I go back and forth between “I want to be treated like everyone else. Give me a fair fight.” and “No, I literally have a debilitating illness that makes things 10x harder for me than it is for you.” So be aware of my limitations I guess, but give me room first. Mara Jade said in an EU book, “As long as I’m fighting, I’m not dying. And I’m not done fighting just yet.” Not to mention, “I’m a fighter. I’ve always been a fighter. The few times I’ve been at leisure I’ve been miserable. I want challenges. I crave them.”

   So don’t take it easy on me because I’m sick. But be mindful. And the last thing I want you all to know…

   I’m not suffering. Need me to say it again? I’m not suffering. I’ve been through things that have been worse than being sick. I’ve had depression. Anxiety. Crippling fear. I suffered at their hands. Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but there are worse things than occasional physical pain or discomfort. Compared to most people with lupus, my life is a walk in the park. I really mean that. Go look it up. There are people that are really suffering. I’m not one of them. I have my moments, but I’m okay. I’m sure that’ll change. I’m sure I’ll suffer more, like I did in the hospital last year. But as of right now, as of today, I’m not suffering. I don’t need pity. I need prayer and support and love and people to laugh with me and not make the fact that I’m sick all weird.

My Current Playlist

   I first saw this general idea on Ely’s blog and it was too perfect not to steal. So, I’m making a list of songs I’m currently obsessed with, and if you want to hear it, click the corresponding photo and it’ll take you to the Youtube link for that song.

   I have a lot of stuff going on in my life right now. Lot’s of new changes. I’ll share more with you  another time. For today, just listen to one or two of these great songs.

   So here they are. Songs + favorite lyrics
 

Hallelujah – Panic! At The Disco
“I love the things you hate about yourself.”
High Again (Acoustic) – Hoodie Allen Explicit
“You wanna watch the world end in my backyard?”

Legit Tattoo Gun – The Front Bottoms
“I am alone only half of the time, the other half, I’m only hiding.”

Colors – Halsey
“You’re ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece.”
Flesh Without Blood – Grimes
“If you don’t need me, just let me go.”

Ghost – Halsey
I like the sad eyes, bad guys, mouth full of white lies. Kiss me in the corridor, but quick to tell me goodbye.”

No Faith In Brooklyn (Acoustic) – Hoodie Allen Explicit?“We should take a walk someday. Dream about what we could have been.”

Are You Satisfied? – Marina And The Diamonds
“It’s my problem if I have no friends and feel I want to die.”

“Art comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.”-Cesar A. Cruz

I’m always searching for new music. Send me some titles in the comments. I’ll give ’em a listen.

For When You Hate Yourself

   I know how hard it can be. I know sometimes the person that criticizes you the most is oftentimes yourself. You can have days or weeks or months or years  when you hate yourself. I’ve been there, done that, bought the tshirt. And it sucks. It’s possibly the worst possible thing in the world to look in the mirror or remember things you’ve done and just think you’re worthless. No one else can know the battles you face to love yourself but we’ve all gone through similar things and I wanted to encourage you. Because you’re so beautiful. Your mind is beautiful and your body and your soul. Ever part about you is beautiful. That’s terribly hard to remember. So on days that you hate yourself, remember this okay? You never have to stay in self hate. There are things you can do. I wanted to share some things I’ve learned that have helped me and continue to help me.

   Remember that you are never as ugly as you think you are. The way you see you is not the way other people see you. So while you may see yourself as this worthless creature, others see you as a light in their life. I know people have said this before, but you haven’t seen yourself when you’re in love or when you’re drinking coffee or seeing your favorite movie. You can’t see the look in your eyes. A camera can’t capture that. Nothing can. But those people around you see that look and it can melt hearts. When you look at you, you see your flaws. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the way your stomach sticks out or your back looks funny or your face is too round. But those people around you don’t see that. They see how happy you are. They look at you and see someone they love. They remember memories of you. They don’t notice how “bad” you look. They only notice you.

   Self hate can come in phases and it’s okay to be stuck. Did you get that? It’s okay. You don’t have to be superwoman. You’re allowed to tell your friend that you’re struggling. The journey to loving yourself isn’t a straight path. It has bumps and curves and obstacles. You won’t be king of the hill every time. You need to learn to have grace for yourself when you hate yourself. But while you hate yourself now, you will not always hate yourself. Keep telling yourself that this too shall pass. The feelings of insecurity and doubt will not always linger there. You will not always look in the mirror with disgust. You will not always feel the way you do right now.

   Go for a walk or a bike ride or run. Just clear your head and get out. Don’t let those lies marinate in your mind. Get rid of them. Talk to someone if you have to. Sometimes all it takes it getting the words out of your mouth to also get them out of your mind. Write in a journal or pray. Get those words out somehow. Because the longer they sit inside of you the longer they will continue to hurt you. Words can destroy you, but they can also heal you. Healing requires you be honest with yourself about the state you’re in. In order to take the power from those thoughts, you have to acknowledge that they are there. This does not make you a failure. It makes you a human. Welcome to the club, there’s like, 7 billion of us. And pretty much, we’re all as insecure as you.

   Put on your favorite clothes. Whether that be a sweater and shorts or a dress. Whatever your outfit is. Wear it. Remember why you love it so much. Remember that you look hot in that outfit. Do your hair and put on some makeup. There are so many negative things said about makeup but I think it can help so much when you’re struggling with self image. A little eyeliner and mascara can do wonders for you. This doesn’t mean you’re being fake. It means you just need a little pick me up. It’s a slight reminder that you’re beautiful. Sometimes it takes wearing a bit of makeup to realize you’re beautiful without it too. I’m sure that made no sense but to me, it works.

   Eat a smoothie and drink some water. Have something that doesn’t hurt your stomach or make you feel sick. Eat delicious and nutritious food. Try some greek yogurt or make something with an avocado. Go cook something. Make it all healthy too. Have fun. Try out that Pinterest recipe you pinned but never made. Remember that food is not your enemy. Don’t restrict. Don’t binge. Don’t engage in unhealthy eating habits. Food is your friend. Food is nourishment.

   Block accounts on social media that trigger you. That person on Facebook that you love but is constantly posting about how healthy they are? That Instagram chick you constantly compare yourself to? Don’t subscribe to their feed. Unfollow them. Know your triggers. Obviously we can’t live in a trigger free world but don’t purposefully trigger yourself. If you’re having a bad self image day, don’t go stalking your model friend’s Instagram. It’s so easy to follow into the trap of self comparison. Sadly, social media can make that worse. Stay off of it for a day if you need to. Take a mental health day from the Internet. Instead, go do things you love. Take pictures of the sunrise or talk with a friend or hug your pet.

   And darling, don’t punish yourself. God created you to look like you. Don’t think that if only you were thinner than you would be happy because that’s just not true. People that have your dream body are still insecure. You will never be perfect. Accept your imperfections. That’s something that’s said a lot but never actually embraced. You have flaws and that’s okay. Please don’t hurt your body or your mind because you have convinced yourself that you will never be good enough.

   And don’t forget to smile.

   You are so freaking beautiful. I love you. I hope that some day you will learn to love yourself. Be patient with yourself, alright?

   Stay strong gorgeous.