Creative Moments of Grace + Pocketful of Promises (Reviews)

Today I’m reviewing two beautiful journals that will be coming out soon through Bethany House Publishing. Number one has the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen and is called Creative Moments of Grace: An Interactive Journaling Experience. The journal is designed so that you can use it either alone or with a group, which is really nice. Gayla Irwin, the author, talks about her memories of drawing and coloring as a child and how she realized as an adult that those creative efforts could be so healing. The pages of her journal are filled with cute doodles, devotional activities, and spaces for you to doodle and write as you discover His truth. Each page is unique and meaningful and I absolutely love them all. The one and only thing I didn’t like about this journal was that it’s not spiral-bound; it would have been a lot easier to manage if it was. Creative Moments of Grace comes out on April 4th and you can pre-order it on Amazon here; go do it!

Number two is Pocketful of Promises by Margaret Feinberg. It’s a tiny, cute coloring book; each two-page spread has a Bible verse, space to journal about the verse, and a full page to color. I’ve never been big on coloring, but if anything was going to convert me, it would be this journal. Again, it would have been easier if it was spiral-bound, but no worries. This charming little journal is also coming out on April 4th and, again, you can pre-order it here!

How’s everyone’s week going? These journals came in the mail at a time when I really needed them so that was cool. Go order them!

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of each of these journals by Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest reviews.

Looking for Beta Readers! (Shatter Me)

I’m looking for beta readers for my current WIP aka my baby: a 7,500-word (10 pages in Word) realistic fiction story titled Shatter Me. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of beta reading, here’s how it works: I email you my story + a few questions about it, you read the story, and then you email me back and answer my questions + tell me what you liked and disliked about the story. In return, you get my everlasting gratefulness and adoration–sounds great, right? Plus if you ever need a beta reader, I’ll be the first to sign up! Here’s the synopsis of Shatter Me:

Ara and Rhett share two things: a love for astronomy and the night sky, and the fact that they’re both shattered and think they can never be put back together. When their paths cross during one sunny California summer, their perceptions of their worlds drastically change. Can they heal each other? Is it possible for them to be put back together, or are they shattered for good?

It’s a story about the night sky and falling in love and being shattered and then put back together more beautifully by the greatest Potter; it has an observatory overlooking a craggy beach, to-die-for Nietzsche quotes about the stars, and a little blue-and-white kitchen where Ara’s older sister cooks amazing food. Cue my happy sigh (mostly about the food tbh). My only two rules are as follows: be honest, and be specific. I’m totally fine with you disliking something, but tell me why you didn’t like it so that I can tweak things. It’s called a work in progress for a reason! I want to complete this round of beta reading by the end of March. If you want to jump on board, comment below or email me at hhudson412@yahoo.com, and we’ll get things rolling!

If this mini-Pinterest mood board doesn’t get you excited to read this story, I don’t know what will. None of these pictures are mine, but aren’t they beautiful!!

Dear Batting Cages: Thank You.

Dear batting cages:

I haven’t been to the ballpark in a few days, but I saw yesterday on Facebook that you were torn down; you’re being replaced with shiny new cages and nets and backstops. I can’t say I’m not glad–I’ve complained about your ratty nets and rusty poles more than once. But I also can’t say I don’t appreciate you. So here it is: our highlight reel.

You were there for my first practice and my first game. In fact, you were probably there the first time I ever hit a ball. I fell in love with softball late, but I also fell hard, and I think you knew from the beginning that you and I were going to be spending a whole lot more time together in the years to come.

You’ve been there for all my best and worst moments. When others only saw the big hits or the big strikeouts on game day, you saw everything behind the scenes. You saw all those times I showed up and put in work, and you saw all the times I didn’t. Remember that time last winter when it snowed, and I came anyway? Your entire ground was coated in ice; I set my tee on home plate, and every time I hit the ball I had to skate across the frozen surface to go retrieve it. My fingers were numb even through my batting gloves and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably–I only lasted twenty minutes. But I have no doubt that those twenty minutes made me a better ball player.

You were there for the sweat and the tears and the days I got discouraged and stalked out, slamming the gate behind me and vowing never to return. If you had a mouth, I think you would have been smiling a little, because you knew that I’d come back the next day–a little sheepish, a little bashful, and a lot ready to work hard.

Then there was that time I got injured; a torn ligament, surgery, and six months of physical therapy. You saw me show up that fall with a team of eight-year-olds, my arm in a cast. You saw me tell them “Great job!” whether or not they made contact, and you saw the longing glances I gave you behind their backs, wishing that I was the one holding the bat. I healed eventually and was back at it, day after day and rep after rep.

We’ve had fun, haven’t we? It hasn’t been all work; softball is a game, after all. There have been long light evenings with my dad pitching to my brother and I while my mom sat outside in the grass and watched; there have been early Saturday mornings joking with teammates before games while our coaches threaten to make us take the necks of our jerseys in our teeth if we can’t just keep our heads down; and there have been all the times when I came by myself and just hit. Ball after ball, bucket after bucket, hour after hour–catharsis for whatever else was going on in my life. I shouldn’t say I “just hit,” because there was really much more to it than that–I sometimes envisioned myself in OKC, wearing an Auburn jersey and whacking one out of the park against Florida to win the WCWS. Or sometimes I just pictured myself at practice the next night on the little county field down the hill, getting a solid base hit down the middle against the annoying new girl on my team who thought she was such a great pitcher. Either way, I didn’t “just hit:” I dreamed. You dreamed with me; I felt it. From the rusty poles to the ratty nets to the holes beside home plate where hundreds of cleats and tennis shoes had dug in, attempting to make their own dreams come true–you were rooting for me. You were rooting for all of us.

And now you’ve been torn down. We have “better” cages at my home park now, and I was excited at first, but now I don’t know. I’m going to miss you, old cages; I really am. In more than one sense, I grew up in you. Some of my best memories involve you. You were watching as I learned how to lay down the perfect sac bunt, and as my batting gloves sprouted hole after hole, and as I messed around with my teammates on those dewy Saturday mornings that we thought would never end. It was with you that I learned about hard work and determination and perseverance and all those things that softball is supposed to teach you. Please don’t worry: I learned those lessons and learned them well.

So this is goodbye, except it’s not. It’s goodbye to your dingy home plate and ripped-up nets and muddy ground, and again–I can’t say I’m not glad. You were pretty old and rusty, friend. I think it was your time. But it’s also not goodbye, and here’s why. Twenty years from now, I don’t know that I’ll be able to lay down a beautiful sac bunt on demand. I probably will no longer have my holey batting gloves, and I most likely will have lost touch with many of my past and current teammates. But the memories? The power of a dream? The value of hard work and perseverance and determination? Those will never leave me. Ever.

Thank you for everything.

Love, Hailey

If you want to hear me wax poetic, just mention the word “softball.” This entire post randomly sprang into my head at eleven-thirty last night when I was in bed trying to go to sleep, so OF COURSE I got up and typed it out on my phone. I’m not gonna lie–I’m pretty proud of it! How’s everyone doing this week? What makes you nostalgic? Any fellow softball players out there? Leave me a comment!

Why you Won’t See Me on Instagram Anytime Soon

Several months ago, I made the decision that when Lent came around in 2017, I would give up social media. Then I promptly forgot about it. This past weekend, I suddenly realized that Lent started this week and, uncomfortably, thought of my resolve of last summer. I wouldn’t have called myself addicted to social media–I simply spent lots of time writing Instagram captions in my head and sending my friends sarcastic Snapchats and stalking people on Phhhoto. Okay, maybe I should have called myself addicted to social media. I told myself last weekend that yes, I was still going to give up social media for Lent, but I wasn’t going to be happy about it. Ha. We’ll get back to that later.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Lent, it basically works as a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It’s a forty-six-day period to remember the sacrifice of Jesus; it’s a time of reflection, and a chance to focus on furthering one’s relationship with Him. I told myself that I was going to follow through and give up social media, but it was honestly much harder than it should have been. I did away with Instagram, Snapchat, and Phhhoto (I’ve kept Facebook because I’ll have to use the Messenger app during my early-April mission trip, and I’m also keeping YouTube and Pinterest because I use them for school, devotionals, and writing–but I am dramatically limiting my use of all three of them). Prior to deleting the apps, though, I ran through all sorts of justifications in my head–I use Instagram to stay in touch with so many people! I can’t delete it! Eventually, on Monday, I made myself just go ahead and delete the three apps from my phone–why wait? I plan to spend less time on my phone and to simply enjoy making memories instead of always worrying about taking an artsy picture for my Instagram aesthetic. If anyone needs me, they can get in touch with me another way.

On Monday I also began my new devotional plan, which has me spending at least forty-five minutes (preferably longer) with God every morning. Currently I’m reading 1 Corinthians, Psalms, Wild and Free, The School of Biblical Evangelism, and Evidence for Christianity, along with taking notes on the last two and praying a lot! When I came up with this idea, I was hesitant. Between four classes, three jobs, and church and softball, my to-do list is very very long every day–how am I supposed to get everything done if my quiet time takes forty-five minutes out of the time of day when I’m most awake and alert? But so far this week I’ve had that long quiet time and then proceeded to complete everything on my to-do list with plenty of time left over to read at the end of the day. Huh, imagine that.

Last month–during that blissful period when I had forgotten about Lent–I wrote my monthly devotional for The Life on the topic “The Beauty of Sacrifice.” The angle I went for was basically, here I am complaining that the WiFi is out while Christians in other countries are dying for their faith. What’s wrong with this picture? Guess I should go read my own article again. I also saw an article earlier today (on Facebook. Ha. Ha.) that suggested giving up a bad attitude for Lent, so I’m going to add that to my queue as well. No Instagram, no Snapchat, and no Phhhoto–just lots of time praying, arming myself with witnessing strategies, and making a point to be grateful and cheerful. Will you join me?

Do these pictures have anything to do with this blog post or anything to do with each other? No, not at all. But they’re #aesthetic and since I don’t have Instagram right now, you know, I gotta let it out somewhere. Also, please go listen to Battle at Aslan’s How from the Prince Caspian soundtrack because it’s been on repeat 24/7 this week. ALSO also, can our weather stop being so bipolar? Tornado warnings go away. K thanks. Anywho, are you giving up anything for Lent? How do you plan to further your relationship with God in the month of March?

longing to have more of You.

The sun is bright and the breeze is warm even though it’s February. All the windows are open, all the neighborhood kids are outside, all the signs point to spring coming soon.

I’m pulling out of the driveway at work, going to pick up a friend and head to the outdoor mall, and the little girl I keep is yelling “Bye Miss Hailey!” and waving and grinning big as I drive away.

“In Over My Head” by Bethel is playing in my car and I mouth the words, “This longing to have more of You. I can feel it, my heart is convinced; I’m thirsty, my soul can’t be quenched. You already know this but still, come and do whatever you want to.” I’m thinking about grace and love, and I am floored all over again at what a merciful God I serve.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made; were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.”

–Frederick Lehman

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At the same time I’m grateful for my blessings, I also feel the burden of the millions of people who are trapped in slavery all over the world. Let’s pray so hard for them all year round and not just on February 23rd.

// this is just a quickie post to preserve a sweet moment in time that I didn’t want to forget. (Also I promise my skin isn’t that orange; it’s just the filter, lol.) How’s everyone doing? What are y’all up to this weekend? Month in review coming next week, stay tuned!

7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE OBSESSED WITH NEWSIES + how to serve others :)

Today Devotional Diva is letting me share some practical ways to serve others! I’m really excited about this article–click here to read. Then come right back, because we have to talk about Newsies.

I wasn’t planning to write a whole blog post about Newsies, but I just had too many feels to fit into my month-end review. If you’ve never heard of Newsies, here’s the rundown: in 1899, a group of newsboys in New York went on strike when the price of “papes” was raised. In 1992 Disney made a less-than-popular movie based on that strike; in 2012 the musical Newsies opened on Broadway, running for more than two years and receiving a couple of Tony Awards; and last year several of the Broadway cast members + the tour cast reprised their roles to give us a fantastic recording of the musical that’s in theaters three days only! I’d had the soundtrack memorized for years, so I was only too happy to drag my mom, brother, and friend to see the movie event last weekend. So, here goes: my top seven reasons why you should fall in love with Newsies too. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie, this is just about the musical!)

1. Ben Fankhauser singing that line.

If you’re a “fansie,” you know the one. If you’re not, let me educate you: go and look it up, the poor GUY’S head is spinning! The line from Watch What Happens (Reprise) went kind of viral when Ben, who plays Davey, revealed that he uses that line to warm up pre-show and also to generally annoy everyone in the vicinity. It’s so glorious that someone actually made a six-hour Youtube video with Ben singing that line 8,000 times in a row. Yes, you read that right–eight thousand times. You can find the video here. Play it at my funeral, please.

2. Jeremy Jordan’s emotional investment in Jack Kelly.

I’d been listening to the original Broadway soundtrack of Newsies for a looong time, and it was amazing how much emotion Jeremy conveyed in the lead role just through singing (especially Santa Fe), but seeing his facial expressions and body language and everything last weekend took it to a whole new level. It’s intense; it’s the real deal. Despite the fact that he’s a little old (Jeremy is now thirty-two to his character Jack’s seventeen), and that one of my friends thinks he looks like a llama (um, still not sure where that one came from, but it’s a legit thing that was said. Rude), he’s a stellar Jack Kelly in my humble opinion.

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I got nothin’ if I ain’t got Santa Fe-e-e-e-e-e!

3. That moment in Once and for All when the key changes and the set moves forward and UGH.

ALL THE GOOSEBUMPS. I don’t really have anything else to say, except–it’s AHMAZING (and, incidentally, an integral part of my current WIP’s playlist). Once and for All is a great song in general because it starts out so nice and calm, and then in the middle it majorly amps up and you want to go leap buildings in a single bound, and by the end you’re just sobbing in the fetal position because the whole thing is TOO AWESOME. Or maybe that’s just me? Okay. Listen here.

4. THE DANCING.

Again, I have no words. None. Count them: zero. It’s SO technical and polished and flawless! I did ballet, tap, and jazz for seven years growing up and swing for a couple more years after that, and all of the dance numbers in Newsies–tap dancing! A dozen pirouettes in a row! Acro elements and the newspaper dance and the iconic Newsies leap (which Lin Manuel-Miranda himself once tweeted that he tried, and failed, to master)!–just make my little former-dancer heart SO so happy.

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5. The overarching themes of hope, perseverance, and loyalty.

“Poor little kids versus rich greedy sourpusses,” and guess who wins? Everyone loves a good underdog story, and Newsies is a great one–a group of scrappy kids who are just trying to keep their heads above water, and who end up triumphing over the big bad Pulitzer. No “life lessons in economics” for them!

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Corey!

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6. Letter from the Refuge + Crutchie in general.

This song was written for the tour cast; it wasn’t part of the original Broadway show. I’m so glad they included it in the movie, and I lowkey start singing it every time someone asks me how I am. (I feel like Zachary Sayle used to think about his time left behind at the rest stop to get him in the right mindset for Letter from the Refuge. Ah, good times.) Listen here with Andrew Keenan-Bolger–bring tissues. While we’re at it, let’s just appreciate Crutchie for a minute: “I got a nickel!” “I’ll be sleepin’ on the streets–in a worse neighborhood!” Also, do you ever just sit down and cry very hard because of how much Jack needs Crutchie? Because I do. Okay, moving on.

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7. Kara Lindsay and Katherine Pulitzer are as close to flawless human beings as one can get.

Kara’s singing voice and her laugh and her overall cute little self–heart. eyes. Also, let’s talk about Katherine Pulitzer–not only is she someone who doesn’t give up until she gets what she wants (in this case, to be taken seriously as a writer, which incidentally is one of my goals as well), but she’s sassy (“Cheeky boy gets nothing for his troubles”) and #relatable. I mean, think about it:

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Plus, the song Watch What Happens (see below) is me literally every day. #writerprobs

Write what you know, so they say, all I know is I don’t know what to write, or the right way to write it… Poor little kids versus rich greedy sourpusses, ha! It’s a cinch! It could practically write itself. And let’s pray it does, cause as I may have mentioned I have no clue what I’m doing!… Give me some time, I’ll be twice as good as that six months from never.

This is one of the first musicals I ever fell in love with, and I could go on, but I’ll cap it here. Shameless self-promo: give my Newsies Pinterest board a follow (all pictures and gif’s in this post are from Pinterest), and we can fangirl about Ben Cook/Race and Tommy Bracco/Spot Conlon and the rest of the cast and characters to our hearts’ content!

Are you a musical theater junkie like me? Do you love Newsies too? If you had never heard of it before this post, are you going to go listen to the soundtrack right after you leave a comment? (Hint: the answer is yes.) 

YOU are NOT alone.

Last summer I learned what the terms “depression” and “anxiety” really mean. I don’t like to go back and read my blog posts from that time period. Although a random stranger might not be able to tell, when I read those posts, I read what I was really saying. I’m sick. I’m scared. I’m so very tired. I just want to be done. I wasn’t actually contemplating suicide or anything, but many days, I wished that I could just skip the rest of my life and go to heaven because it would be so much easier.

If you’re new to the blog, I was very sick last summer; I’ve been sick for almost a year now, but last summer was for sure the worst period of it. I was incredibly sleepy all the time, I had headaches, it was hard to breathe 24/7, my hands and legs would tingle and cramp, etc. It was an endless parade of doctor’s appointments and being so tired and still dealing with normal life stuff (haha, activities other than visiting the Mayo Clinic website every day and trying to keep track of all my doctors and medicines), and I was weary. I was so weary. Between being sick and starting college algebra (math and I have never been on good terms, to put it lightly) and a whole bunch of other stuff–it was too much. Some days I felt like I’d never smile again. I found a note in my phone just now from almost exactly six months ago that reads:

Tonight everything is pushing in on me. I’m stressed about school (yes, already–I will never understand college algebra). I don’t feel worthy. I’m upset with myself that I want people to view me a certain way. I have so much stupid pride. I want new friends, but I don’t want to lose my old ones. Well–most of them. I feel despairing that I will ever make a difference in this world or do anything of value. Most of all, I am so very very physically tired and weak and weary and sick of being sick.

Everyone has bad days and everyone has times where they feel like this, but I had a lot of days like this. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, and I can’t tell you how. I just know that sometime last September-ish, this depression went away. Not completely, of course; I still feel it coming on occasionally. Just writing about it puts me in a not-great mood because I remember how awful it was. But now, it’s once every few months instead of once every few days. And when I do feel it coming on, I pray. I saturate myself in Scripture. I simply don’t let myself fall prey to those thoughts anymore. I’m still sick–yesterday was my 18th birthday and I spent the morning in bed feeling awful. Yes, I did throw myself a brief pity party, but then I got over it and had a nice day. The last few months, I’ve been so grateful for my life. My word for 2017 is “serve,” and I think that’s something that really helps: focusing on others. I have a Post-it note on my bedroom door that reads: 1) God 2) Others 3) You.

I wasn’t really planning on ever sharing this–I don’t particularly want to hit publish on this post–but tonight a friend and I were having a casual conversation over text that suddenly got much deeper. I mentioned that I was depressed and scared and weary last year. She said that because she had experienced similar periods of depression before, she could tell I wasn’t okay. She said she was praying hard for me, and that made me stop in my tracks and just stare at my phone as tears came into my eyes. Somebody noticed. Somebody knew. Somebody cared.

So here’s my point: if you feel like you’re alone tonight, you’re not. If you think nobody cares, you’re wrong. If you’re hearing lies in your head that you have no value or no worth or that this life isn’t worth living, that’s what they are–LIES. You are not alone. Somebody always cares. You have infinite value and worth because you are a child of the King. Because of Him, this life is worth living. If you need a friend, please hit up my Contact Me page. I feel like someone needed to read this tonight, so even though I don’t want to, I’m going to click “publish.” I hope that someone was you.

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Here, have a sunset. God made it just for you.

if that’s what you wanted

it’s dark.

the air outside is cool.

the steering wheel is smooth under my hands. my thumbs tap idly to the beat of the music.

the sweet taste of syrup lingers in my mouth, courtesy of our spontaneous late-night Huddle House run.

he laughs.

his laugh makes me laugh.

the stars glow down on our little car moving through the countryside,

moving towards home.

we remember. we plan. we dream.

the voice on the stereo croons, if that’s what you wanted

and i think — yes.

this is what i wanted.

him. this night. this life. all of it.

this is exactly what i wanted.

bu
(x)

*just a lil disclaimer — the “he” in this piece is my brother =)

February: Month in Review

What a month it’s been! To kick things off, our best friends from Alabama were in town and they stayed the night with us, which was so fun. I turned 18 on the 11th (a Saturday). I felt really awful all day, but my mom and I saw La La Land (FINALLY) and my brother made me a really great dinner and my friends were all super sweet and thoughtful.

Homework was manageable (lol except for the history exam that I thought was a week later than it actually was) and I was consistently productive–yay! Physically, things were up and down, but I did get in some good workouts. There was lots of hysterical laughter at dinner with my family each night; we visited North Greenville University, which was AMAZING (I can’t stop thinking about how much I liked it); and I lost my driver’s license and didn’t go anywhere for half the month. Ha. I went to a cute little town square with some new friends for a photoshoot. I’m completely in love with the way the pictures came out–if you live near me and you need photos done, Sally is your girl.

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My best friend Hannah slept over; we played board games, watched Harry Potter, went to Barnes and Noble, and SAW NEWSIES.

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It’s been a theater kind of a month–lots of Newsies and Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked and In The Heights and other showtunes playing, and getting a bunch of stuff ready for a talent show and an audition next month.

This month I’m…

Loving: let’s stop being so dark for no reason, furious ever afters. Thy Will, Olivia Shay. To the messy girls. This is for you, TheLittleBrittBlog. yes, i ate the bagel but…, My story. His purpose. 7 Tips for Rewriting Your Old Stories, Write for the King. fictional guys i’d totally marry, inklings press. if we want to read the thing, maybe we should write it ourselves, to the barricade. Peanut Music, Sean of the South. full heart, Totally Graced. 10/10 recommend giving all of these amazing posts a read!

I blogged four times this month: if that’s what you wanted, YOU are NOT alone, 7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE OBSESSED WITH NEWSIES + how to serve others 🙂, and longing to have more of You. You can go read my posts too 😉

Watching: Morgan Yates’s old vlogs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, parts 1 & 2The Atheist Delusion. Newsies backstage vlogs circa 2012.

Reading: Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan (reread). Under a Painted Sky, Stacey Lee (it was AMAZING–the accidentally-stay-up-until-midnight, cry-your-eyes-out, make-dying-whale-noises-when-it-ends kind of amazing). The Twenty-One Balloons, William Pene du Bois (reread, childhood favorite!). The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz. The War that Saved My Life, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (lowkey was in tears finishing this one). The Berlin Boxing Club, Robert Sharenow. Soar, Joan Bauer (felt very personal). Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys (reread, MY FAVORITE BOOK EVER). When it Counts, Lauren Hopkins (yay finally). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling (reread). I Got This, Laurie Hernandez (love her). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling (reread). Scythe, Neal Shusterman (I wanted to see what all the hype was about–IT WAS FREAKING AMAZING). 13 total.

Writing: I worked on Angelica a whole bunch–it’s currently at about 16,300 words. I also finished up a seven thousand-word Harry Potter fanfic for Hannah’s birthday gift, which was so fun! I submitted to three magazines, entered four contests, wrote a personal essay on Alzheimer’s for a scholarship competition, and had two devotional-type articles published here and here.

Listening to: So Gone, John Legend. Lifeline and Wake and Energy, Hillsong Y&F. You’ll be Back, Jonathan Groff (Hamilton). Live Life, Zayde Wolf. Another Day of Sun and Someone in the Crowd, La La Land. Watch What Happens, Newsies. Spirit Move, Kalley Heiligenthal. Narnia soundtracks. You Will be Found, Dear Evan Hansen. Losing my Mind, covered by Jeremy Jordan (2:09–SO. GOOD. That’s why he shouldn’t be on Supergirl).

Grateful for: I’m grateful for the chance to get a Christian education–one of my (many) graded assignments this month was to write a paper on how to use mass media to evangelize to Hindus, and I think that’s cool. I’m grateful for my friends–I wrote letters for Valentine’s Day to 25-ish friends and little girls at church listing the things I like about them, and I have some really great friends! I’m grateful for sitting on the trampoline in 70 degree weather watching my 7-year-old perform songs from Moana for me (all I could think was LIN but she wouldn’t get that). I’m grateful for Harry Potter fanfics at writing group, and for evenings with my brother taking his friends home from baseball practice and then spontaneously making brownies and dancing around the kitchen, and for intense games of Whiffleball on a dark basketball court and for driving around at night listening to Lindsey Stirling with Brooke and for playing Boxcar Children with friends. The month ended with the worst anxiety attack I’ve had in a while, but the rest was pretty great.

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“Serving up a good time”

What did you do this month? What are you reading/writing/listening to/grateful for?

January: Month in Review, Part I

Guess what: it’s that time of month! Since January’s recap was getting crazy long, I stole Hanne’s idea of splitting it into two parts. Today’s is my personal favorite: everything I’ve been listening to and reading and writing (including excerpts!!). Let’s get started!

This month I’m…

Listening to: Newsies. Sentimental Creatures by Jess Ray. City of Stars from La La Land. Lucky covered by Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Jenna Lea Rosen. Whole Heart by Gryffin. Natives by OneRepublic (this was my car CD of the month). Hamilton. Jewish folk music. All the King’s Horses by Karmina (obviously, my taste in music is all over the board).

Reading: John, Romans, Psalms, Ruth. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J. K. Rowling. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott. Since You’ve Been Gone, Morgan Matson (stayed up until midnight finishing this–so worth it). The Unexpected Everything, Morgan Matson. Treasures of the Snow, Patricia St. John (reread). Maria, Maria von Trapp (reread). The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan (reread). The Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan (reread). The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan (reread). The House of Hades, Rick Riordan (reread). Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson. I tried to read Gone with the Wind, but I just couldn’t.

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“Every day of your life ugly, angry, selfish thoughts will knock at the door and try to get in again. Don’t try to push them back yourself; ask the Lord Jesus to meet them with His love. Think about the love of Jesus all you can. Read about the love of Jesus every day in your Bible–and if you keep your heart full of it there just won’t be room for those thoughts to stay.”

Watching: Blimey Cow. Monica Church. Alaskan Bush People. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Katie Gregoire. The Fault in our Stars.

Writing: I wrote an article and submitted it to History Today magazine; they promptly rejected it #writerlife. I queried the editor of a pet magazine with an article idea. I submitted a humorous piece on gluten-free eating that I wrote last fall to the Columbia College Young Authors Writing Competition. I had a devotional published called “Persevering Through Pain.” I edited a short story (working title Denny & Curtis) that I wrote last month. I submitted my baby Mazarine Jupiters to the New Yorker AND SCREAMED because, HELLO–it’s the New Yorker. If you need me, I’ll be on pins and needles for the next three months. I’m now in the middle of a fantasy story for a contest, and a secret project, and a dystopian story titled Angelica. Here’s the synopsis of Angelica because I’m completely in love with it:

Kris doesn’t care anything about politics. All she ever wanted was for her father to get away from his high-pressure job as the king’s advisor and spend time with her. But when the king is assassinated, Kris’s father contacts her for the first time in months: she’s the only one who can bring Angelica, the king’s daughter and the heir to the throne, through the city and around the rebel strongholds. If she’s caught, the rebels will kill them all. Throw a handsome, sarcastic, and infuriating boy named Jack into mix and Kris doesn’t know what to do—especially when she begins to admit to herself the true extent of her feelings for him and for Angelica. And when Jack drops a truth bomb on Kris about the kind of man her father really is, things just get worse. Can they make it through the city to the palace, or will they die trying?

I also wrote a 7,000-word story titled “Shatter Me” that I plotted on New Year’s Eve in-between eating chocolate fondue and tangoing in the kitchen with Joshua and playing Nertz. I finished my first draft about a week later (and I basically turned down all my social obligations that week in favor of holing up in my room with the laptop and my two cinnamon rolls of protagonists. Again, #writerlife). It’s a story about the night sky and falling in love and being shattered and then put back together more beautifully by the greatest Potter and I’m just OBSESSED with it. The inspiration for it came from so many beautiful places, and it was amazing to write. See exclusive excerpts below (warning, they’re unedited):

“I can’t lose anyone else,” he whispered.

“You have me until every last star in the galaxy dies.”

            She looked at him carefully. Then she smiled. The waves folded softly on the sand and a dog barked in the distant balmy air and light poured from tiny holes far above them. A sky full of stars and he was staring at her.

He passed a hand over his face, roughly. “I was just surviving. And then I came out here and you made me feel alive. You make me feel like I’m not shattered. Like I’m worth something.”

“Aren’t we all shattered?” she said. “Every person who lives under these billions of stars… we’re all shattered, Rhett. But we can be put back together. Maybe more beautifully than ever before.”

*squeals* The first draft was all blissful brilliance, but when I start editing it, I’m sure I’ll come across all kinds of holes. Just let me have my fantasy for now–okay?

Grateful for: Going to dinner with Anna. Listening to music in the car with Joshua. Vanilla EOS lip balm. Smoothies made with almond milk and frozen strawberries. New (to me) Keds. Spontaneously going to dinner with Cari. Sitting on the couch with my seven-year-old, the light outside the window growing dim, and hearing her say over and over, “Miss Hailey, look, I want to show you something.” A little girl at church telling me she named one of her dolls after me. My Pinterest “aesthetic” board (see grid below–I’m kind of proud). Quiet Sunday afternoons spent planning out my week. Getting a special letter in the mail. The band This Hope playing at my church. Conversations with my dad about how to write Christian fiction. Seeing a friend who never fails to make me laugh so hysterically my cheeks hurt. Talking fandoms with Lydia.

Loving: I’m Useless (and That’s a Good Thing) by Belle. 2017 Goals by Katie Grace. To Kill a Mockingbird–Book Review by Jess. Sometimes by Olivia. introducing my novel + a Q&A about it! by Madeline. How to be UNCOMFORTABLE at College by Emma Grace. How To Make A Beautifully Perfect Aesthetic Board For Your Novel by Abbiee. excerpt | the art of letting go by Ashley. Reflections on a quote by Hudson Taylor by a different Olivia.

I personally blogged much more than I’d expected! If you missed my posts: My prayers for you &me this semester and this year., on softball and dreams., Persevering through Pain, and How to Hit the Books!

What did you listen to, watch, read, and write in January? What are you grateful for? Stay tuned for part II–coming Tuesday!