Books and Movies, Musings

This Is Real Life, And It Is An Epic

Every heart has a story to tell
Some dreams have wings, some are torn at the seams
and just sit there on the shelf
If you were to walk in my shoes
You’d see we are all the same
So find the love inside yourself
Cause every heart has a story to tell
This is my heart
This is my story to tell

I really love Pandora. I have found two of my favorite songs by using it. This is the chorus of Every Heart, and it perfectly exemplifies something that’s been rolling around in my brain for a while. I touched on it several months ago, but I think this is an idea that warrants a closer look.

Stories are incredibly powerful things, and I’m not really sure how to describe them. What *is* a story? If pressed for a short answer, I would say it’s a string of related thoughts having to do with and describing an event. But they are so much more than that. They are life. I don’t just mean stories from 10660227_730463573675003_2572696761722264010_nhistory either. But my life is nothing like a storybook. It’s boring. All I do is go to work, eat, and hang out at home. Stop. I mean it. That is no way to talk about an epic masterpiece.

What do you look for in a strong character? You look for complexity, depth, emotion. You look for things that make it real. To the characters in stories, their world is just as real to them as ours is to us. You sit in McDonalds and drink a Dr. Pepper. They sit in an inn and drink a pint (“They come in pints?”) It’s kind of like what I say about the news. Just because something bad is reported on tv doesn’t mean it is a common thing. In fact, if it were common, it wouldn’t be worth noting. [Note: This isn’t strictly true, especially in cases regarding social justice issues.  I’m referring to things like buildings collapsing or people finding anacondas in their bathrooms.] Stories don’t often dwell on the mundane parts of a character’s life. They skim over the irellevent stuff and focus on the important details. We have the luxury of seeing only the good bits. The character doesn’t get that. They have to work their way through life, and they don’t know the outcome. Just like us. They don’t know which details are the important ones, they can make a guess, but there’s no way to know for sure. Just like us. 

But what’s the point of telling your story if you don’t know where it’s going to end? What’s the point of waiting? Do you read the last page of a book before you even begin reading the first chapter? I used to think that my story was boring. I grew up in a fairly normal family. Nothing exceptionally tragic has ever happened. But two things happen when you begin telling your tale.

You find out what makes you special. If you never talk about your life with other people, they can’t give you feedback and tell you how weird you are. I knew having 5 siblings wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know living in 5 different states was remarkable. My dad was in the military, moving was normal until I talked to people who had lived in the same state, same town, or even the same house, their entire lives. 

 You find out that you are not alone. Whatever you think may make you an outcast, or unloveable, or weird, someone else is dealing with too. But until you start talking and opening up, both of you will think you are the only person that feels that way. This is why we have fandoms. If we didn’t talk about loving Firefly, we would think we were the only ones obsessing over a bunch of space cowboys. If we didn’t talk about the damage that fundamentalist mindsets do, people would keep getting hurt by them and think they were the ones in the wrong. But since we talk about it, we can find each other.

When you look at your life as a story, it’s easier to see personal progress. As I said in A Bubbling Brook, a well written character changes. You may not catch it, change often happens gradually. There isn’t always an ultimatum.  Just like in a story, you notice those in real life. That sudden instant of realization. Sure, these moments may be turning points, but you don’t just turn without preparing. If you did that while driving, you’d flip the car. If you do that while singing, your voice will probably crack. Without your consent or knowledge, your life so far is leading up to something. Don’t speak disparagingly about what will be your success story. 

Farm and Family, Musings

10 Reasons Growing Up in a Big Family Wins

My family has 6 kids. The dynamics of things are kind of different when you have this many people living under one roof. Dishes are mountainous. Laundry is unending. Privacy can be illusive. Ziplocks are a hot commodity, and I’m still not sure why. But even with things that could be perceived as hardships or inconveniences, life in a big family is pretty awesome. I found a Buzzfeed post the other night (don’t judge me) listing 23 things you get used to when you live in an above average family. Since a lot of my facebook friends are from large families, this sparked quite a hilarious conversation (primarily about food and socks). Since everyone seem to be challenging people lately, my mom challenged me to write a blog post of the 10 best things about living in a large family. The list was not allowed to be sarcastic, but could be humorous. Easy. Without further ado, roughly in order, but not really, my 10 favorite things about living in a large family:mylifeessgood

10. You have several personal book, movie, tv and music reviewers. I cannot tell you how many times one of my sisters (and even Adam every now and then) has sent me a link to a new song or artist. We compare Pandora stations. We send each other youtube videos. The number of books that have been thrown at me by my siblings isn’t too great yet, since I’m the oldest and self proclaimed family librarian, but there have been a few. For instance, Claire read The Hunger Games before either Meg or I did. Usually I’m the one who reads or watches something first, but I’m predicting that this will change once we are all grown up.

9. You have a built in study group. For most of my life, Meg and I have been at about the same skill level in most things. I understand some things better than she does, and she understands some things better than I do. We all bounce ideas for writing assignments off each other. Two heads are better than one, right? How much better would three or four head be?

8. You have a higher chance of being fashionable. This isn’t always true. At all. But I have noticed, at least in families with many girls, that the likelihood of someone having a built in fashion sense is fairly high. Some people have a friend with taste, I have a sister. Well, actually, I have three, each with their own sense of style. If I want to know what looks good on me, I ask Meg. If I want to find an epic t-shirt or other quirky-cool item, I ask Claire. If I want to just have fun, I’ll let Hannah dress me (If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed this).

7. You have a brute squad. “I’m on the brute squad.” “You are the brute squad!” Have you seen the new version of Yours, Mine, and Ours? There is a scene near the end where two of the boys are being harassed by some bullies at school, and one by one their siblings intervene. “That’s just ignorant.” “And you know how you get rid of ignorance?” “Butt-whoopin’.” Not that I condone violence or anything…

6. You learn how to fight fair. Come on, you know it’s true. Fighting happens even in the most peaceful homes. But this is simply part of life. You will, at some point, disagree with someone, probably get emotionally involved, and have to resolve the situation. I’m not saying fighting is a good thing, but since it happens throughout life, I’m figuring you may as well learn how to do it well. Getting involved with speech and debate is also very helpful, and actually made us fight less, and more efficiently. Siblings don’t always resolve their issues. There are plenty of estranged and strained relationships, but I would speculate that the majority of people with siblings have good relationships with them.

5. You learn how to live in a group setting. Obvious right? But after spending some time at camp, I realise how important of a thing this is. Once when we were discussing what to have for dinner, spaghetti was suggested. I stated that everyone hates spaghetti, and so other ideas were brought up. Mom brought spaghetti up again, and said she liked it. Then, one by one, every single member of my family betrayed me. “Everyone else likes spaghetti. Annie just hates it so much that she fills to room with her hatred.” I’m pretty sure we ended up having spaghetti that night. (for the record, I don’t hate spaghetti, I just don’t like to have it more than, say, once a month, and rarely choose it if there are other options.)

4. You have different perspectives on life events. You may have best friends that you grew up with, but even they probably weren’t there for everything. A brother or sister, even if they are older or younger, you probably share many of the same memories.

3. You develop a family lexicon and innumerable inside jokes. If we pull up to a drive-thru and someone shouts “Get out your coffeemakers!” don’t be surprised. In fact, if we say just about anything, and start to giggle or nod, just assume it is part of our family culture, smile, and carry on with your life. You can probably ask about it if you really want to know, but we may or may not even remember how the trend or saying got started. It’s just what we do.

2. You get to see kids grow up, without having to raise them yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some littles of my own one day, but not yet. Having a toddler in the house, but being able to leave and not have to worry about him is just about the coolest thing ever (sorry Mom). You get to know humans in progress, and learn from them, and watch them be hilarious, but they are still your peers on some level, or at least they will be eventually.

1. You learn how to entertain.  When I was about 9 years old we lived in Middle-of-Nowhere KY, 30 minutes from a gas station. At this point there were only 3 of us, but we were still homeschooled and still fairly secluded. We had tv, but not cable, and PBS kids cut out in the middle of the afternoon. We had internet, but it was dial-up (I still got hooked on gaming… Very slow gaming.) I couldn’t read at this point either. This left us with essentially one option for occupying our free time (which, in all honesty, was most of  the time). We played, and we played hard. But this wasn’t just building mud villages and becoming dirt people. We learned how to not only entertain ourselves when there is nothing else to do, but also how to be generally entertaining. In life, if you can make people laugh and keep their attention, it doesn’t matter what you aim to do, people will notice you. And when people notice you, sometimes they give you a job, and sometimes you make relationships.

Well, there you have it. These don’t apply to all families. I know some families where the opposite of many of these points is true. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a big family is hard. We fight hard, we play hard, we love hard (“I love you SO HARD!”). And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Short

First Day on Campus

I’m sitting in the commons area. The ebb and flow of students is nearly fascinating. Nearly. People watching is actually an interesting thing to occupy yourself with here. It’s amazing how different the population is so close to home. The populace of our small town is primarily WASPs in camo hunting gear. The town where I work is fairly racially mixed, but also fairly urban. In one corner there are several tables of people playing Magic: the Gathering and other card games. Along the walls there are dozens of faces lit by bright computer screens, or they would be if the window behind them didn’t create such a glare. Sprinkled throughout there are groups of old friends, catching up after a summer away from school. “Ashley! I didn’t know you were going here!” “Hey Jason what are you taking?” This world is very different from any I’ve been in before.

People speak disparagingly of freshman, but then asking simple questions that make me chuckle under my breath. What’s the difference between you and us, other than the number of years you’ve studied? If those years haven’t taught you some of these simple things, what do they really mean?

As the clock reaches the top of the hour, the hall clears out and the volume level drops, but only a little. I only have two classes on Wednesday, but they are 4 hours apart. While having a math class at 8 in the morning, half an hour away from home is primarily a pain in the neck, it does get me a good parking space. This morning after class was over, I tried to connect to the internet. Whether the problem was with my computer or the network, I have no idea. I really don’t care at this point though. I’m just glad to be connected.

So far it’s been an interesting first day. Let’s see what the rest of the semester holds.

Musings

Fear

Another pair of weeks went by without a post. You know, this time though, I did write. I actually wrote several full posts, but I didn’t put them up. I was scared. Scared for a bunch of reasons. Scared that my thoughts wouldn’t be well articulated. Scared that they would be inflammatory. Scared that they wouldn’t be.pinkdotsquote

I do that a lot. I’m scared of the future. Really scared actually. I want to pursue a certain field of work, but I’m not sure how good I’ll be at it, even though I’ve wanted to do it since I was little. I want to study for a certain degree, but I’m scared I won’t be able to pay tuition, even though I know I’ll work something out. I’m scared I’ll fail, so I don’t even take the test. I’m scared I’ll succeed and then be expected to replicate that success.

But this doesn’t get me anywhere.

I don’t need to be scared of failing. If I am, I’ll never even try. I need to do everything I can to prepare, but when it comes to it, just do it.

Being scared of success is even worse though. If you do well at something the first time, how will you do the second time? What will people think of you if you fail after that? What if that first one is a fluke, and you aren’t actually any good? This is pointless though! You have to try!

Fear is paralysing. Grace is freeing. If you fail, it’s ok, everyone does. If you succeed, congratulations, now try again. You can’t do anything great without doing something really dumb first. In fact, the dumber you start out, the greater the great thing will be.

I feel deep in bones that I will be good at what I want to do. The fact that I’m pretty unqualified and inexperienced will only make it even more awesome when I succeed.

Actions in Activities, Farm and Family, Short

New Beginnings

It was a big weekend  on the farm. It was super busy, but in the few spare moments I had on the computer, I found a new favorite band!

We had our first calf! Around noon on Friday (ok, not quite the weekend) Bunny calved. Around two on Friday it started sleeting. That would be just like Bunny. So guess what I did from around 2 to around 3? I tried to move a cow and her newborn calf.

I tried luring Bunny with her favorite feed treat, but she was not about to leave the calf, who wouldn’t follow, and she just wasn’t interested in it. I tried this for a while, and then called mom to see what she thought. We decided to try to move the calf. I was kind of worried about this, Bunny is pretty unpredictable. I picked up the calf and started walking up to the microbarn. The mama was the least of my trouble. Bunny didn’t really even seem to notice much. She followed a little and went back to eating. The calf, on the other hand, was very opposed to being picked up and moved. She flailed around, kneed me and whacked me in the face with her head. She is her mother’s daughter, that’s all I can say. I ended up carrying her a little and then herding her a little.

Once I finally got to the yard Mom helped me get the calf in the shed. By this time Dad was almost home from taking the kids to Co-op and I was pretty well soaked and freezing. Of course, Dad was able to get Bunny up to the shed right away. If she is capable of love, Dad is the only two-legged she has eyes for.

Bunny is actually a really good mama, despite how it might sound. Apparently cows can become attached to the place the calf in. It is so sweet to go out and hear mama and calf softly mooing to each other. A couple winters ago we got Bunny a molasses lick and she absolutely loved it. We decided that if she had a girl calf we would name her Molasses, because Bunny loves Molasses. Welcome to the world Lassie. Your name is very fitting, except you are anything but slow.

On Saturday Claire and I had a Bible Quiz. Neither of us placed as well this month as last. My team didn’t do as well as last month either, but Claire’s did quite better. This month we only have 3 weeks between quizzes. This will be interesting. I’m determined to get more memorized, even though there is less time to get it done.  Like my tag line in my email says:

Discipline is remembering what you want.

David Campbell

 

Musings, Short

Kindness vs Arrogance

I’ve been notice something recently that is very alarming. Kindness is rare. And, it’s often replaced with arrogance.

The most alarming thing about this, though, is it’s prominence in the “Christian” community. I’m sure you heard about the big issue with a billboard that a certain creation ministry is putting up in NYC. It says it is to “Our Atheist friends; Thank God you’re wrong”. This is just wrong. On so many levels. It is not kind at all. It is not loving at all. It isn’t even convincing. It’s just contradiction. It’s just telling someone they’re wrong. “They will know we are Christians by our love”, “God is love”, “Remember now faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” This billboard doesn’t give hope, it isn’t a message with a loving attitude, and it isn’t going to bring people to faith.

Titus 3:3

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Excuse me, but you used to be wrong too. Is someone simply telling you you’re wrong going to make you think you are actually wrong?

4-7

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…

That is just the beginning of one very long sentence, but I think it is enough to convey my point.

I have pretty much gotten to the point where I can’t stand this ministry. Adam and Hannah were watching one of their videos this evening and I could only watch for a little while. The speaker is so haughty and shaming, even in a kids presentation. We are supposed to love and be kind.

Luke 6:35

But love your enemies… for [God] is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

You can’t have both kindness and arrogance at the same time.  Arrogance cancels out kindness.

Oh, look, you’re here too? I didn’t realize anyone else was reading. It’s rude to read someone’s journal.  😉

Actions in Activities, Books and Movies, Farm and Family

It’s Working!

Or rather I am. I am so tired right now. This is the fifth day in a row that I have worked somewhere.

There is a corn maze just up the road from our house. Last year they sent an email to our homeschool group looking for teens to work there. I talked with the owners and we were all set, but because of the drought the maze wasn’t very good and they didn’t end up needing my help.

Saturday we were just sitting around talking and…  I don’t really know, doing our Saturday morning thing, when my friend’s mom (this is their second year working there) called saying they needed help at the maze. I jumped up, got out of my pajamas, and drove over there. The owner, Mrs. S asked how old I was and got excited that I was 19. “Can you drive an ATV?” Yeah, about 10 years ago I drove my great uncle’s for a few minutes, but I remember how and I’ve had my drivers license for 3 years, so sure, I can probably drive one.

Guess what I did for about 5 hours Saturday afternoon? I drove a four-wheeler pulling about 8 barrels-turned-train-cars. My thumb felt like it was going to fall off and I now have a fantastic sunburn on the backs of my hands. Once the sun went down and the train was put away, I worked in the concession stand for a few hours. I was surprised how many people came to do the maze in the dark.

Mrs. S asked me what time I could be back on Sunday, and basically, I have a job. I always knew this was how it would have to happen. All of my previous attempts had been fruitless.

It is so strange working this much. I’m hardly ever home anymore. I miss Josh and Hannah. I feel like they are growing up in my house as me, but I’m never home. I get up at 7 most days. Anyone who has seen me right after I wake up knows how big of a feat this is. I am not a morning person. By any stretch of the imagination. The sad thing I’ve found is that I can’t drink coffee in the morning. It makes me so jittery it ruins my day. My body is awake and my mind is not, or vice-versa. No bueno.

The only day I “have off” this week is Wednesday, and even then I volunteer at the library for a couple hours. Now, it would be logical to cut this out of my schedule. It isn’t an actual job, and it is my one and only day off. But I just can’t do that! I have thought about it, but only very briefly. I just love it too much. It’s quiet, relatively peaceful, and, basically, I get to be around books. Nope, library stays.

I know this isn’t my normal kind of post, but it’s what’s been on my mind. I am exhausted, but every day I am in such awe of how God has worked things together in a way that I never could.

 

Farm and Family, Musings

Tradition!

Like most people, our family has traditions. We don’t have many, but we have a few. When someone has a birthday we put them in charge of the leftover cake. We might eat cake for a week, or just eat it all in one day, it depends on the birthday girl (or boy, as the case may be). When Dad leaves for work in the morning he comes to everyone’s bed and says goodbye, even though it is around 5am and everyone is asleep.

Everyone has traditions, whether they realize it or not. You may just see it as a habit, like showering before bed, but we all have them.

DSCF7083

Some traditions just happen, like the birthday cake. Others have a genesis, like Dad’s goodbye hugs.

Our journey as Christians can be that way too. If we aren’t careful, we just get into the habit of doing Christian things. It’s what our parents did, so we do it too.

I have grown up in a Christian family. In fact, Christianity goes back many, many generations and my grandfather was a campus minister. I became a Christian when I was around 5. There really wasn’t that big of a change in my daily life. I didn’t cuss or drink or anything like that. I was 5. I was childish, but I wasn’t demented.

I know there are many people with a beginning like mine, I’ve talked with several. It can be easy to have a “grandchild” mentality. You become a Christian because that’s what your family does. I’m noticing a lot of “Grandchildren of God” mentality in the homeschool community. Teens grow up, and don’t really know what they believe. They don’t have an original thought in their heads. They just regurgitate what their parents say on any given subject or issue. They have a birthday cake mentality. This is what we do. Why would we do it any other way? They haven’t come up against any real opposition yet, and when they do, they are shaken, sometimes to the point where they disregard everything they were taught.

Sorry parents, but this is your fault. Unfortunately, you don’t realized what you are doing. You are just trying to teach your children their faith, but what you are actually doing is teaching them yours. I know you really do mean well, so may I make a suggestion? Give them the tools and the raw materials, then let them build their own ideas. Give them guidance and an atmosphere where they feel free to ask questions. If they come up with something that you feel is off, ask them questions about it. How did you come to that conclusion? Start up a conversation with your teen. Please, remember this little bit of wisdom I’ve learned from my parents. Once a child turns 12-13 you can no longer tell them what to do. You can offer tips, but, unless it will harm something or someone in your charge, they really can’t be stopped (barring extreme force and police involvement, and in most cases that really isn’t necessary). Let them own themselves.

A life built on personal beliefs is a much more rewarding one than a life built on someone else’s. That’s what you want for your children. You want them to have “goodbye hug” traditions, not “birthday cake” habits.

Musings

The Land of Make Me Believe

Sometimes the best thing to do is pretend.

This is what I’m learning.

I don’t feel like a nice person most of the time. Others may see me that way, but I don’t feel like it.  I forget who I am. I downplay the parts of my personality that I like the most and have a pity party. This is usually subconscious, but sometimes I know what I’m doing, deep down.

Believe it or not, I’m actually an extrovert. I’m socially awkward, but I’m an extrovert in the base sense of the term. I’m one of those shy extroverts hiding in the corner hoping you’ll come talk to us. We are energized by social interaction sometimes, but in some circumstances it’s just too draining to be worth it. So, we hide and the world thinks we are introverts.

When something happens that just really pushes my buttons, like someone mocking me or not thinking logically, I have to pretend that I don’t want to go kick them in the shins. I have to pretend that I’m not raging at them. Blow up a balloon or blow out a candle as I would say to a little kid. That’s basically what I become when I’m angry. A little kid having a tantrum, with feelings too big for her body.

When we go to a party or gathering of some sort where I don’t have any close friends I have to pretend to be outgoing. This is one I have gobs of trouble with. It is so draining to talk to strangers or acquaintances that it completely neutralizes any energy I would get. But, if I don’t pretend I am outgoing it will be hard to make friends who I can recharge with.

When I’m talking with someone, in some ways, it’s easy for me to stay on the surface. It drives me insane on the inside, but it is less personal, and thus safer. I need to learn to pretend I am open about things that really matter. This is the hardest thing for me to pretend right now. Sometimes I will try to say something, but my mouth will not say it. As in, I am trying to say something and my mouth will not open. This has happened to me on several occasions. It’s usually the fear of rejection or judgement. When I am able to get the words out, I usually find my fears were in vain. I need to pretend I’m not afraid.

These are things I have to pretend. They are things that I know I can be, and probably am more than I think. I have to remember who I want to be and pretend to be that person. It’s kind of like that old saying, “Dress for the job you want.” Well, I am going to dress like a good big sister, a good quizzer, an outgoing person, a good friend, and a reflective, deep thinker.

What do you have to pretend?

Actions in Activities, Camp, Musings

I Think She’s Trying to Speak To Me

You may not know this about me, or maybe it’s so ingrained in my being that I do it here too, but I’m kind of known for my strange metaphors and correlations, and very creative and abstract imagery. I find links in things that, I’m told, make people’s heads hurt. 

One night at camp we were having Divisional Campfire. Banty was telling the story of Joseph. She asked the girls what kept him going. What gave him strength? Several girls piped up with answers that were good, but not quite what she was looking for. Banty was about to move on, but I noticed one of the girls was kind of sitting behind her and still had her hand up. I said “Faith has an answer!”

Banty has this face she makes when I say something weird. It’s like she can tell I’m serious, but she’s not sure what planet I’m from. I could tell it wasn’t registering, so I repeated myself and pointed. She finally translated my alien dialect and got the answer she was thinking of. The next day we were talking about it. Banty was one of my CILT instructors, so she’s seen me in a Bible study. She said “I know Annie says things that make me think sometimes, but I wasn’t getting this.” That is a good illustration of what I mean about strange phrasing. “Faith has an answer” would be something I would say! 

I did this again at Bible Quiz practice last week. We were having a time of sharing about things we’ve learned from our chapters. Several people shared about James 1. This wasn’t a surprise, it’s a great chapter and pretty much everyone has it memorized. They were all saying pretty much the same thing. If you have faith God will give you wisdom, or that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers. And then raised my hand.

The main thing I see in this chapter is the focus on our actions and reactions.

In the first half it is talking about testing and temptation. It is about exercising your faith muscle. Under trial you strengthen that muscle and it shows up as perseverance , and that strength helps you through temptation.

The second half is about not just looking at the plaque on the wall for it’s beauty, but actually doing what it says. Instead of just studying it and saying “My, what a beautiful piece of work. I wonder where the bathroom is?” actually following the directions on the sign and finding the restroom. 

This really made me think about how our actions and words affect everything. It made me think about being intentional in our words and deeds. Not being absentminded or careless. If we don’t do things on purpose we are just hearing the word. We are letting things just happen, we aren’t doing them. 

I shared this, in a slightly more rambling way and not in as many words. Everyone in the room got that same look. That “You’re really cute, but I don’t know what you’re saying!” look. I like to think I just dig, not necessarily deeper, but at a different angle, than most of the world. 

Last week Dad showed me something in his sermon notes that made me make the same face. He was using Greek letters and other symbols to make some sort of pictograph. I had no idea what he was doing, but at least I know I come by it honestly.