Sunday, December 24, 2017

peace on earth, goodwill to men


Merry Christmas, friends. ♥

Christmas has always been one of my favorite seasons. I'm the girl who wears jingle bell earrings and dances around to Christmas music all day long. It's so warm, and filled with joy and festivities. It's that magical time of the year that just makes you get a little bit excited.

But at the same time, I know that some years, it isn't so magical.

Even as much as I love the season, it's not always all sugarplums and stockings.

There's a lot of stress that comes along with Christmas. Stress to get all of your shopping done, to make sure that you have the perfect gift for everyone you know. Stress to get the house cleaned and the meals planned and to make sure that you're able to spend time with the various people in your life that you care about. There are gifts to be wrapped and cookies to be baked, and as much fun as the different tasks are, it also can turn into a lot of pressure to make sure that you get everything done.

Then you have the fact that sometimes, life is just hard, plain and simple. Life is hard, and that doesn't magically disappear the moment that the calendar flips to December 1st. That's unfortunately been something super poignant in the lives of many people that I know this holiday season, and I hate that with everything in me. I hate watching all of the hurt and knowing that it can't be fixed until God is ready to fix it. I hate the waiting of it, I hate the fact that things like this exist and that everyone can't just have a picture perfect Christmas season with families sitting around the fireplace together, healthy and whole and happy and laughing as they drink cocoa and wrap presents. I hate that with everything in me.

But, unfortunately, that's not the way that life works, is it?

As much as I think that we'd all love for Christmas to be stress-free and pain-free and perfect, it's never going to be like that, no matter how hard that we try. And the more that we dwell on that, the more that it's going to hurt.

So, to the person reading this- hi. Maybe you're having a year where things are going pretty smoothly for you, and Christmas is going wonderfully for you. I really, truly hope so. I hope that with everything in me, and if you are, I am so happy for you. But maybe you're not. Maybe that's not where things are for you this year, and the whole holiday season has been one long struggle. Maybe it's been big things, or maybe you're just dealing with lots of little problems and stresses, and you're feeling a bit overwhelmed right now.

The other day, I was reading through a devotional, and one particular sentence stuck out to me.

Let the Prince of Peace be your peace this holiday season. 

Because, at the end of the day, that's what it's really about, isn't it? It's not about making sure that everything's perfect. It's not about all of the little worries, and if you've got some big stuff going on in your life at the moment, He can still be your peace in that, too.

The point of Christmas was never to be a day to eat a ton of food and open gifts and surround yourself with twinkle lights. (And believe me- I love twinkle lights.) The celebration that Christmas has become is a lot of fun, yes- but that's not the true point.

The true point came over two thousand years ago, with a baby who came to give us all a new hope.

This holiday season, I want to challenge you to take a breath. Take a step back. And let yourself rest. Stop worrying about the little details that aren't quite "perfect" in your mind. Let the ache in your heart ease, just a bit. And let Him be your peace, throughout whatever it is that you're going through this season.

Even if you're hurting this year- do what you can to make the world a little lighter, a little more like that perfect Christmas that we all wish could happen for everyone. Tidings of comfort and joy. 

Take a breath. Let go of your stress. All is calm, all is bright.

Praise that even throughout the mess and pain, there is still truth to cling to. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Find joy, no matter how small. May your days be merry and bright. 

Let Him be your peace. Peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Senior Updates III

my heart ♥

Finally being back at my laptop, typing away at a blog post feels so good. I've missed the blogging world a lot. No matter how crazy life gets, this is always my home, and being back here just feels right.

Life since my last senior update has been insane in every way possible, but it's been filled with blessings upon blessings, and I am oh so grateful. Thinking back over everything that has happened is so overwhelming, and I'm just so thankful.

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L A T E L Y

The main thing that went on since my last Senior Update was my theatre group's Christmas show. Oh my goodness. It was crazy and hectic, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into it (quite literally), but I could not have asked for a more wonderful experience. I got to see pieces that I'd dreamed of come to fruition before my eyes, and I feel like God was so evident throughout the entire process. I could ramble about it all for hours; my heart aches just thinking about it. But I'll keep it simple. It was perfect.

As you all know, NaNo was a thing. I've already rambled about that in my NaNo recap post, but I'll just say that it definitely was a huge part of the month of November for me. Lots of late nights spent typing away at my laptop, but I'm happy to have written so much, and to have been able to do it with some fantastic humans.

Thanksgiving also took place, obviously. It was a really lovely, quiet day, exactly what I needed amidst all of the chaos of wrapping up the semester.

The semester has come to an end, which is super weird. Finals were last week, so as of now I'm on Christmas break. I still can't entirely wrap my head around the fact that I only have one semester of high school left. I'm not sure that I want to wrap my head around it quite yet, if we're being honest.

And hey- WE GOT SNOW! It was super random and surprising, and the timing was somewhat terrible, but it was magical all the same. We never get snow in early December here, so it was definitely a huge shock, but it was fun to see the world covered in white for a few days.

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G O A L S

-Get myself organized for Christmas! I have barely shopped at all this season; it's terrible. I am so horrifically behind. My mind will be so much more at ease once I have gifts bought and wrapped and under the tree.

-Read again. With all of the craziness of the past few months, I haven't read as much as I would have liked, and I miss it desperately. I can't wait to finally get the chance to curl up with a book.

-Journal journal journal. The more that I do it, the more that I love it.

-Take the new time that I have to organize life and clear my head. I'm so thankful to finally have the chance to get some things done that have been nagging me for ages, to clean up my room, to just be able to focus on things that I want to focus on, not things that are due.

-Enjoy the Christmas season. Most of all, I just want to enjoy the month. December is such a magical time of year, and I don't want to let myself get bogged down with to-do's like I have the tendency to do. I'd love to just enjoy it. 

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R E A D

This is so sad, but I have read almost nothing since my last Senior Update. I read God and Ronald Reagan for school, and I'm working my way through Mere Christianity, but that's about it. Now that my life suddenly has a lot less in it, I'm hoping to pummel through a bunch of books. I won't make my reading challenge for the year, but I want to get closer. My aunt gave me a copy of The Color Project for Christmas, and I am beyond excited to read it. 

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L I S T E N I N G

Hope Is The Anthem- Switchfoot
Overcome- Elevation Worship
I Won't Let You Go- Switchfoot
99 Red Balloons- Sleeping at Last
Venus- Sleeping at Last 

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How is life going for you guys? Are you excited for Christmas? Any fun plans? What have you been loving lately? What's been making you smile? I want to hear all about it. ♥

Monday, December 11, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

Let's talk about NaNo. 

This year's NaNo....it was rough. Really, really rough. It was nothing like I'd planned going in. I had all these grand intentions of writing 60K, of finally fleshing out a story that I'd been dreaming of, of somehow meeting my goal ahead of time instead of having to cram and stress and lose sleep. 

....Let's just say, that's not exactly how things went down. 

This November, I wrote 50,036 words.

And that's not a bad number, it's really not. I completed my goal of writing 50K in a month, and that's really the most important thing. I got the words down on the page, and that's what matters. But it was a messy, messy month, and I've got to say that overall, it was nowhere near the fantastic experience that last year's NaNo was. 

The thing is, I can't exactly put my finger on why. Why was it such a mess? Honestly, I feel like it was a bit of the perfect storm. I really was struggling with my plot. I didn't outline going in, and then I was under such a time crunch that I really couldn't think everything through, I just had to write. If I'd been able to think things through more, I think that I'd be happier with the end product. There were so many things going on with school and dance and people, and I really never got a chance to start writing before ten or eleven pm every night. And honestly? My brain was just a mess. Things were overwhelming and even though I did make it, I don't think that I did it well. It's not a first draft that I look back on with a huge amount of excitement. Last year, I was obsessed with my novel. And this year, I'm just not. In reality, I really miss my last novel. It stole my heart in a way that this one just...hasn't yet.

So, I don't know. I don't know exactly how I'm going forward. I know that I want to finish this draft, because I can't stand having things left unfinished. But I don't know when exactly I'm going back to it. In complete honesty, I haven't touched the draft since NaNo ended. Frankly, I haven't had the time, and I think that I needed a bit of a breather from it. So I'm looking forward to being able to go over the draft with fresh eyes. I just haven't decided yet when that's going to happen. 

I do know that as difficult as this NaNo was, it taught me a lot of things. So, in the interest of remembering for the future, and hopefully helping someone out along the way, let's look over everything I've learned. 

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1. Plot Plot Plot Plot Plot

On the few instances that I was able to pre-plot my novel, the writing process went SO much more smoothly. If I didn't have a plot already decided upon, I was lost and miserable. Moral of the story, future Grace Anne, please, for the love of your sanity, PLOT YOUR NOVEL. 

2. Word Wars Save The Day

I don't know how I would have survived NaNo without word wars. Shoutout to my AMAZING friends Aimee and Gabriela for warring with me the entire month. You two are the reason that I made it through the month, and I am SO thankful for you!! 

3. Time Management is Key

There's nothing like writing 50,000 words in a month to test your time management skills. And sometimes, those time management skills mean a  little less sleep in order to get the words in, and sometimes, for a month, that's okay. You've gotta do what you've gotta do, y'know? 

4. You're Capable of More Than You Think

Like I said, I really didn't think I would make it through this one. It felt really good to prove to myself that yes, if I keep pushing, I can do it. I'm proud of myself for not giving up on it, even when it was really difficult. 

5. Doing Things Alone is Stupid

When it comes to life in general, I'm really more of a solitary creature. I love people, but I generally prefer working alone. It's so much fun, however, and so much more productive, if you work alongside people. Again, shoutout to Aimee and Gabriela, as well as Abi, for being amazing this past NaNo! I don't know how I would have gotten through the month without you wonderful humans. 

6. If You Don't Understand Your Characters, Writing is Impossible

I think that one of my biggest issues was that I didn't understand my characters well enough going in. This kind of came with the territory of not plotting enough, but I think that writing would have gone much more smoothly had I understood my characters more deeply going into the month. 

7. S P O T I F Y

Spotify focus playlists are killer, as is instrumental Sleeping At Last music. It helped me to maintain a semblance of sanity. 

8. It's Okay Not to Be Perfect

I know that I preach a lot on here about how you don't have to be perfect and you should stop putting crazy amounts of pressure on yourself, but when it comes to actually living that out, I'm the WORST. One of the things that I really had to come to terms with this NaNo is that I can't do everything, no matter how hard I try. I'm only human, and sometimes, I can't write as many words as I want to or do as well as I'd hoped or even just knock everything off of that day's to-do list. And that's okay. It's not the end of the world. It's a work in progress, but November was a good reminder of this. 

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And, per tradition, some of the lovely tweets that went out through the month of craziness...

aww look how innocent

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So, there you have it! The craziness of NaNo 2017! Did you do NaNo? How did it go for you? I want to hear all about it! I'm hoping to be more active in the blogging world again now that Christmas break is a thing- I don't quite know what to do with myself now that I actually have free time. SO SEND ME YOUR LINKS! Tell me all the things! Catch me up!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankfulness Thursday IV - Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

It feels superbly strange that today is Thanksgiving, but here we are, and it's been lovely. I feel like I love Thanksgiving a little bit more every year. It's just such a nice day of calm and quiet, with coffee and food and family and texts that make you smile and the start of the holiday season. We started decorating our house for Christmas last night, hanging up stocking and setting out snowmen as the Spotify Christmas playlist got broken out for the first time of the season. It finally feels like the holidays, and as much as I've been putting it off, I'm happy that they're here. The holidays are so warm and cozy and wonderful, and I'm finally ready to embrace them.

In honor of Thanksgiving, instead of just talking about what I'm thankful for this week, I want to talk about what I'm thankful for this year. Because as many little things as I'm thankful for each week, there are also some crazy amazing blessings from this year, and Thanksgiving is the perfect day to think about those.

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I am thankful for the first show of the year that I was able to be a part of, and the huge, huge blessing that it was. It was an original show, written by someone who I absolutely love to pieces, and it was one of the most special experiences of my life. It was a show that stretched me in so many ways, but was so much fun and oh, what a joy.

I am thankful for friends. Friends deserve a whole blog post of their own, because goodness do I have some great ones. Friends who love me and laugh with me and rant with me and talk on the phone with me at midnight when we're both half asleep. I'm thankful for real life friends who go on the most random spontaneous adventures with me, and I'm thankful for internet friends who I can dream of doing that with. My internet friends are some of the most incredible people that I know, and I'm so thankful to have people in my life like them who are there when regular life just gets to be too much. I'm thankful for friends like Aimee and Mary Shelley, internet friends who have become real life friends. Friends are SUCH A BLESSING UGH and I'm so thankful for them.

I am thankful for The Music Man. The show that meant more to me than any other. The time of my life that dreams are made of, where all of the dearest people in my life came together to create something that I could not be prouder of. Zaneeta Shinn was the dream role that I never knew existed, and I'll forever have a piece of my heart in River City.

I am thankful for writing, for the fact that I finished my first novel and am in the middle of my second. Writing is forever my love, and I just want to do it for the rest of my life.

I am thankful for the summer, for the warmth and the most random of adventures and fun. Dance classes and the beach, editing my novel and dreaming up new projects. It was a joy of a season, crazy but good.

I am thankful for senior year, as messy as it is. It's a strange season, but it's a good one, and I'm thankful to be in it right now.

I am thankful for family, as obvious as that is. They love me despite my craziness, and they're pretty darn wonderful.

I am thankful for hope, for the knowledge that there's a future ahead of me and that God has a plan for that. I'm trying to look towards the crazy unknowns with optimism instead of pessimism, and while this doesn't come easily for me, I'm determined to keep this mindset.

I am thankful that God works things out in the best possible way, even when I'm stressed out or anxious or not knowing why things are happening the way that they are. I'm thankful that I don't have to have that pressure on me, because at the end of the day, I'm not the one in control of things, He is, and even though I have trouble keeping that in mind sometimes, it's the truth, and I'm so thankful for that.

I am thankful for this year. It's been a whirlwind and a mess and a dream all at once, but oh, am I thankful.

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• Thankfulness Thursday Friends 

Daminika @ Walking in the Sonshine

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I hope that you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving, friend. I am so thankful for you. ♥