NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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Star Wars The Last Jedi

My sister’s Rey Outfit

I haven’t done a movie review in awhile and honestly, it won’t take me as long as another story I’d like to share from my recent trip to Big Bend. And since it’s the holidays and everyone is in a rush, including me, I’m going for short and sweet.

Now I’m not a huge Star Wars Fan. I enjoy it, and I know a lot of things about it, thanks to my sister. But I’m not… how should I say this, over invested? Anyway, I think this makes it easier for me to enjoy the Star Wars movies, I’m not nit picky when it comes to these movies and I really enjoyed all of them, more or less when I first saw them. Looking back, movies like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were not that great. And actually I wasn’t too fond of Rogue One either, just because everyone died. But in general, I enjoy these movies, but I’m not so attached that I get mad if it isn’t as good as I was expecting.

So anyway, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens and I’ve been looking forward to The Last Jedi for a long time. So me and my sister went opening night to see the new movie. And I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It went well with the first movie in this newest trilogy and it was a good continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Finn and Poe develop more as characters and learn something more about themselves. Finn finally accepted being a Rebel, Poe learned to care more for people than just being a hero, and Rey learned that she didn’t have to find her family to have a place in the world. I also was happy with the direction Luke Skywalker’s character took. It seemed very realistic and he did bring his own sort of humor to the story.

There were also a lot of epic fight scenes and hilarious dialogue in the film that kept me engaged and enjoying the story. Poe’s opening quips with General Hux were particularly memorable as was Rey getting smacked by a plant when she was trying to feel the force. So if you enjoy a good action movie, with some spot on humor I think you’d enjoy this film. And if you liked The Force Awakens, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this movie too. But if you were really set on finding out who Rey’s parents were and didn’t like the direction the new films were taking, you might be disappointed. But I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the holidays and take some time to be with family and friends and remember that relationships are more important than presents. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Snow Day

Growing up in central Texas means you rarely have a snow day. And even when we get a snow day, it’s usually because of ice, not snow. In face what passes for snow is usually sleet, tiny round balls of ice that don’t stick together to make anything. It can be pretty to look at, but, well it’s not snow.

But last night we got a huge surprise. It wasn’t even freezing and snow started to fall from the sky. And this wasn’t sleet, this was flaky soft snow, some of it clumping together into extra big flakes. And it didn’t stop, it just kept falling and then started to accumulate on the ground and the cars. Anything hitting pavement just melted, but it was amazing to be in the middle of an actual snow storm and see it gathering on the trees and cars and grass. I can’t remember this ever happening before in my life.

I know some people live where it snows all the time, but for this Texas girl, last night and today were something special and something I want to praise God for. It was such a blessing for me to see His handiwork in the snow and laugh with joy as I tossed snowballs at family members and opened my mouth to catch a flake on my tongue. It is a special time that I don’t want to forget. So here are a few pictures from my snow adventure. I hope you enjoy them and take time to praise God for the little blessings He gives you today.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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Sutherland Springs Church Shooting

Yesterday and today I’ve been struggling through the latest shooting and it’s aftereffects. This one hits much closer to home than any one before. Some of my friends know people who were murdered. They’re sad, hurt, confused and I don’t know what to say. So I wrote this poem/prayer to God just now. I hope it brings comfort to someone out there.

Image result for church shooting

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God there is so much pain,
Every time I turn around there’s another victim,
another reminder that this world is not alright.

Why? The question I hear again and again.
How could He let this happen?
Where is He? It hurts so much.

In the midst of all the pain and questions,
part of me knows it’s in Your hands.
You have a plan,
This too shall pass.

And as I search the past, Your Word, the lives of ones before,
I see the same questions and cries.
Why Lord Why? Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus cried it on the cross,
My friend cries it in a small Texas town,
My brothers and sisters in persecution cry it too.

And You say,
I have never forsaken or forgotten you.
I was there, I am here.
I will never leave, I will never let you go.
You are mine and you must trust Me.
For when you cannot see, cannot understand,
I can.

I hold the world in my hands,
Each breath, each story, each purpose is Mine to command.
I see the connections, the problems.
I’ve felt the pain, the sorrow, the anger.
And I have not left you alone.

I entered in.
I took the full weight that you could never carry.
So don’t try to carry it now. Don’t despair.
Give it to Me, give it all to Me.
Trust Me now in the darkness, in the pain, in the hurt.

And wait.
Just you wait.
I have better plans in store.
A hope that does not disappoint.
A future that is secure.
And one day you will see what I see now.

That I bring life from death, rejoicing from sorrow, and good from evil.
I am the God who saves and nothing can stop me.
No death, no evil, no disaster, no sorrow,
No depression, no sickness, no plan.

So trust me now.
Let me hold you now.
And watch and pray.
I am coming soon.
And you too shall be changed.

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500th Anniversary

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church’s door, I wanted to share some pictures from my trip to Germany. I hope you enjoy the pictures and take a moment to remember that God can use our small acts of faithfulness to make huge changes to our culture and all of history.

The statue of Martin Luther in Wittenberg

 

This is the famous church where Luther nailed his 95 Theses

 

The inside of the church

 

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Response to Hardship

This past week has been crazy busy with all sorts of things, big important work duties, a friend’s wedding, my brother’s birthday. But then yesterday, things seemed to take a turn for the worse. My mom started having severe nerve pain that just would not stop. Sometimes it was so bad she started crying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom in such pain. Add onto that work stuff frustrating my Dad, and pet concerns worrying my sister and I suddenly felt like I was stuck in the middle of multiple spiritual attacks.

But in the midst of it, I felt like God was telling me to just worship Him. To take my eyes off of all the problems and fears and worries and stress and just worship Him. So I started singing, I started meditating on scripture, and I grabbed my Dad and asked him to pray with me. Not all the problems went away. My mom is still in a lot of pain, my sister still has pet issues and I’m not sure what to do to help. But I felt a sense of God’s peace, when I stopped and worshiped last night. And I want to hold onto that. Even in the midst of storms, He is present. Even when life is hard, He is still good. Even when you don’t see a way out, He has a plan. I’m learning to hold on to Him and trust Him for myself and others.

So I’m still in the midst of the storm and I’d appreciate the prayers. I’m so thankful that I can ask my brothers and sisters in Christ for help and support. But I’m also in the arms of my Loving Father and I trust that He will bring me and my family through this current trial.

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Why do I make Art?

I was skimming through old school assignments today and came across this question I had to answer. Here’s what I wrote five years ago:

Why do I make art? That’s a hard question. I’ve been doing it so long it seems like part of who I am. I was always told I was good at art when I was growing up so I kept doing it. I think the satisfaction of someone seeing my work and approving it was what I sought after. But I don’t think that’s the whole reason. I mean I like people’s good opinion, but I think I also like the shared experience of the artwork. When I make a painting of a sunset, or some landscape, it’s because I see it and I just want to capture it. I don’t ever want to forget what it looked like and felt like, and then when others see it too, it makes me feel like I got to share that experience. I also love art because, I feel like it’s worth the work, like at the end of the project there’s a deep satisfaction and enjoyment of the work. When I finish a big paper for class, I never want to see it again, but when I finish a painting, I want to show it off, to hang it up and let the world see it. I guess I also really admire O’Keeffe and how she took something that no one would notice and made it where you couldn’t ignore or miss it anymore, like the everyday flower. I feel like that’s what I want in my art, for people to be able to see and appreciate what I see. To not just see another sunset, but see the purples, pinks, yellows, the beams of light and vibrancy that make it unique, that might never happen again. I just love seeing the beauty in nature, and I want others to see it too, so I paint, draw, take a picture, or whatever. I don’t know if my art is meaningful, if there is some great question or problem I’m trying to address. I guess it could be as simple as stop and smell the flowers, enjoy life, it is so beautiful and amazing. And maybe this won’t always be the case, I’m sure the problems and changes in life will affect what I make and what I want others to notice, but I’d like to hope that I’ll always be positive and uplifting with my art, because that’s who I want to be and what I want others to get from my art.

I think many of these reasons still are true for me. But a conversation I had the other day reminded me of how much more significant artwork can be when it’s used for God. For the past two years my mother and I have worked on making small watercolors to give away to people at prayer rooms. These pictures could have a scene from nature with a verse, or some object or person represented. But the whole point of them was to remind people of truth, not just with words but with images. It’s been amazing to see how God has used these little pictures to encourage people, remind them of His love and provision and speak truth.

So I think the reason I make art has grown, to not just make people notice what they’ve been missing in nature, but to recognize the God who made nature, us, and everything. I hope my artwork continues to improve and glorify the God who enabled me to make it in the first place.

And since I’ve talked about it so much, I thought I’d share a few pieces of artwork.

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