Fruits of the Spirit

What is Joy?

6:00 AM

I'm sorry again about last Saturday. And I'm semi-sorry about this week's post.

So, I was on a trip all last week. We left on Saturday and didn't get back till late Thursday night (technically Friday morning). I didn't wake up till 11 either, and my thoughts were everywhere. It has been a long week and I just couldn't write the post I wanted to.

I wish I could promise you that it'll be up next Saturday, but the honest truth is I'm really not sure. Life is hard right now, and my creativity is dulled.

Here's my explanation.

My best friend is moving across the country in two days. I don't get to see her today, but I'll get to see her tomorrow. I get to go to her house for the last time for a few precious hours, and then she'll be gone.

Understandably, I'm only semi-functional right now. I can't think about writing, and I haven't written. I can't think about world building, so I won't blog about world building.

I was in a state, trying to figure out what I should do. Write another post excusing my absence?

My dear friend Katie told me to write a personal post about what's on my mind. So that's what I'm going to do.

I made an unconscious goal at the beginning of this year to study the bible more. I found a new way of doing that, an obvious way that made me feel like The Most Stupid Idiot Ever. Like, how did I not think of this before?

I call it a concept study. You pick a concept and you study it. Simple, right?

I started with love.

Love has always fascinated me. It's such an overused word with so many meanings. The love I was interested in, however, was true love. God's love. So I did a study of the love of the Lord and what that looks like in our lives, etc.

Now, a lot of things have been happening in my life lately to bring on the sadness. I was really beginning to feel it, especially towards the beginning of this month when I found out my friend's house had sold and they had to be gone by the 30th.

I couldn't believe it. I can still hardly believe it. Why would God take my best friend away? Again?

You see, this has happened to me once before, so I know the feeling well. I know the hurt that comes after. The pain. The loneliness. It'll take weeks before I feel remotely like myself again, and even after that I will get hit with the pain of her being gone. It'll be worse now, too, since I'm much older. The first time I was only seven.

So that was when I felt called to explore joy (and realized I was beginning a study of the fruits of the spirit without even meaning to). This lead to a big question.



What is joy? What does joy look like in our lives?

These were two big questions that troubled me for several weeks.

If we have joy, does that mean we cannot be sad? Why was I feeling so sad all the time? Was that wrong? Did that make me a bad Christian?

I slowly began to realize that joy and love are very similar.

They are both things you do in spite of your feelings. They are choices you make, no matter what  you feel. They are decisions. They are actions. They are attitudes we put on because we know that is how God wants us to live.

When we have the joy of the Lord, that means that no matter what we feel, we can still have joy. It is never too far gone. Because our true joy comes from the knowledge that we have a savior and an eternity with Him.

Joy is placing your faith in God to supply your peace and happiness. It’s not putting your trust in earthly things. It’s putting your trust in God. In your salvation. In the eternal.

But joy is more than just accepting everything in life and making the best of it.

No, joy is falling on your face and praising God in any and all circumstances.

This is one of many reasons joy is such a powerful thing. We as Christians defy our emotions and we praise God for all things. As Christians, we take what God gives us. Good and bad. And we praise Him for all of it.

This doesn’t mean we cannot grieve. This doesn’t mean we cannot be sad. But it does mean that we don’t have to be sad. We don’t have to be grieved. We have a hope. We have an eternity with the Lord in heaven. This life and all its problems may seem huge now, but in the end it will be the blink of an eye. It will all be over before we even realize it.

A big part of joy is trust. We must trust in God to provide and deliver what we need.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.”

Paul had the joy of the Lord. He had learned to take what life threw at him and make the best of it. More so, to be content.  But how is that possible? How can we be happy and praise God when our best friends move away? When our loved ones die? When we lose our jobs, when we are gossiped about and persecuted, how can we be happy? How can we praise God and thank Him for that?

I think we find our answer in James 1:2-3. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

Trials. Trials help us grow. They test us and force us to learn. They shape us and mold us, and if we take it the right way, they make us into better and braver people. They help us connect with others in a way that nothing else can. Who can connect to someone who has suffered the loss of a child better than someone who has gone through that same trial?

I will conclude with this.

When hard times come your way and the world seems to have been flipped on its head, you can still  have  joy.

How?

Because we as Christians know that God is testing us. We are going through this for a reason. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and he will direct your paths.”

God has a plan for you, and if you trust in Him, you just might discover the blessings hidden in the hardships.



Thank you for reading! Next week I’ll try to have part four of the To Create a World series up. Be sure to bop in and check it out!

Do you have joy? Do you struggle with it? How would you define joy? Any additional thoughts? Please share in the comments! (verses and quotes on joy are welcome too!)

<3

Because of Laze

6:00 AM

Due to endless amounts of procrastination and laziness my hectic week, I have not gotten the post I wanted up in time. So here, have a writer quote.


"Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell." -Charles de Lint


Everyone is unique and special and we all have our own stories to tell. Never think you can't do anything unique or special - your very self is unique and special!


I am determined to have a regular post up next week, so drop by again then!


NOTE: Today is Katie's birthday so take a moment to drop by A Writer's Faith and shower her with cake and love! She is an amazing human and you should totally follow her blog (if you're not already). She is also my long lost sister, so there's that. XP


God bless! <3

World Building

To Create a World: Part 3: Wildlife

8:00 AM



I’m getting back on schedule. Be proud of me.
 
(And no, I am not about to spend an entire post talking about animals, though I certainly could ...)


Welcome to part 3 of my To Create a World blog post series! If you missed the first two posts, you can read the first one here (on mapmaking) and the second one here (on history).



 
Part 3: Wildlife




Since we’re building from the ground up here, it only seems natural that we go into what all lives on this mass of earth, starting with wildlife.


NOTE: When I say wildlife, I do not mean just animals. I am talking about everything that lives. Everything. (Well, everything except for humans, because that will need its own separate post.) Animals are a big part of wildlife, yes, but we also have plant life to consider. And there are loooots of plants (and animals) here on earth. So should there be in your world.

 
Now I'm just going to clear this up right away. You do not need to spend forever coming up with wildlife. In the grand scheme of your story, it's one of the most least important things about your world (I think, anyway).

 
It might not be majorly important, but it is good to have an idea of what all lives on your world. This is helping build culture, remember. Everything we've done so far has been preparing us for my next (probably massive) post on the People.
 
 I'm going to get right to it, starting with ...



Step #1: Animals



This is the most fun one, right? I mean, who doesn't love a fuzzy little house pet? Or a giant, man eating lizard?


Animals are important because they add to culture.


(If you are at a loss on how to create a creature, check out Jill Williamson's book Storyworld First. It is a wealth of questions on world building that get the gears turning in your head, and she has a whole chapter dedicated to animal creation. It's incredible. Jill is my world building idol.)


But you don't have to create anything, if you don't want to. You can snag a country full of animals from our world. You can use extinct creatures (dinosaurs, anyone?). You can use creatures from myths and legends.


Look at your map. What exactly does your terrain look like? Do you have lots of jungles? Forests? Fields? Deserts? Farmland? Iceland?


Research what kinds of animals live in these kind of places. (Research is important, guys. Stan agrees, so it's true.)


I'm going to do three for you. First, I'm going to use an extinct creature that once lived in China (since this is the basis of inspiration for my story world).


*a few minutes later* Oh look what I found on the vast web.

Picture found here: http://imgur.com/gallery/wxc8z2t
Like, waht even? Isn't this beautiful? Forget extinct animals (i wasn't having much luck finding one, anyway), I'm using this!


See, I could easily name this. I'll use sort of the same tactic I used to name places. I looked up 'dragon' and 'shoot' in Chinese and I'll call it a Qiu-Fa Cobra. I'd say it lives in a jungle-like terrain, so I'll stick it on one of my little islands. Say it can shoot scales (hence the name). That would be cool, right? Like, what if it could rear back and shoot all of them off at once? And then it would go into a deep sleep/short hibernation for a week while its protection grew back.


I'm going to go ahead and show you how this can be used in culture. Say the people on this island love hunting the Qui-Fa. It's a huge sport. They can grow to be up to twenty feet long, for crying out loud! A huge team will venture out into the jungle, wearing special clothes that protect them from its shooting scales. They all swarm on the creature and get it to shoot all its scales, and then they kill it (it could even be a rite of passage for a boy coming of age). They bring it back to their village and have a big feast, where the hunters tell the story of how they caught and killed it to the other villagers. There's lots of dancing and singing and it's a big deal.


See how this builds culture so easily? Like, it's so easy. If you're stuck trying to think of interesting culture, just make or choose an animal and let your creativity run wild.


NOTE: Take care not to directly copy any ideas you see on the web. Someone else put work and effort into that, remember. But pictures like the one above are great for inspiration!  


Alright, that was my first creature. For creature number two, I'm just going to take a panda. Cute panda. Pandas are adorable. They are endangered in China and fiercely protected.

Come on, how cute are these guys?
Picture found here: http://www.allaboutwildlife.com/endangered-species/endangered-animals-saved-from-extinction/6332

So, let's say these animals dwell in the mountain ranges of my land. (oh darn, i can't remember my country's name. UGH. WHERE IS MY MAP?)


(Oops. I didn't name my mountains. UGH.)


Ehem. I know i have no idea what I'm doing.


Okay, these pandas live in the mountains. I could even give them magical properties, so the people of Khamir (that's the name) are afraid to hunt them, despite the temptation of their beautiful, soft skins. Or I could make them tie into one of the religions so that some people worship them, and other people hunt them just to get under the religious peoples' skins. Maybe the people of Tare (the itty bitty country of natives that lies between Khamir and Chenpei) worship the pandas of the mountain range that snakes through their little country, but the people of Khamir hunt them, which would add CONFLICT MWAHAHAHA.


Ehem.


Point being another NOTE: The possibilities are endless.


And for my third creature, I'll use something from myth and legend. Which - DRAGONS GUYS. DRAGONS. Dragons come up a lot in Chinese myths (I don't actually know why). So it only makes sense that they would make it to Khamir. (this is getting long and I already sense I am losing you, so I will hurry along.)


NOTE: When you use creatures from myths/legends, you can use them how they are, but it's fun to add your own spin on them. Take dragons, for example. They're always big, scary, fire breathing things, right? Well, what if most of them are really the size of an average household cat? What if they breathe water rather than fire, making them unable to leave the sea for very long? Have fun with it. Get creative.

ANOTHER NOTE (I'm trying to move on, but my thoughts are everywhere today): Focus on where your story takes place primarily. That's the most important (obviously). You don't want to spend hours on a creature and then realize it wouldn't even live in the city/country that your book takes place in because the terrain is all wrong.


WOW THAT WAS LONG.


Oops. XP


If I haven't lost you yet, I'm moving on now. I promise.



Step #2: Plants


Animals is probably the biggest (and the most interesting) one, so this will be short.


Plants can be important for descriptions especially. They also play a key factor in medicines, fragrances, and diet (actually, animals play a role in diet too, but you can create lots of cool veggies if you want). Rice is big in China, so I will probably make it a common meal in at least one of my provinces (I'm leaning towards Khamir). Plants are important when you're considering your terrain, too.


In my WIP, plants are a BIG DEAL for many reasons, the main one being that the people of the kingdom my story takes place in made a treaty of peace with the Faeries that had claimed the land first. The Faeries let them live there, but only if they vowed to respect all life and to give up hunting animals for sport and even for food. In return, the Faeries promised to teach them the secrets of the earth, show them new plants and herbs, and nurture their gardens, as well as keep the cold at bay, enchanting it to come only one month out of the year.


I know, I know. I'm a genius.


So, whether they play a big role or not, you should know what kind of plants are at least going to be around your character. Maybe they're traveling and they find some bush of berries. Or they need to get water, but the only available water is from a special flower that sucks up rain water and stores it in its massive petals which make the water taste sweet.


Plants are cool, and they can also help your characters survive. For food, and for medicine.



Step #3: How it Impacts Culture


The next post is going to be huge, so I thought I'd get a head start here.


If you haven't already gotten an idea of how much a single plant or animal can impact your story, here's a scenario.


There is a weed. A weed that only grows in the heart of the mountains, in the deepest most nourishing darkness of their vast caves. A steam rises from the underground rivers, making the caves stiflingly hot and unable to stay in for very long.


Why is this weed special? Well, what if your MC's little brother gets very, very sick? And the only known cure to this rare illness is that weed. That weed that grows in these caves.


BOOM. Story idea.


But what if the problem was even worse? What if there was an endangered mole-rat creature that lived in the caves. And the people that lived in the mountains were very religious, and believed that the mole-rat things were sacred and to be protected with their very lives.


And the endangered mole-rat things are so endangered ... because they only eat a precious few things. One of which being that weed that grows in the caves where they live.


If you're looking for a story idea, or looking to up the conflict of one you already have, adding just a touch of culture, a little critter or plant, can do wonders for you.


I hope you enjoyed this post! I might have rambled a bit, but ah well. Next week is the post I am most excited about! Tune in for Part 4: The People!


*cackles*


Do you like to create creatures? Plants? Does your story feature any odd wildlife? Please share in the comments! <3

Writing

How to Vanquish the Fearful Writer (like a boss)

8:00 AM

 
I know I know, I'm supposed to be talking about world building. Well, I can do what I want.
 
I felt really called to write this, so just ... get over it. XP
 
Right. On with the post.
 
(because everyone just needs some Aragorn every now and then)



“What are you doing?”


“No one will ever like this.”


“What are you thinking?”


“This is so stupid.”


“You’ll never amount to anything.”


“Just stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself.”


“This is terrible. This is absolutely terrible. I can’t believe you thought you could do this.”




Sound familiar?


Yes? Ah. Sad, but true.


And do you know what it is?


‘Tis the voice of the fearful writer.



It lives in each of us, dwelling in the dark corners and shadows of our minds. It haunts us every time we sit down to write. It whispers in our ears when we try to send out our work to others, when we want to share what we’ve slaved so long over. It fills our minds with doubts and insecurities and takes away our hope and confidence. It tells us that we will never be good enough. That we should just stop now to save ourselves the pain.
 
Why should we try, anyway? What good will it do? The voice is right, anyway. Isn’t it? We can’t change anything. We can’t inspire anyone. We can’t–


*sits up* *glares* Go on. Get out. GO! *boots sneaky little man out of brain and out into the big bad world to fend for himself*


*rubs hands together and comes to sit back down*

 
That’s better.


What was that?


Oh. That was Fear. He’s gone now. It’s just you and me (and Stan) and we are going to have a nice chat about Fear while he’s gone.


You see, Fear is quite a terrible little beasty. He seems so big and threatening. He looms over us all. Sure, he has more influence over some of us than others, but nonetheless, he is there in each of us. And, if you are not prepared, he will overtake you.


But we tend to give fear a little too much credit. He seems so big and scary. But you know what? Fear is not really as big and powerful as he seems. You know what fear actually looks like? Take a look.

Oh yeah. So scary.
*hear the sarcasm dripping from my voice*

You see the doubt in his eyes? You see the terror and uncertainty? He is just as uncertain and insecure as he's making you. Look at him. Why should you listen to, much less believe, a word of what he has to say?


Fear is just another emotion. And it can be conquered.


“But howwwwww?” you might whine. “How do I boot out the fear?”


Here are some things you need to remember.

 


#1: Everyone has to start somewhere.


You are not going to get it right the first time.


I repeat.


You are not going to get it right the first time.


No one does. It is impossible. You cannot write a perfect novel in one go. You have to rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Over and over and over again.


When you look at your messy manuscript and fear starts to tug at you, telling you your writing is terrible and you’ll never amount to anything, remind yourself that this is just the beginning. Your writing will keep getting better, as long as you keep at it and push past the doubts and fears.

 

 

#2: People (at least, most people) are not out to find everything wrong with your work and shove it in your face.


The world doesn’t revolve around you.


What people who don't like your work, who don't care for what you have to say, throw at you doesn't really matter. The world doesn't revolve around them, either. If you put your work out there, people aren't going to fly at it with pickaxes and tear it to shreds. And if they do, that's just one (or maybe more) voice among thousands. Why should that make a difference to you? Why should that stop you? It isn't going to change anything. (well, it might change a bit, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here.)


So ... why are you so afraid?


And, more importantly …


What exactly are you so afraid of?


What is there to scare you, really? What’s the worst that can happen? Someone writes a bad review? Gives a harsh critique? Someone says, “This sucks!”?  Sure, the words sting, but why should they make any difference? They are just one little person in a very big world. Just like you. The fact that they read what you wrote and cared enough to write something about it shows that, in a small way, you win.


Now I know, there are things to really be afraid of. Like everyone thinking you’re stupid for attempting something like this, people reading it and having their suspicions that you are stark raving mad confirmed … But that is the point when you need to take a deep breath and just …  

 
 

#3: Let it go.


This is such a big part of writing. If you can't learn to let things like this go, you might be in the wrong profession.

 
I once witnessed a big argument over one little negative review. Tons of people got involved, and the author was replying to all their comments, trying to defend his work.

 
And do you know what I remember from that?

 
That I never want to be that stupid.


(No, I'm serious. That's all I got from witnessing this massive arguement.)

 
That's it. I don't remember what was said to cause such an uproar from the author. I just remembered how ridiculously he acted and how it did absolutely nothing.

 
If you don't let it go, if you don't accept the fact that some people are jerks and may not like your writing, then you will have a miserable career. If you try to defend yourself like that, you'll just embarrass yourself further and, quite possibly, ruin your chances at being a successful author. 

 
When you publish something, it's out of your hands. You've given it to the world. It's not your responsibility to defend criticism towards it.  (You should totally read this post about how you are not your art's lawyer. It's really amazing, especially if you struggle with letting your work go.)

 
You don't owe your readers anything. Yes, it's fun to connect with them. Do that. But if someone criticizes your work, you don't need to defend it. What you need to do is let it go.


 

#4: Everyone has fear. Everyone.


Let me tell you a little secret.


Every time I publish a blog post, you know what happens?


My heart jumps into my throat. My hands falter, hovering over the mouse, eyes fixed on that little orange ‘publish’ box, and I think, “What am I doing? No one is going to read this. No one is going to care. Why would they, anyway?


Fear does absolutely nothing for you. With a lot of practice, I have learned to master that fear (to an extent). I let it flicker for just a moment before saying, “Nah man,” and hitting that publish button.

And to be honest with you, fear has been keeping me back a lot lately. Fear that I can't be good enough. That my book will never be an amazing masterpiece.

But what has that done for me?


I've been stuck for over a month and have accomplished next to nothing. All that fear did was hold me back, and kept the fear truth.

I'm not going to write a good book. Not if I don't write.

 
Sometimes, you just have to smack Fear in the face. It doesn't matter what you feel. If you've made the decision that this matters to you, you can't let emotions -- things that are constantly changing with circumstance -- determine whether or not you continue.

 
And you also have to recognize the fact that ...

 
 

#5: The whispers of fear are sometimes right.


“What? I thought you were supposed to be encouraging me!”


Oh ye of little faith. Hang in there.


Fear will use what he can to hurt us (can't you tell? I mean, look at that little face. So evil, right?). And often, what hurts us most, what makes us the most vulnerable to attack, are the ugly little truths.

 
You see, though some of the things fear tells us may be true, that doesn't mean we can't change them. We have that power. If we learn to push past our fear and buckle down and work instead of fret, then our writing will be so much better for it.

 
Plus, you know. You'll actually get stuff done. Instead of just cowering and whimpering which will not make a difference at all.


Last, and maybe most importantly …




#6: Remember why you are doing this in the first place.


This is really important.
 
 
Especially if the fear is something you can't shake.


You’ve read all these points. Yet you are still afraid. You see my stunningly brilliant logic of why you shouldn't have fear, but you do.


So if you cannot shake this fear, (which often times you can't - it is a temperamental emotion, after all) you must learn to rise above and conquer it.


(Or if I want to stick with my title, vanquish it.)


Why are you really doing this writing thing, anyway?


You need to write for you. This is something that you love to do. If everyone hates it, if no one appreciates your words, you have to be able to keep writing anyway because this is what you love and this is what you want to do. What other people say or do or think can’t change that.
 
 
Your writing shouldn't depend on what others say. You are writing because you want to write. And in the end, that's all that matters.
 
 
Would you rather get a couple of mean reviews on your work, or risk the chance of never putting yourself out there, and possibly inspiring someone in a way you never imagined?
 
 
Without risk, there is no change.
 
 
Please take this to heart. Your writing is beautiful, and so are you. Don't let something as silly and insignificant as fear keep you from sharing your work and, quite possibly, changing lives.
 
 
So write on, my friends! Kick fear in the butt. I mean, come on. Look at him run!


That's right. You better run. I'm coming for you.

Don't let fear win.


Vanquish him!


Have you had problems sharing your work because of fear? Is there anything you have learned about conquering it? Please share in the comments!

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