Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

A book recommended by a librarian:The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This was given to me ages ago by a mate who lives in America. It took me way too long to read it, however it was right up my alley. English jokes, puns and a huge dog.

A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: One Day (David Nicholls)

It had Anne Hathaway in the movie, although I never saw it, so I bought the book a while back. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by the ending- you’ve just made your way through a huge story and gotten attached to everyone.

A book of letters: The Documents In The Case (Dorothy Sayers)

Utterly predictable outcome. I don’t know if my mind is just trained by the brilliant works of Agatha Christie, or if it’s really difficult to write a book that is just made up of letters, but I was frustrated to know that whodunnit was exactly who I thought had. Apparently this author is a good crime writer, so I’ll have to investigate further.

An audiobook: What Keeps You Up At Night (Pete Wilson)

My dad bought this for me because I was having trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really address insomnia but rather a wider scope of where our fears come from and how to overcome them by trusting God in all situations. Still enjoyed, however I dislike audiobooks in general because of the gadget struggle [he had an epic accent though.]

A book by a person of colour: Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Recommended by Emma Watson, who drops good books for people to find in subways, I thought it would be well worth my time. What I didn’t know was that it is a comic strip, hand drawn by the author about her life as an immigrant. It was one of the most interesting formats of autobiography I’ve ever read.

A book with one of the four seasons in the title: Europe in Autumn. (David Hutchison)

I like to consider myself an intelligent person, or at least an adequate reader. However, I ended this book still with no idea what was going on. Firstly, it’s about a spy. Secondly, it’s apparently science fiction which I completely missed. Thirdly, it’s set in various parts of Europe so, although he’s apparently an American author, I still got to struggle to pronounce words like Wesoly Ptek [two such consonants together?!] I really disliked it if only that it was almost impossible to follow.

A book that is a story within a story: Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Set in Australia, it’s just about an event that happens between two families and what that sparks, how they interact with eachother afterwards. It was a good portrayal of Australian suburban life, but a bit slow.

A book with multiple authors: Closed Casket (Sophie Hannah// Agatha Christie)

It is a pet peeve of mine when people think they can eminate the writing of a famous author, otherwise known as fan fiction. It was written adequately and the mystery was there but it was three times as long as a classic Christie and I constantly felt she was trying too hard to weave the classic elements in.

An espionage thriller: The 7 Dials Mystery (Agatha Christie)

An actual Christie, it was pretty good. A bit hard to follow but really did have all the perfect elements of surprise, intrigue and a touch of romance.

A book with a cat on the cover: The Complete “Chi’s Sweet Home” (Konami Kanata)

I was panicking to my uni bible study group that I hadn’t found a book for this cat-egory and a friend brought me a book her sister owns- I haven’t read a manga since early high school, so this was quite a throw back. It was an adorable story about a stray kitten getting adopted by a young boy and his parents. Simple, cute.

A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

I can see why J.K. Rowling wouldn’t want this book to crop up on Google searches made by her younger fans. A murder mystery with all the gory bits thrown in, it was written with the detail and eloquence her other works have but a hard dash of reality. I’m always curious as to why females choose male names to write under- I found myself searching for female touches, which were in the detail of the clothes and the qualities of the characters, as well the relationships they had with each other and their significant others. My only complaint is that, while the murderer was ultimately someone you wouldn’t have expected, he had no reason to do what he did [a bit hard to explain without giving it away, but if you’ve read it, let me know if you understand].

A bestseller from a genre you don’t usually read: Cell (Stephen King)

There’s a very good reason I never read this horror, and especially avoid Stephen King. I could stomach “Under the Dome” out of curiosity [after the show was a complete flop] but although I flew through this book, it gave me nightmares. For anyone who knows me well, I’ll put it as such: in the first chapter, a man walking his dog rips its ear off with his teeth.

A book by or about a person who has a disability: Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

I actually read this book as part of a uni project- it’s one of the greatest perks of studying education, getting to read really good books. I was touched by it, and related to some of the parts having a mother who was bullied at school for her disability. I have to admit, I thought it would be written with a sense of bitterness or naïveté but it avoided both with grace, resulting in a great read.

A book involving travel: Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Recommended by some friends of mine, this book has everything I hate about young adult fiction. Predictable romance plot line, tortured mysterious boy with dark past, stupid girl who’s into the arts [in this case cinema] and moves to another country resenting her parents and not bothering to learn anything about the culture.

A book with a subtitle: Jesus Is [Find a New Way To Be Human] (Judah Smith)

This was such a good simple round up of Christianity. I gave it to a Muslim co-worker and she actually read it through. Addressing people’s assumptions of Jesus, which were submitted on a website over a couple of years, I think it’s a good introduction for youth or people who really are wondering who Christ was and what he means for the individual.

A book that’s published in 2017: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (Kathleen Rooney)

This I think, was the best novel I read this year. I laughed and I cried and I’m giving it to my Nan. To put it simply, I have a famous impatience with the elderly, and so to read a novel from the perspective of one and fall in love with her was something I wasn’t expecting.

A book involving a mythical creature: The Call (Peadar O’Guilin)

Another book with a disabled protagonist- the same one as my mum this time, polio- the storyline was sort of corny but the premise was pretty fresh and clever. I think it’s worth a read for young adults, particularly if you enjoyed the Hunger Games or Divergent, etc. What made it unique from those was its inclusion of a class of kids who haven’t been around in our mainstream books before, certainly not as heroes.

A book you’ve read before that’s never failed to make you smile: Betram’s Hotel (Agatha Christie)

An Agatha Christie again, yea. It was short and simple and smart.

A book about food: The Little Book of Hygge [The Danish Way to LIve Well] (Meir Wilkins)

My friend gave me a book for Christmas about the Danish philosophy of being happy. My takeaways were to burn more candles, eat more comfortable food and try mulled things (I did).

A book with career advice: Almost Adulting (Arden Rose)

I bought a book by a Youtuber and, perhaps predictably, regretted it. It was way too personal for me, in the weirdest ways and the advice really jarred me. This isn’t to say other people won’t enjoy it but for me it was definitely a mistake.

A book from a nonhuman perspective: A Dog’s Purpose (W.Bruce Cameron)

First up, yes I wept at the end of every part. Moving on, a huge commendation to the movie for sticking almost exclusively to the storyline. The book was of such brilliant writing and storyline that I think to have diverged from it would have been a stupid injustice. It was great.

A steampunk novel: Android Karenina (Leo Tolstoy// Ben Winters)

I got through Year 10 English by reading “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. I was so proud to discuss Russian literature with friends by referring exclusively to a book where the protagonist was a robot. There is really no downside to reading these books.

A book with a red spine:The Other Hand (Chris Cleave)

The only book I’ve ever read whose blurb said it wouldn’t tell me anything and I should just read it. My advice to you is the same. I wasn’t disappointed and did not expect about half of what happened.

A book set in the wilderness: Wildwood (Colin Meloy)

Apart from being a good story, it would make a brilliant gift, illustrated with hand painted watercolours of what is happening in the story. Really good, although slightly nostalgic of stories such as Hans Christen Anderson’s “Snow Queen”.

A book you loved as a child: Airy Fairy, Magic Mix-up! (Margaret Ryan)

This was given to me by a girl who was in my dad’s scripture class when I was really young and still bears her inscription on the inside. It was definitely enjoyable as a child, whereas as an adult I can’t help but question how Scary Fairy could have become anything other than an awful, bullying brat.

A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: Leaving Time (Jodi Piccoult)

Apart from being a great exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter, and including elephants, this book had the greatest plot twist I’ve ever read. I did not see it coming, and I had to sit there for a good ten minutes afterwards processing. Ignore whatever preconceptions you have of Jodi Piccoult [if, indeed, you have any] and go and buy it. Underrated as it is, I found my copy for $2.

A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Okay, so this is another book I feel it’s not fair to slam on the premise of it’s predictability. It’s a teen read, and just had so many stereotypical roles to fill (she’s from the wrong side of the tracks and a little odd, he’s struggling with the cultural traditions of being half Asian, breaking free etc.) I would like to say it lead me to read more of Rainbow Rowell and I really enjoyed those.

A novel set during wartime:And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

In case you have read this and would like to complain it’s not set on a battlefield, I’m using a little bit of artistic license. It was published during the war and has a General in it.

As for the book, I think it’s possibly her greatest, and I have read around three quarters of everything she’s written, including the play adaption of this very novel. I was still surprised when I got to the end.

A book with an unreliable narrator: We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

This is another book that had an intriguing blurb. Really enjoyed it and wasn’t really expecting what happened. The writing frustrated me- I can’t stand narrators or protagonists who are spoiled and feeling sorry for themselves. On one hand, it turns out she’s not really like that. On the other hand, you suffer 90% of the story believing she is, so you’re still left with the feeling she needed a good slap around the head.

A book with pictures: A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

A good read and a great reflection of grief, I think especially for younger kids. Another book I read for uni and so I really had to pick it apart and delve deeply into it, but it really is rich enough that you can just float along to where it intends you to be.

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you: Death Comes As the End. (Agatha Christie)

A really weird idea by Christie to set a novel in ancient Egypt. I figure it wasn’t super historically accurate, and was really stretched to be one of her usual mysteries, but props to her for exploring a world she was interested in and trying to write about it. Perhaps my least favourite book she’s written but definitely not my least favourite book on this list.

A book about an interesting woman: Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Now here’s a Rowell book I appreciated. This was really interesting and had unexpected characters in it, who I came to really love. Good, easy read.

A book set in two different time periods: The Perfectionists (Sara Shepherd)

I was a big fan of “Pretty Little Liars” for it’s duration of 7 years, so I thought I’d read something by it’s author. Regrets. Very predictable, kind of gross (I’m pretty touchy about when male teachers are portrayed as creeps seeing as true are about two guys in my education course) and wasn’t resolved- frustratingly, it was meant to be part of a series that she only got around to writing two of, so I will never even know what was meant to happen. Stay away.

A book with a month or day of the week in the title: A Week Without Tuesday (Angelica Banks)

Two initial surprises: Tuesday is the name of the female protagonist [wrestled with whether I could include it in my challenge, but couldn’t find any other books I hadn’t read that were within my local libraries with such a specific requirement], and it’s smack bang in the middle of what seems a very complicated series of children’s books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and could follow it. Don’t think I’ll be searching out the other books though.

A book set in a hotel: Hickory Dickory Dock (Agatha Christie)

Cheated slightly, as it’s set in a hostel. And yea, it’s another Christie. It was a good idea, but set on the sad and incorrect premise that someone will be mentally if if their parents were. I guess that’s the hardest part of reading older novels, is they don’t fit my modern “political correctness”. (If you think you’ll struggle with this, stay away from “And Then There Were None”.)

A book written by someone you admire:Death In the Clouds (Agatha Christie)

SHE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS IN A MALE DOMINATED FIELD AND SUCCESSFUL DURING A PATRIARCHAL PERIOD OF HISTORY!!! You know, I didn’t even try and fit all of the Christie’s I read this year on the list. Anyway, it was a good book which was pretty cleverly written. There was a little bit of dodginess in the solution, but sure. I’ll take it.

A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Case For Christ (Lee Strobel)

A pretty chunky book, but definitely up my alley. Full of facts and figures and history- I keep recommending it to people and if you have a friend who is caught up on the science of the reality of Christ- the likelihood of the resurrection, the authenticity of the gospels- I would recommend getting them this. Plus, each expert he talks to, he also asks about their personal conviction about their faith. He himself was an atheist who turned to Christianity- even if you’re a Christian already, there is no reason to not get to know more about what you profess to believe.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Flipping flapjacks, this was a children’s book, and was adapted to film by Disney. Set around Halloween, I was on the edge of my seat. Scary.

The first book in a series you haven’t read before: Curious Minds (Janet Evanovich// Pheof Sutton)

Although their names are corny [Knight and Moon], the book was really clever and easy to read. Different from the mysteries I usually read in that it was set in modern times, the protagonists were I’d want to be friends with and the way people related with eachother was very different to 1940s Britain; very similar in that it was surprising and kept me thinking. [Speaking of interesting names, try saying hers five times fast.]

A book you bought on a trip: The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

Picked it up at a book stall in Katoomba, although weirdly it’s set in the area where I live. Read it in a day. Loved it. Written by an Australian, it’s funny and sweet. A quirky romance, something a little different.

ADVANCED

A book recommended by an author you love: Travels With My Aunt (Grahame Green)

Started this journey by reading the wrong “Invisible Man” [one is a quirky story written about one hundred years ago about a literal invisible man. One is a commentary on racism in America, written in the 50’s.] Then, frustrated, I googled Christie’s favourite author and read some of him. It was really weird to think she had probably read what I was reading almost a century ago, but the book was really enjoyable. It was sort of like sitting down to dinner with a really crazy family around a bottle of wine and hearing their stories.

A bestseller from 2016: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Written by a doctor who had terminal cancer. I didn’t really know what to expect- it was sort of a collection of his philosophy and what he found out on his journey, as well as his medical knowledge and personal story. This is non fiction, so prepare your heart to have to deal with a really intimate look into a dying man’s world. However, it’s ultimately worth it I think.

A book with a family member term in the title: Just Another Manic Mum Day (Mink Elliott)

Regrets. So many regrets. Definitely my least favourite book on this list that I finished.

Written by a Brit who moves to Australia, it’s already cringe worthy- moves to Bondi, everyone’s attractive, lives on Didgeridoo Road and has a friend who’s a mystic at the markets on Sunday. Let’s display every stereotype Australia hides in their closet, and whip out “Good on you mum” [from the Tip Top bread ad]. Then she’s middle aged and pregnant, so let’s whip out all the stereotypes middle aged mums don’t talk about- weight gain, sex life, kids in cafes, only having other mums as friends. I just wanted it to stop.

A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Elephants Can Remember (Agatha Christie)

In the television adaption of this, Zoe Wanamaker plays Ariadne Oliver and it is just perfect. [This probably seems really random, it’s just me being happy at so many of my favourite things coming together.] I enjoyed having a clever woman come to the forefront and add a bit of humour to what are usually stoic novels. This was a good read, and I actually spent about two weeks reading it out loud to someone over the phone so it has some funny memories attached.

A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Island (Armin Greder)

After I’d read this for one class at uni it came up in another class where the lecturer pointed out that not all picture books are for kids. This is definitely one of them. I would probably recommend it for senior high school students if anyone school aged. Really harrowing and gripping, on one hand it’s just pictures. On the other hand, a picture can tell a thousand words.

A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (Italo Calvino)

So, antinovels are a thing. And the worst part is, I didn’t even know this book would fit the category when I read it so that was really trippy. It’s like being on one of those things at the theme park where they lock you in and it turns you in heaps of different directions really fast- you take a second to grip on and you finally think you understand what you’re seeing, right in front of you, before it’s torn away and you have to get used to something completely different. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is probably a good book but make sure you’ve got distraction free time on your hands or you’ll have to reread a page a couple of times [this happened to me on the bus].

A book with an eccentric character: The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)

Nowhere near as good as the first book, and it was actually kind of sad. The first novel was an easy and romantic read, and perhaps he was criticised for that because sure, this one was more realistic. But damn, we don’t always want to read to recognise reality, sometimes we need to read to escape it. Still has a happy ending, it’s just tough getting there.

A book that’s more than 800 pages: The Bible (multiple authors)

This was a really rewarding challenge for me. I followed a plan, and did it with a friend. I think it was good, as last year I had so much Christianity pumped into my week that it taught me if I want to find God, I need to seek him.

If you are not a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible before you challenge it or you don’t really know what you’re challenging. If you are a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible to know what you’re defending and proclaiming to believe. It is not easy, and there will be a lot of soul searching [and internet searching] either way.

A book you got from a used book sale:Landline (Rainbow Rowell)

I picked this book up from Vinnies on my way to watching my friend perform in a pole dancing exhibition- thinking about all the books on this list, I realise what a crazy year it’s been. The book was really funny and it wasn’t easy to guess the next move, although it still had a happy ending. I was really pleased with this book.

A book that’s been mentioned in another book: The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie)

Christie has been mentioned in two books I’ve read, so I took the liberty of choosing one to read myself. This plot was kind of scraping the barrel, but still enjoyable.

A book about a difficult topic: I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited as soon as I saw how beautiful the cover was. Thank you to that friend, because I think that was one of the best stories I read this year. It covers a couple of difficult topics, but with a kindness and carefulness that doesn’t seem like the author is being brash. Rather, I felt like I was being led through the story by someone gently holding my hand and showing me all of these beautiful and precious things.

A book based on mythology: The Hobbit

If the guy who finally introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien reads my blog, thanks. I have been avoiding him for many years [perhaps due to the rivalry between Harry Potter fans and the Lord of The Rings Club]. It was really sweet and mystical. I did try starting the LOTR but it got a bit too serious. I missed my frolicking hobbits.

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What I Learned From Reading The Entire Bible

I was challenged to read the entire Bible last year. It sort of got away from me, and I was disappointed at the end of the year that I hadn’t managed to keep my mind focused enough. However, this year from the first Monday to today [because I’ll be busy tomorrow and I didn’t want to stuff up] I kept to my plan, I caught up when I fell behind and I finished reading the entire Bible.

Now, keep in mind that while I looked up commentaries and asked wise people when I didn’t understand things as well as regularly watched “The Bible Project” videos on YouTube [highly recommend] I don’t claim to know it all or have had any grand revelations. However, I have come away with a thing or two.

I went to Hillsong for a long time. If you have never heard of them, I think the safest thing to say is they love love. They preach it every week, and I basked in it for so long, safely shying away from an image of a God who would judge and wreak havoc on humanity from time to time. However, fear is often based in a misunderstanding and so, when confronted by atheists and Christians and Muslims and everything in between about the very clear passages about it, I didn’t know what to say. And, if you know anything about me, I hate not knowing what to say.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect loves drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Now I go to an Anglican Church. Last year I did a gap year with a bunch of Anglicans. And call it close to culture shock to hear as much as I did about repentance, and supplication and fearing the Lord my God. We literally just sit in silence sometimes and say sorry. When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes and look at my watch. I think also this anger- this arrogance- was part of not seeing the full picture.

“You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.

“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’

“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.” -Malachi 2:17

Perhaps the best comparison is hanging out with your parents. You think you know them really well, but as you sit and actually listen, they tell you crazy stories about themselves [my dad once got on a bus to Perth to meet a pen pal who wasn’t at home in the end], and they give you advice you tend to ignore until it’s too late and you’re heartbroken, and they say things you really weren’t expecting and maybe if they didn’t know you as well as they did it would be offensive [oftentimes, it still stings and you need to stomp off and think about it for a bit].

“My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgement and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:21-24

Hanging out with the Bible was not easy. It really does say crazy things sometimes. And there are all these sentences you’ve heard a thousand times but never seen what came before or afterwards. There are so many things people use out of context! What really hit me in the guts were the stories and proverbs I’ve heard a billion times and never really thought about before.

It won’t be much of a surprise to some people, but I realised to how much of an extent Jesus was a great guy. You have this huge build up of the Old Testament towards this king, this prophet and preacher and shepherd and stronghold, and salvation and conquerer and then you get hit with this man who gravitates towards the sick, outcasts and kids. I can almost feel the overwhelming anticlimax, especially as you get to know the Israelites and all they’ve gone through to get to this man. We all knew he’d have to be born as a baby, but it just does something to you as you travel these wonders and songs about an amazing God, who again and again refuses to be contained, and then submits himself to that as a part of a master plan which ends in death at the hands of those he created. Thank God it concludes not with death but with triumph [literally].

[#christianjokes]

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature [or, in the form of] God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled himself

Buy becoming obedient to death-

Even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8

You need the Old Testament to bring colour to the rest of the story, add depth and dimensions and bring out aspects you couldn’t even see before, whereas for so long I was afraid of it.

Ultimately I think my perspective of God became a lot clearer. I have been warned to steer clear of trying to fit him into my little human box, but I can see this clear pattern that pastors with degrees and wisdom have been trying to drill into my brain since I accepted Christ.

He just wants people to love him, and he loves them.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

All of the rest of the stuff fits so clearly into that. Inextricably comes how we behave towards others.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

The consequences of rebellion are often highlighted by non-Christians; the fire and brimstone, etc. But it is just so significantly highlighted that every time there is punishment there were so many signs and warnings to turn back to God. The laws are so the people can love God and eachother properly, which is again demonstrated in the Old Testament where God says to the religious people he despises their religious festivals because their hearts are in the wrong place [Amos 5:21]. Jesus goes on to call them whitewashed tombs, who are so right on the outside but so dead on the inside [Matthew 23:27].

It was sometimes really difficult to look past what was happening to and with God’s people and the people around them, but this message of hope, this call to love and God’s offer of blessing was always open. It was there from the very first book, where he called them to be rulers in his image, and they screwed up [Genesis 2-3]. Then he blesses and makes covenants and keeps doing this until the very last book [Revelation 1:6]. It is moments like that when I realised my view was all too small.

In conclusion, I think you should read the Bible whoever you are. We love claiming we know what it’s all about- it’s a common problem in these “Christian” countries, surrounded by religions that claim they have taken bits of the same book. I’d warn you against making a cake from a recipe you thought you knew or with just a few ingredients you chose. If you want to disagree with it, read it cover to cover. If you claim to agree with it, read it cover to cover.

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 3:15-16

Be fairly warned though, it might take you a year.

Comfortable

It’s been about three days since I got back from a Christian training camp in Canberra, and I haven’t written about it. Partially I think that lies in not knowing what to say, despite the usual burning desire to get something reflective out of it. Partially it might be in being afraid to say it. To acknowledge that it wasn’t what I wanted and I don’t really know why.

To be honest, this all really starts from when I was asked whether I wanted to go and I said no. By some cosmic joke, someone paid for me to go anyway.

And because I just can’t- make of that what you may- I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm I wanted, or the right response when people asked me how I was feeling. So much of life involves putting on a mask, it would seem, of being happy and perky because it’s expected- my work with kids, making friends at uni and trying to be grateful for an opportunity to go and learn and be stretched in God’s work. I just couldn’t be happy. That, ironically, makes me sad.

On one hand, I want the people around me to know that when I smile it was because I am genuinely happy and when I laugh it is because I am genuinely moved to- I want to be as raw, and as real with the people around me as possible. On the other hand, I felt ungrateful to the person who paid my way, and grumpy to the people around me and trapped in my own emotions like a tiny ant in a thick spider web.

I have wondered since then whether it was because I was uncomfortable. I was worried about all of the people and what it would be like trying to make friends with everyone I met. The people driving me, the strangers in my tent- on one hand, I knew things probably wouldn’t go wrong if I put in enough effort. On the other hand, I was terrified of the amount of energy it would take to get where I wanted to be. It was overwhelming to get to a conference of 1,800 people, and tiring to put up a tent in the rain and I honestly just wanted to go home because I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t even see it.

But the thought has occurred to me that, like a pot plant, growth doesn’t happen once you’ve reached the limits of your comfort zone. If God’s intention was to grow me, I’d have done a lot less of it at home.

Apart from all of the new people and new experiences, something that hit me hard was seeing the people I already knew. A couple of Christians at the event but also catching up with a few who lived in Canberra.

For some reason, I just thought at the end of last year, when we were all so happy, that we would all stay happy. And when I saw my old friends, and all the different ways in which their hearts had broken, and all of the different ways they had grown, whether apart from each other, apart from God or apart from their plans, I felt such sorrow for the people I love. On one hand, it reminded me that not only my year hasn’t gone the way I thought it would- at one point, we were all going to grow up and get married and live happily ever after, and I was so torn apart when that didn’t happen for me. Once again, you can’t only trust God’s plan when it follows yours. On the other hand, I felt slightly powerless- only there for a couple of days to listen and leave, not sure when I’d be there again. That’s not within my hands, I know. However, I must admit, it was a bit of a shock to be reminded of. I know enough of them to know they’ll probably be okay but, more to the point, I know enough of God to know he’ll take care of them whether I’m around or not. [And if they quit smoking. Seriously. Stop.]

Anyway, there were positives. The likes of many, I’m sure I won’t see the results of for many years to come. However, I did learn a lot. I learned about prayer [coincidentally, one of the greatest things I learned is that when God promises to work all things for the good of those who love him – Romans 8:28 – that isn’t his promise to change our circumstances, but rather to change the people who love and trust him to be more like Christ, which is ultimately the best we can ask for. That mentality really came in handy], and I learned how to seriously pick apart a bible verse.

In the end, I did make friends, especially with those former strangers in the tent. It’s good to have a few more familiar faces to look forward to around campus. I was reminded of the benefits of pushing through feelings- one of the sermons actually said outright that our feelings are unreliable, particularly when faced with fact; I’m glad I didn’t leave. I met up with some old friends who are still as awesome as they were when I left them and it was sad to say goodbye again, sometimes only after a brief chat at McDonalds.

I still have a while to go before I feel as zen on the inside as I try to look on the outside, but I’ve been encouraged that if I’m starting to pick up on my own habits and ideas, the next step can be to change them. It would probably be worse if I were completely oblivious to them- like a parent with a brat, it’s better I know rather than don’t.

At the end of the day, with all the concern from people who care about me, and the fears pulsing through my brain, and the really, really good reasons [like pouring rain and a cold] I don’t want to say it was hard, so I gave up. I want to say it was hard but I did it any way.

And that wouldn’t even be true, because it was hard, and I wanted to give up but God did it through me anyway, and all I can do is pray I’m a little more like Christ.

My joy in sorrow’s tears,

My strength to cast out fears,

No other name but Jesus, Jesus.

My hope in darkest night,

My broken soul’s delight,

No other name by Jesus, Jesus.

-No Other Name [Emu Music]

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 
  

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 
No wonder people have trust issues. 
Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 
So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]
And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 
I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 
In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 
So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 
On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 
I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

The Christian Feminist

Do you believe that women should be equal to men?

If you said yes, you’re a feminist. 

[Sorry if you were getting ready to fight me, it’s actually quite a simple principle.]

Feminism isn’t like a meringue- with precise measurements, and needing a lot of whipping into the perfect white shape. It’s more like being given the order of a “cake”. You can add or take away based on your own wants and passions, but there are a few foundational things without which it would not be counted as cake. 

As soon as you begin to believe that women are not considered or treated as equals globally, you begin to understand feminism. That women’s clothes and gendered products are more expensive despite the fact they get paid less, that displays of emotion are seen as feminine [and not masculine], that there are clear gender stereotypes, women can’t work in some societies, pornography and the sex slave trade are booming, and issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and harassment are deeply woven into every society. Once you start to think about all of this, it’s actually rather easy to consider the feminist perspective.

However, last night I was faced with a lady who had decided not to be known as feminist because she was a Christian, and so here I have decided to outline what I believe feminism means for Christians, both male and female. 

To keep it short and simple, I will list 3 cans and can’ts. 

A Christian feminist can be a Christian and a feminist. 

This seems remarkably obvious to me, but was not to the lady last night. She argued that feminism challenges the very foundations of what it means to be a woman, and destroys the ideas and purposes God has laid out for us. That feminism argues against the idea of [particularly a male] headship. However, a Christian feminist should listen to God as much as a normal feminist would listen to whoever is teaching her how to drive when she’s on her L plates. He is still sovereign, the Creator and loving. Like with science, political views need to correspond with biblical teaching, but often cover other or additional areas. Science explains the how, feminism explores a response to fighting for justice in a sinful world. 

I believe that feminism gives Christian women an opportunity to express freely what and who God has created them to be. In societies around the world, women are told what to wear, who to marry and how to behave. Feminism fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who she is, while Christianity fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who God sees her as. If they work together, they can achieve aa world where God is sovereign and a woman can recognise how much she is to be loved despite her appearance, grades or social status. A world where a woman is not defined by whether she is dating, but simply by her relationship with Christ. 

A Christian feminist can decide what they will and will not support and still call themselves a feminist. 

Many Christians disagree with abortion and same sex marriage. Honestly, some Christian women are uncomfortable not shaving their legs, wearing make up or having short hair. But this doesn’t mean they are excluded from the movement of feminism. This just means they are choosing their battles with another perspective. You should not purposely ignore every invitation to go to a rally which supports or opposes something because it is based on feminism [for instance, political rallies, mental health days, fundraisers for organisations which benefit females]. Indeed, it is probably more helpful to present a positive Christian influence than to withdraw from a name for fear of incorrect association. 

A Christian feminist can disagree with other Christians and still call themselves a feminist. 

I disagree with the woman from last night about a couple of the things she said, and that’s okay. Just like with church and Bible study, and everywhere else I get challenged on things in the Bible, it means I have to have a humble heart and allow myself to be challenged before I write people off. Sometimes quarrels are unnecessary, and weirdly, she might just end up fighting for things that I do under a different name. But that doesn’t mean neither of us can be feminist. Complementarians and egalitarians alike can be feminist, Protestant and Catholic- as I say, anyone who thinks women should have equal rights to men.

A Christian feminist cannot choose feminism over Christianity. 

There are admittedly times where it seems preferable to ignore what the Bible is clearly saying to follow everyone else. However, we simply should not compromise our faith to follow an easier or more popular path. There are many issues many feminists support which I do not believe actually benefit women or their rights, due to my understanding of God’s plan for the world. That means I cop some flack. Christ will always come before anything of this world.

A Christian feminist cannot purposely do things just to bug others. 

This is a weird one, but it is one that was brought up last night and has stuck with me. Another of my friends doesn’t believe in feminism because she recognises all of the things the word is attached with rather than the simple definition I began this blog post with [whiny middle class “slacktivists” who are happy to retweet other people’s opinions but refuse to change their lifetyles, and wish to oppress men. For example, my high school drama teachers, who didn’t recognise a need for the male gender at all.] [I do not subscribe to this view.]

 Popping the word “Christian” on the front means that, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we still have a mandate to be kind and loving. To not shove our opinions in other people’s faces unhelpfully, and to test every opinion that comes our way before mindlessly adopting it. The woman last night said she purposely shaved her head and ignored authority because it annoyed men, and that’s what [she thought] feminism is. However, there is a way to fight for better rights and still be helpful, meek and humble. I have shaved my head, but it wasn’t to shove it in anyone’s face [it was for charity]. I still have short hair, not because I despise femininity but because it’s practical, and, I believe, better for the environment. As with everything in life, consider how it affects others, how others perceive it and what you would say if you were asked a question about it.

A Christian feminist should not be scared. 

There are many scary things in the world today, and often the feminist movement has an urgency about it. However, the best thing about being a Christian feminist is that I know I am fighting to make this world better, but a day is coming where there will be no inequality, no fear of the future. A Christian feminist doesn’t have to worry about what other people think, or when other people disagree with her, as long as she is fighting for a world which is like God’s kingdom. 

In conclusion, I believe every Christian should be a feminist, no matter whether they’re male or female, and no matter how many of the “extras”/hashtags/movements they partake in. I think feminism campaigns for a world like God wanted, where men and women worked together not for themselves, their individual genders or the competition of it all, but for God’s kingdom come, his will done and earth like it is in heaven. 

The Book Store

  

Today I walked into one of the most beautiful book stores I have ever been in. 

Sometimes book stores just have this aura- this sense that the walls are lined with stories and not just printed pages. I wanted to thumb each spine and read every word. What really caught my eye were these reimagined covers of some old classics. They had gold edged pages and were intricately designed- you could tell someone had really put thought into how to capture the essence of the story and not just rebrand an old tale to sell again. 

It may have been the light pitter patter of rain outside in the dark, or the warm glow of fairy lights- I can be manipulated by atmosphere like any fool. But I think it was more the smell, of new books and the fresh leather goods they had for sale. I think it was the smile of the shop keeper, who left their store open for wanderers like myself. I think it was the sense that this store wasn’t just selling a product but something special, like each book was a present with a surprise inside. 

This is true- when I got in the car, virtually dragged away (by the words “I am parked illegally and will leave without you”), my mum said when I was little I had entered a writing competition in that very book store (and won). I have absolutely no recollection of this. But it is fact that, since I was young, I have loved to read and write. To tell my stories and to make people laugh with them. 

However, receiving stories is just as fun as creating them. Reading books has always been a way to expand my mind, take me places and remind me of a world that is not half bad. A world full of magic and justice and love- although rare in their purest forms, they exist. Good will triumph over evil, the girl will get the guy and the world will keep on spinning, a little better for its heroes. 

And to step inside a book store is to step into a world of possibilities. 

To step inside a good book store is like flying into that world.

Journaling

It’s something a lot of people want to try but have no idea how to get around to. We’ve all got a spare notebook lying around somewhere- sometimes it’s a beautiful one we don’t want to somehow screw up. Well, as someone who has been journaling for about 7 years now, I figured it’s something I know a little bit about.

Here are some things I wish I had known before I started journaling.

1. No one is going to read what you write. If you have to show some things to people, then you can make them as rigid and boring as you want. However, for the majority of what you write, no one is ever going to have the privilege of seeing it. So if you only ever pick up a journal when you’re angry and it’s pages of scrawled expletives, let it be. If you write crap poetry, that doesn’t matter. When you write, be real and honest, feel free to express every little part of yourself and record every fear, because you’re doing this for you. A journal is a mirror, not a window.
2. Be honest and real. Following on from the first point, there is nothing worse than reading something you wrote a few years ago and knowing that you were lying. When I was younger, I would find myself writing a boring point by point account of my day, afraid to actually look into myself and express what I felt. As I’ve gotten older, that has definitely changed. I used to buy day to a page diaries so I’d feel accountable, but I’ve come to realise that some days are just boring. Now I’ve got a blank one which I can pick up on any given day and really let rip to. A journal is like a best friend who won’t judge you for gossiping. Write your true emotions so that if and when you look back on it, you can get the most out of it.
3. You never have to read it again. Journals are super helpful if you’re a reflective type. How have I changed, what was I feeling, how did I grow through that experience? But sometimes you can admit you will never read what you have written again. I have two journals that are just pages and pages of over thinking. Angry scrawls written in the heat of the moment and anxious scribbles analysing every detail of an issue, just so I could squeeze my thoughts out of my head. I’ll never go back and read those things- it would be pointless to- but at that time, I needed an outlet, and writing was really helpful.
4. You can’t screw up. I think the scariest thing about a beautiful journal is that we’ll write something and it will be “stupid”. A cliché teacher thing to say is that there are “no silly questions” because you dared to ask. A similar cliché is that you can’t write anything stupid because at least you actually wrote something. The first diary I was ever given [I’ve still got all of these, a good excuse for why my room is so messy] was a glittery, spiral bound notebook with daisies on it. In it, I wrote [in blue pen, an absolute travesty and my first mistake as a writer] the details of my day. My first ever diary entry was about a day trip to my Uncle’s place. The thing is, I don’t regret this. I was eleven! It’s what I was thinking in my eleven year old mind, and it’s what was important to me. I can see how I’ve evolved in my writing since then, because I just kept going, and growing. Your writing may seem silly now, but it’ll be precious to you when you read it again in twenty years.
5. Lastly, just keep going. If you don’t journal for two months, that doesn’t disqualify you from starting again. If you make a spelling mistake, DO NOT USE WHITE OUT [a weird little ism I picked up from an English teacher of mine- let everything in your journal be raw and imperfect, like it is in your mind. Also, he just didn’t like white out because it takes time and interrupts the flow]. If your hand writing is atrocious, you’re not being marked. As long as you can read it, or even if you can’t, the worth is in the writing itself.

Wanting

A few people have recently commented on my analytical mind. I do a thing a lot of the time where my mind will identify something as a problem, take it, and work it out [unfortunately, sometimes it does this with things that really aren’t problems, but oh well]. I can sit for hours on end, pondering how to fix something- once, I wrote sixteen pages over four hours just trying to figure out how to deal with something that might or might not happen. Planning and thinking makes me feel better so I don’t get shocked by anything, due to the fear that I won’t be able to deal with it. Therefore, everything in my world is gone over with a fine tooth comb.

While you may be able to tell how much I think about things just from reading my blog, I don’t understand why so many people accept this but don’t recognise how far it reaches. A comment I get too often that I’m smart, but Christianity makes no sense. It’s a crutch, it’s illogical, God can’t exist, and if he does, he’s not worth following. And they look at me, and believe that my entire life is a paradox, because I overthink where I’m going to stand, how I’ve phrased sentences, and if one eyeliner wing is bigger than the other, and yet am a Christian.

Well, friends, I am many things, but I try to avoid being a hypocrite.

Like everything in my life, I have gone over the religion and God I have chosen to follow with a fine tooth comb.

Christianity isn’t a crutch. I grew up with Christian parents, yes, and they had the amazing influence of teaching me about a God that loved me. But they never forced it upon me, and I have found God in so many other ways in my life. I know many people who grew up with Christian parents and rejected God, and many Christians who didn’t have God until much later in their life.
I knew from the beginning of life that life would continue to be hard, no matter if I had a God or not- indeed, it might be worse because I chose to follow Christ. I’ve been bullied, mocked, and unable to date certain people simply because I have the word Christian written across my forehead and embedded in my heart. I knew that was coming, and yet, even before I knew who Jesus was, that surely it must be worth following him. My parents are disabled, particularly my mother, and yet told me stories of hope from when I was a little girl. A strange story is that even before I became a Christian, the Gideons came to give Bibles to us at school. One girl looked at it and said “why would they give us this piece of shit?” and I began to cry. It was maths, I was at the front of the room, and I bawled in front of everyone. I didn’t know why it meant so much to me, as I didn’t even understand or think about God that often, and yet what she had said about this man, and his word, struck me. I knew there was going to be more of that, I knew life would still be tough, but examining the lives of those around me who had decided to follow Christ, I went over it and over it and decided to look into this God. Having been a Christian for six years now, and following in the footsteps of those who have been Christians for many more, I can honestly say, I have not found the lifestyle wanting.

Christianity is illogical [because] God can’t exist. This was a big step, and I had a listen to those for and against. I didn’t assume anything, because I never assume anything. I looked into people who had set out to write books against God and turned into Christians. I looked into the science behind a God of imaginative creation. I listened to all the arguments that my friends had to throw against him, and I realised that funnily enough, all of the answers for those were pre-downloaded into my brain. I could think of an argument for every bit of offence, and weirdly it made my faith that much stronger. I knew the Bible backwards- I was an annoying know-it-all kid, also spurred on by my need to know about things before I accept them- and it made sense to me. For those who read the Bible, I encourage you to look at it with an open heart and blank mind. Look at devotionals or talks by others who have analysed what it’s trying to say. There is so much meaning behind every word, it would take a lifetime to understand and know all of it, but I certainly tried and have continued to learn more from it about God. I continue to let myself be challenged by what it says, and that the world is just God’s work on show. Romans 1:8 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” God does exist. I have come out of every search, every trial, fully believing this. I have the rest of my life to continue to find that in all of its honesty, but Jesus said he is the truth. This is real. I have investigated, and this is what I have found, with one hundred percent certainty. God is real. As Sherlock Holmes often said, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

And finally that, even if God does exist, he shouldn’t be followed. Christianity is dedicating your entire life, all you are, to this God and the way of life he dictates. To assume that anyone would undertake that lightly is folly. I looked into what Jesus asked me to do- love my enemy? Forgive those who sin against me? Allow myself to be changed by him? This was going to be tough. I need to make it as explicit as possible that this wasn’t something that took a day to decide, or weeks. It has taken me years to accept everything, and will take me my entire life to become the person the Bible says I need to be. I continue to think about this, and to simply dismiss Christianity as something people do just because their parents did or because it seems cool is not discovering true Christianity. I took Studies of Religion so I could fully understand what other people do and who and how they worship. I will probably do a theology course. I go to church not because it’s expected but because I actually want to find out what the Bible is trying to say and why [I encourage the curious to do the same]. But the truth is that I looked over God and the Bible again and again, and unlike so many things in my life that have disappointed me and let me down- people are only human, after all- I have never found God wanting. I have never been disappointed by him, never been left alone, looking back at all the times I felt so lonely. This God sent his son to die for me. Jesus exists, there is proof. He was an amazing guy, many people would agree. He taught a lot of people a lot of things. But he didn’t come for that reason, but to die for me, and you. This is a God of love. And I have been over every book of the Bible, and looked at all the acts God has committed in the past. I watch the news, keep updated with the suffering going on around the world, and have experienced suffering myself. And yet, I have never found this God wanting, but only myself wanting this God. That’s why I follow this God. This God that created me, and loves me, and died for me. Because I have looked high and low, and near and far, and found God.

I have thought about this, a lot. I encourage people to do the same- there is no reason not to. God is big enough to handle our questions, and our anger, and our fear. He can do anything, and we can do all things through him. So ask, seek. All I can say is that although I think, analyse, criticise, I have never wanted more, but have been overwhelmed by the God of more than enough. I have been left not wanting, but with the realisation that I am wanted.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7