Little Soul 

In darkness, she waits. A lone soul long dead, a girl stripped of everything from a tender age. She remembers little of her life, but clings to one memory of something called “light.” She recalls it being warm and bright, golden or white, a welcoming sight. But she has not seen nor heard of anything like that for years, you see, not here, not in Hades. 

Day in and day out, souls drift through a canyon of black, across a glossy dark river. Styx is an unforgiving stream, and her waters take everything. Names, memories, one’s very being, until all that remains is a lifeless husk, the empty soul of someone who once was. Only the strongest of souls are said to retain any thoughts from their past lives. Perhaps this was why King Hades sought her out as a useful device. 

“Little Soul,” he called her, “How do you remember such things? You surrendered your life to me when you were only three.”

Little Soul paused, calculating her reply. “Perhaps I am like Achilles who still remembers his name. I could have been a great hero if it weren’t for the Fates.” 

“Is that so?” Hades laughed as he approached, his ominous figure coming in close. Curling an arm around Little Soul’s side, he swept his dark cloak open wide so as to cover her shoulders and take her under his wing. “Tell me more of who you think you could be.” 

“Perhaps I am like the king who never forgot his epic journey, the one he calls his odyssey. Or maybe my soul is like that of the muse who still sways and hums to her unforgettable tune.”
          

“Fine then, I have a job for you,” Hades declared, giving Little Soul a scare. She couldn’t imagine what he would require of her, a tragic being who’d barely spent any time on Earth. Though she longed to have spent her life as a hero, a poet, or a princess, the Fates had something else in store: death. If there was one thing she knew for certain, the fates were as cruel as a serpent. 

“I have someone I want you to meet,” Hades began, sweeping Little Soul up off her feet and carrying her to Styx’s beach. “A new soul came in this morning, one with memories. She goes by the name of Eurydice.” 

True as it can be, the soul of a beautiful young woman stood looking longingly over her shoulder on the beach. Her eyes searched the waters past the river Styx, as if waiting for someone or something. 

“What are you looking for?” Hades inquired, setting Little Soul down next to Eurydice. 

“My lover,” Eurydice whispered, eyes still searching the waves. 

A wry grin crossed Hades’s face. “Your lover isn’t here. He’s up in the world above. Eurydice, you’re separated from your love.” 

“Then he will come find me. I know he will,” she replied with total certainty, shocking the watching Little Soul. 

But Hades just laughed and laughed. “Mortal! You’re dead! Would you wish the same fate on Orpheus?” 

“So you know his name.” Eurydice smiled, unintimidated by the god of the underworld. “Hades, are you perhaps afraid?”  

The dark god shook with rage, trapped by his own words. Little Soul could tell that he knew about Orpheus, and by the smile on Eurydice’s lips, she knew that the stranger had full confidence her love would come. 

“What was he like?” Little Soul whispered, moving from the shadows to face Eurydice. She found something in the girl’s eyes intriguing. It almost reminded her of…light. 

“Orpheus could sing the world into motion. His words moved my heart and I fell in love.” Eurydice explained. “He’s soft and gentle, a tenderhearted man with a strong soul. For he was the son of a muse, and his voice could soothe even the hearts of the gods.” 

Little Soul felt her heart warm as Eurydice went on telling the story of her love, how they’d met, where they’d fallen for one another, and how they’d married. Much to Hades’s disturbance, she remembered it all, for their love was so strong. And much to his dismay, Orpheus would come for Eurydice that very day. 

Eurydice waited by the river, Little Soul with her, when the waters parted with the sound of music. A lyre’s strings strummed, and a heavenly voice hummed a tune above it all. The ghosts of the departed startled and bowed at the feet of a young man with a gentle face, bright eyes, and a glowing voice so warm and welcoming…it reminded her of light. 

“Eurydice,” he called, wrapping his arms around his love. “Remember me? It’s Orpheus. I’ve come for you. You don’t belong here in this land of night; return with me to the light.” 

“Not so fast!” Hades’s voice boomed, the dark god’s presence looming over the two. “What are you doing here boy? You’re trespassing in my kingdom.” 

Orpheus strung his lyre and a silky tune filled everyone’s ears. His melody sang so pure and smooth that the very air shivered with his words. The waters shook, and every soul turned to look as Orpheus begged Hades to set them free. Little Soul felt her heart melt with Oprheus’ words. His honey-sweet melodies drew her in and filled her mind with greater beauty than she’d ever known. 

“Stop it! Enough!” Hades chose to interrupt, pointing a finger back to whence the couple had come. “Leave, before you remind these dead souls of what they’re missing. But beware Orpheus, there’s only one way out. Walk single file and don’t look back. If you turn before you enter the land of the living, if you look back at Eurydice, I’ll claim her soul for eternity.” 

Little Soul’s heart lurched, watching them go. Who were these two, and how were they blessed enough to know one another? It wasn’t fair. When all she could cling to was the slightest memory of light…they remembered each other. She envied Eurydice. All this talk of life and love made her stomach churn with jealousy. She never got to experience those things. She never got to grow up, never got to experience love. The only life she’d ever known was a life in Hades, a slave to the dark, a useless puppet taunted with a single glimmering memory of light. 

Hades leaned down by her side. “Remember how I had a job for you?” 

Little Soul looked up at him with wide eyes. “Yes?” 

“I know what you long for; they are the very things you will never find here, my dear,” Hades told her. “But make a deal with me, and I will set you free.”

Little Soul gasped. “I’ll do anything.” 

“Don’t allow Eurydice to escape. Her soul is mine, and I won’t let it be stolen from me by an ambitious young boy and his musical strings.” Hades huffed. “Follow them, and when Eurydice falls, you can take her place in the land of the living.” 

“Really?” Little Soul whispered, amazed by the offer. 

“Yes, now go!” Hades declared, pushing her forward. So, off she went, following behind Orpheus and his wife. Though they could not see one another, the couple communicated beautifully. Orpheus would sing warnings as he led the way, his gentle words calming Eurydice. 

“Careful now, my love, this ledge would be terrible to fall off of.” 

“Be wary now my flower, the cave is narrow; so cower low and let me sing you home.” 

At last they reached a great door, one Orpheus claimed he’d walked through before. He swung it open wide and walked his way inside. But something caused little soul to pause, as what she knew to always be true spilled out through the door. Her dream, her vision, the hope she clung to. 

“Light!” she exclaimed, gasping at a sunny day. 

It was spring, and flowers were blooming with the wonder of Persephone. A gust of wind caught the sides of her face in a chilly embrace, as bluebirds caught hold of the same breeze, using it to fly with ease. Grass peeked through the melting snow, like the little squirrels buried in a hollow. This was nothing like the world below… this was a world of light. 

With every ounce of her little soul, the girl longed to know what it felt like to live a life in the world of light. But with her exclamation of joy, Orpheus turned to look back once more, before his wife could walk through the door. 

She saw the brokenness in his eyes as he contemplated his wife’s demise. He reacted a second too soon, a second so unfortunate that he would lose everything to it. Little Soul saw Orpheus’s eyes grow dark, as he realized they would be forced to part. 

On the line between death and day, Eurydice gave a final wave as the ground beneath her feet gave way. 

“No!” Little Soul sang, pushing Eurydice into the day and taking her place. She never saw the lover’s expressions, but as she fell she saw the light again, streaming down into the cave of the grave she’d dug. Painful as it was to leave the world above, she couldn’t help but smile as she was whisked away. 

She’d saved the light. 

Not the one streaming from the skies above…no, the one that existed in love. A new kind of light she would cherish, knowing that because of her, Eurydice didn’t perish.

Written by: Naomi Hernandez

Image Credit

Advertisement

The Auction

            Dark and weary – dreary even – our dear Roane became. He slipped his sturdy olive-green trench on before pushing open his hallow home door. It’s birch. Birch and pine and cedar. His home smelled of the finest woods, as you know he cut and carved them himself last summer in preparation for a winter such as this one. It was the first winter he endured that year he moved to Shadow Creek. This little alcove of meadow, wood, and creek sat north of the “human” village of Potsfield. The loveliness of the creek was the way it sat so far from any village or city. The animals who lived there and fellows who passed through kept it a sanctuary of simple natures. Roane enjoyed his new home as a haven from his last abode. Poor Red House, he called it, burnt down due to a debacle including a fox, a wren, and a curious pumpkin. But we won’t dwell on such things now. Roane grinned his heart wide, for the wind carried him smartly as he skated down the frozen creek toward his dear friend’s home: Mortly.

            “Timber of clove dear friend!” Mortly exclaimed, opening the door in a rush.

            “What’s taken over that soul to draw that body out into the cold? You rascal!”

Roane unwound his scarf and hung his trench on the rack beside the door. His scruffy squirrel face beaming.

            “Oh, you know how I miss ya’ Mortly. This awful weather has me down like it do. Someone’s got to keep you company, too.” He made himself comfortable by the fireplace, feathering his tail in the olive-green easy chair.

            “Someone has.” Mortly sat in his wine-red chair on the other side of the blaze. He pulled out a handsome leather book. “I’ve found love my ‘venturous friend.” He winked.

            Roane laughed, “Oh now, so you’ve cheated? Ain’t this the fifteenth of January? I’m only half-way through Bab-Squeak’s Folktales. Don’t tell me you finished it already?”

            “Oh no, no. I’m not done with it. I just started this beauty last night as an additional.” He gestured to the leather gem.

            “Well, I’ll be rotten. Port side, hawk trodden, rotten!”

            “Tell me about this love, then. If you’ve gone ahead and tossed my affection out ye’ door.”

The gentlemen hooted their tails twitchy. Their book-reading companionship began in their younger years, when their mothers gabbed on about their jumping and hollering over tea and biscuits. All the while they set out on Mallard Stream looking for turtles to torment and rabbits to gamble with. In these years, they continued the tradition, always a new book to strike their fancies, and always a fire blaze to accompany their talks.

            Mortly sang on and on about his new book. He received it in the mail. A lovely note accompanied the parcel, piquing his interest. It said, simply:

            Mortly,

                                I came across this book at an auction and its lovely leather binding and

unusual motif struck a chord with me. I know your romantic heart will enjoy

 such fine work. I hope it pleases you and brings you some warmth this winter

season,

                                                                                                                                Lovingly, Aunt Wailing

Shortly, his soft heart would pang with every page. The book itself was a narrative written through a series of love letters between two characters. The ebb and flow of passion and turmoil ached across their transactions, and our dear grey squirrel fell victim to its rhythmic woes. Mortly told Roane,

            “I stayed up ‘til dawn reading it! The longing it describes, the lowliness of their lives, it brings me to tears, my dear Roane!”

His eyes shone with brimming tears. Roane shifted in his seat, noticing Mortly’s vigor with an ounce of discomfort. He had never seen his stoic friend so impassioned.

            “Well, well friend. What a seemingly brilliant book! I don’t recall the name Wailing in your kin, have I met her?”

            “Oh no! She’s quite a wanderer, a philosopher. My mother’s estranged sister.” Mortly seemed content with this information, to Roane’s brewing concern.

            “Oh, I’m sorry! What a figure indeed.” Roane gave a slight chuckle.

Mortly’s gaze went stagnant, as he stared into the shelves beside the fireplace. Roane sat thoughtfully, resting his eyes on the book firmly grasped in his companion’s paw.

            Mortly started, “Oh my! Look at the time! It will be dark soon friend, you best beat the flurries!” Standing up, he tucked the book snuggly on his chair and began gathering Roane’s outerwear by the door.

            “Oh, I suppose yes.” Roane slowly turned his mind to the room and his jittery friend. “I am getting quite hungry, as well.”

            “Right, right. Best not keep those hunger pains waiting!” Mortly smiled, holding out the olive-green trench.

            “Right, yes.”

Roane wrapped himself snug, dawning his trench and scarf. Before he could say anything further, his back was to Mortly’s closed front door, cold air whipping across his face. So strange. He’s in a fit for sure. He always insists I stay for supper. Roane started out to his home, carrying his skates by his side. He was not in a skating mood. Who in rotten bark is Aunt Wailing? How could a book take such a hold on him? It did not take long for our troubled friend to stop in aching curiosity, wanting to go home but feeling too full of thoughts to not peek through Mortly’s window.

            Roane became keenly aware of the squeaking snow as he snuck to the outside of the parlor window. The orange blaze glowed through the glass and a soft humming came from inside. He crouched down underneath the window. My blasted knee. Why am I doing this? Raising his head cautiously, his vision opened to the same room he sat in just a couple minutes earlier. Mortly sat in his chair, the book open in his hands, and wine and cheese beside him. I want wine and cheese. Roane wined to himself, bracing his body up on the cold uneven ground. His ear perked to Mortly’s humming. As it came into focus, the sound became soft singing.

            “Oh, the yuletide awnings float gently,

lovers touching

soft and sweet.

Silk and cream and wintergreen,

filling up our tidings.

Blessings from our woodland charms

and winter secrets,

falling stars.

Spinning

Spinning

Softly

Softly

Open yuletide

awnings gift.”

Crash!

            Roane’s nose ran red blood in the snow. His eyes opened to a dark, wintery sky, his head spinning as he lay on his back on the ground. Looking up, his friend’s home loomed over him, the parlor window dark. Gracious gourd. What happened? Roane sat up to rub his running nose. Blood? Did I hit my nose on the house siding? The wind stung his face, and the flurries began to fly harder. Roane felt disheveled and haunted. Something was not right. Standing to his full height and brushing off his tail, he peered inside the window to find a dim, vacant room. No blaze filled the hearth, no Mortly in his easy chair. Roane’s stomach lurched and he quickly ran to the front door, trying the handle to find it open. Without thought he rushed inside.

            “Mortly? Mortly, good fellow?” He called out to the absence.

No reply. Walking over to the chairs and fireplace, a handsome leather book sat finely on the wine-colored easy chair. Dread, dread, dread. Roane felt ill. A minute of internal self-quarreling past, but finally he delicately picked up the book. He examined it, finding no inscription on the outside, just a plain dark leather binding. He flipped it open to the first page, a prelude laid plane and ordinary before him. He began to read:

            My heart aches to read such a devout piece of contemporary literature. I’ve left my family in sickness and squalor to pursue such fancies that lie within the later pages. My thesis will never fulfill its purpose in telling you, dear reader, the world may break and crack under hardship, but the honest goodness of love breaks us deeper. To what end will I perish in hopeless fantasy? The art of this book looks to the mystique to entrance, to alure, to humble. No, I will never allude to its contents. That is a burden you must bear. However, I will leave you with one final phrase: winter melts, and yuletide fades.

            “Well, that’s not much of a prelude.” Roane looked around once more. His companion was gone. His heart stung slightly. His excitement from earlier that day drowned in Mortly’s impassioned turmoil. An unease crept in on Roane’s mind and stomach, and guilt for his bitterness. Why must I always save the day? Why must I be the smart one? Yet, a pang of worry overwhelmed the bitterness. I’m going to wait right here until Mortly comes back, and when it is day, I will search outside. Then, I will send letters and go to the village to ask around. He lit the fire and sat down in his olive-green easy chair. The snow flew fast out in the dark expanse. And after snooping around the small cottage for clues or snacks, Roane sat and waited by the blaze. His mind whirling like the frozen wind outside. Looking down, brushing off the crumbs from the successes of his snooping, the leather book laid on the table beside him. I wonder what nonsense this book must spew. He opened it up to chapter one: “Roane & Delilah.” What is this? My name?

So, our dear friend read with his wine and cheese, and he read as the fire embers cracked and shifted, and he read most earnestly for the story quickened and drew long like honey, and he read like he’d never read before, forgetting the snow outside, the sting of his nose, the creaking of the house, and the absence of his friend.

Written by: Kayla Harper

Image Credit

Playlist created by the author inspired by The Auction: https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/2PUnzamKi1Jqa9S5Dp11dh?utm_source=generator

Flight

                You might be wondering why I brought you here. And no, you’re not dreaming, at least not in the literal sense. But you’re not quite awake, either.

                My name? No, no, that’s not important.

                Your name? No, I already know that. I know all about you.

                Come.

                Don’t be scared. I shall not hurt you. 

                Take my hand. It’s cold, I know. I want to show you something.

                Yes. We’re flying. Well, I’m flying. You’re holding on for dear life. Silly goose, I won’t drop you.

                Where are we going? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore, now, would it? Just keep hold of my hand.

                What now? Oh, yes, that’s you below us. Your body, at least. No, you’re not dead; don’t become hysterical. Now, stop asking questions.

                Why can’t you move? Why, I told you. You’re partly asleep. You make too much noise; if you don’t stop protesting, I will drop you.

                Some part of your subconscious is still dreaming. About what, I’m not sure. Perhaps you’re riding a bike or peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon. The specifics remain unimportant. Keep a tight hold of my hand, now. This is the difficult part.

                Why is it difficult? Oh, this is the part where they usually start struggling.

                Oh dear, now I’ve done it. Stop fighting me, child. It’s better this way. I said stop fighting me! Your hand is slipping out of mine. If you don’t stop squirming, I’m going to lose my grip on you.

                I know, I know. This is the part where you look down, see your old life drifting away. You’re probably struggling to hold onto the feeling of lying comfortably in bed, probably wrapped in a warm blanket and snuggled deep into your pillow. I know. Are you trying to cling to the last remnants of your physical self, trying to keep hold of the faintest whispers of the dream some other part of you still experiences? Shh. It will all end soon.

                Your fingers are sweaty. I’m losing my grip on you. I can’t lose another one, I refuse to lose another one—

                You’re falling. Back into your physical self. Your dream is coming to an end. Even now, your bicycle wobbles. You lean out too far over the Canyon. And you fall.

                I hear the impact you make as you slam back into yourself, waking you up with a jolt. You survived. I failed.

                You’ll probably shake it off as a strange dream. After all, it’s not the first time you’ve been startled awake by your own subconscious. Probably won’t be the last, either.

                Still, I hope you remember me.

                Because the next time I come to visit you, you might not be so lucky.

Written by: Caroline Johnson

Image Credit

The Universe and I

I’m still in awe of the mysteries you left
How with soft whispers of breath
You explained the infinite

Once the words came off your lips
Galaxies and stars were commanded to exist
Each images of your greatness

To think that collisions of sparks
Would be perfectly positioned pieces of art
That in an array of patterned lights
Cold became heat and dust life

What a wonder to behold:
Burning gas and dusty planets growing as told
To see how the universe yearned to unfold

How amazing it would be:
To watch the first stars sparkle into being
Seeing your wonder spread across galaxies,
Knowing that in all this… you dreamed of me

A small life, an invisible soul
Nothing in comparison to creation’s whole
Yet one for whom you’d pay the highest toll

For while still unbeknownst to me,
The stars and galaxies proclaimed your glory
No, a love story

A tale of how you so adored
Someone so tiny and obscure
That you placed a million lights in the sky
Without a single reason why
Other than to be beheld by my eye

Written by: Naomi Hernandez

Image Credit

Candy Contradiction

“Sweet.” The name identifies with candy. However, candymakers seldom describe the candy making process as “sweet.” First, copious amounts of sugar must be procured and refined. The distressed sugar then forcefully contorts into a viscous syrup capable of giving anyone type five diabetes. Candymakers seize this sugary liquid substance for the purpose of fashioning mouthwatering morsels.

In a large metal cauldron, the candymakers abruptly pour the syrup down to the very last drizzle. Slowly and stately, the syrup waits in agony as the temperature soars. Suddenly, as the syrup gazes up at the bright lights, its skin begins to summon tiny bubbles that violently expand. These bubbles rapidly stretch the syrup’s flesh until it brutally bursts. The sugary torpedoes splash into the syrup’s surface returning to the boiling misery.

At the end of the torture, the cauldron frees the traumatized syrup onto a flat counter. The candymakers declare chemical warfare on the syrup by throwing citric acid, food coloring reminiscent of vibrant frogs, and various substances designed to ease the morsel’s flavor. The candymakers’ hands then pulverize these foreign substances into the now concatenated syrup. This new creation binds itself together as it cools to relieve stress. The candymakers quickly transfer the thick ooze into molds, form it into a string, or stab it with a lollipop stick.

Every candymaker claims ignorance of these horrors of candy making, but I stand as witness to these crimes. As their adversary, I appeal to the high courts to cease the description of “sweet” pertaining to candy. These rituals produce a vile product that elevates hyper activeness and creates addicts that defend its creators. Hear my plea to end today’s celebration, National Hard Candy Day.  

Written by: Rachel Caña

Image Credit

Matches, Matches, Matches

            Wesley had waited ages for a chance to ask Evie out. He had had a crush on her since middle school. Of course, the opportunity occurred when the power went out in Homer, Alaska. He felt his heart pound in his chest the moment she knocked on the door. Wesley and his father operated a small logging business selling local firewood. Evie came for her monthly supply. Her family liked to help small businesses, especially when the son of the owner used to go to school with her.

            Wesley helped her with her warm winter coat when all the lights in the cabin flickered, dimmed, and quickly vanished into total darkness. “Oh,” was all Evie said.

            He planned dinner! He prepared for a warm cozy house to greet her after the Alaskan chill! Now, he felt the cold begin to seep into his limbs as Evie reached for her coat again. in the darkness. “I can head on home if it’s too much trouble,” Evie whispered softly.

No! He would not let a power outage defeat him. This was his chance, and he had saved a box just for this reason!

            “Hold on just a minute, Evie, I’ve got just the thing. I can’t imagine you walking all the way home in that cold.”

            Wesley stumbled his way into the kitchen and felt for a box in the top shelf. Now where are the matches? Matches, matches, matches, hmmmm. Aha!

            A swift scratch and then there was light, a piercing orange blaze in the pitch black dark. Evie’s dark eyes captivated him entirely in that bright flash before it dimmed down to equilibrium. Wesley set about lighting the candles, lanterns, and the gas stove. Shy Evie told him he didn’t have to make her dinner, but he insisted. Sitting down to eat, Wesley could hardly concentrate on his hot soup with those dark eyes flashing up at him between bites in the warm candlelight.

            After the meal, she put on her scarf and coat again to leave. “You all warmed up now?” Wesley asked her, in front of the roaring fireplace.

            “Yes, all cozy and warm,” she said quietly, looking up at him. They stood there staring at each other for a moment longer when she said thank you and headed out. Wesley’s nerve froze the moment she opened the door, and the Alaskan air sent little flurries of chill all over the room. He opened his mouth but couldn’t get the words out. He wanted to say “Would you like to go out sometime? I think you’re sweet. I’ve liked you since we were kids. You’re beautiful and smart.” Evie turned around.

            “By the way, your face betrays you.” She smiled warmly. “I like you too.” The door shut, and the room was still again. She left Wesley mouth agape in a candle-lit room with nothing but handfuls of matches, matches, matches.

Written by: Gracie Hatley

Image Credit

I Dreamed of a Red Planet

Say now, 
why do walls walk by so fast, so wild? 
They smile at me. 
Tell me why the pulsing noises of space 
spill over the walls and push into my skin – 
crawling through my blood, peering into my brain. 

The mind of humans…what a wonder. 
What? 
Maybe I was meant for something beyond 
rather than a life that…pulses. 
Overwhelming.

The walls walk past me as I lay in the hallway 
sending shadows across my vision. 
The view does not allow much light in 
as I float and shudder. 
The cold feels fiery, 
the warmth chills me. Again, 
I watch them pass by, looming over me, 
they march so swiftly – they know their plan. 
They understand an objective 
and only that takes up their vision. 

It’s clear. 
I could never understand a vision so crisp, 
unaffected by the fog of doubts and pain that sear
through me every inch I exist. 
Over and over, they leap, 
now soaring higher. They do not look at me. 
These shadows pelt into the floor 
as their cold touch almost leaves me. 
My head heavy and sore, I drift through space 
with almost no agency. 
My body detached. 
My mind, the only material thing I recognize. 

Yet, I see my form lift. 
Redness and yellow fog surround me. 
The walls, now taking form, 
they pass by like a stop motion camera. 
I still shudder, unable to hold my head up. 
So, I must watch what is to come. 
The sky above fills lungs like molasses, 
starry syrup with heat and ice so 
sharply intertwined. 
Slowly, slowly, slowly. 

I remember dreaming so vividly. 
When I sat up in the morning – it was so clear. 
I grabbed my phone and wrote down my visions. 
The words came easily but the hope to craft beauty from them failed. 
They seemed less magnificent when seen in daylight, 
as words on a screen. 
My habit did not last, my dreams blurred and faded, 
my mind sunk and sunk and sunk. 
I remember some of them still: 
I died slowly, becoming a ghost, left to eternity with no notion of purpose or direction; 
I swam so far in an icy river, following the sway of wonders and running from dangers; 
my body was touched so rudely by strangers, and I wondered each morning 
why my conscious did not flinch. 

I feel my hands now. 
So cold and numb, but 
I notice them by my side. 
The redness of the world opens and swirls before me,
so low is the sound of a breaking and crashing space, 
organic and alarming; the expanse of all that makes up reality 
does not care for me.
It does not notice me like I notice 
my hands by my side. 
It merely hears the minute sound 
and feels the miniscule shudder of my form – 
as I drift and drift and wonder how 
the fog swirls and light curls upwards and beyond. 

I approach a desert looming large to me. 
Saddening to think, 
I cannot be confined to the vacancy of floating forever into space, 
for my body always calls to a ground, 
a planet, 
a wild. 
For what?
To bind me.


Written By Kayla Harper

Image Credit

Girlhood

When I was young,

My sister and I would play for hours

Slipping on those plastic high heels

And donning sparkly Disney princess costumes.

We’d run around the backyard all afternoon

Fighting battles on Narnian soil

Wielding sticks as weapons and taking council behind a bush that’s no longer there.

When I was in middle school,

I wore a uniform

But I dressed it up with bright colors

Accessories probably too outlandish for my private school theme.

Bold shades to match the bands on my braces

Braces I wore ‘til I was sixteen.

When I was in high school,

I went to dances in fancy dresses

Scanning the sea of bodies for outfits I liked better than mine

Sprinkling my eyelids with glitter and painting my lips red.

I donned the blue and gold colors of my school and fixed a bow to my ponytail

The lights of the football stadiums reflecting off the whites of my shoes.

Now I am in college

Learning new things about myself

Changing things about myself

Coming into my own in ways I never did before

A girl turning into a woman.

A woman not quite ready to grow up.

Written by: Caroline Johnson

Image Credit

Chocolate With Almonds

The tree’s vast shadow covered a woman’s entire figure. She heard no noise. Her eyes angled down towards her palms filled with almonds. Her mind wondering back to the first time she visited this spot. A mother held her tiny hand from the base of the hill to the top. The peak of the hill presented the young girl a bright open untouched field. The girl’s mom continued to fill the air with encouraging words as she placed a single almond in the girl’s palms. Together, they walked towards the center. Then, the mom guided the girl’s hand to tuck the sweet almond under the earth.

With much anticipation, the girl repeatedly took her mother by the hand to visit the sapling on the hill. Her mother constantly reminded her,

“One day there will be a great big tree on that hill, but today a small sapling takes its place. You need to be more patient.”

When that one day arrived, the tree blossomed alone. Plenty of almonds hugged its branches, but not even the wind had any interest in taking any. The girl, now a woman, neglected to recall the almond tree. Her patience turned into avoidance and left the tree isolated. Instead of sweet almonds, bitter dark chocolate bought her attention as she progressed in her life alone. Eventually, she found herself staring in the familiar direction of the hill.

Alone, the woman ventured up the hill. She expected to also find bitterness at the top, either a dead or stunted tree with no almonds. However, these expectations turned out false. Before her eyes, the scene planted a thriving, blossoming, and sweet tree. A nostalgic smile awakened as she raised her palms to the tree to place almonds on them. Soon, she sat underneath the tree’s comforting shadow, with her palms full of almonds.

The woman welcomed the unfamiliar taste of the sweet almonds, but the flavor alone failed to comfort her completely. She raised her head to gaze at the many almonds as she pondered a way to bring others to enjoy these almonds gifted to her. The next day, she gathered as many almonds as she could and melted her remaining stock of dark chocolate. She took one almond and dipped it into the chocolate. She loved the bittersweet flavor of the combination. The taste best fit her.

During that day, a woman brought a new dessert to her neighbors and invited them to keep the almond tree company. The dessert offered a bittersweet taste, unlike anything the neighbors had tried before. In time, this dessert became well known as the first chocolate recipe recorded. Even as the tree gained several more years, it still attracted visitors to fill their palms with almonds for the purpose of making that bittersweet treat. A few centuries later, the people of the world celebrate National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day on November 7th every year.

Written by: Rachel Caña

Image Credit

The Tempest Coming Nigh

The jagged shapes of mountains

Set against a darkling sky

The blue and blackest omen

For the tempest coming nigh

The moon shines pale and sparsely

Over hills of bristled grass

The common loon wails softly

Of the hillside’s requiem mass

The owls and creatures shudder

And they crawl back to their dens

The clouds above creep idly

As the reaper midnight sends

The willows creak and stiffen

And then bend against their will

And all life takes a moment

To be silent, anxious, still

The crickets cease their singing

And the wind lets out a sigh

They await the hour coming

Of the tempest coming nigh

Written by: Gracie Hatley

Image Credit

Tupperware Lunches

When I was younger and my parents asked me to clean my room

I’d stick a plastic spoon in my mouth

and shove everything—

crumbled up pieces of unfinished poetry,

dried up markers with lost lids,

garments of clothes I refused to clean,

Tupperware of school lunches I refused to eat—

under my bed.

A lover of instant gratification.

I have a bad habit of befriending bad habits.

Of building homes within them,

and feeling foreign without them.

Always cold, always tired, always hungry.

These, I etched into my DNA:

            brown eyes,

            straight hair,

            and chronically starving

            pretty.

But I am older now,

and there are other things to clean.

I am older now, and I realize there are other things to be:

intelligent,

loving,

            to myself, especially,

curious.

I am older now, and how good it feels to be alive and warm,

and fed.

Written by Gayle Badrina

Image Credit

A Collection of Original Poems for World Trauma Day

The Ache

In and out went the motion,

leaving her mind spent.

Always the ache of the note,

Playing harsh, pounding sullen oak.

So flat, the speech of his high nights.

Lips among the crowd — shouting.

Fighting ‘til morning.

And she wakes to vacant cold.

His blood-stained sink.

Her, tired of the burden.

Him, the voice of dread.

So, she sooths the bruises,

to save the life she left.

Let go this ache.

Know, her ache was dread.

Her Whirl

On a cold night, I found the world at peace. Underneath warm blankets, I felt the calmness of her whirl in me. The outside, the unknown, it took my hand pleasantly. The touch rough and strong. Such lovely souls to feel the words once given to me. They cry out for comfort in her woods and seas. They need her strength in weakness. Why, our bones grow slow, and her grace builds swiftly. I took her example to heart in longing for purpose. Whatever am I to be but at peace in the wild, where neither pretense nor arrogance find.

And the ache I felt, oh it took me.

Toward the ocean crest, the white end that soared brightly before me.

Why were the waves so high? The roar swept away each whim,

the fleeting longings and thoughts that kept me.

I knew the path ahead surely.

As the day lay dying, I knew

my end toward the sea.

Wherever my body leapt

she would take me

So, in surety, she led way

So, in my own haste, I set the pace

Forward marching

Toward the waves

In honest truth

I died that day.

Lake House

Time began passing faster and more fiercely

I looked forward to moments planned

I preferred to plan

But, as they came, they sank beneath expectation

Passing quickly as I grew

Summer sweltered the skin, winter sucked the green from the yard,

spring painted grimy pollen over cars, and fall never brought its promised colors.

I wished to move.

Those childhood times

Wandering ‘round the back lawn

Drawing lines in the grass, in repetition, nodding off to music

Behind my eyes, keeping farms and cities: fantastical quests

Hoping my parents would sit me down, me and my brother, and tell us the plan

For I loved plans

To clean out, pack up, and move away to the lake

The lake had the tree swing, the dock, and a spooky shed

I pretended the 70s style panel walls held treasures;

Just nudge the right one loose, it’ll show its secrets.

The velvet brown spinning chair held the best view

Beyond the glass sliding door wall,

spinning me ‘round until dinner graced the table,

only five steps away where we ate on the same plates enduring years

beyond my own.

The small house needed repair, but it needed people first.

It needed me there for my quests, my lines in the lawn, my tree swing.

The lake lapping the homemade dock, rocking on the waves swirling among the cypress knees

They needed my swimming and singing and catching fish,

And I needed that plan

So time would pass slowly once again.

Written by: Kayla Harper

Image Credit

In Honor of World Homeless Day: A Tale of Two Artists

A paper shred rests in my hand, smelling of secondhand cigarette smoke and marked with sloppy handwriting. Anyone else who caught sight of the note would think nothing of it. A scribbled message, likely nothing more than a quick reminder or thought, trash to be lost and found, nothing of importance.

But the eye betrays the true meaning behind everything. I know the value of this note. Worth can be found on this scribble of a page. It reads: “April 6th, 2022, West End Church, Robert the performing artist and Christian the poet.”

Can you see the value of my note yet? Likely not.

What if I told you of the notebook it came from? A small black sleeve no larger than the length and width of a hand, yet it was the most valuable possession Christian owned. Within its thin, small pages lay a collection of scattered words. Fragments of poetry, thoughts, and the breath of his life. The spirit of a man rested within those pages, his heart bleeding out on each one. Christian and Robert, struggling artists, both found themselves down on their luck for the time being. Now alone and homeless, the streets of West End Dallas found themselves guarding two masters of prose.

Christian conducted himself with a soft demeanor, a gentle and intelligent soul quite suited for his talent of poetry. Despite his worn-down attire and weary features, his passion shone through, and we spoke for several minutes of the struggles that come with being an aspiring writer. Robert, however, was a rapper. He too wrote his own work, and it could not have been more different from that of Christian. He sported a laid-back attitude, with a loud and somewhat sour disposition that rivaled that of Christian’s kind optimism. While Robert often rapped about the struggles of drug addiction, lust, and hangovers, Christian actively searched out the beauty in the world.

But more than that, there remained another stark difference between the two young men. Christian became a devout follower of the Lord several years ago. Robert however still refused to come to know the saving power of Christ. Perhaps this indicates why their view of the world appeared as if looking though two different lenses. Either way, that scrap of paper I now hold in my hand remains one of the few left in Christian’s notebook. He offered to write both his name and that of his friend’s on the page so I wouldn’t forget them.

Christian seemed to hold a great sense of weight to the idea of not being forgotten. He told me that writing things down marks a moment, and notes something of importance. So what he did for me I decided to do in return.

Christian and Robert, should I ever lose the note given to me, this page will stand as a testament to the moment I met you. I won’t forget you. And should I ever see you again, I promise I’ll always remember your names.

Written by: Naomi Hernandez

Image Credit: Naomi Hernandez

butterflies

they weave a path around me
darting out and in
they settle on my shoulders
i’m accepted as their friend.

it’s almost like they’re greeting me
saying welcome to our garden
but I smile somewhat sadly, knowing
summer’s at its end.

they’ll fly away from here too soon
when their flowers wilt and die
they’ll find someplace warm, i hope

somewhere peaceful and dry.

when at last it’s time for spring
the butterflies will come home

and weave their way ‘round me again
and through their garden roam.

but now, at least, when autumn’s kiss
is creeping through the trees
I say goodbye to my tiny friends

and watch them take their leave.

they swoop unsteadily away
they don’t return my goodbye
but i don’t mind, because I know
the blessing they leave behind.

they granted me permission
to enjoy their flowery realm

and i promised them before they left
i’d keep it safe for them

so as i wait for their return
their kingdom i will tend
and plant new seeds to welcome them
when they come home again.

Written by: Caroline Johnson

Image Credit

Pancakes to Nuclear Weapons

Holidays that fall on September 26th range from National Pancake Day to International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. A few oddly specific and peculiar holidays include Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Lumberjack Day, Johnny Appleseed Day, a variety of food days, and more. These holidays mark September 26th as a day of foods, bonding, and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Casual holidays make mundane Mondays more amusing.

On September 26th, the choice between dumplings and pancakes comes easy, as people decided to celebrate both on the same day. Not only do National Dumpling Day and Pancake Day share this day, but so does National Better Breakfast Day. This leads to the conclusion that the better breakfast consists of pancakes accompanied with dumplings. This September 26th, 2022, marks the third annual National Pancake Day. Lumberjack Day originally marked this holiday, but eventually bloggers Marianne Ways and Colleen Venable added Pancake Day. Then, this holiday gained popularity and flopped its way into people’s hearts.

Additionally, people celebrate International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. In contrast to Pancake Day, this holiday strives for global change. Its main goal consists of educating, raising awareness, and disarming the threat of nuclear weapons. This holiday seeks the elimination of all nuclear weapons to one day create a nuclear free world.

September 26th holds a variety of holidays ranging from flat round foods to global change. These holidays demonstrate the range of topics and food items humanity deems worthy of celebrating. Along with the previously mentioned holidays, this date also lifts Family Day and European Day of Languages. Today, enthusiastically greet others with, “Happy Pancake, Dumpling, Family, European Languages, and Anti-Nuclear Weapons Day!”

Written by: Rachel Caña

Image Credit

Words of Hyssop

A boy barrels toward his end

with eagerness and arrogant surrender.

He whispers this prophecy to an empty and unlistening room. 

and stares holes into his ceiling. 

He wishes his mind would go blank. 

His end approaches rapidly 

more excited the quicker he recites 

his slow-poisoning mantra. 

The darkness grows rich

and all-consuming.

and just as the boy prepares himself to accept the embrace of it, 

a string of moonlight dances through his window. 

It dances around the darkness,

tender, warm, and inviting,

And wipes away the poison

Seeping out of his mouth.

It melts into hyssop.

The boy stops barreling toward his end. 

And though still eager and arrogant,

he does not surrender, 

and begins to whisper a different truth. 

One flowing with milk and honey. 

One abounding with life. 

Written by Gaylemarie Badrina

Image Credit

Late for Something

Positively, absolutely, and undeniably ruthless – the words of Mrs. Reynolds. Inside the Reynolds estate, pounding shook every floor on the morning of Vivi’s birthday. The staff made the mistake of polishing the hardwood without taking account of their own bruised knees and broken glassware the next day. Fresh peonies painted the entry hall leading back to an array of cakes, fruits, and baked ham spread on the spring china decorating the sunroom’s white wicker tables. The room featured broad floor-to-ceiling windows dressed in airy drapes set behind buffet tables holding a king’s quantity of coffee, tea, and orange juice (for the children). During the hushed hurry of party preparations, two school-age children sat in the front parlor, soaking up the morning light.

“There’s something criminal about our current coziness Vivi, but this storm of servitude won’t last much longer.”

Just a bit longer. Since dawn, the stairs squeaked and ached, for the rushing feet of “servitude” bade always apply haste to Mrs. Reynolds’ instructions nor disrupt her rigid expectations. Homer assured Vivi from their cushion in the front parlor like he did every morning of their mother’s events, and birthdays scrambled the eggs of any tepid chicken. Mother flew across the corridors, an astounding gait. Her words soared through the rooms, addressing every inch of uncertain movement her staff presented. A hurried woman with a tone firm yet impressive; nothing but smooth and eloquent sentences left her tongue. Mrs. Reynolds swept by the parlor to address her children.

“Homer, my darling. Please take Vivi to the baker for her birthday pastry. Make haste, as guests arrive promptly at 10, and I need both of you to greet them.”

Homer’s vacant stare ceased with his mother’s entry.

            “Yes, Mama!”

Jumping from the sofa, he readied himself and Vivi in their spring coats and hats. His muted green garments contrasted nicely with his small sister’s lavender and cream.

            “Are we to get an apple raisin crisp, Homer?”

“I’ll make sure of it,” said Homer with a wink and hand, leading Vivi down the front porch steps.

Springtime in the neighborhood took cadence in its soft colors, cool breeze, and the residents’ love for basketry. Everybody seemed to require a woven basket for any sort of activity. Baskets for groceries, baskets for flowers, baskets for sewing supplies, baskets for travel. Homer strode down the roadway toward the bakery, his sister’s hand in his. His mind wandered to his seafaring eldest brother who took to nautical pursuits after attending university. Homer knew his soul wanted an adventure. He saw himself chasing after a clever conman through the streets. He pictured himself pacing his neighborhood, scouting the populace for spies. He could go about the lovely pathways of his town reading poetry in the day. Then search libraries, solving cold cases at night. All manner of clients would come to him asking for his guidance, his quick wit, and his sharp eyes. Would he harbor time for a family with such a pursuit? His brother settled a year ago and his wonderful stories of sea travel and political ventures turned to stale tales of rosemary bushes and the neglectful paper boy. His mind traveled far and wide, and his eyes glazed over as the township sights danced before him. Eventually, a dog’s bark shook his catatonic attention, and he looked down to realize his hand empty. In a panic, Homer turned to see a flash of lavender disappear several yards behind him.

            “Vivi!” Homer shouted to the fleeting figure of his sister.

He set on the chase instantly, running toward the place he saw her disappear. He looked to his left and saw the bakery but no Vivi. His head spun, his eyes racing from face to face amidst the busy cobble street. Then, the ribbon of her straw hat caught his eye on the other end of the street, and he saw the back of his little sister dissolve into the shadow of an alley. His footsteps barely touched the ground as he followed her into the alleyway. He called to her but arrived at a vacancy. He walked further down the side street until he came to a three-way division. Someone grasped his arm.

            “Hurry up, H!”

Homer’s insides leapt. His head shot around and up to a broad figure in a long coat (strange for mild spring air). He tried to protest but the words failed to resound as his assailant pulled him off the main alley and behind a tall pile of crates.

            “You find her?” The man said in earnest, shielded by a hat and snug scarf.

“W-who?” Homer stumbles over his question and only thinks to add, “Why are you wearing a coat in spring?”

The man began to respond to the first query but then appeared stumped by the following.

            Looking offended, “I..” he faltered, “must keep ambiguous, obviously.”

            He continues, “H, why haven’t you found her; you’ve been lurkin’ for days on this case?”

Homer’s body went numb from the surmounting questions.

“Who’s H?”

The man rolls his eyes.

            “Man, did you hit your head or something?”

Homer’s vision of Vivi vanishing into the alleyway shocked his system back into proper thought.

            “My sister is missing; please help me find her? She’s wearing a cream dress with-“

“H, you’re busted or somethin’. I thought you got her?” He looked around uneasily.

“I’ll save your hide just this once.”

With this, he tugged on his hat and started out down the main alleyway. Homer followed, sparklers in his stomach and sand in his brain. The two began sprinting, leaping over garbage, spare crates, sleeping cooks, and bins. Homer’s aching legs and sweat-drenched shirt weighed heavy on him, but he found the adrenaline spiking and his eyes sharpen as the two set on the chase. A cold breeze picked up as the they made it to a main street. Homer scanned the scene in a flash and signaled to the man.

“She’s not here.”

They set out down the street and jumped back into a side way. In the back of his mind, Homer wondered why the streets seemed so vacant, and why his vision seemed slightly tunneled. He put the thought away as they passed through another main street, scouted the surroundings, and dove back into the shadows. Eerie silence broken by distant dog barks echoed in Homer’s head. Winding deeper through the alleyways the man pointed to a small figure up ahead.

            “There she is!”

Homer squinted to see his sister sitting on a crate in the distance. They slowed to stop, taking a moment to catch their breath. Vivi sat, swinging her legs and eating a apple raisin crisp. She looked over to them with a plain expression.

            “Where on earth have you been, Vi?” Homer gasped.

            “Bakery,” Vivi said, taking another bite of the soft pastry.

“The bakery? But I checked and you were nowhere to be found. We had to run for ages to catch up to you!”

            “We?” Vivi asks.

            “The…wait – I don’t know his name.” Homer turned around only to find a fading ray of sunlight brightening a bare alleyway. He began to hear noise coming from the main street close by.

            “There was a man who searched with me. Where’s he gone?”

            “Was there?” Vivi looked at her brother keenly.

            He caught her, “What? There was! Besides, why did you wander off anyways?”

            “I didn’t. You ran off, so I went in to get my treat and waited for you in the shade.”

Homer, astounded, tried to think back to the moments before he lost her.

            “I just remember walking from the house, stopping a little past the bakery, seeing you

walk away into the alley and disappear, I chased after you, and then the man spooked

me.”

“Daydreaming again?”

“Perhaps,” Homer frowned in deep thought, “but there was something else that made me so very worried.”

“Oh! The party!”

Written by Kayla Harper

Image credit

When Life Gives You Lemons…

“When life gives you lemons… 

My mother used to say, 

Such a predictable phrase 

Of course, we should make lemonade 

But what if we didn’t? 

Can’t we carve our own path? 

Do the unexpected,

And make the whole world gasp

Today I’d like to change your point of view 

Instead of lemonade, 

Let’s make orange juice.” 

Junie signed her name at the end with a creative script before publishing her latest piece. Another poem she hoped would generate some positive attention for her page. She certainly needed it. Her last few posts were left berated with negativity. Hateful comments criticizing both her work and even attacking her as a writer filled the past few pages. Lemons, lemons, lemons, she had bunches of them. 

Unfortunately, they never seemed to end. Once again, acidic comments flooded her page. 

“I don’t get it,” one response read. “That’s not how the phrase goes.” 

“I know you’re trying to be creative, but there’s no sense of prose.” 

“Who does this girl think she is? Can anyone even understand this?” 

“No offense, but this just doesn’t make sense.” 

And on and on the comments went. 

Junie sighed, turning off her computer screen. Too much acidity. Like the lemon juice in a paper cut, her wound stung. They just didn’t understand. No one grasped her true meaning. It’s not the fruit that matters, but the message behind it. The need to be different, the desire to change, to take the bitterness of life and twist it into something unbelievable. 

The need to be orange juice in a world of lemonade. 

Typical, she thought. The people around her never saw things the way she did. Everyone appeared to live a formulaic lifestyle. Accept the bad, cry about it later, cope with sugary sweet lemonade. Why not be different? Why not take what you’re given and throw it away? Make something new. You can’t drown everything with lemonade. 

Sitting down at her keyboard, Junie opened up her laptop and began typing again. This time, she’d create something new, something just for her.

Forget what the rest of the world said. She didn’t need their approval to make something beautiful.

Written by Naomi Hernandez

Image credit

Image

The Love I Feel for You

I watch you every day. I watch you drink your morning coffee, watch you make breakfast, watch you brush your teeth while grumbling about it being Monday. I watch you make lunch, I watch you make dinner, I watch you make a snack and I silently hope that you’ll share it with me. I watch you live life.

            A couple of years ago, you stopped leaving every day. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t care. You stayed home all the time! You could love me all the time! You seemed stressed, though, and I did my best to comfort you. I didn’t want you to be sad, but I didn’t want you to leave either.

            I remember the first day I came here, but just barely. I think I had a life before you, but I can’t quite remember. It almost seems like I’ve lived in this house forever, slept on these floors forever, played in this backyard forever. I think I had brothers and sisters once, and sometimes I miss them. Then I see you reaching down absentmindedly to scratch my ears while you talk to the people in your computer, and I forget.

            I hope you know how much I love you. You must, right? I wait for you to wake up because my favorite thing is being with you. I don’t know what I did without you, and I know you feel the same way because you tell me all the time.

            I hardly remember life before you, and I think it’s because my life didn’t really begin until you brought me home. As I curl up beside you, kissing your face goodnight, I hope you know that this kiss means so much more. It means thank you. Thank you for being my world. I love you. Throw the ball more for me tomorrow. Goodnight.

Written by Caroline Johnson

Image Credit

a love letter to my ocd

i hate you. 

i hate the way you control my life. 

i hate how you invade my every waking thought. 

how you pervade my dreams. 

i hate what you take from me.  

experiences. 

joy. 

excitement. 

i hate what you give me.  

fear. 

obsession. 

confusion.  

you deprive me of sleep,

of living in the moment,

of enjoying the life God has given me.  

every night i take an antidepressant, 

trying to keep the monster called “what if?” from eating through my mind. 

and yet. 

i love you. 

you’re a part of me. 

you’ve always been with me.  

you remind me 

of so many things. 

how fiercely i love. 

how devoted i am. 

how i desperately need to trust and be held 

and dwell in the arms of the Almighty. 

you remind me that i am small 

and i can’t do it 

and i need an all-powerful God to do it for me— 

something i always forget. 

you teach me Bible passages, 

pages upon pages of prose that soothe my soul. 

you bring me great hope 

even in the midst of great sorrow. 

you take a lot 

but you also give a lot 

and for that 

i guess 

i say 

thank you. 

Written by Caroline

Image credit

Image

A Lie’s Promise

I shouldn’t trust words so much

Tricky little things skewed and bent to look beautiful 

But when a perfect phrase is uttered… 

One breathed with meaning and heart… 

It’s hard to ignore 

Your silky sweet, honeyed words draw me in 

And I fall into them like a warm embrace of hope 

“I’ll always be there for you.” 

“You have the best smile.” 

“Careful, I might steal your heart.” 

“I’ll make time for you.” 

“Promise.” 

Promise… 

I should have made you swear 

Naïve to the treachery of love, I was caught up in your spell 

But truth’s bitter tonic can break even the strongest of enchantments 

I am no stranger to fabrications and falsehoods 

To bending the truth just enough 

I know everything comes to light eventually 

Because I too am a wordsmith 

I create vivid fantasy with a pen stroke

Words gilded in gold, my own promises hidden under a sugar coated lie   

Beautiful, tempting words 

None of which I can trust 

Not my own and certainly not anyone else’s 

Because like any good author, I confuse fact and fiction 

Written by Naomi

Image credit

Image

She Likes Solitude, She Thinks

She loves solitude.

the idea of it, at least.

She wishes she could stay in her room,

but the sun never stays in the sky long enough,

the moon always give way,

and the people go on living

though her throat contracts in pain,

from pleading for it all to pause

just for a moment,

and let her catch her breath because,

she goes through each day,

face toward the pavement,

watching her feet rapidly move one

before the other.

heel, toe, heel, toe.

she knows these steps, she walked this path

a hundred times and

she will walk it a thousand more.

The familiarity provides some momentary quiet

until

she remembers she never quite liked

stability—no, she meant

predictability.

She has been predictable her whole life,

refining her unsolicited talent of fading into the background

to witness other people,

to legitimize their existence.

So where she becomes tangible

hides between the creases and folds of her unwashed bedsheets.

So narrow and fragile a space

it slips through the urgent and chafed

palms of Reality.

She finds

her thoughts too big,

her heart too big,

the world bigger, still

and she feels so small.

Written by Gayle

Image credit

Image

Excerpt from Deadwater

The hollow steps of the corridor echoed in Blaise’s ear. Swiftly, he followed his guide as if he would lose them in the dark expanse. Nothing but glossy darkness down the hallway, with only silence aside the footsteps. After endless paperwork and interviews, the world began closing in. He knew this was the last step in the process, where he would meet Lavinia, the executive. A powerful shadow spoken of in nothing but proper regard. Blaise felt heat around his ears. The guide slowed, and with panic in his stomach, he saw the door.

His accompaniment halted and turned to him. “She is waiting for you.”

“Thank you,” were the only words he whispered.

Since arriving, he felt the overwhelming urge to speak in nothing more than hushed tones. Each person he met inside Obsidian spoke directly and quietly. He followed suite. Pushing into the door, he entered her office, attempting confidence.

A small office. It was decorated minimally with the same black, glossy walls except for the back wall which looked to be foggy, black glass with a flat waterfall running down it. Her desk was situated in the center, near the back of the room, and her figure spoke for the space.

“Welcome, Blaise. Please, have a seat.”

She gestured to the chair in front of her desk. He complied, keeping his focus on her face. She appeared calm and lovely, dressed in sleek, dark garments and a strong posture.

“Thank you, Ms. Sparro. It is wonderful to finally make your acquaintance.”

She smiled, “I’m sure.”

Silence – but he wouldn’t let that shake him. Blaise knew his confidence and charm should never waver, and silence is powerful. One should use silence and embrace it. The nature of Obsidian is silence; the world needed it.

“The time has not been wasted by you, yet, and that I thank you for.” Her voice was cool and collected, with a tenderness to it.

“I’m glad,” he answered.

What to say next? Why did she not continue and ask questions? Blaise smiled but felt a spinning unresolve in his head as he felt the conversation stagnate. Did she want me to introduce myself and pitch to her my value? Why isn’t she speaking?

“I desire our time here together to be efficient and valuable to you, Ms. Sparro. And with the interviews and assessments I surmounted already I ask what it is you would like to know further?”

She listened well, gazing into him as he spoke. Blaise began to feel his clothes more – the tightness of his collar.

She said, “I know so much about you Mx. Ridley. I only appreciate the experience of listening to your presence as you sit before me in my office. You know the work you will be doing here, and I think you will succeed greatly.”

“Thank you,” Blaise nodded his head.

This is a test of will and patience I presume. I can sit here all day and speak pleasantries with you, Lavinia.

A harsh knock almost caused Blaise to visibly startle.

A muffled tone erupted from behind the door, “Lavinia, I won’t have this nonsense you’re scheming with Lana. She’s not going to that school!”

Lavinia never dropped her focus on Blaise, but her eyes narrowed slightly. She stood up, approached the door, and opened it slightly. The light scent of cedar wafted toward Blaise, and he didn’t dare turn his head to see who the guest was.

In a low tone he heard, “Cirrus, I will gladly discuss this with you later. Now, leave my office.”

“You have no right to delegate where she goes and who she lives with. She’s my daughter!” Blaise heard a tired desperation in the person’s voice.

“I hold every right to decide how family is treated and brought up in our house. You will soon learn this, despite your failure as a father.”

She closed the door and walked back over to her desk. Blaise heard footsteps recede from the door.

“Now Mx. Blaise, I believe you should see the facilities of Obsidian if you are to articulate what we do and acquire us the clients we deserve.”

As she walked to her place behind the desk, she tapped on the center of the desk’s surface. A divided playing board flipped open with pieces laid, ready to play.

“Let’s see our beautiful research center first.”

Lightly pressing on a piece, a doorway opened from behind the waterfall.

“Follow me, Blaise Ridley.”

Written by Kayla

Image credit

Image

Love in Doing and in Being

Love in doing and in being

Little words with great, big meanings

Swimming, laughing, running, breathing

Understanding, loving, seeing

Quiet seconds hold everything

The greatest pleasure, harshest sting

If you knew what your purpose brings

You could accomplish anything

Yes, formed from dust but filled with light

A glorious and humbling sight

A unique, precious life to live

Enough without the additives

So, don’t buy the things to fill the void

Don’t unearth the things that you destroyed

In simple things, the here, the now

Is where your happiness be found

You’ll find it, love, I promise you

When you realize this simple truth

The little things seem much less fleeting

Love in doing and in being

Written by Gracie

Image credit

Image

More Than Imagination

Created from the depths of a child’s imagination, I entered life in the shape my child gave me. With pink hair, a fuzzy tail, kitten ears, and a tiara, I was born from the culmination of a little girl’s childhood joys. Made for her and her alone, I became what adults call a silly fantasy, a make-believe image, an imaginary friend. 

I don’t care what they call me. The only name that matters to me is the one my creator gave me. I still remember the moment I first saw her, six years old and already remarkably brilliant. I awoke in the world to behold her beautiful sight. Dani stood before me with a wide smile, her hair twisted in delightful little pigtails. She dressed better than any princess, her wardrobe consisting of a spectacular purple tutu skirt, plastic beads, and matching purple polka-dot rain boots. I couldn’t help but smile brightly at the sight of her, as she raised a hand to wave to me. 

“Hi Bonnie!” I heard her call, and from that moment on, the name sealed itself inside my heart. On occasion it would change just slightly. Sometimes I was Princess Bonnie, other times ballerina Bonnie, or cowgirl Bonnie. Every game we played adjusted my name to fit the setting of our newest adventure. 

Oh, the adventures we shared! They never ended. Dani took me on the spaceship of her imagination as we visited castles, fought off bandits, sat at leisurely tea parties, and danced the night away. Each adventure cast us into spectacular whirlwinds of fun, but each one ended the same. We’d put on our tiaras, point to one another, and make a princess promise to be best friends forever. Day after day, I stayed by her side, and night after night I soothed her to sleep, assuring her I could keep the monsters under her bed at bay. 

However, Dani never knew about her parents’ worries. Her mother and father worked long, tiring jobs and had a troubled marriage that often ended in fits of shouting certain words I’d covered Dani’s ears for. Neither of them stayed around to support their daughter enough, and they knew it. Often at night, they sneaked into her bedroom to sit at her side with me, and I overheard their soft whispers of concern. 

“What if she doesn’t make any friends in kindergarten?” 

“I wish we didn’t have to leave her alone so much.” 

“She talks to herself all the time. Is that normal for a kid her age?” 

“I’m worried about her. The only friend she has is that weird imaginary creature, that Bonnie thing.” 

Often their words hurt, but hurtful words come from hurting people. I knew they missed their daughter. They loved her but feared they couldn’t be enough. That’s where I came in. When they filed the divorce papers, and her father moved out, I held heartbroken Dani. When it seemed impossible to learn the alphabet, I helped her practice. Finally, when her mother missed her first school show, I appeared to congratulate her. 

I remember tucking Dani into bed the night after that show, purple glitter still glistening in her hair from her bedazzled costume. She held onto my hand so tight, rehearsing her two lines from the performance over and over so she could perform them for her mother the next day. Her resilient heart remained undeterred by the lack of her mother’s presence. How I wished she wasn’t so used to disappointment. 

When midnight rolled around, her mother finally pried open the door to Dani’s room. Pushing aside the barricade of stuffed animals, she took a seat on the side of her daughter’s bed. Deep purple bags lingered under her eyes, nearly brimming over with tears. 

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, repeating the phrase till the tears finally broke loose. “I’m sorry I missed your show. I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. I’m sorry for failing you as a mother,” she sobbed. 

My heart couldn’t help but take pity on her. Dani made me into a compassionate being, and the love of my little girl’s heart overflowed into my own. I placed a still hand on her mother’s shoulder, wishing she could see through the eyes of her child. If only she could see me, if only she could hear me, I’d tell her how much her daughter adored her. 

For a moment, her mother stilled under my hand. For a second, she drew close to finding that childlike belief that allows you to see the impossible. But she fell just short of it. With a whisper, she looked into the air on the other side of Dani’s bed, right where I stood. “Bonnie?” she called softly, shaking her head like she couldn’t believe what she was saying. “Bonnie, if you’re there…if you’re real… I need you to look after my little girl. Be her invisible angel, be her friend, be whatever she needs when I’m not enough.” 

“I will,” I whispered back, knowing she couldn’t hear me. I put my tiara on and pointed at her the same way Dani and I would whenever we ended an adventure. “It’s a princess promise.” 

From that moment on, I took it upon myself to give Dani the best childhood imaginable. Our adventures became increasingly wild and fun-filled as her mother grew more distant, my hugs became tighter the more disappointment came her way, and our princess promises gradually grew more and more elaborate the more she needed me. For a while, I thought I’d be with her forever. I thought she’d need me for all of eternity… but that was until she made a friend. 

Dani met Ethan on the playground at the end of kindergarten. We’d been swinging back and forth on the swing set, pretending to be little fairies flying though the sky. What I never predicted was the possibility of there being another child doing the same thing with their own invisible friend. Ethan hopped on the swing next to Dani, followed by a boy just like me with bright blue hair in a space suit.

“Come on, Max! We’re going to the moon!” he shouted, waving his invisible friend along as he pretended to strap into the rocket that the swing set became. 

I remember Dani looking over at me, her invisible fairy wings fading away as she whispered to me. “I want to go to the moon too.” 

I smiled and pointed to Ethan. “Then ask him if you can come.” 

Dani stood and tapped on Ethan’s shoulder. “Uh, hello,” she mumbled, still quite shy and wary of new people. “Can I join you on your spaceship?” 

Ethan looked to Max, and the blue haired astronaut gave him a nod. “You’re going to need a copilot, kiddo.” 

With Max’s approval, Ethan flashed Dani a smile, shouting, “Welcome aboard!” 

From there, the two of them flew to the moon and directed their spacecraft to soar off to a long-lasting friendship. Designed to play the role of a loyal friend, I found no greater honor than to watch Dani learn to befriend Ethan, love others, and grow. We journeyed through elementary, middle, and high school together, time dashing by as we turned our thoughts to the stars. Soon, purple tutus and tea sets began to vanish, and her stuffed animal collection diminished, all to be replaced with star charts and prints of the Hubble telescope. Dani and Ethan no longer played astronauts together. Now they went stargazing, and spent time talking about their futures as aerospace engineers.  

Max vanished years ago; his spacesuit lost to the whims of time as Ethan’s imagination slowly lost sight of his old friend. Yet, I remained. Dani’s heart still needed me. My mission still needed fulfilling. I remained her friend and companion, her invisible angel staying by her side until her heart was full enough for her to live on her own. By now, my body had grown frail and thin. I’d lost the tail, kitten ears, and tiara she had once bestowed upon me. Now, I appear completely human to her, my pink hair the only remaining piece of my original design. Most of the time, I haunt her room like a ghost, barely existing, forgotten, only getting called upon in a rare moment of need. 

College admissions proved a difficult time, and testing for SAT’s and ACT’s brought Dani an extreme amount of stress. Every now and then, I’d come to comfort her during those times, but my support typically ended up short lived. I held her in my arms, whispering encouragement that went unheard as she reached for her phone to dial Ethan. Every time she pushed me away, I felt my heart and body fade. A part of me died each time, and another part of me soared because each time she didn’t need me, it meant my little girl was growing up. Each time she picked herself up, reached out for a friend, and solved her own problems meant that my princess promise to her mother was coming true. Dani didn’t need me anymore. She grew up.

As soon as the thought passed through my head, I felt my arms and legs begin to tingle and fade. I reached my end. Vanishing slowly, I savored the very last sight of my beloved little girl. Dani had grown into a lovely young woman. While polka-dot rain boots and costume jewelry had been exchanged for jeans and comfy star patterned sweatshirts, she still wore her beautiful smile. From the moment I first saw Dani, I loved her, and as I faded away from this plane of existence, reduced to little more than an image sent adrift, I know one thing would never change. I will always love her.

Written by Naomi

Image credit

Image

the minstrel

i met a man along the road 

a minstrel, i think he said. 

he wore a guitar across his back 

and a hat upon his head.  

his voice felt soft like summer rain 

but rich, like sweet perfume.  

he sang a song that touched my soul 

and kissed me with its tune.  

i couldn’t sing it for you now 

not even if i tried.  

i only know it broke my heart 

then cast my grief aside.  

he knew everything i’ve ever known 

it’s like he read my mind. 

and looking back, i guess he did. 

his words stayed sweet and kind. 

he left me shortly after 

and i haven’t seen him since.  

i hardly know the song he sang 

but won’t forget it hence. 

someone asked me, after that day,  

do you think you saw God? 

who else could touch your soul like that 

and trod the road you trod? 

i thought about the question 

and finally agreed 

that yes, i must have seen the Lord 

and His voice, it sang to me. 

how else could He slip in my mind 

in the saddest, gladdest way, 

if He had not known all its thoughts 

and loved it anyway? 

Written by Caroline

Image credit

Image

Lucky’s Cookies

Boredom overcame the hotel employees as 3am approached. The midnight crowd turned out lighter than usual; Lester greatly appreciated this. Monica fostered the bad habit of snacking on the job. Even though she worked behind the giant front desk, hiding her from common view, her image needed to remain impeccable; the fudge chocolate cookies did not help.

Lester’s feet dragged the short carpet hallway. He heard the lights buzzing and ice machine churning every so often. His stomach also churned. “Chocolate fudge cookies will not fulfill me, so don’t eat them.” His inner monologue became a dialogue when a voice from his stomach replied, “well, it’s something.” Lester paused. Blinking a of couple times for good measure and popping his wrist, he continued down the hallway unphased. “These carpets need cleaning!” He directed this complaint to Monica as he arrived at the front desk. Looking over to his silent coworker, he found a tablet propped up against the computer, cookies in her hand, and half-dazed eyes watching a crime show. “Monica.” He repeated with a tired attempt at sternness. Her face turned towards his direction; her eyes still stuck to the screen. “Mhm?” “You can’t be serious. You’re not even going to try and hide it now, are you?” Lester experienced no shock at his coworker’s unprofessional conduct. He technically stood over her in authority, but he held no intention of dealing out consequences today. Consequences do not exist past 1am. “Well, could you at least write a note to get the carpet cleaner down here in the coming week?” Monica’s wizardry at multitasking manifested through a slow raise of the hand, sloppy scribble on a sticky note, and the crooked pasting of the note on the computer, all without her eyes leaving the screen.

Lester sat down at his desk in the back office. He began sorting papers but found himself so overwhelmed he fidgeted with miscellaneous office supplies instead. His head buzzed in tandem with the florescent lights. The clock read 3:15am. “This is going to be such a long night.” He groaned. “Let’s have some cookies!” His stomach chimed in at this moment of sober silence. “What!?” He halfway called towards the door. He assumed Monica saw his wretched state and spoke out a suggestion. “I’m not eating those darn cookies, Monica!” He replied. Silence followed, and he opened his laptop with the intention of playing solitaire. However, his feet held different ideas. The restlessness that overcame him ached from his feet to his face. No amount of fidgeting could sustain his body in his position on the cracking leather swivel chair. In an effort to aid the static flowing through his veins, he stood up and made his way down the other first floor hallway.

The hotel’s yellow lighting and long, horseshoe hallway made a great racetrack for slow, dissociative pacing. Lester walked and walked, swinging his legs as he strode down the vacant hotel corridor. “Monica will surely eat all the cookies. Turn around you fool.” Lester paused. “Who’s that?” He asked, glancing around him. No one occupied the hallway beside him, no door was ajar, and no phone call was in session. “I suppose a snack wouldn’t hurt, but not cookies.” He thought it best to entertain the voice rather than argue with it, for he did not like arguing. “No. Cookies or bust!” replied his stomach. “I have some almonds in the office, would that work?” Lester tried to negotiate. “Absolutely not!” His stomach seemed as stubborn as appropriate. As passive a person as Lester, some part of his vessel needed to store the firmness his consciousness lacked. Lester’s legs drug him onward down the hall and an almost endless, dizzy feeling started emerging through his hunger pains. Nausea rippled through his head much like dense desert heat waves. He walked on and on and on. “What a wonderful time to eat cookies with gooey fudge baked inside and perhaps a bit of chocolate frosting to dress it,” said his stomach in sarcastic reprimand. “No, no…” Lester said as his knees bent and buckled. He caught himself and the nausea fled, just for a moment. He blinked to clear his tunnel-like vision. “Just need to clean these blasted carpets,” he muttered under a ragged breath. His legs carried him farther down the hallway until he delivered his dizzy skull to the other side, back at the front desk. Lester sat in one of the lime-green lobby chairs. For the first time, the usually rough fabric of the cushions felt dull to the touch. Inside his mind, a place that felt to hover just above his limp body, he heard a small noise from the front desk. The sound of Monica’s crime show wafted to his ear. “Now you will die in these horrid chairs” said his stomach with a shooting pain to accompany the sentence. “You’ll have to listen to her awful shows forever more.” “What about the almonds?” Lester barely whispered to himself. “Forget the almonds, you’re dying, Lester!”

Monica tasted the chocolate fudge cookies from Lucky’s Cookies for the first time at her little niece’s ninth birthday two weeks ago. They immediately became her new favorite. She started her show promptly at 1am and began enjoying them, attempting to spread them out across the night. She had brought a batch of her second favorite cookies (previously first favorite) a while back and finished them within an hour. This night, she set out to enjoy them slowly throughout her shift, savoring every bite. With Lester’s usual pacing and the hotel’s quiet night shift, she anticipated an enjoyable evening. Sitting cozy behind the large front desk, she continued binging the next episodes of her crime show. By the 3:30am hour, she felt like the show’s writers relied a little too much on basic serial killer villains. So, she switched to a spooky thriller instead. Half the batch gone. She set a timer on her phone for the next time she could grab one. She failed to comply. Peering over the desk, she saw Lester slouched in the lime-green lobby chairs. “Want a cookie?” Monica inquired, her eyes squinting from the lights as she hadn’t looked up in over an hour. “Lester?” Monica called once more before returning to her cookies and show. What a weird guy.

“Do you know the benefits of chocolate, Lester?” “Stop talking to me please.” Lester had energy only for internal speech. “Kings ate chocolate by the barrel you know?” His stomach reflected. “That’s probably not true.” Lester’s eyes rolled up into his head. His world went dark.

Back in elementary school, your mom packed you a cookie with your lunch every day, remember Lester? She didn’t know the way she loved you never fit right in your head. Maybe you just didn’t know how to receive love, like you tried so hard to function outside your bedroom you didn’t know how to eat. Do you know how to eat, Lester? You’re an adult now. You should know. Every hug she gave you your body went rigid. No one, not even your mother, could give you the love you wanted. Why are you so particular? Why can’t you eat? Why can’t you just feel grateful for a mother who hugged you and packed you lunch every day, with cookies no less.

Lester, not by his own volition, took a nap in the lime-green lobby chair. He woke up to even greater hunger pains but a softened fuzziness in his head. He carefully walked back to the office behind the front desk. Sitting in the cracked leather swivel chair, he nibbled on some almonds. His eyes caught part of Monica’s tablet as her thriller show played. His blank staring subsided as he began to watch it more intently. The almonds tasted like nothing, but the fuzziness in his head started to clear as he slowly took bites. He only heard his deep breaths and the crinkling of the almond bag. The clock read 3:45am. He looked a bit closer at the tablet: a couple of characters franticly dug in a graveyard. He shook his head, amused, “these shows – all the same.” Nevertheless, he continued watching. “Don’t watch that show, Lester,” remarked his eyeballs.

Written by Kayla

Image credit

Image

conversations in the hundred acre wood

i went to the hundred acre wood again today 

for a little bit of peace and quiet.  

kanga made me tea and pooh served me honey on toast.  

the honey made the bread soggy.

curtesy of pooh, of course.

tigger tried to get me to bounce, but i told him i felt too tired. 

kanga nodded in agreement, or perhaps understanding.

pooh asked me why i felt tired and i said, “i just have too many thoughts and not enough brain to think them.” 

piglet nodded in agreement, too. 

pooh fell silent for a moment, thinking.  

he takes his time when he thinks. 

“why do you have so many thoughts?” he asked finally, resting a sticky paw on my arm.  

i told him, “my brain just thinks too much, sometimes.” 

pooh smiled knowingly.  

“when my brain does that,” he said, reaching for the honey pot, “i find the best thing to think about instead is nothing.” 

“that makes it worse,” i protested. 

“how does thinking about nothing make something worse?” pooh asked, confused. 

“my brain makes something out of nothing,” i explained, taking my last sip of tea.  

pooh lapsed into silence again. “perhaps…” he said thoughtfully, finally, wiping his sticky paws on his bright red sweater, “perhaps if you do nothing, i mean with the something, nothing will happen.” 

“you mean rest?” i asked, handing him a napkin. 

“if that’s what you call it,” pooh replied, taking it. “i find that sometimes doing nothing with something is the very best kind of something.” 

i pondered his words. took another bite of toast.  

“maybe you’re right,” i said finally.  

“i usually am,” pooh murmured, already forgetting our conversation. 

i sat back, pondering his words. 

perhaps he’s right, i repeated to myself.  

“pooh,” i said aloud, watching him peer into the now-empty pot of honey, “would you mind if i came back, you know, when i need to do nothing?” 

pooh smiled again. “i always enjoy company when i’m doing nothing.” 

i left the hundred acre wood a great deal happier than when i came. 

“i know things can be hard,” kanga said, in parting, handing me a cloth full of cookies, tucked into a basket of my now-clean laundry, “but just remember: you always have friends with whom you can do nothing.” 

i smiled. thanked her. and went home.  

tomorrow a new day dawns, full of countless new somethings to experience. 

but also full of just as many nothings  

to rest in. 

Written by Caroline

Image credit

Image

The Continuous Struggle

At the onset of all my mental health struggles, I truly believed that it would only be a season of my life. I’d get through the worst of it and eventually close that chapter. As if mental illness exists as a virus we simply need to flush out of our system. Now a sophomore in college, my mental health journey only continues to ebb and flow. I go through some days perfectly fine. I act productive, eagerly engage in relationships, and just function as a “normal” human being. Other days I find myself waking up, already weighted with melancholy, not fully convinced I ever truly knew myself. It can be the most jarring experience to feel on top of the world one day, completely shattered the next, and not know why. Unsurprisingly, the nature of most days rests in between those extremities. I can carry myself well but stay reminded of all the ways my past mental health struggles still permeate. On days like that, I hesitate to start meals or linger by my reflection for a fraction of a minute too long. I cancel plans because even though I woke up feeling okay, the thought of being around people now makes my heart beat too quickly and my breaths come out ragged. I sit to play the piano and find my fingers uncontrollably shaking. I let drafts of Instagram posts pile up over months, and debate, for hours, over the right captions or the correct order of photos. I overthink the most cut-and-dry situations and interactions feel completely helpless in convincing my brain that I don’t have to believe every thing I think.

At the start of every year, I choose a Bible verse and a word to focus on. This year, I chose “Abundance” as my word. As a college student, I find myself on the precipice of endless possibilities and feel an almost intoxicating amount of excitement regarding it. I knew, however, that when we think of “abundance” we tend to only fantasize the positives. We assume that abundance only means good things. That a full life equates one without hardship and error. Amidst all the mental health struggles I faced, I wanted to see God’s hand in them. To witness his sovereignty and authority in every aspect of life, not just the mountain tops. Yes, happiness and contentment are worthy and beautiful end goals to possess, but we shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing something incongruent to them. 

As both a Christ-follower and psychology major, I now see the tension between the church and mental health more vividly than most. The neglect of psychological health continues to persist in today’s world, in both the sacred and secular spheres, and my frustration with this reality only continues to grow. For my fellow Christians who fight battles in secret, I want to remind you that your experiences and emotions deserve validation and conversation. No correlation exists between the strength of our faith and our mental stability. Believing that God turns his face from us when we go through difficult seasons minimizes and distorts not only our identity, but God’s as well.

This past semester, one of my professors introduced to us the idea that happiness and contentment existing as the “normal state” of human beings might prove incorrect. At first, some might find this proposal offensive and pessimistic, but I can’t think of a single biblical reference that disproves it. Maybe back in Eden, before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, that idea stood on steady ground, but not now. Romans 8:22 reads, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” While I believe that God wishes for us to live our days with laughter and peace, the world that we find ourselves in harbors suffering and brokenness. However, I consider us blessed that we hold the ability to go through turmoil; it means we know something greater exists out there for us to experience. Something Heavenly. 

Now, every time I feel overloaded with serotonin I praise God for that moment of complete bliss, and every time I get hit with extreme heartache I praise God for steadfastness through it and his promise to return to us and redeem it. 

Written by Gayle

Image credit

Image

Walter Mitty

Once, I met a boy, who tried building an electric longboard to travel the perimeter road of Iceland; a new-age Walter Mitty. He knew exactly what he wanted.

Miles into the wilderness, in Larue, Texas, sits a ziplining park, where a person can get hooked up to a series of cords allowing them to fly several hundred feet on a wire. The owner’s mop dog with black dreadlocks lumbers behind each employee, and even he wears a ziplining harness. Mason, an employee of the establishment, worked every day helping people get over their fear of heights, and when he went home at night, he changed from a zip-lining guide to a mechanic. The perimeter road of Iceland spans 828 miles, and this whirring two-by-four would make it the whole way if he could control it. With an average max speed of 15mph and a prayer for good weather, he could make it around the entire ring in less than a month. He told me that one day he decided on becoming Walter Mitty, soaring down the rocky and volcanic roads of Iceland on a borrowed longboard. So, he described how he built at his little machine, getting grease on his hands and plugging away at a makeshift engine. I asked him if he was so inspired by the part in the movie that he would play the song where Walter Mitty skates down the slope of the nearly unpronounceable Seyðisfjarðarvegur mountain. He laughed and showed me an entire playlist of José Gonzáles, the writer of many of the songs in the movie.

There remains a part of me that wants adventure, and it battles with the part of me that wants to grow a garden, that I may develop roots like one. I would miss the little comforts of my own comfy chair next to the precious books I have collected over time, the mason jar I drink from, the notes from loved ones on the wall, the kaleidoscope I bought in Jerome, the stuffed animals passed down from my mother, the stray pencil markings on the table where I do my homework, the spray setting of my own shower, the squirrel I must keep away from the tulip bulbs every year, my favorite bench in the park, and the guarantee that wherever I go, the mug that my friend Aidan gave me for my  birthday still sits in the second shelf of the cupboard. I would miss those things were I to chance it on my own. Mason knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted to cut ties and fly down mountains, feeling rain on his skin and cold numbing his fingers. He planned on a new hostel every night, new faces every day, and a new sunset every evening. He found thrill in the form of discovering himself in the lonely wasteland, harking to the wind and crashing seas on the towering cliffs. I want to feel a similar adventure, to find a lake somewhere and sit for a while, or to see a flower I have never laid eyes on before. I would love to roll the dice and take what chance offers in the way of unexpected friends, rainstorms, late nights under the stars, forgetting my toothbrush in the last motel, and gas station snacks. But oh, how I would miss the comfort of home.

“Time to step outside. House on fire, leave it all behind you. Dark as night, let the lightning guide you.” -“Step Out” by José Gonzáles

Written by Gracie

Image credit

Image

Haunting Memory House

I opened the door and yelled, “Sam!” A familiar-looking children’s room greeted me, and a tiny bed rested in the corner. The walls displayed paintings of animals, and the floor hide itself underneath many toys. Most of these toys seemed passed down; I knew because they used to be mine. A tug on my arm commanded my attention. A small child stood in front of me and commented, “You look a lot like my sister.”

Minutes before, I followed my little brother, Sam, into an abandoned house in our neighborhood. He wanted an adventure. However, when I went in after him, I stood alone in an exact replica of our home. At first, it looked like a coincidence, but then I saw our own family photos on the wall. All the lights remained off, and not even a sound could be heard. After the shock, a rush of worry grabbed me. I questioned, “Where is Sam?” Then I rushed to his room, but he was not there.

Inside stood a young boy with a striking resemblance to him. I ignored his comment about me looking like his sister and walked towards the center of the room. Light exploded from the window and brightly lit the room. I smiled because seeing his room like this again gave a warm feeling. Suddenly, I heard the door close. When I turned around, the younger aberration of Sam left, and the door stood shut. I went and put my hand on the doorknob. I forced the door open. Then the scene completely changed.

Beyond the doorway stood the same exterior, but everything else shifted. I glanced behind me, and a regular-sized bed rested in Sam’s room. The walls were painted in uniform colors, and the floor no longer hid. The house aged, and so did he. Abruptly, a different figure of Sam sprinted from downstairs into his room. He hurried out with a backpack and hollered, “Goodbye, sis!” Then I realized, my perspective shrank to better fit my memories with the era of the house. This abandoned house still confused me, but for the time being, I just wanted to explore.  

Sam’s room looked exactly as I remembered, with many posters on his walls, and his keyboard always turned on. The living room between our two rooms held our old furniture. I placed my hand on the table that Sam and I accidently broke and laughed. I had not seen it this way in years. I peeked inside my room. It also presented a picture from the past. After I took a few steps inside, the door behind me flung shut. When I rushed over and opened the door, the scene changed again.

The table we broke was replaced with our current one. An eerie feeling ascended my spine. This was not my home. It looked remarkably like it, but I still knew the truth. I continued forward back to Sam’s room. When I entered his room, the previous smiles were rewritten. It was empty. There were two boxes at the side that had not departed yet. Then I heard his voice behind me, “Excuse me, sis, I need to move those now.” I moved out of the way for him. He left with the boxes, and the room turned bare. I stayed in the room, waiting for something to happen.

I feared what the house would show me if I opened another door. Eventually, the desire to find the real Sam took hold of me. I braved opening the door once again. After the squeak of the door hit my ears, I rushed through the house searching for him. I passed through many doors; each time it changed the house to previous states I had seen it in before. Then I saw another younger version of Sam. He stood in front of the entrance to the house carrying several bags. I rushed over to him and begged him not to leave. He smiled at me and repeated the same reasoning I heard earlier today, “I can’t stay here forever. I need some change. I want an adventure.”

I followed him outside. However, when I opened the door, it transformed into an old dusty slab of wood. Then the rest of the house followed. The layout completely changed, and cobwebs filled the interior. I saw the sun begin to set, and then called out for Sam. He appeared behind me, and enthused, “I have cobwebs all over me.” I replied, “Consider them a souvenir from our last adventure together.”

Sam smiled and explained, “I won’t be gone forever. I’ll see you again sometime in the future. The setting will just be different, and I’ll be older.”

A smile returned to my face. I ushered him out of the door, and we walked home. He finished packing all his remaining bags in the car, and hopped in. I gave him a hug and said goodbye. I did not know when my eyes would see him next, but I still closed the door.

Written by Rachel

Image credit

Image

UWC Myths and Misconceptions

Though my time here at the UWC cowers in comparison to my coworkers, the myths surrounding our office no longer remain foreign to me.

With spending a good chunk of my time, each day, sanctioned in this windowless (though beautifully lit) and seemingly distant basement below the library, it should come as no surprise the misconceptions and eerie stories that arise.

As an introvert, I understand not wanting to venture all the way to the LC just to ask a quick question or schedule an appointment. I even understand feeling so overburdened with social anxiety to opt out of calling us! However, as any good relationship expert will tell you, communication makes or breaks a relationship, and you beautiful students and the UWC share just that. Subsequently, with communication comes clarification. Therefore, the first half of this post discusses some of our most frequent misconceptions: 

We edit/red-mark your papers: We cherish your time and applaud you on being so diligent in your writing process, and want to ensure your writing stays entirely your own! All our students harbor such beautiful and creative minds, and we exist to help you better utilize them, not replace them. This looks like a collaborative process, filled with back-and-forth dialogue and answering any questions or concerns you might hold. When you leave your session at the UWC, we hope you leave more confident in your own writing skills, and how could that possibly happen if we provide you with only scratches of red ink, on your paper? 

We help with research: While we do offer help for brainstorming a paper (yes, you can schedule an appointment just for brainstorming!), help with research remains a job better suited for our lovely friends upstairs in the library. However, if you feel so obliged to come see us after you acquire all that new knowledge, we can process those things with you, and see how you can effectively incorporate them in your paper. 

We guarantee A’s: Just like as all of us come in different sizes, shapes, cultural backgrounds, and early life experiences, what you write, what we work on, and ultimately how a professor chooses to grade that work proves a no “one-shoe-fits-all” ordeal. As much joy and significance we find in helping you improve as writers, we never guarantee an A. 

With those shared and communicated, let’s move onto more “traditional” myths–the spooky ones: 

Our door remains open, meaning all the noise outside find no escape from our ears. We sometimes overhear the purchases and dropping of various food items from the vending machines, the interaction of students in group projects, and the ever-so-lovely cranking of the scantron grader.  Unfortunately, included in this list of familiar sounds rests the opening and closing of the elevator, just right outside. Now, this normally isn’t too odd a scene. One only expects the frequent use of the elevator with the number of stairs that cover this hill we all love and adore. However, you might understand our gawking when those elevator doors swing open and not a single soul walks out or in. This rarity reveals the first spooky myth of our beloved UWC: the ghost in the elevator. 

We consultants owe our receptionists so much credit for bearing some of our toughest client interactions with grace and professionalism. I only imagine how thick their skin has grown. While handling unideal situations in person stays a much more difficult experience (but perhaps I feel that way because I grew up in this era of texts over phone calls), you might underestimate the strange amount of blank phone calls we receive. Blank calls meaning the phone rings, we pick up, and give our charming greetings only meet with the buzz of a dead line or even worse: unresponsive breathing. On a lighter note, we also pick up on scam and sales calls. Which we prefer, though, depends on the day.

Most interesting of these myths, to me, remains the Dirt Room. If you possess any of the same thought processes as me, your mind initially refuses to imagine we mean a room filled with dirt. You might flatter ideas of metaphorical usage, or some sort of inside joke–something creative. But alas, when we speak of the Dirt Room, our rather predictable first impression proves correct: it exists as a room filled with dirt. The purpose of this Dirt Room, however, depends on your imagination. Here at the UWC, we discuss possibilities ranging from odd storage to crime cover ups and a potential zombie attack refuge.

And with that, I close this week’s blog post. Hopefully I cleared some things up and provided some extra incentive to come hang out with us for a bit. As eternally entertaining our “ghosts” stay, I must admit we do prefer real live company and conversations. Imagine, though, how awkward a session with one of our ghosts might prove to show!

Written by Gayle

Image credit

Image

Which Fictional Character Would Be Good at My Job?

Working as a receptionist proves a rewarding experience, especially at the Writing Center! Books line the back walls, movie references run amuck, and fiction remains a common conversation topic. It helps that English majors populate the majority of our staff. Let’s face it; all of us in the UWC possess some nerdiness, but who doesn’t? We spend much of our time enveloping ourselves in the worlds of fictional characters, but what if our beloved characters came into our world? What if we went off to fight dragons, save the kingdom, and left our favorite characters behind to do our jobs for us? In light of this imaginary scenario, we compiled a list of who would do the best (and worst) job at acting as a receptionist at the Writing Center. Trust me—I’m an expert at the job!

Netflix recently removed Twilight but not before we got a chance to rewatch and choose our best and worst contenders. Alice makes a wonderful receptionist, with her cheery, friendly attitude and welcoming heart. On the other hand, Bella’s awkwardness, social aversion, and frankly, undying obsession for Edward, makes the receptionist’s job not our first choice for her.

“Gastrovascular.” We might say, “What a ponderous word!” but Narnia’s Susan wouldn’t think so. Since guessing the origins of “ponderous words” seems Susan’s idea of a fun game, we may welcome her with open arms to man the desk while we defeat the White Witch. We need to leave Trumpkin in Narnia, however, since he’d likely say particularly mean things to our students.

We trust Samwise to get Frodo to Mount Doom, but do we trust him to answer the phones and check students in? Absolutely, we do! Sam’s loyalty and kindness make him a perfect receptionist. (And as Frodo’s gardener, I certainly entrust him to do my duties and water the plants while I’m gone.)

Cinderella proves no stranger to hard work, but our Disney princess pick points to Belle. She wants to work in a library and reads constantly—perfect for our Writing Center! Funny enough, our receptionist named Belle actually wants to work as a librarian! On the other side, a receptionist must stay posted for phone calls and arrive on time. We all know that Merida does not fit a stationary role. She’d run away into the sunset in no time.

Who didn’t love The Hunger Games in middle school? And who didn’t love Peeta? This entirely loveable character possesses the perfect demeanor to offer a warm smile to nervous students. His mentor Haymitch, however, makes the worst receptionist… for obvious reasons.

College constantly tests our endurance, and what better way to feel at ease at the Writing Center than to receive greeting from someone who relates to you? While we run off fighting Green Goblin, Dock Ock, and Sandman, we thought we might leave our students in the capable webs of Spider-Man. As a college student, he totally understands. However, as we find our furniture important and love the quietness of the basement, a job invitation to the Hulk does not seem likely while we remain away.

So, if our receptionists decide to take a trip through the quantum realm, storm a French castle, volunteer for The Hunger Games, take the ring to Mordor, or discover Narnia, know that we selected capable replacements to take care of you and your writing needs.

Written by Gracie

Image credit

Image

The Music of Our Office

Our office resembles no silent dungeon! Amidst the muted staff chatter and consultation conversations, one often hears the soft tones of eighties rock issuing from the director’s corner. Consultants and receptionists alike create an atmosphere of hospitality and peace here, which reflects in the music they listen to. Below, find a list of songs from Writing Center staff that represents the soul of our office.

Hope – Tom Rosenthal

In the House – Crowder

Everything You Need – Margaux Beylier

Closer Than a Brother –- Josh Garrels

Always on My Mind – Jonathan Ogden, Joe Bae

Come What May – Taylor Armstrong, Sarah Juers

Everybody – Ingrid Michaelson

Sunflower – Pauline Zoe Park

Song For the Sleepless – Ollie MN

Let Us Be One – Love Song

The Office Theme (Metal Cover) – Daniel Tidwell

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

Writing a Letter – Naif

We’re Going to be Friends – The White Stripes

black coffee – Elijah Who

These songs, listed above, communicate the character of our staff to everyone who steps through the Writing Center’s door. So, visit us; you might even find yourself jamming to this playlist!

Written by Jessica

Image credit

Image

Office Day in the Life: Tales from a Writing Consultant

Picture this: You’re a Writing Consultant at the DBU Writing Center. What do you think you do? Write papers all day? Edit student essays endlessly? Study English and grammar every hour? Well, unfortunately, these myths fail to encompass the duties and daily tasks consulting entails. Let’s take a look at a day in the life at the Writing Center as a consultant!

Mornings in the Office

In the morning, the University Writing Center (UWC) staff performs opening procedures. This includes opening the door and placing the welcome sign, bringing in the trash can, unlocking the closet and cabinets, and un-forwarding the phones. Next, consultants log into Microsoft Outlook, check the calendar for any appointments, and peruse the inbox for any emails. If emails reside in the inbox requesting help, they need 5 things before the paper receives a review: student name, professor’s name, course designation, ID number, and on- or off-campus student status. If the email meets all requirements and includes the paper in a Word document, consultants begin the reviewing process by adding comments through Microsoft Word. If an in-person appointment sits on the calendar, a consultant prepares to work with that student. This looks like grabbing a legal pad and pen, taking a glance at the paper if the student emailed it beforehand, and preparing any potential handouts. The office closes for lunch at 12 P.M. and opens up again at 1:00 P.M (1:15 P.M. on Fridays). Before closing, the staff carries out closing procedures: forwarding the phones, locking the door, and placing the “Closed for Lunch” sign on the door handle. Once the lunch break ends, the afternoon routine begins.

Afternoon Routine

At 1:00 P.M. (or 1:15 P.M. on Fridays), the UWC employees once again perform opening procedures: un-forwarding the phones, opening the door, and placing the welcome sign on the door handle. Most appointments take place in the afternoon.

POV: You’re Taking a Session as a Writing Consultant

Before sessions begin, one of the lovely receptionists signs the students into the Writing Center database by adding their basic information. Once they sign in, students make their way over to the consulting tables in the back of the room. The consultant sits behind a computer screen while facing the student. In a typical consultation, the student holds a printed copy of his or her paper while the consultant views a copy on the screen. The consultant begins with some opening dialogue: “Hi, my name is X, and I will be working with you today! Have you been to the Writing Center before? No? Welcome!” and goes on to explain grammar policies and provide an overview of the session. After opening remarks, the consultant and student establish goals for the consultation and begin the collaborative learning process. If the student desires to review grammar, the student reads the paper aloud paragraph-by-paragraph, and the consultant and student discuss after each section read. Points of discussion cover thesis, grammar, topic sentences, or whatever catches the eye of the consultant or student. If the student desires to review formatting, the student views the paper via personal laptop, and the consultant uses the handouts and formatting manuals to explain the details of layout, font, spacing, and all that good stuff. Consultations last about 45 minutes, so once they reach time, the consultant closes by asking for any last-minute questions and handing the student any handouts or written resources used throughout the session. Often, consultants ask what the student plans to do next, too, as a mini review. After the session ends, consultants take a 15-minute break to rejuvenate and prepare their minds to help the next student.

Goodnight, UWC

Evening shifts look a bit different than the rest of the day. At five, the scheduled night crew clocks in. As the office resides down in the depths of the basement, evenings remain pretty quiet unless a student comes in for a scheduled session. When consultants aren’t taking consultations, they perform roles. The UWC assigns roles to both consultants and receptionists to enhance every aspect of office life. For example, one role focuses on blogs, blog schedules, and formatting bios for each staff member. Another role updates the Writing Center social media presence and graphics. Every member of the office possesses individual talents, and roles help them utilize their gifts to better serve the Writing Center. Free time in the office looks different for each staff member. Some work on homework, some play the games sitting around in the office, and some spend most of their time on their roles. Free time in the schedule holds specific tasks for two groups: trainees and admins. Trainees work on training tasks, and admins work on training curriculum and scheduling. The UWC tries to maintain an atmosphere of productivity and professionalism while allotting time for fun and breaks away from the screen. Once the clock strikes 8 P.M., staff eagerly perform the closing procedures: forwarding the phones, taking the trash out, locking the closet and cabinets, turning off all the lights, and locking the door for the evening. At least one member of the office yanks the doorknob aggressively just to ensure it’s securely locked.

Each day in the UWC presents new adventures and excitements. Every aspect of the daily office routine reflects the charisma and unique personality the small office in the corner of the basement holds, and it’s worth a visit to see its charm. Thanks for taking a walk in a Writing Consultant’s shoes! For a more immersive Writing Center experience, stroll down to the lower level of the Collins Learning Center and enter Room 001.

Written by Deneen

Image credit

Image

Another Semester, Another New Blog Theme

Welcome back to the hill! The Writing Center hopes you experienced a restful Christmas break and that you arrived back on campus ready to begin the spring semester on a high note! As we begin a new round of classes, events, and of course, papers, we want to give you, the student body, a chance to get to know the UWC!

Here at the UWC, we offer guidance through any stage of the writing process. We love to assist students in becoming better communicators through the written word, and we possess a passion for helping them feel as at home as possible down here while we do so. We want you to feel at ease during your sessions and think writing about ourselves, naturally, provides the best way to introduce you to our office. We also want to give you an opportunity to peek into the Writing Center if only, for a brief moment.

Over the next sixteen weeks our blog posts will focus on the Writing Center specifically. Check back here every Monday to discover what working here might feel like, our employees as individuals, and the services we offer. We want you, dear students, to feel welcomed down here in our small tucked-away oasis, and what better way to initiate that then letting you into little slivers of our lives? Meet our receptionists, consultants, and fabulous director, and learn about what it takes to keep the UWC running (year-round!).

These blogs will feature a little bit of everything: our individual personalities, the working environment and requirements, and so much more! We come up with many opportunities for fun around here, but we also work hard, and we want you gain better insight into both sides. Hopefully, you will see how we really operate, how we deliver our services, and what you might expect upon booking an appointment. Who knows—you might even be compelled to swing by and pick up an application for yourself.

We invite you to follow along with us through this series! We hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about us, and we hope to see you down here in the basement sometime this semester! Enjoy the controlled chaos that makes up the UWC; we look forward to sharing it with you!

Written by Caroline

Image credit

Image

Writing Your Paper for God

If you’re a Christian student like me, you might have wondered at some point how writing a paper at 3 AM—back cramping, eyes sorehas anything to do with God. We so easily forget that our academic studies should worship God, and we forget this much more easily when we start writing papers. How do essays relate to God? Why does God care about that? These questions may seem too ambiguous to solve, but the Bible gives us the answers.

Why Does God Care About Your Academic Essay?

You might think He doesn’t, but God’s Word says otherwise. In Deuteronomy 6, God commands His people to remember His laws. In verses 8 and 9, He tells them to “[t]ie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (New International Version, Deut. 6:8-9). God wants His people to remember His commandments because He knows they will lead them to good things. He instructs them to remember His words by writing them down. Though getting a good grade may at first seem the highest priority of an academic paper, academic essays should focus on using knowledge to steer their audiences away from wrongness and towards righteousness. They follow that same basic function as God’s commands, and they use the very same form: the written word! God wants you to turn from evil and do good, and your essay can help you discover and remember the right thing.

God Writes, So You Should too!

Not only did God inspire His people to write down His commandments and His Word, but God also wrote with His own hand. The Bible shows us several examples of God writing. Exodus 31:18 tells us that the Ten Commandments originated on “tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God” (NIV). Daniel 5 tells the story of God sending a hand to write on the wall of King Belshazzar’s court as a condemnation and a warning. God wrote to convey the permanence of His laws to the Jews in Exodus and the Babylonians in Daniel; He understands the necessity of writing! God is the Author of the universe who writes with His own hand, so we should have the courage to write as well.

Just Like Everything Else, Writing Can Glorify God!

Like any other basic action, writing can glorify the writer or it can glorify the Creator. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, God commands us to do everything for His glory; this includes writing. How does one do something for God’s glory? One must simply complete the action to the best of one’s ability. So when debating whether to finish your essay at 10 PM or watch another few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and finish it just before class in the morning, remember that completing your assignment to the best of your ability glorifies God. Just learn what your best looks like and do that!

God Wants the Best for You.

Ultimately, essays hold weight in your education. God wants each individual to become the person He intends them to be, and oftentimes one needs education to continue that process. Essays instill in us the knowledge we learn and create applicable conclusions about it; they help us grow in knowledge, in goodness, and in wisdom, all of which glorify God as His kingdom of high priests. Essays help us synthesize our knowledge and utilize it, and Christian students should aim at utilizing it for the furtherment of God’s kingdom.

Written by Jessica

Image credit

Source

Image

Why I Write: Searching for Understanding

In a matter of seconds, after turning in a paper, my emotions swelled. Would my teacher like my writing? Would she be inspired? Would she think I am a fool? My education, like many children’s, included a plethora of written assignments. Persuasive essays, analyses, reflections, you name it. I enjoyed a classical style of instruction when it came to English. From the start of my education, I learned the basic principles of structuring a sound paper. However, I sorely lacked proficiency in one thing: grammar. Though I absorbed my fair share of grammar, the concepts flew over my head and my ability to mentally snapshot patterns from what I read helped me excel in writing without properly understanding the grammatical mechanisms themselves. I loved (and still love) reading and enjoyed the captivating stories I devoured while learning about myself and others. Despite harboring a passion for writing – finding inspiration from my narrative excursions – I fell short in its execution. However, my higher education presented the perfect space for me to pursue that passion and wield it properly.

In college, I am finally taking hold of the concepts notoriously described with fancy academic vernacular; funnily enough, learning languages helped in that endeavor tremendously, from Latin to Spanish. Often, native speakers of a language rely on feelings rather than grammatical principles when writing. Writers read a passage out loud to help distinguish their errors because they possess an intuitiveness for the language. When one learns a language, he or she depends on acquired grammatical structures to determine the correctness of a passage. So, it made sense that my grammatical knowledge leaned on intuitiveness rather than theoretical understanding. Every speaker holds a kinship to his or her native language and for me, writing helps me feel understood. Those who choose to read my work catch a glimpse of my mind. Most of the time, people walk and talk without hours of thought backing every single sentence they speak. Though I often prepare my thoughts before speaking, the practice of writing gleans from a much more intimate and involved form of introspection. Thus, writing holds a magnitude that conversation does not. I peer inside myself and feel the pull to determine how that information potentially relates and transposes to an audience. Writing becomes a reclamation of power because I set forth my own perspective; I make my case. For this reason, writing well brings a sense of importance and validity to that power. I feel accomplished with every sound sentence and flawless transition. Writers experience a sense of attachment and anxiety over their work, as that paper, article, or dissertation, represents an intimate part of themselves. This attachment should serve as motivation to grow as a writer; to expound upon the wonderful ideas swirling amid the writer’s mind. While my grammatical endeavors do not manifest perfectly, I enjoy learning how to better communicate in both speech and written word. The flick of each concise phrase illuminates my love for the craft, while every completed work pushes me further down this brilliant road of learning. I fondly address my newfound keen attention for grammatical detail as an English revolution of sorts. The war for laziness still seethes within me, but the liberation for this grammatical crusade burns stronger. I digress; splendid writing feels like ice-cold water breaking a sweltering summer heat.

Writing offers a unique angle for understanding. Strong communication exists to distinctly divulge the complex thoughts and ideas of the author.

Thus, writing exists to aid in better understanding one another. I aspire to share my love and knowledge for writing so that others may feel the satisfaction which comes from diligent and clear communication.

Amidst the all-too-common linguistic pandemonium surrounding us, I enjoy the simple pleasures good writing provides. Whether fiction or nonfiction, my love for learning leans on the accurate path of a pen.

Written by: Kayla

Image credit

Image

The Power of Words

How often do we really stop to consider the power that a single word holds? Do we even realize how much words contribute to the world? Words surround us. They permeate every aspect of our daily lives, almost without notice. As a student who chose both my major and my minor based on how much I want to deal with language in my life, words fill my days constantly. I think that the Lord gave His children a wonderful gift when He invented language, but I also think we need reminders of an even more important fact. Don’t forget that Jesus stands out as the ultimate Word.

 The Gospel of John begins by explaining this concept to its readers. John 1:1-5 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (NIV). What does this mean? It means that before the creation of, well, everything, the Word existed, and through the Word creation came to fruition. And it makes sense. Words create, don’t they? Even as I sit writing this, I create. The Word of God spoke creation into existence. Did God not speak when He created everything? “Let there be light,” He said, and light shone forth on earth for the very first time. The Lord needed only to speak a word, and creation came to fruition. The Word of God remains powerful.

Not only do words hold great power, they also hold great light. Once again, John one proves this point, telling readers that in the Lord “was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” His Word remained, and still remains, good, steadfast, and true, bringing goodness to all it touches. And when the time came, the Word went a step further, coming down to dwell among humanity and die for every sin. The Word of God saved us from ourselves. What an amazing gift!

While the Word of God did create and save all of humanity, it also provides the world with another precious gift: the Scriptures. The Bible—words and messages breathed out by God—offers aid, reassurance, and so much more to those willing to look in its pages. The Savior of the world, the most powerful being of all time, breathed out His words to those willing to read them, and offered them to the world. My pastor often says to his congregation, “Do you want to hear the voice of God? Read the Bible out loud.” The Bible consists of messages from the Lord Himself, and these words guide us through every aspect of our lives, if we let them. How remarkable!

Understanding all of this really puts the idea of language into perspective. God used language to speak into existence His creation, and his Word became human flesh and lived among the sinners who turned from Him. His Word—Jesus—died a criminal’s death so that those same sinners might live and rose again to one day come back and rule victorious over all things. He provides us with every opportunity to read His words and hear His voice, and He also provides us with ways to use those words to advance His kingdom. How will you spread His word to those who need it?

Written by Caroline

Source

Image credit

Image

What Writing Means to Me

As a child, I loved to write. I kept journals and diaries and enjoyed letting my imagination run wild through creating stories. However, my desire to express myself in written form dwindled over the years, and that seems the case for many people as they age. Why is that? Why do children lose their inspiration to write after they leave elementary school, and why is writing considered a path of passion rather than a serious career? Writing is much more accessible than people might believe, and because of its negative reputation, many people fail to consider themselves writers or see the beauty writing encompasses. Writing integrates far too much into every facet of life to neglect to consider each person a writer. Defining writing merely as a way to express oneself fails to describe all it comprises. To me, writing represents a journey, a catalyst of change, and a foundational concept for students.

Writing soars beyond a method of creating research papers or scribbling in a diary; it’s a journey that looks different for every writer. The writing process cultivates diversity as each individual takes a different approach. Some people write creatively, such as through a blog or journal. Others write to craft different worlds for readers to step into or to publish information that educates society. The uniqueness of each writer manifests in their writing process. That’s the beauty of writing: each person possesses the opportunity to modify their process to achieve their goal.

Writing serves as a catalyst of change. Impactful documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation all take written form. Through writing, legislation implements laws that change the course of history, citizens claim their rights, and people proclaim justice and freedom. Some of the most powerful movements in history ignited because of writing. Author Harriet Beecher Stowe revolutionized the election of 1860 and attitudes towards slavery in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense encouraged the American fight for independence and catalyzed the American Revolution. Countless authors provided insight to the world through their written perspectives on politics, culture, and societal travesties. One of the most influential documents in history, the Bible, takes form in writing. The breath of God touched paper through the hands of Spirit-led contributors.

People changed the world by placing their pen to paper, and this power manifests in those willing to claim the title of “writer.”

Writing holds great importance in education through its role as a foundational skill, and as an aspiring educator, conveying its significance helps serve students. Enhancing writing skills helps students develop as individuals and as mature communicators. Teachers hold the power to equip students to change the world through their writing and use it as a tool to grow as a life-long learner. Students use writing beyond the classroom to express their thoughts and convey their ideas. However, children seem to lose their motivation to write once they reach upper grades. This normally stems from increased research papers and academic writing. Personally, I started to lose interest in writing once I reached middle school. I once thought of writing as an activity that only eloquent poets and highly literate journalists participated in. I didn’t believe writing was in my league of achievement. However, since working in the Writing Center, I’ve realized my abilities as a writer and the accessibility of writing to anyone who puts a pen to paper. The approachability of writing should carry on into classrooms to show students the power within their reach.

Writing holds great potential to anyone willing to wield the mighty pen.

Writing exemplifies a unique journey, a stimulus of change, and a foundational skill for students. Every individual can claim the title of “writer,” and I encourage each person to do so.

Source 1

Source 2

Written by Deneen

Image credit

Image

Jesus Loves Your Anxious Heart

If you’re anything like me, anxiety has been a lifelong struggle. I once believed that something happened to me as a young person making me an anxious adult, but a recent conversation with my mother led me to realize that this is not the case. She told me that I displayed anxious habits, such as biting my nails or scratching at my skin until I bled, since I was old enough to walk. Apparently, I have always felt this way.

For a long time, I thought my anxiety was somehow immoral. I thought I didn’t trust God enough, or I didn’t pray enough, or somewhere along the line, I ran out of faith too soon. I, like many young people who grew up in the church, believed my severe anxiety had something to do with an unknown sin in my life. The truth is I love Jesus, but I am still an anxious person. I want to follow Jesus with all my heart, yet I am still an anxious person. I felt hopeless, because my anxiety was something for which I hated myself, yet I could never make it disappear. I never understood why my brain tells me that I am unsafe, even when I am not in danger. Eventually, I learned that anxiety is not cause by sin, but an imbalance of chemicals in the brain; however, despite this revelation, the idea that my anxiety is a bad thing remained with me.

When I first met my husband, Alden, I wanted to hide my anxiety from him at first. I didn’t want him to think that my uncontrollable anxiety was a byproduct of a rebellion against God. It didn’t take long before he noticed my anxious tendencies, and much to my surprise, Alden never judged or criticized me for the consistent stream of worries that flowed effortlessly from my brain to my heart. Instead, he walked alongside me as I struggled, and he remained an encouraging presence, always pointing me towards Christ. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone in my pain. Although he did not relate to my experience, he empathized with me, and he wanted to support me in any way possible.

Even though Alden was and is a constant source of encouragement, my anxiety continued to get the best of me. I worried restlessly about how my anxiety would impact Alden. I told myself that my anxiety would be the reason that he would break up with me, or he would eventually grow weary of helping me. I love him, and I feared that my anxiety would hurt him. One day, I gained the courage to ask him if my anxiety was too much for him to handle, or if he would ever get tired of helping me. He paused for a second and said something I will never forget.

He said, “Karina, I love your anxious heart. Of course, I wish you felt safer, but I love you for who you are no matter what.”

One of the many things I love about Alden is how often I see the character of God through his actions and words, and this statement is a prime example. While I view my anxiety as a burden on Alden, he views my anxiety as an opportunity to serve and love me. His words stuck in my mind for days. I realized that if Alden, an imperfect person, is willing to love me through my struggles, then our holy God, who is the perfect representation of love and kindness, must be even more passionate about loving me through hardship. At the end of the day, I am so grateful for a husband who loves me as Jesus does, and shows the Lord’s character through his kindness for me. Furthermore, I am grateful to have a relationship with a God who loves and cares for me in such a pure and thoughtful way. My prayer for those of you who are like me, and face a daily struggle with anxiety, is that you know that your anxiety is not a burden to those who love you, and it is most certainly not a burden to our God. Jesus loves your anxious heart.

Written by Karina

Image Credit

Image

A Roadmap to Sound Theology: A Book Review of Knowing God by J. I. Packer

“Unreality toward God is the wasting disease of much modern Christianity.”

(Packer 251)

Theologian J. I. Packer’s warning brings a sobering truth to light amidst the cultural haze of the twenty-first century. In his book Knowing God, he attempts to address the root of such cultural haze, which he believes to be grounded in two damaging trends. In the first place, he writes, “Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God” (12). Furthermore, he goes on with the second trend: “Christian minds have been confused by the modern skepticism” (13). With the spirit of self-aggrandizement clouding our judgment and the deceit of modern skepticism pulling our focus, how do we navigate our lives as Christians in truthful, God-honoring ways? It is in response to this question that Packer’s book unfolds.

In part one, “Know the Lord,” Packer expounds on theology, what it means to truly know the Lord, and how this knowledge impacts our lives. In this, he points to Paul’s words in Romans: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom. 11:33-34). Packer sees this as “a summons to us to humble ourselves, to listen and learn of [God], and to let him teach us what he is like, and how we should think of him” (48). This collection of chapters soberly reminds my heart to seek the Lord in His inspired Word and allow such knowledge to shape my character and transform my life.

Part two, “Behold Your God,” illustrates several key attributes of God in His divine character. These include His unchanging nature, His majesty, His wisdom, His Truth, His love, His grace, His judgement, His wrath, His goodness and severity, and His jealousy. The chapter on God’s infinite love, perhaps, had the most profound impact upon my soul. He emphasizes, “There are no inconsistencies or vicissitudes in the love of the almighty God who is spirit. His love is ‘as strong as death’ (Song 8:6). ‘Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away’ (Song 8:7). Nothing can separate from it those whom it has once embraced (Rom 8:35-39)” (121). This powerful truth wrapped around my troubled heart and brought my focus back to the loving embrace of my God and Savior.

The final section, “If God Be For Us…” stands as a collection of the resulting implications following the material laid out in the first two sections. Packer speaks of the heart of the Gospel, our position as adopted sons of God, God’s guidance in our life, the purpose in our trials, and the Lord’s perfect adequacy in it all. My favorite quote from this portion comes from a chapter focused on the assurance of the Lord as our guide, even amidst unexpected twists and turns. Packer writes, “Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good he is” (241). What a blessedly comforting thought – to be held by the everlasting arms of the Creator of the universe.

Overall, this book profoundly impacted my heart and recentered my focus as I seek to increase my knowledge of God. I must admit, it doesn’t take much to crowd my thoughts with worldly desires and selfish ambitions. I am so often carried away by worries and consumed by my own plans, but Packer’s final words in his closing chapters ring emphatically in my ears:

You are called to go through this world as a pilgrim, a mere temporary resident, traveling light, and willing, as Christ directs, to do what the rich young ruler refused to do: give up material wealth and the security it provides and live in a way that involves you in poverty and loss of possessions. Having your treasure in heaven, you are not to budget for treasure on earth, nor for a high standard of living—you may well be required to forgo both. You are called to follow Christ, carrying your cross.

(268)

There are many worthwhile qualities in Packer’s writing style that would behoove fellow Christian writers to acknowledge. First, his clear-cut decisive language underlines his arguments in a straightforward, readable way. All too often, as writers, we get lost in the translation of lofty speculation and vague philosophy. Packer gets straight to the point and keeps his audience engaged in every chapter. Perhaps the most important quality of Packer’s writing is his close contact with the Word of God. It is clear that Packer knows Scripture thoroughly, and as a result, he cannot help but interweave its passages throughout his writing. Such dependency on biblical clarity establishes strong rapport with Christian audiences and respects the authority of Scripture in all considerations and studies. It is in light of this quality that I titled this blog “A Roadmap to Sound Theology.” As Packer so clearly illustrates, there is no better guiding light in establishing personal theology than the inspired word of God in the Bible (Psa. 119:105).

In conclusion, it is with sincere resolution and highest regard that I recommend J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. I have never encountered a more comprehensive study of the Scriptural definition of God’s character, His Gospel, and what it means to truly seek after Him. In true Packer-fashion, I close this review with a compelling scriptural conclusion. The apostle Paul writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:7-9, 10-11, emphasis added).

Written by Grace Hodges

Image Credit

Image

A Letter to the Overwhelmed Writer

Dear Overwhelmed Writer,

So. You’re overwhelmed. Whether you’re a new student fresh into your first semester of college or a veteran scholar deep in the slogs of Finals Week, it’s only natural to feel this way when times get tough and classes get tougher. Maybe your classes are filling up your schedule with assignments, or perhaps you are facing an essay with a page requirement higher than you can count on your fingers. I have been in your place many times myself, and while I know it can be stressful or even frightening at times, I also know that you can persevere. Here are three tips you can use to help move beyond your overwhelmed feelings and move towards a finished paper:

  1. Stop and Breathe. You won’t be able to get a single thing done if you’re drowning in all the stuff you need to accomplish. If you take a moment to pause and clear your mind, you will start to recognize that your hugely intimidating task can be broken into more manageable pieces. Have a long paper to write and can’t think of where to begin? Break your time into chunks of researching and writing and spread them throughout your free time up until the due date, saving a few hours in the final days beforehand for edits and revisions. Have a dozen assignments due this week besides your paper and don’t know where to start? Take a deep breath, break out your schedule, and section up your days in a way that will be most effective for the completion of your work. Sprinkle your smaller assignments among chunks of your longer assignments, including your essay, and save some time to rest and recharge. You can’t work with a frazzled brain or an empty tank.
  2. Have Confidence in Yourself! We at the Writing Center certainly do! After all, you wouldn’t have been admitted into college if you didn’t have the skills necessary to write a successful paper. Though your assignments might be pressing on all sides, you have the capability to rise up. If you use your time wisely and believe you can do it with a little work, you are sure to triumph over your busiest weeks. Any paper you are assigned can be completed, no matter the circumstances of the semester. If you’re unfamiliar with your paper’s subject, there are resources that can help you; libraries, online scholarly journals, and university resources. Utilizing resources like this will help you familiarize yourself with your topic and write a successful paper on it. If your upcoming essay must be longer than you thought was possible, don’t fret—trust your professors. They know you are more than intelligent enough to form a cohesive argument and weave it throughout your essay, and you should believe them when they say so! You have the resources and the ability to write a paper that is uniquely your own. Trust yourself as a writer!
  3. Focus on the Paper at Hand. I know from experience that you can’t write a paper when you’re thinking about other assignments or even when you’re thinking of how you’re going to fill up the blank space in the rest of your essay. While you are writing, it is crucial that you focus on what you are putting on the page. Be careful not to let your mind wander—that will open the floodgates for stress to rush in and cloud your thoughts. Keep your essay outline or thesis statement close at hand and refer back to it whenever you begin to feel your thoughts drift to other things. Your focus is imperative to writing your paper in a proper amount of time; delving into your stress will only slow you down and cause you to feel more overwhelmed. As hard as it may be, keep those thoughts at bay and just write!

Most importantly, understand that you are not alone. Every student feels overwhelmed at times, whether from the daunting swarm of tasks in a certain part of the semester or from a particularly frightening research paper. Every student struggles, and every student can overcome, including you! Remember that your professors want to help, not to harm you, and that you have a myriad of resources to aid you in your essay conquest. When your feelings of stress and fear become relentless, it is always best to reach out to your professors. They will most likely understand what you are going through, and will almost always be willing to help. You should also reach out to friends; they might share some stories about their own experiences or perhaps will lend a shoulder to lean on. But above all, reach out to God. As Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God will be with you as you endeavor to write in these challenging circumstances. Now take a deep breath, know you can do it, and write!

Sincerely,
Jessica

Image Credit

Image

Hear Our Cries

During this time of uncertainty and pain, here is my prayer for the world:

 O Lord,
 Hear our cries for unity
 Hear our cries for peace
 Hear our cries for equality
 Turn not away from your fallen people
 We need you
 We need your love
 We need your heart.
  
 O Lord, 
 Hear our cries for bravery
 Hear our cries for guidance
 Hear our cries for compassion
 Turn not away from your children.
 We need you
 We need your vision
 We need your foresight
 We need your eyes.
  
 O Lord, 
 Hear our cries to spread the Gospel.
 Hear our cries to fulfill the Great Commission.
 Hear our cries to glorify you.
 Turn not away from your people.
 We need your boldness
 We need your courage
 We need your hands.
  
 We need your eyes
 We need your heart
 We need your hands
 Hear our cries for our lost brothers and sisters,
 O Lord.
  
 Let us not become complacent with the call you have placed on our lives.
 Let us not become desensitized to the lost souls who need your love.
 Let us not become one with the world.
 Let us become the true body of Christ. 
  
 Amen.

Perhaps my personal conviction comes into play here. We live in one of the most challenging times: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Right now, fear immerses us: fear of other humans, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Spreading the Gospel already intimidates many of us, but it can intimidate us more while wearing masks and fearing the contraction of a potentially lethal virus. News anchors and medical professionals tell us that travel is dangerous, especially when crossing borders.

So, where does that leave us in terms of our Great Commission? Throughout my life, I felt called to spread the Gospel in Latin America, but I selfishly pulled back my plans due to the new virus. Thus, here lies the reason for my prayer and blog: my own conviction, my own pain, and my own encouragement.

God calls us, as Christians, to live courageous lives, even in the midst of persecution and trials. Paul and many other disciples continued to spread the Gospel, despite imprisonment or death. While we should live wisely, we should also persevere through these difficult times and bravely follow the Lord’s calling in our lives: spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. My youth pastor once told us that if we had the cure for COVID, we would courageously venture to each country and proclaim the good news. Yet, we oftentimes forget the urgency and importance of spreading the truly Good News – the salvation Christ offers us, if we choose to accept it. Now, comes my spur to action. Join me in praying for where and how we, as Christians, should spread the Gospel. For some, it could mean travelling to Spain, while for others, it might mean having a hard talk with your co-worker who sits in the next cubicle. Neither is more important than the other. Live for Him always! ❤

Written by Trisha

Image Credit

The Ritual 

In a little wooden cabin, nestled into the side of the woods, three girls gathered once again for the ritual. It was a matter of great importance, a yearly phenomenon, set only to take place in the secluded hideout they chose to reside in as children. For when they were young, the little cabin aroused such a sense of mystery and awe that they could not help but tell stories of what they imagined might have occurred. Slipping their shoes off, they’d tip-toe inside in fluffy patterned socks, to light a candle and whisper silly ghost stories to one another. 

As they grew, the stories changed to girly gossip. Once a year, they met in the cabin, threw on all the lights, and tossed their shoes aside. Grabbing a bundle of blankets, they cuddled on the ground, fluffy socks sticking out from beneath the covers, as they discussed the cutest boys and the meanest teachers in school.  

As years passed, the gossip faded to a desire for quality time. Careful not to ruin their shoes, they left them at the door, walking inside in striped, dotted, and floral patterned socks. With a movie blaring in the background and candy splayed round, the three sat on the floor and talked. Sharing their lives, hobbies, loves, joys, and struggles, they opened up their hearts to one another. 

Now, the time arose once more for the three of them to gather. Stepping out of their cars, they trekked down the dimly lit path under the moonlight to the cabin at the wood’s edge. Overnight bags in hand, pillows, candy, and blankets at their side, they arrived at the beloved house of memories for one more sleepover. 

Though now in their mid twenties, with parents saying they were far too old for such silly things, the three girls still refused to forsake their tradition. Slipping off shoes, socks of red, yellow, and green, they revealed as the three huddled under blankets and turned on a movie. The night was young, but their smiles were wide, and hearts warm. Conversation ensued over the crunch of candy wrappers, as memories of old ghost stories, gossip, and time spent together were recounted. Because the most beautiful thing of all and the reason the three would never forsake their ritual, was remembering where they’d been and how far their friendship had come. 

By Naomi Hernandez

Image Credit