Stop Hiding – Flash Fiction

Hello, friends! I have another flash fiction for you today. Actually, it has a very similar theme to this poem I wrote a few months ago! I hope you enjoy it.:)

“Stop hiding.”

The girl stares back at me blankly. Arms crossed, lips resting in a sullen droop. Unconvinced. Waiting for me to say more.

I hesitate, then take a breath. “How can you expect to be understood when all you’ll give them is a false front?”

“It’s safer this way.” She swallows and breaks eye contact, studying the linoleum.

“Maybe.” I stare at her and she stares back, chocolate eyes pooling with tears. “But… don’t you want people to know who you truly are?”

“Yeah, but…” she pauses, and a tear falls from her lower eyelid. Her toe traces circles on the floor.

I wait. I know her well enough to know that she’ll talk when she’s ready. And she does.

“My story isn’t worth knowing.”

“That’s not true… every story’s worth knowing.”

“Mine isn’t.” Another tear splashes onto her dusty foot.

“But… what if… other people have stories like yours? And they need to know they’re not alone?” I wrap my arms around myself. “What if you’re the one who needs to let them know that?”

Silence aches on for several moments. I can hear her breathing… deep, searching breaths facing down near-terror. She watches more tears paint damp circles on her toes.

Finally…

“Okay.” She sniffs and blinks, her fist smearing tears on her face. “I won’t keep hiding.”

I nod and turn away from the mirror.

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of December 2020

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets,  + Highlights of December 2020

The last day of December. The last day of 2020. Whoa. I’m going to fully enjoy the final hours of this historic year.:)

Highlights of the Month

  • Reading!!!
  • Christmas shopping as a family… or shopping with various fragments of family, climbing in and out of different vehicles and trying to hide certain things from certain people because, you know, Christmas secrets.
  • Walks – alone or with crazy sisters
  • Sneaking peeks and too many pics of gorgeous sunrises
  • Chatting with friends
  • Decorating my bullet journal
  • Writing about a spunky new character in my fantasy novel
  • Making crash potatoes
  • Christmas cookie creation time
  • Playing Balderdash with creative siblings
  • A journal-reading session with my brother

What I’ve Been Reading

Devotedly: the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot – Valerie Elliot Shepard

Okay, I am loving this one! I’ve always appreciated the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s relationship, so it’s been amazing to read more about it in this book. Also, it is crammed full of journals and letters – something that makes my heart happy.:)

Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliot

Best. Biography. Ever. The end.

June Bug – Chris Fabry

It’s been awhile since a book kept me turning page after page way too late into the night (or early morning) but this book is doing that to me. It’s written so well… but due to certain things mentioned/implied in the book, I don’t recommend it for younger readers.

The Prodigal’s Sister – John Piper

This twist on the parable of the prodigal son is beautiful, poetic, and delightful to read.

Journal Snippets

Oh, God, put Your love in my heart. For my family. For my friends. For those I don’t want to call friends. For Your body. For the down-trodden. For those with whom I disagree. For You.

Oh, Lord, may I ever hear Your words, forsake the counsel of my own heart, and turn my eyes from idols, looking only to You. I don’t want to be “profitable for nothing”. (Jeremiah 13)

When I make my goals, Lord, let them not be according to the dictates of my own evil heart [Jeremiah reference], but according to Your pure plan.

I feel battered but sure of God’s goodness and hold on my life. I hurt. I don’t understand… but I trust. And that is enough. God leads me on day by day, faithfully.

Remember… life is not about you.

The biggest thing I see standing in my way is… a disenchantment with the Lover of my soul. Soul, love Him! Desire Him! Stir yourself up to answer His call. Break up your fallow ground – seek and serve Him in the mundane. Though mists of uncertainty veil the way, do something. Stay in shape so that when God throws you into a crisis, you will be fit for the task. Don’t waste a moment.

And there it is… the last post of 2020. What will this coming year bring?

I want to thank you for sticking with me and reading what’s on my heart… I am so blessed to have such amazing support. I hope that this year is simply wonderful for you… that God would bless you through the trials, be your joy in the mundane, and draw you ever closer to Himself in the coming year and each year to come.

-Laurel

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

Eternity’s Wake – Flash Fiction

Eternity’s Wake – Flash Fiction

After years of procrastination, he opened the door. The room would not empty itself.

His breath caught as he peered in at expressions of her wild glory. Bed unmade, the quilt carelessly crumpled. Bookshelves cluttered, their overflow strewn on the floor. Dresser drawers protruding, socks and jeans pouring out.

She had not readied the room for death.

He shut the door behind him, staring with vision already blurred. Where to start?

He stooped and began to gather the mementos of life she’d left scattered on the carpet. He turned over a chocolate wrapper and stared at the white paper lining. Her scrawl was smudged with chocolate. funny looking at times open loud very blunt

What in the world? A corner of his mouth twisted upwards, and he folded the wrapper carefully. A few pennies, note cards, and dirty socks later, the floor was clean. Clean was relative. She never vacuumed.

The corner of a notebook peeked from underneath the bed. He pawed at it and cradled it in his hands. The same handwriting that made the candy wrapper priceless labeled this cover July 24th, 2016 –

2016 – Eternity.

He flipped it open and paged through. Records of schoolwork. Stormy friendships. A recital and her first trip by plane. Some of the pages bore wrinkled bumps. Tear stains, he guessed. The brown spots had to be spilled coffee.

The last entry – written under a date that was seared into his heart – caught his eye and held it.

I’ve just got this feeling… it’s gonna be a great day.

It certainly was, he thought…

For you.

Photo by Martin Castro on Unsplash

Take My Life, God… Really?

Take My Life, God… Really?

It’s a song I love. It’s a song I love to sing. But it’s a song that’s really hard for me to live.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

There are days when I don’t really want to live this. Instead, I end up living an oxymoron. In the morning, I come to God and re-surrender my life to Him. Here, God, it’s Yours. I live for You.

Fast-forward a few minutes to where He’s taking me up on my offer. I’m suddenly snatching my life back and clenching it in my fists.

God, You know that conversation is going to get really stretched out, and I don’t want to give that much of my time…

You want me to love them??? Didn’t You see how they hurt me???

God, it was a long day and I’m exhausted… I don’t want to go on a walk with her.

But anyway… take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

I’ll sing it, God… but I won’t live it.

You are near in their mouth but far from their mind. – Jeremiah 12:2b

It breaks my heart when I find myself living this awful oxymoron. How can I claim to love God, yet trample over His desires for me in pursuit of my own? Christianity can’t work this way. It doesn’t work this way.

Surrender is surrender. No bones about it. When we surrender ourselves to God, we give Him everything. Literally everything.

We give Him our time and the way we spend it. We give Him our family and friends and our interactions with them. We give Him all of our possessions and what we do with them. We give Him our talents and the way we use them. We give Him our longings, our passions, our hopes, our dreams…

We give Him everything.

And we don’t take it back.

That’s what it means to be an all-out disciple of Christ.

I don’t wanna spend my life stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up everything because

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different in me

-from Different by Kyle Lee and Micah Tyler Begnaud

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Psalm 138 In My Own Words

Psalm 138 In My Own Words

With all that I am, God, I will praise You. In the face of all that seeks to turn my eyes from You, I will sing Your praises loud.

I worship You, Lord – because of Your tender affection. Because of Your truth. Because You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

When I cried out, You answered me; You filled my soul with strength and made me fearless.

When the rulers of the world hear Your words, my God, they will cry out in praise of You.

Yes… they will sing of Your ways, for great is Your glory, my King!

Though You are exalted above all, my Lord, You still take interest in the lowly. With the proud, however, You do not have intimate fellowship.

Even though I’m walking in hardship right now, You will revive me – with Your hand You will ward of the wrath of my enemies – You will save me with Your right hand.

Lord, You will bring to perfect completion all that weighs on my mind. Your mercy endures forever, my God – do not forsake those You have created.

The Problem with Christian Fiction

The Problem with Christian Fiction

Shocked you again, didn’t I?

But seriously, though… today I want to share with you about the problem I have with many works of Christian fiction.

They force a message/moral on the reader.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been turned off of a Christian fiction book because of preachiness. A stiff sermon in the form of fiction really frustrates me. If you really want to write an essay on Christianity, please just go do it. ‘Cause that’s what your exposition should be. Please don’t mask it with fiction.

I firmly believe that fiction should not be a platform for preaching. Tell your story and let it do its thing.

Disclaimer: please understand that I’m not knocking sermons or essays… I love them. I’m just saying that they have their own distinct place… they don’t need to masquerade in fictitious literature.🙂

Believe it or not, it’s possible to glorify God through fiction without preaching at your readers.

The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mould [sic] us.Oswald Chambers

I believe this applies to fiction, as well. I can’t tell you how many works of fiction have made me stop in my tracks and evaluate my relationship with God and how I live it out… without being preachy. The writer just let the story play out… and let me, the reader, learn from the natural flow of the story.

In my opinion, writing a story to teach your readers a lesson is stepping into dangerous territory.

A couple of years ago, God was teaching me something amazing. My natural reaction was to share my new-found knowledge with others. And so I thought…

Why not write my (beloved) Civil War story so the main character learns the lesson I just learned?

So I started doing it. I planned to put my main character through a series of disastrous and depressing events (which is something my writer’s heart morbidly enjoys doing), and have her come through this scarring experience with the realization that Jesus was enough for her, no matter what.

Thankfully I set that project aside for a time. When I came back to it, having learned more about the writing craft and just life in general, I realized I had messed up.

I was trying to force my story into a preconceived mold. A preachy mold.

I know people laugh when writers complain about their characters getting out of control and doing things the writer never meant for them to do… but it’s a real struggle. A well-developed character should surprise its creator and do things that it was never “supposed” to do. Annoying as this is, letting the characters live their lives authentically is one of the best things a writer can do.

Trust that your readers can learn from your characters’ experiences without preachy interference.

I’m certainly not implying that stories shouldn’t have themes and morals… they should. True stories have these! In short, I’m saying that the stories you write can (and should!) be meaningful and convicting without being awkward and preachy.

Let your story be just that – a story. Trust the incredible power of fiction… let your story play out and let your readers glean from it what they will… just like they observe real life and glean from it without exposition.

This is my opinion… what’s yours? Do you agree with me? Disagree? A little bit of both? Please share… I always love feedback and discussion.:)

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

It’s crazy to think it’s already time for this again!

Highlights of the month

  • voting for the very first time
  • writing (of course)
  • making an audio drama with cousins
  • a sibling sleepover
  • wearing cozy sweaters
  • sight-reading piano duets with a brother
  • building relationships with people in my writing community
  • cleaning my room
  • making mashed potatoes in a ginormous bowl
  • hanging white lights in my bedroom
  • accidentally winning this giveaway (!!!)

Books I’ve been reading this month

Last month I didn’t read very much. This month I read much more. Thankfully. And each book was in a different genre! Bonus points.

Prophet

I’ve not finished this one yet, but I’ve enjoyed it so far! I’m a huge fan of allegories, and Ela’s conversations with the Infinite help me understand and appreciate the Lord more. Oh, I love the power of fiction.:)

Great Expectations

I mentioned this one last month, but it’s worth mentioning again.:) I love reading this aloud to some of my siblings.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

I’m reading this one with some family members, and so far it’s been very enjoyable… despite the fact that it’s a romance.:) The plot is so complex, and I love how some of the characters are based off of characters in Dickens’ Bleak House.

I’ve also been able to venture into the dystopian genre while reading/editing a friend’s incredibly amazing novel-in-progress!!!

Journal Snippets from this month

“I have been careless of my ways – letting life fly by while I grasp at bits of it for myself. God, I want to live whole-heartedly for You – nothing held back. God, let me seek You passionately and purposefully. I want to use this season to learn how to be a doormat for humanity. (reference to an Oswald Chambers quote)”

“God’s salvation and righteousness are enough to make me greatly rejoice… and He provides them even on my worst days. I have a reason to worship. Thank You, Jesus.”

“Oh, God… let me choose You and Your ways… first and always. Be the deepest desire of my heart and the love of my life. Be the reason I live and breathe.”

“Oh, God, guidance. Let me listen to Your gentle whisper rather than the wild throbs of my heart.”

And that’s a wrap! How was your month? Did you do/read/write anything you care to share?:)

Generations – A Poem

Generations – A Poem

My latest poem… tell me what you think of it!

A torrent of green

They burst on the scene-

Ready to take on the world.

Confident – oh, so

Confident

They

Could change the world with

Their song.

So they did.

What once was a forest of

Bleak

Monochrome

Soon became an explosion of

Verdure.

They gladdened the hearts of

The weak and the strong

The fearful and brave

The old and the young.

As the days turned to

Weeks

And the weeks turned to

Months

Their glory was ripening to

Rust

And they knew that their

Sweet days were

Short.

Yet they glowed

And they sang

In the grasp of the wind

That was stealing them

Far, far away on its

Breath

And they fell to their

Death

At the foot of the trees

That were helpless

To bring them to life.

A waste of a season?

They knew that they’d

Lived

The fullness of days

Appointed

To them.

So they sank into time –

Having burst upon

Us

For a moment –

And broke into

Sod

For successors.

Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

The Unexpected Journey of a Letter

The Unexpected Journey of a Letter

Over a year ago I wrote my brother a letter. For awhile we were on a letter-writing spree, and this letter was simply a response to one of his. Nothing too out of the ordinary…

Yet something felt different about this one. I don’t usually save copies of the letters I write, but for some reason I wanted to save a copy of that one. I really felt like I had expressed my heart well in that letter, and I wanted to share it with others. But I felt like God was telling me that wasn’t a good idea. This letter was for my brother, not the world. Right?

So I took a picture of the letter, slipped the letter into an envelope, stuck the envelope in my brother’s Bible, and didn’t think too much more about it. Life went on.

Then, a couple of months ago, this same brother got up to speak at my graduation ceremony. As he was talking, I saw him pull a familiar red envelope out of his pocket, and instantly I knew what he was about to do. Oh, my gracious.

I think I bawled through the whole thing.

It was incredible to see how God had taken a simple letter, said no to my first impulse to share it, and then a year later brought it before many dear people. It was a huge blessing to me and a reminder of God’s beautiful, beautiful timing. I was thrilled.

But God wasn’t done yet.

One of my aunts asked for a copy of the letter, and my uncle shared it in a sermon. Then the sermon got circulated by family members. My letter was reaching people I had never seen.

Do not underestimate God.

He will take the simplest thing and use it in the most unimaginable way.

I wanted to share this letter with you today, because I keep coming back to it and being convicted. As the author, I feel a responsibility to be living out and exemplifying the principles I’ve laid out here… and I constantly need to be reminded of them.

This letter is reminding me to bring my focus back to the right place – and I hope it does the same for you.

The excellency of the power is certainly of God, not us. The more I live, the more I realize how desperately sinful I am. Any good that comes of anything touching my life is certainly of God. He is so, SO worthy of our praise! He has loved me with a love that I simply cannot fathom. He truly must increase as I myself decrease.

More and more God shows me that He wants my priority to be my relationship with Him – not even evangelism, relationships with others, or any other sort of good works. Those will flow from my relationship with Him. He looks at the heart, and if all my feeble attempts to serve Him don’t come from an earnest desire for Him, they are filthy rags to Him.

It is so, SO important to guard our relationship with Him from all that threatens to destroy – even if it means we are called radicals. This love is more than deserving of radical defense. It demands our souls, our lives, our ALL. It calls for action.

Are we acting?

Less Than Two Months In… Three Things I’ve Learned While Pursuing My Writing Seriously

Less Than Two Months In… Three Things I’ve Learned While Pursuing My Writing Seriously

Way-way-wait what??? Less than two months in???

Wow.

Let’s just say that these have been two of the fullest months of my life. So far. 🙂 I look back and wonder how so much could be crammed into a mere sixty days. But it happened, folks. It happened. And it’s still happening.

About two months ago I graduated from high school and jumped into pursuing my future as an author seriously. Here are three things I’ve learned about the writing life in this time.

#1. I will not always feel inspired when it’s time to write… and that’s okay.

I was working on the second chapter of my current project the other day. I was at rock bottom. It was bad, guys. All I could force myself to type was he said this, she said that, he did this, she did that…

I wanted to bawl, Where is my creativity? My brilliant descriptions? My adjectives? Everything? Here go my writing dreams – right down the drain.

The fact is, I’m going to have these days… and that’s perfectly normal and fine. Because some days I feel like I’m churning out great ideas and brilliant descriptions and witty dialogue like crazy. These two extremes balance each other out.

It’s super important for me to just plug away at writing, even if I feel like what I’m writing is trash. If I write only when I feel like it, I’m not a writer at all – I’m just someone who writes for fun. I wouldn’t be a farmer if I only worked on the farm when I felt like it, either. Part of doing something professionally is doing your best even when your best seems awful.

In short, I’m learning that writing isn’t all fun and games… like any other occupation, it comes with its hard days. But I’m fine with that! There’s still enough awesome about it to keep me wanting to be a professional writer someday.

#2. Lists make life better.

I used to laugh at my mom and her lists… but I guess she converted me.

Nearly every day when I sit down to write, I make a list of what I want to accomplish that day. I try to get as specific as possible so I have more to cross off. It makes me feel more productive. 🙂 Also, just having a tangible list of what I want to accomplish is so much easier and productive than having a dozen plans ricocheting around in my brain.

#3. It’s a challenge for me to keep “writing stuff” in writing hours.

I’ve been setting a certain amount of hours each week day to work on my writing projects and other writing-related things. I’m not going to lie; it’s been a struggle to keep my writing restricted to those hours. It’s all too easy to let it seep into all the other areas of my life and suck my focus away from relationships and home responsibilities… and most importantly, my responsibilities as a daughter of God and ambassador for Christ.

God and people need to have first dibs on my attention. Writing can’t.

This has probably been my biggest struggle – even bigger than staying motivated and sticking with my writing projects. Hopefully the next two months will find me a little more on top of these priorities than I am at present. 🙂

But God’s grace is enormous. I daily encounter my faults, my failings, my weaknesses… and He daily reminds me that He is sufficient, and that He’ll use each one of my problems to bring Him glory.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How great He is!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash