Friday, June 15, 2018

SPU Graduation!!!

For the first time since Kindergarten, I am not enrolled as a student in any school. Not gonna lie, I was too exhausted to really appreciate this until recently, but the joy is just beginning to bubble up.


Back when I was in high school and about to graduate, Mom told me, "It's all over but the shouting". In other words, all that's left is to party. So, here are some pictures of my graduation ceremony:

Before the actual graduation, there was a ceremony called the hooding ceremony, where one of the faculty members put our masters hoods on us. At WLC and for doctoral students at SPU, this is part of the whole graduation ceremony, but I guess when you have about 200 graduates, that can get long, so they have a separate ceremony for the masters.

Me looking for my favorite professor to hood me

Me getting hooded!

After hooding, with my dad

That light blue around my neck (the hood) is the color for education. Academic masters hoods are designed a certain way: the outside of the hood is the color of the discipline (education), while the inside of the hood are the colors of the school. The hoods are generally turned a certain way to show both the university and the discipline (there's one of me with the back of the hood below that will show you). According to SPU, the academic garments (hood, robe, hat, etc.) are based off of ecclesiastical garb (church clothes!). 

After hooding, with my mom (some of you have definitely met her)

This is after the graduation ceremony. That lei was a gift from a family friend. I guess leis are very popular for graduation this year! That thing smelled so beautiful that I wore it through dinner. :) 

Out in front of SPU! See the sign? That's the entrance to what I think is the oldest part of the school.

And here's the picture showing the school and the discipline. 
The best part about all of this, though, is that I officially have my first teaching job. Where? Teaching what?

Well, let's just say...

It's back to my Travel Blog!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My Case for Dance

For over two years now, I've been pondering what I reealllly want for a graduation present. I never asked my parents for a major graduation present after WLC because I really couldn't think of anything I wanted that much. I've been bouncing the question around in the back of my mind for the last two years, but I had no more real wishes for a grad present.

Not until tonight, anyway. About half an hour ago, I went straight downstairs and said to my mom, "I know what I want for a graduation present. Wherever I wind up teaching, I want a membership to a local dance studio."

One thing I've learned from doing my Travel Blog is that when you have some kind of adventure, it's important to take some time and think about what you learned from it. It's a way to put the memories in your long-term recollection, but also to associate it with what was most important and what you gained from it. I didn't just have an adventure so much as an experience, but I think it was almost as important as anything in my Travel Blog, so I'm reflecting on it now.

I don't think it's been a secret that I've been under a lot of stress with my Washington teaching certificate (despite the fact that I'm about 100% determined to find a teaching job somewhere other than this state, and therefore about 95% sure that it will happen), and I haven't been dealing with the stress very well. I actually may have lost weight due to stress, which, if you've seen me, you know I can't afford.

Now, my problem is that I didn't really have a lot of coping mechanisms. Writing was never a coping mechanism for me - oh no, that was always its own adventure. I've heard that, generally speaking, exercise is a good coping mechanism, so I started taking walks around my block, that just kept getting longer and longer without actually helping me at all. I tried listening to different music. YouTube has all kinds of options for de-stressing music (some of which apparently cleanses your cells - who knew?!), so I tried listening to that. I tried listening to some of my old favorites that I used to find comforting. I tried getting extra, extra sleep. None of it really helped - in fact, my coping mechanisms turned into escape hatches, where I would run from the problems causing my stress rather than face them head-on.

Today, I remembered out of the blue a quote from Martin Luther on one of my desk calendars that the more work he had to do, the more he would begin praying. So I thought, okay, let's try what I definitely should have tried first. I'll say a prayer. So I shut off all the lights in my room, got down on my knees next to my bed, and tried to spend some time in prayer.

As I was praying, I remembered that this wasn't the first time I had been under a lot of stress (or the worst, frankly) - it was waaaaay worse when I was working on my various thesis projects two years ago, my senior year of college. And during that time, a thought had occurred to me that I really couldn't act on back then: I never had this kind of stress when I was in dance. Had dance been my way of dealing with stress before I ever realized it? I wasn't sure back then, but this time I decided to test my theory out. I went out to the living room, put on a song, and tried some of the old stretches that I remember best.

The effect was almost instantaneous.

In the space of one song, stress was reduced; three songs through, I felt calm and ready to tackle my project again. Strong, even.

I'm not especially surprised, and I'm annoyed at myself for not thinking of this sooner. If you've ever gotten me on the subject of dance, I've probably mentioned how healthy and important it is. Music, discipline, exercise, and the feeling of accomplishing a small task are all considered highly important for mental and emotional well-being, and dance tackles all of that in one. It got me back on task, and it settled my stress and anxiety to vastly more measurable levels.

I quit dancing after high school because I was diagnosed with Freiberg's Infraction, which can't be cured and which causes varying degrees of pain in my right foot. Sometimes it could get pretty bad. But I think the pain in my foot is far more manageable than the stress in my mind, so when I get the chance, I'm getting back on the dance floor.

Who knows? That might make me a more productive author, too. Remember that Graystone was slowly finished after I quit dance...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

One of Those Random Updates

I think after last fall, when I kept myself sick and burned myself out over school work, I may have used up what little dedication to school I have left. Maybe not, since I've turned everything in so far, but you get the idea - SPU is sort of fading into the background.

Hey, that works solidly for me. I actually like what I'm doing these days! I've been researching the Russian Revolutions for my history class (I know the basics, but that was never my strongest suit, so I had to supplement my knowledge, which means research, which I honestly enjoy). I've also been reading and researching Lord of the Flies for my English class - not my favorite, but the writing style alone is very interesting and really grabs the reader, so I enjoy this too.

And, of course, I enjoy working with the students I have. As cliche as it is to say, all of them have some kind of unique gift that really does make for interesting class sessions. Teaching has been quite a bit of fun!

Anyway, I will admit I haven't spent much time writing lately, because I've been writing lessons, but that's how it goes, right? I'll have to find time to work on the books, but I probably won't get much done until after I graduate. We'll see. But, I am tentatively setting this August (before I start a full-time teaching job) as the deadline for getting my draft to Julie, my editor. Will that happen? Meh, who knows. Books tend to proceed at their own pace, so I might not finish until December. But, hope is eternal, and I am more than ready to dedicate a summer to writing. We shall see!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Please Support a Friend's Daughter - Especially With Prayers

My first ever sales event was up in Bothell. It was rainy and cold, so the booth I was in had canvas hanging from three sides, making it look almost like a cave. It was warm, though, because someone brought one of those outdoor space heaters - Bill Westwood, the fellow YA author I shared that booth with. If you've met Bill, you know he's a jolly, kindhearted man with a wild imagination and a talent for making images out of his imagination that I can only envy fiercely.

Yesterday, his daughter Tracey was diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer that has spread to her lungs. She was given between two months and one year to live.

Please take time to pray for a healing miracle from the Great Physician. Also, if God directs you, please consider donating to Tracey's family to help them manage medical and other costs.

If you are so inclined, you can find Bill's contact info here and send him an encouraging message.

This is horrible news. No one deserves to hear that they have only two months to live, and no one deserves to watch a loved one die.

God is close to the brokenhearted.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Movie Review - Paul: Apostle of Christ

Last week, I saw one of those phone app ads for a movie I had not heard of, called Paul: Apostle of Christ. That link takes you to the website, which told me that the movie focuses on Paul's last days before his execution in Rome. Early Church history has become my thing (pretty much since I started working on that Fourth Century Christianity site), so I immediately resolved to see it as soon as I could. It came out on Friday, and today (Saturday) was the first time I could see it. So, I met up with my cousin and we went to see it.

Let me begin by saying that my expectations for Christian art (movies, books, and music) are somewhat low. I think Christians get this mindset that it's more important to say the truth they're telling than show that truth and let the audience figure it out by watching the story. This sometimes leads to clunky writing and rather unimpressive finished products. 

However, the star of this movie, Jim Caviezel, was also in Passion of the Christ and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), two very Christian movies with a lot of effort put into production and quality, so I was hopeful about this one. I also recognized several of the other actors as having been in high-quality productions, so I was very hopeful. To top it off, the trailer looked pretty fantastic. So, I had a middling to high expectation going into this movie. 

The crisis is essentially this: a large chunk of Rome has been destroyed in a fire, which the Emperor Nero (known for being a lunatic) blames on the Christians, and is persecuting them horribly for it. Because Paul is viewed as the leader of the Christians in Rome, he is arrested and held in a miserable cell. His friend Luke, a Greek physician, sneaks into Rome and into the prison to speak with Paul. Meanwhile, the Christians of Rome have hidden themselves away in a small section of the city, and are trying to decide if they should remain in Rome or go somewhere the persecution isn't as bad. At the same time, the prefect of the prison, Meletius (I think), has a daughter who is ill and is sacrificing to all the gods he can think of to get her well, while trying to wrestle with the fact that he has Paul and Luke pretty much in his grasp, and thinks he's angering his gods by not being cruel to them. Three main plot lines - Paul and Luke, the Christian community, and Meletius - and they work together fairly well to tell the story.

I'll begin by saying that the movie does not skimp on the brutality. I've known a lot of Christian art to give watered-down versions of the violence (to remain family friendly, I suppose), but this one really didn't. The opening scene has Luke sneaking into Rome, showing the streets being lit by burning bodies of Christians. In the first few seconds, you see a body charred beyond recognition as a lamp post in the city street. And later in the movie, they actually show the soldiers lighting a living Christian on fire on one of those lamp posts. They show whippings, they show a boy who was beaten to death in the streets, and they show little children walking into the arena to be fed to wild animals. They don't actually show the beating or the animals, but they leave you in no doubt about what happens. Then, just because that's not enough, they have flashbacks of when Paul was the one dishing out all the persecution. Remember that Paul began as Saul, the most brutal enemy of Christians? They show him murdering peaceful Christians, they show the stoning of Stephen, and they cut just short of showing him murdering a little girl. Several times, actually. 

There were also two very serious conflicts that I did not expect to see in this movie, but that I'm glad they showed. The first, and probably most profound, was the conflict of the Roman prefect, Meletius, as his daughter is dying and his wife blames him for it because she thinks his "kindness" to Paul and Luke (letting Luke visit Paul) is offending the Roman gods. Meletius is not a Roman, but is a soldier from the Roman provinces (Iberia, I assume) who has gained Roman citizenship through service in the Roman army. Interestingly enough, this sounds a lot like what happened in Rome back then, so the touch of history is nice. More importantly to the story, however, is that Meletius loves his wife (who is Roman, I think) and daughter, and both he and his wife think his doubt in the Roman gods is keeping them from curing his daughter. There's one very heartbreaking scene when his wife tells him how lonely she was when he was off on his campaigns, until their daughter was born; now that she's dying, the wife blames him for taking away all her joy. I honestly did not expect to see such detail given to a faith crisis, nor to show such painstaking care over why someone would feel bound to believe in pagan gods. But it was impressive. 

The second one, which I really did not expect to see, was the conflict between Nero and Rome. There are several Roman Christians in the community who are angry at Nero, not just for killing Christians, but for destroying Rome. Rome was never supposed to be an empire ruled by one power-hungry maniac, but a city ruled by senators elected by the citizens. That's what it was for most of its history - not exactly what we Americans would consider free or progressive, but quite free compared to Nero and the other Emperors. It's the Julius Caesar argument back again - Rome shouldn't have an Emperor. It goes against Rome. So, the Christians in Rome are struggling not just with the danger to their faith, but the danger to the city and the ideal they love. They love Rome. I admit to being completely startled to see that show up in the movie, but show up it does, and it works very well with the other conflicts. 

There were multiple other conflicts in this movie too, of course, that I did expect. One of the big ones was Luke struggling to show Christian love for the people that were, you know, murdering Christians. Then there was Paul's conflicts with his past as a persecutor of Christians, and the way they resolved that conflict made one of my favorite movie scenes ever. 

All this is to say that the movie isn't just preaching at you, but rather telling you a story. There are real conflicts, real challenges, and quite a bit of very seriously emotional scenes. I think it was a good idea to focus it around a few days, and tell the past in flashbacks. If you've ever read the Wives of King David series, you see they do nice job telling the story of King David through his wives' eyes, but the author covers years and years in just one book, which can make it kind of hard to keep track of one conflict or another. This story focuses all the events around just a few days, and draws on the past and on history as they pertain to the events in that story. I think that's a good way to sort out the facts and backstory that you need and the ones you don't. If I ever write a historical fiction novel, I'll have to remember to do that.

More than just having the story, though, the conflicts actually worked together well. Remember how in God's Not Dead, the connection between all the conflicts was that all the characters knew each other? The Cinderella complex conflict, the cancer conflict, the classroom conflict... they didn't have a lot to do with each other, and wouldn't have been in the same movie if the characters didn't know each other. This movie was not like that - all the conflicts played off each other to present the entire story. They were all connected around the same events. 

One complaint I have that I don't think anyone else has said yet, is that the mentions of Timothy and Titus were a little too glancing. Why were they there at all? Titus and Timothy have some fascinating stories, but they were only alluded to, and I honestly can't figure out why they were even mentioned. Unless there's a sequel in the works? (I don't know that I'd complain about that...) This may just be my partiality to Ephesus coming through (Timothy was pastor at Ephesus), but I rather wish they had either elaborated on Timothy and Titus, or just not mentioned them at all. 

Another complaint I have is this: they NEVER wrap up the Rome vs. Nero conflict. The characters struggling with this conflict just sort of disappear. Why? What happened to them? Where did they go? We never find out. The Rome vs. Nero conflict disappears with that, too. Blech! It was so promising at first.

Apparently everybody' else's big complaint is that it's not really about Paul - which is completely true. It's more about Luke and the Christian community in Rome. So, the title doesn't fit. I personally don't think this is a mark against the movie, but apparently a lot of other people do. 

Anyway, short version: it was a well-told story and a well-directed movie with a few minor ripples. Like I said, the movie isn't about Paul as much as the title is, which doesn't bother me, but be aware of that before you see it. What it is about, however, is well-told and dramatically interesting. I highly recommend seeing it, because the care they put into the movie was real and it pays off. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nightly Thoughts - Moses and the Burning Bush

Should I be going to sleep? Yes, but I want to dip my toe back in the world of my writing. I don't know that I ever realized how much my writing kept me sane before, but I'm realizing it now. I guess I should have thought about it in 2016, when I was going insane over my history thesis (Haleigh and my history professors can all tell you that), but I'm sure realizing it now.

Short version, I don't have a lot of time. I'm struggling with all the stuff that goes with teaching, and then all the stuff that goes with being a student. Lucky for me, I have one more assignment to turn in tomorrow for SPU. After that, it's my big portfolio project, seven more lesson plans to be reviewed by my field supervisor, a lot of paperwork, some reflections... but honestly, none of that matters as much as teaching, and so far I'm still scared teaching. No, it's not the students. Yes, I knew this would be a big job. I still want to teach. But it's a big job.

A couple of weeks ago, it all slammed into me that I was way out of my depth. I can't help every single kid the way they need it. How can I? I'm just me.

Then, that Sunday, Pastor chose for our Old Testament reading the story of Moses and the burning bush, and all of God's promises to be with Moses despite all his excuses. It was a sharp and important reminder for me - it's not just me. God is working in me somehow, and He is not going to let me or these kids slip through the cracks. He knows what He is doing. He knew what He was doing when He helped me get into SPU, He knew what He was doing when the Turkey trip lined up perfectly to count for class credit, He knew what He was doing when I found the job at the school out by Redmond, He knew what He was doing when I got the student teaching gig I got, and He knows what He is doing today, tomorrow, and every day going forward. I must learn to trust Him. My trust abilities are pretty weak, but if He uses this to strengthen them, so be it. I'll take it.

I don't know what's going to happen next. I don't even know if I'll pass my big portfolio project. I've never been less sure of anything in my life. But if I don't - God knows what He is doing. Whatever comes next, I commit it to His hands.

Readers - I encourage you all to do the same. It doesn't make everything feel okay right away (my family will testify to that!), but it suddenly becomes so much more manageable.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

...and Update on Book 4!

This is the other good news I promised in my last post. Unlike the last couple of years, I've been making steady progress on book four, currently called Arashna. I wouldn’t call it hefty progress, but it’s been steady. I think I’m averaging about a page per week, which is not a great rate, but it’s a good habit to have while there are lots of other things distracting me.

Naturally, some of those things will have to take precedence sometimes. I’m student teaching right now, so that will definitely take precedence, because if I don’t make that a priority, students and their learning will suffer for it. That is obviously most important. Also, I have a massive portfolio project that is going to require a lot of my time and attention and is going to determine whether I get licensed or not. So, there’s that.

But, the short version of my progress so far is that every character except two has been presented, including a few who were in Pasadagavra, but not in Graystone. Zuryzel is there, obviously, and she’s in the middle of a couple of serious struggles - no, Mokimshim wanting her dead is not her only problem.

So, that’s the last of my news. Progress is being made on Arashna! I don’t have anything like a release date for it yet, and if I keep to my half-page-per-week rate, it won’t be for a while. But, never fear! The story will be told! Eventually...