Posted in life, writing

Pretty Paper

The way to my heart is through the US Postal Service. The most hopeful part of my day is when I check the mail, because just maybe in the midst of bills and advertisements and things addressed to people who don’t even live here, I’ll find an envelope with my name on it, written by the hand of a person who knows me and wants to share words with me.

Because letters are not a face-to-face, live-action event, facial expressions and body language don’t contribute to the reading or writing of a letter. Words are the only conduit of information from the writer to the reader, and this is a big task. It means the content of the letter is condensed down to just the words that the writer finds valuable and most fitting for what is being described, and the things described in a letter are not arbitrary or something to talk about to bide time. No one writes a letter on accident, and that’s why I like them. Even if a letter (sent or received) is weakly worded, it’s still genuine and intentional.

The thing about writing letters is that it calls for stationery. And the thing about stationery is that it’s pretty paper. Good stationery is intricate and colorful and endearing. When I write on good stationery, I imagine that my writing is award-worthy.

But once I’ve used most of a set and I only have a few sheets of stationery left, I turn into an anxious miser. I clam up and choose to not write any more letters ever, because I want all the stationery in the world to always be pretty and perfect and unblemished and mine.

If I save beautiful things like stationery for only myself, I’m depriving everyone else of it. And if I am stingy with what I decide is beautiful, I’ll see fewer beautiful things outside of what I possess.

When I become an anxious miser about my stationery, it really isn’t about the stationery, but about my heart. The heart wants what it wants, but the brain knows it isn’t right.

Pretty things are to be shared. Stationery is meant to be used, not hoarded. I learned at Camp a lot of things, but one I think of almost daily is: die empty. It means to not be parsimonious with joy and while it acknowledges that the giving of self requires sacrifice, it requires the giving of self, and rewards it.

In terms of writing a letter, dying empty means I take stationery out of its pristine box and write on it, and that means the stationery is less perfect because my handwriting is lopsided and loopy and I cross words out often. It means I invest my heart into my words, even though it’s scary to put my heart on paper. It means licking the envelope (and thus investing my saliva, too) and blowing a kiss to the mailbox before I send the letter on its way.

Letters are read and re-read. They are used as bookmarks and placed in shoeboxes under beds for long-term keeping. Letters become dog-eared and coffee-stained. Letters are cited in biographies, or they are thrown away without a second thought after being read.

Sending a letter is like saying, “I love you,” in that it comes from the heart, and things that come from the heart are scary but worthwhile. Letters and “I love you” don’t always get the recognition the sender may think they should, but that doesn’t mean letters should never be sent or “I love you” should never be said. If no one sent letters or said “I love you,” the USPS would run out of joy and color and the world would slowly turn to ice.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Jesus, writing

Words and Breakdowns

Words are important. They are necessary for communication – the fun kind and the necessary kind – they’re used in music, learning, and literature. I love words – I legitimately love them, in full knowledge that “love” is a strong word and I should not use it trivially, and I don’t think I am. I love reading words and I love writing words. I love what they do together. I love that a bunch of letters that look kind of like some quite well-groomed giraffes can be spaced near to each other and make so much sense that I want to cry because the person who put them together gets my heart. I love that these conduits of functional communication can be turned into pages and chapters and series of sincerely heartfelt written expression.

Words make so much sense to me, and if they don’t, they just need to be rearranged once or twice until they do. I have always loved words, to the point where I decided that I should put words together and then let people read them on purpose. It was going well. I was doing good things, saving the world, etc., and occasionally writing about Jesus.

Then the other day I was trying to write a blog post and I edited and edited (I had been editing this one thing for weeks already) and it wasn’t getting better. No matter what I did to it, it was still not great. And I got so sad. I thought I had lost my writing ability and it cut me down. I felt like maybe I was evaporating into thin air in the middle of a coffee shop. My existence was no longer necessary.

I was hit by this significantly more than I should have been. I thought maybe I was having an almost-quarter-life crisis (that is not even a thing, so I guess a plain old emotional crisis), but as I talked to my roommate about it, I realized that I was having less of a crisis and more of a tantrum. Tantrums are different now that I’m not six years old so I don’t have the same symptoms…but still I have tantrums. These days, tantrums usually include long-term pouting and ordering fries – just fries at restaurants and expecting everyone and everything around me to conform to my standard of perfection and know exactly how to make me feel happy and fulfilled (yes, even and especially the inanimate objects).

I had made an idol out of my writing. I thought it was mine. I was convinced by myself that I was the best writer ever and that all the words I wrote were true because I wrote them and that I deserved recognition and praise and honor and a few book offers. I subconsciously but quite vainly thought that I was God’s gift to literature (never mind that I have a small blog and that I’m a nineteen year old girl who has only taken two college English classes ever). I wanted to think those wonderful and affirming things about myself, so I did. My ego was pretty inflated, not unlike a cream puff.

Not that I’m a bad writer (because, now that I have come back to my senses, I don’t think that I am) or that being a good writer is bad or knowing that you are good at something makes it automatically an idol, because those things aren’t necessarily true, but I was off and I was wrong. My perspective of myself and the reason I was writing were skewed and then I fell hard, because old habits and vanity die hard.

In a small amount of time, I went from major vanity and overconfidence to no self-esteem. Out of nowhere, I felt that I did not have and had never had any original thoughts to share, that all of my words sounded obnoxious, that I somehow sounded too old-fashioned and too much like a millennial at the same time, and that I was destined to fail at anything I could ever consider trying in the future.

The thing about my mind is that it doesn’t stop to think about things. It tends toward the drastically, dastardly overdramatic, without my giving it permission to overreact to things. So instead of being slightly discouraged, I was crushed. My heart felt extinguished. I wondered, now that I obviously could not continue writing because I was so terrible at it, what I would do with my future free time. I thought that writing was my “thing” and now I wouldn’t have a thing and I would be doomed to be aimless and move home and drop out of college and be a potato (of the couch variety) for the rest of my life. I liked having a cool, thought-provoking, vocabulary-expanding, therapeutic hobby. I very much wanted attention from people who thought I was wise and articulate.

I also wanted to write about Jesus, and I wanted to share Him with people. It wasn’t really an afterthought; it just was not as much of a priority as eloquence and literary glory were. I wanted people to read my words and know automatically from whatever it was they were reading (even if it wasn’t something explicitly about Jesus) that I love Jesus and I wanted them to feel inspired and convicted but in a mostly positive way after they were finished and then I wanted them to love me more because of it.

I had taken something good, something God-given and God-created, and tried to make it mine. But, as I did not create the universe and/or everything in it, I was unsuccessful in trying to own all of literature. I wanted writing to be my thing. I wanted to lead people to Jesus when I felt like it, I wanted to be adorable and witty when I felt like, and I wanted to express thoughtful but not annoying social commentary when I felt like it. I like to control things, and I was trying to control the way people saw me – as a flawless, cute, genuine, wispy-haired, intriguing writer girl who also loves Jesus but not in an inconvenient way – and it did not work.

I am a perfectly adequate writer. I am not the worst; I am a competent English-speaking and -writing individual. I want to continue to practice so that I can improve. But writing is not the only way I can (and do) represent God to the world.

I am representing Him all the time. On bad days where I’m wearing a baseball cap to school because I am in such a bad mood that I don’t want to make eye contact with even one person and also on those days where I am so happy that springtime is finally here that I can’t not skip around on my way to class.

Whether or not I am consciously aware of it, whether or not I am ready, whether or not I want to, I’m showing the world who God is. I committed to having Him in my heart for the rest of my life, which means that I am representing Him through my heart and life for the rest of my life. This means that all of my accomplishments and all of my mistakes and all of the things in between are examples of what a child of God does and is.

I’ve been given the ability to write and I am thankful for it and love it, but that does not make it mine. I want my life to be glory to Christ, which means that I use the things He has given me to make Him bigger, not me. If I was amazing at everything, He would not be glorified in anything. He must increase and I must decrease.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in writing

525600 Minutes

About 525,600 minutes ago (actually closer to 525, 576 because tomorrow is the official day), on a Thursday, I started a blog. I had the idea for it two days before and felt like it was a big decision that would require intensive thought and decision-making. I was planning on letting the idea stew in my brain for a while (a while being longer than two days). But then, that Thursday before math class, I wrote up a little blurb (about an eraser) and made a blog and then it was there. My very first post on my very own blog.

It’s probably silly to write a whole entire post about my blog. It seems a little redundant. But it’s what I’m doing today.

This is trivial, but when I clicked “create,” it was kind of a big moment for me. I was admitting that I like to write, and inviting the world to read what I wrote. It turned my writing thing into more of a real thing. People had never really read my words before, outside of schoolwork and my senior project and letters to pen-pals and text messages, so it was kind of a big jump for me to, on purpose, give people access to my words. They could like them or hate them or not read them, but my words were there for the reading.

Having my words out there for people to potentially read feels kind of like throwing up in front of friends: you can try to control it, but it has to come out, and then you’re all just there in that weird moment of limbo and you’re waiting to know if they are going to be your friends still or if, now that they’ve seen the inside of you come out, they’re done. And you want to run away but you’re still there for some reason. (I speak from experience in this department, having thrown up in front of a bunch of people in the science hall my senior year of high school, but that’s a story for another day).

However, unlike throwing up in front of friends, having a blog has been a good experience. I’ve learned some stuff –

I’ve learned about deadlines. When I started my blog, I made rules for myself and one of them was to post once a week. I’ve done that so far, but it’s been hard. It’s helped me to prioritize and manage my time productively and effectively.

I’ve learned about writing for your audience. Some things are appropriate for the internet, and some are just not. I’ve learned that when blogging, the way to get the most Facebook likes is to post on Thursday mornings, which is incidentally the time that works the best for me to post. So that has helped my vanity.

I’ve learned that I need to write. I already knew that I liked to and that it was good for me, but since I’ve been making myself write once a week, I’ve noticed how much of a necessity it is for me. It’s important for my mental health.

I’ve learned that I’m really cheesy. I’ve written a bunch of posts about the inanimate objects in my life, and now I’m writing a post to celebrate a year of that happening. Definitely cheesy.

I’ve learned how much of the Gospel is engrained into my heart and mind. Sometimes when I’m writing, verses or hymns come out of my fingers without me even trying to get them to come. It’s a wonderful thing.

Writing is a major thing that I want to continue to do with the rest of my life. I was afraid that having a blog and letting other people read my words would make me hate writing or show me that I’m actually awful at it. But neither of those things happened. I still like to write (probably more than I did before) and I am an adequate writer. I am proud of myself for throwing my words out there into space for better or for worse.

So here’s to that. 365 days. 525,600 minutes.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in nostalgia, writing

The Story Girl

I love stories. It’s why I played with Barbies until I was in middle school and why I so much love to read. I enjoy having an imagination. I enjoy reading the stories that others have created, and I enjoy creating my own. Stories come naturally to me.

When I was in middle school, I rode the bus home from school with my very bestest friend every day. We rode past this one little bitty house every day, the owners of which were always in the yard. So I named them. I gave them a story and a life (disclaimer: they already had their own story and their own life, but I didn’t know what that was, so I made one up for them).

The old man was Noah, Noah Peabody. His wife was Bernadette, and they were high school sweethearts. They had spent their whole lives in Central, SC. Ever since they were married right out of high school, they had lived in that little house that my bus drove past every day. The town changed a lot since they were married, and they watched it change from the comfort of their front porch with a glass of sweet tea.

Noah and Bernadette had one daughter, whose name was Bridget. She went to the same middle and high school that I did, just like her parents had. She left Central as soon as she was old enough to and she only came back one time since, to drop off her baby girl, Penny, with her parents, who took care of Penny when Bridget went back to the city to do her thing. She was just one of those people who couldn’t handle life in a small town. Noah and Bernadette were glad to take care of Penny. Bernadette hadn’t been the same since Bridget left and she loved having little Penny around to dote on.

Noah’s brother, Charlie, also lived with him and Bernadette. He smoked cigarettes at the same time every afternoon on the green two-seated swing in the yard. Charlie didn’t have a car and I guess Noah didn’t like sharing his, because sometimes (at times other than the daily after-school bus ride) I saw Charlie walking on the sidewalk by the highway. I usually figured that he was walking to Ingles to buy more cigarettes. He also had a beer belly.

Noah and Bernadette had a quite interesting house/yard area. Their house was jam-packed full of stuff. Just stuff. The porch had one of those blue plastic rocking horses on it, along with a lot of other knick-knacks from Penny’s babyhood. Sometimes if I drove past their house at night, I could see inside the kitchen, which was old and classic. The cabinets were green and there were droopy lacy curtains around all the windows. The house leaned a little to the right, from the weight of all of the stuff it contained. I decided the reason for all of the stuff (which was really just junk) was because Bernadette was afraid to throw anything away, just in case Bridget ever came back. She would want to be able to show Bridget that she kept everything: that she had never forgotten about Bridget, not even for a second.

There was a small red barn behind the house with no animals in it, just some hay. Behind the barn was a field with a few cows in it, but the cows were old and tired, just like Noah and Bernadette.

Noah was a very small man. He was short and, unlike Charlie, had no belly to speak of. His little head was round and white on top. Bernadette always wore dresses and she was also quite petite. She wore her hair in a tight bun on the very tip top of her head, but I imagined that when her hair wasn’t in that bun, it was really long and a little stringy, but in an endearing way if that’s possible.

And then there was Penny. She was adorable. Bernadette braided her hair up into pigtails every single morning, and her hair was copper, which was why her name was Penny. She was about four and the whole family loved her. After Charlie was done with his afternoon cigarette(s), Penny liked to sit on his lap and bounce around. She brought joy to everyone.

I had a lot of time to read books in middle school. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Instead of hanging out in the cafeteria before school like most people, my three friends and I went to the library every single morning to read. I picked out two books for each day, and I would read those two books in that same day. In each of my classes, I finished my work as quickly as I could and as soon as I was done, I read. I read on the bus up until we got to Noah’s house, then I would stare at it and try to absorb as many details about it as I could, to help me elaborate the story in a more detailed manner. I would think about his story for a bit and then go back to reading. When I got home from school, I watched Arthur, the best show ever, then I did my homework and read until it was time to go to bed. I read a lot.

I found myself often annoyed with the characters in these books. They were always so “special” and I felt left out. They had cool characteristics that made them who they were. They had obvious starting and ending points for their stories, whereas every time I tried to think of a distinguished story from my life I got frustrated because there was so much background involved in telling any story from my life. I was jealous of characters because they each had something to clearly define them: a sport or a hobby or an extremely unusual life situation or being psychic. And I knew that I was just that girl with glasses and braces and a mousy Daisy dollop of straight brown hair.

I wanted to be a story but the stories showed me that I didn’t have what it took. I even tried: I narrated my life in third person for a year straight. Still I felt like I was too boring to be a story and that made me mad. So when I decided to take this old man  who I saw in his front yard every afternoon and assign him a life story, I decided to make him more of a normal person than the people I read about every day. I gave him a story that I thought was fitting for Central, SC. I made him how he was because I wanted to prove that a character doesn’t have to be an exceptional person; a character just has to be a person (or sometimes a frog, but in this case, a person).

I took this old man and he became Noah, Noah Peabody. If you take the “ah” from his first name and the “Pea” from his last name, he becomes “Nobody.” I did that on purpose. I was feeling bitter at all literature for making all of its characters so dang unique, so I made mine a nobody. I gave him a cool story and a simple, contented life. And it worked.

And I reached a conclusion: People are stories, even if they’re real people who haven’t done cool things in their life. And I was a story girl.

Love,
Lauralicious