A Second (and Equally Important) Long-Awaited Post

This blog series is not going to be all about Robin Williams, I promise. But I’d been looking for a topic to speak on for this installment, and today, I found one:

Read this article on Robin Williams’ death

I stumbled upon that article this morning after waking up from a dream about Robin Williams, morbidly curious about how he’d ended things. And immediately I wanted to wring the writer’s neck.

No one has the right to pretend to understand if they’re not going through a very similar experience. Not even then, because usually, even if their own issue is just as severe, the spectrum of depressive disorders and the havoc they wreak is so broad that it’s likely they really don’t understand in the least. The writer of that article obviously knows nothing about how depression works.

A sufferer of depression doesn’t wake up one day and say “Hmm, I think I’ll kill myself today. Yep, sounds like a plan,” and then go do it. It’s never spontaneous.

Someone who kills himself thinks about it first, maybe for days, months, years. Whether actively planning or passively wishing, if someone is that badly depressed, it is on their mind.

Most people struggle, in fact, not to give in to suicidal urges, for quite some time. Some are successful, and find a way to beat their depression; some are not, and either struggle with their depression until they’re taken by another cause, or it hurts them badly enough so that the only option they can see is to die on purpose.

Just because someone doesn’t seem upset, or doesn’t seem suicidal, doesn’t mean they’re not. If you don’t know they’re suicidal, it’s because they haven’t told you. So why would they make it obvious if they didn’t want you to know? Like I said earlier, the act of suicide is never spontaneous. The point I’m trying to get across in this paragraph is that the way a person seems has nothing to do with how they’re really doing, on the inside. Anyone who cares one whit about what others think of them is not going to wear their depression and suicidality (I’m coining that word right here, right now) on their sleeve, unless it’s a cry for attention, or a cry for help.

Which brings us to another point.

How many people have died by their own hand when their calls for help were mistaken for dramatic cries for attention? I’m willing to bet that it’s a higher number than any of us would like to admit. Yet all the time, people ignore simple cues that should be concerning them. If someone is showing even slight signs of possible depression, do not ignore them, especially if that someone is your child.

Whether someone is calling for attention or trying in their own way to get help, do not ignore them. One will only call for attention in drastic ways that resemble depression if A. they really need attention, or B. they really need attention. Maybe it’s not the best way to get that attention, but do not ignore them.

Would you rather decide within your own limited mind that someone is calling for attention and ignore the signs they show, or decide to do your best to help them even though you don’t know whether it’s for real or not? If a depressed person opens up to you, it’s either because they’re getting so close to suicide that it’s terrifying them when they can manage to care, or because they trust you and want to be close to you. Either way, they need and deserve that attention from you. They need a piece of your heart to help them plug the holes in their own.

I know I’d rather assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and throw myself equally into helping people I know are being truthful, and people who might just want attention. Because in the end, who knows? I don’t want to have it on my conscience if I decide someone doesn’t really need help, and the next day there’s an obituary in the paper with their name on it.

Once upon a time, a depressed wife and her depressed husband had a child. That child didn’t know the first thing about depression, so as he grew up, he thought that the random urges to run into traffic or slide a knife into his chest were normal.

The child didn’t find out the first thing about depression until he was fifteen, and didn’t have a good grasp on it until he was eighteen, when he finally went to speak to a doctor about it. All the questions on the piece of paper the doctor gave him – do you have thoughts of harming yourself or others? do you ever think about death? do you feel hopeless? – applied to him perfectly, and that was the first real proof that he had depression.

The depression had been allowed to grow, build upon itself, and fester in the dark confines of the child’s heart, growing worse, entwining itself deeper into his very being. If his parents had taken the hints instead of choosing to ignore them, or blowing them off as calls for attention to be ignored, his condition may not have grown so dire. He could have begun therapy at a younger age, whether that therapy was talking to a counselor, behavioral therapy, medicinal, or some combination thereof. And maybe, just maybe, today he would be happy.

I hope this post helped you understand a little better. Symptoms of possible depression are to be treated as seriously as symptoms of possible cancer.

Thank you for your time.

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A Long-Awaited Post

Early this morning, the world lost a famous, beloved actor and comedian.
I know everyone is probably writing about Robin Williams’ suicide, and this won’t just be another eulogy. I’m using it as a segue to talk about something that’s been trying to get out on paper, as it were, for a good while now. It’s a touchy subject, and one that many, if not most people, misunderstand to varying degrees.

Depression.

More specifically, suicide.

Now, when most people hear “depression”, their mind automatically goes to emotional sadness, able to be relieved by “thinking happy thoughts” or “staying positive”.
And this is so, so very wrong, that I literally laugh when I hear people say it. I laugh in their faces, no matter who they are.
There are so many topics I could hit on that have to do with depression, so I think I’ll split up my informational rant into a blog series. Tonight, I’m just going to talk about suicide.
People say that suicide is the most selfish thing someone could ever do. Their argument is that why, if the person was loved and wanted, and had a place in this world, would he not want to push through a little bit of sadness in order to be a father, a brother, a friend?
And honestly I can see how someone can have that point of view… if they’re totally ignorant of what depression is.

If you are one of these people and I offend you with this post, good. I am not sorry. You need to learn that you’re only making things worse by treating depressed people as if they’re idiots who never thought “Oh, why don’t I just choose to be happy?” Uh, yeah, we tried that, thanks.

(sorry, just had to say that before going any further)

If your leg had cancer, and that cancer was spreading, and growing more unbearably painful every day, chemotherapy was unsuccessful, and painkillers stopped working, you would probably want to have your leg amputated, or else the painful cancer would keep on spreading until it killed you.
Would that be selfish?

Now, is it such a far stretch of the imagination to think that depression is sort of the same thing?

A depressed person is constantly weighted down with thoughts of inadequacy, powerful doubts about himself, his future, his abilities, and especially his worth and the love that other people have for him. It grows so heavy that he doesn’t feel he’ll be able to stand up for another moment under the mental weight.
But he does. He does it because there are people counting on him, and he can’t give up or he’ll let them down. He’s already enough of a letdown just in the fact that he exists; if he quit existing, he’d be even worse.
Then those thoughts start to twist and turn, until instead of saying “I’m a letdown if I die”, they whisper: “I’m a letdown if I remain alive to burden these people any longer.”

Everyone knows about the theory of heart knowledge and head knowledge. But never is it more real than when one is going through deep depression.
One can know in his head that his wife loves him. It’s a fact, and who can argue with facts?
But his heart doesn’t feel it. All he feels is an all-consuming emptiness that’s eating him alive, taking pleasure and joy and even the ability to focus or take an interest in something away.
Depression steals everything. Sometimes even the victim’s life.

So the man cuts. He cuts because he needs to feel something, anything. Or because he feels he’s a horrible person and should be punished, and no one else will do it for him. Or because it will distract him from the pain of his emotions, and the thoughts chipping away slowly at his will to live.
He cuts in order to survive one more day.
But after a while, cutting doesn’t help anymore. It doesn’t distract him, no matter how deep he goes. But the urge never stops, never lets up – and with every effort to avoid the temptation, it grows stronger.
God, why can’t I just snap out of this? the man thinks.
Then his tortured mind replies: It’s time for you to go.
No, he tells it at first. No. I have a family.
Your family doesn’t need you. Did you see the way your sister looked at you yesterday? Can you even imagine her crying if you died?
…No.
And so on and so forth, until the man finally jumps off a bridge just to shut his mind up.

Depression is a disease. It is treatable for some people – some experience amazing improvement through simply taking a daily antidepressant, maybe in combination with seeing a therapist or counselor.
But we have not yet come up with ways to treat the worse cases. The cases wherein any form of conventional treatment simply makes the patient worse rather than better. In these cases, the patient will usually pretend to be better just to avoid further “help”.

I believe that someday, we will have a much better understanding of depression and how to treat it. But not if people keep treating it like a non-issue, or pretending it doesn’t exist, or what’s worse, acting like the sufferer is selfish or over-dramatic.
Wise up and see depression for what it is: a non-discriminating, rapacious, omnivorous cancer of the mind that scars, destroys, and kills.

Suicide is a choice, yes. A suicidally depressed person makes the choice between life and death. But take it from someone who knows: it’s really nowhere near as simple as one choice.

Thank you for your time.

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I AM BACK. For the moment…

I love you people. All you awesomes who put up with my intermittent posts and random disappearances. You’re so cool.

And as a thank-you for being so cool, I thought I’d give you an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel, called Super. In a nutshell, it’s a sci-fi in which an evil corporation kidnaps people to experiment on them and perfect their formula for making people into superhuman soldiers. 

Without further ado, here’s the excerpt (and don’t ask me why the fonts keep switching; WordPress is weird):

***

You okay, Malia?” Courtney’s voice sounded tinny, echoing off of the metal surrounding them.

Malia’s breathing had accelerated more and more since William had shut the door on them. “Dunno,” she said, unable to come up with a better response.

You’re sucking all of the oxygen out of the air,” chuckled Courteney.

Sorry.”

I’m joking. I highly doubt this thing is airtight. If it were, William would be too smart to put us in here.”

I know. Just don’t like close spaces.”

Well, we’ll be out soon,” assured Courteney. “But we have to stay in here until we get through the gates. We don’t have clearance to leave.”

Right.” Malia turned her concentration toward breathing steadily and not freaking out. It was hard, but not impossible, although she felt a knife against her ribs when she breathed too deeply.

At last, the truck stopped, and Malia heard William jump down, slamming the door, and then heard the door to the cargo area slide open. At last, the trap door lifted, and Malia took several deep breaths, disregarding her aching chest. She’d felt like she was re-breathing the same air over and over again the whole time she had been under there.

William helped her out first, asking if she was okay, and she gave an exhausted nod, then crossed her arms, sticking her hands under them to keep them warm. Had it grown colder outside? The wind that blew in through the open back door bit at her nose and cheeks, making them feel as if they were in the process of freezing solid.

Where are we?” she asked.

William helped Courteney out of the compartment. “Step down.”

All three climbed down from the truck bed.

Now,” William instructed, “look up.”

When Malia did so, the sight took her breath away.

The sky was a beautiful shade of dark blue, and it seemed as if someone had blown glitter dust all over it and it had stuck. It was the most beautiful sight that Malia had ever seen.

Are those… are those all stars?” she asked in awe.

Yeah. Isn’t it great?” William stood next to her and gave her a big smile when she turned to look at him, then he looked down at her hand, stretching his toward her a tad.

When she noticed, her first instinct was to pretend that she hadn’t, but a sudden wave of courage – and something else she couldn’t quite place – swept through her, and she took his hand, letting his warm, solid fingers enclose her small, chilly ones. She looked back up at his face and returned the smile, then turned her gaze once again to the sky.

It’s beautiful,” Courteney said in a quiet voice that was full of amazement.

You can never see the stars from the city because of all the lights,” explained William, “and only a few of them are visible from the living areas. There’s less light in those areas, but they are so close to the city that the city lights still block your view of the stars. Out here, there are no lights except the moon and stars.” Gently, he turned Malia around and pointed to a shining silver orb hanging in the sky.

Wow.” It was the only word that Malia could come up with.

I know, right?” William grinned, still looking up at the moon, but Malia turned her gaze to him instead. The light of the silver sphere reflected off of his eyes and his white teeth as he smiled, and his dirty blond hair moved slightly with the little gusts of wind. He was… beautiful, Malia thought. No, handsome. That’s the right word. Handsome. I hope I’m not saying any of this out loud.

William abruptly turned toward her, and it would have been awkward to suddenly glance away, so Malia held his gaze, and they studied each other for a long moment, broken only when Courteney remarked on how cold it was.

The solar panels that power everything in the city absorb the sun’s heat, so it’s several degrees warmer in the city than it is out here,” explained William, turning toward Courteney and releasing Malia’s hand. She immediately shoved both hands deep into her pockets to try and keep what little semblance of warmth they had left.

It is getting really cold,” remarked William. “What say we get in the truck and have a driving lesson? There’s heat in there.”

I don’t know,” replied Malia. “I’ve never driven before. My parents could never afford a car.”

That’s why it is a lesson, silly.” William clapped her on the back. “And pretty much nobody can afford a car, so I’m not surprised. Come on, it’s easy. Who’s going first?”

She can go first,” insisted Malia.

Are you sure?” asked Courteney. “I’m pretty nervous; maybe you should go first so I can see how easy it is.”

Always the one to make sacrifices for her friends, Malia agreed, and William helped her into the driver’s seat, then went around to the other side and slid to the middle, after giving Courteney a hand up.

Here’s the key. Put it in there; that’s the ignition. Then turn it to the right.”

Malia did as she was told, then when the truck rumbled, trying to start, she let go of the key and flinched back; the engine died, and William chuckled.

You have to hold it until the engine catches,” he explained.

How will I know?”

Think back to when I started the truck earlier. What did it sound like? Think of that, and you’ll figure it out.”

Malia thought and thought, then finally turned the key again. This time, she held it until the engine made a strange scraping noise, and then let go. The engine remained on.

Did I do it?” she asked.

Almost. You could have let it go a little earlier, but hey, the truck’s on now.” William smiled at her. “Now, there are two pedals down there. Courteney, pay attention so I don’t have to repeat all this. The pedal on the right is the gas, or accelerator, and the one on the left is the brake. You work them both with your right foot. Now, press on the brake.”

Nervously, Malia did so.

Now grab this lever right here.” William took her right hand and moved it to the gearshift. “Pull it down to D. That stands for Drive.” He wrapped his hand around hers and helped her guide the lever down. Malia reveled in the warmth of his skin, and she felt a unique thrill that only came when he touched her. She felt as if she could do anything.

Now let go of the brake and slowly press on the gas,” he instructed, and she released the brake.

When she pressed ever so gently on the gas, nothing happened; so she pushed it harder, and the truck jumped forward. With a little shriek, she let go and slammed on the brake with her left foot.

It’s okay, Malia; just try it again. You’re doing great,” encouraged William.

Doubt it.” Malia removed her foot from the brake and pressed timidly on the gas pedal; this time, she decided, she would just press ever so gently without pushing any harder, until the truck began to move.

She did so, and the truck began to creep forward across the wide, packed-dirt plain that William had driven them to, outside the city.

Good job, Malia!” exclaimed Courteney, and Malia dared to go a bit faster, then she turned and drove in a circle.

This is kind of fun,” she said, a grin spreading across her face, as she accelerated and drove in a straight line, then pressed gently on the brake until the truck came to a stop. “Do you want to try it, Courteney?”

Okay, I will,” replied Courteney with a look of determination on her face. Malia pushed the lever back to the P, where it had been when she started, turned the engine off, and then both girls jumped out and switched seats.

Okay, Court, what you need to do is–”

Shut up, William; I can figure it out. I have driven before, if you recall. It was just a long… a long time ago.”

Okay, Court,” he replied. Malia could guess that Courteney had not driven since the accident that killed her mother.

Courteney turned the engine over and drove in a circle, then sped up and drove straight, much faster than Malia had, further and further from the organized city where they had all grown up. Whenever she turned, Malia was either pressed against William, or his weight pressed against her. Either way, she rather enjoyed it. 

All right, Courteney, you can slow down now,” laughed William, buckling his seat belt for emphasis.

Me? Slow down? You must be insane. I forgot how much fun it is to drive fast.” Courteney swerved to the left, and William’s body pressed up against Malia’s shoulder again.

A rumbling came then, and it grew louder and louder, presumably coming nearer.

What’s that?” Malia covered her ears as the volume of the sound grew excruciating. A familiar pain coursed through her chest with every accelerating breath, and she could feel her pulse in her face and head. She was beginning to panic, and this time she couldn’t deflect the attack.

I can’t see anything!” exclaimed Courteney over the noise, slowing the vehicle to a halt.

Make it go away!” shouted Malia, feeling tears begin to squeeze from her tightly closed eyes. The loud rumbling reminded her of her father’s voice when he yelled at her, and all her memories of him came rushing back in a flood; she couldn’t stop her thoughts from running away with her mind, or her lungs from crying out for more and more air. She curled up in the corner, her feet on the truck’s seat and her knees sharply bent.

Malia, it’s going to be okay!” she heard William’s faint voice saying. “Look at me!”

She cracked her eyes open and looked at William, whose face was a mask of calm as he held the distraught Courteney under his left arm, and grasped Malia’s hand with his right.

It is going to be all right, Malia.”

Then he said something else, which rather shocked her.

I love you.”

That was when the world slowed down, and in slow motion, Malia felt heat burning her – no, melting her, it seemed – and suddenly she was yanked away from William. Flying into the air, her stomach dropped, and a wall of white-hot fire divided her from the first man who had ever told her that he loved her.

Then everything went black, and she was floating.

***

Hey, cool person! I congratulate you for sticking it through to the end of the passage! Leave a comment and tell me what you liked, what you didn’t like, how it made you feel, and anything else you’d like to tell me. 😀

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Book Giveaway!

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted – three jobs and problems sleeping really get to you – but I just wanted to let y’all know about a book giveaway that some of my friends are hosting! Go to this link and check it out:

http://in-which-i-talk.blogspot.com/2013/12/five-book-giveaway.html#comment-form

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I don’t usually post recipes…

…but this one was just too delicious not to share with y’all.

Elizabeth’s Amazing(ly Easy) Apple Crisp

1 box of graham crackers
About 2 & 1/4 cups brown sugar
Cinnamon (as much as you want)
Allspice (as much as you want, but I don’t suggest more than a tablespoon)
Vanilla flavoring (I love vanilla flavoring in my baking, so I used about 1/4 cup, but you can use less if you prefer)
5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled (or unpeeled, whichever you prefer) and chopped
3 eggs
3 & 1/2 sticks butter
Rolled oats
Vegetable shortening

Whipped cream (tub or squirty thing)

Okay, I think that’s everything.

Step 1:
Preheat your oven to 325, then put 2 of the prepackaged bags of graham crackers from inside the box (10 or 12 crackers) into a Ziploc bag and crush them as finely as you can with a food hammer (or a bowling ball, whichever you prefer). Pour the crumbs into a mixing bowl (it’s a lot easier if you have an electric mixer, and more fun since you can play with the controls and make the ingredients fly everywhere).

Step 2:
Add about 1 cup of brown sugar and mix it with the cracker crumbs, then do the same with 1/2 cup of rolled oats.

Step 3:
Cut up 2 sticks of cold butter into small chunks (it helps if you oil your knife now and then while cutting). Sprinkle the pieces into your crust mixture, mixing well, until all the pieces are coated with graham cracker crumbs, then squish it up with your hands (if you’re afraid to get dirty, use a spoon, but that will be a lot harder and take much longer), making sure all of the butter lumps are squashed and mixed in. Resist the urge to eat it all; it’s delicious.

Step 4:
Separate 3 eggs and add the yolks to your crust, mixing thoroughly. Set aside the whites for the filling.

Step 5:
Put 1 stick of butter in the microwave to melt (I put it on for 1 minute, power level 7/medium high), then while that’s melting, put the apple chunks into a bowl and pour the egg whites over them. Add the butter when it’s melted.

Step 6:
Sprinkle as much cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla as you please into the apple mixture, then mix it well.

Step 7:
Put the apple mixture into the microwave for about 10 minutes on power level 5 (medium).

Step 8:
While the apples are in the microwave, press the crust mixture into the bottom and sides of a well-greased 9×13″ glass baking pan.

Step 9:
When the apples are done, drain most of the liquid but do not get rid of it. Pour the apple chunks over the crust, letting some of the liquid remain.

Step 10:
Crush another half package of graham crackers, and sprinkle 1/2 of the crumbs over the apples.

Step 11:
In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of rolled oats with half a stick of melted butter, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a quarter cup brown sugar. Sprinkle this over top of the crumbs that you already put on top of the apples, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs over top of the oat mixture.

Step 12:
Put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 275 and put it in for another 15 minutes. Check on it frequently, because when I made it, I was experimenting, so I kept changing the temperature and putting it in for different amounts of time, but the time and temperatures I put here are my best guesses. When you take it out, the edges should be golden brown, and the center should be just a little bit jiggly.

Step 13:
Let the crisp stand for about an hour to let it cool and give the juices time to thicken.

Step 14:
Cut a piece, put it on a plate, add a dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy!

(Note: This is not an official, tested-and-true, write-down-the-ingredients-and-exact-measurements-as-you-add-them recipe, so do what seems best to you. This recipe is not for beginner cooks.)

I was going to post a picture of my piece of apple crisp on my plate, but it was too delicious. 😀 I ate it all, and now I’m too full to get out a second piece. Try the recipe, and share pictures of your own, linking back to this post. 🙂

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Shame

Image

I read once in a book that the Japanese make shame a tradition, part of who they are.

Now, when you read that, you probably think that they should change their ways, because shame is never a good thing, right?

Well, there are two kinds of shame.

The first kind of shame, the one that you probably think of when I mention it, is the crippling kind of shame, regret for something you’ve done, the feeling of dirtiness, of worthlessness. This shame is obviously not good, and this is the kind you want to avoid putting on yourself. Most of the time, this shame comes from doing a bad thing that you shouldn’t have chosen to do in the first place. What you have to realize is,if you’re a Christian, you can go to God and repent, and you’re forgiven. You need not be ashamed any longer.

The second kind of shame is actually beneficial: the feeling of embarrassment you get when you do something you shouldn’t, or cross boundaries you shouldn’t. The way you feel when you sweep the dust under the rug, or break something and hide it instead of confessing. Some might call it your conscience.

If a Japanese child asks someone a personal question (or simply too many questions), their parent will ask them something like, “Have you no shame?”

There are four children between the ages of 6 and 11 who live two houses down from mine. They play in our yard, even when none of us are outside with them, and they play with whatever toys they find on our property, without asking. I caught them once at the front door, knocking and knocking, then one of the boys lifted up one of the girls so she could attempt to peer through the peephole.

Can you guess what question I want to ask them? That’s right: Have you no shame?!

Let me finish by stating that you do not need to feel shame for anyone else’s actions. If your friend does something you’ve been trying to keep them from doing, you have no guilt in the matter, and therefore you should not feel ashamed. You are not responsible for their actions, as my friend Kaitlyn says.

Also, because I know a couple of you have gone through the same thing I did recently, I just want to put this out there: If being friends with someone is too much for you, and you absolutely cannot handle it, or it’s unhealthy for you, it’s okay to tell them so, and back away from the friendship. You do not need to feel any shame, even if that person tries to shame you for it. (Especially if that person is most likely clinically insane. Again, this is for the people who went through the same thing I did recently… if you don’t understand it, you’re not one of them.)

Have shame, but do not be ruled by shame.

4 In you our fathers trusted;

   they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 To you they cried and were rescued;

   in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

-Psalm 22:4-5

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | Leave a comment

Fight the Lies

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I visited Life Point Church in Wilmington, NC on September 15.

Why was I there, you ask?

I spent September 1-14 in Myrtle Beach, SC with one of my very best friends, then took a bus to Wilmington, where my dad picked me up, we stayed overnight with some friends in town, and then attended their church the next morning before beginning the drive home.

The message that Sunday hit me hard, and I’d like to share what I learned from it with my dear readers, because everyone needs to know these resounding truths.

Everyone has been led to believe a lie before. I know I have. I’m not going to recount any of the lies I’ve been told or believed, but boy, have I been lied to in my life, just like you have.

I’m sure you’re not considering that I don’t necessarily mean people telling lies. They do, of course, but that’s not the subject of this post.

Who is the father of lies? The devil, Satan.

“`You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’”

That was Jesus speaking in John 8:44.

Satan’s very language is lies. And, being the father of lies, he is an expert at weaving them around us and making us believe them.

He whispers lies to us about ourselves, so subtly that we see them as truth, and we repeat them to ourselves until they’re ingrained in our hearts:

  • I’m worthless
  • I’m stupid
  • I’m ugly
  • I must please everyone

In the Bible, God speaks to us and dispels these lies. All we need to do is believe Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, not the father of all deceit who would have us angry, dissatisfied, and depressed because we believe his lies.

“For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139:13-14

I have a very close friend who does not like herself at all, to say the least. She’s beautiful, self-sacrificing, and one of the kindest and most caring people who ever lived, but when she looks in the mirror, all she sees is an ugly thing who should not even be alive. She can’t see why people love her so much, or why people tell her how pretty she is, because she honestly can’t believe it. It’s sad, because she is amazing, and she is gorgeous, and she’s so important to so many, but she believes the lies that the devil has told her about herself.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

We were made to live for an audience of One: our Father, the one who created us, who loves us dearly, no matter what we do or how far we run from Him. We are called to live for Him, not to live to please the world, not to live for our own pleasure.

Satan whispers lies to us about the world, entwining them so expertly with shards of truth that we find it almost impossible to believe anything else:

  • I should have what they have
  • Life should be fair
  • I deserve this
  • My performance determines my worth

The reality is, we deserve nothing. We have a mindset of “I should have this, because I’m a hard worker,” or “Life is great for that guy; why does my life stink?”

Let me tell you something. A lot of the time, when you see someone whose life seems perfect, it’s really the furthest thing from perfect.

I have a friend who is always smiling, always enthusiastic, and loves to tell anyone who will listen about her Savior. Many people assume that she’s had a great life, that she’s never had true hardship, because she’s so optimistic and happy.

The reality is that her father committed suicide when she was younger, after years of abusing her in multiple ways,  and her cousin and best friend killed themselves as well. She was practically a mother to her siblings for a while, working three jobs to support her family, and going to school, and taking care of her brothers and sisters, all at the same time.

Yet when you see her, she will smile big as anything, and ask how you’re doing. She’ll let you know that she’s been praying for you. She’ll randomly break out in singing a hymn. Love for her Savior glows from her, making her radiant.

Let me tell you something else – something a bit more personal, about me.

Most of the time, I feel like doing anything but smiling and being happy. In my line of work, though, I have to smile and be in a good mood, so a lot of the time, I fake it. None of the customers I take care of at work know that I had been up until 6 in the morning talking one of my close friends out of suicide the night before. They don’t know that a customer being angry and cursing at me just a moment earlier threw me into an anxiety attack that I’m having to suppress just to continue providing quality customer service so I don’t lose my job. To my customers, I’m just a happy cashier who will probably go to the mall when she gets her paycheck, even though in reality my paycheck will be going to cover bills, and I’ll be lucky if I see twenty dollars of it in my savings jar.

Looks can be deceiving. Don’t look at another person and wonder why their life is perfect and yours isn’t, and get upset because it’s “not fair”. No one’s life is perfect.

Another fact is that the only thing we, as fallen humans, deserve is death and an eternity in hell. We are so very privileged to have what we have, even if it’s not much, even if we’re struggling to keep it, and even if we end up losing it.

The devil even dares to murmur lies to us about God:

  • I have to earn God’s love. Until I do enough good things, God can never love me.
  • God hates the sin and the sinner. If God knows everything I’ve ever done, how could He love me?
  • God can never use me.

These are the most blatant and disgusting lies that Satan dares to tell us.

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let that sink in. While we were still sinners – we, meaning everyone, all the murderers, adulterers, liars, addicts, thieves, and other sinners of this world – while we were still living in sin, He died for us. Before we loved Him, He bled for us.

God hates evil, it is true, but he doesn’t hate the person committing the evil act, no matter how wrong it is.

A mother still loves her child, even if the child breaks her favorite vase, or lies about taking an extra cookie out of the jar.

How much more perfect and all-encompassing is our holy Father’s love for us? It knows no bounds. He even loves those who nailed his beloved Son to the cross, who tortured him, spit on him, and made fun of him.

Satan says you’re worthless.

Well, if you want to know what something is worth, you have to look at what someone is willing to pay for it.

You, my friend, are worth the blood of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. God bought you with His child’s blood. If that doesn’t tell you that you’re worth anything and everything, that you’re priceless, valued, cherished, and treasured, then I don’t know what will.

No matter how broken you are, God is working on you. Even if you abandon Him, He will never abandon you.

Have you ever seen a mosaic? It’s art, beautiful art, that is made of many broken pieces of glass, stone, seashell, and many other things.

God takes our broken pieces, and He glues them together into an incredible masterpiece. While we’re stuck on looking at one broken shard of glass and wondering how it could ever be beautiful, He’s looking at the entire mosaic, every piece needed, every piece contributing to its overall beauty.

Fight The Lie

Elizabeth Altenbach

 

You’ll never be

You cannot see

These are the things that

Are whispered to me

I’m being bent

I’m going to break

I’m growing tired of

Struggling to stay

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

And know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Memories drifting

Attacking me

I cannot fight them

And I cannot see

I’m being bent

I’m going to break

Why won’t this nightmare

Just go away?

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

And know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Where is my fire?

I can’t find my desire

How much more of me

Will this require?

I’m aching and sore

Looking for more

And I find a spark burning

Deep in my core

Feeding the flame

I cry Your name

I’ll turn away from

All of my shame

Now I can see

What You’re doing in me

Won’t You come closer

And help me believe

 

Fight the lie

Straight from inside

Raging and burning

You have to try

Hear the truth

Speak the proof

Know the sound of

What’s right and true

From deep inside

We’re fighting the lie

 

Now I can see

What You’re doing in me

Won’t You come closer

And help me believe

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | 3 Comments

Confidence

Yesterday, a good friend of mine asked me for advice on confidence. I thought that what I told her could be useful to others, so here it is.

Confidence (noun)
1.
full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed.
2.
belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance: His lack of confidence defeated him.
3.
certitude; assurance: He described the situation with such confidence that the audience believed him completely.

Confidence is not being boastful, prideful, or arrogant. It’s not something you have to assure people that you have. If you’re confident, it shows.

A confident person is someone who doesn’t doubt their own abilities, but doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to them either. If something needs to be done, and you have the ability to do it, it’s not being arrogant to step up and say “I can do it.” (It may be arrogant if you stand there for ten minutes boasting your previous accomplishments.)

A confident person is someone who doesn’t put himself and his abilities down. Someone who knows his abilities, and tells of them only when necessary (when asked, or when trying to prove himself to someone), and not in an arrogant or boastful way.

It is hard to be confident without coming off as arrogant. (Funny fact: I used to think “arrogant” meant “loving to argue.”)
But contrary to what many people think, confidence is not always acting like you know everything, or can do everything. It’s knowing and trusting in your abilities, and not putting them down or acting like they’re nothing.

Now, to seem confident, even if you’re not…
The way I do it is, I put my shoulders back, put a little bounce in my stride, and keep my chin up (literally). You can fake having confidence – when I’m walking through the dark parking lot at work alone after a shift that ends at 11pm, I’m not too confident that nothing bad will happen, but I’ll keep my chin up, walk with pep, and maybe hum or sing a song.
If anyone is going to go after a girl to hurt her, they’re more likely to choose a girl with hunched-over shoulders and her face tilted toward the ground, who does not look confident, over someone who does, even if it seems they could easily overpower either of them.

Ever seen Lord of the Rings? Frodo never seemed confident, on the journey. He always looked so defeated, frightened even. The one time he showed confidence was on his last effort to climb up Mount Doom, although that would probably be better labeled as desperation.
Sam, however, was always one to step out and do whatever he could. He knew he could cook, so he did, and he didn’t put himself down, but he didn’t boast. The same with gardening. He was confident in his ability to protect Frodo, and in their ability to finish the quest, because he believed the entire time (except maybe when Frodo told him to go home) that it was possible (and it was).

Part of good confidence is being confident in other people as well. Of course, this is easy to do, or at least act like you do. If you have younger siblings, I’ll bet you do this kind of thing all the time with them. “Come on! You can do it!”
Confidence without arrogance is knowing that you’re not the only one who has an ability, and letting someone else step up to the plate if they have the same ability.

For example, if someone asked, “Can someone take this family photo for me?” I would probably jump up to do it for them, because I love photography, and I’m good at it. But if someone else volunteered as well, and didn’t immediately back down and let me without me having to ask them to, I would let them try if they wanted, and remain nearby in case they needed help. I wouldn’t hold a grudge against them for taking the opportunity away from me, because I know that I’m not the only person who knows how to use a camera.

Confidence is not boastful. Confidence is a quality that people can sense in you without you having to say that you’re confident (actually, if someone tried to convince me that they were confident, I would think otherwise).

I was at the bowling alley Friday night, with the boy I take care of. He’s part of a bowling group in his city for people with special needs (he’s autistic). I met this girl, Kristin, there. I don’t know what her special issue was – she definitely didn’t have autism or Down syndrome. I think she just had low IQ or a learning disorder – she said she was 29, and she acted like she was 12. She was sweet, and I enjoyed talking to her.
When it was her turn to bowl, she stepped right up with full confidence in her abilities, and rolled the ball. If she made a good score, she’d get excited and grin and exclaim, “Yesss!” But even if she didn’t get a good score, she’d just shrug it off and keep smiling.

That’s another attribute of true confidence – not being self-deprecating, and not being a sore loser.
It’s hard to lose with grace. But if you keep smiling and congratulate the winner, maybe joke that you’ll get ’em next time, that’s perfect. Even if the losing does make you angry or sad.

Confidence is probably the most important trait you can have, even if it’s pretend confidence, because it will better people’s opinions of you and bring you higher in their esteem, which will in turn boost your true confidence. You know, sometimes, if you fake it well enough, you can even fool your own brain into thinking that you’re more confident than you are.
Confidence is quick to smile, slow to be bitter. It is never boastful, and does not back down from a task unless said task proves impossible, in which case confidence would admit its failure without dwelling on it, and without letting it make it bitter, or being angry with the person who succeeds at the task.
Confidence understands its own abilities and doesn’t undermine them, nor does it puff them up and make them seem more than they truly are.

True confidence is hard to define – harder than I thought it’d be until I tried – but hopefully, I got the gist across. I hope this post was helpful to someone. 🙂

Categories: Devotionals and Lessons | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Last Singer

I thought I’d share the premise of my current work-in-progress with all of my awesome readers. Feel free to tell me your thoughts. 😀

Image

Imagine a world created by a God who loves music. Imagine that this God created people to play music for Him.

This world exists. Its name is Ereth. The God’s name is Lyr.

The kingdom of Elda, on the warm side of this other Earth, is full of light, cheer, and peace.

The kingdom of Iltur, on the cold, forbidding end of the planet, is where Silence reigns. Darkness and chaos abide there. This is where those who neglect their music, therefore neglecting their God, end up. It is a place of evil, sorrow, discord.

What happens, though, if the Silence grows powerful enough to rise up against those loyal to Lyr?

Hana is the princess of Elda. All her life, she has been told that her mother died when she was young.

Holden is her older brother, the prince, and he knows that this is a lie. Their mother is not dead; she is Silent.

Havega, the former queen, manipulates Holden using her newfound black power as a leader of the Silent.

The only ones standing in the way of the total destruction and Silence of all Ereth are Hana and her cousin, a simple huntsman. But what can they do after being banished from their home by Hana’s brother?

This is the story of a daughter’s love for her family. This is a story of one girl’s quest to save her father’s kingdom.

A tale of love and loss, of loyalty and betrayal, of music and Silence…

This is the story of The Last Singer.

Categories: Writing | Leave a comment

10 Essential Tips to Use when Imitating Gollum – and 10 Reasons Why

The guide you never knew you needed.

by Elizabeth Altenbach and Jenni Noordhoek

aka the Gollums, Precious, Inc.

Image

(Note: I do not own the picture.)

First of all, there is a knack to pulling off a convincing Gollum. In no particular order, here are ten tips to get it done right.

#1 – The Voice

Drop your voice down into a gravelly low range – like when you get up in the morning and your voice is all foggy. Except worse. You have to be careful not to sound like Yoda, though – see Reason Why #6.

#2 – The Precious

Everyone needs their own Precious. We talks to it and forgets all rules of grammar for it, and we loves it more than anything in the world.

#3 – Fish

Gollum has exactly two things in his mind at all times, regardless of all other obligations: the Precious and fish. Repeat often. Add adjectives. See below.

#4 – Appropriate Adjectives

Fish is tasty, juicy, sweet, and always raw. Elveses are nasty and smelly. So are hobbitses.

#5 – Plural Nouns

Plural nouns always add an extra ‘es’ after the appropriate plural form. Slither those s’s as swiftly and smoothly as you can.

#6 – Plural Personal Pronouns

We are never alone, are we, precious?

#7 – The Pose

While you may not be the size of Gollum, you can communicate that size by hunching over a bit and crouching. Practice a bit so you don’t fall over when you try to move.

#8 – Movement

And of course his movement is its own special thing – a scamper that is willing to skitter and climb over anything and everything in its path. Give it a bit of the bounce with the crouching.

#9 – Eyes

Your eyes must be wide and huge and crazy, just like those of our little friend. If you can keep them open for a long time without blinking (DON’T BLINK!), so they turn a bit reddish, this will be more convincing. It could also work if you have double pink eye, which, in my opinion, is an asset. In occupations of this sort, anyhow.

#10 – Evil

Everyone knows that when you’re playing a character, you have to adopt their personality and make it your own. So sign those adoption papers and be a clever, cunning, conniving wretch like our little friend.

And now we have the why side of things.

Reason #1 to Imitate Gollum

You can easily scare people who don’t know you very well, or at all.

Example: If you suddenly heard “THE PRECIOUS! WE LOST IT!” in your ear, no matter where you were, you’d probably jump and spin around looking for the voice’s source. After all, you don’t want Gollum behind your back. You want your eyes on him at all times.

Speaking of eyes, this brings us to our next reason.

Reason #2 to Imitate Gollum

If someone hears Gollum in their ear, and then they whirl around and can’t find Gollum, they’re going to be unsettled (because, as mentioned, you want your eyes on him at all times). So if you can pull this off, you’ll have the cruel enjoyment of confusing and frightening your unfortunate victim.

This is best done in public, where there’s a crowd you can melt into. Either that, or somewhere dark, where you can escape undetected.

Sneak up behind your unfortunate victim, drop your voice down low into Gollum’s tone, and say something like “Where is the Precious?!” Then, blend into the crowd. When your unfortunate victim turns around to look for Gollum, stare at them like you think they’re crazy.

Reason #3 to Imitate Gollum

Uh, duh. Because it’s entertaining.

Who hasn’t passed time that would otherwise be boring by doing impressions? But next time, instead of Ozzy Osbourne, or Jack Sparrow, you should try Gollum! It may be a popular voice to mimic, but it never gets old.

Reason #4 to Imitate Gollum

Answering the phone takes on a whole new life with your Gollum voice.

Ring! Ring!

“Hello? Do you have the Preciouss?”

“Um… hi? I thought this was Julie. Er…sorry, wrong number…”

“THE PRECIOUS! THE NASTY HOBBITSES STOLE IT FROM USS!!!”

Click!

“Heheheheheh!”

Happy prankful joy.

Reason #5 to Imitate Gollum

Because it’s FUN. How’s that for a reason?

Reason #6 to Imitate Gollum

Irritating genre purists. If you do multiple voices, this especially becomes a concern. Heaven forbid you mix up your sci-fi with your fantasy and Yoda’s voice comes out saying “We wants fish, Preciouss!” Or of course, the alternative – Gollum’s voice saying something like “The Force: strong it is in you.” Because either way, it would just be plain unacceptable, and you’d be branded as a deprecator of the good names of science fiction and fantasy, until the end of time. And you don’t want that, do you? DO YOU? No, we didn’t think so, Precious.

Reason #7 to Imitate Gollum

If you have a big test at school that you didn’t study for, just practice your Gollum voice the night before, until your voice gets all scratchy. Then you’ll be well on your way to faking a dangerous illness and getting out of school for the day!

Reason #8 to Imitate Gollum

Say you and a friend are in France on vacation. Maybe you want to watch your all-time favorite fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings (better known in France as Le Seigneur des Anneaux-at least that’s what Google Translate tells me). But your hotel’s DVD library only includes the French version.

Luckily, since you know every word of each movie, if you speak French, you can use your skills with the Gollum voice to “dub” the movie, or Gollum’s lines, at least, so your non-French-speaking friend can understand!

Reason #9 to Imitate Gollum

You can use improper grammar around your English teacher without getting in trouble.

Example:

“We needs extensionss on the due date for the essay, preciousss.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m imitating Gollum.”

“Oh, well that’s a pretty good imitation, Dwayne! Sure, you can have the extension.”

This totally works. Trust usss, precioussss.

And finally…

Reason #10 to Imitate Gollum

Why not?

We rests our case, preciousssss.

But not our fishes. We eats those, preciouss.

Categories: Random | 8 Comments

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