On Strength, Self Care, and Labyrinth Lost

In August, I made a spontaneous decision to enroll in one online grad class despite having originally decided to wait until the Spring 2018 semester. Long story short: even one class was still too stressful and time consuming while working full time and trying to maintain my health. I pushed through midterm and slaved away as long as I could. I was overscheduled, overwhelmed, and not at all taking care of myself. I was trying, but I honestly just did not have the energy. Recently, I quit. I dropped out of grad school (for the second time this year) and I was so relieved. I felt guilty for about five minutes, only because I had paid for this semester out of pocket and that was a chunk of money I won’t get back.

What it came down to is that I would rather have my sanity, and more sleep. I’ve been trying to be better about self care, and for me that means creating a life that is full of peace and slow, intentional days. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m getting there.

One of the main ways I recharge is through reading – this is not a new revelation for anyone reading this blog, I know. The last few months have left me very, very little time to read for pleasure and I discovered just how much I need that to function. I know it might sound dramatic, but it’s true. I’m not happy when I’m not reading. I’m frustrated, cranky, and stuck in my head. I’m honestly just a better person when I’m reading, and a much more pleasant one to be around.

I’d check out Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova at the beginning of October for something spooky and magical to read during this time of year. I was still in class at this point and managed to only get 1/3 of the way through for most of the month. I finally got to pick it up again sometime last week and got about halfway through it. Last night, I decided that I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything after work, especially since I didn’t get off til 8 and had started early that morning. So, when I got home I sat on my couch, got comfortable, and didn’t move until I finished the book.

It was great. Brilliant. Both the book itself and the time I spent reading it. There were several times while reading the last half of the story that I responded to it out loud, like most totally normal book worms do. I loved this book, y’all. It is full of wonder, adventure, and diversity. It is so enchanting.

  

Labyrinth Lost is the story of Alejandra, Alex for short, who just wants to live as a normal teenage girl. Alex is out of luck though, she is one of the most powerful brujas (Spanish for witch) in a generation. She has magic running through her veins, magic that she hates. Magic that she thinks tore apart her family and caused every bad thing that’s ever happened to her.  As Alex’s Deathday celebration, the day in which her family will bestow Alex with her family’s blessing, she forms a plan to reject her power. Instead, she banishes her family to the realm of Los Lagos, the dark and Wonderland like land of between. Alex is left alone with only Nova, an unfamiliar brujo boy she neither knows nor trusts.

Alex’s adventure to find her family is the majority of the story. Along the way she finds the true meaning of family, and the importance of their bond. She discovers that she is capable and fierce, even without her magic. Cordova weaves strands of magic into everyday teenage struggles and lessons, especially the knowledge that evil is not always in the form of monsters and that everyone makes mistakes. The cast of characters, in addition to Alex and Nova, include Alex’s mother, sisters, extended family, and her best friend Rishi. Honestly, one of my very favorite aspects of this story was Rishi and her undying devotion and love for Alex. She has not the slightest inkling of Alex’s magic or family history, but she jumps in the portal after Alex to make sure everything is okay. When Rishi finally does learn of the magic running through Alex’s bruja veins, it only strengthens the love she has for Alex. Their friendship is strong, devoted, and sincere. It grows throughout their adventure into a fierce and loyal love for one another, despite Nova’s own attempts to woo Alex.

This book is full of rich characters, genuine relationships, and glorious diversity. The foundation of Alex and Nova’s culture is built on the Latin American cultures and religion, especially the concept of Deathday celebrations, which Cordova pulled from the Day of the Dead and Santeria traditions. In addition, we also get a peak into Rishi’s culture and her family practice of Buddhism. In addition to a cast full of teens of color, there is also the bi-sexual love triangle which is written so well that it doesn’t make you want to stab your eyes out like most YA love triangles. Alex is simply in the position of experiencing feelings for both Rishi and Alex, whose feelings are mutual. While there is romance in this story, it is not even close to the main story line and I appreciated that so much.

The story of Alejandra’s adventures are inspiring, creative, and full of magic (of both the literal and figurative sort). Towards the end of the story, Alex says “Right now, I’m just a girl and there is also magic in that.” I loved this line so much, it’s possible I teared up over it. Alex is strong, fierce, and determined – regardless of her magic. The most obvious take away from Labyrinth Lost, at least for me, was the unrelenting knowledge that girls are magic, all of us, regardless of talent, skill, or circumstance. We all have the power to be our true self and to fulfill our destiny.

When I considered dropping out of grad school a few weeks ago, it was with the weighted knowledge that I didn’t know when or if I will return. I have lived my entire life thinking my destiny was to go as far into academia as I could get, to never stop learning. Until this year, I confined learning to the structure of academia. I know now that it is so much more to life and to learning. I learned so reading this novel – about new cultures and about myself. Another quote in the story I love is “We all get scared and want to turn away, but it isn’t always strength that makes you stay. Strength is also making the decision to change your destiny.”  It is so true. There have been so many times I wanted to let go of this graduate school idea, but I thought that I was just turning away, just quitting and that seemed weak and stupid in my head – in reality, I was simply changing my destiny. At least for the next year or so!

Anyways, I implore you to go to your nearest library or bookstore and pick up Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova. If you liked Shadowhunters, you’ll love this. If you haven’t read Shadowhunters, pick that one up too. It already has a sequel out and they’ll keep you occupied until the second installment of the Brooklyn Brujas comes out next summer!

P.S. Follow Cordova on Twitter @zlikeinzorro, she’s a gem.

Tuesday Tales: The Princess Saves Herself In This One

For this Tuesday Tales, I’m bringing over a post from my previous blog. In an earlier post last week I mentioned my favorite non-fiction reads from this year and one of those was a poetry collection from Amanda Lovelace. I’ve read this collection several times this year, and purchased a copy to donate to my library. Below you’ll find both a review of the book and an interview with Amanda!

         

 

I first stumbled upon Amanda’s poetry a few years ago, when she was still self-published. I had purchased a copy for my Kindle, and immediately regretted it. I began to read it Princess on a family road trip and I didn’t look up once until I finished, and then I started over and re-read it.

The Princess Saves Herself In This One is an autobiograpical collection of poetry by Amanda Lovelace that is divided into four parts. The first three parts depict her life: The Princess, The Damsel, The Queen, while the last part is for You, her reader. Amanda’s collection of poetry was recently published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, and it was during the re-edit that she added around 40 new poems. Princess  is an emotional collection, and one so needed. The work explores topics such as love, loss, grief, and is filled with inspiration on conquering your demons. Amanda’s fierce and unwavering feminism shines through – as you can see in the image of my favorite poem from the collection above, women are some kind of magic.

After finally getting my hands on the print version of Princess, and devouring the poems in the collection, old and new, I immediately knew it would forever remain one of my favorite collections of modern poetry. That’s another thing I love about Amanda and her work – she does not let others depict her style or content. She fully embraces the style of modern poetry that embraces free verse and focuses on content rather than style. The poems in this collection will not reflect the poetry you were made to read in school, but they will evoke so much emotion in you.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One was the winner of the 2016 Good Reads Choice award and is available in both print and digital book. Currently, Amazon is running a sale on it, so be sure to pick up your copy!

You can follow Amanda on twitter and instagram –  @ladybookmad 

Q & A with Amanda Lovelace

 

TfB: When you first started writing/sharing you work, did you ever think you’d see your book in stores?

AL: Never. Until very recently the poetry scene was pretty dead in terms of the publishing side of things. The open mic/spoken word scene has been flourishing for years, especially since it’s so accessible online, but expecting to sell books of said poetry? Too grand of an idea. I’m forever grateful that poetry publishing has been revitalized by talented modern poets, most of whom gave it a jumpstart on social media. It’s because of them I get to be a professional poet and live the seemingly farfetched dreams I had as a creative teen.

 

TfB: I love seeing all your re-tweets of readers photos/bookstore sightings – did you expect this response when you first published?

AL: God, no. I didn’t expect this response whatsoever. Going in, I had hope, of course, but no expectations. It’s been almost four months since princess hit shelves as a traditionally published book (it was self-published for about eight months before that) and I still fangirl every time I’m tagged in a bookstore sighting!

 

TfB: You’ve been inspiring a lot of poets with your prompts on social media lately – what gave you that idea?

AL: One of my goals with princess was to inspire other young people to write their stories, but that can only get them so far. I wanted a way to actively inspire my readers to write in their daily lives. I wasn’t so sure a month of poetry prompts would work since that’s a long and dedicated commitment, but every day I’m incredibly impressed with the number of responses. It turns out my readers are talented writers, even if they were hesitant at first.

 

TfB: You’re working on your second installment of poetry, a follow up to Princess, correct? What’s that like?  Has it been easier or more difficult? From what I’ve gathered, this work will be more bold (if possible) than Princess, was that a hard decision to make?

AL: Yes, I just recently finished writing the witch doesn’t burn in this one, the second installment in the “women are some kind of magic” series, which is due out sometime early next year. It’s not so much a direct sequel to the princess saves herself in this one as a companion collection with similar themes woven throughout. I wish I could say writing it wasn’t a difficult experience, but that wasn’t the case. Expectations for a book and the reality of a book when you actually sit down to write it are two very different things. I went into witch expecting the words to flow out of me as easily as they did when I was writing princess, but it was a struggle most days. I think that was partially due to my fear of second book syndrome (which refers to the pattern where the second book an author puts out never quite matches up to the quality of the first), but it was also partially due to the risks I took with witch.

I might be a little biased here, but I’d say witch is much more bold a collection than princess. princess is my life story and, admittedly, my safe and fluffy—and perhaps even trendy—feminist book, while witch is all anger and bite and justice. I’ve taken a liking to calling it my “angry girl power book.” Without giving too much away, it’s essentially about the oppression of women under this unequal patriarchal structure, much of it revolving around rape culture.

While I was writing witch, I was hyperaware of how much a departure it was from princess. It’s still a story with a clear narrative arc told in four parts, but it tells a much darker, grittier story. I thought about dialing down the tone of the book from time to time, but I think that would make me a dishonest writer. The stories within witch are stories that society has a reputation for ignoring, and they’re stories that need to be told even if they make some people uncomfortable. In my opinion, art should make people uncomfortable if it’s telling any kind of truth about our society. Prior to our current political atmosphere, women were already in tremendous pain and the progress we were making towards equality was slow, sometimes even standstill. But now? That tiny bit of progress is reversing with each morning’s headlines, and I refuse to insert my head into the clouds and ignore the anguished cries—not just as a woman, which already makes me marginalized, but also a woman with several other marginalizations. We have every right to be unapologetically angry right now, and we had every right to be angry before, too. But how do we use this widespread anger? witch, I hope, answers that question, even if the overarching story is ultimately a fantasy one.

 

TfB: What’s your writing process like? Do you have a system/routine?

AL: My writing process can be very disjointed and unpredictable. I usually take a few days to gather bits of inspiration in the Notes app on my phone and then sit down at the computer to try to pull it all together into something readable. It’s almost impossible for me to write a poem unless I’m already feeling inspired in some way, so I don’t write every day. There are times I’ll go weeks—sometimes even months—without writing something. Then it seems like all my inspiration comes to me at once and suddenly I can’t stop writing.

 

TfB: Do you have any tips for struggling writers?

AL:Whenever I struggle with my writing, it’s usually due to one of two things: 1) it’s not the right project for me, or 2) it’s the right project for me, but it’s not the right time. It’s okay to walk away from projects, whether it’s permanent or temporary. Step away, regroup, and come back with those two things in mind. Don’t come to a decision until you’ve tried everything you can.

 

TfB: You recently wrote a piece for TWLOHA’s blog. I’ve followed them for years and was thrilled to see your name as the author of that post. What was that experience like? Was the organization new to you?

AL: Yes, I did! Sometimes it’s nice to walk away from your art so you can just simply talk to the world about your experiences, and collaborating with a group like TWLOHA, whose self-love message aligns so closely with mine, is nothing short of an honor. The hopeful message of their organization contributed to my recovery from self-injury as a teen.

 

TfB: Your writing is so inspiring and honest, focusing on a lot of difficult experiences. It’s clear readers relate to it so much. Was it hard for you to share so much of your personal self when publishing?

AL: Writing princess was rough at times. My mind hid a lot of my traumatic experiences from me over the years, so I found myself having to wade through murky waters to find exactly what I was looking for, the experience of which was messy, devastating, but also liberating. I’m an extremely private person, which I realize now can be amounted to a result of trauma, at least in part, but it was worth it in order to free myself and other victims and survivors of abuse. I also felt the need to hide the book from my family for as long as I could in fear of how they would react to certain truths, but, for the most part, they ended up being very open-minded and understanding. Not everyone’s reaction was ideal—which can be expected with the publication of any book, non-fiction or otherwise—but I feel like I can be myself now, which I hadn’t been able to do my whole life, and there’s tremendous beauty in that. Every sacrifice I made was worth being able to be where I am now.

 

TfB: You seem like a big supporter of self-care – what’s that look like for you? Any tips you’d share for readers stuck on implementing that in their own life?

AL: In my own life, self-care means so many things. Sometimes self-care is picking mental health over other priorities, but sometimes it’s picking priorities over mental health, knowing it will better my mental health in the long run. But it’s also listening to music, reading a book, watching a favorite TV show, taking a hike, drinking water, staying in bed for a few hours more than usual, taking a long shower, playing the Sims, writing a new poem, or putting on a facemask before bedtime. Self-care is extremely individual, but at the very least it should help you feel more grounded and human.

 

TfB: Your dedication in Princessis “For the boy who lived,” a clear Harry Potter What did/does Rowling’s story and writing mean to you?

AL: Harry Potter is an exceptionally important character to me. As someone who grew up in an abusive home just as Harry did, the series was sometimes the only escape I had from my daily trauma. Unlike me, Harry had the chance to live a second, much more magical life, but he always left me with the hope that I was destined for something better. It felt wrong to dedicate the story of my own abuse to anyone else. It was always going to be Harry.

witch, like princess, is dedicated to another fictional hero of mine, albeit for very different reasons… *zips lips*.

 

TfB: What inspires your writing and creative process?

AL: I’m inspired by my own experiences and memories, of course, but a large chunk of my inspiration also comes from books—mostly fiction, and within that, mostly fantasy. I knew I couldn’t possibly write a book without making it fantasy related in some way—my tie to it is just too strong—even if that’s not *usually* the norm for modern poetry. princess and witch are both inspired by some of my favorite fictional badasses, and book #3 will be, too.

 

TfB: Your fiance is a poet as well – what’s it like to have a partner who is a poet too?

AL: He is! I feel extremely lucky. Whenever I’m stuck or unsure about something, we work through it together, and I try to do the same for him. Our writing is very collaborative and much better for it.

 

TfB: I seem to recall mention that your upcoming wedding (congratulations, by the way!!) is going to be Six of Crows  That is so cool – how did you two decide on that?

AL: Thank you! Before my fiancé and I become a couple, the end of our abusive relationships brought us together in friendship, and a large part of that bonding experience revolved around books and reading. He was never much of a reader, but I was always an avid one, so he tried for me. Luckily, with the right books, he learned to share my love of reading, which deepened the bonds of our relationship tenfold. I introduced him to so many of my beloved fictional worlds, including the ones created by Leigh Bardugo, and Six of Crows quickly turned into our mutual favorite. It’s a dark, fast paced story with extremely color characters that just speaks to our souls. So yes, our wedding is a testament to the masterfully written Grishaverse, but it’s also a testament to those fictional worlds that brought us closer together in the first place. We owe so much to worlds like the one Bardugo created.

 

TfB: Are you working on anything besides the next installment of Princess?

AL: Yes! I’m still editing witch and probably will be for a while, but I’m also working on book #3 of the “women are some kind of magic” series, which will likely be the last book in the series . . . but who knows? After that, I do have other projects lined up—some poetry related, some not so much.

 

TfB: What are you reading right now, or what have you read lately that you loved?

AL: I’m currently reading When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, a contemporary YA book about two young Indian people whose families try to set them up in attempt to arrange their future marriage. But one of the protagonists isn’t totally on board with this idea, so a string of chaotic events follow. It sounds like a serious book, but it’s actually a very cute and funny story with some important commentary, and I highly recommend it.

I’m also slowly making my way through the Wonder Woman comics—the New 52 line—and I’m in love!

Next I’m likely to pick up an adult mystery novel. Those are my favorite to read in the summer when things are moving slower and I’m finally calm enough to wrap my head around the story’s intricacies. Last summer my favorite mystery read was The Fever by Megan Abbott, which is a phenomenal story that does take some suspension of belief but has something very important to say about the way we raise our daughters.

Thursday Tunes: Zach Williams

In addition to books, I find so much hope in music. Songs tell stories that we need to hear and they have the capability to reach so many people. Jamie Tworkowski of  To Write Love On Her Arms once said “Songs are brave things, bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness.”  I think that is so beautiful and so true. We find power in music, in songs that make us feel heard and recognized and not alone.  Each Thursday, I’ll post about a song or album or artist that I love and think you might as well.

This week, I’d like to tell you about a man named Zach Williams. The other day, as I was scanning the radio for something to listen to other than ads or static, I landed on a semi-local Christian radio station. I don’t typically listen to Christian radio stations, or a lot of Christian music in general. I landed on “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams and it was so fun and so powerful at the same time that I couldn’t help but look Williams up when I got home. “Old Church Choir” is the single off of Zach’s debut album, Chainbreaker. It is infectious and so encouraging but vulnerable at the same time, exactly like the entirety of the album. If you are a fan of David Crowder or old gospel music, I think you will love this as much as I do. It’s gospel music with a little bit of edge and a whole lot of honesty.

 

Every song on the album is powerful, with the title track reflecting William’s own story. William’s lyrics are full of lines that I want to write on post-it notes and place all over my house so I can remember them when I need a little extra Jesus. My absolute favorite track on the album is “Fear Is a Liar.” I’ve been listening to it several times a day, unintentionally.

If you’e got a few extra minutes, especially if you need a little extra encouragement today, I have a suggestion. Find a quiet place and some head phones. Plug those head phones in and close your eyes while you listen to this song and let the truth wash over you.

 

Cast your fears in the fire, my friends. He is a liar.

Tuesday Tales: Nothing To Prove

A few weeks ago I was asked to think about what I am truly passionate about. The obvious things came to mind: my people, music, coffee, books, my dog. For some reason, I stopped before I began to say any of those things and a thought hit me – the thing I am absolutely passionate about? Stories. In whatever format they come, fictional or not. I love a good story, especially a good redemption story. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I love to see people realize that they have a story and that their individual story is significant and should be treasured. I hope that every person who does not want to keep living their story will read just one more sentence, one more page, and give that story another chance.

I knew when I started this blog that the underlining theme would be about stories. Tales From A Bibliophile is an outlet for me to share how Jesus is redeeming my story, and a part of my own story is rooted deeply in books. I was practically raised in a library and am now a Children’s Librarian. Stories, and their power to remind us that we are not alone, played a huge role in shaping my life. That being said, one of the regular posts you can expect from me will be a new book update every Tuesday. Somedays it will be what I’m reading, or what I’m excited to read, and others it will be a review of a book I’ve finished and think you should read.

Today, I want to share with you a book that has made more of a difference in my life more than any other book I’ve read this year. A few months ago, I tried to put Nothing To Prove by Jennie Allen on hold through my library, but it was too new so I either had to wait or purchase it. I am trying so hard to not buy books unless they are absolutely something I want to keep, so I decided to wait. I put it on hold again recently and just finished the library copy week before last. It took every thing in me to not highlight that book and write in the margin, God spoke to me so much through this book. I restrained from highlighting the library copy, but I did immediately go purchase a copy. It came today and I’ve already marked my favorite passages. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am about to read this book, cover to cover, again this week.

Here’s a quick video of Jennie talking about her book. Honestly, I can tell you all about it, but I wanted you to hear the honesty and trembling in her voice when she talks.

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, I talk a lot about light and darkness. I have had many days where I thought I might drown in the darkness. Hearing Jennie talk about the light and darkness in this video was so refreshing, so reaffirming to the things God has been telling me about my depression, about the darkness I have experienced.

Jennie’s book is so honest. She knows what it is like to be exhausted, to constantly try to be everything we feel like we should be The constant message of her book is that we are not enough, but that’s okay because Jesus is enough and he is all we need. After the initial introduction section, each chapter starts with a story from the book of John. Several of you will be familiar with many of the stories, Jennie used the story of the woman at the well, the feeding of the 5,000, and the death and resurrection of Lazarus. The stories are short and written from the perspective of the main character in the story and it really pulls you into what is happening. The stories from John tie into the rest of the chapter, and at the end Jennie has an experience guide. This guide includes a relevant scripture passage, and four sections to reflect on how the chapter topic relates to your life. Each of these sections are a different level of complexity, and include  Step Into the Stream, Wade in Deeper, Quench Your Thirst, and The Overflow. There are also various prompts throughout the chapters to reflect on specific questions. This is a really good book to sit down and work your way through with a pen and highlighter, which is why I needed to purchase my own copy.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Nothing To Prove:

“Jesus has a plan for our suffering, but that cannot be accomplished if we keep trying to push it into a safe, tidy place in our closet. His plans in us are accomplished as we move into the pain. We can face the suffering because Jesus is there in the midst of it.”  –Jennie Allen

Hallelujah Anyway

As the year winds to a close and an opportunity for a fresh start approaches, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from 2017. Stories have always inspired me and encouraged me to keep going through my hardest days. I find comfort in the redemption stories of others, and in seeing that I am not alone in the darkness.

Here are some of my favorite non-fiction reads from this year. Check back next week for some of my favorite fiction reads!

The Princess Saves Herself In This One is a modern poetry collection by Amanda Lovelace. Amanda’s collection is powerful, honest, and deeply personal. Her style isn’t for everyone, but her story is relatable and her words draw me back again and again. Amanda knows what darkness is and her collection is proof that yo can come out the other end of it.  I was lucky enough to chat with Amanda about her story and her work, look for that interview soon!

I devoured many of these books, but especially Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, Anne Lamott’s newest work. It was very timely and personal for me. Lamott discusses the limitless power and presence of mercy in our world and how to embrace it. I recently took a spiritual gifts assessment and mercy was listed as my number one gift, so it is no surprise I connected to Hallelujah Anyway so much. I will likely pick this one up to re-read in the coming months. Like a few others on this list, there is so much good content that is impossible to soak up in one read.

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Present Over Perfect was one of those soul refreshing reads that I so needed to start my year with. Shauna Niequist has long been a favorite of mine. I read her book Bread & Wine last year and I cook her Gaia cookies regularly. She’s the reason I started doing regular dinner parties or impromptu girl’s nights. This idea of present over perfect became sort of my mantra this year. The message came through in many other reads and Niequist was the beginning of God sending me this message to slow down and savor my days.

Several of my non-fiction reads this year were directly related to faith or published by Christian writers/speakers. A few of my favorites that deviated from that genre this year were Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, Wild by Cherly Strayed, The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (whose loss I am still mourning), Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Several of these touched on race relations and societal structures, and there was a lot of talk about being true to yourself. I recommend all of them, but fair warning – if you’re going to listen to The Princess Diarist, do it alone with some tissues.

Several of my other non-fiction reads were more faith based, soul searching, love of Jesus and this broken world reads. I sincerely enjoyed Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey and Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I also regularly seek out both of their blogs each week. I found Learning to Love the Darkness by Barbara Brown Taylor and Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown this year and learned so much from them. These are both books I will likely go back and re-read.

Earlier this year, I discovered one of my new favorite people, Emily Ley. She is the founder of the Simplified Planner, which I can not wait to start using in the new year. She is the author of two books, Grace Not Perfection and A Simplified Life.  Emily’s motto of holding yourself to a standard of grace not perfection is something I have clung to this year. She released A Simplified Life a few days before Thanksgiving and it made Amazon’s top 5 books in no time. I read through it on my holiday break and could not wait to get home and implement some of her suggestions. I have gone back to it several times already.

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My last book is one I will probably read several more times next year. I borrowed a copy from my library and then immediately sought out a copy to own. About a month later, I listen to the audio book during my daily commute. I still am not sure I really soaked it all in. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp poured so much hope and faith into my cracked soul this year. This quote has become so true in my life. My soul spent years breaking but God is redeeming my story and his power is moving in my soul now, his light instead of the world’s darkness.

 

 

What about you? Any favorite non-fiction books I missed? Have you read any on my list? I would love to hear from you!

Darkness Will Not Overcome the Light

I was created for darkness.

Not to be darkness, but to be the light in the darkness of this world. This is a concept I am still reconciling in my life, and honestly, I think I will struggle with this concept on some level for most of my days. Is there a darkness hovering around your days, an overwhelming feeling of sadness that you just can not get away from?

I have experienced depression for ten years no, give or take. My world started to get a little darker, day by day, around the age of fifteen. Through years of therapy, medication, and prayer, I have learned that this is just a part of my story. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with depression has been how it interacts with my faith. For years, my depression terrified me. It held me captive and dictated my days, and distracted me from the Jesus I so badly wanted to believe in, with whom I so badly wanted to spend every moment.

My depression told me that I could not believe in a just God and believe that my struggles were real. Let’s stop right there for a moment and get one thing very clear: regardless of your belief in God or religious leanings, depression is a liar. Depression feeds on your fear, on your loneliness, on your hardest experiences. Your struggles are real, your story is important. 

It took years for me to know, and really believe, that my depression is not a punishment, not a result of sin, or a simple reaction to childhood trauma and adolescent stress. While my trauma, stress, and sin do play into my daily life, my depression is not something God placed in my life as a result of these events. God is not the cause of my depression, but he is the redemption of my struggle with depression.

I have lived in the darkness, and I have found the light of Jesus. I have finally, finally surrendered to the knowledge that God has a purpose for my struggles.

I was created for darkness. I was created to be a light in that darkness, to point back to the light of Jesus that will not be overcome by the darkness of our enemy or our world. I have been meditating on John 1:5 countless times this week. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. God does not promise us an easy life or a life free of darkness, but he does promise that that darkness will not overcome his light.

If you are not in a place to believe that there is light inside of you and that the darkness will not overcome you, please know that it is okay. It is okay to not be okay, to struggle every moment of your day to stay afloat and not let the darkness drown you. Please know that I have been in your shoes and I can tell you with absolute certainty that it does get better, that God is redeeming your story, even if you can not see anything other than darkness.

Take a deep breath and write yourself a note – it can be as simple as a post it note or the back of a receipt from your last grocery run. Write down the following words, even if you don’t believe them yet:

Depression feeds on your fear, on your loneliness, on your hardest experiences. Your struggles are real, your story is important. Darkness will not overcome the light. 

Put this note somewhere you will see it everyday. I pray that this reminder will make it even a little bit easier to breath today.