Let’s Be Positive

adult-architecture-bandana-1371177

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Have you ever had to spend time with someone who is incurably negative? I’m sure you have – we all have. I confess that I am often that person who drags others down alongside herself. When we’re in a mood to be negative, we only see the bad side of things. We think the world is out to get us and we’ve done nothing wrong. The project definitely won’t work. It is way too cold outside. That person is being absolutely awful.

Sound familiar?

Negativity is an easy thing to fall into, no matter where we are in life. It’s positivity that takes work. Our sinful natures want us to groan when the alarm clock goes off and criticize our coworkers and it is easy to listen to that nature. What’s not easy is to get out of bed cheerfully even when we’re still tired or find something to compliment in that one person.

The sin of negativity lurks everywhere, simply waiting for us to stumble into it. Or, as we often do, to waltz lovingly into its arms. But what if we were to fight the cruel master of negativity? And it is a master, taking over every facet of our minds and day while we allow it to.

When we dig ourselves into a hole of hating the world that is out to get us for no reason whatsoever, we are being ungrateful for the good things that God gives us. We are twisting His creation. That one slow waitress might have been an opportunity to show Christian love, but we turned it into an opportunity to save some money on a tip and grumble on the drive home. In this fallen world, turning good things into bad is easy. It’s second nature.

But we are not called to live in a passive, second nature sort of way. We are called to a new nature, one that has been transformed by Christ. And I believe that means a nature of positivity.

Remember when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison? That’s a pretty bad situation. But instead of sitting on the hard dirt and commiserating about how bad their circumstances were, they prayed to God and sang hymns to Him. Because of their positivity in the worst of times, the jailer over them and his entire family heard the gospel and were baptized.

So what does positivity look like in our lives right now? There are two major components to living a more positive life: thinking and speaking.

Thinking

The thoughts we nurture and allow to grow in our minds have a major impact on who we are as a person and how we see life. We can easily convince ourselves that lies are truth just by thinking that they are. Something that a lot of sports players hear is “envision yourself making the play and you will.” Our thoughts can make or break our pursuit of positivity.

So start catching negative thoughts today. Next time you sigh heavily, stop yourself and ask if that thought was necessary. Replace it with something else. Just as thinking negative things can lead us to be negative people, thinking positive things can also lead us to be positive people. Instead of thinking “this line is taking forever” think “I’m glad I’m getting this shopping done now” or “I bet Mark will really love this book I got him.”

How we think can truly shape who we are and how we interact with the world.

Speaking

Flowing out of thinking is speaking. A lot of the time, our negativity becomes verbal. We complain to someone about how awful something was and go through making every detail just a little more dramatic. What we’re doing is looking for sympathy over the horrid mess that we’ve made our lives out to be. And while there’s nothing wrong with talking about things that make us angry or upset, when it turns into complaining, that’s a problem.

In addition to fighting the negative thoughts that we love to let grow, we must combat the words that are a product of those thoughts. The thing about words is that they affect other people. When we start telling anyone and everyone about our latest grievance with life, we drag them down with us. We become that person who is obnoxious to listen to and who is no fun to be around. And while it is possible to be obnoxiously positive, it is far harder than to be obnoxiously negative.

Even when our thoughts are negative, we can fight back by using different words. We may be whining about something in our heads, but we don’t have to let the words come out of our mouths. Choosing to speak more positively can help change our mindsets as well. Our mothers provided us with an excellent principle for trying to be more positive: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


I truly hope that you will now try to incorporate more positivity into daily life. It’s no fun to live when everything seems bad. And it’s no fun to be around people who live like that. So let’s be the ones to set an example and to move past our childish view of life. There is so much more to it than we can see when we’ve worked ourselves up, so let’s experience the good things God has for us. Let’s really live.

Kira

Slowing Down in a Speed of Light World

animal-asphalt-blur-1268557

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

I will be the first to admit that our generation (the ones just coming into adulthood or just barely there) is a group that wants quick fixes. I recently wrote about how that doesn’t work for our relationship with God, but almost every facet of life could benefit if we took our time.

Gone are the days of having to wait for “snail mail” in order to hear from someone, the days of working for years on a project before releasing it to the world. Now, we use all the fast technology that we can get our hands on and complain when the internet’s a little slow.

I don’t want to point fingers or cast blame today though. Instead, I want to look at the benefits of slowing down in many areas of our lives.

Experience

They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become a professional. 10,000 hours. That’s 416.67 days of working around the clock. 1.14 years. However, if you can’t constantly stay awake and don’t want to skip dinner on a regular basis, it would take 27.4 years to reach that level of expertise at just one hour a day, every day, holidays and weekends included.

That is a lot of time. That is almost 10 more years than I have been alive. And yet, we often want the results of those 10,000 hours in the space of a few weeks at most. Think of someone who is a star in your field. Do you like music? How much time did Mozart spend practicing? Writing? What about C. S. Lewis?

Slowing down and taking the time that gaining a skill requires gives you the experience needed to be good at that skill. There’s nothing wrong with latching on to a hobby or something interesting for a few weeks and then moving on, but if you really want to be good at something, you have to put in the time.

Quality

Experience in an area naturally leads to a higher quality product, whatever that may be. Do you know of any famous football players? Me neither, but we can imagine. When they first touched a football, they were likely not getting a lot of touchdowns. They couldn’t do very many pushups. They didn’t know how to tackle the other team. (Please forgive me for where the analogy falls apart and reimagine it in a more accurate way)

They spent years all through grade school, college, and now on a professional team honing their skills and getting better at their game. The quality of their skills has grown with them because they put forth so much time. They were patient as they went to the gym every day. I don’t know of any pro football players who were regular 25 year olds who decided one day that they wanted to join the Patriots and were good enough to make the team.

Spending time on something not only gives us experience in that area, it also increases our ability to perform well day after day and year after year.

Joy

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked the slow pace of the idyllic southern summer. Sitting on the porch with ice tea, going to the creek, making pancakes in the morning. Slow is nice. Slow lets us enjoy what we do.

Almost none of us live at that pace though. We’re up before dawn, drinking coffee and off to work or class. We’re meeting friends or doing homework all day long. We catch an hour of Netflix at the end of the day before falling into bed, setting our alarms to do it all again the next day.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz describes it perfectly. Go listen to it, but here are a few lines from the beginning of the song:

Alarm clock screaming, bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races, everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour, going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder, trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
(“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz)

But what if we slowed down? Would the world come crumbling down around our ears if we took our time to do things well? I don’t think so. We’re all incredibly busy – I’m not trying to say otherwise. There is a lot to do in a day. But I know there are also ways to slow down, take our time, and enjoy it more, no matter how busy we are.

It doesn’t have to be world-changing. How about an hour a week to talk with someone you haven’t seen in a while? Twenty minutes to read a book for fun? Doesn’t that sound nice? If we don’t have to have everything instantly, we can have the fun of getting there. Even taking some extra time to learn while working on a project can be more fun that rushing through it last minute. As the popular saying goes, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.

Slow down

It doesn’t take much to fight against the impatience that we’ve nurtured inside of ourselves. The benefits of not rushing through life far outweigh any costs. If we are patient, we can be among the best at what we do, we can create better things, and we can enjoy what’s around us a lot more. So, slow down. Take your time. I promise you’ll be fine.

Kira

Thanksgiving

art-birds-business-260487

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

I thought about delving into the meaning of Thanksgiving today, but it’s a holiday week and there is much food to be eaten, so this week’s post will be the traditionally simple list of things for which I am thankful. Maybe add a few of your own in the comments…

  1. my beautiful dog that kept me up half the night and is not sorry at all
  2. a job where I can meet different kinds of people (and make money…college savings!)
  3. the Bible (“of course!” you might say, but think about how many people cannot hold a copy of God’s Word in their hands)
  4. fiction to delve into both to escape and to explore the world
  5. my soccer pants (I really love them)
  6. a great chemistry lab teacher who helps me actually understand some of this crazy science thing
  7. a beautiful friend (more like a sister) who checks in on me during the week from the middle of her own crazy
  8. chocolate covered espresso beans (thank you Sara! I’d never had them before Saturday and, you guys, they are amazing)
  9. a mother to help me edit countless scholarship/college/high school essays
  10. school (no, really)
  11. my drama team of wonderful middle schoolers who put up with my perfectionism as I try to direct them
  12. a pretty car 😉
  13. running and working out until it hurts so good for days
  14. an online writing community that is both encouraging and challenging (Young Writers Workshop, if you’re interested)
  15. audio books for killing two birds with one stone with those long reading assignments
  16. the library (enough said)

You’ve got leftover turkey to enjoy and Christmas trees to put up so I’ll leave you with that. What’s something creative or weird that you’re thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kira

It is Good to be Near God

adult-black-and-white-blur-257037

Picture by Pixabay from Pexels

For me it is good to be near God. (Psalm 73:28a)

I’ve been caught up in a lot of stuff lately. I just turned in my first two college applications, my car keeps breaking in expensive and obnoxious ways, I’ve just had to leave a steady nanny job to look for different work, and so on. My mind is always consumed with something. Will my chemistry homework get finished? When’s the last time I worked out?

I’ve always thought myself a busy person, but it’s amazing how you can handle more stuff in life than you think. Just when you think you’re at capacity, one more things is added to your schedule and you still somehow survive.

One of the things added to my schedule a few weeks ago was preparing a Bible study for a discipleship ministry that I’ve been a part of for about eight years now. I’ve done a few Bible studies for the group before and preparation often involves listening to sermons and reading commentaries on the passage (Romans 6:1-14 in this case) in order to learn as much as you can before leading the team in the study.

While listening to a sermon by Sandy Willson called “Lord, Change Me“, I began to realize how I have been drifting into trying to run my own life. One of his three lessons at the end of the sermon was to invest real time to cultivate the relationship you have with God. He said, and I quote, “You can’t microwave this, America!” (By the way, you should all go listen to Sandy Willson – he’s awesome)

A relationship with God never reaches its full potential, at least in this life. There is always more room to grow and the amount of time I have been devoting to my relationship with God is not enough. That’s why I’ve been so wrapped up in the world. That’s why my car, college, and career are such a big deal.

When we don’t pour ourselves into our relationship with God, we become envious of the wicked in Psalm 73: they seem to suffer no consequences for their sin and even seem to prosper. But when we go “into the santuary of God”, then we can discern their end (Psalm 73:17).

When we go into the sanctuary with God and spend time with Him – in His Word, in prayer, in coming to know Who He is – we realize that we do not need the things that we so greatly desire. We realize that “for me it is good to be near God.”

I’ve been learning that through drifting my own way and then coming back. For me, Kira, it is so good to be near God. And the same is true for you.

Kira

Book Review: Mary Poppins

art-bouquet-buds-704759

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels

Some stories are heavily laced with deep meaning, themes, and protagonist goals. Others are simply stories: interesting events that are fun to read about. In my mind, Mary Poppins belongs to the latter group.

Mary Poppins is the story of a nanny and the family for whom she works. Mary Poppins, Jane, Michael, and the twins have several adventures over the course of Mary Poppins’s stay in the Banks household. Mary Poppins herself is rather prim, proper, and prideful. She isn’t necessarily a pleasant person, but the children quickly fall in love with her.

From that point on, they do many different exciting things. They manage to travel the world with a compass they find in the park, they join Mary Poppins’s uncle for tea, and they meet a woman made of candy, among other fanciful events.

While I love a book with a strong story, good theme, and well-written character arcs, sometimes nonsensical stories such as Mary Poppins are an excellent break from the seriousness of everyday life. Mary Poppins is a wonderful example of enjoying the journey instead of the destination.

And of course, who could talk about Mary Poppins herself without mentioning the original movie? Well, in brief comparison, the book and the movie are different in many respects. On the screen, Mary Poppins is more gentle and kind – and musical. If one does not expect both book and movie to portray exactly the same story, the two are very much enjoyable and worth the few hours to watch or read.

Kira

Following Orders: A Proposal

King Baldwin does not appear in Following Orders until late in the book, but his actions are crucial from the very beginning. Particularly in a proposal he writes to King Arthur of Camelot.

blur-calligraphy-composition-211291

Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

“Edgar! Do write faster, please.” King Baldwin stopped his pacing to huff at the scribe. “By the time you’ve finished, the war will be over and I’ll have lost my chance at a bride.”

“I’ve just finished, sire. And did you mean to say you’ll have lost your chance at the Princess Elaine?” The short man pretended to suppress his smile.

King Baldwin scowled. “I could have you hanged for that.”

“But we both know you won’t. How would you like to continue the letter?”

“What have I just said?” The king turned to the window, stroking his chin. His ridiculously fashionable noblemen pranced through his lavish gardens, many of them with a foolish woman clinging to his arm.

Edgar cleared his throat. “I ask only the hand of your daughter, Princess Elaine, in exchange.”

“And how long is it?”

“About half a page, sire.”

“Best to conclude it, then, do you think?”

Edgar chuckled.

King Baldwin spun to face him. “And what is it about my current plight that you find so amusing, Edgar? Is it the war? Or perhaps Essetir’s need for an heir – a competent one?”

“I believe it is your anxiety over the situation which I find so humorous, sire. Never have I seen a letter proposing marriage so agonized over.”

“Likely because you are not attractive enough to women to know any.”

Edgar laughed again as the king turned back to his window.

“And how would you like to conclude this desperate proposal, sire?”

The king’s brow creased. “Does it indeed sound desperate?” He relaxed at Edgar’s smirk. “I really could have you thrown in the dungeon. Tortured, even.”

“Let us not distract ourselves from the business at hand, sire.”

King Baldwin sighed. “Conclude it thusly: I shall expect your decision within a fortnight. If I receive none – or if I receive it in the negative – I shall take what action I must. Mercia seeks an alliance with me as well. Sincerely yours, His Royal Majesty, King Baldwin Edward Godefroy of Essetir.”

The king looked to his scribe when he heard no scratching of the quill. Edgar stared back at him with a crestfallen expression.

“Don’t do this, sire,” he whispered. “Please do not.”

King Baldwin turned his back on the man. “I must. It is what is best for Essetir.”

“No. It is what will secure the princess for you. I thought we had discussed the matter.”

“It is what will produce an heir! Look at the state of the surrounding kingdoms. Deira is the next closest with a princess eligible to marry and they hold no power. A marriage with the Princess Muriel would hardly garner the respect and loyalty of the people. Not to mention our other allies and enemies. I must act before Princess Elaine is given to someone else. This is how I intend to do it.”

Edgar dropped his quill in the ink pot and stood to place a hand on the king’s shoulder. “I know that you have affections for Princess Elaine. But you can show her that. You don’t have to force her to return them. I may not know much about women, as you say, but I do know that genuineness is always appreciated over shows of authority and power.”

King Baldwin hardened his face. “It is what must be done. For an-”

“Yes, for an heir! I heard you the first time. You can always name one of your cousin’s children your heir. Or anyone else for that matter. You are the king of Essetir!”

“And what do you know of the ways of kings?” King Baldwin shouted at his scribe and pulled away. “Write the words and send it.” He returned to the window.

“Sire…”

“I am ready to place my seal when you have finished.”

Edgar hesitated. Finally, his shoulders dropped. “Yes, your majesty.”

King Baldwin clenched his fists. It must be done.

Kira

Following Orders: My Dearest Atla

Today’s post is a letter from the villian of my current work in progress, Following Orders. Sir Whyh is becoming an increasingly complicated character, but one thing is always true of him: he is the perfect court gentleman. Please tell me what you make of his letter to the elder of his two daughters, Atla, transcribed below.

archive-handwriting-handwritten-51343

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

My Dearest Atla,

Sweet girl, I think of you and your little family often. Oscar must be nearly ten years old now, if I count correctly – becoming a man! And I am sure your beauty has hardly diminished over the years. Is Reginald being good to you? Tell him he must. Tell him that if he is not, he will suffer indeed when I return.

“When I return,” not “if.” Did you notice? I almost tremble with excitement as I write. We shall soon be reunited as one family! I constantly envision the joy and perfection that day will bring. But I get ahead of myself. You must wonder at such a change in my attitude and language. Atla, I have found a way home.

Before I write these secrets to you, you must swear not to breathe a hint of this to Leona. Swear it! I know you do; you always were faithful. Your sister tries to be as well, but it is simply not within her power to keep her infernal mouth shut when gossiping in the court. So keep these methods from her, though she shall read from my own pen of our impending reunification.

You will remember the loyalty of my small band of soldiers from your childhood, will you not? I am thankful that King Artimus (long may he reign) did not object to my taking a miniature court of my own into exile. Some of those men turned out to be quite useful to my singular purpose of returning to my dear girls and enjoying their company once again.

In short, one of the men brought news of a particularly interesting kind. The king of Camelot, Arthur, intends to wed his daughter to King Baldwin of Essetir in exchange for their aid in the war. However, if King Arthur refuses the marriage, Essetir will join Mercia and help us to unleash unimaginable devestation on Camelot. It is quite a neat little blackmail, don’t you think?

You know how King Artimus loathes King Arthur and desires Camelot for himself. All that need happen for the kingdom to be secured for King Artimus’s rule is the prevention of the alliance. And all that need occur for the prevention of the alliance is an unfortunate prevention of the marriage.

I shall write no more of it here, but you can discern the rest, clever girl. Once our own king knows my part in Mercia’s victory, I shall rapidly be restored to court and to you. Share in my joy for it is yours as well!

Mere weeks separate us now, dear Atla. Weeks, after all these long years. Prepare for my coming and look forward to it with gladness.

Your loving father,

Sir Nicholas Ralphondo Whyh

Faithful in a Little

bowl-dirty-dirty-dishes-1385754

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Dishes are not as important as changing the world. Or so I would like to believe.

I have to credit one of my very dear friends with the idea of this post and the torture that she has caused me these past few weeks as I think about her words. I love you Laura!

Luke 16:10 says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” Yes, faithfulness.

Until Laura brought the topic to my attention, I did not consider myself to be very unfaithful. I do my school assignments well and finish them on time. I read my Bible and memorize verses almost every day. I show up to work and do what needs to be done, even when I’m tired or sick or just plain unhappy. And all of those things are good. But it is not all that I am called to do.

God has put me in a family and has given me friends and classmates. Each of those relationships also come with other responsibilities and things to be faithful to.

I’m in my senior year of high school, which, of course, means college and life planning. I have huge dreams and ideas about where I want to go next and what I want to do, but that doesn’t mean I can make this year all about me. I’ve started to notice the ways I’m unfaithful to my family and friends as I put myself first.

I work for a great family a couple days a week and as I was doing some of the cooking and cleaning a while ago, I had the thought that I didn’t do things like this at home. Of course, I’m not paid for it at home, but still. I could make dinner every once in a while or take the younger kids to the park. So I began scheming about how I could be more helpful.

But then another thought came to me: You don’t even do the dishes.

I share the responsibility of doing the dishes for the family with two of my siblings. And, busy person that I am, I often don’t make time for washing dishes and the chore falls on my siblings and parents. And that’s unfaithful. Doing the dishes is such a small thing, but I am not even being faithful in that very little.

Yes, I want to be an author and I want to teach history and I want to have a family. But right now, God has placed me here. And that means making the time to do the dishes. I can’t move on to what I consider to be greater things until I learn to do the dishes.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” I must be faithful in this seemingly very little before I can ever be faithful in very much.

Kira

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

beach-dawn-dune-662994

Photo by Melanie Wupperman from Pexels

I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Following Orders: Blood on My Hands

Today’s post is a combination of a short story and look into the pre-novel life of one of my characters in Following Orders.

autumn-bright-daylight-615348

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

I gazed out at the courtyard as panic swarmed in my chest. Those arrow wounds were not from a crossbow and they all knew it. How long did I have before they reported to King Artimus and he made the connection to me? Not long.

What to do, though, what to do? I pulled myself away from the window and paced the room, cape billowing behind me.

“Glen, dear. Do calm down. It was only the first battle. At this rate, you’ll be in a frenzy before the war is over.” My mother sat with her embroidery across her lap, stitching tiny red flowers in a field.

I paused in front of her. “Yes, but how many have died already?” And because of me, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t bring myself to say that to my own mother.

“And many more will die. That is war. We must choose to be grateful that we are still here and still together. The king hasn’t sent your brother out yet and that is something which we must appreciate.”

I paced back to the window sill and clenched it so that my knuckles whitened. King Artimus had gone down to meet his men in the courtyard. The captain spoke with him, holding an arrow. A desert tribe arrow. King Artimus glanced up to where I stood in the window and I jumped back, wanting to be sick. He knew.

I had thought to bring peace between Aronway and the desert tribes. They had received me royally and I had convinced King Artimus’s court to welcome them as well. Treaties were outlined. I spent my days glowing with pride and pleasure. Then the chieftains had returned to their people, supposedly to help their land through the harvest season. They were to return at first frost. But they had returned much earlier and with weapons in their hands. I had no doubt the blame for this war would lay directly at my feet.

I had minutes at most. What to do? If I stayed, execution likely awaited me. If not that, then exile at least.

My mind settled on a quick decision. I didn’t take the time to question it, but swiftly bent to kiss my mother and strode out of the room.

Every soldier I passed on the stairs or in the corridors made my heart pound harder. Were they the ones sent to arrest me? But I made it to the kitchen door and out to the stables.

It was quick work to saddle my mare, despite my shaking hands, and I led her by the bridle to the side gate. The guards there didn’t move as I passed through and I mounted only once I was out of their view. I had to keep a steady trot through the city. It was too crowded to gallop and I didn’t need to attract any suspicion.

But once I was in the bright country, I kicked my horse into a gallop, my tears flying from my face in the wind. As I rode, I couldn’t help it: I looked back.

Kira