My church has multiple locations. One is in the city my parents live in; another is about two miles down the street from my college dorm. Unfortunately, my local campus only has Wednesday services once a month. Which is sad, because I was really looking forward to meeting some cute guys at the new campus, and I spend Sunday mornings at my old location because they're used to having me volunteering there.
Anyway, I went to the new church for the first time last night. Unbeknownst to me, it was a baptism service. Since several children got baptized, all the kids were sitting in service with their parents so they could watch their friends get baptized.
When the pastor announced that his short sermon was over and the baptisms were about to start, a little boy sitting next to me jumped up and said, "Bath time!"
Kids really are the cutest, aren't they?
One thing I really enjoy about living on campus is the ability to experience new things. So far this semester, I've interacted with people from Saudi Arabia, Australia, India, Columbia, and somewhere in Africa (I haven't gotten to ask him which country he's from yet). I've eaten cafeteria food (yuck) and read books I wouldn't have otherwise picked up. But I wasn't expecting to have old memories pop up, too.
It's always the little things that bring you back to years gone by. I was homeschooled for ten years, and my family used the Abeka curriculum. It's an excellent curriculum, and it's also used by the school my church runs--the school I substitute teach for. One day, I was tasked with collating worksheets for the kindergarten classroom. Turns out, Abeka has a certain smell to it that I'd forgotten about.
I remember sitting on one of those too-small chairs in the library, papers stretched out before me and a small pile of paper clips half falling off the table, sniffing papers. This was my third-grade math book, my sixth-grade grammar, my high school chemistry. Heck, I'd been immersed in that smell since my own kindergarten years. It felt good to smell it again.
But somehow, being in college has stirred an even deeper memory in me: the crack of a baseball bat.
I've never been good at sports. I was the tall, gangly, scrawny kid who read too much. But, when I was probably nine or ten, I played softball with my local public school league. I lived in a small town, and we didn't even have our own school district. We shared with Kingston, a town that was somehow even smaller than we were.
The first year I played, I don't think I hit a ball once. But I was still a good player. The pitchers all sucked--except for one, a tall girl who wore a helmet with a face guard while she pitched. We all hated her and her sixty-mile-an-hour fastballs. Anyway, the pitchers all sucked, and nine times out of ten I'd get to first base on a walk.
The second year I played, the pitchers got a bit better, and my parents started paying me to literally swing the bat, even if I missed. I still got a lot of walks. And I sat on the bench a lot. I played outfield when we weren't batting which means I spent most of my time beheading dandelions with my cleats.
But still--when we practiced, our coach would pitch. And sometimes, my dad would throw a couple balls in our backyard. And so I came to love the sound an aluminum bat makes when it hits the softball.
We have a baseball diamond on campus. Apparently, we have a baseball team that's practicing right now. And so sometimes, when I'm outside at the right time, I can hear the crack of the bat. And it sends me back to my younger years, to the practices and my coach's voice and the teammates who nicknamed me "Evil Eye" because of the way I glared at a girl who accidentally spilled my water bottle once. Good memories like that. I had a kind coach, and that made everything so much more enjoyable.
What noise brings you back to your childhood? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
Again. Freaking again. I sit down. I write an excellent blog post. I go to the top corner where there's a big orange button that says "Post"....
And Weebly logs me out of my account, erasing my blog post and forcing me to start from scratch.
I'm mad. I'm so mad at this God-forsaken website host. This is the third time AT LEAST this has happened to me.
I was GOING to tell you about the first few sentences of the three new books I got on sale at the bookstore, but my fingers are tired and I don't feel like typing another 500 words.
Instead I will tell you that I can open my window now. I will tell you that I can see the sunlight gleaming on the leaves of a tree just outside my window, and the blue sky between its branches. I will tell you that I can hear a dog barking, and the hum of an air conditioning unit, and cars as they pass along the street. I will tell you about the large patch that I sewed on my window screen, and the tape that runs along the bottom of it to keep the bugs from getting in.
Oh, the smell of fresh air! It makes my dorm feel less like a prison cell and more like a home, although a few more pictures on my walls would have a similar effect. I've never been good at hanging pictures. I want a nature scene--perhaps a forest in spring, with plenty of pastel pinks to go with the rest of my room--hanging on the other side of my desk. That way I'll see it in the mornings, before I open my window, and it'll make me smile.
I'll tell you about the plants on my windowsill. I dropped them when I moved in, and they spilled everywhere. I re-planted them and now they're growing towards the sunlight again. Succulets don't need much root, I suppose.
Anyway, what can you see out your window? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook!
But they're not alone. A Norse army led by Chief Konar the Mad is making its way to St. Anne's Monastery. In a desperate attempt to save their home, Lukas teaches Alynn how to wield a sword. She vows to fight off the Norse alongside him. If they win, she gets the home she's always wanted. If they're defeated, she faces death--or worse, slavery.
Alynn doesn't have much of a chance. But if it means a forever home, it's a chance worth taking.
Don't miss this stunning tale of faith, courage, and the power of family. Where I Stand, Book Two in the Clouds Aflame Series, is now available on Amazon.
A faint voice was vying for Alynn’s consciousness, but she brushed it away.
If she woke up, she’d be cold again. Her arms and legs would burn with a cold that felt like fire, and she would shiver until she was nauseous.
But the voice refused to go away. Something shook her shoulder, and she cried for it to stop.
“There ye go, lass,” the voice said. “Open yer eyes. Look at me. Ye’re safe, ye’re out of the water. Ye need to look at me.”
The man’s voice was calm and comforting, with a brogue that was neither lilting Irish nor the type of Scottish that Captain McMahon spoke. Alynn knew she’d heard it before—she’d spent the night at an inn when she was moving from Corgrigg to Kilteery, and she’d lain awake listening to a man telling stories. A Highland Scot, he’d been.
“Come, now. Look at me.”
Alynn tried to open her eyes, and the first thing she saw was a ribbon of red racing across the horizon. It was nearly dawn.
A blurry figure was kneeling in front of her. Warm hands were shaking her shoulders, touching her face and pressing two fingers into her neck. Alynn felt as if he were trying to choke her. She cried out again.
“Yer pulse is strong, lass. Ye’re going to be fine. Be quiet, now, and we’ll get ye out of here.”
A strong arm slipped under Alynn’s back, and suddenly, she was lifted into the air. She shrieked.
“Shh! We can’t let them—just—don’t say anything. I’ve got ye, lass. Ye’re alright.”
Warmth seeped through Alynn’s soaking clothes as the stranger carried her down the pier. She started to relax.
“Ye need to stay awake.” The stranger sounded like an adult, someone at least as old as Rowan or Captain McMahon. “Talk to me. But quietly. We can’t let them find us.”
“Who’s trying to find us?”
Alynn’s voice sounded so slurred to her, she wondered how the stranger could understand her. But he answered her in a comforting tone. “No one ye need to worry about, so long as ye say a prayer fer us.”
Alright, then. Saint Mary, protect us.
“What’s yer name?” she asked.
“Where am I, Mr. McCamden?”
“Just call me Lukas, if ye don’t mind. We’re on the outskirts of a village.”
“Alright, then….Where…what kind of village is…is this Scotland?”
“Not quite. We’re on an island, north of—”
A new voice rang through the air. “Excuse me!”
“Say that prayer now,” Lukas whispered.
First off, I'd like to thank everyone who came to the Loy Lake Fall Festival last Saturday. I sold 25 books and had a great time! I'm busy with school so I'm not sure when my next book signing will be, but I'll be sure to let you guys know!
Anyway, let me tell you how my day has been.
It all started last night, when I realized I was behind on my Shakespeare reading. So I wake up this morning, spend 45 minutes daydreaming (bad habit), and finally do my morning Bible reading and crack open my Shakespeare tome afterwards. I do all of this without getting out of bed, mind you. When you live in a dorm, practically everything is within arm's reach of your Twin Extra-Long bed. Your haven of comfort. The one thing keeping you sane amidst studies and books and deadlines that glare at you over the horizon with beady red eyes, creeping slowly closer so that you hardly notice them until they're on top of you.
So I read my Shakespeare--the last two acts of Much Ado About Nothing, which I hardly understand--and lay in bed until twenty minutes until class starts. I manage to brush my teeth, grab a protein shake to drink in class, and walk across campus (with my 4.5-pound Shakespeare tome in my backpack, mind you) just in time for Humanities.
Humanities is boring. The teacher essentially reads and elaborates on a PowerPoint Presentation that she makes available afterwards online. As soon as my heart started beating normally again (hey, you try walking halfway across a college campus and up two flights of stairs with the collective works of Shakespeare in your backpack), I started sketching a picture of an elf. I'll admit to spending too much time trying to get the shading right so it looked like she had...oh, let's say feminine curves. I can say that, right?
So after Humanities, I had Shakespeare. I sat next to my good friend and chatted a bit before class started, when I was unfortunately informed that we would be having a midterm exam in less than two weeks and duly reminded about an essay I haven't started on yet. I don't know Shakespeare. I don't know what to write about.
After class, I chatted with my friend a bit more, ate lunch at the cafeteria, and returned to my dorm. Where I crashed.
Remember how I didn't want to get out of bed this morning? I'm back in bed, covered with a weighted blanket, listening to my roommates goof off as they work on their own schoolwork in the living room.
My grandfather, bless his heart, has made a point out of calling me once a week. Last week, I described the difficulty I was having in getting my brain focused on a paper I was working on. "Papa," I said, "Remember telling us about how you rode a horse to school?"
"Yep," said my grandfather, who grew up in rural Missouri in the 1930s and 40s.
"Did you ever have a day where your horse just didn't want to do anything? That's about how I feel."
Well, I made Papa laugh, which always makes me feel good. If I could just get my horse to start working, I'd really appreciate it.
I guess I'd better buckle down and get back to work. What are your tips for staying motivated during the school year? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to leave us a review on Amazon or Goodreads!
Howdy, y'all! My idiot computer decided to delete my entire, beautiful blog post, and since I've got an essay to write, I'll give you the outline.
Reasons you should come to the Loy Lake Fall Festival on Saturday the 11th:
So sorry for not posting last week. I have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and last Thursday I had to talk about a Shakespeare poem detailing the rape and suicide of a Roman noblewoman. So, yeah, I wasn't exactly in a mood for blogging afterwards. I needed a nap.
Anyway, I made up for not posting by putting three consecutive Facebook Live videos up on our Facebook page. If you don't follow us on Facebook, you really should. You'll get notified about all our events and new blog posts. I'm pretty sure I came up with the username @DontRaidMyMonastery for the official Where the Clouds Catch Fire Facebook page when I was fifteen, so please don't judge me for it.
I did my Facebook Live videos because I was bored. Do you ever get so bored that nothing sounds good to do? I could read a book--but no, that's boring. I could write a story or crochet a bit--but no, that's boring. So you wind up playing on your phone until bedtime. That's about how I felt over the past couple of days. I was exposed to a certain disease and ordered to isolate myself from the rest of human society. And that's what I did. For two and a half days, I got my meals slid to me on a rolling desk chair. I had to sanitize the bathroom every time I used it. I Facetimed my mother, who was only a few rooms away from me.
The first day of quarantine, I went a bit crazy.
I was already pacing like a bear at the zoo when my arms started to move. I couldn't stop them. My insides were scrambled, and I felt panicky. My arms kept moving, as if of their own accord. I was doing something called stimming--short for self-stimulating. You do it when you're overwhelmed or bored. Normally, it's something like tapping your foot or wiggling your fingers or twirling your hair. Sometimes, though, it can get a bit excessive.
Now, I've dealt with anxiety for a good part of my life, so I immediately started deep breathing. It didn't help. So I went deeper, to the very root of the problem, and started singing a worship song.
It took a whole song, but I eventually stopped moving my arms. My feet grew still. My mind calmed down, and my heartbeat resumed its normal speed.
The next day, around five o'clock, I started feeling the same way. This time, I started worshipping before I started stimming, and the crisis was averted.
They say that hell is other people. I beg to differ--hell is the complete absence of other people. But even in isolation, even when I was confined to my bedroom so that a trip to the bathroom felt like an adventure, I wasn't quite alone. God was with me. It took me a while--I'm still not very good at it, but I'm better than I used to be--but I learned how to tap into God's presence. And you don't even have to say anything. You don't have to pray if you don't have anything to say. It's like flipping an inner switch, and you're on a porch swing with your best friend. There's peace on that porch swing, a sense of contentment and love. You feel like you mean something to Someone.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to flip that inner switch. You're too panicky, or angry, or frazzled to think straight. That's when it's handy to have a worship playlist on YouTube, or even a song that you've memorized. It directs your thoughts and your heart to a place where they can flip that switch and sit in divine peace for a moment.
I wish I could teach you how to flip that inner switch. The peace and companionship Jesus gives is the best thing in the world. It's better than sitting in a rocking chair with a baby sleeping on your chest--better than watching the sunset from your upstairs window. But I'm afraid this is something you'll have to figure out on your own. I hope you do!
I've got some good news, though. On September 11--not this Saturday, but the one after it--I'll be signing books at the Frontier Village Fall Festival in Denison, Texas! I can't wait to see you there. And you can't miss me. I'll be dressed like a Viking.
God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
It is a well-known fact that I am not the most social of people. I tried going to a party a couple days ago--my first college party. It sucked. The music was too loud, I didn't know anyone there, and I'd just gotten finished being chewed out by my mom for being single. I didn't catch the eye of a single guy in the room. I left in tears, my only consolation being a bag of free cotton candy that I clutched in a limp hand.
Anyway, to help with my crushing loneliness, I got a fish.
My sister had a Betta fish named Corey who recently passed away. My sister has a habit of naming her pets after men she admires--not romantically, I might add. Corey was named after a professional hockey player. About a month ago, she got a hamster which she named Harm. After Harm from the TV show JAG, which she and my parents watch religiously. Anyway, Corey sort of exploded last year, and I inherited basically everything I need for a small aquarium.
And so, slightly on a whim, I went to the pet store and walked out with the most beautiful Betta fish I've seen in my life.
His name is Lunar. Let me explain.
I love to stare at pretty things, especially sunsets. My bedroom window at my parent's house (it's weird that I have to clarify now) faces west, and I get some absolutely breathtaking views. In fact, the picture that I use as the banner of the Where the Clouds Catch Fire Facebook page is actually a picture I took from my backyard. But after the beautiful reds and oranges and pinks fade away, another color takes their place for just a few moments. And that color is a beautiful, deep blue.
This is not a shade of blue that is used in home decorating. You can't find a Crayola marker to match it. It isn't navy and it isn't royal blue, but it's a living, pulsing, dark yet vibrant color. It's the shade of blue you would find in a fantasy book, gracing a beautiful immortal. It's the sort of blue that is eternal, everlasting, galactic. It is the color of gemstones.
That's what color my fish is.
(Since a picture's worth a thousand words, I went ahead and included one. This fish isn't mine--my photography skills aren't good enough to capture his likeness, and plus Lunar is camera-shy. But my Lunar is about the same color as this Shutterstock model.)
Have you ever had a fish? Tell me about them in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
I wish I could officially announce that I've moved out of my parent's house and into my apartment-style dorm. Unfortunately, I haven't spent the night there yet, so I'll have to settle for saying that my room is all set up and I'm hoping to sleep there tonight.
I'll admit to being a bit nervous about this transition. Fellow homeschoolers will understand the apprehension that comes with leaving your mom for the first time. On the other hand, she's taught me well, and I know I'm ready.
I might as well tell you a story.
On Tuesday night, the night before we moved all my stuff to the dorm, I went downstairs to sit with my parents while they were watching TV. We chatted a bit during commercial breaks, mostly discussing the logistics of the next day's events. Then, I looked down at my sock. There was a small, purple, rectangular sticker with writing on it.
Immediately, I knew what the sticker was from. For Christmas, I asked my parents for a certain kind of poster that had 100 books on it. As you read the books, you marked them off on the poster. You could also give the books star ratings and stickers for things like "Best Romance" or "Best Classic." (I tend not to read romance novels, but I'm pretty sure that A Tale of Two Cities is going to be listed as "Best Classic.")
Anyway, the sheet of stickers was lying on my floor, and I had kicked it earlier. Strange I hadn't noticed it until that moment on the couch, but I peeled the sticker off my foot anyway and looked at it.
It said "Best Adventure."
I know God's looking out for me. I know that I'll do fine with dorm life. But this small thing meant a lot to me. And while I might be a bit intimidated by living on my own, this little piece of encouragement let me know that everything was going to be okay.
In slightly less-good news, I just had a minor dental surgery earlier this afternoon. While I'm not in a lot of pain, I certainly won't be talking much for the next couple of days. Prayers for a quick recovery would be awesome!
When was the last time God smiled at you? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Yep. You read that right.
Actually, I've got a couple of very important things going on this week. My church is having a festival called Jubilee, and I'm volunteering three out of the four nights it's being held. Last night was the first night, and it went great! You can live-stream the event by looking up Victory Life Church on Facebook. Andrew Wommack spoke last night, and it was really cool.
Jubilee goes through Saturday, normal church is on Sunday, and I'm moving on Monday. Moving out of my parents' house for the first time, and into an apartment-style dorm at my college. It's my senior year, and I wanted it to be memorable.
(That, and my little sister is driving me nuts.)
Anyway, I've spent the past couple of weeks collecting all the things I'll need. Bedding, silverware, shower curtains, and a teddy bear to hug when I miss my family. Not to mention my textbooks. Thanks to Thriftbooks (I love that website!), I was able to get nine books--one of which is the collected works of Shakespeare in a single 4.5-pound tome--for less than $50 with free shipping. On that note, I offer a word of advice--never take two literature classes in one semester.
Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Also yes. Do I see this move impacting my ability to post blogs? I don't know yet. I'm hoping to keep posting at least once a week. Assuming, of course, that my dorm has decent internet access--my website host tends to be a bit temperamental.
I only have one slight hiccup in my plan to move out: I don't have a job. Granted, as a full-time college student, I'm not obligated to have a job. The money I've saved up while working over the summer should be enough to pay for my food and gas, since my grandparents lovingly set up a college fund for me. But still, I'd like to make $30 a week to pay for groceries. My meal plan at the college only covers five meals a week, and I have access to a full kitchen as well as a full-sized fridge in my dorm. I borrowed my grandparents' crock pot and plan on making full use of it. Meal planning, here I come!
I'm not sure what God has in store for me. I don't know if I'll love or hate living in the dorms. Fortunately, it's only for one year, and hopefully the housing shortage will clear up by then. I'm seriously looking forward to being able to have and decorate my own apartment. And, at some point, own some land. I want a huge vegetable garden with fruit trees and maybe some bees. I might get sheep or goats. I can build a small rental house on my property and, depending on how well I can manage my garden, offer cheap rent in exchange for a few hours of work.
Heck, I think I'm a hobbit at heart. Or maybe a pioneer. My dad always says that I was born a couple hundred years too late.
What advice do you have for dorm life? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.