I wrote a paper about my church this week, and I got to thinking: my church is weird.
Not the people in it. The people are great. Even the leadership and the way things are run is awesome. But the building itself. It's crazy.
Now, I attend Victory Life Church, which is a pretty big building. It's L-shaped. The main wing of the church is devoted to typical church rooms--the sanctuary, the coffee shop, the bathrooms, a few pastor's offices and meeting rooms. Stuff like that. And that wing has some interesting features as well. At one point, it had a very small one-seater restroom, but they remodeled, and I have no idea what happened to it. For all I know, there's a toilet and sink hidden in some wall somewhere.
The really cool part of the main wing, though, is the backstage area. As a member of the worship team, I get to poke around back there every once in a while. Somewhere among all the guitar stands and extra earbuds and music stands is--guess what--another bathroom. Right smack-dab in the middle of a hallway. It's wild.
The other wing of the church is affectionately called the Children's Church Labyrinth. At first glance, it's a hallway with classrooms all down it. Nothing special. And, at first, it is. But once you get past most of the classrooms, the fun begins.
One door leads to a kitchen. It's a typical house-style kitchen with a dishwasher, fridge, and sink. I've used it multiple times for washing sippy cups after a stint in the two-year-old classroom. (Our church has an inordinate amount of two-year-olds.) The strange thing about it is its name. It's called the Rooster Kitchen. There are no roosters in it, painted or otherwise. But, hey, it works.
Down at the very end of the hallway is where things get really interesting. There's a laundry room. What gets laundered there? I have no idea. But we played Hide-and-Seek-in-the-Dark one time, and the youth pastor was somehow able to stand on the dryer and hide in the unfinished ceiling. Yeah. Our youth pastor was the best. I also hid in the laundry room once, and no one found me. In fact, everyone forgot I existed for a little while. Happens all the time.
The objectively coolest part of church, though, is the Hobbit Hole. See, the youth meet upstairs. And once you get upstairs, there's a locked door. You go through it to find an office/closet/random space that doesn't really do much anymore. But there's something strange in that little room. There's another door. A very small door. A five-year-old might be able to walk through it, but everyone else has to duck. It leads to the attic where we store all of our Christmas decorations.
That, dear reader, is the Hobbit Hole.
What's the coolest hidden room you know about? It doesn't have to be at a church--it can be at your workplace or even your home. Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
O Death, I have watched you in silence,
I have watched as you ravage and steal.
But now, foolish Death, I will fight you;
My prayers and sword you will feel.
Leave me, dark angel! Touch not my home!
Take with you this fear in my heart!
Touch not this cradle, touch not my kin,
Or a much greater war you will start.
Death seems to laugh as it circles,
Surrounding my home as for war.
But I stand my ground yet undaunted;
With God, I've fought Death off before.
I'm sorry about not posting last week. I had a group project due on Tuesday, and I spent Valentine's Day caulking baseboard and chiseling dried paint off a bathtub. (Yes, I know. But my dad flips houses and I need a job.)
I'm going to go ahead and break my silence on the events of Where I Stand. The book has been out for almost five months, and if you haven't bought it, you can buy it here: Where I Stand
I didn't want to spoil the book for anyone, so if you haven't read the book yet, don't read this post.
Everyone's still here, right? I know you've read it.
I was very excited to bring Rowan back. He's a very interesting character with one of my favorite backstories, which I hope to reveal bit by bit over the next few books in the series. And part of that backstory involves an instrument called a timpan.
Most people hear "timpan" and think a drum--you know, like a tympani, or the tympanic membrane (also known as your eardrum). But the Irish timpan is a stringed instrument. And also an extinct instrument.
Originally, I was going to have him play the bagpipes. But then I did some research, and I found out that the bagpipes are more of a Scottish instrument. The Irish equivalent is the uillleann pipes, which I can neither spell nor pronounce, so that wasn't an option. I knew that Caitriona plays the flute; what goes good with a flute? Harps are too unwieldy. What about a fiddle? No, that would make him too much like Pa Ingalls.
And that's when I stumbled across the timpan.
Now, although we don't know very much about timpans, they've impacted the world in a few very small and unique ways. The most obvious is a song called "The Timpan Reel," which is admittedly a very cool song. Another is the dulcimer, a folk instrument commonly used in Appalachia, which some people say is a distant cousin or descendent of the timpan. But for all that, we have no idea what a timpan looked or sounded like. There are no surviving copies of it, and the only things we know about it come from references in Irish poems or legends.
I've read almost every available text about timpans, and I've come to a few general conclusions. First, it had three to eight strings. Second, it was often kept in an otterskin case. Third, it was a widely popular instrument back in the day. One legend says that the fairies made a magical timpan, and its music could make wounded soldiers forget their pain and fall asleep.
BUT we still don't know what they looked like.
Some sources say they looked like a short-necked banjo. Others disagree. I've decided, for my own purposes, that the Irish timpan was a variant of the Scandinavian jouhikko.
I spent literally months researching this extinct instrument, when I could have just made Rowan play the fiddle instead. They were used in the eighth century, after all. It's not a historical innacuracy. But no, I wanted to make things harder on myself. And so I did.
"Da!" he cried. He ignored the twigs that tore at his bare feet. He forgot his shovel. There was Brett. There were the others coming in from the ocean. Rowan was swimming, Caitriona was wading, and Lukas had no choice. Tarin flew into his father's arms, nearly knocking Rowan off his feet and into the ocean.
"Faith, what happened?" Caitriona said. Mercy tried to wiggle out of her arms, but she held her firmly.
Tarin took a breath. "There's somethin' in the woods."
"It's a deer, Tarin," Brett scoffed.
"'Tis not a deer. It crawled like a spider, but it--it was a person it looked like--"
"A deformed deer," Brett said.
"It was the shadows playin' tricks on you, nothin' more," Rowan said.
"I wouldn't dismiss him so hastily," Lukas said. "Brett, go fer a walk. Tell us if ye see anything out of the ordinary, aye?"
"Besides the fact that you're wearing socks to the beach?"
Brett left, and Mercy screeched, crying that she wanted to go with him. Caitriona told her to hush and drew Tarin close to her side. "What do you think it is, love?" she asked Rowan softly.
"Probably nothin'." Rowan's voice was gentle as he set an arm around his wife. "If anythin', it was the nokken who taught me to play the timpan. I missed our lesson last Tuesday."
Lukas muttered something under his breath--probably a prayer along the lines of "God, have mercy"--as he doffed his undershift and wrung the water from it. "I say we head home," he said. "There's a few wolves on the island. One this close to people might be mad." He put his undershift back on, but his knee-length braies were dripping and scattering dark orbs of wet sand around his feet.
"It wasn't a wolf," Tarin said. "It had hands."
"Lukas! Rowan!" Brett's voice came from around a bend. He was jogging. "We should leave."
"You saw it, too?" Tarin asked.
"No, but I know it's real, it's a human, and I know how it got here." He shoved his boots on, not bothering to brush the sand from his feet first. "There's a wrecked lifeboat not a dozen yards from here."
"Steady, dear heart...there we go, look at you!"
Two-year-old Mercy McNeil grinned as she floated in the bay called Treacherous Landing, her mother Caitriona's hands nearby in case she should falter. A gentle wave came her way, and she laughed as she rose and fell with it. "Whee!" she squealed.
"Whee!" Caitriona smiled, scooping Mercy up and setting her on her hip. "Rowan, she's floating!"
"Good for her!"
Mercy's father, Rowan, was having his own problems. Something near him was floundering helplessly in the water, and Mercy looked on confused. "Wha's dat?" she asked.
"That's Da tryin' to teach Deydey how to swim."
"Deydey not swim?"
"Somehow, Mercy, Deydey never learned how to swim."
"Deydey old! Why not swim?"
Caitriona laughed. "I know. Let's go tell him you said that."
"Deydey!" Mercy shouted as Caitriona waded towards the fiasco in the middle of the bay. Rowan took hold of an arm, and the body it was attached to stopped floundering.
"It isn't difficult!" Rowan said.
"Aye, ye've said that!" said an elderly man with a Scottish brogue as he wiped seawater out of his eyes. "Memorizing the Greek alphabet isn't difficult either, but ye still can't get past theta!"
"You're a grown man, Lukas, how can you not know how to swim?"
"I'm sixty years auld. I shouldn't have to swim if I don't want to!"
Laughter erupted from the beach, where two boys were having a hole-digging competition. "Do you need help, Lukas?" called a thirteen-year-old twig of a boy. He was clad only in trousers, and his chest, where it was not sunburned or freckled, was as white as the sand he played in.
"He'll be fine." The second boy was legally an adult, but his actions had yet to catch up to his age. He had a beard and the broad frame of a bear, yet there was mischief in his eyes and a tone to his voice that suggested it would still get a bit deeper. "If anyone needs help, it's you, Tarin. You haven't even hit water yet."
"I have so," Tarin said.
The almost-adult stepped into the hole he'd made. "Come here. How's it feel being taller than me?"
Scowling, Tarin ran for the nearby woods. "I'm getting a shovel," he said.
There were plenty of twigs lying at the forest's edge, but Tarin wanted a broader one to dig with. So, spotting a fallen tree, he ran over to tear off a limb. "I'll beat you at somethin', Brett," he muttered as he pulled on a branch with all his might. "Someday, I'll win for once!"
Tarin fell down as the limb broke off, twigs and dead grass scratching his sunburned back. A nearby scuttling noise caught his attention. Hoping to see a deer or a rabbit, he stood and looked around. He saw nothing.
The noise stopped, and Tarin hopped onto the fallen tree to survey the forest. "No fair, Brett," he said. "You're twice my size. You don't need a shovel."
A twig snapped, and Tarin turned around to see a figure in the woods. He froze. Everything about it was wrong. It was too bony--its limbs too long, and bent at odd angles, as it crawled backwards into the underbrush. If it had a face, Tarin could not see it. There were only shadows.
Sorry for not posting on Monday. I attended my sister's basketball game. Anyway, I have an important news update for you: it's currently snowing in Texas.
Let me back up a bit. On Super Bowl Sunday, I was wearing short sleeves. My mother was wearing short sleeves. It was seventy-five degrees or thereabouts, and it was so pleasant that I took my crochet outside and let my dog bother me while I worked.
That was three days ago.
This morning, it was raining. I'd turned the heat off on Sunday and forgotten to turn it back on, so I woke up at 5:15 this morning, absolutely freezing. I fed the dog and put her out--she's an outside dog, but we spoil her, so she sleeps in the garage when it's cold or rainy. She didn't want to go outside. Once I finally got her outside, she wanted to come straight back inside. And when Mom told me to put her sweater on her, my dog was happy. (She looks very cute in her sweater. She got it for Christmas this year.)
Anyway, I did typical Cold Day things. Stay in bed and study. Procrastinate. Drink tea with breakfast and wear my fuzzy slipper socks. It was nice.
And then, just when Dad came home from work, it began to snow.
My sister begged me to come outside and have a snowball fight with her. At first, I objected. I'm an adult now, I told her. I have to clean up after dinner, I told her. But outside I went anyway, and I found that quite a bit of snow had been sticking to my and my mom's cars. I made a few dozen snowballs with my sister's help, and we had at it.
I stood on one side of the yard. My sister was on the other. The driveway between us was No Man's Land. And so began the war.
It was fun. I got hit in the head once. I got hit in the backside. My sister stepped in dog poop, but she didn't care because she was wearing my shoes. I lost the fight. To celebrate her victory, my sister rubbed a snowball in my face and just about shoved it in my mouth by accident. But still, somehow, I had fun.
When's the last time you played in the snow? Or, if you don't live in a region where it snows, when's the last time you thought you wouldn't enjoy something, but ended up enjoying it anyway? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
I started out my class with hope. Hope that the books we'd read in class would be interesting. And W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil gave me that hope.
Apparently, Maugham--which is apparently pronounced "Mom"--is or was a pretty famous writer back in the 1920s. That was a hundred years ago. Dang. It feels like it should be closer to eighty. Anyway, this particular book is also set in the 1920s, but the issues it deals with are relevant today. Because romance and revenge are always relevant.
Right off the bat, we meet English socialite Kitty Fane and her lover, Charlie Townsend. And we realize that Kitty's husband, shy and boring but super-nice-guy Walter, knows what's going on.
Now as if that wasn't exciting enough, Walter gives Kitty an ultimatum: she can convince Charlie to divorce his own wife and marry her, or she can come with him to a cholera outbreak in the Chinese city of Mei-tan-fu. (Walter, unlike Kitty, has a decent reason to go to Mei-tan-fu. He's a bacteriologist. And I should specify that they're living in Hong Kong, which was under British control at that time.)
Since Charlie is too selfish to divorce his wife, Kitty goes with Walter. And there she learns that maybe, just maybe, life isn't all about her.
I devoured this book. The characters were lively, the narrative was paced well, and there were some good themes explored. I especially like the way Maugham dealt with religion. After arriving in Mei-tan-fu, Kitty starts to volunteer at a convent that takes in orphans. The nuns inspire her, and their faith is portrayed in a positive light. That being said, while the nuns encourage Kitty to seek God, they don't force their religion on her. And this, I believe, is how all Christians should witness to other people.
The book isn't very funny. There's some romantic drama involved, but not much actual love. But somehow, it's still a good book that managed to capture my attention. I think I finished it in two or three days, which is more than I can say for the Hemmingway novel...
What's your favorite classic novel? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter!
rushing like the spirits of
happy kids at play.
leaves are eaten and seeds blown
Flowers adorn the
prairie vast and beautiful
a princess's crown.
The sun is angry
it seeks to cook us alive
boy with ants and glass.
Timers dinging in
the distance; the race is now
I'm so sorry about forgetting to post on Monday. I hope I can offer an explanation.
I'm currently taking four college classes. One of them has a reasonable pace. Two of them, taught by the same professor, are super laid back. One of them, however, is indescribably awful.
It didn't start out too bad. "Read two short stories and make a comic strip," our teacher told us the first week of class. But then reality hit, and now I'm screwed.
See, we have to read a book a week for this class. Which, under normal circumstances, isn't too big of a deal. The first book we read was The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham, and it was a decent book. Read it in two days. And then, since I want to get a head start on next week's work, I've started reading our next book.
And, of course, it's by Ernest Hemmingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls, to be exact.
On Monday, I don't know what happened. I got busy. I forgot to write my blog. No worries, I thought to myself. I'd write it Tuesday. But on Tuesday, my dad sent me on an errand to a distant town, and I was gone the entire afternoon. I made myself dinner and adulted until, at last, I collapsed exhausted on my beanbag chair and...I don't know. Probably watched YouTube.
Wednesday, I thought. Wednesday for sure.
But school comes before blog, and I started reading that blasted book by Ernest freaking Hemmingway. I got to page 120 and, after (among other things) seven pages of dialogue about a group of people hacking Fascists to death with farming equipment, I fell asleep for forty-five minutes and woke up wondering what dimension I was in.
And then I went to church.
And that brings us, dear readers, to today. Where I still don't know what the devil I'm doing. But oh well, I suppose. Does anyone ever know what they're doing?
I've decided that a person's main responsibility in life, besides loving God and His children, is to do your best and have fun. I'm a bit rusty on the "fun" aspect of that statement. But that's what I'm going to try doing.
Good morning, dear readers! Let me catch my breath--
Okay. I'm good. I think.
My laptop battery is dying. My internal battery is dying. See, my college classes started Monday, and on Tuesday, I drove 45 minutes to another state to attend classes at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Yes, I have some experience with college classes. I have my associate's degree, after all. But all but two of my classes have been online. This semester, I'm taking two online classes and two in-person classes. I still have no idea what I'm doing.
The Southeastern campus is a lot older than the community college I went to, but in all the right ways. It has a vast lawn full of beautiful mature trees, a towering library with columns and the names of great writers like Shakespeare and Dante carved into the wall near the roof. The stairwells--oh, the stairwells! You open a door into a little vertical hallway, hear your footsteps echo as you ascend the stairs, and reemerge in a completely different room.
The classes...those, though. I'm not sure what to make of those yet.
One of my professors is an older man with grey hair pulled back in a ponytail. He wore a plaid button-down over a Grateful Dead graphic T-shirt and spoke so softly during the lecture that no one else dared sneeze for fear of drowning him out. He swore more than any of the students did and showed us a VHS. But he seemed like a nice guy. "Just write five haikus by Sunday and submit them online. You're good," he said.
My other teacher, on the other hand, was a blonde lady. "We will be reading ten books and watching the movies made off them, in addition to writing three papers and a comic strip," she said. "You have three group presentations that will each be one hour long. Start working NOW."
My classmates, fortunately, didn't seem to be terribly awful. One of my classes has two other girls with my same name in it. Fortunately, one of them goes by her middle name. In my other class, there's a rodeo boy who waltzed in late wearing a cowboy hat with a feather stuck in a beaded band that ran around the crown.
I have no idea what I'm doing. The 90-minute-round-trip drive certainly curtails my study time. On the bright side, I've already read some of the books we'll be studying--most importantly, The Scarlet Letter, which was written with rather complicated language.
That being said, dear readers, if I post late once in a while--or even skip a post here or there--don't worry about it. It's just me being busy. I'm not dead (probably). And on Mondays, expect to see some of the poetry and short stories I'm writing for class. I'm glad I'm taking mostly English classes this semester.
Do you have any advice for a panicking college student? What was your most memorable class to be in? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to check us out on Twitter!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.