Thoughts And Ramblings Of A Christian Writer – Part Three

Let’s be honest. Each one of us, if we’re telling the truth, wants to write something that leaves a lasting mark on this world.

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Each of us, as a writer, has a story inside of us that needs to come out.

Each one of us has a story that we want to bring to life.

Each one of us has something to say.

Each one of us wants to say something that matters.

This is where the concept of a “theme” comes in. A theme, in short, is the lesson, moral, or a concept of a story. And as authors, especially Christian authors, the concept of a theme is absolutely essential to our stories. It’s the meat and depth of our novel. It’s the heart and soul of our prose.

In my experience and observations, a theme can come into the picture in really any stage of the planning process. For some people, it’s easiest to start with the theme and structure the storyline around it. For others, myself included, it’s easiest to come up with the plotline first and than zoom into the lesson that you want to teach. The order doesn’t matter so much as the lesson that you choose to teach through your story. No one else can choose it for you. It has to come from your own heart, passion, and experience. It has to be something universal and unique—something that will inspire your readers in their own real, day-to-day-life. 

Personally, when I’m in the process of discovering my story’s themes, I do some soul searching—as I try to figure out what message I can convey through the storyline and what God has put on my heart to incorporate into my story. Oftentimes, I can even draw from my own life, as I think of things that I wish that I had known when I was younger. A theme, in short, can be anything from the importance of close friendships, to the problem with censorship, to the transforming power of faith in God. 

According to an article on www.novel-writing-help.com/what-is-theme-,html, “Theme is the deeper layer of meaning running beneath the story’s surface. While the surface story entertains the readers, the theme helps them to reach a new understanding of some aspect of the human condition.

Thus, while the story’s surface intention is to entertain, the story’s theme adds an extra, hidden dimension to a novel. It gives it depth, and helps us recognize things about ourselves and our world—much like how Jesus’ parable’s teach us important lessons about God and the world that we live in.

As humans, we’re all different, but we all experience many of the same experiences, hopes, and desires. Stories with strong themes capture this, and help us to see that we’re not alone. We find that other people have shared our same struggles and challenges, and have come out on the other side. When we delve deep into a novel’s theme, we often find that we’re not as alone as we think. 

As Christians, we have a guiding source of truth, which is God and His Word. Through spending time with God in prayer and reading our Bible regularly, we can develop strong themes and guiding principles for our writing (and life!). Thus, if you’re writing a story, I’d highly encourage you to look to Scripture for inspiration about your story’s theme. Like with anything else, God’s Word is always our best place to start. 

Some books that have gotten it right

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Some movies that have gotten it right 

Do You Believe? 

Soul Surfer 

Freaky Friday 

Inside Out 

Dangerous Minds

How about you? What are your thoughts on creating a “theme” for your novel? Is there anything you’d like to add to this discussion? If so, please feel free to share it in the comments section below! Discussion is always encouraged here!😃

 

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A Prayer For Christmas

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This Christmas let us remember the reason for the season.

Let us, in the midst of the cooking, the wrapping, and the shopping, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Let us reach out to others, remembering to put them before ourselves and helping those who are less fortunate.

Let us pray for the homeless, the veterans, those away from family, and all those who have situations much more difficult than our own.

Let us remember those closest to us, and spend some time with friends and loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us never take anything for granted but be thankful for what we do have, as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, resolutions, and promises.

Let us take some time to enjoy the little moments, those small nameless moments that get pushed aside for the glamor of Christmas, because someday those small moments won’t be so small anymore.

Let us remember those we miss, be thankful for those that we do have, and move forward with the hope and knowledge that someday we’ll be see our deceased loved ones once again.

Let us put aside our busyness, our stress, our fear, and our worries, remembering that in the midst of all of the stress of life, we have a Savior who understands, and a peace in the midst of chaos.

Let us deck the halls, enjoy our Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with love, because this season only comes once a year.

And, despite the fleetingness and busyness of this season, let us keep its spirit in our hearts, so that in some ways, this holiday may last all year long.

* * * * *

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

 

World Mental Health Day

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health related problems.

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide (World Health Organization).

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Over the last couple years, the issue of mental health has become a prominent subject matter in the public square. Celebrities have raised awareness for those who suffer from mental illness and websites like Twitter have allowed more people to have a platform to spread information about the importance of mental health. People are starting to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health—and slowly, the stigma attached to mental health struggles is beginning to fade.

Thus, with it being such an important and widely spoken about issue, I have decided that to write a post about mental health for my blog to help raise awareness for this issue.

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may know that I’m no stranger to this issue. For years now, I have struggled with OCD and anxiety, which can at times can be crippling—making it difficult to handle situations that most people would be completely comfortable in. I struggle with both stressful, unwanted thoughts and quirks such as not wanting to touch a doorknob and checking my cups to make sure they’re clean.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks, I have made a conscious decision.

I have made a decision to be healthy.

By choosing to be healthy, I don’t mean that my OCD has gone away entirely or even that I believe it will go away entirely. In some way, shape or form, I’ve suffered with it since childhood. When I was in grade school, I used to arrange my crayons by color and run to my mom whenever I had a thought that I considered “mean” or “bad”.

Nonetheless, I have recently discovered that there are steps that I can take to cope with it and intentionally lessen it; and I believe that many of these things can help those who struggle from other forms of mental health as well.

Pray

To clarify, I don’t believe mental health problems are a sign of a weak faith or not trusting God, as some suggest. However, I do believe we serve a God who cares about the well being of His children. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” The Bible encourages us to pray during times of trouble, and I believe that if we ask, God will give us peace during our storms—and the strength to get through them

Eat right

Before I tried it myself, I used to think that people who touted healthy eating as the answer stress and anxiety were crazy. Nonetheless, after changing my diet and implementing more whole foods and vitamins, I’ve noticed that my anxiety and even my acne has decreased tremendously. It is obviously not the answer to every problem, but it can help you feel better and more at peace. Eating less processed foods and more foods with vitamins shown to treat anxiety has helped me leaps and bounds in my journey to mental and physical health.

Exercise

I’m going to be honest—I am a complete and utter bookworm. Given the choice, I would much rather read a good book than hop on a treadmill. However, despite the fact that working out isn’t always fun for me, I have begun to take more initiative to exercise. Exercising naturally increases serotonin levels in our brains, which is often something that people with high levels of anxiety tend to lack. Through exercising, we can increase our serotonin levels while staying fit in the process.

R&R

In a world as fast paced and intense as ours, it can be hard to force ourselves to relax and unwind. There’s always something we need to do or that we can worry about. However, God didn’t intend for our bodies to work like this. As finite creatures, we cannot keep going without facing some serious burnout.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or worried, take some time for yourself. This isn’t selfish—it’s healthy. Read a book. Soak in a bubble bath. Watch your old favorite movie. Do whatever it is (within reason) that helps you relax and calm down. Don’t be afraid to slow down and let yourself rest. If you do this, you’ll be refreshed and ready to face those tasks when you return to your daily to-do-list.

Self-talk

Oftentimes, our worst stress is caused from out-of-control worry and stress. When our minds get out of hand, sometimes it’s best to try to talk ourselves down. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes we can be nicer to others than we are to ourselves, but according to the Bible, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31). It’s important that we show the same kindness to ourselves that we show to others, and part of this is remembering that things often aren’t as severe as we imagine them to be.

Talk to someone about it

Sometimes, one of the best ways to stay mentally healthy is to talk to someone—whether it be a pastor, a counselor, or a friend. Maybe you have something you need to work through, or maybe you just need another person to tell you it’s all going to be OK. There’s no shame in seeing a counselor or asking for prayer and advice. We weren’t meant to do this life alone—God has placed other people in our lives and our paths for a reason. Never be too prideful to ask for help. Furthermore, if you feel it is serious, never be afraid to contact a professional.

Note -– If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk. Call 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

How about you? Have you ever struggled with mental health? And do you have any advice for those who do? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

A Life Update And A Lesson Learned

Hey everyone, sorry for the long-time-absence. I promise that nothing has been wrong, other than my sheer busyness and procrastination. Nonetheless, there has been a lot that has been going right lately, and I wanted to share it with you guys.

Recently, I have made a career change and I feel really good about it.

 I have realized that God is calling me to become a teacher. 

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Interestingly enough, this was my original plan all through high school—and truth be told, I’m honestly not sure the desire ever went away completely. I watched shows like Glee and imagined how cool it would be to leave an impact on the lives of others—the way Mr. Shcue does in his Glee club.

I also thought back to my own high school years (which honestly aren’t that long ago) and how much the classes I was in affected the person I am today for the better. I went into high school shy and insecure, but left confident and with a group of friends better than I could have ever imagined. I would love to the chance to play a small part in helping other students grow—and create the kind of classes that they’ll remember for years. Though you can make a positive difference in journalism as well, I realized that as an extravert, I really need a career where I’m around people—as I’m pretty sure I’ll go crazy otherwise.

Since I’ve made this change, I’ve been feeling much better about life and the direction that it’s taking. Furthermore, I realized a mistake that I made for most of my freshman year of college—I realized that you can’t live your life by another person’s script.

Because I was in the midst of such a drastic change, I fell into a pattern of looking to others for what I should do in life. I wanted some kind of direction or path from those who have gone before me.

In doing this, I failed to see the beauty in my own story, and my own unique journey.

I switched to journalism because one of my favorite authors became the successful fiction writer I wanted to be through that career. I was down on myself for not yet having a license to drive on my own—when I was sure I’d be further ahead by now. I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t have a boyfriend (or an interest in getting one, for that matter) when literally everyone I knew started dating—even though I was in the process of getting over a really long-term crush.

Now, with that year behind me, and a few lessons learned, I’ve realized that my story isn’t the same as everyone else’s and neither is yours. God has different plans for each one of us, and that’s OK. We should never copy someone else’s path because it worked for them—we have to find our own path, and stay connected to that still small voice in the process.

As much as I sometimes long for a step-by-step checklist, life doesn’t usually work like that—and sometimes we have to find our story one piece at a time—trusting that God is writing something beautiful with our lives.

If we do that, than we might just be on the right path after all.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Back To School Anthem

This year, let us strive to be world changers.

Let us be people who make a difference, one locker at a time.

Let us be the change we want to see, spreading love and hope to those around us,

Let us stand up for the bullied, reach out to the outcast, and show kindness in our actions and words.

Let us live as our best selves, and live this year with confidence and grace,

It’s a new year, a new day,

We cannot live in the future, and we cannot live in the past, but we can live in the present.

Let us choose joy.

Let us embrace every day with optimism, as if we’re looking through the eyes of a child.

Let us hold to our faith, and let it carry us through the changes and trials of the year.

Let us never forget that we’re not alone,

That thousands of people have walked through those same hallways, and that thousands have been where we are.

Most of all, let us love,

Let us love others, through our actions and words and friendships,

Let us love ourselves as we strive to be the best we can be,

And, last but certainly not least, let us love God, the One who will carry us through every joy and sorrow we encounter

Let us make 2017-18 the best school year of our lives. 

Feel free to use this anthem on your own blog – just be sure to post the link and name below. 

https://1timothy412girl.com/

Courtney Whitaker 

Undefeated

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve always loved stories. I love the feeling of getting inside a character’s head. I love watching them overcome battles and struggles. I love seeing their hopes and dreams unfold at the end—as they get the happy ending we were rooting for all along.

We all have our favorite stories. Some of us enjoy romance movies/novels, where we wait for the guy to get the girl. Others enjoy action, like the Marvel series, where we watch the good guy defeat the bad guy. We each have unique tastes when it comes to stories, but regardless of the various differences between them they all have one very important thing in common.

The protagonist always has an obstacle standing in their way. 

Like these stories, we each have our own obstacles that we face on a daily basis, and as Christians, we have a common villain set on our destruction. A common enemy who wants to see us fail. Most often, the battle is within.

As an OCD struggler, I am no stranger to the reality and difficulty of internal battle. Most people tend to associate OCD with being a neat-freak, but that’s only part of it. The thing that drives people to struggle with this condition is unwanted thoughts that cause nothing but harm. It’s an internal battle, which manifests into controlling the things we can—like obsessive cleaning or tidiness. Nonetheless, slowly but surely I’m learning to gain better control over my OCD and better fight this battle.

Even if we don’t all struggle with OCD, many of us deal with intrusive thoughts on a regular basis—thoughts of insecurity, fear, and worry. All which are lies of the enemy. However, as we have the ultimate weapons to fight against these plaguing thoughts—through God and the Bible. We can’t always control the thoughts that go through our head, but we can control how we react to them.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Meanwhile Romans 8:37 tells us that we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We might not be strong enough to face these battles and internal struggles on our own, but through the blood of Christ we are warriors destined for victory. Those anxious thoughts that come through our heads and our hearts are nothing but lies of the enemy, and through God’s strength we can resist those lies and stay strong and courageous. We can take those unwelcome thoughts captive and rebuke them with the truth of God’s Word—God loves us, God is leading us, God has a plan for us, and we are characters destined for a life brimming with purpose. 

We each face trials as we travel through this world—but through Jesus, who has already won the battle, we can live victoriously. 

Defeating any arrow that might be shot our way. 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

The Importance Of Rest

Let’s be honest—life can be busy.

Between school, work, responsibilities, and trying to keep it all together, it can be easy for rest to fall to the bottom of my priority list—if it ends up on the list at all. We live in an on-the-go society, between fast food and texting. Interstates and highways. A-hundred-and-fifty-character tweets.

Life is meant to be fast, we’re told—so we always have to move just a little bit faster to keep up.

While it’s good to be busy, and God wants us to work hard at whatever we do, we’re not meant to go 24/7 without rest. Even Jesus, who was God-in-flesh often disappeared by Himself to spend time alone and rest. Even God the Father rested on the last day of Creation, after his work of creating the world was finished.

Sometimes, we need to do the same.

Sometimes we need to be still, and hear what God is trying to tell us.

Sometimes we need to unplug from our busy lives, and take time to kick back and read.

Sometimes we need to spend time with old friends, and recharge enough to be at our best for the rest of the week.

Sometimes, we just need to turn on Netflix, and put on an episode of our favorite show.

These things may seem small, especially in a world that tells us things must always be faster and busier, but they’re essential to human flourishing. They’re the moments that God wants us to cherish—as they’re gifts that He’s given us.

There’s no time like the present to open them.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30