Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Sunday Night Report

Last Sunday night, I shared with you some self-improvement goals and one of those goals was to blog more often; specifically, to blog on Thursdays about whatever I want, and to blog on Sundays reflecting on whether or not I achieved the last week's goals. I've decided to include a little bit more in these Sunday evening posts, however, so the content doesn't get too boring. In addition to sharing about how well I've done with my goals, I will also share what I've been reading or writing or if I'm working on a special project. Maybe I'll even post more videos, if you are interested. I'm sure it will take a few weeks to figure out a format for these update-y posts. Or maybe they will all be different. Who knows! Stick around to find out.
Without further ado, let us get to the report:

It has been nearly two weeks since I gave up eating processed sugar and I'm still doing really well!
My mom and I went to Costco the other day and it was really hard not to eat their free samples. I had fun looking at food labels, though.
I had another hard-ish day today... Our church had a potluck and there were many delicious-looking, chocolate-y deserts. I told myself, "No," and then put them out of my mind. Instead, I took some sugar-free, gluten-free apple crisp that my mom made.
For snacks, I have been eating sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins in the prescribed serving size (1/4th of a cup a day for all three, though, so far, I have eaten less than a serving a day). Like many things, too many seeds and raisins can be bad for your health. If you eat them for a snack, don't eat more than the serving size per day.

At work, I clean four different industrial parks in a week. This past week, three of the four parks were being inspected so I had to make sure they were extra clean. One of these parks is nice to clean because I get to ride around in a golf cart. The other two, however, I have to walk around, carrying my bag of trash with me. On Monday and Tuesday I definitely got my exercise lugging full bags of trash around those two parks. The rest of the week I did well with exercise, too. I started doing my ab workouts again, though I took it easy since I was stricken with sciatic nerve pain on Thursday. When my sciatic nerve is bothering me, it can make even walking excruciating, but, thankfully, my mom found me some yoga poses that help ease the pain. (If you are interested, they can be found here.)

I've done well getting up earlier than usual, but I consistently went to bed at midnight this week. As I keep telling myself, this has to change. I just need the willpower to do it.

I've finished the Silmaril part of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I hope to finish the last two parts before the end of the month.
In the car on the way to work, I'm listening to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The combination of driving and listening to this radio-theater style recording isn't proving to be the most comprehensive way to absorb this book. I will have to read a physical copy of it some time in the future to glean more. I am loving Andy Serkis as Screwtape! It's fun to hear little bits of Gollum and Captain Haddock sneak into his Screwtape voice.

My project this weekend has been to pack up my American Girl Dolls. It's been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I remember how I got each doll. I remember the personalities and hobbies I gave each one. I remember the stories I made up for them. I remember how excited I was to buy a new outfit. It's hard to pack them away. So hard, in fact, that I haven't done it yet. I dressed them in their original outfits and put their hair in hairnets, but I haven't had the nerve to wrap them in muslin and put them in the box we bought for their safekeeping.

My goals for the coming week are to do better going to bed on time, finish the books I'm reading so that I can start some new ones, and get some kind of work done on one of my story ideas.

What's the best and worst thing that happened to you this past week?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why I've Stopped Eating Sugar

In January of 2015, my family did the Whole 30, which is an eating plan where you only eat "whole" foods—i.e. fruits, vegetables, and meat; no grain, sugar, dairy, soy, or legumes—for thirty days. When we added the forbidden foods back into our diets, sugar was the only one that made me feel sick. Over the past year-and-a-half, however, my body has re-adjusted to eating sugar.
On Monday, May 16, I watched a documentary called "That Sugar Film." In this documentary, an Australian man eats 40 teaspoons (the daily average sugar intake for an Australian) of hidden sugar a day for sixty days. He stays away from ice cream, candy, fast food, and soft drinks, but, instead, eats yogurts, juices, granola, and other "healthy" foods. In sixty days, he gains weight and he presents signs of heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.
After watching this documentary, I looked at my cereal box and was astonished to find out that my "healthy" granola contains three teaspoons of sugar in one serving (2/3rds of a cup)! Now, seeing that on a box may not seem like much, but when you measure it out in a measuring cup, that's a lot of sugar! Just thinking about that much sugar for one meal made me feel sick, so I decided to go with my gut (literally) and give up sugar again.
I didn't want to make a blind decision, though, so I started researching processed sugar's effect on the body and brain. As I read more and more, I became more and more disgusted and concerned, and confidant that I had made the right decision.

There are three different types of sugar to be aware of: one is glucose. Glucose is found in every cell in the body and is necessary for human survival. If we don't eat enough glucose, our body produces it. Glucose is what gives us energy. If we already have enough energy, glucose is turned into glycogen and saved for later. Carbohydrates are turned into glucose and, like nearly anything, if you eat too much, it may have negative benefits. It is, however, important to have some kind of carbohydrate in your diet, whether that be simple carbs like grains, or complex carbs like fruits and vegetables.
The second type of sugar is fructose. Fructose is found in fruits, but is also added to about 80% of food found in the store. During the low-fat movement of the 1970s, fat in food was deemed unhealthy and taken out of many foods. To compensate for this, food manufactures added sugar to their products so that it would still taste good. Therefore, many foods that are supposedly healthy—such as low-fat yogurt—are actually unhealthy because of how much fructose they contain.
While glucose is easily turned into energy, fructose is not, especially if eaten in large quantities. The liver, where sugar is processed before being sent into the bloodstream, doesn't know what to do with large quantities of fructose. If it can't be used for immediate energy, the liver will turn it into fat and send it into the bloodstream. At the same time that the liver is sending glucose and fructose into the bloodstream, the pancreas is sending insulin into the bloodstream. The more sugar that is in the blood, the more insulin is sent. Insulin helps turn glucose into energy but, like the liver, it doesn't know what to do with fructose so it tends to hover around it aimlessly.
The third type of sugar is sucrose and is made up of glucose and fructose.

There are several reasons sugar—specifically sucrose and fructose—are bad for our bodies. Fructose that has been turned into fat by the liver can stay in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. This fat could also travel into the bloodstream and cause blockages leading to heart problems. Eating too much sugar can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. And, of course, sugar rots your teeth and makes you fat. Additionally, sugar can inhibit the hormone that tells your body that it's full. It has also been shown that sugar affects learning, memory, and can even contribute to anxiety and stress.
While these are good reasons to give up sugar, they are not the primary reason I chose to give up sugar. I chose to give up sugar because of what it does to mood and the brain.

According to the articles I have read, sugar represses a hormone nicknamed BDNF, which is important for mental health. Depressed people often have low BDNF. Sugar also causes inflammation, which is associated with depression.
Often, when people are sad or depressed, their first reaction is to grab a chocolate bar or a bowl of ice cream because sugar makes them feel better. This is because sugar activates the pleasure center in the brain. The pleasure center releases dopamine, the reward chemical. This good feeling is accompanied by an energy spike (or, "sugar rush"). But, as the sugar runs out, so does the good feeling and the energy. It is replaced with irritability and tiredness. So, in order to release more dopamine to make us feel good, we eat more sugar. And more. And more. Eventually, this could lead to a sugar addiction as the brain becomes reliant on the dopamine and energy spikes caused by sugar. The same part of the brain that is activated by addictive drugs and alcohol is also activated by sugar.

I don't want to be addicted to sugar. I don't want to rely on it, especially if it contributes to depression, with which I already struggle..
So, I've stopped eating it. It's only been ten days, but I can already tell differences:
1. My teeth are cleaner. Instead of brushing them for four minutes with my Sonicare toothbrush, I only need to brush them for two.
2. I am fuller, longer. When I ate cereal for breakfast, it would keep me energized for two hours or so and then I would feel hungry again. Now, eating eggs (and bacon or avocado) for breakfast, I can work for three or four hours before getting hungry.
3. I don't have a foggy brain anymore. I used to wake up every morning feeling like my head was surrounded by a cumulus cloud. No longer! The cloud has blown away. Giving up processed sugar has given me a clear head.

But, Abbey, what about the sugar in fruit??
God created fruit to contain sugar, nutrients, and fiber. The fiber and nutrients slow down digestion so that the sugar doesn't enter the liver all at once, like it would if you ate a candy bar or drank a soda.
Now, this doesn't mean that fruit juice, dried fruit, or even smoothies are healthy. Fruit juice takes the fiber and presents you with only the sugary juice, dried fruit condenses the sugar into a tiny package, and smoothies can be made with sugar. I, however, still eat and drink these things. But, I do it in moderation. If I drink a glass of juice, I make sure it's in a four-ounce glass. I try not to eat too much dried fruit, but I do love raisins (someone has to)... When I make smoothies, I make sure to use the whole fruit so that I keep in the fiber and other nutrients. Still, smoothies are a little bit over-the-top. After all, you wouldn't sit down and eat ten strawberries, a handful of blueberries and raspberries, a mango, a peach, and a banana is one sitting, would you?

I vlogged my first nine days of being sugar-free. If you're interested, check out the video:

I'm not a nutritionist and eating sugar-free is not for everyone. Though sugar has come under interrogation in the past ten years, there are still many people who are unaware of its negative effects and of its prevalence in our food. I have tried to present my research as I've understood it, so I apologize if I've gotten anything wrong (and all my sources are from the Internet, so there's always that liability). I hope you've learned something from this post!

One last note... 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. 4g=1tsp. It's fun and interesting to pull items from the shelf or the refrigerator and calculate exactly how much sugar you eat in one meal. Try it, and let me know in the comments what you find!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Extreme Makeover: Abbey Edition

I've been taking stock of my life recently and have decided that there is room for improvement. I've decided to blog about the changes in my lifestyle so that I can keep myself accountable and maybe help some of you who may struggle with the same things that I do.
Here are the changes that I want to make in my life and why I want to make them:

1. Get up with my alarm at 7:35 instead of lazing in bed for 10-20 minutes on my phone.
I have two reasons for this change. The first is that I can get a lot more done in the morning if I get up right away, and the second is that I don't think it's healthy for my (already bad) eyes to look at a screen first thing in the morning.

2. At night, turn my light out no later than 11:00 PM.
I'm the kind of person who needs over eight hours of sleep to function properly the following day. Lately, I have been turning out my light around 11:30; hence, getting exactly eight hours of sleep. I feel exhausted all the time. Getting more sleep may help with this problem.

3. Stop eating processed sugar.
The more I learn about sugar, the more disgusted I am with it. Not only does it make you fat, but it also messes with your brain. My next blog post will talk specifically about why I have stopped eating sugar.

4. Blog twice a week.
There is no reason why I shouldn't post more on my blog. I'm not in school. I work a part-time job. My afternoons are mostly free. So, for the summer, I plan to blog twice a week. On Sunday nights I will do an "Extreme Makeover" update, reflecting on how well I did with my goals over the past seven days. On Thursday mornings, I will post something else regarding reading, writing, or life. Sometimes, I am sure, there will be odd posts peppered throughout the week.

5. Exercise five times a week.
I want to exercise to keep in shape and to start a healthy habit for when I go to school.

6. Wash my face every day.
Maybe if I got rid of the acne, people would stop thinking I'm fifteen.

7. Plan and write stories, read, write blog posts, practice music, exercise, or spend more time with my family and friends rather than watch Youtube videos or Netflix.
Instead of spending my free time doing things to enhance my life, I spend my free time watching too many videos online. I've struggled with this problem before and I'm sure I'll struggle with it again. I don't want my automatic thought to be, "Oh, I've got ten minutes, I wonder if my favorite Youtuber has uploaded a new video?" I want my automatic thought to be, "Oh, I've got ten minutes, why don't I work on a character or read a chapter of a book?"
Strangely, I don't enjoy spending hours watching videos. I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing. I enjoy music. Yet, it's so much easier to be a couch potato. It takes effort to do things, even things I enjoy.
So, I want to train myself to stop relying on mindless entertainment to fill my spare time. Instead, I want to focus my spare time on things that will enrich my life and sharpen my talents.

Looking back at my goals for 2016 (which I made in a blog post here), I see that a lot of the changes I want to make reflect my resolutions at the beginning of the year. I did really well with my resolutions in January; but, like so many, I let my standards relax as the months passed. Now, nearly the end of May, I want to make an effort to be self-controlled and productive again. It will be good training for college in the fall.

Did you make any goals for 2016, and have you followed through with them? Do you struggle with any of the things that I struggle with? Let me know in a comment! I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beautiful People: May 2016 // Catriona

~Beautiful People is a monthly linkup for writers hosted by Cait at Paper Fury and Sky at Further Up and Further In.~

While some family and friends read the third draft of my fantasy novel, I have been working on character profiles for a sci-fi story idea which has been ruminating in my mind for over a year. I will be answering this month's Beautiful People questions about my main character, Catriona, who owns a café.

1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?
Because Catriona owns a small café, she often takes on odd jobs that need doing; such as, manning the cash register, clearing tables, or bringing people their food and drinks. As a result, Catriona smiles a lot at many strangers because she wants her café to have a friendly atmosphere.
2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Many people—including Catriona's father—told her that travelling offworld, buying an abandoned space station, and turning it into a café would be madness. It would be better to stay at home and work a stable, well-paying job. Catriona was disgusted and disheartened that her family and friends would try to discourage her from her dream. She disregarded their advice and achieved her dream.
3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?
Catriona's father gave his approval for Catriona to follow her dream and open a café. After a few years of business, he tells her that he is proud of her effort and how well she has done for herself. Catriona is overjoyed with this complement and hugs her father.
4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
Catriona's mother died when she was four. She doesn't remember her mother well, but she does remember her father's grief and how it overshadowed their whole life for several years.
5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?
The Betty Crocker Cookbook. Catriona's café already serves food and drink from varied worlds, but earth is not one of them. I think I speak for all the human characters in the story that the café could use some human cuisine on the menu.
6. Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?
Once, a Gobulouse Fish wrapped its poisonous tentacles around Catriona's foot and stung her. She went to her father for comfort and he took her to the doctor immediately. Thankfully, the doctor was able to extract the poison before it spread through Catriona's bloodstream. He was able to save her foot, too, though now it is crisscrossed with thin, white scars.
7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?
Catriona's neighbors include the planet Rodo, which her café orbits, and also a mechanic's shop, which also orbits Rodo. She gets along with both places well. There is a steady stream of customers who travel from Rodo to Catriona's café every day after school or work for her signature snacks and drinks.
8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?
2. Catriona is very personable. She has friendships with many of her regular customers. Even if Catriona doesn't like someone or disagrees with someone, she will treat them fairly and kindly.
9. If they could travel anywhere [in the world], where would they go? (I've altered this question slightly since Catriona doesn't live on her home planet anymore.)
Catriona has already achieved her dream of travelling offworld to open a café. Now, she would like to visit Mars to meet her friend Gruce's family.
10. Who was the last person they held hands with?
Hmm, I don't know. I guess Catriona is a hold-hands-and-don't-tell kind of person.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Books that I will most definitely, for sure, hopefully, maybe... read over the summer

I imagine that I won't have a lot of time for recreational reading this fall since I will be attending college, so, I will have to do a lot of reading over the summer! Here is my summer reading list:

The books on my list are from my own shelves in a desperate last-ditch effort to read as many of my unread books as possible before I leave for college.
1 & 2. The Story of the Amulet and The Magic World by E. Nesbit.
E. Nesbit is my favorite children's author. I own eight of her books, but have only read two of them. I'm reading The Story of the Treasure Seekers (Bastables #1) right now and hope to read these other two books in the next few weeks.
Probability of Abbey finishing both books by the end of summer: 65%

3. Murder by the Book by Julianna Deerling.
This is a mystery novel that I picked up at the Christian bookstore when we had extra money on a gift card. Christian novels can be hit and miss, but this one looks good. I believe it's set in the 1920s (or thereabouts), which is my favorite time period to read about.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 80%

4. Fair Weather by Richard Peck.
Two of my favorites books EVER were written by Richard Peck (A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder). This is another of his books that I picked up at Half Price Books. It's fairly (haha, see what I did there?) short and seems like a perfect summer book.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 90%

5. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson.
This is the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. I read the first two books but couldn't get into the third one. If I don't finish this one by the end of the summer, I will probably read the synopsis online and give the book to my friend who has been eyeballing it. (I see you there, TMG.)
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 10%

6. Anon, Sir, Anon by Rachel Heffington.
I loved Rachel Heffington's first book Fly Away Home (read my review here). Her second book is a mystery with a character who consistently quotes Shakespeare. That sounds like a perfect combination to me!
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 90%

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Three of my friends have read this in the past two years and enjoyed it immensely. After hearing their glowing reviews, of course I want to read this book!
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 20%

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
I've been reading a lot of Russian history over the past few months. I figured that I would give Russian literature a try.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 80%

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
This book has been at the top of my to-read list since 2011. Oops. Maybe I'll finally get to it this summer.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 30%

10. Into the Vast by DJ Edwardson.
I finally got a copy of Into the Vast! Hurray! I can't wait to start it!
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 90%

11 & 12. King's Warrior and Yorien's Hand by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt.
I'm so excited to read the next installment in Jenelle's Minstrel Song series! But, before I read Yorien's Hand, I figured that I should re-read King's Warrior so that the characters and plot are fresh in my mind.
Probability of Abbey finishing both books by the end of summer: 50%

13. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
After I finish The Silmarillion, I want to continue in Middle Earth. I want to read The Hobbit over the summer so that I can bring The Lord of the Rings to school with me as my before-bed read.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of the summer: 95%

14. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brien.
I've been meaning to read Master and Commander since I saw the movie a few years ago. Since this is a nautical adventure, I feel like I need to read it by the sea. Because of this, I might take it camping with me since we camp near the water.
Probability of Abbey finishing book by the end of summer: 40%

Now, it is entirely possible that I won't read any of these books. I might go to the library and come out with a stack of books. I might decide that none of the books on my list fit my mood and end up reading The Doll People again. My goal is to read as many of the books on my list, though! I'll keep you updated.
What's on your summer reading list?

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Interview with Jack Lewis Baillot about Research

My friend Jack is releasing a novel on May 31st!

Brothers-In-Arms is a story about two best friends—Japhet, a Jew, and Franz—growing up in Hitler-controlled Germany.

I asked Jack about her connection with historical fiction and her research process. Here are her answers:

What first interested you in historical fiction?
The history bit of it. I love history. I didn't like to read a lot of historical fiction though, because most of what I found were romantic stories with the same kind of plot line. But when I did find one with a different plot I would snatch it up and devour it. Even though I had the idea for my book for a while I didn't think I'd ever write historical fiction, or come to love writing it as much as I did.

Have you ever written historical fiction before?
Just a couple Pioneer stories when I first started to write. I did one I was quite proud of about two families traveling to California. Someday I might edit it.

Why did you choose to write a story about World War II?
Mostly I wanted to show the war from the German side. I wanted to show not all Germans were Nazis, but also wanted to show how Hitler was able to brain wash so many of them. I felt like their side deserved to be told.

Were you intimidated by the amount of research that goes into writing historical fiction?
Not really. I love research. And I got to read some amazing books. Unbroken was one, and I will forever be grateful for research because it brought me that amazing story.

What was your research process for this book?
Oops, kind of answered that one above, didn't I? Well, I knew the facts about WWII from history books, but I wanted to know about the people. I wanted to know what they felt and thought and suffered. So instead of googling facts, I read biographies. I got to know what the mind set was like back then, I learned how scared, hungry, and confused so many people were. I learned first hand of their courage and how they refused to give up even with so much against them. Research, I believe, works better done this way.

(I agree with you! I think the best way to learn about history is to read autobiographies or biographies about the every day lives of the people living in whatever era you are studying.)

Do you think you will write another historical novel in the future, and do you think you will do your research the same way you did for Brothers-In-Arms?
Yes. In fact I have a couple already started. And yes, I do want to do research the same way but I don't think it will work for one book. (Since I can find little on the Tuskegee Airmen.)

Is there one time period in history that you would love to write about, but haven't yet?
The American Civil War. I guess I have a thing with wars, which sounds bad now that I think about it...

What is your favorite time in history to learn about?
The Middle Ages, especially Scotland in that period. Or Scotland in the days of Wallace, because that man...(I might have a book planned in which he makes an appearance.)

Thanks for visiting my blog and answering my questions, Jack!

Jack is one of those strange people who calls herself an Author. She spends a lot of her time writing and even less time editing. She likes to write about friendships which is partly how Brothers-in-Arms came to be. More than ten years in the making, this is the book she dreaded the most writing, but which also has the most meaning for her.
When Jack isn't writing, which doesn't happen too often, she keeps busy with various other hobbies – such as reading, playing the bagpipes to the dread of her neighbors, and drinking tea – which might not be considered a hobby by most but which should be.
She lives in a cabin in the woods with her dog and a library which isn't quite equal to Prince Adam's but will be given enough time and a secret doorway.
Find Jack here:

Preorder Brothers-In-Arms here.
Full Synopsis:
Can a Jew and a Nazi survive Hitler's Germany?
Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high. 
With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.
With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I don't want to pick up other people's trash for the rest of my life, even if I do get to drive a golf cart.

Those of you who followed my last blog may remember this post from in December. I shared how I thought God had called me to work in full-time ministry only to realize in my senior year of high school (fall 2014) that I had neither the gifting nor the passion for that work. My plan to attend college after graduating collapsed under the weight of this realization. Shocked from this collapse, I decided to take a gap year to work, to continue my music, to edit my fantasy story, and to seek God's will in my life. At this time, I couldn't think about college without feeling overwhelmed to the point of tears.
I ended my blog post in December asking, "What's next?" and answering, "I don't know, but I have faith in God."
Only in the past few weeks have I realized how long the shock that I was not to go to college to become a ministry worker reverberated in my life. Sometime in January, however, the last echo of that shock faded into the distance. I was able to contemplate the future again. I began to see patches of blue sky poke out between the gray clouds. It is not a coincidence that things started to be okay again at the same time that I started to set apart time in the morning to read my Bible and pray.

In February and March I began researching colleges.
I knew I wanted a college nearby relatives which either meant staying in the Pacific Northwest or going to the Midwest. I started with a simple Google search of Christian colleges in those two areas. Once I had a list of schools, I looked at their English and music programs. My dad helped me rate each college on a scale of 0-3 and then made me a spreadsheet. Looking at this spreadsheet, I dismissed seven of the ten colleges I had on my list.

In April, I applied for the remaining three colleges on my list: George Fox University in Oregon, Dordt College in Iowa, and the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. Four days after applying, I heard back from the University of Northwestern St. Paul. They accepted me!! The tears I cried were not because I was overwhelmed at the thought of going to college; no, these tears were happy because my number one school accepted me.

Looking at where I was five months ago compared to now astonishes me. I have grown so much and I attribute it all to God. He works all things for the good of his plan.
Five months ago I was sad and lost because of an unknown future. I wasn't confidant at work and scared of every trucker who came up to ask me for directions.
Now, I'm excited for a tangible future. I'm excited to go to school to earn an English major and music minor. I'm confidant at work and have "leveled up," so to say, in my speaking skills. I'm able to talk easily with truckers and that one Jimmy John's worker whom I always seem to run in to.

Yet, I am still afraid. Soon, I will leave my family and friends to live in a dormitory. I'll have to interact with strangers all the time—until they become friends. I'll have to go to classes in a real school—something I've never done before. I'll have to study hard—something I haven't done for a year. I'll have to do my own laundry—something I still haven't learned.
I don't do well (at all) with new situations because I'm terrified of doing something wrong and being rebuked for it, yet I know that after the first few months, when I've gotten used to my new life and fallen into a routine, everything will be fine. God is still watching over me, just as he was five months ago when I had no clear direction in my life and when it seemed like I would be driving a golf cart for the rest of my life picking up McDonalds wrappers.

I'm excited to learn, I'm excited to make new friends, and I'm even excited to live on my own. Change scares me, but also exhilarates me because I know in a year from now I'll look back and see how much I've grown in the space of twelve months.

I'll keep you updated on this new chapter in the book of my life!