31 December, 2015

To the Poppy

I thought you were dying. Your leaves had drooped, and the promising bud had turned yellow. I wanted to take a photo to remember you by, but the day got late.
And sometime during the night the miracle must’ve happened.
I see the fuzzy shells that dropped off to reveal your beauty. I study your delicate peach coloured petals, and yellow tipped stamens, and marvel at the life you add to my view. You’re perfect.
I know you won’t last. But I have hope now: 

There’s another bud.


And, seeing as this is the very last day of  2015, I wanted to thank you travelers for all the love and attention you give this little blog. It makes me feel overwhelmingly blessed, and I just want to give you all a hug. Seeing as technology hasn't made that possible, I'll just wish you the very best for 2016, and I hope it's a wonderful year of growth and adventure for each of you. Keep close to the Author of all life, the Giver of all hope, the Lover of all mankind - He's got amazing plans for each of us in 2016. I know it's going to be a good year. And even if things don't work out like we thought, or crumble before they've begun, there will always be more buds. 

Jessica xx
And tell me, have you got plans for 2016? What are you looking forward to most? What are you sad about leaving behind? What does a new year mean to you?

23 December, 2015

The Smile

Dear Lady-with-the-smile,

You may not believe this, but I haven’t forgotten you, the way joy seemed to bubble out of you, or how you looked me in the eye and gave me a wide smile. Thank you; it’s a gift I treasure. It’s always nice to have someone smile at you, but on that day, your smile meant even more.
You see, I’d recently been convinced of the power of a simple smile, and how it’s an easy, yet powerful, way to share hope and care. So that day, I was in the city shopping, but with the intention of smiling at people. 
I smiled at a teenage girl I passed on the street. She met my glance for a moment, with confusion and perplexity across her face, before looking away. She didn’t know how to respond, and I couldn’t help but think, You mean, she’s never been smiled at by a stranger before? 

Next I found myself at the mall, where there were lots of people to target. But, I came to realize that people rarely make eye contact any more. The hardest part was catching someone’s eye so they knew my smile was especially for them. Most people wouldn’t look up. Some did, but as soon as I smiled or looked at them, they averted their eyes. Those who did ‘receive’ a smile continued on cold-faced like they didn’t want to accept it, looked at me like I was sketchy, or simply looked away. No one in the entire mall returned my smile.

I walked outside, slightly discouraged, and going home. I guess I just did what everyone else did: put my head down and walked on. But then I had cause to look up, and I saw you. I didn’t even think to share a smile with you; I was busy thinking of other things. But you were smiling, a big laughing smile. You looked happy and joyful. And you looked at me and smiled. I returned your smile, we walked past each other, and that was that. But you did for me what I was trying to do for everyone else. You boosted my spirits, you made me feel special. You made my day, and planted a memory I’m determined not to forget. You proved to me that there is still good in the world, that beyond everyone’s mask is a real live human being. You showed me the power of a smile. 

I’ll probably never see you again, but I just want to say: keep smiling. It might seem like no one notices, but I did. It might seem like a smile could never make a difference, but it did for me. And I want to say thank you, because now I’m convinced; smiles can change the world. 

Jessica :)

18 December, 2015

Have A Little Faith - Book Review

Have you heard of Mitch Albom, or his popular book Tuesdays With Morrie? I read Tuesdays With Morrie earlier in the year, and really enjoyed it (I mentioned it here). So when I found out that Albom had written another true story, and that the library had it, well, I borrowed it of course. :) I had a slight hesitation about Have A Little Faith because it’s obviously a spiritual book, but I wasn’t sure if the author was a Christian, so who knew what kind of religious stuff he would be putting forward. But, I started reading, and basically devoured the whole book in a day or two.

Have a Little Faith begins when his childhood rabbi asks Mitch to take his eulogy. Mitch finds the request strange and decides he has to get to know the man before he can hope to do his eulogy when he dies. So their friendship begins. Doing business for his charities, Mitch also comes across the leader of a church in need. This pastor has a colourful past, and a passion to help others physically and spiritually. Mitch finds himself in the middle of these two stories, learning, considering, finding out more about himself, life, God, purpose, and passion. 

Have A Little Faith was a page-turning story, and had a message that made me think. It was easy to read and follow, and written in an engaging style, but it was also so much more. It’s deep, it shares knowledge, and truth, and insight. It’s satisfying, and challenging. I wish there were more books like it. It’s deeply spiritual, but it’s not preachy, it’s not in-your-face, it’s not trying to prove anything. I don’t agree with everything in there, but nothing is present as the one-and-only truth. It’s just tells the story, and you feel like a kid at grandfather’s knee, taking it all in. For example, this discussion between the author and the rabbi: 

'You know, we have a tradition. When you go to a funeral, you’re supposed to stand by the coffin and ask the deceased to forgive anything you’ve ever done.'
He made a face.
'Personally, I don’t want to wait that long.'” (page 210)

Or this one:
“How do you not get cynical?
He [the rabbi] stopped.
'There is no room for cynicism in this line of work.'
But people are so flawed. They ignore ritual, they ignore faith – they even ignore you. Don’t you get tired of trying?
He studied me sympathetically. Maybe he realized what I was really asking: Why me?
'Let me answer with a story,’ he said. ‘There’s this salesman, see? And he knocks on a door. The man who answers says, "I don’t need anything today."
'The next day, the salesman returns.'
'Stay away, he is told.
'The next day, the salesman is back.
'The man yells, You again! I warned you! He gets so angry, he spits in the salesman’s face.
'The salesman smiles, wipes the spit with a handkerchief, then looks to the sky and says, Must be raining.
'Mitch, that’s what faith is. If they spit in your face, you say it must be raining. But you still come back tomorrow.'” (page 47)

Or this excerpt from a sermon by Pastor Convington:
“'The same thing with Paul… They saw him… they couldn’t believe that this man’s from Jesus, because they looked at his past-'
‘That’s right!’
‘They just looked at his past. And when we’re still looking at ourselves through our past, we’re not seeing what God has done. What He can do! We’re not seeing the little things that happen in our lives-‘
‘Tell it now.’” (page 192)

I can't portray it accurately, or tell you exactly why it’s so amazing, but basically: Have A Little Faith is excellent; read it first chance you get! And then tell me what you think. :) In the meantime, have you read any of Mitch Albom’s books? What books have you been enjoying lately? (And can you believe 2015 is almost over?!)

11 December, 2015

Our Happy God

Does God sing?  

I’d never thought about it before, until I was reading a passage in Isaiah 12. Verse five says, “Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.” I was thinking about that; God wants us to sing. It’s pretty clear in the Bible that we are to praise God, be joyful, happy, and sing. 

When you think of what God is like, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s how big and powerful He is. Maybe it’s how righteous and intolerant of sin He is. Maybe it’s how loving and forgiving He is. For me, when I think of God, I think of how Jesus when He was on earth was meek, gentle, and compassionate. I think of Him as fairly passive, and almost sad. Of course God, because of His love for us, is sad when we do wrong, or are wronged, and sad because of sin and all its consequences. But, God is not going to ask us to do something He wouldn’t do. So we can gather that if we’re meant to be happy, joyful Christians, singing and praising, then God is a happy God. He smiles, He laughs, He rejoices, and He must sing.

I like that picture. I like to think that God is happy, upbeat and positive. I like to think that He gets really excited when we repent (Luke 15:7), or have victory over sin. I like to think He has a sense of humour, and laughs over funny things like we do. I like to think that heaven is filled with the music of God singing. Could you imagine it? Heaven is a happy place, and how could it be a happy place if God is not a happy God? 

So that's what I've been thinking about recently. What do you think? How do you imagine God and heaven?  

P.s Look at this verse my Mum just pointed out: 

"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." Zechariah 3:17

03 December, 2015

Spring Blooms

So, spring is over. These three months have gone by faster than I like to think. They’ve been busy and full, and yet there’s still been quiet moments, and slow days, and a sense of contentment. I’ve finished a creative writing course, done a piano exam, played violin in several concerts, got more experience in writing, felt the urge to go deeper and to do, been away and seen familiar places and new places, received many blessings, got to spend time with friends, realized how important sleep is for literally everything, read far fewer books that I would’ve liked to, welcomed my younger sister into her fifteenth year of life, and everything in between. Although there are many other things I could have done, and should have done, I feel like’s it’s been a real spring for me; a time of personal thought. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, or processing, as I’ve come to call it.  

I’ve found so many amazing Bible verses recently. Some really spoke to me, and I think this one was my favourite:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 

November was National Novel Writing Month, and while I’ve never seriously considered participating in NaNoWriMo, I had an idea after I read a comment about someone who was planning to write five hundred words a day during November. This sounded far more achievable that writing 50,000 words in November, so I decided to do it too. In my head, I called it November500. So I wrote at least five hundred words a day (not including personal correspondence), any words; I wasn’t working on any particular project or book. There were days when I didn’t want to, when I felt like I had no words, and there was the fatal 25th, when I clean forgot, and I didn’t write a single word that day. But it was a good experience, and I’m glad I did it. I’d like to do it again sometime. 

And on the topic of writing, there’s this writing contest I came across, and I’ve decided to enter it. I’ve written up a little story, and I just have to edit it a bit. I’m kind of nervous because I know my writing is very unpracticed, but it’s also exciting because I’ve never entered a writing contest before. The contest doesn’t close until December 12th though, so you can still enter too! Read the details here. 

And, I did a guest post for The Three Musketeers here. It’s five facts about you. :) (You can read my interview with them here too.)

In my thinking recently, I came upon why. I’ve come to think that “why?” is the most powerful question. Think of the places it can lead your thought, imagination, knowledge, and understanding. I think we’ve become a world of dumb humans who just ride the tide, and we need to stop and ask why? Why are we just following everyone else? Why do we believe what we do? Why do we do what we do, and don’t do what we don’t do? Why? When you know why, you’ve got something to stand behind and fight for. 

God has given me so much this spring: opportunities, the encouragement of friends (including blog readers!), help in exams and performances. I’m not wishing spring away, but I’m looking forward to all He’s got in store for summer. 

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

But! I want to hear about your spring (or autumn if you’re on the other side of the world). What did you learn? What’s been your recent favourite Bible verse, or song, or book? Have you been writing anything lately? What do you think of the idea of November500? Are you looking forward to summer?