Finding the Good in 2020

It’s Thanksgiving here in America and I recon we’re all needing it a bit more than usual this year. 2020 has been awful, and I don’t know anyone who’s come through completely unscathed, but if it’s taught me anything it’s not to take things for granted. It’s reminded me to find something every day to be grateful for, even if it’s just a cup of tea.

So, through all the chaos of a worldwide pandemic, tense election year, and personal catastrophe, here’s my short-list of thankfulness.

10 Things I’m Thankful For in 2020

In no particular order:

  1. The obvious one this year is health. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always deal graciously with my health issues. I’m more likely to grumble about keeping track of medicine and refills than I am to stop and thank God for the very same medicine and doctors that make my daily life livable. But this year, I’m just a little more grateful.
  2. The ability to stay in touch with family and friends. Having friends spread out all over the world, this has always been something I’m thankful for. But through the isolation of COVID, I’ve reconnected with many of my closest friends online.
  3. The number of virtual conferences and gatherings that have popped up. While I’m sure this was a blow to those organizing, the virtual nature of 2020 has enabled me to attend a lot that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. Instead of missing out on some of my favorite things, I got to do extra!
  4. All the extra writing time. Without the work I got done during that initial shutdown, I likely wouldn’t be publishing now. Of course, launch means I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write anything new for quite a while, but I figure it’s worth it 😉
  5. My house and that I have a dad who can fix it. To be honest, buying a house was never on my bucket list. Definitely wasn’t something I planned on doing as a 20-something single girl. But my parents talked me into it when prices dropped so low. And while the process was extremely stressful for me, and repairs continue to be, I’ve been so glad I listened!
  6. That I’ve got a good job with great co-workers. Near the beginning of the year, I was informed that my position was being dissolved due to budget cuts. That was a massive blow! Not only was it my livelihood, it was my dream job. I had good friends there. And it was being taken away. Harder to swallow, it was being taken away through no fault of my own. If I had done something wrong, at least I would know that I deserved it. Then the pandemic came in full swing and I had the added stress of finding a job during work shortages. BUT GOD PROVIDES! Within a couple months, I found a great new job working alongside the wife of one of my former coworkers! It’s been a bumpy ride as COVID continues to restrict the work environment, but we’re coming through just fine.
  7. The Great British Baking Show! Yes, I realize it’s been around for ages. But I’ve just discovered this perfection and it’s become my go-to de-stressor. When I come home too exhausted and drained to get any of my own work done, I’ll curl up on the couch with an episode playing in one tab and Pinterest open in another as I search for corresponding recipes. And maybe one day, I’ll actually try them 😉
  8. Candles! I’m an avid collector of candles, but due to dorm life and other life circumstances, I haven’t been able to use them in nearly a decade. And now I can! They were one of the first things I unpacked after the necessities and I’ve had great fun arranging them in a display with my books. And, of course, burning them every chance I get.
  9. Chai and pretty bookish mugs. Y’all knew this was coming eventually! Honestly, what would life be without a good cup of Chai or Irish Breakfast in a geeky mug while you write on a rainy Saturday?
  10. My church. I don’t say it often enough, but I’m so thankful for my church body and great pastor. I’m proud of the ways we have adapted and the ingenuity put into new modes of outreach. One of my favorites is coloring missions! Since we can’t visit nursing homes like usual this holiday season, we’re sending cards with coloring pages and kind notes. Seriously, how brilliant is that?!

Ok, so that’s my thankfulness list. What are a few things on yours?

Surviving the Quarantine

Hi everyone! Wow, can things change fast! In the space of a week people have fallen ill, businesses have closed, schools are out indefinitely, the stores are empty, and everyone is going stir-crazy. And since it’s been a while since my last post, I figured today was an opportune moment to make one. So, here are some tips on surviving the quarantine from this previously home schooled introvert 😉

Set a schedule.

While sleeping and watching Netflix all day may sound awesome at first, I promise you will be miserable if you keep it up too long. It’s ok to give yourself a dead day here and there, but even this bookworm needs more than reading for three weeks straight 😉 Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eat at regular intervals, and give yourself a list of goals for each day. If you don’t accomplish them all, that’s fine. Just give it your best shot.

Stay active.

If you can still get outside, DO IT! Seriously, fresh air and sunshine do wonders. If you can’t leave the house, be creative. Have a dance party. Go old school with an aerobics video. (My mom did these when I was a kid and I seriously thought it was a great game 😛 ) Awaken your inner child and play tag. Or stay low-key and walk laps around the house. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you are getting out of that chair several times a day.

Calm your mind.

With all the stress and panic flying around, you need time to decompress. Having a few productive goals for each day is great, but be sure to give yourself some downtime too. Put on soothing music. Color a picture. Read a book. Take a bath. Set aside some time to take a deep breath and just be.

Try a new hobby.

Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn, but never had the time for? Well, now’s the perfect time to start! Thanks to the magic of YouTube tutorials, I’ve taught myself many things over the years. Grab a pen and sketch the first thing that comes to mind. Try your hand at baking. The stores may be empty, but that baking isle hasn’t been touched. (I know, I’ve checked 😉 ) Or maybe martial arts is more your style. You can always beat up on a pillow, right? Whatever that hidden dream is, don’t put it off any longer.

Check in on friends & family.

This is the age of technology! Why let it go to waste? Your extroverts are slowly dying inside and your introverts would like to say hi now and then. And this is a particularly bad time for those suffering from depression or other mental illness. Let them know they’re not forgotten! Video chat with your friends. Offer to do a food run for your grandparents or an elderly neighbor. Play a board game with your family. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t still have community.

Ultimately, remember God is in control.

The one most important thing you can do right now is pray. Pray for the ill and at risk. Pray for those loosing their jobs, those without food or shelter. Pray for those in charge, that they will be given wisdom to make the right decisions. Pray for those working in the medical field, that they will stay safe and a cure will be found quickly. When you don’t know what to say, just pray. God already knows it all.

I know it feels like the world has gone mad and your life will never be the same, but hang in there. This has happened before and it will happen again, but I promise you it’s going to get better. If anyone needs prayer or encouragement, I’m only a comment away.

Looking Back but Moving Forward

Happy 2020, everyone! I’m not too late for a New Year’s post, am I? 😉

As we enter not only a new year but also a new decade, I’m looking back on my accomplishments… and I have to say, there’s a part of me that’s disappointed. There are so many things I had intended to do by now that never happened. I didn’t think I’d still be living at home, for one. But when I think about it, I’ve done several things I never thought I’d get the chance do to, either. So, instead of focusing on the negative, today I’m going to list my top three accomplishments from the past decade.

  1. I graduated both high school and college with honors. And made some amazing friends while I was there 🙂 Hello, Suspects, I miss y’all!
  2. I joined a church that’s truly on fire for God and have attended the Italy mission trip twice!
  3. I not only wrote a book, but have gone to conference and pitched it. This is something I honestly thought I’d never do. I doubted my ability as a writer through most of my teen years and it has taken a lot of encouragement from dear friends for me to reach the place I’m at today. So Sven, Ivy, Amanda, and all my Realmies, if you are reading this, I just want to say a big thank you!
  4. And Bonus: I got my first story published!

Now, that’s a list I can be proud of! And one I’ve kept in mind as I determine my goals moving forward. There are all the usual New Year’s Resolutions, of course: be more active, eat healthier, finish that cross stitch I’ve had since I was ten… But my top three goals for the year are these:

  1. Move out. And I do have a few nebulous possibilities for this!
  2. Indie publish (aka. self-publish) To Slay a Curse. I know it will be a lot of work, but I just feel that’s the right path for me. And I can’t wait to start this adventure and share my work with the world!
  3. Build relationships. This includes staying in touch with old friends, strengthening friendships I’ve made since moving to Cape Girardeau, and stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new friends. It’s daunting, but will be worth it in the end!

So, tell me, what is your biggest accomplishment of the 2010’s (or just 2019)? What is your biggest goal moving into 2020?

Real Rae

This post is going to be a bit different. It’s going to get real and gritty, but hold on. There’s light at the end!

Here you first see me on my way to visit family. I had a wonderful time and felt great. I love showing off this side of myself.

But then you see the side of me I like to hide. The side that battles chronic exhaustion due to various health issues. The side that straight up throws a tantrum (only on occasion) when her alarm goes off. The side who’s one goal is to survive work so she can go sleep the rest of the day. The side who pays for a day or two of fun with up to a week of Complete and Utter Exhaustion Mode, then comes out of it stressing over all the catching up she has to do.

But I think, that’s part of why I have enjoyed working on To Slay a Curse so much. Giselle’s quest to kill Devoron, this curse monster who lives within her mind, whom no one can see but has utter control of her life, has been so cathartic. And the best part is, she doesn’t do it alone. She has friends who stand by her, who show her she’s worth it, who remind her she is strong when she feels so weak.

So, for all my friends out there battling illness (be it physical, mental, or emotional), this is for you. On those days when you are certain you can’t do it. When you feel like your life is meaningless and all you want to do is go home and cry, remember this: you are strong, and you are worth it, and you are loved, and you are never alone. 
God’s got this. So take a breath, take a nap, eat some chocolate, and try again. Your Devoron can be beaten. He is beaten every time you refuse to give up. He is beaten every time you smile through the pain. He is beaten every time you laugh with a friend. So don’t give up: don’t let him win. And I’ll be right there with you, fighting on.