Lost Myself; Found Myself

Hello All!

Here I am, sitting at my elegant secretary desk, listening as the record spins on the player, sipping on some coffee in a dreadfully unromantic Styrofoam Coca-cola cup. What I really want to do is dump my mind onto this screen I’m staring at, but, for your sake, I’ll attempt to sort it into some kind of coherent thought beforehand!

Throughout my life, I have never been much of a worrier; especially long term. I try not to let things bother me, because I know, most often, they are beyond my control. That’s the person I strive to be: Joyful in all things, and fearful in few. But as Spring came to a close and Summer began (and maybe even before that), I found that slipping away. I was struggling to maintain that peace that I have held onto through Jesus, while fear and dread were gripping my heart more and more tightly as time went on. Where in the world was the Alyssa sense of adventure? It was like I didn’t understand myself anymore, because it didn’t feel like me. I felt like I had lost some part of myself, and what’s worse, I couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Where had this even come from? Normally, I can just push these feelings aside and barrel through, you know?

I had worked hard to get to the point I was at; what I wanted, was to be excited and confident about transferring to Salem College after earning my Associates. What I found, was that I was dreading it. Completely. I didn’t want to hate the thought. I didn’t want to feel unsettled in my stomach at the idea. I especially didn’t want to drop my head into my hands and shed tears about it late at night. But I was, and it was driving me crazy. Who even is this?

(Hang in here with me. I’ve got a point.)

I had just finished two years of college. It was a great experience. Well, most of the experiences were great… and the ones that weren’t; well, they were character building, right? I mean, really, I even cried on the way home from graduation. But the last two semesters, though successful academically, had been very stressful for various reasons and on multiple levels. To be transparent, I was just worn down. Absolutely exhausted. The excitement of completing my Associates was balanced out by (if not outweighed by) each reminder that I was really only halfway done.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of the work (although it’s never a pleasant thought, let’s be honest). It wasn’t that I was leaving home (it’s close enough to commute). But I just couldn’t shake the unfamiliar feeling of being terrified and stressed out to the maximum. I knew I was going to a place where my own ideas and standards were practically foreign. Where the ideas being upheld were so far removed from my own, that I would likely spend a solid portion of my time explaining myself, which, believe it or not, can be exhausting. Even for someone who is unashamed of their faith and personal values. I told myself, “Alyssa, you’re just going for your education. If you hate it, you get to come home everyday, and two years will go by quickly.” I guess it didn’t hit me how utterly pitiful this perception was. How “not me” it was. I, who believes in getting the most you can out of every circumstance. Who gives myself pep talks, and believes it when others say, “You can do it!”

(Again, stay with me!)

In the last couple weeks, however, I’ve felt things start to shift in my thinking. I attended a conference at the end of July (North American Youth Congress 2017), where God gave me a renewed sense of purpose. Ah! The refreshing contentment that comes with definite purpose! He opened my eyes to how twisted my perspective had been all summer… “Alyssa,” He said, “You’re not going there just to get your education and get out… You’re going to make an IMPACT. Education is just your bonus.” What a reminder! I had a “duh” moment. How could I have missed that? It’s not about getting something, it’s about giving the best of myself and sharing what I have experienced with others. As ironic as it may seem, that’s what I find brings true fulfillment. Since that moment, my excitement has grown. I know I am capable, because I am reminded who I am in Christ–I don’t have to rely on my own strength. He was the one that planted that joy and fearlessness in my heart to begin with, and He never removed it. I had just lost sight of it.

For anyone who is currently confused, this post is about having lost myself, because at some point, I lost the right perspective. This is my adaption of the “lost myself” story. Maybe it’s nothing like yours, but the point of this post is to encourage… You may not recognize yourself right now. Maybe you’re normally on top of things, and you’ve starting lagging behind. Maybe you’re a people lover, but lately, you just don’t want to deal with other people’s problems on top of your own. It might be something simple, like that you’re normally really good about reading books, but you just can’t seem to get around to it right now (been there, done that this summer). Or maybe you relate to my story: You’re normally the go-getter, but you’re just exhausted, and you know what, you just want to let things go. Whatever your story, take a minute right now: breath, reevaluate, pray; whatever you have to do. Question your perspective, and search out the right one. Know that this is just a chapter, not the end of the book.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1, I Peter 2:9, Jeremiah 29:11~

With love,

Alyssa

 

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Gratitude and A New Year

Hello All!

The New Year season is a time of reflection and resolution, is it not? We think back on all the things we accomplished or experienced… or didn’t accomplish or experience; then, with fresh determination, we plan for what will be accomplished or experienced in the future.

I have been among the ponderers and planners of New Years. In 2016, my sister got married, my brother got engaged, twelve college classes were completed, I spent a week in Quebec, and I started a novel, among other things. Of the many events taking place in 2017, my brother will get married, I will graduate with an associates degree, and I will transfer to Salem College (hopefully). Aside from these are the things that I had hoped for or hope for in the future. Naturally, I had resolutions for 2016: I wanted to exercise more, I wanted to improve my piano playing, I wanted to become more fluent in French, and so on. This coming year, I wouldn’t complain were I to get fit, or finish the manuscript for my novel, or discover the love of my life, or…, or…, or… We all know the story.

My point is, we all come up with these grand schemes, and by all means, we can work toward them, but things don’t always work according to our carefully laid plan. In fact, they almost never do. Sometimes, I map things out in my head, then scold myself for doing so because now that I’ve got it all planned out, it is certain not to happen that way. C’est la vie–That’s life.

I am about to baffle you… Are you ready? Here goes:

I am thankful for all the things God has blessed me with–for every time He’s worked things out just like I thought they needed to be–but more than that, I’m so very thankful for the times that God withheld from me my own desires. For when things didn’t go just how I wanted them to, or in my own timing. For every relationship that didn’t start, despite how I felt in the moment. For every argument I didn’t win, every time I didn’t get my way, and every cancelled plan. Am I out of my mind? Maybe a little. But I believe that God’s plan for my life goes far beyond the human-sized life map I’ve drawn up. His ways are higher than my ways, and His timing is always perfect, even when it is ridiculously difficult for me to understand. So whether its 2016, 2017, or twenty years from now… Whether I’m where I had wanted to be in life or in a place I had never imagined for myself, I will be grateful in all things. I desperately hope you will join me.

One last thought for your New Years:

“Destinations are where we begin again.” –Josh Groban, “Believe.”

I thought this was suitable for the end of one year and the beginning of another. What does it mean from your perspective?

Happy 2017.

Love, Alyssa.

The Gettysburg Address and Its Influence

Happy Monday!

Yes, it is still Monday, although barely. Enjoy this history-loving side of me!

 

The Gettysburg Address is arguably Abraham Lincoln’s most widely-known speech. More than that, it is among the most influential speeches in history. This renown did not come of its own accord, but of the convictions of its author. Abraham Lincoln believed resolutely in the power of words to shape a nation; to direct it towards its destiny.[1] With this belief in place, he wrote with passion and integrity that was incomparable to other orators of his time. It has been said that Lincoln was “both of his time and unique within it.”[2] The Gettysburg Address, given on November 19, 1863, is not only proof of this statement, but also an affirmation of Lincoln’s theory concerning the capacity of the right words.

abraham-lincoln-portrait-350

Lincoln’s style of writing is unique, to be sure, which grabs the attention of any reader, making his communication more effective. While some label Lincoln a literary genius, others pessimistically claim that he was no master of the English language; he struggled to put his ideas into explicit words. For this reason, he practiced other tactics that came easier to him: “Lincoln’s art then, is an art of indirection, of finding a way of representing a deeply personal vision indirectly through parable-like stories and jokes, and, we might add, images and symbols.”[3] Here, Hurt addresses Lincoln’s use of imagery and symbolism to carry his message. For example, Lincoln uses the phrase “new birth of freedom” in the Gettysburg Address, not to imply a literalbirth, of course, but rather as a metaphor and an image for what was being represented by the death of thousands.[4] Another critic mentions his “cunning use of repetition” that gives the Gettysburg Address “thematic and linguistic power.”[5] This style permeates the writing of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln made an oratory conquest in writing a speech that united two sides of a war in agreement, if only for two minutes. He addressed a people who, though divided in opinion, were, in that moment, united in purpose. Lincoln did in those two minutes what his companion, Edward Everett, did in two and a half hours—he created a “profound expression of the self-perception of the nation.”[6] One that would not, nor should, be forgotten. He implies that the devotion of the dead led to their consecration of the grounds of Gettysburg, which should, in turn, lead to the devotion and dedication of the living. He does this first by saying that the dead “have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract,” followed soon after by, “we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,” and that “it is for us living, rather, to be dedicated…” Through this sequence—the devotion then consecration of the dead leading to the devotion and dedication of the living—the “dead shall not have died in vain.”[7] It was this sincere content of the Gettysburg Address that touched the grieving hearts of the American people and staked its claim in history.

The writing and presentation of the Gettysburg Address was Abraham Lincoln’s response to one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The hearts of the American people—whether from the North or the South—were broken by the cry of ghosts on a blood-soaked, tear-stained battlefield. According to Charles A. Kent, in his article “Lincoln and Gettysburg after Fifty Years,” Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg could easily be compared to the funeral orations of ancient times, when a great number of people would gather for the sake of fallen heroes to hear the funeral speech in their honor by a fellow citizen. Abe.jpgIn this context, Lincoln was compared to Pericles and Athene.[8] This is fitting, since Lincoln so obviously cherished the past as it leads to the future. In another article, Jacqueline Laba says that “both Pericles and Lincoln do more than honor war dead; they seize the historical moment in order to inspire their listeners to the task of shaping the future.”[9] One would never say that Gettysburg was not a historical moment, nor that Lincoln’s response to it did not inspire its audience to shape the future of America.

The influence of the Gettysburg Address far outlasted the day of its presentation, the war it represented, and the life of its author. Furthermore, every citizen should hope that its influence continues to outlive each generation. The words in that two-minute speech were too powerful to speak to only one gathering, one generation, or even one war. Just as those standing there that November day were among “the living,” WE THE PEOPLE are among the “the living” today. Just as they were charged to take on the devotion of those who came before them that “the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” so are WE THE PEOPLE charged today.[10] The Gettysburg Address was mistaken in this alone: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”[11] The world remembers.

______________________________________

[1] Ferguson, Robert A. “Hearing Lincoln and the Making of Eloquence.” American Literary History 21, no. 4 (2009): 687-724.

[2] Ibid., 689

[3] Hurt, James. “All the Living and the Dead: Lincoln’s Imagery.” American Literature 52, no. 3 (1980): 351-80.

[4] “Gettysburg Address,” Avalon.law.yale.edu

[5] Laba, Jacqueline. 1995. “Words that change our world — Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America by Garry Wills.” English Journal 84, no. 2: 124-125

[6] Hurt, James. “All the Living and the Dead: Lincoln’s Imagery.” American Literature 52, no. 3 (1980): 351-80.

[7] “Gettysburg Address,” Avalon.law.yale.edu

[8] Kent, C. (1916). Lincoln and Gettysburg after Fifty Years: November 19, 1863-1913. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), 9(3), 257-278.

[9] Laba, Jacqueline. 1995. “Words that change our world — Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America by Garry Wills.” English Journal 84, no. 2: 124-125

[10] “Gettysburg Address,” Avalon.law.yale.edu

[11] Ibid.

Happily Ever Austin

Once upon a time there lived a girl… As a matter a fact, “once upon a time” is this very day, and that girl is my dear sister, Brooklynn, who was married to her best friend-her Prince Charming- this afternoon. I was privileged to be her “Maid of Honor.”

The wedding was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and never has a more stunning bride walked down the aisle. I could not have been more proud or more happy when I watched her beam the way that she did. 

It was truly a fairytale come to life. They deserve their happily ever after. 

#HappilyEverAustin2k16

“Why Literature?” by Mario Vargas Llosa

Happy Monday!

Due to a busy homework schedule, I’m afraid I can’t write a long, intriguing post, but I had to take a moment to tell you of an essay that I had to read for my American literature class. 

It is an work entitled “Why Literature?” by Mario Vargas Llosa and is part of a larger work, The New Republic, which I have not read, unfortunately. 

This essay so eloquently and powerfully describes the importance of literature to the past, present, and future of our society. He begins by stating a popular question: why literature? And concludes his articulate and logical answer with a plea for us all. 

I myself have a plea to you all, and that is this: Go find and read Llosa’s essay in the first moment you find to do so, and let it open your eyes and mind the way that it did mine! 

One Year Down, A Future to Go 

Hello All!

Around one year ago I had the bright idea to start a blog. There were many things that I was passionate about, one being literature, and I wanted to share my love for them with others. My parents encouraged me in this idea, and a year ago today, I put it in to action. I was throwing around name ideas when my sister suggested I use the name I had come up with for my collection of writing. And so it began… I started Pen to Paper Collections. Happy Anniversary to us!

A lot has happened in the past year, from beginning this blog to starting college and so much more. On this day, however, I am particularly enthusiastic about what the future will bring. “Why?” you may ask. I think I can safely attribute most of it to the glorious weather. 🙂 March 1st in NC has been a marvelous 68 degrees with carolina blue skies. It is on days like these, when the sun is smiling down on me, that I feel like anything is possible! 

Also, life has gotten rather exciting as of late. I started a new job bright and early yesterday morning! I am now a tutor/assistant at Jones Intermediate School, which is an incredible opportunity and was a pleasant surprise for me. What better way to gain teaching experience? It is a slightly younger age group than I hope to work with in the future, but I still have high expectations and love working with kids. 

I am currently enrolled at a local community college  and working on my Associate in Arts degree there. Lately, however, I have had to consider a future major and 4 year college to strive for. Decisions are in the making! It is as strange as it is interesting. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in elementary school. How did I get here so fast? I don’t know, but I’m taking life as it comes and trying to enjoy every moment!

One year has brought a great many changes-mostly good, fortunately. What I am most intrigued with are the great many changes that the years ahead will bring. Hopefully, you all will stick around for the years to come. 🙂

~Alyssa

On Love and Being Lost

Hello All,

I had a thought on Wednesday evening, which came after a gentleman in my church came up to my friend and I and said, “I’m lost. I can’t find my wife!” To the casual hearer this may just be the quick words of a man who didn’t know where his wife was sitting, but it really got me thinking when he used the words, “I’m lost.” 

These were the words of someone who was lost without the love of his life, no matter how familiar his surroundings may be. What a precious reminder of what true love really is: You find yourself in that other person to the point of being utterly unable to find your place without them, and you’re okay with that. I would be thrilled to have a love like he and his wife’s, and I’m blessed to learn from their relationship. 

Thank you, Jeff and Amy Hoge. 🙂

~Alyssa