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.


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,”

[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,”

[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,”

[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. 


“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. 🙂


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. 🙂


Escape to Writer’s Paradise

Hello All!

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt as if your life entirely lacked adventure and you might find yourself going insane if you don’t happen upon an adventure soon? Yesterday was one of those days for me. It was an overwhelming mixture of loneliness and wanderlust. I found myself venturing into the woods in search of a temporary remedy.

A walk in the woods led to my sitting under a tree off the path for a couple hours… thinking, praying, soul-searching, singing, and dreaming, ultimately. I think dreaming among the trees was just the remedy my soul was searching for. I felt freed… The beauty of it all… Somehow it had a way of making me feel as if I could do anything. As if I had somehow cheated myself by not having bigger, more impossible dreams. It could have made anyone believe in fairytales again and wonder how they ever could have abandoned them. I was so inspired to do whatever it is I set my heart to.

My afternoon excursion to writer’s paradise made me question why I haven’t escaped into the woods more often. I hope future me does it more than ever.

I am convinced that another adventure shall be thrown in my way before I have gone completely mad.