write in someone else’s voice: day nineteen

“Borrow the style of your favorite novelist or create an alter ego version of your own voice. Get creative, and have fun. Take all kinds of liberties and explore what it’s like to write in the shoes of another person. When you’re done, see if there’s anything about this new voice that might be worth keeping.”

I had to do a bit of lazy research about alter egos to even get me in the mood for this prompt. I really love Charles Dickens, but there’s no reality where I could pull out something as epic as a Dickens novel in the next few minutes–looks like I need to create an alter ego.

To create my alter ego, my negative self, I have to think of who I am now. I’m sort of grey and white and muted color trending softly and comfortably into the room. I don’t draw attention, I’m always polite to strangers and I’m a warm sort of presence–only changing temperature when I feel someone unsafe getting too close.

My alter-ego–who is she? She’d have to be bright in color, and very few in words, but loud in deed. She probably wears a lot of low cut tops and red lipstick and asks for a lot of attention when she comes and goes. Or maybe all she cares about is purses and daily smoothies and Michael Kors. She isn’t afraid of anyone or anything and tells everyone exactly what she thinks. She’s the one in the room to start conversations that need to be started, whether they rattle everyone’s perceptions of reality or not.

She also loves these prompts and constantly having to talk from someone else’s perspective is something she feels qualified for and enjoys doing. She doesn’t doubt her ability to authentically portray things–especially from her own point of view. She doesn’t spend her time justifying her words, she just shares them and allows people to interpret them however they want.

She drives a motorcycle, I guess, and just for fun, she smokes cigarettes. Only once a week, though, when she listens to AC/DC and pretends she’s like Marlon Brando and she could have been somebody. (Is it 500 words yet? I really want to care, but I just don’t.)

It’s not what she looks like that really separates her from me. It’s mostly her attitude, I suppose. She wouldn’t ever sit down to write like this. There’s too much of the world that she has to take in her hands and internal musings aren’t for her.

She doesn’t second guess herself and love found her early–she married at 19 and it’s been a whirlwind journey but ultimately a happy one, even though she never ended up at college like her parents had anticipated. It’s not like she really needs him in that irritating Nicholas Sparks’ sort of way, but she does need him in that real sort of way; he gives her a home and a stillness that quiets her restlessness.

This was literally the most annoying of all the prompts for me so far and I’ve never been happier to reach 500 words, but I made it nineteen days! Thank goodness.

write about waiting: day eighteen

“Everybody waits. At the traffic light, in line for the bathroom, or for the waiter to come around. Today write about one of your times of waiting. Even better, write while you’re waiting. Take whatever downtime you have that you might otherwise waste and try to get to 500 words. Writing about the experience as it’s happening may even add a layer of realism to the experience.”

I’m not the biggest fan of waiting.

I’m a goal oriented person who has control issues, so naturally waiting is my least favorite thing ever. Waiting usually means that some sort of external force outside of my control is calling the shots on my life. There was a time when I’d have happily said that there is a force outside of my control calling the shots on my life, and I’d tell you it wasn’t a force, it was a Someone. I’d tell you it was God and then I’d tell you I was perfectly fine with that and that I trusted Him. I’d mean it, too.

I feel like I’ve been in a stage of waiting for the past (almost) two years since comes back to the States. I haven’t exactly been sitting around twiddling my thumbs; I’m a busy wait..er? I’ve held a few jobs, gone to India for a month, traveled a bit within the continental United States, spent more time with my family, finally gotten a job that I’m passionate about, spent time with my few remaining friends in town. I like being productive, probably too much so. I’m not still in my waiting, I’m resolute and determined.

And yet, I still feel like I’m waiting and truth be told, though I’m doing much better at learning to be in the moment instead of constantly looking forward, I have had a really difficult time the past season of my life. It goes back to my impatience and my wanting to be in control of everything, and also my own personal sense of entitlement that try as I might to deny, I clearly still have. I think I know best, better than God Himself sometimes, and that’s why waiting is difficult for me. I just know I can be somewhere else, doing something else, being further ahead… if only God would get on the same page and open up the doors for me do so.

I’m a little afraid of how freely that flowed out of me, but they say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery so now that I’ve admitted what I’ve been feeling lately, let me also admit that there’s something wrong with it. There must be something wrong with my heart, indeed if I think I know a better than God Almighty. Thankfully, I know that realizing that is half of the battle.

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relatable

Waiting isn’t one anyone’s list of favorite activities, but it’s such a vital part of the process. It’s cheap to skip the road and arrive at the destination in half the time, without the story, without the struggle. When I imagine transporting myself circa 2012 and dropping that Stephanie into my life in the here and now, and it’s honestly horrifying to imagine. She wouldn’t be ready… she wouldn’t have grown to the proper maturity. I have to believe what I can see so clearly in hindsight now is also true for the future that I’ll find myself in.

It’s more than that, though. Deep down, despite my propensity towards controlling as much as I can and my tendencies to throw little temper tantrums deep in my secret heart when things don’t go the way I plan, I can see God’s hand moving. It’s not always the way I imagine it should go; sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s more difficult and it almost always includes waiting.

Maybe someday I’ll grow into being more gracious in my stages of waiting, but meanwhile I’m holding on to the hope that Jesus still loves me in my frailty and my childish petulance from time to time.

pick a fight: day seventeen

“Today, you need to write a manifesto. A short statement of purpose that represents what you believe in. This needs to be a hill worth dying on, something not everyone will agree with (but hopefully some will). Ask yourself what’s wrong with the world? And then address the problem. Pick a fight with it, and invite others to join your cause.”

(I might have waited and saved my declaration from yesterday to use today, but I haven’t exactly been looking ahead at these prompts, so here we are. I’ll have to keep it a bit more grand scheme, since fighting sex trafficking is one of my most specific, most prioritized cause.)

It’s so easy to talk about what I believe. I’m good with words; I’m able to inspire others based on the written or spoken word and I always have a lot to say. As much as I love words, I’ve found in recent years that they fall terribly short when it comes to matters of life, of death and of the heart. But still, here we are and now is my chance–a chance to verbalize what I believe to be true and how I want to live my life.

Well, you asked.

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I believe that if I believe something, whatever it may be, then everyone I encounter better be able to discern it with minimal verbal convincing on my part. They say talk is cheap, and it’s one of my favorite cliches because it is one of the truest ones yet.

If I say that I love Jesus, you should be able to tell by how I act and how I live that I love Jesus.

If I say that I believe that all people are created in God’s image, then there should be love flowing off of me onto those around me, not just in word, but in deed and attitude.

If I believe that there’s more to life than having my hair look good and having a nice car, then you better know from watching me that I’m holding on to something deeper.

If I believe that all people are equal, regardless of gender or skin color, than I better spend my days bringing that reality to the world around me, not just by what I do say, but also in what I don’t say.

If I believe that singleness isn’t a curse and that I don’t need a man to complete me, then I better not be feverishly working to snag a dude to validate me every waking moment of my life.

If I say I believe that Jesus has my best interests in mind, then I can’t give up hope when things seem dark from time to time and allow the fear take hold of me.

It’s easy to spout off beliefs and manifestos. It’s encouraged these days. Everyone everywhere is ready to share their thoughts, and I’m right there with them. I’m as opinionated as they day is long and I feel things fierce and unadulterated passion that my head gets away from me and so does my mouth. But no matter how eloquent I am at sharing my beliefs, if you can’t see them in me being lived out in the day to day, I believe I’ve lost my right to speak about them to you. And you can call me on it.

And that’s something I believe with all my heart.

give hope: day sixteen

“Take whatever fears and insecurities you have, your internal questions and doubts and turn them into words that inspire. Don’t give up. And don’t let others give up. The cost is too great. We can’t miss out on what you have to say.”

Part of my job with Wings means I get to attend Human Trafficking events/symposiums and try to recruit volunteers and just glean as much information as I can from the lectures and speakers. I honestly love it; it’s such a joy to be around others who are passionate about fighting the same evil and to see them bring their particular skills to the table. Today we had several speakers, but the one that was the most informative for me was the Detective for the Human Trafficking Task Force based in Collier County. I can spit out facts about human trafficking like a pamphlet on legs, but I’m still learning about the federal and state laws and how they work together.

I’ve barely even scraped the surface of this world with only one full year under my belt, but the dangerous reality of burnout is everywhere here. You can hear it in the voices of case workers over the phone, see it in the eyes of legal representation, feel it in the prayers of social workers and church people alike. There is so much to fight–not just easily identifiable pimps and johns, but the convoluted emotions wrapped up in love and lust and being told your whole life that they’re one and the same. There’s the red tape of building a case, there’s the foster system and Department of Children and Families, finding volunteers, counseling, heart ache, PTSD, spiritual wounds, broken families, etc.

There’s so much to fight and there are so many affected by this monster. Men and women, children and adults, rich and poor–everyone. For every one girl we are able to take into Wings and pour all our love and resources into for weeks, months, years–there are thousands of others that we don’t get to. For every girl we love, there’s no guarantee that they’ll accept that love and no guarantee that they’ll even want the help we’re offering. Boyfriends and phones and trips to the nail salon are missed constantly and everyone misses their old freedoms, and I don’t even blame them. That’s the most complicated part of all. The paperwork I have to file means inevitably encountering phrases like “consistent reports of abuse since the child was six years old”, and horror stories of foster homes gone wrong.

It drains the life right of you. How are you supposed to look evil in one of it’s many hideous faces without having to close your eyes? There’s something wrong with having to see it all the time; it does something to your heart. There’s a tiredness that never leaves, that clings to your boots like mud after a long walk in the woods.

And yet, we cannot give up.

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And we won’t give up. It’s not the numbers that we fight for. Maybe it would be more impressive if we had big numbers, but Jesus hasn’t even been one to focus on the big numbers. Oh, all I have to hold on to some days is the image of the Good Shepherd with all 99 of his little ones snug in the sheepfold for the night, striking out with His cloak around Him for the one foolish little lamb that wandered too far. That is the Jesus I know. That is the Jesus I love. That is the Jesus I serve. I have only five loaves and two fishes, but it is not mine to multiply. All I know is that fighting this has me nestled close to His heart, and there is only light and strength and goodness to be found there with Him. Facing the darkness is only possible from that vantage point and there’s no place I’d rather be.

And so, we hold on to hope.

evaluate: day fifteen

“You’re halfway done. How do you feel? Are you tired, worn out? Or more energized than ever? Write about it all. No judgment or expectation. Just share how you’re feeling and what this challenge has meant to you so far. Are you a better writer, or a worse one? What changes do you notice in your attitude, in your actions? Share it all—and of course, do it in at least 500 words.”

Personally, I’m really impressed with myself that I’ve managed to do all fifteen prompts thus far. I’m a halfway decent writer, but I’m all too ready to admit that my biggest weakness in most areas of my life is consistency. While I’m not sure that the key to my struggles is to post something every single day like I have been (which I’ve been doing mostly to keep me accountable), I like seeing how reasonable it is to fit just 500 words into my daily schedule, regardless of the time of day.

I’ve noticed that it’s much better if I write mid-day or early evening, because the blogs I’ve been the least satisfied with have been the two or three that I’ve just sort of free written after 10 pm when my eyes are already heavy with sleep and my brain is foggy. My inspiration hits me best when I’m in Starbucks, slowly but surely hyping myself up on caffeine—something about it gets my creativity flowing. It’s not always practical to get day writing in, but this past week I’ve had a few unexpected free days that I’ve been able to capitalize on.

I feel like I’m much more free and bold with my writing at this point, as far as writing with minimal “I shouldn’t say that/I should say something different” moments that ultimately lead to me deleting sentences or paragraphs of my words at a time. I feel like I’m being more honest, which is both exhilarating and terrifying at once, and that makes me want to keep going. I don’t much understand the point of creating anything if it doesn’t come from a place of honesty.

I’ve noticed which prompts really spark an interest in me and which ones make me cringe, which has been helpful in solidifying the type of writing that I naturally prefer. It’s nice to realize that I’m better at documenting, reviewing and processing things as they are or as I perceive them rather than creating things out of nothing, and to know that is okay. I don’t have to measure myself by the other extremely talented writers I know and follow. If I can be honest, encourage the process and inspire/entertain others, then I feel like I’ve done the best I could with my writing.

My confidence is growing a bit more in the whole “does it matter what I have to say?” category. Writing really is something that I do more for me than anyone else—if it’s at all enjoyed by another human being that is such a gift to me, but I know that I need to do it to live fully awake.

At this point I am looking at my blogs and considering what I could do to improve them or what kind of topical schedule could I get myself on so I’m publishing blogs at least twice a week. I’d like to keep writing the 500 (or so) words though because that’s so much easier than I anticipated. I might even double it up to 1,000 words for my next round of 31 days! (Look at me, so over the top after two weeks of writing consistently.)

I don’t usually put out many questions on my blog because I don’t always get responses, but I thought I’d throw it out here to get a feel for how my voice is received. Whether or not I’m able to implement everything is still up in the air, but I’d enjoy getting some feedback on things.

What have I written that you guys enjoy the most? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of?