#MyDIY: Antique Steamer Trunk

When I went away to school, my mom thought I should have a trunk.  She didn’t want me spending money on the ones they sell at Walmart, so she hauled my grandma’s steamer trunk from World War II down from the attic, and shipped me off with it.

It was (and still is) in pretty bad condition.  It’s rusty, a lot of the hardware has long since disappeared, the contact paper inside is peeling, and it’s kind of all-around nasty-looking.

I’ve just been using it to store stuff for my kitchen (which, you know, I don’t have yet).

Then, this past weekend, I got this idea that it could be something more. After all, it wasn’t always this way – it has an incredible history that should be preserved.  It’s been in attics and closets and I even used it as a sort of table in my dorm, but you can tell by looking at it that it hasn’t been cared for in the way it should have been.

So, I’ve taken it upon myself to restore this sad not-so-little steamer trunk.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll come to a better understanding of who my grandma was along the way.

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Life, On Hold

Last week, as part of my job, I was in attendance at a seminar for high school students and their parents on the transition from high school to college.  I wasn’t really listening – I’m only there in case something goes wrong – but the lecturer caught my attention when she talked about the pros and cons of starting out at a two year school and transferring to a four year school.  (Which is what I did, incidentally).

She made a lot of great points, but here’s the essence what hit me in the face: transfer students are less likely to get involved with campus activities and organizations.  Why? Because they don’t want to have to get involved only to have to readjust somewhere else when the next transition comes.  Hypothetically, not being involved makes the transition easier.

Yeah, I thought that was interesting, too.

Obviously, this doesn’t hold true for all transfer students.  In fact, I’m sandwiched between two brothers who did the whole transfer thing, and they were both highly involved in campus activities and organizations – my younger brother still is.  Anywhere they go in life, they sort of just dive in.

On the other hand, I hold back.  With a few notable exceptions, this is how I have lived my life.  After all, if I have to make transitions, why not make them as easy on myself as possible?  Except living life this way doesn’t actually make things easier at all.  It’s made it much, much harder, and I’m realizing it much, much too late.

I could blame it on being an introvert (which, I am), but the truth is, I’m actually very good at establishing and building relationships.  I would never go as far as to say I’m outgoing, but I’m definitely relational.

How is it, then, that I find myself dealing with some of the heaviest circumstances in my life up to this point, with no friends in a forty mile radius?

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of being misunderstood.  I’m afraid of telling you exactly what’s going on, and having your response be, Why didn’t you…? or, All you have to do is… Trust me, I am deeply aware of how preventable my situation was, and how my life needs to change going forward.

I’m afraid of burdening you.  However preventable my situation was, there are things that led me to make certain decisions that you have no idea about.  They are ugly things, things I don’t like to talk or even think about because they make me sad and angry and occasionally sick.  I’m afraid that if it’s too big for you, I might pull you down with me.  If I pull you down with me, you may never speak to me again.

I’m afraid of trusting you.  I am terrified of hearing an overly-simplistic solution from you when you hear my story; that you’ll expect me to process and heal in your time and your way, when you don’t understand the layers of what I’ve been through, and how it comes back in waves, and when I don’t, then comes distance.

And I’m so deeply afraid of that distance.

As much as I’ve tried to prevent it, though, I find myself distanced in all of my human relationships today, whether it’s physical distance, or emotional.  All because I thought I would make life easier on myself this way.

Where do I go from here?

To start, I’m taking my life off hold.  I’m going to take a cue from my brothers, and just dive in – right here, right now.  I’m not going to worry about when I’m going to Seattle (might be September, might be a year from September, or ten years – I really can’t say right now),  I’m going to make myself at home here and just see what happens.

Because my life is not going to magically come together and relationships are not going to materialize out of thin air.  This life, relationships – they have to be fought for.

Two are better than one: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

~variations on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

And for good measure, Fight Song by Rachel Platten

 

 

Unlovable: A Poem

Sometimes, I write poetry.  Sometimes, it’s not pretty.  It’s always raw.

This is actually an old poem that I wrote a little over a year ago on my personal blog.  I got thinking about it reading Ashley Townsend’s Chasing Shadows, and thought I’d post it here.

Unlovable

our generational curse

bequeathed to us by matriarchs

who pushed the bounds

and found the limits

too far

and too late

Unlovable

our burden to know

and feel like frauds

if we don’t let others see

and experience our unlovable-ness

too big

for just ourselves

Unlovable

we become like them

like our foremothers

constantly pushing and proving

to ourselves

Unlovable

and yet we’re loved –

a complete mystery to us

it’s wrong

it’s all wrong

it’s so wrong

for we are

and always will be –

can never be anything but

Unlovable

they prove it, too

don’t they?

when they make mistakes

loving us

and we learn it again

as if we could ever forget it

we are

Unlovable

***

Originally published on Wilderness Adventure

Copyright: Lydia Thomas, 2014

Broken Things Are Worth Fighting For, Too: A Review of Chasing Shadows

“[The] only relationships that really matter are the ones you’re willing to fight for.  If it’s worth the effort, then that’s the test of a worthwhile relationship.” ~from Chasing Shadows

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About Chasing Shadows (from Amazon):

The murder of an ancient king spurs Sarah Matthews to travel back in time, putting her life in jeopardy as she races against the clock to solve a thousand-year-old mystery and pick up the pieces of her star-crossed romance. Her return to Serimone reveals that the kingdom is in upheaval under the new regime, and unable to right the empire alone, Sarah seeks out the help of Will, the town’s blacksmith and secret vigilante. But her hopes of rekindling their fairy tale romance are dashed when a discovery about his past severs their fragile relationship. Confused and alone, Sarah throws herself into her mission at the castle, though the fearsome solitude of the stonework prison causes her to seek out an unlikely ally. Damien Lisandro is a dashing Spaniard who brightens her dull world with his kindness and disarming charm. But as Sarah draws closer to him and to the faceless killer in their midst, she realizes that the severed threads of time and the mystery surrounding Serimone Castle are unraveling rapidly, weaving new tapestries of devastation. When a counterfeit Shadow tragically claims the life of someone Sarah cares for, and with Damien running from a dark past and secrets of his own, she wonders whom she can trust. Knowing the murders are connected, Sarah scrambles to uncover the identity of the impostor on her own. But as more lives are lost in her personal crusade, she questions how far she is willing to go to bring the guilty party to justice. Sarah is forced into harm’s way countless times as she races to solve the puzzle before it is too late and Serimone becomes nothing more than a faded memory of the past. . . And before Sarah herself becomes a permanent fixture in history.

About Ashley Townsend (from Amazon):

Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and her first two books “Rising Shadows” and “Chasing Shadows” became a way for others to join in her fantastical escapades. She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Follow her quirkiness on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

My Review:

I give Chasing Shadows by Ashley Townsend 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I once heard a reviewer assert that a review only has merit when based off of objective criteria, otherwise it’s “just feels”, as if how a story makes you feel isn’t important.  For one thing, I don’t believe there is any such thing as an objective review, because we all bring a frame of reference into our reading.  For another, I’m not sure there’s anything more important to the reading experience than what a story brings out in its readers – how it makes them feel, how it spurs them to action.

Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows are feel-good books – there’s no way around that.  I’ve been in a rough season lately, and it did my heart good to escape to Serimone for a few hours in the middle of everything.

First of all, Chasing Shadows has this beautiful message: broken things are worth fighting for.  As an incredibly broken person, I know this in my head, but I struggle believing this at my very core. To see this message presented and reiterated so clearly throughout the story at a time when I desperately needed it absolutely wrecked me.

I truly can’t commend Ashley enough for Will’s character.  While very much a hero, Will realizes both his own brokenness and the broken situations around him.  He struggles to fight through those situations, and even learns a little bit how to let someone else fight for him.

“I have always wondered,” he began slowly, drawing the words out, “if my failure was because I lacked conviction to follow through, or perhaps I was afraid of death and wasn’t aware of it.”

Unlike Will, Sarah is a natural at fighting for broken things.  She’s empathic, quick to understand where another person is coming from.  Even when she’s been betrayed, she strives to put herself in their shoes. Beautiful.

And she was faced with her desire, one she felt even now, to justify the desperation of a broken, unloved boy searching for his place in the world.

What I loved best about Sarah in Chasing Shadows, though, were the dilemmas she faced.  I won’t delve into them (you’ll have to read the book yourself), but I wholeheartedly understood her muddled feelings as she weighed her options.  I think this is one of my favorite plot elements in any kind of story: the heroine learns about herself through the choices she faces.  I just … get it.

She refused to be afraid to fall anymore.

Aside from Sarah and Will, there’s a great cast of characters who move around much like characters in a television show, in that many of them often make brief, sporadic appearances.  Townsend also introduces a dashing new character, Damien Lisandro, who has quite the personal history and befriends Sarah when she comes to work at the castle.

Chasing Shadows is full of adventure, mystery, and of course, romance.  I lost count of the happy sighs it pulled out of me.

“But when I found her, I knew that my restless spirit could not be satiated by the fleeting excitement I’d pursued on my voyages.  My goal, I realized, had always been to find something to give my soul rest: She was the treasure I’d sought all along, and I needn’t search any further.”

See what I mean?

So the next time you just need a feel-good read, head over to Amazon and get your copies of Rising Shadows and Chasing Shadows.  Trust me.

The obstacles in love are never easy to overcome, but the commitment to fight makes you stronger together.

Can’t wait for book three!

I received a free copy of Chasing Shadows from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Flash Fiction: Unfinished

Based on a true story

“She just … died,” he says sullenly.

I shove my hands under my thighs and turn my head to look at him, though it’s dark and I can only see his profile.

“I was waiting and waiting, you know?”

He veers right and I feel a thrill of anticipation.  It only took the ride there, the entire dinner, and most of the ride home, but we’re getting somewhere now.

“Turns out she’d been gone for years,” he continues.

I grimace sympathetically, but I doubt he can see it.

“Left so much unresolved, just … hanging,” he says, and turns for the first time to meet my eyes.  “Forever.”

“I’m sorry,” I reply.

“And that” – he states emphatically, as he pulls into my driveway and throws the car into park – “is why I will never start reading an unfinished series ever again.”

“Oh, yeah, no,” I say, opening the door and hopping out.  “Totally makes sense.”

I probably won’t see him again, seeing as I’ve just started writing a series.

***

Copyright: Lydia Thomas 2015

Dear Ashley: An Unconventional Review of ‘Rising Shadows’

Dear Ashley,

This is totally not how ever conduct my reviews.

However, when you contacted me about reviewing the second book in your trilogy, Chasing Shadows, I wanted to read and review the first book – well, first.  You shared a few things with me about the some of the differences I might note between Rising Shadows  and its sequel, and mentioned that your family thinks you undersell this first book in your trilogy.  I hardly know you at all, but based on what you told me, I’d like to tell you something.  Your family is right.

Here’s why:

I couldn’t put Rising Shadows down.  I put books down all of the time – it’s a necessity of my busy life and I wouldn’t get anything else done otherwise.  I just find a good stopping point, bookmark it, and pick it up later.  I couldn’t find a good stopping point with this book; I wanted to know what was coming next the entire time.

Sarah is now on my list of favorite female protagonists.  No, really, there’s a list. I’ve noticed a trend in Christian YA Fantasy of female protagonists who whine-and-pine over love interests, and that’s essentially the entire story.  That wasn’t the case with Sarah in Rising Shadows – she just wants adventure before settling into the routine of college (and everything that comes after that), and she doesn’t seem to want a romance to be that adventure.  She relates to people in real ways: she experiences awkwardness, anger, and even jealousy.  Beyond that, she’s direct and has a sense of humor.  Seriously, what’s not to love?

And that brings me to my favorite character, Will.  I get Will, and I am so thankful for the grace and empathy you displayed writing his character.  Most Christian writers don’t have the ability to write a character like him without getting preachy, but you did an excellent job.  There was actually a point where Will was discussing some of his issues, and I actually cried.  Granted, I’m a little emotional this week, but still…

Which brings me to Will. Again.  Because besides relating to him, he’s actually this really knowledgeable and skilled character, with an incredible sense of purpose.

“To stop yourself from feeling is like ceasing to live; life no longer holds meaning.  Hurt, anger, pain, desire, compassion, love – they’re what make us human.  They’re what living is all about. Being able to feel is something we shouldn’t take for granted or push away when offered.”

Besides Sarah and Will, Rising Shadows has a great cast of characters.  I am a huge fan of Dickens, so I love widely-varied casts of characters. I really enjoyed Karen and the Joneses.  I would have loved a closer look at some of the villains, to get a stronger sense of what we’re up against, but that may just be personal preference.  I am also not sure what Lilly’s role is, but I’m betting I’ll find that out as the series continues.

It has all of the elements I love.  Time travel, an alternate universe (ish), world-building, action, romance, beautiful gowns, and even a ball.  You know, elements that lend themselves to a great Pinterest Board.

As such I give Rising Shadows 4.5 out of 5 stars, and highly recommend it for fans of The Princess Bride and Stardust.  (It’s nothing like either, but it reminded me of them, if that makes any sense).

Of course, as an author myself, I completely understand where you’re coming from – sometimes it’s a struggle to love our own work, because we do grow and change.  That’s as it should be.

I’m just saying – you’ve got a great story here.

Sincerely,

Your newest fan

P.S. I promise I will give a normal review of Chasing Shadows.

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About Rising Shadows (from Amazon):

Sarah Matthews didn’t think a little taste of adventure this summer was too much to ask. But when she finds herself transported to the twelfth century, she learns she must be careful what she wishes for.

After Sarah’s closest companion—and her ticket home—is arrested on charges of witchcraft, Sarah finds herself trapped in this dangerous land and alone in her knowledge of a dangerous conspiracy. Knowing that she has no chance of stopping the treachery and saving her friend on her own, Sarah seeks help from the Shadow, a masked hero who has already saved her life once. As they work together to unravel the truth before it’s too late, Sarah realizes that it isn’t the Shadow who she’s come to rely on, but Will, a handsome and intriguing blacksmith who’s plagued by the secrets and pains of his past.

About Ashley Townsend (from Amazon):

Ashley is a young twenty-something who has been spinning tales since she discovered that her wild imagination and love of storytelling could make a career. Reading and writing are her way of experiencing grand adventures from home, and her first two books “Rising Shadows” and “Chasing Shadows” became a way for others to join in her fantastical escapades. She is a native to bookstores, coffee shops, the beach, and San Diego, CA. She also has an unexplainable aversion to clowns and describes outlines as a “proverbial noose.” Follow her quirkiness on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

The Always/Never Playlist

One chilly Sunday evening back in December 2012, I was talking to my dear friend, Beth, outside of the church in which we grew up.  I was crying, not because I was sad or unhappy, but because I couldn’t believe where I was standing.  It should have been impossible, but God worked through every single circumstance in my life to bring me to that place – a place I thought I would never be again – and I was just realizing it.  Beth just looked at me and said, “Never once and not for a moment.”  (Titles of songs by Matt Redman and Meredith Andrews, respectively).

Over the past two weeks, I have had something unexpected come up in my life.  It changes things, or at least, it has the potential to change things.  I look at the havoc it’s brought about in just the past week, and I think, “If this is where I am now, there is no way I’m making it to Seattle in five months.”  And I start feeling like maybe that’s not where God wants me after all.

This past Sunday, my pastor was sharing Thomas’ story from John.  Doubting Thomas.  They wrote a Sunday school song about him, you know:  “Why worry, when you can pray? Trust Jesus, He’ll be your stay.  Don’t be a doubting Thomas, Trust fully on His promise.  Why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray?” I always felt guilty as a kid when I would sing this song, being as anxiety-prone as I was (okay, am) and having the last name Thomas. I once heard a preacher say that you never hear anything about Thomas after the book of John, and God knows I didn’t want that to happen to me.

Anyway, my pastor’s point was that Jesus meets us in our doubt, but all I heard God saying to me Sunday morning was, “How many times have we been over this Seattle thing? Don’t you know Me at all? Stop doubting and believe.”

Stop doubting and believe.

I mean, yeah, I want to, but…

Stop doubting and believe.

Herein lies the benefit of a never/always playlist: listening to these songs I remember God has always come through for me, at just the right moment. Never once and not for a moment has God left me on my own.  What should be a total mess in my life because of my own sin and other broken people, God has always restored.

And since that’s true, He’s not going to leave me hanging this week or this month or even five months from now.

“Oh, my God
He will not delay
My refuge and strength
Always
I will not fear
His promise is true
My God will come through
Always.”

~Kristian Stanfill, Always

“After all

You are Constant

After all

You are only good

After all

You are sovereign

Not for a moment

Will You forsake me.”

~Meredith Andrews, Not for a Moment

“I know You’re for me

And You’re restoring

Every heartache and failure

Every broken dream

You’re the God who sees

The God who rescues me

This is my story.”

~Britt Nicole, All This Time

“Scars and struggles on their way

But with joy our hearts can say –

Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone

Never once did You leave us on our own

You are faithful, God.”

~Matt Redman, Never Once

“All of my life

In every season

You are still God

I have a reason to sing

I have a reason to worship.”

~Hillsong, Desert Song

“The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.”

~Isaiah 58:11 NIV

What songs would YOU add?