The Unplanter

The Unplanter

By Lydia Evelyn Thomas

(Copyright: Lydia Thomas 2016)

Once upon a time, there was woman who loved to plant seeds. Early each spring, she would rush to the market to carefully select the seeds she wanted to plant in the little garden behind her house. She especially loved looking at the pictures on the seed packets and imagining what her garden could be. Every year, after she had purchased them, she would hurry home to plant the different seeds in her garden, singing and skipping the entire way.

Like any good seed-planter, every year, she cleared the little plot of rocks and weeds and broke up the soil before painstakingly marking the rows where the seeds would go. Then she dropped the seeds into the dirt, one by one, and lovingly covered them with dirt.

In the days that followed, every year, she added fertilizer and water to the soil to make sure the seeds were getting the food and drink they needed. If it got too cold, she would cover the ground with blankets so the cold air couldn’t get to the seeds. And she always kept an eye out for weeds that might be trying to steal food and water from the seeds, or rocks that might be trying to keep the seeds from growing, or anything that might hurt the seeds.

She waited and waited, every year, for a week, at least, to see if anything would happen, and nothing ever did. She worried: were the seeds getting enough to eat and drink? Were the seeds getting too much to eat and drink? Were the seeds staying warm enough? Were they too warm? Was something hurting the seeds that she couldn’t see?

And so, every year, a few days after planting them, she dug up the seeds and returned them to the market.

“These seeds didn’t grow into anything,” she would say, spreading them out on the counter. “I’d like my money back, please.”

The man who sold her the seeds would frown, and every year, he told her this: “There is an old gardening term called staying.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that things have to stay planted in order to grow.”

The woman didn’t believe him, and so she continued planting seeds and digging them up for many years.

One year, early in the spring, the woman came to the market, excited as she always was to choose seeds that would make a beautiful garden.

“I’d like to see your seeds, please.”

The man who sold her seeds shook his head. “I’m not going to sell you any seeds this year.”

“Why not?”

The man shrugged. “It’s wasteful. You plant them, only to dig them up again. They can’t be used ever again after that.”

“I won’t dig them up this year, I promise. Please let me buy some seeds.

The man shook his head. He didn’t believe her. “We sell some plants in pots that have already been grown, if you’d like to buy some of those, but I cannot sell you any more seeds.”

The woman bought some pots in plants at his suggestion, but this year, unlike all the other years, she was not happy walking home from the market. She didn’t want plants that had already been grown. She very badly wanted to grow something of her own, from a seed.

Still, she set the plants on her front porch, and made sure to take care of them, every bit as well as she had taken care of seeds when she’d had them. One day, as she watered the plants, a man strolled by.

“Beautiful plants,” he said. “Did you grow them yourself?”

The woman sighed. “No. I bought them already grown. The market won’t sell me seeds anymore.”

“Why not?”

“When seeds don’t grow, I dig them up.”

“How long do you wait before digging them up?”

The woman put her hands on her hips. “I’ve waited as long as a week before.”

“Only a week? That’s not long enough!” The man smiled. “Seeds have to stay planted in order to grow.”

“That’s what the man at the market told me,” the woman said, “but what if something is wrong with the seeds? How will I know if I can’t see them?”

“Do you give the seeds food and water?” the man asked.

“Yes.”

“Do you keep weeds and rocks away from the seeds?”

“Yes.”

“Do you protect the seeds when it might get too cold or too hot for them?”

“Yes!” the woman exclaimed. “I do everything I’m supposed to do.”

“Everything except for letting the seeds stay planted,” the man said. “That’s the most important part.”

“But”- the woman protested.

“Seeds grow,” the man said. “It’s what they do. They just have to stay planted. I wish you could see it.”

“I wish I could see it, too,” the woman said, “but where will I get seeds? The market won’t sell them to me anymore.”

“I might have just the thing.” The man pulled a seed packet out of his pocket and held it out to the woman.

The woman looked down at it and frowned. “It doesn’t show what it will

be.”

“It doesn’t,” the man said, “but it’s the only seed I have.”

“There’s only one seed?” the woman asked, eyes wide.

The man smiled. “Only one, but legend has it that when it’s grown, it gives more seeds.” The woman just stared at him. “Plant it. You’ll see.”

“I guess it never hurts to try,” the woman said, taking the seed packet.

“Just remember,” the man said. “It will only grow if it stays planted.”

The very next morning, the woman went back to her garden. As she always did, she pulled up the weeds, picked out the rocks, and broke up the ground. Then she thought about where to plant the one seed. Should she plant it on the edge? Near a corner? In the middle? In the middle, she decided, and dug a small hole. Pulling the seed packet out of her sweater, she took a deep breath, and crouched to the ground. She shook the little seed out into the hole. It was so small and dark, she could barely see it. Slowly, she covered it with dirt, before standing and brushing off her knees.

The next day, the woman went to her garden again.  As she had done with the other seeds, she gave them food and water, working it into the soil with her trowel around where she knew the seed was planted. That night, when the air became colder, she covered the garden with blankets.

And, day after day, she watched for something to show her the seed was growing. A week went by, and then a month, and still she could see nothing above the dirt. She grew restless, and began running her hands through the dirt near where the seed was planted. Remembering the man’s words when he had given her the seed – “It will grow if it stays planted” – she stood up, brushed off her knees, and went inside.

Months went by, and still the woman cared for the garden, waiting. One day, after the dead autumn leaves had fallen and blown away, as the woman spread mulch over the soil for the winter months, she saw a small green chute where she had planted the seed so long ago.

“Well, that will never last the winter,” she said, hands on her hips.

She thought about digging it up, but again, she remembered, “It will grow if it stays planted.

“I don’t see how,” she muttered, but she spread mulch around the chute, and left it where it was.

The air became so cold and the ground froze so that the woman could no longer work in her garden. In fact, snow began to fall and fall until it was too high for her to even leave her house. She was certain the chute would die in the cold, and it made her sad.

At last, the air grew warmer, the snow melted, and the ground thawed, the woman went out to visit her garden.

The green chute was gone!

In its place was the tiniest of saplings, barely a foot tall.

The woman clapped her hands and bounced up and down. She was growing a tree! A tree!

“I’m glad I listened to that man and didn’t dig up the seed.”

She was so delighted that she went to the market to buy more seeds now that she had learned the secret to growing them, but the man who sold seeds laughed at her.

“You’re the woman who digs up seeds,” he said.

“I’m not anymore,” the woman said. “Last year, a man gave me a seed.”

“Who would give you a seed?” the man who sold seeds asked.

“I don’t know,” the woman said. “He was just passing by, but he told me to keep it planted, and I did. Now it’s going to be a tree.”

Again, the man who sold seeds laughed. “I don’t believe you.”

“Come and see,” the woman said and led him home to her garden. She pointed to the tiny sapling at the center.

The man who sold seeds squinted at it. “That looks like nothing more than an overgrown weed.”

“It’s a tree,” the woman insisted. “I know it’s a tree.”

“You don’t have the patience for a tree,” the man who sold seeds said, turning and walking away.

“I do now,” the woman said. “Please, sell me some seeds. I’ll show you.”

“I will never sell you seeds again.”

The woman was very sad, because she loved to plant seeds, and now that she’d seen how they could grow, she wanted to see it again and again. How could she, though, if she couldn’t buy seeds?

Suddenly, she brightened. The man who  had given her the seed had said something about it making more seeds. A legend, he had said, so maybe it wasn’t true at all, but the idea gave the woman hope.

Throughout the spring and summer, the woman tended her garden as usual, watching the sapling for signs of seeds.  Then the air began to cool, and she prepared her garden for the winter. There were no seeds, but perhaps, like everything else, it just took time for them to come.

Years passed, and every year, the woman cared for her garden, and every year, the tree grew taller and wider around, until it far surpassed the woman’s height and width. It was majestic, with many branches, and green needles that never lost their color nor fell to the ground, no matter how cold the air became. Year after year, there were no seeds, and the woman began to think the legend surrounding the tree was just a story. Still, she was quite proud of her tree.

One year, small brown cones sprouted on the branches in the spring and fell to the ground in the crisp autumn air. The woman went through her garden plucking them up into a bucket, thinking they would decorate her house nicely, when she found a cone that had split open during its fall.

The woman knelt down to look closer at the split cone and gasped. Seeds of all shapes and sizes were spilling out of it! Seeds! The woman pulled a cone out of her bucket and pried it open. There were seeds inside of it, too!

“Those seeds aren’t good enough to use yet.”

The woman turned to see who was speaking to her. It was the man who had given her the seed.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“The tree isn’t fully mature yet,” the man said, “so any seeds it produces aren’t ready to be planted. If you put those in the ground, they’ll just rot.”

The woman’s lip quivered. “How long will it be until they’re ready?”

The man gazed at the seeds, picking some of them and holding them in his hands. “I’d say, about … five years.”

“Five years?” the woman whispered, eyes wide.

The man nodded.

The woman pointed to the seeds. “So these aren’t good for anything?”

The man smiled. “Actually, they’re quite delicious roasted with butter and spices.”

“You want me to eat them?” the woman asked.

“You don’t have to,” the man said. “It’s just a thought.”

After that, the man went on his way, and the woman continued preparing her garden for winter.

Once inside, she roasted the seeds as the man had suggested. He was right: they were tasty prepared this way. As she ate them, the woman thought that five years wasn’t so long with such good food on her table and such a beautiful tree in her garden.

Even so, the next spring, the woman had a heavy heart as she went to clear the weeds and rocks and break up the soil in her garden. Where it had always been something she loved doing, now it was hard. She took many breaks, and thought often of leaving the work altogether. The only thing that kept her working was knowing that she needed to keep the ground ready for when the seeds were ready.

It wasn’t much, but it held the woman  until, at last, the spring of the fifth year came. With a thrill, she hurried out to her garden. This fall, the seeds in the cones would be ready, and next spring, she would plant them. Throughout the summer, she watched the cones eagerly. Finally, autumn came, and the cones began to fall, slowly at first, then all at once. Out the woman went to her garden with her bucket to gather them. She soon found that one bucket was not enough for all of the cones, and gathered bucket after bucket until not one cone was left on her garden floor.

As the snow fell that year, the woman went to work opening the cones, emptying the seeds onto her table, and sorting them into packets. She sorted and packaged so many seeds she thought she might need a bigger garden. She wondered what all of the seeds would grow up to be – would they all be trees? She would have to wait and see.

When she finished, leaving just a handful of seeds to roast, the woman stored the seeds in a warm, dry cupboard until spring. Then, as she swept up the remaining seeds from the table to put them in the roasting pan, one in particular caught her attention. It was small and dark, just like the one the man had given her to plant so many years ago.

Excited, the woman ran to get one more seed packet, thinking how lovely her garden would eventually be with two such trees. She paused: maybe someone else needed this seed, like she had all those years ago. And so, the woman decided not to plant it, but to set it aside and get it to someone who needed it, instead.

It seemed like no time at all passed until the woman was looking over her garden the following summer.  Now, instead of just the tree, flowers, plants, and small bushes populated the garden. There were blooms and bulbs and fruits and vegetables of all kinds forming almost everywhere. There were still some areas where there were no signs of anything growing, but the woman knew there would be someday.

“It’s a beautiful garden.”

The woman didn’t need to turn to know it was the man who had given her the seed.

She smiled as he came to stand at her side. “It took long enough for it to come together.”

“The strongest, most beautiful things need that time,” the man said.

The woman pulled a seed packet out of her pocket.

“What’s this?”

The woman pointed at the tree. “A seed. Thought you might come across someone who needs it.”

The man smiled. “Actually, I think you’ll come across someone who needs it.”

“When?”

The man winked. “Soon.”

Thunder, Thunder, Thunder

I ran across a poem I wrote about a year and a half ago when I was scrolling through my writing board on Pinterest. Well, it’s not really a poem so much as a nursery rhyme of sorts.

Anyway, I had completely forgotten about it, but I’m glad I found it. It reminds me of how I found my courage. It also fits one of the songs we’re learning in choir at church, Kirk Franklin’s I Told the Storm.

“Even though your winds blow I want you to know/You cause me no alarm cause I’m safe in His arms.”

Here’s what I told the storm…

Thunder, thunder, thunder,

I’m not afraid of you.

If you growl loud enough,

I’ll make some thunder too.

~

Thunder, thunder, thunder,

I’ve heard you all my life.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

You know, I will survive.

~

Thunder, thunder, thunder

You’re only just a noise.

I know you are frightened,

I’ll let you have your voice.

~

Oh, but thunder, thunder, thunder,

I have been speaking too.

It may just be in time

I’ll overpower you.

~

So thunder, thunder, thunder,

Don’t try to silence me;

This time I’m not little,

I’ll fight back valiantly.

Copyright 2014 Lydia Thomas

Originally published on the Wilderness Adventure blog.

This Is My Ugly Foot

“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16b NIV).

There is nothing quite so disheartening as pouring yourself into a creative work and then losing it. Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as your third hard drive failure in a year and 130,000 words; maybe somebody accidently trashed your plot notes and outline or maybe you just hit the wrong button. It doesn’t matter: all you can think is that you’re never going to get it back, at least, not the way it was.

I’ve been through it a thousand times if I’ve been through it once, and every single time, it makes me want to take myself out of the game. In the past, I have taken myself out of the game to my own detriment.

When I find myself back in that place, as I did Sunday, I talk about it: I say how I’m feeling and where I’m at, even if it’s not particularly optimistic. I was supposed to be releasing Small, But Wise, my Proverbs-based curriculum for Kindergarten through 5th grade students, a week from today. I am long overdue for another book release, and am closer than I ever have been to finishing Rachael’s Unfolding since I started writing it eleven-and-a-half years ago. I think it may be simultaneously the darkest and most important thing I’ve ever written, and I’ve been excited about getting it to a place where its ready for feedback. And then, without any warning, the entire formatted Small, But Wise curriculum and all of the progress I’ve made on Rachael’s Unfolding since Christmas are gone.

And even though I’m a completely rational person perfectly capable of accepting that these things happen, that I am neither the exception nor am I immune, after it happened for the third time in a year in a major way and countless times in minor ways, it felt calculated. It felt like if I got back up, I’d get smacked back down again just as quickly. Frankly, it’s just easier to stay down.

Of course, talking about it brought floods of perspective from family and friends.

Many people suggested measures for restoring the hard drive, which I appreciate, but believe me, I’m aware there are ways. Food and shelter are bigger priorities than restored files. Having just come out from under a crap load of debt, I am trying to embrace a more responsible, “if I can’t afford it, I don’t need it” lifestyle. I promise I’m not stupid about technology; I’m really just trying to make better financial decisions.

Regardless, the overwhelming response from nearly everyone was, “Don’t give up,” regardless of any other suggestions.

And I was sitting there thinking, “What if I’m supposed to give up?” After all, if writing is what I’m supposed to be doing, should it really be this hard?

That’s when I remembered a picture I saw on Pinterest and posted to Facebook last week.

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This is my ugly foot.

This isn’t about conditions being ideal.

This isn’t things going to hell in a hand basket.

This is about my level of commitment to what I’m supposed to be doing, what I love doing.

Sunday evening, a scene from The Field came to mind. Lilly has just been assaulted by D, and she’s lying flat on her back in a valley. It’s not that she can’t move, she’s just decided she’s not going to move. Anyway, Raphael comes along and asks her what she’s doing there, and she explains it to him: she’s given up everything only to have to give up more. Now, she’s got nothing left to give. She feels destroyed.

“He can’t destroy you, Lilly,” Raphael said. “He doesn’t have the power. When he strikes at you, it’s because you threaten him. He’s afraid of you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lilly said.

“Is it?” Raphael asked. “Where were you the other night when he came to you?”

“The enemy camp.”

“Exactly,” Raphael said. “You were in his camp, his territory … [You’re] no threat to him, lying on your blanket by yourself, which is why he’s not here right now.”

After that, Raphael helps her to her feet and gives her an assignment.

On Sunday, one of my friends wisely said, “I always know when I’m close to a breakthrough because everything goes wrong and all signs point to quitting.”

As I mentioned earlier, it would be easier to quit; after all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail. Thing is, it’s not much of a life, and it’s certainly not the kind of life I’m interested in living.

Since my computer troubles began last April, I’ve had several friends tell me they believe God is going to provide some sort of computer miracle, some sort of restoration of what I’ve lost, and while I’d love that, the miracle for me is being able to get back up again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes. Until it’s done.

And so Sunday night, I made a plan.

Instead of January 26, Small, But Wise will be available one week later, February 2. That should give me plenty of time to rewrite the Bible stories and reformat the lessons. It will be a challenge, and I don’t anticipate getting much of anything else done the next two weeks, but I think I can get it done.

Instead of writing Rachael’s Unfolding and A Year with the Baptists on the computer, I’ll plug away by hand. It will be slow going because of the issues I have with my hand and my perfectionist tendencies, but I think I can get it done. As for typing them up, which I will have to do eventually, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

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Some of my readers may doubt that there’s anything spiritual going on here at all, but I know what I’m writing, and I know why I’m writing it. I know the hearts in which it will resonate. I know the hearts it will harrow and the hearts it will rattle. I know it’s important.

That’s why I’ve gotten back up.

For my ugly foot.

Every artist has got one.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise” (Micah 7:8a NIV).

I’m Done Writing

Oh, you guys…

Did you know that for the past six months I’ve been without a personal computer?

It’s true.

My laptop went last April, and because I had nothing backed up, I lost a combined total of about 130,000 words from various WIPs, short stories, and poems, not to mention my pictures and music.

I filed it in the crap happens folder, and moved on.

Thankfully, I had an old PC that I was able to use to get blog posts written. I was a little depressed at the prospect of having to start anything I’d been working on and lost, so I didn’t do much fiction writing. At the end of May, a fantasy series I’d been thinking about started to solidify and I started typing up plot notes. I was getting back into my groove and enjoying writing again.

Then, one day, a blue screen came up notifying me of imminent hard drive failure. My plot notes were saved on a thumb drive this time, because believe it or not, I do learn from my mishaps.

Crap happens. Moving on.

I hustled, tapping out blog posts on my Kindle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I have a will of iron. (Seriously. Y’all don’t even know.) As with when I lost my laptop, I couldn’t bring myself to work on any of my fiction WIPs.

Something about Christmas brings out my inner writer, though, and I pulled out a notebook and did it up the old-fashioned way on something I’ve been working on for twelve years. (My baby, the one you all have heard so much about lately, Rachael’s Unfolding).

When I went to my parents’ for Christmas, my awesome little brother offered to let me borrow his old PC, since he wasn’t using it. I was so grateful because writing with my cold, stiff, carpal tunnel-y right hand is slow going.

Since then, I’ve made significant progress with Rachael’s Unfolding, and have gotten the Small, But Wise curriculum whipped into shape for a January 26 release. Yesterday, I felt confident enough in the status of the curriculum to announce the release, and I wrote an insanely important scene in Rachael’s Unfolding. Even though I have the flu, my body feels like it’s been beaten up, and I can’t keep anything down, I felt like a champ yesterday.

Before I went to bed, I shut down the computer and unplugged the surge protector as I always do.

This morning. This morning, I turned on the computer that my brother so generously let me borrow and I got a fuzzy screen and beeping noise. Smells like another hard drive failure. With it, I’ve lost 11,000 words in Rachael’s Unfolding and the entire Small, But Wise curriculum, because there were zero signs that this was going to happen, and I didn’t think I’d need to back it up. (My mistake. I should definitely know better.)

I could put this in the crap happens folder and hustle again, but something about this happening every time I find my groove again makes me not even want to try. Besides, at this point, it feels a little deliberate, and I’m not sure if that means I should fight through or give up. My iron will? Molten. Still iron, but it needs to cool.

So I think I’m done writing, and if you don’t hear from me for a while, that’s why. I can’t write if I’m constantly waiting for the hammer to drop, and after three times, I’m pretty sure if I keep going, I’m going to keep losing.

I don’t want to keep losing, y’all.

 

That Awkward Moment When…

There are a lot of awkward moments for writers.

Unlike most other professions, people have no problem asking you how much you make. Of course, they don’t ask so directly – no, they’ll ask how many copies you’ve sold and what percentage of royalties you’ve earned.

They treat it like a hobby, something you can shelve any time.

Even when they acknowledge it’s what you do (or at least, a big part of what you do), somehow they think it’s easy: I wish I could sit around writing books all day. Uh-huh.

By far, though, the most awkward encounter I’ve had as a writer about my writing is someone approaching me about writing – well, his story idea.

Today I’m on Sarah Elizabeth Boucher’s blog talking about this encounter and how it inspired me. Sarah is one of my favorite authors and writers … I reviewed her novel, Becoming Beauty, last November, which I adored, but I also just love her blog, which always has timely advice. Make sure you follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Without further ado, here is my awkward author encounter in all it’s glory:

I truly thought they were being dramatic, those writers who complain about people who say, “You know what you should write…” or, “I have this story idea…” I guess I was just jealous because it had never happened to me… [READ MORE]

#FlashFiction: The Rumor Mill

The Rumor Mill

Copyright Lydia Thomas 2016

 

“Why do you want to work at The Rumor Mill?”

The gentleman before me is probably in his fifties. I squint. Early sixties at the latest. I called him in for the interview because of his impressive resume: he’d downed numerous institutions in his day, to say nothing of ruined individual reputations.

“Well, as I’m sure you noticed from my resume, I’ve always had a sort of fascination with this line of work.” He leans forward. “Now, I’m ready to get serious about it.”

I glance back down at his resume, and wonder how much more serious he could possibly get. “What prompted this…desire?”

“Someone’s writing a book about me.”

“A biography?”

He waves his hand. “Fiction.”

I frown. “How do you know it’s about you?”

“I’ve heard snippets here and there about the subject matter, not to mention there’s a character who’s just like me.”

“Ah. Is what’s being written about you true?”

“Would I be here if it wasn’t?”

“So, it’s personal?”

“Isn’t it always?”

I shrug. “I suppose.”

“It can’t get out.”

“How are you going to stop it?” I ask.

“She’s always had an overactive imagination. I’m not calling her a pathological liar, but”- He shrugs with a sheepish grimace.

“Well, maybe you should,” I say. “Capitalize on the overactive imagination.”

He grins. “I made that up.”

He is good.

“And you ate that up!” He crows, pointing at me.

“Let’s move on to a scenario we encounter every day here at The Rumor Mill,” I say, ignoring that last bit. “Let’s say a young adult woman moves out of her parents’ home. It’s an everyday occurrence, but how do we make it ugly?”

He leans back in his chair, and touches the tips of his fingers together. “Easy. She was pregnant and her parents kicked her out, for the puritanical crowd. She did it for a man, for the liberal crowd.”

“You like to cover your bases, I see.”

“I do. Give me another.”

“Single adult male. Mid-thirties.”

“Gay. Or one of those alpha-male-red-pill types. Seriously, you don’t have anything more challenging than that?”

“It’s often the ones who seem easiest to destroy who are the hardest to get to,” I reply. “People divide more easily over big names and brands.”

“Divide?”

“Of course,” I say. “We don’t need everyone to believe us, only enough people to generate doubt for all of the rest. Besides, half the fun of The Rumor Mill is the drama it creates.”

He dips his head in acquiescence.

“So, tell me,” I say. “Why should I hire you?”

“Because I’ll tell people The Rumor Mill is broken if you don’t.”

 

Goodbye, 2015

As I sit at the end of another year (my 27th year end – yikes!), I’m not only evaluating myself on how I met the resolutions and goals I made at the beginning of this year, but reflecting on all of the things that have changed over the days, weeks, and months of 2015. Let me tell you, it’s been full and nonstop and intense, and a lot of that hasn’t been covered on the blog or social media at all.

At the beginning of this year, I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to go. I always have a picture of how things are going to go – it’s part of the whole writerly imagination thing – but somehow it doesn’t ever turn out that way, which is totally fine.

As most of you remember, and as I was reminded by someone who found my blog by searching “Lydia Thomas Seattle” this week, I was going to move to Seattle this year.

At the end of January, somebody found me at my place of employment. I didn’t know this person, but this person knew who I was, and proceeded to tell me about a situation that, as far as I was concerned, had nothing to do with me. I had limited knowledge of the situation already, through a series of dreams I’d had, but this person filled in the blanks. It was a sucky situation, and it continued for many months with this person finding me many more times to discuss things, but God was trying to get my attention.

Instead of talking about what was really going on, though, I told you about Bethel (an important theme this year, for sure) and my Christian Friend(s) in the Closet, and fed you Confessions, Baptist Snippets, and Favorite Writing Quotes.

For the first time in February, I ended up owing taxes. I usually donate my refund, and some people have come to expect that support. It wasn’t there this year. It sucked having to explain to people that I just didn’t have it to give, and it seemed like even more people than usual were asking, especially given my new position as a marketing manager at Booktrope Publishing. People who couldn’t have told me what was going on in my life were asking for my money. I’ve never felt less loved in my entire life.

But I kept those less than pleasant thoughts under wraps, and focused on funny, positive anecdotes and analogies.

In March, I went to the doctor for the first time in six years. My parents actually forced me to go because one evening my mom noticed excessive hair loss (actually, her exact words were, “Lydia, are you going bald?!” which, you know, was pleasant). My dad showed up the next day with an insurance card and the phone number of his doctor, telling me to get my thyroid checked before I got booted from his insurance. (I was about to be 26). Anyway, I went to the doctor to have blood drawn and we made an appointment to discuss the results, and was told they wouldn’t contact me before that unless there was something that concerned them. Well, they contacted me. When I went back to my doctor in March, she said, “Lydia, are you diabetic?” To which I responded, “You tell me.”

But, I really didn’t want to talk about all of that. Not about how long I’d been feeling bad and had complained about feeling bad before I just shut up and lived with it, or about how my doctor told me I couldn’t have anything that enjoyed (forget dessert, we’re talking bread…and cheese), or about how my parents got on me for going to the doctor wrong. (Apparently, if I had gone in for a well check up, the insurance wouldn’t have charged me for something I couldn’t afford, which I might have known if I’d been to the doctor more than once in my adult life. In my own defense, my dad told me to tell them I wanted my thyroid checked.) No, during March, I mostly talked about books and reading.

April was lonely. It was lonely because I wanted to talk about it – all of it – but I didn’t want to talk about it online, and by and large, that’s how my community has been done the past few years … online. I was hearing so much from my parents about how preventable the whole situation (health and insurance) was, I really didn’t need to hear any more well-meaning tips and lectures. I needed a hug and someone to listen to my side of things over a cup of (black, haha) coffee.

So in April, I was pretty quiet. I did end up tackling loneliness, at least a little:

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.

In May, I started making some changes, starting with church. Don’t get me wrong, I had been attending a great church throughout 2014 and into 2015, but that’s all I was really doing. I hadn’t really connected with anyone and so much of that had to do with a beyond hectic and unpredictable work schedule, and the rest of it had to do with the aforementioned why bother relationship ethic I’d developed. It wasn’t me at all, but at that point, I kind of figured most people there had given up on me, so I started over at another church, which was neither my best nor my worst idea.

I didn’t talk about this either, at least, not literally, because the Lord knows I am a recovering church hopper, and if there’s something the Church doesn’t like, it’s a hopper. I started writing posts with more substance, though, and got back to anecdotes. I also wrote my most popular post this year – about the Duggar’s – in May. (Well, I say it was about the Duggar’s. Really, it was about justice.)

At the end of June, there was an intervention staged in my honor by my Dad concerning me not taking very good care of myself. This has been the nature of every lecture and intervention that I can remember. And it’s hard to explain the why to my dad, because the fact that I sometimes get depressed and have more difficulty functioning is not something that has ever registered with him, since I gather depression is not supposed to be a Christian reality. His thought was that I was doing too much between three jobs, and that I had very little to show for the work I was putting in, especially in the newest one I’d acquired. (It was royalties-based). Add to that, I couldn’t afford to really take care of myself and the health issues that had cropped up for me. (Seriously, is the Affordable Care Act affordable for anybody?) So, even though I loved my authors and their books, I decided to step down in most of my marketing projects to do things like eat and sleep. (I stepped down from the rest of my projects soon after).

I really didn’t want to talk about that, so I spent most of the month talking about reading and writing.

A big shift happened for me in July.  I decided, not for the first time this year, that I was going to live my life, after a sermon on money (of all things) at church. Money is always my biggest reason to not do anything, and I made up my mind it wasn’t going to be that way anymore. There were things I wanted to do and see, and I was going to do and see them. I started with an impromptu road trip that same day, and two weeks later I headed to Oklahoma City on a trip that literally changed my life’s direction, when I realized God was saying, “Yeah, it’s not time” about Seattle, yet again. For whatever reason, I was more open to hearing it at that point.

God opened the doors for a relocation to Oklahoma City in August, and I did a lot of reading and launch prep for the republication of The Field for Vox Dei. And in September, I moved.

Since moving, I’ve been readjusting to a more traditional church atmosphere, which given my background, really shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s not without it’s challenges. I’m also trying to connect better with people, not just at church, but at work as well, and looking for new social opportunities with people my age. I’ve been trying to feel out my community, especially my apartment complex, for ministry opportunities. I’m learning about sensitivity and identity. I’m learning that I don’t have to be just one thing, but I don’t have to be all the things, either. I’m learning about patience.  And moderation. And compassion for local and global issues. And empowerment.

Most of all, between reading this blog and my journals over the past year, and noting the discrepancies between the two, I’m learning I don’t want to be a brand either. I don’t want to just pick certain parts of myself to share (like, “Reading, Writing, and Matters of Faith”), and completely leave out others (like science and history and my completely dorky side or anything else I might develop an interest in). I want to be able to talk about the stuff that’s impacting me. Instead, the first thing I’m asking before posting is, “Does it fit my brand?” And now all it feels like I am online is a brand.

Naturally, I have plans to change that, because this isn’t working for me – this writing a post at the end of the year to let you know what actually happened in my year. This blog should be actual, not blow by blow by any means, but realistic about what I’m going through.

And that’s going to be my starting point for 2016…