God and Our Ability to Create

I think about God and creativity a lot. A lot a lot. Like, from the moment I realized the two were not mutually exclusive but knitted to each other like my fifth grade home-ec project (which was pretty impressive), I’ve been thinking about this.


Because it’s amazing.

Let’s just talk about the groundwork behind this idea, shall we?

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How to Start Organizing Your Life

As a kid, I was way less into organizing than my mother was. I would let clothes fall on the floor willy-nilly, while she would color code her closet. All of my winter and spring stuff was mixed up, while she had things nicely packed away in labeled boxes. My homework got finished thirty minutes before class, and she was into project management.

With this kind of background, you can imagine my surprise that ten years later I am just like my mother. I don’t know if it’s being independent, living out of a suitcase, or if I’ve just always secretly been this way, but I am hella hella into organization now. My phone has more to-do apps than a CEOs personal secretary.

Without realizing it, this spontaneous desire for order has spilled over into every area of my life. I swear by the minimalist Five Piece French Wardrobe. I go through planners like they’re candy. Even my writing has been affected! Who could have guessed the kid who spat out anime fan-fiction in 30 minutes would become a plotter instead of a pantser?!

As bizarre as this is to me, becoming more organized has really helped me. I know what’s happening in my life, and it’s easier for me to finish projects. It’s even helped me to enjoy the things I’ve always liked doing. I still like to wander around the city or fill in my coloring books, but now I can do it without having to worry about my other things.

So do you need to bring a little order to your chaos? Then I’ve got a few tips for you.

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Traveling With a Bear

As anyone who has ever lived overseas can tell you, sometimes things happen and they suck. They suck because whatever happens is typically unexpected, and the culturally smart way of dealing with the suckiness is often drastically different than the way you’re used to.

That big ball of suck kind of sums up this last week for me. But instead of crying about it, I decided to do something a little bit different. I packed up my childhood teddy bear and went on an adventure.

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The Virtue of Being Alone

As a pseudo extravert and a verbal processor, being alone can be difficult for me. If I spend too much time in my own head, bad thoughts begin to grow like mold. I slowly begin to listen to those internal doubts and fears if I don’t find some way of shedding light on them. 

Yet as an expat living overseas I’ve spent an increasing amount of time by myself. Whether I’m on the way to work, going to a film, or walking around the city, most of the time I do it by myself. While I still struggle with this alone-time, I’ve discovered some virtues in the solitude. 

The greatest thing about being alone is that I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Two years ago I went a short weekend trip to Vienna all by my lonesome. I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I be lonely or afraid? Instead I had the best  vacation of my life. I visited monuments on my time. I spent stupid amounts of time in art museums, book stores, and cafes because I could. Who was going to stop me? That’s exactly the vacation I wanted, and it was nothing short of amazing. 

Fast forward two years to a short weekend in London with my friends. It was a good trip. I had a pseudo-religious experience eating cream tea for the first time in my life. We faked British accents with the other Americans in the group. But I didn’t enjoy my time as much when I was alone in Vienna. I was carted around and shepherded from one sight to another. I chatted with friends the entire time instead of sitting back and observing in silence. It’s not that it was a bad trip. I just knew that I would have enjoyed London much more if I’d explored it alone first. 

While being alone affords you a kind of freedom, it can also be incredibly lonely.  I get to see all these great things and have no one to share it with. Occasionally that still bums me out. Still, I’ve learned that loneliness can create a desire to share my experiences, and this desire is an asset. It makes me stretch beyond my limits to find other people with the same passions as myself. It’s the reason I speak to people on the internet about books and character development. It’s also a good excuse to find a mutual friend on Facebook and ask them out for coffee. 

Being alone isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it can help you to know yourself better and drive you outward towards new things.  But even though there are times when we need to be alone, there are times when we need to be around people. If you can learn to spot the differences between the two stages, then you’ll be gold.

So yeah, there are still days when I wish I lived in a place where I could call up friends and crash at their flats for the evening. But I’m learning how to be alone in the best way possible, and so far? It’s not the worst. 

Say Yes to Being an Expat

So many people around the world are dying to leave their home country and explore new ones. Only a handful of these adventure seekers are going to actually move to a new country. I always knew that I’d be one of those people, and it was never an option to just stay where I was. Yet there was a lot about being an expat that I just didn’t realize was going to happen. What was culture shock, and how was it going to affect me? Who knew the culture in my new home was going to be that different from my own?

Being an expat is an invaluable experience. But before you go bounding off into the great mysterious somewhere, here are some tips I wish I’d heard before I left.

1) Try Out a Small Trip: Being an Expat Isn’t for Everyone 

There’s a world of difference between visiting a place and living there.  It doesn’t matter how much you prepare for your new home, the reality is still going to be different from what was in your head. That’s why a two or three week visit before you commit to anything is a great idea. It’s enough to figure out if your love affair with Paris is the real deal, or if it was all in your head.

2) That First Year is Going to SUCK 

With every single expat I’ve ever met, the story is always the same. The first year in your new home is going to suck. You might have awesome experiences, but you’re also going to have your lowest moments. Culture shock is going to hit you hard, at least twice during this year if not more. The language barrier will seem impossible. You’re going to feel like an idiot more times in that first year than you ever have in your life. But if you can stick with it, then by the second year you’ll have your feet firmly planted on the ground.

3) The Locals Are Going to Treat You Different

Every website I viewed about my new home assured me that it was a magical land. Honey flowed from the water taps, the people would always be hospitable, and most everyone spoke English. Now that I’ve been here, this image seems to stem from the Tourist Areas, not the rest of the city.

It’s not that my new neighbors aren’t hospitable, or that they don’t speak English. It’s that once you actually decided to live somewhere, the locals see you in a whole new light. They love you for loving their home enough to move there. Yet there’s always that lingering feeling that you should be trying harder. You want to live here, right? Then you have to be exactly like the locals, or else you’re not trying hard enough.

4) What You’re Doing is Super Cool, but It Won’t Always Feel Like It

The dream of living in a far away land and the reality of it are two different things. When people tell me how awesome it is that I work in Europe, but I live in Asia, I just smile and shrug. “It’s not that cool,” I think. “It’s just my life.” No matter what kind of weird stuff happens to you while you’re away from home, after a while it’s all going to become normal.

That doesn’t mean you should start to take it for granted though! When you look back at this point of your life, make sure it’s with a lot more fondness than regret. Take advantage of where you are, and try to experience everything you can. You don’t know how much longer any of this is going to last.

5) Never Be Afraid of Square One

My worst nightmares is that one day all this is going to go tits up and I’m going to end up back in America working at a Starbucks. If I’m lucky, I’ll get some soul crushing office job where I have to wear pencil skirts and cut my hair conservatively. I’ll be someone who chased after her dreams but never actually made it, someone who never changed from the way she was when she left.

The good news is that this fear is irrational. As soon as you and I took that first step towards our dreams, we changed. We became people who listened to the voice inside that said there was more out there. There’s no possible way we can ever return to Square One after that. We can get stuck, we can stop trying to reach for more, but we can never return to Square One. The person at Square One never tried, and we did.

6) This Is Going to Be Hard

I wish I could actually tell you how hard it’s going to be, but there’s no way that I can. Your experiences, views, and struggles are going to be different from mine. What I can tell you is that at some point you are going to have to make the choice to either go back home or grit your teeth and make this work. Sometimes going back home, or just moving to a new country, is the healthiest choice. It’s a good way to recharge or get out of dangerous situations. Look, if you fear for your mental health and safety, then please go back home. Get the help you need.

But if that’s not the case, then you should stick it out and learn to adapt. It will be incredibly difficult, but in the end you’ll be a better, stronger, person for it. I’ve learned so much about myself overseas that can never be taken away from me. That alone makes all the crazy crap that’s happened worth it.

Becoming an expat is a wonderful, life-enriching experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you think you’re adventurous and flexible enough to roll with the punches and adjust to a new way of life, then more power to you. If you’re already living the expat life then please feel free to comment and add your own tips. Remember, we want to encourage and equip our fellow future expats!

Mountains and Valleys

I was taught that my spiritual life looked like a series of mountains and valleys. I would reach the top of the mountain and have a Dali Lama revelation. I’d barrel back down the mountain on wings of spiritual renewal, and then I’d use that residual energy to trudge my way through the valley in search of the next Spiritual Mountain. 

This analogy taught me that the only times I would have meaningful moments with Jesus would be when I was on top of the mountain. Valley-time was to be endured. I was meant to conquer the mountain with blood and sweat so I could earn my moment at the peak. 

Thankfully Jesus is helping me get over that stupid idea. 

But why is it stupid? Why should we not live for those precious raw moments with Jesus? 

By putting too much value on them we end up seeing our lives in reverse order. The Lord provides you with daily bread.


That means every day, in case you didn’t know.

In fact, I’m gonna say it again. 


We tend to view those big moments as the great big fabulous weekends in our humdrum lives. In reality it’s the stuff that happens on the weekdays that makes up the majority of your life. So why the hell would Jesus reserve his presence with you for the weekend? He cares about the entirety of your life, not just the major events. 

While I’ve had only a few Big Moments with Jesus, the little moments are too many to count. He’s sustained me with food day to day. He’s given me a refreshing point of view when I’m ready to scream in frustration. Or he offers me a moment of peace when work makes me want to maim someone. The roses in bloom around the city, the perfectly timed music in my headphones, laughing with my friends until my face hurts, that’s what actually sustains me. Those are his gifts to me, and they’re just as valuable as the Big Moments. 

My life with Jesus is not a series of mountains and valleys. It’s a life, full of work, friends, and the occasional great surprise. I don’t want to ignore my life just because I think I need to look for a big ass mountain. Jesus is right here with me, and he’s never leaving me. Not now, not ever. 

You’re Not a Writing Genius. It’s Okay.

So you’ve completed your very first story and put it out there for all the world to see! Bully for you!

Now what?

Well if you’re anything like me then you’re going to swagger forward to your next project, full of ideas, aspirations, dreams of how this project is going to be your Empire Strikes Back to your New Hope! You sit down, you open your word doc and then-!


Well, not exactly bupkis. You’ve got a few things going for you. A strong beginning perhaps. A few vividly painted characters in your mind. All of that is great, but for whatever reason you still find yourself ramming your head against the wall in frustration.

“Why?” you ask yourself. “It shouldn’t be this way! I’ve done this before, haven’t I? I mean, yes, I may have only done this once before, but it certainly wasn’t this difficult! And look at how many hits my fanfictions have! Why can’t I get my act together now, when it counts?”

Okay my dears, before you hyperventilate yourself into a dark corner of pity and self-loathing, I’m going to tell you something I’ve been having to tell myself. Maybe you’ll hear it better than I have. Ready? Here we go:

You‘re normal.

I know, I know. “That’s not true! I’m bizarre! I’m creative! I’m unique! Look at all my friends and family, I am clearly the special one here.”

I’m sure you are. But if you compare yourself to all the other little special snowflakes in the world… you’re probably right on target for this part of your Creative Career.

That’s okay! It just means that if you want to be above average, you have to have a work ethic that is above average. You may eventually be a damn good writer/artist/photographer/blah blah blah, but you’ll have to work hard to be that way.

“But my idols never had to work that hard!”


I’m sorry, that statement is so absurd it requires a second reaction.


What do you think your idols do? Magically transfer their thoughts onto a page like a freaking pensieve? They sit down with their perfected writers attire and just hammer away at the keyboard until the computer turns their manuscript into solid gold? Please.

Look if you insist on comparing yourself to others, do me a favor: take a good hard look at your favorite artists, alright? How old were they when they had their first break-out? How long had they been studying their craft before then? Were they doing it in solitude or did they have mentors?

Good art does not just spring from your mind like Athena from the head of Zeus. That’s not how this rolls, and it’s not how you roll.

If you really want to be an artist, you’re going to have difficulties. You’re going to make stuff that is mediocre. Adversity is fine. What you can’t do is stop when you reach it. Take your problems and look at it from a new angle. Ask someone for help. Therapeutically blog about it. Whatever you do just keep going.

I believe in you average snow-flake. You should too.

(originally posted on Elizabeth Stuart Writes)

Quote: The Last of the Wine, On Seeking Truth

There is no People here. There are twenty-thousand bodies, imprisoning each a soul, the centre of a cosmos no other sees. Here they pause, and in each other’s company trifle a little time away, before each takes up again the labour of his solitude, by which alone his soul will live or die, his long journey home to God. Who can do good, without knowing what it is? And how will he find it, except in thought, or prayer, or in talk with a few truth seeking friends, or with the teacher God has sent him? Nor will it come in some catch-phase that can be shouted in the Agora, meaning the same to all who hear; but by long learning of the self, and of the causes of error, by bridling desire, and breaking it like a hard-mouthed horse, and coming in submission to the truth again, only at last by long labour it will be refined like gold. None of these things will happen in a crowd; but rather bending like a reed before the wind of wrath, or fear, or ignorant prejudice, catching by infection a false conceit of knowledge, or at the best a true opinion, not weighed and sifted out. What is the People, that we should worship it?”

Mary Renault, The Last of the Wine