a calling of unknowns

Hi! It’s been awhile.

In all honesty, I don’t completely know how to write this post. It shouldn’t be difficult. It’s just an update. Fortunately for me, “not knowing” is a common experience (non-experience?) at this point, so at least I can start with familiarity. 


I’ve been a Christian for a decade and I never personally understood the word calling until a few months ago. I had prayed and asked God for a calling- some kind of personal purpose and motivation, something big and grand and adventurous- numerous times over the years. In fact, it was one of the first prayers I prayed after accepting salvation. 

My family visited Summit for the first time barely a week after I had secretly become a Christian. Pastor J.D. preached a sermon on the Holy Spirit and I had no idea what he was talking about (Wind? Sanctification? What?), but when he presented the Gospel at the end I felt a pull in my heart because that was it! The thing I knew! The thing that saved me. 

The sermon ended. Leaning back in my chair in that renovated warehouse, I decided to inform my parents that this would be the church we would be attending from now on. Before turning to them to let them in on my executive decision (“thank you and you’re welcome, Mom and Dad”), I glanced at the overhead screens. One said something about spending two years after college serving on mission. I immediately decided that this was my calling. I prayed and informed God about this new development. Thank you and you’re welcome, God.

Throughout high school and college, I held on to the belief that my calling was to spend two years on international mission after graduation. I never questioned it and I never prayed about it. I felt that it was just such a noble and good thing to do that of course it’s what I was meant to do. Despite this very slight oversight on my part (apparently, the Christian is not really supposed to inform God on what her calling is, but is supposed to let him decide??? Baffling) God still changed me in many hard but good ways. These changes helped me when I was finally faced with the undeniable and unrelenting truth that I could not go overseas after college. In the moment, it was devastating. Now, I understand.


Had I gone overseas, I would not have been able to process through some personal stuff with a mental health professional. 

The cancer rapidly developing on my thyroid would have likely gone unfound.

If the cancer had been discovered overseas, I would have either had to return home to undergo surgery or would have had surgery alone in an unfamiliar place.

(for those who didn’t know that I’d had thyroid cancer, I’m good now! I don’t talk about it often because the word “cancer” makes it sound a lot worse than it was. It could have been a big deal, but it wasn’t, so I don’t mention it often.)

The pandemic would have probably sent me home.

I would not have been able to enroll as an M.Div student at SEBTS and develop my newfound passion for Bible translation.

I would not have met all of the amazing people through small groups that I now have the blessing of knowing. 

I would not have started volunteering with middle schoolers.

I would not have interned with Summit.

I would not have found my calling.


To be fair to my fourteen year old self, “calling” is one of those concepts that is too often hyper spiritualized or hyper emotionalized. My pragmatic decision of “I want to do mission overseas, it seems good, so I’m going to do missions overseas” was wrong in it’s self-determination, but wasn’t entirely off when it comes to the practicality of the decision. People often hold the misconception that they need to do nothing until they feel a distinct and undeniable call from God to go somewhere, do something, be someone. This is a mistake. God’s call is already distinct and undeniable. The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 is for all Christians throughout all times. There’s a saying around Summit that summarizes this idea quite well. The question is no longer if you are called, but where and how. 

After reconciling with the fact that I would not be going overseas for two years after college, the questions of where? and how? became more pressing in my mind, to the point of obsession. I’m happy to report that I now have the answers!



I don’t know!


I don’t know!


Game of Thrones-esque disappointing and unsatisfying narrative twist to this post aside, accepting unknowns and determining to simply follow God, faithful in what is set immediately in front me, has been the most hard-fought lesson learned throughout the past year. I can’t say that I’ve become an expert in it, or have achieved some level of spiritual zen about it, or can even make it through a day without wanting to whine about it, but, through the Holy Spirit, I am doing it.

I want to plan my life and then I want to do my life. I’ve always been happy to fit God into my schedule. Thank you for salvation and you’re welcome, God! I’m here for you! I’ll study your Word and lead groups and I’ll even go. I’ll make you an itinerary. Like I said, you’re welcome. So, when self-determination becomes impossible because thyroid medicine makes short-term memory unreliable, when there’s a pandemic, when the housing market goes insane, when you’re broke, when you’re broken, what is calling?


Calling is withdrawing often to pray, like Jesus in Luke 5:16.

Calling is being raised to life and remade in Christ through God’s mercy, like Paul says in Ephesians 2. 

Calling is casting aside my plans and confidently saying, “If the Lord wills, I shall live, and I shall do this or that.” For what is my life? It’s a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. But God can make even vapors meaningful.


Long term, I do not know where I will eventually live out the Great Commission. Nor do I know how I will do so. In faith, I trust that God will reveal both to me whenever it’s time for those things to move out of the misty unknowns of my life. But for now, they belong foggy, and I am not going to plunge into vapor to heave them out for the benefit of my schedule. It wouldn’t work, anyway, and, for the first time in my life, I don’t want to know. It’s better unknown.

Here’s what’s up right now. 

I interned with Summit for a year, growing in love and knowledge of Christ and the church. 

I know that I will always be a member of a church body- a contributing member, who follows God in trying to best serve however I am able. 

I love studying the Word, discipling others, teaching the historical and literary context of the Bible, learning Greek, and writing stories. 

I have the privilege of serving an incredible church with a passion for the Gospel, for church planting, for justice, for racial reconciliation, for discipleship, for the abused, for the Word, for the Great Commission. 

Is Summit perfect? Absolutely not. (I’m a member there, after all!) I know it’s not perfect, but it is my church, and, in Christ, it is good. 

In the fog-shrouded future, if the Lord wills, I would absolutely love to go with a church plant. 

I have a lot to learn before that happens. 

I have the opportunity to move from the internship and into the apprenticeship.

After praying, reading the Word, and seeking the advice of my community, I am pursuing the apprenticeship. In light of everything, I believe it is what God has for me right now.


As an apprentice, I will continue to work in church ministry as a student leader, be mentored by mature Christians, learn skills that I could perhaps use to serve a church plant, and experience a wide variety of ministry training and teaching from some of the awesome leaders from within and from without Summit. The apprenticeship program is a two-year, full-time, and support-raised job.

If you are interested, there are three ways that you could support me through the apprenticeship.

The first way is through prayer. If this entire post is not evidence enough to this, I will blatantly spell it out. I need prayer. I need prayer for perseverance, for wisdom, and for memory. If you would like to commit to praying for me, please comment or message your email address and I’ll add you to my update list.

The second way is through connections. I only know so many people and I have committed to raising my entire salary for two years. If you know anyone who might be interested in meeting and supporting me, please reach out to let me know!

Finally, the third way you could support me is through monetary giving. I have a support page at the link below which allows you to easily sign up to give. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Support Page: https://reliant.org/kaycee.browning


Thank you so much for reading! I’m so excited about the upcoming two years, and I am so grateful for the support you’ve offered even just in reading this entire post. I have been so blessed.


does the author matter? by jenelle schmidt

In honor of her new release An Echo of the Fae, Jenelle Schmidt is taking over the blog with a guest post on the topic of deconstructionism, or, more colloquially, the death of the author. It’s a fascinating discussion (or, at least, my little nerdy heart thinks so, so thank you for humoring me Jenelle!) and one which writers need to be prepared to engage. Enjoy!

When I studied to become an English Education major at Taylor University, one of my classes studied the different ways to approach a piece of literature from a critical stance (versus just reading a piece of literature to enjoy it). I don’t remember a lot of the things we studied in that class. I know we talked about archetypes and various other methods of studying literature. A lot of that class blurs together in my mind as being one of the most useless classes I ever spent time in, as well as one of the most boring.

The only thing I remember with any clarity from that class is that my least favorite type of literary criticism was also the one I excelled at implementing. Deconstruction. 

That was the only perfect grade I received in that class, and I was a little resentful of that, since I disliked and disagreed with the basic premise of the theory.

I couldn’t tell you how to do it now. It’s been fifteen years since I even thought about literary deconstruction, and I certainly don’t want to spend any more time on it than necessary. But Kaycee asked me to talk about my view on “death of the author” in light of whether or not it is important for readers to know an author’s personality, headspace, beliefs, background, etc in order to better interpret a story.

I was unfamiliar with the term, so I looked it up. It reminded me a lot of deconstruction. Yep, that’s the link we’re going with. (Sorry, Kaycee!)

Personally, I kind of think the author is a rather important part of the story they tell.

I may be just a wee bit biased on that count.

But to be a little bit serious, I do think a story can be understood without knowing anything about the author. I think it’s possible to understand The Lord of the Rings without knowing anything about the life and beliefs of J.R.R. Tolkien… but knowing that he wrote much of that story as a way of coping with the horrific things he saw during WWI definitely enhances the meaning we take away from this story. To be sure, knowing the context of the author’s mindset ensures that we take away the author’s intended meaning, rather than our own, but I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. 

Stories, at their very heart of hearts, are more than just entertainment. Stories are a way of understanding the world around us. At times they help us comprehend our own place in the world and at others they help us understand those around us. If they can help us understand someone vastly different from ourselves, so much the better!

As an author, I find it impossible to divorce my own worldview and beliefs and personality from my writing. The words that flow through me are uniquely mine, and I can only give them my voice. So understanding who I am and the experiences I have had can only add clarity to a reader who picks up one of my books.

Now, I believe there are absolutes. And I believe there are universal truths. And if some of that makes it into my story, I think a reader should be able to see it even if they have no idea who I am or what life was like when I was writing. My specific emotions while writing a story will probably have little bearing on what the reader gets out of the story.

In a hundred years, if my stories last that long, if someone picks up one of my books, it might not be important to know that I grew up in America or was a Christian or had an amazing family or suffered the loss of two children before they were born… and I hope that my stories can be enjoyed and truths gleaned from them without any of that knowledge. But there is a certain amount of kinship of feeling that can be gained from knowing that the author was a human being, just like the reader. And if they do some digging and find out those things about me, I believe it will only enhance their reading, not detract from it.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, Jenelle! Personally, I completely agree. The author(s) of a work of art provide a definitive place to begin an analysis. If the author is removed, there is nothing permanent or objective on which to begin a thought concerning the creation. As you pointed out to me privately, there is something theologically profound about that concept.

I’ll spare you the rest of my musings and, instead, urge you to go order a copy of An Echo of the Fae today! You can purchase it on amazon at the following link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089654VWC?pf_rd_r=NEHDCWEKSWA0DMK39W6B&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee

an echo of an interview: jenelle schmidt

My wonderful friend and author extraordinaire, Jenelle Schmidt, has published a new fantasy novel titled An Echo of the Fae. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I am very excited to share my review of it in a few days. She was kind enough to stop by for an interview. Enjoy!

You’ve mentioned on your blog and in person how this story surprised you
with the urgency it compelled in you to write it. Can you describe that
urgency a bit more?

Sure! It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was trying really hard to write a different book last year, and every time I sat down to write, I felt stalled out. I felt like I had to almost wrestle the keyboard for every single sentence. I kept putting “Echo” on the back-burner, but I couldn’t ignore it. So I tried making it my “reward.” I would slog along for 2 hours, getting my word count on Towers done, usually aiming for 500-1000 words and then I’d write 100-200 words of Echo before shutting my computer. Every single time, I exceeded the 100-200 word goal easily in the span of 5-10 minutes.

It was kind of breath-taking, actually. I finally laid Towers aside and focused on Echo and the story continued to drag me along behind it. Sometimes it felt like I couldn’t type fast enough! 

To be honest, I still don’t really feel like I wrote the story. The words just begged to be written. I definitely felt that the Lord had etched this story on my heart, and I would spend some time in prayer before each writing session and then as I wrote the words just came almost effortlessly. This is by far the easiest book I’ve ever written, and came together in the shortest time, and I definitely don’t feel like I can take credit for any of it.

That is absolutely incredible! As someone who loves the Lord and loves to write, the feeling of the two being in complete harmony with one another makes for such a peaceful experience and purposeful motivation. Speaking of motivation, you have a passion for writing stories that families can enjoy together. Is this one of those stories?

Definitely! I always hope that my stories can be enjoyed by families who love reading together, and this is no exception. The main character is a bit younger than most of my other protagonists, but I think adults can still get a lot out of the story. There are some big themes in this one that I think kids will understand and adults will appreciate on an even deeper level. 

Also, while I wrote this one with a more middle grade audience in mind (9-12 year olds), I didn’t pull any punches when it came to vocabulary, and there are definitely some words in there that I hope challenge that audience and delight their parents!

As funny as it might sound, vocab and wording both work to make a book memorable, particularly for younger kids. I remember in one of your novels you used the description “a ghost of a smile” for someone’s expression, and it has always stuck with me as beautiful throughout the next eleven years (ooooof) and onward. However, more important than fun word choices, are the themes and the story. What hopes do you have for the effect this story will have on its audience?

There are so many things I hope this story says to its audience, but mostly, I hope that it takes them on an adventure that teaches them something about themselves.

I hope it conveys the importance of family. I hope it leaves an impression about the power of adoption. I have an aunt and an uncle who were adopted and several friends as well, and to be honest, it’s often a struggle for me to even remember that they were adopted, because they are so tightly knit into their (our) families. I wanted to write this story a little bit for them, because their stories aren’t the kinds you usually read in fantasy fiction. Rather, their stories are beautiful. And while, yes, there are the painful, human moments in their stories as well, they are mostly beautiful. That’s not at all meant to discount the stories that are hard or messy or tumultuous, but I wanted to write a story that focused on some of the stories I actually witnessed and how they inspired me.

I hope that this story imparts its audience with the overwhelming power of forgiveness. There are some difficult themes that the main character comes face to face with and she has to choose whether or not to forgive those at fault. In one instance, she must forgive someone who has wronged her directly, while in another, she faces the decision to forgive someone who has wronged many others, and these are difficult moments for her.

And finally, I hope it speaks comfort to parents who have lost a child. Having experienced two early-term miscarriages, that is a sorrow that I truly, deeply empathize with. I hope that Echo’s story helps them know that they are not alone.

Thank you for writing your heart, even when it felt painful. I cannot wait for others to read this novel.

Jenelle has been very busy over the past few days, writing a myriad of posts on quite a few different blogs. If you’re interested in more of her writing (and, objectively speaking, you should be), a good place to start would be her blog. https://www.jenelleschmidt.com/

An equally good idea would be to go ahead and pick up your copy of An Echo of the Fae. You can purchase it on Amazon.

Be on the lookout for more posts soon!

An Echo of the Fae: Cover Reveal

When I was 12 years old, I was absolutely obsessed with a fantasy series which is now known as The Minstrel’s Song. It had everything that I liked: headstrong heroines, broody warrior boys, sympathetic villains, snarky dragons, meaningful themes, and magic. Unbeknownst to me, I actually attended the same church as the author and, after I got over my initial bout of starstruck awe, we became good friends.

I say my initial bout of starstruck awe because it still appears now and again, and this is one of those nows and agains. Everyone, I am so, so excited to be a part of the cover reveal for An Echo of the Fae, the newest novel by author Jenelle Schmidt.

An Echo of the Fae

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the “haunted” wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn’t know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo’s wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?


This novel is incredible. I can’t wait to share more about it in the weeks to come, and, more than that, I can’t wait to see the effect this poignant little book will have on people, particularly on preteens. I can’t help but feel nostalgic for 12 year old me. The Minstrel’s Song helped me navigate those tumultuous middle years, and I know An Echo of the Fae will do the same.


An Echo of the Fae hardcover is available for preorder HERE

An Echo of the Fae Kindle version is available for preorder HERE

And be sure to check out Jenelle’s website! Her most recent blog post features a beautiful portrait of Echo, the titular character.

Life Update!

Have you heard of the 1% rule? It’s the idea that roughly only 1% of the people on the Internet create content. The remaining 99% are deemed “lurkers.” Not a very flattering name; it has reptilian vibes for some reason and I dislike the way it sounds when said out loud.

So, am I writing this post solely because quarantine has made me dwell overly and obsessively on unimportant Internet colloquialisms with a bizarre, accompanying mental image of a digital snake wearing a top hat lurking in the corners of my computer screen as I scroll through Twitter judging people I don’t know?


Floral Illustrated Build Bridges Instagram Post

So much has happened since graduating I barely know where to start! (oh yeah! Graduation! A thing that happened! I completed my undergrad at NC State with a B.A. in English- concentration in Creative Writing, a B.A. in General Anthropology, and a minor in Forensic Science.)

I’ll do a rapid-fire bulleted list of the Things that occurred after graduating, just to fast-forward to the Thing I want to write about.

  • I went through the process of applying for Journeymen. Made it all the way to the end. Needed one more thing. God suddenly said nope, don’t do Journeymen. Stopped applying for Journeymen.


  • Realized that God had been telling me “no” the entire time but I hadn’t wanted to listen to him because I was so intent on escaping.


  • Applied for jobs. Hey, did y’all know there are literally no jobs for people immediately out of college with only bachelor degrees?? Especially when they are humanities degrees? Oops, I maybe should have thought of that when deciding my majors!


  • (What do you mean shrugging and saying “I like words” and “I like fossils” are not the best determiners for selecting four years of study??)


  • Got a retail job over the holidays because wut college loans are a reality and not a nebulous concept?? Store shall remain unnamed because I’m not sure just how many of my rights I signed over to our corporate overlords.


  • retail work is underpaid, dehumanizing, and cruel.


  • Left after the holidays.


  • (I don’t shop at this store anymore)


  • depression


  • I shrugged and said “I like Jesus” and I applied to seminary.


  • I was accepted into seminary.


  • I signed up for seminary classes.


  • I complained about going to seminary to anyone that would listen. (blah blah blah everybody thinks they just get to be a pastor, blah blah blah entitled white guys, blah blah blah 80% men)


  • I went to seminary



  • Seminary is incredible and has been a wonderful place of healing and restoration for me. God has taught me so much through my amazing professors. The students have (for the most part) been wonderful and uplifting and passionate about encouraging women to pursue ministry. I have a newfound inspiration and drive to grow my relationship with God and obey His will above all else, and the vague formations of an actual calling and ownership in my life.


  • (and thus concludes another episode of ‘Will She Ever Stop Judging Literally Everything She Comes Across??’ Tune in next time for episode ‘She Always Gets Lizzie Bennet On Character Quizzes And Gets Way Too Angry About It’)


  • found a much better job as an online English tutor! ^_^


  • Like everyone else, all of my classes were switched to online in March due to the coronavirus. The switch went smoothly, but I’ve always struggled with online classes.


  • Meanwhile….


We’ve reached the Thing I actually want to write about!

Throughout all of the changes listed above, I continuously wondered what place ministry could possibly have in my life now. Mentors constantly told me in college that every place is a mission field, that there are lost people everywhere, that God can and will use Christians wherever they are if they sacrifice their wills to his. It’s easy to believe in a worldwide mission field, but it’s hard to interact with it when you are working 10+ hours a day at your part-time job and all of your 15 minute breaks are purposefully scheduled so that you’d be the only one taking a break at that time, alone. Eventually, after months of apathy, I prayed and asked God to give me the opportunity to organically meet new people and share the Gospel with them. I did not know what to expect, or what I wanted, but I was tired of my lethargic and meandering disobedience.

Soon after praying, my sister impulse-bought a ridiculous amount of Dungeons and Dragons supplies because I’d introduced her to Critical Role (a DnD livestream Twitch show) and she wanted to play. She asked me to DM (basically, lead the game) and, without thinking (and without knowing how to play), I agreed. I asked her if we could make it a Bible study too. We quickly found a group of eight high school/college girls to play and we began what is undoubtedly one of the strangest but most fun discipleship experiments I have ever experienced. The game itself is incredibly fun, but combining it with the Gospel makes it so much more. I’m not going to elaborate here on what God has done- too much for this post!-, but I’ll share some stories later.

Alongside this strange new hobby, I also started serving with the middle school student ministry at my church. I wasn’t able to serve for very long before Covid-19 happened, but I was there long enough to be told about and encouraged to pursue the Summit internship! The Summit internship is, essentially, a program created in order to help young adults explore and experience ministry in a variety of contexts and to grow their leadership skills. I will be serving with the student ministry. I cannot even begin to express how excited I am about it! Again, it’s too much to write about right now, but I will absolutely discuss it in a later post.

There’s a lot that God has been teaching me throughout the last few months, but I think the most life-changing Thing he’s taught me is that if I pray for opportunities to serve him, he will provide and he will provide quickly. It seems so obvious. After all, God does not desire that any should perish- he desires for people to know him- and God, in the Great Commission, has commanded all Christians to share the good news and to build up the church.

Yet, despite his desires and his commands, he still waited until I chose to ask him for ministry. Not only does God honor and and dignify humanity by respecting the free will he gave us, even when we choose to use that free will for evil, he also proves by his patience that he is not patronizing or tolerating me because of what I could possibly do for him. No, he does not need my actions. I am feeble, at best, and he’s God. He wants my love and my heart, and not for any of the nefarious or selfish reasons I’m prone to suspecting of most people. He wants me to love him because he loves me, and his love is selfless and vulnerable and life-giving. He selflessly sacrificed his perfect community with himself to come to earth. He vulnerably subjected himself to ridicule, unbelief, pain, torture, death, and separation from God. He rose to life and repeatedly proved he rose to life so that I could be assured that death does not have to be my eternity. Despite all of the ways he has loved me, he still waited for me to love him.

I can’t comprehend it. It’s so much.

Here’s what I can comprehend though. I am sick of being a lurker in God’s kingdom and I know that God has much more muchness for me than I could possibly imagine. Already, in the few months of actually pursuing obedience, my life has changed dramatically for the better. I can’t wait to see what he has next, and I can’t wait to share my experiences. Hopefully, these experiences, which I will be writing about here, will be an encouragement to you! Everything I just wrote about God’s relationship and feelings towards me applies to you too.

Thanks for reading!


Insincerely is a short story that I wrote several years ago that’s just a bit too long, a bit too rough, and a bit too odd to publish. Still, I like the silly thing and I think others might too. It’s my love letter to Victorian novels, and by love letter, I mean it’s satire because when I love something I tend to mock it relentlessly. Enjoy!

trigger warning: brief mentions of suicide

Insincerely blog 3


To Henry,

Your sentence is nearly complete, isn’t it? It had slipped my mind.

I am writing this letter in an alley off Merlinide Street. It is dark and there’s fog about, but it pushes the light from the nearby streetlamp onto the page, so I don’t mind. I never do mind.

Mind. I’ve written the word thrice now in as many sentences. Perhaps I could dispel some meaning from my mind’s preoccupation with itself, but that would require some thought and, frankly, I just haven’t the mind to put in the effort.

Look at my words. I am turning into my sister. You will agree, since you married her, and therefore must speak to her regularly.

I have been solicited by the Andpyre Publishing Company to write the events that led up to your arrest. You have not heard of Andpyre, not because of your years of incarceration, but because they are not real. I suspect they are a slipshod front made by your friend, Mr. Edward Bolden Jr., in order to prove your innocence and garner my admittance to the good establishment of Merlinide Women’s Correctional and Holding Facility of Ventshire.

I’m bored, so I am going to accept APC’s offer. However, there are the citations and copyright to consider. I don’t like considering those, so instead, I will simply send you the story for your perusal. Tell me it is true, tell me it is false, I don’t care. It’s a story, so of course it doesn’t matter what it is, only what people think it is.

Remind me, is this how it happened?

Ellie Sara Castar often wished she had been named Eleanora. Ellie was childish, playful, and girlish- three adjectives that Ellie tried very hard to avoid personifying in herself. Eleanora was elegant, intelligent, and sophisticated- three adjectives that Ellie personified without really trying, though that had not always been true. When she was five, she was not intelligent because she once ate a worm. When she was ten, she struggled to memorize and implement the etiquettes and courtesies expected by someone of her station. When she was fifteen, she accidentally belched in the middle of her acceptance speech during the Exceptional Ladies’ Award of Early Ventshire University, so she had clearly not always been elegant. Ellie had suited her then.

But now it didn’t, and it was yet another thing Ellie could hold against her father. Ellie’s mother, Cordelia Guinevere Castar, had wanted to name her Eleanora, but Calvin Robert Castar had insisted on Ellie, so what more could Cordelia do?

Of course, when Polly Flannel, the pale, ever-coughing washerwoman with the greasy blonde hair, wanted to name her daughter Theodora Everetta Midford, Calvin had agreed that it was a lovely name. And thus, Ellie Sara Castar obtained a half-sister named Theodora (because it was pretty) Everetta (because it was pretty) Midford (because it sounded better than ‘Flannel’ and because Theodora was conceived in the middle of two Fords, isn’t that romantic?). Ellie also obtained a valuably tragic backstory due to her mother’s unfortunate suicide, a stepmother who couldn’t read and therefore had no idea how utterly cliché she was in her behavior towards Ellie, and a father who realized his mistakes two seconds after seeing Cordelia’s limp body swinging from the dining room chandelier and thus tried to find redemption by marrying Polly to give Theodora a good, legitimate father. Two seconds after the faltered applause followed his alter-kiss with a washerwoman, he decided to simply drink instead.

This regrettable drama happened when Ellie was two, so she never remembered any of it. Her fellow nobles rarely talked about it either, because three years later, Lord Bolden disowned his son because he had used his magic to create a machine that could find and destroy rat infestations and, horrors, had gone into the slums to help the poor. Worst of all, the Paraclesus family had taken Edward in and sponsored his future endeavors, calling his actions ‘laudable’ and ‘progressive’. Can you even imagine? He could have been mugged! He could have been enticed by a prostitute and had disease thrust upon him! Thus, the Castar-Flannel-Midford scandal was soon forgotten, just as the Bolden-rat-Paraclesus scandal was forgotten when a study regarding the spontaneous combustion of candied sweets released and flung the entire nobility into abject hysteria.

And so, in all fairness, the worst memory Ellie had of her childhood was when Calvin banned sweets. Polly would sneak her some occasionally (she probably hoped Ellie would spontaneously combust), and Ellie would sneak some to Theodora (she hoped the same), but it was dreadfully miserable having to sneak. Life got better when the new study came out saying the sweets had never combusted in the first place, so she could eat them again. Ellie found the whole situation profound, though she could never understand why it was so.

There. I’ve written the background and introduced myself. Prologues are out of style right now, so that’s why I included one. I’ll be considered a writer of great literature in about fifty years or so.

Oh, by the way, I know what’s profound now. Most people, myself included, are sweets that don’t combust.

Ellie was twenty now, and Eleanora would have fit her perfectly, especially on this day because this was the day that her magic finally worked. And what magic it was! It proved her strong and noble heart, the intelligence of her passions, the practicality of her pursuits, the dignified gracefulness that coexisted simultaneously with ruthless justice within her. If you think the last sentence made little sense (grammatically, ethically, geographically, etc.), then you will begin to understand what magic is.

There’s been a lot of theories and experiments postulated and experimented by a lot of thinkers and experimenters over the years concerning how magic works, but here are the facts (facts are subjective, of course, so these are Ellie’s facts):

  1. Magic can only be manifested in a machine invented by a magical person.
  2. Magic stems from a deep ideal or theme or dream or craving or or or within a person.
  3. The aforementioned Or must be kept in mind throughout the inventing of the machine, or the magic will not manifest and the machine will not work.

Those are the facts. Now, here are the sub-facts. These are objective.

  1. The nobility are magical. The poor certainly aren’t.
  2. Machines are for the nobility. They are of no use to the poor.
  3. If a nobleman or noblewoman does not create a machine within his or her lifetime, then he or she is a lazy and useless waste of air that clearly does not care about his or her good name.

Ellie had finally accomplished the subjective rules listed and proved the objective rules true. What a blessed day! Best of all, there was a party being held at the Paraclesus manor that night, which would be the perfect place to demonstrate her machine to Mr. Henry Paraclesus, the chief of police, who would, of course, be the one to garner the most use from it. Better still, Ellie’s machine would force the police to allow her, someone who both men and women alike agreed was very much a woman, onto the police force. Ellie had never been particularly interested in joining the police, but ever since her mother had given in to her father’s wishes and named her Ellie, Ellie liked to do what society said women shouldn’t, because then perhaps she could become Eleanora.

Ellie was excited about the party, but dreading it a bit too. No, she was not worried about publicly demonstrating her machine; her adoration of public speaking had not even been dampened by the belching incident. No, she was not worried about essentially forcing the chief of Ventshire police to add her to the force; Henry Paraclesus was barely older than she and he was a fidgety, exuberant young man who attended suffrage rallies even when he was off duty. She was worried about Theodora Everetta Midford.

Theodora has barely been mentioned, and for good reason. She was a lazy and useless waste of air.

But she was also Henry’s fiancee, and Henry never entertained private conversations in the midst of a party unless Theodora asked. Ellie would have to bring her along, and Theodora would have to be present during the conversation, and there was no getting around it because Ellie had tried and tried to get Henry alone to discuss other matters in the past. In fact, Ellie had visited the Paraclesus manor so often in the attempt, she had fallen in love with Mr. Edward Bolden Jr. and the two were now engaged even though he was fifteen years older than she and also disowned because of his rat machine, but even so, Ellie still could not speak to Henry privately.

Why did I ever want to speak to you privately? That is a question I have occasionally asked myself, but finding an answer has always been too difficult to ponder for long.

Ellie and Theodora arrived at the party. Stories need descriptions so here are some descriptions.

Ellie wore the fashionable but (and?) politically controversial gown acceptable for women of her standing. It was slim and tight-figured, but Ellie refused to wear a corset with it because corsets restricted women. She wore a cuirass bodice instead, but it was the principle of the thing. The gown was lavender, the bodice a darker lavender, and her jacket was light lavender with lace because she needed to emphasize that she was a woman even though she was going to join the police force. Besides, lavender complemented her skin. Her hair and makeup were perfect too, but they were not controversial, so it’s not worth mentioning what they looked like.

Theodora had not cared whether she came to the party or not, so she wore almost the same attire Ellie had found her in- a pair of men’s trousers and a mustard-colored shirt. After nearly forty minutes of Ellie’s begging and whining and pleading, Theodora agreed to put on a dress. She still wore the trousers and shirt underneath, but again, it was the principle of the thing. Theodora’s hair and makeup were not controversial, but they weren’t perfect either, so they are worth mentioning. Ellie had tried to brush and pin Theodora’s hair, but it had already reverted to its thin and limp state, swinging dolefully like Cordelia had so long ago. The pin fell out in the cab. Theodora did not wear makeup.

The party looked like every other noble party, but with more political people, because the Paraclesus’ were very political. Remember how they took in the Bolden rat boy? Remember how Victor Paraclesus, Henry’s great great great grandfather, bought and privatized the police force because he was tired of… well, he was tired of something, at any rate (being caught with prostitutes. He wanted to reroute the post-curfew police). Did you hear, Henry is in love with Miss Castar…Flannel…Midford, and they are going to get married even though she’s, well, her?

That last paragraph was not really a description, but I’m bored of description now. Lots of people with less-colorful suits who talked about more-colorful topics were at this party.

After milling through the party with the right type of wine in her hand and talking to the important people for an appropriate amount of time, Ellie approached Theodora, who was hiding in the powder room reading Alice in Wonderland. Stories also need dialogue.

“Theo!” Ellie exclaimed, half-amused, half-exasperated. She had been searching for her for a long time.

“Dora,” Theodora finished. She turned a page.

“I’ve been searching for you,” Ellie said.

“You knew where I was. I told you I would be here.”

“Yes, but I did not want to believe you. Besides, I couldn’t possibly have just waltzed in here, then waltzed back out with you. That would have implied I knew you were hiding in here the whole time. I had to make sure the others knew I was looking for you.”

“You needn’t have waltzed. Walking would have done just as well.” Theodora finally lowered the book and stared at her sister. “How is a raven like a writing desk?”

“They are not alike. Alice in Wonderland is a book centered around the theme of rules and the absence of said rules. Without rules, jokes needn’t follow any logic. It’s an absurd question with no answer. That’s the point.”

“Did you decide that was the point, or were you told that by a professor?”

The two were silent for a long moment. Ellie had been told that by her professor because she had tried to find the correlation between ravens and writing desks too. Ellie stared speculatively at her sister. She was not judging her. Ellie had quit judging her a long time ago. Just like Ellie should have been Eleanora, Theodora was definitely Theodora. That was how Ellie rationalized it, anyway.

Theodora closed the book and placed it in her purse. “I don’t want to read this anymore.”

“Why not?” Ellie asked.

“If Alice in Wonderland has a theme then it is following the rules for proper literature, and all of the absurd non-sequiturs and situations are not absurd at all because the author intends for them to have a point, which makes her point nonsensical because she is following rules to make a point about non-rules.”

“That…” Ellie laughed, because all of her etiquette classes said to laugh politely when unsure of a joke. “He, though. The author was a man.”

“I fail to understand how that matters. You knew who I was talking about,” Theodora said.

“Shall we go speak to Henry?” Ellie said hastily. She smiled widely and lifted her purse, waving it slightly. The machine was inside the purse, so she was not acting like a lunatic, though Theodora would not have cared even if she were.

I’m considering removing that last section because nothing of concern to the plot happened. I’ve been told pointless scenes within narratives must be edited out no matter how fond the author is of the scene itself. I’m not particularly fond of that scene so I would not mind if it were removed but, as Theodora said, what is the point of points?

When Theodora approached Henry to ask if she could have a private conversation with him, but with Ellie there too, Henry was delighted. This confused Ellie for several reasons, but she supposed she was mostly confused because she still had no idea what Henry saw in Theodora. Of course, men did not have to see anything in women to marry them, and vice versa, but Henry clearly did see something in Theodora. This was incomprehensible. Girly Ellie tried to assure herself that love was always incomprehensible, but Sophisticated Eleanora knew that love was nothing more than a formulaic process dependent on ever-changing variables that likely held no solution; love was incomprehensible, but not in a romantic way, more in the way death is incomprehensible because no one alive has ever known what it is. Her professor said so.

Ellie pondered these ideas as she followed Theodora and Henry into a side-room. The room appeared smaller than it was because it was filled with bookshelves, chaise sofas, opulent rugs, and Edward Bolden Jr. sitting stiffly in a cushioned armchair reading The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.

“Edward!” Ellie exclaimed, half-surprised and half-annoyed; he had not told her he was at the party, and she was not certain she wanted him there.

“Miss Castar, my dear,” Edward said, rising and bowing. He carefully set The History of the Peloponnesian War on the table, shifting it so the corners aligned perfectly. “I was unaware that you were here.”

“Actually, I did say… er…” Henry fidgeted slightly and edged closer to Theodora.

Pretending not to notice Henry’s reaction but very much noticing it, Ellie laughed politely. “Of course I’m here, darling. I would not miss a Paraclesus party.”

“So it would seem,” Edward replied.

Theodora’s expression remained as impassive as ever, but there was a coldness to her monotone. “Your purposeful ambiguity is tiring. Ellie needs to speak to Henry. Leave.”

Edward offered a tight smile to Theodora, but deigned not to reply, a rude oversight which irritated Ellie. Theodora was odd and lazy and useless, but that was no reason to smile without sincerity.

Henry shoved his skinny fingers through his hair, mussing his thick curls. His hair stuck up on end and made him seem like a mad scientist, struck by lightning in the pursuit of eternal life, a nervously perplexed look on his face at the entire conundrum. Ellie’s irritation with Edward faded and she wanted to giggle, but she caught herself and coughed instead.

“Would you permit Edward to stay, or would you prefer to keep this matter between you and myself?” Henry asked. His dark blue eyes pleaded, begging her to avoid an argument at whatever cost. How this skinny, fidgety, peaceful man, not only successfully managed, but actually enjoyed, his job as the police chief was beyond Ellie, but she found it oddly endearing. She wondered if Theodora found it endearing, and glanced at her.

Theodora was flicking dirt out from under her fingernails in Edward’s direction.

Henry cleared his throat, and Ellie hastily replied, “Yes, of course! I would be delighted to have Edward stay.”

Edward raised an eyebrow at her. “How kind of you, Miss Castar. Allowing me to stay in my own home.” His tone was joking, but it also wasn’t.

Theodora flicked the dirt from under her middle finger and paused, staring at him. He smiled again.

“Er, right then, excellent!” Henry said, clapping his hands together. “What is this matter, Ellie?”

Ellie started at Henry’s use of her first name, but quickly composed herself. While she could control the blush that was attempting to spread across her cheeks, she could not control the proud grin forcing itself onto her face, so she didn’t bother trying.

“My dear gentlemen and sister,” she began, shifting so she could face the three of them and so the light from the lamp beyond would shine pleasantly on her. “After years of searching the depths of my soul, of examining every dark and dangerous crevice of my mind- the memories and places no true lady would ever want to recall- I have successfully traversed the seven circles of fire and found… my innermost Or.”

Ellie paused for dramatic effect, and to gauge the reaction of her audience. Edward lost some of his stiffness, a real smile drifting ghost-like across his features. Henry fidgeted excitedly, his eyes rapt as he gazed up at Ellie, even though he was taller. Theodora stared straight ahead, as though looking through Ellie. Ellie doubted she was listening, but that was to be expected.

“Indeed, coming to turns with the ideal that drives you, the dreams that await you, the fervency behind your actions is no easy task, and certainly not for someone of my sorrowful… background.” Though in usual circumstances this would have been very rude, Ellie allowed herself a slight nod towards Theodora. She was not paying attention, and even had she been, she would not have cared.

“But I did it. I have discovered my Or, and with all haste, put it to use. After all, what good is a fervency or dream or goal unless you do something with it? You can’t just hoard it, letting it rot within you. You will go mad.”

“You could,” Theodora said, her eyes suddenly focusing on Ellie’s.

Ellie stammered, “Beg pardon?”

“You could hoard your Or. You could let it rot within you, metaphorically, of course, as brain tissue and muscles will rot eventually whether or not you use your Or. Unless you are cremated, then I suppose you won’t rot, you’ll burn.” Theodora paused, then continued, “And you certainly could go mad.”

Ellie stared at Theodora, trying to find an appropriate response.

Henry nodded, “Insightful! Ellie, you laud the practicality of utilizing the Or, while Theodora, you have perfectly illustrated the dark dangers of not doing so.”

“I did not,” Theodora replied. “Do you see an easel? Do you see paints and brushes? I illustrated nothing.”

Henry grinned, gazing at Theodora adoringly while she stared impassively at (through?) him. Ellie looked away.

“You were saying, Miss Castar?” Edward inquired.

Ellie could not remember the next lines of her speech. She grabbed her purse, shoved her hand inside and found her machine, then thrust it to Henry. “I made this and I think it will be of some use to the police force.”

“Brilliant, Ellie!” Henry said. He examined the machine.

It was small, small enough to hold in one hand, and light, light enough to be a nuisance because it certainly did not look light. The machine was a thick rectangle of dark glass. It was smooth to the touch but somehow did not feel like glass, it felt cheaper, like fake silver. Through the black, the outlines of gears and wheels could be seen. They weren’t moving.

“What does it do?” Henry asked.

Ellie smiled, regaining some of the bravado Theodora had dissipated with her nonsensical nothings.

“It finds the guilty.”

Everyone was silent for a long moment. Ellie smiled. She liked it when people were silent for her. Edward ran his finger along the edge of the machine, then held his hand out, “May I?”

Henry glanced at Ellie, Ellie nodded generously, and Edward took the machine. Theodora stared at the wall.

Edward closed his eyes, holding the machine tightly. After a moment, he frowned, and turned it over. Ellie felt her self-satisfaction ebb away, and the irritation began to return.

She reached out and took the machine back. “Unfortunately, this is the type of machine that-”

“-only works in the hands of the maker,” Edward interrupted. “If it only works in the hand of the maker, then it can be of no use to the police.” Edward’s face was neutral, but he stared at Ellie accusingly, and Ellie felt herself grow smaller and suddenly, ‘Ellie’ seemed to fit her more, and not in the way it fit her when Henry said it. It fit her in the way her father had always meant it- childish, playful, girly, silly, empty.

“Congratulations, Edward,” Theodora said suddenly. “I, and all of science, stand corrected. I find myself faced with the undeniable evidence that brains can rot prior to death.”

Edward shifted his gaze off of Ellie, who breathed easier and immediately felt more like Eleanora again, to Theodora. The two stared impassively at each other with Henry shifting awkwardly in the middle- a little emotional something in between two nothings.

“Er… um, Ellie!” Henry said. “Can you please elaborate on the uses of your machine? What do you mean, ‘it finds the guilty’?”

“I mean what I said,” Ellie replied. She laughed politely. “In my hands, it finds the guilty. When I focus on a type of guilt, the machine will lead me to the perpetrator. Observe.”

She held the machine in her palm so that all could see. She took a deep breath, readied and steeled herself to break propriety, and said, “Some of you hurt my feelings during this conversation.”

Immediately, the cogs within the machine began to turn- one in the top left corner and one in the top center. Ellie stepped closer to Edward, and the top left cog spun faster, steam fogging the glass of the machine. She kept herself from smirking and stepped back, then she stepped towards Theodora.

The middle cog slowed.

Frowning, Ellie glanced down at the machine, then, hesitantly, stepped towards Henry. The middle cog immediately whirled, far faster than Edward’s had.

“Henry!” Ellie exclaimed. “You did not hurt my feelings.”

“Oh! Well, that’s a relief! I was worried that I had.”

“You are sweet,” Ellie replied. “But no. You did not.” Ellie attempted to imitate Edward’s impassive gaze and stare at him, but found that she could not meet his eyes, so she looked at her machine.

She took a deep breath and continued. “This can be of use to the police. It does not only work in close ranges. If I were to exit this room and join the party, the cogs would have lead me to people feeling the same guilt, or any other guilt that I envisioned. If I were to walk the streets of Ventshire, thinking of guilt, there is no telling how many people the machine would lead me to. If I were to think of crime-related guilt…” Ellie quirked an eyebrow at Henry.

Henry was nearly bouncing with excitement. “Yes, yes! Oh, Ellie, this is brilliant! And perfect timing too! You see, I have recently spoken to the board about initiating a new female rank into the force. In my opinion, female criminals would be far more likely to put away their life of crime if they had more options, such as police work. Take prostitution, for example! Those poor women need more options made available to them, and police work does not require an education. But I would need an educated woman to head the department, and-“

“I beg your pardon, but I said nothing about doing the actual police work,” Ellie said. “I merely thought I could accompany your investigators, with some guards, of course.”

“Oh,” Henry faltered for a moment, then smiled and continued. “Of course, that can be arranged! In fact, that might be better. The board did say that taking small steps in creating the female force would be best.”

“Nothing of the sort will happen,” Edward said. “Ellie cannot join the police.”

Henry frowned. “Edward, you know I respect your opinion like a brother, but in this, I do believe you are incorrect.”

Theodora leaned towards Ellie and mock-whispered. “Is that a polite way of saying ‘your opinion is shite’?”

Everyone flinched at her vulgarity. Theodora shrugged, stared at the wall for a long moment, then, with an undue amount of force, slapped The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides off the table and onto the floor.

As much as I dislike him now, Edward and I are a lot alike. His false politeness, my false persona, his self-serving good deed done to spite his father, my self-serving good deed done to spite society. We don’t actually care about people. We don’t actually care about you. We are simply doing what we do, struggling like inconsequential beetles in this shark pond of nobility.

Dear Miss Castar,

I am sorry my correspondence has been nonexistent within the last few months, but I wanted to afford you appropriate time to mourn the dissolution of your engagement. As I have been informed through the vague statements and less-vague expostulations from Mr. Bolden Jr. and your sister, respectively, I understand that it was, perhaps, not a mournful experience for you, but rather one of freedom. I am glad that you are satisfied, though I would have quite enjoyed to have you as my sister-in-law twice, as Mr. Bolden Jr. is as good as a brother and I am soon to have the honor of marrying your sister. Alas, I shall have to settle for your being my sister-in-law once.

I can see you smiling, half-pleasant, half-condescending at the above paragraph. I am certain you are wondering what my point is and when it will make an appearance, so I shall hasten to it.

You may have heard of the recent outbreak dour slowness amongst the lower class? The police have recently discovered the cause- a drug. This drug does not seem to affect the people physically or mentally, but it makes their emotions as nonexistent as my letters to you, which is to say, they existed, but were locked and hidden away in my head, unwritten and unsaid. It was almost worse than not having anything to say to you at all, so I cannot imagine the suffering these people are enduring. Oddly, the people we have arrested for dispersing the drug have denied forcing it upon anyone- people take it willingly. This caused me to suspect that it was magical, and my suspicions were proven correct, when our detectives found samples of the drug. It is magical. I would be lying if I said you were my last resort. How could you be my last resort, Miss Castar? You are my first resort, my dearest friend.

Will you help? Do consider it, please.


Henry B. Paraclesus, Chief P.D.

Yes, I have kept that letter in my possession for many years now. Not out of any sentimentality, but because my trash bin is on the opposite side of my room and I simply can’t be bothered to toss it. That would require far too much strenuous effort.

If Ellie had been asked to give a physical representation of the subtle nuances that defined Ventshire society, she would have shrugged and, irritated, inquired why the asker would ask such a ridiculous question and what good that knowledge would do? Internally, she would have pondered the question, probably for several weeks, coming up with hundreds of possible, yet shallow, answers. She might have even stumbled upon the right answer.

The answer is Merlinide Street. To understand Merlinide Street, you need to understand the aforementioned subtle nuances defining Ventshire society. If I were to explain all of these, it would make this story infinitely longer, and it would no longer be a story but a sociological journal, and I think most intelligent peoples can agree that there are few subjects more tortuous than sociology. I will only list the ones relevant to understanding the symbolic aspects of Merlinide Street.

  1. There are the nobles and the poor. The nobles say that all are equal, it is just a matter of means, ambition, intelligence, or dedication. Merlinide Street is perfectly straight street that cuts through the entirety of Ventshire, from the mansions to the slums.
  2. The nobles, through obviously non-biased case studies and scientific observations, know that they are different because they have Or and the poor don’t. This clearly means that the nobles are made of something different, something better. Merlinide Street is made of the exact same cut stone. Some sections are simply dirtier than others because some sections don’t have the time or resources to learn the true meaning of futility, they know it well enough (The true meaning of futility is sweeping a street).
  3. Everyone is afraid of the dark.

Ellie shuddered as she exited the car, clutching her velvet cloak around her. She knew velvet was not practical, but Henry had said to wear something dark, and plum was the darkest color she would allow herself to wear.

Henry wore a black trenchcoat. Ellie thought it had been tailored excellently. She was not thinking that now, of course, because the moon was not bright enough to provide even a silhouette. She had been thinking that throughout the entire ride though.

“Get backup, Reginald,” Henry said to the driver. “And whatever you do, do not mention Miss Castar’s presence.”

The driver nodded, but Ellie thought she saw the whites of his eyes as he glared in her direction. The car restarted with a BANG which contrasted with the silence, causing Ellie to clap a gloved hand over her mouth to keep from shrieking.

“You could have asked Edward to drive. I would have been fine,” Ellie said, lowering her hand.

Henry shifted awkwardly, his commanding tone evaporating like fog in the morning’s light. “Er– I did ask Edward.”

Ellie smirked, knowing that Henry would not see in the darkness. “Ah. I see. He is still angry, then?”

“I don’t think he is angry about the end of your engagement, but I think he is still angry about your being in the police force…No! I mean, no. Forgive me, I misspoke, yes, he’s still upset about the engagement. Very upset. Distraught and inconsolable.”

Ellie laughed quietly. It was a genuine laugh because it was quiet. “There is no need to lie to me, Henry. My feelings are more than intact and capable of handling such truths.”

Henry let out a breath and his tone seemed more relax. “Oh, of course!”

The two were silent for a long moment, a moment Ellie spent wondering what topic she could bring up that would keep Henry from talking about Theodora. It had been a full three minutes since her name had last been brought up, a new record.

Ellie loved Theodora, but not enough to listen to Henry speak of his love for her.

“Nights like these remind me of Theodora,” Henry mused.

Ellie jerked her machine out of her purse and held it directly in front of her face, staring intensely at the cogs within. In the car, they had been turning quickly, guiding them straight down Merlinide Street. They had stopped suddenly when they reached this section of the street. Ellie had no idea what to make of this. As long as she thought of guilt and if the guilty were moving at all, even breathing, the wheels should still be turning to indicate the direction she ought to go.

Oh. She had not been thinking of guilt. She had been thinking of Henry.

Closing her eyes, she focused and thought of the feeling when Theodora got punished for painting Polly’s dresses black when it had been Ellie, the feeling when she ignored the begging man with the sick baby, the feeling when she listened silently to the other women laugh at Theodora. She thought of guilt- the sort you get when you know you hurt someone even if that someone does not know it. While still reliving all of these memories, Ellie thought of the current situation they were in- someone abusing magic to dull the poor- and how guilty they must feel for their terrible deeds.

The machine shook with sudden movement. Ellie opened her eyes. Steam fogged the glass, hiding the whirling cogs, but it was enough. Only the side pointing towards Ellie vibrated, indicating that the guilty person was–

“That alley, there!” Ellie exclaimed. “The machine started working again. The criminal is there!”

Henry stepped next to Ellie, placing one hand on his pistol. He peered down the street and Ellie followed his gaze. Her excitement dissipated. The alley to which she had beckoned was vaguely lit, far away, by an orange, hazy fire that was more disturbing than the darkness surrounding. The cobblestones were covered with trash and debris, while the surrounding buildings looked ready to collapse, and Ellie thought it might be better for everyone if they did.

“On second thought,” Ellie said. “We could wait for your backup.”

“Is the suspect moving?” Henry asked.

“Some philosophers actually argue that there is no such thing as movement,” Ellie replied. The cogs were spinning slower and the glass was clearing. The criminal was moving away from them.

“Parmenides never solved a crime,” Henry said. He walked slowly towards the alley. “We can’t let him get away, Ellie. He’s hurting vulnerable people and he needs to be stopped.”

Ellie grimaced. When she had envisioned herself working with the police, she had always imagined the rallies she would speak to, the university convocations she would lead, the letters from hundreds of inspired girls praising her for her struggles against prejudice. She had never imagined herself chasing a criminal down a dirty alley.

But Henry did look so very dashing.

“You’re right. Let’s go,” Ellie said.

Henry nodded, a childish grin spreading across the grim expression he appeared to be struggling to retain. “Follow behind me, but tell me the directions. These alleys can be twisted.”

Henry grabbed Ellie’s free hand, startling her, but then they were off leaving her no time to process. Despite his slender build, Henry was far quicker and more forceful than Ellie would have guessed, sprinting through the littered streets and responding to Ellie’s stammered directions with decisive turns. Ellie barely noticed the stench, the rubbish, the sooty air clogging her lungs because of the focus required to simply match Henry’s speed. As she grew more accustomed to the shifting vibrations in the machine, the rhythmic pounding of her heeled shoes on the broken cobblestones, and the warmth of Henry’s hand on hers, she noticed that the fire she had seen distantly from the opening of the alley was growing nearer. She could hear the crackle of the flames, smell the ash, and feel the growing heat upon her sweating brow.

Henry turned a corner and skidded to a halt, causing Ellie to slam into his back. Henry let go of her hand and stepped forward, his pistol pointed straight ahead.

They were in a clearing of rubble- an empty space that had no doubt been occupied by one of the crumbling buildings. A bonfire roared in the center of the stones and debris, shadowing the clearing in an orange and smoky shroud. Because of the sudden light, a myriad of colors danced in Ellie’s vision, fogging the scene in morphing shapes and misshapen rainbows. Despite this, Ellie could make out two cloaked figures directly ahead, the taller with his pistol pointed at the shorter. Henry aimed his pistol at the taller.

“Drop your weapon, sir,” Henry said. “We can resolve this civilly.”

Everyone was still for a moment. Slowly, the taller figure stepped away. He turned.

“Drop your weapon and kick it to me, or I will shoot you,” Henry said evenly.

The figure faced Henry and Ellie. He dropped his pistol and kicked it towards Henry. Ellie squinted, trying to make out the features of either figure, but they were dark with the harsh light of the flames behind them.

The machine began to vibrate fiercely. Ellie gripped it with two hands to keep it from falling onto the ground. “You! You’re the criminal!” Ellie exclaimed, pointing at the first figure.

Henry sucked in a breath and held his pistol more firmly.

“Did you bother to teach her anything about policing before unleashing her on Ventshire?” the figure said dryly.

Ellie gasped. “Edward!”

The second, smaller figure stepped forward. “When clearly outnumbered by those antagonistic to police interests, one ought to remain anonymous for as long as possible.” It was Theodora.

“I- I don’t understand,” Ellie said.

“State the situation,” Henry said, his voice quivering. He kept his pistol aimed at Edward’s head. “Why were you threatening my fiancee?”

Edward shifted his weight. He watched Ellie closely as he replied. “Your machine caused me to think about mine differently. You said you could envision different kinds of guilt and the machine would lead you to those feeling them. This revelation lead me to try it with mine. I adjusted what I considered to be a rat.”

Theodora said, “I am a human. Not a rat.”

“Aren’t you?” The sneer in his voice was clear despite the darkness surrounding his features.

Henry reached into his coat pocket with his free hands, revealing handcuffs that looked reflected fire in the light. “Edward Bolden Jr., you are hereby under arrest for…”

“I did not create or distribute the drugs, Henry. You can’t arrest me for anything,” Edward said.

Henry paused. He slowly faced Theodora.

Theodora shrugged. “I created and distributed the drugs.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Ellie exclaimed. “Theo, you never do anything. Forgive my rudeness, but you are the laziest, most apathetic, most droll, most unidealistic person I have ever met. How could you possibly find, and use, your Or? And… why would you?”

Henry lowered his pistol. He stepped towards Theodora, letting the handcuffs hang limply in his grip. “Is this true?”

Theodora nodded, causing her hair to fall out of the boyish tail she had pulled it into. “Yes. I am the laziest, most apathetic, most droll, and most unidealistic person Ellie has ever met.”

“No, no,” Henry said. “Did you create and distribute the drugs to the poor?”


“But… why?”

“I was bored.”

“You can’t use your Or when bored.”

“Science is not infallible.”

“Theodora, be reasonable!” Ellie burst out. She pushed past Henry and, as she did so, her machine began to vibrate harshly, causing her hand to shake uncontrollably. “Oh, take this!” Ellie said, thrusting the machine into Henry’s hands. It stilled.

Ellie grabbed Theodora’s cloak and jerked her closer, forcing Theodora to look directly at her. Theodora, as always, showed no emotion. No anger, no smugness, no sadness, no guilt. Nothing but blankness. “Why would you throw away your life like this? You will go to prison, Theodora, prison! And for what? Excitement? Boredom has never seemed to bother you before, why would you do this?” Ellie gripped the cloak tighter. She could see her knuckles whiten against the night. Quieter, she whispered, “I’m your sister. I love you. Henry loves you. I know you don’t care about other people. I don’t either. But don’t you care about me?”

Theodora stared balefully at her.

“Theodora? It’s not true, is it?” Henry said, stepping forward. “The machine lead Ellie to Edward, not you. You can’t have done this!”

“I’m not a monster, Henry!” Edward burst out. “Do you think I want your fiancee incarcerated, knowing the pain that will cause you? Ellie, the guilt you thought of, would it have led to someone in my circumstance?”

Ellie did not reply. She stared at Theodora.

“They have Ors,” Theodora finally said.

“What?” Ellie asked.

“The poor. They have Ors. They have ideals and dreams and hopes and desires. They have more And than we petty nobles could ever conceive of having.” Theodora continued, “They do not have the means to manifest their magic, so it burns inside of them. The drug douses it. It takes away the pain of And.”

“You were trying to help them?” Ellie asked hopefully.

Theodora showed an emotion. Confusion. “No. I saw a chance to alleviate my boredom and I took advantage of it.”

Theodora glanced over her shoulder at the fire. She turned back and looked at Henry. “You should probably arrest me now. The people who want my drugs will be here soon. The fire calls them. They will be furious at my incarceration.”

“How could you do this, Theodora?” Henry asked. “What about our wedding? I love you.”

Theodora shook her head. “No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do!”

“Well, I don’t love you.”

Henry looked stricken. He staggered back. Ellie felt the bizarre, sudden desire to laugh in absolute derision. It was comical. Everyone could have told Henry that Theodora was incapable of feeling love. His shocked reaction to this news seemed an overreaction, almost mocking, except that Henry was incapable of mockery.

Why did you want to marry her in the first place? I can’t comprehend it. I thought you, in typical Paraclesus fashion, had a bizarre obsession with playing devil’s advocate in political scandals. In the events I am about to record, that is either proven true but to an extent verging on insanity, or you are proven true; you really did love Theodora.

Theodora lead them through the alley, but only because she was handcuffed and had to walk in front of Henry. According to police statutes, Henry was supposed to keep his gun trained on her, but it was left uselessly in his holster. Ellie and Edward followed silently behind, both holding their machines. Edward’s, a gray box with a shining marble inside covered by sheet of glass, annoyed Ellie because the marble kept bumping against the wall, pointing at Theodora. Ellie’s machine annoyed her too. It was vibrating dully in her and Edward’s direction, but it vibrated harshly, madly, in Henry’s.

They reached the opening to Merlinide Street. Before they exited, Henry jerked Theodora to a stop.

“No,” he whispered. “No.”

He pulled a key from his pockets and unlocked the handcuffs. He shoved his pistol into Ellie’s hands, who shrieked and stumbled to grip it safely. He locked the handcuffs on himself. He turned and cast pleading looks at Edward and Ellie. “Lie for me, please. Say I did it. Theodora will go free.”

“Are you mad?” Edward said. “Absolutely not! Take those off! You’re being an imbecile.”

Ellie stood silent, shocked

“I’ll lie for you,” Theodora offered. “Everyone knows I always tell the truth.”

Ellie spun on her. “But you don’t, do you? You don’t always tell the truth!”

Theodora stared impassively at her. “I don’t always tell the truth. But everyone knows I always tell the truth.”

“You little…” Ellie clapped a hand over her mouth before she said something uncouth. She wanted to say something uncouth, she truly wanted to, but she couldn’t make herself.

The backup had arrived and were gathered in the street, laughing and talking, but that all ceased as they surrounded the four nobles exiting the peasant alley. Edward tried to convince them of the truth, but nobody listened to him because he was disowned and had a rat machine. Ellie tried to tell them the truth, but they did not listen to her because she was a woman on the police force who had ended her engagement. Theodora lied and told them Henry sold the drugs, and they listened to her because she was too impolite to be wrong. And Henry lied, and they listened to him, because he made up facts and emotions he did not have to make it seem true.

In the end, the police took Henry to prison. Edward stormed off into the night, leaving the two women alone.

Ellie wanted to attack Theodora. She wanted to yell, to scratch her arms, to claw at her eyes, to punch her and kick her and hurt her, but she couldn’t do anything but shakily brush the dirt from her velvet cloak.

“I have to go,” Theodora said. “I don’t want them to steal the drugs. They need to pay for them.” She began walking back into the alley. She paused in the entry. In a quieter voice, she said, “I suppose I don’t deserve to be Theodora anymore.” She entered the alley, and the darkness hid her.

Ellie stood alone in the middle of Merlinide Street. She thought of Henry and she thought of guilt. The cogs pointing towards Theodora began to turn.

I’ll end the story here. Nothing else of import happened. I am certain Andpyre Publishing Company will find it both pleasing in its literary quality and in its ability incriminate me.




Psalm 18 for 2018

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.(v1-3)

I have never been much for reflection and I have never been much for Psalms. Both seemed a bit too Needy® and Emotional® for me, though I never would have admitted that out loud at the beginning of 2018 because I like being perceived as brilliantly thoughtful and inspirationally spiritual. Spoiler alert, I’m not really either of those things and I have never been more convinced of my own innate fickleness and inadequacy than I am now, at the beginning of 2019, looking back on 2018.

I am not going to reflect on 2018 here, at least not directly. 2018 was, unquestionably, the worst year of my life for numerous reasons, and that’s all the background needed to talk about what I really do want to reflect on, which is God, and Psalm 18, and what He did in my fickleness and inadequacy.

See those verses listed above? For the majority of 2018, I would not have agreed with a single statement made in them. I did not love the Lord. I did not consider the Lord my strength. The only rock I would have related God to is one thrown by a pharisee and the only fortress a terrorist encampment. He seemed to only deliver evil people to glorify himself while utterly destroying good people. He was not a shield, a horn of salvation, or a stronghold.

So I never called on him, I never praised him, and nothing appeared safe or saved.

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. (v4-5)

Right before the summer began- a summer during which I was supposed to serve with City Project- I threatened to leave Christianity. Not because I disbelieved it. I absolutely believed that God was real, that he was the God of the Bible, that Jesus was his son who came to earth and lived a perfect life and then died the death that I deserved, rising again so that all those who believe in his sacrifice would regain a relationship with God. But that was the problem, I wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship with God. Looking at the circumstances surrounding me, I wondered if maybe hell was preferable to heaven. At least in hell I could be spiteful and cruel, which is all I really wanted to be. At least in hell, I wouldn’t have to fake a smile and lie and say joy could be found anywhere or pretend that this world is anything other than absolute absurdity.

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.(v.6)

The thought of leaving Christianity terrified me. I had abandoned Christ before, when I was in middle school, but even then, in the back of my mind, I still kinda considered myself a Christian. I still kinda had my family as a godly buffer. I still kinda clung to Jesus even while I feigned pulling away. But now? There’s no kinda about decisions made in desperation, and I’m beginning to realize that those are the decisions that count the most. I had to either choose Jesus, utterly, or run.

I told one friend about everything, and she told me to read Psalms.

I partially took her advice, but I also did something she definitely did not tell me to do. I gave God an ultimatum. I decided to flip open Psalms to a random passage and if that passage could not convince me to stay, then I would leave. If it did convince me to stay, then I would stay. And that would be that.

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.

He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.(v.7-12)

Let me be perfectly clear- I did not deserve an answer to my ultimatum. Regardless of my problems, regardless of my feelings, regardless of my past faith, if God is the God of the Bible then that means he is the God who spoke the universe into existence, who carefully and purposefully made humanity and then renewed promises with his fallen creation again and again and again. He would be a God outside of time, outside of space, outside of the capabilities of my mind, outside of any emotion or concept I could ever possibly feel or think even if I had eternities of lifetimes spent in total reflection.

And me? I am a human- finite and incapable of accomplishing anything meaningful on my own. I am a sinner- someone who desires to inflict pain on others and unleash my justice upon the world, finding pleasure in the suffering of others while vindicating myself by my own personal gospel. I am absolutely absurd.

I did not deserve an answer to my ultimatum because I did not have the right to make an ultimatum in the first place. I did not deserve an answer.

God came swiftly and gave me one anyway.

The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.

And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of your nostrils.(v.13-15)

I slammed open my Bible to Psalm 18. I must have read it prior at some point, because the translator’s title for the Psalm, The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress, was circled in hastily scrawled black ink, but I didn’t remember it. I read it, and it was perfect. It addressed everything I had managed to articulate in my mind and it addressed everything I hadn’t yet thought to articulate. I can’t adequately describe what happened or what I felt, so I won’t bother trying. Some things are better remembered in the heart, anyway, than in words. Suffice it to say, I decided to remain a Christian. I decided to continue with City Project. I decided to try to trust. Absolutely nothing got better, in that moment. I did not feel comforted, I did not feel joy, I did not feel the strength to trust. All I knew is that I had given God an ultimatum, he had given me a good reply, and if I wanted to retain any shred of self-respect than I needed to stay. So I stayed.

He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.

He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (v16-19)

City Project began a few days later and I read Psalm 18 at least once every day of it. It would not be entirely true to say I loved Psalm 18 at that time. Some days, I woke up and was so overwhelmed with anger that I would read it to try to convince myself that it was inadequate and that I should leave God. Other days, I woke up and was so sad that I would read it just for the chance of feeling that there was a God out there who loved me. Most commonly, I felt nothing, but Something made me read it anyway, and, Somehow, I always found what I needed for that moment. Sometimes, I needed strength to convince myself to go to the dining hall and eat food. Sometimes, I needed wisdom for a discussion about joy when, in my head, I found I didn’t even believe in joy. Sometimes, I noticed a phrase or made a connection that awed me in that moment, and in those moment, I always needed to believe that there was Someone deserving of awe.

Whenever the Bible talks about rescue, I’ve noticed that a lot of American Christians- myself included- seem to think of it as a climactic, instantaneous moment. Why do we think that? In observable life, rescue is not immediate. Children aren’t adopted in a singular moment. Cancer does not vanish in an instant. Terrorism won’t be destroyed on a whim. True, each of those events may have a moment that could be described as climactic, but those moments do not exist in a vacuum. The greatest rescue of all time- that of Christ for his fallen creation- did not happen instantaneously either. It was thousands of years and words and lives in the making. Why do I expect my life to be any different? And where did I get the idea that rescue would be better if it were instant?

The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.

For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.

I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt.

So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. (v20-21)

This is all very grim and emo, so let’s have a little fun and laugh at baby Kaycee. This is one of my earliest memories. When I was around 5 years old, my family lived in a house with a room that I absolutely loved. I now realize it was probably a storage closet added last-minute by the architect because it was inconveniently wedged between two of the upstairs bedrooms with the roof sloping awkwardly into it. There was no place in that room where an average-height adult could have stood. I haven’t asked them, but I imagine my parents probably hated that stupid room. I know I would, now. But at the time, it was a Kaycee-sized room and I firmly believed that all rooms ought to be Kaycee-sized rooms. Even better, all of the toys I and my 4 year old brother Kyle shared were in there! I never bothered to wonder how all my toys ended up in there. The Universe was at my disposal, after all. They were probably just there because I wanted them there.

One day, I came up with a brilliant plan. Mom had specifically told Kyle and I not to do something, but I really wanted to do that something. I’m not trying to be vague by referring to the Something as the Something. I genuinely don’t remember what it was- it probably involved robbery since robbery was one of my pastimes during that phase of my life- but it’s unimportant. What’s important is the Plan.

Dragging poor Kyle into the hall, I whispered the Plan to him. We would do the Something, then, we would run into the Room. We would close the door, push all of the toys against it, and then we would hide in the now-empty cabinets. It was foolproof! Mom and Dad were simply too big to get into the room, but even if they tried, the toys would stop them.

The Plan went swimmingly, up until I realized that Dad had this really annoying thing he could do called crouching. Despite the absurdity of the situation, I distinctly remember thinking, “OH! So that’s how the toys got here!” Kyle and I were apprehended and taken to the bathroom for spankings. Those never bothered me much, so I nobly volunteered to go first. Anything to get away from Kyle’s pitiful whimpering, which had begun the moment Dad opened the door and knocked over our toy barricade. Dad denied my request. He told me to wait outside the door so that I would go after Kyle.

Kyle sobbed tearfully, and even though I knew the spankings did not hurt and even though I knew they didn’t bother me, hearing his distress made me cry. I didn’t regret what I had done, I didn’t even regret getting caught, but I regretted dragging Kyle into this whole mess. Hearing him get what he deserved felt wrong because I knew I deserved it more, and I also knew it would bother me less. I didn’t quite know what to make of this at the time, but I think I do now.

Grace is a funny thing. As I have described multiple times now, I kept trying to find a reason to leave God. I made no effort to be blameless in his sight, I made no effort to keep his rules before me, and I made no effort to keep my hands clean. I did not care about any of that. But God, in his mercy and grace, kept me saved. My blamelessness was not my own- it was Christ’s. My adherence to God’s law was not my own- it was Christ’s and his provision (During City Project, I was surrounded by Christian community with wonderful Christian mentors available at all times. The only reason I did not do anything drastically sinful during that summer was because of the time and space I happened to exist within). Finally, my hands were not clean. I was actively looking for a way to rebel against the God of the Universe. I was actively searching for my own Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but God kept putting gates and cherubim in my way, many in the form of Psalm 18. Now, on the other side of 2019 looking back at the closed door of 2018, I feel deep and poignant regret. I do not deserve to call myself a Child of God now, and I would not be calling myself one right now if God had not stepped in and barricaded the paths away from him. I’m so glad that God proved a better Enjolras than I.

I am blameless before God, but that is only because Christ gave me his blamelessness and because God has given me his ongoing grace, keeping me blameless in his sight.

With the merciful, you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. (v25-26)

These verses were the ones that I recall catching my attention during that very first reading, so I think they deserve at least a bit of lingering. A lot of people- Christian or otherwise- dislike the passages in the Bible describing God’s wrath and judgement. I never had much issue with it, but that probably has more to do with the undeniably atrocious amount of arrogance I continue to find buried in my psyche than any spiritual superiority I possess (lookee here, more arrogance! what a shock). It never bothered me because I never really thought of myself as deserving of wrath, but I could hand over a list of people I felt did deserve it, hence, I was unbothered by it’s existence.

Case in point, I liked the thought of God being tortuous. Even if the most harsh punishment would be issued by the U.S. Justice System- which I knew that it would not be- it still would feel utterly inadequate. People say torture is an antiquated thing, and good little liberal 2017 me would say the same, but hellin 2018, I understood the impulse. So I liked the verse for that reason at first.

Have you ever thought about torture for weeks in a row? Don’t. It hurts.

I can’t think of anything much more worthy of the term “crooked” than a curly-haired, geeky Christian sharing the Gospel and espousing grace and hope and joy in the daylight while dreaming happily about torture at night.

These verses quickly shifted from my go-to for misinterpreted glee to the verses that caused me to pray for mercy, even though I knew I was not one of the merciful.

For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.

This God- his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (v27-30)

At some point in the summer, I wrote some thoughts about these verses in the margins of my Bible. My handwriting resembles that of a mad scientist, so I’ll simply provide a transcription:

“The word of the Lord does, indeed, prove true. His way is perfect. I was literally looking for a reason to leave, but his word still proved true and I could not go. ‘Where else can we go, Lord?’ I feel like Peter. Perhaps a bit begrudging, but it’s a shallow feeling. I’m angry. I’m confused. But I’m still his child and he’s still my dad and he has never lied to me which is more than I can say for most- and he has gone so far beyond mere honesty for me. He’s given me grace, love, emotion, hope, purpose, escape, home, relationship, community, change, everything. He’s given me Jesus and that is enough. I love him because he first loved me. His way is perfect. The word of the Lord proves true.”

Have you ever thought about grace for weeks in a row? Do. It heals.

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. (v31-36)

In the odd semi-chronological narrative I have constructed for this blog post, we have now arrived at the end of City Project and the end of the summer. And look at everything God did! He gave me strength to consistently eat food, to do everything I had promised to do as an intern, to share the Gospel with believers and non-believers. He gave me the wisdom to talk about joy even when I didn’t know how, to read this passage over and over again and continue to find him, to consistently find myself at a loss for how to prove God inadequate. He gave me the blessing of new friends, of new experiences, of new ideas, of new awe for him. Rocks may not be comfortable, but they are better than feathers when it comes to war. I might be afraid of heights, but I’d rather be there than elsewhere. I went through my middle school Katniss phase, I know archery is not easy and a bow of bronze? Impossible. A shield implies projectiles, a supporting hand implies stumbling, and how does gentleness make someone great?

I don’t know. But I know that all of it happened. I know I was given a wide, wide path of grace and I know my feet did not slip, even though, for all the help I was, I may as well have been meandering in circles throughout my wide path, scouring for metaphorical banana peels.

(Jokes aside, it is difficult to write about the summer without mentioning Psalm 18 and what was going on with me. So if you supported me in any way and were wondering why you have not heard from me, I’m so sorry, but this is why. It seemed feeble to try to write a thank-you explaining that my biggest takeaway from the summer involved highlighting Psalm 18 into an ugly rainbow in my Bible through rereadings. I hope this helps explain some things!)

All in all, God was good and it was a good summer.

I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.

I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet.

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.

They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.

I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like mire in the streets. (v37-42)

What? You thought this post would be over because I resolved my City Project story? Okay, one, I rarely shut up, so I’m going to keep writing until I run out of words or until my fingers fall off, whichever happens first (spoiler: it’ll be the finger thing). And two, spoiler again, there is no real resolution to this story because it’s a true story, and true stories don’t have resolutions yet, but God did more, and I need to talk about it.

Here’s an adorable little quirk of mine that I had for almost the entirety of my Christian life. I loathed David. Absolutely despised him. I hated his story, I hated the way I heard pastors and teachers talk about him, I hated the fact that Jesus came from his line, and, most of all, I hated the phrase man after God’s own heart. 

My thoughts deserve some explanation, I think, because they were not entirely irrational. When I was in Sunday School, I remember teachers explaining the early kings of Israel like this: “The first king, Saul, was all bad. The second king, David, was all good. And the third king, Solomon, started good but ended bad.” I’m sure they meant well, but this extremely simplistic, and thus, incorrect, interpretation of the Samuels and 1 Kings were some of the factors involved in my abandonment of Christianity in middle school. I remember reading through Samuel prior to deciding that God wasn’t real and found Saul to be the most relatable of the trio. I found it offensive that he was reduced to “all bad”. And sure, I could see the downward trajectory of moral degradation in Solomon, but his “badness” didn’t seem nearly as abhorrent to me as David. What kind of a pervert has 700 wives and 300 concubines? How fucked up as a father do you have to be to let your rapist son continue to live as your heir while you let your victimized daughter exist in desolation? How evil do you have to be to have sex with your friend’s wife and then murder him to cover it up?

After becoming a Christian, I never opened Samuel. I would have said it was because I’d already read it, but really, it was because I was afraid of finding myself godless again.

Well, take a wild guess as to who wrote Psalm 18. It was only a matter of time before my hatred towards David became a problem. After all, I could only pretend that the above passage was metaphorical and about me for so long before admitting that I have, in fact, never thrust an enemy through and ground them into dust, as awesome as that would be. I have also never cast anyone out like mire in the streets, in case you were wondering.

You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of nations; people whom I had not known served me.

As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me.

Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses. (v43-45)

Early in the semester, my now-familiar frenemies named Anger and Confusion were throwing an absolute rager in my mind, so through the headache, I pointedly told God, that no, I was not going to read that stupid Psalm ever again because it was written by stupid David and there was nothing on this stupid earth that would make me change my mind. In fact, I said, (because I’m stupid) I’m not going to read the Bible at all. So I closed my Bible and went on Youtube.

The very first thing in my feed was the summary of 1 and 2 Samuel by The Bible Project. I’ll link it at the end of this post. I clicked it and watched it. Outside of God, I don’t know what compelled me to do so.

I love learning about literature, so the explanation regarding the narrative structure drew me in and caused me to watch both videos. As ridiculous as this might sound, especially if you don’t know me that well, but to hear a man’s voice acknowledge David’s sin, especially in regards to Tamar, caused Anger and Confusion to pack up their party and left me crying alone in the comforting stillness. It wasn’t a happy cry, but it was a relieved cry.

It was enough to get me to grab my Bible and flip Samuel open randomly. I was too tired to search for the beginning.

Let’s make this a bit interactive, okay? Go find a Bible and open it to 2 Samuel 22.

Got it? Read it a bit.

Can you imagine my shock?

According to my newfound knowledge through The Bible Project videos, the last few chapters of 2 Samuel are supposed to work as a “snapshot” of David’s life, to summarize the message God was sending through David by piecing together non-chronological stories and writings from David at the end of the book.

73 of the Psalms in the Bible were written by David, and he probably wrote hundreds more throughout his lifetime that were not included in the Bible. And out of all of those, out of everything this man wrote, Psalm 18, my Psalm, was the one that was not only written by him, but chosen for him.

Have you ever read a poem, watched a movie, or heard a story that struck you in your heart? Have you ever felt an inexplicable connection to a character or a person, someone unknowable, but somehow, you know them and they become Something to you? I have, multiple times. When I was a little girl, it was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. My aunt introduced me to the movie on a car ride to Florida when I was seven, and I insisted on watching the movie over and over and over until we arrived because I discovered that I loved Belle so much. Later, it was the Lord of the Rings movies. The intense, unfulfilled yearning for a past that will never return and the courageous journeying towards a murky future- all against an aesthetic of vulnerability, honor, and loyalty- deeply shaped my view of the world, in ways I am still discovering. Most recently, Jane Eyre and Victor Frankenstein have me enthralled, along with their authors, Charlotte Bronte and Mary Shelley.

I have never, in my entire life, felt a connection to someone unknowable as intensely as I felt my connection to David. I spoke earlier of rescue not being instantaneous, and I stand by that, but any and all hatred I felt towards him vanished instantly. How could I hate him, after everything we’d both felt? We’d both experienced the Lord as our strength, as our fortress, as our rescue. I know what Sheol feels like, I know how desperate you have to be when the sight of a flaming and dark God brings you joy, I know what it’s like to find thunder comforting, I know what it feels like to be saved again and again and again and I know why David continuously attributes everything good and everything perfect to God.

You can’t hate someone who is just like you. You can’t hate someone you understand.

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation- the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence. (v46-48)

I read 1 and 2 Samuel, and then I read them again, and then I read 2 Samuel a third time and I can’t wait to read them again. They have very quickly become my favorite books in the Bible, and I could write endlessly about what I have learned in them, but I’m worried my fingers will fall off, so I’ll save it for another time. Suffice it to say, like everything, it’s all a bit more complicated, a bit more confusing, a bit more real, and a bit more about God than I had made myself believe.

I am so glad that David was a man after God’s own heart because that is very good news for me. God is a just God who makes himself seem tortuous to the crooked, but to the merciful he shows himself merciful, to the pure he shows himself pure, to the blameless he shows himself blameless. There is no one, no, not even one, human being who is merciful and pure and blameless. David was crooked, and he deserved torture and death, but God, in his grace, lead David to look forward to a perfect King, one who would defend the defenseless, uplift the oppressed, and be worthy of the fealty, love, and worship of his subjects. I am crooked, and I deserve torture and death, but God, in his grace, lead me to look back at a perfect Carpenter who lived a perfect and sinless life, who was merciful and thus deserved God’s mercies, but instead, took my wrath upon himself so that I might forever and always be blameless in God’s sight, a woman after God’s own heart. Jesus rose again, and so we all, myself, David, believers past and believers future no matter how crooked, can have life and have it abundantly.

I look back on 2018 and I am tempted to dwell on the fact that it was the “worst year of my life”, as if years mean anything and as if I don’t have eternity. That’s absurd. There were abundant blessings in the form of a truer understanding of the Gospel and a release from anger that I have been holding on to for far too long. Rescues take time, but they happen all the time. 2018 was good, even if it did not always feel that way.

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you so much for reading. I hope you found some encouragement. Whether or not reflection is Needy® and Emotional®, I have found that this has been necessary and cathartic.

I think it is only right to let Psalm 18 have the final word of my reflection. Hopefully, God-willing, it contains a spoiler for what comes next in my life.

For this, I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.

Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. (v49-50)

The Bible Project: 1 and 2 Samuel

The Bible Project- 1 Samuel

The Bible Project- 2 Samuel

Helpful Books

I didn’t have time in the post to mention them, but here are three books I read throughout the past several months that have been incredibly helpful.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

In His Image by Jen Wilkin

The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter

If you are not a Christian, or if you have any questions about the Bible or Christianity or something that I said, please feel free to message me. In case my verbosity hasn’t clued you in to this fact, Jesus is kinda my favorite discussion topic, so I’d love to talk!




Things I Think About: My Family

My Dad:

I like him.

He might be the most similar and dissimilar person to me in the family.

We’re both quiet, sarcastic, kinda petty, loyal, and hardworking.

He’s conservative. I’m liberal. He’s selfless for his family. I’m selfish in my family. He thinks about his family, I think about the world. Different worldviews fuel our different politics.

Sometimes, that’s hard to talk about. Sometimes it’s easy.

We both don’t like hearing different point-of-views. I say I do, but I don’t. I’m trying to work on that so that we can have better conversations.

He’s really funny.

He laughs so hard he has to take his glasses off to wipe away tears while watching Seinfeld and Friends, especially anything to do with Kramer or Chandler. I love that.

He likes nerdy movies, but he’ll never give me a decent answer when I try to start a Serious and Analytical conversation about one. “Dad, who was your favorite character?” “Oh Umbridge, definitely, she was awesome.” “Dad, what did you think about the family dynamic of those characters?” “Denethor was just trying his best, I think he’s great.” “Dad, which Avenger is your favorite?” “That blue guy from Guardians of the Galaxy. Not Yondu, but the one with the hammer and the infinity stone. Best character Marvel has ever made.”


Randomly surprising though, he watched Queer Eye with me??? And liked it??

My Mom:

She’s great.

Like, really really great.

When I was thirteen, she said I could just read whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to run it by her. That was awesome and exactly what I needed at the time. She knew I was responsible and would never read anything inappropriate. Her vote of confidence insured I never did.

She listens and she’s really good at adapting to my and my siblings’ various interests.

For her entire life, she never read any books. Not in high school, not in college, never. Then one day, she picked up The Picture of Dorian Grey and read the whole thing. She loved it and we had a great conversation about it. Next, she read Jane Eyre. Then, she read all 1000+ pages of The Count of Monte Cristo. She’s moving on to Frankenstein next. I’m astounded.

(Yes, all of those books were suggested by yours truly. Victorian Literature is the best genre I will fight you on that)

She really likes bees. I don’t know why, but it’s pretty cool. She knows a lot of random bee facts.

She really likes Raleigh, NC. It makes me slow down and appreciate where I am. I’m always waiting until the summers so I can just leave. I’m always waiting until after college so I can just leave. She makes me not want to just leave.


my brother purposely looking weird to ruin our perfectly good meme pic. rude.

My Brother:

One of my favs.

He’s the only person who has made me laugh until I cried until I hurt my stomach until I laughed some more.

He’s smarter than me and I try to be pissed off about it but honestly, I’m just proud. I lie and tell people I helped him learn all he knows (I didn’t).

Probably the person I feel most “me” around.

We agree on a lot, so it’s always surprising to find anything we disagree on.

Turns out, he thinks AI could and should possibly take over the creative writing industry. I think very little could be worse for humanity than that. He thinks human thought patterns or something could be uploaded to computers. I think very little could be worse for humanity than that. Our arguments aren’t really arguments though. He cites interesting and relevant information while I just yell “NO!” repeatedly.

I don’t know why he puts up with me sometimes.

We go to the same college and I thought he wouldn’t want to see me that often, but instead he joined the same family group I’m in (kinda like a Bible study but really not sorry non-Summit peeps). That made me really happy.

He makes me want to do the things I love to do.

My First Sister:

When she was born, I actually felt like a big sister and that’s the best thing to ever happen to me.

I’ve always been kinda mean so people just assumed she’s the “sweet one”. There’s a lot of sexism wrapped up in that and she and I talk about sexism a LOT and it’s great.

PSA: She’s not the sweet one. She’s the strong one. You’d be better off fighting me. I’m the loud one. I’ll make your soul shrivel up and rot, but hey, at least you’ll still be technically alive. Can’t say that would be the case if you messed with the First Sister.

I’m not about to test it, anyway.

She lets me and Second Sister play The Sims on her computer. The three of us together have a town comprised of nothing but shenanigans. We made a character who was an amalgamation of the three of us (Krisaree Flemizalaine) and she married Ben Solo because First Sister and I were going through a post-Last Jedi crush on Adam Driver and we outranked Second Sister so Krisaree married him and then had four kids named Marijuana, Casserole, Armitage, and Sandwich Flemizalolo. It’s wild.

Speaking of, we are both feminists so that’s cool. After much discussion, we have decided the most equalizing way to handle the last name situation is to have both parties involved change it to either an amalgamation or, if that sounds stupid, something that represents your relationship (If you both like stargazing, change your last name to “Gazing” or if you’re both feeling boldly extra “Star”).

She’s lowkey romantic lol

My Second Sister:

If memes had a physical embodiment it would be her.

I don’t really know if she likes me or hates me most days but that’s okay, I like her.

She wears Simply Southern shirts and always has Starbucks and has blond (highlights?? lowlights?? Streaks?? Ombre?? idk!) in her hair. I, uh, don’t do any of that.

She fell asleep watching The Last Jedi.

For Christmas, she gave me a beautiful silver bracelet engraved with a phrase she selected and ordered herself. The message? Get Shreked m8!!

I wear it a lot. I like it.

She loves animals so much. She takes care of the Dachshund and the Chihuahua so well, she has two guinea pigs, and a fish named Keith.

She’s devilishly witty. No thirteen-year old should be as quick with a sardonic response or a subtle roast as she is, it’s too much power.

She can sing really beautifully but she only will in the shower when she thinks no one is listening, she typically sings in a way that can only be described as Nasally Opera Meets Hugh Jackman Wannabe Who Has Never Heard Hugh Jackman Or Anyone Else Sing. It’s a particular brand of awful.

Her favorite song to sing in this ethereal tone? Death of a Bachelor by Panic! At The Disco.

Her favorite song in general? All-Star by Smash Mouth.

The Dachshund:

YES he’s a member of the family fight me

He’s the only dog we have ever gotten as a puppy so we got to name him. There was a lot of fierce debate. I suggested “Sirius”. First Sister suggested “Padfoot”. I suggested “Chewbacca”. Mom shot down all of those and said we could not name him after a Harry Potter or Star Wars character.

So we named him Teddy. His middle name is Lupin. hahahahHAHAHAHAHAHA take that mom and your naming dictatorship the rebellion will rise.

This dog knows how to do nothing. He doesn’t know to sit, how to stay, how to not bark at nothing, how to not jump on people, nothing… except for two things.

He taught himself how to play fetch with a red rubber ball. And he knows how to go to his bed at night.

He likes to cuddle when he gets tired.

He gets brambles caught in his long fur and he needs help picking them out but he doesn’t like getting help, he’s very stubborn, he’d prefer the branches just stay.

The Chihuahua:

Rescue dog. Normally, we don’t rename rescue dogs but his name was Gizmowing and that’s just awful so First Sister changed it to Milo.

He will also respond to Baby Milo, Milu, Meelo, Meelu, Milos, Milos Milosovich, Dos Bub Bub, Malroe, and Baby Malroe.

(This dog has no idea what his name is)

I’m trying to get him to respond to Malfoy. He kinda looks like a ferret.

Very nervous.

Very shaky.

Always needs cuddles.

My Family:

We have a collaborative Funko pop collection.

We all love film. Everything from Marvel films to Oscar-nominated films to sitcoms to TV dramas. Even if we don’t all love a certain thing, we all love to talk about it and share our opinions. It’s fun.

Everyone is introverted except for Mom.

We all love Jesus a lot.

Everyone supports everyone.

The worst part about missions is leaving your family but the best part is leaving knowing that your family encouraged you to do it and is so, so proud of you.

The way our family works now is very different than the way it worked when I was a little kid and the only explanation for the change is the grace we all found in the Gospel.

I really, really love my family.

I think they’re the best people I could have possibly spent the last 21 years with.

Looking forward to another 21 years. (42 better watch out!)

I think there’s a lot more I could say about them, but I’ll stop there.


I still need to raise a bit more for my summer missions which you can read about HERE.

If you’re interested in contributing, you can donate online HERE.

Thanks for reading!!


a terrible selfie

me ugh

Ghost Slugs 2018

It’s been awhile.

I kinda sorta forgot this blog existed.

I did that last year too, right up until SUPPORT RAISING reared it’s beautifully ugly head.

(Side note: If support raising had a physical manifestation I think it would be the ghost slug. Ethereal in a very weird way, but I definitely have no actual desire to touch it. Interesting to hear stories about, but I’m glad it’s generally for people on the other side of the ocean)

Anyway. Guess what reminded me of this blog again?

Yep. Support raising. But you know what? Unlike the past two years, I am really excited for support raising. God has done and is doing so much in my life right now. My life has become quite the adventure.

When I was a little girl and I thought of adventure, I always pictured the happy endings: the destroyed evil, the victory celebrations, the inseparable friends, the dragon hoard, the hero’s glory. Despite my desire for these things, I have never once in my life skipped to the end of a good story, and I’ve been realizing I wouldn’t have it that way in my life either.

Thus, support raising.

God has given me the amazing opportunity to be a City Project intern. City Project is a two-month intensive discipleship program designed to help college students better learn how to be with Jesus, be changed by Jesus, and be on mission with Jesus. It does this national, local, and international contexts. First, students will spend one week in NYC learning to share their faith, often for the first time. Next, students will spend four weeks locally, near their colleges, taking discipleship classes and applying Scripture in practical and meaningful ways. Finally, students will travel to an international location and serve with a field partner for two weeks.

It’s almost a bit painful for me to write about City Project in such clinical terms. I did City Project two years ago and Jesus used it to absolutely change the entire trajectory of my life.

I had been painfully disconnected from others, now I genuinely enjoy befriending people and getting to know them and their stories.

I had been terrified to travel, now I love it.

I had been incapable of vulnerability, now I’ve been told by a mentor that vulnerability is one of my strengths.

I had been ready to shrug aside my writing in exchange for a more lucrative job, now I’m prepared to take any crazy risk God calls me to take.

I had been frustrated with Jesus because I knew that he existed but I didn’t love him, now I love him because he first loved me and even when I fail he still loves me which makes me love him more and gahhhh he’s just so awesome I can’t articulate the things.

I had assumed Jesus’ death for me was a decently logical decision by God, but now I know that the only thing more absurd than my painfully sinful existence is Jesus’ willful decision to sacrifice everything he rightfully and righteously earned in exchange for giving me, an active rebel and enemy to him, the chance to choose him and the salvation offered to me. It’s absurd and holy crap I’m so glad it is.

City Project changed everything, and now, I get to be a part of that for others. I love it when God uses motifs.

As an intern, I would lead a team in NYC, lead a small group of women locally, and then help lead an international team. I would help plan and set up special events, assist the other staff members, and be a part of a discipleship program specifically for the interns.

In this new adventure of mine, I need both prayer and monetary support.

Please pray for myself, the students, and the staff participating in City Project. Even though the program doesn’t start until the summer, God is not relegated to any particular time in order to change people. Pray that we would all actively seek to know him through the support raising process, and that we would see it is a blessing. A difficult blessing, but one nonetheless.

For me in particular, please pray that I don’t attempt to take on my worries alone. School is very stressful this semester, family is stressful, ministry is stressful, it’s all just stressful and, like the stubborn pea-brained chickadee I am, I keep attempting to handle everything solo even though I know it’s always so much better when I give my cares to God. Literally, I’m able to chill AND I get everything done. Why I don’t naturally always turn to him is beyond my comprehension. I’m a stubborn pea-brained chickadee.

Monetarily, I need to raise $1,500 by March 30th. Any little bit counts and I could use all the help I can get! If you’d like to donate online, here’s the contribution form: summitrdu/supportcityproject.com

For your financial privacy, Summit Church will not disclose how much you donated, they will only tell me that you did donate so I can thank you. Also, if you’d prefer to send a check, just tell me and I’ll get in touch to let you know how!

Thanks for sticking with me and reading this post! I actually have some more posts planned (shocker I know) including a short story I’m looking forward to sharing.

I am so excited about this summer. God is going to change so many lives, God is going to start and continue so many adventures, and God is going let his Gospel be known to many.

I might even see a ghost slug.


Second City Beginnings

Have you ever had a friend who was the Sarcastic Friend(c)? You know the one. It’s the friend who always pipes in, no matter the conversation, with helpful exclamations like, “Awesome! Wow!” or “Thanks a lot!” or just simply “no.” When speech is inappropriate, they still manage to mumble dry comments beneath their breath, or at least to compensate with exaggerated facial expressions. I’m the Sarcastic Friend(c) to a lot of people. But I’ll let you in on a Sarcastic Friend secret. It’s a deep, emotional struggle that every Sarcastic Friend is forced to face at some point in their life.

Ready to know the inner turmoil of your favorite bundle of snark, memes, and nihilism?

It’s hard for the Sarcastic Friend to find their own Sarcastic Friend.

Fortunately for me, I settled the issue years ago. God is my Sarcastic Friend(c). And I’m actually not being sarcastic about that, I’m completely serious. Want proof? Here’s some dialogue throughout the last year of my life.


January 2016

Me: I’m going to study abroad in England. Deal with it.

God: You do that. I’m sure it’ll be great. You’ll go there in an attempt to quell your wanderlust, but instead, you’ll just be faced with the reality that your life is pointless and vaporous everywhere in the world, not just in your current boring reality of America. Have fun!


Me: >_>

God: Lol. Or, I dunno, you could do City Project.

Me: I don’t want to.

God: You know? You’re right. You’d only be spending your summer growing closer to me and the community I’ve placed around you. You’d finally see that the change you’ve been trying to make in yourself can, and will, only come from me. You’d only get to share the Gospel with the lost instead of just sitting around and talking about it like the good Pharisee that you are. You’d only get to finally realize that I love you.



Me: Fine! I’ll go!


Me: —well?

God: What, are you expecting a “well done good and faithful servant”? That’s cute.

Me: Shut up.

God: No.

September 2016

Me: Well, that was an awesome summer! Thanks for making me go, God. I learned a lot, grew a lot, completely changed the trajectory of my life, and learned to trust you in everything.

God: k

Me: That’s not really fair. I went, didn’t I?

God: Did you? I thought you just randomly found all of those minimalist Christian T-shirts and merch from South Asia.

Me: Okay, you’re clearly in a weird mood. I’ll just be over here working on my study abroad application…

God: You do that. I wouldn’t waste the time though, if I were you.



God: Oh, did I not mention? You are not going to study abroad this summer.

Me: Of course I am! You can’t stop me!

God: Ah, there’s that infamous ‘trust in everything’ you became an overnight expert in.

Me: Okay, hypothetically, if I weren’t to study abroad in England, where would I go? What would I do this summer? There’s nothing else really available, other than summer school or an internship.

God: Second City.

A Snape Reaction Gif Obviously - Imgur

Me: But, God, I already gave up one summer and now you want this one too?

God: ‘But, Father, I already washed their feet now I have to die too?’ quoth Jesus, in the Message Bible, probably, circa never A.D.

Me: Don’t bring Jesus into this!

God: Oops, right, I forgot about the “don’t bring the guy who saved me whom I then voluntarily asked into my life” clause in this, apparent, democracy.

Me: Look, I’ll admit, I really want to go back to South Asia. I want to spread the Gospel, I want to live my life missionally, and I want to obey you. But I’m scared.

God: —do you want a sappy spiel that includes the “never shall I leave you”, “hope and a future”, etc. verses, or do you want an Aladdin reference?

Me: Aladdin reference, please.

God: Good choice, fam. Do you trust me?

Me: Uh, not really. But yeah, kinda.

God: I can work with kinda.


My relationship with God is unconventional, but I love it. I have friends who talk about how God is gentle and comforting to them. I have friends who talk about how God is fatherly and wise to them. I love hearing their stories, but honestly, if God had tried to approach me as some cuddly, quiet friend or as one of those dads always giving good advice, I would have run screaming. But that’s not how he saved me. He first proved his existence, then he proved my sin, and then he basically said, “I’m here. I love you. I died for your sins and you can accept the free gift of grace, if you want. It’s your choice.” 1 John 4:19 says “we love because he first loved us.” It’s so strange and so wonderful that God knows the best way to love each person. The family and friends with which I am closest are the ones who treat me with bluntness and humor. Needless to say, God loves me more perfectly than anybody else ever could.

Which is why I am returning to South Asia this summer!

Last summer, I participated in a program through my church called City Project. City Project taught me how to spread the Gospel in local, national, and international contexts (North Carolina, NYC, and South Asia), it taught me how to leverage my career for the glory of God, and how to live on mission. I took theology classes, had my first internship, and learned what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Without a doubt, it was the best experience of my life.

My church offers a follow-up program to City Project. It’s called Second City.

During Second City, I will spend the entirety of my summer in South Asia. I have the privilege to return to the exact city I was in last summer. I can not share all of the details of the trip, but essentially, I will be partnering with Christians in the city to better spread the Gospel among a people group in which over 90% of individuals have never even heard of the Gospel. I’m so excited, and so blessed, to be a part of this incredible trip.

You might be a bit confused at the last part. After all, I did not sound very excited during my little dialogue with God. Do you want to know why I was scared? I was scared because going to South Asia means I’m going to get sick again, I’m going to be rejected, I’m going to navigate an enormous city, I’m going to be immersed in a culture utterly foreign to both me and my personality, and I’m going to be completely denying the American culture that insists I will be a failure if I don’t get a job RIGHT. NOW.  It will be stressful, people will break my heart, and I won’t see my family for the entire summer because I’ll be on the freaking other end of the world.

When God first tells me to do anything, doubts and insecurities flood my mind. Excuse after excuse try to drown out the truth. All of the excuses essentially say the same thing: you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. 

They are right. I can’t. God can. That’s the whole point.

I don’t go on mission trips to do stuff for God. I don’t go on mission trips to earn anything. Both are impossible. God doesn’t need me for anything. As Mordecai told Esther in Esther 4:14 “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise…from another place. …And who knows whether you have not come to kingdom for such a time as this?”. If I did not go, God would raise up someone else. If they did not go, God could make a rock declare his truths, as Jesus said in Luke 19:40 “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”. He doesn’t need humans to do anything for him, because we can’t. We are too weak. Strangely, paradoxically, that’s why God wants to use us.

When I went to South Asia last year, I was struck with how weak I truly am. I had spent years studying apologetics and memorizing logical arguments and researching scientific evidence, but this particular culture had no interest in my pretentious Western thought. I was ripped of every strength I thought I had, forcing me to pray ceaselessly for God to provide me with the words to say because I had none on my own. He did more than I could have ever asked or imagined. He let me see people understand and accept the Gospel. He let me see my own sinful heart, arrogance that I did not know was there, and he changed me. He taught me how to love and how to finally believe that he loved me.

I don’t go on mission trips to be a “good Christian” or to prove something to God. I go on mission trips because God knew I was weak, yet he still loved me and sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross, the punishment that I deserved, so that I would not have to. He offered to give me Jesus’ perfect record as my own so that God might be able to have a relationship with me. Then, he pursued me so bluntly, so relentlessly, that I came to believe in him and I accepted his grace. Now, he has given me a purpose, and that purpose is to go. To go where God calls me to go and to do what God calls me to do. I don’t do this out of obligation or fear; any attempt to make me feel either emotion immediately makes me feel and do the opposite. No, I go because I love my God and I love what he has done for me. I go because I trust that his intentions are for my good. I go because I believe God desires all to know him, but how can they know him if they are not told?

Which leads me to the point of this entire blog post (yes, yes, I DO have a point, stop rolling your eyes, you wannabe Sarcastic Friend(c)!). I would love to have the privilege to partner with you in this mission. My final support deadline is April 9th, and I need roughly $800. If you believe that God is calling you to monetarily support my mission, click on the link below. It will lead you to a contribution form. I will not be able to see the amount donated, but I will be able to see your name (if you so choose), so that I can write you a thank-you note!


More importantly, if you would partner with me by praying for me, I would be extremely grateful. Here are some prayer requests during the weeks of preparation before leaving for the trip:

  • Pray for unity in the team. Missions are joyful and loving, but they can also be stressful and difficult. Pray that my team will be unified in Christ, that we will keep our focus on Christ, and that we will treat each other as Christ treated his team of disciples.
  • Pray for the people. God already knows exactly who we are going to meet. Pray that each individual we speak to will already be searching for truth, for meaning, for Christ, before our plane even lands.
  • Finally, praise God for the undeserved blessing of this opportunity. As I said above, God does not need us to do things for us, but in his kindness, he allows us to be a part of his mission. It’s like a dad baking cookies, and his toddler child begs to “help”. The father joyfully complies, even though he could accomplish the task without the “help”. Yet, he still holds the daughter’s hand to help her stir, or he patiently teaches the son how to properly measure ingredients. The cookies would be made regardless of the child’s involvement, but the child benefits because they learned something about the world, and more importantly, something about their dad.

Thank you in advance for your support. I cannot wait for this summer!