3.31.2017

Count the Stars (a short story)

As you might  have guessed from the title of this post, I'm sharing something with all you lovely readers today- a short story! It's one I wrote a few weeks ago, called Count the Stars. 
It really is a short story, only about 1800 words, and it literally came out of nowhere. I was just thinking over some titles/excerpts that I'd written down one night, and one title that I had jotted down somewhere was Count the Stars. I really wanted to use it for something, and somehow, this little story just came to me all at once (which never happens, believe me). Maybe it's not the best idea to start with a title for a story and work your way down, but it seemed to work pretty well this time :)
I wanted to have it in a nice PDF format so you could just click the cover and read the story, but I couldn't get that figured out in time, so you'll just have to read it in this post. You can also check out a little graphics collage I made for the story on my short stories page, along with the updated format and graphics for my other short story, Looking for the Light. Enjoy!



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The back door closed with a soft thud as Amelia quietly slipped out into the darkness of the spring night. It was one of those nights where you can’t help but feel inspired somehow, out among the quiet stillness broken only by the faint hum of crickets and the soft rushing of the little creek just a few yards away.  However, for Amelia, the loveliness of the night was lost- buried by her own muddled thoughts rushing around in her mind.
She stepped off the back porch into the soft, cool grass. Her toes sank deep into it as she rounded the corner of the house.
She wasn’t even exactly sure where she was headed. She only knew that she could think better outdoors than anywhere else- and thinking was what she needed to do the most right now.
Amelia barely noticed as her feet followed the already-familiar path past the house and small outbuildings, down a gently sloping hill, and into a small, thick grove of pine trees.
She walked past the old tree house built high up among a certain sturdy pine, and over the log that spanned the small rushing creek as a bridge.
She finally stopped where she knew she would end up at. The cluster of huge, rounded pines just beyond the creek hid the entrance to one of her favorite places on earth.
Stooping, Amelia gently pulled back a few select pine boughs close to the ground to reveal a small natural opening in one of the pines close to the bottom, about four feet high. She carefully stepped in and let the branches close back behind her, concealing the opening.  
She was alone in her secret hideout, the one she had discovered nine years ago as an eager, happy seven-year-old playing hide-and-seek in the woods surrounding her new home.
The moment that Amelia had stepped through that opening for the first time, she knew that she had found her secret haven. The group of four large pines were clustered together in such a way that the trunks were quite close together. Due to some cause, the bottom four feet of the tree boughs had been clipped out, forming a nearly perfect round little cave under the cool dark pine boughs. However, that wasn’t even the best part.
Once, while coming to her hideout to think, she had laid back on the soft, cool grass to look up at the dark green limbs above her. To her surprise, pine boughs were not the only thing she could see.
Directly above her, the four trees’ tips came together to form a round hole at the center, about two feet across. Through that little hole, the sky was visible overhead, in all its cloudless blue.
Even as a seven-year-old, Amelia had had enough sense to know that such a place deserved to be kept a secret, and she had faithfully done so all these years.
She had visited her secret hideaway often at first, then, as other things began calling her attention, she had nearly forgotten about her secret hideout under the pines, with its breathtaking view of the sky overhead.
Now, as she once again stepped into her hideaway, it was as if time stood still. The little round room under the pines was unchanged, looking exactly as it had looked nearly two years ago- the last time Amelia could recall visiting it.
Everything was still there- the wooden box containing the treasures most sacred to her girlish heart, the blanket folded on top of the softest patch of grass, and the nail driven into the trunk of one of the pines, which held a small pair of binoculars. She had often used them to gaze up at the birds’ nests which were abundant in the uppermost branches in the springtime and late summer.
Amelia reached down and unfolded the blanket. She sat down, and reach over to pull the wooden box onto her lap.
Opening the lid brought forth a rush of memories.
There was that special necklace her best friend had given her the day that she and her family have moved to Mexico to become missionaries- five years ago. Amelia hadn’t seen Sarah since.
There was that little magnifying glass that she had often used to study ladybugs under, and  a folded handkerchief which contained her stash of sunflower seeds that she had meant to plant every summer for the past four years.
At the bottom of the box was something with a soft cover. Amelia reached in and drew  it out. It was her little pocket Bible- the one she had been given for her ninth birthday. She had been amazed that the whole Bible could be printed in a book so small.  
With her fingers still closed around the little Bible, Amelia let the rest of the contents of the box fall to the ground as she laid back on the blanket, her eyes blurred with tears.
All of these memories were almost too much for her to handle right now. Especially combined with all the thoughts already whirling around in her tired, confused mind.
There were just too many choices and decisions and changes coming at her at one time. It was too much. Why had God allowed all of this? Didn’t He even care about what was going on in her life right now?
God, this is too much! I can’t handle all of this right now, on my own. I’m not even sure if you still care. I don’t have the strength-. it’s just too much!
Amelia lay on her stomach with the soft, cool grass underneath her, sobbing quietly to herself for nearly ten minutes. Finally, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and rolled over on her back.
At that moment, her gaze was transfixed. That little round opening in the in the trees above her revealed a sight that she had never seen before- a little round patch of pure beauty. It was the dark night sky, studded with the most clear, brilliant stars that you could imagine.
They were so vivid that Amelia had seen photographs of stars that could not be compared to these. They were beyond anything any photo could ever depict. They were real.
Time stood still as Amelia lay on her back and stared up at that little piece of the night sky so vividly portrayed to her at that moment. She knew that God was trying to tell her something.
Dragging her gaze away from the spectacular view above her, she brought her pocket Bible onto her lap and began flipping through it slowly. She suddenly stopped as her eyes fell on a certain page from Isaiah.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:26-31

Amelia sat with her gaze fixed on the words on the page in front of her. She had heard of God speaking straight to people through the Bible, but up until now, she wasn’t sure if she really believed it or not. After all, the world was so big, and God had so much to do. Why would He bother to speak directly to someone like her?
There was no doubt in her mind now.
God- the same God who had spoken the stars into existence, who had named them all, who kept them all in place- cared for her, and what was happening in her life. The same God who had numbered the billions of stars above had numbered the days of her life, and had planned them out for His glory and her good.
Count the stars, Amelia could feel God whispering to her. Count the stars, if you can. As many stars as there are in the universe, My love for you is infinitely bigger. My plan for your life is ultimately better than anything you could imagine. I care for you more than for all the stars in the sky that I breathed into existence and named, one by one. Nothing is too hard for you- you will not be on your own. I will be with you. My love for you outnumbers the stars.
Amelia sat up slowly and wiped the tears from her eyes again. This time, they were tears of joy.
Carefully, she folded the blanket and tucked it into its spot again. Gathering up the little treasures that had spilled from the box, she scooped them back inside and closed the lid.
She set the box back in its little corner and looked around. Everything looked undisturbed and just as it had an hour before. Everything, that is, except for her heart. It had been touched with a tangible reminder of God’s love in a way that she would never forget.
Feeling for the branches that covered the secret opening, Amelia looked up for one more glimpse of the starry sky above through the round opening. Thank you, Lord, she whispered to herself.
With the little Bible clutched in her hand, Amelia gently pushed back through the secret opening. As the branches closed behind her, her heart felt lighter than it had for a long time.
As her feet traced the familiar path back to the house, she kept her gaze fixed on the night sky above her. Those special words were still echoing around in her head.
Count the stars. I will be with you. My love for you outnumbers the stars.

3.24.2017

The Vinedresser


I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15: 1-8 


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John chapter 15 starts off by talking about fruit, vines, and branches. It can get a little confusing unless you understand a little bit behind the analogy that Jesus is using, and why He would choose to use such an analogy to describe Himself. 

Do you know what a vinedresser is? At first, I assumed that it was just a another name for a farmer. When I looked into the meaning of the word, I found out that a vinedresser was much more than just an ordinary farmer. The vinedresser was the one who cared for the fruit-bearing vines specifically. Caring for vines like that- such as grape vines- is no easy task. Even though they only produce fruit during certain seasons, they require much care and upkeep all year round. Pruning, fertilizing, watering, etc. takes a lot of time, and the vinedresser was the one that would take the time to do all that, in order to nurture the vines so they could grow better. Then he had to turn around and do it all over again. Most fruit-bearing vines, like grapes, are not just annual plants. They last years and years if properly cared for- but years and years of hard work are required to make sure that the desired effect of fruit is produced.

This analogy is a wonderful example of how God works in our lives. He is our Vinedresser, constantly taking care of us and guiding us so we can produce the desired effect of belonging to Him- the fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes, that requires things that we might not like so much. One thing that comes to mind is "spiritual pruning"- the things that God uses in our lives to prune us back so that eventually, we become more like Him. Often, God uses difficult times and experiences in our lives to do this. It's easy to become doubtful and wonder why God would allow us to go through tough times, and I have wondered about that myself. However, it becomes easier when we remember that God is working through those times, pruning us so we are transformed more into the likeness of His son, the true Vine.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 

3.09.2017

gold


all that's gold
doesn't always glitter
in fact, sometimes
it's the fool's gold
that glitters the brightest
while the real gold
-the treasure-
lies unnoticed
besides
the fool's gold
- the fake-
so
why do we go for
what's the most glittery
instead of
what's the most valuable?
we take what's visible
yet perishable
over what's not
quite so noticeable
but yet imperishable
just for the looks
the glitter
let's go back
to the real thing
the real gold
the real treasure
that may not always 
glitter
but that's always
gold
-written 1.16.17

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I'm not exactly sure why I felt like God was prompting me to post this poem today. It's one of my recent favorites, yet it's not one of my best ones. I don't particularly like the way it looks or flows. Yet, I think that it's an interesting example of certain situations in life. We don't like how they're flowing or how they look, yet God has a plan to use them to mold our lives into what He wants. I've been struggling with this lately, so perhaps the only reason for posting this was to see my own words actually typed out somewhere. But I hope that's not the only reason. I hope that someone else will be blessed just a little by the reminder to chase after the real "gold" in life- and to remember that you're worth more than gold to the One who made you. <3
 
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