Why I Make Music a Part of My Devotions

In a previous post, I mentioned that I sing songs during my personal devotions, and this week is about why I’ve made music a part of my quiet time.

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Music is a gift given to help us communicate deep thoughts and truths that we otherwise struggle to grasp or say, and music written for worship is a way to give God praise, to use our breath and our being to exalt the Most High. Songs are prayers set to melodies, outpourings of the human soul before the throne of the living God.

Music is beautiful.

I believe that music has power, and I believe that the Holy Spirit uses music to move and thaw hearts. He uses it to help me come close when my mind is scattered or my soul is raw with griefs or desires I can’t find words to express. He uses it to draw me into deeper love and wonder and humility and new understanding of the magnitude of what He’s done for me, how far I once was, how close I now am, and how much closer I can get to Him.

And when it comes to meeting with God alone, how can I not sing? How can I not give Him a joyful noise? When I’m able to go boldly before Him, how can I not use that boldness to give Him a freewill offering of praise?

I don’t think that quiet time with God is only about learning of the God Who knows no equal; quiet time with God is about coming to Him with intentionality and humility and prayer and praise with the purpose of glorifying Him.

Yes, devotions are about knowing Him as intimately as I can and taking what I know and living like I actually know it, but that isn’t all there is to it. The whole reason anything in all creation even exists is to glorify God, to give Him praise. Period. That’s it. And yes, my entire life is to be an act of worship, but when given the opportunity to lift my voice and glorify my matchless God one-on-One, when it’s just Him and me, why wouldn’t I take it?

I try to keep my music well-balanced with my prayer and study time, and I have found that beginning with some prayer and then a couple songs sets a tone of adoration for the entire time so that my heart is as engaged as my head.

How I use music depends on the day. Sometimes I grab my iPod and listen/listen and sing a few songs. Sometimes I simply pray the lyrics of a song. Sometimes I sing acapella. Sometimes I grab one of my ukuleles and play softly (though, sometimes I have trouble focusing on the words themselves and get too fixated on playing the song well, and so then I have to set my uke aside and sing without it).

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I love to sing of my God, I love to sing to my God.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because a few songs on Sunday just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I want to have a soulfire for God, and music about Him reminds me Who I’m burning for.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because it helps me focus; it helps me turn my eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because I want to be consistent in my worship.

I’ve made music a part of my devotions because why not?


Let’s chat it up, peeps.

What do you think is the place of music in personal devotions? Do you think music has power? What songs draw you closer to God?

P.S. – Don’t I deserve some sort of award for keeping this post so short and sweet??? It’s not even 700 words! *collective gasp*

In Defense of Short Fiction

In last week’s post about sorting fiction by length, I mentioned my (strong) feelings on brief fiction, and so this week is all about those (strong) feelings.

Warning: copious use of parentheses ahead; also, slight ranting.

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There seems to be some sort of grading of stories by their length, and I’m not talking about sorting. I’m talking about an inflated sense of importance or significance or prestige or betterness (yes, I made that a word) based on a story’s wordcount.

It’s become a badge of sorts to write mammoth novels, as if the higher your wordcount is, the more fantastic of a writer you are. It’s some sort of milestone to reach 100,000 words in your novel or for your final word count to come to 120,000 words (or higher), and it’s almost like you haven’t arrived as a writer until you’ve hit the big 100k.

And if your novel’s only in the 60,000’s, well, I mean, that’s great and all, but… you know… it’s kind of short, and really, what story is worth only 64,000 words? And if it doesn’t even make it to 50k, well, um, is it even technically a novel? Isn’t that more of, like, a novella, and who even reads those?

Spoiler alert: it’s small-minded to think that a story is better because it’s longer. This post is for the people who are afraid their story’s too short, it’s for the people who think a short story isn’t worth their time, and it’s also for the people who think that you aren’t a certified writer/author until you’ve written a full fledged novel.

Writers, listen up and write this down: the. power. of. a. story. does. not. lie. in. its. length.

I’ll say it again because some people are thick-headed like me: the power of a story does not lie in its length (that’s a quote from a writer named Tara L. Masih, by the way).

A famous bit of micro-fiction (typically attributed to Ernest Hemingway) is only six words, and it tells quite a sorrowful story.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I bet you didn’t see that coming.

I read that story, and I get an image of this young couple who’ve been trying to have a baby for so long, and then they finally get pregnant, and the baby’s coming, and they get things all set up for a nursery and a little mobile over a crib in a room painted blue, and there’s all that excitement and love and anticipation, but when the baby comes, it’s stillborn. So they sell unworn shoes. What about you? What story rises up in your mind when you read those six words? What thoughts and feelings come to the surface when you see that handful of words?

Peeps, the power of a story does not lie in its length.

The power of a story lies in the emotions that it evokes, the memories it pulls out of the moldy corners of our minds, the old truths that it casts in a new light, the complacency that it challenges, the new ideas that it gives, and the old ideas it causes us to reexamine.

So go after that power, that heart.

Some stories need a hundred thousand words to tell them, maybe even five hundred thousand. I get that.

And some stories call for only six or six thousand or sixteen thousand or sixty thousand words, so don’t try to add to them. Don’t make them bloated in your quest for an awe-inspiring wordcount and don’t think less of yourself because you “only wrote a novella”. Before you start berating a story (yours or someone else’s) for being “only” 30,000 words, remember that the power of a story does not lie in its length.

There is so much brio in brevity, so much to be said for the writer who can take a snapshot of life with fire and few words, so much in the story that you can read in an hour and come away shaken, so much in that image painted with broad, deft keystrokes that comes to mind again and again.

My point is: don’t strive to write 80,000 words. Don’t even strive to write a novel. Strive to write a story, however brief or long, that is your absolute best, one that leaves a handprint on someone’s heart, one that glorifies God.

So it’s 231,000 words. That’s quite something.

So it’s 878 words. That’s quite something.

So it’s 43,000 words. That’s quite something.

And don’t just read stories that take days to consume. Read the ones that are only as long as your lunch break but take much longer to forget. Read the ones that only fill an hour but keep haunting your heart. Read the ones that demand only an afternoon to start and finish but leave a trail of new thought through your mind.

The small story can have just as much power as the big book. You are just as much a writer for that small story as you are for that big book. Even if you can never master writing short fiction and can only write winding epics, you are a writer. Even if you can never get to that 60k, 89k, 124k novel and have to be content with novellas and novelettes and flash fictions, you are a writer.

All else aside, just remember these two things: the power of a story doesn’t lie in its length, and whatever you do, do it with all your might and for the glory of God.

So, peeps, talk to me. What do you think about all this?

Fiction Sorted by Length

On Saturday, I put out a poll on Twitter (hint: you should follow me on Twitter) asking peeps what kind of post they’d like to read on Penprints today, and of the three options presented, they favored a post about brief fiction.

Now, my feelings on brief fiction are quite strong (translation: I should probably calm down a little because they’re a wee bit too strong), but as I settled in to write out my thoughts on brief fiction I realized that I need to clarify some terms before diving in. Hence this post about classifying fiction by its length (i.e. – wordcount).

So, here’s a tiny post to lay out some common definitions of the various kinds of fiction.

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Micro-fiction.

Micro-fiction (which also goes by the names Postcard Fiction, Sudden Fiction, and Nano Fiction depending on who you’re talking to) is about as tiny as it gets without getting ridiculous. We’re talking 100 words or less. Yeah, it’s basically a blink, or better yet, just a spastic eye-twitch (you know those ones you get when you’re way past tired).

Here’s a piece of micro-fiction by Just B. Jordan that was published over on The Lightning Blog.

Flash Fiction.

Flash fiction (or the short short story) is right on the heels of its younger micro-fiction sibling. At 1,000 words or less, flash fiction is a flash-bang grenade designed to hit hard and fast.

Here’s a flashfic (that’s slang for flash fiction) by the fabulous Katie Grace

Short Story.

Short stories are where things begin to get a little more complicated and require a little more commitment than the leaner likes of micro and flash fiction that you can read in the line at a grocery store. It can take an entire lunch break to polish off a short story that ranges from 1,000-7,500 words.

Here’s a short story from Just B. Jordan on her blog.

Novelette.

And now we come to the beginnings of the novel’s family. Novelette’s are like those kids who never really grew out of that gangly, lanky phase and somehow have a size eleven foot, arms that are too long for any normal shirt, and most likely an intolerance to gluten. Now, I’m not saying this to be mean; I’m just saying that it’s quite hard for a novelette to fit into blogs or magazines or books because they range from 7,500 to 20,000 words. The best hope for a novelette is typically an anthology of some sort.

Five Enchanted Roses is a prime example of an anthology of novelettes.

Novella.

Novellas are the more filled-out brothers to novelettes. Ranging between 20,000 and 50,000 words, novellas are ideal e-books and $0.99 buys for your Kindle. They’re not quite as demanding as a novel and can be read in one night, a fairly quick but still lengthy fiction fix.

Personally, I recommend A Wish Made of Glass by Ashlee Willis (it’s like reading poetry but better).

Novel.

At last, we come to the famed (perhaps overrated?) novel. From here on out, the sky is the limit. And I mean that literally. Novels are 50,000 words up to infinity and beyond. Now, some make the distinction between novels and sequels/epics, but I find this to be pointless personally. There are some wordcount distinctions made from genre to genre, but since that’s a genre thing, I won’t get into it here. So, novels can be 55,000 words. Or 89,000 words. Or 111,000 words. Or 230,000 words. (Note: marketability will plummet as your wordcount rises for a debut novel.)

And that, kids, is the brief introduction to next week’s post will be all about my (very strong) thoughts on brief fiction. So stay tuned.

How long are some of your writing projects? What’s the longest thing you’ve ever written? What’s the shortest thing you’ve ever written? Do you think it takes more skill to write a meaningful micro-fiction than it takes to write a 130k novel?

P.S. – don’t ask me what these wordcounts work out to when it comes to the number of pages; that’s all dependent on formatting, dialogue vs. description, etc..

P.P.S. – you should like my Facebook page to get updates on my secret (and wildly exciting) project.

~ Rosalie out. <3

 

55 Things to do on a Rainy Day

In case you hadn’t gathered it from the title, this post is all about things to occupy your time on a rainy day. Now, the fact that I, a Wisconsinite, am creating such a list at the end of February is a sure sign that something has gone horribly wrong with winter (aka: it has rained far more than it has snowed this month). Seriously, go back to May, spring, I don’t want you here. So, without further angry mutterings, here are 55 things to do on a rainy day.

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Note: This post is set in the romantic world where none of us have jobs or school, so it’s pretty swanky.

  1. Light some candles (with matches).
  2. Sleep in.
  3. Wear sweat pants.
  4. Drink hot chocolate (with whipped cream).
  5. Walk around the house with a blanket draped over your shoulders like it’s a cloak.
  6. Listen to nostalgic music.
  7. Paint.
  8. Wish that it was snowing and not raining.
  9. Open a window and listen to the sound of the rain, and I mean really listen to it. The softness in a gentle drizzle and the cacophony of a downpour.
  10. Read aloud (to yourself or to a family member… or the goldfish).
  11. Snuggle with a pet (not the goldfish).
  12. Make a mind map.
  13. Make a new collection in your bullet journal.
  14. Write in your journal.
  15. Stand (or dance) in the rain without an umbrella and enjoy getting wet and cold and being alive.
  16. Read a book in one sitting.
  17. Read another book.
  18. Write a letter.
  19. Watch a documentary.
  20. Take a bath.
  21. Walk through the wet grass barefoot (you can take a classy umbrella this time and enjoy hearing the raindrops hit the canvas).
  22. Rearrange your bookshelves.
  23. Write a flash fiction.
  24. Call a friend—not text or email. Call. With a phone. And talk. Over the phone.
  25. Think weighty thoughts (very concise, this activity).
  26. Go through old family pictures
  27. Watch family videos.
  28. Clean something (so that you feel productive).
  29. Take a nap (because who really wants to be productive on a rainy day?).
  30. Try your hand at blackout poetry.
  31. Sneak around the house like you’re a secret agent (be sure to use hand signals and bird calls).
  32. Watch a movie that will make you cry (because crying = good somehow).
  33. Pull on the workout shorts, lace up the shoes, and do something that makes you sweat (I was going to do say something that’ll make you sore later, but I thought that might not spur many people on to exercise…).
  34. Set out a container to collect some rainwater. You’ll want something with as wide a mouth as possible so that you can collect as much water as possible.
  35. Grab a shoe, some armor, and a flame thrower and go hunt your household spiders.
  36. Make your day a musical and sing while performing random tasks.
  37. Try some stretches.
  38. Go through your closet and take out the clothes you don’t like much anymore.
  39. Put your jammies on at 3 in the afternoon.
  40. Send a surprise care package to someone.
  41. Give your mailperson some coffee and chocolate.
  42. Find out which Meyer-Briggs type you are.
  43. Cross stitch a constellation.
  44. Make a teacup garden.
  45. Or make teacup candles.
  46. String up white Christmas lights in your room.
  47. Go for a drive.
  48. Have your cat knight you and then make a grand speech about it (this one’s a must).
  49. Talk to God, and I mean talk to Him, not at Him. Don’t just ask for things, tell Him why you love Him and why you’re thankful for rainy days and time to think and time to reflect on Him. Ask Him questions and then be quiet and listen for His answers. If you get silence, open your Bible and see if He answers you there.
  50. Eat peanut butter by the spoonful.
  51. Reorganize your room (and maybe even declutter a little *gasp*).
  52. Learn how to play a new song.
  53. Do a puzzle.
  54. Dress to the nines and go to WalMart.
  55. Bake something mouthwatering.

And that’s all I got for today, kids.

What do you like to do on a rainy day? Will you take any of my (clearly fantastic) ideas? Do you like rain, or would you prefer snow?

~ Rosalie out <3

P.S. – today is my dad’s birthday! So, a shout out to him because he reads every single one of my blog posts to the bitter end and is a huge encouragement to me. :)

Ready: a Sunday story

Typically, I wake like a dragon, slowly and with much groaning and growling and stretching. I mumble hate at my alarm clock; it offends my existence. At some point, I emerge from my pile of blankets and bliss, almost able to form a coherent sentence (but most likely not quite).

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Oh, and look. I’m already running late.

So I’m off to the shower, grouchy if one of my parents has beaten me to our one bathroom (they usually do since they both wake like birds—early, quickly, and far too cheerfully). So then it’s back to my room to dig through the closet to pick out my clothes.

Wore that shirt last week.

I don’t even like that skirt.

Would it be bad to wear all black?

I wonder if I could wear a scarf with that.

These clothes are my favorite clothes. Bright colors. Ruffles. Flowy skirts. Boots and heels. Oh, and some even sparkle.

And I’m getting later by the second. I rip things off their hangers and out of their drawers before practically falling downstairs. It’s a quick shower, filled with mutterings, mental lists of all the things I have to do, and loud singing at random intervals. I only drop the soap on my toes twice before I’m out and wrapping my hair in a thick towel.

Fifteen minutes and counting before I’m supposed to be out the door. Two minutes for throwing some clothes on; five for some quick makeup; nine for looking for my black flats (I’ll probably end up in the nude heels again at this rate); three for dragging a brush through my wet tangles.

And there it is. I’m late. Again. As always.

So then I’m tripping out the door, remembering the notebook, pens, and Bible but probably forgetting something else. Hopefully, my earrings match, but let’s be real here, they probably don’t. My stomach and I grumble because we really wanted that marshmallow cereal for breakfast.

It’s a hasty drive and crooked parking job, but I don’t have time to fix it. Tumble out of the car. Hustle across the parking lot. Straighten skirt. My heels click scuff click on the blacktop as I scurry to the nearest entrance. When I finally plop down at a table, I finally slow down a little;, it’s a good class. I take notes and try to answer questions, relishing the learning, enjoying the existence of my classmates and my teacher, this group of us who come together every week at 9:00 am.  The class lets out ten minutes to 10:00 am, and my fellow students and I scatter, each ticking off all we have to do and all the people we need to talk to before the next hour begins.

It isn’t until I’m sliding into a pew with my parents and sister while we’re told to turn to Hymn #11 that I pause. I’ve known what this day is all about since before I woke. I’ve known what Sunday is about for as long as I can remember. Yet, we haven’t spoken at all today. Well, He might have said a few things, but I was too distracted to hear. And there’s this sudden sense that despite my favorite clothes and hymnal in hand, I am not ready to be in this place of worship. The tang of the organ and the smooth voice of my pastor fall into the background as I sigh.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I’ve bought into the idea that getting ready for church is only about putting on nice clothes, bringing my Bible, and being on time. In all my angst, I never put thought into what I was doing to ready my soul.

This is the story of most of my Sundays.

The realization hits me at different times. Sometimes it’s as early as the shower. Sometimes it’s in Sunday school. Sometimes it’s during announcements while I’m flipping through my bulletin. It’s always the same, somewhat sinking, sense of regret and distance, and I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to prepare for a social engagement; I want to get ready to worship.

So that’s all I got today, kids.

I hope you wonderful peeps don’t mind this post; it’s just been on my mind a lot for the last few months, and so I thought I’d share it. What about you? What does your Sunday morning look like? Church? No church? Nice clothes or sweatpants?

 ~ Rosalie out.