Reclaiming Joy

I have a tendency to exaggerate. However, I’m not being over-dramatic when I say that 2017 has been a nightmare.

 

Somehow, I got through my first year of teaching, surviving angry parents accusing me of being a racist, having gum and erasers thrown at me, and being told every day by several students that they hated me.

 

But I survived. I have grown and–not to be arrogant or anything–but I’m exceedingly proud of the growth and healing I’ve been able to go through as I endured constant verbal and emotional abuse.

 

On days when I felt like I couldn’t go on, more seasoned educators would tell me to hang on and keep with it because the next year was going to be better. They were right. Despite a number of minor issues with a handful of my students, my overall workload feels a hundred times easier. But as I’ve been reflecting on this past semester, I can’t help but still feel exhausted and discouraged.

 

And yet, it has taken one of the roughest weeks of my life to remind me of one simple truth: I AM IN CHARGE OF MY HAPPINESS.

 

It’s easy to huff and complain about the boy who doesn’t follow even my most basic instructions or the girl who disrupts class by shouting, “Shut Up!” at everyone who upsets her. I’ve had countless days when I’ve let my stubborn, hurting, ignorant students sour my mood.

 

I AM IN CHARGE OF MY HAPPINESS.

 

As much as I’d love all my students to do everything I ask the first time, I’ve realized that their failures shouldn’t affect my awesome day.

 

When a parent or guardian is condescending and screams at me for how incompetent I am as a new teacher, I can choose to believe that they are simply having a bad day instead of taking their insults to heart. And when a colleague berates me, I can take a deep breath and resist the urge to yell back since I have absolutely what struggles they are facing in their personal lives.

 

I AM IN CHARGE OF MY HAPPINESS.

 

Christmas is in a week. I know it can a very stressful time. There can be pressure to find the right gift. There can be frustration in dealing with relatives. There can be money troubles. There can be a sense of discouragement at not accomplishing goals in the past year. And so on.

 

I’d like to leave you on the note that no matter what is happening in your life, you are only in charge of you. There are only so many things that you can control, which might leave you feeling powerless. But you have the greatest strength of all–control over how you respond to a situation. When you feel like you need to lash back, don’t react yet. Take a moment to breathe and remind yourself that you have all authority over your joy. Smile and reclaim it.

Long-Overdue Update

Oh, my! Has it really been that long? 5 months?

I had intended to still blog in the course of the fall, despite a hectic work schedule. Honestly, everything really came down to one decision: Do I use my limited remaining energy to blog or to work on one of my stories?

That question was often moot, since I’ve been very bad about writing the past few months.

Sure, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but only made half my word count goals for the month. Still, I’m quite content at the progress I made in my multicultural Mars murder mystery.

My Mars story is the first one I’ve written where I’ve needed to do extensive research. I have been learning bits of other languages, discovering idiosyncrasies of different cultures, and studying some of the most barbaric crimes people can commit. Needless to say, this was an exhaustive project that I really need a break from. I’ll resume writing it as soon as I’ve recovered some of the emotional heartache I endured during the research process.(Check in again in a few years to see if I ever actually finish this story…)

So the big question is: What is Amy writing now?

Well, if you don’t care, you should just skip reading this post. I don’t mind…

This summer, I had taken all my stories off of Kindle in an attempt to revise them and re-release them with second editions. A few weeks ago, I commissioned my friend, Zybrena Crawford Porter, to design a new cover for my novella, “Undoing Life.” Seeing as how she is a beautiful artist and a talented graphic designer, I knew she’d create a much better cover than I had originally.

So let’s compare. Here’s the cover I made 2 1/2 years ago when I first release “Undoing Life”:

And here is what Zybrena created:

Oh, it’s so stunning that I cried when I first saw it. I’m so happy with it and can’t wait to release the second edition on January 1st, 2018.

I have no yet decided if I’m going to re-release “Iris” or “Reps and Royals” next. Heck, I might just go for the first edition of “Mended by Ashes.” No one has had the chance to read it yet–save for my beta readers–and I’m anxious to see what people think of it. However, I think I need to revise it a bit more before it’s ready for an audience.

On top of all this, I’ve got several short stories in the works. I’m almost done with the first draft of a social commentary on friend-making. I’ve also been dabbling in fantasy with a story set during an Egyptian-themed magic show where the ancient gods are not at all amused at the blasphemous conjurers. At the moment, I’m stuck in the middle of a draft about the taboos and misconceptions about addiction in society. That’s been fun, but I’m not sure what to write next in it. With all these ideas turning around in my brain, I also have the first draft of a sci-fi western set in an anarchist culture with mercenaries and dying robots.

As if that’s not enough to keep me busy for awhile, I also want to revise the sequel to “Iris”: “Alteration.” Plus, I plan on a total of nine books in that series. And I want to write more books set in The World in “Reps and Royals,” and I want to continue Colonel Arbeck’s story in a sequel to “Undoing Life.”

But all these must wait. Sadly, I’m not yet to the point of being able to write full time. Perhaps in a couple of years. In the meantime, I’ll have to discipline myself better in order to write more efficiently throughout the work week.

Do you have a mountain of ideas you’re working on conquering? I’d love to hear what you’re writing. Feel free to pass along any writing tips as well in the comments, or ask me any questions you have about writing. Thanks for reading! Have a blessed day!

–Amy Engle

 

Fool-Proof Plans

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

I’m a fairly independent person. I almost always did very well in school, I’ve been blessed with quite a bit of wisdom, and I feel like I’ve accomplished quite a bit in my life time so far.

And yet, for all the good things in my life and all the advantages I’ve had, there have been ten times as many failures. Sure, with my in-born gifts, I can do quite a bit. But my brain tends to be very one-sided, so there are definitely plenty of things that I really stink at.

Learning to trust and depend on God has been quite a challenge my whole life. I like being in control and proving that I can do things on my own. But the truth of the matter is, I honestly don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I’ve had many a times when I sat sobbing alone because of how lost and incompetent I felt. And yet, those were the moments that God was able to take over and show me what he had planned for me.

Pride and impatience get in the way of submission. Despite countless rescues from my arrogance, I still forget how much easier it is to give my life to God. I fight him for control. This is mostly out of fear of the unknown. I stubbornly refuse to let Him guide me. And then I fail and fail and fail again.

But believing that He knows what He’s doing and trusting in His plan have brought me such a calming peace of mind. When something happens in my life, I ask God for help and request that He reveals to me what needs to be done.

Exiling Worry

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

 

To say that I had a rough childhood would be an understatement. I dealt with health issues from a young age, the quality of my intellect was constantly under attack due to my lack of years, friendships were superficial and often short-lived, and had very little control over the use of my time. As a result, my anxiety sky-rocketed.

 

With each new year, I became sicker and sicker. I was a giant bundle of raw nerves, feeling helpless and overwhelmed. In my teen years, I learned to cope by developing a controlling nature. Still, when I came across a situation that I hadn’t anticipated or couldn’t see a way out of, I reverted back to the frightened child I kept locked deep inside me, unable to deal with the fresh wave of stress crashing over me. It was a very unhealthy time in my life and I regularly dealt with depression.

 

I remember sitting in my Bible Study group of ladies during my senior year of high school. Now, I had generally learned to keep my freak-out sessions to the privacy of my bedroom. But as we shared our prayer requests, I unloaded all my woes on my companions.

 

College was around the corner and I had no idea what I was going to do. What was I going to major in? Where was I going to go? How was I going to pay for all of it? Was I capable enough to work full-time while completing my classes? I felt pressure to do pass all my classes with As’s, but I was experiencing difficulty with a handful of subjects. And then there was my social anxiety preventing me from making close connections with certain peers as well as my lack of confidence around boys–who seemed to be avoiding me like the plague. You throw in constant nerve pain and never-ending fatigue and you create the perfect situation to deplete any semblance of joy in a young woman’s life.

 

As I sat in embarrassment with tears in my eyes, the Bible Study leader–we’ll call her Mrs. T–only had one recommendation. She opened her Bible and had me read Matthew 6:25-34. When I finished, it hadn’t given me any relief. So I read it a second time. I then ranted that I didn’t care what I ate or what clothes I wore. That’s why I was over-weight and the popular people didn’t want to be my friend.

 

Unrelenting, Mrs. T told me that she wanted me to memorize that passage. She added that she was going to quiz me every week.

 

Rote-memorization had never been a skill I’ve been able to master. So I blew it off and was unable to recite it. But Mrs. T worked with me and after a couple months I was able to say most of it word-for-word without much help. It took time, but these verses quieted my mind.

 

Everything eventually worked out. I had prayed extensively my senior year of high school. I asked God for a way to pay for school without being in debt half my life. I asked him to guide my decisions so that I ended up in the degree program that He wanted me to get into. I even calmed enough to meet new people and learn how to develop close friendships–many of whom I still keep in touch with today.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong–memorizing these verses won’t make anxiety go away. I still have my flare ups when I feel as though my world has been turned up-side-down. But knowing how God has helped me in the past reassures me that He has a perfect plan for me.

 

What I find especially comforting about this passage is the last half of Verse 26. I am reminded that I am valuable to God. He wants to take care of me and give me what I need. I just need to learn to ask Him for help. Like I said, I’m a control-freak. Giving up power is hard for me. But I’ve really learned over the years that there’s no shame in asking for assistance, especially when I’m requesting it from the all-knowing, all-powerful God that created me and loves me no matter what I’ve done.

 

So I’m going to encourage you to seek after God in the unknown moments–when you’re not sure where the money is going to come from, or when you’re trying to fix a relationship, or when you’re tired of a health problem that’s keeping you from enjoying life. Remember: you are valuable! God loves you and wants the best things for you. You just need to stop worrying and seek after Him.

Poems on Wattpad

I’ve been hearing for years about Wattpad. I’ve been hesitant to post anything on there because I’m such a perfectionist and don’t like people seeing my writing until it is ready.

However, I’ve recently been told by several authors that it’s a great way to get some feedback and honest critiques. Since it’s usually strangers writing comments, I can know that they aren’t just saying nice things to make me feel good as a writer.

So I’m starting simple and just putting my poetry collection on Wattpad. I might put up some short stories in the next few weeks to see what people think.

Expanding the range of science fiction–one speculation at a time.