7.24.2017

Oops...I Left My Heart In Peru


Like I mentioned in my last post, I spent 10 days in Lima, Peru.  It was absolutely amazing and changed my life.  I feel like a different person.  Normal life doesn't feel normal anymore--it feels dull.  I miss the people of Peru.  I miss my friends on Team 1 (and our fan club member, Amber).

Okay, I'll start at the beginning.

We did this trip with Never the Same Missions/Big World Ventures.  If you haven't heard of them, they are a fantastic organization that does summer mission trips for teens.  (Adults can go on it too, but it's geared towards teens and young adults.  Adults are there mainly to minister to teens.)  During the day, we ministered to the people of Peru and at night, we had a youth conference sort of thing.

On June 24, we arrived at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale, FL for leader training.  My sister and I hung out with some other the other "kids" while Mom was in training.  This involved many, many Dutch Blitz games and some very violent games of Spoons.  Also, there were some Coldstone Creamery runs where almost all of the people on the trip went.  We filled up the entire store.  I'm pretty sure that the people working there hated us.

Mom and my sister in front of the hotel.
June 26 is when things really started picking up.  The rest of the people arrived and we had our first FUAGNEM (fired up and going nuts every minute...aka the youth conference) and drama auditions.  This mission trip is based around a drama that presents the gospel, which is awesome and fun!  I was cast as the baseball player (shocking because I'm not athletic at all) and my sister was cast as a mime.

The next day started intense drama practice.  Intense as in from 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch.


Here's a little excerpt from what I wrote on the second day of drama practice:

I'm exhausted.  My legs are sore, my eyes stay open from sheer need to remain awake, and I hear video-game style music playing over and over in my head.  Today was a very long day...and it's not over yet.  This morning, we had to eat breakfast at 7, meet with our team (GO TEAM 1!) at 8, and be ready for drama practice at 9.  Since then, I've had two 20 minute breaks and an hour lunch break.  But I'm not complaining because I'm having so much fun!  I've met so many amazing new people who are on fire for the Lord!  (Our team is so lively and amazing!)

Then on July 29, we flew to Lima.  The flight was very longgggg and boring because the airline we flew on didn't have TVs.  I also forgot earbuds...

 

Okay, so like I said in my post last week, traffic is insane in Lima.  So, it took us about an hour to drive to the hotel...even though it was about midnight.

The next morning, we had to be up at 7 to go down to breakfast.  Team time was at 8 (where we met with our team for devotions) and we left at 9.
This is breakfast on one of the later days.

There were two kinds of ministry days:

1. Drama days - we performed the drama three times in public places like parks and marketplaces.

Here we were at a school.
Here we're at a park.



People watch our drama in a market.

2. Community days - we spend the day in a community doing some small work projects, playing with the kids (painting faces and making balloon flowers + swords.) 

Me painting a little girl's face.


One of the communities was on a cliff.

We also had a couple of free days.  On the first free day, we went to a local restaurant called Cafe Cafe.  Oh my goodness was it amazing.  That night, the entire mission team went to Shalom Church.  It was one the most amazing services I've ever experienced.  We had an hour and a half of worship in both English and Spanish.  Then, Susie Shellenberger gave a message (with a translator).  We performed the drama for the church.  Also, there was a dance party at the end, which was super cool.  It was amazing to worship with the Peruvian people!

The second free day was an excursion to the Peruvian desert where we went sandboarding (basically snow boarding on sand dunes.)  I'm still dumping sand out of my tennis shoes.

When we were here, all I could think about was
how much this looks like Katie Grace's novel,
Song of the Desert!

The third free day, my mom and sister went to the market, but I stayed back because I was coming down with a cold and we were to fly back home that night (fun, right?).



Other Cool Stuff That Happened


1. I gave my testimony for the first time.


After every drama performance,  someone would explain the drama and then someone else would give his/her testimony.  The last day, God gave me the courage to share what He's done in my life.

2. We invited a school to come watch the drama.

3. A lot of people got saved!


There will be people in heaven because a bunch of teenagers and adults took part of their summer to go to Peru.  Oh, and one girl on our team got saved...but I'll talk about that in a minute. :)


4. This is cool as in cold.  At our hotel, the hot water didn't always work.  Not fun.

The guy who organizes the trips says usually the hotels are a step up from where we stayed.  However, the hotel we stayed at this time had a lot of character.

  

You could go out on the roof, which was AWESOME.


5. The guys put on a special candlelit rooftop cake party.


Each girl got a rose, note, and a slice or two of cake.  It was so special!  There are great, godly guys out there. :)

6. FUAGNEM


These things were incredible.  The worship.  The messages.  Oh, they were so life-changing.  One night, we talked about not waiting to let go of our sins.  Don't wait.  And that's the meaning behind the green shirt you saw me wearing while eating breakfast that says "Today.  Right Now.  Immediately."  That was such a moving night.  We separated into our teams and let go of all of our sins.  There was a lot of hugging and crying (hence the nickname "Cry Night")--especially when one of our team members gave her life to Christ!  Oh, it was so amazing.  We'd all been praying for her so hard!  I started sobbing I was so happy.

This was on 4th of July.

That's all that I can think of for now.  There might be a part 2 later. (Unless you guys are tired of me rambling about the trip and how amazing it was.)

To close this post out, here are some words from my Mom:

Next year, Big World Ventures is going to Guatemala, and we would love to go.  (Many people participate in these trips year after year.)  We are praying about God’s plan for us.  If any of you feel called to do a mission trip next summer, we would highly recommend this trip for all ages.  One woman on our trip is in her 60s and pulled around her oxygen with her everywhere that we went.  You would not believe the health problems that she has, but she does not let anything stop her, and God used her in mighty ways to impact many lives.  Please let us know if you are interested.



Have you ever been on a mission trip?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

7.17.2017

8 Things You Might Not Know about Lima, Peru

A week ago today, I got back home from a 10-day mission trip to Lima, Peru.  Next to Realm Makers, it was the most amazing trip of my life.  We served in communities and put on an evangelistic drama, as well as a lot of other incredible things.  (I plan to do a recap post sometime in the near future.)  For now, here are some crazy things you might not know about Lima.  The culture shock is real, friends.



1. The traffic is insane.  


Picture a very large city with a ton of traffic.  Now picture that same city where the traffic laws don't have to be followed. Car horns = hi, I'm here; big car/bus = I'm first

This is an intersection.  Yeah.  Crazy, right?  (Photo Cred: Mom)


2. You can tell kids in public school about Christ.  


Wouldn't that be nice to adopt in America?  One time, we invited a whole kindergarten to watch our drama.  We had to do spur-of-the-moment public speaking and it was actually pretty embarrassing.  (How can you even embarrass yourself in front of 5-year-olds?)


Here our team is praying with school children...
on school premises!  It was amazing!
(Photo Cred: Mom)


3. You can't flush toilet paper.  


There's a little trash can to the side of every toilet to put used toilet paper in.  Isn't that gross?


4. There are pickpockets everywhere.  


Story idea for a gang of Peruvian orphans trying to find their way in the world?  (First thing that came to my mind.) When in very crowded areas, you have to wear backpacks on your front and hold it close to you.  It's kind of awkward to walk like that.


5. The people are super nice and open to the Gospel.


Unlike in America, people like tracts.  They will listen to you tell the story of how Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again to save us from eternity without Him!  When in doubt, tell someone your testimony.



6. The roads are SUPER bumpy.


Especially when you're trying to do face paint in the back of a bus.


There are also these really cute taxis.  They're actually enclosed
3-wheeled motorcycles.  (Photo Cred: Mom)


7. The soccer fields are usually concrete and very dusty.


Since Lima is in a sort of desert, there isn't much grass and water has to be brought in on trucks.  Thus, concrete soccer fields.


Here's a very dusty soccer field.
(Photo Cred: Can you guess?  Mom)

Another picture of the soccer field, featuring an adorable
little girl (sadly, I forget her name), and myself.
(Photo Cred: Mom)



8. They think Americans are the coolest (mostly the kids).  Especially people with light hair and/or light eyes.

Here's my sister with a very adorable little girl after we performed
our evangelistic drama.  (Photo Cred: Mom)


Have you ever been to Peru?  What did you think of it?  Have you ever set a story/part of a story there?


7.03.2017

How to Take Critiques without being emotionally destroyed by them

At some point or another, someone is going to read your writing.  This could be a school essay, a short story, or your baby (novel).  It's scary because you wonder if you are good enough.  Is this good enough to get published?  Is this good enough to get a good grade?  Am I actually a good writer?  Did I to X plot point right?  Are my characters realistic and likable?  I find that a lot of times, I use beta readers as validation that my work is finally good enough.  I hope hope hope that it is...but then the critiques come in.  It's a very sad feeling to know that you still need to fix things.  Sometimes, it makes you feel like a failure.  Here are some ways to combat those feelings.

1. Separate yourself from your work.


Your identity is found in Christ, NOT your writing.  Before sending your work out, take a step back from it.  Realize that this isn't personal anymore, it is a product that you made.  (I learned this from Thomas Locke at Realm Makers last year.)

2. Realize that beta readers are your friends.


They offered to critique your story because they want to help YOU.  It isn't an evaluation of how good of a writer you are.

3. Be open to change.


I've beta read for some people who defend every single editing decision they made.  Yeah, that's a little frustrating because how are they supposed to get better?

4. It's okay to be upset, but don't dwell on it.


This isn't quite as easy as it sounds.

5. There's always another novel.


So this novel is beyond hope (at least for the present time).  Write another one!  And another one!  And another one until your writing improves.  Even published authors haven't hit their "ceilings".

Have you ever gotten harsh critiques?  How did you get over them?


6.26.2017

Book Review: Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt (remember this book I keep fangirling about?)

About the Book

Her death was just the beginning.

Quinn Rogers doesn’t exist. There are no records of her name. Her DNA has no match. She is a ghost. A phantom killer no one can trace. The perfect assassin. Or so she thinks.

At the top of her game, Quinn’s no longer looking over her shoulder. Her master will protect her, save her, like he always has. But there are forces at work neither of them suspect.

Can Quinn find the truth in a world of lies? Or will her unsanctioned past catch up to her in the end?


My Review


Step aside, cliche thrillers because The Dragonfly series is coming to town!  Brianna's incredible writing skills kidnapped my mind and threw it into the world of assassins, terrorists, and secret agents.

The Characters

I fell in love with Brianna's characters, despite their murderous tendencies.  Why?  They are real, broke people.  They work for (I don't want to tell you too much) who will kill them if they don't do as he says.  This trains them to dim their consciences.  But as the story goes on, stuff happens that reawakens those thoughts that what they are doing is bad.  However, there is still survival stuff and characters interactions that get in their way and make them completely human.

Also, there is Nathan who is an adorable human.  (He's not an assassin, but he's just precious.)  Can we talk about the fact that he grows so much over the story, and the main plot isn't even about him?!

The Setting


Unsanctioned Eyes takes place all over the world: London, Afghanistan, and other places.  I've never been to any of those places before, but after reading this book, I feel like I have.

The Plot


Masterfully written.  I'm not going to say any more on this.

Content


There was quite a bit of language, but none was "super awful".  (It's not every other sentence either.)  It fits with the characters.  Obviously, there was quite a bit of violence.  The assassins aren't super moral people, so they don't do the most moral things.  But this is NOT EVIL BEING GLORIFIED.  The characters start to change by the end of the story.  Quinn is presented with the idea of God and His saving grace.  The author is not condoning the actions of her characters.  I just wanted to make that very clear.

Conclusion


Basically, this is a fantastic book for people who enjoy thrillers like the Jason Bourne series, but are tired of evil being glorified.  I recommend this book to older teens and above because of some of the content.  5/5 stars!  This book releases TOMORROW so remember to get a copy!


*Disclaimer* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Note: Due to technical difficulties, you won't be able to preorder this book.  However you will be able to buy it on Amazon TOMORROW.

About the Author


Brianna grew up in a small town in Oklahoma learning the language of the wind and trying to survive the heat of summer. She fell in love with all things literary at an early age and the journey from reader to writer followed. With the help of One Year Adventure Novel, she finished her first novel in 2012 and hasn’t been able to stop creating new worlds and adventures since. 

As well as writing, Brianna is addicted to tea, chocolate, and music. When she isn’t reading or writing, Brianna teaches Ballet and Jazz. 

She lives in Virginia with her family and spoiled Dalmatian, Valentine. 

6.19.2017

A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT {yes, I know. another post from me.}

I know I already posted today (scroll down for that post), but this too exciting to wait any longer.  (By "too exciting" I mean that I just did a major happy dance throughout my house.)

As mentioned in the title...I have huge news.  When I say huge, I mean H U G E.  First of all, I'm going to say that none of this would have happened if it weren't for God.  ALL of the credit goes to him and his infinite wisdom.  Okay...so here's my story.

I wrote a book.  An actual, finished book.  It had been edited and edited.  And I thought it was ready.  In my small, slightly arrogant, younger mind, I thought every publisher would be swept away by its awesomeness.  How could they refuse me and my incredible work of art?  News flash: They did.  One publisher said it wasn't right for them.  One publisher said that it needed a lot of work, but it was a "diamond in the rough".  As I revised, submitted, and got rejected, I wasn't sure if this was God's plan for me.  So, I sent out one final round of queries.

I waited.

               And waited.

                                   And waited.

Some rejected me, others never responded (which meant they rejected me).  I decided that I wasn't going to publish The Clockshifter, at least not for a while.

Then one day when I didn't have a lot of homework, Tessa Emily Hall, who I had followed since I became serious about writing posted that she had become a junior agent and was seeking clients.  She was looking for books in The Clockshifter's genre and wanted to work with authors who fit my description.  After fangirling for a moment, I dived into a book proposal.  I used a book proposal I'd written for a previous draft and did a major overhaul on it.  I researched things using my handy Go Teen Writers book and the Internet.  This was my last attempt and I was going to make it count.  I didn't really believe anything would come of it, but hey, if God wanted this thing published, He would do something, right?

The next day, I received an email from Tessa.  In a nutshell, it said, "I'm interested."  I gasped, then my eyes filled with tears.  God had a plan all along.  This was way better than those other obscure agents I submitted to before.  I started to pray and pray and pray.  I felt led to do this.  I worked tirelessly on another round of edits, adding more words, just like she asked.

For a while, I didn't hear back.  I started to lose hope.

One day in art class (don't freak out, I was using my phone to look at a reference photo), an email came in.  "I want to set up a call," it said.  I lost it.  Right there in class.  I couldn't stop smiling, tears filled my eyes, and I had to explain to everyone what had just happened.

God was at work.

The day of the call came, and I was ready.  I researched "The Call" online and knew what to expect and what to prepare for.  I outlined my career goals and obstacles I might face.  But when the call came, the agent basically said, "Pray about it, but I'm offering you a contract."

And that's the story of how I got a literary agent.

There.  That's my big news.  Someone is taking a chance on me and my book I started writing on at 14-years-old.

God does amazing things.  I thought that so many different agents would be The Right Ones, but they weren't.  God had something great in mind, so much greater than I could ever imagine.

Ladies and Gentlemen, God is amazing.  He ALWAYS has a plan that's far greater than anything you can imagine!

I'm pleased to announce that I'm now represented by Tessa Emily Hall and Cyle Young with Hartline Literary Agency.

Excuse me while I do another happy dance.