Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Swamp of Sadness: My Journey With Apathy

      Do you remember the scene in The Neverending story when the horse Artax gets stuck in the Swamp of Sadness?  Most likely you do, and most likely you recall this being the moment that you realized not all kids movies are happy all the time.  If you aren't familiar with the scene it begins with Atreyu (a young boy sent on a mission) and Artax (his steed) who need to navigate their way through the Swamp of Sadness.  

     The devastating power of this swamp is that if you let the sadness around you take hold you will begin to sink into the swamp & it will overpower you.  Artax begins to sink in & as much as Atreyu urges his horse to keep moving, to pull himself out, Artax has let the sadness take away his will to keep moving.  What's the point?  *sink into the mud* Why bother? *sink further* “Fight against the Sadness, Artax. Please, you’re letting the Sadness of the Swamps get to you. You have to try. You have to care. For me. You’re my friend. I love you.” 


     It's not a perfect example, but it's the closest thing I can think of right now to represent what apathy feels like.  Apathy is one of my biggest struggles (not the only struggle, but one of them) and daily I'll move between the roles of Atreyu and Artax inside myself.  Apathy is a scary thing to struggle with, because it sneaks up on you.  It's not something you know how to protect yourself from at first.  One day, you just realize that you should be caring more than you do.  I tell myself things like, "snap out of it."  "You used to care, what happened?"  I even try 'pulling on my own reigns'. And above all I pray for my attitude to be changed.  And yet apathy still haunts me.  

     Some of that I believe has to do with the other things I let influence my life, certain struggles that feed into my attitude, a lack of scripture taking a prominent role in my priorities, and just not seeking accountability.  It's a strange duality of myself wanting to care, but not being able to.  Recognizing that I should, but being stuck in a rut (or the mud for this analogy).  It's a strange back and forth, but as absurd as it feels it has a serious impact on how I treat other sins in my life, what time I take to spend alone with God, and how I worship.  I even feel like at times I'm saying stuff to encourage others that while I know in my heart I believe it, cannot feel the emotions behind it.  It kinda sucks.

     It truly is a great struggle, but I call it a struggle, because I know it is worth struggling with.  I may not be free of it yet, but like Atreyu I won't give up on Artax.  

     Thank you for letting me share with you, and I'll keep you updated as this neverending story continues. 

XO Juls

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Glitch


Ch. 1

Hazel dropped the small cardboard box next to the couch and fell back onto the soft cushions.  She let out a sigh of contentment as she propped her feet upon her coffee table and her hand found its way around the stem of a glass filled with red wine.  Over the past week she had unpacked most of her belongings and that box was the last one.  She had created her home.  Reveling in the comfort of that moment and the taste of the Merlot she sank deeper into the cushions.  Sleep surely would have overcome her had it not been for the knock at her front door. 

Hazel, curious and slightly annoyed, opened her door to find a tall auburn haired man standing on the painted planks of her porch.  “Yes?” She questioned.  “Miss Verity I presume?” The man stuck out his hand in greeting.  “Uh, yeah, that’s me.” Hazel shook the man’s hand and he smiled warmly as he said, “Wonderful!  I’m Ron!  Ron Devot that is.  I live next door in the red bungalow.  I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood.”  Since moving to the small town of Black Crane, Oregon Hazel had only met a small handful of people.  She didn’t start her job until Monday and she spent most of her time unpacking.  “Well thank you Ron.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.”  “Well, I’ll let you get back to what you were doing; I just wanted to stop by.  Oh!  And if you’re looking for anything to do this evening a group of people are heading over to the Peppered Coyote at eight.  It’s a fantastic restaurant and you are more than welcome to join us.”

Ron started to make his way off the porch as Hazel called out to him “I’ll think about it…  Ron?” “Yeah?” Ron said turning back.  “How did you already know my name?”  Ron laughed. “That probably did seem a little weird didn’t it?  Well you met my friend Violet a couple days ago at the grocery store; she told me all about you since she knew you had moved in on my street.” “Oh…” Hazel said, remembering her encounter with a nice young woman named Violet. “I’ve got to go now Miss Verity, see you at the Peppered Coyote!” With that Ron made his way across the lawn.

Hazel spent the rest of her day doing various tasks around the house.  Organizing, dusting, and then dancing around the kitchen to numerous records as they spun on the turntable.  She loved old things like vinyl, they reminded her of simpler times when the world wasn’t so concerned with technology.  At one point in the afternoon Hazel wandered back into the den where her record player was to flip the record over.  She got distracted and stopped when she saw the picture frame next to the player.  She picked it up and looked at the happy family staring back at her.  It was her family: her mother, father, brother, and herself.  Hazel smiled until suddenly her head started pounding.  A headache unlike any she had ever experienced overwhelmed her and her world seemed to break apart and fall away from her.  Her whole vision went black and the frame fell from her hands, glass breaking as it hit the ground.  As soon as it had come, it left her.  Standing, unsure of her environment for a couple more seconds, Hazel surveyed the room and stuck her hands out to balance herself.  She thought to herself, “Whoa, now that was an intense one.  I’m going to need to take some Aspirin if I end up going out tonight.  Better safe than sorry.”

On the outskirts of town a light blue Volkswagen Beetle sped past the town sign.  David Burkhard gripped the wheel tighter as he began to anticipate his arrival.  He breathed in the air that rushed through the window which was cracked open.  The damp Oregon air refreshed his mind and worked to calm his nerves about entering this new stage of life.  Moving to Oregon was never part of David’s life plan.  He always thought he would live in Pennsylvania his whole life.  From a young age up to his present 26 years of age he knew his home was the east coast.  But now?  Now he was on his way to Black Crane.  David couldn’t even remember the moment he had made the decision to move.  All he knew was that his goal now was to get his Beetle to his new house and enjoy his new life. 

He watched the sun start to peek out from behind a cloud and illuminate the top of a grey van approaching him from down the road.  He didn’t take much notice of it until the van began to phase in and out of sight before his very eyes.  Instantaneously it would become static and disappear only to be there again in the blink of an eye.  “What the…” Escaped his lips as he squinted his eyes and strained to make sense out of what he was seeing. 

As the van was finally about to pass him it disappeared completely.  Panicked, David swung his head around frantically trying to find the vanished vehicle.  His eyes, after a few seconds, flickered up to the rear view mirror where he saw the back of a gray van continuing down the road.  David’s eyebrows furrowed as confusion swept over him.  His brain searched for an explanation.  “Light.” He said to himself, “That must have been what happened.  The light reflected off the van blinded me to it being there.  That’s got to be it.  Either that or I’m losing my mind.”  He ran his hand through his dark hair and stared forward.  This town was going to be interesting. 

Ch. 2
Ron picked fries off his plate and sipped his water.  His eyes kept flickering from Jim and Violet, across the table from him, to the busy doorway.  He enjoyed getting to talk with his friends, but now they were so focused on each other that Ron started hoping more people would be showing up to the Peppered Coyote.  Sipping on his straw his gaze eventually drifted to the windows and he watched a slow rain begin outside.  “Great,” he thought, “Now nobody is going to come out tonight.”  Violet interrupted his thoughts.  “Who all did you say was coming tonight?” Ron blinked and stopped his somber pondering.  “Well Christine was supposed to come this week, but I think she told me she was sick.  And Mark had to work.”  Violet seemed to be checking off a list in her head.  “Did you invite the new girl who just moved in down the street from you?  She seemed nice.” Violet asked.  “Well I mentioned it to her… but it’s started to rain.  I doubt anyone is going to show up.” Ron trailed off and he looked back towards the window.  “Wow, man.  You’re an optimist if ever I saw one.” Jim smirked at Ron. 

The trio peered out the window at the rain which was beginning to fall harder.  Through the growing grayness they saw the figure of a young brunette woman in a purple coat holding a large blue umbrella approach the restaurant.  As she came closer it became clearer who she was. “That’s her!” Ron exclaimed.  “Oh, you’re right, Ron.” Violet agreed. “That’s Hazel.”  All three turned to face the door as she entered the Peppered Coyote.  Ron waved her over to the large circular table that they had reserved.  Violet welcomed Hazel as she approached the table, “Hi Hazel!  It’s so good to see you again!” Violet stood up and gave her a small hug then motioned for her to join them.  “Nice to meet you I’m Jim.” He said, shaking Hazel’s hand enthusiastically.  “Nice to meet you, Jim.  Violet told me a bit about you when I first met her.  She mentioned that you work with computers.”  “Yes,” Jim leaned back in his chair, “actually, I’m a networker.”  “He makes computers ‘play nice’ with each other.”  Violet said, patting Jim on the arm.  The group continued chatting as they ordered more food.  The rain, which pounded on the windows of the Peppered Coyote, continued steadily. 

As David watched his wipers furiously swipe the rain off his windshield he was glad he was getting the house keys from the realtor tomorrow.  This storm would have made moving in miserable.  He parked his blue VW along the street and hoped he would be able to find some good food before he checked in to the hotel for the night.  He strolled along the sidewalk, enjoying the smell of rain as it pattered against the hood of his jacket.  He spotted a restaurant that seemed promising and started towards it, but before David crossed the street he noticed something that stopped him cold.

In front of David’s eyes there was a raindrop.  Steady, unmoving, it hung before him.  David reached out to touch it and in doing so he hit another raindrop with his hand, breaking it.  He looked down at his hand, now wet with this new rain.  David looked around as overwhelming astonishment and confusion flooded his mind.  Rain, across the entire street hung suspended in mid-air.  And yet, what concerned David the most was the fact that though the raindrops seemed paused, he could still hear the sound of rain hitting the ground.

Laughter surrounded the table inside the Peppered Coyote as the group of four continued to get to know one another better.  Hazel felt as if she had known these people a lot longer than the half hour she had been there.  Her eyes settled on the rain falling outside of the restaurant.  The rain splattered on the street outside with a sense of newness.  Her eyes then seemed to deceive her.  It looked like the rain had stopped moving. She could still hear the rain pounding on the window but she couldn’t deny it; the rain was hanging over the street without movement. 

“Hey guys,” Hazel interrupted Jim mid-sentence. “Look outside.  Do you notice anything weird?”  “What?  Did it stop raining?” Ron asked as he turned to look outside.  “In a way…” Hazel replied as she continued her stare out the window.  She hoped she was not alone in what she saw.  Suddenly it seemed to hit them.  Jim slowly rose from his chair and paced towards the window, his gaze unbroken from the scene outside.  The other three followed his lead and surveyed the rain in wonder and silence.  Hazel watched as a young couple walked on the sidewalk across the street.  She expected them to stop and take in the bizarreness of the hanging rain.  Yet, they seemed unfazed and continued walking.

Hazel desperately needed something to let her know that what they were seeing was really happening.  Her eyes settled on a man standing across the street.  He was still and seemed to be taking in the suspended water around him.  He was aware.  She finally looked at his face.  His eyes were looking around as if they were searching with the same curiosity her eyes had.   Then, her gaze met his.  She knew something was important about this moment.

Ch. 3

In a small dark room two monitors sat at their stations.  Screens littered the room displaying statuses and codes.  Their director sat at his own station sending reports.  “Sir?” A monitor sat at his tech station watching a notification flash on his screen.  “Yes Johnson?” He said approaching the station, “what is it?”  The technician pointed to the notification and nervously said, “There’s… There’s an error message coming up.”  Director McGregor read the status of the error message.  “Fix it, now.” The director walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.  Johnson looked at his colleague Peters.  Fear was clearly on both of their faces. 

David looked at the girl in the window.  Some of her dark hair hung in front of her eyes which looked just as bewildered as his own surely did.  The group of people beyond the restaurant window seemed to be the only other people besides himself that had taken notice of this phenomenon.  Surely if they were taking notice as well then he was not just hallucinating.  His attention was drawn back to the corner of his eye.  There a raindrop hung, shimmering.  He watched intently as it glimmered for a split second more then fell to the pavement.  With that the rain began to fall as before.  David almost jumped back out of pure shock.  The group in the restaurant was still watching him so he decided to go in and find out if they were losing their minds as much as he was. 

Someone seemed to hit play as the rain began to fall again.  Hazel heard Violet gasp.  She watched the man from across the street as he stood looking at her.  He then started walking determinately towards the restaurant.  All four of the spectators at the window turned to watch the door as this man, drenched from the rain, entered the restaurant.  He walked up to them and his blue eyes seemed to search their faces for an explanation to what they had all seen.  His sight rested on Hazel’s face.  None of them quite knew what to say.  Jim broke the silence finally, “So you saw that too.”  His hands were trembling a bit.  Violet noticed and grabbed his left hand with her right to calm him down.  “Yeah, I did.”  David seemed to be grasping for the words to say.  “Um, so what even… What just happened?”

“I’d say we all just figured out why perfectly normal people go crazy.”  Ron looked back at the rain running down the window pane.  “Let’s be serious now, Ron.”  Violet shot him an irritated look. “How about we all just sit down and take a moment to settle our nerves.  This doesn’t happen every day.”  Violet stuck out her hand in introduction to the man.  “David Burkhard” He said.  “Hi David.” Violet said as she shook his hand.  “Come sit with us.  We have a table over here.”  Violet led the group back to their round wooden table.  Once they all sat the introductions continued.  “Ron Devot.” David shook his hand.  “Jim Aqil.”  He shook Jim’s hand as Jim was sitting down next to Violet.  Violet then said, “Violet Hyun.”  David nodded at her.  Hazel’s turn had come.  David reached out and grabbed her hand to shake it.  “Hi David, I’m Hazel Verity.”  “That’s a beautiful name, Hazel.”  Violet noted that David’s handshake lingered a little bit longer before he let go of Hazel’s hand.  She also noticed how Hazel was blushing. 

Still no one really knew how to start the conversation.  Jim, who was in a state of contemplation, started to verbalized his musings.  “Have any of you ever been playing a video game when all of a sudden the gameplay started acting up?  Environments not functioning properly, graphics freezing, objects pixelating?” “What are you getting at Jim?” Violet asked him while resting her chin on her hand.  “Glitches.”  Hazel said in an epiphanic manner.  “He’s referring to glitches, right Jim?” Jim confirmed his agreement with a nod.  “But things don’t glitch in the real world guys, c’mon.  There’s got to be a real explanation for it.”  Ron couldn’t admit it out loud, but he knew that this didn’t seem to have anything to do with the reality he knew to be real.  Silence began to fall on the table of five again until interrupted by David’s stray thought.  “But, what if this world isn’t real?”  They all looked at one another.  Nobody had even considered that as a possibility especially since it seemed too impossible to be true. 

“Did anyone notice?”  McGregor had reentered the room and stood with his arms crossed behind Johnson.  “I’m not sure. They could have.” He gulped after his answer.  “Well, then let’s make sure that never happens again.  Or else.  I hope you don’t just take this as some silly game now, Johnson.  A lot is riding on these pawns in play, and that means there is a lot to lose.”  With his last word McGregor slammed his hand down on Johnson’s desk causing him to jump in his seat.

“How do you mean, David?” Hazel asked with anxiousness growing inside of her.  “Well, on my way into town I had a strange experience.  A car driving opposite of me on the road seemed to flicker in and out of sight.  Then as it passed me it disappeared completely.  I thought it was a trick of the eyes or light.  But after the rain thing, I’m not sure there’s another explanation.”  “That’s what I’m talking about.” Jim jumped into the conversation.  “That sounds just like what I was referring to.  Whether it’s because there’s not enough data, or there’s an actual bug in the system, it seems as if we’ve experienced some glitches.”  “If any of what you’re saying is true, then what are we going to do about it?”  Violet posed.  “Find out what’s real, I guess.” David said.

Ch. 4

“You’re suggesting we test this world we’re in to see if it’s real?” Jim asked David.  “Yeah I suppose so.”  David answered.  “Ok,” Violet said while thinking, “how would we go about doing that?”  They all thought for a second.  “Well, I don’t know if we really can test our environment.  Our minds are fully immersed in this reality for the time being.  Convincing them otherwise would take a lot more mind power than we are capable of at this juncture.  It’s going to take something big.” Jim explained.  “Why is that, Jim?” David probed him for more information.  “As I once heard, ‘Reality is whatever your mind infers from the nerve impulses sent by your sensors based on its model of the world.’  That is what is at the heart of virtual reality being different and more powerful than everything that has come before.  There is still too much other information for our brains to take in that is convincing us this is reality.  All subconsciously that is.”  “There must have been awareness on an even deeper level of our subconscious that something was wrong though, right?  I mean we knew something was off in those moments, we didn’t just accept it as reality.” Ron had a good point and it triggered Hazel to remember her headache from earlier; she still wasn’t sure what meaning it held however. 

“If we try to test reality in some way I doubt it will yield anything.  Reality, well at least this reality, obviously has something wrong with it.  Cause and effect are no longer lining up.  The program either has something wrong with it or we’re just noticing things more.  Either way, I think our best bet is to just be watchful and figure out a few things.” Jim leaned back in his chair as he spoke and became aware of all he could see in his peripheral.  Ron spoke up, “I think we need to figure out who we can trust.”  “What do you mean?” David prosed.  “Well, are we the only actual people in this reality?”  Ron noted how they were the only folks to take any notice of the rain that suspended itself in the air. 

The waitress made her way back to their table.  “Hey guys, how are you all doing?  Can I get you something sweetie?” She directed her attention at David, who hadn’t had time to think about ordering dinner yet.  David quick skimmed one of the menus on the table and ordered the first meal to stick out to him.  Before the waitress had walked away Violet asked her, “Actually before you go, I was just wondering.  Did you notice anything odd about the rain earlier?”  The waitress paused a moment before responding, “Not really, I’ve been really busy, I have had barely any time to look out the window.” She joked then continued, “Though I do remember hearing something about some freak rainstorms expected in the area.  They were said to be really unique, a rare environmental phenomenon.”  The waitress then walked away to put David’s order in.  The group all looked at each other without a word as she left the table and the looks on their faces said it all.  The night ended with them all deciding to go home and sleep on all the new information they had just learned. 

David woke up in a cold sweat on the stiff hotel bed.  He must have had a dream.  He couldn’t remember it though; he hadn’t been able to remember his dreams for a while now.  David laid his head back on the stale pillow beneath him.  The memories from yesterday flooded his mind, swirling around in a pixelated blur.  That seemed fitting enough.  The smell of rented room seemed real enough he thought.  Sitting up, he took in a deep breath and remembered that he had to get the keys from the realtor for the house he just bought.  “What… is… the point…” he mumbled as he rubbed his face in his hands and yawned.  David was the one to suggest to everyone last night that they should sleep on what they had learned.  But now he wondered what came after sleeping?  Did he just continue his day like he would have otherwise?  Thinking out loud he said, “Jim said be on the lookout, I guess that means act like everything is normal.”  David scoured the room with his eyes as he got ready for the day half expecting to find someone watching him.

Hazel awoke with a start, much like David, her hair stuck to the sweat on her forehead and her lungs were short of breath.  “Fake.  It’s all fake.”  The thought paraded through her mind.  Damp morning air lazily crept through her window and across the room to her.  The smell of last nights’ rain lingered on the wind.  “Real.  I’m real, though… right?”  She hadn’t processed this thought until now.  If the world around her was fake, how could she be so sure that she herself wasn’t just a facsimile of a person; a program?  She pulled on a light sweater, which had been sitting on a chair next to her bed, as she turned to sit on the edge of her bed.  “Of course I’m real.  I’ve lived a full life, in the real world up until now.  To think otherwise would be ridiculous.”  Her mind retreated back to her early years, to a memory in which she is playing outside with her brother.  She could feel another headache coming on so she tried to just stop thinking altogether, which just led to her mind being filled with one image.  All she could see in her mind was the image of a man standing across the street staring back at her through hanging rain.  David.  He had been on her mind ever since she had first seen in in the midst of that freak weather scenario.  Hazel lazily pulled socks on over her slender feet and scuffled leisurely into her living room.  Her hands ran over her record collection as she perused her library of albums searching for the perfect one to start the morning with.  Her fingers settled on an album and she took the vinyl out of the sleeve and set it on the player.  She set the needle where she knew it would play the song she wanted to hear and soon The Crystals filled the room with And Then He Kissed Me.  Real world or not, whatever she was feeling between her and David felt 100% real to her.

Tapping and clicking filled the room in a deafening roar.  Peters and Johnson raced to amend the bug they had overlooked in the system.   Both monitors were thankful that McGregor was out of the room taking another call.  His absence eased the pressure that hung over both of them.  Peters looked over at Johnson.  “Johnson, are we sure that none of them noticed the glitch?”  Johnson rubbed his eyes in a frustrated exhaustion.  “Honestly, it may have been possible that they did.  They weren’t being monitored at the time.”  Peters paused, in thought.  “If so, say they did see what happened, what would we do to keep them from realizing the reality of the situation?”  Johnson pondered for a couple seconds then responded nervously, “They would probably have already figured it out.”  “Ok,” Peters calculated plans of operation in his mind as he talked, “So they know the world is not real.  They wouldn’t know how to leave it yet.  Our job is to keep them there so… our best bet at keeping them in the dark about how to leave is to keep them separated.”  “Yeah…” Johnson seemed to be renewed by this thought and started to type code into his computer at a furious pace.  “We have to be subtle though, Johnson.”  Johnson continued to type, the file name stagnant at the top of his screen: Black Crane.

Ch. 5

Ron looked out his window towards Hazel’s house.  He should ask how she’s doing or at least that’s what he thought to himself as he sipped his morning coffee.  Last night was a stressful time for all of them and the morning was no different.  The tan mug, now empty of coffee, was set down as he slipped into a light jacket of forest green which complimented his auburn hair and blue eyes.  The door closed as he meandered down his porch steps and across his lawn towards Hazel’s bungalow of brown.  The wet grass squished under his shoes and approaching he heard the soft tune of 60’s music wafting from her open windows.  As he had done once before Ron reached Hazel’s door and knocked.  Through the window next to the door he saw Hazel coming to the door in her pajamas and a sweater.  Her feet swished across the floor in her socks and she finally got close enough to see Ron through the window.  “Hey there, Ron!”  Hazel said, reaching the window, which was cracked open.  “What are you doing here so early in the morning?”  “Well it’s not too early, and besides I wanted to make sure you were alright after last night’s incident.”  Ron’s concern seemed to hug Hazel.  Finding people to connect with in a strange new place was never easy, especially in a place like this, and she already felt connected with these people she had known only for one night.  “Aww, thank you Ron.  Why don’t you come in?”  “Sure.” He said as he heard her unlock the door.  That was it though, all he heard was an unlock and then the door stayed in place. 

No opening upon which revealed the inside of her house.  Ron patiently waited and could hear the rattling of a handle being jostled around.  “It won’t open.” Her voice came from inside the house.  “I just unlocked it and it won’t open.”  “Let me try.”  Ron grabbed the outer handle of the door and turned it with force, putting pressure on the door urging it to move inward.  Still nothing.  Her mind started to spiral.  She ran to the back of her house, the back door seemed to call to her.  Seemingly she leaped towards it and tried to pry it open.  The door didn’t give.  She scrambled back to the entryway and tried the front door one more time.  Ron knocked on the window and startled her.  “I’ll be right back, I have an idea.” 

Ron raced back to his house as Hazel ran from window to window in her house trying to open them further than they already were.  There was no avail.  After some time she heard Ron return.  Through her window she saw he had brought with him a crowbar and a hatchet.  Firstly he tried to pry open her door with the crowbar.  That proved to be as productive as their tugging and pushing had been.  Ron then cautioned Hazel away from the door and picked up his hatchet.  With a mighty blow Ron brought his hatchet down on the door.  And yet, no puncture or mark was made on the door.  Ron stood aghast.  Hazel began to understand what was happening.  “Ron, they’re trying to keep us all apart from one another.  We know too much.”  Ron agreed and started pacing on the porch.  “You know, Ron, I think I know why the hatchet didn’t work.”  Hazel leaned against her window and began to speak with understanding in her voice.  “It doesn’t actually exist.  The door I mean, it’s not real.  What can a hatchet do to something that’s not real?  And if it’s not genuinely here, what is it to keep me in my house?  Can’t we just think it away?  Reality in here is what your brain makes it to be, isn’t it?

Ron’s eyes started to shine with hope as he heard Hazel’s musings.  She was right.  This door didn’t actually exist.  “We just have to both believe it.  100%, totally, completely, in the deepest parts of our minds we have to know that this door is not actually here, Hazel.”  “You sincerely believe it, Ron?  We’re real and it’s not?”  Hazel pressed her hand up against the window pane.  Ron put his hand against the glass on top of hers, “I do.”  They both caught a glimpse of something shimmering out of the corner of their eyes.  Hazel turned to see the door pixelating before her.  The entire door regressed into cube-like pieces and then deteriorated into a virtual nonexistence.  Freedom.  Hazel leapt out of her house and hugged Ron.  “We did it!”  The two felt strong in their own willpower and sanity.  Hazel realized that their minds were the key to escaping this prison of falsehood.  Her mind traced back to the headache she had yesterday when she thought of her family and an epiphany washed over her.  “We have to get to the others.”

Ch. 6

Ron called Violet with his cell phone while Hazel ran to get dressed.  “Vi, it’s Ron.  Hazel and I need to meet up with you and Jim at the park.  I’m going to try the number David gave us last night to reach him as well.  We’re heading there now, It’s important.  Come as soon as you can and if for any reason you hit a roadblock on your way remember.  You’re real, it isn’t.  See you soon.”  Ron hung up the phone as Hazel came bounding down the stairs.  She had a lot of pep.  The duo got in Ron’s jeep and started out for the park. 

David listened to the message on his voicemail as he set another box down in the foyer.  Ron’s voice rang through his phone.  He grabbed his jacket and keys then locked up the house and the secured the door of the moving truck which was parked outside.  He got in his vintage blue beetle and tried to start it up.  The car refused to let the engine turn over with a creak and a groan.  Again, David tried to get the engine to start.  Urgency surged through his veins as well as frustration.  Luckily, David had already unloaded his mountain bike and it was sitting on the porch only a few feet away.  He lifted the bike down off of his porch and headed in the direction of the park Ron had indicated which luckily was a short distance from his new house. 

Wind rustled through the trees of Foster Park.  The breeze picked up Hazel’s hair, tousling it this way and that.  She pulled her hair away from her face as she searched for signs of Violet, Jim, or especially, David.  Ron sat next to her on the park bench nearest to the entrance.  Hazel had an idea in her mind that she had been ruminating on ever since she walked through her now door-less doorway; a way out, a way home. 

Violet and Jim ran, hand in hand, towards the park entrance.  They saw their friends sitting on a park bench just inside the park.  They ran up and embraced Hazel and Ron and began to excitedly tell them of the troubles they faced getting there.  “So you’ll never guess what happened,” Violet spoke speedily as Jim nodded enthusiastically, “We were driving and all of a sudden we realized we had been passing the same place over and over again.  So Jim told me to turn in another direction.  I did, but we still kept passing by the same storefronts, the same buildings, everything!  We tried over and over again, but we were caught in a loop.”  Jim took over the story from Violet, “Until that is we remembered what you said when you called us.  At least Violet did.  You said to remember that we were real and it isn’t.  So we both made a decision in our minds that the next road we turned onto would be leading us towards the park.  And next thing you know we turn and this time it’s a different street and we were able to make it here.”  “Wow!”  Hazel said, almost tempted to say “You should hear about my front door.”  But she stopped herself.  She had more important things to tell them, once David joined them that is. 

David, throwing his bike on the ground, ran towards the group of four standing in the park.  “I’m here!  I’m here, what’s the big news?”  Hazel looked around at her friends.  Yes, she considered these people, who were practically strangers, her friends.  Clearing her throat, she began, “I… I believe I know how we can get out of here.”  Jim smirked and Violet’s eyes widened.  Everyone hung onto Hazel’s words with anticipation.  “I had an experience yesterday which has since proven to me to be of great importance, though at the time I thought nothing of it.  I was looking at a photo of my family and remembering some memories I have with them; things that don’t exist here except for in my own mind.  As I was thinking about them I felt a huge headache come on and the world seemed to fall apart into darkness.  I didn’t realize it until Ron and I discovered how to make my front door disappear on my house.  I was pulling myself out of this world with memories.  Thoughts of things that can’t exist here are the key.” 

“Wow, seems so simple.”  Violet said in a hushed tone.  “And yet, I don’t think it will be.” Jim stated.  “We are going to have to do this together, we have to encourage each other not to lose sight of the memories we’re grasping for.  Otherwise this world will suck us back in.  It has such a strong hold on our minds already.”  “Then let’s overcome it together.”  David looked at Hazel and she looked back at him.  As the trees swayed in the wind, the five held hands and stood in anticipation.  “Remember, you have to remember.  Remember your families, your pets, and your home.  That’s where we are supposed to be; home.”  Hazel spoke these words with extreme certainty.  David winked at her from across the circle and she smiled back at him.  Soon after she began to close her eyes, but not before she noticed a glimmer coming from Ron’s direction. 

Hazel’s eyes closed and memories of her brother, her mother, her entire family flooded her consciousness.  Along with it came the headache.  She urged herself to keep going.  She could still feel the presence of the others moving along with her through the confusion.  Her eyes opened and darkness was all she could see.  It was different than the darkness she had experienced before though, and she was now aware of other things.  She lifted her hand to her face and felt a helmet like panoramic screen was being held in front of her.  She lifted it and at once could see what was different. 


Wires; attached to her!  Computer monitors all around the room sat beeping and whirring.  She began to detach the wires from herself and lift herself out of the reclined seat she had been in.  Looking around the room she saw the others awakening themselves from the virtual sleep they had been under; everyone that was, except for Ron.  The glimmer she had noticed made sense now, though she never could have predicted it.  Her heart sank deep into her chest.  The others, taking in their surroundings as well, seemed to come to the same conclusion.  Violet started sobbing and Jim tried to settle her down.  Hazel’s somberness soon transformed into anger; anger at whoever had done this, whoever had tricked them this way and played mind games with them.  “Well guys, I guess there’s just one thing left to do,” David said from across the room, “Get out of here.”  “That.  And figure out who did this to us and why.” Hazel said flatly.  If it was the last thing she was going to do, she was going to find out why.

Thanks for reading! 
XOXO- Juls

Friday, August 14, 2015

PDA: Emphasis on the P

     It seems to me a strange concept that not everyone understands that PDA stands for Public Display of Affection.  Or at least it seems that way when you look at how young couples act nowadays, on subways, at restaurants, even in the church.  Frankly it's awkward and uncomfortable.  We've been in that position, the one of the outside viewer.  The one who says out loud or in their head "woah, settle down."  It comes in subtler forms too; the times your friends who are dating are acting friendlier than you are comfortable with, especially for a group hangout.  It's time it's recognized that PDA does not simply mean affection shared in a public place that is private, but is also publicly viewed!  Those private moments going on between the two in the couple are now public, why is it so hard to treat it as such?  

     Now, let's be real here.  Certain ways of showing your affection publicly are completely respectable, like holding hands, an arm around the shoulder, or a small kiss.  But some take things to a level that is not necessary (grabbing/spanking someone's butt, being attached at the hip almost literally, dancing provocatively together, making out, etc.).  Not only does behavior like this make the people witnessing it uncomfortable it gives the wrong message.  More often than not, people are going to think that more is going on behind the scenes than what is being displayed in front of them.  Not only is it something that breaches simple etiquette but veils the relationship in question with a shadow of presumption.  The presumption that boundaries are being stepped up to in a casual manner or even worse, crossed over.  And it could be argued that while no one is going to know exactly what is in someone else's heart and for that matter should not jump to conclusions, we are called to not just abstain from unholy behaviors, but to "abstain from all appearance of evil."  1 Thess.  5:22  Just as we are to flee from sexual immorality, an active movement in the opposite direction, we are also called to ensure others don't have cause of thinking we are committing evil.  


     Not only is overly expressing affection in public uncomfortable for other people and something that could potentially give the wrong appearance, but it could be interpreted as immodest and disrespectful.  Modesty doesn't just apply to wearing shirts that aren't too low cut, or shorts/dresses that aren't too short.  It's more than the clothes.  It's about the way we portray ourselves to other people.  Following along with abstaining from the appearance of evil we want to be aware of what we are telling people about ourselves, specifically through actions as well as clothing choices.  

     Too much PDA can also be disrespectful to the significant other.  For instance, if you were a guy and you were expressing your 'affection' towards your girlfriend by grabbing her rear end when with a group of friends or even just telling your friends too much about your private moments with her you are not only breaching her privacy if she has not already said she is okay with such behavior but you are opening a scary door.  A door for your friends to see your significant other sexually.  This goes both ways, for the men and women in the relationship.  Certain affections come from a good place, a heart to lift up the person you're dating, to glorify God with the relationship.  But others come from a different heart, a heart not focused on God.  One that is self-seeking.  It is so much more important than we realize to be mindful of where our actions are stemming from.  Intentionality is key. Why would someone want to cheapen the intimacy of their expressions of affection by turning it into a show for the people around them?     

     I want to be clear though as I come to the end of this post, this is not a rant, or a letter to stick it to all of my friends in relationships.  I love watching my friends glorify God through their relationships.  I simply want to encourage.  Accountability to one another should be a goal we all set for ourselves.  Respectfully and lovingly reminding one another of God's word and walking hand-in-hand towards the same goal of showing God's love through our lives.  "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)


~XO Juls

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Poem By My Great-Grandpa

A Tribute

The Warwick girls of yesteryear,
Way back in memory's hall,
Attracted us who came and so
Each chose the nicest one of all.

The blue-eyed lass with wavy hair
Lassoed my heart with ease.
As time went by, our children played
Among young apple trees.

The Warwick girls of yesteryear
I still admire because
When years have flown and trees have grown
They make such nice grandmas.

-J. Paul Sauder

I think I would have gotten along well with this man.
-XO Juls

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Unconventional Poem

"I like being the quiet one;
The one who sits and ponders,
Observing and learning,
Thinking and dreaming.
I may not always be the one 
Filling the air with my words
But rest assured when the right word is spoken
Laughter will follow, or a smile appear
And if being the quiet one means
That I get to surprise you with a remark of wit
Then let me be the quiet one
It suits me quite a bit."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Musings From My Little Notebook

     I thought it might be a fun idea to share with you all a little piece of myself.  Over the past couple years I've been keeping notebooks.  These notebooks hold my random little thoughts throughout the day as well as notes from sermons or talks I've gone to.  The most successful notebook I have kept (successful as in I made it all the way to the end of the notebook before abandoning it for a new one) was a simple soft cover lined notebook my sister gave me.  It has a tree on it if that's of any importance...  Anyways, I have decided to share with you some quotes, notes, and phrases I have jotted down in here.  There is no order, other than that I'm just flipping through my notebook page by page to seek out the things that stand out to me the most.  I must warn you, there is absolutely no cohesiveness to the things I'll be sharing with you.  Some are personal musings, some are silly sayings I've doodled, and some are poignant phrases from my sermon notes that I hold of high importance for myself personally.  Either way, I hope you enjoy a journey through my notebook. 

Love is crazy.  Love is confusing.  Love is complicated.  Love hurts.  Stop. Believe. Take a second look.  Love is forgiving.  Love is simple.  Love is free.  Love is true.

So... I choose to be grounded!

Futbol. *accompanied by a sketch of a futbol/soccer ball.  it's actually quite a good sketch.  yes, i quite like it.*

Be Bold.

Those who are accountable are successful.

You are fearfully & wonderfully made.

Keep on keeping on.

"He's so deep."
"Deep in everything except Christ, which is the most important.  More than anything you should strive to be deeper in Christ."

You are beautiful.

God still rescues.

Deny your other pathetic pursuits & run Hard after God, because nothing else matters.

Marriage is not about being in love, it's about an agreement to love.

Seeking wisdom.

Gal. 6:2 "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Clue 1: "Urine This Together" 
A scavenger hunt is what you've been sent on.  
As a team, work together, to find whodunit and the weapon.

Full of love
You are love
Full of life
Gracious and True
And You gave yourself
To bring us to You

Seek knowledge rather than riches.

Morning coffee with sparkles.  *accompanies by a full page drawing of a unicorn sitting on a tree stump, next to it is another tree stump holding a cup of coffee.  oh!  and there's a jackalope at the the unicorn's (feet?  hooves?) with its own small cup of java.*

Reconciled to be a representative.

I am God's precious creation.
He is my magnificent creator.

Speak love
Live love
Give love

*there is seriously just a full page of these two cartoon guys i drew having nonsensical conversations with each other.  for instance, the first scene the first guy says "bagels" and the second says "orange juice".  Another goes, "Pineapple." "Lemons."  It's basically them just arguing over similar objects in each scene.  That's all.  I'm weird.*

Renovate my heart.

Beauty, beauty, beautiful.
Glory, glory, glorious.

Strive *i wrote this big... twice.  all fancy and stuff too, so it must be important.*

We're living for something greater.

*picture of an alien*

He's almost the opposite of The Wizard of OZ.  He is always greater!

*doodle of a panda bear lounging next to a glass with a bamboo stick sticking out of it.* 

*lots of drawings of lions and people laughing.  drawing research for a sculpture.  there is also a drawing of Jughead Jones laughing.*

Focus.  Where is your focus?

Bonjour!  Je suis Julie... Je suis un ├ętudiant et un artiste.

"see you soon."
A bient├┤t!
hasta pronto

We were never meant to battle sin alone.

Are you choosing to walk with people of wisdom?

Prayer requests from my MPACT group *accompanied by a doodle of "Marky-Mark the baby shark" a shark driving a train named "The Focus Train"*

The lion has roared.

He wants the whole person!  He is a consuming fire!

You don't create meaning, you discover meaning.

*in cursive* "jungle cat", "jackalope", "cursive sucks", "bro do you even lift?"

"You are not your own."

*also in cursive.  very bad cursive.* "I give it all to you God trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me.  I lean not on my own understanding, my life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.  i will climb this mountain with my hands wide open."

Your love overflows & overwhelms.

His death mattered.

*a lot of series graphic notes and doodles all throughout this thing.  i'm telling ya, this was my everything notebook.*

Netflix password. (please don't steal my notebook.)

1. Winnie the Pooh - fave Disney character.
27. fave quote:  "Faith, trust, and pixie dust."

*another pointless drawing of a soccer ball.  this time with a foot kicking it... so there's that.*

choose joy.
give grace.

The wise man built his house upon the rock...

"God's word is shallow enough for a baby to play in yet deep enough for a theologian to drown in."

Pursuing Life In Christ TOGETHER

*a drawing of some random Asian guy on campus*

We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men, but God who tests our hearts.  1 Thes. 2:4

You are loved.  You have been rescued.  You were created for a purpose.

So that's about it for my notebook musings.  This doesn't even come close to all I have in that little thing, but it's a snapshot of what is there.  

~XOXO Juls

P.S. You guys are fantastic! :D





Thursday, April 2, 2015

One Reason I Dislike Blogging

Now don't get me wrong, I love blogs, but like everything else they have their downside.  Blogs, specifically in this case, Christian blogs produce some of the most hateful Christian to Christian belittling and bullying (because that's what it is).  It's sickening to scroll through  comments seeing how we treat our brothers and sisters, tearing them down and not building them up.  Accusing them of their wrongs all the while ignoring our own.  I'm not saying that blogs themselves are the cause of this, they're just the avenue that's been chosen to be used.  The issue is in the heart.  Yes Christ asks us to point out slip ups to one another, but for the purpose of growth and sanctification.  Not to prove "I'm a better Christian because look how unchristlike you are." He also asks us to LOVE one another.  Above all else.  We often forget that we're a family in Christ.  We have the same goal, to glorify God and share his name with the world.  We should not let ourselves get so blinded by our own "righteousness" (because hey that only exists through Jesus) to the point that we end up becoming just like the world.  I've struggled with learning how to speak words of love versus words of hate as well, so cmon family, let's do better.  Let us be love.
-XO Juls

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Till The End Of Love: Valentine's Day Mixtape

Happy Valentines Day my darlings!! (albeit a day late)
Last year, if you will remember, I sent out this cute little valentine:


This year I decided to take it a step further, and also take it a step back to "old school", mixing it up for my friends.  As in: Love Song Mixtape (i prefer this old term to "mixed cd").
So I made the lovely mixtape Till the End of Love for my valentines this year!


Till the End of Love
Valentine's Day Mixtape

1::Till the End of the World - Lindsay Lou & Joshua Rilko::


2::Kiss Me Darling - Twin Forks::


3::Free - Graffiti6::


4::I Was Born To Love Her - Ivan & Alyosha::


5::At Last - The Tattletale Saints::


6::Mad Girl's Love Song - Rachel Baiman & Christian Sedelmyer::


7::I Want Crazy - Home Free::


8::Completely - Why Not Be Kings::


9::Nonfiction Love Song - Jillian Edwards::


10::Hooked On A Feeling - Blue Swede::


11::Save Charlie - Rubblebucket::


12::Back Then - B Story::


13::I Still Ain't Over You - Augustana::


14::Fallinlove2nite - Prince (feat. Zooey Deschanel)::




Enjoy listening to these lovely love songs my darling readers!
& I hope your Valentine's Day was absolutely wonderful!  

~XOXO Juls