Old Souls & Poetry


My WordPress has been dead since our arrival, but if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll find I’ve developed new interest in the written word shared visually.

I’m going to keep my blog alive. It’s just taken a few weeks for me to wake up again, after our long flight back home. We spent almost three days in airports. That’s enough to keep you half-dead for a week.

In my pause and time of recovery, I’ve written several poems and found my Muse to be very generous. Being back in my room, with my books and all my things, I’ve reencountered the old soul I left behind–but she’s also grown up.

She’s grown up in the sense that she is stronger. She’s not as scared to speak. She doesn’t care about borders anymore, so her poems dance off the page–and are by no means in straight lines. She cares for those who love her, and when she has to, she chooses herself.

Sometimes, you just have to choose yourself.

I have a few short stories to share here in the future. If you want to read short fiction, I do have two pieces on Instagram–The Flight and The Meadow. There will be a story on there every Friday, so if my blog is dead, check Instagram.

I’ve grown a lot; I’m glad about it. I pray the words keep coming, because poetry is a new form of freedom.

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Farewells


I’m writing this in Fort Lauterdale, Florida.

I can’t describe the feeling I had when the plane lifted off the ground. Six months in a foreign country where most people weren’t too kind? Never again. I remember hugging my teddy bear and shivering with anxiety as I waited for the plane to get in the air.

Once in the air, it was the longest flight ever. I didn’t sleep a wink; for some reason, my mind was full of twelve different songs that mixed into a weird, warped playlist that drove me insane. I turned on my iPod and went through five albums (Cleopatra, The Lumineers–The Undoing, Steffany Gretzinger, Pines by A Fine Frenzy–among others.)

I left another Mariella behind in Lima, Peru. She’s in the past; the pressure is off, and when I arrive at home, I’m going to be a stronger woman. I won’t be the person I was when I left. I’ve grown too much, mentally and emotionally.

There are more adventures to come. I’m exhausted; I’ll sleep for a few days, and then I will come back to life, and I am going to shine. There’s no room in my life for people who don’t appreciate me.

You don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends–and they become like family. I have a family of people who truly love me, aside from my parents and brother. I’m not alone; I will recover.

I can’t wait to be a full-time writer again.

Good-bye, Peru. I’m looking ahead–to home.

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Drained of Youth


These past six months, I’ve gotten older.

It’s a bizarre thing: colors seem darker, and smiles don’t come easily. So much has happened. It’s been a trip full of ups and downs; if I wrote a story about it, the reader would finish in a melancholy mood.

Does this mean it was a bad experience? No. It’s not a bad thing to see things with clarity. Hurt me with the truth, but do not shield me with a lie. I’ve always said I live by a policy of honesty: if I have to talk, I’m going to tell you how I feel, whether you like it or not.

Be careful encouraging me to opine.

Because of this policy, I didn’t know how to deal with liars. People I thought were genuine turned out to be faking with me. Please, don’t act like a friend when you really aren’t.

Since I’m a writer, I learned from this. It’s one reason why we write: to pour emotion into a tale readers can relate to. One thing I gained from this trip is emotion, the words for books with more depth.

Now I can write about heartbreak and feel it. I can describe disappointment. I know what it’s like to be stabbed in the back and see those I love cry. I even know what it’s like to live without water.

I know how to stick up for myself. I remember the day I stood up and said what needed to be heard. It was satisfying; I could tell by their reactions that someone had to tell them. My words were a long time coming.

Words are powerful.

Most of my stories so far have been hopeful, but we do need balance. In life, there is heartbreak and pain. This trip has put me through shadows, so I can write about darker emotions.

I have shed tears. I can write stories that shed tears.

Each experience made me stronger, made my future tales more powerful. I will be digging into sensitive parts of my memory.

Storytellers use our dark experiences to connect with readers. We see the positive side of suffering. We use our heartbreak to speak to those who read with broken souls. If this trip allowed me to one day help a person who’s hurting, I’m grateful for every tear.

I wouldn’t take back the memories. Everyone goes through times of suffering. I want my stories to mean something to you when, one day, you’re also hurting.

I leave this country with mixed feelings, a sore heart, and plenty of stories. I’m eager to share them. Reading got me through the darkness; one day, I hope my stories will help you get by, too.

Nothing in life is in vain, not even heartbreak.

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The Fear of Matches


Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:2-3, NIV

At home we have an electric stove. We used to have a gas stove–I remember touching it by accident when I was a kid. The result was minor, but enough for me to remember, caution!

That was a long time ago. By the time I started doing things in the kitchen myself, we’d switched to an electric. I never had to use a gas stove; the thought of turning one on in Lima has scared me since we arrived, so for the longest time, I didn’t.

I avoided it. I stuck to cold foods when I got hungry–until today.

Something–Someone–told me to go do it.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9, NIV

Fun fact: I’m scared of matches. I light one and my hand starts trembling till I’m sure I’ll drop it. My decision to use the gas stove may seem small, but today I left my comfort zone.

It wasn’t without precautions. I made sure my brother was in the kitchen, thinking his presence would lessen the risk of myself catching fire. He figured out where to turn the knob when I had been doing it wrong.

I didn’t have to do this. I could have found something to eat that didn’t require use of a stove. But Something, a different fire, burned inside my heart, encouraging me. I knew that I could do it. If I didn’t, I would be disappointed in myself.

I decided to fry some eggs on the gas stove, matches and all. The fear was real. Small things can be your biggest chains. You won’t notice they’re a problem until a moment comes and you think, I have to do this.

Why? asks fear.

Because you can, says that little Voice your heart.

Face your fear, whatever it is. You could be scared of matches. You could be scared of wind. You could be scared of darkness or sleep. Don’t be ashamed: your fears may seem small to the outside world, but when you face them, you grow. And you can face them, with Him!

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7, NIV

It took eight matches and a good deal of panic before I got the stove going. If you’re accustomed to gas stoves, you might be laughing. I’m not: my hands were trembling. It was hard.

With His prompting I said, I am going to do this today. I made fried eggs and forgot to add salt, but they were still the most delicious I’d ever eaten. I was scared of matches, but I persevered. I pray the Lord will show me my next fear; with His help I’ll strike a match and burn it to the ground.

A Drop in the Ocean


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1, NIV

I am a daughter of the Word, blessed with competency to work with words, unable to find appropriate words to speak of the beautiful Word.

I’m a writer; I can make sentences look pretty. When I’m writing fiction, it’s easier to do. When I’m writing about God the task is harder, because how do I put Him in words?

It would seem easy. After all, He is the Word (John 1:1). Nothing exists without Him, not even the fiction I write in my novels. He is the source of all things, including my creativity. So why is it difficult to write about Him?

Can a drop of water describe the ocean from which it came? Can a gust of wind whisper of the storm that sent it? If so, what would they say?

Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.
Psalm 98:7-8, NIV

My words try to glorify the Word, and they’re going to fall short. There is so much more where they came from; He whispered the universe into existence (or maybe shouted it). I put my words on paper and do the best I can, but even when I do a good job by human standards, I can’t do Him justice.

My words come from the One Who wrote everything in His book (Psalm 139:16). He also wrote the galaxy into existence and the colors of every fish in the sea. I can write a decent story, but it doesn’t come without practice and editing; He created everything that exists without effort. There were no rough sketches for Him, no outlines.

Sure, He spends a lot of time managing His-story for our sake, so that we can get back to Him–but He doesn’t​ have to, because He is God. To whom do we dare compare His work? If He chose to leave us as we were after the Fall, rather than send His Son, to what standard would we dare hold Him? He would still be perfect.

Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
Isaiah 40:13, NIV

Words fail me when I try to speak of Him. I want to write like my Father creates, but I can’t. He gave me the gift of creativity, though, and because I am His child, He’s pleased to see me imitate Him.

Like a drop of water glorifies the ocean, my words always drift back to the Word, because He is good. I will spend my life trying to speak of this goodness, because from the Word comes everything beautiful–every good deed, emotion, and story.

And even though I’ll always fall short, I know He’ll smile because He loves me.

Turning the Page


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When an adventure nears its end, I feel a mixture of grief and relief.

During our stay in Peru, we’ve had good moments–our visit to Nazca being one of them. There have also been moments I wish could be erased from my memory, and though they’ll always hurt, I will give them to Him. He can handle them.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7, NIV

I won’t be walking away from purely painful memories. I made new friends here, and it hurts to wonder when I’ll see them again. I’m thankful that the Internet will keep us connected, but it can’t recreate happy moments spent together.

I have to say good-bye for now, but I will see them again. A part of my heart will always live in Peru with the people I met and grew to love.

My heart has broken several times here. We came for a heavy reason, which was my grandmother falling ill. I meant to blog more during our stay, but life happened and I couldn’t make time for it. I have to reflect on it now, though, since this chapter will soon come to a close.

I can’t brush hard times under the rug; this trip hasn’t been perfect. Still, moments spent laughing with beautiful souls made up for every hardship. The moments I gazed at the ocean and pondered His love for me–nothing can compare. And times when all was calm, times spent gazing at the wall hearing the city outside the window.

I’ve lived here for five months. In this time, I survived the water crisis. I had adventures and memorized the streets. I smelled the ocean and felt humidity, experienced summer in another hemisphere.

All things considered, it was lovely. I wouldn’t undo it, nor would I wish to have left earlier. The best moments happened after we extended our stay.

I will miss my friends and the ocean, the streets and the native fruits. But all adventures come to an end–that’s the only way for us to have new ones.

To the people who’ve been here all along, thank you. You have found a fond place in my story; I will never forget you. Now the chapter’s coming to a close, and in my heart I carry you home with me.

I choose to remember the good things, thank God for each moment of laughter, and remember the sun always rises.

Just hold on a little longer; it will rise.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:14, NIV

The Light in Depression


He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He put my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
Psalm 40:2, NLT

Depression is a clever tormentor. Each person’s struggle with this illness is different; some have it all the time, while for others it comes and goes.

Though we all experience it differently, we tend to share the same symptoms. Most of us have felt the condition drain us of motivation, taking the magic out of things we once loved, weakening us until we feel trapped at the bottom of a pit.

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, or who you’re with; depression will find you. It doesn’t matter how much you have, because depression isn’t repelled by riches or poverty. No wonder it’s easy to feel hopeless, when it seems depression will always find you.

But there is good news: We have a Savior Who will also find us. Depression always seems to know where we are and what we’re doing, but so does God, and He is greater. He never loses sight of you, and even if sometimes you can’t feel His presence, know He’s right there fighting with you.

He reminds us of this relentless pursuit in these words from Scripture:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10, NIV

But He isn’t finished there. Have you ever felt so covered in darkness that no one could find you and help you? Have you ever felt trapped in a shadowy place where no good thing could happen? In the very same Psalm, He continues,

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:11-12, NIV

This doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Depression makes it difficult to feel anything, God’s presence included. But know that He’s there with you during those nights when you can’t remember how to cry. He’s there in the midst of your anxiety, when you feel at your loneliest and don’t think this torment will end.

He’s lifting you out of the mud and mire. He’s wiping tears from your face, even when you can’t feel Him do it. And he knows you better than you know yourself—when your thoughts become irrational and you don’t know what’s bothering you, He does (Psalms 33:15, 38:9). When you feel alone in your struggle, remember He’s close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

One day you will wake up and realize He has plans for you (Psalm 40:5). He has always been your shelter (Psalm 39:7). You’ll experience the joy of one who trusts in Him (Psalm 34:5)—yes, joy.

On that day, sing songs of praise and thanksgiving—for He has always been there! Friend, remember this: Depression may be adept at finding you, but so is the Lord Jesus—and He doesn’t only find you. He loves you.

Courage, dear heart—you are not alone.

The Value of Water


The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
The Lord reigns as king forever.
(Psalm 29:10 NLT)

When you leave home, you should always expect to find yourself outside your comfort zone. Otherwise, you really aren’t gaining much from the experience; we leave home to see more of the world, experience new things, meet people.

While on this trip to Peru with my family, I’d already had plenty of experiences. My biggest fear was the mega-earthquake they’ve been predicting for decades; aside from that, I couldn’t picture myself in the middle of a real crisis.

Then the floods began. Water is rising from the rivers—the Rimac, among others—and it’s swallowing entire towns. Some people have drowned in the water; others lost their homes and everything they owned. It’s not over yet, either; we are waiting for things to get worse.

I am in a part of Lima where, thankfully, the water hasn’t reached the streets. It doesn’t mean we didn’t feel the effects of the disaster; in Lima we may not see floodwater, but we are struggling to find clean water anywhere.

When I first opened the tap in the bathroom sink to find it dry, I got worried but thought it would fix itself before the day ended. I was wrong. Soon a day had passed, then two, and everyone in the district was gathering water from the park in buckets to wash the dishes and keep bathrooms clean.

If you’ve ever spent a summer day deprived of water, you know how we depend on it to keep sane. The fact of knowing there’s water brings you peace of mind; if the heat gets unbearable you can jump in the shower or wash your face. For three or four days, we didn’t have that.

I know plenty of people don’t have the luxury of tap water, but if I hadn’t found myself at a park gathering it in buckets, I would have no experience to use as comparison. I would never know how precious water is.

There is an emergency water tank above the apartment where we’re staying. For some reason this tank had broken at the wrong time; thankfully, after three days it was fixed. When there was water again, how we cheered and praised God!

We are blessed with an emergency tank, but a great deal of Lima is still without water. I am praying for them, and hope you will, too.

From this ordeal, I learned the value of water. I learned about desperation, crisis, and the power of a community coming together—neighbors we’d never spoken to suddenly became friends. Above all, I learned about God and our dependency on Him.

We don’t realize how cozy we’ve gotten until we’re forced to step into the real world. I have learned how fortunate I am, and that things I take for granted now can be gone in a heartbeat. It saddens me to know that parts of Peru are still suffering, not only without water—they have lost their homes.

We are not invincible, and all this time I had been underestimating the gift of water. While I don’t think God has caused these floods, He used this time of discomfort to help me grow. It all caused me to ponder, How much can I endure when something vital is taken away? How deeply can I learn to trust in Him above all things?

Most of all, Can I learn to see Him in the darkest of situations, when I’m not as cozy?

I think the greatest lesson I learned is that God is present in the storm. He doesn’t cause the tragedy; He never does anything to hurt us. He is, however, always with His children to comfort them. He comforted me through this storm, and He will comfort you through yours.

I’m still afraid the water will be cut off (those floods go on every day.) This time I will be ready, knowing I won’t be going through it alone. If the water is cut off again, I will wait and seek shelter in Him.

As Scripture so beautifully puts it:

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14 NLT)

I Crossed the Wishing Bridge


In the district of Barranco, there is a bridge called el puente de los suspiros.

According to legend, if you can hold your breath while crossing it, you get one wish. Some people say it only counts the first time you cross it; at any rate, I didn’t know of this belief until a few weeks ago, after crossing it for the first time.

Today we visited that bridge, and I found myself in a situation worthy of a plot bunny. I was falling behind, losing sight of the rest of my party (it’s crowded in Barranco; a lot of tourists go there.) So I was sprinting across this bridge, trying not to crash into anyone, when a man shows up in front of me holding a green bracelet.

I didn’t see his face, because the moment was so quick. “To make a wish,” he said. “It’s an outward sign.” (Roughly translated—he’d spoken in Spanish.)

And I said a very firm no—but I didn’t do it out of a rude refusal to make a wish. I said it a bit harshly because I was looking for the crowd I’d come with, and he’d gotten in my way. Scanning the crowd for my mom and brother, I hurried past him.

At once I felt a twinge of regret. The bracelet would have been nice, I thought, even if the wishing part is only a legend. So once I found my party, I turned and tried to look for the guy giving out bracelets—but there was no one on that bridge giving away bracelets, or even selling them.

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I’m not terribly superstitious, but my heart did sink a little. I’m not sure if it’s because I probably sounded a little upset, or I really wanted a handmade bracelet, or I really thought for a moment I would have a wish granted.

But I’m going to live with that what if moment forever. I could have a bracelet. I could have made a wish—after all, I’d been crossing a “magic bridge” and the legend is hundreds of years old.

You may not believe in wishes either, and the regret is likely to pass. But I wanted to share my story, because it’s one of those times you do cross paths with magic—or walk through a legend—a split-second where your yes or no will haunt you, even if the situation seems trivial.

This bridge is beautiful. Behind us, a young man played his cello to make some money. Barranco is a place full of murals and artists, art fairs and tourists from all over the world. It’s so colorful and vibrant; I can say it’s my favorite place in Lima so far.

Maybe the third time I visit the bridge, I’ll run into another chance to take the pretty bracelet and make a wish at the magic bridge. For now, I take the memories—the adventure—and pictures of a beautiful place full of art and culture.

The Book Inspired by Peru


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It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

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The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!