Happy New Year! Welcome to the wonderful year of 2016, in which all of your dreams will not come true and you will find that the future is much like the past in a great many ways. I used to operate under the illusion that each new year would bring with it some magical change of fortune and that this year (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, etc) would be my year in which everything would change. Don’t get me wrong, the last two years have brought a lot of changes–I got into and finished a Th.M. program at Southeastern, I met, wooed, proposed to, and married Alayna, I am applying for Ph.D. programs, and I finally got out of credit card debt–but none of these have happened ‘magically.’ Honestly, I do credit Alayna with a lot of these things. Honestly, if I hadn’t met her I’m not convinced that any of the rest of it would have happened. That being said, I stopped looking to the future to solve all my problems a few years ago. 2011 taught me that. In 2011 I finally landed a teaching job, after four years of applying to various online schools, and I thought–this year is going to be the year where everything changes. It didn’t. That year I was rejected by multiple women (true to form), rejected by a couple of schools (also true to form), and made less money than I ever had in my adult life (in 2011 I made less than $5000 between teaching and delivering Chinese food). I was also kicked out of my apartment because the owner stopped paying her mortgage and went through the driest spiritual period of my Christian life–a time when I truly thought that God had abandoned me and the only time since my conversion to Christianity that I have seriously contemplated suicide. All in all, 2011 truly and thoroughly sucked… of course it also laid the ground work for many other things–while my teaching job didn’t do much in 2011, it has been my longest term, most lucrative, and most thoroughly enjoyable employment. Getting kicked out of my apartment set me up to start living with a group of guys who led me to the apartment where Alayna’s friend would (several years later) become my roommate and introduce me to her (if I hadn’t been kicked out of my apartment I probably never would have met him or her). Also, that incredibly dry spell that made me contemplate suicide… God used it to teach me to seek for a deeper level of spiritual experience and relationship with him than I’d ever had previously, and to begin teaching me the virtue of joy… which I’d never had previously. So, all in all, while 2011 was a horrible year, it was also a wonderful year. It’s interesting how things work out that way, isn’t it? However, it also taught me that a new year doesn’t make old problems go away. Only hard work, perseverance, and providence do that. There is nothing magical about the changing of a year. So, will 2016 be the year that I finally lose some weight… hopefully. However, it’s not going to be because the year changed… it’s going to be because Alayna has inspired and pushed me to start a medically guided diet and exercise program at her hospital that focuses on building sustainable healthy habits, and because God gives me the perseverance to actually do it. Anyway, I do have a plot challenge for you today. I’m going to give you a picture and I want you to develop a part of your world based on what you see. It should be a setting that is believable in your world, and that has potential for stories in it. Here’s you’re picture:

(Image Source)
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