Saturday, December 31, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - December 2016 // Year-End Recap

O December, how paradoxical art thou
Long as the White Witch's winter
Short as a bearded dwarf
Crowded on one end
Tranquil at the other
Thirty-one wonderful, taxing, joyous, exhausting, brimming days
Farewell 2016.*

*Starting out with free verse was not my intention, especially considering my sleepy brain is still trying to figure out where to take this post. But there it is, random Narnia reference included.

This really was an all-over-the-place month. My brother's birthday . . . long, long, LONG volunteer days . . . family gatherings . . . more Christmas parties than I've ever attended . . . big projects . . . Needless to say, by the time I reached Christmas break, I was rejoicing!

Near the beginning of December, an honest to goodness snow day kept my brother and I home from school, and then the following day we had to battle slick roads, iced up windshields, and poor visibility. Fun, fun.

Upon request (thanks, Savannah!), here is
the tree ornament I received this Christ-
mas: an angel made entirely out of paper.
Besides presenting my second speech in my public speaking class, I also had the opportunity to speak (preach?) in two high school chapel sessions this month: one about standing up against familiarity, the other about three ways to improve family relationships, particularly over the holiday season. I received excellent feedback and constructive criticism, leading to visible growth in this area. It's stretching me, but I love it! Honestly, after delivering the first chapel and realizing I could actually do it, I was on top of the world.

As a college class, our biggest project this month was running the Christmas hampers. My brother was put in charge, and I was one of two "assistant managers," so to speak. Most of the work was placed in our hands--acquiring and wrapping boxes, making grocery and toy lists, overseeing the shopping and organization, and forming delivery teams. Though it was a lot of work, it was also so rewarding to see the joy on the recipients' faces!

A second blizzard hit at the tail end of Christmas Day, and this one actually was fun. (Minus the fact that my car got stuck at the end of my driveway two days later. Thank goodness for helpful neighbors.)

Christmas itself was cozy and quiet, just the six of us at home. Nowhere to go, no one to see. Exactly what I needed. My family is an incredible blessing. Wherever they are is my favorite place to be.


A wee bit of Once Upon a Time Season 1 with my parents and sisters, and a wee bit more of the same with my brother, since we finally roped him into the show. Season 5 showed up under the Christmas tree (!!!), so I watched one episode with my sisters too.


Princess Protection Program -- Re-watched with my sisters. It was very . . . Disney-ish. Crazy to see Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez so young and innocent, though. This time around I recognized Jamie Chung, who also plays Mulan in OUAT.


Finding Dory -- OH MY JELLYFISH, THIS MOVIE. It had the perfect balance of Finding Nemo nostalgia and new story freshness. Baby Dory was the most adorable animated creature to ever grace the screen. Watching her story play out was both hilarious and heartwarming. (My favorite scene is still when Hank the septipus--aka the seven-armed octopus--drives the truck.)


The Star of Bethlehem -- This is more of a documentary of sorts that I first watched in class, and then showed my family on Boxing Day. It uses historical timelines, Biblical text, and the math behind the universe to pinpoint what exactly the Star was. Utterly fascinating! The symbolism is incredible, and I was touched by the way God set everything in motion with a perfect, precise plan to announce our Savior's birth.


Civil War -- Finally. I have been waiting and waiting since this hit theaters, and let me tell you, it was worth it! Y'all probably know by now that Captain America is my favorite superhero. This third movie does not disappoint. My incoherent reaction pretty much consists of: ALL THE FEELS EVERYONE'S FIGHTING LOOKIT THE ALLIANCES AND CHARACTER INTERACTIONS AND MORAL DILEMMAS AND EPIC ACTION AND FRUSTRATIONS AND SADNESS AND BUCKYYYYY.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children // Ransom Riggs
This pretty book was a birthday present, not like you were wondering. I found it to be less creepy, overall, than I had expected. The language was unfortunate, especially considering the protagonist's young age. (I tend to think the protag's age is a reflection on the intended audience. A 15-year-old should not be using those words, okay?) But the settings and characters were super fascinating, and I loved all the strange old photographs. Definitely a unique formatting style! I also would've liked a bit more explanation about certain things, but maybe the next two books will clear it up. Four stars.

Cress // Marissa Meyer
One word: awesome. And a few more words: amusing, intense, heart-wrenching. I'd definitely say Cress rivals Cinder for favorite Lunar Chronicles instalment thus far. Cress herself is adorably na├»ve, yet brilliant. Pairing her with cocky Carswell Thorne was a stroke of romantic genius: the two make a hilarious couple! Following the rest of the Rampion crew was way too much fun as well. Cinder and Kai continued to be precious, Scarlet and Wolf were better than in their own book, and Iko made me ridiculously happy.

I almost considered reading Winter immediately afterward, but decided not to on the singular basis that I probably couldn't finish it before the end of the year, and then it would have to count toward 2017's Goodreads challenge. (Yes, I am particular like that.)

(sorry for the fuzzy picture quality; this is the only
one I could find of my cover)

Treasures of the Snow // Patricia St. John
Rereading this childhood favorite right after Christmas was like sipping hot chocolate whilst bundled up in a cozy quilt. I had forgotten portions of it, but the general direction and feel of the book was very familiar. The themes were more overt than I tend to enjoy, but this book is a classic to me, and so for nostalgia's sake I forgive it all. It really does have some profound things to say about forgiveness and pride. Five stars.

Paper Crowns // Mirriam Neal
I was surprised to find this little gem wrapped under the Christmas tree this year! I've been meaning to get it ever since my lovely blogger friend Mirriam announced it was being published. I'm not quite to the end--though I hope to finish tonight--but so far it's been a light, fluffy, adorable book! I adore Hal. And Azrael. And Salazar. And basically everyone but Maven. I know I'll be giving this four or five stars.

I was blessed by an EPIC Christmas book haul: Paper Crowns, Quiet (a nonfiction book about introverts), The Calling,
Reapers, Five Magic Spindles, and Golden Daughter. ^_^


11,734 words in The Prophet's Quest this month! Most of that, as you can imagine, was done in the latter half of the month. I have for sure crested the halfway point. It's a relief to bring all the characters back to Demetria at last. I'm hoping the return to a purely fantasy setting will help the words flow better in the future.

I had plans to hit 80k before Christmas holidays, and then use my break to reach 100k. I'm behind schedule, since I didn't hit 80k in time, but I still want to write as much as I can while I have time. Without running myself ragged, that is. I do need to rest during this break as well.

This recap will cover only life-y stuffens and writerly stuffens. (That is my own invented word, if you were scratching your head and wondering what sort of typos this supposed 'writer' just made. It's more fun to say than stuff, don't you agree?) I almost decided to list bloggy stuffens, too, but decided those highlights would be better saved for the next blogoversary celebration. Keep an eye out for an upcoming Books of 2016 post, though!
For now, prepare for lists! Because lists are life. And lists are easy to write, easy to read. Lists keep overweight blog posts from becoming positively obese.

2016 life

  • was a bridesmaid at a best friend's wedding
  • watched Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time
  • went on a young adult/youth retreat in the spring
  • bought my first car
  • got promoted at my job
  • went to a Piano Guys concert
  • started college, which included . . .
  • another retreat (much more intense than the other one)
  • public speaking
  • projects (like chapels and hampers)
  • volunteering
  • youth ministry

2016 writing

Things I Did:
  • finished some minor edits in The Prophet's Quest
  • researched some literary agents and some book stuff (like psychology, delusions, airplanes, and exotic locations)
  • discovered my novella, The Brightest Thread, was a top ten finalist in the Five Magic Spindles contest
  • bought and started Ted Dekker's The Creative Way writing course
  • revamped my publishing plans
Things I Actually Penned:

It's been quite the year! Don't let me give the false impression that 2016 was one glorious highlight after another, though. Monotony, weariness, and blandness made their mark on a number of days in between.

And yet the storyline weaving through the last twelve months was undeniably one of growth. The fast, painful, stretching kind . . . and the slow, gradual, imperceptible kind. The sandpaper days are smoothing a few of my rough edges, and yet the more I learn, the more rough edges I discover.

I've become a more confident person.

I've become a better writer, largely through the sheer keep-on-keepin'-on element of my writing life lately.

I've become a better public speaker, even though I'm still working on inflection and talking more slowly.

I've invested into myself.

I've been learning how to work hard, and how to keep working hard when I think I'm too tired to go on.

I've been learning how to rest, and not feel guilty for resting.

I've been learning that excellence is doing the best I can with what I have, and that there's no reason to beat myself up when I can't do more.

I've seen how very patient my Father God is with me. How faithful His love is, even when I am not. How deep His grace is, how perfect His plan is.

2016 was not an easy year by any means. But looking back over my shoulder, I can see that it was good. It was sandpaper to raw wood, fire to a forge, and in between, it was breath to oxygen-starved lungs. 2017, you will be even better.

How was your December? And your entire year? Highlights, lowlights? In-between-lights? Life is hard sometimes, so let's find empathy and encouragement in each other's company!


  1. "AND SADNESS AND BUCKYYYYY." Yussss. This movie. ^_^ So excited you got to see it! I almost asked for it for Christmas but decided on asking for books instead. XD Maybe my birthday...

    I need to read the Lunar Chronicles, apparently. (You and Lauri may convince me yet. XD) Also I'm the same way about not wanting to start a book when I can't finish it the same year, so you're not alone. XD

    PAPER CROWWWWNS!!! *flailing* I'm so so so excited you're reading it! :) I was trying to remember if you had beta-read it, or if it was before your Pack days... and I couldn't recall. But regardless, SO excited you're reading it! EEP HAL AND AZRAEL AND EVERYONNNNE!!! <333

    *drools over gorgeous stack of books* I loveth looking at book pictures! Looks like quite an awesome collection! I hope Quiet is good because I want to read it too...

    AND you've been writing! *collapses* I don't know how you do it all, darling! You're amazing. ^_^

    Stuffens is a brilliant word and I adore it. I also can't wait for your bookish recap post! (LOTR though!) Still excited about The Brightest Thread -- EEP! And... you wrote 83K this year. o.o *collapses* I. am. in. awe.

    I'm working on my own 2017 recap posts... I'll probably have a bookish one up tomorrow, and a writer one next week. :)

    Loved hearing about your December and your year!


    1. All the sadness. All the Bucky-ness. *sniffle* I was super excited that I got to see Civil War, too! It was way too long in coming. Yesh, that would be an epic birthday present--I hope you get it!

      YES, YOU DO. THE LUNAR CHRONICLES ARE AMAZING. Lauri and I shall join forces, just like you both did when convincing me to read Howl's Moving Castle. ;D (And see how wonderfully that worked out?) Haha, glad it's not just me who's particular like that!

      PAPER CROWNS INDEED! ^_^ That was before my Pack days, unfortunately, but I remember Mirriam talking about one of the Paper books on her blog back when I was a new-ish follower. I specifically remember something about Azrael and a glass heart...? (Oops, hope that wasn't a spoiler.) But LKASJAFLSJ, YES, EVERYONE IS A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL. <3

      *grins because book pictures are life* I shall letcha know about Quiet once I read it. :)

      Aw, thanks! But driven might be a better word for it...which is not allllways a good thing, as sometimes I'm too driven for my own good. (Hence the lessons on resting this year.) But anyways. You are awesome. *huggles* Thank you for the encouragement! ^___^

      *casually adds stuffens to the dictionary* THANK YOU AGAIN! Your comment made me smile so much. <3 I still need to scurry off and comment on your bookish posts--both were lovely--and I'm looking forward to your writerly one too!

      HAPPY 2017 TO YOU TOO, CELTI DEAREST! I hope your year is absolutely wonderful!

  2. 2016 sounds like a productive year to me!
    That's nice to have a comfortably quiet Christmas. Ours was pretty busy, but it was the first time in eons since we've had all our cousins from America over, so all was good.
    I remember reading and liking Treasures of the Snow. We had three of Patricia St.John's books when I was younger. I remember thinking they were so deep.
    I wish you a very fruitful 2017! (and happy belated birthday to your brother!)

    1. I'm kind of surprised at everything that happened, yes!

      Reuniting with cousins is a good reason to have a busy Christmas. *nods* Sounds like a lot of fun!

      Younger me never thought of Patricia St. John even writing any other books--I didn't realize until recently that there were others. XD

      Thank you so much, Blue! I hope 2017 is a wonderful year for you as well. (I'll pass on the birthday wishes!)

  3. HAPPY 2017, MY DEAR TRACEY!!! Can you believe it's already 2017??? O_O This is just craziness!

    But oh, your poem! I love that. It's so true, December IS very paradoxical. So peaceful and yet crazy all at the same time. And wow, you had so much going on! I'm so, SO proud of you of doing more public speaking! You are so brave. As well as being in charge of Christmas hampers and everything. You're doing amazing, Tracey! (Also that paper angel is precious!)

    YOU FINALLY SAW CIVIL WAR. AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! Your summary of it is sooo accurate. SADNESS AND BUCKYYYYY. Literally me. That just says it all. I'm so happy you got to see it! Even if it is a painful smack in the feels. D: How did you like Spiderman? I'm really liking him!

    That's cool you read Miss Peregrine's. I read it a while back and...I don't know. I guess I expected better...? Like, it had SO much potential but ended up just being flat? Nothing really happened. And yeah, it honestly wasn't all that creepy. I don't know, I guess it wasn't for me. I didn't hate it, but I didn't particularly love it either. But but but...

    CRESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'M SO HAPPY YOU READ IT. EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! Isn't Cress and Thorne the most hilarious adorable things? Definitely my favorites. I JUST ADORE THEM. AND THE BOOK. AND EVERYTHING. Also, I purposely wait on books at the end of the year too if I don't think I can finish them before the year end! I gotta keep it all neat and tidy. I'm so glad I'm not alone in this. XD

    EEP. YOU GOT PAPER CROWNS. AND YOU'RE READING PAPER CROWNS. AND PAPER CROOOOOWNS. Isn't it just so adorable? I'm so ecstatic you got it!!! :D :D :D

    And look at that gorgeous book haul. *drools* I got Five Magic Spindles, toooo! I simply cannot wait to read it. Oh, oh, and you got Reapers! That's a really cool book. I mean, duh. BRYAN DAVIS. I hope you like it!

    Wow. You write nearly 12k words amidst all the busyness. Tracey, you are a wizard! But yes, do rest some as well! Rest is important. *nods*

    Okay, stuffens is the cutest word ever and I want to use it now. I love it! But wow, look at all the things you did in 2016! Buying a car and starting college and job promotions and LORD OF THE RINGS (because that one is VERY important). And allll the amazingly brilliant wonderful writing. I adored reading all your flash fiction pieces this year! *huggles amazing Tracey writing*

    I loved reading about all you've learned this year. It's so beautiful how much you've been willing to stretch yourself and grow. I've definitely done much growing myself. It has been one of the hardest years of my life, to be honest. But if I've learned anything this year, I've learned that God is good. So, so good. And I've learned that in the end, sometimes the hardest times are the best times, because it's how we grow and become better and learn more and more about God. So yes, I'm not sad to see 2016 go, but it's definitely taught me a lot.

    I do so hope you have a most blessed 2017, Tracey. You are SUCH a blessing to me, and are always encouraging me and stretching me with your beautiful words. Love you, girl! <3

    1. (Argh, I started replying, and then I accidently backed out of my page and had to start over. :P)

      Happy 2017 to you too, Christine! I can't believe 2016 is over, either! I mean, didn't we just start it? Then again, thinking back to 2015 feels like ages ago.

      Aww, thank you so much! You're such an encouragement every time you comment or email. <333

      THE MOST PAINFUL SMACK IN THE FEELS EVER. Good feels, sad feels...ALL DA FEELS. D: But I loved seeing it! It's so sad that it's the last Captain America movie. At least we'll get to see the characters more in the next Avengers movie.
      I really liked Spiderman too! Tobey Maguire was okay, Andrew Garfield was awesome (seriously, I'm still upset about not getting a third movie), but Tom Holland just seems like the perfect Spiderman. He actually comes across as a teenager, for one thing, and he's completely hilarious, for another. XD "Homecoming" should be fun!

      Yeah, I see what you mean about Miss Peregrine's. The premise had a lot of potential. I guess I was just expecting the execution to be a bit I'm hoping the next two improve. (Although have you watched the movie? I saw the trailer, and I'm a bit miffed about how the switched powers around between Emma and Olivia.)

      CRESS! THORNE! EVERYONE! They're some of the most fun characters I've read recently. ^_^ I can't wait for Winter!!! Glad I'm not the only one who likes to keep books and calendars and things neat and tidy--you and Celti and I are alike in that way. XD

      AND I FINISHED PAPER CROWNS. It was an adorable little story! All the witty banter! <3 I'll have a few more thoughts in my next post.

      Hooray for FMS! Half the fun is having that gorgeous cover on the bookshelf, right? I'm excited for Reapers, too--I've been meaning to buy it and read it for the longest time. I think I have the opening paragraphs practically memorized from all the times I've seen Bryan Davis use it for writing advice. Now I'll get to finally read past that part!

      *tips my pointed hat* As long as I can be a wizard minus the beard, I'll be happy. XD

      Feel free to steal all the stuffens! It has been a crazy year, that's for sure--so many milestones! (LOTR is immensely important, I agree.) Oh, thank you--that makes my day, girl.

      It feels so GOOD to be growing. Areas of my life were feeling stagnant at the beginning of 2016, so looking back and seeing things change is refreshing, even if it wasn't easy.
      Oh, Christine, it's times like these I wish I could give you a hug! I know this has been a difficult year for you. But I'm so, so glad that you're still seeing God's goodness in your life, and that you're growing through these times.

      May 2017 be a much better year! YOU are such a blessing to ME as well, and I'm so thankful for you. *hugs* Love you too!!

  4. You're such a trooper handling your crazy busy life! I've been busy, but not exactly with the holidays - my family and I just moved, so no one knew us and we didn't actually go to a single Christmas party? Hopefully next year will be the time for that. ;)

    I wish I had been there to hear you speak! It sounds like you spoke about some good topics. Oh, and happy birthday!

    Ahh, Treasures of the Snow was a favorite of mine when I was little, too. :) I'm currently reading The Lunar Chronicles as well (am on Scarlet), but it's hard to find time to read. :P

    Sounds like you watched a lot of epic movies this month! I saw Rogue One, the new star wars prequel/sequel/in-the-middle thing, and it was. so. good. o.o My heartstrings have not been pulled so much by a movie before! It was heartbreaking. (my family watched A New Hope the next day, and let's just say mankind has learned much about movie-making since 1977. ;)

    You've been so productive this year! I am crazy excited to see what will happen next year. :D Here's to 2017!

    1. Haha, thank you! Oh goodness, that move would make holidays very different this year, I'm sure. I hope you've made lots of great friends by next Christmas!

      Thank you! (I'll pass the birthday wishes on to my brother!) Well...*cough*...the post on yesterday's bread was actually a modified version of part of the talk on familiarity. So in a way you kind of got to hear me speak. XD

      You've read Treasures of the Snow, too? And here I thought it was some obscure book no one had heard of. :) Hope you enjoy Scarlet--and that you get some reading time! Doesn't Life understand how important reading is??

      Oooh, Rogue One! I've heard it was really good. The only Star Wars movie I've seen so far is The Force Awakens, but I'll probably get around to Rogue One as well. And eventually all the older ones too. *nods* (It's kind of hilarious watching cheesy old movies that actually take themselves seriously. ;))

      I'm excited to see what 2017 will hold as well--for both of us! I hope your year is an awesome one!

  5. Learning how to speak more slowly. Yes. I struggle with that a lot. Sometimes it's kind of funny, like when I'm running through an argument for something that I've gone through in my head enough times that it's all wound up and ready to go when I open my mouth, and people are like, "Hang on a sec, what was the first sentence again?" when I'm at the conclusion. Other times it's just frustrating because I have to repeat myself and what I just said was really long. I think it might be something a lot of introverts have trouble with, because they spend so much time thinking. Your mind gets ahead of your lips when you're talking, so you try to speed up, forgetting that actual people are listening to you and they can't speed up.

    1. It's nice to know it's not just me! Oh goodness, I have been there, too--blasting through something and leaving others in the dust. Or having so many thoughts in my head that they bottleneck at my mouth, and come out choppy and fragmented and somewhat nonsensical. XD

      That's a really interesting point about it possibly being an introvert thing. Makes a lot of sense. For me, when I'm giving a speech, my brain rushes ahead even more--because I KNOW what I'm going to say, and my task-driven side takes over and tries to charge straight to the point. Slowing down and utilizing my storytelling is something I'm learning to do...slowly. ;)

  6. Happy New Year, Tracey! And congratulations on public speaking! :D

    Season five of Once Upon a Time...! Aaah, it's so amazing!! I think season one is my fav, but season five definitely comes close. ;)

    I had no idea that Mulan was in Princess Protection Program! I recognize her now, though. (And I agree, PPP is very Disney-ish; it's so weird to see Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato back when they were younger!)

    Finding Dory looks so cute! I used to watch Finding Nemo all the time, when I was little. :)

    And Civil War...!! I saw it Sunday evening with my family, and WOW. I was a little upset that they changed the actor who plays Spiderman, but he really grew on me. His interactions with Tony were hilarious!!

    Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal looks lovely! The synopsis makes it sound like such an amazing book! *rushes off to make sure it's added to her Goodreads TBR*

    Glad you had a great Christmas, and I hope your 2017 is wonderful!


    1. Happy 2017, Liv! And thank you!

      Is it?? I am SO EXCITED for it. Good to know that it won't disappoint.

      I had no idea until I was looking at the cast list and realized, hey, Jamie Chung, don't I recognize that name? (Yes, it's really weird! Especially considering the reputation they have now.)

      YOU NEED TO SEE FINDING DORY. I'm always a little apprehensive about sequels, because they don't always live up to the first one, but this. was. perfect. :)

      WOW is about all I can say too! *flails like an octopus* Haha, Spiderman's interactions with everyone were hilarious, but yes, especially those with Tony. XD

      *smilingly pushes Paper Crowns in everyone's faces* It's a super fun book. Not an unusual plot, but it did have a couple twists I didn't expect, and the fabulous characters were what stole the show for me!

      Thanks, girl! I hope your 2017 is also fantabulous!

  7. The Star of Bethlehem is awesome, I'll say that first. My December was great on most points. I finished out my third semester and maintained my 4.0 cumulative GPA. The biggest problem is that I'm struggling with use of my free time, especially free time over breaks. Rather than reading, writing, or studying the Word (I do all three, just not enough), I'm underutilizing my time. Either that or I'm just utterly exhausted, but I don't think that could be the case, considering I was getting a lot of rest over summer and started out back in the fall with barely more energy than it took for school and school-related activities. I'm alright with not getting a huge amount done when I'm at school, but I really need to get myself in gear during breaks. That being said, I'll more than likely (and God willing) be getting a job next summer for most of my summer break, so at least I'll have a decent amount of time that will definitely be used purposefully. Congrats on your writing output and personal growth. I think it's really good that you're gaining confidence. It's an important trait, even as it is balanced by the trait of humility (which you also possess, so far as I can tell). Lastly, I'd just like to mention that I really admire your beautiful soul. When I use the word "beautiful," typically I mean that I can see the light of God shining through a person, but, as I've never actually seen you in person, I can only refer to God's light that shines through your writing and demeanor. Happy New Year.

    1. It was incredible! I wasn't sure where they were going to take it, but the ending was awe-inspiring. Did you see the bonus content about the day of the crucifixion?

      Great job on the high marks! That's impressive. But ugh, I know what you mean about slacking off during breaks. On the one hand, I know I need some days where I don't work at anything, but on the other, not having the structure school/a job brings can make it harder to be productive. Time management is not easy... I hope you find ways to make it a habit, and that the summer job aids in that.

      Confidence is huge, I agree, and so is humility. Balancing them can be an interesting feat, too--something we probably all need God's help with. Thank you for the kind words! :)

      Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is a good, productive year for you.

  8. It sounds like you had a fun December! Yay for public speaking and snow! We just got some snow here in the snow on Friday. It's still melting. XD Learning to not feel guilty for resting. That's a big one for me. Happy 2017!

    1. I did! I'm really enjoying the public speaking, as nerve-wracking as it can be sometimes, and yessss, all the snow. Aww, too bad yours is melting already. XD

      Oh yes. It's a big one for me too. Hopefully we'll both get better at that this year! Hope you have an amazing 2017!