Monday, 21 March 2016

What Happened In October 2014...

"Nothing beats the power of your story. The fact that you're still standing, DECLARES HOPE." 
-Tom Crandall
Looking through pictures from a few years ago, I reminisced over the changes I saw in myself- hair, sense of fashion- or lack thereof, oh goodness- but there was something in all the pictures that caught my attention. The sparkle in my eyes, the vibrancy, and utter giddiness over LIFE. 
Don't get me wrong- I like how I look now- it's all good, but when I look at my eyes in pictures, I don't see that sparkle. I see this deep, fully blossomed epitome of sadness, like tears and pain are just seconds from spilling from them. Not to say that I look like I'm wallowing in sadness, cause I'm not, but that light, carefree look is gone. 
In a way, I envy the lighthearted innocence I had a few years ago. I was happy.
No matter what came my way, I would spring back into an upright position, ready to live- ready to fight. I took life's punches, bouncing and dancing on my feet- giddy and anticipating the next one. Sure, I had my share of hurts- really deep hurts, in fact- ones that were pretty intense for a young teenager to handle, but...somehow it wasn't quite so, final as the recent one. 

The last three years especially, have thrown me punches I really wasn't expecting, nor would I wish on anyone. I've seen the death of many a dream, a relationship...a future. I've walked through the fiery furnace and made it out alive, but I am weary. So very weary. 
It takes a lot to faze me at this point. I know- you may think twenty-something years is not enough to get even a drop of life experience, but believe you me, I've had about 50 years worth crammed into my short lifetime, haha. 

I'd understood betrayal quite well...before last year. I'd witnessed people do things that no one ever should, and I'm sad to say that not much can surprise me, in terms of relational/spiritual/familial dysfunction. Not to say that I cannot empathize- because after all this, that is one thing I can do ultimately very well- but I'm no longer innocent enough to be almost anything.  


Nearly eight years ago my grandma passed away quite suddenly. We found out she was terminally ill on a Friday, and she was gone the following Tuesday. The relationship with that side of the family was already beyond stressed and quite nasty. But my grandmother was the sweetest, kindest person ever. She was everything you could hope for in a grandma. 

Encouraging, indulging, kind, soft...& bother it all- she lived in a glorious log cabin right on a lake...with a pier and a speedboat and big tall trees and all that whatnot. She drank chocolate milk with breakfast, made the best scalloped potatoes and gave me my love for everything potatoes. She made the best cucumber sandwiches that we'd eat out on the pier in the summer, and that woman knew how to decorate for Christmas. Oh my word. Be still my heart. 

She was basically Meryl Streep, Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn, mixed into one and even better. She was perfection to me. 
And she died. 
Left my world far too soon...before I'd need her to talk about everything that goes on in a teenager's life. Before I'd be an adult and feel like the world was just too large to handle. Before I'd really be able to cry over being alone and literally having no relatives that cared a whit about me, or the haters that...well, dang- they just hate with no care to how it makes the recipient feel. 
Her dying was the beginning of a decade filled with a boatload of pain and loss. I know heartache well, and not simply because my grandma died far too soon.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly...

In October of 2014, seven years after she'd died, I'd been back to her log cabin not once since the funeral. I thought I'd be able to get some of the things she'd had in her log cabin, as memories...closure, I suppose. I thought I'd be able to go back to the log cabin and just process what had happened. How about no. 
So, on, I believe it was the seventh anniversary since her death, I went to her graveside to have closure. I know, seven years is a long time, do what you gotta do. 

Then I decided I'd visit the log cabin. Just to say goodbye. Have a final end. Close the door that had been left open for all this time. Cut my losses and say goodbye properly this time. 

When I arrived at the property, all my hopes and dreams of one day living in the log cabin, visiting it again- for closure, for feeling like I could be in the one place that was every bit my grandma...remember her- came crashing down like a building in an earth quake. 
The log cabin was gone. 
There was nothing save an empty, mucked up hole and a rickety pier collapsing into the lake. The trees had been mulched. There was this stupid orange construction fence around the property...The cabin was gone. A piece of me died that day. A big piece of my heart. My innocence. It felt like any naïveté I had left in me, evaporated into thin air. 

My imagination is a very active place- and despite knowing how terrible and depraved my grandfather was...I never once imagined he'd destroy the only remaining connection to my grandma. Never once. 

Never did I imagine he'd go to the trouble of hiring a moving team, huge semi-truck and uproot the log cabin. And in the name of piety, donate it to a bible school. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt that I loved that place more than anything else. That it was the only thing remaining, of my grandma, and he knew it. He knew every bit how important that cabin was to me. And he destroyed that connection- every bit on purpose- and what's worse, he tried disguising the whole thing as an act of piety and charity...goodwill even, when all it was, was a devious, conniving sham meant to punish and break my family. 


I'd seen church dysfunction, witnessed a ton of familial crap, people turning on my family and trying to run our name through the mud, and relationships turning in the blink of an eye, but this particular event broke my spirit in a way I'd not imagined possible. 
My innocence (understand, I'm not talking about virginity innocence here) had been stolen. Of course, up until that point it had been slowly chipping away, but not like this. 
Even still, typing this out and recounting what happened, I feel like I'm talking about some horrible nightmare I had. It never has felt real, save for the gaping hole it's left in my heart, and the years of aging and maturity it so violently bestowed upon me, in that split second. 
I know the face of betrayal well. My grandfather has worn and wielded it mightily. As the lethal weapon that it is. 

That eyes shining, lighthearted, not very naive- but just a bit naive- happy young woman I used to see looking back in the mirror at me...she's gone. I see sadness in my eyes. Not wallowing. Not pity. But such weary sadness and experience that goes beyond my years of living. It hurts to acknowledge its presence, but as I detest all forms of denial, I like to be upfront about it. 

I know God is going to restore everything that has been lost- in a way that only He can. It's going to be supernatural. 

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He is in the process of restoring that sparkle. Giving me a new one, that's brighter and even more powerful than the one I had before...but I haven't reached that point yet. It's one thing to be rejoicing on top of Mount Nool, when it looks and feels like life is working out for you. It's one thing to say its all working, and going to be fine, when it looks like and is materialistically/relationally WORKING OUT FINE. It's another story entirely, to have faith and declare that God is restoring what has been lost, when all you can see is what has been lost- when it looks like nothing is working out, and everything you once held dear has gone up in flames. It takes incredible faith. Incredible vulnerability. 

I feel as though the last decade, but especially the last two years- twenty have passed. And no, I don't believe this is a simple case of some young person just coming into adulthood.
I don't feel innocent. One metal-testing life experience after another has taken care of that for me. 
I see with eyes that I feel belong to someone who has walked this earth far longer than I have...but I know I've walked through what I have, for a reason even I don't fully understand. This thing called destiny. A purpose and a plan.
I walk around and see people through a different lens...and I wonder how flighty and...young, people my age seem to be. It's rather a foreign concept to me.

After this last decade- which is filled with countless stories that I plan on sharing one day- I feel something akin to a soldier returning from active duty on the front lines. One who is no stranger to death, loss and grief. One who is weary and traumatized by all the war, all the fighting and being constantly in combat or on the lookout for it.

Certain life experiences make it hard to...integrate back into society and relate with people, when sometimes all you wanna do is sit down and cry and see how well a given person will handle it- because at times words fail you, and tears communicate better than anything else.

This is not meant to brag on myself or try to make it look like I've endured ALL the hardship and no one else has, but this is my experience, and I'll not sugarcoat it. It is what it is- and I'm proud of myself for coming through it, and having the courage to pick up the hope, the faith, that God's promises are, and forever will be, true.

That what He said He would rebuild and return anew, He will fulfill those promises, despite what the process looks like. 

I so clearly realize how I've changed. 
How I've lost some things along the journey. Things that, in a way, I miss. In another way, I know God is taking every "detour" experience and rerouting my path, into something more beautiful than I could ever imagine, even if this last part of the journey has been filled with more heartache than I ever could have imagined surviving.

I'll end with this quote, as it so perfectly sums up how I feel, regarding ugly life experiences that, in their proper place and time, need to be shared, in order for healing to occur- and even to encourage others who need to hear our stories.

"God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free." -Aibileen in The Help

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Character Sketches | Part 2 | Phantom's Daughter | Hands Of Time series #2

Hey ho, #HandsOfTime series peeps! 

Last week I shared some character sketches for book one in the series, Present History. Today, I will be continuing in revealing some character sketches, but this time it will be from book 2 in the series- Phantom's Daughter! 

Let us begin with a summery of this book...
Ebony Hunter has been an outlaw for as long as she can remember. Her memory, however, doesn't go back more than a few years. Some event erased her memory- she has no idea who she really she got tangled with the outlaw gang called Phantom- or ended up on the wrong side of the law. 
When she discovers her pursuer, U.S. Marshal Ethan Fellows is someone from her mysteriously shrouded past, the clock is ticking. Can she escape Phantom before her life is claimed in the process? Who is Ethan, and why does he know her past but will reveal nothing to her- save his intentions to lock her away or see her swinging from the hangman's noose? 

Setting: Oregon 1895

Ebony Hunter North (Hunter) 
Location: Oregon, USA (1895)
Age: 23
Occupation: Outlaw & Co-Leader of Phantom
Hair Colour: Dark Brown
Eye Colour: Brown
Height: 5'7''

Ethan Fellows
Age: 28
Occupation: U.S. Marshal
Hair Colour: Light Brown 
Eye Colour: Blue 
Height: 6'2''
Character Comments: Ethan doesn't discriminate...he just hates everybody. Just kidding ;) He's actually a very nice guy, but his history has made him a little rough around the edges. 

Jackson James Dewar (Jack)
Age: Unknown 
Occupation: Outlaw
Hair Colour: Blond
Height: 5'11''
Eye Colour: Green
This guy has made an appearance in book 1 (under the name James Dewar), now book 2- so if you're wondering about his contemporary-ness, don't worry, he was fully 21st century in Present History. How he makes it around from time period to time period is a mystery that will be slowly unraveled as time goes on. 

Terrence North 
Age: 42
Occupation: Phantom's Leader & Famous Outlaw
Hair Colour: Dark Brown
Height: 6'
Eye Colour: Ebony
Character Comments: Ebony Hunter North's father. 

Dan Heeler 
Age: 37
Occupation: Outlaw
Height: 5'11''
Eye Colour: Brown
Hair Colour: Ash Brown

Howie Robertson
Age: 45
Occupation: U.S. Marshal (Scottish)
Hair Colour: Brown 
Eye Colour: Green
Character Comments: Howie is a supporting cast member in Present History (book 1), as you'll know if you've seen Present History's Character Sketches! He originally hailed from Oregon in 1895, so that's why he's another supporting cast member in this story. He and Ethan work together as U.S. Marshal's. 

There we are! Now you have a basic idea of the main characters. What'd'ya think? 
Below are more story inspired photographs I found searching on pinterest and tumblr :)

Read a SNEAK PEEK of Phantom's Daughter on Wattpad, here's the link. Make sure to comment on how you liked it & also vote- it helps me get more exposure and new readers :) 

Until next time! Makes sure to follow along on IG: @ToAshleyNikole