The fundamentals of being a person

I am in the Dominican Republic at a four and half star resort with my best friend. The sun is bright, the ocean breezy, and I eat mangoes and passionfruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have napped a lot, and read good books from cover to cover. I sit on the shore with my feet on the waters edge, encouraging the ocean to kiss the tips of my toes with each breath she takes.

When I hold my life in the palm of my hand, this year scrapes through my fingertips like a shard of broken glass. It was harder for me than most others. This vacation was a well needed reprieve—a chance for the pounding waves to soothe my jagged edges again.

Last night I met Miguel. He introduced himself to me as Michael Jackson. I laughed.

Sarah thinks he’s twenty-one; I guessed twenty-seven. It’s hard to tell. He reminds me of a slinky: tall and stretchy and very flexible. When I watch him dance my breath catches in my throat because it feels like I’m watching someone do the very thing they were born to do. He works for the resort. During his day shift, between 9:30-6:30 he’ll work odd jobs, then go home for a break, coming back at 8:30 to take part in the entertainment. This means he’s often working 16 hours a day. He says he doesn’t mind. Miguel is a natural entertainer. 

He is rail thin and tall, his skin milky and smooth, his teeth bright against the night sky and his dark skin. 

Maybe it’s the book I just finished by Jodi Picoult—Small Great Things—about a black woman being sued by a white supremacist. Or maybe it’s everything that has been happening in the States with Charlottesville. But this week I can’t stop thinking about racism and about people and I am wondering if we are all the same or if we are all different or if maybe we are both. 

I asked Miguel to dance for us. He had told us he doesn’t like the styles of his country—salsa or marimba—but instead he’s created a style of his own.

He hands me his phone after he’s programmed the correct song. I hold it in between Sarah and I so we can hear. 

Miguel looks at us. “Listen to the music, but keep your eyes on me.”

“Got it,” I say, my eyes never leaving him. 

He starts to dance and it is magic. Each beat of the song is a different move, and it is fast but smooth, a thousand actions but simultaneously one long movement. I cannot stop looking; cannot stop thinking that God must have given Miguel limbs if only so he could move them this way.

Are Miguel and I the same? I wonder. Because he works at the resort I am a guest at. His shifts are 16 hours, and back home mine are 8. He works to give his mother money and pay for his father’s chemotherapy treatments, and when my mother had cancer her treatments were free. 

“You work very long hours,” I told him. “You must be tired.”

“It is worth it when I meet people like you girls and others like you,” he replied, smiling. “You actually talk to me. It is hard sometimes when people come here to the resort and treat me like a slave. Like they forget I am a person too.”


Today it rains all day. I have not seen rain like this before—thunder that cracks across the sky so loud I watch everyone in the resort jump, startled. The ocean looks angry, swirling the sand into the centre of the sea.

I see Miguel and we invite him to come sit with us. 

“You Canadians are amazing,” he says. 

Sarah and I laugh. “Why do you say that?”

“You treat me like I am one of you, like we are no different.” 

Sarah nods. “We’re not different from each other.”

Miguel smiles—it stretches wide across his face; as wide as the ocean stretching before us. “I think so too. When I look at the world I don’t see countries, I don’t see colours, I just see lots and lots of people.”

Perhaps our lives have been vastly different, Miguel’s and mine. I grew up in North America with food and clothes and water I could drink from the tap. Miguel grew up praying for rainy days like this in order for their food to grow so they might be able to eat dinner.

But I look at Miguel and see a beautiful smile and bright, animated eyes. I see a young man who has a dream to dance, a man who doesn’t see countries or colours but only people. 

And I think: that’s what I want to see too. 

I wonder what the world would like if only we could see people. If instead of classification and segregation there was more unity. Maybe that is simplifying it too much, but maybe simple isn’t a bad idea.


Tonight Miguel will dance again. 

Just him and the sky and the people who paid to be here. Maybe we are all different, but maybe—just maybe—deep down we’re all the same.

I’ll watch him while he dances—while he does the very thing he was born to do—and I’ll witness his dream explode from his being. Just me, a girl, and him, a boy—both of us fundamentally human.

Tonight, that will be enough. 

Tonight, it will be as it should be.

The hunt for who I am

My nephew is one and a half.

He doesn’t say a lot yet – just a few random words, and only when he feels like it. (I already am a huge fan of his stubbornness. I hope he’ll grow up sticking to his guns.) Recently my sister has been teaching him different animal sounds.

She’ll say, “Noah, what does a puppy say?” and Noah will woof obediently. Or, “Noah, what does a lion say?” and Noah will roar. “Noah, what does a monkey say?” and Noah will twist his whole body, grinning, because he knows you’re about to tickle his underarms.

Noah, of course, is not a dog or a lion or a monkey. He’s a little boy. But there are moments where I wonder if he convinces himself he is a lion because he can roar.

In the same way I wonder if I can convince myself I am unworthy because of the things I have done.

If you asked me who I am, I would hand you a variety of answers. I’d say my name is Aliza Latta. I’m 23 years old. I’m a writer, I’m in school for journalism, and I’m an artist. I’m a poor college student who owes the government a lot of money, a daughter, a sister, an apprentice of Jesus, and Noah’s auntie.

There are so many things we could say about ourselves, but if they all got stripped away, what would we be left with?

If I got kicked out of school, would I still be considered a student?

If my fingers got chopped off and I couldn’t write or make art, would I still be considered a writer and an artist?

A friend of mine has had four miscarriages in the past two years. We were together the other day, talking about this. She looked at me and said, “Aliza, all of my babies have died. Am I still a mother?”

The past few months have shaken my identity all up. I woke up questioning who I was, mourning things that had happened, and wondering where I was supposed to go or how I was supposed to move on from the person I thought I once was.

Humans — I know — are constantly evolving, shaping and shifting and growing and molding into new, changed people. This is a wonderful gift. I am very glad I am not the same person I was six years ago or six months ago or six days ago. But it begs the question: If we are consistently changing, what is the basis of our identity?

I have placed my identity in school, in a relationship status, in success. I have placed it in my Instagram following and in my independence. Each of these places are like shifting sand beneath me: zero strength or security.

But Christ is teaching me a new way.

The spiral of pain and healing

I haven't written here much. Actually, over the scope of this summer, I've hardly written at all. Eleven thousand quiet words on a Word document that needed to escape, but aside from that: nothing.

Perhaps it's because I've been too involved (also slightly neurotic) with formatting and readying my novel in preparation for the eyes of the world to see, that I've hardly had a chance to think about the thoughts somersaulting against the walls of my brain.

I think about how I felt around this same time last summer when I was nervously awaiting what would be my first year of college. In some ways, I feel similarly, the same mix of excitement and nerves. In other ways, I feel unlike anything I've felt before. This year has held a massive amount of pain and euphoria, and I often attempt to comprehend how both sadness and happiness can mingle together like they do.

There are days where I feel on top of the world. These are the days that have mostly been filled with either the preparation of my novel or seeing my nephew. These are the days I am gliding.

And then, there are the others. Days where I awake saddened. Some days I can put my finger on the exact reason why; others I cannot.  But I am learning to lean into this pain. Pain can be a great teacher. 

I've started seeing a counselor. She told me healing is like a spiral.

"Often we think of healing as one straight line. The problem with that is, we easily become discouraged because it seems as though we take steps backward," she told me. Her hair was long and dark, her dress the same. "If we look at healing like a spiral then we can see we are continuing to move forward. But just because we are in the spiral doesn't mean we don't feel the pain."

I stared at the picture she had drawn; the shape of the spiral on the otherwise blank page.

"The spiral seems like a longer journey than the line," I told her.

She laughed. "It is."

I'm learning to lean into this too: this spiral of both pain and healing. Some days the spiral feels unending and other days it feels manageable. I take my pain and use it as fuel, and even this shows me my progress. I'm doing a 40-day prayer challenge; tomorrow will be Day 21. I take my pain and use it as the gasoline to fuel my prayers. I am starting to more fully understand that God is present with me every moment. I am starting to think of my prayers like the artwork a parent collects of their child: something precious and cherished and good. 

I'm starting to think of myself that way too. 

I am grateful for who God is and for how he can take our pain and turn it into something precious; even in the midst of us feeling it. I have learned through this prayer challenge that God can give us eyes to see, empathy to pour out, forgiveness to release. 

When I look back on this summer, I will see a spiral of pain and healing and empathy, but also a spiral of all the ways people and experiences have helped me grow. 

And I will take a deep breath and feel gratitude that God cares about our feelings, knowing true healing is long and slow and wide and filled with rich progress — just like the perseverance I've been praying for. 

The mercy I need today (and everyday)

My eyes pop open. I turn to look at the clock. Immediately, I sit up, heart pounding within me.

Oh, no. No. No no no no no no. 

A sense of dread fills me up to the core.

My alarm didn’t go off. I’m supposed to be at work right now!

I fly out of bed, ripping my brush through my hair, splashing cold water on my face, looking haggard. I don’t have time to shower or put on makeup, and I throw on yesterday’s clothes.

“I’m sorry!” I text my boss. “I’m sorry, I’m coming, I’m sorry!”

I grab my purse and my keys, shifting the gears in my car as fast as it’ll let me. I drive like the mad woman I feel I am. The cars in front of me, of course, are going far below the speed limit.

“C’mon,” I mutter, impatiently dancing my fingertips along the steering wheel.

I glance at the clock on my dash. By my estimate, I’ll be at least forty-five minutes late, if not more.

It’s Monday — undoubtedly the worst day of the week. Sleeping through my alarm has proven this fact to be true. I mentally go through all of the tasks I need to complete today. This one mistake has ruined everything. My whole day is shot. Scratch that. My whole week has gone entirely down the drain.

On the half-hour trip to work, I imagine running into the office, frazzled and unkempt. I rub the sleep out of my eyes. I wish I had put on blush, and feel slightly grateful that half of my mascara is still on from last night.

I think of how everything is ruined now. Starting my day and week off on the wrong foot means that everything will seem harder and less thought through. I am hungry from not eating breakfast, and I wish a coffee would appear in my hand.

Suddenly, without warning, I have a new thought: I don’t want to be frazzled. I don’t want to be stressed.

Click to read the rest over at (in)courage...

In which I reveal to you the cover of my novel

It's amazing to think that something you've been working on for four years might finally be becoming a tangible book you can hold in your hands. 

Self-publishing is no joke. I have never read so many forums on margin sizes or spent this much time Googling how to format a Word document. Each day I spend hours trying to make my novel just that much more precise, ensuring there are no extra spaces in the manuscript, and that the font is easy on your eyes. 

And all of this —all of the non-writing stuff—will be worth it as soon as you have this book in your hands. 

That time is coming. Today you are now able to PRE-ORDER my novel! I cannot express my excitement to you. 

Even more exciting, I can now show you the official cover. I love it so much. Huge gratitude to my friend and graphic designer, Brendon Downey, for making the cover better than I could have imagined. 

9781775018407.jpg

What do you think? 

I love it.

I wanted the cover to be peach (you'll find out why when you read the novel). I also wanted to include a house. The book has a distinct theme about home. What does it feel like when someone leaves you behind? And what would it look like if they decided to come home again? Lastly, I am excited that we were able to incorporate some of my hand-lettering. 

You can pre-order Come Find Me, Sage Parker here:

*recommended if you're in the US

*recommended if you're in Canada

And if you haven't seen yet, you can download the first chapter for free here: 

And finally, I will leave you with the blurb that will appear on the back of the book. 


For nine years Maeve Parker has been waiting for her mother to come home. 

“I’ll be back soon, my darling,” her mother, Sage, said the day she left. “Don't you worry. I just need to go find myself.”

Do you have to run away in order to find yourself? Maeve wondered. When, exactly, do you know when that self you were so desperately looking for is found?

Now Maeve is sixteen-years-old and Sage still hasn’t returned.

Fiercely independent and disillusioned, Maeve has grown up with her mother’s ex-boyfriend as her only companion. Giving up all hope of Sage’s return, she convinces herself that mothers—and people—are unnecessary. When she meets Ky and Levi, she is adamant about keeping them at arms length. But Ky, the only true friend Maeve knows, and Levi, the boy with the startling blue eyes, crash through Maeve’s walls.

Then one of them is wrenched away—permanently. And Maeve is left dangling with the final words they left behind: go find Sage Parker. 

Waiting for a rainbow baby: a story of recurring pregnancy loss


I am honoured to host my friend Sarah here today. Sarah is a classical singer with the prettiest voice you'll ever hear. She's also a strong, resilient woman. I have been stunned by the tenacity she and her husband have shown through the exceptional amount of pain they continue to walk through today. I hope you feel touched by her story. I know I am.

by Sarah Shelley

Rainbow Baby: A baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.  The rainbow does not negate the effects of the storm, but offers a sign of hope at the end.   

i.

I had my first positive pregnancy test in April 2015. 

I was 25-years-old and absolutely over the moon with the result. My husband Josiah was away when I took the test, so I immediately began planning how I would tell him when he returned at the end of the week. After several hours scouring Pinterest, I settled on something personal. We have a wire picture holder on the wall in our apartment. It’s designed to hold photographs with little clothes pegs, but we use it to hold cards with reminders of how God has been good to us along with answered prayer requests. Each card has a word on the front and a small description on the back. I made one that said “Adventures,” and on the back I wrote: “We are going to have an adventurous year — Christmas this year will include a baby… and I’m not talking about baby Abbott.” (My sister was expecting a baby in early May of that year.)  I went in for blood work to confirm the test and waited for the end of the week when Josiah would return. I felt like I was walking on air for the rest of the week with a perfect secret only I knew about. 

At the end of the week, I picked Josiah up from the airport, drove home, and showed him my new addition to our reminder board.  He was thrilled — shocked, but thrilled. We went into full celebration mode as we talked and dreamed about our future.  How and when would we tell our families?  There were so many great things to plan — Pinterest to the rescue! 

About a week later, I woke up in the morning with cramping and bleeding. Worried, I immediately went to see my doctor. Test results showed that I lost the baby. The rest of that week is a blur in my memory. Josiah and I both took time off work. We sat together, cried together, and napped a lot. Emotionally, we were exhausted. Physically, I was exhausted too. I didn’t know this before, but a miscarriage isn’t one momentary event – it lasts for days and sometimes even weeks as the body clears out all signs of the life it was growing. Add pregnancy hormones into the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

In the middle of all of this, my sister was in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Months prior, I had offered to host a baby shower for her. We hadn’t announced our pregnancy to our families yet and I wanted my sister to be able to truly celebrate her day without worrying about how her joy could hurt me, so I took the maximum dose of the pain killers I had and proceeded with the event as planned. My sister is very kind and she obviously would have understood if I had to change the shower plans, but my hormone overloaded brain could not process any alternate plans. The only real options I saw were to cancel the shower entirely or fake it for a few hours – I chose the latter. 

ii.

It took a little while to heal, but after several months, we realized how much we (still) wanted to have a baby. We started trying again and I found out I was pregnant in early December — the same week I was supposed to deliver from the previous pregnancy. This time, I bought a little onesie from the store, Indigo, that read “I’m told I like hockey” and wrapped it up for Josiah. 

With hesitation, we celebrated again. 

My estimated due date was mid-August. I am a classical singer by profession and December is notoriously busy for concerts and events. At 7 weeks pregnant, I was waiting off stage for a Christmas concert performance when I felt a familiar cramping sensation in my lower abdomen.  I couldn’t verbalize my fears without breaking down entirely, so I pushed my worries aside, walked out onto the stage, and sang a song about a baby in a manger, as I contemplated if I was losing my own baby at the same time. Many might argue that I should have just left and not performed, but those five minutes of singing gave me a beautiful escape. While I sang, I got lost in the song and actually felt happy and at peace. After the performance, I left the concert early and drove home with tears streaming down my face. The cramping quickly turned to bleeding and the next morning, my mother-in-law drove me to the hospital. Josiah doesn’t travel that often, but he happened to be in Tennessee for a few days — just terrible timing. At the hospital, the doctors ran ultrasounds and blood work. I was told I lost the baby — again.

Josiah returned the onesie. We mourned together a second time.   

The second loss was not easier than the first. I felt like my first wounds had been ripped open again and I had to heal for two losses. Two miscarriages in the same year is hard to process, so I named the babies we never got to hold. I needed to acknowledge them in some way – remember their brief existence. I named my first Ella because it means “little girl” and she was only ever little.  I named the second Oliver. The name popped into my head and it seemed to fit with Ella, so it stuck.  I wish I had a better reason than that. Both babies were too small to know gender for sure, but just because they were small doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. This is also when I started to seek out other stories of mothers who had miscarried. I needed to know the pain was survivable — that others had walked the path I was on and made it out alive with their heart intact. I read blog posts (some helpful, some definitely not) and I read a book by Samantha Evans called “Love Letters to Miscarried Moms.” If you are going through a miscarriage or if you know someone who is, I highly recommend the book. 

After the second miscarriage, Josiah and I went to One Fertility in Burlington. We became willing pin cushions, as the doctors performed multiple tests on both of us.  At one appointment, I counted 17 different vials of blood taken from my arm. I didn’t care though because each test brought us closer to a reason. We wanted answers and we would give up any amount of blood to get them. The good news and the bad news is that everything came back mostly normal.  I was put on a thyroid medication and given a hormone called progesterone, but the doctors could see no obvious reason for my two losses. 

iii.

In early August 2016, I found out I was pregnant again for a third time. The test came back positive the same week I was supposed to deliver from the last pregnancy – again. This baby was due in April 2017 and now we had the fertility clinic on our side. At 5.5 weeks, I had my first ultrasound and everything looked normal. We booked an appointment for another ultrasound at 6.5 weeks. I felt good, maybe even happy, as we went in for the second ultrasound, fully expecting to see that little flicker of a heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. The ultrasound technician was silent as she scanned me. She asked only one question: had I experienced any bleeding? No, the answer was no. I felt good — no cramping. No bleeding. But maybe that didn’t matter? The doctor informed us that the ultrasound did not look normal, but she wanted more tests to compare my results. At 7 weeks, we went for the third ultrasound. 

They couldn’t find the baby. 

I was told I miscarried again. This time, there were no warning signs like cramping or blood, but it didn’t matter. The cramping and bleeding started shortly after we left the appointment, just like the doctor said it would. Josiah spent hours holding me as my body cleared out the life inside me for a third time. We cocooned ourselves in our bed, exhausted from pain and sadness. As the cramping began to subside, my sister called and, without knowing our news, she announced that she was pregnant. Of all 365 days in the year, we were given the same due date. I hung up the phone and wept. 

We named our baby John.

At a fertility clinic, the system post-miscarriage is a little more involved than a regular doctor’s office. The doctors watch you much more closely as your body attempts to return to normal.  There are weeks of bloodwork and follow-up appointments. We met with the doctor and despite having three ultrasounds in the first trimester, they couldn’t find any reason for the miscarriage.  We were told that we could keep trying or we could look in to IVF (in vitro fertilization).

iv.

After I recovered (physically and emotionally) we decided to keep trying as we looked into IVF.  IVF is a whole other blog post in itself. There are a lot of hormones, needles, appointments, and other procedures — not to mention it is also very expensive. As my due date from the previous pregnancy approached, can you guess what happened? If you guessed “positive pregnancy test” — you’re right!  My body, apparently, is like clockwork in the most frustrating way. 

After three unexplained miscarriages, a positive pregnancy test is no longer a thing of joy — it’s a source of anxiety. There was no fanfare with this announcement. Thirty seconds after the two lines appeared on the pregnancy test, I walked over to Josiah and told him the news. I called the fertility clinic and started the testing process — again. At just over 5 weeks, some of the blood results were questionable, so Josiah and I decided to reach out to some family and friends for prayer. We had an ultrasound at 5.5 weeks where we saw a little flicker of a heartbeat. The tiny little pixels on the screen flickering was the most beautiful sight I’d seen in a while. We returned two weeks later and saw a bigger baby with a stronger heartbeat. The baby was measuring a little small, but we started to hope. Our baby’s due date was in December 2017. 

In my 9th week, I woke up in the night with unfortunately familiar pain. Contraction-like cramps wreaked havoc on my abdomen. The heating pad became my lifeline as the pain intensified and the bleeding increased. Josiah sat with me again — unable to take the pain away, but refusing to leave my side. There are some questions you never even consider having to answer. What do you do with a 9-week old baby in the palm of your hand at 4 in the morning? At 9 weeks, a baby is the size of a grape, cherry, or a cocktail olive — depending on which week-by-week pregnancy site you’re following. All the organs are there — the heart is beating and there’s even a tongue with tiny taste buds! But in that moment. I knew it was over. I felt numb as I cleaned my hand and flushed the toilet. The ultrasound later that morning only confirmed what we already knew – the baby was gone.

We named our baby Hazel because it means “God sees.” 

So what now?

We had our follow-up appointment recently. We’ve been encouraged to look into IVF again. I don’t know what we’ll do — we haven’t decided yet. Four losses in a row is a lot to process, but IVF is a big decision too. 

There’s a story in the Bible in the book of Daniel about 3 brothers — Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. The brothers refuse to bow down and worship an idol the king has made.  When the king confronts the brothers, he threatens to throw them into a furnace, but the brothers still refuse to bow. They state that they believe God can save them from the fire, but if not, they will still never bow to the idol. 

But if not.  Those are powerful words.

They’re saying that even if nothing goes according to plan, they will serve the Lord faithfully.  I long for faith like that, but I find it hard to trust when there are so many unanswered questions.  I know the ending of the story with the furnace, but I can’t see my own ending yet. The brothers were thrown into the fire — and the fire was made extra hot just because the king was ticked off.  When the guards looked into the furnace though, they saw four men walking around.  Only three brothers were thrown into the flames. The Lord met them in the fire.  Stunned and amazed, the king let the brothers out of the furnace — unharmed.  God saved brothers in the end — just not at all in the way the brothers had planned. 

I had a very different plan in mind for my life.  It certainly did not involve a miscarriage, let alone four.  I don’t have a happy ending to share with you — there’s no plot twist at the end with a pregnancy announcement or some other epiphany that rectifies all the pain we’ve dealt with over the last two years, but I think my story is still worth sharing. Unfortunately, I’m not alone in my miscarriage experience. 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage but no one talks about it. I’m making an attempt to change that.  I’m sharing my story so you can feel comfortable sharing yours too. 

You are not alone. 

I know it’s hard to verbalize the conflicting emotions. The doubts. The questions. The all-encompassing sorrow that threatens to drown you. But find someone to talk to. Find a friend who will sit with you in your sorrow. Dear friends, don’t try to fix anything — you can’t fix this with any combination of words or actions, but you can be present. Feel the pain with us. Just sit. It’s uncomfortable, I know, but please avoid all placating comments like: “It’s for the best,” or “God has a plan,” or any sentence that begins with the words “At least…”

None of these words are helpful — I promise you. 

The words “I’m so sorry for your loss” speak more than any speech on “God’s will” ever could.  Keep it honest. Keep it simple. 

There’s a story in a book called “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie tells the story of a train trip with her father when she is a child. Corrie has a lot of questions and she becomes frustrated with her father when he refuses to give her answers. Now, Corrie’s questions and my questions are very different, but the father’s response is still applicable. Corrie’s father uses an analogy of a suitcase to answer her big questions. He asks if Corrie will carry their suitcase off the train. She replies that she cannot because the suitcase is too heavy for her. Her father says it’s the same way with our heavenly father. Some things — some questions and answers — are too big for us to carry. So we have to trust that He will carry it for us. 

So I wait and trust. I’m forced to wait, really. I don’t know how our story will end, but trust in the God who does know. I pick up the same necklace every morning and put it around my neck as a reminder of the faith I strive for.

But if not.

I wear those words over my heart until finally — slowly — they start to sink in. 

I wrote a novel and thought it was time to tell you

I wrote a novel. Three years ago I started writing it. Two years ago I finished. Today I decided to tell you. 

I've been meaning to tell you for awhile. But I was waiting... waiting for something bigger, for something more exciting. I wanted to tell you I had a huge publishing deal in New York City, a fancy literary agent, and a good shot at making it on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

My goal was to be twenty-years-old and utterly established. I had dreams and goals and a 5-step plan. I told God I would never self-publish. I told God I would only release my book if I made it to the top. Shooting for excellence, you know? I decided anything aside from the best would be simply considered as mediocrity. 

It took me two years to realize otherwise. The past few years I have been relentlessly querying literary agents in New York City. I would find the most popular young adult authors in the bookstore, then trace their literary agent's name and publisher who was listed on the back cover. I'd go home and query them, silently begging them to validate me as a writer and human being. I thought if someone well-known accepted my writing, then I must be worth something, too.

I was rejected over 50 times. Rejection letter after rejection letter landed in my inbox. Each one was kind, offering encouragement to try again at another time, or informing me that my story just didn't fit what they were looking for.

In the beginning, I used the rejection as fuel to send more letters, to tighten my writing, to take the time to pray about the right agent—who would surely send my novel to the top of the publisher's list.

But no matter what I did, I continued to be rejected.

Was I a bad writer? Should I not pursue writing fiction? Should I stick to journalism, or hand-lettering, or maybe move on to working at McDonald's?  

I thought I was only worth something as a writer if I was on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

God was slowly, kindly, tenderly teaching me something else. It took me two years to learn that the validity of my writing and the definition of my worth are not tied to a fancy literary agent or a publishing house in New York. 

So now, after years of telling God otherwise, I have decided to self-publish my novel. 

I had to get to the point where publishing it myself didn't feel like settling. It doesn't feel like settling anymore. It feels like the most exciting prospect of my life. 

My book used to be about becoming known. I can sincerely tell you it's not about that anymore. I'd like to start small, taking the hours and days and months and years I have spent on this story, and quietly offering it out into the world. 

Maybe it'll just be my mom and my sister and my best friend who read it. But that's okay. Because the lessons I have learned these past three years—that my worth and my writing are not determined by what anyone says or thinks—well, those lessons mean far more to me than getting on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

I haven't given up hope on that, though. But it's certainly not the driving force for why I write. It used to be. Not anymore.

Soon my novel will be released into the world. I'm petrified and elated and grateful that God has been so kind to me, quietly molding me into someone who recognizes her worth. 

I don't have a hard release date for the book yet. This is all very new to me, but I'll make sure to keep you informed as I continue in this process. This is what I can tell you for now: my book is titled Come Find Me, Sage Parker, and is a contemporary young adult novel. 

I cannot wait to share my words with you. I've been waiting three years. I'll try my best to wait a little longer. 

A piece of truth for you (and a free printable)

It's been almost a month since I finished school for the summer. Entering the summer has brought forth both excitement and relief to be finished papers, exams, and assignments. But for me this summer has also opened some wounds that feel fresh and raw and achy, which has allowed me to enter a period of healing.

Fear is a constant struggle for me. Even, two years ago, when I started a concept called The Year of No Fear, I still consistently felt afraid. This summer I am focusing on breathing truth into my core, which often circles around to embedding scripture and words Jesus says deep inside of me.

This hunt for truth has revealed to me what the definition of truth really is. St. Augustine said, "All truth is God's truth". If that's the case, I'm starting to recognize just how many things point back to God. 

It has almost become a sort of scavenger hunt. I get into my car in the morning, put my sunglasses on, and search for truth. What will be true today? I think. What truth will I find that will point me back to God? 

When I search for truth, I end up finding it. Sometimes I find it in people and places I never even thought to look. 

"The truth will set you free," Jesus said. And of course he's right. But I'm learning it can hurt to get there.

Today, on Mother's Day, we gave each woman in my church this print I painted. I wanted to also share it with you. I wonder how you are today. I wonder how you are this summer. I wonder how, even when the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping and the sun is beating down on your shoulder blades, if maybe you feel some sadness entangled within all of that too. 

But no need to fear.

Here you go. 

We can breathe in truth together. 

The 5 things my professor taught me today

 

Tomorrow marks my last day of my first year of college. It's funny: the feelings I have today versus the feelings I had in September. September, I was nauseous; today, I am nostalgic. The difference is enormous.

I'm writing this today so I don't forget. My digital storytelling professor just finished her final lecture with our class, and the words she said to us made me feel a range of different emotions. I'd like to make a small flip book of all of her phrases, so on the days I feel low, I can read them and remember. (She once said, "In the times you feel low, you must find the things that won't take you down any lower.")

Instead, I'll place them here for us both.

Drink in silence.

She looked at the class as she said this. She is a tall South African woman, with a calm, lilting voice and a gentle spirit. She smiles often and thanks the class regularly for our contribution.

"Drink in the silence," she said again. "When it is the middle of the night and you wake up, just you and the darkness, pause for a moment. Drink in your own thoughts, and the wonder of life. Think about all the things you'd like to do, so when you wake up you can start doing them."

Wake up with purpose.

"When you wake up in the morning," she said, "Do not think, 'Why do I have to get up today?' Instead, think about your purpose. Find a purpose; choose a goal. If you have a goal, there is no excuse for you not to get up out of bed. If you have a purpose and a goal everyday of your life, I promise you, each night you will fall into bed tired, exhausted from your purposeful day."

Practice the art that makes you feel alive.

Immediately I thought of the hundreds of pages of fiction I've written, chapters of secrecy I've stashed deep in my computer. I feel alive when I write fiction, and poetry, and people's stories.

"Always practice the art that makes you feel alive and that allows you to express the life you have as a human being," she said, smiling. "Whether that's playing music, or drawing, or acting, or writing, or singing. We don’t do these things to become Shakespeare or Beethoven or someone famous. We do these things because they make us come alive."

When things go wrong, contribute to change. 

She spoke about this one person she knew who complained often, but never seemed to try and change the things he was complaining about. I thought of myself immediately when she said it: do I complain and leave it at that? I don't want to be satisfied when something is mediocre. I want to be an agent of change.

"When something goes wrong," she said, "Don’t just complain about it. Do something about it. Do something about the things that frustrate you." 

(I think that's where some of the best stories come from. People doing something about the things that frustrated them.)

Surround yourself with courageous people.

This was my favourite phrase of hers this semester. She's a strong believer in courage -- and oh, so am I.

"Identify courageous people and surround yourself with them," she said. "They will say or do things that will help you be courageous when you need it most. Forget about popular people, and wealthy people, and influential people. Instead, make sure you have courageous people in your life. Take note of them and tell their stories to everybody."

I am excited about my first year of college. I have loved many moments, gathered new skills, and met kind people. My brain has been like a sponge, soaking in information at rapid speed.

But this professor was the most impactful for me. Before I left today, I thanked her for the final time.

"Do it all, Aliza," she told me. "Write more fiction and poetry. Publish four books. Go places and write from there, make more art, and figure out a way to blend all of the things you love together."

My steps were light even as I bounded out of the building and into the April rain. No one had quite told me that before.

I never realized it was something I needed to hear.

Holy Week: Jesus is going to die on Friday

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Jesus is going to die on Friday. 

That's what I keep thinking.

You can go through twenty-two Holy Weeks, and yet each time Palm Sunday comes around you grapple with a gaping, gasping, afresh realization: Jesus is going to die on Friday.

I think about it again and my heart slips into my lungs, making it hard to breathe. It's the beginning of Holy Week, which tends to feel both reverent and loose — as if I'm teetering on the edge of a very large cliff, staring down at my miseries and burdens, all the while knowing the Saviour of the world is deep in the midst of saving me.

We were handed his execution date a long time ago. We break bread and remember him, but this week he's dying all over again. We know Sunday is coming and that there is hope, but Friday comes first and my mourning has already begun.

I mourn my faithlessness.

I mourn my pride.

I mourn my denial of him -- and not just three times like his dear friend, Peter -- but more, so many more. He is my Lord and my Saviour and there are innumerable times where I have cast him aside. Holy Week brings that all back to me.

It is here, during these days, where I am most aware of how utterly weak my fickle human flesh is.

I could've been the girl to sing hosanna and five days later yell crucify him. I could've waved a branch like a flag in praise of him, only to turn my back when the nighttime came. I could've loved him on Palm Sunday but left him on Friday along with all of his friends.

I am a runner. I get scared when times get hard. I deny, I betray — and most certainly I run away. And yet what causes me the most grief is the understanding that he knows all of this, and still chooses to have nails pummelled into the beautiful hands which formed me.

Jesus is going to die on Friday.

For a girl he loves madly, a girl who doesn't deserve him. And yet he wants me, and suffers for me, and forgives me over and over again.

I watched the sun set last night and thought, "this is God in all his glory." On Friday he'll die, and this will be God in all his glory.

On Sunday he'll rise again. And this will indeed be God in all his glory.

I realize how desperately I love him. And I pray I'll love him even more.

"To make of his story something that could neither startle, nor shock, nor terrify, nor excite, nor inspire a living soul is to crucify the Son of God afresh." -- Dorothy Sayers