NaNoWriMo 2017

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. I always thought it was called National November Writing Month, but that’s what I get for creating an account 4 years ago and never logging in again.

The Shame.

I know. You don’t have to remind me. I’ve been anything except for a writer the past few months – years, even. I asked a dear friend of mine to pester me about writing and I haven’t replied to his message from a few weeks ago because I haven’t written much of anything since then.

I know.

Back to the point. On October 16th, I gave myself a writing exercise to introduce my friends on Facebook the way that I would in a novel. Since then I’ve (mostly) written one introduction per day. Although it’s a small challenge, with my current work schedule and lifestyle, it’s all I’ve been able to muster up. That is, until today.

I finally dusted off my NaNoWriMo account, changed my region from the Triangle Area of North Carolina to Antelope Valley (I really haven’t logged on since I created it.) and introduced my latest novel concept. Over the past four years, the system has sent me 243 messages that I get to sort through and I haven’t utilized it one bit.

GOOD NEWS!

It’s almost November! What a perfect time to actually start writing again. Not only that, but I’ve discovered that there’s a group of authors in my area that meet-up weekly to write. I will keep you updated on how that goes; after all, we do live in Antelope Valley so I will be pleasantly surprised to find other humans gathering together for something fun.

I don’t know how I feel about my latest novel idea. I created it a couple weeks ago when I got tired of writing and deleting new content for an old story I haven’t been able to scratch the surface of in a while. (Hint: Never assume you’ll remember your outline if you plan it all in your head as a teenager. Your adult self will not remember anything important at all.) So, as long as I don’t get murdered at this writers meeting, you will hopefully be hearing more about this project soon!

 

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My husband making a creepy face while I tried to look cute

 

In other news; My husband is fantastic, we’ve been married for more than 9 months now(!), I still love my job as an ESL tutor, the kids are so much fun, it’s my last semester of the Bachelor’s program for ministry school AND I’ve been able to expand my doTERRA collection a great deal, thanks to my supportive mother. Not to mention I’m up WAY past my bedtime, so I best be going.

Sleepily,

Tori Lynn Cortez

 

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Inspiration

 

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Angeles National Forest

 

I couldn’t honestly call myself an author, though I always will be at heart. Inspiration is fickle and often do we part.

Perhaps the downside of happiness is that it doesn’t draw me to the pen, but with every lesson in life, I will return again.

I once dreamt of worlds without end, but it seems that life doesn’t cease to happen.

From time passed I have learned, the morning doesn’t favor the artist, the light of day makes writing the hardest.

Perhaps it is the moon, the stars and the quiet, that bring out the characters and the stories they’re hiding.

Though to be an author, I must be a writer, to my writing I return, and I’ll always be a fighter.

Tori Lynn Cortez

Santa Paula – Ventura

 

Travel time again! I must give a little back story to this trip in particular; When my husband and I got married, we were in a tight place financially, Johnny was out of time off from work and seeking better employment, so our honeymoon was very short. With that being said, we agreed to go on a trip once a month to enjoy our first year of marriage in a spread out way, instead of all at once. Sadly, after I was laid off from my full-time job, it took us a while to get back on our feet, but we finally made it!

Our most recent venture took us to a small Stars Hollow-esque town near Ventura a few weeks ago. Due to the Antelope Valley’s summer heat and our lack of AC at the time, we opted for a much cooler getaway. Santa Paula was the perfect escape from the heatwave, and the small town feel was extremely relaxing. We checked in at the rustic Glen Tavern Inn and settled in to explore our new find. The charming inn was the perfect opening point for our adventure. The small town was home to an Agriculture Museum, an old railroad and a handful of small parks and old town restaurants. Although almost everything in the town seemed to be closed on Mondays, we found a nice little BBQ spot to meet our hunger cleverly called “Best BBQ”. After strolling around the outside of the Agriculture Museum, we decided on dessert at the Irish Pub near the hotel, called Garman’s. To be honest, I’d never been INSIDE a pub before, and after all the movies and shows I’ve seen, I don’t really know what I expected, but it was perfect. It was a quaint little spot, and we had a perfectly delicious bread pudding. Honestly, some of the entrees looked so tasty that I wished we hadn’t already had dinner.

After strolling around the outside of the Agriculture Museum, we decided on dessert at the Irish Pub near the hotel, called Garman’s. To be honest, I’d never been INSIDE a pub before, and after all the movies and shows I’ve seen, I don’t really know what I expected, but it was perfect. It was a quaint little spot, and we had a perfectly delicious bread pudding. Honestly, some of the entrees looked so tasty that I wished we hadn’t already had dinner. At the table across from us, an older couple seemed to have been reunited with their grandson from France, a little further down a family with young children were watching the soccer game on the pub’s giant flat screen.

On Tuesday, after having breakfast at Vince’s Coffee Shop, which turned out to be a country/Mexican breakfast cafe (Not what I would’ve expected from the name, but it was good), we headed out to Ventura.

What I’d have to say about Ventura could be summed up in the word refreshing. After a short and cold trip to the beach, we found a pretty good (but a little overrated) fish tacos place and then took our food up to the Ventura Cross for an ocean-view tailgate.

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As long as I can remember, the most refreshing times of my life have been nearby a body of water, especially the ocean and this trip was no exception. We found a bunch of other neat spots on our way back, but I think getting away is an essential part of life, at least it always will be for me.

Another side note for any of my natural travelers, if you’re carrying homemade soaps or anything that includes coconut oil, make sure it’s sealed super tight! It has a nice smell, but I would’ve like to keep it all INSIDE of my containers.

Sincerely,

Tori Lynn Cortez

Phoenix

I love traveling. There are few things in my life I enjoy as much as I love to travel, but the action of traveling is a lot different for me now. For one, it usually results in unnerving fatigue, back pain, leg pain and strong emotions as a result of those things – which results in a pretty strong headache for my husband. However, I’ve still found a great deal of joy in traveling, despite how much it can wear on me.

Arizona Sunrise Recently, the opportunity presented itself to surprise one of my husband’s best friends and old roommates for his birthday. We haven’t gotten away for a decent amount of time since our 2-day honeymoon in San Diego, so I was thrilled to take the opportunity.

Since my husband and I currently live in a desert in Antelope Valley, I didn’t think there would be much of a climate change.

I was wrong.

Phoenix is SUPER HOT. Unlike our beloved desert here in the AV, it does not cool down at night. However, it hosts much more of the cacti that you would expect to find in a desert, some well over 10 feet tall. At the last minute, we decided to take the 7-hour drive at 2 am Friday night instead of arriving around that time. I slept on and off through most of the drive but had the wonderful opportunity to pray during the sunrise.

In addition to the surprise element of the trip, I’m grateful we had the time away to realign our focus. Personally, I need that time away every now and then to remember what I’m doing in life and why. The past month or so, I’ve felt overwhelmed by what I’ve not been able to do because of my condition. In reality, I just needed a breather and some good friends to refresh my perspective.

Although Arizona is one of the few places I can think of that’s hotter than Antelope Valley right now, it drew me out of the stupor I’ve been floating in lately. Life doesn’t always come at you in the ways that you would hope, but all we have left is to make the most of what we’ve been given.

The purpose of the trip was to surprise one of my husband’s long-term best friends; Anthony for his birthday. The guys used to be roommates back when we were all single but being married hasn’t kept them from staying close and keeping up – in fact, I’ve found pretty wonderful friendships with their wives as well. These are the kind of memories I want to build, the kind of friendships that every person needs to survive in life.

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Myself, Gabi, and Ashley – Johnny, Anthony, and David

Life is challenging – but that’s no reason not to enjoy it. I hope from here forward to grow and thrive, to find joy in every curve we face in life.

Sincerely,

Tori Lynn Cortez

Even if Not

Sometimes the old lessons ring truer in the future…

Thoughts from Hazel

I have to admit, my faith is weaker than it should be.  I always wonder why, though.  For if I am certain that something is within God’s will, my faith is through the roof.  However, if it is something I am even slightly iffy on, my faith is more likely through the floor instead.  Until recently, that is…

Daniel 3:17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

This morning, I was blown away at their faith.  “Even if he does not…”  They were prepared to face death, yet they stood in faith.  It didn’t appear to go unnoticed either.

Daniel…

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Once Upon a Lifetime


Once upon a time old friend,

Our roads were intertwined

Once upon a time 

Our past was redefined

Once upon a time my friend

Our stories did rewind

Once upon a time

What was yours was mine

Once upon a time back then

Our friends were all the same

Once upon a time

We swore we’d never change

Once upon a time to them

We’d be close all the same

Once upon a time

We said we’d never drift away

Once upon a lifetime

We were all caught by surprise

When once upon a time

Our friendships slowly died. 

“Some Great Thing”

During my 3+ years of campus ministry at both Cerritos College and Antelope Valley College, I’ve come across a common response that has often broken my heart. 

“Do I really have to follow what the Bible says?”

Growing up, I never could’ve imagined that people could think they were following God while completely disregarding his commands. However, this is the state of most people who call themselves christians. If I’d actually counted all the women I’ve studied the Bible with, I’m sure it would be in the hundreds, but I can name every one of the few that actually followed through with obeying Gods call in their life. 

Even inside of a group of people who are following God, it’s so easy to find myself and others not wanting to do the simplest things. Even if you’re reading this post, I’m sure at some point this week you struggled to wake up early enough to have time with God that morning, or brushed it off completely. Yet, I’m sure many of the people in the world who wouldn’t pick up a bible, read and follow it would tell you that they’d die for their faith. 

My only question is; why?

Why is it so much easier to die for something than to live for it?
This evening I found myself reading 2 Kings. One of my favorite passages highlights this very question. 

During the time of the prophet Elisha and the king of Israel Joram, an army commander for the king ofAram was stricken with leprosy. Despite this terrible disease, he had many great victories. 2 Kings 5 highlights his story, as he finds out about a prophet in Samaria that could heal his leprosy. However, when he comes to Elisha, he is less than pleased with the direction he’s given. 

2 Kings 5:10-14 “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

Following the response of many, Naaman, the commander was appalled by the prophet’s simple instructions. He had hoped for an immediate, flashy miracle, but that is not what God gave him. (There is so much incredible symbolism in Elisha’s command – but I will save that for another day) He wanted something easy, dramatic and on his terms. 

However, the voice of reason in this passage comes from his servants; “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”  

Wow. 

How many times do we neglect to follow the simplest instructions in the Bible, yet claim that we would give up our lives for the gospel. My dear friend, giving up your life is most useful and honorable while you are still alive. 

As Naaman’s servant said; “How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

So I leave you with the same reflection I hold in my own hearts. What simple commands of God are you not following because you don’t think they’re great enough for you, or you’re embarrassed because you don’t want other people to know you haven’t been following them?

Think about it, and then change it. If you need any help with this, I’d be more than happy to talk about it further or direct you to someone who is in your area. 

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

To God be the glory,

Tori Lynn Cortez