Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Authentic Beauty

Here is an excerpt from a book I recently received called Authentic Beauty by Leslie Ludy. It is so well written I really wanted to share it. It's really long, but it's beautiful. It's Leslie telling about falling in love with her Prince (Jesus Christ).

He was someone I had known for years. He had been a close family friend. He had many appealing qualities, but I had never really thought about him in a romantic way. It was true that he had a sensitive and tender side that I had seen on a few occasions. But he was also extremely passionate about truth, and I felt that sometimes he came across a little too strong on points. To be honest, he intimidated me. It also seemed that he was a little too involved with "church stuff". When I thought of him, I was reminded of Sunday school lessons with flannel Bible story characters or gold offering plates---this was not exactly the atmosphere for true love!

He was one of those people with a piercing gaze that can see straight into the depths of your soul. Because of this, I had gone out of my way to avoid him for the past few years. For some time now my life had been a chaotic mess of compromise and confusion. I didn't want him to see what I had become. If he found out what I had done, I was sure he would sternly reprimand me and remind me that it was too late for me to ever discover anything more. But I soon realized I was very, very wrong about him.

I found him waiting for me by the apple trees near my back gate one day as I headed out for a morning walk. I was startled to see him there, surprised that after all these years and all the times I had ignored him, he still wanted to spend time with me. I gave him a tentative glance, and he smiled at me---a tender intimate smile that made my heart lurch in spite of itself. I quickly looked away.

"Can I walk with you?" he asked in a gentle voice. I nodded, still avoiding his gaze, and he fell into step beside me. We made out way in silence for a while, listening to the occasional chatter of a squirrel or high-pitched chirp of a robin. I kept my eyes on the gravel path at my feet.

"I missed you," he told me simply. Though it was obvious to both of us that I was the one who had put the distance between us, there was no hint of accusation in his tone. I bit my lip and nodded again, unsure what to say in response. We walked a little farther, and I realized his presence was both refreshing and comforting. I could feel his tender eyes watching me, silently telling me how important I was to him, though I could not figure out why. Nothing else was said during the rest of our time together that day, but I sensed that something more was about to happen between us. I just wasn't sure if I was ready.

Our friendship slowly grew. The more time I spent with him, the more I realized how utterly different he was from any man I had ever encountered. In him, there were none of the sex-hungry glances I had received from the guys at school, not a trace of the flirtatious teasing that had always surrounded me, and not a strain of the seductive charms I had grown so accustomed to in men. But somehow I knew that he loved me. That he deeply desired me. That he found me beautiful. I hardly dared to hope that I had finally found the one man that could fulfill those long-forgotten dreams of mine. Even if he could be my prince, I was sure I had found him too late.

"This is completely crazy," I told myself aloud one night as I tossed and turned in bed. "He wouldn't want someone like me." I was convinced that his love for me would shrivel up in a second if he truly understood how many mistakes I had made. I didn't think I could risk becoming attached to him. I had been hurt so many times that I didn't know how much more pain my heart could handle. I had another worry. He didn't live his life the way anyone else did. He stood out like a neon billboard on a lonely desert highway. He was mocked and misunderstood by quite a few people in my life. I knew he would not fit in to my world, would not be accepted by my friends, and would not be at home in most of my surroundings. How could I possibly love someone like this? What did he expect me to do---walk away from everything just to be with him?

I wrestled with my fears for weeks. He never pressured me to make a decision. He simply reminded me, in a hundred different ways, that he loved me and that he longed for me. He was infinitely patient, tender, and sensitive...the kind of prince I had dreamed of for as long as I could remember. After seeing the real thing, I couldn't believe I had fallen for such poor substitutes. But at the same time, I couldn't help wondering whether or not he might just be too good to be true.

Over time, gradually, like the moving of the hour hand, my guard came down. No matter how many times I pulled away from him, his love remaining unmoving, like a majestic, unwavering mountain overlooking a tumultuous ocean. I had even told him in detail, with hot tears flashing in my tormented eyes, exactly what I had done with my life, heart, and body over the past years. But I sensed that instead of judging me, he was inwardly weeping over every piece of my shattered heart. Coming face-to-face with this kind of infinite kindness left me stunned.

One morning, as I was sitting alone on a bench in the crisp spring air, I felt him softly approach me. He didn't have to speak. I took a long look into the unfathomable depths of love in his eyes, and I melted. With tears coursing down my face like a cascading waterfall, I fell into his arms and told him passionately that my heart belonged to no one but him.
At that moment, my life, my pursuits, my friends, everything I had built my world around, faded away into nothingness. None of it seemed even remotely important anymore. Nothing mattered now but him.

As I whispered my devotion to him, a brilliant peace crept steadily into my heart and began to quietly mend its broken pieces. His eyes were wet with tears of unspeakable joy. I felt like an eagle gliding freely along the majestic mountain peaks following an afternoon storm. I had finally found my prince. He had gallantly searched for me and rescued me from my horrible dungeon of captivity. He had loved me in spite of my wretched, ugly condition. He had taken the filthy rags I was clothed in and given me the sparkling gown of a beautiful princess. His amazing love had fully revived my shattered, wounded, bleeding heart. And though I knew that now I must sacrifice all I had ever known in order to be with him, there was not a shred of doubt lingering in my mind. It was like giving him a pile of worthless pebbles and receiving a houseful of priceless jewels in return.

I recommend Authentic Beauty for almost any young lady aged 14 and older. Leslie gives wonderful lessons in falling more in love with your Prince.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

May everyone have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!!

Miriam Rebekah and Anna Naomi

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Off Again

Yes, I'm afraid I'll be leaving again. We leave early tomorrow morning to start our long drive, visiting family and friends. I won't be back until January 2nd, so the blog is all yours, Miriam dear!

I hope and pray that each of you have a very merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Garden of Life

*Disclaimer* Although I know that somewhere there is a book or list of different meanings for different flowers. However, I don't know them all, and the attributes I've assigned to different flowers are entirely of my own imagination.

If your life were a garden, what would be growing in it? The Bible tells us that we do indeed "plant" things in our lives. Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." So, what are you growing in the garden of life?

Are the red roses of love growing in your garden? Love that is true, and not self-seeking? What about the white roses of purity? Are they in your life, presenting themselves clean and spotless to the world? Are the carnations of compassion flowering beautifully? Along with them, are the lilies of kindness blooming big and bright?

Walking on, would we find the daffodils of joy cheerfully making your garden a fun, joyful place? Are the pansies of peace placidly providing a calm atmosphere? Are the hyacinths of hope keeping your spirits up, while the lilacs of faith keep your trust in God unwavering?

In the prettiest part of the garden, are the violets of gentleness doing well? And the primroses of patience, ever nearby, are they growing in depth and size? Are the daisies of grace dancing their way trough the garden, not only affecting your poise, but also helping you overlook others' faults? And the bluebells of modesty, are they blooming away, sweet, yet rarely noticed? Likewise, are the buttercups of humility helping all the other lovely flowers by protecting you from become high and haughty?

Close by, are the sunflowers of wisdom sharing their seeds and lessons learned with others? Are the peonies of prudence there as well, helping you know when to speak and when to keep silent? As a necessity to your reputation, are you tending the hydrangeas of honesty carefully? Are the chrysanthemums of justice working to make sure no one is taken advantage of, while the marigolds of mercy work patiently and kindly with those who have done wrong?

No garden would be complete without the gardenias of diligence working hard to get things done. Coupled with the tulips of strength, a lot can be accomplished. Is the wisteria of endurance winding its way around, refusing to give up? What about the orchids of self-control? Are you growing those stronger and stronger?

In the center of the garden, is the goldenrod of the fear and love of the Lord shining brightly and reminding you not to compromise on His commands?

Just as it is important to plant good things in your garden, it is important to guard against the bad things that would try to grow. The devil loves to plant weeds of bitterness, envy, and strife, and send out briers of selfishness, laziness, and deceitfulness. He's always trying to find ways to plant evil little things, that would grow to wreak havoc on your garden. You must be alert, and tend your garden carefully. Pull out the weeds and cut away the briers as soon as you can, to prevent them from taking root and chocking the delicate flowers.

So, how's your garden? Is it a beautifully array of colors, spreading sweet perfume wherever you go, or is it drab and lifeless? Are you tending the garden of your life well?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Party at the Hart's House

Last night we had a very enjoyable party at our house. We had the Lofgren, Olm, and Simon families over. Mrs. Simon and my mother had put together a music party and we children performed Christmas music and some music that wasn't Christmasy but pretty all the same.

After we played our music, we ate food (that seems to coincide with parties for some reason), then we all went outside to play Hide-and-Seek and Freeze Tag in the cold weather. It wasn't too cold, thank goodness! Joel lit a fire for us to warm up at and then he and the boys went to put some entertainment together. About fifteen minutes later, some very pretty fireworks burst into the sky.
After our miniature fireworks show, my pyromaniac brother found some bottlerockets and other odd and ends that just had to be shot off. So we went back to the fire and spent the next half hour lighting off whistling bottlerockets. But lighting them one at a time wasn't fast enough for Joel, so he dumped the whole bucket of fireworks into the fire and everyone ran to safety to watch the mayhem that ensued. After the excitement was over, we soon drifted back up towards the warm house.
The time went faster than any of us realized and soon it was going on eleven o'clock. Little children were starting to get tired and soon we were saying goodbye to all our guests.
Next week we're planning on having the same music party at the Simon's house, so that different relatives who weren't able to come last night will be able to come that night. The Lofgrens won't be able to come, as they will be traveling to see family for the holidays and they will be missed. But we can't keep all our favorite people to ourselves. :)
God bless,
Miriam Rebekah

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Steps to Successful Sewing Part 2

I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to post this second and final part in the Steps to Successful Sewing series. If you haven't yet, read Part 1.

So, you've cut out your dress pieces, and you're ready to begin sewing. If you've never used a sewing machine before, I suggest that before you do anything else, you sew a few practice stitches on a scrap of cloth. Line up the edge of the cloth with the cloth guide (the little thing near the needle and needle plate of the sewing machine that has inch markings on it) and practice sewing in a straight line. Learning to control the machine can be a challenge as well; control the speed with your foot, going as fast as you are comfortable with. If you're barely crawling along, don't despair! I promise you that you'll speed up as you get a little more used to the machine. If you accidentally "race" the machine (put your foot down really fast and making the machine race along) don't worry; you've not done anything other beginners haven't done. Simply take your foot off of the pedal, and try again, going slowly.

Before you begin sewing you're garment, you'll have to wind a bobbin of the same color thread that you're using. Each machine is a little different in this regard, so consult your sewing machine's manual. You'll also need to thread the machine through all sorts of little cracks, up and down, and so on. Your manual should have a detailed diagram of how to do this. If you're unable to figure it out (as I was), ask around among your friends and at church, to see if anyone has used a sewing machine before. Chances are, they'll be someone there who will at least know a little about sewing.

With your machine threaded, and a little knowledge of how to run your machine, you're ready to begin sewing your garment. Before you begin sewing, take a moment to read through your pattern, to kind of see what's in store. This helps figure out some of what you'll be doing, and gives you hope that after completing each step, your garment will turn into something beautiful. = ) Then, start at step 1 and work through it. Once completed, go to step 2, then step 3, ect.

If you get stuck and make a mistake, don't stress. Use your handy dandy stitch riper and take out the stitches that messed things up. Read the directions again, and try again. Don't expect to get everything on the first try. When making my first dress, I must have redone almost everything at least once - and sometimes more. Don't get discouraged! If you're really stuck and tears of frustration spring to your eyes, take a break. Leave everything how it is and just walk away. Come back a few minutes or a few hours, or even a few days later and try again. It's amazing how much a fresh perspective can help. If you're still hopelessly stuck, ask for help. If you know a friend who sews, ask her to help you figure things out. If you don't, feel free to email me or search the web. There are many sewing sites out there, and even sewing message boards that may be able to help.

While sewing, you may run into a little terminology that leaves you a little bewildered. Hopefully this will help you decipher it, and figure out what they're wanting you to do.
  • Stay-stitch - This is simply stitching that will help you put the garment together. Your pattern should have arrows showing the direction you are supposed the sew, and where you should sew it.
  • Gather - This is what you do when you attach most sleeves an skirts. First you sew two lines of long (3 1/2 to 4 inch) stitches, leaving long threads wherever you end the stitches. Pining the skirt (for example) to the bodice, matching notches and dots, separate the long threads, so that you're holding one strand from each line of stitching. Gently pull on the threads. This will make the fabric bunch up. Slide the bunched up fabric to the middle of the stitching, and keep pulling and sliding until skirt fits to the bodice, matching dots. Try to keep the gathers fairly evenly distributed. Repeat to the other half of the stitching. Generally, you stop and start again with the gathering stitches at each side seam. I know that it sounds confusing, but it's really not all that hard. Sometimes the pattern will refer to this as "easing". Once your skirt or sleeve is gathered to fit where it's supposed to fit, sew the pieces together. Once everything is nicely sewn together, you can finally cut off those long and annoying gathering threads!
  • Press - When the pattern tells you to "press" something, it's merely telling you to iron it flat, so that it's not wrinkled, and the seam lays flat. You should usually press each seam after you're done sewing it. Pressing while you're sewing helps the garment look nice and well-made.
  • Baste - Before sewing seams, patterns will often tell you to "baste" them. This usually refers to sewing the pieces together with a long stitch, so that you can make sure that they'll fit together. Another way to do this is to use pins to pin the pieces together. However, when you're sewing, don't sew over the pins or you could break your pin or your sewing machine needle, or both. Whenever you're almost to a pin while sewing, pause for a second and pull the pin out before proceeding.
  • Finish Seams - This is a good thing to do to ensure that your garment stays together and beautiful with frayed strings hanging all over the place. Basically, you "finish" every seam that you sew. If you're blessed with a serger, sew the edges of the seams together, serging the edges nicely so that they won't fray. If you don't have a serger, don't worry. You can still finish the seams nicely. Set your sewing machine to the zig-zag stitch. Then, trim your seam so it's not ragged, and zig-zag over the edge of the cloth. This will finish it nicely
  • Back Stitch - This is something you should do at the beginning and end of each line of stitching; doing this makes sure that the seam won't unravel. Most machines have a button that you hold down to stitch backwards, then you let it go to continue stitching forwards. This will ensure that your garment will stay together!
I'm sure I've left some terms out, so if anyone wants to alert me to other confusing ones, feel free! Also, if anyone is confused by any other terms that I may think of as simple, because I've sewn for a while, let me know! I'll do my best to explain them to you.

Sewing is a wonderful activity that produces a beautiful result. Things to remember: Don't stress - take breaks if you're getting frustrated; keep your stitch riper always at your side; have fun, relax, and enjoy making something to wear or decorate! Take risks; don't be afraid to try something, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck. Sometimes what seems to be the simplest thing can actually be the hardest to understand!

If you have learned the basic sewing techniques, yet don't quite feel up to tackling a more complicated pattern on your own, Sense and Sensibility has photo instructions online to help you through each step of your Regency or other era dress. They also have video clips on the same page. So if you don't know of sewing classes that you can take around where you live, learn how to do things online!

I hope this post as helped you. Now I need to go and get back to the sewing I need to finish before Christmas. Happy sewing to you!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sing Unto the Lord

"Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!" ~ Psalm 147:1

Today the Capitol City Singers, a homeschool choir based in Montgomery, had their final Christmas concert, the first one I was able to be in. We sang in the state Capitol rotunda, and at a nursing home. I am very blessed to have this opportunity to learn to train my voice to praise the Lord. I'm also enjoying learning to sing harmony, as I'm an alto. It's also neat to have choir with many friends, including the Harts!

"Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts." ~ Psalm 105:2

"I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." ~ Psalm 104:33

"Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise in the assembly of the saints." ~ Psalm 149:1

Yes, Christmas is almost here, with the sights and sounds all around us. We hope that you all are having a wonderful season, giving thanks for the "birth of our King."

"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with music and song." ~ Psalm 95:1

Friday, December 08, 2006

More on Motherhood

Helping out at my sister's house this past week has taught me more about about the wonderful, and challenging, task of being a mother. I know, however, that I am far from an expert on this subject; helping out for one week hardly makes me qualified! I'm sure that a lot simply can't be learned, until one is herself a mother. I've learned quite a bit though, even reading a parenting book while here! =)

Motherhood is truly one of the hardest, yet most rewarding jobs around. To a mother is given the task of running a house, teaching and caring for children, and doing numerous little things often while operating on very little sleep. Hers is the task to comfort a newborn as he or she wakes for the 4th time during the night. Hers is the job of training a toddler to obey. Hers is the job of teaching her children right from wrong, about daily life, and for preparing them for the day they will one day have their own family. Her job is often a thankless one. Who notices the toys she continually picks up and puts away, or the crumbs she's forever sweeping up? Children rarely ever thank her for feeding, clothing, bathing, and loving them. What child ever thanks their mother for the discipline she gives, although it is essential in training them to be a responsible adult? Yet, she does it, often to the point fo exhaustion. And her reward is the joy of seeing her children grow, hearing their giggles, receiving their hugs and kisses, and the smiles as they go through the day.

No, motherhood isn't all cuddly cooing babies or girls dressed up in ribbons and bows. Certainly, there are many rewarding times, but the majority of it is just plain, hard work. I'd like to think that when I (Lord willing) become a mother, that things will somehow be easier and go smoothly for me. I'd like to think that I'll always be able to keep an impeccable house, or never have a stubborn child that's hard to train. It'd be nice, but I know that it's unrealistic. Certainly, I should strive for the best, yet I know that the house will often most likely be in disarray, or they'll be a screaming child I just don't know what to do with. Yet, I can honestly say that I look forward to it. If God wills that I get married and have a family, I'll be more than happy. However before then, I still have much to learn.

I'm learning that I can't do it on my own. I'm learning that I've got to rely on God for strength. I'm learning to look past seeming failures and keep going. I'm learning to have a servant's heart; to know that most of my hard work will go unnoticed, yet to go on, knowing that God sees all.

It amazes me how today's world is slow to give the honor due a mother. If you're a cook at a restaurant, you are acclaimed, but what about all the meals a mother makes for her family? If you're a maid, it's okay in the world's eyes, but what about the big responsibility of keeping your home clean and inviting? If you're a Nan or teacher you are respected, yet a mother teaches and cares for children all day long, and a mother's training is the most important that a child can receive. You could be a beautician, but then what about the joy and love you feel as you dress and brush your daughter's hair? Being a full-time wife and mother is often looked down upon by today's society, but I am convinced that their job is one of the most important in shaping the world that we live in. A mother is raising the next generation! Wouldn't you rather care for your own child, then leave a stranger to do it most of the time? The hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world.

Mothers aren't the only important ones in shaping their children's lives. Fathers are equally important. I'm seeing more and more the wisdom of God when He made a family to be one with two parents. A father and mother work together, supporting each other, figuring out the best way to train their children, and presenting a united front to the world. After a long, tiring day of caring for children it is so refreshing for the mother to see the father come in the door; to finally be able to carry on an adult conversation after hearing childish voices all day; to have someone to love and honor, to be the head of the home. Without a father, how would a boy learn what true manhood is? Without a father, how would a daughter find the love she needs from a man? Sadly, today fathers are undermined as well, made fun of, or thought unnecessary. Yet, a family with both a mother and father is the kind of family God intending, providing balance and security.

I won't be a mother for many more years, but I honestly am looking forward to it. I know that it will be more work than I can imagine, but I can't wait. No, my goal in life is not to have babies, as some have so disgustedly commented. My goal in life is to love God and serve Him forever. However, one of the ways I can do this, I believe, is to be what God made women to be - a mother. No, I'm not spending all of my time dreaming about motherhood, but I am preparing for this great task. I'm learning how to run a household by helping out at home. I'm getting experience with children by helping with nieces and nephews or babysitting back home. Yes, I have to admit, it will be kind of nice to go home and not be responsible for the care of children almost all day. It will be nice to sleep through the night without hearing a little voice at my door or a wail in the dark. It will be nice to play games a little more advanced than Go Fish! and Candyland, but I will miss the little ones. I'll miss snuggling up with James and Sara as they listen spellbound to a story. I'll miss cuddling Lisa Beth and rocking her while singing a lulaby. I'll miss having a little one to scoop up for a hug whenever I need one, or to tickle and hear a delighted giggle.

Yes, the jobs of mother and father are indeed extremely important. I don't fully understand every aspect yet, but I do know much of the hard things involved. To all of you mothers and fathers, and especially to my own mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law, and sister-in-law and brother, thank you. Thank you for all you do, big and small. Thank you for all the little things that often go unnoticed. Thank you for the work you're doing to train the next generation. May God bless you abundantly for the great work you are doing!

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children are a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in ones youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." ~ Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Modesty Survey Join The Modesty Survey

The Rebelution is starting an exciting new project, The Modesty Survey. It will be exciting to see the results they come up with. Why don't you read more...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Elisabeth Maria Coble

Below are pictures of my beautiful niece! I dressed her up in a pretty dress that Michele passed along to Maria. Lisa Beth is such a sweetie!

My 3rd niece, Lisa Beth, born on November 27th, 2006

She looked the part of a regular southern belle!

I'm enjoying my time here. It has it's challenges, but also it's joys. I of course really enjoy cuddling Lisa Beth most of all!