Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Reading List

Anna's Books

Recently Read:

  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - This play was a little better than the two comedies I read previously, but I still didn't enjoy it all that much. The two lovers act entirely on the spur of the moment, and kiss a little too much! I also did not like how many sexual puns there were in the speeches! However, I probably wouldn't have noticed them except for the explanatory notes that brought them to my attention. I think I'll take a break from Shakespeare, at least for now.
  • When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy - Having recently read When God Writes Your Love Story, I wanted to read the full tale of their beautiful romance, and Miriam was kind enough to let me borrow it. This book beautifully recounts, from both of their prospectives, their growing up turning points, and the circumstances that brought Eric and Leslie together. They started out just being friends, never guessing they'd marry the other until God led them step by step. It was wonderful how involved their families were in each step of the way. This is one of the most beautiful and encouraging true romances! The way they honored God and each other was wonderful!
  • God's Guidance by Elisabeth Elliot - This little book was a joy to read, as all of Elisabeth Elliot's books are! My dad had and recommended it to me. It delved into the promises, conditions, objectives, and means of the ways God has and does work. It was encouraging to read of God's guidance, "a slow and certain light."
  • Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot - I had wanted to read this book for a while, and was thankful for a family friend that let me borrow it. It was so good, I ordered myself a copy to read again! I didn't realize until I began it that it was letters to Elisabeth Elliot's newly engaged daughter so I guess it wasn't exactly intended for a single maiden like me. However, I really enjoyed it and found encouragement in its pages! She calls us to unashamed womanhood, and explores what that means in life and marriage. I'm letting my newly engaged sister borrow my copy, as it probably applies more to her. =)
  • Speaking in Tongues by Larry Christenson - This was a book my mom asked me to read for home education. It answered some of the common questions about speaking in tongues, and was interesting and insightful to read.
  • By Far Euphrates by Deborah Alcock - This historical novel told the story of the Armenian Christian who were persecuted by the Turks in the 19th century. The book was based almost exclusively on true facts (with names changed for protection), as told from a missionary, Ida Mellinger who helped the Armenians in the midst of this tragedy. Their story of steadfast faith in the midst of horrors is inspiring.
  • Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer - This was a well-written biography about the life this great Christian writer. It faithfully told of his life, sad childhood, disillusioned period of atheism, all manner of his writings, his conversion to Christ, marriage to Joy, and eventual death. His life was not perfect, but it was great to see how he rose above obstacles and went on to write great books, including the much-beloved Chronicles of Narnia.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan - I'd started this book before, but had never finished it. Knowing it to be an important classic, I decided to read 30 pages a day for "literature". The book was an old edition, copyrighted 1903 and labeled the "Puritan edition". Some of the formatting was a bit different (it didn't even have chapters!) but I soon got used to it and enjoyed the old language. I now see why this book was often the only one immigrants had besides the Bible. It is a wonderful allegory of the life of a Christian, and has a lot of depth to the characters and discussions. I enjoyed both the account of Christian's journey, and the later pilgrimage of his wife Christiana and their children. Having seen a movie about it and heard "Little Pilgrim's Progress" (a radio drama) over and over again, I enjoyed reading the book!
  • Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris - I can't recommend this book enough! Encouraging, funny, and challenging all at once, this is a must-read. Read my full review here.
  • Enoch's Ghost by Bryan Davis - After finishing the 1st Oracles of Fire series, I looked forward to the second one, and the Harts were kind enough to let us borrow it. Jubilee finished it in one day - that's how exciting it is! Then she let me have it. ;-) I didn't read it right away, because I knew I should finish other books first. =) It was a fun read when I got to it, though! Although I could have easily finished up quickly, I had to spread it out and just read it in small slots when I had the chance. I stayed up a little too late a few nights getting caught up in it though... ;-) He's a masterful storyteller! Some of the things are a little strange - after all, it's SciFi - but it's a great Christian series!
  • The Helper by Catherine Marshall - This was another book my mom wanted me to read, and a favorite of my Grandma Nordholm. It was nice reading it and seeing all the underlining and notations she'd made years ago (she's been dead for 7 years). This book went in depth to explain the role of the Holy Spirit in our daily life and church life, and how "He will meet your every need." It was encouraging, yet at the same time challenging to live a life surrendered to the Lord.
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill - Having grown up hearing about Corrie ten Boom's story and watching the movie, I thought at first that I'd already read the book. But, though I'd read many things about Corrie ten Boom, I'd never read her full story as presented in the book The Hiding Place. It is so powerful! This is a real-life story about God's provision and how, indeed, you can be thankful for everything. Her life of faith and the touching, heartrending story of her sister Betsie will inspire, even as the horrible conditions of the Nazi concentration camps will shock. Because of all she learned through the horrors of prison, Corrie went on to minister to others and bring healing and faith to many.
  • Papa Was a Preacher by Aleyne Porter - This is a delightfully funny book that everyone should read! Written in kind of the same spirit as Cheaper by the Dozen, the antics of these 8 preacher's children will have you laughing along. I, who almost never laugh out loud while reading, actually did once or twice with this book! Big families are so much fun!
  • Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury - I read this as a way to relax over a tiring weekend; thanks to my sister Maria who let us borrow it! It was a beautiful story of two mothers' love, the anguish adoption sometimes causes with having to let go, but the eventual self-sacrificing love of one for her child. It was also a touching story of a young child's faith.
Currently Reading:
  • An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott - This book is well-beloved, and this is probably my 5th or more read-through! Every once-in-a-while I just get a longing to read this one again and get encouragement from Polly.
  • Favorite Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - This is a long book of poems, and you can't read that many of them at a time! They've been enjoyable to read!
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer - It's giving me a lot to think and ponder and pray about!
  • Phyllis Schlafly: The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority by Carol Felsenthal - Having heard a lot about Phyllis Schlafly, I'm enjoying reading the biography of her life.

Miriam's Books

Recently Read:
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens - This was such an wonderful book! I loved it! A tale of greed, prejudice, the haughty aristocracy, jealousy, deceit, and patient love. The influence that money can have on man is shown much through the book. The characters were excellently formed and I got into the pages so much that I would have a different feeling about each character. Anger at the arrogance of the schoolmaster and his pupil, disgust at the the greedy and grasping Mr. Wegg, a sigh of hope for Mr. Rokesmith's success. I highly recommend this!
  • When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy - When I saw this on Anna's list, I decided I wanted to read it again. When she asked to borrow the following book, I asked for this. It was a good reread. The story of their friendship and courtship combined with scripture and good advice for young people.
  • When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy - I went ahead and read this again before letting Anna borrow it. Yes, I do read fast. :) This is a more detailed recounting of the Ludy's life. It begins with the high school days of Eric and Leslie before they knew each other and when they meet. From there, they take you on the journey of their friendship and courtship. It's a beautiful story of God's bringing two people together.
  • Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot - Yet another wonderful book. I think this was the second time I've read this, maybe third. It helped me to re-evaluate my beliefs and views on certain subjects and make sure that I'm doing something for the right reasons.
  • Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris - I wonder how many reading lists this book will be on this month. =) This book was excellent. It was all I expected it to be and more. I knew that I would be challenged and even convicted in areas as I read this book, but I knew that I needed it. I think that right now God has me doing "little hard things", though sometimes they seem big. But that will take another post. ;)
  • Aborted Women Silent No More by David C. Reardon - I was glad to finish this book. It definitely wasn't pleasurable reading, but it was very informative. It was hard to read so many blunt facts about abortion and know that they were true. It tore at my heart and I felt tears come to my eyes many times while reading. Other times, I would feel my stomach turn at the atrocities commited in the abortuaries. My heart would cry "Why God! Why do You let this live on in our country, in our world?". I'll never have the same opinion of abortion after reading this book. If you are researching this subject or need to know about it, then I do really recommend this book.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy - I finally got to read this after reading so many recommendations. Starting on a Saturday night, I finished it the next morning. I really liked it! The plot of the story kept you on your toes wondering what would happen next. It's definitely on my read-again-in-the-future list.
  • Of Men and of Angels by Brock and Bodie Thoene - I read the first book to this series a few months back and really enjoyed it. The thing I like most about the Thoene's writing is the way they bring history into the tale. This is the sequel to Only the River Runs Free in The Galway Chronicles. It's set in Ireland at a time of great political turmoil. You can almost feel the people's desperation as the English try to take control and run the country. The aristocracy of Ireland see the peasants as only trash that needs to be gotten rid of. It's about the people's fight for freedom from oppression. Some want to gain it through violence and bloodshed, others through the Repeal, a call for freedom through peaceful protestation.

    Currently Reading:

  • College Without Compromise by Steve and Kris Wightman - This is quite an interesting book. An alternative to college is presented in this book. It's been pushed aside in my reading of other things, but I'm planning on finishing it in the next week or two. It's not a hard read at all.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens - My next Dickens book to work through. This is not quite like his other novels, because it's a culmination of the Pickwick Club's adventures that were originally published in episodes, but later put into novel form.
  • Ashes of Remembrance by Brock and Bodie Thoene - The third book in The Galway Chronicles. I think there is four, but I'm not positive. I hope this one is as good as the last two have been.
So, what have you been reading recently?

Getting A New Attitude

In 1993, the premiere issue of the New Attitude Magazine arrived at our house where my oldest brother, then 13 years old, received and read it. Seth continued to get the magazine for the next 4 years until they ceased publication. Now, ten years later, he passed all of the magazines down to me. Only having heard about them, I was eager to read them. Picking up the first issue and going from there, I read them all in less than a week. They were great! From the editorials to the articles sent in by readers, it was all wonderful reading. Though written many years ago, so much of it is still applicable today.

Seth was a young teenager at the time of Joshua Harris's first outreach to teenagers. I was 14 when Brett and Alex Harris started The Rebelution. Seth and I are similar in a lot of ways, so I always thought this was rather neat. I was thrilled to see other teenagers close to my age standing up and standing out for what they believe and I know that Seth was too, at the time.

I've been a part of The Rebelution since I first found out about it from Anna. Reading their motto for the first time, I thought, "Yes! This is what I want to do. I want to rebel against these low expectations!" They were putting into words what I had been feeling and trying to express.
So, let us step out of out comfort zones and Do Hard Things!
Miriam Rebekah

Monday, April 28, 2008

The First Rose

Let me know if you all get tired of me posting pictures of flowers. =) I just enjoy them so much, it's hard to refrain from taking pictures and sharing the beauty!

After a soaking rain last night, I was exhilarated and walking through the fresh, cool morning air, when I discovered our first rose of the year.

Some things are just too beautiful for words to describe. No wonder roses are my favorite flower!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sibling Spotlight: Lydia Shalom

Lydia is the "true middle child" of our Lofgren family, with 1 older brother and 2 older sisters and 1 younger brother and 2 younger sisters. She has the characteristics of both a middle and an oldest child, for she was very much the leader of our growing up group of sibling playmates.

Lydia's middle name, Shalom, which is Hebrew for peace, describes her well. When we were little she was often the peacemaker, and throughout her life there's been a sense of peace that kind of radiates from her. Through all of her searchings for guidance, I've been inspired by her being at peace with whatever God would have for her life.

With 5 years between Lydia and our next oldest sister Miriam, Lydia was the oldest child at home for quite a few years. She was (and still is!) a great older sister, finding and planning fun things to do. She was always ready for a hike in the woods or to sit down and play a game. I fondly remember the special surprises she's planned for us, and how much fun it was to just play together as we grew!

Lydia is a true outdoors-woman who enjoys adventure! If you couldn't find Lydia around the house, chances are she'd be out in the woods enjoy the solitude and beauty. She was usually the instigator of the trails we made in the woods, forts or tepees we built, hikes we took down the creek, or the biking trips we'd ride on together. I didn't enjoy the hikes as much, but if Lydia was there, I always felt much safer from the snakes and other things that lurked. She'd even make things comfortable, clearing out shady spots for Jubi and me to play in as she and Elijah cut out a path through the forest. She encouraged me to try new and scary things that were out of my comfort zone. Though, I really wouldn't want to do some of the wild outdoorsy things she's done, like caving in a dark, muddy cave or jumping off of a 30-foot rock into a lake! Nor have I gone on the many backpacking trips she's experienced, though for her, things couldn't get much better then being out for days in God's creation! Even though to me, some things may not seem like fun, it's always enjoyable to hear her talk about them and see her light up with joy and enthusiasm. Yes, we are all sure that the "Outdoor Leadership and Education" major that she's studying is perfect for her!

Lydia has always been very conscientious, and, I'm sorry to say, Elijah and I used to tease her about about being "so good". Through it all, however, I truly admired her steadfastness, and now more then ever am inspired by her to not compromise and to do what you feel God is calling you to, even if others don't always see the same way. Her love for the Lord and ever-growing relationship with Him has inspired me to press further in and deepen my own walk.

Lydia has also always exhibited a lot of patience. With 3 younger siblings, she certainly had a lot of opportunities to get impatient or loose her cool. However, I recollect very few times that she actually got upset. Usually she'd take the teasing or irritation and work through it, helping us get over it as well.

As the next girl in line after Lydia, she has been a good role model to follow. When she left home, I took over planning the camping trips, but it was made easy by her detailed lists and folder of plans. Those she babysat remembered her fun and games, and I tried hard to continue on with her neat crafts and joyful play. The washing of the kitchen floor became my chore after hers, and while I did it, I'd be reminded of the many times she'd done it without complaint. Her hard work and ready helpfulness has been another thing I've tried to follow. She's a true servant, working hard on numerous tasks and being always ready to lend a hand. When she's home on breaks, she often pitches in to lighten our load, making meal preparations move along more quickly or helping with the dishes.

The name of her blog, The Life-Long Journey, is an accurate description of her life. At 23, she has already been to many different parts of the world! She's been to Peru, Canada, and different parts of West Africa, as well as many states of the US. She has a real heart for reaching the unreached overseas, and has wanted to be a missionary since she was young. After high school graduation (she was also the first sibling to be homeschooled the whole way through), she spent another year at home, continuing to learn and seeking God for what He'd have her do next. The next year she went to a year-long Bible school in snowy Colorado, where she was required to get a season pass to the nearby ski resort! She did really well in her studies, and we had a fun family vacation visiting her, playing in the snow, and trying our hand at skiing. The next fall she went even further north, going through a semester of immersion French in Quebec. The next January she went on an internship in West Africa, helping a family homeschool, and learning the language and culture in a very hot climate. She learned a lot through what was often a very lonely time in a mud hut in the desert. In Fall 2006, she began college at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. She's learned a lot and had a great time, and it's been nice to have her a little more close by! Dad jokes that after sub-Saharan Africa, college has been a breeze - but it has challenges of its own, of course!

She's ever thoughtful and considerate, planning fun outing or get-togethers for friends and keeping in touch with us at home. I write her letters, and its always fun to get a reply, written as she takes time out from her busy schedule. Knowing all she has to do makes them even more special!

Lydia is very musical, playing Violin ever since she was 6 - it's beautiful to hear her play! She also did really well playing the trombone in homeschool band, filling in those needed bass parts. She started out as a music major, and learned beginning piano very quickly! She works well with her hands, and has been a big help to dad as they work on building the guest house. She also enjoys working with children, and her outdoor enthusiasm has been put to good use many different summers while working at camps. This summer she's working at another one, and while I'll miss her at home, I'm excited for her opportunities.

Loving, kind and full of adventure, she's been a wonderful sister!

We're 5 years apart, sisters


and now.

Lydia, thank you for the amazing example you've been to me and others, and for the many ways you think of to have fun together! I love you!

Friday, April 25, 2008


The last box has been colored in, and...

In case you're wondering (as my dad once did) if it's important to use a different color each day, yes, it is. It makes me happy. It's all in finding beauty in the little things! =)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Touches of Spring

The flowers of spring this year haven't turned out as glorious as those of years past. Because of the lack of rain last year, many of our azalea bushes didn't bloom this year, and because of the fluctuating weather, the wisteria never came out in full force. However, while sitting on the swing doing schoolwork, there's a beautiful sight down at the edge of the woods that never fails to brighten each day.
We don't know the name of these flowers, but they appear on trees throughout the forest each spring. The clumps of blossoms are so pretty!

"But I trust in Your [God's] unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation." ~Psalm 13:5

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plans after High School

After a long 3 years of questions as to what I would do after high school, the answer seems to have finally been resolved. It's been the hardest decision of my life, but one I thankfully did not have to make alone.

From my early childhood, when I thought about college, the question in my mind wasn't if I'd go, but when I'd go. Lofgrens went to college; it was as simple as that. In my youthful dreams of being a ballerina, I'd planned my life out: I'd major in dance at Belhaven College, dance with Ballet Magnificat! and, somewhere in there, get married and settle down to be a mother. It seemed so easy... yes, I was naive!

As I grew, I began realizing that being a prima ballerina was harder then it looked. I'd started ballet classes at the late age of 11, and by not devoting myself solely to the world of dance and not taking from the major classical schools due to modesty concerns, there was little chance that I'd ever be able to dance professionally. And, as I thought about it, I realized that a life of touring really didn't appeal to me. I still really enjoyed dancing, but as its glorious dreams waned, my other childhood dream grew in its appeal. I wanted to get married. I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to have a houseful of children to homeschool. From my early years I'd enjoyed homey things, and I soon devoted more and more of my time to learning the homemaking arts. In them I soon began finding more and more fulfillment.

When I was 15, I was introduced to another way of thinking. At an Above Rubies ladies retreat, we were entered in a door prize drawing and told to write down the top three things we'd like from the gift table. I was excited when my name was called and I was able to pick the top thing from my list: an intriguing book entitled So Much More, by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. It was about "visionary daughterhood," a book I knew I'd enjoy! As I began reading, I found myself inspired, challenged, and saying a hearty "Amen!" It appealed to me, and the questions it raised resonated in my heart. A daughter's role had been that of one in her father's house until marriage for centuries. Why had it changed? Our highest calling is usually that of helpmate and mother. Why not spend the best years of our life preparing for it? This book opened my eyes to countless ways a daughter can be an influential and integral part of the family. I wanted to be such a help to my father and family in the years before marriage.

I read So Much More five or more times over the next few years and found that there were many other girls out there who thought along the same lines. I discovered and enjoyed numerous blogs and articles written by these "stay-at-home-daughters." I found and read other books, such as Handmaidens of the Lord by Crystal Paine, and they encouraged and delighted me. I also discovered that this was a hotly-contested issue, with many arguments and intense feelings on either side. And, time and again, I found myself agreeing more and more (though not exclusively) with those for daughters staying home.

My excitement, however, was checked when I thought of what my family would think. Like I said before, Lofgrens went to college. It was simply the next step in life after highschool. My parents didn't force us, but all of my older siblings had gone or were going to college.

Timidly, I began discussions with my parents, especially my dad, sharing what I'd learned. I had a hard time expressing my feelings, and my parents weren't very enthused. My dad said he didn't want me staying home and cooking and cleaning like a maid instead of getting an interesting college education. Of course, I told him that I wouldn't just cook and clean... and the discussions continued for years, getting more in depth. I studied the Bible to see what it said about young women, wrote a 5-page paper about what I'd do if I stayed home, and shared books and articles I'd read, hoping they'd see my side, my heart in the issue. Often, these discussions ended in the same way: me, chocked with tears and unable to express myself further, excusing myself to be alone. I couldn't understand why something I felt so strongly in my heart about wasn't received with enthusiasm! I cried and prayed, asking God to either change my parents' hearts so I could stay home, or to change mine to want college.

To make a long story short, the discussions continued, Mom eventually joining me in thinking it would be best for me to continue my education at home. Dad did change views some, but still thought I'd be best educated away at college, though he would support me either way. My siblings were mostly for college, reminding that it was an important asset in today's world, and that even if all I did was stay home as a mother, it would make me more qualified and accepted. I wanted someone to just tell me what to do, but they wisely told me that, in the end, the choice was mine.

I agonized for months, going back and forth. They gave me counsel, and I prayed much and sought advice from friends. I still didn't always understand. "Why doesn't my dad want to protect me?" I'd write in my journal, "Why can't I remain at home under his authority like all of these other girls that seem so happy?" In it all, however, I knew that my dad loved me and wanted the best for me, and that to him, college looked like the best for me. My older siblings had all enjoyed or were enjoying college , and they advised me to go. With 5 older then I, plus 2 siblings-in-law all for it, I knew that there must be something to their urgings.

In one of many emails of advice, when I'd written about how I'd wanted to be under my dad's authority by staying home, my brother Luke responded with something to the effect of, "In this case, being under dad's authority would be going to college, since that's what he wants you to do." That reinforced what I'd been realizing: in seeking to remain home and honor my dad by helping him, I'd done the opposite by constantly trying to change his mind. Even after seeing the real life examples in "The Return of the Daughters", he still thought college was best for me. So, I decided to submit my will and honor my father by going to college as he deemed best. And, in doing so, I have come to find peace, though the decision still weighs heavily sometimes.

Lest anyone should doubt, I must emphasize that I love my family so much and am so thankful that I am a member of this Lofgren family. Even though our views on this issue are mostly different, I wouldn't want to be in any other family. Sometimes I wonder why I have this desire so different from them, but I've grown closer to them all through all the conflict over what to do, and greatly respect and love them! I'm still very much a "daddy's girl" and our relationship has grown stronger. Mom still has questions about me going, but we're both learning to trust. God in His Sovereign plan knows best!

Now, since the decision has been made to go to college, where will I be going? That in itself was hard. In all my wanting to stay home, I'd maintained that I would still get a degree through CLEP tests and distance learning or classes around home. That way, I could earn it while continuing to teach the ballet students I love and being able to still do the homemaking things I enjoy. My Dad, however, thought it would be best to develop my skills in the arts of dance and drama in a Christian atmosphere. It's pretty impossible to learn those things online, and the colleges close by were all struck off of the list for one reason or another. After all, not many Christian colleges offer dance! And, since I want to teach dance in my single years before marriage, it did seem best that I develop more skills in it. Combined with theater, my dad maintained that I'd have things that would enrich and be useful to me my whole life long.

Coincidentally enough, we settled on the college I'd thought about going to when I was little: Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. It's one of very few Christian colleges that offer drama and dance. We visited in November 2007 and began the application process in January 2008. There were a lot of questions and hesitations on my part, mostly as to modesty in dance, but I went to audition in theater and dance on February 15th. I was unsure about what to major in; dancing was my main interest, but I didn't know whether I'd be able to withstand its rigors, especially with the reoccurring tendonitus in my ankle. The auditions seemed to go well, but I was still undecided as to a major, though I was leaning towards dance.

A letter from the dance department settled it: I was not accepted into the dance department at Belhaven College. Feelings of inadequacy flooded in. Through it all, God taught me a lot about humility and acceptance. There could have been numerous reason I didn't make it in: my stated goals of not wanting to dance professional but ultimate hope to be a mother, the flu I had the week before I'd gone, the fact I was the only dancer wearing a skirt at the auditions, my lack of much classical work in my resume, or, most probable, the fact that I just wasn't a good a dancer as others. Whatever it was, I know that God has a plan, and I've learned to rest in His Sovereignty.

It again filled me with doubts as to whether I should even go, but Dad investigated and learned that I'd still be able to take dance classes as electives. It may have been a blessing in disguise that I didn't make it into the dance major. Because of my interest in theater and the dramatic productions I've done, unless something changes, I will be majoring in Theater Ministry at Belhaven College this fall.

Do I still have questions? Yes, but I'm learning to rest in the security of being under my dad's guidance in this choice. Some days it's really hard to think of leaving my home, this peaceful quiet valley. I don't want to leave my students and stop The King's Praise Ballet, but it seems that I must for now. I'll be leaving all my close friends and family behind when I go, but I trust that God will provide comfort and new friends. It's hard when people inevitably ask if I'm excited to be going and I can't honestly say that I am. My answer is usually, "I know I'll learn a lot, but it will be hard to leave everyone here."

Or course, it's not all bad! I have a lot to be thankful for. My generous Daddy is paying for me to get an education at a Christian college. Belhaven's campus is beautiful, and I'll be only 4 1/2 hours from home - though right now that seems a lot! I'm sure I will learn a lot to help prepare me for life ahead.

I still don't understand all the whys. But, sometimes we can't figure out the mysteries of God's plan. I've learned to find peace in honoring my earthly father, and to rest in the Sovereignty of my Heavenly Father.

So... what about the rest of you graduating seniors? What do you plan to do?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nearing the End

This is my last week of "official highschool." After 12 years, my homeschooling days are drawing to a close. The realization is bittersweet. It's great to think of being finished and having graduated, but I shall truly miss my homeschooled days. They've been a joy!

Although I'm have graduated highschool, I don't intend to stop learning! In fact, I never intend to stop trying to learn! I'll have finished my main books, but though "booklearning" has ended, I'm going to continue reading and learning my whole life long. This summer I hope to continue reading a chapter or two a day in a historical and theological book; I've learned so much this way, and there's no end to the good books out there. I also intend to continue Scripture memorization and the Memlock program. But other things, like Physics, I'll put behind me.

These years have been full of so many lessons learned, trials passed, and joys abounding. I've enjoyed the freedom homeschooling has given me to explore and learn so much apart from sitting at a desk. Yes, I've done the academics, but I've also learned music, dance, drama, cooking, cleaning, sewing, teaching skills, childcare, scrapbooking, and so much more. Being someone who learns well on my own, I've enjoyed teaching myself and learning by doing, though some has come through trial and error. I've also so appreciated the support of my parents and love of my whole family as they've helped me explore many areas.

Looking back, I wonder where the time has gone. I still feel somewhat like the 14-year-old girl of not so long ago! I look in the mirror and wonder if I even look old enough to graduate! =) The years behind have been good, but I trust God for the lessons and opportunities He'll bring in the years ahead. I pray that I'll be open to His voice and live for His glory.

I do look forward to finishing, however. The realization hit me when it was 2 weeks away, then 1 week, now 4 days. Though I'll "officially" be done, at least according the schedule I've made for myself, not too much will change for now. It will be nice to have a little more extra time as the busy month of May approaches! My graduation celebration is scheduled for the end of May.

The next question on your mind is probably, "So, what's next?" It's the question everyone's been asking since my senior year began. Although at the beginning of the year I had a lot of uncertainties, I finally have an answer. But... that will take a post of it's own. =)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Each One is Different

In reading Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris, you probably got pumped up and encouraged to get out and do hard things for God. The stories and examples laid forth in the book are inspiring examples of teens like us who did amazing things for God!

There's also a possibility, however, that you read the examples and began to fill discouraged. Maybe you felt like you didn't measure up or that the things you did were nothing compared to what others had done. Suddenly your hard things really didn't seem so... hard.

What we need to keep in mind is that each one of us is different, and that we will all have different hard things in our lives. We will also have different seasons with different responsibilities and different opportunities. For some, God may be calling you to branch out and do something incredibly beyond what you would imagine possible! For others, God may have placed in your life many "small hard things" that He wants you to continue to be faithful in doing. Make sure that you read and ponder chapters 5-9 in the book, as they really help explain the 5 different kinds of hard things.

"But," you may protest, "Compared to those other rebelutionaries, what I am doing seems worthless!" Or you may be on the other end of the spectrum, thinking, "Oh, I'm doing great! Compared to all the other lazy, irresponsible teens around me, I'm a wonderful example of a teen living for God!" Both of these attitudes are wrong. 2 Corinthians 10:12 has long been a convicting verse for me:
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
How many times do we get so caught up in how our lives look in comparison to others, that we take our eyes off of God, the One to Whom we should look for approval? Compared to one, we may not look glamorous at all; compared to another, we may look great! But our Heavenly Father is the One we should seek, and His plans are the ones we should follow.

Don't get me wrong: it's great to be inspired by the examples of teens such as the ones in the book, and it should spur us on to ask God if He would have bigger things for us. But in it all, we must remember to be faithful where God has placed us. If we're consumed with trying to start a ministry to reach thousands while neglecting the small things God wants us to, like serving our family or growing in His Word, we're going to fall short. In the same way, if we're caught up in having every little thing in order before we even dare step out in faith, we're going to miss out on the big things God may be trying to lead us in to.

As you've probably learned so far, it can be a delicate balance! Just remember that you will most likely have different "hard things" then your close friend or the blogger you admire. It's part of the beauty of the body of Christ - we're each equipped to do different things that together make a difference. Learn and grow from others' examples, but make sure that your focus is on what God has for you. And in whatever you do, make sure that you do it to bring God, not yourself, glory.

Discussion Questions:
  • What are some of the hard things God is calling you to in this season of life?
  • Do you find "big hard things" (those that others see) or "small hard things" (the daily things you don't receive much praise for) more challenging?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Senior Pictures

*Warning* Long picture post ahead!

Now that you've been forewarned...

Daddy was very kind to drive me all the way into town to take my senior pictures this afternoon. We went to Blount Park in the Shakespeare Festival, a beautiful place with a lovely lake, lush grass, tranquil gardens, and magnificent trees! Almost 2 hours later we left with over 100 pictures and plenty of memories. I thought of a lot of poses, and Daddy very graciously followed me around with the camera. They turned out really well! I cropped and lightened some of them and had a hard time picking out my favorites. It was a lot of fun and was a picture-perfect day, not too hot, but not too cold. God's creation is so beautiful!

Thank you, Daddy, for taking the pictures and putting up with my many ideas. =) You're the best!

Some of the pictures are in a more casual outfit, while others are in the special graduation dress I just finished sewing yesterday. Above you can see the back of the dress. I used Sense and Sensibility's Romantic Era pattern, creating the ball gown view and adding a white satin sash. It was a little difficult at times, especially with the poofy sleeves! I also didn't fit it correctly at first and had to take in the shoulder/sleeve seam quite a bit. After sewing many hooks and eyes on to close the dress, I realized that it gaped and didn't stay closed well! So I took all of them out and used little pearl buttons and snaps to close the dress. It was fun to make and great to finish! The nice thing is, once it's done, I forget the hard parts and all the time spent working on the little things and just enjoy the dress!

#1 The dress makes me feel so beautiful and elegant!

#2 The casual outfit, pink and blue, was also one of my favorites

#3 Quaint benches on which to rest

#4 Pretty flowers by which to pose

#5 Pretty green, leafy backgrounds

#6 Window poses are always fun!

#7 Among climbing white roses, one of my favorite flowers!

#8 The water was so sparkling and pretty, but most of the pictures with it didn't turn out well because they were in the sun.

#9 Full dresses and ferns

#10 Just for fun - I couldn't resist peeking out! =)

#11 Another "for fun" picture - it's got a different angle and makes my eyes look blue.

#12 Shady, secluded pastures

#13 A more formal portrait

#14 Relaxed and enjoying the day

So, which one is your favorite? There's many more I could have posted... but restrained myself. =) They may show up in future posts, however!

I haven't yet decided which one will be the senior picture - it's so hard to choose when I like so many! It will probably be one of the close-ups, but which one? We'll see!

Book Review: Do Hard Things

Although I'm sure there will be many book reviews shared, I thought I'd add my own to the mix. This book is worth it!

My 3 copies of Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris arrived in the mail yesterday. It's amazing. This is a book that everyone should read, not just those in their teens! However, for us teens, it's very encouraging to know that there are others out there, challenging us to do productive things for God's glory.

It was a hard thing for me to not read the book right away! Let me explain... =) Around 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Dad walked into my room with the box of books. Excitedly I opened it and was thrilled to see they'd arrived! However, as I was busily sewing my graduation dress, and really needed to finish it before today's pictures, I set the books down and kept on sewing. By the time I finally finished, it was time to make supper, so I quickly heated up the taco soup from the day before, made butter dips, cut up veggies and ate with my family. While enjoying some ice cream for dessert, I finally had the chance to crack open the cover. Before I knew it, the first 4 chapters had slipped away. This is definitely a book that's hard to put down!

I contemplated finishing the book right then and there. It's a wonderful read, well-written, and worth the time spent. After all, I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since Alex and Brett announced they'd be writing it! But, there were some things I really should do that I hadn't gotten done that day... Then the irony of it all hit me. What was the name of the book I was reading? Do Hard Things? So, I put it down and tackled the pile of dirty dishes, practiced my flute, and quickly cleaned two rooms. At last, I sat down in the newly-straightened library and proceeded to finish the book at 9:55 p.m.

This is the book we've been waiting for. This is the book our generation needs to read. It's encouraging, funny, and at the same time very challenging. Even for someone who's read their blog almost from the beginning, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations brings new insights and challenges. The blog is great, but reading everything in one book instead of in different posts really ties everything together. The stories of real-life teens, many of whom I've heard of or seen around The Rebelution were really inspiring. The acknowledgments and the dedication of the book to their parents were very touching!

I plan to read the book again, and again, and again if I need to! There's a lot of things to digest, a lot of challenges to think and pray through. It's the encouragement you need to keep going, to know you're not alone, to prevent you from getting complacent. God is glorified through it all, and Alex and Brett write with humility and a passionate cry for their generation.

Make sure you buy the book! Make sure your read it with an open heart! If you've already read it, The Rebelution has posted some great next steps.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Enjoying Poetry

Poetry has always been something I've enjoyed. When I was young, I began writing short poems; as I grew, they got a little longer. My poems speak about life and my thoughts and dreams, though they're probably not what you'd call amazing works of art! =) I also enjoyed reading poetry, though I never really ventured beyond the few I encountered in various literature books or read online.

Last week when we went to the library, I ventured into the adult non-fiction section - a place, for some reason, I'd never really looked through before. I found quite a few books that would be a pleasure to read! However, I already had so many books I needed to read at home, that I just chose one: Favorite Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I decided that I'd read a little each day for school, as I wanted to become acquainted with some of the more classic poetry. Besides, I'd heard of Longfellow, even memorizing his "The Village Blacksmith" when I was 10.

That day I began the book, first reading the introduction about his life, then reading the first poem before I had to go on to something else. Now, I read rather quickly, and am apt to skim things sometimes. I didn't want to do that with the poems, for you loose so much unless you take the time to savor each of the majestic words. I tried reading the last few stanzas of the poem out loud, and was amazed at the difference it made! The rich words came alive! Enthusiastically, I began the next Monday on the next poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish". I read out loud on the swing, dramatizing the narration, and enjoying the musical sound of the poetry. Though I felt kind of silly reading out loud with no one around but the birds and squirrels to listen (actually, I was glad I was alone!) I really enjoyed the experience! I read the rest of that poem the next day (at 36 pages long, my voice couldn't read it all in one sitting!) and thoroughly enjoyed how the story came alive through the beautiful words. The mighty Standish, Godly Alden, and the sweet Puritan maid Priscilla - it all wove together in lovely story of true love! The next day I read a few of the shorter poems, including the classic "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", and have gone on from there.

It's neat how things you learn in the past come back and help you later on when you'd least expect. When I was 14, I'd taken a poetry class at drama camp. At the time, it hadn't seemed extremely useful. Now, however, I've been able to apply the ways they taught us to read poetry, and it's been such an enriching experience! Reading with pauses for punctuation not pauses after each line or trying to read only rhythmically makes the poem sound much richer, and helps convey the meaning so much better!

Whether you're a poetry enthusiast or not, next time you read a poem, try reading it out loud. You'd be amazed at the difference it makes! The time I get to read poetry each day has become one of my favorite parts of my home education. Not only is it familiarizing me with classic poetry, it's also giving me an opportunity to dramatize and practice speaking well!

Oh - and if you want to start with a good poet, may I suggest Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? His poems are well written and fun to read. The way he weaves in Scripture or lessons from the Bible is also very nice!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Spring Kittens!

The birth of kittens is often another one of the beautiful things that mark the arrival of spring. Usually our cats have at least one litter a year, and they are often born right around Jubilee's birthday. About a week ago, we noticed that Grace was no longer pregnant. She often haves her kittens in secret, so the search was on to find out where she'd hidden them this time. Though Jubi looked long and hard, she couldn't find them. Add to that that Grace was around most of the time (not seeming to be spending time away with her kittens), and we sadly assumed that she must have miscarried her babies.

Yesterday, however, Dad was putting wood in the wood shed (an old horse barn on our property) and he heard kittens loudly meowing! Upon further investigation, we found that Grace's babies were indeed well and alive, 4 sweet little balls of fur hidden in an old feeding trough. One of the kitties we found had fallen out and down among the wood, so praise God we found them when we did!

We aren't yet positive which are boys and which are girls, so the names we've picked may change. We decided that since the kittens are so soft and nice to rub, we'd give them all names of different kinds of cloth!

Calico, a sweet tabby

Cotton, who seems to be the littlest one

Satin, so cute with white paws and black coat

and Wool, the adventurous one!

We enjoy holding and playing with the kittens until they've learned to eat cat food, and are being weaned. At about 6 weeks we go to parking lots or ball games with a sign saying "Free Kittens"! They're so cute, but as we already have 5 adult cats, we really need to give them away when the time comes. In the meantime, they're fun to hold!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

To Jubilee on your 13th Birthday

Dear Jubilee,

Today is a special day! Though it may feel like any other normal Tuesday, today is the day that you "officially" enter the world of teenagers. No, you don't miraculously feel any different now that you're 13 instead of 12, but you now stand on the brink of years that will test and mold you. Decisions made in the coming years will help define who you will become.

Teenagehood is not seen in a very good light by most these days. Children look forward to it as a time of freedom and "doing your own thing". Parents cringe as it approaches and groan that they "hope they can survive the next strange years". In the Bible, however, turning 13 was not looked upon as an escape from responsibility; rather, it was a welcome into the adult world.

You know 1 Timothy 4:12, but it is worth repeating: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example to the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."

The world will try to tell you that you are now entitled to be disrespectful, lazy, rebellious, shallow, apathetic, and loose morally. However, the Bible calls you to something far greater! In fact, it calls you to be an example! This verse is a great one to take as a motto for your teenage years. In your speech, strive to be respectful and considerate of those around you. Live your life as one of discipline and perseverance. Love your family and friends, and even when they make mistakes, remain loyal. Don't buy into the trap of thinking "when I'm older I'll deepen my spiritual walk." Begin now, spending time with God, reading His Word, and following Him as He leads you through these years. And finally, be a radiant example of a pure young lady in the midst of a dark world.

I know that you know all this. In fact, you already are a beautiful example of a godly young woman, and you are already living your life according to these principles! This is a reminder to never give up! Even when those around you are loosing focus, remain fixed on the goal of bringing honor and glory to God.

The devil will use these years to try to tempt you in so many ways. He'll try to plant seeds of doubt, rebellion, and strife, try to tell you that you're "better then most teens" so you should just quit trying, and try to convince you that adults just "don't understand what you're going through". Don't listen to him! Stay close to your heavenly Father Who will give you the strength and grace to go on boldly! "Set your mind on things above" (Colossians 3:2) so so that there's no room for Satan's lies. Remember that "No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

There's a reason why these years are called "The Tumultuous Teens". You will wonder about a lot of things and try to find things that define you. Your emotions will seem to run wild, going from exuberant to despairing, silly to serious, all in the course of a few hours at times! You'll probably have a lot of questions about life and why things happen. The good news is that God has given you people to help you walk through these things! As Proverbs 1:8 says, "Listen my son (or daughter) to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching". I know that often you think that they don't really understand or see the whole picture, but ultimately by following and respecting their authority cheerfully, you'll find that they really knew best after all. This may be one of the hardest things, but by listening to the parents and respecting their decisions, you will find wisdom. You also have many siblings that have gone before you. Proverbs 11:14 says, "For lack of guidance a nation falls but many advisers make victory sure." You may feel sometimes like you have 6 parents all telling you what to do, but remember that we just want the best for you. All of your siblings are here for you if you ever need anything, and you can learn a lot by getting advice from those who have walked through life a few steps ahead of you.

With all these things to do and learn, it can be easy to try to grow up too quickly. It's true that 13 marks the beginning of becoming an adult, but you are still young. You're wise in saying that you want to enjoy your childhood while it lasts. It's only here for a short while, so don't grow old too soon! Enjoy the times you have to romp in the woods, read many books, and play many games. Your girlhood is a precious thing!

At the same time, however, use these coming years to prepare yourself for adulthood. These are some of the best training years of your life. You've already learned so much and prepared well, but there's always more to do. Remember that your primary "job" right now is that of being a student, so stay diligent in your home education! Study well as you do booklearning and work to retain what you learn. Now is also a good time to learn the home arts: cooking, cleaning, sewing, and so on. You already know a lot, so continue on. Remember, home is a great place to practice these things!

Finally Jubi, be yourself. We've already talked about becoming disciplined, and I don't mean "be yourself" as "do whatever you feel like doing." Rather, I mean it as not changing your personality to conform to whatever is in style. You are unique and one-of-a-kind, and don't be afraid to show it! Your talents and abilities are amazing - pursue them for God's glory!

You will be going against the flow of today's culture, but you are not standing alone. Sometimes it may feel as though you are, but remember that there are those that have gone before, those all over the world going through it now, and many who will come after. Join the generation "rebelling against the low expectations of an ungodly culture." Through the technology we have these days, you can connect with many like yourself in addition to the close friends you have around here. The Rebelution is a great place to start!

I love you Jubilee, and I'm ever so thankful and blessed to be your sister! I can't imagine life without your special self! I know that I'm not always the best big sister, but remember that I'll always be here if you need me. You probably know best of anyone that I'm not perfect - you've seen me in my hight and lows. I in no way have these teen years all figured out! Remember though, that I'll always love you unconditionally and that I want God's best for you. I'm excited and thankful that I'll get to watch you start this journey into young womanhood.

Have a wonderful birthday! Even though we celebrated last night, I hope this is a special day for you.


Monday, April 07, 2008

My Sister's Getting Married!

Yes, that's right! On Saturday, my sister Miriam got engaged to marry a wonderful man! John came with a delightful surprise for her, showing up when she least expected it! It was fun to be in on the plans. =) We knew he was coming this coming weekend, so when he called to ask if he could stay at our house this last weekend, we were all excited! He planned a most romantic proposal as well! Rather then reading my take on what happened, just go over to Miriam's blog where she's telling the story. (Click here to see pictures, here for part 1, and here for part 2 of the story!)

Miriam, you've been a wonderful sister and example to me, and I'm so happy for you! John, you'll make a wonderful brother-in-law and I couldn't be more excited that you and Miriam are getting married! You both have been very encouraging examples of waiting and purity and following God as your relationship unfolds. I'm thrilled!!

It will be hard to see my sister move away - John doesn't exactly live close by, living in Ohio, but I'm so happy that she'll be married! I won't be loosing a sister; I'll be gaining a brother! And a kind, generous, amazing brother at that! =)

It's been fun to watch Miriam sparkle and glow. She's so happy and bubbling with joy! Watching her in love is so much fun. ;-)

Now there's a wedding that will be tons of fun to help plan! I may even get to do some of the sewing! What could be more wonderful? :-)

(Can you tell from the use of smilies and exclamation points that I'm slightly excited?!)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Voice and Piano Recital

Before my senior year began, I talked with Mom and Dad about what I should focus on this year. I had already completed a lot of the academics I needed, so we decided I would focus a little more time in taking lessons. My dad suggested taking voice and piano - voice to learn to sing better and help me with directing/acting in musicals, and piano to learn to play hymns, and just all-around understand the instrument. We found Mrs. Jody Dix (whom I'd known somewhat before through her siblings in band) to teach me both voice and piano. Each Thursday from 12-1 p.m. I had an enjoyable hour with her, learning to sing and play.

This was my first year taking voice (though I was in a choir last year) and I really enjoyed learning how to sing better. My great teacher made everything fun! Although I am not the most amazing singer, I enjoyed learning breathing techniques, proper posture, pronunciation while singing, etc. Mrs. Jody also pushed me to try notes I didn't think I could sing. She helped me learn that I'm a mezzo-soprano, and the ways to use the voice range God has given me. What I learned are tools that I will put to good use, just singing around the house, at church, or in productions.

I had taken piano for about 1 1/2 years before, when I was ages 10-11. I had enjoyed it, but then my first teacher moved, and my interest waned somewhat. Plus, my siblings had always been in band, and since Miriam was going to start playing the flute in band, I decided that I'd stop piano and begin the flute. I still played at home from time to time for fun, and as the years went by, thought it would be nice to pick up again. However, I already had so much going on, that it just remained a nice thought. This year we made it a priority for me to get lessons, and I'm so glad we did!

Playing the piano has been so enjoyable for me! I now know why so many play this beautiful instrument - it's wonderful! Having taken music before, I was able to advance a little more quickly, going through lesson books and some classic collections, and getting to begin playing out of the hymn book a few months ago. Practice hasn't been a drudgery - it's been a joy to sit and play lovely music, though finding time to practice has sometimes been a challenge. I now see why it's hard for Miriam to pass a piano without stopping to play; the keys just seem to call your name! It's been so soothing after a stressful day, to sit down and let the beautiful music fill my soul. I've found that even when I'm sick or have a headache, playing the piano takes my mind off of it and helps me feel better.

Sometimes I stop at the piano for a minute during the day, just to play a song on my way, or right before bed. Often when I practice, I loose track of the time, having to make myself stop so I can get other things done. =) Feeling the beautiful strains and moods of Fur Elise, being able to actually play myself the full hymn of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" or "How Great Thou Art" - it lifts and encourages my heart!

Yesterday evening I participated in a recital for voice and piano students. I was nervous, but everything went pretty well. My voice hadn't fully recovered from the cold I had recently, so I was a bit anxious that I'd be able to sing. Gargling salt water during the day and sucking on cough drops helped some, and I was able to sing all the way through without having to stop and clear my throat. Praise God!
I sang "Climb Every Mountain" from Sound of Music, and "Over the Meadows", a bouncy folk song. My preoccupation with being able to sing well with a weaker voice made me mix up a line in "Climb Every Mountain" and go up too early to sing "Over the Meadows", but other than that things went well. I must admit, I was quite nervous! =)

I wasn't as nervous with my piano songs, especially since I'd been playing them since November. I played "To a Wild Rose" and "Waltz from Swan Lake". The first is a beautiful, slower, tender melody that quickly became one of my favorite songs! The Waltz was fun and upbeat, providing a challenge with it's jumps, but very fun and dramatic to play! I made small mistakes on each one, but they thankfully weren't too noticeable.

Praise God for helping me play and sing! I prayed that I'd do both for His glory.

Thank you, Mrs. Jody for the great year you spent teaching me! I learned so much and had such a wonderful time! It was fun to connect with you and talk about things totally unrelated to lessons as well. =) Thank you for challenging me and making sure I learned, theory etc. I'll miss you, but hope you have a wonderful summer and year ahead!

Thank you for helping me discover more of the joys of music. I don't intend to stop playing the piano or stop singing!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Touches of Spring

Spring is definitely my favorite season! It's beautiful to watch how God brings everything to life again each year, and exciting to see splashes of color once again dot His lovely creation. The warmer weather is also wonderful - not too hot, but not too cold. Just right.

My preferred place to read and do schoolwork has changed from beside the warm fire (we don't even need to make one anymore!) to outside on the swing. I've sat on this swing for years, and though it's old and has changed color, it's still quite comfortable! I so enjoy sitting out in God's beautiful creation as a gentle breeze blows through, sun shines, then goes behind a cloud, and the birds and bees provide a glorious background sound. And the smell of spring - it makes you feel alive!

Sitting there I don't always just read or work. Sometimes I just sit and delight in the solitude. I get to see squirrels chasing each other up and down tall trees, chattering excitedly as they fly through the air. On Saturday, I saw 3 butterflies fluttering around the flowers, daintily landing then fluttering about again. I was thankful for my camera's zoom!

The flowers have burst to life again, each day producing more beautiful blooms. The azalea bushes are breaking out, the dogwoods are again dancing all through the forest, and the wisteria is begin to cascade down the trees. The little violets dot the yard, and the pansies bloom cheerfully in the small garden.

It's my favorite time of year!

If spring has sprung in your part of the land, make sure you get out and experience it! All too soon the flowers will be gone and the heat waves of summer will be upon us. If it's still cold, where you live, keep waiting. Enjoy the crisp, cold air while it last, and spring will soon come!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How to Make a Bun

Ever wondered how to make a "perfect" bun? It's really not that hard once you get the hang of it. As a dancer, I've gotten a lot of practice! The key for me turned out to be inexpensive hair nets and bobby pins - they really help keep the bun secure.

With The King's Praise Ballet's spring recital coming up in a month, I knew I needed some way of teaching the mothers how to make good buns for their daughters - I definitely wouldn't have time to make them all myself! I thought of having a "bun-making class" but it's hard to find a time when everyone would be available. So, with Jubilee graciously being my model and dad my photographer, I put together a bun-making tutorial complete with pictures for them to reference.

It doesn't have to be just for dancers! Putting your hair in a bun can be a great way to keep it off your neck and out of your face. If you're interested, check out "how to make a bun".

A look at Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite chapters - it's so inspiring! It's amazing how many new ways there are to look at these encouraging verses.

Elisabeth Adams has posted a two-part series on Young Ladies Christian Fellowship. If you haven't already, I suggest that you go and read her viewpoint:
A Spinster Looks at Proverbs 31 part 1
A Spinster Looks at Proverbs 31 part 2

As most of you know, Miriam, Jennifer and I made a video called Proverbs 31 Maidens almost a year ago (has it been that long?) If you haven't seen it, you can do so by going here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

When Dreams Must Wait

The longing is very great. It's been my dream since childhood. Sometimes the desire to be a wife and mother is so strong, all I can do is cry and pray. It's not a bad dream - it's a God-given dream to girls - but right now, it must wait.

What do you do with such a dream - one that you've had are your life yet are powerless to make come true? You give it to God. Yes, I know, it sounds so easy! In reality, it's not. The surrender of something so precious in your eyes, so right and good, is extremely painful. We know that God will take good care of our dream; we know that it is safe in His hands; yet we're still tempted to keep a firm hold on it. What if He decides that our dream must wait years, even decades before it comes to pass? What if He decides that our dream is not in His plan for our lives? Even in the midst of these hard questions, we must trust Him and release the dream completely into His care. As much as I long to be a wife and mother, if He decides that I am not to be one, I must learn to be content. If He decides He'd rather use me as a single lady for years - five, ten, twenty - I must follow where He leads. I'd rather be in the center of His will for my life then have my dreams fulfilled. His will is ultimately a safer and more joyful place. Not to say that it's easy or that at times it won't be full of pain! But even int he midst of pain or unfulfilled longing, there can be joy by being where God has placed you.

Sometimes dreams must die before they can gloriously live. They must be surrendered fully to God before He can make His dreams for us come true. And you know what? His dreams are infinitely greater than all we could ask or even imagine! My dreams of wifehood and motherhood are wonderful - images of love and fulfillment. Yet it's through surrendering them to God, saying "I'll still serve You even if I remain single my entire life" - hard as that would be - that God can begin to use me as He deems best. It may be through giving me my heart's desire. It may not. Whatever it may be, I still trust Him.

Do I have it all together? Is it easy? Definitely not! This reminder is as much for me as it is for you! I have moments of doubt and discouragement, wondering whether my life will really turn out right. I am often tempted to try to grab back my dreams, saying, "God, I know You know best, but don't you think I should be doing this?" Ultimately, He indeed knows what is best.

It doesn't mean that I never dream because I've surrendered them. God made us maidens with beautiful dreams and it's not wrong to have them! It's when we hold on to them tightly, unwilling to give them up even to our Father, or when we try to take matters into our own hands, that they become idols.

So, we just wait for God to show us what to do? Yes - but we practice active waiting. For example, if you want to be an accomplished musician, you don't just wait around for a chance to play on stage. You practice active waiting, practicing hard and preparing well for such an opportunity. I want to get married, but I don't lounge around the house waiting for my knight-in-shining-armor to come dashing up on his gallant steed! I practice active waiting by learning the skills that will be necessary for me to know as a wife. I prepare physically - learning to eat and exercise healthily and prepare nourishing meals - emotionally - learning to interact with a wide range of ages and abilities- and spiritually - praying for guidance and strength, and asking that God will help mold me into His woman. It is definitely worthwhile to prepare for this high calling! Even if it turns out that I never marry, this preparation will not go to waste.

It's likely that I will marry and become a mother one day - after all, most of the female population eventually experiences it! But for now, this dream must wait. I wonder sometimes, when it will happen, how, where, and to whom (what girl doesn't?!), but I must live in the present. Today I am a maiden; today I must actively wait. As 18 approaches, I realize that for the first time, the possibility is that marriage could be around the bend. However, I also remember that I am yet young, and a husband won't miraculously appear right when I think I'm ready! =)

Today is a precious gift. Tomorrow, it will be gone. Live in the present, not the future. We are not guaranteed another day. Definitely prepare for tomorrow - it's wise! - but don't be stuck in it, unable to cherish the joys of today.

Give God your dreams. Pray for His will for your life. Don't be afraid of the future. He is a loving Father, and He knows what's best for His children. He doesn't promise that it will be easy, but He promises that He'll be with us through it all.

I can't wait to see what He has in store!