Thursday, October 30, 2008

Enjoyable Opportunities

One of the nice things about attending a Christian college is the many concert opportunities that come through. In addition, I enjoy chapel services, though only once a week here, hearing the different speakers that come through and singing praise songs or hymns as a campus body.

Just this week, I was able to attend two different great concerts, ones I'd definitely recommend that you keep an eye out for, and go to if you hear of any near you!

On Tuesday evening the United States Air Force Band was in concert at Belhaven's Center for the Arts building. It was absolutely outstanding! The talent of all the players was amazing, and the music was so much fun to listen to! I especially had fun watching the flutists and clarinetist, which were the ones closet to me, as their fingers rapidly ran over the keys on extremely fast sequences of notes!

The "Singing Sergeants" traveled along with the band, and they were also amazing and a lot of fun to hear! In addition to the big chorus, there were small groups that did musical numbers, including Celtic music, a hilarious "Barbershop Quartet" and an all-male chorus.

A few hours hearing beautiful music was a wonderful way to spend an evening (and a nice break from homework)! A few years ago, I went to a United States Army Band concert, which was also outstanding. So, if you ever hear of any United States Army/Air Force/National Guard, etc. band coming through, try to attend. You will be glad that you did!

This morning we had "The Day of Learning" for this semester. Morning classes were canceled, and those who went to the Center for the Arts were treated to a wonderful presentation from South Korea. The Far East Broadcasting-Korea Children's Choir performed during two half-hour segments, and they were very talented and very adorable! They sang and danced quite well, and by the loud "aw..." that went through the crowd each time they came onstage, everyone could see that they were amazingly cute! I wish I had brought my camera... but alas, I didn't. To top it all off, near the end of the presentation, the children came offstage and made their way through the auditorium giving everyone hugs as a small group onstage sang an arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me." They certainly melted one's heart. ;-)

In addition, we saw short clips from a documentary on South Korea, sang some songs together, and listened as Dr. Billy Kim gave two dynamic sermons. He's a very engaging and convicting speaker, and the director of the Far East Broadcasting Company in Korea. I really enjoyed the special opportunity of hearing him speak!

All-in-all, it was a great way to spend 3 1/2 hours this morning, and definitely a nice break from the normal routine of classes. =)

If you hear of any of these events going your way, I would definitely suggest trying to make time to attend!

What about you? Have you attended anything special recently? I'd enjoy hearing about it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Music - Language of the Heart

This semester has been the most music-less of my life. And oh, how I have missed it!

Growing up, we were pretty much "required" to take some kind of music lessons every year from around age 6 and upwards. I didn't mind - I enjoyed music and often took 2 or 3 different types at a time! I started with violin at age 6, and played for a few years. I even played in a very small homeschool ensemble, playing first the recorder, and then the violin. The Suzuki method worked well in teaching me to play, but not in learning to read notes on a page. I was taught using numbers and colors, and when I got a new teacher and she tried to get me to read notes, I got discouraged and stopped. Looking back I wish I would have stuck with it, but in stopping I got to experience a new instrument: the piano!

I began piano lessons when I was 9 - 10, taking from a fun lady at our church. I really enjoyed playing the piano, and learned basic theory and how to actually read the written musical notes, which set the foundation for the years ahead. After a year, however, my teacher moved away, and switching to a new teacher was again really hard. I didn't enjoy it as much, and after half a year, or perhaps more (I can't remember!) decided to stop and play the flute instead.

My siblings had been in the homeschool band for a few years, but at the time I was interested in violin or piano, two things that you couldn't exactly play in the band. The fall after my 12th birthday, I decided to play the flute. I'd heard that my good friend Miriam was going to start band that year as well, playing the flute, and I personally thought it the prettiest instrument in the band. Though my reasons for starting weren't the strongest, I soon grew to enjoy the flute more than any other instrument before. I took lessons as I began the beginning band, and by January had moved up to the intermediate level. The next fall, we got a new band teacher - this time a flute player herself! - and she taught me so much about the flute, correcting many lazy habits I didn't know that I had. I played in the intermediate and advanced band for a while, and then moved into the advanced band, where I played for the next 5 years. I had so much fun and learned so much, even taking flute lessons from our band teacher during a few of the summers. Part of what I enjoyed so much about the instrument, I suppose, was being able to play with my friend Miriam Rebekah. We played many duets over the years, and even took double private lessons in the summer. She helped encourage me to learn to play by ear, and the last two-three years of high school I enjoyed accompanying worship, at home church meetings, or at the Anglican church we attended.

The last year of high school was the most musical of them all, and I really enjoyed it. Because of a change in band directors, the band got smaller and the music wasn't as challenging to play, which was a disappointment. However, I had other things to practice as well that year, taking piano and voice lessons. My great enjoyment for the piano was rediscovered, and I continued lessons during the summer. I enjoyed voice as well; I had sung in a homeschool choir the year before, and taking private lessons helped me become more confident in singing out strong, though I'm no amazing vocalist!

This semester, I didn't have time for any music lessons or groups, and I've really missed them. With 19 credit hours of other classes, I didn't think I'd have time for music, so I decided to put it off a semester. I continued playing on my roommate's keyboard whenever I had the time, and sitting down and playing hymns or pieces I'd learned really helped soothe and relax me during times of busyness. Music is truly a language of itself, one that flows out from the heart.

As I've adjusted to classes and the college routine, I've figured out that I probably would have had time for at least orchestra, so as I pre-registered for spring classes, I decided to email the director of the orchestra and see what I needed to do to join. To my delight, he said I'd be able to audition and join after the orchestra's concert on November 4th, as they'd then immediately start preparing for their February concert. To tell the truth, I hadn't played my flute at all since arriving to college (yes, I blame busyness, though I probably could have made time) but I was excited to have a reason to again!. In excitement and preparation for the audition, I've practiced on Saturday, Monday, and today, and the exhilaration of playing again has made me quite joyful. I'm so enjoying to playing flute regularly again, and am looking forward to experiencing what an orchestra is like. I audition on November 7th, so prayer that it goes well is appreciated! I'm also seriously looking into taking private piano lessons next semester if I can work things out. We'll see how God leads.

It's really hard sometimes, when I so enjoy dancing, acting, and so much of the music world, to know what to focus on the most. I enjoy all of them, but they all take a lot of time. I don't have the answers yet, and I don't know if and what God will lead me to study and practice more than the others, but I do know that I'm very excited to get back into music.

Practicing can get to be a chore sometimes, but oftentimes it is more of a relaxation. With so many things to do, papers to write, and tests to study for, making music with an instrument or your voice often helps to relieve stress. Melody or harmony, adagio or allegro, music speaks to the soul. I'm ever so thankful that God made music, and it is my prayer that I play for His glory.

Are there other musicians out there? I know that there are! =) I'd enjoy it if you would comment and share what instrument you play!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Preparing my Heart for Worship

Today I rushed to get ready to go to church. I had a hard time getting out of bed, and by the time I was dressed and ready, I only had a few minutes to read the Bible before running out the door to grab a bit of breakfast and then meet the van that takes us to church. I've gotten into a lazy habit on the weekends of not leaving enough time for quality devotions. Devotions are priority on weekdays: I get up at 6 a.m., shower and or/get dressed (so that I don't fall asleep - changing helps wake me up!) and then spend 30-45 minutes reading and meditating on the Bible and praying. On weekends, however, I've been tired and allowed myself to sleep in as late as possible, not always leaving enough time to have devotions before I have to be somewhere.

I pondered this as I got ready, looking at myself in the mirror as I brushed my hair. I was spending time making my outward appearance look good as I prepared to spend time worshiping, but I was neglecting spending quality time preparing my heart. Sure, I can and do pray as I get ready, but I was allowing my looks to be more important than my inner person. It is indeed important - you don't want to go to church looking as though you just got out of bed! - but I should spend as much time and more preparing my heart as I do preparing my hair.

In God's strength, I'm going to stop allowing devotions to be a lower priority on the weekends. I would rather get 1/2 hour of less sleep than neglect my time with the Lord. I need time to rest and recover, but my spiritual walk is more important in the long run. Plus, my entire outlook on the day is better when I spend the first part of the morning "setting my heart on things above" (Colossians 3:1).

It takes discipline, such as going to bed earlier and not wasting time staying up late just because it is the weekend. I am thankful for God's grace, which gives me the strength to go on and picks me up when I fall. I don't have devotions because it's the "good, Christian thing to do," or because I'm trying to "earn brownie points" with God. I do it because I truly want to know my Father more deeply. Only He can truly prepare my heart to worship Him.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Manoah's Wife

The man was so bright... so awesome. He looked like an angel of God - think of that, an angel, appearing to me! In the awestruck wonder of it all, I forgot to ask him where he came from, and he never told me his name. But he did tell me that I would have a son, and that was news enough. After all these years of being sterile and childless, am I to now have a little one of my own? What's more, the man said that my son would grow up to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines, our accursed oppressors. It's all too much... I can't make sense of it... I must find Manoah and tell him all about it. Just think... we may soon have a child of our own!

Judges 13:1 sets the stage for the story of Samson and his family:
"Again the Israelites did evil in the yes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years."
This is a recurring theme throughout the book of Judges. Again and again the Lord would appoint judges to lead his people, and again and again, as soon as the judge died, the people would again turn away from the Lord. This had happened again, and the Israelites were again under oppression. In the midst of it all, there lived a man named Manoah and his wife, a woman whose name is not recorded, but who would be the mother of Samson, another judge of Israel.

We can imagine her surprise when an angel of the Lord appeared to her and said,
"You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conveive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines." (Judges 13:2-5)
It's amazing to notice in Scripture just how many stories there are of barren women in whom God miraculously worked to allow them to conceive a child when they had given up hope. Each time, the child they bore grew up to do something special for the Lord. Manoah's wife was given the promise of a child, and also special instructions concerning his upbringing. He was to be set apart to God from birth, a Nazirite for life, and his task to begin Israel's deliverance would make him a hero.

The woman quickly went to her husband, and told him what had happened, how the man looking like an angel had appeared, and what he had told her. Manoah believed in faith that a son would be born, yet at the same time he and his wife felt inadequate to be the parents of such a special boy. Wisely, they sought the Lord for help:
"Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: 'O Lord, I beg You, let the man of God You sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.'" (Judges 13:8)
God answered their prayer, and sent the angel again. He appeared to the woman while she was alone out in the field, so she ran to bring her husband, and he came and questioned the man, making sure that he was the one who had spoken to his wife before.
"So Manoah asked him, 'When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?'

The angel of the LORD answered, 'Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.'" (Judges 13:12-14)
The instructions probably weren't as detailed as Manoah would have hoped, but he was grateful for what they were told, and asked the man, whom he didn't yet realize was an angel of the LORD, to stay until they had fixed a young goat for him to eat. He told them that he couldn't eat their food, but that they should offer it to the LORD, which they did. As they watched, the LORD did an amazing thing, allowing them to see the angel ascending in the flame from the offering and going up to heaven. Terrified, Manoah and his wife fell down with their faces to the ground, realizing that this was indeed the angel of the LORD.
"'We are doomed to die!' he said to his wife. 'We have seen God!'

But his wife answered, 'If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.'" (Judges 13:22-23)
What an amazing thing for Manoah and his wife to look back on, as they looked forward to the birth of their son! In due time, Samson was born, and he grew and the Lord blessed him, causing His Spirit to stir in him as he became a man.

If you are familiar with the story of Samson, you know that he did not turn out to lead a very exemplory life. He was incredibly strong through the strength the Lord gave him as he kept his Nazirite vows, and he did fight against the Philistines and begin to deliver Israel from their hands. However, he was very impulsive, childish at times, and too much swayed by lust for women. God worked through it all to accomplish His plans, but Samson's lifestyle is definitely not one we'd want to emulate!

The Bible doesn't give details on whether or not Samson's parents raised him well. From the manner of Samson's demand for a Philistine wife and the way his parents gave in and got her for him (Judges 14:1-7) seems to show that they were a little too indulgent and permissive. Perhaps they thought that because Samson was a special child, one devoted to the Lord, they wouldn't have to discipline him and train him in righteous ways. We can't truly know, however. They may have been wonderful parents, for there are many children rebel when parents have done all they could to raise them in God's ways. We do know that God was using the circumstances, even Samson's demand for a Philistine wife, to accomplish His purposes (Judges 14:4).

What can we learn from Manoah's wife? We can strive to emulate the faith that she showed when the angel appeared to her and told her that she was going to have a son. It was an impossible thing in her mind, yet she and her husband believed, and instead of asking for another sign that this would occur, as others in Scripture did, they instead asked for God to teach them how to raise this special boy. It should remind us to ask God for wisdom when we lack it, for He will give it generously (James 1:5).

We should also be reminded that just because the Lord promises something, doesn't mean that everything will turn out to be picture-perfect. We mustask for His strength and guidance day-by-day, trusting Him to work His purposes out as we follow Him. Situations may seem hopeless, but God knows what He's doing.

Read all about Manoah's wife in Judges 13-14. For more about previous women in the Bible, click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Letters - A Beautiful Art

There was a time that letter-writing was considered an art, something that nearly every woman and many men engaged in on a regular basis. In our fast-paced world, however, it seems to have fallen by the wayside. As I've said before, I am truly thankful for the internet and email, and the convenience it brings. However, a real, handwritten letter is still one of my favorite things to receive.

Everyone I know is excited when they receive something in their mailbox, whether it be a letter from their little sibling or a slip for a package from their mother. I know that the the elation I receive when I open my mailbox and find something in it is wonderful. It's rather sad when it's completely empty, even though I certainly don't expect to find something every day! When the letters or packages do come, they truly brighten my day and make me feel special. I've begun to actually look forward to Mondays, because there are usually letters waiting for me in the afternoon, ones that piled up over the weekend when the campus post office isn't open. I received 4 letters this past Monday - what a blessing!

Yes, everyone I know, whether male or female, appreciates receiving letters. And I've found the secret to receiving a lot of mail is to write a lot of letters! Now, of course, this shouldn't be our only motivation for writing to people, and we shouldn't always expect them to write back, but they often do. After all, when you receive a letter from a friend or family member full of questions and news, you often feel compelled to write back and share your own news, answering the questions.

Through email and now our family-plan cell phones, it's easier to quickly send an email or call up someone if you need something. And for small requests or things you need immediately, it's the best plan. And though I'm starting to enjoy long phone conversations (I used to greatly dislike talking on the phone), I still enjoy written conversations, that you can keep and read again and again. Also, as part of my personality, I express myself better through writing, so long letters serve the purpose for me quite well!

I am blessed to have friends and family that keep me well-supplied with mail on a regular basis, and I in turn try to keep them excitedly checking their mailboxes. While away at college, letters have become an even more special touch of home or friendships. I've continued writing Lydia and Elijah, as we send letters from one college to another. I also try to write Mom, Dad, and Jubilee at home every once-and-a-while, though I keep up-to-date through the phone most often. Us "sisters of the heart" keep the letters flying between us, and it is always such a joy to find a letter from Miriam, Gabrielle, or Jennifer. My penpal of 6 years, Anna, and I still keep in touch, as we're both freshmen at college this year. It's amazing to see where the years have brought us as we've written back and forth. Natalie and I have begun exchanging letters as well, and it's been a great way to keep in touch with a dear family I've done so much with. Then there are surprise letters, from other family members, former dance students, or families I've babysat, and each one is always so much fun to receive.

I don't have as much time for writing letters as I used to, and sometimes have to put off my replies longer than I would care to, but I manage to find time here and there to write pretty regularly. My pen isn't still for long. =) I often carry around stationery and the recent letters I've received with me in my backpack, so that I can answer them in the spare moments I have throughout the day. The weekend also is a great time to catch up on correspondence, and, when the weather is nice, sitting outside is a beautiful atmosphere inspires long musings. Letter writing does take time, but it is time well worth it!

Another thing I've made my "mission" is to remember the birthday of each member of my family, and each close friend or whole families I count as "second families" back home. I have fun making a personal birthday card or buying a card in the bookstore, putting together a package on some occasions, and try to mail it to them as close to the day of their birthday as possible. It's a way of letting them know that I remember them, and that I care.

Letter-writing truly is an art. You find pretty paper from your stash based on your mood or the person you're writing, or even make your own. You choose a pen that writes well, sometimes corresponding the color of the ink to match the stationery. You cover it with flowing script, trying to make even lines, and yet not demanding that it be perfect, as long as it's easily legible! You write about your day, share exciting news, and ask questions of and encourage the one you're writing to. You sign your name, and perhaps add an applicable Scripture verse at the end. You address the envelope, lick it shut, and maybe even brighten up the envelope with a sticker or two. On goes the stamp, and you drop it in the mailbox, praying that it will brighten the day of the one you send it to.

I must admit, I have a weakness for stationery, and buy quite a bit of it! It's getting harder to find these days, so when I do find some nice packets for a great price, I often stock up on it. It's hard to resist! However, it all gets used eventually, and I enjoy having a big selection to choose from. I found a pretty, large box over the summer to store it in, which keeps it fairly organized and easy to find!

Letter writing doesn't have to be a consistent thing, for I know that everyone is quite busy. However, it is a fun and rewarding thing to find time for. Even if it's just a quick note that you drop in the mail, your recipient will be glad to receive it. And though faithful penpals are tons of fun, just because you write to someone doesn't mean that you are required to do it regularly! Sometimes the sporadic once-in-a-while letters are the best surprise. Thank-you cards are also a great thing to send through the mail. They don't take much time to write, but they allow you to express gratefulness from your heart in a personal way.

Not everyone will find as much joy in writing letters, which I completely understand. It is something to consider doing more often, however.

So, who have you written recently?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Camping - Fall 2008

This past weekend was our annual fall campout. Always a fun and memorable time, this campout was no different. Though I will make a note here and say that it was not the same without Anna Naomi and her family missed their cook sorely. =)

It was forecast to rain on Friday but we went ahead and headed to the campsite. Dad got there before us and had the canopy and tent set up by the time we got there and then it started to rain. So we sat under the canopy and played games with other people while we waited for the rain to stop. It lasted for quite a while but finally eased up enough for us to start a fire. So, we mostly sat around our little fire for the rest of Friday.

Saturday morning was a little chilly and the beginning of a wonderful day. After having some of Dad's good pancakes, we started a game of volleyball. We played about three or 4 games then dispersed to our different areas for a little rest and chatting.

Sitting at a dormant fire talking

Brother and sister

Playing...a game =)

The same game

Saturday night found most of the camping group gathered around the big fire. We sang, chatted, laughed, and enjoyed fellowshipping with all our wonderful friends. As it got later, the group got smaller and smaller. By 1 a.m. there were 7 still hanging around and by 2 a.m. there were 4 of us left. Mother, Mrs. M, Elijah, and myself were still up and talking though I was really tired. After battling with my eyes long enough, I decided I needed to retire and we all broke up for the night.

Andrew teaching friends the game of Nine-Hole Golf

Getting ready for the game

A husband and wife (this is such a sweet picture!)

My dad talking with a friend

I arose later than intended Sunday morning. After receiving numerous compliments on how good I looked, I got the hint and went to clean up my face and hair. Feeling much better, I went to sit by the fire and warm up. After breakfast everyone gathered for a time of fellowship and sharing. Then the rest of the afternoon was spent in various ways. Later in the afternoon we packed up and then a big group of us walked down to The Point, a place where two rivers converge. When we got back, it was time to say goodbye and head home.
I'll be putting some more pictures on my other blog soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Being Wise about Hard Things

If you haven't already read The Rebelution's post Do Hard Things, Say No you should go over and read it right now! It's a great reminder that we should be wise in the "hard things" that we do.

There are many very hard things that aren't necessarily things that are profitable or wise for us to do, and it's important to make the distinction between what we should do because it's a good thing, and what we should not do, even though it would be very hard for us. We must remember that the whole reason we should "Do Hard Things" is for God's glory, not our own. In Scripture, wisdom is stressed over and over, and it's things we should apply to all of life, including the "hard things" that we do.

Sometimes it can be harder to do the seemingly easy things that we would be wise in doing. For example, I get headaches somewhat easily and frequently. They often come from a change of schedule, when I don't get enough sleep, miss a meal or eat later than usual, eat too much sugar, adjust to a new routine, etc. I thrive on routine, and when I stay on a consistent schedule, I often don't get many headaches. There are sometimes things beyond my control that cause me to stay up late or eat later, but often it happens because of choices that I make. Going to late-night work calls is something that is definitely hard, by sacrificing sleep to help build the set in time for the show. However, it's not something that is very wise for me to do. I may be helping others and accomplishing something good, but if as a result I get a headache and am very sleepy the next day, it would result in me not learning as much in class, and being slower at everything I help with the next day. Sometimes it's inconvenient to take care of my body, and wouldn't it be "harder" to miss a meal when I'm busy doing something important? No, for if I get a headache as a result of it, I do not function as well, and the time taken out to eat is more than worth the time later spent sluggishly trying to concentrate with a pounding head, and therefore not getting much done as a result.

Of course, it's all too easy to use the above as excuses for not doing true "hard things," so we have to constantly be discerning of what is wise for us to do. It will be different for each person, so don't feel guilty if your "hard thing" may be not doing what is another person's "hard thing." In it all, we should follow God's leading, and be sensitive to what He is calling us to do.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." - James 1:5

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Delight in the Lord

Are you delighting in the Lord today? Our wonderful Father never ceases to amaze me! Walking back from the Center for the Arts today (about a block off of the main campus, and where I have all my theatre-related classes), I couldn't stop smiling. The day is so beautiful, and God's creation so wondrous. As I walked, I couldn't help myself from bursting into song:

"From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to it's light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom..."
(lyrics from "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin)

There is a lot to do. Homework is ever present, and my evenings are taken up sewing costumes and helping backstage for an upcoming production. As the time gets closer, I'm also not getting as much sleep as I try to get. However, our God is ever faithful, and we must take the time to spend time with Him and praise Him, even amidst very busy seasons of life.

College is going well, though I do miss home, and will miss our bi-annual camping trip for the first time in 10 years! But there are new experiences here in which to learn and grow, and my walk with my Savior in which to ever-deepen and grow. Today I am praising and delighting in my Maker, and it is my prayer that I shall learn to do it every day.

"Glorify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His Name together!"
- Psalm 34:3

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall Break Recipes

*Caution* If you're really hungry, you may not want to read this post right now! =)

One thing that I really miss while at college is the opportunity to cook and bake. Having done it for years, not doing it for 2 months seemed like forever! Over fall break, I enjoyed being able to cook again, and went on cooking extreme mode - but my family didn't mind! :-) Fall break as a whole was very relaxing, and I enjoyed spending time with family and friends most of all, but cooking came in a close second.

Most of the things I made were things I had been craving at college. The cafeteria's food here is pretty good, but nothing can beat homemade delicacies! To go to the recipes, click on the underlined links below the pictures.

I made Apple Cinnamon Rolls on Saturday morning, and we had them for lunch, along with delicious fruit salad and turkey bacon!

Miriam and Esther came over on Saturday and spent the night. We watched the 5-hour Pride and Prejudice movie, and took a break in the middle of it to make supper. Miriam helped me make Tuna Under Biscuits, a family favorite.

On Sunday morning, I made Orange Cinnamon Blueberry Muffins - one of the best things for breakfast! We worked together to make delicious taco salad for lunch.

It was fun to make fresh bread again! It smells so good while it rises and bakes, and I enjoy working with the bread dough. I made the bread on Monday morning, and we had it fresh from the oven with honey and jelly for lunch, along with an omlette.

M & M Peanut butter Cookies are probably the favorite cookies in the Lofgren household, and ones I've gotten "famous" for making. =) We didn't have any M&Ms, so I used chocolate chips this time - still tasty, but not as colorful! I made these on Monday afternoon, and took some with me that afternoon to a family that lives near us and who I babysat for 6 years. I enjoyed talking with Mrs. Candi and playing with the children for a few hours!

Almost every holiday we got together as family, Michele made yummy pumpkin bread that I so enjoyed! So, I asked for the recipe and enjoyed making and eating this delicious bread. I served it for lunch on Tuesday afternoon, along with cornflake chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables.

Hopefully all that cooking will keep me happy for a while. =) I hope you find some recipes that you'll enjoy making as well. All of the ones I used are tried and true, from the "Anna Approved Edition" of the "Lofgren Favorites" recipe book. =)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thankful Today

Have you thanked God today? Take a moment, and consider the blessings He has lavished on us this day. Today will never come again, and it is a time to be thankful.

Today, I am thankful for...
  • The fact that I get to go home (leaving at 4:30 p.m., after Theatre Departmental) for fall break!
  • The beautiful day outside, a bit warm, but still very nice!
  • The opportunity to cook and bake again while I'm home - something I haven't been able to do for 2 months!
  • The fact that the big midterm and 3 quizzes I had this week are over, as well as the presentation in Understanding Theatre on Wednesday, and that they all went well.
  • The time I'll be able to spend with my family this weekend, playing games and just being with them.
  • Yummy pizza in the cafeteria for lunch. =)
  • The fact that I'll be able to see Miriam Rebekah tomorrow and spend Saturday and Sunday with her!!
  • Friends that the Lord has provided here at college.
  • God's amazing creation, big fluffy clouds, and the beauty of the light and shadows playing on a field.
  • The strength God gives to do what needs to be done each and every day.
  • God's grace that He so freely gives to me, even though I don't deserve it.
  • A loving family and home to go home to!! (Can you tell that I'm slightly excited?)
There are many more things, and we could probably spend all day listing all the little things that we can be thankful for. Our loving Father is so good! Let's purpose to live a life of thankfulness today and every day.

What are you thankful for today?

"Be joyful always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Garden of Life (Re-post)

Things are really busy here, with 3 tests this week and classes in full swing. Homework and costume stitching are keeping me hopping, with very little time to write, and a tired brain to boot after the day is done! I'm really looking forward to fall break this weekend, as I get to go home for a few days! Below is a post I wrote 2 years ago that I decided to re-post. It covers things that we constantly need to be reminded of.

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?

*Disclaimer* 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.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What's Been Keeping Me Busy...

Joel's fiancee, Racheal, surprised me some months ago by asking me if I could make the bridesmaids' dresses for the wedding. My mind quickly ran over what would and might be involved and with 17-year-old confidence said that I would do it. Okay, so I didn't think of everything that would be involved... =)

Racheal and I decided on the same pattern that Anna used for Miriam's bridesmaids, McCall's 3954. While we were waiting for the fabric to come in, it hit me what I had just agreed to. I had less than three months to make 5 dresses! Well, it was an easy pattern and I knew I could do it.

I became less sure of that fact as I struggled to get measurements and then bodice sizing to make sure it was the right size. As we neared a month and a half left, I was nearing the panic stage. Finally, we got the first dress cut out and I began sewing. Once the dress had taken it's shape I began to feel that this was actually possible. I am now almost done with the second dress and though they are going to be done later than I wished, they will be done. Thankfully, all of her girls are local so I don't have to ship any dresses off. Even better, my sister is one of them, so I can use her as a dummy while I make her dress. =)

I will post more pictures once all the dresses are done. I decided to take a break to let everyone know what I'm doing right now.

God bless you all!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

John and Miriam's Wedding

... from the perspective of a younger sister.

A new journey is begun...

The day, September 6th, 2008, was simply perfect. Though a bit hot outside, the sun was shining and the sky was true blue with fluffy white clouds. After sleeping in somewhat late because of a headache, I headed out to the kitchen to eat breakfast. Things were already in full swing, family eating breakfast, and a bridesmaid arranging bouquets for the wedding fountain. Pretty soon, the bride herself, my sister, came inside with cereal in a heart-shaped tin, the prize at the end of the treasure hunt her husband-to-be had set up for her. She looked so serene and happy; a beautiful bride for a beautiful day.

It was fun to see the love in their eyes!

Everything was all 'a flurry as we prepared to head to the church. Finally, the girls (sisters, bridesmaids, and cousin) piled into 3 cars to drive over. I rode with Miriam and Jubilee. As we pulled out, I asked Miriam, "Can you believe you're getting married today?" "Not really..." she responded, as she pulled out of our driveway for the last time as a Lofgren.
About to change into their wedding garb. Today they'll be married!!

Soon after we got to church, the wedding party began getting prettied up. A friend from church did everyone's makeup, and one of the bridesmaids helped with hair. I mostly took care of the baby of one of the bridesmaids, and did whatever else needed to be done, helping Miriam with last-minute things, picking up my sister and her children from the hotel, and so on.

The church and reception hall each looked wonderful, decorated by two ladies from the church and my mom. Miriam received so much great help from friends!

Pictures were taken before the ceremony and I had fun watching different poses get set up. Two friends from church took pictures and another friend helped set them up. In between them all I helped find people, took care of children, and, oh yes, got prettied up myself!

Miriam with her bridesmaids: Tamra, a roommate in college, Lydia, sister, and Ivory, a friend from college

Such cute little members of the wedding party!

The wedding party all together

It was fun trying to fit everyone on the stage for family pictures. With a new niece born and a new brother-in-law, our immediate family now has 20 members. What a blessing!

The bride and groom with their families combined. It's been a joy to get to know John's family as friends!

Around 2:15 p.m. people began arriving, so picture-taking began to be wrapped up. As 3 p.m. and the start of the ceremony drew closer, I alternated between greeting friends, helping with last-minute things, and holding onto the ring bearer's pillow. Since the real rings were tied into it, I definitely didn't want it to get lost! Soon most guests were seated in the sanctuary, and I stood in the foyer keeping track of my cute ring bearer-nephew Zach and cute flower girl-nieces Sara Rose and Lisa Beth. There were last minute instructions to give ("Make sure you hold your pillow flat!" "Don't forget to smile and sprinkle your flower petals!") and a tired, almost-2-year-old flower girl to comfort. Miriam appeared in the hallway on Dad's arm, looking radiant and peaceful.

I stood with the wedding party in the foyer, listening to the beautiful pre-wedding music played by two of John's friends. All of the music was planned by the groom, John, and many of the hymns were arranged by him for piano (played by my brother-in-law Ron) and violin (played by "The W Brothers," a string trio of which Jubilee's violin teacher is a part). The official wedding music then began, and the bridesmaids walked down the aisle one by one. I sent the ring bearer down, then the flower girls. "Go to Mommy, Lisa Beth!" I whispered, and she did, falling fast asleep in her mother's arms soon after she walked down the aisle. Zach (age 5) and Sara (age 4) stood with the other wedding party, behaving so well! The bride's processional music began to play, and I spread out her train one last time as she entered on my Dad's arm. I helped the wedding coordinator (another friend from church!) close the doors, then slipped in to my seat as Miriam took her place in the front. Miriam just carried one flower down the front, then many of her close friends filed forward, each with a white rose, to make up her bouquet, symbolizing the unity of the body of Christ.

Zach carried the rings so well!

Whereas at the rehearsal, we always had to get Lisa Beth to follow Sara down the aisle, at the actual ceremony, she led the way!

Proud papa, beaming bride

The whole ceremony would take too long to describe, but it went by beautifully and smoothly. There were so many elements involved that were meaningful and lovely. The music, the sermons given by John's pastor and Miriam's pastor, the unity candle, the hymns sung by the congregation, and the scripture readings of which I was a part all fit together so well.

Soon, it was time for the vows and rings to be exchanged. The pastor pronounced them husband and wife and explained how they, at age 28 and 29 had kept themselves pure for each other. They have indeed been an example to me and to many, as they hadn't even kissed before their wedding day. Finally, the pastor said, "John, you may now kiss the bride!" To my shock I saw my nephew Alex run onstage at that moment. "What in the world?" I thought, as I saw him hand something to John. Then we all burst out laughing as John presented Miriam with a huge Hershey's kiss! Well, yes, she does like chocolate! =) I later learned it was all a part of their plan, and it certainly lightened the mood. Then they did kiss for real, for the very first time.

Yes, it's a kiss all right!

The recessional was lovely, then we all gathered to one side of the sanctuary as the wedding party came back onstage for a huge group photo to document all of the guests who had come for the special day.
Let the party begin!

Everything was 'a buzz as we all headed over to the Doster Center for the wedding reception/dinner. We enjoyed the delicious food, cake, bubbles, and musical chairs!

The cakes were made by another friend of Miriam's from church, who had a business making and decorating cakes. They were so lovely and tasted delicious!

The groom's cake was decorated with airplanes and violins, since John is fascinated by airplanes and plays the violin really well!

They were nice feeding each other the wedding cake, but with the egging on of the crowd, they smeared a little of the groom's cake on each other. Miriam very kindly wiped it off John soon after, though!

All of the children really enjoyed the bubbles!

Yes, we played musical chairs at the wedding reception! It was a compromise between John, who wanted to have dancing, and Miriam who didn't. Even the bride and groom got involved in the game, as did the rest of the attendees, going around and around the tables.

Waiting to catch the bouquet...

The boys were very enthusiastically waiting to catch the garter, because John put it around a foam football to throw it.

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea, though... The younger boys got into a big tussle trying to get it!

Around 8 p.m. the bride and groom headed off amidst a cloud of bubbles

It's the beginning of a new journey together...

... as husband and wife for life.

Sorry for taking so long to post pictures from the wedding! It's been a busy month! If you want to see more wedding pictures, Miriam is posting a lot, as well as pictures from their beautiful honeymoon!