Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas '09 Pictures

* Helping move in half a day * Cooking together * Feeling Miriam's baby move in the womb * Playing many games * A snowball fight * Long walks through the neighborhoods * Pausing for another picture * Staying up late * Sleeping until noon on Christmas (crazy!) * Eating lots of treats * Seeing nieces and nephews grown so tall * Driving 12 hours * Thanking God for family

We had a wonderful Christmas in Ohio. God graciously gave us safe travel and an enjoyable time. My sister Miriam did a great summary post with pictures, which you can read by going here. Instead of re-telling it all, I'll let you read it from her perspective.

Miriam and John were wonderful hosts, and it was fun to have John's family there as well to share in the celebration!

I just had to share this picture John snapped on Christmas Eve. You can't tell that we're sisters, now can you? ;)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Away for Christmas

Where has this month gone? I hope you are doing well and praising God in this season!

Beyond Bethlehem finished up well, praise God! We presented last Friday and Saturday to two packed audiences, and everyone did great! It was a wonderful to see God bring this musical to completion in His faithful way. After Christmas I hope to create slideshows and upload more pictures, but for now you can see some shots on the blog of The King's Courts.

Yesterday and today I've spent most of the day trying to finish Christmas presents that didn't have much time devoted to them during the busyness of the musical. I'm almost done - some will have to be completed in the car - and I still have to pack.

Tomorrow we leave to spend Christmas in Ohio with my sister Miriam, her husband John, and John's family. It will be a long trip, so please pray for traveling safety. We'll be helping them move into their new house, and seeing my brother and his family for a day as well.

So, I guess I must join the ranks of other busy bloggers and bid you goodbye until close to the New Year. I hope and pray you have a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate our Savior's birth!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Becoming Anna

How do you portray a woman who has spent years in the presence of God? After spending the majority of her life at the temple, how would she act?

The story of Anna has always fascinated me... (click here to read the rest)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Entering a Whirlwind Time

The last two weeks were a record here, with posts almost every day! However, expect the next two weeks to be pretty quiet... I'm entering a busy season, with "Beyond Bethlehem" being presented on December 18th and 19th, Lord willing. So much has already been done to prepare for it (including 7 hours spent at the church building today setting up and planning lights), but there is also a lot left to do.

I will be posting more on the blog for The King's Courts, with pictures of rehearsals and behind-the-scenes glimpses into all of the details necessary to put on a production. I hope to post every day about something new, but it all depends on the time and information I have available.

Things are going well, praise God! This musical has had some of the greatest challenges to overcome, but also some of the biggest blessings. I look forward to watching God bring all of the final details together! My dance students have learned their dances well (you can see pictures from one class dancing yesterday), and we'll be presenting at a nursing home this Thursday. The actors have brought their parts to life, and I have really enjoyed acting in this one, playing the one I was named for, Anna (look for a post on The King's Courts soon about what I've learned through that).

Yes, there are still many things to work out, but God is faithfully bringing things together. I am still learning to trust, but on the whole, God has taught me to rely on Him and not stress so much! He is so good.

I'm also looking forward to having the college students back home! Lydia and Elijah finish finals and drive home on Thursday, and Miriam will be headed to her house on Friday! It will be wonderful to spend time with them all.

What are you all up to in this busy season?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

(Part 5) The Wait will be Worth it!

Though I haven't yet experienced courtship and marriage, I've seen and read the stories of many who have, and who had waited for God's timing. Did they regret the wait? No. Countless times I've heard the same thing echoed: "It was worth it."

When you give yourself to the one you waited for, you don't wish you had those experiences with someone else. You are so glad that you waited for them, thankful that God gave you the strength and patience to persevere. When you're with the one you truly love, the lonely Friday nights when you wondered if you'd ever marry fade away. Dreams still do come true.

Is it all the bliss you imagined? Many say it's even better, but also that it's quite different from what they expected. The mundane will still invade even the joyfully married.

But the wait will be worth it all. All the tears, all the fears, all the dreams that had to wait. The lessons and experiences that happened during the waiting will be precious as you see how they prepared you.

Is it only worth it if you marry the first one you court? No. I do hope that I only court one man, but I also know that some successful courtships end with breaking off the relationship. Part of getting to know someone means that you could realize that this isn't the one you're supposed to marry. But by committing to purity in the relationship, you remain pure for your future husband - whether he is the one you're currently courting or not. A courtship that ends does leave hurt, but God teaches lessons through it.

And if you've made big mistakes in the past, it doesn't mean that you have no hope now. We all have messed up, but God is so faithful to forgive and give new opportunities. By turning, repenting, and committing to a new way of life, living set-apart for the Lord and pure for your future spouse, God is gracious to wipe the old away and bring about glorious, new things!

Life won't suddenly be perfect when I become a bride. We still live in a world of sin, and there are many challenges that face married couples. The relationship will require a lot of time and work. But it will be worth it - I cling to that.

Sometimes I do wonder how it will be... if I'll be adequate. After years of waiting and suppressing the desires that yearn but can't yet be fulfilled, how will I make the switch? How will I know when I am attracted to the one, that it's more than a girlish fancy? As in everything else, I cling to the faithfulness of God. He will show me in His time. Though love is hard to explain, and you aren't always immediately certain about it, most people say that when it's the one, you just know.

I look forward to the day when I'll look my Dearest in the eye and say, "I waited - for you. And it was worth it! You're worth it all."

Until then, I'll keep waiting.

Friday, December 04, 2009

(Part 4) While I'm Waiting

Okay, so I'm waiting on the Lord's will and timing for marriage. What do I do in the meantime? Do I sit at home reading books (good ones on marriage, of course!), waiting for my Dearest to ride up and sweep me away?

Um, no. Far from it.

Life is now. It doesn't start when you get married.

As painful as the loneliness is at times, wanting to know and be known, to be deeply loved and to love, these unmarried years are a gift. Too many waste these years feeling unfulfilled as they wait. However, there are many fulfilling things we can be doing with this time. If more singles used their "free" years to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, we could change the world together.

I don't like to refer to a husband and children as distractions, but it is true that we have a lot more time to spend on other things when we don't have them to care for. 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 is one of few in Scripture that speaks directly to us in this season: "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world - how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (emphasis mine). It's a noble goal, but how do we practically live it out?

Each one will have a different way of filling this time. It's a testament to God's wisdom in the way He's equipped us all with different gifts. By working together, we can strengthen the Body of Christ.

Below are some suggestions on ways we could use these time. Feel free to add your own!

Though we should be life-long learners, the single years give us a wonderful opportunity to focus on continuing our education - and this doesn't just mean going to college for 4 years, though it could. There is a wealth of information available to us if we will seek it out. Whether at an institution or on your own, it will require diligence. But learning to be disciplined and self-motivated now will give you a huge advantage in whatever you do.

If you're not sure what you should do or can't afford classes, just go to the library and see what catches your eye! I have learned and continue to learn so much from books on many and varying topics.

This is also a great time to pursue hobbies and learn new skills. Baking, sewing, embroidering, music, art, dance, decorating, writing - the opportunities are endless!

In continuing to learn and grow in character, seek out people you would like to emulate. Family members, friends, and those in your church all have different backgrounds and experiences. It's amazing how willing people are to help and share if we just ask. Asking someone you particularly respect to be a mentor can also be a great way to learn and grow.

You shouldn't just seek out those older than you, however. Spending time with children and teens can be of great value, both to you and them. You will enjoy their enthusiasm and the fresh way they look at life. They will be thrilled to be noticed by someone they look up to. Being a friend to those younger than you does come with a lot of responsibility, though. They are watching you closely, so it should cause you to think carefully about the example you set. What you do can have an impact on shaping their lives - for good or bad.

Friends your age shouldn't be neglected either! By sharing the same struggles, you have the opportunity to bless and encourage each other. Most of the friends I see often are either older or younger, though there are a few friends my age in the area that I try to get together with periodically. I am also blessed to have long-distance friendships with many sisters in Christ my age. They inspire me to continue walking God's path, for I know that, although they are miles away, they're walking it with me.

Nor should our friends only be girls! We can learn a lot from our brothers in Christ and mutually encourage each other. These friendships will be different and not as deep, however, as we're careful to honor our future husbands in what we do and share with other men.

Our single years should be ones of service to others, for we do have more time to serve without a family to care for. We shouldn't neglect the family we are currently in, however. An older daughter can be a great blessing to parents and siblings alike. Though there are times and places to do things on your own, a family working together can often be of great influence. You can help this happen, by cleaning or cooking when having people over, helping organize schedules or ministry opportunities, and just being there to meet needs - great or small.

Whether out of necessity to support yourself or as a means of earning money to save (which these years give us a great opportunity to do!), you may hold a job or do things on a self-employed basis. If you're blessed with musical ability, you could teach lessons. If you can sew, often people need things mended or custom made. If you enjoy children, you can make it known that you'll babysit. The list is endless, and different for each one's abilities and available time.

My parents graciously support me at this time, giving me a place to live and food to eat. I do contribute to the family, cooking most of the meals, cleaning certain rooms, and helping extend hospitality to others. Dad says that the cost of having an extra person living at home is minimal, and that I more than make up for it. :)

However, I do earn some money through teaching The King's Praise Ballet. I don't look at it as much of a "job" - more as a ministry, since most of the money goes to further its work and fund productions. Teaching classes, directing productions, and working out all of the details does take quite a bit of time, though! I do "pay" myself some of what I take in, and I've also babysat when asked since I was 12. I've been paying self-employment taxes since I started teaching at age 16, which takes out a chunk. There are personal expenses for me to cover as well. I pay for my own clothes now, as well as things I get for personal use or to give as gifts. Whenever I drive my dad's car for pleasure (such as going out with a friend or personal shopping trips) or as a means to earn money (such as driving to the church building to teach, running business errands, or driving to and from someone's house to babysit), I my dad 20 cents/mile. That makes me think twice about what I want to do, and wisely makes me try to combine trips. Ways to handle money and live frugally are good lessons to learn in the single years.

There's so much to do with this time, that you shouldn't ever be bored! =) Above all, glorify the Lord with thistime that He's given.

Candice Watters cautions against overdoing independence, however, saying that this is one reason women stay single - they work so hard on "plan B" (in case marriage never happens) that it becomes "plan A." It can be hard for us women, to have to prepare for three things: (1) what to do before marriage, (2) married life, and (3) what to do if you never marry. The book Get Married has some advice: "Even as you pursue your interests and develop your talents, it's important to keep in mind that the drive for independence on the one hand can undermine the longing for interdependence of an intimate partnership on the other" (page 140). Ultimately, it takes a reliance on God and asking Him to guide you in what you should do for this season.

I really enjoy what I currently do. I can't think of a better way to spend my unmarried adult years. I love teaching children and teens (and even their parents at times) to glorify God using the arts. Yet, it's also hard to plan when I don't know how long I'll be doing this. Making investments in equipment and doing long-term planning for teaching and directing is hard, because I don't know if I'll be doing this for another year or for ten more years. I trust God to guide me in what I do while I'm waiting, and He has faithfully done so thus far.

Obviously, this time should also be spent preparing for marraige, as I've written about previously. You want to adequately prepare for the relationship and role you'll probably be in most of your life. For us women, that means learning how to run a household and practicing the aspects it involves.

Is this waiting a hardship? At times, if I dwell on my longings, it can feel like it. But it shouldn't be. If I focus on learning to be content in whatever state I'm in, this time is very rewarding. When I'm married, I want to look back on the time I spent waiting and have no regrets.

"I'm waiting,
I'm waiting on You, Lord.
And I am hopeful;
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful;
But patiently, I will wait.

I will move ahead, bold and confident,
Taking every step in obedience.
While I'm waiting,
I will serve You.

While I'm waiting,
I will worship.

While I'm waiting,
I will not faint.

I'll be running the race,
Even while I wait."

- lyrics from "While I am Waiting" by John Waller

Thursday, December 03, 2009

(Part 3) Who Am I Waiting For?

Thank you all for your interaction with these posts. It's a hard subject to tackle, and I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I enjoy discussing it. Ultimately, everyone's story and situation is different, but through this we see God's creativity at work!

This post especially is more for the unmarried girls... What characteristics must your future husband have? What I've written isn't intended as a "shopping list," but as honest thoughts... okay, and a little dreaming thrown in. :) Guys are certainly welcome to read as well, and if you care to comment, I know we'd enjoy hearing what you're looking for in a girl. If you're married, is your spouse like the one you imagined you'd marry? I look forward to hearing what you all have to say on this topic!
"'Then what kind of man wilt thou love?' 'Someone heroic and valient, not merely skilled in speech. Someone who is kind and pure in heart. Someone who does not play with white roses that belong to others." - From Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Malley
So, who am I waiting for? I don't know his name. I call him "My Dearest," a name I came up with when I was 15. It's much nicer than referring to him as "the unknown one," or some other such name! =)

Like every maiden, I have my moments of wondering, of dreaming... Do I know him? Or have I never laid eyes on him? Will the sparks fly when we first meet, or will it be a growing, deepening attraction? What does he look like? What's his name? What are his interests, his passions? What does he want to be? What are his goals in life?

I can wonder, but I don't have a set list of what those things have to be. I'm pretty adaptable and can get along with varying temperaments, as long as they are Christ-like. As to looks, I've never had a particular attraction to only one type of physique. Okay, so I'd really like him to be at least my height or preferably taller (I've never liked the thought of having to look down on my husband!) - but even this isn't a prerequisite. It's a preference; ultimately character is more important than height. I've known many happy women whose husbands are shorter.

Another preference was that of age - I wanted my husband to be older than I, thus seemingly easier to follow. But as I've seen many immature older guys and a few solid and wise younger men, I've determined that maturity is more important than age. Younger or older, he must be one I can respect.

It's easy to write up a long list of what I'm waiting for, and I've even done it a time or two. But I don't expect him to have mastered the character traits I've written. Everyone - myself included! - is a work in progress. All I ask is that he be growing in character and have evidence of fruit in his life.

The top non-negotiable is that he must be a Christian - a Bible-believing, growing, and steadfast Christian. I'd love for him to have grown up in a Christian home as I have, but even if he is the first Christian in his family, the test is whether he is sincere, passionate, and committed to following Christ no matter the cost. Being with him should spur me on to greater faith in the Lord.

He should be a gentleman, thinking of others above himself. Is he kind? Compassionate? Slow to anger? Humble? Quick to apologize and forgive others? Trustworthy? Strong and steadfast in what is good? Generous? Joyful? I don't expect him to be perfect, for I'm certainly not! But he should be striving to be daily molded and refined into Christ-likeness.

There are other crucial questions to consider...

What kind of husband would he be? Is he committed to life-long marriage, with divorce not an option? Will he follow God's direction as he leads his family? Would he try to love me as Christ loves the church? Will he want me to be a keeper at home as I wife and mother?

Would he make a good father? This is a huge one for me: he must want children - as many as God wants to bless us with - and desire to home educate them. I have wanted a large family since before I can remember, and I really desire to teach them at home. This may not be near the top of the list for every girl, but it is one that is important to me. It would be fun if he came from a large family and was homeschooled himself, but even if he's an only child and went to public school, that will be fine, as long he desires children of his own and wants to homeschool them. Together, we will train and teach them to know and love God.

Another good test of character is whether he is committed to working diligently and not going into debt (except, perhaps, when buying a house). The first years may be lean ones, but there are many ways to live frugally (I've read all three volumes of The Tightwad Gazette after all!) and the benefits of saving and paying cash are numerous.

He must be committed to purity and waiting for God's timing. In this world, I know that he may have made mistakes, but if he has truly repented and is now seeking to live a set-apart life, who am I to hold the past against him? I don't expect him to have the same exact views of courtship (there are so many out there!), but if he is committed to involving our parents and honoring God in our relationship, all should be well.

Other things are more or less preferences. My dad and brothers are examples of how I'd like my man to be, but abilities and interests are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. He should be committed to purity and holiness in what he reads and watches, but I don't expect his favorite books and movies to be the same as mine. I don't care much for sports, but could learn to like them if he does - as long as he doesn't devote all of his time to watching them. It would be nice if he could fix things around the house, but I don't expect him to be as all-around handy-man as my dad. He may have never danced or cared to, but I hope he'll at least try it - with me. =) Coming from a musical family as I do, it would be nice if he played an instrument and/or sang, but it's not necessary. I do hope he at least enjoys music though, for there's bound to be a lot around. :)

As to profession - entrepreneur, doctor, engineer, writer, carpenter, big-city businessman or country farmer - it doesn't matter. He should be able to provide for a family, and above all be seeking to glorify God in whatever he does. Jasmine's post "Oh, Lord, May I Marry... A Plumber" is a good read that I can relate to.

A great question to ask, which I've heard many people advocate, is "Will we be able to serve God better together than apart?" Our marriage shouldn't just be for fun or to ease the loneliness, though those are reasons for marriage. Together, we should glorify God, as marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship with the church. It's a big responsibility, one not entered lightly.

It will be exciting to one day find out what kind of man God pairs me up with! Which leads to the question... Is there only one man out there for me? Of course, you can only marry one man! ;) But is there only one whom God has chosen for me? I'd like to think that there is; the God Who knows the end from the beginning can prepare a husband for me! God is sovereign; but He has also given us free will. If one person made a bad choice and married the wrong one, wouldn't that throw everyone off? I don't understand it all, and haven't figured it out, but I do trust that God will guide me to the right one to marry. And when I pray for my Dearest, I trust that God knows who I'm praying for, even though I don't. :)

It's easy to get distracted when you meet someone who seems to meet the "qualifications." It's crazy how quickly a girl's thoughts can jump to marriage! As people have said in the comments section, it is good to be friendly to a guy you're interested in - turning and running each time you see him would just make things worse. ;) There is a place for "guy-nudging" (encouraging him for who he is) as Eric Ludy writes about in Authentic Beauty. But I do have to remember that just because someone would make a good husband, it doesn't mean he's the one for me. Emotions easily fly ahead to thoughts of marriage (trying out his last name, imagining the ceremony... I know you've done it as well, try as we might not to!) but these must be guarded and reminded to wait.

Instead of making lists and dreaming about what I want my husband to be, I should use this time to ask God to shape me in to a woman who will make a good help meet for him.

I do pray for him every day, asking God to strengthen and bless him, wherever and whoever he is. I pray that God will teach him His ways and grow him into a valiant man of God.

When will my Dearest come for me, to woo my heart and win my hand? It would be nice if it's soon, but even if he takes years to get here, I'll be waiting.

And in the meantime, there are plenty of things to do...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

(Part 2) Why am I Waiting?

"If you don’t believe love is best when it’s pure and new, you won’t wait patiently for it." - Come What May
Waiting isn't a word we like very much. It's not something we have to practice much either. Food comes in "instant" packages, there are express checkout lanes, internet is high-speed, your cell phone is within easy reach wherever you need to make a call, and highways make commutes quicker. None of these things are necessarily bad (except perhaps the "instant" food for health reasons!) but they have contributed to our impatient society. We complain if our food doesn't come promptly in a fast-food restaurant or if the checkout line moves too slowly. We drum our fingers if a web page doesn't load immediately, and fret if our phone gets a bad signal. We get angry in traffic jams, especially if it throws off our carefully planned schedule.

But often, if we wait, things are better in the end. A meal made from scratch may take a lot longer to prepare, but it will be more nourishing and delicious. A handwritten letter will be treasured much more than a message in cyberspace that is easily deleted. A phone call made when you have the time to listen and talk is more meaningful than an occasional, distracted "mm-hmm" as you multi-task. And if you take the time to enjoy the scenery when the cars are moving slowly, you'll be put in a much better mood!

I'm certainly not against time-saving measures, and I do strive to as efficient as I can, but there is value in waiting.

So, why am I still waiting if I believe that marriage is something I am called to someday? I'm waiting for God's timing. He'll bring a relationship about when it's right. Also, I wait for a young man to express interest in me - for I believe it's his place to do so.

But if I know a Godly young man who would make a good husband, shouldn't I secure him before he gets away? No. Like most women, I want to be pursued. If I lead the relationship in the beginning, it will get off to the wrong start. I believe that the man is to be the head of the home, the leader. It is his place to initiate - not mine.

Oh, there are feminine ways to show availability and encourage expressed interest - but we don't want to come across as desperate women! ;) For good ideas, read Candice Watters' book Get Married, for it is subtitled "what women can do to help it happen." And no, it doesn't involve chasing after guys and placing yourself right where they are at every turn! :)

Is it hard to wait? Most definitely! We wonder if we'll ever be noticed, if a man will ever be interested enough to ask. We see a friend's status change from "single" to "in a relationship" and sigh over the sweet couple pictures that appear. We wonder when our turn will come.

It is hard to wait for a man to express interest, but it can also be hard for the men to know who to ask and how and when! They can be terrified at the thought of putting their hopes on the line when they ask a girl (or, preferably, her father first!) if they can begin a relationship. It may be hard for you to consider trusting a man to lead you, but it can be a huge burden for them to even feel ready or responsible enough to lead and provide for a family.

I'm an advocate for younger marriages than the national average of 27 and 28. Yes, there are some people who wait that long as part of God's plan (my own sister Miriam didn't marry until she was 28, but her wait was definitely worth it!), but as a whole, I think our society delays it too much. Part of it is the expectations we hold; our parents took years to arrive at the economic status and character development they're at now - we can't expect a young man to be as mature and established as our own father! Carolyn McCulley's article Faith for the Man He'll Become talks more about that fact. Of course, we should still have high standards for the one we'll marry. we should also prepare ourselves for marriage while in our youth instead of wasting the time. After all, we mustn't allow the low expectations of this culture to shape us!

Waiting is a Biblical principle. One year I studied all the different places it's mentioned in the Bible and was amazed at the number of places that talked about it! However, waiting isn't a passive verb; it's active - you're to do things while waiting, not just sit around! Verses that talk about waiting also tell you to "delight yourself in the LORD" (Psalm 37:4), "keep His way," (Psalm 37:34), put your hope in God's Word (Psalm 130:5-6), "be strong and take heart" (Psalm 27:14), follow God's commands (Psalm 119:166), "hope for what we do not yet have," (Romans 8:25) and "watch in hope" (Micah 7:7). Patience is closely tied to waiting, with many verses exhorting us to "wait patiently." This season of waiting is a good one for teaching us patience, which is an important character quality!

You won't be done with waiting once you find your special someone either. There will be waiting for engagement, for the wedding, for children, for a permanant house, for direction for the family... Waiting is a part of all of life, so you'll be well prepared if you learn to do it now with joy.

Though this is a hard season at times, it can also be a very fruitful one. With the time such a close and intimate relationship involves, you have more time to spend with the Lord, with family, with close friends, and in serving others. The longings and desires can be very strong, but they can also push you into Your heavenly Father's arms, into a deeper reliance on Him.

This is definitely an interesting time, being ready for marriage, yet not sure when it will happen. Will I be waiting for another year? Or will it be three, or five, or ten years? Even more? I don't know. And though I am tempted to doubt or complain, I am learning to trust in the Lord and wait for God's time. He won't keep me waiting longer than necessary. Though I can't always explain the wait, I know that His time will be much better than my own.

"Times of waiting take us to deeper levels of trust, strengthen our faith, remind us to abide in Christ and teach us to delight in the Lord. There will be periods of waiting all through life, but for us as single young ladies, this season of life provides an ideal opportunity to learn the secret of being content in any situation (Phil. 4:11-13) If we can learn now how to patiently rest in the Lord, think how invaluable this 'skill' will be throughout our entire lives." - from Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Malley

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

November 2009 Reading List

Anna's Books

Completed this month:
  • Restoring the Dance by Ann Stevenson - Written in 1997, at a time when dance was beginning to be used in the church again, this book attempts to bring clarity to what dance should be when used as worship. It wisely urged those who used dance with an “anything goes” attitude to slow down and carefully evaluate what God would have them do, while encouraging those on the other side, who didn’t allow any dancing, to be open to how God could use it.
    It was enjoyable to read a book focused on the kind of dancing that I enjoy – that done expressly for the glory of God. It was interesting to study different Scriptures with words that could have been translated as “dance” or had connotations as such, and I was reminded of the powerful tool dance can be. The book exposed the sad things we have accepted as dance in the secular world, and how even young children are taught to use it sensually. However, I didn’t quite agree with her reasoning that all dance in the “secular” sense is dishonoring to God. I think there can be tasteful and enjoyable group dances or dance moves used for exercise, but I do agree that the most powerful is the kind expressly done for worship.
    If you are involved in dance in a Christian setting, I would encourage you to read this book with a discerning and prayerful attitude.
  • And the Bride Wore White by Dana Gresh - Subtitled “seven secrets to sexual purity,” this book emphasizes the importance of purity in this fallen world. Dannah is honest as she shares her struggles and those of others, but through hers and other stories, she shows that purity, though it may be a “slow burn” at times, is definitely worth it. This book assumes that you date, and so gives you tips to stay pure in your dating relationships. As one who isn’t dating, partly to avoid the temptation it would bring, it’s not a book I connected deeply with. I also wasn’t sure that we girls should make a list (like she encourages) that our future husbands have to match up to. After all, character is better than looks or personality! However, this book was an enjoyable read, and did give me encouragement to keep waiting, even when it’s hard.
  • Sixth Covenant by Bodie and Brock Thoene - The 6th book in The AD Chronicles picks up where the previous one left off, right after baby Jesus was born. In an exciting way, it includes portions of the wise men on their journey as they seek the newborn King while following the Bethlehem shepherds and Mary and Jospeh’s life among them. It, of course, added a lot of details to the events found in the Bible, and you have to remember that this is only an interpretation of what might have happened. It weaves in Scripture in a powerful way, however, and makes the whole historical story more gripping and personal.
  • The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History by A. Kenneth Curtis, J. Stephen Lang, & Randy Peterson - As the name implies, this book covers 100 important events in the history of Christianity, beginning in 64 AD with the fire in Rome and going to 1966-1976 with the growth of the Chinese church despite the Cultural Revolution. It was interesting to read about the different events as they were presented chronologically. Placing the events, many of which I knew about, on a timeline in my head, has helped me see the progression and growth of Christianity through the centuries.
  • Music At Your Fingertips by Ruth Slenczynska - This book is filled with “advice for the artist and amateur on playing the piano.” It was interesting to read, but as an amateur, I would say this book is much more suited toward someone more devoted – I could never practice the 7 hours/day it recommends! However, it gives helpful tips on practicing, technique, style, memorization, selecting pieces for study and a concert, and much more. If you’re looking to improve your piano playing, this book may help.
  • The Miracle Worker by William Gibson - This play pretty accurately portrayed the childhood of Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan’s influence as her teacher. It was fun to read how they staged a story I grew up enjoying. However, from all that the stage and acting required, it would be a difficult play to bring to life on a limited budget and with amateur actors.
  • A Dance with Deception by Charles Colson - Consisting of transcripts of Chuck Colson’s 5-minue daily broadcast of “Breakpoint” organized by topic, this was an interesting read. These transcripts are from the early 1990s, but they deal with many of the same issues we face today – and in many cases, it’s just gotten worse.
  • The Making of a Leader by Frank Damazio - This book delved into an in-depth study of the Biblical qualifications and examples of leadership. Though aimed more towards pastors and church leaders, it also had advice and was practical for other kinds of leaders – even small roles. I enjoyed the study and challenging myself to think through the character qualities it presented. The book is very well researched, but the numerous lists and comparison-contrasts that seemed to be endless and repetitive got a bit tiring. It was a good read, but one I was glad to finish.
  • Singlehood that Glorifies God by John Coblentz - A short booklet that deals with “living with eternal purpose,” this is chapter 4 from the book Christian Family Living. It explores reasons for singleness, negative and positive aspects of it, things to avoid in this season, and suggestions of ways to serve. It is a brief but good read to help evaluate ways to live your life in the single years.
  • Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter - This was another delightful read. Classic, clean novels are always a treat! This book tells the story of an orphan boy that learns courage and finds acceptance and love. The plot may be a bit too predictable for some, but it is sweet! This book tells the story of the Limberlost swamp before the book A Girl of the Limberlost.
  • Freckles Comes Home by Jeanette Stratton-Porter - After Gene Stratton-Porter's death, her daughter wrote this book as a sequel to the much-beloved Freckles. It was fun to read what could have happened after the last book, but I found some of the details changed and not how I would have imagined it. It was another enjoyable read, but somewhat disappointing at the same time!
Currently reading:
  • Biblical Womanhood in the Home edited by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology by Karen Clippinger
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • The Family Meal Table and Hospitality by Nancy Campbell
  • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber
  • For the Love of God Volume 1: A daily companion for discovering the riches of God's Word by D.A. Carson
Miriam's Books

Completed this month:
  • The Edge of Reason by Kristin Heitzmann - This was a really neat suspense book and I enjoyed reading a couple of chapters every night. It was good training for me, as I never read that little at a time. A young woman has dreams that haunt her, but she can't figure out why. She is a landscape architect and she builds labyrinths. She thinks that by building these labyrinths, she can lock up whatever it is haunting her.
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky - I do not recommend this book. A friend recommended and loaned it to me, so I read it over Thanksgiving break. It's short and didn't take long, but the book as a whole wasn't very uplifting or edifying. The story follows a young man who is writing letters like a journal through his first year of high school. He relates the experiences and experiments of this time period in his life. I didn't enjoy it very much and would never give to someone to read.

Have you read any of these books? What good books have you recently read?

Monday, November 30, 2009

(Part 1) Still Waiting

Marriage. It's something I've desired my whole life. At 5 years of age, I'd spin around in a full "princess" dress and dream of the day I'd float down the aisle in a cascade of white lace. After all, good stories always included weddings. At age 10, I was almost inseparable from a doll of some kind, anticipating a house full of my own children. A dozen sounded about right. At 15, I sighed over courtship stories and wondered when my turn would come. Though I longed for my own "special someone," it was easy to remind myself that I was still too young and shouldn't be distracted by thoughts of marriage. Still, I diligently applied myself to prepare for it as best I could.

Now, at 19 going on 20, I'm still waiting. I am still young, but it can be a bit harder to wait patiently. I am ready to marry, whenever the Lord wills. I'm of legal age, my parents agree that I'm ready, I've continued to prepare in as many ways as I can - but prince charming hasn't yet revealed himself.

I've continued to read many good marriage and parenting books, which helps me prepare. However, I can't exactly put what I learn into practice until I have a husband and children. I have all of this information, but it can be frustrating when there's no where to use it. Don't get me wrong, it's good to prepare and I've always enjoyed these types of books - and I have used some of it in talking with friends and siblings - but I know that real-life application will be different from the great quotes and tips I've gathered.

I've definitely not learned all there is to know, but it doesn't seem like anyone can ever be truly ready for marriage. The process itself matures you quickly.

Is it bad to long for marriage? Shouldn't God be enough? Yes, God is enough for our every need, but He has also created us for relationships. As Candice Watters says in the book Get Married,
"If it's true that God is all we need for fulfillment, then no one was in a better position to be fully satisfied than Adam" (Get Married, page 21).

Yet, God said "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). To satisfy this need, God made Eve and joined them together in marriage.

It's true that some are called to life-long singleness, and if that is what God has for me, He will give me the grace for it. But, if you have a strong desire to marry (as I do), most likely it is something you'll experience. And having this desire is okay! In the chapter "believe marriage is a worthwhile and holy pursuit," Candice writes,
"Marriage is not a compromise. It is not a spiritually inferior path. It's what God is calling you to for your good and His glory" (Get Married, page 33).


But for now, I am still single. I'm still in the "waiting" stage. This waiting is a time of growth and learning patience as I trust God for His timing. It is painful at times, but it is also sweet. Indeed, I'm very thankful for it.

But why wait? Who am I waiting for anyways? What I am doing in the meantime? Will it even be worth it?

These are questions I hope to explore in the week ahead, so stay tuned...

Please note: I know that marriage is not the end-all in life, and I realize that I am still young. It's not my wish to sound desperate, for I'm not! It's also not my goal to focus on this topic too long, for I want to use this single season well. However, I do think it's a good thing to discuss. These posts will be more geared toward single young women, and I hope they will be encouraged. However, perhaps it will encourage others as well, married or not, in other seasons of waiting.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankful for This Season

Not only am I thankful for this season of autumn, but I'm thankful for this season of life - this season of singleness.

I must admit, it is hard to be thankful for singleness. After all, all my life I've looked forward to getting married! However, much as I look forward to that time and hope that it comes quickly, I am very thankful for the time God has given me now, to serve Him in my maidenhood.

One day I look forward to falling in love and having that special someone, but I am thankful for all of the ways God has taught me to fall deeper in love with Him, as I've gone to Him with longings unfulfilled. I look forward to supporting my husband in His endeavors, but I'm also thankful for this time I get to spend with my parents and siblings, and the ways I can help them. I look forward to having children of my own, but I enjoy this time that I can be a "big sister" to many different children around church and "Miss Anna" to quite a few ballet students.

These single years are a gift. I forget that sometimes in my longing to be married. I don't think that marriage should be intentionally delayed, but I am thankful for these years God has given me. There is so much to do, so many things to learn, so many ways to serve before I have the responsibilities that marriage and a family of my own will entail. I eagerly look forward to these responsibilities, but I also enjoy having the flexibility that I do now.

It's hard to wait as I get older - in fact, come back on Monday for the beginning of a series of posts around that theme - but I know that God's timing is best. One day, Lord willing, I will be reflecting with thankfulness about my husband and children. Until then, I rejoice in this time of singleness, thankful for the ways God allows me to use this time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful for Food and Fun

These past few days have been quite relaxing, full of fun and a lot of delicious food! I am thankful for this time to take a break and also spend a little more time in the kitchen!

We started preparations on Wednesday morning. Here, I'm making bread for sandwiches while Mary Khris rolls the balls of "Molasses Crinkles" cookies.

That afternoon, we had an assembly going for pies. I made the pie crust while Lydia made blueberry and apple pies and Mary Khris made pumpkin and chocolate pecan. Delicious!

There was always a lot of dishes to wash! We worked together, but Jubilee did a lot for her day on Wednesday.

Thursday morning was spent making all of the traditional Thanksgiving food. With Mom, Mary Khris and I working (and Lydia and Jubilee helping as needed), it went quickly! We made turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, gravy, cranberry sauce, and kressant rolls.

We had a family from church over for the meal, so we totaled 11 people, but it was still less than we've had in years past, so we overestimated how much food we needed. But, we've had nice leftovers and as a result haven't needed to cook today!

Being the family that we are, we've also played many games, which always provides family fellowship and fun. We've taken walks, watched movies, looked at pictures, and just talked.

I'm thankful for all of the fun memories! It has truly been a wonderful and refreshing break.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for Friends and Fall Colors

God has blessed me with many friends, too numerous to name here. I have friends a lot younger, and some the age of my parents. I have friends my same age - even to exact day! =) I have friends that live near, friends that live miles away, some that transition. I have friends I talk to often, and some that I rarely hear from. I have friends I know really well, and some I've never met in person, but have gotten close to through letters, emails, and phone calls nonetheless. I am thankful for the friends I've made through this blog as well!

Mary Khris is one friend I'm especially thankful for today, since she's currently at my house! She was my roommate at Belhaven College last spring, and we've gotten really close. She still attends Belhaven, and was able to come to our house for the Thanksgiving break! I met up with her in Birmingham on Tuesday evening, since she was able to catch a ride that far, and look forward to her staying until Sunday.

This morning, in a break from cooking (the turky was in the oven, rolls were rising, casseroles prepared, but too early to start the other delicious food), we took a walk to capture some of God's beautiful artistry in the autumn leaves. Ever since they changed I have been wanting to take some photos, and today afforded the perfect opportunity. After all, it's always more fun to take pictures with someone else!

It is so beautiful to see the leaves falling outside the window, and they make a most beautiful carpet.

Our blueberry bushes have the most radient red leaves!

Totally without planning it, we both ended up wearing blue and brown today.

The leaves on our pear tree are gorgeously orange/yellow/green.

Sweet Mary Khris

Natural light is always fun for photos, though you have to work with the shadows!

This picture was lovely, showing the blue of the sky behind the red and green leaves. Fall in the south is always mixed with green. =)

In the colors, I felt like I could belong...

This tree is so breathtaking - it uplifts me each time I see it on my morning walk.

We went up a little further, off of the main road.

Our faithful dog Midnight nearly always accompanies me on walks. He kept coming over to us every time we stopped to take a picture, so finally we gave in and took a few pictures with him! :)

'Tis a nice spot to sit and reflect.

A view from "my" spot on the hill, overlooking the valley. The sky was such a clear blue...

And yes, we even had two roses bloom in November. The warm weather has confused the flowers, and even some of our azaleas have bloomed!

God knows how to blend colors so well... His creation never ceases to amaze me.

Thankful

Some days we forget to look around us
Some days we can't see the joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give

I sang this song last night at a Thanksgiving Eve service. I believe that location can be an inspiration and that was what I experienced last evening. I stood at the back of the all-wood building and felt the sound rise to the high vaulted ceiling and go beyond. I thought this was appropriate...before I sang, I had looked up and thought, I'm singing for You.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see

I have been given so much and awarded so many opportunities that I often feel overwhelmed with what I feel I don't deserve. I have a family who I know without any doubts loves me. And I feel as though I have the most amazing friends in the world, friends who encourage...laugh with me...hold me when I'm crying. I'm currently enrolled at Judson College and I know this is where God wants me right now and I'm so glad He gently shoved me in this direction when I wasn't exactly listening to Him.

It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for

I'm thankful for...
...my home, both literally and figuratively, that has been provided for me.
...the security I feel when surrounded by my family
...cooling during the summer and warmth during the winter

Look beyond ourselves, there's so much sorrow
It's way too late to say, I'll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
We're so long overdue

...my brothers, no matter how crazy, I love them to death
...my sister, Esther. I can't imagine life without her.
...my sisters-in-law: Ginger, Amanda, and Racheal. They have added so much to my life, including nephews and a niece. =)
...my parents, who have brought me up, been supporters and an encouragement during my 19 years of life.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see

It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for

More than anything, I'm thankful for...music. I am so thankful for the abilities that I've been given, for the chance to develop and to use them correctly. Without music, life would lose so much of its color, dynamic, and...well, life. God knew what He was doing when he sang my life into existence. I'm here for a reason and though I don't know what yet...I'm so thankful to just be here. Alive.

And even with our differences
There is a place we're all connected
Each of us can find each others' love

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see

It's up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more
There's so much to be thankful for


Lyrics from "Thankful", sung by Josh Groban

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful for Family

God has blessed me so abundantly with a wonderful family. We're not perfect, but we are whole. We don't always agree, but we love each other, and always enjoy getting together! I am so thankful that I am a part of this Lofgren family. We've expanded in recent years - 22 members now if you count my parents' children-in-law and grandchildren - and I look forward to seeing how big our family reunions will be when we're all grown and married.

This Thanksgiving there's only four of us siblings at home - us four youngest. However, the others are are in our thoughts and prayers!

I am thankful for my parents and the Godly example they have set for us all. They have stayed committed to each other, even in hard times. They have raised us to know, love, and serve God. It is a testament to God's faithfulness to know that all of their children are walking with the Lord.

I am thankful for my oldest brother Luke, his lovely wife Michele, and their five children, Danielle, Alex, Zach, Nate, and Bethany. Luke and Michele have always been happy to give me advice, and it's a blessing to have older siblings to talk to about things they've already experienced. My sweet nieces and nephews are a joy to be with, and I cherish each time we have together.


I am thankful for my oldest sister, Maria, her great husband Ron, and their three children, James, Sara, and Lisa Beth. It's been a joy to have them live the closest to us, and we enjoy each time they can make the three-hour trip down to visit. Again, I have been blessed by the advice Maria and Ron give, and always enjoy being with my bright nephew and cute nieces.

I am thankful for my sister Miriam and her wonderful husband John. They've been married for a little over a year now, and it's so fun to see them as they've grown together. John has quickly become a great brother. I am thankful for the new little one their expecting in February, and am excited to meet my new niece or nephew!



I am thankful for my sister Lydia, now about to graduate from college with a degree in outdoor leadership and education. It fits her well, for she's always ready for adventure and is wonderful to be with whenever you're in God's great outdoors! She's also very musical and thoughtful. She's always ready to help, and is a great blessing.



I am thankful for my brother Elijah, also about to graduate from college, but with a degree in computer science and engineering. I have been so blessed to have a big brother like him, always ready to talk and encourage me to go deeper in my walk with the Lord. He's also helped me open up and learn to talk on the phone more. :) I am thankful for the friend I have in my brother, and, although I'll miss him greatly when he moves to Iowa after graduation, I know he will do well.

I am thankful for my sister Jubilee, the youngest of us siblings. I can't imagine life without her, and I've been blessed to get closer to her these last few years as we've been the only children at home. She amazes me with her talent with animals and in the arts, and her many opinions on wide and varying subjects. She is growing so quickly, and blossoming into a wonderful young lady.


Thank You, Lord, for blessing me with this family to learn and grow with!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful for Words

Luke 8 was one of the assigned passages in my Bible reading plan for today. Since we're also going through Luke as a family, I looked back at the title I'd given this chapter...
The story of the sower, scattering some seeds on stones and stickers where they suffer and suffocate and some on superb soil. The Savior then shares the symbol of a shining lamp on a stand instead of in secret, and then speaks of His siblings. Sailing across the sea, He silences the storm when shaken from slumber by His disciples, scared of the squall swamping their ship. On the shore He sends spirits out of a strong man in solitude into swine, who squeal and commit suicide. Still later, the Son of Shaddai heals a sick sister and saves the slumbering daughter of a synagogue ruler.
Yes, I do have an attraction for alliteration, and this chapter was an excellent one for it. =) What started years ago as two word couplets that started with the same letter has turned into paragraphs. My family now tries to guess each morning which letter I used that day. It's fun to come up with them each morning, and helps me wake up as my brain begins to whirl.

I'm so thankful for words, the ability to write and speak. I am thankful for English with its many synonyms - without which alliteration wouldn't be possible! God truly gave us a gift when He gave us language.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Overflowing with Thankfulness...

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." - Colossians 2:6-7

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christ is the Focus

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." - Galatians 6:14

It's so easy to lose focus, to make huge issues out of small things. I've posted a lot about living at home recently, for I've been thinking about it and how I should explain what I'm doing. However, I don't want that to be the focus of this blog or of my life.

Jesus Christ is the focus. My identity is found in Him. My relationship with Him is the main thing in my life - nothing else really matters in the grand scheme of things. Through searching of His Word and praying for guidance He does show me how I should live, but He should still be the focus in it all. I am a daughter, a sister, a dance teacher - but I am a Christian first and foremost.

I want to keep Christ as the focus. I apologize if I've made other things (such as staying home) the focus recently. In my life, I want to focus on glorifying the Lord in all that I do. I do this where I am and in what I do - but other things should be of less import than pointing people to Him.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31

Friday, November 20, 2009

At Home Unashamed

Head over to Joyfully Home to read Jasmine's great post We Have Nothing to Apologize For. She has aptly put into words things that I have thought and struggled with.

It's hard to write in the online world without a ton of qualifications - "what's right for me may not be right for you," "we're not all called to the same things," etc. It's easy to be misunderstood.

And truthfully, in many situations, God has given us great freedom to choose; what I do won't necessarily be what you should do. We must be wise in understanding this and not put guilt on others for doing things that God has called them to. But at the same time, we don't have to continually apologize for what God has called us to do - or for promoting things that may be wise for many to do. I don't want to offend others, but I also don't want to be ashamed of what I do.

How do you know what God has called you to do? To be honest, I really hesitate to use that phrase... I use it only after prayer and lengthy searching for God's will. It's too easy to say, "well, God called me to do this" to excuse yourself or escape having to explain why you do something. We should have an answer for those who ask.

I do believe that God has "called" me to live at home until I marry. Many things have confirmed that I am where I'm supposed to be. I won't go so far as to say that every woman has to - the examples of my own sisters, all following God, has shown me that God does call different women to different things. However, I do think it can be a wonderful sphere to learn in, and a great way of staying under God-ordained authority.

Yet, it is hard to answer those who ask why I do what I do. Some ask in genuine curiosity, while others seem to want to get me out. A lot of the questions have stopped since I did go away to college for a year, and still ended up wanting to be home. Still, it's counter-cultural to live at home past high school graduation. And people do ask, from relatives to fellow church members to the dental hygienist. What do you say?

Answers vary depending on who asks and how much we have to talk. My answers are initially brief: "I'm studying independently while teaching ballet and directing theatre." If they press college, I usually tell them that I did go for a year, but it wasn't what we felt like I should continue for now. There are other ways of learning - and you can learn so much from books! No, it doesn't get me the all-important piece of paper, but I often mention that I may pursue a degree through distance learning in the future. That usually stops the questions, but I wonder if I should use it as much as I do. It is one possibility among many, but nothing definite...

Too often I answer in a way in which I'm apologetic, somewhat ashamed, for still being at home. In our culture, the connotation of an adult living at home is usually one of a lazy bum mooching off of their parents. So naturally, people will ask what you're doing, concerned that you not waste your life. How do you answer? Jasmine gives good advice: answer confidently, joyfully, lovingly, and Biblically. In doing so, we can change the negative connotation by showing that you can be useful, helpful, and productive while still living at home.

It's amazing how many people actually agree that a woman should stay under her father's authority - even live at home - until marriage, when that authority transfers to her husband. There is Biblical and historical precedence for this, which many recognize. Only last night, I was amazed at how many people from our church agreed that this was good when we somehow got on the topic during the discussion after session 12 of The Truth Project. It was encouraging.

Too often I worry about what others are thinking about me. God has taught me time and again to look to Him for approval - not others. But when people learn that I've graduated from high school and am still at home (most who don't know me just assume I'm still in high school when I'm out with my family - I look young enough...), they ask questions.

I don't want to stir up controversy or try to answer for everyone. But I am so glad to live at home, and I want to share that - without shame.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy 19th Birthday, Miriam!

Happy 19th birthday, Miriam Rebekah! I hope you have a beautiful, wonderful day as you continue life at Judson College.

I'm praying for you today, as you go to class, take a test, and sing and play piano in the recital tonight. I know you'll do well, and I hope you enjoy the time with your family! I wish I could be there as well...

Another year has passed by so quickly, yet it has been a good one. We've learned a lot, continued to grow in our Lord, and experienced God's faithfulness through life's confusion. I look forward to another year of friendship together.

Enjoy this new season as a 19-year-old maiden!

Love,
Anna Naomi

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Only Home for Me?

Being at home with my parents and sister is a blessing. I am very thankful that I can live here during this season in life. However, I don't want to give the impression that I wouldn't be happy anywhere else.

When writing about home life, it is easy for me to slip into the poetic, to give the impression that I am perfectly content and am right where I want to be forever. I am where I want to be right now, but I couldn't honestly say "there's no other place I'd rather be." I actually typed that sentence twice when writing last night, and deleted it both times. Choosing between a college dorm, an apartment by myself, or here with my family, this home is definitely my top choice. I enjoy the protection and comfort, the family almost always around, the beautiful surroundings, the church we attend, and the students and families I can work with. Our house and land will always have a special place in my heart. It is what I think of when I think of home.

However, the location is not as important as the people. If God called my family elsewhere, I would most likely move with them. And if the Lord allows me to marry, I'll willingly - joyfully! - leave this home to establish one with my husband. Though I'm a born and bred southern girl that enjoys warm weather, I'm not stuck on staying in Alabama. If my husband lived or moved to the frigid north or far out west, I would willingly go with him.

As you all have probably noticed, I do enjoy home life - it's part of who I am. But much as I enjoy our "Wisteria Pines" - this home in the valley - I look forward to one day moving to another home.

Ultimately, I look forward to our heavenly home, which will be much better than we could imagine. There we will find our forever rest, with a family much larger and more wonderful than we could ever know.

Friday, November 13, 2009

At Home in November

These have been beautiful days at our home in the valley. The coolness of the morning usually warms up to the 70s, and while we've had our cold spells, the last few weeks have been almost perfect.

This afternoon I escaped to "my" spot on the hill overlooking our valley. My journal and a book made for wonderful companions as the sun warmed my back and nature buzzed around me. My writing and reading were often neglected, however, as I enjoyed just sitting and being. The vibrant fall colors provided a beautiful atmosphere to think, pray, and dream...

It's wonderful to be home. Being away last year has made me more fully appreciate the blessing home is. Do I miss college? At times I miss the friends and some of the classes and activities, but I'm so glad to be home.

So what am I doing at home? Am I just wasting my time? Am I accomplishing anything worthwhile?

Though I'm not always as diligent as I should be, God has given me many opportunities to learn, grow, and impact others. I certainly don't have everything figured out, and I'm not saying that all girls should stay home - but I do know that for now, this is where I'm to be.

What about all my plans for coming home? There was so much I wanted to do. Some has been done or has begun, while other things have been postponed - perhaps indefinitely. But God is teaching me a lot through this time.

The King's Courts has taken the most time, but it has been rewarding, albeit challenging work. And, if it has taken the most time, it's how things should be. This is what I'll probably be doing until marriage, if the Lord wills, so a lot of time and resources are devoted to it! It's amazing how much time it takes to plan, organize, research, write, design, and spread the word, and I've not even come close to doing all that I hope to!

I was able to attend Ballet Magnificat's Teacher's Workshop and direct "The Amazing Jerusalem Makeover" this summer, both things that helped prepare me for this busy fall. The teacher's workshop gave me tools, ideas, and renewed focus in my ballet classes, and "The Amazing Jerusalem Makeover" was a great start to more theatre endeavors!

This fall I have been teaching 6 dance classes and a PraisExercise class for ladies. Besides spending Tuesday and Thursday afternoons/evenings in class teaching, a lot of other time goes into being a teacher - preparing lessons, choreographing, working out logistics, driving to and from classes, arriving early to unlock the building and set up, etc. As I've started teaching agian, I have run into many challenges, but God has given such grace and strength to keep persevering. My 35 students have given me such joy each week as I'm blessed to teach them not only to dance, but also to worship the Lord with their whole being!

Theatre has also been a big part of this fall, as I wrote the script for "Beyond Bethlehem," consulted others, found songs, and worked through many details. This again, has presented many obstacles, but each time God has worked things out. It's an adventure to trust Him each day. Auditions were held 3 weeks ago, and rehearsals have taken up Monday afternoons, while we look toward a more intensive schedule in December.

My plans for continuing my education are different from what I originally planned, but I'm definitely still learning. This summer, God made it clear that I wasn't to pursue CollegePlus - at least not this year. It's been hard to trust and give up wanting to look good in the eyes of others by advancing my degree, but God has been faithful and is teaching me so much. It may still be in the future - only God knows - but for now, I have continued to study independently.

I've set up a schedule for myself much like the one when I was homeschooling, with assignments to do each day. My focus areas this fall are ballet, theatre, literature, history, theology, business/finance, Bible, family matters, and writing. I am finding many good and useful books, most of which end up on our monthly reading lists, so I won't reiterate them.

I usually only have 2-4 hours to study on my own each day, but I try to make the most of it. I read a chapter or two or an assigned number of pages in each book, writing down notes on things I find useful or want to remember. To be honest, I don't get it done every day, but I try to stay up-to-date and catch up on Saturdays if I can.

My parents have been leading The Truth Project this fall, with a small group at our home on Thursday evenings. The video series and discussions have been phenomenal, with the teaching and material both excellent!

The lessons I had hoped to take haven't happened - at least yet. I'm hoping to take piano lessons again, and I would like to find a dance teacher/mentor, but haven't yet found one in the area. I try to practice on my own, but it's harder without the motivation and critique of a teacher. I'm not planning to direct any musicals in the spring - just a dance recital in May - so I hope to find some teachers then, if God wills.

I'm also enjoying the benefits of home life, cooking nourishing and delicious meals, cleaning, sewing some, relaxing with family, inviting and preparing for company, and late-night sinks of warm, soapy water.

These past few months have gone by so quickly, but the days have been full and rewarding. No, things aren't perfect, but there is such peace in knowing this is where I'm supposed to be, at least for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Symphony by Chris Taylor

Symphony
by Chris Taylor

I'm in the mood for a breakdown
A slowing down of all the things on my mind
That keep on trying to figure out how to pin You down

In desperate need of a shakedown
A blowing down of all the ways that I try
To talk You into a corner until You look like me

But when I finally see what You see
There's a symphony
I hear a symphony

Words cannot define
What it means to be
In Your symphony
In Your symphony

A long awaited let down
A burning through that's calling me back to You
With a beautiful melody of all You love

It's welling deep inside of me
It's springing out, the song that I'm meant to sing
So teach me the harmony to all You love

Hearts in unison
I'm drawn into Your love
Hearts in unison
I understand Your love