Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 2009 Reading List

Anna's Books

Completed This Month:
Yes, I only finished one book this month! Most of the precious reading minutes I caught was spent reading World Magazine, trying to at least stay a little up-to-date on current events.

  • Answering the Guy Questions by Leslie Ludy - I was very excited to see another book out by Leslie Ludy, and enjoyed reading this, finishing it over Easter break. Subtitled "The Set-Apart Girl's Guide to Relating to the Opposite Sex," it gave some helpful advice on how to relate to our brothers in Christ. As always, the emphasis on Christ as our true Love was encouraging. It provided some topics for discussion among my siblings, and I don't entirely agree with all the advice it gives. It can also come across as saying that if you follow these steps, your love story is guaranteed to be wonderfully perfect, which isn't always the case, and I don't think is what Leslie was trying to convey. This book also seems to be more for girls who are not old enough to get married, and left me with questions as to how we girls at marriageable age should be interacting with young men of marriageable age. That said, I still think it's a great and encouraging book, one that I would recommend!

Currently Reading:

  • 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
  • The Bravehearted Gospel by Eric Ludy
  • So Much More by Elizabeth and Anna Sophia Botkin

Miriam's Books
I read mostly re-reads this month when I had the time.

Completed This Month:
  • This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti - This has to be the best book of Peretti's I've ever read. The first time I heard it was when my dad read it aloud to us and ever since then, I've enjoyed an annual read. Peretti deals with the spiritual warfare in people's lives tactfully and unoffensively (at least, in my opinion).
  • Piercing The Darkness by Frank Peretti - The sequel to This Present Darkness introduces new characters and a new plot, but with the same idea in mind. He shows how involved spiritual warfare is in our lives.
  • The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead - An excellent trilogy and yes, this was also a re-read. Lawhead recreates the story of Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur in his own way, making it almost more believable. I've enjoyed an annual read of this series for the last couple of years. I do recommend that kids younger than 16 don't read them, but it depends on the parents' decision based on their maturity level.

Currently Reading:

  • Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris

Study Break

Need a study break? Climb a tree!

Yesterday afternoon some friends came by as I was studying on a beautiful green lawn beneath some great trees on campus and invited me to study for the next final with them. Before we commenced studying, however, we had a great, relaxing diversion climbing trees.

The one I climbed was easy to get into, and fun as well, since I haven't climbed a tree in quite a while! I felt somewhat like Jo from Little Women or the Von Trapp children in "Sound of Music." It was such a delightfully beautiful day yesterday, and it was fun to do something a little out of the ordinary! =)

Finals are going well. Dance final evaluations were the last week of classes, and I did my stage makeup final early. My flute music jury was on Tuesday, and I had 3 finals yesterday. Today I have 1 final, and my last final is at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Soon after I finish it, I'll be getting in the car and driving home! Before then, I'm studying for the tests (though they really haven't been that hard, which is nice), spending time with friends before I go, and packing up to leave. Only 2 more days until I'll be home!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Purpose of Education

Advice from William B. Sprague to his daughter in the mid-1800s:

"I would have you, then, in the first place, bear in mind that the great object of your education is to enable you to bring into exercise the powers which God has given you in such a manner as shall contribute most to His glory. For all the noble faculties with which you are gifted, you are indebted to the same Being Who gave you your existence: on Him also you are dependent for their preservation; and it is a first dictate of reason that they should be employed in His service. ... The object of education then is twofold: to develop the faculties and to direct them; to bring out the energies of the soul, and to bring them to operate to the glory of the Creator. In other words, it is to render you useful to the extent of your ability."
- Quoted in So Much More by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin; emphasis mine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fun Flower Faces

Stage Makeup class was completed last Thursday. It was a fun class, for each time my face ended up looking quite different! It's amazing how much you can do to your face using highlight and shadow, or in the pictures below, color and texture!

Using a picture I found in a magazine of a branch of pink dogwood, I applied 4 of the flowers to my face for my "make your face look like flora" assignment. It was fun to work on, but took quite a long time! My teacher had the good idea to put one flower each over my eyes, which turned out looking pretty neat!

For my final makeup, the "picture perfect" I chose a picture of a purple pansy that my teacher had flagged in my makeup morgue (a collection of magazine clippings and pictures - mine ended up filling two 2" binders!) as being possible for the assignment. Since I had completed the number of makeup assignments needed, I did this, my final in the class, early, so that I wouldn't have to stay and do it on Saturday afternoon during the finals period. The goal was to make my face look as much like the flower in the picture as possible, not entirely possible given the fact that my face has a nose, eyes, and lips to work with! It took 3 hours to complete, but I enjoyed working with the pretty purple color, and the fact that I was painting a flower made it fun.

The makeups looked better in real life than they do in the pictures, but I thought you might enjoy seeing them just for fun. Yes, I actually got college credit for painting my face every week!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Daily Disciplines: Studying

With my finals beginning on Wednesday and my brain fully switched to full-on study mode, I thought the discipline of studying would be a good one to discuss! I'll have 3 finals on Wednesday, 1 on Thursday, and 1 on Saturday, and then this semester will be over!

To begin with, let me emphasize that everyone will have different methods of studying that work best for them. Each one has a different learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, or a combination), so different ways of studying will work best for them. By sharing the things that work well for us, we may be able to give others ideas. However, bear in mind that what works perfectly for someone else may not work well for you as all! My learning style is very visual along with some kinesthetic things (and even auditory in some instances - I'm quite a combination learner!), so that will naturally shape the methods that work for me.

The place that you study is important in helping you to stay focused. My favorite place to study is outside in God's beautiful creation! It doesn't always work because of cold or inclement weather, but recently I have been taking advantage of the beautiful warm spring/early summer days to study beneath the trees on the lush grass.

If I'm not outside, I'm usually in my dorm room, though I'll occasionally take advantage of breaks between classes to get in some studying in various buildings. Sometimes I'll go into a study room or quiet place just to have a change of scenery, for too much time alone in a room can make me feel restless.

It is good to study in a comfortable location, but not one overly comfortable! You want to avoid irritating things like an extremely hard seat or annoying insects, but you also don't want to fall asleep because you're so comfortable! =) I generally study on the ground, in a rocking chair, or in a comfy chair in my room. Occasionally I'll study on my bed, but often can't do it for too long without feeling groggy.

I study best in a quiet environment by myself; listening to music causes me to be distracted. Obviously, any environment is going to have some kind of distraction, be it the beauty of God's Creation, pictures on the wall, or people walking by, so it is important that you learn to focus your mind so as not to get too easily distracted.

It's fine if someone else is in the room when I study if we're not talking (though an occasional comment is definitely fine!), and in fact I enjoy having my roommate in the room while we study, to give a sense of companionship. Sometimes it is helpful for me to talk through things with people, but in order for it to be effective, I have to have studied earlier by myself and really begun to commit the information to memory. Thus, I generally avoid study groups, as I learn more quickly and effectively on my own. It's been my observation that in most study groups, more talking seems to get done than actual studying. This can be fine if you are combining school and social activies. If, however, you are in a time crunch and need to really learn something, studying alone usually goes more quickly.

When I do homework/studying on the computer, I really need to watch myself, because I'll get distracted by checking my email or browsing online instead of doing the work that I need to do. Sometimes I will allow myself to take periodic breaks to do other things on the computer while I study, but I have to be disciplined in not letting it distract me that much. If I really need to focus, I have to use self-control to simply open whatever program I need to use and leave other things, such as tabs containing email and blogs, closed.

Plan Ahead
As I've already written before, scheduling things helps so that you are prepared for classes in tests in plenty of time. Having a planner or table where you write when assignments are due and when tests will be given helps you keep track of what you need to focus on each day and week. By reviewing information throughout the semester, you will be able to recall it easier when you have to focus on it for an upcoming test. I wish I did this a little more than I do, for a little done each day often saves long hours done at the end.

Start studying in plenty of time so that you are not frantically studying the night before. You may remember the information for the test, but if it's only stored in your short term memory bank, you'll usually lose it soon after you take the test. If the goal of your education is to truly learn the information, you want to try to retain as much as possible, although you obviously can't remember every single detail. I try to begin studying for a quiz/test from 3-7 days before I have to take it. The further back I start, the less review I have to do each day, and the better I usually learn the information. First I gather the information I need to focus on and make study helps, then I review once or twice each day, going through the information a few times. Usually I'll only have to study it for 10-20 minutes at a time, sometimes more or less. One or two days before the test, I'll review a little more frequently and for longer amounts of time, and often I'll look over everything again right before the test. Usually by that time I'm quite prepared and fully ready to take the test.

Study Methods
I'm very much a visual learner, so it helps me to be able to see the information. I study a lot by simply reading and thinking through my notes, and I'll do that if I just have to remember general information. If I have to remember specific details or outlines, however, I go over and over them in order to commit them to memory. Writing down quotes and details as I read textbooks also helps me better remember what I read and gives me something to look back on when I need to review.

I primarily use flash cards and a test prep program that my brother Elijah programmed many years ago. The flash cards I enjoy because I can study them anywhere - outside, walking between classes, at breakfast, etc. It's also nice to be able to reverse the flash cards if I'm trying to learn to identify both terms and definitions. Sometimes, however, I tend to go through the flash cards quickly without really committing things to memory. If I really need to memorize something, the test prep program works really well. It's set up so that I can type in the questions and the corresponding answers in a category (such as "Civilizations II Test 2") that I create. The program automatically mixes up the questions each time I go through them. The question shows up onscreen, and I type in the answer. If I get it right, it goes on to the next question. If I get it wrong, it shows me the answer, highlighting what I've typed wrong. Then, I try again, to see if I can now type it right, or if it is almost entirely right, I may just click on to the next question. This program has really been a huge help to me (thanks again Elijah)! By typing in the answers, I also am forced to learn the correct spelling of things, which can be very helpful with foreign names and long terms.

Another thing that helps me when writing and reviewing my notes is to keep them organized, using many bullets. If I'm studying by reading over notes, I often highlight the key points so that they really stick out to me, and the yellow often helps them stick in my head. Sometimes I'll use colors for different things. Another helpful thing is to assign numbers to things when I'm memorizing them. Remembering the 5 points of an outline helps if I remember them by point 1,2,3, and so on, and remember that the number of details or items helps them stick in my head. Acronyms, letter patterns, and the rhythm of saying the words also sometimes helps.

Helping my kinesthetic side, the typing (doing something) helps me as I commit things to memory. Sometimes when I'm recalling information, I will remember typing or writing it, and that helps me remember it. As I manipulate the flash cards with my hands or walk while reviewing them, this also helps me kinesthetically.

I'm not a very high auditory learner, although for some things (such as memorizing lines or verses or songs) I unconsciously learn things just by listening to them again and again. For the most part in studying, however, I learn better by seeing, reading, and doing than I do by talking things through. Occasionally reviewing with a study partner helps, but again, it has to be prefaced by some study time on my own.

It's also important to take breaks when you need to, in order to maintain sanity! Sometimes it can be as simple as standing and stretching, drinking some water, or going for a short walk. An overloaded brain needs a rest once in a while so that it won't explode. =)

Each class and test is different, so the method I use really varies. Some things only need a little review, others require long hours of committed focus. While homeschooling, I learned the information and then took pre-packaged tests that came with the curriculum, which were often based on the chapter reviews or bold print in the text. At college, the teacher usually tells you generally what to focus on, which helps. With it all, however, we have to pro-active in learning the information. Just going to class doesn't automatically make you absorb it.

These principles of studying have allowed me to do really well while homeschooling and at college. Often others just tell me I'm smart and thus get good grades, but it really does require a lot of hard work in order to do well. I tend to over-study sometimes, but I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. I also have to remind myself that good grades aren't everything. Although we should do our best, our identity if found in God, not in a letter or grade point average.

In the comment section, please share if you feel led, answering any, all, or none of the following questions:
  • What kind of learner are you (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, combination, etc.)?
  • What is your favorite location or environment in which to study?
  • What study method(s) work best for you?
For more advice on Daily Disciplines, go here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Girly Things Discussion: Perfume

Anna's Thoughts

To tell the truth, I hardly ever wear perfume. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject! I don't wear it because I think it's bad, but because I usually simply forget to even think about putting it on.

When I was younger, I went through a phase where I wore perfume because I thought it was special and elegant. Sometimes I add a spritz now and then just to enjoy the scent and lift my spirits.

Perfume can be a very feminine thing. I've always thought stories of ladies remembered by the certain scent they always wore were sweet, especially when it was their children or husband remembering their special scent as they smelled things that used to be home. It can be fun to pick a scent to "define" you, one that is somewhat based on your personality. Scents can quickly help to recall memories, which can be a sweet and somewhat romantic thing.

I don't really have a favorite scent, although I've always liked the "turquoise sea" one from Calgon. Part of the reason I haven't settled on a certain scent to "define" me is because I've never wanted to spend the money that real perfume costs. All the perfume I have is more of the "body spray" variety, given to me as gifts, although I do have a small vial of "real" perfume as a special gift from my mother.

If you do wear perfume, I think the key is that you don't overdo it. Although a faint whiff may be fine for others to recognize that you're in the room, you shouldn't have an overpowering odor emanating from you, no matter how sweet it smells! A little will really go a long way.

Miriam's Thoughts

I've always enjoyed wearing a scent in the form of body spray. Real perfume costs too much and the other is often just as good. Perfume is fun to wear and I do it pretty often. Come to think of it, that's probably the most "girly" thing about me. =)

Though I enjoy an assortment of scents, my favorite is probably "sweet pea" from Bath & Body Works. If I wanted a scent that would define me, then I would choose that one.

I guess I don't have a lot to say about perfume, except to reiterate what Anna said about wearing too much. A little does go a long way, so just use a little spritz to refresh yourself.

Now, would you please share? Feel free to answer all, any, or none of the questions! Gentlemen, we also welcome you to give your thoughts on this matter if you care to!

  • What are your thoughts on perfume?
  • How often do you wear perfume?
  • What is your favorite scent? Do you wear it all of the time to "define" you?
For more "Girly Things" Discussion fun, go here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Musings on Change

(This was written for the "ministry moment" of the Belhaven theatre department newsletter and edited some to make it more relevant to a wider audience)

Change. It’s a word that carries a lot of connotations with it. Depending on your personality or experiences, the word may carry pleasant or difficult memories with it. Some people thrive on things that are new, exciting, and always changing. Others are happy if things will simply stay the way that they are. Like it or not, however, change is a part of life.

As this semester winds to a close, change of some kind is ahead for each of us.Some will be graduating, and going on to jobs or further training. For many, summer jobs and/or summer classes will fill the months ahead. Some will be home with family, while others will go on to new and exciting places for the summer. While many will be going back to their same school next fall, others, such as myself, may be transitioning to new educational opportunities and experiences. Whether you’re venturing into the unknown, staying home, or returning to a somewhat familiar place, next year will be different.

Change is an inevitable part of life.Whether or not you enjoy change, we do have Someone we can cling to, a Savior Who will never change. Yet, while our God doesn’t change, there are always new things to learn and discover in our relationship with Him, which guarantees that He won’t ever stagnate or become boring. Through the highs and lows of life, our God remains a Rock to provide stability and a Refuge to protect us when the storms of change rage. Psalm 62:1-2 reminds us where we should go to find strength: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken.”

The future can often seem uncertain and unclear, especially when big changes are on the horizon. Yet, no matter where we are headed, if we are following God, we have a great promise that we will never be left alone. “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our Guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14). We don’t have to worry about what the changes will bring to our life, for God will work out His purposes in our lives in amazing ways. We needn’t fear, for “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Advice on Becoming Beautiful

"For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone."
- Audrey Hepburn

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Daily Disciplines: Healthy Eating

Let me say here and now that I am in no way a nutritional expert! Also, in merely one post, there is no way that I can address every aspect of healthy eating. However, I will share a few guidelines that I try to follow in order to choose healthy food. These are mere suggestions based on my experiences, and many of them are common sense things that many of you probably already follow. I look forward to hearing from you about the choices you make in order to eat well with wisdom.

The biggest key to healthy eating, I've found, is moderation. I eat a wide variety of food, even an occasional treat with no health benefits whatsoever, but the key is that whatever it is, to eat it with moderation. Even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

Drink Water
Almost 3/4 of our body is composed of water. Thus, we need to drink a good amount of water each day in order to stay healthy. The article "How Much Water Should I Drink?" gives helpful advice on the number of glasses you should aim to drink based on different factors in your life. I have always had a hard time actually drinking the recommended amount because I feel waterlogged and don't like having to use the restroom so frequently! But, I'm trying to drink more water, for when I do, I often feel more awake and have a clearer mind.

I also try to choose to drink water instead of other kinds of drinks, particularly pop. I will have juice and milk occasionally, at least for breakfast, but I have made it a goal to avoid pop (or soda or coke, or whatever you like to call it!). It's nice because at home, we simply don't keep pop around, except for special occasions such as birthdays. I really appreciate how our parents raised us not to drink it often. While at school, it can be harder, since there are always soft drinks available at every meal. At the beginning of last semester, however, I decided to simply not even ask myself whether or not I was going to have pop that day, and instead automatically get water. I've probably had pop 4-6 times since coming to college, and those usually weren't in the cafeteria. Avoiding the sugar and caffeine in the drinks has only been a good thing! I also don't drink coffee or tea simply because I don't really like the taste (or in the case of coffee, the smell). Water is good for me!

Another bonus in drinking water is that it's free when you go out to eat! By not ordering a drink when eating out, you can save a lot of money over the long run! But, then, by not going out to eat very often you also save a lot of money and avoid foods that aren't as good for you! =)

Eat Fruit and Vegetables
My mom always had some kind of cooked or cut-up vegetables (or both) with every lunch and supper, and she always kept fresh fruit around for snacks and after-lunch "desserts." I am very grateful for this, for now I truly like fruit and vegetables, and really miss them if I can't get them with each meal. The leave me feeling fresh and invigorated. The vitamins and nutrients they contain simply can't be beat.

In the cafeteria, the cooked vegetables are usually cooked in oil or steamed to the point of being limp, so it's rare that I actually find some that look appetizing. However, the salad bar is always open for lunch and supper, and it's usually pretty good, although sometimes you have to avoid the wilted leaves. So, often I end up having salad twice a day. This can be good, but I also have to make sure that I don't make my salad unhealthy by putting too much on it. I don't like salad dressing (or mayonnaise - for some reason I just don't like the taste), so I don't have to worry about adding fat with that. However, I do enjoy eating shredded cheese, cut up boiled eggs, and chow mein noodles on my salad - things that we rarely have at home with salad, but that are readily available here. Again, the key is moderation. I do have those yummy ingredients on my salad regularly, but I try to make sure that it's not every single time.

Thankfully, the cafeteria almost always has a basket of apples, oranges, and bananas, and occasionally they have other fresh fruit as well. I almost always have an orange with breakfast, grab an apple as an afternoon snack, and sometimes eat a banana or another apple with lunch or supper. The apple as a snack between classes really helps give me energy and a clear mind, the boost I need in the midst of a tiring afternoon.

Juice is also good, but when I can I try to have real fruit instead, since it is better for you. Yes, fresh fruit and vegetables are more expensive than prepackaged food, but I think that it is worth it. Plus, smart shopping and buying whatever is in season and on sale can help a lot in keeping costs down.

Less Sweets
I don't avoid sweets altogether, although occasionally I will try to eat less sweets as one of my weekly goals, and I just completed a 40-day fast from sweets, which was really helpful. However, enjoying something sweet is not a bad thing - in moderation!

I'm somewhat spoiled by homemade desserts, to the point that I really don't like many sweets that are pre-made or from the store (with a few, mostly chocolate, exceptions!). At home, most of the sweets we eat are ones we make, although we do usually have ice cream on hand. We usually have a dessert after supper and a snack during the day. As I've gotten older, I've tried to not have desserts every night and skip most sweet snacks as well. But, sometimes we joke that our cookies and desserts are somewhat healthy, since many contain oatmeal! =)

At college, I've decided to just avoid the ever-present dessert selection, since every dessert I've gotten that looked good turned out to be a disappointment because it just didn't taste as good as something homemade. The cafeteria also has ice cream available during lunch and dinner, however, in many good flavors! I try to only eat it once a week, if that, which makes it more special and enjoyable and keeps me from eating it every day!

Lest I sound as though I'm extremely self-controlled when it comes to this, let me assure you that often I break my own guidelines. These are things I aim to do, but don't always accomplish. I often have too many sweets at things like receptions and parties, but I try to use restraint.

I also occasionally have treats, such as shakes, when out with a sibling or friend or going out to eat with family. But again, I try to make these the exception rather than the rule. It can be fun once-in-a-while, but I don't want to make it a habit.

Avoid Pre-packaged Food
Cooking from scratch is a great way to have control over the ingredients that you eat. I know that there are plenty of unhealthy things you can (and I do, occasionally) make from scratch, but as a whole, meals tend to be more healthy when you make them rather than popping something pre-made into the oven. It also takes more time to cook from scratch, but I think the benefit of wholesome and delicious food is well worth it!

An entire blog post could be written on this subject alone, but here are a few things that help when cooking from scratch:
  • Plan ahead whenever possible, so that you leave enough time and have the right ingredients for whatever you're making.
  • Use whole grain in recipes when possible - it's better than white flour, though sometimes a balance is needed, and whole wheat may take getting used to.
  • Changing recipes slightly can work well to make things more healthy. For example, use applesauce in breads/muffins instead of oil, or use half of each. Cut down slightly on sugar or cheese in recipes - you usually won't even notice that much. Instead of using a whole bag of chocolate chips in a batch of cookies, use half a bag. Again, you don't really notice the difference. However, you'll have to experiment and learn each recipe by trial and error. Some truly don't work unless you follow the recipe exactly.
  • Eating home is more healthy and cost-effective than going out to eat. Though an occasional dinner out can be a special treat for the family and helpful on trips, packing meals that you're going to be gone for will truly help in the long run.
Don't overeat
This should be a given, but I find myself eating too much when the food is just really good or I just feel like eating (out of boredom or tiredness). Taking smaller portions to begin with can help, for our eyes are often bigger than our stomach, and I almost always finish the food on my plate - even if I'm full - because I've been taught not to waste food. So, take less food than you think you need. Seconds are almost always available if you're truly hungry. However, I've found that I rarely go back for seconds - what I take usually turns out to be just fine. Also, in a cafeteria, where so much food is around all the time, I try to limit myself to one main dish (meat, a sandwich, or casserole), and 1-2 small sides, 1 or both of them fruits or vegetables. Though food tastes really good, feeling bloated because you ate too much doesn't feel that good!

Accountability, again, can be a very helpful thing if you're struggling with having self control in the area of food. Having a friend or group to keep you accountable for not overeating or for avoiding certain friends is very beneficial, for if you know you'll have to tell others that you ate something, you'll think twice about eating it.

However, care should be taken that you don't get too controlling in the area of food, constantly going on diets or developing an eating disorder. It saddens me to see how many young girls go on diets when they really don't need to, or starve themselves to be excessively thin. God made us each with unique and beautiful bodies, and we should enjoy the food He has given us (in moderation!) and eat to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Each one has a different metabolism, so food some people have to avoid may be just fine for another person. You should know yourself and use wisdom in your choices of food.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but these are a few guidelines that I try to follow in choosing to eat wisely. Of course I don't think it's bad to have some less healthy food for special occasions or fun treats. The important thing is that you make it the exception and not the rule.

If you would, please share your thoughts in the comments section, answering some, all, or none of the following questions:
  • What are a few of the most helpful guidelines you've found to healthy eating?
  • What is your favorite healthy food? Recipes are welcome. =)
  • What food is your weakness? Did I hear someone say chocolate? ;)
  • What is one unnecessary thing you can eliminate from your diet now to help you eat a little healthier?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Going Home

In two weeks, this semester will draw to a close, I'll have my last final exams, and then I'll be headed home. Home. It's a wonderful word!

This year at Belhaven College has been one full of things learned and experienced. Through it all, I have come to a deeper level of learning to trust God no matter what. I have learned a lot in the classes, experienced some great professors, made some wonderful friends, and grown deeply in my relationship with my never-changing, always-there Lord and Savior.

However, I won't be returning to Belhaven next fall. Instead, I will be living at home, free to pursue many areas of interest in the loving and real-life environment of my family at home.

This has not been a decision that I've taken lightly. Rather, it has caused me months of searching for God's will, feeling pulled in many directions, asking for advice from family and close friends, praying, crying, and longing for peace. Through it all, God has taken me again to a deeper level of trust in Himself, and taught me the value of following Him no matter what.

The decision to go to Belhaven was itself a very hard and long decision. As many of you know and as I posted, I never really wanted to go. However, after exploring many options and discussing many things, in the end, I chose to follow my dad's advice and authority and go. When I made the decision, I expected that I would be at college for four years. Once I had decided to go, I thought I wouldn't have to make any more decisions about what to do for the next four years - it would simply be planned out for me. After all, I came to peace with the decision and knew that this was where God was leading me. Surely that wouldn't change after only a year, would it?

Starting college last fall, I threw myself fully in my studies. I try to put my all into whatever I do, and, even if I didn't really want to be there, I was going to study and work with all my might. I quickly learned to play the college game of classes and studying. After years of planning my own schedules and being in charge of what I would study, spending the time researching and looking into different options, I actually found college coursework easier. Yes, my days were full of classes and studying, but all I had to do was simply show up for class and do what I was assigned. I went from being in charge of planning my own course of study as well as planning ballet classes and musicals to having the course syllabus already planned for me. Following it wasn't hard, although everything took time and kept me quite busy. I truly enjoyed many things, and though I missed home and family, I didn't allow myself to be be sad, but wholeheartedly devoted my time to many things.

It was somewhat disappointing to notice how most of the other students in the classes were just doing enough to make it through the course, instead of truly trying to learn the material. Yes, there were exceptions, and yes, they usually got their work done in time, but the prevailing attitude was one of irritation about how much we had to do. I found it easy to let the attitude rub off on myself, though I have worked hard to try to keep studying for the sake of learning and not just to pass the next test. With all of the many classes, however, often learning is reduced to cramming for each test as they come, although I try to plan ahead and study over a period of time instead of just the night before, in order to hopefully retain a little more information.

One of the biggest factors in my decision to leave Belhaven is the near impossibility it is to get good training in theatre and dance (as well as a little music!). Perhaps I am interested in too many things, but the time commitments and conflicting scheduling of each department was very hard to work through. Add to that the fact that if you're not a dance major, you are more likely to be kept in lower levels in order to make room for the dance majors in the higher levels. It's understandable, but hard for those dancers who aren't majors, but would still like to progress. I came to Belhaven in order to gain more skills in the area of dance and theatre so that I could be a better teacher/director, and I have learned many things that I will be able to use in the future. It has also been hard when, because of time constraints but also matters of conscience, I have not been in any of the productions of theatre this year, although I have learned a lot helping behind the scenes.

However, with the blessing of my parents, I have decided to return home after this semester, to continue studying and learning from there. I am very much an independent learner, and some classes have been somewhat hard to sit through, as they're geared for slower learners and keep going over the same information in class that we already read, or at least were suppposed to have read. At home, I will be able to study on my own at my own pace, thus having more time to pursue other things by not having to sit in class after class most of the day.

We're not exactly sure what I will be doing, but this summer I will be taking time to plan out the specifics with my parents. I have many ideas and am excited about what I will have the opportunity to learn! Right now I am seriously considering earning a degree in humanities through CollegePlus, an online program that helps combine credits already earned, CLEP and and other test credits, and online courses into an accredited bachelor's degree. This would allow me to earn a degree while being able to live at home and pursue other learning experiences. Plus, by doing distance learning and not having to follow the schedules of a college, I should be able to finish my degree in 1-2 years. If the Lord wills, I will also be taking dance and music lessons, drama classes/workshops, and having opportunities to attend intensives and workshops, such as Ballet Magnficiat's Teacher's Workshop, which I am registered to go to this summer. I also look forward to having time to sew, cook, read, and write while experiencing the joys of home, family and friends.

Another very exciting opportunity will be the new beginning of The King's Praise Ballet and other theatre endeavors, bringing them together under an "academy" called "The King's Courts." Although it was so hard to leave all of my students last year, this year away has been beneficial in redirecting my focus as to what exactly I want to do. A class I am this semester called Theatre Ministry Administration required us to conduct a feasibility study on an area of our choosing (I chose Prattville, AL, where I was teaching before) and write a business plan for a ministry we would like to do. God birthed in me a vision for "The King's Courts" and I look forward to implementing it as I follow His leading.

This has been a hard decision to make, and it has continued to be hard to let people here at college know that I won't be coming back next semester. I will miss things here and good friends that I have made, but I am going back to so much around home. In the midst of being fearful of what people would think of me, or being misunderstood or viewed as a quitter, I have had to learn yet again that I must value the praise of God more than the praise of man. Going home, I won't have the praise of good grades or a professor's approval, but I will definitely continue to learn. After I finally made the decision in mid-March, Psalm 34:4-5 came to mind: "I sought the Lord and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." Our God is so good!

Most of my friends simply love the college atmosphere, whereas I much prefer the home environment. I've struggled with wondering whether I was missing something, or was strange not to so thoroughly enjoy this life at college, a time so many people remember with fondness. I've had to remember that it's okay for me to be different. Everyone is different, and if I prefer home to a college campus, that isn't wrong.

The biggest blessing through this whole decision has been the fact that my parents are both in full agreement with this decision. It amazed me when, as I struggled with whether or not to leave this college, since I felt pulled and wanted by many here and wondered if it was right for me to stop something once I started, my dad, who had formerly encouraged me to go to college, encouraged me to come home. My parents assured me that they would support whichever route I decided to take, staying at Belhaven or coming home, and I have found such freedom and joy in the decision to come home.

I am not saying that college is the wrong decision for anyone. Each one's situation is different, and you must do what you feel God is calling you to. As for me, I am so excited to be going home. Yes, it will be perhaps a less "efficient" learning environment than college, where everything is programmed around classes and studying. At home, you are interrupted with cares of daily life, but it is an environment that I prefer. Home education worked really well for me through high school - why not continue it through college? After all, my biggest dream is to be a wife and mother at home. Why not get used to living and learning in the home environment?

It will be another change, another transition. Things will be challenging as I seek to schedule my own courses of study and begin teaching and ministering to families using the arts, and I know that I won't be able to do everything that I would like to do. This time away at college has been one of learning, stretching, and growth, but I am looking forward to going home and continuing to learn grow there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pictures from the Arkansas Visit

Luke and Michele were so kind to host Elijah and I over our Easter break from our colleges. We had a wonderful visit, and it was a great, relaxing break. It was nice to be able to do nothing but enjoy being with family!

Elijah and I drove down on Thursday night, he arriving around 11 p.m. and I driving in nearer 11:30 p.m. Luke and Michele very hospitably waited up to see us in safely. Praise God, He kept us safe as we drove there and back, Elijah leaving on Sunday afternoon and I leaving on Monday morning. Each time we drove, it was raining quite hard for most of the drive, and on Thursday we even drove through some hail, which was a scary experience! But, God protected us through all of the bad weather, and I was very thankful for cell phones to be able to call Luke and have him reassure me that I could keep driving, as the storm was passing on.

We did a lot of talking over the break, about a wide variety of topics. It is fun to have older siblings to be able to learn from, and younger nieces and nephews to interact with. I thought it was funny that in this picture, both Michele and I are standing the same way! =)

I was so glad that Elijah could come down as well. He had a lot of homework for the weekend (whereas I, blessedly, had none!), and only got Friday, not Monday, off from school, but he made the trip anyway.

One of the highlights for me was being able to hold a baby again, for quite a while out of each day! Babies aren't perfect, but they are definitely a blessing!

My nieces and nephews are growing so much! Danielle is now almost 10, Alex turned 8 while we were there, Zach is 6, Nate is 4, and Bethany is 8 months. They are all a joy to be with!

Aren't babies one of the cutest people of God's creation? Michele made Danielle and Bethany matching dresses for Sunday, which were so lovely and darling!

Elijah and I are blessed to be an uncle and aunt to these fine children! I have really enjoyed learning from Luke and Michele as they parent, getting ideas for when I might have children of my own. It's always a blessing to be able to learn from those who have gone before you, and Luke and Michele willingly shared things with us!

The Luke Lofgren family (or "Luke's family" as we sometimes refer to them). I am blessed to be able to call them part of my family!

Thank you, Luke and Michele and Danielle, Alex, Zach, Nate, and Bethany for having us to your house for a wonderful break! It was a joy to spend Good Friday and Resurrection Day with you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

He Is Risen!

Then the whole multitude of them arose and let Him to Pilate. Luke 23:1

But they shouted, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him!". Luke 23:21

So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. Luke 23:24

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Luke 23:33

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Luke 23:44

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:46

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing spices which they had prepared. Luke 24:1

But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Luke 24:2

Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24:3

They, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' " Luke 24:5-7

And they remembered His words. Luke 24:8

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty god, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Happy Resurrection Day!!!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Headed to Arkansas

In honor of Resurrection Day, college is giving us tomorrow and Monday off from classes! Because I was recently home for spring break and will be home again soon (the semester is flying by!), I decided to take this break to visit my brother Luke, his wife Michele, and their 5 children in Arkansas. They were so kind to invite Elijah and I to come, and I'm excited to see them, since I haven't seen them since the wedding last September!

So, don't expect to hear from me this weekend. Also, a daily disciplines post won't be written on Monday, since I'll be driving back to college and preparing for another week of classes.

I'm heading off tonight at 6 p.m., and it will be around a 5 1/2 hour drive according to Google Maps. I would appreciate your prayers for Elijah and I as we both drive into late tonight.

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Girly Things Discussion: Jewelry

In the busyness of life, posts in the "Girly Things" Discussions got laid to the side for a while. However, we're hoping to bring them back! As always, if you have a topic you'd like to see discussed, please leave a comment and let us know!

As we said in the first post,

"we'll state a topic, and Miriam and I will each give our opinion of it. In the comment section, we would enjoy hearing your thoughts as well!

Please keep in mind that our answers are not laid-down rules that everyone should follow. They just reflect our thoughts and experiences."
Anna's Thoughts

My philosophy for jewelry is the same as my philosophy for many other "girly" things: keep it simple. In fact, I rarely wear jewelry, simply because I forget to put it on. Plus, it sometimes gets in the way, especially when I have to do a lot of movement.

Wearing jewelry can help accent one's femininity, and it can be fun to match jewelry with an outfit. It's a fun thing for a girl to do, and it makes me feel like a lady, so I may try to start actually thinking about it and wearing it more often. =) However, we should be careful not to go overboard or draw too much attention to ourselves by wearing loads of flamboyant jewelry. Each one will have their own particular taste in what they like, but there can be a too extreme side, whatever your style may be. Jewelry can either look overdone and too busy with an outfit, or it can be the finishing touch that draws everything together.

There are two items that I wear almost entirely. My watch I wear on my left wrist, putting it on each morning soon after I get up and taking off each night right before I go to sleep (I have to, or the ticking in my ear keeps me awake!). My watch is fairly simple, brown and gold, with dots for each minute and 12 large numbers, that suits my personal style. I like being on time and not having to pull out my cell phone every time I want to see a clock. I also always wear my purity ring on my right ring finger, only taking it off when I am doing something that will be messy or in dance class, since they don't like us to wear jewelery for safety reasons. Then, I usually take off my watch as well and put the ring on the watch band, buckling it so that the ring doesn't get lost.

I don't have that much jewelry, but I have a few staple items that I enjoy wearing with certain outfits: a simple gold cross, a swirly silver cross, large and small pearls, and a necklace with a liturgical dancer on it. I also enjoy wearing a gold heart with jewels on it that was my grandmothers - it's special to me for that reason, and because it's simply lovely.

The goal of a necklace should not be to draw attention to your chest, but rather to draw the attention upward, to the face. For this reason, sometimes I don't wear a necklace in order to give a more simple look. I also tend to avoid longer necklaces, for they sometimes hang on the body in attention-drawing ways. If you're wearing a top that is too low in the neckline, a necklace will accentuate this even more. The solution? Wear something with a higher neckline!

For some reason I rarely wear bracelets... If I do, I seem to be constantly playing with them, which can be somewhat distracting. The only ring I wear is my purity ring. I don't have many others, and really don't have a reason to wear them. I do a lot with my hands, so don't want too much on them! I also don't wear anklets or toe rings because, personally, I find them uncomfortable! =)

I also don't wear earrings because my dad doesn't like pierced ears. He has decided that I can't pierce my ears until I'm 21, and I've learned to be at peace with that, although for a while I really wanted earrings because I thought they were so pretty! Now, I think I'll probably just wait and ask my husband (whenever I get married) what he would prefer. If my dad has such a strong dislike for them, I may as well wait a little while longer and ask my husband his preference (if he has one).

As for other piercings, I have never desired them. Yes, nose rings are mentioned in the Bible as well as earrings, but I have never found them attractive. That goes for lip, eyebrow, upper ear piercings, etc. I think they can draw too much attention to themselves and be seen somewhat as a symbol of rebelliousness. In regards to belly button piercings, why would you want to pierce something that you would never show in all modesty? I hesitate to establish hard and fast rules about these things, but personally think that piercings beyond earrings should be avoided.

The Bible doesn't condemn jewelry. In fact, it has examples of them being given as gifts to Godly women, and beautiful women are described as wearing some. However, it does say that our beauty should not come from jewelry. Instead, our beauty should come from inside, and from the good deeds that we do for God's glory (1 Timothy 2:8-9, 1 Peter 3:3-4). As with other things that you wear, when you put jewelry on, ask yourself what motivations you have for wearing it. If it is to draw attention to yourself, or to delight in the femininity that God placed inside you when He made you a woman?

Again, I would encourage you to ask your authorities (your mom, dad, or husband) what they like and try to honor them with what kinds of jewelry that you wear. They may not have any preferences, or you may be surprised to discover what they enjoy you wearing!

Miriam's Thoughts

Like Anna, I wear very little jewelry. Up until a few years ago, I found it just a big nuisance and never bothered with it (except for my watch, which I wear all the time and have since I was 13). My watch has gold-colored metal band and a very simple watch face.

I've always liked necklaces, and have three crosses that brothers gave me for birthdays. I actually have more necklaces than anything because it seems to be popular to give a girl that if you can't think of anything else...I don't mind though, because they are all very simple, yet tasteful, which suits me.

I never wore any rings until my parents gave me my purity ring and now I wear it all the time on my left-hand ring finger (if you want to know why that finger, email me).

I almost never wear bracelets because they get in the way with everything I do with my hands. But for special occasions, my grandmother gave me a lovely bracelet that is the most comfortable I've ever worn.

Gaudy or big jewelry has never suited me, because I'm not the type of person who likes to be that noticed. But I've noticed that some young ladies can pull it off quite well. With those exceptions, I've always thought that simple and pretty jewelry is the best and most feminine.

Now, would you please share? Feel free to answer all, any, or none of the questions!

  • What are your thoughts on jewelry?
  • Are there kinds of jewelry that you simply won't wear? What are your reasons for this?
  • What is your favorite kind of jewelry?
  • Do you own a piece of jewelry that has special significance to you?
  • What do you think about piercings?

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Daily Disciplines: Eliminating Non-Essentials

As much as we have good intentions to get on a schedule and stay on track, so many distractions can be thrown in our way. An important thing to do when trying to live a disciplined life is to take some time to evaluate your daily life. Determine what the essentials are, and write down what the non-essentials are as well. Then, prayerfully consider what you can eliminate from your life in order to have more time to focus on the things that are truly essential.

What is essential and what is non-essential? Well, it will differ for everyone. Your relationship with God is the most essential, which will include Bible reading, praying, and Scripture memorization and application. Relationships with family and friends will be essential, but the way you live out those relationships may have some non-essential components. Depending on your season in life, school work, a husband, or children may be essentials in your life. Depending on your responsibilities, a job and/or care and upkeep of a house or room may be an essential.

Non-essentials are sometimes harder to define. I am certainly not advocating that we rid ourselves of all the fun things in our life! Time to relax is essential for good health, and fun things give you the needed break and clearing of the mind in order to go on and do the bigger essentials well. However, as a whole our culture is inundated with things that really aren't essential.

One non-essential that I have chosen to eliminate from my life is that of online chatting or instant messaging. To guard from losing time with superficial chatting while online when I really need to do research or write emails, papers, or blog posts, I simply keep myself logged out of Google Talk and Facebook chat. That way, I don't feel bad in telling people that I really shouldn't talk when they pop up. I'm not saying that everyone should get rid of online chatting. I have had some good conversations through it, but on a whole I've observed that they seem to be very superficial and chatty. In addition, usually when I'm chatting I'm also trying to accomplish something else on the computer, so the quality of both the conversation and the thing I'm reading or writing goes down. I much prefer getting to know someone face-to-face or through email, letters, or phone calls, all of which seem to be a little more in-depth. In order to have more time to interact in these ways, I very rarely sign in to online chatting programs.

I also don't watch much TV, which I "affectionately" refer to as the Time Vacuum. So much that's on it is simply not worth watching. We never had cable as a child, which I am very happy about, although we did have Sky Angel and then Dish Network later on. Our parents set time limits on what we could watch - usually no more than a 1/2 hour program a day, sometimes not even that - and I am so grateful that they did. Yes, some shows are fun (we enjoyed mostly older shows, such as Roy Rogers, Annie Oakley, The Lone Ranger, Beverley Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, etc.) but often they're not worth spending much time on. At college, I certainly don't have time to watch them, and I very rarely even watch a movie. Sometimes it's fun to watch something to relax with family or friends or have something on while you do activities like embroidery, but overall, I'd rather live life than watch other people live it.

Non-essentials may be certain websites, blogs, or social networking sites, or magazines, books, movies, TV shows, or other hobbies. In small amounts, these things may be good. However, it's easy to get overwhelmed with too much information or too many things you're trying to do at once, and the quality of everything suffers.

If you don't have time to do an in-depth look at all your activities right now, prupose to eliminate just one non-essential. You may be surprised at how much of a difference it can make! By writing this post, I am inspired once again to go through all of the blogs I've subscribed to through Google homepage and unsubscribe to the less helpful ones. There is so much to read out there, but I must be wise in having time to read good quality instead of simply a lot of quantity.

If you would, please share in the comments section, answer some, all, or none of the following questions:
  • Do you have a lot of non-essential items in your life?
  • What are examples of things you prioritize as essential and things you prioritize as non-essential?
  • What is one non-essential item that you can eliminate from your life starting today?

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Widow's Might in Theaters

60 Second Trailer Spot, Widow's Might from John Moore on Vimeo.

When at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, I was very excited to see The Widow's Might. I had really enjoyed Bubble Trouble and Heartstrings, and this movie was even better! Heumoore Productions just keeps getting better by leaps and bounds! I voted for the movie for the audience choice award, and was so excited when it won not only that, but also the Best of Festival Jubilee Award! My family and I left the festival looking forward to what Heumoore Productions would come up with next.

Now you have the opportunity to see The Widow's Might on the big screen. Starting April 13th, it will be in theaters on a limited release. Visit the official film website and this post by the Rebelution to find out more how you can get involved. Click here for a list of theaters it will be playing in.

No, "The Widow's Might" is not a perfect movie - none are! However, it is a movie that your whole family will enjoy. It's funny, sweet, and has a great message. The story is about people in the body of Christ helping each other, and the very production of the film upholds the same values. It is exciting to see what families can do by working together! Even more, it's partly a musical, which always thrills me! Spread the word, and try to see it in theaters and support this great production team.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Senior Pictures!

I finally have pictures!!! During Anna's spring break, we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Shakespeare park and take my senior pictures. After two and a half hours, and innumberable poses, we left the park with a lot of pictures. My job was to then sort through them all and decide which I liked best. Very difficult to do since Anna got a lot of good ones. I finally narrowed it down to sixteen of my favorites and now it's your turn to tell me which you like best.
1. Through the window

2. Invasion of personal space =)

3. Against the dogwood trees

4. "Smile!"

5. "Keep smiling..."

6. I wish...

7. Is she a treehugger?

8. Halfway through...

9. Against the water

10. Where are the horses?

11. Peeking

12. Blue and green

13. Peeking #2

14. "Are we done yet?"

15. And more smiling...

16. And we're done!

*Edit: I also posted some "rejects" on Merely Miriam, pictures I liked but knew for sure I wouldn't use as the 'official' photo.

*Edit: Voting has now stopped, but you're still welcome to comment!