Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 2009 Reading List

Anna's Books

Completed This Month:

  • To the Ends of the Earth by T. Davis Bunn - Having not read fiction in a while, I enjoyed the treat of this novel set in the era of the Byzantine Empire. It is an exciting, historical-based adventure following the life of Travis, a young man whose life is continually in danger. He meets and travels with the beautiful Lydia and her father, true Christians who are concerned over the trivialization of Christianity by many in the empire. Of course, the two young ones fall immediately in love, but Travis is not a Christian and so Lydia resolves to put him out of her mind. Through many trials, they come through and the ending is happily resolved. It was a fun read, though one more suited for older teens and up.
  • Costuming the Biblical Play by Lucy Barton - Published in 1937, I was able to buy this book off of Amazon.com, interested in it because of the Biblical plays I have produced and hope to continue doing. It gives good historical background for each era and civilization that you would be costuming in a variety of Biblical plays. It includes many sketches that help you visualize each step. Some of the information is outdated (it's amazing how much less expensive fabric was back then!), but it gives good suggestions. I will definitely apply some of what I learned about the historical periods in the upcoming plays I costume, although because of little time, few workers, and a low budget, I can't make everything an exact historical replica! But, this book does give suggestions for how to creatively make things you'd need. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in doing Biblical plays!
  • Wind of Destiny by Dr. Lou Campbell - Dr. Lou was my adviser and main theatre professor at Belhaven College, and he gave this novel he has written to my family on a recent visit here by him and his wife. It is an interesting book that spans many years and locations as it follows the very different lives of Kyle, a wealthy business heir, and Rachel, a missionary nurse. They meet briefly in different places over the years, and are captivated with each other. Circumstances always seem to get in the way to separate them, however. The descriptiveness of the novel is beautiful, and the descriptions of locations are based on in-person experiences of the author. The one thing I wished had been different is the way that Rachel, a Christian, is romantically involved with Kyle far before he becomes a Christian. Of course, things turn out fine in the end, but she makes no objections to hugs, kisses, and even talk of marriage while he is an unbeliever. Love is powerful, but God's Word is clear that we're not to be yoked with an unbeliever, and those that stay involved, hoping their partner with become a Christian, often only end up with heartache and strife.
  • Prepare for Rain by Michael Catt - This book tells "the story of the church that believed God for the impossible." It is written by the pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, the church that made the movies "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof." It is a powerful book about how God led Sherwood to seek Him earnestly, pray sincerely, and "prepare for rain," tilling their fields and watching for God's blessing. With a mission to reach the world from Albany, Georgia, God has indeed used this body of believers in amazing ways. You will be challenged to pray more boldly and sincerely and inspired by the amazing things our Lord can do with ordinary people.
  • Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh - This a powerful book exposing 25 of the most common lies that young women believe and showing them "the truth that sets them free." The book is written in a fun conversational style and includes cute templates and graphics, but it doesn't shy away from the hard things facing our generation and is chock-full of Biblical truth. By God's grace I have not believed most of the lies that this book exposes, but it still gave me things to think and pray through, exposing messages that can be tempting to buy into, and an insight into how to relate to girls that face these things every day. If you are looking for a book to buy an average or not-so-average teen girl, this is a great one to get! It will bring truth and God's Word to someone who may be in bondage.
  • Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries - Subtitled "reaching the been-there, done-that generation," this book, published in 1994, explores how typical youth ministry has and hasn't worked. It rightly points out that while the fun, always exciting and experiential-based typical youth program often succeeds in making mature teenage Christians, it often fails to put them on the path to mature adult Christians, resulting in many teens dropping out when they graduate the youth program because they find that church is really not all that exciting anymore. This book shows how teens need to be surrounded by "normal" Christian adults (not just youth workers) that they can learn from and emulate. It emphasizes how discipleship should start in the family, and how parents should be actively involved with their youth in the church. It also acknowledges that while not all families are perfect and not all parents be involved, having a lot of adults working with the youth and incorporating them into the church-wide community of believers will prepare the teens for Christian adulthood. It's a great book for youth ministers and anyone who doesn't care much for the typical "youth group" program.
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 Actor at Work by Robert Benedetti
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Miriam's Books

Completed This Month:

  • The Emily books by Lucy M. Montgomery - I'd been wanting to read this trilogy for a while and I was finally able to borrow them from a friend. They were really sweet and wholesome, but I have to say I still enjoy the Anne books much better. Emily comes to live with two aunts and an uncle after her father dies and from there on, her life changes for good and she becomes Emily of New Moon.
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne - I began this book a couple of years ago and just couldn't get into it (which was strange because I loved The Scarlet Letter), but I made it through the first hard chapters and really got into it this time. There's just something about the words, "God will give him blood to drink!" that add the sense of mystery needed for this book.
  • The Bones of Makaidos by Bryan Davis - The last book in the Oracles of Fire series was so good! I'm sad because it's over, but he ended the story so well. Throughout all his books Davis has tied in the story of redemption, creating a beautiful story of love, sacrifice, and waiting. A definite must-read!
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry - Imagine a town where everything is black and white, but no one realizes it because they don't know there is such a thing as color. They don't know that there is something called weather. What is love and hate...and pain? There is one person who possesses this knowledge and he is the Receiver. The Receiver of the Memories that no one else remembers. This one person holds the burden of all knowledge so that the people won't know. But he is dying and it is time for someone else to become the Receiver, so he has now become the Giver.
  • In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols - A mother is looking for her daughter that she was forced to give up for adoption at its birth. Along the path she finds memories, a chance for love, and God.
  • Room in the Heart by Sonia Levitin - This was set at the beginning of World War II. It's written from the perspective of several different characters and does an excellent job of portraying the emotion that these older teenagers were feeling. As the Nazis begin to occupy their home of Denmark, they start to realize they can do something about the tragedy.
  • Like Dandelion Dust by Karen Kingsbury - This was a wonderful book. A couple adopted a son and five years later, the biological father wants him back as he had never known that his wife gave their son up. The father appears to have been a changed man from what he was, but appearances can be deceiving. Meanwhile, this young couple's life seems to have crashed around them. They will lose their beloved son...unless they can make their plan work. They never planned on finding God along the way.

Just a note, there is often other books that I have read during the month, but I only post the ones that I considered really good and would recommend to other readers.

Currently Reading:
  • Let Me Be A Woman by Elisabeth Elliot (I would have finished this month, but I lost it until just recently). =)
  • The Brave-Hearted Gospel by Eric Ludy

Friday, June 26, 2009

Off for Two Weeks

Tomorrow morning I leave for Ballet Magnificat's Teacher's Workshop. I will be there for two weeks, and will be without computer access. Although I'll miss staying in touch with everyone in that way, I am looking forward to a break from computers!

Miriam will be here for a week before heading to music camp, so I know she'll keep the blog running well. =) I've also written a few posts ahead, for her to publish or schedule for publication while we're both at camp, so the blog should at least have one or two things to read. However, expect posting to be a little slower.

I do ask for prayer, that I will learn all that God has for me, that I will have strength through tiring days, and that I will focus on Him and not on my own shortcomings as a dancer. These will be days of refreshing, growth, learning, and stretching - in more ways than one. :)

I hope you all have a wonderful end of June and beginning of July! I look forward to sharing about my experience at the workshop when I return.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wanting to Write

Do you ever have things burning inside of you that you can't wait to write down? Do words, phrases, paragraphs, or ideas suddenly jump into your mind, begging to be a part of something larger? Strands of poetry, the perfect title for a post, or a special Scripture verse to expound upon - there never seems to be an end of ideas!

But, there does seem to be a limit to the time available to write. It takes time to sit down and take a pencil to paper or type on a keyboard. It takes time to write things out, think it through, proofread it, change grammar and spelling errors, rework sentences so they sound just right, and change words here and there to find the perfect fit. It is time well spent and time well enjoyed, but sometimes I lack motivation to sit down and actually begin. The words keep on composing in my head, but sometimes it's hard for me to actually sit down and start writing them out.

Though the ideas haven't dried up, I have been in a writing slump lately because I haven't taken the time to write them out. Other things have called for my attention, some worthwhile and some not so worthwhile, and time spent writing has declined. My journal is 3 weeks behind, for by the time bedtime rolls around, I find myself much preferring to read and rest instead of using more mental energy to write. There are currently ideas for 4 plays/musicals floating around in my head, but as I focus on the one I am preparing to direct, I haven't take the time necessary to start or continue work on a completely new one. There are numerous topics or ideas I have for posts, but as you see from the lack of actually well-written ones recently, I haven't taken much time to devote to this blog.

Time flies by quickly. We each have the same amount, and yet somehow it seems to faster or be more full for certain people. We all have a choice as to how we will use our time... and recently I haven't chosen to write much.

I have missed it, however. I hope to get back to doing it soon. It will take a choice, to write even when I don't always feel like it. Sometimes it will come as a result of words welling up in my heart until they can't help but burst forth and be written out. Other times, it takes a lot more effort and continued use of the backspace key.

I've never thought of myself as a writer. It sounds like too high of a distinction for one such as myself, one who misuses the English languages more times than not and is far from perfect in her thought processes. But as more words and ideas burn in my soul, I feel more and more the urge to write, the desire to write, at least to have written. I still don't really call myself a writer; but I pray that God uses the words He allows me to write for His glory.

Perhaps I should stop writing about wanting to write, and go ahead and do it! =)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Answer For Relieving Stress

I have a solution for relieving stress and, on the side, an exercise in patience. Build a puzzle!

One of my favorite things to do is get a challenging 750 - 1000 piece puzzle and start building. I have to admit that the one pictured below is one of the hardest I have ever done. The sky was crazy! The best puzzles (in my opinion) are the ones made from Charles Wysocki paintings.

So...if you need to relieve stress, or simply want a reason to stay out of the 100 degree heat (guilty!), then take the challenge!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kitten Pictures

We have been blessed to have more kittens this summer! I thought you all might enjoy seeing a few pictures of their cuteness. They were born on April 28th, making them almost 8 weeks old. One of them has already been given away, and we are looking for homes for these remaining two. Although they will receive new names by their new owners, Jubilee had fun naming them for while we have them.

Peepicheep was the girl of the litter. She was almost pure white and really fluffy, and has already found a new home with some friends.

Reepicheep is white and gray, with stripes and some Siamese markings, as the kittens are 1/8 Siamese.

Pattertwig is a brown tabby, with some fun markings!

They are sweet, gentle kittens that are a joy to hold! Jubilee especially works with them to make them gentle, resulting in good, docile kittens for families!

They have always lived outdoors, but could be trained to live inside. It is fun to see them frolicking outside the door during the day, and they're perfect to hold when watching a movie or just wanting to relax.

They're also very playful, and they enjoy wrestling with each other. Boys will be boys. =)

But, overall, they are really very sweet and good! We hope and pray that they will find new homes with good families soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tribute to My Daddy

My Daddy is a Godly man, a committed husband, a wonderful father, a loving grandfather, a strong man. He has shaped my life in so many ways - more than I can recount. Without his loving influence, I would not be the young woman that I am today.

My Daddy provides for his family well, physically, financially and spiritually. One of the best things about my Daddy is that he has always cared more about spending time with his family then earning a lot of money or being in high positions in the work place. Those have come as a result of his hard work, but he has always placed his family first, sometimes taking pay cuts or reducing hours in order to spend more time with us, teaching us and shaping our lives.

My Daddy also enjoys playing games with us, spending time just being with us when he could be doing other things more "productive." Although we are all now at the age and ability that we beat him in almost every game - especially the fast ones - he's not discouraged and he doesn't complain. He jokingly says it's "his duty" to play and come in last so that one of us won't have to be the loser.

My Daddy is incredibly smart, a national merit scholar and graduate of Harvard medical school, yet he doesn't flaunt it. He's one of the most humble men I know. I enjoy just listening to my Daddy talk, no matter the subject. He knows about a wide variety of things, and what he doesn't know he's happy to learn. He helps me a lot when I'm struggling with something or a decision I have to make. He listens and talks through things with me, not forcing his opinion on me, but giving me the opportunity to think and explore while letting me know what his views are. His "Dadisms" - sayings he repeats again and again - are ingrained in our brains and yet quite practical - mostly! =)

He has been a great father to us 7 children, and has given us many memories that we will carry with us all of our life. He has taught us what he knows, encouraged us to read and given us books and the tools to learn, and payed for us to experience many things. He's placed an importance on the arts and the beautiful things in life and pays for lessons, yet also encourages us and teaches us the practical things of life. He's payed for us to travel and experience things outside of our familiar setting, also taking us on many family vacations that bonded us as a family and opened our eyes to God's beautiful creation. The fond memories of these trips are too numerous to recount.

My Daddy can do almost anything. He's a fix-it man, able to repair almost anything around the house. He has a special touch it seems, making things work when we can't figure them out. He plays many instruments, sings in harmony, knows about a wide range of subjects, and is even willing to dance. =) He keeps our property looking well, fixing and maintaining the long dirt road, chopping wood, and growing a garden and blueberries. He designed and built our guest house, teaching his children in the process. He keeps our cars in good working order, able to replace almost any part himself instead of taking it to the shop.

My Daddy is a servant, always ready to give a helping hand. He helps others in the community, and often even helps his girls with dishes at the end of a long day. He has helped with all of the productions I've done, running lights, sound, taking pictures, and even acting if I needed a male role filled. He does so many things well, but doesn't exalt himself. He lives and has taught us to live for God's glory.

I love just being with my Daddy. I love sitting beside him and feeling protected. I enjoy walking along and holding his arm. He makes me feel special as he opens my car door, telling me that he's preparing me so that I'll know how to respond when my husband does it one day.

There are so many things I could write about that I'm thankful for my Daddy. I'm thankful for his provision, his love, his challenging of us, his leading us in devotions, his guiding us in God's ways, and his daily example. I enjoy spending time with him, and having the opportunity to be around him more as he's now retired (and yet staying quite busy around home!). I enjoy following as he leads as my spiritual authority, and for the way he truly seeks to follow God, even when it isn't always popular. Honoring him is not a chore or burden, but a joy and delight! Even when I don't always perfectly agree with his view of things, it is fun to see how God works all things out for the best as I follow my Daddy's guidance.

I miss my Daddy today. He's away in Kansas City, taking care of my grandparents so that my aunt can have a vacation. But although I can't be with him today, he is in my thoughts and prayers.

I love you, Daddy! Happy Father's Day! Thank you for being you! I wouldn't want any other father in the world!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Before an Audience

It's always interesting to watch the effects an audience has on young dancers. The way they respond is always different for each personality. Although the older dancers each respond in a different way as well, some thriving on the attention and others getting very nervous, the responses are more evident in the little dance class of those ages 4-6.

If you put a few of the young ones in front of a crowd, they immediately begin to thrive. Others get shy, and some refuse to do anything at all! There's the one girl who never followed well in class but got easily distracted and wanted to do her own thing, but when in front of an audience, immediately began following along almost perfectly and became very attentive to make sure she performed well. There's another, a very confident dancer in class, who when she knows she has eyes upon her, suddenly withdraws and has small, timid motions. Some don't seem to notice the difference - really young, they get lost in their own little world, sometimes just standing still, other times following along and smiling for their mother. Sometimes there are surprises, like the little girl who always followed along in class and danced well who, when faced with a crowd wouldn't even get up and go on stage. Some are struck with stage fright and stand still; others do everything with exuberant glee, excited to know that they are being watched. While some withdraw and are on the verge of tears, others act like little clowns, playing off of the audience's reactions.

Although the emphasis is on making sure that everyone stays together and glorifies God with their dancing, it is cute to see how the little girls react. Even when things don't go perfectly or smoothly, the random responses of the young ones usually bring a few smiles and laughs from the audience, as we enjoy how un-inhibited they can be.

When you're on stage performing, it's easy to remember that you have an audience. How could you forget? Even if you've prepared and rehearsed for hours, there is usually a least a little nervousness and the hope that you do well. Though sometimes you get fully engrossed in what you're doing, more often you can feel the eyes watching you. Through it all, you may be praying that you do well for God's glory.

When you're not on stage, it's very easy to forget that you still have an audience. Whether you want it or not, other people are watching you, to see how you react in certain situations, to hear the careless words that come from your mouth, and to see your random crazy moments. Even when you're all alone, you still have an Audience of One, a God Who sees each action and knows each thought.

How should you respond to the "audience" around you at all times? It should cause you to think twice about each word or action, to make sure that it is truly pleasing to the Lord. Especially when young ones are watching - and believe me,the little ones do watch and often repeat even simple, random things - we have a responsibility to set for them a Godly example. This doesn't mean that you should become paranoid and act unnaturally, however. What you say and do is a reflection of your heart, so your attention should be more focused on your quiet times alone in developing a close relationship with Your Lord and finding out what pleases Him. As you seek Him, your public words and actions will become more thoughtful and you will be more sensitive to honoring Him in all that you say and do.

Above all, you should be caught up in pleasing your ultimate Audience Member and being wholly devoted to Him. Even if the others watching don't approve and call you crazy or too sensitive, it doesn't matter if you are doing what you know Your King would have you do. You may not get applause on earth, but there is only One Whose applause really matters, and His is louder and more rewarding than that of any other. We should live life loving Him and serving Him, and at the end, it will all be worth it when we hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

For more pictures of Thursday's small dance presentation, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Busy Summer Days

As you may have noticed by the lack of posts recently, these past few weeks have been busy ones for us writers of Maidens of Worth! We hope to get back into posting regularly soon, but it seems as though each day brings yet another thing our way. The days have passed so swiftly - it's hard to believe it's already the middle of June!

Anna has been planning and organizing and cleaning and cooking and teaching and planning some more. June 2nd brought the first of the 3-week summer workshop of The King's Praise Ballet. She's been teaching 3 classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays to 22 girls and enjoying every minute, although it can leave her quite tired at times! Tomorrow will be the last classes with a small, informal presentation at the end for the students to demonstrate some of what they learned.

That won't end the planning, however. Her days have been full with all of the writing and correspondence it takes to fully explain plans for a summer musical, fall classes (for which registration starts on Thursday), and the beginning of an arts ministry called The King's Courts, of which The King's Praise Ballet is a part. She's excited about where God has led so far and how He will lead in the future, and looks forward to sharing more with you when she has a better website designed!

After a week "off," she'll be headed off to Ballet Magnificat's Teacher's Workshop for two weeks of great learning and fun. It will be a refreshing yet tiring time of dance and also a time of new ideas and vision for the future!

By the time she's done with all the designing, writing, and planning on the computer, her eyes are too tired to do much more online. She's enjoyed spending time with family and reading in a few spare moments.

Miriam's days have been full of music as she prepares for her senior music recital, which will be a week from Friday. She has finally gotten all her music prepared and is more than ready for her recital in nine days. After that she hopes to get at least one post in before she leaves for a couple of days to set up and shoot an enormous firework show on the Fourth.
Then she'll also head off to music camp for two weeks. She's looking forward to spending this time with other music people and just having a good time.

Upon coming back she will help Anna with the musical she's been planning to put together.
And then...the whole new adventure of college...

In the midst of the busy times, we have found some time to be together! We brought our younger sisters and met our friend Samantha at the Shakespeare Festival for a picnic last night.

It was a wonderful, relaxing time of fellowship and fun! We ate supper, talked, played a round of Crazy Uno, and just enjoyed being together. Although while driving that afternoon the temperature read 100 degrees, with the water and trees it was a bit cooler at the park, and as the sun went down and a breeze picked up, it became rather pleasant!

We finished the evening with a walk around the beautiful grounds, a delightful way to get some exercise and keep up the conversation!

It's fun to have our younger sisters with us. Jubilee is now 14 and Esther is 15 - everyone is growing up so quickly!Anna and Jubilee had kittens with them, for although they had tried to give them away earlier in the day, there had been no takers. They were sweet to hold, however, and Jubi had fun giving them a ride on her shoulders. =)

As twilight deepened, we finally said goodbye and headed home. It was a great way to spend the end of another summer day!

What about you? What are you up to this summer? We would enjoy hearing about your summer days!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Like the Women of the Bible

Lord, please grant me...

...the willingness of Mary of Nazareth
...the obedience of Ruth
...the devotion of Esther
...the serving spirit of Martha
...the listening ear of Mary
...the hospitality of Lydia
...the faithfulness of Lois and Eunice
...the leadership of Deborah
...the trust of Hannah
...the searching heart of the Queen of Sheba
...the boldness of Priscilla
...the humility of Abigail

I don't know who originally wrote this, but someone posted it in The Attic on The Rebelution Forums, and I thought I'd share it with you all!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Facing My Fear: The Clutch

Ease out on the clutch... Press in on the gas... Slowly, slowly! As I attempted to drift off to sleep, my brain went through the mental exercise. It seemed so easy; then why was I having such a horrible time trying to learn to drive a manual transmission?

Soon after my 15th birthday, I took the written test and received my learner's permit to drive. My dad quickly began giving me driving lessons, which began, like those of all of my siblings before me, in a car with a manual transmission. Before we were allowed to drive a car with an automatic transmission, we had to first master the technique of driving a stick-shift.

His reasoning is good; by learning on the harder car first, we come to understand how cars run, and by the time we drive an automatic, everything is extremely easy! However, I had a really hard time learning to drive with that thing called the clutch. In addition to learning how to stay on the road, use my turn signals and mirrors, and keep everything at the right speed, I drove in apprehension that the car would kill at any moment. As I approached each stop sign or red light, I dreaded having to again push in the clutch and then ease it out when I had to go, pressing on the gas at the precise time and speed so that the car would start without jerking and shaking, or worse yet, dying altogether.

More than one driving lesson ended in tears. My dad told me that driving a manual was fun, that it made me more in control of the car and what it did. "No, daddy," I responded, "when I drive a manual, I feel as though the car is in control of me! I have to do exactly what it needs at exactly the right time, or it will die on me!"

As time went on and I got a little more used to driving, some of the fear eased. I learned to drive decently on the stick-shift, and finally proceeded to be allowed to drive the automatic cars. It was so nice and easy! From then on I began to avoid driving the manual cars, asking to drive the automatics instead. And, for the most part, I was able to do so, until a year or two slipped by without me driving a manual transmission car at all.

It was quite silly, but each time I thought about driving a stick-shift, I would get a sick feeling in my stomach. I watched my parents and siblings drive the cars with ease, and I memorized what they did. The rhythm played over in my head - ease up, press in - but when it came to actually doing it, I balked. It was just too hard!

The fears were unfounded, but crazy scenarios would play out in my mind. I could just see it: I would begin to turn left, but instead of starting, the engine kills and I roll out into the intersection as I see a car coming full speed ahead. In panic I try to start the car, but I'm going too fast and it kills yet again... We're going to get smashed!

Though it is such a small thing - after all, many people drive manuals with hardly a tremor, and I've not heard of any accidents caused by the car engine killing - for me, driving a stick-shift was a huge thing. As I continued avoiding it, the thought of it became even scarier.

It went on like this all the way through last spring. Since my dad really likes manual transmissions, and they tend to get better gas mileage, however, most of the family cars ended up having them. That put me with a limited number of cars I could/would drive, which made it inconvenient for my family more times than one. Finally, I determined that I would do the hard thing and face my fear. As I prepared to come home from college, I promised myself that I would ask dad to again teach me to drive on the stick-shift, and that I would continue at it, practicing even when I didn't feel like it, so that I could master the technique.

I told my dad about my resolution while he drove me home from college, and he seemed pleased. After all, I have been driving for almost 4 years now, so it was about time! I continued to watch him as he handled the car, and he explained a few things that he did. I mentally prepared myself and prayed for strength and courage.

Three weeks ago, the day arrived for me to have my first lesson. Dad told me that he needed to go to the store a few miles away, and that he wanted me to drive him. Tentatively, I took the keys and got in. He reminded me of a few things, I pressed in on the clutch, started the engine, attempted to start the car, and promptly killed. I had done things too fast. Not to be daunted, determinedly, I began again. This time, although it jerked a little, the gears caught and we were on our way.

That first day went well. Although I killed twice more, it wasn't in any major traffic areas. Dad took me around the neighborhood and had me practice starting on hills, and by the end, he said I was driving just fine. Although I felt far from a pro, the fear was all but gone. I could do this in God's strength! It really wasn't that hard!

After riding once more with me, Dad said that I was definitely good enough to drive the manual transmission cars alone. Though I felt a little shaky and somewhat stressed when driving a stick-shift, I began to get more confident. In order to give me more practice, and because the cars do get better gas mileage, he's been having me drive them to most things I go to. And each time, it's become a little easier. I haven't killed once since that first day, and I'm beginning to sense when I need to shift and how quickly to press on the gas when starting. What used to be such a fearful thing is becoming second nature.

I still have a lot to learn, as I can be slow starting out, and sometimes I race the engine when I'm nervous about a line of cars behind me waiting for me to go. I still prefer to drive the automatic cars - after all, they are easier! - but I no longer dread driving the stick-shifts. God gave me the grace to face my fear, and I now actually understand my former enemy, the clutch, in much better way.

For those of you who think driving a manual is easy and even fun (I'm not there yet, but I'm beginning to understand the enjoyment), my fears probably sound silly and unreasonable. For those of you who haven't yet had the privilege (okay, I'm a little sarcastic here...) of driving a manual transmission, this post may not have made a lot of sense. And don't be scared or driving one if you haven't - most of my siblings had no trouble learning; I'm one of the only ones that made such a huge, scary mess out of driving them! My dad has been so patient, however, continuing to encourage me and trust me with the car even when I felt far from able!

Why do I share my struggles and unreasonableness with the world? I want to encourage you to take that first step, to do hard things, and to face your fears in the strength of the Lord. For each of us, that hard, fearful thing will be different. Some things that seem huge to you will be of little consequence to others. The important thing is that you not compare yourself to what others are doing, but instead act faithfully in the place you are now. The little things that you face and force yourself to do will prepare you for the bigger things that loom ahead.

The hard things in my summer aren't over, but this was one of the biggest and scariest for me to face. What about you? What is one thing that you can take initiative to face and overcome this summer? There's no time like the present to start!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Joys of Cleaning

A shining kitchen floor, recently scrubbed by hand; a sparkling bathroom sink; a dusted and straightened room; these sights give me a sense of joy and accomplishment. Strange? I know... I've been told that before. You mean that I actually enjoy cleaning? Yes, for the most part, I do!

We have been conditioned as a society to think of housework as boring drudgery. It is something to be despised, but it must be done regardless. It is mindless work, we are told, that anyone can do. If we are a homemaker it may fall to us as our task, but to actually find delight in it? How absurd!

Mary Pride's excellent book, The Way Home, talks about this:
"Feminists think that housework, symbolized by dishwashing, is demeaning for a talented woman. I prefer to think of it as art. Is a sinkful of dirty dishes, after all, more beautiful than a cupboard full of clean ones? Because of our modern revolt against housework, doormats and aprons featuring the slogan 'Dull Woman Have Spotless Homes' have become popular. But are clean floors a proof of dullness, or of someone's desire to not be overcome bu tht ugliness of her personal environment?"

I have been told many times that I shouldn't be cleaning so much at my age. After all, now is the time that I have to learn; now is the time that I have to fill my mind with things that I'll be able to think about when I'm having to do yet another load of never-ending laundry. I agree; now is a wonderful time for me to learn, when I don't have a house that I am the sole caretaker of and I don't have young children that require time and energy to care for. I am definitely seizing this wonderful opportunity to continue my education, but doing housework is also a nice break from studying or doing other work.

In addition, I disagree with the assumption that housework is mindless work that requires no skill or training. No, it isn't very hard to learn how to sweep a floor or scrub a shower. These skills don't require hours of practice to remember. However, the repetitiousness of doing the task does help you perfect it and make it more efficient. And although the tasks don't take too much thinking about them in order to do them well, I find that doing housework gives me some of the best opportunities to think and pray. While my hands and feet are busy, my mind is engaged, pondering things I have read, composing things I want to write, or praying for people that God lays on my heart.

Like it or not, housework does need to be done. If it needs to be done, why not decide to like it? As with everything else, it is a choice. We can choose to do it with joy, or we can choose to hate it and just do it merely to get by.

How many times do you hear people talk about their least favorite chore? Mm hmm, well how many times do you hear them talk about their favorite chore? Or do they even have one? As humans, our tendencies are to complain and find empathy in others who share the same dislikes. Yet, what if instead of complaining, we chose to praise God for the opportunities He's given us to care for a home?

Once as part of a fun game at a lady's tea, we were asked to write down our least favorite chore. That question took me the longest time to answer. I admit, scrubbing the toilet isn't exactly the most fun thing in the world. However, I don't hate it! Dishes? I enjoy spending time at the end of a long day contemplating life while making dirty dishes clean . Sweeping or vacuuming? It's such a pleasure to see a dirty floor transformed into something neat, even if it only lasts a few minutes. Laundry? The clothes may not be pleasant when you put them in to wash, but they're so soft and warm when you take them out of the dryer, and so fresh-smelling when you take them off of the line. To make a cloudy mirror streak-free is a great pleasure. To cook up a savory dish is a delight as you fill the house with mouth-watering scents. Even the ache of your muscles after scrubbing the floor is rewarding, for it means that you worked hard and made a floor nice and bright. Shaking rugs may be one of my least favorite things to do, for the dirt has a tendency to fly onto me. However, even that is a great way to get some energy out or relieve stress on a busy day! =)

I've been told that my views will change when I have a home of my own and am required to do all of the work to make it run. Day in and day out, I'm sure it can get monotonous. I admit, I don't always enjoy every minute of housework. It is a choice, to choose joy instead of drudgery.

While I enjoy helping to care for my parent's home, I am eagerly looking forward to one day having a home of my own, if the Lord wills. I shall enjoy arranging everything just so and setting up a schedule to keep it clean. I shall enjoy the responsibility of being the one to manage the housework. My house will be far from perfect in its presentation on some days, especially when there are children who take things out far more quickly than they put things away, but I am still looking forward to even that. It shall be a joy to train my own little ones to help with the work and care for the things God has entrusted us with.

Yes, sometimes I can be somewhat idealistic - it won't all be easy. Other times, I get down and have to be reminded of my own admonitions to choose joy over drudgery. But if we are called to be homemakers, why not enjoy it? We can glorify God as we clean a home with a cheerful and loving heart, ministering to those who are closest to us, our families.

Related posts if you need added encouragement:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

May 2009 Reading List

Anna's Books
Completed This Month:

  • So Much More by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin - As I headed for home, I once again picked up this book to read to give me insights and ideas as I prepared for a new sphere of life, that of a daughter at home. This was my 5th or 6th re-read, yet the words still rang true, especially after experiencing college and all of the mindsets that come along with it. My college experience was definitely not as bad as those described in the book (being at a Christian college helped), but many of the same ideologies were present. This book is a good one for every young lady to read, and many in her family as well (my brother Elijah enjoyed reading some of it, as have my mom and dad). It gets you to think about the hard questions, and will inspire you to be a daughter of vision. Is it perfect? No - no book is! I can't answer all the hard questions about every situation, and I am not saying that going to college is bad - and nor do the Botkins. But they raise the question of whether it is always wise. It is something to at least think through. They may come across as too strong sometimes, but they at least they are willing to ask hard questions, and they are careful about looking to God and Scripture as their guide. Some may disagree with their application of certain passages, but, for the most part, their message rings true with me.
  • The Bravehearted Gospel by Eric Ludy - Eric writes in a passionate way about how we as Christians need to wake up and be willing to stand firm in God's truth. He talks about the emergent church movement, where it is right, and where it goes wrong. His writing style is conversational and often entertaining and enjoyable to read. Yet, at the same time, he doesn't shy away from the hard questions. He stands strong in calling us to fight for the truth of the Gospel by not giving into the demands that we become so similar to the culture that we loose the truth and strength of God's Word. He calls us out of apathy and timidity and into a life of powerful faith. Although he is quick to point out the evil of legalism, he also rightly talks about how we as the church today often try so hard to avoid any sign of legalism, that we end up not standing firm for anything at all. My only criticism of this book is that, while the message is very important and it's good to explain things, it took a while for the book to get past explaining why he was writing the book and into the message he is proclaiming.
  • I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris - Having read this book a few times in my high school years, I read this again after coming home from college. I'd heard a few people at college blame this book for causing guys and girls to avoid each other, and I'd also heard many messages to our RUF group about dating (against courtship) and marriage. This book again strengthened my resolve not to give in to the typical dating model, and it gave practical examples and stories of how to live as a single young person striving to remain pure in today's culture. It is easy in writing to seem to promise quick-fix solutions and models that seem to apply in every situation, when life itself is very complex. But, I think Josh does a great job in balancing real life and theory, while ultimately pointing us all to the cross and the ultimate relationship in life.
  • Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris - The sequel to I Kissed Dating Goodbye, this book gives practical advice on how to "say hello to courtship." I had read this book once before, but it made a lot more sense now as I was at the age where a courtship could potentially happen (or it could be years down the road!). Josh and Shannon's story is sweet, and many other stories are woven in to show the beauty of how God works in creative ways in different lives. The book has practical advice on how to evaluate a relationship and helpful questions to ask when headed towards engagement and marriage. Through it all, Josh points us to Christ and calls us to be sensitive to His voice in all of life, and humble in our interactions with each other. He willingly acknowledges that courting isn't perfect, stresses that there is no perfectly right way to get to know someone, and that you don't even have to call a relationship "courtship" for it to be God-honoring! The important thing is that you are focused on Christ and sensitive to His leading. And while you shouldn't think that having a set of rules will make the relationship perfect, he does advise getting good advice from others and setting helpful guidelines and boundaries to help you stay on the path of purity.
  • The Way Home by Mary Pride - This was yet another book that I had read before, but wanted to be reminded of. Although it is written to wives and mothers, it is also very helpful for young ladies who would like to be married one day. Because of some of the things it discusses, however, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under age 16. This book exposes the empty lies that the world today often promises as "fulfillment" while calling us to live valiantly in the sphere of influence God has placed us in as women. This book was written in 1985, so some of the statistics are outdated, but in many ways, the world has just gotten worse since the writing of this book, with many of its sad predictions being fulfilled. I highly, highly recommend this book. It will open your eyes and challenge you to think through many things that are simply accepted today. It will also you encourage you to live more purposefully! Mary Pride was herself a feminist before she got saved, and she calls us to come "beyond feminism, back to reality."
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 Actor at Work by Robert Benedetti
  • Costuming the Biblical Play by Lucy Barton

Miriam's Books
This month was mostly re-reads for me, but they are some of my favorites.

Completed This Month:

  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - When Margaret's family has to move from sunny southern England to a northern mill town, she has to make many adjustments to the harsh environment. Most of the people aren't used to Margaret's style and very honest manner. She always means what she says and is always surprising others. There is a romance but there is also the story of Margaret's becoming a woman and taking charge of the house, taking care of her ill mother and assisting her father in his needs.
  • Eye of the Oracle, Enoch's Ghost, and Last of the Nephilim by Bryan Davis - The first three books in the quartet, Oracles of Fire, are really good books. As the fourth and final book just came out, I wanted to catch up on what had happened last, so I decided to start at the beginning again. Davis is excellent at mixing fantasy with redemption in the most beautiful language. I recommend these books for any young teen and older. I can't wait to the read the last book!
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I saw the film based off this book many years ago and didn't understand much of it, being rather young. Since it was such a classic, I decided to see if I liked it. I enjoyed Mitchell's writing style and much of the book. I got angry with Scarlett for wasting her life until the very last chapter when she realizes what she's done to herself. If you've ever considered reading this book, just be aware that it does not have the most happy ending.
  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley - Ripley wrote this book as her idea of a sequel to Gone With the Wind. I have to admit that she did an excellent job of carrying over Mitchell's writing style and even Scarlett's character. The best thing about the book was that Ripley redeems our main character and Scarlett even gets her man back. =) Disclaimer: There were a couple of heavy (not graphic) scenes between Rhett and Scarlett that I would recommend skipping over. I wouldn't recommend the book itself to anyone younger than myself (18).
  • Western Civilization 1 - This book was for a CLEP test I took just a couple of weeks ago. Beginning at the Ancient Near East and ending with Early Modern Europe, there was a lot of information to take in for one test. If you're even considering CLEPing something, these books are really the best thing to study with. They're put out by REA (Research & Education Association).

Currently Reading:

  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
  • Let Me Be A Woman by Elisabeth Elliot