Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pressing On

I feel like I'm missing a week of my life.

From the absence on this blog, it looks like I could be missing two. But, February 14-19 I was alive and well; just very busy, and without inspiration or time to write. This last week is the time I haven't felt very alive. And looking back, I don't have much to show for it either.

I have valid excuses. The slight sore throat I felt a week ago Friday turned into a horrible sore throat that lasted 7 days, accompanied by reoccurring fever, chills, aching ears, and a stuffy head. I didn't feel like doing anything; I just wanted to get well. I laid around a lot, slept more than I thought was possible, watched a few movies, and managed to follow most of my study schedule. By God's grace I was even able to teach dance classes, though my students had to put up with a horribly weird-sounding voice! But, most everything else I "needed" to do last week never got done. It's amazing how your perspective changes when you're sick.

Yesterday I woke up late again, but was immediately gratified to find that I could swallow without pain! Later that day I could even breathe through my nose! Today I'm feeling completely recovered, though a bit sleepy still, and it is wondrous to feel alive. But... it's hard to tackle what needs to be done when it hasn't gotten done for a week. I don't know where to start, and motivation is sadly lacking.

I admit that I'm a "human doing" more often than not. It's hard not to be, when there's just so much to be done! Dad told me this week that I was learning to be a "human being" - but I didn't enjoy it very much. It didn't work well into my schedule. It was weird to live a week without an alarm clock. And, human beings shouldn't feel miserable, like I was.

But I know what my dad was getting at. It's something he's reminded me of so many times: we're human beings, not human doings. I too often get so caught up in rushing around, doing this and doing that, checking this off my to-do list and staying on track, that I lose the joy of daily living, the joy of relationships.

There's a balance to be found, but I haven't found it. I have plenty of moments of laziness in between all those productive pursuits. As I face a week with a lot to do - things that really do need to be done - things to plan, sew, study, sort, clean, create... the list could be endless. I don't really even want to start. But, by God's grace, I will continue pressing on.

I can't do most of want to do tonight, but I can do a small part. I can get good rest to make sure my body completes its recovery, and I can enjoy fellowship with the Body of Christ tomorrow. And when Monday comes, with the alarm clock back to its early announcement, I can rejoice in the fact that my days are in God's hands. If I follow Him, He will show me what I'm to do for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), and when I'm simply to be still and know He's God (Psalm 46:10).

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. The day to curl up in a cozy blanket with a romantic story and drown your loneliness in a cup of hot chocolate. *gag* Uh - not!

Yes, Valentine's Day is a day about love, primarily romantic love. And for one without a "special someone," the day can make you feel more acutely single. But instead of it being SAD - Singles' Awareness Day - let's make it GLAD - God's Love Appreciation Day! Okay, so it's a little cheesy, but, though we may be single, we certainly have a lot to be grateful for! God's love is perfect, much better than the love of a spouse - as amazing as that is - and His love will never fail. No matter how romantic they are, people will always let you down, but God never will. And even more awesome, God's love covers over a multitude of sins.

I admit, I still feel a few pangs of loneliness, wishing I could spend the day with my Dearest. But, though I don't know who my future husband is, I am blessed with others to spend the day with. I haven't experienced romantic love, but I've been blessed with the true love of family and close friends. Best of all, I am assured of the love of God.
"How great the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" - 1 John 3:1a
As exciting as the love of a man will be, God's love surpasses it. Though I look forward to the days I'll spend with my future husband, I am even more grateful that I can live every day in God's love. I don't have to wait until I marry to experience deep love. God loves me with an everlasting love, more rich and full than any mortal man could give.

This Valentine's Day, I've been praying that it will be a day of joy. Instead of sadness or loneliness, I pray that you, my single sisters, will be filled with the joy of the Lord! A great way to experience joy is to not focus on yourself. Instead of sitting in seclusion and bemoaning your relationship status, look for ways to serve others!

Will you join me in focusing on the love of the Lord and making this Valentine's Day one of joy and GLADness? Rejoice in the fact that, with our Heavenly Father, we are never alone. There is such comfort in that!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Nephews and Snow

While Miriam takes a nap, I'm holding Thomas and decided to do some things online. He's now asleep in my arms... such a peaceful child. Though he has his moments, all-in-all he is a very content baby, praise God!

He's such a cutie, I just couldn't resist sharing some more pictures. An aunt's bragging rights, you know. :)

"Who are you?"

"Well, I guess she's okay!"

On less important note, I've enjoyed seeing the snow fall - nearly continually yesterday, and some more today.

This is probably the most snow my Alabama car has experienced! :) I'm just glad I don't have to drive in it.

Yes, snow would get tiring if I lived in it all winter, but it's fun to have some when I visit!

As his outfit says, handsome like dad!

Hanging around with mommy.

Cuddling with auntie!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Enjoying Ohio

Namely, a certain Thomas who is the center of attention! :)

John called on Thursday night with news that the next day wouldn't be a good one for travel. A lot of snow was predicted, so I put off my intended journey, hoping things would clear up. It's a good thing I didn't drive on Friday, for it certainly snowed a lot! The weather was clear for Saturday, however, so I made the 12-hour drive. I left at 6 AM that morning, which made for a nice trip. When you can get half of your journey completed by lunch, it doesn't seem as long.

The highways were completely clear, and the road I had to take into town wasn't bad. I really enjoyed the scenery as I drove. You don't see snow like this in Alabama! The white horizons, the crystallized trees, the artistic placement of snow... What a testament to God's beauty!

Of course, the first thing I wanted to do upon arrival was hold my sweet new nephew! Thomas is my 5th nephew - and I also have 4 nieces - but that doesn't make him any less special. Each one is such a gift from God! Of course, I'm a little biased, but Thomas Enoch sure is a sweetie! :)

Miriam makes a wonderful mother, and I'm glad I can be here to help out for a week. She's feeling a lot better, more recovered from the birth, but I can still lighten her load by making meals, cleaning up, and of course holding the baby!

John makes a great father, and it's a joy to see him and Miriam as parents. We all knew they'd make amazing ones.

All of the pictures in this post are from John's camera. He takes really good ones, and Thomas, at 12 days old, is quite well documented. ;-)

So, if you don't hear from me this week, you'll understand. I'm enjoying one of life's big blessings: a helpless, adorable new baby. My arms are full of a bundle of joy!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Reasons for Modesty

Modesty is a way of life for me. It always has been, and always shall be. But why do I dress modestly? Am I only doing it because that's what my parents have taught me?

No, modesty is also a choice I've made for myself. Long ago I stopped having to ask my mom about clothes I bought, though I do consult my mom or dad occasionally if I have a question. I've long since developed my own clothing style - knowing what I will and won't wear.

But what reasons do I have for dressing modestly?

God commands it
No, God's Word doesn't say exactly how long our hemline must be, or how high the neckline must come, but principles for modest dress are throughout the Bible. 1 Timothy 2:8-9 says it clearly: "I also want a women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." This passage isn't talking as much about clothes as it is about character, but it is clear that what you wear is definitely a part of modesty. While modesty should begin in the heart, it is most often visible in what you wear.

It helps our brothers-in-Christ
Like it or not, men are very visual. Though they should be careful to guard their thoughts, we, their sisters-in-Christ, should do them a service by not intentionally dressing in a way that will incite lustful thoughts. By dressing modesty, we can do our part to not put a stumbling block in our brother's way (Romans 14:13).

In today's world, temptations abound. Let's help the men around us by not wearing or doing things that will make them wage a battle against lust when interacting with us. They face enough out in the world; as Christian ladies, we should provide them with a place of safety. Then they can truly enjoy getting to know us a person - not being distracted by our body.

It's beautiful!
Let's face it: no one has a perfect body. The things that look oh-so-amazing on the air-brushed models won't look as good on those whose images haven't been edited. Wearing things that cover well will conceal less-than-perfect attributes. Wearing things that reveal intimate parts will just make you uncomfortable. Anyone who has worn something a little too small, short, or low and spent the day trying to adjust it will know what I'm talking about. :) Wearing something that fits your size and body type will leave you comfortable and free to serve others. If you're not worrying about your clothes, you're more likely to be joyful - and a smile will transform anyone into a beauty. :)

It protects you
Again, men must be responsible for their own actions. But dressing and behaving modestly will send the message that you don't want their advances, that you're not to be messed with. Maybe what you're wearing won't cause men to look twice - but that is a blessing! Modesty will help you be respected.

It blesses your husband
Even if you don't yet know who your husband is, by being modest, you are honoring him by protecting your body. Even if you have the perfect body, why would you want all men to see it? Your husband will feel respected when you save the intimate details for him. It is a treasure to be guarded, and a beautiful gift for him alone.

It makes a statement
By definition, modesty has to do with humility and not drawing attention to yourself. Often this is the case, but in other occasions, you may stand out because of your modest apparel. This shouldn't be the driving reason to dress modestly, but it is one that can be a blessing. Your modesty may cause others to ask why you dress the way you do - and that may be an opportunity for you to share Christ's love with them.

Besides, who wants to look exactly like everyone else? Modesty can give you beautiful uniqueness. Clothing that is lovely, affordable, and modest isn't easy to find - but it can be one of those "hard things" we do for God's glory. Modesty in actions also isn't easy; it probably won't bring popularity. But, again, this is another hard thing we can do, and in doing so, bring glory to God.

It encourages others
I can't count the times people have thanked me for dressing and behaving modestly. Again, receiving praise shouldn't be our motivation, but encouraging others should be. Even if they don't say it, many are refreshed by modesty. Seeing you, a grandma may find hope for this generation; a mother may rejoice in finding a role model for her young daughters; your peers may be encouraged to do the same, knowing they're not alone; men old or young may silently thank you for helping to guard their eyes and thoughts.

Some may look down on you for it. Some may claim that you're just uncomfortable with your body. Others may deride you for not staying up with the latest fashions. But God's way often isn't the most accepted way. Knowing that the way you dress and act pleases Him will help you not mind so much the opinions of others.

Modesty isn't a set of rules. Often it looks a bit different in different cultures and time periods. But there are timeless guidelines; you'll know what covers enough and what doesn't. I have my own guidelines of things I definitely won't wear, but I never have to measure a hemline to find out whether or not I'm passing the point of modesty. The Holy Spirit is our guide; if something just doesn't feel right, it may His gentle nudging that you shouldn't wear it.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, or the "Top 7 Reasons for Modesty." They're just a few points to help you think about why you believe in modesty, and hopefully to encourage you to continue practicing it.

What about you? If someone asked you, what would you say were your reasons for modesty?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sisters for Two Years

Two years ago today, I sent out my first "Sisters of the Heart" email. Two days earlier, I'd emailed my closest friends - Miriam, Jennifer, and Gabrielle, and asked if they'd like to form an email accountability group. Though we would have loved to meet together on a regular basis, email was the way it had to be. You see, though Miriam and I lived only 45 minutes apart, the others were states away, one in Nebraska, the other in Idaho.

Ironically, all of our friendships grew via email. Though Miriam and I had known each other since we were 4 - in fact, her family helped move my family in when we moved to Alabama - we never were extremely close until we started emailing each other frequently when we were 11.

Jennifer found me through a comment I made on The Rebelution, went to my old blog, and from there to my personal website (which isn't updated much anymore...), where she figured out that we shared the same exact birthday. Her comment with the subject "It's my Twin!" made me wary at first, but suspicions were soon put to rest when I read what she had to say, and we started emailing. We have so much in common, we've decided that we truly are long-lost twins. :) That was 3 years ago, and we have since met in person 3 times and enjoyed walking through life sharing experiences with each other.

Gabrielle sent me an encouraging email around 2 1/2 years ago, after reading Maidens of Worth. Due to a busy few months, we didn't start seriously emailing until 2 months later, when we discovered a kindred spirit in each other. We've also kept up a lengthy snail-mail correspondence, discovering that we both could write long letters! Her stack of letters exceeds the letters from any other penpal. :) We have yet to meet in person, though we have high hopes of all getting together this summer. Though we've never talked face to face, our hearts have truly connected.

We still continue our weekly emails (now on week 105!), sending out our goals and prayers at the beginning of the week, and the follow-up results and praises at the end of the week or beginning of the next. We've also started periodic conference calls through a free service Jen set up. These sisters have given me motivation to get many needed things done, and upheld me in prayer so many time. I am so thankful for the blessing God has given me in them.

I have been blessed with many biological sisters, but these sisters of the heart, being the same age, and often going through the same struggles, have been a special blessing. I always wanted a twin when I was a girl. Who knew I'd eventually be a part of a set of quadrupelets? :)

Though we are similar, sharing similar convictions and interests, we're also quite different. We've been encouraged in our similarities and differences, amazed at the way God works in each person's life.

We're not perfect; we struggle in many ways; we often don't meet our goals; I don't always support them as much as I should. But God's grace is there for our every need. And it has been a blessing to know that my sisters of the heart are there as well, only an email, letter, or phone call away. Each of us have gone through tumultuous times, but knowing that our sisters were there, praying, and encouraging, has made them a little easier.

Gabrielle, Jen, and Miriam, happy 2-year anniversary of "official" sisterhood! =) I look forward to many more years of sharing together.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Scenes from Orange Beach

This past weekend, some friends blessed us with a stay at their condo in Orange Beach, AL. The weather was very cold, but the weekend was wonderfully relaxing.

The view from the balcony, and gazing out of the sliding glass door, was so peaceful!

We drove up on Friday, and returned on Monday. It was the perfect end to a busy month. Away from home distractions, computers, and all that had to do with teaching (much as I enjoy it!), I was able to have a restful break. With all the free time, I enjoyed walks on the beach, writing, playing games, writing, watching movies, writing, reading, journalling, and writing some more!

By God's grace I was able to complete the first (rough) draft of the current musical I'm writing and hope to direct this summer. Extended time away from distractions was exactly what I needed, and the car ride home allowed me to finish the handwritten draft - totaling 50 notebook pages (25 double-sided). :)

It may have been cold, but I wanted to get some beach pictures without being all bundled up!

And yes, I did walk the beach barefoot the first two days. Why else do you walk there except to enjoy the sand between your toes? ;-)

My parents.

Winter coats and mittens aren't exactly what you comes to mind when you think of beach attire, but it was a necessity this weekend!

I enjoyed taking pictures of the waves, always coming in and receding... Never a dull moment.

Jubilee looked for and found many neat shells. By the end, I too joined in the search!

Late afternoon on Friday, there was a path of shimmering light across the water...

Great subjects for photography experiments. :) I amused myself playing with the different lighting settings on my camera.

I thought this was neat: bird and human tracks intersecting. :)

On Sunday night there was finally a long-anticipated sunset! I checked hopefully each morning for a sunrise, but there never was a beautiful one, due to all the cloudy conditions.

The city against a pink-hued background, with magnificent clouds overhead.

God truly knows how to put colors together!

After taking too many pictures, I slipped back inside and began writing once more - but then had to go back out when I saw this cloud formation.

Jubilee and I went to the beach early on Monday morning, in search of more shells and an enjoyable walk.

The overcast conditions made it quite chilly! I knew it was time to go back inside when my fingers were so numb they could barely feel the shells I was picking up. And yes, I was sensible and wore shoes this time. :)

I know, January isn't exactly the prime time to go the beach. But, I am so thankful for the opportunity we had, and the fruitful and restful weekend God gave us.

Now, I have a few full days before I drive to Ohio on Friday. My sister Miriam had a beautiful baby boy last Thursday, and I'm excited to be going up to help her for around 8 days!

Monday, February 01, 2010

January 2010 Reading List

Anna's Books

Completed this Month:
  • Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs - As a book for married couples, this is one I’ll want definitely want to re-read once I’m a wife myself. Its simple message is that a wife’s need is love and a husband’s need is respect. Yet, because men and women are different, conflicts often arise and they deny each other their vital need, resulting in a crazy cycle. With plenty of real-life stories, both humorous and touching, and tips for practical application, this is a helpful and enjoyable book – and one that may change your relationship. A minor criticism is that it seemed a little repetitive, but that may be good for really ingraining the message within you. Apply this message to get off the crazy cycle and onto the energizing cycle, and ultimately reap great rewards in your marriage.
  • Michael O’Halloran by Gene Statton-Porter - This heartwarming book tells the story of an orphan boy caring for himself on the streets of a big city, working as a newsie, and enriching the lives of others. His lonely life changes when he takes in another orphan, and begins selflessly caring for her. At the same time, we read the story of a sweet young lady living with her father, soon to be married. Her love story is very sweet and pure, and the way they reach out to “Mickie” (as he’s called) and his response and help to them is fun to read. The story is somewhat idealized, and some of the things that happen seem very unlikely, but it was a wonderful read. This author hasn’t yet disappointed me with her Christian-themed, touching stories.
  • Our Heavenly Inheritance by Ruth Stewart – When I got the ideas for a musical about Jericho and the characters involved, mom gave me this book, which is a devotional based on the Biblical account of entering the promised land. Now, as I begin to write the musical, I finally read the book. :) It’s short and easy to read, but very insightful in its parallels to the historical account of Joshua and our own lives as Christians.
  • When God Writes Your Love Story – by Eric and Leslie Ludy – Sometimes I just need to be reminded that the wait will be worth it, that God can script a beautiful love story if I surrender the pen to Him and wait for His time, that others walking the same path do exist. This book will cause you to think about the relationships around you, and chase you to the Author of Romance for all you’ll ever need. It also gives practical examples of how to prepare for marriage while in the waiting season. I’ve read this book a few times since I was 15, and I never cease to be delighted with the humor and the touching scenes, and nearly always notice something new to apply in my current season of life. If you haven’t read this book, I definitely recommend it! But, if you’re under 15 or so, you may want to have your parent screen it first, as it deals with some mature and heartbreaking issues.
  • Manners and Customs in the Bible by Victor H. Matthews – Subtitled “An Illustrated Guide to Daily Life in Bible Times,” this book presented facts about the way life was in 5 different periods of Biblical history, from the Patriarchs to the New Testament. It was interesting to read about things archeologists have discovered from those times and get glimpses of other historical things happening around the time of the Bible. It wasn’t the most gripping book, however, nor necessarily the most useful. I read it to get ideas for directing Biblical musicals, and didn’t learn much I didn’t already know. But, it is a good reference should I need to write about life in a certain Biblical period.
  • Unashamed by Francine Rivers - In writing a musical script that includes the story of Rahab, I remembered this book I'd read a few years ago about her. It's a fictional novel in an interesting series about the five women included in the genealogy of Christ. Though fiction, it stays true to the Biblical account, and has good insights into the way things might have happened. The characterization is great as well. One caution is that, as it deals with the story of Rahab - a prostitute, though she leaves the life by God's grace - I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book to anyone under 16, although it is written in a tasteful way.
Currently Reading:
  • Ninth Witness by Bodie and Brock Thoene
  • The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
  • The Art of Theatre by Downs, Wright, and Ramsey
  • Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology by Karen Clippinger
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Faith Alone by Martin Luther, edited by James C. Galvin
Miriam's Books

Completed this Month:

I haven't completed any books this month has resumed! I've been slowly reading Little Dorrit a chapter-a-night, so it will be finished eventually.

Currently Reading:
  • Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  • And The Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers
  • My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
What about you? What have you read recently?