four years down the road

I was reading a blog post the other day, that referenced an article written by someone that I used to look up to. When I looked up the full article, to make sure I was understanding what had been implied, I was shocked. “Surely,” I thought, “This lady can’t be serious about this!” But she was.

Coupled with reading that, and realizing that this year is the fourth year I have been out of formal education — the fourth year that I would have been in college and likely would have graduated this year — I figured I would write down my thoughts. And answer a few questions that seem to be prevalent in people I talk to, and dispute a couple of rumors floating around cyber space about those of us who choose an alternative path.

As you know, four years ago this June, I “officially” became a soldier in the ranks of “stay-at-home-daughterhood”; a pioneer trailblazer for different alternatives to life after school. I had several people wonder what I was doing. Why I was doing it. I had some people who silently wondered, some who blatantly questioned, some who vehemently opposed. I’ll be honest — it wasn’t easy. Challenging the social norm isn’t. But then, the easy things are rarely ever the most rewarding, are they?

I had objections thrown at me from different angles: “How will you ever get married?” (That’s one expensive husband!) “What about the college experience?” (Umm…yep. I’m safely at home, not worried about what might happen without a father or brothers around.) “What about finding yourself?” (I already know what I am — a sinner in need of a great Saviour.) “What if your father dies? And your husband? How will you support yourself?” (I’ll follow the Lord’s leading in that instance — and you don’t “need” a degree to make money.) “What do you plan to do all day? Sit on the couch and eat bon-bons and watch soap operas?” (Yes this was seriously a question. And no, I’m not — I’ll do whatever work the Lord gives my hands to do.) 

The opposition, as you can tell, was varied.

The best advice I was ever given was from a dear friend. She told me to always answer people who ask with confidence, not expecting them to question my decision. It really does work — it makes people think that I *know* what I am doing, besides just throwing away the years I should spend being indoctrinated educated. And guess what? I find that if I am open and forthright, not mumbling that I am not in college while shuffling my feet, but articulating it clearly, people usually don’t respond with a polite question about not being smart enough to pass the exams, because I was “home schooled, after all.” (and yes, that’s a true answer I have recieved.)

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not stayed home because I was forced to. I actually wanted to, because I had prayed about it and because I was sure that this life was God’s best for my life.

I didn’t stay home because I was doing what all my friends did — I know very few other girls who have stayed home during this season in their lives, and most of them live hours away.

I have not been kept in perpetual childhood because I have stayed at home — I have had months on end of being away from my parents, of interacting with near strangers, and of being in discussions with people who clearly don’t agree with what I am saying.

I have not been kept from making my own decisions — I have had to make decisions at the drop of a dime, without any parents being around to ask an opinion of.

I have learned to be an adult, to think for myself, and to live with other people, from the safety of home. I have had to deal with mistakes, clean up  my own messes, and learn to interact with others when I don’t agree with them at all.

As a young lady, I feel that some of the most formative years — some of the most important years — in my life are right now. These times as I am learning to be an adult, and making decisions I have never had to make before. It drives me crazy that so many parents are willing to hold their children’s hand until they turn eighteen, and suddenly, they aren’t there for them anymore. I have actually heard a parent refuse to offer counsel when asked. When we children were younger, our parents were right there, holding our hands. They held us up as we learned to walk. First with both hands, keeping our balance. Then they took baby steps with us, and then they held only one hand while we toddled around. Finally they let go of both hands, but hovered over us just in case we fell down. Eventually we were allowed to toddle around on our own, but the minute we cried out for mommy or daddy, they were right there, lifting us up, drying our tears, and making everything right again. And now, all these years down the road, we are seldom in need of our parents hands to steady us as we walk. We didn’t even need them hovering around, watching us walk at three or four years old, because we learned.

Now, it is unrealistic to think that our parents can make everything right again — trust me, they can’t. But they can help us by offering counsel and advice and praying with us and for us. They can be right there, ready to offer advice when we make a mess, hand us a broom and dustpan and set us to sweeping up the mess.

These years I am living right now are the years that I have heard so many lament over. The years when so many abortions occur because temptations are rampant and parents are a ghost of the past. When so many are injured by drivers who are inebriated, or injure others because they themselves are inebriated. When temptations get the best of us, when we make terrible decisions that will haunt us for the rest of our lives, when we make huge mistakes.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can utilize the gift we have been given by God — our parents. They have lived these years before — we never have. They have experience — we have fictional expectations. And they can help guide us through these years.

Back to the point about learning to walk: we won’t always need our parents by our side forever. Trust me on that one, too. Eventually we will marry and move out; and even before that time, we won’t need them hovering over us and making all our decisions for us. Because, yes, the goal is for us to learn how to think and make decisions for ourselves. But the goal is also for us to learn how to make sound decisions by ourselves, decisions that will bring glory to Christ, decisions that won’t be detrimental to our souls. In a few years, we will learn to walk on our own as an adult in this world — but until then, we NEED our parents.

And since this is rather long, I’ll end here and post a part two to this post next week…..

radiant hearts

Several of you may remember that I participated in a blog tour for a magazine for girls and young ladies (you can find that post HERE) — well, I have enjoyed both issues that have been published and asked if I could interview the sweet young lady behind the magazine. And she graciously agreed =)

I first “met” Leona through her blog where she reviews books (Great Books for God’s Girls), and was excited when I heard of the magazine she was publishing. There have only been two issues of the magazine out so far, but both topics have been so very, very convicting. The first was on the topic of humility, the current issue is on biblical daughterhood. I truly believe this is an amazing resource for girls of all ages — we have girls in our home ranging from 6 years to 21 years, and those who have read it have enjoyed it :D

*My questions will be in bold, Leona’s answers will be in regular type*

~ Can you tell us a little about Radiant Hearts Magazine? How did you come with the name?
Radiant Hearts Magazine is aimed at ages 12-25, although I believe that articles are convicting and encouraging to all. The magazine is published in February, May, August, and November. Everyone can view this magazine in .pdf form. Included in the magazine are the following things (and more!):
  • articles written by Christian young ladies and women
  • book/movie reviews and recommendations
  • recipes for delicious food
  • “Story Behind the Hymn”
  • pictures of girls serving the Lord, and
  • encouraging notes from girls just like yourself!
I actually came up with the name quite randomly. I had a list, and I went around my family and had everyone vote. The one that we decided on, though, I didn’t like very much. I decided to brainstorm again, and this is what I came up with! I got the “Radiant” part of the name from the More Radiance blog, which I really like.
~ Was there something in particular that inspired you to start this magazine?
I had started to receive the King’s Blooming Rose magazine, and I really liked it, for it always convicted me and I came away encouraged (I’m sad to hear that it is now going out of print at the end of the year). I thought that it would be a good idea to do a similar thing, since only one of my friends had heard of KBR.
~ Is there anything that makes working on the magazine easier for you? Tea, candles, chocolate. music….? What is your schedule like when you are working on getting an issue out?
I love listening to music while I work, although I sometimes get distracted by it. :) I have found the Rains Family’s music to be a great resource. My schedule… I work on it whenever I have a spare moment; with the first issue, I waited until the last minute to get everything finished, and that was not a good idea as it left me stressed. Now, I start to work on the cover, at least, a couple months before the magazine is scheduled to come out, so that I have plenty of time.
~ What are some things you enjoy doing when you aren’t working on getting the magazine out?
Playing piano, violin, and organ is one of my favorite ways to spend time. I also enjoy playing around with photography and spending time with my family and church family.
~ How do you decide on the theme for each issue? How did you decide on the theme of daughterhood for this issue?
I honestly don’t have a formula for deciding on a theme; I simply think about it, and ask my mom for input. A lot of RHM’s readers are daughters, and I personally have been working on being a good daughter, so I thought that Biblical Daughterhood would be a good theme for May’s issue. :)
~ I know you also enjoy reading and have a blog dedicated to book reviews –can you share a couple books that have been particularly encouraging to you as a daughter?
The Family Daughter, by Sarah L. Bryant is an amazing book about being a daughter. It is very challenging, and I highly recommend it. (You can find a full review of it in the current issue.) I have read it several times, and I’m currently trying to buy more copies to give to my friends. :)
~ What are some things the Lord is teaching you through this magazine?
He is teaching me that I need to have the right priorities. Even though RHM is a great ministry, and I believe the Lord is blessing it, I need to make sure that there are not things that I need to do with my family before working on it. I am also convicted by the issues: I know I need to work on being more humble (from the first issue), and on being a better daughter (from the second issue).
~ In what direction do you feel the Lord to be leading RHM in the future? 
Sometimes it is hard for me to discern what plans are my own and which are the Lord’s. With that said, some things that I would like to be able to do include making it into a print magazine (I would prefer to read a print magazine over an online one, personally) and buying a custom domain for the website so that I don’t have to worry about bad ads popping up (we currently have a free WordPress.com website and they put ads on that I can’t control). I’m planning on waiting at least a year before making any of those moves, though, because I’m not certain that God wants us to do that.
~ Are there any parting thoughts you would like to share with us?
Dear friend, our plans are so much smaller than the Lord’s. I shared some goals above, but I believe that God has something bigger planned. He can make something out of nothing. Let Him take control of your life! He has a better plan than you can imagine, if you are willing to follow Him. <3
Thanks for interviewing me, Kaitlyn! I hope that you learned something new about RHM. :)
Thank YOU Leona, for answering all my questions! To read the magazine, you can visit Radiant Hearts Magazine and click on the “current issue” tab up top. There is also an option to read past issues. And for any of you who enjoy writing RHM welcomes submissions — here are the guidlines! They are also looking for photography they can use in the issues =)
 Leona Ruth is a teenage young lady. Leona asked Jesus to be her Savior at a young age, and is striving to serve Him with all that she does. She loves reading, and has a blog where she posts book reviews: Great Books for God’s Girls. Some of her other hobbies are graphic designing, photography, baking, playing violin, piano, and organ, and writing.

chocolate ink

Remember those posts I was excited about? The ones that I mentioned last time I posted? This is one of them :D An interview with the owner of Chocolate Ink Designs, who also happens to be my sister. I’ve actually mentioned this company a time or two before, but I’ve never taken the time to thoroughly explain what it is…..so I’ll let my sister do the talking, and just ask questions. My questions are in bold, her answers are in regular type.

So without further ado, let’s welcome the mastermind of Chocolate Ink to Maidens for Modesty!

Can you tell everyone a bit more about yourself? What do you like to do when you’re not drawing?
I’m a 19 year old sweet tea drinker, puppy cuddler, font snob, dreamer, & child of the One True King. A list of my favorite things would have to include summer, skylines, sunsets, dancing, cheeseburgers, Converse, thunderstorms, t-shirts, and rare visit’s to the beach. When I’m not drawing you could probably find me reading a political suspense novel, baking in the kitchen, or out enjoying the sunshine. I love making people smile, spending time with my family, laughing with my friends, and living for my King.
What types of things do you enjoy drawing? What are some projects you are working now, or have worked on  recently?
I always enjoy the opportunity to try my hand at drawing new things – the only ones I don’t necessarily enjoy are landscapes and animals. My personal favorites are the silhouette/initial pieces that I create for every new couple we know – I love “tangling” and the silhouettes always carry so much personality. In addition to my note cards, I’ve also created custom greeting cards, designed tote bags and t-shirts (that’s another favorite!), executed chalk art for events and restaurants, created signs for local businesses and beach houses, done signage for weddings and programs for events. Last December, a local magazine included me in their Christmas gift guide edition, so that was a new experience.

When did you first realize that a drawing could convey something special/important, in a different way than words could?
I’m not sure there was an exact time when I figured this out. But if you think about it, art is so universal! Not only is it everywhere in the world around us (thanks to the Great Artist of the universe), but everyone, regardless of nationality, language, age, or anything else, can understand it. It’s not like words that have to be read – you look at art and immediately, you understand the meaning. It has this instant impact. Art can also make you think, feel, and imagine, with just one glance. It makes you appreciate the beauty in the world (well, most art does, anyways) and can convey an idea, emotion, or setting on so many engaging levels and in so many forms, varieties, and styles.
What inspired you to start Chocolate Ink Designs? How did you come up with the name?
My parents were actually my main cheerleaders when it came to starting up an actual business, as well as the many friends and family members who have encouraged and supported me along the way. I’ve been drawing for forever, and some of my earliest memories include my Mom encouraging us girls to create masterpieces to hang on her “art wall.” When I graduated from my home education, Mom and Dad encouraged me to create a “cottage industry” using the gifts that the Lord has given me. I was a little apprehensive at first and, to be honest, didn’t think that it would end up working out. My parents were willing to push me though, and one day my Dad called from his trip into town with Mom to tell me that he had gotten me a job.
“What?”
“Yeah,” Dad said. “I got you a job.”
Turns out, the restaurant they had visited for breakfast had just installed an 8’x4′ chalkboard as part of a remodel. Dad asked the manager what they were planning on doing with all that blank slate, and the manager replied that they were wanting to get a local artist to design something for it, but that they hadn’t found anyone yet.
“My daughter can do it,” Dad offered. “She’s an artist.”
{I love my Dad}
You have to realize, though, that up to this point, I had done NOTHING professionally with my art. I drew birthday cards for people at church. And that was it. And now, I had to come up with 3 designs (with no guidelines or suggestions) to work in chalk (which I had never done) on a giant board in a busy restaurant (i.e., in front of people). Talk about jumping right in! It took me about a week to get up the nerve to go back in with my parents and talk to the manager. I was so nervous to open my portfolio in front of him. I remember praying all the way across town, “Just please let him be shorter than me!” I don’t know why I thought that extra height might add to my confidence – but imagine my relief when the manager walked out and I had a good 3 or 4 inches on him! In the end, it was an amazing experience. It showed me that there were other people out there who saw beauty in my work – and it also strengthened my faith as I learned how to apply Philippians 4:6 in a real life situation :) To me, that chalkboard was the beginning of Chocolate Ink Designs (the name of which comes from the fact that I work mainly in pen and ink, as well as acknowledging the number one super-food that never fails to get my creative juices flowing – and yes, that’s chocolate).
Does drawing energize or exhaust you?
Definitely energizes me! Design and art are my happy zones, so I find that creating also helps me clear my mind. Focusing on an unfolding project enables me to isolate my attention and frees my mind up to wander with the lines. The only time that drawing exhausts me is when I have to stay up late working on a project in order to reach a deadline. I try to stay on top of my paper stacks, but drawing is one of those things that you absolutely do NOT work on unless you’re feeling inspired. I’m a famous procrastinator around our home (not exactly a good trait, I know), so that doesn’t help either.
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a drawing, if any?
I normally start by hopping on the computer and just studying different images and views of the object. Even though my work isn’t hyper-realistic, this still helps me to form a mental image of what the actual subject looks like. For instance, one of the largest projects I ever worked on was an 8 foot cedar plank that I was supposed to be transforming into a giant hand lettered blue marlin for a beach house sign.
Well.
I’d never even drawn a fish (much less one that was 8’x2′), so I ran a quick google search and compiled different images that ranged from photographs to hand sketches from all different angles. It always helps to familiarize yourself with the subject – I know when I’ve done enough research when I’m sick of looking at so much of the same thing :) Once I have my inspiration in hand, I sit down with a piece of graph paper and toy around with different layout ideas. If  hand lettering is going to play a role, I also try to figure in my fonts and lay them out as well. When color is involved, I create little miniatures of the project and try different color combinations on them to see which looks best. (Disclaimer: sometimes some of these neat, individual steps only take place in my head. This is especially prone to happen when I feel super inspired or excited about a project.) When I have my blueprint all figured out, then I go at it!
What do you want people to take away from your creations?
I want to encourage people with my designs – I love hand lettering Scripture in a way that makes it easy to incorporate as part of your home decor (Deuteronomy 6:9). Some of my art is just for fun and whimsy’s sake – that’s the stuff that I want to make people smile and add some sunshine to their day. I also enjoy creating “keepsake” pieces to help people commemorate something special in their lives in a way that will be valued for years to come.
What would you say is an interesting drawing quirk that you have?
Um. I guess I do have a few of those. I sometimes talk to myself while I’m drawing-which sounds really weird, I know ( {*embarrassed smile*} – I have a stack of some of my favorite CD’s sitting on my desk that I sing along with to try to curb that habit, though); and I canNOT bring myself to begin a project until I’ve carefully measured and drawn a 1/2 cm border all the way around my page. I don’t know when I formed this habit, but I can’t seem to break it – there have even been days when it seems as though all the rulers in the house are missing so I simply postpone the project. No way I’m starting until I have my margins drawn!
In what direction do you feel the Lord to be leading Chocolate Ink Designs in the future?
This year, I will be focusing on getting lots more designs up in my Etsy shop and trying to get my products in more local businesses. I also want to look into doing some fundraisers for prolife ministries and outreaches around the country (y’all can pray for me on that one – and if you know of any good opportunities, let me know!). The sanctity of life is something that is very close to my heart, and I would LOVE  for the Lord to open doors for my art and designs to be used in that direction! 
What is the best advice you have been given as an artist? Is there any advice you could leave us with today?
Don’t conform. Don’t give up. I used to get frustrated with myself because my art doesn’t look exactly like ______________ (fill in the blank). There are gobs of talented people out there who seem to have such a knack for what they do and it seems to come so easy to them. And then I’d look at my art and become discouraged. One of my art teachers once encouraged me to find my niche and go with it – not to try to emulate anyone in particular, but instead, to study different styles then use that knowledge to further develop my own. One day, I met a “professional designer” (meaning that she had a degree and worked in a brick and mortar company under this title), who told me to never loose my individuality. I listened as she lamented the fact that everyone who goes to art/design college comes out as the same cookie-cutter type creators who follow the same trends. She told me that the worst thing someone who has a natural eye for and enjoyment of art/design can do is go to college for it. So stay with your style. Develop and refine it, but never try to redefine it. You’ll just end up frustrated with yourself and your work. Embrace your natural talents and style and practice practice practice. If drawing is something you enjoy, doodle all the time. Keep your eyes open and look for inspiration in the ordinary around you – sometimes, you’ll have to close your eyes to really see it. There are enough people in the world who try to find all the ugly things – make it a point to find the beautiful. Because once you open your eyes, it really is everywhere.
Thank you Bethaney, for joining us today!
Bethaney is an *almost* 20 year old big sister, artist/designer, and child of the King. She enjoys laughing, drinking iced sweet tea, and long car rides with the windows down and music up. She loves the smell of dirt, dreams of skylines at night, and lives a wildly blessed life with her family of 13 in the sunny South.

Surviving Uncle Hitler

So, after an unintended, unplanned hiatus from the blogging world, I am back with a book review =) Some posts just take priority over other posts, and this is one of them. Sometime in the near future, I will post something about what has been keeping me busy. And then there are a couple of posts I am REALLY excited about coming soon, so….

Surviving 'Uncle Hitler': Journey of a German GirlDorothea Wollin was just a young girl when American bombs demolished her German town. Uprooted overnight, she and her family found themselves on a journey of survival across Europe.

“Many people bury their memories so they don’t have to deal with the pain. For whatever reason, my mother buried hers. I was hard-pressed to get any stories from her. She was not one who shared easily. However, one night was different. It was many years after the war, in 1987, and I was visiting my family in Germany. I felt there were things Mother and I needed to talk about, and I pressed for discussion. I was pleasantly surprised when she stayed up until the wee hours sharing memories.”

When American bombs demolished her German town, Dorothea Wollin and her family found themselves on a journey of survival across Europe.

This is a true story of a little girl’s quest for meaning in a dark world that led to faith in Christ, and to a freedom greater than that of country or politics.

“What I want most for my story to convey is that the Lord led me through the trials and tribulations of my life in order that I could find meaning, joy, and peace. Because I am approaching the end of my life, I want to inspire my readers to question their own choices, priorities and values in order to find peace with the Lord and joy in their hearts.” — Dorothea Wollin Null

This is my story

You may have guessed from the several books I have reviewed that I enjoy books about World War II — it happens to be one of my favourite times in American History. In fact, it comes right after the War Between the States, which is my first historical love :D

This book piqued my interest when I realized it was written by a German girl in Germany who wasn’t a Jew. So many books I have read about the war in Germany have been about Jews. This was about a normal, everyday girl who lived in Germany. And I have to tell you, this book was eye opening to read.

The narrative about life in Germany during the war was fascinating, but even more interesting was Mrs. Null’s narrative about life before the war, leading up to it. The implementation of Hitler’s regime, the creation of the Third Reich, the propaganda spread by the government — it was interesting to read.

I must say, the style of writing took a bit of getting used to…and the format was a bit different than other books. But overall, the information contained inside covered all those flaws, and I was soon drawn into the story.

I would absolutely recommend this book to others, but I would caution parents to read it before very young children. There are details of the war that are told that aren’t too gory, but still….things like starvation, death, and bombs, to name a few, were just a matter of childhood growing up in Germany, and so are written about as such.

All in all, I would give this book four stars, and I would lend it out to others — my father has already mentioned wanting to read it :D

I recieved a complimentary copy of this book through Book Crash in return for an honest review.
I was not required to enjoy this book.

judah’s wife

Judah's Wife #2 - By: Angela Hunt

A story of the courageous Maccabees told through the eyes of Judah’s wife Leah.

Having grown up with a cruel father, Leah yearns for a future of peace, safety, and protection. When she marries Judah Maccabee a strong and gentle man, she feels she can rest. The king issues a decree requiring all Jews to conform to Greek laws, customs, and religion. Devout Jews surrender their lives under torture than disobey the Law of Moses to worship Greek gods. Judah’s father dies because he won’t surrender to the king’s laws. Before he dies, he commands Judah to continue the fight. Leah struggles with her husband’s decision.

Quite honestly, I have procrastinated in writing this review for a while now. I thought it would be an interesting book about a time in history that I don’t know much about — which it was, in parts. But the rest of the story line just wasn’t all that great.

The story starts with Leah in her fathers house. Obviously form the back cover I knew that there was abuse issues. They were handled tactfully, and I appreciated that. The history aspect was told amazingly — the battles were described well and I did learn a lot about the history of the Jews through reading it. The faith Judah Maccabeus exhibited was encouraging to read about, and the way he rose up to be a leader was inspiring.

I didn’t much appreciate the other aspects of this book, though. There was one part right after Leah and Judah’s marriage that I skipped — I am not for sure how far the author was taking the reader, ’cause I stopped at the beginning of the description. The way Leah doesn’t trust her husband, based on her father’s abuse, was slightly annoying at times. Yes, her father wasn’t kind — but she knew Judah, and he wasn’t a thing like her father. Yes there would maybe be trust issues…..but I felt as if it was a bit over done. This could just be me, though. In one part of the book she goes from basically hating Judah being at war in one book to asking to go with him in the next chapter, with not much detail given as to why there was a change of heart…again, this could just be me.

The redeeming quality of the book was the last third of it, when Leah trusted her husband and was encouraging the other women — it was nice to read. And the battle scenes were really well done, as I mentioned before.

I have read a couple other books by Angela Smith, and have enjoyed them — this one just wasn’t for me.

*I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

our heavenly home

The organ thrummed out a chord. The instruments all matched it — the violas, the violin, the bass and cello and french horns and trumpets all were in one accord with each other. If you haven’t experienced the thrills of different instruments all sounding forth one note, you’ve missed out.

The choir filed in, all of us. Gray hair mingled with brown and blonde and red as we all walked to our places. The director lifted his stick and the beautiful, magical sounds appeared out of nowhere. The deep throated fullness of the bass mingled with the lighter pitches of the violin, all brought to fullness with the earthy tones of the viola and cello. We started singing the first song, a beautiful hymn of praise. All together in unison first, then we changed to four part harmony with the congregation joining us, and tears came to my eyes. The sound of the people sitting in the pews bouncing off the wood paneling behind me, mixed with the harmony of the basses and tenors and altos and sopranos surrounded me, the sound wrapping me in a warm hug as I realized that I was listening to what heaven will one day sound like.

Everybody was singing out lustily, praising the Creator above. The verses to Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love, were sang by people of different backgrounds, different nationalities, different ages. The old sang with the young, the feeble with the strong. The Americans sang with those from China and Korea and other countries. The seeing sang with the blind, the parents with their children. The Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists and Episcopalians all joined with the one common goal of praising our Lord. The united voices were wonderful to hear on this earth, and I can only wonder what it will sound like when we reach Heaven, and every single Christian unites their voices in praise and adoration and worship of the great triune God. As we all sang out the second verse, All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and Heav’n reflect Thy rays, Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise I was struck with awe at how well this hymn writer from years ago had captured the emotions and the thoughts I was thinking right then at that moment. It was so much different from singing in church on a Sunday morning. All those people were facing me and I could hear each and every voice, not just those near to me. I was surrounded by harmonies where I was in the choir loft, and it sounded heavenly.

I have sang many, many times in a choral setting, and enjoyed it immensely. I have been brought to tears at beautiful harmonies weaving in and out of the instruments and complimenting them perfectly. But to have the congregation join us….I had never experienced this. And to hear it, all the different voices mingling together in praise, I realized as I never have before just how acutely I long for my heavenly home. The promised land, that land “where we’ll never grow old,” that land of rest and peace, surrounded by the glory of Christ alone, when we are face to face with our Saviour, surrounding His throne and pouring forth our praises to Him on bended knee. How great that day will be! How marvelously beautiful the harmonies will sound out, how full of praise my heart will fill! How great the sound will be, as thousands and thousands of souls unite around our Lord! Where we have no excuses for being too busy, for being too tired, for being too anything. Where our own selfishness won’t inhibit our worship, and we can truly know what it is to worship our Lord in the beauty of His holiness.

We had three hymns to sing with everyone, three times of blessed glorious worship with everyone in the sanctuary joining in. And each time reminded me afresh of what I was created to do: to enjoy my God forever. I have never experienced such great joy and somberness and enjoyment all wrapped up in one as I did last night, all directed towards my Saviour. I enjoyed these congregational hymns immensely, even more so than the complicated songs we sang between hymns. And that in itself is saying much, because I have never had so much fun singing as I have this time. Intricate harmonies with many parts sounded off the vaulted ceiling of the church. Beautiful songs, directed by a person so full of energy and enthused by music that it was a joy to watch him. Music accompanied by an orchestra, an organ, a piano, some A Capella pieces accompanied with no instruments, only our voices lifting in praise. Music intended to draw others in, give them a glimpse of the beauties of Heaven. I was amazed to hear those around me as we sang for the enjoyment of others, for the glory of Christ our Saviour, pouring forth our souls for all we were worth. As we sang the last song of the evening, I was struck with a sadness that it was almost over…..all the times of meeting and joining for hours in learning these songs, uniting our voices in this music that was so magnificent would be over for months.

And yet my favourite part was that first hymn, that was so simple, so ordinary and common place in so many churches, that made me long so intensely for my final home with my Lord. That one hymn reminded me that this earth is not my home, that I am a pilgrim and a stranger, wandering through this world. It gave me a glimpse of the immensity of a land that my mind can’t even fathom — won’t ever be able to fathom — and a renewed sense of thankfulness for a Saviour who would come to save me so I could worship Him forever in eternity.

This entry was posted in Musings.

peculiar character

In family worship a couple nights ago, this quote from Charles Spurgeon was read. It went so well with what I had written about earlier (read that post here, if you missed it) that Mom encouraged me to put it on here for you all to read =)

God knows what godliness is, for He has created it, He sustains it, He is pledged to perfect it, and His delight is in it. What matters it whether you are understood by your fellow men or not, so long as you are understood by God? If that secret prayer of yours is known to Him, seek not to have it known to anyone besides. If your conscientious motive is discerned in heaven, mind not though it is denounced on earth. If your designs — the great principles that sway you — are such as you dare plead on the great Day of Judgement, you need not stop to plead them before a jesting, jeering generation. Be godly, and fear not. And, if you be misrepresented, remember that your character be dead and buried among men, there will be  “a resurrection of reputations” as well as of bodies. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). Therefore be not afraid to possess this peculiar character, for though it is misunderstood on earth, it is well understood in heaven.”

peculiar people

Yes this a long post. I know that full well — but I needed to write this, for my own peace of mind. To get all the thoughts swirling around my head down in logical lines of black characters so I can muddle through them. There has been one verse I have been contemplating, running over and over again through my mind. 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…”

When I was younger, I was constantly exhorted by many around me to “be in the world and not of it.” I’m sure I can’t have been the only one to be told this….but what exactly does this look like? To be in the world — which we most definitely are — and yet not to be of it — which many, if not all, of us struggle with.

When I read this verse, I realized what not being of the world looked liked. It looks…..different from the world. Yes, I know that might sound redundant — and simple. And kind of a clueless confession on my part — but something that seemed so complicated became so simple when I realized this.

This is actually one thing that saddens me, and can cause spiritual despondency — seeing others who are so seemingly strong in their faith, their convictions, their Saviour, who just sort of fall away,  slowly compromising until they are a shell of who I once knew. I have struggled with this. I have cried tears over this. So maybe I am a bit sensitive, but it makes me feel a deep, heavy burden when I see people — friends, family, acquaintances — drifting off into the world.

I struggled with this when people my own age grew up. And now that I am older, I am seeing people younger than me struggle with this same, all-encompassing question. Struggle only to fall; fall only to rise up — prayerfully — more than conquerors.

I myself struggled with this when I was younger — about 12 – 14. To my mind, especially now that I am older, these years are the most formative for girls. Speaking for myself, I wanted to be seen as responsible, wanted to be seen as a young lady and not a child, wanted to “grow up” and prove that I was capable. Added to that, I have always struggled with stubbornness, and I am the oldest which means I have a very….shall we say, in charge, attitude. I am quieter with others, and tend to think that I am never “enough” — good enough, funny enough, old enough, smart enough…..the list goes on. Which all goes to say that I struggled with respecting my parents, I struggled to get along with my siblings, and I struggled with my identity.

Maybe it was because I struggled so much when I was younger that I feel so strongly about what I see all around me — other young people who are struggling to “find themselves”, to use a popular colloquialism, not realizing how futile their efforts are.

See, we will never “find ourselves” in the ways we want to, until we lose ourselves in Christ. Our own identity is filled with sin, something we would never want others to know about us. Our identity must become anchored on Christ alone. We must die to ourselves — our own desires to “fit in”, the ways we want to spend our time, the friends we have, the things we long for…..everything must be brought under God’s will.

The Lord calls us to be a peculiar people……and it is this part of the verse I have been pondering. What does it mean to be a peculiar people? What does it look like? Albert Barnes wrote in his commentary on this: “They are a people which he has secured as a possession, or as his own; a people, therefore, which belong to him, and to no other. In this sense they are special as being His; and, being such, it may be inferred that they should be special in the sense of being unlike others (unique) in their manner of life.”

John Gill wrote: “God’s elect are a peculiar people, to whom he bears a peculiar love; they are chosen by him to be a special people above all others, and have peculiar blessings bestowed on them, and peculiar care is taken of them; they are the Lord’s, his treasure, his jewels, his portion and inheritance, and therefore he will preserve and save them; they are a people for acquisition, purchase, and possession, as the words may be rendered; whom God has obtained, procured, and purchased for himself, with the precious blood of his Son; hence the Syriac version renders them ‘a redeemed company.'”

John Calvin wrote in his commentary: “He further calls them a peculiar people, or, a people for acquisition, that they might be to him a peculiar possession or inheritance; for I take the words simply in this sense, that the Lord hath called us, that he might possess us as his own, and devoted to him.”

Ponder the words of those theologians for a moment. We, as the elect of God, are His people, His peculiar people. Those that He saved and set apart from the world. We have been purchased by the blood of His Son, and He reserves the right to our very life.

I can vividly remember when I first understood what it meant to be in the world but not of it, to be a peculiar people. I was reading a book (I think it was the Botkin girls book, So Much More, but it may have been some other book) and I was about 12 at the time. There was a story related that made me cringe. In my own words, it was a true story about a high school student who was a Christian, and intent on making Christ known to those around her. She strove to dress like everyone else, so they wouldn’t think Christians weird. She strove to talk like everyone else, have the same interests, listen to the same music, all in the name of making Christ known. There was this one girl that she was always asking to come to church with her, and the girl was never polite in her refusal. This went on month after month, until one Sunday when this Christian saw the girl in her church…..with some other Christian girl, who she didn’t know much about, because she looked like one of those “weird Christian churchgoers” that she had avoided looking like. When the service was over, the Christian asked why the the girl had come with that other strange girl.

The reply that was given caused me to check up and take inventory of my life. It was so simple, so straightforward and so convicting. The girl replied, “Why should I listen to someone who claims to be a Christian when you look and act just like I do? I already have enough problems; I don’t need anymore. That other girl, she had something I didn’t have. She was different, and I knew there was something to her religion.”

That story caused me to realize that, in trying to fit in, I was very similar to the world. I still remember what I was wearing — friends of a friend had given us a bag of old clothing, and I was wearing my favourite outfit: a tighter, form fitting striped blue and white aeropastle t-shirt, and a pair of jeans that were tighter than I normally wore — which was why I liked them so much. The way I was dressed was better than most — but “better than most” doesn’t mean glorifying Christ. If you had put me in a room with twenty other 12 year olds, you would never have been able to tell that I was claimed to be a follower of Christ. My heart attitude wasn’t right — I was more concerned with looking like everyone else than following my Saviour.

I relate that for one reason: I think the biggest inhibitor causing us to refuse to die to ourselves and find our identity in Christ is the fear that we will be different. We will look peculiar to those around us, and we won’t fit in. We will be seen and labeled as “strange”, “weird”, “awkward”……and the list goes on.

I’m not saying we won’t be looked at as if we are off our rocker — but I am saying that the only way to find yourself is to die to yourself. To worry about the Lord’s affirmation instead of bothering about the worlds. And as we focus on Christ — on His will, on His plan, on His glory — we cease to care what the world thinks of us as Christians.

Instead of chasing after the latest fashion trends, let’s run after Christ with a whole heart. Instead of striving to fit in with everybody else, let’s give everybody else something to ponder about as they come into contact with us.
Let’s not give into the pressure to flirt with every guy that comes into our vision, or vie for most popular with every girl we pass.
Let’s not dress in skimpy clothing because “everybody else” does and we want the same attention “everyone else” is getting — let’s let our clothing speak of who our allegiance is towards. Let it proclaim loudly that we belong to Christ, and not to some random guy who passes us by.
Let’s not allow social media to get in the way of spending time with our Saviour, or distract us from the more important things of life.
Let’s remember to pour into actual physical relationships, instead of letting tweets, texts, Facebook, or anything else replace the value of an actual conversation. Let’s purpose to spend time with those we are around, without letting our phones, i-pods, kindles, or whatever else has a tendency to ring-a-ding-ding for our attention to get in the way.

In short, let’s let Christ define us, and not our clothing, our friendships, our makeup, our cell phones, our social media pages, our family, our books, our music….or anything else. Let’s be willing to seem a bit peculiar to the world, for the glory of being Christ’s peculiar treasure on this earth.

until we find home

Until We Find Home - By: Cathy Gohlke For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the story lines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

Until We Find Home was a beautiful book, a wonderful telling of the beginning of World War 2 from a perspective you don’t often read about. This was the first book I have read by Cathy Gohlke — and I am pretty certain, after finishing this one, that it won’t be the last :D

The story starts in France, and quickly moves into England. It details the home life of the war — the rationing, the making do, the bombing, the home security. I appreciated reading about the sentiments of the British as the Americans delayed — again and again — to enter into the war and to fight against Hitler and the evil he represented. I don’t remember any mentions of battle scenes, besides what was heard on the radio and written in letters….and I enjoyed this immensely. It is common to find books written about soldiers; about war nurses, and danger and heroism. This book was different. It highlighted a work that was just as important as the battles of the war itself: caring for those left behind. A different kind of heroism, that was beautiful and amazing and inspiring.

The bits with the children were precious to read, and I appreciated learning about some of the Jewish customs that are held. I also liked that Claire and her aunt incorporated Jewish traditions into their home, trying to make the children feel more at home. I liked how Claire’s character grew as she interacted with the children, and how her relationship with each child changed. The Claire in the beginning of the book leaves much to be desired — the Claire at the end is a beautiful, responsible woman.

The faith aspect of this book is different from most I have read. Claire is not a Christian, and there is no mention of any character specifically being a Christian until about midway through the novel. It was quite clear that Claire, and the other characters, were serving themselves and not Christ. About midway through the book there is a character introduced that is a Christian in word and deed, and is a wonderful example of Christianity lived out in daily life. There is a distinct, subtle difference between the Christian and those who aren’t. The Christian has different attitudes, looking for ways to serve the children, striving to be joyful, even though he himself is struggling, speaking wise words when needed — it is a difference between a morally good life and a life that is live for Christ’s glory. The contrast was well written, and I appreciated it. When Claire does become a Christian, there is fruit of this…..although it doesn’t happen until the last third of the book. The scene that was supposed to be her conversion — I think — was a dream she had. But I was a left being a bit confused about that aspect of the whole thing. Suffice it to say that she did change afterwards :D

There is a wedding at the end of the book — but the relationship wasn’t some emotionally driven love story at all. Actually, neither character had any intentions of falling in love. The relationship was forged as the two worked together for a bigger cause than their own desires, and culminated in a marriage.

The whiffs of other literary characters that were woven into the story made it so fun! I mean, incorporating Beatrix Potter into the story was a wonderful addition! It added to the quaintness of the countryside, and added a light hearted touch to a serious time in history.

Overall, I would lend this out to others without any qualms =P

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
All thoughts are my own.

If you like to read, visit My Readers Rewards Club for an opportunity to earn points and books from Tyndale Publishers. Use this link to earn twenty five points when you sign up =)

under a cloudless sky

387789: Under a Cloudless SkyUnder a Cloudless Sky
By Chris Fabry

A novel set between 1933 and 2004 about the coal-mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, and the people who live there in danger of being destroyed by a horrific massacre of miners during a conflict between the workers and management for the sake of profit. Years later, many neighbors are forced sell their land to a coal and energy company or face rising property taxes. One man tries to keep his family legacy while a mining executive offers to revitalize the dying town paying homage to the past while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

 

I was excited when I saw the release of this book — I enjoy most of this authors books, as you have probably read a time or two before =)

This was a beautiful telling of a coal mining town, choices adults and children had made, and the consequences of those decisions as they grow older.  The pace was a bit slower than some of his other books, I thought, but I enjoyed it — and there were just as many plot twists that left me scratching my head in perplexity.

The point of view switches around quite a bit, which I found a bit confusing at first — but after the first couple of chapters I caught on. It goes from 2004, to 1933, to 2004, back to 1933…….and every single bit of information is vital to the story. And the ending…..oh the ending was marvelously perfect!

The historical parts from 1933 were a wonderful eulogy of bygone days. The details of common,  everyday life were beautifully chronicled, and the old hymns that were included were sweet to read over. Yes, I researched them, and one day, perhaps, I will learn them on the piano and introduce the children in our church to them :D

There were a couple of intense scenes, and for that reason I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers. There were a couple of fights (it was a coal mining town!), and one gun fight that was detailed. It was an essential part of the story, and the details given weren’t too gory, but it was suspenseful and you definitely weren’t left wondering what happened.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review
All thoughts are my own.

If you like to read, visit My Readers Rewards Club for an opportunity to earn points and books from Tyndale Publishers. Use this link to earn twenty five points when you sign up =)