Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Holly & Ivy

Jamie's short story - which has turned into more of a novella (she's not good at keeping things short...) - is advanced enough to send out into the world.

Here is the opening paragraph:

Holly Harper's diary was a ten-cent notebook. The marbled cover was smudged with pencil marks and ink blots and her name was written across the top in blue ink. Inside, the pages were filled with curvy, overhand writing.  But it was only half-filled and she would never write another word in it - because Holly Harper had been murdered.
I'm Ivy. Ivy Harper.
Holly's sister.

If you would like to read more, please click on the tab entitled Scribbles for entry.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. She's posting it in segments, so please check back for new installments! :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

But God, it's MY stuff!!!

We all have these times, I guess. The convicting times where you realize that you're not as good as you fancy yourself to be - or the uncomfortable times when you realize that you are a lot worse off than you righteously believe yourself to be. Those times when you realize the glaring thing you're doing that's separating you from God as effectively as a ten-foot-high brick wall with razor wire on the top separates you from the prisoners in the local jail.

As much as I hate these times, I know that they're when I grow the closest to my Savior. When I get off my high, righteous horse and realize what a failure I am. It's uncomfortable, often difficult, and usually involves a lot of sacrifice and growing pains.


So here I find myself in the midst of conviction with a path carefully set out before me. All I have to do is walk it in complete obedience with my Savior.


As Anne Shirley would say: "Therein lies the rub."

My problem is simply stuff. Anything and everything that I own becomes to me a prized possession, to be guarded even with my life. I treasure it, take care of it, store it, and -- this is where the biggest problem comes in -- find my joy and contentment in it.

It seems that no matter what I have, no matter what I get, I always want more. There's always that elusive "one more thing" that'll make my happiness complete. When I feel down, my stuff is what I think of -- it's what makes me smile.

It should be what makes me cry.    

It should make me cry buckets because I've put it higher in my estimation of value than my relationship with God. Where God should be the one I find my joy and contentment in, it's something silly like a book or music or a knick-knack or electronic gadget of some sort that makes me glad to be alive. How pathetic and shallow is that?

And since God is a jealous God, who wants my heart and soul to belong completely to Him, He sends along the Holy Spirit to whisper in my ear that I'm putting to much store in my treasures-on-earth.

Many, many times He has done this, I'm ashamed to say, but I've only half-heartedly listened and given perfunctory and -- ultimately -- ineffective efforts to right the problem. Truth be told, I wasn't too concerned about it. I figured that there were bigger problems in my life that God should be tackling, like my temper or my self-righteousness. (Just a hint, ye reader: If God brings something to your attention over and over again, don't tell Him that He should be focusing on something else or try to focus on something else in your own all-knowing power. God's not stupid. He knows your biggest struggles better than you do. If He brings it up a lot, it's important!) Recently, I realized that telling God stuff like that isn't very smart. I also realized that my protectiveness of my possessions was a big problem - and that it was creating a huge rift between me and Him. Then I decided that I didn't want that rift to be there anymore and that my prayers to know Him better were basically ineffectual when I refused to face my obsession with things squarely in the face and admit that it was bigger than I wanted to own up to.

So, I prayed and gave God my stuff - every last thing - and resolved to place less store in the things I owned. By the way, if you give something to God, expect Him to test your sincerity. He doesn't want a mamby-pamby giver. You've got to mean it or you'll be right back at square one when the first test comes.

My first test came in the form of my older sister.

She has a habit of storing the books that she's reading in her lunchbag when she's at work. Normally, I don't care whether or not she does it (except for the time when she accidentally refrigerated one), but when she's reading my books, I, as the meticulous and obsessive owner, request that she keep book and lunchbag separate.

As my older sister, she doesn't place much store in what I say.

So, she borrowed one of my brand-new books and stored it in her lunchbag. I nervously asked her to keep it out of the bag, in which was stored a Tupperware container of very juicy watermelon. Despite my pleas, she put the book in her lunchbag (don't judge her; I'm sure it was God who arranged this) and, by some twist of mischief, the container leaked the juice, which my book happily sopped up.

I had a moment of paralyzing (I'm joking a little) shock when I discovered it (after all, it was a new book...) and when my sister offered to buy me another one, I stumbled over the Holy Spirit, who was whispering in my ear that I had decided to give God my stuff; and that the book didn't really belong to me; and...I shut him up after that and accepted her offer.

It didn't take God long to send the Holy Spirit back to work on my conscience and eventually I -- rather unwillingly -- went back to my sister and told her that it wouldn't be necessary to buy me a new book. When that was out of my mouth, my only regret was that I hadn't said it when she asked the first time. Especially when the book dried so well that you could hardly tell it had been soaked for three-and-a-half hours in watermelon juice.

I'm still waiting for the second test, and I have an uncomfortable feeling that it's going to be a little bigger than watermelon juice. I constantly have to remind myself that it's God's stuff, not mine, and He can do what He wants with it. It's a strange feeling to know what He could do with it, but the relief of not having to be so protective of it and the thrill of being more generous with it (it's amazing how easy it is to give people something that doesn't belong to you!) so far have outweighed the "inconveniences" of giving it to Him.

I want to encourage anyone who reads this that if there is something that God is bringing to your attention and you are ignoring Him because it seems too hard to change or because you just don't want to do it, think about this: Is it really worth holding on to if it's going to separate you from the God who gave everything -- including His life -- for you? When I realize that, my collection of stuff that I've gathered over the years (that will someday all be broken and gone) doesn't seem as important anymore. I mean, just think about it. God gave you everything anyway, so what's the harm in giving it back? Would it be a big deal if He took it all away? (The horror, I know...) It's not likely that He will, but there's always the possibility. All I'm saying is that if my house starts on fire and all my stuff goes up in smoke, I'd rather it belongs to God than me. Then it's His loss - not mine.

As Otto Koning says: God can take better care of your things than you can.  
So, what's the harm?

'Till next time,

Sunday, August 14, 2011

♪♩♫ ♬ -- Music -- ♪♩♫ ♬

Please ignore the tacky title and goofy music notes and keep reading - it gets better further down.

I promise.

To get down to business...

I've spent a lot of time lately looking (and listening) for and to different Christian music artists. Over the years I've gathered quite a few *favorite* artists, but I'm always looking for more and these are the winners so far.

My favorite new artist is Audrey Assad. She only has one album so far, being new and all, but she's working on a second that I am really looking forward to since her first CD The House You're Building is one of those that I can listen to over and over again without getting tired of it.

I foresee that I'll get nowhere going like this and since I can't write a post without making a big production out of it, I might as well set you up for the long haul.

Organized person that I am (no, really!), I'm going to get this down to a concise list: These are my favorite Christian artists, and (a few of) my favorite songs that they sing. Hopefully you'll find some of them good enough to listen to a few times yourself. :)

Audrey Assad
- Carry Me
- Restless
- Known

(I'll try to narrow it down to three favorites, so that this post doesn't go on forever, but I'd really encourage you to find more of her songs. They are SO good!)

And of course...

Casting Crowns
It's hard to pick just three!
- Life of Praise
- Stained Glass Masquerade
- Glorious Day
I'm going to fudge and make this four:
- At Your Feet

John Waller
- As For Me and My House
- Yes
- Hands of the Healer

Keith and Kristyn Getty
I do have their new cd Awaken the Dawn, but I haven't listened to it enough to truly pick a favorite. These are all from the album In Christ Alone.
- The Power of the Cross
- There is a Higher Throne
- Across the Lands

Ginny Owens
My sister recently introduced me to this talented young singer. I didn't like her much at first because she has a rather... different voice, but her lyrics are open and powerful.
- I Am
- This Road (can't find her singing it on youtube... ugh)
- Simply Love You (or this one either, apparently...)

Nichole Nordemann
Not exactly on my list of favorite favorites, but she does have a bunch of good songs, so...
- Finally Free
- Holy
- Legacy

Francesca Battistelli
I only have one of her cds, but these are my favorites from Hundred More Years. She has a very bouncy, energetic voice that reminds me a bit of Carrie Underwood. I don't think she's for everybody, but you never know what people will like.
- This Is The Stuff
- You Never Are
- Hundred More Years

Josh Bates
- Walking Through the Fire
- King of Glory
- Never Give Up On Me 

The Franz Family
Recently introduced to our family by a friend. If you don't like bluegrass, you won't like these songs. Apparently youtube has never heard of them, but this is their website: Check them out; they're really good.
- Come Unto Me
- Hold Fast to the Right
- The River of Tears

Soooo, it didn't turn out so long after all. Let's move on to soundtracks!

I'm just kidding. I know, I have a life too and I can't spend it all on blogger.

Till next time,

P.S If you are familiar with any of these artists and have a few favorites yourself, please comment and tell me. Or if you have a favorite artist that isn't on this list please comment as well. I would love to gather more favorite artists and songs! :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Excuses For Not Blogging - Part 2

And here, my post about the Creation Museum!

Don't let your excitement overcome you...

Let's start at the very beginning (no I shan't finish that sentence, but it's probably going through all of your heads now).

I went with my cousin and her family and their church youth group. It would have been more awkward, except that I played Bible Jeopardy with them all when I visited my cousin's church this spring.

We spent the night in a church gym (which was carpeted?) and started off early in the morning for the museum.

                             (As you can see, I took this through the window, so it is a bad picture)
My cousin and I and a friend of hers went through the gardens first.

They were gorgeous.

                                       I love this one; it's like an old-fashioned Japanese ryokan.

And I always must get close-ups. It's the only photography hobby I have.

                     I don't know much about flowers, but I'm pretty sure this one is some kind of rose...

And three of my favorite pictures from inside the museum:

I know, they're kind of all the same and boring. Oh well.

Along with the museum itself, we saw the video Men In White at the Sights and Sounds Theater (or whatever it was called), went to the show in the planetarium, listened to a lecture by Jason Lisle, and ate at Noah's Cafe.

All in all, it was an amazing day and I can't wait to go again. :)

'Till next time,


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thank-You Cards

       With my birthday just behind me, it's now time to begin the second step: sending out the thank-you cards. My mom always used to make me write them when I was younger, and I've never really given it up. I prefer to send out homemade cards, so every year around my birthday, my sister and I haul out the mountains of supplies and go at it. Here are a few of this year's samples, to show that I do, in fact, have a wee bit of a creative side... :)

    (These aren't the best pictures in the world; my camera decided that it didn't want to cooperate with me)

                                  (This one won first place in the contest my sisters and I were having)

'Till next time,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Excuses For Not Blogging - Part 1

Ah, my little blog, how neglected you are...
I have been so incredibly busy lately, it feels amazing to just wind down and actually have time to type away on this.

To begin:

On my eighteenth birthday my brother, sister, a friend and I set off at 3:30 a.m. on a road trip to Branson, MO.

                                                        (This did not occur at 3:30 a.m.)

We stopped in St. Louis on the way down and took a tour cruise on the Tom Sawyer:

 which was not something I would do again, but...yeah. It wasn't terrible. The tour guide, I might add, has not yet found her proper vocation, and I was relieved whenever she handed the microphone off to the captain.

After the cruise, we went to the Gateway Arch:

and took the cars to the top. This was an amazing experience, even though the door to get in was tiny and we, being a party of four, had a stranger thrown in with us. On the ride down, unfortunately, we were separated even further, with two in one car and two in another. My brother and I were squashed in with three men who spoke mostly some type of Indian (Asian India) dialect and whom my brother shot pictures for. But that's beside the point... I'm still supposed to be at the top of the Arch:

                                                        (View from the top of the arch)

A narrow passage greeted us at the top and we had to wait and jostle for a turn to look out the windows:

which were very small and carpeted. If you leaned over them and looked straight down, the feeling in your stomach assured you that you were about to pitch off the top of a cliff.
We took some pictures and wandered around and then took the aforementioned trip down to the bottom again.
We went to the line to watch the movie Monument to a Dream which was about the designing and building of the Arch, but discovered that we were woefully ahead of schedule and went shopping at the gift store instead.
The movie actually was very good - once we got in - and I stayed awake through the entire thing (something that can't be said about my sister and friend...).
After that, we realized we still had a bunch of sightseeing to do, and left the Arch.

Next, we traveled to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a free (!) tour:

It was actually very interesting and fun, with free soda (that is, we got soda; there was beer too, obviously) and pretzels afterwards. We saw the Clydesdales, the aging tanks, the mashing tanks, the lineup of ingredients, the old brewery buildings (which are gorgeous for a brewery), the labeling lines and took a trolley back. We took a full trolley and had to stand up and hold the bar at the top. This was not a fun experience, because every time we took a turn, stopped or went over 3 mph, the whole thing swayed precariously and my friend looked like she was about to knock me into the lap of the gentleman on the seat beside me.
All in all, it was incredibly informative and I enjoyed it thoroughly. My only regret was that it was about beer, and nothing more uplifting or wholesomely educational.

We went back to St. Louis after that, intending to tour the City Gardens:

which would have been very fun to walk through, but unfortunately, u2 was having a huge concert at Busch Stadium (for which they had torn up all the turf on the baseball field and installed this huge stage):

           (You can sort of see it in this picture I took at the top of the Arch...)

so parking was nonexistent and driving was almost nonexistent as well, due to the number of people walking to the concert. We eventually gave up and went to our hotel in Eureka.

On Monday, we drove the rest of the way to Branson, stopped at Walmart for supplies and then found our hotel and unpacked.
Then it was off to the Branson Belle Showboat, which was our first attraction:

We boarded a bit late, and this was our dinner:

                                                                      First course

                                                                        Second course

                                                     Third course - also known as dessert

The three shows on the Belle consisted of the MC Christopher James (I couldn't get a good picture of him because he moved around too much) who did a comedy/magician act. 

Janice Martin, an aerial violinist (the only one in the world, I believe), who played piano and sang soprano as well as expertising on the fiddle:

and here's one of her doing the aerial bit:

and six singers called The Showmen:

On Tuesday, we went to Silver Dollar City. I didn't take personal pictures there, so that department will be sparse. I can include, perhaps, some internet images...
We went on two rides: an extremely tame rollercoaster called Fire in the Hole (I think I would like rollercoasters if I wasn't so afraid of how I might react to them). Tame nonetheless, it had several drops that I found extremely exhilarating. :) :

and a refreshingly wet water-tube ride called Lost River of the Ozarks. I can't find a picture of it, but we were put in a tube-boat with a mother and her young son, who delighted in informing the rest of us who was going to get wet based on our relative positions in the boat and the drops in the water-course.
We also ate a small, underground buffet, which we all agreed was a decision induced by our overexposure to heat. It really wasn't worth the money we paid to eat at it.

After a bit of shopping, we headed down to Marvel Cave and had a very interesting tour.

                                                   (This is just the first cavern of the cave)

We spent the night at the Branson Meadows Cinema watching this as an overdue birthday activity:

On Wednesday, we spent most of the day at out hotel, swimming:

and playing Dutch Blitz and Canasta. Even though it was in the upper nineties we even tried the hotel hot-tub, which was a very interesting experience.

That evening we went to Kirby Vanburch's Illusion show, which we all attempted to pick apart and figure out how the tricks were done. Kirby Vanburch is a Christian and has a powerful testimony at the end of the show, which is very refreshing.

Thursday was another Silver Dollar City Day.

We arrived almost as it was opening and headed straight to the Ozark water ride again. The line was about four times shorter than it had been on Tuesday and we got a boat with another mother and her young son, who also told us when we were going to get the deluge.

I got off that ride soaked on one side, thanks to a personal wave that went down my back but touched no one else. We did a bit of shopping and then went to the Frisco Silver Dollar City Line train:

Where we saw the sights of SDC and got held up by two criminals who weren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. Unfortunately, neither was our conductor, who muffed his lines by forgetting what day it was. :)

After the train, my sister, my friend and I decided to get one of those nostalgic pictures that you dress up for.
After a mix-up with dresses, we finally got into the appropriate southern belle costumes with hoopskirts and got the picture done. I don't think any of us were extremely pleased with how they turned out, but it was still a fun experience. I won't share the picture here, because, at the moment, I am observing a strict rule of not putting pictures of people on my blog - at least people that I know.

We then got a bite to eat and went to the Opera House for a tightrope act. Then we went on the American Plunge, which was wet, but amazingly fun:

then, while we were still in the company of the adrenaline rush from that we decided to go on the Giant Swing:

 The signs tacked up along the waiting line assuring us that it was natural to have your toes above your head planted no seeds of courage in our minds and when we got close enough to see what actually happened on the ride (swinging 7 stories in the air facing the sky and the 7 stories back facing the ground) did not lend any staunchness to our already faltering resolve. If there had been an exit available at the end of the waiting line, I would most likely not be relating this adventure to you.
But stuck we were, and despite my friend's adamant statements that she was going to lose her lunch, we all made it through with nothing worse than shaky legs. I must say, though, that the feeling of being weightless and  almost vertical to the ground with my head being the nearest thing to earth is one of the most terrifying and thrilling feelings I have ever experienced.

After the swing we toned things down and got down to the serious souvenir-shopping. That took forever, and by the time it was over, the park was almost closed and we opted to leave instead of getting kicked out.

On Friday we went to a song-and-dance show called Hooray For Hollywood! which took famous songs from Hollywood's greatest movies and brought them to life. It was really an entertaining display of energy and choreography.

After the show we avoided the line of performers who were signing autographs and headed to the nearest mini-golfing course, where we spent a good while getting through the 18 holes.

That evening we went to the Ozark Murder Mystery dinner theater for a show called Speak Easy, Die Hard  - which was -awful  abysmal. It is true that the cast spoke easy, but I firmly believe that the only people who died hard was the poor audience who was forced to watch it. I won't rant about it further because it's really not worth it, but I will say that I could have written a better script, my friend could have acted a better part, my sister could have cooked a better meal and my brother could have come up with better jokes and we're not even considering going into business. Plus, they had a creepy little theater with an even creepier ticket office.

On Saturday, we packed up and drove home in one straight shot.

Thus ends the chronicle of my Branson road trip.

I shall skip trying to describe my week of VBS and go on to my trip to the Creation Museum in part 2.

'Till next time,