Dec 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, my dear friends!  What a wonderful, beautiful time of the year that's very special to so many because - Jesus.  Our all, our Savior, our King.  The Everlasting One who loves us, small and weak though we are.  ♥

I'm took most of last week off internet, and I won't be back on until almost New Year.  But I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas celebrating Jesus with everyone you love, and I'll return shortly to reply to comments.

And here's a small gift.  My siblings Josiah and Jubilee made a Christmas video, and I wanted to share it with you all.  Enjoy, and have a Merry Christmas!


Dec 19, 2017

The Chara of Christmas

photos credit: Pexels

This fall I realized how much I like Christmas.  I used to get annoyed by the holiday ads begging for your money.  The self-centered kids writing letters to Santa begging for hundreds of dollars of useless stuff.  The flashy lights, crowded stores, and lack of focus on Jesus.

But this time, I saw more.  Or perhaps I see more, because I'm still learning.

Christmas draws people together.  Friends and family are reunited over long distances as they celebrate.  Strangers walk with a smile, and their faces light up with you offer a sincere, "Merry Christmas."  Lights deck the nighttime horizon making little children laugh and offering something to warm your heart in the midst of the night.

There's joy.

For those of you who are celebrating the advent season, the word of this week is χαρά.

χαρά - Chara (pronounced khar-ah'): joy, gladness, a source of joy
- Bible Hub

Joy is a beautiful part of a Believer's life.  It's not just a fruit of the Spirit that we long to have.  In Christ, we have Joy.

The book of Philippians describes true Joy.  It doesn't come through having everything we want - but through looking out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4).  It doesn't come through gain - but through sacrifice (Phil 2:5-11).

The apostle Paul wrote,

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
- Philippians 2:17

Christmas is a time of joy, but does the joy last?  Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes like a breeze on the wind.  Joy is deeper - a heart attitude that lasts because of the hope we have in Jesus.

When we're scared, Joy says that Jesus is still strong.  When we face sickness or death, Joy assures us that Jesus is the worker of miracles and the keeper of our breath.  When someone betrays us, Joy holds us tight in Jesus' arms.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love ... These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
- John 15:9-11

Chara is the decision to trust in darkness, believe in the storm, and love despite unfaithfulness.  Because Jesus is enough.

Recently I read a book about Christians during the time of Nero.  They were burned at the stake, thrown to wild beasts, and separated from loved ones forever.  But as they faced death and humiliation, they sang praise to God.  The martyrs looked past earth and up towards heaven where their Savior was awaiting them with a crown of glory.

It's easy to be happy in the beauty of Christmas.  Yet Joy is so much more.  It's something that will thrive during winter break and continue when school starts back up.  It will blossom during busy times and be strong when we are weak.

Christian joy is a profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ own life and love. 
- The Bible Project

Let's follow Philippians and "rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4)  Let's thrive in the promises of Christmas that Jesus loves us so much that He came to earth as a babe.  But when the new year comes, let's continue to praise God because "His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100:5).

God is always good.  You are always loved.

So let's rejoice!

(ps)  I was inspired to write this post because of a short film I watched about the meaning of Joy.  You can view it for yourself here, and I encourage you to do so:  Word Study: Chara - Joy


Dec 13, 2017

The Solution to Everything

Let me tell you about myself.

I'm a writer who forgets to write.  I'm a blogger who posts a day late.  I'm a friend who forgets to pray and respond to emails.  I'm a sister who forgets to love and encourage my siblings.  And I'm a Christian who often feels distant, distracted, and discouraged.

That's the real me behind this blog.  I don't take perfect pictures or write flawless first drafts.  I don't pray without ceasing or live in constant unity with God.  I wish I did.

Last week I had the chance to share a verse with a struggling friend, and yesterday God turned it around to gaze straight in my face.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

The problem isn't what I don't have.  What really matters is that through Christ, I do have everything I need for life and godliness.  Try to tell me that's not amazing.

Life:  Through Christ, I can have joy no matter what comes my way.  I can love those around me despite their (and my) flaws.  I can exhibit the fruit of the spirit.  I can persevere and be faithful in what is good and turn away from what is evil or distracting.

Godliness:  Through Christ, I can abide in His presence and live with a heart of worship.  I can share my faith because His love overwhelms me.  I can be diligent in His Word, pray throughout the day, and lift His name to everyone around me.

I have everything I need.  Through Jesus.

When I was little, I learned this truth in a practical way that I try not to remember too often.  I faced the daunting task of washing an oatmeal pot.  Large families use big pots, and the oats were stuck to the side.  I cried.  It was impossible.  If I couldn't wash it in 10 minutes, how could I ever do it?

But afterwards, Mom took an embarrassing picture of me holding the same pot, now shining bright and clean.  My cheeks were stained from tears, but I learned the truth in Philippians.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Don't miss the words at the end.  Through Christ.  It's all because of Him.  In and of myself, I can do nothing.  But through Christ, I can do all things.

Sometimes that means being joyful in the little moments.  Just now, I had the opportunity to pause and smile with my little sister as she stuck a pretend pig snout on her nose, then her head, then the hammock, and then on my own face.  Each moment counts; when we live them in His power and with His heavenly perspective, life becomes all the sweeter.  (this post was a sweet reminder to me this week.)

Instead of living a discouraged, half-lived life, I want to remember that I have everything I need for life and godliness.  I can do all things through Christ.  Let's not forget that.

I realize I shared most of this in my last post, but it's a constant reminder for me.  Being a Christian is a decision - a decision to live with and for Jesus Christ.  That's the best life we could live.


Dec 5, 2017

Project Love || All Your Strength

Today I scrolled back to an early post where I asked for your input.  As I read through some of the responses, this one jumped out at me.

When I asked what area of life was hardest for you to love God with all, someone responded, 

Maybe with all my strength. I can easily be lazy and not want to give everything until I'm exhausted. I like to be comfortable and "just relax". It's hard for me to give everything until I have nothing left.

What do we do when we're exhausted?  When we want to relax instead of focus on God?  Is it ever wrong to take a break, and how do we press on when our strength is gone?

I don't have all the answers, and I hope you will share what you've learned about this area of life.   But recently I've been debating some of these questions.  We get so caught up in the western lifestyle that sometimes we forget that the Bible is the ultimate guide to life.  We have habits and norms that might even contradict what God's Word says.

One example of that is when we become comfortable.  Certainly being comfortable isn't wrong.  God has created a beautiful world for us to enjoy.  He created smells and tastes and sounds and colors.  Everything was made for His purpose and pleasure, and I believe He wants us to be thankful and enjoy the many gifts around us.

But we can't stop there.  We can only enjoy life rightly when we enjoy it to bring Him glory.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
- Psalm 100:4  (emphasis added)

We don't just have a thankful spirit.  We must also bless His name.

When we take comfort, pleasure, relaxation, or anything else too far, it becomes an idol in our lives.  And that means we are not loving God with all.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 6:5 (emphasis added)

What happens when we don't have any strength?

One day recently, I wasn't able to have my quiet time after breakfast like normal because I went with my sisters and mom to town.  We had a fun girls' time together going shopping and doing other various things.  On that particular day, we went to adopt a cat from the animal shelter, and we drove home with the wonderful smells of a car-sick cat.  And then at home, I got together everything the cat needed, tried to introduce her to our other (not-so-friendly to newcomers) cat, and then finally came instead to eat.  I had a headache.

But the day was only half done.  I still had school to do, things to catch up on, and what about that Bible time I had missed earlier?

I was already exhausted.  I didn't want to read or think hard.  I just wanted a break.

What then?  It's not wrong to take a break.  Sometimes walking outside in the fresh air helps me recharge and get back to life with more vigor.  It give me focus and clarity.

But in other times, we have to press on.  We can't not read the Bible or pray or love others because we're tired.  Wanting a nap isn't an excuse to why we lashed out at our brother.

When we are at the end of our line and must press on, we can remember His loving promises.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
- Isaiah 40:31 

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...
- 2 Peter 1:3

We have everything we need to press on.  We have everything we need to keep smiling and encouraging and loving others.  Through Christ, we can have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

God knows our weaknesses and limitations.  When Jesus was on earth, He often went to a secluded place to pray (Matthew 14:23).  Sometimes we also must take a break from life and refocus (preferably in prayer and in His presence).  But we cannot allow comfort to become our idol.

I have so far to go in mastering this area of loving God, but I've talked long enough.  Now I would be honored to hear from you!  How do you press on when you're exhausted?  How do we make sure that comfort is not an idol?  When do we take a break or trust God for strength to press on?

And if you're feeling tired or out of strength, remember His promises.  He will carry you on.  Keep trusting.


Nov 28, 2017

Project Love || Living Prayer

Sometimes I forget that prayer is powerful.

I forget – that is – until He reminds me.  And this week I received one of those reminders when a prayer I had almost given up praying for was answered.  It seemed impossible and far-fetched, but it happened.  Because God.

But prayer leaves me with so many questions.  It's like an endless prairie without a tree in sight.  I can search with my eyes, but it goes on and on until fading into the deep, blue sky.  Where's the end?  Can we ever discover it?

Maybe we'll travel forever.  Maybe the end will never be in sight.  But that's okay.  If we take a step, we're closer.  One step closer.

That's what prayer is.  We can never completely grasp it and have all the answers.  I mean, this is powerful!  Sinful humans speaking with the everlasting God?  Why?  How?

But when we take one step, it's one step deeper into a relationship with Him.  And I want that.

Today I was feeling discouraged.  It was a good day, yet I had so many questions.  I couldn't even piece them together, but they were there.  How does one have a prayer life?  Is it sitting down for a solid hour with a Bible or praying throughout the day?  What about when my mind wanders?  Or when I just forget?  What then?  Am I just a failure?

As the sun began to set, shining blinding rays into our eyes, my little brother and I went on a hike.  We walked on a trail through the woods.  Our feet sounded like an army over the crisp, dry leaves, but the squirrels continued to chatter and race through the overhanging branches.  And there, in the silent beauty of winter, my brother shared an analogy that helped me take one step further into the endless prairie.

What if life was a path?  Trees surrounded me as God, my best Friend, walked by my side.  We went through life, turning at each bend and climbing over trees that fell in our way.  Sometimes we would teeter on stepping stones through muddy ground until reaching the other side.

And while we traveled, we talked.  We laughed at the squirrels that interrupted our quiet walk.  When I saw a hanging vine, a green sprig despite the cold air, or a cow lowing in the distance, I paused and thanked Him.  We were friends, living life together.

Sometimes, I grew silent.  We walked that way together.  It wasn't that I was upset or busy – sometimes being in His presence was enough.  He held my hand, and we didn't always have to speak.  Our hearts were stronger than words.

But when I had a question, I asked.  When I was glad, I thanked Him.  When I was frightened, I came near His side.  Everything drew me closer to God.

Do we live out this type of prayer?

Are our lives spent by His side?  Does every beautiful thing around us make our lips utter praise?  When we're busy or stressed or scared, do we lift the moment up in prayer?  Are our eyes turned upon Jesus, looking full in His wonderful face?

So often, I start my day in prayer but end up living for myself.  I start running down the path of life instead of savoring each moment with Him.  I forget, always ought to pray and not lose heart.  - Luke 18:1  
Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; - Romans 12:12 
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; - Colossians 4:2 
Pray without ceasing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 
Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. - James 5:13 
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. - James 5:16

There are so many other verses.  So much truth waiting to be discovered.

I want to live a life of prayer, walking side by side with God through every twist and turn.  Let's start by taking the first step.  Let's step out.  Seek Jesus.  And give our lives away.

But how?  That's your question.  How are you going to step out and Love?  How can we love God through prayer?

It's an adventure.  Take the first step.


Nov 24, 2017

A Special Gift

photo credit:  Max Pixel

Dear Readers,

Happy Thanksgiving!!  I hope you had a beautiful day celebrating God's goodness and savoring the time with family and friends.  Our house had 38 people, and what fun we had!  If only Thanksgiving lasted a bit longer.  =)  But isn't every day a time to be thankful and savor life together?

Before the Thanksgiving meal, we gathered together to read verses about thankfulness and share what we are thankful for.  So I want to do the same on here!  First, here is the verse I read.  And how true it is.

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen. 

He's done so much for us.  Every breath, every sunrise and smile and feeling of warmth is a gift from above (James 1:17).  He deserves everything.  Blessing.  Glory.  Wisdom.  Thanksgiving.  Honor.  Power.

And I'm thankful for one special gift this Thanksgiving.

In the last post, I shared some hard times I went through in life.  Test taking, the miscarriage, a hurting friend, nervousness before the play.  But God brought resolutions to every one.  Tests were passed.  The friend was healed.  The play went wonderfully.

But I didn't share the very dearest moment that I am so thankful for.

We received this precious picture last week.

Look at that!!!!  See those eyes?  See the adorable, tiny body?

Last year, God took baby Kalem up to heaven.  And this year, He's giving us another, little blessing.  =)  This baby won't replace Kalem.  He will always have a special place in our family, and I can't wait to meet him in heaven.  But God turned our mourning into joy.  We don't only have a little treasure waiting in heaven.  We're going to have another one, right in our arms!

And the miracle of it all?  God chose to give this baby the same due date as Kalem.  The exact same day.  There's 365 days in a year, but He chose March 30th!  Out of an entire year.  Tell me that isn't amazing.

This Thanksgiving, I'm so thankful for our baby.  There are many other blessings, but how could I not fall in love with this tiny human who will be my baby sibling?

My parents found out the gender last week and announced it by buying silly spray in the color.  The cans were unmarked, so we had no clue!  Girls sat on one couch, boys on another, and we had a countdown.  I'll leave you to find out what happened.  =)

I'm so happy!!!  But I'll wrap up this post before I drag on too long.  =)  If you're wondering about names, that takes a while to figure out.  It has to be perfect, after all.  But, for now, my 3 year old sister dubbed her Baby Raspberry.  So that will have to do until we pick a more permanent name.  =)

What are you thankful for?  What verse/passage has stood out to you recently?  I'd be thrilled to hear about your own special blessings in life and the Thanksgiving celebration you had.  =)  Or if you didn't celebrate, how has God been blessing you during this upcoming Christmas season?

I'm thankful for every one of you!



Nov 21, 2017

Project Love || Remembering

I was taking a test.  My hand shook so much that I could barely sign my name.  The computer booted up, and my heart pounded as I waited for the instructor to sign me in.  And then it was time.  The words stared at me, waiting, watching.  Start this exam.

And then I was staring at a different computer screen.  This time I was trying to hold back the tears that burned in my eyes.  A friend typed on, telling me how happy she was to have a new baby sibling.  I pretended to rejoice.  She thought I was glad.  But the tears slipped down as I wondered why she had a baby when ours was never born.

Another friend was hurting.  Her daddy was dying before her eyes, and there was nothing they could do.  She had to watch her little sisters fall apart as their protector become too weak to go to work.  And then too weak to get out of bed.

The days passed on.  As a weekend rolled around, I found my face covered in stage make-up.  Actors rushed around me to their spots as my fingers grew cold.  There in front of me was the red curtain.  In one second it would open up.  Would I forget my lines?  Or do something embarrassing?  What if...?

But day turns around to night.  As I lay in bed snuggling under the warm blankets each night, I remember.

I see the testing screen, but I remember how God led me through and helped me pass the exam.  I feel the dull ache from past tears, but I remember that God had a purpose and brings healing.  I look back on my friend's pain and smile to think of the day when her father was healed and took the first step to complete recovery.  And I can almost hear the applause after a performance finished and feel the hugs from fellow actresses as we rejoiced in a beautiful success.

Because life is hard.  And it hurts.  Sometimes there aren't answers.  We fail or look silly or lose someone we love.

But remembering is so important.

Faith doesn't only come when we're free from doubt.  Faith comes when we choose to believe - to be loyal - despite our uncertainty.  

Last week I shared a verse that continues to ring true.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord. 
- Lamentations 3:25-26

 This week and in the ones to follow, I am focusing on the area of prayer.  If we love the Lord with all our heart, won't prayer be a natural instinct?  Won't it pour from our lips as a response to a passionate relationship?

Step #1 is remembering.  Sometimes we must step away from life and fix our eyes upon Jesus.  We must choose to quietly wait for God and have faith even amidst the doubt.

My friend Sarah mentioned this in a comment, and how relevant it is!

It's hard to just pause to look at God's goodness in the midst of life, but it's important to do so... sometimes when we get really busy, or when we simply don't take time to dwell on His goodness, then it's good just to sit still and close our eyes and think about Him.

This is my challenge for you.  Let's think about His goodness and praise Him for His love.  Sing, or dance, or sit still, or just stare at the stars.  Whatever it is, I want to remember how God pulled us through the hard times.  When we were broken, He healed us.  When we were scared, He brought comfort.

And I'd be thrilled to hear from you, dear friends!  When has God been strong in your life?  What miracles or moments are especially sweet for you to recall?  If life is hard right now, are you going to have faith despite the doubts?

On Friday, I hope to share one exciting snippet from my life that I'm thankful for.  And then perhaps we can continue to dive into other aspects of prayer and loving God.  Until then, let's praise God by remembering.


Nov 14, 2017

Lessons from Tech Week

Dear Readers,

I promised today to update you on life, but I can't seem to.  I'm still struggling to get over post show depression (PSD).  It's a real thing.  It hurts when you leave your cast friends after being together for so long.  Even knowing that you'll see them again doesn't help.  So many "lasts."  I miss my Anne of Green Gables family.

But I don't want to sit here in tears.  This week was crazy.  It was emotionally draining, painful, and stressful.  But it was also exciting, joyful, and beautiful.  Even in the rough times, God was there.  So here's what I learned this week, despite the hard moments.

And, for those of you who weren't able to travel up here for the performance, I'm including some cast photos.  I hope they give you a little glimpse into the amazing people I was able to be with during this fall production.

Me, Anne, and Marilla

God's Ready to Encourage Us

Before the performances started, I was becoming nervous.  I'm not a natural actress.  I don't like audiences, I don't like performing, and I'm afraid to mess up.  But at one point I randomly read a passage in the Message Bible that was such a source of encouragement.  And it came from a very unappreciated passage.  If you're struggling, I encourage you to read the entire chapter.  What a precious reminder.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all - oh, how well I remember -
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
His merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
- Lamentations 3:19-26 MSG 

Schoolboys (including Moody, Gilbert, and Charley)

God can do Miracles

Our Monday practice ended up with us setting the stage and props.  Basically, I spent the whole time putting up wallpaper with some other friends.  The next day, all the wallpaper had fallen off.  And then our practice was terrible.  We missed entrances, forgot props, and basically ruined everything.  My family got home around 11:00 PM, and I was ready to give up on the play altogether.

In the morning, I didn't even want to wake up.  I was drained.  Discouraged.  But I asked an online group of Christian girls to pray for us, and, right before the practice, I grabbed a friend and a little sister to pray together with me.  God worked!  The practice wasn't perfect by any degree, but things weren't stressful like they had been.  We enjoyed it.  And, when the shows came along, prayer continued to make a huge difference.  The entire cast would hold hands and pray together.  It was beautiful.

Me as Mattie Cuthbert

God Works in our Weaknesses

I'm a naturally quiet-voiced person.  All the vocal projecting began to wear on my voice, and every day it got a bit worse.  When our second performance came along (Saturday), I was at my limit.  I stepped on stage for one scene, and my voice almost completely left.

When I finished squeaking out my lines, I went backstage in a panic.  My emotions were everywhere.  The show would be ruined because I couldn't even find a voice!!  I was nearly in tears, asking God why this had to happen.  Why me?  Why now?

But when I felt torn apart, He held me together.  Our sweet backstage helper offered cough drops, and I made it through the show.  Even though my stress levels were flying, we did it.  No, God did it.  It was a great performance.  Because when we are weak, He is strong.

Diana, Anne, and Gilbert

People are Deeper

When we see people, they only show us the side they want us to see.  But in Anne of Green Gables tech week, I was able to see some of their true sides.  We were like family.  I saw them when they were stressed and ready to give up.  I saw girls who smiled and offered constant encouragement.  We laughed together.  We nearly cried together.  We threw baby-powder in each other's hair to make us look like old ladies.  We teased each other in the mess-ups but only loved more.  Because we all messed up.  We were all stressed.  But it was like family.  It showed me that people are more than strangers or friends.  They have problems and mars, and they mess up.  But they're beautiful too.

So yes, I miss what we had.  I miss my Anne of Green Gables family.  But God showed me so much through the long, tiring week.  I could go on and on about each show, the special moments, the many things that touched me.  But instead, I'll pause here.

Embrace every moment because they slip by so quickly.  And if you're struggling, remember that He's always strong.

Even when it hurts
Even when it's hard
Even when it all just falls apart
...You steady my heart.
- Steady My Heart by Kari Jobe


Nov 7, 2017

Quick Thoughts

Dear Readers,

As I'm writing this on Monday, it's the first day of Tech Week for the play I'm in.  For you non-theater people, Tech Week consists of practices every day until performing the final showcases.  So yes, lots of work, make-up, costumes, mess-ups, laughter, relationships, and memories in the making.  I'm so excited (and a little nervous).  =)

But, because of that, I'm going to keep this post short, and I won't respond to comments until next week.  I'll see you back next Tuesday for some updates in life and maybe photos.

I'll miss you all.  Remember that you are loved and treasured.  God rejoices over you with gladness and quiets you by His love (Zephaniah 3:17).  Life's hard, but He's bigger.

If you haven't noticed, I took some time last week to redesign my blog, as it's been more than a year since I last did that.  (thanks to my friend Alea who helped me immensely!)  If you haven't seen the new look, here it is.  =)

I'll leave you with some challenging words from Oswald Chambers that seem to add onto Project Love.  Keep running the good race, my friends.

In Christ Alone,

Obedience or Independence?

If you love Me, keep My commandments.    John 14:15

Our Lord never insists on obedience. He stresses very definitely what we ought to do, but He never forces us to do it. We have to obey Him out of a oneness of spirit with Him. That is why whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He prefaced it with an "If," meaning, "You do not need to do this unless you desire to do so."  "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…" (Luke 9:23). In other words, "To be My disciple, let him give up his right to himself to Me." Our Lord is not talking about our eternal position, but about our being of value to Him in this life here and now. That is why He sounds so stern (see Luke 14:26). Never try to make sense from these words by separating them from the One who spoke them.

The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself. Jesus Christ will not force me to obey Him, but I must. And as soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small, petty happenings, altogether insignificant. But if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. Then, when I stand face to face with God, I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When God’s redemption brings a human soul to the point of obedience, it always produces. If I obey Jesus Christ, the redemption of God will flow through me to the lives of others, because behind the deed of obedience is the reality of Almighty God.

 from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Oct 31, 2017

The Giver movie review

The Giver centers on Jonas, a young man who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Yet as he begins to spend time with The Giver, who is the sole keeper of all the community's memories, Jonas quickly begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community's secret past. With this newfound power of knowledge, he realizes that the stakes are higher than imagined - a matter of life and death for himself and those he loves most. At extreme odds, Jonas knows that he must escape their world to protect them all - a challenge that no one has ever succeeded at before. The Giver is based on Lois Lowry's beloved young adult novel of the same name, which was the winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal.


97 Minutes
By the Weinstein Company
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Rated: PG-13
Released: 2014

Negative Elements:

Well, first of all, I didn't realize that this was a PG-13 makes me feel a little less inclined to share it. I personally didn't have a problem with anything, but there were some elements you might find uncomfortable.

Some of my family members don't like The Giver at all. They say the plot and story-line is weird. This movie is either a completely like or dislike story, I suppose. =) We're still debating who's right.

But there are no bad words, and the main "iffy" content is violence. (spoilers in white) One character sees scenes of war, gunshots all around him, and death. Someone beside him falls dead with his eyes open, and the character looks down, not realizing what death really is. Yes, it's kinda gruesome. (just one quick scene though.) The movie also shows people shooting at a elephant. The last violent thing to mention is a quiet scene. The community has a practice of euthanizing too-small babies and older adults. One scene shows this discreetly as a man puts a needle into a baby's head (not knowing that the "sleep" is actually death). Another girl almost gets the same fate.

End of spoiler.

So yes, there is violence and death. And while I don't appreciate that part of the movie, it did help me fully realize the truth of The Giver: Despite the pain, the sorrow, and the hardness of the world we live in, life is beautiful.

My Review:

Our family has some controversy about The Giver. =) Most of us will readily agree that it's one of our favorite movies. The others say that it's just weird. So...feel free to choose where you stand. But because I'm writing this review, I give it at least 4.5 stars.

The Giver isn't a Christian movie. It doesn't mention God at all. But the theme of this movie never fails to make me at loss for the beauty God has made. Let me see if I can explain without too many spoilers.

The elders of the land have decided to make a perfect world without pain, famine, war, and jealousy. But as they took those qualities out of life, they also took emotion, beauty, color, music, and love. The world is left with a black and white land of ordinary people doing ordinary things in a world of sameness. The world is better because of these improvements...right? But as one young man begins to receive memories of the past, he sees things in a new way. For the first time, he sees the beauty in life.

After watching The Giver, I'm always amazed. I can't look at the world the same. We have color! We have music! We have emotion and love and joy and friendship! Of course pain hurts and life is difficult. But look at the gifts God has given us. Seriously. We are so very blessed. The day after watching the movie, I always see things differently. I can't help but praise God for everything. Creation displays His glory. I'm so thankful.

Although this is a very unique story-line, and some might consider it "weird", it's one of my favorite movies. It's sad and shows the real pain of life, but it reminds me of the splendor of creation. God is always good. We are so very loved.

Other Notes:

If you're considering watching The Giver, I would recommend glancing over this review. Plugged In is a great site to get honest reviews for movies. They may have mentioned some things I didn't because they didn't stand out to me. (or they weren't prominent in the movie) Because this is a PG-13 movie, be aware of the violence and negative elements.

But I do look forward to seeing it again. The Giver helped me see the beauty of life. It's not a Christian movie, but it helps me see His love more clearly.  I hope it does the same for you.

Oct 24, 2017

Behind Life's Curtains

In an hour, I'm going to go to yet another practice for our play Anne of Green Gables.  We'll spend two hours together trying to finalize the first act.  And, in three weeks, we'll be on stage performing the final showcase before an audience.

There's something the audience will never know.  They'll see the mastered play (hopefully, haha), the colorful costumes, and the story we'll portray.  They might be excited or amazed by the acting.  They might enjoy it.

But they won't know what happens behind stage.  The audience won't see the friendships built over months of practicing.  They won't know the silly blunders and embarrassing mistakes we've made.  And they won't know that only weeks before the performance, we didn't even have our lines memorized.

They'll see a play.  They'll go home.  And they'll continue living life.

Sometimes, I think that's what we do too.

We get busy.  We live life, whatever that includes.  Each day fades away as we move on to another.  Then another.

But there's more.  Life holds something beautiful that we often miss.  We spend so much time working to staying on top of our schedules (or catching up on what we've missed) that we fail to see that there's a deeper meaning to life behind the red curtains.

Jesus shares something similar in one of His parables.

Then He said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade." - Mark 4:30-32

Sometimes we're like that mustard seed.  We feel small and unimportant.  But if we stop there, we'll miss the entire point: our job is to grow into something more.

I want to change the world and make a difference in someone's life.  But sometimes I feel like a seed.  I sit here in my safe house and do safe, mundane things.  I write school papers while the stories on my heart sit in silence.  I do chores and practice plays and singing and other activities.  And then I go to bed after another day and wonder, "did it really matter?"

We see the play, but we miss the wonder behind stage.

Dear friend, sometimes we aren't called to change the world the way we think we are.  We don't have to become the next best-selling author to make a difference.  We don't have to have a thousand followers to change a life.

We must be faithful with what we have.

The smallest word can brighten a someone's day.  A smile can make someone realize that they're not alone.  A comment, share, hug, gift, or verse can change a life.

Maybe we're the person in the parable of the talents who was only given two talents.  (read here)  But we can't sit here and wonder why we don't have something more.  We must use what God's given us so that we can hear His wondrous words,

"Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." - Matthew 25:23

And that's enough.  Imagine finishing life and hearing your Savior's voice beckoning you forward.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.  He would wrap His arms around you, pull you towards His heart, and keep you there, safe and secure in His Love.  Would you need anything else?

It's easy to become discouraged with where you are in life.  It's easy to want what someone else has instead of realizing the beauty you already have.  But remember this:  God has a plan for your future.  He knows your desires and hopes and has something even more wonderful.  It might not be what you expect, but it's perfect.  (see Jeremiah 29:11-12)

But if He's convicting you to do more or life radically, don't push it aside.  His plan is wonderful, but you must follow His leading.  Be faithful with your talents, whether you have one or two or five.  God can use even the little things in life to make a difference.

Love Him in the busyness.  Love Him in the mundane.  Love Him in the hard times. And remember that He has a plan.  Follow.

Even though it can be messy behind stage, God has a wonderful play in the making.

Oct 17, 2017

When Life Becomes Crazy

So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
  - Psalm 90:12

I have an hour to write this blog post.  Life has been really busy, but I use that excuse too often.

I'm tired of feeling behind, of apologizing for late responses, of not feeling dedicated to what is most important.  I'm tired of telling my little sister that I'm too busy to play dolls with her.  And I'm tired of not being completely dedicated to God's agenda.

That's the problem, isn't it?  Life is always my agenda vs. God's.  The problem is, I usually let myself win.

But I don't want to sit here and complain.  (which would be ironic considering my last few posts)  ;)  My goal isn't to make you see how crazy my life is and to offer excuses for why I haven't been responding to blog comments.  But I do know that many of you can relate with this problem.  You're busy, pressed for time, and wondering if it's possible to live in joy with your eyes upon Jesus.

My family was reading Mark 6 this week, and there were several interesting comments.  Actually, they're just now starting to connect in my head, so bear with me as I try to share this.  =)

In Mark 6:7-12, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and gives them power.  (I recommend you take time to read the entire passage if possible.)  They travel all over the place, casting out demons and healing the sick.  They are doing the unimaginable!

But when they come back to Jesus, they're tired.  So Jesus offers a break.

And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  - Mark 6:31

Guess what happens?  They row across the sea to a nice, deserted place.  But instead of taking a nap, they end up feeding five thousand people who follow them.  And after all that craziness is over, they row back across the sea and encounter a storm.  Finally, they reach land and immediately people recognize Jesus and bring him sick people on beds.

Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. - Mark 6:56

That's just the end of the chapter, but the story goes on.  (read here)

Don't you feel some pity for the exhausted group?  They just want to take a break and catch their breath.  Instead, life goes on like a roller coaster of ups and downs and lefts and rights.

Imagine what it must have been like.  Think of the disciples like Matthew.  He had been a tax collector who sat in a booth.  He probably wasn't fit and excited for more travelling, rowing, and activity.  

And fishermen don't seem like social people.  What did Peter, Andrew, James, and John think about being surrounded by crowds who wouldn't leave unless Jesus healed their sick?  Were they eager to run away and just be alone for enough time to eat in solitude?

But then I think of Jesus.  And I realize that the situation didn't matter.  It didn't rule His life.  It didn't dictate His emotions or attitudes.

Jesus fed the hungry people.  He healed the sick.  He even loved the people who sought Him for nothing more than personal gain.

Dear friend, it doesn't matter what storms we're trying to row out of.  It doesn't matter how big the waves are and how dark the sky is.

The stars are still shining.  And Jesus is still strong.

The situation doesn't determine us.  Temptation isn't a sin.  But what we do in the storm does matter.

Even if you're busy or sick or heart-broken or worried, remember that Jesus walks on water in the midst of the storms.  The waves mean nothing to Him.

Despite the busyness of life, we can thrive in His love.  We can have joy.

It's a decision.  Are you going to live today in a way that counts?  Or are you going to race against life and waste the minutes that slip by?

Live a life that counts, and never forget what Jesus said.

“Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid.” - Mark 6:50