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 memories...so 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,
Hosanna






















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.


Details:

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 movie...it 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




Oct 10, 2017

Rejoice in the Lord Always


Last week we went through the topic of complaining and discussed it together.  I shared two verses from Philippians.  The first says to do everything without complaining so that we may become blameless (Philippians 2:14-15).  But now I want to move on to specifically address the second verse.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!  - Philippians 4:4





Some of my family and I are watching The Passion of the Christ for the first time  (full review to come).  The movie portrays Jesus' death very realistically.  Yes, it's gory...but last night as I lay in bed, I started to see more of what Love meant.

Jesus went through so much for us.  He literally was torn apart through the worst torture.  Isaiah wrote that, "His visage was marred more than any man."  (Isaiah 52:14)  Jesus allowed men to spit in His face, and He experienced tremendous shame.  Honor was a very big deal in that time, and He let go of everything to become the lowest of the low all because of Love.

That Love is amazing.  It's beyond imagination, and we can never completely grasp it.

I know that life can be difficult.  I know that some of you have messed-up homes, busy schedules, and broken hearts.  But because of Love, we still have a reason to rejoice.

One friend commented on last week's post and suggested that, "gratitude is the key to overcoming complaining. Whenever we have thoughts or words of complaint we need to turn it around and be grateful!"

The book of Psalms is full of disaster, trial, persecution, and more.  But the psalmist ends with praise.  In the storms, he sees beauty.  In the brokenness, he sees hope.

This week I want to put rejoicing into practice.  If we can combat complaining with gratitude, then why would we hold onto negativity?

Let's start by sharing how God has been strong in your life.  What blessings has He brought your way?  How has He used others to encourage and inspire you?  And how are you going to rejoice and praise Him in return?

And then take a Psalm and make it your own prayer of praise to God.  Thank Him for His goodness and inspire to be a pen in His hand so He can write your life story.  Dance or sing or write or laugh - let's practice rejoicing!





Bless the Lord, O my soul;  And all that is within me, bless His holy name! - Psalm 103:1

Oct 3, 2017

Without Complaining...


Thank you to everyone who shared their insight in my last post's form!  I have been reading over them, and I appreciate the time you took to share your perspective.  If you weren't able to fill out the form, you can do so here.




I've been in the company of unbelievers a lot this semester, due to being out in the community more often. (aka: school, soccer practice, plays, etc.)  So far, I've noticed a familiar trend:

Complaining.

It's unusual to not hear something like, "such terrible weather" or "I have the worst brothers".  People complain about everything:  where they have to eat tonight, how terrible so-and-so is, and how wrong their day is turning out.  They say they're too busy, too hungry, too clumsy, or not good enough.

What's even worse is that Christians often join in.  They nod along or add their own complaints.  More often than not, they start the muttering.

That's true in my own life too.  It's easier to complain than to rejoice.  How can I find something to smile about in my math?  Or when a sibling is too loud?

But let's put this into perspective.

The Creator of the universe gave up what was most precious to Him to save us (John 3:16).  He loves us and has adopted us into His royal family (Galatians 3:26).  We don't have to fear death or evil because He has won the battle (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)!

And we complain about the weather?

When we whine about our circumstances, we're saying that God's not doing a good job.  We think we could do better.  How self-centered can we be?!

If we want to have a relationship with God, let's praise Him for everything.  Let's see beauty in the brokenness.  Yes, it's hot outside - but the sun is shining!  Yes, school is hard - but we have the chance to learn!

Life isn't all sunshine and roses, but there's beauty even in the storms.  (Just read the book of Psalms!)

As Philippians says, 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. - Philippians 2:14-15

And later...

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! - Philippians 4:4

I want to pause here before I talk too long.  Instead of diving into a long, detailed post, let's have some discussion and hear your thoughts.

How can you love God by erasing complaining from your life?  What are some practical ways in which we can rejoice instead of whine?  Is being joyful at all times an impossible goal?  Is this something you struggle with?

Complaining ruins relationships - both with God and others.  So let's not only keep our mouths shut against complaining but also replace it with something else.  Let's be people of encouragement and thankfulness.

It's your turn.




Sep 26, 2017

Return to Project Love























Dear Reader,

I don't know how to tell you what I really want to say.  As a writer, I want to share a piece of my heart with you through these words.  But I'm inadequate.  And I fall short so often.

Thus, I'll break the rules of writing and tell instead of show you what I want to say.

God is so very amazing.

When I have a stressful, busy day, His love still shines.  When I'm alone in a room of people who trample His Name, He is strong.  When I want to curl up and cry, to run away from the world and not let it see my weakness, He is my Tower of Protection.  He's the Friend who never leaves me.  He's the One who knows my heart and loves me just the same.

I'm always overwhelmed:  either by the world or by His beauty.

If I take my eyes off Jesus, I grow restless, scared, and broken.  Oh, but how wonderful it is when you,

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, 
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."  - The Heavenly Vision by Helen H. Lemmel

I want to have heavenly vision.  I want to have an eternal perspective.  And I want to be constantly overwhelmed by His beauty.  But there's a problem:  I don't.

I fail more than I succeed.  I get impatient, frustrated, stressed.  The Christian life is supposed to be one of courage and strength.  Shouldn't we be like Joshua, David, Daniel, Esther, and all the others?  What did they have that we don't?  I know that there's more to life than the "christianity" that  many of us have.

And I want that.  I want more.

Christianity today seems to focus on the wrong areas.  We know what the Bible says, and we've already "asked Jesus into our hearts."  We expect Him to somehow bring us the fruit of the spirit and turn our lives into something epic.  And we think that if we do our part (go to church, read our Bibles, pray, etc.), then it's His job to give us the life we want.

And while there's some slight truth to these beliefs, we often fall short of what truly matters.

I've said this before, but it encompasses everything I want you to hear.

Christianity is not a religion.  It's a relationship.

 I want a stronger relationship with God.  I want Him to be my all.  I want to obey the greatest command in the Bible:

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

God said that we will find Him when we search for Him with all our heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13)

But what does that look like?  How can we love God with all?  How can we stop going through the motions and develop a true relationship with God?

I don't know.  I wish I could give you an answer and claim that I have this down.  But I don't.

That's why we're going to return to Project Love.  We're going to discover how to love God with every area of our life - not because we're supposed to but because we want to love Him more.  We're going to be open with each other and let go of distractions in order to gain so much more.

We saw a glimpse of this during the summer, but I want to dive in further to Project Love.  I have no clue where this will lead.  I don't know what to say to encourage you or even how we can attempt to do this.  Truthfully, in our own strength we can't do anything.  So let's turn our eyes upon Jesus and let Him sweep us away.

If you're willing to join me, here's how we can get started:

  • Share your heart in the comments.  Let us grow together by discovering where you are and how we can be an encouragement to you.  Tell me how I can be praying for you.
  • Take a minute to prayerfully answer the questions below.  This will help me know where to start.
  • If you know someone who would be blessed by joining us, please invite them!  Become partners in this challenge, and encourage each other towards Jesus.

I love each and every one of you.  You've challenged me to go "further up and further in", to live radically, and to love others.  I'm so excited to press on together!


~♥~