He Will Be There for You

This is a mantra I’ve been chanting to myself over the past week or so. Things don’t always go as planned, and when disappointments arise I find myself asking “what, Lord? What do you want me to do in this situation? Was I assuming something wrong all along? What’s Your plan for my life—what should I be doing right now?”

This coming weekend, our homeschool group is holding their annual concert. It’s a time for families and individuals to share something—a piece of music they’ve learned, a short skit, a poem, or something along those lines. It’s a fun event, often going on for an hour and a half or more.

We first attended the concert five or six years ago. It was the first time in my life I’d ever been on stage, ready to say something to almost a hundred people, and I remember clearly the knee-shaky feeling as I stood there staring out over this group of almost-strangers. We sang four songs that time, songs that I had memorized but my brothers hadn’t had time to. It wasn’t that great, but we made it through—and what a relief to have it over with!

He’ll Be There for You 01

Being up on stage has gotten somewhat better since then. I now know almost everyone in the audience, and knowing in advance about stage fright has made it a little less frightening (funny how that works!). Still, as I prepare for another round, I often think back over the last few years. The hilarious skits we watched (or participated in), a few flunks, that time when several people were unintentionally mean…almost a microcosm of life, in some ways. There’s great, there’s bad, and as always just a bit of average. In the end, we all have an enjoyable time and are drawn together just a bit more as a group.

About two weeks ago, I picked out several songs to go along with a poem Mom suggested—What God Hath Promised by Annie Johnson Flint. We’ll be singing Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and My Ways Are Not Your Ways to go along with that.

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

I find the messages of these songs quite an irony now. Of course, I had no idea then what personal significance they would have for me, even though they’ve always been encouraging. But as I struggle with disappointment, I realize the Lord knew all along. He knew that I’d find the words strangely thrilling as I sing them over and over trying to memorize the songs.

You know, God never promised things would be easy for us. But He’s promised that whatever the trial, He’ll be with us. Sometimes, He calls us to walk with Him in the darkness, and often we can’t understand why (Psalm 22:1 would be an example). Sometimes, we can’t see Him—but by any even small examination of the Psalms, we can easily see that the Lord hears us. He understands, and more than that, He is worthy of our praise!

Consider Psalm 28:6-8, for example:

Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

He’ll Be There for You 02

Then there are other beautiful passages like Isaiah 43:2-3:

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.

Despite the pain, look to Jesus. Trust that He’s got a plan—a better plan—in place for you. You may be in the dark now, but He is your light. More than that, He understands and is more than willing to help you.

So this weekend, as we’re singing these songs and trying to be an encouragement to the dear friends who will be there, I’m praying that we will above all glorify the Lord. No matter what the future holds for any of us, He’s still there. As I was reading in Zechariah 2 this morning, He calls us “the apple of His eye” (I know, somewhat out of context…but it does apply, because just a few verses later we learn of “many nations being joined to the Lord”!).

Take courage, my friend. Stand in the strength the Lord has given you. I don’t know what you’re facing right now—perhaps, just maybe, you’re in a time of relative peace. Or maybe the devil seems to have all his guns out against you. I don’t know. But whatever is going on, know that if you’re truly following the Lord, this promise is for you: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

Jesus Never Fails

Several weeks ago, I remember sitting on my bed one morning crying out to the Lord for wisdom. A big decision lay in front of me, either choice likely to change my future. The unrest in my heart was tremendous, and all I could pray was “Lord, which way do I take?” I remember hearing a bird singing outside—one of those beautiful short melodies—and remember the disappointed feeling that washed over me as I realized I couldn’t enjoy it in that moment. I love God’s nature, I do, but at that moment the darkness was so deep that I couldn’t appreciate it the way I would have liked to.

Can you relate? I’m sure you probably can. And while situations like that aren’t fun, they’re also often a great way for the Lord to draw us closer to Him. That time was an intense time of Bible study and prayer for me, and He proved Himself faithful once again. Praise the Lord!

Violet 01

Since then, I’ve come across a few scriptures that have been a huge blessing to me.

Psalm 37:4-7

4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I’ve spent some time today getting a few reviews up on the website. This job isn’t the most interesting job ever—I’ve been known to complain to a friend before that my hands have to keep busy, but my mind isn’t needed for it! While that is not quite true, since I do have to make sure everything gets put where it needs to go, I do often have a recorded message or music playing in the background so I don’t get too bored. In times like this, I’m thankful for the entertainment and encouragement from guys like the Emmanuel Quartet. I don’t normally listen to a cappella music, but I really appreciate some of the songs in this recording. And it keeps me from going bonkers, so that’s a definite plus!

(Okay; I’ve tried to set the following video to start at the beginning of their 20-minute set, but it doesn’t appear to be cooperating. Since the entire video is 10 hours long, it apparently struggles to calculate 8 hours and 22 minutes exactly. Sorry!)

One of the songs in this set by Emmanuel Quartet (4th or 5th song, I believe) is about how Jesus never fails us…what a beautiful thought!

I took a break from the computer this afternoon, and wandered out behind my sleepout to check up on a chicken’s nest I spotted there yesterday. One of our loose hens decided to make a cozy nest under some of the tussock out there, and right now we need to keep tabs on it so we know when she starts sitting. There are currently six eggs in there, so it’ll probably be another week or so until that happens.

Eggs

We’re also expecting new chicks from another hen soon. Lambs are starting to pop up all over the place, and we have a new calf. The huge patch of violets behind my house are blooming right now. Everything’s coming alive again—any wonder that my favorite season is spring?

Violet 02

God is so good to us. On the dark days, even when you realize you’re struggling to appreciate the little things that normally give you joy, look to Him. Trust His word—whether you’re making a big decision or a minute one. He’s there watching, guiding, protecting and holding you. He loves you.

 

I’ll leave you with one final song, one that’s been a great encouragement to me lately.

Goodbye for Now

I’ve been debating whether or not to share this, but I’ve decided I will. Death eventually happens to all of us—as Ray Comfort likes to say, ten out of ten people die. Over the last few months, two good friends of ours, both older Christians, have gone on to glory. Here are my goodbyes to them.

The following was written the evening we heard of Barry’s passing on.

I knew, when the phone call came in at 9:45 that evening, what it would be—even before Mom hung up and told me the news. The time had come to say goodbye. It hurts. We’ve seen it coming for years, and yet the pain is still there. Saying goodbye to someone dear is one of the hardest things any of us can ever do.

He’s been a close friend—surrogate Grandfather—for almost six years now. We’ve grown to love him, he us, and although we’ve had many differences over the years I think it’s probably always been obvious that he brought things up out of love and concern for our spiritual well being.

Goodbye for Now 01

Picture taken in September 2010. Barry loved all things trains, and made several steam engines of his own. Here, he is showing one of them to us.

I will always lovingly remember his example, his unwavering truthfulness, and his commitment to Jesus. I’m going to miss his messages to us, his sincerity, and the reverence he paid to the Lord. Not just me; we’ll all miss him a lot. It’s going to be hard to go to church and know that he’ll never come through those doors again, briefcase in hand, ready to share his most recent findings in Ephesians. Or Hebrews, or Genesis—whatever portion of scripture has recently captivated his attention.

At the same time, I am so happy for him. He no longer has to endure the intense pain from his many illnesses, no longer has to go through surgeries or see specialists he doesn’t want to see. No longer does he have to worry about his health and feeble body. He has gone to rest, a soldier of the cross to the very end.

There are some things I wish I could have said to him, some things I’m glad I told him. As a brother in the Lord, a teacher of the flock, and grandfather to more than just his family, he will be missed by many.

Goodbye, Barry. I’ll see you on the other shore.

Goodbye for Now 02

My sermon notes from the last message Barry shared. Looking back, it was incredible to realize what his last testimony to his church family contained. He was so happy then, even though he had been so sick. God was definitely with him the last few days and weeks he had on this earth.

My goodbye to another friend, Daryl.

It came as a shock that he was sick. We had seen him not too long before, healthy, happy, trusting his Lord. He had come up one Sunday morning to worship with us, and we had had a sweet time of fellowship—the kind that only can come between fellow believers. That day, we practiced the John 13 admonition to “wash one another’s feet”, something that I had never had the privilege to participate in although I was familiar with it from the believers we worshiped with in the States. It was a precious bonding day.

Now he was sick, and no one knew if he’d pull out of it or not. Then came the news that the family had to move, but thankfully they didn’t have to go far. Dad and my brothers went to help him butcher a few sheep, and when they came back we were saddened to learn how much worse his condition had gotten since our last meeting.

Soon, he was even worse. We visited briefly a couple times. The last time we saw him was a week and a half before he died. He was still the caring, loving man we had always known. Despite his condition and the fact that he was getting quite tired, he asked my brothers what they had been creating the last while. He still cared about our lives—even when his body was giving out. We prayed together one last time, although none of us knew then that it would be the last. We all hoped and prayed fervently that he would be healed. He had become a good friend to all of us.

Not long after, we heard that he had gone to glory. A terrible blow to the family, and one that rippled through all of us as well. He touched many lives. He gave himself tirelessly to point everyone to Jesus, even when he was sick. He will be missed—even by those of us who haven’t known him very long. He was a prayer warrior—a faith warrior—to the end.

Goodbye, Daryl. You will be sorely missed, but your legacy, your faith, your example, will not be forgotten by us.

Guy/Girl Relationships: An Aha! Moment

These last few days, I’ve been really wondering what a Biblical perspective for guy/girl relationships is. How are we girls supposed to treat guys? Is it possible to be friends with a guy, and yet not have to worry about coming across as romantically interested when all you intend to do is simply be a friend? For me, it hasn’t been that hard to be friends with other girls. Yes, I’m always nervous when I meet new people, and am generally pretty quiet until I get to know them better. But I’ve never really had the chance to be friends with guys, probably at least partly due to the fact that I’m always worried that I’ll come across in a different way than I intend to.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this, and while I’m sure I don’t have the entire answer yet, I think I’ve found the key to the solution.

My problem is that I’ve always imagined friendships with guys with the view of them being possible future marriage partners. Never simply as “friends”.

Guy/Girl Relationships

From what I can see, these are two completely different friendships—the one with my girlfriends is mostly about being a blessing to them, listening when they have struggles, sharing struggles of your own, being together and talking about everything under the sun. However, what I’ve always imagined in a guy’s friendship is mostly stuff centered around romance and marriage. How selfish and pointless is that?

I think what’s happened is that I’ve unconsciously bought into a lie—and I’ll explain that in a moment.

I’ve got an older friend (and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this!) that made a bad decision in her younger years. She went against the advice of her friends and family, and many years later realized her mistake and tried to correct it. However, from what I read in the Bible, her method of correcting the situation was wrong. That fact aside, she’s since told me that in effect, you should do what you deem is right, no matter what others say. That you should follow your heart no matter what the outcome will be, instead of leading your heart.

From what I’ve heard from modern music, TV, blogs, movies, the internet, and other sources (intentionally or not), I believe this is a modern worldly view. Modern media is pushing the thought that girls’ relationships with guys (and vice versa) can never be simply friendships. It’s okay to have lots of friends in your own gender, but if you cross over into the other gender, that most likely means that you’re interested in dating or going out with them.

The sad thing is, it’s so prevalent that I have unconsciously accepted that as truth. That I can’t have simple friendships with guys without having a “purpose” behind that friendship.

This is not only a lie, but it’s dangerous. And completely unbiblical.

A pertinent verse that comes to mind on this subject is one from 1 Timothy 5:1-2: “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethrenThe elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (emphasis mine)

Taken at face value, this literally means we girls should treat younger men as if they were our brothers, and for the guys to treat younger women as if they are their sisters. Note that nothing is said like “but it’s best if you’re only friends with those of your own gender.” The only stipulation is that you treat them “with all purity”. That would apply to both parties, I believe.

For me, this is revolutionary—that it is okay to simply be friends. Of course, we still have to be careful in our friendships. We still have to be aware that others may see and interpret our words and actions differently than we do. But if we keep to treating everyone “with all purity”, in Christ’s love, be sober minded (yes, I’m talking to myself), and continually commit every friendship to the Lord—whether it be within our own gender or not—we should be alright.

Oh, and sober minded? Different definitions could include self-controlled, wise, discreet, or sensible.

Here are two other helpful passages as well:

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” —1 Timothy 4:12–16

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”—Titus 2:4–8

God’s Perfection in Mathematics

One evening about a month ago, my six-year-old brother asked a question that was designed to stump the oldest of us. “What’s fifty times fifty?” He loves starting with the hardest number to multiply that he can fathom, and then multiply that by itself, the new number by itself again, and keep going—until even the calculator groans and returns an E+, ‘Overflow’, or simply starts showing uninterpretable decimals.

Squares 01

But since fifty times fifty isn’t too big, I set it up on the whiteboard for him and gave him the answer. “Two thousand five hundred.”

“So…what’s forty times forty?”

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went from there, but we ended up calculating several squares in the 47-52 range. After looking at the ones on the board, I suddenly wondered if there was a pattern. If we could possibly predict the next one.

472 = 2,209
482 = 2,304 (difference from 472: 95)
492 = 2,401 (difference from 482: 97)
502 = 2,500 (difference from 492: 99)
512 = 2,601 (difference from 502: 101)
522 = 2,704 (difference from 512: 103)

If there is a pattern, 532 should be 522 plus 105. It is—2,809.

After this, Mom went back to 1 and wrote down the squares of the first 12 numbers, to see if they followed the same pattern.

Squares 02

Should give you an idea of what she did. The differences are the bottom row of numbers.

They do. Each difference is precisely two numbers greater than the last one. Incredible, isn’t it? And while it’s amazing, we also realize that God has known all along and He made it that way for a reason.

So there’s your math lesson for the day. A terribly impractical, but undeniably fascinating pattern.

The Flow of History

If there’s one thing I remember doing in my earliest memories, it would be having our family worship time. Although the times of day when we do it has changed over the years, it’s an every day occurrence aside from Sundays. I only remember one time when we’ve actually missed having it, and that was not on purpose, believe me! This is a long-standing tradition, one that I’m sure will never stop, even after all of us children eventually leave home.

01: Flow of History

I really respect my dad for keeping it up all these years. It can’t be easy for him; often he’s had long days at work and he’s physically drained, but he always makes sure that we have our Bible time.Over the years, we’ve done at least two almost cover-to-cover read-throughs of the Bible (we’ve skipped some of the genealogies—the younger children have a hard time reading, let alone understanding, all the names!). I can’t remember exactly when we started the last read-through, but it was probably a year or two ago. We got up to 1 Kings 7 by October last year, then Dad decided to switch to Blue Letter Bible’s Chronological reading plan. Reading the Bible this way adds a whole new dimension to the stories and context, which makes it quite interesting! Currently, we’re reading in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah.

As we’ve been reading through Kings and Chronicles, I’ve noticed some interesting “threads” of history. I’m keeping track of those findings on slips of paper, and eventually I’ll transfer them into my journal for safe keeping. I thought I’d share them here today, since I find the similarities so interesting.

The Flow of History #1:

Taken from: II Kings 15, especially verses 9, 18, 24, and 28.

Zachariah, son of Jeroboam, king of Israel (not related to the first king of Israel; he was Jehu’s great-great grandson, according to the word of the Lord—see II Kings 10:30)

  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins (Jeroboam the son of Nebat was the first king of Israel, and this is who it is referring to)
  • Was conspired against and killed by Shallum (vs. 10; who was in turn killed a month later by Menahem)

Menahem, son of Gadi, king of Israel

  • Killed Shallum (who had killed Zachariah)
  • Died a natural death
  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins

Pekahiah, son of Menahem, king of Israel

  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins
  • Conspired against and killed (vs. 25)

Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel

  • Killed Pekahiah
  • Departed not from Jeroboam’s sins
  • Conspired against and killed by Hoshea the son of Elah (vs. 30)

IN CONCLUSION:

Jeroboam the son of Nebat set a precedent that was never overturned. He went down in history as the “man who made Israel to sin.” What precedent are YOU setting?

I found it fascinating that of the five kings in this chapter, all followed the sins of Jeroboam and four out of the five were conspired against and killed. Isn’t that interesting? Reminds me of Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

02: Flow of History

The Flow of History #2

Taken from: II Chronicles 21-29

Chapter 21: Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, who was the son of Asa, king of Judah (the latter two followed the Lord)

  • His mother’s name is not mentioned
  • Married Ahab’s daughter (21:6)
  • Compelled Judah to sin (21:11)

Chapter 22: Ahaziah, youngest son of Jehoram, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Athaliah (22:2; we find out later in the chapter that she killed all her grandsons so she could reign over Judah)
  • Walked in the ways of Ahab (an evil king of Israel; 22:3)

Chapter 24: Joash, son of Ahaziah, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Zibiah (24:1)
  • Did that which was right all the years that Jehoiada the priest was alive (24:2)

Chapter 25: Amaziah, son of Joash, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Jehoaddan (25:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (25:2)

Chapter 26: Uzziah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah

  • Mother’s name was Jecoliah (26:3)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (26:4-5)

Chapter 27: Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah

  • Mother was Jerushah (27:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not perfectly (27:2)

Chapter 28: Ahaz, son of Jotham, king of Judah

  • No mother named
  • Provoked the Lord God to anger (28:25)

Chapter 29: Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah (one of the most righteous kings in Judaean king history; he prayed for deliverance from the Assyrians and the Lord defeated the army)

  • Mother’s name was Abijah (29:1)
  • Did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that king David had done (29:2)

IN CONCLUSION:

The Godly mothers are named for the kings that followed the Lord. Only one evil king out of the three mentioned had his mother named, and that was because everyone knew how evil she was. We are all examples to someone, just as these mothers were to their sons. What kind of example are you setting before your coworkers, your siblings, your children, or others that you come in contact with on a frequent basis? What kind of Godly influence are YOU?

Indeed, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

Be blessed, friend. Live for Jesus today.
-Esther

The Mystery Object: Can You Help?

One evening this week, my ten year old brother was searching through my sixteen year old brother’s things, trying to find a lost wallet. I don’t know if he ended up finding the wallet or not, but he did discover something fascinating—an old metal thing, with the name “Nat” inscribed on the outside, and a tiny picture of a man on the inside. It is about 15 mm in diameter, so pretty tiny!

Mystery Object 01

There is nothing on the outside edge that would have made it possible to put on a necklace (no little loops or anything), and it wasn’t made to snap onto clothing as a button—we tried that out, and it didn’t work.

Mystery Object 02

I asked my brothers how they had found it, and the older brother said he had seen something shiny in the garden while he was cultivating, and picked it up. It was covered in dirt, so he soaked it in water and then cleaned it off. Afterward, he put it in with his other odds and ends, and forgot about it.

Then our younger brother was looking for his wallet, and found it—and seeing that it was made up of two different pieces, tried to open it! After prying it apart, this is what he found. In an attempt to find out who the man was, the boys popped his picture out to see if there were words underneath, but there were none—and in the process of putting it back in, some of the picture flaked off. They decided we ought to take a photograph of it before it gets any worse!

Mystery Object 03

Have you seen anything like this before? Do you know what it could be? None of us can figure any more out than what has already been stated.


In other news, I’m working on writing a guest post for my cousin Kendra Stamy at A Proverbs 31 Wife. So far, the task has proven challenging, but I’m enjoying it. Lots of interesting thoughts coming out about books and why we read what we read. Praying that I’ll be able to encourage someone through this opportunity! I’ll share the link on here once the post is published.

Also, I’ve been working on memorizing Psalm 67 the last two weeks. So far, so good—almost through the chapter now. I did get a little stuck on verse four, but I think I’m getting it. Just need to remember that verses three and five are exactly the same, and get six and seven down pat yet. I’m getting there!

Memorising Psalm 67:4

I decided to put the verse on my computer desktop until I get it memorized, so I won’t forget to practice it.

I also need to get this month’s newsletter written and sent. AFTER the guest post is written! I need to send out the last giveaway prize today—just heard back from the last winner this morning—and then that job will be done. 🙂 There are a couple other emails related to the giveaway that need replies yet, but they’ll be taken care of soon.

And along with all of that, I’m trying to ignore the insistent summons from a recent fascinating story, The Destiny of a Few by Sarah Holman, to finish reading it. Hey, I just got on Amazon to get a link for you, and I see that the Kindle version is currently free! Get it now if you can! I’m about halfway through the book, and thoroughly enjoying the adventure, even though I don’t completely agree with some of the views put forward in the book. If I can hold out until my work for today is done, then I can indulge in reading. I think.

Hope you’re having a great day, and if you have any ideas about what this mystery object is, my brothers and I would be glad to hear your thoughts.

Hello, Winter! (and Giveaway Winners)

Hello, winter, what a surprise!
Icicles blooming before our eyes!

Well, not quite like that. But the heavy frost did come as a surprise to me yesterday morning.

Hello, Winter! 01

We’ve had skirmishes with frost the last couple weeks, little touches announcing that the hard one is on the way, but up until now we haven’t had anything serious. It’s been chilly, yes, but not quite to the point of freezing.

Hello, Winter! 02

The grass close to the sprinkler was heavily iced over. It made the most delightful crunch when stepped on!

Well, two nights ago it arrived. Mom woke up around 12:30, noticed that the air was pretty cold, and turned the sprinkler on. I woke up at 6, realized that my room felt like a freezer, turned my fan heater on, and went back to bed. I got up around 7 when the room was nice and toasty.

Hello, Winter! 03

The pumpkin leaves, beautifully encased in ice, looked almost like the plastic food look-a-likes you can buy at some stores.

Then came my morning routine–go in the house to get some hot coffee, and grab the overnight oatmeal with peaches that I had made the night before (you can’t beat pre-made breakfast!). After hearing how the water had been on for about seven hours, and seeing a sample of the icy coating on a pumpkin leaf someone had brought up, I decided that despite the fact that my coffee would get cold, I had to get a few pictures of the beauty out in our ice-encased garden.

Hello, Winter! 04

It was more beautiful than words or pictures can describe. I guess God’s creation is normally like that, but I rarely stop to just look and stand in awe.

Hello, Winter! 05

Hello, Winter! 06

Hello, Winter! 08

The most beautiful thing I saw in that half-hour out in God’s beautiful frozen paradise was the thistle flower. Showcased in a perfect sphere of ice.

Hello, Winter! 09

Hello, Winter! 10

The hollyhock was another favorite specimen.

Hello, Winter! 11

Hello, Winter! 12

I just have to wonder, looking at this…why does God choose to use cold to make such beauty? I don’t enjoy being cold. But yet, perhaps, sometimes He uses things like cold to draw us to Himself.

Hello, Winter! 13

The really interesting thing was–once the sun came out and melted away the ice, the plants looked perfectly fine. They hadn’t been frosted. The ice itself kept the plants from dying. There’s a scientific explanation for why this works under certain conditions, and I won’t go into it now. Suffice to say that for us, this was a fascinating experiment, and it was successful this time. If you want to read up on the technical side of why this works, go here.

Hello, Winter! 07

Last night, the sprinkler didn’t get turned on early enough, so we did get a little frost damage–it was almost as cold last night as the night before. And from the looks of it, we’ll be getting another good one tonight. But for now, I feel privileged to have been able to see the beauty in our garden, and ponder the spiritual allegories that could be derived from the experience.

And yes, by the time I was finished taking pictures about half an hour later, my coffee was quite cold. It did still taste good, though!

Hello, Winter! 14

The intricate ways God made this world are truly incredible!


And for the giveaway winners: Please join me in congratulating Bonnie S, Ashley S, Nancy T, Ross T, and Camy L for winning the One Year Celebration Giveaway! Congratulations, friends–and thank you, all of you, for participating. I wish I could send a prize to each of you, but I can’t. I am planning to host more giveaways just because they’re so fun, so hopefully if you didn’t win this time you can later. 🙂

What was your most memorable experience with ice?

God’s Surprises

This morning, I saw that this week’s five minute Friday prompt was the word “surprise”. Even though I’ve never done it before, I thought this would be a fun challenge, so below is my piece on the topic.

The rules: Write for five minutes straight, with no editing, on the topic given. Share online.

Easy enough . . . hopefully!

Bee on the Goldenrod

GO!

Surprises come in many different packages. Whether it’s your boss at work playing a prank on you, you sharing in a friends’ surprise party, or simply reading the Word and being surprised at its contents.

There are so many surprises in the world, and one thing that is often connected in my brain is the word surprise with the word mystery. Both are talked about in relation to God, and there’s that really fascinating verse by Paul, I think, that says the mysteries of God are now clearly seen—that’s butchered, I know, but you should get the drift.

I love that facet of His character. I love how there were (well, still are) mysteries about Him, but through Jesus coming here, living among us, Emmanuel, many mysteries have been cleared up. We can now understand the heart behind the old law, and yet there are so many things—threads—connecting both the old law and the new law.
Such as the oft-repeated command: “Obey my commandments, and you will have My blessing”—I’ve been noticing a lot of those in Numbers and Deuteronomy, and I know Jesus said that several times in John as well. That’s just one of the threads. The threads in His Word are fascinating! And there’s so many others, too!

STOP.

Beautiful flowers!

I didn’t quite finish the thought, so here it is—God’s surprises and mysteries come in many ways. Many mysteries are made understandable through the Word. And many of His surprises come through His Word (wow; I didn’t know this verse/that meaning was there!).

Another interesting related thought is that He promises we will be blessed if we follow His commands (John 14:15—“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”) His blessings come in many forms. Perhaps it isn’t even very obvious at times, but I’ve found that in genuinely trying to care for others—through His strength, because I can’t on my own!—I get blessed in return.

Well, I enjoyed that. I’ll have to do it again.

In more down-to-earth daily life, we’ve had a coolish week this last week. We’ve had some beautiful days, a couple rain days, and today was a bit of a hot day. Praise the Lord, we got about 40 mm of rain (1 ½ inches) about three days ago—much needed, and much prayed for!

Last evening, as we were preparing to have Bible time, I noticed the beautiful sunshine coming through the trees. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but that combined with the ever-sunny Jerusalem artichoke flowers was a gorgeous sight!

As I near the end of this week, I want to pause and take in the beauty around me, all the little surprises God has packed into each day. Whether it’s the sunset, the heart-melting grin of my little sister, or the little brother that wants a cuddle and a story. I want to take it in, and in return thank Him for each one.

I also want to continue to delve deeper, learn more, study Him—and ask Him to make me more like the daughter of God, the “moon” of His Son, that He wants me to be.

Do you have anything you’re wanting to focus on this weekend, and the coming week as we approach the Easter season?

P. S. Yes, I’m on Instagram now. Follow me here, if you like. 🙂

Where This Blog is Headed

(To change things up a bit and make it easier for you, I’ll start with the conclusion so you can get the gist of why I’m writing this post—and if you don’t have time for the other 1,000-some words, you’ll still know what’s going on.)

From now on, I’m going to be writing about the stuff that I find interesting. It might be my goals for the week, it might be what we’ve been doing lately, it might be just a random thought from the morning’s Bible study. And, perhaps sometimes, I’ll share a tip or resource I’ve recently found.

I’m not going to try to write for a particular audience. It will end up being mostly applicable to homeschool students/graduates, and maybe Moms at times. I just don’t want to keep writing about something I’m not 100% interested in—there are plenty of other things in my life that I do that I’m not putting my all into, and I don’t want to have to do that with this blog as well.

Where This Blog is Headed

Alright, here’s the reasoning behind this change:

If you haven’t figured this out already, I’ll tell you now: I love to think. Therefore, a lot of what I want to share on my blog is random thoughts I’ve had. And recently while thinking about this blog, I realized something needs to change. I’ve hinted at changes several times (in February’s newsletter, and perhaps once or twice here), but as yet I haven’t come to any conclusive thoughts on the matter.

The purpose of this post today is to sort out all the thoughts I’ve had about this blog, what I don’t like about it and what I want to do in the future. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine—I just need to process everything somewhere and this seems to be the best place to do it.

Peas

Can’t pull the pea off? Go ahead and eat it while it’s still attached to the vine–it won’t hurt you.

Before I begin, I’d like to go back to when I first started this blog. Back in May and June last year, as I was preparing to launch Learning Resource Directory, I decided I wanted something to go along with the website. Something with fresh content that was updated frequently, as opposed to the almost-static book reviews. Yes, they’re fresh and 5-7 new ones are posted a week, but they aren’t as engaging as a blog. Once posted, they’re basically static content.

I decided a blog would be the best option. Since I was interested in writing, and since writing is very involved with books, and since books are also very involved in homeschool, I decided to have a blog designed to encourage homeschoolers and writers. Purposeful Learning was created.

However, over the past few months I’ve come to realize that I’m not always thinking about or interested in writing or homeschooling. Therefore the posts I posted felt forced—I was writing about the topic of the blog, even though my heart wasn’t in it. Sometimes, there are other things that are much more interesting to me.

Salt Mountains

Mountains of salt at a factory north of us—spotted on a recent family trip.

Then I read a blog post on Noveltea. And the wheels really started turning. (Please, do read that post—I’ll try not to copy Lydia’s thoughts, but I do agree with her on every point!)

There are some things I really don’t like in different people’s blogs…and yet I write the same way myself. There are some popular guidelines that mainstream bloggers give as to how to be a successful blogger. But yet some of those are not appealing to me. From the very beginning, I wanted a way to share my life, my concerns about the world around me, and my random thoughts, in a place that people—even just one or two—could read it, be encouraged, and possibly allow that to change their lives. Or, if I have the wrong idea about something, that they could show me how I’m wrong, and I can change (Matthew 18 in action, to some extent).

Just so I can sum this up in my head, and since I have a thing for numbered lists and bullet points, here are a few things I’ve considered when mulling this topic over.

Some things I don’t like in blogs:

  • Posts that don’t resonate with me or my situation right now. A lot of advice given is to find your niche and write for that niche. However, there are some flaws in that idea—I’ll address them later. Suffice to say for now, if a blog I follow mostly shares posts that I don’t find interesting, I’ll rarely read the blog. The only reason I follow it is because I know the person and/or they sometimes share something that I find very helpful.
  • Posts that are all about the same thing. Also relating to the first point—there are some major downfalls to blogs like this. No, I’m really not interested in your book right now, no matter how much you talk about it. Does your life really completely revolve around that book?
  • Pictures that are used…and reusedI know I’m guilty of this myself, but really—I’ve already seen that picture. Yes, it’s a nice one, but don’t you take new ones on occasion?
  • Blogging just for the sake of gaining attention. I’m highly guilty of this, but I want it to change! Yes, it’s pretty obvious that the only reason you write is because you want to attract big numbers and/or attention from those in the publishing world. Sorry, but I’m not interested in being part of a fanbase like that.
Boating

Big brother taking little sis for a boat ride.

Some things I do like in blogs:

  • Posts sharing ordinary life. Ones that contain the nittie-grittiness of life, such as telling how you failed (again) at completing that goal. Of course, if you’re always failing and never ever get it right, then that can be over-the-top too, but I love hearing how you are failing and then experiencing the win with you. Pictures showing your life also are really fun.
  • Random thoughts. I love getting in other people’s heads, and when they share the random pieces of information they’ve picked up lately, I really enjoy that glimpse into their lives.
  • Goal posts or reading lately/doing lately posts. Kind of the same idea as the first point, but I love seeing what things other people are trying to achieve in their lives, and then following their progress. I also love seeing what they’re reading, listening to, etc. as well.
Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock, a beautiful piece of New Zealand coast north of us.

Why I think writing for a niche is faulty:

The reasoning you get is, if you write for a niche, then you’ll attract fans that are especially interested in the things that you’re interested in. People will know what they’ll get when they come to visit, which provides some reason for them to come by. They’ll know when they see your name what you represent, which provides some form of security.

While I can see the logic behind that (that is, if I’m understanding the advice right), and the value in branding yourself, I see one little problem that could potentially be huge:

What about all the other things that we’re interested in, but we can’t share because we’re trying to write for our target audience?

I explored the thought in a comment on Lydia’s post, but basically it boiled down to: We’re all three-dimensional characters. We’re all interested in a lot of different things. And it’s really hard to connect to a one-dimensional person. Maybe I should just quote my comment:

“Having a blog that doesn’t have a particular “niche” means that we share whatever comes to mind at any particular time. To say it in writing terms, our blogs become dynamic, well-rounded characters, instead of being flat one-dimensional characters. Just about everyone has their own wide range of interests, and when that is shown through the blog, we can connect a lot better. Just as we don’t connect very well to one-dimensional characters in books, we also can’t connect as well to one-dimensional blogs.”

In conclusion, I want to be genuinely me, and I think changing is the best way to do it. I’ll be writing about what I find interesting, and hopefully you’ll find interesting as well. So…welcome to my brain!

By the way, if you managed to read all the way to the end—all 1,300+ words, I congratulate you. Great job.

Now go do something worth doing!

Over to you: What kind of blog posts and blogs do you enjoy reading? Do you have any tips for how I (or other people!) could do this whole blogging thing better?