Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kid Conversations

While playing a game, my brother (age 7) was asked to name three things you do on a date.

Buddy: "Kiss, hug, eat"

Mom: "And that is why you are not going on a date until you are 25."

Buddy: "I don't want to. I don't want to kiss, I don't want to hug, and ... I don't want to eat with a girl!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Before I start, I want you to know that, yes, I realize I missed Christmas on here. So I am going to wish you all a very Merry New Year instead!

As I go into this new year, I am hoping to do a series of posts with the common theme of "why I ..." in order to share my convictions and allow you to get to know me better.  Notice that I said "hoping." I can make many grand plans during Christmas break, but we will see if they carry over once I have a full school and work load. :)

Anyway, to get on with the topic, I am going to share today my convictions on the relationship front.
To be clear, I want you to know that these are my convictions, and nothing more.  I do not condemn or criticize you for making a different choice than mine.

So in my story, I kissed dating goodbye long before I read the book of that same name. As I grew up, my parents explained to me their experiences with dating and relationships, and shared a different plan. When I was a tween, I read the book Before You Meet Prince Charming which gave some good guidelines for stepping out of the dating game.  I am very thankful that my parents have been teaching me since I was little about an alternate way of relating to the opposite gender.

Essentially, I have made a commitment to not get involved in any sort of romantic relationship until I am of an age where I could get married.  In short, I do not want to be in a relationship unless it is working toward marriage. Also, I would want the relationship to look less like conventional dating and more like courtship or as the Duggar girls put it, "dating with a purpose."

I have several reasons for this commitment. One is that dating in high school would likely cause me unnecessary pain. To be honest, I tend to get attached to people.  The end of any sort of relationship would hurt me deeply, as I have seen it hurt my friends.  For example, this last year, two of my friends came to me, beaming with happiness as they told me about their new boyfriends. Both girls were seniors in high school, and for both it was their first boyfriend.  I heard how they were so perfect for each other, how sweet he was, and how much fun they had together. But as the weeks went on, my friends began to sing a different tune. Instead of telling of their significant other's amazing qualities, they began to speak of arguments, struggles, and discontentment. Within two months, both girls had broken up with their "perfect" boyfriends. They ended up hurt, sad, and disappointed. Watching this saga of joy and pain, my eyes were truly opened. While I felt a twinge of envy and self-doubt at the beginning of these relationships, in the long run I ended up with a true appreciation for my parents' guidance, and sympathy for those who participate in the endless cycle of relationships.

Another reason for me to avoid high school dating is that high school relationships tend to be me-centered. Many of these relationships end because one person or the other did not feel like their needs were being met. Unless the relationship is focused on an end-goal of marriage, it becomes too easy to fall into what is fun and enjoyable for me. I am going to be honest here, I struggle with selfishness. There are times when I fall into longing for a relationship. But when I step back and look at my reasons, they are all selfish.  It might be because I want to feel special, or I want to have someone to run to, or I....
It goes on in an endless cycle. When I truly consider how I can best serve the guys around me, an exclusive romantic relationship is not what comes to mind.

Speaking of exclusive, that was exactly my next point!  High school romantic relationships, as well as dating relationships in general, tend to be exclusive. Meaning that your parents, brothers, sisters, friends, schoolwork, and even relationship with God can become secondary. The truth is that having a boyfriend is not as simple as changing a facebook status. It involves endless texts, calls, hang-outs, dates, time together at youth group, walking together at school, etc. If I were to get involved in a relationship, it would be serious temptation for me to obsess and hold a romantic relationship above all other relationships in my life.

The last and most important reason that I choose not to get involved in high school dating goes along with the one above. These type of relationships are distracting, primarily from my relationship with God. In 1 Corinthians 7:34, it says, "... The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband." Notice that it doesn't say, "The girlfriend is anxious about how to please her boyfriend." There is no in-between. My goal while I am single is to grow to know the Lord better and better, and to continue to serve him more and more.  My goal if/when I marry is to grow to know the Lord better and continue to serve him more, with my husband at my side. I don't want to let any man have my heart until I know that it fully belongs to the Lord. While I am serving the Lord, I am not going to try to find a life service partner until I find a man who can be just that, a partner in serving the Lord, for life. 

To close, I want to share a quote from I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

"I do not believe that dating is sinful. I view dating in a similar light as I view fast-food restaurants--it's not wrong to eat there, but something far better is available." 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Gospel, in all its Simplicity

Recently, I have been asking God to help me share my faith.  Deep inside of me, I truly want to tell about his love everywhere I go.  To often, though, fears get in the way.  I fear that I may mess it up, or that anything I try to share will hurt the person's opinion of God and of Christianity.

Yesterday, I was inspired.  One little boy in the last swim class I teach told me the gospel, and it was the sweetest thing I have ever heard. He doesn't worry about sounding silly or messing it up, he just shares what he knows about God.

Here is the message of salvation, from a three-year-old, in his exact words.

" Do you have Jesus in your heart?  I have Jesus in my heart.  He change my life, 'cause I give it to God."

It really doesn't get better than that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


At those times when life just won't slow down, God takes me by the hand and says, "Come, rest in me."

But in my little mind I see deadlines and important projects and papers and tests, and I answer, "I can't, I don't have time."

Do I ever sit back and really think about how silly this is? Just like in this video, I tell the One who created time that I don't have enough for him.

I think what is happening right now, this second, is of ultimate importance, but it's not.  My math test will not last forever.  My God will.

In this time of my life when everything in me cries to go full speed ahead, God took me aside, and let me rest in His love, His grace.

While I was at a retreat this weekend, one of the ladies spoke about focusing on the eternal things, those that really matter in the grand scheme of life. I get so caught up in the here and now, forgetting, putting off the things that are of real value.

She said, "If you knew today were your last day, what would you do?" That really struck me. We should be living like this everyday, since only God knows which day will be our last.

And so I wonder, if I were to go to Jesus today, would I regret these actions? Would I regret ignoring my brother to finish a midterm project?  Would I regret not starting up that conversation because it could be awkward or uncomfortable?

At the retreat, we also spoke of exchanging our hearts for ones like God's.  I want to feel love for others like He does. I want to reach with His arms, speak with His kindness.

So in the days to come, I want to live in His grace.  In knowing that He is sufficient, I can let the worries and cares blow away.  He is here. He is now. Through his grace, I can focus on the eternal things.

Also, I want to live fearlessly. To reach out to the broken-hearted, to love with abandon.  This is my desire and also my struggle.  But when I am weak, He is strong.

So will you join me?  Reach up today for the eternal God, and then reach out with the grace he gives you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I want to become a girl who...

... Who has the light of Jesus shining so bright in her heart that none of her mistakes or pride can hide it.

... Who reaches out to others, even when they push back.

... Who is not afraid to share God's love with those around her, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be.

... Who thinks before she speaks, and takes care that her words may not injure others.

... Who takes a painful or frustrating situation and looks on it as a way for God to shape her to become more like Him.

... Who recognizes her mistakes and is quick to ask for forgiveness.

... Who reflects the glory to God whenever she is praised.

... Who sees the conversations with those around her as not just a time to chat, but as a time to bless them or to impact their lives.

... Who does not seek attention for herself but only seeks to bring honor to God.

... Who does not look at others in judgement, but with compassion and mercy.

... Who brings everything in her life to the foot of the cross, and who trusts God for direction and purpose.

... Who holds her plans loosely enough to give up everything if that is what God asks.

... Who connects with God from moment to moment in prayer.

... Who cares for others more than herself.

... Who lives each day as if it were her last.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Does Not Produce Righteousness

In general, I am not an emotional person.  I rarely show large amounts of excitement outwardly, and I hardly ever weep, even in sad circumstances.  There are exceptions to this, of course.  Unfortunately, I have been experiencing one kind of emotion frequently lately: frustration, impatience, annoyance.  Simply put, anger.

Now I did not act out in great shows of it, but my attitude was gruffer, my tone harsher, and my words much sharper than they should be.  I struggled against it in vain and could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

Then I started working on the first chapter of James. I love the book of James so much.  Every time I read it, it convicts me to the core. When I studied verses 19-20, I saw my own behavior flung in front of my face.

"Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

Wow.  I had memorized the first part long ago and I now repeat it to myself, under my breath, when I am tempted to become angry.  But it was the second part that truly struck me.  It is so simple and so true.  There is no time, even when I think that there is some injustice, or that things are not happening as they should, when my anger will produce His righteousness.  It just won't happen.  So if I am striving to "be holy as He is holy," I must push aside my petty frustrations and focus on Him.

He has been revealing lately that these things that cause me annoyance are perhaps to make me turn and look outside myself.  Whether it is running late for an event, or having people cut in front of me in line, or tripping over other people's messes, He can use the situation to shape me to be more like him.  When my family is late, God can teach me to overcome my perfectionism.  When I see people taking rights or privileges that are not theirs to have, He can teach me to overcome my selfishness and obsession with "fairness."  When I trip over the legos on the stairs or the life jackets on the pool deck, I can choose to thank God for the healthy body he has given me that enables me to be able to clean up the legos and the life jackets. :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Narnia Video!

For all you who have been anticipating these videos, here they are!
These are the scenes from the Chronicles of Narnia that were filmed at Bible Quizzing Internationals this year.  The teams that participated were Pacific Northwest, Western Canada, and Ohio Valley/Central. (Please let me know if I missed someone :)

We had a lot of fun making these and I hope you enjoy them, but I apologize in advance for the poor video quality.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bible Quizzing Internationals 2013

I love it when I am with people who match my level of crazy.

The ones who will sing for hours in the car, just because we can.

The ones who skip across crosswalks and keep you going when you feel like you can't take one more step (literally).

The ones who will film Narnia videos in the woods in Montana and in Pennsylvania

The ones who will watch Princess Bride even though they have seen it half a million times, and will still laugh at all the jokes.

The ones you can vent to, the ones you play silly games with for hours on end, and the ones who can make even a flight delay fun.

These are the people I went to Internationals with.  Sure, we had some hard stuff we went through, and we definitely tested each other's patience consistently, but all in all it was a great week.

We went a lot of places and did many things, but I won't bore you with the minute details.

On second thought, the minute details are sometimes the funniest and the most memorable.  And this is my blog after all, so get ready for a long description of our week.

Day 1:
This was actually before we even went on the trip.  We practiced together and went to see Despicable Me 2 (Fairy Princess Gru, anyone?) and then got on our red-eye flight to Pennsylvania.

Since we never actually had a hotel or anything, this day kind of melds with...

Day 2: This was where we went into Pennsylvania.  We saw the Liberty Bell,
Independence Hall,

and Betsy Ross's House (also known as Betty Crocker's house).

Day 3:  DC all the way!  We left the hotel at 6 am and got back at 10 pm.  We first had a tour of the capitol building,

and took a quick trip to the library of congress.  Well, actually we walked through the library of congress on our way out, but it still counts :)
Next we went to the spy museum and developed our own spy identities. This was mine:

We tried to only respond to our spy names, but we thought it would be mean to all the kids at the meet, so we changed our plans. Also, we kept messing up and responding to our real names :) I still have my spy name on the back of my name tag though!

We visited the American History and the Natural History Smithsonian Museums for the next three hours. I particularly enjoyed seeing all the first ladies's dresses, and I was very glad that our team decided to stick together.  I became the "mother duck" and was constantly counting heads. (1-2-3-4!)

We got dinner and then went off on a one-mile trek to see the monuments. Sadly, the Washington monument was having work done so this was as close as we could get:
See way down there at the bottom?  That's my head

From there we set off for the World War II and Lincoln Memorials.  At this point, we were pretty tired. Correction: we were REALLY tired.  My friend and I were discussing how much we wanted to just sit down on the pavement.  We knew that these memorials are important and cool to see, though, so we walked on.  (It also helped that our coach promised us ice cream if we would stop complaining :)

I thought the Lincoln memorial was awe-inspiring, and it was nice that they included a bench at the top after all those stairs.

On our way back to the car, we stopped by the White House and took a few pictures, even though they have stopped giving White House tours due to budget cuts.
Tired Picture...

Happy Picture!

In the end it was all worth it, because we each got a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and stayed up till midnight to watch Princess Bride.

Day 4: Now, finally, we actually got to the meet, later in the day.  First we went swimming and then we girls spent about 2 hours working on a hairstyle.  We did matching hairstyles on each other every day, and this one was our most complicated.

This brought about an ongoing argument with the guys about the merit of hairstyles like this.  In the guy's opinion, we might have as well done ponytails. But for us girls, it was a lot of fun and bonding time.  (And our coach went to beauty school so how could we not take advantage of that?)

We arrived at the camp and got to see our other team from PNW and our Canadian friends!  We watched the ever-popular coaches quiz! Then we hung out and played frisbee while the coaches had their meeting.

While we did make friends with some American teams, we mostly spent time with Canadian kids the whole week.

Days 5-6: The competition begins!  With our mascot, a small stuffed cow named Desperation, and our coaches to back us up, we were ready to go!

We had a couple rough quizzes, but had a nice winning streak the second day. On Thursday we participated in the talent show, where we performed five Disney songs that we had made into quizzing parodies.  Unfortunately, the keyboard did not work like I had hoped, so I only played piano for the first song, but we will hopefully be performing again at our first meet next year, so catch us in concert while you can!  Also, some of my Canadian friends asked me if I would sign while they sang "Ten Thousand Reasons." For me, this was another instance of God's provision.  I had wanted to sign a different song, but the equipment was not available for that to happen.  I am so glad it happened this way, and I was able to perform with my friends. There were some really funny skits, such as "Who's on first?— Quizzing style" and a skit about how ESV may have been chosen as the new Bible translation we are going to use next year.

This day was also the one where we went into the woods and filmed scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia. Where are those films, you may ask?  Well, the editing is taking a little longer than I originally anticipated, so that video will hopefully come in its own post later this week.

Day 7 (I told you this would be long): This day held our last two preliminary quizzes, and we waited anxiously to find out what our placement would be.  To our great excitement, we placed sixth after prelims, meaning that we had done well enough to go to Six Flags on our last day.  (We had an incentive system set up.) Since we had the rest of the day off, we drove to Baltimore to a harbor on the Atlantic ocean.  Now I can truly say I have been from coast to coast.

Day 8: This was our last day of the competition, where we participated in semifinals. Although it did not go quite as well as we had originally hoped, we did our best and truly worked together as a team.  After finals and all the awards came the real fun: the all-nighter! Okay, we only stayed till midnight.  But it was then that the crazy acting games, midnight frisbee competitions, and endless searches for the snack shack took place.

"The Smolder" from Tangled. Please tell me you recognize this. 

Day 9:  This was supposed to be our last day of the trip.  We went to Six Flags as a team and experienced crazy roller coasters, cool water slides, and incredibly overpriced food :)
In truth, I didn't experience very many of the roller coasters because I don't like roller coasters very much, and to be honest, I have a problem with heights. Thankfully, several other people on my team dislike roller coasters as much as me, and I had a few buddies to chat with while we waited for the others. The water slides were really fun though!

Since we had a week-long joke abut our coach being a cow, we took his picture by the cow ride that was sadly out of order :(

Afterward, we drove to the airport, but the trip took one hour longer than expected.  When we finally arrived, we heard that our flight had been delayed 45 minutes.  Soon after, their system broke down, and they lost all information about our flight.  Perhaps I should have mentioned that there was a lot of rain going on outside at this point.  We were hydroplaning even in the big bus on the way back from the rental car place.  Unlike those of us who live in the Northwest, for whom rain is as usual as breathing, it seemed to cause more of a problem there, both with the system and with the roof leaking.

Anyway, to pass the time we played the game "sausage." You know, where one person has to answer "sausage" to every question they are asked and has to keep from laughing.  We played it over and over and over.
Rocking out silently to music while we waited

About three hours later, the game got a little old, and we were told to move to a different terminal. That was where we found out our flight had been canceled.

Eventually, we were able to get a rental car to drive to the Baltimore airport and fly out of there in the morning.  When we got to the airport, we had to wait for a while because security didn't open until 3:15 am.  Never in my life would I have thought that something opening "that late" would be an issue.  In the end, we were able to get on the flight and get home by noon the next day.  And hey, since our flight ended up stopping in North Carolina, we got to go to four states on the trip, and now I can say that I have been in the south!

All in all it was an amazing trip with some incredible people.  I saw God grow me in relationships, in the competition, and in patience with the whole airport situation.  I am so thankful that God knew best and changed my plans, because if things had happened the way I originally planned, I would not have been on this trip.  He is good. He is above all things.  And His love endures forever.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Simply. Blessed.

Coming home from my trip to Pennsylvania, I am so thankful for all that God has given me.

More than the competition even, I enjoyed the community, getting to see old friends and make new ones.  From teaching one of the guys how to "properly" compliment, to staying up till midnight playing silly acting games and frisbee in the dark, we did it all.  To all my friends from my district, across the U.S., and even in Canada, thank you for your kindness and sense of fun.  I really enjoyed spending the week with you.

And for those of you who are as "cut off from civilization" as myself and do not have a Facebook, my team did very well and ended up placing ninth!  We had so much fun and truly worked together.  We came through some hard stuff and still like each other no matter how many insults or "cow jokes" were tossed around.  (See Anna's quote to Scott in this post for reference as to how all these jokes began.)

In case you are wondering, I will be posting on a grand scale about the entire trip, but it will take a little while. (I have some Narnia videos to edit in the meantime) I wanted you all to know that I did not fall off the face of the earth even though my flight did get canceled on the way back! (We eventually got another flight, but it was a long night :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Here I go!

Sometimes things happen in ways you never expected.

Let me explain.  Last year in Bible Quizzing, I studied, worked hard, and competed as well as I could.  I tried so hard to place into the top five so I could go to the Internationals meet.

When they announced the results, I was sixth. By a difference of 0.64.  When your score is in the 70s, that is a tiny amount.  Yet, through an amazing set of circumstances, God allowed me to go, and with one of my best friends.  It was a wonderful experience.

But that doesn't mean it was easy.  I was so excited to make the team that I studied for hours and as my friend said, I "put my life on hold" until the competition was over.

For reasons I still don't understand, the competition did not go as I had planned.  Okay, that is quite an understatement.  I did not get one question at the meet.  For you non-Bible-quizzers, that essentially means that I was not able to help my team.  I still don't know what held me back.

At that time, I experienced a large amount of self-doubt and guilt.  I questioned the abilities I thought I had and I felt guilty for taking a spot on the team and not being able to contribute on the competition side.  I felt guilty that my parents and I spent a large amount of money to send me to a competition and have me fail.  I asked God why, and I wondered if I had misread his guidance.  Maybe it had not been his will for me to go at all.

As hard as it was for me, that time taught me trust in God.  I learned to look past my insecurities and feelings of failure and realize that his plan is great and he is bigger than any of my little problems.

Anyway, after Internationals was over, I thought that the impact of it had left me. I thought I could go on as I had before.  But the insecurities still haunted me.  While I didn't realize it at the time, part of the reason I wanted to lead my own team at a lower level was because, deep down, I didn't believe I could compete at a top level anymore.  All year, I said that I wasn't going to try for Internationals again.  I convinced myself and others that I would be too busy, wouldn't have time to study, and wouldn't do as well.

I decided to try to go to the invitational meet, Great West, because I enjoyed spending time with my friends.  During the meet, I said things like:

"I'm not going to Internationals this year.  Maybe next year"

"I can't imagine quoting the whole material."

"I've heard stories about the camp; I definitely don't want to go."

I think God must have been looking down and laughing at my ideas about what were going to happen. It seems like every time I think I know what is going to happen or I think I have it all together, God flips me around and shows me a bigger plan.

Two weeks after the above statements, I was quoting the whole material.  One week after that, I placed third onto the internationals team.

I am so thankful that God took me on this path.  I have seen so many of my friendships grow during practices and our various emails micro-managing every minute of this event.

There's another side to this too. At the event, I will be playing five piano pieces; I will be accompanying my team, in front of a lot of people.  Although it may seem silly, I have always been really nervous when I play piano in front of people.  I will be facing my fear, and hopefully my team will sing really loud in case I mess up :)

I know that God brought me to Internationals last year for a reason.  And I know that this year he will have great plans for me as well.  As I go, I know that he is with me as I face my stage fright and the memory of my "failure" last year.

Yet, now I don't consider last year to be a failure at all.  When we are in God's plan, nothing can truly be a failure.  When we make mistakes, He forgives us.  When things are hard, He grows us.  And when things go wrong, He sustains us.

How great is our God.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Five Truths About Adoption

Okay, I think it's time I talked about the elephant in the room. 

Three and a half years ago, my family adopted two kiddos from Ethiopia in Eastern Africa. As a big sister, I have seen in many ways what adoption is really like.  Since I'm not even the parent of an adopted child, I don't claim to have all the answers. There are some things I've learned along the way, though, some misconceptions I've noticed, that I want to share with you. 

1. Adoption is not simply a decision; it is a calling. 

One thing I've read about adoption over and over is that adopting a child can't be about you.  It can't be about how it would be good for your kids to have a playmate or how it would be good to finally have a child. It has to be foremost for the Lord, in obeying his call on your life, and it also has to be for the child you are adopting.  Now, I want you to understand, I don't claim to be perfect.  My family did have hopes and dreams about how these kids would fit into our family, but that wasn't the most important part.  God called us to do this, so no matter what happens, we will see it through. 

2. If you don't want to know about the pain and suffering in the world, don't adopt. 

Sorry, I had to be blunt with this one.  Hearing what my little siblings have gone through and seeing the effect of it in their lives has shown me what is really out there.  These kids have seen more trouble and pain than some people do in their entire lives.  Before adopting, I was your typical naive somewhat-self-centered American Christian teenager.  After bringing them home, and while we're still in the middle of this adoption journey, I can see myself changing.  When I realize what they have gone through, it puts my petty frustrations in the right perspective.

3. Whether you like it or not, adoption will change you. 

Simply put, adoption is hard.  But more than that, it is a great teacher.  Adoption has taught me so much about unconditional love.  Real love, not just warm-fuzzies, but an active love that continues even when the other person fights against it. 

 I have learned about patience, both being patient with behavior and being patient while waiting on the Lord to see him move.  

I have learned about faith, about praying and trusting that even when we can't see it, the Lord is working here.  

I have learned what family really means—not just living together, but struggling, working, and praying together. I have learned about grace, mercy, and love that covers over a multitude of sins

4.  Adoptive children will have a different mindset than birth children.

When I and the next three of my siblings were born, my parents were teaching us from day one.  We learned that lying was bad and obeying was good and that doing what Mommy and Daddy said made God smile.  We learned that Mom and Dad can be trusted, that home is a safe place, and that our parents will always love and protect us.  

But our two littlest ones did not have this from birth.  Many times, they were left to figure it out for themselves.  When a child is left to their own devices, and when their world is turned upside down, their inclination is to take care of themselves.  

And who wouldn't feel this way?  For a child who was not having their needs meet, making sure that they got the essentials of life became a priority.  Along with this need to take care of yourself came a need to feel in control.  We all feel this way sometimes.  When everything is falling apart, we ask God "why?" All we want is to have that job again, to see that person be healed and be able to fix the situation.  

So once we understood this difference in mindset, we had to start working on it.  How can you teach a child who has struggled to care for themselves that caring for others is more important?  How do you teach a child that parents can be trusted when the adults in their life have only let them down?  

I think this is one of the biggest struggles.  When a child starts exhibiting the right behavior, we automatically assume that their mindset must be in the right place as well.  This is not always the case. 
Behavior is sometimes easier to change than a frame of thinking. 

5. Adoption is full-time ministry.

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I remember my mom asking me why I wanted us to adopt.  I replied that I thought it would be a great ministry for our family.  My mom told me that it could be a ministry at first, but then they would just be part of our family. 

But the truth of it is, adoption is full-time ministry.  It is going out into all the world, by bringing the world into your home.  It is serving the least of these, by bringing the least of these into your home. It is caring for the widows and orphans, by bringing the orphans into your home.  

I know for some families, the adopted child has a fairly easy transition, but for us and for many others, this was not the case.  When you enter into the ministry of adoption, you are signing up to love, to care for, to help this child, for as long as it takes.  It means listening to their stories and realizing where they are, and then helping them to move past that place.  Adoption is serving the Lord in a very tangible way— by caring for his children.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

For His Glory

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
{1 Corinthians 10:13}

I can't remember exactly where, but a little while ago, I read a blog post from a girl who was struggling with the idea that she wasn't doing enough for God. She spoke about feeling that the things she was doing, however important, didn't have enough "God activities."

Do you know what I mean?  When I see my friends going on mission trips and entering into spiritual ministry, I wonder if my efforts are enough for God.  Am I doing the right things?  Should I be giving up my job, schoolwork, and career plans to enter into a field of ministry? 

But when I step back and take a look at my life, I realize the flaw in my thinking: 

I don't have to do 'enough,' because Jesus already did it all.  I don't have to worry if I'm doing enough to satisfy God, because He looks at Jesus's perfection and covers over my sin. *Big sigh of relief*

This blog post I read went on to share how the girl had found contentment and peace in her life by simply striving to do what the verse above says, to do everything for the glory of God.  Anything can be turned into an opportunity to serve God and others when we enter into it with the right mindset.

When I think about it this way, parts of my life that perhaps seemed frivolous or not about God can become an opportunity to show his love. 

Working on homework can becomes a way I can further my education in order to serve others later as an American Sign Language interpreter.

Teaching swim lessons is not just a job or a way to make money, but a way to invest in the lives of children and teach them useful skills.

Going to Bible Quizzing events becomes a way to review the Bible knowledge I have and a way to invest in the friendships I have there.

Playing dolls with my sister is not just a means of entertainment, but also a way to show her that I love her and care about her by spending time with her. 

And because I am trying to do everything for the glory of God, I will try my hardest to be kind, calm, and not paranoid about the fireworks today, even though they scare me terribly.  

Happy Fourth of July Everybody! 

And when you hand that four-year-old a sparkler (more commonly known as a "stick of fire"), please keep an eye on them so they don't set their sister's jacket on fire (personal experience :).

Friday, June 28, 2013

I am Sixteen Going on Seventeen...

If you're anything like me, these words bring to mind one of the greatest musicals of all time, the Sound of Music.  I remember watching this movie when I was a little girl, seeing Liesel in her beautiful dresses, and secretly wishing for a dress like those.

Well, when I saw that this pattern company had started making patterns for Liesel dresses, I was excited  to get started.

The last two years for my homeschool formals, I have made my own replicas of two of Liesel's dresses, and I realized that I have never properly validated them by sharing them here on my blog *gasp*.

The first one I made was a replica of this dress:

using this pattern.

I decided to use a dark blue chiffon, so it is not quite as easily identifiable as I would like, but I still think it turned out nice. This was for the formal of 2012, when I was 15. 

This pattern was fairly easy to use, but chiffon is very difficult to work with, so I would suggest making a mock up first, as the pattern says. 

The second dress I made was a replica of this dress:

I was originally going to make this one out of purple fabric, but the only color my fabric store had was very light and "easter egg" color, so I decided to use a teal color. This was for the formal of 2013, this last spring. 

On the neckline of this dress, I used a wider bias tape than the pattern called for, because the small one was difficult to work with and looked kind of messy. Also, the organza was pretty scratchy to wear at a dance, so next time I would probably use chiffon. Other than that, the pattern was great!

There you have it!  My belated formal dress posting/pattern review. Hope you enjoyed it :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Very Essence of Summer Vacation

For me at least, when I first get out of school for the summer it feels like this:

*Yawn* Finally I can catch up on all that sleep I lost during the school year. 

Then it feels like:

YEAH! I don't have to go to school for three months! I can run around and do whatever!!!

 At last, reflecting on the seemingly wasted summers of past years it looks like this:

Nothing will waste these precious summer hours. 

But eventually, after playing board game after board game and running outside during the few hours of sun we do have (ah, summer in the great Northwest), we have to use all our inner creativity to find ways to pass the time of day.  

One thing we have done lately is play the "Writing Game." In this game, each person writes a sentence to start a story, fold the paper over, and passes it to the next person.  The next one writes another sentence based on the first, and folds the paper so the next person can only see the second sentence. This continues until the paper is filled up and then everyone reads the story they started. Some make no sense whatsoever, but others turn out rather hilarious.  

I have just two of the stories to share with you.  If our sense of humor is a little childish for your taste, I apologize. Perhaps we are the same as my anthropology professor, who claims that her sense of humor stopped maturing at the third grade level. Or perhaps it is because three of the participants in this game are elementary school age. Anyway, here are the stories.  Keep in mind that each sentence was written with only the one directly above it for reference. 

Cotton Candy Angels

Once upon a time, there was a gorilla who was lonely. So he got his car's emission checked. The car's emission was so bad that the car blew out cotton candy instead of exhaust. The cotton candy fell on to the road and the little children ate it, not knowing it was exhaust. So they blew up and floated to the sky. Then they became tiny angels. Their favorite angel activity was dragster racing on clouds. But the angel mothers wished their daughters to sew stars together and make a big blanket.  They did make a quilt and then the stars became real. In the end, everyone was happy because they got to take a star home. 

Barney and his Teddy Bear

Once upon a time, NASA found Barney floating in space with the Doodle Bops and rocking out. NASA was thrilled to find some new astronauts, and started Barney in the rookie astronaut position— making pizza in the NASA food court. Barney failed his job as a food court employee at NASA because he tried to hug every customer. The boss said, "Fired," but Barney thought he meant "Fire!" and ran out of the building. He was very sad to have lost his favorite job, so he ran home and hugged his teddy bear and sobbed. Then the word got out that he still used a teddy bear and people made fun of him. But he loved his teddy bear so much that he started an organization called the Adult Teddy Bear Lovers of America, also known as ATBLA. The ATBLA had meetings every Tuesday in the president's hot tub. Some people brought teddy grahams, so the president took them and flavored his lemonade with them. This made the lemonade taste like calf's foot jelly, so when he tried to make the people drink it, they rebelled and impeached him. Then they elected a new president who liked strawberry lemonade instead. 

So besides working and studying for Bible Quizzing, this is what I'm doing this summer. 
If you or your family finds yourself with nothing to do this summer, give this game a try. Even the crazy ones are funny when the person reading it can't stop laughing at all the inside jokes and movie references. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Swimming in the Pool and Walking on the Water

For those of you who don't know, I recently got a job teaching swim lessons at my local YMCA.  I usually work with the little ones, the preschoolers.

Even though  those kids are the ones who are often afraid of the water and nervous about new strokes or activities, I still love working with them. The reason?  I was the exact same way.  I remember being three and four and five and never wanting to jump in the water, except in one situation.

The only time I wanted to jump in was when my dad was there to catch me.  I trusted that he would hold on to me when I jumped into that big scary mass of water.

Hmm.... trusting in a father.... anyone else see a spiritual parallel here?

The truth is, God is just like my dad in the pool, always ready to catch us when we fall, or when we jump in.  Sometimes though, we forget that He really will catch us, and we stay on the side of the pool, afraid.  Sometimes, when God asks us to do something big or hard, what holds us back is the fear of failure.

Because what if we jump in and we forget how to swim? What if he drops us?  Or what if the pool is a lot deeper than it looks?

Fears aren't something that can be brushed off as nonsense.  A lot of times, they are real and important.  But the truth is, we serve a real, big, amazing God who is stronger and more powerful than all our doubts and worries.

One of the little girls in one of my classes always reminds me while we're swimming, saying, "Don't let me go." Aren't we blessed that we never need to say this to our heavenly Father?  We even sing songs about how he "never lets go."

Those of us who are afraid to jump in can trust that our God will always be there to support us, even when it seems like we're falling.

But what about the other type? Those who jump in and then see how scary the pool is.  The ones who jump into something and then have second doubts. To me, this is so much like Peter walking on the water to Jesus.

{Matthew 14:25-31}
During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost!" they said and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them, "Take courage, it is I; don't be afraid.

 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

This is so easy for me to fall into. I can praise God and trust in him when everything is going great, but once the going gets rough, it is so easy to cry out, "Where are you, God?" when he has been there alongside me the whole time.

This is can be seen in the little swimmers too. They want to strike out on their own, but once they get tired or start sinking, they immediately reach out for someone to hold onto. And every time, their teacher will catch them and help them keep going.  Just like God catches us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It really is true.

Time flies.  Really, how did the end of the school year come so fast?

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was so excited for my first class on a college campus
That I was starting the first verses of Matthew
That I started out with new kiddos in my AWANA group
That I went to my first event as a youth group leader
That I was wondering how I was going to make it through another year in teen gym

How did I even get here?
With a new job
With registration for classes next fall
College searches
Bible Quizzing Internationals practice
With end of year picnics
With graduation parties for my friends
With finals

God has been so good this year.  Even when I am working as hard as I can just to understand why Mayan architecture has any significance in my life, He is faithful.  So many times, I thought I had it all together, but He turned my life upside down and backwards and showed me a far greater plan than any I had come up with on my own.  I know this summer will be a great adventure in His plan.

I can't wait to see what He does.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Oddities of Life

Family photos last fall. Can you guess why this one didn't appear in our Christmas Card?
God is amazing, and truly works all things together for the good of those who love him.  But sometimes, there are just strange, hilarious, or flat out odd things that happen.  A few things struck me lately as very out of the ordinary, so I thought I would share them with you.  I don't plan to turn this into a regular thing, but if more things like these start happening, well, you never know.

#1: My little guy in my AWANA group comes up to me, very excited, "Guess what, teacher!  My brother dropped my toothbrush in the toilet by accident but my grandma is going to buy me a new one!"

#2: In one of my classes at my community college there is a biker dude who out of all the seats in class, chooses to sit with the three conservative Christian homeschooled Running Start students.  And after hearing that I had fallen down the stairs at school (yeah, I know) he offered to push down the stairs anyone who laughed at me.  Yeah, no, that won't be necessary.

#3: You've probably seen them. The young Mormon guys in dress suits riding around on their bicycles to spread the word about Mormonism.  But how many times have you seen two such Mormon guys in suits on bicycles racing a little girl on a pink Barbie motor scooter? I saw this in my neighborhood.  Just crazy.

Sometimes I think that God lets these situations happen to bring a little laughter to our lives, and other times I think he does it to remind us that he is really in control, and that the norm may not be his plan, but something far greater (or perhaps more hilarious).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Partying — God Style

Last Saturday, my mom, my sisters and I headed off to Seattle for a day. We had a college fair in the morning, shopped in the afternoon, and then attended the Chris Tomlin Concert at the Key Arena.

It was an amazing experience.  I had only ever been to two concerts before this, and they just can't compare. The last time I went to a concert was about a year ago.  It was fun, but I was also coming right off a media fast at a Christian camp, so screaming and jumping, even to Christian songs, just didn't feel right to me.  This concert, however, was totally different. It was truly a night of worship.  How many times do you go to a concert and the artist would rather be quiet and let the crowd sing?  That was something I had never seen before.

I love worship at my church, but there is something awe-inspiring about singing praises to GOd with ten thousand people.  Even Chris Tomlin himself was amazed by the power and beauty of it. So many times during the night, he stepped back and gazed around the room at the thousands of people singing God's praises with one clear voice.

And on top of that, we got to hear Louie Giglio speak!  Ever since I saw his talk from the How Great is Our God tour, I have loved his teaching. (Go here to see the video. It does take awhile, but the time spent watching that video will be time invested in understanding a little how great our God truly is.) In this video he even talks about laminin, which.... never mind I can't explain it as well as he can. You'll just have to watch the video to find out. But wow, God is so amazing.

Anyway, Louie Giglio spoke on how our God is a God of celebration and rejoicing.  He retold and spoke on the three stories about lost things in Luke 15.  They are: the story of the lost coin, the story of the lost sheep, and the story of the lost son.  What he pointed out was that all three stories are not truly about the lost things, but about the finder of all lost things.  He focused on an interesting point. Every single story spoke about celebration, about a party.  It says in Luke 15:10, "...there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over one sinner who repents." If our God loves to celebrate and rejoice when sinners turn to him, so should we.  Several people there accepted Christ into their lives, and we all had the biggest party on earth for them, but I'm sure the angel's party was far, far greater.

The way I described that night was that it was probably the closest thing you can find on earth to the party the angels have up in heaven.

In the words of a counselor from a camp last year, "Party 'cause of Jesus, party 'cause of Jesus, party 'cause of Jesus and the party don't stop!"

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hungry Horse!

... or, in other words, Great West Invitational 2013!

... or, as it has been called, "Canada," which it wasn't this year, but anyway.

For all you Bible Quizzers out there, here is the long-awaited Great West post, complete with a list of the funniest quotes from the trip.  Please forgive my apparent lack of documentation of one of the best weekends ever.  Someone (I'm not sure who) replaced my lovely 4 gig camera card with my little brother's cheap, barely-lets-you-take-anything card.  So, after taking about 20 photos, my camera quit on me and informed me that my memory card was full. So anything you see here is a combination of my few photos, the couple I took on my ipod, and my dad's photo skills on his iphone.

Note: the pictures may likely have nothing whatsoever to do with the text around them, aside from the fact that the photos all came from the same trip.

The "senior" guys (even though they graduated last year)
... See what I mean?

For those of you who didn't experience the wonders of Hungry Horse with us, I will explain a little about our trip.

So... every year our Bible Quizzing district takes the top 20 individuals to Canada for an invitational meet where we compete with the top quizzers from 2 Canadian districts. Until this year.  Yes, this year, PNW at last hosted Great West, in a lovely camp up in the mountains of Montana.  It was an AMAZING camp. But if you've heard much about my experiences with Great West facilities, you'd know how little can make me happy. (In past years, we've had plywood walls, concrete floors, quizzing in front of a huge hot water heater, you get the picture.) Not that I'm complaining about the other years, but in comparison, this camp was really nice. It's two top qualities were:

a. We had bathrooms in the same building as our rooms! Hallelujah!  No more walking through the snow in pajamas just to brush your teeth.  This was a big one.

b. We got ice cream at just about every meal.  Yep, the camp had a soft serve machine, and they won us over by serving ice cream with lunch, dinner, and a snack after dinner.  Both days. My brother is already planning his trip to that camp.

The cafeteria area

In the morning on the first day we were at the camp, we went to go on a "hike" at a park nearby. Now, I won't deny that it was beautiful. It was really a gorgeous day.

Yeah, they thought it would be fun to put all of us kids on one side of the dock and watch it sink into the water.  (It really did start to sink)

But the term hike seems a little well, inadequate, since in my experience, a hike assumes you have a trail to hike on.  About half way through the hike, we were informed that it was too difficult to go along by the coast of the lake as we had been, and that inland the way would be easier. Sure...pushing through trees and undergrowth, not to mention sticker bushes, is easier. But hey, we made some fun memories and some awesome quotes, as you will see below.

In addition, I felt like we were actually able to get to know the Canadians this year.  In past years, we've driven a really long way, so we always arrive late and leave early. But since we were hosting, we got to be the first ones there and the last ones to leave. We also got to participate in games and a bonfire with the other quizzers.  I think the last two items brought us together more than anything.

For our game, we played zorks.  No, I hadn't heard of it either.  The way it works is that all the quizzers are on a gigantic scavenger hunt to find a key (also known as a spatula). Meanwhile, all the adults were aliens (zorks) who were trying to capture us and send us to jail. I'm not going to lie, some of them were pretty scary. ( Like the guy who wore boxers on his face as a mask. Uhh... still makes me shudder.) The best part about the game though, was that it made all of us work together. Automatically, anyone who wasn't an adult was your new best friend.  There were some people I met and worked with during the game, and then got to talk to them in the morning.

And what's better than worship songs, camp songs, and showtunes around a bonfire in the snow?  Really, how does it get any better than that?

Okay, I promised it was coming.  Drum roll please.....

Here is my quote book from GWI 2013.  I did my best to capture all the moments I was there for, along with the ones I heard about second hand from eyewitnesses.  To those who weren't on the trip, I apologize in advance if these don't make any sense to you, because if I spend a whole paragraph trying to explain, they just wouldn't be funny anymore.

For privacy reasons, I will refer to all people by their first names, including chaperones. 
If anyone sees this and would like their name removed, just let me know.

Random Quotes

"You don't look like Jon, you just look like a big red blob." — Molly, while trying on Emma's glasses

"Look, that girl is wearing minecraft pajamas!"—Claire
"No, that's an army uniform." — Daniel

"They were running and giggling and I wanted to come along." — Jon

"This is my new phone. It used to be my grandma's. All my contacts are relatives, except for one teriyaki place." — Bryce

"Look at this gorgeous scenery!" — Melodee
"Whoa, look at that huge power plant!" — Joe

"Scott, you look like a cow." — Anna

In the all PNW quiz, 
"We're all brethren here." —Jeremy
"So that means Canadians aren't brethren?" — Jon
"Don't quote me out of context." — Jeremy

"... And then the underwear-face guy jumped out and got me!" — Claire, describing her Zorks experience

Ryan, in reference to his shorts: "I don't have any pants longer than these."
Scott: "Then you don't have pants."

"Everyone focus on Scott's beautiful mouth." — Emma

"Ew! Was that your nose?" —Anna
"We've been over this, Anna. I promise it's clean." —Bryce

Bonus points if you can find the two people photo bombing this picture
When Bryce was pretending to force choke Anna (you know, like Darth Vader), a very confused CMD quizzer said,
"Are you trying to propose to her or something?"

"Shamus, we need you to come tackle Anna!" — Bryce

"Yes, I like you Bryce, especially when you wear deodorant." — Tim

"So in the top ten we had 6 PNW quizzers, 2 West Can, and 2 Canadian Mounties." — Bryce

"Bryce, stop drinking your french fries!" —Anna

Need a hint? Here they are. 

Quotes from our "hike" where many of us got lost in the woods

 "Marco!" — Lawrence

"We have to get to the end!" — Rick
"You do know this is a circle, right?" — Kim

Cutty, trying to help Lawrence: "I'm behind the big tree!"
"Which big tree? We're in the woods!" — Lawrence

Quotes that happened during Catch Phrase

Jamie: "What bullies take from you." 
Most of the van: "Lunch money." 
Bryce: "Your pants!"

Bryce: "31 days make up a..."
Anna: "Calendar!"

Hannah: "It's an orange vegetable."
Jamie: "Asparagus!"

The guys at the "short table" in the mall

And last, but not least...

If you've ever seen this video, you will understand this reference.
"Oh my goodness, Abby, look at that snowfall. It is so pretty. It looks like one of those Narnian landscapes. Who can survive those Narnian landscapes anyway?" — Bryce, Josh, and Hannah

Oh, I guess I should mention the actual quizzing.  PNW was simply stellar.  We had 4 out of our 5 teams in top nine! We composed almost half the semifinal competition!  My team even made it to finals, and got third after barely being edged out on question 20! 

 6 out of the top 10 quizzers were from PNW. 

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. 

PS. In case you were wondering, Bryce wins the award for being a part of the most quotes, coming in at a grand total of 9!