Monthly Archives: July 2012

Assertiveness: Do You Stand Up For Yourself Enough?

 

Photo by Bethany Brown
Are you too assertive? Not assertive enough? Find out with this quiz!

Girls, grab a pen and a piece of scrap paper. It’s time for a pop quiz! Now, I know that is one of the most dreaded phrases in the English language, but don’t worry! There is no grade for this one.

1. If a girl at school tells you that Christians are losers and lame, what do you do?
A. Look down and walk away as quickly as you can.
B. Ask her what makes her think that.
C. Say, “No, we aren’t! You are lame for saying that!”
2. You are at the mall and just found a really cute new shirt on sale.  When you are paying, you realize that the cashier forgot to take off the 30%. What do you do?
A. Pay full price- you must have been wrong about the sale and don’t want to be a bother.
B. Politely ask the cashier about the sale price.
C. Insist on speaking to the manager and demand a discount.
3. You are at a restaurant and the waitress gets your order wrong and brings you your least favorite meal- meat loaf and Brussel sprouts! What do you do?
A. Choke down a few bites and hope there is a sandwich at home to eat.
B. Say, “Excuse me, but I think I ordered the hamburger and fries. Is this someone else’s meal?”
C. Roll your eyes and announce to the table that the waitress is terrible.

Okay! Look at your answers.
-Mostly A’s: Shy Sally. You are trying so hard to be nice that you sometimes get overlooked. It’s okay to speak up for yourself! Sometimes people don’t know when they are short changing you. It’s okay to nicely bring it to their attention- everybody forgets things. As for those people who are really trying to be mean, it helps to stand up to them! 1 Corinthians 16:13 states, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” Stand firm against those who are mean to you by showing them the love of Christ.
-Mostly B’s: Bubbily Betty. You are doing a great job! Keep up the balance being nice to those around you while making sure you are treated fairly. You are an example to those around you.
-Mostly C’s: Cranky Cindy. Sometimes, your actions may come off as abrasive.    Remember, it’s a lot easier to make and keep friends with a smile and a few kind words. You may not mean to be harsh, but just take a minute before speaking to make sure you are showing Christ’s love, no matter how upset you are. Look at Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Being assertive isn’t a bad thing. It helps to make sure you are heard and your opinions are considered. When have you had to be assertive? Do you have any tips for Shy Sally’s or Cranky Cindy’s?

Is Freedom Really Free?

Here in Tennessee, a marvelous thing called Tax Free Weekend is about to take place, but whether you’ve got one of those in your state or not, you’re probably looking at spending a good bit of money in preparation for school starting back. New clothes. New notebooks and folders and backpacks that will express your personality for the year. New electronics, either to look cool or keep up with the way schools are using them more and more (because I would have been TOTALLY dedicated to the math app on my smart phone, if I’d had one in high school. I NEVER would have checked Facebook!) Whatever you’re spending money on, or not spending it on if your parents are a bit more frugal (like mine were, ‘WHAT, I have to use LAST YEAR’s backpack!?!) do you subscribe to an American view of freedom- one that says stuff is everything? or one that says Christ is?

Photo by Bethany Brown

A question I’ve been asking myself recently is, “Is America really free”? And if so, then “How do I define that freedom?”

So much of American culture is consumed by the idea of materialism that sometimes it is easy to alter our worldview with a life of Christ by those standards. This may sound ridiculous, after all, Jesus was constantly preaching about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s and throughout the Gospels He is constantly giving and taking care of the poor. However, I believe that many of us base our relationship and our closeness with God on whether or not things in our life are going in a way that WE believe they should. Whether that be with material goods, being financially stable, and even how we are feeling.

This idea, however, brings dangers along.

See, what we are essentially saying is that if our life is not going well, or the way America defines “well,” then something about our relationship with Jesus is wrong, or at least could be better.

We start defining our relationship with Christ with that of the world.

God doesn’t care how many positions we hold in church, how many material goods we have, or how far up in our education we may get. In fact, in Matthew Jesus says that, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (19:24), and that is because these things, these materials that America says we need in order to survive, can take away our reliance on Christ.

While much of American culture says that it is best to be rich, be happy, be successful, have tons of materials, and a long healthy life, Christ says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36).

So don’t base your relationship on Christ on the way your life looks, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned: it’s not going to be easy, and there are going to be struggles. And when those times of hopelessness’ come, that’s when we see Christ the most, and that’s when we can look up and praise Him for all He’s done and all He promises to do.

Editor’s note: If there’s one thing we’re guilty of at Unfading, it’s struggling with wanting things to go our way, not God’s way. In what kind of situations have you struggled with that? What did you do about it? How has Christ been real to you in the midst of hopelessness and trouble. If you, like us, are looking for the Biblical idea of freedom, instead of one that’s defined by how much stuff you own, I recommend starting in John 8:31-32:  “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

 

A Project Tie Dye For

Tie dye has been around since the 60’s and it amazes me that it is still kind of a big deal. Well, maybe not as big of a deal as it was then, but it is definitely still fun to take part in. I recently had the blessing of throwing a tie dye party for some of my high school friends. I told them to bring something white and I would help take care of the rest. My favorite part about it is the surprise of what your finished product will end up looking like. I was pleasantly surprised this go around with the two items I dyed. I picked out a cheap white t-shirt from Walmart and used a piece of white fabric that I will one day turn into something special. I will show you the results at the end of this post, that way you can be surprised as well.

Here is what you will need:

 

  • Anything white will work (t-shirt, hoodie, socks, bandana, tank top, pillow case…etc. these can usually be found at hobby lobby or Walmart)
  • Tulip or RIT fabric dye in the desired colors (also found at WM or HL, you can have from 1 to 1 million colors, up to you)
  • Salt
  • latex gloves
  • Rubber bands-varied size package is great
  • Ketchup/mustard condiment bottles or something similar for the dye
  • Plastic to cover table (trash bags ripped at seams can work for this)
  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Washing Machine

 

There are kits available you can buy that could make this easier. They can be pricey but they usually include everything you need, even a t-shirt.  The kits vary in sizes and quantity so be sure to check labels so materials are not forgotten.

Step 1: Prepare the dye. Honestly this step is the hardest. I strongly suggest you ask a parent to help out with this just because the measurements on the directions of the dye packet are not usually for tie dye purposes but for dye baths. Unless you buy a kit, you should not need to use the entire dye packet. You will end up with left overs and it will go to waste. I used the 1.75 ounce tulip fabric dye packets, here are the measurements I used:

1.5 Cups of HOT water

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons dye

That was used for only one color. So for each color you desire to use in this project, use these measurements or similar. If you want the dye to be deep in that color follow these measurements, if you want it lighter, I would go with 2 tablespoons of dye instead of 3. The instructions usually ask that you let the dye sit for about an hour, so keep that in mind if/when you are planning a little party like I did.

CAUTION: The dye you will be using will want to get on everything so be careful because once it gets on something, especially clothing, it will not go away, including some dishes.

Step 2: Prepare your fabric piece. You will want to get your white item damp, so put it under running water in your sink until wet through and wring out as much of the water as you can.

Step 3: Choose a style. I’m going to show you two simple waysto give your white item an interested dye look. There is the spiral look and then there is a ring look. Check out the pictures below, and a description under each set of pictures will tell you how to do the one you wish to choose.

Swirl:

 

  • Lay the shirt out on a flat surface with the front of shirt facing up.
  • Find a point on the front of the shirt you wish to be the center of the swirl (picture the eye of a hurricane).

  • Put your finger tips and thumb down on that spot and begin rotating your hand clockwise. As you do this, you will notice the shirt beginning to gather where your fingers and thumb are. You may have to lift up your fingers and thumb, since we are not able to rotate our hands 360 degrees, and place them down again the same way you did when you first placed them. It could be compared to turning a knob on a giant safe.

 

  • Continue doing this until the entire shirt/item has gathered in close. You should be able to see the swirl just from the folds and wrinkles you have created

 

  • Tighten up the loose edges a bit and begin wrapping rubber bands around the circle of fabric. Criss cross the bands so they look like pie pieces when you are done. It does not have to be perfect and if your shirt is bunched up in places, that is totally normal. If you feel you messed it up, just try it again, no problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rings:

  • Follow the first two steps of the swirl, except the point you are choosing on the front of the shirt will be the “bulls eye”

 

  • Instead of rotating your fingers and thumbs around, you will simply grab the the point of the shirt you have chosen and pull up until the shirt/item is off of the work surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • As you hold the point chosen with one hand, use the other hand to gather the loose hanging fabric.

  •  To make this next step easier you can lay that fabric down and begin adding rubber bands along the length of the gathered item. It is best to begin at the original point of the item that you have chosen as your “Bulls Eye” and work your way down. You can have as many as 2 to 10 bands. The more bands you have the more rings you will end up with.

I apologize for the poor quality of the last couple photos but you can see we have made segments in both of the shirts using the rubber bands.

Step 4: Once you have chosen your pattern or style of tie dye and you have banded your white item, you are now ready for the fun messy part. Bring on the dye!

 

 

A great way to accomplish this is using the rubber bands as boundaries for your dye. I like to just squirt the dye on the different segments. Sometimes I make a repeating pattern with colors if there are more segments than there are colors or just use 2 colors and alternate each. The options are limitless and you get to choose.

CAUTION: Some colors can mix and make ugly colors like poopy brown or grodi green, so be aware of the colors you are placing next to each other. On the fabric piece I accidentally had some colors mix and make an ugly green but by the time I washed and dried the item it turned out to be just fine. So be careful but don’t sweat it either. Another caution would be to always squirt more dye than you think you will need because it has a ways to go to reach the middle of the white item. Remember it is bunched up quite a bit. Feel free to squirt directly into wrinkles. I sometimes pull them apart to check on how much white is still in there.

Step 5: When you have sufficiently dyed your item stick it in a plastic grocery bag, check that it does not have any holes, get as much air out as possible and tie it off.

Step 6: Stick it somewhere and let your project soak for 4-6 hours. Make sure to keep the plastic under it, in case of a leak you didn’t notice.

Step 7: After the right amount of time take your project out of the bag, take off rubber bands and see what you created, but only briefly because you need to get that sucker into the washing machine. Wash it in hot water using detergent that does NOT contain bleach. DO NOT wash it with any other clothes for the first couple times you wash it, unless they too are tie dye items, because the dye will ruin them. In fact you will want to run the washing machine (empty) at least one more time after washing the tie dye items the first time to get all the dye out of the machine. Your parents will really appreciate you paying attention to this step, I promise. You may then proceed to dry the items as you wish. The colors will probably fade a little bit but not enough to disappoint.

Have fun and remember to ask for help with that tricky dye, its a booger.

 

 

Fiction Fridays: Faith and Country Part Two

 Last time on this story, we left Laine and Katherine’s father reading Katherine’s letter, which, Laine believes, will tell him, and their cancer-diagnosed mother, that Katherine has run away to join the army. To read part one, click here.

His face remained hard. He read the letter and looked up at me.

“Do you know what this means?”

No, sir,” I quickly replied. “I mean, I haven’t read it.”

Dad shifted his discerning eye from me to the paper. He read aloud, “Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry. For once, I am really trying to make the right decision. I hope you will eventually understand. Katherine.”

He looked at me. “What did she do?”

I took a deep breath and looked at Mom. Her expression was filled with anxiety. Why didn’t Katherine tell them herself?

“She said she joined the army.”

Silence like a sheet of ice fell over the room. Dad’s stone face remained the same. He looked at me, then the paper, then Mom.

Mom stared down at her hands for a long time. Then, one by one, silent tears fell down her face.

As soon as Mom started crying, I felt a lump in my throat. Not for Katherine, but for Mom. She had survived so much, and now she would be fighting another war.

“Are you sure?” was the first thing Mom said, after a long, difficult silence.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and blinked tears back to my eyes. I had to be strong with her. “She showed me some papers, and I’m pretty sure they were real.”

“Why didn’t she tell us herself?” Mom did not hold back. She sobbed, unashamed. “Where is she?”

“She said she was going to Fort Jackson in South Carolina.”

Dad folded up the letter and stood up. “We’ll see.”

“James,” Mom said. “What if it’s true?”

Dad shook his head and words tumbled out of his mouth, “I don’t know, I don’t know, and I don’t care. You’ve got to let go, Charlotte. We’ve raised her, she’s grown, and I’m through.” He stood up and walked to his bedroom, his footsteps pounding the worn carpet of our old house. The door slammed, echoing through the hallway.

“But she’s my baby,” Mom said softly. “She’ll always be my baby.”

I wished Mom were a baby, so I could sweep her up in my arms and rock her to a gentle sleep. I would sing her a sweet lullaby, and she would forget her troubles, knowing that she was safe in my arms. Mom didn’t deserve to go through this.

I hugged Mom, but felt nothing in return. It was like she couldn’t feel me, like she was isolated in her own grief.

I gave up and went into the kitchen to start dinner, although I knew no one felt like eating. I hated the nasty feeling inside of me that I couldn’t shake off, that I had to accept and live with. I had felt it when Mom found out about her cancer, the first time Katherine came home drunk, and again when the cancer came back for a second time.

The only thing I could hope and pray for was that Katherine wouldn’t mess this up.

 

Three days later, I found myself at the door of Katherine’s room with a giant trash bag. I had been sketching ideas for her room, trying to figure out something she would really like. I had no idea when she would be able to come home, but I wanted her room to be ready.

The worst part came first: cleaning it out. I started with emptying the trashcan and worked my way around the floor, dumping anything and everything into the big black trash bag. I grimaced as I picked up a molded pizza box from underneath her bed. Maybe I should’ve worn gloves.

I had been working for half an hour when I found an old shoebox with the words “Important Stuff” written on top in red marker. I set down the trash bag and stared at the box, wondering if I should open it. If it had been anyone else, I would have felt like I was intruding. But it was Katherine. Katherine had never seemed to care about her privacy, or mine for that matter. I really didn’t think she would care.

On the top of the pile was a birthday card. Inside, it read, “Happy birthday, Katherine! I can’t believe you are 16! You are a beautiful, bright, and talented young lady. I think that you will have great opportunities in the future. We love you, Mom and Dad.” It was clearly Mom’s handwriting, but at the time, Dad probably meant it too.

My heart sank, because what they said was true. Katherine had had so much potential.

I was surprised at the next piece of paper. I had nearly forgotten about it, and I couldn’t believe that Katherine had kept it all these years. It was a picture that I had drawn when I was ten years old. Katherine and I were at the beach, surfing a wave in the ocean. I had written “BFFs” in the sand. I remembered how long I had worked on the picture, carefully coloring each cloud and seashell, making sure it was neat. I was glad Katherine had kept it.

The next page wasn’t a picture, but a paper titled “I Want to Be.” It was dated 2006, when Katherine would’ve been a sophomore. At the top, her teacher had written in red ink: “96. I’m very impressed. What a noble aspiration. I wish you the best luck.”

I was shocked when I read the first line of the paper. “I want to be in the army.”

I had no idea Katherine was even thinking about the army back then! By the time she was a senior, it was pretty clear that she wasn’t going to college. Now that I thought about it, I had never heard Katherine say what she wanted to do with her life. Instead of looking to the future, it had been about getting her out of her present trouble. Was joining the army something that Katherine had really wanted to do?

I continued reading: “I am proud to live in a country where each citizen inherits freedom. However, I know that freedom comes with a high price. It would be an honor to represent my country by defending her precious freedom. It will be hard work, but I believe I can do it.”

I finished reading the paper and sat in awe. I had a swelling sense of pride for Katherine and a peace for myself. Katherine was doing something she really believed in, that she wanted.

I took the paper and went into the living room. Today Mom was sitting on the sofa, reading her Bible.

“Mom,” I said as I sat down and gave her the paper, “look what I found. Did you know Katherine wrote this?”

She skimmed the first page, and a soft smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “Yes,” she said after awhile. “I had forgotten about this, but yes.” She smiled widely, chuckling a little laugh. “Isn’t that great? Maybe this is God’s plan for her. Where did you find this?”

I didn’t really want to tell Mom about the box, because I didn’t know everything that was in it. “I found it in her room,” I said. “I was cleaning up so I can start redecorating it.”

“Katherine giving you a project,” Mom was back to her almost-smile. “She’s keeping you busy. It’s times like this when I realize there’s a whole lot more to Katherine than we think.”

I thought back to Katherine’s sixteenth birthday card. I hoped Mom was right. Katherine was determined, if nothing else. If she set her mind to something, I was sure she could get it done.

As I walked back to my room, I wondered if maybe Katherine wanted me to find her memory box.

 

Almost three weeks passed before we heard from Katherine. We couldn’t help but question if she really joined the army like she said. With Katherine, you could never be too sure. I was flipping through the mail after school when I first saw the letter. I knew it was Katherine’s handwriting, and she had addressed the letter to “Laine Taylor.” I ripped the seal, making sure I didn’t tear the return address. Two sheets of paper fell out. One for me and one for Mom.

 

Dear Laine,

I know you’ve been wondering if I actually joined the army. Now you can look at the address and have proof. The red phase of BCT (Basic Combat Training) was hard, but I have to admit that I enjoyed parts of it. They push you to your physical limits and beyond, but I’m okay. It’s hard, and they’re strict, but for once in my life, I know this is where I’m supposed to be. The obstacle courses were actually kind of fun. Blue phase gets into the guns, which is more difficult for me. But I’m learning. I’m meeting new people, some like me, some not. My bunkmate Alyssa reminds me of you. She’s sweet and compassionate. Reads her Bible a lot. I miss you, Laine. I know you’re doing good, like you always do. How’s Mom? TELL ME THE TRUTH. I guess that’s all. Take care. Love you.

                                                -Kat

 

I read the letter three times over before I went inside. It was such a relief to know that she was happy. I hoped that this would be the beginning of a new life for Katherine. If she could keep it up…

MORE ON RACHEL:

I’m a senior in high school, excited about what the future holds! Although I’m still not quite sure what that is, I’m trusting God to lead me. I love writing and performing. I’m involved in theater, where last year I played the Wicked Witch of the West! But don’t worry, that’s not the usual me. This year I’m going to be the editor of my school’s literary magazine. I love my church and am passionate about spreading the Gospel. My favorite verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Fairy-truth: Part One

Photo by Bethany Brown
Ever feel trapped inside the fairy tale? You don’t have to live life attached to a fairy tale when there are fairy-truths out there.

When I started this series I opened up with my own fairy tale example of how I planned to meet the love of my life. Of course I then went on to explain that would probably never happen because of my stance on hats. I have since discussed the importance of courageous committment and the need for maturity in relationships each time telling Bethany I was positve I was coming off as bitter. Each time though, she told me to just write. She could edit out the bitter and in the end her advice was sound and she liked what I had to say. So, as I just write this week I find that I have a confession to make to you before we go any further in this series. I believe wholeheartedly in something I like to call “fairy-truths”. Fairy tales are beautiful stories and on paper they are perfect, but in real life they often fall very short. Next week I have a fairy tale to tell you and in prepartion for this I ask for something from you; study chapter 13 in 1st Corinthians in depth. Until next week stay safe and blessings to you all!

1 Corinthians 13
 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 
 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. 
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. 
But the greatest of these is love.
Try other versions here.

 

Coming Attractions

Today, I drove my car around our church’s little community, picking up teenage girls from our youth group for a photo shoot, and I thought how fun it was to have the opportunity to hang out with such beautiful, talented, funny, amazing young women. They made me laugh and then wowed me with ideas for what the pictures should be. Most of the best ones weren’t on my original list. You’ll be seeing lots of results from that photo shoot over the next few weeks, and since our Wednesdays here at Unfading are sort of a celebration of life and what’s coming next on here, I thought it appropriate to enjoy one of my favorite pictures from today!

Thursday- Fairy-Truth, the alternative to the Fairy Tale, a part of Tiffany’s fantastic ongoing search for what’s true and what isn’t when it comes to relationships. Read parts one, two and three here.

Friday- Fiction Fridays- we’re keeping this one a surprise, but be sure to check in with us on Friday!

Saturday- a craft project Tie Dye For. Yep, you heard me right. Be there or be square. I’ll just bet you have your parents at the store as soon as they get up that morning to grab the supplies you’ll need. I know I will … oh wait, I guess I have to drive myself.

Monday- If God loves me, why…?

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Whether we’re struggling over relationships. Or dealing with tragedies. Or tie dyeing a shirt. Or swinging on a contraption like this one (don’t know what to call it.)

My time at our little photo shoot reminded me yet again how wonderful each of you are. How differently you react to things and yet how you can work together to accomplish something awesome! And speaking of accomplishing something, if someone can tell me what this contraption is called in the comments section, I’ll happily proclaim you Miss (insert contraption name) until my next such question comes up. So go to it! Have a happy week.

Sweet (torturous) decisions

Ah the sweet torture of choices in the ice cream aisle!
Photo By Kanesue (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I hate making decisions.  Whether it’s deciding my favorite movie or which ice cream flavor to order, I always hesitate.  I guess it’s my personality type.  So just imagine how I am in making bigger life decisions – where to go to college, what to study, where to invest my time, etc.  And to top it all off, how am I supposed to know God’s will for my life!?!

Knowing God’s will is always something I’ve struggled with.  Is there a specific path charted out for us that we must discern, or do we have choices in what direction our life takes.  I grew up thinking the former – that if I made a wrong choice somewhere along the way, I’d mess up God’s plan for me.

Well, let’s go back to the basics.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  What does he call us to?  The Bible isn’t some riddle for me to decode the secret plan for my life.  However it is full of directives on how to live our lives in a way that pleases God.  To summarize: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38)  That’s something I can do anywhere!  Whether I’m working as a bookkeeper in a dusty shed (having never taken any accounting classes), helping in a clinic for children with disabilities, or having a picnic with friends, I can learn how to love God and my neighbor more.  If it’s His will for us to love Him and others, we can do that in any situation!

Now don’t hear me wrong.  I know God directs our steps and certainly gives very clear directions to people sometimes (just look at the story of Abraham!).  But Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”  God uses our interests, gifts, and passion if we’re centered on Him.

So while making decisions still fills me with fear sometimes (I have less than a year ‘til I finish grad school!), I’m learning that if my joy and delight is in following Jesus, I can serve him in any circumstance.  This is His will.

And by the way, I still don’t know my favorite movie but my favorite ice-cream flavor is Bunny Tracks!  Yum!

As summer gets closer to ending (gasp and sigh) what kinds of decisions do you find yourself having to make? How have you felt as you’ve worked to make them? How have God, his word and others helped you along the way? Let us know in the comments!

Fiction Fridays: Five Word Book Review

Ok, for real if I could do a book review in five words that would be awesome and all my teachers who slogged through my long papers would fall to their knees in thanks to God for the transformation! As I’m to 37 words now, I’m not guessing that’s going to happen! But this is a feature we’ll be having occasionally, recommending some fiction from someone else for a change! We should be back to a regular story next week though, never fear!

This week’s review: So Not Happening, by Jenny B. Jones. Thomas Nelson, 2009. I wish I could give you a photo of the cover, but my photo uploader is on the fritz again (argh) so we’ll have to do with a link to the author’s website instead (as long as you promise not to click it before reading my review.)

I got this book for $3 at  a local book store, thinking if it turned out to be any good, I’d recommend it on here (I spend more time in the youth/young adult fiction than in the regular parts of the store). I’d heard this was a good author and wanted to check her out. Words I though when I read it:

Funny It was equal parts sarcastic wit and banter and totally embarrassing moments that keep you rolling because you can imagine yourself doing them … from city girl Bella Kirkwood being licked by a cow just after she moves to live with her new family in Truman, Oklahoma, to her accidentally interrupting her mom’s wedding because she was thinking she wished she could stop the wedding and the thoughts kind of spilled over.

Convicting This kid who was raised in New York on Daddy’s credit cards seems about as shallow as they come, and yet when she was shoved out of her comfort zone into the Wrangler and John Deere world of Truman, I didn’t find myself as disgusted with her bad attitude as I thought I would. That’s because I was feeling the conviction that she didn’t sound so different from me when I get into situations I don’t like.

Spine-tingling I didn’t expect a story about a shallow, socialite teenage girl who cares more about her Prada heels than getting along with her new step-father and brothers, to manage to also contain a mystery. I know it said it would on the back, but I just didn’t see how it could pull it off. I thought it’d either be nothing, or be pretty cheesy. Instead, I kept catching myself picking the book back up after I’d promised to put it down to clean my apartment or edit a post of Unfading, because I just needed to know a little more of what was going to happen.

Puppy love And no I won’t say who, because it would be a spoiler for a very unlikely couple. Let’s just say I had to use every ounce to concentrate back on Tiffany’s marriage posts and remember that I’m waiting for my own non-fairy tale, this one was so fun. As it is, we get a pretty good non-fairy tale with Bella’s love trials as nothing seems to be simple and fairy tale for her either.

Light Bella’s not a very deep character at first, concerned as she is for herself more than anyone else (let that be a warning to all of us). That made it a pretty light read. Characters around Bella, though, go through a lot of deep things so if you’re into the deeper side of things, you don’t feel guilt for spending your time on the story, it’s worthwhile. Even Bella starts digging in deeper to her attitude and relationship with God by the end of the book. I feel like more of that’s coming in future books in the series, but there was plenty of it here. Bella really starts to see how others matter and want to work for their good as well as her own.

All told I LOVED So Not Happening. Definitely check it out for your weekend’s reading. And don’t be surprised if you’re done with it by Monday. Have a happy weekend!

My Conflict with Conflict

A little old fashioned conflict! Left to right: Jean Rogers, John Wayne & Ward Bond in Conflict, 1936. Your conflict may not look like this. What does it look like?
Photo By unknown (Universal) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” 

Proverbs 15:28

I don’t know how you are faring in your Bible study this summer, but I hope that God is dealing with you as strongly as He’s dealing with me! What boggles me the most is how, oftentimes, my day-to-day living is offering real-life illustrations of the ideas that I am studying in my quiet time. It. Is. Crazy!

Case in point:

Hot, short-fused tempers run deep down one side of my beloved family, and I did not manage to escape the curse. While I was guilty of angry outbursts on many occasions, I had a parent whose hot-blooded temper fueled many of my bad memories. The mood in our home was often one of heat and anger, tension that you could slice with a knife.

When I think back to that time now, I realize that isn’t how lives are supposed to be lived. Because of the feelings that those bad memories induce and the knowledge of the damage that was done and the intense desire that I will not be like that, I am terrified of conflict. I avoid in-your-face confrontation at all costs and even gentle disagreements have me shaking in my boots at times.

I don’t mean to say that the shift toward anger never happens upon my sails or that harsh words don’t roll off of my tongue. But the fact that I am so easily susceptible to fall on either side of the line tells me that it is an issue I need to take straight to the feet of Jesus. My recent study in the book of James and an encounter with a nosy stranger have given me the opportunities I needed to do that.

Look with me in James chapter 1 and verse 19: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Mark this in your Bibles, ladies, because I believe that this one sentence contains the holy guidelines that we should follow for every conflict we find ourselves a part of. Ever heard that saying about how we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen more and talk less? Here it is in holy composition!

Matthew 18:15-16 says that if I have a problem with a brother, I should acknowledge it WITH that person (and not behind his back). Even when I’d rather ignore the issue at its root, I must offer a chance to “gain my brother.” Look back at James 1:19, but now continue on to verse 20: “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” That by itself is direct enough for me to grant a second thought toward my anger-induced actions.

So the other day I was shopping with my eighteen month old son. It was past nap time and his attitude displayed it! His behavior necessitated endless correction. I finally stopped what I was doing to give him more direct attention, which I felt in my heart was needed. Next thing I know, a rather nosy employee was hounding me on the responsibilities of motherhood as if I didn’t realize what a weighty title “mother” is and couldn’t possibly pull off the role correctly. Her points were valid, but her intentions and attention toward me were ill-deserved.

Remember, I do not do conflict. Even in my own defense, I avoid it. I always walk away thinking of what I should have said and how I could have really stuck it to the person. However, when it comes to my son, Momma Bear always comes out. In this particular situation, things really could have gone either way.

Here’s what actually happened: I already told you, she made valid points (I was swift to hear her). So I politely smiled. When she finished, I kindly agreed with her (I was slow to speak). And I walked away, with no thoughts of what I should have said (I was slow to wrath). Yes, her words stung…she has no idea how I love my child. But I didn’t know her either and had no right to judge her based solely on her poor mischaracterization of me. My husband and family had plenty of words for me to go back and offer her, but I know in my heart that I did what the Lord wanted me to do.

Are you with me here, girls? In a world where every individual is never wrong and so many of us demand to exercise our right to proclaim our truths from every rooftop we can climb, conflict is simply unavoidable. We must guard ourselves with the instructions given to us in the Word so that we can appropriately respond when conflict is thrown into our laps. The way you react in these situations says a lot about who you are as a young lady in Christ. Who knows…what you find out about yourself may surprise you! It certainly did me.

Think back on a time when you were forced into a position you were uncomfortable with. How did you react? Were you surprised by your reaction? Do you feel like you behaved in the way God wanted you to? What could you have done differently? Share your experiences with us in the comments. You truly never know how your reality could help someone else with theirs.

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Just a Book?

Photo by Bethany Brown
How does the Bible stack up against other books? Though these are some of the photographer’s favorites, they don’t come close to the word of God!

Editor’s Note: Have you ever glanced at your Bible, buried under a couple of other things on your night stand possibly, and wondered where it gets its power? I mean, what about it has led people to live and die and change their entire lives for it? Did you know that in some countries, it’s considered disrespectful to put your Bible on the floor, or to touch it with your feet? To the people who live by that standard, it’s clearly more than just cow skin and tree pulp. But what more is it?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Bible is important because it is one of the tools that God uses to communicate to us. It helps us develop our beliefs about Christianity by reading what Jesus taught and preached when He was on earth. It gives us the insight that devoted followers of Christ had, and through these, God can teach us and help us grow into stronger believers.

Not only can the Bible be used as a teaching tool, but the Bible is always a great place to find words of encouragement. It shows us the power of God and how He has always been, and always will be with His people. It shows the many different characteristics of God: His love, His joy, His anger, His mercy, etc.

We are told to wait upon the Lord, and I believe that waiting is not meant to be a state of inactivity, but activity.  We need to be reading the Bible, praying, anything and everything we can do to grow closer to us and find out what He is trying to tell us. We are to be witnesses and the only way we can do that, and preach the good news, is by knowing and understanding what the good news is saying. Which means we HAVE to read the Bible. It is not an option, but a necessity.

Lastly, I believe the most important reason we are given the Bible, God’s Word, is so that our relationship with Him can grow deeper. The more we read, the more we grow stronger in Him, the more God reveals to us and the more chances we are given to become a witness to others. In short, the more we read the Bible and seek God with our hearts, the more responsibility God gives us.  And what’s better than being used as a tool for the glory of God’s kingdom?  In my opinion, absolutely nothing.

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