Walking in Darkness?

Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys his servant?
If you are walking in darkness,
without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
and rely on your God.
But watch out, you who live in your own light
and warm yourselves by your own fires…

Isaiah 50:10-11

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Beautiful Things

Photo by Bethany Brown

Ever wonder if God can make beauty from your junk?

I was pondering that very question on my way to work this morning with the above, rather blurry sunrise (one of those that Tiffany says is God-copyrighted, ie. too beautiful to photograph to full justice, not to mention taken on my cell while driving, which I do not recommend) and listening to the Gungor song “Beautiful Things.”

If that doesn’t inspire those of us with junk, I don’t know what will.

This is especially real to me as I’ve been having to do some things lately that are scary for me. I did some of them today as a matter of fact. And I’m constantly reminded that not five years ago, I would have been utterly incapable of some of them. Yet here God is enabling me to do them now.

But still, the problem keeps popping back up in odd places and I wonder … can God really finish this conflict once and for all?

And here’s what He reminds me:

And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’ Then the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I say. Ezekiel 36:35-36

If you’re life feels like a wasteland and you’ll never be able to beat the baggage you carry with you, remember that when God promises, he goes hard after them, even when it takes some time. Watch for what he will do with your ashes. He’s already doing so much with mine. For he the Lord has spoken to you dear girl and he will do what he says.

Summer Plans Part II

By Dunduff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ever wish God’s plans were as clearly laid out as the plans for a grand castle? They may not be as easy to see, but they’re just as beautiful, which is a little easier to see looking back.

Back in June, I wrote about my uncertainty about my summer job. Now, three months later and a bit into fall semester, I’ve been able to reflect on my experience.
My work this summer was an unexpected blessing and opportunity. I worked with a summer reading program in a small, rural community about forty minutes away from my hometown. I was a mentor to eight elementary-aged children from Monday to Friday for eight weeks. Much of my summer consisted of read-alouds, art activities with LOTS of paint, mealtimes in which I spent more time cleaning up spilled drinks than actually eating, and learning cool tag games like “Giants, Wizards, and Elves.” We even had a lice outbreak toward the end of the program! Ugh!
More than any of that, I enjoyed myself. I was able to get to know my community better, develop some new friendships with some really awesome people, and I was able to help children improve their reading and creative skills. I think my favorite part was that I had the chance to take part in doing something for my community.
At the beginning of the summer, I was afraid that I wouldn’t like my job, that I wouldn’t be good with children, and that I wouldn’t be able to really contribute anything to the program. Throughout the summer God surprised me by providing ways for me to grow and stretch myself and to impact children’s lives, children that He loves and cares for.
In every situation we can learn and grow. There are people all around us, young and not-so-young, who we can impact. It’s not always easy to try to do things we feel unsure about or to try to work in unfamilar situations, but it is often in those places that we learn the most and God surprises us with opportunities to develop new friendships, learn new skills, and make an impact in the lives of others.
As another school year starts and new classes and new teachers can sometimes be scary and intimidating, think about ways you can grow and impact others, and remember that God is with you. As you think of ways, let us know what you come up with!

I was in Love….

Photo by Bethany Brown

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

I was in love.

Well, I thought it was love anyway.

It was the start of my sophomore year of high school, I was looking and feeling way better than I did my freshman year (Anyone else’s awkward preteen years stretch into the early teen years? No? Too bad…) and I just knew that this was going to be THE year…the year that I finally got the guy.

So who was the guy? He was the one who my made heart flutter every time I saw him walking down the hall (in my direction, or just up ahead…it didn’t seem to make a difference to my heart); the one whose schedule, at least by week three, I had mostly figured out so that I could make sure that, wherever possible, my route matched his; the same one that at least three of my other girl friends were also in love with; but mostly, he was the one that needed me.

You like how I twisted that little scenario?

You see, he and I, we sort of had a history. Well, our families had a history…we went “way back” as they say. His family had been marked by a tragedy years before (which is another story entirely) and it directly impacted my family. Because of that relationship, my heart needed to fix his heart. And it didn’t hurt that I found him to be incredibly good looking!

Now I don’t know about you, but for me there was always an anxious excitement that surrounded the start of a new school year. At my high school, we were in four longer classes a day for the fall semester and then four different classes for the spring semester. Depending on the subject, you could be in a room full of students of the same gender or the same grade or a complete mash-up of all genders and grades. That unknown was always a thrill for me, so couple that with the strange increase in my self-confidence that tenth-grade year and I was just really excited for school to start back!

But when that first day arrived, I had worked it up so much in my mind that I had become a nervous wreck. My tummy was turning in circles! I remember being in the shower that morning just pouring my heart out to God. I told Him everything that I was feeling. He already knew, but it felt good to get it out. I told Him the desires of my heart. He already knew, but it is so nice to have a confidante.

I’ll never forget what happened: as clear as day, right there in the shower, I heard the words, “I know the plans I have for you. I KNOW the plans I have for you! I know the plans I have for YOU!”

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:16

My God knew all that I felt, the good and the bad. Even more than that, He went before me. He wrote my days out before anyone else even knew of my existence.  He had a perfect plan and I needn’t worry anymore.

I was thrilled and petrified all at the same time to find that my love was in one of my classes that semester. It only fed my expectation that this was my year to snag him! But for every day that passed without so much as an acknowledgment from him, for every one of his absences when he never asked me what he missed out on, and for every group project that he didn’t ask me to join…my hope began deflating.

I will have you know that I graduated from high school without ever going on a date with that guy. He never even asked. But he did teach me something.

I WAS in love…with Jesus.

He lets me know I’m loved every day of my life in one way or another. He is NEVER absent! And He wants to be included in every single teeny tiny part of my existence. He always fills in the gaps where I feel like I’m lacking and He has brought just the right people that I need into my life (including an absolutely wonderful man whom I am blessed to claim as my husband).

As this school year begins, can you trust Him with your relationships (friends, acquaintances, romances)? I challenge you to fall in love with Him so that you can fall in love with all the things about you that He created. And as for the rest? Don’t worry! He’s got a plan.

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Shabby Chic mirror

This Friday, instead of fiction, we offer you a little weekend project to have some fun with. Usually we don’t post these till Saturday, but thought you might like a chance to plan ahead. This is a super pretty one I may have to try myself very soon. Enjoy!

At this point, if you have been following these tutorials, you have probably found yourself a nice little thrift store that you have come to rely on. Well for this post you will need to plan another trip for some simple supplies. Before I get to that let me explain the significance of this tutorial. As I grow up I have begun to enjoy things that look old. Not just anything, but things that still carry  beauty which has been enhanced by the years of its existence. Take the antique mirror for example. It is hard to buy a new mirror that looks like an old one and much harder to make a new mirror look like an old one. We will just have to improvise and  not begin with a mirror, but a picture frame. In this tutorial I will show you how to turn a simple picture frame from a thrift store or even one laying around the house into something that can be compared to one of those antique mirrors.

Here is what you will need:

*Krylon Looking Glass spray paint (can be found at Hobby Lobby, I do not suggest substituting with metallic spray paint)

*Krylon Clear Coating spray paint (matte or glossy, should not make a difference)

*1/4 Cup vinegar mixed with 3/4 cup water

*Spray Bottle

*Protected work space

*Paper towels

*Picture frame (size is up to you)

 

Step 1: After you have covered your work area with some kind of protective sheet, get your frame and carefully pull the glass part out of the frame. For now, set aside the rest of the frame. You will not need those parts until the end. Make sure the glass is clean on both sides. I use windex to do the job

You will need to make sure your vinegar/water mix is ready and poured into a spray bottle. You will need it handy pretty quickly after this step. I put my mix in a used windex bottle that had been rinsed out.

Step 2: Take the clean glass and lay it flat onto the covered work area. Shake up the looking glass spray paint for about a minute and take off cap. Spray the glass evenly covering the side facing up. You do not need to spray too close to the glass or you may get runs of paint. I would keep about one foot distance between the spray nozzle and the glass.

You will notice the shade changing as the paint dries, it should dry rather quickly but don’t let it dry all the way before doing step 3.

Step 3: Before the paint dries completely, wait about 3 seconds when done spraying the paint, then squirt the glass with the vinegar/water mix at least one time. Once again, let there be about one foot’s distance between spray nozzle and glass. This should allow good enough coverage with one squirt. Wait another 3 seconds.

Droplets are normal after spraying vinegar/water mix

Step 4: Get a paper towel and lightly spray the paper towel with vinegar/water mix with one foot distance between nozzle and towel. Gently use the paper towel to dab the droplets. Avoid any kind of wiping with the paper towel, it will take off too much of the spray paint. Just dab until you no longer see the droplets. In place of the droplets there will be blank spots as if you have taken of some of the paint. This is what you want, don’t panic.

Step 5: Once you are satisfied with the amount of paint removed and you have the look you want, let it sit to dry.

Note- Feel free to dab as much as you would like. This is your project and you can remove as much of the paint as want. Just remember the goal here is to have a mirror type affect. Sometimes I push my paper towel down and rotate slightly to rub off a little more paint in some spots, but I do this sparingly.

Step 6: Spray the glass, same side, with the looking glass spray paint once again. This will cover up some of those spots we made bare but will not make them dissappear. It will keep it from being too transparent. This adds to making it look like an antique.

Step 7: The final step is the easiest. After the glass has completely dried, pick up the clear coat spray paint (this will also need to be shaken for about a minute)and spray over the looking glass paint. This will help protect it and keep it in tact. You may do as many coats of this as you would like. Wait about an hour then put that beautiful glass back into its frame. The side of the glass that you painted faces you as you place it back in the frame. It is the side that will NOT be seen.

Please remember that you are painting and working on the same side of the glass the entirety of this project.

On the final product in this picture I put some fabric in the frame behind the glass to give it some flare. You can do this with any fabric you choose. Just cut it down to size and place fabric in frame after glass.

It is hard to tell in this picture but you can actually see your reflection when all is said and done. I will warn you though that this will not work the best as just a mirror. It is mostly for decoration purposes, but it does that job very well. Hope you have fun and enjoy the outcome.

Kristi

 

 

 

Falling In Love: Not Just a Story

 

Ken and Elaine

Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you.

A big Unfading hug to anyone who knows that is lyrics from an old Elvis song. A personal high five to anyone who stopped reading and sang the rest of the song. When I was a little girl Elvis played a lot in my house so you can imagine I have a place in my heart for his music. However, this song is mine. I laid claim on it as the ultimate first dance song at a young age and as you know I am a romance skeptic so I take my ownership seriously. I share this little piece of personal history with you because of what my final post on fairytales is about. It is actual the closest thing to a fairytale I have heard.

Ken and Elaine, a couple at my church agreed to let me tell their story and I sat down prepared to do just that with you. I even asked for a special photo of the couple to share, which they so graciously gave us here at Unfading. However, each time what I wrote never seemed to grasp the emotion of Elaine as she recounted memories of her decades spent with Ken to me via telephone the first afternoon of my research for this series.

Her vivid memories of him escorting her to prom and how the slightly older Ken had to hope the in-laws would sign for a 17 year old Elaine to marry the college boy. She spoke of the importance of maturity in a relationship and that even though they waited a few years before they welcomed their son that it was still hard being young in that life. Yet all the while she remembered everything, even the difficult, with a air of happiness and described the love they shared and still share to this day as awesome.

I wanted to tell you a story, but what Ken and Elaine share is not a story. It is a falling in love journey when two people come together and God blesses what they have together. He doesn’t make it error proof or easy, but if both parties and it took a while for Ken on this one, are willing to committ to God, then he will lead and guide them accordingly.

Ken and Elaine practice the art of courageous committment and true love over time beautifully. The best part is that is not a story, but more like as river flows to the sea some things were meant to be, and if God has it in His plan for you to be a two someday and you are open to His direction then someday you will not be able to help falling in love. Thank you for coming on this journey with a skeptic who now likes to hope that the twirling girl that laid claim to old Elvis still twirls waiting for a the right dance partner.

Exercise: What’s the point?

Photo by Mary Sue Brown

So you’ve probably heard all the buzz about how important exercising is to your health.  It helps prevent heart disease, improves your mood, increases your energy and helps you sleep better! While all these health benefits are important, there is a much more important reason.  The most important reason is that it helps you be the best prepared you can to share the Gospel.

How does exercise help? Well, aside from the gym being a good place to meet new people, it helps you to get ready for a missionary lifestyle.  This doesn’t mean that you need to pump some iron before your next mission trip. We are called, in Mark 16:15, to, “…Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.”  This means we are in the mission field all the time. Therefore, when you exercise, exercise to prepare your body for the rigors of this world so you can share the love of Christ with those around you.  Exercise also gives you a time to be quiet.  If you like to run, try running without music and using that time to pray.  If you like to take walks, try walking with a  friend and sharing what is going on in your spiritual life.

How much exercise is healthy? It depends on your body and your schedule. The recommendations say 20-30 minutes three days a week.  It can be anything you want to do that gets you moving. If you love to dance, try an activity like Zumba.  If you’ve always wanted to be a runner, check out a walk-run running plan.  There are plenty of free ones online. If you like to take your time and stretch, try a yoga class or video.

Keep in mind that, despite its benefits, exercise can become an idol. If you find yourself obsessing over when you will exercise, take a break. Taking a few days off may be better for your mental and physical health than plowing forward.  If you have questions about starting to exercise, check with your doctor or the athletic trainer at your school for more information.

What’s your favorite way to exercise?  How does it affect your spiritual life? Let us know in the comments!

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Work out…your faith

Photo by Mary Sue Brown
Exercise … not just for muscles anymore.

“It will get easier as you get stronger,” she told me as I climbed off the machine.

I groaned. Wouldn’t it be better if it were just easier now?

The machine in question is this mechanism of torture whose name I don’t know (though it works your obliques), but it’s part of the exercise circuit at the gym, where I’ve been working out. “She” is the owner of the gym, who was sympathizing with me even as she signed me up to be tortured more by this card that will keep track of my progress and make the workout harder each time.

Now I don’t want you to worry if you’re not into the athletic thing, because this is not going to be a physical fitness post. Actually that comes tomorrow, which kind of inspired me, but no I’m not going to guilt you about exercise, so don’t worry!

Later that day, my mom and I were talking to a friend who had surgery last year that could have fixed her problem, or could have discovered cancer. She talked about being on the operating table, and how there was nothing like the peace of knowing that no matter which result came, God was with her and had a plan.

Whew. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have faith like that. She made it sound so easy. Effortless. Things you do every day, like pouring a bowl of cereal or shampooing your hair.

And I realized that my obliques aren’t the only thing I need to work on.

That’s when God sent me a picture. I’ve got something coming up in my own life I’ve been pretty worried about. Ok, I confess … I wig out every time I think about doing it.

And in that moment, I wished for this incredible woman’s faith so that I can stop being so afraid. I wished I could choose to just stop being afraid, or else that God would fix my problem with not trusting Him enough and make me brave and ready to do His will no matter what.

And the picture of exercising came into my head. Stretching my faith out to its limits to grab the moments of peace I sometimes find where I feel like it’s all going to be ok.

Push the bars out…Pull them back in for more trust in God’s goodness.

Push…Pull for belief that he has a plan even when I can’t see it.

Push…Pull for patience till the day it all becomes clear.

Push…Pull for comfort and courage in the midst of fear.

Now replace the words “Push” and “Pull” with “read your Bible” “pray” “journal about your feelings, what you’re reading and what God’s saying” “spend time worshiping God” “memorize scripture” and things like it.

The more we practice doing these things, even when we feel like it doesn’t make sense, the stronger we get.

“… Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear,” says Phillipians 2:12. God gives us our salvation by grace, we don’t have to work for it, but I truly believe he wants us to work, even to work out, to get stronger in it after we have it.

And it sure helps to do these things in public so that if we’re not sitting up straight enough, or pushing with the wrong part of our foot, or if we’re tempted to skip a day and each nachos and watch TV instead, someone will notice and help us. That’s why going to church and being in a Bible study are important. That’s how I view Unfading too, as a workout room for us to share as we work out our faith.

So come work out with us! I’m told it’ll get easier as we get stronger.

Soldiers Don’t Cry Pt. 4: “Sergeant Pudding Butt” the continued story…dun, dun, dun!

Photo and Cover by Bethany Brown

For parts one through three, see our table of contents from last Friday. Our apologies for never being able to get this story up last weekend. We hope you enjoy it and stick around for the next installment next month!

Still July 10, 2009:

Going to the Colonel for anything was always scary. Not because he ever raised a hand at me, but because he had a look in his blue eyes that made grown men tremble. Mom called it his soldier face, something he did automatically whenever anyone spoke to him. She claimed it was habit and that he didn’t mean anything by it. Still, it terrified me. So, imagine how scared I was when I had to approach him in his study. I would do it for Zeke. Zeke deserved my bravery.

“Colonel, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what is it, Sarge?” He sat his silver pen down on his desk and turned to look at me, still wearing his military uniform.

“Well, I met this boy at the hospital who has cancer. His dad is in Iraq and his mom just had a baby so he’s usually by himself. Do you think there is a way his dad could come home, just for a little while?”

“What’s this boy’s name?” Colonel asked, his face unreadable. No surprise there.

“Zeke, Zeke Winston. His dad’s name is Roger Winston.”

“Hm, okay.”

“So, do you think we can do anything?”

“War is a hard reality, Sarge. I can try but I can’t make any promises to you.”

His practical tone unnerved me. This was more important than some stupid war. This was about the wellbeing of a little boy lying alone in a hospital bed! “If I was dying, I’d hope you’d be there for me!”

I stormed out of the room, knowing my actions were disrespectful but my anger overrode my sense of remorse.

The rest of the week went by pleasantly, even with Clay around. Whenever I finished my rounds, I’d hang out with Zeke and play cards or watch his favorite cartoons. I’d decided to push aside my mission to bring Zeke’s dad home and focus all m attention on just trying to make him happy while I was there.

By Friday, I was actually kind of sad to be leaving. I saved Zeke’s room for last on Friday because I knew it would probably be the last time I saw him. Hopefully he’d be able to go home soon.

When I rolled my cart into his room, my greeting died on my lips when I found his mother and baby sister sitting by his bed.

“Hi, I’m Sarge,” I introduced myself. She was a pretty woman with bright red hair and emerald green eyes. The baby had the same hair and eyes.

“I’m Tina, Zeke’s mom. Thank you for hanging out with Zeke this week,” she smiled but I could see that her eyes were almost lifeless, as if she had a lot on her mind.

“We had fun, right Zeke?” I asked him and he nodded.

There was a knock at the door and I turned to see Clay walk in wearing a huge smile on his face. He looked like he had a big secret he couldn’t wait to share.

“Hi, I was ordered to wheel one Zeke Winston to the rec room.”

There was some commotion as we all tried to get Zeke ready for the trek down the hall where all the relatively-well children were allowed to hang out and play. The room was filled with balloons and Zeke looked up at us, confused. “It’s not my birthday.”

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I heard his mom gasp and turned to see a guy with short blonde hair wearing an Army uniform enter the room.

“Dad!” Zeke cried out and instantly the soldier was kneeling before Zeke, holding him fiercely to his chest, tears unashamedly falling down his cheeks. Tina and the baby somehow made their way into the hug and I stepped back, letting the family unite. I looked over at Clay, smiling so big it made my face hurt.

“You did this, Sergeant Pudding Butt,” he motioned to the family, laughing, crying, and hugging each other.

“Don’t call me that,” I rolled my eyes, trying to mask the fact that I was seconds away from turning into a blubbering female.

Clay chuckled before turning serious. “Still, you did this.”

We slipped out and I came face-to-belt with Colonel.

“Thanks, Dad,” I smiled, throwing my arms around him in a fierce hug. He’s not usually one who invites this sort of outward display of affection but I was too emotional to stop myself.

“You’re a good kid, Sarge,” he surprised me by returning my hug.

“How long is his dad going to be here?”

“He’s been granted a month’s leave. Hopefully that will be enough time.”

I pulled back and wiped away a tear I didn’t notice had fallen until then. “I’m glad.”

“I’m just glad to see you smiling again, Sarge,” he whispered before he stepped back.

Clay saluted him and Colonel saluted back. “At ease, soldier. Keep an eye on my girl, but if you cross the line, I’ll see to it that you never make it to officer rank after college.”

“Yes, Colonel,” Clay nodded.

“See you at home, Sergeant Pudding Butt,” Colonel smirked before walking out with determined steps, like he always did.

“Does everyone know about that?” I squeaked but Clay was too busy laughing to answer my question. I resisted the urge to smack him, only because I was in a good mood.

Boys.

I left the hospital with a promise from Wendy to tell Zeke I’d visit him when I could, sad to see my volunteer time come to an end. Those sick kids made me forget for at least a little while about how much I missed Beaker. And for that, I would be eternally grateful to them.

After I had dinner with my parents and took Talon for a long walk, I locked myself in my room and pulled out Beaker’s old green metal lock box with its rusted on the corners. I retrieved the envelope marked “#1” and opened it.

So, Sarge,

I’m sure you’ve learned a lot this week and I hope that somewhere in all this you’ve come to realize that there is sickness in this world and not everyone makes it. But, in all of it, there is a hope that we will get better and stronger. It’s easy to only care about yourself and what you’re going through but realize that there are many out there who are going through things that you could never even imagine, and I pray you never know those things personally.

Sarge, I know I only asked you to volunteer a week of your time but go visit and help out as often as you can.

When I was five, I had the flu and ended up spending a week in the hospital. A volunteer named Will Quinn visited me every day, brought me comic books and just sat and watched TV with me when I didn’t want to talk. He talked to me about a man named Jesus and how he came to earth and died for my sins and rose again after three days. I thought he was talking about some superhero but after that week, Will kept in touch and I realized he believed Jesus was real. It wasn’t until later that I found out just how real he was for me, but I’m leaving that for another letter. Just know for know that it was Will’s friendship and caring that brought me the source that would help me get through some of the darkest days of my life.

Whether you are a soldier or a civilian, to a child, you are just a person who cares about them. Never stop caring.

Over and out,
Beaker

This was a lot for my fourteen-year-old brain to handle. A lot of what Beaker wrote didn’t make sense, but if it meant I learned something from it and that Beaker would be proud of me for the way I helped Zeke, then I guess that’s all that matters.

 

A question…

Today not so much a post as a simple question, one that has a lot to do with our purpose here at Unfading.

What makes you feel valued?

I’m not talking about esoteric concepts like “the fact that God loves me,” though that is the ultimate sign of our value (and yes, eventually where I’m going with this). But what I mean for now is, among the people that you know, your parents, your friends, your teachers, your enemies, your siblings (oops, didn’t mean to list them last 🙂 what are things they’ve done for you, specifically, that made you feel loved? In the language of you, what says “I love you” the loudest?

On the flip side of that what hurts the most? What makes you feel the most cut down, not valuable, unloved?

Let us know in the comments. It’s something that’s good for everyone to know about themselves, but it’s also something I’d like to kn0w for an upcoming post.

Much love and happy Tuesday!