Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Favor to Ask...

Hello my faithful readers and followers!

In case any of you still frequent this pages, I wanted to let you know we have moved! And are redirecting our readers to our new home [please check it out if you have not already!]. With that in mind, I would like to ask you all a favor. Many of you have kindly included InsideOut in your "link list" or RSS feed or list of blogs that you read, shared on the sidebar of your own blogs and websites. If you have, would you mind double checking and making sure the link on your side bar is to the new address []? Thank you so much! We are really grateful for your support and for including InsideOut as one of the sites you keep up with.

One more thing. If you have not done so already, be sure to re-follow InsideOut!! Subscribe either by email or RSS feeds [look on the sidebar of the new site new site] or like our fan page on Facebook for updates. However you choose to do it, definitely take a moment to stay connected. Your support, comments and encouragement, social media shares, and voice on our pages are what make InsideOut happen. Thanks for reading!!
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Head On Over!

Ok guys, the big day is here... We're excited to present the new site to you: at INSIDE-OUTMAGAZINE.COM. Please head on over, check it out, and leave us a comment or two!!

Hopefully, you all will like the updated look and appreciate the new layout - we aimed for a more streamlined incorporation of all the blogs, so it will be easier for you to see what is new and keep updated with what is happening on all our pages. Comment and let us know if you like it!

Also: if you have not already, please take a minute to subscribe to the new site by email, rsss feeds, and by liking us on Facebook. All followers on Google Friend Connect, this means you!

And everyone, we'd love for you to share about the new site with any friends who you think may be interested. Most of our traffic is from word of mouth, so if you enjoy InsideOut, please let others know about it.

Well, that's all for now folks. We will keep this site up for a while, but do bookmark the new site after you've checked it out because eventually we will be moving on. Thank you all for your devoted readership and support. We are honored that you choose to frequent our pages and hope you continue to read, comment, share, and write for us in the future.

Hope you like the new site and happy browsing!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Highly Enthralling Annoucement Post

As you might have gathered from the title, this is not a typical blog post.

This is an announcement post! Mainly with the purpose of explaining why things have been a little quiet on here lately and to ask very politely for your patience, but also to keep you updated on the exciting things that are happening.

First, as InsideOut is nearing its one year anniversary, it is also being completely revamped and renovated. We’ll be moving over to our own self hosted domain [so to everyone on Google Friend Connect, please get ready to follow us through a different means, either by liking us on Facebook, subscribing to RSS feeds, or following by email!! We don’t want to lose you!]. There will be a cool new look as well as hopefully more streamlined integration of all the blogs.

Secondly, we’ll be taking on a few new writers to our fabulous team. So if you are interested or have a friend who might be interested, definitely let us know! For now, let me introduce to you the newest additions to our crew.

1.) Michael Vuke. He is has been writing for us for a little while as our Guys Perspective/ Relationship columnist and is the author of some really popular posts [like the “Don’t Be That Girl” series and “Should I Let him Know I Like him?”] But he recently was gracious enough to officially join our team, and we are happy to get to share his insight and unique perspective with you.

Michael Vuke | Guys Perspective Columnist
Michael Vuke is a rambler. Talk to him for very long, and you’ll find that the conversation flows from one topic to another, anywhere from the latest movies to ancient history to spirituality—and that’s just the way he likes it. He believes you have more fun if you deviate from the original plan and wander about a bit. You can follow him on twitter or read more of his musings on his blog.

2.) Meet The Anonymous. You may know him as the author of the “Beautiful” post; he writes anonymously and [you should be forewarned] enjoys sarcasm as well as deep discussions. We are really honored to have his voice on our pages.

 The Anonymous | Home blog Columnist
Names are distractions, filtering perception through preconceptions when unbiased exposure to truth/fact is desperately needed. I have – and need – no name. I share my writing because I believe in the transformative power of a living God who uses imperfect tools to communicate fundamental messages. The less of the tool that is visible, the more clearly the message flows. As I walk the path of life, thoughts and ideas present themselves demanding analysis and explanation; my hope is that in sharing my opinions, you may be encouraged, challenged, and strengthened.

So, the big reveal is coming soon. Any comments on what you enjoy about this site or ideas for how InsideOut can be improved?
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Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Call to Go

{By Beth Roose}

I have been called to GO by the Master Designer of the universe. I will step out in faith and I will walk with joy the path set out for me.  When I fail to see the road or become discouraged in my own accomplishments, I will praise my God because He is perfect.  He is the embodiment of love and faithfulness.  Although I may not always be able to see the path, I know that He can.  Therefore, I will never stop pushing ahead, because I know that right beside me Jesus is guiding my every step.

As I go, I will strive to mirror my Companion in everything that I do; in the words I speak, and the words I don’t, as well as in the way that I listen.  This is not just because I am called to “Go and do likewise” or that I want to impress my Heavenly Father by the fact that I can keep up with His perfect Son, but because I LOVE Jesus with my entire being.   I look up to Him and treasure every second that He has spent with me—so much so that I want to show Him to others.  By reflecting His image, I hope that they may encounter and acknowledge this amazing God that I serve.

Moving forward in my race, I realize more and more that because I am a disciple of Christ – chosen by Him before the creation of the world—I must not only “make disciples of all nations,” but I must also help others begin their own race; teaching them about the unmatchable God that they serve, and helping them build their faith in a perfectly faithful God, so that they will not fear to step out when they are called.  Even though their faith may be small it can move mountains.

Finally, I run my race in peace.  I am not my own.  I was bought with a price that I cannot fathom.   Because of this great sacrifice, given for me, I am FREE.  By grace I now live.   Knowing that it is Jesus guiding my every step, I run my race in peace.  I now find my joy and passion in Him.  I fear nothing.  He is always by my side and I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me.  May I never forget this amazing love that has been poured out for me.

And now that I have told you all this, will you Go?  Or are you going to pause and count the costs?  But if you won’t go now, when will you go?

You have been called by the Master Designer of the universe, just as I have. So step out in faith and go somewhere.  Follow Christ’s lead and do as He does. Go and make disciples.  Most importantly go in peace, knowing that if God is for you who can come against you—and I promise you, God is definitely for you.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons [And You Hate Lemonade]

{By Hailey Sadler}
Your parents warn you about it from an early age.

You get the inkling that it might actually be true, when certain things happen – like your sibling getting way better stuff on Christmas or your friend landing the main part in the play, even though your audition was [objectively, of course] far better.

Then you grow up [some]; reality hits and it hits hard. There’s someone you love. And they die. There’s something you want really, really badly and work like a maniac for. And you don’t get it. You fail. Someone who lied and cheated wins in your place. There’s a dream you have. And it fades away, far out of your reach. There’s something you prayed for with all your heart. And it doesn’t happen. Life isn't fair.

Why?? I can honestly say that I do not know. You can shake your fist in the face of heaven or you can lie on the ground in broken subjection, crying out for a reason; you can become bitter, cynical, and decide it’s not worth loving, trying, dreaming, or praying when confronted with the bald fact that so much in life is wrong and messed up and unjust. For no apparent reason. Sometimes it seems as if that is what bothers us most. We cry out for a why, a reason in the face of the pointless pain, a thread of purpose interwoven throughout the appalling unfairness of it all. We can bear it, as long as we can believe there is a master plan behind it all, making it somehow worthwhile.

That is the other option. You can trust.

It’s not exactly something I am naturally good at. If it tells you anything, I was the child who would not stand up on the picnic table and fall backwards into the scrawny arms of her Sunday School class. Just not going to do that, sorry. It is still hard – I want reasons, I want logic, I want some sort of guarantee that I won’t be hurt if I trust [that I won’t end up with my back on the ground and my Sunday school group chorusing, “oops!”]… which defeats the purpose of trusting, I guess. But what we have to realize is, trust is not about who we are. It’s about who God is. Trust your life on who He is,  and along the way you will find that He takes away the frustration and disappointment and in its place, gives peace. Illogical, unreasonable peace that passes all understanding.

Choosing to trust is more of a journey than a destination. I know because I am still on my own journey, a journey to reconcile the two undeniable facts I see around me:

That life is terribly, terribly unfair.

 And God is terribly, terribly good.

Things don’t always make sense, and to my mind, grasping for logic, that can be hard to accept. But God is good. And someday, when the veil of mortality and constraints of time and place are torn away, and we get to glimpse this world and these lives from His vantage point,  we will suddenly be able to comprehend the reconciliation of those to facts and see how perfect His purpose was all along.

Until then, trust. You don’t have to understand it all. It won’t all make sense. But that’s ok. If you knew every reason why, it would no longer be trusting. ;)
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Treasures in the Desert

{By Samantha Roose}

Recently, I have been reading “Hinds Feet on High Places.  It’s a story of lame little Much-Afraid’s journey of faith in the Shepherd.  Shepherd has promised to take her to the High Places and on the way give her the feet of a deer.  After traveling several days the path turns, taking Much-Afraid down into a desert dashing her hopes—Shepherd had promised to take her to the High Places!  Exploring this book, yet again, I have found many similarities to my own journey with my Lord and Shepherd. 

The Lord has been revealing to me how much of my identity I find in having control (which is, I’m afraid, quite a bit).  Faithfully and gently, He has been bringing me to a spot of humble surrender, trust and reliance to Him.  It's hard because, like Much-Afraid, I feel that God is taking me down into a desert valley when He had promised that He would take me up.  I cannot see how this scorching plain with a few random and awkward pyramids is taking me to the promised place.  I can't see the end of this desolate and uncomfortable path.  Everything within me wants to run up the precipice despite the jagged impossibilities.  My heart cries and I wonder how long I can continue to look this way. 

It's then that He takes my hand and promises that this is not contradicting His promise in the slightest way.  How could someone as faithful as He go back on His word?  No, it is merely a postponement to teach me what I would otherwise be ignorant of forever.  Although my heart shrinks from this indefinite postponement, something within me breaks and I hear myself saying, "I will follow you, Shepherd, you have every right to choose the way that I should go no matter how backwards it seems." 

So we descend.  At first I cannot believe that I am actually, of my own free will, allowing myself to be taken so far away from my greatest dream and desire--the one hope I have clung to for so many years.  Suddenly I realize that we have entered the desert and I am surprise at our speed.  But I should not have been; it cannot be any less when I am relying on my Savior, who knows the way so well.

Once in the desert He leads me to the looming pyramids.  I follow Him inside grateful for His strong reassuring presence.  First He shows me where the wheat is prepared for making bread.  Each grain is bruised and beaten.  However, I find that they are not beaten forever.  As I watch more closely I am surprised to find that each variety of grain is ground in different methods according to its purpose.  Turning to me my Lord says, "in the same way you will not endure hardship and beatings forever, only for a time so that you can fulfill My highest purpose for your life.  And, just as each grain is ground in its own way so your beatings are not random, but specific because I know the things you need to be prepared for."

Entering another room my eyes fall upon a potter.  In his hands is a lump of clay.  I watch him cut it, knead it and finally shape it.  But as I am transfixed on the clever transformation I notice that the, now clay vessel was molded according to the potters desires, not the clay's whims.  "Can I not do with you as this potter does to this clay?"  My Lord asks placing His strong hand on my shoulder.  "Am I not as skilled as this craftsmen?" 

Gently leaning against His side I nod.  Words cannot express my welling emotions and swirling thoughts.  Besides, if I open my mouth I am likely to cry and who knows when I will be able to regain my composure.

My tour is not completed yet.  Opening the door for me, my Lord leads me into a large glowing room illuminated by a furnace.  Here gold is purified and dross is removed, but that is not all.  As I watch, crusty rough and seemingly invaluable stones are thrust into the scorching flames.  Awestruck I find that they are removed as sparkling precious gems, flashing as though they had received the fire into their souls.  How my heart pounds to be like those ugly rocks, transformed by intense fire. 

Interrupting my thoughts I hear His voice, "this is where I purify and prepare My rarest and most precious jewels."  And He leads me out.

Our pace is slow and thoughtful.  There is nothing to break the silence between us except the wind which stirs up and occasional flurry of sand as proof of its existence. Still I cannot see a horizon or any promise that this desert detour will somehow lead me to the hoped for promise, but my heart has become peaceful and content here.  I cannot endure indefinite postponement, beatings and bruising, cuttings and kneading, chiseling and fire unless there is hope for something better.  Surprisingly, that is the exact mystery which my Lord has revealed to me in this desolate desert—my heart is ready to follow.

My Lord enters the tent and I linger outside.  Although ready to follow my heart is still a swirl of emotions and thoughts as vast and tumultuous as a stormy sea.  Walking around the tent I catch the slightest glimpse of a color.  As I kneel I feel the warm sand scatter beneath me creating perfectly shaped cups for my knees.  Brightly and courageously stands a single flower.  I marvel at her willingness to live in such a place where there is no assurance of the next rain, yet she cheerfully stands confident that the One who planted her here will provide whatever she needs in due time. 

Acceptance with Joy is her name.  Sitting back on my heels I sigh and look up to the sky.  Tears travel down my face and a gentle breeze hits plays with my hair.  Can I not be as this flower, Acceptance with Joy?  Who am I to think that my Savior, my Shepherd and my Lord does not know what He is doing.  If the flower can bloom so joyfully and faithfully with no hope of rain, can I not delight in this desert while walking through it with my Shepherd?   Resolving to become Acceptance with Joy, I bend forward and take in the scent of this rare flower which has given me so much hope, etching its memory in my mind.

Ducking beneath the flaps of the tent I glimpse my Lord sitting but looking as if He had been watching and waiting for me.  I sit down close to Him amongst His pile blankets and pillows.  Meekly I begin, placing my hand on His great big one and looking up into His face, "I will trust You my Lord.  I will follow You.  Lead me where You would have me go as long as You choose.  I love You and trust You." 

My eyes begin to glisten as I let go of MY hopes and MY dreams.  I do love and trust Him.  Smiling feebly I finish, "I am Your handmaiden, Acceptance with Joy."

Gently, He reaches out and pulls my head to lie on His shoulder.  All is quiet for a time.  Then in His still small voice He spoke words I will never forget, "The trust in your eyes is the most beautiful thing on earth.  Beholding the trust in your eyes is more beautiful and precious to me than the loveliness of many queens."

I am unsure of what has happened since that time which is probably due to the fact that I am still in the desert and have yet to journey out of it.  But this I know: it is not nearly as desolate now as when I first entered.  Although the desert valley may appear ugly and foreboding to many, it has become a treasure chest to me.  I love being grown and changed by my Lord even when it hurts, because I am confident and secure in the fact that He IS faithful and will not give me more than I can handle.            
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Actual Real Truths from the Mouth of a Nine Year Old

photography credit: rachel coker
{By Rachel Coker}

It’s funny the life lessons you can learn from your younger siblings. I think, as an oldest child, I always tend to assume that I’m the one who has it all together. I’m supposed to be the example of godliness and humility, and they are supposed to be following me. But, more times than not, I continually find myself humbled and awed by the godly attitudes of my nine and fourteen-year-old sisters that stand out in stark contrast to my own selfishness.

Case in point: My nine-year-old sister Ruthie did something really brave this year. She auditioned for a part in a play. Now, to understand how truly jaw-dropping and astonishing this is, you sort of have to get an idea as to her past history of acting. When she was a toddler, we tried to get her to sing on stage with the other kids at church. She would not have it. Like, seriously, not have it at all. She would cry and hide her face and refuse to stand in front of anyone. She wouldn’t even look people in the face. And it didn’t get much better as she got older. Up until about a year ago, she still refused to do anything that involved words coming out of her mouth while someone else was listening.

But then it all changed. Because, a few months ago, Ruthie found out about a part in an upcoming play that she really wanted. It’s funny, too, because the role that she was pining after was this really spunky nurse with whole lotta attitude to spare. Which may not seem like something that would appeal to a stage-shy nine-year-old kid, but whatever. Ruthie wanted it. She talked about getting that part all the time. She prayed about auditioning, and babbled on and on about what she would wear if she got to play the nurse, and memorized all of the nurse’s lines before she even auditioned. She even talked to the director and offered her old hospital scrubs as a costume for Nurse Zelda.

There was only one problem. Her best friend wanted that role, too.

Here is where things would have gotten really sticky for me. Because I remember those days of auditioning and praying so hard for a part that I thought my head would burst. So I remember casually asking before prayer one morning, “Don’t you really hope you get the part? Do you want us to pray that the director would pick you instead of (your friend)?”

I’ll never forget what Ruthie said after that, because it made all our mouths drop and minds spin. She just shrugged and said, “I just want her to pick whoever she thinks is going to be good for the part. It doesn’t matter to me. She can still use my nurse’s costume even if (my friend) gets the part.”

In the end, I think we all were shamed by our nine-year-old sister. All of us, me included, were so caught up in our excitement and competiveness and desire for Ruthie to succeed, that we forgot about what was really important. And that is that the director needs to choose whoever would be best for the part, and no one needed to be disappointed or upset about it.

In the end, Ruthie got the role of Nurse Zelda. And her best friend got another fantastic part, and they’re both really happy and enjoy running over their lines together. But despite the fact that Ruthie is coming out of her shell, and gaining confidence to speak in front of people, I think that I’m the one who really learned a life lesson through all of this.

Too often, I ask God for my wants and my desires to be fulfilled. I get so caught up in planning out my life and future, and deciding what I think would be good for me, that I forget to leave things up to Him. If God is the director of my life, than He already knows what role He wants me for. And it’s not going to be helpful to Him if I’m pouty and jealous that someone else is getting to do what I always dreamed of. It took my littlest sister’s unselfish attitude to remind me that it’s best when I can just say, “God, cast me in whatever role you’d like. I want to serve you in the best way that I can, and only you know how that would be. Just make me useful to you.” It may be difficult sometimes to give up the things I want, but my hope is that with this as my prayer, I’ll be able to do the absolute best job at whatever role I get in the grand scheme of God’s perfect will.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guy's Perspective: Beautiful

{By Anonymous}
Taylor Swift. Carrie Underwood. Kate Upton. Kim Kardashian. Colbie Callait. Pop culture produces almost as many airbrushed female celebrities (and apparently a fascination with country stars) as it does terms to describe their physique. Chick. Hot. Doll. Sexy. Nothing short of perfection portrayed or admired. Flaws minimized or surgically addressed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for one person’s outer appearance. Body has become god.

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ This antique cliché rears its head time and again, in every genre of life. But it almost universally accompanies some variable. ‘You really failed that last test at school.’ I need to study harder for the next one. ‘That outfit looks horrendous.’ Note to self: plaid shorts and striped tops do not go together. ‘Holy crap you shoot worse than my grandma.” I can practice kicking with the inside of my good instead of the toe.

‘You’re ugly.’ Suddenly, the variable skipped town. 

I cannot change my body absent unnatural intervention. How am I supposed to change how I look? Do I layer makeup? Do I hide behind designer clothing? How can I solve a problem I was born with? The words that could never hurt me just broke my heart. 
Regardless of the origin, self-inflicted or external, words that cut to the unchangeable core of existence hurt. They scar. They stare blankly, constant reminders of what I wish I could attain, but never will. I don’t live on a bird’s diet. I don’t have a full staff of dressing assistants. I don’t have curves like a Kardashian or hair like Rihanna (though she’s GOT to be close to exhausting the realms of the color palette). I don’t attract guys like flies to honey. I’m not on the cover of People Magazine. I’m me; plain, ordinary me. Unlovely and unloved. What did I do to get stuck with myself in the first place?

Denying the reality of this internal conflict – and of its external results that quickly become far too obvious – would be shallow and inappropriate. The pain, the hurt, the self-deprivation is far too real. I do not write to say the struggle does not exist, I write to say it shouldn’t.

‘Congratulations, writer!’, you say. ‘You have wasted nearly an entire page and five minutes of my time to tell me something that I already know. I know I shouldn’t worship my body. I know I shouldn’t be obsessed with reality. But ‘should’ is not reality. I can’t do it.

To borrow a weakly humorous phrase, ‘nothing is impossible. The word itself includes ‘possible.'' Escape presents a difficult road, but one that promises freedom from bondage to the deity of Body. Accepting who I am and living content in that fact is not a method tried and found wanting, but a lifestyle found publicly difficult and left untried. Do I honestly fool myself enough to believe those airbrushed figurines on magazine covers are happy? Do I honestly believe they have it made? Celebrity marriages do not last an average of three weeks for no reason. After three weeks, the thrill is gone; the emotional high; the searching for meaning. Even in their mansions with ‘friends,’ money and a perfect body, they still feel insecure. Because they wonder what would happen if they ever became less than perfect.

Body is a demanding god. It is also a treacherous one. It demands your entire focus, devotion and life, then abandons. Attachment to such a deity is not service. It is slavery. At the point where we submit to Body, our desires become insatiable. Nothing fulfills us. Perfection remains just one tuck, nip or trim away. Perfection means skipping one more meal, wearing one size smaller waist, weighing one less pound. Perfection never arrives.

You are beautiful for who you are. The bodies of airbrushed stars are just that, airbrushed. Unreal. Contrived. Those celebrities will never maintain their appearance; you shouldn’t try to reach it.

Those entities (the inhuman term used purposely) who call you ugly, who criticize your appearance, who condemn your being, are not worth your time. Don’t maintain friendships with entities who see your physique and nothing more. Their shallowness, their insincerity makes their ‘friendship’ status a liability to you. Lose it.

True friends go deeper than the skin, than the makeup or the designer brands. They see you for who you really are. They see your soul. They see your compassion, your dedication, your love, your being. Individuals truly worthy of your friendship will affirm your beauty, not because of how you look, but because of who you are. Looks change. Being rarely does. Surround yourself with people who love you, with people think you look pretty without your makeup on.         

To those of you who are surrounded by true friends, but refuse to accept yourself for who you are, know that what you think never changes the truth. Culture worships Body. Remind me the last time culture got some life issue right? Oh. Yeah. Never. I urge you to rise above the storm, see yourself in new eyes. See yourself deeper than your skin. Realize all the ones who love you. Believe that you are beautiful. You are.

Ultimately, every single one of us goes to the same place: assisted living wearing diapers (again) rocking open back gowns as top fashion (ICU) and eating all meals in mush form (also a repeat from 70-some years ago). In the final analysis, Body cannot deliver on its promise. It claims to make you beautiful; it only subjects you to unbearable loads. It offers societal acceptance; the ‘society’ that accepts you on the condition of Body is no society worth participation.

You are beautiful for who you are. You are beautiful because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful because your being goes beyond the paltry two millimeters of skin covering your body. You are beautiful for what you feel and how you love. True friends recognize this in you. Best friends affirm it and stand as constant reminders so you never lose sight of who you truly are.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

From Boo-Boo-Fixer To Best Friend: The Value of Mothers

{By Rebekah Kimminau}

The title of this post is kind of an oxymoron. Mothers are amazing people, and though people may try to pin down their value, really, there is no set "value" of a mother. Because they are pricless.

My own mother has been a true testament of what a mother should look like. She has influenced just about everything I do - for good - and she is one of the many people I can't imagine my life without.

I think when you are younger, you don't really think about the value of your mother. She is someone who is there for you when you scrape your knee, she is the person who knows how to make the perfect braid, and for me, she was the teacher who I went to anytime I had a question in school. But as you grow up, and start doing things independently, going places on your own, without your mom, you start to learn that all the little things she did for you add up. 

And the older I have gotten, the more I have realized this. I was traveling with families for about 3 months of this past spring. I had a wonderful time, and many of the moms I nanny for are like my second mom, but, that being said, there is just no one like Mom. After being gone from my mom for quite some time, I started to realized, that soon I will be gone even longer (to midwifery school, and maybe eventually married.) And that I really didn't treasure my mom, and the times we spent together nearly as much as I should have. Especially during my teenage years. Between the time I was about 12-15 I went through the "normal" teenage phase. I was mad at the world, and since my world consisted of spending a lot of time with my mom, I was especially mad at her. I had a bad attitude towards her a lot of the time, and God bless her, I don't know how she handled me. But as I reflect back on those years, I regret everyone of the angry words spoken to her. This is the woman who not only carried me for 9 months and birthed me, but the person who put up with my colicky self for a year and then proceeded to spend many an hours planning things for my siblings and I to do, not even mentioning the cleaning, the cooking,  and the homeschooling. And a lot of the time I spent with her  during those years was not pleasant.

But when I was 15, and a lot of my attitude had improved, I started enjoying time with her again. And boy, how my life changed! We started spending time together, going on bike rides some afternoons around the neighborhood, and each night I would go in to get my hair braided for bed, and we would talk about the day. I found that when I opened up to her, and spent time with her, not only talking at her, but also listening to her, my attitude towards her changed. This is the same as in any other relationship you have; communication is KEY. These times are memories that will forever live in my mind. We talked about anything and everything. And as our schedules changed, we moved to a new city, and the times we spent together didn't work so well anymore, I found myself not only missing the times spent with her, but my attitude towards her was starting to go down hill again. Over the past few years I have continually worked on our relationship, and now have the most beautiful relationship I could ever imagine. Don't get me wrong. There were hard times. There were (and still are) times when she asks me to do stuff I don't want to do, and there are also still times when I don't respond in godly way towards her. But God taught me, (and is teaching me) that my relationship with my mother should be a priority in my life. Because God certainly gave us mothers for a reason. 

I am now 18, and our relationship has taken a turn. She is slowly backing out of the role as teacher and instructor, and more and more becoming my best friend. And though I will always look to her for godly wisdom and insight on things I don't have the years to understand, I am enjoying our moments of friendship so very much. We have started taking walks whenever we can squeeze them in (even if it's just 10 minutes to walk to our local RedBox and pick up a movie for movie night.) These walks not only give us a chance for some exercise and fresh air, but they also give us undivided time in which we can talk about life, I can gain wisdom on situations I have been wondering about, and she can talk to me about what has been going on. 

So I want to end by encouraging you, if you don't have a time you spend alone with your mom, find one. It can be something as simple as a 10 minute walk everyday, to going to the gym with her, doing the dishes with her each night, helping her bathe the little kids, making lunch together, sitting on the front porch for a few minutes each day, really, the possibilities are endless! You guys will not only get to know what’s going on in each other's life, but I am sure you will be able to glean some wisdom from her! (She has been alive a few more years than you, after all!)

This post is dedicated to my mother. For the woman who bathed me, changed me, taught me, led me to my Savior, and helped me thorough many situations I could not have gone through without her, Thank you. I treasure our Friendship higher then any other friendship in this world. You are a woman who I highly respect, and hope to have conversations for years to come. I praise God for you often.

What is one thing that your mother has taught you? What is something she always says?

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Severe Mercy

{By Taylor Eckel}
No book had ever made me cry. When I read A Severe Mercy, I wept.

Although the story centers around the life of Vanauken and Davy, the themes in the book transcend their personal story, and even their lives. From the beginning of their relationship, the Vanaukens deliberately cultivated a very thorough paradigm of love, beauty, truth, and longing for eternity that underwent a major evolution after their individual conversions to Christianity. “We saw self as the ultimate danger to love, which it is; we didn’t see it as the ultimate evil of hell, which it also is,” Vanauken writes about their pre-conversion worldview.

Vanauken’s story is much more philosophical than a typical autobiography, yet his narrative is anything but dry. The eloquent prose reflects his background as a literature professor and an amateur poet. Throughout the book he lapses into the third person to convey his thoughts, abstracting himself from his ideas in a way that allows the readers to easily follow his reasoning. This detached treatment of ideas provides contrast to his personal struggle to internalize those ideas, and ultimately, to surrender himself to God.

A few years into their marriage, the Vaunakens moved to Oxford for Sheldon’s studies. Their time close acquaintance with a group of serious Christians there inspired them to study the faith they had previously rejected. They greatly admired the work of C.S. Lewis, and “on an impulse” Sheldon wrote to Lewis about his struggle to accept Christianity. Their subsequent correspondence was instrumental in Vanauken’s conversion, after which Lewis became a trusted mentor and lifelong friend, and they maintained a lively correspondence even after the Vanaukens returned to America. Many of the letters Sheldon received from C.S. Lewis are interspersed throughout the latter half of the book, and provide Lewis’s characteristic depth of wisdom.

After the Vanaukens returned to America, Sheldon struggled with the realization that their love must be subject to Christ. Early in their relationship and prior to their conversion, the Vanaukens described their love for each other as the Shining Barrier--  “It was our love itself, made strong within” that was their ultimate good and would transcend even death. After their conversion it pained Vanauken to see his wife following Christ above her love for him.

“I didn’t want us to be swallowed up in God,” he wrote, “I wanted holidays from the school of Christ. We should, somehow, be able to have the Shining Barrier intact and follow the King of Glory. I didn’t want to be a saint. Almost none of this did I consciously know– just longings. But for Davy, to live was Christ.”

Vanauken’s struggle is the universal struggle of all Christians attempting to live out Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Vanauken’s frank disclosure of his idolatry shocked me. But I was not so shocked by his sentiment, but by the realization that his words resonated with something deep within me. Convicted, I cried over the unsurrendered loves in my own heart.

“God in His ample love embraced our love with, it may be, a sort of tenderness, and we must tread the Way to Him hand in hand,” Vanauken writes. But God did not intend for Sheldon and Davy to tread hand in hand for very long. Recalling Davy’s illness and death, Vanauken writes of himself, “He had had– was having-- all the sorrow there was. And yet, the joy was worth the pain.”

I cried again when I read of the joy in pain, the hope of life everlasting in Christ, and the depths of Vanauken’s devotion to his wife.

Lewis was instrumental in helping Vanauken understand the goodness of God in Davy’s death. The richness of their correspondence after her death– pondering God’s goodness, musing about eternity– was refreshing after the emotional intensity of Vanauken’s loss. The book’s title comes from a letter from Lewis, who described Davy’s death as a “severe mercy” from God.

The strength of Vanauken’s faith is remarkable. He writes, “I cannot escape the impression that Somebody was being very gentle with us. Perhaps she had to die– for me, for our dear love, for God.” Elsewhere he reflects, “ was for me, despite grief and aloneness, worth it.”
I wept again, praying for a faith that could say– no matter the trials it endured– “it was for me, worth it.”

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

That Saved A Realist Like Me

{By Hailey Sadler}

The whole “is-the-glass-half-empty-or-half-full” dilemma sort of confused me as a child. When posed with it, I would always answer “half full” because that seemed to be the right answer. Anyway it seemed like the better, happier option compared to being labeled a pessimist, which always conjured up images of wet blankets and bitter old men. Secretly, though, my water-in-the-cup philosophy is more along the lines of, Ok, we’ve established that there is water in a cup, now can we please move on??

I guess I could be considered somewhat of a realist.

An interesting term, “realist” usually just means a cynic or pessimist who enjoys patting themselves on the back for the pleasing ability to accurately perceive objective reality. Poor, deluded optimists and idealists, they sniff. Yes, realists can be really obnoxious [see picture to the right!]. But that is not the point. The point is they are right. Reality is depressing, and if you view the world from a realist perspective you quickly become closely akin to the cynic and the pessimist for that very reason. Because what is reality? Reality is truth.

And the truth of our world does not tend towards the encouragement of optimism.

The truth is Americans who are obese [approximately 1 in 3 children in the U.S. are obese] and Nigerians who are malnourished [there are 5.75 million underweight children in Nigeria]; the truth is sickening injustices that create multitudes of “causes” and less action, chaos and turmoil, governmental abuse, corruption, economic uncertainty. The truth is culture that is seriously messed up in so many ways. It’s a world where the GDP of the 48 poorest nations is less than the combined wealth of the world’s 3 richest people. It’s a world of red lights when you want to text and Facebook statuses that make you want to cry (or gag) because of the sheer narcissism. As Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would say, “The truth is pain and sweat and payin’ bills…. Truth is dreams that don’t come true, and nobody prints your name in the paper ‘til you die.”

If that was all there is to it, I think my tendency towards “realism” would make me want to pour a pack of Kool-Aid in that half-full-half-empty glass and be done with it.

But that is only one dimension of reality.

Because what is reality? Reality is Truth. Truth is the thread weaving this tangled mess we call reality into a perfect product God calls His plan. The Truth is that there is something higher than this world, bigger than all the evil, greater than ourselves, something we only snatch glimpses of, a breath of light when the clouds shift, and parting, for a moment we catch sight of heaven. It is the reality of a higher reality: God Who sees purpose where we see only pointless pain, God Who wrote the end of the story for us all to read, and Who is coming back. For us.

It is that that makes the stark circumstances of this world around me bearable. Even more than that, it makes life fully worth living, if only to catch those occasional glimpses of that higher reality, higher Truth that dovetails and completes the truth we know and weaves us all together – pessimist, realist, optimist, idealist – in His incomprehensively perfect plan. 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. 

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Evaluating A Suitor - Thoughts to Consider from an Older Sister

{by Katrina Rebsch}

As those of you who follow this blog might know, God has recently brought into my life a most amazing young man and we are engaged to be married!  Words cannot even begin to describe the sheer joy that has characterized this new season of love and discovery with the one for whom I have been waiting and praying all these years. 

In recent weeks, I received an email from the mother of some good friends who asked me to consider writing for the benefit of other girls what I’ve learned when it comes to evaluating a potential suitor; questions to ask to get to know him, and qualities to look for in his life.  While I am certainly no expert on the matter of guy-girl relationships, I have had quite a bit of experience this past year and a half with the evaluation process as various “interested” young men have entered and exited my life.

What I hope to do in this article is simply share what I have learned along the way and give some older-sister encouragement to those of you who are still waiting for your own Prince Charming.

Before we even get to the guy however, let’s talk about you, the girl!

Thought to Ponder #1 - God is the Author of the Best Love Stories Ever! 

Marriage, love, romance, sacrifice - these are all His ideas and His inventions.  Novelists and screen-writers don’t even come close to capturing the breath-taking beauty of a true love story scripted by the Creator of the universe.  I enjoy reading a sweet romance or watching a wholesome chick flick as much as any girl, but no human can come close to writing a story like God can!  So the question is, are you committed to His story for your life, or your own? 

I have seen what can happen when a young lady grows desperate and takes matters into her own hands, running after anyone who will notice her and throwing values to the wind as she seeks immediate gratification on her quest for love and attention.  There is great sorrow and heartache.  Manipulating people and circumstances to try to write one’s own love story is not the way to happily ever after.  Only when the pen is yielded to God and fulfillment sought in Him is true joy experienced.  But of course, happiness is not the goal; glorifying the Lord is!  And He is glorified when we are satisfied in Him, yielded and obedient to His will, and content to wait for His timing in the romance department. 

Thought to Ponder #2 - Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I know we live in an instant-oatmeal society where words like ‘patience’ and ‘waiting’ are not very popular.  However, the Bible is full of admonitions to wait on the Lord!  His way is perfect and His timing is best!  When I was much younger, I would often hear older girls talk about how their beloved was worth the wait and I would think to myself, “I hope I can say that one day!” 

The years passed.  Life was full and rich...and lonely at times.  Lonely for a guy.  Lonely for someone to belong to, for someone to raise a family with, for someone to grow old with.  Would there ever be someone?  Would I ever get married?  Would he really be worth the wait?

I am now 26 years old and by God’s grace can truly, whole-heartedly, without a shadow of a doubt proclaim, “YES, YES, YES!!!  This man whom God has brought me HAS been worth the wait!”  He is everything I ever prayed for and so much more.  Had I rushed ahead of God’s timing or settled for the first guy who came along, I would have missed out on the indescribable beauty and wonder of this relationship with Nathan Britton, who is without question, the best and most perfect man for me!

I’m not saying that in every situation the first guy who comes along is an unwise choice; many times he could very well be God’s will!  I’m simply wanting to encourage you to be careful and not fall for the first one just because he is the first one!  Evaluate wisely, be on guard against premature infatuation, and be willing to wait on the Lord’s timing!

Thought to Ponder #3 - Princes Need Prayer!

Guess what?  If it’s in God’s plan for you to get married, your future husbands are alive right now.  Your own Prince Charming exists.  Somewhere.  Out there.  You may not know his name or his face or anything about him.  Regardless, he needs your prayer! So pray for him!  Pray for his protection, for his moral uprightness, for his relationship with the Lord.  Pray for God to build His character into the life of your man.  Pray for him to be a strong leader and to stand firm against temptation.  By praying for him even now, you are “doing him good all the days of [your] life.” (Proverbs 31:12)  I prayed for my future husband for many, many years before I met him this past January.  What’s so amazing to me is to see every quality I ever prayed for him evident in his life.  

Okay.  Now that we’ve got a foundation established for us girls, let’s talk about the guys.  When someone comes along who is interested in you, what questions should you ask?  What qualities should you look for?

Questions to Ask a Potential Suitor:

On matters of faith/practice:
  •  Is he a Christian? 
  •  What is his salvation testimony?  (Pay close attention here!  Is it story about him and what he did to “be saved”, or about Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross?)
  •  Does he read the Word regularly? 
  •  Is he part of a local body of believers?  What kind of church is he involved with? 
  •  Does he have sound doctrinal beliefs that match up to your own?  (There are many “stripes” of Christianity out there; is he of the same stripe as you?)
  •  Does he love the Lord and actively pursue a more intimate knowledge of the Savior?
  •  Does he know why he believes what he believes?
  •  Is he living in obedience to the Word of God?
  •  Is he involved in any ministries?

On matters of character:
  •   Does he honor his authorities (and yours)?
  •   Is he honest?
  •   What does he believe about lying?
  •   Does he walk in moral uprightness?  (You will want the help of your father or pastor to help ask detailed questions along these lines.)
  •   Is he a gentleman?
  •   Is he kind to others or only to the girl he is trying to impress?
  •   How does he treat children, those with special needs, and the elderly?
  •   Is he a leader?
  •   Does he have direction and purpose in life?
  •   What is he passionate about?
  •   Is he easily offended?  Does he carry grudges?
  •   Is he humble and teachable or proud and know-it-all?
  •   Is he a man of integrity?
  •   What makes him angry? What brings him joy?
  •   What is his definition of love?
  •   Does he manifest the quality of self-control and self-discipline?
  •   What are his strengths?  What are his weaknesses?

On matters of family life:
  •   What does he believe about guy-girl relationships?
  •   Why does he want to get married?
  •   What does he believe about the roles of husbands and wives in a marriage relationship?
  •   What are his beliefs about children, family planning, birth control, etc.?
  •   How does he view his future position as spiritual leader of the home?
  •   What does he believe about the discipleship of his children?
  •   What does he desire regarding the education of his children?
  •   What does he think about adoption?

On matters of lifestyle and personal standards:
  •   What are his music convictions/preferences/tastes?
  •   What are his standards regarding movies and media?
  •   What does he think about clothing/women’s dress/modesty, etc.?
  •   What does he want his future home life to look like?
  •   What does he think about video games/computer games/the internet?  (Are there any addictions there?)
  •   What are his beliefs about alcohol?
  •   What are his beliefs about dancing?
  •   What kind of books does he enjoy reading?
  •   How does he handle finances?

I am sure there are many, many more questions that could be added to these lists!  These are just some ideas to get you started.  As you ask these questions, be evaluating how the answers line up with your own beliefs and values.  Parental wisdom and input is invaluable in the evaluation process as well!  However, you are the one who might be marrying this guy, so you need to know if the two of you are likeminded enough in all the essential, non-negotiable areas.  Some of these areas will be areas of preference vs. conviction.  It is very helpful to determine ahead of time what are unchanging convictions for you and what are areas in which you can be more flexible if the fellow believes differently.

When it comes to the qualities to look for in a potential husband, I found it very helpful to narrow down my list to three main, essential aspects:
  1.  A man of God
  2.  A man of character
  3.  A man whom I can respect and follow

The definitions of these bullet points will be different for different people and wrapped up in these points is the obvious need for likemindedness. 

In the evaluation process, however, please remember that no guy wants the unrealistic expectation that he will be perfect in every way.  And by perfect, I mean sinless and incapable of making mistakes.  If you have these expectations sandwiched around an impossible list of qualities he must fulfill you might find yourself an old maid forever.  There must be room for grace and understanding that the man God has for you is going to be human!  However, that is not to say we should compromise beliefs and convictions just to get any guy!  There must be balance between waiting for God’s best while at the same time being willing to join your life with a fellow imperfect human.

There is so much more that could be said about guy-girl relationships, but my goal was not to write an exhaustive article on the topic.  I simply wanted to share some things I’ve learned along the journey and some thoughts to ponder when those suitors come knocking! 

Remember - this is only the rest of your life that is at stake!  Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and rest assured that He shall bring it to pass!  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. (Psalm 37:5, Psalm 27:14)

Here’s to joyfully ever after for the glory of God!!!
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