Category Archives: Faith

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Homeschooling and Fresh Starts

Hello everyone!  I know, long time no post.  I went on a two week RV trip that was AWESOME (more info on that here) and have recently just been getting ready for the new school year.  There are a lot of changes happening in my life this school year, the biggest of which being that I am starting high school and, for the first time ever, being homeschooled.  Homeschooling is something a lot of people don’t know very much about, and when I tell people that homeschooling is my plan for high school, I usually get one of three responses:

  1. The person gets very excited because they or someone they know has had experience with homeschooling and they absolutely love it.  They tell you that it is such an adventure and you are going to have an amazing year.  Then they give you a bunch of co-op and online course recommendations and maybe even some free textbooks.
  2. The person says, “Wow!  That’s really cool!”, and you can tell that they are honestly being sincere.  They admit to not knowing much about homeschooling, but they are interested in learning more.  “So does that mean you get to do school in your pajamas?!?” Yep, that’s right my friend.
  3. This is the person who has untrue stereotypes about homeschoolers tattooed in their brain.  They say, “Oh!” and fake smile when you tell them your high school plans, but you know they are really thinking, “This girl is going to turn into an unsocial nerd who sits around at home with no concept of the real world!!”  Ok fine maybe it’s not that extreme, but it’s obvious they think it’s weird.  They might even try and “politely” voice their opinions on homeschooling.

I for one am very excited about starting homeschooling and getting a fresh start this school year.  I am going to continue blogging, but I am not going to have a set posting schedule.  The content on my blog this year might be a little different, because I really want to just be myself and share my opinions and beliefs on things.  I’m going to post when I feel inspired to do so and when I feel passionately about something, not because I feel like I have to.  Yes, there will probably still be book reviews and school advice, but I also want to start posting about what I think of homeschooling and my thoughts and beliefs about faith.  Bear in mind that my thoughts on things might be different from some of yours.  They might be exactly the same as yours.  That’s OK.  One of my pet peeves is when people share their opinion and act like they are right and everyone who doesn’t think the same as them are wrong.  That is not what I am here to do.  I am here to tell you guys what I believe so you can get to know me better and maybe think about things in a way you never have before.  I want to encourage others with Bible verses and encourage you in your faith.  So, there you have it.  My little spiel is now over.  **takes a bow**

If you know someone who would enjoy this blog, please please please let them know about it!  I love getting new readers!

Comment below topics or post ideas you want to see me write about!  Until next time, Au revoir.

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Too Much Togetherness

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Hey everyone!  Summer is approaching quickly, and with summer comes a lot of time at home with your family.  You can do a lot of fun things with your family, but sometimes after spending so much time together things can get a little out of hand.  During the year when you go to school every day, you aren’t with your family 24/7.  When summer comes around, even if you aren’t with them every second of every day, you still spend a lot more time with them.  Being together so much can cause siblings to get on your nerves, arguing, and other ways of provoking and annoying.  When this happens, how can you honor God with your actions?  Here are some Bible verses to read for when you are fed up and need a breather:

Exodus 20:12                                                                                                                                                           “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land of the Lord.”                                              In the summer months you are spending more time with your parents as well as your siblings.  As you can tell by this verse, parental respect is very important to God!  We are all sinful, and we all sometimes get into arguments with our parents.  The next time this happens to you, remember this verse and be respectful, even if you are disagreeing with your parents.

Romans 12:5                                                                                                                                                           “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”                        When interacting with your family, remember that all of them are part of the body of Christ, all made in God’s image and loved by Him.  Treat them how God would love to see someone treat one of His children.

1 Corinthians 13:7                                                                                                                                                “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”                              We all love our families, and even though we love them we still sin by being rude, unkind, or annoying towards other family members.  In this verse it says that love endures all things.  Maybe your little brother is annoying you by kicking the back of your seat in the car, or running around the house yelling.  Maybe your older sister is making fun of you or bossing you around.  Instead of getting mad an yelling or telling your parents about it, ask them kindly to stop, and pray and ask God to give you patience and respect.

I hope these verses encouraged you!  Any time you get into an argument with a family member, look back at these verses and handle it respectfully.

What are you looking forward to this summer?  Comment below!

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A Note On Changing The World

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Hello readers.  If you didn’t know already, I started this blog for a school project.  The point of the project was to go outside of your comfort zone and go against the stereotypical expectations adults have for teenagers.  I decided to start a blog because, while it was a whole new experience, it was also manageable.  I have learned so many things through this project; How to set up a blog, more ways to use the internet, how hard it is sometimes to come up with things to write about.  I have loved writing, but when I first started this project I had a much bigger mountain I thought I could climb.

My original idea was to have this blog, write on it, and eventually sell some handmade school supplies off of this blog to raise money for kids in Africa who weren’t getting a good school education.  Looking back I have no idea what I was thinking.  I still love the idea, but that whole project is pretty much the equivalent of two projects.  I soon saw that I was not going to be able to handle having a business on the internet, so I thought, “Ok, maybe I can still do something to serve the kids in Africa, and then write about my experiences on my blog.”  I then contacted some leaders at my church about anything I could do to serve.  Long story short they emailed me back with some great ideas, but the ideas were much bigger picture ideas that could not be completed in the amount of time I had to complete my project.

So, I came up with Plan C, my final project that I have successfully completed: I met with a children’s ministry leader at my church, who gave me a way to serve in children’s ministry.  Since Easter was coming up, my church did an Easter egg hunt for the kids.  They needed me to package invitations with some goodies for families to give friends, inviting them to the egg hunt.  This was a very manageable yet still important way for me to be able to serve God in a hands on way.

Let me tell you something.  This project was meant to be hard.  I had an idea for a hard project, but guess what?  It was TOO HARD.  So, I set a more achievable goal for myself and completed it.  Now, my original goal might be one that someone else is able to accomplish, and that’s ok.  You see, that’s the thing with changing the world.  God has given each one of us certain abilities and passions that we can use to serve Him.  The phrase “CHANGING THE WORLD” may seem big and scary, but it can be misleading.  God doesn’t want you yourself to convert everyone in the world to Christianity or stop child hunger forever, because He knows that one human is not capable of that.  He wants you to use the gifts He has given you to fulfill the plans He has already set for you.

I want to encourage you with this:  There are so many ways you can serve God by using your gifts.  For me that is posting on my blog and doing small tasks to help children’s ministry.  It will be different for every person, because God gave each one of us unique gifts.  A simple way to start is to contact someone at your church with questions and ideas for ways you can serve.  It does not need to be a big thing, because sometimes small things are the most important.  You may not feel like you are “changing the world”, but you can know that God can use you to do amazing things even if they seem small.

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Sharing Easter Joy

NOTE:  Read my Easter post from last year here.  If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog to receive email updates whenever I post something new!

Hey everyone!  I’m on spring break right now, and for the first time this year it’s actually starting to feel like spring!  Isn’t it funny how the weather affects your mood?  Sometimes when it’s cold and rainy outside I actually feel dreary, dismal, and tired.  When it is warm and sunny outside (but not too hot!), like today, I feel joyful and happy.  Isn’t spring a fitting time for Easter?

When we celebrate Easter we are celebrating and remembering the day when Jesus rose from the dead.  We celebrate His power and His willingness to give His own life because He loves us so much that He wants us to be with Him eternally in heaven.  It’s a joyful celebration.  It makes us feel happy and joyful to know that Jesus loves us so much.  That got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be even more joyful if everyone around us knew the love of Jesus?

At my youth group we have recently started doing this really cool thing called PRAY-4-1.  You pick one person in your life who doesn’t know Jesus and you focus on praying for them.  I find this a very helpful way to start praying.  A lot of the time when I’m praying, I want to pray for others, but I don’t know what to say or where to start.  PRAY-4-1 is a great way to begin!  When you have picked your one person, pray that God would reveal Himself to that person and change their heart.  What better time to pray for them than Easter time?  You can ask God to fill them with the joy of Jesus’ resurrection.

Even though Easter has passed already, the joy of Easter has not.  It’s not like Jesus rose from the dead, everyone was amazed, and then the next day they acted like it never happened.  The miracle of Christ’s resurrection changed the hearts of everyone present for the rest of their lives.  It’s the same with us today!  When you pray for your person, ask God to change their heart forever with the good news of Jesus, and his eternal joy and love.

 

Psssst! Did you like this post?  Comment or email me with post ideas you want to see in the future!  Give me your input on what to write about next!

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Movie Summary and Review: God’s Not Dead

Hi everyone!  This review has some spoilers that you might want to skip if you are interested in watching this movie.  They are clearly marked, so you can just skip down to where it says the spoilers have stopped.  Enjoy!

Josh Wheaton is excited to start his freshmen year at college.  For one of his electives, he decides to take philosophy, and on his first day of taking the class, his professor (Professor Radisson) asks the entire class to write three simple words on a piece of paper: God Is Dead.  Josh is taken aback by this, for he is a strong Christian.  Professor Radisson comes around to collect the papers, and Josh does not give him one.  “I can’t,” he says, “I’m a Christian.”  Professor Radisson is obviously very against Christianity, and this act of defiance on Josh’s part angers him.  He tells Josh that if he is so sure there is a God, Josh must defend his position successfully, or lose 30% of his final grade.  Josh accepts, even though he is greatly troubled by his professors adamant atheism.  He talks to Pastor Dave about this, and Pastor Dave encourages him with a few Bible verses.

Josh starts presenting about God at the end of every philosophy class, often followed by snide and snarky comments from Professor Radisson, even leading to threats.  Martin Yin, a Chinese exchange student in Josh’s class, is awestruck at Josh’s courage to defend his faith and immediately questions him about Christianity.  He develops a strong interest in becoming a Christian and excitedly calls his father to share his discovery with him.  Mina, Professor Radisson’s girlfriend, is fed up with his passionate dislike of Christianity.  Being a Christian herself, she breaks up with him.

**SPOILERS**                                                                                                                                                           Mina’s unexpected breakup greatly upsets Radisson, and at his next philosophy class, he gets into a heated argument with Josh.  Josh angrily asks him why he hates God, and Radisson reveals that his mother, who was a Christian, died when he was 12 years old.  He can’t understand how a loving God would take someone with so much faith away from this life.  He therefore hates God.  Mina goes to a Newsboys concert that Josh and Martin are also attending.  While she is at the concert, Radisson confusedly takes a walk.  He seems to be wrestling internally with faith and atheism.  As he is crossing the street, a speeding car comes out of nowhere and hits him.  Pastor Dave comes rushing over from his car that was at the same intersection of the accident.  He quickly determines that Radisson’s ribs are crushed and he won’t live, but he asks Radisson if he is a Christian.  Radisson says he’s terrified, that it’s not time for him to die yet.  He wants to repent and become a Christian before he dies.  Pastor Dave tells him that he can do that right now.  Right before he dies, Professor Radisson gives his life to Jesus Christ.  Josh Wheaton’s defense that there is a God was not in vain.  He influenced many in his class, including Professor Radisson. **END SPOILERS**

I highly recommend watching this movie.  The above summary does not include everything that happens, because there are a number of extra side stories in the movie that were not vital to the overall plot.  Although in my opinion there were a few parts that were a little unrealistic, it does a great job of conveying how much God can change someone’s life.  It is true that sometimes our faith will be tested and people will want to know why we believe in Jesus.  It might not be so stark as is represented in this movie, but it will happen, and we need to be able to stand up for our faith and stick by what we know is true.

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Inspiring People: Bethany Hamilton

Bethany Hamilton loved to surf.  She surfed every day, often participating in competitions.  She lived on the islands of Hawaii, and was homeschooled, which gave her a more flexible schedule so that she could focus on surfing.  When Bethany was 13  years old, she was out surfing one day with her friend Alana.  All of a sudden, a shark came out of nowhere and attacked Bethany, severing her arm up to the shoulder.  Alana and her dad rushed Bethany to the hospital, where the doctors determined that she would live, though she had lost almost 60% of her blood.

The shark attack greatly discouraged Bethany, putting a damper on her dreams of becoming a pro surfer.  How could she surf with only one arm?  Although Bethany wasn’t sure how at the time, she knew that God would get her through it all.  Bethany knew that God had gotten her through that shake attack for a reason, and He still had a plan for her life.  She set her eyes on working towards surfing again.  Bethany trained and never gave up, eventually achieving her goal of getting back in the water and surfing, even competing, again.  It was not easy, but Bethany Hamilton trusted in God to get her through a hard time, and He did just that and more, giving her opportunities to share her story with others and be an inspirational speaker.

Why She Inspires Me:

Bethany Hamilton’s story reminds me of the story of Joni Eareckson Tata.  What’s the key element to both of these stories?  Both Bethany and Joni never gave up against all odds.  Both of their barriers were very physical, limiting them from doing something they loved, but they both trusted God and came out doing things they never thought they would be able to do.  Bethany Hamilton’s story shows how faithful God is, and how He uses every circumstance for good.  One of Bethany’s favorite Bible verses is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  We can know that we do not have to fear, because God is in control and He will get us through with power and love.

NOTE: For more on Bethany Hamilton, I recommend this book: Soul Surfer: A True Story Of Faith, Family, And Fighting To Get Back On The Board by Bethany Hamilton.

 

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What Makes a Good Friend?

Hey everyone!  It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and Valentine’s Day is a great time to talk about love and friendship.  How can you be a good friend?  How do you love others the way God intends?  I found a few Bible verses to share on this topic:

Luke 6:31  “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”                                         We’ve all heard it before- it’s the golden rule!  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  If you want to make some new friends, simple kindness is the first step.  If you want to build better relationships with old friends, the same thing applies.

Proverbs 17:17  “A friend loves at all times.”                                                                                                                  Being a true friend means you stick by them all the time, no matter the circumstances.  People will want to be friends with you if they know you will be looking out for them.  The person you are best friends with is the person you can rely on to be there for you, right?  Make an effort to do the same for them.

Proverbs 27:17  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”                                             This is metaphorical, of course.  It’s meaning that friends are so insightful and can help shape you into what God wants you to be.  They can encourage you and guide you along the road God has set for you.

God values friendship a lot, and He wants you to be close with more of His children.  He wants you to make other Christian friends so that you can worship Him together, but also reach out to those who don’t yet know Him.  This gives you a chance to show His love to others.  Make this your goal this Valentine’s Day- to be kind to others and love what God loves- which is all His children!

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Are You Extraordinary?

Extraordinary.  What do you think of when you hear that word?  Maybe something out of the ordinary, or something extra special.  Some dictionary definitions include, “beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established,” and “exceptional in character.”  We think of something extraordinary as something unexpected or exciting.  Sometimes we feel like our lives are too normal, boring even, and we wait hopefully for something extraordinary to happen.  But wait.  Let’s go back to that word and pull it apart.  Extra-ordinary.  That’s right.  Synonyms would be extra normal or extra common.  You may be thinking, “My life is definitely not extraordinary.  Extra-ordinary is a much more fitting description for my life.”  Have you ever felt that way?  Maybe you feel like you have a very ordinary life and you envy others around you who seem to be doing all these fun extraordinary things.  You see people on TV and in movies who are basking in fame and happiness, living crazy and adventurous lives and being all around extraordinary.  Well what if I told you that you didn’t need all that to be an extraordinary person?  Let’s look at some people from the Bible that did some pretty extraordinary things, shall we?

David.  The guy who killed a giant.  Did you hear that?  A GIANT.  The Philistines and Israelites are all fighting and everything, right?  So in walks this shepherd boy (the most boring and common job EVER, by the way), who walks up to the giant and kills him with a small pebble.  So he helps win the war for the Israelites and then goes on to be the king.  No big deal or anything.

Sarah.  This is Abraham’s wife.  She was just going about living a normal life when guess what?  God decides she’ll have a son.  Even though she’s super old and it’s technically impossible for her to have children, this is God we’re talking about.  Oh. and one more thing.  This son will happen to be the ancestor of the person who will save the world.

Joseph.  This is a few generations after Sarah.  Joseph is the youngest out of a lot of brothers.  He is his father’s favorite child.  He’s also a shepherd.  So long story short his brothers sell him and he ends up in jail, but God favors him and makes him second in command to the king of Egypt.  Again, no biggie.  He only went from the bottom of his family to the top of the entire country.

Mary.  Ok, this is one of my favorites because it describes extraordinary perfectly.  So, a girl is outside one day, probably washing clothes or something, when who should appear?  An angel.  From heaven.  If that isn’t startling enough, guess what he says?  “Hey Mary.  Guess what?  God has found favor with you!  You’re going to be the mother of the man who saves the entire world!  It doesn’t matter that you’re not married!  This is God we’re talking about!”  Mary’s response is possibly the calmest scenario imaginable.  She praises God instead of freaking out.

Ok. after having read some of these accounts, do you think of the word “Extraordinary” in a different way?  I sure do.  Every one of those people were probably some of the most ordinary people you could find, but God used all of them for extraordinary purposes.  He used them to pave the way for Jesus, who in and of himself was the most extra ordinary and extraordinary case of all time.  A baby born in a barn, the son of a carpenter, who would go on to sacrifice himself so that we can eternally be with God.

So the next time you feel like you have an extra ordinary life, know that God is using you for extraordinary purposes.  It might not be as radical as these Bible accounts, but know that He has a plan to make you extraordinary.

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Inspiring People: Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897.  Her father sold ice and coal, and her mother, who loved teaching, could not find a job because the city where they lived did not allow black school teachers.  Marian loved to sing, and when she was just six years old, her uncle encouraged her to join the junior choir at church.  Marian became enraptured by music, and she loved it whenever her aunt would take her to concerts.  She soon began a musical career at a very young age, receiving 25-50 cents for every few songs she would sing.

When Marian was just twelve years old, her father died of heart failure from a work accident.  After that, Marian and her family had to move.  Her family could not afford to send her to high school, much less give her music lessons.  Even in this hard time, Marian did not give up.  She still sang at church, and seeing her need, the church community raised money for Marian to attend high school and get a musical education as well.  After she graduated high school, Marian applied to Philadelphia Music Academy, but was turned away because she was black.  Not to be discouraged, she continued taking private singing lessons.

Because of her color, Marian’s singing career seemed to be going nowhere.  When she was refused permission to sing at Constitution Hall, Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others stepped up to her defense.  They arranged for her to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where everyone could hear.  This is what Marian is now most famous for.

Marian’s career took off, and she sang with the Metropolitan Opera, for Dwight Eisenhower and John. F. Kennedy’s inaugurations, and eventually got to sing at Constitution Hall.

Why She Inspires Me:                                                                                                                                           Marian Anderson never gave up.  She followed what she loved to do, as well as what God was calling her to do even when a lot of people were against her.   She didn’t hesitate to ask for help when she needed it.  Sometimes people tend to try and do everything and fix everything on their own, but it takes someone with a lot of courage to ask for help.  You may feel weak or vulnerable when you ask for a hand, but God knows what he’s doing and will work in your life through others.

Thanks for reading!  Tell someone you know about this post, someone who needs a little encouragement and inspiration.

For more on Marian Anderson, I recommend this book:                                                                                 When Marian Sang by Brian Selznick and Pam Munoz Ryan.

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Dealing With: Stress

Picture this:  You walk into the first day of school, ready to see all your friends and ready to learn some fun, new stuff.  You go to your first class and love your new teacher.  You think she has an effective, fun way of teaching and you are so excited to have her all year.  The end of class approaches, and the teacher gives the class an assignment due the next day.  That’s right.  Homework.  You didn’t think you would get homework on the first day of school.  But, as you go to each class and your homework load piles up, you realize you were wrong.

If you struggle with homework and stress, first check out my post Getting Homework Done for practical homework tips.  Those tips might help you with the routine of homework, but what about stress?

The dictionary definition of stress is: “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  Doing homework can be a demanding circumstance.  You might encounter other demanding circumstances, like an important sports game or musical performance.  Other demanding circumstances could include going to a new school, handling hard stuff in your family, or dealing with the day to day challenges of being a teenager.

Now that you know what stress is, how can you keep it under control?  Let’s see what the Bible says:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”     John 14:27

God is giving you peace, not stress.  If you pray when something is hard or challenging, if you pray that God will give you peace of mind, you can rest assured that He will.  You don’t have to be fearful of your homework load.  God will not give you more than you can handle.  Trust Him to help you handle it.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”     Proverbs 16:3

Do everything to the glory of God.  Don’t worry about being perfect and getting perfect grades or being the best on the soccer team.  Do these things to God’s glory and you will not have to stress about being “the best.”

“Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.”     Psalm 119:143

Read the Bible.  Let God’s Word fill you and listen to where God wants you to go.  In your trouble or stress, be delighted in God’s plans.  You don’t need to worry about being perfect.  Accept challenges with God’s perfect plan in mind, that He will lead you and guide you all the way through.

So, the next time you march into school with confidence and walk out biting your nails, open your Bible or pray that God would give you peace in His perfect plan.

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Hey Everyone!  What questions do you have about me or this blog?  If you have anything you’re wondering about, ask me in the Comments section. I’d like to do a Q&A post in the near future, and I need your questions.  Ask as many as you want.  I would love to answer them!  P.S. I read all the comments before posting them to the site.  If you would like to ask me questions but you don’t want them to appear on the blog (I understand), comment anyway and indicate that you would like your question answered anonymously.  I will read it and use the question in the Q&A but I will keep it anonymous.  You can also email me your questions here: emma@appletreesandpumpkinseeds.com