BlueLagoon

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!

Psssssstt:  Hey guys!  If you like reading my blog, tell others about it!  Let’s get more readers!  If you haven’t already, subscribe to get emails every time I post something new!

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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.

2016!!

Happy New Year everyone!  I love starting a new year because it gives us a fresh start and so much to look forward to.  It also gives us a chance to reflect on the past year, in this case, 2015.  What big milestones happened in your life this past year?  What was a happy thing that happened?  What was something that was not so happy?  We already have some big things on the horizon for 2016.  We have a presidential election coming up, as well as the Olympics!  I know in my case I will be starting a new chapter in my life; graduating 8th grade and moving on to high school!  While we can anticipate all these things we know will happen in the coming months, God has so many things in store for you that you have no idea about yet.  Some may be happy surprises, and some may be sad surprises.  You never know what God has in mind, but you can know that it is all in his master plan for your life.  Whatever happens, God is using it to make you stronger and build your relationship with him.  Go into 2016 with confidence and trust.  I hope you have a wonderful first week of this year!

Comment below about what you are looking forward to in 2016, or what you think I should write about in the coming year!

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Thanksgiving Thankfulness

It’s almost Thanksgiving!  I can’t believe it’s already here, especially since my last post was about Halloween (read it here).  Thanksgiving is very un-commercialized, so I think a lot of people overlook it as an important holiday.  I have often heard people say things like, “I’m not really into Thanksgiving.  I don’t even like the food!”  While Thanksgiving dinner is a great tradition (I personally love the food) it is not the main point of Thanksgiving.  What is the main point?  Giving thanks.  You might be thinking, “DUH!”, but it is sometimes hard to be thankful.  Every human is sinful, and we are tempted to focus on the things we don’t have.  Thanksgiving is a time to put this all aside and think about the things you do have.  At my house we have what’s called a “Turkey on the Table”, which is a little stuffed turkey doll that comes with the tail feathers not attached yet.  Each day in November before Thanksgiving you write something you’re thankful for on one of the feathers and stick it on the turkey.  On Thanksgiving Day, you read every feather aloud.

Sometimes I find it hard to find something new to be thankful for.  The usual things I think of are always friends, family, health, food, etc.  While it’s great to be thankful for all those things, think about things to be thankful for that aren’t so obvious.  Here are a few ideas:

Good weather.                                                                                                                                                                                       It’s true, sometimes the weather is a little dreary, but whenever the weather is beautiful, thank God for making it!

Your teachers.                                                                                                                                                   Your teachers are working to give you the knowledge you need for the future.  Thank God for their willingness and love for teaching.

The chance to try new things.                                                                                                                   In America there are so many opportunities to do so many things!  Thank God that you have so many amazing opportunities just waiting for you to try them out.

 I hope this has generated some ideas in your brain about even more things you can be thankful for.  Try this week and next week to think about things to be thankful for that maybe you don’t think about everyday and are less obvious, and pray about them.  Encourage the rest of your family to do the same!

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Trick or Treat: The Story Behind Halloween Traditions

It’s fall!  The leaves are changing color and it’s getting cooler.  You start to see pumpkins on people’s  doorsteps and Halloween costumes in stores.  But where did these traditions come from?  Why do we have them?  Here are a few answers to questions you may have about Halloween:

Why do we carve pumpkins?

Jack-o-lanterns started in the 1800’s when people would carve turnips to look like human faces and put a candle inside, calling them “Jack-o-lanterns” which means “man with a lantern”.  Making them look scary was just a way to scare each other.  People started using pumpkins instead of turnips when Irish immigrants came to America because the pumpkin was more available.  This became a Halloween tradition near the end of the 1800’s.

Where did trick or treating come from?

The general idea of trick or treating started when the Celts would dress up as evil spirits to celebrate the end of a year.  They believed that as a new year was beginning, the worlds of the dead and the living would overlap, so evil spirits would be out and about.  Dressing up as one would supposedly protect you from them.  Awhile later the Catholic Church changed this tradition to fit their holiday “All Hallow’s Eve” and got people to dress up as more holy things, such as angels.  Then, in the Middle Ages, children would dress up in these costumes and go around begging for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.  Trick or treating didn’t come up in history after that until the 1930’s.  This is when the term “Trick or treating” started being used.

Where does the name “Halloween” come from?

The holiday is called “Halloween” because November 1st was the day Christians would celebrate “All Hallow’s Day”, a day for all the saints who didn’t get a celebration day of their own.  The day before All Hallow’s Day was called “All Hallow’s Eve” (October 31).  It was later called Halloween.

Why do we associate skeletons with Halloween?

Like mentioned earlier, the Celts believed in the new year bringing together the dead and the living.  Skeletons are used to symbolize the dead, so that’s where that came from.  The skull in particular is used to represent death in many cultures.

I hope this cleared up any questions you had been wondering about.  If you have any more questions about anything Halloweenish, please comment them down below and I’ll be happy to comment back with the answer!  If you would like to get updates on when I put up a new post, you can subscribe by entering your email and clicking “subscribe” on the right.  Thanks for reading!

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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

7 Things I Learned at Public High School

(Note from Emma: Hi Everyone!  Today’s post is from a girl who has had more experience than myself at being a Christian at a public school.  School is right around the corner, so I thought it would be helpful to have some insight into what it’s like to go to a public school while being a Christian.  I hope you enjoy this post, and if you do, be sure to subscribe to her blog!)

Guest Post by Grace

Around this time a year ago, I was in a new place. I had my schedule and my map, and a backpack full of brand new school supplies, and I was trying to find my way around this big monster called high school. 

Before then, I had graduated 8th grade from a very small K-8 private Christian school. All my life, I had either been there or been homeschooled. My 8th grade graduating class had sixteen people…

…I came into a freshman class of over 600, at a public high school. It was a totally new style of learning, a totally new group of people, and a totally new lifestyle for me. 

The good news? I survived it! I made friends, kept up with the work, and made it through to the end. And I’m a lot wiser now than I was before.  I’ve learned many things that I want to share with anyone starting public school for the first time.

1. Being openly Christian is hard, scary, and embarrassing.

Early on in the year, I put up Bible verses in my locker. A few days later, I took them down. I was that insecure about my faith. 

Thankfully, I can say that I’ve grown a bit since then. Some different Bible verses went up in my locker later in the year—and they stayed up. I no longer mumble when I tell people I’m going to Christian Fellowship after school. But I’ve got a long way to go. 

It’s a lot harder to be an open Christian than you’re probably expecting. I’m still not completely comfortable sharing my faith with others, and many people probably don’t even know I’m a Christian. Be prepared that it most likely won’t come naturally.

2. Christian friends are precious.

I had several Christian friends this year that made everything so much easier. It makes all of the difference in the world to know that somewhere in the building there are those who share your beliefs, and to have someone who can support you when you have to stand up for those beliefs.  

You are not alone! Even if there is only one other Christian in your whole school, find them. Make friends with them. Christian friends are far, far more valuable in public school than you probably realize.

3. Just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean that they really are. 

I met a girl early on who said she was a Christian. I just assumed that she was living the same life as me. It didn’t take long, however, for me to figure out that we were living our lives very differently and had very different opinions on many things. 

In public school, you will meet people who go to church and say they are Christians. Be cautious—that doesn’t mean that they actually are.  Many people think that being a Christian just means you go to church. We all know that isn’t the case. 

4. You have to fight against getting desensitized to the evil around you.

In public school, you will hear curse words used often. You will be constantly exposed to worldviews that oppose Christianity. If you’re not careful, you will stop caring about the evil. 

You’ll stop being offended by curse words because you hear them so often. You’ll stop seeing opposing worldviews and opinions for what they really are, the work of Satan. Even if you know these things are wrong, you won’t consciously think about that on a regular basis. You will just stop caring. 

Fight against it. Make yourself acknowledge that curse words are offensive. Test everything you hear against the Bible. Don’t let the world cause you to stop being offended by evil. 

5. Have your opinions about cultural issues firmly in place before you enter the school. 

This is so important. Know where you stand on issues big (like abortion and feminism) and small (like the dress code and dating), so that when people ask you about them, you won’t be tempted to cave to peer pressure.

Don’t just know where you stand; have a plan for defending your stance if someone ever challenges you. You might want to have different ways of defending your opinions to people who profess to be Christians and people who don’t—that will affect how you use the Bible in your defense. 

These things will come up in conversation. Know that they will, and be prepared.

6. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs.

This follows up from the last one. Have your opinions in place, and then when someone asks you about them, don’t be afraid to defend them and stand up for yourself. 

Remember that just because your beliefs are in the minority, it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. Don’t be intimidated by people who try to make you feel stupid or like your beliefs are weird. Stand up for them, and don’t be afraid to tell people why you believe what you do. 

7. A true faith will be strengthened like never before.

I’ve heard it said that Christians shouldn’t go to public school because there is more opportunity for them to stop being Christians or fall away from their faith. 

Here’s the problem with that: if you stop being a Christian, you never were really one in the first place. If you don’t have faith already, the fake faith you do have will disappear when you face the pressures of the world. But if you have true faith, the pressure will strengthen it like you wouldn’t believe.

My experience was that being around people who didn’t believe the same as I did, and having to think through what I believed and defend it to other people occasionally, served to strengthen my faith by leaps and bounds. I hope that will be your experience too.

 

Being a Christian in such a secular environment can be hard and scary, but you have to believe that God has a reason for you to be in public school at this moment. Maybe it’s to grow your own faith. Maybe it’s because there’s someone there that needs you. But whatever it is, you are meant to be where you are, no matter how hard it gets.

Remember that there are many other people in the same situation as you all over the world, fighting the same fight, running the same race, and striving to hold on to their faith around unbelievers day in and day out. God will always be there for you. You are never alone. Don’t give up—keep fighting the good fight! 

What do you think? Were these points helpful to you? Have you experienced public school as a Christian, and if so, do you agree with them? What would you add? Tell me in the comments! 

Grace is a 15 year old Christian. She has a passion for using writing to share the Gospel and encourage other Christians in their faith. On her blog, she writes about God, faith, cultural issues, and the Christian life. She also enjoys reading, writing fiction, and dancing. 

You can find her blog here: trueandpure.wordpress.com


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Wonder: Book Review

Hi everyone!  For this week I wanted to write a book review on a book that I’ve recently read called Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  This book is geared towards kids ages 10-12, but I think it can be impactful for any age!  (NOTE: There will be spoilers in this review so read with caution.)

Summary:                                                                                                                                                                             The main character in this book is a boy named August Pullman.  August has a major facial deformity and his parents, in order to protect him from teasing or bullying, homeschooled him for his elementary school years.  When he reaches 5th grade his parents decide that he needs a more advanced education therefore they send him to a traditional school.  August is very nervous at first, but soon finds that though some kids do stare at him, a lot of the kids are super nice and want to be his friend.  He makes friends with a girl named Summer (yes, they make a lot of jokes about how their names are August and Summer) and a boy named Jack.  However, Jack finds it hard to keep up the “cool” reputation while still being friends with August, so he says some pretty mean things about August to some other “popular” kids, not knowing that August was nearby and could hear.  August goes home in tears and doesn’t plan on ever going back to school until his sister (Via) persuades him to go back.

When Jack finds out that August heard his mean comments, he sincerely sees the error of his ways and ask August if they can be friends again.  Meanwhile, Julian, the most popular kid in school, is appalled that Jack (his former friend) would choose August over being “cool”, so he gets pretty much the whole school to give August, Jack, and Summer the silent treatment.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The kids send mean notes and do anything to show the three that they are social outcasts.  One night when the fifth grade class is on a nature field trip, Jack, August, and a few other boys in their class find themselves alone in the woods.  They run into some extremely rude 7th graders who not only say some of the meanest things you can think of about August’s face but they also get into a physical fight with the 5th grade boys.  August is beyond hurt and on top of that humiliated at being seen crying in front of his classmates.  But when those 7th graders said those mean things about August, his classmates (the ones who weren’t talking to him) stood up for him and didn’t like those big kids pushing around their fellow classmate.  Their eyes were opened to what it’s like to be bullied, and they (like Jack) changed their ways.

Why I liked it:                                                                                                                                                 This book shows you that people who look different or seem different to you are just people who can be fun and nice if you get to know them.  Also being “popular”, if you think about it, really doesn’t matter.  What matters is being a good friend and making others feel loved and included.

In Wonder you get a peek into what it’s like to be teased and bullied.  You may not have someone at your school with a facial deformity like August, but anything you say can impact someone’s feelings just the same.  School is coming up (I know, I can’t believe it!).  Think about what you say about someone else before you speak.  Start the school year off well!

Thanks for reading this review!  I hope you enjoyed it, and make sure to look for future posts.  (If you subscribe to my blog then you won’t have to look for a new post- you will get an email anytime I post something new!)