Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Corner: There's a Frog in My Throat!

There's a Frog in My Throat! 440 Animal Sayings A Little Bird Told Me by Loreen Leedy and by Pat Street (2003)

"Hot dog! Pat Street and Loreen Leedy have gone hog-wild with this imaginative and amusing collection of sayings about animals. From lucky ducks to odd ducks to sitting ducks to just plain quacks, this compilation presents a wealth of sayings alongside fun-filled art bursting with color and energy. Each expression is explained, so no reader feels like a silly goose" (from the front inside jacket).

Illustrating hundreds of commonly-used sayings, this inventive picture book would make an excellent addition to any classroom collection. Fun for everyone, this book could be an especially helpful resource for English-language-learning (ELL) students.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Detour for Dahlias

This time of year Midland's unique landmark Dahlia Hill is a visual delight--the terraces are blooming with over 200 varieties of dahlias! Driving home from school this afternoon I took a detour by Dahlia Hill so that I could enjoy another photo-shoot . . .

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading Corner: Hittite Warrior

I was introduced to the novel Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson, while I was babysitting for some friends. One of the children had it out on the kitchen table for a school assignment. Meticulously-researched and well-written, this engaging historical fiction story tells the tale of a fugitive Hittite boy living during the time of the Israelite Judges. The adventure deftly weaves Biblical facts amidst a wide background of ancient civilizations, showing readers the interrelatedness of ancient cultures. It's a great read for ages 10-up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Flowers from the Farmers Market

My mom is so sweet to buy me fresh flowers for my room, every Saturday morning at our local Farmers Market. These are the flowers she bought me yesterday. Aren't they lovely?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reading Corner: Once Upon a Tandem

This little book is a true gem. A modern fable with a profound message,  Once Upon a Tandem is one of my all-time favorite stories.
“In the spirit of The Giving Tree and The Tale of Three Trees, this beautiful allegory shares the story of a traveler on the road of life. The unnamed sojourner pedals alone on a bicycle built for two -- until one day a stranger is invited along for the ride, and through the shared experiences of the road, the stranger becomes a lifelong guide and friend.

“With poetic language, vivid imagery, and artistic illustrations, this simple, yet profound, book shares an invaluable message of hope and direction for every traveler on the road of life” (from Amazon review).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Walking to the Library

Today is a lovely day to enjoy one of my all-time favorite pastimes: walking to the local public library.  I packed my camera in my book-tote and had fun taking these pictures of the flora I noticed along the way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Written in the Heavens

Since journaling about my “summer rainbows” last night, I’ve realized that they are actually the second and third in a trilogy. My first summer rainbow occurred exactly seven years ago: August 25, 2004. It was the eve of a big moving day for me. For two years I had been interning at the international headquarters of a Christian ministry, and now I was leaving to start college at Verity Institute. My heart was torn; I didn’t want to leave. I loved living and working at that ministry campus—I had grown so much in the Lord there and had made many wonderful friends. What would Verity bring?    

That evening my housemates were throwing a farewell party for me. While they were setting up, I offered to run an errand back to the office to fetch a housemate’s camera for her. As I left the office building, the sun was setting behind me. I paused in the parking lot to bask in the scene, even though it was starting to rain. The vivid colors of the sunset kept getting brighter and brighter—gorgeous. Just when I turned to run back to my house, I noticed in the sky over the hill in front of me a tiny section of a faint, blurry rainbow peeking through the clouds. At that moment, standing in the rain, with the sunset behind me and the rainbow ahead of me,
God’s peace and hope flooded my soul. It was as if He were telling me that I have approached the sunset of this season in my life—a season that has been beautiful and wonderful. . . . Yet, at the same time, there’s beauty ahead too, even if I can’t see it distinctly. He promises to be faithful and to give me a future and a hope and to fulfill His purpose for me.
(from my August 25, 2004 journal entry)

Gazing at that faint rainbow that evening seven years ago, I had no idea all that I would experience in my upcoming season of life at Verity. I didn’t know the extent to which God would stretch me, deepen me, break me, remold me. I had yet to meet the wonderful friends, make the happy memories, persevere through the hard times that would comprise my seven years at Verity. In the months that I have been home now, there is a lot that I’ve been processing about my Verity experience, particularly my three years as the Women’s Coordinator. There’s a lot that I still don’t understand about the journey through which God has taken me. As I continue to seek His perspective, I’m awed to think that He distinctly book-ended my Verity season with rainbows—symbols of His covenant. Written in the heavens is clear testimony: “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens; Your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Rainbows

One of my favorite things about summertime is our after-dinner, family bike-rides. This evening as we were finishing our outdoor dinner on the deck, we could hear the faint rumbles of thunderclouds rolling in. The sky didn’t look menacing as we felt the first sprinkles. Should we still try to get a quick ride before sunset, despite the coming rain? The four of us took a vote. Unanimous—let’s go for it! Riding around our neighborhood, we did get somewhat wet. But after a few minutes the rain cleared, and for the rest of the ride we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the vibrant sunset. We even saw a rainbow!

Tonight’s rainbow reminded me of the previous rainbow I saw, which was at the beginning of the summer, in June, when I was visiting friends at Virginia Beach. That evening, shortly before sunset, we were playing Frisbee on the shore as the rain clouds rolled in over the water. The panorama of the sky was spectacular. Seeing the edge of the rain clouds to the right expanse, the clear sky to the left, the pink glow of the setting sun illuminating the water, and a rainbow in the midst of it all, took my breath away.

As summer 2011 quickly draws to a close, I think I will look back on this time and define it by these two rainbows. These rainbows bookend a season in which I have been fervently seeking God’s direction for my life. I still feel that I am sorely lacking in perspective and insight. But I am reminded and encouraged, as rainbows have always symbolized, that “God is, and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Style Secret: Looking Great on Less

Window-shopping the expensive designer stores and then finding ways to look great on less is a creative pursuit that makes me happy.   

Today I wore one of my favorite skirts. It's a mid-length, floral A-line with an inverted front pleat, from Target, which I bought at a thrift store several years ago and altered. Just about every time I wear it I get complimented. But today was extra fun because I was shopping at Ann Taylor. The saleslady greeted me at the door when I walked in. "I love your skirt!" she gushed. "Where is it from?"

Today reminds me of another summer outfit compliment I received when a friend and I were browsing the swanky shops in downtown Charleston. I was wearing a madras skirt that I had made, paired with a tank top from Wal-Mart. As we were perusing the clothes in JCrew, another customer came up to me to ask me where I got my skirt. Score!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reading Corner: The Homeschooler's Book of Lists

The Homeschooler’s Book of Lists by Sonya Haskins (2007) is a fantastic resource book featuring more than 250 lists, charts, and facts to make planning easier and faster. Topics covered include history and government, mathematics, religion, science, geography, great people, quotations and speeches, the arts, and much more. Compiled by a homeschool mom, this book is a valuable reference for anyone because it makes so much general knowledge well-organized and accessible. It's an excellent book for anyone to have handy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Think on These Things

In my experience, beautiful music is indispensable to beautiful living. What better way to meditate on Scripture than set to lovely song? One of my all-time top favorite CDs is Think on These Things, produced by SoundForth Singers. Whenever I need to redirect my heart and mind back on God's Word (which is frequently--I need all the help I can to "think on these things"!), I listen to this CD.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Secret Keepers

This summer I've been spending many hours at the playground supervising young children at day-camp. Since the children especially love playing at the monkey bars, I spend a lot of the outside play time standing by that area, ensuring the children are staying safe and having fun. Kids will be kids--they love to climb up high and swing upside down. I want kids to have an active, healthy, happy childhood. However, a concern I have is indecent exposure. From toddlers to elementary students, I've been seeing lots of bare bellies and underwear. With sexual predation and abuse on the rise in our society, it's all the more important that parents are vigilant about dressing their precious children. Even the youngest children need to be outfitted in practical clothes that will keep their active, little bodies appropriately covered.

For practical ideas and tips for dressing girls modestly, check out Secret Keeper Girl--a fantastic ministry for moms and their young daughters.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning when I dropped by a friend's home, four-year-old Rachel* was occupying herself looking for stickers to accessorize her shirt, "because I like to wear stickers!" she explained. She found a sheet of autumn-themed stickers, including a row of "Happy Thanksgiving!" ones. "Oh, these are nice," she giggled and carefully pulled a sticker off the sheet.

"Here, Kristina, this one is for you," she patted the sticker onto my shirt.

"Thank you, Rachel!" I said. "Every day should be a happy thanksgiving day. Because God has given us so many blessings, we have lots to be thankful for, don't we?"

*name changed to protect privacy

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As Little Children

Even as I am completing my credentials to be a professional teacher of children, I realize that children have much to teach me. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). For those who have eyes to see, there are plenty of glimpses of the “kingdom of heaven” right on the day-camp playground.

This afternoon no sooner had I arrived on the playground when I heard one of the toddlers start to cry. She had been accidentally hit by one of her classmates who had been pretending to be Spiderman. I knelt down on the ground and put my arm around her to comfort her, and she immediately latched on to me. For the next ten minutes she just wanted to cuddle. As she quieted, held close in my arms, I had a chance to ponder. I hope that like that precious little girl, whenever I am distressed or upset or hurt that I will quickly turn to the arms of my Heavenly Father for comfort: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

A few minutes later, I had one of those “melt-your-heart” moments. Since I had arrived at day-camp while all the children were playing outside, I had set my purse on the ground by the swing-set. When it was time for all the kindergarteners to line up and head back inside, I started to reach for my purse.

“I’ll carry your purse inside for you, Miss Kristina,” five-year-old Mason eagerly volunteered.

“Well,” I paused for a moment. My purse was pretty big and heavy. Was it a good idea to entrust it to a kindergartener? But Mason was so earnest and sweet in his offer that I just had to affirm his gentlemanliness. “Mason, that is very kind of you,” I said, letting him pick up my purse and swing it over his shoulder. “Thank you.”

“Sure, Miss Kristina,” he replied sincerely, “That’s what good friends do.”

What a precious visual reminder to me that as Jesus’ friends we are called to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

As summer turns to fall and school is about to start, I look forward to learning even more from the little children God brings in my life. =)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Walk in His Ways

“I don’t understand God’s ways,” I commented to my mom yesterday evening while we were riding our bikes together.  

“I don’t either, Kristina. Who does?” she replied. We were both referring to an ongoing personal situation that's beyond human sense. It’s not the way either of us would write the script; yet we see that God has been working and is working, and we have confidence that He is continuing to write the story. Whenever I try to figure it out, I just get a knot in my stomach.  

Then I am reminded of a recurring theme from my recent readings in the book of Deuteronomy. Over and over again Moses charges the people of Israel: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to understand God’s ways—are they not unsearchable (Romans 11:33)? Yet repeatedly we are instructed to walk in His ways. God promises His presence and His favor upon us—not when we finally figure things out—but as we love Him and walk in His ways and serve Him with all our hearts. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flutterbies and Flowers

"It's been a while since I've been to the Dow Gardens on a photoshoot," I thought to myself last night. "I'll pack my camera in the car tomorrow and drop by the Gardens on my way home from babysitting." So that's just what I did. =) Here are some of my favorite pictures of the "flutterbies" (as some children cutely mispronounce "butterflies") and the flowers I saw this afternoon. . . 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Style Secret: Repurposed Table Centerpiece

I love my cottage-chic bedroom. It's a charming, peaceful place for me to study and rest.

All of my furniture is hand-me-down, which makes for a sentimental, albeit mismatched, ensemble. The shabby-chic quilt brings the random pieces together for a relaxed, charming look. One of my favorite style secrets about my room is the window treatments. When my family moved into the house, blah linen curtains were hanging in my bedroom windows. My mom and I immediately set out to find inexpensive window treatments that would be more attractive. Then she had the brilliant idea to re-purpose one of the silk arrangement table centerpieces she had in storage. Happily, the centerpiece coordinated beautifully with my bedding, and it was long enough for us to cut in half to make two pieces--one for each window. We wired the centerpieces onto the curtain rods and added extra silk ivy to cover the length of the rods.  Voila!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reading Corner: Abigail Adams

While I was working at day camp last week, I noticed on the classroom bookshelf this biography of Abigail Adams: First Lady of Faith and Courage by Evelyn Witter. Abigail Adams is one of my heroines, so I eagerly picked up the book to read silently during the kids’ rest time and reading time. The book is one of the Sower Series biographies, which I loved when I was elementary school. Reading Abigail Adams this week reminded me why these books are outstanding—they make the lives of Godly history-makers accessible to elementary children. Quite a few of the books in the series, including Abigail Adams, are written in first-person, which cause the inspiring true stories to become all that more personal and engaging. 

Other famous men and women highlighted in the series include Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Mother Teresa, Isaac Newton, Johnny Appleseed, the Wright brothers, and more.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dahlia Hill

The dahlias at Midland's landmark Dahlia Hill are in full bloom now. Usually I pass Dahlia Hill along my favorite bicycle route, but this time I packed my camera in the car and drove there especially to take some pictures. . . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ten Hundred Hugs

One of the things I love about working with children is their uninhibited affection and enthusiasm. While subbing at day camp today I didn’t even try to keep count of all the hugs I received and gave. =)

At the very end of the day, there was one last little boy waiting to be picked up by his mom. When she finally arrived, he ran to greet her with a big hug. As they were leaving, he spontaneously turned around, ran back to me, with arms wide open, calling, “Huggy, huggy!”

“Oh, I love hugs!” I answered. “Here’s a ‘have-a-great-weekend hug’!” I hugged the little boy goodbye.

Scampering back to his mom, he exclaimed, “I have ten hundred hugs!”

“Wow! That’s a lot of hugs!” I replied. I couldn’t help but smile. “You’ll make a lot of people happy with that many hugs!”

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Style Secret: Resized Sweater

I’ve been noticing a lot of charming crochet detail in trend this year. I picked up this cute vintage sweater at the thrift store, on sale for 49 cents. A simple, five-minute alteration consisting of taking in the side-seams, transformed a size XL sweater vest into a lovely capped-sleeve top. =)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rose of Sharon

I walked into our kitchen the other day, to a lovely surprise. Mom was arranging flowers she had just cut from our backyard. Growing along one side of our house we have a beautiful Rose of Sharon bush, that I had never even noticed before!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bloom Where You're Planted

One of the greatest compliments I've received to date came from a friend who shared these kind remarks about me at a farewell party: "Kristina, you bloom where you're planted; and you also make the place where you're planted bloom." My friend's praise confirms a favorite Scripture verse of mine: "Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us" (Psalm 90:17).

Last summer God began teaching me more about His beauty around me and upon me as I began a habit of picking and arranging flowers I found growing wild along the edges of the campus where I lived. Over the course of last summer and autumn I made dozens of arrangements to enjoy in my own apartment, as well as to give away to friends. Looking for His beauty and then sharing it with others helped give me perspective in the middle of a difficult season. In the midst of a lot of frustrating situations in my life, what a joy it was to have such vibrant reminders that God desires His beauty to be upon me.