Thursday, 29 November 2012

Viruses and Gratitude

You take it for granted. I know you don’t mean to. It’s natural.

When was the last time you jumped into the air with joy for being able to read?
When did you cry for happiness at the thought of three square meals a day?
How many times do you fall on your knees and praise God for the Internet?

Two days ago I was vomiting up my guts. I won’t get too graphic, but I was up half the night and my stomach felt like someone had ripped it out, chewed it up, and then stuffed it back in with a plunger. Today I feel amazing, completely normal.

Wait a minute.

How often do we hear those two words used together? Amazing + Normal.  

Original Photo: Tears, a photo by Έλενα Λαγαρία on Flickr.
We all forget. The monotonous cycle of life numbs us into accepting the status quo. We’re always getting used the present and looking toward the future. 

The only reason I’m so thankful for a quiet stomach is because it has been unquiet. The only reason I praise God for flexible muscles is because my body has been aching. The only reason I’m grateful for my strength is because I’ve been lying around on horizontal surfaces like a limp dishrag

And that brings me to today’s shocking revelation—

We cannot appreciate our blessings until we have suffered.

I don’t know the answer to the immortal problem of pain, but let me ask you this: the things you are especially grateful for right now, would you value them so highly if you had never been in danger of losing them?

We can glibly write out a couple dozen reasons to give thanks, but the anthems of gratitude that come spontaneous to our lips in the silence of the night, when there is no one but God to hear, those are the sacrifices of praise that must make God’s heart thrill.

Remember this in the good times. 

When everything is going right, when life has settled into a gentle rhythm,  remember that suffering paves the way to gratitude. Take this moment to thank the Lord for all those things you might have lost, all those things you might still lose. If you don’t give thanks for this second, you’ll never get another chance.

This recent battle with a  stomach virus has forced me to mull these things over. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. What are you taking for granted? Do you have any suggestions for how we can be grateful for the things we think are “normal”? 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Praise Him In The Storms.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:18
Hello, Thanksgiving! I love this time of year...don’t you? Crisp and colorful leaves drifting down from the trees, blazing fires to accompany the cool breezes, but most of all, I love this time of year because It makes me realize how blessed I truly am. Living in the United States (which I assume most of you readers are), there is SO much to be thankful for. Many of us have homes (and probably warm, toasty ones at that), clothes on our backs, food to eat (including epic Pringles as Kyla said ;), and people who truly, truly love us. With so much of everything, it’s easy to be thankful. But in our heart, are we truly thankful? Or do we just hop on the thankfulness bandwagon because we feel as if we are almost entitled to a wonderful life?
I found this poem and I thought it illustrated very well why we should choose thankfulness at all times. Even though it doesn’t rhyme (which I’m convinced all poems should), I think you’ll enjoy it.
“Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.”
 -Author Unknown
Someone who has a truly thankful heart praises God at all times. Thankfulness should come as an overflow of praise to our glorious God, who owes NOTHING to us. This means even in the storms. So, when your life is less than okay, praise Him. When your loved one is hauled off to jail, give thanks. When your darkest hour closes in, glorify His name. As measly sinners, we don’t deserve anything. Let’s praise God in all situations. 
That’s what it means to be truly thankful.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

thirty reasons for me to be thankful

a God who is way more awesome than I fully realize
a family that loves me far more than I deserve
a warm home
good food
beautiful friends
wonderful talent—or, at least, talent that occasionally errs on the side of beauty
Pringles (no, seriously, they’re epic)
good music that makes me want to dance and cry and laugh and love
beautiful books
being able to get my favorite movie trilogy for forty dollars when it’s supposed to be one hundred (Lord of the Rings, if you’re interested)
good people who are willing to put up with me even when I annoy them
a love beyond all measure and reckoning, that sent the God of the universe to a cross for me
a country where I don’t have to worry about being thrown into jail—at least, not for what my religious beliefs are
pens that fit perfectly into my hand, because they’re hard to find
a workplace that doesn’t mind me taking off for months at a time to travel
the ability to learn
baby giggles
stories from old people
beautiful landscapes
the twenty-first century
being able to climb out of my bed in the morning
occasionally being able to stay in my bed in the morning
generous people
other fans of things I love, that make me feel just a bit more sane than I am
the blood that covers it all
friends on the other side of the world 
all the little things

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endures forever.
- Psalm 107:1

Monday, 19 November 2012

~ Smile ~ What has God blessed us with?

As we enter this week and look ahead to Thanksgiving, I smile at what the Lord has been doing in my life and my family's life.

This past weekend has been a busy one for our family.  My dad, sister and I traveled down to NYC for a few days to help with a church and the food pantry that they run.  Wow!  What an eye opener!  Yes, we have all heard that story of how someone went somewhere, where the people were in serious need and there eyes were opened to how blessed they were.  But somehow, when it happens to you, it still hits you hard, right between the eyes.

How many times have I had to worry about where my next meal was coming from? Never.  How many times have I wondered if I would be warm enough when the snow comes? Never.  How many times have I wondered if there would be enough food left after looking at the 100 people in front of me in line at the food pantry? Never.  How many times have I gone looking through bags of donated clothes set out on a table hoping for a jacket for someone special? Never. How many times have I wished I could bake Christmas cookies with family members, but known that it would all depend on if a certain store donated the ingredients needed to make cookies? Never. How many times have I waited in line for hours in the cold to receive that days groceries? Never.  How many times have I thought about God, but not known how to get to know Him? Never.  How many times have I searched for peace, love, and joy, but not found it because I had never been taught where to find the Source of love, joy and peace? NEVER.  When have I ever had a hurricane come through and ruin ALL my posessions? Never. When have I ever had to wonder if the water I was drinking was actually hurting my body, more then helping it? Never.

God has given us so much and yet so often I fall short in my gratefulness.  As I look back on the weekend and think of the people that I met and talked with, I can think of so many other things I am thankful for.

A family that loves me! A genuine relationship with my Heavenly Father! The Gift of Salvation!
A whole copy of the Bible that is accurate!  The Fellowship of other Christians!  A wonderful Pastor and his family!  Clean, healthy food!  The opportunity I had to be homeschooled!  The ability to see, hear, touch, smell and taste!  That I was taught to read, write and study!  Ok, lets get closer to home here at the blog.....Computers, websites, blogs, meeting kindred spirits online, email, the internet, photographs, etc.

God is so good! This past fall my sister and volunteered at a Christian Camp in our neck of the woods and we made some wonderful friends or built even better relationships then we had already had.  One of my favorite memories from this fall was on the last night we got together (there are several people who work the camp, but six of us specifically had gotten close.)  We were sitting around a campfire late at night talking, roasting marshmallows, heating up chocolate and making s'mores and just talking.  How many people are able to do something like that....sure I can think of a lot who can, but there are even more who can't.  I think of the people who live in cities. They don't have the opportunity to build a warm fire, see the beautiful sparks, smell that wood smoke, roast those marshmallows and make s'mores.  Many of them don't have likeminded, Christian friends who encourage and uplift them.

I could go on and I think most of us could.  What are you thankful for?  It would be so cool to have each person who reads this post to leave a comment and write down and LEAST ONE thing they are thankful for.  Your comments are always a blessing for us the authors but also to the rest of the reader as well :) - Another thing to be thankful for :} 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Of Pilgrims and Separatists

Since we’re nearing Thanksgiving, it seemed appropriate to talk about the Pilgrims' idea of holiness. Should we follow their example, or did they get it wrong?

Though we know the early settlers of Plymouth Colony as “Pilgrims,” they probably referred to themselves as Dissenters or Separatists. They saw the Church of England as corrupt and distanced themselves from it—quite literally—by holding their own services, and eventually emigrating to Holland. They feared corruption by the people they were living among, and at last settled in one of the emptiest places possible, the New World.

File:Flickr - USCapitol - Embarkation of the Pilgrims.jpgI’m sure you’re familiar with the idea that “here we are but straying pilgrims,” and this world is not our home. I think many Christians can identify with the Separatists’ frustration with the modern church, and we long to somehow set ourselves apart from the rest and declare that at least we have it right.

If holiness means to be “different” or “separate,” then how does that relate to being “in the world, but not of it”? Jesus told His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19), but he also prayed to the Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn't it?

What it comes down to is this: are we called to look differently, act differently, talk differently, sing differently, cook differently, read differently, and write differently than the world? I believe so. The Jesus-life in us should permeate every thread of our being and make us altogether separate. But does that mean that we should get together with our Christian homeschool friends, build a boat, and sail off to an uncharted wilderness?

I don’t think so.

164/365  After the Storm  (+1) by martinak15
164/365 After the Storm (+1), a photo by martinak15 on Flickr.
“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeis not of the Father but is of the world.” There is no place on earth so empty that can be perfectly holy as God is holy (remember what happened with the Pilgrims and Native Americans in the years after that friendly Thanksgiving dinner?). We'll always have ourselves to contend with, and much of the time we actually don't "have it right." 

However, there’s another part to that verse, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15). We may not be perfectly holy here on earth, we are still in the world, but we have the promise that all the filth around us will be purged away, and God’s holy ones left standing in the brilliance of His grace.

Remember: God didn't put us here to be hermits! He called us to go “into all the world” (Mark 16:15). 

Do you think that the Pilgrims were "in this world but not of it"? How are you going to heed that call today?

Monday, 12 November 2012

That's MY King.

I'd like to begin by showing y'all this video to get you thinking about how Holy God really is: 


It’s absolute perfection. The clearest of purities. An unattainable quality attributed only to our one, true God, Jesus Christ. It’s a quality that causes the angels and heavenly being to fall prostrate before Him, and it’s one that will someday cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess.

And it’s there to show us the flaws of the human condition. But it’s also there to give us hope.
We see how much everyone is desperately in need of a Savior. Someone who can rescue them from the muck and mire of sin that we so desperately cling to. As broken, sinful human beings, we look at ourselves in the mirror and think, “Oh. Look at me, I’m so filthy. Why would God care about me? He could never love me. I’m not good enough.” 

Let me tell you, ladies. We aren’t good enough (Romans 3:23). No one is. That’s how incredible Holiness is. God is SO GLORIOUS we are not even worthy to stand in His presence.

But. Our God is not only a Hágios God. He is also a God of HOPE. Did you hear that!? He gives us broken, dirty sinners HOPE! Praise God! He says, “I love you anyway, my daughter.” He says “Run to me!” He says “Do not lose heart! Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

That’s His Holiness.

Our God gives us hope when we thought that was no more. He fills us when we are empty. He knows how sinful we are, but offers NEVER-ENDING forgiveness. For “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, and all sinners (I Tim 1:19).”

One day, we will “be holy, for [He is] holy (I Peter 1:16).” In heaven, we will be made perfect, only because of His selfless Sacrifice, Jesus.The forgiveness that God gives only intensifies His Greatness. 

We have been REDEEMED, RESCUED, SET FREE! We should not live in darkness anymore, but start striving for Holiness. Striving to become more like God in purity. 

I Peter 1:14 - 15 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct...”

Our God is Hágios.

Do you know Him? That’s MY King.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

an anthem of difference

What, exactly, is it that happens when one gets saved? Oh yes, we're saved from all sins past, present, and future, Christ becomes the propitiation for us, and through his resurrection we gain new, beautiful, radical life in Him. But more than that...what happens? In that moment, we become different. All at once, old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.

And shouldn't our lives reflect this difference? This difference, in fact, should be (in my opinion, at least), defined by its most simple root form: holiness. (As Devin pointed out, the Greek word this word derives from is most accurately defined as 'different' or 'separate'.) We most often see this word, of course, applied toward God, someone so beyond our conception of banal existence that we can't even fathom it.

But through Christ, we have become saints, and have become credited with all the righteousness of Christ. In God's eyes, if you are redeemed, there is no difference between you and Christ. You have, to all intents and purposes, been credited with the holiness of Christ.

So how are we supposed to respond to this? How is this supposed to manifest itself?


I don't really know. But I do know that Peter talked about it quite a bit, in both of his epistles.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation...
what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness...?

Biblically, our 'conversation' is, very simply, our testimony. It is the way other people see us. For we, as Christians, this is vitally important. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us we are ambassadors, and 6:3 states that we must give no offence, "that the ministry be not blamed". God may look at the heart, but people most definitely look at the outside, and what they see and hear is integral to how they perceive not just us, but our God.

Take care that your words are gentle, peaceable, kind. I know this can be the hardest thing to master, as we talked about some time ago. More than that, be sure that your actions will give no cause for question fall upon God. All manner of conversation, after all.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober

Be ready. Be serious when it is time to be serious. Conduct yourself as a person of God.

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God
hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ

And at the end of it, what is it that we're looking forward to? What is it that will help us achieve this holiness? Christ's coming, and Christ, quite simply. Jesus has promised to return for us, his bride. And that gives me quite a bit of hope. How can I help serving him while I am here, and singing to him an anthem of difference with my life?

*references in italics taken from 1 Peter 1:13-16 and 2 Peter 3:11-12

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Specific Reflection Needed


What does holiness mean to you?

Picture found on flikr and taken by   ~~~johnny~~~
 I know every time I hear the word "Holy" I think of the well know hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy" or I think of God's holiness and the passages in Isaiah or Revelation that speak of His holiness.  I have to say that rarely do I think of myself as holy, because I view holiness as "perfectness."....I am FAR from perfect so therefore REALLY far from holy.

However when Abby sent out the email reminding us about what our next topic is to be about for the next two weeks, she mentioned that "the fundamental meaning of the Greek word hágios (the root word for holy) is "different." It implies something "set apart" and therefore "different" because it is special to the Lord."

For example, a temple in the 1st century was hagios ("holy") because it was different from other buildings.

God is the only one who is truly holy, but as Christians he has called us to be holy as well.

"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:15-16

"The idea of exactly how to be holy has suffered from many false concepts. In some circles, holiness is equated with a series of specific prohibitions - usually in such areas of smoking, drinking and dancing. The list of prohibitions varies depending on the group.  When we follow this approach to holiness, we are in danger of becoming like the Pharisees with their endless list's of trivial do's and don'ts and their self righteous attitude.  For others, holiness means a particular style of dress and mannerisms.  And for still others it means unattaniable perfection,......All of these ideas, while accurate to some degree, miss the true concept. To be holy is to be morally blameless.  It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God.  The word signifies "seperation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated."[1]

As Ephesians 4:22-24 says "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

When we are born again and accept the gift of Salvation, we put off the old man, our old life style and put on the new man.  A new life style that has new purpose in Christ.  A life that becomes a living sacrifice for the One who gave His life that we might live.

Holiness....morally blameless, separated from sin, consecrated to God.

Oh dear,...again, I fall short with these definitions as well.  Unfortunately none of us will ever be perfectly holy, all the time, except for Christ.  However, he has called us to be set apart, consecrated to Him, a living sacrifice, and holy..........

How do we get there?

Picture credit given to  ~~~johnny~~~  of flikr

By living each moment in obedience and surrender to Him.  We can not be holy, but through yielding to the Holy Spirit's working in our lives, we can at least be a small reflection of Him.  

I so often think of myself as a clear pond.  When I am yielded to Him and allowing Him to work through me, the pond is still and people can see His reflection in the water.  However, when I am struggling and fighting the battle on my own, not yielding to the Holy Spirit, not surrendering in obedience, the water is in turmoil - waves crashing on the beach, ripples and waves causing not a spot on the water to be still....therefore no reflection can be seen.  

We are holy when His reflection can be seen in us.  Living lives set apart for Christ is what this blog is about.  Our lives are lived differently because Christ lives within us.  His Holy Spirit prompts us to make choices that honor Him.  Choices that often times set us apart from the world.  Choices in how we speak, dress and act.  In what we watch and listen to.  Where we spend our time and how we spend it.

Footnotes: 1. Jerry Bridges in his book "Pursuing Holiness"

Saturday, 3 November 2012

November 2012 Featured Girl: Micaela Wood

The Bloggirls have been talking, and we've come up with something to get excited about: featured girls! We love the little community of Christian homeschooled girls that has grown up around this blog, and to help you gals get to know each other a bit better we plan to feature a girl from the Altogether Separate community once a month. 

So without further ado, let's welcome November's pick: Micaela Wood!

Altogether Separate: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you? Where do you live? How big is your family?

Micaela: I am 18 and I live in Downeast Maine. I'm a PK (pastor's kid), the oldest of four children, and a homeschool high school graduate. When I was 16, the Lord led me to start a ministry called Hearts for Purity, which is especially for teen girls and encourages them to live for the Lord, surrendering every area of their life to Him and His purpose. 

Who is your closest friend? Why?

My closest friend is Jesus Christ. Growing up, I had a lot of kids say that they were my friend—my best friend, even—and then they would either be extremely mean to me, or nice part of the time, indifferent toward me the rest of the time. Being homeschooled and in a church that had no other kids my age, I got very lonely. It wasn't until May of 2011 that God got my attention and reminded me that He wanted to be my best friend, that He would never leave me or forsake me, that He loved me, and wanted to be a part of every area of my life. That day I let go of my longings for friends and determined to make Jesus my Best Friend. A few months later, the Lord blessed me with several dear, godly friends. I thank God daily for their friendship, but Jesus is truly the best Friend I have. 

How has God been working in your life lately?

God has been working in my life the past few months, getting me to let go of things that I cling to so much. I'm not willing to let go and be patient for His timing; I want it right now. God has been showing me that I must let go of everything and place it all in His hands. I've done it before, but I have a tendency to take it right back. Yet in His hands it must stay. I recently heard a message about laying down the things in our lives that have become idols, just as Abraham laid Isaac down on the altar. I knew this was what God wanted me to do, so I did it—tearfully and willingly. The next day, I got an email from a friend, in which she shared a poem about waiting and patience. God used that poem to remind me that, now I have laid down my "Isaac," I must wait and be patient for His timing.

What has your biggest struggle with homeschooling been, and how are you overcoming it?

My biggest struggle with homeschooling has always been the lack of friends. I grew up in a church in which I was the only kid my age; everyone else was either at least 5 years younger or already an adult. I was extremely lonely, and at one point I wanted to go to a regular school, so that I could have friends. I did not yet realize just how much of a friendship I had with my Savior (see above).

What are your passions? 

I love writing and reading. Photography is more of a passionate hobby than just a passion (i.e. I wouldn't want to do it professionally). I love to work with little kids, and I enjoy ministering to others. And I would count my ministry, Hearts for Purity, to be a passion of mine.

Hopes and dreams for the future?

I would dearly love to be a pastor's wife and homeschool mom of at least 5 children, though however many kids the Lord would give me would be fine. For several months I have also felt the desire to start a Bible camp for kids/teens someday. If any of these desires ever come to be, then I will rejoice. But if they don't, it's because God has given me something even grander and more amazing than what I might have thought up. :-)

What advice would you give to Christian homeschool girls like us? 

The best advice I can give comes from a book I am currently writing: “Don't hold back from God. He has a plan for your life. Everything and everyone in your life is part of His perfect plan. Don't struggle and resist it. Don't fight Him, or say He can only have certain areas of your life. He wants all or none. Give Him all of you.” {As a homeschool girl, you have so many opportunities to serve others, that most other kids don't have. Let God use you. Give Him your all.}

Finally, what is your ideal pizza?

My ideal pizza has a not too thick but not too thin crust, and is topped with pepperoni, cheese, ham, onion, and green peppers. YUM =D

Thank you so much, Micaela! We really appreciate the chance to get to know you a little better. 

Micaela blogs at, and has a website(blog) for her ministry at

Can you identify with Micaela's hopes and struggles? What's your ideal pizza? Answer some of these questions for yourself in the comment section below.

P.S. If you want to introduce yourself to the community, just leave your name and email!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

God-Given Passion

Those things that you are passionate about—reading, knitting, social media, music, horses, clothes, design—are these self-centered materialistic desires, or the whispers of God telling you how He wants you to pour out your life for Him?

If you’re like me, questions about the future plague you on an almost daily basis. My major dilemma over the past few years has been, “What will I do with my life? How does God want me to serve Him?”

Here comes the tension. It sounds “good” to be a missionary, but I've never felt a strong call to missions. It sounds “good” to be a doctor, but sickness and surgery doesn't appeal. It sounds “good” to be a social worker, diplomat, caretaker, foster mother, to take pleasure in going on youth missions or studying politics in order to make a positive difference in our world—but I don’t have a passion for any of those things.

LONDON :: telephone box by Crystian Cruz
LONDON :: telephone box, a photo by Crystian Cruz on Flickr.

What I do love is Great Britain. In fact, you might say that I’m obsessed with it. England in particular has always called to me. I love practically anything concerned with the country:  food, literature, people, history, architecture—it all enraptures me and makes my heart sing.

But it doesn't sound very holy. I have made plans to go on a lengthy (and expensive) trip to England next year, but I've wondered if that money would be better spent in an African orphanage, or urban outreach. It’s hard to think that something like my love for Britain could actually honor God.

 “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” - Psalm 37:4

Something that I have learned from scripture, though, as well as from some fabulous mentors like Dan Miller and Donald Miller, is that God gave us passions. If you’re wanting God to speak to you, to say what He wants you to do with your life, how do you expect to hear Him? Are you listening for a voice? Looking for a message? Praying for a sign? Maybe He’s been speaking to you all your life and you've never even noticed.

He can speak to us through our passions.

God is not asking us to throw aside the things we love—He is the one who shaped our hearts in the first place! He is calling you and me to surrender our passions to His will, and then He can work through them to create something amazingly meaningful that we can find joy in. Have you heard of the two words that kill passion? Here they are: “ought to.” When choosing a ministry, career, or hobby, please don't do it out of a sense of sacrifice or obligation. Do it because it's fun. If you’re operating out of guilt, you’ll never be as effective as when your actions come from a spirit of love and genuine passion. Live your life story the way God wired you. 

How will God use my passion? I really don’t know. I've been writing a blog on Great Britain for several years, I've befriended a few Brits, and I plan to attend an English Bible college next spring. Perhaps something will come up while I’m there, I really don’t know. Until then, I’ll just submit my passion to God and watch what He does with it.

Do you feel like you have a selfish or useless passion? What are some ways God could use that for His glory?

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