Saturday, 26 January 2013

Closing a Chapter

Hi Girls,

I have learned a lot this year blogging with Altogether Separate and I've enjoyed getting to know all of you.  
However, at this point and after much deliberation I am going to have to step down as a writer for "AS".  God has been directing me in different directions and I am no longer able to spend the time needed to write/research for "AS" as I would like too.
You girls have been a blessing in my life and I pray God will continue to use you and your posts to encourage and exhort other young women.
In Him,

Thursday, 24 January 2013

5 Lessons from Death

I have nothing to fear from death, only lessons to learn.

Photo Credit: Beni Ishaque Luthor via Compfight cc
In the last three weeks my family has been rocked by two unexpected deaths. First my Uncle Gerald, who was doing poorly in a nursing home but might have lingered for years, was called Home after a stroke. Then my great-grandfather died, when everyone expected my great-grandmother to go first.

Experiences like that make you look at death in new ways, examine your reactions to it, and try to make sense of things.

You and I are young, and our faith is in Jesus. The grave has been conquered, and our lives lie ahead of us. How does death touch our lives besides leaving painful holes? Is it possible to carry more away from a loved one's passing than the cliché "live like you were dying" (which is a high-pressure, practically impossible sentiment anyway)?

After looking back on the deaths of five precious people in my life, I've gleaned five lessons that death. Perhaps they will help you somehow, whether or not you have ever lost someone near to you.
  1. Never lose an opportunity to bless others. Every day brings our loved ones one step closer to leaving us forever. This isn't morbid, it's just facing the facts, and it urges us to treat everyone as if they had a fatal illness. Because they do. Take time out of your schedule, money out of your bank account, and love out of your heart to spend on others.
  2. Don't ignore people "on the fringe." A few years ago my 19 year old friend lost his life in a car accident. We weren't very close, hardly more than acquaintances, but that was mainly because I kept him at arm's length. He was "different" than me, so instead of breaking through boundaries and befriending this young man, I let him die and leave me with so many regrets. 
  3. Value the elderly. Last spring I lost one of my dearest friends, a 98 year old man named Byron who was like a third grandfather. He taught me so much with his love, wisdom, and insight, but only because I spent time with him. If I hadn't visited him once a week for several years, he would have been just another old man, but because I took the time to get to know him, I was blessed beyond my imagination.
  4. Invest in people, not stuff. My great-grandfather was a dear man, beloved by many, but his last years were marred by a spirit of selfishness. He hoarded his money for no apparent reason. He wouldn't even repair the roof (which was falling in on him and his wife) because it would cost too much. He wouldn't get rid of his junk because he hoped to get some money out of it. Where were his priorities? "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:20). We all love our "stuff," but it's gone too far when our money and possessions get in the way of the people around us.
  5. See what a good life looks like. I don't know about you, but I tend to set incredibly high standards for myself. When I die I want important people at my funeral, I want awards and special ceremonies, I want to be remembered as an amazing person. But when my Uncle Gerald died I realized that even though he might have been unremarkable, he lived up to what Jesus calls each of us to be: someone who loves God and loves people. Everyone called Gerald "a good man," and the truth is that if we accomplish that much in our lifetimes, we can consider ourselves successful.

What has been your experience with death? What did you learn from it?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Our Calling.

As the next generation of Godly women, we are called to be a lot of things. We are to be pure, kind, meek, loving, honest...and the list goes on. In a nutshell, we are to honor Jesus in everything.

Above all of these, there is one thing that Jesus commands all of His followers to be active in constantly. And that is proclaiming His Word.

I'd like to invite you grab a cup of coffee and a snuggly blanket and open your Bible to Luke 19:11 - 27. Take your time to breathe it in and really study His Words - His letter to you. Make sure to pray for guidance before reading.

In this passage, Jesus tells the tale of a Master who gave each of his servants the same amount of minas (ancient currency). Every servant chose to do something different with their minas. Two of them made as much interest on the money as possible as to please their Master. The other simply choose to hide it away in fear of rejection, punishment, and losing his mina. 

Our Master has rewarded us all with minas (which in our case, is the gift of the Gospel). We all have the same thing. But, it's up to is what we do with it. Do we hide it away from the rest of the world like the unfaithful because we're scared? Maybe we should go and read what the Master had to say to THAT guy in verses 26 and 27: "He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.' " 

So what can we do with our minas? Even a glass of water given in the name of Jesus will be used for His Glory! Share His Word and His Love with others today...everyday! Share because you choose to use what your Master has given you for good! Share because you want to hear Jesus say "well done, good and faithful servant." Share because Jesus gave His life.

What will you do with your mina?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

i have a dream

When I visited China in June of 2011, the summer camps I attended had a procession of guest speakers, most of them drawn from the camp leadership. They talked to us about various values--integrity, honesty, virtue. We had talks on being the leaders the twenty-first century needs, on working our hardest today so we could reap benefits tomorrow. Pretty standard stuff, most of it, or at least as much as I could understand (at the first camp we were at, most lecture sessions were in Chinese. You can imagine how much I took away from those sessions. The second camp was far more enjoyable, since most of the camp was done in English, so as to help the students practice their language skills).

Most of those lectures have been lost in the tide of memory, overwhelmed by the faces of the friends I made and the few words of Chinese I managed to pick up and retain. But one of the sessions has stuck with me, and it's something that I've returned to often over the past year and a half, because it is so wonderful to think about.

The subject was about our dreams. Not the stirrings of our subconscious that come in sleep, of course--no, the daydreams, the things we fill ourselves with in our idle moments. The dearest wishes of our hearts.

The speaker talked about the essence of a dream. And it was then that he said the one thing that has most stuck with me. There is a difference between goals and dreams, he said. Goals are the things that are achievable. My goal is to go to the Children's Ministry Institute. It is something tangible, something I can actually accomplish. Your goal might be to be a doctor; it is attainable. Someone else's dream might be to become a lawyer; it, too, is attainable.

These things are not dreams, not really. They are goals, benchmarks we have set for ourselves. But they are not dreams, not really, because we can get them. A dream is something beyond that. A dream is something so crazy, so remote, so seemingly impossible in the eyes of men that it becomes almost laughable when seen for what it really is. These dreams surpass everything we can dare to hope. But that's what makes them beautiful.

Because there is a God in heaven. And this God delights in taking what seems impossible and turning it into possibility--and fact. He turns the sun backwards to give his children victory. He parts seas. He makes a hundred-year-old woman have a baby. He sends his son to earth to become a savior. He seems to revel in the impossibilities he makes fact, waiting to blow our minds time and time again, if not with what he's done directly for us, then with the sheer magnificence of the world and the universe he has created around us.

This God knows the deepest desires of your heart. He knows your Dream, no matter how crazy. And I do believe that he will fulfill them, if you believe. Perhaps not completely, perhaps not entirely in the way we'd expected. But hey, I have full confidence that he's going to give every child a home and heal every parent's heart and ensure that every part of the world is at peace and prosperous, with enough to get by on.

Hey, this is God we're talking about. He takes murderers and turns them into preachers. He's got this.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Live Your God-Sized Dream

New Year's Resolutions are often condemned for being too ambitious. Run a marathon. Read a book per week. Lose 100 lbs. There are plenty of reasons that people don't keep their resolutions, and Mary Kate did a fantastic job of highlighting some major ones in "Resolution Solution," so I won't rehash those. What I will do is give you one big reason why people sometimes don't keep their resolutions:

Original photo by Kr. B. on Flickr.     
They are not sold-out, on-fire, bet-the-farm passionate about a dream.

If your resolution, dream, goal, whatever, is not compelling-- ensnaring your mind, heart and spirit until you can't think about or imagine anything else--then you're almost doomed to failure.

Some people "diet" for years.
They "quit" smoking twenty times.
Some people half-finish novel after novel.
Others get one closet organized and then burn out.

Why did they fail? Perhaps it was because they were too ambitious, but I think it's because they were pursuing dreams that were too small, too petty to catch their imagination and hold their focus. What do I mean by that?

Losing weight is a small dream. People "lose weight" every day. But being able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans, looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you're being a good steward of God's temple, and feeling beautiful and confident is an inspiring dream.

Getting organized is dull. Cleaning junk out of your life so that you can live a freer, more God-centered existence without the clutter of life bringing you down is an inspiring dream.

Reading more books is vague and uninteresting. Reading two books a month that will bring you closer to God, enrich your mind, and bring you into unknown and beautiful realms is an inspiring dream.

Unless you believe it, you cannot achieve it (click to tweet that). And when I say "believe," I mean it in the most visceral sense, with everything you are.

Dream God-sized Dreams
Holley Gerth, one of my favorite Christian bloggers, is always talking about a God-sized dream. She is passionate about helping other women come alive and live the life they were designed to live. "God-size" does not necessarily mean "big." It means perfect for you. It's the thing that you would do in 2013 if there were no barriers--no problems with money, transportation, family, lifestyle, etc.--a dream God created just for you.

What is your dream?

I'm still trying to figure mine out. It has something to do with 2-3 months in Europe this year, writing as a profession, and volunteering with amazing ministries. But what it comes down to at the core is making life an intimate adventure with God.

How can you transform your uninspiring New Year's Resolutions into a God-sized dream?

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Resolution Solution

It’s 2013! God has blessed us with a whole new year brimming with possibilities. Just think of all of things we can do to bring glory to God this year! If you’re like me, you probably already have developed high hopes and exciting plans. 

With every new year, a feeling of a fresh start comes along with it. Everyone wants the relief of shaking off last year’s mistakes and starting new. Making resolutions is a very common practice for everyone around this time of year. However, for anyone who’s ever made resolutions, we’ve all struggled the hardest part - sticking to them.
Last year, I pulled out my journal and wrote down twenty-two things I’d like to do before the end of 2012. They ranged all the way from eating healthier to having an obedient spirit. You know how many of those I kept? Maybe three? Two?
The truth is I wasn’t able to keep any of them. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s very true. I should have been able to stick to at least a few. So what went wrong? Why wasn’t I able to stick to my resolutions? God has shown me some mistakes I’ve made with making resolutions in the past. To help each other out, here is a list of some tips I’ve gained from a few years of resolution-ing that will help you to be able to better stick to your New Year’s plans.
1. Ask for God’s strength. Whether they’re simple tasks or whether they’ll take some guts to accomplish, we need our Savior’s help with our resolutions. If we try in our own strength, we will ultimately fail. As humans, we need encouragement and support - someone to cheer us on. Jesus is the best support system anyone can have, after all, he created you, didn’t he? :)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

2. Limit the number. Too many things to remember can be overwhelming. With twenty-two things to remember hanging over me at all times, my resolutions became stressful and even harder than they should have been. With resolutions, remember that less is more. Work on forming (or breaking) habits one at a time and each one will become easier over time.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42
3. Take your time. Resolutions don’t happen overnight. They take work and a lot of patience. Don’t stress out if you mess up one day, or one week, whatever it may be. Everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Patience is a virtue (Galatians 5:22-23). Pray everyday as you work through them.
4. Stay Organized. Making a schedule or a checklist for your resolutions is a good way to keep track of your progress. Also, journaling about them can encourage you to keep up the good work, or to do a little better. 
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” I Corinthians 14:33

5. Put God in the center. You’ve probably heard it said many times that God needs to go first in your life. I say, put Him in the center. If Jesus is the focus of everything you do, then you will be doing everything right and in a way that is honoring to Him. Put Jesus at the center of your quest to eat healthy (I Corinthians 6:19-20), or put Him on the path towards building a loving family (I Timothy 5:8). As my youth pastor put it, make your life look like:
If we long to please Him in everything (which is our purpose as Christians), then He will make our plans happen.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3
I hope this was helpful and I do hope you will use some of these to make your resolutions come alive! 
What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

January 2013 Featured Girl: Melody

Melody is a girl you can usually find working on schoolwork, reading, singing a bazillion different songs, trying to finish one of many stories, and hanging out with family and friends. Here is the transcript of our interview where we asked her about hobbies, friends, the New Year, and more!

Altogether Separate: Tell us about you! Family, home, lifestyle...etc.

Melody: Hey y’all! My name is Melody. (Actually, it’s my online nickname.) I'm fifteen, a struggling perfectionist and ponderer who lives down South with her seven siblings. (Yes, it makes life interesting. No, we don’t have a reality TV show) Since our house is rarely completely quiet, (I wouldn’t really know), it probably makes our style of schooling a little different. Every day is definitely unique.

Favorite activities or hobbies?

I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember, writing is slowly growing on me, traveling is always a special treat, and I just love to laugh. God has blessed me with many wonderful friends and spending time with them is definitely one of my favorite things. I enjoy singing with my choirs, playing flute, viola, and piano, reading, and being outdoors.

Who are your best friends? 

My siblings and parents are definitely my closest friends. My house is now home to three goofy teens (including myself), and we love to spend time together. It’s been difficult for me to make a lot of friends, since I’ve never really been to a homeschool coop, and there’s no youth group at my church. I’ve grown very close to a few friends in just the past few months alone, and I can’t wait to see what God does next. Jesus has the biggest claim on my heart, though, since he bought it. :)

What are your New Year's Resolutions? 

Although I try not to make many of those, I have a couple. :) I want to use the opportunities that God gives me to the absolute best of my abilities. This past year has been filled with so many new adventures and challenges, and I’ve learned so much. I would hate to let a chance to be part of something extraordinary pass me by. On a lighter note, I should probably exercise more often. ;) I’d also like to read more. I haven’t been reading recreationally all that much since I started high school.

What are a couple books that you are looking forward to delving into, and why?

Off the top of my head, I would like to read The Lord of the Rings and finish some of my favorite fantasy series, or maybe even dive headfirst into the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I am very easily transported into another world by a good book. Good fiction makes me happy. :)

How do you intend to grow in the Lord in 2013? 

Faith always has room to grow. I have a lot to learn, and I want to bloom where He has planted me. He knows where I should be, He controls my circumstances, and He knows what’s best. One thing I noticed looked back over 2012 was that there were a lot of new and strange things going on, but God was always, always, always there for me. So, wherever I go this year, He will be there, and that gives me courage to boldly step into a new year and embrace Him as my one consuming passion for living. That’s what I want to learn. I want to break free from less important things and truly live my life for Him and Him alone. Jesus is my reason to live, to be.

If you could give one piece of advice to Christian homeschool girls like you, speaking from experience, what would you say? 

There will be places where you are different; different from the girls on your soccer team, different from the people in your choirs, even different from other Christian homeschool girls that you meet up with occasionally. Don’t change who you are. It may not seem like it now, but somewhere, maybe right under your nose, there’s a girl just like you who needs a friend. God will bring like-minded friends to you in His time. Don’t give up.

Here's a fun one: if you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

:D I love traveling. A lot. Since I’ve never been out of America, I would love to visit anywhere in the world, really. Hm…I’d want to go to Israel and Greece to see all the history there with my own two eyes.

Melody blogs with her sisters at
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