Thursday, 28 March 2013

Food for the Soul

     "Man shall not live by bread alone."

     Many people know this verse, since Jesus uses it to combat the devil in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4. I was excited to recently discover where Jesus quoted it from. It can be found in Deuteronomy. I am finding more and more how this verse is really an eye-opener.  

     "Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." --Deuteronomy 8:3b (ESV)

        Man needs bread to live. This has been a truth for all time. Of course, we don't really live on mainly bread today, but the truth still stands. Man needs fuel, something to live on, something to give him enough energy to survive and to live. 

     Personally, if I don't eat real food for a little while, I get, well, kinda useless. It makes a difference whether I eat something that is substantial and actually nutritious rather than junk food. I've noticed lately that it is very, very similar with food for the soul. If you feed it junk, you will feel junky.   

    Scripture is food to our faith, but often, I find that I am filled with lies instead throughout my day. I'm sure you know what I mean. Something along the lines of "You'll get by without it this morning. You don't have time, anyway. What's the big deal?" It can be hard to battle the mindset of the world, that feeding our bodies is more important than feeding our souls. Our bodies are but temporary tabernacles for our eternal souls. How could feeding the temporary be more important than feeding the eternal? 

     Here's the truth, my friends. We need, more desperately than we could ever begin to realize, the Words of our God. We need it even more than we need bread for our bodies. We need it every second of every minute of every day.

     My pastor recently preached a sermon, in which he spoke of "eating grace" while or even before you eat your daily bread. Feast on Jesus through His Word. He invites us to come to Him in John 6, to feast and never hunger again.

      Here's my challenge for you and me, as Christian young ladies striving to follow Him. When you get up, as you begin your day, eat grace. Feast on Christ. Feed your soul with the only One who could ever satisfy you, for man cannot live by just the food he shovels into his mouth in an effort to satisfy his stomach, but by the Words of his God, revealed in the Scriptures. 

      "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." --John 6:35 (ESV)


Monday, 25 March 2013

Dealing with Doubt

We know the answers to the questions. Theology was a required subject in our school. And yet, we are ashamed because sometimes, when we are alone we doubt. We wonder if we are doing things right, if we really know God, or doubting whether what we have placed our faith in is right.

Doubt by Beshef
Doubt, a photo by Beshef on Flickr.
I have to admit, I have been going through a rough patch where I have been doubting and questioning a lot. I felt like reading my Bible and praying wasn’t helping. I just wanted God to take the fear and doubt away and the verse kept coming to mind “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

I was scared. I thought everything that I had built my life on and I knew was true was slipping away. However, as usually happens God used a devotional I was reading to help me. The author reminded me of the verse “Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8 The Voice)

The evil one cannot snatch us out of Gods hand (John 10:28). But he does seek to make our witness ineffective. He whispers lies to make us doubt. So when he whispers a lie, you combat it with the truth. Truths like:
  • God loves you and NOTHING can separate you from that love (Romans 8:38-39)
  • God is slow to anger (he isn’t going to me mad if you doubt sometimes) (Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2)
  • Jesus was tempted in every way (I think that means he doubted as well) (Hebrews 4:15)
  • God will never leave you or never forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
  • Rebuke the evil one and he will flee (James 4:7)

We doubters are also in good company:
  • Moses doubted God’s plan, even as he spoke through a burning bush.
  • Peter doubted while he was walking on water.
  • The disciples doubted after they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.

I would like to leave you with these verses.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

- John 14:1, 27

Sarah Holman is a homeschool graduate and lives in central Texas with her family. She works part time at the Texas state capitol, which still gives her plenty of time to write books, blog posts, and articles. If you want to contact information, learn more about her, or her published books, visit her blog

Thursday, 21 March 2013

5 Lessons from Volunteering

It may be selfless, but you could be surprised at the amazing things you will learn and the ways you can benefit from volunteering.

Wasserglas by 96dpi
We homeschoolers usually keep busy, but most of us have plenty of time to dedicate to worthwhile activities (all that time public-schoolers spend waiting for the bus, changing classes, eating lunch, waiting for the bus again—we actually get to spend it doing something meaningful!). If you're a Christian homeschooler, that could mean that you spend a lot of time volunteering. I haven't done too much “official” volunteering in my life, but there are several activities I've participated in that have made a big difference—not only in other peoples' lives, but in my life as well.

Here are five lessons I've learned from my volunteering experiences:
  1. The little things are powerful. "Volunteering” probably brings to mind images of Mother Theresa in the gutters or firefighters saving lives, but the truth is that you can help others in tiny ways as well as big ones. Remember “the widow’s mite.” One small thing I do regularly is serve drinks at our church's potluck lunch. People come through the line with plates heaped high with delicious food, and they would have to do some fancy juggling to pour themselves water or iced tea, holding up the line. So I station myself at the drink counter and pour everyone's drink of choice (trying to memorize everyone’s preference is a challenge!). It's not a big job, but people are grateful.
  2. Remember who you're doing it for. My friends and I love to sing, and for several years we’ve had a tradition of singing Christmas carols at nursing homes. Last year I really thought it was going to be a disaster. Our two sopranos were sick, and they happened to be the ones who knew the harmony to all our pieces. It seemed impossible to sing anything but our most basic songs, and I actually got into quite a huff. I was miserable until someone reminded me, "Remember who we are doing this for." That should have snapped me out of it, but it really took quite a while to convince myself that it didn't matter how badly we sounded or how many friends would be missing out. The whole point was to encourage and gladden the hearts of the sick and elderly. It wasn't about me, it was about glorifying Christ through my service. And you know what? That was an amazing day.
  3. There is power in numbers. It can be easy for us volunteer-minded people to try going it alone. Sometimes I feel that no one can do a job as well as I can, so I try to do everything myself. But that's just exhausting, and it isn't at all the best way to serve the Lord. I learned a bit about the power of numbers while organizing our town's Christmas program a couple of years ago. It was a big task that felt overwhelming, but so many people pitched in—I made new friends, utilized other peoples' gifts and suggestions, and the program was infinitely better than if I'd tried to do it all by myself.
  4. Fear can be overcome. Public speaking comes naturally to me, and I genuinely enjoy it, but that doesn't mean that I don't get the shakes before making a presentation for Compassion International. This weekend I am supposed to speak to a group of about 40 strangers at a local church and tell them about Compassion’s work in releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name, and how they can be a part of it. I worry about how well I'm preparing and if I'll be able to do everything correctly, but I also know that Philippians 4:13 is true. This is God's deal, not mine. If the Holy Spirit doesn't speak through me, then I'm not going to be effective anyway. I just have to do my best and leave the result up to the Lord.
  5. Sacrifice leads to reward. Once every couple of weeks I will drive to a nearby nursing home and chat with an elderly friend of mine for an hour or more, updating her on what is going on recent events, swapping stories, and generally trying to brighten her day. It's enjoyable, but sometimes I find it hard to get up out of my comfortable chair and go visit her. Doing it regularly, however, has done wonders for my self-discipline, and has rewarded me at least as much as it has helped her. Sometimes she encourages me, sometimes I encourage her, sometimes we laugh together or share a meal. Whatever we do, I usually go away feeling happier and closer to the Lord. 

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
- Luke 6:38
How do you volunteer? What lessons has it taught you?
Photo Credit: Wasserglas, a photo by 96dpi on Flickr.

Monday, 18 March 2013

A Servant's Heart

When I was asked to write on the topic of volunteering, I thought over a couple options of what I could talk about. What my family does to volunteer, volunteer opportunities, etc. But one thought just kept coming back (in my experience, that's usually the one from Jesus) - having the proper attitude in volunteering.

I like to invite you to read Mark 12:41-44. Pray before you read and ask God to open your heart and mind to hear His truths.

This is one of my favorite Bible stories. At first, it may seem unrelated to volunteering, but the principles illustrated here outline the attitude we should have when we give our time serving. In Bible times, the pharisees were known for their good deeds - they dedicated their time to serving the church, giving money, and praying. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, when Jesus came to earth, he had many an encounter with the Pharisees and he saw them for who they really were. Jesus knew that everything the Pharisees did was purely to make themselves look better, not to serve the Lord. In Matthew 23:27, He even calls them a "brood of vipers" and "white-washed tombs" - beautiful outside but dead within. Ouch.

Anyway, in the story, I imagine the Pharisee proudly sauntering up to the offering plate, and loudly clanging his many coins into the plate, waiting for the crowds' impressed gasps and comments. As the onlookers are still enamored by the Pharisee's grand offering, I then picture the widow, clothed in rags, taking all she has and humbly offering it to the Lord, without drawing anyone's attention. But isn't it just like Jesus to notice her? Jesus praises her for her humility and willingness to give all she had to Him just for His glory.

I believe that this is the attitude we should have in volunteering. We should serve others selflessly, loving them because he first loved us. Before we can honor God in our service, we must learn to have a servant's heart like the widow in the story - willing to give it all without any personal gain. After all, volunteering is not about what we can gain, but how much glory Jesus can gain through our service to Him.

What do you do to volunteer? Have you ever struggled with having a servant's heart in volunteering?

"Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High..." 
Luke 6:35

Monday, 11 March 2013

Meet Hannah, the new bloggirl

Hello there! I'm thrilled to start blogging here at Altogether Separate. I"m in love with the community here, and I am beyond excited about getting to know y'all better.

I'm Hannah, a fifteen year old Presbyterian girl who lives down South with her lovely and busy family of ten. My heart and soul and life belong solely to Jesus, my Savior and my everything. I'm slightly nerdy and a little crazy, and if I stare off into the distance pondering, or if I start making weird faces, that's normal for me. Music fills my life, especially in the form of singing. I also love photography, movies, words, writing, reading, traveling, friends, family, flute, and piano. Let's be friends, K? :)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Reading List for Homeschool High Schoolers

If you're being homeschooled through high school, one of your greatest anxieties (fears? terrors?) might be college. Sure, it sounds exciting, but it's also intimidating, isn't it? After all, universities are designed for kids who have been in public schools their entire lives, and it's possible that what we've learned at home just won't cut it in the "real world."

Well, as a homeschool graduate who has also earned a bachelor's degree in English, I'm here to give you some solid advice that should make you feel a lot better.

Student by CollegeDegrees360
Student, a photo by CollegeDegrees360 on Flickr.
First, breathe

It's OK, you can have confidence in your parents, your curriculum, and your own abilities, and of course God. It's natural to be nervous about transitioning from home education to a public or private college, but it doesn't have to be a bumpy ride.

One thing that will help enormously is to be familiar with the books that you will be studying in-depth once you get to college. Since my major was in English I spent a lot of time reading and analyzing Non-Western literature, British literature, and American literature—a lot of books in other words. Though there were many that I had never read before, it helped that I was familiar with the classics and had been exposed to many of those works.

Though there can be no complete reading list for the college-bound student, here are some titles that I think you'll find very helpful to read (or at least get the CliffsNotes on) before striking out into the stormy waters of higher education. Even if you're not going to college, these are some of the most well-known books in the Western world and can broaden your horizons, deepening your insight and giving you some common ground with your public schooled friends. 

Disclaimer: Not all of these books have a Christian worldview, or are even very pleasant to read, but they offer valuable opportunities for testing your faith and applying what you have learned. If your parents don't want you to read some of them, by all means don't. There are many other valuable reads that I have left out, but this should get you started. 

How many of these have you already read?

  • The Norton Anthologies: These collections of excerpts and whole works are invaluable to the serious student. Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction, stories from the Middle East, Latino or Australian literatureyou could spend decades reading these anthologies alone. Old editions can be bought fairly cheaply on sites like eBay and Amazon. 
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
  • Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club
  • Angelou, Maya: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 
  • Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman
  • Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield
  • Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre
  • Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart
  • Edith Wharton: The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence
  • Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to ArmsThe Old Man and the Sea and perhaps The Sun Also Rises
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby and perhaps Tender is the Night
  • Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis 
  • Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • George Orwell: Animal Farm, 1984
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin 
  • Henry James: Daisy Miller: A Study.
  • Herman Melville: Moby Dick and "Bartleby the Scrivener"
  • James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans, The Pioneers, The Deerslayer (then read Mark Twain's "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses")
  • Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and perhaps Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion
  • John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and perhaps The Pearl
  • Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
  • Kate Chopin: The Awakening 
  • Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina. War and Peace
  • Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and perhaps A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Innocents Abroad
  • Mary Shelley: Frankenstein
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables
  • Ralph Ellison: The Invisible Man
  • Richard Wright: Native Son
  • Robert Frost,        Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes: Selected poems
  • Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and others
  • T.S. Eliot: "The Waste Land"
  • Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar named Desire, Glass Menagerie 
  • Upton Sinclair: The Jungle 
  • Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse
  • Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
  • Washington Irving: "Rip Van Winkle"
  • Willa Cather: My Ántonia
  • William Faulkner: As I Lay DyingThe Sound and the Fury
  • Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Besides my personal college experience, these are some helpful resources I referenced:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Adjust Your Sails

A guest post by Jessica P.

Imagine you are on a boat. You are enjoying the sun shining down on you. You breath in deeply and relish the scent of salty freshness. You look out over glistening, azure waters and sigh blissfully. If only life could always be this good. But it can't. In the distance you see dark clouds looming and soon enough, you find yourself in the midst of a storm. Your thoughts are muddled. You are fearful as the wind picks up and angry that God has allowed you to be in this situation, and most of all, you feel completely lost. As the rain beats down against the deck of the boat, you look out from the helm and realize you can't see the shoreline anymore. Both the rain and your own tears have blurred your vision. Suddenly, it's clear that you no longer stand in a position of control.

Adjust Your Sails -
Storm Sailor, a photo by Abaconda on Flickr.
There are so many experiences you can have in a boat. There are days when there is no wind and you are just floating out there, dead in the water. Then there are times when you get bashed around in the waves. And there are some days when the winds are constantly changing directions and you have to keep adjusting your sails in order to move forward.

Life is like that. Events and circumstances come up that we weren't expecting and we have to adjust. I have experienced many such instances in my life. Loved ones fall sick, finances grow tight, friendships fall apart... and through it all, it can be hard not to feel disheartened.

Taking Peter as an example (Matthew 14:28-30), we need to make sure that our focus isn't on the circumstances, but on God. When you focus on the waves, fear and worry tend to set in. But when we focus on God, we are able to find strength, courage, joy, love, and comfort.

Going through life's storms can be a humbling experience. However, remember this – in our weakness, God is glorified. When we can't fix things in our own strength, it only stands as a testimony of God's goodness.

Satan will try his hardest to rock the boat and make you drown. But take heart. God is on your side. Keep your eyes on your spiritual compass. Let God be your guide when you can't see ahead of you. And remember, above all, God loves you and wants what is best for you, even if it takes a storm to draw you closer to Him.

Jessica is a Christian young lady striving to serve God in everything she does. She is also a home-school graduate. She loves all sorts of crafts, but has a special place in her heart for all things writing. She blogs at Literary PursuitsYoung HomemakersMeditations Of His Love, and Meditations Of His Love Daily

Saturday, 2 March 2013

March 2013 Featured Girl: Melinda P.

This month's featured follower is a special girl named MelindaShe is the authoress of the blog Radiant Purity and True Beauty. She is a twenty-something homeschool graduate, living at home and enjoying farming, writing, government, cooking, creating recipes, and volleyball. She's a girl with big dreams, big faith, and big ideas.

Let's hear what she has to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your family. What is life like around your house?

I'm the youngest of seven children. Most of the older ones have left, except my Down's syndrome sister, Rachel and my brother just older than me, Jonathan. We live on a farm in Oklahoma. I was taught at home by my parents for my entire education, something I am truly grateful for! Life on a farm in Oklahoma has its daily ups and downs, joys and sorrows. Since we're a self-employed family, the "typical" moments of our days are doing farm chores, eating, cleaning, and sleeping...and the work we get done in between often differs from day to day. :-)

As a twenty-something single girl, how are you supporting yourself/preparing for the future?

I graduated from being home educated in 2007, but even before that I was working for my dad who is an accountant. During the tax season months (January through February), I do quite a bit of work for him. During the rest of the year, I help with bookkeeping and accounting for our business and family. I also have done some things around here on the farm (including milking) which brings me some income. My brother and I have also had a history book business which has taken us to several states for home education conferences. We're actually planning on putting it aside for now as we've both gotten too busy to give it the attention it needs.

Since I don't know what the future holds, I'm preparing both for married life if it is in God's plan for me, and for potential singleness if that is what I'm called to. Since my graduation, I've studied a lot about nutrition, which is a big interest for me (you can see some of my own recipes and insights from my nutrition study from my other blog, Healthy, Witty, and Whole. I occasionally blog there too). I've learned how to cook, bake, sew, and do some gardening. I've also been able to learn how to manage money and run a business, something is useful whether I'm going to be married or not! Right now, I'm praying about some options for starting a business of my own, something I'm nervous and excited about at the same time! :-)

From your blog it looks like you are passionate about Christian femininity. Do you have any help for us on how to be truly feminine from the inside out?

Femininity is one of my favorite things to talk about as you can probably tell! My views on femininity have changed so much over the past few years. One of the main things I've learned about femininity is that it isn't complicated as we usually make it out to be. It's not some legalistic moral code we have to follow. It's not even something we put on by ourselves. Femininity is something that we develop inside. It's the quiet beauty of a meek and gentle spirit mingled with the robust strength of a Proverbs 31 woman.True femininity for me is being a hard-working woman of God who trusts in Jesus to develop His humility, love, meekness, quietness and compassion in me. It's allowing myself to be changed from the loud, clamoring woman that Proverbs warns about to the Spirit-filled, meek and quiet woman of 1 Peter. Obviously, this will affect how I live out my days, how I dress, how I talk, what I listen to and watch, and how I relate to others. However, it all starts with me abandoning my ideals of womanhood and trading them for what Christ has called me to do...abide in Him. It's very freeing! :-)

Who is your favorite woman in the Bible?

Mary, the mother of Jesus is probably the woman I've learned the most from over the years from the Bible. Her example of humility and faithfulness despite very trying circumstances is a convicting inspiration to me. She had to know that she dealing with all manner of rejection and hate from her own people when she was found to be with child, and yet she willing to do what God had called her to do anyway. In fact, she magnified the Lord in spite of her trials! It's such a good example for my life. When I'm faced with rejection and trials, I want to be able to praise the Lord for His goodness in my life!

Visit Melinda's blog at, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

You can be featured too! Just drop us a line via our contact form to nominate yourself or another homeschool girl who is living large with Jesus.
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