Tuesday, August 19, 2014

picking a top ten...is impossible.

I'm biting off a bit more than I can chew in writing this post, but I wanted to give it a shot. I get asked this question a lot, by friends, by classmates, by family members, by parents looking for new reading material for their teenagers, etc. and at this point, I actually do have an answer, but it often takes longer than the person asking expects.

In blog post form, this is yours truly's top ten twenty list of favorite books and why. You'll be surprised - there will probably be a few you've never heard of, and some you have. I'm going to elaborate on each one - the description is *not* a synopsis of the book, it's simply *why* it's on the list, and maybe a quote or two. You'll have to read it for yourself to decide whether it'll be on yours.

Important Note: the Bible is not on this list. And that's because it's not just a book. It's the living, breathing, active Word of God and cannot even be compared with any book written by man. It's Other-Than. Take a deep breath, folks, and let's move on.

Another note: I originally started with ten. That's impossible. Here's twenty. And that was still hard. Cut me some slack. 

Still another note: okay, it's twenty-five. Don't judge.

1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Dickens is *the* classic author, and David Copperfield isn't even his most well-read, well-loved work. I'm actually not the world's greatest Dickens fan, but I love this book like no other. I read it about once a year, straight through over the course of several days. Davy is like an old friend, and I literally get choked up and feel lonesome when he and Agnes leave me at the end of the book, not to return till next time. It's like reading a book about family or close friends - there's nothing quite like it. "My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

2. Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
Similar to Copperfield, this classic feels like the life story of my friends. And, if you've been around here long enough, you'll remember that Jo is my other personality, the "other me", if you will, so naturally I feel a connection. I fell in love with this story all over again listening to the Focus on the Family radio drama, 'cause their Laurie is the best Laurie. And we all know that he married Jo in the end, 'cause that's how it's *supposed* to be.

3. Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
Elizabeth Goudge. You either love her, or you don't understand a word. Her style is unique, her perspective likewise, and her characters are ethereal. Zachary Moon might be one of my favorite male "heroes" ever to grace the pages of literature, and that's saying a lot. I identify with him more than Stella, which I think is supposed to happen anyway. I love the style of this story - it's almost like it's written from a child's perspective, with a child's insight. Beautiful.

4. Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot
Changing gears! This book changed my life. Not exaggerating. Mama read Shadow of the Almighty aloud to all of us children at the same time that I was reading it for school in eighth grade. His testimony and devotion awoke a desire in me to know the God that he knew, to get a hold of the faith that he gave up everything for. I knew I wasn't there yet, and didn't want to stop to I got it. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two of my greatest heroes of the faith, and I love their story and their steadfastness to the advancement of the kingdom.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is my baby. I've worn my copy down to a frazzle, and it goes with me on most trips. It's one of those classics that I re-discover every time I open it up. I still wait with anticipation to see if Elizabeth and Darcy will end up together, relishing every witty encounter and confrontational moment. And then there's Lady Catherine de Bourg - one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. "I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased."

from google

6. After the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski
This book captured me as a fourteen year old and it's consistently stayed on my favorites list since then. It's the unspoken, often unrecognized side of war - the coming home, and the recuperation and readjustment of the wounded veterans. It made me think, as Annie goes through in learning how to love these soldiers and embrace them even if the world and culture have subtly rejected them, about how we are called as the church to love the unlovely - "Man looks at the appearance, but God looks a the heart." In a way, it's sort of a less-creepy Phantom of the Opera. *grin*

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It's a southern classic - and you've probably all had to read it for school, or have seen the movie (depending on your generation and your family). I'm not sure how correct this is to say, but I want my children to be raised like Atticus raised Jem and Scout. Ha. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."

8. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
Ooof. Heavy reading. I read in one afternoon, curled up on a couch in the common area of my dorm at Ellerslie last summer, and when I stood up, it took me about an hour to get back reoriented and I've never actually "recovered." Which is a good thing. One of my favorite musicals is West Side Story - I've always felt a strange pull to the story, as if it was true, and once I read Switchblade, my heart went out to those people and I understood the culture in a different light. It's no fun to read, really, but there's a reason it's on this list.

9. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
"BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN" Read-aloud time! Mama read this series aloud to us years ago, and all of us older children would probably name this our favorite hands down. We even sent away via Royal Post to get the movie version from the UK (since that's the only place you can get it) and had to change our DVD region to watch it. John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker and Nancy and Peggy Blackett captured our imaginations and we lived on the Lakes with them in our souls for that whole summer. "Stow it, you goat, don't over do it!"

10. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice might be my baby, but this one is probably my favorite. It's painful, kind of like Emma, but much more mature. Less stupid mistakes made by characters out of immaturity, more stupid mistakes made by smart people in love. Which is the same thing, arguably, but at least it looks more mature. *snort* Anyway. I've heard people say it's too slow for them, but I like it. So there.

11. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
It's a doozy, I'll admit. And I've only read the whole thing cover to cover one time. But other sections I've worn the stuffing out of. I love this book...even with it's quirky hundred-page tangents on French history and jargon or little side note about why drowning in mud is worse than quicksand. In case you were wondering. Victor Hugo has eyes into the human soul, and a power with words to express the depths thereof. His characters each are people you've met before - with humor and pathos and emotions that you've seen or felt in others and yourself. It's a masterpiece of humanity - and everyone should read it all the way through once in their life. It's worth it all the mud and sand, trust me. "The next day, attired in his new suit - new trousers, hat and boots, and even, prodigious luxury, a pair of gloves! - Marius set out as his accustomed hour for the Luxembourg. He met Courfeyrac on the way and pretended not to see them. Courfeyrac said later to his friends, "I've just seen Marius's new hat and suit with Marius inside them. I suppose he was going to sit for an examination. He looked thoroughly silly."

12. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Of course this whole series is one of my favorites. Every single book is special to me for some reason or another. But I picked this one for this list because of Patty's Place and Gog and Magog and Philippa Gordon and Alec and Alonzo and the Reverend Jo and Priscilla and Stella and all the other wonderful characters that make this book such a quilt of color and humor. And of course, there's Gilbert's forget-me-nots and those moments when you want to shake Anne till she comes to her senses....and Diana and roly-poly-Fred Wright and little Fred....so much love, peoples, so much love.

13. Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace
I love Betsy Warrington Ray. I grew up reading the series as I got older, and often it feels like Betsy and Tacy are just an extension of myself. The reason Betsy's Wedding is the book on my top twenty-one list is because it's my current favorite, since I'm, well, almost twenty and that's basically how old she is and so we're sort of thinking on the same page right now. Actually, it was a toss up between this one and Betsy and Joe - which was sort of my favorite book during high school....*sheepish grin* Betsy is quite possibly one of the most believable heroines I've encountered in my travels - be prepared to make a new best friend!

14. Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
I sat here forever trying to choose between Charlotte's Web and this classic...and chose the bugling cob. Because, because, because, because, becaaaaaaaaaause! I've always liked stories about animals who learned to communicate with people. But my favorite part of this story is when Louis sleeps in the bathtub at the hotel and orders watercress sandwiches but only eats the watercress and leaves the bread. I don't know why. Go figure. (I was one of those children who didn't like crusts on my bread anyway)

15. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
A story about stories....and hands down one of our favorite history readalouds (right up there with Detectives in Togas and Johnny Tremain) It's a mystery, suspenseful, and left us reeling for hours when we finished it. You know, when your brain is mush and you wander around in a fog trying to return to the real world? It's a gem, folks. And if you're anything like we were as children, you might find yourself playing "Fleshy Khatun" in your make believe. Just saying.

16. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Bronte sisters....under-appreciated, but acquired taste. I'm not really a big Rochester fan - but I'm drawn to Jane's loyalty and singleness of heart. Actually, my friend Kate texted me the other day with this profound thought: "It just occurred to me to wonder what on earth it would have been like to grow up with Jane & Mr. Rochester as parents..." I'd NEVER thought about that before. What do you think?

17. Rifles for Waite by Howard Keith
I can't remember exactly when I first read this book - although it was probably during our study of the War back when I was in middle school. Maddie read it first and really liked it, so I read it too, even though it wasn't assigned. It's such a unique perspective on the War Between the States - fascinating angle on the West. And even though it's written from a Yankee perspective, it's done in such a way that even such a die-hard Johnny Reb as myself was able to see his side of the story without feeling jabbed at. Unbiased - the best kind.

18. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Johnny was the first fictional character I fell in love with. I was ten. He was older than me...even Cilla was older than me...I felt so left behind. I'm glad I grew out of that, but I've never lost that love of this book and the story. When I went to Boston in fall of 2012, I researched and hunted the current location of Fish Street - where the Laphams shop and Hancock's Wharf would've been. It's been developed extensively, but this picture was taken as close to the actual location as we could get...a childhood dream fulfilled! I tried to picture Johnny, Cilla and Isa sitting on the wharf with their feet dangling over the edge, as Johnny told them about his mother's cup....it was almost real...

19. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Okay, it HAD to be on this list. Had to. Catherine at one point had the first two chapters of this book memorized from listening to it on tape (yes, tape) so many times. Maddie and I did too, just not as much as her. E.B. White's comforting voice reading this classic of all children's books is the sound of my childhood, and hopefully my own children's as well. "This is a story about the barn...."

20. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzcy
I don't even know what to say....but this book is golden. Pure fluff in the sense that it's romantic and dramatic and you kinda know from the beginning how it's going to turn out, but that doesn't take away from the brilliance of the writing and the suspense of the story. "They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere..."

21. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
It's been a while since I read this, but this is like Boxcar Children for grown ups. In fact, it's sort of the grandfather of all mysteries - Wilkie Collins was the first modern mystery author. So it even pre-dates Sherlock Holmes. It's a "big kid" story, but totally worth the agony and frustration and suspense. You'll find yourself yelling the characters "DON'T YOU SEEEEE!?!?!" - maybe even taking a break and walking around to clear your head before diving in again....but those are the best kind of mysteries anyway.

22. My Sergei by Ekaterina Gordeeva
This is a biography/autobiography of the skating pair Sergei Grinkov and Katia Gordeeva. It's one of my favorites - I love Ekaterina's winsome and genuine writing style, you can tell English isn't her first language and her descriptions are so down-to-earth. There is some...more grown-up content, because of the nature of their lives and lack of spiritual guidance, but it's truly an insightful read. I love true stories, and even though I'm sure there's stuff about them she chose not to share, but you can tell she's being very honest and you can tangibly feel her grief at losing her beloved Sergei so young.

23. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Culture. I am a connoisseur of culture. I study it, I love it, I love being immersed in it. I've traveled quite a bit in my life, been part of a several different unique communities, and each one's oddities and profundities capture my attention and help me understand people better. From conservative Christian denominations, Messianic groups, Mennonites, Muslims, different African tribes, Nicaraguans of every shade, and Jews - I've learned something from all of them, and been intrigued by every life style. The Chosen is an inside look at the Orthodox versus Hasidic Jewish cultures in New York during World War II, covering Zionism and education and community. When Mama assigned it for school, I was skeptical, but ended up reading it twice that semester, trying to squeeze everything I could out of it.

24. Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Yeah, the author's name is Gaston. *Disney moment* Maybe that's why this book is so...odd. It's disturbing, not going to lie, and it's not for everyone. As you know, this musical is my favorite, so one Christmas I asked for the book - you know, just to read it and see if it was as good. Honestly, it's different, hard to compare, but yet it gives you almost a "behind the scenes" look at the show...and gives you a whole new appreciation for Andrew Lloyd Webber and the way he managed to keep the spirit of the story while making it a little more...audience friendly. Warning: you will love Phantom and hate Raoul if you read this book. So if you're a Raoul fan (which I'm not....except if it's Hadley Fraser), avoid this particular piece of literature.

25. Light from Heaven by Jan Karon
Dooley and Lace (my favorite two Mitford characters - aside from Barnabas the Buick) are about twenty/twenty-one in this book, and even though this story really is from Father Tim's perspective, I understand those two so well.... Also, I love Appalachia, and have a huge heart - bordering on an ache - for the poverty and generational bondage in that region. This book really touches on that in a gritty but gentle way. It's currently my favorite Mitford book, even though I miss the Turkey Club and some of the classic moments from the earlier in the series.

Well, there you have it. Liza's top twenty-five favorite books. And pardon me while I go apologize to the rest of my bookshelf for not including them. I'm already working on Part Two with twenty-five more books - so fifty total. Because I'm the blog author and I can do whatever I want so HA. (and I really don't want to hurt their feelings)

What are some of y'all's favorite books and why? Have you read all the ones on this list? What are the ones you'd never heard of? Which ones were you surprised I included? Or surprised I DIDN'T include? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

belated birthday wishes

One of my best friends had a birthday in June and I completely forgot.

Until today.

Which is surprising, considering how much he means to me. Every morning when I get up, he's there to greet me and warm me up from head to toe. He's gone with me all over the place - to Colorado (his home state, actually), South Carolina and Ohio. He carries my tea for me, and my coffee, and my kombucha, and my water, and on occasion, ice cream or soup. What would I do without him?

He's survived several plane flights, a train ride, and....wait for it....BEING USED BY OTHER PEOPLE. What a patient, long-suffering friend! But he's always so gracious and willing to be of service, even if it makes me jealous to let others benefit from his special talents.

Yes, I know you're shocked now. I missed his birthday.

But now I've remembered, and he's quick to forgive, so I'm not too worried about our friendship. It's not as fragile as it looks, folks.

So Happy Belated 1st Birthday to my beloved Mug!
- affectionately dubbed The Ellerslie Mug by my family, or my Idol by others -

Here's to many more years of friendship! You make my life a happier, cozier one! :)

p.s. I have no idea why my mug is a "he"....he just is. Ask him if you have a problem with it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

three things I've learned this summer

This has been a life-changing summer for your humble authoress. Granted, last summer was pretty epic too.....aaaaand the one before that (what is it about summers for growing up moments!?), but this one was unique because it taught me grown-up lessons that affect other people - not just me. I thought I'd share a few, to encourage you and poke you onward in your quest for Truth.

1. Life is not black and white. It's actually a rainbow splash of color. Just because I'm doing something one way doesn't mean it's the only way - your choices might be are just as valid. Even in seemingly "crystal clear" political and spiritual issues, I have to remember that we're almost always talking about or dealing with real live people, made in the image of God, with eternal souls. They are precious to our Savior, and we cannot allow our own incompetent perceptions get in the way of seeing how God truly views these souls. Every issue has at least two sides - I'm learning how to properly listen and evaluate each one and act in a responsible way out of love and respect and Truth, not personal bias or opinion.

2. If I can't forgive, I've trapped myself. I'll be stuck in a rut that never levels out. I have to know when to take a deep breath, and move on. I have been forgiven much by the One Who created me, loved me in my unloveliness, and died to bring me life - who I am to turn around and withhold fellowship and forgiveness from those who have "wronged" me? There is sweet peace and freedom in letting go. When I'm harboring unforgiveness, it's like I'm clenching my fist inside, tightening up my muscles, holding my breath and praying through my consequent splitting headache and upset stomach that God would somehow convict the other party of their "evil sin". Oh, the simple release and the handing up of the whole kit-n-kaboodle to Jesus and turning my thoughts instead to His love for me, and through that, my love for others.

3. I am loved. So many times I've heard the wrath of God, the judgement of God, the awe-inspiring holiness of God preached, and known in my soul that every word of it is true, and "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips!" It's right that I should have that view of my King, as it keeps my sin in perspective and shows Christ's cross work for the glorious salvation that it is. However, I cannot miss the fact that Christ's death was not simply because He felt obligated to save my wretched soul....no, He loved me. In my unworthiness, He counted ME worthy to die for. His Father is my King, yes, but He's also MY Father too. My Abba. And He loves me more than anyone else on this earth. In fact, His love is otherworldly. I am worthy. I am loved. I am precious in His sight, His cherished daughter. That gives me more courage than any other truth I've ever been taught.

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 KJV

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything....Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:3-7, 15 ESV

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." - Romans 12:2 KJV

It's been a rich summer.

I'm thankful for a patient Abba that's working with the Spirit to make this daughter of His more like Himself, drawing me closer day by day. Being taught in the "school of Christ" isn't always easy, but it's beautiful - and oh, the joy of learning to recognize His voice far outweighs the discomfort that comes when discipline is required. He wants me to know more of Him! His yoke truly is easy, and His burden truly is light.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

How much more.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

this is for you.

I've been meaning to write this down for weeks...but couldn't. I've had to keep it all bottled up inside, not really able to talk about it to anyone, and yet it's hurt. Now I finally can, and this is just my little bit, the best way I know how to say goodbye to my Theatre Bro, who I only knew for a year, but it felt like forever.

James, this post is for you.

This is for all the mysterious winks and eye-rolls as we plowed through Secret Garden music all those late nights in MaryAnne's basement.

This for your incredible baritone that blew everyone away at Oklahoma! casting.

This is for your one liners that made it ridiculously hard to keep a straight face...because we were on *stage*, for crying out loud and you kept making us laugh.

This is for those moments waiting stage right for the next scene and the way you would imitate what was going on onstage - often singing both parts at once, since you're cool like that.

This is for your love for Superman that anyone who knew you any length of time could hardly miss.

This is for your love for Kim, and her whole family, that endeared you to us so immediately. You truly treasured her, and we were all so excited for you both.

This is for the way you became such a perfect, natural part of the Black Box family in so little time. What did we do before you came?

This is for your gentle way with children - honestly, one of the most attractive things about you. They all loved you, climbed over you, pulled on you, felt comfortable with you. A true gift.

This is for all those who loved you and knew you and will miss you forever.

This is for your life. Your short, but oh-so-impactful life that left a James-size hole in all of ours when you left.

I'm so thankful I decided to come back inside, in the *rain* to make sure I said goodbye to you and a few others after our final Secret Garden performance. I didn't know it would be forever, but I'm glad I have that moment.

James, this is for you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

diy summer pedicure

I was contacted by Abbey from Julep last week, inviting me to create my own perfect DIY summer pedicure. Of course I was excited and inspired! My sisters and I love doing our nails, and during the summer, when we're at the pool all the time and the chlorine strips our nail polish off after just a couple days, we do them pretty often.

For a real, at-home pedicure, I always start by clipping and filing my nails, and softening them up with a little foot bath. Since we are at the pool daily, and I rarely wear shoes anyway, my feet are pretty calloused, so I didn't bother trying to make the soles of my feet super smooth...save that for the cooler seasons. *chuckle*

Anyway, onto the polish!

We have a rather extensive, if slightly motly-looking, selection of nail polish in our collection. We've gathered from every brand imaginable, and have pretty much every color under the sun. Too many choices can be just as hard to work with sometimes! But I found my favorites and got to work.

I have no fancy nail decor tools, so when I want to make polka dots, I use the head of a straight pin. It's a little harder to control the size sometimes, but it makes for a unique, no-two-dots-alike look that I find fun and sort of like my own personality. (there, Kate, definitely my bohemian streak coming out :P)

Top coat! Maybe it'll last a little longer than normal....maybe.

I did my fingernails to match, just for fun, but a little more on the subtle side. Just one flower per hand, and no blue *grin*

Thanks, Julep, for the inspiration and incentive to do something pretty with my nails this week! Check out their shop for some fantastic nail polish colors and products.

What are some of your favorite summer nail polish colors/styles? And those of y'all who swim all summer, any tips for keeping nail polish on in chlorine?

Friday, July 18, 2014

you know you're a swim team family when...

...you, your siblings, and subsequently your clothes, bed, room, house, etc. all smell of chlorine and sunscreen

...talk around the supper table is usually mostly discussion of everyone's times, our chances at winning the next meet, and some story about something the New Coaches did at practice today

...the biggest breaking news every week is WHO IS ON THE RELAY??? Or, once that's known, what *order* are they going in...and is it the medley or free relays this week anyway?

...you are in an ongoing, never ceasing battle against The Tans - the most notorious being the Shorts Tan, the Strap Tan and the Sunglasses Tan. Also coming up, often by ambush, the guerrilla warriors of the Flip-Flop Tan and the Tshirt/Coverup Neckline Tan. And less of a problem, but still in consideration, you have the Ring and Watch/Bracelet Tans - gotta keep tabs on those too! Boys have to deal with the Jammers Tan...but for some reason, no one cares about that one. Whatever.

...days are not measured by how many hours you spend at the pool, but how many hours you DON'T.

...all that's needed in life can be found in the cooler, the pool bag or Mama's purse.

...speaking of coolers....unloading those things after a swim meet is the....less glamorous side of this sport...

...you basically live by these four Pool Rules: (stole these from our friends the K's, by the way)
1. Be a Light
2. Do Your Best
3. Wear Your Flip-flops in the Bathroom
4. Don't Lose Your Stuff

...keeping the beach towels dry and folded and ready for tomorrow is a full-time, on-the-list, honest-to-goodness CHORE.

...you can't remember the last time everyone ate breakfast together, since the Early Morning Practice folks leave, well, early and everyone else just pushes wake-up time till the last possible minute

...your ten-year-old brother walks into the kitchen after practice one afternoon with a dejected look on his face, and when you ask him whats wrong, he lifts doleful eyes and says in a mournful tone, "I am doomed to a life of shame." Well, good gracious, why is that, buddy?! "I have to swim fifty butterfly in the meet and I am going to drown." That would do it. Sorry, dude.

...half of the family is partially deaf at any given point due to perpetual outbreaks of swimmer's ear

...you forget what it's like wear "normal clothes", and what you even look like in them. Crazy life.

...your hair is in a constant state of dampness

...the first question asked when you get back from morning practice and everyone's settling down for Mandatory Rest Time is, "Who's going to afternoon practice? Who's driving?"

...everyone drags themselves around the house in exhaustion in the evening, often crashing around 9pm, and no one thinks twice about it

...you're playing musical cars every day depending on who's going to which practice, who's coaching in the afternoon and who's too sick with whatever random virus is going around to go at all

....you suddenly don't hardly seen ANY of your "normal" friends for weeks at a time, and start wondering whether you ever had any, since your Swim Team Family always gets so close over the course of two months and nearly all of your activities (even some non-swim-team-related ones) involve them....and yet you know you probably will hardly see them at all during the year, until next summer :)

...your life is ordered around the swim team calendar, and about two weeks before Champs you start to realize that pretty soon, you'll have *every day free*...and the thought is a little scary.

...Champs. Need I say more?

...when you're going, going, going all day and are tired more often then not, but everyone (even Mama) enjoys it because it's summer time in the South and it's swim team, and honestly, there's not much else we'd rather be doing :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

takes one to know one {moments of humanity}

It was a day in early April, and I was on top of the world. Rolling my Little Blue Monogrammed Suitcase through the Charlotte-Douglas Airport, my teddy bear perched on my luggage, a song in my heart, on my way to Colorado. I had also just come off a wonderful final few days with my family, during which my Dad, sisters and friends went to see Captain America 2 - the best of the movies to grace theatre screens this year, imho. In other words, I was happy. And perky. And feeling a little nutty.

So you know those thingys that are like escalators but they're flat and just help you walk faster that they have at airports? There's usually a sign above them that says, "Stand to the right, walk to the left." Most of the time I just stand and "rest", but that day I was feeling chipper and didn't want to stop, so I Walked to the Left.

Well, there was this guy ahead of me, sort of the tall, muscular athletic type with braids (not dreads) past his shoulders, looked like a nice guy - sort of reminded me of home and the South and football season and all that good stuff - who was Standing to the Right. And I'm not sure what put this idea into my head, but he was wearing some kind of superhero t-shirt...maybe Captain America? *grin*


So I'm coming up behind him and I get this crazy-awesome idea and I grin to myself as I walk past and I say,

"On your left."

I felt him turn as I passed, and I turned my head over my shoulder and kinda did that head-nod thing (you know, sorta jerk your chin up a little with a little grin) and kept going, and heard him laugh behind me.

Us Captain 'Merica fans know each other - no doubt about it *grin*

Friday, July 11, 2014

center stage

I remember one day during my Advanced semester at Ellerslie, I came into my room and burst out to my dear roommate, Elly: "I'm SO afraid!" *awkward pause* "I'm so afraid that someday, something or someone is going to come between me and Jesus. And I love Him SO MUCH right now, and I'm growing in leaps and bounds and He is so altogether lovely and worthy to me....what if that changes?! How horrible would that be!?" We talked it out for a while, acknowledging that there are times in a Christian's life of immense growth, but other times when it's more subtle and slow, and our Advanced semester was definitely the former. But yet, even in a time of slower growth in Christ, our focus should not waver from our Beloved.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." - Hebrews 12:1-3
It's been the cry of my heart for months, almost years now - in an aggressive, offensive type way. Nothing makes my heart ache more than the thought that something in this world could take my eyes away from Jesus Christ. It's happened before, and I love Him so much....and He loves me even more than that....the thought of doing something that grieves or hurts Him is pretty gut-wrenching. And oh, how many times I fail Him! How many times I stick a toe in the world, "It's not *that* bad...." and open the door to temptation.
"No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." - 2 Timothy 2:4
But yet, the beauty of all this is that He actually, truly loves me. ME. Liza. Little old me. And He waits oh, so patiently for His wandering little girl to turn and repent, prodding me as the loving Shepherd that He is and pursuing me with the love and energy of a Bridegroom. And He's there, with open arms, ready for me when I repent, ready to start over with a clean slate, loving me all the time.
"My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." - 1 John 2:1-2
What a picture! What love! What freedom! Not freedom to sin, but freedom to LIVE. Freedom to love. Freedom to rejoice in who I am in Him, not who I am in the eyes of the world. He's given us this beautiful world in live in, talents to use to glorify His name, hands and feet, tongue and mind to serve and point others to Himself - and heart that is ever growing in capacity to love Him and the people He created.

Every time I "consider Him", I love Him more. And it's a matter of keeping my focus on Him that will keep me from distractions. The more I'm saturated in Jesus, the less I'll care about the things of this world. There have been times in my life where I've wanted to just throw honor and care to the wind and just do what the world does, just once! Just for a little while! It's just *too hard* to be like Jesus *all the time*! But then I look at Him again....and those "desirable" things look pretty rotten next to His beautiful holiness. Oh, turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look FULL in His wonderful face! And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." - 1 John 2:15-16
We go through seasons. We mature and change. We go through peaks and valleys in life, and our angle on Christ broadens. But He stays the same. Holy, holy, holy. Other than, other than, other than. Right now, I'm in a season where I can pursue Him with undivided attention - minimal responsibility, and not much on my plate. That's not going to last forever. But I can work and strive to build a foundation now that will last through the harder times - if I'm not focused on Christ now, why should I expect to focus on Him when distractions and responsibilities double or triple?
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." - 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
I've had to go through difficult times in my relationships with people here on earth - asking hard clarifying questions, repenting, and letting go...once it even took fourteen months for a friendship to be restored, but if I am so willing and eager to make things right with my beloved brothers and sisters here on earth, how much MORE should I be pursuing a deeper and more pure relationship with Jesus?! It's a convicting and thought-provoking question to ask yourself.

I don't want anything to come between me and my Jesus. Nothing, no one. Like any relationship, it takes work, time and energy....but like any relationship that is founded on Rock, it grows sweeter, richer and deeper with time.

Whatever it takes, I'm willing to go that far and beyond to keep Him center stage. It won't be easy, but it's beautiful and eternally worth it. Always.

photos taken by me of the beautiful double rainbow (you can barely see it in the photos) over our house this week.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

summer memories. {age seven}

independence day ice cream at the beach // july 4. 2002

One summer, when I was seven, we spent the week of the Fourth at our friends' grandparents' beach house in North Carolina. The day itself consisted of a show (directed by Peter and I) that the four of us girls and their two boys put on for the adults, and then drumsticks out on the porch afterwards. I don't remember a whole lot, except that Catherine and Tyler had one real part, and that was running across our "stage" shouting "Victory!" and "Hurray!", and we hand-wrote the programs (which we all know are most important part of a show) on notebook paper, and that we had some kind of dried bananas or something for Intermission.

During the trip, we also visited a shrimp processing dock, and for the first time, this little southern girl saw with her own eyes that shrimp are *not* in fact, orange, when they come out of the water. And they have legs and heads and tails and eye balls....who knew, right? I also used a vending machine for the first time in my life - pretty sure I got a Sprite or Mountain Dew...something in a green-ish-yellow-ish can. On the days we spent at the beach, we would catch these itty-bitty little crabs and race them across the sand. They had a sailboat too...I'm pretty sure we sailed in it....but we may have just climbed into it and pretended. *grin* We had Fruit Loops for breakfast, and one night we had Flounder...which I had trouble eating at first, due to my affection for the little blue and yellow stripy fish most of us associate with the name. *chuckle*

Oh, and we also started out the trip with the stomach bug, which we passed on to them by the end of the week, but we pretend that part didn't happen. *cough*

Anyway....just random summer memories...all from running across a picture in a scrapbook. *grin* It's the little things, folks.

Monday, July 7, 2014

you two

"What makes the battle worth the fighting?
What makes the mountain worth the climb?
What makes the questions worth the asking?
The reason worth the rhyme?

To me the answer's clear;
it's having someone near...
....someone dear

Someone to care for; to be there for,
I have you two!
Someone to do for; muddle through for,
I have you two!

Someone to share joy or despair with;
whichever betides you.
Life becomes a chore, unless you're living for
someone to tend to be a friend to.
I have You Two!
Someone to strive for, do or die for
I have You Two!

Could be, we three get along so famously,
'cause you two have me, and I have You Two too!

Someone to care for; to be there for.
I have You Two!

Someone to do for; muddle through for
I have You Two!
Someone to smile once in awhile with;
whenever you're lonesome
we're a happy lot,
considering what we've got!

But, I couldn't do more
Than you do for your poor Father Sister *wink*
Things go asunder
and I wonder why you bother.

Could be, we three get along so famously 'cause...

....we two have you...

and I have you two...


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Please take a moment and feed my dear little fishies :) Just click on the water to feed 'em! Names:
The yellow fish is Buttercup, the green one is Rush, the pink one is Elizabeth, and the purple one is Zachary Moon

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