Variations on a Theme

I love listening to variations. Watching the theme weave in and out of the melody, sometimes hidden, sometimes apparent. This year has been the hardest of my life. But it's all been variations on a theme...


My sister stayed in Iraq, protected only by tents while the enemy attacked overhead. My uncle had open-heart surgery (quadruple bypass). And my Dad had a heart-attack. Winter days filled with rain, hospital visits, and phone calls from across the world.

The Lord is Faithful.

The Lord took dear Mrs. Butler, our pastor's wife, home with him. The loss was as unexpected as it was heart-breaking. And my uncle died, the first of my Mom's siblings. Spring days filled with mourning, tears, and comfort.

The Lord is Faithful.

I had the best time of my life with the most wonderful people in the world - my Schola Great Books Class. Summer days filled with books, dance, laughter, and friendship.

The Lord is Faithful.

My illness began. We searched for answers but found none. We made the decision to put my youngest brother (who has high-spectrum autism) on medication. Autumn days filled with pain, sleep, medications, and doctor visits.

The Lord is Faithful.

My grandmother had a stroke. And my sister came home. I decided to go on with college applications - health or not. One of my best friends was in a car accident. Winter days filled with hospital visits, paperwork, prayers, and hope.

The Lord is Faithful.

---

I can hope my strength and health will return in this new year... that my sister will stay safe in Iraq... that we will find that perfect dose for my baby brother... that family troubles will go away...

But my happiness cannot rely on those hopes.

I can know that the Lord will be faithful. And my happiness and joy will come from that amazing wonder. Praise be to our God!

May you see the faithfulness of the Lord in this new year. :)

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The Silence

The Silence

Sing silence and listen.
They call out to me.
Sing silence and listen.
To the tale we sing.

Puzzled merriment abounds
With these faeries of rain,
They sing with no sound,
And cut with no pain.

They cut to the heart,
With shards of a joy,
That burns and departs,
But marks evermore .

I hear gentle breathing
With the pattering rain.
She sleeps with a peace
That I cannot obtain.

I sit here in silence
Just wondering aloud,
Words straighten and bend,
Then they fade into sound.

They fade from my thoughts,
Make my hopes come alive,
Then bury them deep
With no door within sight.

The faeries, they beckon,
To those fast asleep,
But daylight dispels,
All the raindrops so sweet.

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Advent Thoughts: Recalled to Life


And do you care to be recalled to life?

Charles Dickens asked this question in his book The Tale of Two Cities. Dr. Manette has been imprisoned in the Bastille, driven to madness. 18 years in pure darkness. But he is released, and a messenger speaks of it as him being "recalled to life". Manette's daughter, Lucie, brings him back to sanity through her love and care. The shadow of the Bastille stays with him to the end of his days, but Lucie always helps him to banish those memories, and eventually overcome them.

Reading that story, I saw a picture of my - our - own redemption. We have been recalled to life, out of the darkness of sin. Recalled to a life full of beauty, wonder, vibrancy, a life so vastly different from the life of darkness.

We do have those days, just like Dr. Manette, when the darkness just overshadows our days. And we feel weary, tired. But then we have our Lucie Manettes also :) Friday was one of those almost purely awful days - just lots of pain, and I felt like a totally incompetent failure. It was my Mom's birthday, and I had to sleep for most of it! I almost called one of my friends to cheer up, but I figured it wouldn't be that helpful to call anyone since I would probably just break down in tears. And besides, I couldn't walk to find the phone (the rest of the family was gone). So I just cried on my bed. For awhile.

But we had a candle in our room, and after the tears, the light just kept on flickering. I was reminded of the hope we have, reminded that the weariness does not last forever, reminded of the heavenly wonders around me. And I was recalled to life.

And this whole beautiful Advent season is a reminder of this amazing truth. That in the dark of the world, one night, Christ-God came down to earth as a child to bring His own children out of the night into everlasting glory. He came to recall us to life.

(of course, there's also the wonderful story of Sydney Carton...)

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Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete!

Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!
Tempus adest gratiae, Hoc quod optabamus;
Carmina laeticiae Devote redamus.
Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!
Deus homo facus est, Natura mirante;
Mundus renovatus est, A Christo regnante.
Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!
Ezechiellis porta Clausa pertransitur;
Unde lux est orta, Salus invenitur.
Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!
Ergo nostra concito Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino: Salus Regi nostro.
Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virgine: Gaudete!

Listen:



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Relapse

Seems like I'm back to the beginning, watching the same scene unfold: the pain, the tears, total loss of strength. It gets worse every time. I doubt I'll even be able to walk for a few days, my hands will probably lose strength soon also. 

Plans are snatched out of my hands. It's hard to study or do any type of college prep when the pain is this bad. Much needed Time slips by as I sleep through the day, the only escape from pain. I hate relapses, they come too suddenly, with too much force. Just two days ago I was strong enough to run! And now... this. I can barely move from my room.

And yet, while I was reading Luke today, with an almost hopeless knowledge that the next few days would only be worse than today, I found comfort. Hope.

Even if my plans are snatched out my hands, an infinitely better one is at work. Even if I lose all strength, I can rely on a strength that created the world. Even if I hate the pain, I can love, and know that I am loved, Him who gives it to me. 

And with His help, I can think of the upcoming days and say, as Mary did:

Be it unto me, according to Thy Word.

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20 Blessings

This is for you all who don't have a Facebook :)

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Please pray!

Y'all! Please pray for Faith, she posted all about it on her blog, but she was in a car accident this morning and is hurt. Thankfully, she's home now, her post says it all.

I am SO thankful God protected you, dear Faith. And I really hope and pray you're not in too much pain.

I love you, Faith!

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The Confusing Mermaid

It was past twelve, somewhat cold outside, and all together quiet in the house. Prime time for reading Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales. I decided to work my way backward, for once, and read this curious note from Anderson himself.

"I decided to place [The Little Mermaid] among a group of tales that I had already begun. The others in this booklet are more children stories than this one, whose deeper meaning only an adult can understand; but I believe that I child will enjoy it for the story's sake only."

From what I could remember, I had never even thought of a 'deeper meaning' to the story. I just remembered one detail very clearly - that every step she took was like knives piercing through her feet. I reread the tale, then again, and again.

It got curiouser and curiouser...

The tale has so much ambiguity. Everyone knows the Disney-fied version, but the real one is quite, quite different. It has an almost ethereal feel to it.

Brief Summary: Mermaids live up to 300 years, then they become the foam on the sea. They have no immortal souls. The only way for a mermaid to have a soul is to have a human fall in love, and thus give a 'part' of his soul to her. Little mermaid saves a prince, falls in love with him, becomes human at the cost of her voice, and will have an immortal soul if - and only if - the prince falls in love with her. But the prince falls in love with someone else. And our little mermaid has the choice to either die when the sun rises or kill the prince and then live her 245 mermaid years. The sun rises upon a living prince and a resigned mermaid. But! She does not die and become foam on the sea, but she becomes a 'daughter of the air' who can earn an immortal soul by doing good deeds for 300 years.

Heh, that definitely wasn't in the Disney version.

I first thought this was all sentimental, a universalism akin to George MacDonald's writings. But that does not fit in with the rest of Anderson's writings. Remember the little girl with the red shoes? She got her feet chopped off for her vanity. Or the naughty girl? The pavement opened up for her. There's countless examples of justive and morality in Anderson's writings. Which makes The Little Mermaid even more of a puzzle. I wouldn't read into it, if Anderson hadn't written about that 'deeper meaning'. Now I'm floundering. Pun intended.

I'm curious if any of you have ideas/theories on this. In part, it could be a redemptive story, with the little mermaid spending those 300 years atoning for... well, what? Her love for the prince? Leaving her family? And then there's that curious factor that the mermaid became human because she loved the prince, not because she wanted a soul. She dances for his wedding and laughs, but all the while with 'thoughts of death in her heart.'

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Psalm 46



Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Amen.

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Consolation




Sunday night seems worlds away, a brief time of calm before all this turmoil. My grandma is paralyzed on her right side, and she's lost her memory. She doesn't recognize my Mom or anyone. I still haven't seen her (it's too much of a risk for her), but my sisters have. And the look on their faces tells me everything. The doctors doubt my grandma will pull through this. It all seems so surreal, too much like when my grandpa died, yet too far from reality. This can't be happening. But it is.

And they cry unto the Lord in their trouble...

Monday was filled with bits of consolation that helped me make it through the long day. Rays of sunlight. A letter from a friend, phone calls - even if I did miss them, just the thought was so encouraging. I kept house for Mom, glad of *something* to do. In a way, it seems like He has been preparing me for this, teaching me how to overcome stress and physical weakness, so that I can help my parents, especially Mom. The house was clean after a couple hours, and I made a cake and cookies, then gathered flowers for Mom. So she could come home to something drastically different from the bare hospital walls.


... and He bringeth them out of their distress.

Please pray that God will give my family the strength to get through these next few days and weeks, whatever comes, it won't be easy.

Many, many heart-felt thanks to you all for praying. We appreciate it so much =)

(Psalm 107:28)

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Be Still, my soul, my soul...

I woke up to my Mom's voice. My Mom's voice, verging on the edge of tears, telling her sisters and brothers that Grandma had just had a stroke and was in ICU. As realization dawned, I wanted to close my eyes, fall back asleep, wake up, and find it was just a dream. But Mom's voice continued, she broke down crying. I could hear my sister crying also.

They are at the hospital, right now. I can barely walk, so I stayed behind with a younger brother. I feel so scared and alone. Trying to remind myself, through tears, of God's sovereignty, I know I can rest in His peace, but tears still come. If you all could pray, I would appreciate it. :)

Be still my soul; when light you cannot see
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

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Happy. Wonderfully happy.

Michael Buble music on blast. Repeating Everything and Save the Last Dance lots and lots of times. There's a beautiful California sunset right outside, I can see it clearly through our glass doors. Brilliant purples, oranges, and blues, pure beauty. I'm dancing cha-cha and salsa with myself, laughing and remembering the last time I heard Buble and danced. In Oklahoma, for the Summer Academy, with my best friends. And suddenly I am filled with joy, pure, absolute joy.

There's only one rather incongruent fact about this whole scenario. I just had surgery. Four surgeries, actually. One on Wednesday, big deeeeep cut on my side, and then three today - one on my leg, one on my arm, and lots of needles and cauterizations on my head. But I think dancing and (light) bouncing is the perfect medication, heh. I'm not on any pain meds (per my request), so the music keeps my mind off the pain.

Mind over matter.

(Guess the quote. *smiles happily*)

I've also been immersed in some of my favorite books. Lord Peter, Schaff, Narnia, Ideas Have Consequences. Thus, I'm "drunk on words", to use that wonderful quote. It's just one of those days, one of those glorious, amazing days.

Praise God for His goodness.

Addendum: Here are some pictures from my latest photoshoot with my sisters :)

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Five Quotes

Tagged by Grace Anne :)

(So it said to post five random things about myself, but that would be too boring. *grins*)

The night air, drifting through the open window, even in this city aerie, held the taste and tang of autumn.
PD James, Skull Beneath the Skin


I love that phrase, the 'taste and tang of autumn', which us Southern Californians are finally experiencing.

Only miracle is plain; it is the ordinary that groans with the unutterable weight of glory.
Father Robert Capon, Supper of the Lamb




“For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.”

Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market


As some men gaze with admiration at the colors of a tulip, or the wings of a butterfly, so I was by nature an admirer of happy human faces.
Oliver Goldsmith, Vicar of Wakefield

The books were the closest things she had to furniture, and she lived in them the way other men live in easy chairs.
Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit

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Meandering with Words

Hesitant as I am to post any poem of mine, I've decided posting it and (hopefully) receiving some feedback is better than having it sit drearily in my journal. I have a few more that I might post, we'll see. :)

For a Friend

Shall we gaze upon the shores of time?
Our hearts and mind aglow.
With memories of time gone by,
The waves come, passing slow.

But thoughts of future time dispel
Our happy wandering thoughts
Where shall we be? Years from now
What gifts, sorrows in Fortune's lot?

Hold my hand then, hold me close
Remind me of our hope so sure
That despite our fickle joys and woes
Our Father holds our full future.

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Diagnosis

Well, it's here at last. After three months. The diagnosis :) We found out last week. After lots and *lots* of visits to specialists (the pediatric rheumatologist... the dermatologist... the infectious disease doctor...), the diagnosis is pretty clear. Thankfully, it is not any form of arthritis nor a hidden infection. It is not Lyme disease or lupus. It's just a very, very severe case of eczema. A condition that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Everything - the exhaustion/fatigue, joint pain, infections - stems from my eczema. Nothing is really going to change, I just have to learn to live with it.

It's been a hard week, but I think the worst is over. When the doctor told us the diagnosis, it took all of my energy not to break down crying right there. I know it's not the end of the world, but it's still a hard idea to get used to. It's hard to wake up with pain, but instead of thinking, "It'll be over soon" , I have to face the fact, "This is life."

So, that's that. I wish I could say I've been happy and content in the face of trial, but, heh, that's not the case. Like I said, it's been a rough week. I'm grateful for this new stage of life - just as I turn seventeen - and I know I'll learn even more through the upcoming trials, and that beyond all the pain, He has "plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future." And I can rest in that =) Joy will come and so will contentment.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
'It is well, it is well with my soul.
'

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Day by Day


I took this picture the day before all this crazyness happened. It's at my favorite beach, where I snap pictures while my siblings jump into the waves with glee, joy and water splashing everywhere.

This weekend, I felt so perfectly normal, it was wonderful. Of course, the inevitable relapse came on Monday, worse than ever, but I had so much fun it was almost worth it. Thursday is another doctor's appointment, hopefully I'll have a diagnosis then. We'll see. Right now, it's a struggle to balance time and pain, to stay awake with pain or sleep for days without it. But God is faithful, my ever-present strength and comfort in times of weariness. I love that verse in the picture above, John 14:1.

"Trust in God. Trust in me."

Christ, our Savior, is not an impersonal God - far from it! - He knows all our trials and offers us help to get through them. Isn't amazing?

Thank you all so much for your prayers and your comments :) I wish I had time and energy to respond to each of you individually, but please know that I am grateful beyond *words*. I love you all so much!

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Pierced

I don't know how many times I've done this. I don't want to know. My knees lose their strength, and I'm kneeling on the floor.

My forehead touches the floor, the cool wood soothes my burning skin. I'm crying.

My lips move to pray, "Your Will be done.
" But all that comes out is the muted cry, Why?

And the tears keep falling.





It has been two 1/2 months now. I think I have finally realized that this might just stay with me for awhile. The doctors don't have a diagnosis, and even though I wish fervently they could wave a magic wand and make all the pain go away, that's just not the way it is.

But I am home :) With parents who would drive for an hour and a half to take me to ER, brothers who make me laugh, sisters who do my chores, and friends who pray for me and brighten my days with their sweet and dear friendship. There's no legitimate reason for me to be sad or discontent with my lot. I am so blessed, so happy, and so grateful to God.

I have learned so much and am still learning from this whole experience, and despite all the pain, I thank God for putting me through all of this. He is showing me what beautiful joy there is, how blessed I am, how *healthy* I am in comparison to others. Divine truth pierces my doubts, my fears. Divine sovreignty pierces through my plans, leaves me helpless. And my heavenly Father patiently teaches me that the night may come, but Joy will come in the morning.

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Sunday Afternoon






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Turning





To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right



A week ago:

no pain

no medications

and joy

Now:

pain, definitely pain

new medications


lots of tears

and joy

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From the Quotables File

I keep a file of all cute/funny happenings from life, and I thought I would post a few to make you smile :)

Scene: Latin 3 class, translating the book of Ruth from Latin into English and comparing various English translations with our own.

Ruth 3:9 - "And he said, 'Who art thou?' And she answered, 'I am Ruth, thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.'"

Juliet: Why does the KJV say 'spread thy skirt'?
Katie Beth: he was Scottish
Mr. Callihan: skirt means cloak or robe under which he slept, so like, blanket
Caitlin: skirt, cloak, blankie...same thing :)
Katie Beth: Ssshhh. It's a kilt.
Mr. Callihan: yes
Juliet: Ah! Thank you =)
Katie Beth: er, actually... it's not
Katie Beth: *gets strange images*
Mr. Callihan: a kilt doesn't work very well for a blankie, KB :)
Katie Beth G: never mind about the kilt

---

Scene: Reading hour in the living room, everyone present except for the youngest, who runs into the room saying...

MA: I lost my WWOMAHN!

Charlie looks carefully at MA, "Your WHAT?!"

"My womahn!"

Jacqueline: Wow, I didn't know you had one...

MA: But I do! Lots of 'em, with swords and shields.

The mental images made us all double-over laughing.

Then Daddy clarified for us, "You guys, he means his Roman."

---

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Encouragements

Few pleasures exceed that of waking up after a night of, well, pain and tears, and receiving encouragement from God's word and His saints - both living and dead. I thank God for all the sweet notes, emails, Facebook messages that my dear friends have sent me. You all are such a blessing. :)

---

From Spurgeon's Morning and Evening:

The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. [...] We cannot suffer too much or be relieved too late.
(Emphasis mine.)

From Chrysostom's Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof:

Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.

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Portraits of a Brother





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Greek To Me

A couple days ago, I was studying my physiology textbook, memorizing the definition of homeostasis. My Greek reflexes kicked in homeo 'same' - stasis 'state'.

And then suddenly two words came to mind: homoousious and homoiousious.

At the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea, AD 325, the bishops worked together to understand Christ's nature. Athanasius said that Christ was of homoousious with God, of the same essence/substance. Arius, on the other hand, wanted to add an extra iota, making the word homoiousious: similar essence/substance. At the end of the council, Arius was declared a heretic, and the word homoousious was used.

I brought my mind back to physiology: focus, focus, focus.

Then my mind wandered again, isn't amazing that the same word, homo, should have such huge significance in Church History? And then that very same word is used to describe the amazing way the body works. It's all entertwined, all part of this glorious life here on earth. I love it when my separate classes blend into each other, literature and language, history and science. It's all so, so, so wonderful.

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Simplicity O'er Clutter




Two whole boxes of clothes, OUT of the closet!

And from underneath the bed? Yep, two garbage bags full of stuff. Collecting every scrap and paper for the last 16 years isn't the best recommendation for a clean room. ;-)

It feels so nice to have order and simplicity. It really is freeing.

And! The best part?

There's more room for BOOKS! (Sisters are *not* happy about that, heh).

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There And Back Again

The cool night air slowly enveloped me, the leaves rustled in the distance. Madelaine stopped talking for a moment to ask, "Is it just me or is the sky getting... lighter?"

I looked up. We haven't talked that much, I thought and ignored the sky.

Then the stars started disappearing. We had talked through the night. I still can't believe we did that - but it was so wonderful! When the sun came out, we shared cups of tea, then started the day.

(We paid for it with glossy eyes and not-so-alert dispositions that day, but it was definitely worth it.)

My family had never visited our dear friends before, and so, it was our family road trip/vacation. The days were too short, but the time we spent together was unbelievably sweet and unforgettable. Here are some pictures of our time together...

The original W/SN duo, my best friend and sister, M


Duo number 2

Duo number 3

And there was one more duo, but apparently we didn't catch them on camera. But! Friendship didn't only grow between the individual twosomes, but between our families. Mealtimes were absolutely the best, likewise with the movie-watching.

Working together to make Scottish shortbread

+

= Lykkelig

We spent the day at the river.

Rafting!

Isn't *beautiful*?

Mommy asked me while we made the 8-hour drive back home, "Was it worth it?"

(Due to the weather change, I had a rather horrid break-out of both eczema/arthritis.)

Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES.

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Joy


How is it that we find the greatest sense of joy and peace in the midst of pain and suffering?
Through His grace and tender loving-care.
Praise Him for His sovereignty!

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Shining Reminders

Dark nights and clouds and gloomy fear and dragons often roar
But when the Gospel trump we hear, we’ll press for Canaan’s shore.


Last night, for the first time in five weeks, I went to sleep without any medications, without any open wounds, without any pain. It's been a looong five weeks of eczema, various medicines, doctor/urgent care visits, and pain. But it's over. Thank *God*!

I can't even begin to say how much I've learned (and am learning!) from this experience. Sleepless nights provide plenty of opportunities for tears and prayers (and pain). But through it all, the Lord was always faithful.

There were times when I thought I had reached "the depths of despair", but the Lord reminded me of His goodness through two wonderful young ladies. During one week, each day seemed to bring discouragement after discouragement. I dreaded the mornings, when I had to wake up and face more medicines and eczema pain. To say the least, I was a mess. But one morning, after a hard (and sleepless) night, I talked to my friend Shannon, and she encouraged me *so* much. I was reminded yet again of God's sovereignty in *all* things. A few days later, I was back in a very miserable state, and I opened up my email. Waiting there was a beautiful email from my dear friend Faith, and it just made me cry out of thankfulness. Then I opened her blog, read her sweet post, and I could feel the strength and joy of Christ returning. I had tried to do it on my own, with (lots of!) sinful pride, but as soon as I talked to Shan and Faith, I realized how much I need His grace and help to go on.

Thank you so, so much, Shan and Faith; beyond words, thank you. =) I can't imagine going through these past few weeks without you girls, you helped me remember the joyous truth of life and reminded me of God's strength when I was trying to do it on my own. You girls are amazing. I love you two!

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Time Stands Still

“The fireworks will start in five minutes, Juliet!”

His infectious smile beams up at me, and my little brother dashes back to his seat. From my lap, my youngest brother opens his eyes, heavy with sleep.

“Will they be loud?”

“Probably, but don’t worry, I’m here.”

He curls up firmly in a ball under my aunt’s jacket. The waves below crash and break, I look up at the stars. Nautical twilight. Brilliant and beautiful, marred only by the passing clouds.

I tell my little one the story of Gogmagog the giant, Geoffrey of Monmouth was my constant companion that whole day.

“And then! He challenged Gogmagog to a wrestling match!”

My voice leaps with excitement, he raises an eyebrow.

“You like this story, don’t you?”

I laugh and continue with the story. He tucks his head on my shoulder. Two seconds later, he moves his head to my other shoulder. Then back again. He sighs with exhaustion and content.
A resounding BOOM, and the fireworks begin. The huge expanse of the clear sky fills with dancing lights. My little one holds his hands to his ears and complains that it’s too loud. His sleepy mouth slurs the words together.

“Tooloud. Tooloud!”

I press my hands to his ears, and he rests again. A few seconds later.

“It’s like,” he pauses for a huge yawn, “popcorn. Too loud.”

I try hard not to laugh. “Popcorn?”

“Yeah, you know, pop! Pop! POP! But popcorn shouldn’t,” yawn, “it shouldn’t be wif the stars in the sky. It stays in the microwave.”

I assure him, the fireworks continue o’erhead.

“Just like popcorn, MA, yep.”

He raises his head again, “That’s a lot of popcorn, Juliet. A *lot* of popcorn.”

Laughing now, I just smile at him. A few minutes later, his heavy head drops onto my shoulder. Fast asleep. And the popcorn-sounding fireworks continue, brilliant displays of mischievous lights. It’s Gandalf... The glittering gold fairies gently descend the summer sky. All child play, and I love it. In perfect time, the grand finale bursts through the smoke screen now hovering above the ocean. We all cheer and clap, my sisters and I scream as loud as possible. So much fun. Then, everyone starts moving. Packing up after a long holiday at the beach, the people fill the sidewalks.

I’m sitting in the middle of it all, with a sleeping child on my lap, his head nestled on my shoulder. I lean my head back. The ocean breeze chases the smoke of the fireworks away with excitement, unveiling the stately stars. Arc to Arcturus, speed on to Spica, and vector to Vega. I slowly begin to recognize the timeless patterns in the sky, completely lost in my concentration. It’s almost like Life in Slow Motion. My mind slowly recognizes the Summer Triangle, people rush by, all around me. Movement, talk, pressing on. And I stay still. Time stands still, and the stars proclaim heavenly beauty and love.

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S'wonderful...

My little brother tugged my hand, “Let’s go upstairs! Upstairs!”

I followed him, but the newly filled used bookshelves caught my eye. 25 cents for a paperback, 50 for hardcovers, you can’t find a better price. Title by title passed by roving eye. No, I’m not interested in learning science of love, or how to find the perfect couch, or the phrenology of apes. By the time I had reached the last bookshelf, I had a difficult time trying to keep my laughter silent. Then two books, side by side, arrested my attention.

Hardcovers, brand new condition.

I could smell the newness, the pages felt crisp, clean between my excited fingers.

And the titles?

John Montgomery Boice/Philip Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace, a crème hardcover, it *felt * good. And John Julius Norwich’s Shakespeare’s Kings, with a Medieval picture of Edward the II on the dustcover.

I went, well rather bounced, up the two flights of stairs to the children’s section. Narrowly missing some innocent children in my enthusiasm.

“Daddy! Daddy!”

The librarian at the desk just looked up and smiled recognition at me, she probably has built an immunity to my book-joys, along with the other librarians. I found Daddy sitting down, answering MichaelAngelo’s billionth question about the origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His glance at me was one of relief, “Found anything?”

Jubilant words tumbled out, instead of trying to understand me, Daddy wisely just took the books from my open hand and inspected them. He had a big smile, “Good books.” I was looking more for a, “Here’s a dollar.” So, I waited for a few seconds, and Daddy told me that he didn’t have any cash on him. Not even one dollar (the cost for both books).

I rechecked my pockets. Of course, nothing but my Pocket History of the Church: a treasure unto itself… but still, not a dollar.

Daddy flipped through the pages of The Doctrines of Grace. And we grinned at each other.

From the middle of the book, a dollar tumbled out. Just the right amount for both books.

Now, they are both at my bedside, beautiful books. :) S’wonderful...

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Because Life Doesn't Slow Down

I've lost count on how many times I have told myself, "After [insert event] happens, I'll start blogging again." So, here's a picture summary of the month of June.

Schola Summer Academy 2008

Four days with the most amazing group in the world, Schola people :)
Church History, poetry, dancing, music, and lots and *lots* of laughter.



Schola Great Books Class of 2008

Four years of online-classes together, and now we all meet in *person*. And it's an experience that defies words. The Summer Academy ended, but our GB-IV group drove 10 hours together down to the wonderful state of Texas. We had a few more days of absolutely wonderful time together. We invaded Wal-Mart, went ice-skating, danced (everything from jazz routines , fairy reels, and cha-cha!). And star-gazing... so many memories, I couldn't possibly write them all down.

In short, some of the best days of my life.
I miss them all, a *lot*.

Some of the best people in then *entire* world, my adopted sisters and brothers :-D


Back at home, family visits took over the schedule.




And then! Another very good online friend, Joy, came down and spent the week here. Again, an absolutely amazing time. We adopted her - can't you see the family resemblance? ;-)


We miss you, Joy. =)

Also within the same week, we had our end of the year recital with our piano/voice teacher. In a program of around 15 students, 6 of them were SNs. 'Twas fun.

After the recital

I spent the rest of the month reading, constantly looking back at the numerous pictures from OK/TX/Joy's visit, and actually (gasp!) talking on the phone to very dear friends. I miss them all; the transition from smiling faces to typed words isn't all that easy, but I'm ever so thankful for both.

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A Time for Everything


Last Saturday, we went to a beautiful wedding. It was held outside, the sun shone brilliantly on the flowers and trees around us. And it glorified God.

Thursday, we heard the tragic news that our pastor's wife had died. We did not expect it, at all, and we mourned the loss. We grieved with our church family, with my dear pastor, and together we prepared for the funeral. There were - are- tears, many tears, but smiles when we thought of her glorious state now.

And today, I played the piano at her funeral service. We cried inside the church, the rain fell gently around us. And it glorified God.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.


2 Corinthians 4:17-18


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Questions, Questions, and well, more Questions


Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we're here to learn... to know the greater truth

On Monday, my younger brother and I spent all day at the Cal State Fullerton library. My canvas bag was full of books, and a notebook. My two main goals were to revel in my philosophy book, which has been neglected of late, and also to submerge myself in literature. I forgot how much the two go hand in hand.

My stack of books included (among many) Shakespeare's Comedies, Plutarch's Lives, Annie Dillard's The Living, and an adorable hardcover edition of AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh. I started from the beginning of my philosophy book. Delved in with joy - how do we know what we know? how much objectivity can we place in music?

I finished up the first 3 chapters with lots of questions then moved on to Shakespeare's Measure By Measure. Pencilled questions filled up my notebook. Following the plot, analyzing the individual characters, etc. Then suddenly I realized how wonderful it is to simply ask questions. Every new book, every chapter I opened up to, brought along new questions. Some more important than others.

This is one of my favorite parts about studying philosophy. Finding a question, struggling and wrestling with it, then finding (or not finding!) different potential answers. Tracing the question through the characters in books, every day statements. And it just leads to more questions!

CS Lewis said, “As one’s eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in the [world], and it excites wonder” (Reflections on the Psalms). And that's what good questions do, they open our eyes to the world, and they give us wonder. :)

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Death Be Not Proud

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne


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Morning Bread




Eight loaves of fresh bread and morning sunshine ...


Mommy said it reminded her of France...

It was lovely.















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Sunshine and Flowers

After three days of gloomy clouds, it's nice to go and out and see the sun again. :)


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Finding Joy

I had a pile of homework. Math homework. No more literature classes, no more language classes, no science, just math. And lots of it. Smiles weren't all that abundant, and I sat on my bed rather drearily marking numbers.

Giggles and smiles entered the room, in the form of my two younger sisters. They talked so fast I could hardly understand them. Jasmine had earned four free tickets to American Idol for today, a live showing, and they were both super-excited. I smiled. I was happy for them. I helped them safety pin their pants, sweaters, dresses. We were all smiling now. I took a picture of them, with their sign (no idea how they plan to get that past security). Then, they left. The house was oddly quiet.

I sat down on my bed again, looked at the stack of homework. And I was happy. Not for my math, that's for sure, but for my sisters. Their joy had seeped in and overwhelmed my (silly) moodiness.

Sometimes, many times, we can find our joy simply by looking at the joys of others. It's so infectious, even if we don't realize it. God's blessings are simply so abundant, even when we think we're in a bad spot, just look around, and we'll see sunshine and smiles. We can find our joy in the joy of others. :)

Younger Sisters and their sign

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Glimpses of Beauty



First when we see them painted, things we have passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
And so they are better, painted--better to us,
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out.

- Robert Browning, Fra Lippo Lippi -

One of the many reasons I love photography. A chance to see the world in an entirely different perspective, through the lens of a (hopeful) artist, a poet. Sometimes you forget yourself, many times you forget yourself, standing behind the camera. All you notice is the contrast of colors, the interplay of light and shadow, shining beauty poised from above.


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