First Sight

Jacques Lil Chair

Where to sit? The auditorium held over a thousand people and was still filling up. My friends and I wandered through the rows of seats, glancing around at the stage and the exit lights, weighing up the pros and cons of each section. Too close to the speakers, too far from the loos, too strange a position for my neck.

We figured off to the side of the stage was still close but not ostentatious. I sat on the aisle, about eight rows from the stage, at least six seats away from Joel. Six seats away from him was his wife Tracey. In a crowded room it was beyond talking distance. I stared blindly at my phone for a moment or two, but remembered that this was South Africa, and I didn’t have any service here.

Swivelling in my seat with the thought of being social, there were a group of guys sitting in the row behind me. I introduced myself and the strawberry blonde guy immediately stood out as the loud one, exclaiming over my Aussie accent. The guys and I quickly got chatting, about crop tops, of all things and a couple of my friends from Australia joined us. They were all really friendly, but one guy stood out for some reason. Maybe it’s because he was a little more reserved. Maybe it was because he had dark features and olive skin (hey, we all have a type), but somehow my subconscious flagged him.

Jacques. Last name too hard to pronounce (and immediately forgotten).

God reminded me of his name in the middle of the worship that followed. You see, that morning as I’d been praying God had given me three prophetic words. After telling me who the first two words were for, I asked, “Who is the last one for?” God said, “You’ll meet them this week.” As I was singing he told me, “It’s for the guy in the seat behind you, Jacques.”

Little did I know that when I shared that prophetic word with him, God was also adding another bit that I would not be informed of for at least another year: Oh by the way, this girl is your future wife.

I was coming to the end of what was possibly the worst year of my life. I had moved a few times in my 22 years, but this was the first time I had done it indefinitely. God had swept away my plans of being an Au Pair nanny in Europe for a ‘gap year’ after my uni degree and had told me to go to Werribee, or as the people in my home town call it, ‘the poo farm’ (it is known there as the home of a sewage plant).

Moving up to Melbourne, I had found a job quickly, but was barely making enough money as a casual to get by, and Mum and Dad had not been able to support me. I had moved house 5 times already that year, with another move scheduled for the week following my return from South Africa. I had broken up with a guy in May and felt like I was saying goodbye to my last hope at finding love. There were barely any single people at my church. I was surrounded by married couples and young families that I had to fight hard not to be jealous of. I thought it would be another 10 years before any other guy would look my way, but God was doing a big work in my heart. The most painful work to date. And he showed me that I needed to allow him to if I wanted to stop going round the mountain. At long last, I did.

At the same Christian conference in Melbourne called AusEquip that God had told me to move to Werribee for a local church there, he had also showed me that I had to be at the World Equip in Johannesburg 10 months later. For the first time in my ever, I truly submitted my whole life and will to Jesus. I said, “I’m yours. Wherever you lead me, I’ll go.” So I cancelled all my plans and my only goal for almost a year was this conference.

The day I booked my flight (having had to borrow some of the money from my parents) the booking company called me an hour after I received ‘confirmation’ that they had somehow lost my seat on the flight. Having not had the best couple of months, I was raging, to put it mildly. I was scared of being left in a foreign country by myself but was a little placated when I realised the return flight that I had been re-booked on was the same as a family that I’m friends with, the Kay-Hards.

I was more than a little upset and I said to God, “Okay, this has obviously happened for a reason. Something good better happen on that extra day that I’m staying there.”

That something good was my first proper date with my future husband, the 19-year-old young man who had sat in the seat behind me, who God had asked me to prophecy over before we even met. It wouldn’t be 10 years for another guy to notice me, but 5 months. Oh how glad I am now that I obeyed God in that moment months before the conference, when I had no idea how long I was going to have to wait.

Has it all been smooth sailing? Ask Jacques. He’ll tell you no. Just like I told him for the first nine months. He had to ask four times even just to get a group date out of me. I put him though some tests, curious about whether he was interested in me, or in just having a little romance at a conference filled with so many young single girls.

When I came back to Australia and first told my dad about him, Dad said, “If he’s the right one, he’ll be unstoppable.” Jacques has been the definition of that, pursuing me single-mindedly for two years now.

I finally said yes, and even though I thought my wish list for a husband was big, God has given me far more in Jacques than I ever dared to ask, or even hope for. One day in the car a few months back as I was driving to work the song Good, Good Father came on and I just started bawling my eyes out, realising how generous God has been with me.

And he wants to be that generous with you too.

But he doesn’t need your help in supplying you a spouse.

“There aren’t many guys at your church.”

“You’ve just got to put yourself out there more.”

“Maybe you should move to an area/church with at least some potential husbands/wives.”

“How does hanging out with all these young families help you?”

“When you finally stop looking and are content to just be single, then you’ll find the one.”

These ideas are often frustrating and sometimes tempting to buy into in those lonely moments, but what does that say about our faith?

At the end of the day my heart would always ask:

How many guys do I need? A whole crowd of them, or just one?

How big is my God again? Oh wait, He holds the entire universe in his hand. Is the same God who spoke galaxies into being not powerful enough to bring me one man? Do I have to help him out because he’s tired, forgetful, or just struggling to get it all done?

Lift your eyes again, or for the first time, to the one who has promised to be faithful, to never leave you, to always work for your good. If you let go of striving for things like a spouse, he is not going to leave you hanging. Not this good, good Father of ours.

“So do not worry about your life, what you will eat … what you will wear, [who you will marry] … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:25,33

If anyone reading this would like to share their story or struggle with me, please feel free to contact me in a comment below. I’d love to pray with you.

Sincerely
Lil

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The Man of Peace

Ever heard people talk about inner peace, or finding their bliss? To some people this sounds cool; to others it might sound like a load of new age mumbo jumbo. People try self-help books, crash diets, inspirational seminars, meditating, various religions and practices. The question is why does none of it last?

The reason is that peace is not a feeling to conjure up, or a philosophy to follow. Peace is a person.

The person of Jesus Christ.

“For he himself is our peace.”
– Ephesians 2:14-18

His title, one of many, is the Prince of Peace. My pastor often quotes the saying, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.” If the peace you experience doesn’t really seem to last, it is because it’s like separating a coal from a fireplace and throwing it out onto the concrete hearth. Slowly it cools, leaving you wondering why you now feel cold and alone. And where you can get your next fix.

Jesus is the fire.

You can find lasting peace in Jesus because he is in control of everything and unchanging. The man spoken about in the bible died but he rose again and is still alive and well today, and he hasn’t updated himself to keep up with the times. Remember that song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”? It is as true today as when God created the universe “through, and for and by” Jesus (Col 1:16). The same passage says, “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Consider the fact that the only thing holding all your atoms together, or all the droplets of water in the world’s biggest ocean, is Jesus. So when he says he doesn’t change, we can trust it.

God has always been a God of peace, and Jesus is the “exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
– Isaiah 9:6

The bible makes it clear that God’s peace through Jesus is available to us through faith in him. Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace comes from knowing that once you believe in Jesus and ask him to come into your life that all of your striving can cease. How many of us actually take that on board? Sometimes I feel like I should have it as a poster on my wall. “Hey Lil, now that Jesus is here all of your striving can cease.”

Religion says, “Try really hard your whole life and maybe, just maybe, you might be good enough to scrape into heaven as a servant in the back shed at the end of it all.” God says, “As soon as you believe in my Son I adopt you into my family. You are a child of God, seated in heavenly places and co-heirs with Christ. Forget the back shed, I am preparing a bedroom for you inside my house. Because Jesus already paid what you couldn’t pay, you now have access to forgiveness and a restored relationship with me. All you have to do is believe, repent and receive.”

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Romans 5:1

What a relief. Our eternity doesn’t depend on us. Religion makes it about us, but God makes it about Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

In Matthew 3 when the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and lands on Jesus after his baptism, we learn something else about God’s character.  It was recently pointed out by our pastor Russ that a dove won’t land on someone who is moving around or panicking. It will land on a still and peaceful person. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is talking about the peace that comes from trusting that God is in control and is working for our good.

One of the ways people will be able to recognise us as children of God is our peacefulness, even in difficult situations or tragedy. As one example, Paul and Silas were singing worship songs to God while in prison (Acts 16). As another, in 1873 when a man named Horatio G. Spafford wrote the famous hymn It is Well With My Soul, it was right after his four daughters had just died in a shipwreck.

Jesus can bring peace to a troubled and anxious mind. In the gospels he delivers many people tormented by demons.

“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 14:27

Peace to relationships in turmoil.
The most obvious being the human race separated from God by our sin, but Jesus’ blood paid the price to restore shalom, peace, to that relationship too. God also has the power to restore marriages and bring estranged families back together. He can bring relationships back into harmony and he wants to partner with us to do it.

Rom 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Peace in the midst of illness.

God allowed Satan to take Job’s wealth, children and health from him in a very short space of time to test his heart. Job’s faith in God was real, because his response was not filled with curses and anger, but submission and trust.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” – Job 1:21

Peace during financial insecurity.

Is 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

I will leave you with this one last scripture.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Further scriptures about peace:
Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Is 55:12 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

Isaiah 57:2 “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

Zech 8:19 “Love truth and peace.”

Zech 9:10 “He will proclaim peace to the nations.”

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). While a gift is given in an instant, fruit is grown over months of sun, watering and tending.

Col 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

 

Sources:
http://staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul, sourced 14 October 2017.

All bible verses are from the NIV translation.

What’s in a choice?

 

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll

I see this quote pop up on the TV screen every time I go to the gym and it gets me thinking. There are a million things in this world that I can’t control, but one that I always can: my attitude. In management we always say that the one thing we are not equipped to change is attitude. If you bring the will, we can train the skill.

Human nature says that it is easier to cast blame than to take responsibility. It is easier to blame our past, our circumstance, our lack of resources or time, or even the people around us for our lack of happiness or success.

In this video about white privilege, we see how two people can come from the same tough background and end up with two very different lives years later, because of the way they chose to react.

Working in female-dominated retail environments for the past 8 years, I’ve definitely heard kids and husbands blamed for a thing or two. We can blame our other halves for why we don’t do the things we dream of, then 10+ years down the track hate them for it, even though they didn’t necessarily stop us. We can blame our kids for the fact that we have no money, or energy, or aren’t able to travel. We can blame our teachers for our bad marks, the fact that we can’t afford a gym membership for our lack of fitness. Our kids for our body. The list is endless.

We can say that we just don’t have time for ____*insert dream here*____. As one of my friends pointed out recently, “Who doesn’t have five minutes a day to spend pursuing their dream?” That was so profound to me because yes, maybe you don’t have six hours a day to devote to your goal, but it’s a lie to say that you don’t have five minutes.

Life is all about choices. Every day we make plenty of them, and those choices make us who we are. The choice between right or wrong, hard work or laziness, negativity or positivity, love or hate, the choice to pursue or just give up, to grow or stagnate.

Take exercise as an example. Although it has obvious physical elements, it is at its core a mental game. You don’t find the mentally weak at the Olympics. Well, at least not competing. Training to be a professional athlete is waking up every morning and choosing to exercise and eat and rest the way you need in order to reach your goal. Fitness is so difficult to build up and so quick and easy to lose. If we’re not moving forward we usually start moving backwards.

A lot of people seem to be discontent but not doing anything about it. One of my friends always says, “Don’t like your life? Change it.” While there are some things we can’t change, there are a lot that we can.

Pursuing a dream takes discipline—a word that’s not very popular these days. It has been replaced by the word convenience, a god with a widespread following in the Western world. If it’s not easy, why even bother?

However, consider this statement: nothing truly worthwhile in life comes instantly or without effort. Getting a degree, having a satisfying career, maintaining a vibrant marriage, building healthy friendships, raising kind and considerate children, discovering a cure for a disease. These things are hard; they require time, commitment, focus and perseverance. But who could say that they have no value?

So like I’ve been saying this whole time, it comes down to a choice. Do you want to accomplish something easy, or valuable?

Sincerely
Lil

Sources (accessed 5 September 2017):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz27XVrPi_I
Image: http://allsystemsgrow.co/blog/P136020598

11 Common Writing Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Old vintage typewriter

Below are some common things I’ve come across in people’s writing that can really slow it down. We’ve probably all made these mistakes and this is not an article to judge, merely a tool to help people communicate more effectively through the written word. It is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope that it is in some way helpful.

  1. Waffling 

    Using filler words means you’re writing without really saying anything. We need to say more in less words. One of my university professors said that each word needs to fight for a place on the page. Can it defend its spot? If not, you should axe it. To practice keeping it short and sharp, do some sentence condensing exercises. You could either Google some or find a crazy-long sentence in your own work and try to halve the word limit without losing any of the meaning (you can change the actual words and sentence construction as much as you like).

 

  1. Vague writing 

    One of the first questions I ask the students that I tutor is: Do you ever use words in your essays that you don’t know the meaning of? If the answer is yes, you need to break that habit right now. Using fancy-sounding words or big sentences just to sound smart actually has the opposite effect. A good writer is clear and concise—don’t make the reader work hard for no reason. Don’t be mysterious in lieu of an actual plot. Don’t be vague to compensate for the fact that you don’t know your content well enough. Suspense has to be building towards something and your writing has to say something.

 

  1. Incomplete sentences

Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate. Without these two things you have a phrase, or a fragment.

For example: “The horse jumped over the fence,” is a sentence while, “Then jumped over the fence,” is a fragment.

The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about; the predicate tells something about the subject. The best question to ask yourself if you’re unsure if it is a sentence is: can it stand alone?

 

  1. Slipping between tenses and perspectives 

    If you start off with “she said” and end up with “I say” you have committed both a tense change and perspective change. If you are going to change either during your writing, make sure that it is for a reason, and to have an effect on the story. Consistency is key and you can’t just cut back and forth from one to the other at random. If it doesn’t have a point, pick a tense and perspective and stick with them. As with a lot of writing mistakes, the remedy for this is attentive proof reading (spellcheck is not advanced enough to pick that up).

 

  1. Incorrect spelling

This one is pretty simple. We have dictionaries, autocorrect and spellcheck. Spelling things correctly should be easy to get right. The best way to spell correctly in the first place is to read like a librarian (I assume they read a ton). Beware of homophones (words that sound similar/the same but have different meanings and/or spellings). Common ones are: right and wright, lead/led, seam/seem and my personal favourite … there/their/they’re.

 

  1. Confusing similar words

    People commonly misspell words that are similar, or use the wrong word when two words (like ‘then’ and ‘than’) seem similar. If you know either the meaning of the word or type of word they are, it is easy to logically figure out which one to use where. For example, ‘then’ is measuring time while ‘than’ is comparing size. Other common pairs of words to mix up are ‘brought’ and ‘bought’, as well as ‘its’ and ‘it’s’.

 

  1. Repetition 

    Over-explaining is a big trap to fall into when writing. We think we need to flesh a paragraph out so we repeat ourselves, not to any purpose, but because we’ve got nothing else to say. Repetition can be used very effectively but if it is not intentional it can easily make your writing appear clumsy, or like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

 

  1. Grammar mistakes 

    Grammar mistakes are everywhere—nowhere funnier than a business’s billboard where the mistake changes the meaning of the words. You’ve probably all had a teacher tell you that grammar can save lives and then use the example of the two following similar sentences, differing only by one comma.

Let’s eat, Grandma!
Let’s eat Grandma! (the cannibal version)

A few very common grammar mistakes:
-Comma splices (a comma is not strong enough to link two different ideas without a ‘joining’ word—you should instead use a semi-colon or just split it into two sentences with a full stop)
-Unnecessary commas and apostrophes (i.e. a plural does not need an apostrophe)
-Punctuation on the outside of quotation marks
-Using quotation marks to add emphasis

  1. Telling rather than showing 

    How many times has your teacher emphasised, “Show, don’t tell!”? It is so stressed by teachers because it is rife throughout writing. Why keep readers out of the action with second hand accounts of stories? You are writing so that you can place them smack bang in the middle of the scene. Showing is the best way to make readers feel engaged and want to keep reading. They don’t like being kept at arm’s length.

 

  1. Active vs. passive 

    Explained simply, active voice is when the subject of a sentence performs the action, as opposed to passive voice when the action happens to the subject. Take these two similar sentences.

Passive: The car was driven by Sally yesterday and a fence was crashed into.

Active: Yesterday Sally drove her car and crashed into a fence.

Which one flows faster and is more exciting? While there are times when passive writing is appropriate, active is generally more exciting, involving and fast-paced. Are you keen for your writing to be all of these things?

 

  1. Abstract vs. Concrete

Abstract language confuses the reader while concrete language paints a vivid mental picture. Take the words ‘love’ and ‘table’. I help my students define abstract versus concrete by asking things like, “Can you sit on it? Can you pick it up? Can you throw it at your classmate?” If the answer is no, then you are most likely using abstract language. Consider these two sentences.

In many cases the authorities that be consider it highly advantageous to know the outcomes of predicted studies, therefore it is recommended with high probability that we study the content with vigour.

Yesterday as I walked across my living room floor I tripped over the pink rag rug and got carpet burn on my knee, ripping a hole in my light blue jeans.

Which one is easier to visualise?

 

That’s it from me today. There are many things that can improve your writing but I hope these 11 keys helped. Keep practising and I’m sure you will see improvement!

Sincerely
Lil

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References (sourced 30 August 2017)

Image (sourced 3 September 2017): https://www.writing.com/

https://www.google.com.au/search?rlz=1C1AVNE_enUS613US613&q=subject+and+a+predicate&oq=subject+and+a+predicate&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i22i30k1l2.126201.129086.0.129877.15.12.0.0.0.0.353.1659.0j1j2j3.6.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..10.5.1455…35i39k1.9Nx8e7Ovkwc

https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/most-common-writing-mistakes/

https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/11-common-writing-mistakes-to-avoid.html

http://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/writing.html

http://www.albany.edu/eas/104/topten.htm

What Holly Found There (creative)

[This is a story I wrote for a literature class during my final year at university where we were commissioned to write fan fiction blending two texts we’d studied. I picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Alice in Wonderland where Holly Golightly goes to Wonderland.]

30 September 2014

Matter Hatters Tea Party

It was nothing at all like Tiffany’s. I shuffled forward a few feet on my hands and knees, waiting for the world to clear. Clunk went my head. Oh, golly gee damn! Not again. I grabbed the painted leg of a wooden table.
“A butt! A butt!” exclaimed an excited voice.
Where? I stuck my head out from underneath the white table cloth and saw four people sitting up to tea.
“A head! A head!” squawked an odd-looking hare in a vest and bow-tie.
“Oh, Holly, it’s you,” said Fred, adjusting his hat. He definitely looked more at home in this world now.
“Holly? Holly, Molly, golly, folly, dolly . . .” said the hare, staring into the sky.
“Freddie!” I said and launched myself at him ecstatically. I knocked the hat askew with the tag saying 10/6 on it.
“There’s no Freddie here,” said a young girl indignantly who had stayed quiet all the while. “And who are you?” I knew I hadn’t liked the look of her.
I straightened my shoulders. “My name is Holly Golightly, travelling. Sister of Fred the Hatter and general favourite. The question is who are you?”
“Oh, I’m Alice. I’m just a harmless little girl.” She looked about herself nervously.
Sure you are, I thought. I turned to the March Hare who was jabbering away and said, “Don’t you remember me? I visited Freddie—the Hatter—here some time ago. When he had just arrived.”
“. . . Polly, trolley, lolly . . .”
“Oh, March Hare, do shut up!” snapped a little mouse with very large ears who barely reached the hare’s shoulder. He glanced my way somewhat darkly—“Hi, Holly”—and continued. “I want to finish my story!”
“No one cares about your story,” said Hatter Freddie with a careless wave of his hand. “Holly, deary, it’s lovely to see you, to be sure, but you are late.”
“What time is it, brother?” I inquired politely, wiggling my nose slightly.
“Six o’clock!” proclaimed the March Hare, as he looked up from poking the Dormouse, who was drifting off to sleep again.
“Then six o’clock is the time I told you.” I winced inwardly. “And so here I am.”
“Just so!” cried Freddie with a large-toothed grin, always pliable. His head was ever so large, in keeping with his teeth, but every now and again I looked at him and got to wondering how his head didn’t fall right off. But you see, that was the magic talking again.
“But it’s always six o’clock—” This so-called Alice began to protest.
“Be a dear and make yourself useful,” I talked over her. “Fix me a cup of tea, will you?” The others turned to look at her, so she had no opportunity to refuse, which was my intention. The Dormouse, wakening suddenly, invited me to please take a seat, so I did. Although I took care to sit on the other side of my brother.
Patting my gloved hand, he said, “How’s that world of yours?”
“Just fine, but not the same without you.” Glancing in Alice’s direction, I added, “And a cigarette, please.”
“A cigarette! Why, I’m just a little girl.”
Say that one more time. “Never mind then.”
Fred’s smile faded. “Now, you haven’t a new hatter, have you? A new Fred?”
I thought of my friend. My other Fred. Our late night conversations. The patched up injuries in the bath. Then I looked at Fred’s rosy-cheeked face. Gently crossing the fingers of my hand under the table I said, “Never.” And in a way it was true. Fred. Sally. Sid. Doc. Rusty. They were all the same. They were all ‘darling’. They were all Fred. A sip, a sniff, a puff, and I could escape to my true heart.
Wonderland. Utopia. Neverland. Different people called it different things. I’d come here today because of a particularly bad case of the mean reds. It was a Sunday afternoon and Tiffany’s was closed.
I focussed back in to the conversation, where Alice was trying (and failing) to guess a riddle the others had posed.
“I give it up,” said Alice. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Fred replied.
“Nor I,” agreed the March Hare and laughed deliriously to himself.
“I don’t like things that don’t make sense!” said Alice. “Nothing here does. I think you might do something better with your time than wasting it.” Ignorant girl. Time was a he. Everyone knew that.
“Such a long time since I’ve seen Time,” I said dreamily, because I knew it would irritate Alice. “I wonder what he’s up to?”
“This is all very infuriating,” said Alice, seeming proud to have used such a big word. Bravo.
“You,” I pinned her to her chair with a stare, “are very infuriating. Nonsense. Time standing still. These are just the facts of life. Sometimes he gets tired. A raven is like a writing desk is like a staircase is like a tea cup full of imagination and a hard kick up the backside. From Life.”
She gazed at me in terror, no doubt wondering if I really meant Life, or someone else altogether. I kept her guessing. The mean reds were making me mean today. Would Freddie be disappointed in me?
“Back to my story,” declared the Dormouse, and the others turned their attention away from me.
I touched the table cloth. This wasn’t on the table when I was here last time. The myriad stains reminded me of just how darn long I’d been away. A girl has to earn a living, after all. And magic wasn’t cheap. The trees had grown considerably, in both height and breadth, for of course a year in Wonderland is like a moment for the rest of us. More tea cups were dirty this time. And of course, the girl was a new addition. By the looks of it, she had only just arrived. Only someone who didn’t understand talked like that.
But the flowers, the way the breeze felt against my cheek, my dear brother’s hat. These were all the same, and so deliciously familiar. Such a comfort. Like running my hand along a freshly wiped glass counter at Tiffany’s and gazing at the diamonds through the reflection of my pearls. The shop was almost too dark to see sometimes with my glasses. They really ought to turn the lights up. The other four were all talking amiably at the table now. Freddie and the March Hare were busy entertaining Alice, and not really listening to the story of the Dormouse, who was nodding off to sleep again. I felt a pang as Freddie chuckled at something Alice said. Looking at her odd shaped blue dress and white apron, she seemed so strange to me. And that neck! I’d never seen one quite like it, on a human. Like someone had stretched it out with their hands. And maybe someone had.
I watched a green and red leaf as it fluttered down from a tree above, landing softly on my saucer, the stem touching the tablecloth, which was blurring at the edges. The others continued talking until a substantial piece of sky crashed down on to the middle of the table, breaking most of the china. Curiouser and curiouser, or so says the local slang. A tree fell to the ground with a mighty thud and my right hand disappeared. In a few moments everything was shaking.
Oh, dear. It appeared to be crumbling. The magic must be wearing off. “So soon?” I whispered. “Goodbye, my heart.”
“Holly, you’re leaving?” My brother’s distressed voice grew fainter and fainter. “It’s not long enough! Time said he would give us more.” Freddie began to cry, sobbing uproariously as the world continued to crumble. “Come back! He said you could stay longer this time. He promised . . .”
I heard the Dormouse’s low voice through Alice’s screams as he woke up again. “I say, is the world really falling down about our ears, or am I mad?”
The March Hare shrugged, taking a sip from his empty tea cup. “We’re all mad here.”

Sincerely
Lil

Image: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/tenniel/alice/7.1.html, accessed 27 August 2017.

 

 

10 clean books for girls starting high school

Diary of a teenage girl series

  1. Diary of a Teenage Girl series
    Author: Melody Carlson

    This is one that can really be read any time during high school because it follows the main character Caitlin O’Connor through the struggles and triumphs of her teenage years. The diary format sucks you in immediately and keeps your attention, like when your best friend comes up to you bursting with a story and their first words are, “You will not believe what just happened…!” This series is about finding true faith in God for yourself, and not just going through the motions of church or being a ‘good girl’. Carlson uses a diary to be quite frank with the reader and I found that it helped give me some perspective as it covers most of the common issues that teens either go through, or witness in their friends’/classmates’ lives (including family conflict, crushes/dating, teen pregnancy, friendship changes, puberty, faith, mental health and eating disorders). I often came away from reading this feeling convicted to address certain areas in my life and really connected with Caitlin because of how relatable she is.

 

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pride-prejudice-book

  1. Pride and Prejudice
    Author: Jane Austen

**BIAS ALERT**
This one had to make it into one of my book lists sometime. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now. I’ll never forget telling one of my guy friends that Jane Austen was my favourite author and his reply was, “Oh cool. She wrote the Twilight series, right?” He was being totally serious, bless him. Pride and Prejudice I have read five times and counting. This book is the bomb. Love, betrayal, friendship, family relationships, drama, humour—it’s got it all. Elizabeth Bennet is such a quirky, strong, kind character who doesn’t let 19th century etiquette rules stop her from standing up for herself and speaking her mind. The best thing about Jane Austen’s writing is that someone can be getting totally insulted but not even realise because the person has phrased it sounding like a compliment. A lot of people write off Jane Austen as just a lady who used a pseudonym to write a bunch of sappy romance novels, but what stands out most to me is her witty social commentary, peeling back the layers of Regency England.

 

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hawk and jewel

  1. The Hawk and the Jewel
    Author: Lori Wick

This one we bought for a dollar at our school’s fair before it sat on the coffee table unopened for months—until my sister picked it up and then we didn’t hear from her for two days straight, and then she told us we all had to read it. It may not quite a classic but if you like historical novels (can you tell that I do?) with fascinating family, social and cultural dynamics, then this will interest you. The Hawk and the Jewel is the first in a four book series but in my opinion is by far the best. It depicts the story of a girl who thinks she is an Arabian princess until she travels to England to discover a family she never knew she had.

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number the stars

  1. Number the Stars
    Author: Lois Lowry

This book really tugs at the heart strings. It is an amazing fictional work of something that could have happened during World War II, and likely did happen, hundreds of times in a hundred different scenarios—fill in the details yourself. Ten year old Annemarie is best friends with Ellen, a Danish Jew, in Copenhagen in 1943. She is given the opportunity to save Ellen’s life, but it may cost her own. This is a beautiful story of friendship and the strength of the human spirit in times of history’s greatest turmoil.

 

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hunger-games-trilogy-cover-logos

  1. The Hunger Games series
    Author: Suzanne Collins

This one features a bit of violence, with some more hectic themes, but Katniss really comes alive as she struggles against a system in a futurist America that is stacked against her in every way. Most people have probably seen the movie but as someone who read the book afterwards, it is still worth it. Because the threat of the evil ‘Capitol’ restricts what Katniss can say without fear of being killed, the movie can’t give you all her inner monologue and struggle which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the novel. The series also highlights the dangers of where Western society is headed by being desensitised to violence.

 

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little-women-book

  1. Little Women
    Author: Louisa May Alcott

Another all-time favourite, among the March sisters everyone can find someone to relate to. It shows sisterly relationships and what it’s like to grow up in a house full of females. Little Women is a classic for a reason, showing the girls grow up, navigate love and relationships in a world that has the ripple effect of war stamped all over it. It deals with themes of class, wealth, gender expectations, dreams and male/female barriers of the time period.
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Sisterhood_of_the_traveling_pants

  1. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
    Author: Ann Brashares

From Bethesda, to Mexico, to North Carolina, to Greece, following a pair of magic pants around the world is a really interesting experience. I liked this book because the girls all have such different ways of seeing the world and as you watch their various approaches, your mind is opened and you see the importance of spending time with people who are unlike you. This book is funny and relatable, and was a quick, easy read because it is written in a very conversational tone.
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lion _ a long way hoem

  1. Lion/A Long Way Home (the young readers edition)
    Author: Saroo Brierley

Ever imagined what it would be like to survive alone on the streets of a dangerous city at the age of five? Enter the mind of little lost boy Saroo as he accidentally travels thousands of miles away from his home town and is unable to get back because he doesn’t even know what it is called. This tale of survival and resilience is so compelling that at several points you want to check the front cover again to make sure that it really is a true story. It gave me a snapshot of what some people’s lives are like simply because unlucky things happen to them, and that none of us should underestimate the value of home and family.

 

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bridge to terabithia

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
    Author: Katherine Paterson

I read this novel with my Year 7 classmates (one of whom ruined the ending for me) and remembered it for its purity. It explores innocent friendship and the transforming power of imagination. Jesse’s world is changed when he meets Leslie, and they create a magical land together. Terabithia: a place where they are free to be themselves—isolated from bullies, home’s pressures and anything else they don’t want to think about. This novel for any young person who looks at the world and realises, in one way or another, that is not quite what it should be.
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Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)

  1. Ella Enchanted
    Author: Gail Carson Levine

This novel is very different to the movie version, and definitely worth a read. Full of quotes that you feel like writing out and putting on your bedroom walls, the language is beautiful and shows a separated young couple’s longing for each other. It also shows how Ella responds to difficult circumstances and chooses to overcome with kindness.

 

Hope this list was helpful, now happy reading!

Sincerely
Lil

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Images (all sourced 17 August 2017):
http://booksofthebible.com/p4644.html

https://magicoficecream.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/pride-and-prejudice-book-review/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/389688.The_Hawk_and_the_Jewel

https://www.amazon.com/Number-Stars-Lois-Lowry/dp/0547577095

http://www.thelogofactory.com/logos-of-the-hunger-games/

https://bizarrevictoria.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/bad-little-women-book-covers/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sisterhood_of_the_Traveling_Pants_(film)

http://penguin.co.nz/books/lion-a-long-way-home-young-readers-edition-9780143784760

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/bridge-to-terabithia/author/katherine-paterson/first-edition/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_EnchantedDiary of a teenage girl series

Free to Be Me

happy socsk

Does there always have to be a really good and logical reason for doing things? I mean, sure, buying a house or changing jobs, yes. But how about wearing socks with bananas on them, or putting chopsticks in your hair (although they could come in handy around dinner time)?

I hear a lot of criticism of girls who wear ‘too much’ makeup, particularly from guys. They look so fake. What are they trying to hide? I could write my name in their foundation. I just really like the natural look . . . like Jennifer Hawkins.

The other day my boyfriend asked me why I wear makeup even though I don’t need to. I replied with, “Well, why do you wear Happy Socks? You don’t need to wear them. Socks without bananas on them will keep your feet just as warm. Happy Socks aren’t more comfortable.”

But he uses Happy Socks as a way to express who he is.

I am a girly girl and will go for a ruffle or lace or sparkle any chance I get, even if it means only hand washable. I sometimes wear high heels and sequins that itch and a coat with shoulders tight enough to make it difficult to drive. I wear makeup not primarily to conceal or alter, but to express. The room for creativity in cosmetics is endless—it’s no wonder they call it makeup artistry.

inspire others

Sometimes people say, “Gee, you get excited about little things, don’t you. How is a rainbow or a Kit Kat going to impact your life?” But I say why not get excited, if that’s what you like to do? It’s not hurting anyone; quite the opposite.

Do you know why expressing our individuality makes our souls come alive—why it feels so good to just be who we are? Because we were created in God’s image and our individuality celebrates and showcases his creativity.

Imagine for a moment that in the seven days of creating heaven and earth, God spoke into being only what was practical, only what was functional. No colours, no curves, no smell, no sound. Because what is the point of all these things really? A silent, grey world of straight lines and the inability to ever smell grass after the rain, or even hear rain. Sounds pretty soul crushing to me.

But no.

Thank the Lord—he spoke and galaxies rushed forth from his mouth. All kinds of trees were planted with all kinds of fruit. Birds chirped and rivers gurgled and the sun shone so Adam and Eve could actually see all of this. Animals of different size, pattern and colour were breathed into life, all of them making different sounds. Flowers that ate insects and fish with crazy teeth and headlamps haunting the deep ocean floor.

All of it a form of expression. Creation is made to reflect God and we know that a reflection in a mirror is just a shadow of the real thing. Take one look at creation and say WOW. How good must this God be! How beautiful, how creative, how infinite.

Dr Seuss

So celebrate the diversity that you see in the world, all the eye colours and hair textures and skin tones and fashion choices. We are like a big wooden chest and our individuality like a hoard of treasures that God gives us at the moment of conception that can be pulled out one by one to delight and amaze. Ourselves, people around us, even God.

Use your unique personality, strengths, way of viewing the world . . . to the glory of God. How to make the world a better place 101.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Sincerely
Lil

 

Images (all sourced 7 August 2017)

http://www.tfcoconut.com/2017/01/11/brand-know-happy-socks/

https:///11-dr-seuss-quotes-you-really-understand

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-embracing-individuality-really-means-a-m-morgan

 

Then Comes Marriage

When someone begins the phrase “marriage is…” do you think they are more likely to end with “great” or “hard”? Does some version of, “Enjoy it now, because once that ring’s on the finger it’s all downhill from there” sound familiar?

Now you probably think I’m referring to non-Christians. Although I have heard this phrase many times from non-Christians, I am also speaking about Christians. Shouldn’t we sound different, especially when describing a relationship that models Christ and the church?

Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

It makes me truly grieved to hear only the bad things about something that God intended for so much good. It was God who thought it was not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18), so what did he create for him? A lifesaver beside him (ezer kenegdo), an equal loving companion, a desperately needed helper. Woman. How wonderful. And what a privilege to be able to reflect Christ’s devotion to his bride, and vice versa. But how are we talking about it to young people?

Same story with having kids.

What I don’t hear quoted often enough is that children are a reward from God and “like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:3-4). Not that you have to quote it verbatim, but quite frankly I’d rather hear that than someone ranting about how kids have ruined your body, used up all your money and sucked dry all the passion in your marriage.

To a young single person that is pretty depressing—and doesn’t sound much like those verses from Genesis and Psalms when God is talking about marriage and kids.

We’ve been given the impression sometimes that marriage is a hard slog requiring lots of gruelling hard work and sacrifice—that you have to fight, fight, fight to survive—that we’d be lucky to make it out of there alive. Then tacking on at the end “but it’s worth it though.”

Hmm . . . sounds like it.

Now a lot of this probably sounds really harsh, and there are some marriages that I’m sure have been worthy of the description “gruelling struggle” and I don’t mean to dismiss anyone’s pain, but how do you think it sounds to unmarried people at times? They’re scarred before they even begin.

It’s good to be open about the different aspects of relationships and various stages of life, and it is naïve for someone to get married and have kids thinking it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows, but what about the parts (hopefully bigger and more important) that are filled with sunshine? I honestly hope that there is more good than bad about two of the most important things in a lot of our lives.

All I’m saying is that the other day when someone described marriage and kids as great (without a big BUT right after) it genuinely shocked me. And I don’t think it should have.

#speakhope #generationsofblessing

 

Sincerely
Lil

Images:
https://www.muslimmarriageguide.com/, sourced 27 July 2017.
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/04/6_things_i_wish_i_knew_about_marriage_when_i_got_married_partner/, sourced 27 July 2017.