I Have a Dream

I crumpled to the sand and buried my head in the dunegrass.  “I can’t go further… I won’t!” I moaned miserably.  Dad poked me with his walking stick.  “Come on, Phy, get up!” “Wimp!” hollered my sympathetic siblings.  We had already been hiking for what seemed like miles up and down the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Supposedly, Lake Michigan was at the end of the path.  We could see it at the crest of each little hill.  Yet the longer we walked the more futile that goal seemed to be.  At least, it was to me.

Do you ever feel like quitting?  Like crumpling in the sand and just letting the sun keep you warm, rather than hiking over the dunes to that far-off sea?  Quitting is easy and it feels good at the time.  When things get tough, the tough may get going, but I don’t want to go anywhere! 

Quitting leaves dreams in the lurch.  Many young people are encouraged to have dreams, to be all they can be, and “take life by the horns”, but they don’t have the motivation to accomplish it.  When the goal is bright and shiny on the future’s shelf, reaching it is sought with excitement and ardor.  But when the novelty wears away, or when the dream begins to gather dust as time is spent on more trivial pursuits, giving up has a certain appeal.

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”  A dream is that inspiration.  The dream itself can’t carry one to her goal:  there needs to be the effort, the work, the thought and the planning to make the dream come true. 

Giving up springs from a lack of faith in one’s goals or dreams.  It comes from laziness too.  Unfaithfulness and laziness both reveal a heart not ready to step up to the plate of divine opportunity, because, as Edison also said:  “Opportunity usually comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Reaching goals will not be consistently feel-goody.  It will hurt, stretch, burn, and tax us.  It will test resolve and grind on patience.  Our hope, however, is in the fact that if the dream is in line with God’s will all the pain and effort will be worth it.  Our faith in this hope gives us the strength to complete the task that the Lord assigns to us.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”  (Job 23:10)

To Think About

  • What is your dream?  Do you believe God has given it to you?
  • How are you accomplishing it?  Have you given up in any way?
  • What can you do to renew faith and hope in your goals?

You have a dream!  Don’t let it escape you.  Don’t give up.  Keep walking down the path to the sea.  God’s rewards are infinitely more valuable than the temporal satisfaction of a dream deferred.

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I’m Back!

Winter has finally given up in northern Michigan and we are seeing hints of summer!  A Quill and Inkwell will now be back in full swing along with the summer season.  I apologize for the lengthy break!

Some exciting news for a Quill and Inkwell:  this weekend this blog will be represented at INCH, the statewide homeschool conference in Lansing, Michigan.  I will be hosting a workshop there called “Can Girls Have Guys as Friends?”  This is a great blessing and an exciting opportunity for both me and this blog!

In addition to speaking, I have been working with the director of the Purity Ring, a Christian drama group for girls that I have mentioned in the past (which will also be at INCH) on publishing a devotional made up Quill and Inkwell’s posts.  The ten-week devotional is based on Isaiah 62, with a current working title of “A Torch and a Voice”.  We will be bringing copies to the conference and may eventually have them available for order from this website.

Quill and Inkwell will be updated daily, Lord willing, through out the summer.  Thank you for visiting!

~Phylicia

The Valentine Conspiracy

valentineValentine’s Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy.  That’s my consensus on the matter.  By appealing to women’s hearts and men’s pocketbooks, the nameless faces on Wall Street are forcing us to spend money, time, and emotions on a ridiculous, pointless day that nobody would even care about if it weren’t pounded into our heads that we should. 

Valentine’s Day was in fact contrived by a group of financing companies when they saw the economy going in the tank.  Taking a formerly-ignored holiday they managed to push its marketing to an extent that, with revenue from chocolate and heart-shaped candies alone, it has financed the entire stimulus bill.  That’s why it got passed yesterday.

Even more interesting, those financing companies run under false names:  Ghiradelli, Macy’s, Hershey, Starbucks, JC Penney and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few.  With a clever twisting of words and a plethora of deceiving commercials, these companies have taken the nation by storm — convincing the collective that you need to spend money on your “loved ones” on this particular day.  How interesting that the stimulus bill has been debated during this same week.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

As a staunch conservative there was no way Wall Street would snooker me into financing my own extra $13-per-week increase in salary.  What better way to keep the public in ignorance than to have them finance their own pay raise?  It keeps morale high while also filling the government’s black hole of a treasury.  Every Ferrero Rocher truffle is one more dollar into the dining room curtains at the White House.    How innocent that Godive box looks, yet within it lies the means of government control larger than we have ever known.

My patriotism inspired me to forego those wide-eyed sweets beckoning from the shelf at Walgreens.  I know the bankruptcy of the nation lies within their wrappers — so I walked on to the freezer section and picked out a half gallon of Baskin-Robbins instead.  For the sake of America I sat on my couch with a spoon and a box of kleenex, and Baskin and I watched While You Were Sleeping until midnight.  God Bless America!

And I hope He zaps February 14th off the calendar.

I wish I had a real reason to hate Valentine’s Day, but I don’t.  It’s one of those days that is nationally glorified, yet at the same time gloriously exclusive.  Whatever happened to tolerance?  Is there such thing as romantic racism?  I can see myself at the head of the Romantic Rights Movement, banging down the door of the Capitol with a heart-shaped picket sign declaring, “Singles For Equal Treatment!”  That one’s going in the history books.

It’s easy to throw a pity-party when you’re single on the most romantic day of the year.  You think you might find solace in watching Patrick Dempsey and instead find yourself throwing your slippers at the inevitable love interest that appears on the scene.  The fact that she’s always ugly as a horse, fat as a hippo and dressed like a bag lady doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.  She’ll probably have buck teeth and hair like Phyllis Diller too.  You’ll be convinced by the end that she didn’t deserve Patrick at all.  Being delusional has never been so beneficial.

Benefits are scarce for the single girl on Valentine’s Day.  You may try to think of all the people you love, but truth be told, no matter how much you love Aunt Bertha it’s not the same to kiss her as it would be with Prince Charming.  Maybe it’s because Prince Charming remembers to shave.  Whatever the case, counting your blessings can even be hard.  You may have to put some effort into it, beyond “I am thankful I am breathing.”  But that’s a start. 

Just start somewhere.  The government may be behind Valentine’s Day but we don’t have to get caught up in their trap.  Just because Wall Street says it isn’t alright to be alone among the cupids and love darts doesn’t mean we have to listen.  Go look up your friend Baskin Robbins and enjoy what you have now.  It only gets better from here!

Lord, Only You Can Change Me

“Why? Why did I do it again?  Why do I fail You every time?” It seems that those words have filled my prayers more often than not.  I thought I was strong in one area, only to give in to temptation as soon as it tipped its cap my direction.  Frustration and tears were my constant companions during my time with God in the morning.  The condemning words of John 14:15 rang in my ears:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  Did I really love God at all?

The doubt that crept into my soul was not conviction, though at the time that is what I considered it to be.  My guilt over sin brought me to repentance, but the fact that I failed in those areas again caused me to wonder if I had really been sorry in the first place.  Yet I knew in my heart that I hated the sin — and that I had truly repented to God.  I would be fine… until the temptation came again and I gave in. 

Guilt leads to repentance, but my failure and consequential remorse never seemed to go away.  I was in a circle of fail-repent-doubt-fail that never seemed to end.  It wasn’t until I read the words of Hannah Whitall Smith, in her book The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, that I understood where I was going wrong in my relationship with God. 

Hannah Smith wrote an entire chapter on ‘Failure’, and as I read it, I was astounded at what I read.  Failure will come, she said, and when it does, repent in earnest and then get up.  “But isn’t that impertinent?” I wondered to myself.  Hannah confronted that thought right away with an illustration:

If you were a mother, and you had a daughter who disobeyed you but came to you repentant of her deed, would you not forgive her?  Then when you had forgiven her earnest repentance, what would you think if sat on the sofa, still crying, because she didn’t believe you had really forgiven her?  Her lack of faith would be the cause of her own pain. 

The only way to conquer, Hannah wrote, is to “get up off your face” and walk in victory.  Christ has promised if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).  In my quest to not be “impertinent” I was slapping the face of the God who forgave me when I asked.  In my hopes to avoid “ungratefulness” I doubted the sacrifice He made on the cross.

The root of my problem, then, was striving to change myself into the image of God. I was doing things on my own, even though it seemed that I was doing them for God.  I missed the entire point of repentance to God:  He will change me, if I believe Him.  That is true surrender.  That is a repentant heart.

The Cardinal Element

winter-2401Anyone who watched the Super Bowl last night would have to agree that it was an amazing game.  The last two minutes packed in so much action that it was breathtaking to behold — including the disappointing, but still impressive, touchdown the Steelers scored in the last thirty seconds of the game.  From the picture on the left you may gather that my family and friends are dedicated Cardinal fans, so the Steelers’ victory was indeed a blow — especially considering the fact that we were still soaring from their dramatic gain over Pittsburgh before that final touchdown.  To illustrate our ardent dedication, the only Steelers’ fan present was promptly thrown in a snowbank when the game ended.  Thus always to tyrants.

Rather than going to church yesterday we did our once-every-two-months Homeschool Fellowship:  a gathering of homeschooled believers in one family’s home.  One of the fathers leads the study and discussion and an assortment of the young people leads the music.  It is a very enjoyable time.  Due to my distraction over the Super Bowl, I did not post a sermon review for yesterday’s “service”.  Today, then, will have to do.

We have been slowly studying Daniel, and are currently in chapter two.  This particular passage details Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchanezzar’s dream.  We talked about Daniel’s faith and virtue, his merit to the kingdom, and his position as a wise man.  Daniel was surely something else.  He was different from the Babylonian astrologers and enchanters, but even among his colleagues he excelled. 

Daniel had something about him that separated him from the others.  It wasn’t a horizontal separation, but a vertical one.  He was not removed from others on a level of personality but on integrity.  Daniel was above and beyond.  This is what kept him at the forefront of current events throughout the reign of three different kings — each of which promised him greatness and riches for his wisdom.  Yet the integrity that gained Daniel his position also instigated his humility and deflection of praise to Almighty God. 

Integrity is a rare virtue in this day and age.  Integrity means you don’t change with circumstance; you don’t manipulate, connive, or weasel your way through life.  You have goals, purposes,  and convictions that are unmoved by the wave of society’s ideals.  To quote a much beloved country song:  “You’ve got to stand for somethin’ or you’ll fall for anything.”  This was Daniel.

This can also be us.  Integrity is a facet of the Christian character that cannot be emphasized enough.  Love and peace sound great, but the nuts and bolts of Christianity come down to how firm a foundation you stand on, and whether you even believe that foundation is real.  Remember, love and peace sounded great in the seventies too, where integrity went out with the doo-wops and poodle skirts.  The Christian faith is not all feelings and fuzzies.  It’s rock-solid. 

The Cardinal element in the Super Bowl didn’t quite cut the mustard, but what’s the cardinal element of your character?  Is it emotion and fluctuating feeling?  Or is it the eternal strength of integrity of heart?  That was Daniel.  Is there a Daniel in you?

Asked Out: In a Quandary

My sixteenth summer:  I learned a lot in those three months.  I worked for the first time in a retail environment and it was an eye-opening experience. 

There will always be ‘those guys’, and there were definitely a couple who I quickly learned were not of the mettle to mess with.  For the most part I escaped their attentions, and they gradually ceased with their bombardments, but through it I began to learn that my response was everything.  If I sounded the least bit unsure of myself , that indecisiveness proved to be a huge mistake.  Without being rude, I had to shut them down!  Fortunately for us, most worldly guys are just testing the waters to see if you will give them the attention they want, and a few cool, but nice, “Um, no”s give them a 180 the other direction.

But what about the good ones?

Never had a boy liked me before, and in that summer I met a young man at the greenhouse who I thought was… well, really nice.  He was handsome, and friendly.  One day he took down all the baskets that I had been told to take down… without me even asking.  I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I met him a few days later.  I was working in the range when he came up to me with a delicate blue flower in his hand.  “Your name is Phylicia, isn’t it?”  He asked.  “Yes.” I answered, smiling at him curiously.  “This is a Felecia flower… like your name.”  Yes, it was a simple observation, but it was so sweet!  …Right?

He talked to me.  We laughed together.  He met my extended family and endured an hour-long exposition from my great-uncle.  He brought me chocolate.  And he was a gentleman.  But somehow it still struck me as a complete surprise when we walked into each other among the begonias one day…

“Oh, hi Chad,” I beamed (trying to keep the halo of light from stark illumination).  “Hi,” he smiled. “Where are you headed?”  “To water the hydrangeas.”  “Oh.” “Yeah.” “Mm-hm…”  “So where are you going?”  Chad looked at his feet and then at the ceiling.  “Well, I was going to ask you something…”  I felt my stomach tighten — what?  I swallowed my heart and plastered a grin on my splitting face.  “Go ahead.” “Well…” He swallowed too.  I watched him carefully — was his eyebrow twitching? “I was wondering… if I were… sixteen (which he wasn’t)…”  My ears were ringing… I was rehearsing… what do I say, what DO I SAY?!  “… would you date me?”

No.  Anything but that.  NOT THAT QUESTION PLEASE!!!

All the purity talks and studies and answers and questions went out the window of my brain.  I liked him!  So I stood there with a columbine draped over my head and burned the rubber off the wheels of my mind.  “Well, see, I –” I stammered. “I, um, well… I don’t… actually — date.” His blue eyes were blank.  Score zero for comprehension. So a new tack was attempted:  “See, I am not going to go out with a guy until my husband comes someday.  I am waiting till then.”  That sounded right.

Chad blinked and looked at his feet.  Then he looked back at me and wrinkled his nose in confusion.  “So you… arrange marriages?” Now I looked blank.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  So instead, I muttered, “Um… no.”

There had to be a better way.  Now, three years later, I still cringe to think of how I handled that.  Now I know that there is a better answer!  Chances are if you have male friends, coworkers, friends-of-friends or church goers, you are going to be asked out at one time or another.  We’ve talked about the attitude with which to answer them — in complete kindness and respect — but what do you say?!

I can’t elaborate too much because every situation and guy is different.  Yet there are two different genres of answers to give:  the first is the high school answer, the second is the college answer.  The high school answer will contain the fact that you do not date anyone, and, if the boy is a good one, you will be able to turn him down without it being a personal affront.  The college answer depends on the family, but I will give you my two styles within this genre.

First, the Bad Boy Reply.  He comes rappin’ up to you and shoots a “Whassup?” that you can’t even grace with an intelligent conversation.  “Sooo, you doin’ anythin’ anytime soon?”  (This would not be an “um, no” moment).  You Smile Graciously but not Invitingly, tilt your head slightly to the side, and say Pleasantly with an undercurrent of Cool Preoccupation: “I’m sorry, but I am in a committed relationship.”  He may press for a better excuse, under which pressure your Cool Preoccupation becomes Cold Sophistication, which, with a touch of Civilization and slight Acceleration should end Communication as quickly as deemed possible.

Second, the Potential Suitor Reply.  He comes walking up to you and courteously asks, “Do you think — um — that maybe we could…er… possibly… go out sometime?” First, determine that it is not a Hallucination, then show some Appreciation without wedding Anticipation; give a quick Situation Evaluation and check again that it is not Imagination.  Once these steps are complete, do some further Intention Investigation.  Once he has met the Qualifications, give him the Notification that you only go out under your family’ s Verification.  If he is still full of Determination, you should show him some Consideration and relieve his Expectation courteously.

Of course, this leaves plenty of room for flexibility as the need arises.  Just don’t be ambiguous — be clear with what you are answering whether it be yes or no.  You don’t want to leave room for misunderstanding, as in the case of a Bad Boy he may take advantage of that ambiguity and in the case of a Good One he may be confused.  The best thing is to prepare your answer with your parents, for then when you are greeted with you will not be caught muttering “Um… no…”

Lassie, Come Home

thanksgiving-012That adorable little ball of fur on the left is my Sheltie, Lassie.  She will turn three this spring, just a few days before my own birthday, and she is a happy little creature without a care in the world.  Thanks to mom feeding her while I am at work, she is a fat little thing, too! 

Lassie’s main vice (besides yapping) lies in her timid nature.  She is deathly afraid of strangers and strange places.  She has an emotional breakdown every time I take her for a ride in my car.  She hides under furniture and shakes like we’re having an earthquake whenever she is confronted with something new. 

Sound familiar?

I hate to subscribe to the idea that in time, the owner begins to assimilate to her dog, but I see too much of myself in Lassie’s nature.  Physically, we have the same profile (check out my nose) and when it comes to our personalities, I see many of the same tendencies that Lassie displays when life throws her a curve ball.  She never goes and fetches.  She runs the other direction.

My world and Lassie’s are obviously very different.  She doesn’t have to go to work or do chores — she just has to be.  Well, she does have to be good, in addition to just being, and as a whole she does a fair job at that.  The test comes when  I give her a command:

“Lassie, come here.”  I see her round eyes recognize my voice — but then she surveys the situation.  Is there anyone around?  Anything new, strange, or fearful?  If so, she doesn’t come, but lingers timidly in the corner.  “Lassie, come!”  She takes a few steps forward, but quickly darts back when she hears footsteps nearby.  Her ears flick back and forth and I can tell I am not the only voice she is listening to.  Third time:  “Lassie, I said come here!”  She then has two reactions:  a mad dash into my arms, or a fearful huddle in the corner.  If the latter, I come thundering into the corner to collar her into obedience. 

What Lassie always misunderstands is that I call her to give her blessings.  I give her commands so I can enjoy her company, pet her, feed her, and brush her.  It is she who makes it an ordeal by her fearful disobedience.  When she continues to ignore my commands, the difficulty is prolonged as I have to punish her before I can give her what I wanted to give in the first place. 

I don’t know about you, but I see this as a fair example of my relationship with God.  He calls — and I survey the situation.  “Is it safe?  Will I be embarrassed?  Will I get hurt?” If I don’t like it, maybe I don’t go.  He calls again:  “Phylicia, follow me!” I start to follow, but I get dissuaded by fear and pride.  So God comes thundering into my corner, to pull me out of my huddle and show me what I could have attained with much less hassle.  I end up with my ears pinned back and my tail between my legs.  It didn’t have to be that way.

So tomorrow morning when I feed Lassie, that’s what will be on my mind.  Maybe I can’t help looking like my dog, but I can certainly put a stop to acting like her.  I just have to get out of my corner… before the Master has to drag me out of it!