Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year, New You! ~ Haley Oscar

If you’re anything like me, keeping weight off in the winter time can be hard! With all the pie, cookies, sodas, eggnog, and every other fattening food it’s hard to keep your weight from going up. The average American can gain 5 to 15 pounds in the holiday season alone from all the sugar and fatty foods! Gaining that much weight in that small of a time frame can take a horrible toll on your body, and can be hard to lose! From Halloween to New Year’s Eve we eat and eat and eat like we’re preparing to go into hibernation. Sure some people can lose the weight, but most people don’t, we go out and by a new pair of jeans cause the other ones don’t fit, or we pretend those stretch marks aren’t there. And the older you get the hard it is to motivate yourself to keep off the holiday weight. So why not get into the habit now, how about we lose weight this season instead of gaining even more?!
This holiday season let’s do these things to lose weight together!
  1. Skip the soda, or holiday drink for water. You will not believe how refreshed and better you’ll feel if you drink 8-10 full glasses of water a day.
  2. Also, try drinking a full glass of water 20 minutes before you eat. This will help you to not eat as much.
  3. Take small bits of food and eat it slowly. Did you know that it takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain that it’s full? So take your time there’s no contest to win!
  4. Skip the French fries or any other fried food, these are horrible on your heart and take your body forever to digest, and once is does digest is turns straight into fat. Try substituting fried foods for a side of fruit or vegetables, you’ll get more energy from these foods and you’ll feel great and burn fat this way!
  5. Have control over your calorie intakes – calories mean energy, and so taking calories is very important so that our body would always have full of energy. But when the amount of calories inside our body exceeds over the maximum, then it is now time to burn them out. Always have a control on your calorie intakes, and through that, you can lose weight fast.
  6. Cut down the sugar, try limiting yourself to a sugary treat once a week. Trust me, I personally cannot have sugar that often anymore because of health issues. So if I can hold off on the sugar you can. So try to hold off on the sugar and have a planned day to eat it. But on your set day DO NOT OVER DO IT! Over eating sugar can cause your body to go into shock and you get the sugar high and then the crash. Limit it to one piece of pie or two cookies, whatever it is watch your portions! (I know, it’s HARD!)
  7. Work out, the one thing many of us (Even me) are ‘To busy’ or to ‘lazy’ to do. Did you know that your heart needs at least 20 minutes of cardio a day? To keep a healthy weight (or to lose it)many of us need to work out at least twenty minutes each day. I personally like to jog or dance. But since it’s the winter months it’s too cold for many of us to get out and jog (Unless you have a gym membership). If you live in a state or country that gets a lot of snow like mine does, shoveling can make for a great cardio work out! If you’re one of the luckier ones who rarely or never get snow another work out you could do for free or fairly cheap is Pilaties. Pilaties is one of my all-time favorites, it’s easy on the body but it’s one heck of a work out! Pilaties is a lot like yoga but works out the in more ways. Pilaties tones and stretches the body to be more flexible and flat. You can find all kinds of work out videos on Youtube or anywhere else on the web!
     8. Eat more! Yep, you heard me right! Eat more…fruits and vegetables, that is.
     Here are 6 ways to add veggies to your daily food plan:
Try a V8 or Naked Juice for your 3 p.m. afternoon snack. This will count as a full serving of fruits or vegetables!
            Toss extra veggies into your soups, stews, and salads.
Use pre-bagged baby spinach (Organic is always nice!) just like you would lettuce, toss it into your soups, or wilt it on top of pasta.
Buy vegetables that are already cut up. I know it costs more, but if that's the only way you are going to eat more veggies, it's worth it. (Skip the $4 cup of coffee!)
Did you know that vegetable soup counts as a serving of vegetables?
Lettuce, tomato and sprouts--oh my! Pile up layers and layers on your sandwiches. You can add a layer of cucumber, too
  1. Keep yourself active any way you can. In the winter a lot of us are content sitting on our butts watching the holiday specials or staring at Facebook for hours on end. Get up and move! Play with your siblings, crack out that Just Dance game that has been sitting on your shelf since last Christmas, go sledding, make a snow man, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, animal shelter, ect! Point is, DO SOMETHING! You need to move in order for your body to lose any kind of fat!
  2. Your weight, your diet, and your exercise plan are from just one slice of your life’s pie. Permanent weight loss is about living a balanced life always. It’s about looking at all areas of your life – health, relationships, finances, career, fun, creativity, spirituality, physical environment – and creating them so that they support you to have the life you want.
  3. Focusing only on weight loss will not serve you well. You may lose weight, but you will most definitely find it again later.
  4. Make a commitment to YOU, all of you, every aspect of you. Losing weight won’t fix what’s wrong with your social life, relationships or happiness, just like gathering buckets of money won’t help you gain REAL friends or happiness. Seek balance. Enjoy every aspect of your life!
  5. The most important tip to losing weight is to truly love your body, make healthy steps to better yourself and body but don’t hate on yourself for gaining weight. Pray to God about struggles you might have with the way you look and ask him to help you see how beautiful you really are! Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made! Hating your body will only cause depression and stress which will make you gain more weight.
  6. Be comfortable in your own skin, love every inch of you and thank God every day for how beautiful he made you inside and out.
  7. Every time you look in the mirror don’t look at the things you hate about yourself, but thank God for something you like. After doing this for a few days I promise you’ll have a better outlook on yourself and your body!
  8. Have a VERY blessed and happy Christmas and New Year’s you beautiful woman of God!

    Did you know that Haley loves super hero movies but hates chick flicks?!

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Resolutions: Getting Closer to God~ Hogan Stevens

I'm sure all of you have heard of making New Year's Resolutions at the start of each year, and probably most of you have even made a list of resolutions to start living by. Maybe over the years you have promised yourself that you will make more friends or lose some weight, do better at school and make your parents proud, to stop talking with your mouth full or to smile like a movie star, etc. I think a lot of people make lists similar to this...and I don't think that very many that do actually stick with it. Probably because they might set too high of a bar for themselves.
Personally, I have never made that list. I seriously have never thought about making a resolution to start trying to make a better life for myself. You see, I already have a great life. I mean, of course there are the ups and the downs, but I truly am happy with who I am and with what I have. God has blessed me with so many things--and He's blessed you too!
So how about instead of promising ourselves we will make more money this year or that we will become more popular at about we promise God that we will start living completely for Him?
This year, I will finally make a list of New Year's resolutions, and I am going to share it with you all.

1. I will read my Bible daily.

That is so important! I used to read my Bible nearly every day, but here lately I have been letting my life rush passed me and I have hardly even had the time to sit down and relax. At least that's what I have told myself. I have the time. I should set aside a special time every day to read my Bible this year, because I know how important the Bible is. It's God's own book of love letters that He has sent to us all, and I want to know everything that He has written for me.

2. I will praise Him in everything.

I already pray several times a day, but I would like to be able to just take the time to notice all that God has done for me. If it is a sunny, beautiful day outside, I want to be able to say, "Great are the works of Your hands, my God! Everything you create is wonderful." without having to first think about it. I want to show my appreciation to God in everything that I see and do; I want Him to know just how much I appreciate all that He has done. Even the little things are wonderful, like the smile of a stranger's baby you pass in the store or the tiny sparrow that flits past you as you are driving to work. We just need to take the time to notice the little things.

3. I will use my gifts for Him

This is something I have struggled with over the years. My parents started singing Gospel music about eight years ago when I was still a little kid, and they wanted me to join in the group as well, but back then I was so shy that the very thought of standing before a church and singing absolutely terrified me. Now, I actually sing a couple of songs at the churches we travel to, but I know that I can be doing more. I have a yearning inside of me to do more, and I feel that God is calling me to step out of my tiny comfort zone and dare to follow where He leads me. Maybe that will entail me singing throughout the whole program, or maybe it is that and much more. Whatever He leads me to do, I want to follow Him without hesitation.
I feel like this is a good list for me. I have told you all a little bit about myself, and I hope that I have inspired you in some way. This list that I now show you, it can be used by anyone. Anyone! Reading your Bible, praising God, and utilizing the gifts He has given you--all of these are things that everyone should be willing to do. You should be willing to give your whole heart, your whole everything, to your Savior.
After all, He gave Himself to you.
How could we ever hope to repay such a glorious gift as that?
Well, for starters, we can love Him. We can serve Him. And we can follow Him without hesitation. I promise it is not that hard; you just have to set your mind to it. Before long, you won't have to even think of reading your Bible or listening to His voice. It will just come naturally, and others will see the change in you.
So this year, I hope you resolve to get closer to God. I hope you give yourself completely over to Him and that you radiate the love of Christ to others. That's my New Year's resolution.
Happy New Year, girls. Make it the best year yet.
Did you know that Hogan is terrified of spiders but use to have a pet tarantula?!
Did you know that Heather wants to be a veterinarian?!

Photographs property of Lilies Among Thorns Magazine. Photograph taken by Heather Young.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Do You Do For Your Do? ~ Haylie Gregory

If I went rummaging through your bathroom cabinets would I find it full of hair products or full of dust and cobwebs? If you went through mine you’d most likely find both! Many bottles are covered in dust with only a little bit of product used while others I am scrapping the sides trying to get every bit I can.

If you have a cabinet like mine, you are a product junky. You’ve tried many products and you know what you like. I want to encourage each one of you to not be afraid to try new products! But before you go out and fill your shopping cart full of hair products, I want to share with you what each product does.

Mousse: Mousse is one of the most versatile products out there. Its primary purpose is to add volume and hold, but it can also fight frizz, add shine, fatten up fine hair and define curls. Mousse is great to use for those special occasion do’s. It will keep your hair looking elegant all night long. I highly suggest you use mousse for hold if the smell of hairspray bothers you.

Hairspray: Hairsprays main purpose is to provide hold, but each hairspray can provide a different kind of hold. Some can give you a natural, lightweight hold while others can give you a rock hard hold! Lightweight hairsprays are wonderful at fighting frizz and making blow dried hair smooth and soft. Firm holds are good for keeping those up dos in place. 

Shine Spray: Shine spray is a finishing product that gives you a nice, shiny polished finish to your hair. It can also control frizz and flyaways. It is ideal for those special occasions do’s.

Thickening Lotion: Thickening lotion is known as the alternative to mousse. This can build body and volume and also add texture to your hair for a fuller look. Some often have treatment properties that can boost strength and condition your hair! Unlike mousse, they do not give you as much texture or hold, but it does give you much more softness and flexibility which is a major plus!

Dry Shampoo: Dry shampoo is primarily used to freshen up dirty hair between washes. It also creates volume at your roots, gives your hair a messy, matte look and makes freshly washed hair easier to style. It is fantastic for those who want their styled hair to last more than one day.

Gel: Gel is ideal for girls with naturally curly hair. It defines curls and tames frizz. It is also great to keep short looks in place if it is stronger hold. You can get it in a cream or lightweight formulas. Gel will give your hair a wet look if you do not blow dry it.

Serum: Serum is superb at achieving a sleek, high shine finish. It can also be used to control frizz and flyaways, define curls and increase impact on a straightened do. It is also useful for protecting your hair from hair damage though I suggest you only use it when you are out of heat protector.

Texturizing Products: This category includes pastes, putties, clays, muds and waxes which are all top notch for short cuts/styles. They are used in the final stages of styling hair to create texture, define random ends, create a piece/ separated effect, add polish and shine or create a matte, messy effect.

Creams, Lotions and Balms:  These are the go-to products when waxes, pastes and putties are too heavy for the longer hair. They are used to define ends and create texture and separation they also can define curls and add softness and shine! Some can even help hydrate your hair. (Bonus!)  

Thermal Protectors: Thermal Protectors are a must-have for every girl who applies heat to her hair. They protect your hair from the heat damage causes by styling your hair with heated tools. A really good thermal protector also helps protect your hair from sun damage.

As you can see, there are many styling products you can us on your hair, but here’s the main question: where are you going to start?

Did you know that Haylie is considering becoming a hair stylist?!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trust, Struggle, Leap, Fall?~ Rebecca Howe

Imagine yourself standing on the ledge of a high level bridge. Who is going to catch you if you fall? Will there even be anybody down below willing to? You’re trying so hard o keep your balance, but your weight is working against you. As your foot comes off the ledge you panic to steady yourself in time. When you get a glimpse at what is underneath you, what do you see? Are there hands reaching up at you, trying to pull you under when you were doing so well? You have to fight to keep them away. You’re having a difficult time focusing. So many different problems are tearing away at you. You feel life someone is burning your happiness. As each new worry passes by, it’s like a new cut or bruise appears on your pale skin. Some leave scars, but you have to find a way to erase them all. Everyday life and problems used to come so easy, now it seems like a burden to you. This burden is something that you have to carry atop your small chest while it crushes you. Where did the simplicity go?

Remember you’re on that bridge, teetering back and forth. Glancing down you can feel the sweat streaming down your check, meeting them half way are tears. The tears consist of fear, stress, doubt and wonder. You can see your family and friends, some willing to catch you if they have to, while other passersby aren’t even aware of their needed support. They can see the bridge, but they their eyes skim right over you in your struggle. Then you see the One, staring into your eyes. They know everything and will comfort you. They have been ready and waiting for you to realize you need their help, and no one else’s.

As you see a dark shadow approach you from behind, you know you have two choices. You can either let it push you down, letting your already weak body scrape, stumble and fall through the never ending despair. The journey would be long and painful, and you have no choice of whose hands you would land in. Your other option is to commit to the One who has been patiently standing by for you to leap back into their arms. They want to be able to hold you tight, and make you clean again.

When the shadow closes in on you, you have to squeeze your eyes shut to block out the true horror and reality of the situation you have fallen into. You can go back to your old ways that always brought you down, or you can restore your life. The two possibilities are different in every way. Your eyes open up as you feel the shadow loosening your grip as you hang onto the ledge. You are now sure of how you want this to end and have accepted it.

About the Author
Hello, I'm Becca and my favorite animal is a dinosaur :D
I hope you read these pieces and get something out of them, if not that's okay too

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Love of Jesus~ Emily Ciszewski

Sweet love of Jesus, my cloak for winter nights,
He hides me in His Holy Hill, until the morning light.
Sweet love of Jesus, my counselor and friend,
He holds my hand, helps me stand - and leads me through the plight.
Sweet love of Jesus, my lover - my deliverer,
He speaks to me, He cleaves to me - he will never leave me.
Sweet love of Jesus, the One who holds my hand,
He will always reach for me, teach to me, cry if I fail..
Sweet love of Jesus, the Fire I Desire,
He touches me, He clutches me - He pulls me from the mire.
Sweet, sweet love of Jesus, the Well from Whom I drink,
I will ever lean on Him, for on my heart’s His ink.

Did you know that Emily loves peppermint mocha lattes?!

Monday, December 26, 2011

It Was Crystal Clear to Me~ Haylie Gregory

I didn’t notice it sitting there. It was small and out of the way of any. How was I supposed to know it was so important? The only reason I noticed it was because the sunlight caught it as I was passing by. It was just lying there, unnoticed by all who passed. I picked it up and brushed off the snow that had rested upon it. It sparkled as the sunlight caught it once again. I twirled it around in my fingers, mesmerized by the way it cast a rainbow on the sidewalk. I had never seen an actual crystal before. Who knew that such a small, simple object, could behold so much beauty?

I tucked the crystal deep into my pocket and continued down the sidewalk. I could feel the crystal rubbing up against my leg as I quickened my steps to the coffee shop. I was anxious to escape the blistering cold, December weather. I, happily, opened the door to the coffee shop and ordered a caramel macchiato and a cinnamon bun, a little treat for a hard days work. I found a seat close to the fireplace and tried to warm myself.

Once I placed my bag on the floor, I reached into my pocket and retrieved the crystal. I stared at it, watching the flames from the fire glisten through the crystal. It made every bit of light seem much more radiant than it really was. It seemed magical.

 I placed the crystal down on the table when my coffee and cinnamon bun arrived. Wrapping my hands around the coffee cup, I lifted the cup to the tip of my nose, inhaling the scent of sweet caramel. My body was instantly warm. A few moments later, a short, pixie-like woman entered the coffee shop, followed by a tall, strong looking man. Both of their faces bore the same, sad look. They ordered their coffees and took the vacant seats a table away from mine. The women ran her fingers through her hair and rested her head on the palm of her hand.

“It’s okay, Jennifer,” the man said as he reach of her hand. “We’ll find it.”

Jennifer sighed as she intertwined her fingers in his. “Brian, we’ve been looking all day. It’s gone and I just have to accept it.”

“I think we should keep looking. I know how much that crystal means to you,” Brain said. He looked at her with such sweet compassion. You could clearly see that he cared for her.

“Yeah, it was my grandmother’s. She gave it to me just before she died. Grandpa Hamilton gave it to her as a wedding gift. I was hoping to wear it for our wedding. I just can’t believe I lost it.” Jennifer sank her head into her hands and let out another heart-breaking sigh.

I looked down at the crystal that sat on my table. The side of my lips curled up in a small smile. I knew the crystal was magical. I looked over at Jennifer and Brian and saw the magic there. It was true love.

I grabbed the crystal from the table and walked over to Jennifer and Brian’s table. They looked up at me, both looking very tired and cold.

“I’m sorry, but I overheard you two talking about a crystal and I wanted to ask if this was it,” I said as I extened my hand that held the crystal.

Jennifer’s face lit up. “Oh goodness! My crystal! Brain, look! It’s my grandmother’s crystal! Where did you find it?”

“Three blocks from here. It was buried underneath some snow. If the sun hadn’t caught it, you never would have been able to find it.” A huge smile covered Jennifer’s face, as well as Brian’s.

“Oh thank you! You have no idea how important this is to me!” Jennifer said, looking up at me through tear-filled eyes.

“I’m just glad it’s back to its rightful owner,” I said with a smile.

“How can we repay you?” Brain asked me, looking just as delighted as Jennifer.

“No need, just be sure not to lose it again.”

“Oh, trust me; I’m going to lock it away in my jewelry box until the day of the wedding!” Jennifer said laughing.

“Good idea and congratulations on the wedding!”

 With their many thanks, I left them to themselves and sat back down at my table. I couldn’t help but glance at Jennifer and Brain every now and then, looking much more cheery than when they walked in.

 I couldn’t help but think about how much more special Jennifer’s wedding was going to be, having her grandmother’s crystal around her neck. I wondered if she would have a daughter and pass the crystal down to her, along with the story of the day she thought she lost it forever. I then took a bite of my cinnamon bun, feeling delightful about how wonderful the day had turned out to be.

Did you know that Haylie has watched "White Christmas" over 5 times in one week?!
Did you know that Abby's favorite holiday is Christmas?!

Photographs property of Lilies Among Thorns Magazine. Photograph taken by Abby Whear.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Perspective~ Zachary Tingle

Christmas is one of those times that is so layered with emotion that I am never quite sure how to approach it. On the one hand, I am blessed and thrilled to celebrate that the Son of God Almighty came into our broken and deprived world for the sole purpose of giving us—us—true life. That, if anything, merits the most sincere rejoicing and celebration. And on the other, is the sickening materialism that permeates our country (and more tragically, the Church). That to say, Christmas and I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship.
For the last year God has blessed me with the opportunity to work in the retail industry (I started a year ago last Oct.). While working there I’ve met several people who actually hate the Christmas holidays. This shocked me. I grew up in a home where we celebrated Christmas to the max (sometimes without giving/receiving gifts). That time was a time of joy and worship and thanksgiving for the boundless gift that was given nearly two thousand years ago. Working with people who honestly hated Christmas was like trying to make 1+1=3. It just didn’t add up.
Then I was asked to work Christmas Eve. (Insert dramatic crescendo)
Seriously though, I have never seen a more disgusting display of human nature (even from those who were apparently “Christians” –they were wearing Christian apparel and purchasing Christian books). People were literally fighting over items that would presumably be given as a gift. In one eight-hour shift I came to understand how people could hate even the celebration of Christ’s birth. We (as a culture) have so entangled this holiday in what we want and what will get for others that we are missing point: these weeks are not for giving or receiving!!! They are for worship, thanksgiving, and rejoicing that God gave us hope. He loved us so much that gave us hope by giving His only SON into our sinful diseased hands to be murdered (John 3:16). He did that so we would have opportunity be in fellowship with Him.
Over these days of celebration remember what we are celebrating. We have been given the opportunity to spend these days away from school and work to thank Him for what he did. That is not an opportunity that should be soiled by more greed, selfishness, envy, or jealousy. Remember that He was born to for the sole purpose of dying in our place; let that focus color the way you shop, celebrate, and relax this Christmas. Jesus Christ is the ultimate gift, and that gift is for you. Merry Christmas!

Did you know that Zachary is a avid rock climber?!
Did you know that Heather's favorite food is mac n cheese?!

Photograph property of Lilies Among Thorns Magazine. Photograph taken by Heather Young.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Movie Character Costumes~ Kari Willinger

I can't believe Christmas time is already here! I am so happy, I love Christmas! So, since I love Christmas so much I thought I would give yall something fun to do. The thing I thought would be fun is dressing up as your favorite Christmas characters. Some of my favorite Characters are Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mary, Mrs. Claus, Grinch (yes I know hes a guy but hey you can dress up like him too), Sally from A Nightmare before Christmas, An Angel, and of course a cute little reindeer ;)
Cindy Lou Who
For Cindy Lou Who I dont think its really that complicated. First, if you have bangs like she does then this would be the perfect costume for you. The first thing you would need to do is get a cup, yes a cup, but only a small one like what maybe a little kid would use. Then you want to put this on your head and pull all of your hair up arould it and tie it at the top. This will make your hair stand up the interesting way it does in the movie. Then you can curl the ends for added effect. Next you want to buy two fake braids the color of your hair and pint them to the side of your head and drag the ends up and clip them to right under the edge of the cup and curl those ends. If you do this you should have made a fairly cute Cindy Lou Who hair style. The clothes are even easier all you need is a red cape with white fur in the hood, a christmassy dress, and red and green tights. This will make you the cutiest Cindy Lou Who.
Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Claus is a classic Female Christmas character. To dress up like Mrs. Claus should be easy if you have red and white clothes in your closet. First find a red dress, skirt or suit. Then take a white blouse (the more frillier the better). If you have any kind of black boots they will work but lace up ankle boots would be perfect. If you have a white frilly apron this will make the outfit very authentic and you can sew a cute phrase on it like "My heart belongs to santa" . The last thing you will need is a white wig or a powder to color your hair and put it in a bun. After you do all of this you are ready to go. Of course you can always add a red cape or black leather gloves and that would always be really cute but you dont have to have those.
For Sally all you need to do is get a dress you dont really care about and a bunch of different kinds of patterns and fabrics. Then you just sew the fabrics all of the dress to create Sallys dress in the movie. Then put some kind of bluish-white make up in your face and use eyeliner to draw stitches all across your body. The orange hair you can either use a semi permanent dye or just buy a wig.
Now everyone needs a reindeer, but heres how to make a cute little reindeer ;). Get an antler headband, preferably with jingle bells on it, and put your hair in two high buns. The Buns can look a little like their ears haha. Then you can get a cute tail and just pin it to the back of some brown shorts. Wear a brown shirt or sweater with black gloves and boots to represent the hooves. After that your done. I think this has to be one of the easiest and cutest outfits. Of course, feel free to add your own style and accessories if you think of any.
To dress like Mary the Mother of Jesus is not difficult you just need to have certain items. First dress in a white dress or a white night gown. Then take a blue hooded bathrobe and put that on over the dress (Blue is the color most depicted in pictures of Mary and it will make you easily recognizable). Then take a brown strip of fabric and tie that around your waist.
I definitly like this costume and i think it is very easy and managable.
Now to be an Angel you can either dress in white and pink or pure white. I think an Angel is more pure white so thats what I am going with. First you need to get a white dress or night gown white tights and white ballet slippers. This will be your Angel outfit. Next we need to make the wings. All you need is a pair of white panty hose, thin wire, and duct tape. First arrange the wire into a figure 8 whatever size you want. Both sides of the 8 will be a wing. Duct tape any stray wire so it wont be sticking out and duct tape the middle together. Then you can start shaping the wings anyway you like, after that you can spread the panty hose over the wings, 1 leg for each wing. Tuck in the excess hose at the middle. After you have all of that done you can decorate your wings with glitter and things like that. To attach the wings take a silver or gold sash and tie the sash around the middle of the wings to around your wast. The last thing you will need is a halo. For the halo you can take the same wire you used for the wings and make it twice as long as the actual halo, then you take the extra length section and twist it around the regular one so its a twist then place it on your head and BAM beautiful Haloness ;) (look I just made up a word haha Haloness).
Did you know that Kari hates Glee?!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Word From the Wise (The Wise Being God)

Dear Nadia,

Christmas seems so commercial to me. It's like everyone just cares about the gifts! How can I focus on the true meaning of Christmas?
Un-Christmas Spirit

Dear Un-Christmas Spirit,
Don't forget that it's up to you what you make Christmas about. You can choose to focus only on the superficial parts of Christmas, or you can choose to keep your mind on the beauty of the REAL reason for the season - Christ's birth. Here are some suggestions:
  • Play Christmas music with lyrics that focus on Jesus (O Come O Come Emmanuel, Joy to the World, or Hallelujah [Light Has Come] for example).
  • Set up a manger scene in a central place in your house. Seeing it often will remind you of the true meaning of Christmas.
  • For Advent (the 4 weeks before Christmas), create a special prayer time routine to deepen your friendship with Jesus.Spending good quality time with your Savior, born on Christmas day, will help you stay focused on Him all day long.
  • Going along with this, in the weeks before Christmas, read through the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke: Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-40.
  • Don't spend a lot of time thinking about the material aspect of Christmas. I mean, you'll think about it as you're picking out gifts for people, but don't let it take over your thoughts!
  • Going along with that, consider giving something other than material gifts for Christmas. Maybe give your mom coupons for making dinner or doing extra chores. Write a letter to your friend to let her know you appreciate her. Gifts like these will keep your focus on the beautiful spirit of generosity that should be present during Christmas, plus they are SO special since they are a piece of your heart :)
Keeping your mind on Jesus during the hectic Christmas season is hard. It can be especially tough if others get swept up in the materialism and can't understand your desire to keep Christ as your focus. But don't forget that your Savior came down to Earth so that you could know Him and receive His power. That same power will strengthen you so that you can keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas. God bless you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gift Gone? Told by Marrisa Brandies Through Haley Oscar

The story of how I lost my virginity is less than romantic. It was not exactly the experience that is often portrayed in the movies, with candlelight and romance and pillow talk. I was sixteen, and very disenchanted by the world as to what TRUE love was. Before I actually performed the act with my boyfriend, I had it set in my mind that I was capable of “handling it” and it “had to happen sometime”. I spent a lot of time justifying why it was “the next step” and the “only way to show my love”. In my own mind I was convinced that I was ready for it. It also didn’t help that the world was telling me “how mature I was for my age”. Of course I was more mature than most girls my age, I was dealing with adult situations with the mindset of a child- YES, a child.
My boyfriend was a few years older than me, and we had been dating for over six months already. I was convinced beyond reason that I would marry him, and we would live happily ever after. I told myself that it would be alright, since he was my first, he would be my last because that’s how it was supposed to be. I was delusional. Logic didn’t matter, and the enemy can be very convincing, especially to someone as young and na├»ve as I was at the time.
After it was over, I felt very empty and disappointed. “That’s it? I don’t see what the big fuss is. It was painful, not pleasurable. Maybe I need more practice, I must not be doing it right.” Once the initial disappointment was out of the way, I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose anymore. My boyfriend and I continued to have sex regularly until we broke up, six months later from a “lack of connection”. He dumped me.
From then on, it wasn’t a big deal to have sex with the whichever guy I was seeing at the time. I made sure that we took care to use protection, and I didn’t have “random”sex, as it is defined today, but I was still being rather careless in choosing my partner. I had a very inadequate point-of-view that sex was a vital part of dating, and that was how I could please my boyfriend at the time. I reasoned with myself that sex wasn’t enjoyable, through my own faults. I didn’t want to get hurt again, so I blocked out any emotion that I felt about sex, except the want to satisfy the men I dated so they wouldn’t leave. I figured that if I didn’t show the emotion, or deal with it, it wouldn’t exist anymore. I didn’t cope with the disappointment, the longing for approval, or the sadness that came with having a sex life. I just kept doing it, expecting the same results every time. It was very hollow, and made me feel very unloved.
Then I met my husband.
I felt like I got struck by lightning. It was sort of like a sixth sense, knowing that he was very special and would be a big part of my life. We started dating, and after a while, had sex. But it was my boyfriend (now husband, Nick) who stopped this facet of our relationship from becoming like every other tryst. He expressed to me his desire to have us be“more than sex”. This concept was so foreign to me, but it was exactly the discipline that I needed. We started practicing abstinence, and were soon talking about marriage. It wasn’t easy, and we were not always successful in keeping our hearts pure, but through the times we were feeling weak, we prayed together. I was all but living with him already, and abstaining while sleeping in the same apartment was a very difficult thing. We knew it was something that we had to do though, to prepare ourselves for marriage. It was through times of prayer and supplication (fasting or abstaining) like these, that my relationships with him and the Lord truly started to flourish.
It was an incredible experience, to make love to my husband once we were married. It opened up such an array of emotions and connections to God and each other that we had never felt before. It was such a deep connection, so beautiful that it is indescribable. It had such intensity, and is always getting better the more that my husband and I continue to grow together and involve the Lord in our marriage.
 Looking back on my experiences of life, I feel incredible regret. I had to learn the hard way. I did something that could never be taken back, and it hurts to know that I robbed my husband of the one amazing, divine gift that I could have saved just for my him. Remembering the struggles, and the emotional rollercoaster that I put myself on, I really wish I had been a stronger woman, and come to Jesus earlier. If only I had developed a prayer life; I could have avoided searching for love that I didn’t find. I wasted so much time and effort on men who didn’t love me, not knowing that Jesus could have fulfilled what I had been missing. I was imprudent, and not ready for the cost of a sexual connection. I could have saved myself a lot of disappointment and hurt.
In retrospect I understand that many lies that were told to me, and see how they are being told today. I recognize the underlying messages that “sex sells”,“sex is the rite of passage to adulthood”, or “sex is the way to express love”.I see how we are targeted as women and a focus on the romanticism and glorification of sex before marriage. Its very saddening to hear these lies from the point-of-view of a Christian who has faltered. Christ died a very brutal death so that we can live, and be free of sin. Yet, everyday young people are suckered into a life of sin, because society says its okay. However, I know that God does not see it in that perspective. Our heavenly Father’s heart has not changed, even if our society says it has. Nowhere in the bible is it written to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince; this is a justification made up by people to justify our own bad behavior. Do not be drawn into this lie. He has given you this precious gift, to be given to your husband exclusively. God CREATED you to be chaste, and keep your heart pure, in honor of the husband you don’t have yet. He created you to be prudent in your decisions, and loyal to the husband that He has picked out for you. This is His command to us. It is our obligation to remain faithful to our future husbands. It is our duty to remain pure in waiting for our perfect union between man, wife and God, as He intended.
My advice for you is to honor God! I strongly urge you to make better choices than I made. It will help you to avoid regret and sin. Avoid being in a situation where you could possibly make a mistake. Go out on dates in public. Hang out with family and other friends. Do not leave opportunity for error. In doing so, you are giving yourself the chance to get to know each other freely, without adding the extra pressure of a sexual relationship. If he does care about you, and has a relationship with God, your boyfriend will respect your wish to leave that part out of the relationship until you are married.
Develop a prayer life by yourself, and with your boyfriend. Encourage him to pray with you and for you, especially if its getting too hot and heavy. Don’t be afraid to stop in the heat of the moment and pray. God can speak volumes through prayer, and may deter you from making a tremendous mistake. I guarantee that if your boyfriend loves and wants a future with you, he will pray with you and for you. Also, prayer is a really good way of separating the good guys from the total creeps. Think of how your boyfriend will respond if you ask him to pray just before you think about having sex. You may possibly find out in that instant, more about his character than any moment during sex could reveal. I am not saying it will be easy, because it will take strength to stop yourself, but it is to your benefit. Prayer doesn’t only draw you nearer to the Lord, but it also builds character and strength, especially in critical moments. The more you draw closer to God, the less likely you will make a mistake of great consequence. It will also enrich the relationship you have with your significant other, and lay the foundation for a marriage, if that is what you are planning. The most rewarding, and intimate thing that my husband and I practice every day is not sex, but praying together. A relationship with God is what makes our marriage so wonderful, and that kind of connection is worth waiting for.
~Marissa Brandies
Marissa couldn't have put it any better! I almost can't think of an ending for this, but I will again stress the need for prayer in ANY relationship. Start the habit now so it's natural once your in a relationship with a man. Maybe even buy a devotional book to prepare for dating or to use in your current relationship.Marissa and I hope this spoke to those of you who were thinking about giving in and to those who already have. Marissa and I want you to know that our prayers go out to you! And like always, if you have any questions you can contact me through email at
Did you know that Haley hates being alone?!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

American Eagle Store Review~ Renee Arnold

American Eagle is one of the most popular stores for teenagers. There is an American Eagle in almost every mall and you see adds for their jeans and graphic tops in a lot of popular catalogs. With Christmas coming up, I went on their website in search for a stunning Christmas dress and accessories.
As soon a I saw this dress I fell in love with it! The unique plum color and embellishment make it stand out from your standard little black party dress or red shimmery holiday dress. This dress is a great modest lengh and it covers cleavage. I will show you a jacket to go with it that makes it more modest and will keep you warm in the chilly winter weather. This dress is advertised as $60, but American Eagle usually has sales and coupons so you can get a great discount.
This tweed blazer would look very classy and put together on top of the plum dress. It makes the dress more modest and adds a professional look to the dress. As you can tell, American Eagle is not the place to go if you are on a strict budget this year, this tweed blazer is $80.
These platinum gray flats are the perfect accent to the dress. They are simple yet fancy. they compliment the dress and match really well with the blazer. These flats are advertised for $30. I have added the picture of the black ones so that you can get a better look. Sorry the picture of the gray ones is not bigger.
As for the store in general, they have really cute graphic long sleeve shirts that look cute paired with their famous jean collection. You can find every style of jeans at American Eagle and they fit really well and they are a great quality so they don't strech or fade. They always have a few dresses in stock but not a huge selection.
 On their website and in stores, they have an extensive clearance section with great markdowns. You can even find tops for $10 that were usually $25! They have fairly modest merchandise compared to a lot of teenage stores, a lot of their more revealing tops are advertised with cami's and their dresses are reasonably long.
Have a blessed Christmas season!
Did you know that Renee

Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview with Robin Jones Gunn!

In September, I had the great pleasure of interview the well-known and greatly admired author, Robin Jones Gunn! Robin has written over 75 Christian books for women, teens and young girls. She worked in the youth ministry and is a speaker. She is currently living in Hawaii with her hubby, Ross and their dog, Hula! Enjoy this little interview and get to know Robin better!

Haylie~ I was recently listening to an interview Margaret McSweeney from "Kitchen Talk" did with you and she said that you just completed writing your 75th book! How amazing! How do you feel about it?

Robin~ The 25 years that I’ve been writing for publication have gone by very quickly. I didn’t even realize I was at book #75 until I had to do an inventory list. I looked at the list and felt overwhelmed. I knew more clearly than ever that this is all a big, amazing God thing and His dreams for us are more extravagant and enormous than anything we could every come up with in our imagination.

Haylie~  Out of all the books/series you have written, which was your favorite to write? Why?

Robin~ Oh dear. This is like trying to say which child is my favorite. Or which friend is my one-and-only favorite when I love each one for different reasons. I’ve been asked this question before and I always say the first Christy Miller book, “Summer Promise”. That’s what I’m going to say again this time. I think it’s my favorite because it was the first novel I wrote and it was the most challenging one to write. I had to learn everything as I was writing and I truly put my whole heart and soul into that story over a period of two years.

Haylie~ Each one of your characters has its own uniqueness about them. Did you come up with these characters on your own or do you base them off of people you know?

Robin~ When I start writing a new story I fill up a binder style notebook. I cut pictures out of magazines of different characters, I write short profiles for each one and I cut out pictures of their clothes, cars and furniture. With Sierra Jensen I found a pair of cowboy boots and knew she had to “have” them. My kids used to think it was like playing paper dolls. 

When I write the profile or bio for each character I sometimes think of people I know and incorporate a piece of their personality into that character. But for the most part it’s all made up. Some things I draw from are from my life. For instance, our son is allergic to bee stings and had some bad reactions when he was little. So I decided that Todd was allergic to bee stings, too, and that came up in the story, “Island Dreamer”.

Haylie~ When you are not writing your next bestselling book, what are you doing?

Robin~ I love to travel. I also speak fairly often and I really enjoy that. I started an Online Shop two years ago and that has taken a lot of time and creative energy but the results have been terrific and lots of great ministry is happening as a result of the books that are sold in the Shop.

My husband and I have really great friends and we enjoy spending lots of time with them. Our son and daughter are both married but they come to Hawaii with their spouses every chance they get so that fills up my heart.

We live about a mile from the beach. My favorite time to go swimming is in the early morning. I walk down to the ocean, jump in and swim about and then I walk home as the water dries on my arms making little white polka dots from the salt. That’s a happiness. I love listening to the doves in the morning outside our open bedroom window.
Haylie~ What can we expect from you in the next year or so?
Robin~ The next three books coming out are:
“Love Finds Your in Sunset Beach, HI” Sierra Jensen’s love story October, 2011
“Finally and Forever” book 4 in the Katie Weldon series May, 2012
“Cottage by the Sea” a novel that is close to my heart and taken from when my dad had a stroke. Sierra’s wedding is tucked inside this novel. Summer, 2012

Word Questions
~ Tea or Coffee? TEA!
~Watching a Movie in the Theater or at Home? At Home
~Vanilla or Chocolate? CHOCOLATE!
~Cake or Pie? Ice Cream.
~Magazine or Newspaper? Magazine.

Robin~ I’ll be sharing more details about future projects in my Robin’s Nest Newsletters when it’s the right time for me to release information. I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter at or on my Facebook page: I’m also on Twitter as RobinGunn

Gunn and Tricia Goyer! Click  here to see the blog and click here to see what the books all about!

Did you know that Haylie is currently writing a Christmas book?! She hopes to finish it by the beginning of January!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Magic of the Candle Light Service~ Haylie Gregory

I walk into my dimly lit church with my family. It’s a brisk Christmas Eve and we are dressed in some of our more holiday-like church clothes. The auditorium is quiet. Everyone is talking no louder than a whisper. In the front, there are over forty candles lit. They are the only source of light in the entire church.

I sit down next to my family as the pastor makes his way to the front. The pianist follows him. As the pianist approaches the piano, the pastor begins to speak. “Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to come and spend a time of worshipping the Lord in songs. We would like to begin with ‘Away in a Manger’”. We all stand up and begin to sing. There is no need for hymnals. We all know this song by heart.

The piano is played softly as the sound of our voices fill the air. It sounds so quiet and peaceful. It is how I always pictured the night our Savior was born, peaceful, quiet, and full of music and people who loved Him. My voice cracks a bit as I try to reach a high note, but I know that when it makes it to my Father’s ear, it will be a peaceful sound.

We continue to sing Christmas hymns throughout the service. I sing a bit louder as we all sing ‘O Holy Night’, my favorite Christmas hymn. I again imagine that night, that holy night that Jesus was born. I picture the starry sky, glistening like diamonds. I think of the smell of the hay that lay in the manger. I think of the animals around them; the Shepards and Wisemen bowing before the King. How lucky were they to of met the Savior, even at an early age. I imagine what it would have been like to feel sweet baby Jesus’ hand wrapped around my finger. What a holy night it must have been.

We finish our songs and sit down again. Pastor then opens his Bible and begins to read from Luke chapter 2, the story of Jesus’ birth. “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

When then stood up and gathered together in a circle. We each were handed a candle. Pastor lit his candle and said, “This is the Light that came into this world on Christmas day. See how this one Light can give light to so many lives.” He then lit the candle of the person next to him with his candle. That person did the same and so on. When my candle was lit, I shared it with my younger brother. “We as Christians are to share the light with everyone we come in contact with, just like we are sharing this light with the people next to us.”

After every candle was lit, Pastor said a prayer. “Lord, we thank you for giving us Your Light on that Christmas day. We thank You for giving us Your Son to save us from our sins. We pray that You will help us to share Your Light with everyone we come in contact with, just like we did tonight. Amen.” We all then sang one last hymn, Silent Night.

Once the song was over, we blew out our candles. However, the candle in our hearts stilled burned bright for our Savior. This light could never be blown out.

Did you know that Haylie thinks 'bubbles' and 'door key' are funny words to say?!
Did you know that Abby has had a dog, a car and severial other animals?!

Photographs property of Lilies Among Thorns Magazine. Photographs taken by Abby Whear and Haylie Gregory.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Michelle's Top Books


“Paperdoll” (Natalie Lloyd)
This book is fantastic! Natalie talks about real issues girls in our culture today are struggling with, like the pressure to be perfect, loneliness, betrayal, self-image, and placing our worth in guys. Then she parallels them to the story of the Women at the Well in John 4 and shows how similar we really are to her. And just like Jesus reached out to her in her time of grief and need, He reaches out to us each and every day. A perfect book for a girl’s small group or for personal study.
“The Fitting Room” (Kelly Minter)
Join Kelly Minter as she dissects Colossians 3:12. She gives a new meaning to each of the virtues listed in the book and gives meaningful and practical advice as well as insight for applying them to our own lives. Another great book for a small group or personal study.

“Dreaming of Dior” (Charlotte Smith) Charlotte Smith had already owned more than enough fabulous dresses in her lifetime. She had lived life to the fullest in London, Paris, and New York, something I can only dream about. Then she found out she had inherited a priceless collection of vintage clothing from her godmother. “But when she unearthed her godmother’s book of stories, the true value of what she had been given hit home. This wasn’t merely a collection of beautiful things; it was a collection of lives.”

“Sense and Sensibility” (Jane Austen) Immerse yourself in Jane Austen’s brilliant tale of two sisters searching for love. One is ruled by sense and doing the best for herself and family even when it might be hard. The other, governed by her heart, allows it to lead her on a journey that will change her life. Join them as they struggle through poverty, betrayal and hurt.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee)
A seeming simple story of a girl growing up in a small town in Alabama, this book will truly capture your heart. When Atticus Finch’s wife died he was left with two children to raise. Grow up with Scout and Jem, and let the lessons they learn and the struggles they encounter, touch your life as well.

“Christy” (Catherine Mitchell)
After hearing a missionary speak at her church about the dire need for volunteers in the Smoky Mountains, Christy signs herself up, not fully aware of what she has just gotten herself into. But when she leaves her fancy home to live in a “cabin in the woods,” she believes it’s to teach to children. But she soon finds out, God sent her there to be taught some lessons the best school in the country couldn’t teach.

Teen Fiction

“The Katie Weldon Series” (Robin Jones Gunn) Did you read the Christy Miller series? Ever wonder what happened to Christy’s best friend, Katie? Well here’s your chance to find out: Katie struggles with discovering God will for her life regarding her college major and the wonderful relationship she’s currently in. Join Katie on the up and downs of college life and the seemingly unnecessary drama each of us seems to encounter everyday of our lives.

“The Maya Davis Series” (Erynn Mangum)
The brilliant second series from Erynn Mangum, this one is just as amazing as the first. Maya’s life seems to be going just dandy, that is until her roommate starts dating her high school roommate, her rival brother moves back to town with his perfect wife, and her best friend, Jack, starts acting strange around her. Maya has to return to God for the guidance and direction she needs, along with the strength to deal with struggles everyday life.

“Brides of Webster County” (Wanda E. Brunstetter)
There are four books in this series and each one as great as the next. Wanda E. Brunstetter introduces new concepts in Amish books, and brings the variety that I find many of them are lacking these days. You will love her heart-felt portrayal of family, love and following God’s leading in your life.

Historical Fiction

“Daughters of Boston Series” (Julie Lessman)
Set in the early 1900’s, Julie Lessman takes you on a journey from Boston to Ireland and back several times. Filled with intriguing twists and turns, you will be plunged into a wonderful story of longing, trust, betrayal and the importance of family.

“Roses for Mama” (Janette Oke) When both her mother and father die, fourteen year old Angela Peterson and her older brother Thomas, are left to raise the younger ones. But as the children grow, the questions and challenges intensify, and at times feel overwhelming. She does not know a bigger challenge is yet to come.

“She Walks in Beauty” (Siri Mitchell)
Clara Carter lives in New York City in the 1890's during the Gilded Age. As a young lady, just about to make her "debut," her days are filled with what most girls would love: dress fitting, shopping, dancing lessons, and suitor. But Clara is different. She doesn't find pleasure in all the balls and operas, but just feels stress. Stress to be the most beautiful, the most accomplished, and the one everyone is taken with. Pressured by her father and aunt to acquire the most-eligible bachelor in the city, also to deny her best friend, Clara feels pulled in every direction. Will Clara give up the only man she ever loved and her one true friend, just to please family?


“The Mysterious Benedict Society” (Trenton Lee Stewart)

“Princess Academy” (Shannon Hale) When the royal officials come to Miri’s village on the rocky slopes of Mount Eskel, Miri was not prepared for what they were going to announce. A somewhat modern-day version of the story of Esther, Miri is taken down to the valley, along with all other girls in her village, to partake in a season of training; training to be the next princess. Miri finds herself confronting the bitter rivalry among the girls and her conflicting desires to be chosen as the next princess. But when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri who must find a way to save her classmates – and the future of their beloved village.

“A Wrinkle in Time” (Madeleine L’Engle) On a dark and stormy night a stranger comes to the Murray house and beckons Meg, her Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a “most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.”

Did you know that Michelle loves vintage jewelry?!