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random thoughts – 07/13/15

An antique brass compass, passion flower, and journal sitting atop the world map I drew in high school.

An antique brass compass, passion flower, and journal sitting atop the world map I drew in high school.

 

Sometimes I catch myself overlooking the daily blessings and adventures because my sights are set on elusive grand adventures around the world. And while I still would like to someday experience places like the west coast, UK, and New Zealand, I can’t let myself ignore the “ordinary” adventures that I am blessed to be a part of on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s the long drives down country roads or spontaneous get-togethers.  Other times it’s swinging high on park swings, or fellowshipping with dear friends over snow cones.

Yes, adventure is out there. But sometimes, adventure is right here.

 

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hello october

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It’s been… a long time since I’ve posted.  These past few summer months have been oh so full and I’ve been very busy living life.

But I’m back!

Now that it’s October and summer has officially come to an end, I’m here to bring you up to date a little bit.  So brace yourselves for a long rambly post. 😉

 

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For me, it was a summer of tan lines and snow cones.  Of dancing and laughter.  Where friends became family, and inside jokes were made.

There were card games, water balloon and paint fights, tumbles across giant soapy slip-n-slides, go kart races, crazy ping pong games, and late nights at the frozen yogurt shop.  And in the midst of it all — learning, growing, and stretching.

Grab a shovel
Grab a pail
We might be gone all day
Acting out these fairy tales
Running jumping in the waves

I rediscovered my love for kayaking and canoeing.  There’s something about being on the water and in control of a boat that makes me very happy.

kayaking

kayaking down the river

 

In May, my friend Charity and I co-hosted a CollegePlus gathering. 14 students from around the country came down here for a week of great fellowship and adventures together.  This was my third gathering to be a part of and it was just as amazing.   It was such a blessing to catch up with old friends and to make new ones as well.  Hosting added a different twist to it, but it was a lot of fun to design t-shirts, plan menus and events, introduce people to beignets, and teach them how to peel crawfish.

the deep south gathering

live oak

climbing a live oak

 

I fell in love with this song. <– The Lord’s Prayer, in Swahili, sung by Peter Hollens.  What’s not to like?  Plug in some nice headphones or hook up to a good speaker and turn the bass up.

We’ve played Ultimate every week — despite the heat.  I think I only questioned our sanity twice. 😉

Between my own projects and one of Sean McCabe’s courses, I’ve been doing a lot of hand-lettering.

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Our dance group grew and changed and we launched our own dance website.

In addition to our monthy dances, we took a 6 week dance class which ended up teaching us the basics of Salsa and East Coast Swing.  Learning Salsa was interesting, but I was really excited to finally *get* East Coast Swing. 8)

dancing in the capitol

photo courtesy Jessica M

 

 

I studied all through the summer.  Made it to 90 credits and seniordom. 🙂  After that, I hit a couple bumps in the road.  Getting over those — and planning out the last phase of my degree — has kept me very busy and, unfortunately, a bit stressed.  So I’ve been learning a lot about God’s timing vs. my plans and expectations.
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Take a breath, take a step
What comes next
God only knows
But here goes.

 

I’ve also learned that being part of a close fellowship of believers is one of the hardest, but best things ever. When you see each other multiple times a week, in a variety of different places, around a bunch of different activities, staying at each other’s homes until late at night, praying together — you get to know each other really well.  That means you see each other’s faults, flaws, and sins.  But it also means that you get to grow in Christ together with friends that have become your family.  It can be tough, but it’s oh so worth it.

 

journaling

 

And I wish all the people I love the most
Could gather in one place,
And know each other and love each other well.
And I wish we could all go camping,
And lay beneath the stars,
And have nothing to do and stories to tell.

We’d sit around the campfire
And we’d make each other laugh,
Remembering when…

Now here it is October.  This fall is filling up quickly, but I’m definitely going to be posting here more often.  I have a feeling there will be much to share in the coming months. “See” you all soon!

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the best things happen while you’re dancing

If you were to peek into our home one evening, there’s a good chance that you’d find my sister and I dancing around our living room.  After turning the lights down, the music up, and making sure the subwoofer is on, we might swing to 16 Tons or waltz to When You Taught Me How To Dance.  But most of the time we end up trying to figure out a new dance to teach at our monthly English Country dances.

When I tell someone that we host English Country dances, I usually get the Spock eyebrow.  My default explanation used to be: “It’s Regency dance.  Like what you see in the Jane Austen movies — except a lot more fun.”  This didn’t always meet with an enthusiastic response — especially among the guys. 😉  Maybe it’s because the words “regency” and “Jane Austen” tend to conjure up images of stiff, formal, and awkward evenings.  But I think I finally figured out how to describe our monthly dances.

Dancing The Virginia Reel

It’s the atmosphere of a square dance — very casual, lots of fun, tons of laughter, and a mix of ages.  We dress like we’re going to a contra dance — jeans, casual skirts, bare feet, and converse sneakers.  Although occasionally we have a “ball” for those who like to dress up.  And we dance (mostly) English Country dances — which are not stiff and formal. (Or if they are supposed to be, we can’t manage to keep them that way.) 😉

Dancing The Duke of Kent.

Dancing The Duke of Kent.

It’s a family event, so there’s a wide range of ages, but most of our dancers are high school & college age students.  There’s been several guys who initially came as skeptics, but we’ve won them over and now they won’t miss a dance.

Dancing The Ship’s Cook

We inherited these monthly dances from some dear friends after they decided to up and move 600 miles away. 😦 We had been attending their dances for a year and a half and could not let these incredible evenings end.  So our family teamed up with some close friends to keep the dances going.  It has taken a lot of learning, research, practice, late nights, and laughter, but it has been worth it.  In many ways, it has become a ministry for our families.  As the group has grown tremendously, we’ve realized that these evenings are filling a niche in the community.  It’s been incredible to see how the Lord has taken our efforts and blessed them beyond our wildest imaginations.

dancing The Progressive Gordon

Dancing The Progressive Gordon

Our next dance is in a week, and we’re super excited because the family who originally began these dances will be in town.  We can’t wait to see them again and dance the night away. :mrgreen:

dancing The Scottish.  That's myself and a friend in the center -- spinning like crazy!

Dancing The Scottish. That’s myself and a friend in the center — spinning like crazy!

Well my heart is about to burst. My head is about to pop. And now that I’m dancing who cares if I ever stop!

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the time of our lives — a travel journal

This past October, I was blessed to be able to go on yet another week-long adventure with my CP friends.  This time, we met up at two students’ home outside St. Louis, IL.  There were dear friends from the the VA gathering in April and several new faces as well.  The time I spent in IL was chock-full of memories. And the reason it was never blogged about is because when I got home, instead of saving the memories to my hard drive, I recorded them on paper.  You see, I’ve been wanting to make a travel journal/scrapbook for some time and never quite knew how to go about it.  But when I found Xenia’s Alaska Travel Album and I knew I had to make one.  And the gathering gave me the perfect opportunity.

Now that it’s done and I’ve (finally!) taken pictures of it, I’m ready to share it with you!

the adventure begins

the adventure begins

My mother was very glad when it was done.  I had taken over her table and covered it in paper scraps for weeks.(Yes, weeks.  😛 I’m very detailed oriented and I am very happy when surrounded by creative chaos.  See below.)

creative chaos

One of my favorite things about this project was that I had a good excuse to dig through all the little scraps, embellishments, and quotes I had collected and saved for unknown future projects.  And while on the trip, I made sure to save the tangible evidence of the good times.  Things like paper scraps from games, a map my dad had made, ticket stubs, and doodles drawn on the drive were tucked in an envelope and brought home.  Combined with what I already had, there was plenty to stash, glue, and tape into the book.

pages collage 02

Like Xenia’s journal, the days were divided up with tabs.  And at the beginning of each day’s section, I’ wrote out the day’s schedule and activities.

schedules

I ended up using some postcards from the St. Louis City Museum as pages in the journal.  A few photos from our day spent there decorated the blank backs.

postcards

A word on the St. Louis City Museum: coolest museum ever. 😎  It’s almost more of a giant playground and jungle gym for anyone and everyone willing to run, crawl, squeeze, slide, and be a kid for the day.  Oh, and there’s a 10 story slide, a ferris wheel on the roof, and a school bus hanging off the side of the building.

The week not only filled with memories, but with lots of music.  From Titanium parodies to music wars in the van, the soundtrack for the week was eclectic but oh so fun. 😉

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music wars

I ended the journal with hand-lettered lyrics from The Time of our Lives by Tyrone Wells and a quote from the ever-wise Pooh bear — the perfect way to end my travel journal chronicling a simply fabulous week. 😀

the time of our lives

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2013 – community

fireworks

2014?  Wow.  What a year it has been.  As I sit here thinking back over the year, I can’t help but see the hand of the Lord orchestrating every adventure, every connection, every accomplishment, every story, and every friendship.

If I had to choose a word for 2013, I would have to pick “community”.  I’ve been wishing and praying to be part of a close-knit community of fellow believers for years.  And this year, the Lord answered that prayer above and beyond my dreams.  I’m now part of two communities and each has blessed my life tremendously.  One consists of several families that we get to see multiple times throughout the week for various activities and functions.  From our weekly Bible study and worship time to co-op, Ultimate Frisbee, and English Country Dancing — many times I get to see these people three times in one week.  And because of this consistency, we’ve all grown into a family.  I now have a bunch of adopted “aunts, uncles, and cousins”.  😉 And it has been great.

2013 Collage

The second community is an online community of fellow College Plus students.  These are some seriously awesome people.  And I was able to spend two amazing weeks with many of them.  Making memories together deepens and cements friendships like nothing else.  Definitely highlights of the year.

Hello St. Louis from College Plus!

Hello St. Louis from College Plus!

we have had the time of our lives / now the page is turned / the stories we will write / we have had the time of our lives /and i will not forget the faces left behind / it’s hard to walk away from the best of days / but if it has to end / i’m glad you have been my friend / in the time of our lives

In all honesty, I  have no idea what all 2014 is going to bring.  I have a few goals, but I’m not holding on to them too tightly.  Who knows what the Lord has planned?  But whatever it is, it’s going to have to be pretty fabulous to top 2013.  Regardless of what He sends my way, I want to live gratefully, fully, and with special attention to the small things in life.  This is a special time of life and I want to take full advantage of it.

and i’ll taste every moment and live it out loud / i know this is the time, this is the time to be / more than a name or a face in the crowd / i know this is the time, this is the time of my life

Happy New Year, my friends! 😀

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this Christmas night

ornaments

Now may the fragrance of His peace
Soar through your heart like the dove released
Hide in His wings oh, weary distant soul
He’ll guide your spirit home

And may His love poured from on high
Flow to the depths of your deepest sigh
Oh come and drink from the only living stream
And on His shoulder lean

And may the hope that will not deceive
Through every pain bring eternal ease
There is no night that can steal the promises
His coming brings to us

So may His joy rush over you
Delight in the path He has called you to
May all your steps walk in Heaven’s endless light
Beyond this Christmas night

 ~ An Irish Christmas Blessing by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas.  ~ Emily
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thanksgiving

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Way back when I first began this blog, I wrote a post on thankfulness.  I was rereading One Thousand Gifts and was in the mist of counting up to blessing #1,000.  Well, after too many spans of forgetfulness followed by  spurts of consistency, my 1,000th gift was recorded this October.  It’s so neat to look back at all I wrote down and see what blessed me at different points of my life.  There’s records of nature’s beauty, seemingly insignificant details, special memories, and evidence of God at work.  My  notebook is nowhere close to being filled, so I’m continuing on.  Never to stop the noticing, the thankfulness, the joy.  To infinity and beyond.

Life is dessert – too brief to hurry…”Where ever you are, be all there” is only possible with eucharisteo. Slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God. ~ Ann Voskamp

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

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outdoor movie night

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Last night, a bunch of friends convened in our back yard for an outdoor movie night.  I had been wanting to host one for a while now, and our schedules and the rain forecast finally decided to come together. 😀

We decided to have a Pixar double feature — Up and Finding Nemo.  Complete with two Pixar shorts and a mock movie preview green screen made by my sister.

The gazebo in the back yard became the refreshment center.  A table for snacks (don’t forget the popcorn!) and a hot chocolate station.  From our patio to the gazebo, we created a lighted path with votive candles nestled in some sand in the bottom of white paper bags.  These turned out so much better than I expected and provided a Tangled-esque lighted lantern pathway to follow.

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shorts

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Despite the mosquitoes and 95% humidity (yeah… this is November in the south :P), a good time was had by all.  Hopefully this is just the first of many more outdoor movie nights.

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The enemy’s gate is down — my thoughts on Ender’s Game

image via Pinterest

Up until a couple years ago, my exposure to science fiction had been limited to Star Trek, Star Wars, and a couple other films.  Although I’m an avid reader, reading sci-fi had never really appealed to me.  Most of the covers on the books were enough to make me gag.  But then my dad read the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and recommended it to me.  Always ready for a good book (and knowing my dad’s good taste), I read it and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  I soon read it through a second time.  Not long later I was flying through the parallel book, Ender’s Shadow, and was again floored by the depth of the story.  Wasn’t this a science fiction novel?  I have since read 8 of the 14 sequels, prequels, and parallel books, and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.  (Some more than others, yes.  But they’ve all been good.)  There’s not many series I can say that for.

So today, I wanted to share with you a bit about why I like this book so much — and why you should go read it. 😉

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Ender’s Game takes place in the (not-too-distant) future.  Earth has twice been invaded by aliens and now the International Fleet is searching for the next commander of Earth’s starships in preparation for the imminent third invasion.  Promising children are brought to Battle School where they are trained to become future soldiers, leaders, and commanders.  One of the primary methods of training within the Battle School is the battle room, an arena where opposing armies of students compete for the highest rankings in the school by playing a sort of high-tech laser tag game in zero G.  One of the students is six year old Ender Wiggin.  The book follows his journey through Battle School and the personal journey he must take as well.

Ender’s Game is not your typical science fiction book.  I would even venture to say that it’s not true sci-fi.  It’s more like a well-written novel set in a science fiction realm.  Instead of being bombarded by a multitude of overly-dramatic space battles, a host of grotesque aliens, and mere entertainment value, the plot line revolves around strategy, tactical plans, and the thought processes of military leaders and brilliant children.

“Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.”

 Orson Scott Card

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is that it’s written almost entirely from the children’s point of view.  Card created a multitude of incredibly brilliant, yet very real, children who all have their own unique of view of Battle School, the teachers, and the challenges they face both in their training and in their relationships with other students.  Each of their strengths, weaknesses, backgrounds, sorrows, and motives are explored in Ender’s Game, and many characters are fleshed out even more in the sequels.

I’m excited to see the film next week.  From what I’ve seen of the trailers, movie spots, concept art, etc., it looks like they’ve done a fairly good job adapting the story line to film.  It is, however, a combination of both Ender’s Game and its parallel book Ender’s Shadow (also a really good read).  I’m going to try and see it in IMAX.  I have a feeling that will be a pretty incredible way to see the battle room.

So, go read the book and let me know what you think.  And if you’ve already read it, I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

*Disclaimer: While I do enjoy and recommend Ender’s Game, it does have bit of language and mature content. Personally, I’d say they’re appropriate for upper-teens but everyone’s filter is a bit different. 😉   Please read at your own discretion.

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Accelerated Distance Learning | My College Story

math work

homework

In past posts, I’ve alluded to my college studies, but I thought it’s high time I explained what I’m doing. 😉  I was recently invited to speak at the September meeting of the local chapter of the Eta Sigma Alpha National Homeschool Honor Society about how I’m earning my degree.   The following post is adapted from the presentation that I gave.

I ended up taking a very different college route than what I had always assumed.   But it’s been an incredible journey.   I’ve only been a college student for a year and a half, and I’m already a junior.   I’m doing college online through a program called College Plus.  This is a new & upcoming way of doing college, and I’m excited to tell you about it.  I’m not here representing College Plus, I just wanted to share how I’m earning my degree.  And why I’m not looking back.

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Edna Mode

So, what exactly is College Plus?

CPLOGO

collegeplus.org

College Plus (CP from now on. 😉 )is not a college, but a coaching program which guides you through earning your bachelors degree from home at an accelerated pace.  Through credit by examination tests, you can earn credits at a much faster rate than if you were taking the courses at a brick & mortar college.  And once you’ve tested out of as much as you can of your degree, you’ll transfer those credits to one one of CP’s partner colleges, take a (relatively few) online classes, and you are set to graduate!  This method, coupled with a lot of hard work, can give you your bachelors degree in 2 – 3 years.

CP assigns each student a coach to guide and mentor you through the entire process.  Students have twice-monthly phone calls with their coach.  During these calls, questions are answered, plans are made, and strategies are discussed.

The biggest benefit of doing college this way is that your life isn’t completely controlled by a college schedule.  You are able to set your own goals and deadlines, study when it’s best for you, and have the freedom to make changes.  You can go on vacations during the middle of the semester and even have a job or internship.  You are able to say yes to so much more.

And it works!  I have several friends who have complete their degree this way.  And you don’t even have to enroll with College Plus.  You can do this on your own.  But I have found their knowledge, resources, and guidance to be very beneficial .

The College Plus experience is divided into three phases.   The first phase begins when you enroll.  During the first couple months, you learn new study skills like speed reading, critical thinking, and dynamic memorization, and complete a life purpose planning course with your coach.

The second phase is the testing phase. In the beginning, you’ll be testing out of a lot of general studies, so don’t feel like you have to know your major from the very beginning.  Choosing my major was a really hard decision, so I waited as long as I possibly could before taking the plunge and deciding.

The vast majority of the tests you’ll be taking will be either CLEPs or DSSTs.  There are no grades on these multiple choice tests.  You either pass or fail.  They cost about $80 a piece and the testing center will charge a fee of about $25.  Study materials and books will add another $20 or so. So, for a little over $100, you’ve earned yourself 3-6 credits in a few weeks.

One of the major benefits to this method is that you will be concentrating on only one or two tests at a time.  After immersing yourself in the material for 2-4 weeks, you’re ready to test.  It’s so nice not to have to juggle 5 or 6 classes and all their assignments all at once.

Through their partner colleges, CP offers a wide range of majors.   Some of the most popular are General Management, Communications, English, and Music.  But there’s also degrees like Criminal Justice, Entrepreneurship, Accounting, and even Pre Med.

After deciding on your major, you’ll have a call with a degree consultant who will create a personalized degree plan of tests and classes based off the requirements for your degree, your interests and your strengths.  Once you’ve tested out of as much as you can of your degree, it’s time to transfer all those hard-earned credits to a college or university.

Phase three consists of your online college courses.  How many you end up taking will depend on your degree.  But it will be relatively few compared to all the tests you took.  And then, you’re ready to graduate!

Most College Plus students transfer to either Thomas Edison State College (TESC) or Liberty University Online (LUO).  These online colleges accept many more credits than the average college or university.  You could transfer to another college of your choice, but you have to check and see how many transfer credits they’ll except.   TESC and LUO accept around 90.

And overall, the CP route is much cheaper than attending a brick and mortar college.

source: collegeplus.org

source: collegeplus.org

With the average yearly cost being $5,000 — most students are able to graduate debt free.

Ok, that was all the technical stuff.  I want to tell you how this worked for me.

I began my College Plus journey in January 2012 — the last semester of my senior year in high school.  I took my first CLEP test in mid February.  By graduation, I had 9 college credits.  Today, only a year and a half later, I have 63.  Yes, I’m a college junior. :mrgreen:

63 credits!

I’m majoring in Computer Information Systems and I’ll be graduating from Thomas Edison State College.  Through CLEPs, DSSTs, and some TESC tests, I’ll test out of 105 credits, leaving 15 to be earned through online classes from TESC.

Speeding through my degree, was not one of my primary goals — though it is for many.  I chose College Plus because it gave me flexibility.  I’d grown to love the flexibility that homeschooling gave me and I wasn’t ready to give that up.  I didn’t want college to consume the next four years of my life, dictating when I could go on vacation and how much time I could spend with my family and friends.  This method has given me the flexibility to take off when I need to, have a job, and take time to pursue other interests.

Now, you may be wondering… what about college friends?  One downside to CP is that you’re kinda doing this by yourself.  And when you’re by yourself doing something outside of the traditional college box…. it can get kinda lonely.   But that’s where I found an unexpected blessing — the College Plus student forums.  This is a place where students from around the county — and the world — have formed a tight-knit community.  We exchange study tips, pray for one another when we’re testing, and share life.  There’s threads to discuss everything under the sun, a debate hall, student elections, contests, a forum newsletter, and opportunities for leadership.  Outside of the forums, we keep in touch through emails, texting, Skype calls, and G+ hangouts. I’m constantly in touch with all sorts of amazing people.  My college buddies are all over the US.  California, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Alaska.  It has been well worth the effort to get integrated into this fabulous community.

And while it was great to “meet” all these people online, I’ve also been able to meet quite a few of them face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.  This past April, one student hosted a gathering at her family’s home outside of Washington DC.

photo credit - Mr. Joe

photo credit – Josef Samuel

Over 20 CP students from all over the US converged for a week full of fellowship, hikes, memory making, Ultimate Frisbee,  Bible studies, DC touring, and more laughter than you can imagine.  (You can read about that adventure here.)  And come October, I’m planning on heading off to Illinois for another incredible week.

So, that’s what College Plus is.  It’s not for everyone, but it was a great choice for me and I think it’s a great option for a lot of students.

Check out the College Plus website for more information.

*This post is NOT sponsored by College Plus.  I’m just sharing my college story.

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