Recent Endeavor- Cake Decorating!

A couple months ago my Mom and I were able to take a cake decorating class. I had been wanting to take this class for the past couple years, so this was almost like a dream come true for me. We jumped right in and took two classes at once. Fondant and Buttercream. Over the course of 2 weeks we finished both classes, and made 6 cakes. 

We began the fondant class making fondant roses. 

Mom's rose was my favorite. 

We also made Calililys which were really fun. 

And then we made fondant bows and leaves.

This was my bow. I really liked the two tone look. 

Here's all the flowers and bows we made after the first two fondant classes. 

Next was buttercream.

For the first couple classes we practiced making flowers, and leaves on a sample sheet. 

And then we made cupcakes and simple cakes to practice our designs. (for some reason I don't have a picture of the cupcakes.)

Then we took all the finished dried fondant flowers back for the final fondant class. 

We also each made a two layer filled cake to decorate. 

But before we decorated our cakes, we learned the final fondant techniques of making inlayed flowers....

and painting fondant!

Then we began working on our final cakes. 

I decided to use most of the flowers we had made from all the fondant classes on my final cake. It ended up being a bit like a fondant flower garden I guess. 

I think the Daisys were my favorite flowers beside the roses. 

Mom decided to use the Calilily's for her final fondant cake. She also painted the extra leaves on the fondant. I really liked how her cake turned out. 

And lastly we made our final buttercream cakes. I loved the colors of Mom's. It was so simple, yet so beautiful. 

I ended up making my final cake into a birthday cake for a friend.

The lettering was fun to do, as were the hearts. Overall, the cake decorating classes were a very fun experience. I was SO blessed to be able to learn the skill with my Mom, and we had such a good time doing the classes together. We haven't made any cakes since the class, but we look forward to making cakes in the future for birthday's and special events. And I know the skill will come in handy throughout my life! God is SO good to give us so many different ways to enjoy His creations, and to recreate His beauty for others to enjoy!

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." (Psalms 139:14-16 KJV)

The Effects of the Internet on Our Brains!

(Warning!!!! This is a long post that may change your life, so you probably shouldn't read it.) Just kidding…. but it is long:)

A couple months ago, I decided to take a week long fast from all forms of technology. This came after many months of struggle, and a slow fade into wasting more and more time online, with less and less of a purpose. I never realized how much of an impact the internet and technology has on us, until I decided to live without it for a week. Over the course of the week I was amazed by how much more time I had to use for things I had been wanting to get done, but been putting off for quite a while. I was able to spend a lot more time than usual with God, and my family, and found myself not missing my iPad at all. As a result of the week offline, I learned quite a few new things, about my relatonship God, and my desires, and how those were being displayed in my daily life. I'd like to share a few of the things I learned that week with you all, not as an expert, but as an encouager. 

One of the first things that got me thinking about taking a internet fast was Michael Hyatt's podcast entitiled,  "What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains."  ( I would encouage you to listen to the podcast)
This podcast had a profound affect on my mind, and caused me to think about my own use of the internet. I think the thing that affected me the most from the podcast was the realization of how much time the interenet is used every day. According to the statistics Michael shared, the internet is used by the average person about 8 hours a day. Another startling statistic was when Michael shared that in 2007 there was no such thing as an iPhone. Now after only 7 years, our world has changed in more ways than we can imagine. Over 500,000,000 (that's million) people of all ages arround the world now basically don't know how to live without their iPhones. They're used (instead of our brains) to look up every possible amount of information known to man. Now people hardly know how to get up,or go to bed without checking thier phones; And the average teen now sends over 4000 texts a month. (and that's not counting social media chatting)

With this in mind I'd like to quote from Michael Hyatt's podcast."Perhaps the scariest revelation is what is happening to our brains. New brain scan technology shows our brains are being completely rewired. Heavy web users have fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes. The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. Even worse, Chinese researchers have shown that our grey matter, the part of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotions, sensory, and other information, is shrinking or atrophying. So if you think you’re getting stupider or dumber by using the Internet, as it turns out you might be."

 Clearly there is a problem with the way we use the internet. It is not just a simple, harmless tool, it's a dangerous addictve tool, that can harm our bodies physically and spiritually.  And I know that the above quote is not far fetched because I've experienced the affects of the internet on my own brain in my own life. I've had my share of days spent on my iPad just "looking up one more thing." And even though the things I'm looking up are things I might actually "want" to do, they're usually keeping me from things I "need" to do. And I usually leave my iPad after those days feeling like I wasted lots of time, and got nothing done. 

After hearing Michael Hyatt's podcast, I also read a blog post from a freind of mine in which she shared her journey of leaving all forms of social media, even though she had hundreds of followers. In her post Charlotte explained that she had realized how her desires, and passions were focused more on social media than on God. She shared how she opened up several social media accounts, and within a few months, she was a social addict who would spend hours on end "liking, posting, following, sharing,etc." And then she began to follow other girls who did the same thing, and before she knew it, she was so ingrosed in self centeredness that she "didn't have" to spend time with God. 

At this point I think I'd like to quote part of Charolotte's post. "I realized that my self-promotion and idle chatter on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest were all drawing me further from Christ and that Incorruptible Beauty we are called to reflect. I was empty with the world's pleasures and desires, when I should have been full of Christ. It was truly heart-wrenching. Not in the sense that I had to leave all my attachments behind, but that I had been putting something so worthless (Social Media) before the most priceless gift in the world, Jesus Christ. I decided that from that time forward I would take a sabbatical from my social accounts until I coulddiscover how I could increase Christ and decrease my worthless self through it. It has been a huge blessing so far, though also a struggle in finding out how to spend my time more wisely and to God’s glory and service."

Charlotte's post really convicted me as I sensed in my own heart the loss of time I could have spent with God. I know all too well what happens when I put my focus on myself instesad of Christ. After this I was determined that I needed to change my own habits of social media, but I had one more step in my journey before I got to my week long fast. (Please read the rest of Charlotte's post here. )

A couple years ago, I picked up a small booklet at a homeschooling conference entitiled "Biblically Handling Technology and Social Media." 
I hadn't read it. But when I was cleaning out my bookshelves one day, I came across the booklet, and began reading..... "Take a moment to consider life without computers or the internet." ...."That's not possible" I thought, and turned the page to read.... "What if we were as addicted to staying connected to The Lord as we are to technology?" 

Now I was getting a little convicted, but still determined to not be affetced by it, I again turned the page to read...." An important turth to keep in mind is Satan's world system. If something is quickly embraced by the culture, it will have worldly entrapments attached to it that are well disguised." "That's enough!" I thought, as I attempted to close the booklet. But my eyes caught the words on one of the last pages which read...."Consider fasting from media for 3-7 days. Take this time to pray and refocus on The Lord." Within moments, I knew that's what I had to do. I knew my heart needed to readjust and refocus on Christ, and that wasn't going to happen online. And so began my week long fast from the internet. 

During this week, I found several new reasons to be greatful for life, and found myslef enjoying the simple things I'd usually overlook. Getting to make breakfast for the family, spedning hours in the Bible, reading books, talking on the phone with friends, (instead of emailing them) and finding time to finally  re-organize my room. (Something I had been wanting to do for months) 

I had been praying about social media and online interaction for a while before I took this fast, and over the course of the week I began to realize that those questions we're being answered from Scripture. 
Should I go on more social media outlets? Am I missing meeting people by not being on there? Is there people I'm supposed to be encouaging but can't because I'm not on these sites? 

As I beagn to ponder these questions I began to realize that the focus of all of the questions was "me." What did I want, what did I think I needed. And even if I wasn't going to actually promote myself, I was still looking to these venues to satisfy needs within myself. Needs which only Christ can satisfy. 

Acts 17:21 says " (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)" And the chapter goes on to explain that they didn't even know who God was anymore, becuase they had confused Him with their idols. 

So what is the purpose of social media, and the internet in general? I think it can be accuately summarized as a place to hear or tell some new thing. But we know from Ecclessiastes that there is nothing new under the sun, and so the internet becomes a recycling container of all sorts of good and evil, decomposing to create a mediocre world filled with "o.k." things. But is that even possible? Is there such a thing as o.k. without good and evil? 

Mark 7:18-23  says. "And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." 

From this passage we see that the heart of man is the source of evil, because the heart can be decieved. Which is why the Bible says we need to gaurd our hearts with all diligence, and not allow it to carry us astray. So, why dod we seek to promote ourselves and futher our own "kingdoms"when we're online?And why do we allow oursleves to dot hings online we never would do in person? For example, we wouldn't call a guy every day of the week, just to see how he's doing. That would be inapproriate. (unless we were related to him somehow) And we wouldn't make friends with people we don't even know and tell them all about ourselves. But we do online. Why? because we disconnect our online life from reality. We think we're able to be diffferent online, and it's ok. And the focus of being online is ourselves. We seek validation, and satisfaction, and somehow the more followers we have, the better we feel, and the more people that "like" our stuff the more successful we are. 

But step back with me for a minute, and take a look at life without the internet. What would you do? who would you be? who would you be freinds with? What would matter? How would you spend your time? The answers to these questions are the reality in which we live but choose to ignore. We do what matters mostly offline, (i.e. spending time with God, friends, and family) We are what we do as a result of our character, and we are only good friends with about 10-20 people. (and that's even stretching it a bit) 

With this in mind, I'd like to close by challenging you to take a step back to reality this week. 
~ Redeem the time you have left by spending it with the people that matter most. Eph 5:15-16
~ Use every moment to honour God and further His kingdom purposes. Rom 12:2
~ Choose to be radically different for the sake of Christ.1 John 2:15-17
~ Pursue holiness Prov 9:10
~ Show honour to those in your physical presence Phil2:3
~ Check for pride, lust and other works of the flesh Gal 5: 19-21
~ Seek to walk in the spirit, and honour God with all you do Gal 5:22-25

There is a deep contentment that comes from simply being without having to be validated by social media. In being present with people rather then being distracted by followers. There's a balance to be won in which a person is ok being alone and cut off, becasue they are not lonely; as the rest in who they are and how God has created them. The other part of that balance is living a life that is able to be on social media and not having to hide who you really are. Elizabeth Paorch

Family Camp!

In late July we all enjoyed attending a wonderful Family Camp in Bend, Oregon. This was our second year to attend, and we were VERY excited to spend the weekend with numerous friends and family in Christ. It was absolutely one of the best experiences this summer. I managed to branch out and try some new things this year, and had a great time! Be sure to leave a comment if you enjoy the pictures!

On the way to the Camp, we were texting with friends who were also on the way there, and decided we should send them a picture of us in the car. So, we took a sibling photo.......

A family picture.........

And an "extended" family picture. (Evan helped create this one.) I like to call it the many personalities of Evan and Elanee!

Once we arrived at the camp we enjoyed helping some friends setup their tent, and then had dinner, and went to the first evening meeting. The message was very good on the preeminence of Christ. After the meeting we went back to our hotel to check in to get some sleep for the 5k run that we were all excited for the next day!

Even thought we went to bed past midnight, we were up the next morning at 6:30 to get ready for the family 5k run. 

Over the past few months Evan and I had enjoyed training and running together around our neighborhood. 

I had never run a race before or done any running over 5 minutes in my life before this. But it was a great experience to train and encourage each other to go faster. 

And it helped to have some great friends training along with us. That kind of boosted our determination. 

After we got our numbers, and warmed up a bit, we all got in place for the start of the run. 

And then the offical race began. Evan ran very well, and kept well ahead of me the entire time.

I enjoyed the run immensely, but wasn't prepared for the altitude adjustment in my body. We come from living at 300ft and the race was at arround 3000ft. As a result, it was pretty hard to breathe towards the end of the race, and I know my time was impacted as a result, but it was a great race none the less. 

We even encouraged Dad and Mom to run/walk with us, even though they hadn't really trained. 

Here's an overview of the racers. 

Towards the end of the race. (Actually at this point I had already finished the race, but went back out to the road to run to the end with my friends. 

Mom and Dad finished the race together, and smiling as well:)

After the race talking and hearing each other's stories.

My good freind Hannah C. and I. 

After the race, we went back to our hotel to change before returning to the farm for the opening meeting of the day. I think there were about 750 people at the camp this year. 

After the meeting was freetime. And it was great! I enjoyed spending time with my good friends     Eden S. and Hannah C. and we went down the zipline, and enjoyed talking toegether. 

Apparently this is what happens when you ask your friends to watch your Mom's iPhone for you:) 

Bethany S. and I waiting for the "fammed" zipline. 

The ride was worth the wait. It was SO fun to be on the zipline, and I enjoyed every moment of it. 

And for Bethany it was especially fun since she had never ridden the zipline before. 

Towards the evening we enjoyed joining in to play carpetball. It is by far the most popular attraction of family camp, and it is very fun to play. 

Then we enjoyed the evening meeting after dinner, which was equally as good as the morning meeting!

After a good night's sleep, we returned to the camp for another full day of food, fun, anf fellowship. 

By far the best part of the day was the slip-n-slide. 

Evan enjoyed doing pyramids with friends, and seeing how far he could go down the hill without falling over.

But I think we all got our share of suds in the face.

And then Evan and John H. attempted a wheelbarrow hold, and managed to make it all the way down.

Upon seeing the adventure the boys were attempting.....

I got an idea......

and with the encouagement of Danielle G. .......

I went down the hill standing up the entire way.....(this isn't me, of course, but I promise I did it just like Ben S. in this picture.) (Unfortunately no one got a picture of me.)

....But I couldn't help falling over at the very end.

After several hours of fun on the slip and slide, I enjoyed going down the creek on an innertube with friends, and then played lots of volleyball. 

Mom and Dad enjoyed talking with people, and being encouraged in The Lord. 

Then after dinner, we enjoyed the evening session. Mr. J and his team of talented helpers enjoyed announcing the winners of the 5k race.


And Dad....

...were both extremely surprised to win first place in their age catagories. They did such a good job!

After the announcements and evening meeting, we enjoyed talking and fellowshipping with friends and family in Christ. 

And I guess you can see we got a bit of sunburn over the weekend, but it was SO worth it!

After another quick sleep, we came back for the first meeting of the day. 

But we were all SO tired we decided to go get coffee's with some friends before helping serve lunch. We had a great time talking, and sharing stories....

And I guess some of us enjoyed the coffee a little too much!

Helping with lunch was great fun! I also enjoyed staying arround after lunch cleanup to help with dinner prep. (Which was extrememly fun. I didn't realize how much work goes into preparing dinner for 700 people.) 

(I think I got these pictures a bit out of sequence, but anyhow, after dinner, we enjoyed the final meeting of the talent night.

This year it was amazing to hear several of our friends perform amazing songs, and arrangements. The H sisters sang beautifully as always. 

And it was great to hear the J. family sing again in sweet harmony. 

And then of course the S. family were simply wonderful as usual singing "Immortal Invisible."

And then Eden and Jordan S. simply brought the audience to their feet with an amazing performance of "The Holy City."

And I espeically enjoyed the B. families performance and song honoring the past, present, and future of homeschooling. 

And the S. family did a wonderful job singing as well. 

But I can't help but save my personal all time favorite for last. The Booher brothers are simply amazing!!!! I think I could listen to their music all day long!

And then for the final event of the camp, there was a family dance that went for several hours. But, I couldn't pass up playing volleyball and fooseball with friends, so I didn't end up dancing. I don't get to play fooseball very often, and especially not with excellent players, so this was an opportunity I didn't want to miss, and it was great fun!

And after about 6 hours of fooseball, volleyball, soccer, dutchblitz, ziplining, and other games, we ended the night with a group conversation and time of fellowship, before our tiredness finally got the better of us, and we decided to go to bed at 4 am. 

But we were up in a few hours, to have breakfast before helping cleanup the camp for a few hours. It was fun to spend the final few hours of time fellowshipping, and cleaning up with freinds. 

Then after lunch, we headed home after a blessed full weekend of fellowship, and encouragement. 

God is SO good to give us great friends, and help us to see many, many things every day to be grateful for. His mercies are truly new every morning! Great is His faithfulness!

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. "(Lamentations 3:21-26 KJV)