Graduation

Wow. It happened.

What, you may be asking, happened? Well, my wonderful readers and dreamers, the author of this blog has officially graduated from high school (for the sake of my sanity, we’re going to ignore the fact that I still have a few weeks left of school).

Yep. Eighteen years in the making and here I am.

I don’t think the fact that I’m graduating really hit me until I was standing in the church, with my peers. We all looked at each as if to say right. this is really here. this isn’t some idea in our heads anymore. we’re graduating.

Not going to lie, when the entire notion of you being DONE with your childhood, officially considered an adult by the entire world hits you…it’s a bit terrifying.

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So, when Griffin suggested that we all skip our graduation and go and get milkshakes instead…It was a terribly tempting proposition. Especially considering the fact that we had to give speeches, and anyone who knows me, knows that I abhor speaking in front of people.

Then, we all had a mid-panic, because did we just miss the music cue. Are we supposed to go in now? Later? Has it started? And because I was first, if I missed the cue, everyone else would be off.

No pressure XD

Thankfully, someone told us when to go (bless her!), and off I went down the aisle. I wore my white graduation gown and cap, with gold tassels and fringes. Wearing my two inch white wedge heels – I’m not the most coordinated person anyway, and so I thought it would be wise to steer clear of too-high shoes, I walked up the steps and took my place.

Once all five of us were on the stage, Mrs. Kim came up to speak. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a wonderful and precious lady. She was so gracious in allowing me to be a part of CHAT (homeschool co-op), even though I was not able to make the third class because of previous school scheduling. Shoutout to her for that, and for creating an amazing and intimate ceremony for the seniors! You’re the best! ūüôā

Both Chelsea and Haley’s dads prayed, with the later speaking. They both did an amazing job.

For the ceremony, a video with a song and pictures of the graduate had to be created. They played each video, and after one was done…the graduate had to speak.

Deep breath.

With my notecards in hand – let’s be real, there was no way I was going to speak from memory, I stood and went to the podium. It was not quite as terrifying as I had imagined, though I certainly was relieved to be done! ūüėČ

Miyah, who looked fabulous, walked up the steps and took the microphone. She sang Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman. I love that song, and she did an incredible job!

Then came time for my parents to take the stage, speak, and hand me my diploma. My mom held the diploma, while my dad took the microphone. He gave a great speech, although I suppose I’m slightly biased since it was about me xD, and was about to close when my mom interjected. In a characteristic fashion, my mom spontaneously decided that she needed to say something too. So, she did.

It’s funny standing there and having someone say so many nice things about you, even if it is your family. Like,¬†I’m not sure I deserve all of this.

But, ONWARDS! They handed me my diploma, and the ceremony continued.

Mrs. Kim gave each of us, as graduates, a new Bible. Thank you Mrs. Kim, I will treasure it always! This is also a good point to make an important note: THANK YOU LORD FOR BRINGING ME THIS FAR. Eighteen years!

We turned our tassels, pictures were taken, and then came the time for us to exit the stage…as the official CHAT graduating class of 2017!

Once the rain had paused, we all took advantage of the break in weather and rushed outside for the throwing of the caps. The first try was¬†a…fail. We all threw ours up at different times.¬†Time for take two! THIS TIME, we laughingly requested a countdown.¬†There were about eight different cameras going on at once, so I’m pretty sure we must have gotten a good picture out of one of those! xD

I’m going to be honest y’all. High School Musical was my childhood, and there was a large part of me that totally wanted to break out in that graduation number. Who’s with me? ūüėČ

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All in all, it was a wonderful ceremony. Thank you to Mrs Kim for putting it together, you did an incredible job! Thank you to everyone who came and helped me get this far, and congrats to all of my peers who graduated as well! WE DID IT Y’ALL!

~ newly graduated, Southern Dreamer

Resurrected King ~ Part 2 of an Easter Story

***Author note: similar to biblical fiction, I am writing portions of this as if it were a novel to be read. I have pieced together how it could have occurred to the best of my ability. As far as I have researched, nothing I have taken the artistic liberty with, contradicts Scripture but please understand, that some parts I have had to assume or think of how it might have happened, in order for the writing to flow better. Take it with what you will, but obviously my writing is not the Word of God, only something written by a daughter of the King, trying to do His sacrifice justice***

“And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it,” ~ Matthew 28:2

Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (*there very likely could have been others, but these are the specific names given in Scripture, across the four Gospels*) went to the tomb of Jesus. Their hearts were heavy and weighted with sorrow at everything that had occurred. With them, they had spices in order to finish the burial preparations, which had to be left undone because of the Sabbath.

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” questioned one, turning to look at her companions for an answer (Mark 16:3). However, they were as much at a loss for a solution as she. Even still, they continued on.

They walked towards the tomb, grieving and remembering all that Jesus said. Sweet-smelling flowers greeted them when they entered into the garden (John 19:41), bringing in an aroma of life and hope that was desperately needed. Since they had left before dawn (Luke 24:1), there was barely any light to guide their way, and as such, the women made sure to walk with caution. As they approached, an earthquake caused the ground to shake and tremor! (Matthew 28:2)

What can this mean? thought one of the women, wondering what a second earthquake in only three days could signify.

And as the earthquake occurred, an “angel of the Lord descended from heaven” and rolled back the stone! He had white clothing, shining brilliantly.

The guards were terrified, and in such a state of fear (surely, they thought, death¬†is near!) that they, “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).¬†An entire troop of Roman guards reduced to a lot of unconscious men!

Image result for women at the tomb of JesusEntering into the tomb, the women expected to see the body of Jesus. The small amount of light that was able to enter into the grave, allowed them to see something shocking. Linen cloths, used to wrap the body, were folded neatly Рwith the face cloth in a separate place from the others (John 20:6-7). His body was no longer there!

Outside the tomb, Mary Magdalene wept. And looking within the burial, she saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been.

“They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus,” ~ John 20:13-14

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” asked Jesus (John 20:15).

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Because of the early hour, it was¬†difficult to see because the sun had not fully risen. Thinking him to be the gardener, because of the tomb’s location, Mary replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Saying this, she turned back towards the inside of the tomb, where an angel had begun to speak. Tears still splattered down her cheeks, grief very much real.

“Do not be afraid for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Come, see the place where he lay. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise,” said the angel (*taken from both Luke 24:5-7 and Matthew 28:5-6*).

Then, a single word caught her attention. Her name. “Mary.”

Turning back around, Mary realized that it was Jesus. Alive! Right before her! The last time she had seen him, he had been brutally whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Red had painted his skin in crimson. She had watched him die…and now, here he stood! “Rabboni!” (John 20:16)Image result for women at the tomb of Jesus

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”¬†(John 20:17).

The other women came out of the tomb, minds racing with this information. Their hands shook in astonishment, bodies trembling from the magnitude of it all (Mark 16:8). In a mix of emotions, each woman was filled with both fear and great joy from all they had heard and experienced (Matthew 28:8).

As they came out, Jesus greeted them.

Eyes wide and some, if not all, filled with happy, overwhelming tears. They came closer, bowing and touching his feet in worship. Oh the joy! To see him again! How wonderful, how marvelous.

“Do not be afraid,” said Jesus, “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

~~~

I love this. Out of anyone he could have chosen, Jesus picked women to be the first ones to see him risen from the dead, and as the designated messengers to his disciples. The true greatness of this can be more appreciated, when we realize that back then, the testimony of women as witnesses was not always believed. Yet, he still chose them.

As a young, Christian woman, I’m so thankful that portions like this are included in Scripture, because it shows one example of how Jesus saw men and women – equal. He treated their witness as concrete and sound as a male’s, and in that day and age, this was uncommon.

(and maybe a tiny part of it had to do with the fact that women love to talk and he knew they would spread the word) xD

¬†As I celebrate Easter, I remember everything that our Savior went through – the rejections, the beatings, the whippings, the guilt and shame though he was innocent…dying on a cross. It amazes me that someone would willingly choose to do that for me. Heck, I don’t think I would do that for me; it’s mind-blowing.

Literally, I cannot compute why Jesus would do that. His unconditional love is so unlike human relationships that I find myself unable to comprehend it, and yet, I am so, incredibly thankful for his sacrifice and grace.

Let us never forget the very real sacrifice that our Savior went through, and always celebrate the fact that on the third day, death was DEFEATED and Jesus Christ rose from the grave!

~ Southern Dreamer

Darkness Fell ~ Part 1 of an Easter Story

“Die he or justice must; unless for him some other able, and as willing, pay the rigid satisfaction, death for death. Say heav’nly Powers, where shall we find such love, which of ye will be mortal to redeem Man’s mortal crime, and just th’ unjust to save, dwells in all Heaven charity so dear?” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton¬†

Who will step forward? Will someone sacrifice the glories and perfection of heaven for the broken and trying life on Earth?

“He asked, but all the heav’nly choir stood mute, and silence was in Heav’n; on man’s behalf patron or intercessor none appeared, much less that durst upon his own head draw the deadly forfeiture, and ransom set,” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton

Silence. The golden streets and tree of life. Silence. The heralds of angels and beating wings. Silence. The majesty of the Creator and the magnificence of heaven’s shining buildings. Silence.

Silence can say so much more than words.

Would anyone step in? Would someone take man’s place?

“And now without redemption all mankind must have been lost, adjudged to death and Hell by doom severe, had not the Son of God, in whom the fullness dwells of love divine, his dearest mediation thus renewed.

‘Father, thy word is passed, man shall find grace; and shall grace not find means, that finds her way, the speediest of thy winged messengers, to visit all thy creatures, and to all comes unprevented, unimplored, unsought, happy for man, so coming; he her aid can never seek, once dead in sins and lost; atonement for himself or offering meet, indebted and undone, hath none to bring: Behold me then, me for him, life for life I offer, on me let thine anger fall; account me man; I for his sake will leave thy bosom, and this glory next to thee freely put off, and for him lastly die well pleased, on me let Death wreak all his rage; under his gloomy power I shall not long lie vanquished; thou hast giv’n me to possess life in myself forever, by thee I love, though now to Death I yield, and am his due,'” ~ Paradise Lost, John Milton

All heaven silent, until the Son of God spoke. All mankind lost, until this moment.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” ~ Luke 2:11

He, who had come from heaven: perfect, beautiful, joyful, now came to Earth – to be among his creation, to do what no one else could.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” ~ Hebrew 4:15

Instead of a throne, he sat on the dusty, dirty ground. Insects crawling beneath; an ant biting him. Instead of a crown and robes of splendor, he wore the simple clothing of a carpenter. Blisters on his hands from working with wood; a splinter finding its way into his skin. Instead of angels singing praises hour after hour, he endured the ridicule of bullies. Name-calling, excluding him from activities, causing a bleeding cheek or egg-sized knot on his head. Instead of perfection, he came to the broken world. Temptation rearing its ugly head and the battle not to give in.

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“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

He had friends, family. Perhaps, he had a particular pet growing up that he was fond of. Maybe a sheep that would sneak into the house when it was not supposed to, or a baby chick that cuddled up by his bedside. He celebrated holidays with feasts and great fun. He experienced the growing up pains of being a teenager; the temptation though he did not sin.

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33 years.

And then, came the end of an old world and the beginning of a marvelous grace-filled one where death is defeated.

Let’s back-track though.

The arrest of Jesus.

“Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples,” ~ John 18:2

This one sentence has so much information. We learn two key pieces of information about his arrest, that make it so much more painful. The obvious one is that Judas – someone he had taught, ate with, and spent many hours conversing about various things – betrayed him. Secondly, let’s go back to this…”for Jesus often met there with his disciples.”

Putting it in our terms, this was their “hang-out” place. The spot they went to when they wanted to talk, escape the crowds, just be friends. So I don’t think it is too overly assuming to say that this location probably had a special meaning.

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground,” ~ Luke 22:41-44

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I’m not sure if it’s because only Luke records it, or if I’ve just never noticed it in the other Gospels before, but I find it so interesting that it says, “and there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” I wonder what this entailed. Did¬†the angel¬†encourage him in words? Remind him of the good that would come after? Give him something to eat or drink?

I think it is noteworthy to point out, that though the angel strengthened him…his pain did not go away. Right after, it says, “and being in agony.”

Yes, Jesus was strengthened, but his “cup” was not taken away. The struggle, the apprehension of what was to come did not leave. As the verse concludes, it becomes clear that he is under a tremendous amount of anxiousness. There is an actual, medical condition where one is under so much stress and anxiety that sweat and blood mix, creating, as Luke wrote, “like great drops of blood.”

There would still be more to come. Trials. Betrayals. Beatings – horrible, gruesome whips that came upon him again and again. Thorns – a mockery by them, shoving a crown of nature’s needles onto his head…blood pooling out. Humiliation – casting lots for his clothing,¬†doing everything to try and destroy his¬†dignity. Pain.

The nails. The cross. Dying the worst and most degraded form of death that could be done. How amazing of a Savior we have! I cannot compute this kind of love – unconditional, perfect, encompassing. Even as I write this, it blows my mind that someone would willingly choose to go through the most undesirable form of suffering for me.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed,” ~ 1 Peter 2:24

Guilt. Though Jesus had done no wrong, he took the weight of our sins. Can you imagine? All of history. All of humanity. Every person that has and ever will live. That feeling, that sense of shame and guilt that comes with sin, he felt. Him, who knew no sin and lived a perfect life, experienced the ramifications of sin. The consequences, though he was innocent.

Imagine the worst crime you can think of – murder, rape. And then picture yourself having to feel the guilt and shame for doing that, though you did not.

Horrible.

In every way, the sacrifice of Jesus was brutal. It was emotionally taxing – friends betraying him, mentally draining – enduring the verbal assault, physically sapping – the most horrific, pain and death, and spiritually exhausting – when God turned his face.

Let’s go back to that place, that hour.

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It is the middle of the day; there are three crosses. Because it is the Passover, travelers are passing by and witnessing this dismal sight. There are soldiers, who prolonged his suffering by giving him wine vinegar. There is his family, weeping and in anguish over what has been done to him.

12:00pm. Noon.

Instant darkness. The light from the day vanished and inky blackness took its place. There was no electricity, and no backup generators. Perhaps someone found a candle, though I doubt they had one close by. Who would have thought it would be needed at midday?

The hours ticked by, time moving slowly. Seconds turned into minutes, seeming to stretch into infinity. What had happened? Why was it pitch black at noon? Would the light return?

3pm.

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit,” ~ Matthew 27:50

The curtain of the temple stood sixty feet high and thirty feet wide. It separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, that only the high priest was allowed to enter once a year. At this moment, this instant it was torn in two. The separation between God and humanity had been breached.

The ground rumbled – an earthquake. Rocks were broken, split into pieces. The tombs opened up and the “bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52).

Jesus had died.

***will post second part tomorrow on Easter***