July 30, 2014

Blessings in the midst of pain

I've faced some hard things in my life -- things I never saw coming. And I've watched friends endure suffering, trials, and hardships in the past few years that I would never have expected them to go through. But I am so encouraged that through it all, God is faithful.

I was really touched by this blog post from my college friend, Amalia, who recently went through the heartbreak of her newborn daughter passing away just 19 minutes after she was born. Amalia shares,

"My blessings did not come through the exact answers to my prayers. But I have learned that a blessing does not have to be an exact answer to my prayers. Sometimes God chooses a different path for us to walk. 

That road is not always the happy and sunny road. Sometimes we must face the storms, and the rain. Sometimes the path God chooses for us brings countless days filled with tears. Sometimes the path God chooses for us includes night after sleepless night. Sometimes the path God chooses for us seems like it will never end, and that we are constantly trudging through the dark shadows, unsure of where our next step will lead. 

I wanted so badly to be a mom. I wanted so badly to carry her in my arms as we left the hospital. I wanted so badly to hear her laugh, and see her smile. But those are not the blessings that God chose for me.

But let me never fail to say that I am blessed. Although I never would have said this before, I have learned that God has used my tears to bring healing. He has used all of my sleepless nights to remind me that he is near. I have found above all else, that in the midst of the most heartbreaking pain, God does fill me with his blessings. In fact, his abundant blessings have become so real to me throughout this entire journey."

Read Amalia's whole post here.

July 26, 2014

3 Short Updates

1. I realized last week that I’m going to be about 40 years old when I finish sponsoring Adelce. I love that I have the chance to invest in her life over a long period of time … and I’m sure curious what my life will be like at the age of 40!

2. Dave and I completed our very first garage sale, which was on our summer to-do list! I’d call it a moderate success! We made about $60 and met a bunch of our neighbors.  :)

3. Dave got me a cactus for Valentine’s Day this year—he knows me so well! It was growing so fast, I started to measure it. The cactus started out about 2 ½ inches tall. Right now, it stands at 6 ½ inches tall! (YAY! I finally found a plant I can keep alive!!!)

July 24, 2014

What I love about my Chromebook 11

I’m a writer, so having a laptop is important to me. When I realized that my old laptop was probably in its last days, I started to poke around to find out what might be a good replacement.

I’m so glad I decided to try out a Chromebook.

Here’s why:

1. I don’t have to worry about losing my latest draft of something.
Instead of being saved to my computer, my work is saved online. I used to use a USB drive to back up all my work to ensure I would have another copy if my computer suddenly died. Now, I know I can access all my documents and drafts from any device that’s hooked up to the internet. I can see the latest drafts of everything instantly!

2. I saved money.
Instead of buying the whole Microsoft suite like I did for my last laptop, I am able to save everything to my Google Drive using “Google Docs,” which is similar to Word. I also found out that (bonus!) Google Docs auto-saves everything as I’m working on a document. Plus, Chromebooks are much cheaper than traditional laptops. (All of my Dutch genes just leaped for joy!)  :)

3. It’s hassle-free.
I detest messing with updates and security stuff on my computer, and my Chromebook came equipped to handle all of that stuff automatically by itself. *whew*

All in all, I give my Chromebook 11 a big THUMBS UP!

July 19, 2014

The Cure for Hiccups

I don't know about you, but I've tried a lot of hiccup "remedies" over the years, and some of them are pretty strange.

Now, I am no scientist, but I can tell you that I finally found a hiccup remedy that works flawlessly for me. I've shared this cure with other hiccup sufferers, too, and it's worked for every one of them so far as well!

So, next time you get stuck with a bad case of the hiccups, give this a try:

Pick long words that you know and spell them backwards out loud. 

To make things easier, I recommend starting with names of states, like California, Connecticut, Delaware, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, etc. On the spot, think of as many names of U.S. states as you can ... and spell them backwards out loud (no cheating by reading the letters off of a page!).

Let me know if it works for you or someone you know!

July 15, 2014

My poem about "The Scarlet Letter"

I've dabbled in many parts of the writing universe—including poetry! But I haven’t shared much of my poetry publicly … until now. I've decided it's time to open up a bit of my poetry to the world by sharing some of it here on my blog. 

*deep breath*

So, here’s a poem I wrote several years ago based on the book The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read the synopsis here before diving into my poem below.) 

The Scarlet Letter Poem
by Laurel Dykema

A fair countenance
A trustworthy face
Melodious voice and 
Great Preacher of grace

Beneath this fa├žade
a burning lie
that blisters and festers
all white-hot and dry

Hot tears splatter
upon his chest there
Reminding him of
The mark he should bear

That Hester should suffer
in public disgrace
Wore at his heart
As he preached, as he paced

The scaffold he knew
Was escape for his shame
Confessing his guilt
Would mean death to his name

As he mounted the steps
All short of breath
From his pounding heart
And his soon-coming death

His clear voice rang out
over the watching faces
His trembling lips conveyed his guilt
Just before his heart thumped its final paces

He smiled at me as his eyes closed in death
The sacrificial confession, like a lamb
Protecting him from my ultimate revenge
Yes, Chillingworth I am.

July 11, 2014

Gift Ideas for Compassion Child

I sponsor a little girl who lives in Indonesia through Compassion International.

Her name is Adelce.

I love writing her short letters to share about my life and encourage her. I've had so much fun getting creative and thinking of flat, inexpensive items I can mail to Adelce to brighten her day and bring a smile to her face, too!

Learn more about Adelce (and another girl I started sponsoring named Rhoda!) here.

So far, I've mailed some duct tape crafts -- including a bracelet and a little coin purse. (I have to say, I love all the fun colors and patterns duct tape has these days!) Here's another duct tape craft I'm planning to send soon: a bookmark!



I often send stickers, too (because really, who doesn't love stickers?!). I'm a fan of sparkly stickers, animal stickers, and puffy stickers. I also purchased a cheap set of regular stickers and use them to decorate the letters I send to Adelce. One of these days, I'm planning to write to her using some colorful stationary or a greeting card -- just to mix things up!

The craft below is one I just completed today. I printed out a world map and used star stickers to mark where Adelce and I live. Then, I "drew a line" between the two using heart stickers.



I traced the outline of my hand on card stock paper, then used a scissors to cut out the shape of my hand. Maybe someday Adelce will trace out her hand and send it to me, too!



Then, to jazz up an "ordinary" picture, I cut out a piece of the same card stock paper and put it behind a photo.



Did you know that you can make a tiny book using just one piece of printer paper? It's true! I found several versions of directions through Google. You can search and find one that works for you! I had a lot of ideas about what to put in this little book, and I eventually decided to make a "Princess" book for Adelce. Want even more ideas? Check out my Gift Ideas for Compassion Child (Part II).



July 9, 2014

Caterpillar to butterfly

When I was a very young girl, I picked out my first pair of glasses. They were pink (of course!) and had a tiny pink butterfly in one corner.

The glasses made a HUGE difference in my perceptions.

Before glasses, I saw a blurry, confusing world—but when I put my first pair of glasses on, I saw my surroundings with perfect clarity. I wonder if that’s a little what Heaven will be like … that when I leave behind this “caterpillar” body and am raised with my new perfect body, I’ll finally see God, myself, my life, and the world with perfect clarity.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” - 2 Corinthians 5:1



July 5, 2014

Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, "...there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Boasting about weaknesses?

That is such a foreign thought. If you’re like me, you find your own weaknesses to be embarrassing. I don’t like to be thought of as weak by other people, and it’s difficult for me to admit my faults. Yet, I am weak—just like Paul admits he is in this passage.

In this passage, the thorn in Paul's flesh is spoken of as "a messenger of Satan." Satan meant this torment for evil, but God uses it as a way to show his power. I wonder what he meant by the “thorn in my flesh.”

Was it physical pain? Mental? Spiritual?

Whatever the source of Paul’s pain, I know that every person I have ever met has experienced some type of pain—including you and me. Maybe, like me (and Paul), you have pleaded with the Lord to take the pain away from you … but in his perfect wisdom, God hasn’t.

I find it interesting that the Lord does not intervene in Paul’s situation, or answer the "Why?" question we all want answered.

Instead, he says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Do you have any thoughts to add? I'd love to hear from you -- comment below.

July 2, 2014

Piqued, peeked, or peaked?

I have many pet peeves when it comes to grammatical errors, but there's one I've been seeing a LOT lately:

People are confusing piqued, peeked, and peaked.

Here are some correct sample sentences:


Thank you. You may now return to your normally scheduled activities.

:)