A Masterpiece

Josh was an incredible encourager. He wrote many uplifting things in his emails, but this portion is by far my favorite. It's dated January 12, 2012. 


You are a masterpiece that grows closer to completion every day.   You cannot expect to be finished overnight, and you cannot allow yourself to become discouraged when you don’t progress as fast as you think you should.  The Artist loves to watch every stroke of His brush add another dimension of depth and beauty, bringing you closer and closer to His perfect vision.  When the portrait of your life is complete, He will unlock the canvas from its easel, and hold it up:  “Ariel Jessica Strom, you are mine.”  And with that, He will add the finishing touch: His signature - written in His blood.  He will walk over to His wall and hang it up to admire its beauty and perfection.  At that moment, you will be standing there with Him, having finally realized that your entire life on earth was merely preparation for this moment, and the eternity to follow.

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  ~Jesus

            Hold fast and draw near, Ariel.  Never let go of Him: close your eyes and dive.


Never pass up the opportunity to encourage someone. You never know how long your words might be remembered. He probably had no idea I would still cherish these words a year and a half after he wrote them. 

Encouragement is powerful. Use it.


Death: A Moment of Beauty

A year ago today, my family and I and a couple friends hiked Rainie Falls. Among those friends was a young man named Josh. None of us knew that May 5 was his last day on this earth. 

After Josh fell into that river, myself and many others felt a sense of an ending. A death, a hole, a sudden jolting stop. But for Josh, that fall was a beginning. A glorious beginning.

I don't want to think of it as the day he died. I want to think of May 5 as the day he finally became alive. That is why I wrote this. It is written from Josh's perspective -- a guess as to what it might have been like to die.


It all begins with the calming.

My adrenaline, my fear – all of the sensations that seemed so real when I fell into this river – fade away. Everything settles into a strange, quiet serenity. Almost as if time itself has ceased.
Until now I was praying half-consciously, but now I send intentional words into the silence: Lord, what is happening?

Understanding comes as peacefully as the stillness around me.

This is my last moment on earth.

I feel subdued, contented. I never knew it would be so peaceful to die.

The calm is broken by sudden elation. I am going to Heaven – I'm going to Jesus! The next moment my joy is jolted by panic. A thousand thoughts tumble through my mind – all of the things I haven't done, the things I haven't said... Wait – Lord – what about –

Come to me, my son.

Thrill pulsates through me. Did I just hear the voice of God? Did my King speak to me?

Without warning the faces of my parents flash in front of me. Wait! I want to hold on; I start reaching out, grasping for the familiarity of earth's consciousness. But Lord …

Joshua. Come home.

I let go.

Reality morphs. In a electrifying and indescribably beautiful moment, I die.

Light explodes in my mind. I shudder with joy as it flows through my veins, glowing, pulsing – my new heartbeat, my new pulse.

At the same time, I am aware of a deeply curious sensation. I am being lifted up…  out... out of the only reality I know. It's like I'm being turned inside out. Something is slipping off of me, as if an old, heavy, tattered coat that I never knew I was wearing. As the strangling burden releases me I realize what it is.

My sin.

Every struggle, every temptation, every misery over that old nature that continually tormented me – gone. Oh, Jesus, I will never sin again! God, thank you!

Freedom eclipses me. Freedom – so raw and intense I wonder that I can contain it. It is radiating out of me. Light is emanating from me, but not my own light. I know that. I am reflecting the Light of the Son of God.

Time doesn't matter anymore. Only one thing matters.

My entire being pours itself out in praise to my King. I can't bear to keep in such all-consuming joy. Most glorious of all, there is no struggle to find a way to convey my gratitude. It flows straight from my heart without pause, a stream of passionate adoration.

I am swept up in unspeakable ecstasy, with the knowledge I will be worshiping my God like this for an eternity to come.

Praise the Lord! It is finished. My soul has reached it's ultimate redemption. I am home.

I, Joshua Steven Eddy, died.

And now I am finally alive.



Resolved to be in Awe

By Clyde Kilby (read the original post here)

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

Image credit: Ben Canales.


Define: Courtship

Ladies and gentlemen, now that I am officially in a courtship, I thought I might try to clear up all of the confusion surrounding the word.

(it's from the movie Emma. And has nothing to do with the rest of the post really.)

courtship [ˈkɔːtʃɪp]
        1. the act or art of seeking the affections of a woman; wooing
        2. the period during which such wooing takes place

        Cool. Sounds nice and old-fashioned. But this word has become so common among the homeschool subculture that it's lost its meaning altogether. When you hear a couple is “courting,” what does that mean? Arranged marriage for the 21st century? Awkward dating with both parents watching constantly? Or just Christians doing the same bf/gf thing as everyone else – but with a reformed name?
        All those things may be named courtship, but to me, courtship is really only one thing: a relationship between a man and woman seeking to determine God's will in their future, while protecting each other and honoring their parents. It's really about the principles, because every courtship is different.

        When my sister started a courtship, it was new ground for us. Sure, we'd read tons of books about courting and watched sermons about purity – goodness, we'd even listen to long tapes during car trips on the topic – but then we would hear “every courtship is different,” leaving us basically on our own to create this thing called courtship for our own family.

        Thank goodness.

        We thought the rules applied to everyone. Rules about timing, stages, and even as specific as physical boundaries. But we learned that the most important thing about courtship is that it is very different for every couple. Everything is different because the people are different.
        Some last a couple months, some a couple years. Some involve heavy parental oversight, some little. Some couples know each other for years before-hand, while some hardly at all when the courtship begins.
        I cannot place enough importance on being willing to make adjustments to your picture of the “perfect courtship” because of your situation. It's really okay! Still there are basic essentials. Here are the basic Principles of courtship. (I capitalized the P because the 3 essentials start with Ps... clever, I know...)

  1. Purposeful intent
  2. Purity valued
  3. Parental involvement

        So first, purposeful intent. This is mostly to shield against the culture-condoned practice of dating for fun, or to “just get to know” without serious interest in marriage. Because this is done in a environment that promotes romantic feelings, the fear is that it leads to emotional attachment (which is usually true) and then to heartbreak. Yes, we know heartbreak isn't the end of the world, and it can be a great growth process, but it's generally way more efficient to get to know people outside of a romantic context. A courtship is always looking toward marriage as a hopeful goal. (Not a definite goal. That's called “engagement.” And yes, that was sarcastic.)
        Purposeful also means you wait until the young people are ready to begin a courtship. It is not an easy out for two infatuated young people to have a romantic relationship even though they're not anywhere near marriage – but oh, it's okay because we're courtingShall I quote Song of Solomon? Don't start things until the two people are ready for things to be started.
        I tend to put prominence on maturity. Yes, a job is important; yes, knowledge of house-keeping is important; but knowing how to sacrifice and be vulnerable and being ready to enter the extremely hard puzzle that marriage is: this is most crucial. At least to me.

        Now, with each of these principles, some people go overboard. For instance: Waiting until they're ready, to some people, means the man must already be ready to support a wife and three children before he asks to court anyone. (I only exaggerated a little, actually. Sadly.) While financial stability is important, it may not be a reason for delaying courtship. Neither may age be. Usually, a courtship of two 17-year-olds isn't the wisest thing, but sometimes it works! It is different for everyone. I know of a couple who had a long but blessed courtship that began when they were about that age. They are married now and so glad they could do all of those years of growing side by side. It definitely does not work for everyone, but don't rule it out as impossible. Please.

        Now on to number 2. Purity valued. Purity is probably the most enormous focus in courtship talks/books. It doesn't just mean physical. Emotional purity is one of the most-talked-about topics for young women. "Emotional purity" actually isn't the best wording (discretion would be better) because it implies it is something that can be lost and never regained (more on that later). But emotional discretion is really important, especially for girls, and especially when they're young. Do not be reckless with your love, or foolish with your thoughts. Remember, the heart determines the course of the life. (Psalm 4:23, NLT) And as far as physical purity, God commands it.

        Now, how some go overboard. Does it surprise you that the day I realized kissing before marriage isn't a sin was not very long ago? Okay, it's not as if I consciously thought it was, but my subculture so valued “saving” your kiss for your wedding day that I was secretly judging anyone who didn't. Until I realized it wasn't actually any kind of moral failing – it was just a wise idea. First kiss at the altar is a very good idea for keeping physical purity. But please remember that it's not a sin to decide not to. (Decide being an important word. “It just happened” when you planned to save it for the big day is a different issue. Set your boundaries and keep them.)
        And on the emotional side of things... oh boy. Ladies, please hear me out. If you fall in love with a man, and end up not marrying him, it is okay. It will not make you less pure, leaving you partially defiled on your wedding day. You do not leave a part of your heart with that first man that you can never give to your husband. Yes, you might always remember him, perhaps with regret – but no matter how many times you fall in love, you will always have all your heart to give your true love.
        I say this not to encourage you to fall in love, but to hearten those who have done so, wisely or not. Too much pressure on guarding your heart will make you afraid of taking the steps needed to create that deep relationship vital in a courtship. I am writing a post about my own experience facing that choice of vulnerability, and what I discovered about keeping my heart in a courtship. Stay tuned for that.        

        So that's all I can say for now without being utterly-way-too-long. Guarding your heart is good, very good, but please don't take it overboard. It's damaging to your relationship with your future husband.

        Last but not least, number 3: Parental involvement. This is probably the principle you will have the hardest time finding in the dating world. In fact, you don't even find it much in engagement. But courtshipers (I think I made up that word) find it very important. Basically, this includes the woman's father “checking out” the young man, setting boundaries for the courtship, and just being involved in the whole process.
        I love this. I really love it. First, it gives the father the honor he deserves. Second, it deepens and strengthens relationships between parent and child, as you talk openly about this very personal issue. And third, O young ones, your parents aren't perfect, but they've got some great advice. They've been through this. While you may feel like you know way more about this situation, take a humility pill and realize that you've got a lot to learn. Besides, you're probably not quite in your right mind as there is some amazing person interested in you. Just sayin'.
        And the best part about giving your parents authority in your relationship is that they just might hand it back. Say hello to the power of trust. This has been one of the biggest blessings in my own courtship. My man and I have been given a lot of trust in some areas, and as a result, we have an even greater desire to prove trustworthy! There is an incredible empowerment that comes with being trusted, and it is a great maturity-builder for young adults who may or may not deserve it, but will strive to earn it.

        How do some go overboard with this? By making the rules too strict. By closing the gate too tight. By not trusting the couple enough, so that they jump over the gate, because they felt it would never open. Enough said.
        Also,  it is difficult to say what the level of authority a father should have on rejecting a suitor. This is one I can't say a black and white answer on, because the situation is always different.
        However, in almost every situation I can say that is very important to give the couple time alone. I used to think in courtship, there was always someone right there, watching and listening. Wow. What a way to develop a relationship. In all seriousness, third wheels are great – but to have a truly real and deep relationship, some things must be between 2 people only, and not shared with the parents or anyone else. That is the nature of relationships, and especially one as intimate as this one is meant to become.

      ...Please forgive me, I'm going to say just a little bit more about rules (even though I said "Enough said.") Don't misunderstand me - rules are wonderful things. They can often be legalistic or too harsh, but in general they are great. My whole life, we always had the rule: "No riding in the car alone with a guy." Even when neither of us were remotely interested in each other and it was just for convenience - it didn't matter. We had a rule, and we kept it. Did this get annoying sometimes? Yes. Did it hurt me? No. Really, it's okay to put up with rules that don't always make sense. Better to be safe than sorry.

        So those are the 3 principles that I believe make courtship different from dating. Before I'm finished though, I must state something rather important. And that is this: dating can be God-glorifying.

        This should be obvious, but to those in my circle, it's not. People, listen: Dating couples actually aren't stupid. (Gasp!) They oftentimes date with purpose, and in some form or other, value purity. It's true. And on the other hand, some don't. Those types are so scandalous that we decide all dating is like that and therefore “bad.” It is unfortunately common to find pro-courtship-ers making generalizations about daters, because the large percentage of them are all one way. Check out this quote from Stacey McDonald.
        “Dating is random, while courtship is deliberate; in dating, the goal is romance, while with courtship, the goal is marriage; dating leaves the couple unprotected, while courtship protects the young couple; dating is an unnatural setting of perpetual recreation, but courtship creates a natural setting of real life and family...”

        Do you see the stereotyping? Courting couples can be very unprotected if they make unwise choices, while dating couples can choose to put up boundaries for themselves. It's about the principles, not the name. Let me say it again. It is the principles within the relationship that determine whether it glorifies God or not. Dating can be totally fine.
        And what do I mean by “dating?” Going on dates. Spending time one-on-one developing a deeper relationship. Doing fun things together. Doing hard things together. Dating doesn't have to equal fornication and broken hearts. Just as courtship doesn't have to equal purity and protection. Whichever way you go, if you make the Bible the core of your relationship's principles, you're good to go. It's okay to do things different than the next guy. It really is.

        Thanks for reading. Sorry this ended up so long, but hopefully it's been somewhat helpful. Go date/court to the glory of God!


So far at 8,775 hits...

Well, folks, it just so happens that I read this great book, How to Choose a Husband, and wrote a review on it. It just so happens that my father works for WND.com, who published the book, so my review got posted on the site. Score!

Check it out.... HERE.


It's V-day again

Happy day of romance!

Reading my short post from last year... I still have to agree. Congrats to those who still have their head on straight. I, for one, still believe I do, though some would try to convince me otherwise. In fact, I feel like I have it on more straight than I did last year...

So to celebrate this happy little (actually-rather-confusing-because-I-thought-it-was-about-romance-and-then-people-celebrate-love-on-it-too) holiday, I'm going to repost an incredibly note-worthy post written by my brilliant friend Alexa. READ IT.

And secondly... A love song. One that you probably haven't heard before, to make it unique. Okay, so it's not the best song in the world or anything, but it's sweet, okay?

And thirdly.... a shout-out to my truly amazing suitor, a rare man of virtue. I'm so honored to not be alone on Valentines day for the first time in my life. Thank you, Courtship Buddy. (hehe) As I've said before, for 19 years my life was beautiful, but with you everything glows a little brighter.

That's it for now, people. Go eat some chocolate!


The Close of a Year

I've been wanting to post about 2012 for a while now... but when somehow the entire poem I put my heart into vanished from the blogger drafts, I sort of gave up.

So I don't have a lovely original poem for you about this incredible and terrifying past year. Sorry. Instead, with my vanity rather smushed, I offer you the words of another instead. (Honestly I think they apply to my year almost better than anything I could've written!)

These words are from a song titled "The Beauty and the Tragedy" by David Hodges.

"For I am finding out that love
Will kill and save me
Taking the dreams that made me up
And tearing them away.
But the same love will take this heart
That's barely breathing
And fill it with hope beyond the stars..."

Whose love is this? God's. And yet is has a sort of double meaning. I recall writing in my journal, shortly after Josh died, " I didn't know it hurt so bad to love." The strong, deep love of a close friendship killed me, in a way. Because God took my dreams and literally tore them away.

But the story doesn't end there. My merciful Creator took my barely breathing heart... And filled it with hope. Many different kinds of hope - the grandest of which had already been mine from before my birth. The hope of an eternity with my Love, my Lord.

And so God wounded to heal. He brought me low to show me just how much I truly needed him... And then brought beautiful, glorious, painful Healing.

"Come, let us return to the Lord;
For he has torn us, that he may heal us;
He has struck us down, and he will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)

"For he wounds, but he binds up; 
He shatters, but his hands heal." (Job 5:18)

So that was my year! Oh, and on top of that my only sister got married...

Needless to say, 2012 was the biggest year of my life. Also the most painful, and somehow still the most wonderful. I grew up. The Lord changed me greatly. Now I greet 2013, a woman: weaker in myself, yet ultimately stronger; more vulnerable, more mature, and a little wiser, thanks to His grace. (And much more emotional!)

Hello, new year. Ariel is ready for you. She has a King on her side who can handle anything you throw at her. So bring it on!


To Crucify Your Maker

Can you imagine? Can you even begin to feel the kind of horror, sickness, and shock that came upon the Roman soldiers who realized... they have just brutally murdered the very Son of God.

The One who made them. The One who gave them the voices they used to wound his spirit; the hands they used to wound his ravaged body. The One who is suffocating on that piece of wood to save their dead souls.

And they tortured him to death.


What is this that we have done? I cannot forgive or forget it.

Just another crucifixion... an ordinary moment.
Before God tore open the sky. And their souls.

Can the silence erase the memory? Can we ever forget this... can we just cover up what we have done...?

They kept quite. The only way to hide. (See Matthew 28:11-15)

Pray for the day when the truth will make us pay...

The day of judgment. "What have you done to My Son?" Only the very blood that they shed can redeem their shame and guilt.

The silence has become the end of us.

The sickening silence after His lungs and heart gave up the struggle for life. After the sky was darkned and the earth shook. After the Man cried out his last breath... and was gone.

"...The centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus... feared greatly, saying,
'Truly, this was the Son of God.'"