Monday, December 28, 2009

A Carstensen Christmas

First of all I have to show off our gingerbread village! We had so much fun building it and are enjoying eating it too, though that part is rather bittersweet.

Above the village, looking over on our skating pond.

I love details, like the icicles and window frame here.

And our sweet little mercantile, seems like it would be a fun place to visit.

Caitlin's log cabin, it also had a stone chimney, made from chocolate rocks.

The Meeting House, as we like to call it.

Christmas was fairly quiet, because all of our family is in California and Oregon, for the past few years we've spent it with friends usually people, that, like us, have no family in the area. This year was spent with the Cunninghams, and an older woman who was recently widowed.
Hayley woke us all up bright and early, around 5 o'clock. We had a pretty leisurely morning, having cinnamon rolls for breakfast(yummy!). Then straightened up everything and were able to Skype with our grandparents, the first time we've seen them on Christmas in 8 years.
Here's a few pictures.

This year we decorated in a more natural look, with berries, "snow" clusters, pine cones, and these little woodland creatures.

Also some snowflakes, including these lovely frames my mother got last year.
And here's the tree Christmas morning.
The fun socks we all got!
And playing Jenga with the Cunninghams.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's About Time

Okay, so I haven't done anything in a while(obviously), blogging has not really been on the top of my To Do list.
Here's a little bit on what I've been up to lately...
Our Thanksgiving was pretty quiet we had the Cunninghams over for the meal, after which we all went out and took a walk, then came home and played games while enjoying coffee and pumpkin pie. Here I'm teaching Caitlin Cunningham how to play Backgammon.
John and his friend Matthew also joined us in the evening, and spent most of it around the chess board.
Sweet Jillian and Rachel! I love having a baby around so much, it is so fun!
Hayley and Jacob taking their turn at the chess board.
And last Saturday we trekked out to get our tree. I'm very glad we did that before we got 8 inches of snow, and fortunately we didn't have to go too far to find it.
Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland!
Jillian doing her sign language at the choir concert.
My lovely and wonderful parents!

I'm hoping to do some more posting soon. Please forgive the lapse of creativity I've had lately, and also laziness on my part, just can't seem to get myself to get things together, I'm working on it though. God bless you all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

14 Days of Thankfulness

Many apologies for not having kept up with the 14 Days of Thankfulness. I find that it is very difficult for me to write something everyday. Unfortunately, the gift of writing well is something that went to all my sisters and seems to have passed me up almost entirely. While I do enjoy journaling and writing letters for the most part writing is something that I have a very hard time with.
Anyway, today I want to say how thankful I am for people who can write. I love to read and am always looking for something new to add to my library. I have been very blessed by the talents that God has given others in this area, especially since I myself can not do it. Some of my favorite authors being: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, L.M Montgomery, David McCullough, Madeleine L'Engle, Voddie Bauchum, John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Bridges... and many more.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

14 Days of Thankfulness: Day 3

Although unfortunately I had to stay home from church this morning (still am not quite back to 100%). I just wanted to write about how thankful I am for the church we are at right now. My family has been in a lot of churches here in Montana and when we lived in California. It has always been difficult to find a place where we were welcomed and that had a true desire to follow after Christ and serve Him according to the Bible, not any man's ideas. While I know that certainly our family is not perfect and definitely does not have everything together as far as the best way to go about our lives and truly know what the church is to be more than anyone one else, it has been our desire to follow by the Word that He has given us. But this has not seemed to be the desire of many churches out there, many of them seek to be appealing to the world thinking that this will draw others to Christ, they want it to be attractive to the world so in many ways have become just like the world, after all we wouldn't want anybody to be uncomfortable with Christ, would we? (sarcasm)
My father from pretty much the beginning of his walk with Christ had a tendency to be a boat rocker(well wasn't Christ one too). And so churches that sought to make things comfortable for themselves and the world were not the place for him. We went through quite a few churches when we lived in CA, and I remember sometimes being rather upset with my parents for taking us away from places just when I start to actually get to know the place and make friends. As I got older I started to understand a bit more and began seeing myself what was going in many different places. When I was 11 I left the Sunday School at the particular church we were going to because I felt like I wasn't learning anything, we simply went through the same Bible stories over and over again. I joined to adult Sunday School class, which rather upset some of the adults.
We ended up leaving that church just a few months later. (And not because of me=).
Since we first moved to Montana in 2001, we have been to 8 churches, and that doesn't include all the ones we just visited once or twice. They lasted from almost 2 years to as little as 4 months. Inevitably something would come up, a couple times resulting in church splits.
Christ's Covenant Fellowship is one we actually attended before, though under a different title and with a bit different grouping of people. At the time we left, about 4 years ago, we were very upset and disappointed, it had been the first church in a long time where we had actually felt like part of a family. But there were some doctrinal issues. A little over a year ago the elders of Christ Covenant asked us to return. Asked us! Never before had someone actually wanted our boat rocking, flow disrupting family to come to a church. Especially one that had had some difficulty's with us in the past. So we started attending, and it has really been wonderful, we are with people that we have known for some time(and they don't hate us yet... I think). Have had wonderful fellowship, and right now my father is doing the teaching. So far it has been one of the best church experiences I have ever had and I hope and pray that it will continue for many years yet.

O, church arise and put your armor on
Hear the call of Christ our Captain
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength, that God has given
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We'll stand against the devil's lies
An army bold whose battle cry is love
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul
But to rage against to captor
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor
When faced with trials on every side
We know the outcome is secure
And Christ will have the prize for which He died
An inheritance of nations.

Come see the cross where love and mercy meet
As the Son of God is stricken
Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet
For the conqueror has risen
And as the stone is rolled away
And Christ emerges from the grave
This victory march continues till the day
Every eye and heart shall see Him.

So Spirit come, put strength in every stride
Give grace for every hurdle
That we may run with faith to win the prize
Of a servant good and faithful
As saints of old still line the way
Retelling triumphs of His grace
We hear the calls and hunger for the day
When with Christ we stand in glory.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

14 Days of Thankfulness: Day 2

My friends! (Even they do make me look rather small in this picture=). They are all so lovely and I love the fact that we all can dress up and do stuff like this together.
I have been very blessed in having friendships with girls who love the Lord and seek to walk with Him. Although we weren't always close as our families went through some different phases I'm so glad we're together at the same church now and can grow closer as we learn more and more of our Lord. Love all you gals!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 1: 14 Days of Thankfulness

Well, this is going to be short as I'm really not feeling good right now. But I just want to say that I am so thankful for insurance to pay for my doctor visits, x-rays, and physical therapy. I know without it I'd be in a lot worse shape than I am.
And for the knowledge these people have to be able to help me to get back to normal, I just pray that it will be soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Sunny Autumn Day, New Music and Pumpkin Pie!

Today was an absolutely gorgeous one for the Flathead Valley! Beautiful blue skies, with a few wisps of clouds, and a crisp, cool breeze. Part of the reason I love fall so much is the opportunity to wear more sweaters and jackets when going out. I love God's creation throughout all seasons, but especially in fall, when the trees out on their jackets of red, gold, and purple... sorry, I can't seem to find the right word's to describe the wonder and awe it fills me with, when I behold the power, glory and beauty of the Lord!
This morning was spent in catching things up around the house after everyone coming and trashing the house last night(no, people are actually pretty good about keeping things neat), getting laundry started, physical therapy for me. At which I found out that the reason I've been in so much pain the past couple days is that I pulled a muscle in my back, and got my spine slightly out of place, they were able to work things back in somewhat better but it's still quite uncomfortable. Then Mother and I went out to lunch, and a lovely one on one time(too short though, as always=).
Once home I did some downloading of music onto the computer and got a new CD off Itunes!
This is Keith and Krysten Getty's newest album and so far I am loving it! Hopefully will have the words memorized soon so I can sing along. That's one thing I don't like about getting CD's off itunes, you don't get lyrics with it.:-(
Did find a couple of the songs though online:

Come People of the Risen King!
Come, people of the risen king
Who delight to bring Him praise,
Come all and tune your hearts to sing
To the Morning Star of grace.
From the shifting shadows of the earth
We will lift our eyes to Him
Where steady arms of mercy reach
To gather children in.

Rejoice, rejoice let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice, O, Church of Christ rejoice!

Come those whose joy is morning sun
And those weeping through the night;
Come those who tell of battles won
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days,
With the certain hope of peace.

Rejoice, rejoice let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice, O, Church of Christ rejoice!

Come young and old from every land-
Men and women of the faith
Come those with full or empty hands-
Find the riches of His grace.
Over all the world His people sing-
Shore to shore we hear then call
The truth that cries through every age-
"Our God is all in all!"

Rejoice, rejoice let every tongue rejoice!
One heart, one voice, O, Church of Christ rejoice!

When Trials Come

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in it’s shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun
Till He completes the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old

Also made a pumpkin pie! Simply because we had pumpkin left over from doing bread the other day. Desserts that are made for no specific reason, or special occasion are always the best ones. (As long as it doesn't happen too often). I am not very big on pies, don't care for apple or cherry(sorry, Abba!). But I do really like pumpkin, it seems to really get all the flavors of fall in it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Power of Prayer

Prayer is an amazing tool that God has given us that we very often neglect in our daily lives. What a wonderful privilege we have that we can go before the throne of the King of kings at any time! Yet so often we pass it by and don't even give it a moments thought. Either we don't really do it hardly at all, or it becomes just habit, we do it as part of a routine.
This is an area that I have much difficulty with, I find that even when I do set aside a time to pray my mind often wanders to other things, I am so easily distracted by the things of this world, whether it is my plans for the day and all the things that I need to get on, or what went on the evening before with my family or at work. It is so easy to get lost on "bunny trails" and forget what it is that I set out to do.
Yet as I think about it I could use this kind of wandering in my prayer, as I consider what I need to do that day I could ask for grace that I would do it well and do for the glory of God. As I consider who I was with the night before, I could pray for those people and any needs that I might know of. Alas, it is very easy to think of and write about these things put applying them can be a very different matter.
This morning in our family Bible time, during which we've been going through Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, we read about prayer and when we really need it. It is easy to pray when we are in difficult situations and feel that we need someone elses help and God's grace to get ourselves through trials, but when things are easy, how often do we come before the Lord in prayer and supplication? Although, if you really think about it, are we ever truly in no need of any kind? I think not. We are sinful human beings, so how can we ever be in anything other than a state of need and incompletness. But there are phases in our lives that are better than others. And we may not feel the need of prayer quite as much. At this time the best thing is to pray for others, there is always someone in need of prayer, whether they are believers or not. And I often find that when I start praying for others needs I remember many of my own that need much grace. God is so wonderful to give us this means of coming before Him, whether in joyful worship or humble repentance. May we never lose sight of the awesome God we serve, nor ever grow at all distant in our communion with Him.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Saturday Movie Night

So tomorrow I'm hosting a movie night for some of the young ladies of our church, we're having difficulty coming up with the best thing to watch.
We would love to do Cranford or North and South but as both are rather long, must find something a little more within our time frame.
So the debate is pretty much between Nicholas Nickleby and Miss Potter. We would have loved to hunt up something new, but havn't really had the opportunity.

Anybody know of any good period films to suggest, not just for tomorrow, as I probably wouldn't be able to do anything about it at this point, but with it being colder and there being more sickness going around it would be great to find some new stuff.
We did find Sissi at the library the other day which I am very happy about. One of my best friends in California had a German mother, I remember watching these movies at her house and despite the fact that I couldn't understand a word, I loved them. We own a version that has been dubbed over in English, but it is missing quite a bit, so I am very excited to watch the whole thing again, and (with the help of English subtitles) understand it all.
It has some of the most beautiful costumes I've ever scene in a period film and was filmed in some absolutely gorgeous spots. Plus the lovely Romy Schneider!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ready For Adventure...

I loved Maid Marian's wardrobe because it was so practical, pretty and feminine. My outfit was not inspired by any particular one of hers but more the idea of her being a lovely young woman, but always ready to do what was necessary, whether it was fighting for her life or escaping to the forest. This ended up a little shorter than I had originally intended, but I found that it made it easier to take hikes and swordfight in.

For this dress I used Simplicity 9891, though raised the neckline a bit and made up the sleeves, as the ones from the pattern were not the most practical.

The cape is one I got at Herbergers last spring, leather gloves were a gift a couple years ago and the dagger my grandparents gave me.

My only disappointment is that I can't wear stuff like this more often!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Maid Marian

The story of Robin Hood, his band of men and his lady Marian, is one that has been retold many times, with many different twists and turns. And while each character varys in each portrayal of it, there are key characteristics that remain consistent.
Marian is one that has always intrigued me. Her feminine, and graceful side, and her strong, fighting one. While there are certainly many flaws to her character, she has been a picture for me of a young woman that has been able to achieve being feminine without being what many consider weak.
Feminism is huge in our culture, most women of today are reaching for "freedom" as they call it. This for them involves being away from the home, having a career and no room for a husband or children. In many ways Marian could be an example for them. She wasn't the kind of woman that would sit at home and do housework, she wanted to be out fighting along with the men. Doing something for her king and nation. And while I can appreciate her strength and desire to help, this something that I have always had a difficult time with as far as her character. It is very appealing and I enjoy seeing women who can fight and are out doing something. But is it right?
As women we are called to be keepers at home, to be under our husbands or fathers authority. And while it is commendable that Marian wanted to do something to help, was it truly the best course of action? When women seek to take control of a situation, or even just try to help in a way that is really the place of the men to do, we often see disastrous results, not to mention that is it going against the standard that God has placed for us in Scripture.
It is difficult for me to accept this in my own life. I myself enjoy the more "strong" side over the feminine one. But I have discovered that really it takes a lot of strength to be feminine in today's culture. Being a wife and stay at home mother is a very difficult task, not simply of itself but also in the fact that it in every way goes against what the world tells us women we are supposed to do. Strength is not merely something that enables the fighting attitude but also what it takes to stay at home and "do nothing".
Guess I rather strayed from the Marian thing, but this is just what thoughts I had her character.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Modern Day Maid Marian

I loved how many of Marian's outfits in the BBC Robin Hood were so easily translated into modern day wear.
My outfit was inspired by a couple different ones of hers.

Shirt: Curious Gypsy, from TJ Maxx.
Skirt: Herberger's
Belt: Target
Watch: Target
Boots: I don't remember.
One of my favorite things about her wardrobe is how feminine and yet at the same time practical it is. As a girl who loves to wear skirts pretty much all the time but also be able to run around climb rocks and sword fight, I can really appreciate how they made her costumes fit in with a similar lifestyle. Hurrah for feminine and strong women!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A conversation came up at church yesterday about movies. This is a fairly common topic among our young people and came up at this particular time because this Tuesday a movie night has been planned and we were discussing what to watch.
Because of the different people invited and all the different interests involved, as well as standards, the goal was to come up with something we would all enjoy. A couple of Disney animated films were brought up and I mentioned my dislike of most(not all) Disney's, and was accordingly accused of being prejudiced and having a lack of openness to different types of movies. I find this accusation rather unfair as I enjoy a very broad variety of movies and am open to watching just about anything,( I do of course have some standards). But when it comes to watching something new I always try to be very open, and put aside any preconceived notions I may have so that I can enjoy it for what it is and not try and read my own criticisms and ideas into it. I must admit that this can be rather difficult at times. There are some films that no matter how much I try and be open and enjoy them for what they are, it is simply not possible. And I have to say that many of the Disney "classics" are in this category. Come on, for the most part, they're made for 6-year-olds.
While I do sometimes enjoy animated films, (UP is a favorite).

Along with Monsters Inc. and Hoodwinked, for the most part I find them incredibly stupid. Also many of the ones made today use a lot of rude humor and dumb antics to make people laugh, personally I prefer something with at least some semblance of intelligence.
But it has me thinking, why do we watch movies? Well, for the most part it's pure entertainment, and for a lot of people they like being able to shut their brains off for a couple hours. Me, I like to keep mine running. But our culture is obsessed with the idea of not having to do anything, it's something that keeps us from being bored without us having to actually do anything, which is why so many movies today are mainly action with a little bit of a story to keep it all together.
Something that really helps me when watching movies is something my dad always asks when we are telling him about a particular one or when we sit down to watch one. " Do you see truth, beauty and goodness in it?" Basically this can be used in anything we are doing. Reading a book, having a conversation, or just thinking about things. Are we dwelling on things that are edifying and profitable in any way?
This is not to say that I think movie watching is a bad thing and that I don't like to do it. On the contrary, any of my friends and family will tell you that I am a big movie person, I love finding new good films and am always very excited when any of my favorite books are made into movies, though very often I am disappointed. And I like quite a variety...

... have always enjoyed Little Women(it's kind of a family thing;-)

But also very much enjoy the action and yes, the fighting in Batman Begins.

One of my all time absolute favorites is Pride and Prejudice, and while I know a lot of people have this thing about Keira Knightly I think she did a wonderful job as Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 version. The earlier A&E one I am not as fond of, as I think they rather dragged the second half and I'm not big on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Like the Matthew Macfayden version much better. Absolutely love the cinematography and music in the 2005 one!

Another all time favorite is Lord of the Rings! It seems there are very few people who actually dislike this one, if nothing else you have to appreciate the effort and talent that went into this one. While there are quite a few things missing in the movies, was very disappointed that they ended the Return of the King so "happily". It is still a wonderful representation and for the most part quite accurate. And just beautifully done!

And of course the Chronicles of Narnia, I was so excited when they started making these, my mom read us the books when we were very little(I can not remember ever not knowing the story) and was so pleased that they were finally making a movie that might do it full justice. I think they could've done better than they did, but on the whole was very pleased with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Prince Caspian was rather disappointing, although I did know coming into it that it would be different so was able to enjoy it for what it was. I am most relieved at the change of directors for Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as I have never cared for Andrew Adamson. Hopefully they'll stay on the right track. The new director Micheal Apted did another of my favorites...

Amazing Grace, this was well made, well acted and best of all it's a true story! Historical movies always have a much bigger impact on me than fictional ones. Being able to sit there and watch something play out in front of you that you know actually happened! Send chills down my spine just thinking about it. It's one of the things that makes movies so wonderful, they can make history come alive and help you to see that these were real people who had feelings and struggles the same as we do. Or sometimes they can completely mess everything up, that is most annoying.

Empire of the Sun is another great one, I love it because it is such a different perspective on World War II. For the most part people focus on the German part of it and rarely do you see the Japanese/Chinese side.

But I also really enjoyed Valkyrie, which represented things from the side of some Germans, we often classify people in races by the most dominant overbearing ones, forgetting that there were those who were against Hitler's rule and opposed him. This one really made me think about that and again made the whole situation more real to me.

But then I also enjoy some Sci-Fi. And this is going to sound rather contradictory to everthing I've just said, I enjoy Stargate;Atlantis and can come up with absolutely nothing to justify it, it's purely fun for me. Even though at times far-fetched and rather stupid.

I also love Charles Dickens, my absolute favorites being Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, and Oliver Twist. Bleak House has got to be one of the most puzzling movies I've ever seen and I loved it for that, you have to think about things in order to keep everything straight! And no matter how much you try and just sit down and watch it without trying to figure things out, you find yourself sorting through the information you've been given and trying to find out"whodunit". And it has so many rich characters that you can't help loving or despising.

Also M. Night Shyamalan's films. They are so different and very thought provoking, my favorite being The Village. Seems dark but really is a neat concept and while it is "suspense", is quite a simple story that is easily relate-able.

Anyway there's a few of my movie picks, really I think we (as a family) watch quite a broad range. Like everything from Star Wars to Wives and Daughters to Master and Commander or Horatio Hornblower. And even a few Disney animated films, though nothing comes to mind at the moment.