January 24, 2015

To Make it Modest | Swimsuit 2015

So it's the middle of winter and I'm doing a post on bathing suits. But I figure if I put it off until the weather is warm, my motivation to write this post might have melted away.... ;)
My brothers can't understand why I spend so much time and brain power looking for the perfect bathing suit. They don't get how hard it is to find one that is pretty and modest! 
I typically order a top from Lands End then alter it so it fits my modesty standards. My bathing suit ends up being modest, but sometimes not necessarily cute. Next summer, however, that will not be the case! I found a pretty tankini that I'm almost comfortable in just how it is!
The neckline, however, is a tad low and the tankini is almost too short. I decided to add a ruffle on the top and bottom to add length both ways. 

I measured around the bottom hem and did some math; because I wanted a full ruffle, I multiplied that measurement by 2.5. I wanted a 1 inch ruffle, so I made a strip 2 inches wide and as long as my calculation (hem circumference x 2.5). My piece of fabric wasn't very long so I ended up cutting two strips I sewed together to form one long strip. You could do it either way - one long strip or two shorter ones sewed together.
I turned my strips into a big loop by sewing the short ends together, right sides of the fabric together. I ran two rows of gathering stitches - stitches set to the longest setting - along one edge of the loop. 
Then I pinned the right side of the ruffle fabric to the wrong side of the tankini hem. I matched up the side seams on both the ruffle and tankini, as well as half way between those spots and then halfway between those. The ruffle looked super huge at this point, but that was quickly fixed!
I pulled those gathering stitches tight and gathered all the way around, spacing the gathers and pinning as I went. 
It looked like this when I got all the way around:
Up close - my gathering and pinning job:
I decided to sew the ruffle in place by hand, because I have had trouble keeping the tension smooth when I've added fabric to the bottom of tankinis when I used my machine before. The hem of the tankini had a double row of stitching, so I zig-zagged my stitches on the inside, alternating between each row. It turned out to be a good choice, as it provided stretch and a smooth finish.
At this point I was getting pretty excited - ruffles are a new level of cuteness I've not experienced before on my swimsuits!
I measured, calculated, cut, gathered, and sewed the ruffle for the top edge just like the bottom, but it actually turned out a little over-the-top. The 1 inch tall, intense ruffle was just too much right by my face. So I ripped out the stitches and trimmed the ruffle. I don't have exact measurements, but it was probably 1 1/2 inches tall instead of 2. And I made the strip shorter - not sure how much - so the ruffle wasn't so pronounced. Then I sewed, pinned, gathered, and stitched it back on again, and was happier with the results! This is the second version of the ruffle:
I am very happy with how it turned out! Paired with some navy board shorts, I'm all set for summer! 
Have you struggled with finding a modest bathing suit? Ever altered one to make it more so? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! 

January 9, 2015

Getting My Wonder Back

I lost it.
Somewhere on this journey, laying forgotten on a battle scene or behind a pride-monument of something I've achieved...
My wonder disapeared.
I didn't know it was gone, just that life was a shade darker than it used to be. It took some subzero temperatures to shock me into seeing it was gone.
It happened last night as I was talking to God. He mentioned that I didn't have a desire to play in the snow this winter like I used to. Images of sparkling white, of hills flying under my plastic sled, and of red cheeks and noses flashed through my mind. It was true. This year I have stayed inside and shuddered at the thought of donning snow pants to face the cold. This year I wanted to be comfortable. I had my excuses lined up and ready to fire. 
Why don't you go for a walk outside?
It's ten degrees! Are you kidding me?
Child, it's ten degrees. Go, see what it's like! Listen to the snow squeak underfoot and taste the raw air.
Go make that phone call. 
Umm no. I'm comfy right here on the couch, thankyouverymuch. And remember how I hate talking on the phone?
What about doing hard things? You know you'll be ecstatic once you call her. 

Hey. Stop moping around and go do something on your to-do list.
But I'm bored. And I don't feel like doing anything - too much work.
What's that? Isn't action the cure for boredom? Stop idolizing your comfort level and do something worthwhile with your time. Find joy. It's more lasting than comfort, my child.
Well. My life sounds fulfilling.

Last night I decided to find my wonder again. I told God that today I would do something just for the wonder of it, like a little kid. 

Once I said yes to God, He didn't leave me struggling to follow through. A single crack of obedience released a flood of wonder-fullness

It started with the sunrise. Only this morning the sun did not rise. It shot upwards in a stream of wildfire gold. As if directing its light in a single beam toward heaven, the sun was crowned with a light saber of glory. As I watched, a pillar of fire seemed to rise among the barren trees to the east. Wonder hit me full in the face. It was back! 
But wonder didn't stick to the sunrise. It tore through the house, following a sunbeam to light up my breakfast bowl of fruit, crystallizing strawberries in glory. Wonder held my breath in my throat.
I found it, guys. Today was brighter, calmer. I smiled for no apparent reasons. I talked to God more. It was a wonderful day.

A wonder-full day.

And you know what? I'm going to chase wonder again tomorrow. Join me, yes? Let's toss comfort aside and run head-long after this wonder. 
Like a kid, tearing downhill on a sled - eyes sparkling like the swirling snow.

Let's stop worrying about the cold and find wonder instead.

January 5, 2015

The Books I Grew Up On

I didn’t watch TV.
Didn’t play video games.
Didn’t chat on the phone.
And I… uh…. I still don’t have a cell phone.
Goodness, I remember thinking I was headed straight for a mess of sin when I got an MP3 player for Christmas one year!

How did I exist like that?

I grew up on books. And my parent’s guidance and wonderful friends and an occasional movie… but books taught me a bunch. Here are the ones that stand out in my memory: 
  • Kisses from Katie. Beautiful story of a girl who followed God’s leading to live in Uganda with a passel of adopted girls. This book gave me a heart for missions and orphans.
  • Beautiful Girlhood. Great mom-daughter read about issues of the heart. I loved the old-fashioned tone of this book.
  • Do Hard Things. Revealed the crazy-low expectations our culture has for teens and inspired me to rise above them.
  • Life of Faith series. I credit these books with giving me a desire for intimacy with Christ. Elsie, Violet, Millie, Kathleen… I looked up to them all (as strange as that sounds) and grew closer to God as a result. They were my role models in print.
  • Before You Meet Prince Charming. This was the first book I read about guys and relationships. It taught me the beauty of purity and the wisdom of my parents. I became a staunch believer in “courtship” or “dating with lots of parental involvement and consent.” This book helped me decide for myself that I would not date until I’m ready to get married. (and I’ve stuck with it, by the way!)
  • It’s (Not That) Complicated. This takes the whole guys-and-crushes-and-how-do-I-treat-guys to the next level. It showed me that guys and girls can, indeed, have uplifting friendships without getting romantically involved.
  • Beyond Waiting. I personally know the author of this book, and it’s as awesome as she is. It taught me that waiting around for Prince Charming is not the way to go. Beyond Waiting encouraged me to live my life – whether or not a guy is on the horizon.

What books shaped your life as you grew up? Let me know in the comments!

January 3, 2015

The Best Books I Read All Year

If you read my post on the CollegePlus blog, you know that reading is AWESOME for you. Maybe you even decided to up your game and read more in 2015 than you did last year – way to go!

I love hearing book recommendations from others. My to-read shelf on Goodreads is growing faster than I can devour the books, but each one looks too good to pass up when someone else recommends it!

Good thing cyber-shelves don’t gather dust.

I’m going to let you in on my five favorite books (in no special order) from 2014 so you* can stuff your to-read shelf like mine!

1.       Counted Worthy. I wish it was longer. It's a dystopian novel with scripture woven beautifully throughout. It kept me glued to the pages and thinking about my commitment to Christ.

2.      Folks, This Ain’t Normal. Don’t open this book until you understand that Joel Salatin, the author, is very opinionated, blunt and committed. He is funny and you’ll learn a lot about the crazy state of our food and our farms, but don’t take anything too personally. He’s a character. ;)

3.      Leadership and Dedication. It’s written by a former Communist who becomes a Christian. But guess what? He’s humble enough to see the tactics of the Communists that worked – things that kept their followers loyal and motivated. A neat perspective, and I learned a bunch from it.

4.       Desiring God. All right friends. If you want to think deeply, see God more clearly, and change your life… read this book. But take your time, because you probably won’t be able to digest it in a rush – it’s that rich.

5.      The Circle Series by Ted Dekker. It’s technically four books, but I didn’t want to bore you listing each one - because I loved all four. These had a great impact on my spiritual life, plus I was blown away by the plot. Great stuff.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Let me know in the comments!

*For any young readers out there, please understand that I am 17 years old, and the content of these books reflect that (besides Counted Worthy, which I believe is appropriate for young teens). Please ask your parents before reading them! Something special just for you young girls is coming on Monday – I’ll not keep you in the dark about awesome books! Stay tuned!

January 1, 2015

12 Reasons You Should Read More in 2015

Can you list 12 reasons why you should read more in 2015? I can! Check my reasons out here, where I wrote for the CollegePlus! blog.

Happy NewYear, friends. Pick up a new book, learn a new skill, take a few risks.

Truly live 2015.