Happiness In Every Direction

Happiness Is...

I decided to link up to Carlotta's blog hop about Happiness - because I truly have a whole lot to be happy for!

First off, Awel Prince asked me to be a guest poster on her blog, and I posted my blog post today! I felt very honored that she asked me to post on such a beautiful blog as hers. Click on the button she made to go and see what I posted:


Secondly, because of my birthday yesterday, I feel extremely happy, joyful, ecstatic, filled... and the adjectives could go on. I felt so loved and blessed it was beyond belief. :D

I had a small party with my good friends, and truly had a blast. We did everything that I love to do - had a photoshoot, ate a scrumptuous dinner of chicken pot pie (my favorite meal ever) with apple pie made by yours truly for dessert, did some writing, and sang & played music for each other. It was such a fun time - and I think the thing that made it the most special was that each of these girls that I love dearly got along so well! Though my friends are few, each of them is a treasure to me. God has brought each of them into my life for a reason, and I am so glad to have had this blessed time with them before going off to college!

We did something really special after dinner where my friends and family wrote little messages to me on long strips of paper, and then rolled them up and put them into little pill capsules. This will be such a blessing to me when I'm away at college and feeling homesick or lonely or just down. I can just take a "pill" and read a special message from a special person to cheer me up. :D

And the thoughtful, sweet post my friend wrote for me yesterday plus the birthday wishes you all posted for me were just the icing on my cake! Thank-you, my friends. You are all so sweet. :)

God really blessed me over and abundantly yesterday, to the point where I wondered how I could ever feel any more blessed and loved. And I know He will continue to bless me in the year to come as I seek His face.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~Psalm 23:6


Birthday Blessings

Well guess what my friends? Today is my birthday! 

I asked a good friend to write a post for me about my birthday. Here is what she said:

When first considering what to write in a post commemorating Melody’s birthday, I didn’t know what to say.  I’ll honestly admit that I’m always a bit hard-pressed to know what to say on birthdays; it seems all too easy to slip into either generic well-wishing or unhelpful overpraise that may tempt the birthday celebrator to self-focus.  So I asked myself:  What is the best way I can honor Melody on her birthday?

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me how in the opening of Paul’s letters in the Bible he often speaks of his thankfulness for the Christians he is writing to.  Upon leafing through the New Testament I was surprised at how many letters this is true of: Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians.  In each passage, Paul’s thankfulness is tied to the believers’ faith and God’s grace to them.

As I’ve gotten to know Melody, I have found many things to love about her:  Her cheerfulness, her kindness, her sense of humor, her musicality (I’m a musician too).  But it is her faith that has blessed me most.  As we have shared with each other about the blessings and difficulties of the Christian life and discussed Scripture together, I have seen that Melody’s heart is for Jesus and His Word and it is her life goal that He should be lifted up.  Through God’s power, she is a witness to His joyful salvation.

So will you please join me in honoring Melody by wishing her a happy birthday, and praising God for her life, her faith, and her witness—that God would be glorified through her?

In closing, I want to quote Paul as he thanks God for the Ephesian Christians (Ephesians 1:15-19a):

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparable power for us who believe.

Melody, this is my prayer for you.  I love you, my friend, and—

Happy Birthday.


Coasting on Compliments

Everyone likes to get compliments, right?
When someone hands me a genuine compliment, I feel like they're handing me a treasure chest with diamonds and rubies inside. The joy and love I feel from these compliments shine in my eyes far above any precious gem.

Yet I've found something very dangerous about this treasure. It is so easy to become fixed upon it, desiring still more and more. My hunger for it is never filled, because the precious jewels of compliments are only earthly, temporary treasures. Yet it is so easy to put it above everything else and make it the one thing I'm living for. So easy to get into the mindset that my life is worthless unless I can receive a compliment from someone.

You know how sometimes when you realize a problem you swing to the opposite extreme? I've done that with compliments. Instead of basking in compliments (and even fishing for them), I will discredit each one I get. I think "Oh, that person just said that because it was the right thing to say in this situation," or "Well of course they don't mean that." I might even say something to them like, "Thanks," but they can tell from my voice that I don't really think I deserve the compliment. This, unfortunately, isn't the right way to handle compliments either. It's only the opposite end of the same coin.

All these wrong ways to handle compliments. What is the root problem? In essence, it all comes down to worth and what you derive it from. When I fish for compliments and hold them close, I'm trying to get my worth from the people around me. I figure as long as I look good in others' eyes, I must be valuable. When I discredit compliments and myself, I'm trying to get my worth from a false sense of humility. I figure as long as I look like I'm being humble, I must really be humble deep down inside.

But where is my sense of worth supposed to come from? From God, my Maker and Creator. If I view myself rightly in relationship to Him, only what He says about me really matters. And you know what He has said about me? In John 15:9, Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love."

Still, when you receive compliments, you should take them! I recently found a quote from Corrie Ten Boom that fits this perfectly. She had an interesting approach to compliments that I think strikes a balance. She says, "When people come up and give me a compliment... I take each remark as if it were a flower. At the end of the day I lift up the bouquet of flowers I have gathered throughout the day and say, 'Here you are, Lord, it is all Yours.'"

This is the perfect balance. I recognize that my worth is in Christ alone, yet I can still accept compliments. If I take each rose and daisy with thankfulness and appreciation, I can then thank God for the compliment and the person who gave it to me.

So what about you? Where in your life do you "coast on compliments?" How do you accept them gracefully?


Just... stop

I've been feeling overwhelmed with stuff to do recently. Somehow, though college was on the horizon, I didn't realize how fast it was approaching! It's like one of those things you stare at waiting for it to arrive, and then as soon as you take your attention off of it, it's upon you!

I've been juggling school shopping, backpacks, closet cleaning, class schedules, dorm rooms, medical forms, professors, meal plans, and everything in between. Not to mention planning for my birthday, the recording of my CD, getting quality time with my friends & family before college, and vacation plans. It reminds me of a poem I wrote awhile back in my senior year:

Fast Lane

I've spent all my life 
On the side of the freeway
Wondering what it'd be like 
To drive in the fast lane.
But now that I'm there,
I realize the grass isn't greener.
In fact, there is no grass.
And even if there were,
I'm going too fast to see it.
copyright Melody 2009

Yep, that just about sums up my feelings right now. And yet I know it shouldn't be that way! 

I need to stop. Stop and think, and reflect on how great my God is. He's really been doing awesome things lately, if only I will stop and realize it. 

For one thing, He matched me up with a roommate who has more in common with me than I ever could have asked for! I've been really anxious about my roommate, wondering what she'll be like and if we'll like each other and be able to get along. Well, my God sure showed me! When I talked with her on the phone yesterday, we found out that we're both homeschooled (or were, rather), we're both rather introverted, and we're both music majors! I felt so amazed and blessed that God orchestrated that for me. He cares about even the details I think are too impossible to ask Him for.  :)

And another thing: My friend Violet was going through a rough time with money issues for college, and really wondering if she would be able to go. My parents and I prayed with her about it, and the next morning, she called me up and told me that God had answered our prayer! Some people who owed her money were going to pay her so she would have enough for her first payment! Praise the Lord!

If only I stop and look around me - I realize just how good my God is. Whenever I feel discouraged or burned out, I need only to turn to Him. His love is what brings a smile to my face, what fills my heart with joy and peace and hope. And I know He's waiting with blessings in His arms. 


You Asked, I Answered

I know I said I would post this yesterday, but all of your questions were so deep and interesting that I didn't finish answering until today! I was surprised how many of them were music-related. But I guess after all, my name is Melody. ;)

So here they are! Hope you enjoy my answers.

From Eden:
How long have you been playing piano?

Well, I've been playing on the piano for 14 years, but taking lessons for 12. And the funny thing is that I've had a total of 6 teachers during that time! I'll be starting with my 7th when I go to Cedarville in August.

What is your favorite hobby and why?

If you mean by "hobby" something that I do for fun to pass the time, I would have to say writing stories. I don't consider it my main interest, but I do enjoy it a lot. I love the thrill of coming up with beautiful ways to say something, or writing something about a character that just really touches you deeply. Eventually I would like to be more into it, but at the moment, I still consider it a hobby.

From Joy:
What's your favorite genre of music to play? ...to listen to? and why?

I enjoy playing a lot of genres of music; really it depends on my mood. I play mostly classical, but I love playing movie themes or modern piano pieces when I'm feeling emotional or sad. And of course I love playing my own compositions because they are the way I express myself!

I also have a lot of favorite genres of music I listen to. I love movie soundtracks, modern piano pieces, classical, and also Contemporary Christian. For Contemporary Christian, I like artists such as Sara Groves, Michael Card, Steven Curtis Chapman... If the words are edifying and the music is beautiful & pleasant to listen to, then I'll probably like it!

From Guinevere:
What's your favorite blog?

My own! lol just kidding. How could I chose a favorite among all my awesome friends on the blogging world?
I have found though that what makes a blog one of my "favorites" is when the author is willing to be real, and at the same time displays a love of beauty in their writing.

What inspires you most?

There are so many things that inspire me. A phrase, beautiful sunset, hug from a friend... but I think it all boils down to love. Love inspires me. Whether it's the love of my friends and family, God's love, or the love I have for nature, piano, or any of my passions. Love inspires me to write, to sing, to be the person God made me to be. When I feel loved is when I compose my most beautiful melodies.  

Your favorite Bible verse?

Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore brothers, in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is; His good, pleasing and perfect will."(I typed it out from memory, but I think that's NIV.) I love this verse because this is exactly what I want to do with my life.

What's your favorite piece you've composed? Can you share it with us?

You all seem to like asking questions about my favorite things! (Which, as you can see, is hard for me to answer). :D Currently, I think my favorite piece I've composed is one called "The Friendship." I wrote it after a really sweet time I had with a friend. I think to me it symbolizes letting go of holding tight to my friendships, and putting them in God's hands. Remembering the memories, but not making them all I strive for. I know God has so much more planned for my friendships, if only I'll trust him.

And unfortunately, the video I tried to make of me playing this song wouldn't upload to my computer, so I'll have to try again later. :P

From Annie: 
How do you compose music? Do the melodies just come to you, do you create, and how do you make it sound so good?

Oh wow... where to begin?

Typically, I compose music one of two ways. Either I sit down at the piano (with some kind of emotion in mind or in my heart), pick a key, and just start playing. Or, I'm sparked by some kind of melody I've heard or came up with, and then I elaborate on it. ("My Prayer" is an example of the first, "Frustration" is an example of the second.) Yes, melodies do tend to just come to me... I'm not sure how that is!

And typically how I make it sound good (or better) is I go over my rough idea and then pull out other things I wouldn't have just naturally played the first time. For example, I tend to do a lot of arpeggios and octaves in the left hand, so often that's just naturally what I play when I'm first making up a song. Then as I get the melody and the chords more solidified, I'll figure out something a little different for the left hand (for example, in the beginning of "Press On"). So I guess I never really have a whole song just come to me in my mind. It's always a collaboration between me and my piano. ;) I will play a piece over and over and over again until I know just exactly what parts are where and just how each section is played. And then it's a song! :) 

From The Golden Eagle:
What is the most life-altering thing that has happened to you?

I'd have to say, when I became a Christian. Actually, though I was saved at age 6, I re-committed my life to God when I was 13. I realized that I hadn't really been growing as a Christian; I had been content to do all the right things without striving to be the right person. I re-committed my life to serving and glorifying Him - and it affects everything I do!

From Kimberose:
Are you planning to study music in college (or are you already graduated?). If so, do you know anything about scholarships and how you work towards them?

Yes, I am planning on studying music in college - specifically Piano Pedagogy (I'll be a freshman at Cedarville University this fall). For scholarships, typically the school you're going to will have some sort of scholarship for those going into music. For me, when I auditioned, they automatically counted that as an entry into a scholarship (which I won, by the way!). But I would look at the school you're considering and see what they have. :)

From Lauren.ann: 
Why did you decide to start a blog?

I think I first started because I just thought it would be a cool thing to do. Funny thing is, no one I knew in real life had one, so I don't know how I first heard about it. I love writing, and I thought it would be cool to be able to share my writing with others. And just look how it's grown!

From Alexandra: 
Are there any special or unusual places that you've composed songs?

This is an interesting question! I've never really thought about where I compose songs before. But I have composed in some pretty unusual places... driving home from Bible Study (in the dark, no less), in the shower, in the middle of a conversation with a friend, when I'm trying to get to sleep... Usually these type of songs are songs with words. I'll think of the words and the melody that goes along with them. Or I'll get an idea for a melody (without words) and finish it on the piano (because as I said before, usually I compose at the piano).

If you were to describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why? 

Creative. And by creative, I don't mean "different". I mean that I love to create. Love to look at things through God's eyes and try to capture that in some way. I love beauty - love to see it, feel it, capture it, create it. This is me. Creative.

All this talk about music and my compositions reminded me of something very cool which I am currently working on. I think you all will be really excited, so I'm gonna tell you (though it's not finished yet).

I'm making a CD of my compositions! Once I get it all finished, I'll probably make a way for it to be on itunes (or amazon or something like that) so you all can buy it! Isn't that cool, or what? :D


I hope you didn't feel abandoned...

My family went camping this last weekend, so what with all the packing and getting things done and everything, I kind of forgot about you all on the blog world. (I'm weely weely sorry! Please forgive me!) Hopefully you all didn't feel too abandoned. ;)

I had a great time camping, though! We went with at least nine other families that we are friends with from our homeschool co-op, and it really was so much fun. I had a great time hanging out with friends I hadn't seen in awhile, playing some killer soccer, baseball and ultimate frisbee, getting tan (haha - more like burn!), tubing down the river, playing card games, roasting smores, singing campfire songs and playing guitar, and laughing my head off! I could do a whole post about the awesome time I had - but I'll just say, I had a blast.

So there's a ton of things I need to catch up on with you all! First in the order of business: Ten Top Tips! Here they are (with the votes in parentheses).

1. Visit and comment often on blogs you follow. (22)

2. Don't become someone else on blogger, be yourself! (20)

3. Make sure your blog is easy to read (20)

4. Be patient and do the work to keep your blog maintained and get the word out (20)

5. Proof-read and review blog posts (15)

6. Use big photos for photoblogs (15)

7. Visit and follow blogs with similar interests to yours to get more readers (15)

8. Plan and think carefully about ideas before going ahead (14)

9. Know your audience and the goal of the blog (13)

10. Keep sidebar organized (not too many widgets/buttons)
I'm glad so many people participated in Three Top Tips, and I hope it was helpful to you all! I know I learned a number of helpful tips. ;)

Also, I plan on posting my answers to your questions from this post tomorrow. I'm really enjoying writing out my answers to them, and I want to extend the invitation one more time: if there's anything you'd like to know about me, or just any questions at all that you have for me, please comment and ask away! I would love more questions to answer. :D

Next, I would like to direct your attention to this lovely blog button over here:

RoseGarden Photography

Like it? Yes, I finally have a button for my photography blog! I also changed up the layout and design of the blog some, so I would love for you to go over there and check it out! Don't forget to become a follower if you like the pictures! :D

Another thing I'd like to mention is that I'm going to be entering Cornet Crazie's writing contest. Y'all should consider yourself lucky (or blessed) to be able to read one of my short stories (I don't usually post my longer works so no one steals them). Right now I've got to figure out just what story to enter, and then I'll post it! The contest ends on the 16th, so head on over there and enter before it's too late. :)

Alrighty - well that is that! Is that enough information for you to take in at once? ;)


"I could not believe my eyes..."

"... 'cause 10 times 10 followers, lit up my screen as I fell out of my chair. They fill my sidebar space, leave comments everywhere - you'd think me rude but I would just stand and STARE."

Hehe alright, I'll stop with the Owl City parodying. ;) Did ya guess it?

I really couldn't believe it.  When I got on my blog today, my eyes got wide as I looked at the followers gadget. It couldn't be - 100 followers? I did stand and stare. 100 followers. I never thought I'd see the day!

I love every single one of you guys. I mean it. I know I've been a little lax in replying to your comments recently (I'm sorry!), but I value each and every one of you! You guys are what makes blogging exciting for me. :)

Since I'd like to do something to celebrate, I thought I would do the thing where you all can ask me any questions you want, and I'll answer them all in one big post. Sound like fun?

I do ask that you make the questions meaningful, not just asking about random things - though I am okay with answering things like "What's your favorite color?". So please comment on this post with as many questions for me as you'd like! I will probably make a post with my answers sometime this upcoming weekend, so you've got plenty of time.

Also, don't forget about Three Top Tips! The poll is up on my sidebar with all of the tips (I consolidated a few that were very similar). I also decided to go with TEN "Tip-Top" Tips instead of twelve. The poll will be open until Thursday, so please vote! Thank-you! :D


Come Share Your Three Top Tips!

So here it is! From today (Thursday) to Sunday, Three Top Tips is on! Post a blog post with your three top tips, and link up so we all can benefit from your wisdom. :)
 Please feel free to use the button in your posts (and post it on your sidebar)!
I've got to say - at first it was really hard for me to come up with three tips, but then I started thinking about design, post content, blogging etiquette... and then I was overloaded with so many that I could hardly narrow it down! But I finally did. I went with more of tips on how you present yourself & your blog to others.  
Please don't feel that you have to do the same. There's so many aspects of blogging - and I hope to get as wide a variety of tips as I can! 

Tip #1: Think, plan and review. 
One of the biggest sources of frustration to a blogger and to his or her readers, is when the blogger gets a really good idea but then nothing (or very little) comes of it. Often this comes from the blogger just throwing the idea out there without thinking it through a bit first and coming up with the best way to approach it.
For example, when I first thought of this "Three Top Tips" idea, I almost mentioned it in this post. Then I thought about it a bit and realized that wasn't the best way to introduce it. I needed to write a separate post about it so you all would really be interested! 
Something else that goes along with this is proofreading. Make sure you read over your post a couple of times before you publish it! I know sometimes this feels like a waste of time, but it really makes you sound much more knowledgeable and mature. :)

Tip #2: {for photography blogs} Big photos are the best! 
If you didn't know, I have a photography blog called A Rose in God's Garden Photography. When I was setting it up I did a lot of research (because, if you couldn't tell, I really like to put my best foot forward). One of the things I found on all the photography blogs that I liked was that they had nice big photos in their posts. This really makes the blog stand out, because obviously people are there to see the photos! 
It's really quite simple how to put up big photos. You just have to make your post area wide enough to accomodate the size of the photos, then when you upload them make them "extra-large". They won't look right on the post creator, but when you preview them they should be just right.
I'm sure there's other ways to do this too, and I would love suggestions/tips if you all have them! After all, I'm still learning too. ;) 

Tip #3: Know your audience & what you want to do with your blog. 
This is probably the tip I learned through the most trial and error. When I was first starting out, I had absolutely no idea how to do a blog. I also didn't really define the reason why I was blogging - I suppose at that time it was just because it was a cool thing to do. :P I was writing quality stuff (like this post and this one), but no one commented on them and I was getting discouraged (and I probably only had about 10 followers in all). 
Then in January of this year, I decided that my blog needed a new focus. I decided to focus more on my readers (actually reply to their comments!), and invite more people to come along for the ride. I started networking with other bloggers, and training myself in all the different things that make a blog successful (like figuring out feedburner... etc). Now I'm almost at 100 followers (200 if you count my feed burner subscribers)!
So all that to say: if you haven't already, it really is a good idea to determine your audience and the goal of your blog. Is it just a place for you to jot down your thoughts? (Which means that followers/commenters aren't as important.) Or do you want to share your work with others? (Which means you want to network and get the word out.)

Alrighty, so there you have it. My three top tips.
What are yours?


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