Special Edition Newsletter - Essay Contest Winners
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Special Edition Newsletter

Essay Contest Winners
Dear Readers,

We are excited to present the winning pieces from the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW®) essay contest. In each age group, first, second and third places were selected, along with two honorable mentions. Join with us as we congratulate these young authors in this special edition Magnum Opus Magazine newsletter. Thank you to the 586 students who participated in the contest! We hope you will keep writing and submit again next time.
Megan L. House
Magnum Opus Magazine Managing Editor
800.856.5815 x5101

Read Winner Submissions!

LEVEL A PROMPT: It is often said that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” Have you had an experience in your life where you received great satisfaction from giving your time or talents to someone and experiencing a blessing or joy?
Describe that experience, and tell a bit about what you learned from it.

(The winners' submissions have not been edited by IEW)
Tremendously Blessed
by Halan Raynor, age 11
My best friend Kaylan King was diagnosed with a severe brain aneurysm on May 21, 2014. On that dreadful day, she began struggling to talk. Walking straight became difficult. It took the cautious doctors three extensive days to decide how to proceed with her complicated surgery. They were uncertain of the outcome because of where the aneurysm was located on her brain. Thankfully, God was not done with her yet. She survived the perilous surgery. However the complex surgery led to a stroke, which has left her horribly paralyzed. Although Kaylan has shown her amazing strength through this horrific experience, her motionless body requires more and more therapy to regain her mobility. She cannot walk or talk. To help her communicate with us we use a spelling chart that we speak out to her and she responds with her eyes when we say the correct letter. Recently, she began eating pureed food after being fed through a stomach tube for nine months. Kaylan has been audaciously recovering from the effect of her brain trauma since her treacherous surgery.

God has made it possible for me to be available for Kaylan as she triumphantly continues in this excursion of healing. I have happily visited numerous therapies with Kaylan to encourage her not to be afraid. We have shared amusing sleep-overs at her rehabilitation facilities. I have clutched her delicate hand when she is dizzy, which helps calm her. Creatively, we discovered how to formulate exuberant pool parties from necessary pool therapy. I have strived to bring excitement to her difficult therapies. I have gladly cheered her on during her reluctance of rising from her confining wheel chair to a therapy mat. During her off therapy days, I have enjoyed hanging out with her the most. Ultimately, I hope I have aided in making her new situation as much fun as it could be while we played board games and watched movies. Since her ability to eat has gradually progressed in the last two months, we have devoured scrumptious cheese puffs together. Through the challenging ups and downs I have proudly observed her courage. I pray that I can continue to be by her side through this jolting journey.

Our relationship has remained a generous advantage to me as I have spent countless hours watching Kaylan persevere towards healing. Assisting her fight this battle has changed my life forever. I hope to flank her side through every fresh challenge she faces. She has definitely opened my eyes with her incredible warrior character. When this sudden injury undeniably revealed itself, it helped me to realize not to take my precious friends and family for granted. Her afflicted situation has ultimately guided me to put my faith and trust in God when I do not understand. During this school year, rearranging my weekly and daily schedule to be more flexible for Kaylan’s needs is something that I have experienced. Surprisingly, despite everything she has endured Kaylan has remained a hilarious friend, who loves being funny. I delight in hearing my dear friend’s laughter just to hear her voice. Her sharp mind and sweet personality has not missed a beat. I will never willingly abandon her since our incredible friendship is beyond infinity. I love her. Kaylan tremendously blesses me every day and I look forward to watching her healing succeed.
Fiddling for The Flood
by Marcus Coetzee, age 10
Endless rain. Devastation. Houses were effortlessly swept away, skyscrapers ruined, and a hundred thousand people lost their homes on our flooded streets. Colossal trees were broken like toothpicks, and land was eroded, which led to several men and women losing their lives. On television I watched as vulnerable seniors painfully abandoned their water-lodged homes, and I realized that these people not only had lost their residences, but also vital medication, food, drinking water, and everything they had spent their last penny on. Because of this obvious heartbreak, an idea formed in my mind. If I could raise some money, it would lighten the burden on the bent shoulders of those uprooted golden-agers.

At first, I thought that the ideas of a nine-year-old could not make a difference, but with the help of my parents, we assembled a group of willing friends who study violin with me. At a nearby grocery store, we tirelessly performed our peppy tunes, as shoppers donated money in support of our cause. Later, as I lifted the heavy donations container, I instantly understood that even the unsophisticated ideas of a youngster could make a difference.

That evening, with our overworked fingers, we excitedly tallied the hard-earned haul. My heart leaped as we counted more than one thousand dollars! Naturally this was not enough to replace all that was lost, but it would help give a few a leg up as they set out to rebuild their lives. By making use of our talent and time, we alleviated some of the burden of those drowning in need. Giving a fragment of ourselves in such a desperate situation, was not just the honourable thing to do, but also an honour to be a part of.
The Blessing of Giving
by Nathan Rekstad, age 9
Early one morning, two years ago after Mom had had an exhausting day, I hatched a scheme to make her morning easier. Stealthily two of my younger siblings and I exited our room and entered the kitchen. I decided to prepare cereal, which was convenient for my seven-year-old self. I silently got the stepladder and scaled the towering fridge to retrieve the cereal, while the other kids got the cutlery. After pouring the milk and dumping cereal into a bowl for Mom, we prayed and fell to. While we were consuming breakfast, Mom, in a sleepy but surprised mood, entered the dining room. Mom’s appreciating face gave me a feeling I won’t forget! Judging by my experience that morning, I would agree with the biblical saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Toddler Time
by Corban Schneeflock, age 10
Every Monday through Friday I have to play with one of my younger brothers or sisters for thirty minutes.   Because we homeschool, the older kids take turns playing with a younger child, while mom diligently teaches the middle aged kids. I usually don’t want to do this. I don’t think it is fun, fantastic, or fabulous doing the things that the little ones enjoy doing. I especially dislike being stuck with my little sister Hannah, who happens to dislike playing with boys. Mom’s rule is whenever I am with someone I have to do what they desire to do. This is supposed to be a special time when us older kids do something fun to bless the little ones. Since my little sister Hannah is only three years old, she likes to play little, boring games. I especially don’t like to play a game called the Memory Game because Hannah does not understand the rules and I constantly have to correct her.

One day when it was my totally terrible turn to play with Hannah she asked me to play the dreaded Memory Game! I really did not desire to play the Memory Game. Desperately, I thought of a quick plan of escape.  Maybe I could quietly dash upstairs to play with Legos. No, I had to do what Hannah wanted. I calmly played the Memory Game with Hannah, and I also cheerfully let her win.

That day I gave my precious time to play a boring game with Hannah. I also learned an important lesson that it’s definitely better to give than to receive. Because I gave my time to Hannah, God gave me His wonderful joy.  Later, I was full of happiness. I was happy because I had put Hannah’s needs first.  I was happy because I knew that Hannah had so much fun. I was happy because I knew that what I was doing was right.  Since then, I don’t mind being with her as much, because I see how happy she is. And I know that it is truly better to give than to receive.
The Joy of Giving
by Abigail Molina, age 10
I have always believed what Acts 20:35 says that "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive. ' ". But I never felt it until one meeting of the Houston Conchology Society at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Houston Conchology Society is a shell club that meets every 3rd Tuesday of the month. Almost every time I go there, a fellow shell collector gives me something. Because I am the youngest there, they share with me some of their shells. In other words, I am the one who always receives. In my first meeting I met Mrs. Tina Petway, who happens to be the assistant curator of Malacology at the museum. She told me that she will give me some shells from her personal collection, on our club's next meeting. Now I was very excited and looking forward to the next event.

As an act of gratitude I planned on giving Mrs. Petway a 'thank you' gift. I thought of two choices. One, I could just say 'thank you'. Two, I could give her some puka shells. These are the ones I have most from my shell collection. After thinking for a while, I decided on option two: the puka shells. At the night of our next meeting, I saw many friendly faces, but no Mrs. Petway. But before the meeting ended, she arrived. She apologized for being late because she had a lot of work to do. Because of that, she could not go home to get the shell she promised me. I felt very blue. However, I still gave her the puka shells. When I gave these to her, Mrs. Petway was so happy that she sounded like a giddy little girl. She told me that she only had a small handful of these. She did also tell me that puka shells are not actually shells! They are the operculum, or the lid, of shells. Now that she has more puka shells, she can make a bracelet out of them.

Her joyfulness made me forget all about the shells she forgot to give me. It is not every day that I make an older person really thrilled. To me, that was the best meeting yet. Usually, other members give me some of their shells. But that night, it was the opposite. Seeing her smile and appreciate what I gave her, made me feel wonderful. That evening, I learned that it was truly better to give, not receive.
Back to Top
LEVEL B PROMPT: Ben Carson said, “Perhaps it would be useful to highlight the fact that the average American lives to be about 80 years of age. The first 20 to 25 years are spent either preparing oneself through education or not preparing. If you prepare appropriately, you have 55 to 60 years to reap the benefits. If you fail to prepare, you have 55 to 60 years to suffer the consequences.” What are you doing as a young person now that is preparing you for the rest of your life?

(The winners' submissions have not been edited by IEW)
Cultivating the Garden
by Leah Renner, age 13
“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” This quote from the classic children’s book Secret Garden illustrates that for every young person life is a garden. Ben Carson, an extremely successful and famous doctor expressed, “The first 20 to 25 years are spent either preparing oneself through education or not preparing. If you prepare appropriately, you have 55 to 60 years to reap the benefits. If you fail to prepare, you have 55 to 60 years to suffer the consequences.” To reap the benefits of life, one must remove the weeds and embrace the sunlight and water. Weeds are negative influences and pressures the world throws at you. Education, positive influences, and God are the essential components for a garden. Some may argue that children are too young or immature to prepare and plan for the future, however in scripture Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young…” (New International Version, 1 Timothy 4.12). As a thirteen year old, I am taking responsibility for my future by applying the knowledge I have to my school, surrounding myself with positive influences, and growing my relationship with God.

In the world today education is the soil. It is one of the vital aspects to living a successful life. I definitely value education, because it makes life much easier and helps achieve goals and passions. Although jobs are available for those without a college degree, I realize that with an upstanding education, I can obtain a more valuable career in something I love. Securing employment is extremely beneficial because we all rely on a stable salary, which contributes to the family and allows the pursuit of my passions. Education will give me the stability to fall back on when I need a job. While a job is one benefit to higher education, it is also needed in everyday life. It will help me with chores and tasks that require educational skills. Education, like soil, provides a foundation to build on. Moreover, a garden will not grow with just soil; it needs fertilizer, water and sunlight as well.

Choices in friends and media are fertilizer. Influences in my life persuade every decision I make. First Corinthians 15:33 states, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Surrounding myself with positive influences is critical, not only to my educational growth, but also my personal and spiritual growth. Similarly, media choices affect several, if not most, of my decisions. What a person shares online will never go away and can be retrieved months or even years later with one click. Future success could potentially hinge on my Internet history and can diminish my ability to hold a respected reputation. My parents often remind me of this unfortunate truth, and I have heard many stories of regret due to a momentary lapse of judgment. With that advice in mind, I make decisions with wisdom and intention. Knowing that my influences strongly sway my decisions, I set out to make my choices with maturity.

With education as the soil and influences as the fertilizer, God is the water and light. He puts the light into our lives and continues to help us to mature in our spiritual growth. Although I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Carson when he suggests that young people need to prepare themselves through education, in my life I put a stronger emphasis on my growing relationship with God. As the priority in my life, I value my relationship with God more than education. Theodore Roosevelt captures it all when he stated, "A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education." The world will continue to attempt to persuade me that education and money are the most important, but I will continue to disagree. God’s word prepares me for all aspects of life, including eternity; education merely assists life on earth. The second half of 1 Timothy 4:12 states, “…but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” These attributes, as well as my worldview, are essential to preparing for a future and setting me apart from the world.

As a young person, I am preparing myself through education, positive influences, and my relationship with God. Thankfully, God has given mankind the ability to learn and educate, therefore allowing us to prepare for the future. As we prepare educationally, we also need to prepare spiritually because we cannot do anything without God. An example of a very successful, intelligent person is Ben Carson, whom I have much respect for. He glorified God through his actions, and is successful due to his preparation for life. Education, as the soil, sets you up for success. Positive influences such as friends and media are the fertilizer. These feed your success and help or hinder your growth. As the water and sunlight, God completes the garden. Nothing can grow in darkness. With this groundwork laid, my challenge in life is not only to keep it growing, but also to avoid the thistles.
Blasting into Time
by Keirstyn Empfield, age 13
Boom! Bang! Crash! Like an elephant tumbling down a flight of stairs, I ungracefully landed my time machine.  What, you might ask, did I see? Well, in reality the dark inside of a cardboard box with buttons, gages, screens, and keyboards, which were drawn on with a few vibrant sharpies. In my mind, however, I had just returned from a journey of what I imagined my future might look like. Many of us as children have pretended to zoom into our futures in the world’s first time machine to an imaginary wonderland. Then it was exciting and adventurous, but how do I prepare for my real future, which might not be quite as amazing as my imaginary one? Since I have no clue as to what my future holds, there is only so much I can do. Through academics, physical fitness, taking care of my puppy, and church, I prepare my mind, body, and soul as best I can. Although there are many, many contributors which ready me for the rest of my life, there are a few factors that will have the greatest affect on my future.

Among the studies I am accomplishing is the topic academics, most commonly thought of as for preparing me for my approaching adult life. Of the talents acquired from this often intense and time-consuming subject is reasoning, which is a very vital virtue. As I intend on pursuing a scientific career, I must achieve the mental dexterity to extract the information I learn in class and implement it in practical problems of my own. Without this capability, I will know a lot of intriguing facts but will simply not know how to best apply them to my job.  For instance, say a woman carries the recessive allele for hemophilia, and her husband does not obtain the disease. Applying this information to a Punnett square, I can assess the conceivable genotypes in this trait of their offspring. Thus, I have successfully applied science to a real life scenario. Another crucial life skill is the capacity to express or communicate thoughts. Presumably, I am learning to achieve this through writing and by reading literature. Exposing myself to different styles and techniques, I can advance my aptitude in transferring my viewpoints to different people around me. Presentations done for school will develop my public speaking abilities, since speaking in front of large groups of people is challenging and is not something ordinary people are just born with knowing. Academics are preparing me for my future career and are providing day-to-day knowledge about the world. If I do not have a moderate understanding of math I cannot expect to be ready for college math classes that I need to take. Likewise I must have an adequate ability to write because it is imperative to many classes and jobs. Determinedly teachers continue to provide me with above average instruction so that I might succeed later on in life.

Naturally, physical activities are preparing me for the future through avenues which are not frequently imagined. Unless I develop self-discipline amid strenuous and perhaps even mildly stressful activities, I may fail in the future to persevere through less than ideal circumstances whether physical or mental. In college many students have an unfortunate and irresponsible habit of planning social activities instead of studying for an exam which might take place the next day. Without the ability to remain disciplined, which I am hopefully achieving through diverse physical activities, I would most likely watch my grades plummet. That would be unacceptable. Again if I do not remain in good physical shape I may fail to meet a stamina expectation within my chosen career or an unexpected disastrous situation. Remaining physically active, I can relieve stress, naturally boost my energy level, and help retain better health which helps me to function more efficiently. Obviously, with a healthier body I will not have to waste time and money on doctor appointments with conditions that exercise could prevent. Since exercise provides an increase in energy and cognitive function, I will be able to perform better at a job or college. Delving deeper into the topic of exercise reveals more future benefits than imagined with a surface understanding.

Because of my acute aspiration to work with dogs in one way or another, caring for my golden retriever, Percy, is preparing me for a potential career. Constantly, I am taught responsibility beyond self as I care for him. I cannot just decide to not feed or exercise him one day, like I can choose if I want to practice soccer today or tomorrow. That would not work. Evidently even when I feel overwhelmed or tuckered out I must care for him. Training me in self-discipline, Percy promptly barks every morning at six o'clock, and I wearily drag myself out of bed to enjoy an hour of playtime before I am forced to get ready for school. Can't I take a break on weekends? No. Although I may be exhausted from the week's events, I cannot take a break from having a dog, and so I do it because overall I love it. Another attribute acquired by caring for a dog is time management. Unless I carefully arrange my schedule to include time for Percy, I might realize at the end of the day I have run out of time to perform the necessary tasks of caring for him. So in college I will be capable of wisely planning ahead in order to accomplish all homework required of me. Percy will continue to teach and motivate me as I learn more about dogs and how they might affect my career.

In this day and age countless people consider church either as unimportant, a social activity, or just tradition. These views are inaccurate. Church enhances and supports the most critical relationship in my life. Listening to sermons based on the infallible scriptures, I learn about my omniscient and omnipotent God which undeniably strengthens my faith in Christ. "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ," exclaims Romans 10:17. With manifold decisions and an equal number of selections, how do I determine which options I pick throughout life? Well, by attending church I can learn to apply truths from the Bible to make life choices. When I hear someone claim that babies in the womb are not actually human beings, I can remember that Psalms 22:10 cries out, “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Thus I can assert that abortion is equal to murder and is wrong. As God is the only one who knows my future, he can use the church to prepare me for the future better than I. Providing verses for me to memorize that will guide me throughout life, the church makes me ready to accomplish the work that God has sent me to complete. Whenever I have inquiries, any of my church’s leaders are more than enthusiastic to administer explanations. Assuredly, church is of significant value, for if based solely on the scriptures, it will bestow upon me the most valuable information that will conduct me through my future.

The various activities in which I engage are equipping me with the tools which will help me to be prosperous throughout my adult life. Steadily my schooling trains my brain with the numerous problem solving and life skills prowess. As I participate in physical activeness, I am priming my mind and providing my body with overall better health. Training Percy, I open up more doors which will ready me for my approaching career. Of even more concern, church is teaching me about God and His plan for me, and this is preparing my soul for eternity. That is unquestionably significant. There is no point in pondering about my future, though, when I can streak into my “real” one. Energetically, I ready myself for my next adventure in my time machine. Three, two, one! Take off!

Unfortunately, I hear my mother’s voice holler through my machine’s radio, “Are you done with your homework?”

“Depends on how you define done,” I yell back.

“Come finish before you have to go to bed,” replies my mom knowingly. Grudgingly, I cancel my flight, shove my invention back into my closet, and patter over to the schoolroom. Time to prepare for my real future.
Life’s Gift
by Angela Morton, age 12
“Life is short.” “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Both of these catchphrases are frequently expressed to me by my parents. How is it possible to plan for something as dauntingly broad as life? Considering this question, I’ve determined that learning piano and organ provides much practice in perseverance and prepares me for a musical career. Toastmasters educates me in communication and leadership skills. Finally, training my abilities to express myself in writing is of timeless importance. These three skills are not only fun but also enhance my repertoire of God-given abilities.

Music has been the highlight of my life since I was four years old. Piano perfectly presents joy and enrichment. Two years of violin certainly spiced up my musical acumen with not only the exercise of posture but also singing solfege for fun. When I completed seven years of piano experience, I began taking organ lessons. Organ playing is not only an excellent musical career opportunity but also affords an opportunity to share the beautiful gift of God’s music with others in worship. Additionally, music is great for the brain because it uses both the right and left hemispheres. Playing music, I have plenty of practice in stick-to-itiveness and discipline. Music is a wonderful gift. Piano and organ, a prime example of how to practice unwavering pertinacity, will bring me joy for many years to come. Additionally, music is one activity that has and will continue to provide me with numerous life-long lessons.

I am part of a Toastmasters Middle School Gavelier Club, where I learn communication and leadership know-how. While writing and delivering speeches, I am learning to express my thoughts clearly and effectively, which elevates my communication competence. Learning leadership techniques, which will equip me for the rest of my life, I fulfill roles such as Toastmaster and Ah-counter. “Ums” are counted. “Likes” are tallied. “Sos” are identified. Certainly my favorite part of Toastmasters is the Table Topics speeches, one- to two-minute impromptu speeches about randomly selected topics. This experience may help others learn about topics from a different perspective. Before I entered Toastmasters, speaking in public terrified me. Toastmasters has diminished the fear and is improving my speaking skills.

I delight in writing. The first publication of my family newsletter, titled “Sat Chat Gazzatte,” was penned two years ago when I experienced an inspiration. This newsletter is a way to keep the family connected even though my relatives live in various states. As publisher, editor, and one of the writers, I interview relatives and report on recent family events in each quarterly issue. Desiring to write a play, I successfully scripted and directed “The History of the Declaration of Independence.” This play, performed by four of my nieces and nephews, proved to be a huge accomplishment. Essentially, I was thrilled by its triumph, which motivated the writing of another play. When I wrote and directed a new version of the classic “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” which starred two of my small nieces and nephews, I felt quite proud. Half the fun of writing is in finding the right words. Mark Twain once remarked, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Writing is enjoyable and will prove a useful art during my life.

My three favorite activities, music, Toastmasters, and writing, are pleasurable in the present as well as groundwork for adulthood. Piano and organ are primary because they encompass all the following areas in one. Music is entertaining. It craves performance. It requires brain-power. Mostly, it is enjoyed by others. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” I desire my life to be a gift to others.
Sowing a Bountiful Harvest
by Allison Ohara, age 13
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” Benjamin Franklin once stated. Proper preparations can make the difference between success and failure. As Ben Carson puts it, “The first 20 to 25 years are spent either preparing oneself through education or not preparing. If you prepare appropriately, you have 55 to 60 years to reap the benefits. If you fail to prepare, you have 55 to 60 years to suffer the consequences.” Childhood and young adult years greatly affect a person’s entire future. By educating myself, serving the community, taking advantage of opportunities, growing spiritually, and being ready to defend my faith, I’m more likely to experience a life that is personally fulfilling and has a positive effect on those around me.

Striving to be a good student and staying updated on current events, I’m preparing myself to become an informed citizen and contributive member of society. By working my hardest in school, I’m gaining knowledge and learning skills that will help me through life and open the possibility of a higher education. Also, having developed the tendency to watch and read about current events, I’m beginning to understand more about the world we live in. In addition, as a citizen of the United States, it is my responsibility to be an informed voter. The information I’m learning now will likely prove to be very useful to me throughout my future.

During the past three years, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at an after-school program, which has helped me become a more helpful and appreciative person. Located in a nearby community, the program consists largely of children who come from extremely low-income families. Their entire lifestyle is much different than the one I have always known. Hearing about their lives has helped me to greater appreciate my own, and encouraged me to discover ways to aid those around me. Volunteering has developed within me a greater familiarity with the needs of others and stronger willingness to try to address those needs. By understanding the situation of other people and being grateful for my own life, I have found helping others to be satisfying and enjoyable.

Earlier this year, I had an enriching experience at a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) banquet. In November of 2014, I entered a VFW writing contest. A couple months later, I was happily surprised to hear that I had received first place in California. I earned a $1,000 scholarship, along with a trip to my state capital. In Sacramento, I learned more about our government and was also invited to attend a VFW banquet. I had the opportunity to hear the personal experiences of war veterans and also realized how much the VFW has done to support veterans. The experience instilled in me a great respect and appreciation for veterans, and also provided monetary support for my college education.

While education and experiences are both important and beneficial, the crucial thing to have is a relationship with the Lord. Despite even the best of preparations, life will have trials and difficulties. The way a person deals with these hardships can greatly impact their way of life. Without the knowledge of God’s love and sovereignty, it is easy to fall into a state of depression when life isn’t going according to our own plans. By developing a strong foundation in God, I’ll know that even when my situation seems difficult, the Lord is in control. In Colossians 3:23, it is written, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Not only will a relationship with God help me in times of hardships, but it will also encourage me to do everything to the best of my ability.

Since our society is full of people who doubt, deprecate, and denounce Christianity, it is important to remain firm in my faith. Often, children who have grown up in Christian homes go to college and leave their faith. They are influenced by their atheistic peers and are stumped by difficult questions to which they have no answer. Thus, it is important to be grounded in your beliefs. Recently, I have been studying apologetics and researching more about the Bible so that in the future I'll be able to confidently stand firm in my beliefs. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Even though I’ll likely meet people who disagree with Christian beliefs and ask me questions I can’t answer, the knowledge and faith that I do have will help me to stand strong in my beliefs.

Although I don’t know what the future holds, I’m trying to ready myself for whatever may come. Acquiring knowledge, understanding the needs of others, seeking enriching experiences, growing in the Lord, and knowing how to defend my faith will serve to prepare me for the later years of my life. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Growing both mentally and spiritually, working hard, and serving others are all ways to sow what will eventually reap a bountiful harvest.
For the Future
by Madelyn O’Dell, age 13
“Invest in the future now because that is where one is going to spend the rest of their life.” -Anonymous

How am I preparing for the future? This thought has crossed my mind many a times, but I have never put deep thought into it. Preparing for the future can often times be stressful or not seem very important at the moment. But I cannot go living my life according to how I want it to be. God is in control of what I do on a day-to-day basis, so I must be ready for whatever He decides which is always the best for me. Proverbs 16:3 explains that if you commit your work to the Lord than your plans will be established just as God promised us.  God is sovereign and has known every detail about everyone since the beginning of time. He knows what is best. Three of the best things one must do in order to plan for the future is to work diligently, to keep order, and to continue growing in the Lord.

Work, work, work! Working diligently can be easy; it can also be hard which is the most probable in my life. It has also been the hardest thing for me to be preparing for and putting it into action. Regarding work, it is often times easy for me to work as unto myself. But it says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” This Bible verse is a great example of how we should be preparing for the life ahead of us. If we are working as unto the Lord rather than men, nothing else matters. In some cases, it is very insatiable for specific people, but striving to press forward is the best thing you can do. Another way I am working diligently is being a help anywhere I go, even if I am not asked to. When I am successful in doing this, it is wonderful to see how many people I can bless. It is surprising how many people will be blessed just by doing one simple thing. I can easily create a little bit of joy in a person's day. Having a habit of diligently working while I'm young will also help for when I become an adult and take on the responsibilities of being an adult. This is why working diligently when one is young can reap many benefits when they are older. So working diligently is a way I can prepare for the future on a day-to-day basis.

Secondly, I am properly preparing for the future by becoming naturally orderly. This is not my weakest point, but I definitely struggle with it constantly. There is essentially no reason why someone should be super messy. If a person starts young, than it is a lot easier to keep the habit of orderliness once they become older. Habits are hard to break. It says in in 1 Colossians 14:33 that, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” God likes when we keep order, especially in the churches. It also says later on in 1 Colossians 14 “All things should be done decently and in order.” Order is glorifying to the God Almighty who is in control, and God's reason for making us was to glorify Him, so by keeping order we are, in the end, glorifying God. When doing this, I do it with the best of my ability so as to be pleasing to God. By steadily acting this out in my own life, I can inspire others to help people as well. In spite of this already coming easily for me, becoming naturally orderly is another excellent way I am preparing for an orderly future.

Lastly, but also the most important, is continuing to have growth in the Lord. This comes easier to some than others, but it is also very easy to slack in. Some, who have struggled strongly with this since Adam first sinned in the garden, have never been successful in continual growth in the Lord since they did not make it a priority in their own lives. According to 2 Peter 3:18 it says to, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” As I stated earlier, God's reason for creating us is to glorify Him. That is our purpose here on earth until Christ comes back, and we will forever glorify Him in heaven. So another way to glorify God is by growing in Him. We also grow in grace. We need spiritual growth and spiritual food just as we need to eat real food and grow naturally. Both of these are essential in the real world and I am preparing to face them as I continue to grow both naturally and spiritually. Growing in the Lord by being disciplined and exerting this little by little each day helps me so by the time I reach adulthood it will become natural.

Preparing for the future is hard, but I look forward to seeing what the Lord has planned for me. I am beginning to prepare for adulthood now so that I have no regrets when I become older. 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” I am applying this verse to my life as a way of preparing for adulthood. God commands us to “raise up a child the way he should go so that even when he becomes old he will not depart from it.” As I grow, I realize the habits I practiced while younger, I continue on in now. All three things I have discussed are important, but the most important of them all is growing in the Lord. We are to continually live our lives for Christ. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We are to be constantly glorifying a holy God, which can sometimes be challenging. Working diligently, keeping order, and continuing to grow in the Lord is my goal. This is how I am preparing for the future.
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LEVEL C PROMPT: Ben Carson said, “Perhaps it would be useful to highlight the fact that the average American lives to be about 80 years of age. The first 20 to 25 years are spent either preparing oneself through education or not preparing. If you prepare appropriately, you have 55 to 60 years to reap the benefits. If you fail to prepare, you have 55 to 60 years to suffer the consequences.” What are you doing as a young person now that is preparing you for the rest of your life?

(The winners' submissions have not been edited by IEW)
Equipping for Battle
by Emily Uhlmeyer, age 15
Whether an athlete training for a marathon, a farmer cultivating his land for planting, or a soldier equipping himself for battle, each and every desirable outcome is preceded by diligent preparation. Studying economics this year, I have ascertained, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” purporting that nothing of value is free. While true in economics, this concept applies more broadly as well. In all aspects of life, preparation is a vital component on the road to success. The question then arises, what am I currently doing to prepare myself for the remainder of my years? Spiritually, culturally, and academically, I am laying a firm foundation, which will assist me in the future.

As a Christian, spiritual development holds preeminence in my priorities. As I anticipate opposition from atheistic and agnostic professors in future years, the quintessence of solidifying my faith now is ushered to the forefront of my mind. Imagine, for a moment, that the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt was unfamiliar with the U.S. Constitution. His representation of the United States would be far from adequate. Similarly, if knowledge of my faith is absent, my portrayal of Christ will suffer tremendously. With a comprehensive understanding of my worldview, maintained by studying Apologetics and interacting with nonbelievers, I am equipping myself to fulfill the command of 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect.” To be a noteworthy ambassador for Christ, grounding myself in His truth at an early age is of utmost importance.

Also under construction, is familiarity with the culture in which I live. On Paul’s various missionary journeys, he encountered contrasting belief systems and foreign ideas. Compassionately, he understood, related, and ministered to the people, yet he never compromised in his Christian faith. As I study philosophers, such as Descartes, Kierkegaard, and Marx, and examine the ideas the men promoted, the scope of my understanding increases, whereby exemplifying my ability to relate to others. Due to this knowledge I am capable of pointing to Christ, liberating the captives by our Savior’s grace and for His glory. A common Latin phrase, “Bene legere saecla vincere,” translates “To read well is to master the ages.” Appropriately assessing reality demands an authoritative understanding, or reading, of past events and arising situations, which I am achieving through history, current events, and life experiences. Living in an ever changing culture, Christians must become acquainted with it and the events which are occurring.

Lastly, I am advancing academically, not only for temporary benefit, but also long-lasting success. One of the key components of my education is memorization. Why memorization? In the words of Professor William Klemm, “Memorization trains the brain to develop learning and memory schemas that facilitate future learning.” Another avenue, which abets prospective learning, is research. Acquiring the skill of investing critically in issues, recognizing views on both sides of the spectrum, fosters analytical processing and perspicacious evaluation. Furthermore, the skills I am gaining through speech and debate will allow me to practically apply this knowledge. Obviously, it is impossible to know absolutely everything, especially at this point in my life. However, utilizing memorization and learning how to research, I’m not only aiding myself in the moment, but boosting subsequent knowledge as well.

As a Christian, I desire to reach the full potential that God intends for me. Presently, learning and developing as a student is my occupation. Consequently, I am involved in sundry educational endeavors and am maturing through prevalent events. In Colossians 2:8, Paul proclaims, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” To avoid captivity, I am developing spiritually, to set captives free, I am growing culturally, and to capture every thought, I am advancing academically. Although I’m not a marathoner, farmer, or soldier, I’m training for the race of my life, sowing seeds of success, and equipping myself for the impending battle.
Preparing for Life’s Work
by Clarissa Pacheco, age 16
It is commonly stated that life is like a box of chocolates, that you can never be exactly sure what will happen nor what you will be compelled to withstand. However, the choices we make early on in our youth can be the make or break factor that determines how effectively we can deal with the situations that come our way.  As we externally transform from child to adult, we must at the same time, enkindle an internal transformation from adolescent youth to that of a solidly-formed character. From the very first years of development, our minds must be cultivated through strong study skills and a healthy work ethic, which are essential in forming a soul exempt from worthless delusions and passing fads. In addition, by exposing ourselves to great works of literature, we expand our knowledge of the world, learning of its past mistakes and of how every decision – once made – leads to an instinctive and natural consequence, whether that be good or whether that be bad. It is from these errors that we will hopefully come to acknowledge the truth of what it truly means to live life to its fullest. For we can find in every person a passionate desire to create something beautiful out of something ordinary, something sincere out of something whimsical, something extraordinary out of virtually nothing. It is therefore our responsibility to enrich our passions so as to further enhance an existence already so amply filled with pain and suffering.  Indeed, as we grow, we must not only sprout wings just to appear as though we subsist, but we must also gradually take heed and fly so as to prove that we do, in fact, thrive. Finally, it is essential that throughout our earliest years, we germinate a love for what we believe because, in the end, it is that which will pull us through life’s most raging storms.

Since the beginning, all I’ve ever known is a sufficient little world that I perceived to merely be “my life” and by which I unconsciously instilled in myself the misleading implication that this was just the way things were – that this was just another conventional method of absorbing the necessary pool of knowledge, so as to competently make it through the stringent demands of life. I thought I knew what school was as I could see that almost every other person around me was going there. Although, in my ignorance, I didn’t completely understand why I was set apart from the general public and thus educated in such a relatively exclusive environment. While I deemed it to be nothing less than that which my peers were receiving, at the same time I expected nothing more. As I grew, so too did my external awareness of the outer realm of society together with all of its analytical and judgmental views on anything beyond the focalized “norm”. As time elapsed, I sometimes doubted my capability of keeping up with my age-group, comparing my somewhat less-strenuous academic life to the voluminous workload of others, rather than the lasting fruit of what would be thus reaped in the long run. What I did not understand was that, while my fellow cohorts were figuratively imprisoned behind the bars of the system’s requisitions, I was free to develop my soul and flourish in a non-pressured atmosphere, where I could, instead of merely ingesting my work, consume it in the most holistic and edifying way. Unbeknownst to me, this education was (and is still) preparing me in an invaluable way, imprinting both a hard work ethic and good study habits - that will significantly benefit me not only for a higher-level of academics but also or for the rest of my life.

C.S. Lewis once stated that “In great literature, [we] become a thousand different men yet still remain [ourselves]” *. Great books can open our minds in the most incredible way, a way in which no math course or science text (helpful though they may be) have the possibility of ever doing. By reading, we unconsciously unlock the door to an infinitely broad range of new ideas and perspectives that we may not have otherwise been acquainted with. Presently, I am reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens. The novel addresses a heavily, utilitarian manner of thinking and touches on many fairly symbolic points about the education system at the time. Quite interestingly, the story appears to be very relevant to our common modern ideologies on learning as a whole. Education, in the book, is treated as a very squarely based, systematic process where everything is seen only for what it measurably produces and for what it will materially cultivate. Through studying this, I have come to have a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of the true essence of what learning should really be and how very far gone the current system has veered from true classical instruction.  For this reason, good literature has reinforced in my mind a greater scope of philosophical rationales which will assist me in making more prudent decisions in the near and distant future.

Ever since I was very young, I have always been producing some kind of show or another.  If it was not a play it was a dance, if it was not a dance it was a comedy act, if it was not a comedy act it was a puppet show. I still remember, even as a little seven year-old, I would direct some short (or perhaps not so short), half-rehearsed presentation which my unfortunate parents were obliged to attend. Luckily, with three enthusiastic younger sisters, I almost always had a comprehensive cast to work with and share my visions. Then, when I was nine, I was enrolled in my very first ballet class which I enjoyed immensely; so much so, that now, seven years later, I not only still continue my classes but also have become an apprentice teacher. It was two years ago thatI was first asked by my dance school’s artistic director to assist in the Level 1 Ballet class and it was through this experience that I received the training I needed to go on and enroot an inborn passion that will most likely remain with me for the remainder of my life. In addition, together with my sisters and another family, I have established a small cooperation, now known as the J.O.Y. Company Dancers that has developed into an outreach ministry through which we perform for seniors at various retirement homes in our city. It is amazing to witness the delight that such a small group can bring to those lonely elderly locked up within closed walls, for sometimes months at a time and how, when we have no sooner finished a performance, they are already asking us to return. My hope, in volunteering in such a way, is that I will uncover what I am meant to become so that I might someday make this world a more beautiful place.

An incessant concern among many people with respect to homeschoolers is the false perception that they are anti-socialized. Although, we do indeed spend a significantly less amount of time around our peers compared to our contemporaries, we do in fact form deeper connections with we choose to associate with. For in truth, if you think about it, just because a child goes to school and sits in a classroom of thirty children doesn’t necessarily mean they are being so-called ‘socialized’.  As a little girl, I admit, I was not one to instinctively walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. However, overtime I have strived to step a bit out of my comfort zone when a befitting situation does arise. For example, this past school year I ventured to take a Latin university-level class at a small private college, having absolutely no idea if I would be able to keep up. To my utter amazement, I not only passed but actually ended up acing the course material, finishing with an average grade level of 99. Through doing this I further proved to myself just how extremely effective my previous education had been and how I could sufficiently succeed in a post-secondary school environment.  On a similar note, one evening last November I was unexpectedly called in to teach a beginner adult dance class. I was quite anxious as not only had I had never taught it before, but I also had virtually no time at all to prepare. Feeling, however, that I had no other choice, I boldly stood face-to face with the reality that this had to be one.  There was nothing I could do to change the predicament; no amount of worrying, no useless fretting could, at that moment, erase what fate [God] had already written in permanent pen.   Yet, now looking back I see how much I grew from that one experience which compelled me to step beyond myself and the obstacles restraining me from fulfilling my purpose at that moment in life.

Living entails bearing the innumerous trials and hardships that life is guaranteed to throw at us and it is only by clinging to that which is stronger than our weak selves that we will be able to overcome the seemingly unsurpassable pain. It is for this reason that it is so important to implant in our souls a love for those “things” that will pull us through our grief – that will remind us that, when everything crashes down, there is a greater objective to live for. Without question, these “things” are not based on materialistic wealth, physical assets or the direct achievement of earthly success. For though the world may applaud you, it is but for a fleeting moment, after which it promptly moves on and you are ultimately left to garner the consequence of the seed you have sown. These “things” are your faith: the essence of what you really believe and thus who you truly are. Because even though many may deny it, every person has an inclination to some conviction or another, inferring that, in the end, we all become what we believe. ** Our faith is the rock that we lean upon when we cannot take another breath; our faith is the foot prints in the sand, beside us every step of the way; our faith is the utmost pinnacle of whatever peak we choose to climb. From what I’ve seen, the people with no solid foundation upon which to plant their hopes are more inclined to desperation when those dreams unexpectedly die, than those who possess a stable groundwork to fall upon when they can no longer stand. While society may bring you to your knees with its criticism and rebuke, is the future reward of eternal joy not worth its weight in gold?

It is everyone’s intention to steer clear of suffering, but the truth of the matter is that no matter how hard we try, humanity by its very nature is a constant struggle for survival, making complete evasion impossible. Despite this, the decisions we choose to make now can explicitly influence if not the course of our lives, at least the way in which we choose to respond to its defects. Infusing discipline and resolute assiduity will greatly assist in a future of reliability to both ourselves and to those around us. It will assist us in working hard and promoting diligence in whatever circumstance laid out before us. Overtime, such disciplinary skills will acquire not only physically visible attributes but also a healthy sense of satisfaction and complacency upon finishing a fixed task. We also must broaden our intellects through studying great classical novels that will boost our understanding more deeply and fully into the insights of those around us. Furthermore, if we succeed in ascertaining our innate desires, we shall be able to eventually garner the outcome of what we have always aspired to become. By discovering our true passions in life, what we are truly aroused to do, it is then when we can fully be a light to this darkened world, and with our light bring forth hope. We just need to but step out beyond the towering walls we have built up around ourselves so that we may behold the scenic horizon dispersed before us, and most importantly anchor every part of who we are to every part of what we know is Truth; because “to live without Faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but [merely] existing”. ***

Works cited:
* C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism
**Lolly Daskal, Thoughts Spoken From The Heart
*** Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Letter to I. Bonini,  February 27, 1925
A Meaningful Goal
by Ethan Sink, age 16
The primary definition of success in the dictionary is “the accomplishment of one's goals” ( The key to success is making goals. This is not just because it is impossible to accomplish goals when they do not exist; it is because creating small goals means having stepping stones to reach larger goals. Having a primary goal is necessary; it will guide all our other plans. However, shooting for the sky is pointless if we don't create smaller steps to reach it. While my ultimate goal is reaching heaven, I also seek to accomplish some lesser physical goals that can aid me on my spiritual journey and benefit others. By setting long-term and short-term goals, I hope to prepare myself well to succeed in this life and the life to come.

Physically, I am keeping my body in shape. Staying healthy has long term benefits which affect many different parts of life. Increasing energy and self-discipline, exercising regularly also reminds us of the God Who created us and gave us our bodies, among other things, to take care of. To accomplish this goal, I participate on a home-school track team and run by myself. Since I began running, I have run in a few 5K races and plan to run a half-marathon by the end of 2016. However, exercise is not the only part of staying fit. Healthy eating habits are also vital, and I plan to limit my snacks and seconds (although that can be hard for a teenage boy). With a goal of healthy living, I am striving to use my body to build my character and glorify my God.

Although a fit body is a worthwhile pursuit, of far more worth is spiritual growth. Compared to the rest of my life, my relationship with God ought to consume my existence. In fact, honoring God is the sole purpose of life, and that means that everything I do should be accomplishing that purpose, directly or indirectly. Studying my Bible and praying daily help me to grow in relationship with God, and spending time worshiping with others encourages both them and myself to follow His ways. Religion is not just for church; it is for life. My overarching goal is glorifying God and spreading the gospel to others; once again, I hope to ultimately reach heaven. With that in mind, I go about my life; this most important spiritual aspect ought to affect all the other parts of my being.

Primarily, my spiritual life affects my character. The Bible provides a guideline for a Christian character: Jesus Christ. Christians are called by that name because we ought to act like Christ. We should be humble, patient, encouraging, and prepared to serve others. As a goal for 2015, I plan to participate in twenty acts of service or encouragement that I would not normally undertake: a letter to a sick person, babysitting someone's children, raking leaves, or shoveling snow, for example. With schoolwork and other additional projects, I pursue diligence and effective work habits. As part of that, I force myself to exercise self-discipline by restraining myself from wasting time and forcing myself to work until I am finished. Although building a Biblical character challenges me, it will help me reach the next life as well as create benefits in this life.

Additionally, I am training my mind to think well. Learning to evaluate people and situations, I try to consider everything I read or see carefully to ascertain its truth. This is immensely useful. Because we understand the world around us, we can better relate to others and make wise decisions for ourselves. Clearly, this helps us succeed academically and professionally on a material level. Also, our spiritual lives can depend on our ability to understand and defend the truth. In order to train myself to think, I have completed several courses on formal and material logic. I read literature and analyze it. I reason with my family. I think by myself. The benefits of a strong mind – and the dangers of a weak one – are not at all to be taken lightly.

Finally, I improve my skills in order to open up opportunities later in life. Since I do not plan on specializing in math and science, I have lower goals in these subjects (namely, doing well on standardized tests and college classes). However, my communication skills will prove much more important. In order to converse with more people, I am learning Spanish, in addition to constantly working to improve my writing and public speaking. Planning to someday preach the gospel for a living, I aim to speak Spanish fluently, and communicate ideas effectively through both writing and public speaking. Also, I will need leadership skills. I hold the position of treasurer in our 4-H club and will soon join a group of 4-Hers who will represent the 4-H program to state legislature. Furthermore, I am the editor-in-chief for a student-run home-school newspaper, The Scholar's Script. Although I am often forced to step outside of my comfort zone because of these, I realize that I am improving my leadership skills as a result. Finally, as a student musician, I always aspire to expand my tastes and styles; I hope to someday play a multiplicity of instruments, in addition to the piano, cello and guitar which I play now. Although not all of these skills have completely practical uses for my planned profession, they improve my mind and can help me connect with people through shared interests and experiences.

Achieving success requires both planning and action; it is not a passive venture. In order to prepare myself for success, I plan to stay in shape, grow spiritually, develop a strong Christian character, train my mind to evaluate situations and people, and hone my skills to benefit myself and others. Clearly, growing in my relationship with God takes the place of my primary goal. Its eternal value far outweighs that of any other plan I may have. However, on my own, none of my efforts would be worth anything. No matter how much energy I were to spend on these things, I could not make my endeavors have any eternal value. Nevertheless, God's grace grants me a purpose for life; He makes even my lesser goals and successes meaningful, because I have a hope of attaining everlasting life, and those goals help me reach that hope. Because of what God has done for me, I can truly agree with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Luck Favors the Prepared
by Makaylyn Paul, age 15
Confucius once wisely stated, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Every individual should know this quote and take its message to heart by applying it to their lives, especially those in the youthful stages of life. There are numerous ways that I am preparing for a wonderful life, preparing musically, financially, academically, spiritually, and through household duties.

This May marks the sixth year that I’ve been playing violin and studying the language of music. I hope to have a minor in music so in order to prepare for that I practice my instrument about every day up to thirty minutes. I have become somewhat comfortable with performing because I have played publicly, and still do, innumerable times. I have been examined by European musicians through the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music program and have performed at nursing homes, churches, youth group bands, farmer’s markets, and in ensembles and orchestras. Through these opportunities, I have prepared myself for college requirements and will continue to do so.

I am quite fortunate to have parents who are so willing to teach me the importance of finance and how to use my money wisely. Ever since I was about nine years old my mom and dad have taught me to tithe, save, and how to spend my “general fund money” prudently. I have taken a financial class based on Dave Ramsey’s program, Financial Peace and I have learned how essential saving is. Now, tithing and saving is a natural habit when I receive my monthly allowance. Making an appropriate habit like this is terribly important so that there would be no hesitation at all later on in my independent years.

Earning fantastic grades in school has been a major priority so that I can be mentally equipped during my adult years. I try to do all I can to receive those A’s, such as, making flash cards, writing out key points on the chalk board, and reciting out loud. Hopefully, great grades will help open doors to acceptance at a supportive and beneficial, Christian, college. Sometimes, I’ll listen to classical music while studying for a test and have my parents test me over the material so that I can be sure to do well.

In past years, I have battled some against my Biblical confidence and my spiritual walk with God. As a young child, I experienced things that a child should never have to go through. My biological family was falling apart, my mother was dying of breast cancer, and other family members either abandoned me or gave me too much attention by sharing their thoughts that were extremely hurtful. Some compassionate people tried to help, but we were in ruins. The path that was ahead of me was not leading me to a prosperous life until I met a couple who would eventually become my parents. I was seven when my mother died, but God had prepared a totally different lifestyle for me.  A short while later I was adopted, along with my little sister, and we were taught to love God and trust Him. Ever since then, I have been studying God’s Word, going to church, and serving in different ministries, and by doing these activities I am equipping myself more and more for God’s leading in my life.

I am and have been taught how to do many household duties, such as laundry, cleaning dishes, dusting, vacuuming, and occasional window washing and cooking. My parents often remind me and my sister that doing our chores help prepare us for the future household we’d like to manage. More often, I find myself in the kitchen heating up food, making salad, or cooking various foods while my dad tries to teach me the “secrets of the kitchen.” Doing these duties helps me prepare for a well-managed life.

By preparing musically, financially, academically, spiritually, and through household requirements I am equipping myself for life-long satisfaction. I always hope to remember that “luck favors the prepared”. 
Sail, Not Drift
by Heather Pavlik, age 16
Malcolm X said “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Implementing those words, the wise person acknowledges them and incorporates them into his life, by preparing for the future. Unfortunately, not a lot of people prepare themselves for the future, but instead, live for today. My parents, though, have been very strong in teaching me how to prepare for the future. I have taken their advice and guidance and am strongly working for my future.

Right now, as a sophomore, all my preparations are going towards college. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. In preparation for the PSAT of my junior year, last summer I studied during the summer so as to get a high PSAT score in my sophomore year. Studying hard and tenaciously, I memorized approximately one thousand vocabulary words during the summer. The memorization has not only helped my Critical Reading score increase significantly, but it has also helped me in my reading, comprehension, and speech. Fervently, I took the advanced PSAT preparation course (not for the weak of heart) and took about ten practice PSAT tests during the summer and fall of last year. To prepare me for the upcoming PSAT, I took the SAT as a sort of “practice.” However, because I had done so much studying and preparation, I was able to score a high enough score that I could actually get into the Honors College at the college I want to go to, if I so desire. Properly prepared, I took the PSAT and scored well enough to get a half scholarship to the PSAT preparation course this year. I will be studying this summer to attain an even higher PSAT score to qualify me for the National Merit competition. I hope and pray that I will get a full ride scholarship and will be able to walk out of college debt free. This does come at a price, for my summer will be filled with lots of studying, but in the end, it will be worth it.

Last year, I decided to shoot ten yards past the finish line and see if I could get into Honors Chemistry at the fine arts school I go to. Since the class is taught by a brilliant professor with a doctorate, I knew this would not be an easy task. However, I qualified and am truly enjoying Honors Chemistry. I desire to be either a scientist or engineer, so I am not satisfied with a passing grade, but am working hard to keep my 4.00 GPA. If I am to go for an engineering or science degree, it is pretty important that I get a good grade in Honors Chemistry.  Spending five hours that could have been spent reading, playing, or some other fun activity, in order to get a good lab report grade is hard, but I know it is worth it. After all, this is for the future and a good college resume.

Also, if one is to go for an engineering degree, they must be good at math. I am very blessed to have parents who are so intelligent in math and have truly pushed me along. I took Algebra 2 in 8th grade, but because of the imminent end of my math studies if I continued on at this pace, my mother decided to stretch it out for two years. That actually turned out to be a blessing, considering math is getting more and more challenging and I need a more advanced brain in order to comprehend all this new information. This year I am taking Advanced Mathematics, and have been studying logarithms, analytical geometry, trigonometry, advanced algebra, and pre-calculus. Gratefully, I am also finishing up my study of geometry that I have been doing since about 5th grade. Next year, my junior year, I will be taking Calculus, which will end my high school math studies. In my senior year, I will take dual-credit courses either at a college or online so as to get the basics out of the way. This is again, preparation for the future, because this will cut out the time I have to spend in a college classroom. True, it is not the most fun thing studying the basics of biology, chemistry, and physics as a 6th grader, doing Algebra 1 as a 7th grader, and taking Government and Economics as a 10th grader, but being able to walk out of them with a 4.00 average on my back has been completely worth it. I am becoming well prepared for college, which in turn, will prepare me for the work world. So, as I now look back, my mother wasn’t a mean mom pushing me to do well in school and having me give up play time for school time; she was just firming up the concept of preparation in my brain.

Also, in my freshman year, I was inducted into the Upsilon Eta chapter of the Eta Sigma Alpha branch of the National Home School Honor Society and became the first freshman ever to be inducted into that chapter.  This year, I was elected Secretary/Treasurer, officially becoming the youngest officer, with all of the other officers being seniors. This, too, is for my future, as I learn the leadership skills that will get me far into the working world. I was accepted into the Honor Society because of my high test scores on tests such as the Stanford Achievement Test and the ReadiStep test. I want you to know that I am now future-minded, but when I took these tests as a 4th, 6th, and 8th grader, I did not have that mindset. I was still living in a fantasy world and was very content to stay in it. I did not understand what it meant to prepare for the future. But, I knew that I should do well in school and specifically on these tests, because some little something inside of me told me they were important and would get me far. I walked into the testing room with one mind-set; to please my loving parents who had given up so much for me to have this education. And I was rewarded for that. This is a lesson I want everyone to know; you can actually get further in life working to please your parents and mentors than doing it for yourself. Instead of having that fear of not being successful for yourself, try thinking about others, like the parents who taught you what you have learned, your mentors who have encouraged you, and the God who gave you your skills. Then, you will truly learn how to successfully prepare for the future.

Hebrews 12:1 in the Holy Bible says, “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” My preparation for the future is far from over, but I know that if I work hard now, it will be rewarded back to me.  Being a tenacious student, I have seen the benefits of hard work. If you sow much, you will reap much. And in conclusion, I would like to quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “To reach a port we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor - sail, not drift.”
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