Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekend Links






Lots of great reading around the web lately that has spurred me on, challenged me, and kicked me in the pants from time to time :)

  • "Bitterness isn't one of those big, flashy sins that you can see growing above the surface of our hearts. It may not show off like anger or produce big ol' hunks of rotten fruit like disobedience. Bitterness is a sleeper sin. It grows beneath the surface, down deep in the soil of our hearts."
Commenting on Hebrews 12:15, read 4 Ways to Spot a Bitter Root

  • And along the same lines, because we all know that hurtful words do wound us...what should we do?  Read: When Another's Words Sting

  • "Our formal living room housed two hospital beds. As a child I never realized that this might be unusual (and a bit like the opening scene of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I never heard my parents utter a word of complaint about the care they gave or the way their home was rearranged to lovingly provide for these men. By their example, they taught me the beauty of true hospitality."
Beautiful post about the ministry of hospitality: Open Roof Hospitality
 
 
  • We don't have to guess or wonder what spiritual qualities God wants our children to develop, and for us to help them develop.  I loved the simplicity and truth of this post: Developing Godly Qualities in Our Children 

  • I'm really excited about this one!  Free unlimited access to Ligonier Connect for 30 days when you use the coupon code TRYCONNECT.  You can take theology courses (dozens to choose from), studying at your own pace. This would also be a great tool to use for high school students' theology classes.  Also available are worldview, philosophy, apologetics, church history, etc....and...did I mention I was excited? It's like being in a candy store. Join me in the Old Testament Bible Survey class if you wish.

A few posts on marriage that have touched a nerve:

  • A simple yet poignant correlation about the growth of our marriages and the growth of our faith in Christ:  On the Day I Married Her

  • I'm putting this one with the marriage posts because, most of you know, I am married to a pastor. But if you aren't married to one, you probably at least have a pastor and this would be very much worth the read. I have learned that right before he preaches, is not the best time to ask Kevin to change a diaper. In fact, I have learned that right before he preaches is not the time to ask him what color stop signs are. Read: Before He Preaches.

  • Change For Struggling Marriages Excellent advice. Written by a couple who were Christians when they married but still had significant relationship struggles.

  • Came across this older post on being a helper and have been chewing on it a few days. Fantastic.  "God’s example reveals a high and worthy calling for women as helpers suitable to their husbands. We are not glorified maids, butlers, or cooks waiting on an order to perform from a master. This is not God’s example of help at all! We are called to show compassion, support, defend, and protect those in our care. We are called to deliver from distress and to comfort. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes. We are called to be like Christ."   Single, married, divorced, widowed, this seasoned word touches women in all realities of life: Keep Calm and Carry On--Being a Strong Helper After God's Own Heart


On Motherhood:

  • Identifying how joy as a mom is killed in us and then cultivating the joy, the real ground zero kind, that God created us to have in Christ.  Don't miss this one: A Mother's Joy


Have a wonderful weekend!
 


Related:
1/22/14: Weekend Links
6/20/14: Weekend Links

Monday, January 12, 2015

When You're Dwelling in the Desert of Discontent



My word for 2015: Contentment.

I don't think there are times of my life that I look back on with more shame and regret, than times of discontent. Short and sometimes long seasons that I complained, murmured, and like the Israelites wandering in the desert, unbelief and doubt overtook me.

I look back on those seasons with shame and a growing sorrow.

Not that I am now one thousandth as thankful as I should me. And at times I am still tempted. I pray the Lord would give me more and more hatred for this sin.  

During those seasons of discontent I paid a dear price.  How that spirit of discontent and unthankfulness plundered me! I was being robbed.

Robbed of my faith, my hope, my peace, my confidence, my blessings too great to count, all the beautiful opportunities and gifts in my path. They were being stolen from my sight.  Obscuring my vision was all that I perceived I lacked.  All that I perceived God had taken or was withholding from me.

Precious days were wasted.  Of the few days that are allotted to me in this short time on earth, I squandered many, dwelling in the desert of discontent.  That dry, barren and unfruitful place that God never intends his people to be.

And God was being robbed of glory.  All the privileges and blessings he poured out, turned into poison.  It grieves me that I grieved Him.

I didn't have the faith to believe that all He gives and takes away is for my eternal good and His glory.

That he loves me enough to bring me to the understanding that my satisfaction is in Him and who He is, rather than my comforts and sources of temporary happiness.

As a young mother, working full time outside my home, I had a wonderful sitter for my two little girls.  She was a faithful Christian lady who had already raised her family, and had a great love for all children.  Her ministry to our family is still bearing fruit.

Each day I would drive to her home, leave my little girls with her for the whole day and pick them up, bedraggled, right before supper.  The next day we did it all again. 

And the girls came to love their sitter very deeply. So much so that they began turning to her for comfort instead of me.  They asked for her when she wasn't near.  They felt lost when she wasn't there to meet their needs. One day my toddler called her "Mama."

Our sitter was a gift.  But I removed her from the daily life of my girls.  I took a job working third shift, and my husband and I figured out a way to make ends meet, in order to put distance between her and them. It was hard on the girls for a time. But as a baby and toddler, they had no choice but to submit to our decision.

And I wonder how often God acts in such a way.  His children become dependent on the gifts he gives and so he withholds or removes them, sometimes for a season, sometimes forever, so that they will understand that His temporary gifts aren't where we must look for satisfaction. That He alone is faithful.  That He won't share that place in our hearts because He loves us too much to let us trade the lesser for what is infinitely greater.

"To be content because of some external thing is like warming a man's clothes by the fire.  But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like warmth that a man's clothes have from the natural heat of his body." --Jeremiah Burroughs

All I have was given by God.  He can remove it when he knows it is best to do so.  His ways are unsearchable and his judgments are past finding out.  Therefore, I may often not have understanding in the matter.

Our good is in God more than in our comforts, relationships, money and earthly treasures.

And so as we live in light of the gospel, in any condition we find ourselves... we can be content.


Knowing Your Flock

Sunday, January 4, 2015

5 Favorite Books From 2014




Here are my top 5 picks from 2014:

  • 5th place goes to Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.  I wish all women could read this book.  It will inspire you to dig deeper into your Bible and move beyond devotional reading.  I am still in a season where hours of study just isn't possible, but I know I can't be the only one who, because of that, gives up trying at times.  The problem with giving up is it isn't an option for Christian people. We need the Word of God...and a real understanding of it...the way we need air to breathe.  This book has re-lit the fire in me to get serious again about doing what I can with the time God has given me.

  • 4th place honors go to Ordinary by Michael Horton.  Ok, wait...I haven't actually read this book.  But my husband has read it, bought copies for the kids and so many quotes have been read to me I feel like I have read it.  Full of fresh and wise insights on living an ordinary Christian life and is particularly edifying to wives and daughters.

  • Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot wins 3rd place. Discipline is not a popular thing to ponder in our instant gratification generation.  But this book hits the nail on the head.  It's worth a yearly re-read.

  • 2nd place goes to Your Home, a Place of Grace by Susan Hunt. It is one of those books you are sorry to see the last page of, and you want to turn right around and start it again.  It's that good.  I bought a few as gifts this year for loved ones.  It isn't a how-to book.  It is much more about who God is than who we are and what we do.  Wish I had read it years ago.

  • And 1st place goes to....The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin De Young.  From my review on Goodreads:  This book should be required reading for every young adult. DeYoung has a message to share that, I hope, is a wake up call to Christians. God is holy and expects us to be holy. With no hint of legalism or superiority, he thoughtfully shares a balanced view of law and grace. In a day where cheap grace abounds and Christians are reluctant to speak truth for fear they will be labeled intolerant or irrelevant, Kevin Deyoung communicates clearly that we are to pursue holiness as the fruit of our union in Christ.


What were some of your favorites from the past year?  What is on your list for the coming year?


Friday, January 2, 2015

On Losing Weight In the New Year





I have some weight to lose. Its been clinging to me for a good while now.

This weight is unhealthy.
Scratch that.

This weight is deadly.

This weight steals my joy and robs me of peace.  It hinders me in the tasks God has called me to carry out. I begin work with lots of energy and then run out of steam before I get started good.  My endurance is lacking.  And it's all because of the weight I am carrying.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,"
Heb. 12:1


This weight of sin destroys faithfulness, especially because I can so easily tolerate it in myself.  I can deceive myself into believing that it is no big deal and underestimate it's effects.  It has the power to make me useless in my service to Christ, it limits my prayers and it brings discipline from the Lord.

  • A nonchalant attitude toward the pursuit of my understanding of the Word produces a woman who eventually gives up from lack of desire and then becomes indistinguishable from women who have never been changed by the gospel. Our homes, churches and communities desperately need the salt and light of women who love deeply the God of the Bible.  Who know what they believe and why they believe it.  Who aren't tossed about by every wind of doctrine.

  • Self-image issues.  Literal weight that is a spiritual weight.  I'm tired of the world's psychotic notions that we can have it all--look thin to the point of malnourishment but still look healthful, "toned" and tanned as if we do some physical labor. I'm tired of the world's obsession with physical appearance and getting sucked in to it myself.  I want to throw off that weight that entangles the feet of women like me all over the world.  I am a 40-year-old mother who has been living life with zest, not to mention the battle scars medals of honor that come from giving life to nine other human beings. Reminders of all God has given, not trials to be overcome.

  • Sins of the tongue, a complaining and discontent spirit, idols that compete for the throne of my heart: Idols that look like comfort, entertainment, social media, money, human applause and admiration and yes...our own families.  All are encumbrances that slow me down in the race of faith.
 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
 

I'm running a race here.  A long distance one, most likely. It's a race of faith.

And a  long distance race is hard enough without extra weight entangling my feet, tripping me up.

Purposing with the Lord's help to lose some weight in 2015.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Misunderstood





Shiloh was only two at the time and he was in the midst of a language explosion. The slurs and lack of r’s frustrated him at times, but never kept him from constantly talking. And as long as someone (sometimes only Mama) understood, he could get his point across.

But one time when we were on vacation, I packed a special treat for all the littles…small pouches of Capri Sun that made everyone under the age of ten just downright giddy. That box of Capri Suns went fast. And by the next day the treat was long forgotten.

The following afternoon Shiloh was chattering and asked me for what sounded like a stool pigeon. I knew that couldn’t be right. Surely he was saying something else. But he kept at it. A stool pigeon. I was baffled. Why was he asking for a stool pigeon?

This went on for several minutes until he finally began melting down. Then I almost started melting down with him. The entire family was attempting to decipher his words. The more I asked him to say it again (“You want what???”), the louder his requests got for a stool pigeon.

By the time I realized he was asking for Capri Sun, I was sweating. And I'm still not sure how "Capri Sun" came out sounding like "stool pigeon."


We all know what it is like to be misunderstood at one time or another. I don’t think anyone is ever perfectly understood because we aren’t like Christ:

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thoughts from afar
Psalm 139:2

Even if others misunderstand our words or actions, He understands. And isn’t this infinitely better? In fact, he understands not only our actions but also our thoughts.

He knows how I desired to do the right thing when others saw the wrong thing. He understands how I tried to do the right thing and then failed.

He understands seems to go a step further than He knows.

His understanding of me is infinite. Sometimes I can’t even understand myself, yet he does.

There have been times that he has shown me that those who have, I supposed, misunderstood me, have guessed right after all. He has shown me at times that my convictions weren’t so honest, my motives not so single-minded as I had fancied them to be.

That there was indeed self-will where I had only recognized resolution at the time.

Sin where I had only recognized “a mistake.”

That I didn’t know my own heart as well as I thought I had.

So I let him search because he does understand…and then declares it to me. Then He declares another message:

“The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin.”

Oh Lord, cleanse the desires of our hearts. No secrets are hid from you. Purify by your Spirit, hearts that are open and lay bare before you, that we may love you and your people, and worthily magnify your Holy Name.



Monday, December 8, 2014

7 Gifts That Have Stood the Test of Time {With Usborne Books Giveaway}




With nine children I have had 19 years to experience different levels of Christmas toy failure. I like to think that I have acquired an eye for gifts that will last. At least a leetle bit.  As in, which ones will hold up and hold attention beyond December 27th.


These are all simple gift suggestions that held up or held attention for at least one year, probably because they are so simple.  The prices range from a few bucks to hundreds and they include a variety of ages.  (Read to the end for a great giveaway!)

Blokus




We received our Blokus game as a gift several years ago from a family member, and it has proven to be a winner for several reasons.  It is suitable for a variety of ages because you don't have to know how to read to play it.  It does, however, require strategy and thinking skills. It is challenging for teens or adults, even if they play a much younger child. My only caveat--be careful not to lose all the small pieces or you're sunk.


Trampoline

None of us have ever broken a bone or had any other injury on a trampoline.  I guess I would feel differently about this being a successful gift if we had.  But we have loved owning a trampoline.  It is great for exercise and family fun.





The Hop Ball





I bought hop balls last year and Shiloh and Serenity have bounced and bounced and bounced. It was hard to get this photo because sitting a 2 and 4 year old on a bouncy ball and telling them not to bounce is next to impossible.

The balls cost us less than 5 dollars.  When guests come over they are what the kids fight over the toy of choice. Not a day goes by that the two of them don't bounce through the house. I have threatened to buy more hop balls this year for my bigger kids and even for Kevin and I because yes, they come in different sizes.  Can't you just see the 11 of us bouncing down the street together?  It's okay, our neighbors already think we're crazy. And everyone needs to feel validated once in awhile.


Building Toys

You just can't go wrong with building toys.  And you can buy them on eBay for really cheap.  Tinkertoys get played with a lot here...at least a couple of times a week.  Legos and Lincoln Logs are tied for second place. Train and train tracks are good too. The marble racer set is another builder-winner...we'll give it an honorable mention. 

But the grand prize building toy goes to....that's right...Mr. Potato Head.





Our huge Mr. Potato Head collection is actually sort of famous.  Who can't like some Mr. P. with accessories like a pan of fried bacon to stick in his hand? And again, you can find lots of Potato Heads and accessories on eBay.

Musical Instruments

The years that we have been able to buy musical instruments have been investments that we have never regretted.  Over the years we have bought a keyboard, a violin, a viola, an acoustic guitar and last year, an electric guitar.  I will always, always, always be thankful for the gifts of music. Bonus points if you include music lessons.


Pretend Food

The Melissa and Doug collection of food has been around our house a few years.  When one kid outgrows it there it is just waiting on someone else to use it. The cookies and pizza maker are such fun.





Rubber Band Guns

Our rubber band guns have been around for years too. You can get them cheap or probably even make your own if you're creative.  What I love about them is  1.) there is always a ready and cheap supply of ammo  2.) there is no cheesy internal mechanism that is going to get worn out  3.) they are moderately quiet as compared to other toy guns.





Lastly...books.  Books make such great gifts.  Often, I think, we go for the gift with the  "wow factor" that we think will surprise the kid, but it doesn't take long for that to wear off. But books last.  And can be passed down.  And send a message to our children of what we value.

Now for the giveaway from Usborne Books!

While I can't give two thumbs up for their science books or fictional series for teens, 95% of the books are fantastic.  Last year I had an online Usborne party and earned enough free books to just about bury my kids in books for Christmas.  Don't worry, they didn't mind. And just today, they had their Usborne books out again!

Some of our favorites for ages 6-12 were










I did remove a sticker or two from some art that was disturbing in this one ^^.  Judge for yourself.

My boys fell in love with these:



 
 
 
 
 
 

The touch and feel baby books are precious, their history books for older kids are great and the coloring books for the really young or more challenging for older kids, are terrific.  You could spend all day on the website looking around!

Giveaway!!!

My daughter Shelbi is an Usborne Consultant and she's giving away three Usborne books, valued at over $40.


These three books are great examples of the wide range of types and topics of books that Usborne has to offer.  I especially love the "See Inside Your Body" book. It's full of lift up flaps.  Great visual aid!



The Secrets of the Apple Tree book is really unique.  If you shine a flashlight behind the pages, you can see "secret" and hidden pictures.  Very cool!  And the math book, well, makes math much more palatable ;)




Friday, December 5, 2014

How to Make Candy Cane Popcorn






We watched a Christmas movie and went to town on this Candy Cane Popcorn tonight.  And you know you want to know how to do it.  It's so easy I'm almost ashamed of myself.  I said almost.  Obviously I'm not ashamed enough to share it with ya'll.






Gather these ingredients. Don't even bother to turn them right side up.  The popcorn can't read blog posts.

Start popping popcorn like there's no tomorrow.  I popped five bags.

While you're popping, start unwrapping candy canes.  Put them in a big Ziploc bag and hand a rolling pin to any person who can be reasonably trusted with it.





Beat the daylights out of those candy canes.  Go on, they deserve it.  Watch out for the fingers of little people just dying to get their turn.


Melt your candy coating and line two cookie sheets with foil.

Pour your candy coating over the top of the popcorn.





Stir it with a wooden spoon a little and then pour out your crushed candy canes on top.  Mix it with your hands but wait until it cools some. It's not awesome to leave melted flesh in your Christmas treats.

Now you're done.  Have fun getting hyper. This makes so much Candy Cane Popcorn you will have pa-lenty to save for later or put in treat bags for the neighbors.

You're welcome.