Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Four Christmas Songs That Make Me Cry


Well, I was listening to Christmas music the other day and just wanted to share some thoughts about some of my very favorite Christmas songs and why they are my favorites. What Christmas songs make you cry? Why? Here are some of mine:

Labor of Love by Andrew Peterson


Oh my goodness. I think this might be my favorite Christmas song. I picture "Noble Joseph by her side | Callused hands and weary eyes | There were no midwives to be found | In the streets of David's town | In the middle of the night | So he held her and he prayed | Shafts of moonlight on his face | But the baby in her womb | He was the maker of the moon | He was the Author of the faith | That could make the mountains move." This song really captures the reality of what it may have been like for Mary and Joseph… and the wonder of God being made man!


The Christmas Shoes by NewSong



I know some people think this song is cheesy or whatever, but it still gets me every time I hear it. Admit it—it makes you cry, too. To think of that little boy… his sweet innocence… and how he shouldn't lose his mom. Death is not part of the way things are supposed to be! Makes me long for the Day death is dead for good! (More about that Day below… read on)



Grown-Up Christmas List by various artists



Again, I know some people think this song is cheesy. That's fine. But, think about it. Doesn't it reflect something that is deep in every person's soul? Don't we all long for the Day when there is no more war, that no one would be lonely, that Right would win for good, and that love would abound? It's a longing for Heaven! God put that longing there! So this song makes me grateful and sad. Sad, because I know that there are so many in the world who long for Heaven and will not experience it because they will not allow Jesus to be Lord of their lives. Grateful, because it points me to my God who I know conquered the world and who WILL keep His promise to bring all who believe to that perfect new heavens & earth. Maranatha!



Here With Us by Joy Williams


Here, again, this song really captures the beauty, the wonder, the mystery, the so-above-anything-humans-could-have-come-up-with-ness of this idea that GOD ever would become a human being! And all this to rescue us. Amazing.

Seriously.

That this God who had "heard an angel symphony" would enter this world—to the sounds of a laboring virgin mother (I won't even get into the amazing paradox of those three words juxtaposed), the wailing of donkeys and bleating of sheep, the awed but very non-heavenly voices of the shepherds…

That this God whose eyes had beheld heaven since the beginning of time would enter this world—to the sight of a dirty stable and all that is imperfect about the world, including the angry, unbelieving crowd crying "Crucify him!"…

That the God whose hands created the world would enter into the world He made with tiny baby hands, and then work like a man with dirty, calloused carpenter hands, and then have those same hands nailed to a cross to rescue the very people who nailed Him there.

Think about it! That's crazy! … At least by any human calculation.

Even in the little things… and to think He never sinned! Think about it:


GOD being an infant—completely dependent on human parents for food, protection…

GOD fleeing with those parents to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath…

GOD patiently honoring her when His mother worried, blamed, gossiped...

GOD working hard with His hands, building things, dealing well with shrewd businesspeople…

GOD trusting the Father for provision as He began His public ministry, homeless…

GOD watching that rich young ruler walk away from eternal life—for money...

GOD patiently teaching the disciples when they were fearful, not trusting, and just plain old dense…

GOD actually touching that leper—the man all saw as untouchable...

GOD, who never before needed to sleep, closing His eyes each night to rest, weary...

GOD waking early to commune with His Father…

GOD seeing the Pharisees—who are among the people He came for—choosing to be the gods of their own lives, thank you very much…

GOD washing stinky, dusty, crusty feet…

GOD being abandoned by all those closest to Him in His final hour…

GOD enduring betrayal, beating, crucifixion…

GOD experiencing the separation from the Father that we deserve…


Emmanuel. God with us.


For our sakes.

O come, let us adore Him.










Monday, December 16, 2013

The World Overcome

We are so frequently misguided about God's plans. Day by day we measure our progress toward anticipated goals; we judge God's faithfulness and our performance by the proximity of the desired accomplishment. Is everything progressing as it should? Am I getting through this rough patch? Are my kids achieving? Am I paying down my debt? Is my boss finally appreciating me? And then the kids fail (again!); foreclosure looms; we discover that the boss not only doesn't appreciate us, but he's actually considering demoting us. Hold on! we think. This isn't what I signed up for. This isn't right. I've followed God. Where is he now that I really need him? What happened to all the plans we made together?

We suffer because we mistakenly believe that God's goals and our goals are identical. Into this confusion and sorrow, your Savior, who isn't insensible to your pain, speaks. "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). We think, The fact that I'm going to have tribulation is quite obvious, thank you. And, its nice that you've overcome the world (whatever that means), but how does that help me right now?

The gospel dispels darkness and confusion. It tells me about him, about myself. It tells me that I am in him, and because that's my identity, I can have peace when peace is beyond comprehension. But my experience of peace in tribulation also grows more brightly as I remind myself of the things he taught (John 16:33). He taught these truths so that I might have peace; they shatter my misguided illusions: my selfish ambition, even for his kingdom, is not his goal. Washing feet is. I believe that a pleasant existence free from tribulation will bring me happiness. He teaches that fullness of joy is found in divesting myself of pride and idolatrous desire for pleasure, respect, and comfort.

I think that I am wise and know what's best. His plan confound the wisdom of the wisest man and flay him in the dust. I deceive myself into believing that I deserve better than this. He gently reminds me that I deserve an eternity of excruciating flame eating at my soul and separation from his Son.

Peace begins to fill my soul when I remember the truth of the gospel: I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, more loved and welcomed than I ever dared hope. I deserve less than nothing but have been given everything.

Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Although it seemed (and still seems) like night would eclipse the light, as though the "ruler of this world" would forever reign, the glorious radiance of the Son is seen with eyes of faith. Peace can flood outsold because our trust isn't misplaced. He has already overcome the world, and it will not triumph over him, and so, by implication, it will not triumph over us either because we are in union with him.

He resisted the temptation to prove his rightful place as Lord of the universe. He perfectly fulfilled every command of the law. He willingly laid down his life in our place and permanently threw open the doors of heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and teach us. We're not alone; we're not orphans; he hasn't deserted us. And he has overcome the world through his conquest of our final enemy, death. The resurrection speaks powerfully into our lives when it seems as though the light is about to be extinguished. But this world isn't all there is. What we're seeing right now isn't the end. The one who said, "I have overcome the world," walked through the travail of Gethsemane. He was nailed to a tree, suffered, bled, and died. But then he rose again, breaking the bands of death, and walked with his disciples again. He had overcome! And now he is ruling and overruling at the seat of power by his Father's right hand, there in the flesh like mine and yours. Does it feel like night? Be of good cheer; morning will dawn. He has overcome the world.

From Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Letter to My Newlywed Self


Today I read a blog that I subscribe to called Hot, Holy & Humorous, and she had written a recent post that contained a letter that she wrote back in time to her newlywed self. She was inspired by the following letter that she'd read on another blog. This lady, Debi, wrote a letter with thoughts and advice for her 19-year-old newlywed self with the perspective she now has at age 54.

Dear Debi,
I know you are afraid of all the changes about to take place in your life–moving away from all that is familiar to embrace a new life with Tom. Having only dated for the past 8 months, it’s to be expected that you’re nervous. But God has given you everything you need to be the wife He has called you to be. There will be days ahead of loneliness and uncertainty, but God is going to use this time to draw you and Tom closer together.
You may think you know Tom, but the years ahead are going to reveal how much you don’t really know him. And he will soon discover that he doesn’t really know you either. Your romantic ideal will be tested because true love isn’t based on your ideals, but on reality. God has chosen Tom to be the one with whom you’ll share all of life–the good, the challenging and the heart-breaking moments. Be brutally honest and self-disclosing. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth. Even when the truth you are discovering about your heart and Tom’s heart tempts you to despair.
God hasn’t brought you and Tom together to live a perfect life. He has brought you together to help you grow more in your relationship to each other and to God. As iron sharpens iron, so too, will your husband sharpen you.
Don’t neglect your relationship with the Lord. Allow Him to be the One you depend upon for all things. Your husband was never meant to be your Savior. He is your companion and the One with whom you will walk side-by-side closer to the Throne of Grace as each year passes, but only God can fill the role of Savior.
Children are going to attempt to put a wedge between you. Your time will be consumed with training the next generation, but don’t love them more than Tom. Be always conscious that your marriage is primary and lasts your entire lifetime, while the throes of parenting lasts only for 20 – 30 years. Be diligent to keep the home fires burning so that when your kids are grown you will have a strong friendship to support the changing season.
Seek others who can give you godly counsel as to how to be the best wife you can be. Read great books on marriage. Spend time praying for Tom daily. Do all you can to resist the temptation to hide your motives, your fears and your failures. Tom needs to know the real you, not the one you want him to see. Don’t worry so much about outward appearance, but focus on the heart. Let Tom teach you how to be a servant who doesn’t need the accolades of men.
You may not realize it now, but Tom will become a deep source of wisdom in your life. Don’t waste time second-guessing his leadership, but trust his ability to hear God. You may think he’s the man of your dreams, but you will discover he is much better than anything you could have ever dreamed or hoped for.
Most of all, don’t measure your marriage by the marriages of others. Love is a choice, not a feeling. Commit to love Tom more everyday regardless of how you feel, and find creative ways to express it. Be uninhibited and unashamed in your showing your love to him. Let your yes be YES, as often as you are able.
Enjoy your marriage and remember above all that it is a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. Every choice you make is meant to glorify God. Keep this as your focus, and it will enable you to do and say things that will build your marriage, instead of saying things that will tear it down.
Let God’s Word dwell in your heart richly. It has the power to lead you and guide you in your daily choices in a way nothing else can. It is the best marriage manual you will ever read. Heed it’s wisdom above all other earthly wisdom.
Most of all–delight yourself in the gift of marriage. Have fun and share what you discover with others!
If you do these things, you will be greatly blessed.
Sincerely,
Debi Gray Walter, age 54

Photo by Daniel LaBelle Photography

I decided to try my hand at writing a similar letter... with my first wedding anniversary only two days away (YAY for a year under our belts! I pray there are many more to go!), I thought it might be a good exercise. So, without further ado:

Dear Newlywed Christi,

I may not have much wisdom to share—it's only been a year. But I will share with you what I've learned so far.

Give him grace. No, more grace than that. No, no, even more than that. No, really, stop being so nitpicky. He may not have washed the dishes or ran that errand like you asked, but he's a godly man and he's working really hard to provide for you and your child (yep!)—just because he loves you. Remember this quote by Elisabeth Elliot's husband: “A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.” Remove the "or-else-ness" from your attitude toward Eric. Give him the grace you've been given. You will both be much happier. Be a blessing to the husband God gave you.

Trust God with the future. Clearly, I'm writing this letter to you, which means I'm still alive. And I can confirm that God has provided all I've needed. So all that worrying you're doing? It's really a waste of the precious time that you have so little of. Eric will find a good job in God's timing. You will have food to eat. God loves you more than you love yourself, so you don't need to worry! Really! Remember you can't trust your emotions. You CAN trust God. Don't doubt Him. You can't see the whole picture.

Breathe. It's really not the end of the world. Keep a quiet heart. Let your Jesus calm those fears. He's an expert at getting His people out of seemingly impossible situations. That's what He does. Remember the manna. And the kleenex. And Ruth! And Joseph! And Daniel! And those kids in the furnace!

Don't wait to serve the church together. It might seem that you don't have time, but when will any of us ever really have time? Serving together will strengthen your marriage. It really will! You don't have to sign up for every ministry—just pick a couple and do them well! It really will bless your relationship. And let your care group care for you. That's what they're there for. Be real with them.

Let God write your to-do list. Everything will be much more peaceful in your heart if you do. I hate to break it to you, but I'm pretty sure there will not be a single day of your first year of marriage that you actually complete everything on your to-do list. LET THAT BE OK. Let God write your curriculum. Good lessons and good new relationships will come out of it. I promise.

You're going to get pregnant. And everything will change all around you. And that is ok. Less than a year from now, your friendships will change—some of your dearest will move away... some new friendships will slowly develop... some will marry or have children. You will become pregnant, and you will move to a new home unexpectedly in a bit of a whirlwind. It might feel lonely sometimes. It will feel exhausting a lot of the time. But let it all happen. Remember: let God write your curriculum. You will be ok.

Eric is the leader of your family. Also, Eric is not Jesus. Submit to him. Trust his leadership. Following his lead is trusting ultimately in God's provision. Encourage him when he takes steps of leadership. However, Eric is not Jesus. He will sometimes fail. He cannot save you. Lean on your Jesus and trust in Him always—when Eric is leading well, and when he is not. Jesus never fails, and He is the only One that can be your Savior.

Well, I've rambled on enough, I think! That's enough for one year of lessons.

Your older self,

Christi



What about you? If you could write a letter to your newlywed self, what would you write? Or what would you write to your younger self?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made


We had our 20-week ultrasound yesterday. What an experience! To see the little one that is growing inside my womb... there's nothing like it. Little hands with little fingers. A little brain with a little cerebellum and a little thalamus. A little belly with a tiny stomach and bladder inside. A tiny little beating heart—all 4 chambers fully developed, beating away at 140 beats per minute. Amazing. Breathtaking. 


I read in my daily pregnancy journal the following fact: "From Week 12 to Week 20, the placenta weighs as much as, if not more than, the baby, because it has to work hard to extract the nutrients from food and dispose of waste. The fetal organs are not sufficiently mature to process food."

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

These things got me thinking about what a wonderful creator God is! I mean, it's not like I'm really doing any of the "knitting"! I have the womb, sure, but this baby has just been hanging out in there for the past 20 weeks, growing away—developing organs and limbs, a heart and a brain. The placenta, as I read, has been taking care of sending my baby nutrients and disposing of waste. My body—and baby's body—are just doing all of these intricate, amazing, growing things... and I'm not doing much beyond eating a little more and watching it all happen before my eyes! Our Creator God is orchestrating all of the small details of the universe behind the scenes—and right before our eyes. And we silly humans sit around thinking we're all that and coming up with our silly theories.

As I consider these things, I find it just baffling
"...that people go to such elaborate lengths [such as the Big Bang theory] to avoid mentioning one vastly prior fundamental possibility that (surely?) stares them in the face: creation.
How much faith does it take to believe in God? Less, I venture to say—a great deal less—than to believe in the Unconscious generating the Conscious, Mindlessness creating Mind, Nothing giving birth to Something."
-Elisabeth Elliot
What a good, sovereign creator God we must have! This God who knows everything about us—including our sin—and yet died to rescue us because of His love.

Psalm 139:1-18:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

 "What we know of God we have seen in His Son. He in whom we are asked to trust is Love, creative Love; thinking of us, I suppose, before He thought of gravitational lenses; giving Himself in sacrificial love long before He gave us His own breath of life—for the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world.
My Lord and my God. Forgive my faithlessness."
-Elisabeth Elliot 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Announcement and a Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

First, an announcement:

We're pregnant!

Most of the readers of this blog probably already know, but I thought I'd make it blog-official.

A berry special baby is coming! (Photo by Heather)

Our little "Poppyseed," as we affectionately call this little one

Eric loves Poppyseed. And Mama. (Photo by Heather)

Second trimester just began two days ago!

I'm sure there will be more posts to be written about pregnancy, morning (or all-day) sickness, trusting God in it all, you name it.

For now, I'll share the recipe we had for dinner tonight. I'm especially excited about it for multiple reasons:

  1. I love soup right now (even though it's summertime). Nothing better than soup in this nauseated season (except pineapple and raspberries... hmm... now I want to make a smoothie).
  2. The nausea is slowly subsiding, and I've actually started cooking things again for the first time in a month or two. Things from scratch! That are made of things like fresh vegetables! Hooray!
  3. I made fun modifications to a recipe I found, so it's kind of my own creation!


So, here it is:

Slow Cooker Creamy Potato Soup (Christi style)

Ingredients
  • 6 handfuls of diced ham (accurate measurement, I know)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled & sliced
  • a few green beans, cut up (I threw these in because I had a small crop of about 8 of them from my garden... I'm sure you could leave them out or add some other veggie)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 6 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/8" cubes
  • salt to taste
  • thyme to taste
  • parsley to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 4 oz (1/2 pkg.) cream cheese
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • shredded cheddar for topping (optional but highly recommended)
  • bacon bits for topping (optional but highly recommended)

Directions
  1. Place onion in a skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until onions are soft. 
  2. Transfer the onion to a slow cooker, and stir in chicken broth, water, potatoes, ham, carrots, green beans, salt, thyme, and parsley. Cover, and cook on Low 6 to 7 hours.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and half-and-half. Stir into the soup along with the evaporated milk and cream cheese. Cover, and cook another 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Optional step (I did it and liked it better): Blend with a hand blender for a bit to blend some (but not all) of the potatoes and veggies for the preferred thickness and texture.
  5. Serve with shredded cheddar and bacon bits for toppings.

Slow Cooker Creamy Potato Soup

I found the original recipe here, and then modified it based on my preferences, what I had available, and comments on the website.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lessons from Pride & Prejudice

A few weeks ago I downloaded a free audiobook of Pride & Prejudice. Listening to the audiobook helped so much in understanding the characters' inner thoughts and the ways their thinking was transformed as the book progressed... so many things you can't quite capture in a film (though the A&E miniseries does a pretty good job!). Here are some quotes that stuck out to me and some thoughts that arose in me about each one:
With this answer Elizabeth was forced to be content; but her own opinion continued the same, and she left him disappointed and sorry. It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
Elizabeth was excessively disappointed; she had set her heart on seeing the Lakes, and still thought there might have been time enough. But it was her business to be satisfied – and certainly her temper to be happy; and all was soon right again.
Both of these quotes above remind me that there's something in Elizabeth's character that I can learn from her: "it was her business to be satisfied." Contentment – not fretting over what has been or what could have been – is so important! Oh, that I could say "to fret over unavoidable evils" is no part of my disposition! Lord, help me grow in contentment.

Also in the first quote above, I see Elizabeth being "confident of having performed her duty," at which point she moves on without worrying. I can learn from this... how often we do what we know to be right or believe God would have us do, and then we second-guess ourselves. Let's just live in obedience and trust God with the results!
She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd. (...) "How despicably I have acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself."
And here it is! The moment when Elizabeth realizes how very wrong she was, how hasty in making assumptions about people's character! Oh, that we would not be so hasty; that we would treat others with grace. And, Lord, help us to grieve as passionately as this over our sin. Thank You for dying for all of these petty idols we grab hold of!
But above all, above respect and esteem, there was a motive within her of good will which could not be overlooked. It was gratitude. – Gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection. He who, she had been persuaded, would avoid her as his greatest enemy, seemed, on this accidental meeting, most eager to preserve the acquaintance, (...) Such a change in a man of so much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude – for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed; and as such, its impression on her was of a sort to be encouraged, as by no means unpleasing, though it could not be exactly defined. She respected, she esteemed, she was grateful to him; she felt a real interest in his welfare; and she only wanted to know how far she wished that welfare to depend upon herself, and how far it would be for the happiness of both that she should employ the power, which her fancy told her she still possessed, of bringing on the renewal of his addresses.
This one I just love. Look how Elizabeth's feelings toward Darcy have changed! Maybe this was so sweet to me because it reminds me of how I often feel toward my husband, and toward my God for that matter: simply grateful that he still loves me enough to forgive all my wrongs against him. Grace really is amazing.
"Angry people are not always wise."
This one was a good challenge and reminder to me. In context, this is when Miss Bingley keeps putting down Elizabeth to Mr. Darcy, as if that would heighten his affections for herself. This would be a good thing to tell myself when I'm acting out of anger or other strong emotions. Just because you feel something strongly doesn't mean you are acting wisely!
He had, to be sure, done much. She was ashamed to think how much. (...)  They owed the restoration of Lydia, her character, everything, to him. Oh! how heartily did she grieve over every ungracious sensation she had ever encouraged, every saucy speech she had ever directed towards him. For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him. Proud that in a cause of compassion and honour, he had been able to get the better of himself. 
Again, just loving the transformation in Elizabeth's thinking toward Darcy.
"I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!" cried Jane. "Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!" 
"If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and, perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time."
"Till I have your goodness, I can never have your happiness." Here is a good reminder that, the more we trust in God, forgiving instead of holding grudges and seeking vengeance, thinking well of people and giving the benefit of the doubt.... the happier we will be ourselves. Plus the end of this quote is just funny!
"I cannot give you credit for any philosophy of the kind. Your retrospections must be so totally void of reproach, that the contentment arising from them is not of philosophy, but, what is much better, of innocence. But with me, it is not so. Painful recollections will intrude which cannot, which ought not, to be repelled. I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.''
Here we get to hear some of what Mr. Darcy has been processing all along! I love how both Darcy and Elizabeth realize their sin, are repentant (or at least remorseful, since we see not much of an indication in this book of anyone's being Christian or otherwise), and, (finally) humbly give grace to each other. It is a reminder to me of the goodness in repentance and forgiveness in relationships. It also shows us that things will go a lot better if we don't let sin get a foothold in the first place!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Collage Letter DIY Project

Last weekend I attended a friend's baby shower. One of the party planners had a fun Pinterest-inspired idea: each guest got the guest of honor an alphabet letter to hang on the nursery wall! Since my prego friend loves typography, this was a great idea!

Here's the "B" that I made.

My finished "B"

The Project

What You'll Need:
  • Several copies of a printed-out letter the size & font you want it to be.
  • A piece of foam board 3x the size of your letter.
  • A kids' storybook, or whatever else you want to collage with. (Get it at Goodwill if you feel bad about cutting up a book.)


My "B" printout

My book of choice, since my friend loves frogs
STEP 1:
Tape your letters onto your foam board piece.


STEP 2:
Cut out your letters with an exacto knife and stack them and stick them together.

STEP 3:
Start cutting out interesting pages from your book.


STEP 4:
Start arranging your pieces on your letter.



STEP 5:
Stick down your stuff. If you're a modpodge expert, go ahead and do that. I'm not, so I didn't.


STEP 6:
Cut another letter out to cover the bits on the back and glue it on.


And you're done!

I put thumbtacks in the back so I could tie string on it to hang the letter.

This is what I called my "B."


My letter with some of the others in the collection at the shower.


It was such a fun project, and so fun to see it with the other letters—what a great collection! So many beautiful & creative letters!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Recipe for Contentment

E.B. Pusey (1800-1882) wrote this "recipe" for contentment, and I read it on my lunch break today. I thought it was so helpful—and worth sharing!
  1. Allow thyself to complain of nothing, not even the weather.
  2. Never picture thyself to thyself under any circumstances in which thou are not.
  3. Never compare thine own lot with that of another.
  4. Never allow thyself to dwell on the wish that this or that had been, or were, otherwise than it was, or it. God Almighty loves thee better and more wisely than thou doest thyself.
  5. Never dwell on the morrow. Remember that it is God's not thine. The heaviest part of sorrow often is to look forward to it. "The Lord will provide."
From Elisabeth Elliot's book Secure in the Everlasting Arms

Monday, May 13, 2013

Planting My First Veggie Garden

I decided to plant a small veggie garden in pots this year! I planted green onions, spinach, basil, green beans, and some flowers. It was fun! And the whole thing was only $20—hopefully savings for the veggies we'll get, but even if not, it's been fun. Here are some photos of the planting.

Ready to start planting!

Spinach goes in here...

Loved these daisies at the flower store!

My flower selections

Basil, all planted.

My little garden!

My flowers

More flowers in the pot from Mom B.

8 days later... the first onion sighting! Hooray!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Long Leisure of Eternity





I've been reading a great book of collected short reflections by Elisabeth Elliot. It's called Secure in the Everlasting Arms. I love it! Here's one of the chapters I read today. It helped me to realize a new thing—sometimes lying down is ok, and is God's timing! I'm so glad we can trust Him to carry out to completion the good work He began in us.
In Maud Monahan’s Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, she describes the long years of waiting on God, and how He took nine years, “with all the long leisure of Eternity,” to bring her to a Guide who would “lead her soul out into paths of confidence and joy.” 
That word helped me to see that some of what I would have called my own stalling and obtuseness may have been the Lord’s own timing. He makes us wait. He keeps us on purpose in the dark. He makes us walk where we want to run, sit still when we want to walk, for He has things to do in our souls that we are not interested in. 
There have been times, on the other hand, when He wanted me to run but I only walked. Let us remember, however, that the Shepherd Himself sometimes makes us lie down. Some of the “delays” are His own choice for us, so we must not always chide ourselves when the pace is not what we thought it should be. We must learn to move according to the timetable of the Timeless One, and be at peace. 
“My times are in Thy hand” (Psalm 31:15 KJV). That is where I want them to be, Father. May I rest in the sure knowledge that my hours and days are safely kept. 
O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE, Thou art good when thou givest, when thou takest away, when the sun shines upon me, when night gathers over me. Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world, and in love didst redeem my soul; Thou dost love me still, in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust. Thy goodness has been with me another year, leading me through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway. Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past. I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead. If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation, thou wilt be with me in them; If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, I shall not drown; If I am to die, I shall see thy face the sooner; If a painful end is to be my lot, grant me grace that my faith fail not; If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, I can make no stipulation; Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use. 
—From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, ed. Arthur Bennett 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Slow Cooker Hamburger Soup


I invented this recipe as a mix of other recipes last week. It was pretty good! It was a good last wintery soup before the warmer weather comes for good. And you know I love to use my slow cooker so it all cooks while I'm at work!

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2-4 potatoes, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 3 small carrots, sliced
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 c. beef broth (I ended up using a combo of broth, water, and boullion cubes, based on what I had available)
  • 1 c. water
  • garlic powder, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. cooked barley
Directions
  1. Place ground beef in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside. 
  2. Place a the potatoes in a layer to cover the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the celery over the potatoes, and cover with a layer of ground beef. Season each layer with salt, pepper, herbs, and garlic powder. Throw in the carrots, onions and peas. Mix together the tomato soup, water and broth, and pour over the top. Cover, and set to low for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Close to the end of the cooking time, add the cooked barley and stir.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Dry-Erase Calendar: A DIY Adventure


One day a few weeks ago, I was babysitting a sleeping baby boy named Joshua (given that he was sleeping, it was a pretty low-key task). On the table next to the couch, I found a book called Young House Love. And I pretty much devoured the whole thing (I had had big plans of bringing my Study Bible and finding out more about the confusing things I'd read that morning in 1 Timothy... but this book just drew me in). These Young House Love people also have a blog. Yes. Pinterest, here I come... if I ever have time to implement all of the fun Pinterest ideas.

Anyway, the book gave me a fun DIY idea: A homemade dry-erase calendar. So, here's a little walk through my project:


Step 1: Acquire a frame. It can be a more ornate, crazy frame than the one I got... I kept it simple. I didn't want to get too crazy with my first DIY home project :)


Step 2: Get/make a fun textured background. I cut the sleeve off of this Goodwill sweater from the $1.50 bin. Then I stapled it to the mossy-green cardboard background that was in the frame already.



Step 3: Make a calendar background. Make sure to flip it horizontally (so the words are backwards) before you print it out! This step is very important! Also, keep in mind you don't need a super-fancy/crazy font... when you paint on the calendar, it will look handwritten anyway.



Step 4: Print out your backwards calendar and put it under the glass from the frame. Tape down the edges so it stays in place.




Step 5: Paint your calendar onto the glass. You could also do this with a Sharpie. Or, you could also just print your calendar forwards-ways on patterned/textured paper and put it in the frame like a picture, too.



Step 6: Let the paint dry completely, put it all together, and voila! You have your dry erase calendar!




I also put a little basket there for the dry-erase pens.


Now I just need to get the dry erase pens! I plan to get these super-fine-tip ones (so I can write small in the calendar squares). And I also have a cool beans & chives picture that I can do something fun with in the kitchen, maybe.


And that is the story of my DIY calendar-making adventure.

Have you done any DIY projects? What were they? How did they go?

Monday, April 1, 2013

What is Worship?

I came across this clarifying definition of worship in the book Grace for the Good Girl (which, yes, I still haven't finished 8 months later... and if I've learned anything from reading it, taking 8 months to read a book must be ok). I wanted to post it because I think it's so easy for us to forget this:
 ...Like the Virgin Mary, who chose to believe the angel and remain in that truth, worship flows naturally out.
Mary did not have to work hard to muster up an appropriate response to the gift she was given. She did not wring her hands with furrowed brow, wondering if she was doing enough to earn the right to be the mother of the Lord. She did not look over her shoulder to see what the neighbors would think of her. She did not fake happy and joy while trembling with fear on the inside.
Instead, Mary rose up and hurried to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Action springs forth from the heart of a woman who has encountered God.
.....
We toss the word worship around in our churched-people groups, in hand-folding fellowship, in reference to the building where church happens. We have worship teams, worship songs, worship bands, and even special worship services.
It's kind of weird when you think about it. Maybe you stand side-by-side with closed-eyed strangers in too-high heels with hymnals or screens or drums. Perhaps you sing with a guitar in a house, sitting small and comfy on the very couch where you watched Survivor last Thursday. Either way, singing songs about sin and blood and Jesus and the cross is strange. If I try to see it all from the perspective of someone who doesn't believe in God, it gets me all messed up. Because it's weird is what it is.
We refer to church as a building, and we use worship as a noun: "Did you go to worship this morning?" Or, if we use it as a verb, we refer to the kind of worship that comes in the form of melodies and rhythms, with voices and strumming and notes. God never intended us to refer to church as a building. And he never intended worship to be reduced to a church service. His church is his people, and worship is what they do.
 When you're used to wearing a mask, you are comfortable with compartmentalizing life. Mask-wearing good girls put worship in a slivered-up pie chart, dividing our lives into segments of importance. We assign percentages for work, service, prayer, school, exercise, PTA, meal planning, bill paying, dog walking, toilet cleaning, church, and rest (if we're lucky). But the woman who has freely received the abundance of truth from Jesus abides in that truth as her very life. In other words, the lines of the pie chart disappear, and worship covers the full circle. Free women respond with worship in everything. It is a natural outpouring of thankfulness and awareness of love and grace and truth. It isn't mustered up; it flows out.
We breathe in air and breathe out worship. We receive love and extend worship. We embrace children, offering worship. We comfort, we laugh, we mourn, we dance, we read, we dream, we exist—all worship. We pay the bills, we run on the treadmill, we enjoy a good movie, we make dinner, we welcome friends with open arms—worship, all worship. We send money and offer prayer and sit with a lonely neighbor, in Jesus' name. We wait for love, we long for home, we pour out our hopes and fears and longing; we create with words and photos and colors and food, all beautiful acts of worship. 
But we don't call it that.
We call those things living. But when the Spirit of the living God lives inside of you, then your living is also your worship. What else would it be? 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Week Reading Plan




Last year, I made a reading plan for the week before Easter. It actually starts two days ago. It's loosely based on reading what happened on the corresponding day during Holy Week. I thought I'd post it, in case you're interested in reading special Scriptures for Holy Week.

Friday

  • John 11:45-12:50
Saturday
Sunday
  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-44
Monday
  • Matthew 21:10-17
  • Mark 11:12-19
Tuesday
  • Mark 11:20-33 (can go all the way through 13:37 if you want)
  • Matthew 21:23-24:51
Wednesday
  • John 14:1-16:15
  • Matthew 25:1-26:5
Thursday
  • Matthew 26:6-35
  • John 13
  • Luke 22:24-38
Friday
Saturday
  • John 16:16-17:26
  • Ephesians 1:3-14
Easter Sunday
  • Matthew 28:1-20
  • Luke 24
  • John ch. 20-21

"He reigned supreme above all His creatures, God over all, blessed for ever. Who can tell His height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low He descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for Him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony--to endure a death of shame and desertion by His Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that "passeth knowledge." O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power." –C.H. Spurgeon



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some Thoughts on Birth Control

So, I know that the topic of birth control, contraception, etc., can be kind of controversial. With much of it being a gray area (i.e. not specifically commanded one way or the other in Scripture), I believe we as believers have freedom here. But I think it is important to be thinking rightly about the subject. It was so helpful for me, in the months before my wedding, to have friends who were willing to talk about how to think rightly about contraception and trust God to be in ultimate control of our fertility & children.

As a very helpful Desiring God article states, "The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture). What is important is our attitude in using it." This is what I hope we keep in mind with all of our thinking and decisions about birth control.



As we were preparing for marriage, Eric and I read a book called Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. While I did not agree with everything that was said in the book (and, actually, the authors don't anymore, either), it did help me to think differently about things I had not previously been thinking about thoroughly. It especially helped me to learn some things about one specific contraceptive option: birth control pills. And it helped me think more thoroughly about this question: Is the Pill a contraceptive, an abortifacient, or both?

Let's look more at this question. For me, as I was researching the topic, answering this question was the most helpful part in reaching a decision on our birth control options. The italicized parts of the rest of this post come from an article on the Mars Hill website.

The pill is a categorical term for more than forty types of oral contraceptives, which are also referred to as birth control pills and sometimes combination pills because they contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin. Today, 50 to 60 million women worldwide take the pill each day and it is the most widely prescribed drug in the world.

Now, I already know how my body does not do well with drugs. I tend to be of the viewpoint that, if there's not something wrong with my body, why take drugs to try to fix it? And, even when there is something wrong, sometime the side effects of drugs are worse for me than dealing with the initial problem. So I already lean toward not exactly wanting to mess with my hormones if I don't have to. But that's just my personal opinion on drugs in general. But back to the main issue at hand:

The debate over hormonal birth control, particularly birth control pills, is whether or not it results in the taking of a life by destroying a fertilized egg. 

There is not one but rather three purposes for birth control pills. First, the pill exists to inhibit ovulation, which is its primary means of birth control. Second, the pill thickens the cervical mucus with the effect that it becomes more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg. Third, the pill thins and shrivels the lining of the uterus so that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.

The bottom line is this, the first two purposes for birth control pills are contraceptive in nature and therefore acceptable for use by a Christian couple. However, the third use of birth control pills is potentially abortive in that it seeks to disrupt the ongoing life of a fertilized egg. 

So, even though it's true that birth control pills' primary use is to prevent contraception in the first place... it is totally possible that there could be times when an egg is in fact fertilized but is destroyed because it is not allowed a healthy environment for implantation. And, when you compare the percentage of women who still ovulate while on birth control with the number of women who have successfully implanted pregnancies while on birth control, it seems that that very well can be the case. That potentiality is not something I'm comfortable with.

After all, even a very liberal pro-choice blog post that is making arguments for the use of birth control pills bases their calculations on the assumption that 100% of fertilized eggs released while on birth control will be rejected by the uterus. Even though eggs will seldom be released, and even more seldom become fertilized while on birth control, there is a potential for a fertilized egg to be rejected by the uterus due to the effects of birth control pills on the uterine lining.

So, what is the conclusion, then? Here I still agree with the Mars Hill article:

That potentiality is incredibly controversial. Whether or not a Christian couple should use birth control pills is a very complicated issue on which faithful pro-life Christians and doctors disagree. As a result, it seems legalistic and inappropriate to declare that use of the pill is sinful. Yet, at the same time it seems that Christian couples need to be informed of the potential abortive nature of birth control pills so that they can study the matter further and prayerfully come to an informed decision according to their own conscience and the leading of God the Holy Spirit.

Learning this was one of the most helpful parts of researching this matter as Eric and I were discussing family planning during our engagement. Neither of us felt comfortable with the abortive potential of birth control pills. And, even if that were not a factor, we still probably would not have chosen them due to the effect of drugs on my body and a desire to only take drugs when they are medically necessary (A sidenote: I realize that sometimes birth control pills are taken by women for other reasons besides primarily birth control, such as to regulate their cycle).

I just wanted to post about this because I found it so helpful to learn about it as we were making this decision. And I have a lot of friends who are engaged, and I want them to have the opportunity to learn more about this topic as well. If you want to read up more, the links I provided are much more well-written and in-depth than this post. I highly recommend them.

And, again, what's most important in family planning/birth control is our attitude in using it (or not using it). After all, it's possible not to use any form of birth control, and still not trust in God's provision, whether in conceiving earlier than we hope, later than we hope, or not at all. And it's also possible to choose contraception out of a desire to be good stewards and still have a trusting heart, knowing that God is ultimately in control and trusting Him to provide for whatever children he blesses us with.

Bottom line, let's prayerfully trust in God's sovereignty and provision and make the wisest decisions we can, holding all our plans with an open hand. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Banana Apple Buckwheat Muffins



I found this gluten-free, honey-and-fruit-sweetened banana apple buckwheat muffin recipe in my parents' Whole Living magazine. I make it all the time. These make a great breakfast or snack!

They say one recipe makes 4 muffins, but I've found that one recipe makes more like 7 muffins.

I usually use gala apples and found that they work great. These muffins are moist and yummy and healthy!


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 finely diced (peeled and cored) sweet apple (such as Honeycrisp)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place four baking cups in a muffin tin.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, banana, and honey. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, then fold in apple and walnuts.
  3. Fill the batter to the tops of the lined cups and fill remaining cups halfway with water.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.
Cook's Note

Store muffins in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Favorite Ideas from our Wedding

Just wanted to share pictures of a few of the things that I especially liked from our wedding. Enjoy!

I hope this sparks some ideas for anyone out there who's planning a wedding. Feel free to borrow them—after all, we borrowed most of them ourselves! :)

We had our guests sign quilt squares and now we can sew the squares together to have a keepsake quilt!
Our quilt squares

A game for guests: Questions on the escort cards – the answer is the name of the table!

Staggered flowers on the cake


We had the men and ladies trade accessories for a photo shoot!
Mini jam jars for a favor – with John 15:5 about bearing fruit


We invited our guests to each decorate a table in their own unique style!

We invited our guests to each decorate a table in their own unique style!

We invited our guests to each decorate a table in their own unique style!

All photography © Daniel LaBelle Photography