Thursday, October 29, 2015

Not So Happily Ever After and Lessons In Grace

He looks at me with his brow set and I just know, I have lost another 'heated' discussion.  I'm licking my wounds and he is fuming on his way out the door to work.  Once upon a time I use to begrudge and think 'serves him right, I HOPE he has a bad day for being such a pain!'  Somehow I don't think most of you are shocked to 'hear' that because I have to believe I am not the only one who grew up believing in fairy tales only to find, after the "I do's", it is a not-so-happily-ever-after we sign on for.

I believe this because the divorce statistics scream it. I see this when friends and acquaintances wear it in their drooping shoulders trying to fight another day while pleading with me 'you just don't understand... I.just.can't.keep.doing.this.'

Oh, but I do.

My once upon a time began pre-renewal of faith, in a dark place called Fallen Away.  Not only did I make the mistake of divorcing my oldest son's father after 4 years of marriage and not even trying to make it work (after all, relationships are disposable right?), but then I met and remarried my husband now. How hubby and I matched is only a God thing in the middle of a Godless existence because the only thing we had in common was a desire to be loved, taken care of, and produce more us!  It is the truth.  We both matched up with a desire for 4 kids.  Strange that two extremely broken people could want such simple things.  As for the bigger details in life... well, let's just say, it is a good thing we can love as deeply as we fight sometimes!!  My desperate desire to NOT divorce ever again was the glue holding us together until God became my adhesive.

Three years into our marriage I took the step and bent my knee in repentance.  I didn't just return to God, I ran to him and clung tight.  Then, realizing my need for a partner in my walk, I prayed for the next 10 years to have a husband I could pray with, all the while begging for justification to leave.  To become another statistic.  I didn't care.... I wanted out.  My high expectations of no-more-divorce were crumbling around me. 

Surely I was justified: I felt ignored, rejected and, when he did pay attention to me, it was usually to argue with me or yell at me for something completely ridiculous.  He had addictions; gaming, smoking and typical guy stuff.  His story is his story but I can honestly say TRUST ME I do understand and it IS hard to just.keep.going.  But you see, nowhere in the Bible does it say it's ok to give up and quit on marriage because you just can't keep going.  On the contrary, and especially in Paul's letters, it continuously states: persevere.

Did I feel unmatched?  Yes
Did I feel unloved? Oh yes
Did I feel out-of-love?  Do I really need to repeat the same answer?

If we banked all of life simply on feelings, how could we get through a day with ANYTHING?  Besides, who are we really focusing on if all we can think is 'but I feel....' or 'but I can't....'  We live in a society which says: do what makes YOU feel good.  Me, me, me, me is what blares no matter where you go.  You shouldn't have to put-up with it.  What about YOUR happiness.  Sound familiar?  Even other well-meaning Christians get trapped into cooing this philosophy when life, and especially marriage, gets tough.

But it isn't about me.
As a matter of fact, it isn't even about my husband.
Nope.  It is about one person, and one person alone and His name is Jesus Christ. 

Jesus walked a life which constantly lacked comfort.  He stood before people who hated him and sought to kill him.  But he persevered.  Why?  One simple word: Love.  Let's have a test on this word:  Who can recite John 3:16?  Anyone?  Everyone?   All together?  Ok, part 2 to this test: who really... I mean, really and truly understands what that means?  Let's start here with the rest of that passage:

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
John 3:17-21

So what can we do that is true and bring us into the light?  Accept Jesus, for one.  Then what?  How about pass it on?  Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest.  He replied, to love God and love others with their WHOLE heart.  There is that word again, LOVE.  John, the disciple Jesus loved, didn't just write the infamous John 3:16, he had a couple other books penned as well.  This passage almost feels like a part 2 of the 3:16 craze:

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.... 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 
 1 John 4:10-13,16, 19-21

God has given us his Spirit... you know, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead... that Spirit.  It isn't this wimpy, wispy, ghostly apparition... no.  It is POWER.  That power is meant to be used and we can use it to love.  Why?  Because it is a COMMAND and because Jesus loved us: he gave us an example. What does love look like?  Simple answer: sacrifice.

Yup.  S.A.C.R.I.F.I.C.E.  Does the "me" culture phenomenon real at this idea?  You bet.  Because sacrifice means you have to give up me and think of a something, or someone, greater or other than "me".  It isn't easy... but it is simple.

You see, too often we look at God's love as this lofty idea of fuzzy, happy, sweet things.  In marriage we consider kisses and roses and thoughtfulness through and through.  Bliss.  Yet, the truth of the matter, if you pay close attention to 3:16 and many other passages, is that God's love involved the sacrifice of his ONLY son... of the greatest, most perfect, most undeserving of torture and death person this world has ever known.  Did Jesus hate his persecutors?  No.  Actually, he loved them deeply and it hurt him deeply to see them consistently turning away  in light of the Truth standing before them.  Did Jesus lay down the cross halfway to Calvary and say "nah, this ain't worth it, they don't even act like they love me anyway... I'm God, life is suppose to be easy and pain-free" No, he did not.  And praise be to Him for HIS perseverance.

THIS is LOVE, that God, high and holy and perfect, GAVE/sacrificed/did without/suffered for a SHORT TIME, his only Son, His greatest possession. SO THAT whoever believed/trusted/put their faith in could have eternal life, get a break from this temporal hardship and look to an eternity of hope and peace.

That is Love.  Yes, sometimes it IS roses and kisses and bliss.  But sometimes it is tears and fights and heartbreak.  Sometimes it is loving someone when they are most unlovable and TRUSTING God to work in their hearts.  Because, the fact is, we aren't always that lovable by people and we certainly didn't deserve a savior when we ran from God, denied his power, or even now, in the midst of our salvation, we rebel...  And he never stops, he never lays down that cross... he simply perseveres and Trusts.  Can't we do the same?

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things
- 1 Corinthians 13:7 

Poor hubby.  I may not always agree with him and, even now that God answered my prayers almost 6 years ago, delivering hubby from addictions and into the hands of salvation and a missional heart, hubby still has his needed growth points.  Points that literally break my heart some days.  BUT, if I'm honest, I still have my growth points too.  And if God could love me SO much to sacrifice, to put up with my mess.... then the least I can do is the same for those around me.... especially my husband.

The rest of the story?  My heart ached as he walked out the door fuming.  Poor guy.  I still don't agree with his stance in our tiff, but I certainly hate for him to risk a wrecked day because of it.  I took to prayer and reflecting on God's word to be sure I am walking justly (I always try to make necessary adjustments when I am not) and hope for a quick resolution I place in God's hands while I seek peacefulness with my husband and perseverance until all is right again.

I pray, whether you are happily or not-so-happily married (or maybe not married at all in this stage of your life!) that you may know, understand, and walk out true love, through thick and thin.  Not just with a spouse, but also with others around you who need to see God's love and grace through you today.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Devotion Coming...

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a month away?  I can't.  Within the next week Americans will descend upon Facebook with "I'm thankful for..." posts and gratitude logs will load the blog-sphere.  All of the "with thanksgiving" scriptures will be rolled out and touted as a reason for this seasonal remembering.

I'm not saying these jovial traditions of ours as Americans is a bad thing.  On the contrary.  I think a time of remembering is appropriate and even Biblical.  I also consider the season of Thanksgiving much like the season of Christmas: why do we have to do this only once a year?  I ponder, as I do with the Joy of Christmas, how much of our gratitude is a facade put in place to keep up with the Joneses because what kind of Grinch doesn't have SOMETHING to be thankful for?

I think, too, like Christmas, of those who are struggling with hardships or losses this time of year.  It is hard to be joyful, jolly, thankful or grateful when the whirlwind of life's messy spots are mucking it all up.

Like the Christmas cheer we so often take for granted, not everyone shares in the jovial displays and sometimes even Thanksgiving wishers tend to assume it is natural to be thankful.

But it isn't.

Like joy and forgiveness and grace, we have to CHOOSE to be thankful... and mean it!  But how?  Why?  What is the true purpose of Thankfulness and what part do we really play in it?  What is the big deal about being Thankful at Thanksgiving... or anytime of year for that matter?

Starting November 1st and lasting through Thanksgiving, I will be posting a weekly devotion on this important topic.  I will dive deeper than a basic scripture to memorize and post... I will be challenging more than a simple tally sheet of all that is wonderful (or you wish were wonderful).  I will be looking at those tough questions: HOW can we be Thankful?  WHY is it such a big deal?  What exactly is God's Word saying about this season of thanksgiving, how it applies to me and how do I practice it, not just every November, but all throughout the year?  You may be surprised how simple some of these answers are... and you just may be challenged to try and do things you've never done before.  We will be looking heavenward and  seeing God's idea of Thanksgiving; something which transcends borders, cultures and time and begs to be practiced all year long.

I hope you will join me for this journey.  A full schedule will be posted Sunday and I may even pause each week for a little frivolity to lighten the load... even sharing a few old family recipes for this season!

Please feel free to grab a button below or the banner above and share with friends.  No tricks or strings... I just want to be sure everyone who needs this message this year has the opportunity to hear it!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Menu Monday: Week of October 26th

It is the last week of October!!!  Can you believe it?  I can't.  Friday's blog post revealed a sort of transformation which happened in my heart over graduation involvement.  That transformation allowed me to enter a place where I could hear God clearly on what he was (and wasn't) calling us to do.  Saturday evening, after an afternoon in prayer while I worked in the studio, I made the decision to gracefully bow out of coordinating homeschool graduation.  I just knew it was the right thing for us and it was done for all the right reasons.  I sent out the notice to the group and by the very next morning I had a parent calling, sad to see us step down, but ready to take the reins if need be.  I felt like God was showing blessings on the decision.

With that, everything seemed to change around here.  Not only did a huge weight seem lifted, but the weight being gone opened up our schedule so much, we are able to take an unscheduled week off.  EVERYONE is breathing a sigh of relief!  We have been jam-packed running like crazy since school started in mid-September between homework and Brooke's basketball schedule.  This much earned break couldn't have come at a better time, especially since the crazy train pulls into the station to pick us up this week....

This week Brooke has THREE games!!! Technically four but they leave for youth group retreat Friday so she will miss her last one.  Today and tomorrow are regular games, then Wednesday evening is youth group (only one youth group this week), Thursday is a play-off game and Friday they leave for retreat around 4pm. We will be running every evening this week until drop-off on Friday.  Is it any surprise Brooke piped up last night and said "I am so glad I am not doing basketball next year, this is too much busy!"

Dropping the ALL the kids off Friday is monumental for hubby and I. Can you believe, in the 17 1/2 years since Ashley was born, hubby and I have NEVER had an overnight or weekend alone????????  My oldest took weekend trips periodically when we were first married, but since the accumulation of kids... someone has always been home.  What to do?!  It will be strange cooking dinner for just two on Friday and Saturday.  We will be back to the grind come Sunday afternoon though with choir practice and family dinner.

Also this week, while the week break from schoolwork opens up my schedule, I am prepping to hold a table at a coats and candy sale on Saturday.  I get to sell winter clothes the kids can't use anymore, which is nifty.  I need to get in the attic this week and figure out what items qualify.  We also hope to catch up on some art projects during the daytime so it will still be a full week and my slow-cooker will be working overtime!  You will notice some old favorite items on the menu... I will link back to previous posts for anyone who is new and interested in recipes I have shared!

Menu for this week...

- eggs
- oatmeal
- cereal
- pancakes

hubby: smoked sausage and rice, chicken salad
me and kids: leftovers, mac n cheese, grilled sandwiches


Mexi-style Chicken and Salad with Tortilla Chips
Haven't made this in a few weeks so I thought I would throw it into the mix.  Here is my original post/recipe if you don't have it already.

Pork Loin Roast and Veggies
I know, dejavu from last week.  This week it is a loin roast and I rather wished I had cut it into medallions before I froze it because that would have made a more exciting dinner!  As it stands, I needed a slow-cooker meal and the roast is big enough that it will be planned left-overs for later this month when I make stew.  How to cook a roast?  My recipe:

- Sear your roast on all sizes (if it has a fat side like my loin does, I do NOT sear that side).  For searing novices: high heat and a splash of oil.  Wear and apron and be prepared for a messy stove top!  I cover my empty burners with metal pie plans to keep them from getting grease splattered and smoking later.
- Have quartered potatoes, carrots and onions in bottom of slow cooker.
- Plop your seared roast on top with fat side up.
- Pour water in until it comes about halfway up the side of your roast (do not completely cover your roast in water)
- sprinkle about 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce into water (I just shake the bottle in till it seems good)
- Pour one packet of Onion Soup Mix over top (I use about 2-3 Tbsp of a homemade onion soup mix recipe I found on Pinterest [I omit the onion flakes in this recipe simply because I rarely have them on hand])
- Cook on low all day or high for half the day

You can use the remaining broth to make gravy which I do just using Wondera's recipe on their container... quick and easy.

General Tso Chicken with Rice, Yellow Squash and frozen Green Beans
A family favorite!  I use a season pack from the store for the sauce.

Stroganoff, Mashed Potatoes and canned Green Beans
I will put both the meat sauce and Potatoes in separate slow-cookers so dinner is ready to go when we get home.  While Brooke changes I can heat up the green beans and mashed the boiled potatoes right in their pot.  My recipe is in this post.

Chicken and Cheese Chimichanga (frozen from Costco) and Salad
Another dejavu!  I figure, with just two of us, why mess up the stove, especially since we are dropping the kids off just before 4pm.

Burgers for 2 and Salad
My husband may choose to do bacon burgers, we have a few pieces leftover in the freezer.  I think I will put him in charge that night!

I got my family addicted to this recipe revival from a few weeks ago.  I will pre-make them before choir and hubby can get them brown while we are gone.


What are you cooking this week?


Friday, October 23, 2015

Believing God in the Trials

I was letting it get to me.  Every nuance, every detail... after one particular phone call I was ready to QUIT.  Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe, just maybe, I heard God wrong... surely He wouldn't call me to something as overwhelming as this.  But then there was Betty*.  I couldn't get her out of my mind.  Every time I wanted to throw in my hat, her emails would ring in my ears.  ALWAYS right.when.I.needed the message... there they were sitting in my inbox.  Like a light in the dark.... an oasis in the dessert... a patch of calm in the storm.  Her messages were a beacon of hope.  I saw them as messages from God and every time I was tempting to throw my hands in the air and bark, "THAT'S IT" I couldn't.  I couldn't because her messages were God's messages and I knew I would be disobeying God if I did anything other than persevere.

This week I found out Betty's latest message almost didn't get sent.  Her latest piece of encouragement was a Word she tried to stuff back inside.... but out it came!  I knew in that moment that God was at work here and I better stop trying to make excuses and start whole-heartedly accepting His plan.... or it would not be a good outcome.

Betty and I don't know each other, we have never met.  Our correspondence is based on a singular event she was, at first, interested in being part of.  For very good reasons, she isn't participating... yet I think God placed her in my life, in this time, for a purpose.

After Betty and I realized we were each part of a bigger plan God was using us to communicate, she shared this passage on her heart for me this week:

1 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,
2 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.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 
- Hebrews 12:1-3
I'm not sure, but I think her encouragement was meant to hinge on verse 3, but little did either of us know, it would become so much more than that.  She recommended I print it, put it on my fridge during this season of life.... and, as I have mentioned, I have learned to really sit up and listen when Betty speaks because I am pretty sure God is speaking through her (and I know she takes that quite seriously too).
I love Hebrews, especially 11 and 12.  It is such a great encouragement to us in the faith, to remember those who have walked in faith before us and the great things God did as a result.  I could have glazed over this passage recommendation, I know this one, BUT.... yeah, "but", I knew I needed something to pull me from my slump of negativity and wanting to find ways of giving up.  So, the next morning I took my Bible and journal in hand, I set aside my Sermon on the Mount study I've been working on, and I dug in.  I mean really dug in.
The first thing I asked:  "who is this cloud of witness".... turning back to Chapter 11, there were many.  All of them by faith believed God, trusted Him, did as He asked (even when it seemed crazy).  Hebrews 11 points out that not all of them got to see the fruit of their obedience in this life.... but they still all obeyed.
I asked: "am I believing God?"
The truth was, no, I wasn't willing to believe Him that such a simple project could be used by him, however it is going to be used by Him, and my place is to simply trust Him by faith.
Second question came about after reading lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely: "God, do I have sin that needs rooting out?  Is there something in my life keeping me from being able to run with endurance?"
God said YES.
 I thought it was complaining, especially since it had to do with something God asked me to do.... where is my witness when I complain?  That was part of it, God reminded me of a verse which had hung around me from the day before:
8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
- James 5:8-11
 ... and just the night before, my girls and I had been talking about appropriate speech and conduct and they replied in agreeance with the scripture I made them memorize back when bickering was a problem in our house:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  
Ephesians 4:29
I suddenly realized, my complaining, was a bi-product of the root of the problem: I was disobeying God and not believing Him by faith alone.  I thought how my bad attitude and complaining were tainting my view and, while not everything was rosy, a simple change of heart would lesson the burden a GREAT deal.  To focus on God's call in this activity would turn every issue that popped up into and opportunity.
An opportunity to show God's love.
An opportunity to shine peace in seemingly perils situations
An opportunity to be a light to the down-trodden.
An opportunity to show grace.
And most of all... an opportunity to GROW.
All-in-all, my sin is unbelief.  In Hebrews chapter 11 the author shares the hall of faith.  It is by faith each is counted righteous.  Abraham's story being on of the really greats, Paul pulls this into his letter to the Romans, trying to encourage the believers there to walk rightly.
[re: Abraham] In hope he believed against hope.... He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body....
Romans 4:18a & 19a
His own body... I saw this as his own weaknesses or challenges.  What was Abraham's great step of faith?  Believing God to produce heirs through him and Sarah when they were old... too old to really have kids.  It goes on....
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 
- Romans 4:20-21
James sums it up like this:
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness and he was called a friend of God.
- James 2:24b
I want to be called a friend of God!!  But I can't as long as I argue with his plan and taint it with my spewing.  I need to believe God...which is more than believing in God, it is trusting what He says and does and commands us to do.... even when it doesn't make sense. 
Why me?  Why this activity?  Why Betty in the midst of it all?!!  But suddenly I feel like I have set aside every weight which clung so closely and I am ready to run this race with endurance... to consider all that Jesus did so so that I may not grow weary or fainthearted!

What tasks or situations are you trying to manage right now that seem really overwhelming?  I pray you will find the area where you need to place your grace and simply believe God has a plan in the midst of it all... no matter how messy or chaotic it might seem right now.

*"Betty's" name has been changed to protect her identity.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Menu Monday: Week of October 19th

So, I had forgotten how, during the school year, Monday = Crazy!  Most people schedule all their calls and major to-dos for Mondays to 'get them out of the way'.  Not me.  Monday is just simply too full  I could say I don't know why.... but I do.  We take extra time together in the morning to pray and go over the week's events.  All my 'students' are usually dragging out of weekend mode so I have to prod them and, honestly, I have to prod myself!  I may not make calls on Mondays... but I do clean key spots on the house on Mondays.  And right now, we have basketball so that adds just one more thing to juggle into place!  (one more week....)

Fall is generally a busy time of the year for many of us though.  Church events to participate and help in... community events to ring in the crisper (for many in the northern hemisphere) time of year... preparing for winter and so on.  I keep reminding myself, come January, I will miss the hum of the fall.  It will become too quiet. 

With that, I buzz into this week's menu plan.  I wanted to post a soup recipe but time restrictions won't allow me to get that done and still end today with sanity (and punctuality) in tact!  I will share it soon though.  Hoping to have this weekly post prepped BEFORE Monday in the future!!! What's your buzz this time of year?

This week Brooke has a game tonight and then we are off the hook till next Monday when she plays her last.  Tuesday/Wednesday youth groups and, thankfully, a quiet remainder.  We all desperately need the rest!  Brooke's may have to wait though, she attends a slumber party Friday night.  The kids LOVED choir practice, we will be there Sunday 4:30-6:00 so hubby is on kitchen duty.  I am still prepping for the craft bazaar.  I finally got the date and it is the first Friday of November.  I'm grateful to still have some stock left from last year so I am not too stressed about what I still want ready for my table but I do want more.  I don't mind though, I relish the time in my cozy new studio!  Other than tonight and Tuesday, I hope to have some easy meal plans to accommodate this limited work time before bed.

Menu for this week...

- eggs
- oatmeal
- cereal
- waffles
- biscuits and jam
(the banana bread last week worked great, opened a chunk of freezer space, had 2+ days of snacks and breakfast, AND brought muffins for the girls and their coaches at the game)

hubby: smoked sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, mac n cheese


Leftover Stroganoff Casserole, Green Beans and Fresh Bread
I was blessed with enough leftover Stroganoff last week to make a casserole which I froze.  Tonight it will be two-times as good!!
Chicken Fried Rice
I had extra chicken last week I pre-cut into bite-size pieces and froze.  All I need to do is pull them out, thaw all day and fry up.  I made rice for hubby's lunch this morning with plenty extra to spare.  I find frying rice is best when it is cold.  Dinner will be fast and, at most, take 2 pans and the bowls and forks to eat it with!

Pork Roast, Potatoes, Carrots and either fresh bread or rolls
One pot, put it in just after breakfast, pull it out at dinner.  The one pot plus plates and forks to eat makes for an easy mid-week meal.  If I make bread it will be in the bread pan of my bread machine... rolls will require a bit more time and a cookie sheet.

Slow Cooked BBQ Chicken, Fried Yellow Squash and Onion, corn, biscuits
This may not seem like an 'easy' meal but actually it is.  I will make the biscuits for breakfast and warm extras with dinner.  Chicken takes 2 minutes to throw into the slow cooker (I still have extra sauce I made a few weeks ago) and my oldest daughter is a whiz at fried squash so I will employ her help!

Chicken and Cheese Chimichanga (frozen from Costco) and Salad
I'm doing a repeat here because of Brooke's slumber party.  I will drop her off and swing into Costco on my way home.  I may just end up grabbing everyone Costco Hot dogs instead!

Burgers and home-made JoJos

I need to talk to hubby about what he would like to cook.  I will let you know what he decides.  I'm certain it will be good, he is a great cook!


What are you cooking this week?


Friday, October 16, 2015

Faith Owned vs. Faith Rented

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.
-Deuteronomy 11:18-23

 I couldn't understand the push to DO, around the house, so many things we normally took in stride.  My husband and I talked over the details and I kept countering with we'll get to it.  True, we'd get to it, but when?  His question hung in the air, stiff, feeling more like an accusation.  He began to explain the obvious; we aren't renters anymore, we need to take better care and do things different.

The statement nipped at me all day.  We had always been good renters, why would be any different as owners?  Our policy was to leave a place better than how we found it.  We always worked hard to take good care of the properties we were blessed with.  Trimming bushes, managing minor repairs as needed to the house.  We rarely bothered the landlords except for big things like water heaters going out or electrical problems or leaks in the roof.  

Then, as I washed dishes with a somewhat loose faucet, thinking how we should fix or replace the faucet soon,  before it becomes a problem... it hit me.  Like the big-fat-obvious it should have been earlier that day in the middle of our discussion:  It isn't that we don't or haven't taken good care of our homes.  It is simply that, when you OWN your house, you are more preemptive.  You don't want things to break or wear out and, when there is something you can do to lengthen the life of components, it pays to invest the time and energy to care for it.... and sometimes make a small investment in upgrades and tools for said care.  Something you don't do for a rental property because, let's face it, why spend all the money and time to fix something a landlord will fix for free?  Only, the landlord doesn't send a repairman until it is broke.

I smiled to myself a bit in that moment, realizing how imperative it was that we switch from an absolute LIFETIME of renting mentality to the more cost-effective and responsible mind-set of OWNER in this new home which is all ours.

Returning to my dish washing, that beautiful voice which resonates in the heart when a lesson is to be learned spoke up.  It is the same with all who are in Christ.  I chuckled with excitement, realizing the awesomeness of understanding this spiritual lesson to be learned in a simple earthly experience....

You see, we profess faith in Christ, we 'go forward' and 'accept him', we attend church, we might go to Bible Study... we take on a surface faith with no real investment.  Then, when something breaks or goes really wrong we pick up the phone to get the hot line to Christ and pour out our woes, begging to be repaired and see our little house in working order again.  Sometimes, if the problems persist, we get sick of it and look for a new 'home'.  Somewhere else where things don't break so much.  But the truth is, the problem is never fully solved when we don't take the time to maintain.  No matter where you are, no matter what you do, things break if they are not maintained.  It isn't the landlord's fault.  And every time they break, we find ourselves in desperate situations until repairs are made.

However, when we MAINTAIN our faith, like our home, giving it attention not when it needs it but because it is part of a regular maintenance schedule to help avoid potential disasters or break-downs, we actually have much less stress and worry.  Sure, things will still break sometimes, and yes, those breaks can still occasionally be catastrophic.... but they break down less and, most often, when they do, it is less severe.  But, no matter the situation, we can have greater peace and assurance because we maintained and prepared.

What if we took the same approach to our spiritual life?  Instead of doing what we HAVE TO DO in order to get by in faith... what if we were preemptive?  Committing to a daily Bible study routine which drew us deeply into God's Word, equipping us for all situations.  Committing to daily prayer over ALL things, throughout the day, to see God's hand on every part of our lives and doings. Committing to use our time well in fellowship with other believers who can be mutually encouraging in the faith so that when we are with unbelievers or others not as far in their faith walk, we can be an example of Christ to them.... what if?

God, through Moses, encouraged the Israelite to NOT FORGET all He had done, to bind His Word to their hearts, their homes, their everything.  Talking constantly of Him and His Word, loving Him, walking in His ways, holding fast to Him: they were called to an active and preemptive faith.  God promised them that doing so, would deliver them from so many precarious situations.  But they didn't.  They went from owners of their faith to renters and eventually slackers.... and we all know the rest of that story.

Maintenance does take work and time when we would rather sit around or do what we want instead of what we need to.  But maintenance is so worth the time when the spiritual fruit it produces makes for a strong home which lasts a lifetime.

I pray you may know the real power of spiritual maintenance today, to really OWN your faith rather than renting it and slumping it off to a bi-product of a prayer you once said.  The nails that held Jesus to the cross, hold our faith to our hearts when we BELIEVE THE POWER of God for great things, daily; in prayer, Bible study and fellowship.



Monday, October 12, 2015

Menu Monday: Week of October 12th

It's a fresh new week and a fresh new approach to MANY things, including menu planning!  If you didn't catch last week's Thursday post you can check it out here.  This wonderful, rejuvenating message from God's Word has given me the release and peace to 'get back in the game' of life and start tackling bigger things with greater focus.  I'm excited, especially as a few other impactful things happened this past week which directly effect my menu planning: 

#1, hubby announced he is getting tiered of eggs every morning!  This was news because for a number of years that has been his go-to breakfast (he even requests them with pancakes when I make those!)  He put in an order for more oatmeal, which is fine because it is good for his cholesterol. 

#2, the kids and I decided to join the church choir for the Christmas program, which is exciting in itself but, when hubby suggested HE make dinner since we won't get home till around 6:30 on Sundays due to practice, I felt super blessed. He isn't going with us to choir rehearsals so it is nice how he wants to jump in and love on us through meal prep.

#3, the biggest change to impact my menu planning is the way we use what we have.  I have recognized a progressingly bad habit of not using ALL my resources in meal prep.  I think the habit developed with the move when I was making quicker meals and taking the easy way out on some dinners in order to rush things along (even eating out more than we have all year combined!).  I want to make a commitment to be an even more frugal cook than I have been and still provide delicious meals.  It may seem like I'm re-stating what I already do but actually, this is a challenge to myself to find new ways to use ingredients I keep shoving to the back of the pantry or fridge/freezer.  I recognized the need this weekend when I looked into my freezer and realized the small space is half loaded with garden produce I put up just before the move.  I need to plan meals which can include all those little extras more often  =  Save space and money!  Double bonus!!  (I think it is part of that whole Balance thing I feel called to this year!)

One thing I did to prop my frugality was to use some of the extra money we have this month (due to no mortgage payment till November) to stock up at Costco on things which are more cost effective bought in bulk but typically too expensive to buy in a regular month on our budget.  I am hoping these purchases will see us through until another budget boost which we are blessed to receive about every 3-4 months due to pay cycles and income taxes.  These will be my spring-boards throughout the year.  Hubby and I needing to curb our portions is another incentive to cut spending and make due!  We need to trim more than budget and meal out-sourcing!!!

So, with that...

This week we will be attending TWO games, Brooke's last week of multiple games (assuming they don't make finals beyond day one.... which I am certain they won't).  Tuesday's game will be immediately followed by youth group and hubby is joining me to do our Wal-mart shopping.  Dinner that night will reflect the goofy schedule since we won't be back at the house until after 8pm (a bit late for a hearty meal).  Thursday's game is typical but the slow cooker will be pulled out so we can eat upon arriving home.  Wednesday is another youth group so I like meals which are quick to fix and easy to clean up.  Most evenings I hope to escape to the craft studio since I am participating in a craft show next month and want to have good stock ready in plenty of time. Timely meals will be crucial to this aspiration since my body doesn't respond well to staying up late (I hope to wrap-up my work time by 8/8:30).  I'm excited for the challenge......

Menu for this week...

- eggs (me, I need that protein)
- oatmeal
- cereal
- french toast
- banana bread
   * In trying to clear space in my freezer I have a plethora of bananas.  I freeze them when they start to turn then, when I am ready to make banana bread, I pull them out a few hours ahead of baking, let them thaw, snip off the very top where you pull the stem, and squeeze from the bottom straight into a measuring cup.  Mashing is quick and easy and the final sweet loaf is delicious.

hubby: smoked sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, ham sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Greek Style Chicken Salad with Dill-Cucumber Sauce and Pita Bread
I splurged on Costco Pita bread this week which is phenomenal with my chicken salad.  Simple: cubed boneless chicken fried in oil (olive is best but I use Canola) and while it fries I season it with Greek Seasoning which you can get in the baking isle at Wal-mart and some grocery stores.  Serve over a tossed salad with with Ranch dressing or the Dill-Cucumber dressing.  I make mine from scratch using an old Betty Crocker Recipe (2 Tbsp Mayo or Salad Dressing, 2 Tbsp Sour Cream, 1 Tbsp chopped Cucumber, 1 Tbsp fresh dill OR 1 tsp dry dill... process in food processor or blender... I usually triple the recipe)
HOT lunch and cold sandwiches.... I haven't quite figured out the details yet!

Stroganoff, Mashed Potato, Green Beans and Fresh Bread
We have ours over potatoes instead of noodles, it is better on the starches and digestion AND it is actually more filling.  For the 5 of us (all teens and adults) I use 2 lbs ground beef (or turkey), fry with some chopped onion, sprinkle on garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Spritz in some Worcestershire sauce.  Drain.  Add 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/2-2/3 can beef stock (I use water and half a teaspoon beef bullion) and 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir and warm well over medium heat and serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.  (You can add parsley and/or fresh garlic when cooking for additional flavor)

Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Yellow Squash, Frozen Green Beans and Rice
The rice isn't frozen!  I will throw the veggies and rice in the pot just before we leave for the game so it is all warm and ready when we return.

Chicken and Cheese Chimichanga (frozen from Costco), Salad and Spanish Rice

Burgers and Fried Yellow Squash Medallions (My freezer is insanely full of these because my garden wouldn't stop spitting them out this year!!!!!)

I revived these from my old menus last week and everyone raved, having forgotten how much they loved them!  I have had multiple requests for a repeat.  I may prepare them before we leave for rehearsal and have hubby pop them in the oven at their appropriate times.  This works well because i we are late getting back, pizza is still good when it starts to cool down!


What are you cooking this week?


Saturday, October 10, 2015

When You're Stuck in Hurt

I've been stuck..... to the floor... in the mud.... fill in the blank.  Just stuck.  I could say I don't know how it happened or how to get out but that would mean I didn't really think about it.  Truth is, I do know.  It happened 2 years ago next month and I thank the good Lord for helping me identify this mucky stuckness so I can begin the process of getting out.

You see, I am a planner, organizer, put-in-orderer.  I like things just so and God has given me a knack for not just seeing things as they are, but seeing them as they could be.  It has been a particularly blessed gift with God's call for us into missions work as church plant support helping ministries get off the ground.  Planning events, ordering the universe of a small ministry and giving it a slight spin then watching it take off has been such an amazing experience.  Seeing people, whether parishioners or ministry leaders and even a few pastors, reach beyond where they are to find where they are meant to be has also been a humbling experience.

Then we moved here.

Within 6 months of moving to this city, the models we had used all over the country... in fact, even around the globe as far as Africa, suddenly crumbled to the ground like a Popsicle stick house in a strong wind.... noise and all.  Right smack dab in the middle of planning a big (for the church) event the wind blasted in and we saw and experienced things we had only heard stories about. 

It was messy.  It was painful.  Our whole family was hurt more deeply than I knew was possible from people we call siblings in the faith. 

We were paralyzed.

We stayed paralyzed for a few months, trying to understand.  Why would God call us from fruitful work to work which just blew up and fell apart?  It made no sense.  We probably over-evaluated our personal and spiritual lives... trying to see where we went wrong.  But nothing we did was any different than every other support situation we had served in.  Everything we did was just as we had been trained to do.... and more importantly, just as we were certain we were Led to do.

Two years of healing.  I forgave them within the month.  But I didn't forget the hurt.  I learned a lot about forgiveness in that time and the biggest thing I learned: wounds take time to heal even when forgiveness has been whole-heartedly issued.  I still sting sometimes when I stumble across updates which compound the injustice... but I am not angry, I am not grudging.  If truth be told, however, I am still scared

Scared to get involved too deeply.  Scared of being hurt and betrayed so intimately.  I have gotten use to my life, my way, my terms, my pace..... you get the picture.  Anything that upsets this delicate, self-obsessed balance of MY life created as a defense mechanism: sends me into near panic mode.  I get frazzled, frantic and scared.  Scared I won't do it right. Scared I will be ridiculed and torn down.  Scared the wind will blow and Popsicle sticks will fall.  MY life My way is safe.  I want to keep it that way.

So what was I thinking when I offered to coordinate homeschool graduation because no one else had stepped up?  I know what I was thinking: maybe 10 families, all gathered nice and cozy at some intimate venue, we play music, show some pictures (while all us moms cry and grab for tissues), hand our proud charge a pretty paper printed at our computers stipulating that all their hard work for so many years has earned them this simple paper.  Caps and gowns donned our darling graduates spin the tassel and off they sale into life after graduation.

I can just see Reality cackling a snide laugh, then, with it's stern face and horned glasses resting precariously on the edge of it's nose, barking at me: WAKE UP!

I'm scared. 

My fear has paralyzed me and I am struggling to do more than hold a meeting (almost 3 weeks ago now), post notes from said meeting, and shoot a few emails on venue.  I'm paralyzed because 10-20+ families and as much as 800 attendees are counting on little ol' me to make this a smashing success.  I'm paralyzed because every bone in my missionary body says this is to extravagant for us... for any Christian... and how do I communicate the need for trimming without offending?  Homeschool moms are fiercely independent and opinionated... I know I'm one of them!!!  But we are also passionate and loving individuals and the moms I have met so far I pray to call friends beyond cap and gown.

So, my knee jerk?  Grumble.  Yup, grumble.  So I kick an imaginary rock and grumble and grown and complain and contemplate backing out.  I can't do this, I cry to my husband through the phone as he sits on lunch break at work.  His strong but gentle voice calms me as he reminds me: if God calls us to something He can and will help us through it.  He reminds me I need to pray more over it, Trust more over it and

Then, as I have been studying the sermon on the mount, Jesus' voice cut into my heart yesterday:

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 
- Matthew 5:13-16

During my cross reference I find Paul spring boarding off this passage to tell the believers in Philip this:

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 
 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish
Philippians 2:13-15a

I don't want my saltiness to become un-salty.... I don't want to be thrown out and trampled.  I don't want to put my light under a basket; our lives are meant to point people to God and IN THAT.... I do not want to grumble and question the One who is trying to work in and through me. No, I want to be blameless and innocent in order to point others to the Lord.  How many times have a quoted Philippians 2:14 to my kids during chores or schoolwork?  How many bad examples have I set lately?  I'm too embarrassed and ashamed to count.

holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:16

One month, maybe two, is ok to heal.  We all need to recover sometimes.  But TWO YEARS to fall into a rut of self-support, afraid to get hurt or put myself out.... that is not ok.  People are messy, yes.  Life is messy, yes.  But Christ is perfect.  When we pour ourselves out while holding fast to the word of life, we can be proud that EVERYTHING done in His will, in His way, in His timing is not in vain.  As a matter of fact, it cleans up some of that messiness in all of us... in life... when we surrender to His call if we are only willing to see and accept that we are all still working out our salvation (v12 not included)

I feel invigorated with the purpose of the Lord.  I am reminded how graduation is an opportunity for testimony since it is a Christian-run event with a worship session at the beginning, prayer and so on.  How can I NOT want to throw myself completely and uncomplainingly into that?!  And how can I not want to get to know these awesome ladies of the faith better?  Backing out or fumbling would do nothing to further the Message of Christ, nothing to shine a light and, certainly, nothing to show good fellowship.

So here I go.  I'm taking the plunge and if the wind blows.... I will just pray harder and trust more!

I pray, whatever winds are or may blow your way, that you are finding strength to trust God's work and will through you and step forward to fulfill His purpose.  If you are stuck like I have been, it just takes putting one foot in front of the other with your eyes on Jesus.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Menu Monday: Week of October 5th

I'm late getting the menu up today because I had a most blessed surprise: my dad stopped by!!!  It is a blessed surprise because it has been about 9 years since I last saw him.  He lives in the Midwest, I live in the West and with life and all else, it has been a long time.  Fact is, we were estranged for a few of those years; he's an atheist, I'm a Christian missionary... disagreements on issues in life and next thing you know, we both took a step back.  My step-mom passed away in March and since then, I think he has re-assessed and re-valued life.  We have talked on the phone more in the last 6 months than we have in the last 6 years!  He is still an atheist and I am still a Christian missionary but more importantly; we are father and daughter and today, for the first time in probably 25 years, I felt like that raw truth was all that really mattered to him. 


He is an over-the-road truck driver counting down the days till retirement.  He would have retired a year ago had it not been for my step-mom's illness.  Now he looks to a life ahead minus the wife he had known for 26 years... the one he had hoped to be with for 26 more.  My heart aches for this human man.  Not super-dad, not atheist, not different.  Just, simply, man.

Aren't all those who drift by us the same?  Just men, just women.  In our rawest, simplest form, that is what we are.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Yet we want to tack that label on and use it to either divide or draw.  But the fact is, labels are what Jesus came to defy.  We look at the stories and say adulterous woman or Samaritan or thief but those are merely to give us perspective.  To help us understand the gravity of what Jesus did.  No.  Jesus looks at them and he sees "woman" or "man".

I see Menu Mondays as a tie in to this basic mentality.  What greater way to minister to hearts or encourage fellow sojourners than through a good, home-cooked meal.  Our stewardship and peace in hospitality allows us to open not just our doors, but also our hearts to those who need it.  Today I was able to hug my dad, send him down the road with a warm meal, and sit here this evening smiling as I remember my dad and the shadows of life's recent hurt brightened some today, in his pause along rolling miles, by genuine hearts and good hospitality.... and a sweet song from his oldest grand-daughter played a part too!

This week is a pretty easy week.  Brooke has a game Thursday so the slow-cooker will come out.  Otherwise, typical Tuesday/Wednesday youth group and just hanging out.  Oh... and the best part is Saturday when hubby and I celebrate our wedding anniversary with dinner out - I rare treat!

Menu for this week...

- eggs
- oatmeal
- waffles

hubby: smoked sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, ham sandwiches, black beans


Chicken Pot-Pie
I use a basic pie crust recipe, rolled out into a casserole dish.  I make chicken gravy using Wondera (you can also use cream of chicken soup), mix in cubed cooked chicken and a bag of mixed frozen vegies.  Bake @ 350-375 for 30-45 minutes or until crust begins to brown on edges.  It is a family favorite!

Pork Fried Rice

Mexi-style Chicken in the slow cooker with a side of Salad

Bacon Burgers and Home Fries
Anniversary Dinner out!!! 
Kids Pizza In!

I will be grocery shopping this weekend so Sunday's meal is undecided

What are you cooking this week?


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finally Home

It's hard to believe this little place nestled quietly on a corner in the middle of a bustling "city" is the very place where all my future plans will come true.  Those books and stories to someday write, laying tucked deep in my heart for so many years, patiently waiting their turns while children are raised and lessons taught at our dining room table homeschool.  Grandchildren will one day bound through the sliding doors which frame the beautiful back yard and wide stretching old tree... I bet that tree could tell stories of grandkids past.  Children of the neighborhood whiz by on scooters and bicycles, parents occasionally strolling behind and I am blessed God chose to give me a place like this.

Leaves are beginning to turn in the vested wooded spray which seems to have grown up around the houses of decades past.  It is as though this neighborhood always existed as a hush or a pause only minutes from the city center.  Time has stood still in these streets and the nostalgic side of me, with big band on play, likes to imagine the apron-ed mothers calling in their charges as fathers navigate the big old Chevy into the drive.  Glen Miller crackles on the Victor as Salisbury Steak and whipped potatoes are placed on the Formica.  Kisses with red lipstick prints and how was your day hunny tenderly questioned as hat and coat are put in place for the evening.

Oh, sure, this little house needs some love and fitting to our family, but it is home and I am still fumbling with the clasp which locks down on a life of traveling and moving.... never again do I have to pack boxes and re-adjust to new surroundings, new 'homes' for all my things.  Sure, God may call me onto somewhere else in the distant future.  But for  I am here.  I am HOME!


The roller-coaster of HOW we came into this place taught me a new level of Trust.  Denied twice then accepted on our program there for the down-payment then money gone.... then God pouring out through someone abundantly to not only get money down but also a little extra to tend to repairs and supplies and truck rental... Closing bumped 3 times, yet the problems causing some of the bumps required repairs from the owner which saved us much time and money... then, when it finally did close, God worked it out just right so we had TWO months of no rent/mortgage instead of the expected 'one'!

God is good... all the time....
and all the time... God is good.

I found myself prostrate before the Lord at one point in the process, remembering how wonderful it is to pray completely poured out.  The ups and downs of finding "home" were good for my spiritual walk.  I alluded to this in Monday's post with my reference to Matthew 6.

25"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
- Matthew 6:25, 30-32

The loan officer was apologetic every time she called with another delay or need.  The Realtor was frustrated with the un-necessary hurdles being put in our path.  Both, veterans of the business logging 30 and 45 years respectively, expressed "I've never seen anything like this... this has NEVER happened before."  Each time I would smile and sometimes chuckle and assure them it was OK.  Peace in Jesus was all we needed and I didn't miss an opportunity to remind them of that.  Worry never accomplished anything.  Perhaps God allowed all the hurdles and hoops because he was trying to remind us all of Jesus' teaching in Matthew.  Perhaps he was simply trying to care for greater things in our lives then we could see or seek to attain on our own.  We all needed that divine intervention.

In verse 32 Jesus says even "the Gentiles seek after all these things".  At the height of our trials I pondered this verse... I thought of how I did NOT want to be like the Gentiles, worrying and not trusting God.  He knows ALL my needs and nothing is out of His reach, sometimes it is just out of His timing.  

I am finally HOME and it was well worth the wait.  I am still learning how to sit still, but that is OK, I have all the time in the world and God to clothe and care for my needs, what more could I want?

I pray, whatever your challenges are today, wherever worry wants to nip at your heals, that you might look to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6 and hold tight to His Word knowing He cares, He hasn't forgotten and He is in control.