Sunday, January 31, 2016

Salvation as a Process


My Bible read-through has brought me into Isaiah and while the plan I am using reaches into other books as they chronologically pertain to where I am at, I expect Isaiah's 66 chapters of deep intellectual insight to teach us much in the weeks ahead.

Chapter 1 shoots straight out of the gate addressing Judah's sin and corruption.  Yet in the midst of the message written for a wayward people then we see a resounding message of hope for salvation and renewed life for us now.

God tells them, through Issiah, He is tiered of their waywardness.  So much so, He states:

Bring no more vain offerings...

Vain: thinking of self.  They aren't thinking of God in what they do as much as they are thinking of themselves.  It they were anything like us today, it might look something like this:  This will make me look good.  This will show I am a good Christian.  I wonder if I will get a reward for this.  I bet so-and-so doesn't do this, but I do so I am better then them. This should get me favor with God or others.  The list could go on.  You get the idea.  God calls these things an abomination (v13b), he hates these "shallow acts" (v14a) he considers their acts a burden, making Him weary (v14b).  Essentially, they do religious things but their heart is not in it... at least not for the right reasons.  The result?  He won't listen to the Israelites anymore.

Yet, in the midst of their waywardness, God is good to provide a way out.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes.

cease to do evil
learn to do good
seek justice
correct oppression
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widows cause

This last passage coincides with the book of James:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Other then the obvious tie-in between Isaiah and James, that last part also stands out to me as echoing Isaiah's message to the believers of his time.

to keep oneself unstained by the world  

Stains leave a mark and don't wash out.

Not to ignore the justice and helping others aspect of these corresponding messages here, but I want to get strait to this point of spiritual cleansing because helping others without it puts us right back to God's statement in Isaiah 1:13.  One can't truly help if their heart isn't right.  With an uncleaned, improperly directed heart, all help becomes religiousness and verses 13-14 are pretty expressive of how God feels about that!

To start, let's recognize that spiritual cleansing may be instantaneous but learning good maintenance is a process.  As Christians, we invite Christ into our hearts and we are initially cleansed by the Holy Spirit.  This cleansing should compel us to cease evil and learn to do good.  So while choosing to do evil should stop immediately (hence the word "cease") doing good is a learning process.

Also, it is interesting to note how, in Isaiah 1:16, the repenter has to do the work.  Much like in Moses' time; the 10 commandments and other laws were a list of what man had to do.  Moses caps the list with this command:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Yet, flash-forward to Jesus' time and there is a slight change in phraseology seen in each of the gospels when Jesus tells his disciples:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

The work of keeping ourselves pure changes from the outside-in to the inside-out.  Our main job?  Remain unstained.  Once we accept Christ, our sins are washed away.  We are clean as fresh white sheets.  We ought to keep ourselves that way.  Yes, it is a process.  We must regularly take steps to avoid previous bad choices and deliberate sin.  Scripture tells us we all sin... we can't go a day without messing up.  However, we often don't realize it.  A skim through the well over 300 'laws' God spoke through Moses would find us all continually convicted.  Those laws existed to show us we can't do it on our own, no matter how hard we try.  

However, there are known indiscretions we choose to ignore because we think it isn't a big deal or we just want to fit in.  But it is a big deal.  Jesus said we ought to be a light, that others might see God through us.  He called us to be salt; preserving what is good and bringing flavor to the world around us, that others might see God through us.  Our deliberate transgressions defile that possibility.  Even our condoning of other's indiscretions gives the appearance of sin and destroys our testimony as well. Will we mess up?  Yes.  It is the sins we choose to continue to walk in or condone which bring the greatest threat.  But the things we miss, the marks we try to hit and just fall short... well, I always love to rest on Paul's words to the believers in Philippi:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Salvation is a process we ought to be working on.  By God's grace, the Holy Spirit works through us to guide us and teach us and grow us.

This week I saw that I don't need to be perfect to help others, to be used by God.  I do, however, need to be certain my heart is in the right place and as my salvation is being worked out, God desires to work through me and reach others.

I pray you come to see salvation as a process you can find strength in God to work out... to follow his lead in all aspects of your life from rooting out un-confessed or ignored sin to finding a place to share his love and glory with others simply to see Him glorified. 


Scripture references from ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Keepers at Home: Joy in the Job

I'm tiered.  Are you tiered?  I think some of it is just that time of year where the slower grayer winter months sort of drag on after the insanely busy bright fall and Christmas season.  January and February seem to be a time of after-shock where we stand a bit dazed, trying to get our bearings in the new year, making resolutions and declarations and then trying to keep up the energy to follow through.

In my tiredness and knowing God is calling me to step back up to the plate in more active housewifery skills, some days it is all I can do to put one foot in front of the other.  Whether in my morning Bible study time to which I struggle staying a wake, or keeping up the chore list so my home can be squeaky clean.  It is hard.

As if tiredness and 'hard' weren't enough, I often second-guess the WHY.  Why is it really that important to dust, scrub floors, clean windows and, over-all, stay on top of this whole housewife game?  I mean, really, it is mostly just me and my family who knock about the place.  Guests are few and far between and the ones who are semi-regular don't really care if I dusted or scrubbed.  The laundry stays washed, the dishes clean and dinners cooked.  What's the deal with the little stuff?

Fact is, my hubby cares.  I have one of those guys who actually comments if certain aspects of my housekeeping are falling off.  Other facts... when those guests that do care come, I find myself in a last-minute frenzy to catch up on months of the little stuff.  And, quite honestly, it is healthier.  It may not seem like dust or wiping down cabinets or keeping floors tidy matters... but it does.  Lower allergies, less germs and so on.

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating OCD style housework.  However, as I have mentioned many times before on this blog, the choice to be a housewife is a job.  It is a responsibility to create a warm and welcoming environment and, with few exceptions, I think we can all agree we feel more warm and welcomed in an environment that doesn't smell weird or contain questionable surface quality!

We have an oak table that needs oiling regularly I procrastinate every time but it is so beautiful once it is done!

So, this is truly the core of why God has driven me into this series of Keepers at Home.  Because my laziness (mentioned a a few weeks ago stemmed from this 'why' mentality and the whole does this really matter mindset.  Since launching into this initiative, I am doing better, but it is still a process.  It was no surprise, as I sat in church on Sunday, that the message from our pastor hit home the way it did:

Ecclesiastes.  I love this book.  Such profound wisdom from Solomon, likely towards the end of his life, looking back on all he did right and, especially, all he did wrong and should have done better.  Not only was he a wise king as per his prayer to God, but he now had the wisdom which comes with years.  On Sunday I sat with my Bible teetering on my knee penciling notes next to the THREE times between chapter 2-3 Solomon tells us to take joy in our work:

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God

also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in ALL his toilthis is God's gift to man.

So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot...

My husband delights in pointing out the significance of numbers in scripture.  Three is considered the signature of God so you can imagine how this womped me upside the head as I stared at the thin pages covered in these bold words!  According to God's Word through Solomon we are to:

find enjoyment
take pleasure in ALL toil
... in our work.

Why?  Since that is my big question of God lately.  Well, because, it is:

from the hand of God
God's gift
my lot

It isn't like I sit and do nothing all day in lieu of the needed housework.  But I don't take pride or joy in the little things and instead often choose my things instead.  Whether I'm looking up random stuff on the internet or watching a movie with the kids or... golly... what do I do when not keeping up on the little stuff in housework?!

God called me to be a housewife and with that, as seen in scripture, comes responsibility to others (and especially to my husband).  With this 'job'/work/toil comes a call to hospitality which equates doing for others and providing a place where others can feel comfortable and welcome.  Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 are only 2 places where we see the work of women expressed.  The Bible is peppered full of wonderful examples of Godly women/wives (and many examples of unGodly ones as well!!).

So, if God handed me this job as a gift because it was the lot he has chosen me for and I don't find enjoyment or take pleasure or rejoice in the ability I GET TO have (especially in those 'little' chores) as a response of gratitude to God - then I am not honoring God or my family or my position.  Like the many examples of housewifery in the Bible, there are many examples of people who did not appreciate the gifts of God and soon lost them!

Oh my.

I do not want that to be me!  I love the ability I get to enjoy of being a keeper at home.  I want to do more than the basics... more than just get-by.  No, I want to pleasurably enjoy and rejoice in ALL my work/toil and thank the good Lord for choosing me to do it!  My positive attitude in ALL of it (especially the little stuff) can make a great difference to my family AND to any sojourners who may pass through.  What a wonderful way to continuously point others to Him!?

I pray you might be encouraged today, no matter if you are a part time or full time housewife... no matter if you have little ones, grown ones or no ones to be a keeper of the home for... simply that you would rejoice and find joy in every part of housewifery because you see the hand and face of God and you trust His plan and purpose in it!

[disclaimer: moms of preschool age and younger... toys everywhere are a given and getting behind even on the basics with a baby in the house is expected.  So please don't feel scraped by this post.  Just do YOUR best for where you are at in life right now!]

Scripture references from ESV Bible.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Call to Righteousness and the Book of Hosea


Last week I shared my study notes from the book of Hosea. I set my post with it's 3 points to TRUE repentance and the importance of it being from the heart and then I realized; I left out the rest of the story.

TRUE repentance from.the.heart. is what resonated with me from the book of Hosea. Yet, as we step out of the middle of the book and God's call through Hosea to this True repentance, we see this halting declaration repeated:

Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, 
they would be regarded as a strange thing.

For Israel has forgotten his Maker...

I almost feel God's pain as he laments, almost seeming shocked (except He is God, He knows all) that the very people he carried out of despair when He went before them in Egypt have somehow forgotten Him and his Law.

I also see an Israel who reluctantly, to appease... someone... lifts up some sort of semblance of worship, but it isn't heartfelt.  And God calls them out.  He called them out in the true repentance section of this book and he calls them out as he discusses the consequences for their actions in the rest of the story:

Their heart is false;
now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will break down their alters
and destroy their pillars.

Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long'
they multiply falsehood and violence;

They aren't just blowing off God... they are MULTIPLYING their misdeeds.  Yet, what really took me back... this symbol of God's amazing mercy and love, was in chapter 11:

I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

I must admit to being confused when I first read this.  First he is saying he is going to punish Israel, then he says... he isn't?  Then I discovered his punishments weren't meant to be mean or spiteful.  What God was saying here through Hosea was to help the people of the time realize: they had punishment coming and God, being a just God, was going to have to deal that punishment out not through anger, but through love and concern.  The ole saying in the midst of disciplinary measures from when I was growing up comes to mind: this hurts me more than it hurts you.  God's discipline is the consequence which results from their actions and God doesn't want to have to do what he is about to do... but if he doesn't... then he isn't being a good father.

How hard, as a parent, is it to punish your children harshly?  I know when my children were younger and required discipline, it was difficult.  I hated to see them cry.  I hated to be the bearer of bad news.  But I had to or they would never fully understand and accept that bad behavior is NOT OK.  My discipline, while difficult for them (and me) at the time, actually made them better in the end.

So, in the midst of the rest of this story, not only do we see mercy, but we see God encouraging the people to hope:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

And He tells the believers exactly HOW:

So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.

These passages can speak to us today.  Not just as a way-ward nation or a struggling church... but as individuals as well.  I shared a Francis Chan video on my Facebook page Friday and I added a note, a stark realization in recent years of roller coaster rides with churches and the people of the church:  there is no such thing as marginal Christianity.  You are either in... or your not.  We aren't suppose to blend the world with our beliefs, creating a God that suits or needs/desires/lifestyle... we are suppose to come to the foot of the cross, seeking Christ and walking through this world with him at our core and all around guiding us; we should be standing out like a sore thumb.

My heart aches at the lack of true repentance in our churches today.  A week doesn't go by that I don't, literally, shed tears over this diseased dilemma in the church today.  The snide, 'if that's a Christian then....' fill in the blank remarks I hear from anyone and everyone I meet... the numbers of agnostics resulting from bad interactions with Christians is staggering.  We are either too churchy or, we look like the rest of the world so why bother to change?  What if we quit trying to please others, quit trying to look like other 'good' Christians, quit following the flow of people and instead tried more to please God, tried more to look like Christ himself, ignored the flow of people and instead stood on the rock of Christ and His Words in the Bible?

Christ calls us to true repentance and then he beseeches us to stand firm in that faith, not swayed by the masses, and simply love. Loving each other in the body of Christ (in spite of our flaws) and others because this, this true repentance and true love thing, this is how they will know we are His. 

In reflecting on this portion of Hosea, I have some personal self-challenges I want to share with you this week:
Where in my study and prayer time am I not fully giving my heart to God
Where am I not fully rising to the things God has/is calling me to do?
Where am I not walking out my faith to the fullest?
Where can I shine that light of Christ more to others: showing love that others might see Christ through me.

While Hosea seems to mostly be a story aimed at a need for repentance, I believe it is also a guide to remind us how to get back to living with Christ at our core when we may have wandered a bit on the path.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
    whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
    and the upright walk in them,
    but transgressors stumble in them.

I pray you would join me and search your heart for the hard answers to the questions above.  But more than finding answers, I pray you would begin to immediately implement solutions.


As I read Hosea I also thought of the movie, Amazing Love staring Sean Astin, which intertwines the story of a youth group camping trip and the lesson of God's amazing love through Hosea.  I highly recommend it!

Scripture references from ESV Bible. Visit Bible Gateway for more resources in Bible Study and spiritual growth.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Keepers: Baby Steps

I'm on an adventure to transform bad habits into good.  To revitalize my Keeper at Home heart per Titus 2 and see transformation happen in my life and home.  The Keeper at Home post last week and the Keepers At Home page at top explain it all.

These recent weeks, as I have begun taking action, the message on my heart has been Baby steps.: making small changes as I come across the most pressing areas. Applying those baby steps I have seen some key tips.

Tip #1: If I am noticing a mess or problem, hubby is probably noticing it too!
Often, I will glaze over a little task because, well, it is little and, as-per the laziness I discussed last week, I have gotten into a bad habit of only taking time for the pressing or the surface.  I pick up the house each day, keep the kitchen surface-cleaned, keep the floors generally acceptable.... but those spots and dust and...!

Seriously.  That spot I referenced last week was a real one, not merely an illustration.  I'm too ashamed to give the details, but there have been others.  I noticed it but didn't feel like going out of my way to take care of it... until hubby pointed it out.  Turns out he had noticed it all along as well but just hadn't said anything.  I began to think back on all the housework oriented spats we have had in recent years and realized: most of them were about things I noticed but made excuses to avoid until my husband got frustrated with my lack of care for the house he was working so hard to provide for (my words, not his) and finally said something.... which usually put me on defense, frustrated he was pointing it out, but in truth, frustrated with myself for not beating him to it... and the argument would ensue grounded in my own insecurities, lack of humility and down-right procrastination!

There, the truth is out!!

So.  I have challenged myself:  Manage tasks when they are noticed by me and don't wait for them to be pointed out by others. Not only am I going to either take care of messes AS I SEE THEM (or add them to my list to do the second I get a free second if I am busy when they come up) but I am going to do it with a joyful heart because, honestly, my heart isn't always in the right place.  Which helped me realize something else I had forgotten along the way:

This is the job God has blessed me with so I need to do it joyfully and I need to do it well. Don't let anyone tell you different: housewifing is a REAL job.  It needs to be treated as such by planning, doing and even learning all you can to be good at it and complete it well.  I know this in my core but I so easily let the world demean my position and I end up taking for granted all the little things like dusting, rug cleaning, tub scrubbing and so on. The Bible tells me I should do ALLLLLLLLL things to the glory of God.  ALLLLLL things with a joyful heart because of the One who gives me joy and saved my life.

I need to change my attitude from I have to do the housework - to - I get to serve my family.  Serving them is truly a privilege.

This means, when I see dust piling, it isn't time to frown and groan as I grab the duster. It is, instead, a time to grab the duster and thank the good Lord for the things like shelves and cabinets and trinkets he has blessed us with to make our house feel like a home. As I clean each surface, I also get to thank him for cleaning our hearts with his Savior.  To thank him, with each flick of my duster, for the family I get to help make feel comfortable in our little abode... and thank him for friends and acquaintances who might come and feel cozy here too.

The baby steps also brought me to recognize how my food, sleeping and exercise (lack of) choices were lowering my energy and attitude.  I have begun making little changes in those areas which I plan to add onto as time progresses. So,

Tip #2 is to realize how my health habits affect every other area of my life and ability to be a good Keeper at Home, make changes accordingly.

Eating  I have been making more conscientious food choices and even started tracking my food intake again.  I want to be sure I am getting balance in my diet rather then too much of all the wrong things.  I tend to forget how much of what has been eaten all day and will lazily go to starchy fall-backs for snacking if I'm not paying attention.  I have also restricted my sweets intake to only once a week.  Here is the chart I designed years ago and re-designed recently to give a better over-all tracking of each day's health activity.
Click on image to download PDF
click on image to download pdf

I have my target servings per day listed in the "svg" category on my printed chart.  Mine are based on teh fact that I am pre-diabetic and need to watch my carb and sugar intake.  Consult your doctor or other viable resource to see what healthy eating approach is best for you and fill in this section accordingly. I like how FlyLady points out: you are NOT the number on the scale.  As a recovered bulimic, when I first heard her encouraging words over 10 years ago, it was exactly what I needed to stay focused!  

My goal: not weight loss, rather, feel better.  I'm not in as much pain when I eat healthy (doctors think I may have fibromyalgia), I have more energy AND I am usually in a better mood!  What's not to love about healthy eating when you think of it like that!  I believe this is a vital part to being a good Keeper at home since energy and well being help to do the job better!

Earlier Bedtime: I'm also getting better about not starting tasks too late in the day which would take me past a reasonable bedtime.  Accounting for shower, praying with hubby, settling down and going to sleep; I usually start my bedtime routine by around 8:30 and I am typically tucked in no later then 10, ready for my 5a.m. rise.  I'm working on NOT hitting snooze since it seems to actually add to my tiredness and then, once up, splashing cold water on my face and back of neck.  I also figured out brushing my hair seems to stimulate my brain to start waking up.  I never new hair brushing first thing could do that for me!!!  (The cold water thing is an old trick I had gotten away from.)

Exercise.... well... it is REALLLLLY cold here and I have been battling a bad head and throat thing.  I actually wouldn't mind trekking out in the chill if it wasn't for sickness. Hubby actually stayed home today to help me out because I feel like poop and errands need to be ran (yes, I said... or rather typed the word poop here!  I feel that bad!).  However, I am implementing little things (baby steps!) like: not asking the kids to get things for me and not putting off tasks at other ends of the house.  A sort of, get-up-and-do instantly mentality rather then waiting for no really good reason other then I don't feel like moving or walking there at that moment!  I will be starting a regular walking routine once the mercury can hover above 40 and my head and throat aren't pounding!!

There are so many other baby steps I would love to share with you today but my time seems to be up!  I will be back next week with more.  In the meantime, I would love to hear little things YOU are doing to be a good Keeper at Home!  And I pray you would feel God's guidance helping you along the way.


Scripture references from ESV Bible.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of January 18th

How was your week last week?  Ours, mostly un-eventful.  I will admit we jumped on the lotto bandwagon, but only after some serious prayer.  We wanted to search our hearts and make sure it was for the right reasons and that our intent, if we were to miraculously win, would honor God.  After all, $1,586,400,000, requires some heavenly focus if, when reporters come years later, we could truly look back and glorify God with it.  Our heart?  Missions of course! 

We have dear friends we would love to not only financially encourage but also physically.  The kids are going on a trip this summer with their youth group to South America and Brenden and I are tentatively schedule for some field support in another more secure area next winter.  And Brooke and I are already talking about a trip we need to push out about 4+ years to support some friends in Africa.  Missionaries need our financial support, yes, but having some sweet friends in remote places, when we talk with them, what they also want is friendly faces from home to come and encourage them in person.  Their are so many friends with these needs, but not so much money to make it happen.  This was our heart and hope.  So, we cast our lots, prayed to God, and trusted they would fall where He decided.  The results?  

Yup, we bought 3 tickets for $6 and took a $4 nibble off the pot!  We chuckled and knew; at least we could say we said a prayer and took a shot... instead of always wondering 'what if....'!

In keeping with trying to share some previous week dinner result pictures, I thought I would show you my left-over roast stew. 
There were two slices of meat left and plenty of potato and carrot.  I thinned out the dinner gravy with some beef stock (I used beef bullion and water), cut up the meat and made the veggies more bite-size, and threw it all in the cook pot to simmer for about 30 minutes.  It was a warm filler-upper for lunch on a chili day!  My leftovers fed about 3 of us.

The other fun tid-bit from our week was some magnet fun Brenden indulged in.  He is fascinated with electricity, magnetism and how things work so we jumped to that section of his text book.  Since he was going to be learning about magnetism and motors so I jumped onto Amazon and ordered a kit that would fit in my budget.  The picture below shows one of the smaller magnets but even the larger horse-shoe is only about twice that size.  While they aren't big enough to do the experiments in the book, they are well made and he was able to try some other experiments with them to investigate magnetic fields and the various other things magnets are capable of.  He snapped this shot so he could zoom in and look closer at the relationship between the metal shavings as they sat on the tip of his magnet.

This week starts my 2 times a week car usage (we are currently a 1-car family).  Ashley's college class (dual enrollment) starts Thursday afternoon and will  normally run Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2:30.  She is also mentoring with her youth pastor/music minister on Tuesdays and I will be dropping her (and the others) off early since their meeting time is before youth group.  Then I will buzz over and pick hubby up from work.  Hubby requested a steak dinner, just the two of us.  Right around New Years they had some on sale so I scored us a nice cut, just big enough for 2, and picked up hot dogs which I will feed the kids before we leave for the church.  After getting home with hubby, he and I will cook and enjoy our special dinner and each other's company (un-interrupted) before I need to be back at the church for kiddos.

I'm hoping to do a hearty batch of banana bread this week.  Ashley brought home a bunch of over-ripe ones from work last month.  I open, mashed, bagged and froze them for later use.  I have procrastinated making it because I started a 'diet' last week and baking banana bread is going to be a tough task to resist nibbling on.  However, I DO like baking big batches because we can share it!  It is a great way to reach out and love on others (and a good, quick breakfast!)

Other then my baking task and heading to the college, we have a pretty steady week.  Ashley doesn't have her license yet so, as mentioned, I will be driving.  I plan to take Brenden and Brooke with and we can hang out in the library doing homework while Ashley starts college life!  This week I am doing some casseroles and oven dishes the kids can watch for me as I juggle our new schedule.

Menu for this week...

- cereal
- eggs
- banana bread

hubby: leftover Chicken Fried Rice
me and kids: leftovers, sandwiches


Bacon, Peas, Potatoes and fresh Rolls
This is an old recipe of my mom's... a poor man's super back in the 70s and 80s when bacon was a bit cheaper than it is now!  None-the-less, I got my bacon at Costco...

Cut 1 package of bacon into bite-size, fry, drain grease.  
Chop approx 5+ medium potatoes into bite-size and boil (I boil mine in a smidge of onion soup mix)
Chop or slice 1/4 - 1/2 onion (to taste)
Mix together bacon, peas (frozen are best), potatoes and onions.
(my mom did all this on the cook top, pre-cooking her peas, I casserole dish it...)
Sprinkle in some cheddar cheese and pour into a greased casserole dish.  Bake @350 approx. 20-30 minutes until piping warm and cheese is melted.  Serve with rolls or buttered bread.

I know this is a starchy dish.  I have done it with chunks of ham as well.  I plan to get some yellow or red potatoes to lower the starch levels and increase the substance, however, any potato will do.

Kids: Hot Dogs and Corn
Mom and Dad: Steak with fried Onions and Mushrooms, Corn, and Salad

Hamburgers and JoJos

Herb Roasted Chicken and Salad with Rolls

So easy, I will pop it in the oven while I go grab hubby from work.  Butter (I use margarine) a casserole dish, plop in some thawed chicken breasts, sprinkle your favorite herb blend on top (I will use Greek seasoning) and pop in the oven on 350 for approx 45 minutes or until chicken starts to brown.  When mine is done I will serve it with salad which everyone usually cuts and makes chicken salad out of.  Brenden, however, makes chicken sandwiches with it!
My Favorite!
My Favorite!  I use this in my Potato Soup as well

Chili and Corn Bread

Homemade Pizza

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Amazing Love and the book of Hosea

(This is a new study series you can find more info about under the tab "Bible")

I've been reading Hosea.  Such a heart-wrenching story of a man/prophet, told by God to take a wife who he knew would be unfaithful.  A symbol of the unfaithfulness of Israel in turning from God and 'prostituting' their faith and devotion.

As I walked through this story of testimony and prophecy... of condemnation and hope, I couldn't help but think of my own life and, on a grander scale, the effects of the world around me today.

This  message in Hosea from God repeats and reflects all Scripture in calling out TRUE repentance from.the.heart.   

until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face and in their distress earnestly seek me.
- Hosea 5:15b

God, through Hosea, draws out three points here:
  1. acknowledge guilt
  2. seek God's face
  3. earnestly seek God
As a matter of fact, he seems to repeat himself with the term "seek".  But I actually see two different types of seeking:

1-Seek God's face is an intimate and personal approach to God.  I will contrast this in a moment.

2-Earnestly seek God is more of an all around, looking to see God in everything, more general 'seek'.  In this particular passage God, through Hosea, says to seek in their distress which could articulate, possibly, calling on God for help, guidance, comfort and so on.

To contrast these two, I think of it like this: when I talk or listen to someone I can do so in two ways: passively or engaged.  When I am really engaged in talking or listening I seek the person's face.  I look into their eyes to see if I can read their heart there, I scan their face to note creases in the brow or eyes which might indicate stress or concern.  I may even look to their lips and cheeks to see how deeply they smile or frown.  When I seek the face I am seeking deep meaning, to truly understand the heart behind the person and when I want to share something deep or personal, I seek the face in hopes of 'reading' their deep hearted response.... the words not spoken.  In seeking face, I am engaged.

Conversely, to earnestly seek... is a more general statement.  A somewhat passive approach in relationship.  In this passage I see God switching from saying know me over to see me in all things and seek me in all things.  It is really quite beautiful when considered.

But God doesn't leave it there.  He goes on to say

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

They do not cry to me from the heart but they wail upon their beds...
Hosea 7:14a

God is desperate to hear our repentance not just the acts of faith, but the deep heart relationship of faith. Yes, first at salvation, but also each and every time we discover ourselves on the wrong track.

I recently found myself falling into a spirit of complacency and laziness... an area where I began to see the potential to also become complacent and lazy in my faith if I allowed myself.  Thankful, God snapped me out... I heard His call to repentance and I did just that... I cried out to him acknowledging my guilt, I sought His face to know his desires for me and I began to more earnestly seek Him in all things in my life.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a heathen when I did this a few months ago (and every other time I have sought this route of deliverance to better things since salvation), and there is no such thing as the "perfect" Christian.  But I recognized a heart that was meandering a little to close to the line... I saw where I could be and do more for God, to see his glory here, and I seized the moment to make it right.

God desires all of us, not just parts.  He desires our best, not our least.

In Hosea, God is heartbroken.  He wants to love his people.  He wants to have them close. He wants their love in return.  But they reject him.  They prostitute their faith by giving themselves to other gods and indulgences in other things not of God.  Finally, he warns, if you keep it up, I'm kicking you outIf you keep it up, I'm withdrawing from around you

I will return again to my place...
Hosea 5:15a

And he holds to that promise as we know from Jeremiah and Daniel.

The beauty of it though?

And the Lord said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins... [so Hosea goes and buys Gomer back] And I said to her, "You must dwell as mine for many days.  You shall not play the whore or belong to another man; so will I also be to you."
Hosea 3:1 & 3

God will later send Jesus to buy us back because, truly, he loves us in spite of ourselves.

I fell so in love with the book of Hosea this week... even through chapter after chapter of the promise of destruction and dispersion... there is also entwined this plea for true deep-heart faith (not the motions of faith) and seeking God... this deep desire from God to be in a reciprocated relationship with His people.  There is the promise of a savior nestled there too, something they couldn't have understood then, but I look back on it now and find my heart warmed knowing, in the midst of such despicable behavior, He still wants to 'buy' me back to be with him too.  Talking about Amazing Grace!

I pray, where-ever you seek and find His face this week and earnestly seek His presence through all things and all places in your life.


As I read Hosea I also thought of the movie, Amazing Love staring Sean Astin, which intertwines the story of a youth group camping trip and the lesson of God's amazing love through Hosea.  I highly recommend it!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Being a Keeper at Home

I've been thinking all week about how I want to write you a story.  It isn't your usual story with the beginning, middle, end.... no, it is a story that plops right down in the middle... hitting off with the climax and looking out to a horizon where the end beams in brilliant rays of hope.

Why would I tell you a no-beginning story?  Well, because the middle is so interesting (and we all have only so much time to sit on a blog reading articles right?) but more importantly because the beginning isn't entirely clear to me.

You see, I always tell my kids, as I teach them the importance of denying the flesh and recognizing sin, that old adage: sin will take you farther than you want to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay.  I tell them, with illustration via me slowly stepping across the room, that a little sin may not seem like much, however, each step you take down that path leads you farther away and next thing you know, you look back and wonder how God ended up waaaaay over there and you are waaaay over here.

Yeah, my beginning is kind of like that, only not with sin... or is it? 

Somewhere in the last 5 years I slipped away from being the mom on top to being the mom flat-on-her-back.  I used to know when we were out of things... I used to know (and promptly get to) when an area of the houses needed serious cleaning... I use to get up early, splash cold water on my face and neck, and sit at the dining room table for some serious intake from the nectar of God's Word before sharing breakfast with hubby and entering the buzz of our homeschooling/housewifing day. 


Oh boy... see, this is why this story has no real beginning.  Somewhere in the recesses of those 5 years, I got lazy.  I'm not gonna lie or sugar coat or act like I got it all.  Nope.  Which essentially makes me work harder.... when we run out of stuff and I need to scramble to improvise or run last-minute to get replacement (often spending more money and time as a result), that spot next to the toilet.... ummmmmmm... when did I clean that toilet last?  Just because I don't use it in that out-of-the-way room doesn't mean someone else might not enjoy a shiny commode, without that weird spot on the floor next to it.... then comes snooze... snooze.... snooze.... oh-I better get up or I will miss hubby's breakfast.... um, I mean, I will miss quality study time, which often equates barely holding on as I curl up into that plush corner of the couch and slowly slip back to dream land with my Bible in my lap.

I'm ashamed of myself. 

My house is not a wreck.  My Bible study does still exist.  But the quality of the work is far lacking and I am feeling it.  No good start to my day means it is hard to have a good day without constantly feeling behind.  No quality housework means every time someone calls to come over (or just stops by) I am scrambling to figure out if I need to scrub anything first.  And don't get me started on where this can lead with my hubby.  The strong man who braves work every day doing a job he loves around secular people who back-bite and seem to make his life miserable most of the days.  He is working hard at the job God gave him to do and I am......

Yeah.  I am.period.  Nothing.  So dinner is cooked and kitchen is surface cleaned.  Kids are taught and laundry is washed.  But who can relax when the dust is piling up?  How can hubby come home each day and find a haven in the midst of chaos when there is chaos in the haven?  Small chaos... but chaos still.

Is it a sin for me to take my duties so lightly?  If I am honest with myself.... I think maybe it is.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
- Titus 2:3-5 

I've been in this housewife business for almost 24 years now.  I should be an old hat.... and I can be an old hat if I would just pull it together and remember: it isn't about me.  How tiered I am (consequently, because I didn't go to bed early enough to get enough sleep and I am not taking good care of my body), how I don't really feel like doing that particular chore today.... and so on.  

What's more: my daughters are my young women to train.  What am I teaching them if I am content with surface work?  Where am I showing them to be workers at home?  How am I glorifying God if I don't live out Colossians 3:23 written for Christian Households...

Image from Bible Hub

Am I really working for the Lord when I laze out of bed or don't pull my full heart into my Bible study time, or keep up with the little things that affect the atmosphere of my home which God has blessed me with?


As God would have it, not only has He convicted me on all of this, but He has also been showing me the way out of it.  Whether it was little steps over the last 5 years leading me away from where I should be... or one big one I missed somewhere... doesn't really matter anymore.  What does matter is what I am going to do to fix it.

Starting with this post, I hope to share each week what I am doing to get back on track.  I have to believe I am not alone on this way-ward path and others might enjoy joining me in finding our way out of this under-brush!

I do want to share here how this article on Why Homemaking Matters from Equipping Godly Women has had a big impact on me this week.  Click on the in-text link and have a look.  

On the horizon:
- Heart-filled housework
- Better self-care via healthier eating, exercise and earlier bedtime
- Deeper quality Bible Study time
- A plan for each day and each day sticking with the plan

There are sooooo many details with this short over-view list, I am excited through the hope and looking forward to sharing it all here, that it might further fulfill Titus 2 in teaching other women what God is teaching me!

I pray, wherever you are today, that you find joy in the work God has given you and do it all for Him, that he might receive all the Glory.... and if you are struggling with that, I pray you would be encouraged today to begin taking steps (even if only baby ones at first) to get back in the right direction.


As I walk out getting back on the path to artful housewifery and all that entails, I hope to tag each post in this series with this photo.  Please feel free to grab it and share in your own related posts.  Tag-back and let me know how YOU are doing in being a Keeper at Home!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Menu Monday: Week of January 11th

Wow, 2016 already!?  I blinked and we went from Christmas-time to post-new year in nothing-flat!  A quick re-cap of life since my last Menu Monday:

Remember this project?....
Mug rugs Brooke wanted to make for their youth group leader and his wife.  I helped a little and we got them done... a little past Christmas but within the same week:

They were super fun and rather easy to make... our first real attempt at anything truly quilting related. 

We did have their mugs ready in time.  Sorry no pictures.  Brooke used a white permanent marker to write message on each mug then baked it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes to get the ink to set and viola!  We made Peppermint Hot Cocoa by busting up some candy canes in a Ziploc bag with a meat tenderizer, about one candy cane per 1-1.5 cups cocoa, and placed the finished mixture in a sandwich bag tied shut with ribbon and nested inside her nifty mugs with a candy cane tucked in as well.  It looked super fancy yet was so simple!

Our oldest made it home for Christmas and even stayed a day longer than expected on account of a delayed, then cancelled, flight.  We played games, they did some post-Christmas shopping (do you like Brenden's awesome hat his older siblings purchased for him?) and just relaxed... something Zach greatly needed after a rather rigorous semester at school (he is a Junior studying financing at University with a multitude of extra-curricular on his plate).

Other highlights:

We got a sweet little floppy eared bunny for FREE through the homeschool advertisements.  He was aptly named Samwise Gamgee by his new mama and uncle.  They felt it was appropriate for his coloring and assumed intent to be a kind and devoted friend.  He is Brooke's.  He lives in her [and Ashley's] room.  Loves music when played by his room-mates, books and homework and waking Brooke up in the morning with hops and nibbles on her arms and nose!

Some really big news....Brooke became a teenager... the last of my four to officially leave "childhood" behind.  It was bittersweet. She is really into Paris and French anything.  She asked for a beret and anything Eiffel Tower.  She also got a a mini shopping spree complements of us, her older sister and her grandma.  She bought new boots and purse on a steal of a deal clearance and then visited Michaels to add to her craft supply collection.

It was a fun day but I think the most talked about topic was the cake:

I decided to jump on the Fondant bandwagon since the elegant finished look seemed the perfect approach to a Paris inspired cake.  I bought my Fondant at Walmart in the cake decorating isle (adjacent to the greeting cards isle).  I did a box of rollable Fondant AND a black sheet for the ribbon around the middle.  Honestly, I LOVED the rollable.  Not only was it super easy to handle, but the final product was soft and the taste was great.  However, I was not a fan of the sheet.  The pieces I carved from the sheet were stiff to handle (even after some spritzing [package recommended] which made the color run ) and it was stale to taste.  I ordered the Eiffel tower topper from Amazon. It is a sturdy, good quality metal.  We were quite pleased with the results.  If you have not done a Fondant cake, I highly recommend them.  Check Pinterest for some great tips and tricks (I did, you can see some of my pins here)! 

Other embellishments on the cake: colored Sixlets from the baking isle, flower candles for a splash of whimsy and the plastic "1" and "3" had a button underneath which, when pushed, made them flash colorful lights!  Fireworks around the Eiffel tower!  Magnifique!  The pink flower at the front of the cake was done with the white fondant and a tiny dab of red liquid food coloring kneaded in.  I also used black sparkle gel for highlights and mounting the Sixlets to the cake.

Speaking of cakes, we did our [newer] tradition of Ice-Cream cake on New Year's Eve.  It was Zach's idea last year since he isn't here to enjoy it for  Birthdays anymore... and it kind of stuck as a fun treat for the all-nighter.  Brooke helped with the decorating this year.  I thought it wasn't too bad for a first-attempt at writing on cake with fudge!  Here is a How-to video I finally uploaded to YouTube.  Definitely not one of my best videos (I crack a couple of jokes without cracking a smile... I was nervous!).  I filmed it last Valentine's Day in the old house.  I have had so many requests for learning HOW to do my ice-cream cake, it seemed past-due time to show the world!  Never-mind the bad camera angles and stiff hostess!!!  For the above cake the kids picked soft brownie-filled Chips Ahoy for the sides and it proved to be a good fit.

Other-other tidbits and the real reason I haven't blogged since mid-December....

Back-to-back-to-back company!  Our young missionary friend (soon to be guest poster here on Faithful) spent a few days in the guest house while he did some recruiting for Christian Youth in Action.   Shortly after he left our sewer backed up (non-related, I promise!!).  After some trial-and-error we discovered roots growing into our pipes!  No money to call Roto-Rooter but just enough for some chemicals and a plumbing snake, we went to work.  Thankfully we had back up 'facility' in the guest house which was, apparently (and thankfully), NOT obstructed.  However, this ran us into the week of Christmas when all my procrastinated baking was getting done... without being able to regularly run/drain water in my kitchen!  In the midst of the chaos some long-time and dear missionary friends from India called needing a place to stay through Christmas Eve morning.  The good Lord reminded me of how true hospitality isn't about MY plans, an orderly house, or anything else on this earth.  True hospitality is simply open heart - open home.  Despite the sewer juggling, we had quite a wonderful visit with our friends and I was glad God sent them when He did.  The whole event helped me remember the most simple wonderful things in life in the midst of the busiest season of the year.  I even (sort of) learned how to make the Indian (Asian) version of tortillas from them!  I may try them this Friday.

As the sewer was just finally starting to run right and I got the sheets changed on the guest house bed, Zach boarded his flight out of Seattle looking forward to his own space (the guest house) for the holidays vs. sharing a bachelor pad with 3 other young men!  My cookie trays were prepped for delivery and Christmas Eve and all the Christmassy celebrations ensued.  Although we were bummed to miss church on account of Zach's arrival time (right in the middle of service). My favorite part of the entire day (other then seeing my boy) was handing those cookie boxes and bags to all our neighbors and getting to meet them at last (the two houses closest to us have new owners as well!)  On our walk back home we saw this beautiful site;

a full Christmas Eve moon rising.  The funny thing is how light the picture looks when actually it was quite dark out when we took it!  I'm never able to catch good moon pictures but hubby was at the helm and he did a great job!

This week Ashley has started mentoring with her youth pastor/music director at one of the churches we attend.  This means a very early arrival to youth group on Tuesdays from now on and an all new approach to Tuesday night dinners.  Something we won't have to manage this week since hubby is on call and will actually be home early enough for a family dinner before we scatter.  Wednesday I take the kids to pick up their new glasses so a planned slow-cooker meal will be welcomed as we get home just in time to eat.  Otherwise we have a relatively slow week, adjusting back to our school schedule and all the rest of day-to-day.  It will be a welcome rest after the craziness of the last 4 weeks and the step-up starting next week when Ashley begins her first college course through dual enrollment (I will be driving out twice a week...)

Menu for this week...


- oatmeal
- cereal
- eggs
- french toast (Ashley brought a bunch of day-old bread home from work!!)

hubby: leftover Chicken Fried Rice
me and kids: leftovers, sandwiches


Chicken Fried Rice


Early youth group and a last minute change of dinner plans... I will scrape the fridge and freezer for odds-and-ends which could use some eating up!

Pork Roast with Carrots and quartered Potatoes
Roast is super easy.  I use to be afraid of it but now I make it whenever I can get roast on sale.  I use my slow cooker:
- 1 Roast (pork or beef)
- splash of oil
- onions (quartered), carrots (peeled and cut into aprox. 1.5" segments), medium potatoes (any kind, washed and quartered)
- Onion Soup mix (home-made or store bought)
- Worcestershire Sauce
- H2O

Place oil in frying pan and sere roast on medium-high heat just till brown on all sides (this is messy and noisy)

Put veggies in bottom of slow cooker, place sered roast on top.  Pour water in till it comes to about halfway up the side of the roast.  Splash in some Worcestershire Sauce (aprox 1-2 Tbsp or to taste).  Pour 1 packet or 1/4-1/3 cup of onion soup mix over top of roast.  Place lid on cooker and roast on High for aprox 5-6 hours or on low for 8-12 hours.

When done, use some of the juices and about 1tsp beef bullion to make gravy.  I use Wondera and it is Wondera-ful!

(If I have any leftovers, I will make stew for lunch on Thursday!)

Chicken - I'm still workin' out the details!

Homemade Beef and Black Bean Burritos
Burgers and Home Fries


How were your holidays?
What are you cooking this week?