Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Light up the Darkness

Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your way with those who love your name.
Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
Redeem me from man's oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law. 
- Psalm 119:129-136

 I've been thinking a lot lately about where I was at this time last year, spiritually and emotionally.  I believe my deep reflections are, in part, because end-of-year is around the corner and I am a 'collect all the lessons from the year' kind of person.  I like to make sure my life has no unattended rough edges which require my attention and yearly reflections help pick up any slack!

But I think, also, a huge influence for me has been how dangerously close I stood to the edge of Christian reason last year, so ready to be enticed and duped by the suffocating barrage of the world.  As I cast my backwards glance I gratefully recall how far God has brought me back to safety and, in verses like the above in Psalm 119, I am strengthened to know His Word contains references I can cling to for comfort and focus when my vision gets blurry.  These below help as well:

I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
Psalm 119:147-148

Rising daily to pray and read God's Word is so critical to keeping the world at bay.  His good Word is the Truth which can unfold and shed light on the darkness of lies so cleverly disguised at every turn today.  We live in a world which says "Right is wrong" and "Wrong is right".  It degrades absolutes and hoists "relatives" in their place while pointing fingers, denying true responsibility, and approving of wayward walks in the name of justice.

I'm sentimental.  I'm empathetic.  I come from a family of predominantly non- or marginal-believers.  If I am not careful, I lead the pack to rush the lines of otherliness and, if I am really not careful, I can loose sight of the Light and find myself in those dark places, duped by the lies and deceptions. 

Can't we all though?

Christ's greatest example was His servant heart to the point of sacrifice.  As Christians we want desperately to serve and sacrifice for others.  To.the.point.of.death.  But when the "death" we speak of finds us standing in dark places where His foot will not stand but for to draw us out, then it is time for a different approach.

The Bible is replete with examples of Christian Living and other-worldness vs. worldliness.  And when I read Psalm 119 I am reminded of not only how God's Word is a Light helping me understand the simple, lighting up those dark places with it's Truth, but it also provides Power which I can pray to keep my feet on the path of Light and Hope and Truth...

Keep steady my steps according to your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me. v.133        

It can be hard to beat back those enticing Worldly claims.  It can be tough to resist surrendering to the dominion of a World which can seem to offer answers outside of God's Word.  But we have POWER, a fuse to strike and bring out the Light when we call out, "let no iniquity get dominion over me".  It is a battle cry I have learned well this past year.  A plea which God is always faithful to answer when I am faithful to keep following. 


I pray, if you are finding yourself enticed by a world whose darkness is cloaked, that you remember the Light through daily walking in God's Word, allowing that Light to unfold and impart wisdom, and that you can find the strength and purpose in calling out, "let no iniquity get dominion over me"!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you November's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help with Thanksgiving planning!

Friday, October 26, 2018

HMJ: Pets, Pictures, Pre-tests and Permits

Well, I missed last week's Homeschool Journal post, in part because I thought it was a "slow" week with nothing too exciting report (I may have been wrong on that!) and in part because I was working on the latest Bible Study for the newsletter (which issued yesterday, but if you sign up before the week of Thanksgiving I will forward you November's issue anyway!!)  So, my Saturday looked something like this:

It was nice and cozy. 

My previous Sunday was like this:

We still had spit-spot snow, though more-so in the higher elevations.  Brooke had a Serve Team meeting after church so I headed out and decided to explore a road I had yet to travel since we moved to this area 5 years ago.  I didn't get 10 or 15 minutes out of town and was met with beautiful cliff-top views, the Rocky Mountain/Beartooth range to the West (not pictured because my camera did them NO justice) and random peaks to the north.  I do love living in Montana!

The snow is good and gone now though.  We tried to rake but with a large elm still very full of golden sprays, we found the work to be more point for play!  I did get the garden pulled and perennials cut though.

My oldest daughter's pup! 

Speaking of pets, our new Dusty Cat is very at home...
... his favorite place is hubby's arms.  He likes shoulders as well...
... and the other cats are finally use to him, which can be quite entertaining, especially when Brooke is doing her homework with her cat (black, fluffy, Aslan) and Dusty wants a nap companion as well...

I think Brooke is Dusty's second favorite person!

Aslan still insists on being where-ever Brooke's homework is...
... Geography and Driver's Ed make good pillows I guess!  Brooke often points out how much more entertaining schoolwork is with pets... and how boring it would be in public school without them!  ha!

Another note on pets is our idea to re-do Brooke's Instagram profile to include her favorite...
... Samwise Gamgee, or just "Sam" for short, her Holland Lop-eared rabbit.  Bunnies are her fave.  We did a mini-photo shoot:
My little girl is growing up before my eyes (*enter sniffles here*).

I took her to a local, new-to-her coffee shop, Christian owned, while her siblings were at a young adult Bible Study group Last Tuesday night. 
She worked on finishing her assigned reading in Treasure Island while I tip-tapped away on some articles.  I love how we can enjoy these simple pleasures together.

With Treasure Island finally wrapped up and re-capped last Friday, we were able to start into Beowulf on Monday this week:
I have to admit, while I assigned this to Ashley when she was in High School because of some recommended reading lists I had at the time, I have never personally read it!  I did not assign it to Brenden, being dyslexic I didn't think the material would be worth the challenges he would have.  Brooke is enjoying it though. 

I always heard the actual book was nothing like the movie... which I only saw parts of years ago when it first came out and hubby watched it... too gory for me.  As I am reading I can honestly say I see where they get some of the movie content, in an expounded sense, but, yes, the book itself is not near the imagery the movie assaults the mind with! 
I really enjoy this translation because you get simple English on one side and Old English in contrast on the other. There are also margin notes to guide in clarity.  I guess you could say it is "Beowulf for Dummies"!!

In other curriculum and schoolwork news, we put the leaf back into our table for Brooke's study hangout since we also hosted them for dinner.  I left the extension in even though I knew it was probably too much space for just me and her but apparently I was wrong!
It's hard to tell, but this is quite a sprawling shot!  And a good snap-shot of life in homeschool during cold season (hence the Kleenex and medicine!)

Also, we started in on Proofs in Geometry this week.  Brooke LOVES math.  She hates proofs!  She says they are too tedious and she likes work to be more concise.  I get that.  I talked with my 24 year old who is the other family math-whiz to see how much time he spent on proofs during high school (my only public schooled all the way through kiddo) and if it was on the SAT.  He confirmed my suspicions that they aren't quite as crucial as the 2/3 of our Abeka Geometry book makes them seem and the SAT is not saturated with them either... nothing more than some quick pre-SAT studying won't have her prepared for.  As a result, I have decided to just move forward skimming across the tops of Proofs and not getting too wrapped up in them. 

I've been planning to get Brooke a tutor this summer to coach her for the SAT. Since we don't do common core, my biggest concern is that she might mis-understand some of the concepts as compared to how I have taught them and I want to be sure she is equipped to be successful on this important test.  We missed the PSAT because the Christian School wouldn't allow us to test with them and when we finally got approval from the public school high school and arrived to pay for her spot, the school was on lock-down and we couldn't get in.  I'm sure their are unfavorable things I could say on both these accounts, but I won't except to point out how sad it all is.  Good ole Brooke recognizes how God has a greater plan for all of this and I agree, I won't get wrapped up in semantics if He is directing! ♥️

One test we were able to schedule was her written Driver's License/Permit test!  We were having trouble logging into the DMV's website to set up the appointment but finally got it all figured out.
She is crazy excited!  It's set for 9a.m. on the 9th, her 16th birthday.  She is studying hard and practicing in empty parking lots so she can drive us home after she passes!

I guess that is a wrap for our past two weeks.  How has your homeschool been going this month? 

Blessings,











By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, I will send you November's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDFs to help with Thanksgiving planning!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Keeping Christianity Weird


I'm a "weird" person.  Actually, I prefer the term "eccentric".  I take after my mom in that way.  I take after her in a lot of ways and when it came to bounding out for my faith, living different was something we were hard-wired for.  So when I saw the opportunity to read behind the title of "Keep Christianity Weird; Embracing the Discipline of Being Different" by Michael Frost, I was more than up for the task.

Michael caught my attention on the first page of his introduction when he pointed out, "...it was their very difference from their dominant culture that made the early church such an intriguing community in its first few centuries of existence."  I couldn't agree more.  And I wanted to applaud him when I read, also in the introduction, "If our churches are filled with people living the same what as everybody else does, what do we have to commend?" This has been my own gravest assessment of the church today as well.

However, as the introduction came to a close, the applause grew quiet and I began to recognize more eye-brow raises then positive pencil marks going into the margins.

I felt as though a good portion of this book was filled with Michael Frost's quotes of other authors, theologians and even secular artists.  As a matter of fact, he spent multiple chapters expounding on the high points of a particular social experiment some major U.S. cities have tried.  An experiment I would say is comparable to full-fledged socialism itself and the only critique he makes of their idea is a vague reference to if Christianity had had some roll....  The multi-chapter long reference seemed to have no clear tie to the overall message of his thesis.

His verbiage was often times frothy and he constantly cycled back to the environmentalists' movement in a vague but seemingly supportive assessment almost suggesting perspective church attendees weren't wrong to look down on the church for it's wasteful use of paper cups at church-funded gatherings and cars running while waiting to pick up friends and family from services and activities.  All-in-all he seemed to accuse the church of being irrelevant and getting their just comeuppance as a result.

I was appalled.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he closed the book sharing how he was currently part of a protest movement which found him (proudly?) arrested for disrupting a local business.  While his cause for concern (the treatment of refugees to his country of Australia) warranted some sort of action, his disruptive handling of the situation and ignoring authority completely ignored God's Words through Paul in the book of Romans:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority 
except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established 
by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against 
what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Romans 13:1-2 
 
This book left me to wonder: if Michael Frost represents the average cross-section of spiritual leaders among the English speaking countries today, then it is no wonder our churches are dieing.

In conclusion, this book was the biggest disappointment I've read in a long time.









Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A Light To My Path


Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
    to keep your righteous rules. 
 I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word!
Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord,
    and teach me your rules. 
 I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me,
    but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
    for they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform your statutes
    forever, to the end.
Psalm 119:105-112

This week I finally made it to the verse my Psalm 119 study* was named for... it is probably the pivotal verse all of Psalm 119 is known for.  With good reason.

Life is hard.  Plain and simple.  You have good times and bad times and plenty of in-between times.  However, there is not one single person who is able to walk through, beginning-to-end, and not encounter trials.  Our Psalmist, David, knew this just about as well as anyone.  His life was full of trials, triumphs and pitfalls.  I believe, with all my heart, this is the very reason God continued to use David in writing so many powerful Psalms which sing of victory over the enemy and a God who shelters us from harm.

David knew.

Boy did he know.

And he also knew where his strength and deliverance came from.

Because he did, we can too.  It is that simple.  Life is hard.... but God.

At times our enemy may wear flesh.  But often times we miss the bigger picture.  In the New Testament, the apostle Paul was the king of bigger pictures in this matter!

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but 
have divine power to destroy strongholds.
 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against 
the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, 
but against the rulers, against the authorities, 
against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, 
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (Emphasis added)
 
I've heard it said, when "the wicked set a snare for me", that, in fact, it is our enemy, the devil, and his spiritual forces at work in and through others.  When we pray against people it is a slap on the hand and leaves out their potential salvation... but when we pray against the forces of evil at work in this world... then we are using flaming arrows and hope is realized!
 
The Ephesians 6 passage above is the prelude to the infamous "Armor of God" passages.  If you read them (v.10-18) you will notice how the FIRST thing you put on is the belt of truth, a term synonymous with God's Word, the Bible.  The belt, in ancient times, helped hold nearly every other piece of armor in place... it was the anchor, so-to-speak, of 'keeping it all together' so, as you fought valiantly, your breastplate and all the rest stayed put.  You were protected.  Imagine, one measly little belt tightly fastened could mean life or death!

In Psalm 119:105-112, I am reminded how powerful a light God's Word is.  As a belt, it holds us together, making us ready and protected, and here, as a lamp, it gives light to the dark places we must walk.  It also helps us remember not just where we have been, but also where we are going.

We can choose to recall God's Word and mercies to counter the struggles in this life.  We can remember that the enemy's best attempts to mess us up are pointless because God, through His wonderful Word, empowers us to walk straight on... helps us to see just.where.we.are.going.  No mystery, we have a LIGHT to the path!  But first, we must use it!

I pray God's Word is sustaining you.  Making those daylight places brighter and lighting up the dark.

  
***
If you are interested in a Psalm 119 study guide, scroll down to the end of this article to see how you can get a FREE copy!  Though I have poured over the beautiful words of this Psalm many times before, I am still finding new and wonderful messages to grow my Walk with Christ.
***

Coming in November's newsletter issuing TOMORROW MORNING (10/25) is a 22 day (Monday through Friday) Bible study on WHY to be Thankful!  You won't want to miss this.  Scroll down to see how you can sign up....

Blessings,











By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! Details of the prize package are in October 15th's article on Extremely Fast Meals

Monday, October 22, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 4


 

Finally onto week 4 in our series (here are part 1, part 2, and part 3), possibly the last installment!  I'm scratching my brain for "quick" breakfasts (intended week 5 post) that aren't cereal, instant oatmeal or fried eggs!  Most of the ideas I come up with are NOT quick!  Shoot me an email if you have any to share and I will collect all quick, from scratch, minimal clean up breakfast ideas into one post with a shout-back to all contributors next week!

This week we are talking about our slow cooker!  I put this marvelous kitchen aid on the docket because, even though it is "slow" it is so absolutely low-mess and stress-free and, essentially, quick when evening rolls around.  When my oldest played football and basketball, my slow cooker was our life-line to healthy, from-scratch meals the minute we walked in the door... even if a game went into overtime!

For expecting mamas, slow cookers are helpful for their low-mess qualities AND (unless you have a huge family) their tendency towards leftovers!  When your infant finishes their morning feeding you can either put them on your chest in a snugly or (if they rest well alone) sneak off for a quick 5-15 minutes and throw dinner in the Slow.  Then, relax, enjoy warm squishy cuddles and come back at dinner time feeling hugely accomplished when you feed your family a warm nutritious meal... even if the house and your hair are in shambles!!

I have combed my blog for previous posts of slow cooker recipes over the years and will share them below.  The list of possibilities, however, is endless.  I recommend the "Fix it and Forget It" cookbook series.  I own an older version and it shows the love I have for it!!  (consequently, I am giving one away in my next drawing, details at bottom of post).  I like the "Fix it" series because the recipes are simple and realistic, using ingredients the average person keeps in her pantry!  Some of the recipes below are adaptations from "Fix-it" and others are my own concoctions.

Prep time: on all is typically under 15 minutes

Clean up: on all is, at minimum, a spoon to stir.  At most; cutting board and knife, can opener, frying pan and spatula or tongs along with wipe-down of your prep area.  If you heat sides separately at dinner time, you may have a pan and spoon from that.  Otherwise, come dinnertime, you will only have the dishes you use to eat with!!!  If the crock is emptied then you may need to soak and wash that.  If it is still even half full, I put mine in the fridge and pull out the next day for re-heat.

(see why I like the slow cooker so much?!)

Caesar Chicken Sandwiches
Slow-cook the chicken in broth and Italian seasoning, drain, shred and add Caesar dressing into the pot, warm for an hour and serve on whole-grain burger buns with a side of potato chips, salad, slaw or veggie sticks.

Hobo Chicken Stew
 I use 2-3 cans Cream of Chicken soup, 1 cup chicken broth (I make mine with bullion), dash of garlic and onion powders, dash of salt, pepper, sage (if you have it) and celery salt or flakes (if you have it).  Drop in 5 FROZEN chicken breast and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Cook on low for 8 hours and viola!!!

White Chili

I use raw beans, soaked to package instructions but you could use canned beans if you prefer.  Measurements are approximations since I tend to just throw stuff in!!

1lb White beans pre-soaked according to package or 3-4 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breast halves diced (can use raw or cooked... can use left over chicken of any kind as well)
1 can diced or stewed tomatoes
1-2 cups salsa (or another can of diced or stewed tomatoes)
1-2 cups water
1 Tbsp chicken bullion
1+ tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
A few dashes of Parsley, salt and pepper.
When I have cilantro I will add a tsp

Throw all ingredients into crock pot, liquid should cover the chicken and beans.  If it doesn't, add a bit more water.
Cook on high 6 hours or on low 8-10.

Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips or cheese quesadillas (Cheddar cheese warmed in flour tortillas)  We also garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

So-Easy Southwest-style Chicken
The pictures say it all, you can see I go super cheap!  But here is the list:

Salsa
Stewed tomatoes (you can use crushed if you prefer)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Cumin
Chili Powder
Red Pepper (if you like super spicy)
Cilantro
Salt and Pepper
Chicken of choice (I used boneless skinless breast)
     When feeding a crowd I will fillet my chicken to make it stretch

I mix the sauce straight in my cooking dish.  Salsa and tomatoes first.  For 5 pieces of chicken I use about 2-3 cups salsa.  It doesn't have to cover the chicken but I like a good 1 1/2 to 2" lining of sauce in the bottom of my cooker. I crush the tomatoes by hand like so:



Then I sprinkle all my herbs to taste.  Usually about 1-2 teaspoons each (except the red pepper which I just barely put a pinch in).  A dash of salt and pepper and then give a quick stir. 

Add the chicken and stir around just till coated.  Place the lid on and cook on low all day or on High for approximately 4 or 5 hours.  (For frozen chicken, cook on low)


I love serving it with a side of salad and black or pinto or refried beans, and even tortilla chips.  All with trimmings of sour cream, green onions and cheese of choice.  I have also served it over a bed of Spanish rice which I have a crazy simple recipe for:

White or brown rice
cook in chicken broth (I use bullion base in water)
once done cooking, add salsa to taste
.... viola!
If you are looking for quick, low-mess though, go simple on the sides and keep it easy!

BBQ Chicken  
Cooks marvelously in the slow cooker.  The best part?  You don't even have to thaw the chicken first!!!!  Use bone-in or bone-out, throw in a greased pot with one container of BBQ sauce and kick back till dinner!  You can serve with your favorite side (baked beans, slaw, salad, chips, etc..) which should be quick and easy to pull together at dinner time.  You can also shred the chicken and have BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

Pork Loin or Beef Roast and Veggies  
Both cook the same:
Have quartered potatoes, pealed and halved carrots (or baby carrots) and onions in bottom of slow cooker.
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 pans to keep them from getting grease splattered and smoking later.
- Plop your seared roast on top with fat side up.
- Pour water in just until it covers veggies
- 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 

 You can cut and leave in pot to serve.  I put mine in a baking dish for serving to contain any residual juices.

Beef Italiano  
Basically, any spaghetti, goulash, etc, can easily rest in a slow cooker all day with the edition of cooking noodles or serving as a fun finger-food dinner by putting the meat sauce in bowls, mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top and bread sticks for dipping... we can call it, "Inside-out Pizza"!  The kids will love it!


Leftovers Stew or Soup  
Left over meat can be incorporated with frozen or fresh veggies and coordinating broth to make a stew or soup.  Don't forget a bay leaf and the veggie-beef stews tend to like a can of stewed or diced tomatoes thrown in.  Use your family's favorite veggies and scour the Internet for additional inspiration.  Most soup and stew recipes out there can be made in the slow cooker, even if they are billed as a stove-top creation.  If you make it hearty enough, rice and noodles are not even necessary!

I pray all your cooking adventures will be fun and nutritious... and maybe you can also learn why a slow cooker is every busy woman's best friend!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! Details of the prize package are in October 15th's article on Extremely Fast Meals

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

But Now I Keep Your Word


I set out into October expecting to write about LIGHT in my Mid-week Messages.  The Light of Jesus, the Light of God's Word... light in it's various forms in scripture, particularly through Psalm 119 as it has been a theme this month (God's Word: a Light to my path♥️)  But, instead, I find myself writing about marriage and how Psalm 119 is helping me with mine.  I wrote about it last week as I shared Hope for a Struggling Marriage and, this week, you guessed it, marriage is on the menu again.

I know, October is the last month one would expect to elicit thoughts of weddings and married life.  However, with my anniversary falling on the 10th every year, at the height of pumpkin spice season, my thoughts often linger on the early days of life with my husband.  I'm reminded of so many falls ago and all which has kept us going since.

I don't talk about my married life here on the blog very much. Mostly because hubby and I seem to ride more roller coasters than marry-go-rounds together and I never could see what I might bring to the conversation on the topic.However, this month, I feel like God has been moving me to be more open.  Perhaps because a portion of my sabbatical was prompted by struggles as a wife last fall.  Shutting down was, in part, because I was afraid to talk about where I was and I couldn't get over the hump to talk about anything else. However, since last fall, I have come to realize how not talking about it removes a much needed voice to other women like me.  I guess, to make any amount of sense here, I need to start from the beginning, in a shortened 'this is just a blog article' version...

I didn't grow up "in the church".  My grandma took me when I happened to be with her on a given weekend.  In high school I moved in with my dad (my parents were divorced) and, due to a closer proximity with grandma, I began attending more frequently.  At 16 I walked forward at church to 'get saved', though, to this day, I am not certain it was a true salvation but rather "fire insurance" as a result of yet another fire-and-brimstone sermon. I wasn't sure about the whole "Jesus" thing but I was certain about one thing: I didn't want to go to hell.

After what I have come to dub as my 'psudo salvation' I didn't live like a Christian.  I did try to read the King James Bible my grandmother had gifted me when I was 13 but the words were to frothy and I gave up.  Living under an Atheist's roof and being a daddy's girl by nature, incentive to 'walk right' was definitely lacking.  My dad's remarriage my freshman year to a woman who despised me drove me farther away.  I wanted love and acceptance badly.

So, I married my high school 'sweetheart'.  He was a year older and had joined the Air Force.  I graduated a semester early and, while my peers attended prom, I was planning my shot-gun wedding.  A few days after exchanging vows we loaded up our pick-up truck and headed west to his first duty station in Washington state.

And that is where it all took a big leap.

I had always wanted to attend church on Christmas eve and, recognizing I had a chance to formulate my own family traditions as an adult, we went for it.  I could have never anticipated how my pseudo-salvation would break that night.  After a fun play presented by the youth, pastor took the podium and began his O Holy Night message: the story of Abraham and Issac on the mountain.  I can't explain what happened except, despite the welcoming friendliness of the evenings greeters and the hope of establishing a church 'home', the message lit an unholy fire in me and I grew angry at God: "What kind of God would ask a dad to sacrifice his kid???" and "How on earth is this relevant on this night?"

As the evening concluded I made vaguely polite gestures of farewell, fighting the urge to run from the building.  I never went back.  Out of tradition I remember kneeling to set cookies for Santa by the gifts under the tree.  There, just before bed, in the glow of Christmas tradition I stood up resolutely and point-blank told God I didn't want anything to do with Him anymore.

I ran hard and fast away from faith.  I made mistakes, suffered from severe depression, attempted suicide, dabbled with drinking and made a general wreck of my life.  My marriage couldn't handle the weight of destruction we both wreaked and, after 4 years, when my oldest was 2, we split.

It was in this state that I met my now hubby.  He was coming out of a much rougher life than I.  I can honestly say, with my grandmother's tugging and my mom's new-found-faith, I never wandered too far.  I still longed for family and home and dreamt of being a housewife caring for it all.  I'm truly simple at my core.  Yet, as hubby and I took off in the direction of couple-hood, we did so in this lost and broken state.  Living together before and during engagement and even having Ashley before we were married.

Once we said "I Do" I found my marriage struggling again.  Desperately.  Until one day, when pregnant with Brenden, I wandered into a small church in our little town.  I had never heard sermons preached with so much power and so little yelling!  I learned of a loving God, not just a damning God.  Then, one morning, while an infant Brenden slept in my arms, Pastor had us open our Bibles to Genesis 22.  As I saw the heading, I cringed, ready to run for the door. The Sacrifice of Issac.  However, as pastor spoke, I realized something was different.  This time I heard the story of a God of Love.  A God who commanded complete Trust and devotion.  A God who would never really have a dad kill his son, but rather, would call a dad to Trust and then He, God, would provided what was needed.

I sobbed.  I held the small bundle that was baby Brenden close to my chest for fear my trembling arms might drop him!  I cried into his soft, blanketed body and called out to God from my heart, seeking His deep forgiveness for my foolishness and sinful ways, finally seeing and understanding.

That day I went home changed.  That day I began really digging into my Bible.  In her wisdom and desire to see me accept Christ, my recently converted mother had sent me an easier to read translation which quickly became my most treasured possession.  I devoured it, allowing God to transform me through every new and profound message which shed light on those warn out old ways.

One thing God's Word showed me in particular, the greatest light to my step, was how much God hated divorce.  I had been divorced.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  I found myself calling out to God for his mercy and finding conviction to set things right.  First, I made amends with my ex-husband, asking for his forgiveness.  It was what I felt I needed to do to be free to commit my whole heart to my hubby.  He forgave and I moved forward.  Second, God showed me through His Word how He calls us to STAY and serve our spouses even in the difficult times of married life when everything seems lost.  God impressed on me how He had a plan for my unbelieving spouse and He uses us, as wives, to bring that plan to fruition.

So, while my marriage didn't improve at first, my attitude did.  I committed to praying for my husband daily, to see Him come to a saving grace.  I prayed God would transform my husband into a man I could pray with in all of life's ups and downs.  It took 10 years of praying in this way before that big day came.  10 years of diverging beliefs and lonely struggles.  But it was worth every.single.day.

After his salvation he too soaked up God's Word and the counsel of other believers.  Within that first year he was Called to use his gifts in the missions field... a Call I had known 5 years prior when God told me He would show me the time to step forward in It.  So we answered, we sold much, gave much, traveled much and Trusted completely.

Then, almost 6 years ago, God called us out of field work and into our current home.  This, I believe, has been the biggest struggle in our lives.  Going from full-time work for God to full-time work for secular society.  The strain has been very difficult on our family and our marriage.  I thought maybe something was 'wrong' with us until I recently read "Missionaries are REAL People" by Ellen Rosenberger and discovered, no, our struggles were real and normal and manageable IF we kept our eyes on Jesus.

Yet, even in our struggles, I am reminded how each year does get better, with it's tweaks and adjustments, we move along.  Studying Psalm 119 this month has helped me with the struggles we still face in ways I didn't realize I was needing.  Every time I have read this Psalm in the past I only saw it for it's treasure of verses on the importance of God's Word.  But this month, I have also seen it for the treasure of verses on the POWER of God through His Word.  This week... the reason I share such a detailed back story... is because God's Word reminded me of how powerful our stories and experiences are:

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.  
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.   
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.  
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes..... 
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues.  
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold an silver pieces.
Psalm 119:65-68, 71-72 (emphasis added)

I once deeply regretted my past and resented how it wasn't different or better... that it took me so long to walk the right path... that my mistakes have had such far reaching ramifications.  Learning how these experiences were needed for my story, though, has been a slow process.  Meditating on verses 67 and 71 finally and completely closed the door on those apprehensions.  My faith has been made stronger because of my trials, not in spite of them.  I've known this for a long time but I feel like, each time I learn more on the topic, it becomes increasingly tangible.

Perhaps this post is still about LIGHT.  The light of hope and the promises in darkness.

I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
Psalm 119:55

This great big story is too much for one post and I hope I haven't overwhelmed the blog page with randomness as I tried to cram it all in such a small space!!  I hope, if nothing else, other women out there struggling like I have and still at times do, can find hope in the words and story here.  It can be hard to keep my chin up when hubby and I tend towards fire and ice more often than I care to admit.  But when I cast my gaze to the scope of our history I am reminded of how great and good God is.  How he set his light in my darkness, how he used my afflictions to teach and grow me.

One thing I do know as a result of my afflictions... I don't take my faith for granted.  When I look at the good work God has done in my husband I know He won't stop.  God is good, He does good, He will teach me his statutes and I will keep His Word♥️

I pray, if you are in any of the places I have been or am now, that you find peace in knowing your past is your past, it makes us who we are today as God teaches us how to keep His Word through it all...even and especially concerning our marriages!

***
If you are interested in a Psalm 119 study guide, scroll down to the end of this article to see how you can get a FREE copy!  Though I have poured over the beautiful words of this Psalm many times before, I am still finding new and wonderful messages to grow my Walk with Christ.
***

Blessings,











By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! Details of the prize package are in October 15th's article on Extremely Fast Meals

Monday, October 15, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 3


We are half-way through his month-long series on FAST from-scratch meals with minimal clean up!  This week I thought we could talk chicken.

Fast and chicken, in my mind, most often go together when cut up and added to other dishes.  Roasting chicken, whether de-boned or bone-in, can easily take in the neighborhood of an hour.  I do like throwing chicken in a roasting dish and popping it in the oven for a no-fuss meal prep night.  However, this would not fall into our "Quick" category so I have not included those recipes here.

*Cutting Chicken Quick Tip You can mass-cut chicken when you first bring it home from the grocery store and freeze for quicker and less messy prep time.  Spending 30 - 45 minutes once every grocery shopping period doing a meat pre-cut will save you loads of time throughout the month during meal prep.  Remember, it isn't just the time butchering which you are consolidating, it is also the clean up of your cutting board, knife and work area.  Cut once, clean once! 

Whether cutting breast meat or thigh meat, I cut it into bite size pieces and then measure the pieces into a Ziploc bag by estimating about 1 handful of meat per person (if you have small hands you might consider 1 1/2 handfuls per person).  Lay bags flat in freezer for easier thawing.

With our quick-cutting tips in mind, I will proceed to the following recipes assuming this stage is done.  Choose breast or thigh meat according to your personal choice.  If you do NOT pre-cut your meat, tack approximately 5-10 minutes onto your prep time and an additional 5 minutes on clean-up with cutting board and knife.

Chicken Salad
I don't mean the shredded kind with mayo and sandwich bread!  Nope, literally, chicken and salad.  This is my go-to dish for summer time but if you like salad it can be good any time.  I put a few splashes of Olive Oil (or whatever oil you typically use) into my pan and begin cooking my chicken pieces on medium-high heat.  While chicken cooks I put on my multi-tasking hat and prepare my salad.  As with ground beef, when chicken appears about half-way done, I begin adding my seasoning.  
 Variations as follows:

Greek Style: Store bought Greek Seasoning OR about 1tsp each of onion powder, garlic, dill, oregano and a dash of salt and pepper.  Serve over green salad with cucumbers and tomato and a side of Cucumber Dressing.

Italian Style: Season with Italian Dressing OR about 1tsp each onion powder, garlic, oregano and basil.  Serve over green salad with tomato, green peppers, olives and fresh Parmesan cheese and a side of Italian or Caesar Dressing

Ranch Style: Dash on about 1 tsp each onion and garlic powders, dried celery leaves, a few shakes of Paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pile on top of green salad with tomato, red onion, radishes, and grated carrot, Colby-jack cheese, bacon bits and topped with Ranch Dressing.

Southwest Style: Season chicken with the usual onion and garlic powders and add in about 1tsp each of cumin, chili powder, cilantro and dash on some salt and pepper.  When chicken is almost done cooking, pour in about 1/4 cup salsa per approx. pound of meat.  While chicken cooks you can heat up some black beans.  Thinly slice lettuce greens and add in chopped tomatoes and green onions.  Finish with Monterey-Jack Cheese and top with Ranch Dressing OR salsa, sour cream and avocado or guacamole.

For the first 3 salads you can make the meal more filling by serving with a side of pita bread, toasted garlic bread, bread sticks or rolls.  For the Southwest Style serve with tortillas or tortilla chips.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (+ saucepan and spoon for Southwest Salad with Black Beans), cutting board and knife, possible bowl for holding salad

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)


Other cut chicken meals
Chicken salads are about as easy as it gets.  The following recipes require a few more dishes but with relatively similar cook times.
This picture is a variation of the recipe below

Stove-top Chicken, Broccoli and/or Cauliflower: This dish can be made with Broccoli OR Cauliflower OR Both!  I like to buy frozen veggies and steam.  While veggies steam, cook chicken in butter and season with onion and garlic, at least 1 tsp each, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once chicken is cooked, reduce heat to medium low, drain veggies and incorporate into pan with chicken.  Top generously with one of three cheeses:
  • Just cheddar 
  • Cheddar and Parmesan (fresh or powdered)
  • Cheddar, Parmesan and feta 
Lightly incorporate the cheese and place a lid on the pan.  Let rest on low heat for a few minutes while cheese melts.  Serve and enjoy!

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, Steamer pot, basket and lid, measuring cup

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

In this picture the chicken is shredded, however, you can cut into small pieces or long strips.
Chicken Tacos/burritos: Cook chicken as the SW Chicken Salad recipe above calls for.  Once it is done, stuff into hard or soft taco shells with lettuce, tomato and cheese OR Line a tortilla with cheese, chicken and beans (black, pinto or refried).  Roll up and serve or warm in 375реж oven for 5 minutes and serve with a side salad.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (pan and spoon for beans if cooking them, baking sheet if warming in oven), cutting board and knife

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

Of all the chicken meals I cook, these are the quickest and least messy!  Can you suggest any chicken meals which take 30 minutes or less and don't require many dishes though still hold the benefits of from-scratch?

If you would like to see the first two articles in this series, click on Links in text to visit Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.  Next week we will be talking Slow Cookers.  These meals may not be "quick" but they are extremely time-efficient and low clean up which is why I love them!

Speaking of slow cookers, I finally got the next give-away assembled and it has been inspired by this month's Quick Easy Meals thread (as well as by autumn and Thanksgiving!):

The cookbook pictured here is mine, I used it for the image but the "New Revised" plastic comb bound edition is what will be sent to whomever wins!  The leaf place-mat is not included (it is old and ragged, you don't want it!!)  The details:
  • Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook
  • Coffee/cocoa mug
  • Cinnamon Spice scented candles
  • 2 metal turkey candle holders
  • Decorative hand-painted brick (double sided for TWO seasons!)
Drawing will be held October 31st.  Scroll down to see how to sign up.

That's it for this week's edition of Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup, I pray your kitchen adventures are blessed with good food, good times and good company!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF!