Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed."


OCTOBER 3, 1863

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crazy About Cranberries

So, this is the time of year that I go a little crazy...about cranberries, that is!

I'm not sure when it happened, but one Thanksgiving I woke up and decided to try something new to jazz up my turkey, and I fell in love with cranberries. Oh, not the open-up-a-can-and-slide-out-the-cranberry-jelly-goo-or-whatever-that-is, but the fresh-bag-o-berries-and-super-simple-follow-a-recipe kind of cranberry love.

First I discovered the best cranberry-orange sauce ever. Here's a little love coming your way.
5 10 15

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup
sugar, plus more if desired
One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
One cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup water with the orange zest, orange juice, sugar and salt over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Sweeten with more sugar, if desired. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving.

Top over turkey, and you've just kicked Thanksgiving dinner up a notch!

Then I discovered cranberry cake. It's about 5000 calories of awesomeness.

And paired with a cup of steaming hot tea, it's simply divine. It's so easy and yummy and bad for you. But since it's the holidays, I say, "Go for it!"

Cranberry Cake
3 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. butter, melted
2 T. almond extract (YES!)
3 c. flour
4 c. fresh cranberries (no substitutes)
1/2 c. pecans

Melt butter and cream with sugar and almond extract. Beat in eggs. Mix in flour, cranberries, and nuts. Pour into a greased 10 x 13 baking pan. Bake 1 hour at 350. Cut into 20-24 squares. Don't forget to freeze several bags of cranberries to make this year-round.

And now I'm also looking forward to testing out a Christmas cranberry recipe that was just passed onto me. I'll get back to you on that one when I try it.

For now, I'm just thankful for a Cranberry Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Christ is not only the way on which we must begin our journey, but He is also the right and the safe way we must walk to the end. We dare not be deflected from this. Here Christ wants to say: 'When you have apprehended Me in faith, you are on the right way, which is reliable. But only see that you remain and continue on it.' Christ wants to tear and turn our hearts from all trust in anything else and pin them to Himself alone." Martin Luther

Martin Luther said it better than few others...except maybe for Tim Keller who sounds quite a bit like Luther as he explains the gospel way:

"The gospel is not just a way to be saved from the penalty of sin, but is the fundamental dynamic for living the whole Christian life--individually and corporately, privately and publicly. In other words, the gospel is not just for non-Christians, but also for Christians. This means the gospel is not just the A-B-C's but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not accurate to think 'the gospel' is what saves non-Christians, and then, what matures Christians is trying hard to live according to Biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our mind, heart, and life by believing the gospel more and more deeply as our life goes on." Tim Keller

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giveaway:: The Barber Who Wanted To Pray

Happy Day-After-Reformation Day!

In celebration, I am offering a great deal! I have an extra copy of The Barber Who Wanted To Pray by R. C. Sproul. I just wrote a review on it--check it out. This is a sweet book that offers a gentle introduction to a great reformer in history--Martin Luther. I love his lesson on prayer, not to mention the great illustrations. {Do you think Luther loved cats as much as the illustrator does?}

So....the blog has been a little quiet lately. I'd love to hear from you and make this more of a two-way conversation. Share an idea of how you are teaching your children about prayer, and that will count as one entry. "Like" this on Facebook and that will count as another entry. {Be sure to come back and let me know you did.} Finally, subscribe to this blog and that counts as a third entry. I promise you I won't overwhelm you with blog posts. {Ahem...} I'll pick a winner on Sunday using and let you know who has won this great book!

And in celebration of All Saints Day, read this great prayer by Scotty Smith for a new perspective on the holiday. Loved it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Barber Who Wanted To Pray

This is the perfect time of the year to introduce our little ones to great reformers in history. Recently, I discovered a sweet story based on the life of Martin Luther. The Barber Who Wanted To Pray by R.C. Sproul is a delightful fictional story that is based on the true story about an ordinary barber and one extraordinary man in history.

One night a young girl asks her father how to pray, and he tells her a story of a time when the great reformer, Martin Luther, gets his hair cut and strikes up an interesting conversation with his barber. The barber also asks advice how to pray, and Martin Luther shares a simple model for prayer that changes the barber's life.

I love how people of all ages--especially children--can relate to Martin Luther doing something as ordinary as getting his hair cut. Sproul's book is also a helpful tool to teach our children the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. More importantly, it's a wonderful lesson on heartfelt prayer. When we don't know what or how to pray, Luther's lesson of using a model to personalize our prayers can help us grow in our relationship with God.

The illustrations are delightful; people of all ages will be captured by this sweet story and the simple lesson of this great man in history.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this awesome book from Crossway for my honest review, and I honestly love it! Add it to your book list--it's a keeper!

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song.

"So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ--that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life--even though invisible to spectators--is with Christ in God. He is your life."
{Colossians 3:1-3, The Message}

204. Counting gifts with my boy...."But Mom, I'm already thankful..." {sigh}
205. Reconciliation with my preteen....oh, Lord, help me!
206. Finding a deal on Craigslist
207. Pumpkin latte, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cheesecake
208. Carving pumpkins-a glorious picture of a new identity in Christ
209. Air soft wars with boys
210. A walk with the hubby
211. Soft, humble hearts
212. Fall in St. Louis

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kiddy Catechism

Years ago my oldest learned the children's catechism. If you're not familiar with the children's catechism, it's a series of questions and answers about the truths of God. Kind of like theology for kids! Now, for those who did not grow up in a traditional church setting or who get a little freaked out by the word "catechism," it really is just a simple way to learn about who God is, who Jesus is, who we are in relation to him, and the basics of the Christian faith. It's not weird, I promise.

Now, just like we were on top of so many other things in raising our first-born, we've been sort of flying by the seat of our pants ever since, and as all experienced parents know, it all kind of goes downhill from there. I mean, you just don't do things the same way with your younger children. You know what I mean.

I've realized for a few years that my middle child learned about half of the kiddy catechism and that my youngest has mastered only about three or four questions. Maybe.

So, this fall we're dusting off our little question and answer booklets, we're adding in the catechism to our handwriting assignments, and we're singing it, as well.


I've been convinced for a long time that the more information you put to a tune the more you can remember. At least that's how my brain work.

So when I found the Ask Me WhoOo series by Diana Beach Batarseh, I was thrilled! These are sweet, catchy tunes for each of the questions and answers in the children's catechism...PLUS wonderful scripture verses to go along with each one. It's all lovely--especially the sweet owl graphics to boot!

This is a three-volume series. We have the first in the series, and we'll see how much we like singing it before we buy the other volumes.

There's a lot to like about her music, but besides the corresponding Bible verses after each set of question and answers, I also love to hear the children's voices sing along with Diana as well as read the scripture. Super sweet.

So...What are you waiting for? Or rather, WhoOo are you waiting for? Check it out now!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Check out these spy kids...

How have I forgotten thankfulness? Forgotten that all around me whispers beauty and hope. Yes, even grace.

And then there are days that God screams JOY to me...and I am learning to trust that all is well and all will be well.

I woke up to a Monday morning of temptations...mostly to be overwhelmed and failing to trust that God will take care of my cares. Oh me of little faith.

So we started off with recess this morning...and look what my sweet things turned into?!? Spies!I seriously had to laugh out loud...and that was good medicine for my melancholy Monday morning. Not sure if they are getting ready for Halloween or what?!? {I personally like how my girly girl accessorized her spy outfit with a purple belt and purse.}

So today, I'm mostly thankful for children who remind me the importance of being playful and having a child-like faith. A lesson I need each day.

Jesus, Make it well with my soul today. And teach me thankfulness again and again.

191. a new neighbor and friend
192. glorious fall colors shouting endless words of thankfulness
193. Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon cider
194. hearing my son laugh and enjoy his youth group
195. worshiping all together as a family
196. fall break--even if it's only a day!
197. trying on high heels with my girly girl
198. shopping with my girl and hearing her talk me into buying something for me!
199. an Indian summer
200. my helpful husband
201. a great dentist and a fixed tooth
202. watching my boys play flag football together
203. learning to laugh

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In a Nutshell...

"The Bible is God's story of what he is doing in his world. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. We learn from this story that God created us to have fellowship with him, to serve him, and to glorify him. We learn that Adam, our predecessor, failed in carrying out his role, plunging himself and us into a new world order of sin and death. We learn that God, even in his giving of the curse for Adam's disobedience, offers the hope of redemption through the seed. That seed, as the story unfolds, turns out to be his Son, Jesus Christ, the God-man.

Through Christ's work on the cross, he undoes what Adam did. Through his perfect obedience he makes a way for us who were cut off from God, alienated from him, to be brought near, to be reconciled. We also learn that Christ's work set in motion not only the redemption of sinful humanity, but also the restoration of all things, that someday the new heavens and the new earth will come to pass and the curse and night will be no longer.

This comprises God's grand story that pulses through the pages of God's Word to us, the Bible. It is also the story that God invite us to participate in. He created us in his image and gave us a mandate to subdue and have dominion over his creation. He has called us to work, to cultivate, his world. He also calls us into fellowship with him by taking us from being "in Adam" and placing us "in Christ."

And we are called to a life of transformation into the image of the Son. We bear Christ's image as we proclaim, both through our words and our actions, the gospel, the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

This is the greatest story of all time."

excerpt from Welcome to the Story, by Stephen J. Nichols

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is brought to you by the letter "P"...

...and a really cool guy with a great name and a great story.

Tullian Tchividjian, pastor and a regular contributor at the Gospel Coalition, writes about preaching the gospel to yourself daily. He's got a lot to say about relying on Christ's performance rather than our performance. Good stuff, I say! Check it out...

"We no longer need to rely, therefore, on the position, the prosperity, the promotions, the preeminence, the power, the praise, the passing pleasures, or the popularity that we’ve so desperately pursued for so long.

Day by day, what we must do practically can be experienced only as we come to a deeper understanding of what we are positionally—a deeper understanding of what’s already ours in Christ.

I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.

Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation, but Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an Advocate, Mediator, and Friend. But what we need most is a Substitute. Someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of me and my performance and more of Jesus and his performance for me."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remembering Sara

Today I'm remembering a girl I've never met but wish more than ever that I could have known. Her story of living with a chronic illness, one that had eventually trapped her in own home, has captured me. Yet she would not dwell on her limitations or may have even used the word "trapped", for she chose to accept the life that God had given her and saw her own suffering as a gateway to joy. Today I'm remembering a girl named Sara. I've never met her, but I can't wait to meet her one day in heaven.

I'm not sure why her story captures me, except that it convicts me and encourages me to run the race God set before me. You see, Sara had a disease that made breathing air toxic to her body. And yet she lived. She really lived. The first time I read her blog I had to stop and take a breath myself and let that reality sink in. My thoughts raced from "Why, God?" to "How can she not be bitter?" to "How does she really find joy each day?" As I read on and on I started realizing how abundant her joy and life was because she took what God gave, gave thanks, and then broke it for others. She choose joy. I also started realizing that Sara, in her physical limitations, probably knew more about joy than I ever have.

Just a few days ago Sara took her last toxic breath of air on earth and her first breath of pure air in heaven. And as I read on and on about her last days on earth from the people whose lives she so sweetly touched, I discovered a surprising truth. She was a simple Iowa girl like me. She was living her seemingly limited but ever-so-abundant life in the backyard of my hometown. We surely walked the same streets once upon a time. We probably ate at the same restaurants back in the days when she could. And we graduated from college in the same year. She was my age, yet she was ever so wiser in wisdom than our years. She had lived the abundant life that I long to live, and if only I could have met her face to face. I would ask her to teach me joy and teach me surrender. I would ask her to teach me to receive and teach me to give. And of course, I would also ask her to teach me to write like she does with transparency and authenticity and grace. She would be a great teacher, I'm sure.

I feel like I have met her, in a sense, through her writings. She has inspired me to choose joy each day and graciously receive what God gives me. I could say more, but her words are better.

In Sara's words...

"I think, for me, it has been about learning to want what He wants for me more than what I want for myself. It's a tall order and I don't say that flippantly. But my joy has truly come from Him finding His joy in me rather than me finding my joy in what I desire. It doesn't mean I don't long for different, it just means I find peace in fulfilling rather than understanding. In the knowledge that this life isn’t about me, it’s about Him."

Thanks be to God for the abundant life of Sara Frankl, who teaches us all that this life is really about choosing and finding joy in Jesus.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Community 101

I've been thinking a lot about community lately. A lot. So much that it makes my brain hurt and then I get a headache and then I need chocolate. Or something like that.

A while back a sweet friend let me borrow a book on the topic of community. It was Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community. Sounded like something I could think more about. And since I hadn't finished his biography before the library requested it back, I thought reading a bit of the actual writings of the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be the next best thing. And while I have yet to read through and digest it all (it takes a lot of thinking and chocolate to finish), I am blown away by this man of God who left such a mark on history.

Here's a little nugget of what he has to say about Bible reading and personal application:

"Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God's help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God's action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also."
Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I love how he makes the connection between how the Word of God becomes our story and how we are connected to the people we read about in scripture from long ago. Great thoughts!

And for a little different food for thought, our friend and pastor shared recently this YouTube video on community. Check it out.

Hmmm...So, what are your thoughts on community?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Welcome to the Story

Welcome to the Story by Stephen J. Nichols is the perfect title for this introduction to reading the Bible. Nichols offers an invitation to all to learn how to read, love, and live God's Word in a deeper, more meaningful way. Yet he makes it so simple and refreshingly understandable for someone who is reading the Bible for the first time or for someone like me who has read bits and pieces here and there over many years but is finally beginning to understand how it all fits together.

Nichols puts the pieces of the puzzle together by explaining the biblical framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. He weaves personal narratives and makes interesting references to history and contemporary culture so that each chapter even reads like a story. He helps the reader to understand how the individual stories in the Bible with unique characters and plots work together to tell one Grand Story of what God has been doing from the beginning of time until the end of time. Better yet, he points to how God is not only the author but the main character throughout the Bible and how to understand where we fit into this true Story.

My favorite parts were near the end of the book. He suggests how we can see ourselves in the diverse characters throughout scripture. He highlights how God is the main character and His glory is paramount. Throughout the book he also promotes the value of reading the Bible in community. He offers helpful questions to ask yourself while you are reading any passage of scripture. Finally, he focuses on loving and living the truth of God in such a winsome way that you leave really wanting to start digging into scripture out of a genuine love for God and not out of guilt or duty.

This book is perfect for new believers. It is perfect for teenagers and young adults. And it is a perfect refresher course for any Christian who wants to learn how to simply articulate a Christian worldview and gain a better understanding of the big picture of scripture.

Disclaimer: Crossway provided me a free copy of this delightful book in return for my honest opinion. I love this book because it helps me love God's word more. Plus, it fits with my blog theme!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Winds of Change

Change is in the air.

This fall marks a milestone for our family and a big change for us all. We sent our oldest off to sixth grade away from home. He's in a great school with a great teacher and great classmates, and I am truly thankful. I'm thankful for the years we've had at home together, and now I'm grateful that I can pass the baton onto others to carry out the vision of Christian education I long for our children to have. But it's not without a few tears and sadness. (All mine, not his, that is.) I'm also thankful for the opportunity to spend more focused time homeschooling our two still at home. A friend of mine uses the term "hybrid homeschooler," and it fits well for our new life of blending private school and homeschooling for our family.

These winds of change have caused me to reflect a bit. I've been reflecting on the pros and cons of homeschooling. (You may hear more about that sometime.) I've also been convicted about my lack of trust. I'd like to trust God with my children more than I have in the past. That sounds pretty lame to say that, but when I realize all the ways that I have forged my own path for my children and then just kind of asked God to bless it along the way, I am humbled by how much God even puts up with my arrogance, independence, and false assumptions. Not to mention my lack of faith in how much bigger God is than I am.

One huge way that I can trust God is through prayer. Prayer is a reminder that I am weak and He is strong. That apart from God, I can do nothing. That it is God who softens and changes hearts--not my parenting, or however wise or foolish a parent I might be from day to day.

I've found a great guide to help me grow in this area of praying for my children. It's inspired me to pray more purposefully this fall. There's 31 biblical virtues to pray for our children. Would you consider joining me in 31 days of prayer for our dears ones? Let our prayers be full of faith and hope in all that God will do in the lives of our children.

Day 1: Pray for salvation -- “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Unplug and Connect

My "short summer blogging sabbatical" turned into a "frantic fall get-back-to-school blogging sabbatical" has now turned into some possibly wondering, "Does she still blog?" Or maybe nobody is wondering at all. But the beauty of blogging is that you can blog for one or you can blog for one thousand, and you can take your own vacations and set your own deadlines. (I also needed a little bloggy pep talk recently to remember my original purpose and motivation to write in the first place. Thanks, Christan, dear friend, for getting me back on track.) So for my one reader who is left, here we go!

One of the many lessons I learned this summer is the value of unplugging and getting recharged. Time away from the routine. Time away from technology. Time away from schedules and demands and to-do lists and the stresses of the day to day. I love getting away to gain perspective and to help me once again see the big picture in life. And I love coming home again, too.

True recreation is time to re-create. Time to remember who we are, why we're here, and where we're going. {We don't do this so well in our American culture. We either work ourselves crazy, or we play at our work and work at our play.} But in this age of technology, it seems more important than ever to learn how to press the "off" button and set aside our electronic devices to enjoy the beauty of creation or possibly even the person sitting right next to us.

So this summer sabbatical I examined what drives me and the pitfalls of pursuing my identity in anything outside of Christ. Doug and I started asking ourselves once again where we are and where we are going and praying some big prayers to ask God to lead and guide. And this fall I'm asking God to teach me more about finding balance in life and in all things good. Balance--among other things--when to plug and when to unplug and truly connect.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bring Me Joy

I'm a little dry for original content during these final days of soaking up every last juicy drop of summer and gearing up for a wild and crazy fall. I'll pick up my pen again sometime soon, but until then, this prayer by Scotty Smith hit the spot today. I hope it encourages you, too.

A Prayer About Our Anxieties and God's Joy

Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:17-19

Heavenly Father, as much as I’d love for you to lift me right out of a couple of anxiety producing scenarios, you seem to have another plan in mind. So if you’ll get more glory by keeping me right where I am, so be it. But please, do for me what you did for the Psalmist. Come stabilize my slipping feet with your unfailing love. Make my eternal standing in grace a present reality, or I might lace up my running shoes and head out for my version of Tarshish (Jonah 1).

Console me in my great anxiety with your joy-producing presence. Unlike the Psalmist, I’m not facing “the silence of death,” by the hands of my enemies. My situation feels more like the collision of limitless needs to be met in a limited time frame with limited resources—especially emotional resources. When I get emotionally drained, Father, I tend to make bad choices… but you already know that…

I try to micromanage the unmanageable, and that never works out very well for me, never. I start acting like the 4th member of the Trinity. In the absence of soul delight I ramp up my duty quota. I listen less, talk faster and try harder. My body may be in the house but my soul is somewhere hiking in the Swiss Alps. People would rather be around the mumps than me, when I’m emotionally empty.

That’s why I need your joy, Father, for your joy is my strength. My lack of joy is my bane and drain. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). I need to hear your consoling laugher. I need your invigorating liberating felicity on my piece of the earth as it is in your glorious heaven. I don’t need you to tell me “Everything’s going to be alright.” I theologically know and honestly believe that. I am really convinced, “stoked” and thrilled about our coming life in the new heaven and new earth. It’s the next “fifteen minutes” that have me worked up.

To know you are with me, in joy and for me, with joy, will be enough. And be with my friends who join me in this prayer today—those who have different stories but offer the same cry. Together we look to Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross that we might be endeared to you forever. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ great and gracious name.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Give Them Grace


I'm discovering what I think could be my new all-time favorite parenting book.

(I'm seriously thinking about throwing all the others away.)

And I'm so wishing that I would have read this 11 years ago.

You'll hear more about it as I digest it all.

For now, here's something to chew on...

"Everything that isn't gospel is law. Let us say it again: everything that isn't gospel is law. Every way we try to make our kids good that isn't rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law. We won't get the results we want from the law. We'll get either shallow self-righteousness or blazing rebellion or both (frequently from the same kid in the same day!). We'll get moralistic kids who are cold and hypocritical and who look down on others (and could easily become Mormons), or you'll get teens who are rebellious and self-indulgent and who can't wait to get out of the house. We have to remember that in the life of our unregenerate children, the law is given for one reason only: to crush their self confidence and drive them to Christ." (pg. 36, Give them Grace, by Fitzpatrick and Thompson)

The title especially drew me in. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus.

Love that word--dAZzLiNg!

More to come...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Power for Peace

I've been practicing peace this summer. It's been refreshing and healing, but hard. You see, my natural default is worry, anxiety, and fear. I'm not proud of that, but I'm learning that this is one area where God is transforming me and making me new. And that's a good thing. (Shedding pride is a good thing, too, by the way.)

Most of all, I am learning that when I invite the real presence of God into each area of my life, I am inviting the very Prince of Peace, and I am grafted into Him. While this battle happens in my heart, it starts in my mind. Remembering truth. Resting in God's promises. Relying on what Jesus accomplished for me. Only then can I produce the fruit of the Spirit that I so long to grow. Only then do I experience peace.

Romans 8 explains it so clearly:
"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

When I work from my flesh, I cannot please God. Me, the people-pleaser, wanting to please everyone else but the God in whose image people are even created. How easy it is for me to forget that without faith it is impossible to please God. Yet, how do I even stop living from the flesh and instead live by faith? Thankfully Romans goes onto say...

"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness..."

and then one of the most incredible power-packed verses of truth--

"...If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."

Here I find the ultimate promise of new life, new peace, new hope. The resurrection of Christ. The power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in me through the Spirit. Unbelievable! Here is power for life and peace. For me. For today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I'm a Granola Girl

All this talk about eating local, going green, and gardening organically makes me feel all granola-y all over. And that reminds me of a super great homemade granola recipe handed down from a few friends. You'll never want store-bought again. Here it is!

:: Homemade Granola ::

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with tin foil.

Combine in large bowl:
7 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir until oats are evenly coated.
Spread into an even layer on the baking sheet.
Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until pale gold, about 30 minutes.
Remove the oats and lower the oven temperature to 300.

While baking, combine in a small saucepan over medium heat:
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Cook until sugar fully dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Stir into sugar mixture:
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Set aside and let cool.

When oats are ready, combine sugar mixture with oats in original large bowl.
Add 1 1/2 cups whole almonds.

Transfer back to baking sheet. Spread evenly and bake for 45 minutes at 300 degrees until golden brown. Let cool completely, break into small chunks, and store in an dry, airtight container.

I also like to add dried cherries to my granola when I'm ready to eat it. Yum, yum, I say!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies

Hey St. Louis Crew--Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies is coming to West County this August!! Care to join me and my peeps?

Here's the nitty-gritty:

Date: Saturday, August 20, 2011
Time: 4:00pm-5:00pm
Location: West County YMCA, 16464 Burkhardt Place, Chesterfield, MO 63017
Cost: $5 per person or $20 per family
Tickets can be purchased online.
Hosted by Central Presbyterian Church & West County Fellowship

This looks super fun!

Book Review: The Missional Mom

I'm a mom. So now what is my main purpose in life? Is it just to serve my family, or does God call us as a family to serve our world? Or more importantly, how do I do that while juggling the responsibilities of being a mom and wife? Helen Lee unpacks the answers to these and other foundational questions in her book titled The Missional Mom. If you're a mom, you need to read this book.

Lee's book is theologically sound and refreshingly practical. She exposes the dangers of child-centered parenting and the pitfalls of raising a family in American culture while highlighting the impact that one mom who raises her family for kingdom purposes can make. She explores what it means to be evangelistic and a third culture parent. Most significantly, she guides women in an important conversation about what it means to live out our callings as mothers with purpose, fulfillment, and joy. Sprinkled throughout her book are inspiring stories of how God has led countless other women to change our world as culture shapers and kingdom people.

Lee writes with conviction, humility, and authenticity. In The Missional Mom, you will be encouraged to see your life holistically with your home as a "missional outpost" to engage in the world and serve where God has planted you. This book is practical and provides not only a great starting place but also a great resource to return to again and again as God shapes our lives and brings new opportunities to live out the Great Commission. Lee writes, "Despite our flaws, despite our weaknesses--or perhaps more accurately, because of our flaws and because of our weaknesses--we are called to bear witness to what Christ has done for us...Every one of us is, in fact, a missionary sent by God, loved and empowered by Him to do His will." (page 23)

The Missional Mom greatly encouraged me. While I want my life to be about more than the five people in our home, with so many responsibilities to juggle I struggle with even having the energy to engage in the needs of the greater world around me. Yet I don't want to go the other extreme and serve the world instead of my family but serve rather alongside my family. Lee's practical suggestions of praying for the Holy Spirit to lead, partnering with other like-minded moms, and even just becoming more aware of the issues and events in the world are simple ways for our family to start to grow in this area. I can tell others that their one life makes a difference, but most importantly I must believe it in my own heart for the five people in our home and start living it out right here and now.

Disclosure: I was given a free review copy of The Missional Mom from Moody Publishers for my honest review. It's now on my list of "Must-Read Books for Moms." I'd love to continue the conversation and see where God to join me?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In honor of the lastest Harry Potter movie...

Have you ever seen a church guarded by an owl perched on the top of the doorway? We discovered this curious creature in downtown Memphis this summer during one of our many excursions...

My boys wondered if we had happened to stumble upon "The Holy Church of the Hogwarts."


Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeing His Beauty

When life gives you weeds......make a bouquet.
Returning home (for a few days) from our summer of travel. What a summer! It's been a good break from the daily routine and an even better sabbatical from the computer. My blogging vacation is ending, too, but I'm returning with fresh perspective and renewed vision. A rested mind. Strengthened faith. New dreams.

My mind has also been swirling with the theme of story. Is my life telling a good story? (I've been reading Donald Miller's books recently.) How should I respond when my storyline fizzles? Do I trust God to tell a better story than the one that I would have written? Do I see disappointments as God's appointments to surrender, trust, and obey? Do I choose to see the beauty instead of the weeds? Or rather, the beauty in the weeds?

Seeing His beauty and counting again today...

178. Safe travels
179. Precious time with family
180. Shedding fear
181. Purple mountains majesty
182. Rock climbing with cousins
183. Learning to laugh
184. Grace, grace, and more grace
185. Connecting and reconnecting
186. A little girl who loves to walk dogs
187. Learning love
188. Unexpected gifts
189. Getting a second wind
190. Beautiful weeds

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: God's Love Letters to You by Dr. Larry Crabb

Do you ever see the Bible as one 66-piece jumbled puzzle and wish you knew how each book fit together to tell one story? Psychologist, teacher, and best-selling author Larry Crabb did, and his 40-day devotional titled God’s Love Letters to You helps you to put the pieces of God’s Great Story together on your own. Each day introduces a new book of the Bible, its theme, a key verse, Crabb’s thoughts about what God is saying as he is communicating to us in the book, a few reflection questions, and a short prayer. I was intrigued to discover God’s Love Letters to You because I also want to better understand the big ideas of each book of the Bible, how they fit together, and be able to communicate the bigger story God has been weaving together since the beginning of time. While this simple devotional book has a few strengths, I believe it has more weaknesses, however.

Strengths of God’s Love Letters to You:

1- It’s a greatly condensed version of his previous book, 66 Love Letters, and it helps you to do an even speedier “fly over” the Bible to get the big picture. If you want something fast and simple, this may appeal to you.

2- Reflection questions help you to personalize scripture and see where your little story fits into God’s bigger story. Crabb is big on personalizing scripture and hearing how God is speaking to you through His word. I don’t disagree with that.

3- This devotional motivates you to spend 40 days thinking about the bigger story God is telling and applying it to your life.

Weaknesses of God’s Love Letters to You:

1- It does not cover all 66 books of the Bible, which was the goal of 66 Love Letters.

2- This truly is a companion to 66 Love Letters (or at least it should be) and should not stand on its own. If it were supposed to be used independently, it would have been helpful to include more from the prologue from 66 Love Letters to understand the context and the goal of the study. It is far too simplified and exploratory in nature. While Crabb writes from the perspective of being more of a seeker than a scholar, this devotional guide would be much more helpful and meaningful if it included several corresponding scriptures to read and reflect, as well as historical information for each letter.

3- God’s Love Letters to You takes a different approach of surveying the scriptures quickly in 40 days. While this may appeal to some, God’s Love Letters to You, if not used with 66 Love Letters (and a Bible), is a weak substitute.

4- Crabb’s approach in both God’s Love Letters to You and 66 Love Letters is not my favorite. While it is meaningful to hear how Crabb summarizes each book of the Bible, he does this by writing as if God is talking directly to you in the first person. This is helpful in one sense to hear how he personally applies the message to his life, but I found this continual conversational style annoying. It was also weakened by the lack of scholarly scriptural, historical, and cultural references that would further point readers to the ultimate goal of seeing how God’s story transcends time, is tied together, and while applies personally, also applies corporately to all of God’s people as a whole.

5-The big ideas in God’s Love Letters to You do not correspond to those presented in 66 Love Letters. This is confusing.

6-I wish Crabb would have offered a “So What?” section at the end of his devotional to help guide seekers who are desiring to understand more of how the Bible fits together and how to apply it to life. This would be helpful for people who want to know reliable resources for Bible study and where to go next in their application of God’s Word.

Here’s my recommendation: Read God’s Love Letters to You for a brief overview of the Bible and then let it springboard you into spending more time in God’s book. Dwell there. Dig in deeper and spend more time in the actual Word of God rather than just merely stopping short with Crabb’s insights. God’s own words are the real and best thing that will ultimately bring us all life and hope.

Disclaimer: These are my honest opinions and I don’t get paid to give them, but I did get a free copy of God’s Love Letters to You to review as a part of the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program. Thanks, Thomas Nelson, and I do look forward to reading and reviewing more of your publications in the future.

Monday, June 27, 2011

God's Handprint

Lord, rescue us from exchanging the truth about You for a lie and worshiping and serving your creation rather than You, Creator God, who is blessed forever! May we forever love You, the Good Giver, abundantly more than your good gifts. But make us awe and wonder at the beauty of Your handprint in our lives and in our hearts, and may it lead us to You. Here is true blessing...

161. "sandy feet & sea-wet hair"
162. kids listening to Adventures in Odyssey...and not asking for a video!
163. time to read during a long car ride
164. a husband who drives long distances for his family
165. desiring a praying life
166. embracing helplessness
167. bike rides on shady paths
168. four enchanting days in "The Burrow"
169. striped beach towels
170. meeting old and new friends at the beach
171. catching ghost crabs at night
172. beautiful beach pavillions
173. protected sea turtle nests
174. writing messages in the sand
175. returning home
176. a weekend alone with my girl
177. 14 years of marriage

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All I Really Need To Know I Learned at Bible Camp

A tribute to OLBC and summer Bible camps everywhere....

All I really need to know I learned at Bible Camp:

1. Warm fuzzies are free...and priceless.
2. See the the need.
3. This is the Great Adventure!
4. We are the body of Christ...each one of you is a part.
5. God calls us to make a "Big Dif" for His kingdom.
6. The Lord liveth and blessed be the rock...
7. Yes, I believe, I agree it is so, Amen, Amen, let the world hear my cry...
8. He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it...
9. With Christ in my vessel, I can smile at the storm...
10. KP (Kitchen Patrol) makes you a better person.
11. QT (Quiet Time) after lunch should be mandatory. Always.
12. The Table Prayer CAN be sung to the tune of the Addams Family.
13. People need the Lord...
14. People are precious and important.
15. Take me Jesus as I am, I can come no other way...
16. Lord, You are more precious than silver...
17. Faith-Fact-Feeling train
18. It's worth it all.
19. Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give to you...John 14:27--PEACE!
20. Sending your child to Bible camp is an investment in their lives...forever.

Did you learn life-impacting lessons at Bible Camp? Do share...

Friday, June 24, 2011

World Help in Honduras

Years ago Doug and I were introduced to the ministry of World Help. World Help was founded in 1991 and is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization that seeks to live out the Great Commission all around the world. They started their great work in Eastern Europe, and today their ministry has spread to over 60 countries. The four pillars of their work are child advocacy, humanitarian aid, Bible distribution, and church planting. This ministry has been changing lives and making a difference all around the world.

For several years now, our family has sponsored a dear young boy from India through World Help. Our monthly donations help to provide him food, clean water, and clothing. His medical and educational needs are met, as well. We receive a letter from him yearly and have watched him grow up across the miles and over the years. Now this young man has a solid foundation to build on through the ministry of World Help.

Currently, World Help is also contributing to the extreme poverty needs of children in Honduras through a program called the Jesus, Friend of Children Center, (Jesus, Amigo de los NiƱos).

World Help is seeking more sponsors for the precious children living in Honduras with extreme physical poverty. Are you willing to consider how you might give up a few lattes or other conveniences each month? Are you willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to dear children who need a cup of cool, clean water, vitamins, medication, and most importantly need to hear that Jesus see them, knows them, and loves them dearly?

Many years ago as a young college student I was able to spend two weeks in the beautiful country of Honduras doing evangelistic programs and a work project with others from my college. While we were there to make a impact for the Gospel, the greater impact took place in our own lives as we grew to know and love the dear families and children we met. Their smiling faces and warm hugs made an impression on my heart that has lasted until this day. It was there that God grew my desire to care for children of the world and make a difference in the lives of children. The Honduran people are truly precious, and many children there need our help.

Do you want to spend your life for others and for eternity? Do you want your life to be about the work of God caring for people in need all around the world? Do you know that your life can truly make a difference? One way you could do this is through partnering with World Help to sponsor a precious child from Honduras.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Holiday at the Sea

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." C. S. Lewis

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guessing Game

Can you guess where we're going today??

I'll give you a's warm and sandy and salty and wet and a little bit of heaven!

AND--can you guess who won the Seeds of Courage CD? I'll tell you: Kristin! Yippee! You're gonna love it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Encouragement, Part 2

While God certainly uses people and circumstances in my life to whisper words of refreshment and encouragement, I also know that nothing compares to the sweetness of His words. Words that are sweeter to me each day. Not because I can check off my "Good Christian Girl" to-do list, but because God is making it clearer to me each day how hungry I am for the sweet honey of His Word.

Honey that is sweeter than...manicured toes...compliments...breakfast in bed...admiration...a new pair of unexpected raises...a clean bathroom...raspberry cheesecake...success...obedient night off from cooking...{fill in the blank}.

My appetite is changing. Slowly, I want to taste and see more and more each day that He really is good. I am less and less the dutiful daughter who fears rejection or disappointment. {Oh, sadly there are still many days where I have it all jumbled again.} Delighting in Him, His word brings lasting, life-giving hope. And isn't that what every father longs for, a daughter who comes out of delight rather than duty?

So I am reminded, that while scripture indeed brings us instruction and shows us the path of life, that God's Word ultimately gives me the encouragement I so deeply long for to keep running the race marked out for me. For here I find hope.

Do you need a boost of encouragement to delight in God's word? You can hide His word in your heart by listening to music! I'm picking a winner tomorrow for the Seeds of Courage CD from Seeds Family Worship. Enter to win...

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Lil' Story

Need some courage? I do daily. Courage and encouragement. I wrote about that recently. While I treasure the encouragement of a friend {or an unexpected gift}, I know that ultimately the courage that God alone gives is what my soul truly needs and hungers for.

But we really do need each other. And speaking of courage and community...

...I'm thrilled to be visiting Dayspring's (in)courage site today as a guest writer! What an honor to be among an amazing community of women who desire to help build up the body of Christ through daily encouragement. Please do visit. I'm sharing a lil' story about my lil' girl who was feeling especially lonely one day. Been there? Me, too.

My lil' disclaimer about her story: She had just seen the movie Ramona and Beezus. I think that's where she got the idea to run. Oh, my.

Leave a comment--it'll be good as gold!

Better yet, for a chance to hide some courage in your heart, enter this great giveaway and share a bit of how God encourages you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seeds Family Worship :: Giveaway

Plants amaze me. They bear seeds that sprout life and beauty and health and some even harvest a rainbow of yumminess. And yet that seed can only grow in the right conditions...good soil, warmth, light, and water. Lots of water.

Psalm 1 reminds us of an important truth. We are blessed when our greatest delight is in God's word and when we meditate on it continually. When we soak it in like a tree planted by streams of life-giving water and nourishment. Our roots grow deep when we have water. Lots of water. Only then do we bear fruit.

Are you bearing fruit? Do you need some help soaking in the water of God's word? I certainly do.

Recently, I won a set of Seeds Family Worship CDs. {A millions thanks, to Amanda at Impress Your Kids and to the generous Seeds crew!} Their music is amazing, but the best thing is that each album comes in a two-pack. One for you and one to pass onto a friend. One seed to sow and one to scatter.

SO...I thought it'd be more fun to host some giveaways with my Seeds CDs. This week, I'm giving away CD #2 of my Seeds of Courage album, which is Volume 1 in the series.

Seeds for you to grow good fruit. Living water to drink in deep while you are in the car or making dinner or while you're out for a jog. Grow courage and encourage your heart.

How do you enter?

Easy peasy.

Three ways to win:

1-Add a comment. Share how God encourages you and builds your courage. Go ahead...share a bit of your story.

2-"Like" me on Facebook. Then come back and add your comment that you did.

3-Subscribe and become a follower. Because life is just better when we share our stories and run this race together. {Be sure to add another comment if you did this...more ways to win!}

I'll pick a winner on Friday with the help of I can't wait to see where I'll be scattering these seeds off to...

Disclosure: This is just Volume 1 and you will be receiving only one CD. I am not being paid, bribed, or coaxed into marketing for Seeds, I just love their music and want to pass on the blessing. Let's grow courage together!

P.S. Speaking of courage....stay tuned to tomorrow's post. I can't wait!

Monday, June 13, 2011


"O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hand hath made..."

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" {Matthew 6}

Consider the black-eyed susans, the queen anne's lace, the marigolds, and the zinnias...

Consider the peppers and the beans and the berries and the melons...

Consider the oregano and lavender and mint and basil and thyme...

Oh me of little faith...consider...

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. {John 12:24}

"Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross...Consider Him who that you may not grow weary or fainthearted...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it..."{Hebrews 12}

"Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art!"

Counting His goodness, His greatness yet again...

143. kayaks and sailboats and canoes, oh my!

144. sunday afternoon lunch with friends

145. baby peppers

146. picnic parties

147. benches for resting

148. breathtaking beauty among wild weeds

149. back rubs from little hands

150. help from hubby

151. start of summer

152. lounging by pool with a great book

153. new friends, old friends; silver & gold

154. growing courage & hope

155. crying at movies

156. tribute of a grieving friend

157. plush green grass

158. honey for the heart

159. fruit and vegetable stands

160. growing peaceful fruit of righteousness

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Recipe for Peace

{Writing her own Bible verse on the doorposts of our home}

Did you get dressed today?

Or did you forget something?

I get dressed everyday (thankfully), but many days I forget to put on what's most important.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. {Colossians 3:12-14}

This verse is even written on the doorposts of my home. Literally. Several years ago when we built our home, we chose verses for the rooms and wrote them on the wooden frames all around the house. This was the verse I picked out for the door frame of my closet so I wouldn't forget to put on what was most important. And yet day in and day out, I do forget what is more important than finding the right shoes, the cute shirt, the clean socks...I forget over and over. I forget and forget.

And now I am realizing this is the path to peace. Putting on love, humility, forgiveness, and patience. To remember. This is how peace rules in my heart. Letting the peace of Christ, the very presence of God, have kingdom authority in my heart. Here is my recipe for peace.