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.