Friday Favs

Are you all enjoying this beautiful fall weather? I can’t help but pull out my iPod whenever I am out and about and spot a beautiful autumn scene.

IMG_4682-1.JPG

IMG_4669.JPG

IMG_4474.JPG
IMG_4472.JPG

IMG_4613.JPG

When your weeks are the busiest, I’m telling you, it’s important to notice the little things of beauty all around you. God is such an amazing Creator and His beautiful creation is a feast for the eyes and a reminder of His watch care in the smallest details of life.

I did a lot of entertaining this week, and a lot of cooking. Several of you asked me to share some of the recipes and menus I use. Here you go.

First of all, I decorated with fall leaves and hydrangea from my yard. I added some bittersweet, sticks, and leaves and viola…free, fall-y centerpiece.

IMG_4709.JPG

IMG_4633.JPG

{Thankful and Blessed free printable here.}

To feed a large crowd, 20 or so, I use this menu:

Ham Dinner Menu

Spiral Ham- I love Aldi’s spiral ham. They’re inexpensive (as spiral hams go) and delicious.

Homemade Mac and Cheese. I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe, minus the eggs. I also added a can of Campbell’s cheese soup, a brick of cream cheese, and some milk. I made it up about two hours from the event and kept it warm in a greased crock pot set on low. It was cheesy and delish.

Fried Apples- You could just serve warm applesauce and cinnamon, but this recipe is over the top. It’s my friend Susanna’s recipe and I always get compliments on it.

Combine in a saucepan and heat until dissolved:

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg.

Core and peel 8 large apples, slice into eighths, and add to syrup. Cook 15-20 minutes on medium heat until apples are cooked through and syrup is slightly thickened and bubbly.  Add 1 T butter.

Remove small amount (1/2 cup) syrup and dissolve 1T cornstarch into it. Add to apple mixture and simmer in pan until the syrup thickens and has a glossy look.

*I add more apples and you can play with the spices until you get it how you like it. :)

**If I have unexpected company, sometimes I just heat a large jar of applesauce, throw some peeled, sliced apples into it, let them simmer until softened, add spices, serve warm and call it a day.

***Leftover, this is great on ice cream or as a pancake topping.

Green Beans- I get French cut green beans at Aldis for $.49 a can. I heat with butter and garlic salt.

Cranberry sauce and rolls. Ocean Spray. Just saying. :) Right now there is a coupon for $1 off a bag of Ocean Spray fresh cranberries, and Walmart has fresh fruit for $1.50 this week! (Coupons.com also has a dollar off Hershey’s chocolate, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups… which can be squirreled away for Christmas stockings.)

Lunch company

Lunch usually means that moms and kids are coming. I usually try to make sure I have something “kid friendly” and something yummy for the moms.

IMG_4792.JPG

My go to recipe is a quiche. My recipe is really simple and flexible.

Easy Quiche

Frozen or homemade pie shell, unbaked.

1 brick grated extra sharp cheese, thrown into the bottom of the shell

1 1/2 cups “filling”–anything you want, thrown on the cheese. My favorite variations:

  • cubed ham, scallions, pepper,
  • bacon (I’ve used real bacon bits before with good results), pepper, onion
  • asparagus (roasted), red pepper, onions

Then carefully pour into the pie crust:

5 eggs beaten with 1 cup of half and half.

Bake 400 for 45 min or until edges are browned and middle it set.

Salad

My favorite salad is a pear, cranberry, blue cheese, candied pecan salad.

I use spring greens, slice up a pear, throw on the pecans, a handful of Craisins, and add some chopped scallions to the mix. I put the blue cheese on the side because not everyone likes it. The dressing makes is what makes this salad to die for, and it’s super easy.

Sweet Balsamic Vinegar Italian Dressing

1 pkg Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

1/8 c. good balsamic vinegar

1/8 c. white vinegar

2 T. sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix well until incorporated and pour over salad at the last minute.

*You can really use whatever you want in the salad: apples, strawberries, mandarin oranges. It’s all good.

On My Nightstand:

IMG_4814.JPG

I’m making my way through these books right now, but life has been busy so extra reading is at a minimum.

I received A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together? in the mail two days ago from Cook Publishers and I have to tell you, it’s fabulous. This was a new author for me, but it’s been such a great appeal to love your spouse, that I think Peter and I might try to read this book as a couple. Put this one on your wish list. :)

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds is a must read. I plan to go through the “how to” principles in this book with my youth group girls. Studying the Bible is more than reading a passage and then consulting commentaries. It’s a slow, steady, lifestyle. I’m encouraged that a younger generation of women are increasingly relying on the Word of God, instead of the second hand studies of men via commentaries, blogs, books and sermons…which are all very helpful, but cannot replace careful BIBLE study.

When the Kara Tippett’s husband contacted me about reviewing her book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard
I have to tell you, I was so impressed by this guy’s letter, and his obvious care for his wife and her story, that I agreed. Kara is fighting stage IV cancer, and this is her story of letting go of her “idol” image of what life is supposed to look like. “Hard is not the absence of God’s goodness.” I will review it in more depth later on this month.

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness is a book that Rebekah had to read for leadership training at her college. I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into this one. I keep thinking…how could churches have missed this stuff? This has been basic to our teaching since childhood, so I guess we’ve been blessed. It’s like growing up in a cooking school, and having an expert cooking instructor write …”Did you guys realize that you have to bake all this stuff? We need to turn on our ovens.” Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it was just my mood. There you have it. It’s a great read for new believers, for sure, but I would recommend The Pursuit of Holiness
first.

What have you been reading? Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

Trigger Points: That One Thing

This week the Lord convicted me of my selfishness by using an iced coffee. The lady got it SO wrong, which is usually no big deal, but that day, it was like the worst thing ever. And I didn’t realize the “wrongness” of the situation until I had driven away.

“Can nothing go right today? Not even my coffee?” sigh, grumble, sigh again.

00360

As I drove around town doing my errands, the coffee was not only bitter and the wrong flavor, but it was losing it’s appeal to me, staring me in the face as the thing the Lord was using to sanctify me that day.

I had to admit my impatience.
I had to admit that at that moment, I was living like coffee was all there was. I had set my heart on a medium pumpkin spice and nothing less would do.
I complained about it in my own heart, and let it affect my mood.
I was not prizing God and his holiness at that moment.

Jesus tells his followers that following Him will mean self-denial.

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

Many believe the call for self-denial to be archaic, puritanical, punitive, and for those who don’t understand grace.

Today, we like things done OUR way, from our burgers to our lattes. The blessings that are “America”, have morphed into “demands” and “expectations” and “my rights.”

Selfishness has become a birthright, yet it is the polar opposite of self-denial.

Self-denial acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Self-denial acknowledges the sovereignty of God to give us what is best for us.

Selfishness demands that I get my way, and “myself” reigns supreme.

Selfishness rears its ugly head whenever we focus too much on our wants, needs, desires, and is always a result of the carnal self being stronger than the desire for God’s glory and grace.

Today, it’s not popular to examine your heart. Culture wants to excuse bad behavior under the guise that we’re all really good inside and that something outside of us made us do this bad thing. We love to rationalize and hate to take responsibility.

But if we sin, we are responsible and super-sized love for the wrong things is usually the culprit.  Let  your reactions be a light that shines down into some dark corner of your heart to show you, however shocking, what is actually hidden there. I know it’s more comfortable to say, “I was just tired,” or “I was caught off guard” than to admit sinful desires and misplaced loves, but this is necessary work if we intend to deal with self-will and selfish motives.

How do you deal with selfishness and self-rule in your life? I look for “trigger point”, the things that make me unhappy or discontent.
It can be different things on different days, but perhaps it’s a messy house or an extraordinarily busy calendar, or rude people, or wrong coffee.

What is that one thing that

“you desire too eagerly, and must needs have it, or else you will be impatient or discontent, and cannot be quietly ruled and disposed of by God, but are murmuring at his providence and your lot?” Richard Baxter

Are you so eager for _________________,” (husband, wife, a child, wealth, for popularity, power, influence, admiration, happy marriage, well behaved children, Pinterest perfect life)

while you are so cold and indifferent in your desires after God, and grace, and glory?” Richard Baxter

Then I ask myself a few hard questions:

Why does this make me unhappy?
What that says about my focus right now?
What do I believe about God in this moment? His Providence?
What or who am I living for in this moment? Who is master?
What do I need to adjust?

Self-denial is easier when we remember all that we have in Christ.
Self-denial is a no-brainer when you compare heavenly things to the trinkets (or iced coffees) of this world.

When we remember Jesus Christ and all He has done,
His great love,
our inheritance in heaven,
our blessings, both external and internal,
and the comfort and fellowship we have in Him every day of our lives,

carnal desires and sins will lose their death grip on us. Things that were once demands, the “end all,” the things of earth will grow “strangely dim” as we learn to love and appreciate the Creator over the created.

The Heart of the Gospel vs. The Pharisee

Have you ever confided a struggle to someone, only to have them use it against you later? Have you ever done something good, a work that God led you to and helped you perform, only to find out later that someone criticized your work?

I found it interesting this morning, that this is exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus and his disciples in Matt. 12. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus and his disciples were walking through the corn and they were hungry, so they plucked ears of corn to eat them.

Seems innocent enough, but pharisees always look to criticize and they basically accused the men of harvesting corn, which was akin to work, which was a big no-no in their book, and therefore a very big deal.

Thus is the heart of the pharisee: watchful of others, suspect, accusing, condemning.

The Pharisees scold,

“Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.”

The pharisees missed that these men were hungry. They missed mercy.

Who cares that you were hungry. You broke our law and we are so glad we were there to catch you!

I love Jesus response, and I think it’s worth noting:

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would have not condemned the guiltless.”

I love this for several reasons, but especially because it contrasts the heart of a pharisee with the heart of the gospel.

Jesus calls them out on their lack of knowledge. They prided themselves in being the repository of knowledge when it came to spiritual things. And they were famous for either interpreting the law too loosely (Jesus clears this up for them in Matt 5) or in this case, too strictly.

Matthew Henry says this of the pharisee mindset:

“It is common for men of corrupt minds, by their zeal in rituals, and the externals of religion, to think to atone for the looseness of their morals.”

“It is no new thing for the most harmless and innocent actions of Christ’s disciples to be evil spoken of, and reflected upon as unlawful, especially by those who are zealous for their own inventions and impositions.”

“They are no friends to Christ and his disciples, who make that to be unlawful which God has not made to be so.”

The Pharisees didn’t know God, so they didn’t reflect His goodness, mercy or kindness to others. No, their hallmark quality was their lack of mercy.

Instead of seeing hungry men, they see lawbreakers.

Instead of seeing the Lord of Glory, the Lord of the Sabbath, they nitpicked and tried to spiritually “one up” Christ.

How sad.

How sad that these were the religious leaders of the day.

Imagine being with them? You go to church or deal with them in the streets, only to be condemned: “Cursed, accused, sinner, lawbreaker…you  have no hope of ever being accepted by God.”

And how refreshing must have been the message of Christ, in His famous sermon on the mount, when the first words out of His mouth were “Blessed….”

The crowds must have thought, “What? We can be blessed? We have hope? We can breathe? There is grace?”

I came across this piece from a Peter Marshall sermon “Letters in the Sand” and it illustrates beautifully the heart of the gospel in sharp contrast with the heart of a pharisee. It’s a little long, but so lovely. (I’ve edited it a bit to make it readable.) I hope it encourages you to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”

jesus

 

————————————————————————————–

The woman lies before Christ in a huddled heap,

sobbing bitterly,

trembling in her shame

shivering as she listens to the indictment.

Her head is bowed; her face covered with her hands…

Her disheveled hair falls over her face. Her dress is torn and stained with the dust of the city streets along which she has been dragged.

His disciples look into the face of Christ and see in His eyes an infinite sadness, as if the load of all the sin since the world began has already been laid on Him.

His steady eyes take in the situation at a glance.

He sees what they try to hide from Him-

the hard faces that have no pity or mercy in them,

the looks of satisfaction and self-righteousness with which they finger the stones they have picked up.

Every hand holds a stone and clutching fingers run along the sharp edges with malicious satisfaction.

Their shouting ceases as the piercing look of Christ travels round the circle questioningly, and they fall to muttering, as one of their group shouts out the accusation again.

The woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. It seems to His disciples that Christ does not look at her at all. He is watching those men who try to hide the stones they carry in their hands.

They are ready-

her self-appointed judges-

to throw them at the poor defenseless creature on the ground, for it is the law- the sacred law of Moses-

that such shall be stoned to death.

The circle of bearded men wait impatiently for his answer.

Will His verdict be justice-or mercy?

It is a clever trap. Surely the Nazarene can find no way out of this one! He does not speak. Stooping down, He slowly, deliberately begins to write in the dust at His feet. This is the only time we know of His writing anything, and no one knows what He wrote.

Some ancient scholars believe that He traced there in the dust a catalog of human sin. Perhaps He looks up at a tall man, with graying hair and piercing blue eyes, and traces the word “Extortioner”- and the man turns and flees into the crowd.

Christ looks up into the faces of the men standing in the circle, and steadily-with eyes that never blink-he speaks to them:

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7-)

His keen glance rests upon the woman’s accusers one by one.  Then He writes in the sand at their feet-letter after letter.  They watch His finger-fascinated, as it travels up and down, up and down.

They cannot watch without trembling. The group is thinning now. They think of the recording angel. They think of judgment. They have howled for it. Now it has descended on them.

Looking into their faces, Christ sees into the yesterdays that lie deep in the pools of memory and conscience. He sees into their very hearts, and that moving finger writes on …

  • Idolater
  • Liar
  • Drunkard
  • Murderer
  • Adulterer

There is the thud of stone after stone failing on the pavement. Not many of the Pharisees are left.

One by one, they creep away-like animals slinking into the shadows … shuffling off into the crowded streets to lose themselves in the multitudes.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

But no stones have been thrown. They lie around the woman on the pavement. They have dropped them where they stood, and now she is left alone at the feet of Christ.

Only her sobbing breaks the stillness. She still has not lifted her head . . . And  now Christ looks at her. He does not speak for a long moment. Then, with eyes full of understanding, He says softly: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10) And she answers, “No man, Lord.”

That is all the woman says from beginning to end. She has no excuse for her conduct. She makes no attempt to justify what she has done. And Christ looking at her, seeing the tear-stained cheeks and her eyes red with weeping, seeing further into her heart, seeing the contrition there, says to her:

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

What He here says is – Not that He acquits the woman, but that He forgives her. Not that He absolves her from blame, but that He absolves her from guilt. Not that He condones the act, but that He does not condemn her for it-He forgives her instead.

Perhaps He smiles upon her, as she slowly raises her eyes,

a slow, sad smile of one Who knew that He Himself has to pay the price of that absolution.

She has looked into the eyes of Christ.

She has seen God.

She has been accused, convicted, judged, but not condemned.

She has been forgiven!

 

 

A lesson I’ve learned from failure.

I slump into the corner of the couch, a heap of exhaustion and rattled nerves, halfheartedly crack open my Bible and try to get comfortable. My back is sore from the strain of the day.

I want to be alone after tending to others. I need to “take in” after giving out all day. I’m all wrong inside, and I know it. I approach my Bible like a vending machine, picking and choosing, getting my “fix” with my favorite selections, although my intellectual side scolds me. I don’t even care. I’m too exhausted to care. I just need something.

IMG_0112

On the days when I lose it with the kids,

the days when nothing went right,

those days,

right there in the midst of all the internal upheaval and frustration,

is when I need a fresh look at Christ. I need to remember Him.

I need to see His gentleness as He deals with people who want, want, want. Needy people, following Him in crowds, asking favors.

I need to see His meekness as people use Him for miracles, and crowd His door at all hours of the night, when He is tired.

I need to see His compassion for the sick, that never failed to give a word of encouragement.

I need to see His hospitality as He stops to offer living water to an outcast Samaritan woman who was looking for love in all the wrong places.

I need to see His generosity and goodness as He feeds the hungry multitudes, the Son of God stooping to serve them bread and fish.

What I need is to see how pathetically short my irritation and impatience falls, when compared to His goodness.

How can I claim to be working for God’s glory, when I allow small irritations to annoy me as if the people I’m called to serve are an inconvenience?

In the mundane, where you and I live every day, we can’t afford to miss the Savior.

We can’t miss the fact that all the work we do is sacred. There are no categories: important, non-important; spiritual, non-spiritual.

Washing dishes, chopping vegetables, making meals, setting tables, changing sheets, giving out band-aids, comforting a crying child, rocking a fussy baby, cleaning bathrooms, doing errands for a shut in, talking to the lonely, delivering meals, practicing hospitality,

these are the holy tasks, ordained for you today. They are tasks to be done “as unto the Lord.”

They may not be convenient, and they will cost you something, yes, but after all,

isn’t all of our work a sacrifice to God, our reasonable service? 

Work is worship. Let that sink in, and it will change you.

That dramatic teen who you were tempted to snap at because you can’t deal with the drama for one more minute? Your work is worship.

That child who didn’t do their work again? Forgot this, forgot that? I’m so tired of the excuses that I could scream, and I remember this…

My work,

this calling of motherhood, wife, friend, teacher, mentor, neighbor,

THIS work is worship.

Some days I need to repent because I’ve despised the work the Lord gave to me.

Some days I need to repent because I’ve despised the fact that the work was a sacrifice, and not on my terms, not in my timing, and not with my results.

On days when I’m resenting the mundane, I desperately need to remember that Jesus picked up the rag and basin and chose menial work, washing dusty feet. He cooked fish for his disciples. He fed multitudes. He ministered to the sick. He sat and taught friends, and did life with them. He took the lash and nail for my impatience and anger with my family at that very moment, and now has called me His child, and loves me despite my selfishness, and pulls me into His inner circle and treats me as though I’ve never sinned against Him at all.

This is the example I’m called to follow, and this is the love that I am supposed to share, especially in the midst of my sacred mundane.

Friday Fun

Just a quick post with some of my favorite links for you to enjoy!

1. Free Fall Chalkboard Printable: because, free decorating!! I especially love the oval “Thankful and Blessed” piece. She also has Christmas sayings. Via Nest of Posies.

2. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy this blog tour of 34 homes beautifully decorated for fall. I love how varied they are: some are frugal, some neutral, some eclectic. A great place to grab ideas.

Caramelized Apple German Pancakes

3. This Carmelized Apple German Pancake Recipe from ihearteating.com. No explanation needed, because, YUM. I’m making this for breakfast this Saturday.

4. Reads:

Let’s Pretend My Husband is Still Alive: Five Things I Would Say To Him

If My Child Marries Yours

Dear Mom Who’s Trying from my friend Ruth from Gracelaced. She’s also an amazing artist who is in between packing up a house to move and a Christmas launch of her beautiful artwork. No big whoop. ;)

Hard Love

5. If you are in New England, make sure you visit the Makepeace Cranberry Festival Columbus Day Weekend. Very educational and a great take for families.

I just added another watercolor card to my Etsy shop if you are interested. I talk about the new venture here. :O)

IMG_2050

Is it getting chilly where you are? It’s sweater weather here! Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Exciting New Watercolor Venture


Many of you know that I paint in all my free time. Well, I should say, I make free time to paint.

No, really, one of the ways I love to unwind is by painting, and my idea of a perfect day is to go somewhere on location and paint with the kids… I don’t care whose kids they are, as long as they are interested. Seriously, whenever I’m painting outside, little kids come and stand over me and stare. {crickets}

“HI, there! Would you like to try?”

They are always so excited!

Did I tell you about the time this summer when I was painting with my nieces and nephews at Nubble Lighthouse in ME and two little kids came and joined us? They were happy as clams, chatting and painting away. The mother, who was MIA for like 40 minutes, came bolting over to see what was going on. She was “none too happy.” lol  I felt like saying, “Hey lady, I did you a favor. I sat your kids down on the rocks and kept them in one place, so they wouldn’t, you know…slip on the slick rocks straight into the ocean.” But I said nothing, realizing that she had the “uphill advantage” and I had nowhere to go but down into the ocean.  JK, but I can just imagine the car ride home for those kids:

“WHAT have I told you about talking to strangers!?”

IMG_4594.JPG

Anywho—

I’m excited to let you know that several of my watercolors are available as photo style greeting cards. Each card is handmade and titled and signed by me.

I’m selling them in packages of 6 for $16 through Etsy and PayPal. Shipping is $3 or free if you buy three packages. You can “buy it now” under each picture and if you scroll down to the end of the post, you’ll see your shopping cart summary. I’m explaining this because I was confused when I tried it out and nothing seemed to happen…until I realized that it was all happening at the bottom of the post. :)

I hope you like them and buy them up as Christmas gifts! ;)

IMG_2029

“Rose Cottage”

IMG_2030

“Bringing in the Harvest” (That is at my parent’s house. That’s the red pump house behind the workers. They guy in green is my cousin, Scotty.)

IMG_2031

“Harju Brothers” (This is my dad on the left and his brother on the right. They’re using dry picking machines which aren’t used much anymore.)

IMG_2032

“Nubble Light” I painted this on the beach in York, ME as our kids played. It was such a lovely spot.

OR, if you want to mix and match any six, you can choose that option below. Let me know what you’d like in the comments in PayPal and I will get that to you.

Thanks so much for supporting our extremely small new business. :) I’m filling orders at my kitchen table, and God put it on my heart to pray for each customer as I was filling orders. It was a sweet time of fellowship, thanking God for you and for your friendship, and for this opportunity to work from my house, and for the internet where this is all possible. We live in amazing times!

Thanks for being excited with me! :)

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: You Are What You Think

I’m guest posting over at Overcomer Outreach today, the new ministry started by my friend Janelle of Comfy in the Kitchen fame :) and I’m talking about the fact that what we think about becomes who we are in a post entitled “You Are What You Think.”

Before you head over there, some back story:

Janelle started Overcomer Outreach because she was burdened to encourage the women all around us who are hurting and hiding deep heartache. She wanted a site where they could find hope, help, and a listening ear. I love that she’s made an online home for this.

Overcomer Outreach 1

I’m a face to face hospitality girl, and I can tell you that I’ve had streams of women sit at my table and share deep, deep heartache that you’d never guess was going on under the surface, from their outside, beautiful faces.

I’ve offered tea and encouragement to women who are honestly heartbroken. It’s the least we can do when the Lord has comforted us with His wonderful, never changing love. Christ’s love is the message we want to get across. “Nothing you can do will separate you from God’s love. No law keeping, no law breaking. No goodness, no badness. God loves you as He loves His own Son. We are joint heirs and totally accepted in the beloved.”

Sometimes when we go through trials, for whatever reason, we feel like we are alone. Worse, we think we are the only one to deal with this problem, and we try to hide it. Being alone makes us more prone to the Devil’s attacks and lies. Although having an “in real life” Christian friend or mentor to hug you is the best option, the truth is that many times hurting women are alone with no support.

 

I’ve seen this over and over again in the ministry. Pastor’s wives who don’t have one person they feel they can be completely honest with about their struggles. Ministry families who are struggling in their marriage, their children, or even with past guilt from sin, who put on brave faces, but are withering inside. It shouldn’t be this way.

Overcomer Outreach is a safe place for asking questions and getting support. The site has private FB groups for those struggling with guilt from abortion, and groups for those healing from s*xual abuse, eating disorders and more.

Janelle writes:

At OvercomerOutreach.com you will find a group of authors with compassionate hearts seeking to encourage you through the strength of God.

This amazing group of women is comprised of Licensed Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Christian Life Coaches, Business Owners, Published Authors, Professional Speakers, Professional Bloggers, Bible Study Leaders, Pastor’s Wives, Moms, and Wives…

 

“Many of us have been through some of the trials you may be bearing, which is why 2 Corinthians 1:4 is a verse we continue to cling to when we think of why we’re here. Don’t, for one second think, “this is a group of perfect Christians”, because there is no such thing. We are Christians because we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ , humbled and fully knowing we need a Savior.

Many of us have been right there in your shoes…believe it or not.

Yes, your shoes…

We pray to speak to the woman who have had an abortion, affairs, drug addiction (you fill in the blank) and our prayer is to use God’s word and truth to give her freedom. We pray for her to finally be released from bondage, from the lies she tells herself, and from the condemnation of the enemy that she is not worthy to go forward in her walk with the Lord and in her ministry.

We pray to speak to the oppressed, ill, victimized, tormented, abused, and bullied…we want to share God’s truth and love with you… and encourage you. We want to walk beside you to let you know…

You will get through this…”

Join me over there to talk about what you are feeding your mind.

7 Real-Life Reasons Women’s Blogs Go Cold

Some time back, Tim Challies blogged about some of his favorite blogs for and by women.  We shared several favorites and he mentioned several blogging friends (yay!) but at the end of his article he observed:

I was struck, as I went through all the blogs I follow, how many have gone cold. It may be that there has always been this much attrition in the blogosphere, or it may be that blogging is in decline, having given way to other forms of social media. It is hard to know. But I found a lot of blogs—former favorites—that had not been updated in months. Many of them ended with notes from the author saying that she would return at an undefined point in the future. I wonder how many will.”

women 1

Today, three women bloggers explain why this phenomenon exists. here

I want to share my thoughts on this because women bloggers do bemoan the fact that we don’t write consistently. The topic recently came up in a mastermind group: “How do you find time to write consistently?”

And the answers are always the same:

  • I try to blog once a week, but sometimes I don’t even fit that into my schedule.
  • I try to go to a coffee shop and get a few hours to write, but I’m so exhausted that I sometimes I end up people watching and staring at the pastry case.
  • Life is so busy and the kids come first.

I’m going to throw out several reasons why I don’t always blog and my blog goes “cold.”

1. I sit down to write and one of my kids need me.

This happened twice this week. I finally muster up a thought worthy of penning down and my cell phone rings. It’s one of my college aged daughters calling to chat. I have to decide who gets my time: the blogosphere or my girls. My family wins.

2. I can’t feed my family a blog post. In other words, food has to be made. Really though, it does. And food prep takes time. My husband is always happier when he comes home to a pot roast dinner rather than a finely crafted post, however clever. :)

3. Life is unpredictable. I’ve often envied the predictability of my husband’s life. He gets up, goes to the gym or runs, gets ready, and goes to work. He works hard (he works two jobs so that I can be with our kids! Our hero!) but at work he does one thing: work. Then he goes to lunch and does one thing: eat. Although his day is certainly not his own as an employee, his task is singular in nature.

My life, on the other hand, is a little less predictable as any mother knows. Despite attempts at routine, when I get up, I never know what I may find.  I may be greeted by a sick child who is throwing up, or a household problem like the cat who just threw up or worse,  a heater that broke, or lesser crisis like “there’s nothing to eat in the house!” All require my immediate attention. This does not negate my planned daily work, mind you, but simply rearranges it.  I can’t just say, “No, I’m sorry. This problem does not fit into the schedule today. The throw-up stays until tomorrow.”

4. You cannot think, therefore, you cannot write. I’m just gonna say it for those of you who are not home with little kids all day:

Some days the noise is so incessant, between people talking to you, around you, and at you, sometimes two or three at a time, that the mind tends to want to explode, or it shuts down, and it’s hard to process thoughts.”  And all God’s women said, “Amen.”

5. Because of #4, we second guess ourselves, and our sanity, and are less apt to turn thoughts into words.

6. Blogging is not a primary ministry. My real life ministry includes helping Peter in the church, teaching teens and toddlers, encouraging moms, having women in my home, hospitality, visiting the sick. These all take time. Real face-to-face interactions take precedence over the computer.

7. Blogging about “theological things” requires spending lots of time in the Word. You can’t blog about what you haven’t learned yourself. And when time is short, we choose to study.

So, the next time a woman’s blog runs “cold” know this:

We’re caring for kids, changing sheets, cleaning dishes, making meals and packing lunches, trying to memorize Bible verses to keep our sanity and so we can teach our kids. We’re peeling 50 pounds of apples to freeze for the winter, cooking meals and cookies to send to our college students, answering texts from kids who need us now. We’re answering the phone and visiting our authentic community. We’re battling discouragement or loneliness or creating a beautiful day for our kids. We’re encouraging women and mentoring younger moms. We’re studying our husbands to do them good and not harm them.

We may seem a little scattered or inconsistent, but the mom-life is a wonderful life, and although we share a bit of our hearts on line, and are actually surprised when people show up and read our blogs,  our real heart is here in our home.

 

How to Stabilize Your Faith When It’s Been Shaken

Many of my very dear childhood friends have had what I call a “crisis of faith.” They believe in God, but they are totally skeptical of the church.

stabilize faith

Who can blame them, when their childhood church experience consisted of:

a majority of teaching that majored on minors, quirks, and non-essentials (the pastor’s wife wears this…here, you can’t see? Let me get up on the platform and model what a Christian woman wears, and so must you…and if we see you out and about dressed differently, we’ll call your parents/husband/father to task)

a healthy dose of fear-mongering (if you are sinning you’d better check to make sure you are really saved! Struggling with sin means that you are most likely not!)

a lot of pride (we’re so glad we’re not like those really bad sinners out there! God is good! Make sure you stay away from them!)

a lot of partisanship (OUR church is the best and we don’t mind saying so.)

a little condemnation (If you don’t do such and such [tithe, read Bible, witness], I’d be afraid to get into my car and drive.)

a little self-sufficiency (You don’t need counsel from anyone. Anything you need will come from the pulpit.)

major people worship (OH MY GOSH, that was pastor so and so. Hello, Pastor! Giggle, giggle. THANK GOD that we have THIS man as our pastor!)

feelings that they were never accepted, and that they never measured up. (When you start doing this, you’ll be qualified to serve. “THIS” usually meant conforming to the church norms on non-essentials.

“family love” that was pretty shallow (We’re all a big family and we all love each others. Unless you cross ME. Then I will cut you.)

They were taught a wishy-washy gospel that led you straight back to law-keeping for acceptance. You can be saved, yes, but after that, you’d better perform.

They’ve come to equate Christianity with rules, regulations, and fear-mongering.

I’m actually thankful that my friends knew enough to reject this type of religiosity. It’s a false gospel of works, and certainly not the atmosphere of a loving family of God. They’re still searching, many of them, and that gives me hope.

They want to know God, but they doubt they can trust the church.*

So for you who are searching, I know from talking to you, that it’s hard to unravel what God is like from how the church treated you.

But, hear me out, knowing God is your oxygen. It’s what you need for life. Like physical oxygen to the body, without it, your life is just a choking, suffocating existence.

Let’s be frank, God is not like the church. Isn’t that a wonderful truth! God is so much better.  In fact, the glorious truth of the gospel is that God came to rescues an “adulterous” people. We are so unfaithful to God in word and deed…but God loves sinners. I know you’ll be tempted to tune me out right, but please try to read:

There’s nothing you can do that will make God love you any more or any less. It’s unconditional love. That means that the love never changes. Never. Jesus paid it all, did it all, and continues to do it all for you.

How do you wrap your mind around such grace? How do you de-program your mind from such ingrained wrong teaching ?

How do you come to believe that God does actually love you? What exactly does it mean to keep the faith? Does it mean that you grit your teeth and hold to a certain creed with dogged determination?

The answer is to go back to the basics of faith.

If you’ve been raised in Christianity from childhood, the word faith is used so frequently that its meaning begins to be foggy.

Faith is simply believing what God says.

And because we are mortal, from day to day, our faith can vacillate.

But we can’t even begin to keep the faith if we don’t know the Faithful One. I don’t mean that you haven’t trusted Christ by faith to save you. Many of you have trusted Christ for salvation. But on a daily basis, do you know God personally and in a friendship way,  so that you can believe God?

I recently went apple picking. My dad’s big old apple tree lost a branch and we collected all the apples in an LL Bean Boat and Tote Bag. I trust LL Bean because I know that if anything happens to the bag, they’ll replace it. How do I know this? They say it in their catalog, yes, but they’ve also been faithful to their 100% satisfaction guaranteed warranty for many years and have a reputation for doing what they say they’ll do. I trust LL Bean.

IMG_4261.JPG

It’s the same with faith.

I can’t trust someone that I’ve spent no time getting to know personally.

I can say I know about Princess Kate. I might follow her styles and hair styles, but I only know OF her.  I don’t actually know her personally. If I got the chance to sit and chat with Princess Kate, and find out her likes and dislikes, and understand her as a person, I could say I really KNOW Princess Kate.

God’s the same way. You need to know Him personally through His Word and time spent communing with Him. Think of it like spending time getting to know a friend.

Faith that gives hope is not just some nebulous dream, like,  I hope that someday I’m going to heaven, or I hope that things will work out the way I’d envisioned. I hope God has this situation in hand.

Faith is based on knowing God’s character as revealed in His word. Just like I learned what Peter was like through writing letters when he was away for three years at college, I learn what God is like through His book, the Bible. It’s history, poetry, doctrine, law, prophecy that all points to God and reveals His character.

I knew Peter’s heart because I studied those letters in High School. They were a priority to me.

And I know God’s heart because I read His Word.

One of my favorite things about God is His faithfulness. In a world where people change and fail you, God’s faithfulness is a rock of security.

So many times throughout Scripture, we’re told that:

God is faithful,

His faithfulness is great and never fails,

He’s the faithful God, keeping covenants for generations because of His steadfast love and mercy.

He faithfully upholds us, literally keeps us together, by the word of His power.

We see time and time again how God intervened for His people to protect them. We see His faithfulness to the extremely unfaithful, sinfully idolatrous nation of Israel. We know that God even sacrificed His “only begotten Son” for our benefit.

What should be our response to the faithfulness of God? Faith, faith, faith.

Ask yourself:

Is God a liar? No.

Is God more powerful than I am? Yes.

Is God attentive to detail? Yes.

Does He promise to care for our needs? Yes.

Is He more capable than I am to care for my needs? Yes.

Then why don’t I trust Him?

Fear and faith cannot co-exist in the same heart. And so often, we suffer in this life with anxiety, doubt and fear, because in truth, we lack faith. We have to ask hard questions, like “Do I really know God for myself, or have I just heard of Him through other’s experiences?”

Notice the connection between lack of faith and its consequences in these verses:

Fear:  “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matt. 8:26

Doubt: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matt. 14:31

Anxiety/Worry about tomorrow: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matt. 6:30

Lack of Power in Ministry: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?”  He replied, Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:19-21

Unforgiving Spirit:So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the LORD,”Increase our faith!”  He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  Luke 17:3-5

Having faith in God:

  • means that you believe what He says in His Word. Even things that are hard and may not sit right.
  • Faith believes that God will do all things for your good. Even the things we perceive as bad.
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” Spurgeon

 

  • Having faith means that we may not know all the outcomes, but we are okay with that, because we know the nature of the One running all things.
  • Having faith means that we don’t have to attempt to dole out punishment for those who have wronged us, in childhood or in the present. We can forgive them, as God has forgiven us. It doesn’t mean that what they did was right, or that they are out of trouble, but simply that the Righteous Judge who sees all things will judge them as He promised to do. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
  • Having faith means that you let God be God and you abdicate all rights to self-rules and allow Him to preside in your life.
  • And having faith means knowing that God will help us on days when we don’t feel faith. Feelings are not to be trusted. Feelings are not facts.

Living a life of faith means looking to God and following Him. Loving God with all of our mind means believing Him to be a truth teller.

So many of my sweet friends really struggle for even basic things like happiness and joy. They don’t want to live that way, and neither do I.

On the days when I struggle for joy, the real cause may be that my faith is anemic.

The cure may be closer than you think and easier than you expected.

The cure is to look for God in His word. Get one-on-one with your Bible and admit, “God, I know that my experience has left me wounded, but I really, really want to know you! I need you to show me what you are like!”

I promise, if you do this, God will reveal Himself to you through His Word. “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

He wants you to really know Him. He’s made all the provisions, and He knows all of your hurts and baggage. He’s available for you. Go to Him.

Do you struggle with faith? How has it affected your life? Do you find worry, anger, and doubt come easier than faith in God? Don’t be defined by your past. Don’t let the fact that you’ve lost your way here and there stop you. Seek the Lord. “Return to Me” is the desire of His heart towards you.

* This is why it’s so important to teach the clear Word of God, ministry leaders. Can you imagine what God will say to those in Christian leadership who made it harder for others to know Him? Instead of leading them straight to Christ through the Word, they made His sheep jump through hoops, live in fear, and serve some pastor’s small-k kingdom desires, when Christ has already done all the work and made the way wide open?

DIY Primitive Welcome Candles

It’s fall, and I don’t know about you but I’ve got the decorating bug. I want to tuck berries and leaves in every cupboard and basket I can find. Chunky knit throw blankets come out for chilly nights, and Yankee Candles are just plain a “staple” during this season.

I also love putting Welcome Lights into the windows. They look so cozy. So today we decided to take our plain welcome lights and give them a more primitive New England look. I thought I’d share how I did it. Here’s the finished product. You can buy them like this but they are pretty pricey if you want to do every window. So we make do and do it ourselves.

IMG_1773

IMG_1774

 

Last Christmas I bought battery operated window candlesticks at a Benny’s, a local hardware store.  I got the type that you set once and they turn on automatically at that same time every day, and then shut off six hours later. They are LED and they flicker slightly.   I knew that the basic shape was right and that I could make them look older pretty easily. Here’s the before:

IMG_4297.JPG

To give them a primitive look, Hope and I spray painted the base black. I used flat Rustoleum spray paint from Walmart.

IMG_4301.JPG

While they were drying, we heated beeswax chips in the microwave  at 50% power for about 3 minutes, checking and stirring every minute to see how melted it is. I used beeswax because I had it, but you could use any yellowish colored wax or old candles that you might have. Melt them down and add a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to give the wax a “grubby” look.

IMG_4348.JPG

Then, carefully dip your candles in the wax. Don’t burn your hands with the hot wax, because hot wax burns. Ahem. Ask me how I know. Make sure you are doing this over newspapers or parchment paper to protect your countertops. You want it to look bumpy and waxy. Spoon the wax over the candle filling in any holes or gaps,  to make sure the whole thing is covered. I drizzle wax on the sides to make it look drippy.

IMG_4372.JPG

Then I rub extra spices on the wax to make it look older.

IMG_4408.JPG

Then, with an xacto knife, cut through the wax so you can get the battery cover on and off when you need to.

IMG_4415.JPG

You can make them look as primitive as you want by adding more wax or more spices, and deciding how nubbly you want them to look. Below, the right hand candle is the most primitive.

IMG_4412.JPGBy the way, I used my iPod to take the pictures while I was working because I didn’t want my nice camera to meet with a wax accident. Sorry about the quality. You understand, don’t you? :)

You can take these right out of the bases and tuck them into baskets, or use them as night lights. Super cute.

IMG_1761

What do you think? Have you tried making these? Let me know if you do! Enjoy!

IMG_1775