31 January 2011

A story well-written

(Picture taken pre-Sofia)

Tonight, my family said goodbye to some dear friends. Tomorrow is the day that Jeff and Kim and their children will start a very new chapter in their lives. They will be leaving the church where Kim was saved and the two of them were discipled. Jeff will be leaving a good job in which he was successful. After acknowledging that God had given them a desire to serve Him in a fuller capacity, and after spending much time in prayer, they decided to follow God's leading and leave a "comfortable" spot in life to enter a more challenging place in ministry.

There is a backstory here, however. Kim was born in South Korea. She was lef
t at a police station when she was just a baby. However, she and a family in New Jersey who wanted to adopt were very blessed to find one another.

Fast-forward almost thirty years later. After she and Jeff were married, they moved to our little town and began attending our church. By this time, they had a baby, and Jeff, who was saved, wanted to find a church for their family. It was during this time that Kim realized that she needed a Savior. Kim was gloriously saved! And I mean gloriously. I have never seen someone grow so quickly in Christ! Interestingly, before Kim was saved, Jeff and Kim thought they would be content with one child. However, in a relatively short amount of time, after she was saved, their little "herd" grew to two, and then thr
ee. And I have heard Kim say several times what a blessing and joy her children are to her! And now, God, in only the way He can work, has lead this couple to become house parents to a WHOLE GROUP of girls at a Christian children's home.

Don't we serve an awesome God? I love how He puts such loving thought and care into writing every detail of a life's story. When we choose to follow HIS plan, these are the kind of stories we can have! They are lives that glorify Him, foremost, but are, oh, so fulfilling to the one who chooses to let God design the plot.

I will miss having playdates with Kim and the kids, going to each other's houses for dinner, and chatting at church (the few times that happened -lol - with our roving bands of rugrats!) But I'm so excited to see how God will use them in the coming days!

29 January 2011

Pushin' Through

"I just don't want to!"

Getting to the gym by 5:30 A.M. or staying warm in my nice, comfy bed?

Salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwich followed by some chocolate?

Running over to my neighbor's to invite her to church or deciding it's just too much trouble to load the kids up in the van?

Folding that pile of laundry or "taking a break" to read a book?

Choices, choices, choices! Why are some of these things even a struggle? It's obvious which one is the best thing to do! But, boy, do I struggle with these at times (or maybe lots of times!). This week, while I was working through (read: thinking I was dying in) a class at the gym, the instructor barked out, in her drill sergeant tone, "You've got to push through the 'I don't want to!'"

The truth of that statement hit me like a ton of bricks! The Lord has been teaching me that, to succeed in accomplishing what is best or in what He has called me to do, I simply have to decide that I'm going to do it, whether I feel like it or not. For me, that means exercising and eating decently - because I can serve him better if I am healthy (and HE knows how badly heart disease runs in my family!) That means being a witness for Him - whether it's "convenient" or not. And that even means getting the laundry done - since I am perfectly capable of completing that task AND my young family and working husband depend on me for that! I know. None of this rambling is very profound. But isn't it the "I don't want to" that holds us back from doing what's best, or more importantly, from what God wants us to do?

To help conquer the "I don't want to," I've learned and am still learning to make lists and make things routine. That way, the thing that I may not "feel" like doing becomes "The next thing on my list" or "The thing that it's time to do now." No debate. Who cares whether I feel like it. It's settled.

So, these days, I'm learning, very slowly at times, just to "push through the 'I don't want to!'"

"He that hath no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." Proverbs 25:28

25 January 2011

Questions from the Backseat

Since we got a van with a CD player a couple of months ago (yes, you read that correctly - we are now in the 21st century), we have been listening to much more music coming and going. We started out listening to Christmas music. Pretty much, we listened to our church's Christmas program practice CD.

That's when I started realizing that my boys REALLY listen to the words of the songs that they're listening to.
And they think about those words.
And they ask questions about those words.

And considering that I am honest with them (meaning I either try my best to explain, or I just say "You won't understand that 'til you're a little bit older"), I realized that I need to pay careful attention to what they listen to.

Yes, I knew that already, and I was doing that already, but now I think I'm more PURPOSEFUL in choosing what we listen to. Most of the time, we're listening to MY music, which means it's harder to understand, but contains quite a bit of doctrine. That's right, doctrine. You see, the songs we listen to (especially in the van) bring up basic doctrinal questions. Questions like:

"What are fishers of men?"
"God really can do anything, can't He?"
" Why DID Jesus have to die on the cross?"
"Why is Jesus the Glorious Impossible?" (LOL - Thomas asked Travis that question. I understand that his first response was "Go ask your mother!" Thanks, honey.)

Answering these questions has reminded me that riding in the car is a wonderful time to talk to my kids about God and his Word. Isn't that what Deut. 6 says we should do? It says one of the times that we should teach our children about God is when we are "walking in the way." (Of course, it also goes on to name several other times, meaning we should be teaching them about God throughout the day.)

Now don't get me wrong, I don't make my kids listen to my grown-up music all the time. My kids listen to children's music when they're playing around the house. A couple of years ago, Mrs. Regina Farrell (wife to Dr. Tom Farrell) gave me a very helpful and godly piece of advice. She said that when they were traveling with their children in close quarters, she found that listening to good, godly music seemed to ease tension and bickering among her children. In talking to other friends who have discovered this truth, we have agreed that it really does make a difference in the tone of our homes. So, on goes Patch the Pirate, especially when the kids have been testy or whiny.

Daniel, especially, is at a spiritually sensitive point right now. From what I have seen, I think that God is using music to make him think and ask good questions. And I'm thankful for that!

21 January 2011

Sweet Potato Heaven

If Virginia is for lovers, then North Carolina is for sweet potato lovers. In the fall, the local farmers leave behind tons of sweet potatoes and let complete strangers wander through the fields and pick them up. My parents have taken Daniel "sweet potato-picking" the last couple of years; so needless to say, we have enough to last the winter! (It kind of reminds me of the story of Boaz and Ruth; except I've never heard of a marriage taking place because of harvesting leftover sweet potatoes.) Anyways, I love them; my husband, not so much. But since we've been married, I'd like to think I've coaxed him into broadening his vegetable horizons. He will now eat asparagus (when its drenched in lemon butter); I even got him to admit that he liked the spinach-stuffed Southwestern eggrolls at Chili's. I considered that a major victory (despite the fact that his excuse was, "I can't taste anything but the Mexican spice!") So getting him to eat sweet potatoes has been a bit of a challenge. When we were first married, he proclaimed that he DID NOT eat sweet potatoes. If I loaded them down with cinnamon and brown sugar, he tolerated them. Now, he will also eat them at Thanksgiving and Christmas in a sweet potato casserole (again, with lots of sugar, spice, and butter). Well, this week, I discovered another way that he'll eat them. And this way (thanks to the suggestion of Valerie M.) can be made healthier than the Paula Deen-like casseroles.

Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges

Peel 5 medium sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Rinse in water. Dredge them in a mixture of 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. chili powder, and 1 tsp. garlic salt. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Place the wedges in the dish. Unhealthy, but good variation: Drizzle 1/4 cup melted butter over tops and sprinkle a little salt over them. Healthy variation: Drizzle some olive oil over the tops and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 350 for at 1 hr - 1hr. 20 min. You could even broil them the last few minutes to make the outsides a little crispy.

These are also a great side dish because I can easily freeze them to put away as finger foods for Addie.

And because I'm trying to do a better job of building my grocery list around what I already have, the boys and I tried this recipe last night. It's a spin-off of a recipe I saw here. But since I already had the sugar cookie mix, we did this instead.
Sweet Surprise Cookies

Mix Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix according to package directions. Then form dough into small balls (no bigger than 1/2 in.). Break hershey bar(s) into individual squares. Sandwich one square between two balls of dough. Seal edges around chocolate. Bake according to package directions (maybe 1-2 minutes longer).

Thomas and Daniel had fun making these last night. The entertaining part was watching Daniel act surprised every time he bit into the "surprise" chocolate middle. It really does not take much to make those kids happy.... :)

17 January 2011

Birthdays and Bows

So what do you do when you give your in-laws a birthday dinner and the mother-in-law's present isn't here yet? You ask her to make bows! Yep, Russ and Vicky both celebrated their birthdays last week. (I won't tell how old they are). But let's just say that my boys got a kick out of giving Grandpa his birthday gift in a "Happy Birthday, You're 1!" -kind-of -bag. Grandpa, who's getting awfully close to the big 6-0, WAS a little amused. I was told I could keep the bag, though. Hmmm. Sounds like someone was not on top of presents and gift wrap this year. We'll have to work on that for next year. Actually, I did order Vicky a very nice gift two weeks before her birthday, but, obviously it still did not get here on time :/ But I think since I made him a red velvet cake, Grandpa was okay with the bag oversight :). So anyways, after dinner we got to the fun part! Vicky made bows to match Addie's new outfits, and I organized her ribbons. It was the least I could do - lol.

Vicky has made nearly all of Addie's bows!

Anyone want to guess what the guys were doing during this Bow-making Extravaganza?

That's right! Watching football.

Aren't they pretty?

And I just had to include this next picture. Anyone want to guess why she's crying?

Because I won't let her take the bow out of her hair. :)

12 January 2011

Resolutions and Reading Lists

I'm still thinking about some things I want to change or improve this year. One of those is my morning / night routine. Okay, I know that sounds really nerdy to some people, but what I'm doing now is just not working for me. I know I need to get up early enough to get myself pretty much completely ready before I start my day with the kids. Once they're up, my day is off and running, and a lot of times I feel like it's leaving me behind! And, in order to actually get up on time, I know I need to get to bed earlier. Which leads me to my second "resolution" : doing some reading before I turn in for the night. I love to read, have learned so much from reading, and need to make sure I do more of it! Doing some before-bed reading (kinda like Mike and Carol Brady, lol) instead of plopping down on the couch in front of the t.v. or computer is better for me. Plus, it usually insures that I get to bed at a decent hour. So, that being said, here's a list of books that I've enjoyed over the last few years. Of course I can't endorse every premise made by these authors, but these books have either helped me or entertained me!

A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
It's a Wonderful Life by Terrie Chappell
Under the Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliott
Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Born to Win by Kevin Leman (interesting read for first-borns; not that I buy into all the birth-order psychology)
Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson ( the best parenting book I read!)
Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow
Following God with All Your Heart by Elizabeth George
One Nation Under Therapy by Christina Hoff Sommers and Dr. Sally Satel (interesting; again, definitely can't say I agree with everything....)
Churchill by Paul Johnson
1776 by David McCullough

Right now, I'm working on Esther by Charles Swindoll and Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
I would love to hear what others have read and can recommend for the upcoming year!

06 January 2011

Good Things

"But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Psalm 34:10

This verse is from my favorite passage in the Bible, Psalm 34 . I've read this passage probably more than any other chapter in the Bible. And it never gets old to me. (It was a special treat when Thomas, my six year old, memorized a good chunk of this passage in first grade this year. I loved listening to him recite it to me.) This week, as I read this passage, God took my mind to James 1:17: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." I'm so grateful to serve a God who knows what we need, when we need it, and exactly how it should be given to us. I can truly say the Lord has blessed me with many "good things." As I start a new year with Him, I can't help but think of the gifts he has given to me in years passed.

- His preparation in my life - It amazes me to look back at my life and see how God has prepared me for the ministry He has allowed me to serve in so far. When we came to the church and school where we serve, there was a need for a church pianist and JH/HS English teacher. I could do that! Yes, I was fresh out of college, but I had to start somewhere. And, no, I wasn't the best pianist in the world, but I was capable and willing. My husband was already serving in this ministry; I simply came on board. No resume or interview! My qualifications fit the vacancies. That is nothing but God! God had given me excellent teachers and role models to train me and prepare me for areas where I could be used to fill a need. Now I mostly stay home and he has brought other people (and better ones, in my opinion) to fill those spots. But that is also a gift! Presently, I can stay home with my children most days while seeing a ministry that I "babied" now flourish.
- His provision of our home - God literally dropped this home in our laps! Almost ten years ago, we went to see a loan agent to find out if we qualified for a loan. While we were sitting in her office, her real estate agent husband called, and upon finding out we were at her office, said he had a house we needed to see. It was close to the church, was a price we could afford, and was in a quiet little neighborhood. A few weeks later we were home owners! Has the home itself been perfect? Of course not. But living HERE has undoubtedly been in His will! We have had opportunity to be a testimony through our lives and words to a few families. Additionally, our next-door neighbors have become some of our dearest friends - whose boys are a GOOD influence on my boys. THAT in and of itself is a gift!
- His Peace - When I was in graduate school, I attended one summer session in which I was the only student! The university usually did not proceed with the class in that situation, but the Department Head insisted the class be offered anyways. For the next two weeks, the university's American Literature scholar led me in an intense study of American Colonial literature. I know that sounds like torture to some, but I loved it and thought I understood what a blessing I was receiving. Actually, I had no clue. You see, much of early American literature was written by the Puritans. The truly godly ones had great faith in God and proclaimed in their writings the blessing of His control in our daily lives. This particular professor pointed out several times that God's control over our lives was considered a blessing, not a constraint. I listened, took notes, and wrote the right answers on that test. The real test would come a couple of months later. At the end of that summer, we discovered (unexpectedly) that we would be having a baby. We were so excited! But when I was ten weeks along, we were told there was no heartbeat and I would need a D&C. After the shock, disappointment, and sadness had subsided just a little, my mind went back to the lectures and discussions of that class. God is in control! That brought me such peace. And, not ironically, the day I returned to teach my American Lit class, we were scheduled to cover Anne Bradstreet. For non-English buffs, Bradstreet is part of Puritan literature. Several of her poems express sadness at the passing of grandchildren (one even "in the bud" as mine was) but reassure the reader that there is comfort and rest in God's sovereignty. What a comfort to me! While I hesitate to call the miscarriage a blessing, I did consider it a blessing and a gift to stand in front of those Juniors and be able to teach that particular poem. God enabled me to get through the lesson (with dignity I believe); but more importantly, I believe I was given the gift of displaying the gift of PEACE to those kids because God had reminded me that HE was in control.

God has given us many "good things." But those are the few that have come to my mind often in the last several years and for which I am so thankful!