Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

with love,
Saralyn, JT, Bubba, Sissy, and LB

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Feliz Scottie Dog

My children have been singing these words to the tune of "Feliz Navidad" for almost a week now.
We surprised them last Saturday with a trip into the next state to pick up their Christmas present, an 18 week old Scottie/Cairn Terrier we've named Lorna Doone. (If mom's gonna ascent to a dog, it better well be named after a cookie!) She's a sweet little pup we found through a rescue organization.

Of course we had to get a puppy in the middle of the coldest and snowiest weather the Midwest has had this season, and right now I'm spending half of my days walking around my yard telling an 8 lb. dog to find a spot and do her business, and the other half picking up what she did in my house. I think I'm turning into an Eskimo; by January I'll be able to go out in my shorts and T-shirt!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

I have a decorative plate with a drawing of the babe in the manger and the words "Happy Birthday Jesus" printed across the top. It has always been a nice addition to my holiday decor, a reminder to even the eaters of my Christmas cookies that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." But lately I've been rethinking the mildness of all of that.

Over the last three days I've devoured The Jesus of Suburbia: Have We Tamed the Son of God to Fit Our Lifestyles?, by Mike Erre (which you can pick up for the great price of $4.49 through Amazon).

Erre starts with what was to me an eye-opening overview of the happenings in the Roman world at the time prior to the birth of Christ and throughout his lifetime. He contrasts the titles claimed by Augustus Caesar, including Cosmic Savior and bringer of peace, with the Messiah who truly embodied them, and describes the history behind Herod's extremely paranoid behavior. Jesus was a radical. From his birth to his death he turned everything the Roman world and the Jewish religious establishment saw as good and right on its head and forced people to choose which king they would serve.

The birth of Christ was a humiliating experience: the vastness and greatness of the King of Kings crammed into a helpless baby, born of a sinful woman, and placed in a feeding trough. There is a reason Paul says that Jesus, "Made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." And yet this humble birth was a fitting beginning to the start of his revolution, a revolution not waged with political power, weapons and skillful strategies, but with love, grace, and sacrifice.

Yet this is not the Jesus I've been following. Erre's question hit way too close to home:

"Could it be that many of us have lost this aspect of the Christ? Is it possible that we see him primarily as ushering in comfort and security for those of us who follow him but that we have missed him as a firebrand radical who so turned the established order upside down that he was murdered to shut him up?"

So this Christmas season I am rethinking the quaintness of the sweet baby in the manger. It's all just too tame, and there is nothing tame about Jesus. Daily he forces me to choose. I can't have Jesus and any other god, not my stuff, or my family, or my so-called dreams. And when I choose he requires me to trust him and join the revolution.

"You must die to live. You must lose to gain. Weakness is strength. Joy exists in the midst of suffering. Power is restraint. Love those who persecute you. Pray for those who hate you. Caesar isn't Lord and Herod isn't King. It is not the strong or the wealthy who will inherit the earth, but the meek. The kingdom of God won't be given to the religious leaders but to the spiritual idiots (the poor in spirit). Mourners, peacemakers, the merciful, and the persecuted can all find blessing in the kingdom of Jesus.

"Jesus Christ is the most subversive man ever to have walked the earth. This is revolution."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Latest Attempt

Last year Sissy and I went to a Knit-In at the library. The ladies from the local knitters' guild gave us each a skein of multi-colored acrylic yarn and some large needles. I've started a scarf a dozen times to pull it all out just as many. This weekend I finally knit it in a feathers and fan pattern. The color is nothing I would have picked--can you say stomach flu after grilled cheese and tomato soup?--but it gives me an incentive to either make a new coat or find one at the thrift.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Looking for ideas for your handmade Christmas? Check out Sew Mama Sew's 2nd Annual Handmade Holidays.

The folks at Sew Mama Sew have put together a wonderful assortment of tutorials--yes, there's no need to buy a pattern--for everyone on your list, from the baby to the babysitter. Many of their ideas require little previous crafting experience. This is another one of my favorite crafty sites.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I'm in love with refashioning! What's not to love when thrifty meets crafty and rendezvous in the wardrobe? I found Wardrobe Refashion a while back and have been mulling over lots of ideas, but after a play-date with my seamstress friend Arla I finally got the guts to put a couple under the needle.

Here's what I came up with:

This is all that's left of a corduroy jumper I bought at the thrift hoping I could alter it. (My camera corrupted the "before" picture I took of the whole thing. bummer.)

The shoulders proved to difficult to try to petite, so I cannibalized it to make elastic waist church pants for L.B. I created the pattern by minimizing instructions for adult pajama pants I found in Sew What? Fleece. Great series, by the way, if you're into sewing without patterns.

Sissy is really hard on jeans and I was going to cut the bottoms off her latest victim and add a ruffle to make capris.

Arla suggested I make a skirt instead. I had done this before for myself and followed the same instructions found here. But, of course, I couldn't stop with a simple skirt; I went cowgirl princess! I left the bottom of the denim rather ragged, added some eyelet lace I bought on final clearance when our Walmart closed, and sewed on some cotton flowers I used on the curtains in her nursery. The added length should give her at least a year of wear since the jeans were still a bit large in the waist.

I'm going to try a couple more "safe" projects for myself and then I want to try some of the wilder stuff over at Wardrobe Refashion. Not sure I want to take their pledge, but who knows? I'm feeling some eccentricity coming on...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
Not so much to be understood as to understand;
Not so much to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we awaken to eternal life.

~The Prayer of St. Francis, taken from a biographical sketch of the life of Francis of Assisi the Lesser Brother in Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gone Mad

I never thought I was an angry gal. I am not a screamer with my kids. I don't have road rage issues. My husband and I have never had a knock-down, drag-out, we've never called each other names, and I can think of only three times in our 15 years together that we've even raised our voices with one another. Anger is not my problem. Or is it?

After one of my kids was involved in an incident at church a couple weeks back, I realized that I've been growing increasingly irritated with my children. When they disobey, it's felt personal. Their childlike silliness has been driving me crazy and I've found myself withdrawing into my private shell, desperately desiring to escape from my "gifts."

While praying about what I was going to do about my children, I turned to the right and on the bookcase next to my comfy chair was this book, staring me full in the face:

You mean it's my problem? Yes, often God does need to be rather blunt with me! So these are the things I've been pondering, thanks to Robert Jones.

Puritan Richard Baxter defined anger as "the rising up in the heart in passionate displacency against an apprehended, evil, which would cross or hinder us of some desired good." This anger may be motivated by my circumstance but is not caused by it. Instead it is a heart reaction directly related to my beliefs about God.

I want to believe that my irritations are justified, but when comparing them to the offenses against and reactions of Christ, I've come to see that they do not qualify as righteous anger.

Righteous anger is marked by--
1. a reaction against actual sin rather than my own person irritations or thwarted desires
2. a focus on God and his concerns rather than me and mine
3. the coexistence of other godly qualities and Christ-like expressions

I'm only three chapters into it, but Uprooting Anger has me shaking in my boots, literally. When I started to feel prickled last night while trying to stretch very uncooperative pizza dough I had to humbly send my kids from the kitchen in order to "help mommy not react sinfully because it was already starting to bubble out of her heart."

This is hard stuff. I want to think I've got a reason to gripe and I don't like facing my own ugliness. I want it to be someone else's problem! But I know God in His mercy is trying to teach me something that's out there beyond my own selfishness. However, right now I have the feeling in my spirit that I had in my arms and legs when I first started working out again. I hardly have the strength to get out of the chair, let alone down the stairs!

So here's to exercise!

"Exercise thyself unto godliness: for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." ~1 Timothy4:7b-8

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Church members in too many cases are like deep sea divers, encased in the suits designed for many fathoms deep, marching bravely to pull out plugs in bath tubs."

~ from Mr. Jones Meets the Master, by Peter Marshall

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taste and See

Practical Theology for Women is only 154 pages from title page to the last footnote, but Wendy Horger Alsup packs every one of them with stick-to-your-ribs theological goodness. Unlike most books for women, there's no silly advice on how to have a happier life and very few cute little stories; nope, this book is hard core.

Alsup sticks to the basics of the study of God, dividing the book into three sections: "What is Theology?," "Who Is Our God?," and "Communicating with Our God. " But don't be fooled into thinking that having these things figured out is enough; the proof is in the pudding. The biggest and best thing about this little book is the poignant (and rather painful) way Alsup reveals that most of us live as practical atheists. If our lives were thoroughly examined they would show little evidence of the faith to which we claim to adhere. We are selfish, faithless, fearful Christ-followers. Yikes.

So what's a girl to do? It's not nearly as depressing as it sounds. Using her commanding knowledge of the Scripture and the heart of man (or woman, as the case may be), Alsup revives the soul by helping her reader understand the gracious God on whom she calls and His desire to empower us to live by faith. When we are imbibed with the Word and the Spirit of God, we are different people: we are Christ-like people.

Don't miss this one, friends. Theology is for us, not because we need to know the big words and be full of information, but because the knowledge of God truly changes our lives. Want to be a better wife, mother, employee? Leave the self-help books on the shelf, grab yourself a copy of Practical Theology for Women, and let Wendy Alsup guide you past your own understanding and into the depths of our marvelous God.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Over

I didn't vote for Obama, but in January he will become the leader of my country. This is not the first time I've been disappointed with election results, but this time I am choosing a different reaction. As my friend Sandy brought up in our community group on Sunday evening, we must realize that God uses all sorts of men, even those who do not follow hard after Him, to both discipline and protect His people (some biblical examples are King Ahasuerus, King Darius, and King Cyrus), and a "king's heart is but a stream of water in the hand of the Lord" (Proverbs 21:1).

So as for me, I will praise the Lord for the great thing He has done, saying:

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise." Daniel 2:20-23a

May we take very seriously the admonition of 1 Peter 2:13-17 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to give honor and respect to our authorities and diligently pray for them, whether or not we happened to vote for them. And may America bless God.


This is what will happen to your children if you let them eat too much Halloween candy...

...or play in the leaves with a missionary kid. Thanks, Kate for the fun pictures!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Move over, Lydia

With all due respect to Lydia E. Pinkam's Vegetable Compound, I have found the answer to all of your "female complaints." I have discovered the perfect woman's tonic:

Yes, candy corn. It's delicious, it's nutritious, (it's made with honey, right?), and it's one-hundred percent fat-free. Wards off the afternoon energy slump and the PMS grouchies. When the kids are crabby, grab a handful. When the husband wonders why dinner's not on the table, grab one for him, too. But act now: don't wait, for after the bewitching hour it will all be gone!

Use only as directed. Side affects include but are not limited to headache, tooth decay, and stomach pudge. Please consult your doctor before taking this or any other snake oil potion to see if candy corn is right for you. Substance has been found to be highly addictive in laboratory rats, er, homeschool students. Do not administer to children.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Radical Womanhood

Carolyn McCulley's new book Radical Womanhood has officially hit the bookstores, and if you don't have it, go buy it.


Because you need it.

I mean it!

I "met" Carolyn via the internet back in February. She had posted about her book which was in the works, and I emailed her a curiosity question about her cover: I used to work for her publisher and thought I recognized the company that did the artwork. One thing led to another and I had the tremendous privilege of being on her editing team.

Carolyn's thoroughness and scholarship are top-notch. She articulates the errors found within the extreme thinking of the feminist movement without discounting the wrongs righted and honor due some brave women who refused to be quieted in the face of injustice, always reminding the reader that truth resides within the Word of God alone. Reading her findings challenged my thinking and encouraged me to examine my identity in Christ and my place in the created order. In taking me back to the early days of political feminism, and even further back to the dawn of history, Carolyn helped me to see not just why we do what we do, but whose idea it was in the first place, and how it all stacks up next to God's plan for His people. In my slightly biased opinion, this is the best book on the subject available today.

For a wonderful four-minute video overview, go to the Radical Womanhood website.

Thanks, Carolyn, for putting in all those long hours and giving us this great resource. You have blessed me immensely, and I'm sure many others will say the same.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Keep'n it real

Ok, I admit it. I'm trying to lose those ten pesky pounds I've acquired over the past few years (can't figure out where on earth I got them--wish I'd kept my receipt). I'm working out with Leslie and counting my calories with the Sparkies: six more to go!

The trouble I'm having is with fat, and not just the fat on my hips. Through tracking with Sparkpeople I've realized that while my daily caloric intake is within the acceptable range, most of them come from fat, and I'm low on carbs, fiber and protein. (Guess I need to lay off the Cheetos. Darn.)

So I've been looking for recipes and I picked up the Hungry Girl book at the library yesterday.

She's got some pretty good ideas like making brownies with cake mix and pumpkin puree, and eating turkey pepperoni, but to tell the fat-laden ugly truth, I like real food. Life is just way too short to eat fat free cheese and beef flavored soy bits. As a last resort I could stomach some of the deserts with low fat cool whip and sugar free chocolate pudding, but I just don't think you could fool my mouth with bran cereal coated onion rings or chicken style soy patties.

This foodie's going to have to pass on "Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World" and go for "Real-Food Eating with a Heaping Side of Self-Control." Anybody know where I can find it, cheap?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We now return to our regularly scheduled programing...

Whew! The last month's been a blur. With schooling, piano lessons, swimming lessons, a new children's church curriculum, and the crisis needs of some of our friends, I've barely had the chance to read other people's blogs (love that "blogs I'm following thing," by the way) and have had absolutely nothing to say on my own. Thanks to those of you who've shot me an email to say you missed me, or at least wondered if I was dead. I feel the love!

Anyway, I'm trying to get back in the blogging saddle again and in searching for something relevant to talk about, thought I'd start with my current musings on things in print.

First back to this one:
If you can discern your way through his liberal theology and socialist political sympathies, Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution is worth your time, not because you should be persuaded that God is a pacifist (a suggestion I find difficult to swallow when served with any portion of Scripture) but because we all need to be challenged to see Jesus as a helper of the disenfranchised rather than simply a vending machine for the shiny, happy, middle class American Christian. Check you local library for this one.

Next up on my reading list is Practical Theology for Women, by Wendy Horger Alsup. My husband was manning his ministry's booth at the Straight Up Conference where the rep from Crossway generously gave him a copy for me.

I've only read the preface so far, which is Wendy's story, but I can tell you that she certainly has the experience to back up her claims that God is great in rotten circumstances. It's a thin book, so I hope to finish it this weekend and be able to talk about it next week.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Please Pray

I posted a couple months ago about my friend Molly and the return of her symptoms that had prompted brain surgery last summer for her Chiari Malformation. Well she's scheduled next Friday for a second round. You can read the details on her husband Steve's blog.

Please pray for them. Pray for surgery success and a healthy recovery. Pray for grace and mercy in their family while mom's out of commission. Pray for the relief of fears and anxieties. And pray that in all of this God would be glorified.

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
James 5:16b

Kids' Quest

While researching curriculum this summer to use in our children's church, I found a gem in the Kids' Quest Catechism Club put out by Great Commission Publications.

Kid's Quest is a great program that teaches children both the doctrines of the faith outlined in the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the biblical reasons for them. The program includes wonderful songs, activities and stories about faithful servants of Christ to go along with the Bible lessons. Like AWANA there are incentives for learning the catechism questions and answers and weekly Scripture verses.

We've been working on various parts of the catechism at our house ever since Starr Meade's Training Hearts, Teaching Minds hit the shelves, but have found that often times other memory work required by AWANA or Sunday school has pushed it to the background and we haven't progressed passed question 40. Well no longer! In the course of one year our clubbers will learn the entire 150 questions of the First Catechism, a children's version of the WSC. And I'm sure we parents will learn a lot about doctrine through our kids' weekly memory work!

It is my hope that this program will help the parents of our fellowship to both train our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), and equip them to be prepared to make a defense for a reason for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the cheap

Get out a bowl and a spoon! Jewel (and I'm assuming other Albertson's stores) has Malt-O-Meal cereal on sale 4/$5 this week and four 1-dollar coupons can be obtained here and here, making the cereal only $.25 per bag. Yowzers!

I found other links for Malt-O-Meal Cereals at pinching your pennies if you want to try this deal multiple times.

And if you're heading over there between Thursday and Saturday, pick up eggs for $.99 (limit 4) and Grands! Biscuits on sale for $.88 (limit 4). There were coupons for $.30/2 in a recent newspaper insert, making them $.73 each. Not bad for canned biscuits.

A new boy on the block

JT's cousin Sheaffer welcomed baby Carter into the family last week. The fact that he's a "he" is momentous on that side of the fam: we have the only other boys. So congratulations, Sheaffer and Chris, and welcome Carter. Our boys are breathing a sigh of relief that they're no longer the only ones!

Stop by and congratulate the new parents at The Sims Family.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Any thoughts?

"Someone once said the difference between American Christianity and Christianity as it's practiced in the rest of the world has to do with how each views suffering. In America Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world Christians pray for stronger backs so they can bear their suffering. That's why we look away from the bag lady on the street and look to the displays in store windows. That's why we prefer going to movies instead of hospitals and nursing homes."

Dave Dravecky, When You Can't Come Back

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Messing with my reality

Has anyone read this book?

It was recommended by Kate, a missionary we pray for, so I picked it up at my library and dove in while waiting for my kids at piano lessons.

I'm only half way through but it's really messing with me in a good way, I think. For some reason God's got me reading things that would never make the mega church reading list and He's really shaking up my understanding of "normal" gleaned from spending my entire life within the middle class American Christian subculture. I'm not sure I track with the author on all of his arguments, but it's a challenge none the less.

What in the world is God calling me to? Living as an Ordinary Radical? Honestly, I'm getting rather nervous....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whatcha got cookin'?

A friend of mine (who happens to claim she's not an epicurean) gave me this wonderfully easy recipe for crock pot beef stew that tastes as good as hometown diner comfort food. It's neither fancy nor uber-healthy but my kids like it so much they ask for it for their birthday dinners. Served with corn muffins--I get my recipe from the back of the Quaker Corn Meal box--it's delish!

Crock Pot Beef Stew

1.5 t0 2.5 lbs. of stew beef (I usually buy pot roast on sale and cut it up myself), seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika
2 cans tomato soup with 1 can of water
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, thickly sliced
3 ribs celery, thickly sliced
5 or 6 medium peeled potatoes
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil

Brown seasoned beef in a skillet over medium high heat. Pour into crock pot. Add onions and spices and stir well. Cover with soup and water and stir again. Add carrots, celery, and potatoes. Stir stew and cook on high for 5 hours. If sauce needs thickening, combine 1-2 tablespoons of flour with 3/4 cup of cold water and stir into stew about 15 minutes before serving.

Corn Muffins
(makes 1 dozen)

1-1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. corn meal
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400. Grease muffin pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing only until moistened. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

That's what little girls are made of

My house was full of giggles and squeals this afternoon as we celebrated Sissy's eighth birthday with her girlfriends. (It was too much for the menfolk so they hit the road and went fishing.) We spent an hour working on counted cross-stitch turtles, then they made their own individual pizzas and told all their family secrets (just kidding, moms)!

Sis decided she was too old for a character cake and chose my favorite, grasshopper pie, as her birthday dessert.
Of course, the best part for all the girls was playing with the gifts during the last 15 minutes before the parents arrived. My living room looked like a toy store explosion!

Each girl went home with a new skill, a project to work on, and a bag full of candy jewelery. Little girl life is sweet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

La-La-Laborious, Laborious

Saw this at Beth and Becki's blog and thought I'd play along with this meme from Rocks in My Dryer:

How long were your labors?

Child #1-- about 34 hours of the hot place on wheels. Sorry, Mr. Bradley, but there is no such thing as a pain-free and drug-free labor.
Child #2-- 12 hours but we barely made it to the hospital. See here for the story.
Child #3-- 8 hours, and only because I wouldn't let her break my water and be done with it. I told my midwife I didn't want to have a baby that night--I needed some rest because I'd just had a houseful of guests over for dinner.

How did you know you were in labor?

I had the standard symptoms of crampy back and methodical contractions. All my labors started very slowly and I could continue with my normal life with only a small pause to contract. But once I got going, watch out! Once my water broke I was pretty much done. My first child was born in 3 pushes, the second in 2, and the third was barely a grunt. These hips were made for labor!

Where did you deliver?

Three different hospitals. I'm also not a home-birther; after all that work I figured I'd let someone else clean up the mess and make me some dinner.


Child #1--Epidural with Pitocin after about 24 hours of labor. I got the drugs and went to sleep until they woke me up to push. I can honestly say I didn't feel a thing, but then again, I didn't feel a thing for about 4 hours after the delivery, either.

Child #2--nope

Child #3--nope

C-section? no

Who delivered?

Child #1--doctor, and I swore never again
Child #2--the most wonderful midwife in the world
Child #3--same terrific midwife

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Princess!

Eight years ago this evening JT fought our way through a mega-church's Saturday evening service traffic, barely making it to the hospital before our beautiful little girl made her appearance. She was born in less than 20 minutes, and weighing in at over 9 lbs, was the biggest baby I had ever seen. (Every nurse that entered our room looked at her, then at me, and said stupefied, "YOU had a 9 lb. baby?" As if I had a choice, right?)

She truly is our "song of joy" and brings color to our lives far beyond her blue eyes and blond hair. Compassionate and kind, she makes friends wherever she goes. And today I can add brave to the list; notice the cute little earrings adorning her lobes. Way to go, girly!

May you grow in beauty this year as you learn to love God and people. May you be both strong and merciful, graceful and wise.

I love you,


Buddy, can you spare four dimes?

While we don't "go" to school, we do eat breakfast, and it's the meal I have the hardest time getting on the table. I never feel like eating until about 10am but my hungry hoard is ready at 7:30. Meijer has helped me out with this deal--

Meijer is running a 5 for $9 sale on Kellogg's cereal products and has Eggo products on sale for $1.15. There are quite a few $1/2 coupons available from recent newspaper inserts, as well as a $10 Kellogg's Fuel for School rebate. Here's how I did it:

2 Eggo Waffles $1.15 each (-$1/2 coupon)
2 Eggo French Toast Sticks $1.15 each (-$1/2 coupon)
2 boxes Frosted Mini Wheats $1.80 each (-$1/2 coupon)
4 boxes Nutri-Grain Bars $1.80 each (- two $1/2 coupons)
cash out of pocket= $10.40

after $10 rebate = $ .40
If you plan to try this deal yourself, be sure to take the rebate with you; it specifies certain box sizes. All purchases must be on the same receipt. No problem this week!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The view from my kitchen window

We live in a raised ranch so we pretty much have a bird's eye view of our neighbors' yards. This afternoon while getting ready to make pizza dough, I glanced out the window over my sink to see my quickly-approaching-50 neighbor lady clad in a bikini and gardening gloves, broom in hand, sweeping out her kids' tree house.

I think I laughed so loud it almost shook her over the side.

I guess this is an even exchange for the time she got a view of my then three-year-old child (who shall remain nameless) pulling down drawers to squat in our yard.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Pleaser from the Freezer

Ok, Cindy, I am drooling over those Frozen Peanut Butter Bars, but have you tried Peanut Butter Blobs? Yes, they are a moment on the lips, forever on the hips, but they taste oh so good!

Peanut Butter Blobs
(makes 50-70 depending on how big ya like your blob)
1/2 lb. butter
1 lb. peanut butter
2-3/4 cups powdered sugar
6-1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup chocolate chips
In a large bowl, blend first three ingredients. Stir in cereal and chocolate chips. Drop on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm, then remove to a freezer bag. Freeze until served.

(Thanks, Marilyn, for the recipe!)

New Way of Thinking

A while back Monica put the meme (rules here) question to me "What have you been challenged to think about differently?" I've been mulling this one over because it seems lately I've been challenged to think about a whole lot of things differently.

I've been pondering a lot of stuff I once considered scandalous like White Washed Feminists and True Womanhood and am trying to get into the minds of some folks I'm sure I don't completely agree with. I've pulled away from the exclusivity of the patriocentric/prairie muffin sector of Christianity while at the same time yearning after their smiling, girly girl, formula-for-everything lifestyle. I've scrutinized the pitfalls in the extremes of shunning the world or fully embracing it, sensing the call of God to the middle to be His hands and feet by actually loving the folks who live in it with a comrade embracing love instead of a patronizing arm's length love. But most of all I've come to see how desperately I need Christ and how He truly longs to rob me of my sin.

The biggest change this has made is in my approach to parenting. I used to cling desperately to the "spare the rod, spoil the child" mantra, believing that I had been given the task of manipulating my children's behavior to best suit what other Christians called "good." I memorized the sayings in Proverbs about parents and children, plastered them onto Ephesians 6:1, and put them all to work on my kids. Then thing is, in doing so I forgot Jesus. I forgot that He is a Gentle Shepherd. I forgot that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. I forgot that it was His kindness that led me to repentance. I became the head of the Pharisees meeting out punishment in the name of God on my trainees instead of a broken sinner leading other little sinners to the place of divine deliverance.

Instead of simply taking for granted what someone taught me in a parenting class--which, by the way, contained a lot of out of context Scripture applied to child rearing--I've had to lay aside what I've always "known" in order to take a fresh look at God Himself, how He loves His own, How He parents them, and how He offers sinners so much more grace than He does punishment if they will only accept it. Don't misunderstand me, I still believe strongly in discipline (and spanking), but not the dictatorial, bolster my parenting pride kind. Not the kind that forgets that even parents need to adhere to the greatest commandments to love God and love others and to do unto other as they would have done to them. I want to be a minister of grace, leading my children to the cross because Jesus is able where they are not. I want to commiserate with them that I, too, can't stop sinning and be perfect. I want to share with them that Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. And I'm no longer convinced that can be properly conveyed with the carte blanche "Do it or I'll spank you" attitude.

My husband preached on Psalm 139 last Sunday, and for years I've seen this as a God-as-big-brother type passage. Watch out, He's gonna get you for that! But if you look deeper you can see that David knows that God knows that he's wretched, yet he rejoices in the fact that God sticks so close. Why? Look at Psalm 135 and 138. God's steadfast love does not leave him. This is the knowledge is too wonderful for him! Paul picks this fact up at the end of Romans 8. This is what I want my kids to know.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why boys stink (and are sometimes slick)

Boy takes shower in parents' bathroom.
Mom sniffs boy. Mom asks Boy, "Did you use soap?"
Boy responds, "Well..."
Mom sends Boy into kids' bathroom for second washing, saying, "Use soap."

After retrieving Boy's towel from other bathroom, Mom enters bathroom to catch Boy squeezing conditioner onto his hand to wash with. Mom says, "that's not soap, it's conditioner for Sissy's hair," to which Boy responds, "It says 'body and volume' on it."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Have you ever had that kick-in-the-stomach realization that you're not who you want to be? Not that you just not there yet, but that you may never be? That maybe God didn't ever intend for you to be that person?

I've always been a bit of a "Just do it" person. For years my attitude about living the Christian life included no room for Spirit infused power but was a matter-of-fact, "Read the Book; do what it says." I believed that all anyone needed was a good dose of willpower to live a godly life, and if that didn't produce the desired outcome a heaping spoonful of guilt would do the trick.

But recently God's been bringing issues and situations into my life that have shown me how wrong my assertions were. He's shown me how much I need His Spirit's work in my life; I can't do it on my own. Yet until now He'd never put me in a place of complete failure, a pit that I could not muster enough chutzpah to claw myself out of.

I've been struggling a lot with God's commands to minister healing and bring comfort to the weary, the very reason we chose to bring children of families in crisis into our home. God loves me so I love others. Simple, right? I had that sting of compassion in my heart for children who needed a home away from their own. And yet the reality of having them in ours is terribly difficult. It's not that the kids are outrageously unruly and difficult. But for some reason when they're here I feel an almost painful yearning toward my own brood and find myself tense to the point of clenching my teeth at night. We've got the extra bed and extra chair at the table. We've got the means to feed one more mouth, but do we have what it takes to baby-sit another woman's child 24 hours a day for an undetermined amount of time? And does wanting to be able to have what it takes make it so?

I'm coming to the conclusion that wanting to be a compassionate, cool-with-it, easy going foster mom will not make me one anymore than wanting to be nine inches taller and blue eyed will make me Liv Tyler. It just ain't gonna happen. There's just more to it than want to.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Bad Poetry Day

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
His daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man--
And, as for the bucket, Nantucket

Pa followed the pair to Pawtucket
(The man and the girl with the bucket)
And he said to the man,
"You're welcome to Nan",
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket

Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset
Where he still held the cash as an asset
And Nan and the man
Stole the money and ran
And as for the bucket, Manhasset

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In honor of the birthday party I'm planning...

If you need a good laugh, click on over to Cake Wrecks. My princess wants to get her ears pierced for her birthday. I'm sure I could have a really hideous one commissioned for that event!

(Thanks ERJM!)

Friday, August 15, 2008


Pshew! Week 1 of homeschool year 2008/2009 is complete. I really love homeschooling--it's totally my calling--and I must admit that there's an added bonus that my house stays neater and I feel much more in charge of my time when we've got a set schedule of tasks to complete, but honestly I feel like I already need a vacation!

My plan was to get all of our academics done Monday through Thursday so we can spend Fridays on fine arts and nature hikes. Well...we are already behind in our three R's and haven't done any fine arts study save listening to Bach's Magnificat during lunch thanks to a smiley little three foot boy in diapers.

I don't know how you folks with toddlers do it. I feel like a broken record with: "Get off the sofa." "Don't swing on the table." "Please sit down and play with your cars." We have a sliding door between our dining room and our screened porch, so I had the brilliant idea of putting the readers out on the porch for quiet, keeping the writer in the dining room and the toddler in the kitchen. Said toddler didn't like that idea and in trying to mess with the slider jammed it over his big toe, pulling off the nail. Ouch and double ouch! Needless to say we've done better trying to cram as much school into nap hours as possible.

I know that for us this won't last forever, in fact, it may only last another week; our placement agreement is over in 10 days. But after a week of school with a pre-schooler, I have to give a big hat's off to you mom's who school with littles all year. And for the record (and my husband's I-told-you-so satisfaction) my quiver is full. Womb closed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Caught in the Act

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. ~3 John 1:4

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Midlife Crisis?

Some buy sports cars. Some get tummy tucks. I decided to get my hair cut.

This is what I looked like before:

And this is me after:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Perfect 10

Ten years ago today I started on the most challenging and most fulfilling adventure of my life: I had a baby boy. I never knew my heart could love someone as much as I loved your seven pounds of sweet baby goodness! You and I have been a match from the beginning. I wanted you out, you were happy staying in. I wanted you to sleep and eat, you had other plans. You may wear your daddy's face, but you have your mama's temperament!

Yes, you are my strong-willed child. And I love you today with an even bigger love than I had that first day I met you. You are so bright, so talented, and so tenacious. And to think my boss used to call me a bull dog! Honey, you've got me beat and you're only 10!

It is my prayer that your heart would be as pliable as your determination is firm and that God would use these traits to make a mighty man of God out of you, warrior boy.

I love you, Bubba. Happy tenth birthday.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Shabby Clothing

I do not have abandoned compassion. You know, the kind that loves deeply everything and everyone in its path. It's as if there is a line in my heart that defines, "Only this far, and no further." We're not talking hard-heartedness here. Not meanness or rudeness, but the difference between the love a mother has for her own kids and the kindness she has for the neighbor kids or the kids she babysits.

We've had a tiring week. Nothing tragic, just a few bites and slaps and a lot of toddler defiance. Nothing we can't handle with grace and relative ease. But instead of basking in the strides we're making, my sinful nature automatically focuses on the difficulty of having someone else's child in the house and how he'd be different if he'd been born here. We've gone from "NO!" and temper tantrums to "Yes, please," and "Thank you." We're communicating in sentences and no longer putting little feet on the dinner table. Those are successes! And yet I get bogged down in the size 5 diapers--why isn't this child potty trained?--and the stench emanating from his mouth--he's on public aid: why hasn't he seen a dentist?

Where others may see my outward kindness, God and I can clearly see the proud and impatient toddler-like woman I am below the surface. I like things my way, and right now normal is out of whack. My spirit is irritable. But I don't believe this gives me the right to give up or even to pout. Grown-ups need to Do the Hard Things, too.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12

I think my coat needs some mending.

Monday, July 28, 2008


"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" Matt 24:34-40

He came to us filthy, his only possessions dirty clothes and a diaper that had obviously not been changed in quite a while. Without words or smile, his wide-eyed stare said it all.

"He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." Isaiah 53:2-3

In a moment of panic his mother had sought refuge for him from the harshness of the city streets. She needed time to get back on her feet and away from a boyfriend situation that was less than pleasant.

"...Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute." Psalm 82:3

Of no fault of their own, these kids come from very difficult backgrounds and frequently have little skills beyond that of survival. It's easy to point fingers and blame the parents for laziness or selfishness or worse. But here in the suburbs with a nice jobs, comfortable houses, and available transportation we can be (and surely are) all those things and still have children that are clean, well fed, and properly educated. Remove the niceties and all you have is raw humanity and lives defined by fear. Tremendous compassion and grace added to a remembrance of our own human condition are required.

"In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us." Ephesians 1:5-8

Foster care is hard. It's not a simple thing to love someone else's kid with all their issues and baggage. While this child will not become a permanent member of our family, it so vividly reminds me that I was not just "someone else's kid" but the kid of the enemy, the devil, when God adopted me into His family. He chose me not because I was pretty or well behaved or had anything to give but precisely because I was none of these things.

May God use even this small offering of a warm bed and three square meals a day as a brushstroke in his masterpiece of redemption.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Remember this one?

We saw this during an assembly in elementary school in 1977. My parents' tax dollars at work. Explains a lot about how I turned out, though.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This is for you, Chad

...and for every nine-year-old boy obsessed with Star Wars, and every 65 year old mother who had to endure hour upon hour of Weird Al. I feel like our childhood is on replay!

Big Splurge/Great Deal

I've got some pretty artsy kids and this year we are going to take some do-it-yourself drawing lessons via Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children in hopes of creating some nice looking nature journals. The colored pencils we've been using are the kind that go on sale for about fifty-cents this time of year. The lead breaks easily, the color goes down less than smoothly, and the kid's are tired of never having the right shade from a box of 12.

So I've had my eye on some professional sets with tons of colors but the price tag has been extremely cost prohibitive. Thanks to a generous 40%-off coupon from Hobby Lobby and $10-rebate from the manufacturer I found on a tear-off pad at the store, I picked up the $90, 72-color box of Prismacolor pencils for about $40. (Gasp!) I know it's hard for you to believe I'd shell out that kind of money for art supplies even at that discount, but with proper care they should last us a whole lot longer than those stink'n Cra*olas!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Amazing Grace

Grace is amazing, and I need it so badly. I needed it when God scooped me out of the kingdom of darkness and placed me in the kingdom of His dear Son, and I need it today as I hang out the laundry, make peanut butter sandwiches, and talk to my neighbors. So how come I forget that my kids need it, too?

Free of methods, containing no proven formulas for success, and pointing to no "standards" established by obtuse verses of Scripture, Grace Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel, is one of the best books on parenting I've ever read. After seeing it in the sidebar of someone's blog--sorry, can't remember whose but think it might have been Making Home--I borrowed it from the library, fully expecting to declare it "psychological mumbo-jumbo" and "nonsense," but instead was tremendously humbled and greatly challenged by what it contained.

Kimmel's words stripped me of my parenting crutches and laid me bare before the Lord on so many levels: my motivations, my attitudes, my selfishness, the list goes on. But then he gave me a wonderful gift: he reminded me that God gives grace, for me and for my family. My children need me to point them to Jesus, and the best way I can do that is by showing--not just telling--them Who He is. I need to point them to the cross, not in a "Jesus died for that scummy, rotten thing you just did" kind of way, but in a "sin is so easy to fall into (believe me, I know) but it is Christ's joy to take it from you" sort of way. God created them as individuals with personalities that are very different than mine and I need to cherish and guide them toward what God's made them to be, not conform them to my image because they annoy me or embarrass me. My kids need the same Gentle Shepherd that I do.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Give peace a chance

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Why, if Jesus gives peace, do I live in fear? Why do I think I need to (or am even able to) control the circumstances of my life and the lives of my children in order to bring about a positive and peaceful outcome?

I've been thinking a lot about these questions in light of the statements Jesus made before He returned to heaven. He knew the plan. He knew that it included some wretched things for him, for those to whom he was speaking, and for us as 21st century believers. And yet the thing He leaves is peace, not as the world gives or expects where the livin' is easy, but a rocky, painful, rip your heart out of your chest type of peace.

I've equated peace with safe, hence we not only wear our bike helmets and avoid trans fats, but we've steered clear of those things that could possibly exert a spiritually corrupting influence on our children, encasing them in what Tim Kimmel refers to as a "hermetically sealed Christian environment." But Christianity is not safe. It's more like a motorcycle ride at 100 mph. Down a country road. At night. With no windshield. And no helmet. Danger, discomfort, lack of vision, bugs in the teeth, and pain are all possible and even probable, but the thing is, Jesus is steering.

Jesus' point was not that we huddle together and make ourselves comfortable until He returns. He sent us out into a terribly dangerous world with a clear understanding that things are going to be messy. There will be pain, misery, and heartache. We're called to experience it as well as clean it up. Yet we have the assurance of knowing that He sees, He cares, and He's got it all under control.

I'm not sure how all of this is going to play out in our family's life. We've spent a lot of time in the land of potluck and ladies' nights and Bible clubs. But I do know we need to step out of our safe Christian bubble in order to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world around us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

After rolling on the floor laughing at Cindy's Recent Random Thoughts, I had to have this sign for my kitchen.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Desperate for Awe

If the presence of God has ushers, Ann Voskamp is one of them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let the children come

I'm doing some research for my church on children's church curriculum and am discovering little of great substance. Maybe I'm just terribly picky because we've been on the Christian education program at home for so long, but I'm discouraged by the sappy, watered down presentation of our awesome God that's served up by so many packaged Sunday school programs.

If your kids participate in a program that's teaching them "the good stuff" and sending them back to you ready to "walk it, and talk it," would you mind sharing about it? Thanks!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Please pray for my friend

This sweet face belongs to my friend Molly--pastor's wife and mother of four--whose pre-brain surgery symptoms have returned. In a discouraging and scary place they are trusting a faithful and loving God. His mercies they fail not...

thoughts on perfect children

How sure are you that raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord will guarantee a smooth ride and smiley, obedient children?
"Return faithless Israel, declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful, declares the Lord.
I will not be angry forever."
"Return, O faithless sons;
I will heal your faithlessness."
Jeremiah 3:12, 22

I've spent years consuming a truckload of parenting methods that promise success if followed perfectly. When I failed at one I picked up another, looking for the one that would fix us. I've spent most of my life as a parent vacillating between self-righteous pride when my kids performed or self-defeating humiliation when they didn't. I want to be done with that.

The children of Israel were dismal failures when it came to making their Parent look good. And He could have wiped them off the face of the earth--and threatened to do so at least once. But they had a Father Who was "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" (Psalm 103:8). I'm so glad He's my Daddy, too. And what's more, I'm glad that He set the example in parenting: an example that displayed redemption rather than self-attained perfection.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

(From Now We are Six, by A. A. Milne)

My baby boy is six years old. (Wow. It's hard to believe my youngest child is six!) Starting with fireworks on the night you were born, you've filled our life with joy and excitement--along with a few scares! You are truly a gift from the Lord. It is our prayer that you will grow to love Jesus with all your heart, mind and strength.

Happy Birthday, Little Man!