Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lessons of a Housewife

At the start of what became my last year of teaching, I realized I wanted to be home. I didn't have any biblical theology regarding a woman's role within the home at that time. I had just had a wonderful summer caring for my home & I absolutely hated leaving once school came around. I was positively beside myself with desperation to stay home at one point & prayed feverishly many mornings that God would allow me to stay home the next year. Amazingly, he brought Michael into my life a few months later, & I began the next school year as a housewife. It's been simply wonderful & is the joy of my life to be able to care for Michael & our home.

Flashback to my single years. When I first moved out on my own & had to start paying bills, I got fed up with it pretty quickly. "I just paid these bills!", I would fuss to myself. In my naïveté (or, better yet, stupidity), I decided once that the gas/water/power companies had already gotten my money recently, & I was going to wait to pay them. Uh-huh. I did that. Classic cut-your-nose-off-to-spite-your-face syndrome. Needless to say, it backfired. And the thing about it was that it wasn't just the immediate spanking that I got. It took a while to crawl out of that. It was a painful lesson to learn. Now that I'm older & wiser, as soon as we get paid, I pay the bills. I don't get attached to the money in the bank account, because I realize that it belongs to others who have rendered services to us. We have obligations & responsibilities to fulfill. And we like running water, lights, & heat.

Even though being a housewife is my dream job, I have been overcome with that same "didn't I just do this?!" feeling many-a times. Didn't I just unload that dishwasher? Didn't I just vacuum? Didn't I just cook supper? Because the answer is "yes", I have gotten into a rut more than once of letting things slide. "I just did that, I'm going to wait a while before I do it again", goes my thinking. And then, I get slammed. The kitchen gets out of control, there's pet hair all over the floor, & the laundry pile reaches halfway to the ceiling in no time at all. Then, it takes hours - or even days - to climb out of that pit & set it all right.

So, here's the lesson I think I've finally learned (& am putting into practice with much success so far): Do it every day. Yes, I did just take care of everything already, but if it's not done every day, it becomes a monster that takes a lot longer to slay. Maintenance is the key. And - oh! - the burden that's lifted when our home is pleasantly clean & fresh! It feels so good to know that I'm caring for Michael in this way & honoring God in the call he's placed on my life to be a keeper of the home that He's entrusted to me!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Con te Partiro ~ Andrea Bocelli



Funny story.  This is one of my favorite songs.  But if you had to guess where I was the first time I heard it, would a puppet show ever enter your mind?  I was teaching in GA at the time, & we took our first-grade classes to a local puppet show.  The last skit he did was to this song; I believe his story line involved a prince saying good-bye to his princess.  I barely held it together!  Who cries at a puppet show?!  I didn't understand anything he said other than "time to say good-bye", but the music was so stirring.  I still cry every time I hear it.  Grab a tissue!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

The first time my Papaw set this dish in front of me, I refused to eat it. To be fair, I was a child. And I was extremely picky. "One can't pick out everything they don't like", was a comment made by one of Mama's friends years ago. She replied that they hadn't met me. But for me, this dish was completely unsalvageable. Spaghetti - again, to my childish mind - was meant to be eaten with meat sauce. Then again, Papaw did trick me into eating spaghetti with deer meat sauce once. I was none too happy. So, I had reason to be wary. But my family rallied around assuring me this was perfectly normal - not deer bacon or something else weird. Once I sampled it, I was hooked! I hope you are, too.

Spaghetti Dish*
The whole pot

Ingredients:

-1/2 lb. spaghetti (any shape pasta works well)

-1/2 package bacon (not deer, but turkey is great & retains its crispiness the next day)

-2-3 onions (these are optional; Mama wisely added them in recent years)

-1 T butter**

-1/2 c. milk**

-3 eggs**

-1-2 T Italian seasoning

Close-up shot in all its yumminess!

Instructions:

-Cook the bacon & crumble it once it's cooled down, then sauté the onions in the same skillet. When the onions are almost ready, boil the spaghetti.

-While the spaghetti is boiling, beat together the eggs, milk, & Italian seasoning (I do this in my measuring cup, so as to cut down on dirty cookware).

-Drain the spaghetti, return it to the pot, & add the butter, stirring to thoroughly coat the pasta.

-Pour in the milk mixture, stir to coat the pasta, & replace the lid to cook the eggs. It might be necessary to turn the eye on low to speed up the process. If so, stir often to prevent sticking.

-Add the crumbled bacon & caramelized onions & stir together.

-Serve it up topped with Parmesan cheese. Of course, garlic bread & a salad go nicely.

*I discovered a few years ago that, although our family recipe is a little different, this is a legitimate Italian dish, called Spaghetti Carbonara.


**We've just begun using farm fresh eggs, whole milk & butter, & let me tell you, it puts this meal right over the top! We highly recommend it!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

We Are a New Creation

“Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.

Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are longer us; something brand new has been created!”

~Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God, pg. 124
~Of First Importance

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks to the Lord

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! ~1 Chron. 16:8

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! ~1 Chron. 16:34

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. ~Ps. 7:17

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. ~Ps. 28:7

Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. ~Ps. 30:4

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. ~Ps. 57:9

Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! ~Ps. 95:2

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. ~Rom. 6:17-18

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~1 Cor. 15:57

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. ~2 Cor. 2:14

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. ~Col. 3:17

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~1 Thess. 5:16-18

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. ~1 Thess. 2:13

The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father's God, and I will exalt Him. ~Ex. 15:2

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Hole in Our Holiness ~ Kevin DeYoung

Michael just pointed me toward an excellent post by Kevin DeYoung regarding holiness.  In it, he discusses his "growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness."  He goes on to talk about why he thinks the pursuit of holiness is so neglected among evangelical Christians.  It's an excellent post, with gems such as the following:

"When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4–“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”–when is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our you tube clips, our t.v. and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16)."

You should definitely read the rest of it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Waste Your Life ~ Lecrae



Okay, so this style of music is not typically my cup of tea.  However, I love this song!  Seriously!  I can listen to it over & over & over.  I do sometimes have to look at the lyrics to understand everything he's saying in the really fast parts.  What stuns me about this music is the rock-solid biblical lyrics.  When I think of rap (or is it hip-hop & what's the difference?), I think of very immoral things being "sung" about.  There is debate about whether this genre can be redeemed or not.  I don't know what the experts say, but to hear about Christ, Paul, & eschewing the world for Christ-centered living seems pretty redeemed to me.  Not at all what I expected.  And that's what makes it all the more pleasing.  I've heard more biblical truth in songs like these than in some pulpits.  And that's shocking indeed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Church Blessings

Back in October, I encouraged y'all to learn from our mistakes & love your church through thick & thin. I stressed the importance of community & lamented over the lack thereof in our own lives.

Later that same month, I hinted that we believed that a new spiritual season might be budding in our lives. This is what I'd like to share with you.

For close to 3 ½ years - ever since we married & I moved here - we've driven a 2-hour round trip to church on Sunday. This after Michael's worked all night. Because of the distance &, later, the size of our church, being part of the community of the church was rather difficult. Throughout our marriage, Michael & I have prayed for God to plant a church closer to us where we might worship Him in spirit & in truth & be part of a community of believers. Michael was even more specific; he didn't just want any pastor, he wanted a SBTS-trained pastor. "You have not because you ask not." ;-)

A little more than a month ago, we began visiting an area church. We were honestly nervous about going, not knowing what to expect. Michael had actually been a member of this church (& avid part of the youth group) during its fundamentalist/revivalist days, so we were unsure. But, we'd heard some really wonderful things, particularly about the sound preaching, as well as the pastor's family & the warm community of the body. So, we took the plunge, gussied ourselves up (okay, not really; "gussied" is just fun to say), & headed over. I had butterflies in my stomach. I am so uncomfortable being surrounded by strangers who all know each other. We took one step in the door, & the usher said, "Michael Boyd!" From him down to the literally dozen people who made their way to our pew to greet us that morning, we felt enveloped. And that's only grown! We've thrown ourselves headlong into this body. Right after our first Sunday, we went to the Wednesday night prayer meeting. That week it was a Bible study for the men & women. I won't lie, I felt so out of place being the "new girl" in the room. I wanted to latch on to Michael & not let him leave me. I think I even gave him the puppy eyes. But, the moment that the pastor's wife - Mrs. T - greeted me, I felt so welcomed. She came up to me glowing, took both of my hands in each of hers, & told me how glad she was for me to be there. I instantly loved her. Her husband is just as warm. We talked with the associate pastor at the dinner that night, & were very impressed with him & his wife. The next morning I went to another ladies' Bible study headed by Mrs. T & was delighted when she exclaimed my name with arms raised upon my entry. This still brings a smile to my face. And then, we've been shown such love & care through the trials of our loved one's possible illness & Ginger's cancer. People have sent emails, commented through this blog, & stopped by our pew to get updates, offer encouragement & praise, & let us know they're praying. As we've gotten to know the people, we've grown to love them more & more. You wouldn't think everyone could be so genuinely welcoming & loving, but they are. I think it's because of the Word that's preached here.

Of course, that's the most important thing. The Word must be preached. The Gospel must be proclaimed. And it is! Every Sunday we leave the Sunday School that's led by the associate pastor & are thrilled with the meat that's been served up. Each sermon features the Gospel front & center. Seriously, we leave exulting in God's truth! We're being fed God's Word & are being known & loved by the body. And if that weren't enough, there is a passion for the lost present here, too. We haven't been there long enough to have delved into this area, but they sponsor Compassion children, which immediately earned points in my book! ;-) I know they're involved in Teen Challenge, Operation Christmas Child, Lottie Moon, & there are some other opportunities that I believe are being explored. And, the associate pastor's going to lead a church plant in collaboration with another local church in an area of town that's basically devoid of Gospel-preaching churches.

We were so despondent regarding our church situation. We honestly pined for a community of God-fearing believers to live life with. We truly believe that God has led us to this church. And we feel - we are - so blessed! So thankful!

Oh! And did I mention that the associate pastor was trained at SBTS? ;-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

God Is My Strength & Portion Forever

Psalm 73
A Psalm of Asaph

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat & sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff & speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens, & their tongue struts through the earth.

Therefore His people turn back to them, & find no fault in them.
And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean & washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken & rebuked every morning.
If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Truly You set them in slippery places; You make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when You rouse Yourself, You despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish & ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.

Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel, & afterward You will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh & my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from You shall perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.

We were blessed to sit under the preaching of this Psalm this morning.  This is my favorite Psalm, one I turn to when I feel overwhelmed by the seeming injustice & prospering of the wicked.  Don't you love how it turns in the middle?!  And then the climactic declaration that nothing is to be desired & treasured above God!  Ah!  When I read through this Psalm, I am reminded that the wicked will only appear to triumph for a little while.  I'm reminded that I have God; let them have their things!  Let them wreck & ruin in this life; destruction is their end.  They are under the sovereignty of God, as are we all, & can do no more than He allows.  In the end, we have the ultimate treasure & will receive the ultimate reward in God.  Praise be to God!

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things & count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ & be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know Him & the power of His resurrection, & may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11)

Contemplating Christmas - Part 7

We've reached the end of our series on Christmas gift-giving ideas.  We've explored sponsoring precious children in impoverished nations, gifting animals in loved ones' honor, digging wells to bring clean water to those who have none, helping Katie Davis with her many projects of love in Uganda, & working with Drawn From Water to save condemned mingi children from death.  I hope that you consider one or all of these this Christmas.  Including our last one, which is also of utmost importance.

     -Help persecuted Christians. Voice of the Martyrs aids persecuted Christians in all sorts of ways all over the world. Their medical arm performs life-saving surgeries & lavishes care on Christians that have fallen victim to bombings, beatings, & attacks of all sorts. They provide books & Bibles to Christians in countries where Christian literature is illegal. They proclaim God's truth & Christ as Lord & Savior by way of secret radio stations in guerilla territories. They drop Christian material over Communist countries through balloons. They feature stories of unjustly imprisoned Christians in their monthly newsletter, which sometimes leads to their release because of international pressure. They aid widows whose husbands have been martyred. They release families from slavery & provide ways for them to make an income & support themselves through businesses. They realize that the body of Christ is so much larger than what is contained in our church buildings. They minister to our brothers & sisters all over the world in life-saving & faith-building ways. And through them, we have an opportunity to do the same.



I'm sure there are many more organizations of which we are unaware that deserve time, attention, & resources. If you know of any, please let us know.

Going without a new bottle of lotion from Bath & Body Works, or a new purse, or another necklace, or any of the other countless presents that just add to my already overflowing stash of possessions in order to help others is a trade-off that I am more than willing to make. It's not that these things aren't nice - or are even inherently wrong. But the joy that comes from knowing that God is using the resources that He has entrusted to us to change someone's life - both here & for eternity - is a joy that knows no bounds & easily trumps getting something for myself! We do none of this under our own strength or for ourselves, but we pray that we are being faithful stewards & that God is glorified through our celebration of His birth, our greatest gift.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Contemplating Christmas - Part 6

We're almost at the end of this series.  Follow the links to read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.

     -Save mingi children.  Drawn From Water is an organization that I've highlighted before that saves children believed to be cursed (mingi) from certain death by decree of their tribe's elders.  Once these children - who would be drowned or starved - are discovered, these folks go to work convincing the families & elders not to kill the children.  They want them to see that these children are not cursed, that they are instead a blessing.  When they are successful, they bring the children to their orphanage, where they are provided with safe shelter, clothes, food, schooling, love-love-love, & Christ.  They have sponsorships available, too, or you can just donate generally.  This is also a very worthy organization who is not just attempting to save these children from physical death, but also from spiritual death.  And their tribes, too!  They have a church plant in at least one of the tribes, & are striving to not only eradicate the practice of mingi, but preach Christ crucified to people who are dying in sin, for the glory of His holy name.


"It Began with Bale" from Drawn From Water on Vimeo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Contemplating Christmas - Part 5

So far, we've discussed sponsoring children, buying a goat (or other animal), & digging wells to meet the needs of people around the world.  Our next suggestion is honestly one of our favorites.  Let me reiterate that our desire to replace traditional Christmas gift-giving in these ways is born from a passion to shine the light of Christ in the world.  We love Him & want to bring Him glory, we want to see Him receiving the worship He's due from all peoples the world over.

     -Help Katie help Uganda.  Katie has myriad projects & people that she serves.  She adopted 14 girls before her 21st birthday.  She brings grandmothers & babies into her home to nurse them back to health.  She sits all night at hospital bedsides praying for people she barely knows but loves intensely.  She has a school that teaches & provides necessities for 400 children through sponsorship, while also having a weekly Bible study for them.  She's part of a necklace program that helps Karamajong women attain financial stability through the sale of magazine bead necklaces.  She has a chicken program that helps not only the initial families, but also the community as the families commit to "pay it forward".  She has a community garden.  She feeds 1,200 children in a slum community.  She does all of this (& more, incredibly) because she loves Christ & wants to see His name glorified among the nations.  She & her ministry (Amazima) are so very worthy of your help.



If you know me at all, you know my reaction to this video.  Yep.  I cried.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Contemplating Christmas - Part 4

In case you've missed them, here are parts 1, 2, & 3 in this series.

    -Dig a well.  When we want water, we turn on the faucet.  And when we do this, we are confident that we aren't going to get sick or die from the water we're drinking.  All over the world, millions upon millions do not have this luxury.  When they want water, they have to hike miles away with jugs multiple times a day just so they can have something to drink or to wash clothes or take a bath in.  Many don't even have this option; these people only have dirty, parasite-infested water to give to their already malnourished children.  Children aren't able to attend school because they're sick.  Children who aren't educated become adults who are unemployable, so the cycle of poverty continues.  Water-borne illnesses are devastating to families & communities, & they're completely preventable!  We gave money toward the digging of wells in Uganda through Give Uganda Water, which is an organization founded & run by members of Covenant Life Church.  According to their site, just $23 provides clean water for one person for the rest of their life!  How awesome is that?!  They've already built 3 wells, bringing life-giving water & eradicating water-borne illnesses & death.  They have 3 more scheduled, which need funding.  They aren't the only ones digging wells, either!  World Vision has a way to donate towards wells also.  It's a wonderful feeling to know that we're helping give clean water to those who haven't previously had access.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Contemplating Christmas - Part 3

This is part 3 in a series on how Michael & I have changed the way we celebrate Christmas through gift-giving.  If you haven't read parts 1 & 2, you might be somewhat confused.

     -Buy a goat.  This will get you some humorous reactions!  Last year, we bought 2 goats from World Vision.  Not for ourselves or our families, but for 2 families that we will most likely never meet - at least this side of heaven.  These goats - & the plethora of other farm animals that you can buy - help to lift families out of poverty.  Families are helped by the food supplied by the animals (milk from the goats & eggs & meat from the chickens, for instance), they are able to multiply the animals, they sell the animals for money & feed, the manure fertilizes their crops - which brings in even more income . . . it's simply amazing how much just one animal helps!  We watched a video featuring a widow - & mother of 6 - whose life was completely transformed by just one goat (which became 14)!  Of course, I cried to see how we could impact the lives not only of these families, but of their surrounding communities as well!  And telling family & friends that you bought a goat in their honor for Christmas is wonderfully fun!  Check out World Vision's gift-giving catalog; animals aren't the only option available.

 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Contemplating Christmas - Part 2

Yesterday, I told y'all that we're changing the way we celebrate Christmas, mainly in that we're not buying gifts for ourselves or the adults in our lives.  We have some other ways to give gifts that don't stuff our already overflowing closets & drawers, ways to give to others who are in need.  Doing this has warmed our hearts.  We hope you'll join us in . . .

     -Sponsoring a child.  We sponsor two precious children - a beautiful boy & girl who live in Ethiopia - through Compassion.  There are other organizations that have child sponsorship programs as well, like World Vision.  We chose Compassion (& fully endorse World Vision) because of the connection to the local church & because of their financial transparency.  We love that these organizations aren't about giving hand-outs, but extending a hand-up, not just financially, but educationally, & - most of all - spiritually.  Our babies are learning about Christ while their families are being helped out of dire poverty through education.  We spend $38 a month per child, which is completely doable, even for a one-income family like us!  And I have to tell you, I cried when we got our first picture from our boy, Abel.  To see the drastic difference in his hair, his skin, even his eyes from his sponsor picture took my breath away!  To think that we have a hand in saving these precious children & making sure they know of Christ - well, it's a gift from God to us.


Compassion International from Student Life on Vimeo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contemplating Christmas

The onslaught of Christmas has begun. Or at least, what society has put in the place of Christmas. Last year, I explained my reservations with all of the secular trappings of Christmas & the way this holiday is celebrated, despite growing up as a Christmas fanatic.

This year, I'd like to share with you one major way we've decided to change things. I want to make it clear, though, that I'm not prescribing this for anyone else. How we celebrate this precious holiday has come about through a lot of introspection & evaluation of our hearts in light of God's Word. You must do the same, too, & if you genuinely come to a different conclusion, don't expect to face judgment from us because it's not our way. We all desire to live in a way that reverences & glorifies Christ, & that will sometimes work itself out in different ways for different families. The goal is to honor & glorify the One whose birth we are celebrating.

So, the major change in our household is that we won't be buying presents for each other or the adults in our lives. We're still buying for our nieces & nephews, but it has to be things that point to Christ & guide in the worship of Him. Gifts like The Big Picture Story Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, or "I Want To Be Like Jesus" are excellent! Why have we ditched presents? Well, we Christians celebrate this day as Christ's birth, right? You can sometimes even hear us say, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" If it's His birthday, why are we getting presents for ourselves? Especially presents that have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. After all, we don't get presents on others' birthdays at any other time of the year. But, all gifting isn't off-limits. We asked ourselves what kind of giving would glorify Christ, what kind of giving would be done in His Spirit? Christ gave of Himself in ministering to others when He was here on this earth. There are so many ways for us to follow in His stead! People are all familiar with visiting nursing homes & serving in soup kitchens. These are wonderful ways of ministering to others, & we highly recommend them, but we'd like to take this next week to share with you some other ways that you may not be as familiar with.  Each day, starting tomorrow, we'll highlight a particular ministry that we've substituted for traditional gift-giving.  We hope you'll search your heart & consider doing the same.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

Psalms 96

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.

Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, & greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor & majesty are before Him; strength & beauty are in His sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory & strength!
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering & come into His courts!
Worship the LORD in the spendor of holiness; tremble before Him all the earth!

Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity."

Let the heavens be glad, & let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, & all that fills it; let the field exult, & everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for He comes,
For He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness, & the peoples in His faithfulness.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

When asked what my favorite type of food is, I answer by ethnicity - Mexican, Italian, American home cooking. I've shared recipes for at least one Italian dish & lots of American home cooking, but to my recollection, I've not shared any Mexican. It is well known by all who know me that I find the Mexican restaurants here to be severely lacking. It's not really their fault; I'm a Tex-Mex girl because of where I grew up, & the food here is authentic Mexican. What you like is really affected by your upbringing because everyone here (Michael included) simply raves over the Mexican fare available. Having sampled my fair share of it, I can state unequivocally that I am not a fan of authentic Mexican food. I find it to be rather bland & I can't stand that white cheese! Plus, they looked at me like I was madder than the Mad Hatter for asking for tortillas & butter before the meal. Hello?! Other than chips & salsa, this is a normal Mexican appetizer where I come from. So, all that is to say that if you're looking for authenticity in Mexican cuisine, you'd better look elsewhere. We're Tex-Mex all the way here at the Bungalow.  Or, at least, half of us are.

Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

-1 large package corn tortillas
-1 - 2 lb. ground beef
-taco seasoning
-2 cans enchilada sauce (I use Old El Paso)
-2 cans refried beans
-Spanish rice (packaged or homemade; homemade recipe following)
-shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

-Cook the ground beef until it's brown & crumbly. Add in taco seasoning according to the directions on the package & cook down.

-Remove from heat & stir in enchilada sauce.

-Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray.

-Spread about ½ c. of the meat mixture on the bottom of the dish.

-Lay out the tortillas side by side & slightly overlapping. It's been a while since I made this, so I'm not sure how many I used exactly, but I think my tortilla width was 3 & length was 4. Sorry I can't be more specific.

-Dot tortillas with large spoonfuls of refried beans (1 can) & press the beans until the tortillas are covered.

-Spread half of the Spanish rice on top of the beans.

-Top with half of the meat mixture & sprinkle liberally with cheese.

-Repeat layers.

-Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted & the juices are bubbling.

-Let it sit for about 10 minutes so it will set & not be a gloopy mess (like mine was!).


Spanish Rice
(modified from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook - 12 ed.)

Ingredients:

-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced (I use dry minced, ¼ tsp.)
-1 T cooking oil
-1 tsp. chili powder
-1 can Rotel
- ¾ c. uncooked rice
-1 c. water
- ¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

-In a large skillet, cook onion & garlic in hot oil until tender.

-Add chili powder & cook 1 more minute.

-Stir in can of Rotel*, rice, water, & salt.

-Bring to boiling & reduce heat. Simmer ~ 20 minutes or until rice is tender & most of the liquid is absorbed.

*If you like really spicy (as in hot) foods, pour in the whole can of Rotel. This is way too much heat for me, so I do this: When opening the can, leave the lid attached by an inch or two. Leave the lid partially closed & pour the liquid into the skillet when it's called for. Add water to the can & smush the tomatoes & peppers to get more juice out of them. Partially close the lid again & pour the liquid into the skillet. Spoon out some of the tomatoes (I usually do less than half the can) into the skillet. Save the rest for another use or toss them.

Despite his undying devotion to his idea of Mexican food, Michael loved this recipe.  He told me that I could just make this exclusively from now on.  Something that sort of surprised me, because he's expressed equal rapture with my burritos, enchiladas, & creamy tacos before.  Next up, Tamale Pie!

I'm Thankful

Ginger's lymph nodes are slightly smaller!  Dr. H said that it would probably take a few days to get any response from this last one-two punch of chemo, but I honestly didn't expect anything.  Her breathing is a little easier, which is such a relief to me.  She even seems to be moving a little bit more quickly, which I take to mean that she feels at least somewhat better.  I'm not in denial, I know what's still coming, but at least it doesn't seem to be happening in the next couple of days anymore.  So, I'm very pleased.  And thankful.

I'm also thankful for my family.  My sister-in-law called to check on Ginger.  My sister & nephew called to check on me, as did a cousin whom I haven't talked to or seen in 15 years.  Granny gave her condolences when we spoke last night.  Of course, Mama & I talk daily, & she cries when I do & speaks God's truth to me.  Michael's right by my side, trying everything he can to alleviate my suffering.  And then there's my eternal family.  Several of my brothers & sisters in Christ have emailed, called, or left comments here to offer their encouragement & support.  I am so blessed to have so many loving, godly people in my life.  If any of these people are reading this, let me say that I can never convey to all of you how much it has meant to me to have your love & support.  I love y'all deeply & am thankful for you.  I'm blessed to have y'all in my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting to Know Me

One of my blog friends writes "Getting to Know the Blogsterette" posts.  I thought that might be a good way to sort of lighten the mood over here.  So, I'm going to share some things that you may not know about me.  This is just as it comes to me, so it'll probably be pretty random.  ;-)

     -I majored in voice before becoming an education major.

     -I am terrified of spiders.  Watching "Arachnophobia" in theaters was a seriously bad idea.

     -I let go of relationships easily.

     -I love creaky screen doors & porch swings.

     -I hate the feeling of uncooked egg whites on my hands.

     -The sound of Styrofoam is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

     -I toured Germany, Austria, Italy, France, & Switzerland with a national honor chorus when I was 18.  I was the only chorus member from LA.

     -I have absolutely no patience for drama.

     -I am a carbohydrate fanatic.

     -I am very tender-hearted.

     -I love movies based on books unless I've read the books first, but tend to like both if I watch the movies first.  So, I love the Harry Potter books & hate the movies, whereas I love both the Lord of the Rings books & movies.

     -I lose patience very quickly & always regret it.

     -I like to watch movies repeatedly until I can quote them.

     -I've read all of Jane Austen's novels, of which Pride & Prejudice is my favorite.

     -I have never read or seen Gone With the Wind.

     -I am a typically optimistic person.

     -I like to have organized closets, cabinets, drawers, etc.

     -I am a consummate homebody.

     -I have a hereditary sarcastic sense of humor.

     -Unless serious, I laugh when people hurt themselves (also hereditary).

     -I'm wild about candles & will spend hours smelling them.

This is probably more than you'd ever want to know about me, so even though I could go on, I won't.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope y'all have a great day!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Glorious and Mighty ~ Sovereign Grace

Out of the Depths ~ Sovereign Grace



Out of the depths, O Lord, I cry to You
When I am tempted to despair
Though I might fail to trust Your promises
You never fail to hear my prayer
And if You judged my sin
I'd never stand again
But I see mercy in Your hands

Chorus:

So more than watchmen for the morning
I will wait for You, my God
When my fears come with no warning
In Your Word I'll put my trust
And when the harvest time is over
And I still see no fruit

I will wait
I will wait
For You

The secret mysteries belong to You
We only know what You reveal
And all my questions that are unresolved
Don't change the wisdom of Your will
In every trial and loss
My hope is in the cross
Where Your compassions never fail

~Out of the Depths, Psalms, Sovereign Grace Music

In Your Arms

In Your arms is where I want to be
When my world comes
Crashing down on me
So hold me close keep me Yours always
Bid me, break me, be my rock
For now and all my days

Whom have I when my heart
Begins to fail
And sorrow fills the streets
And sounds of death prevail
Jesus is my hope and I know
He stills the wind
So take my very life away
As long as I get Him

My soul longs for the day
I'll see Your face
When sin and death will pass
And tears are wiped away
So let the sky fall down
And earth and cities quake
And I'll say of my God and King

Lord, blessed be Your name

~In Your Arms, The God We Praise, The Church at Brook Hills

These words are rock-solid & the music complements it so beautifully. I have 2 favorite parts of this song. One is "So take my very life away as long as I get Him". The other is the very end of the song where Mandi sings "Blessed be Your holy name" over & over. All the while, the men sing "Jesus" & the women chime in with "Hallelujah". It's absolutely heavenly & I feel like I'm transported into God's presence each time I sing with them.

Lord, blessed be Your holy name. You are my beloved.  All I want is You.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ginger & God

I don't have much energy to write at the moment.  I cried pretty much all evening until we went to bed around 1 AM.  We jumped up just before 7 AM to rush Ginger to our beloved vet's office, hoping that there might be something they can do to continue to hold off the inevitable.  Dr. H wasn't going to be there today, but we stuck around to see his stand-in.  Long story short, Ginger got a steroid shot, her oral steroids that we give at home were upped, & she's heading back in tomorrow for Dr. H to administer yet another round of chemo.  She honestly seemed to feel slightly better today.  She even barked at the cars & bridges on our way over & back home.  Needless to say, we didn't shush her.  I fixed chicken & rice soup for her, which she happily gobbled up.  This has always been her favorite thing to eat, & I'm bascially not going to deny her any little happiness.  I have come to terms with the fact that I am most likely going to have to put her down at the end.  The only other option is to allow her lymph nodes to swell to the point that she suffocates.  And I obviously can't allow that.  I am so drained emotionally.  I keep reliving memories - like the first day I got her & the time she chased a man into the middle of the street.  I keep visualizing with dread what is coming maybe not so far down the road.  I watch her every move & treasure her every expression of love as though I'm trying to memorize her.  My heart & eyes keep welling up & overflowing until I'm positively spent.  I keep breaking down on everyone & if the sympathetic glances are any indication, I must have looked pitiful when I went to the store.  I keep wondering how I could possibly have any more tears.  You'd think I'd be all dried up, but the tears keep coming, & I'm absolutely powerless to stop them.  My posts won't always be like this, & I'm sorry to bring anybody down.  But I can't focus on anything else right now.  I'll never understand how people deal with life & all of its hardships & sorrows without God.  I wouldn't be able to handle this if I didn't know that He's upholding me in this.  I would fall apart & be bitter if I didn't know that He who gave His only Son for me knows my pain & will one day take it all away.  Thankfully, I know that "weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalms 30:5)  One day that morning will dawn clear & bright.  I'll be with my God, all things will make sense, & all the pain that I have (& will yet) experienced on this earth will be worth it.  He is my treasure.  "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21)  Now I feel like I can live through this pain; God & His Word always make it better.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Highs & Lows

Today I have experienced my highest high & my lowest low.  My high actually came yesterday (& carried over into today) with the news that God has delivered our loved one from her trial.  We had a possible terminal diagnosis from one doctor, but she received a second work-up yesterday from a specialist & received a clean bill of health!  We have all held firmly to the belief that God is good in good times & in bad.  We have queried with Job, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" and answered with a resounding, "though He slay me, I will hope in Him".  God brought us to the brink, & then snatched us back.  And through this brief, though fierce, trial He has taught many & brought many to Him.  It's astounding to see the number of people that were touched & the faiths that were deepened through this situation.  "For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be held in awe above all gods." (1 Chron. 16:25)

My low has come just this evening when we picked Ginger & Jake up from my father-in-law's.  Between yesterday morning when we dropped her off & this evening, her lymph nodes have doubled in size!  "How did this happen in one day?!", I choked out through sobs to Michael.  Apparently, this is what happens when the cancer is out of control.  Her whole face is now filled with swollen lymph nodes & her airway is being obstructed more.  She doesn't seem to be in distress, although she obviously doesn't feel well.  I have a very bad feeling that we're coming to the end much faster than I expected.  I thought we had a couple of months maybe, but it's now looking like a couple of weeks or even days.  I feel like I can't breathe.  I'm on the verge of tears constantly.  Please pray that God will give me grace to get through this (I know He will).  Please pray that Ginger won't suffer.  Please pray that I'll have the strength to end her suffering, if it should come to that.  Please pray it won't.  Please pray for my dear mother & husband who suffer immensely at my suffering.  Oh, God, please help me!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cup of Christ ~ C.J. Mahaney



This gave me chills & brought me to tears.  That's a good thing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pet Peeve: Male Bashing

Warning: I'm going to get on a soapbox & do a little ranting about a pet peeve of mine. That pet peeve is male bashing. I do not believe that women are all wrong & men are all right, but I do think this is a topic that needs to be addressed.  Some of you may not like this topic & may really not like the corrective I'm about to give; please feel free to skip this post if you feel this describes you, because I'm going to be straightforward & not mince any words.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into our insurance company's office & was met by a little bantering between the two women who work there. One turned to me & said, "We're bashing men". I didn't think about what I was going to say, I just blurted out, "I don't go in for that". Michael uses opportunities like this to tell me that I'm bold. I don't think I'm bold, I just sometimes speak my mind before I can cover my mouth. In any case, it's true, I don't go in for that, & I think women - especially any woman who espouses Christianity - should stand up against it. I realize our culture gets its kicks off of pitting men against women, & more times than not, women bash men in an effort to get laughs from the female demographic. But it isn't funny. It's disrespectful & disgusting.

What made me begin to think (& fume) about this again was seeing an MSN headline promising insight into what men say about women behind our backs. I didn't read that article, but I can tell you what I'd say about women if I were a man. I'd say that Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde has nothing on women! Almost from birth, we're groomed for relationships with men. The moment that a preschool girl holds hands with a friend that's a boy, moms gush over "her first boyfriend". As though that's a good thing. Boy-crazy girls become relationship-obsessed women who spend their entire lives trying to find that magical "one". And then what do we do once we have him? Berate him to his face about his many (in our eyes) faults & denigrate him behind his back to our girlfriends. Let me tell you something, ladies, other than our relationship with God - & contrary to what society tells us - our primary relationship in this life is not with our girlfriends, ourselves, our parents, or our children. It's the one we have with our husband. This is a man that is made in God's image, a man who reflects Christ, a man who strives to lead his family in worshipping God. This is a man who works hard at his job to provide for his family, a man who strives to make his wife & children proud of him, a man who wants to be loving & affectionate with his wife. We are supposed to honor him, to cherish him, to respect him, to protect his reputation. That doesn't mean that we don't lovingly & privately correct him when he's wrong, but to use him as fodder for laughs among friends is repulsive & destructive.

Men are not punch lines in a joke, they are:

     -husbands
     -fathers
     -sons
     -brothers
     -image bearers of Christ
     -consecrated by God as the head of their family
     -prayer warriors
     -protectors
     -providers
     -lovers
     -trainers of the next generation

When men tell jokes about women, we consider them sexist & chauvinistic. But when we do the exact same thing to them, it's just harmless fun. Can we say "double standard"? I can anticipate the arguments about all of their imperfections, as though we're so perfect. Of course men aren't perfect. And we've taken every opportunity to remind them of that. Meanwhile, we've completely deluded ourselves into thinking that we are! We've put ourselves up on these pedestals & spend our time looking down our noses at the lowly Neanderthal men. Maybe instead of complaining so loudly about men's inadequacies & failures, we should put more effort into being a blessing to them. Maybe we should remember that we're not perfect either. Maybe we should strive less to be harpies & more to be godly, loving, & patient. We might be surprised by how they will rise to the occasion when we're choosing to inspire them instead of beating them down. Ladies, especially if you claim Christ, repent of this abhorrent mentality & behavior. Guard your husband - & all the men in your life. Men are blessings given to us by God. We should treat them as such.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. ~Proverbs 31:10-12

Tears of the Saints



It is heartbreaking to see all of these people worshipping false gods, when their worship belongs to the one true God - Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.  It's painful to watch them trying to earn favor by their own good deeds & keeping of rituals, when we know that "we have all become like one who is unclean, & all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6).  Only the sacrifice of Jesus can make us righteous.  Only by faith in Him alone are we redeemed from our sin & wickedness & restored to God.  Because this false worship is taking place all across America & all over the world, we must heed Matthew 28:18-20 for the glory of His name:

"And Jesus came & said to them, 'All authority in heaven & on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore & make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Things To Be Thankful For: Condemned Heaters

Man alive, has today been . . . interesting.  Not necessarily in a bad way, but certainly in a somewhat adventurous way.  It all started when flipping the switch didn't turn on our heater.  Not a huge deal - we are in the South, after all, & it's not been terribly cold.  By northern standards, it's probably bordered on summer-like weather!  This is also the third winter that we've had this issue.  The first time, it was easily fixed, & last year flipping the switch several times made it kick on.  That wasn't working this time, though, so we had to call our trusty electrician company.  Mark got it working, delivered the expected news that there was a part that needed replacing, & was just wrapping it up when we heard a very abnormal flickering sound.  It was obvious that there was a large flame getting too much oxygen in a very bad place.  Long story short, we now have a condemned unit because it is both a fire & a carbon monoxide hazard!  Obviously, we can't run it & have to order a new unit.  And tonight's supposed to be our first frost!

When Mark told us the bad news, I laughed & Michael said, "Well, God knows we're a one-income family trying to honor Him in how we live & give.  He knows we're financially stretched, & He has a reason for this."  All of that reading on suffering & God's sovereignty is seriously helpful when you're surprised with a situation like this.  Not that this is anything like what others are going through even as we speak, but it's still a little trial that presents an opportunity to fret & be upset.  God kept us from that reaction, & I thought it might be good to write down some of the things that I'm thankful for in this little predicament of ours (in no particular order):

     -Mark diagnosed a very serious problem before it became a very serious problem.
     -This didn't happen on a weekend, in the middle of the night, or in a snowstorm (hey, there's a chance it could happen . . . a very slim chance, but still).
     -We have space heaters, an electric blanket (thanks to a very quick trip to W-M), & warm clothes.
     -The dogs can be our bed buddies if we need extra warmth.  ;-)
     -Mark's already gotten the ball rolling on getting us a new unit, which will hopefully take place in the latter part of next week.
     -It warmed up a bit today, so the house wasn't frigid.
     -My very gracious Mama is going to be our financing department; we abhor debt, & it's a relief to not have to worry about interest.  We're incredibly thankful for my family's generosity in helping us out with this.  We will pay you back quickly!
     -We like the house really, really cold when we're sleeping; for the next couple of nights, we get that for free!  ;-)
     -I had an opportunity to show my faith in God & His care of us when talking to Mark about this unexpected little expense.
     -This is an opportunity for Michael & me to observe how God cares for us even in the unexpected, even when we don't have $4,500 saved up.
     -God is always faithful to care for us & uphold us in unexpected & scary situations.
     -God is always in control, even when we're not.
     -We got to see how little "in control" of our lives we are.
     -This is another way that God can strengthen our faith in Him.
     -If we ever sell, a new unit is a good selling point!

Isn't it funny how bent out of shape we can get when we don't get our way?  Yet, if that heater had come on like we had wanted it to, we could have been killed in a house fire or by carbon monoxide poisoning.  Rather than get all huffy about the incovenience, we're thankful that God had His way & preserved our lives.  No matter the situation, there are always evidences of God's grace.  Isn't He the most marvelous God?!