Monday, August 29, 2011

Top Posts: All-Time

Over the last couple of days, I've shared which posts y'all like the most according to my weekly & monthly stats.  Now, for the all-time favorite posts!  Apparently, recipes are quite popular!  I guess I need to put some new recipes up soon.  Just like last time, some of these posts are repeats.  Enjoy!

This was fun for me!  Like I said before, I enjoy seeing the variety in the most popular posts.  And let me just say that I appreciate y'all reading my blog, & I hope y'all have a great rest of the day!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Top Posts: Month

Some of today's posts made yesterday's list as well!  They're denoted with an asterisk.  I almost didn't include them, but I figure they're repeats for a reason.  I think the diversity represented here is interesting!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Top Posts: Week

I like to keep track of my blog stats.  As a matter of fact, I've been known to be just slightly obsessive about checking them.  I enjoy seeing that people are reading this little blog.  Or, I assume they're reading it.  They could just flit in & out for all I know.  Even so, it's fun to see places like Denmark, Singapore, & Ireland crop up in my stats.  I've even been visited by Slovenia (by the way, I miss you)!  It's also interesting to see what posts are being read & which ones are the most popular.  It changes depending on the time period that I'm checking, & I thought I'd share what the top posts are for the week, month, & all-time in separate posts.  There were some definite surprises for me!  I hope you enjoy this little trip down memory lane!

Smoky Mountain Pictures  (check out the others, too!)

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Bittersweet Closing

We finally sold our LA house.  I have mixed feelings about it.  It's a bittersweet event for me.  Mostly sweet, especially the whole "not paying two mortgages" part, but there is some sadness.  This was my first home.  When I pulled into the driveway for the first time, I'll admit I was not impressed.  It was not a cutesy cottage with a front porch.  But, the moment I stepped inside, I knew it was mine.  Mrs. Berry had only listed the house the day before; there wasn't even a sign in the front yard yet, & she was busy boxing up her belongings.  I walked from room to room, falling increasingly in love with the house.  It was old, it had charm & character.  It had a huge yard, both front & back, with loads of very old trees.  It even had a screen door.  I considered that God's little gift to me.  I loved it & never expected to move.  Of course, marrying Michael being my reason for moving away, I'm immensely glad I did!  But, I have lots of happy memories there, & it's a little sad to let it go.  Ginger used to chase me around this house.  My sweet niece, Randi, spent the night & we splashed in the dish water, read stories, & fell asleep with a Noah's ark nightlight chasing away the darkness.  I taught 3 classes of second graders while this house was my home.  I met my future husband for the first time here.  Ginger ran around treeing squirrels in the backyard.  Small moments to be sure, but such is the stuff of life, the moments that have real meaning.  I am happy that a family who adores this house as much as I now call it home.  Now they can make memories of their own there, while I continue to do so here with Michael.  As long as I'm with him, I'm always home.  Letting go of my first home is bittersweet.  But mostly sweet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

O Heart Bereaved & Lonely ~ Indelible Grace

This is a song for someone I love very dearly.  I pray it helps her heart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Asked the Lord ~ Indelible Grace

These inward trials I employ
From self & pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in Me
That thou mayest seek thy all in Me

He doesn't always do what we want Him to do, but He does always do what is best.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Snapshots of Our Life

I love pictures!  Don't you love pictures?  One of my favorite blogs does nothing but share pictures & fun captions.  I haven't shared any pictures in a while, so I trawled through ours & found some that you haven't seen yet.  I hope you enjoy them!

 Thankfully, he still has all of his fingers!

 "That's my stick!"  "No, it's mine!"

 The fruits of his labor.  This thing isn't going anywhere!

 It's a hard knock life!

 We're taking our doctor's advice here & going with a bear attack.

 Mmmmm . . . cheese!

 Chillin' under the shade of the crab apple tree

 For once, I was able to surprise him for his birthday!

 Mini meatloafs inspired by Sommer.  Soooo good!

 No power after the tornado meant candlelight, open windows, & pizza for supper.

 This girl always wants to be outside!

Sunny sunflowers from our anniversary.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Are Respect & Submission Synonymous?

I've written on submission before, so forgive me for strolling down these paths again, but I feel compelled to address the issue once more after Michele Bauchmann's absurd remark that submission & respect are synonymous in her marriage.  Certainly, respect is a vital component of any healthy marriage, but it is not the same as submission, & we'd be fools to act as though they are.  Respect is to hold someone in esteem, while submission is to yield to another's authority.  Oftentimes, we will respect those whom we submit to, but we don't always submit to those whom we respect.  For instance, I respect my sister-in-law, but I'm not submissive towards her.  On the other hand, I both respect & submit to Michael.  He, however, while respecting me does not submit to me.  That is not his calling as my husband, while it is mine as his wife.  God has been clear in His Word:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Col. 3:18)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)

We should practice both respect & submission in our marriages without confusing the two.  They are both important, but they are not interchangeable.  Let's live in the light of God's Word so that our marriages may be glorifying to God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Law & Grace: Old Friends

There is apparently much debate regarding holiness that is pitting God's grace against God's law.  I haven't entered into the fray here - honestly, I don't read many blogs anymore, they're just too time-consuming - but my understanding of it is that people believe that if we believe & preach grace, then there is no need to preach the commands of Scripture, & it might even be harmful to do so.  Ironically, I wonder what Paul would have to say to that argument.  Well, not really, because in reading his epistles, I know what he would say . . . & if you don't, you need to read said epistles.

So, anyways, Michael - who keeps up with this stuff - told me about Kevin DeYoung's post on this issue & fairly raved over it.  I hopped on over to Mr. DeYoung, Restless, & Reformed to see what he had to say & found these incredibly wise & well-timed words:

"Let’s not be afraid to land on law—never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it. It’s not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do. It’s not inappropriate that our counseling exhort one another to obedience. Legalism is a problem in the church, but so is antinomianism. Granted, I don’t hear anyone saying “let’s continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). That’s the worst form of antinomianism. But strictly speaking antinomianism simply means no-law, and some Christians have very little place for the law in the pursuit of holiness. One scholar says about an antinomian pastor from 17th century England: “He believed that the law served a useful purpose in convincing men of their need of a Saviour; nevertheless, he gave it little or no place in the life of a Christian since he held that ‘free grace is the teacher of good works.’” Emphasizing free grace is not the problem. The problem is in assuming that good works will invariably flow from nothing but a diligent emphasis on the gospel.

The irony is that if we make every imperative into a command to believe the gospel more fully, we turn the gospel into one more thing we have to get right and faith becomes the one thing we need to be better at. If only we really believed, obedience would take care of itself. No need for commands or effort. But the Bible does not reason this way. It has no problem with the word “therefore.” Grace, grace, grace, therefore, stop doing this, start doing that, and obey the commands of God. Good works should always be rooted in the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, but I believe we are expecting too much from the “flow” and not doing enough to teach that obedience to the law—from a willing spirit, as made possible by the Holy Spirit—is the proper response to free grace.

For as much as Luther derided the misuse of the Law, he did not reject the positive role of the law in the believer’s life. The Lutheran Formula of Concord is absolutely right in when it says, “We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith” (Epitome 6.2). Preachers must preach the law without embarrassment. Parents must insist on obedience without shame. The law can, and should, be urged upon true believers—not to condemn, but to correct and promote Christlikeness. Both the indicatives of Scripture and the imperatives are from God, for our good, and given in grace."  Read the rest here.

Just as with God's sovereignty & man's responsibility, so are law & grace - you don't have to reconcile old friends.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loss is Gain

*Be prepared:  this is going to be a long post.  Also, I will be as discrete as possible, but some detailed explanation is needed to ensure understanding.

This has been a dreadful week.  Not only for what has taken place, but also for what I have learned about myself.  It all started 3 weeks ago, & these 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride, a continuously revolving cycle of hope, followed by ever-increasing anxiety & desperation, & culminating in crushing disappointment & confusion.  I have learned a lot of lessons in this relatively short time span - lessons about trust, hope, & patience; lessons about how deeply embedded is my sin, how truly depraved I am.

I am 3 weeks late.  Now, having PCOS, that is not unheard of; my longest gap between cycles before treatment was 2 years.  However, in the almost 2 years since I've been taking Metformin, I've never been this late.  Add to that the fact that I've been regularly exercising & have had a few of the classic symptoms, & we genuinely thought we were pregnant.  So much so that we immediately began taking home pregnancy tests every few days.  Because I have wacky hormone levels, we assumed the negative results were simply due to us taking them too early.  All throughout this, I have been forcefully reminded of how Harry Potter felt as he competed in the Triwizard Tournament.  As each test day approached, I experienced a mounting tension & anxiety, which reached a fever pitch to the point where I thought I would either lose my mind or my lunch.  Then, once we got the results, along with disappointment, I would feel a calm until the next test day approached.  For two & a half weeks, this has been my life.  It has drained me & left me frazzled.

During this time, God has been teaching me a few different lessons.  Patience has never been my strong suit.  I had no choice here but to be patient; there was absolutely nothing I could do to move things along.  I guess, though, come to think of it, perhaps God was simply showing me my penchant for impatience, because - while I did have fleeting moments or perhaps even a day here or there where I was calmly waiting - I was mighty anxious for answers the rest of the time.  I know that another lesson he wanted me to learn regarded hope.  Perhaps Proverbs 13:12 doesn't mean this, but I began to see that when I "defer hope" from God & place it on something else - in this case, being with child - that my "heart [becomes] sick".  Finally, of course this experience is meant to strengthen my faith.  Although that has been the end result, for a time I failed miserably in this area, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Even though we kept pulling up negatives, we could see no other logical explanation, so it was practically impossible to keep our minds from daydreaming about the possibilities.  We've had names picked out for a while, so we dwelled instead on how we would tell people & how we would have to redecorate the house.  We were so hopeful that we would be able to surprise our families, which - if that's you - explains why you didn't know about this until earlier this week.  We only told our closest friends that we thought we might be pregnant.  We were bursting to tell someone, & our thought here was that our friends would not be as disappointed as our family.  They have proven us wrong on that account, & I've been amazed at how they have entered into our grief with us.  Having to tell everyone that we're not pregnant has been difficult, but I can't even begin to express how deeply I appreciate the love & encouragement that we've received.  The fact that our friends are mourning with us means more than I can say.  Especially Sommer, Sweet T, Angie, Amber, & Katie.  These ladies have known me for less than a year, & the love that they have lavished on me has been overwhelming.  I didn't think I could love you more, ladies, & yet, I do.

The strain of the HPTs finally broke us, & we went to our family doctor on Monday for a blood test.  Michael was certain that it would be positive; I was terrified that it wouldn't be.  Turns out that whole "expect the worst, hope for the best" thing isn't helpful in the least.  Everything came crashing down when we got the call the next day that the test was negative.  I immediately called our OB, got an appointment for Wednesday, & then curled up in our bed & sobbed my heart out.  Here was my lowest point.  The point when my faith failed.  All of a sudden, I allowed myself to dwell on thoughts about God that I've never had in my life.  I questioned His love for me.  I believed that He was being cruel, that He was sitting on high laughing at my pain.  I could not wrap my head around why He was "doing this to me".  I would have been perfectly fine if my cycle had begun when it was supposed to, so I could not comprehend why He would dangle this hope before me like a carrot forever beyond my reach when He knows how much I desire being a mother.  I tell you this not because I'm proud of it, but expressly because I'm not.  Michael held me while I wept & railed.  After about half an hour, I lay there spent, calm.  And gradually, I felt peace & even happiness invade my soul.  Unbeknownst to me, Michael was silently praying for God to give me grace, & even though I had been arrogantly faithless & altogether undeserving, He gave it to me.  How deep the Father's love, indeed.  That evening, Michael & I clasped hands & I prayed a prayer of deep repentance & thankfulness.  I have seen anew the depths of my sin & the wonder of being forgiven by my Father.

By the time our OB appointment came, I knew that the results of another blood test would be negative.  I have accepted that we are not with child, even while I am left to wonder what is going on.  All through this, we have contemplated the glory that God would receive, the praise that we would give Him in front of everyone if He had given us this gift.  I've struggled with not understanding why this would not be the best way for Him to receive glory from us.  Because God does everything for His glory, I've come to comprehend that He means to receive glory from us another way - namely, by the growth of our faith in Him in the midst of this trial.  So, I stand here now declaring that God is good, that He loves me, & that He is working out His plan - even if He chooses not to share all of the details with me.  Trust is not always an easy thing to come by.  I have had times in my life where my faith in God never wavered, where I easily trusted Him even though I was hurting.  That was not the case this time; for the first time in my life, I doubted Him.  Now I know that sometimes you have to fight to trust.  I'm so thankful to have a godly husband & godly friends who have ministered to me & pointed me toward God throughout this, & even now continue to do so.  I'm thankful for the love & support of my Mama & Daddy, my sister-in-law Beth, & my cousin Scott.  I appreciate everyone's encouragement & covet your prayers.  Thank you for being the body of Christ to us.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

Sometimes, life can wear you down.  Here's a lovely song in case you're feeling a little worn down today.  Close your eyes & pray the words.  Run to the only true refuge for weary souls.  May the God of grace & mercy bring you peace & healing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

War on Life

Read this superbly illuminating article by Al Mohler regarding the war that's being declared on crisis pregnancy centers.  We do indeed live in a "culture of death".

"Crisis pregnancy centers deserve the support of all who cherish the sanctity of life, the defense of the unborn, and the right of free speech. As defenders of life, crisis pregnancy centers should be committed to nothing less than comprehensive truth-telling. It is the Culture of Death, and not the Culture of Life, that fears the truth."

On Carnal Christians ~ Ask R.C.

Here's another great question & answer from R.C.  If I were asked this question, I would simply say "no", which would not be nearly as helpful as the details & distinctions R.C. provides.  Pay particular attention to his distinctions in the last paragraph regarding carnal "Christians" & "carnal" Christians.  Good stuff!

Q:  Are there carnal Christians - ones who profess to believe and go immediately back to their old life, who never show evidence regeneration having taken place?

A:  Yes, there are “carnal” Christians, but no, there are no Christians who never show evidence of regeneration having taken place. The notion that a person could truly embrace the saving work of Christ while not embracing His Lordship is a pernicious error made most popular by Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ. The “scholarly” support for this distorted perspective has come from Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges both of whom taught at the dispensational mecca of Dallas Theological Seminary.

This idea has any number of problems. First and foremost is that it divides Christ. It is all well and good to distinguish between the three-fold office of Christ, affirming that He is prophet, priest and king. It is another thing altogether to suggest that one can truly embrace one part of that formula, while passing over another. To embrace the Christ who saves as savior but to reject the Christ who reigns as Lord is to divide Christ.

This notion, secondly, deeply misunderstands how it is that we even come to embrace the saving work of Christ. Because we are, by nature, children of wrath, we are unable, in ourselves, to embrace anything of the work of Christ. Before we can come to Him He must change us first. God the Holy Spirit must change our heart before we can come to faith. This is regeneration, which does not flow from our faith but is the source of our faith. If we have been given a new heart, if our inclination is no longer only toward sin, if we are not only changed by but indwelt by the Spirit, how could we help from growing in grace? He has not only forgiven us, but is cleansing us from all sin (I John 1:9).

Third, this notion cuts off the legs of our assurance. While understanding and affirming the biblical doctrine of God’s saving grace is a critical part of our assurance, it is not enough. The demons, after all, know that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, that He died as a substitute for us, receiving the wrath of the Father due to us for our sins. Our assurance is grounded in our embracing the true gospel, and our changed lives. What sets believers apart from demons and false professors of the true faith is that we are indeed changed. We are not without sin, but we are changed.

Which brings us back to the reality of carnal Christians. The term itself comes from Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth that the believers there are “carnal.” Do carnal Christians exist? Of course they do. We’re all carnal. That is, we still struggle against our sin nature. We still sin. In that sense all believers are carnal. We are changed by the work of the Spirit, but we are not complete. We are not without sin. Our standard then is not “Am I perfect?” for then no one would qualify as a believer. Instead it is “Am I getting better?” I still struggle against sin. Did I not struggle, were I comfortable with my sin, I would be a carnal “Christian.” That I struggle demonstrates that I am a “carnal” Christian. It is a subtle difference from one perspective. From another it is the difference between eternal life and death.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Christian View of the Debt Crisis

The following is a very well-written letter from CASE (Christians for A Sustainable Economy) that I believe needs to be read by all.  You can see the list of co-founders & signatories here & sign it yourself here.

"Dear President Obama, Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner,

Recently, in the midst of the debt-ceiling crisis, a group calling themselves the “Circle of Protection,” led by Jim Wallis of the activist group Sojourners, met with you and your staff to claim that biblical mandates preclude limits to federal programs for low-income people. The Circle includes representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wallis and the “Circle of Protection” do not speak for all Christians. However laudable their intentions, the consequence of their action is to provide a religious imprimatur for big government and sanctify federal welfare programs that are often ineffective — even counterproductive. Contrary to their founding “Statement,” we do not need to “protect programs for the poor.” We need to protect the poor themselves. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect them from the very programs that ostensibly serve the poor, but actually demean the poor, undermine their family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations. Such programs are unwise, uncompassionate, and unjust.

Let no one be deceived: the Budget Control Act may resolve the immediate cash-flow crisis, but the long-term crisis of government insolvency remains. The Act does not touch the mountain of debt we are preparing to pass on to our families; in fact, the purpose of the Act is to permit our leaders to make that mountain larger, by raising the debt ceiling. This debt will only impoverish even more Americans. So we ask that you meet with us, Christians for A Sustainable Economy ( We believe the poor of this generation and generations to come are best served by policies that promote economic freedom and growth, that encourage productivity and creativity in every able person, and that wisely steward our common resources for generations to come. All Americans – especially the poor – are best served by sustainable economic policies for a free and flourishing society. When creativity and entrepreneurship are rewarded, the yield is an increase of productivity and generosity.

Compassion and charity for “the least of these” is an essential expression of our faith, flowing from a heart inclined towards God. And just as the love of God frees us for a more abundant life, so our charity must go beyond mere material provision to meet the deeper needs of the poor. To suggest that Matthew 25 – or any commandment concerning Christian charity – can be met through wealth redistribution is to obscure these truths. We encourage you to consider the whole counsel of scripture, which urges not only compassion and provision for the poor but also the perils of debt and the importance of wise stewardship.

To the question, “What would Jesus cut?”, we add the question, “Whom would Jesus indebt?” The Good Samaritan did not use a government credit card.

The government plays an important role, and communities do need the support of social safety nets for those in need. A Christian approach to the budget crisis considers the interests of the poor. All of us suffer when our nation exchanges wisdom, prudence, liberty and faithful stewardship for the chronic unemployment of a stagnant economy and the enslaving power of debt.

Both parties have failed. Our common resources have been stewarded unwisely and the United States is trillions of dollars in debt. We have reached a breaking point. Fiscal recklessness must stop. Just as we should not balance the budget “on the backs of the poor,” so we should not balance the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

Even as the debt-ceiling crisis passes, the long-term challenge of making federal spending wise and effective remains. We recommend three steps:

1. Correctly identify the problem.

The debt disaster is a spending issue. Tax revenues are finite, while the growth of government is unceasing. By any measure, federal spending has skyrocketed, from $2.9 trillion in 2008 to $3.8 trillion in 2011. We presently borrow over forty cents of every dollar we spend. While increasing taxes will generate additional revenues and reduce the deficit in the short term, it will ultimately harm the economy, constrain economic growth, and hasten the out-of-control growth of government. To give more money to Washington is to give the sickness the remedy it requests. The last thing the government needs is more money. It needs to cease its unwise and profligate spending.

2. Put narrow political interests aside.

Entrenched political interests stagnate reform. Every cent of government spending must be on the table, for ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ priorities alike. The stated intention of helping the needy does not make poverty programs sacrosanct. Some of these programs ‘serve’ the poor so well that they make more people poor and keep them in poverty longer. Stop the demagoguery against those who propose substantive changes to entitlements and social welfare programs.

3. Lead for the long term.

Americans yearn for, and deeply appreciate, leaders who embrace a burden of responsibility that transcends the implications of the next election cycle. While we agree that budgets are moral documents insofar as they reflect values and decisions for which we are morally culpable, long-term budget plans are morally meaningful promises we make to later generations. Right now we are morally failing our children and grandchildren by selling their future flourishing for our present comfort. In hard times, true leaders make hard decisions. We encourage you to put aside political calculations and the pressures of special interest groups to make commitments that are in the long-term interest of the American economy and the American people.

People of faith come in all stripes, and differ on many points. Jim Wallis and the “Circle of Protection” are but one perspective. We believe they have not fully represented the large and diverse community of Christian faith, as you will see by the list of signatories below,* and have conveyed less than the full biblical witness and the counsel it provides in the current crisis. As such, even as you met with the “Circle of Protection,” we request a meeting as well. If you are committed to hearing voices of faith, even those that challenge your policy priorities, we hope you will meet with us.

As Christians striving for a sustainable economy, one that will lift the poor out of poverty and dependency on government (learn more at, we thank you for considering our message – and for your service to our nation. May God bless America, and return us soon to wise stewardship of our common resources."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Church Leaders Who Permit Carnality

Church Leaders Who Permit Carnality from NCFIC on Vimeo.

As one of my sisters-in-Christ said so well, I'm thankful our pastor isn't one of these men!