Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Monday!

We had a wonderful weekend, and I hope you did, too. We spent most of it around the house getting some much-needed things done and making the last-minute preparations for our Awana Awards Ceremony. Luke did the videos for each club ,with the help of his faithful Production Assistant (moi) who chose all of the music! He really has a gift for putting together videos. After watching the awesome videos of each club's year, I wondered how I too could get involved in such a great program!

While he was doing that, I sat and went through the lists, files, and orders I had placed, making sure we would have the more than 400 awards we would be giving out. I tell ya, our club is huge and our kids have flat out learned some verses this year! The ceremony was last night and it was a great success. Our Cubbies (preschoolers) had theirs first and then the K-12th graders had theirs. It all went off without a hitch, thanks to our awesome volunteers, our top-notch media team, and (of course) the dedicated parents. I didn't get many pictures because I was too busy running around with my clipboard or sitting on the front row counting trophies. I had to remind myself when it was my kids' turn, to see them as my child and clap and be "in the moment" rather than see myself as a coordinator of the event.

But I did.

I cheered and applauded. I remembered when they used to wear the little Cubbie and Sparky vests. I thought about all the work it has taken for them to finish their books. I praised God for how He has hidden His Word in their hearts this year, and thanked Him that it will not come back to Him void, but that it is an accomplishing Word. Praise You, Lord.

But, I didn't get enough pictures. I really wanted pictures of them with their leaders and directors. I didn't get those. Here's what I was able to snap:

Kyle receiving his award from Mr. Tracy, his faithful leader for two years.

I didn't get Bethany getting her award, but here she is coming down the steps off of the stage. This was her first year in "Trek," the jr. high program. She loved it!

Of course, some parents got those really great shots, but perhaps in all the hubbub, they didn't get a chance to get a picture with the Commander. Luckily, we bring him home with us each week, so we snagged those pictures when we got home:

We stayed late, with the help of some faithful friends and volunteers, and got the stage cleared and the receptions cleaned up. The records are locked in the office, ready for me to update for next year. Another successful Awana year has come to a close!

And I am tired. There is no "Menu Plan Monday" today. I have a plan, but no post. Besides, the guys may take a camping trip this week with some friends from Wednesday through the weekend (the opportunity has come up, so Luke's deciding today) so that would change my cooking plans anyway. With the guys away, the girls may eat at La Madeleine and order in Chinese food!

We're working on finishing our school year. We'll even finish some things this week, just in time for me to sell some of our used curriculum on Friday at our homeschool association's used book sale. Fun!

I hope your weekend was all that you needed it to be, and that your week is off to a great start!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Now THAT's the way to turn forty...

What a perfect birthday! Here's Big Luke, Little Luke, with Little Kyle in the middle, enjoying a day of fishing at the lake.

When he came home from fishing and had a chance to rest, we had more fun in store... The kids decided it would be fun to take their Dad out to drive go-carts and play laser tag for his big 4-0!

Nothing helps deal with family issues like chasing each other around with laser guns... LOL

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity! Let's go racin'!

I have decided that if there were an award given for The Most Fun Family Ever In The History Of Families, it should go to my husband's family. I sent an email out to his siblings letting them know where we would be going. We were on the miniature golf course last night and here they came (on a busy school night in the midst of a busy week) with their sweet families to join in the fun. We had a great time! I know it made Luke's birthday for his sisters to come out and enjoy the evening with us.

G. was getting her groove on at the Dance Revolution game. The video of this is priceless!

Fishing with a guide, fast cars (well, go-carts) , beautiful women (Yes- wife, daughter, sisters and nieces count!), shooting guns (well, laser guns), plenty of pizza, and a cold pitcher of Pepsi... now that's the way for a guy to turn forty! Thank you to our precious family for making it such a great day. We love y'all!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Look Who's Forty!

What a special day this is! Forty years ago today, the world welcomed "Little Luke." He started out "little," but he is larger than life to so many of us. I am at a loss for words as I look back over his life in pictures. I just realized that for over half of those forty years, we have been in each other's lives... how cool is that? He amazes me every day with his wisdom, tenderness, sense of humor and his "agape", demonstrated love for us. He loves His Lord Jesus, and the way he humbles himself before Him is evident in every area of his life. As I look at these pictures of him as a little boy, I am struck once again with the knowledge that my parents were diligently praying for that little boy... the one who would eventually sweep their little girl off her feet and be the godly leader of her home and family. God is so faithful. So, so faithful.

Second grade baseball picture

College graduation, May 1990

Praying with a medical patient in Ghana, June 2004

Father and son, at his baby sister's wedding, October 2006

I haven't been there from the beginning, but here are some words from someone who has... your Mom: "I knew you were special when you were born. Your cousin even commented that you have been grown up since day one. Even through the hard times, God has been so faithful to you. You have been a blessing to me and our family since the beginning. I am so proud. Your strength during hard times has been my strength. At family gatherings everybody looks to you to come up with words of wisdom, and can always call you when they are troubled. Maybe we should make some "WWLD" bracelets! Happy Birthday, and thank you Jesus for your life. You will always be my "Little Luke." I love you forever and one day more, Mom."

It's funny... it's your birthday, and yet I feel like I got the gift. I can't wait to see what the next forty years will bring (even though you are clearly aging better than I am... ;) Happy, happy birthday! I love you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Works-for-me Wednesday

What do you do with all of that spare change lying around? At our house, we put it in a jar. When that jar gets full, we start another jar. Eventually, that jar gets full, too, so we start another one. All the while I'm imagining that I'll schlep those jars to the bank to get, well, money for all of it. But, practically speaking that just doesn't happen for us. Plus, I don't know if your bank does it for free, but most charge a percentage to convert coins to cash. With online banking I don't find myself running to the bank anymore, so I forget. But I DO run to the grocery store quite often...

A couple of weeks ago we took jars and jars of coins to our local grocery store where there was a Coinstar machine. Now, Coinstar charges 9% (ouch!) to convert your coinage to cash, but it's free if you get it on certain gift certificates. We got a couple of Starbucks gift cards and a couple hundred dollars in money. You can also get iTunes (another favorite of mine) and many others. Click here to see what gift cards are available, and here to find out where there are Coinstar machines near you.

Coffee, tunes, and books... for all the spare change I had lying around. Works for me!

For more great tips, or to leave your own, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Holy Ground

Good morning! Only a blogger would take a picture of breakfast. (Oh, wait, I take that back... maybe a desperate scrapbooker would... ;) Here are the wonderful Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins we had for breakfast this morning. Pull up a chair and share a muffin! I've got half-caff coffee, too.

Before the kids got up this morning I was reading in the book of Judges (where I am in my daily Bible reading.) This year I am using a wonderful resource to help with my understanding of the Old Testament, Edersheim's Bible History Old Testament. It has really helped me to connect events and get a better "grip" on the narrative of the Old Testament. Today after I finished my Bible reading on Gideon, I turned to see what Edersheim had to say. In the section discussing Gideon's asking for a second sign from the Lord ("a pledge of His presence" as Edersheim calls it) he says something that I think is absolutely profound:

"Those hours in the history of God's heroes, when, on the eve of a grand deed of the sublimest faith, the spirit wrestles with the flesh, are holy seasons, to which the superficial criticism of a glib profession, that has never borne the strain of utmost trial, cannot be applied without gross presumption. When in such hours the soul in its agony is seen to cast its burden upon the Lord, we feel that we stand on holy ground." (p. 362, emphasis added)

Have you found yourself in a wrestling match between spirit and flesh? Have you ever noticed how often those seasons come "on the eve of a grand deed of the sublimest faith?" Oh, how this spoke to me today. How my flesh would love to give way to fear, anxiety, insecurity, or selfishness... especially in the face of an opportunity to do something that would require immense faith.

So much has happened in our country, in our families, and in "blogland" in recent days. So many people are burdened. So many are standing on "holy ground," casting burdens before the cross onto our Lord in Whose strength alone we are able bear up. Are you on holy ground today? Take heart if you are. This is a "holy season." Jesus is near. He is drawing you near to Him. He longs to accomplish great things for His great name- and He must-for no other name is worthy, and there is no other name by which we may be saved.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Happy Monday morning! First, I must share that the Orange-glazed Pork Chops and Skillet Lo Mein were a hit at our house last week. You've gotta try them if your family likes Asian food at all. (Or if you want to try some that they would like!) My 10-year-old son (resident chef-in-training) made two batches of the orange sauce and also made the Lo Mein. Both recipes were simple and very, very yummy.

Here is our menu for this week:

Monday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables
Tuesday: Fettucini Alfredo, salad, green beans, garlic bread
Wednesday: Crockpot Chicken Tacos and all the fixins' (My family LOVED these last time I made them!)
Thursday: Out for a fun birthday surprise for hubby who turns 40!
Friday: Chicken pot pie or leftovers
Weekend: out-to-eat and leftovers

Please stop by Laura's to read more menus or to add your own. Have a terrific week!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Real Growth

"Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. "
Colossians 2:18-19, NASB

In my Bible reading this morning, I came across this passage from Paul's letter to the Colossians. I've been reading the book of Colossians every day, becoming increasingly familiar with Paul's wise words to the believers at Colossae and prayerfully heeding his words of warning. God must have known that the dangers they faced would be common to all believers, so He caused these words to be written by Paul instead of spoken in person, so we would still have them. I'm not glad for Paul's imprisonment, but I love how God sovereignly used it to transport His Word through Paul to us today.

What caught my attention this morning were the words, "...grows with a growth which is from God." That statement implies that there can be growth which is not from God. Not all things which aren't from God will wither and die right away. There can be a period of growth and fruit (albeit, bad fruit). The tares grow alongside the wheat. So how do I tell if the growth I'm experiencing is "from God?"

First, I must check to see that the teaching I am receiving is "holding fast to the head." The Head is Jesus Christ. I may have measureable growth in certain areas, but if what is feeding or teaching me does not acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ, it is not "growth which is from God." I don't want that kind of growth. That kind of growth, like a cancerous tumor, will grow and grow until it robs my mind and spirit of the healthy "nutrients" it needs. It's bondage.

I love this post of Terri's the other day, dealing with the book "The Secret" and other books like it. I encourage you to read it. (The post, not the book!) So many earthly teachers today, inflated without cause by their fleshly minds, are defrauding believers of their prize, their spiritual blessings in this life and in the life to come, by teaching what does not acknowledge Jesus Christ. I am burdened by what I see, and I know many of you are as well. Self abasement (false humility) angel worship, and grand visions characterized the false teachers in Colossae, and we do see those qualities present in the false teachings we see in mainstream media today. But I think they represent the types of teachers Paul is warning us about those who teach any persuasive, empty doctrine. If believers accept these teachings and put them into practice, they won't lose their salvation but they will be robbed of present and future spiritual blessings.

Just because it's growth doesn't mean it's from God. "Measurable" does not equal "meaningful." I want my growth to be real. I want it to be of God. I want my fruit to last. And I know you do, too. I pray that all of us would test our teachers and the teaching we're receiving to see if it is supported by the Head, Jesus Christ, Who holds all things together and (praise God!) holds us in the mighty grip of His grace.

SO cool!

We get to love on another "sista" this week. Heather, a fellow homeschooler, blogger, and sister in Christ, fighting a courageous battle. I loved her post today, "You Picked the Wrong Girl." Oh, my WORD. Goosebumps. Boomama is hosting an event similar to the "For Kelli" event a few months ago, and what a blessing it was to be part of that! Click here to read the story and click here to donate. Please let her know if you are praying, whether you are able to contribute or not. This is where it gets real, folks.

And it is real.

Works-for-me Wednesday: Car Snacks

Well, WFMW didn't "work for me" the week of the car edition (though I enjoyed some of the great tips!) so I'm posting a car-related tip this week.

I no longer have toddlers or very young children, so gone are the days of the little baggies of Cheerios or goldfish-shaped containers of (what else?) Goldfish crackers. But with a teenager and a preteen, we are into the years where they crave (and need) snacks as much as ever! I have found a great way to make sure the last sleeve of crackers that nobody wants, or the about-to-be-old bag of animal crackers or pretzels will get eaten... just put them in the car!

It's amazing, snacks they wouldn't choose if they were grazing in the kitchen become quite appetizing when it's the only thing available in the car on the way home from a field trip, golf lesson, or gymnastics class.

My kids (and their friends who ride with us!) have really appreciated having something to munch in the car, and I'm enjoying not throwing away remnants of snacks that have gotten old in the pantry. Works for me!

To read more tips or to link us to yours, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

This is my Dad and I several years ago when we played in a group together in a concert at the Meyerson Symphony Center. A fun memory! My mom says this is one of her favorite pictures of us.

(Yes, my hair has changed a lot over the years, but my love for my sweet Dad has not!)

Have a wonderful birthday. I love you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Other Words

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?"
~ David Livingstone ~

To be commissioned by a king has always been an honor. But the honor of carrying on the work of the king, of acting in his stead and in his power in his kingdom, has never been without sacrifice. Those commissioned by the king have had to be willing to leave home, family and country, forgoing comfort, even risking loss of life. So it is for us as those who have been comissioned by our Heavenly King. Those committed to the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18) must see our commission for what it is-- the highest of honors. We are ambassadors of the Most High God! Infused with His very power, we have been given the greatest of privileges- to be called His children and to do the work of His kingdom on His behalf, for His great glory. But, worship and service to our Heavenly King has always involved sacrifice, even for His own Son, Who gave His very life doing what He had been commissioned to do. Can we say with David, "I will not offer... an offering to the Lord which cost me nothing." (2 Samuel 24:24)? The commission is an honor-- the sacrifice, a privilege.

No one knew this better than David Livingstone, who was moved by "the smoke of a thousand villages–villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in this world." Those words, spoken by his mentor, Robert Moffat, solidified Livingstone's commitment to the commission he received from His Heavenly King. The honor of the commission is what must have sustained him in the crushing jaws of the lion, the disease-ridden days in the interior of Africa, and the years of not seeing his beloved family. All sacrifices, to be sure, but infinitely worth it because of the honor of carrying out the commission of the Lord Most High.

My commission is worth whatever I am asked to put on the altar. What will I offer Him today? May I count it an honor.

Laurel Wreath is our host for this week's "In Other Words." Please visit Laurel to read some other thoughts on this quote, and to link your own. Thanks for hosting us, Laurel!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Have you found dinner-as-as-family each night to be a challenge? We have. It seems that no matter how I prioritize it, schedule it, look forward to it, and agree with those "family table" ads on Nickelodeon, it's still difficult to pull off some weeks. As a homeschooling family, the kids are home during the day and we eat lunch together most days, and breakfast together some (sometimes they straggle in or are at different points in their morning routines, so we don't always see each other at breakfast!) But dinner is when Dad is home, when all four of us can finally sit together and we don't want to miss it! But, neither do we want to miss gymnastics, golf, or guitar class. Sometimes I have homeschool association meetings or prayer groups, or other meetings which I really enjoy. I was thinking about this as I was looking at my nice, neat, Menu-Plan-Monday all typed up, ready to go. It looks so... simple, like it's going to happen at the same time each night. But, it doesn't.

For instance, tonight each of the kids has an activity from 6:00-7:00. We'll all be home by 7:30 so we'll probably eat then. (I'll cook it before we leave.) Some evenings when we have an activity, I'll have dinner on the table right at 5:00, so when my cute husband walks in the back door he sees our faces sitting at the table waiting for him. That way we have about 45 minutes for dinner before one of us takes a child somewhere. Sunday nights after we're finished with Awana, we don't eat until around 8:30. I've found it takes some doing, but the benefits of dinner as a family are worth it. It's working so far! I'd love to know what works for some of you, too.

Here's what we're having this week:

Monday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas
Tuesday: Leftovers (Isn't cold fried chicken just the best??)
Thursday: Quick Cheeseburger Bake, baked sweet potato fries
Friday: Leftovers or order pizza
Weekend: sandwiches, leftovers, out-to-eat after church

Visit Laura's to read more menu ideas or to link your own. Thanks so much, Laura, for hosting MPM each week. Have a yummy week!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Catching Up

Every once in awhile, I come across a blog post on a beloved blog, simply catching us up on random details of her life. I find myself enjoying "getting the scoop" on what she's been up to, sort of like reading a newsy letter from a friend. If you enjoy those posts like I do, then settle in with a good cup of coffee/tea/cocoa/Diet Something and get ready. If those types of posts aren't your cup-o-tea, this is your chance to click on by. (And I completely understand! ;)

It is another overcast, cold Saturday following another cold-snap-Friday. Last week it was Good Friday that turned cold, and what followed was a FREEZING Saturday. And I mean freezing, as in snow flakes. We were to help with an outdoor event across town in an empty lot in a primarily Hispanic subdivision as an outreach for our church's Hispanic church. Last Friday night, in anticipation of the freezing temperatures to come and a day in which the wind chill would not leave the 30's, I actually hoped the event would be cancelled. Saturday night, I couldn't believe I had wished such a thing! It was indeed cold, we froze our toes and hid Easter Eggs with snow flakes swirling all around, but we had a fantastic turnout and a wonderful time. Over 100 people from the surrounding neighborhood came out for hot dogs, hamburgers, an Easter Egg hunt and a bounce house, and found out about the ministries at our church which are conducted in Spanish. We found out Sunday that a number of folks that had come Saturday were at our Easter service. Praise God! We also had a team of missionaries from Mexico from our partner church there, who got to see snow for the first time! I was chatting with one of them whom I had met when I was there back in 2003. I went down there to help with relief work after a major flood in their area. He told me (in Spanish, as he speaks no English) that the previous Wednesday, April 4, had been the anniversary of the flood. I understood every word of what he said, I couldn't believe it! I then proceeded to enthusiastically answer him... in French. Oh, my brain. I need to just pick a language and stick with it... The whole time I was in Mexico that year, I spoke fluent Franish. Frantic Franish, in fact. (French + Spanish)

We enjoyed a fun Easter Sunday with Luke's family over at his brother's house. The cousins enjoyed driving the golf cart all around, fishing in the pond, and (of course) hunting eggs. The (grown up) sisters had their annual Easter egg smack-down hunt. Last year I participated, but this year I sat out because I've not been working out, and was thus, too out of shape for such a competitive event. (Okay, I was actually still tired from the day before.) It was fun to watch, though! They actually did all end up on the ground at some point. It's serious, I tell ya. (Congratulations, Tina!)

Tuesday night the phone rang and it was my dear friend in China with whom I'll be staying in May. I always love talking to her at night. I'll be in my jammies getting ready for bed asking her, "So, what are you going to do today?" because they're just getting up! I still have the microwave clock set on China time since last summer when Bethany was there. It messes with my brain at times, sending me into a panic thinking I'm an hour late for something (they're 13 hours ahead of us) but it's fun to know what time it is in the place where our hearts and prayers are so often. It was wonderful to hear how they're doing and anticipating seeing them in about a month!

The kids and I resumed our school work this week, amid continuing efforts to box up, organize, sort through, clean out and pack. So. much. (too much) stuff. Luckily our subdivision is having its semi-annual neighborhood garage sale next weekend. I am having a major "spring clearance!" Last night we had severe weather and heard the tornado sirens sounding from across the lake and I thought as I looked in my dining room (where the garage sale stuff is living at the moment), "It looks like the tornado has already come through!" Regarding the weather, we survived. It was dark, scary, and loud. We had sideways rain and a bit of hail. The closet under the stairs was cleared of coats and prepared in case we needed it. The kids and I sat in a big chair (while Zac-the-weenie dog took up his command post under the chair). Luke and Haley-the-German Shepherd monitored the weather radar. Unfortunately, we did have to cancel an Awana Cubbie event last night, though. Hopefully we'll be able to get it rescheduled.

Today we are painting the upstairs bathroom and decorating it with some fun, new stuff my daughter-with-an-eye-for-decorating helped me pick out. We have a fun day tomorrow, with a China meeting and then our spring "Leader Appreciation Dinner" for all of our awesome Awana volunteers and their spouses before our Awana club night. Planning these events (for 150 +) is one of the things that intimidated me so much before we took this position, but yesterday as I was running around (ahead of the storm!) gathering table cloths, door prizes, centerpieces, and kids' activities for the leaders' kids party, I realized how much I really do enjoy it. I thanked God in the parking lot at Michael's craft store for giving me a love for what He has asked me to do. It is such a privilege to love on these incredible volunteers and to minister, in any way that I can, to the families in our Awana program. This week is the dinner, next week is "ice cream sundae" night, and the following week is our awards program. Then, that's it! Sprinkle that in with finishing our school year, packing for a move, staging the house and planning for China and that's my life in a nutshell. :)

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope you have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't Lay Down Your Bible!

The current series on Revive Our Hearts is called "Walking Through Life's Deserts." (The series starts here. ) Today's episode was called "I Can't Do This!" The title caught my attention, because I have said those three words so many times, even in the past week!

Three women on the show today shared their stories of difficulties (some of which I can't imagine!) and discussed what sustained them during those times. This part really spoke to me today:

"It was such a shock in about my mid-30s when all of a sudden there were really tough things in my life that I didn't initiate or choose, but they were there. I had to walk through the process of coming to grips with who God was in the midst of Him allowing things in my life that I didn't choose.

I think at the beginning of that process in your life it's hard because you've never done it before. I think when you've seen God prove Himself faithful over the course of several things like that maybe you're a little quicker to recognize the hand of God in the midst of hurt or difficulty. So you surrender to it. You acknowledge who God is.

Then I think the thing of persevering and getting to God for hope means you can't lay down your Bible. There were moments in those years where the only time I felt okay was when I was sitting in my den with my Bible open having time to stay in the Word. If I got away from that, the circumstances were so hard that I would think, "God, I don't think I can live through this." But if I was sitting in the presence of God in His Word, it gave me encouragement and hope and perspective that I had to have.

If somebody says to me, "Well, yes, I'm surrendering to this. I’m getting to God." But they're not in the Word. They're not going to have what they need to be able to walk through that thing because that is the thing that brings us back to the point of truth.

Nancy: When you think of how God provided in the wilderness for the Israelites, He provided manna, water, protection, provision, His presence. All those things really are what we find in the presence of God and in the Word. That is our manna. That is our bread. That is our water. That's what sustains us in the desert."

Persevering and getting to God for help means you can't lay down your Bible...

Those words really resonated with me this morning. How prone I am in times of battle or seasons of stress to lay down the true Sword of God's Word, even momentarily, and begin wielding my wimpy sword of self-reliance. I loved this reminder today, and I needed it. The word "sword" has "w-o-r-d" in it. God's Word.

May I not lay it down, even for a second!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sometimes you're too busy doing it to blog about it...

Life, that is!

Man, I've been busy! I decided to pop into blogland today and it's the first time I've been on my computer ALL DAY. (And that's saying something!)

First of all, I can't post today without acknowledging that on this date in 1990 my cute, hunky college sweetheart gave me a gorgeous diamond and asked me to marry him. I couldn't say "yes" fast enough, and I've loved every minute of being his fiancee and then wife. Happy engagement-anniversary, honey!

Second of all, 32 years ago this week (April 9 to be exact) as a knobby-knee'd second grader I slipped out of my pew and walked to the front of the church to tell the world that I had given my heart to Jesus. I was so nervous, scared to death of the preacher, and would rather have been swallowed up by the floor than to stand up in front of anyone. That's how I know it was the Holy Spirit drawing me! At times I'm still knobby-knee'd and nervous, but I still love every minute of walking with my Jesus.

So, I've had a fun couple of "anniversaries" in my life this week. All I can think is... God is SO faithful! He has had His hand on my life in every conceivable way for so long: at every age and stage, in every area. It's real, y'all. I know you know it because I read your blogs and can see His hand in your lives as well.

If you're not sure, if you don't "feel" His hand and recognize His presence, just look for the good. EVERY good and perfect gift is from Him. (James 1:17) A smile from a teacher when you were in first grade. A beautiful flower in a pot on your porch. A meal to eat. A warm hand to hold. A soft pillow under your head. The love of your family. The kindness of a stranger. The opportunity to love and serve others. The love of your life asking you to marry him. A grape jelly kiss from a toddler. If it's good, it's from God. He's there! He's been there all along.

And I'm still here, just busy!

Love y'all!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

I. am. stuffed. It is Easter Sunday night, and we have had a wonderful day over at my sweet brother-in-law's house eating the most amazing food all afternoon. And what am I doing now? Typing a post about more food. The way I feel now, I can't imagine that we'll need to eat this week! But, just in case, here's what I've got planned:

Monday: Pinto beans with leftover Easter ham, cornbread
Tuesday: Chicken Fettucini Alfredo, Caesar salad, green beens, garlic bread
Wednesday: Crock Pot beef stew
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Bar-b-cups, mixed vegetables
Weekend: Sandwiches, leftovers, and out-to-eat after church

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend with those you love, and I pray you have a joyful week ahead of you!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;for Christ having risen from the dead,is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

John Chrysostom (349-407)
Entire sermon found here.

A Gift for You...

What do you usually do after you have picked out the perfect gift for someone? Do you simply thrust it at them right out of the shopping bag, with the price tags flying and the receipt still stuck to it? As tempting as that is (because it’s just so hard to wait!) we usually take care to choose just how we’re going to present it. We may choose just the right gift bag or wrapping paper because part of the gift is in the presentation...

...You can read the rest of my Easter post entitled "Unwrapping the Gift" here. I'd love to see you at the cafe!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In Other Words

"At the heart of the story stands the cross of Christ
where evil did its worst and met its match."

I wonder if he can still see it in his mind's eye. I can just imagine the enemy as he "prowls like a roaring lion" throughout the earth, "seeking those whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8) What a horrible reminder that must be for him as he passes the exact place where the cross stood on that day. Man may not be able to pinpoint exactly where it was, or may have to rely on tradition as to it's precise spot, but make no mistake- Satan knows. I wonder if he avoids that particular location (for he is not omni-present). Or maybe he goes back there to get "re-inspired" when he gets tired (for though he is powerful, he's not all-powerful). How it must continue to mock him. After all, he was "made a public spectacle" there that day. (Colossians 2:15)

You see, he gave it all he had. He used his best ammo. And for a brief moment, he must have thought it worked. How me must have listened with glee, almost giddily, when Jesus cried out to His Father Who had forsaken Him. He probably had a host of demons high-fiving him. Their "victory" (even if it was in their own minds) was short-lived. And praise God, Christ's victory is eternal. And so is ours if we are in Christ. We'll never have a day as bad as Christ's was that day and by His grace we'll never have an eternity as tormented as what is in store for the enemy.

They both gave all they had that day, and only One came forth the victor. I'd say Satan met more than his match when he pitted himself against the Son of God. So, what does that say about his chances against God's children? I must remember Whose child I am, and the victory that was won for God's glory and on my behalf. Evil can try to have its way in my life, but... it's met it's match because of Who dwells in me.

By God's grace and mercy, the cross is at the heart of my story. I pray it's at the heart of your story as well.

Iris is our gracious host this week. Visit her at Sting My Heart to read more views on this week's quote, or to post your own. Thanks, Iris!

Monday, April 02, 2007

I've been so busy thinking...

I haven't posted my Thinking Blogger post yet! First of all, thank you SO much Linda for nominating me. It means even more, given what a thinking blogger you are yourself (as well as the cyber-Titus-woman you've become to me.) Thank you, thank you! I haven't ignored the meme, but I've been, well, thinking! Several of the ones I'd like to forward it to have been nominated, and you're supposed to keep it to 5, which is doggone near impossible in my opinion.

Here are my heartfelt nominations, and if they are duplicates then she can just know that she's a Thinking Blogger Squared (or cubed, etc. ;)

If I have tagged you, here are your instructions:

Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with the link to the post that you wrote.

Until I started blogging, more often than not I would get on the computer to veg out. To surf. To click, scan, zone, and NOT think. What a waste of time that was! (Okay, not all the time, there are some great websites out there! There just isn't a "comment" button, LOL.) Now I'm reading things that challenge me, writing thoughts I didn't know I had until I wrote them, and meeting a host of new cyber-sistas! What a blessing! Thank you to all of you (many beyond those listed above) who make me think- about my Jesus, about glorifying God, about loving my family well, about discernment... about things worth thinkin' about.

Y'all are the best!

The Joy of the Gospel

If you haven't yet read this post of Chris's at Come to the Table, head on over! I'll be here when you get back...
Wasn't that good? Hopefully you clicked on the wonderful resource she has linked from Cornerstone Bible Fellowship. In case you didn't, here it is again. It is an excellent booklet written by their pastor, Milton Vincent, about "preaching the gospel to yourself" each day. I read through it yesterday and it ministered to me so much. I know I'll be using this resource again and again, and reading it to my children. It's an incredible blessing that this is available free of charge. What an appropriate time, Holy Week, to direct our focus right back to the cross and to resolve not to look away!

I know in my own life, I have regarded the "gospel message" as something separate from other concepts I am studying in the Bible. Certainly I needed to hear the gospel message before salvation, and I have needed the gospel when sharing with others or on mission trips, but daily thinking about the gospel wasn't something I did very often. Last summer I read Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney. It really changed my perspective on the role the gospel message plays in my daily life as a Christian. The gospel is everything! The cross is where it all began for me! Why did I ever leave that place?

Preaching the gospel to yourself every day, which Mahaney recommends as well, is an idea from Jerry Bridges' book The Discipline of Grace. The booklet from Cornerstone not only explains why to do it (in the same vein as Mahaney's book) but he writes out a prose version as well as a poetry version of the gospel message to read to yourself. Oh, how I loved lingering over it and praying through it yesterday on Palm Sunday. It was a wonderful way to focus my heart and worship this Holy Week. I highly encourage you to take a look at it and pray through it yourself, and see if you are blessed as well.

On this subject, I would like to share one thing I gleaned from Mahaney's book, something that was missing for me that is a byproduct of preaching the gospel to yourself everyday: Joy.

"And the inevitable result of preaching the gospel to yourself will be a pronounced joy, an infectious joy, a consistent joy. Like nothing else, the gospel creates joy; it's both the source and the object of our joy. The gospel alone allows us to obey the biblical directive to "serve the LORD with gladness." [Ps. 100:2] Joy is a command. You may be working hard and serving the Lord faithfully, but if you aren't serving with gladness, you aren't serving Him appropriately or representing Him accurately. Are you someone who's consistently joyful and continually aware that 'the joy of the LORD is your strength?' Or do you normally appear to others to be someone who's burdened, busy, and easily bothered?"

"... not representing Him accurately."

"Burdened, busy, and easily bothered."

Ouch! I'm afraid many days those words would describe me. And even if others aren't observing that in me, certainly my children are. Where is the joy that should be there? My joy is in the message of the gospel! There are many, many other aspects to infusing the gospel message into your heart each day (like developing a Romans 9 heart for the lost, as Chris mentioned) but this is one aspect that my heart has needed so much. True joy is in appropriating the gospel and its truth into my daily life and thoughts. That joy will undoubtedly well up and overflow onto those around me, drawing others to Him as well.

We have a wonderful opportunity to center our thoughts on the cross this week. My prayer is that we would, like a compass, realign ourselves with it and let that be our focal point each day. May we have cross-centered hearts this week and gospel-centered lives as we go forward. And may we find joy!

"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:12

Menu Plan Monday

"Oh taste and see that the LORD is good..." Ps. 34:8

This week around after dinner each night we will be incorporating some of Noel Piper's Holy Week ideas found here. We started it this weekend, and it is quite meaningful. I am looking forward to our special time together each night. The candles and readings are really helping us to focus our hearts as we approach Easter. I highly recommend it if you're not already using a Holy Week devotional. It's not too late to incorporate it into your family's table time or after-dinner time this week.

Here's what our family will be enjoying for dinner each night:

Monday: Baked Potato Soup, salad, garlic bread
Tuesday: Out to eat for my father-in-law's birthday (Happy birthday, "Big Luke!")
Wednesday: Chicken and dumplings, fried okra
Thursday: Left-overs
Friday: Passover Seder meal with our Family Bible Fellowship (Sunday school class)
Weekend: Easter dinner- ham, spinach salad, green beans, rolls, blueberry-banana pie


Crock Pot Ham (originally from mamaliscious)

5 lb. bone in fully cooked ham
1/3 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper

Place ham in 4-5 quart crockpot and pour apple juice over ham. Combine brown sugar, honey, mustard, and pepper in a small bowl and blend well. Spread over ham. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Slice and serve. 12 servings

Spinach Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs, diced
8-10 slices of bacon , cooked and chopped
2 bags baby spinach, destemmed and washed
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vinegar
2 heaping tbsp. mayonnaise
Whip dressing until smooth (I do this in the blender). Toss just before serving.

Blueberry Banana Pie

1 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 8 oz. Cool Whip
3 bananas, sliced
1 cup sugar
1 can blueberry pie filling
2 graham cracker pie shells

Mix cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add 1/2 of Cool Whip and blend well. Layer banana slices on bottom of pie crust, then put a layer of cream cheese mixture. Next, put a layer of Cool Whip. Refrigerate until top is set, then spoon blueberries on top.

Visit Laura for more menu ideas, or to share your menu plan.

Have a blessed, set-apart week!