Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Loosed" for the Lord's Purposes

"...and He said to them, "Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it.' and immediately he will send it here." Mark 11:2-3

I love this passage, especially as I came across it this week approaching Palm Sunday. The "colt" Christ is speaking of in the above passage is the donkey colt that He would be riding as He entered Jerusalem in His "triumphal entry." There are so many lessons to be learned from this pivotal moment. But, I keep coming back to the colt.

I have been carrying a bundle of notecards in my purse for the past few months. Some have scriptures on them, which I'm trying to memorize. Some have Greek words on them, from my (very) Elementary Greek curriculum that I'm slowly working through. One of the notecards that I regularly review has the word, "luo" written on it, in my best attempt at Greek script. The word "luo," as I have memorized, is Greek for "I loose." In the Greek scriptures I have memorized, this hasn't been a word. I haven't used it in any translations or sentences yet, but faithfully I have memorized this word. Luo. Got it.

Today as I read the above passage I "got it" on a little deeper level! The colt had to be "loosed," for "the Lord has need of it." Whoever owned the colt was not told exactly what the Lord would do with it, only that He the Lord needed it. What needed to be "loosed" was so that the Lord might use it for His glory. That particular colt carried our Lord to a chorus of "Hosannas," acknowledging Who He was. It's the same word used in the New Testament to describe when Lazarus needed to be "loosed" from his grave clothes after his resurrection. It's also the word used to describe the woman who was "loosed" from the evil spirits who had plagued her for over eighteen years. In these instances, involved being "loosed from" as well as being "loosed to."

What do I need to "loose" so that the person of Christ might be better displayed in my life? What do I need to be "loosed" - set free- from? The One who calls me, Who will use it for His glory, is the One who will do the enable the "loosing." Praise His name!

'Blessed is He who comes in the name
of the Lord!'
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!"
Mark 11:9-10

Friday, March 30, 2007

Random Friday Fun

I found this over at Susanne's, and her answers were fun so I thought I'd give it a shot (since any and all of my thought-provoking-post-writing brain cells have taken the day off).

1. Name six things in your refrigerator:
~ homemade syrup
~ leftovers from this week
~ pepper jack cheese
~ Caramel syrup, since my daughter has discovered the joy of the Caramel Macchiato
~ Guacamole
~ Fat Free Cream Cheese (a.k.a. "What's the point?")

2. Name six things in your freezer:
~ popcorn chicken
~ Starbuck's Java Chip ice cream
~ Pizza Rolls
~ Sponge Bob Square Pants ice packs (for lunch boxes)
~ pancake and sausage on a stick , a.k.a, "pancake dogs," LOL. My kids love these!
~ bags of frozen veggies

3. Name six things under your kitchen sink:
~ dish detergent
~ some jar candles
~ the watering can for my houseplants
~ a container of clothes pins (for closing chips and misc. bags)
~ hand soap
~ scrubbing sponges

4. Name six things around your computer:
I'm on a laptop, so the "scenery" always changes... right now I'm in the living room so there is...
~ a dachshund
~ my coffee cup
~ my homeschool association newsletter that I received yesterday
~ the dvd remote
~ my son's yo-yo
~ my daughter's Chinese In 10 Minutes a Day book

5. Name six things in your medicine cabinet:
~ my husband's vitamins (mine live in a drawer, too many to fit in the med. cabinet!)
~ kids' Tylenol
~ Sudafed Shower Soothers, haven't used any yet, but I thought they looked cool...
~ an epi-pen
~ a prescription of Zithromax that we take with us when we travel
~ Seabreeze

6. Name six things around your nightstand:
~ my bookbag
~ a container of pens/pencils
~ tissues
~ nail file
~ hand lotion
~ a small, framed plaque that says, "I am woman. I am invincible. I am tired."

There. Now you know a little more about me... I wouldn't have participated if it were "What's in the closet under the stairs" or "Name six things you found under the cushions of your couch" meme, though. I love y'all too much!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Not Feelin' It

You know, that "cleaning-and-organizing-are-so-addicting, one-project-fuels-the-next" feeling that supposedly comes from getting organized. I'm SO not there. I posted on my homeschool blog that we're taking a much-needed two week break from school so that we can work on the house. The two weeks is so that it won't be such a push, and so we can work at not-so-breakneck-speed. Also because my husband is taking off some days next week and I can work a bit on some things ahead of him, "clearing him a path" in a way. But, I'm not lovin' it! I look at the projects in front of me and think... yuck. I wish for one second I could have a little of what Laura (the "organizing junkie") and others like her have- something in me that thrives on organizing and cleaning, that gets a rush from creating order out of chaos. I really just want it... DONE.

Now, we're not total slobs, we do have systems in place. The kids dutifully do their chores each week and everything has a spot. But I am finding more and more... THINGS! Too much stuff! So, I'm sorting, prioritizing, donating, selling, labeling, thinking, and perhaps a little bit of procrastinating. Last week I told my husband, "I've been reading some really great books on organizing." His (ever-witty) reply was, "Does one of them say, 'Put this book DOWN?' " He knows me so well. I would rather read about it, talk about it, strategize for it, make lists of it, pray about it and sing "Kum Ba Ya" around it than actually, well, get to it!

So that's what I'm doing this week. Waiting for the mood to strike, working while I'm waiting. I hope it strikes soon!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Coffee's On!

... at the Internet Cafe. We've got a comfy chair ready for you, and a tasty cup of "Bloggers Blend" is waiting! Come sit a spell!

I'm posting this:

Over here today:

Click here to go directly to my post called "Choose You This Day" or click the above logo to go and read what others have been writing recently. If you haven't visited the cafe lately, I encourage you to. The ladies there always inspire me.

Love y'all!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Busy, busy, busy. That's what we are around here this week! So in my menu plan this week, dinner falls into one or more of my three favorite categories: (1) Simple (2) Crock Pot, or (3) Out.

Monday: Roast (in the crock pot), with vegetables and crescent rolls

Tuesday: Chicken Enchiladas, black beans, corn

Wednesday: Out to our favorite burger place

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Coca Cola pork chops (pork chops+ BBQ sauce + Coke+ crock pot = awesome), stir-fried veggies

Weekend: Leftovers, sandwiches, or out-to-eat

Visit Laura at Organizing Junkie for more menu ideas, or to share your own menu plan. Thanks, Laura!

Have a yummy week, everyone!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Within Arm's Reach

As usual, I sank down in the big, comfy chair in our living room this morning, my steaming cup of coffee on the table beside me, my open Bible in my lap, and my mind full of questions. Issues. Challenges. Worries. I sipped my coffee and brought it all to Him. I love my time in the early... still dark. This time of day serves to magnify the reality of how I come to Him in my human-ness: foggy-minded, surrounded by darkness, alone, filled with questions.

I've been struggling with the issue of whether I trust God, really trust Him. If asked, I would be quick to say that I do. But that pesky emotion called "fear," those anxieties both big and small that surface in me throughout each day, testify to the truth that on some level, in some things, with some things... I must not really trust Him. So it was in front of that spiritual backdrop that I read a verse this morning that fell on me with a fresh relevance.

"And the LORD said to Moses, "Has the LORD's arm been shortened?"
Numbers 11:23

I just sort of stared at those words this morning. The NKJV rendering of the above verse asks (rhetorically, of course) if something has happened that has limited God's power. Have His power and might, which so often is what His "arm" represents, been altered in any way? The obvious answer is a resounding "No!" The Lord's arm has not been shortened by... the sickness of a loved one, a possible scary diagnosis for another, the chronic problem that has plagued my extended family for almost two decades, financial issues, marriage concerns for a dear friend, a burden for the lost... or anything else I brought to Him this morning. His arm is as long as ever. His power is as great as ever. None of this has surprised or shocked Him, none of it jarred Him off His throne or "shortened His arm." "God is not mocked." (Gal. 6:7) Neither is He shocked, nor is His world rocked. "Giving Him control" is simply aligning my view to what is already a reality: He is in control. He's never not been.

"Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?" Isaiah 50:2

"Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear." Isaiah 59:1

"And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm;" Deuteronomy 5:15

His arm is as long as it ever was: long enough to save, to reach, to extend His accomplishing hand to bring His will to pass in His creation and in His people, in my circumstances and of those I love... and long enough to draw us to Himself. I can trust Him. Praise You, Lord.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007






"[Friend who came over to play]'s MOM IS HERE TO PICK HIM UP!"


These, and many other extremely LOUD phrases are yelled by moms in two story houses everywhere. Yes, it would be nicer to walk upstairs and look into their eyes, speaking quietly and lovingly to the children to call them to mealtimes, when their friends are at the door, or to let them know it's time to leave for an activity but, truth-be-told, I've usually got my hands full in the kitchen or am otherwise occupied. What I need at that particular moment is to see their sweet faces. Downstairs.

What has worked for us in this house is a wireless door chime we picked up at our local home improvement store. I have the doorbell "button" down in the kitchen and the doorchime sits on a bookshelf in the hall upstairs. Instead of me YELLING at the top of my lungs to get them to come downstairs when they're up in their bedrooms with the doors closed, I simply ring the "doorbell" from the kitchen. The one we got has all kinds of holiday songs, and we have fun resetting it according to the seasons.

Less yelling from mom. Works for me my kids!

For more tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Missions Grip

It started with a $250 check.

In fact, the money wasn't even originally in our account, but was the result of selling a Southwest Airlines voucher on Ebay. My husband traveled frequently for business at the time and would receive such vouchers periodically, which we didn't need, so he would sell them for cash. As a newly-single-income-family, with mom now at home with young children, we desperately needed money more than airline tickets! What we did with that check has, in my opinion, changed the course of our family.

You see, we took that check and gave it to someone who was taking a short term mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. A boy, actually. An eight-year-old boy in my husband's Awana group was going with his father. "How nice for them," I thought. "If God says go, you should go. More power to 'em," I inwardly told myself. At the time we were living in an apartment, having sold our first house much more quickly than we thought we would (a great problem to have!). We had scrambled to find a place to live while we built a new home in a neighboring city, a beautiful upper middle class suburb. It was an exciting time, but we were "short" on cash, as such transitions can be quite financially draining. We received the support letter from this sweet boy, looked in our bank account, and didn't see funds readily available. Luke remembered the Southwest voucher and we gave what we had. There. Done.

But, we weren't done. Not by a longshot. Up until that point our means of supporting missionaries had been through tithing to our church, which we knew supported missions worldwide. We received periodic updates from our denomination's publications or via email. This time it was personal. We knew this boy and his father. I knew his mother. I couldn't imagine what that would be like, your husband and young son half a world away! How could she put them on a plane like that? They would definitely need prayer. I caught a vision, though, of what they were going to be doing- taking the gospel to those who had never heard it, muchless going to villages where they had never seen a white person. Whoa! How must that be, to be used of God like that? Good for them! So, I prayed. I prayed more personally and fervently for that mission trip and for that part of the world than I had ever prayed.

I believe this is a prime example of "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Until we consciously, deliberately gave what we treasured to the work God was doing in another country, my heart had not so firmly been planted there. My heart definitely followed my treasure.

And it never returned. Such a transformation took place in our family as a result of contributing to and praying for this trip, it would take me miles of posts to write about it. I will tell you that by the time my daughter was ten years old, I found myself where I "couldn't imagine" that mom had been several years earlier: putting my young child on a plane with her father to go half a world away to share the gospel. That's one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. My heart certainly followed my "treasure" that summer as well! Within months, our family returned to Ghana together, and again the following summer. It has become a driving force in our family, so much so that we are now preparing to sell that house we built six summers ago in the beautiful country club subdivision so that more of our resources will be available for involvement in mission work.

I titled this post after a typo I made at the beginning of it. I mistakingly typed "mission grip" instead of "mission trip." When I saw those words together, I smiled. Missions has a firm grip on our family. It has infiltrated how we see our earthly possessions, how we interact with our community, and how we see our ministry at our church. My daughter and I are preparing for another trip to China in just a few weeks. My son told me the other day he wants to go anywhere... anywhere God would send him. "I just love mission trips!" he said. Praise You, Lord! You have done this!

"It is insufficient to proclaim that the Church of God has a mission in the world. Rather, the God of mission has a Church in the world."

The church, the Body of Christ, is made up of many members, all with different functions and callings. I know that not every family is to do what we have done, and there are certain seasons when our family has been called to stay. (I am reminded of the man whom Jesus healed who wanted to follow Him, but Jesus told him no, to go home and proclaim Him there.) Missions does not always entail going across the world, but so often just across the state line, across town, across the street or across the room.

Wherever you are to go, here is what God told my anxious heart the night before my first transatlantic flight, "The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you." (Deut. 31:3) Jesus Himself crossed the barrier 2000 years ago, leaving the familiar and walking foreign soil.

I have learned that "mission work" is not just for other people, the uber-Christians, the super spiritual, or for those who sell everything and go live in a hut somewhere. Involvement in missions ...from sending money, reading biographies, praying through the countries, emailing missionaries, reading their blogs and praying for them while dinner is in the oven or the kids nap... is for all of us! "The God of missions has a church," and that's us!

Let's let it grip us.

The other "In Other Words" participants have touched my heart today. Go to Laurel Wreath to be linked to their posts and be touched as well, or to write your own take on this week's quote.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mind Boggling

"God praying to God so that God would do God's will...
If this doesn't boggle your mind, you're not 'boggle-able' !"

John Piper preaching from Romans 8:25-27,
an excellent message found here.

Menu Plan Monday

Oh my WORD the weeks fly by, don't they? I'm sitting here typing this thinking, "Didn't I just do this??" I do have to say that I just love planning our meals and cooking for my family. I look so forward to our time at the dinner table each evening. I am also enjoying the idea of sharing our menus online, and not just for the (many yummy) new recipe ideas. One evening last week my husband came home excited about dinner~ he had checked my blog at work to see what we were going to have! Isn't that fun?

The favorite at our house last week was the crock pot chicken tacos. We ended up having them Friday, too. My husband said they reminded him of the tacos he gets at his favorite "taqueria."

Here's what we'll be munching this week:

Monday: BBQ brisket sandwiches, baked sweet potato fries, mixed veggies, salad

Tuesday: Hawaiian Chicken Bake (didn't make this last week), rice, stir-fried veggies, rolls

Wednesday: "Hay and Straw," a fun linguine recipe that I found adapted here at Kisses of Sunshine. I froze the leftovers of the yummy ham from a couple of weeks ago and will use that.

Thursday: gymnastics night, (YO-YO= You're on your own)

Friday: Burgers on the grill, fries, baked beans, salad

Weekend: Sandwiches and leftovers

I hope your week is off to a great start and that you're ready to stir up some fun with those you love this week! For more recipe ideas, visit Laura the Organizing Junkie. Thanks again for hosting us, Laura. Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Quiet Morning

It's an overcast, spring-y, Sunday morning. My alarm clock quietly clicked on at 6:15, and I quickly silenced it so as to not wake up my sweet husband who enjoys sleeping past 4:40 AM on weekends. Getting up that early is a Monday through Friday occurence for him. I slipped out of bed, tiptoed quietly to the master bath, freshened up my ponytail and slipped on yesterday's jeans which were waiting for me in the closet. I padded into the kitchen and poured a welcomed cup of Starbuck's French Roast, waiting for me thanks to the timer on my coffee maker. I glanced upstairs to make sure I saw signs of life in my daughter's room, and saw the faint glow of her bathroom light shining through the crack of her bedroom door. She is a typical teenager who loves her sleep, but she faithfully gets up early on Sunday mornings to be at the church by 7:00 AM to work in our church cafe, making espresso to the glory of God and earning money for her mission trip account. (We attend church on Saturday nights as a family.) I sat in our quiet living room, ready with my car keys and coffee. Those seem to be the two main ingredients necessary for the life of this mom some days!

I drove home from the church in the dark, listening to Travis Cottrell's beautiful rendition of Psalm 145 (Forevermore) and thinking of what a wonderful God we serve. What a privilege to be one of His children! Moments ago my husband and son left, fishing poles in hand, for some much-needed father-son time down at the lake.

So here I sit, in my quiet house, the strains of Psalm 145 still playing in my head and heart:

"One generation will commend Your works to another
They will speak of the splendor of Your majesty
They will tell of the tell of the power of Your awesome works
They will celebrate Your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing..."

Have I commended His works to my children enough this past week? Oh, I hope so. I will make more of an effort to do that in the coming week. God has been teaching me so much lately about His sufficiency. The Scripture that has been rolling around in my head the past couple of weeks is 2 Peter 1:3~

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and goodness."

That's what I want! A life of godliness! I somehow imagine a "godly" life as a someday-I'll-get-it sort of life. Once I learn enough or pray enough or serve enough or go through enough trials... it'll finally add up to "a life of godliness." A "life of godliness" seems like such a struggle most days, when I'm just trying to have a good attitude while homeschooling, answering phone calls, doing house chores, or serving in a ministry. I look at others who I imagine live a "life of godliness," but most of the time I don't see myself as one of those people. Of course, I wonder if those who truly live a godly life think to themselves, "I sure am living a godly life." Probably not.

What has struck me this past week as I have mulled that scripture over and over is that He has given us "everything we need." Has given us. It's not a yet-to-be-attained thing for those who are in Christ. The "knowledge of Him" in that passage refers to a saving knowledge through Jesus Christ. Why do I keep trying to add to it? His divine power has already given me everything I need for a life of godliness. If a life of godliness is what I truly want, then I have all I need in Him. The truth is that at times I want a life of godliness and a life of... comfort, thinness, attractiveness, intelligence, wellness, financial success, etc., etc... OR, at times I think that for my life of godliness I need God plus a prewritten Bible study, mission work, good works, etc... I'm always trying to add to either the life I want or the means to godliness. I wonder why that is? Something to continue to pray about.

It's a quiet morning in bloggy-ville, too. I love it, because I know that most of you are at church (I'm sure we "Saturday night attenders" are in the minority.) I am praying for you this morning as well, and all the services that are being held in His name at this very moment. God is doing a mighty work in this generation and in His church. If you are reading this, know that I prayed for you this morning. I prayed for all who might happen upon this blog today.

Have a blessed Sunday and an abundant week!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To The Ends Of The Earth

"Who am I Lord? Or, rather, what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even in affliction?"

"So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives."

~from The "Confessio" of St. Patrick, available in its entirety here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

You might be a child of the 70's if...

hanging your sweater in the closet makes you sing the theme song to "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood."

Oh, yes I am.

"...won't you please? Won't you please? Please won't you be.... my neighbor?"

Now, we'll see if I toss my tennis shoes back and forth later when I put them on. Sigh.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! And, I'm special!

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

I know this poem has been around the internet for awhile, but it came to mind this morning:

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking

"When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but its all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I learned most of life's lessons that I need to know to be good and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say,

"Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking."

~Author Unknown~

To my own parents:

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw the light on in the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning as you studied your BSF lessons,
and I learned that God's Word is worth getting up for.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you preparing delicious meals for our family,
and I learned that time around the table is important.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make room in our home one night for a woman and her baby whom you met, stranded at the airport,
and I saw how warm hospitality blesses people.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you financially supported the work of missionaries all around the world,
and I learned that it is a privilege to do our part to help gather God's family.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw both of you kneeling by your bed, praying. I heard you pray for my future spouse. I am blessed by the answer to that prayer every single day.

When you thought I wasn't listening (as an eye-rolling teenager) you taught me how to read through the Psalms and Proverbs each month, a practice I still follow to this day. It's what I was doing this morning when God brought to mind so much that you modeled for me when you thought I wasn't looking.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for always pointing me to God's Word.

~Author: your grateful daughter~

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Works-for-me Wednesday

Is it Wednesday already? Wow! We have "sprung forward" indeed!

Today's WFMW is a deep, life-changing bit o' wisdom, to be sure.

Lip gloss. Chapstick. Lipstick. A combination of all three. I have this sort of "trifecta" going on at any given moment. For me, it started with Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper flavored lip gloss in sixth grade and has been a habit ever since! I picked up something a few weeks ago that I really like: Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer.

It's not as heavy as lipstick, is shiny like lip gloss, but functions like chapstick. It's great for days when I need a bit of color but don't want to look too "made up." I happened to pick a tube of it up at the checkout counter at Books-a-Million (because, well, don't we all go to the bookstore to buy lip gloss??) and I've been really pleased with it. It's pepperminty and tingly when you put it on, and it's got just enough color. I hadn't really thought about it until I looked it up on Amazon and read a review, but another bonus is that it is all natural. (Which, since you ingest what is on your lips, is a good thing!)

And, it's about $4.00. Works for me!

For more tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a beautiful shade of Wednesday!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Okay, I must start by saying I figured out who I got the ham recipe from that I made last week: Mamalicious posted it a couple of weeks ago here. I have to give her credit and link it this week because it. was. the. BEST! My family absolutely loved it, and I wish I'd have bought a bigger ham so we would've had more leftovers. If you missed it when she posted it, go back and get the recipe! I might use it for our Easter ham this year. :) And, the pizza pancakes were a hit as well. Thanks, Laura!

I am kickin' it into high gear this week in the "spring cleaning" department, so I reserve the right to cancel the following plans in favor of sandwiches or cold cereal in the event I go missing in one of our closets (or throw my back out!) but here's what I have planned this week:

Monday: Pan-fried tilapia with lemon pepper, steamed vegetables, crescent rolls

Tuesday: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos, black beans, corn

Wednesday: Beef Casserole, mixed veggies (I didn't make this last Sunday like I had planned)

Thursday: Left overs

Friday: Hawaiian Chicken Bake, rice, stir-fried veggies, rolls

Weekend: Sandwiches and leftovers


Creamy Ground Beef Casserole
(This recipe is described as a "comfort food" that kids will love. I am making it with low-fat ingredients to "comfort" my conscience. :) It looks good, I think.)

1-1/2 lb. ground beef
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) pkg. elbow macaroni
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (12 oz.) ctn. cottage cheese
1 (8 oz.) ctn. sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 (6 oz.) pkgs. sliced mozzarella cheese

Brown ground beef, drain. Stir in tomato sauce and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook macaroni, drain and set aside. Combine cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and onion; stir well. Layer half each of the macaroni, cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese and meat sauce in a greased 13x9x2" baking dish. Repeat layers except for mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Place remaining cheese on top. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

For more plans and awesome ideas from some of the best cooks on the web (as well as some great tips for getting organized this spring) visit Laura the Organizing Junkie. Have a yummy week!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Funny

A young boy walked into his father's study. His father, a pastor, was working on the sermon he was to deliver in church that week.

After watching his father write for a few moments, the boy asked, "How do you know what to say?"

"God tells me," replied his father.

The boy watched quietly for a few more minutes and then asked, "Then... why do you keep crossing things out?"

Friday, March 09, 2007

Yet I Will Praise Him

It's been a great week. It's been a busy week. It's been a fun week. In some ways it's been a spiritually challenging week. How about you?

I was so glad for Thankful Thursday yesterday. I needed the fresh breeze of gratitude to blow through my mind and home, scattering the dust of discontent that had settled, unnoticed, into my heart. Discontentment is subtle like that. It will descend into certain areas of my life when I'm not actively grateful, "entering His courts with thanksgiving." I guess gratitude is sort of a "spiritual swiffer" that way!

Yesterday morning I was on a brief phone call with a friend before we started our homeschool day and I casually mentioned to her, "I've decided I'm going to be thankful ALL day. For everything. In everything." At that moment I saw that my son was putting his laundry into the washer (his Thursday chore) so I added, "Like, I'm just glad the washing machine is working!" We ended our call and, grasping my attitude of gratitude, I went about my morning routine preparing for school.

A few moments later my son burst into the room.

"Mom! Mom! Something's wrong with the washing machine!"

Sure enough, as I walked into the laundry room, my footsteps turned into splashes as I realized I was standing in water. Hm.

We immediately turned the machine off, grabbed mop, bucket, and towels and began sopping up the water. My son nimbly and helpfully jumped behind the washer and dryer where I couldn't fit (we have a tiny laundry room) and he worked and worked with the towels I handed him, making sure it was dry all along the baseboards. I turned the dial to drain the remaining water out of the drum and we spent the remainder of the day with wet, soapy clothes in the washer and a disconnected dryer sitting in the kitchen. I should've taken photos. It was pretty.

What of the thankfulness that I had expressed for a "washer that works?" Within moments of making that statement, the very thing I had been thankful for was gone. Was it wasted gratitude? Absolutely not! I found that the act of expressing gratitude for that very thing actually increased my capacity to be thankful in the "crisis" (I'll use that term loosely in this situation!) involving it. It was like stretching before a workout. In that moment, the washer might have been incapacitated, but my gratitude didn't have to be. I was thankful for a helpful son. For a shelf full of absorbent towels. That we hadn't turned the washer on and left the house. And now I have a clean, sparkly laundry room floor!

I'm thankful for Iris, who reminds us each Thursday to express our thanks. I'm thankful for God's Word, which reminds us that we should have that attitude every day of our lives, and gives us so much for which to be grateful. I'm thankful for thankfulness itself! And I'm thankful it's Friday.

Have a wonderful weekend! Love y'all!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thankful Thursday

I'm letting The Valley of Vision speak for me today:

Lord, I am thankful this day for:

"the soul thou has created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;

for the body thou hast given me,

for preserving its strength and vigour,

for providing senses to enjoy delights,

for the ease and freedom of my limbs,

for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;

for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,

for a full table and overflowing cup,

for appetite, taste, sweetness,

for social joys of relatives and friends,

for ability to serve others,

for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,

for a mind to care for my fellow-men,

for opportunities of spreading happiness around,

for loved ones in the joys of heaven,

for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity."


To read more "Thankful Thursday" posts, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Kitchen Edition

A few years ago in my younger-motherhood days, I felt like it was all "falling apart." ("It" being my home, my life, me... maybe you can relate!) I am not really a schedule-y, organized person by nature, but I like it when my life is, if that makes sense. I decided it was time to do something about my sense of "out of control-ness."

The first thing I prioritized, or "scheduled" was my morning quiet time (Bible study and prayer time). That one thing began to completely change how I approached my day and related to my children and my home.

The next thing I tackled was my kitchen life. I began to prioritize meal planning and cooking, making sure that we have a stocked pantry and refrigerator and that there is something planned for dinner. With small children at home, and now as a homeschooling family, the kitchen is the "hub" of so much activity all day, everyday at our house. I realized that by not really having a "handle" on that part of my life, a huge part of our daily life was not really being managed. Now, this post isn't about how organized my pantry or cabinets are (as I still recommend wearing protective footwear when opening one of those doors at my house!) but rather how I've sort of taken control of our "kitchen life" and prioritized the planning and running of that major part of our home.

Kitchen binder: Like any good homeschooler, I made a binder. Before I even knew what I was going to put in it. What did put in it was a zipper bag for coupons, some three-hole-punched take out menus from our favorite places to order out, and the sheets I use for my weekly meal planning (which are just some cutesy weekly calendar pages I got at a gift shop-type place one time. I'm almost out so I'm just going to make some on my computer.) I keep a few of my previous weeks' menu plans in the binder so I can flip through and see what we've had recently when I'm making my upcoming plans.

Cookbook holder: I have a clear, acrylic cookbook holder on my island, with my kitchen binder in it. I clip the week's menu plan to the front of it. I also put the cookbooks or printed recipes I'll be needing for the week in it so they'll be handy.

Meal planning: I really thought this would be a big deal before I started doing it, but it's not. It's just that: a plan. Sometimes my plan might be "frozen chicken nuggets and sauce we saved from Chik-Fil-A," or "order pizza,"--but hey, it's a plan! Having a plan and having it displayed for myself and for my kids to see has helped tremendously. I sit down each weekend, usually on Sundays, and plan the next week's meals. Like my school planning, I usually plan two weeks out, just to build in some margin for change as well as look at the "big picture." I found that as I would be flipping through recipes for the upcoming week I would find too many ideas, so I just started putting sticky-notes in the front of the binder for ideas for upcoming weeks. Now it's just a matter of checking my sticky notes and putting them in some sort of order for the coming week. Lately I've been trying to have at least one crock pot meal per week, and make sure I'm varying chicken/beef/pork/meatless to give it variety. I also plan with our calendar in mind. The crock pot days will be the day that we're going to be out or busy for most of the day or afternoon. The left-over (or "You're On Your Own- "YO-YO") nights are when we might be going in separate directions for classes or practices. I also might put a YO-YO night when I know I'm going to be busy or stressed.

Cooking Ahead (sort of!): I'm not a cooker-aheader. I don't enjoy the thought of spending an entire day cooking for the whole month, nor do I have the freezer space for that many frozen entrees. Additionally, I prefer some things to be fresh, not frozen. I realize that "once a month cooking" works for many, many people and I've actually thought about giving it a go, but I know it would frustrate me. That being said, I have been "making extra" and freezing the leftovers. We are going on vacation the last week of this month, and I know I'll be in "getting-over-vacation" mode the first week of April. So, the week we return all (or most) of our meals will be from our freezer. Oh yeah, one more "do-ahead": after dinner when I'm cleaning the kitchen, I make the coffee for the next morning and set the timer on the coffeepot. These are my versions of cooking ahead!

These are some of the things I have done which have brought order to my kitchen life. I am far from having a perfectly-organized or perpetually-clean kitchen, but now it feels "managed" and that works for me!

For more ideas, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Living Out Parables

This morning my children are over a friend's house while my daughter babysits the younger ones and my son "hangs out" with the older sons. (They are NOT being "babysat," thank-you-very-much!) They got up extra early to get some school done, and have some to finish in a bit when they get home, but I've had a rare "Monday morning break" to run to the grocery store and get some work done around the house.

While I was working in the kitchen, I decided to catch up on listening to some of my podcasts that I've missed in the last week or so, and I happened upon Nancy Leigh DeMoss's Feb. 22 "Revive our Hearts" broadcast. She has been going verse-by-verse through Proverbs 31 in a series called "The Counter-Cultural Woman" and it is just blessing my socks off! I just wanted to share this with you, as we work in our kitchens and read each other's menu plans, beginning our week of seemingly "mundane tasks.":

"As we look at these verses and continue through this passage, I want you to see that in everyday, practical ways, the excellent wife-the virtuous wife, the excellent mother-is giving her family a picture of Christ and of spiritual realities. You say, "Food preparation is showing my family something about Christ and about spiritual realities?" You bet it is.

"You're living out parables. You're demonstrating parables of spiritual life to your children as you work with your hands, as you serve in your home. When you prepare food for your family, you're demonstrating to them that God is a faithful provider. When you're being quality conscious in the things that you purchase, you're showing your children the excellence of the character of God."

"When you're being orderly, when you get your home put back together after it pulled apart . . . Now, I'm not talking about fanatical. I'm just talking about learning to have a place for things and things getting put back in their place. As you are orderly, you are teaching your children that God is a God of order."

"When you clean things up in your home, when you keep a clean home, you're showing your children the importance of purity, holiness of heart, of being clean and washed before God.
When you're disciplined in your life and habits and schedule and the time you get up and the time you go to bed according to the way that God has directed your family, when you're disciplined, you're teaching your children that the Christian life requires discipline. You are teaching them that you can't just stay in bed and become spiritual. It requires effort and cooperation with God's Spirit to develop godly habits, patterns, and sanctification in our lives.
When you reach out your hands—as we'll see that this virtuous woman does—to the poor and the needy and you're ministering to the needs of others, you're showing your children the heart of God for those who are poor and needy and oppressed."

"Get a vision for your work in your home. Remember as you're cleaning-as you're ironing, as you're sewing, as you're picking up, as you're painting, as you're beautifying your home, as you're doing things to make your home attractive, remember that you're painting a picture for your children-a picture of God. You're demonstrating to your children in ways that penetrate deep into their hearts, the heart of God, the ways of God, and you're increasing the likelihood that your children will grow up to love that God and to want to be like Him."

Isn't this a wonderful reminder? Hearing this today has blown a fresh spring-like breeze into my otherwise "mundane Monday." To read the entire transcript, or read/listen to some of the others in the series, you can go here.

Let's keep living out those parables!

Menu Plan Monday

Here we are, beginning another week! Can you believe it? Sometimes the weeks just seem to fly by. We'll be "springing" our clocks forward in another week!

Here's what we're munching at our house this week:

Monday: Beef Congolaise (a variation of this African recipe, but with beef) with rice and steamed veggies

Tuesday: Pizza Pancakes (Laura listed these last week, and they looked like something my kids would enjoy!) , salad

Wednesday: Crock Pot Ham (that I got from someone's menu plan last week, but can't remember who! It's the recipe with the apple juice, brown sugar, honey and mustard- yum! If it's your recipe, thank you!!), macaroni and cheese, mixed vegetables, yeast rolls

Thursday: (gymnastics night) YO-YO - "you're on your own" = leftovers

Friday: Mediterranean Spirals (my husband loves these!), pasta salad

Saturday: church night, out to eat

Sunday: (lunch) Creamy Ground Beef Casserole (from a church cookbook), mixed vegetables

I pray you'll have some delicious moments around the table with your family this week!

For more menus, visit Laura at Organizing Junkie. Thanks for hosting us, Laura. :)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

In The Name Of Love

Preach it, brother! This is Bono's acceptance speech at the NAACP awards. It starts at 4:30 into the video. It's kind of long, so if you want, fast forward the counter to about 8:55 on the video and watch the last couple of minutes. I dare you not to yell "Amen!" at your screen. :)

Sunday Funny

Saturday, March 03, 2007

To My Fellow Bloggers

Fellow bloggers,

In case you have wondered lately if I have been reading your blog, let me assure you that I probably have. Only occasionally do I lurk and not comment, due to certain time constraints. Be assured that when I read your posts I am completely engaged, usually laughing my head off with you or saying "Awwww!" at pictures of your adorable kids. I pray along with you when you post prayers and cry along with you when you post of the difficulties in your life. If you see no evidence that I've been on your blog, I must make a confession to you as to why that may be the case.

First let me preface this by saying that I am as surprised by this as anyone. I did not see this coming. I typed this post, as I type numerous posts, emails, school plans and documents each week. I have all ten fingers, a moderate to high level of command of the keyboard, and have my vision corrected to 20-20 with the aid of glasses. My cognitive and motor abilities are such that I am capable of running a home, homeschooling two kids, reading and comprehending multiple books concurrently, and endeavoring to learn a second language. I can type with a high degree of accuracy while talking on the phone, listening to my iPod, conversing with my children, cooking dinner, or yelling at the dog.

I seem, however, to have severe limitations when I see one of these:

or one of these:

with the accompanying message, "Please type the letters as they appear in the box." It is in these moments that my particular disorder seems to manifest itself. I, apparently, cannot type the letters as they appear, at least 87% of the time. I have researched this particular disorder and have not found any conclusive evidence as to what causes it or any known treatments. It is so new in its onset and diagnosis (me, perhaps being the only one) that as of yet it has not been named. So, I have named it myself. Word Encoding Identification Reversal Disorder, or W.E.I.R.D. Yes, I am afraid I have a full-blown case of W.E.I.R.D. Sometimes I will try repeatedly to post a well-thought-out, witty, insightful, or supportive comment on a blog and remain unable to post it because of my W.E.I.R.D. problem. I am uncertain as to its origin in my particular case, but I can testify that it is getting worse with age.

So, if you haven't "seen" me around your blog lately, it doesn't mean that I have not been there. Perhaps I have desperately tried to make my presence known! Believe me, I have tried all the home remedies I can think of, from drinking coffee to taking naps... to no avail. If you do see me comment, then you can know that in that moment, I was triumphant! And if any of you have been "silent sufferers" of this same problem, please know that you are not alone. :)

Love y'all!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Enter His Courts With Praise

Two summers ago, before our trip to Ghana, I was at our African partner church and a woman I'd never met before approached me. She began asking me, in her broken English, where we were going on our mission trip. I told her the region we would be visiting, and named the villages to which we would be going. Her face lit up! She exclaimed that one of the villages I had named was where her brother and his wife lived. She told me he was a pastor there, building a small church. She asked for my address, and a few days later I received a letter from her telling me her brother's name, and a picture of him standing next to the frame of the church they were building. I had no idea if I would be able to find him, and if I did, what exactly I was to do with this information, but I tucked the letter and picture into my journal and slid it into my backpack before we left.

My team worked in two main villages that week, and between the hectic pace, my son's sickness for part of the time, and the sheer volume of work we were trying to accomplish in such a short time, I didn't get to search out the man whose sister I had met weeks earlier. Our last day in the village, I pulled out that letter from my journal and prayed, "Lord, if you mean for me to meet this person, You will need to orchestrate it. I have no idea how to find him." I put the letter back in my journal and left for the day's work. Later that evening when we were back at the small hotel where we were staying, one of my kids came to me and said there was a woman there, looking for my husband. Thinking she was someone we had met earlier in the week, I went to find her, as he had not made it back to the hotel yet. A lovely woman approached me, with her warm Ghanaian smile, clutching an envelope with my husband's name on it, followed by the word, "missionary." That, in itself was enough to make me get tears in my eyes. It turns out, she was the wife of the man in the picture! She didn't know if we were still in the area, but she had walked about six miles from where they live to this small hotel, where she thought we might possibly be staying. She had no idea that this was our last day there! She had apparently gotten our name from her sister-in-law.

We sat under the shade of a hut-like structure and had a wonderful visit. She told of her husband's work trying to start a church in a nearby village. She described what God was doing in their lives, the miraculous provisions He had made, and the daunting work that lay ahead in this particular area dominated by tribal religions. She told me of their goal of starting an orphanage in the area, and told me wonderful stories of babies they had already received. It was an amazing time. She wanted to make contact with us in case we would ever be working in their area again and might be able to help or possible partner with them. I was thoroughly blessed by our conversation. But the blessing was about to be greater.

Before she left, I asked her if we might pray together. She exclaimed that yes, she would love that. Immediately she stood up, straightened her posture, and looked up. She paused, turned to me, and said in her wonderful accent, "I always eentah Heez cawts weeth praise!" at which time she began singing, loudly, a magificent song of praise in her own language. I praised right along with her, feeling very much like we were now officially, "in His courts!" We then prayed together, very much in the presence of the Heavenly Father. I don't know when I'd ever felt more "before the throne of grace." It was so, so powerful.

That moment changed the way I approach my personal prayer time. Like my Ghanaian sister, I always "enter His courts with praise." Now, that doesn't mean that I sing loudly before each prayer (that's a personal favor to anyone who might be near me at the time!) Our church has a separate bulletin each week with the worship lyrics printed, which I keep in the front of my Bible for my own "personal praise" time. Just looking at the lyrics jogs my memory and I can sing, either out loud or to myself as I begin my prayer time. I have my iPod nearby when I have my not-so-quiet times each morning, too. This morning, as I was making pancakes for my kids, I was still singing the wonderful strains of "O Worship the King" from "Hymns: Ancient and Modern" (Chris Tomlin and the Passion band- whoa.)

So often, after I have entered His courts with praise, I feel like I stay there long after I say "Amen." I encourage you to "enter His courts with praise" as you start your prayer times. That can take whatever form you want it to, from lingering in the psalms, to singing out loud. It will transform your time in prayer!

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere;" Psalm 84:10

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Blog at CWO!

Well, spring is in the air (or at least it's on the calendar in the coming weeks- for those of you with snow on the ground!) It's time for new things, right? Here's something fun and new, Christian Women Online's new blog! It's called "Jehovah Java." Isn't that fun?

Apparently Darlene heard about my passion for Jehovah and my penchant for java, because I've been asked to join the team over there. (Whoa. I switched to decaf after that email, my heart was racing so!) I'll be posting a couple of times a month. My first post is this Saturday. I can't wait to see what I say, LOL. It is a phenomenal team of godly women whose blogs I already love, so I can't wait to "drink in" what they have to say each day.

Lots of fun is brewing over there with fresh posts daily. Come on over and visit! I'll meet you there!