Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hope 2012

For this week's Homemaking Link-Up Weekend, I'm sharing this short story I wrote in honor of the baby we lost in November 2007.  Each year around November 29th, I repost it and am always so glad to hear that it still ministers to others. I hope it blesses you today.  Please link up your favorite posts below!

Hope sits still and serene at the edge of a melodious river, dangling one bare foot into the warm, blue water. Her lovely blonde ringlets reflect the light of the afternoon sun and form a shimmering halo around her young head. Though she can’t help but raise her eyes every so often to the far-off hills, He has told her to wait patiently and so she will. “I’ve got a surprise for you,” He’d promised. If she has learned anything from past experience, she’s learned that time is relative no matter where one is. Even in this youthful body, she knows that the time it takes to endure is well worth the rewards that fortitude brings.

Since patience seems to be coming much more easily than normal this day, she begins to take inventory of her new appearance. Strangely, she can not see her reflection in the water in front of her. From the moment she arrived here in this glorious place, she’s wondered about herself. There isn’t much she can learn about what’s inside; about her dreams, wishes and longings. She’s treasured all of these, along with many thoughts and questions, since the day she was conceived. It’s her outside that is so new and clean and unfamiliar.

With a little shake of her head, she can see that her hair is golden and beautiful. She reaches for a curl and lets the silky strand slide around her fingers and over the back of her hand. As she moves to examine the hand more closely, she spies a simple white butterfly hovering near her knee. She watches with innocent interest for just a moment before it flutters over to a nearby snapdragon and gracefully lands beside it in the grass.

Lifting the small, delicate hand up to eye-level seems so simple now and she marvels at the lightness of it; both in skin tone and in weight. Turning this hand right-side up, she examines the lines upon her tiny palm. Amazing, she thinks, and so real.

Her eyes follow the motion as she slowly places the hand back in her lap. Fixing her gaze on the arm for just a moment, she changes her mind about resting it and, using her newly-nimbled fingers, explores the length of the opposite arm. Leisurely, she runs her fingers up and back down. Tickles, she says to herself, as even now the new word tickles her tongue.

A slippery smoothness is caressing the bottom of her one wet foot. Her brown eyes settle on a long and shiny creature gliding through the water. Father loves fish, she thinks to herself. But just as quick as it caught her attention, the creature is gone and her mind becomes occupied elsewhere.

“She’s here,” the butterfly whispers up to the snapdragon. The flower shivers with a sudden air of excitement and replies, “So soon? I didn’t realize we’d get to see her so perfectly formed so early!” The butterfly sighs. “Yes, she’s a beauty, isn’t she? She’s just the image of perfection!” She flurries up to give the snapdragon a butterfly kiss and then takes off back into the sky in search of a honeysuckle treat.

The snapdragon proudly pulls herself up to her full height--six inches at last measurement. As she stretches her lush leaves against the warm sun’s rays, a tiny yawn escapes from her delicate, pink lips. Lifting her head to peer over the sleeping marigolds, she stands upon the tips of her toes (which are firmly rooted in the ground, of course) and sees, just over the nearest hillside, exactly what she is looking for.

“Come children, come quickly”, the Man says as he ascends the last mound of lush, emerald hilltop. He takes care not to hurry the young family, most of them less than five years old. The Man turns to face this great group of children, His very presence commanding their complete attention. He smiles warmly and lovingly, sits down on a nearby rock and takes a young Asian boy on his lap. “Children”, he says, “I want you to remember back to the first time you realized you were in Hope’s place. Be patient, be kind. Be gentle and show her love. Come. Let’s go down to the river.”

The friendly party makes their way across the honey-scented meadow. “Look”, cries the Man, “there by the water!” He stops the children and they all stand still, amazed at the way the sunlight bounces off her flaxen hair. “She looks like my Angel”, says a little Irish red-headed girl, “only my Angel is a lot bigger than that!”

“Come”, says the Man, “Let’s take some time to offer our welcome wishes to this newest reflection of me. There’s a new child in Heaven today.”

When Life Breaks

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Surprised By Joy! Overwhelming Thankfulness...

I've never read C.S. Lewis' story of salvation, Surprised By Joy, but that's the phrase that came to mind this morning as I was thinking over the good things God has done in my life.

It's really been on my heart lately how God has directed my 15 years of adulthood onto paths that I never would have imagined.  How would I have reacted on the day my husband proposed, had I seen my life as it is now?  I could have never dreamed of the happy life we would share, living as best friends with our nine sweet children---a family dedicated to one another and to God.
This weekend's Homemaking LinkUp Weekend thought is simple and sweet:  I'm thankful.  So very blessed and thankful for this amazing life I've been given.  I pray I really recognize this goodness and not take it for granted.

No matter where you are in life, there's always something you can be thankful for---what is the most simple or profound thing you are thankful for today?

Please link up your favorite posts below and display the button on your blog to direct your readers back to the party!


Also, today I'm the featured blog at Beverly's Pink Saturday!  I'd like to welcome all my Pink Saturday friends and thank you for being such a sweet influence on my life.  Happy Thanksgiving Weekend and HaPpY pInK sAtUrDaY!

Linking with:  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

God is NOT on Our Side!

Joshua 5: 13-15-- "Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" The captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so."

A pastor friend of ours posts daily Bible studies to his Facebook page. One day I was reading his notes on these verses and was struck by this: "God is not on our side. We are on his." Or rather, we should be on his. Often times, when reflecting on a crisis situation for example, people will say, "Thank God we had the Lord on our side." However, that's not exactly the case. It's not like God looks at a situation and chooses which side to be on. God is good and true and right and just in all sides and situations.

When we come over to God's side, we often reap the benefits and blessings of his protection so it would seem that he's pleased with us for "doing right" and is rewarding us by being on our team. The problem with that logic comes when we try to see the flip side. If he's rewarding us by being "on our side" and allowing us to live a happy, easy, blessed life, then what does it mean when life turns scary, ugly, difficult and unfair? It must mean that God's not on our side anymore, right? These bad things must indicate that God is mad at us and punishing us by removing his blessing.

That is SO not the case! While it's true that we will reap these bad "side effects" of disobedience, often times bad things just happen to good people (completely different topic---not goona go there tonight!) The Lord promised never to leave us or forsake us (Josh. 1:5). David encourages us with this thought: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me" (Ps. 23:4).

However, God is not going to sanction sin--no matter how slight or unconscious. That's why he can't be on our side--we are sinful beings. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We fluctuate between good days and bad days. We have our own wills and they're usually self-centered. How wise we'd be to come over to the side of the one who is steady and unchanging!

This article was published in Issue #89 of The Christian Home Magazine.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas...Homemaking Link-Up Weekend

Hello and Happy Weekend!

I must confess that I've spent WAAAYYY too much time on Etsy today looking at lots of beautiful pink goodness!  I'm so inspired and, ok, a little covetous too!

For this week's Homemaking Link-Up Weekend, I thought I'd share some of my gorgeous finds!  First up is this CUTE little cottage.  It's Red Riding Hood's Cottage!  Isn't that adorable?
Red Riding Hood's Christmas Cottage by TheUglyDuckling1962
 As I was looking for more pink houses, I came across one of Pink Saturday's favorite girls!  Olivia from Olivia's Romantic Home is offering up this stunning deer to go along with her adorable cottages.

Gorgeous Deer from Olivia's Romantic Home
Here's a fancy house for a fancy price!  Looks edible to me...ha!
Pink Christmas House from PerlillaPets

I also came across this really neat banner from Pink Pearl Studio.  She is selling the pdf for 6 designs and you just print it out yourself, mount and decorate!  I'll be buying this today!

Christmas Banner from pinkpearlstudio
I think I'm going to use some of the ideas I've found online today and see if I can create my own little Christmas village!  I'll keep you posted on my progress!


I'd love for you to join in with my Homemaking Link-Up Weekend.  Feel free to link up your favorite posts below and make sure to grab a button for your blog so your friends can join too!

Linking with:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Homemaking Link-Up Weekend

Welcome to this week's Homemaking Link-Up Weekend!  It's been a great week for our family as we're enjoying the cooler temperatures, lots of soup, and the crafty bug that always hits our home this time of year!  Please feel free to link up your favorite posts below and display this cute button on your blog so your readers can come visit too!

Last night for dinner, I made my yummy Chicken Alfredo Lasagna.  My family loves this---it's so flavorful!

My birthday was October 23rd---the day my husband and two oldest sons went elk hunting for a week.  The other kids and I drove them up and stopped off at our cousin's new shop, The Dancing Elephant Gallery in Baker City.  Because it was my birthday, and because I wanted something to remember our first visit to the gallery, I bought this cute vintage PINK vase!  Isn't it pretty?  I finally unpacked it yesterday and put it up on the highest shelf---far from little baby fingers!

As Amy (owner) pointed out, one usually finds this style chipped in places---but this one's in perfect shape.  I love it!
  My little blog hit an exciting milestone this week as I had 750 visitors in one day on the day after elections!  This was my most popular post this week---and most popular of ALL TIME with over 1,000 hits in just 6 days!
My favorite post from last week's link up was this one for Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls from Stephanie at The Enchanting Rose.  I make a recipe similar to this and it inspired me to put together a batch for our Saturday morning breakfast tomorrow!  Please visit Stephanie to give your compliments and, if you are Pinning, please make sure to pin from her blog to direct traffic her way!

How do you plan to spend your weekend?  Today I'm going to clean my room and stock my Etsy shop.  Then I'm planning on making some skirts for my daughters and I over the weekend---as well as doing a major de-junking in the boys' bedroom!  

Hope your day is happy and blessed---please link up below and join the party!

Linking With:


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Femininity vs. Modesty...What's the Difference?

Recently, I had a conversation with another Christian woman who asked a question similar to this:  

"What standards do we, as Christian women, use to decide what is modest when it comes to dressing? Islam and Judaism both have very specific laws, but Christianity, as a spiritual system of relational obedience in freedom, has no such standard."

I think this question can be answered by thinking, as this woman pointed out, about one of the biggest differences between Christianity and other religions. In Christianity, we live by relationship rather than law. We obey God's laws, not out of fear or tradition, but because we have relationship with him and love him. Because we have this relationship, we are able to go to him with our questions about modesty and ask him what this looks like for our own lives. 

The Bible gives us very little to go on as far as what to wear. It is clear that we are to be modest (1 Tim. 2:9), we are to dress "like women" (Deut. 22:5), and that we are not to be obsessed or proud (as in not humble) about our appearance (1 Peter 5:5-6). I think it's clear in the heart of any woman who desires to dress modestly that she should be "covered up" in the essential places with clothes that are not tight-fitting. After that, I think a lot of it is dependent on what God knows we need to do to make our own hearts right and, in some cases, what the people around us need to keep theirs right. 

For instance, I don't think a woman in slacks and a button down top is dressing immodestly. I don't think it's the most feminine outfit---but it's modest as far as "avoiding lust of the eyes" goes. 

I think that many Christian women, when discussing modesty, confuse it with the issue of femininity.  This is where a lot of the bickering and belaboring of details comes in that those of us who discuss this face.  No Godly woman wants her femininity questioned---but that's exactly what ends up happening when we confuse the two terms.

Modesty: "Reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behavior."
Femininity:  "A characteristic or trait traditionally held to be female."

I don't think that any true, Bible-believing woman would question the need for modesty.  This is of pretty obvious importance in Scripture, as well as in the conscience of anyone who has Jesus dwelling in her heart.  It's the femininity question that needs to be answered and I truly believe that is a personal choice based on interpretation of both the current culture and the voice of God in ones heart.

Before you get all up in arms that I mentioned our culture having an impact on what we consider to be feminine dress, just think of men in togas...or men in tights, if you'd like!  How about salwar kameez?

For me, I know that I need to be in skirts and dresses because of how it works in MY heart. When I am dressed in what I consider to be more feminine clothing, I automatically act more feminine. I function in my roles of wife and mother better and I speak, act and carry myself in a more peaceful and kind way. I know what God wants for my own personal walk---because I have relationship with him and can ask him! 

Does this mean you should also adopt a wardrobe of skirts and dresses?  Of course not.  You should, however, make sure that what you are wearing makes your gender obvious and is following the standards of modesty that you know in your heart to be right.  I don't need to spell those out for you---just ask God, He'll make it perfectly clear for you! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Does God Ever Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

One morning, after being woken up and trying in vain to get back to sleep, I headed out to the living room to read my Bible for awhile. I read Acts chapters 21-24 and was really encouraged by the stories of the Apostle Paul. These chapters tell about Paul's imprisonment over a course of several years and his appearance before several prominent leaders of the times to "plead his case".

It struck me that by holding him in prison and taking him from place to place, Paul's accusers may have thought they were silencing him and the message that he was spreading. After all, they'd got him off the streets and away from citizens who may be swayed by his teaching. Yet, on the contrary, God was using Paul's time in bondage to witness to some of the highest ranking authorities in the land.

Acts 23:11 confirms the Lord's hand in this: "But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, 'Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.' "

This encouraged me in the thought that when we dedicate our lives to God and to his service, we never have to be afraid of where we "end up". Whether it be at a job site, at home, or (hopefully not!!) in prison, God's directing hand will always place us exactly where he wants us.

A lot of people like to quote what they think is a Bible verse: "God will never give us more than we can handle". That's not necessarily the idea and those words in that order are not actually found anywhere in scripture. What people are probably referring to is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

The Bible is not saying that God will never give us more than we can handle---just ask Paul or Jeremiah or Job and you'll find that there are examples over and over in the Bible of those who were given more than they could bear on their own.
What Paul is saying is that God will not give us more than we can handle with him. As long as we are in right relationship with God and attempting to walk within his will, we will be able to recognize him right there beside us, guiding and directing through the most difficult of circumstances.

Paul describes God's provision of help in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

Many of us will go through trials of different sizes and severities and many of them will be impossible for us to bear on our own. We are very weak children. However, we have a great big God who delights in carrying us through the impossibly stormy times. What better place to be than right within the will of God!

This article was published in Issue #88 of The Christian Home magazine.

Linking with:
Wisdom Wednesdays @ Simply Helping Him 
Growing Home

Friday, November 2, 2012

Apple Cider Beef Stew

I came up with this great recipe for Beef Stew last fall and it was a huge hit at the taste-testing table!  I served it with my Autumn Spiced Cornbread and there was barely enough leftover for Daddy's lunch!

Apple Cider Beef Stew
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced diced celery
  • 10 cups beef broth*
  • 2 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups apple juice**
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. each of nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
*A less expensive way to do your broth is to buy bullion cubes and dissolve them in water.  A jar of cubes is likely the same price as a couple cans of broth---yet 1 1/2 cube gives you the same amount of broth as a can.  You will get significantly more broth out of the cubes than the can for the same price.

**I used leftover apple cider from Bible study the night before.  If you use spiced cider, you can eliminate adding the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the beef in the oil.
Add onion and celery and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to a large saucepan or stock pot. 

Add beef broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Add the carrots, potatoes, apple juice, and 3 spices; simmer for about 30 to 40 minute longer, or until vegetables are tender. Add corn; continue cooking 5-10 minutes.

In a small bowl or cup, combine cornstarch with 1 c. cold water until smooth. Add the mixture to the simmering broth, a little at a time, until stew is thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Serves 8 to 10

I hope you all enjoy this recipe!  Please come back and let me know if you tried it and how you liked it.  I'd love to hear other variations.  Did you add autumn vegetables like squash, zucchini or pumpkin?  How did you like it with the apple cider/juice?

Today I'm wearing the cute pink apron that I won from the lovely Connie of Living Beautifully.  I've got a whole list of things I want to bake today---hopefully I'll get some of them done! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

No Matter Who Is President, Jesus is King

Did you know our President is just a man?

Don't read "just a man" as in "yeah, men, they're such idiots sometimes...".  Instead, read it as, "he's NOT GOD...he's just a man."

While this may seem a pretty obvious point, so many of us this week are putting a much too large burden of responsibility on the shoulders of a couple of guys who were created with the same relative bone structure as any of our own husbands, fathers and brothers.

I am so not into politics.  In fact, I had fully decided not to vote in this year's election because both candidates disgust me and I don't feel comfortable endorsing either one.  It was just yesterday morning---6 days before the day---that I quickly registered my husband and I online to vote...just in case we change our minds.

What I dislike most of all about politics is how it divides normally peaceable friends.  This is most obvious to me on Facebook where I can't wait for election time to be over so I can actually enjoy my friends again!  We all have our opinions---that's fine---the part that gets me, though, is how much faith people are putting into our next President.

Did you know that no matter who ends up with the title next week, Jesus is still King?  He is.  He's King.  He's in charge.  He's allowing all these things that we think we have so much control over to happen---regardless of what we want.  In fact, it might not even matter how we vote (gasp!!) because Romans 13:1 tells us that God appoints our leaders.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." ~Romans 13:1

I'm not saying that this gives us an excuse not to vote---though I'm also not going to advocate that it's everyone's Christian duty to vote---I really don't know how I feel about that.  What I do know is this:  God's laws and his plan for us are still the same---no matter what person or laws we vote into our small corner of the world.

Abortion?  It's the sin of murder, every time, whether it's lawful in America or not.  No matter how the baby came to be created.  There is never an excuse.  Making abortion illegal is not going to stop it from happening. 

Health Care?  God is the giver and taker of life and health---the healer and the one who chooses not to heal---no matter who is paying the doctor bills and whether or not one can afford care. 

Gay Marriage?  God established marriage as the very first human institution, not even a week into Creation.  One of the very first things he did is unite a man and woman in covenant for the remainder of their earthly lives.  So it doesn't matter what gays choose to do---any romantic/sexual union between anyone outside of God's established covenant of holy marriage under him is a sin.  No man-made law is going to change this.

Of course I'm not advocating that we all hide out and polish our holy halos, waiting for Jesus while the rest of the world goes to Hell---we are definitely called to fight evil in all places and be an example of Jesus to everyone.  One of the ways to do this is to be involved in influencing the way our country is run and what we allow it to stand for.

I am, however, definitely advocating that we don't put so much emotional energy into "fighting evil" that we end up fighting our friends, neighbors, fellow believers. 

No man is going to save us.  No laws, no freedoms, no lobbying, no nasty Facebook messages will make our situation better.  The only One who will bring change to the things we are so passionate about is Jesus.

If we put the same amount of energy, money and passion into sharing the Bible's truths that we do into political campaigning, just imagine the true changes that could come to America!
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