Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Heb 12:1-2 (NLT)

Friday, May 11, 2012

DIY Photo Board

When it comes to Mother's and Father's day, I'm all about the DIY. I don't like the idea of Mother's Day becoming another reason to spend a bunch of money (save that for my birthday and Christmas). I would rather it be about honoring the special women in your life.

There is something special about a gift from your own hands. (Here are some other simple ideas).

This photo board is pretty simple and the result is something beautiful and functional. I learned how to make them from a woman in my small group.

You will need:

  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • staple gun with staples
  • hammer
  • scotch tape
  • decorative nails or push pins
  • quilt batting (20" x 14")
  • fabric (22" x 16")
  • ribbon (2 pieces 28" long; 4 pieces 20" long - exact measurements will vary depending on thickness of wood - you need the ribbon long enough to cross over the board and be stapled on the back)
  • thin piece of plywood (20" x 14")
  • picture hanger

1. Cut batting to size of wood (in this case, 20" x 14")

2. Iron fabric if creased, and cut 2-3 inches larger than the wood (22" x 16")

3. Lay batting over the wood and then the fabric over the batting. Flip over. Staple the fabric down (I am liberal with the staples, using one every 2 inches or so). Fold the corners down (like you would on a present), and staple down





4. Measure out and cut your ribbon (I like to tape down the measuring tape for measuring). You will need 2 pieces at least 28" long, and 4 pieces at least 20" long



5. Start with the two long pieces of ribbon and make an 'X' across the board and staple down on the back. Don't pull it too tight. 


6. Run the shorter pieces parallel to the X. Use scotch tape to position them. Once you have them where you want them, staple them down on the back



7. Use your thumb to push nails or tacks into the ribbon intersections and then hammer in with the hammer (if your tacks go through to the other side, use the hammer to bend them over so you don't have sharp ends sticking up)

8. Attach picture hanger

Voile! Who wouldn't love this?




Monday, May 7, 2012

Refocus

Humans where I live seem to follow the general course of nature in that a lot of babies are born in spring. I have had 5 girlfriends give birth (or about to), in the last four weeks. Crazy!

My children's social calendars have also been getting busy with soccer, dance recitals and birthday parties.

Every spring my husband and I also go through a ritual of obsessing over buying an acreage. We have been looking off and on for the last two years but as of yet, it just hasn't meant to be. But once again I find myself spending a lot of time scrolling through listings and taking drives out into the countryside.

With the acreage obsession in full-swing, the kid's activities, our regular commitments, and birthday parties and baby shower's galore, I have started finding myself double or triple-booked (and going poor).

It's a catch-22 for me since I don't enjoy having nothing to do and am prone to loneliness and restlessness, but I equally dislike having to choose who I have to say no to and feeling like I am missing out on something.

I have found myself living up inside my head, continually planning the next thing, or going down my mental check-list that I barely register my surroundings.

I recently read through Ephesians and 5:15-17 jumped out at me:

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

How easily I fall into the general business of life and cast aside the notion of asking God to set my priorities. I should be praying for guidance on how best to spend my time. And then accept and listen to the answer!

Peace comes when we seek God's will.

Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." 


I spent so much time praying last fall about what God wants me to put my focus on. The answer was my home and my family. As great and full as our life is, I don' think God meant I should be focusing all my energy on racing around to various commitments and activities while dragging my two kids in tow.

My life always falls out of balance when I do this.

I need God. I need stillness. I need quiet time. I need quality time with my family. I need to slow my brain down.

I needed to be reminded of that this week.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

5 easy spring-time kids crafts


Spring time here in Alberta can just as easily mean spring snow as spring showers. It is an emotional time for me, where one day I feel great and excited for summer, and the next totally dejected and stuck indoors. 

Recently, we've had snow about every 3 days. In between snows it has been quite nice outside so the kids and I have got serious spring fever. As a result, I've been scouring Pinterest for simple spring-inspired crafts appropriate for preschoolers, to complete on our wretched snow days. Here are 5 we really enjoyed: 

1. Cupcake liner flowers


Pinterest
Original website

2. Egg carton bunnies

Pinterest
Original website

3. Rainbow hand-prints

Original website

4. Paper caterpillars

Original website

5. Easter egg bugs

Original website

I have to admit, I'm getting a little crafted-out so let's hope the weather smartens up a bit. Seriously. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 4: When things don't make sense

I took a little break from the Women's Retreat Blog Series over Easter, but I'm not finished yet. I seriously went home from that retreat with so much to think about. This topic is another big one...

One of Sandy Cooper's sessions was on seeking God during hard times. She shared the story of her own loss of her son. And as she was talking about her experience and the struggle with her faith in God during that time, I kept thinking back to a conversation with a friend about the senseless murder of a young girl that had been in the news recently. My friend had made the comment that she just couldn't understand why God would let something like that happen. 

I was struggling with it too. Where I struggled, was in the brutality of it. I found myself asking God that if the little girl had to die, why couldn't it have been a quick, clean death? Why did she have to suffer at the hands of her abductors first? Why does God allow us to get so lost that it takes such terrible grief to create change? 

There is no answer for me. 

I kept thinking about this verse:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV), "'For I know the plans I have you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart'."

Having to suffer unthinkable things at the hands of another seems like such a contradiction to that verse. Even if good does come out of it, how can suffering - possibly to the point of death - be called a hope and a future? 

To use a quote from Sandy's seminar, "It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan. Sooner or later, most of us will come to a point where it appears that God has lost control - or interest - in the affairs of people. It is only an illusion, but one with dangerous implications for spiritual and mental health. Interestingly enough, pain and suffering do not cause the greatest damage. Confusion is the factor that shreds one's faith." (Dr. James Dobson, When God Doesn't Make Sense). 

What we need to have when we don't understand suffering, is an eternal perspective. My suffering here on earth doesn't just affect me here and now, it has consequences outside of this place and time. My hope and my future doesn't end here. In fact, it just begins. My hope and my future is in my eternity.

Sandy went on to talk about what faith really is when you are going through something really terrible. Faith isn't when you believe God and then get what you prayed for. Faith is trusting and believing God even when you don't get what you've prayed for. In other words, it's trusting and believing God even when you don't understand why something has happened or is happening. It's trusting God that there is a purpose to the suffering. That there will be healing from the suffering. It's trusting God that even suffering is for my (eternal) best interest. 

Trusting that God is still in control even if we can't see it. 

I believe that there is no way we can possibly know all that will happen as a result of that little girl's death. I'm sure that voicing any of the possibilities would sound hollow to her grieving family members. What I do feel deep down though, is that there is a heaven and that little girl is there. She is there waiting for her parents. And God will throw such a party when they are reunited. This life is so temporary. That little girl's suffering, while horrendous, was temporary. She's now in an eternity of love and peace. One day God will wipe away all of our tears and take away all the pain we have suffered on this earth (Rev 21:3-4). If I find myself picturing my daughter in that little girl's shoes ever again and wondering how God could allow something like that to happen, it will be these thoughts that I will cling to.  

I was reminded at the retreat that it's okay to question God. It's even okay to get angry with Him. God doesn't get offended at our questions or our anger. But I also know that there are things going on in this world and in the next, that I can't even begin to comprehend.

Blog Retreat Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him
Blog Retreat Series 2: Are you wickedly busy?
Blog Retreat Series 3: Am I REALLY seeking God?





Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mini-Egg Thumbprint Cookies

Happy Easter!

The kids and I made this fun little Easter treat today. I found this recipe on pinterest (where else?). They are short-bread cookies and they were good, but I think next time I would add an egg white as I found the dough quite crumbly which made it difficult to roll into balls. They were also a tad on the dry side when finished.

But look how pretty they are!


You will need:
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • (1 egg white)
  • 1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 tsp corn syrup
  • 1 bag of mini chocolate eggs (I used Cadbury)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until whipped.

Add the salt and flour (I would try adding an egg white at this point) and beat until well mixed and dough-ish.

Roll dough into small balls and place evenly on un-greased cookie sheet. 

Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and using thumb, press down in center of cookie to create an indentation. 

Put back in oven for 2-5 minutes (until bottoms are turning golden).

Remove from oven and and let cookies cool completely on cookie rack. 

While cookies cool, in a small sauce pan melt the chocolate chips and mix in the corn syrup, stirring constantly. Let cool for a minute and then using a spoon or knife and add a dollop of chocolate to the center of the cookies. Top with a mini-egg. Makes ~24.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 3: Am I REALLY seeking God?

Another take-home message that blared out at me like a trumpet from the retreat was the hypocrisy of saying you are seeking God, and then turning around and doing as you please, including treating the people around you poorly.

Isaiah 58:1-14 tells the story of a group of religious Israelites who complain to God that He doesn't hear them. That God doesn't answer them. And yet when they claim to be seeking God through fasting, they are actually off doing their own thing. They think they are humbling themselves before God, but then they turn around and exploit their workers, fight one another and neglect the needs of the people around them.

In Isaiah 58:1, the Bible says, "shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion..."

What was their rebellion?

Well, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then treat those around you badly? I'm sad to say that I quite often do this with my husband. I take out all my frustrations on him. I use him like a punching bag. Do you gossip about your friends? Or emasculate your husband? Or humiliate your children? Or ignore your parents?

How many of us are doing anything for the homeless?


Or, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then go off and try and solve all your problems yourself without even consulting God? Guilty! 


Hosea 10:13 says, "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,".


Ouch!

Before the retreat, treating my husband with more respect and listening for God's direction were things I knew I needed to work on, but I had never thought of myself as being hypocritical or rebellious. I certainly didn't think I was planting wickedness and reaping evil!

The bible tells us that if we stop doing as we please; if we stop the fighting, finger-pointing, malicious talk and neglect of those in need, "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.". (Isaiah 58:8-9).


That's pretty powerful. It helps to answer why I often feel distanced from God. God is not going to listen to me and answer me if I'm saying I'm seeking Him, while at the same time doing as I please.

Our retreat speaker Sandy Cooper, observed that a lack of joy and feeling too weak to handle everything is a sign that you are depending on your own strength instead of God's. A tense, stressed-out home is often a sign we are off doing our own thing instead of listening and obeying God's voice.

Sandy reminded us that as women, we often set the tone in our home. So the next time my house feels like a place of bickering, tension, stress, fighting and exhaustion; the next time I feel distanced from God, I need to take a close look at my actions. Are they saying I am a woman seeking God? Or are they saying "me! me! me!"?





Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 2: Are you wickedly busy?

A message from Sandy Cooper at the women's retreat that resounded with me, and has continued to resound in my head is the truth that busyness to God is often the equivalent of pride-fullness and wickedness.

How many times have you had the best intentions to read your Bible, but you got too busy?

How many times have you planned to spend some time in prayer, but you got too busy?

How many times did you plan to send an encouraging note to a friend, but you got too busy?

As women, we have busy lives. We are really good at filling up our time. Have you thought of it as wickedness?

Psalm 10:4 says, "In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God."


We were just calling it being too busy. God calls it prideful and wicked. Wicked!


Sandy Cooper reminded us that balancing the demands of life is not measured by the amount of things we get crossed off our to-do list, but by hearing and following God's voice.

I tend to start my day by consulting a to-do list. Here is what it looks like today:

- go to Costco and get dishwasher detergent and coffee mugs for dad
- go to Wal-Mart and buy plastic Easter eggs and candy for Easter egg hunt
- pick up birthday card for babysitter
- return phone call to friend
- send pictures of kids and a letter to Grandma
- consult calendar for days when we can host small group
- submit receipts to husband's health care plan
- book dentist appointments for everyone
- make photo board for niece's birthday

And this doesn't even include the day to day things that always have to get done: play with the kids, clean the house, make healthy meals, exercise, connect with husband, check email. The list goes on and on and on.

If I try to methodically make my way down this list, I am left with little to no time to spend with God. I often feel drained, overwhelmed and frustrated at the end of the day. That is when I am vulnerable to feeling like a total failure.

But.

But if I start my day out with prayer and scripture, if I ask God to set the priorities of my day, things tend to go a lot smoother. I'm serious! Especially if I spend some time alone over the course of the day (in the shower, in the bathroom, even driving in the car) in reflective prayer or scripture. I may not get everything done on my list. I may not get even half of them done. I might complete things not even on the list! But if I spend time in prayer and in scripture, at the end of the day I feel more organized, more efficient and far more peaceful no matter what got completed.

I'm not saying it's easy. To accomplish this I've had to cut way back on the amount of t.v. that I watch, and the amount of time I spend on the computer and iphone (as noted in my Technology Fast post). It's a commitment. A difficult one to make some days.

As soon as I start to feel overwhelmed and super-cranky with my life, as soon as I start to feel like I can't possibly get everything done, I know I've focused on myself too much, and not enough on God. So if you are feeling tired, disorganized, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed with what's on your plate, I encourage you to carve out some time daily to spend in prayer or in scripture. Ask God to help you organize your day. It's worth a try, right!

Blog Retreat Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him



Monday, April 2, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him

I had the wonderful privilege over the weekend of attending my church's first ever women's retreat.

I had a few reservations leading up. I was a little afraid it would be a weekend of cheesy "get-to-know-you" games and awkward, "come to the front and be prayed for" moments. But it so wasn't!

Our guest speaker was Sandy Cooper. You can visit her website at www.godspeakstoday.net. She is not actively blogging at present, but she has a wealth of information on her website on a great range of topics. If you go there, I assure you that you will find something relevant to your life.

It was one of those conferences where I found myself constantly saying, "yes! I totally get it!", or "this is so for me!". In fact, there were a few moments where I actually blushed or had tear-filled eyes because I felt so directly spoken to.

If you have spent much time on my blog, you know that I have been seeking God. But I have never felt very close to God. I have rarely felt His presence in a tangible way, despite desperately wanting to.

Going into this weekend, I tried not to have high expectations of something spiritually profound happening to me, but I did pray to hear from God in a real way.

He answered.

Over the course of the weekend, there were a couple of messages that were literally dumped repeatedly over my head. At first like cold-water, and later like a salve. And to paraphrase our guest speaker Sandy, when God gives you something, it is always for someone else, too. So I thought I would write a little "retreat series" about what God has been teaching me.

To start, I want to look at Hebrews 11:6;

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Emphasis mine).

There are two parts to this verse. In the last year or so I've really come to understand that faith is a gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8). Not something I can hope to pick up at the store, or something I can hope to convince myself I have. But this weekend, it was the second part of that verse that jumped out at me. To please God, not only do we have to believe that He exists, we also have to believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

I've come to realize that I've never really believed that. This goes a long way to explaining why I so rarely felt the presence of God. Although it was something I wanted, I didn't actually believe that He would reward me for seeking Him. I knew He rewarded others, but I had bought into the lie that I wasn't good enough. That I wasn't doing enough or that I was doing something wrong. That is all a lie! As soon as I released this to God, I felt Him draw near. I felt in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I recognized God's voice. Can you hear the trumpets?! Rewards from God, feeling God's presence - that's for me too!

Which means, it's also for you!

If you think this applies to you, I encourage you to take some quiet time today and ask God to open your heart and remove the lie that being in His presence is something that happens to other people, but not to you.

But here's the kicker: if you don't immediately feel in His presence or hear His voice: YOU AREN'T DOING ANYTHING WRONG. Just ask again. And again. Eventually, I promise, he will answer you. But in His own time. Do not buy into the lie that you are doing something wrong or that you don't believe enough. That's what Satan wants you to think. God wants you to know Him. He will reward you for seeking Him. It's just that sometimes, He has reasons for making you continue to seek and the key is to KEEP SEEKING.

And let's pray that the next time I feel distant from God, I have the sense to read my own words and KEEP SEEKING, instead of allowing those same doubts to creep back in (pay attention, Lucy!).

Other relevant verses:

Isaiah 45:19: "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right."


2 Chronicles 7: 14-15: "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 


Psalm 24: 5-6: "They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob."


Psalm 34:10: "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."



Monday, March 26, 2012

Dad Birthday Card

My husband's birthday was this month. I modified this pinterest find into a birthday card. The original appears on Brilliant Beginning's blog, where you can find other great ideas. 

My two kids and myself each got to choose and color a tool. On the back of the corresponding tool, I wrote out one thing each of us loved about my husband. He was pretty touched by the card. 





Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!




Look at the mess I woke up to this morning! Apparently Leprechauns visited us last night! My children are running around the house looking for them. My daughter is positive that if she sees one, she can keep her eyes on him until he leads her to gold. She's been practicing.


St. Patrick's day always gives me spring fever. Earlier this week, I thought it would be fun to make some spring-inspired sugar cookies and let the kids decorate them. (We colored them green for St. Patrick's day). 




And St. Paddy's day would not be St. Paddy's day without some green pancakes;


"May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight". Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

For the sugar cookie recipe, go here (note: I didn't want "poofy" ones this time, so no creme of tartar), and for the icing recipe, go here

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: Cutting For Stone


My bookclub discussed, "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese this week. It received some mixed reviews.

First off, it's a long book so not everyone got through it.

Second, there is a lot of focus on female reproductive issues. I always get my back up when this comes from a male author, but in this case Verghese did not try to write about a woman's experience with these issues. Instead, they were written about from a medical standpoint.

As for the story itself, I was pulled in right away. Lots of intrigue. It's largely about characters who get thrown together and separated by medical dramas. Verghese includes a lot of graphic and detailed medical descriptions, which I enjoyed, but others felt they were slogging their way through those parts. Still, the themes of separation, redemption and reconciliation come through.

I found the focus on smells to be interesting. We later learn a potential cause for this heightened sense of smell in Marion, the main narrator of the story, but the descriptions added another layer of interest to the settings. Another way to describe a scene.

There were some great characters. I found myself partial to Hema and Ghosh and their relationship in particular, but I think my favorite character was Matron. I found her words to be very wise. My favorite quotes from the book were almost always from her.

I thought Genet could be used as an illustration of how we as parents can tear down our children and stunt their potential. Her story left me dissatisfied. As the reader I didn't feel like I got closure, and I didn't feel that Marion did either.

Lack of closure is my one big complaint about the book. I found the scope of the story, in particular the medical side of it, to be so broad and descriptive that the characters and their relationships suffered a bit.

In the end though, we all felt  this book was worth reading and recommending to other people.

Favorite Quotes:

"Why must I do what is hardest?"
"Because Marion, you are an instrument of God. Don't leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play! Leave no part of your instrument unexplored. Why settle for 'Three Blind Mice' when you can play the 'Gloria'?"

"We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot."

"As she bent over the child she realized that the tragedy of death had to do entirely with what was left unfulfilled."

"Make something beautiful of your life."

"Wasn't that the definition of home? Not where you are from, but where you are wanted?"

"Doubt is a second cousin to faith. To have faith we must suspend our disbelief."

"She remembered, too, how in her first days in Addis, when things had looked so bleak, so terrifying, so tragic with Melly's death-it was at those moments that God's grace came, and that God's plan was revealed, though it was revealed in His time. "I can't see it, Lord, but I know You can," she said."

"God will judge us, Mr. Harris, by" - her voice broke as she thought of Sister Mary Joseph Praise - "by what we did to relieve the suffering of our fellow human beings. I don't think God cares what doctrine we embrace."






Sunday, March 11, 2012

Technology Fast


I attend an Alliance church and it observes three days of prayer and fasting every Spring and Fall. Until I started attending this church, I had never heard of a church participating in such a thing.

The Bible offers plenty of examples of fasting and prayer (see Isaiah 58:6-10, , Daniel 9:3, Matt 6:16).

Our church described it as a way of turning your eyes from things of this world, to better allow yourself to focus on God and what he has to say to you.

In the fall I chose to participate and wanted to beat my previous year's fast of 30 hours. I love food. I started this blog off totally devoted to food! I spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing food.

I made it 32 hours.

Fasting from food when you have to prepare meals for small children is pure torture. But it was a revealing 32 hours. At that time I was praying for direction regarding the whole back-to-work-thing. I started out by writing out the question to God on paper. I wrote five pages in response (the answer boiled down to a resounding: not right now).

This time our pastor gave a sermon called, "Are you going to(o) fast?". He was asking us if we were going to participate, or if perhaps we have gotten too busy in our lives. He had us write out on a paper plate everything we have on our plate. Everything we spend time on.

We are only 1 week back from a week long vacation and I had already been complaining that I didn't have enough time. When I looked at my plate, some of the biggest time-sucks on it were the t.v., the computer and my beloved iphone. I already knew I was spending too much time on these things, and had been trying rather unsuccessfully to cut back. We all know we have become a technology-addicted society, and I'm no exception. I felt a genuine prompting to fast from these things this go around, instead of food.

SO that's what I've been doing for the last week. I went Monday-Friday with no t.v., computer or phone.

It was harder than I thought. It's unbelievable what a habit these things become. My phone had become like an itch. It was the small things like wanting to look up an address, or phone number or weather report that were the hardest. I found myself eating more food without these other distractions! Definitely not your usual fast!

Anyhow, I discovered that I not only had more time to read, meditate and pray, I also felt less busy, more relaxed and even remembered things better (probably because I wasn't cramming Pinterest images into my head)!

I'm grateful to have these pleasures back. But I've decided to stay on a "restricted diet" with these things for awhile because I believe God is telling me to slow down. The more busy I get, the more wrapped up in my thoughts and in material things I get. Spending less time using these technologies, I have more time to take my thoughts captive and just BE.

Give it a try!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

All About Me - Boy Page

This is the complementary piece to the Art By My Hand page I did for my daughter. These are for inclusion in my kid's "all about me" albums.

It's fun to brainstorm all the things you know about your kid's likes and dislikes. I think it will be really neat for them to read over the lists when they are older. Especially my son, who is obsessed with Ariel the Little Mermaid. In an act of mercy, I chose a picture of him on his next favorite thing, a trampoline, rather than one of him carrying around his sister's Ariel doll...

I came across the idea to "sew" the yarn onto the page in a scrapbooking magazine a long time ago. Using  colored brads repeated the dot pattern on the paper and was an easy way to dress-up the page.

(The weird feather thing is a fish he decorated at his 2nd birthday party).



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Insecure much?


In day 34 of The Purpose Driven Life, Warren makes the observation that insecure people always worry about how they appear to others.

In a previous post, I noted that comparing myself to others is a struggle of mine. It hurt to read that insecure people "fear exposure of their weaknesses and hide beneath layers of protective pride and pretensions. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval". Ouch.

Unfortunately he's right.

I am inherently an insecure person and this regularly leads me to compare myself to others. Why am I telling you this? Because in day 35, Warren goes on to describe how God uses our weaknesses for his glory.

Warren encourages us to admit our weaknesses (this is just one of my many) so that we can learn to be content with them, and then go on to use them in our ministry. My recent conclusion that I cannot find fulfillment on my own is proof that our weaknesses cause us to depend on God.

Warren points out that the things we are most embarrassed about, most ashamed of and most afraid to share with others, are the things that God can most powerfully use to reach others. This message is reiterated in the study "When Women Say Yes to God" by Lysa Terkeust. God wants us to turn our "mess" into a message.

I am learning more and more that seeking other people's approval, constantly trying to "measure up" to my friends, and being afraid that I am not good enough just as I am, are things that I need to give to God. It's hard though. I find myself having to do this two, sometimes three times a day. Next up is learning to trust God to transform this weakness in a way that I can use.

Useful verse (NLT):

2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Intangible mission



Day 36 of The Purpose Driven Life, discusses reaching unbelievers as being the mission of a Christian.

Warren goes on to say that Jesus' second coming is tied to Christians completing this mission. i.e., making sure everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it. So if I want Jesus to come back sooner, I had better focus on fulfilling this mission.

I realized when I read that statement, that I don't want Jesus to come back yet. And that got me thinking that as a Christian, shouldn't I want that more than anything?

I know that I am too much of the world as opposed to in it. I like my life. It has it's struggles, but on the whole I enjoy it. I don't want to leave it yet. And it's because the idea of something greater, heaven, just is not a tangible thing to me. Maybe I haven't had the blessing of experiencing God on a significant level yet. Maybe I just don't know Jesus well enough.

This is yet another example that I have a lot of growing in my faith to do. A lot of learning.

It also leads me to a fear. Because I am so comfortable in my life and sometimes still love things, my kids, and my husband more than Jesus, Jesus will take those things away from me in order to make me grow. It is no secret that Jesus uses people and circumstances to reach us.

James 1:2-4 (NIV) says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything".

Warren himself writes that there are just some issues in life that will never be changed by any amount of Bible study or prayer. I am afraid that the only way for me to grow in faith will be to suffer the unthinkable: losing loved ones.

Warren ends day 36 by asking what keeps me from telling others the Good News. Well, my doubts often do. How do I sell something that I am not always convinced of myself? I fear being challenged on my beliefs because they are so shaky at times.

I posted about my faith difficulties recently. I now believe that God purposefully made me a doubtful person and he intentionally gave me faith as a struggle.  Maybe part of the reason is so that I can share this struggle with you. And to keep me continually searching for truth and answers so that in the process, I can come to know and love God more than the things of this world.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday; 02/22/12


This is San Diego. A place we last visited when my daughter was 15 mo old. My daughter is now 4.5 and my son is 2.5 and we are going back for a little visit. Escaping the (unusually mild) snow and cold.

Cheers!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Apple Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins



These are a nice breakfast treat. There is no one overpowering flavor in these muffins. Instead the flavors blend well, resulting in a nice, moist, slightly dense muffin.

You will need:
  • 1 C uncooked oatmeal, plain
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 C apple juice
  • 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 C canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • canola oil
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 375 F

Prepare a muffin tin.

In a medium bowl combine oatmeal, pumpkin, applesauce, juice, eggs and oil. Mix until well blended.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cranberries. 

Spoon muffin tins 2/3 full. 

Bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 

Catch these when they are warm, spread a little butter on top, and enjoy! Makes ~12 muffins.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

L-O-V-E



Here we are; Valentine's Day.

So what's one more post about love?

In greek, there are four words for love. This seems much more appropriate than our one wimpy English word. Love is complex. Loving sandwiches is different than loving your spouse, for example.

Each of the Greek words has slightly different connotations and meanings.

Eros: passionate love (the boom-chika-bow-wow type)

Philio: friendship

Storge: familial love

Agape: sacrificial love

Although Valentine's Day is more about Eros, I want to talk about Agape love. This is the type of love Jesus expressed for us, and the type he wants us to express for each other (Ephesians 5:2, "Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us,").

So what is love? Our pastor gave a sermon on this a few weeks ago. He read out a commonly used wedding verse (I used it at my wedding), but for the first time I asked myself, based on that verse, how loving am I? I was disappointed with my answer.

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing.
3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. 
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud
5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!
9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!
10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.  
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 
12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 
13 Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love.

Maybe if we were spreading a little more agape love around, divorce filings wouldn't jump by 40% around Valentine's Day. Just a thought :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

12 Cheesy Easy V-day Gift Ideas


With Valentine's Day only a couple of days away, I thought I would share with you the easy and admittedly cheesy, v-day gifts I've been leaving for my husband since February 3. My kids were able to get in the action too, helping me pick out treats and make the cards.

I didn't put enough forethought into this to think up items for a "12 days of Valentine's" song, so maybe that will be my challenge for next year.

1. "I Love You" card; a Pinterest find
2. Fun Bite snack ("You're a FUN dad!")
3. Nibs ("Nibbles" of Love)
4. Old Spice antiperspirant, Fiji scent (Our honeymoon was in Fiji)
5. Fly-Fishing Magazine ("You make my heart FLY")
6. Sweet and Sour Lifesavers ("Being with you is a lifesaver, even if some days are sour"
7. Energizer Battery ("Our love keeps going and going and going...")
8. Fruit n' Nut Bar ("I'm Nuts for You")
9. Burt's Bee Lip Balm ("Bee Mine")
10. Bear Hugs, another Pinterest find - I also used this idea for the kids in my daughter's preschool class
11. Box of Smarties ("From the Smartypants who was wise enough to marry you")
12. I love you this much card; also from Pinterest (for this one, I used one of my daughter's hand prints, and one of my son's)

There you go. 12 simple, cheesy ideas to remind your partner how much you love them.




Linking to Serenity Now

Friday, February 10, 2012

Battle of the Leading Men!

As co-host of Battle of the Leading Men, I've got some serious business to talk about here so I'll get right to it...

McDreamy or McSteamy?

A long asked question for Grey's Anatomy fans and with here's your chance to weigh in!

Be sure to comment for your chance to co-host next week and visit Mommy Lady Club to connect with more fabulous women blog writers!


You didn't know that you could find a romantic retreat on a Mom blog, did you?
Welcome to Battle of The Leading Men!
Your Romantic Getaway...
Would you like to play?
Round 2 is Here!
First, meet our one and only Hosts, Clint Eastwood & Timothy Olyphant of Justified. 
  Why are these two so special you ask?  They have been designated Untouchable, and shall never battle!

battle of the leading men on mommy lady club
Thank you Gentlemen for guiding us through Round 1.  We trust we are still in good hands.

Here’s how to play:

1: Please G+follow, visit and comment on our Co-Hosts blogs, Mommy LaDy Club and Lucy's Soup Can

2: Please vote in the Battle below by commenting the name of your Battle champion. 
3: You may also link up by Sunday at midnight to be drawn to win next week’s co-host spot!
The Battle voting will remain open through the week, even if you missed linking up for the co-host spot.  Get all of the details of our Battles at your Romantic Getaway central, where you can view all past winners and losers from Round 1 and 2.  
These lovely contenders were some of our top competitors last Round.  It is going to be tough, but you will have to choose whom you want to see again.
Now...Battle On!
 Eric Dane, Battle Cry: Just Eric
vs.
Patrick Dempsey, Battle Cry: Grey's Anatomy 
 
Don't forget to link up to be next week's Co-Host, and come back next weekend for more Battles!  If you like to play our Battles of The Leading Men, grab our button...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Banana Nut Oatmeal


I love oatmeal for breakfast, but I don't want to develop an oatmeal rut. like our cheerios rut.

I've been playing around with different oatmeal additives and combinations. Loved this one!

You will need:

  • 2 C uncooked oatmeal, plain 
  • 4 Tbsp all natural peanut butter, (I like smooth) 
  • 2 C milk
  • 2 C water 
  • 1tsp cinnamon 
  • 4 Tbsp chopped walnuts 
  • 4Tbsp coarsely ground flax seed 
  • 2 bananas, sliced for topping
  • brown sugar for topping (optional)
  • milk for serving
Bring water and milk just to a boil (watch you don't over boil it like I frequently do!). 

Stir in oatmeal, peanut butter, and cinnamon. Reduce heat and boil gently for 3-5 minutes or until mixture thickens and becomes uniform.

Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts and flax seed. Serve in bowls with desired amount of milk and top with bananas and brown sugar. Delicious!

You can of course play around with different nuts and fruit. Raisins are really good!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is it receive and believe, or believe and receive?


Okay, so one of the fundamental things that I have struggled with since I was eight years old and first heard about God and Jesus, was the whole "receiving and believing" thing.  Everyone who knows anything about Christianity knows that at it's core is believing in the existence and resurrection of Jesus.

To become a Christian, all one has to do is pray to Jesus and say "I believe in you and I receive you".

I cannot tell you how many times I've prayed those words over the years and yet there are times when I still wonder if I've done it right. When I was little, I was told that praying those words only means something if you really accepted Jesus in your heart. But what does that mean, exactly? The issue that I have is this: wanting to believe that something is true isn't the same as believing it.

I have no problem believing there is a God. But how does one go from believing in a God, to believing that same God came to earth in the form of a person named Jesus, who was then murdered, but came back from the dead so that our souls could live forever? Why doesn't this belief or knowledge automatically translate for me like it seems to do for others?

If it hasn't become abundantly clear, one of my struggles as a Christian is faith. I have feared over the years that I was one of an unfortunate few whose heart God had hardened. Romans 9:21 discusses how a potter has the right to decide to use some lumps of clay to make a jar for decoration, and another to throw garbage into. What if I was one God had made to "throw garbage into"? Not a pleasant thought. But then Romans 9 goes on to say that even though God has the right to show his anger, He is patient and merciful. Thank goodness for that.

I have asked God why I should have so many doubts. Why couldn't I just believe and have faith?

Romans 10:17 (NLT) says "faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ". Ephesians 2:8 words it a little more specifically, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God". The "it" referred to in this passage, is faith.

It seems pretty clear then that faith is a gift from God. I can't manifest it myself. This makes me feel a little better but it has also meant that I've come to accept that faith is a struggle God has given me, and that I am just going to have to work through it. I take a lot of comfort from Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT): "...let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." The perfecter of our faith. This implies that it okay to struggle with faith! This verse has made me realize that I truly am a work in progress - God is still working on me. I'm not a lost cause! He just isn't finished with me yet.

Most recently when I questioned God about my faith, the following words popped very clearly into my head: just keep asking.

Once again it would appear that God is trying hard to teach me the lesson of depending on Him instead of myself.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Art By My Hand

I scrapbook. Or at least I used to. These days I mostly accumulate scrapbooking supplies which sit on shelves.

Having faced the reality that I just do not have the time to scrapbook in the traditional sense, I have taken up digital scrapbooking. However, I am the belief that digital scrapbooking is cheating, so I aim to (traditionally) scrapbook a few pages for my kids and for my husband each year.

I've decided to do "all about me" albums for each of my kids. I am currently working on my daughter's "at age 3" pages. These will be the first in the album, so I had to fill three 12x12 pages.

In the journal boxes I plan to write what my daughter's likes and dislikes were at age 3 (she is four now, so unless you can remember a lot of details from when your children were younger, I would start with their current age, or up to one year ago if you can remember that far back). I'm going to use either a picture taken of her at her 3rd birthday party, or her preschool picture from that year.

Children bring home a TON of crafts. Way more than I know what to do with. After having a turn being pinned on my "Masterpieces" bulletin board, I have either recycled or stuffed away my kids crafts with intentions to figure it out later.

I have decided to choose a few of my favorite ones that my daughter completed at preschool and at home when she was 3 and include them in her "all about me" album. Since the second page is titled, "Art by my hand", I choose the crafts that used her handprint. I got pretty well all of the supplies seen here at Costco.






Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Make me look good


I melted down on my children this morning while trying to get out the door. This is a fairly common occurrence in our house. There are only three mornings a week when we have to be out the door by a certain time, and those three mornings are my least favorite times. I almost always resort to yelling at my kids who inevitably take eons to eat breakfast, think it's funny to hide on me instead of get dressed, and who have to fight me every time I say they have to wear a toque and mittens (it's January in Alberta, so this means they fight me EVERY morning).

Before the holidays, I read about dashed expectations in Donna Partow's Becoming a Vessel God can Use. She hit really close to home when she observed that all too often, her own joy evaporated because of selfish expectations.

Selfish expectations? What's that now?

I'm starting to realize that's exactly why I freak out at my kids (and my husband, but we'll save that for a later date). In the getting-out-the-door example,  it's because if we are late I take it as a reflection of my parenting abilities. It makes me look bad and I don't want to look bad. I want to look organized, put-together and efficient. Really it boils down to my own selfish expectations. I expect my kids to cooperate in the mornings so we can get to where we need to be on time in a presentable fashion, which makes me look good. In Partow's words, I am expecting my kids to minister to me. It only follows that with these kind of expectations, I am setting myself up for disaster every morning.

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me just how often my motives are selfish ones. Sure, getting to preschool on time is good for my daughter too. But I'm not yelling at her in the morning because I'm afraid she might part of her class time. I'm yelling because I don't want to look like a parent who can't get out the door on time.

Mark 10:43-45 (NLT) says, "among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others...". *Sigh*. Nothing about being a slave sounds particularly appealing.

Suddenly having the attitude that I am here to serve my husband and my children doesn't happen over night. This is definitely a work that I am not going to accomplish on my own.  But I truly do desire to be a more selfless person. Especially if it means I can drop my daughter off at school without all the lousy drama.
 
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