Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Backward Glance and a Forward Gaze

"Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise."

I've been thinking about 2009 this week and recounting all that has happened...to us, to our families, to our friends, to our church family. There have been bubbly joys as well as torrential sorrows. But all has been sacred. Everything is sacred, I'm learning. Even the seemingly smallest of things in a day, like making homemade pizzas or rolling a ball on the ground. Even the hardest moments are sacred.

This year I've witnessed baptisms, read more scripture than I have collectively in my life, deepened old friendships, made surprising new friendships, met complete strangers on aisles that later became friends, shared deep thoughts with close friends in our home and theirs, learned how to take better pictures, watched my children grow and start talking in full sentences, helped my son graduate from speech therapy, experienced the power and security in praying with my husband early in the morning, watched my husband grow into a completely different man--for the better (spiritually and over all), learned how to pray more passionately, learned (and still am learning) to prioritize my life as Christ calls me to, welcomed a new baby of some of our best friends, met new blog friends, walked some of the darkest hours out with a dear friend and watched Christ transform her life, created actual flower beds!, dug a french drain, mowed an ungodly amount of grass, painted a mural on a bedroom wall, rearranged furniture, took my kids through the drive-thru on a bike, ran who knows how many miles chasing 2 children around the yard and the house, and finally, I've learned that we will be adding another child to our family.

Thinking about 2010 is exciting. I'm nervous about some things that I fear could happen, I'm giddy about some things that I pray the Lord will allow to happen, and I'm just in awe that He has created it to be so. Life, no matter how you view it, is a gift from Him. The simple fact that I am here for another New Year is grace enough.

Here are some things I want most desperately for my life and for my family's life in 2010.
1. Deeper desire to know Christ and walk with Him, aligning my will with His.
2. Health (who doesn't?), but I also want to walk in the faith that whatever God has in store for us, I will turn back to praise Him.
3. Stronger marriage.
4. More patience with my children and a deeper understanding that they are one of the most beautiful ways God shows His love and grace for me.
5. Less worry.
6. Healthy pregnancy and new baby.
7. Joy in ALL circumstances.
8. Richer appreciation for the mistakenly mundane.
9. Fuller friendships.
10. Less selfishness; more giving.
11. Getting to know family better (more shopping with my mom, etc.).

I could come up with a list of about a hundred things! I'm looking forward to the Lord's teaching and provision and grace and mercy this coming year. And I'm so thankful He loves me enough to give them.


Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's In It? Wednesday: Homemade Lasagna

I often make this for company and get a lot of compliments, so I thought I'd share it.

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What You'll Need:
1 box lasagna noodles
1 jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite kind)
1 lb. ground hamburger or turkey meat
1 large carton cottage cheese
2 Cups (or more if you'd like) shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 Tablespoons parsley flakes

What To Do:
Brown hamburger or turkey meat in skillet.
Add jar of spaghetti sauce.

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Meanwhile, boil lasagna noodles in large pot.

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In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parsley flakes.

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On parchment paper, lay out each lasagna noodle to cool.

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In a large baking dish, spread a layer of lasagna noodles down first.

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Next, add a thin layer of meat with spaghetti sauce.

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Continue with a thin layer of the cheese mixture.

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Continue doing this until you have 3 layers.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, and enjoy!


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Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, December 28, 2009

Trains and Automobiles


(You'll have to click on the image to really see it...sorry!)


Keagan has had a farm mural on his wall since he was 3 months old, and I've loved it dearly! But since he's so into trains and anything that runs on gasoline, steam, or coal, I decided it'd be fun to redo his room with trains and automobiles. He loves it so much, he dances around and laughs hysterically! The joy on his face has definitely been worth the long hours of painting!

I'm still not finished, but I'm most of the way there. I'll still make the street gray and tweak the bridge some. I had planned on putting an airplane in the sky, but I'm not sure if I will nor not. (I'm no expert at drawing airplanes!) Anyway, just wanted to share the photos of what I've been busying myself with all day!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From My Family To Yours

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Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jesus Wants the Rose

This may take your breath away and sting your eyes with tears.





Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Many Did You Have To Drink Tonight, Young Lady?

This little girl

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got into a bit of a sticky situation today. While I was washing her diapers out, she decided to get into a Christmas present I was about to wrap and drink some hand sanitizer. She had two bottles of it, I guess sampling which tasted better. I honestly didn't feel too panicked right away. We have a great friend who's a nurse, so I called him to see if I should be freaking out. I then called Poison Control. Let me stop to say those people are amazing! The nurse I talked to was so kind and took great care to walk me through this step by step. He even called me back in an hour to check on Kate!

The nurse from Poison Control instructed me to feed her ice cream since it's high in calories and her blood sugar would be dropping a bit from the alcohol. I had to watch for signs of drunkenness, basically. He said to watch for clumsiness, slurred speech, etc. This proved difficult since she's KATE and does these things on a daily basis anyway! But I did notice some odd behavior.

It was mostly her tongue. She said it hurt and was sticking it out all the way at me to get me to kiss it. Wow. And she was holding it in her fingers, flapping it around and making more than her usual noises. She'd also stick it out on the side while she was talking to me, and I noticed a few words she normally says clearly that she couldn't quite get out.

Interesting, to say the least.

After the nurse called me back and gave me the okay, I let her take a nap. And this is what she looked like when she got up:

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She looked as if she'd gotten drunk and passed out. Seriously! Her first buzz. At 2 years old.

I'm so thankful God protected her while I was being a little less than an attentive mom. Wow, being a mom is tough. So many things to do, and you can't do them while keeping your eyes glued on your children. God is good to protect...and I've definitely learned a lesson today.

Peace of Christ to you,

"I Will Strengthen You"

If paying attention, we can perceive loss everywhere we turn. Sometimes it's obvious; other times it's buried. But either way, it exists and has brushed each of us. We have friends who are experiencing loss in a hidden way that many will never understand or even know about. But that doesn't dissipate the pain.

Yesterday as I mourned for them, I heard the Lord remind me that He is able; but sometimes He chooses not to. Not to heal, not to fulfill. Not to answer 'Yes.' But if He chooses to respond in this way, He is then the God who comforts.

I love when God continues to affirm His promises over and over to me in small ways. So, it was neat that I woke up today and read from Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" about precisely that--that He is able and He will come through, even if it looks different than we want:

I WILL STRENGTHEN YOU. -- Isaiah 41:10

God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this responsibility, for He is able to do everything. Believer, until you can drain the ocean dry of omnipotence, until you can break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, you never need to fear. Do not think that the strength of man will ever be able to overcome the power of God. While the earth's huge pillars stand, you have enough reason to live firm in your faith. The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven has promised to supply you with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, do not dream that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises. Remember what He did in the past, in the former generations. Remember how He spoke and it was done, how He commanded and it stood firm. Will He who created the world grow weary? He hangs the world upon nothing; will He who does this be unable to support His children? Will He be unfaithful to His word for lack of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Does He not ride upon the wings of the wind and make the clouds His chariots and hold the ocean in the hollow of His hand? How can He fail you? When He has put such a faithful promise as this on record, will you for a moment indulge the thought that He has outpromised Himself or gone beyond His power to fulfill? No! You can doubt no longer.

My God, You who are my strength, I believe that this promise will be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of Your grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of Your strength can never be emptied by Your friends or plundered by Your enemies.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
"December 22." ed. Alistair Begg. Crossway Publishers, 2003.


Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, December 18, 2009

The God Who Cares

I hesitated to share this for fear of sounding boastful, but I want to let others see the intricate and personal detail in which God pursues and cares about us because I think we often ignore it or just don't get to experience it. Sometimes it just astounds me, and I'm left speechless.

That morning I woke without any intent of going shopping...or anywhere. But after I was up for a while, I felt urged to call a friend in Fort Smith to meet for lunch. I can't help but smile now because while I anticipated merely catching up with a friend, God was busy orchestrating something far greater.

I arrived in Fort Smith a full 40 minutes early, which is completely out of character for me. My intent was to sit at a coffee shop with my lap top until time for lunch. Once I got onto the main road, though, I inexplicably found myself turning onto a road that would not lead me to said coffee shop. In a matter of seconds, I realized I was right beside a craft store, and since I had some time, I could go in and see if they had any icing bags and icing tips. (We've been heavy into the Christmas cookie design world this month!)

I parked the car, in no way suspecting that I'd be in there any longer than 10 minutes. I need to insert that I did not walk into the store asking God to bring me someone to be a blessing to. I just went in to find icing bags--that's it.

Never before had I looked at icing bags. I didn't know where icing bags were in the store. But will you believe that I walked straight to them? I mean, straight to them.

There was a woman already on the aisle with two small children in her basket. She wore a pink sweater, and her children were smiling and wishing they could get their hands on the cake decorations: clown heads and Spiderman. I squeezed past her to reach for a bag I saw, and her response was sweet, welcoming, not like many other "strangers" you meet. She was friendly with small comments of why she was there. Her son's nose was running, and she said she wipes it every five seconds.

It was at that moment that I knew I could either smile and grab my findings and whisk away, or I could slow down and visit for a minute. I thought of the tissues with lotion I'd gotten for Kate so her nose didn't get raw, and it just came out of my mouth. Right then, she got a phone call. She mentioned a funeral and a poem that had been read there, and a Christmas program coming up at a church where her son would sing. I know it's rude to eavesdrop, but it was impossible not to hear, and I felt God asking me, urging me to hang on a few minutes.

So I waited.

She got off the phone and what God did from there still amazes me. She shared so much with me, such delicate information that I would guess she didn't know why she was sharing with a perfect stranger. But God knew, of course. She shared how she came to be a mom of three children with different fathers, how she'd been betrayed, cheated on by men with neighbors and friends, without a job, abandoned, scoffed at, given that look. Most people did not reach out to her.

As I listened, I felt so strongly compelled to give her something that I'd been asking God what to do with...and I just knew it was for her. I gave it to her and she held it for a while without looking at it, still sharing with me her life. I could tell she was nervous and this sort of thing was not a daily occurrence for her.

I felt like it was time for me to go, so I said it was nice to meet her and started to back away. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her look at what she held, and when I looked up, her eyes were filled with tears and she was coming toward me to give me a hug. Her tear-filled eyes gave way to sobs, and we stood hugging for quite some time. All I could do was cry with her. She said, "I've heard of people like you...I've always wanted to be that to someone, but I'm always on the other end."

As if this wasn't enough of a blessing for me that day, God just kept on moving. She mentioned that she lives in Oklahoma and normally doesn't come to this store, but she was looking for none other than icing tips and saw in a sale paper that this store had them on sale that day. I'm not even making this up. While I had not gotten up that morning with the intent of finding icing tips, she had.

We had both come to this store for the exact same thing.

I had to ask where in Oklahoma she lived, since I live there as well. And it just got better. She lives in Spiro, where we are about to launch a new campus of our church. I think I nearly squealed at that point. So, I shared with her what fuelchurch.tv is about and how we operate, what our pastor is like, etc. At first, I'm sure it sounded just like any other church invitation she may have received. But I shared how we'd grown in our relationship with God because of the leadership there, and there was a point of cross-over that was quite pointedly the moment where her heart began to listen and entertain the thought of actually coming. It was when I told her that our pastor isn't afraid to sit in a bar and connect with hurting people and that I wasn't sure how many tattoos he has.

From there, we exchanged information on how to stay in touch, and we are. This was not a "project." It occurred to me that sometimes we do (scratch that...God does something for someone through us) and we walk away, never seeing that person again, never investing in their lives, never pursuing them with love.

What if God did that with us?

I walked out of the store with my two icing tips and bags (which, bonus, were 30% off) 40 minutes later, but it had felt like 5 minutes. I physically felt the Holy Spirit right there with me, in my chest and wrapped around my shoulders. I began replaying the specific detail in which God had woven together my morning with hers...and all I could do was worship Him.

May this portrait of who God is and what He cares about encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and let Him do something remarkable with your day, even with your ten minutes. The intricate detail that He uses to bring people together will more than likely take your breath away. It may hurt a little, it may break your heart and bring you to tears. But in doing so, it will undoubtedly cause you to walk one more step closer to the God who orchestrates, the God who loves, the God who cares.


Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cloth Diaper How-To (for anyone who's curious)

Since I started using cloth diapers 4 1/2 months ago on Kate, I've had several people give me a look of shock, and others give a "how on earth" look. So, I thought I'd humor you and give a photo how-to on them! Exciting, huh?

Here's my usual stash. I use cheapo Gerber prefolded cloth diapers, Gerber birdseye cloth diapers (the thin ones as liners), and Kushi brand contoured liners for added absorbency.

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To assemble:
Start with a diaper cover like this one from Thirsties brand.

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Place the thick prefolded diaper down first, with the thin edges folded in.

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Add the thin birdseye diaper (tri-folded length-wise) and the contoured liner.

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Unfold the very ends only of the bottom thick diaper on both ends.

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Now you're ready to add the baby!

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And here's what the finished product looks like:

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When I first tried these out, I thought for sure I'd hate it, but I wanted to be able to say I had at least tried them. Days went by and I just kept using them. I ordered a few more covers and was surprised at how not-so-disgusting or difficult it was. I figure since I'm fortunate enough to be home with my kids and have a washer/dryer, I might as well save money. I'm no Nazi about these, either! I use disposables when we go out and if someone else is going to watch her. (And I don't make my mom or my mom-in-law use them!) I use cloth when we have a family outing if I'm feeling thrifty, but mostly, I use them at home. I have no idea how much money we've saved, but I think we've actually felt the relief from buying so many disposables. Never in my craziest dream did I think I'd use these, so that shows you anything's possible! Cleaning them is even not too terrible. I keep a pail of detergent water in the laundry closet and soak them until I wash them all. I have a pressure sprayer on the shower head that I use to get the "stuff" off them and into the toilet. Not too bad, really.

So, that's how I got into this mess...literally.


Peace of Christ to you,

Seriously, waiting is no fun.

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Peace of Christ to you,

Waiting is hard to do.

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Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Least Likely

I am so glad that our God is not a respecter of persons. Aren't you?

He doesn't care if you're a lawyer or a cashier, a loan officer or a car salesman, a doctor or a trash man, a prophet or a prostitute.

Wait, really?

Hebrews chapter 11 is the coined "Faith" chapter of the bible, right? Have you ever dissected just who exactly is in this chapter? You'd expect to see Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, etc. But there's someone else numbered among these faith giants that may surprise you. Her name is Rahab. And she was a bad girl. Not only was she a bad girl, but the act that deemed her worthy to be in the "Faith" chapter was actually telling a small lie.

Surprised yet?

Yep, Rahab hid the spies--who were sent to scout out her city--on her roof, yet told the king who was searching for them that they had already fled.

If this confuses you, I think I have good news. No, it's not that we can now lie when we want and claim that God told us to say what we have. The good news is that God is not a technicality police, nor a respecter of persons. The point here is that God seems to take the least likely scenario as well as the least likely person and He uses them to promote His own glory.

God told something similar to Peter in Acts 10 & 11 when he shares the gospel with uncircumcised Gentiles. Again, least likely people.

We're blessed to be part of a church that understands this. I'm thankful for a pastor who visits bars to connect with people who are seemingly the least likely candidates for grace. And I'm thankful for a pastor's wife who actually prays with waitresses in bars. These are people who wouldn't step foot in a fancy church building. Our pink carpet, steeples, and stain glass windows are not going to draw in lost people. Instead of trying to draw them in, shouldn't we step out to them?

Unlikely, I know. But that's the message of the bible as a whole. If God uses the least likely candidates for great things, shouldn't we?


Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's In It? Wednesday: Cranberry Salad (also from Thanksgiving)

Here's one more dish that's a must for Thanksgiving! I got to make this along with the potato casserole I posted last week and a green bean casserole this year for Thanksgiving. I had fun and was excited that I could pull off contributing food to two family gatherings in one day!

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What You'll Need:
1 large pkg. of Jell-O (I usually use strawberry)
1 3/4 Cups boiling water
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 (8 oz.) sour cream

What To Do:
Dissolve Jell-O in water in dish you'll use for the salad.
Add crushed pineapple and cranberry sauce. Stir these WELL and smash the clumps out of the cranberry sauce.
Chill until set. (Overnight is best.)
Top with sour cream just before serving.

Enjoy!
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Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Birthday Pics Than You Can Handle

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An added bit:
To answer a question: I got the idea this year to solve my space problem of years past. You know, the "How many people can I invite and comfortably fit in my house?" problem.
This year, I used our garage for the party. I used 2 space heaters to even the temperature out and just left the kitchen-to-garage door open. I used streamers and balloons to warm the place up a bit, too. I made a little kid corner with a fuzzy rug and kid chairs with a T.V. playing no other than "Dora the Explorer!" Guests came in the front door and came through the kitchen to the party area. It worked out great! There was plenty of room for everyone, and I didn't have to leave anyone off the invite list for the sake of space.

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It was a happy birthday!

Peace of Christ to you,