Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Set a Bible Reading Goal for 2011!

How much time did you spend reading the Bible this past year? If you don't know...you should find out!

As I shared previously in this post at the beginning of July, I keep track of the days that I actually have my "quiet time". It's pretty simple. At the end of each year, I print off a "Read Through the Bible in a Year" reading plan (or you could make a copy if you have one in the back of your Bible) and each day that I sit down to have a "formal" time with the Lord, I circle that day's date and reading assignment. If I finish the reading, I cross it off. (If I look back and see a crossed off assignment, I know I probably missed that day, but went back to read it anyway).

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't feel this is a requirement to being spiritual. I just find this to be a good way for me to keep track. But guess what? The more scribbles on the paper, the better I function! True story!

Did you know that by reading three chapters of the Bible per day, you can read through the New Testament in 90 days? Or that by reading an average of four chapters per day, you can read through the entire Bible in a year? Or, if you read one chapter per day, you can read through the entire New Testament in a year. (By the way, that's kind of the rate I was going this year! Well, sort of!) 
Do whatever works for you. But, do something! Even if it's just one verse of Scripture per day, you'll be better off than if you hadn't read anything at all! Hebrews 4:12 says "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Is there anybody that doesn't need more "power" for their day?

I would encourage you to take a moment and make a Scripture-reading goal for the upcoming year. And keep track of your progress. I'm always amazed when I look back and see what percentage of my month I actually spent in reading God's Word. Sometimes it can be a tad discouraging if I've been less than diligent, but you can better believe during those times, I get really determined to be more consistent.

Here are a few links to printable Bible reading plans to help you get started:

What "system" do you follow to make sure you're consistent in Bible-reading? Share with me in the comments!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Goals for 2011

This time of year usually becomes a time of reflection and re-evaluation for me. Between my birthday around Thanksgiving time, and the approaching new year, I always "turn inward" as a way of determining how I grew as a person in the previous year, and how I still need to grow in the coming year.

A few days ago, I sat down and updated some goals for the new year. A goal, as I've learned, should be something specific and measurable. Some of these meet that criteria, and some are not as easy to "measure", but just the act of writing them down gets me closer to that achievement. Also, the act of referring back to these goals is good motivation to move in that direction. And (oh, and) publishing them for all the bloggy world to see is great pressure motivation to work toward meeting these goals...if for no other reason than to avoid "gah! I didn't improve at all in that area!" So, without further ado, here they are!
 Spiritual Goals:
  1. Spend moments alone with God (in prayer and Bible reading) everyday. Put Him first before anything including computer time and chores.
  2. Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit- Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.
  3. Make church a priority. Be excellent in my areas of service. Do what God directs me to do regardless of whether or not my work is acknowledged or appreciated. Keep my eyes on Him!
  4. Make a habit of speaking the language of praise- stop complaining! Tame my tongue!

Marital Goals:
  1. Be positive with my husband. Don't criticize, complain or condemn.
  2. Keep "covenant" in the forefront of my mind- by doing a Scripture study and/or reading books/listening to teachings that promote covenant in marriage.
  3. Be flexible (this one is a biggie for me!)- Let your immediate answer be "yes" or at the very least "I'll think about it". (So often I am immediately opposed to new ideas- this is a habit that I would like to break this coming year to promote peace in my marriage).

Maternal Goals:
  1. Actively direct P & C to the Lord by sharing Scriptures with them, weaving Biblical lessons into the everyday- don't be afraid to show them my need for the Savior when I mess up, too! Keep them in prayer on a daily basis!
  2. Focus on spending quality time with them in instruction, creative play, and just for fun (with no agenda)! Get out of the house on a weekly basis (in addition to church- i.e. to the library, park or elsewhere). Institute regular TV turn-off weeks/days.
  3. Work toward having "real food" be the basis for their diet (and ours too of course)...phase out store bought/processed foods like chicken nuggets.

Domestic Goals:
  1. Cultivate order and beauty in our home. Make it a place of tranquility and hospitality. Go the extra mile to make things "pretty".
  2. Find and use one new recipe each month.
  3. Pare down our possessions by doing "27 Fling Boogies" or something similar on a regular basis. Keep stuff I/we love and use, but sell, donate or dispose of other stuff.

Personal Goals:
  1. Continue to develop friendships with other women...pray for and be on the look out for a Titus 2- type mentor.
  2. Continue to blog regularly- make a schedule of posts every month (you know, so I don't sit around wondering what to blog about every day!). Gain 60 new blog followers in 2011.
  3. Read! Commit to two books per month for a total of 24 in 2011! (And, try to read one book at a time! :D)
  4. Contribute $400 per month to our family's income (with the purpose of covering "non-essential" expenses like gifts and other nice-but-not-necessary things) through my Pampered Chef business.

So...what are you going to be up to next year? Tell me about it in the comments, or feel free to link to your post about your goals for the new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Questions

I found this festive meme at A Stranger in this Land- Here's her list from a couple weeks ago!

I don't know what it is about this year...I realize that Christmas is fast approaching, and I've managed to put up a little "Charlie Brown-ish" Christmas tree (the ornaments did not survive the children's curiosity!) and the stockings that my sister lovingly handmade for our family.  Other than that, I'm hardly in the "Christmas mood".  I realize it is about Jesus- but for me that's what every day is about.  Sooo...I was thinking that participating in this meme would help me gear up for the upcoming festivities! Enjoy, and feel free to link to your own meme!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I actually really love wrapping presents.  Call me crazy, but it's only once per year, most of the other gift-giving occasions get a gift bag ('cause I have a million of them!) but there's just something about wrapping a gift at Christmas that makes is so much more special.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial.  I've never had a real tree since I've been "out on my own".  I don't plan on doing a real one any time soon, unless it's like...one of those little potted ones.

3. When do you put up the tree? That is to be determined. I have no set "rule" for this...sometime after Thanksgiving...usually in the first week or so of December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Again, no "rule" for this one...usually the week following Christmas though, 'cause I know if I don't it'll still be there in February!  Now with little ones, the sooner the better!

5. Do you like eggnog? No!  But I'm sure it's possible that one year I will start liking it!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Two words: Big Wheel!

7. Hardest person to buy for? Can I count myself?  I know I'm terribly picky!  Ok, maybe my husband.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Any of my eight nieces and nephews!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Neither.  I think I sent out cards the first year we were married, but since then I have not. (Sorry, Grandma!)

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Probably most everything I receive from the "white elephant" gift exchange at church!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Hmm...maybe "A Christmas Story".  I might be saying that 'cause I'm having trouble coming up with something better.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? A week or two before Christmas usually!

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Totally have! See number 11!

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Gumbo. Our family eats it every Christmas Eve.

16. Lights on the tree (colored or clear)? I like the colors. I give bonus points for flashing lights! Lol. :)

17. Favorite Christmas song? I'm going to have to say Harry Connick Jr's version of "O Holy Night".

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We stay local.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Nope.

20. Angel, star or ribbon on top of tree? I like angels on top of the tree.  And flashy colored lights.  Are you getting a visual now? (Like, the tackiest Christmas tree ever? Just kidding.)

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve with extended family, and Christmas morning at home with the children. The best of both worlds!

22. Favorite children's Christmas song? The Chipmunk Song. (C'mon, you saw that coming, right?)

23. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Basically, the greed aspect I think.

24. Favorite ornament theme or color? No theme, really.  I just like the sentimental ornaments...the ones the children make, "Baby's First Christmas"- stuff like that.

25. Turkey or ham on Christmas day? I don't know if there's really a traditional "something" we eat on Christmas day.  I guess it just depends on where we are.

26. What do you want for Christmas this year? Just to spend time with family and enjoy the day. And, one can never go wrong with more books!

27. Does anyone in your family dress up as Santa? Nope.

28. Age you discovered who Santa was? I have no idea.  It may have been in early adolescence. I think it was kind of something I always knew was just make believe.

29. Eggnog, hot chocolate, or apple cider? Hot chocolate would probably be the all time favorite, but apple cider sounds pretty good right about now.

30. Traditional colors (red and green) or other colors? Blue. My Grandma made me a Christmasy table runner that was blue with silver snow flakes. Very pretty.

31. Do you have any Christmas decorations on your roof? That would be a "no"!

32. How does Santa get into your house? He doesn't.  Jesus and Santa in the same house? Hmm...I mean I know some people do it, but the modern portrayal of "Santa Claus" just goes against my (and my husband's) personal convictions.

33. Do you prefer gifts or gift cards? Gift cards would be really useful right about now. But usually I appreciate a really thoughtful gift.

34. Favorite children's Christmas Cartoon? I'd probably have to say "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"...but actually I prefer reading the story.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

"Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous--with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!" Matthew 5:9
 I so wish I could say in all actuality that the above Scripture always suits me to a "T". But I can't! At least not for the past several weeks. And at least not lately in my marriage.

Over the past month or so, we've had several minor "setbacks" that have come up, and I have not dealt with them gracefully. Not one bit. In everything, I was constantly looking for someone to blame...someone to hold accountable for all the things that have gone wrong lately. Guess who got the brunt of it? If you guessed my husband, you're right!

Now, before you try this at home, let me just tell you, it does nothing to improve one's marriage. It does, however, cause the male person in the marriage to become withdrawn, in addition to a host of other undesirable results.

I started thinking about all of this, and how a lot of things were definitely NOT going my way one day after a pretty big fight. The biggest thing for me was the blame aspect. I was being critical. Nothing was good enough. Even something as simple as my husband's run to the grocery store elicited a negative response from me (i.e. "I meant fresh parsley...not dry").

Back to the Scripture. I was not "enjoying enviable happiness". I was not feeling particularly "spiritually prosperous". I wasn't seeing much "life-joy" or "satisfaction in God's favor and salvation" for that matter. I was neither making peace nor maintaining it. It would stand to reason that those who do the opposite of making and maintaining peace- sowing discord, and fighting their husband every step of the way- would get the opposite of what this Scripture promises. Just some of the negative things you would reap (if you were brave enough to try this yourself- like I was) are unhappiness, spiritual lack, misery, and dissatisfaction...just to name some of the results of this choice.

However (oh, how I love "however"), in God's infinite grace, He allowed me to see the error of my ways, and I was able to repent (just as you can if you happen to relate to this post even a tiny little bit). 1 John 1:9 (one of my faves) says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." For me, I know that total success in this area may not be an overnight thing, but I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That's the beauty of it though. God will meet me wherever I'm at, as long as I'm willing to yield to Him! (And believe me, I'm more than willing to get away from this negative attitude!)

What can you do if you happen to be in a similar situation? Just take one step at a time! Commit to being a peacemaker in your marriage first of all. Purpose to let your response be one of peace...not everything has to go "your way" or even the way you are used to it being. Watch your tone, and communicate to your spouse that you believe their intentions to be good even if they do something unexpected.

So, from now on, I am a peacemaker! I hesitated to share my experience, being that my blog is called "Happy Christian Home" and all. I was certainly doing nothing to live up to that title! But I know you ladies might be able to relate, and maybe just maybe somebody will be helped by my admission.

So...what steps do you take in your marriage to be a "maker and maintainer of peace"? Feel free to share in the comments!

Linking up for Marriage Mondays at Come Have a Peace 

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Flesh

"So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6

How many of us heard that Scripture at our wedding? (I'm raising my hand). I know that the idea that's typically expressed when we hear that Scripture is that when you get married to your husband, you are now one entity rather than two. The other day, though, I had a funny idea. Sort of funny. Okay, bear with me.

One of my favorite Scriptures is in Galatians 5 where Paul is talking about the flesh vs. the Spirit. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." Galatians 5:16-17

In this context, "flesh" is something negative. The "works of the flesh" are things that we as believers need to shun. (Which we see in verses 19-21 of the same chapter).

Anyway, I just made the connection between this Scripture and the one that so many "unsuspecting" brides hear on their wedding day as they are gazing into their sweetie's eyes all the while enmeshed in white fabric.

Could it be that when united in Holy Matrimony that God desires us to be even less "fleshly" in nature? I'm thinking so.

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:24

Marriage (at least in my experience) is a refining experience. There is simply not room for two people of the same marital unit seeking after their own often conflicting desires.

So where does that leave us? Walk in the Spirit! You can't control your husband...but you can control yourself. You can pray for your husband, but as you do, pray for God to change you first if necessary (as my pastor's wife has often told me). Yielding to God and the Holy Spirit is the one surefire way for there to be "one flesh" instead of two in your marriage. Just think of how much more fulfilling and fruitful your marriage will be with less yucky flesh to deal with!

What are some tips you can share that have helped your marriage become a "one flesh" marriage?

Linking up for "Marriage Mondays" at Come Have a Peace 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Urged On By Faith

"[Urged on] by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go." (Hebrews 11:8, Amplified)

I have been meditating on this Scripture for the past couple of days.

Abraham (and Sarah) went forth into what God was calling them to do. They didn't know the "how" or "why" to the story...only that God spoke, and that was enough. He didn't "trouble his mind about where he was to go".

We also know that Sarah was in the picture somehow...supporting her husband.

A little background: In Genesis 12, God spoke to Abraham (Abram at that time), and told him to leave his home and all his family members to a new land that God was promising to him. God promised to make Abraham a "great nation" as well as prosperity, and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5) Mind you at this time, they had no children, and Abraham was already 75 years old when God told him to leave his home!

Can you imagine what Sarah was going through when God spoke to Abraham? What would you think if God told your husband that you were supposed to leave everything you've ever known?  She had to be a woman of great faith as well to follow her husband out of the familiar. But we know she followed him because she was there to experience all the promises that came to pass.

We can also deduce that Sarah didn't hinder Abraham from going after his calling. He became the "father of many nations" and experienced many other blessings that God promised.

That's our role as godly wives as well.

While most of our husbands probably don't have that kind of calling on their lives, there probably is something God is telling them to do (if they have a relationship with God). Well, friend, that calling includes you! What are you doing to support your husband? What has God called you both to do? Are you acting like Sarah, and going along with what God has in mind for your family, or are you dragging your heels, and looking back (much like Lot's wife later on in Genesis 19:26) clinging to the familiar and all that's keeping you from the Blessing of God?

What can you do today to support your husband and help you and your family move into all that God has for you? What kind of things are keeping you from trusting God?

Linking up Here:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Big Changes

So, a lot has been going on around here lately. Obviously, not so much on the blog...but in the life behind the blog. I've really only been posting the Mommy's Piggy Tales posts- mostly because those are scheduled for Thursdays and I don't want to get behind on them.

A week and a half ago a little after 3 p.m., I received a call from my husband (who would have normally been at work at that time). It was an odd time for him to call, and I missed his first call. When he called back just a few minutes later, I knew something was up.

His voice on the other end said "well...they recommended me for termination...and it was approved."

A little background: he had been working at this job for about a year and a half. The first year had been pretty good, and we were seeing much increase from it. It was actually pretty exciting following his six month long unemployment. We were able to pay down a lot of our debt and get caught up on many seriously past due bills. But within the past several months, my husband had begun struggling within the "system" so to speak. It seemed like he would accomplish what they were asking him to do, only to then have the requirements changed on him. He came to a point where he was no longer allowed to work overtime...and then his "numbers" were so bad that he wasn't able to bonus...but a lot of people on his team had the same problem. And his employers weren't adjusting the requirements. We became aware that they were considering terminating him when he challenged his scores for the month of July...he was supposed to earn more for that month, and he felt he was scored inaccurately. He was denied for that and to add insult to injury, one of the supervisors added "we were actually considering recommending you for termination".

So I wasn't totally caught off guard by his termination, but it still came as a shock. In that moment, I knew not to freak out. We had spent a looooong six months before this job trusting God to meet every. single. need. that came up...neither one of us had a regular income, and I had recently taken "the leap" to become a stay at home mom. I know that we will be provided for, I think the hardest thing for me is that it happened right before the holidays. Actually, four days before he was terminated from his job, I signed up to become a consultant for a network marketing company so I could earn some extra money for Christmas and other "fun stuff" I wanted to do without "burdening" my husband with the extra expense. So once I get that up and running, we will have a little something (or more, depending on what happens with that) coming in in the interim. Aside, of course from God's supernatural provision.

So, we will be moving at the end of the month. We still have a few months left on our lease, but we simply can't afford to live here anymore. (That was something we were really considering before the job loss anyway). Especially knowing there is cheaper rent out here in our area. The place we hope to be moving to will be almost half of what we pay now. It will be somewhat smaller, which is the opposite of what I wanted for our family, but I can't really complain seeing that we will be spending so much less. Anyway, it's only temporary. And the landlord offers a six month lease. That's a lot more flexible than the 12-18 month leases we've been signing at our current location.

This turn of events is actually kind of a catalyst of a sort for my husband. He's starting to take this as a hint that he's not supposed to be pursuing this kind of work. (His last two jobs have been in the financial industry). Actually, we are well aware that he's not supposed to be doing this kind of work ultimately- I guess it's just been a "for now" sort of thing. His main focus and calling is music-related. He currently leads worship at our church. He plays just about any instrument you put in front of him. He started out with violin at age 5, and God just expanded his repertoire from there. He mainly sings, plays guitar and bass, and also plays drums frequently.

For me, this is sort of fun and scary at the same time. Many people in our circle understand and acknowledge that he shouldn't be wasting time pursuing another job in the financial industry. For me, though, I must admit that I'm struggling with the unconventionality of it all. Really, it just goes back to trusting God to meet our needs. I could sit here all day and talk about how I trust God, but if I'm not submitting to what my husband feels like he's called (or not called) to do, where does that leave me? I know everything is going to ultimately work out for the best..."And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). But honestly, I could really use some prayer in the mean time!

I don't want to limit God to what our situation looks like in the natural. I don't think that's fair to Him. He is a BIG God who has big plans for our family. I know this. It is a little more difficult to actually walk that out though!

So, what kind of tough financial situations have increased or challenged your faith lately?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Our highs are in the mid-upper 80's...that's a far cry from the triple digits of a month or so ago!  But other than the cooler temps, there's nothing here in the desert to show me that it's a different season...except what's on sale at the market!

The other day, I picked up a butternut squash for 69 cents!  (I don't know if that's cheap for the rest of the country, but it seems inexpensive to me).  Anywho...I saw the squash, and I knew I wanted one, so I bought one.  But I had no idea what to do with it. 

Somehow I got the idea to turn it into soup!  I Googled a recipe, and well, I didn't have everything that the recipe called for so, I just made up my own version.  It turned out really good.  Here's how I made it:

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
fresh nutmeg to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium.  Add all the vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock (you could probably use vegetable stock if you prefer) (just enough to cover the veggies).  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 40 minutes.  Transfer probably 3/4 of the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth.  Use a potato masher to mash up the remaining veggies in the pot.  (I like this, because then you have all different textures in the soup- it seems more "rustic" this way).

Doesn't that look pretty? I started taking pictures of it because the colors reminded me of Autumn leaves. Lol!

I made a second batch to share at church yesterday evening, and I made a couple changes, and that turned out really good too!  Everyone loved it!  I omitted the sweet potato, and added two peeled and cubed regular potatoes.  I used store bought stock, so it wasn't quite as flavorful as the first batch, so I added salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ground ginger.  I think I really like the addition of potatoes...also the salt and pepper made a big difference. 

A couple more things about butternut squash:

I read that it was easier to prep the squash by leaving it whole and piercing it several times with a fork, then baking at 350 or so for about an hour...you can then cut it and easily scoop out the flesh of the squash...blah blah blah.  Okay, but for those of us that don't want to wait...it's really easy to peel and cube if you take a big (sharp) knife and cut off the stem and root ends, then cut it in half lengthwise...then cut horizontally at the part where it gets "skinny" so you have four pieces.  Then you can easily peel off the rind with a smaller knife.  It doesn't take that long with the right tools.  If you don't have good knives, then it's probably better to stick with the first method! ;-)

Oh! If you have some kind of gloves you can wear in the kitchen...use them!  Apparently there's some kind of sticky sap or something that is released from it as you cut it.  It got all over my left hand, and it really dried out the tips of my fingers.  At first I was thinking it was some kind of allergic reaction or something, but then I did some research and learned that many people have this issue with butternut squash.  It's not terribly worrisome, it does come off after several handwashes.  It was just a strange sensation that I would rather avoid next time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Putting the Word First

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" Matthew 6:33

Well, it doesn't get more simple than that, does it?

Seek Him first.

Today, I was motivated (in part due to this post by Ashley at AP Freewriting 101) to get up and before anything else, read my Bible and pray.

So often, it's get up, check my email, read all the new blog posts, check Facebook and otherwise find ways to dawdle online, and THEN read my Bible and pray, hoping that the children sleep just a little bit longer.

Sometimes they wake up in the middle of making my "blog rounds". My day ends up chaotic and usually pretty unproductive.

On the other hand, if I spend that time in the Word and in prayer first thing, it gets that upward momentum going in my day. I am more positive. I am filled. I have something to draw on for strength, for giving into other people's lives (starting of course with my sweet children).

It's not about legalism. My pastor often says "God is not trying to get something from you; He is trying to get something TO you". How true that is. I even had to remind myself of that this morning as I was trying to breeze through my devotional time...anxious to get to the part when "I get to talk". (You know what I mean, right?) But something in me said "slow down, let God speak to you through His Word". And speak He did.

If we will just take the time to sit and listen and HEAR from Him before we get our minds all clouded up with...whatever, He will give us such clarity for the day ahead. For the week ahead. For our husband, for our children, for our homes and whatever else that concerns us. He will also help us weed out those things that DON'T concern us.

I know it works. God's Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). I encourage you to seek Him first at your next opportunity.

What steps can you take to make sure you meet with Him first thing in the morning?

Let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Servant Motherhood

Are you washing these feet?
Warning: Proceed with caution if you are the squeamish kind, okay? :)

Today I saw probably the fifth pair of poopy underwear in about a week. (You mamas that have been through potty training your little ones will know what I'm talking about).

I seriously had a "pause and think on that moment" during this time, and I believe God dealt with me about my attitude toward cleaning up the boy child's poo...when I know very well that he knows how to put it in the potty.

It was not pretty. (Poop seldom is). Okay, I'm talking about my initial response. It may have involved shouting (certainly not the "hallelujah" kind). It also may have involved me making some kind of ungodly growling sort of sound that hurt my throat. Okay, it did. I'm not proud to admit that I was really angry about this latest "accident".

To make matters worse, after the underwear was removed from the child, he continued to do the "potty dance", and refused to get on the potty to finish what he started.

(More anger).

After reassuring him that it was okay, and I was going to be there with him (I think he's a little bit afraid of going number two in the potty) he finally finished. I cleaned him up and sent him on his way.

As I was angrily cleaning up the mess, and washing the poop stained underwear, I continued complaining and expressing disgust.

It was at this moment that I was reminded of how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. And if their desert is anything like ours in Arizona, it was nasty dirty man feet. Sweaty, stinky. Filthy. In these parts, it doesn't take much to get dirty feet in the summertime- and we have pavement. I can't imagine what ones feet would look like at the end of a sweaty, stinky day in the hot sun complete with natural desert landscaping.

God showed me a picture of how Jesus didn't complain about this act of servant hood. He didn't let His own natural reaction to this menial task stand in the way of showing humility to His followers. In fact, He practically had to force one of the disciples to let Him wash his feet. He humbled Himself.

Jesus is better than me. And though cleaning poopy underwear could be only slightly more foul than washing man feet after the end of a sweltering day spent in sandals in the desert, His act of quiet, humble service to His disciples shows me how I should be as a mother. For the first time I received God's grace for this task and was able to smile contentedly while doing something I personally find repulsive.

Yesterday, I saw a definition of a servant of the Lord while reading Isaiah 54:17 in the Amplified. "Those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced". Jesus is the Ultimate Servant. Anything I could possibly do pales dramatically in comparison to all that He has done for us. And isn't that reflection of one "in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced" what we want to show our children?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Faithful in Little

"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much."  Luke 16:10

Can I just say that we are "outgrowing" our home?  Well, we kind of are.  I live in the same apartment I lived in when I was single!  In fact, I only live in a two bedroom (as opposed to a one bedroom) because about six years ago, my younger sister came to live with me (she has since moved on and started a family of her own too).  So in a little more than four years, I've added a husband and two babies.  We've stayed here mostly for financial reasons.  In fact, when my husband and I got married, we tried to move to a one bedroom, in hopes of saving some money, but since my rent was already really discounted, a one bedroom was more expensive (yay!).

Yesterday, I was working on some things around the house to make it make more sense for us.  I've really been dealt with in the area of minimizing, and also starting to embrace where we are at right now.  I think in the back of my mind, I feel like we'll be moving soon anyway, so why try to make everything work?  Why turn our apartment into a "home"?  Well, because I really believe that God isn't going to take us to the "next big thing" until our attitudes toward the "current little thing" are right.  I have visions of a three bedroom house with plenty of storage space, more drawers and cabinets in the kitchen, a yard for the children to play in, etc...but I don't think God will bless us with all that until we prove that we can handle (and really enjoy) the small area that we have.

So here are photos of some of the progress I made yesterday:

I hung up this ABC chart for the little ones...my son has already mastered the alphabet, but I know he enjoys seeing this anyway.  My husbands aunt (who was a teacher) gave us this and the other posters in upcoming photos.  And yes, I know it's crooked! :)

I moved these shelves into my sons room- they were previously in the living room, as you can see, the children have already been "enjoying" the new location of their toys!
A couple of my son's bigger toys.  Reason number 534 why we need could really use a bigger space.  We do have a wee little patio, but I know if those toys go out there, they will just become a home to bugs and dust, and get ruined by the sun.  To the right is the big armchair where I have my morning study time...can I say this room does double (okay, probably triple) duty?

I hung up more posters! 

I dug this thing out of our storage closet.  It was a wedding gift.  I think it's time to use it, don't you? :)
Also, I found this painting.  It was done by my husband's grandmother or great grandmother (I don't remember which) but seriously, we have at least twelve of her paintings in our storage closet on the patio.  My mother in law made us take them blessed us with them when my husband moved in.   I like some of them more than others, and I think I may start displaying them.  I thought this one would be nice in our front bathroom.

So, there are more things on my to do list, but I'm really happy with the progress I made yesterday.

Also, I've been working on my Fly Lady (see her link in the side bar) "27 fling boogies" (actually, I haven't really been counting) but as I come across something, I think "am I ever going to use this?" and if the answer is "no" then into a box it goes.  I'm glad to say that I actually made a trip to Goodwill on Monday!

What about you?  Are you finding yourself in a season of "rearranging"?

Linking up here:

Friday, October 8, 2010

You're a Cheap Date! My Favorite Inexpensive Date Night Options

I'm not endorsing Sonic- eat there at your own risk! :-)

  1. Going out for coffee: My husband and I have spent many evenings just chatting over caramel macchiattos. It's so much fun just to focus on each other and talk, with no plan to go anywhere else...just be. Potential cost: $5-$10 (a little extra if you indulge in the pastries!)
  2. Browsing the Bookstore: It doesn't matter which one. We love books though our interests are pretty different. Sometimes we purchase something, sometimes not. We love finding deals on clearance! Potential cost: Free-???
  3. Staying home to play Scrabble (or watch a movie, or have nice meal together): Though my husband is ridiculously competitive and makes up words. Don't tell him I said that. My mother in law is usually gracious enough to let us drop off the children for a couple of hours. If you don't have a gracious mother in law, maybe you could swap babysitting services with a friend...you watch her little ones one Friday, and she can watch yours the next. Potential cost: Free!
  4. Going for a drive: My husband loves driving. We don't have to have a destination, we enjoy something as simple as just going and looking at homes in the area. This one is also fun during the holidays when you can drive around and look at the Christmas lights (our little ones are still too young to really care about this- but it's a fun family night option too). Potential cost: a few dollars for gas.
  5. Going to the Dollar Theater: Our local one has movie tickets for $2 I think, and all the concessions are about a dollar each (at least I think they were last time we visited!). It won't be the latest blockbuster, but it can be cheaper than buying the movie on DVD, or in some cases- renting it- it you're not a prompt movie return-er! Potential cost: $4-$10

    The point is that you made an effort to be together!  Having fun with your husband doesn't have to cost a lot (or even any) money!  

    What are some of your favorite inexpensive date nights?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Determines Your Family Size?

How many children will you have?

That's a question that you hopefully answered before you got married and started having them!

Are you trusting God to determine that number?

Are you believing for a "quiver-full"?

Are you going to have as many as finances allow?

Or have you determined that number some other way?

I don't have a good answer to that question! (And by the way, I don't think there are any "wrong" answers to the above questions). Before my husband and I were married, we desired a large family of maybe 5 or 6 children. Fast forward 10 months into our marriage, after the birth of our son, and our answer changed a little bit!

At one point during my son's first few weeks, my husband looked at me and said "maybe one's enough!"

Of course, you know the story, we also have a daughter, so, obviously one was not enough.

Some days I really think that I might like to experience another pregnancy and have at least one more child. But then I'll have one of "those" days as a mom, and really begin to doubt myself and my ability to "stay sane", though I know that God is faithful to provide grace for me should He decide to bless us with another child.

One major thing that keeps me from fully trusting God with my fertility (and just having as many children as occur naturally- without any birth control) is the amount of stress that pregnancy and the several weeks postpartum can cause for not only my marriage, but also the other children in my world. (And this concern only because somehow I think that I'll have like, twenty children if I just let my body do it's thing! Okay, not really, but you see what I mean right?)

When I was pregnant with my son, for example, I absolutely lost all desire for physical intimacy. (I'm just being real here...hopefully that's not TMI!) Whether that dramatic change was due to sub-par nutrition, or wacky hormones, or something else altogether, I know it came as a major shock to my new husband (and me too- I had no idea what was going on). Thankfully, that situation was resolved, and we had a much easier time with my next pregnancy. But it was still a season of trial for our marriage. And it seriously had the potential to cause things to really go awry in our relationship.

Other women may deal with other kinds of anxiety during pregnancy, like the woman that has dealt with depression before becoming a mother (not to mention those that deal with postpartum depression). Pregnancy may be a time of real struggle for some women to simply cope with life let alone nurture a marital relationship.

Then there's the issue of pregnancy and subsequent children affecting the older children. We did everything we could think of to help our son prepare for the arrival of his sister. I told him on a very regular basis that a baby was going to come to live with us. We even sent a picture message to his grandma to share with him once she was born (he wasn't allowed in the hospital due to the swine flu scare at the time). More than anything, I think having another baby affected my relationship with him in a way that I didn't anticipate. Obviously, he's still my baby, but at least in the earlier days of his sister's infancy, he started to become closer to his dad, and a little less receptive to me. That was something I wasn't prepared for.

So, while I do believe the Scripture that tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord, and that every good and every perfect gift comes from above, I also believe that God gives us wisdom. I am in no way saying that pursuing a "quiver-full" is not the way to go, but I think God directs each individual family. Besides, nobody ever said that all quivers are the same size. Plus, with a smaller family size, we are more motivated to take better aim with the arrows in our quiver (at least that's my opinion).

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

All that to say that a large family may not be for everyone. You must pray and seek God in your individual situation. Perhaps He has called you and your husband to a certain area of ministry, and it just wouldn't be practical to have a large family. Then again, you may hear Him speak the words "trust me" and direct you to not intervene in any way, and see that He'll bless you with just as many (or as few) as you can handle in your situation. After all, He knows what you're capable of more than you do. Don't you think?

What's your experience in this area?

Has God directed you to have a specific number of children?

Are you fully trusting God with your fertility?

Leave me a comment! I would love to hear your thoughts. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This week, I'm trying to do some easier meals since I'll be gearing up for my daughter's birthday party on Saturday.  And of course (until further notice, that is) all our meals are allergen-free.  

Monday: Turkey Burgers and French Fries- I take two pounds of ground turkey, season with salt and pepper, add in some good mustard (at In & Out Burger, they cook the patties w/mustard when you request "animal style", by the way). Then I form the patties, and cook in a pan w/olive oil.  I just eat the patty served w/lettuce and tomato (maybe a little bacon).  My husband and son can eat it with the bun.  The French Fries will just be from the freezer.  (Keeping it simple as much as possible this week!)

Tuesday: Today I am cooking a batch of chicken stock (Nourishing Traditions recipe as featured in The Makers Diet), only because I'm out, and I don't want to buy it at the store (that's how much I love the home made stuff).  

              Chicken Tacos: Made with the chicken leftover from the chicken stock.  I make my own taco shells using corn tortillas and coconut oil. I cook them just until they are goldenServed with Mexican rice. 

WednesdayWhite Bean and Chicken Chili- I usually don't cook on church days (Sunday and Wednesday) but this will be a slow cooker meal.  This recipe is sooo good.  

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday: Pasta Seashell Casserole- I use a pound of ground turkey and brown it with half an onion, diced, and three cloves of garlic, minced.  I mix it with 8 oz of cooked sea shell pasta (I use rice pasta- which by the way is really good...I can't really tell much of a difference between it and regular pasta) and a jar of store bought spaghetti sauce. 

Saturday: Not planning to cook.  We will probably have birthday party leftovers.    

Sunday:  Ditto, though I'm sure we'll have something on hand! 

For more great menu planning ideas, visit orgjunkie.com!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I'm Into this Month- September

This list was inspired by Megan at SortaCrunchy.  I am definitely echoing her amazement of how fast this month has gone by, but I'm actually glad it's gone by somewhat quickly.  I'm so done with triple digits (especially since I've been reading about so many people's lovely fall weather)!    

On My Nightstand: Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley (The FlyLady) and Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot- I seriously misplaced this book, so it's not technically "on my nightstand" right now, but I'm determined to locate it (or buy it again!) so I can finish it.  So far a lot of good stuff in there that is inspiring me to up my "game" a little (okay, a lot!)

Want To Read:  Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris, Radical by David Platt, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and of course, Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot. Lol.

T.V. Show Worth Watching: Nothing right now. I absolutely feel another TV-free week coming on.  I think we did one in April or thereabouts, and it was nice to break out of the habit of automatically turning it on for no good reason.

Movie I've Seen (in or out of the theater):  I half-watched Sherlock Holmes with my husband a couple weeks ago (I was in and out of the kitchen making dinner).  From what I saw of it, it was pretty interesting.  I might have to watch it again.

In My Kitchen:  Lentil, Kale and Bacon Soup (recipe from For the Love of Cooking) Delicious!

In My Ears:  The newest additions to my playlist are: Revelation Song by Kari Jobe (we've been singing this at church lately, and it's just an amazing worship song) and In My Arms by Plumb.

Three Newest Blog Reads: Modern Alternative Mama, The Blog Guidebook (a great resource for the beginning blogger- like me!  And for more experienced bloggers as well) and Passionate Homemaking.

What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month:  My daughters 1st birthday celebration!  Hard to believe she is almost 1.  It's amazing how fast they grow, and how fast time passes once you become a parent.  It feels like it was just yesterday that I was pregnant with my son (who is now nearly three and a half!) Wow!  Also looking forward to cooler weather (hopefully).  

What about you?  What are you into this month???

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pregnancy Series Part Six: My Pregnancy Must-Haves

Ancient Secrets Ceramic Nasal Cleansing Pot, 1 Neti Pot...Or at least "really-want-to-haves-if-at-all-possible". 

A Neti Pot:  When you're pregnant, your sinuses can dry out due to an increase in estrogen.  I experienced this just too much in my first pregnancy- and had sinus headaches all the time, so when I found out I was expecting number two, I headed to the health store for one of these contraptions.  It cost me about $10, but what a difference it made!  It looks weird, it sounds weird, but don't be afraid to try it.  It may be your ticket to nasal relief!  Also, you don't have to buy the prepackaged saline solution at the store, you can make your own by mixing about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt.  Then you add about a cup of warm (not hot) water, and you're all set!

 Chiropractic Care:  Every time I've told someone about getting chiropractic treatment during pregnancy, I sense that they aren't comfortable with the idea of getting "snapped, crackled and popped" with a bun in the oven...but it is oh so wonderful.  I ended up at the chiropractors office the first time around because after the first couple of months, my joints and ligaments began to loosen up in a very noticeable way.  I would be walking down a hallway and my hips would pop-pop-pop as I walked.  At first it was humorous, but after several days, it began to HURT!  I went to see Dr. R. and soon he was able to correct whatever imbalance was taking place in my spine, etc.  I was blessed to be able to go on a weekly basis during my first pregnancy.  It can be expensive, so that's why it's an "if at all possible" must have.  If you can swing it, I highly recommend it if you are having any sort of back or hip pain.  (By the way, during my second pregnancy, chiropractic treatment was not an option due to financial issues, but I was able to alleviate back and hip pain by stretching every day...though not as well as chiropractic would have done. I suppose prenatal yoga would be a good way to relieve some of that as well).  Another good time to turn to chiropractic care during pregnancy is if your baby is breech.  There is a technique they can do that is very effective in causing the baby to turn head-down.  Visit here for more info.

Memory Foam pillow:  I got one of these when I was pregnant with my son, and oh my...what a difference it made!  It was like sleeping on a cloud.  In fact, an abundance of all kinds of pillows really helps you to sleep better.  I started putting them everywhere when I got to be bigger...as I laid on my side under my leg to keep my hips balanced...behind my back for support...in my arms...well...you get the idea.  Lots of strategically placed pillows are a must!

Fish Oil:  Fish oil does many great things for the pregnant body (at least in my opinion- talk to your midwife or doctor before taking anything).  It was very good for my moods, and also for aches and pains in my body.  Not to mention the brain benefits for mom and baby.  These "feel good" properties are something I wouldn't normally get through my diet as I really don't eat fish very often.  It was definitely beneficial to me in my last trimesters when I had difficulty getting comfortable and/or moving around in bed.

What has your experience been?  Have you found relief with any of my "must-haves"?  What are some other tips/tricks that have worked for you?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pregnancy Series Part Five: Five Ways to Bond with Your Baby While You're Pregnant

1. Write a Journal- With both of my pregnancies, I started a journal as soon as I found out I was expecting.  I wrote to them about how I discovered that I was pregnant, I wrote about the prenatal appointments, how I was feeling, and the circumstances happening at the time, and more!  I plan to give these journals to them when they're grown, and as a bonus, it will help them in a practical way when they are expecting their own children someday!

2. Read stories to baby- I loved taking that time during both of my pregnancies just to focus on them.  I actually read children's novels to both of them, as well as shorter story books. You could even read a magazine article to them if you want (hey there's no reason you shouldn't be entertained too if Cat in the Hat doesn't do it for you!) It might be easier on you to read a shorter story to your baby if this is not your first child.    I know it was definitely easier to read to my son when I was pregnant with him than with my daughter, but I still made it a point to find a way to steal a quiet moment with just me and her.

3. Read about baby's development from month-to-month or week-to week.  See my recommended reading post for some ideas.  Even if you're just reading about it online, you can get a really good idea of what your baby is doing in there!  I know I had a special feeling when I realized something specific was happening to my baby...like during the time they were probably growing hair, or fingernails or what have you.  It just makes it easier to connect with the little person growing inside of you when you know what they're up to!


4. Communicate with your baby- it is believed that around 20 weeks or so baby's hearing develops. Talk to him or her (or them!) throughout the day.  I remember talking to my son as I was on my way to my prenatal appointments.  I would ramble on and on about what music was playing, where we were driving to, etc.  But anytime I was by myself I would just describe what was happening.  This continued on of course after he was born, and he would be in the sling, and I would just tell him everything that was going on- in the grocery store, at home, or wherever. 

5. Play games with Baby-  This is obviously easier once they start to move around a lot.  With both of mine, I would play with their feet...I would press wherever I would feel movement, and they would kick again somewhere else.  And I would keep pressing my belly according to where they kicked.  One time, with my daughter, I was holding a book and momentarily rested it on my (giant) belly.  Somehow, she sensed it was there, and kicked the book off my belly!  Then I would place various object on my belly, and she would kick them off.  Okay, so that may have been more amusing to me than her, but you get the idea. 

What other ways have you found to bond with your baby during pregnancy? 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Housekeeping Meme

I found this survey at A Stranger in this Land- I thought it was a cute idea.  Let me know if you do one too! 

Aprons – Y/N?
I have one, but I only wear it occasionally.

Baking – Favorite thing to bake?
I love baking chocolate chip cookies and brownies. These days, I don't do much baking, just because I've eliminated wheat from my diet, but sometimes I bake a chocolate cake made with oat flour.

Clothesline – Y/N?
Nope, we're apartment dwellers. We have a stackable washer and dryer.

Donuts – Ever made them?
Only at work...I used to work in a bakery...about ten years ago.

Everyday – One homemaking thing you do everyday?
Hmm....strategic planning! (Lol.) Emptying the trash can is one thing I do everyday. I've been getting much better about making sure the kitchen is clean at some point everyday.

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freezer?

Garbage Disposal – Y/N?

Handbook – Y/N?
It's in progress. I will soon get into the habit of referring to it on a daily basis.

Ironing – Love it or hate it?
Hate it. My husband usually irons his own stuff (he doesn't mind). I try to avoid it if at all possible.

Junk Drawer – Where is it?
There's one in the kitchen, but it's not too bad. I don't have enough drawers in the kitchen to let one of them get "junky". Ha ha.

Kitchen – Design and decorating?
I'm not really into decorating too much. My rug and most of the kitchen towels are red. Our dishes are white and blue...everything else is as standard and utilitarian as possible. I'm just not all that "frilly" with stuff like that.

Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?
I like the fact that I have such a huge opportunity for growth! Actually, I've come a long way with everything, as I used to be super disorganized...I guess having little ones tends to whip you into shape!

Mop – Y/N?
Yes. I've recently started mopping on a regular basis. I'm surprised that it really doesn't take that long!

Nylons – Wash them by hand or in the washer?
I don't wear them. Not even for my wedding(!) I hope nobody "falls out" over that, but I live in the desert, and got married in August, soo...well, I wore open-toe shoes...and...hey, speaking of heat...

Oven – Do you use the window or open it to check?
I open it. Mine doesn't have a window, but I'm sure if it did, I would still open it. That's just how I roll. :)

Pizza – What do you put on yours?
I haven't been able to eat pizza what with the restrictions in my diet right now (see here for more explanation), but I'm a veggie girl. Which is funny 'cause my husband is an all-meat kinda guy, we always order separate pizzas.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?– 
Blog, and read other blogs. It kinda doesn't happen all that much these days, so I'm kind of at a loss when one does occur!

Recipe card box – Y/N?
No box. I put the cards I have into photo album pages in a binder. I print a bunch of recipes from the internet too.

Style of house-
We have a two bedroom, two bath (upstairs) apartment. White walls (actually we have quite the "crayon art gallery" going on right now...anyone know how to remove crayon from textured walls?), and most of our furniture is kind of a mixture of styles, as family and friends have blessed us with most everything we have. I know someday God will provide the means for us to update our decor and furnishings, but I'm in no huge hurry for that to happen. 

Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?
No, but we have a table runner that's tucked away in the closet (good place for it, right?) and I've been toying with the idea of bringing it out for regular use. We have matching place mats too, but the table's not big enough for both.

Under the kitchen sink-
Not much to see there. I have a gallon of vinegar, and some dishwasher detergent. Oh and a ridiculously huge stack of Chipotle bags. 

Vacuum – How many times a week?
I should do it 3-4 times a week, but usually only remember once a week or so...when the baby starts to discover "floor-food" left behind by her brother (cheerios, etc). Gross, right?

Wash – How many loads do you do a week?
4-6 depending on how diligent I am that week!

X’es – Do you keep a list of things to do and cross them off?
I should. I used to be really great about list-making, but more recently I just do what I see needs to be done. I'm seriously going to get back into doing that!

Yard – Who does what?
We don't have a yard...yet.  

ZZZ’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day?
Usually cleaning up the kitchen. I love to wake up to a clean kitchen, it's the best!