Saturday, June 25, 2011

Be Still

When I worked full-time, I could very easily get myself lost in the minutiae of my days. I always had tasks in the office that needed doing and when I got home, well, meals didn't cook themselves and the cats didn't so much as lift a paw to clean for me and my husband. Now that I'm transitioning home, the stress has lessened somewhat.

I've faced a steep learning curve in my homemaking skills, but I love being able to learn new skills and figure out how to run a household most effectively. There's the stress of moving to a new place and in some ways, reinvent myself. After all, I am no longer identified simply by my old profession. Now I am known more as the wife of someone, the lady who tutors homeschoolers, who loves history and politics, who writes, gardens and knits, who loves the Lord. Instead of being what the world and the workplace would make of me, I am getting to be the person God would have me be. It's hard to explain, but somehow I feel more like myself than I have in years.

And yet there's still a busyness there and it's something I feel called to work on. Diligence is important and the ever popular Proverbs 31 woman is a model of industry for us all. However, we also have Martha and Mary to look at. And in Mary, God shows us that sometimes you just have to put that broom down, be still and sit at the feet of Jesus. Just as Elijah heard God speak to him in that "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19), sometimes we too have to open our hearts and be willing to hear God in our lives.

In addition to biblical models of work and industriousness, American culture in some ways seems to celebrate being constantly busy. We must have blackberries in order to be always reachable, people will talk often about how much activity has filled their days and so on. However, it feels so freeing to pull oneself away from that mentality and take time to pray, read Scripture and simply be in the presence of God without feeling the need to rush through quiet time. Days can be full of action, but they need this contemplation and communion, too.


Linked at
and also at on Wise Woman link up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midweek Links - Issues Affecting Women and Families

I know these issues aren't strictly homemaking material. However, as a Christian and as someone who tries to be a responsible citizen, I find it helpful to keep up to date on various political issues that affect homes and families. And that's exactly what I have on tap this week - some informative reading on various issues. And since these are controversial issues, I will point out that since these articles are not Scripture, they are not infallible and by linking to them, I am not saying that I agree with every single word of every single one of them, though I did find them all worth reading.

The Slutwalk phenomenon is one which I have found mystifying for a number of reasons. In this article published over at LAF, British scholar Robin Phillips does a wonderful job not only of explaining the Slutwalk movement, but of unpacking the messages that it sends about women and just how damaging can be.

And here's an interesting conundrum. I've written before about feeling encouraged by the reported rise in pro-life sentiment in recent years. However, while many people of various religious affiliations report that they do not think abortion is moral, each group seems to have far more people thinking that abortion should be available in their community than the number who believe abortion is morally acceptable. Perhaps it's time for some real soul-searching as to why so many of us in this nation think that something we find morally unacceptable should be available in our communities.

Even though I don't always agree with the articles in Christianity Today, they do sometimes post things that make me think. And I did really like this article on adoption. The author has some interesting points to make in terms of adoption and orphan care as discussed in the Bible, and his article is an inspiring call to action.

I try to avoid much of the vitriol surrounding the gay marriage debate, but this article on federal governement sensitivity training rather infuriated me. I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in traditional marriage and in my mind, those who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman only are not racists or hatemongers. Far from it. The people I know who oppose gay marriage do not hate homosexuals or wish them harm. They oppose the practice of gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, and defending the Bible and the instructions that it gives us does not constitute hate speech. By equating opposition to gay marriage with racists, Christians and others who oppose the practice are being marginalized by association with a set of behaviors and school of thought(racisim) that most find abhorrent. When I see the government trying to classify Christian beliefs as "hate speech", it's impossible not to see that as a government attack on traditional Christianity and that both frightens and saddens me.

Note: Also linked at Women Living Well

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Simple Summer Stew

On seeing the fresh okra both in my garden and at the farmers' market, I have been trying to find uses for it beyond gumbo or fried okra. This summer stew fits the bill, and it doesn't take long to prepare. When it's 90 degrees out, minimizing the stove time is a blessing!

Simple Summer Stew
1.5 - 2 lbs lean stew meat
flour
1 large red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 large potato, cut into cubes (leave skin on!)
1 large can beans (I use kidney beans)
2 cups boiling water
1 large can tomatoes (using organic now but hoping to have home-canned for next year)
3/4 cup sliced okra
1 small chopped bell pepper
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
salt
garlic, chili powder and cumin to taste (see note)

1. Dredge stew meat in flour and brown in Dutch oven with onion on medium heat.

2. Add all vegetables to beel and cook until all are tender. This takes about 10 minutes depending on how much you have in your pot.

3. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, salt and spices.
It's good the first night and even better the next day!

NOTE: If, as I did, you find that you're out of cumin midway through cooking your stew, improvising with oregano and a pinch of garam masala seems to work quite well.



I'm also sharing this one at

Monday, June 20, 2011

Little Things

Apparently, I'm not the only one who is excited to see how well the garden is growing. Looks like someone couldn't resist checking out the pepper plants!



Sometimes it's just little things that make life feel joyful....

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taking Care of the Body God Gave Us - Protection From the Sun

As summer beckons, don't forget the sunscreen! As part of caring for that temple of the Holy Spirit that is our body, we need to protect ourselves and our families from the sun. It's a good idea to protect yourself from the sun year-round, but it's especially important during the summer when the sun is brighter and people tend to spend more time outdoors. Many people are probably aware that danger comes from both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the ones that cause the most immediate red burn, but UVA rays penetrate deep into skin to cause lasting damage and possibly future skin cancer, so it is important to screen out both.

To screen out harmful rays of the sun, what do you need? Hats, parasols/umbrellas, sunglasses and clothing to cover up are very helpful, but this is where is also pays to check the active ingredients on your sunscreen. Because I have fair skin and I have also known a number of people who have had skin cancer, this is a health issue to which I pay special attention. For those of us here in the United States, the main active ingredients to look for are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and avobenzone. Of these three, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the least likely to irritate or cause allergic reaction. The chemical avobenzone reacts differently with the skin than do the previous two physical sun blockers and some folks have had difficulty with it (in my case, my eyes swell shut if I apply avobenzone-containing sunscreen on my face). In addition, studies have come out in recent years finding that avobenzone breaks down with light exposure, which reduces its effectiveness and may generate harmful free radicals.

Due to my allergy issue and concerns related to the ongoing scientific debate on avobenzone, I tend to avoid this ingredient. While sunscreens such as No-Ad brand are cost effective and come in huge vats which makes them very tempting from a budget standpoint, I stay away because of the avobenzone and other chemicals they contain.


However, there are some very good titanium dioxide and zinc oxide based formulas. My personal favorite is a broad spectrum sunscreen from Keys Soap. The formula is very gentle and it provides excellent protection. The one issue with it is that it's not waterproof, so while it is good as an everyday sunscreen, I wouldn't use it at the beach.

When I'm going to be in the water, I often use one of the various avobenzone-free formulas offered by Badger or I'll use Johnson & Johnson baby sunscreen. There are a number of other very good sunscreens on the market, but some of them tend to come in small (1.5 oz. or less) containers and cost more than I would like to spend. I have built up quite a research file over time, so if you would like to know more about a particular brand or would like more sunscreen suggestions, just let me know in the comments! Since I know I have Australian readers, I'll point out that Blue Lizard suncreen gets very good marks everywhere I've looked and I'm told it's available there.


So, why am I talking about sunscreen on a Christian homemaker's blog? As every Christian knows, we are not solely our own creature. We were created by and belong to God and given bodies that we are admonished to keep pure and to care for. As we care for our homes, we need to care also for the people within and see to their health.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20


Linked up here:


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Midweek Links - Cleaning and Decluttering for All

I follow a lot of the Flylady routines for my everyday cleaning, but this deep-cleaning list for the bathroom from Time-Warp Wife is helpful for going beyond the everyday cleanup. I will add a little tip of my own - if you heat up the bathroom by running the shower before you start scrubbing, everything cleans up much more easily.

I worry about the effects of some of the chemicals in a lot of commercial cleaning agents and I also find it more frugal to make my own. Some are formulas that I learned growing up, others come from the excellent book Back to Basics (various editions - most recent edited by Abigail Gehring), and I have discovered another very helpful set of recipes over here. That tub and tile cleaner has worked well for me!

One of the side effects of several years of both my husband and I working full-time was that clutter built up in our home with a vengance. Both of us had paper-intensive jobs, and we're both avid readers. Recipe for disaster, right? When I first started transitioning home, I felt overwhelmed and didn't know where to start on organzation. After much Googling, I found this helpful set of articles by Sylvia Britton at Christian HomeKeeper Network, and these have helped me get the decluttering done.

This isn't related to my other cleaning and organizing links, but there are a few fun giveaways going on now. (1) Jessalyn at Desiring Virtue is giving away three books - You can enter to win Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, What Did you Expect? by Paul David Tripp or Give Them Grace by Elise Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. (2) Jasmine over at Far Above Rubies is having a Blessing Bag giveaway and the items there look really cute! (3) And the last giveaway - Ashley over at Putting God First Place is giving away a giftcard to Dayspring. I've found some lovely gifts there in the past and I've been having fun reading the entries for this one!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Transitioning from Office to Home

Today I am so thrilled to be posting my first post over at Desiring Virtue! I've enjoyed Jessalyn's blog since I first started lurking there, and then commenting. I'm talking today On Becoming a Full-time Homemaker" and I hope that you'll stop in to visit and stay to read some of the wonderful pieces over there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Abide in Christ


Do you ever feel like you spend so much time trying to be that wonderful Proverbs 31 wife that you lose sight of the big picture? After all, being a good wife entails so much. To paraphrase a bit, the Proverbs 31 wife works vigorously and eagerly, is up before sunrise providing food for her family and servant girls, she trades profitably and works into the night, she cares for the poor, makes and sells linen garments, speaks with wisdom and so on. In short, this amazing woman appears tireless in her ability to run a household and help her husband. I pray and strive to live such a life, but I almost get tired reading about it!


Studying this passage is inspirational, but there is also a lot in there to DO. And it's all important stuff, all things God would want of us as wives. In fact, it's so important and so godly that we are encouraged right there in Scripture to live this life. However, work is not all that there is to Christian life. I've been reading and praying my way through Matthew lately, and a passage I read last week really resonated with me, and reminded me once more that the Christian walk is not all about the work that we do but about the work that God does in us.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Abide in Christ. "Take my yoke.." It is so easy to get wrapped up in the checklists of godly attributes and even in the mundane lists of tasks to accomplish that we can lose sight of what it means to rest in Jesus. Too many Martha moments and not enough Mary. Yet, He is what my soul needs and what every empty place in my heart has ever yearned for. And finding that rest for my soul and experiencing it is what can move me to do all that God has created me for.

And so it is for all of us. In the craziness of our days, it is so important that we take those quiet moments to simply abide. Rest in Christ and learn from Him.

I'm sharing this also at

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Earworm of the Day

I know this is more of a Good Friday song, but "Beautiful Scandalous Night" is the song I have stuck in my head today. And no matter where on the church calendar we are, it is a wonderful song any time of the year. There are several versions out there online, but this one shows the very moving lyrics along as it plays.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Midweek Links

No theme this week, folks. I've been reading a rather varied stew of stuff!

I felt so moved as I read this piece over at Time-Warp Wife. In very vivid language, Darlene Schacht reminds us why we need a church home. As someone just starting to find a new home base, this felt especially true to me. Also, Darlene closes every blog by reminding readers that, "You are loved by an almighty God," and I just feel a happy little thrill every time I see those words.

Though not much of a drinker, I do cook with beer and wine and over the weekend, I got to try out this yummy beer bread recipe that I stumbled across online. Unlike the original cook, I used Newcastle Ale instead of Corona, but my bread came out fine.

Last week I posted my impressions of the book unPlanned by Abby Johnson. Now I have just seen the news that another abortion clinic director has seen the truth and has left her position with assistance from 40 Days for Life. I know that people find much to condemn in modern society, but I am truly hopeful as I see pro-life sentiment growing, especially among those of us in our 20s and 30s. I pray that this continues!

Though I don't agree with everything I read in Kyria, I do find some gems over there. Since I would count myself as one of the "domestically challenged", I really enjoyed this article about what really matters when showing hospitality to others.

I hope everyone is having a happy and blessed week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes - Can Summer be Far Behind?

I saw a wonderful sight in my tomato patch this weekend - big, firm green tomatoes! Now I need to leave enough in place to ripen for the later harvest, but I did indulge in my first fried green tomato of the year. And it was very good indeed.

Some cooks prefer flour for their tomatoes while others stick to cornmeal. I find that a mix of the two is best for me. Here is how I make our delicious treat!

1. Pour some buttermilk (about 1/2 cup or so) in a glass or ceramic bowl.

2. Put the following in a gallon storage bag: 2 parts ground cornmeal, 1 part flour, seasoning salt and pepper to taste.

3. Slice up a green tomato. Heat about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil on medium to medium high heat in skillet.

4.Dip the tomato in buttermilk to coat both side and then add to bag. Once you have a few slices in the bag, shake around to make sure they're coated with the breading mixture.

5. Add the tomatoes to the heated oil and fry in batches until golden.

6. Thank God for the harvest and enjoy the feast!



And since these are so tasty, I couldn't resist sharing the recipe at:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Inescapable Scripture

Have you ever had a time in your life when it seems as though, everywhere you turn, God places a piece of Scripture on your heart? I'm not talking about the warm and fuzzy verses either, but rather a truly convicting portion of the Bible, one of those, "I have something I want you to examine in your life right now!" sorts of passages.

This happens to me, too. It started a couple of weeks ago over on At the Well, a blog I read regularly. I used to be quite good about memorizing the Bible but got rebellious in my early 20s, and over the past two years, I have recommitted myself to this discipline. The memorization verse a couple of weeks ago was Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." A good reminder, and certainly a verse I should have in my heart and mind. And so I memorized it.

And then the conviction began. Rote memorization is one thing, but to truly absorb Scripture, one must take it deep into the heart, ponder it and live it. I meandered along comfortably for a bit and then a friend from home sent me an email in which she talked about contentment and she quoted this verse. Seeing the passage from Philippians again, I viewed it with new eyes -and a guilty conscience.

I try my best to think on those things that are right, pure, excellent and praiseworthy, but I also get mired down in the sad, sordid and petty of life. At my best I am sinful at best, after all. Sometimes I even get so mired down that I forget to think on those things the Bible tells us we should remember. I so easily go out to run errands and get so wrapped up in frustration over sitting in traffic in a hot car on a very humid day that I forget to think about things such as what a blessing it is that I even have the means to be out in a car buying groceries. Or, I hear others gossiping about the misadventures of another and I get so wrapped up in that tale of adultery, heartbreak, and the general tearing down of someone rather than thinking on subjects that would be much more praiseworthy and liable to build others up.

If I take this verse from Philippians to heart and compare it against my own behavior, then I have a reminder from God of what a sinner I am sometimes and that's a thought I find very sobering. Today, I saw that this week's Titus 2 project is to work on our thought lives and try to think on things that will build us up and make us more Christlike. And what passage is quoted in this week's assignment? You guessed it! Philippians 4:8. I'm getting these hints and this verse has been placed very strongly on my heart.

It has long been my passive desire to be more Christlike in my thinking, and to concentrate on those things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Now I feel resolved to be more deliberate about it and to fix my mind intensely on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, just as the Bible commands us to do.

Linked up at:
A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Review - unPlanned

It's not every day that I can say I read a book that just knocked my socks off. And I almost didn't read this one. I'm already very much pro-life and I wasn't sure how much I'd get out of the book. However, I read comments on several blogs talking about what a wonderful witness unPlanned is and I have friends offline who enjoyed it as well. Add in a 40% off coupon and I caved. Am I ever glad that I did!

For those who have not heard of this book, it tells the story of a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson, who eventually not only left Planned Parenthood, but joined Coalition for Life. I had heard the barest outline of the story previously, but I had no idea how intensely moving this book would be.

I will warn you that this book is probably not for children to read without guidance, and parts of it can be quite graphic. The book opens as Abby assists with an ultrasound-guided abortion. For the first time, she witnesses the taking of a child's life as it happens and she tells the story in detail so intense that readers will feel the horror along with her. In the face of this murder, one cannot imagine a choice other than that of working to save the lives of these infants.

And then Abby steps back and tells the earlier part of her story. This is where the book builds even more power. It's not all wonderful pro-lifers versus evil abortionists. Abby captures not only the rightness of the pro-life stance, but also discusses some of the more difficult aspects of the abortion fight. She shows readers some of the more overzealous pro-life protesters and we learn how their extreme actions sometimes hurt the cause more than helping lead others away from abortion. We also meet Planned Parenthood workers who truly do think they are helping women rather than harming them, and Abby is able to give readers a real understanding of why someone would want to work for Planned Parenthood. We also see the real crisis of conscience that Abby had as her beliefs changed and she began to see how some of Planned Parenthood's policies hurt the women they served and more importantly, as she began to see abortion as murder and to reach out to the pro-life workers who loved and prayed for her even before her change of heart.

One thing I really admired about this book was Abby's willingness to tell her story, the ugly parts along with the good. Her openness with the reader pays off by drawing us deeply into her story and when the scales fall from her eyes and she really sees abortion for the murder that it is, one cannot help praising God for her witness. unPlanned is an emotionally powerful book and one that I will urge all of my friends to read.