Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day - 2012

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- John McCrae

This poem, some might call it <i><b>the</i></b> poem of World War I may feel a little dated now. Wars have come and gone and the trenches of World War I feel far removed from the deserts where soldiers bravely serve today. And yet, these words capture that spirit of solemn remembrance like no other work I know.

There are so many ways to remember on Memorial Day: parades, church services, cemetery walks, and some would argue that just living celebrates the day because it shows that the sacrifices of our militaries around the world have not been in vain.  On this day, I think of how much I respect our armed forces here in the United States and try to honor the sacrifices they and their families make.

And I pray...
Pray for the soldiers deployed to war, that they may serve as God has called them and return safely home,

Prayers of thanksgiving for all who have served over the years to preserve our freedom,

Pray for military families and all of the sacrifices they make, even in peacetime, as they move every few years and live through soldiers going out to drill, sailors at sea for months at a time, and all of the other challenges of military life,

Pray for the families of those called into service who did not make it safely home again,

Pray for God's blessing on all of those whom he is calling into service in the military, that they would be able to serve Him as they protect our country,

and praying for all of those in our military that they would know God's saving grace for while I love my country, God's love and salvation are infinitely greater.

Thank you to all who have served in our armed forces!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits

Sometimes life just calls for a little bit of comfort food. This nice, creamy chicken sauce mixed up with biscuits just hits the spot. Even better, this recipe serves 6-8 people, and can easily be doubled to accomodate a larger family or table full of guests.

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits
1 stick unsalted butter
 about 2/3 - 3/4 pound of carrots, onions and celery, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use White Lily, but most brands work fine)
6 cups chicken stock, either homemade or from a base (if you use bouillion, try to find one without MSG) 1/2 cup heavy cream
 1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
about 4 oz. of frozen peas, thawed

1. Melt butter on medium heat, add veggies and turn temperature up to medium-high. Stir and cook until vegetables begin to soften, 7-10 minutes.

2. Add the flour and stir until combined. Lower heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Don't let flour burn!

3. Add 1 cup stock to the pasty mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Keep adding stock 1/2 - 1 cup at a time, stirring until smooth, until all stock has been added.
5. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low.

6. Slowly stir in heavy cream, and add salt and pepper.

7. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in peas 10-12 minutes before serving.

A note on the biscuits: Just about any drop biscuit recipe will do here. I've made this with everything from superfast Bisquik biscuits to the made-from-scratch variety. They're all good with this chicken sauce. I will normally set the chicken aside after it's cooked, make up my biscuits, and then add the peas to the chicken sauce while the biscuits bake. After that, serving up the dish is easy. Enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: From Dust and Ashes

The Book: From Dust and Ashes by Tricia Goyer
Moody Publishers, $13.99 (2003)
In From Dust and Ashes, Tricia Goyer tells a story of faith and hope set against one of those dark times most people try not to think of - the aftermath of the Holocaust. Set in St. Georgen, Austria as World War II draws to a close in Europe, the author does an absolutely fabulous job of bringing the confusion and tragedy of that time to life. And even better, she lightens her story with hope of healing for her characters.<

The characters in this book are a disparate lot. The story opens as the pregnant wife of an SS concentration camp guard watches her husband flee their housing in the dead of night. They know that Allied troops approach, and much of the story focuses on what happens when they arrive. Unlike many of the SS wives, Helene comes from St. Georgen and her father takes her in after her husband leaves. When the troops arrive, Helene is moved by pity over what she discovers in the now-liberated camp and she and her father take two of the concentration camp survivors.

From there much of the story focuses on the recovery of the two women taken in by Helene as well as on Helene's own healing. Given the hatred of the SS among the survivors, the American troops and many of the townspeople, Helene keeps her past a secret. Some of the Americans befriend Helene and her family and one of them, Peter Scott, seems to take a special interest in Helene and her guests.

From some of the incidents in the book, it becomes obvious early on that even though the camp at St. Georgen is liberated, this is still a dangerous time. War has left the country quite unstable and in Austria, one also sees the tug of war between the Americans and the Soviets over the occupation of territory - a power struggle with huge day to day consequences for the Austrians being governed. And then there are the SS who have evaded capture and still cause trouble here and there. Amid all the intrigue, we see Helene, her friends from the camp, and Peter all learned to find hope in God and to rebuild. That message of faith and hope comes through this story loud and clear, and it's truly inspirational rather than preachy.

The author tells a very big, wide-ranging story in this novel and a huge cast of characters is required to weave all those strands of story together. One can tell that the author thoroughly researched her story and that she enjoyed her subject. It shows in the strong storytelling, and both the characters and the high adventure of this story kept me flying through the pages. Not only does Tricia Goyer tell a good story, but she tells one that uplifts and inspires the reader. While some of the details in this book are probably not for young children or for the squeamish, it's an excellent story and I recommend it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Taco Soup

Well, I love soup and I love the seasonings that go into tacos, so when faced with leftover ground beef and some random odds and ends of vegetables, I came up with...

Taco Soup

8 oz. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 T. flour
2 cups water
about 1 lb. whole kernel corn (I used thawed, frozen corn but canned should work)
1 can kidney beans
1 lb. canned/bottled diced tomatoes*
2 T. taco seasoning
1 T. taco sauce - pick your spice level :)
1 tsp. non-salt seasoning salt (Tony Chachere's makes a good no-salt seasoning salt, and Penzey's Forward is also quite good, though I take issue with some of Penzey's politics)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown ground beef and onion in skillet, stirring frequently. Drain.

2. Add flour and stir until dissolved. Add water and pour mixture into large saucepan.

3. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, taco sauce, seasoning salt alternative, and garlic powder. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

4. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Serve hot. This is great garnished with shredded cheddar, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc... Serves 8.

*With tomatoes, it can be hard in some areas to find tomatoes that aren't canned. I try to go BPA-free, though, for health reasons. Muir Glen is BPA-free and I'm sure there are other brands, too.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter and Giveaway Winner!

I hope that everyone had a happy and blessed Easter. It was a beautiful day here, and we had a wonderful time sharing it with my in-laws and our church family. Christ is risen indeed, and may we continue living in that promise even after Easter Day has passed.

And now we have a winner in my Wee Sing musical giveaway. Thanks to the good folks at, the randomly drawn comment winner is....#6 - Tami of A Godly Homemaker! Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Midweek Links - Holy Week edition

Yesterday, as I wrote about how I ponder Holy Week here at home, I realized that I have seen so many other good ideas for the season out there online and that's just what I had to share this week.

For instance, I LOVE these Radical Ways to Celebrate Easter from More to Be. Celebrating Easter by drawing closer to God and renewing our relationships with Him is so much more encouraging than just looking for an Easter bunny!

That's not to say that I don't love Easter eggs, though. If you haven't seen this really gorgeous tutorial over at Studio JRU, go check it out. I thought these eggs for would beautiful for decorating Easter day, and great for snacking on afterward. And even if you're not inclined to try it, the photos alone are worth a look.

For some wonderful Easter traditions good for all ages, I love this post by Jessalyn over at Desiring Virtue. There are all kinds of great ideas(and photos!) for the week here.

And for some intentional outdoor Easter celebration, I love the idea of an Easter garden. Mrs. June Fuentes features her family's version HERE and it's a creative inspiration. I have a number of cousins between the ages of 9 and 14, and I could see this being a good project to do with them.

Have you seen some good ideas for bringing Easter and Holy Week into your homes this week? Or, perhaps you've written on this very topic? Share your finds in the comments below, and happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week at Home

As I've deepened in my faith over the years, Holy Week has started to take on more and more significance for me each year. Of all the weeks in the Christian calendar, this one commemorates so many pivotal moments in Christ's life on earth, and it's very fraught with emotion for me. There is the bittersweet festive beauty of Palm Sunday, the quiet, pondering days at the beginning of the week.

Maundy Thursday, with its memories of the Last Supper brings fellowship and yet the sadness of knowing what will come. The darkness of Good Friday, this time tempered by the joy of what comes next as it all crescendos into the almost uncontainable joy of Easter. Christ is risen! Our God keeps his promises and saves us in love.

Even though I am not Catholic, I go to a reformed Protestant church that celebrates many parts of what once was the traditional Christian year in most churches. I treasure the church services of this time, but how to remember and bring this amazing time home?

Decorations - I got this idea from a friend: She places all the festive Easter decor in one place so she can grab it easily, and then waits until after dinner on Saturday night to lay it out. Up until that time, the house is decorated in the more somber colors of Lent. And as a reminder of the time, I will often also serve hot cross buns. For those who don't know the significance, it's been a great conversation starter.

Fellowship - Those days leading up to Easter are days of waiting, but I love them also as days of fellowship. Before Maundy Thursday service, we'll often have a simple meal with friends, where we serve one another and read the story of the Last Supper aloud.

Prayer - I used to simply wake up on Easter, put on a colorful dress and head off to services. Now I'm discovering that this time of year is more meaningful when I pray and ask God to prepare my heart for both the somber commemorations of Holy Week and the exuberant triumph of Easter.

Reading - I'm a reader; words reach my heart the fastest. And some of the wonderful works written about Lent and Holy Week are amazing. I still remember attending a reading in college of an old American Medical Association Journal article discussing the medical aspects of Christ's crucifixion. Though told in very scientific language, it was impossible to hear that and remain unmoved.

And this year, I've been reading a wonderful collection of sermons and essays that I highly recommend. Called Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, it is edited by Nancy Guthrie and contains wisdom from classic theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as more modern authors like R.C. Sproul and John Piper.

This book moves one thoughtfully through so many aspects of Holy Week. John Piper discusses how Jesus followed His Father's will, setting His face to go to Jerusalem even though He knew it meant death. Charles Spurgeon, Adrian Rogers and others write in depth of the meaning of various parts of Christ's time after His arrest - the bullying of the soliders, His keeping silent before Pilate, and so on.

Looking at these aspects of Christ's last days on earth in such depth makes me ponder the amazing sacrifice of that death on the cross more deeply than I have in years. And amid all the wonderful lessons I learned in this book, there is one that I've learned this Holy Week that I truly want to cling to in the future.

In his essay, "Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit", the late James Montgomery Boice absolutely shook me up. He points out how Jesus on the cross, in His agony, still used Scripture when He spoke aloud. That really struck me, and Boice's admonition really stuck with me: "You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die?"

And I think that is much of what Holy Week is about for us in this home - bringing God's Word into our home, remembering Christ's story, and consciously living in His promises.

Book note: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross
Nancy Guthrie (ed.), Crossway Books, $12.99 (2009)

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Musical Giveaway!

After being knocked for a loop with a nasty spring bug, I am SO glad to be back online! And I thought I'd celebrate with a little giveaway. I recently had a chance to try out all kinds of Sunday School materials, and I have a fun musical goodies for you.

Whether you have children, work with children, or just like kid's songs, this one is fun. I'm giving away a brand-new, still-sealed-in-its-packaging edition of Wee Sing Bible Songs. It comes with a 64 page songbook and a CD. And since it's Easter, I just might throw in a few extra little surprise treats with the winner's package. :)

As you can see, it includes tons of songs. There are some that I remember from church and home growing up, such as "Do Lord" and "Father Abraham". And I found all kinds of new-to-me songs like "Books of the Old Testament" , "The Twelve Disciples", and "Who Did Swallow Jonah?"

So, how do you enter? It's easy!

1. Just comment below and tell me why you'd like to win. Please note: I'll need you to make sure that your comment links back to your blog, or that you leave me an email address so I can contact you.
2. I don't feel comfortable making people follow my blog via LinkyFollows, Google, Twitter, etc... in order to enter. However, if you do follow, I'll give you one extra entry if you leave me a comment letting me know that.

This contest is open until 9:00 p.m. EST on April 6, 2012. Have a great week!

Joining the fun with Welcome Home on Raising Arrows

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unplanned Bloggy Break

Sorry I've been missing a bit this week.  I've been fighting flu and bronchitis, and just haven't had the energy to be online.  Hoping to be back soon, though.  I miss everyone, and hope you all are having good weekends!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Never Standing Alone

Bosnia "You are so brave to have done that!"  I kept hearing those words when I got back to the States.  But I didn't feel brave.  I took a little break from college and served as a refugee relief worker with a missions agency over in eastern Europe while fighting in Bosnia and Kossovo was still going on.  I lived in Austria, and travelled into an area where Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia meet.  It was tense but because of the dynamics, little actual fighting happened there, making it a safe place(or at least safe-ish) to take medical supplies and to bring out refugees.

I was only 19 and it was a whole other world to me.  I felt alive some days, confused on others and sometimes I saw things that absolutely broke my heart.  But I never felt particularly brave.  I just felt like I was doing my job, longing to connect with people, and at times I could close my eyes and have the strongest feeling that God was right there with me. My only bravery was following God and going with Him.

Because of that, I tend to see bravery as trusting.  It doesn't come from me; it comes from trusting God to guide my steps even if they go places I wouldn't choose on my own.  Brave to me is living like I know it's not my will that runs my world.   And I cannot do brave on my own.  It's the Holy Spirit that moves me to boldness I would otherwise be lacking.

And even now, I suppose it's brave in a way to stand against some of the norms of the world.   But it's not really brave of me.  It's more God giving me courage, and making me really live.  Praise be to God for those brave places that show life.

Today I'm writing my heart out for five minutes on Five Minute Fridays.  Unedited and free.  Won't you come join us?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

OneVerse and the Vidunda (Midweek Links)

The work of OneVerse is something that has really touched my heart, and I am so honored to be a OneVerse blogger. As you may know, OneVerse is working to ensure that everyone in the world will have access to the Bible in his or her own language, and we as OneVerse bloggers are part of a project to raise funds for the translation of the Bible into the language of the Vidunda people in Tanzania. That photo above is the verse funded by my $26.00 gift last month. You can find more info on the project HERE.

When I see how far translation has progressed, I remember back in college when I read the book of Matthew closely for the first time. Even now, I can recall that feeling of conviction as I pondered Christ's teachings and saw His model for how we are to be His disciples. And I wonder how it will be for the Vidunda people when for the first time they get to hear this call. That feeling of God's Word soaking deep into the heart is like no other on this earth, and I want all of our brothers and sisters in Christ to be able to know it.

I've been following the progress of the Vidunda translation through the OneVerse website and via email with others on the OneVerse bloggers team, and there is so much to praise and so much to pray for. In this March 2012 report and prayer request, I found out that some sections of translation are already being tested and read aloud to people to see how well they can be understood. Can you imagine how amazing this must be both for the translators and for the people hearing God's Word for the first time? It gives me chills to think about it!

We're trying to get God's Word to these children and their parents!
(photo courtesy of The Seed Company)

And in case you wanted to see just how much this work means to the Vidunda people, I want to share with you a letter received from the Vidunda translation team in Tanzania at Christmas that really touched our hearts:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Comparing Game

envy pear I think we all do it. "I wish my hair would hang just right like hers does." "I wish I could be like her and make a gorgeous centerpiece with just construction paper, salad greens, beads and a paper clip." "I wish I could afford to stay at home like she does." "I wish I could be as godly as my neighbor." It's endless, the way these dissatisfying thoughts just creep into our minds.

When asked, I can always respond that God has a plan for me. But somewhere along the way, I think we get so caught up in trying to fit in that it's easy to forget that just because God has a plan doesn't mean it's the exact same plan for every single person. Our blessings and our struggles won't look the same.

And we are reminded of this by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. In Chapter 12, he tells us that, "the body does not consist of one member but of many," and he goes on in 1 Corinthians 12:17 to say, "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?" In other words, the body of Christ needs us to have different gifts and callings because we each serve different and indispensable purposes.

I've heard this passage preached many times, yet it's a message all too easy to forget. One of the blessings I find online is that I have access to so much more in terms of information and ideas than I would have had otherwise. And the fellowship I find there is so sweet. However, that comparison game that we sometimes find ourselves pulled into offline seems to multiply itself ten times online. After all, we have smiling and happy Facebook pages, astounding Pinterest ideas, and bloggers who are way better at crafts than I ever even thought about being.

Sometimes I see all of that and I feel the temptation to be pulled into comparisons coming on. But then there's that still, small voice reminding me that, "You have a calling and it's not the same as hers." "Don't follow your neighbor, follow Me." And best of all, when I'm tempted to compare what I'm doing to what my sisters in Christ might be doing, I can remember being taught that "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."(1 Corinthians 12:26) And living in this way is so much better than wishing we could be just like someone else, isn't it?

Linking up at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: You're Already Amazing

The Book: You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth
Revell Books, $13.99 (2012)

I enjoy Holley Gerth's blog and often find it sweetly encouraging. So, when offered the chance to review her latest book, I jumped on it even though I was a little skeptical. With such wonderful buzz, why would I be skeptical? Well, I'll admit the title misled me a little at first. After all, this is a book called You're Already Amazing. And I already know that I'm completely not and that if it weren't for God in me, a more theologically accurate title for my life would be You're Already Sinning - And You've Barely Started the Week.

So, I'll admit that I wondered what I would find in a book trying to convince me of my own amazing self. However, I quickly figured out that this was not the point. As Holley Gerth herself points out in several places, including this one, "you're amazing because you're God's creation and he lives in you. You're valuable because you belong to him." And the truth of that hit me. God gives me value, and who am I to naysay Him on this?

The book opens with encouragement, and Gerth has that gift of speaking encouragement in a way both heartfelt and genuine. She reminds us gently that we are God's creation, and when she urges readers to see how wonderfully He has made us, she points out that this is not the puffed-up "Look at me!" pride of celebrities but rather that form of security that comes from remembering, "'I truly know who I am in Christ, embrace that fully, and live in it completely all the time.'" On page 28, she exhorts us to focus on being "in" (as in "in Christ") rather than "on" all the time (as in "doing it all by myself").

As I read those words, I felt my heart responding. Like everyone I know, I have had those times of doubting myself or feeling like I have to be the most special, sparkling woman in the room. I know deep down that this is not God's call for me, and I also know that we are instructed in the Bible to live in God's will and to seek Him, and these reminders from the author of where our perspective should be really helped.

We know that God has created us for a purpose and that we are to live in Christ, so what comes next? In addition to reminding us of that sense of perspective, the author uses her counseling background to give practical tools to help readers be intentional about following God and using their gifts to His glory. These include encouraging readers to chart whether their expectations come from God or elsewhere, to think very frankly about where they are with God in various parts of life (mired in sin, waiting,being led, etc...), learning exercises to help readers figure out whether God has wired them to be more comfortable in small groups, one on one, as well as exercises aimed at helping with discernment in terms of areas in which a reader might have been given gifts. As someone who is used to hearing these ideas discussed in abstract terms, having practical hands-on tools to connect the abstract to my own life really helped.

If you are having trouble figuring out where God may be calling you, or you need a little encouragement to actually get out there and follow Him, this book is an encouraging and helpful read. Gerth cheers readers on in their callings and use of their God-given gifts. Sometimes I need a little extra encouragement and the reminder that a life of seeking God's face is not a spectator sport, and this book delivers that in spades. So, while I may have wondered what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book, the author's biblically-based manner of lifting up readers and giving them ways to be more intentional in following God won me over, and I greatly enjoyed what I found here.

**Note: Most of the books I review I have purchased myself. However, I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in return for my reviewing it, though I am under no obligation to recommend or otherwise grant a positive review.

If you think you might be interested in giving this book a try, (In)Courage has made this their Bloom selection for the spring, so lots of other Christian ladies will be reading along over the next few months.  You can find the details <a href="">HERE</a>.

Friday, March 9, 2012

All Wrung Out

Wrung Out There are some days when I feel like I've just spent out all of myself that I have to spend. You know the sort I mean. Those demanding days of eleventy thousand and one errands, or sick family, or too many plans and just enough surprises to throw it all out of whack.

And when you feel like having nothing left to give, what to do? In those moments of feeling so completely wrung out, I ache. And I plead with God and I pray and I remember.

It's not myself that is the source of strength, the source of anything I have to give. I'm not alone. Even in this world, I'm not alone.

With all of my worrying and all of my many things, I may feel so emptied out sometimes. Yet He will fill me again. He reaches into all of those empty places, speaks to them of life, and reminds me to seek His face.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama. Do you have five minutes? Write a little something and join us!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stepping Out in Faith

A day I’ve had marked on my calendar is finally here. I’m about to finish my last day at my old job.

I don’t do this without mixed feelings. I have some good memories of that place and of my co-workers, and I learned a lot. However, it was also something that took more from my life and my marriage than I could justify giving because instead of helping me to serve Christ and others, it started to keep me from living as God called me to live. Even so, I’ll miss some of the community that I had there for a season. And, while my husband and I did lots of planning, I have to admit that there’s something about not having a regular paying job, benefits, and a title that just feels unsettling in this modern world.
Today I'm posting over at Desiring Virtue. Won't you come join us and read more?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where is My Homemaking? A Simple Woman's Daybook

I must confess, friends, I've been in a little bit of a blue funk lately. I think it's because I'm closing one chapter of my life and God is sending me flying into another. And change always brings its little anxieties. Add in some unexpected family illness and last minute changes of plans, and there you have it.

Still, God is so good to us and I've been spending a few days lately thinking and praying about where He is calling me in my home life. Several of my friends participate in The Simple Woman's Daybook, and I thought I'd join in this month because as I read the prompts, I could see the ministry of my home coming more into focus.

Outside my window... Raccoons are gathering on my deck as the often do in the evenings. I love looking at the cute little faces of the raccoon family that lives in my backyard!

I am thinking... of volunteering at a nursing home near my church. I've been holding off on volunteer work as I transition home because I didn't want to simply exchange one batch of overscheduled mess in my life for another. I want to be intentional about where I spend my time and seek God's leading in what to do with it.

I am thankful... for my supportive husband and for the abundance with which God has blessed us.

In the kitchen... I have ingredients out on the counter, and am debating whether to make cookies tonight or just rest.

I am wearing... A navy and cream striped sweater and a long denim skirt; no shoes :)

I am creating... stories in my mind. And I'm trying my hand at cross-stitch for the first time in many years.

I am going... to be home for a while. But my husband has a conference over in the Shenandoah Valley later this spring and I'm going to tag along and enjoy the beauty of my favorite part of Virginia!

I am wondering... what God intends for my writing and where He will take me with it. I read a blog piece today, where the author mentioned that quote from Chariots of Fire where Eric Luddell says, "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." And when I thought about it, I realized that when I park myself here at the computer and write, that's when I feel God's pleasure. I think this is part of what He intends me to do.

I am reading... a book of which I was initially skeptical, but I gave it a chance, and as I read, I'm seeing wisdom in the author's words. I'll review it next week, so you'll know what it is. :)

I am hoping... that I can show people something of God's love in how I live.

I am looking forward to... throwing an engagement party for a sweet friend of mine.

I am learning... to be more efficient and to be a better steward of my time.

Around the house...I see lots of little projects, but I find myself anticipating them in the morning rather than dreading them in the late evening as I sit in traffic on a commute home.

I am pondering... life and fighting that urge to disengage mentally from current events and politics because of the incredible ugliness pervading so much of it. It repels me, but I don't dare stop paying attention and praying because I feel like we are reaching a very critical point in history.

A favorite quote for today... "The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman." - Elisabeth Elliot

One of my favorite things... is to watch my cats sleeping. They're so cute!

A few plans for the rest of the week: clearing out the living room so that we can paint, running a few errands, and helping a family come up with a long-term placement/care plan for a relative.

A peek into my day...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: The Defiance, Texas Trilogy

The Books: The Defiance, Texas trilogy(Daisy Chain, A Slow Burn, and Life in Defiance)
by Mary E. DeMuth, Zondervan, $14.99 each ($9.99 each on Kindle) (2009-2010)

In my reading, I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction. After reading several nonfiction books, I was in the mood for story. And the tale Mary E. DeMuth tells in her trilogy gives one a lot of meat to think and pray about, even if not for the faint of heart.

The books are set in 1970s Texas, and the first book opens with the disappearance of teenager Daisy Chance. Her disappearance and its resolution form a story that threads through all three books, and together, the three books show a picture of lives interwoven and seen through three different sets of eyes. The opening book focuses on Jed Pepper, Daisy's best friend, while the second delves deeply into the life of Daisy's mother, Emory Chance, and the third tells the story of Jed's mother, Louise (Ouisie).

Readers will see pretty quickly that Daisy's disappearance is not the only trouble in the small town of Defiance. This far from idyllic little town has residents who struggle with broken families, addictions, serious illness and violence. So many of the characters encountered in Defiance seem quite broken, but still there is hope. As I continued reading, I found myself sinking deeper into these books because I saw characters growing and changing, drawing ever closer to God. Many of the main characters in this series are deeply flawed, yet we get to see God using them in each others' lives, broken places and all.

In my fiction reading, I'll admit that I enjoy reading books about happy families or characters who model strong Christian values that I try to emulate. Most of my favorite fictional places look happier than the rough little Texas town DeMuth shows us. However, Defiance with its outcasts, adulterers, wife beaters, and secret drinkers brims over with the kinds of people who actively sought Christ and followed Him.

We see Jed Pepper struggle with his guilt over Daisy's disappearance and his frustration and anger with his father's temper and his mother's refusal to stand up to it. We see Emory Chance's battle with drug use and her seeking for God even as she fears His judgment. And then there is Ouisie - the pastor's wife with so many secrets, trying to figure out what to do with them and afraid to trust God.

These characters frustrated me, and yet as I saw them moved to faith in Christ, and saw their lives change as they believed and earnestly sought Him, their rough edges took on a sort of beauty. DeMuth does a wonderful job in this trilogy of showing how God's grace in people can change the path of their lives. She shows sin clearly enough to make us flinch, but then redemption that almost melts your heart. The characters in these novels would be lost in almost every sense of the word were it not for God's grace, and that conclusion is inescapable while reading.

Of the three books, I think the first two worked best for me. Daisy Chain because it set up the mystery so achingly well, and A Slow Burn because the path of Emory's redemption moved me so. Even though Emory's story doesn't really resolve until the last book, much of the action takes place in this middle volume. I still liked parts of Life in Defiance, but I did find it the weakest of the three. I think this is partly because Ouisie Pepper simply frustrated me as a character and while I tried to understand her, I also struggled with patience for some of her secrets and the way in which she allowed her children to be treated. In addition, her husband felt a little too much like a standard-issue villain and hypocrite, and I wish his character had been a little more nuanced.

Even so, the Defiance, Texas books are a rather thought-provoking and sometimes wrenching read. One note of warning, though: Many of the characters' struggles with sin are rather vividly portrayed, so some readers may find them upsetting, and these are definitely not books meant for children. However, DeMuth confronts often challenging issues of abuse and sin, and does a wonderful job of imbuing her character's struggles with grace and hope, so if you're looking for fiction with some meat to it, this trilogy would definitely go on that list.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Ache of Here and There

White Lilies As one of my favorite bloggers has written, "this world is not our home." Somehow that seems more acute when we lose someone we love.

My grandmother died late this fall, and since she was a devout believer, I know where she has gone. The pain fades with time, but there's an ache that lingers. An ache of memory and love and times shared together on this earth.

There's also an ache because with every death on earth, that sense that I am not home intensifies. There's something about knowing that others have gone home ahead of me that makes that homeward pull feel stronger. This world has its truly beautiful moments and memories, but that ache reminds me it's only for a season.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama. Do you have five minutes? Write a little something and join us!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Important Announcement

As many of you have probably already heard, Google will stop supporting Friend Connect as of March 1. This is a Blogger site, so I will still have Friend Connect for now, but I am also installing Linky Followers. I thought long and hard about this one, and decided on Linky Followers instead of Google+, at least for now, because I'm just not feeling entirely comfortable with what I hear about Google+. So - if you want to keep getting my updates (and I hope you do!), please click on the Linky Followers window in my sidebar and join in. If you prefer not to use Linky Followers, then I hope you'll stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or by RSS Feed - links for all are on the right sidebar.

Thank you, and I hope everyone has a happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cooking Rice

Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has ever ended up with a crunchy mess when I try to cook rice using the directions on the back of the box! I was starting to wonder if one just needed some kind of special knack for cooking rice because so often it ended up being either overly crunchy or a soggy mess when I tried to make it.

However, I found a couple of methods that changed that for me, and I'm sharing them below. One tip, though: Do NOT use Minute Rice! In addition to being processed and treated, it just doesn't cook up the same way regular rice does. Nowadays, I normally use brown rice or basmati rice.

So, how to make foolproof rice? Think pasta. Instead of trying to figure out the perfect amount of water for the rice to absorb while simmering slowly on the stove, just heat a pot of water to boiling as you would for pasta. Then pour in the rice. Let it keep boiling away over medium heat until your rice is nice and tender, then drain and serve.

If you'd rather not waste water, the More-With-Less cookbook made my life so much easier by teaching me that it really is possible to cook rice in the oven. My final product isn't quite the same as their recipe, but here's what I do:

1. Mix rice and hot water in casserole dish (2 parts water to 1 part rice - and I heat my water as hot as my sink will make it).
2. Add salt and about 1 T. butter
3. Stir, cover tightly and bake at 350.
4. Depending on the brand of rice you use, it will take 20-40 minutes to bake. I usually check the rice at the 15/20 minute mark. If rice dries out, add a little hot water while baking.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Lenten Music

Though I'm not Catholic, I still find the season of Lent well worth noting and celebrating. The somberness of Lent and the remembrance of Christ's sacrifice for us contrasts with the great celebration of Easter. So too does the utter darkness of sin and separation from God contrast with the light and the freedom of our redemption. During Lent, I find myself thinking thinking on passages of Scripture such as the reminder in Romans 2:23, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," and we know from passages such as Romans 5 or from Romans 6:23 that our sin brings death and separation from God. And yet we are also encouraged in Romans 5:8 by the reminder that "for God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And when I mentally follow that path from Christ's earthly life to His crucifixion, my heart also follows that path from my own death in sin to the redemptive secrifice made for us, and I cannot help but wonder.

And at this time of year, this time of pondering and wondering, I find "What Wondrous Love is This" to be such a beautiful and comforting hymn.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I Like Mine With Cheddar

Please tell me I'm not the only person whose first Five Minute Friday thought centered on food.

I do like my grits with cheese, though. Butter and bits of bacon are also good, but cheese grits are the bomb. And don't be enticed by the lure of the instant grit. They just don't taste the same.

Which of course leads me to my second thought upon seeing this week's Five Minute Friday prompt - My Cousin Vinny. The scene with the grit-eating witness is hilarious, but also a good reminder to pay attention to the little details in life. They might make your case, help you figure things out, or best yet - point you to God.

And eventually, my mind drifts from grit-eating and movies to the grit that irritates my eyes. I can rub and rub at it until my eyes turn red and hurt like fire, or I can endure the irritation for a bit until it all washes out. Life is full of those little irritations. And I have to wonder - perhaps if we don't worry at them so much, they wouldn't dig in quite so painfully?

I'm spending my five minutes being way more random than usual this Five Minute Friday (and on Saturday, no less!). Five Minute Friday is an exercise in writing wild and free, and if you've got five minutes, why not hop over and give it a whirl?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Defense of Slow Bible Reading

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night

- Psalms 1:2

Bible Reading

We all know about "Read Your Bible in a Year" plans. And there are also six month plans. And even a 90 day plan!

These aren't bad things. I've read my Bible in a year and in that year, marvelled at the connections between Old and New Testament as I saw God's covenant and plan pass from age to age.

However, reading on the fast track isn't the only way. We learn different things from God in all the many ways we study and experience Him. And this year, even as I am surrounded by the convenience of one-year Bible reading challenges, I have decided on something a little different.

I'm reading my Bible slowly. Very slowly. I don't know how quickly I'll get from end to end because this time I'm focusing on the journey rather than that last page of Revelation which is arguably the destination. I know it will take more than a year, though.

My plan is obviously not a regimented plan, and I don't have a set schedule to go with it. I suppose in a world of planners, I might be rebelling just a little bit. I just get up in the mornings, read the selection for my group Bible study, and then flip to Genesis (why yes, it's February and I'm still in Genesis) and see how much God wants me to read. My one commitment is that I will read and study every day.

And as I read over the text, often more than once, the patterns of word and phrase jump out at me. With no deadline on reaching the end of the Book, I am set free to research meanings of words, differences between translations, I can chase cross-references all through Scripture and it's making me see God differently.

I read through the Bible quickly last year and was blessed by getting some small glimpse of the big picture. And now, for the next few years, I will get to read more closely. As I read Genesis, I feel so much closer to God. As Christians, we tend to focus more closely on Jesus as shown to us in the Gospels, but as I study now, I can feel a sense of excitement about Jesus as I see this great plan of salvation taking shape. We are instructed in Isaiah 34:16 to "Search from the Book of the Lord and read," and as I do this, I find myself loving God and loving Christ more each day.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Colossians 3:16

So, tell me. Am I the only rebellious slow reader out there? How does God speak to you through His word?

And I'm linking up at Faith Barista today:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Midweek Links - To Life!

The Komen for the Cure/Planned Parenthood debacle combined with the Obama administration's decision to force certain religious institutions to provide birth control coverage over their objections has really gotten me thinking about life issues. I've been pro-life for as long as I remember and the idea of abortion saddens me. However, these sorts of issues seem to be taking on more urgency these days.

There are so many good resources online about various life issues that I scarcely know where to start. If reading books like unPlanned isn't enough to convince you that there's real money changing hands in the death industry of abortion, Christianity Today ran an excellent article on the influence of money in the abortion culture. On the one hand, one can see this as disheartening. However, I see it also as opportunity for the pro-life movement to learn and grow in effectiveness.

Bound 4 Life also had a rather eye-opening article up on their blog dealing with media coverage of pro-life vs. pro-abortion events[hat tip to Jessalyn from Desiring Virtue for tweeting the link.] The way in which the issue is presented has a lot of influence on how the general public views them. Since it lately seems like those of us who are pro-life are letting ourselves be painted as a small group of fringe crazies, I found this article helpful. And, by the way, I have been to the VA legislature many times - the number of pro-life sympathizers vastly outnumbers the number of pro-abortion sympathizers - but you almost never see that mentioned in the news.

We hear a lot about pro-life issues concerning the unborn, but what about after those babies are born? We as Christians are called to value God's gift of life, and it doesn't stop being a gift once that baby exits the womb. If we care only about the unborn and do not step in to support the lives of those who need it after they're born, then we are only doing part of what we are called to do. When I think of ways to help children saved from abortion, many things come to mind but adoption is certainly one of them. And this article on how adoption is Christian makes a wonderful case for it.

And then, at the other end of the life spectrum, we have that other life issue that fewer people seem willing to talk about - euthanasia. Sometimes I think we expend such energy protecting the potential new lives among us that we forget the old and the sick who need our prayers, caring and protection as well. This article about the rise of legal euthanasia in the Netherlands is not only disquieting; It also causes me worry for what might happen in this country. If we start to devalue life, might we end up in a place where we find ourselves offering euthanasia to the ill and weak whether they wish it or not?

Lots of food for thought here, I know, and it barely scratches the surface of what's out there in terms of resources to allow one to contemplate and deepen views on life issues. Have you seen any good resources on life issues out there? If so, share them in the comments!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Presidents' Day

American Flag

"It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."
- George Washington
George Washington, 1795

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
- George Washington

"In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it."
- Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln - head & shoulders portrait

"Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in His own good time, will give us the rightful result."
- Abraham Lincoln

Happy Presidents' Day!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Delighted in Me?

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
-Psalm 18:19

DEFINITION of "DELIGHT": 1: a high degree of gratification : joy; also : extreme satisfaction
2: something that gives great pleasure
3archaic : the power of affording pleasure

-from Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Double chocolate delight 002 copy
You have to admit that something like this crosses your mind when you hear the word delight, don't you?

We are not perfect. We all sin and fall short. I consider that Bible 101; it's the reality check that we all get when we start thinking we're too holy and it's one of the first things we learn about being Christians. None of us can be wholly righteous, but we can be saved.

But then there's that delight factor - that chocolate and fruity treats factor. We're all sinners and we've all done terrible things in the eyes of God. Yet He does not just save us. We are told repeatedly throughout Scripture (but especially in the Psalms) that God actually delights in us. He didn't save us begrudgingly because He had nothing better to do. God actually loves us so much that he really delights in us. Or, to put it another way, God takes pleasure in us as if we're a treat rather than an embarassment. It's that simple and yet almost unbearably huge paradox that underpins our faith. We cannot earn worth and salvation on our own, but God wants us and takes such delight in us that He would shower us with His love anyway and move us to seek Him.
Even though I often fill my Friday pages with run-on sentences and other affronts to grammar, The Gypsy Mama lets me keep writing free and wild for five minutes every Friday. This week's topic is "Delight", and if you want to write for five minutes, I hope you'll come join in. You can link up with everyone here:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Even Before, He Knew

So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

- Genesis 6:7-8
Noah's Ark, Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Genesis has opened my eyes lately. Often when people speak of God's promises or His love, they speak from the New Testament or perhaps from Psalms. Yet as I read Genesis this winter, I'm not only travelling the familiar roads of history that I recall from childhood; God is showing me how very long His history with us runs. Even before He sent Christ to live on earth, even before we had the church, God knew He had these big plans for us!

In this account of the Flood, we learn that the sinful behavior of humans on earth greatly grieved and displeased God, and God decided to destroy them. But He spared Noah and His family, whom He loved. And not only do we see God's wrath tempered by mercy and grace here in this account, but as I read this story and others in Genesis, the connections to God's plan for us as shown in the New Testament become so clear. And I can see that God's mercy is not a New Testament concept alone.

In Luke 17, Christ Himself draws the connection for us. Talking of His second coming, he says in Luke 17:26-27, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all." As I read these passages, I cannot help but feel some awe as I realize that even as God sent the flood, He knew that these events in Luke would transpire. We speak so often of God's plan in terms of Christ, but even as far back as Genesis, God had a plan and He knew how He would save us.

There's something comforting about reading Genesis and seeing these mirrors between the events of the Old Testament and the ways in which God uses them for us today. We see the Flood in Genesis, and then in Luke, we have Christ telling us that His return to Earth will come upon us all just as suddenly someday. And God has always intended that! And in a beautiful picture of God's love, we see in Genesis 22 how Abraham obeyed what must have been a frightening command from God to prepare to sacrifice his only beloved son - a foreshadowing of God's own sacrifice of His only beloved son for our salvation.

There is such meat to the Old Testament that I think sometimes gets neglected in favor of the New. And yet, as I read, the knowledge that God has known and has planned these centuries of history stands out to me, and I find myself falling in love and seeking His face ever more strongly.

What do you find in the Bible when you go back to the beginning?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fish Meuniere

For Valentine's Day, I wanted to make a nice, romantic dinner for my husband. My husband also has an extra busy day planned at work, so I know things will be hectic. And that is why I settled on Flounder Meuniere. It's a French method of preparing fish. I'm not quite sure what Meuniere means, but I think it translates roughly to, "the easiest fancypants dinner you'll ever make."

Fish Meuniere

1. Start with 4 fish fillets. You will need to use thin fillets (traditionally this dish is made with sole, but flounder works well and is a little nicer on the budget).

2. Put about 1/3 cup of flour in a baking dish. Season both sides of each fillet with salt and pepper, and then dredge in the flour.

3. Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in nonstick skillet over high until shimmering. Then add 2 T. of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Swirl the pan until butter melts. Once foaming subsides, place flounder in skillet, darker side up.

4. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook without moving fish for 2-3 minutes, or until edges are opaque.

5. Flip fish over (using 2 spatulas helps prevent breakage), and cook about 2 minutes longer.
NOTE: Depending on pan size, you may need to cook your fish in batches.

6. Once fish is cooked, place on foil-wrapped plate inside oven, and prepare browned butter sauce.

7. To make sauce: Cut 4 T. of butter into 4 pieces and melt in skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook, swirling pan, for another 1 - 1 1/2 minutes until butter browns and has slight nutty aroma.

8. To serve: Sprinkle fish with fresh chopped parsley. Stir 2-4 tsp. lemon juice into browned butter, and spoon over fish. Garnish with lemon wedges, and enjoy!

Note: Depending on the season, I'll usually serve this with a side of spinach in light vinaigrette, or with braised winter greens such as kale or chard.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Plans

As you probably figured out already, I tend to write about a whole variety of topics here - everything from homemaking to thinking about life and faith. Lately, I've decided that I want to have more a schedule because it helps me focus my thoughts. So, here is what you can expect to find in my little corner of the internet:

Monday - whatever I feel inspired to write - you might see anything coming up here (kind of a like a real Monday!)

Tuesday - homemaking/recipes

Wednesday - Midweek Links - links to articles that I think more people ought to see

Thursday - thoughts about life, faith, God

Friday - Five Minute Fridays; I love the Five Minute Fridays writing prompts over at The Gypsy Mama, and they really help me think and get more creative as a writer!

So, is there anything you want to see more of here?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Trusting His Plan

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding."
- Proverbs 3:5

nursery 3-1

I'll say it flat out, both bold and shaking with fear all at the same time.
"God, sometimes I just don't know what You're doing."
"Why, God, why?"

I know one of the major desires of my own heart. For so long, even since I was a child, I knew I wanted a home and a family of my own. I have been blessed with so much in life, a wonderful and godly husband, a good education, loving friendships, and plenty of happy memories. But one by one, my friends and family have all settled into their own households with children and still - no babies.

And it's hard. It's hard to long like that and to wonder why. And sometimes on the really dark days, to wonder what's wrong with me that God would not trust me with a child. And yet deep down I know. God has a plan. I don't pretend to know it all or understand, but He has a plan for me and for everyone else on this earth.

There are hard days, but God is faithful. God is there. And even when it hurts, I trust. I trust there is a plan, even if it doesn't unfold at my pace or as I might wish it. Human understanding doesn't illuminate all, but I can trust in One who knows what He is doing, and this brings comfort even when the longing will never quite go away.

This was written in five minutes. Well, mostly five minutes. I did take time to look up the Scripture reference because, "I'm pretty sure this is somewhere in Proverbs" wasn't quite what I wanted to post as a citation. Five Minute Fridays are a day to just let out the joy of writing freely. Come join!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Counting Costs

There are those who refer to us homemakers as “parasites.” Or who try to guilt us out of our homes by pointing out how poor we must be making our families by stubbornly refusing to get out there and earn a paycheck. I’ve seen homemakers firing back with data showing how much a homemaker is worth, how much a family saves by the wife staying home to care for the children and other services rather than having to pay for daycare or household help. While there’s some validity to these points, I find in my own experience that focusing on the economic issue alone rather misses the point.

Money is not the reason I’m called to keep the home, and I suspect it’s not the primary force that brought anyone into this lifestyle. I know there are some who cannot be full-time homemakers because their family’s circumstances will not allow it (saving up to stay home in the future, disabled spouse, etc..), but as one for whom it is a possibility, I think it’s truly my calling.
As I've transitioned from full-time to work to focusing my energies on home as well as working from home, I've been thinking about different aspects of this life. And today I'm talking about weighing the financial versus the eternal focus of home ministry over at Desiring Virtue. Come join us!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wealthy indeed

See that picture? It's not from Flickr or any other common image site. I took it myself, and these are all the Bibles I have in my house at the moment. It's a little deceptive, though, because my husband and I had a few more which we donated shortly before Christmas.

We thought these four were all we needed. There's my husband's Bible from college, which he reads daily and which has been used for swearings in at various posts he has held. And there's the adorable kids' Bible that I keep for when little guests come to vist. I have my Reformation Study Bible(ESV), with its helpful articles and notes. And then there's the NKJV Bible, chosen for its being a large-print edition. I find inductive Bible study very helpful and illuminating, but I didn't want to do all my note-writing and coloring of keywords in my "nice" study Bible.

That's right - I have the Bible I read and pray over and a Bible for when I want to go digging in deep, coloring and writing all over the margins. When I saw that, I just stopped for a moment with the realization that I am so incredibly rich in the Word that I can have more than 1 Bible for more than 1 type of study. How amazing is that? And not only this, but we can have Bibles in more than 1 translation. My goodness, we even have enough that we can give away extras!

I'd never really thought this through before, but when I learn about people such as the Vidunda in Africa, who lack even 1 Bible in their own language, the immensity of my wealth in Scripture astounds me. But we are not blessed simply to enjoy it for ourselves; We can share this bounty with others. And through blogging with the OneVerse project and being a monthly OneVerse partner for the Vidunda, that's exactly what I want to do.

I want there to be a day when the Vidunda can go looking through their houses to see how many Bibles they have.

And if you'd like to see what some of the other OneVerse bloggers have to say about Bible poverty, you'll find us linking up at My Journey to Authenticity.

And here's a challenge for you! - Why don't you see how many Bibles YOU have? You can post your photos on the OneVerse Facebook wall.

OneVerse Blogger