Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: Glimpses of Grace

The Book: Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman

Crossway, $14.99(June 2013)

Finding God in the mundane everyday of homemaking fascinates me. Some days it seems ridiculously easy to see Him working in my day and to feel His calm extend over me like a blanket when I'm hurrying through a round of cleaning house, getting my grandma to the doctor and back again before my student arrives for tutoring.

And then there are the other days. I think every homemaker knows these.  Days where it seems like the laundry will never end or everything you put on the stove for dinner manages to burn or devolve into an unappetizing mass.  Days where we get so hung up on feeling neglected that we forget we have an important Kingdom mission.  This book is sweet but firm encouragement for those days.

There were two things that I really loved about this book.  First of all, the author starts off by reminding all of us of the truth of the gospel.  She tells readers that, "Theology is for homemakers who need to know who God is, who they are, and what this mundane life is all about." As a longtime believer, it can be easy to lose sight of the wonder and weight of the gospel message because it's been woven into life for us so long that we let it become commonplace. Furman does a wonderful job of reminding us of the earthshaking wonder of what what God has done.

Furman also has poured so much of herself into this book - and in relatable ways. She speaks very candidly about the struggles her family has faced due to the chronic health struggles of a family member. She also shares the ups and downs of days where the frustrations of daily home life can bring discontentment. After all, we may know the truth of God's Word, but when your home is overrun with contractors, you haven't had plumbing in 2 days and someone's getting sick on the carpet, it can be really hard to feel like a child of God with a purpose.

In the end, while I did find the book to be a bit repetitive in places, I very much enjoyed what I read. Furman does a wonderful job of reminding homemakers of those things we have been taught but can easily lose sight of behind one load of laundry too many. I love being a homemaker but even when you know you're living out your calling, there are times when it helps to have some godly encouragement. Glimpses of Grace is exactly that.

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book by Crossway Books in return for an honest review. Thank you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trying Something New - Midweek Links

I was taught to cook by my mother and grandmothers, so much of my repertoire involves traditional mountain Virginia cooking, enlivened with yummy finds from my cookbook collection.  It's wonderful stuff, but maybe not 100% healthful.

For a variety of reasons, my husband and I are trying to eat healthier these days.  I had heard about Trim Healthy Mama in the Above Rubies magazine, which I've subscribed to for years and after the book came out I started seeing it on several websites I frequent.  I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to jump on a trendy diet bandwagon, so I hung back for a bit, researching and praying.  However, this plan seems to allow for good health and good eating and it doesn't seem too extreme.  We decided to give it a try.

I like that THM encourages alternation between low-carb(S) and low-fat(E) meals.  The secret seems to be not mixing the carbs and fats.  There are a few other pointers, too (getting rid of refined grains like white bread, white rice, etc...) but that's the main concept.

I have researched some of the information sites online, but to get the full flavor of the plan, so to speak, one really does need to get the book.  Mine came yesterday and I've read most of it already.  You'll probably be hearing more about my adventures in THM eating over the next few weeks as I chronicle some of my experiments in trying to make favorite foods THM-friendly. You may also notice that, for health reasons, I may use a few more S-helpers rather than staying purely S and E.  Since I also have a peanut allergy, I will also be sharing my adventures in food substitution as I adapt the plan to make it work for us.  Stay tuned!

If you're interested in the book, here is where you can both order and find more information.

If you want some background information and help getting started, there are fabulous resources to be found in the Trim Healthy Mama Facebook Group.  I joined before I even got my book, and it's been very helpful!

As it is with so many things, Pinterest is a wealth of information and ideas on THM.

Sifting through all the information in this huge (600+ pages!) book is a challenge, so I'm being inspired by the 30-day THM Challenge going on over at Little Natural Cottage.   I like hanging around her corner of the internet and learning new, crunchy things anyway so this gives me another excuse.

So, what about you?  Have you tried THM?  Can you tell me what you think?  Or if you haven't, have you been curious about it?

Friday, July 5, 2013

O Beautiful....

Given that yesterday was the 4th of July, it's probably no accident that upon seeing the word "beautiful" as my writing prompt, music filled my mind.  Whenever I hear "America the Beautiful", I immediately think - "Shenandoah Valley."  I grew up in that part of the world and so when I see a hymn praising spacious skies, grain fields and "purple mountain majesties," I do not have to strain to come up with mental images.

I took all this for granted for so many years and it was only after I was grown that I realized what an incredible gift it was to grow up surrounded by such beauty. I've travelled quite a bit since then and I live in a more densely populated city now, and all of those places have their beauty, too. God has made a varied and beautiful world, and it seems as if every day yields a new discovery if I only keep my eyes open.  But my first impression of beauty will still always be that Blue Ridge.

Today is Friday, so I'm joining in my favorite writing exercise over at Five Minute Fridays.  If you like to write, come and join in !

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Praying for Our Nation

The news these past few weeks (or even these past few years) has been discouraging. The United States Supreme Court upholds gay marriage, an idea contrary not only to God's teachings but also to over 2000 years of law and tradition. Abortion activists actually chant, "Hail Satan!" in the midst of a legislative debate. Our government has found itself mired in so many scandals that we scarcely know which of our leaders to trust anymore. The current immigration debate shows that the idea of simply enforcing the laws of the nation is not taken as a given any long.  And in the recent Romeike family case, a homeschooling family facing persecution in their home country wins their asylum petition only to have a government hostile to religion challenge it at every turn - and that government happens to be our own.

I love my country. I love its history, its traditions and its people. However, we are now reduced to a land where the government cannot balance a budget, the liberty of our people is being compromised, and those charged with leading the country are mired in so many scandals that it is difficult to know who to trust. It breaks my heart.

From listening to people around me and reading in the internet, I know that there are those who are growing bitter and disillusioned. However, as a believer, I do not think that this is how we are called to act. I feel very strongly that we must take the United States and its leaders to God in prayer. We need to pray for healing and revival, for our leaders to have faith, wisdom and humility, for the culture of this country to turn back toward Christian roots, and for so much more.  Will you join me this 4th of July in praying for the country?

"[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
 - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Linking up at The Focused Homemaker

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sharing on Infertility

Image from aroyaldaughter.com

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week.  That's probably not a remembrance many of us want to celebrate.  For those who have walked this painful road, infertility can be isolating, scary and sometimes even a challenge to our faith. It can be hard to find God's purpose in a life where we don't have those pregnancies and children we long for, but God is there nevertheless.

I have written some about my own infertility struggle here on this blog at various times and reviewed a book on the issue. Today, as part of National Infertility Awareness week, I am so honored to be able to share with others as Amanda over at A Royal Daughter discusses Lies Women Believe about Infertility.  There are some emotional and encouraging testimonies over there from several women, and I encourage you to check them out HERE.

As we move through this week, what are some ways that you can think of to encourage brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with infertility? Have you faced an infertility struggle yourself? How did God show Himself to you there?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All That Tomato Sauce

Earlier I posted on how to make a good, basic tomato sauce. As I mentioned, it's a great staple to store and use in your other cooking. So, what are some things to do with all that tomato deliciousness?

Well, making pasta sauce is probably the easiest and most obvious. Sometimes I'll find myself with odds and ends of food left over from other cooking that would go perfectly in a sauce. For instance, I recently found myself with a single sausage link, an onion, and most of a container of shiitake mushrooms. No way was I letting that go to waste!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bloggers' Meet and Greet Week

Blogging fills a number of needs for me. I enjoy writing, and this is one way to hone my craft. Putting ideas down in writing also helps me think them through, as does discussing them with readers, and in the end, I think this helps me better understand faith, life and serving God.

There's also the community side of things. Being online(with discernment - there are some scary corners of the internet!) lets me have fellowship with and learn from believers from different places and in various stages of life. What a blessing! I have met some wonderful women of God online since I began blogging, and I am so thankful for them.

This week, one of those ladies is hosting a Meet and Greet on her blog so that we can learn more about each other and perhaps find some new bloggers to follow! You can find the details at Raising Mighty Arrows:

And as for me? You'll find my "About Me" page here, along with all the various places (email, Pinterest, Facebook, etc..) you can contact me. Hope you see you there!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Here and Now

In my dreams, I still roam valleys barefoot, smiling into the sun and smelling the grass, flowers and water that sing spring.

Here and now I live in a small city, a beautiful green corner of it, but still not the wide open spaces my heart knows as home. And yet there's beauty here.

There's the joy of recognizing a friend as we go about errands in town.

The unexpected delight of seeing sun hit water as one turns a corner, going from city streets to wide open river.

I can live in memories and dreams, and let my mind's eye vividly open pictures of spring spent elsewhere. And at times, I love to do that. But living in the here, the now, creates new memories and delights. It's a different place than what I'm used to, but it's become home over time. Here I have a loving church family, my much-beloved husband, and a little city to explore. Walking among Civil War battlefields and historic buildings, one finds treasure here - a coffee shop that makes some of the best lattes I've ever tasted, a thrift store that looks more like a cozy cottage than a garage sale, unexpected glimpses of beauty as trees and gardens peek out amidst the downtown streets.

I treasure my memories, but I give thanks for the joys of life here and now.

This is a piece written in five minutes with no editing as part of Five Minute Fridays. Want to try writing free for five minutes? Join in here!

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Didn't Deserve That

"(F)or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,"
- Romans 3:23-24

My grandfather was always fond of saying that everything has a flip side. And so it is with fairness. Often when we complain we don't deserve something, it's because we at least perceive ourselves as being treated unfairly. While I do not downplay the importance of justice, it's impossible to think on just outcomes and fairness without remembering the other side of things we don't deserve.

After all, none of us ever deserved a Savior.

All of us have sinned, and all of us would be dead in our sin were it not for Christ's salvation. I can cook and clean and even if I somehow made myself into the perfect picture of a homemaker, I would not deserve salvation. My sin is real and cannot be erased. And so it is with all of us.

As I read Romans during my devotional this morning, I could not help but be struck anew. As a believer, it can become too easy to think of ourselves as the saved, the elect, and too difficult to remember the dark sinfulness of heart from which we came.

And yet, the more one thinks upon this amazing unfairness, this unearned salvation - how can we not fall to our knees in wonder? How can we not let our hearts sing with praise? In our sinful hands, we can break others with undeserved acts but in the hands of God, undeserved grace and love makes us whole. We don't deserve God's love, but learning of it, how can we not want to seek His face and learn His ways?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kitchen Basics: Making a Good Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce doesn't have to come out of a jar or can! In fact, canned tomato sauce can be dangerous as many brands use BPA to line their cans, and BPA has been linked to a variety of health issues. Making a good tomato sauce is relatively easy and takes little time, so I like to make big batches and freeze it for use later in as it's a good base for a whole host of dishes.

Curious? Well, here's how to make the sauce. Please note that this recipe will make enough sauce to serve 8, but can easily be doubled or even tripled.

The Tomato Sauce

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 chopped garlic cloves
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
a pinch or two of red pepper flakes
52 oz. canned tomatoes (these can be home canned or storebought - if storebought, I recommend using a BPA free brand, such as Muir Glen)
1/2 tsp. sugar
4 T. coarsely chopped fresh basil
balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. Heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.
2. Add garlic, 1 1/4 tsp. salt, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add tomatoes sugar and black pepper to taste. Increase heat to high and bring to a strong simmer.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover pan. Simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened(if you increase recipe, you may need more time on this step.)
5. Remove from heat, and stir in basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want to give your sauce a little extra zing, add a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar.

Now you have a good sauce to use as a base for chicken parmesan, lasagna, pasta sauces - the possibilities are endless!

And I will be exploring some of those possibilities in blog posts to come, so please keep an eye out!

In the meantime, if you want to store tomato sauce to use for later, it can be kept in non-metal containers or even large freezer bags. It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week and can be frozen for 12-18 months. Just be sure to let the sauce cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel

The Book - Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies and R.W. Glenn
Cruciform Press, $9.99 (2012)

I initially read Modest for the Book Club at Desiring Virtue, but it has taken me a little while to think through it. Though a very short book, there is a lot packed into it and I found myself thinking about modesty in different ways as I read.

One thing I really like about this book is that the authors go to great pains to emphasize modesty as a heart issue for Christian believers. So many times I have heard talks on modesty or read articles that spend much time discussing tightness of blouses, length of skirts, etc.. - and then they stop. If I want to know how to look modest, I can find lots of guidance, but it's a lot more difficult to be modest. As I read the authors' words in this book, I have to admit that I felt uncomfortably convicted on occasion. After all, if I'm feeling smug as I sit there in my modest skirt, I'm not exactly going into this modesty thing with the right attitude.

I also appreciated that the authors addressed their topic to both men and women. I think both men and women struggle with modesty issues, even if we tend to do it in different ways.

In a way, though, this book makes the issue of modesty more challenging because we are reminded that modesty deals not only with outward appearance(though that's part of it), but also with our inner hearts. While we as Christians are urged to examine modesty in light of the gospel, the authors go out of their way to avoid providing a concrete checklist of do's and don'ts with regard to the mix of outward dress and behavior and inward heart. I could understand why they would do that because it can be easy to fall into legalism in this area, but I do wish that this book had a little more concrete guidance. I felt as if very important questions were raised, but then the practical application somewhat glossed over. Even so, the subject is an important one and given what I see in modern American culture, I am glad to get a biblical perspective on the subject.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Walking the Path of After

As much I love pretty pictures, sometimes the very prettiest pictures of Christian faith just don't tell the whole story. You know the ones I mean, the portrayals of Christianity as the happy club where everyone's always smiling. The knowledge that we are dead in our sins but given life because Christ died for us is the most amazing miracle there is. It's knowledge that brings deep and abiding joy and it would be nice to be perky and happy happy happy every day, but I still live in this world.

And that path of life after receiving Christ still has struggles. I've walked it through stressful days, the decision to move from career to making serving God from home the center of my life, watching my grandmother grow ever feebler, and a devastating miscarriage. The way of Christ is not easy street in this world. Things still happen that hurt so much they turn me inside out. But you know what? I don't walk it alone. My God is with me and comforts me, and He strengthens me day by day.

Walking that path of life after becoming a Christian and acknowledging Christ as my savior has not been a 24 hour party but even in the darkest of days, I can feel the warmth of hope and the knowledge that there is a Savior. And that hope is the part of after that I treasure.

This is a piece written in five minutes with no editing as part of Five Minute Fridays. Want to try writing free for five minutes? Check out this week's writing prompt, and join in here!

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Midweek Links - Same Sex "Marriage"

Same sex "marriage" is not strictly a homemaking topic, I know. However, it is a type of relationship which does not fit any biblical definition of marriage and the laws surrounding these relationships definitely have a bearing on what type of society we will be building into the future. In that light, I cannot help but pray about and study this issue. Ignoring it will not make it go away, so what are we as Christians to do?

First of all, if you are unfamiliar with biblical teachings on marriage and homosexuality, I would urge you to consult your Bible. This list gives some places to start, and this Bible study also has some helpful information.

You may also want to listen to the American Supreme Court arguments for yourself, so you know what is being debated from a legal perspective in my country. One case deals with whether or not a state law banning gay marriage in California is legal. That case is called Hollingsworth v. Perry, and you can access it here. The other case deals with whether or not the nationwide, federal Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. That case is styled United States v. Windsor and can be found here.

In addition, Kelly Reins from Ah the Life has compiled some research regarding biblical teachings on this issue, and she has made it available on LAF/Beautiful Womanhood.

I also found this message from a gay sister in Christ very moving. I'd highly encourage reading this one - I even pinned it to my Pinterest boards because I didn't want to forget it! It's a good reminder that what the world preaches as "compassion" does not bring the peace and healing that so many people need and will only find in Christ.

Lastly, over at True Woman is posted an action plan on how we, as Christian woman, can confront this issue.

And I'm sure people want to know what I think, too. After prayerfully seeking guidance, I cannot come to any conclusion other than that which teaches engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin. I am also very much aware that gays are sinners in need of God's love every bit as much as the rest of us. "Hate the sin but not the sinner" is a phrase that has unfortunately become cliched as well as shamefully misused to excuse all manner of distinctly un-Christlike treatment of others, but it is also a phrase that really does fit this situation. The people at the heart of this debate are God's creation and I think we need to remember that, but I cannot in any way condone the false "marriage" that they seek to promote because it goes against the teachings of God with regard to marriage and the family.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Week

Don't worry! I haven't fallen off the face of the earth again. We're just having a quiet, contemplative Holy Week here. May you all have a blessed week and a happy Easter!

"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." - John 13:1

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Midweek Links: Materialism and Greed

My pastor recently spoke of the many subtle ways love of things, or materialism, can creep into our lives. For instance, we may pride ourselves on the fact that we're not always chasing after newer things, but we may be hung up on living in the "right" neighborhood or we may seek to lord our lack of trendy toys over our neighbors. Either way, we're focusing on the material of this world and not on God. I've been thinking about that a lot over the past couple of weeks, and in my travels online, I've also found some articles that made me think.

I read this blog piece last month, but I immediately thought of it when I heard my pastor's sermon. There really are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that can go into our discount shopping, and some of the comments on this piece made me think,too. For instance, are we shopping the clearance rack because we're trying to be good stewards of what God has given us or do we do it for "good Christian girl" bragging rights? I've encountered both from others and I've probably gone in with both attitudes, too.

Ligonier Ministries is a wonderful source, and on this topic, they have proven helpful yet again. In this short article, we learn more not only about how easily we can get our priorities out of whack, but also what the heart of a good steward looks like.

I came across this article from Vanity Fair magazine via a friend's Facebook page. The article discusses the super-rich of London and how they came to buy into the city in the way that they have. It's actually an unsettling(though very interesting) read when one really starts to think about it. Essentially, the author points out that we have a small, very wealthy group of people who buy property in London because of its status as a tax haven, but then they leave the properties deserted much of the time. I got the distinct impression of a group of people driven primarily by their desire to accumulate and protect more material treasure than they could possibly need.

And since it's #WriteTheWord Wednesday, here is what I've been finding as I search the Bible for wisdom:

I realize that my handwriting looks like something from a codebreaking game, but those are passages from Matthew 6 and Matthew 16 that I have written out during my morning Bible reading. So, Matthew was a tax collector and he wrote down a lot of what Jesus had to say about the material world versus life in Him. Funny how God works, eh?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do You Have Leftovers? Make Soup!

Do you end up with pesky little odds and ends of leftovers? You know the sort I mean - too much to throw away but too little to make a substantive dish? It happens to me all the time. When I look in my cabinets and see little odds and ends of stuff, I like to make soup.

The varieties are endless - I just mix in whatever vegetables are hitting their "Use me now!" date, perhaps some dried beans, rice or pasta and some kind of stock. This time around I had some chicken gravy in the fridge as well as a tiny (1/4 cup) leftover portion of beef gravy, so I threw those in and they gave the soup a richer than usual flavor. More proof that leftovers don't have to be boring!

To give you ideas, here's what I did with the leftovers I found this past weekend:

Olive Oil(light)
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 celery ribs, diced
handful of shiitake mushrooms, diced (any kind of mushrooms will work)
2 bay leaves
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 1/2 cups gravy (I mixed chicken and a small amount of beef)
1 cup cooked lentils or small beans
1 cup cooked wild rice (or brown rice or white rice, or even pasta)
1 cup canned, diced tomatoes
fresh parsley or grated parmesan

1. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot and saute onion for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add other vegetables and the bay leaves, and saute, stirring often, for another 4-5 minutes.

2. Add the stock and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in gravy, lentils, rice and tomatoes. Simmer over low heat until heated through, at least 10 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with parsley or parmesan, as you like.

Get creative! And if you come up with a particularly good combo, let me know!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Resting in Him

Lately I've been cherishing Christ's promise that all of the weary and heavy-laden who come unto Him shall find rest for their souls. I have been desperately in need of rest and peace, you see. As I've written here before, I had a miscarriage back in June that shook me to the core. Going years of believing I would never have a child, to thinking it just might be possible, to losing it and wondering why was a cycle that left me shaken and weary. I've been stressed before, I've been sad before, but never so bone-deep with weariness as this.

This rest, this being able to be at peace is no easy process. My human self rebelled at first. I saw it as my pain and my loss. This was my child taken from me too early. I didn't want to acknowledge what I knew about this child being God's gift or that He did indeed have a purpose and a hand in my life. But there was this still small voice and it got to me through the storming in my heart...

And you know what? As I sought God and just let myself wander through His word, seeking, or let myself come before Him in prayer, longing, I did find rest. I found hope and peace, and the reminder that even as the storms of this life come my way, God has plans for me. We don't get a free pass on suffering in this life, but neither do we go it alone. He let me remember, and deep in my heart and soul, I can rest.

This is a piece written in five minutes with no editing as part of Five Minute Fridays. Want to try writing free for five minutes? Join in here!

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Titus 2 for Bloggers

As I've gotten back into blogging, I have to admit that I've been thinking of all kinds of things - and wishing I had a a great blog mentor or several. I imagine I'm probably not the first blogger to ever think this. I occupy a small little corner of internet, but I love to write and most of all, to share ideas with people, and stepping out online seems to raise all kinds of questions that I wouldn't have thought of beforehand.

One thing I've struggled with, quite frankly, is trying to figure out how much to share online. Obviously, I wouldn't post my home address and all my contact info online for anyone to see. And I try to be mindful about sharing stories that aren't entirely my own unless I have the permission of the other person involved. However, I don't want to go too far in the opposite direction and let nothing of myself show through in my writing. I've seen many different approaches online, but I'm still trying to figure out which would work best, and I could certainly use guidance with that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Midweek Links: Prayer for the Persecuted

My husband's parents served as missionaries to a Muslim population in a closed country, so the persecuted churches around the world are a subject very close to my heart and we pray for them as a family. We may not all be called to go minister in countries where Christians are in danger, but I believe very strongly in supporting and praying for those who face persecution for their faith. It's an issue that does not get much coverage in the secular, mainstream media so I think that many Christians do not even realize what is happening to their brothers and sisters in faith. However, a number of stories have come to light recently that are informative.

Just today, I saw an editorial discussing the arrests of Ethiopian Christians who worshipped in a home church in Saudi Arabia. The strongly Islamic regime that rules Saudi Arabia is well-known, but as the writer points out, the persistent abuse of Christian guest workers in that country receives far less coverage. Sadly, in its dealings with this country, the United States (and most other Western countries for that matter) fail to raise the issue of human rights abuse.

Elsewhere in the Muslim world, hopeful news has come from Iran in the form of news of increased conversions from Islam to Christianity. As much as I am thankful to hear that, my heart aches for those who face arrest and violent reprisals for following Christ. Churches in Iran must meet in secret and Christians face harsh persecution, yet they continue to come to Christ - how can we not be moved to prayer for them?

Persecution is not limited to the Middle East. Many know Burma/Myanmar is currently ruled by a repressive military regime. However, far fewer know the story of the Christian minorities living there who face persecution and church burnings by government forces. Thanks to a presentation at a church meeting I was able to learn about the work of groups such as Farthest Corners in this region, and I continue to keep these groups in my prayers.

And then there's Africa. So much goes on there, I could do posts just on that region of the world alone. One of my dear college friends is married to a missionary whose work has taken their ever-growing family all over Africa, from the Congo to Kenya to Sudan. I know that they and the people they serve frequently encounter danger as a result of their beliefs. Christians in Kenya have faced rising persecution from Muslim groups, and Christians in Sudan have faced a Muslim campaign to wipe out the faith. I am thankful for organizations such as Persecution Project, World Vision and others that work with persecuted Christians and also work to shine a light on the abuses some Christians face.

How do you pray for Christians facing persecution? How do you teach your children about it? Do you have any stories of the persecuted church to share?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Different Sort of Bean Salad

Growing up in the South, my idea of bean salad usually consisted of the three-bean variety with a sweet n' tangy apple cider vinegar-spiked dressing. Then one day I encountered the yumminess that is Stella's in Richmond. Eating there is something of a rare treat for me, but when I do, they have a bean salad that I just love. I've never been able to figure out exactly how it's made, but this is my closest approximation. And in early March, when the farmers' market isn't in full swing yet, this dish definitely hits the spot. Just add a loaf of bread, some extra-virgin olive oil to dip it in, and you've got a light but satisfying Mediterranean style meal.

 Mediterranean-Style Bean Salad

Green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces - I use about 1/4 or 1/3 pound to feed 3-4 people; the recipe is infinitely expandable, though

frozen lima beans(thawed) - about 1/3 pound

Half of a can of chickpeas (15 oz. can)

2 ribs celery, chopped fine

1/3 red onion, cut in half and sliced paper-thin

sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 lemon

1/3 cup (or more, if you like) freshly chopped herbs - parsley, mint, maybe even a little dill (use what tastes good to you!)

 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1. Put about 1 1/2 inches of water in a saucepan and heat to boiling over medium heat. Add steamer basket and steam lima beans,covered, for about 7-8 minutes.
2. Add green beans to the steamer basket with the limas, cover pan again, and steam for another 4-5 minutes.
3. Remove steamer basket, but leave saucepan and water boiling on stove. Turn heat up to high and boil, uncovered, until water reduced to about 1 Tablespoon.
 4. Rinse beans in cold water and place in salad bowl.
5. Add chickpeas, celery, and onion to beans in salad bowl. Stir to combine, add salt and pepper and toss salad again.
6. Squeeze lemon into salad. Stir in herbs, oil and the reduced steaming liquid. Blend together, cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
7. Crumble feta cheese across the top when serving, and enjoy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Where is Home?

I've never entirely liked that Robert Frost quotation, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." The grimness of the duty implied in that sentence always leaves me cold. It's a begrudging sort of charity implied there. For me, home is the place where, when you have to go there, they want to welcome you in.

Home has warmth to me, it has welcome. I'm truly an introvert and yet I still want my own home to be warm and welcoming to others. I don't ever want anyone to feel brought into my house out of duty alone.  I have been promised home as an example of warmth and love, and how can I not try to share that warmth and love with others even if my ways are human and flawed?

Goodness knows, our Father in Heaven does not take us into His home out of cold duty alone. We are told in John that God so loved the world, He gave His only son for us.  We are told in Luke's parable of the lost sheep how God will go after our lost selves and in Galatians 4, Paul writes of how God saved us so that He could adopt us as His children.  And going back to John, how can we forget Christ in Chapter 14 telling of His father's house with many mansions and of the place He goes to prepare for us there.  None of what God gives us comes from duty. He is almighty and all that He showers on us is given out of love for His children.

And when I think on that example of home, I remember. As heartbreakingly beautiful as this place can be, this is not my home. There is more than what my human eyes see on Earth and home with God stretches into eternity. Seen like that, the word "home" feels a little less commonplace, doesn't it?


This piece was written in five minutes (and goodness, I hope I got my citations right since I did them from memory! Correct me gently in the comments if I'm wrong.) for Five Minute Friday. 

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Chicken Soup Un-Recipe

As far as I'm concerned, chicken soup is one of those dishes that can exist in infinite variation. Some give it an Asian twist, with rice noodles, fresh cilantro and sriracha sauce. Others stick to the traditional version, flavoring the broth with salt, pepper, perhaps a few herbs and some carrots. When I'm craving comfort, I often turn to chicken soup and I find it's also the perfect dish for experiment with whatever I have in my pantry and refrigerator. So, what do I do to get to this?
1. I start with chicken (obviously.) I'm fortunate enough to have a good butcher shop nearby that offers local and organic meat, so I will often buy chicken from them. Depending on the size of your family, you can get a little or a lot. There's just two of us at home, so a small package of chicken thighs works nicely. A quick note: dark meat will give your soup more flavor than white.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Midweek Links: They Comfort Me

 As you know from my last post, I've been healing from a miscarriage, an experience that probably scars my heart more than my body at this point. It brought about a lot of soul-searching, prayer and some very difficult days.  And in the midst of it all, there were things I read, that comforted me a lot.

My friend Jessalyn over at Desiring Virtue knows this place of hurt and healing, and her story moved me the first time I read it,and inspires me now.  Her reflections on prayer in the wake of having gone through miscarriage also gave me great comfort and reassurance in my own prayer life.

And if you search through other Christian websites, many other wonderful women have walked this path before and I have found a number of helpful testimonies and devotionals.  This post from At the Well was a good resource as well.

I mentioned before that I found it helpful to read and meditate upon Scripture. Psalms especially spoke to my soul, and in addition to reading my Bible, I appreciated some of the art I found here.  A word of caution - there can be some unsavory things on Tumblr at times, so explore with discernment.

And there was music. My brother sent me this song because he thought the lyrics would speak to me even if it wasn't my usual style of music. And it did - in some ways this one was a psalm of comfort in modern language - a cry to God of anguish and a hymn of thanksgiving for His faithfulness, both of which I feel keenly.

And what about you?  What have you found comforting in times of loss?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Emerging from the Dark

 I know I've been offline for a bit.  I suppose it's fair to say that I had one of those times of turning inward, where I just did not have the words to blog.  I needed simply to rest, to be and to seek God's will in ways that I just couldn't while blogging.

It's been quite a summer/fall/winter here. I had what I thought was a much worse than usual allergy season and then I started feeling just as sick as could be. I could barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings(and I'm usually a very high energy person!), drifted in a fog through the day, and kept getting dizzy and/or sick to my stomach.

Finally I broke down and went to the doctor. And after having been told for 8 years that I would not have children of my own, the incredible had happened.  I was pregnant - and immediately my mind was filled with visions of miracles.  I wasn't sure when I wanted to go public about it, but caution told me to at least get through that first trimester - and then, when I was not quite 12 weeks along, I miscarried.

I still don't even know enough words to really describe all that dark time. I couldn't make sense of why any of this would happen. Why would I by some miracle conceive and then lose this so-wanted child? Was it my fault somehow that this happened? Was there some lesson God was trying to teach me that I just couldn't understand?  At first there really wasn't much I could understand, though I developed an all new appreciation for those portions of Psalms wherein the psalmist cries out to God from the most anguished corners of the heart. I could cry those words aloud, too, because they had taken on new meaning, just as the words of comfort that so often accompany these passages went deeper into my heart than ever before as well.

I sat down to write so many times, but the will to craft words just would not come to me. I needed comfort and I needed God, even though much of the time I could only sit in His presence weeping. I know that I had friends praying for me even if I wasn't the most communicative, and to this day, I treasure that because I know I needed(and still need) their love and prayers.  There's nothing that really prepares one for this rollercoaster of hope and disappointment and grief, and it's the sort of agony I couldn't wish on anyone.

And I developed an all-new appreciation for my husband. He's not the most emotionally demonstrative person, but he was the one who prayed with me and for me, and grieved with me over this child of ours that we only got to see in a single ultrasound. I've never felt so close to him as when we walked through those dark days of mourning for a dream and a life that we'd only just begun rejoicing for.

Finally, I've reached a point where I feel like I'm really back and fully present in my life again. I still have some dark, sad days but I have my words and music again.  I'm homemaking and working from home once more, and with renewed purpose that makes me feel more focused than before. I don't even pretend to know all the whys of what happened and I often think I won't truly understand it all this side of heaven.

But sometimes I think God gives me glimmers - like the one I heard this Sunday as our pastor preached from Ecclesiastes, reminding us that God has a time for everything.  He mentioned specifically that in Christian circles, we are often exhorted to do many things in service to God, but he reminded us that God has His own timing and that there will be times when we may speak and do much outwardly in service of God but there are also times when God calls us to be silent. I needed to hear that because this time of mourning and growth has been one of those times of listening and meditating. 

It has been difficult and dark, and I expect I will talk about part of it in more detail as I blog again(there's just too much that goes through my head for me to put it all in one post), but there has been good in the darkness. More importantly, there was God. I may have been offline but I was never truly alone.