Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Kannels! Have a blessed holiday!

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thankful "Thursday," Take 60

Thanking God this week for...
  • gospel quotes in my inbox every morning
  • last weekend's trip to Memphis to see dear friends and family
  • cloth diapers
  • Elijah's first cold being very mild
  • sleepless nights being the exception, not the rule
  • the anticipation of a big date with my hubby tomorrow--going to see Messiah!
  • freezers
  • new jeans that fit
  • getting to go home a little earlier than planned
  • the liberating truth of this statement: "God loves me and with His power, I can change!"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Four Months Old

Realized it's been a while since I've posted a new picture of the little guy...so here's an Elijah fix to start off your week :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 59

Thanking God this week for...

  • online shopping
  • a patient husband
  • good days to balance out the not-so-good ones
  • His Word
  • old friends getting in touch
  • the privilege of comforting and encouraging others with the comfort I have received
  • clean drinking water
  • not having to wonder how we're going to pay our bills
  • ponytail holders
  • a soft mattress
  • drawing me to Himself
  • the wonder of the Incarnation

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is There a Hyphen in Anal-Retentive?*

Oh my. I have just discovered snarky grammar blogs. How did I not know these existed? Thanks to Carolyn McCulley for opening my eyes. Much enjoyment to be had from just these two:

Apostrophe Abuse (my personal pet peeve--the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard)

even funnier: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

Aaaand, each of these has several sidebar links to other grammar blogs. Dangerous. It is always fun to discover and commiserate with other anal-retentive grammar nerds.

*The title is not original. I heard it from a fellow word nerd who has a shirt with this saying. I found it hilarious :)

On the Bright Side

My car wouldn't start yesterday. I was out of town with Elijah for some Christmas shopping and his four-month well-baby checkup (he's doing great--can you believe he's four months old?!); after our second stop, we got back in the car and the engine wouldn't even turn over. Yet in spite of the inconvenience it was not at all a ruined day.

~I am thankful that a nice woman in the parking lot at JoAnn noticed I was having problems and offered to jump-start my car (and that it worked).

~I'm thankful that of all the days for this to happen, it was yesterday, when it was 75 degrees and sunny.

~I'm thankful that Elijah was in a great mood yesterday and didn't spend the time sitting in his carseat screaming.

~I'm thankful that the pediatrician is walking distance from the mall--so I was able to park at the mall, walk to his appointment, walk back and do some shopping before getting my car jumped again and going home.

~I'm thankful for my Moby Wrap, so I could wear him while doing all this and not have to lug a huge, awkward carseat around.

~I'm thankful I had a good excuse/motivation to get some fresh air and exercise!

~I'm thankful that we made it safely home.

Most of all, I'm thankful that God gave me eyes to see all these blessings at the time, not just looking back. He enabled me to be thankful in the moment, rather than getting frustrated and angry and bitter. It was only by His grace that I was able to make the best of the situation and choose to see the bright side!

And I'm thankful for a handy husband who was able to diagnose and fix the problem himself...and that the car is now running again :)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thankful "Thursday," Take 58

Thanking God this week for...
  • mercies new every morning
  • His sovereignty
  • protecting my husband, in many ways
  • my adorable son
  • Christmas hymns
  • Christmas lights
  • Christmas trees
  • a new keyboard with the letters not worn off--makes one-handed typing, when necessary, much easier
  • banana bread with chocolate glaze (the only way to eat banana bread, IMHO)
  • Christmas cards starting to arrive in the mail
  • finding out that we can board Hank over Christmas for FREE at the place where we adopted him!
  • John Piper's advent poems
  • index cards
  • electric blankets
  • cinnamon-scented pinecones
  • the trustworthiness of His Word
  • His immutability

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Babywearing Gear Contest

Along for the Ride is having another contest! This one is huge--a $250 shopping spree for the winner, plus $400 in runner-up prizes. Enter to win here. (I bought my Moby Wrap from this store and the customer service is great!)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent Begins

Steve and I have a particularly busy December--as I'm sure many of you do--and in talking last week about all the Christmas events on our schedule, we wondered how we could be sure to keep our focus in the right place. We want to look to our Savior and His Incarnation during this season of anticipation, not get so caught up in the shopping and decorating and baking and parties that we lose sight of why we celebrate.

I'm curious to hear if and how any of you celebrate Advent. Do you have any family traditions that help you look to Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

In my online search for Advent materials, I found that John Piper (I'm sorry this is becoming an all-Piper, all-the-time blog...bear with me :) has a tradition of writing Advent poems for his church. He explains:

For 25 years one of my joys has been to write and read an advent poem each Sunday of Advent for the people of Bethlehem. The poems aim to speak truth about God and his ways with man, but they are imaginative reconstructions behind figures of the Bible of what may have been, but probably was not. Historically, my aim is not to create anything that could not have been or that in any way contradicts what the Bible says.

I write them because the effort to say things differently helps me see things more deeply and love God more deeply. And I hope they help you in that same way.

This year he writes about Nicodemus; the first poem in the series was published today. I've attempted to write poetry in strict meter and rhyme only enough to know that it's very, very difficult to do well. Piper has a gift for it. I've read several of his poems, and his poetry, nearly always written in iambic tetrameter, is (in my opinion) very, very good. This long narrative poem about Nicodemus whets my appetite for more--both the Nicodemus poems to come, and the extensive archives of past Advent poems available on the website. As with the sermons, listening is even better than reading.

Leave a comment below with any Advent ideas you want to pass along!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Surfin' Saturday: Long Distance Photo Sharing

For those of you with family or friends far away--let me pass along a photo-sharing recommendation. We're using Hello, a free download from Google/Picasa. (Does Google own the world? Oh, how I wish I would have invested in their stock about five years or so ago...) It enables me to send pictures to my mom and they pop up on her screen immediately if she's logged in. Much better than huge, time-consuming email attachments. And then, she has hi-res versions automatically saved on her computer so she can print them if she wants to. (Ha..."if she wants to"...not that she has a grandma brag book she carries with her at all times or anything :)

Not only that, but Hello has instant messaging, so if we're on the computer at the same time, we can comment back and forth about pictures (I can even see which one she's looking at). Bonus: It's integrated with Picasa, a helpful (and also free) photo organizing/editing program, making viewing/tweaking/sharing your pics even easier.

I highly recommend Hello for those of you with kids and parents/in-laws who live far away! (And if you sign up, add me as a friend--it's "schmamy," of course.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Did It!

I survived NaBloPoMo! I hope I win a good prize.

No further deep thoughts for today. Off to enjoy the sunshine by taking my beautiful baby and neglected dog on a walk...then bake some muffins. Yum.

Ironically I still didn't manage all month to post some of the things I've been meaning to write about...so stay tuned. I'm on a roll now and hope to keep up the more frequent posting, without the NaBloPoMo pressure :)

*Badge courtesy of this blogger.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 57

Thanking God this week for...
  • safe travels last weekend
  • Elijah's doting grandparents
  • 60-degree weather when we returned to Tennessee
  • time spent with two best friends and their babies
  • pizza subs
  • fuzzy sweaters
  • our fireplace
  • the fact that when our dog runs away, he always comes back quickly
  • forgiveness
  • vegetable soup
  • His Word
  • photography
  • chapstick
  • His faithfulness
  • His mighty power

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Steeped in Mercy

While we were home for Thanksgiving, several people asked how motherhood was going. My standard answer has become:

"The learning curve is steep...But God is merciful."

I feel like life has finally smoothed out over the last month or so, and I'm so thankful. Elijah and I got off to a rough start, to be honest. Labor and delivery, though perfect on paper, were quite traumatic for me. My recovery was a little more difficult/painful than normal, and getting nursing established was about 6,000 times harder than I expected (and I'd been warned/prepared for the fact that it was going to be hard). I struggled emotionally--teetering on the edge of postpartum depression, to tell you the truth--and hit rock bottom at about six weeks.

But today, almost four months out, I feel good. I am starting to get the hang of this motherhood thing, and I am enjoying it a whole lot more than I did at first. God has been so near, so faithful these last few months. And He is teaching me (over and over--I am a slow learner sometimes) to cherish this time and not wish it away. One version of that lesson came very gently but powerfully, from Steve's beloved (by both of us!) Granny.

As we sat around the kitchen table last Saturday night and I gave my answer (with some elaboration), Granny nodded. "It's hard," she said. "Your time is not your own anymore. But it goes by so fast. I have far too much time of my own now." She smiled. "Of course, people told me that, but I had to learn it the hard way. I can tell you, but you'll have to experience it yourself."

She wasn't trying to "teach a young whippersnapper a lesson"--she simply spoke with honesty, from her heart. And something about the quiet way she spoke and the look in her eyes made me pause and really take her seriously--in fact, I've been pondering her words ever since.

Elijah is growing fast; he'll only be little for a short time. Will I make an effort to enjoy every moment, even the ones that don't seem very enjoyable? Or will I squander this time by impatiently looking forward to when he can _____ (talk, walk, sleep through the night, play with us, build things with his daddy, etc.)? Lord, cause my heart to cherish today, this day You have made, these circumstances You have placed me in--cause me to rejoice in it, in You, so that I am not left with a lifetime of regret.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Survey for Moms

Via Ask Moxie, an important survey for pregnant mamas and women who have given birth in the last six months:

Leslie Davis, a researcher at Illinois State University, is doing a study on pre-natal and post-partum depression, and she's trying to tease out the differences in mood disorders (depression vs. anxiety, etc.) so that they can work on more effective plans for treatment.

She needs women to fill out their online survey. You are eligible if you are pregnant and 26 weeks along or more, or if you are between 6 week and 6 months post-partum.

Please, please please, if you are in this category or know people who are, fill out the survey. Forward on the URL to everyone in your childbirth ed class, new moms' group, breastfeeding support group, online support group. Ask the moderator of any online boards you post on if you can post the link there. The more responses the researcher gets, the better info she'll have and the better prevention/diagnosis/treatment we'll be able to offer to pregnant women and new mothers.

Go help out with the research--you might even win a prize. More importantly, your answers may help other mamas who struggle as their lives are turned upside-down by new babies!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Send Them to Jesus

The next thing John Piper urges mothers to do (and the last quote from me--I urge you just one more time to listen to this sermon, mamas):

2. Teach the children to look to Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and for the righteousness they need to stand before God.

Over and over again, send them to Jesus. Not to yourself. Not to their "moral resolves." Send them to Jesus: He's your only hope. He's your only righteousness. He's your only forgiveness. He's your only accceptance. If there's one thing the children learn in our families, let them learn that Christ is our only hope.

Amen and amen--let it be so, Lord! May Elijah learn from me and from Steve that Christ is our only hope. May he learn to run to Jesus because he sees his mama running to Jesus over and over again, each day.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wide Eyed

My parents were in the car with us this afternoon on the way home from a family Thanksgiving gathering, so Grammy and I were in the backseat with Elijah. As we went under an overpass on the highway, we both watched as his eyes got HUGE. We about died laughing, totally thinking it was just a fluke--until he did it again the next time we went under an overpass. Every single time, as the car went dark for a moment, his eyes would get big like this. It was hilarious! Thank goodness I had my camera right there with me to capture a photo...don't you just wonder what in the world he was thinking? Wish I could show you a video--it was so much funnier in person.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Surfin' Saturday: Free Rice and Word Nerds

I know I am not the only word nerd out there. Come on, 'fess up. Some of you are language nuts just like I am. So I think you will appreciate this little game I found courtesy of my friend Kristin.

The concept is simple: It's a multiple-choice vocabulary test, with right answers earning not good grades, but grains of rice. You click on the answer that best defines the word. If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word. For each one you get right, FreeRice.com donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

The FAQ page explains:

The rice is paid for by advertisers. This is regular advertising for these companies, but it is also something more. Through their advertising at FreeRice, these companies support both learning (free vocabulary for everyone) and reducing hunger (free rice for the hungry).

The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The World Food Program is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people to become self-reliant so that they escape hunger for good. Wherever possible, the World Food Program buys food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. We encourage you to visit the United Nations World Food Program to learn more about their successful approach to ending hunger.

So next time you have some extra time to kill, or feel like polishing your vocabulary, check out FreeRice.com. It's especially great for those of you mamas who are often surfing on the computer one-handed :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Response #8: Join Them

(The following is part of a series of "responses to the persecuted church" based on a sermon by Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle. As a preface to his sermon, Schumacher noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?" I'm breaking down his "ten responses to the persecuted church," listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.)

8. Join them.

Are we called to seek out suffering? I don't think so. But the Bible promises that it will come nonetheless: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (2 Timothy 3:12). And when it does, will we join the persecuted church in standing firm, in praising God no matter the trials we face?

Schumacher bridges this point on the previous one, saying, "Of course, if you visit the persecuted church there is a possibility that you will suffer. This should not hinder us." He continues:

Far from avoiding suffering, we should join the church in suffering. Hebrews 10:32-34 says that by ministering to the persecuted church, the believers became partners with those so treated.” We also read the example of Moses in Hebrews 11:24: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

Instead of being ashamed of them, we are commanded to share in their suffering. "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8). "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3). "As for you… endure suffering" (2 Timothy 4:5).

I think that these primarily refer to sharing in suffering by living with the same boldness, preaching the same gospel and engaging in the same ministry that brought Paul suffering. But, we also can join them in suffering by denying ourselves certain comforts in order to help those who are suffering: "Contribute to the needs of the saints ... weep with those who weep. ...associate with the lowly" (Romans 12:13,15,16). This is what it means to be one body in Christ. "But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Corinthians 12:24-27).

So you can join the persecuted church by living boldly as they do, clinging to the gospel as they do, ministering to those around you no matter what the cost. As the gospel and its claims become increasingly unpopular, you can continue to devote your life to its truth. And you can sacrificially give to meet the needs of the persecuted; you can practice the other suggestions in this series (see below) to relate to them and help bear their burden even from a distance. They are a part of our Body--join them!

Previously in this series:
Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised
Response #2: Remember Them
Response #3: Research Them
Response #4: Pray for Them
Response #5: Have Generous Compassion on Them
Response #6: Encourage Them
Response #7: Visit Them

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ultimate Thankful Thursday: 2007 Edition

This Thanksgiving, I have so much to be grateful to God for. Here's the short list...
  1. conviction from the Holy Spirit
  2. people who are honest and humble enough to share their mistakes so I can learn from them
  3. vitamins
  4. my new camera lens
  5. people who have started doing Thankful Thursday because of me
  6. Shauna, who inspired me to start doing Thankful Thursday
  7. Operation Christmas Child
  8. pizza
  9. ink pens
  10. striped designs
  11. photographs
  12. the scents of pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, apples, leaves
  13. journals
  14. calendars
  15. friends from church willing to watch our dog
  16. friends from church willing to babysit Elijah
  17. comments on my blog
  18. hot showers
  19. electricity
  20. a clothesline
  21. a husband who complements me so well in so many ways
  22. new worship music at church last Sunday (updated hymns and Sovereign Grace songs!)
  23. no longer being under His wrath
  24. protecting me from countless unknown troubles
  25. a complication-free labor and delivery of Elijah
  26. choosing such a kind way to expose my sin, test me and refine me
  27. the joy of seeing girls I've invested in walking with and delighting in the Lord
  28. the joy of supporting dear friends working in missions overseas
  29. not having to fear bad news because He is sovereign and good
  30. the hope of a future without sickness or pain
  31. choosing me to be His child
  32. the ability to nurse Elijah (and the grace to persevere when it was so hard at first)
  33. the healthy babies born to so many of my real-life and blogland friends
  34. the Scriptures He has written on my heart
  35. my parents
  36. my in-laws
  37. the grace to get up early and meet with Him
  38. the ways He sustains me when I am so weak
  39. the promise that He will never abandon me
  40. making a way for me to approach His throne of grace
  41. being my Rock of refuge
  42. loving me while I was still dead in sin
  43. loving me too much to leave me wallowing in it
  44. being patient with me as I stumble and fall
  45. late-evening walks with my guys
  46. the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom
  47. the grace to be a stay-at-home mom
  48. the ability to go home for holidays
  49. the anticipation of traditional family foods
  50. the opportunity to establish new traditions as a family of three
  51. cars to drive
  52. delivering me from overwhelming despair
  53. Elijah's smiles and laughs and babbling
  54. a husband who loves me even when I am ugly and unlovable
  55. forgiving all my sins
  56. healing all my diseases
  57. redeeming my life from the pit
  58. crowning me with love and compassion
  59. not treating me as my sins deserve
  60. remembering that I am dust
  61. a husband who is such a wonderful dad
  62. using His daughters to comfort and reassure me and point me to Himself
  63. using me to encourage others
  64. the ability to sing
  65. written records, in Scripture and in my own handwriting, of His faithfulness
  66. the way Elijah sleeps so well
  67. our computer
  68. His power and might
  69. answered prayers
  70. humbling me
  71. taking me through the fire and comforting me so that I can turn and comfort others
  72. my midwife
  73. the beautiful women I've "met" through blogging
  74. Compassion International
  75. literacy
  76. my education
  77. delivering me from feminism
  78. causing me to enjoy cooking
  79. Steve's job
  80. health insurance
  81. gently leading those that have young
  82. giving strength to the weary
  83. a high priest who can sympathize with my weaknesses
  84. apple cider
  85. promising to complete what He started in me
  86. His unchanging nature
  87. diapers
  88. creative outlets
  89. everyday gospel lessons
  90. the unending depths of wisdom and promises to plumb in His Word
  91. hope
  92. the older women who have invested in my life
  93. comfy sweatpants
  94. freedom
  95. soap
  96. massages
  97. furniture
  98. designing it so that the way I can honor and glorify Him is to continue to call on His name and ask for more grace and help and blessings
  99. the inheritance that awaits me: to see clearly and savor completely His beauty and glory forever
  100. the cross, which bought all this for me and ten thousand blessings besides

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mothers, What Shall We Do?

Piper asks, at the conclusion of his sermon on gospel-centered mothering, "So, mothers, what shall we do?" His first answer:

1. Mothers, get right with God through faith in Jesus Christ as your righteousness.

Settle it, women. Once and for all. You will NEVER measure up to God's standards. Ever! Either Christ will be your righteousness, or you will perish. And when you have settled this with God, and trusted Christ for righteousness, then by that same faith savor him so supremely that you make progress in severing the roots of sin in your life.

Fight the fight of faith as a justified mother, not to become a justified mother. Your children will see the difference.

Again, the full sermon is here. Listen, don't read :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You Must Be a Theologian To Be a Mother

More thoughts from John Piper on gospel-centered mothering:

What's the impression the children are picking up as we teach them? Are they getting the impression that the foundation of their acceptance with God is their good behavior, or is the foundation the perfect behavior and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, received by faith alone? Are they learning to win God’s favor by a righteousness they perform, or by a perfect righteousness performed on their behalf by Jesus Christ?

...Let's draw in the issue of sanctification (the obedience which God requires of believers) and ask the question like this: Are the children learning from us that the practical, personal obedience that God requires of believers is the way to become a justified person, or the way a justified person becomes? When you tell a child to do something, and insist on obedience--which you should--are you leading the child to think that his good behavior is the root that grows into justification, or the fruit that flows from justification by faith alone?

Are we helping the children see saving faith both as the way we have Christ’s righteousness as the basis of our acceptance with God, and as the way we have Christ’s power to become like him in daily life? Are we keeping both those things together but in the right order: faith in Christ as the link first to his perfection and pardon, and second as to his purifying power – the one for justification (his perfection and pardon), and the other for sanctification (his purifying power)?

This is a high calling, moms. You must be a theologian to be a mother. You must make some very clear distinctions. You must know how a person is saved. You must know the difference between sanctification and justification, and faith alone and the enabling power of God to obey.
How I pray Elijah will learn from the beginning what I did not learn until my early twenties...that he cannot earn God's acceptance and approval after he is saved any more than he could earn it while he was still dead in sin!

Listen to the full sermon here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gospel-Centered Mothering

Ever hear a sermon so good that you listen to it twice? Or more? I heard just such a sermon a couple of weeks ago. So this week I want to pass along quotes from a John Piper sermon on gospel-centered mothering. Mamas, you NEED to hear this sermon. I have listened to it at least three times already. It is so powerful. I am going to quote from it liberally over the next few days, because I can't just pick one quote, and because if I put them all in one post you won't read it.

But it's so much better to listen. I read the edited transcript, and it's edited a lot--the sermon is tons more powerful. Reading Piper is good, but hearing Piper is wonderful. He has this gentle, firm, fatherly passion and conviction that don't come across in the same way in print. Download it for free here, and then listen in the car, or while you're doing dishes, or while you're nursing. Put it on your iPod for when you take a walk. Just listen to it!

Here's the first quote that struck me:

To make it more pointed, mothers – and all those charged with training up the younger ones in the family and the church – are we teaching the Old Testament and the New Testament to make our children wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Or are we turning the Scriptures into a little collection of morality plays? Do the stories of the Bible point again and again to the need for a Savior, or do they point to the children's need to get their act together morally? Are the children getting the impression under our teaching that Christianity is mainly a list of do’s and don’ts, or mainly a story about how God justifies the ungodly--by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of the blood and righteousness of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone?
This quote reminds me of what I love about The Jesus Storybook Bible. As Al Mohler recently said in recommending this book (he shares both my children's Bible endorsements :), "I am concerned that many Bible story books treat the stories as nothing more than disconnected morality tales. Children need to be told about the "big story" of the Bible -- of God's purpose to save His people from their sins through the atonement of Christ. They need to learn to understand the individual stories of the Bible within the big picture and to know that these stories are not disconnected, but part of a pattern of promise and fulfillment."

Oh, how this is my passion as a mother! I don't want my children to learn morality tales. I want them to see all over Scripture the promise of a Savior and the fulfillment of that promise. How I pray that the Old Testament and the New Testament will make Elijah "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Surfin' Saturday: Coupon Codes

The thing that most aggravates me about online shopping is getting to the checkout page and seeing a place to enter a coupon code--and not having one. It's like that little box taunts me: "Lookie here, you could be saving money, if only you knew the secret code...neener, neener, neener!"

I've often spent a few minutes frantically googling for a code, to no avail. I thought NaughtyCodes.com looked promising when I first discovered it a couple of years ago, but it's not often been helpful. Generally my search yields only expired codes, and I end up resigned to paying full price.

Not anymore!

RetailMeNot.com is built on the same principles as BugMeNot.com--another useful site I take advantage of occasionally.* When you're completing a purchase and come across one of those tantalizing "enter coupon code" boxes, simply head over to RetailMeNot.com and do a quick search. The site provides up-to-date coupon codes, along with details about the discount and a success rate (after you try the code, you indicate whether it worked for you or not, thus boosting or lowering the code's rating). You can then copy the code you want and paste it into that box.

But wait, there's more! That one simple search for your store will also turn up a sidebar comparing discounts at similar stores, as well as an option for you to enter your email address and be notified of new coupons for the same store.

You can also search differently--if you do your coupon scouting before you are already in the process of purchasing, you can find your preferred shopping website at RetailMeNot.com first, and then click a link that will take you straight to the website with the code activated. Or, you can search by product category and look to see which store has the best coupon code.

Unlike my last two Surfin' Saturdays, I can really vouch for this one. On Tuesday night I was ordering prints from Snapfish and saw that little coupon code box. Aha--an opportunity to test out RetailMeNot! I headed over to the site and whaddaya know? Twenty-five percent off my order with just a few clicks. Niiiice.

So now, you can do your online Christmas shopping and taunt those coupon code boxes right back. And with the money you save, you'll have enough left over to buy a Christmas present for me. ;)

*BugMeNot, for those of you unfamiliar, offers bogus login usernames/passwords you can use on sites that want you to register to read an article--like the NY Times online. Rather than taking the time to create an account with your personal information, and thus get yourself signed up for more spam, you can hop over to BugMeNot.com and find a generic username/password to obtain access. Nifty!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Response #7: Visit Them

(The following is part of a series of "responses to the persecuted church" based on a sermon by Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle. As a preface to his sermon, Schumacher noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?" I'm breaking down his "ten responses to the persecuted church," listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.)

To say this series has been on hiatus would be putting it nicely. The truth is, it's been hopelessly sporadic since the very beginning. The fact that I started it in conjunction with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church last year, and IDOP 2007 just passed, gives you some idea.

My persecuted church blogging has disappeared altogether since Elijah was born. I've been too absorbed in my own life to give much thought to persecuted Christians. I was embarrassed to realize last week that somehow I completely forgot about IDOP this year--either I never got materials from Voice of the Martyrs, somehow, or I got them long enough ago for them to get buried and forgotten; at any rate, I shamefully missed an opportunity to help my church remember and encourage the persecuted. (I'm hoping to organize something after the first of the year.)

Meanwhile, my brothers and sisters around the world are having babies, too, under much more dire conditions. They're facing trials that make my struggles look easy-peasy--and continuing to follow God faithfully in the midst of it all. So I'm resuming my series, attempting to remind myself not to be so self-absorbed, but to "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).

7. Visit them.

I always love getting an email or a phone call or a piece of real mail from a faraway friend. What a blessing to know she's thinking of me and to reconnect in some small way! But an even greater blessing is to see her face to face--to hug her, to sit down over coffee and see her facial expressions as she tells me a story, to spend time just being together. And doesn't it mean much more to know someone traveled a long distance to see you--to know they spent time and money and effort because spending time with you was important to them?

I imagine a personal visit from a brother or sister in Christ would bring much the same encouragement to a persecuted Christian. But how could we do this? Doesn't it seem unrealistic, or at the very least unusual?

Yes--that's why I'm going to defer to Eric Schumacher to tell us about this one :)

In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, Paul writes, “we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” Apparently, letters were not enough. Paul saw it as necessary that suffering Christians receive face-to-face encouragement. So, he sent Timothy to them. That is just one of many occasions where this happens (cf Acts 14:21-22; 2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Philippians 2:19; Colossians 4:7-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:4).

I have heard of churches sending members around the world to simply visit persecuted Christians to encourage them. I used to think this was wasteful—we should use our money on unreached people, not on visiting those who have the Scripture and know Christ! I don’t think it is wasteful anymore. I think it is biblical. We ought to be involved in sending people to encourage the persecuted church.

A helpful exhortation from Scripture. Face-to-face encouragement does go even further than a letter. So, can you pack your bags tomorrow and head to China to visit a group of persecuted believers? Not likely. But you can pray about opportunities--and you can at least be involved in doing the sending. Voice of the Martyrs has staff members whose job it is to visit persecuted Christians. Their visits provide information on what the persecuted church needs, and seeing persecuted believers firsthand helps to get their stories out. But it also serves to encourage the persecuted. So by donating to VOM, you can support this vital ministry of encouraging the persecuted church by visiting them.

Previously in this series:
Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised
Response #2: Remember Them
Response #3: Research Them
Response #4: Pray for Them
Response #5: Have Generous Compassion on Them
Response #6: Encourage Them

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 55

Thanking God this week for...
  • my precious son
  • the growth spurt he had this month
  • his laughter and (I swear) mischievous grins
  • pumpkin spice latte
  • clean drinking water
  • the beautiful colors of autumn
  • unexpected money in the mail today
  • chiropractors
  • coconut
  • a husband willing to try any new recipe I come up with for dinner
  • the incredible variety of animals God created
  • blog posts that make me laugh out loud
  • adopting me as His daughter
  • promising me an eternal inheritance
  • being faithful to keep all His promises

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Death and Beauty

Our patio is covered in yellow leaves; as I drove out in the country this afternoon, I marveled at the brilliant reds and oranges. I think it's no accident that nature is at its most beautiful when it's dying.

If there's anything I'm learning during this season of new motherhood--or anything I NEED to learn--it's death. Each day as I care for Elijah, I must die--to laziness, to self-centeredness, to comfort and ease and a hundred things. And it's in death to self that I am most beautiful, because it's here that I look most like my Savior--the One who died that I might live.

"And Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.'" (John 12:23-25)

*Flickr photo by luzzzelmann

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Photography and Pride

It's not the best picture of Elijah I've ever taken, but this photo marks a photography milestone for me: it's the first one I've taken successfully in my camera's manual mode, selecting the aperture and shutter speed myself. At this point in my amateur photography adventure, I know just enough to be dangerous. I have a long, long way to go.

My camera--a Nikon D50--takes great pictures when everything's fully automatic, just point and shoot. But it has the potential to take fabulous pictures if you fuss with the settings more. The problem is, it also has the potential to take terrible pictures because you're fussing with the settings more. I learned that the hard way on Sunday, when we tried to take some family photos. A friend of ours was shooting for us, but he knew nothing about the camera, so I had pre-adjusted the settings and was tweaking periodically. Unfortunately, since I wasn't behind the camera, I couldn't see the effects of my tweaking, and to my dismay, about half of the photos turned out too blurry to use because the camera adjusted the shutter speed to be too slow. Obviously I'm not the budding expert I'd like to think I am--or would like you to think I am ;)

Like many things in life, I guess it gets worse before it gets better. Though it was incredibly disappointing to see what would have been fantastic pictures ruined because of blur (one of them was wonderful--I would totally blow it up and frame it if it weren't so fuzzy), it sent me back to my manual. There is so much information in that thick book to absorb and apply, and I guess screwing something up will help me remember to do it correctly next time.

I realized that there are some spiritual parallels to be gleaned here. Mark Lauterbach often writes of the folly in being disappointed with yourself. In one post about the thought processes behind pride, he writes:

God is without flaw so I hate anything that shows I have flaws, since I am God. I tend to be a perfectionist. I can't stand for little things to be wrong because they reflect poorly on me. I have a hard time putting my mistakes behind me. This is subtle. I do not desire godliness, I desire freedom from the daily necessity of the cross. I do not want to drink grace as a jet engine drinks fuel. I want to get a one shot for life experience. So, my critique of myself shows up in disappointment and despair – because I become weary of being a sinner. I am self-preoccupied. Disappointment is different than conviction of sin. One is I am disappointed with myself, the other is I have offended my God.

He's right, of course. My photography reflects my life in general. I want to have it all figured out, right now (in part to impress others). But screwing up sends me back to the Book (at least I hope it does) and going back to the Book is good for me. It humbles this proud heart; it reminds me that I am daily dependent on His grace.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What $25 Buys You in Kenya

  • a boy's suit
  • four shirts
  • one pair of shoes
  • two pairs of socks
  • a pair of trousers
  • two chickens
  • one kg of sugar
  • a packet of tea leaves
  • 250 g cooking fat
  • seven sweets
I know this because Steve and I received a precious letter the other day from Bahati, the six-year-old Kenyan boy we sponsor through Compassion International. We signed up to sponsor him on Compassion Sunday this past spring, and we noticed that he had just turned six--so along with our first payment, we sent a birthday gift. We've received two or three letters from Bahati already, and the latest one was a thank you for our gift. He told us all the things he bought for himself and his family--listed above.

It blew me away. Kind of puts things in perspective, huh?

If a birthday gift goes that far, think what a $32/month sponsorship accomplishes! I know many of you are already involved with this wonderful ministry, but if you're not, may I encourage you to head over to their website now and check it out? Children are the most vulnerable people in the world—and God is passionate about them. What can you do today for the least of these?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Surfin' Saturday: Sell Your Old Books

After I graduated from college, I spent several hours listing old, unwanted books on Amazon.com and Half.com--the places I'd bought most of my used books. I did sell some of them, but between the time it took to list them, the hassles of shipping, the low prices to make sure they sold, the fees and the postage costs, it probably wasn't all that worthwhile. Steve and I have had a box of unwanted books sitting in our office ever since we got married and merged our libraries--it got moved untouched from the apartment to the house. I keep meaning to list them online, but I just never seem to get around to it.

Enter Cash4Books. You simply enter the ISBN(s) from your book(s) and check to see if they're buying the book. They pay the shipping with a free pre-paid mailing label that you print from your computer. Then they pay for your books! No hidden fees or anything.

They do have a list of books they are generally not purchasing; if you're looking to get rid of paperback fiction, for example, you're out of luck. But it's simple enough that it's worth checking out! If you decide to sell your books, could you be so kind as to click through the link here on my website? They also have an affiliate referral program :)

I haven't tried selling any books yet, but it looks and sounds a whole lot more convenient than selling via the Amazon Marketplace or Half.com (much as I do love those sites for book-buying). I'm definitely planning to get out that box of books and see if we can get some cash for them...just as soon as I get around to it :)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ultimate Gratitude

In the wake of Thankful Thursday, I'm especially thankful for a helpful reminder I read this week in a thoughtful article by my blogger-friend Danielle called "Soul-Deep Contentment." She says:

"These gifts alone make me wealthier than many people throughout the world. How could I not be content with such blessings?

...I've learned good gifts alone don't bring contentment. Well, maybe for a while, but not for a lifetime. Not even gifts from God. They alone don't satisfy. Plus, gifts can be taken away. What then? Although it's right for me to be thankful for all the gifts God has given me in good health, a loving family, food, and so on, there is something more that I must be most thankful for. Christ Himself. Nothing satisfies like the ultimate gift of Christ, given through His work of salvation. There is nothing else I should be more grateful for, and nothing else that can bring about soul-deep contentment, no matter what the circumstances of life may hurl at me."

This is why I try to end every Thankful Thursday post with some unchanging blessings that go deeper than food or weather. At the end of the day, whether I have yummy food, or perfect temperatures, or a thousand other simple pleasures...even if my wedding ring hadn't turned up...I have countless other blessings that can never be misplaced or taken away. I have redemption; I have an eternal inheritance; I have a Savior and Friend who will never leave or forsake me. Ultimately, that's why I'm grateful!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 54

Thanking God this week for...
  • finding my wedding ring just now, after it turned up missing this morning
  • heat
  • a new thermostat that actually works
  • fuzzy sweaters
  • consignment stores for kids' clothes
  • Fuji apples
  • The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept
  • Steve's hugs
  • the way Elijah grins at me
  • the $1 Spot at Target (great place to find some goodies for our shoeboxes!)
  • gift cards
  • cool whip
  • the kindness of strangers
  • John Piper sermons available for free online
  • His mercies new every morning
  • making a way for me to draw near to Him, by the death of His Son

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shoebox Shopping

Have you filled up your shoeboxes yet?

Near the top of my to-do list in the next few days is to go shopping for Operation Christmas Child! This is one of my favorite ministries. Packing a shoebox full of gifts for a child in need is a simple and meaningful way to get into the spirit of Christmas (how is it time to be thinking about Christmas already, anyway?!).

If you're unfamiliar with this ministry, check out this video and short explanation at the Samaritan's Purse website. Have your box(es) ready to go? Search for a drop-off site near you. National Collection Week is next week, so you better get busy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bird's Eye View

You've maybe seen on my sidebar that I've been reading Mark Dever's book The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept for quite a while now. After studying Philemon this morning, I decided that today's post needed to be a plug for this excellent book.

Most people, when they think of expositional preaching (if they know what it is), think of going bit by bit through just a few verses of Scripture at a time. (Expositional preaching, for those of you unfamiliar, is "a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon"--for more explanation, check out the link above.) But Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, demonstrated in a sermon series a few years ago that expositional sermons can be effectively preached on much larger sections of text. He took his congregation through the entire Bible, preaching one overview sermon on each book. And thanks to the folks at Crossway, these sermons were turned into a two-volume Bible commentary of sorts.

As Thomas Schreiner explains in an endorsement, "Many Bible readers are familiar with individual trees while failing to see the forest. They are in great danger of misinterpreting the parts of the Bible they read because they do not see the entire structure... Mark Dever fills a gaping need with his sermons on each of the individual books."

I am finding this bird's-eye-view incredibly helpful and engaging. It's really giving me a better understanding of the major themes and their significance. This morning, after reading the chapter on Philemon, I feel as though I understand this tiny, often-overlooked letter much more clearly than I ever did before. Dever identifies the theme of Philemon as "Forgiveness" and explains how "Paul pulls out all the stops" in trying to bring reconciliation between Philemon and his slave, Onesimus. He asks, "Does the length to which Paul goes remind you of anyone in particular? Paul is following the example of his master [Jesus Christ], who went to far greater lengths to make peace."

He then points out:
"Philemon will feel offended if he has understood everything about Christianity except the gospel. In other words, if he understands that right and wrong are absolute, that actions have consequences, and that Christiasn must live exemplary lives, then yes, Philemon will understandably feel offended. But if God's Holy Spirit has ever convicted Philemon of his own sin, then he will not take umbrage."

Finally, Dever says:
"Nothing is nearer the heart of the Christian faith than the recognition of our own need to forgive because of our own need for forgiveness in Christ. in this little letter, we see three miniature pictures of what true Christian faith will look like in us. We will be peacemakers, like Paul...We will forgives others, as Philemon should...We will know our need for forgiveness, as Onesimus did."

Wow! Suddenly Philemon isn't a little chapter buried in between the "more valuable/relevant" Titus and Hebrews. It teaches me about the significance of forgiveness in my own Christian life; it equips me to counsel others when they struggle to forgive.

I highly recommend this book as a wonderful companion to your time in the Word. It's also lot more user-friendly than many Bible commentaries and even includes application questions to help you think through each book. I can't wait to get the Old Testament volume!

Monday, November 05, 2007


Remind me of this with every decision
Generations will reap what I sow
I can pass on a curse or a blessing
To those I will never know
--Sara Groves, "Generations"

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the car listening to this old song and glanced in the rearview mirror at a baby, fast asleep. The lyrics struck me profoundly. It is sobering--scary, even--to realize how my decisions no longer affect just me. Of course I know my decisions have affected Steve for quite a while now. But his character is already fully formed--he already has faith in Christ--he won't learn from me how to view the world. The choices I make each day may seem small and insignificant in and of themselves. But cumulatively, they will impact Elijah in a big way. Even more sobering is the thought that my sin, or my faithfulness, can have a ripple effect for generations--not just impacting my son, but his children, and their children.

The choices I made yesterday, a year ago, five years ago have shaped the mother I am today--for better or for worse (too often it's the latter). But I am grateful that these choices are not the final determining factor in the mother I can be. My hope is in the gospel, and the power it has to change this flawed and broken mother.

"He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

The day I depend on my own strength to make a positive impact on my son is the day my legacy is doomed. But my Savior, whose perfect obedience and sacrificial death purchased my forgiveness and reconciliation with God, also purchased my transformation and gave me His Spirit. He who called me and justified me has promised to glorify me. And that means His grace can provide what I need to be an effective, faithful mother--the kind who leaves a legacy of faithfulness for generations to come.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name
--Nichole Nordeman, "Legacy"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Little Man

I didn't intend for "a post a day for a month" to necessarily mean "lots more photos of Elijah"--but I guess there are plenty of you who don't come here to read what I have to say; you just want to see adorable pictures. I'm happy to oblige.

Fall has definitely set in here in Tennessee (can I just say, I hate that it gets dark here at 5:00 now!) and we really needed some warm clothes for Elijah. Our house is always COLD and I don't want him to freeze! I hit up a fabulous consignment store yesterday and thought you might like to see what he wore to church today:

Doesn't he just look like a little man? I love a baby boy in a button-down shirt :)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Surfin' Saturday: Kickoff

I often run across websites I'd like to share with you, though they don't really merit a blog post all their own. For that reason, and because my Favorites folder is ridiculously overloaded, I recently opened an account at del.icio.us. (A side note: It was the longest time before I realized that website was "delicious"--I read it as "dell/eeseeo/u-s" for quite a while :) I love being able to easily keep track of articles I've found interesting--and to be able to save one memorable line from the article along with the link.

I'm working to get my del.icio.us feed on my sidebar, but I can't get it to look right (and I need to update templates to have two sidebars--the current one is way too long already). In the meantime, and to help me get through NaBloPoMo, I'm instituting "Surfin' Saturday"--when I'll point you to interesting things I've found around the internet.

This week's kickoff is "CDs for iPods" at Feed Your Player. Got old CDs lying around that you never listen to anymore? If you have enough of them, you might be able to trade up--way up. Forty CDs will buy you a 1GB iPod shuffle; 75 will get you a 4GB iPod Nano! You can also trade DVDs or a combination of both--and, you can make up the difference with cash.

Steve and I had some duplicate CDs when we combined music libraries, and I just had my parents bring down my old CDs last weekend--I know I have several I don't listen to anymore and wouldn't miss. We've been eyeing mp3 players for quite a while now, so I'm hoping we'll be able to get an iPod pretty cheaply through this site! For the details, and to find out what CDs are acceptable, check out the exchange rate and FAQs.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thankful "Thursday," Take 54

Thanking God this week for...
  • not being in any of the rush hour accidents on I-24 last night
  • cell phones
  • after much ado, getting to meet with a friend for dinner
  • gummy grins and exuberant jibber-jabber this morning that almost make me forget all the screaming last night. almost.
  • fleece
  • fireplace
  • apple cider
  • apple butter
  • a fridge full of leftovers
  • electric blanket
  • sunny afternoon walks
  • the smell of autumn
  • deep red leaves on trees
  • time in prayer with Him
  • the ability to memorize His Word
  • music that speaks to my heart

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's That Time of Year Again...


This blog has been sorely neglected since the arrival of a certain adorable little guy...so I'm going to once again take up the National Blog Posting Month challenge and see if I can't get at least a little something up every day of November. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Possibly. Last year it was hard sometimes and I didn't even have a baby. But it's good to push myself to write more, so we'll see how it goes.

Stay tuned--and if you're so inclined, join me by signing up!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Need for Grace

In the midst of an interesting two-part series on simplicity over at Amy’s Humble Musings, this helpful gospel reminder:
"Having been saved by grace, we try to live by works. But the purpose behind what we were given was not to make us feel good about ourselves because we are doing all the right things, it was given to help us realize our desperate condition and our continual need for the grace of God in everyday life. It was given to drive us to our knees and to deepen our relationship with our God as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 53

Thanking God this week for...
  • the fact that my parents are on their way here as I type!
  • card-stamping time with two friends this afternoon, and a houseful of their sweet, fun kids
  • breast pumps
  • new recipes that are a hit
  • kisses
  • the freedom to turn the heat on whenever I want to--a friend of mine is in China and they cannot use heat until the government turns it on, usually not until November 1! She was so excited today because they turned it on five days early...she's been freezing for a while now...boggles my mind. [/tangent]
  • fleece
  • emails from friends I haven't been in touch with in ages
  • Elijah's baby-soft skin
  • kids' Bibles that minister to me
  • knowing that my acceptance as God's child is not dependent on my performance
  • the hope of heaven and eternity with Jesus

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Storybook Bibles for Kids

In the mornings, during Elijah's "happy hour" (unlike his mama, my little guy seems to be a morning person; more often than not, he wakes up all smiles), we are reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible. He's not really into it yet--but I sure am!

While I was pregnant, I kept hearing about two kids' Bibles from several people whose recommendations I trust. Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds described these two books this way:
"...The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. I think all families should own both of these books: the former gives a good framework for biblical theology (God's people in God's place under God's rule); the latter gives a good understanding of how all of Scripture testifies to Christ."
I was blessed to receive The Big Picture Story Bible as a shower gift and The Jesus Storybook Bible shortly after Elijah was born. Both are fantastic. The Big Picture Story Bible is more the type that a child would be able to read by himself sooner, with only one or two simple sentences on each page. As Taylor says, it provides a great bird's-eye-view of the whole Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is for older readers, but fabulous for reading out loud. Its subtitle is "Every Story Whispers His Name"--and the author does a beautiful job of demonstrating exactly that. The book begins:

"Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn't do. ...Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. ...No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne--everything--to rescue the one he loves. ...There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It is the perfect complement to the "gospel-centeredness" paradigm shift I've experienced these last few years. And it isn't just for kids--it's helping me see, sometimes for the first time, how the Old Testament stories I learned merely as moral stories about Noah, or David, or Jonah, are really about Jesus.

Besides being wonderfully Christ-centered, the stories are written at a kid's level without talking down to them. It's charmingly funny at times (the Pharisees are called "Extra Super Holy People--at least that's what they thought"). And the illustrations are uniquely beautiful.

Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, says, "I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian." I absolutely second his recommendation! Buy it for your children for Christmas--and if you don't have kids, don't let that stop you from picking up this jewel of a book!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 52

A year of Thankful Thursdays! This week I'm thanking God for...
  • the awesome routine Elijah has fallen into this week--holding my breath that it will last :)
  • planning meals well so I could come in way under budget at the grocery store
  • monster cookies
  • a surprise package in the mail
  • box fans
  • laughter
  • instant messaging
  • being back at small group on Sunday night
  • an afternoon spent with a friend
  • adorable two-year-olds with great manners
  • Elijah making eye contact more, responding when I talk to him and even seeming to laugh
  • the versatility of Stove Top stuffing
  • my wedding ring
  • hair ties
  • the internet
  • paper and pens
  • sending His Son to absorb the wrath I deserve
  • loving me when I am unlovable
  • keeping His promises

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Competency and Motherhood

Thanks to a generous surprise gift from a friend, I'm reading through Anne Lamott's book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. I read it years and years ago but can appreciate it a whole lot more these days. This quote I read this morning sums up exactly how I feel:
"All these people keep waxing sentimental about how fabulously well I am doing as a mother, how competent I am, but I feel inside like when you're first learning to put nail polish on your right hand with your left. You can do it, but it doesn't look all that great around the cuticles."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You Are Pleasing to God (If You Are In Christ)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about learning to look back and see how far I've come, rather than only looking forward and becoming discouraged at how far I have to go. In the middle of writing that post, I was so encouraged by this post from--who else?--Mark Lauterbach. He describes 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 as "shocking" and "outrageous" because of Paul's statement, "how to walk and please God, as you are already doing."

Lauterbach writes:

Now why would he say that? ...Was this church some paragon of godliness?
...No, they are no super-saints. How then are they pleasing God?

It is because of the work of Christ. ...He has lived the sinless life that please God. He has offered the atoning sacrifice that removes wrath. God sees them in Christ and they are his sons and daughters. They have been given the Spirit. ...In other words, God no longer sees them in themselves alone. He sees them in Christ.

...Wow, here is my question: ...Would I ever tell an individual I care for that they are pleasing to God? Do I ever go to bed at night with the thought that in that day God was pleased with me in Christ?
I started excerpting more here, but I can't copy and paste the whole article. Please, please do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing! It is a truly encouraging reflection on the amazing grace of God.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reference Point

Words I'm chewing on this weekend, thanks to Carolyn McCulley:

change your focus. Renew your mind by thinking on what's right and true about God — most specifically, the jaw-dropping mercy you've already received as a forgiven and adopted daughter.

Rejoicing begins when we look at our situation in view of God's mercy and with worship for his manifold perfections. Instead of holy wrath for our sins and disobedience, we've received mercy for our pride and rebellion. A mind conformed to this world always starts with a reference point of Me, Myself, and I. But a mind transformed is one whose reference point is the character of God.

The full article is here--yet another example of how her wisdom, though directed to singles, is usually applicable to those in every season of life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Best Buds

Ten years ago? I was a freshman, she a senior. We were paired as co-Narrators for our high school musical. Neither of us was thrilled with the arrangement. But an unexpected friendship grew, and was cemented for life a few months later when we each surrendered to Christ's call on our lives at church camp.

Five years ago? We were both single--although maybe she had started dating her husband at that point. Plenty of talk about guys...this was the girl who would tell me, in all love and the best wisdom she had at the time, "As for Steve, it's a cute fairy tale, but it's not going to happen and you just need to move on." :)

One year ago (or a little less)? A phone conversation that went something like this: "Guess what, I'm pregnant!" "AAAAAAAHHHH!!! So am I!!!"

Two months ago, two little boys were born to two best friends, within two days of each other. Last week, we got to spend some precious and rare girl time together when Julie and Joel came down for a visit--though "girl time" is now no longer females-only, and our conversations sound a little different these days. One element is constant: the kindness and faithfulness of God.

Maybe someday these two will be best buds.

Thankful Thursday, Take 51

On time this week! Thanking God for...
  • cheesy biscuits like the ones at Red Lobster, fresh from my oven (OK, I used a mix)
  • ginger teriyaki ranch dressing (sounds weird, but really yummy)
  • the clothesline Steve built for me over the weekend
  • photography advice from patient people/beginning to understand some of the technical stuff more
  • unexpected emails from friends I haven't heard from in ages
  • 50% off coupons
  • the free chicken sandwich I enjoyed yesterday
  • sweet eBay deals
  • the vegetable soup that I can smell simmering in the crockpot right this minute
  • the crockpot
  • new recipes tried and enjoyed
  • a healthy, growing little boy
  • long phone conversations catching up with old friends
  • the sling Steve's cousin made for me to carry Elijah in
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • a simple tip from someone that helps me make sure I'm drinking enough water each day
  • long-sleeved-shirt-jeans-and-flip-flops weather--my favorite
  • hearing from friends that they are growing/serving/right in the center of God's will
  • mercies new every morning

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 50

Thanking God this week for...
  • a visit from my best friend and her little guy (pics forthcoming!)
  • her generosity in watching Elijah for a couple of hours so Steve and I could have a date
  • Nature Valley Almond Crunch bars
  • air conditioning
  • a clean house
  • washer and dryer
  • indoor plumbing
  • the friends I've made through blogging
  • hobby night with friends last Friday
  • last Saturday's Qdoba-and-a-walk-in-the-park
  • Elijah's letting me eat spicy food
  • Steve's servant heart
  • the money to order pizza when dinner gets ruined
  • Steve's understanding and patience when I am an emotional mess
  • putting a check in the mailbox and getting stamps delivered to my house
  • unexpected packages
  • soft baby skin
  • gummy baby grins
  • tiny baby dimples
  • "checking to see if you're okay" phone calls
  • the fact that He provides for me what He requires of me

Friday, September 28, 2007


I went crazy with my camera this week--need to learn how to use more of its features, and I have a fun subject to practice with now :) Elijah and I had a big photo shoot yesterday. I practiced implementing advice from Nick Kelsh, author of How to Photograph Your Baby (a great, non-technical "improve your amateur photography" book). He suggests three basic ways to make your photos better:

  1. Get closer
  2. Turn off your flash
  3. Shoot more film

I've still got plenty of room for improvement with my photography, but just doing those three things makes a huge difference! Thought I'd share a couple of my favorite shots. You can see more here.

(For those of you who think he looks like Steve...I wish you were right, but I sure don't see it. These super-closeup photos look SO much like my baby pictures. I'll try to post some of those sometime next week.)

(P.S. - For you photo buffs/pros reading along, feel free to give me some constructive criticism either here or over at Flickr--I could use any tips you want to pass along :)

Thankful Thursday, Take 49

[You'll have to cut me some slack post-baby...it's awfuly hard to manage to get this up on time lately! But for simplicity's sake we'll keep calling it "Thankful Thursday."]

Thanking God this week for...
  • a great week with Elijah, enough so that I'm finally believing everyone who keeps saying "It gets better, I promise!"
  • five consecutive hours of sleep
  • the little wiggleworm on my lap who's smiling and cooing as I type
  • tiny baby feet
  • last weekend's women's retreat
  • encouragement and empathy from friends
  • my camera
  • Hello
  • advice from people who have been there, done that--on everything from photography to nursing to cloth diapering
  • a long walk on the greenway last night with our little family (and no crying from the stroller)
  • sore muscles from working out
  • my studly personal trainer (aka my husband :)
  • a chance to get out of the house yesterday afternoon and enjoy the company of friends
  • sunshine
  • meeting our insurance deductible (=100% coverage thru December!)
  • apple chips
  • our grill
  • orange bell peppers

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

Life postpartum for me has been, in a word, overwhelming. I know that description is probably underwhelming--adjusting to a new baby is overwhelming for everyone, right? But it has seemed more so than usual for me--these last almost-seven weeks have seen me feeling completely overwhelmed and broken, with a whole lot of tears.

Part of it is hormones, to be sure. But part of it is also coming face to face with the sin in my heart. I knew God would use motherhood to refine me, and I wanted Him to do so--but I also feared it, because I knew the process would be painful. It's never fun to be confronted with your own ugliness. And there's been plenty of confronting these last several weeks, let me tell you. In some ways motherhood has brought out the worst in me. Compounding matters is the simple fact that I have sown laziness and selfishness for the last two years, and God's Word promises that you reap what you sow--so now I am reaping the consequences of my choices as old habits die hard.

Yet I serve a faithful God, one who is endlessly patient with me and, in His incredible grace, does not treat me as my sins deserve. And time after time, He has provided the encouragement and comfort I need, often using many of you as vessels of His grace and love.

Last Thursday and Friday were, I believe, rock-bottom. I sat at the dining room table on Friday morning holding Elijah and weeping, telling him he deserved a better mama than he got. Our church's women's retreat was scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and part of me didn't even want to go. But Friday afternoon with Elijah went better, and so we went (all the ladies from church were so glad to finally be able to pass him around). Of course it was exactly what I needed. Amazingly, both the format and the date were completely different this year than in the past--and though I'm not so arrogant as to believe it all revolves around me, I am thankful that it was when and what it was this year, because it was absolutely what I needed, just when I needed it most.

On Saturday morning, the woman who was leading our discussion group on Proverbs 31 concluded by affirming each of us, saying that although none of us had raised our hands at the beginning claiming that we were a "strong Proverbs 31 woman," we each were, in our own ways. She said some really encouraging things to me that made me realize: I've come a long way, and God's not finished with me yet.

When I look at my sin, it can be so discouraging. I see where I am and where I want to be, and there's such a chasm between the two that I start to despair. At times like that I need to be reminded to turn around and look backwards. I'm not where I want to be--but I'm not where I started, either. When I stop and think about the person I was ten years ago, as a brand-new baby Christian...oh wow. God has brought me so far from that place and taught me so much in that decade. And so I remember that just as He loved me and patiently led me then, so will He continue to gently, compassionately, faithfully complete the good work He began in me.

And I need to look back even further--to the cross. When my sin is overwhelmingly ugly and I am tempted to despair, I can take heart that God's love for me and acceptance of me as His daughter is not dependent on my performance. It was bought for me once and forever, by the blood of His Son.

Life as a New Mom

I'm totally putting "shower" and "eat lunch" on my to-do list now. Getting those things done most days is a real accomplishment, worthy of the satisfaction that comes with crossing them off a list.

(Thanks to Kristin for the idea.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A New Use for Diapers

I can almost guarantee you've never seen anyone do this before. Head over to Luke & Kristin's for a good laugh--it sounds like their little guy, who was born just a few days after Elijah, has a lot in common with our son :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Little Preoccupied...

I don't know how all you blogging mamas do it...motherhood is kicking. my. butt.
Here's all I can manage to put up for this week:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Freeing You from Your Little Definition of Goodness

My Bloglines feed list is already overwhelming. And yet I keep stumbling upon MORE great blogs. The latest? Paul Tripp Ministries. He's in the midst of a series on Psalm 27, so the first post I read included this gem of a quote:

I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (v.13)

Being confident of the goodness of the Lord shouldn't be confused with an assumption that because God is good, he'll give me the things that I've set my heart on. In his grace, God is freeing you from the small confines of your little definition of what's good so that you can experience the huge and satisfying good that he's planned for you. Grace welcomes me to experience what is eternally right, true and good. Grace invites me to good that I could never have imagined, deserved, or earned.

Check it out!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 48

Thanking God this week for...
  • a timely phone call from a friend today when I was feeling frustrated and isolated
  • encouraging emails that arrive at just the right time
  • Elijah's growth and health
  • his starting to make noises besides screaming bloody murder--we much prefer the coos over the crying :)
  • the lactation consultant at my local hospital
  • Steve's sensitivity, servanthood and patience
  • the internet and the vast amount of information at my fingertips
  • novels that are just as good the second time you read them
  • cooler weather
  • long walks with my husband, son and dog
  • pizza
  • homemade chocolate-chip-cookie-ice-cream-sandwiches, courtesy of a friend from church
  • His mercies, new every morning
  • the fact that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love
  • the glorious gospel that reminds me I'll never be good enough--but I don't have to be

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Important Reminders

I recently discovered a new blog--important enough that I subscribed via email rather than adding it to my feed reader, so I'm sure to read every day's entry. The blog is called "Of First Importance." Its premise:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is "of first importance" (1 Cor 15:3), but we easily forget. Each day this blog will provide one quote to help you live in the good of the gospel.

The first day I subscribed, I was struck by the quote that showed up in my inbox:

“Would I gather arguments for hoping that I shall never be cast away? Where shall I go to find them? Shall I look at my own graces and gifts? Shall I take comfort in my own faith and love, and penitence and zeal, and prayer? Shall I turn to my own heart, and say, ‘This same heart will never be false and cold’?

Oh, no! God forbid! I will look at Calvary and the crucifixion. This is my grand argument: this is my mainstay. I cannot think that He who went through such sufferings to redeem my soul, will let that soul perish after all, when it has once cast itself on Him. Oh, no! What Jesus paid for Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it: He will not let it easily be lost. He died for me when I was yet a dark sinner: He will never forsake me after I have believed. ..."

- J.C. Ryle

Check it out for yourself--and take the opportunity to remind yourself of the main thing every day.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Come on a Safari with Me

My friend Melissa gave Elijah his very first real outfit--she brought it over the first week we were home, but I hadn't tried it on until today. I put it on him this afternoon and almost died laughing from the cuteness. Enjoy:

With the hat and that pillow as background, doesn't he look like he's about to go on some sort of safari expedition?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 47

Thanking God this week for...
  • the sling Steve's cousin made for me to carry Elijah in
  • encouragement from friends
  • meals from friends at church
  • brownies
  • Steve's wonderful cooking abilities
  • a three day weekend last weekend
  • the way Steve spoiled me over the weekend so I could get extra sleep
  • news that faraway friends are moving closer
  • giving me friends with newborns to travel this road alongside
  • late evening walks with Steve, Elijah and Hank
  • hope that transcends circumstances

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Faithful to Meet Me

I had a rough morning. The afternoon wasn't much better, until Elijah finally fell asleep and I was able to get a shower and some time with the Lord. But just now (as my son naps with his daddy and I get a few moments of computer time) I am feeling incredibly blessed. God has met me today--in Psalm 86, much of which felt like I could have penned it myself--in encouraging words from a dear "friend" I don't even know in real life, but whom God in His kindness used to touch my heart (you know who you are...thank you)--and in this blog post over at girltalk:
"Like an astute coach or a gifted teacher, God prepares his saints for the tasks to which he has appointed them before he uses them. Moses, for example, spent forty years in the desert, herding sheep, before God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. What better preparation in patience could there have been for his assignment of leading an equally stubborn flock of people through wilderness for forty years? Similarly, David learned courage from his own experience as a shepherd. Later the one who had learned how to take on wild animals in the defense of his flock would be called upon to take on the biggest wild animal of all, mighty Goliath, in the defense of God's flock. God knows how to prepare his people for the tasks to which they are assigned" (from Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality by Iain M. Duiguid).

...my present difficulty is “preparation for a task.” It isn’t simply something to get through. It is a training tool—to conform me to the image of Christ and make me more useful for him.

That "astute coach" is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love...and faithful to meet me right where I am. And so I praise Him tonight. Truly He "gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11).