Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MMM: Why Bother to Memorize?

*As we gear up for Mega Memory Month, I'm reposting from my archives in an attempt to inspire you to join me in memorization. This post is a composite of posts originally published on January 31 and February 1, 2007 .*

For years, I sort of pooh-poohed the idea of deliberate, methodical Scripture memorization. It's not that I didn't believe it was important to know God's Word. I just never got on board with sticking index cards everywhere, or repeating a verse every day so you could recite it at Sunday school. I did have a lot of God's Word in my heart, but it was from years of regular reading and studying, not from using flash cards. I couldn't tell you the exact chapter and verse, but I could tell you that the end of Ephesians talked about the armor of God--and I could find it pretty quickly if I had my Bible. Or I may not get every word precisely right, but I could tell you the gist of it and again, verify it with my Bible. In the end, though, I think my resistance to the idea was mostly laziness and pride.

I don't know what changed my heart, but sometime in late 2006, I decided to try being more intentional about memorizing God's Word. Rather than learning a verse here and a verse there, I liked the idea of knowing large chunks of Scripture, and I remembered a method John Piper had outlined in one of his books that he claimed was incredibly effective. So I gave it a shot.

I was astounded at how God used it in my life. I started with Romans 8, and I found that lines of precious truth would run through my head at various times during the day, like song lyrics do. And I couldn't believe how many opportunities God provided to quote and apply the truths I had committed to memory--to remind myself of a promise, to encourage a friend in a struggle, to direct a prayer.

Scripture memorization is a valuable weapon in the fight to take every thought captive, to preach the gospel to yourself. Personally, I find it difficult to set my mind and heart on things above. It's so easy to be distracted and bogged down by the routines and demands of everyday life--or to shut your brain off and go on autopilot. But the discipline of memorization, seeking to saturate my mind with God's Word, helps me to keep my eyes on Jesus just a little more often. And isn't that the point?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's that time of year, of course, when we ponder how to reform ourselves. I have some more thoughts stewing on resolutions, but for today, just a couple of links.

On the serious side, a provocative list by Don Whitney of ten questions to ask yourself at the start of a new year. I've used this before and found it helpful.

And on the lighter side, resolutions from Stuff Christians Like. (Why don't I have this blog on my feeds yet? Every time someone else points me there I sit here laughing out loud.) Jon writes:
"I don’t know what resolutions you’ve made this year. That’s not true. I know three of them. Read the Bible more. Pray more. Spend more time with God. You have to have those unless you’re hoping to be a sweatier Philistine this year. Is that what you’re shooting for? Less Bible reading? Spending less time in prayer? Completely punking God? You should be ashamed of yourself."

MMM: What to Memorize?

Mega Memory Month is almost here! Are you up for it? Have you decided what you'll be working on?

The last time I posted about Scripture memorization, someone asked: How do you decide what to memorize? Perhaps you already have a favorite passage of Scripture, like a favorite Psalm, that jumps immediately to mind. You might choose a chapter from which you've already memorized a verse or two, to give yourself a confidence boost. Another idea is to choose a passage that speaks to something you often struggle with--like I could memorize Philippians 2 to combat my ongoing battle with pride.

Still stumped? In a recent interview, Ryan Ferguson--whose inspiring, dramatic recitations of Scripture have been featured at conferences such as Worship God '06--offered these ideas:
Prior to giving specifics, let me first suggest that whatever longer passage you choose, make it a passage of Scripture that God has used in your life and heart. This connection will assist you in your memory work, because it will be connecting God’s powerful Word to your thinking and living. I would suggest the following: Psalm 1, 46, 139, 150, Genesis 1, John 1, I John 1, any chapter in Ephesians, James 1.

During the original Mega Memory Month, Helen at A Work of Heart also posted a helpful list of suggestions, taken from Tim LaHaye's book How to Study the Bible for Yourself. LaHaye lists twelve chapters he believes every Christian should master:
  • Ephesians 5
  • Galatians 5
  • John 14-17
  • Romans 6,8,12
  • I Timothy 2
  • Ephesians 4, 6
The link also includes a secondary list of other important passages.

I began my extended-memorization journey with Romans 8, which was a wonderful choice. It's a chapter rich with gospel truth and it speaks to so many aspects of the Christian life: freedom from condemnation, adoption as God's children, peace with Him, encouragement through suffering, the promise of heaven, the Spirit's help, the never-failing love of God...I think if I had to choose just one favorite passage of Scripture, it would be this one. And it's got several familiar verses that will help boost your memorization. If you can't decide where to start, I'd warmly recommend starting there.

And, just a note, Mega Memory Month isn't limited to Scripture. God's Word is undoubtedly the most important, enduring thing you could commit to memory, but you might find other things valuable as well. In fact, I'll be memorizing something different this month--I'll share more when MMM officially begins. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Blue Christmas

After the gifts had all been opened and the Honeybaked ham had been consumed (twice) and the games had been played, I found myself feeling a little melancholy--and it wasn't just at the prospect of eight-plus hours in the car with a whiny, possibly-teething toddler.

We are so blessed with wonderful families to go home to; we received oodles of generous gifts; we even had a white Christmas. Yet this wasn't the first year I've felt a sense of letdown after all the holiday festivities. Why? Jon Bloom at Desiring God illuminates my experience with this hopeful post about "post-Christmas melancholy":
But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul’s deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, “Is that all?” because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coming Soon: Mega Memory Month

Last October, a new blog-friend of mine introduced a new blog carnival: Mega Memory Month. Ann Kroeker challenged her readers to choose something big to commit to memory--something longer, more formidable than they had attempted before. I came late to the announcement, but I'm glad that Ann has recently announced the return of Mega Memory Month. She explains:
Each person determined what “mega” meant personally. Some, with more nimble minds offering greater capacity, tackled vast swaths of Scripture; while a few of us nibbled what tidbits we could. Regardless of the actual serving size, I believe we all feasted. We stretched ourselves. We swallowed as much as our systems could handle, and were nourished.
I've experienced firsthand the benefits of memorizing larger sections of Scripture. I was first challenged by Dr. Andrew Davis's wonderful article "An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture." Davis writes of the benefits of memorizing whole chapters or books, rather than single verses:
Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Paul said “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16) Memorizing individual verses tends to miss intervening verses that the individual does not feel are as significant. Furthermore, most of Scripture is written to make a case… there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized. Furthermore, there is also a greater likelihood of taking verses out of context by focusing on individual verses.
If you've never made it a point to work on Scripture memorization, will you join us in January? Ann reassures us:
Nobody is grading or judging us on how well we complete this month-long memory project. But making our intentions public may spur us on to finish successfully.
Let’s take a risk. Stretch ourselves.
Our minds can hold more than we think they can.
I'll be writing more on this soon--meanwhile, I hope you'll consider participating and begin thinking about what you'd like to commit to memory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Kannels!

I'm enjoying a brief hiatus with friends and family over the holidays. Many blessings to you and yours as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!


We were blind and lost and godless
Wandering a trackless waste
Then hope arose, a glorious beacon
Like the star the wise men chased
Down from heaven came a Savior
Born a child, so small and frail
Taking up our pain and troubles
Conquering where we had failed

You who with a word created
Sun and moon and seas and sand
Lay there sleeping in a manger
Cradled by Your mother’s hand
You who made the mighty forests
Would lie down upon a tree
Fastened there with nails for sinners
Would bleed and die to set us free

Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel
In You alone we hope and trust
Jesus, Savior, God with us

("Emmanuel, Emmanuel" by Mark Altrogge, from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man)


All the world rejoice
For the baby comes
As a humble prince in the night
The Word made flesh, Emmanuel
The Everlasting Light
Let the warmth of heaven reach the coldest heart
With the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise the serpent’s head
Rejoice, all the world, rejoice!

("Rejoice" by Todd Twining, from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man)

Friday, December 19, 2008

How He Deals with Me

"The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me" (Psalm 18:20).

I've always found passages like this in the Psalms puzzling. How could David, or anyone else, boast of such purity and godliness? How could he be so confident of standing before the Lord; how could he call himself blameless and upright in heart?

I'm still not sure I fully understand, but this morning I found a new encouragement in this psalm. If this was a comfort to David--if he drew confidence and peace from the knowledge that God had dealt with him according to his own righteousness--how much more can I be comforted by the knowledge that the Lord deals with me according to His Son's righteousness?

I know for sure I don't want Him to deal with me according to my righteousness. And because of the cross, He doesn't. I am in Christ, and so God sees me through the covering of His Son's perfect obedience. He deals with me as though my hands were the sinless hands of the spotless Lamb.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 97

Thanking God this week for...
  • the hobby retreat I got to take with friends last Friday-Saturday
  • a video camera to capture moments with Elijah while he's little
  • the excitement of first steps
  • two-hour morning naps (for Elijah, not me!)
  • Christmas cards with pictures in them
  • my husband's generosity
  • opportunities to help others
  • freezers
  • the sweetness of the Word
  • the Word made flesh
  • lessons on lamenting
  • drawing me to Himself
  • the birth of my best friend's little boy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hurting, Humble, Voicing Longings

How do you speak to God when you're hurting? What do you pray when words won't come?

Did you know 1/3 of the psalms are psalms of lament? I didn't.

Ann Voskamp writes of learning to lament:
God is still present. When we honestly expose our inflammation, express our soreness, we are still staking our commitment to our relationship with Him. Choose to give voice to the sadness and you convey what you believe: a still-burning hope in relationship, a kindled expectation for reconciliation. For isn’t what animates angry words not the passion of love? Anger is love’s depths turned inside out. Far more insidious to relationship than anger is the indifference of silence, the unresponsiveness of apathy… the desensitization of soul leprosy.

...Learning to lament is to give voice to our longings. To accept the vulnerability of longing. To move from the sharp edge of pain to a humble petition of neediness. To hold out empty hands and cry please.

Lord, teach me to cry humbly, to cry out to You, trusting You to catch the tears.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mercy for Joseph, Mercy for Us

Perhaps you've read Luke 2 or Matthew 1 already this Christmas season. Perhaps, like me, you too often gloss over the familiar words of Jesus' birth. How many times have we heard this story? Have you, like me, tended to forget that it is a story about real human beings, facing heartache and pain and confusion before the wondrous joy comes?

Certain Christmas songs have helped me look sympathetically at Mary, but a recent article by Jon Bloom at Desiring God caused me to see Joseph in a fresh light. Bloom imagines the story this way:
A blast of shock and disbelief hit him, blowing away all his coherent thoughts for a moment. His legs quavered. He grabbed at the tree to steady himself. It felt solid, rooted.

He stared at her. He was numb. No words came. Everything seemed surreal.

But there's more to this tale than simply seeing Joseph as a real person--there's an encouraging lesson I'd never seen before. Have you ever struggled with a difficult decision, hoping but not knowing if you were choosing the right thing? Bloom writes:
Joseph was a just man (Matt. 1:19) and assessed the situation in the integrity of his heart, and, I assume, with a deep trust in God. He made the best decision regarding Mary that he could. It turned out to be the wrong one. But God, full of mercy, intervened.

Read the rest of the story about Joseph's Painful Decision and be amazed at the mercy of God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 96

Thanking God this week for...
  • the huge bag of hand-me-down baby clothes a friend gave me
  • finally finding a comforter for the guest room for more than 50% off yesterday
  • the ability to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones
  • slippers
  • Christmas trees
  • Christmas lights
  • cinnamon-scented pinecones
  • the ability to type quickly
  • fried chicken salads
  • the remarkable amount of storage space, for an old house, our house has
  • gas station cappuccinos
  • the adorable winter hat some friends gave us for Elijah
  • my physical health
  • encouragement from others
  • hope in the Psalms
  • the way God spoke to Mary and Joseph
  • the glorious mystery and mercy of the incarnation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letters to Mothers

The Mother Letter Project has been showing up everywhere I look lately--have you seen it? I often brag on my incredible husband, but I have to acknowledge that the man who conceived this project has a solid bid for World's Second Best Husband.

The concept is simple but wonderful. In a desire to forego materialism and keep Christmas simple yet meaningful, he is creating a gift for his wife: letters from mothers. He explains:

I am creating my wife’s Christmas present-the Mother Letter Project. Simply stated, I am collecting a series of “open letters” from mothers, to mothers. Share your stories—no matter how raw or difficult. Share you concerns—no matter how foolish they may seem. Share your wisdom—no matter how you came by it. Share your mother story. The only request? Start the letter “Dear Mother” and sign it. I will compile all of the letters in a Christmas book for my wife. If you share a letter here or by email ( before Christmas, you'll get your own copy of the letters.

Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer, whom he contacted to help spread the word, provides a few more details:

His wife is the mother of small children, a season of life often fraught with discouragement and exhaustion. He began asking some mothers he knew in real life to submit letters of encouragement to her, sharing their best bits of motherhood wisdom. He planned to collect the letters to give to her Christmas morning.

[His] idea was well-received by friends, but he began to realize his "mother network" was fairly small. He wanted to broaden the scope of his idea and find a way for more women to encourage his wife.

The Mother Letter Project was born.

Broaden the scope, indeed--I can't even fathom how many letters he has received or will continue to receive! This thing has exploded as only Internet phenomena can.

Ann Kroeker, offering her own letter this week, explains why YOU should write a letter:

As his invitation has spread across the mama-blogosphere, moms are offering what bits of wisdom and insight they’ve gained thus far in their parenting adventure. And I can’t help but think...that all the different stories and bits of advice are a reminder that motherhood is a multi-faceted, personal-yet-communal experience. Many stories should be told, because the specifics of one personal revelation may be just what’s needed for another mom to be encouraged.

And now it's time for me to stop blogging and start my letter. If you write one of your own, post the link in the comments!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mmm...Monday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Noodle Soup

I have a delicious comfort-soup recipe to share with you today...but I need some help. I don't know what to call it. I like to think of it as the love child of chicken noodle soup and broccoli cheese soup. YUM.

The recipe was given to me by a woman at church who calls it "Egg Noodle Broccoli Cheese Soup"--but I find that a) cumbersome and b) incomplete, because if you are going to just name all the ingredients, you aren't even accounting for the all-important chicken. I'm at a loss, really; I've never been good at titling things. Just ask my college writing professor.

The soup is incredibly simple, but delicious. It makes a full meal (we like to eat it with something sweet and fresh like apple slices to contrast the flavor), and this recipe is for a big pot--enough to feed Steve and me probably at least three times.

3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
16-20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli (one big bag plus a little extra, or two 10-oz boxes)
6 oz. egg noodles
1 lb Velveeta cheese (more or less), cut into chunks
3 cups milk

Bring the broth to a boil and add noodles and broccoli. Cook until noodles are nearly tender and broccoli has cooked. Add chicken. Turn the heat down and add the Velveeta (chunked so it will melt easily). Stir until melted, then add 3 cups of milk.

That's it! The amounts are inexact; just adjust to your liking. We like a lot of broccoli and a very cheesy taste, so this reflects my tweaks from the original. It will get very thick and solid in the refrigerator; to reheat, add more milk. Those of you who are picky about natural ingredients could substitute real cheddar cheese, I'm sure, but I'll confess that Steve and I do enjoy some processed fake cheese every now and then ;)

Try it out on a cold night...then tell me what we should call it!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Surfin' Saturday: Shop 'Til You Drop

A couple of hours of Christmas shopping on Tuesday with Elijah reminded me of several reason why I prefer to do most of our shopping online. And now that the Christmas shopping season is well underway, I thought I'd highlight a few interesting websites I've found and then ask for your favorites in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for great tips.

We like to keep things simple when it comes to toys for Elijah; we'd rather have a few quality, well-made toys that encourage creativity and learning than a house full of cheap plastic junk. We're not extreme about it; our little guy certainly has and enjoys plastic toys (and of course some of his favorite things to play with aren't even toys at all--an empty Coke bottle, a pair of sunglasses, a pot and a wooden spoon...). But in general we're trying to avoid batteries, licensed characters, etc. (not to mention all the concerns about toxic chemicals in toys--it's overwhelming!). In looking for these kinds of toys, I've found a few websites with really nice-looking products:

Oompa Toys
Nova Natural Toys & Crafts

Speaking of handmade, there's a great website you may not know about called Etsy - it's a place for individual people to sell all kinds of handmade goods, from paper crafts and handbags to children's toys and clothing. You name it, you can probably find it at Etsy - and there are all kinds of unique ways to browse and search if you don't know exactly what you're looking for.

Once you've purchased a gift, do yourself a favor and head to, where you can set up a service to monitor the price and notify you if it drops--very helpful for those companies who offer a 30-day price guarantee. Amazon used to, though I've heard they rescinded the offer this fall (bummer).

And finally, a little personal plug: if you plan to do any shopping at, feel free to click over via this link (also in my sidebar). I get a small referral bonus if you get there from my blog, and it costs you nothing :) Plenty of other blogs offer this, too, so if they recommend a specific product you're going to buy, by all means support them, rather than simply typing in your address bar!

What about you - what are your favorite sites for online shopping?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cooking to Cement My Family

I'm thankful that God has changed my heart about cooking and has enabled me to grow in the kitchen because I think it's about more than fulfilling a Suzy Homemaker role or mortifying my pride. There are the practical benefits: eating at home saves us a lot of money, and the food is much better for us. But it goes even deeper. In a New York Times op-ed called "No Chefs in My Kitchen," Marcella Hazan writes:

The food Americans eat that is made fresh at home by someone who is close to them is shrinking compared with food consumed at restaurants or prepared outside. And while eating out or taking in may save us time or bring us enjoyment, I would argue that it deprives us of something important.

I am my family’s cook. It is the food prepared and shared at home that, for more than 50 years, has provided a solid center for our lives. In the context of the values that cement human relations, the clamor of restaurants and the facelessness of takeout are no match for what the well-laid family table has to offer. A restaurant will never strengthen familial bonds.

As I make dinner for our family tonight (stuffed shells are on the menu, at Steve's request), I want to find joy in the work and see it as more meaningful than simply filling our bellies. I want to contribute, in a way that may seem insignificant on the surface, to cementing our family intimacy as we gather around a home-cooked meal.

Cooking, Listening, Surprising Myself

While I was at home over the last two weeks, I did some cooking for my parents and in-laws. Using other people's tools, lacking ingredients I rely on, adjusting to different pots, not knowing where things are...all sources of frustration. But Steve and I had to laugh at the remark that came out of my mouth: "I can't wait to get back to my OWN kitchen!"

The truth is, my wanting to be in any kitchen at all is nothing short of miraculous. Before I got married, I was a bumbling wreck when it came to cooking, and my pride made me terrified of others seeing that I was an idiot who clearly had no idea what I was doing. So the prospect of grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking for Steve, day after day, for decades...well, it was daunting.

But God provided grace to change my heart. In April 2006, I wrote:
The resulting nine months of marriage have brought nothing less than an astounding outpouring of God's grace in my heart. By and large, He has changed my attitudes about cooking. I can even say that most of the time (though not always), I *gasp* enjoy it. ...Grace is the only way to explain it. I have no choice but to say humbly, "I was wrong about this--God really can, and does, give me what I need to be able to do what I need to do." I now find myself eagerly cutting out and trying new recipes.

...Left to my own efforts and attitudes, I would still be wallowing in resentment and self-pity, pride and fear, hating the responsibility of cooking dinner every night. And I have not "arrived," either as a godly woman OR as a chef--I still have plenty of growing to do! But I am boasting in God, because by His grace, I am serving my husband and thriving in the role God has given me.
Three years later, my skills have definitely improved (though I still have a long way to go). And I have to smile at the idea of what 22-year-old me would think to hear 26-year-old me say, "I can't wait to get back to my own kitchen!"

Three years later, I am trying to listen to 23-year-old me as she joyfully, trustingly speaks of God's provision for her needs and assures me that He will provide the grace I need in this season.

All that started as an introduction to a quote...but it went another direction, so I guess I'll have to save the quote for another post.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 95

Thanking God this week for...
  • two weeks at home to spend with family and friends
  • my incredible husband
  • the unity He has blessed us with
  • the way Elijah's nose and eyes crinkle up when he grins
  • smoked turkey
  • pumpkin cake
  • safe travels
  • a latte with a friend
  • Christmas music
  • our cars
  • warm weather yesterday, perfect for taking a walk
  • vacuum cleaners
  • unexpected gifts in the mail
  • hair dryers
  • His Word
  • the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us

Stay Tuned

I really am not going back to only posting Thankful Thursdays, honest! I've just been buried this week (and not using my time wisely) as I try to catch up after two weeks of being out of town--plus fitting two appointments, a meeting and some Christmas shopping into that mix! I still have plenty to say, so stay tuned and thanks for your patience. I do have to admit it was nice to not blog for a few days after finishing NaBloPoMo! (But I'm so bummed I didn't win any prizes.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo Grand Finale

My 30th post in 30 days is pretty anticlimactic...nothing interesting or profound to say, just a quick hello and thanks for reading the last month. It has felt good to get back into the groove of blogging, and I've got plenty more ideas I didn't even get to, so I hope to continue posting more frequently. I think I forgot to mention it in my Ultimate Thankful Thursday list, but I'm so thankful for all of you who give me a few minutes of your time each day or week and for those of you who take the extra time to comment or email me.

For now, it's an hour past my normal bedtime, I have to adjust to getting up early again after two weeks of a more nocturnal schedule, and the mountain of catching up/unpacking/laundry that awaits me tomorrow is overwhelming!

Whew. Made it!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Surfin' Saturday: A Holy Experience

The best blog discovery I've made in the last few months, without question, has been Ann Voskamp's Holy Experience. Ann's words are poetry, punctuated by luminous pictures of the simple things we often overlook. She finds beauty all around her, sees our omnipresent Lord everywhere, and writes about it in ways that reflect that beauty and cause me to pause in wonder right alongside her.

The tagline for Holy Experience is a line of poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God." I have found that Ann's blog is just that: crammed with heaven, afire with God.

I can't quickly scan her latest post the way I do most blogs; I have to slow down and savor the words. This is difficult for me; the medium of writing on a screen has led me to an unfortunate habit of speed reading, my distracted eyes impatient to absorb more, more, more.

Ann's blog demands that I stop--or rather, she invites me to stop--gently, humbly, as she offers up what she would describe as simple crumbs of bread. I find it is a feast each time I slow down to taste the goodness of the Lord as she describes Him. From what I have read, she is the kind of writer, and Christian woman, I aspire to become.

Her posts typically include links to older posts she's written--and so I easily find myself lost in a web of beauty, drawn further and further into her archives. It's good for me to have Holy Experience in my feeds; from Ann I can learn to step back from the flurry and fury of the blogosphere and listen, really listen. And then, like her, I must take what I've learned and live it--really see that beauty everywhere, in the everyday.

It's hard to pick just a few posts to highlight; I don't think I've read a single one that hasn't moved me. But some of my recent favorites include:

Strange Disappearance
May the Children Eat First
How to Parent: Just Guide Gently
What a Mother Must Sacrifice
Untangling Family Knots
The Covenantal Act of Remembering
Making of Heroes

Just now, as I browsed and composed this post, I ran across something Ann wrote in the comments section of another blog which expresses beautifully what she is seeking to do with Holy Experience:
in a cyberworld
of twittering,

can one create
an oasis…
unusual quiet,
entries that invite

one to slow,
to think, to really
enter in, consider,
blog counter-

no obligation to
comment, no full
sidebars. in a world

of so much
noise, can you
create a retreat,
build a still chapel?

Yes, Ann, you can--you have. Thank you.

Read along with me and be inspired as I have been!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Getting Into the Spirit of Christmas

Nothing says "Happy Birthday, Jesus" like crazed shoppers stampeding at 4 a.m. to go into debt for electronics and other expensive crap. After running to the store today out of necessity--not in search of a great deal, but having to pick up something I needed at regular price--I was reminded of why I avoid the mall on Black Friday at all costs. I will never, ever understand the appeal of shopping today.

A lunch date with my hubby...Christmas music on the parents' house decked out with red, green and white lights outside...a free adjustment and massage at the chiropractor in exchange for bringing a toy for a local charity...and coffee with a dear, dear friend--now THAT'S my idea of a wonderful way to spend the day after Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Ultimate 2008 Edition

On the day we all give thanks, I continue a tradition of multiplying my weekly list exponentially. Thanking God today for...

  1. my friend Kelly, who inspired me with her mega-thankful list a couple of years ago
  2. furnaces
  3. digital cameras
  4. setting eternity in my heart
  5. daisies
  6. old hymn lyrics updated with new music
  7. new gospel songs rich with truth
  9. Facebook
  10. the beautiful women I have met through online interactions
  11. hot showers
  12. the rhythm of ocean tides
  13. sandy beaches
  14. snowflakes falling in slow motion
  15. candy buckeyes
  16. football
  17. memory
  18. photographs
  19. ink
  20. paper
  21. cinnamon
  22. the body's ability to heal itself
  23. clocks that project on the ceiling
  24. Desiring God Ministries
  25. Operation Christmas Child
  26. people who intercede for me
  27. Jesus, who always intercedes for me
  28. soft fabrics
  29. kisses
  30. crockpots
  31. fire
  32. laughter
  33. teeth
  34. literacy
  35. glass
  36. frou-frou coffee drinks
  37. the alphabet
  38. cell phones
  39. the fact that He never changes
  40. free sermons to download online
  41. an iPod to listen to them
  42. long walks
  43. foot rubs
  44. olive oil
  45. refrigerators
  46. unconditional love
  47. marriage
  48. solitude
  49. pain
  50. sleep
  51. sunsets
  52. sunrises
  53. darkness
  54. ice cream
  55. metaphors
  56. Sandra Boynton's children's books
  57. sunglasses
  58. salt
  59. thunderstorms
  60. lilies
  61. candles
  62. windows
  63. pianos
  64. the ability to read music
  65. absorbing novels
  66. Montpelier, Ohio's municipal tap water
  67. a husband who still flirts with me
  68. grandparents who dote on my son
  69. inside jokes
  70. air travel
  71. poetry
  72. creative nonfiction
  73. swings
  74. the rhythm of the changing seasons
  75. the fact that He never changes
  76. forgiving all my sins
  77. redeeming my life from the pit
  78. crowning me with steadfast love and mercy
  79. Handel's Messiah
  80. Christmas lights
  81. aspen trees
  82. mountains
  83. the ability to walk
  84. paint
  85. delivering me from the domain of darkness
  86. reconciling me to Himself by the blood of the cross
  87. gospel-centered people
  88. mentors
  89. bringing me from death to life
  90. midwives
  91. Elijah's nonsensical chatter
  92. our Ergo baby carrier
  93. the ability to breastfeed
  94. vinegar
  95. Elijah's outstretched arms, begging to be picked up and cuddled
  96. pumpkin desserts
  97. bridges
  98. Steve's job
  99. the silky smooth skin of babies
  100. no condemnation

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WFMW: Bleaching in the Sun

Some of you may already know that Shannon, the famous "mommyblogger" at Rocks in My Dryer, hosts "Works for Me Wednesday" every week. I've never participated before, and in fact don't know many bloggers who do, but it seemed like a good source for a prompt this week as I strive to complete NaBloPoMo.

So on this Works for Me Wednesday, I'd like to share the helpful secret every cloth diapering mama knows, but too many others have never heard: the incredible bleaching power of the sun.

When I started cloth diapering, I'd been told that hanging diapers in the sun would take care of the stains. But when I pulled that first load of prefolds out of the washer and saw the bright mustard-colored stains (you mamas who have breastfed know exactly what I'm talking about), I was more than skeptical. It was way too big a leap of faith for me to think that simple sunshine would make those diapers white again.

But hang them on the line I did, and when I took them down at the end of the day, I was a believer. Spotless. You actually couldn't tell which diapers had been pooped in--I swear.

I don't know how well it works on formula-fed babies' poop, or on other kinds of stains. But I can absolutely vouch for the effectiveness of sunshine when it comes to breastfed poo. That stuff does NOT come out in the wash, and I've heard many a mama talk of throwing away a favorite outfit after she thought it was ruined by a blowout. No more! It doesn't just work for diapers--I've seen hopeless stains disappear from colored pants, too, after a day in the sunshine. And it doesn't matter if you've already dried the clothing in the dryer. I was always taught that once you've done that, the stain is "set" and you might as well forget about removing it. Not so; the sun can still take it out. Just a note: It works better if you hang things wet, and it may take a couple of tries.

The bleaching power of the sun is nothing short of miraculous. It totally works for me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fight FOCA: Urge Obama to Break His Promise

I hope Barack Obama is a promise breaker.

Last year, he vowed to Planned Parenthood that "the first thing I'd do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." What's that? It's a piece of pro-abortion legislation that goes far beyond simply protecting Roe v. Wade. FOCA would wipe out all state laws regulating abortion--including parental notification requirements, late-term and partial birth abortion restrictions, required counseling--perhaps even conscience protection for pro-life care providers. And it would pave the way for taxpayer funding for abortions.

Generally I expect people to have integrity, to keep their word--but this is one vow I pray Barack Obama will break. Justin Taylor, who wrote a thorough explanation of FOCA and its implications back in October, explains:
So to summarize this act...abortion on demand will become codified, all regulations and restrictions will be stripped away, Christian hospitals and physicians will not have a choice regarding the performance of abortion (since their accrediting agencies are approved by the federal government), teenagers will not have to tell their parents about an abortion, and prolife taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions at any stage of the pregnancy for any reason.
You may only be one voice--but you do have a voice, and you're called to use it on behalf of the voiceless. And the volume grows when you join with other voices. Take a minute to let Congress know you oppose this dangerous legislation by signing the petition at Then spread the word.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mmm...Monday: Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake

Looking for a dessert that's guaranteed to be a hit at Thanksgiving dinner? Your search is over.

I found this recipe in Kraft's Food & Family magazine last fall and made it for a church potluck. It looked impressive and tasted even better; people were begging for the recipe. I made it again for one of our family Thanksgiving gatherings and everyone was drooling! Seriously, forget pumpkin pie; this cake is YUMMY. I can't take credit for it, but I'll pass along the recipe. Here's the link:

Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake

Enjoy :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Pictures, Sorry to Disappoint

Well, so much for Sunday Cuteness this month--I've managed to do it only two out of four weeks so far, and next week isn't looking good, either.

We've had a full and fun week of time spent with friends and family in Ohio. One of the highlights was getting Elijah together with his buddy Joel (my best friend Julie's little guy) on Thursday. The two of them interacted a lot more than they ever have before, and Julie and I had a blast watching them and laughing. That, and I also thanked God for not blessing me with twins (Danielle, I don't know HOW you do it--I felt overwhelmed after three hours with two 15-month-olds).

Anyway, do you think I got my camera out the entire time? No. Argh. What kind of photographer-wannabe am I? Even if I had taken pictures, I didn't bring the computer cable with me, so I'd be unable to upload them until we got back to Tennessee.

All that to say, I can't satisfy your itch for adorable pictures of Elijah this week. But at least this little pointless explanation gets me one step closer to completing NaBloPoMo :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Surfin' Saturday: Metro Moms

I think many of my readers are familiar with the blog GirlTalk, run by Sovereign Grace's Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters. However, I suspect you may not be aware of another group blog run by some wonderful women from a different Sovereign Grace church: Metro Moms, a ministry of Metro Life Church in Casselberry, Florida.

The tagline for this blog is "Investigating the joys and challenges of motherhood through the lens of God’s faithfulness and grace." I've found it to be just that. Countless posts from the godly ladies in this group have convicted, encouraged, or inspired me in my walk as a wife, mother and follower of Christ.

The women typically organize the blog by writing several posts over a week or more on the same topic. Right now they're in the middle of a series called "Celebrating Evidences of Grace in Those We Love," which I'll admit I haven't really been following closely. But I'd encourage you to browse through the archives, and/or subscribe in anticipation of future helpful series. The categories are listed in the sidebar.

One series that sticks out in my memory is Training and Disciplining Young Children, which included a mini-series-within-a-series from one of the older, more seasoned mothers called "Musings from the Back Nine." This was such a helpful perspective for me. We're called to learn from older women who have been there, done that, and sadly, I do not have as much connection with wise older women as I would like. I appreciate hearing their hard-earned wisdom anywhere I can get it!

I browsed through my bookmarks to find some of my favorite posts from Metro Moms; here's a sampling with quotes to pique your interest:

Saving the Most Important for Last - "When personal time with the Lord becomes an option in our daily schedule, we are already steeped in self-sufficiency. Whether you are expecting your first baby or are the busy mom of multiple children, you (like me!) need the strength, wisdom, love and counsel of God to handle the humanly overwhelming charge to raise children to know and serve their Savior."

Some Final Thoughts - "When the Savior bought me with the price of His sinless blood on the cross, He laid rightful claim to every moment of every day of my life through eternity. So if you’re waiting for the day when you can “get your life back” (as I recently read one author say about midlife when the kids are grown) please stop. Most of the same sins I battled when I was your age I’m still battling. And the same need I had for God’s strength to give my life away 24/7 then remains my need today."

I Just Don't Want to Share - "True freedom is the liberty to love and serve others while fighting self-indulgence."

Head over to Metro Moms to be spurred on to growth as a woman and pointed to the glorious gospel!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Diverse Beauty

*I've seen a lot of bloggers over the last couple of months re-posting things they've written in the past. Seems like a great idea to me, since when I started this blog, I didn't have very many readers (not that I have tons now). I'm guessing most of you never saw my earliest posts, so this old material will be new to you. As things get busy over the next few weeks, I'll pull some old posts from the archives that I think might be worth revisiting. The following was originally published October 13, 2004.*

"Whom do you know who models the beauty of Christ in her spirit?"

This was one of the questions at Bible study tonight, and God has blessed me to be able to come up with a long list of women. There are so many beautiful women in my life who immediately came to mind! But what struck me as I scribbled down a few names was how different they all are. Some are quiet and gentle; others are boisterous and outspoken. Some are married, some single; some my age, some more than three times my age. Their personalities and interests, talents and skills, are as different as their physical characteristics.

I love to think about that: "modeling the beauty of Christ" is not a cookie-cutter image! All these women are so different, but they all model Christ to me. And I don't have to look exactly like any of them to model Christ to others.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 93

Thanking God this week for...
  • safe travels to Ohio
  • extended time at home
  • heated seats in cars
  • cake
  • the ability to cook and bake
  • band-aids
  • ibuprofen
  • visits with family and friends
  • the fun of watching Elijah interact with his buddy Joel (my best friend's little guy, two days older)
  • Steve's driving skills--I always feel safe, not stressed, when he's at the wheel
  • examples of humility provided by other people
  • showing me the ugliness of my sin
  • preparing a place for me

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Wretch Like Me

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saveth men like me...

Wait a minute. What?! Those are the strange words I was surprised to see last Sunday in the familiar hymn: whoever compiled the hymnal took the liberty of changing the line "that saved a wretch like me" to "that saveth men like me."

Can we really not handle the truth that we are wretches? Are we so full of ourselves, so sick with pride, that we cannot even sing the word? If I am not wretched, the grace is less amazing. It took some amazing, amazing grace to save a wretch like me--because believe me, I am a wretch, without Jesus. In fact, let's be honest: I am still a wretch with Jesus.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Single Motherhood

I am completely unable to fathom how single moms do it.

Elijah and I are in Ohio staying with my parents this week. Steve came home with us for my grandmother's funeral, but he had to go back to work today, so he returned to Tennessee alone. We figured it would be a lot easier on the little guy if he and I stayed in Ohio rather than making the long trip so many times in a short span, so we're here through Thanksgiving and Steve will rejoin us in a few days.

The thing is, I have plenty of support, in terms of doting grandparents who are elated to spend time with their only grandchild. Yet it's totally not the same as having a partner in parenting. I'm on my own at two a.m., for one thing. And while my mama's boy will generally take Daddy as an acceptable substitute, Pops and Grammy just will not do when he is whiny and clingy after skipping his afternoon nap. Plus, the impatience that causes the whining? Let's just say Elijah didn't inherit that from his dad.

So today, all I have the energy for is a little whining of my own, about how much I miss my husband, and a wholehearted salute of admiration and respect for you mamas doing this parenting thing on your own.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Memory

Dorothy Kaylor (1922 - 2008)

My grandmother passed away a few days ago. So while this blog has operating all by itself over the last several days (I had a few posts written ahead and am loving Blogger's scheduled-publishing feature), I've been home with family, mourning and remembering this dear woman. I'd like to do a more substantial tribute post, but after three days of visitation/funeral/burial/memorial service, I don't have the mental energy tonight. Meanwhile, your prayers for my family--especially my dad--would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elijah and the Lion

Elijah's nursery is decorated with a safari animals theme, so I bought this giant stuffed lion with some gift money when he was about three months old. I've been taking pictures of him with it regularly so it's easy to see how much he's growing. Here he is at 15 months old!

Just for fun, here are the 3, 6, 9 and 12 month lion photos:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Surfin' Saturday: Cookie Madness

Last year during NaBloPoMo, I included a feature called "Surfin' Saturday," in which I pointed you to interesting websites I found. Here we are halfway through November already, but I do have a few favorite blogs I'd like to highlight--so here's Surfin' Saturday again, better late than never :)

I don't read many food blogs, but I do love Cookie Madness. The author, Anna, is a former Pillsbury Bake-Off winner--and she's good. I do not exaggerate when I say that I've never gotten a dud recipe from her! She bakes something sweet nearly every day, and the recipes--not limited to cookies alone--are stellar. I've saved and printed far more than I've gotten around to trying, but every single one I have tried has been a hit. Some examples we've loved:

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Muffins
Slow Cooker Mocha Pudding Cake
Caramel Macchiato Cookies
Max Power's Banana Cookies
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you're looking for something sweet to bake this time of year, you can't go wrong with Cookie Madness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Compelled to Capture Beauty

Though the cold is apparently here in Tennessee to stay, we enjoyed sunny days in the mid-70s well into November. Anxious to enjoy the sunshine and warmth while they lasted, I took Elijah for several late afternoon walks to soak up the last precious minutes of daylight.
On one such walk, I was only a couple of blocks from our house when I wished I had my camera. The sun hung low in the sky, and the way it lit the changing leaves on the trees was striking. The light was just exquisite; oranges and yellows and reds looked nearly ablaze against the cool and cloudless sky.

I wanted to capture the beauty of the light, but even as I debated turning back for my camera, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to photograph what I saw. As we continued walking, I pondered my frustration in trying to capture beauty with a camera or with words. I am captivated by what I see and experience, and I long to savor those moments, to preserve them for others, to share the beauty. Instead I wind up dismayed at the inadequacy of my sentences and my photography skills, both technical and artistic.

Why this urge to capture, share, preserve? Why not just enjoy myself? I think C.S. Lewis said it best (emphasis mine):

The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . .

...The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

(from “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms,” in Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958], pp. 90-98).

The apostle John sensed this compelling urge to praise, to share; in 1 John he began by explaining one of his reasons for writing: “We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:4). As my NIV Study Bible notes, "John’s joy in the Lord could not be complete unless his readers shared the true knowledge of the Christ.”

And so, although I find that words fail me, although I struggle to compose a beautiful shot or manipulate my camera's settings effectively, I keep trying to capture beauty. I am compelled to share, in some small way, what I have seen and loved; my hope is that you'll see it and be captivated, too, by the Source of all beauty.

(photos taken the next day, when I grabbed my camera and tried to capture that late-afternoon light)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 92

Thanking God this week for...
  • friends who came over for dinner last Thursday
  • caramel apple pie cheesecake
  • a chance to get out of the house and socialize with other women on Monday night
  • brownies with Rolo chunks in them
  • the fact that although Elijah is very clingy and attached to mama lately, he will at least stay with Steve without any problems
  • using me to be a part of answering someone's prayer
  • homemade applesauce with FREE apples
  • clean drinking water
  • the fact that I am not under law, but under grace
  • His free gift: eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
  • the hope of glory

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Only One Can Live

Over the last couple of months, I've been working on memorizing Romans 6-7 (using this method, which I totally swear by--it's more effective than anything I've tried). It's heavy stuff to work through, and even though I've got a good chunk of it committed to memory, I'm still far from deeply understanding it and having it penetrate my heart.

One thing I can clearly see, at least, is that sin and death are unmistakable themes in this passage. This morning's verse was Romans 7:9, and the last phrase especially caught my attention: "...sin sprang to life and I died."

When sin lives, I'm dead. I can only live when sin is dead, when I have died to sin. Paradox--life only comes after death--and profound reality. Sin and I cannot peacefully coexist. Either it lives, or I do. As John Owen once wisely said: "Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Valuable, Cheap Christmas Music

I haven't broken out my Christmas music yet--I usually hold off until Thanksgiving--but when I do, the first CD I put in will likely be Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. I bought it when it was released two years ago and I absolutely LOVE it. It doesn't have any of the traditional Christmas songs, but rather introduces twelve new songs designed to celebrate the glory of the Incarnation and guide us from the manger to the cross.

I'm writing about it again now because Sovereign Grace is selling it for just $8--including shipping--or, if you want to download the mp3 set, it's only six bucks! You can also download one of the songs, "Glory Be to God," for free.

For a full review of the album, check out my November 2006 post "Singing the WHY of Christmas."

(HT: Worship Matters)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mmm...Monday: Cheese Herb Bread

Another Thankful Thursday a while back brought a request in the comments for Steve's cheese herb bread. This is a recipe that my bread-chef husband found on the internet. He then took out some weird ingredients (diced green chilies and pimentos, in bread?!), doubled the Italian seasoning, quadrupled the garlic and added half again as much cheese :) The cheese addition was accidental, but we loved the result! This bread is DANGEROUS...we both could eat it by itself as a meal. No low-carb diet here, no thanks.

Cheese Herb Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 envelopes yeast (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp Italian seasoning
4 cloves minced garlic
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Parmesan cheese
olive oil

If using active dry yeast, mix yeast and water first. If using rapid rise yeast, mix dry with salt, Italian seasoning, garlic, and 1 1/2 c. flour; blend well, then add water. Stir in eggs, cheese, and remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Stir down batter and spread on greased 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan. Brush on olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover; let rise in warm place until almost doubled in size (about 20 minutes--though we've often let it go longer).

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Remove from pan to wire rack. Serve warm as strips or squares (we usually cut/score the strips before baking so that they tear apart easily).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pray for the Persecuted

Persecution isn't a thing of the past. Many of us will attend church today without even stopping to consider how blessed we are to worship without fear, to own Bibles, to pray openly. But Christians around the world don't share those freedoms--and they need our help.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It's our reminder to stop and consider, to lift up our suffering brothers and sisters. "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).

I once heard a presentation by a staff member from The Voice of the Martyrs in which she shared about visiting persecuted believers and asking what kind of help they needed. Can you guess the number one thing they always ask for? It's not food, or shelter, or legal help, or even Bibles. They need prayer. More than anything, they want their brothers and sisters around the world to intercede for them.
Stacy at PersecutionBlog has provided a list of some specific prayer requests. The IDOP website also lists prayer requests for individual nations and world leaders, and in November 2006, I wrote a post with suggestions and links about praying for the persecuted church. .

For tons of other ways to get involved, including writing letters to Christians in prison, sending Bibles to restricted nations, or providing other help to the persecuted members of our Body, please check out The Voice of the Martyrs. You can also read archived posts from my blog about the persecuted church.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Unable to Overcome My Wordiness, I Defer to Abraham as Master of the Bite-Sized Blog Post

Can you be poignant or provocative in fifty words? Abraham Piper can do it in 22—with a pointed question, a witty statement or an adorable video of Orison. He challenged us to "share the joy of blogospheric brevity," but I find I can’t match wits with his pithy prose.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Part of the Whole

Up until the last week or so, the colors in Tennessee were not particularly spectacular this fall. Thanks to the ongoing drought, a lot of the leaves simply turned brown and dropped rather than dying flamboyantly. So I was startled last week to see a tall, full maple tree defying that pattern, its rich orange leaves blazing against the crisp blue sky. Unlike most of the trees I had seen, where still-faintly-green or dead brown leaves distracted from the brilliance of the colors, this tree was wholly orange, and I stopped for a moment to admire it.

As Elijah and I walked closer, I reached up to pull off one of the leaves, wanting to grasp a piece of the beauty, to examine it more closely. I was choosy about the leaf I plucked, trying to get the best one. But to my surprise, the leaf in my hand wasn’t all that beautiful. Its color was mottled and uneven; it was spotted with brown blemishes.

The leaf was not meant to draw attention to itself singularly. It blazed most beautifully when it contributed to the whole. Its purpose was not to be admired for its individual glory, but to share in the glory of the fiery tree. Examined as separate parts, the leaves were flawed, unremarkable. Taken together, they gave me a glimpse of transcendence.

A picture of the church, perhaps? The members of this Body are broken, inconsistent, fragile as leaves; they cannot bear the weight of glory alone. But together they can point to One whose majesty and splendor are incomparable. When firmly attached to a strong, solid tree—their source of life—they bring glory to Him. And their beauty blazes most brilliantly when they die.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 91

Thanking God this week for...
  • contact lenses
  • specifically, the way contact lenses protect my eyes from burning and tearing profusely when chopping onions
  • the colors of fall--they never get old
  • the fact that Elijah will "never know a time when an African-American couldn’t be the most powerful person in the world" (22 Words)
  • YouTube videos that make me laugh out loud, hard
  • the adorable things preschoolers say
  • a visit from dear friends
  • unseasonably warm days
  • the fact that it's light out when I get up in the mornings again, for a little while longer
  • freedom to express my political and religious views without fear of persecution
  • broadening my understanding of His sovereignty over the last several years
  • opening my eyes to His truth
  • the diversity of spiritual gifts within the Body
  • the incredible ways He changes lives

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post-Election Perspectives

I've read some more really great posts today about the election--one written yesterday, when the outcome was still unknown, and the others written knowing that Barack Obama is our new president-elect. First, my own thoughts...

Personally, I can be thankful that Obama won for a few reasons. I think the Republican Party kind of needed a good butt-kicking so that they might actually consider returning to conservative values like small government. I think the Democrats might honestly have rioted or started a revolution if they'd gotten "robbed" in a third straight presidential election. And I think it's wonderful that we've elected our first black president. America has come a long, long way toward racial healing, and that's undoubtedly a good thing.

I am also concerned that Obama has won for a few reasons. I don't like big government (the idea of universal healthcare, for one, gives me the shivers--the government screws up everything they get their hands on; why would health care be any different?). I don't like the idea of Democrats controlling both the White House AND Congress--especially with all the billions of dollars that are now under government control. (For the record, I don't think it would be good for Republicans to control both, either; absolute power corrupts absolutely, and having the executive and legislative branches controlled by opposing parties provides more checks and balances, in my opinion.) And most of all, I am dismayed by Obama's promise that his first move as president will be to sign the tragic and abominable Freedom of Choice Act.

At any I said yesterday, God is still on His throne. May I direct you to men who have spoken much more eloquently about these issues?

Mark Driscoll:

People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates. For those whose candidate wins today there will be some months of groundless euphoric faith in that candidate and the atoning salvation that their kingdom will bring. But, in time, their supporters will see that no matter who wins the presidency, they are mere mortals prone to sin, folly, and self-interest just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.


Jesus Christ alone can truly atone for our sins. He alone can deliver us from a real hell. He alone is our sinless and great King. And, he alone has a Shalom kingdom to offer.

Josh Harris:
If you voted for Obama, he isn't worthy of your ultimate hope. And if you didn't vote for him, don't despair as though Jesus isn't reigning over the world. Those who call Jesus their Lord can be filled with a quiet peace and confidence in all seasons. Our Savior is never in the White House. Our Savior is Jesus.

Justin Taylor:
No matter who you voted for--or whether you voted at all--it's important to remember that, as President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).
  • We are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7).
  • We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).
And with that, I conclude my brief foray into political blogging :) Tomorrow we'll be back to your regularly scheduled blogging...and we can all breathe a big sigh of relief that this eternal campaign is finally OVER!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Perspectives

Just a few scattered thoughts and links on Election Day...

~I'm thankful to live in a democratic nation, where I have the right to help choose my leaders

~I don't like either of the major candidates and feel that our two-party system is deeply flawed

~This provocative post at Cerulean Sanctum challenged and convicted me as a pro-life voter

~This provocative post at Between Two Worlds challenged me from a different point of view, and drove home the significance of this election in light of the abortion issue

~Derek Webb is giving away his album Mockingbird again, for one week only, in celebration of the election. I downloaded it and blogged about one of my favorite songs from the album when he gave it away back in October 2006--don't miss this opportunity to get it for free! It's a powerful CD with beautiful melodies and very in-your-face, make-you-think lyrics, including:
"There are two great lies that I've heard / The day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die / And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican / And if you want to be saved, you have to learn to be like him"

~Most of all, I'm thankful that regardless of who wins this election, our sovereign God is on His throne.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Homemade Pizza Crust

Pizza, in my opinion, is the perfect food. You can keep your fancy little plates of highbrow food ordered off a menu where half the ingredients are unpronounceable or unidentifiable...I'll take my crust, sauce and cheese (toppings optional) any day. I think I could live on the stuff. What's not to love--it even, if you add pepperoni or sausage, has all four food groups. And the variety! Deep dish, thin and crispy, calzones, stromboli, stuffed crust, Chicago style, homemade, mini biscuit-pizzas...not to mention all the different places to buy it, each with their own twist...

A while back, I mentioned a homemade pizza crust in a Thankful Thursday list, and a couple of you asked for the recipe. I'm happy to oblige. Steve and I are blessed to be able to afford pizza from Papa John's (our favorite chain) every now and then, but we also like to make our own occasionally. We've tried refrigerated crust in a can, crust in a dry mix, and one or two from-scratch recipes. The dry mix, once doctored by Steve, makes an adequate deep-dish pizza, but rolled out on a stone, it's limp and soggy, barely recognizable under the sauce and cheese.

Not so with this recipe, which I got from a friend at church who's a wonderful cook. She uses a variation of a focaccia recipe. I'll copy her notes here, though we don't follow this exactly. I couldn't tell you what "we" do, because Steve is actually the bread man in our house (including pizza dough)--but I do know he uses our stand mixer, not a food processor. Without further ado:

3 cups of bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
parmesan cheese -- I just shake some in (1/2 cup?)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
cooking spray
1 Tbs cornmeal

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with knife. Place flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cheese, garlic, and oregano in a food processor, and pulse 2 times or until blended. With processor on, slowly add warm water and 2 tablespoons oil through food chute; process until dough forms a ball. Process 1 additional minute. If dough is too sticky to roll into a ball, add a little more flour.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Shape dough into a ball. Remove metal blade from processor bowl. Poke a hole through center of dough, and return dough to bowl. Coat top of dough with cooking spray; cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap.

Fill a 1-cup glass measure with water, and place in back of microwave. Place processor bowl in center of microwave. Microwave on LOW (10% power) 3 minutes; let stand, covered, in microwave 3 minutes. Repeat procedure 2 times, allowing 6 minutes for the last standing time.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Divide into thirds*. Coat dough with cooking spray; cover and let rest 10 minutes. Working with 1 portion at a time, use roller or hands to shape into pizza crust. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush dough with 1 tsp oil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10+ minutes, or until crust just starts to brown. Remove from oven; add toppings and return to oven, baking until cheese melts and crust is browned on bottom ( 10 minutes?).

*I bake all three crusts about halfway even if I only plan to completely bake one pizza. The 2 leftover crusts I wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer. It is so easy to pull one out and add toppings for a quick meal. I'm sure you could add toppings before freezing for your own version of frozen pizza. *For a thicker crust, divide the dough into 2 parts instead of three.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Walk in the Park

A post a day for 30 days isn't easy, of course--and I prefer to spend more of my weekend time with Steve and Elijah and less of it in front of the computer screen. So I think this month I'll satisfy those of you who love to see pictures of the little guy with Sunday photo posts.

When we were home two weekends ago for the Brumbaugh family reunion (more on that to come this week), Steve's cousin Janel took some family photos of the three of us. I was thrilled with what she came up with! She's just getting started in the photography business, but as you can see, she does great work.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaBloPoMo 2008

It's November already, and you know what that means...


If you're relatively new to my blog, you're probably thinking, "NaBloWhoHuh?!" If you've been around a while, you know that I'm referring to my third year of participation in National Blog Posting Month: the annual challenge to post every day for a month.

Let's face it, this blog desperately needs some life injected into it, as my writing has been lackluster to nonexistent ever since my summer hiatus. So here's to 30 posts in 30 days, and hopes that the third year will be the charm in terms of winning a prize!

Care to join me in the challenge? Details and sign-up can be found at the official NaBloPoMo website.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 90

Thanking God this week for...

  • the beauty of simple things, like the swirled pattern on the top of my latte
  • the gift of sleep
  • a husband who gladly watches Elijah so I can take a nap when I desperately need one
  • the flaming orange glory of a dying maple tree
  • a crisp, clear blue sky
  • the ability to breastfeed Elijah
  • oldies love songs
  • getting to reconnect with a friend at last weekend's women's retreat
  • Junior Mints
  • highlighters
  • meeting me in Psalm 107 this morning
  • His unfailing love
  • His sovereignty, whatever happens in the election

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One Thousand Posts

I saw it coming and tried to remember, but somehow I missed the milestone--last week marked my 1000th post here at Lavender *Sparkles*. Goodness that's a whole lot of posts.

To celebrate, I'm gearing up for another year of NaBloPoMo. Care to join me? Start collecting your post ideas now and we'll jump in on November 1. More details coming Saturday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

It's that time of year again!

Yesterday I did a kickoff presentation at our church for Operation Christmas Child. I began with a story that nearly brings me to tears, one I read in my packet of materials from Samaritan's Purse (this is an abridged version):

It was a cold winter morning in war-torn Bosnia, and several inches of snow lay on the ground. This was not a welcome sight for a young girl who had no shoes to wear. For months, eleven-year-old Lejla had been wearing a ragged pair of sneakers that her older brother had outgrown. Her toes protruded out of the gaping holes at the front of the shoes, making it a never-ending battle to keep her feet warm and dry. Her parents wrapped plastic bags around her socks for insulation and covered the bags with another pair of socks before she pulled her shoes on. Then they fastened the torn ends of each shoe with steel wire and sent her on her way.

As she trudged to school, drawing her coat tightly against her, Lejla wondered when the cruel war would end. Did God care? Did He even exist? With little work to be found, her parents struggled to buy food and clothes for their four children. Many nights they went to bed hungry.

“I didn’t see any purpose for living,” she said. “If God loves me, why does He make me live like this? Why doesn’t He just let me die and end the suffering?” she wondered.

Lejla arrived at school and saw a man handing out colorfully-wrapped boxes to her classmates. She did not know how to react when the kind stranger handed a box to her. But that was just the beginning of the surprise.

“I thought I was dreaming when I opened the box,” she said. “Inside was candy, the first I had tasted in four years, and pencils and a notebook for school. But best of all, there was a brand new pair of white sneakers!”

Lejla was the only child in her class who received shoes in her box. And the shoes fit her feet perfectly! “I knew that God had answered my prayers. I was so overwhelmed, I started to cry. I no longer felt lonely because I knew that God, my real God, was watching over me.”

The man told her that the Christmas present was packed by people in America who were sending it in the name of Jesus. Lejla wanted to know more about Jesus, and she later invited Him into her heart. Now she had two wonderful gifts—a new pair of shoes, and most of all, a Savior who would never forsake her.

That’s what Operation Christmas Child is all about. A simple gift-filled box is a tangible expression of the love of God, bringing hope and breaking down barriers to share the Good News of the Savior with all people. In countries where Christians are persecuted and traditional evangelism is prohibited, shoeboxes can help to advance the Gospel.

May I encourage you to participate in this fun and exciting ministry? National Collection Week is November 17-24, so you've got about three weeks to shop. Visit the website to print labels and view a list of packing guidelines as well as search for a drop-off site near you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thankful "Thursday," Take 89

Thanking God this week for...
  • the wonderful extended family I married into
  • Steve's granny, a woman I love like my own grandmother
  • getting to go home for the birthday celebration we had for her last weekend
  • meeting our new niece, Olivia
  • Elijah's dance moves
  • cappuccino
  • our new Klean Kanteens, purchased at a deep discount
  • the beautiful colors of autumn
  • pumpkin cake
  • Steve's high level of involvement as a father
  • Jesus' patience with His thick-headed disciples
  • His continued patience with continually thick-headed people like me
  • including flawed and broken women in the genealogy of Christ
  • His supremacy over all things
  • His astounding creativity and imagination
  • His sustaining power and authority

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saying These Small Words Forever

A postscript to Thankful Thursday...

“I have often wondered, perhaps in part simply because the term is so rarely used today, what it might mean to ‘glorify’ God forever. It will undoubtedly mean a great many things, but one of them surely must be that we will continually thank him.

We will thank him for his graciousness and goodness to us, and for inviting us into conversation. Along this line, I would think that we anticipate our ‘chief and highest end’ every time we behold something beautiful and find that after we have exclaimed, ‘Ah, how wonderful!’ we are almost compelled to say ‘Thank you!’

Our destiny is to say these small words forever and so experience the gratitude that is the perfection of happiness.”

—Craig M. Gay, Dialogue, Catalogue & Monologue (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2008), 48-49

(HT: Of First Importance)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 88

Thanking God this week for...
  • my awesome parents who came to visit last weekend
  • our new aqua guest room, painted by my dad and me (Steve finished the drywall just in time!)
  • the fair donuts Mom & Dad froze and brought to us
  • a good long conversation with my little brother late Friday night
  • the date night Steve and I got to have on Saturday
  • chicken lettuce wraps from PF Chang's
  • frappuccinos
  • thoughtful discussions that go beyond surfacey small talk
  • all the cute winter clothes I got for Elijah at the consignment store
  • packages in the mail--even the expected ones are exciting
  • reassurance from experienced mamas
  • being united with my husband
  • taking things others intend for evil and using them for good
  • executing judgment FOR us instead of against us, in spite of our guilt

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Turn Around

Now that Elijah is a year old and (finally) weighs 20 pounds, several people have asked me when we're going to turn his carseat around. The answer is that having him forward-facing in the car isn't a milestone I'm looking forward to--it's one I'm hoping to delay as long as possible. He'll stay rear-facing as long as it's safe to do so, which for his carseat means when he weighs 35 pounds or when his head is above the top of the seat.

Wouldn't he be happier if he could face forward? Maybe. Wouldn't it be easier for us to give him toys or snacks? Sure. But he's safer facing the rear, and isn't that the main goal? Scandinavian countries actually recommend rear-facing in the car up to age four. And there's plenty of data to support this recommendation. Here's a short video of a crash test showing dummies in both front and rear-facing seats:


"Rear-facing...reduces the risk of death by 71%. ...[In one study], forward-facing children under the age of 2, especially those in side impacts, were 75% more likely to be injured. Why? It's because of the way the rear-facing car seat protects a child. It cradles the head, neck, and back.

"The most common type of crash is the frontal crash. In a frontal crash, the entire back of a rear-facing car seat absorbs crash forces, protecting the child's head, neck, and spine. In the less common, but more injurious side impact crash, the rear-facing car seat again protects the head, neck and back. Since there's almost always an element of forward motion in a side impact—such as when a vehicle is going straight through an intersection when it's struck in the side by a red-light runner—a rear-facing seat does a better job of keeping a child's head contained within the safety of the seat."

Have you ever noticed how gigantic a baby's head is compared to the rest of his body? Their head size is completely out of proportion--a baby can't even touch his hands together above his head. A newborn's head is approx 25% of his/her body weight. If that were true of adults, my head would weigh 32 pounds! But an adult's head is only about 6-8% of his/her body weight. Children are top-heavy, which affects the way their bodies move in a crash. Not only this, but their bones are less rigid than an adult's bones:

"very young children have immature and incompletely ossified bones that are soft and will deform and/or separate under tension, leaving the spinal cord as the last link between the head and the torso. ...the spinal cord ruptures if stretched more than 1/4 inch.

"Real accident experience has also shown that a young child's skull can be literally ripped from its spine by the force of a crash. Yes, the body is being held in place, but the head is not. When a child is facing rearward, the head is cradled and moves in unison with the body, so that there is little or no relative motion that might pull on the connecting neck." (source)

Keep your kids facing the rear as long as you can! That limit depends on your carseat--check the manual for guidelines.

For more information:

(P.S. - Bonus points to the first person who identifies the 90s pop song reference in the title :)