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.