Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Miss This Music Sale

All month long I've been meaning to blog about Sovereign Grace's crazy February sale, and keep forgetting/ here we are at the end of the month and you've got a day and a half left!

Sovereign Grace has been running this sale the last couple of years--all their CDs marked down to $6 (and shipping is free on orders over $15), or downloadable albums for only $5. Many of their books are on sale for only $7 or less, too. This is a perfect opportunity to pick up some fantastic, gospel-centered, Christ-exalting music. I can personally recommend (very highly!) all of the following albums:

Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man (full review)
Come Weary Saints
Together for the Gospel Live
To Be Like Jesus (full review)
Worship God Live (full review)
Songs for the Cross Centered Life (full review)
Sons and Daughters
Valley of Vision

I placed my order last week--eagerly stalking the mailbox for some new music :) Hope this post isn't too late for you to take advantage of this awesome sale!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Use It or Lose It

So many of my struggles have nothing to do with not knowing the truth, and everything to do with believing, living, what I know. Can I get an amen?

I've seen this dynamic most recently as I think about Scripture memorization, having just come off of Mega Memory Month not long ago. By the grace of God, I have finished memorizing Ephesians 1-2. He has also enabled me to hide much more of His Word in my heart over the last few years, from Romans 8 to the gospel narrative to scattered comforting verses from Habakkuk to Revelation, Genesis to Luke.

But I'm finding that although I have all this Scripture in my head, it does me no good.

At least, these memorized Words of Life are useless when buried deep in the recesses of my brain. If I don't rehearse them frequently, the problem isn't simply that I'll forget them. Even before they slip from my memory, the problem is that they aren't helping me. You see, memorized Words of Life are useful only when I stop passively listening to my inner monologue and make the effort, take the time, to recite them.

Paul uses fightin' words to talk about the life of the mind: take every thought captive to obey Christ, he urges us. Yet I stumble through each day passive and lazy, content to be carried along by every whim of my inner monologue. My default mode is listening--to thoughts that are unhelpful at best and seductive lies at worst; to emotions that are fickle and untrustworthy.

But God has not left me defenseless in the face of these thoughts that wage war against my soul. He has gone far beyond even giving me a copy of His Word to read. He has given me the ability to commit these Words to my memory, to have them ready at any moment, in any place. He has graciously equipped me for battle--will I stand up and FIGHT?

I have to ask myself: What good is memorizing for the sake of memorizing? Have I learned these Scriptures so that others will be impressed with me, so that I can be impressed with myself? Or have I learned them "that I might not sin against You", so that I am equipped for battle? A sword is completely useless if it never comes out of its sheath!

It takes effort to move from passive listening to dialogue with the living God--to preach to yourself nourishing, inspiring, empowering, beautiful Truth. It's hard to discipline yourself to think through and speak through the words of Scripture, easier instead to let your mind drift wherever it may.

But the hardest part of the effort has already been accomplished. I don't have to go find a Bible or read a verse posted on the wall; it's already in my mind! All I have to do is USE it. And in using it, I demonstrate trust. I look to God's unchanging Word and character, not my always-shifting emotions, to interpret reality. I display the conquering power of the sword He has given me.

So I'd ask you today if you're still following through with your 100 days of reinforcement, if you've retained what you worked so hard to memorize in January. But the more important question is, are you using what you learned? Are you seizing that sword and fighting?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 149

Thanking God this week for...

270. giant icicles
271. brown sugar & fig lotion
272. tons of laughs at old church camp photos and memories
273. coffee with a sweet girl from church last Monday
274. Steve's phone call at bedtime that night so Elijah could say night-night to Mama :)

275. evidence of His grace at work even in the midst of hard stuff
276. coming home from that girl time to an empty sink and clean dishes
277. Brita filters gifted from a friend, just when I needed to buy some new ones
278. mercy not dependent on my performance
279. grace to be compassionate with E in the middle of the night

280. sunshine
281. playdates with friends and their kids
282. recordings of the ministry team I used to sing with in college
283. Elijah, recently on a The Little Engine That Could kick, wandering through the kitchen: "I fink I can, I fink I can!"
284. Steve's willingness to do the dirty jobs around the house, without complaint

285. walks outside for the first time in ages
286. experimental lasagna (improvising with what I had on hand) that got great reviews from my guys
287. clean laundry
288. the gift of conviction from the Holy Spirit
289. long, thoughtful emails from friends

290. Monday mornings, opportunities for fresh starts to new weeks
291. mercy that doesn't wait for Monday mornings to make me new

holy experience

Monday, February 15, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 148

Thanking God this week for...

246. giant snowflakes whirling in the air
247. handmade gifts at
248. new library books to read
249. prayer time with Steve
250. His sovereignty

251. the beauty of Christ
252. Elijah's energy and enthusiasm
253. pistachios
254. inscriptions in books
255. more people I want to have over than days in the week...what a great problem to have!

256. journals as remembrances of God's faithful care
257. clean, soft sheets
258. the Psalms, a bottomless well of comfort
259. long naps
260. the Facebook group someone just started for my old church camp

261. the color pink
262. clean, kissable toddler toes
263. books strewn everywhere--because they're being read
264. fun stamping and conversation with my friend Melissa
265. refrigerator full of leftovers

266. children's Tylenol
267. cuddling up with my hubby and a movie, twice, on a quiet weekend
268. courage to speak hard words
269. our church family

holy experience

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 2.12.10

So much for regaining my blogging groove, eh? I thought life was going to settle down a little after the holidays...apparently not so much. If nothing else, a little Simple Woman's Daybook...

Outside my window...
snow! Nothing compared to the East Coast, but still, more than we've ever seen since moving to Tennessee almost five years ago. Enough to make a crazy driver plow through our front yard on Monday night and completely take out our mailbox, which is still lying destroyed in the yard, meaning we've gotten no mail in four days.

I am thinking...
nothing profound, just several scattered, random things come to mind: how badly I need to reorganize the files on our computer, like I reorganized our paper files--and how long that's going to I need and want to get back into the habit of writing/blogging...of fun plans coming up in the next few months...where I can get some Girl Scout cookies...

I am thankful for...
Steve's arrival home early today (he worked a little late last night)--meaning I got to run errands before places closed *without* having to take the little man out in the cold and get him in and out of his carseat four thousand times. It's the little things...

From the kitchen...
I'm in the midst of a pantry/freezer grocery challenge this month, trying to keep spending WAAAAY down and use up what we've got on hand. My original spending goal has proven to be completely unrealistic, but I'm still spending tons less than the monthly budget, which is nice. We'll be cleaning out the refrigerator for dinner tonight--but having steak tomorrow to make up for it. Haystack cookies (chocolate and butterscotch chips melted together and coating chow mein noodles) cooling in the fridge. Otherwise, nothing too exciting. Actually the next thing I need to make isn't food at all, but rather, homemade diaper rash cream.

I am wearing...
jeans, a silk long-sleeved undershirt (for warmth), a white t-shirt, a purple and gray zip-cardigan sweater, socks and slippers.

I am creating...
stamped cards--my friend Melissa came over last night (yay!) and got me going, so now my supplies are spread all over the dining room table. Since we aren't having any guests this weekend, I'm leaving it all out for a few days and hoping to get lots more cards made (we did more talking than stamping last night).

I am going...
to have to hide some of Elijah's books again soon. He has a handful of favorites that I don't think I can stand to read very many more times without a break :)

I am reading...
endless piles of children's books--and daily fighting to be grateful, not annoyed, when I'm interrupted with pleas of "read! read!" and a book thrust in my face :) Bible-wise, started the book of Deuteronomy this week (one of my favorite OT books), and I'm loving the first couple of chapters. Look for some blog posts soon, hopefully.

I just finished The House of Mirth this morning, and enjoyed it. Still in Soul Survivor and recently picked up Practicing Hospitality. Hoping to get into Nourishing Traditions soon. Also going through Love to Eat, Hate to Eat a third time, this time with my best friend. Aaand...I picked up Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era at the library this afternoon...not realizing it was going to be 800+ pages. Oy.

I am hoping...
that God will give me grace to talk to Him more and listen to myself less--to preach the gospel to myself and trust what I know is true, rather than letting my fickle emotions dictate my interpretation of reality.

I am hearing...
Shane & Shane's Psalms CD. That album never gets old!

Around the house...
finishing this up several hours after I started it, so these answers are a little jumbled. Just a quiet Friday evening, waiting for the little man's bedtime so we can watch a movie. Steve is in the living room trying to read--but not getting much done because Elijah has started taking him books instead of me :)

One of my favorite things...
cuddling with Elijah and his "wonnie" (lion) for a few minutes after he wakes up. For a while, the routine was to give the lion (who is huge--bigger than Elijah) a hug and a kiss before coming downstairs. Now the routine is to take his blanket out of his crib and go snuggle up with the lion. He sometimes lets me come snuggle too :)

A few plans for the rest of the week...
anticipating a quiet weekend at home with my hubby, after three busy and full weekends in a row. We've just started a two-week free trial of Netflix--we've been members in the past but have no intention of renewing past this trial; I simply wanted to be able to watch a few documentaries that we can't get through Redbox. So at some point we'll probably end up watching Food Inc, King Corn, and/or The Business of Being Born.

I hope that next week's plans will include coffee with a friend, a playdate with a friend I haven't seen since before Christmas, and maybe one or two other hospitality opportunities.

A picture thought I am sharing...
none today, unfortunately...I don't have pics on this computer. I tried to take a new picture of Elijah and the lion this afternoon (we've been taking them periodically to show how he's growing), but discovered my camera battery was dead. If I think of it, I'll come back and post that once I take it. It's time for a new one--my little man is officially two and a half. Wow.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 147

Thanking God this week for...

219. Steve's patience, bravery, servanthood and utter lack of scorn or condescension in dealing with me and with last week's unwelcome intruder
220. the capture and death of said intruder, less than 24 hours after discovery
221. no further evidence of companion intruders
222. our new computer
223. grace to rise early

224. Steve's freshly shaved face
225. anticipation
226. old photographs
227. Samaritan's Purse's Children's Heart Project and their video series
228. hospitality from friends

229. Elijah's good behavior far, far past his bedtime when we're at our friends' home
230. phone call with a dear friend
231. the way our pastor makes much of Christ week after week
232. getting to hear others' testimonies of God's spiritual and financial provision
233. husbands who are protective of their wives

234. clementine peels
235. moments spent snuggling my little boy in the mornings
236. his ridiculous eyelashes, the chubby curve of his cheek, his little hands
237. the way he scrunches up his entire face into a charming grin
238. Duplos all over the living room floor

239. unexpected gifts in the mail
240. fresh air on a walk, despite the cold
241. more snow on the ground
242. handmade gifts at
243. finding out that our library actually has, shockingly enough, the next book I want to read

244. His sovereignty, wisdom, goodness and love
245. friends who faithfully remind me of these truths

holy experience

Friday, February 05, 2010

Snowed In

The other part of last week's busyness and blessings was a visit from my parents! Diane and the girls left on Thursday morning and my parents arrived Friday afternoon--so it was a bit of a whirlwind around here (hence the lack of blogging). With the winter storm warning, it was looking questionable as to whether Mom and Dad would be able to come, but they made it just before the snow started...and then they got to experience a snowstorm, Tennessee-style. It wouldn't have been much to talk about back home, but here it was front-page news; we were snowed in all weekend!

We had no place to go, really, so it made for a fun and cozy couple of days. We played games (more Settlers, more Ma Jiang); Dad helped Steve with a project downstairs; Mom read endless quantities of books to Elijah and entertained him while I got other things done. We won't mention the icky, unwelcome visitor who was discovered Saturday morning, eyewitnessed by yours truly on Saturday afternoon, then caught and disposed of by Steve on Sunday morning. *shiver*

For once, the snow forecast down here actually wasn't exaggerated, so we ended up with about six inches of snow! It was beautiful--and with hills readily available right across the street, we had to go sledding. Steve showed off his ingenuity with a big cardboard box and duct tape, and we took Elijah out for his first experience in the snow. We don't even have proper snow gear for him, so we had to improvise.

We were so bummed that church was cancelled on Sunday. But then Mom & Dad graciously watched Elijah for us so that we could go out on a date Sunday evening! We live on a main road and all the main roads were fine, so we got to experience Mongolian BBQ for the first time at Genghis Grill. I have to say I liked the concept and the process more than the actual taste of the food. Still, a date is a rare treat and I just enjoyed the quiet time with my hubby.

It is always so nice to have my parents come down for a visit. I love to see the way they delight in their grandson...and he likes them an awful lot, too :)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

One of My Favorite Families Ever

The blog has been silent, and I've even missed the last two Multitude Mondays--but not for lack of things to be thankful for. Quite the opposite. The last two weeks have been filled with blessings, mostly due to visits from and with beloved people in my life.

We spent last weekend in Memphis with a family whom we have all grown to love. Diane was assigned to me as a mentor during my internship at Kingdom Building Ministries in 2003. It's one of the best arguments I know for the sovereignty of God: we were paired together by someone else, and in fact, I ran across a list that summer that indicated we weren't originally even supposed to be paired. We began in June as total strangers, and ended the summer as lifelong friends. I got to spend the following summer being mentored by Diane in person again, and ever since, we have continued to grow closer.

So, you can imagine my delight when Diane and her family moved from Denver to Memphis in 2007--only a four hour drive away, instead of a plane ride! Over the last couple of years, we've gotten to spend time together as families, which has been so fun. I had long enjoyed being part of her family, but now Steve has developed relationships with them, too, and he enjoys spending time with them *almost* as much as I do :)

We spent the weekend talking, eating, and playing games (mostly Settlers of Catan and Ma Jiang, with a few others thrown in). And then Diane and I got to go to Barnes & Noble Sunday afternoon for a few hours of uninterrupted, deeper conversation. What a blessing to my soul!

Unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of all eight of us...and we also didn't get an updated picture of me with all three of her kids. But this photo of the two of us seems light years away from us our first summer together (shoot, I don't have it on my computer...pre-digital camera), or even five years ago.

Anyway, before we left Sunday evening to come back home, a last-minute decision was made for us to bring their almost-eight-year-old daughter XinXin with us for a special visit! It was her first trip away from her family all by herself and she did great. I really enjoyed having a temporary older daughter, and learned a lot of lessons, including: 1) my life is going to change a LOT if we have another child; 2) I really do better with older kids; 3) having an 8-year-old around is good for the ego--sometimes because she makes you feel like a rockstar, and sometimes because her honesty knocks you down a peg or two :)

It was such a delight to have XinXin in our home! We worked on homeschool lessons, relaxed & had fun, and did lots of baking together:

Elijah alternated between being delighted to have a big sister and laughing hysterically at everything she did...and getting mad and trying to push her because he didn't want her playing with his toys. Sigh.

Then on Wednesday, Diane and her other daughter, HanYing, came here to pick XinXin up. So, not only did I get a bonus daughter, but I got 24 hours of extra unexpected time with Diane! (And, HanYing helped me win at Phase 10 :)

Here's me with both girls before they all left on Thursday morning:

These girls and their mama (as well as their dad and their big brother, who I unfortunately did not get pictures of) are so, so dear to my heart. Time with them last week was a HUGE blessing and my heart is still so thankful!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Mega Memory Month Finale

Not sure where January went, exactly--but we've reached the end of Mega Memory Month already. How did you do? I trust that even if you didn't reach your goal or struggled more than you anticipated, you still made progress. You accomplished more than if you hadn't tried at all--and by the grace of God, you've got at least a little Scripture hidden in your heart. His Word is powerful, even in small doses!

As I explained when we began, my ultimate goal is to memorize the book of Ephesians this year. To finish it all in one month would be an impossible task, but I hoped to get a good start in January by working up through 2:10. Since I started the month with an aggressive pace, I was able to meet and surpass my goal even though I ended up slacking off in the last few days.

I decided to try a new way of celebrating--so for the first time, I am trying out, which enabled me to record my recitations by phone. The quality isn't great, and it had a time limit, so if you're interested in hearing me recite Ephesians 1:1-2:13, you'll have to listen to three separate clips. I hope this works:

Ephesians 1:1-14


Ephesians 1:15-23


Ephesians 2:1-13


I've worked on 2:14-16, but didn't have that solid enough today to recite it. And I've already noticed the temptation to slack off with the reinforcement work. I need to be diligent to keep reciting chapter 1 daily, even though I already know it and am not actively "working" on it anymore.

Reciting the memorized passage every day for 100 days is the most important key to the success of my method--it's what makes the difference for long-term retention. Don't let all your hard work slip away by failing to follow up! All it takes to solidify what you've learned is reciting it once a day (it's even okay if you forget days here and there) for 100 days (until May 9). Build it into your daily routine for the next few months, and years from now, you'll still be able to recall the passage you memorized this month.

Working through the book of Ephesians has been a blessing for me. I'm thankful to Ann for the inspiration and motivation, thankful to Christ for the grace to be able to memorize His Word, and looking forward to pressing on toward my goal--not just to memorize the rest of Ephesians, but to get the words deep into my heart and LIVE them.

UPDATE 2/4: Looks like the embedded audio files aren't working. For all two of you who want to hear them, here are the links:

Ephesians 1:1-14

Ephesians 1:15-23

Ephesians 2:1-13