Monday, June 27, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 210

Thanking God this week for...

1818. a local farm where we could pick blackberries
1819. finding u-pick blueberries across the road unexpectedly
1820. the super nice man who helped us get started and even gave me...
1821. a padded bucket to sit on while I picked!
1822. Elijah counting out ten berries to put in the basket before eating another one

1823. multitasking: nursing Jude while picking blueberries :)
1824. three quarts of fresh, delicious blueberries
1825. no sunburn for any of us after two hours outside
1826. forgiveness for Elijah and for me
1827. being kind, slow to anger, and patient with us

1828. carseats to protect my boys
1829. rare instances of Jude sitting calm, quiet and still in my lap
1830. lunch of fresh fruits and vegetables
1831. first zucchini pizza of the season
1832. tools to study His Word

1833. parrots at the library
1834. boys in red stripes
1835. new, unscratched sunglasses
1836. cooking disasters that humble me
1837. a husband who helps in the kitchen and eats the failures without complaint or criticism

1838. theology discussions
1839. early bedtimes
1840. mercies new every morning
1841. hugs and fresh starts
1842. new stroller from craigslist

1843. ATMs
1844. a cowboy-themed birthday party
1845. opportunity to serve a friend by running an errand for her
1846. absolutely perfect, gorgeous weather
1847. a friend babysitting while I went to an appointment

1848. Qdoba at Centennial Park with friends
1849. catnaps
1850. Steve's willingness to get his hands dirty: butchering chickens, fixing the car
1851. a huge picnic hosted by old friends, the opportunity to see other old friends
1852. Jude playing with other babies

1853. boys imitating and laughing at each other in the backseat
1854. dinner with friends
1855. long, deep, heart-level conversations
1856. His mercy and grace for me as a wife
1857. His protection of my heart

Monday, June 20, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 209

Thanking God this week for...

1771. line dried sheets and a freshly made bed
1772. cooler temperatures outside
1773. Sarah's recipe for Green Beans Caesar
1774. a friend here for dinner and great conversation
1775. his encouragement and challenges to Steve and me

1776. Jude's love for his new doorway jumper
1777. the hilarity that ensued when he fell asleep in it
1778. prayer with friends
1779. time to journal first thing in the morning
1780. Schleich animals

1781. a friend hosting Tuesday playdates again this summer
1782. her eight-year-old son being so kind to Elijah
1783. getting home from the library just before a storm rolled in
1784. Wednesday dinner with our friends: salmon croquettes and key lime pie!
1785. shared recipes

1786. Steve's gospel insights
1787. His patience with me
1788. Elijah's ability to talk
1789. the opportunity to lend cloth diapers to a friend, after all she's let me borrow
1790. Elijah's delight in playing with her boys

1791. fenced-in yards and blow-up pools
1792. swim shirts and bucket hats
1793. learning how to make soap
1794. Elijah's surviving a napless day with minimal emotional fragility :)
1795. massage therapy at the chiropractor

1796. friends with whom I never run out of conversation, only time
1797. friends who intercede for me when I ask
1798. donuts from the Donut Palace
1799. long, simultaneous naps
1800. freesia-scented lotion

1801. a new purple shirt with a ruffly neckline
1802. a friend's generosity and servanthood in babysitting for my boys
1803. a date with my handsome husband for the first time in months!
1804. his opening doors for me (only possible when our arms aren't full of kiddos and gear)
1805. walking hand in hand from the car to the restaurant

1806. outdoor seating on a beautiful night
1807. Mafiaoza's clever menu and excellent pizzas
1808. good conversations
1809. ice cream cones
1810. catching up with my sweet friend after we got home

1811. being the Master Storyteller
1812. a kick-start to clean our bedroom and closet
1813. old photos of me and my dad
1814. a quick, last-minute visit from my parents on their way home from vacation
1815. adorable new clothes Mom bought for the boys at the outlets

1816. a day of rest
1817. watching over my life without ever resting

Friday, June 17, 2011

Handmade Baby

With a second baby, you don't need much. You already have all the gear, and if you're having the same gender (or if all of your newborn stuff is gender-neutral, as ours is), you don't even need clothes. So we were pretty much set in preparation for Jude's birth, but I had two main items on my wishlist. First, I wanted to try a different carrier. And second, I needed a new diaper bag. I ended up with some beautiful handmade items that I have been meaning to share here for several months!

As far as baby carriers go, you've probably heard me rave about the Ergo. We had one with Elijah and absolutely loved it. Steve loved it, I loved was our number one must-have baby item. Seriously indispensable. I tried a pouch sling and a Moby wrap, but we preferred the Ergo by far. But this time around, I was still curious. I know so many people who love ring slings, especially for newborns. So I ordered one from an online friend:

It is simple, beautiful, well-made. You can order them via this Facebook page. She also made a pouch sling for Elijah, so he could carry his stuffed animals just like Mama carries Baby Jude:

Meanwhile, I found out that one of my dearest friends from high school has a pattern for ring slings, and she offered to make me one! So I found some fabric I liked and sent it to her--and less than a week later, despite having a newborn herself as well as two other kids under the age of four, she mailed me this:

Yeah, just call her Supermom. Love it!

But as fast as Jude grew, ring slings quickly became impractical. I know women who swear by them, even carry toddlers in them--but I just could not get it to work for me long-term. I wanted to keep wearing them, but my neck/shoulders/back felt otherwise. It seems I am just a soft-structured carrier kind of gal. Which is what the Ergo is, but I had another carrier to try out here as well. Much as I loved my Ergo, I'd also heard great things about other similar carriers, so I had gotten rid of my Ergo and bought a Kangapack.

Custom-made by a girl I know online and sold on Etsy, the Kangapack is very similar to an Ergo, but with a few key differences. Most notably, it's a lot less bulky. The waistband and shoulder straps are narrower, the carrier part is narrower and all the fabric is thinner/softer than the canvas Ergo. Still padded, just a lot more streamlined. Then, it's just a lot cuter :) You can even pick your own fabric (I found this aqua/green/brown stripe at JoAnn). FYI - I definitely wear Jude on my back now, for the most part; this photo was taken several months ago.

The carrier itself is basic, and then there are optional add-ons--I paid extra for a sleeping hood (essential, in my opinion) and a zippered pocket (super helpful when I don't want to carry a diaper bag--I can stuff keys, money and phone in my pockets and a couple of diapers/wipes in the carrier pocket). I still love the Ergo--there are pros and cons to both--but I especially love that this one packs up a lot smaller and goes on/fits my shoulders better. And, I know function is more important than style, but I like the looks of it a whole lot more :) Unfortunately the seamstress is a busy mama of four littles who isn't making them at the moment--I'm glad I got mine before she stopped!

My other needed item was a new diaper bag. I loved the messenger bag I had for Elijah, except that it was way too small, and the snap had broken. So I was on the lookout for a new and improved bag--and since I'm picky about bags, I asked my sister-in-law to make one for me. And did Michelle ever rise to the challenge!

I fell in love with Danielle's Amy Butler bag way before I got pregnant--I loved the style and the fabric and thought it would make a great diaper bag. (Danielle's photo is way more beautiful--I had nowhere to hang my bag to display it well!) Then I found out that the pattern actually *was* for a diaper bag. Michelle got the pattern and went with me to JoAnn to pick fabric, and then we made a bunch of modifications. The original bag seemed really wide and awfully shallow, so I had her make it narrower and deeper.

She lined it with six pockets and a cell phone pocket on the strap, a feature of the original bag (BRILLIANT)...and then she did all kinds of other custom features: a loop on which to clip my keys, a small pocket-within-a-pocket so my lip balm doesn't get lost at the bottom of a pocket, and a button closure.
Then she made me a pouch for diapers and wipes...and to top it all off, my mother-in-law surprised me by making a quilted changing pad out of the scraps! It is SO cute.

I totally love this bag. Yay for talented family and friends!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Prayer: Eloquence or Desperation

I don't remember exactly when I started writing out my prayers, but it's a practice I've grown quite attached to over the years. My journal, kept regularly since junior high, turned mostly into a prayer journal after I got married, and I've filled volumes upon volumes with pleas and petitions, whining and thanksgiving, laments and intercession. These are among my most prized possessions, so wonderful to be able to look through weeks or months or years later. One reason I so prefer writing out my prayers is that they are more thoughtful. Writing helps me slow down and think through what to pray. I like to ask specific and meaningful things, to pray God's Word back to Him.

Meanwhile, I struggle to "pray continually," breathing out prayers while I'm going about my day--perhaps in part because these prayers end up feeling shallow, repetitive, simplistic. But I'm reading Paul Miller's wonderful book A Praying Life, and the chapter "Crying 'Abba'--Continuously" gave me a whole different perspective. Suddenly I wondered: Could the preferences I've just described be, in their essence, pride?

Refusing to acknowledge my poverty of spirit, I believe I have much to bring to the table when it comes to prayer. I know how to pray. I'm not just going to utter halfhearted, "Lord, please bless-and-be-with" prayers. If I can't bring all my assets to prayer, can't have a big chunk of set-aside time to wax eloquent, then I won't come at all. Forget it.

Miller suggests:
"You don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit." (65)
Perhaps my problem is not so much lack of diligence as it is lack of humility and desperation. I *know*, in my head at least, that I am helpless and hopeless apart from Christ, needy and dependent. But I apparently haven't seen the truth that I am so needy that my need supercedes the importance of thoughtful prayer. What I need, what I lack, is far more significant than what I can do, what I bring. And so my poverty in spirit should trump my desire to pray thoughtfully, every time. God doesn't need my gospel-centered or Scripture-saturated prayers; I need God and His gospel and His Word.

Miller speaks of a revelation in the life of his family:
"We didn't need to get more organized. We didn't need more money. We needed mercy. That mindset creates a praying heart. A praying life is not simply a morning prayer time; it is about slipping into prayer at odd hours of the day, not because we are disciplined but because we are in touch with our own poverty of spirit, realizing that we can't even walk through a mall or our neighborhood without the help of the Spirit of Jesus." (68)
O, for this kind of desperation and awareness of need--and O, for awareness of how the Savior has provided for my every need, if I will only call out to Him. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 208

Thanking God this week for...

1732. belly laughter
1733. an overabundance of children's books
1734. more than two hours of great conversation with a new friend
1735. her wisdom, humility, life experience, willingness to share painful parts of her life
1736. our Toyota Camry hitting 200,000 miles and still going strong

1737. answered prayer
1738. my parents' marriage: they celebrated 31 years last Tuesday!

1739. the 21 Days of Prayer for Sons challenge
1740. the accompanying e-book Warrior Prayers - and the fact that I got it for free!
1741. long emails from a new like-minded online friend

1742. a reptile show at the library
1743. one-on-one time with both boys
1744. Jude falling asleep in a carrier and transferring well to his bed
1745. Wednesday night dinners with our friends, and the fact that I don't have to cook them this summer
1746. just enough honey to make bread

1747. wood block tunnels for Elijah's trains
1748. a long-overdue blog sidebar update (did you notice?)
1749. Elijah picking up all his toys without help or constant supervision
1750. camping with friends
1751. s'mores and plain roasted (ok, charred) marshmallows

1752. natural bug spray
1753. going home to showers, air-conditioning and soft beds at night :)
1754. His protection of my boys
1755. zucchini season
1756. yard sale finds

1757. colored glass
1758. homemade popsicles
1759. sticky red juice dripping down fingers and chin

1760. Jude not being cranky despite being so hot

1761. the fact that Steve isn't moody or easily angered like I am
1762. the way nursing forces me to stop and be still several times a day
1763. free packages of chicken
1764. milky white magnolia blooms
1765. dinosaur pajamas
1766. a new family photo courtesy of the lovely Lily

1767. calling me to prayer
1768. being slow to anger with me
1769. using kindness to call me to repentance
1770. the fact that Jesus didn't escape the work set before Him or the cross He was to bear

Friday, June 10, 2011

Author Interview: Lisa Velthouse, Part 2

Today's post is continued from yesterday's interview with Lisa Velthouse, author of a new memoir called Craving Grace (which I reviewed here).

AK: Have you had moments of regret in terms of how honest you were about various events and thoughts? How have you dealt with the vulnerability brought on by the book's publication?

LV: I’m not sure I would call it regret, but yeah. Brutal honesty does bring about a certain sense of increased vulnerability. I can be a people-pleaser, so I have a hard time in particular thinking that some of what I wrote might unintentionally shed negative light on some people, groups, and things. Concealing character identities helps with that fear—you mask somebody so that nobody knows who you’re talking about—but there’s only so much a writer can do.

For instance, Amy, in your earlier review you note that Craving Grace is a bit harsh about Saving My First Kiss (that’s a terrible summary of your review, but you get the idea). You’re right; it is a bit harsh, probably unfairly so. Part of the deal with this memoir, though, is that I didn’t want to caveat my behavior for caveat’s sake. The reader gets a true picture of who I am and who I’ve been, which often includes unfair reactions and levels of emotion. Hopefully we can all learn from the ugliness of it. For instance, I’m not nearly so harsh about my first book now. :)

AK: I would imagine memoir writing gets sticky when you begin to tell other people's stories as part of your own. How have the friends and family members portrayed in the book reacted to your stories about them?

LV: This relates so well to the question above. I learned early on in writing that it should be a careful matter, telling other people’s stories. In the past, I’ve written about another person, thinking that the story is wonderful and portrays them in a wonderful way, only to find that they felt differently and were offended by something. Now I try to give people a heads-up early on and then an advance read that includes veto rights. With Craving Grace, the reactions I got were pretty fun. Several family members and one of the Coras reacted with, “I had no idea!” Revelations everywhere. :)

Along with this, one of the crazy writing lessons in Craving Grace for me was that books, when compared to real life, have a miniscule capacity for characters. Many of the people who are big parts in my life—some family members and friends in particular—don’t have a place in the book. They simply weren’t big parts of certain events and conflicts, so they didn’t make it into the story. I wish I could’ve managed to honor everybody by working them in, but it would’ve become a free-for-all that way. Thank goodness for the Acknowledgements.

AK: A significant element of the book is your experience of grace through living in community with other believers. How will you look for that kind of community in new places after having experienced its rich sweetness in Michigan?

LV: The Apostle Paul writes that we are to “bear one another’s burdens.” Implicit in this is the idea that Christians should, rather than carrying burdens on their own, make their burdens known. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The burdens I tell of in Craving Grace are of the sort that most Christians consider obvious and urgent: I was in debt, I was lonely, I was sad, I was confused about God, I needed a place to live. These are the sorts of things that Christians are good at helping with: a little cash, a little friendship, some answers, some encouragement, a spare room in the basement. I experienced new depths of faith when others provided for me, eased my burdens, and let me be part of their lives.

But circumstances have changed for me, and now my burdens are the less-obvious sort. Still-newly married and newly moved across the country, I crave deep friendships here. I need advice on how to be a better wife. I’m worried about my military husband’s ever-looming next deployment. I need to figure out how to weed the backyard. We could really use help getting rid of the boxes in our garage. Why don’t I think to say these things? Why do I assume they’re not burdens, that they should be borne by only me?

The other side to that is: Two weeks ago, my husband and I are now living in our first house. We were able (because of a terrible market) to buy a place that’s a little bigger than only we need, so a family member of ours is living with us too. It’s a great arrangement; it helps us pay the mortgage, offers him cheap rent, and gives us all a better sense of community and reliance. But it’s harder on him than it is on us, because this is our house. Without us, he wouldn’t be living here, but without him, we still would. So he’s more likely to feel like an inconvenience. More likely to apologize for being a burden. And it’s so easy for me to forget that I’ve been in that place myself, to forget how awful and consuming it can be. So I’m learning, I hope, how to give with graciousness and how to bear others’ burdens better.

AK: Can you now answer Cora's question on page 59: How has your life changed as God has become the sweetness in it?

LV: Certainly I can’t answer it fully, but I can give it a shot now, and that’s progress. I’ve begun to understand the depth of my own sin—it is sinfulness, the reality that even my nature is an offense against God. But with this, God’s grace has become real in my life of faith, because now it’s not merely Bible verses, memorized and mostly forgotten. It’s real, both in need and provision. There is such joy in that, and such worship. I used to follow God because I knew it was what I should do. Now, hopefully more each day, I follow him because I like being with him. He is love to me, and justice and hope and truth, even when I don’t understand what he’s up to. That makes it a pleasure to follow and obey.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Lisa! I so enjoyed "talking" with you a bit more about your book and your life.

Find Craving Grace on Amazon and be sure to check out Lisa's blog as well!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Author Interview: Lisa Velthouse

Today I get to bring you a first-time treat: an author interview! Lisa Velthouse, whose lovely memoir I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, agreed to answer some questions for me and my readers. I loved reading through these behind-the-scenes thoughts that provide a complement to Lisa's book Craving Grace. (And if you're visiting from Lisa's blog: Welcome! I hope you'll poke around a bit and maybe even come back :)

Because I gave her a lot of questions and because she answered thoroughly and thoughtfully, I think there's too much material for one blog post--so I'll post the first half today and part 2 tomorrow.

AK: On page 97 you speak of your book going in a different direction than you anticipated: “The irony is not lost on me, not one bit, that while writing a book about God's grace I will every day be trying to cope with a houseful of generosities I don't deserve. ...So it will have to be both past and present, Grace and grace. It will have to be terrible and captivating like it was the first time.” (I love that last line!) How is this book different from the book you initially proposed to your publisher? (What did you originally think Craving Grace was going to be?)

LV: My earliest and midway-through drafts focused entirely on my discovery of grace (or, probably better, its discovery of me): that grace, not works, is the only catalyst for a life of faith. In those drafts and outlines, grace was the big prize at the end of the last chapter, a payoff to thorough readers. But it didn’t work. The story was stale somehow, incomplete. I was writing three years after those first grace experiences, and I knew from life that grace is more than just the spark that starts me off toward faith; after the spark, it becomes the fuel that keeps faith burning.

So I ended up weaving two timelines together. The first timeline is past tense: looking back on my fast from sweets, during which I first learned to accept grace. The second is present tense, writing the book and living in community and still craving grace. My hope is that it gives a more full picture of how grace both starts and keeps working in a person’s faith.

AK: It seems unusual to write so consciously about the process of writing—in what ways did that make the writing uniquely challenging? How did you discover more of God's sweetness through the process of writing a book about it?

LV: Oh man. Great question. It’s funny, because when I think of it, I think of it as writing not about writing but about writer’s block. :) From start to finish, I struggled to complete this manuscript. As a person who tends to find value in her accomplishments, that struggle isn’t the sort of thing I prefer for people to see. So those parts of the story are one more example of God whittling away at my pride and my knee-jerk mentality, which is, “I can manage all this perfectly, thank you.”

Everyday failure is a tangible reminder of my need for God’s grace: here’s yet another instance where I on my own am not enough to get by. For me, those failures—writing is just one; Craving Grace tells of many more—have become a consistent reminder of what is true about me. On the whole, my life is sinful and broken and apart from God. But in Christ, I can have righteousness and restoration and unity with God. That comes only through grace, which is free to me and of total cost to Him. It’s powerfully sweet in every instance. That goes for the macro, which is my need for ultimate redemption, and the micro, which sometimes is just sitting at a computer needing to finish this sentence.

AK: Tell us more about Cora. I would expect you to change some characters' identifying details—but I was intrigued (and confused) right from the “Author's Note” page about the creation of a composite character. Was this because your conversations and experiences with Cora were actually experiences with several different mentor-like women in your life? Is creating a character like this a common practice in memoir writing?

Composite characters are common and accepted in memoir writing. I’ve been privileged to have many strong mentors in my life; Craving Grace tells of one, Cora, who is in real life actually two. I made Cora a composite because of technical and relational reasons: there are only so many characters that one book can handle (far fewer than I had suspected), and both the true Coras are so humble that neither would be comfortable carrying the weight of the whole character. (Though either on her own could have.)

The true Coras also happen to be demographically different, so I picked a few demographic details from each and then meshed them together. This accomplished two important goals: it simplified the story, allowing that readers wouldn’t have to keep track of two mentors, and it provided the real Coras with the privacy I knew they would appreciate. Now only I and they know which stories belong to each of them. Still, I assure you that Cora is even more incredible as two real-life people than she is as the book’s one.

AK: Over the last several years you've had quite a platform for speaking to young girls, in large part related to your first book, Saving My First Kiss. How has your message changed since experiencing the events of Craving Grace and then having the book published?

LV: That has been an interesting progression for me. I’ve been speaking to young girls about sexual purity since I was 18. In those speaking opportunities, I was always careful to emphasize grace—became I knew God forgives—and I always shared about my personal vow, which was to save my first kiss until I was engaged. In terms of sexual purity, for a long time that was the only personal story I could share—as Craving Grace tells, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I got asked out on my first date. Well. Also as Craving Grace tells, I wasn’t so successful at keeping my one big vow. And I’m older, so I can better understand that complicated things are complicated.

Anyway. The issue of purity isn’t so simple to me as it was before. I can relate more to the struggle, because I’ve been through it more now and because now the issue of grace is no longer separate from the issue of my vows. I know now that vows should be made to God because of his grace, out of gratitude for what he has done. And I understand now that every human vow of obedience is in one sense flawed, because it’s human. I kissed a guy I wasn’t engaged to. Kissed him twice! That was a huge failure for me, because it was breaking my vow to God. It hints my propensity to disobey, my pleasure in disobedience. But in Christ it is possible to obey God. A few years after those first kisses—here’s something you won’t find in Craving Grace—my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and that has been great for our marriage and our faith probably in more ways than we realize. In terms of speaking about sexual purity, I still value the same principles I valued before, and it’s still the same message, but far more faceted now.

[Come back tomorrow for part 2 of my interview with Lisa!]

Monday, June 06, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 207

“There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can...give all our attention to the opportunity before us.” (Mark Van Doren, quoted in Getting Things Done)

Trying to keep my eyes open to the gifts God gives here and now, the blessings before me every moment—including...

1707. cabinets and drawers reorganized
1708. squirt gun fights
1709. new recipes
1710. Elijah's desire to pray
1711. Mason jars not breaking when dropped

1712. playdates with friends
1713. big red and blue plastic balls – best $5 I've spent this summer
1714. sidewalk chalk
1715. Steve's gospel insights
1716. Jude covered in avocado

1717. singing songs with my boys
1718. the fact that our patio/deck are almost totally shaded all day
1719. time to write thoughtful emails during naps
1720. Steve's offer to give me a mental health day
1721. a morning of praying and writing and reading at Starbucks

1722. lunch at Panera
1723. a little shopping, a few good deals
1724. bluish purples and purplish blues
1725. homemade pesto
1726. bath night

1727. Elijah's excitement to go to Sunday school
1728. friends here for dinner and fellowship
1729. the story of how Steve and I ended up together
1730. older boys from church playing patiently with Elijah
1731. His infinite majesty yet intimate care

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Let the Gospel Rule

One reason I'm glad I keep a blog is that it's so helpful for me to go back and read old posts. I don't do it often enough--but it's unbelievable how forgetful I am. I write when I am impacted by something I read or heard...then I fail to remember these valuable truths, and need to hear them all over again. Such is the case with this post--I wrote it about a year ago and found it still helpful when I ran across it the other day.

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

Our pastor preached a sermon a few weeks ago that included an analogy I'm still thinking about. He examined Colossians 3:15-17, and began by asking: What is the peace of Christ, and what does it mean for that peace to rule in your heart?

The first thing to note is that "the peace of Christ" isn't primarily a subjective feeling. It's not, "ahh, I feel calm" or "I have a peace about it." It's the peace that Christ bought--the objective fact that as Christians, we are reconciled to God because Christ "[made] peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). Jesus has purchased peace for us--once God's enemies, we are now His friends, servants, sons and daughters. Because of Christ's obedient life and sacrificial death, our sins are forgiven and God is well pleased with us!

So that's the peace that needs to rule in our hearts: the truth that we are at peace with God through the cross of Christ. The next question is, what does it mean for that peace to "rule" in our hearts?

Our pastor suggested that the word "rule" in this context means "to act like an umpire." A strange thought. What does an umpire do? He declares what the ball is. When the pitch comes right across the plate, he calls it a strike. When it's outside the box, he calls it a ball. He makes a judgment about the ball, about the pitch--and in this way he rules over the game.

That's what we are to do with "the peace of Christ"--the reality of being reconciled to God (in other words, the gospel). We are to make the gospel the judge over our hearts: our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, our will. The peace that Christ has purchased should rule over every aspect of our lives.

A thought comes into your mind: Is it true, in line with God's Word? Judge it in light of the gospel, and keep it or throw it out.

An emotion starts to consume you: Does it reflect the reality of who God is and what He has done, especially in Christ? Or is it growing out of sinful, idolatrous desires? Let the gospel determine whether that emotion is appropriate or whether it needs to be replaced.

You want to speak certain words: Are they full of grace, reflective of the gospel? Or would they be best left unsaid? Evaluate them in light of the person and work of Jesus, and then determine whether to speak them or hold your tongue.

It means letting the gospel saturate our thoughts, our words, our actions. It means everything we do and say is informed by and flows out of the reality that in Christ, we have been reconciled to God. The peace of Christ rules--makes judgments over, determines the truth about--every aspect of our lives.

I've written before about the struggle of trusting my own limited perceptions of a situation rather than believing what God says. It's all too easy to judge God and His work in light of my emotions and circumstances, rather than judging my emotions and circumstances based on the truth of God's character and promises.

So that's the challenge of Colossians 3:15 - to let the peace that Christ has purchased, the reality of the gospel, rule as umpire over my mind and heart. By God's grace, I want the reality of the gospel--what Christ has done and who I am in Him--to be the dominant feature of my thinking and to govern my emotions, my words, and my actions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sweet & Healthy Cornbread

Having grown up on Jiffy mix, Steve and I like our cornbread sweet. I think this is sacrilegious to true Southerners...but hey, we think their cornbread looks like pancakes, so I guess we're even :)

Anyway, so when I first tried making cornbread from scratch, none of the recipes were satisfying because they weren't sweet enough. Then I found this one, and I haven't bought a boxed mix since. It doesn't look like cornbread, since the whole wheat flour and sucanat give it a dark brown color instead of the expected yellow. But we think the taste makes it irrelevant whether it looks like "real" cornbread--yum!

I really need to start taking and posting pictures with my food posts. Alas.

Sweet, Healthy Cornbread

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. sucanat
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 T baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 c. milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
3 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350* and grease an 8-inch square pan. Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl (mix fats first--do not add cold milk to melted coconut oil). Stir both mixtures together until blended (do not overstir). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes. For muffins, bake at 350* for 18-20 minutes (yields about 18-20 small muffins).

Enjoy as a side dish--or crumble and use in tuna cornbread cakes.