Friday, April 29, 2011

Moving on Up: Part 1

Five years ago my husband and I thought it was a good idea to buy a 1/1 condo and quit "throwing away our money every month" on rent.  Less than a year and a half later we were blessed with our first child, and we realized that maybe we should have continued renting until we could afford a bigger home.  It was too late, though, and knowing that the Lord allowed the happenings, we made do.

It was actually fun making everything work, and we situated our little one's crib in the bedroom with our bed and her clothes in our closet and the hall closet.  It has been a blessing to have a small home because we have not been able to hang on to a lot of unnecessary stuff.  We have had a lot of yard sales because I am always going through things to get rid of either to make room for new or make some extra cash (or both).

There are so many creative ways to live well in a small home.  We have used a gateleg folding table with the chairs that tuck right inside as our dining table, so that we could make the dining area (a nook really) our daughter's play area (picture below).  We've used the under-the-bed space for storage.  We've maxed out our closet space by using hanging storage.  We've strived to find a place for everything, so our home didn't have to feel as small as it was.

When our second little blessing came along, we rearranged the home again to accommodate.  The bedroom became the children's room, and my husband and I slept on a pull out couch in the living room (first picture below).  After the frame of the couch wore out, we got a great deal on a full-size mattress and box spring set, put it in our living room, and made lots of pillows to make it look like a couch during the day (second picture below).  It's worked wonderfully, even though we have missed having an actual bedroom.

Well, after much prayer and consideration of all options, we put our little condo on the market hoping we could sell it and move on and move in to a better fitting home.  Much to our excitement, we got an offer the day after it was put on the market!  So, praise the Lord, as I write this I am taking a break from packing to move out of our little home and into a home we will be renting that is over twice the size!  We'll have a bedroom again!  We'll have 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a large kitchen (I love to cook and bake), a patio, a garage, a playground in the community...  Sigh (of gratitude and excitement)...  We are so thankful!

Yesterday, I was praying with one of our daughters.  I was thanking God for this move and our new home and several aspects about it that were exactly what I was asking Him for months ago when praying for a new home for my family.  My lovely little one chimed in with, "And thank you, God, that we will have a playground.  That is so wonderful."  In our condo, we have not had a yard or a nearby playground (although we drive to playgrounds, so she can play with friends), so this is a special treat that we have prayed for!

A bedroom.  A playground.  These are some of those Finer Things in life, and we thank God.

Now, back to packing...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jehovah Jireh: The LORD will provide...

It can be very easy to slip into a fretful and anxiety-ridden state of mind when I focus on my circumstances instead of on my Lord.  My circumstances sometimes, or even often depending on which season of life it is, can look rather bleak or seemingly impossible to work out.  How am I going to have enough time to do this? How can I work to get some more money for that?  The truth is that sometimes life and all of the responsibilities, bills, details, etc look impossible.

Enter the LORD of Hosts.

When my focus is on Him, even if my circumstances are still crazy, I experience peace.  This is the peace that only comes from Him, from Jesus.  This can be a real tough struggle if I let it, or I can chose to surrender even if I don't feel like it, and even if I don't feel peace...yet.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7)

Why do I so often either sit and fret or get up and "get it done" without first taking my requests to the Lord, with thanksgiving, through prayer?  Wow, when I do this I notice a difference!  I have to be intentional with this because it is easy to just forget, or chose to do otherwise if my resolve is not strong.

Really this introduction can come before a discussion on any of the names of God, but today my focus is on this one: Jehovah Jireh - The LORD will provide.  What does He provide?  There are so many examples of His provision all throughout the Old and New Testements of the Bible and scriptures I hold on to regarding this, but here are three scriptures that encourage me and help me trust the Lord to provide:

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10)

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

The LORD will never forsake His children, He will supply me with all that I need, I can rest in the fact that He is God and can handle it much better than I can, and as a result of all of this He will be glorified!  Truth is so freeing!

God provides with much more than money, and He has many ways to go about it.  We have experienced His provision with money, things, food, water, friends, decisions that were in our favor, the ability to give and bless others, talents, timely and appropriate words that were needed, ideas, creativity, protection, a liason or advocate, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, guidance, time, patience, joy, strength, hope, kindness, forgiveness, restoration, fun, peace...

Furthermore, not only will the LORD take care of me with the big and the little needs and desires (lined up with His will and plan and timing, thankfully!), He has already provided for the absolute biggest need I had to begin with.  I needed a Savior (see Romans 3:23), and He provided that by coming to earth as a baby (see Luke 2:11), giving me an example of how to live (books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of the Bible), suffering and dying to pay the price for my sins for me (see 1 Peter 3:18), and then rising again and sitting back down at the right hand of the Father (see Mark 16:6 and Hebrews 10:12)!  He didn't stop there, though.  He then wooed me to Himself as the gentleman He is, pursued me with His unconditional love, and then sealed me in with Him, making me His forever (see 2 Corinthians 1:22).  He did this not just for me, but for all who chose to believe and follow Him as Lord (see Romans 10:9,10). 

So with all of this being said, here I am in a period or at least a few days of waiting on the LORD to provide a few needs.  Am I going to trust Him to do what He has always done (take excellent care of me), or am I going to fear, fret, worry, be anxious, and doubt Him to be God?

Of these two options, which one will you chose to walk in today?

The LORD does indeed provide.  Trust Him.  You will see.  He is so good.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33,34) 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ode to Vitamix

*Free shipping offer at the end of this post*

Over the years, I have really come to enjoy cooking, baking, and learning to make as much as possible from scratch in order to save money and offer more healthful meals and snacks to my family.  As I have continued to learn and grow in this area, it has become more and more apparent that the right tools make a huge difference in the quality and ease of these desired healthful meals and snacks. 

For years I wanted a Vitamix because I knew friends who had one and raved about it.  It seemed wonderful to be able to make smoothies, purees, nut butters, sauces, spreads, dips, batters, soups, ice cream, and more with one powerful and fast machine.  I drooled over them often.

Well I set aside some money about five months ago and got a factory reconditioned one - to save some money - and have absolutely love it!  In fact, everytime I use it, which is almost everyday, I thank God for it.  Really.  I know it is just a kitchen appliance, but seriously I am so thankful for it!  It has made homemaking so much easier, especially because I make my own baby food for the wee one.  We have saved a ton of money on that alone, so it has definitely been worth the investment.

I wrote this Ode because I really think a lot of people have heard of Vitamix and wanted one, but maybe you weren't sure it was going to be worth it to you.  I would be really surprised if you bought one of these and didn't use it.  It is just that useful and fun.  Plus it purees so quickly and easily making prep time much faster, which I really love.

OH, and it is so easy to clean.  That is magical to me.  You just put some water and a squirt of dish soup in it, run the motor again (like you just did to make whatever you just made with it), rinse it out, and it's clean! 

You can check out the Vitamix website here for more info.  They offer a 7 year warranty, a big cook book, a starter DVD, and great customer service.  Did I mention I really love my Vitamix?

To make this Ode even sweeter, if you buy one through this link, you will also get your new Vitamix shipped to you for FREE.  I love me some free shipping. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Words Matter: Approval vs Acceptance

I don't know about you, but I get pretty tired of words being kicked around outside of their proper context or actual meaning.  One of my least favorite things about the english language is that there is often much ambiguity.  Perhaps this is because we have failed, as a society, to seek to understand before seeking to be understood.  There is a whole lot of jumping to conclusions out there, and it really is not the way God intended for us to live.  In my experience, conclusions that I come to by jumping there usually lead to unnecessary conflict, division, burned bridges, hurt feelings...  (That is not to say that conflict only results when I jump to conclusions because there will always be conflict that is the result of truthful conclusions, as well...just wanted to clarify).

One word mix up where I commonly see this happening is between the words approval and acceptance.  These two words get interchanged when really they do not mean the same thing.

To approve: 1. to consider right or good; think or speak favorably of. 2. to consent to officially or formally; confirm or sanction

To accept: 1. to receive (something offered) with gladness. 2. to admit to a group, an organization, or a place.

In other words, when I approve of something, I am in agreement with that something or someone.  When I accept someone, I receive them whether or not I agree with them, and with gladness.

Many people are looking for acceptance, but they are focusing on the approval.  They feel that if their actions are not approved, then they are not accepted.  Many others feel pressured to approve of something they do not agree with feeling that if they do not approve that they will also not show acceptance toward the person involved.  Do you see how these words can get twisted?

This can be very dangerous and has happened in this country.  It is no longer socially acceptable to disagree.  Somehow agreeing to disagree has been replaced by just letting everyone do whatever they want to do without any discussion or debate and calling it tolerance.  What is tolerance anyway?

Tolerance: The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.

Notice that this definition, like the definition of acceptance, does not involve agreeing with these others or approving what these others do.  Likewise, it does not mean that these others who may disagree with me or even disapprove of what I do have to agree or approve.  Acceptance and tolerance really mean that we can agree to disagree.  Why is this such a problem nowadays?

I believe one reason is because often we/people don't really know what we believe.  I am most uncomfortable in a discussion or disagreement when I do not know what I believe or how to articulate what I believe.  I then have a choice to make.  Do I admit my ignorance humbly and act on gaining insight in order to better articulate what I believe or do I react in a defensive way and resort to argumentative and disrespectful tactics?  Really, this is a serious issue!  When it comes to knowing what you believe as a Christian, I highly recommend studies by Precept International, which will take you through the Bible, and a great little book called Culture Makers: A Worldview Approach to Re-engaging the World, by Josiah Vencel.

I do not approve of my daughter's enjoyment of knocking down her sister who has just learned how to walk.  However I do accept her and love her unconditionally.  I do not approve of the lifestyle my neighbors live, but I do accept them and love them unconditionally.  I do not approve of many of the decisions our president has made, but I accept him and trust the Lord because it is He who has raised him up to lead for a time (see Romans 13:1).

As I consider Easter, which is in only a couple of days, I am reminded of the fact that the Lord has accepted me although He does not approve of everything I do.  As I grow and mature as a follower of Christ I desire all the more to only do that which is approved by Him, but even when I fail from time to time I know that I am fully accepted by Him.  He loves me unconditionally.  He offers this love to all who will accept it.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) 

He hates sin.  He does not approve of it.  But He does accept me, a sinner.  What a glorious and profound truth for this recovering perfectionist.  Because of Christ's sacrifice, resurrection, and my calling on Him as my Lord and Savior (see Romans 10:9-13), I have this eternal love and acceptance to enjoy and rejoice in forever.  Hallelujah!

What are some ways you can show others your acceptance even when you don't approve?  Furthermore, do you know the reasons why you do not approve, and could you articulate them effectively in love and truth if and when God calls you to do this?

Happy Easter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Organizing!

I am a follower of Chirst, a wife, a mom, a business owner, an artist, a dancer, a friend, etc...  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  Plus I am going to start homeschooling in the near future.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed at times when I look around at what I have to do, take a glance at my list, and then suddenly hear the baby wake up early from her nap while the toddler is asking me for something.

However, as valid as these feelings of drowning in the sea of my to do's can be, I don't want to stay there. I recognize my God as a God of order.  Just look around and notice how well organized and creative the world is.  There is an order to life, and when the order is lacking it can be pretty chaotic! Almost always, I find that when I get to the point of feeling overwhelmed it is because I don't have things in order.  With closer examination I find that I am:

1.Not spending quality time in prayer and study just to sit quietly to listen and rest in the Lord's presence.

2. Not carefully choosing how I spend my time and letting myself get carried away by something that could have waited or is not important.

3. Taking too much time and energy planning and too little time and energy following through with that plan.

4. Being lazy or unintentional.

5. All of the above.

Well, as they say, "Knowing is half the battle," so now that I know what do I do?

Living in the sub-tropics, the four seasons are not really noticeable.  Really it is either perfect weather, rainy, hot, or really hot.  As a result, I don't really think about "Spring."  I realized this lately when I started seeing all sorts of blogs, advertisements, etc about Spring.  "Oh yeah, I guess it is Spring," I thought.  Many of these spring-themed writings have to do with Spring Cleaning.  I have to admit that I would like to be a better cleaner of my home.  It usually looks nice, but it is not always as clean as I would like. 

I stumbled across this blog post today about an e-book (I don't really like reading books on my computer, so this makes me consider even more saving up for a Kindle) that I think will help me.  It's called 31 Days To Clean and there is even a great giveaway which includes this book and more.  This got me excited and on the path to doing some of my own cleaning in the spring, which involves a whole lot more than just my floors and closets.

So, being the list person that I am (I've just learned to embrace this), I came up with a list to help me get organized with some of the to-do's that really need to-get-done.  Let me say, as well, that this is not a fool proof list and it is not intended to make me or anyone else a supermom (whatever that really means).  Instead this is a list to help me evaluate what I am currently doing, how that is working out, and make the necessary changes to help me better fulfill the purposes God has for me in ways that are most pleasing and glorifying to Him.  This looks different for each one of us, but there are some basic stepping stones:

1. Pray.  Pray.  Pray. - Pray first.  Keep praying.  We have to stay connected to the Source or we will run out of juice.  This is not cliche. 

2. Make a list - Even if you are not a "list person" like me, it helps to make a list of what your responsibilities are and what you want to accomplish.

3. Evaluate this list - What am I spending most of my time doing?  Is this profitable?  Are my priorities in line?  What is stealing me away from what is important?  Be honest with yourself.

4. Make a plan - This has to be a realistic plan with action steps.  How will you accomplish your goal?

5. Do it - Now follow through with your plan.  If it doesn't work, make adjustments and continue on.  Don't get discouraged or expect it all to happen right away.  Change takes time.

Although I do plan on this leading to much more cleaning around here, I plan even more importantly for diligence and discipline to make the most of my time and efforts by His grace and for His glory.  I hope this helps you do the same.

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ode to Peanut Butter & Co butter.  I like other nut butters, too, all of which are generally more healthy than peanut butter.  Peanuts are not really nuts anyway.  They are legumes. Nonetheless, my love remains.

A few years ago we switched from the mainstream peanut butters to the natural ones that are without hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.  First we switched to one that still had sugar in it, and then we switched to one with only peanuts and salt.  Sometimes we find peanut butter that only contains peanuts.  Gasp!  Now I cannot go back to the mainstream brands.  They just are no good to me anymore.  We usually get the store brand natural version, and when I can I get the organic (which is always even better!). 

I use peanut butter on sandwiches, of course, but it is good for so much more than that.  I also love to add peanut butter to our smoothies, cookies, yogurt, and even ice cream.  I enjoy peanut butter on fruit, crackers, and even by the spoon.  I cook with it from time to time.  Did I mention I love peanut butter?

Well, my life recently got even more exciting because I discovered a new (to me) brand of peanut butter!  When glancing at the top shelf of my store's peanut butter section, what did I see?  Dark Chocolate Dreams and White Chocolate Wonderful...  That's right.  Dark chocolate peanut butter and white chocolate peanut butter are made by a company called Peanut Butter & Co.  They are a company with a sandwich shop in New York City, and their peanut butters and jams are all natural!  I do view these as a dessert, especially because there is evaportaed cane juice in them, but they are so delicious! 

We got the Dark Chocolate Dreams first, and my response was, "Nutella who?"  There are also many other flavors to try, including Cinnamon Raisin Swirl.

So, my advice to you is:

1. Only eat all natural peanut butters.
2. Visit Peanut Butter & Co and order some of theirs from their website or at your local grocery store.
3. As with all yummy indulgences, exercise self-control.  You might want to eat the whole jar, and I would not recommend that all in one or two sittings.
4. Share with others.