Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Meals for a Month--Cooking for your Freezer

Recently, my 2-year-old daughter spent the weekend with her grandparents (my in-laws). I seized my opportunity and made a whopping 40+ meals for my freezer. I learned a lot and am already reaping the benefits of this labor of love, so I'm writing a small series on full tummies to share my experience.

My small family (2 adults, 1 2-year-old, 2 1-year-olds) can polish off half a pan of lasagna per meal. However, since we certainly can't polish off an entire pan of lasagna, I merely split the lasagnas I was making up into two smaller square pans. I did this with meals like chili and bigger casseroles. I really only needed 4 servings per meal. That's partly how I was able to make so many meals--it wasn't 40 separate "family-size" entrees.

With school fast approaching, it seems to me that this cooking approach might really benefit any who are attached to the academic calendar (for me, my husband was going back to work after the summer off--I knew my "dinner-time" referee was not going to be around; I needed to simplify the dinner routine so I would be available to referee). If your kids are headed back to school and its accompanying whirlwind of activities, if you are heading back as a teacher, if you plan to homeschool--you might benefit tremendously from a Saturday of cooking. Check out the series at full tummies these next couple of weeks if you're interested. You'll also need to round up some family-favorite recipes that freeze well, whether gathered from your existing cookbooks, or checking out a cookbook designed especially for this sort of cooking.

Happy Cooking!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Great Gardening Game

A while back I wrote of my attempts to start a garden this year. I just thought I'd post a quick update for anyone who read that earlier post and is interested: we are about to harvest green beans (that my 2-year-old planted) and have been bringing in cucumbers and 1-2 tomatoes at a time, frequently. We're about to have a nice crop of tomatoes--there are tons of green ones. We've also harvested quite a few jalapenos... looks like I'll have to whip up some jalapeno pepper jelly! No bell peppers yet, so we'll see.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Top Ten Children's Consignment Sale Tips

These are becoming big business--or, at the very least, much more common than they used to be. Carrie and I both have gotten the majority of our children's clothes at these sales for so much less than retail! Some sales run every fall and spring with appropriate seasonal clothes; others are a once-a-year-event with all seasons of clothes. These are great places to pick up barely worn, nice name brand clothes; they're also great places to stock up on pajamas and play clothes. A few tips before you venture out to the mass confusion of racks and racks of individually priced clothes and toys:

  1. Write down what you already have (especially if you need to find a matching shirt or something)
  2. Write down/make a note of what you really want to find (perhaps a winter coat or a couple of church outfits)
  3. Take note of current sizes and coming seasons/sizes; you can shop ahead at these sales
  4. Pick your shopping time carefully (the first day and the last day--which is usually 1/2 off--are the busiest; leave your children home; plan on a couple of hours)
  5. Think through pricing before you get to the sale (for instance, can you get brand new sweat pants at Wal-Mart for $3? Then, only buy sweat pants less than $3 at the sale. What is your limit on any given item? What will you be willing to spend for a dream outfit?)
  6. If you're looking for big items (furniture, strollers, big high-demand toys), you'll probably want to go early, if possible.
  7. Make sure you scan the toys for future presents for your little darlings. They won't know it's used (I got an easel for $6 that has a dry erase board on one side and a chalkboard on the other--it's darling!).
  8. Take a laundry basket or large tote to stash items in as you shop.
  9. Look over EVERYTHING you pull off the racks (check for stains, small tears, etc.).
  10. Take someone with you: it's more fun and it often helps to have a second opinion.
Enjoy your shopping!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life Lessons from Frog and Toad: "The List"

Frog and Toad Together is my favorite of the Frog and Toad collections by Arnold Lobel. These "I Can Read Books" contain more profound insight into human nature than most grown-up literature. Take the first story in this collection: "The List." Toad makes a to-do list and loses it. That's the short version. The details, though, cut to the quick....

Toad wakes up and makes a to-do list. He decides to write "wake-up" as his first item. Then, he already has something to cross off! I've done this, I confess. I so want to cross those items off that list so that at the end of the day it will look like I've accomplished something. So, I've actually written down things that needed to get done, but which I've already done that day! (sigh) Anyone else out there in this camp?

In addition to the glorious satisfaction of crossing items off the list, Toad reveals another human foible (that I also share): he tells Frog, "'My list tells me that we will go for a walk.'" (emphasis mine). How many times do we let our to-do lists dictate our day? If the weather is beautiful outside, but I've planned a big day of housecleaning, I often still do the housecleaning.

After Toad accomplishes some of the items on his list (get dressed, eat breakfast, go see Frog, go for a walk with Frog, ...), he loses the list. (gasp!) Well, this little event paralyzes Toad. When Frog suggests that they chase after the list, Toad's response is telling: "'running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!'" I'm like that, too. I let myself get paralyzed by my list: if it's not on the list, it's not as important as the items that are on the list. This is something I'm trying desperately to overcome. If one of my precious children, for instance, is in the middle of discovering something huge (putting food in his mouth by himself for the first time, for instance, or taking his first, staggering, Frankenstein-looking steps), then I need to pull up a chair and enjoy the show! Who cares if watching junior cram a saltine in his mouth is not on my list of things to do?! What if our power goes out (like it did a few months ago), and I really can't do anything on the list? Then, instead of sitting there fretting like Toad did, I need to seize the day. (Which, thankfully, is what we did).

If you're in this boat, too--paralyzed by your to-do list that will never, ever get accomplished again because you now have a husband and/or children--then take a step back. Some things that have helped me immensely in this area are the following:

1. write only 3 things down: if you only get these three things done, then you're done for the day. Everything else is extra. This is very helpful for me. I put down the truly most important tasks (this might include dinner prep, a load of laundry, and scheduling the twins' one-year checkup...that's it!).

2. plan only one "Big Event" of the day: this might be your shower if you have a newborn in the house, and you're sleeping every other waking minute. Perhaps it's the kids' doctor's appointment, and you know you really won't have time to do anything else during the day. Or, it might be calling a friend you really need to talk to, knowing it will be a long conversation.

3. write down the things you know will be doing, but that are still meaningful: when I was a mother of only one newborn, I wrote down how many times I'd need to nurse her that day, along with taking a shower and taking a walk on my to-do list. At the end of the day, I realized that I might not have done anything around the house, but I was clean, my daughter had been fed 8 times that day, and we had both gotten fresh air. Pretty important in those early days for both of us.

Thankfully, the Lord doesn't have a to-do list when dealing with us, at least not in the way we understand to-do lists. In fact, in addition to all the Scripture encouraging us to be zealous for the faith, do good deeds, love other people, etc. etc., there are some priceless messages to be still, to know that He is God, to wait for the Lord. A personal favorite is the New American Standard Version of Psalm 46:10: Cease striving, and know that I am God.

This is also posted at LiterariTEA.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Faith Pointes (Chapter 6: Developing the Attitude of Gratitude)

Another great chapter in Barbara Barker's Faith Pointes. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Carrie and I are just now going through this book with the aim of actually discussing it. This will be a GREAT chapter to discuss.

As usual, Barbara boils it down for us: We can choose to be thankful, to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Frequently, the feelings of thankfulness follow. How can we cultivate this attitude? She offers a few steps (you really should read the whole thing; this is only a brief summary!). 1) Be thankful for our relationship with Christ and his provision for us ("The truth is when you have Christ, you need nothing else.") 2) Learn to contemplate the attributes of God (such as holiness, wisdom, justice, love, etc.). 3) Realize that God does not owe you anything but judgment. 4) Keep in mind the whole reason for your existence ("God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works"--Eph. 2:10). 5) Realize that being thankful is an act of the will. 6) Verbalize your thankfulness to others.

In the discussion questions, there's an interesting corollary that develops between our gratitude/ingratitude on the one hand and our contentment/discontent on the other. I'm not sure which comes first, but when we are more content, we are more thankful--or when we are more thankful (choosing an attitude of gratitude), we are more content.

It's also sobering to look at how much the Lord dislikes complaining and grumbling--how many times in Scripture we are commanded NOT to complain, or people (like the Israelites) are disciplined for complaining. Conversely, we are encouraged and commanded over and over again to praise and thank the Lord. What an example we set for our children in this!!! And, how much more pleasant a home we create by simply not complaining about everything (to, or in front of, our husbands especially!). This is something I really need to work on.

And now, I'm off to get up my three children and will choose to be thankful that we have an abundance of food to eat instead of complaining about the work food prep takes me! As a side note, I should also mention how very, very, very thankful I am for my husband and children. In the last few weeks, I've been reminded of this through some rather poignant conversations with friends of mine: two just had miscarriages and are still grieving the loss of those precious ones; another girl was weeping from fatigue--she is a single mom who is working hard during the week and faithfully coming to church on Sunday...and her toddler is entering the testing-2's in full force. How grateful I am that the Lord has seen fit to bless me with children and with a wonderful husband who loves both me and our children (and loves the Lord!). Carrie just posted a great message about this, too.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Womanly Advice

Betsy and I have from time to time complained about our husbands, and the lack there-of when we need help :-). What wife doesn't, right?! Well, I get emails from a forum through a homeschool curriculum place. I thought what this lady had to say was excellent (and I don't normally read these things.) So I am pasting it here. As a disclaimer...Betsy and I haven't complained this bad, and we weren't about to leave our husbands. This was written in response to a woman who was considering leaving or divorce. Enjoy.

"I know what it is like to be married to a workaholic husband. My husband used to think of nothing else but work, and any free time was spent serving others at church and in the community, or playing golf, etc. Right after we found out I was pregnant with my middle child, he took a six month assignment out of the country in order to advance his career. I was late being taken to the hospital to be induced with two of my pregnancies because he was working. I remember begging him one morning to help me--he left and went to the gym. I could go on and on. Not because my husband is a bad husband--he's actually a good one--but just to say I know where you are coming from. It is easy to start feeling unloved when a husband places priority on work over family.

It wasn't until I started hanging out online that I realized some husbands would not work and provide for their families. Knowing that my husband went out and worked and actually brought his money home while others either sat at home or gambled their money away sure gave me some perspective. Knowing that my husband actually was at a home owners meeting or playing golf instead of having an affair really gave me some perspective.

I also got some wise advice from women who are happily married who encouraged me to stop thinking of myself and start thinking of my husband. I stopped nagging. I started smiling. I tried to make things easy on him when he came home instead of wanting him to help me. I started overlooking his faults and being thankful for his strengths. I began to realize that many of the things I was upset about were due to his way of dealing with the pressure and stress he was feeling. My husband once confessed to me that he felt like he was a failure and like he was in a "pit of self loathing." And here I was piling it on about his faults. That sure didn't help much. Your husband may be feeling the same--for many men, work and TV and computer are an escape.

It has been a long journey, but my marriage and home are totally different now. My husband has voluntarily stopped working insane hours. He has cut all of his outside commitments. He even cut out all of his church activities, telling them he needed to invest in his family. When people ask him to go play golf or something, he makes up an excuse. The only reason that change came about is because I started making an effort to make home a place he wanted to be.

I used to complain that my husband never helped me, but now he voluntarily does a lot around the house. Sometimes he'll go get groceries on his way home from work or at night after I've gone to bed. He'll fold a load of laundry. He'll clean the kitchen. This change didn't come about because of me making any demands on him. It started with a change in me.

I would encourage you to pray for your husband. Start seeing good in him. Start thinking of ways you can be a help to him. Put the clothes away for him. Help him interact healthily with the kids. Help the kids learn to respect and serve him. Thank him for working so hard for you. Look for things to thank him for. If your husband wants to eat dinner in front of the TV, get your dinner and go sit with him. Recognize that he is also feeling stress and pressure. Forgive him for the many mistakes he has made.

It sounds like you've had an extremely difficult time, but the Lord has and can continue to sustain you. It sounds like your husband has made some bad financial decisions. It sounds like your husband is not perfect. None of our husbands are perfect. You aren't perfect either. You cannot force your husband to change. Your attitude toward your husband is the only thing you can change.

It sounds like you married a good man and he is struggling right now. You married him for better or worse. It doesn't sound to me like you have grounds to leave him, and I don't think you'll find things any easier as a single mother.

There are many scriptures on marriage which I'm sure you are aware of, but also think of these:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

1 Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tea Bag: Losing Sleep

Well, I have lost sooo much sleep this week stressing over curriculum for next year and other things so here is a little different tea bag:

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry abou itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 7:27, 34

But, I'm a perfectionist, and I worry about today enough (and lose plenty of sleep.)

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7

So you get to a point, you have had enough, and it's not worth worrying. I haved reached that point, and hopefully will sleep really well tonight!

Super Fling Boogie: Linen Closet

The Fly Lady issues a "super fling boogie" occasionally and that simply means that you go through your "stuff" and get rid of the unnecessary clutter. Well, that's what I'm doing to the various closets in our house; there's a lot of unnecessary stuff taking up some valuable storage real estate (which is why, in turn, my counters and hallways are so cluttered). This experience has been rather humorous so far--why, I repeat, WHY do we not only save such random things but then actually box them up and move them from house to house?! Craziness.

Here's what I threw away (or donated to Goodwill where appropriate) from my linen closet and regular clothes closet:

  • 5 half-used bottles of foundation (I haven't bought any foundation/makeup in 5+ years, so this stuff was all definitely old...ditto for rest of the makeup listed)
  • 6 mascara samples
  • blush/makeup brushes losing bristles
  • sponge rollers that didn't work the first time
  • lipstick I can't believe I ever wore
  • random blush and eyeshadow supplies
  • lipliner
  • various other makeup items (nail polish in nasty colors, etc.)
  • extra long twin sheets from college (those who know me and my family will laugh at this: why I EVER thought I'd need extra long sheets for any of my family members is beyond me...)
  • random hand towels that are tacky
  • shoes I haven't worn in 4 years
  • a pile of t-shirts, sweaters, skirts, and blouses that I wore when I was teaching school but now are completely unnecessary to my current existence as a stay-at-home wife/mom or are just too ratty to keep around
  • baby gear that I've not used for the three babies I've had...so am unlikely to use for another should the Lord decide to bless us with another baby

Incidentally, I found it amusing to look at what I kept versus what I tossed (tossed makeup, nice/dry clean only clothes, and high heeled shoes). I kept: first aid stuff, extra towels, extra sheets, easy care clothes-->I suppose this is evidence that my career has changed from professional/work place to home and child care.

My next closet project: my downstairs hallway closet that is housing china, crystal, silver, and other "finery" that I received as wedding gifts, some of which Ihave never used and am not likely to in the near future..... (I do use my china, crystal, and silver patterns occasionally when I entertain; the myriad candlesticks, crystal bowls, vases, platters, and the like might be up for grabs.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Faith Pointes (Ch. 5: Finding Fullfillment in God Alone)

Carrie and I are working our way through Faith Pointes by Barbara Barker this summer; this is the second time we are both reading it, but the first time we're discussing the study/discussion questions. It's given me a lot to think about, so I thought I'd share! (Carrie will hopefully do some of the same...hint, hint--she's been so busy lately, but we all know she has a ton of great insight to share. At least she's reentered the world of cyberspace. )

This week, I'm in chapter five of Faith Pointes: "Finding Fulfillment in God Alone." Interestingly, I've been mulling over some of these issues already, so the application questions were really good for me to think about (haven't even gotten to the Bible study part!). Barbara lists our true needs (as opposed to wants): Redemption, Reason for living, Relationship, Requirements of physical life (shelter, food, water, etc.), and Refuge from all that threatens life. Interesting list, eh?

We spent some time with another family (who has a son our twins' age) at their mountain cabin a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time--refreshing in every sense of the word. I was pondering on the way home why it had been so wonderful. Partly it was because we were in the presence of friends, Christian fellowship, GORGEOUS creation, and away from internet/email, the phone, TV (at least TV with any real reception), even the radio. But, another reason it was so wonderful for me was that it reminded me of other times in my life when I've been the most content, really trusting the Lord for my needs and not fretting about all that was going on.

When were those times? For me, they are all strikingly similar once I examine them: a semester abroad during college, summers spent working at various camps, and some of the semesters immediately following college (I worked at the college for a few years and then taught school, so my life was run on "semesters" rather than on a yearly basis for a while). What do those things have in common? Few possessions, particularly the summers at camp and the time overseas. Limited availability to acquire more possessions. Few, if any, advertisements to urge me to acquire more possessions. A life fully immersed in ministry--all to other people, especially children. And, vast amounts of time spent in Creation (walking to and from work/class, working at a nature camp, living in cabins with no air conditioning and therefore lots of open windows, etc.).

I've realized that I tend to be more content, paradoxically, when I have fewer possessions. Perhaps it's because I don't have to spend as much time maintaining them (there are fewer things, after all, to maintain). I'm also been more content when I was living somewhere that I had very little choice about--it was the provided housing for that particular job. So, I wasn't consumed with decorating it or making it perfect. It was a pleasant place to live and that was it. Even food was pretty basic during my "seasons of contentment"--even when I had choice about it. And, Creation has a way of directing our hearts to its Maker rather than inspiring us to acquire more stuff (like watching TV does), so I really think my heart was turned to the Lord more, simply by being outside more. And, finally, I was investing much of my time and energy into fulfilling OTHERS' needs. Hmmm.....

With that in mind, I've begun (again) to try to simplify my life. Those who know me best know that this is a constant struggle/goal of mine. It's been interesting for me to start to ponder why I'm always wanting to simplify. I think I know a little bit better now: because when I'm living more simply, I'm truly more content, more inclined to worship and trust the Lord, and more interested in serving others rather than myself.

This is true for children, too--I've noticed that my daughter is much more content, sleeps better, plays independently better, when the TV has been off for several days, we're playing more outside, and there are fewer toys. So, I'm making an effort to simplify my children's lives as well. Why withhold something as wonderful as contentment from them?

I'll post some of my recent de-cluttering attempts later--it has been amusing me to look at all the JUNK we've acquired and then, actually boxed up and moved into this house!!! (sigh) Why do we hoard needless stuff?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another Plug for Kids

Here is something else that is great if you are looking for a little extra with your kids. It is the Children's First Catechism. Betsy and I both grew up memorizing this. If you are not familiar with it, it helps your child memorize important truths about creation, sin & salvation, 10 commandments...just to name some. Kids as early as 3-4 years old can start memorizing the basic questions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mulling over Mary and Martha

I'm definitely a "Martha"--I like to be busy, and I'm one of those people who can usually get a lot done in the course of a day. In my current vocations of wife and mother, though, "getting a lot done" just doesn't fit. It's been a continual struggle for me not to fit my husband and children into my list of things to do. (Sometime later this week I'll post a little reflection I wrote back in February on my to do list--inspired by Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories.)

Carrie's post earlier this week about Mary and Martha, coupled with the Faith Pointes book we're studying together this summer, has really got me thinking through my current priorities. I've come to this realization numerous times this year, but it just doesn't stick with me!

So many places in Scripture, we're urged to rest, to sit still before the Lord, to do His work, to focus on eternal priorities (Psalms, Colossians, Ecclesiastes all drive this point home). After a really bad day yesterday, I was doing my Faith Pointes study this morning (chapter 5--finding fulfillment in God alone) and praying through a little prayer guide I use (Face to Face, vol. 1). I was convicted about why my day had been so bad yesterday. Instead of focusing on the one boy who is teething (and therefore screaming randomly during the day and taking an extra hour to go to bed) and the toddler who seems bent on harming her younger brothers and disobeying Mommy in any and everything, I focused on my own sin: wanting to do something I thought would fun and worthwhile. What does the Lord want me to do? Spend time training my children, loving my husband, and ... resting before Him. What he has put before me to do is ultimately the most fulfilling, no matter how enticing something else looks.

So, with that in mind (and sorry for the long introduction to these), here are a few verses to leave you with from my day's reading (and a prayer from another guide I use occasionally: The Power of Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martian):

My soul silently waits for You alone, O God;
My salvation comes from You.
You alone are my rock and salvation;
You are my stronghold; I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

In repentance and rest is your salvation;
In quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

(Paraphrased from Day 9 of Praying Wife)
Lord, when You call us, You also enable us. Enable us to walk worthy of our calling and become the man or woman of God You made us to be. Continue to remind us of what You've called us to and don't let us get sidetracked with things that are unessential to Your purpose. Strike down discouragement so that it will not defeat us. Lift our eyes above the circumstances of the moment so we can see the purpose for which You created us. Give us patience to wait for Your perfect timing. I pray that the desires of our hearts will not be in conflict with the desires of Yours.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Children's Bible

We just got the ESV Children's Bible for our oldest son. His first real Bible (not just stories.) Check it out. It has tons of pictures and lots of extras. After looking at all the others, we definitely liked this one the best.

Teabag: Delightful Desires

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

I have heard it said: if we truely delight in the Lord, the desires of our heart just might change. What we want, and what God wants aren't always the same. But his plan and path is always the best, and we can find that if we delight in him.

Somewhat Savoring a Cup of Tea

Well, this is Carrie. I know everyone has forgotten who I am :-). Summer and VBS, sports camp, mini vacation, etc. happened. Now I am in the process of gearing up for our first year of homeschooling. AAUUGGHH. I am chartering the unknown!

But here is my savoring. We have been going through a book, Treasures of Encouragement, in our Bible study this summer. One week we were talking about Mary and Martha, and how God wants what is best for us. That Martha could have had the attention from Jesus, even just by changing her heart attitude. And we talked about how as God's children, he always has our best in mind.

That led to, as parents, we always want what is best for our children as well. However, we tend to be Martha's and MAKE the best for our children: put them in the best school, play on the best teams, have the best friends, have the material things they need. Are we really wanting what is best for our children? In reality the best for our children is learning about and loving the same God we love, just like Mary. All the rest will happen, and the best path laid for our kids, by choosing to follow his guidance.

And if you are looking for ways to have your kids learn more about him...well look around you. "Spiritual" moments can happen anywhere. Who do you think created this world? We just had our kids at the zoo this weekend. It would have been a perfect opportunity to talk about how God created each one, or how they all fit on Noah's ark. (And to make you all feel better, we didn't think about that at the time.) And our 5 yr. old has been asking about how the moon, sun and earth rotate. Once again...who made them.

So take every opportunity, especially with school in the near future, to help your kids learn and love.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fret Not

Psalm 37 starts out "do not fret because of evil men..." or something like that. I realize that this is taking this verse WAY out of context, but I can't resist. You see, this picture is of my dining room/play room area. My husband painted part of this room yesterday (that's a drop cloth over the table, not a table cloth). Why am I mentioning this? Because in approximately 1 1/2 hours, people will start showing up at our house for dinner.... There will be about 20 of us, including all the kids. Hmmmm.... somehow, this table is supposed to be back in its normal place and everything cleaned up. But, my three children happen to all be napping NOW. And they're due to wake up any time now.... I should be cleaning/setting the table instead of blogging! But, I can't! (sigh) I'm choosing not to fret. I'm sure it will all get worked out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Going Green, part 10: Final Thoughts

I firmly believe the Lord has given us the responsibility of stewarding (exercising dominion over) his marvelous creation. Therefore, I think it's worth considering how we can be performing this calling to the best of our ability.

It's easy to point out the "big" and obvious sins, such as stealing, adultery, murder, etc. But, since we are all sinners, we all sin. And Scripture makes perfectly clear that greed, gluttony, and laziness are just as out of place in the Kingdom of God as stealing. I rather think that America, as a nation, has made convenience, acquisition, and over-consumption the norm rather than the exception.

Don't get me wrong: I can't imagine a picnic without paper plates. How did people pack school lunches before the invention of plastic, particularly Ziploc bags? And I'm ever so grateful for modern toiletry products. I think there's a time and place for convenience. Holidays and special celebrations have always been times of feasting. It's not wrong to give presents and to buy things. We're certainly going to be feasting this Friday for the 4th of July (and using plenty of paper products in the process).

But, there's always room for improvement in our stewardship of the Lord's creation. For instance, I need to be better about filling the sink up with water instead of simply letting the tap run whenever I wash dishes. I could take shorter showers. I end up wasting food. I throw away lots of paper when I'm too lazy to find the recycling area. But, viewing the earth as the Lord's and our role in it as stewards puts a different spin on the going green movement. In that mindset, I've tried to think of ways I can cut down on, say, my earlier massive paper towel use.

Being a good steward of something inevitably involves at least a little bit of work and sacrifice. Otherwise, people would have no trouble stewarding Creation. Frequently, being a better steward in the short run will reap rewards in the long run, so those little sacrifices and work will pay off in some way (think of farmers--they certainly put in the work upfront in order to reap a harvest!).

How can we, as stewards, manage our world better? What areas in your life are full of extravagant use or needless waste simply because you're lazy? Is there an area in which you can be a better steward of the portion of Creation the Lord has entrusted to your care? I hope this little series has encouraged you to think of something you can change or improve in this area.