Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Goals 2010

Posted by Betsy

Last year I wrote a post about making New Year's goals as opposed to New Year's resolutions. This year, I thought I'd post some of my personal goals for this year (and the goals of our family). I like to keep it simple: 1-3 goals per category. We focus on the most important/desired outcomes.

A Key Theme for me here is to use what I have, keep it simple, and focus on the important stuff. We could reorganize our house and buy lots of new organizing stuff in the process... or use what we have. I could buy new clothes, or lose 5 pounds and gain an existing closet-ful of stuff I already like. I could reinvent the wheel with a new Bible-reading plan, but I'm going to stick to the homework for my group Bible study for now (since it gets me into the Word 6 days a week!). Etc.

  • pray DAILY
  • read Westminster Confession and study guide with my friend Sarah D.
  • keep up with my group Bible study (this spring, we're doing Esther and then James)
  • exercise 2x a week
  • lose 5 pounds (last year, I lost 7. Surely I can lose the last 5 this year!!!)
  • Basic chores done weekly: trash emptied, bathrooms cleaned, floors swept/vacuumed
  • Key surfaces kept clear (dresser, dining room table, desk, kitchen counters, entry way table). This is a biggie for me, folks.
  • Maintain habits begun in 2009: kitchen completely cleaned every night (all dishes put away, etc.), laundry day, etc.
  • Schedule all bills/pay everything in full by due date (no minimum payments here!)
  • Pay off one of the two remaining loans we have (one is a student loan and one a car loan)
  • Acquire better life insurance
  • Simplify: work on having only what we like/enjoy and getting rid of the rest!
  • Figure out school plans for me (and get applications in/gain acceptance if appropriate)*
  • Read 10 new books--all from my own bookshelves (we have lots I've never read)
  • activity/event once a month (this can be raking leaves together; we're not talking about a big trip)
  • get outside (all of us) every day that weather permits!
  • all of us sitting through church together by year-end (boys are still in nursery)
  • Work on memory! (review catechism, learn some new ones, and memorize verses from Sunday School and Bible study)
  • 1 art/creative activity a week
  • get outside!!
  • Photo books for 2009 and 2010
  • Finish sewing projects I've already committed to.... (ahem...)
  • Keep it simple.... (i.e. look in my own cookbooks for recipes before spending forever browsing online for the perfect recipe... plant only what I really want to eat/harvest in the garden--and not feel the need to fill up the entire gardening space.... )

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Relevant Past Posts

It might be too late for these suggestions, but here are some ideas (and reminders) of good ideas for kid-gifts, teacher gifts, and just plain ol' Christmas/holiday reminders.

Finally, consider some alternative gifts for children and their parents this year: give a Children's Catechism, a children's Bible, a family devotional guide, or other spiritually enriching gifts that bring the parents and children together. Gifts which enable parents to nurture their children spiritually, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, are some of the best things you can give!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

These Ornaments are for the Birds!

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that every little craft for kids this time of year involves food, tacky ornaments, more stickers, and so on.

If you want to do something a little bit different, something that is accessible even to fairly young children, try some birdseed ornaments. These will be hung outside, the birds will enjoy them, and you won't be stuck with more clutter inside your house. They'd make great gifts for gardeners, bird watchers, or teachers.

This "recipe" is from Birds and Blooms magazine (which is a very fun little magazine, by the way). The website gives two different methods of making these; I confess I haven't tried them yet, so I'm not sure which way works better. It seems to me that pressing the mixture in the cookie cutters might work better and/or be easier on little hands? I'll give you an update after we make these tomorrow.

Here are the ingredients/cooking method:
  • 1/3 c. gelatin
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 8 c. birdseed
Combine gelatin and water in a pot over low heat. Stir until gelatin is melted and clear. Remove from heat and stir in birdseed, making sure all seeds are coated with gelatin mixture. Fill cookie cutters with seed mixture or pat mixture into jelly roll pan. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, until firm. Cut shapes, if needed, out of the big flat mixture or pop them out of the cookie cutters if you went that route. Let dry on a baking rack for 3 days.

Enjoy! The magazine link above has other ideas as well.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Different Perspective

Christmas is FAST approaching! Many of us are focusing on celebrating Christ's birth, and teaching our kids about it. However, I also challenge you to remember something else. Two years ago, my husband and I lost a little baby boy at 16 weeks on Christmas Day. It was a very gut wrenching process. At the time I was faced with two perspectives. One was "come quickly Lord!". The other was as Paul puts it so well in Philippians, "for me to live is Christ, to die is gain." My work on earth was not finished. I had two boys at home who needed guidance still in their Christian life.

Many times we wait until it's almost too late to minister/evangelize with someone. This also hit Betsy recently with someone they are close too. Faced with an impending death, they needed to speed up the evangelistic process with their friends before it was too late.

SO-I challenge you to #1: Remember Christ was born so he could die-we should almost be celebrating the resurrection at this time of year too-instead of waiting for Easter. And #2: Think of those friends or loved ones who you could minister too as well. Make sure they know not only that Christ was born on Christmas (or the day we have set aside for it), but that the reason he came was to die to forgive sin, once and for all!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Supporting Your Husband: a Dose of Perspective

Perhaps you have a number of items on your "to do" list this time of year that revolve about creating the perfect Christmas for people, whether that be buying gifts, making gifts, sending out the perfect Christmas card photo, or decorating your house to the max. I know many women who, like myself, enjoy making things for people and are also on a budget. For us, Christmas "to do" lists seem larger than life: make Christmas stockings for the kids next week, make candy for Johnny's Sunday School teacher this weekend, buy the Christmas tree TONIGHT because it's on sale, decorate said Christmas tree TOMORROW because Christmas party is THIS WEEKEND, wrap secret Santa present for hubby's work TODAY, order photo cards THIS WEEK so they'll get in the mail on time, and on and on and on....

Where are our families in all this mess? Specifically, where is your husband? It's easy at any time of the year to start grumbling and complaining about being a stay at home mom, watching enviously as hubby drives off to work BY HIMSELF in that car with a glorious commute to work that doesn't involve any little voices whining, saying "Mommy," and pointing out every single last dump truck on the way. But think about it for a minute: yes, your husband may get more "alone time" than you. Yes, he can run in the store for something quick and not have to load/unload children. Yes, he gets to work out on his way home from work. Yes, he gets to have adult conversation any time he wants it.

BUT, we stay-at-home moms have some things that are just as good--and probably which our husbands envy. Instead of complaining this season about all that you have to do, think about the following:

  • Is your to do list full of things YOU have decided and/or want to do? How many of them can you farm out to others or... just not do? What is really essential for your family's celebration of our Lord's birth? (If you need a reality check here, go read Little House on the Prairie).
  • Your mental to do list is rarely created by outside deadlines. If you don't get the laundry done today, who's really going to care? In contrast, if your husband doesn't meet his work deadlines on time, there can be real issues. I can guarantee that you and your hard-working husband both have stress and his is probably worse--his is put on by outside forces whereas ours is often self-created.
  • When you're "stuck at home" all day long, do you sit down and check your email? Read a blog? Call a friend? Work on a sewing project here and there? Plan your garden for next year? Work on a craft with your child? Bake some cookies for the fun of it? Go outside to play with your kids? All of those things are not only optional, but usually they are for the sake of enjoyment. How many times does your husband, while at work, get to talk on the phone to a friend? Take a quick walk for some fresh air? Have some freshly baked cookies? Spend quality time with a family member? Probably not very often.
  • Are you still "working" when your husband gets home? If so, then I'd suggest that you cross off some items from that to do list without doing them. I try very hard not to keep working after my husband gets home from work. I make sure the kitchen is cleaned up (often doing as many dishes before we eat as possible) and the kids are in bed. That is it. Sometimes, I'll fold laundry if we're watching a TV show. If I work on a crafty project, my Bible study, or something like that in the evening, I try my hardest to make sure it's a night when he'll be home late or he has to work from home (he used to work from home more when he was a professor; thankfully he doesn't bring much work home anymore). I do not stay up late baking cookies, writing thank you notes, doing housework, etc. in lieu of spending time with my husband.
Ladies, don't let your Christmas wishes/hopes/to do lists take away from your time with your husband. Don't you think he's feeling the stress of working hard in order to pay for the perfect Christmas? Make sure you include him in things if he's interested. Save decorating the tree or making that gingerbread house with the kids until the weekend so he can take part. RELAX about all of your personal deadlines. If the Christmas cards are late, so what. Making Christmas meaningful and "fun" for our families includes making it that way for our husbands as well as making it that way for our kids.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: The Best Gift Ever

As many of you know, today is the first day of the Advent season-the period of time leading up to the day we celebrate Christ's birth on December 25. Though many of you have done advent calendars in the past, this one is a little different. The ladies in my church got together and made an advent calendar that starts today. What is different is that the verses for each day start at the beginning of the Bible-showing how we can see the coming of the Messiah from the dawn of time. I can't write the whole booklet for you here, but I will give you the key verses for each day and the passages in the Bible.

Nov. 29: Genesis 1:31; Genesis 1:1-3:24
Nov. 30: Genesis 9:11; Genesis 6: 11-22, 7:17-8:12, 8:20-9:17
Dec. 1: Genesis 12:2; Genesis 12:1-7, 15:1-6
Dec. 2: Genesis 22:18; Genesis 22:1-19
Dec. 3: Genesis 28:14; Genesis 27-28
Dec. 4: Genesis 50:20; Genesis 37, 39:1-50:21
Dec. 5: Exodus 3:15; Exodus 2:1-4:20
Dec. 6: Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:1-14:31
Dec. 7: Exodus 19:4-5; Exodus 19:1-20:20
Dec. 8: Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:1-11 and 6:1-20
Dec. 9: Judges 7:9; Judges 2:6-23; 6:1-6; 6:11-8:28
Dec. 10: 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 3:1-21, 7:1-8:22, 9:15-10:9
Dec. 11: 2 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 16-17, 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 7:1-17
Dec. 12: 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Kings 17:1-18, 18: 17-46
Dec. 13: 2 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 18:1-19:19, 19:32-37
Dec. 14: Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 1:10-20, 6:1-13, 8:11-9:7
Dec. 15: Jeremiah 9:7; Jeremiah 1:410, 2:4-13, 7:1-15, 8:22-9:11
Dec. 16: Habakkuk 2:1a; Habakkuk 1-2:1, 3:16-18
Dec. 17: Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, 6:15-16, 13:10-22
Dec. 18: Luke 1:76-77; Luke 1:57-80
Dec. 19: Luke 3:16; Luke 3:1-22
Dec. 20: Luke 1:33; Luke 1:26-38
Dec. 21: Luke 1:48-50; Luke 1:39-56
Dec. 22: Matthew 1:22-23; Matthew 1:19-25
Dec. 23: Matthew 2:6; Matthew 2:1-12
Dec. 24: Luke 2:10-11; Luke 2: 1-20
Dec. 25: John 1:12; John 1:1-18

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't Skip Those Naps!

As we enter into our busiest season of the year, let me remind any parents of young children out there: don't skip the kids' naps! Sleep is one of the body's best defenses against illness. Sleep does a world of good for correcting/maintaining cheery dispositions. Well rested children can "flex" a bit better when spending all day at a distant relative's house. Well rested children eat better. Nothing can ruin a holiday faster than a whiny, cranky, sick kiddo! So, don't let your schedule get so busy that you start sacrificing those important naptimes. Use that time to get ahead on your gift wrapping, baking, or online shopping (or take a nap, yourself!).

Pandora Radio

Looking for some non-commercial-filled holiday music? Want a radio station that plays classic Christmas songs as well as pop Christmas songs? Try Pandora. It's an internet based radio station for which you create an account/profile. Then, you create "stations" based on songs you already know and like. It will then play a "radio station" based on that song--all similar sounding songs. My husband and I are big fans and have an Allison Kraus station, an "Open the Eyes of My Heart" station that's all Christian praise music (yes, for those of you who know my hubby, HE created that station!), a couple of jazz stations, a U2 based station, and so forth.

But now... I've created a terrific Christmas music station. I typed in "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and picked the version by the Cincinatti Pops. So far this morning, commercial-free, we've heard "The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and so forth--all classic Christmas songs, some instrumental, some sung--but all performed in a traditional style. My children are getting into it and everything.

So, when you're ready to escape the endless retail commercials surrounding the holidays, try Pandora. (There are occasional commercials, but VERY few).

p.s. Now a handbell version of "Angels We Have Heard on High" is on--lovely!

p.s. Now, it's "Joy to the World" performed by the Prague Philharmonic.... does it get any better than this?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving: Proper Perspective

The Pilgrims and the Indians, corn, turkey, pumpkin.... that's pretty much the image most of us have of the first Thanksgiving. (Thanks, Charlie Brown!)

While that is true, it is also true that the first Thanksgiving was very much a thanks giving to God for bringing the Pilgrims through that year, allowing them fellowship with the Indians, and providing them with food for the coming winter. Each group came together sharing of their bounty (and sharing their traditional recipes!).

This Thanksgiving, remember those first European settlers mixing with the American natives and their desire to thank the Lord. Did they have their favorite dishes at that Thanksgiving? Probably not. Did they have all their favorite people around? Most definitely not (in fact, many had died in the year previous). But they did have much reason to give thanks to God.

This Thanksgiving, Carrie and I won't be with our parents--for the first time since we left home, neither of us will be at the big family celebration that my mother's family has every year. We'll both be eating some different foods than are usual, but we will still have a wonderful day! We'll still have much reason to give thanks and to enjoy the fellowship of those with whom we're eating (gorging might be a better term, eh?).

The Thanksgiving meal we have with my mother's side of the family ALWAYS includes the following: turkey and cornbread dressing (homemade and my grandmother's recipe), gravy (for the dressing, of course), cranberry relish, some sort of sweet potato dish (used to be spiked with bourbon), rolls, custard fruit salad, pecan pie and chocolate ice box cake. It wasn't until both of us married that we started including pumpkin pie because our husbands like it (I'd never tasted pumpkin pie until I got to college!).

This year, here's what my immediate family will be doing. We'll get together with good friends, onecouple of which is from Louisiana and the other from Pennsylvania. Did we all grow up with different food on our Thanksgiving table? You bet. But, here's our conglomerate menu: turkey, cranberry relish, stuffing (those Yankees :) ), hashbrown casserole, sweet potato souffle, green bean casserole, rolls, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, apple cranberry pie. A nice marriage of different traditions--in fact, I'll be bringing the pies and one recipe is my mother's and the other is my mother in law's. Even our appetizers reflect our diversity: crab dip, Chex Mix, artichokes....

So, don't sweat it this year if things aren't happening exactly as they always have in the past. It's the fellowship around a bountiful table and taking time out to give thanks to the Lord that's important. Make the most of it--our country is unique in that we take an entire day off from work to give thanks. Pretty neat, I think.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

First of all, it's not too late!!! If you're familiar with this ministry/organization/charity and would like to still send a shoebox, you have until MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23.

Operation Christmas Child is one of many charitable giving opportunities that crop up this time of year. It's a significant part of Samaritan's Purse Ministries, begun by Franklin Graham. Why am I mentioning this particular opportunity among the thousands that present themselves?

1. It's a very tangible way for your children to participate in giving to someone else.

2. It's a reliable way to give something tangible to needy children (no one's going to embezzle tubes of toothpaste or Dollar Tree earrings).

3. It's a Christian ministry; the gospel is presented along with every shoebox.

4. It's easy: pick an age group and a gender that you would like to give something to. Go shopping and/or make something. Pack a shoebox and drop it off. (OK, this isn't quite as easy as giving a check, but it is easier than some of the Angel Tree requests I've shopped for in the past!)

5. It's got a big bang for the buck. You can fill a shoebox fairly inexpensively ($10-$20 should do the trick), attach your $7 donation (helps cover shipping and such), and make a child's Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively small amount of money with a big yield.

How does it work? You and your children fill a shoe box or similar sized plastic container with age- and gender-appropriate items (there's a list of recommendations on the website), wrap the shoe box, and drop it off at a location in your area (a list of these also on the website). Many churches and schools sponsor this, so your child may already have been given a flyer. If you missed the school/church deadline, it's not too late to drop a box off at a donation spot in your city! Then, Samarian's Purse ships the boxes to children around the world, presenting the gospel after the children open their presents. There are all kinds of heart warming videos on the website. Now, you can also "track" your box. If you make your $7 donation online, you'll get an email once your box is delivered. I think that's pretty cool.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Duty as Women

I always find it interesting when my various Bible study involvements overlap in a certain theme. This is one from this week. Both in teaching our youth girls this week, and our women's Bible study I encountered part of our duty as Christian women, in a very worldly culture. These quotes came from George Grant: "...culture is the temporal manifestation of a people's faith....It is time for us to change the world with our tiny pushes of justice, mercy, and humble faith."

So what are we do to? I came across examples of how we are to be spiritual mothers. Susan Hunt has written many books on spiritual mothering, and how we are to be as true woman (2 main books have those actual titles in them-but there are others too.) Here are the 3 key points:

1. Verbal Affirmation
2. Approachable Spirit
3. Challenge to be Obedient

And the story for our youth girls was so great about a young mother who welcomed a teen into her home-despite the dirty dishes and other daily chores with kids. She helped nurture and mentor this young girl into her own leadership role as a mentor. How great is that.

And I also have to mention-in several studies I have done, we have looked at the relationship with Elizabeth and Mary, concentrating on when Mary went to see Elizabeth after hearing the news of being pregnant. Well, think about this. Mary didn't call before she came. She didn't write, she didn't ask when would be a good time. She just went. It never mentions Elizabeth freaking out about the laundry on the table, or the dishes from lunch, or the unswept doorway. Or apologizing for any of that. She just welcomed Mary in and let her stay for a long time, and did all 3 points mentioned above.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mobile Hospitality: What to Bring?

This post is rather long; you might consider "bookmarking" it for future reference after quickly skimming it.

Since I've defined "mobile hospitality" as bringing food/hospitality to others, it's important to know what kinds of food you can bring! There are several concerns to address when picking a recipe/menu.

1. What are the allergies (or severe dislikes) of the recipient? Always determine this upfront. Today, many people are highly allergic to very normal ingredients: peanuts, wheat/gluten, eggs, soy, and so forth.

2. Are there any strong preferences? Sometimes this question is important, especially if young children are in the home. You might as well bring something they will eat!

3. What are their limitations? Is the primary chef completely incapacitated and it's up to children/elderly/inept adult to reheat the meal? Is the family moving and without dishes/cups/pots and pans? Do they have an erratic schedule because they're at the hospital at random hours of the day/night? Will they be entertaining others during this time? (especially likely at a death or during a move if people are helping packing)

4. What are your own limitations? Budget? Time? Inability to run out to the store quickly? Don't like to cook? Do like to cook? You can always team up with someone else to prepare a meal together--one person brings the main course and the other brings salad and bread or something to that effect.

5. Remember that nearly anything can be taken/offered if it meets the following criteria:
  • can be reheated, if necessary, easily
  • can be taken in dishes that don't need to be returned, if possible
  • requires minimal "last minute" effort
  • is something you yourself would enjoy eating/receiving
  • could be stored a day or so or put in the freezer if the recipient has other food as well
6. Remember, too, that part of a meal is often just as welcome. Showing up with homemade muffins or bread will cheer anyone up! Bringing all the "fixin's" along with a pound of BBQ from a local restaurant, a big bag of fresh fruit, or some already-prepped snacks for kids could be your contribution.

7. It's the details that really show some extra thoughtfulness: include a kid-friendly dessert, remember an upcoming birthday or acknowledge an upcoming holiday (I included red and blue Jell-O jigglers in star shapes when I took someone food around July 4th--the kids loved it), remember the napkins and utensils for someone moving, include some fancy hot chocolate mix or tea/coffee, etc.

8. Finally, if you already have a specialty that everyone raves about, read no further! Do you make amazing, decorated cookies? Let the coordinator know you'll bring dessert and then decorate like crazy. Is there a dish everyone comments on when you bring it the church potluck? Stick with what works. You can have a "stock meal" that you always make whenever you bring food to someone; it likely won't be the same person very often, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel each time.

With those guidelines in mind, consider some of the following ideas. If you're part of a group that is taking food over the course of a few weeks, you might check to see what others are bringing. You don't want each to show up with a chicken casserole.

Main Courses
(all of the items below are easy to fill out with a simple bagged salad and loaf of bread or chips or cornbread)

Baked Pasta Dishes
  • easy to cook, easy to freeze, easy to transport, can be very cost effective or bought ready-made and still be delicious!
  • includes things like lasagna (Stouffer's is popular, delicious, and easily available--a good option if you don't/can't cook), manicotti, chicken spaghetti, baked rigatoni, etc.
  • like baked pasta dishes, these are easy to make, easy to transport, often economical, and freeze easily; in addition, they are easily rounded out by a bagged salad and starch of some kind
  • any kind of chili
  • homestyle, hearty meat and veggie soups (with or without noodles, rice, or other starch)
  • home-y soups like potato, chicken and dumplings, etc.
Comfort Food
  • especially welcome during times of trial/stress; usually a crowd-pleaser
  • includes things like Chicken Pot Pie, Shepherd's Pie, Meatloaf
  • if you're taking food to a small family--perhaps a couple who's just had their first child--then make a bigger pot roast, extra mashed potatoes, and such and simply bring over the leftovers
  • Grilled meats or a ham that taste good hot or cold, can be used in salads or sandwiches
Ready-made Favorites
  • don't have time to cook? Pick up a main courses, fill out with other storebought items or fix the accompaniments yourself
  • Particularly good for people moving: Deli tray or pizza
  • Other good options: BBQ, fried or rotisserie chicken, spiral sliced ham
Non-Bagged-Salad Side Dishes
  • if you have extra time and/or think the person might be getting tired of salad
  • Speedy Rosemary Green Beans (bag everything together and write directions on it; stick it in their freezer) or any bag of frozen veggies with cooking directions and/or special seasonings attached
  • Spinach Maria or Spinach Souffle
  • Potato dishes like Twice-Baked Potatoes, simple baked or sweet potatoes, make ahead mashed potatoes
  • Cold sides like Coleslaw, fruit salad, Jell-O salad, veggies and dip
  • Quiche (transports easily and can be eaten for any meal of the day)
  • Muffins
  • Homemade Bread (yeast bread or quick breads)
  • Homemade Granola
  • few people think of this, but if a family has young children and they are tied up moving or tending a sick relative in the hospital or something like that, already-prepped snacks can be a welcome addition
  • cheese (cut up) and crackers
  • jello squares
  • snack mix/trail mix
  • granola bars
Desserts/Sweets (yum!)
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Snack Cakes (the kind that don't need icing)
  • Homemade pudding
Special Circumstances
  • People Moving won't have lots of dishes available, so take food that won't need reheating and/or can be eaten easily with disposable plates/utensils if necessary; in addition to food, they would appreciate drinks/cups and napkins
  • Ethnic Groups: if your church ministers to an Asian group, for instance, you might be called upon to take food to someone from China. Perhaps a bag of stir-fry ready veggies (all chopped up), some cut up meat, and some cooked rice would be a good idea. They can throw together a quick meal from that point.
  • New Moms: it's best to avoid spicy foods and hard-to-digest foods such as cabbage or beans that can cause distress in a nursing baby. Sometimes, nursing mothers don't have to avoid anything, but you never know those first couple of weeks. Keep it simple.
  • Texture issues: very young children and sometimes the elderly have trouble chewing hard, crunchy items. Instead of sending salad or carrot sticks, you might offer a cooked vegetable or some options (cucumbers, for instance, are softer than carrots) or even a fruit dish like applesauce or jello salad.
  • Erratic Schedule or Impaired Immune System: A person may need to minimize the number of visitors to the house if a very sick person is being cared for. If they are back and forth to the hospital at random hours, then it can be hard to coordinate with people bringing food. Sometimes, it's best to group together and each provide a meal for the recipient's freezer. One person can work with the recipient to meet up and drop off the food all at once.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mobile Hospitality: How to Get Started

You've identified a good candidate for mobile hospitality. Now what?

First, make sure you really want to serve in this way--

it is an opportunity for service, but don't do it out of obligation. (Hopefully, you do feel motivated to serve in this way!)

Second, ask the person in question!

Call, email, text, ask in person.... it doesn't really matter. What you say is more important than the medium you choose. For instance, don't say, "Do you need anything? I'd love to help you out." The person will likely say, "Oh, thanks, but I think we're okay."

Instead, be very specific. Say something like this: "I know times are rough for you guys right now. I'd really love to bring you a meal to help you out. What day is good for you?" OR "I'm going to the store tomorrow and wondered if I can pick anything up for you. I can swing by your place on my way home. Do you need any milk? or cereal? Want me to pick up a rotisserie chicken?" OR "I know you're moving Friday, and I'm sure you're quite busy this week! Please let me bring something by tomorrow for you and your family to eat for dinner. What do your kids like to eat?"

You get the picture. A specific request/offer like those above shows the person in question that you really are serious and want to do this. Sometimes, you can assume that they will accept (for instance, when a mom has just had a baby!), and just announce you're coming by in a day or two.

If your church has people in place already who coordinate these types of ventures, seek that person out and volunteer. Our nursery coordinator takes care of new mothers, our women's ministry directors help with meals related to a death, and we have a woman who coordinates a freezer in the church kitchen, making sure it's stocked with various things someone could to take to a widow or shut-in on a visitation. The other occasions (morning sickness, moving at the end of the week, child in the hospital, and so forth) are just done by whoever sees the need. There are a few of us who regularly do this sort of thing, and we usually send an email around asking if anyone's gotten the ball rolling yet. If there is someone official who takes care of meals, you are better off signing up on their rotation or volunteering to be on their list. Otherwise, you might take more food than can be eaten by the family in question or "step on someone's toes" if this is their "official ministry." I can guarantee that those who normally coordinate meals love to have a "regular" they can count on when a need arises!

Once you've figured out a need and/or volunteered to be on a coordinator's list, what do you take to the family in question? What if you don't cook? What if you work all day and don't have time to fix a "home-cooked" meal? Or, what if your budget is tight and you can't afford to bring lasagna to a family of 8? We'll answer those questions in our next installment, so stay tuned! There's a solution for everyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mobile Hospitality: Who Needs It?

We're called in Scripture to practice hospitality, to serve others, to love our neighbors as ourselves. One of the best ways to do this in our modern society is to bring that hospitality to others: to give hospitality wheels and make it mobile.

I've written before about hospitality on full tummies (keeping your freezer stocked and practicing hospitality on a budget), but I thought I'd write a bit more on this idea of mobile hospitality, partly because I've been given numerous opportunities recently in which to practice it!

What is mobile hospitality? I'm using the term to refer to meals and food we bring to someone in need. Everyone has to eat. Frequently, that's one of the easiest needs for someone outside the family to provide when the family (or person) in question is struggling in some way. In addition, it's one of the socially acceptable needs for us to help meet for someone else; if you offered someone money, he or she would most likely turn it down, especially if you're not related or a close friend. But if you call someone up and offer a meal, he or she often accepts. Both money and food might be lacking, but people will feel more comfortable accepting food than cold, hard cash. In our modern society, most people do not live in the same cities as their parents and other relatives. It's more and more up to the church to step in where relatives might have stepped in years ago.

So, who needs this mobile hospitality? The classic three occasions for bringing food to someone are the following: birth of a new baby, death in the family, or moving from location to location. Those are certainly times in which people appreciate a good, home-cooked meal. But what about other possibilities? If you start thinking and looking around, you might notice myriad other opportunities for mobile hospitality. Consider the following scenarios, all of which have occurred to my friends in the past year. I've been fortunate enough to be in a place where I could serve them.
  • A mom is struggling with extreme morning sickness upon the discovery of an unexpected pregnancy. There are 5 other young children at home as well. Does she feel like cooking for, much less eating with, her family?
  • A mom is spending all day at the hospital by the bedside of a very sick child. The husband is spending all night with the same child. The remaining children have been farmed out to friends in the area. When they return from the hospital, the cupboard and fridge are bare, and the mom still needs to provide care for her child.
  • A woman's mother is dying of cancer, is in the care of hospice, and the woman wants to spend as much time as possible with her mother during these last precious days of life. She also has a family of her own. A meal brought by someone enables her to spend more time with her mother instead of cooking at home.
  • A mom is fighting cancer and goes in for chemo treatments every other week. She is weak and sick those weeks, yet still has a 5-year-old and husband 9who works full-time) at home who need to eat.
  • A woman has a knee replacement and her elderly parents live with her and her husband. She will be unable to move around without crutches for a number of weeks.
  • My mother-in-law broke her arm and faced a lengthy recover. Her elderly parents are also living with them. The only person able to cook and take care of household needs using more than 1 arm is my father-in-law who is at work all day.
Do you think these women and their families appreciated the groups of people who got together to bring them meals over the course of days or weeks? You bet. Here's a good rule of thumb to use when ascertaining if a person or family could benefit from a meal delivered to their door:

If the primary cook and/or one of the primary caregivers is legitimately needed elsewhere or incapacitated in such a way that he or she cannot provide meals like normal for the family, then a meal is welcome. This is particularly true when there are dependents in the household who cannot fend for themselves: children, the elderly, the disabled.

Chronic illness, short-term serious illness, major transition (job loss, moving, etc.), lengthy power outages, births, deaths, a caregiver off visiting a sick relative, and so forth--all provide opportunities for the rest of us to serve!

So, how do we practice this mobile hospitality? Stay tuned for some ideas (including ideas for setting the wheels in motion as well as what to bring). Can't cook? We'll cover that, too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Think I'll Buy A New Cookbook...

Ha ha ha ha....

We Americans think like this: if we're bored, tired of something, want a "better" solution, want to replicate someone else's creation (especially one on TV or the internet), etc., we think we need to buy something!

Think again, my friends. Very often, if we were doing the work set before us, we wouldn't be bored. If we're tired of the same old, same old, I guarantee there are ways of changing it up without buying a new product. Perhaps we want a better solution to something; have we looked at our random, accumulated things for a substitution first? Have we tried the library or our friends for ideas? What if we want to replicate someone else's creation? First, we should ask if that is a worthy goal for someone in our position (making bagels from scratch or building your own compost bin might not fit into your current situation). Second, we should see how much free information and/or inexpensive options we can scrounge up. Let me use cookbooks as an example.

I was thinking a few weeks ago that I'd like to get a new cookbook--you know, some new recipes to try. In the old days, I might have actually bought a new cookbook. During the past few years, however, I've realized there are some quick (free) fixes to this urge to "try something new."

  1. Try a recipe out of a cookbook I already own that is a "new" recipe to me (since I own such mega-cookbooks like The Joy of Cooking and the infinitely variable options in How to Cook Everything, it is impossible for me to EVER cook every recipe that I "own.").
  2. What about wanting to cook healthier or wanting to cook more family friendly or wanting to cook something more ethnically-related? Simple: I reread my already-ownedcookbooks first. Many times, a reread will remind me of recipes I'd forgotten or I'll notice something new since I wasn't tuned into this same "need" the last time I read that particular cookbook. (Maybe the last time I skimmed my Fannie Farmer book, I was looking for good casserole recipes; now I might be looking for more vegetable-related options.)
  3. I can check out a cookbook from a library or borrow one from a friend. This is a terrific way to test-drive a cookbook you're really considering buying; it's also a great way to get your Chinese-food-from-scratch-fix taken care of.
  4. There are other free resources: I can ask my friends for a good whole wheat bread recipe if I'm discontented with mine. I can search the internet for recipes that use my abundance of green cayenne peppers.

Finally, is it really necessary to reinvent the wheel? So often, we get bored/tired of something, and we want to do something new, discover a new strategy, etc. But, we're called to press on, to persevere in this life, to work diligently in what the Lord has called us to do. It's okay to be bored or tired of something sometimes. We don't have to prepare gourmet meals for our families every night for them to be eating healthily (and for them to be enjoying it). We don't have to have the latest, greatest technological equipment for us to enjoy a movie. We don't have to have the best sports equipment to enjoy throwing a ball around with the kids. We can play the same old card game--maybe add a new rule for kicks--and still have fun. We can go to the same local park for a thousand fun-filled evenings for the same price as one ice cream cone from Marble Slab.

Forget the consumeristic-attitude that our culture has indoctrinated us with and enjoy what you have! Paul reminds us that godliness with contentment is great gain. (Ironic that "gain" is the word used--we want to "gain" more things when we're discontent, but our gain will ultimately be greater when we choose contentment over and above mere acquisition.)

posted on full tummies as well.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making the Most of Your Children's Clothes

Young children are hard on clothes, grow out of clothes at seemingly random times, and could care less whether anything matches or is seasonally appropriate. I wish I had $1 for every time my daughter has wanted to wear a favorite t-shirt when it was 30 degrees outside, or has wanted to wear some fleece footie pajamas when it's 90 degrees outside. She shows up regularly at breakfast in striped skirts with patterned tops and so forth. My boys...well, we're doing good to keep them clean-ish from breakfast to lunch, much less stay in the same outfit, unscathed, for an entire day.

Here are some tips to make the most of your children's clothes, particularly if they are still at home with you and can dress casually.

  1. Invest in quality basics. A few pairs of pants, some good heavyweight t-shirts, a nice button down or two, good shoes, etc. are all worth investing a bit of money in. If you think something will get worn daily, make sure it will hold up. That being said, you can still find many of these items on sale at the end of the season.
  2. Buy basics in solid and basic colors. If your daughter loves pink, buy a solid pink skirt, a solid pair of pink shorts, and maybe a pink jumper. Then, you can pick up some frilly, flowery, princess-y shirts and tops here and there at a consignment sale and they will go with a number of items already in her wardrobe. But sweatpants and sweatshirts for winter wear in a variety of basic colors. Then, if your son shows up in his favorite gray shirt with his navy or red or black sweatpants--it will all work!
  3. Buy one or two really fun items, but buy them on consignment. No one wants to wear boring clothes all the time, but children are notorious for being really into Bob the Builder one month and moving on to Curious George the next.
  4. Use t-shirts all year: layer smaller ones under long-sleeve t-shirts, sweatshirts, or sweaters, and larger ones over long-sleeved t-shirts. Layers keep kids warmer, and they'll be able to wear that fun t-shirt they got at the beach all winter long.
  5. Get creative: my children often put on clean clothes before nap-time in the winter if they've been playing outside all morning. The odds of it being light enough outside after their naps is slim, so they usually don't go outside again. Those clean clothes that were worn from naptime-bedtime then become the go-outside-and-get-dirty-clothes the next morning. Similarly, they often sleep in clean t-shirts in the summer. In the morning, they're ready for the day and we haven't dirtied up pajamas.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Of God... (part 2)

I wrote earlier about the Westminster Confession of Faith and its 2nd chapter, 1st paragraph. The 2nd paragraph expands upon the first paragraph (which was about the nature of God), dealing primarily with God's sufficiency and his independence of mankind. This is the paragraph we read in church a few weeks ago. Read it slowly! It is worth meditating on.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, not deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory, in, by, unto, and upon them: he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, he is pleased to require of them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...

You make lemonade, right? Well, when the Lord gave me pounds and pounds of green tomatoes, I've been learning to make use of them. A combination of toddlers picking what they thought were "apples," the voracious squirrels who love green tomatoes and who I'm trying to outdo, and late tomato blight (which officially, now, has decimated my entire crop of 20 plants...)--all of these factors have provided an abundance of green tomatoes.

Instead of wasting these, I figured there had to be something I could do with them (besides frying; who wants to eat 10 pounds of fried green tomatoes?!). I remembered seeing a version for green tomato ketchup in one cookbook and that started my hunt. To date, I've made green tomato bread (a real winner), green tomato cake (also good, but not any better than carrot cake), green tomato ketchup (YUM--might be growing more tomatoes next year just for this), and green tomato relish (a slightly spicy, cilantro flavored one--also worth growing tomatoes for next year). I've got enough to make one more round of the ketchup or relish. There are 7 cups of puree in the freezer awaiting more bread making.

I'm starting to appreciate more and more how easy it is for us to eat in this country. Were we pioneers, we would have to find uses for produce like this...or starve. Amazingly, in God's creation order, He's built in a cushion. Certainly there are times of famine--both biblically and in modern day periods; but, in those apparently lean and "more creative" years, His people can still eat and be satisfied. Over and over again in Scripture, there are accounts of God providing food. Over and over again in our own lives, we witness His provision. I've learned that green tomatoes not only have the same aount of lycopene as ripe, red ones, but they also have twice the vitamin C, more vitamin K, and more calcium! (Incidentally, red ones have more vitamin A, more vitamin E, and more potassium.) So, even though I'm eating a not-quite-ripe crop, I'm still getting nutritious food! I'm fascinated by the way God has designed his creation to nourish us even when we don't expect it.

The next time you head to the grocery store and pick up a jar of (red) salsa or grab a bag of lettuce or examine the bananas, remember that all of that food still comes from the hand of the Lord. We may not fight the battle to eat on a daily basis like rural folks who are subsistence farming, but we are still dependent on the Lord's care. So, thank him for your meal tonight! (You might also thank him that you don't HAVE to be subsistence farming to eat tonight.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Savoring a Cup of Tea: Of God...

My friend Sarah and I are working through The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges (I highly recommend it!!). As she and I talk through some of the points Bridges makes, we keep coming back to the nature of God. Biblical Christianity makes so much more sense, and is such a robust faith, when you start with the character and nature of God rather than examine man and his proposed sin nature. Who cares if we "sin" if there isn't a holy God in the first place? But, because God is holy (and sovereign, just, loving, etc.), then our sin becomes all the more reprehensible and his grace all the more undeserved and amazing.

Yesterday, in church, our responsive reading was taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 2, paragraph 2. The title of the chapter is "Of God, and of the Holy Trinity." Paragraph 1 is just as amazing, so I'm going to post it first. Because the Confession is a meaty document, it's worth pondering one paragraph at a time (or one phrase!). In addition, I think it worth noting that the Confession starts with the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, thus establishing why we can go to Scripture for our doctrine. The very next thing it tackles is the nature of God--nothing else is quite as important in my opinion. As I mentioned above, the more we meditate on who God is, the more aware of our own sinfulness we will be and the more overcome by his grace.

There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clean the guilty.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Neat Little Blessing

Ok, I thought this was really cool. On the way to the store tonight my 6yr. old said a prayer that the rain would stop long enough for us to get in the store. (It was already raining/sprinkling.) When he told me, my first thought was "God, you better be will this turn out?" Well, sure enough, the rain had stopped long enough for us to get into the store! How cool that a big God can listen to an earnest prayer from a little boy and respond. What a way to ingrain belief and the importance of prayer in their little hearts! We've had the conversation that God doesn't always answer yes, or right away (especially on things like, I really want that toy car...). But this was an unforced, on his own move and God responded.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check It Out

I posted some breakfast recipes on full tummies this week (each day is a new recipe), so check them out if you're interested. There's also a little amusing post on children's literature on Literaritea.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Breakfast for Champions: Tips and Tricks

Published also on full tummies

So you want to provide a nutritious breakfast and save money this school year. And you don't have much time in the mornings. Hmmm... That can be a daunting challenge. Did you know that the following can all be frozen ahead of time?
  1. Muffins
  2. Egg McMuffins (yes, they can!)
  3. Breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, sausage, salsa wrapped in a tortilla)
  4. Scones
  5. Quiche (bake/freeze crustless quiche in muffin cups for individual servings)
What about simply making something the night before? The following can all be made or assembled the night before:
  1. Oatmeal (premeasure oats/water)
  2. Quiche mixtures (re-stir and pour in pan in the morning)
  3. Muffins (dry ingredients and wet kept separate until morning)
  4. Pancake mix
  5. Hard-boiled eggs
I use all of the above strategies, but what has helped me the most is having a breakfast routine. Lots of people follow a "if it's Monday, it must be spaghetti" type of plan for dinners, each weeknight consisting of roughly the same type of thing each week. I use that same idea for breakfast, and it helps keep variety in our menu while making it easier to get breakfast on the table (and saving me from scrambling every morning with three fussing kiddos). Every week isn't exactly the same, but here's a rough idea:
  • Sunday: hard-boiled eggs, muffin/breakfast cookie, fruit (all is made ahead of time; this is our busiest morning)
  • Monday: cold cereal with milk, fruit
  • Tuesday: something egg related
  • Wednesday: oatmeal
  • Thursday: muffins, cheese stick or smoothie, fruit (our second busiest morning)
  • Friday: cottage cheese pancakes or egg sandwiches
  • Saturday: pancakes or eggs, sausage, and homemade biscuits
If I ever plan to serve quiche for dinner, I automatically make sure there's enough for the next morning's breakfast. I frequently keep frozen egg mcmuffins, breakfast burritos, or something similar for my husband to grab on his way to work. I'll be posting the egg mcmuffin and breakfast burrito recipes soon at full tummies.

What's your best breakfast strategy? Have a favorite recipe? Link to it in a comment.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Teabag: Piggy-Back Ride

Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.
Deuteronomy 33:12

In a recent conversation with a friend, we were discussing relying on God to take care of us vs. a man (like husband) to meet all our needs. So I found this verse, "...rests between his shoulders." The only way I can imagine that is a piggy-back ride. And that means, He is doing all the work! Giddy-up.

Breakfast for Champions: What Makes a Good Breakfast

Simultaneously posted on full tummies.

Breakfast has become recognized as the most important meal of the day--and that means a nutritional breakfast, not a breakfast that subsists merely of a pop-tart, bowl of Frosted Flakes, or a Toaster Strudel. Perhaps you made vows at the end of last school year to start this school year off right: no more racing out the door, grabbing a McDonald's coupon on the way to the car.

I don't have school-aged children I'm trying to get out the door on a deadline, but I do face 3 very hungry urchins every morning and am looking to save time and money like most of you. Here are some tips to help you start this school year off on a better breakfast note--it will help your budget, your children's attention span, and your mornings!

First, it's important to know what constitutes a healthy breakfast. My general rule of thumb: some grains (preferably whole), some protein, and some produce; my kids generally also drink milk in the mornings, not juice. Those three categories plus the milk can appear in many forms, and sometimes you have to think outside the box. The following are some examples of breakfasts we eat in our household (some are fast, some take more time to prepare/eat):
  1. eggs, toast, fruit
  2. quiche with spinach, muffin
  3. muffin, cheese stick, fruit
  4. cottage cheese pancakes, fruit, some dry cereal as an "appetizer"
  5. regular pancakes, sausage, fruit
  6. granola, yogurt
  7. smoothie, muffin or dry cereal or toast
  8. oatmeal with milk, fruit
  9. egg sandwich, fruit
  10. hard-boiled eggs, breakfast cookies*, fruit
*sometimes we do eat cookies for breakfast--homemade oatmeal cookies are about as sweet as a nutrigrain bar or a pop-tart, have no corn syrup in them, and more whole grains.... Who knew!

Check out the full tummies breakfast index for some more ideas. What's your favorite breakfast to feed your family?

Tomorrow I'll post some ideas for freezer-friendly breakfast treats as well as a new way to plan your breakfast "menu" for the week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer Days

Summer's full upon us, and Carrie and I have been busy traveling and enjoying all the summer activities we can! So, when we're busy (and hot), what do we eat?

It's easy to cave into convenience and eating out when you're on the road, playing in the pool all day, and so forth. But there is no easier season than summer to eat fresh, local produce with minimal effort. A reminder of some classics that keep you cool, take minimal effort, and celebrate the season:

  • BLT (add some fresh basil!)
  • Watermelon (can be anything from a snack to a dessert)*
  • Peaches (sliced with some cream--an amazing dessert)
  • Grilled food (meat/seafood, veggies, corn on the cob,--even peaches and pizza crust can be grilled!)
  • Pasta with quick sauces and summer veggies (tomatoes, zucchini, etc.)
  • Cold salads (pasta, lettuce, chicken, tuna, tomato-basil-cucumber--there are lots of summer salads)
  • Cold meats (ham and chicken are both good cold)
*In our family, eating watermelon is serious business. Here's how we ate it growing up: my dad would quarter a smallish watermelon. Then, each of us would get a quarter 'melon on a plate, a fork and knife, and a large napkin. Mmmmm.... that's a lot of melon and it makes a great end to a simple meal. Of course, it's best cold.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed....

Proverbs 24:16 " For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again..."

Ever feel like a Job. Well, here is my Job rant for the day. A week ago Monday was a BAD parenting day. I joke, my husband had to call and "instill the fear of God" since he was out of town. Tuesday, my fuel pump went out at an intersection-I was the first one in line to go and couldn't. Wednesday, our date night was spent replacing the radiator in the other car. Thursday, a challenging relative came and brought us another car and has stayed until at least today. There is a new hole in the side wall of a newer tire that we now have to replace. Sunday our VBS starts and I'm in charge of crafts for 120+ kids and because of all the aforementioned stuff, I am WAY behind. Today my husband has to have an MRI on his back. Yesterday he spent all day in a contractors office on a big job he might not even get (unethical reasons too!).

So where does that leave us. Well, first, what a great verse in Proverbs. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to play the sluggard and pull the sheets over my head. And second, what is the saying, "Satan is alive and well on planet earth."

For the righteous part, I think we can have good things come from bad situations. We have had to be willing to except a not so perfect car, but hey, we have a car. Things/issues that have been building in our marriage have come to the surface, and we have been able to deal with them in a way I feel has been honoring to God and our marriage. We have come to lean on and receive support from some great friends here locally. And my husband has been able to see the positive side to a lot of this (it used to be always me trying to be positive.)

For the Satan attacking you part of things. Well...I honestly think that is part of it. I mean, he took away everything that Job had-why can't he do the same to us. And he knows where it hurts. We don't have new cars, so there's always some kind of maintenance. But seriously! How much in one week! And the relative...well, this has caused a big strain on our marriage-even before this instance. It's like the thorn in our flesh.

So where does this all leave us. Well, I think God does try to teach us things. And no, we won't collapse. 1 Corinthians 10:13 "...And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bare. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." Hot dog. No worries, right :-). But I think it also means, we have to be willing to take the way out that he has provided, whether we want to or not.

And I think he gives us tools to overcome those areas that Satan can get to us. He knows it happens-he even had to tell Peter to "get behind me Satan". For the marriage things that were going bad, it caused us to discuss things that hadn't been discussed. And to come up with a plan to deal with it. We are bigger than the problems the relative causes. It was our own way of saying, "get behind me Satan", we are bigger than this and your not going to win.

If it's any encouragement to any of you...since we all know we live in a fallen world and bad things is my favorite verse:

Isaiah 40:31 "They that wait (or hope) on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint."*

*I did quote this verse from memory-I may not be totally accurate in all my punctuation, etc.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Loving Our Husbands (and our families)

I studied a great book with a few other women this past summer: Becoming the Woman of His Dreams by Sharon Jaynes. Initially I thought the title pretty cheesy; the content of the book, however, is terrific. Jaynes breaks down 7 areas in which we wives can be the woman of our husband's dreams. Throughout the book, she uses many Scripture references to back up her points--the part I appreciated most on my first read through the book was that she used Scripture references beyond those normally offered to wives (you know, beyond the "submit" passages or "a good wife is better than rubies"). She points out, for instance, that 1 Corinthians 13 should be applied to the way we love our husbands--not just a general way to love others. She outlines all the many times Paul encourages believers to be constant in prayer--doesn't that mean we need to be constant in prayer for our husbands?

Dostoevsky, in his amazing book The Brothers Karamazov, has a fascinating chapter titled "The Grand Inquisitor" in which a character expounds on this idea of loving those close to you. It's definitely easier to profess love for the starving children in Africa or the persecuted church in the Middle East (you might even send money or pray for these groups) than it is to love those in our own homes or our real, next door neighbor. Why? We see all the faults of those close to us. We let little things get in the way of our love; I believe an example in Dostoevsky's book is the way someone chews his or her food. If it's annoying, it can keep us from loving someone.

C. S. Lewis offers similar insights in his Screwtape Letters. In this book, a senior demon is training a younger demon in the arts of temptation and swaying people away from the Lord. One of his tips: get the "patient" in question to start focusing on the irritating little things his mother is doing rather than focusing on the real ways he can love and serve her.

Why do I mention these? Is my husband bothering me? Are my kids driving me up a wall? Not really. I've just been praying through some Scripture that is general in nature, not directed specifically at families, and was struck by the difference these actions/ideas/attitudes would make in our own homes. Some of these verses are ones Jaynes offers in her book as prayers to pray for our husbands, inserting their names as we pray. Praying Scripture is a powerful tool, the Sword of the Spirit. So, in the coming days, I'll offer up some of these Scriptural prayers. I encourage you to pick one or two and pray through them for you husband and your children. If you need an attitude check, I can guarantee you that this will help! If you've begun to focus on irritating little habits or started to notice a bothersome trait in someone in your household, try praying through one of these verses for that person instead. Our prayers become so earthly-focused. Scriptural prayers help reorient our thoughts to what is really important.

Carrie has already given us a great list of verses to pray through for our children. See her post on Teabag Verses for Students and Moms.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Potty Training: Betsy's "Method"

I'm not sure you can call this a method or not--it's more a conglomeration of various tips and strategies. But here's what I prefer to do:

Phase 1: Pre-Potty Training like crazy (this is when I become Potty Training Cheerleader Extraordinaire--did that little visiting girl just use our potty? Yea for Suzie!! She just went pee pee in the potty! Look! You're going pee pee right now! (in the tub) Are you going "stinky" (at sign of red face)). I also wait for readiness signs (dry diaper for 1.5 hours or so at a time; vocabulary in place--they need to be able to say "potty," "pee pee," etc.; interest in potty; telling me they've gone to the potty--usually only occasionally).

Phase 2: Gear up. (Get towels, drinks, potty chairs, etc.)

Phase 3: Awareness Commando, baby! Little naked babies running around, a stack of blue towels, and LOTS of fluids. After all, if they're not pee-ing, and obviously so, there are no training/teaching examples. I didn't want to use a potty chair with the boys, but quickly saw that we needed one (well, two) with this approach. The potty chairs move with us around the house: we sit in them when we watch movies, we sit in them when Mommy reads us stories, etc. Gradually, we'll add underwear to this scene. Generous and frequent rewards for any sprinkle in the right direction.

Phase 4: Control After kids are very aware of when they're going pee pee, we try to move to a pee pee on command (they need to be able to go before we leave the house--when I tell them to--especially if it's been a while since they've last gone). So, this phase is a continued education for them in learning to control their bodily functions.

Phase 5: Independence This is when they get to tell me when they want to go potty, and I pretty much operate as a normal Mom (as opposed to Potty Training Cheerleader Extraordinaire). I do have a few consequences for accidents: if someone can't take the time to come inside, for instance, and has "wet pants" while swinging, then they must come in then and there from their playing. If, however, he/she makes the attempt to come inside, I always make sure they get a little time back outside as a reward for taking the time to stop and use the bathroom.

Some notes: time spent in each phase is relative for each kid. With my daughter, she was firmly in the indepent phase by 2 months from the start date (start of awareness phase). We've just begun with the boys and are making good progress in the awareness phase for one twin (as I write this, it's day 2). But, obviously, I don't have a gazillion success stories to back up my method.

Also, and this is huge, your vocabulary makes a big difference. Don't say "if you go pee pee, Mommy will give you some candy." Two things wrong with that: first, they're going to go pee pee. That's not the issue. The issue is that they go pee pee in the potty. So, make sure you include that. Second, they are going to go pee pee at some point. Say "When you go pee pee in the potty, Mommy will give you some candy." When you move into the control phase, same thing. Say "When you go pee pee in the potty, then we'll go play outside." Not: "Hurry up!! We have to leave! Just pee!" You might as well realize that that's never going to work, so don't waste your breath and don't stress out your toddler.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Potty Training: Pre-Potty Training

Regardless of when you choose to potty train your child, you will have to do some pre-potty training, for both yourself and your child. I am by no means an expert on potty training, but I've learned some things along the way. The info from here on out is all garnered by much talking with friends and family and much reading of the "experts" (which are often highly over-rated).

Pre-Potty Training (for your child)

If you're going with an early start date, you'll need to make this a top priority in the few months preceding the Big Day. If you're planning to wait and train later, then this will happen along the way by osmosis, most likely.
  1. Give your child the vocabulary to use: be consistent ("pee pee" should always be "pee pee"--or whatever you choose). Catch your child in the act whenever possible and point it out (bathtub, changing table, naked time, etc.). Label body parts, the potty, etc.
  2. Model for your child at all times: parents and older siblings are always going to the bathroom. Leave the door open and narrate ("Mommy's going pee pee in the potty!" or "Look at Big Sister--she just went pee pee in the potty!").
  3. Let anticipation work for you: "In a few more days, YOU will get to go pee pee in the potty!" or something like that.
Pre-Potty Training (for YOU!)
Yes, you will need some pre-potty training, too! If you've never potty trained a child before, maybe the following will help you avoid some of the mistakes I (and my friends) have made.
  1. Get in the habit of pointing out all the times you (and your child) should use the potty. Before you leave the house for any reason, point out that you are going to the bathroom. (this will help you remember to do that when it's a necessity for your child).
  2. Do your homework--read up on methods, equipment, etc. Know what some of the strategies are.
  3. Learn what motivates your child: is he independent and likes to do everything himself? That might be all the reward you need. Does she idolize her big sister? Let big sister be a key component of your strategy.
  4. Gear up: gather whatever you think you'll need: salty snacks and juice/water if you're planning an all-out day or two; potty chair and/or potty seat/ring for big potty; lots of towels (I use blue towels) if you're just going straight to underwear (or commando); pull-ups if you're planning to go that route.
  5. Get your game face on: Yes, you'll be cleaning up accidents. Yes, your child will not understand right away. Yes, you'll be washing sheets, couches, rugs, toys, etc. Yes, you may have to wash a car seat. Yes, you'll be singing silly songs and doing dumb dances. Yes, you may allow your child to consume far more candy than you ever thought you would allow. Yes, you will have to put your child first, before phone calls, dinner prep, a play date, and the like. Grin and bear it!

Teabag: Wise Instruction

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching. For they are a graceful garland for you head and pendants for your neck. Proverbs 1:8,9

What are we instructing and teaching to our children? Is it good and worthy enough to be a garland and pendant for them? Will we teach them well enough so they can follow Proverbs 1:10:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Potty Training: When to Do It?

Carrie and I have chosen very different times to potty train our children, so I thought it might interest the peanut gallery to hear some of the pros and cons (at least according to her and me) for potty training early v. late. I've just begun training my 25-month old twin boys, so potty training is all I'm thinking about!

I would consider "early" potty training to be in the 18-month to 2 1/4-year old range. "Late" potty training is 3+. Then, there's a big spread in the middle that would involve issues on both the early and late sides. I've chosen to train my children early (daughter at 23 months; boys--just begun at 25 months) and Carrie's gone with the later age range (3 1/2 years for her boys).

If you haven't gotten to the potty training stage yet with your child(ren), it's worth considering the following; there really isn't a right or a wrong way to potty train as long as you do it, expect your child to obey once he/she demonstrates full capability/knowledge, and keep the peace in your household :).

Pros of Early Training (these are all generalizations):

  • less laundry/effort if your child is in cloth diapers--maybe a year and a half less!
  • less money/trash if your child is in disposables
  • child still wants to please Mommy/Daddy, so battles of the will aren't typical
  • rewards can be smaller--a Skittle, an M&M, etc.
  • you might not be out and about as much as when the child is older, so you'll have lots of home time to practice
Cons of Early Training (again, generalizations)
  • much more parental time/involvement required (child can't pull his/her pants up, child can't reach potty by him/herself, etc.)
  • can take longer just because you're often starting with a child who doesn't have tons of awareness of his/her bodily functions
Pros of Later Training
  • typically easier, if you can find the right motivation for your child
  • less parental involvement needed (child can dress him-/herself, reach the potty, etc.)
  • typically faster--the child is usually pretty aware of what's going on
Cons of Later Training
  • can result in a battle of the will; parent's approval isn't quite the be all, end all it is for a toddler
  • you have to spend that much more time/money on diapers!
  • you might be move involved in activities (like preschool) that can complicate time needed for practice/reliability

Friday, May 29, 2009

What happened to the last 6 months???

Ok...I haven't totally fallen off the face of the earth. Betsy has done such a wonderful job with posting blogs. Some of you might have wondered, "where is Carrie?" Well, all that to say...Carrie has been dealing with life. As many of you know life can fight back pretty good. And I have been mulling over many things in my head, that I would love to write about, but just haven't. So here goes my you can keep me accountable.

1. I don't want to write anything...I don't really feel like being spiritual. (Come know you have been there-it's my red flag of distress.)
2. Does my husband really think that his stress and the economy doesn't rub off on the rest of us. (hhmm...trying to refocus my job as a wife!)
3. Where has my child gone and who is this spawn of Satan in my living room...(Count to 10, repeat, repeat, repeat!)
4. Is God trying to test me...or is Satan attacking me (really I think it has been a little of both....I'll have to explain later.)
5. This is when I need a good local friend to initiate calling me. (Interesting...our Bible study just started a new book on women's friendships. Yeah, guess who should be #1....not my local friends.)
6. If I have to deal with my broken car or a house that I'm renting one more month...(there have been lots of tears shed lately!)
7. Do I really have to hear all these stories of other people getting anonymous $ for things and I still have to deal with #6 (yeah...bigtime contentment issues going on!)
8. I really don't know what to do with this I doing something wrong?
9. Everyone tells me to lighten's only kindergarten, but seriously the child has to learn to read! (kind of helping create afore mentioned spawn of satan!)
10. Does my husband really care that we never go on dates anymore??? (Well, schedule, more Satan attacking, more economy $$ issues, etc. Have I mentioned though, he has been the spiritual motivator in all of this-I'm failing miserably right now!)

So it all boils down to #1. I haven't really wanted to write anything. But you know...that's really life. And we have all been there. I'm just being honest to admit it. So hopefully in the coming weeks :-), I can post some of my learned thoughts on the above. Well, mostly how that shouldn't be life, and we can control things...we just let a fallen world get to us!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Titus 2 Moment: Michele

Michele is a good friend of mine whom I met at my current church. I didn't know her very well until I found out I was pregnant with twins (and was going to have an 18-month-old daughter when they were born). Lo and behold, Michele had walked this same path approximately 11 years previously! She and her husband had a 2 1/2-year-old daughter when their twin boys were born. No other person was able to offer the same level of practical and emotional support that Michele did during that stressful time in our lives. We're certainly not out of it yet, but those early days with two newborns and a toddler were so crazy that I don't have many memories of them!

Here's what Michele did for us: advice, advice, advice--always being willing to listen when I called asking ANOTHER question (I still do this). Availability: she let me bring the three small ones over a few times so I could hang out with another adult and her older daughter helped babysit them. They even bathed them for me when I went over to their house! She brought us food (tons of wonderful food for all different meals of the day). Once, she brought her kids over (all 5 of them now), left them at my house to babysit my toddler, and went with me to the doctor for the twins. Guess what her kids did while we there: they cleaned my house!!! She cut the boys' hair for me. She encouraged me to hang in there. In short, she's been a constant source of encouragement for me--partly because she's lived through such a similar experience (that is relatively unique).

Who do you know that is walking down a path you've already walked? How can you specifically encourage them in ways others might not think of? In the spirit of Titus's mandate that older women teach younger women, how can you step in and offer some practical instruction?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Titus 2 Moment: Linda Findley

Linda Findley was my "Chattanooga mom" when I was living there right after graduating from college. She was my good friend Todd's mom, so most of our friends called her "Mama Todd." Her home served as a base for all of us who lived in the usual sparse post-college apartments. She often had us over for big holiday feasts if we couldn't get home; we had movie nights at her house and a host of other gatherings. She passed away a few years after I got to know her, but today is her birthday, so this seems a fitting time to honor her impact on me!

Linda was a teacher and a mom to two grown sons when I knew her. She had just moved to Chattanooga, so she and I were both enjoying getting to know the city a bit better and also enjoying setting up house. She patiently taught me to sew on an old, black, iron Singer machine that her son later gave me when she died. We made curtains and all sorts of little things. She took time out for me weekly: we shopped, we cooked, we sewed, we laughed, we watched movies,.... I was working a job at the college from which I had just graduated, and it was pretty demanding on several levels. Linda was a sounding board, a source of Christian encouragement, a nice "neutral" resource, a friend, and a surrogate mom--all at the same time. She even let me do my laundry at her house!

How did she do all of these things? By simply living her life transparently in front of me and letting me live mine alongside her. Was she perfect? No. But she was living her life as a child of God, transformed by his grace, and challenging me to do the same. She left a lasting legacy in my life. I went on to become a teacher. I have since used that sewing machine to make more curtains, to make Christmas stockings, and to make other small projects. I ended up joining the same church she attended. I have a small set of plates that she and I had both loved (her son gave me those, too), and those are a sweet reminder of this lady the Lord put in my life for a short time.

Being a Titus 2 influence on someone doesn't always mean serving in an official role as "mentor" or "teacher." Sometimes, it's simply mothering someone else where they need it--being available, offering advice that comes from an older perspective, and being honest about your own walk with Christ.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Library

Go to the library... (Toni Morrison came to our college, and I can still hear her say those words in her rich voice). Her point was that we needed to read our African American history, but I think the command is relevant no matter what you read--just go read!!

This is a small plug for getting more involved in your local library. Many libraries do fun summer reading programs for all ages (my kids are in the summer "listening" program since they're not readers yet). There are all kinds of great prizes, too!

In addition to summer programs, most libraries offer story time for young children. My kids LOVE this--we're finally going back after a long absence. This is a nice time for them to listen to someone else read and to be exposed to the library. Some branches are more child-friendly than others. It's okay if you go to a different branch the one closest to your house if you find a more child-friendly one.

There are lots of other offerings at the library for children, too: read-along story books that come with tapes the child can listen to, board books for young "listeners," all kinds of regular books for kids, CD's and DVD's, and usually a nice librarian who can help you find the Angelina book that matches the Angelina TV show!

Finally, check out the library's collection for yourself! They usually have a pretty good stock of current fiction in addition to classics. They also typically stock craft books, random very interesting nonfiction books, cook books, mysteries, CD's, DVD's, ..... you name it! You can no doubt search your library's catalog on line. Make use of their hold features and get the book you want sent to your branch and held for you (this is a huge help if you're coming in the library with three young children in tow and headed to story time in 10 minutes....).

So, I encourage you to get back in the habit of going to the library. Don't buy every book or CD you want; try checking it out first from your local library. Odds are, you'll be done with it when it's due back (and then you can bring home something else!).

Friday, May 22, 2009

Our Parents' Legacy...

In my discussions with my friends and in the different Bible studies I've been a part of, I've realized that my husband and I have a unique and wonderful gift from the Lord: our two sets of parents (I know Carrie can say the same about her in-laws--and of course the same about her parents!). My husband and I grew up with very similar home lives in many respects--that has been such a blessing in and of itself as we attempt to parent our own children and establish our own family. What are some of the specific legacies our parents, collectively, have given us?

1. Dymanic spiritual lives: All four of our parents know and love the Lord deeply. There is no other greater legacy they could have passed on to us. Neither of us has known a day when we did not know the name of Jesus, trust in His work on the cross for our salvation, and hear Biblical truth. What a rich, rich heritage to pass on!!! I remember seeing my dad flip through his memory verse cards in the morning or watching my Mom read her Bible after breakfast. All four of our parents are still tremendous models of loving and serving the Lord in the different areas He's placed them.

2. Faithful church involvement: Collectively, our parents have served in the following areas in their local churches: pastor, elder, Sunday school teacher, VBS director, VBS teacher, VBS curriculum writer, children's ministry director, graphic design work/help (think: bulletins and other printed materials), preaching/teaching, counseling, leading choirs, participating in choirs, missions work.... Because of their examples in their support of local churches, my husband and I have been involved in our own churches--even working with kids' programs before we had kids!

3. Good stewardship: Our parents have made every effort to be responsible with what the Lord has entrusted them. They take care of their homes, they faithfully pay bills, they don't buy tons of random things they don't need, they balance their budgets, etc. In this day and age, that's a terrific example to set.

4. Generous giving: Our parents have faithfully tithed--so faithfully that neither my husband nor I have ever questioned whether we should or not. We just do it--even when we were struggling on much smaller incomes in a much more expensive city. Our parents also have always given above and beyond the tithe--particularly to missions. This giving has been both financial support as well as time-support (like sending out newsletters for missionaries behind the Iron Curtain).

5. Solid marriages: Our parents are still married and still love each other very much! Another, increasingly rare, legacy they have passed on. Many of my friends did not grow up in homes with two parents who lived out the biblical pattern of marriage (think: wives respecting their husbands, husbands loving wives, husbands leading the home, etc.).

6. Responsibility: We both grew up with parents who stressed responsibility. We finish what we start/commit to. We show up for work on time. We take care of what we have.

7. Family is important: We both have great memories of family trips and still place a big priority on seeing our families--especially at holidays and birthdays. This is because it was a priority for our parents as we were growing up; they took us to see grandparents, they made a big deal over staying in touch with extended family, they still make a big deal over being in touch with extended family. Incidentally, my dad is visiting his siblings right now while my mom is on a missions trip. My mother goes to the beach every year with her mother and two sisters. My husband's family has a big reunion every 2 years.

8. Education is important: Because of our parents' sacrifice, my husband and I both went to Christian schools and a wonderful Christian college. Getting a good education was always a priority; as such, it's a priority for us as we consider our own children's opportunities.

9. World view is important: How you view the world is crucial to your life! Our parents made sure we were trained in evaluating the world from a Christian perspective--really thinking things through and discerning issues behind a big decision. We still often have discussions with our parents on current issues and cultural ideas floating around.

10. Prayer: I could have listed a bunch of other things in this list (good citizenship, good values, etc.), but the consistent prayer that has been a part of our parents' lives--on our behalf--is huge. They prayed for us to get married, in fact, and we're thankful that prayer was answered! (they are, too, I believe!)