Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions?

Are you the type of person who vows to do {insert the improvement here} starting on January 1? Do you tend to give up on that certain something by the end of January? Doesn't that get you down? Talk about feeling like a failure before February even begins.

So don't do it!

The only resolution I have ever made and kept is to floss my teeth daily. I made that resolution about 7 years ago and have been flossing ever since. My dentist is so proud! All the other ones, hmmm, I can't even think of another failure.

Instead, make a list of a few goals that you would like to accomplish within the next 12 months. Below are some goals that I thought I'd share for the year 2012:

1. Make a list of a few books (not sappy, romantic, vampirish books - but books that make you think outside the culture and challenge your mind) that you'd like to read in the next year. Maybe it is even just one book. If you need a suggestion, I recommend Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries (it is on my list to read in 2012).

2. Get your passport (either first time or get it renewed). You never know when you might have the opportunity to go on a short term (or long term) mission trip. It takes about 6 weeks to get the passport back, so it is always good to be prepared.

3. Choose something "big" to clean out (like the garage or basement). Now remember, this doesn't need to be finished by the end of January. Break up the one huge goal into smaller tasks and reward yourself for the progress you have made. Tell your husband (or someone) that you have this on your "to do" list so they can hold you accountable (and sing your praises when it is finished).

4. Volunteer more time. There are so many worth organizations in need of volunteers that it should be easy to find one near you. Choose something that you are passionate about so that it will be an easy fit for your personality. If it isn't something you care about, it can easily be pushed off until 2013 (or beyond). So if you love dogs, volunteer at your local humane society and help walk the dogs. If you are passionate about helping the less fortunate, you might call a shelter and see when you can help serve meals. Maybe you can just help clean the kitchen after meal times? If you have a heart for the elderly, maybe you can take your kids once a month to a local nursing home and visit the residents? They love it when we take homemade cards to them for different holidays (we usually do this for Valentine's Day).

5. Strive for holiness. Ok, I that know this sounds like a giant goal, but take it in small steps. First of all, pray. Pray for God to shine a light on an area (just one) that you should work on. Next, start the “put off – put on” process.

6. Pray more. We can never pray enough. Think of creative ways to remind yourself to pray each day. You could put up a prayer board (we have a white board in our kitchen to remind us of prayer requests). Use birthdays and other special dates to remind you to pray for loved ones. When you hear of a tragedy (newspaper, TV, prayer requests), use that as a reminder to pray that God be glorified in that situation. We are to pray without ceasing – so let us constantly look for reminders to continue our conversations with God.

7. Reduce the distractions in your life. Do you spend a lot of time, money and energy on entertainment such as TV shows, movies, going out to eat, reading books that serve to entertain rather than to teach? Pray that God would open your eyes to the distractions in your life and choose to eliminate one (or more) of these. Spend that time more usefully – either with your family or by serving others in the community or church. You’ll never regret it!

8. Spend time remembering lovely stories from your childhood and tell them to your own children. Help them to see that you were once a child. Help them to see you as a person, not just a Mom or Dad. Tell them the things you did for fun (I doubt it had anything to do with an iPod or Nintendo). Tell them about books you read and loved and then see if they want to read them, too. Tell them about heartaches that you experienced. But please remember to always respect and honor your parents in these stories (even if you have to omit portions of the story).

9. Clean out those closets. If you haven’t worn an outfit in a year (or more), then why not give it to someone who will wear it? Look through all your clothes and if it is still in good shape, but not something you will wear, donate it to a local shelter, Goodwill, or American Vets.

10. Seek out someone to “mentor”. God has given you some life experience (some good, some not so fun) for a reason. Do not waste it – use it to help someone else and glorify God. Find someone (teen, young Mom, friend of one of your children) and take them under your wing. Explain that you are not perfect (that should not be news) but that you would like to be their friend and be someone they can trust for advice. Hmmm, who will you (I) choose?

Remember to post your list some place where you will look at it. If you don't do this, there is no way you'll remember the goals you set in October.

So what are your goals for the new year? I’d love to hear from you.

Church is Church

"Church is Church"

Someone over the holidays said this to me and I have been thinking about it ever since. This was from someone that I think is an unbeliever (this assumption is based on a seemingly disinterest in the things of God, but really God only knows a person’s heart) and they were choosing to spend time in a church service that is not a Bible believing Christian church.

1.       The first thing I have thought about is my response. It was, “that is not true.” But that quickly shut down the conversation. I wish I had answered like Jesus and probed a little deeper into the heart issue. I wish I would have said, “Do you really believe that? What if it is was the church of Satan? Or a Hindu temple?”  If it is a church (based on the shape of the building), but they do not preach the Word of God, then it might as well be a Hindu temple. There is no such thing as a little bit right when it comes to eternal salvation.

If I had responded with a question, it might not have shut down the conversation so quickly. I regret not being able to talk more about this with her so that the Holy Spirit could use it to bring her close(r) to God (that is my prayer).

2.       How many people believe that “church is church” – otherwise known as “universalism”? This is a problem. There are so many people who believe that as long as you are sincere about your faith, you are “alright” with God. Which god? Not the God of the Bible who says that He is a jealous God and Jesus Who says that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Him. Biblical Evangelical Christianity is exclusive. It does not include all roads. The way is narrow and we need to be clear about this. If people think there is a fuzzy, gray line and that “any sincere religion” will work, they are on the broad path to destruction. That is exactly what Satan wants – confusion. We need to warn them! Sound the alarm! Blow the trumpets!

3.       I also wonder how many people think they are pleasing God by attending church on these special occasions? They may be attending a bible believing / preaching church, but they attend out of duty. They feel their attendance is a sacrifice that God should appreciate. Maybe it is even at an odd time, like sunrise service for Easter or midnight service on Christmas Eve. Maybe they even serve the homeless a meal on Thanksgiving. Oh what a sacrifice (sarcasm)! God should appreciate all they do for Him, right? Wrong. It does not matter what (seemingly) sacrifices a person attempts - if they have not accepted Jesus, the Son of God, as the Sacrifice for their sin and made Him Lord of their life, it is a futile effort. We read (below) about the Jews who were sacrificing and recognizing religious holidays, but they did not respect or love God with their whole hearts:

Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing
Isaiah 1:13-14

Just a little note – please still invite the unsaved to church. God may not add it as a “good mark” to their account, but there is a chance they will hear something convicting. There is a chance they will realize the depravity of their sinful condition and give their life to Christ. Keep inviting and keep praying for their souls.

4.       How many believers will stand up for our God and our church? Will you? We are the bride. We are part of His Church. There is only One Church. It is precious and was bought with the sacred blood of Christ. It is worth standing up for. Please do not hesitate to speak truth (with grace and love of course) when someone tries to marginalize Christ or His church. Bible believing Evangelical Christians are not the same as Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, or Jews.  Many have died in order to defend the faith and preach the good news around the world. Let us not ever take our freedom of religion lightly. Let us not ever allow a true faith in the Creator of the Universe and His perfect Son to be mixed in with all the other religions of the world. It sounds cheesy – but it is true – this is not about religion, but a relationship. Religion fails (works based). Only a relationship that was paid for by the blood of Christ can save (faith based).

Remember that even though religious holidays, sacrifices, rote rituals, ceremonies and even taking communion makes our hearts feel warm and can make us feel closer to God, that feeling can be deceiving. Our feelings cannot be trusted. We are fallen, sinful humans. In order to truly be close to God, we need to spend time with Him. We need to obey His commands. We need to strive for holiness. We need to humble ourselves and serve others. We need to pray for wisdom like King David:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Savior, Light of the World

Our Savior, Light of the World

Rejoicing, we tell
the Nativity story,
when the Light of the World
came in brilliance and glory.

But still we remember
there is more to be told -
His great sacrifice
that was yet to unfold...

For His mission as Savior
could not be complete
until heavy nails pierced
His hands and His feet.

So may we recall
both the gift of His birth,
and the gift of salvation
He gave to all on earth.

- Lisa O. Engelhardt

photo credit Marie58_bucket at

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Gift Idea - Save a Life

What better present than to change a child's life? Have you considered supporting a child trapped in poverty? You could be the key to changing their life and showing them the light of Jesus.

If you wonder how your sponsorship might change a child's life, watch this short video (but keep the tissue handy).

What a wonderful feeling for your child to find a "friend" in their stocking. The name and picture of someone they will grow to love. Someone they will pray for. Someone they will write to. Someone they may even someday meet in person and see firsthand how this small amount of money (at least here in the great USA) changed this child's life (and the life of their family).

$38 a month - less than $10 a week. How many fancy coffee drinks do you have a week? How many dinners do you eat out? What small thing could you sacrifice to rescue a child in the name of Jesus?

Won't you consider sponsoring a child this Christmas season?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You Letters - Printables

We are trying to give our daughters the gift of thankfulness. One thing we started with our 6 year old's last birthday is to have her fill out a thank you letter for each person who blessed her with a present. Not only does she fill in the personal information, she also says a prayer for the gift giver. I explained that this is a way that we can return the gift. What better gift is there than to ask the Creator of the Universe to bless that person?

After my daughter's birthday, we said a prayer for all the people who had given her a gift. Later that same day, I showed her the thank you notes and after she read it aloud, I noticed her eyes were filled with joyful tears. She loved the idea - which warmed this Mama's heart!

Below is a link to an example of the letter we will send out after this Christmas season. Feel free to copy the idea and use it in your own family.

Christmas Thank You Letter printable

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

I linked up at

The Southern Product Queen
Tip Junkie handmade projects
Growing Home

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Showing Compassion As Celebrate

This is a wonderful time of year.

The wonderful celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Christ!

The sparkling lights and glittering garland as we travel in the dark (it sure is dark a lot, eh?).

The wonderful time we get to spend with family and friends.

The super yummy food that we savor during this month of calorie free (it’s free if you’re not counting them like me) eating.  

Speaking of food – do you realize that 8% of children under the age of 18 (that’s about 6 million) kids are allergic to one or more foods? This increases more and more each year.

I will not get into the particulars (too much) on why there are more food allergies and intolerances – but just know that it has a lot to do with genetically altering and FDA regulated processes (e.g. pasteurizing) that may have started with good intentions, but ended up actually changing the food. So the milk we drink (well, not my family, we are dairy free) is not the same milk that our grandparents grew up drinking.

Of course we also know that it is partially due to the results of the fall of humanity into sin. Our bodies are decaying and each generation shows more and more signs of this.

Back to the holiday celebrations.

Imagine a little girl loving the time she spends with her family on Christmas Eve. She is singing Christmas carols. She is opening presents and smiling for pictures. She’s kissing Grandpa under the mistletoe. And she is loving the holiday food! It is decorated so beautifully. It tastes divine. What a wonderful Christmas Eve.

On the way home, her tummy starts to cramp and hurt. She goes to bed crying from the pain. Christmas day she wakes and still does not feel well. She tries to put on a smile as she opens more presents, but her eyes are dark and puffy and her tummy is cramping so much. She spends much of Christmas morning in the bathroom. The homemade cinnamon rolls that her Mom made especially for her family (leaving out all the ingredients that will make her feel ill) just sit on the counter. She does not feel like eating much of anything. She decides to go back to bed and sleep most of the day.

 Not a fun way to spend Christmas morning, is it?
Imagine another situation where a child grabs one of the cookies that he saw someone eat one and declared it to be the best cookie he has ever tasted! He grabs the cookie and before he finishes it, his lips and tongue start to swell. He struggles for his breath. He sees his Mom in the distance and gives her that look of panic that she fears. She grabs the needle and stabs the epi-pen into his leg. Slowly he starts to breathe better. Slowly his mouth stops itching. Slowly the hives start to disappear. In his shallow breathing and tiny voice he asks if they can just go home.

So as you gather with friends and family this season, consider the people you are meeting. Do any suffer from allergies? The adults have probably learned to cope pretty well, but it is especially difficult for the kids to understand they are not able to eat the food that everyone says is so delicious. It feels like punishment. It feels like torture. 
Here are some things you can do to show compassion:

1.       Know the food you are bringing.

a.       If it is homemade, bring the recipe (or remember what you added that might be an allergy (egg (e.g. whites, yolks, egg beaters, and marshmallow cream), dairy (e.g. butter, sour cream, whipped cream, cream cheese, and cheese), gluten (aka flour), nuts or peanuts).

b.      If it is something you purchased at a store, be sure to have the ingredient list.

2.       If you know that someone in the group cannot have a certain allergen, try to find a recipe or purchase a food that is allergen free.

a.       There are many websites that provide yummy recipes that do not require a bunch of “odd” ingredients. Sometimes all you need to do is google the substitution for the allergen would be. For instance, if you were making cookies, you can replace an egg with half of a mashed banana or applesauce. (e.g. Living Without, Go Dairy Free)

b.      You can also ask a parent for a recipe that their son or daughter can have. Most parents are more than willing to share a recipe.

3.       Remember that people are rarely allergic to fresh vegetables and fruits. They are always a good choice!
4.    Most importantly, be compassionate. The people who suffer from food allergies and intolerances do not choose to suffer this way. They would LOVE to eat the peanut butter fudge, mozzerella stuffed mushrooms, or even order a pizza. But they have learned the (very) hard way that it is not worth it.

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another;
love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous
[1 Peter 3:8]


Making Cookies

What a wonderful treat to have my Mom and Dad come up and spend some time with the girls. We made cookies, including decorating some sugar cookies. Kudos to the Moms who do this by themselves (they are in the same category as the Moms who think moon sand is a great idea)! It takes a LOT of patience and clean-up effort - but knowing that I am loving on my girls exactly the way they crave love make it worth it. Oh, and the yummy cookies were a good payoff as well.

 Enjoying some Rudolf the Reindeer with Grandpa.

I attempted to make 2, that's right, just 2 of these ridiculously time consuming, but adorable, cookies. I have not let my girls eat them yet (although my oldest is begging). We need to just relish in their cuteness for at least 24 hours. ha ha!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Character of God Bible Study - Free Download

Ok, this is the first peek of what I have been working on (and I am hoping to finish by the end of the year). I love learning and meditating about God. I never want to get to the point where God is just a pocket-sized version of me - something I have created in MY own image. I want to know that He is all powerful, all knowing, always there, and holy. The more I reflect on His true nature, the bigger He gets and the lower my own head bows.

Studying God's character helps to develop our own sense of humility.

So I am creating a Bible study for Moms and their kiddos. This is something I want to work through with my own daughter and I thought there may be other Moms who would want to as well. Not only will this help me to continue my own study of God's character throughout the day (when I am teaching her), but it will also share wonderful truths about God with her. You are never to young or too old to learn about God's character!

So this is a first peek at the study. This is the Chapter on God's Holiness and it is available as a free download.

I am doing this because I would love feedback. This has just been developed out of my own personal study and I am sure it is far from perfect - so please give me your input.

Follow this link for the God is Holy - Adult Lesson

Follow this link for the God is Holy - Children's Lesson

Again, I would love to hear from you. If you can, please take a look at these and let me know what you think (complimentary or constructive is welcomed - derogatory or insulting is not).


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Apple Pie Dip

Need to whip up something quick for a get together? This is the perfect dip! It is easy to make. It is made with things you typically have on hand. Best of all - it is super yummy!

Apple Pie Dip

2 cups of diced apples (this is about one large apple)
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or allspice)

  • Stir together in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes (until the apples release their juices and are boiling).
  • In a small bowl, stir together 1 Tablespoon of warm water and 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch.
  • Stir corn starch and water into the apple mixture.
  • Microwave for one more minute
Serve warm with cinnamon pita chips or cinnamon tortilla chips.
That's it. I told you it was easy. My Mom found this on pinterest so I have no idea who to give credit to (other than my Mom - thanks Mom!),

If you have extra time, you could make your own Cinnamon Tortilla Chips.

I shared this at the following site(s):
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Happenings

I can hardly even believe it is December already!

This is such a precious time of year because we are reflecting on the birth of our Saviour. Not only do we celebrate the birth on that one special day, we cram pack every last second of celebrating, decorating, and preparing into the entire month.

One thing I especially need to be on guard about is keeping our family schedule in check. Making sure there is still time to reflect on Jesus. Making sure I still have the quiet time I need with God each and every day. Making sure that we are not too busy to eat as a family and rest when needed. Making sure there is still time to toilet train our toddler (I am hoping this is MY Christmas present - it'd be the best one ever!).

This week, the first week of the month, is filled with making a Christmas wreath, sewing costumes for our church Christmas program, seeing a wonderful performance of the Sound of Music, a birthday party, viewing a live Nativity (and also seeing local Christmas light shows) and the dress rehearsal for the children's choir - whew! I'm already tired.

But most of all, we are starting our advent season. We are beginning to read, remember and meditate on the fact that God became a Man and walked on the Earth. He came as a baby and lived a life like you and I - but without sin.

So I will not be posting daily posts this month. But I will post as often as time allows; some things just need to be shared.

Remember to make time in your busy schedule for Jesus. He really is the reason for the season.

Draw near to God and
He will draw near to you.
James 4:8a