Sunday, December 2, 2012

A is for.....

No-A is not for December!  A is for Advent.
As our children grew up we found that they also out grew the usual Advent calendar ideas.  They didn't get very excited about the little trinkets from the Advent tree or the 25 teenie, tiny Nativity figurines waiting to be discovered behind the little doors.  They didn't have time in their busier adolescent schedules to always sit with us and discuss the details of the Christmas story in ABC order.  The Advent celebration in our house had to evolve if it was going to continue to be apart of our family traditions.  We continued with the ABC idea but it became more grown-up friendly. Instead of Angels and Bells and Candles we considered the names of Jesus beginning with each letter of the alphabet.  So on December 1 we all came up with a name used for Jesus (or maybe a word that described Him) that started with the letter A.  December 2 was the letter B, December 3 was the letter C, etc, etc.  Each member of the family would do this on their own time and enter their ideas on a calendar stuck up on the refrigerator door.  At least once a day each of us stood in front of that said refrigerator so it was convenient and accessible.  And if (heaven forbid!) someone didn't get around to coming up with their own word they could at least be reminded of the Reason for the Season by seeing what others (as in, Mom) had recorded on the sheet.  

The one thing that has remained consistent through all the Advent calendar adaptations is that we usually missed the first couple of days of December and started late.  Why does December 1st come up faster the than first of any other month?  

So in true family tradition I am starting this year's version of the ABC Names of Jesus Advent Calendar on December 2.  

Today I give you A is for Apostle and Advocate.  

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.
Hebrews 3:1

Webster defines apostle as a person who first advocates or initiates a great reform.  An apostle is a person sent by another, a messenger.  

Jesus entered my life to initiate a great reform, to make me a better me, to correct me, to improve me, to be the remedy for what ails me.

An advocate is a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause; a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; an intercessor. This was the role of the High Priest.  

Jesus entered my life to be my Advocate.  He came to plead in my favor, to intercede for me at the right hand of God, the Father, to support me.  

And as I think about it, I just took care of "B is for..." also.  

Jesus is the Bridge.  God, the Son was sent from God, the Father to span the gap between His holiness and my unholiness, between His perfection and my imperfection.  Jesus, the Apostle came on the first Christmas to be God with me and, Jesus, the Advocate came to be me before God.     

B is for Bridge.

Wow, I'm all caught up and it's only December 2!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Looking for Ziplock Bags


I heard once that Jesus liked to use parables (simple stories used to illustrate a lesson) with the Hebrews because they were visual learners.  A lesson made a bigger impact with them if it was told in "pictures".  I must be part Hebrew.  I, too, like object lessons, word pictures.  And God, knowing me so well, understands this and faithfully gives me object lessons in my day to day living. 

The most recent and memorable lesson came on a spontaneous trip to the local dollar store.  I was preparing some freezer meals for my grad school son and ran out of ziplock bags.  (Isn't it interesting how the brand name of a product becomes the generic category for all things similar?)  Since I was right in the middle of my preparations, I decided to make a quick trip to the nearest store that would carry such a product, the local dollar discount store.  I don't on a regular basis shop at this store.  Most of the time I stop there because I just need one or two items and don't want to make the incredibly long 8 minute drive across town to the mega discount place!!! (Oh, the joys of small town life!) 

I arrived at my destination and parked my car assuming that this was going to be one of those uneventful, unimportant, mundane moments in my stay at home life.  


Because at the same time as I was getting our of my car and approaching the door to the store another car had pulled into a parking space right in front of the door and it's occupants were getting out and approaching the same door.  Nothing unusual except that the two "gentlemen" that were walking down the sidewalk right ahead of me now were anything BUT usual.  It was obvious as I came closer that these two guys had very little female influence in their lives.  (At least that is what I inferred.)  Neither one had "seen" a bar of soap in a while and their garments had not "seen" the inside of a clothes washer for some time.  My nose told me so!  One man definitely needed a belt for his britches and they both would have benefited from a trip to the barber shop.  

Ya get my drift!?!?

At the moment my senses came to this realization I started planning on how I could avoid meeting up with them at the entrance.  I could walk slower; pretend I forgot something in the car and turn around; stop and "check" the text messages on my phone.  But the next moment, God's voice inside of me said, "Mary, what is the topic of Bible Study this week?"

The study in the book of James for that week covered Chapter 2, Verses 1 through 13. 

My brothers and sister, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1-4 (MSG)

So I quickly asked myself, "How would you respond, Mary, if these two guys were dressed in beautifully tailored suits and Italian leather shoes, wearing Giorgio Armani cologne, looking like they had just stepped out of an upscale Los Angeles hair design studio?"  Well, other than wondering what the heck were these guys doing in my small town Nebraska,  I imagine I would gladly walk right into the store with them.  Thus, I kept right on walking behind these fellow dollar store shoppers and much to my surprise when we reached the door one of them politely opened the door, stepped aside, and held it open for me with a friendly smile on his face.  I returned his smile, looked him in the eye and said, "Why, thank you!"  

Score one for me!  But before I throw my elbow out of joint patting myself on the back let me tell you the rest of the story.  

I proceeded to walk to the back of the store searching for the freezer bags, wondering where would be the logical place for them.  Not finding them in that section I turned around to explore another area when, low and behold!, here came my two scruffy "friends" heading down the same aisle towards me.  I made a rapid exit stage right into the next aisle to avoid another encounter.  Score minus one for me!  

Feeling a slight twinge of guilt I continued on finally finding the food wrap and bag area.  As I stood there debating whether I should buy the 18 bag box or the 10 bag box, this brand or that brand,  who should appear to my left at the end of the aisle but......"Smelly Guy Who Opened The Door For Me".  

And the guy looked at me and asked (drum roll, please),

"Do you know where the ziplock bags are?" 

I looked at him (with my mouth agape, I'm sure), looked at the shelves in front of me and said, "Umm, right here", pointing at the boxes of bags.  

"Thank you.  I'll let my friend know......Hey, they're over here!"

In an amazed state of mind, I made my selection and headed to the registers, paid for my purchase and headed to my car in the parking lot.  And then I just sat there, still amazed, processing what I had just experienced.  

Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that God had given me another object lesson.  I had just been a part of a modern day parable.  You see, He says in James that to show partiality is sin. (James 2:9)  And He had just given me the opportunity to chose between showing partiality or extending mercy.  I'm not sure if I passed the test.  Maybe I scored a 50%, maybe more, maybe less.  But the moral of the story stabbed me right in my heart.  

I sat there thanking God that He had urged me to keep walking when I encountered the guys in front of the store.  I wondered how did it happen that at that exact moment, I and the two men arrived at the same store at the same time with the same purpose in mind-to purchase ziplock bags.  I wondered why did these two people, who didn't seem to be the kind of guys who would even know what a ziplock bag was, ask for them by name, the exact same name I call them.

Regardless of the outward appearance, we are all the same in some way or another.  If I take time to consider others I will find a common ground with them which will lead me to be merciful, to not discriminate based on the world's value system.  That is the point that James (Well, actually God) was making in the second chapter of his letter.  

We are all just looking for ziplock bags.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Doing Something!


Something or someone has been tugging at my heart for quite some time now.  When I sat down to try to discern when this all started I came to the conclusion it was probably when my oldest child took a one week long trip to Panama about 10 years ago.  She came home a changed person with a heart for the impoverished, under-privileged peoples of the world.  She felt an overwhelming desire to
“do something”.  She questioned why spend so much money on her own education when others lived in subservient conditions.  She wanted to quit school, go into the world and use her gifts and abilities to make a difference “NOW”.  As her parents, we listened as she shared her heart and then encouraged her to stay the course she was on and assured her that to make a difference it would be best to finish her studies, continue on to medical school and hone her gifts and abilities to be even more useful by God in the lives of people.  We essentially told her to “wait” by continuing on the present course.  

After that initial exposure to a worldview God has continued to draw my eyes up and away from myself.  My other children have traveled outside of our country’s borders and I have vicariously experienced the world through them.  I have “loved” a Kenyan little boy receiving his first pair of new shoes.  I have been “hugged” by a grateful Ugandan woman receiving medical attention.  I have “seen” the mountains of northern Italy.  I have been given the opportunity to invest in the education of a refugee man's daughters.

My heart was tugged through these experiences but then the past year the tug intensified to a yank!  Twice I have listened as Jen Hatmaker shared the journey she has been on through ministering to the homeless in her community, adopting two precious children from Ethiopia, partnering with others to raise funds for home building in Haiti and most recently, traveling to Haiti to interact with the people there. Her words challenged me to consider my own personal involvement in the lives of the afflicted, both here and abroad.  Each time I returned home from the conferences convinced I needed to “do something”.  (Sound familiar?) 

This past month my book club read Daughters of Hope, real life stories of women who live in parts of the world where not only is it difficult to be a woman but it is life threatening to be a Christian woman.  I hesitated to even start reading the book because I knew this would not be a casual read.  I was going to learn things that would affect my heart.  And just as I suspected, the book lassoed my heart, drug it to the ground and hog-tied it in true rodeo fashion. 

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came a few days later when I finished the book Radical by David Platt.  In it, the author “challenges Christians to wake up…and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose.” (quote from book cover) 

The summation of all these experiences has me feeling helpless, frustrated, compelled to “do something” about the injustices of the world.  I feel like I am in a “spinning my wheels and getting no where” frame of mind.  What does God expect me to do with all this knowledge?  I am convinced that God is going to hold me responsible for this information.  I want to be a good steward of what I now know.  I cannot, with a clear conscience, put it all back on the shelf, say “Now, wasn’t that interesting” and go on about my "Mary" way.  God is not going to let me turn a blind eye to the people in need in this world. 

I have called out to God asking Him:

"What do You want me to do with all this information?!?!" 

"How can someone like me even begin to make a dent in the injustices of our world?!?!" 

"It is all so big, God, and I am so little!!!"

And He has answered my cries!  No, we are not selling it all, packing what’s left and heading to the jungle.  And we are not adopting!!!

No, I am praying.  

Now that might sound somewhat anticlimactic after all the steam I have been building up.  And I, too, thought that prayer didn’t sound like “doing something”.  I like to see tangible evidence that my efforts have accomplished something.  I like to stand back and admire the sparkling kitchen sink after applying some elbow grease.  I like to see the empty clothes hamper after the last load has been folded.  But James 5:16 says that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  

Prayer is “doing”.

David Platt in “Radical” closes the book with a challenge that includes to pray for ENTIRE world in the next year.  I am taking that challenge.  I realize that if I am not willing to commit to plead the case of the afflicted before the throne of God I cannot expect to be used to “do something” more.   God says, “Just do Step 1, Mary.  We will talk about Step 2 later.”  If there even IS a Step 2 for me.  No matter.  Today I will pray for a small group of people in Honduras using PrayerPoint from Samaritan’s Purse and for those in Russia, following the guidelines from Operation World.   And I publicly state here that I will pray for the world in the next 365 days.  I will “wait “ on the Lord by continuing on the present course.  I will be content to not “see” the results of my labor but to trust the truth of God’s Word that my prayers can accomplish much.  I will not sit on the knowledge that He has entrusted to me. I will not spin my wheels any longer.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Time to Bake The Scones!

Fall has arrived!  It's time for fuzzy wool sock and fleece jackets and baking!   All summer when the temperature hovered around the 100º mark I refrained from heating up the oven as much as possible but now the night time lows are dipping into the near-freezing zone and the extra heat from the oven is welcome in the house.  Usually fall baking recipes center around---

but because I still have a box of strawberries that was included in one of the last CSA farm boxes I picked up in September I felt compelled to find a recipe that utilized this summer-like fruit instead of the traditional fall tastes.

I searched for a recipe and Strawberry Shortcake Scones caught me eye.   
Scones are one of those fancy sounding sweets that are not at all difficult to make.  Basically, they start with the usual ingredients found in most made-from-scratch biscuits.
The dry ingredients are blended together, the cold cubed butter is cut in with a pastry blender and the half and half is stirred in just until it all comes together and the dry ingredients are moistened.  The dough is flattened out into a 1-inch thick rectangle...
 cut into 6 squares which are cut again into 12 wedges.  The scones are placed on a parchment or silicone mat covered baking sheet.
After baking for 16 minutes the scones are golden brown and looking good.
Once cooled a bit, a powdered sugar glaze is drizzled over the top.
Yum!  A taste of summer in a warm fall-like pastry.  

(submitted to TastyKitchen,com by Alaska from Scratch)

     2 cups all purpose flour
     1 Tablespoon baking powder
     3 Tablespoons sugar
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
     5 Tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
     3/4 cup half and half
     1 cup powdered sugar
     1/2 teaspoon vanilla
     2-3 Tablespoons half and half
Preheat oven to 425º.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silcone baking mat.

Combine first 4 ingredients in large mixing bowl and stir with wire whisk.  Add butter and cut in with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.  Add strawberries and toss with fork until coated with flour mixture.  Pour in half and half and fold in gently until dry ingredients are evenly moistened.  Do not over mix or knead dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and flatten with hands until a 1-inch thick rectangle is formed.  Cut dough into 6 equal squares and cut each square in half diagonally to form 12 wedges.  

Place scones on baking sheet and bake at 425º for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove scones to cooling rack placed on wax or parchment paper and let cool for a few minutes before adding glaze.   Combine glaze ingredients, adding more or less cream for desired consistency.  Drizzle glaze evenly over baked scones.

Enjoy with a cup of your favorite hot beverage!

Monday, September 24, 2012

I can't!

I sat there on the side porch at my brother's home this summer soaking in the "quiet" of the rural setting.  The quiet was relative---birds were singing and the water feature in the yard was bubbling softly.  A quarter of a mile away a car whizzed by on the highway.  

Ahh, but it was bliss.  I was surrounded by the calm spirit that my sister-in-law had created in their quaint and neat farm home, the same home where my grandmother was born over 100 years ago.  I was surrounded by the evidence of her green thumb in the planters that occupied the porch with me. 

This idyllic moment was perfect.  Me on the quiet porch with my coffee and Bible, ready to hear what God had to say to me that morning.  All alone in this picturesque setting since everyone else had left earlier.
But then the bubble popped!

And the disrupting thoughts began to run through my mind.

"I can't create this atmosphere in my home."

"I can't make plants grow like she does."

"I can't keep my house as neat and tidy as she does."
"I can't do this or that, or be like this or that, or...."

Feeling the all too familiar feelings of defeat and inadequacies, I sighed and opened the Scriptures to the last verse I had read and to continue my walk through the book of Jude.

It is a very small book.  Only 25 verses total.  Not even enough words to warrant 2 chapters.

Picking up where I had left off the last time, I opened the Bible and read Jude 24...
"Now to Him who is able....."


God is able.

I was struck by the contrast of my thoughts and the Words of God.

          I can't.                                      He is Able

I can't but He can....

       Keep my from stumbling and make me stand in His 
       presence blameless with great joy.

"So, what else is God able to do?" I asked myself.  

After cross-referencing Jude 24, I found that God is also able to...
       Establish me (Romans 16:25)

       Do exceeding abundantly beyond anything I can ask or 
       think (Ephesians 3:20)

       Make all grace abound to me (2 Corinthians 9:8)

       Guard what I have entrusted to Him (2 Timothy 1:9)

       Come to my aid when I am tempted (Hebrews 2:18)

       Save those who draw near to Him (Hebrews 7:25)

It was then that I realized that I had been dwelling on the wrong list.  I had been dwelling on my "I can't" list.  Instead, I needed to dwell on God's "I can" list.  

Okay, I can't do it all.  I can't even do the things I can do right every time.  I'm not perfect.  I'm willing to accept that. I'm okay with that...most of the time.  But sometimes the ugly feelings and thoughts of inadequacy creep in and mess with my perception of me and life.  

This morning God was saying to me, "Mary, it's not about what you CAN'T do, it is about what I CAN do." 

It's about setting my mind on the things above (God) and not on the things below (me).  

Jesus summed it up best. 

           "Apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

You can't.

But God finished the thought in Philippians 4:13 

     "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

I can't but that's okay because God is able.

God CAN!!!!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome!

I decided this summer that our front entry was in sad shape and needed some new curb appeal.  The first step was to trim back some unruly bushes that stand on each side of the front walk.  They had gotten so big over the years that I only cut them back part of the way for fear of sending them into shock if I trimmed them as far down as I wanted.  Since this summer has turned into a HOT one I decided to spare them the extra stress a second major haircut until the cooler days of fall.  At least, I am counting on fall being cooler around here but time will tell.

The second step in the makeover was to give the front door a new color to give the front of the house a new focal point.  I chose Sherwin Williams Naval after being inspired by the update Ann made to her front entry On Sutton Place.

After convincing my skeptical hubby that a blue door would look great on our house (Thanks for trusting me on this one, Hun!) I primed and painted just the outer side of our door leaving the inside the original wood tone.  I love the way it turned out.

You can see just a bit of the bushes that I am cutting down to size reflected in the side windows.

You can also catch a glimpse there of our new "Welcome" mat.

To add a touch of summer I hung a red, white and blue wreath.

I'm still on the look out for two great planters to set on each side of the entry.  And that could take a while because they have to be just the right ones and they have to be on sale or, better yet, clearance!!!  I can only hope that my plants will flourish as well as Ann's in my inspiration photo. (See the lovely ferns in photo above.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

You Is......

One of my favorite parts from the movie and book "The Help" is the encouraging words that the "Helper" Abileen shares with the little girl, Mae Mobley.  Mae is not appreciated by her momma in the story and Abileen steps in to lift her up and give her the positive message of:

"You is kind." 

"You is smart."

"You is important."

Abileen repeats the message to Mae at every opportunity hoping to instill uplifting and truthful thoughts in the little girl that will drown out the negative feedback that the momma keeps delivering. And she gets right down at Mae's level, looks her in the eye and with a voice that is almost a whisper tells her she is a person of worth.

As I was reading in Jude this week I heard a similar statement from God.  The very first verse of the book states:

" those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ."

And although I'm pretty sure God's grammar is immaculate, I can just hear Him saying to us:

"You is called."

"You is beloved."

"You is kept." 

Thank you, Lord, because just like Mae Mobley, I need to hear truthful and uplifting words about who I am since the world is so good at delivering negative feedback.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Try a Little Kindness

Her name was Tabitha, although some referred to her as Dorcas.  The passage in Acts 9:31-41 that tells us about her gives very little information but the few words contain a powerful insight.  

She was known for her kindness and generosity.  

She sewed dresses for the widows of the town.

She was greatly missed when she died.

These nuggets that summed up Tabitha's life are small and great at the same time.  She had no impressive title.  She held no place of authority in the community.  I don't see a woman of power and influence.  Well, at least as the world around would define power and influence.

But I see something in the response of those who had been touched by Tabitha's kindness and generosity--the widows of the town.  

They wept at her passing.  

They felt a deep sense of loss.  

They wondered what they would do without her.  

And all of this was generated by a woman who was just being kind and generous, just doing what she could do to make the lives of those around her a little easier, a little better.  She sewed dresses.  

A commercial that has been running on TV for a while shows a series of kind acts, each one done in response to observing someone else doing a kind act.  A pay-it-forward sequence with a twist.  Each person is inspired to be kind and generous just because they saw kindness and generosity in another's life, not because they experienced it themselves. 

I heard the story of a young woman who lost her cell phone on a recent road trip and then was shocked to find out from her parents that the stranger who had found it called her home and was sending it to them.  A totally unexpected outcome for the gal and she was impacted by it.

My conclusion is that I underestimate the power we have to influence the world around us just by being kind and generous.  And I have been amazed at the opportunities to be kind and generous that present themselves every day if I look for them.  Kindness and generosity do not require any special talents or abilities, do not require advanced degrees, do not require much time and effort even.  I am discovering that God just asks me to be available and willing.  

I am grateful for the "Tabithas" in my life.  Those who chose to be available, to extend a bit of kindness, to give a bit more than is necessary.  I am thankful for the person who returned my purse to Customer Service after I left it in the shopping cart.  I am thankful for the person who left his name and phone number on my car windshield after his car door hit mine.  I am thankful for the friend who dropped off a vase of fresh flowers after I participated in a half marathon.  And I'm thankful for those who have offered an encouraging word to think on the truth about me, my life, my circumstances.

The power of kindness and generosity isn't one of those "I've never thought of that before" ideas but what a great reminder for me to keep my eyes open and my ears attentive to put them into action in my life.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Too Hot to Bake But I Want Chocolate!

It's Hot!!

So what are you going to do when it is 103º outside and you want to eat something chocolatey but you really don't want to heat up the oven?

Whip up a batch of No Bake Chocolate Fudge Bars.  

These were my go to chocolate fix when my kids were young and the "gotta have some chocolate now" urge hit me during nap time.  They are quick to mix up, take only a few ingredients that are usually in my cupboards and are GOOD! 

I don't think this is a unique recipe and you can probably find one that is similar in many cookbooks and web sites.  I originally discovered it in one of my all time favorite cookbooks, "Favorite Recipes of the Nebraska 4-H Club", that I have had since high school.  It is obvious that it has been a favorite from it's condition.
No cover.  Binding gone.  Stained and dog-eared pages.
I loved this cookbook so much that when I ran across a duplicate copy at a garage sale about 20 years ago I snatched it up, knowing that my first copy wasn't going to last forever.  Unfortunately, the second copy has suffered a similar fate.  
First copy on left.  Second copy on right.  I have to keep both copies because each one is missing different pages.
For the bars, combine sugar, milk, butter and cocoa in a saucepan and heat over medium high until butter is melted.  Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 1/2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter is lost in the chocolate pool.
Do not mistake that yellow blob as mustard instead of peanut butter.  
Then add in oatmeal and vanilla (and nuts if you are feeling adventurous. I always skip the nuts.)

Quick cooking or regular oatmeal seems to work equally well in this recipe.
It's really all about the chocolate anyway! 
The mixture all gets spread into a 9x9 or 11x7 greased pan.
Save the wrapper from the butter to grease the pan.
Now, patiently wait for the bars to set up before cutting. Or impatiently put the bars into the freezer for 20 minutes to speed up the process which allows you to cut and eat much faster!
Guess which method I chose?

Another option it to drop the mixture by teaspoons onto was paper to make individual No Bake Chocolate Cookies rather than Bars.

I like making bars best.
Now you have no excuse for denying yourself your family something yummy on the hottest days of the year. 

And, by the way, this is one of my new favorite cookbooks....
Wonder what she (meaning the book, not Ree) will look like in 20 years!

            from "Favorite Recipes of the Nebraska 4-H Club"

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Combine sugar, milk, butter, cocoa in saucepan and heat over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.  Allow to come to a boil and continue boiling for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat, add peanut butter and stir to combine.  Add oatmeal, vanilla and nuts (if desired).  Stir until blended.  Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper or spread in greased 11x7 or 9x9 pan.  Once cooled, cut into bars.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Kitchen With a Motto

My kitchen now has a motto.  

Over the weekend I finished up a project that had been in the "Idea To Do Someday" category of my life ever since I picked up two black rectangular frames from the 60% off section at Hobby Lobby earlier this year. 

I love it when something gets completed or at least started from my "Ideas To Do Someday" list.  I am much better at adding things to the list than getting them accomplished. Case in point-I added ideas to my "To Do" list as I was working on this project.  The list never gets shorter!

When I brought the frames home I knew they needed to end up on my kitchen wall on either side of the vinyl decal clock I found a couple of years ago at Kohl's for 50% off.  (Yep, I'm a cheapskate.)  

But the question was--"What to put inside those frames?"  

I decided to jump on the chalkboard paint wagon that has been traveling around the design blog world for a while and do a black chalkboard insert for one frame and then when my daughter brought home a wooden spoon and fork set from Africa I knew they would get framed in the other one. 

I  cut a rectangle from some thin wood stuff (highly technical description) that I had in the garage and painted it with two coats of black chalkboard paint.  After drying I "primed" the surface by rubbing it with white chalk and then wiping it clean.  Once it was secured to the frame with small nails I added my new kitchen motto taken from Luke 15:23, a portion of the Prodigal Son parable told by Jesus.

When the father sees that his son is returning from being gone for so long, he calls for a celebration and a feast and declares: 

That would be my desire for the preparation and eating that takes place in my home.  I want my kitchen to be a place of celebration and merriment.  God richly provides us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17) and this new motto is a reminder for me to have fun and enjoy the moment, even if that moment involves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or peeling carrots or doing the dishes (which always needs to be done if there is eating involved at home).  

And as the chief cook and bottle washer in our home the responsibility to see that this happens falls on me.  My attitude can make or break a celebration in my kitchen.  
As an added reminder the Scripture verse also shows up on my condiment caddy that sits next to the stove.

So...what's the motto of your kitchen?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who am I believing in?

I recently was introduced to the writings of William R. Newell, a pastor in Chicago and administrator at Moody Bible Institute beginning in 1895.  It is said that he had a clearer grasp of the magnitude of God's grace in Christ than some others had or have.  One quote in particular that has drawn my attention is:

"To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself"

It caused me to look back through notes from my devotional time because I remember having a similar thought from another Bible Study I was involved in last year.  I had written:

Expecting myself to fail is not trusting in God's power working in me, but in my own weakness.

This was an "Ah Ha" moment for me at the time but now I realize it was God opening up a dialogue with me that is continuing to unfold.  You see, I probably have seen myself as a less-than-productive, too-laid-back, not-motivated-enough, somewhat-lazy, undisciplined creature for most of my life.  Those who know me have tried in vain to encourage me that such thinking is invalid but I have been sure I knew better and brushed aside their comments as mere flattery or as ill-informed well-meaning kindnesses. I have been quite familiar with my short comings, my weaknesses, my failures and disliked them all. 

I think that being aware of our weak spots is important though.  It has kept me from volunteering for positions I knew I was not qualified to do.  It has helped me set priorities and boundaries in my life.  But to dwell on those cracks in my facade with disdain and wish them away and feel inferior because of them is not what God intended when He created me in His fearful and wonderful way.  At least that's the conclusion I am coming too and what I think Rev. Newell was getting at in his quote. 

When I have been or am disappointed in myself, it is the same as thinking I should be better or should get better.  It is saying I believe that I am capable of more.  It is saying that I am better than this.  That I am not living up to my potential.  That I need to more "perfect".  And it is easy to see , in my case anyway, how this line of thinking leads to a conversation with me that goes something like: 

"What's wrong with you!" 
"Why can't you be like so-and-so!" 
"You are such a loser!" 
"You blew it again!"
"Why would you ever think that you can do that!"  

You get my drift?  And did you notice all the "I" statements there?

God tells me in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that I, like Paul, should "most gladly, therefore, boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me" because God's power is perfected in my weakness. If I let my shortcomings put me in a funk because I think they shouldn't be there, isn't that wanting to be strong in myself and not strong in the power of Christ?  Isn't it believing in myself rather than what God can do in and through me?

The Apostle Paul also wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

God, through Paul, is telling me that who I am is a sign of His grace.  I have abilities, and some strengths, because He put them there.  I also have weaknesses because He put them there.  And He did that because I need to need Him.  And that's where He extends more grace to shore up those weak areas and let His own incredible strength come through.   When I mess up and get down on myself it is the same as saying I deserve to be perfect on my own.  That I want to be able to trust in myself all by myself to be who I want to be.  Again, a lot of "I" mentioned there.  

Failure is disappointing and not fun at all.  I hate to miss the mark and fall short of the finish line or make a mess of things or come off looking like a doofus.  But the real disappointment shouldn't be in the reminder that I am less than perfect, but in the realization that I was depending on myself again.  That once again I believed in my own ability to get it right.  Beating myself up is not putting anything in order.  Order comes when I get my thinking back in line with God who says that:
"we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves." 
(2 Corinthians 4:7) 

I am a cracked pot of clay.  Why do I expect to be a silver clad urn on a pedestal?  If I was, there would be no need of Christ in my life.  I wouldn't need His power to work in me.  I wouldn't need the support and encouragement of others. I could take all the credit myself and the "surpassing greatness" would be all mine.  

Oh, but that is not God's desire.  He desires a relationship with me.  He wants me to need Him so that I will depend on Him and His inexhaustible love for me, so that I will recognize that apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5) but with Him, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).  God wants me to believe in HIM and trust in HIM, not me in either case.

Just to be clear...I don't thing my weak spots should just be ignored by me.  God gives me plenty of guidelines in how to address them in His Word.  My conclusion, so far, is that my response to my failures or stumbles or trip ups has to turn me to my need for Jesus and His strength and not to my lack of ability or perfection.  My eyes have to be turned away from Me, Me, Me and focused on Him, Him, Him
I imagine that this dialogue with God is not finished yet.  Maybe He intended it to include someone who reads this and sees the flaws in my thinking or agrees with some of it or is wondering some of the same thoughts.