Well, my Thanksgiving post is a little delayed. But that's okay. We had a wonderful time with both sides of the family last weekend, and managed to cook a moist turkey! :) A few items of praise (in no particular order), and some recipes for you...

- I praise God this year for our new home. It is lots of work, but it gives me such joy to be able to settle here, and to share our home with friends and family! We were so blessed to have the ability to buy our home, and to find it after searching for so long!

- I praise God for my sweet husband and my healthy baby. They make my life so meaningful and fun! My husband is so patient, so helpful, and such a good daddy! And little J brings so much laughter to my life. God has also used them to sanctify me - showing me where my priorities or motives are missing the mark, and lovingly drawing me back to Himself.

- I praise God for my wonderful extended family and friends. You all are such a support to me and my family in so many ways. From moving to childcare to prayer to celebrations... you've got us covered! :) Thank you.

- I praise God for our jobs, especially in such a challenging economy. I praise God for His creation; the more I have learned about nutrition and cooking and babies, the more I am in awe of God's provision and creative power! I praise God for our dear church, and the great encouragement they are to us. I praise Him for good health.

- Above all, I praise God this Thanksgiving for His unfailing love. That a Father would sacrifice his only beloved Son in order to pay for my failures... is unfathomable. He is so kind, so full of grace and mercy toward me, although I have fallen so short of His glory. Thank you, Lord.

And some recipes...

Butternut Squash Soup (modified from this Food Network recipe)

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
One medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 to 8 cups)
6 cups chicken stock
Dash of ground sage
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
3 tbsp cream cheese (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large stockpot, add the butter and oil and melt together over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and add sage, nutmeg, and cloves. Continue to boil until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add cream cheese. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.

I think this would also work well in a crockpot, if you added the cream cheese at the very end. :)

This soup was a great first-course for Thanksgiving! Even my husband, who doesn't like squash, admitted that the soup was good! It's nice and creamy - great for a cold fall or winter day. I'm sure it would freeze up well too, so you could make a big batch and save half for later!

Turkey Breast and Gravy
I mainly used this recipe from Food Network. I didn't really follow the gravy recipe, though. For gravy, I used the dripping from the pan, mixed with half of the gravy packet that came with the turkey (the other half spilled into the sink... oops!), added some salt and pepper, and thickened with a water/flour mixture. It turned out great! The turkey was nice and moist, and didn't take as long to cook as a whole turkey. We did a 9-lb bird for 6 people, and had plenty of leftovers to make turkey-barley soup!

I would share the turkey-barley soup recipe. But I just made it up. Basically I simmered the turkey carcass overnight to make the broth, then removed the bones, and added the leftover turkey and some extra chicken broth. I put in some chopped carrots, celery, and garlic (onion would be good, but we were out), onion powder, thyme, pepper, wild rice and seasoning packet, and barley. Cooked in the crockpot for 8 hours and had lots of good soup! :)

Happy cooking... and Happy belated Thanksgiving! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


My Baby is a Toddler

I think I first began to suspect it when he threw his first temper-tantrum. We were about to leave SuperTarget, and he was hungry and tired. As Kyle bolted for the check-out line, I scooped up the little man and began to follow. J would have nothing to do with it. He wiggled, hit, and kicked to get down. And then, let loose an ear-piercing scream. I waved Kyle on to the check-out, and speed-walked to the door, face red.

I'm sure this scenario will repeat itself many times, now that my baby is a toddler. But I will always remember the intensity of that first tantrum.

The second clue was that he can not stand having his diaper changed anymore. The second I lay him on the changing table, he rolls to his belly and sits (or stands) up. I am not sure how to solve this problem, other than to do my best to distract him, and be quick! Oh, the frustration of taking off a smelly diaper and having J sit up, getting it everywhere.

The hardest part of parenting has always been having enough energy. But toddlerhood takes things to a whole new level!

Now that I'm done complaining, this is what I love about my 14-month-old:

1. He knows who I am. He calls me mama, and Kyle dada.

2. He copies words and actions. He calls most spots "moles"... what a funny word for a toddler to know! He also says some variation of... nana (this means grandma and banana), papa, bug, bird, dog, num-num (food), ba-ba, bath, no, uh-oh, more, and star. :) Can't wait for those words to become sentences - it will be nice to actually know what he wants and needs, and what he's thinking!

3. He loves bugs. Loves watching them on the window outside, touching them, squishing them... ick!

4. He snuggles and kisses. I always wanted a cuddly baby, and he finally will cuddle... for a second.

5. He plays soccer. Seriously. He can kick a ball, at the age of 14 months.

6. He loves playing tag. We run around the kitchen table, chasing each other.

7. He loves to laugh. He will laugh at the randomest things, and sometimes for no reason at all. He has the funniest laugh ever.

8. He dances to music. Never for long enough to catch is on video, but it's the cutest darn thing ever!

9. He loves playing outside. When he wants to go outside, he'll bring me my shoes, like "mama, it's time to go!" :)

10. His personality is really starting to show. I love seeing him become his own person.

Now that my baby is a toddler, I'm starting to get that longing for another baby... but leaving that one in God's hands (and hopefully until J is a bit more independent!).


Life Update

I have been horribly remiss in updating this blog. But I told myself in the beginning - this will not be a chore. This will not be one more thing on my to-do list. This is just an outlet when I need one. And now, after moving into our new house, having the little man's 1st birthday party the day after, 6 weeks of working overtime, and 1 week of the flu ... I am ready for an outlet! :) A few pictures from the craziness:

Early September, buying our first house!

The day after moving, we had 30 people over for the little man's 1st birthday party. Our dear friends at The Enchanted Image photography (search Facebook to contact) took some family photos, and photos of the party:

I will spare you pictures of the flu (just kidding... there were none!). :) I am so thankful to be back to almost-full health. That was my first bad illness as a mama, and it is so hard to let everyone else care for your child while you are incapacitated!

Since life has slown down, we have been doing more decorating/organizing/unpacking of our home. My wonderful grandma makes drapes for a living, and agreed to make some for us! The bedroom ones are my personal favorite:

Now that I am not overworked or sick, I have taken my commuting time on the bus to read In Defense of Food. Since being pregnant and having a baby, I am much more conscious/worried/concerned about what my family eats. But there are so many different types of food (normal, natural, organic, local, vitamin-enhanced, etc.) out there, that it's hard to know what to buy, much less how to cook it! I often get overwhelmed at the question "What's for dinner?" - my husband will testify to that! :) But this book has helped me to clarify my views on food, and inspire me to start changing some of our eating habits.

The moral of the story is "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." Seems logical, if not overly simple! Here is some of what I took from the book:
  • Most of what we eat today is refined corn, rice, soy, or wheat.
  • Refined and processed food has had most of its nutrients removed in order to preserve shelf life.
  • Americans' eating habits are more informed by commercials than by tradition.
  • Western diseases (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc.) seem to follow when a Western diet is introduced to new cultures.
  • We should eat FOOD. Food that our great-grandmothers would recognize as food. Food that is not full of added chemicals, pesticides, refined sugar, etc.
  • When we eat real food, we will not be hungry as often. Processed foods generally release energy much faster than whole foods, thus making you hungry more quickly.
  • Animals who become our meat are generally not healthy because they are given an unnatural diet of seeds, rather than grass/leafy plants. They are then pumped full of hormones and antibiotics in order to make them healthier. Ick.

It's hard to sum up all that I learned from reading this book. But I highly recommend it. The one thing I wasn't a fan of was the author's evolutionary bias. But the premise of the book makes sense from a biblical perspective:
1. Eat food - It makes sense that God would want people to eat real, nutritious food that He provided for us, rather than food that has been processed to the point of having little nutrition.
2. Mostly plants - In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were first told to eat from the trees and the plants. Not until after they sinned was the first animal killed, and animals began to be eaten. So, it seems that people were originally meant to subsist on plants, rather than animals. I hope to start incorporating more fruits and veggies into my family's diet, and relying less on meat (with the exception of more wild seafood).
3. Not too much - Obviously, God did not create food to be gorged upon. He created it to nourish us. He created a mechanism that allows our stomach to tell our brain that it is full. Thus, we should not eat until we are overly full.

So, after processing all this, I hope to continue the process of buying more local/organic food. I also want to start buying a lot less processed food, and more fruits and veggies. In the Spring, I hope to plant a garden to cut down on some of the costs of buying fresh food. And overall, I want to start creating more nutritious meals for my family. :)

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Cor. 10:31


Tips for Mama's Part 2: BumGenius Diapers

As promised, here are my thoughts on BumGenius 3.0 All-in-One diapers...


- Economical: Using disposable diapers would have cost us about $50/month. Using cloth diapers is a bigger up-front investment, but for us it has paid off within the first year. We could potentially use the same cloth diapers for our next child, saving even more!

- Good Environmental Stewardship: Disposable diapers are the third largest consumer item in landfills. They also take more resources to make.

- Health: Disposable diapers contain toxic chemicals.

- Smell: Personally, I have found that my bumGenius diapers hold in smell better than disposables. I have not had a problem with smells lingering after washing.

- One size fits most: These diapers have fit the little man since he was about 1 month old. They have adjustable snaps so that the diaper can grow with your baby.

- Good customer service: There is a one-year warranty on the diapers. They will usually replace diapers if you have any trouble within the first year. My cousin raves about their quick and friendly customer service, as she has had several diapers replaced.

See here for more detailed information on the benefits of cloth diapering.


- Time: As a busy mom, I have sometimes found it hard to find the time to wash and stuff diapers. We usually wash diapers every-other day, and stuff the inserts whenever we have time. At times, I have switched to disposables just to cut down on my to-do list.

- Leakage: Laundry deterget residue can build up on diapers, causing the inserts to become less absorbent. bumGenius recommends "stripping" the diapers to solve this problem. Click here for directions (#12). Diapers can also leak when the elastic starts to wear out, or if the size needs to be adjusted.

- Velcro/Elastic wears out: The tabs that the velcro is supposed to attach to for washing purposes wore out after awhile. After that happened, the velcro became less sticky.

Some of our diapers are out of commission, because the velcro is now useless. I have also heard that the elastic that goes around the legs can wear out, causing diapers to not fit as well and leak. However, if you or someone you know sews, you can replace the elastic. See here for directions.


- Assume that you will use 6 diapers each day (you will use less as baby gets older), and wash diapers about every other day. We bought 24 diapers, which has been plenty. Ours came from http://www.cottonbabies.com/, but I recently discovered that Target sells them, too!

- Consider using cloth wipes. We have recently started using them, and they're great! That way, you don't have to have a separate place to store used wipes - you can just throw them in with the dirty diapers and wash them all together. I'm thinking they would be pretty easy to make, too. We use the bumGenius bottom cleaner with our cloth wipes; it works great and smells good too!

- We use a normal diaper pail for our cloth diapers. We have not been using a liner for the pail - just dump the whole thing into the laundry when it gets fully/stinky. :) Then we wash out the pail with bleach when needed. There are cloth diaper pail liners, which I plan to look into.

- For going out: either have a "wet bag" for used diapers, or use disposables. We have found it easiest to use disposables when we are out of the house, since they leak less and can just be thrown away.

- For smelly diapers, we use bumGenius Odor Remover. It definitely seems to help cut down on smell until we have time to wash the diapers.

- It's important to use a laundry detergent that does not contain chemicals and fragrance. We use Purex Free & Clear, and it works fairly well. We have not had issues with smell after washing, and rarely have stains. This detergent does cause residue buildup on the diapers, and they do lose their absorbancy after a couple of months and need to be stripped. I am also planning to try out soap nuts, which are supposed to work great on cloth diapers and do not cause residue buildup.

Whew! I think that's enough for now. Feel free to comment if you have other questions! :)


A Home at Last!

Well, I have not blogged for awhile because we finally found a house! It is such a relief to be done house-hunting, and so exciting to know we will soon have a place of our own. Apartment life has been fine, but I am so looking forward to having a place to be settled. A place where we can paint the walls, play in the yard, get to know neighbors, have more than four people over... it will be wonderful! And also very busy and hectic. We will be moving just before a one-month training "blitz" begins at work, in which I will be working lots of ten hour days, and some night shifts... crazy! But God has the timing all worked out I know, and He will provide as He always has. :)

Throughout this process, I have been thinking about what it means to have an eternal Home. While our earthly homes change and deteriorate, our heavenly Home will be unchanging and always beautiful. Jesus went back Home to prepare a place for us, His Bride... and He has many rooms just waiting there for His Love. :) We will never have to worry about moving from there, or floods or fires or ugly wallpaper. What a wonderful day it will be, to be Home forever. And in the same sense, I want to make our earthly home as close to heaven as possible. I want it to be a place where God is in our midst, where beauty and creativity and love abound, where people can be themselves. I am so excited to begin this process of making our house a home. But my dear friend reminded me to keep my eyes on the one Home that never changes. Thank you for that encouragement. :)

My next post... Tips for Mama's Part 2: BumGenius Diapers, as another dear friend requested. :)


Tips for New Mamas - Part 1

I was one of the first among my friends to get pregnant and have a baby, and so I have solicited lots of advice and done a lot of research throughout this journey. Some friends have asked for advice on various pregnancy/motherhood topics, and so I want to document what I have learned so that hopefully more friends can be blessed. I am still learning so much, but I have also learned some things along the way...

1. Babies don't need as much as you think they do. And even though you want to buy them all kinds of cute toys and clothes, you will eventually be trying to get rid of it all when they have outgrown them! Keep a long-term perspective when buying baby items.
2. Buy neutral. If you may have more babies in the future, try to buy at least the "big" items (stroller, car seats, carriers, etc.) in neutral colors so they can be re-used for future babies.
3. Most valuable purchases for us: BumGenius 3.0 diapers (24, doing laundry every other day), Ergo baby carrier (don't buy the infant insert though - it is worthless), Medela breastpump (Breastfeeding saves soo much money. Formula is expensive!!)
4. Don't be afraid to borrow or accept hand-me-down's! Ask your family members, friends, co-workers if they have old baby things they want to get rid of. Our crib, changing table, rocker, most baby clothes, and most toys were hand-me-down's from various people. Sure, you will get hand-me-down's that you don't like - but you can throw what you don't like, and keep the rest!
5. Garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops are great for maternity clothes, baby clothes, and toys. You can find like-new things, and pay a fraction of the price.
6. Don't be cheap on the important things, and on items that will be used frequently. It is worth it to make the investment up-front on car seats, strollers, diapers, breastpump, carriers, etc.
7. For maternity clothes, look through what is already in your closet - especially when you aren't too big yet. I found lots of shirts that were flowy enough or long enough to work until the 7th month! Also, a belly band is great - it basically looks like a tube top that fits around your waist, and allows you to wear normal jeans and pants unzipped for much of the pregnancy. Also, now that I'm not pregnant, I still shop to find clothes that will work normally or during prenancy. :)

Morning Sickness
1. Experiment to find out what works for you. It's a different experience for everyone!
2. For me, the thing that helped most was eating small meals/snacks frequently. If I let myself get hungry, I would usually get sick. Keep healthy snacks on hand - fruit, dried fruit, crackers, yogurt, hard boiled eggs...
3. Having some sort of protein in the morning helped. I got into the habit of eating a thing of yogurt every morning when I got to work, and I would feel so much better.
4. Rest!! If possible, take a nap. Let your husband take care of things around the house... or just let it go for awhile. :)
5. Extra Vitamin B seemed to help. This is available in popsicle/sucker/pill form.
6. Peppermint also helped, especially if I was just beginning to get nauseous. Peppermint tea, gum, mints, whatever!
7. Apparently ginger can help - I never tried it though.
8. I threw up a lot, so I always carried a ziploc bag in my purse - just in case!
9. Eat what sounds good. If nothing sounds good, eat something bland anyway.
10. Avoid smells that bother you. (duh!)

That's all for now! Please add your money or morning sickness tips if you have any!


The Blessing of Friends... and Pandora :)

I am so thankful for my dear women friends. There was a time during college that I was incredibly lonely for female friends, although completely smitten by my boyfriend (now husband :). There is just something about talking to a dear sister that can never be matched. For a time, most of my dear friends were in different states. And some of them still are. Actually, one will be leaving for Nigeria soon! But I am learning that distance doesn't matter so much. Sisters are sisters, no matter how many miles separate us. And for a time, most of my women friends were in completely different life stages than I... and most of them still are. But that doesn't matter so much. With God as our common Father, and Jesus as our common Love, the other differences that could threaten to rip our friendships apart are just so small.

And Praise God, he has provided new friendships to me as well! He knew that I needed some girls to just hang out with, to get to know, and to share life with. These ladies are mainly in similar life situations, and are also sisters... and I am so blessed to have them in my life. They forgive my busyness, my baby-focused-ness, my tendency to share and then withdraw. And I am praying that God will give me the courage to be vulnerable, and to make the time to be a good friend.

Now that I have a family of my own, I am learning that it takes intentionality to be a good friend. When I was younger, friendships were so natural. I saw my friends every day in school, went to church with them, shared extra-curriculars with them. Now, my life generally revolves around providing for and caring for my family. Friends sometimes seem like a luxury. And yet I know they are a necessity! God has called Christians to live in community, to share life. It is selfish to only focus on my own family. Yes, they are my main priority after God. But I am not loving God and my family if I am not also loving others, and allowing them to love me.

On another topic, I have recently discovered Pandora.com. Pandora allows you to create your own radio station, based on specific songs or artists you choose. Then it finds related songs and adds them to the station. I have discovered some new Christian artists that are amazing! (Alli Rogers, Jon Foreman). And, it's a helpful way to listen to music at work. :)

Here are the lyrics to one of my new favorite songs, Who is this God, by Alli Rogers:

All the way down, all the way down to where I fell
I stare at the ground, blood that I have spilled
But just to feed me you bend all the way down
All the way down to where I fell

Who is this God that loves me still?
This love that keeps me safe when I run
Safe when I'm young and foolish
Out of the dark, out of the dark that hides my face

I'm coming apart when you say my name
With ties of love you lead me out of the dark
Out of the dark that hides my face

Who is this God that loves me still?
This love that heals me when I am bound
When I am found and humble

With love you lead me
You bend to feed me
Taught me to walk
It was you all along

Who is this God that loves me still?
This love that finds me when I am lost
Although it cost you everything


Loving my Baby and Learning to Be Myself

I love this time in my son's life. He is now ten months old, and he makes my heart so full! From the time he wakes me up in the morning (with a cry, a whine, a roar, or a MAMA!) to when he falls asleep in my arms at night, he brings a smile to my face. His smile is pretty much the cutest thing in the world, with six teeth, the roundest little charlie brown head, and his little scrunched up nose. :) He loves chasing me around the house, and being chased. He loves playing peek-a-boo with the curtains as I change him. He loves his daddy, and laughs at every little thing Kyle does. He eats all kinds of bits of food, from avocado to canteloupe. And sometimes tries to eat little bits of dust and string and grass, too... :) He's going to be a climber, I can tell. Today I caught him standing on his little Bible, trying to get something on the coffee table. :) At least he had a firm foundation! Haha. He loves his little ducky in the bathtub, and is pretty content in the swimming pool, as long as it's not too cold. I am amazed at how much I love every little thing about him. Even the smallest things he does make me filled with joy.

I'm learning more and more of how God must think about His children. If I have this much love for my little one, how much more must God love me? If every little thing my son does makes me happy, how much more must I make my Father smile? If I will do anything to help him when my son is hurt or scared or sad, how much more must my Father care when I am hurting? If I child-proof my house to keep my little man safe, how much more must my Father protect me, in ways I will never know? Thank you, Father, for the love that is beyond my comprehension!

I had a wonderful time over 4th of July. My aunt, uncle, and cousins were in town from Ohio, and it was so much fun to catch up and show off my son! It's strange that the oldest of the three cousins are now mommies ourselves! It seems like we were just spending all day in the pool, spitting watermelon seeds, and begging our parents to let us have sleep overs. :) We also ended up putting in another house offer last week, and are once again waiting to hear... and still searching in the meantime. We are getting weary of the whole house hunting process, but I have faith that God has good plans for us!

It has also been cool lately to see where God is leading my friends. From overseas teaching, to overseas missions, to med school, to nursing school, to motherhood... it is amazing to see how God has grown us and guided us. I think it is tempting to be jealous of others' opportunities, but I try to remember that God has placed each of us where He will be glorified most.

I have been reading Spectacular Sins (Piper) and Justification and Regeneration (Leiter), and both have really helped me to know God in new ways. I especially recommend the latter for those who want a clearer perspective of what it means to become a Christian and live as one. The author writes about verses I've read thousands of times, but puts them in context of the entire Bible, and has helped me to understand what it means to be a Christian so much better.

A few quotes...

"Sin is a defeated foe. The war against sin has already been one. Like the pockets of resistance that sometimes continue to struggle on in ignorance after the treaty of surrender has already been signed, so sin continues to fight on in our lives with no hope of ultimate victory. Though the believer's conflict with sin may at times be fierce, the final outcome of the battle is assured.
For the Christian, sin is but an early summer snow. Such snows fall occasionally even in the warmer climates, but they are only the death throes of a winter that is past... Christian, sin does not stand a chance in your life! You can fight against it with the confident knowledge that summer, not winter, is approaching! The remnants of sin that you still face are just the vestiges of what you once were; they are not an expression of who you are now, and they will soon pass away forever!" (Leiter 88)

"The Christian is no longer a sinner, but a saint... his true nature - what he really is deep inside - loves God and holiness. That this is actually the case is made obvious by the fact that every true Christian feels miserable and grieved when he does sin. Why does he feel miserable? Precicely because his true nature is to love holiness!
Beloved saint! Do not let the devil tell you that you are worthless and vile as a Christian. You are a child of God - "holy and beloved" in His sight! His very nature ("seed") is within you, and you bear the family likeness! The new birth is a real birth." (Leiter 73)

May all of you believers live as who you really are. Revel in the truth that you are a new person, righteous and holy and loved by God!


Coconut Oil

This month, I purchased a gallon of coconut oil. I heard about the many benefits and uses of coconut oil through one of my favorite blogs: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2007/12/natural-body-products-on-a-budget-part-1.html. At first I was skeptical - I had always heard that coconut was one of the worst fats! However, after doing some research, I have been convinced that coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats to eat. I have very little understanding of science and molecules and such, but apparently because of the structure of its fatty acids, coconut oil is quickly processed by the body and turned into energy. A quote from "The Coconut Oil Miracle":

"It is easily digested by the body and unlike other fats (which tend to go to fat stores), the medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil are used by the body for metabolism. Coconut oil is uniquely rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid chain that is a prime ingredient in mother's milk, which helps to protect infants from sickness. The lauric acid becomes 2-monolauren in the stomach which has been shown by research to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitical properties."

Obviously, fats are still meant to be used sparingly, but I am planning to start replacing some of the vegetable/canola oil in my cooking with coconut oil.

In addition to being used for cooking, coconut oil can be used as a lotion, hair conditioner, massage oil, and in deodorant! Last weekend, I decided to try making homemade deodorant, using the recipe from the Passionate Homemaking blog. I made a small batch, which contains:

2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. coconut oil
4 drops peppermint essential oil

I am very happy with the results! It works at least as well as my old Dove deodorant, costs less, and is completely natural. I have been concerned by reports that the aluminum contained in storebought deodorant is linked to breast cancer, so I am especially happy to have this easy alternative! I store it in a small glass jar that I purchased along with my coconut oil and peppermint essential oil from Mountain Rose Herbs: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bulkoil/a-c.php. They seem to have competitive prices, but I am planning to look around to see if there are any local places that sell the same type of coconut oil, so I don't have to pay shipping! Let me know if you want to borrow a bit of coconut oil to try it out. :)


Anniversary, Soap Nuts, and Wedding!

FYI, one of my favorite blogs is giving away soap nuts: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2009/06/soap-nuts-giveaway.html. I am really curious about this natural way to do laundry, and will probably buy a sample even if I don't win! They can be found at http://www.natureoli.com/. Now that I'm a mom, I've become much more cautious about what I feed myself and my family, what chemicals we come in contact with, etc. I have started by changing some of my grocery shopping over to organic (dairy, eggs, some fruits) and am looking into using more natural cleaning supplies. It's one of those things that can be overwhelming, but I'm trying to take baby steps. :)

Kyle and I had our second wedding anniversary this week! It's incredible how fast time goes by, and how much God has blessed us and provided for us throughout our relationship. Marriage is a hard thing. People don't usually tell you that up front - but it is evidenced by the millions of divorces that happen in this county. But as Christians, we see our marriage as a covenant before God. A covenant can not be broken. It's not a matter of feelings. It's a choice to love each other, to sacrifice for each other, to enjoy life together. And with God as our foundation, I know that we will enjoy life together as long as we're both living! :) It has been such a blessing to see our family start to grow, even though most people would have waited longer to have their first child. We know that our dear son is a blessing from God, and an incredible visible sign of our oneness... he does look like a mesh of Kyle and I! :) It is so incredible to see him grow, and to watch my husband grow as a father. He is wonderful.

We leave next week for our dear friend Claire's wedding! We have been best friends since sixth grade, and have watched each other grow and change in so many ways. We were there for each other through lots of crushes and broken hearts, and have also been there for each other as we found "the one"! (They started dating just six months after Kyle and I!) It is such an inspiration to see how God has grown their relationship and kept them self-controlled, and I am honored to be a part of their big day. :) I am nervous to be away from my baby for a long weekend, but I will have plenty of fun things to keep me occupied!

And my God lesson for the week... He's been teaching me that He doesn't care so much about what I do, as much as who I am. If I am in Him, good things will flow from that. But if I'm not spending time with Him, no matter how hard I try to do good, it won't work! Thank you, Lord, for being all I need! :)


Tozer, Satisfaction, and Short Sales

I'm re-reading The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer. Here are some of my favorite parts from the chapter I read yesterday on "Removing the Veil":

"He has discovered Himself to some extent in nature, but more perfectly in the Incarnation. Now He waits to show Himself in ravishing fullness to the humble of soul and the pure in heart. The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence. The instant cure for most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and God is in us."

"God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is."

"With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus' flesh, with nothing on God's side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?"

If you are a Christian that hasn't read this book - put it on your summer reading list. If you don't have a summer reading list, make this the first on the list! :) I rarely re-read books, but this is one that is so full of God's Word and delight in Him that it speaks to me new each time I pick it up.

This time, I've been convicted that only God can satisfy me. So often, I get frustrated when my family or friends or work do not meet my wants and needs. But I can't expect them to be perfect. Only my Creator and Savior truly knows what I want and need - and only He has the ability to provide it. When I turn to Him to fulfill me, I am never disappointed - but I am always left wanting more! The more I seek Him in this life, the more I know of Him - and the more I realize that I don't know. As He forms me into His image, I become more like Him - and I realize even more of how far short I fall. The Christian life is simple - there are no secrets. God has made His path clear; to obey Him and delight in Him. But it is so hard, when our old self is always wanting to disobey Him and delight in created things.

Praise God! He has made us to suffer for a little while so that we may truly live with Him for all eternity! On earth, we are always striving, always falling short - but He is preparing a place for us where we will be satisfied forever. I need to fix my eyes on this goal...

In other news, my dear hubby and I are still waiting to hear back on the house we put an offer on in April. Since it's a short sale, the seller's bank can take their sweet time to decide whether to accept our offer or ask for more money. Meanwhile, we are still looking at other houses in case we can't afford their counteroffer. This week, I was starting to get discouraged. But today, I was remembering the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years before reaching their home. If they had just been obedient, they would have made it there much sooner! I am determined to obey the Lord and trust in His timing and plan.

I was reading a blog yesterday about a woman's mission trip to India, in which she visited a young woman's home that was the size of a small closet. She had five people in her family, and some of them had to sleep on the streets because they couldn't all fit in their home. Who am I to complain that I don't have enough space? My small family of three has so much more than that family will ever have. God is teaching me to be thankful, and to be a good steward of what he has given to me. I don't always need to be seeking more things. I need to be seeking Him.

With that said, I do still want a house. But I want it to be God's house - not mine. I want it to be a place where He is glorified, where people feel at home and loved, where my family can grow and serve others. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if my home is the size of a closet or a mansion, so long as I serve the Lord with what He gives me.

Blessings! And don't forget to pick up a copy of The Pursuit of God. :)


Open Hands

Last month, my sweet little baby learned to roll everywhere. It was so funny to watch him roll across the room to reach a toy - or just for the fun of moving! This month, he has graduated to crawling. Every time I set him down, whether on the floor, the changing table, or in his crib, he rolls onto his round little belly and tries to start crawling. He loves to move! No longer can I set him down with a toy and walk away to grab something - he is into the window blinds, the DVD player, the bookshelf, or banging his head on some sharp corner of furniture.

I delight in seeing my baby boy learn new things! It brings such a fullness to my heart to see him developing and learning. And yet with each new development in his live, I know that I am giving up a little bit of control. As he learns to move, he no longer depends on me to carry him everywhere. He doesn't need me to get his toys. And I know that all of motherhood will be like this. Before I know it, he will be feeding himself, walking, talking, going off to school... and I will lose a little bit of my grasp on his life. And so my goal is to parent with an "open hand". Just as my life is in God's hand, my son's life rests there too. I don't need to be in control, because his Heavenly Father is. I don't need to be a perfect mother, because he has a perfect Father.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matt. 6:26

This week (well, probably much longer than that...) I've been struggling with feeling "not good enough". There are so many incredible moms out there who buy organic, make their own cleaning products, cook well, always have the house clean, entertain well, discipline well, etc. and I am not them. But I'm learning that just as I delight in every little thing my son does, my Father delights in me, too. Every time I turn my face to Him and plead for His help, He is glorified. Every time I cook, fold clothes, do dishes, write an e-mail for Him - He is glorified. He delights in the little things I do, because I am His. Of course, just as my heart aches when my son disobeys (yes, he is already a little sinner!), God's heart aches for me when I disobey Him. And the incredible thing is - I am forgiven. He has already wiped my sins away with the blood of His Son, and He sees me as perfect and beautiful.

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph. 3:17

Father, quiet our busy hearts with Your love today. Help us to replace the lies that we are not good enough with Your singing. Help us to live with open hands, knowing that You are in control of all things. Amen.



I don't know that I ever felt prepared to become an adult. It just happened, somewhere between walking across the stage to get my college diploma, working 40-hour weeks, walking down the aisle to get married, and staying up all night with a crying baby.

And so God has been teaching me as I go. I suppose He always does it that way - He imparts wisdom to us as we need it. What I'm learning right now is the importance of intentionality. When you're young, your parents, teachers, pastors, and friends tell you what to do. They tell you how to be organized, prepared, on time, healthy, and godly. I was always one to be obedient - I listened to what I was told, and I made it to adulthood ok because of it.

But now that God has given me a job, a family, a church community, and all these great things - I am learning that I can't just live on faith that things will turn out. I know that faith is incredibly important, and I trust in the Lord to provide all I need. But I can't neglect to do my part! I am learning that I need to listen for God's call to know what He wants me to do, who He wants me to be. And then I need to be intentional to plan, organize, learn, etc. in order to follow His call.

Planning and organizing do not come easy to me. I am a dreamer. But I'm learning that the dreams that God gives me won't be realized if I just sit back and hope for them to come true! I have started by listing my goals for Summer 2009. I plan to write down specific activities each week that are related to those goals. My relationship with God needs to become a priority again. I have put him on the "back burner" for too long while life speeds ahead. Not having the time is no excuse. I make time for my husband, my baby, my friends, my extended family, my job... my Facebook, my blog, my TV... my, my, my... And yet I always seem to have an excuse to not sit down with my Savior. Why?

I can't find one good reason - other than that there is a war going on that I can not see. I have an enemy who loves to deceive, distract, distort, destroy... and I rarely recognize his influence on my life.

Lord, help me to be intentional to know You - above all my other goals, I want You. Help me to use the defense You've given to me - Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Church - to fight our enemy. When You are on my side, who can be against me? You are the Stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? Let Your church become aware of the war that is going on. Let the church cry out for more of You. We realize more and more every day that this world is falling apart. You are the only solution, Lord. But we can not just sit by and wait for You to return. Help us to be intentional. Help me to be intentional.


Slowing it Down

I've decided to start this blog as one way to slow my life down - to realize I am in God's hand. I feel like I have been living in the fast lane since high school, having graduated college, held two jobs, gotten married, and had a baby in the past four years.

God has blessed me so richly through all of these things, and I know that His timing is right. But I tend to always be looking to what's next, rather than appreciating and cherishing the moment I am in now. I hope to write about what God is doing in my life as a way to slow it down. Hopefully, my thoughts will also be an encouragement to those who read. I don't claim to know anything good on my own - but God is teaching me!