Monday, December 31, 2007

The Path to Simplicity in 2008

No one knows what a year holds in store for them, but thankfully I know Who holds and takes care of my years! At first glance, it would appear that 2008 will hold several BIG changes for our family, the first of which occurred last night. Brad resigned as pastor of our church, and it was so much harder than I ever dreamed it would be. It really was like a funeral. We love those people dearly, and we will miss seeing them every week, but when God says it’s time to go, you have no other choice. Of course, we could have stayed for our own selfish reasons and been out of God’s will and would have never experienced the joy of what He has in store for us. We’re still not sure exactly what God has in store, but we do know that He was not going to reveal it until we took that step of faith and were obedient to what He asked us to do. We will continue at the church through the month of January, and then we will see what February brings. Hopefully it will be something that will take us further down the road of simplicity.

Also along this path we’re taking, we feel like God has finally given us the liberty to try and sell our home. We hope to find some land and build a simple home that will be a better fit for our family. My husband says we’re looking for a place where I can pick up the chicken eggs in my PJs without worrying about the neighbors. Not sure if we’re on the same page with that one, but I think we basically have the same idea! The housing market is rather slow right now with lots of foreclosures in the area, so it may take a while to sell. We’re just trusting God’s timing on that one.

Our other plans for this year involve continuing to move towards being debt free. Yes, I know I just said we plan to buy some land and build a simple home if this one sells. Thankfully, we do have a good bit of equity, so we’re hoping that will help in that area, and we are planning to be very careful and do a lot of the work ourselves – just like we did in the home we’re in now. We recently became participants in the Dave Ramsey program, and I guess that will be the next book on my list to read. We’re doing the envelope system, and it is really working out nicely. We’ve always been debit card users and rarely toted cash around. We’re now operating pretty much on a cash-only basis, and it’s working out well. I set a record at the grocery store this week! Where I was spending $130-140 a week several months ago before we started this, I spent $88 this week! Yay! Throughout this year, I hope to learn even more in this area and to continue to find ways to use my husband’s hard-earned money wisely so that we can use what is left to work towards any debt.

Another goal is to continue to clear our home of the clutter that can take away our peace and cause more work than is necessary. I decided we’ll not start back to school until Monday the 7th, and we’re going to use this week to get our home ready to show and to make cleaning up easier. Hopefully, Brad can finish the tile in our bathroom. I am going to work on the yards and the storage side of the basement. I am going to do it as if we were packing up and moving next week. I don’t want to keep anything that I wouldn’t want to take with me. (I did that last week as I was packing up the Christmas decorations. Anything I didn’t use or don’t think I’ll use again went into a donation pile. I have a huge bag of stuff to drop off that I’m sure I’ll never miss.)

Of more importance, I also want to read the entire Bible this year and continue to study God's Word and be discipled by others (hopefully in person but also by reading books, blogs, etc.) in the areas of being a better wife, mother, and keeper at home.

My husband and I have a strong desire to truly implement family worship in our home, especially after reading the Voddie Baucham book (not quite finished yet). It is my goal to help in that area in whatever capacity I can so that it can become a reality and normal way of life in our home. We don’t want church to just be on Sundays and Wednesdays, we want it to be a daily experience.

I also want to be better about THIS (once again, Mrs. E has wonderful words of wisdom to share). I want to commit to discipling my children more and spending time with them and teaching them things that are worthwhile like instilling in them what it means to be a keeper at home and how to love others (and each other), bless others (my children love to give gifts, and I need to show them more ways to be creative in making and giving gifts - in fact, I need to do this myself!), and to truly love God and have a desire to do His will.

Overall, I just want to love God more and seek to be more Christ-like in every area of my life. I want to be pleasing to Him, and I know that if I ask Him what I need to work on, He'll show me - day by day.

I hope to look back this time next year and see that we were able to make our lives simpler in 2008, but only with God's grace, provision, and help will we be able to accomplish these goals. I certainly trust Him for that!

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Vision Forum Message

I received this wonderful message via e-mail from Vision Forum yesterday. I didn't find a link to it anywhere, so I'm going to copy and paste it here in case you're not on their mailing list. I think it's a great idea, and I'm going to try to do this over the next few days.

Three of the Most Important Things You Can Do At This Time of Year

Dear Friends:

Life moves fast. If we don’t take the time to chronicle the providences of God, we forget them. If we don’t take the time to say thank you to those who have invested in our lives, we actually cultivate a spirit of ingratitude in our own hearts. If we don’t stop and make sure that we have a spirit of forgiveness toward others, we grow bitter, we lose the capacity to move victoriously into the future, and our prayers are hindered.

Here is a little practice that I was taught and would like to share with you. Each year, during the last week of December, I would encourage you to do the following things.

I. Outline and Chronicle the Many Providences of God

Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. (Hab. 33:2)
First, using simple bullet points, outline the key events for every week of every month of the year. Take the time to do the research which will help jog your memory and allow you to make an accurate record. I find that reviewing bills, blogs, journals, newspaper headlines, letters, and even organizing my photographs chronologically are enormously helpful tools. Those individuals who were faithful to journal or keep a diary will have little problem reconstructing key events. Give yourself a good week to reconstruct your own outline of the year. Also, by making this a family project, you will not only build your list with greater speed and precision, but (in the hands of a loving patriarch) the very act of chronicling the providences of God in your life is a blessed tool for family discipleship.

Every family will have a different set of priorities directing what they should record. In addition to recording the key events and providences of the year chronologically, I try to take the time with my family to record some of the following information on separate bullet lists:

Where did I/we travel?
What were the titles and key texts of sermons I preached?
What books/articles did I write?
What significant household projects did we accomplish in 2007?
What were the most important meetings of the year?
What special friendships were made this year?
Which children lost teeth, and how many?
Who grew in physical stature, and how much did they grow?
Who learned to read this year?
What diet and physical exercise regimen did I maintain to honor “my temple”?
What books did I read? Did we read as a family? Did my children read?
What Scriptures did my family memorize?
What loved ones died this year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national tragedies and losses of the year?
What were the great personal/ministry/national blessings of the year?
What were my most significant failures/sins for the year 2007?
What unresolved conflicts/issues am I bringing into 2008?
What significant spiritual and practical victories did I experience?
In what tangible ways did I communicate gratitude to those who have blessed me and invested in my life?
What are the top ten themes of 2007 for my family?

II. Say ‘Thank You’ to Those Who Have Invested in Your Life

[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (Eph. 1:16)

Whatever happened to the man who first opened to you the words of life from the Scripture? Where is the comrade, coach, or instructor who believed in you and helped you to accomplish a great goal? What about the Bible teacher whose careful handling of the Word opened up new vistas of understanding? Where is the friend who stood with you through thick and thin? Most importantly, what have you communicated to the mother who carried you in her womb, loved and nurtured you, or the father who labored to provide for and shepherd you?

When was the last time you responded to their investment in your life with gratitude, blessings, and even money? Jesus reminds us of those ungrateful recipients of blessing who simply went their way without demonstrating gratitude (Luke 17).

Before the year ends, make a list of two types of people: The first list are the names of people whose life, ministry, or personal investment in you have deeply touched you and changed your life. (In my case, the list includes parents, pastors, and even some teachers from the early years of my Christian walk that I did not meet until much later in my life, but whose books and tapes were crucial to my personal discipleship as a young Christian.) The second list should include those people who played the most significant role in your life in 2007.

Write a brief, meaningful letter to each of them. Be specific in your gratitude. Explain what they did for you and why it was important to you. Show them how they were God’s instrument of blessing in your own life. Pray over each letter, asking God to grant you rich insights on the character qualities of each individual and on the way those qualities changed your own life. Where appropriate, include a check or special token of appreciation that reflects your desire to show them, tangibly, that you recognize that you are in their debt. You cannot imagine the joy this will give to someone from your past who may think you have forgotten them. Give generously and without concern for getting a tax deduction. I strongly recommend sending money to your parents. Keep in mind that you will never be able to return their personal and financial investment in your life, except through your testimony of faithfulness, covenant keeping, and honor to the Lord.
Also, your children need to know the people who have blessed their parents. They need to see that Mom and Dad are grateful and generous. Share your letters with them. In our household, we ask our children to write to some of the people who have blessed Mommy and Daddy, because our children are the indirect recipients of these blessings on their parents.

This will take a day or two to complete. You may have twenty letters to write, but you will never regret saying “thank you.”

One last thought: One reason why Christians are often limited in vision, energy, and blessings is that, contrary to the Lord’s command, we are ungrateful, unforgiving, and bitter. Far too many who profess the name of Christ spend more time obsessing on those who have wronged them than rejoicing in those who have blessed them. Letters and tangible expressions of gratitude are not only pleasing to Christ, but an antidote to heart-sickness.

III. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness.
Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.

Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
Successful Christians are men and women who are free from bitterness. They have learned the principle modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ who, while suffering death at the hands of people he had never wronged, was able to say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).

I have a dear preacher friend with a sterling reputation who was once grievously slandered. When asked about the wicked actions of the slanderers, he replied something to this effect:

Oh you don’t understand — I am far, far worse than my detractors realize. They may have gotten a lot of the specific facts wrong, but I am just thankful they don’t know how bad my heart truly is. God have mercy on me a sinner.

This man had victory over bitterness.

My father is another man who always appeared to have victory over bitterness. In fact, from my earliest days to the present, I have watched lesser men “twist the truths [he’s] spoken to make a trap for fools.” [i]
Early in my life when I was still in government schools, I would listen to my own teachers criticize before my class the work my father was doing for the President to dismantle a government agency which was at war with the family. I read untruthful articles and saw derogatory comics on the pages of the Washington Post picturing him as a caveman for his “prehistoric” views. When my father was a leader in the Republican Party in Massachusetts, a gangster repeatedly threatened the life of his family. I remember being a boy and having my father shield me from homosexual picketers and protesters that would follow him and our family around at public locations.

Most painful and difficult for many to forgive is betrayal and dishonor. But that is a mistake. Betrayal and dishonor probably exist in the lives of most men. And why should any Christian be denied in their lives what past generations of Christians — and our Lord and Savior Himself — patiently endured? To our shame, most of us have been on both sides of that coin. From a son’s perspective, however, it is highly instructive to watch a father act honorably in the midst of such conflict. It has been a great blessing in my own life to observe my father nobly respond even in the face of barbs from former allies and friends, once loved and nurtured by him.

Eternally optimistic, Dad would always say: “Never be bitter. Life is too short. Thank God for your blessings. Press on!”

Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.

Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2007. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.

The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.
Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet He has forgiven you.

Before 2008 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.

Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.


As 2007 comes to a close, take time to remember and to say “thank you.” Take time to examine yourself for bitterness. Forgive others.

It is appropriate that we do so on the birth of a new year. Remember that God gave man the stars on Day Four in part so that he could order and structure his days based on a clock/calendar system of days, seasons, and years (Genesis 1). He tells us to “remember” acts and to “number” our days. In Scripture, the formal act of remembering providences of God in our life is linked to hope, honor, and generational success (e.g., Psalms 44, 78, etc.). By February 2008, the year 2007 will be a distant memory. Strike now while the iron is hot. The opportunity to remember and to say “thank you” may never come again. And can you afford even one more day in which your prayers are hindered — because you were holding on to offenses and refusing to forgive?


Doug Phillips
President, The Vision Forum, Inc.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas in Pictures

My family and I had a wonderful Christmas, and I certainly hope that you and yours did, too. Today, I'll be beginning to take down the decorations and continue with the cleaning out/organizing and putting up of gifts. But before I get busy with that, here are some pictures from our celebrations.

Here is a picture of my friends at Terri's house from our annual Christmas party last Friday night. Note there is an extra person in the photo this year with Donna holding her precious new baby boy! My highlight of the evening was getting to hold him for a while.

Evidently we had some guests I didn't know about sometime during the week. Not sure where they came from or who took this picture.... :>)

Here are the girls on Christmas morning. We did something different this year after getting the idea from my friend, Fran. Beginning on Saturday before Christmas, we let the girls open one gift. Saturday and Sunday, we made a game out of it. The gifts were hidden, and on Saturday they had a treasure hunt with clues to find the gifts. On Sunday, they were allowed to ask one question or hint before they began looking for the gift. On Christmas Eve, we just let them open a gift. On Christmas morning, they wanted their gifts sitting out in the living room unwrapped, so we had the remainder of their presents waiting on them when they woke up around 7 o'clock on Christmas morning.

After the girls played with their gifts for a while, we went to my mom and dad's home for a wonderful Christmas lunch and opening of presents. Brad set up the tripod and was able to take a nice family photo, including our family, my mom, dad, and aunt, my sister and her husband, and my mother-in-law.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!!
John 1:1-17
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let the Festivities Begin!

The gifts are all purchased and wrapped! The house is clean, and my checklists for this week are almost complete. It's time to relax and enjoy. I'm so looking forward to the next several days. We have our party at Terri's tonight, and we'll be on our way to the airport in the morning to pick up my mother-in-law. My father-in-law couldn't get off work, so he was unable to come with her this time. The only things I have to do today are create a short menu for next week (we'll be eating with my sister on Monday and my mom and dad on Tuesday), and then get my grocery list and coupons together so I can shop early in the morning. I also have to take rolls and dessert to the party tonight, so I'll be working on that today as well. Here's the dessert I'm taking tonight. It's a new recipe, but I think it sounds safe enough to take without making a sample first. It's called Mile High Turtle Ice Cream Pie. I think it's from a Southern Living book.

First of all, you make the homemade caramel sauce (I made this last night, and it was yummy!):

1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high, and boil gently, without stirring, until syrup turns a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling pan (about 8 minutes). Swirling the pan instead of stirring promotes more even cooking. Gradually add cream (sauce will bubble vigorously). Add butter; stir gently until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Yield: 1-3/4 cups.


2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (about 40 cookies)
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 pints dulce de leche ice cream, softened and divided (they tested with Haagan-Dazs - I'm using store brand)
1 cup Homemade Caramel Sauce
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and divided
1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened
1 (7 oz.) can sweetened whipped cream (Redi Whip)
3/4 cup Homemade Caramel Sauce

Combine crumbs and melted butter in a small mixing bowl; stir well. Press crumbs in bottom of a 9 x 3 spring-form pan. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Spoon 1 pint dulce de leche ice cream into cololed crust, and spread evenly; drizzle 1/3 cup Homemade Caramel Sauce over ice cream, and sprinkle with 3/4 cup chopped pecans. Freeze 15 minutes or until ice cream is almost firm. Repeat procedure with chocolate ice cream, caramel sauce, and remaining pecans. Freeze until almost firm. Top with remaining dulce de leche ice cream and 1/3 cup caramel sauce. Cover and freeze 6 hours or up to 2 weeks in advance.

I just hope it doesn't melt before I get to her house. It's only 10 minutes away, so it should be okay.

I absolutely love this time of year. As a child, I used to want Christmas day to hurry up and get here. Now I want it to take its time. I want to enjoy and take in every moment!

There's only one drawback to this wonderful week - the picture taking! Why? Because I have a black eye!! I'll have to be sideways in all the pictures this year. In case you're wondering how this happened, here's the story. Tuesday night we were watching the finale of The Biggest Loser. Cari had put a sleeping bag and pillows in the floor, so as I was quite sleepy anyway, I laid down on the floor and was soon asleep. I was abruptly awakened sometime later when evidently Amelia chose to lay down in a very quick and hard fashion. The hardest part of the back of her head wacked me on the top of my cheek bone. Yes, I cried. It hurt that bad. It's kind of funny now, except for the strange looks I'm getting when I'm out in public. No amount of makeup seems to be able to cover this up!

I always know things could be worse. Much worse. And on that note, once again, I am requesting that you pray for Noah and his family as he is back in the hospital, and most of the rest of the family is suffering from a stomach virus.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Saturday - Pizza

Sunday - Chicken Casserole, toasted parmesan bread

At our ladies Christmas party at church last Thursday evening, one of the lady's brought this recipe, and it was delicious! She gave me the recipe, so I'll share it with you. It's quick, easy, and delicious.

Chicken Casserole

1/2 to 1 lb. chicken, boiled and cubed

1 box Uncle Ben's broccoli au gratin rice mix

1 small bag of frozen, chopped broccoli, steamed (I quickly cooked mine in the microwave)

1 can cream of celery soup

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chicken broth

french fried onion rings

Mix together all the ingredients except for the onion rings. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and then top with the onion rings until lightly browned.

Monday - Whole wheat BLT sandwiches (using organic turkey bacon - never made a BLT with this, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this tastes), baked potatoes

Tuesday - Northern beans in crock pot (I like to cook these in chicken broth for extra flavor), turnip greens, cabbage slaw, cornbread

Wednesday - Chicken bake with tomatoes, salad, bread

Thursday - Hamburgers, chips

Friday - Taking bread and a dessert to a Christmas party

**NOTE** - I have a special request. My mother-in-law will be here with us next week, and she is a diabetic. If anyone has any recipes that are diabetic-friendly, I would love it if you would share them with me. Thanks!

For more menu ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Probably the first of many comments on Family Driven Faith...

From the book, "Family Driven Faith" by Voddie Baucham, Jr.:

"...We should not be surprised that young people are fleeing the church in groves. Why would anyone remain faithful to an organization with which they largely disagree?...The problem is not that these children are leaving Christianity. The problem is that most of them, by their own admission, are not Christian! (I John 2:19)...What if our sons and daughters are merely going through the motions as they walk through life as goats among the sheep or tares among the wheat? What if that four- or five-year-old we baptized because he or she was able to look out at the congregation and parrot the words, "Jesus is in my heart" was just saying what he or she had been conditioned to say?"

That was a mouthful (and a brain-full) wasn't it?! The biggest reason this is happening? Parents are leaving the teaching of their children up to the church, and unfortunately, the church is failing. A lot of Christian parents send their children to school to be taught worldly things, to church to be taught Godly things, and then they just try to take care of whatever is left over. The world is teaching children one thing, and the church is "sometimes" teaching children another. Just think about how much more time the world is given to teach our children. I would guess a majority of children from Christian homes are probably given an hour or two at most of Bible teaching in the modern church. Compare this to their time at public school, and who do you think is going to influence these children the most?

It is the duty of Christian parents to teach their children the things of God. We should be teaching our children every day about God and His ways, and we should make every situation that arises an opportunity to share with them what is right according to God's standards.

We cannot depend on one hour of Sunday School to take care of this for us. I recently purchased a DVD from Answers in Genesis (actually it was free with an Answers subscription). It was titled "Genesis, The Key to Reclaiming the Culture." This was very eye opening for me. The main idea was that we need to use the Bible to teach history, biology, anthropology, etc. Sunday school is an excellent opportunity to do this, but how often does that happen? In my Sunday School lifetime, that has never happened! Ken Ham goes on to explain that in Sunday School you hear the same basic stories over and over. That is so true. I teach 1st through 3rd grade Sunday School. They actually start as young as pre-K sometimes and stay in there until 3rd grade. They are with me for a while, so many of them know the stories well at this point. The curriculum our church uses basically uses the same stories each quarter. Every spring quarter, you have the Easter stories. Every Winter quarter, you have the Christmas stories - they're just rearranged slightly differently each time. I am getting weary with this, and I think the children are also.

After we attended an Answers in Genesis conference a few weeks ago, I was inspired to use the book of Job and talk to the children in my class about dinosaurs. I had never had such a captive audience. The next week I used an insert from my Answers magazine, and we talked about the book of Genesis and animal kinds. We looked at pictures of cats, from the largest to the smallest, and talked about the different cats from the cat kind. They were literally up on their knees in their chairs and were so excited!

I told them many things that were opposite of what they had already been told in school (even at such a young age), and some of them looked at me like I was an alien. This proves my point. Children need to be learning what is right and true in every aspect of God's creation. The basic Bible stories are good and needed, but we must move on and combat the false teachings that are being taught in the worldly classroom!

Take a look at what your children are learning in Sunday School, and if they are in public school, examine what they are being taught there as well. If it goes against what you know the Bible says is true, make sure they understand. Teach them about God every chance you get.

Lastly, I want to talk about the last statement from the quote above. I call it the "repeat after me" prayer. I am such an opponent of that! I'm afraid that too many children are trusting in the fact that they said a "repeat after me" prayer when they truly have no idea what they said or why they said it. I was in a children's church growing up where things like this were done. The pastor basically had two messages that he alternated each Sunday. One was on the sin of blasphemy, and the other was on a little girl that died. These messages scared us to death, and of course the children were jumping pews to get to the altar to pray after these sermons. Were we being told about the love of God and being given the desire to have a relationship with Jesus? No! We just didn't want to blaspheme or get sick and die like that little girl did! My parents trusted this church and this children's church pastor, so I don't think they ever attended one of our children's services. I believe a true Biblical New Testament church involves families attending church "together." Then you don't have to worry about the above episode. But, if your children are in a children's church, I encourage you to "see" what is going on. There's a local church that I know of that has a children's church that is basically a "circus." Is God pleased with that? I don't think so. Don't be afraid to go against the flow and pull your children out of there if you don't like what is going on. God will be pleased if you do. And your children will be better off for it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nursing Home Visit

Our homeschool group visited the local nursing home this morning. The children (and adults) sang Christmas carols to the residents, then the older children read scripture while younger children acted out the Christmas story, and then we sang some more. It was very nice and even performed without any practice beforehand! We handed out cards and candy and then visited the rooms of those who were not in the cafeteria while we were singing. It was an enjoyable morning, and hopefully we brightened someone's day in the process. They certainly brightened ours, although of course there are always the sad aspects of visiting the nursing home. It's not always easy to go into a place like that, but things worth doing are not always easy. We hope to be able to visit there more often in the future.

The girls and I spent a good part of yesterday making cards to take. We had a good time decorating with various notions. These cards were like snowflakes - not two alike!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our 2007 Gingerbread House......

Yes, this may be the saddest looking gingerbread house you've ever seen, but we did have fun building it. I do have to admit that lots of hot glue was involved in this project! I would have done well to follow the instructions and cut out a paper template before cutting out my dough. Oh well...
Here's the recipe we use if anyone is interested:
Mini Gingerbread House
For the gingerbread:
1 cup light corn syrup (I didn't have this, so I used molasses instead, and that worked fine.)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (I guess the spices aren't really necessary if you're not going to eat it, which we usually don't - especially with hot glue involved!)
Here are the dimensions you need to cut out:
For the roof: 4-1/4" (length) x 6-7/16" (width) - two of these
For the front and back: 5-13/16" (length) x 5" (width) - two of these with a door cut out of the front. Also, you need to cut an identical triangular roof line on both pieces.
For the sides: 3-1/4" (length) x 4-1/4" (width) - two of these
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Making the House
For icing glue, use:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg white
1/3 cup boiling water
Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and egg white; add boiling water. Beat until icing holds stiff peaks.
(I actually just used white icing from the grocery store. I may have saved some hot glue had I used the above recipe.)
Working with the front and sides of house first, generously apply the icing glue along adjoining sides. (It's best to apply icing with a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip, but you can also use a spatula.) Hold the walls upright while the icing hardens. Repeat with remaining sides.
Once sides are firmly together, liberally apply icing glue to bottom edges. Attach house framework to your base (I used a cookie sheet covered in tin foil). Let icing harden.
Next, apply roof. For best results, apply the icing glue to top edges of side, front, and back walls. Apply icing glue along peak of roof. Gently press roof pieces in place. Allow icing to harden well before decorating.
For decorating, I just usually look through the cabinets and use what is available. Some suggestions they gave are frosted wheat cereal, chocolate candies, pretzels, and ice cream cones. I used marshmallows and peppermint candy. The ideas are endless on this one.
I'd love to see your house if you've made one. I promise to try to make a prettier house next year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What a Great Year in Books!

This has truly been a wonderful year for me in the area of "books that I have read." I admit I haven't done very much reading in the past few years, but this year was different. I know God was in it because all of the books have had a similar message, and each one has added to the other. Some of the titles include the following:

1. Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards by Elisabeth Dodds. Sarah was truly a wonderful wife - and she didn't even have the power of the internet and blogs to read to learn how to do it! I learned a lot by reading about her life as Jonathan's wife, and I was very inspired. I don't think I was ever convinced that Jonathan was truly a difficult man, though. It sounds like he spent a lot of time studying the scriptures, writing, and preparing for sermons. He was careful to instruct and train his children in things that society today would think were ridiculous, but he felt they were very important. I certainly don't see that any harm was caused as a result (and what a legacy they have left behind!). Sarah did have a lot on her plate as a result of being his wife and the fact he wasn't available to help out much - and they certainly did have a lot of visitors! Sarah truly understood that her job was to be his help meet - not his equal. As a result, he loved her dearly, and this was evidenced in his dying words. I think she knew what it meant to live out true Biblical womanhood.

2. Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl - This book deserves a standing ovation, and I think also deserves the #1 spot on the book of the year. I just love the Pearls. Any questions I've ever had about raising children, marriage, salvation, etc., the Pearls have been there to answer those questions. Using the Bible as their foundation along with wisdom and bluntness, they certainly have a wonderful way of getting their point across. If you have ANY questions about what the Bible says a proper help meet should be, you must read this book. I learned so much from this book and also learned that I still have so much to learn. I wish someone had given me this book 15 years ago when I got married, and I believe it would make a wonderful gift for any newlywed or soon to be wed lady. I recently shared this with a lady whose marriage was at the point of divorce. She called me a few days later and was thanking me for letting her read this book. I was relieved. This is one of those books that you will either love or hate - I don't think there's room for any in-between. I love it, and I think I will need to read it at least once a year - if not twice.

3. Passionate Housewives Desperate for God - While not on the level of the Debi Pearl book, I thought this was a good read also. It didn't speak so much about being a help meet but more about our God-given roles as women. It was definitely a book against feminism, which is fine with me, and I pretty much agreed with everything they said. I was working full-time when my first child was born, but at that time I told my husband "I would be willing to sell my car and drive a Pinto (the car not the bean - although there's probably not much difference) if that's what I needed to do to quit work and stay home with my child." We didn't have to carry it that far, but we did make adjustments. I even had an early morning paper route for the first few months until we got adjusted. I knew I wanted to raise my children, and I was and still am willing to do whatever it takes to do that. I can honestly say that I love what I am doing and have never regretted that decision. The worldly things we gave up in order for me to stay home with my children do not hold a candle to what I've been able to experience these past 11 years. All glory and thanks be to God! All in all, this book just sort of reaffirmed what I just said.

4. The last book I want to mention is one that I'm reading right now. Could it jump to the top of my list for 2007? It's possible, although it is on a different subject. The book is Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Jr., and it is AWESOME! I'm out of time for today, but over the next few days or weeks, I already see points that I'm going to have to bring up as a result of reading this book. If like my husband and I, you sense that something is just not right with today's typical modern church, you must read this book, and you'll understand what it is.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Saturday - Grilled stuffed chicken breasts (we used turkey bacon in place of the sausage and didn't use the sherry. Recipe is a bit time consuming but delicious!), salad, cinnamon carrots, green beans, pumpkin rolls (after hearing a couple of people rave about these rolls, I had to try them, and they were very good. I used half freshly-ground sprouted whole wheat flour and half regular flour. Next time I may try using just the wheat flour), and brownies (I used Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa, and this worked well). Brad invited one of his co-workers and his family over to our home Saturday evening, and this is what we fixed for them. We set the tables with our Christmas dishes and red and green linen napkins, and with candles lit, this almost seemed like a fancy restaurant meal!
Sunday - Grilled chicken salad. This was so quick and easy. Ingles had their Oscar Mayer grilled chicken strips on sale this weekend, so we just added this to our leftover salad from Saturday night. It was a good thing because I certainly didn't have time for cooking lunch yesterday afternoon. We had our children's Christmas play at church last night, so I had presents to wrap, goodies to bake, and finger foods to put together for fellowship meal afterwards. I made Rice Krispie Treats, chocolate peanut butter balls, and more pumpkin rolls. Madison fixed a nine-layer bean dip (TGI Friday's Nine-Layer Bean Dip from my Top Secret Recipes Cookbook). This is delicious and always goes fast.
Monday - Hobo meals (never got to make this last week), slaw, beans.
Tuesday - Baked chicken, steamed vegs, organic macaroni & cheese.
Wednesday - Chicken & dressing (using leftovers from Tuesday's meal), potato salad, leftover vegs.
Thursday - This is our ladies Christmas party at church. We'll be taking hot spinach and artichoke dip in a bread bowl and snowflake candy.
Friday - whatever we can find!
Click here for more menu ideas!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quick Mention About Last Night

The performance we saw last night by the SUJC show choir was incredible! I can definitely say it was worth getting home at 1 a.m. to see it. My two-year-old even sat still up until the very last song. It was a two-hour performance with about a 10-minute break in the middle. The first hour was sort of a variety show - Santa singing an Elvis song (hilarious!), some ballet to some Christmas classics, and several renditions by the entire choir.

I was not prepared for the second half. It was so amazing. I was very pleased that three kids from our church were a part of this. If you read my post about music last week, you may remember how I mentioned that we should be worshiping Jesus through our music in church, but it sometimes just turns into a performance. Well, last night I was expecting a performance and got worship instead! There had to be many Christians in this program as everything just seemed too "real." They reenacted the Christmas story, and the entire focus was on the baby Jesus. There was lots of "Jerusalem-type" music, which I just love. They sang one of my favorite songs "He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs", but changed the words slightly to fit the occasion, "He'll Look Beyond My Faults and See My Needs." Whew!

The next to last song was absolutely incredible. I looked around and people actually had their hands raised in worship! I'm not a "jump the pews" kind of person, but I found myself having a hard time sitting down. Evidently everyone else felt the same way because when the song was finished, everyone jumped to their feet. I don't know if there was a dry eye in the place. I had never heard this song before but I found the lyrics on the Internet this morning, and here they are (the "tag" was awesome):


Lord You’re Holy
Lord You’re Holy
Lord, You’re Holy
Lord, You’re Holy
And we lift You up And magnify Your Name
Lord, You’re Holy
Lord, You’re Holy
And we lift You up And magnify Your Name

As I look around and I see All the works that Your hands have made
The awesomeness of You And how Your love will never fail
Mere words cannot express what I feel inside
I can’t describe Your glory divine
But as a token of my love
This is what I’ll do I lift my hands and cry holy


There’s not enough words that I can say
To tell you how much I appreciate All the wonderful things You’ve given me
Your loving kindness Your tender mercies
It’s my desire to praise You And tell you how much I love You
You’re worthy of all the honor Lord You’re worthy of all the praise

BRIDGE I don’t know how You can love me
How You could give me So much mercy
You didn’t have to suffer and die for me Way back on Calvary
But I just wanna thank you
I thank you
I thank you
I thank you

Wonderful, Glorious, Holy, and Righteous
Victorious, Conqueror, Triumphant and Mighty Healer,
Deliverer, Shield and Defense Strong Tower and My Best Friend
Omnipotent, Omnipresent
Soon Coming King
Alpha, Omega, Lord of everything Holy, holy, holy is Your Name

Taking a Break from the Challenge/My Cleaning Schedule

There's pretty much nothing left to do as far as cleaning the house today except just going through the normal morning straightening up routine. The deep cleaning is finished for the week. This week's Making Your Home a Haven Challenge was pretty much what my normal routine should look like when I don't get behind schedule. Years ago when I first became a stay-at-home mom, I was introduced to Emilie Barnes and her More Hours in My Day book. I had tried the "cleaning the whole house in one day" routine, which would literally take a whole day, and I certainly didn't have time for that. The Fly Lady zone cleaning routine didn't really work for me either. - And this is just me as I know people for whom the above-two cleaning methods do work. I know the Emilie Barnes routine wouldn't be a fit for everyone, but it's perfect for me.

In a nutshell, you basically begin with a card file (I have it all filed away in my brain at this point). You make a schedule for each day and line them up in the card file. As each day is complete, you place that particular card in the back of the file box, and the cycle continues. I deep clean one or two rooms a day Monday through Thursday. The ones that aren't being "deep cleaned" are just maintained. By Friday, the whole house is clean, and there is pretty much no real housework to do. If I consistently stay on this schedule, nothing has the opportunity to get really dirty, and it is much easier to have the home "company ready."

Here's the schedule I use:

Monday - Clean my bathroom (Clean toilet, sinks, bath tub, shower, mirrors, sweep, mop floor one or twice a month as needed, dust cabinets and baseboards as needed) and bedroom (change sheets, vacuum, dust furniture). Wash, fold, put up clothes.

Tuesday - Clean kitchen, breakfast room, and dining room. The kitchen usually gets swept every day, but this is the day I mop. Clean microwave, stove top, and front of refrigerator and dishwasher as needed. Dust furniture in breakfast room. Sweep hallway, foyer, and dining room. Dust in dining room if necessary. (The dining room is rarely used, so there is hardly ever anything to do in there.) Wash, fold, put up clothes.

Wednesday - Clean living room. Dust, wipe down furniture as needed, organize toy/book baskets, and vacuum. Wash, fold, put up clothes.

Thursday - Clean the girls' bathroom and inspect their bedrooms. Wash, fold, put up clothes.

Friday - When school is finished for the day, straighten and vacuum schoolroom, clean tables, and put away all supplies. Put up remaining clothes that have been washed and folded. No laundry on the weekends unless absolutely necessary!

Also, my two older girls have daily chore lists, and included on their lists are some of the above mentioned duties for each day. It's a group effort, and I want them to be prepared to take care of their own homes someday.

Usually during the spring and the fall, I make a schedule to get the big tasks accomplished - cleaning ceiling fans, deep cleaning inside of refrigerator/freezer, cleaning windows and blinds, cleaning the inside of the oven, organizing cabinets/drawers, etc. I usually try to do these tasks during a time when we're not doing school.

This plan works very well for me, and we have a smoother running household when I stay on track with this.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Making Your Home a Haven Challenge: Day 4

Results from Day 3 Challenge: I did get a good bit of laundry washed and folded, but right now it's sitting in stacks on top of the dryer. We'll get to that later today. I probably still have a couple of more loads to do. Yesterday afternoon, I ended up with a headache. Someone had given us a huge box of Surf Detergent, so that's what I've been using for washing clothes. It has a very strong smell, and I think that's probably what gave me the headache. My husband happened to be home yesterday, so I took some medicine and went to sleep. I woke up 45 mins. before time to leave for church, so unfortunately, we had Taco Bell for supper!

Day 4 Challenge:

1. Refresh Your Spirit - Check.

Verse to keep in mind today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 - Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. And there is a reason for this. We are trying to housebreak a Bichon Frise puppy, and I got so angry with him yesterday. How long does this take??!! I would have given him away yesterday if someone had been standing there wanting him. Thankfully, we have a basement where he stays most of the time. If this were happening upstairs, he would have been gone weeks ago. He does well sometimes, and then other times just doesn't seem to be getting it. (If anyone has any help or encouragement in this area, I would certainly appreciate it!) Anyway, I know I shouldn't have gotten so angry. I could blame it on the beginnings of the headache, but I know it's not wise to play the blame game. It all boils down to the fact that it just wasn't a good example. Therefore, I need to remember this verse today - and the next, and the next..... I don't want to be a fool!

2. Take Time to Plan - This morning I need to:

  • Finish laundry and put away
  • Straighten living room, kitchen, bed room, and our bathroom
  • Clean the girls' bathroom
  • Inspect the girls' rooms
  • Complete schoolwork

I also have to have dinner ready early today. I'm making creamy potato cheese soup and cornbread so it will be easy for my husband to fix/warm up when he gets home. The girls and I are going to see a Christmas performance by a show choir in Wadley, Alabama. Brad won't be home in time to go. UPS is crazy this time of year! It will be quite a drive for us, but we're going with people from our church (about 40 of us), and we will meet there and ride with someone. They say the show is fantastic, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

3. Do something! - As you can read above, I do plan to do something. The challenge for today is to clean the bathroom, and that was already on my list. (I do an Emilie Barnes routine around here. I'll have to post my schedule sometime.) I'll try to post pictures and maybe will get to that after shot of my laundry room at some point today!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Making Your Home a Haven Challenge: Day 3

1) Refresh Your Spirit: (5 minutes) - Prayer time and Bible Reading (Ecclesiastes 7). I needed extra prayer this morning as I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. We had a wonderful time Christmas shopping yesterday, but I was EXHAUSTED last night. Madison and I did manage to get the spaghetti cooked just before we had to leave for her basketball practice, but there was no energy to clean up after we finished eating last night. So...I have to tackle that before anything else this morning. I did get up on time, though, so that helps!

Now, it was suggested to write down this morning three things that I am thankful for. It is terribly hard to narrow it down to three, but I'll do my best: 1) Of course I'm most thankful for Jesus. If not for Him, there would be no cause to be thankful! 2) My husband and children (and all of my other wonderful family members and in-laws). God has blessed me with a wonderful family, and I so often don't feel worthy to have them in my care, but it is always my prayer that God would lead me in this area and continue to be gracious where I fail. 3) I was thinking this morning how thankful I am that I have good eyesight and hearing. It is so sad to me to think of not being able to see my children grow or hear their voices sing, talk, and laugh. I am so thankful every day for these two senses that God has blessed me with!

2) Take Time to Plan (5 minutes) - Menu Plan for today is Hobo meals (see Menu Plan Monday post). We have to be at church early tonight for Christmas play practice, so I'm going to make an effort to get this prepared early in the afternoon. Other "to dos" are to straighten living room and bed room, clean kitchen, and try to complete today's challenge, which is:

3) Do Something! (15 minutes or so) "Today we're going to focus on the laundry and laundry room. Light a candle, put on your apron, turn on some uplifting music, and get busy!Your goal by the end of today is to have all of your laundry finished, folded, and put away." This is another challenge I needed. Our washer broke last Thursday morning, and it was Saturday morning before the repairman could make it out. I've not caught up yet. I'll try to do that today. I'll try to post some before and after pictures later (which will be a humbling experience for sure)

Okay, I was able to get back and post a picture of the "before." It may be tomorrow before the "after" occurs. I'm trying to get everything washed and folded at this point. We will probably do the "putting up" in the morning. The picture looks bad but doesn't reveal the whole situation, as everyone has their own laundry baskets that had yet to be dumped at the point the photo was taken.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Making Your Home a Haven Challange - Day #2

1) Refresh Your Spirit - Complete. Personal prayer time followed by continued reading in Ecclesiastes.
2) Take Time to Plan. - Today, my children and I are going with my mom, sister, and aunt on our annual Christmas shopping trip. I guess that means I'm sneaking out of the challange today as far as making a to-do list.
3) Do Something! - We did it yesterday. I guess you can say I was "planning ahead." Yesterday, I knew there would be no time for cleaning today, so while I was working in the entryway and cleaning/organizing our bathroom (see post below), Madison and Cari were unknowingly working on today's assignment. Madison picked up the clutter and vacuumed while Cari dusted the end tables. Thankfully, it still looks great this morning with just a few of Amelia's scattered toys. I have one storage basket that could probably use some organization. If I have time this evening, I may work on that. It's doubtful, though, as like I said, we have the shopping trip and then Madison has basketball practice this evening. It's a busy day ahead but should be lots of fun.
Note: I got up on time again today! This morning, my alarm was set for 5:30. Once again, I strategically placed
it across the room, so I had no choice but to get up and turn it off. Two days in a row. Yay!

Monday, December 3, 2007

I'm Up for the Challenge!

Crystal over at has started the "Making Your Home a Haven Challenge."

It officially started today, and Day 1 Challenge includes:

1. Refresh Your Spirit (5 minutes)

2. Take Time to Plan (5 minutes)

3. Do Something! (5 -15 minutes)

I had not seen her post from last week where she announced she would be beginning this today. I happened over there this morning, and I thought, "Wow, we are on the same wave length today!" I had actually been encouraged over the weekend to "change my ways." My sister had given me a book titled "Shopping for Time" written by the women over at GirlTalk. It was a short book, and I read through it rather quickly. One piece in the book especially caught my attention. It was an excerpt from Martha Peace's book, Becoming a Titus 2 Woman. Here's what it said:

"I have heard of women who pride themselves on being "night people." That means they have trouble getting up in the mornings because they come alive at night. They may stay up till all hours reading,
watching televison, or pursuing some sort of interest. The next morning they are too tired to get up and care for their family....These women are not "night people." They are lazy and selfish. Who would not rather
stay up late to do whatever they please and sleep late the next day?

Once a young wife begins getting up earlier than her children and her husband, she will cease to be a "night person." She will be tired at night and go to bed at a reasonable hour so she will be there to serve her
family the next morning."

That's me. I confess. I've been lazy and selfish for the last couple of weeks, and my home was reflecting that. I really haven't been staying up late. I've just been having a hard time climbing out of bed when the alarm goes off! On these cool mornings, it's so hard to get out of a warm bed, but that's really no excuse. I had been setting my clock for 5:30 a.m. I guess I was turning it off in my sleep because I would wake up and not even remember it going off! I work part-time as a medical transcriptionist, and on the mornings that I have to work, it's a little easier to get up. On the days when I don't have any work, I just want to turn over and go back to sleep. It's easy to sleep late around here because all my children would sleep until lunchtime if I let them, but that would certainly not be a good thing. My day suffers when I sleep late, and I feel like I am two steps behind for the rest of the day. Also, I have to admit that I may have been spending too much time on my computer in the mornings working on my blog and looking at other blogs. OUCH!

A helpful piece of advice that I received from that book over the weekend was to move my alarm clock to a place where I actually have to get out of bed to turn it off. Yes, it can still be tempting to turn around and get back in bed, but I tried it this morning, and it worked! I had some projects that I really needed to tackle early this morning, so I set my alarm for 5 a.m. Wouldn't you know when I checked my email that I had more transcription work this morning then I had the entire week last week! Not to mention I lost a file and had to search and search before I could complete my work. But, I realized that had I not gotten up at 5 a.m., I would have really been in a mess.

So, at any rate, here's how I completed my Day 1 Challenge:

1. Refresh Your Spirit - Before starting any task this morning, I did my Bible reading (currently reading through Ecclesiastes) and had my personal prayer time.

2. Take Time to Plan - I started this over the weekend before I knew about the challenge. My big project for this week was to straighten our bathroom. (My husband has been installing ceramic tile in our bathroom. He's doing it a little at a time, so cleaning this area while work is going on has been a bit of a challenge for me.)

3. Do Something - I did! I completed the challenge by cleaning/organizing our front entry as suggested. Then I tackled that bathroom. I'll post before and after pictures of each. Note: I was tempted to get on my blog and immediately do this post this morning. How much do you think I would have gotten done had I done that? My thoughts exactly. I completed my projects and all of our school work. I saved the "posting to the blog" time for when Amelia took her nap and the older girls were doing their reading.

These are the before pictures. When you walk into our house, you first see the foyer and the dining room. These are the two areas I took care of today. It obviously didn't take too long as there were just a few stray objects that needed to find their proper home. I also swept the floors, dusted, and cleaned the mirror.


Now, here's a look at my big project for this morning. The bathroom!


Okay, I think Day 1 Challenge is officially complete at our home. I'm looking forward to seeing what the other challenges will be. I hope one of them will include "junk drawers." I really need some motivation to clean out and organize that one special drawer in my kitchen where every small object that doesn't have a home ends up!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Saturday - Pizza!

Sunday - Youth are sponsoring a soup lunch after church. I don't have to cook!

Monday - Salmon patties, creamed potatoes, corn, peas

Tuesday - Spaghetti w/ground turkey, salad, rolls

Wednesday - Hobo meal (Can't remember the exact name of that. My friend, Cindy, introduced that to me many years ago. You make a hamburger patty and place it on top of foil, put some carrots and onions on top, sprinkle with some Worcestershire sauce and any seasonings you prefer, and then wrap everything tightly within the foil and bake at 325 until done - can't remember how long it takes), cabbage slaw, organic macaroni & cheese

Thursday - Creamy Organic Potato Cheese Soup, Cornbread

Friday - Sandwiches

Visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more menu ideas!

Friday, November 30, 2007


Isn't it great to have friends? I have some of the best. I was in the presence of some of my dearest friends the past couple of days. I have some wonderful friendships that I have formed in recent years, but I've mentioned before my "group" of childhood friends that I still see from time to time. One of these friends, Donna, called me on Wednesday morning to let me know that her dad had passed away on Tuesday evening as a result of the emphysema he had been suffering with for the past few years. My heart was so broken for her. I immediately got on the phone with the other girls, and we made plans to gather at the funeral home the following evening. We got there around 7 p.m. last night and stayed until around 9 p.m. We probably smothered her for two hours, but we stayed by her side the entire time. (I haven't mentioned that she is nine months' pregnant and is scheduled for a c-section on Wednesday.) Her ankles and feet were quite swollen, so she followed her husband's orders and sat down on one of the pews in the chapel and propped her feet up. One of us, Angie, is a nurse, and she massaged Donna's feet the entire two hours! Is that a dear friend or what? The swelling was noticably better when we left.

Those of us that could met this afternoon for the funeral. It is really heartbreaking to see a friend go through this, but her dad was a Christian, and that is always cause for hope. I know that this is something we're all going to have to face sooner or later, and I'm already thankful that they'll be there when I need them.

We're looking forward to meeting together again in the coming days in celebration of the blessed arrival - isn't God's timing awesome! I'm sure it will be bittersweet as she had really hoped that her dad could meet her new son, but what more could make your heart rejoice than to see the sweet face of that precious newborn.

Then we'll have our annual Christmas party at Terri's house the Friday before Christmas. She always has things decorated beautifully and has a fancy table set where we share a meal and afterwards exchange gifts and have a wonderful time.

We really don't spend that much time together. We're there for one another during moments of crisis or celebration. In fact, when Terri's precious dad passed away around 10 years ago, that is when this group of friends found each other again. We had gone our separate ways after some went to college, some got married, had children, etc. At that point, we began having our annual Christmas party and haven't looked back since! For instance, we were there when Tina was able to finish college after many obstacles being put in her path. They were there for me when my Amelia went through some difficulties when she was a week old (I'll have an upcoming post about that). We have been there for others during crises that I'll not post here.

These are not friendships that take a lot of time away from my family. As dear as they are, there's still no one I would rather spend time with than my husband and children. I'm sure they feel the same way. These are easy friendships. Who has time for complicated, high-maintenance friendships? Not me. If it's not easy, I don't have time at this point in life to invest in making friendships work. Either they work or they don't, and this one definitely does. Thanks girls! (I know some of you read my blog!)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On the homeschool front

I am usually not one for change when it comes to our yearly curriculum. I don't want to be wasteful, so even if I'm not thrilled with something I've chosen, I'll try to make it work somehow. I'm really pleased with everything we're doing now with one exception. Our Professor B math is just not working for us. I've tried using it different ways but without much success. I had been looking for something that would allow them to work a little more independently, and since this program is mostly on CD, I thought that would be the case. I think this program requires more teacher help than what we were using. I think it is a great program and probably would work well if that is what you started with, but I think it was just too different from what we were using, and that must have made it a little confusing. We may go back to Rod & Staff. A friend of mine is going to let me see her SOS math, so that's a possibility also. Next year, I'm pretty sure I'll let Madison do the Teaching Textbooks program. I've heard a lot of good things about that program, and as she gets closer to high-school work, I'm sure we're both going to need all the help we can get.

I really like the Easy Grammar text that we're using. Also, they discovered Mad Libs and Wacky Tales this week. What a great way to practice grammar! I remember when I was in elementary or jr. high school, I would always buy those Mad Lib books whenever our school had those book fairs. My friends and I had such a good time filling in the blanks and then reading the crazy stories. I can't believe I hadn't thought of them sooner for my girls.

Reading is still a bit of a drudgery around here. Yes, as a homeschool mom, I don't like having to admit that. They just don't enjoy reading. They like to be read to but don't necessarily enjoy just sitting down with a book by themselves. I was reading in The Old Schoolhouse magazine some suggestions for getting your kids to read, and The Boxcar Children series of books was suggested. I got these at the library, and my children are actually reading them! I think I read there were 72 books in this series, so I hope they'll continue to enjoy them.

This month we're going to try to add in some Christmas crafts. We started on some cross-stitch projects earlier this week. Maybe they'll have them finished by next Christmas! We'll make our annual gingerbread house hopefully next week. It's always a lot of fun, and I'm sure even Amelia will enjoy building this year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

Saturday - Emeril's Cowboy Chicken Casserole (this was Brad's newest experiment, and it was delicious!)

Sunday - Pampered Chef Taco Ring (can you tell crescent rolls have been on sale recently? - plus I had coupons)

Tuesday - Cilantro Lime Talapia (Jordan Rubin recipe), Rice, Corn, Rolls

Wednesday - Chicken with fried rice and vegs

Thursday - Breakfast for supper - grits, eggs, turkey bacon, whole wheat biscuits w/jelly

Friday - Sandwiches

Breakfast ideas - cereal, oatmeal, whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup, whole wheat chocolate chip muffins

Lunch ideas - turkey sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets, tuna salad
For more menu ideas, visit Laura at Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hooray for CVS! and Please pray for Noah

Just wanted to quickly say that CVS has a pretty good sale going on this weekend, and I was able to drop by and check it out yesterday afternoon. I certainly got some great deals! Everything you see in the picture was $36 (don't remember the cents, so I'm just posting the $ amounts). I got some Hershey's Dark Chocolate, two packs of Christmas M&Ms, Bic Soleil Razor, toothpaste, freezer bags, Softsoap shower soap, Johnson's lotion, and Maybelline eyeliner and blush. After coupons and EB, I paid $5! In return, I received $26 in Extra Bucks!!!

On another note, baby Noah is in the hospital and not doing well. Please say a prayer for him as you are reminded. (See the link on the side of my blog if you'd like more info about Noah.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh My Goodness!

Now I remember why I don't shop on Black Friday!! Although, I guess I really can't complain because I did get my tree! I went with my dad this morning as he was wanting to go by Circuit City and get a laptop they were having a great deal on - it was $299 after rebates! Evidently, everyone else in the surrounding counties had the same idea. The store appeared to be filled to capacity, and they had a line going down the sidewalk of I would guess around 100 people waiting to get in. Not to mention there was not a parking space to be found. We didn't think twice about getting in that mess, so we circled through and headed to the other side of town to Joanne. Thankfully, there were not nearly as many people in that area. We were there about 15 minutes before the store opened, so I waited about 10 minutes and then went and got "in the line" - my first time to experience waiting in a line for someone to open the doors to a store. There really weren't that many people there when they opened up - at least not compared to what we had seen earlier, and I walked straight in and hurriedly began looking for my tree. I took a wrong turn, but when I turned the corner I saw a stack of six trees in the middle of the store. By the time I got to them, there were four. As I walked away, there were only two left. I'm glad I got there when I did.

I guess we'll be spending the afternoon decorating for Christmas with a break somewhere to watch the Texas Longhorns (hopefully) beat the A&M Aggies! Hook'em horns!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mission Accomplished: Thanksgiving Enjoyed

We had a very nice, enjoyable dinner with our family this afternoon. The girls and I cooked most of our dishes yesterday, although it was a very leisurely sort of day. We didn't spend the whole day in the kitchen, and I was suprised at how quickly we got everything accomplished. Madison started out by making Paula Deen's Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Bars. They were quite tasty, and I sampled several of those yesterday. Cari helped me with the cornbread dressing, and even Amelia joined in by crumbling up some cornbread - which she enjoyed doing very much I might add. I then took some leftover chicken from the dressing and used this to make some chicken nachos for our lunch. Afterwards, we went outside for a while, and later in the afternoon we worked on a few more dishes. I got up early this morning and did some last minute picking up in the house - which was a good thing since we had some unexpected company for about an hour this morning - just part of a pastor's job and not a problem at all. I then finished up the rest of our meal, and Brad fried the turkey. It was so moist and tasted great. I'm glad we decided to try something new this year with the turkey, and thankfully, we never appeared to be in any danger and encountered no casualties!

Now, everyone's gone home (including my children who went home with my mom and dad to help put up their Christmas tree), and it's very quiet around here. The dishes are cleaned and put away, and the leftovers are waiting in the 'fridge. I guess I better get to bed soon since I plan to leave here at 5 a.m. in the morning to go get a great deal on a new Christmas tree. I haven't been shopping on Black Friday in years, but when I saw this deal, I figured it might be worth the effort. I can always take a nap when I get back home.....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Enjoying Thanksgiving....

Have I said before how much I LOVE this time of year? I think I have, but it won't hurt to say it again. We were all outside the other day, and the girls were having a great time jumping in the leaves. It was a windy day, and the leaves were falling like rain. It just seemed so peaceful. I'm in no rush for Fall to leave. I love Winter, too, but I have a new plan in place to enjoy as much of these seasons as possible. As my blog title states, we're trying to move toward the simple in terms of our everyday life. The routine of the past has seemed to be a "hurry up and get it done" routine that carries over throughout the whole Holiday season. I'm hoping to not let that happen this year. In that regard, I'm doing something different this year. I am going to ENJOY Thanksgiving and not begin celebrating Christmas until November 23rd. In the past, I have usually had my Christmas decorations, inside and outside, ready at least one or two weeks before Thanksgiving. As I look back at the times I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my home, I realize how having a Christmas tree all lit up in the living room must have taken away from the whole Thanksgiving meaning. I have chosen to not let that happen this year.

We're doing our school work through today (where ordinarily we would have probably been decorating for Christmas), and then, Lord willing, I am going to enjoy baking and cooking with my family for the next couple of days. My girls love to decorate when we're having guests, so instead of thinking about Christmas decorations, we can use this time to prepare the tables and add a little Thanksgiving decor while we're at it without the interference of all the red and green.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the Christmas season and fully intend to enjoy all the wonders of it and the celebration of our Saviour, but for this week, I am going to concentrate on being Thankful.

Slight change of subject
This is a bit of a change of subject, but I have to mention an example of how busy we, as a culture, have become. A lady at church Sunday morning mentioned to me that she would not be at church Sunday evening as she was going to her brother's church to hear their cantata. I said, "Oh, are they doing a Thanksgiving cantata?" She went on to tell me that it was their Christmas cantata. They were so busy, this was the only time they could fit it in! That is so sad to me. Just another example of how even churches are getting too busy. Also another reason why the family-integrated Biblical-based model sounds so wonderful to me. If you are so busy that you have to do your Christmas cantata before Thanksgiving, there is a good chance that too much is going on - and sadly, probably things that are separating the family and pulling them away from one another.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

I had already planned to post my Thanksgiving menu, so I thought I would go ahead and join in on "Menu Monday" (sponsored by The Organizing Junkie) and elaborate on the whole week.

I'll have to back up to Saturday since I usually go to the grocery store early on Saturday mornings, and my menu actually begins on Saturday. I'm only including our main meal of each day.

Saturday - Maybe I shouldn't have started with Saturday. We ate out at our favorite Tai restaurant where they serve amazing egg rolls. (On Saturdays, we usually eat out or my husband will cook and try a new recipe. )

Sunday - Pampered Chef Chicken Brunch Ring. This is a quick, easy, and a quite tasty meal for after church. The recipe can be found easily on the internet. I changed a few things this time around. I used organic turkey bacon instead of regular bacon, and instead of swiss cheese, I used sharp cheddar cheese - just because I forgot to buy swiss cheese. I think I like it better with the cheddar cheese.

Monday - Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, spinach salad, and whole wheat rolls.

Tuesday - Beef stew in the crockpot and cornbread.

Wednesday - Stuffed Baked Potatoes and spinach salad. I bake the potatoes (organic of course!), and then everyone adds their own chili (we like Amy's Organic Chili), cheddar cheese, and/or sour cream.

Thursday - HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I'm hosting an afternoon meal for my family, and here's what my girls and I will be preparing: Turkey (Free after earning my six turkey points at Ingles! We'll be deep frying our turkey this year. Never done this before, so say a prayer!), Cornbread dressing, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Homemade Macaroni & Cheese, Black-eyed peas, Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole, 7-Layer Salad, Deviled Eggs, and Homemade whole wheat yeast rolls. For dessert, Madison is planning to make a pumpkin pie. My sister is bringing a coconut cake.

Friday - Leftovers!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cleaning Recipes and other tidbits

In case anyone is interested, here is the site where I found the "recipes" for making your own household cleaning products.

There are some other good tips on there also. I was able to try out one of those tips last evening. Someone left a small, rectangular piece of hot pink paper on my kitchen countertop. This piece of paper got wet. When I threw this piece of paper in the trash, there was still a hot pink rectangle on my countertop. Remember, I threw away all of the toxic cleaners, so it sat there a while until I figured out what to do. Then I remembered that the above site had mentioned that baking soda was an abrasive cleaner. I tried it, and it worked! I had to let the soda "sit" on the stain for a few minutes, but with a little elbow grease, it came off just fine - and my head wasn't spinning afterwards from all the fumes as there weren't any!

I visited Dollar General yesterday to pick up some $1 spray bottles to put my concoctions in, and I noticed that they had a Mr. Clean cleaning mit. I had never seen one of these before. It appears similar to the Norwex except it's not antibacterial. It says it can be used for dusting and wiping smudges off of mirrors or furniture. It says it's washable and reusable. We'll see. With the texture and feel of it, I think it will be good for quick dusting.

While I'm talking about cleaning, I'm going to list a couple of my favorite cleaning tips.

For cleaning the microwave, this is very simple. Get a big bowl, like a mixing bowl, and fill it full of water. Place it in the microwave and let it "cook" for about 10 minutes. The heat and condensation will make everything loose, and all you'll have to do is wipe it clean!

I read the following tip somewhere the other day. I tried it, and it worked. In our bathroom, we have a separate shower and bathtub. The shower is hard to clean. You pretty much have to be in the shower to clean it. In the past, I would use those toxic cleaners to clean the soap scum and water buildup. In such a tight space, I would have to wear one of those protective masks. It was not fun. I saw where someone suggested using dishwashing liquid and a scrub brush for cleaning bathtubs and showers. I tried this, and it was so much easier. After rubbing the liquid on, it would have to stay in place for a few minutes, but the longer it sat, the easier it was to clean. My dishwashing liquid is not organic, but at least it did not have the fumes, and of course I wore gloves to protect my hands. (I can't remember if it was Ted Broer or Don Colbert, but in one of their books, they mentioned how a lady had blue dye showing up in her blood tests. They finally related it to her dishwashing liquid. Ever since reading that, I prefer to use gloves whenever I'm using dishwashing liquid.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What our Home School Looks Like.....

We have a new schedule around here for our schooling, and it is working out wonderfully. We start off our day with our Bible study. Right now, we're reading through the book of Genesis, and afterwards I pick a subject where I think we could use some help in the Instruction in Righteousness book from Doorposts. We read the designated verses and then have discussion. If you're not familiar with that book, it lists areas where parents may have discipline problems and directs you to specific Bible verses to deal with those problems. It also offers suggestions for discipline. I think it is a wonderful book of reference.

I used to save history and science for our last subjects of the day. We would often be tired and our brains would be too weary to understand what we were reading or we would just skip it if time did not allow. I know we're not alone in that predicament. I've spoken to several moms who have a hard time getting those two subjects in. Now I've placed these subjects second in line, and it is really going well. Our minds are much fresher in the morning, and we move through these lessons so much more quickly than we ordinarily would have in the afternoon. I alternate these two subjects. For history, we're using All American History. We really like this curriculum (it's Madison's favorite). Right now we're still working through all the explorers, and we'll soon be getting into the colonization of America, which I think will be even more interesting. We read the lesson together, and then each of the girls has a workbook where they fill out an information sheet for each explorer. Sometimes it takes 3 days to a week to get through a lesson as there are several explorers within each lesson. When that lesson is complete, the next day we'll start on a science lesson. For science, we use Considering God's Creation. We have found that we like this program also (this is Cari's favorite). It includes Bible study, vocabulary words, projects, worksheets, and ideas for further study.

Next and in no certain order and in each of their grade levels, we work on grammar using Easy Grammar, math using Professor B, spelling using Dr. Aardsma's spelling drill on CD-ROM, and handwriting practice. For writing, Madison uses the WordSmith Apprentice workbook. Once a week, they work on a computer typing program, and on Tuesday and Thursday of each week, we have piano lessons. I am teaching them as far as I can with piano and then we will move on to lessons with someone more knowledgeable. (I play the organ at church, but it's nothing fancy. I never really learned the more difficult cords, etc.) Once a week, we do art. I have an art book that teaches basic drawings, but for the past few weeks, we've been doing something quite fun. I received some free art instruction from Nature Magazine as a result of a subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. You basically free-hand the drawings as they are demonstrated on the paper, and we have a good time comparing our end results. I'm doing this with them, and I'm having fun with this as I had no idea I could draw anything but a stick person!

When their schoolwork is complete, they have 30 minutes of required reading time in the afternoon. When all of their chores and schoolwork are complete, they are allowed 30 minutes of computer time to email their friends or work on their private blogs. I have found those two things to be good writing exercises. It may be taking some of the fun out of it (although it doesn't really appear so), but sometimes I'll proofread their emails and make corrections before they send them. I think it's a great way for them to enjoy writing and also get extra practice on spelling, punctuation, etc.

That's basically what our homeschool looks like. It doesn't really take that long to accomplish all of that either. We used to have to do some school in the afternoons, but with our new schedule of doing history/science second, we are usually finished with all the book work before lunch. I'm enjoying our school year this year (this is our seventh year), and I'm pleased with the curriculum that we carefully chose through much prayer and consideration. I'm already seeing where we'll probably make changes next year (as always), but this is working well for now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Simple Recipe

While I was putting together our soup for supper tonight, I was thinking I should share this recipe that someone shared with me a few years ago. It is very simple and a great meal for when you're short on time - or not. Even my picky eater enjoys this, and it is wonderful in the crockpot.

Salsa Chicken Soup
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 can chicken broth
1 16 oz. jar salsa
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, corns chips or tortilla chips

Layer ingredients in crockpot in order. (Chicken can even be placed in crockpot frozen.) Cook on low for 5 to 7 hours. (I actually cooked it today on "high" for 4-5 hours.) Before serving, remove chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces. Stir chicken back into soup. Top with cheese, and serve with chips.

Simple Cleaning

Once again, I found myself in a discussion this week on household cleaning products. As I sit here typing, my head is in a bit of a cloud after using some Lysol bathroom cleaner last evening.

God has blessed me with a wonderful family, and I want to do the best job I can to take care of them. In that regard, I'm careful about what we eat (I'll be blogging about that soon), and I also try to be careful regarding the chemicals that come into our home. I began using Basic H (a Shaklee product) earlier this year. I use it for lots of light-duty jobs around the house, including dusting, easy kitchen and bathroom jobs, windows and mirrors, and mopping the floors. I wasn't sure if this was antibacterial, so without investigating further, I once again began purchasing the Lysol bathroom cleaner and other toxic cleaners I found on sale. I just wanted to make sure those toilets were really clean, and if I spilled "chicken juice" on the countertops while cooking, I wanted to make sure that nothing dangerous was left behind. I don't think this was a very wise decision.

Every time I clean with those products, my body feels the effects of it - headaches, change in breathing (I wouldn't call it difficulty breathing, but it does feel different), runny nose, cough, etc. If you read my post below about our busy weekend, you will understand that we used lots of that bathroom cleaner in a short period of time to tidy up, spot clean, and of course, make sure the bathrooms were ready for guests. Yesterday, my family nearly went through a whole box of Kleenex because of runny noses. Do I think there is any connection here to the toxic products? I most certainly do.

During my morning chores today, those toxic products are (for the second time) going in the trash can. I'll be sticking to my Basic H. I have some "recipes" for household cleaners that include using vinegar, which someone told me is antibacterial, so I'll be mixing up some of that. I also saw some cleaning cloths called Norwex. Anyone familiar with those? I would love to hear about it if you are. They are antibacterial cloths that you clean with, either dry or wet. You simply wash them in the washing machine as needed, and they appear to last a while. They look a little expensive, but Marilyn Moll has a deal going on through November 30th. I may have to try these.

If anyone has any other ideas about safe, non-toxic cleaning, I would love to hear about them!