Monday, January 31, 2011

Facebook

Hello, Friends!

I have decided to cancel my facebook account for a variety of reasons. Here are a few of them, not in order of importance by any means:

1. Privacy. The frequent changes of Facebooks privacy controls, often with very little disclosure to the users, make me very uncomfortable. Even though I post very little content, I want to have control over how much of it is publicly available.

2. World vs. Christ. Naturally Facebook drifts toward encouraging gossip and time wasting, and does not encourage or enhance sold-out Christian living. This isn't to say that everyone who has a facebook uses it to gossip, or that no one can use their time on facebook to honor and glorify Christ (I know some who do). But I have found that the best facebook can offer me is a few minutes of wasted time each day as I peruse impersonal status updates. I could be much more effective for Christ in those minutes doing something other than facebook.

3. Shallow Friendships. Facebook encourages shallow friendships through impersonal status updates. I love my friends and my family, and I love the personal contact and deep Christian fellowship that other forms of communication encourage.

Due to these and other reasons, I have decided to cancel my account as of February 15th. For those of you who wish to keep up with me, I'll still be very much online. I post regularly to this blog (much more regularly than I ever used Facebook), and would enjoy your company here.

Also, I absolutely adore correspondence--so if you wish to drop me a letter please do. My email address should be attached to my facebook account if you need it, or send me a PM, or comment on this blog and request it. I promise a prompt response to any emails!

God be with you! 

Soli deo Gloria!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Mini Freezer Cooking day--Chicken

Yesterday I had a blessing delivered to me from my mother. She had found a company that, as a one-time deal, was selling all-natural, hormone-free, boneless, skinless chicken  breasts for $1.50 a lb. Because the price was so low they only sell the chicken by the 40lb case (each case is divided into four 10lb bags).

I was so excited about the price that I decided to purchase an entire case!!! My mom was kind enough to pick the case up for me when she got hers, and delivered it right to my door. Now THAT is the way to get meat!! :-)

Of course, 40lbs of chicken is quite a lot for our little family of two, and I really don't want us getting sick of chicken. So I decided to make a wide variety of meals, that way we aren't eating the same thing twice. I'm also only going to serve the chicken 3 times a week (one night is date night and we eat out, one night is for fish, one night for beef, one night leftovers). I decided to major on easy marinades, with some fancier things thrown in here and there.

So far I've made:

6 dinners worth of Teriyaki Chicken   (half of these are chopped for stirfry)
5 dinners worth of Cheesy Chicken Bundles
4 dinners of Asian Chicken (Stirfry)
4 dinners of Italian Chicken (I just used Italian dressing as a marinade)
4 dinners of  Cranberry Chicken
4 dinners of Italian Chicken Roll-Ups

I still have about 7 chicken breasts left that I wasn't able to get to today. With those I plan to make:

Chicken Marsala I picked this recipe because both my man and I love the Chicken Marsala at Olive Garden. I would love to be able to fix something similar myself.
Chicken Packets--I was reminded of this old favorite when I was looking at other recipes. My mama used to make this, and as I have an abundance of cream cheese it was a no-brainer!

With all this freezer cooking it's getting to be a challenge to find ways to creatively fit everything in!! But from my estimates we'll have over a month worth of lunches, and about 40ish dinners when all is finished. As much as I enjoy cooking, I'm really looking forward to having some easy-to-throw together meals ready to go in my freezer!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daughters of Islam

Daughters of Islam, by Miram Adeney, is a very thorough book. I remember getting this book some time ago, and it was a more in depth look at the beliefs of the Islam faith than I was expecting. I gave up on reading it in favor of some lighter weight material. Needless to say, this book is anything but light weight, but this time I WANTED to learn.

Mrs. Adeney leaves no stone unturned in her quest to translate the Islamic faith to Christian women. In various chapters she delves into relationships, beliefs, money issues, geographic location, and how all these complexities work together to shape a woman. She manages to tech our differences clearly but respectfully.

Each chapter is full of testimonies of women that turned from Islam to Christianity, and the most amazing thing about these women isn't their similarities, it is their differences. God uses such a variety of ways to bring them to himself.

This book was particularly encouraging to me in the area of witnessing. Witnessing has always been a struggle for me (I am shy by nature and struggle weekly with simply visiting with known friends at church, much less approaching strangers!). In addition to being shy, I also feel particularly unworthy. Who am I to talk when I have so many weak points in my own life?

One story in this book very thoroughly took care of my excuses. It was about an Islamic girl (not practicing, but committed) who was attending college in the states. Her roommate was a Christian, and often took opportunities as they were together to enthusiastically witness, using day-to-day occurrences as springboards. The roommate, however, was also living in sin by regularly sleeping with her boyfriend. Despite an (obviously) flawed witness, the roommate continued to promote Christ and through her witness and the witness of another friend (who also had deep flaws) this girl eventually came to Christ.

If they can choose to witness, despite not "having it all together," what excuse to I have to sit on my rear?

As you can see, while there is a lot of GREAT stuff for understanding Islam and the women who practice it, there is also a lot of stuff for the Holy Spirit to use in refinign your own life.

I would recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to anyone who has (or hopes to have) a ministry to Islamic women, whether by prayer or by personal contact.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adventures in Housekeeping--Freezer Cooking (the bean edition)

My apologies for missing last Wednesday's Adventures in Housekeeping. Last week was such a whirlwind ride that I really don't remember much of what happened--only that it happened fast!!

Last Saturday my sister-in-law and I had our second monthly Freezer Cooking Day. Friday morning we had already picked out our recipes and done the majority of the shopping when my 5 months pregnant sister called to say she was so sick she couldn't keep water down. She hoped to be well enough to cook by the next day, but wanted me to know just in case.

I told her I wasn't about to let her spend all day cooking after having a stomach bug.

So, Saturday I was on my own.

Here are the recipes we planned:
Yummy spinach soup stuff--Amanda
Tasty blended tomato soup--Amanda

Coconut Corn Soup--Sophie
 
Ministrone--Sophia


Brown Bag Burritos  These looked pretty awesome. A tasty freezer meal good for packing to work and something to break up the "soup overload"

 Marinaded Chicken Breast--  plus some other marinades

Chicken Spaghetti--Too tasty to skip.

Chihuahua Chili--I picked this mainly to spice up an otherwise poultry dominated meal plan. My man likes his meat.

Enchilada Sauce--To be used in the other recipes.

As you can see, a number of the recipes called for beans--particularly as I wanted to make my own refried beans. I've  never done much with beans before, mainly because I don't usually like them. As I've been married, though, I've learned that beans are a GREAT budget stretcher. This month it was time to start taking advantage of that.



Unfortunately I didn't do a lot of research about cooking with beans before I (enthusiastically!) dived into it. Therefore, I didn't realize that beans double in size after soaking overnight. I didn't know that when 24 cups of pinto beans are called for, that actually means just 12 cups of dry beans. 


I thought that if I wanted 24 cups of beans I should, logically, soak 24 cups. On the off chance, I reasoned, that beans expanded after soaking I should probably just soak 20 cups. Just to be safe. And if that wasn't enough we could just make do, right?


Right.


So, Saturday morning, I was faced with ALL the largest bowls in my house (three) plus ALL the crockpots (three again, one large two small) bubbling over with soaked beans. It must have been about 40 cups of pinto and 10 cups of black, but I can't really be sure. Measuring wasn't particularly possible.

My mom just laughed when she saw it. So did my husband, actually. 

My mother graciously donated most of her day to help me cook, which really was a life saver. Tomorrow I'll post a bit more about how the day itself went, and what the final results were. (plus what in the world I did with all those beans!!!!)

 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sanctuary

The last three weeks have been intense. My Man and I haven't had a weekend rest because we've been working on things at our church, and then the week-days have been the usual crazy. It got to the point that the only uninterrupted time we had was our sacred weekly Date Night--and even one of those nights my man couldn't get out of some work.

This past weekend topped everything off. It was supposed to be our first real weekend off this year. We both had some chores to do--my hubby at the church and me working on some freezer cooking, but only expected it to be a couple hours. Our estimates were both off. By about 8 hours. We dragged ourselves home afterwords, and went straight to bed.

After the past few weeks we've both agreed things need to change. We can't be moving so fast that our only evening at home is Date Night. We can't be doing so many things (even things that help the church) that I am unable to attend (or, at least, unable to remain conscious during the service). We can't be so busy that my man can't be sharp at work.

And I'm reminded....

God isn't glorified by busyness.

Exhaustion isn't necessarily the sign of a productive spiritual life.

Nor does resting necessarily mean spiritual atrophy.

That's why this week we are slowing down. We are saying "no."  We are recuperating. We are choosing to rest in the sanctuary of our home.

And that is good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Choosing Joy

While generally I'm a steady, cheerful type person overall, I also tend to be a "glass half empty" kind of gal. When I hear an idea I can immediately see flaws in it. When I'm late I don't take it in stride--I get upset. When I think of people often I remember the hurtful things they have done before thinking of the kind things.

I don't try to be this way. Sometimes negative thoughts are just more natural than positive. But does "more natural" mean "okay?"

I read this a couple days ago, and haven't been able to get it off my mind since then.

What if I choose to see only the good?

What if I refuse to see anything but good?

Lord, make it so.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Thousand Gifts--an introduction

I just found Ann Vocamp's "online home" a few days ago, and already have been challenged by her writing. She has just written a book, which was officially released yesterday and was #13 on Amazon's Bestseller list. She is a testimony of what God can do through a consecrated life.

I do not own her book yet, but I plan to order it within the next week or so and participate in the community book club at (in)Courage working through it starting Feb 6.

Also, I plan to start my own list of 1000 gifts. I will be posting 10 gifts daily starting on the 2 year anniversary of my husband's proposal (Feb 15), and ending late May or early June.

In the meantime, this video is truly inspiring.


Letting God plan my schedule

Several years ago I was given a piece of advice that has been a comfort to me. I don't remember who said it, possibly Richard's older sister Melody, but I'm not entirely sure. The advice was: "If your day is so full of stuff that you can't possibly accomplish it  all, chances are you've been adding your own stuff to God's schedule for you."

The idea is that God knows how much we are able to do, and as a good God He won't ask us to do more in a 24 hour period that we can physically accomplish in that time. God will fill up our schedules (laziness is not a Christian virtue) but He knows exactly what we can and can't accomplish, with His power, in a day. Some of us, however, have a tendency to put our own "to-do's" on God's list. And that just doesn't work.

That piece of wisdom has been a comfort to me because I do tend to have my own to-do list each day without always consulting Jesus about it. Then I get burned out, because I'm overwhelmed with the stuff I need to do, and can't seem to get to.

Take this past Saturday for example. There were several things going on:

1. It was a work day at the church, the jobs were mostly for men but there were a few women jobs and only one woman there--she needed help.

2. My home needed a Saturday deep clean.

3. The Christmas tree had to be taken down (I know! We were late!) and once that was done,

4. the needles, an inch deep in some places, had to be cleaned up.

5. I had to plan the menu for next week,

6. plus figure out what I'm going to make for next weeks' Freezer Cooking Day.

7. Oh, and did I mention there was a wedding at 2:00, at which I was going to be the family representative?

8. And that I had two or three blog posts that needed to be transferred from my mind to the draft box?

Maybe some women can do all that--I'm sure they can--but I knew I wouldn't be able to. So I did the best I could at working down the list, and did all the jobs part way. For example, I didn't FINISH cleaning the house.... but I did clear the table. I didn't COMPLETELY plan the Freezer cooking day, but I did make a good starter list. It wasn't the best method, but it worked.

And then it was time to leave for the wedding. I got 20 minutes into my trip when the cars came to a standstill. On Saturday afternoon. When there's NOT supposed to be much traffic. My car crawled along--the stop and go traffic was more stop than go.

As I got closer to the source of the standstill I saw that the entire 3 lane highway was being routed onto a single feeder street. No wonder things were so slow.

There was one exit left, onto another highway, that I could take. I could see the other highway was moving along well--but in the opposite direction. Towards my home, NOT the wedding. I glanced at the clock. The wedding, if it was the traditional few minutes late, had already started.

So I took the highway exit, and let God plan my schedule. I spent the afternoon cleaning my kitchen, my bathrooms, the bedroom, making a loaf of bread, vacuuming up pine needles, and writing a couple blog posts--instead of watching our friend and his bride get married.

I didn't get to congratulate my friends, but the look on my man's face when he saw an unexpectedly clean house after a 13 hour work day was enough to make up for it. When he praised me for keeping my priorities in order I knew that, as much as I'd wanted to go to the wedding, it was alright that I didn't make it.

I wasn't able to get EVERYTHING on that to-do list done, but that's okay.


God was planning my schedule.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Confession, and a Plan

I have a confession to make. This past year (2010) was a horrible one for my walk with the Lord. I don't know if I took giant leaps back, or was just treading water, but there was definitely no forward progress with my relationship with Jesus.

At first it was the wedding planning. I let that get in the way of spending time with Jesus. Starting in April my mind was fully occupied with dress colors, timing, song selections, location, and managing to survive 5 more months without being the wife of the man who's love consumed me. Partway through the engagement I realized I'd let an important thing slide, but I never made a genuine effort to fix the problem. Time with Jesus was, on my calendar, an optional thing I wanted to get to but often (usually) didn't. I think I figured that once I had the wedding behind me I'd be able to focus better.

Wrong.

Immediately following the wedding I learned what it is to have a real challenge to time with Jesus. For years the rule for quiet time has been: Do it in the morning or you won't get it done. But post-wedding I found out that my mornings were no longer my own.

After waking up I had just enough time to make breakfast, feed my husband, and get out the door to work. There was zero extra time for Bible reading or prayer. Doing it in the evening was also out--I generally have just enough time to get dinner together before my man walks in the door, and besides, by 5:00 my mind is full of all the things I need to get done before bedtime. Even if there was time to sit down and read my Bible, I wouldn't have been focused on it.

Additionally, it seemed impossible to get up earlier. I am a morning person, but my hubby is a night owl. We like to go to bed at the same time. He can sleep in, but my body won't let me. I was already getting up before my husband, and I was exhausted. Cutting even deeper into those precious hours of sleep just didn't seem feasible.

The end result? I could count on both hands (maybe one hand, but I'm being nice to myself) the number of times I had personal devotions during the first 3.5 months of marriage.

Excuses, however, will always be around. If I can't manage to get some quiet time with Jesus before I have kids, I may as well kiss my quiet times for the next two or three decades goodbye. And that just isn't an acceptable solution.

So I prayed about it, something I should have done from the beginning. I asked God to show me what needed to be done, and how (where!) to carve out time for Him. And He did. We are going to bed earlier now, and I am getting up earlier. It was such a natural change (I don't think my husband has even noticed) that I wish I prayed about it long ago. It has been such a blessing to get back to that quiet hour (or so) with the Lord in the morning!!

On top of that, the Lord lead me to a Bible reading plan that has me VERY excited!! It is intense, but I have been learning so much--seeing new insights, connecting new dots. Instead of being a discipline, Bible reading has become a joy!

What is this Bible reading plan?

Well, I'll share about it next Monday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Five Love Languages



I've heard a lot of good things about The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, but up until last week I had never read it myself.

Here is a basic summary from Amazon:
Unhappiness in marriage often has a simple root cause: we speak different love languages, believes Dr. Gary Chapman. While working as a marriage counselor for more than 30 years, he identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. In a friendly, often humorous style, he unpacks each one. Some husbands or wives may crave focused attention; another needs regular praise. Gifts are highly important to one spouse, while another sees fixing a leaky faucet, ironing a shirt, or cooking a meal as filling their "love tank." Some partners might find physical touch makes them feel valued: holding hands, giving back rubs, and sexual contact. Chapman illustrates each love language with real-life examples from his counseling practice.
Although I was already familiar with the concepts in this book, I greatly enjoyed getting the complete picture. As I read each chapter I could think of real-life examples of people who speak each of the love languages illustrated in the book. I can see how the information in this book, rightly used, could totally change a marriage.

One struggle I had as I read through this book was determining my own and my husband's love languages. In the book Gary Chapman explains that the easiest way to identify what love language is naturally spoken is to search for the kindnesses that are most desired. The easiest way to identify your spouses' love language is to look for the area that is most requested, or most nagged about. This is all well and good, but as I read through each of the love languages I realized that my husband and I consistently show love to each other in 4 of the 5 languages!!

Later in the book Gary Chapman explained that it is most difficult to determine your love language if 1) Your "Love Tank" is full, and has been as long as you can remember, or 2) if your love tank is empty and has been as long as you can remember. In either case there is very little information to draw on to figure it out. So that explains my difficulty.


My end evaluation? This is a GREAT book, and it is definitely on my recommend list. However, I will probably not be reading it with my husband for a year or two, as it will be more beneficial to us after a couple years of marriage than it is now, during our honeymoon phase.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book list 2011

I'm a book worm. I have been since I learned to read. As a child I read constantly. I read in trees, in cars, in church (but not during the preaching!! ( And if I did I felt horribly guilty.)), in the middle of the woods, in the middle of cow pastures, in canoes.... In short, I loved to read, and had a book with me at all times.

I still do.

I am blessed to have a job that allows me time to read. I look after a lady who is 99 years old, and whenever she takes a nap I just pull out whatever book I have with me and go through a few more chapters. It's wonderful.

This year I've decided to be a bit more purposeful about my reading. I usually grab a book off the shelf as I'm walking out the door, but I could get so much more out of my reading time if I purposely choose books that would provide a well rounded education.

So, this year I'm making a book list. It isn't going to be a limiting thing--each month I'm going to have two or three book assignments. If I finish those in advance, and I probably will, I can read whatever I like. As a general rule I want to read at least one book that challenges me spiritually, and at least one book that challenges me as a Christian woman, wife and future mother.



January
The Five Love Languages By Gary Chapman
168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think By Laura Vandercam
Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney

February
Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Leslie Ludy
The Respect Dare by Nina Roesner
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp

March
God is More Than Enough by Jim Berg
Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartin
Answers to Prayer by George Mueller

April
 The Bravehearted Gospel: The Truth is Worth Fighting For by Eric Ludy
Creating an Intimate Marriage: Rekindle Romance Through Affection, Warmth and Encouragement by Jim Burns
Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer

May
Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow
Feminine Appeal Carolyn Mahaney

June
Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit by Mark Chanski
America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams by Steve and Annette Economides

July
Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper
Professionalizing Motherhood: Encouraging, Educating, and Equipping Mothers At Home by Jill Savage

August
The Adventure of Missionary Heroism by John C. Lambert and Joshua M. Wean
Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living by Laurie Boucke

September
The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Man
Growing 101 Herbs that Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies  by Tammi Hartung

October
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do It by Jim bob and Michelle Duggar

November
Christ on the Jewish Road by Richard Wurmbrand
12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman: Practical Tips for Managing Your Home and Your Life Based on Proverbs 31 by Lane Jordan

December
Wounded Heroes: The Secrets of Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, C.S. Lewis, Isobel Kuhn, Ruth Bell Graham, and Others Who Triumphed over Pain by Elisabeth Skoglund

experiments in housekeeping

Of all the rooms in the house the kitchen is the place of my greatest triumphs and most frustrating struggles. It is the most difficult room to keep clean, probably because it is also my most productive work place.

 Of all the areas of struggle the spot of GREATEST difficulty in the kitchen is my sink. It is so hard to keep all the dishes done! As soon as I wash one I find 2 more that are dirty! But I get an immense amount of satisfaction when I do wake up to a clean, empty sink.

When I was first married I made it a point to always get the dishes finished before going to bed. That worked well until the bedbug crisis in December, at which point all housekeeping switched to 'survival mode.'

Now we are past that crisis and, particularly with the recent sighting of some ants, I am determined to get back on the dish-free bandwagon. So this week my experiment in housekeeping is to have a ZERO tolerance policy for dishes in the sink. Instead of focusing on having the dishes done at night, I'm focusing on not putting them in the sink in the first place. Dishes get rinsed and immediately put in the dishwasher.

We will see how it goes. My husband has kindly agreed to help out in the evenings, so perhaps with his help this experiment will be a success!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Character

When I got married I had some rather wrong ideas about marriage and, more specifically, about myself. As a single girl I looked at the married women I knew and saw something different in them. They just seemed to be generally wiser, to know exactly what to do in situations I would have been completely lost in. Naturally I concluded that the reason they seemed different was the fact that they were married.

Of course, my husband and I weren't back from the honeymoon before I realized that there is no mysterious wife-knowledge gained by a wedding, no automatic character bonus gained post-marriage. I was precisely the same woman 5 days after the wedding vows that I was 5 days before them.

I'm really not sure WHY this was such a revelation to me. I'm not sure why I expected to become a better person as a whole just by getting married. But it was a genuine surprise to me the day I realized that I, myself, could actually be

HARD

TO

LIVE

WITH.

I am not always patient--even with the most wonderful man in the world. My speech isn't always seasoned with grace--and certainly isn't anything like "apples of gold in pictures of silver."  I worry incessantly. I'm childish. I push for things to happen. I want to sit and plan for hours with my husband when all he needs is rest. I nag my husband. I complain. In fact, I can even complain and nag when I'm perfectly happy with things!!

So this week in my quiet time I am focusing on asking for God for two things. First, that He will help me hold my tongue, to pause and consider my words before blurting out something hurtful. Second, and most important, that He will help me recognize sinful attitudes before they ever have a chance to come out in my words.

What about you? What are you asking God for this week?

Snow



Yesterday we had the first snow of the season. It wasn't a lot--a light powder sugar dusting. Just enough for determined children to scrape enough off cars to make a passable snowball.

It started during church on sunday. I sit on the back pew with my husband. We usually leave the church door open during service, and while he was leading the congregation in the final verse of Holy, Holy, Holy I glanced over and saw the snow. Acapella holy holy, holy while the snow is falling.

Beautiful.

Today the weathermen said it wouldn't snow. But I am sitting here at work, blinds raised, watching as yet another powder sugar dusting falls. They were wrong, and I am glad.

Snow amazes me. It is so peaceful, so tranquil, so beautiful. How could God be so creative? What made Him decide to make something so beautiful? Something so different from anything else He created?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This year's focus

Before I was married my grandmother (well, Richard's grandmother, but she's mine too now!) gave me a challenge. I had been telling her about all the things I wanted to learn now that I was out of school, and she told me that what she had done was choose ONE THING each year to learn for self improvement. My automatic reaction was to think that was a MUCH too slow way of doing things. I want to learn everything now!! But as she explained I began to understand how wise a plan it was. While in my 20s spending an entire year on one subject seems a bit much, but if a person makes a habit of that throughout their lives, by the time they are 80 they will have a very wide list of experiences!!

I am a very inquisitive person. I get that trait from my grandmother--mom's mother. I don't know how often I have heard the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat!!" in response to a series of questions I asked, then retorted, just as I'd heard my grandmother,  "but satisfaction brought it back!!"

As such a curious person there are a lot of things I would love to learn. Gardening, drawing, oil painting, watercolors, basket weaving, calligraphy, cake decorating, card decorating, various forms of dance, embroidery, soap making, candy making, canning, herb identification.... Ah!! It all sounds so wonderful! I'm drooling just thinking about it all.

This year, however, my first priority is my husband. Of course, throughout our lives he'll be first before anything else but God, but this first year is different. It is special. Biblically God put a high priority on the first year of marriage by requiring that a man cannot go to war the year after he wins a bride. Taking extra time at the start of marriage to build a strong foundation is critical to a healthy marriage.

Right now I am working nearly full time and learning to keep a home running in good order. Several evenings a week are already scheduled, and the evenings we have left together are precious to me. I am sure my husband would be willing to invest one evening a week in me to learn a new skill, but I don't think I am willing to make that investment. Not this year.

So, my requirement this year for my new skill to focus on is that it can't take up any precious evening time to learn. It can't compete, even on a very small level, for my time with him. As long as I am working during the day, that requirement knocks out any new skill that requires a class or teacher. In fact, I thought it knocked out my entire list!!

But then I realized there are two things I already wanted to learn this year that I can learn on my own, and fit around time with my husband. I've wanted to develop these skills for years now, and this year is the first opportunity for one of them, and a good chance to work on the other one. So--what are the skills I'm working on this year??

Creative Writing

and

Hospitality

I'm really looking forward to working on these two areas!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dreams and reality

My husband and I don't attend a large church. In fact, when he and his family of 10 started attending 4 years ago they nearly doubled the attendance. Since then, however, God has greatly blessed the church. The size has doubled several times since they started attending. Instead of being a church attended by a handful of faithful men and women in their 70s, our church now has all ages represented--from newborn to great grandparents.

For some time now my husband has dreamed of starting a method of more intimate accountability for the members in the form of home groups. We have wonderful services on Sunday, and more Bible Study and prayer on Wednesday, but there is no forum for a small group of believers to meet together and share the struggles they are facing and the triumphs God has given. There has been little accountability among us. He believed that the church could only benefit from small community groups meeting each week to encourage each other, pray for each other, and study the Bible together.

The past few months that dream has had to be put on the back burner. There was the honeymoon month followed closely by the holidays. But yesterday evening, with the holidays behind us, his dream became a reality when we met with a small local group of church members.

Up to last night I was not excited about the idea of a homegroup. I was very supportive of it because it was my husband's dream. It was good and noble and I was determined to help in any way I could. But it was my husband's dream, not mine.

Then, last night, I caught the vision.

And I'm excited.

The meeting was open, intimate, honest and personal. A safe place to share struggles and find support and encouragement. It felt like a cool refreshing drink, quenching a thirst I didn't know I had. Since then my mind has been full of possibilities and questions. Questions such as:

What if, as my husbands dream, groups like this were started all over the church?

What if everyone had a place where they could find support and encouragement in their daily struggle toward Godliness?

What if each of us were praying for each other, personally, in the areas of greatest struggle every day?

What if we were encouraging each other to get out of our comfort zones--to go places in our walk with God we'd never considered before?

Yeah, this could be a powerful thing. And I can't wait to see how God will use it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Years Goals

 I really love setting goals--I practically set goals for my goals' goals (which isn't always the most  realistic approach...). But New Years has always been a time for me to refocus. To look at what the Lord has done in the past year, and what I need to focus on in the coming year.

This year is going to be a fairly pivotal one in my life. Marriage has put me into a totally new stage of life, and the possibility of parenthood adds an extra uncertainty to the events of this year. Perhaps in one year my husband and I will be living in the same place doing the same things we are doing now. Or maybe a year from now we'll have moved, have a baby, and be in a totally different place of ministry. Only God knows!

I'm looking forward to the adventure that is 2011, and I'm looking forward to finding out what God has in store for my husband and me. But sitting around and waiting for whatever happens isn't the way we should live our lives. As Christians we need to always be growing and learning. So, here are some goals that I have for the coming year. Some of these things will be a stretch for me but, Lord willing, I believe all of these should become a reality by next year.
Personal
*Memorize one verse a day--this can be out of any book but will be done with my husband. Tentatively we plan to start with Philippians and James.
*Have a regular quiet time--this year my focus will be on familiarizing myself with the Bible as a whole.
* Make one Christmas present a month
* Learn how to make Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day
* Exercise consistently--at LEAST 20 min a day, 3 days a week (I have more intense workouts in mind, but I need to start small)
 * Blog regularly--2 or 3 times a week

Marriage
* Maintain one date night a week, and one "at home" night a week.
* Do something daily to show love to my husband in a way he appreciates.
* Read 2 marriage books together.

Ministry/friendships/family
* Practice hospitality once a month
* Have a sibling over to spend the night once a month
* Write at least two handwritten notes/letters a month
* Start "home groups" in our church

Financial
*Put 3 months of living expenses in our emergency fund