April 28, 2011

Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:21-23

These verses came to my mind when I first heard of the tornado that ripped through the section of Alabama where every aunt, uncle, cousin, grandma, grandpa and parent I have lives! We are so thankful for God's mercy and faithfulness to us. There were some close calls, but every one that we know has been found alive and without serious injury! Entire towns that I grew up in are completely gone and many people are facing a loss of every material possession they have. It is times like these that show you how strong your family's and friends' faith is, and I'm blessed to be able to say it has stood the test!

Please be in prayer for those who have been affected by this disaster. I have several family and friends who have lost everything, and there is a lot of property damage everywhere. Even this morning, though, we saw God's goodness as people volunteered to help out, and this afternoon, God showed his greatness again as we finally heard from two family members who had not been heard from since the storm! God has been good to our family, and we thank Him for it.

April 25, 2011

Catching Up and Celebrating Resurrection Day

Wow! The last two weeks have been crazy...thus, my absence in the blogging world. We had the unexpected opportunity to go see my sister and her new baby (and the rest of the family, of course) last week. The big catch - we did it in a semi trailer. One word description - EXHAUSTING! I think I bounced enough that I should have burned enough calories to have lost 10 pounds! The ugly truth - I gained three! I was also thinking on the way home that I have not one single funny incident to report....our life has officially become boring despite the fact that we traipsed halfway across the United States in a semi!

So, the trip consumed last week. The week before that was just a struggle in everything. A day like that is bad, but an entire week like that is AWFUL! I am looking forward to beginning this week with a fresh new start and hopefully a lot more motivation.

We celebrated Jesus' resurrection yesterday. Our church always begins the weekend with a Good Friday service. This is something I had never been a part of until we began this at our church a few years ago. It has become one of my favorite services of the year. Focusing on the Last Supper and Jesus' death makes Resurrection Morning so much more meaningful. On Saturday night, we read about Jesus' crucifixion to the kids. It was so thrilling to answer the kids' different questions and to watch their faces as they realized that Jesus did this for them! Then, the next morning, we woke up to joyful celebration that Jesus did not stay in the tomb, but He rose again and lives for us today!

In my personal quiet time, I read the story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in John 20. Everytime I read it, I cannot help but cry. The tenderness and love that Jesus expresses to Mary as he says just one word - her name - just leaves me in awe! How personal Jesus was to her! Her response as soon as Jesus said her name showed that she loved Him in return and knew Him well. I began thinking of the song written from Mary's perspective. "I've just seen Jesus. I tell you He's alive. All that I've done before won't matter anymore. I've just seen Jesus, and I'll never be the same again." I realized that because my Jesus is alive, He can be and, praise God, is as real to me as He was to Mary! I've never seen Him in person, but I can have such a sweet, personal, intimate relationship with Him because He is alive. Because of that, I'll never be the same again!

Then, I began to think of all that I've studied this year in the books of Philippians, Ephesians and Galatians and of how God has given me so much more than salvation. He has made me His heir. He has adopted me. He lets me call Him Abba Father. He infuses me with His strength. He allows Jesus to intercede for me. His love for me is measureless. He has sealed me with His Holy Spirit. He has empowered me with the Holy Spirit. The list could go on. I am so thankful that Jesus is alive and that He is my Savior and so much more! And that is why, today, the very least I can do, is live my life completely for His glory!

April 9, 2011

Letting God Write My Song

I came across a song this morning, and I cannot seem to forget the words. The name of the song is "How Emptiness Sings" by Christa Wells. I am not a big fan of CCM, but the words to this song were very captivating. The verses speak of how different people are going through hard times - struggling to keep their heads above the water. The chorus then says this:
Glory to God, Glory to God.

In fullness of wisdom,

He writes my story into His song

My life for the glory of God.

God uses our heartache to write a beautiful song! Our life can be better used for His glory when we let Him write our story. I sometimes forget what a wise and all-knowing God I serve. He sees the entire story. I cannot. He knows how my song will end, but I do not.

But the part of the song that captured my heart and thoughts is at the very end.

Glory to God, Glory to God,

This is how emptiness sings,

Oh this is how emptiness sings!

Did you catch that, hurting heart? The way we bring glory to God is by emptying ourselves and letting Him fill us with His glory! You may be hurting, bleeding even, with a wound so great you can't imagine how anything good could ever come from this trial you are in, but God has promised that when we are weak, He is strong (II Corinthians 12:9). It seems that those who experience the most hurt are able to bring the most glory to God.

Maybe you are not one of those going through a painful experience or trial right now, but you can still empty yourself of yourself everyday, and by doing this, you are allowing God to fill you with Himself. Emptying yourself - a daily, sometimes minute by minute, decision that requires sacrifice and self-denial but allows God to write your story into HIS song - a song of glory to Him!

April 8, 2011

A New Cooking Goal with Two Recipes for You

Is there anyone else who absolutely despises the time of day between 4:30 and 6:00 in the evening? I DO!!!!! It seems like that is when everyone suddenly becomes bored with the day and wants to try something new and amazing (mom's interpretation: messy and dangerous)! It is also the time of day when that dreaded chore of the day comes - cooking supper. There are some ladies who absolutely love spending time in the kitchen, but I am not one. I do everything I can to stay out of it! It makes me grumpy just thinking about it! Unfortunately, this means that the mister sometimes comes home from work with chaos abounding and a grumpy wife complaining.

I have come to realize this is not good or pleasant, and this is one way that I can serve my family better - particularly the mister. I must admit, as the kiddos get older and actually appreciate the food a little more, it does make cooking a little more worthwhile. In my search for the answer to this great dilemma of mine, I came across a great idea but just haven't had the chance to implement it. So, next week begins with a new goal. The great idea - to have as much meal preparation done by 2:00 as possible. Now, the original idea was by lunch, but because I homeschool, I try not to plan anything else in the mornings except for maybe switching a load of laundry. So, my goal is 2:00 PM! Imagine, being able to put an already made lasagna into the oven at 4:45, pull out the freshly made this morning salad, throw the breadsticks that have been rising all afternoon into the oven and be done! Sounds a little too unbelievable to me, but I'm going to give it a try. Unfortunately, this means shortening what I get to do during my quiet time, but I think the sanity it will provide later on will be worth it!

This last week, I also had the chance to go to a Taste of Home Cooking Show. I must be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Like I said, I am not one who is usually thrilled by the opportunity to cook, and if all I can find on TV are cooking shows, I'll turn off the TV and read a book. It wasn't bad, though. The biggest benefit I found was that she cooked some recipes that I probably would never have tried, but as I watched her, I thought, "I should try that at home." In honor of my new goal this coming week, I thought I'd leave a couple of recipes for you to try as well. If you'd like, I'd love for you to share some with me! (Just keep it simple. If I'm going to have to search for ingredients at 20 different stores or spend more than an hour in the kitchen - it's not going to happen! I can only do so much at once, you know!) I'm looking forward to seeing some of your recipes! Happy cooking!

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

1 small onion, chopped

2 teaspoons oil

3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained

1 tub (10 oz) Philadelphia Santa Fe Style Blend Cooking Creme, divided

1/2 cup Mexican style finely shredded cheese

8 (6 inch) flour tortillas

Heat oven to 350*. Cook and stir onions in hot oil in large skillet on medium heat 4-5 minutes or until crisp tender. Stir in chicken, tomoatoes, 3/4 cup cooking creme and shredded cheese.

Spoon about 1/3 to 1/2 cup chicken mixture down center of each torotilla; roll up. Place seam side down in 13X9 in. baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with remaining cooking creme. Cover. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

*The cooking creme can be found right next to the Philadelphia Creme Cheese.

Hot Cheesy Mushroom Dip

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine or broth

1 (4 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup mozarella, grated

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat the oil and melt the butter in a pan. Add the onion and cook until it starts to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine or broth, deglaze the pan and cook until it has evaporated.

Puree half of the mushrooms in a food processor. Mix the mushrooms, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano and place in a baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350* oven until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 20 -40 minutes (which our "culinary artist" pointed out is a huge variation. She said it is usually closer to 20 minutes.). Garnish with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve warm with tortilla chips or crackers.

April 6, 2011

A Great Child Training Book

I have noticed in my short parenting career that children (well, at least my children) seem to go through cycles. My children will behave like mostly perfect angels for an entire week or two, and then suddenly, they become little terrors, and unfortunately, that cycle seems to last longer than the angelic one. To my dismay, I have also noticed that these cycles are due mostly to my lack of consistency. I am outright jealous of those parents who have the ability to be black and white in their judgments of children's behavior. I am not one of those. I always see the possible exception or even place blame on myself for the behavior of my children. In training my children, I've had to do a lot of training myself, and I still have a long way to go.

Our family has been experiencing one of the terror cycles over the last month that has been due to a busy schedule, lack of routine, and utimately lack of consistent training. While reading a magazine, I saw an advertisement for a book on child training focusing on Biblical character traits. I ordered it, and it arrived just before I left for Wisconsin. Despite all the busyness of my short trip, I finished the entire book before I got back! The book - ESP (Explain, Show, Practice) Character Training by Kim S. Doebler. I really enjoyed learning about her approach to chararacter training. The entire basis of the book is that when you observe your child doing something wrong, you then explain, show and practice the right behavior over and over. By doing this, you are able to train or teach your children more and discipline or punish less. She focused on 9 different character traits: obedience, honesty, respect, orderliness, contentment, patience, diligence, self-control and wisdom. She began each chapter with a definition of the trait and a Scripture verse for the family to memorize. Then comes the part I love. She devoted an entire chapter to specific things you can do, games you can play, phrases you can use to train your children in these character traits. I have read many books on character training, but this is by far, the most practical one. For example, under the character trait of obedience, she gave these practical ideas:

Play "Mommy says" like Simon Says.

Practice calling your children and having them answer immediately.

Play a listening game: Tell your child to pat his head while you are rubbing your belly. Tell him to touch his toes while you pat your head. Have him obey what he hears not what he sees.

Role play: anytime your child disobeys at home or in public or maybe you just know there is an unusual or new situation coming up, practice that situation over and over again at home until he knows what he is to do the next time.

She had many more ideas, but these were some of the bigger ones. Of course, in child training, the main ingredient is consistency. In order to have this consistency in her home, Kim would have a 30 to 45 minute Bible/training session each day with her children. She would teach or review the character trait and Bible verse they were working on. She would read a Bible story to go along with that trait, and then they would spend the rest of the time child training by playing some of the games such as those listed above or by role playing specific situations that needed work.

We have begun doing this at our house this week, and I must say, I'm already noticing a big difference. If nothing else, it has made all of us (including the kiddos) focus on a character trait. The kids love practicing it throughout the day as well. For example, our focus right now is obedience. During the day on Monday, I set the timer for 15 minutes. When it rang, I would randomly pick one of the kids and tell them to go do something. It may have been to go stand in the bathtub or to sit under the table or to stand on a chair or to go to the back porch. They loved this and saw it as a game when I saw it as an opportunity to train my children to obey quickly and immediately no matter how strange the command. (I had to set the timer because I kept forgetting to stop and practice with them. It worked great!)

To some, this may seem a bit overboard, and I will admit, that some parts of the book can seem extreme. However, if you are serious about child training and looking for a practical tool to use, I would highly recommend this book. You can find more information about Kim Doebler, her family and her book at her website

If you take the time to review her website or order her book, let me know what you think. If you have your own child training tips, I would love to hear those as well!

April 4, 2011

Things I Said Before I Had Kids....

This is a painfully embarrassing, yet humorous, post to write. I was just thinking yesterday afternoon of how much my parenting ideas and ideals have changed since finding out I was expecting my first baby. When I became pregnant with my first, I was a 1st and 2nd grade teacher to 21 students. I had decided that my children were NOT going to do a lot of things, and that I would have the perfect family. So, here are my top five most regrettable things I said - starting with the least and working my way to the most regrettable! You are so going to laugh when you read it - well, if you're already a mom, that is!

#5: My child will never whine! you know how many times I have said TODAY, please do not whine. Talk like a big boy/girl. It is not an acceptable form of speech in this house, but the children still do it. I am a firm believer that every child will resort to whining at some point. I have found that consistently pointing it out and not allowing it to continue does help keep it at a minimum.

#4: My child will never look like that! You know you have said the same kid will never be in public with a runny nose or uncombed hair or in an outfit like that. A lot of ideals change when you become desperate and in many cases have no choice! I have walked through the entire Wal-Mart store with puke all over me and my kiddo because I only needed two more items before I was done with my shopping list. Yes, we went to the bathroom and cleaned up as best we could, but it still was not pleasant, I can assure you. However, the option of driving an hour home and driving back another hour to the store again and then driving yet another hour back home was - well - really not an option at all! Just for the record, I do try to make sure we all look normal before going out into public, but a lot can happen between the house and the store.

#3: My children will be potty-trained by the time they are two! Well, if you know me now, you know that philosophy has changed greatly! I was so determined to accomplish this goal, and my oldest was just as determined to not let me! :) None of my children have been potty-trained until they are 2 years and 8 months. Weird, I know, but it's been the same for every one of them, and they really have completely trained within 2 or 3 days! My conclusion on this: every child is different. Every family is different. I will never criticize a mom if her kiddo is not potty-trained by a certain age. Well, age 4 might be pushing it a little, but again, it's her business!

#2: I will never homeschool! I am so glad God changed my heart in this matter. You see, I grew up being homeschooled, and I loved it. I really did, but I always felt sorry for my poor Mom having to be with us all the time. Please don't misunderstand. My mom never made us feel like we were a burden to her - ever. But, when I had my first kiddo, I began to look forward to the day that I could actually be alone and away from this child for a few hours! A very selfish viewpoint - I know, but it was mine. I always thought I would get my kids into kindergarten, and then I would go back to teaching. Because I did love teaching and we lived too far away from a Christian school to justify the driving for a half day of school, I began going through a kindergarten curriculum with my oldest. It was amazing! We bonded so much because we both found we loved to learn and read. This is not to say that there are not days that I would love to send my kiddos away for the day and have some time alone. They can actually be quite frequent at times, but I've found when I have those kind of days, it's because my heart isn't right, and I need to check in with the Holy Spirit.

#1: Are you ready for this? It still makes me cringe when I remember that these words actually came from my mouth. Here goes....I'm not afraid of raising kids. That's the easy part. I'm afraid of labor! Yes, folks, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I SAID THAT! I vividly remember standing there 8 months pregnant saying those words. Thankfully, I cannot remember who exactly I said them to. I remember it was several ladies - all mothers of older children. God bless them for never having come to me and reminded me of that very prideful comment. God shows me every day how incapable I am of raising my kiddos in my own strength, and I also now know how sobering the responsibility is.

While I was thinking of these sayings of mine, it made me wonder how many more I will say? I have a tendency to speak before thinking, and so I am sure there will be more. I am thankful for God's patience and gentle teaching as well as for the patience of other moms who have tried to show me an easier way. So, to moms of little ones, watch what you say. It will come back to haunt you. Yes, it does get tiresome to hear everyone else's opinion but take it as an opportunity to be a blessing to them in allowing them to share something that is obviously very important to them. We moms do not know everything, but we feel like we have to act like we do. Remember, those ladies have been there and have had that same feeling. And one day, I'll be the one laughing once the door closes because of the comment that young mother just made, but then, I pray that I will pray earnestly for that mom as she searches for the answers when she becomes overwhelmed and realizes that 10 labors would be far easier than raising these heatherns! :)

April 2, 2011

The Car Story!

My friend and I went to a music conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this last week. Six days of music, classes, good food and shopping. It was a great time of learning for us, and we learned more than music. For example, did you realize that you need to be aware of every detail when you park a rental car in a parking garage in a city that you have never been to before?

My friend and I were looking for cheap parking. That was probably our first downfall. The parking at the hotel where our conferences were being held was $25 a day! Outrageous! So, when we saw a sign close to the hotel for $10 a day and discounts on the weekend, we whipped into it. Of course, we already had a ticket by the time we realized this was probably not a good place. It was very run down and small. I even had to back up to make a couple of the turns going up the ramps. (Please note this was NOT because of the driver's expertise or lack thereof!) After we got into the garage, we realized that "public parking" was not until the 5th floor which happens to be - the rooftop! It was snowing, 30* outside with a 20 mph wind, and did I mention yet that neither my friend or I brought a coat with us to Wisconsin?

We finally parked the car right under a light as close to the stairway as possible. We were running a little late due to direction malfunctions while trying to locate the hotel, and so we rushed down the stairway and out the door. When we opened the door, we found the street name we were on. At least we did remember to do that! We were on the corner of Michigan and 6th. The hotel was within sight, and so we rushed across the street through the snow and wind - with no coats.

We had a lovely first day at our conference! Around 3 o'clock, we decided we were ready to do some shopping, and so we headed out the door to the parking garage. First problem - our hotel takes up a literal block. You can walk out one door and be on a totally different street than if you walked out another. We did not take note of the door we walked in that morning or out that afternoon. We walked out assuming it was the same door we walked in and followed our route to the parking garage. This did not work! Do you realize how many parking garages there are within a few blocks of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Milwaukee? LOTS!!! After walking toward three different ones, absolutely sure that THIS would be the one, we became quite frustrated and discouraged. Keep in mind it's still only 32*, and we have no coats. We are dressed in business style outfits (including shoes). We have now walked downtown Milwaukee for over an hour and still have no idea where the stupid car is!

My friend finally decides she is going to call our car rental company and see if they have a GPS on the car that could tell us where we parked it! They reply, "Ummmm....nooooooooo," as if that was the stupidest question they had ever been asked. We finally went back to the hotel lobby and asked for a map of the city. I found where all we had walked, and we decided to systematically walk the areas we had not been to yet. Keep in mind - we KNOW we parked only a block or less from this hotel! Very frustrating! We marked on the map where we wanted to look next. The next big question was how to get out the right hotel door so that we did not have to spend any more time walking outside in the freezing cold than necessary. By this time, we were so confused, we couldn't even figure that part out. We finally asked the doorman at one of the doors. Of course, his first question is, "Where are you going?" Try answering that question when you really have no idea what the answer is. We finally decided honesty is the best policy and confessed our situation. Believe it or not, he knew exactly which parking garage we were parked in, walked us to the other side of the hotel and showed us our parking garage from the hotel door! That's how close we were.

I wish I could say this was the end of our story, but alas, it is not. We walked toward the parking garage, discovering along the way, that our mistake was that we did not include north or south in the street name we took note of. We were parked on 6th Street South, but had been looking for the garage on 6th Street North! We finally reached the garage, but now could not locate an unlocked door to go up the stairs to our car. We walked around the entire outside of the garage twice before finally deciding to walk up the car ramp to get to the car. When we reached level 1, we were able to locate the staircase and walk up to level 5! YAY! We finally arrived - only to find the door was frozen shut. Yes, folks, it is the truth! The door was open a crack but would not open anymore. We pulled. We kicked. We pried. My friend even wrapped her purse straps around the door knob, and we heaved together. It would not open! Remember, when we first parked, we realized it was kind of a creepy place. By now, we were close to panicked. It is almost 5 o'clock. We are in an unknown city in a parking garage that is creeping us out. We've been walking the town for almost two hours. Our fingers are so numb we cannot feel anything anymore. We finally decided to walk back down the stairs to level 4 and then walk up the car ramp to level 5 where we finally see our beautiful car - the best sight we've seen in awhile! We had to sit in the car for a few minutes to let our fingers thaw and our feet rest!

We did learn our lesson well. The next day, we went to a market place. Before we got out of the car, we wrote down every single detail of where we were and what was around us. We made it back to the car with no problems! We also found a parking area right across the front door of the hotel, and we parked there the rest of the week for just a couple of dollars more each day! We decided it was worth the extra money! It turned out to be a wonderful six days. And thankfully, when we returned the rental car, there was no mention of "Oh, I see you found the car!"

I hope you enjoyed a laugh! We certainly did! Have a great weekend....and don't forget where you parked your car!