Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Watered down theology

I'm currently reading the book "Building Strong Families" that is a compilation of several great authors: John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Dennis Rainey, and more. The chapter I'm reading now is "The Husband as Prophet, Priest, and King." To give you a preface, since the husband serves as the head of the household, he must likewise serve in the same ways as Christ served the church; prophet, priest, and king.

While most husbands choose not to go into vocational ministry or receive a doctorate in theology, whether they realize it or not, God has chosen them to be the resident theologians within our homes. Therefore, as wives if we are not clear on a doctrinal belief, we should be able to freely discuss the questions with our husbands and expect a sound answer.

Now I realize that not every man is interested in theology, nor do they always know the answer themselves, but every believer (male and female) is instructed to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. . " (1 Peter 3:15). Additionally, Paul writes, "If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home..." (1 Corinthians 14:35). Douglas Wilson, Reforming Marriage, writes "The tragedy is that many modern women have to wonder why the Bible says they should have to ask their husbands. . . . a husband must be prepared to answer his wife’s doctrinal questions, and if he cannot, then he must be prepared to study so that he can remedy the deficiency."

The quote that made me literally say "Ouch" out loud after I read it however was this:

"Wilson astutely observes that husbands are to blame for the theological breakdown in the church today. “The evangelical world,” he writes, “is throwing away its theological heritage because of doctrinal faithlessness in Christian homes. It is true that pulpits across our country are filled with a swamp and morass of anecdotes, sentimentalist yawp, yippy-skippy worship, and make-it-up-as-you-go-along theology; but the heads of Christian homes have been willing to have it so. As the expectations for men in the evangelical world have gotten lower, men have not objected—they have breathed a sigh of relief.”

Ouch again. seems even more convicting with each time I read it. Now please don't misunderstand my reasoning behind this post. It was not meant to bash our husbands, create contempt, etc. It was meant to establish and affirm the importance of our husbands being the prophets or resident theologians within our homes.

As wives though, I don't think we can completely let ourselves off the hook either. How many times have I simply gone to a Christian website to research a topic without asking my husband first? And while I'm not saying that our husband's take is the only one we should seek, I am saying that we should come to them first with our questions. How many times have I unintentionally not allowed him to rightly take his place as prophet within the home? By going to our husbands first, I do think that that will only foster confidence and challenge them to up their theological game.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sewing help, please!

I came this close to buying a sewing machine last week. Aside from debating the price tags on the machines, I'll admit it: I don't know much about sewing. I see the obvious value of owning one, and I'm crafty as it is, so I figured why not?

I'm a hesitant shopper regarding most things, and considering the price tag on most sewing machines, even lesser expensive ones ($80+), I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I am scared that I'll go on a sewing binge and then store it away for a decade until I bring it back out.

This is my call for help here. If you're experienced or maybe just a wannabe like me, please feel free to comment. For now, please adjust your answers to a beginner's needs if you're able to do so.

  1. What features are truly necessary on a machine? Which ones are not?

  2. Is brand name really that important? Is there a difference in quality for example?

  3. Besides the obvious machine, what other items should be purchased to get started and for basic projects? And how much would a minimum investment be?

  4. Is it truly cost saving to create most items?? (I worry that I'll end up spending far more on the fabric or notions than it would actually cost to buy from somewhere like TJ Maxx or Ross).

  5. Do you need to buy a Sewing 101 type of book or take a class to learn sewing? Or is it possible to just experiment on your own and be self-taught?

  6. What have been the biggest challenges in learning sewing?

  7. If you knew then what you know now, what would that be?

If I think of anything else, I'll update my questions. All comments are welcome, regardless if you respond to the aforementioned items :)

I already have a project in the queue so to speak; it's a great apron pattern that I'll post later once I get started on it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Titus 2 Woman

What should you look for in a godly female role model?

Look no further than Titus 2:3-5, "Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God."

My Titus 2 woman is Linda whom I met about a year and a half ago. Her husband Jim was our Bible Fellowship class leader. Before I met Linda, I never knew there could be godly women with larger than life personalities. Somewhere along my way of learning about good Christian women, this idea of a timid little mouse had infiltrated my ideals. And sadly I became kind of brainwashed to that concept all the while beginning to dislike myself. You see, if you're wacky and spunky like me, I began to think there was no place for this girl in the Kingdom. (Maybe I could be the court jester)? I can see clearly how Satan lies to us through these crazy myths that so easily entangle us; only self-sabotaging the life that God calls us to live in abundance.

Well, Linda blew that myth out of the water. Here was a woman who lit up a room much like firecrackers light up the sky. She was full of energy, robust, feisty, sincere, funny, and to sum her up completely, passionate. The more time we spent together, the more I realized that it was okay to be myself. I wrote her a letter one time thanking her for giving me permission so as to speak, to be me. Not only did she have a joie de vie, she knew Who she belonged to.

When you finally have an epiphany of the heart that yes, God does love you for who you are, at your best, at your worst, and no, nothing will ever change that, you are suddenly free. Free to be who He created you to be. The girl who loves clothes, and the girl who could care less. The geek. The prep. The tomboy. The artist. The techie. The tree-hugger. The drama queen. We will all be represented in Heaven one day. And that is a very beautiful thing.

Linda, despite her dominant personality, can easily display her gentle submissiveness to her husband. You can tell when she looks at him that she honestly admires him. He leads, she follows. She always praises him to others and finds delight while doing so.

She's been a great model to show the complementary nature of marriage; headship and submission, masculinity and femininity, love and respect, give and take. I intentionally used and instead of versus because these areas should not compete with one another. They are both equally valued and therefore equally necessary to provide balance.

God knew what He was doing when He created the gift of relationship. The idea of older and younger women coming together to share life, wisdom, laughs, and so much more is brilliant. Every woman needs a friend who's a safety net that will gently catch her and help her back up on her feet when she falls. If you don't have a Titus 2 woman in your life, I encourage you to take the risk and initiative in asking someone who's caught your eye. And consider this, if you're already older, there may be a younger woman who's looking at you! I hope that I won't forget the cycle of the Titus 2 woman; that it's not always being the younger woman who's taught, but also the older woman who passes down wisdom.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Snow Day

My Snow Day in pictures from yesterday.... I am so glad that I could stay home and enjoy God's creation. What a creative God we serve! I'm always amazed at the beautiful scenes He so easily paints. I also had time to try out two new recipes and they both turned out great (see photos and recipe links below). In between baking and preparing food, I swooned over Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday and sang along to the new Hairspray version. Hey, a girl's gotta take advantage of girlie movies while her fella's away. ;)

Backyard view

The quintessential taking-a-photo-of-yourself-with-arms-hyperextended-and-praying-your-face-made-it-into-the-lens photo

Cubbie enjoying the snow

Where does this path lead?

A beautiful hidden creek

Snowy boots by the fire

My snowflake candle that I love

I finally got to bake these yummies and they were divine

I love the snow

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When all hope is lost, God still remains.

To my readers, I'm going to go ahead and apologize for the fact that it seems I've been posting some pretty depressing posts here recently. I promise after this next one, I'll try to post more lighthearted ones. Deal?

Earlier this week I met with a patient at work and could sense something was wrong. If I hadn't taken the time to really determine what was wrong, I would have merely brushed off her pithy responses as an 'attitude problem.' I'm so thankful that I moved beyond my first impression of her. She had mentioned that she had been recently discharged from the hospital only last weekend.

The Holy Spirit nudged me and pointed out her hurt. I could tell she was fragile, as if struggling not to cry. I left her for a few minutes and while back in my office searched for a scripture verse to hand her. I chose Romans 8:28 (NLT), "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." As I went back in to see her, I prayed for courage and faith that God would work in this tiny moment. I gingerly held the verse in my hand wondering how exactly to preface this gift.

I looked her in the eyes and said, "Ma'am, I can tell you're hurting. And I don't know what you're going through, but I know that God does." Tears began rolling down her cheeks.

"He sees your hurt and He loves you. I'd like to give you this verse, and I want you to know that He knows exactly what you're dealing with."

I passed her some Kleenex while she thanked me through tears. We left the room and walked quietly together to the lobby where I wished her a happy 2008.

It was only minutes after I left her in the lobby, that I discovered she had been admitted to the hospital last week for attempting suicide. It had also not been her first attempt either. Immediately, tears welled up in my eyes. I prayed thanking God for blessing me with the opportunity of encouraging her and God-willing, letting her know that she has Hope. When all hope is lost, God still remains.

I'd like to end this post with an anecdote I heard several months ago that I've never forgotten:

Dr. Jerome Motto recounts a particularly sobering bridge suicide occurring sometime in the 1970s. "I went to this guy's apartment afterward with the assistant medical examiner… The guy was in his thirties, lived alone, pretty bare apartment. He'd written a note and left it on his bureau. It said, 'I'm going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.'"

One smile, one “hello”, one door held open might not save someone’s life. But it might.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Insured by Smith & Wesson

This will be a quickie entry for now, but I just had to tell this, because I am still in shock over it. Back in November, we moved from our beautiful new home in a great neighborhood to a fixer-upper condo close to our wonderful church.

I am amazed at God's mercy, because we found out from a neighbor from our previous neighborhood, that our old home got broken into!!!! :( I was blown away when he informed us. Apparently it happened around 10 a.m. last Friday while the family went out for errands. They came back and the front door had been kicked in and various electronics stolen.

I told Brent, "If that doesn't confirm our obedience to move, I don't know what does...." Needless to say, while I am extremely thankful that it did not happen to us, I am saddened and concerned for the current family. I feel even worse because they are new believers, new U.S. immigrants, and new to the state. It still surprises me it happened due to the location of the house, (right in the middle of the neighborhood), and that there are loads of retirees, dog walkers, SAHMs, etc. It looks like someone would have seen the thieves. Please pray for the Ding family that God would restore peace and comfort to them and their home.

In other related news, Brent now wants a shotgun.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Letters

Preface: Back in February of 2006, I made the decision to sponsor a little girl from India through Compassion International. At the time, the idea of having a pen pal relationship was unique to me, and even cool. Let alone giving monetary support to give her meals, some gifts, and access to education and healthcare all done in Jesus' most wonderful name! What greater gift is there? If I had known then, what I know now about how my heart has been transformed from this sweet child of mine, I wouldn't have believed it.

As Christians, our paths or journeys to righteousness vary greatly. For some, there is a Holy Spirit lightbulb moment, where suddenly everything changes in an instant. For others, we cannot give a defining moment, yet we can trace the Holy Spirit's influence quite clearly through certain conversations or circumstances. My heart has been changed via the latter method.

I cannot tell you the instance I fell in love with my child, nor can I tell you when my burden for India and it's people was pressed upon me. I only know that as humanly and divinely as possible, that I love this little girl that I have never met and we are oceans apart. It's a special and different bond since we have never talked face to face, let alone in the same language. We vary in age by 15 years, and the culture gap, as you may imagine, is vast. But what is not vast, is the ability for God to orchestrate our precious relationship and the way that words can touch your very heart.

The letters are very precious to me, they are in fact, the only way I ever learn anything about her. When my mailbox contains an envelope that reads, "Enclosed is a letter from your sponsor child," my heart leaps with joy. I immediately fumble and clumsily tear the seal to read her very own words and her beautiful swirling handwriting. And the letters themselves come only a few times a year, so their arrival is a much anticipated one. "Dear Aunty" as she calls me, "I pray for you often." In one simple sentence, you are humbled and blessed. She writes about her daily chores or favorite flower, and thankfully, she oftentimes writes about my letters that I have sent her: "Thank you for telling me about Christ and Easter." More than ever, I deeply desire for her to know Christ personally, to know that He is real, He is love, He is more than she'll ever need.

After receiving her letters, they are either displayed on our fridge or filed away in our Missions folder. Last Saturday, however, was a turning point.

I opened the folder to find only two of her previous letters. "Where are all the rest?" I wondered to myself. I dug through other folders thinking, "perhaps they were misplaced." At this point, I suddenly became panicked, because after all, this is the only place where her letters are stored. I quickly called my husband, "Where are the letters?!"

In one simple sentence, you are crushed in one fell swoop.

"I think I threw them away."

The look on my face, the pain in my heart, the sound of my crying is something I'm sure he will not soon forget. I'll be transparent here, because in all honesty, Christians need to be more so. I bawled for an hour. It was all I could do to not say something unkind to my husband. Ladies, I know you've been there, and that it is so easy to unload our anger on our loved ones. I haven't been that upset in years. The accusations, questions, disbelief, shock, anger; they were all there. But by the grace of God, He kept my angry tongue silent.

My precious letters, gone.

This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. Where the act of forgiveness is commanded, but your heart is most certainly not in it. And you are torn. These daily circumstances are what etch either godliness or sinfulness onto our hearts. It's what defines us as Christians really. My husband apologized for the pain he had caused.

I chose, and I do mean that quite deliberately, to forgive. My heart still aches, and I've caught myself crying or welling up at the thought of the Letters. But as Paul tells us, we must take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. I cannot let Satan to influence a grudge towards my husband. I cannot let him make me an emotional slave to the Letters for the rest of my life.

Whenever I begin to think of the missing Letters, I tell God, "Lord, You are the only One who knows what those letters spoke of. You are the only One who knows the physical location of those letters. I entrust them to You. You alone are worthy. You are the only One who knows how much I treasured them, and how much it broke my heart. I trust that You will give me accurate memory of her words to write her with. And I hope that if possible, I will read those again one day in Heaven."

This entry is in honor of Essakkiamal and how much her Letters have truly been a blessing in my life. Though I will never tell her that her precious letters are now gone, I can say that I will treasure her future letters all the more. This entry is also a testiment to the Holy Spirit and His amazing ability to provide grace to me and to you, even through the most difficult of times.

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Good harmless" things

Ever since I came across this excerpt as mentioned on the Walk Slowly, Live Wildly blog, it has really stayed with me and has indirectly been the subject of meditation.

"Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once…art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best. It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God…and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory…" taken from "Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God" by Noel Piper.

The two phrases that really affected me were "to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once" and "the good hiding the best." For me personally, as a Christian, I no longer take part in worldly sins, i.e. drunkenness, stealing, promiscuity, etc. And while my life has wholesome activities and hobbies in it, I grappled with the concept of "good harmless" ideas the other day. For example, while I'm cutting back on watching television, now I'm investing time in reading books. And yes, reading is a good thing and depending upon the subject matter, harmless. But is it really the best thing? While reading of ways to enhance my homemaking skills is a noble and honest pursuit, wouldn't my time be better spent investing my life into others?

We have several neighbors within our unit, but there's one guy who lives directly below us, whom I'd like to minister to. He is most likely in his late sixties to early seventies and he lives alone with the exception of a few cats. His car is always in its space, yet he never leaves many lights on. For the past week I've been meaning to bake him some goodies or invite him over for dinner. But let's face it, at some point we've got to move from meaning to do something to actually doing it. Amen?

What things have you been meaning to do? Why haven't you done them already? What good things are hiding the best things in your life?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Show & Tell: my new FoodSaver

Allow me to indulge myself by sounding like an infomercial. This is to all the skeptics or committment-phobes out there regarding the FoodSaver; I used to be one.

My parents surprised me with this wonderful gift and I am loving every minute of it!FoodSaver 2460, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

  1. It actually saves pantry and freezer space. All you have to do is picture what most of our foods are packaged in: boxes or other containers. I was able to condense all of my boneless, skinless chicken breasts and ground beef and turkey into much smaller vacuum packaged bags. I have about 10 pounds of protein crammed into a small nook of my top freezer now :) With a smaller fridge, this has been an unexpected benefit.
  2. Portion control is now easier than ever. I can buy in bulk and simply divvy it up into 2 person quantities (meat, specifically). That ginormous flat of Cheetos you've always wanted to buy from Costco can now be a reality.
  3. The canisters. Ohhh the canisters. These have been invaluable in only the week I've owned them. Canisters store the food that should not be vacuum sealed, i.e. chips, soft cookies, crackers, flour, etc. I am using them to store salad, cut up fruit, and homemade croutons. They come in various sizes and shapes, and all you have to do is connect a tiny hose to the canister's lid and to the FoodSaver. Voila! No more air in the canister.
  4. I'm motivated to buy more produce and encouraged to eat more of it. Why? Because even when I do buy produce, the next week it's already become a science experiment in the bottom left drawer of the fridge. I was blown away by the section in the FoodSaver manual that reveals a food's natural decay period versus food that has been vacuum sealed. Most produce has a doubled shelf life thanks to the FoodSaver. The bagged salad that usually wilts in its own bag before I even open it is now able to last up to 2 weeks! Different cuts of meat can now last up to 3 years in your freezer. Does that thought sound appealing or frightening to you?? See next point.
  5. The FoodSaver bags protect your food from becoming either freezer burned or being exposed to air. So the 3 year old ground beef should taste more like 3 day old beef. I should probably have prefaced all of this entry as to how vacuum packaging actually works. It simply removes the air from your food. How does that relate to freshness? Doesn't food need to 'breathe?' Not according to scientists and biologists. Moisture and oxygen in air cause food to degrade over time. This translates to less nutritional quality, flavor, and texture. The FoodSaver helps prevent all that from happening.
  6. Sealing. Now, I had honestly never thought about this feature before. I always assumed it went hand in hand with the vacuuming function. Well, it does. But, you can also seal regular bags of food without having to vacuum. Your store-bought bags of chips and pretzels can be resealed right in their own bag. It's like breaking open a fresh bag every time. No more random chip clips and clothespins. Just like store-bought bags, you'll still have a little bit of air left in the bag, but you can be assured that no air will be entering in.
  7. Speedy operation. One of my main hesitations in buying one a couple of months ago was wondering if I'd actually take the time to use the dad blasted thing. No one wants to invest money into a small appliance and never use it. And if you're like me, you want to make darn sure that it's countertop worthy; both in appearance and use. It has happily proved itself to me. Back to the speedy operation bit, it takes literally seconds to use. This is a huge factor in even wanting to use it continually. Because we have a very small kitchen and a shortage of countertop space, I keep mine tucked in a drawer and pull it out as need be. I am learning that I use it so much that it's getting frustrating to pull it out so many times!
  8. It's fun! I am such a geek. Anyone who knows me will tell you that up front. The FoodSaver actually brings a smile to my face because I know that my food will last that much longer and taste fresh once the canister or bag is opened. It is also man friendly. One of my best friend's husbands has his own FoodSaver night where he goes to town on all their food. Plus, it's wonderful for any hunters and their game.

So yes, there are lots of other ways that the FoodSaver could be a benefit to your home. Check out the FoodSaver website for lots of info.

Brent and I chuckled the other day when I described the triumvirate of kitchen management: the FoodSaver, Aldi's, and monthly meal planning. Glorious!

I have a warning now to any visitors to our home: If you sit around long enough, you might just end up having found yourself vacuum sealed. :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, I hope everyone had a great New Year's celebration. I had a fun evening with friends over some boardgames, Battle of the Sexes and Cranium. And did you even have to wonder who won? The women of course. After the sparkling wildberry juice had been drunk, the wishes had been made, 2008 had arrived.

With a new year ahead, I have anticipation of new and great things ahead. For one, I am resolved to be disciplined in daily Bible reading and prayer. So far, by God's grace, I completed day one. You might be thinking to yourself that day one should be a cakewalk. Well, like any new habit, starting or stopping cold-turkey takes determination and effort. So, no more excuses...because really, there are none. Last night I read through several chapters of Isaiah and it was like a breath of fresh air. Praise the Lord \o/ Brent and I are still working on our goals for 2008 and I'm looking forward to the challenge. Some of my other personal goals for 2008 are listed below:

  • watch less tv (if this happens, my other goals should be much easier to accomplish!)
  • read more
  • diligence in homemaking
  • crafting and learning other ways to DIY
  • volunteer on a regular basis
  • write my sponsor child on a monthly basis
I'll also be starting two new classes offered through our church: Learning Greek through the New Testament and Perspectives on World Missions. Missions have definitely come into my heart within the past year more than ever, and I want to take a proactive approach in learning more.

This is a tall order for sure, but God willing, it will happen!

May God reveal Himself to you in 2008 like never before.