Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thirty One Thursdays - The Value of Virtue

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week.

Proverbs 31:10
"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies."

Have you ever casually glided into a high-end jewelery store just to oggle the diamonds? You find yourself staring through the top of the case at that ring/necklace/bracelet that you will only ever wear in your imagination, when you notice a small puddle of saliva collecting on the glass underneath you. "Good afternoon, may I be of assistance to you today?" A condescendingly tall, gem-strewn woman appears, ruining your tastefully lustful moment, offering you her assistance and a cup of hot tea. Quick, lean on the drool pool before she notices. "No thank you," you say, unsure of why you're speaking in an English accent, "I'm just browsing today." She smiles politely and walks on, as you wipe your moistened sleeve across the glass top.  You move on to the next case, aching desire returning to your chest as your admire the beautiful gems.

Proverbs 31:10-31 tells us about the Virtuous Woman, and right off the bat we're let in on just how valuable she is.  No one is quite sure of her identity, or if it's even an actual person being written about.  Chances are we're reading about an ideal to be pursued.  If verses 10-31 are an extension of verses 1-9, then the writings on the Virtuous Woman are an admonition to King Lemuel from his mother.  She is advising him in the way of seeking out a wife and counseling him in the qualities he should look for.  It is almost certainly not, as we often assume, a biography of a specific woman.

It is also good to know that the series of verses is a poem; an alphabetic acrostic.  Each verse (or line of the poem) corresponds to a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, in order.  Here's a picture of the Hebrew alphabet (sometimes called the Alef Bet after the first two letters) just so you have something to identify with.

Remember, Hebrew is written and read right to left, so the first letter is Alef.  There are also a few repeated letters here, because they are written differently when used in different contexts (in case you were wondering why you were counting more than 22 letters).  Because the writing on the Virtuous Woman is a poem, we can assume that some words were chosen for the sake of the poetry.  We can also rest in the fact that the series of verses itself is intended to be beautiful, and also intended to be remembered.  It may have been written in the form of an alphabetic acrostic to provide for easy memory for a young man.

So we begin with Alef, verse 10.

Let's go back to that feeling you got in the jewelery store, when looking at a beautiful, unattainable piece of jewelery.  Well that is just the beginning of how the world feels about this Virtuous Woman.  We learn that her value, or what she is worth, is far above these beautiful jewels.  The word virtuous comes from the Hebrew word chayil, actually meaning strength, ability, or efficiency, and could be comparable to the strength of an army or the wealth of a city.  It is often used to describe strength of character, and is translated this way in only two other places in the Old Testament.  The first, in the description of Ruth found in Ruth 3:11.  The second, in Proverbs 12:4; "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband."  The words far above come from the Hebrew word rachowq, meaning remote or distant.  It is often used in the context of being very far off but still able to be seen.  It makes me think of how God is distinguished from mankind in His holiness, or how Wisdom is distinguished from foolishness in its perfectness.  In a similar way, a woman of virtue is distinguished from other women of the world in her beauty.  This verse is actually telling us that a woman who has strength of character is a very rare find indeed.  She is set far apart even from the most beautiful thing you've ever laid your eyes on.  Wow.  It's humbling for me to even think about assuming that I could attain this rare beauty in my own life.

But it's crucial for us to remember that we are not the ones who attain it for ourselves.  God is the one who will turn us into these rare gems only when we submit ourselves to Him.  I've been going through a study called Following God; Life Principles from the Women of the Bible. I think the authors of the study state it perfectly:
"[These women are not rare] because God is unable to make many women like this, but because few stay consistently yielded to Him as to attain this level of excellence."
The virtuous woman is not rare because of God's selectivity; she is rare because of mankind's quickness to rebellion.  If I look into my own life and find that I am lacking these rare qualities of strength and efficiency, before complaining to God about it I have to be willing to also look honestly at my level of functional daily surrender to His will.  Becoming a woman of virtue requires submitting to God above and before all else.  Nothing else will get us there.  Nothing else will instill in us the described value.

As we read past verse 10, we will begin to look in detail at the varying traits of the Virtuous Woman.  The list is not intended to make us feel bad about ourselves (remember, it was probably written to a man in the first place!), so I want to encourage you to lower the shield of pride as you read.  The purpose of the Proverbs, this poem included, is to give wisdom and instruction, not to bring condemnation.
"To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth-
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance"
Proverbs 1:2-5
Let's read this poem about the Virtuous Woman as simple instruction that we can see with fresh eyes and be guided by from this point forward.  Let's resolve to read it no longer as that unachievable, guilt-laden to-do list.  If we can come with honesty, humility, and willingness to let God be the teacher, then we will surely learn new truths here.  And we will be transformed into women who are beautifully rare indeed.

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  Print off a picture of the most beautiful piece of valuable jewelery or pile of gems you can find. Gotta love google image!  Find something that is attractive to you. Tape it to your bathroom mirror, the one you look in every day while getting ready (ya know, the one you've looked into so many times and seen a less than beautiful reflection in). And while you throw on your make-up and tie back your hair, remind yourself that the steps you're taking today in submitting to God, however small they might be, are turning you into something more beautiful and more coveted than that piece of jewelery. Let the image be a visual reminder of what God has destined you for and called you to.

"The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain."
Proverbs 31:11

Blue Letter Bible. "The Proverbs of Solomon 31 - (NKJV - New King James Version)." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 30 Dec 2010. < >

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NEW (I swear!) Lunch Ideas for Kids

While browsing through Ross a few weeks ago, as we all do from time to time ("Oh that yellow tea kettle would look amazing on my stove!" "Ooooh those heels are CUTE... and CHEAP!" "Oh yeah I DO need new bath towels!"), I came across their children's book section.  (Ross sells books??)  And while browsing through the randomly shelved books, I came across this little beauty:
Sesame Street Silly Snacks; Cooking with Kids.  For $3.50 (compare at $10.00... yay Ross!) I picked up oodles of new lunch and snack ideas that my toddler, and probably most other young kids, will actually consider eating!  Unbelievable!  I LOVE finding new lunch ideas for kids because they are so darn picky and don't want to eat anything healthy (even though that's all we ever have in the house!) and if I have to make one more box of organic mac 'n cheese I might barf! 
I want to share a few of my favorites with you, in case you feel the same way.  Right now.  Because I like you.

Lily Pads
2 Cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves (about half of a 6 oz bag)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour (or a little less if using whole wheat)
1/2 Cup low-fat milk (although I always use whole, and find that 1/4 Cup is plenty)
Slices of your fave cheese

1. Put the spinach in a bowl of a food processor.  Pulse on and off until the spinach is coarsely chopped.  Add the eggs,, butter, salt, sugar and nutmeg.  Process until combined.
2.  Add the flour and process until combined.  Add the milk and process until the batter is smooth.
3.  In the meantime, lay the slices of cheese on a cutting board.  Cut out circles using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter.  Save the scraps for another snack.
4.  Heat a skillet over medium heat and brush lightly with butter (or spray with cooking spray).  Drizzle the batter onto the skillet in circles about 2 inches in diameter (like a silver dollar pancake).  Cook 1 minute or until the edges turn dull.  Flip each Lily Pad, then top as many as you wish with the cheese circles.  (I don't have a circle cookie cutter, so I sprinkle parmesan on top of each one.)
5.  Cover and cook and additional 30 seconds or until the cheese melts a little.  Remove the Lily Pads to a plate and repeat the steps with the remaining batter.

Yam Yums
1 large (or 2 medium) sweet potatoes
1/2 Cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Salt and black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2.  Cut the scrubbed but unpeeled sweet potato crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Place the slices on a cutting board.  To make the Yam Yums, use small metal cookie cutters about 1 1/2 inches in diameter to cut the potato slices into shapes.  Or, cut out shapes or letter with a sharp knife.  Save the scraps for another use.
3.  Stir together the maple syrup, orange juice and melted butter in a small bowl.
4.  Arrange the Yam Yums in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
5.  Season both sides of the Yam Yums with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Brush them generously with part of the maple syrup mixture.
6.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the Yam Yums are tender, turning the pieces over once and basting with the remaining maple syrup mixture.
7.  Remove the Yam Yums to a wire rack or platter and cool.

Frosty Orange Bowls (for a breakfast, side or dessert)
2 small navel oranges
1 container (6 oz) orange, lemon, or vanilla yogurt (the thicker the better)

1.  Wash the oranges.
2.  Cut off a quarter to a half inch or the orange from one end (taking the "top" off), revealing the pulp.  Cut a small amount of orange peel off the other end (giving a flat surface so the orange will stand up straight, acting as your bowl).
3.  Carefully cut the pulp from each orange with a small knife, grapefruit knife, or grapefruit spoon.  Save the empty orange shells for step 5.  (Ok, I think this is the tricky step.  The first time I tried these I used all the pulp as well as all the juice from inside the orange.  It works much better of you can use mostly just the pulp and save most of the juice for something else.)
4.  Place the orange pulp and the yogurt in a blender container.  Cover and process until almost smooth, about 12 seconds.
5.  Spoon the orange mixture into the reserved orange shells, slightly mounding the mixture on the top.  (Pour any remaining mixture in a small cup to be eaten now or frozen for later.)
6.  Place the oranges in a small container or individual custard cups.  Loosely wrap each with plastic wrap.  Freeze about 1 hour or until slightly firm and frosty.
These can be wrapped tightly and frozen overnight and up to several days.  Let stand at room temperature 15-30 minutes to soften before eating.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thirty One Thursdays - Introduction

Proverbs 31:10-31. It can be the greatest source of encouragement or the most brutal pond of reflection. Ha. We read a description of what seems to be the perfect woman. She's a gal with a plan and a purpose and the ability to execute. And all with a smile on her face and song in her heart, of course. This passage can be an intimidating read, but I've been thinking lately that there must be more to grasp in this passage than just "Man I feel like crap after reading that."

Proverbs 31 sets forth quite the ideal when it comes to womanly achievement. But I'd like to believe it wouldn't be there at all if there wasn't some quality of attainability within it. The woman described is a rare find, of more value than any jewel, but maybe we can become this rare woman.

So I present to you Thirty One Thursdays. It is a study, a realization, a challenge. Over the next 22 weeks we will use Thursdays at Life On Purpose to dive into this passage of scripture. Each week we will look at one verse and only one verse. We'll break it all down nice and slow, like an awkward middle school dance. How do you feel about it? What does it mean? Am I supposed to do that? CAN I do that?? And each week there will be an Action Step to go along with the verse. Sometimes it will be something simple to help us remember what we read. Sometimes it will be something a little more complicated to really help us apply what we read. Sometimes it will be funny or weird or moving or require us to change. But there will be something, each week, to help us better understand (and perhaps better emulate) the woman we're reading about.

I would love for you to join me. And I would love for you to commit to participating in Thirty One Thursdays. (Don't be scared of commitment!) If you're going to join in the fun, simply leave a comment below. Tell us that you're jumping in with us and WHY. Do you want some study direction? Do you want to see what strange challenges we're going to do? Are you ready for a change? No matter what the reason, let us know you'll be here on Thursdays. We will form an online club of crazy, motivated women!

-Comment below telling us you're in and why.
-Read Proverbs 31:10-31 once a day this week. And if you're really feeling ambitious go ahead and write a short response after reading.

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies."
Proverbs 31:10; NIV

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Just" A Mom?

Last week I had to have some blood drawn for general prenatal labs, an experience that I dread. But there I bravely sat, in the registrar's office, verifying that all my information was still the same before heading down the long hall to face the needle. The woman efficiently typing away my maiden name, current address and insurance information said, "And you still work at The Dance Center, right?" "No that has changed," I said. "Well what do you do now?" The question took me by surprise. What DO I do now? What definition do I have? "Oh, umm, well I'm just a stay-at-home-mom." As soon as the words fell off my tongue I wanted to shove them back in my mouth. "Oh ok. Well, teaching dance must have been a lot of fun." Her response felt like a calculated right cross, adding further humiliation to my insignificant life.

Why did I feel embarrassed to tell her that I'm a stay-at-home-mom? And why was she moved to empathize with me over the fact that I'm not active in the workforce anymore? Do you ever feel like you're "just" a mom? Like what you give in your home every day doesn't really mean anything? Do you sometimes feel like you're not doing anything "real" with your life because your day-to-day consists merely of laundry, dishes, diapers and sitting on the park bench watching your kids throw sand into the air? I do!

But I regret allowing these thoughts to manifest themselves so boldly in my mind. "You're nothing more than a mom now" is a dangerous lie that the enemy tells to try to get us discouraged and off track. Before I had kids, I shamefully admit, I was a harsh judge of women who aspired to be "just" moms. I thought, doesn't she want something more for her life? Has she no ambition? Now that I have a son, I realize how completely wrong I was in my assumptions.

The Lord is showing me what a privelege it is to be the entrusted care-taker of young lives. When He gives us a child, He gives us a gift; and not just the gift of the child. He gives us the gift of motherhood, something totally underestimated by the world's standards, but a blessed, enriched, fulfilled occupation in His sight.

When your first child was born, you received a CALLING. It is a calling with a great purpose. It is a calling with unimaginable reward. And it is a calling that requires a response. We can choose to respond grudgingly, with unwilling hearts to fulfill this call, or we can respond as Mary did:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
...for the Mighty One has done great things for me."

Mary was a young girl with her whole life ahead of her. She had the potential to bring great honor to her family name. And now she was found unmarried and pregnant, making her less than nothing in that society. She was a disgrace, not even worthy to live. And she responded with a heart of thankfulness. She saw what God had in mind for her, and any ambition she had had for her future life turned dim in light of His Will over her.

Women of God, we should make this our response as well, understanding that God has placed a personal, intimate, glorified calling over our lives as mothers. It is a calling that ushers in a great amount of responsibility and we should not take it lightly, as the world often does. Don't let the lie of the enemy convince you that you are something "less" than significant because of what you DO. You are a daughter in a divine family, and you have been given an enormously important role to fulfill.

The next time someone asks me what I do, I hope I will respond in confidence, chest puffed out, beaming with pride, "I am a daughter of the Most High God! I am a blessed vessel! I am a shaper of lives and giver of wisdom! I am strong, powerful and able! I AM a Stay-At-Home-Mom!"

Ok, that might be a little much to profess in the middle of the registrar's office at the health lab, but I definitely plan on not lowering my eyes to the ground the next time I answer this question. I will choose to respond in thankfulness for the amazing gift God has given me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Snow

Here are a few pictures of Maddox playing in the first snow of the season a couple weeks ago. The night before he was so nervous watching the snow fall outside. Getting out in the daylight was much more fun! Afterwards, we came inside and had some hot chocolate at the kitchen table together. God's blessings are so rich, and it's moments like these that help me realize and remember that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stress-Free Holidays... or Something Like That

I headed out of the house to run a quick errand the other day and couldn't believe how stressed-out I felt by the time I arrived at my destination. And then I remembered that it's December, and in December, people are crazy on the road. Have you noticed that yet this year? All of a sudden the Christmas spirit hits and what's supposed to turn everyone into selfless, giving, caring human beings instead transforms ordinary people into extraordinary jerks. But then, it's not just on the road; it's everywhere! And it's not just other people... that's right, it happens in my home, my life, and my heart, too. And while we can't change how stressed out the people around us are, we can definitely be more conscious about the stress in our own lives this holiday season. Here are a few tips that I've found helpful so far in achieving a low-stress December...

1. Keep Christ on the Throne
I want to put this out there first because most times in life if we can stay focused on Christ everything else will fall into place. It is important to remember what we are celebrating during Christmas, and that is the birth of our Savior. If we can keep our eyes on Jesus, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to let the little things go and see situations for what they are and do all the other things I'm about to mention. He is the one who enables us to be at peace in our souls, no matter what time of year it is.

2. Organize
Sounds so simple, right? But how often are we running around town the few days before Christmas because we don't know what dish to bring here, or what gift to give there? Organizing early relieves stress. For our family there are three areas that I have gotten organized early this year: Budget, Gifts, and Events. It has been especially important in these areas to know what we are doing ahead of time, while there is still time. That means sitting down with hubby and deciding how much we're going to spend, who we're going to buy for, what we are going to buy, and where we are going to go (and not go) this Christmas. I am very visual, so having it all written out on a note card is tremendously helpful. I carry the note card with me so I can reference it whenever I forget what I'm doing or where I'm going or why I'm going there! Wait, how much money am I supposed to spend on that secret santa gift? Note card!

3. Prioritize (Events and Everything Else)
You can't do it all. Wait, let me say it again, with a little more emPHAsis... YOU CAN'T DO IT ALL. That's right, and neither can I. We like to think, especially at Christmas-time, that we are all-powerful all-conquering wives and mothers. We are the hostesses with the mostesses and ain't NOBODY gonna bring a better casserole to that potluck! This, I believe, is the central source of almost every woman's holiday stress. And do you know what that really is, all masked in homemade wrapping paper? It's pride. The best place to start in prioritizing is admitting that we can not, in fact, do it all. Now that that's out of the way, we are free to make room for a few special events in December, and politely decline a few other invites. Decide what is important in your family, and what is not, and prioritize accordingly. No one benefits from running all over town to make a bunch of appearances. And NO ONE benefits when the woman of the house is too high-strung to enjoy anything that's going on.

4. Set a Budget, and STICK TO IT
In our family, we do not put Christmas gifts on credit cards. It's all cash at Christmas. We are not able to do this because we have a lot of money, on the contrary, we have both been working only part-time or volunteer jobs for the last year, at least, with plenty of medical expenses to top off the regular bills. Sticking to a budget is all about deciding what is important to your family, and setting financial goals and expectations accordingly. If we expect of ourselves to pay for Christmas in cash, then we will take the necessary steps to make that happen. Maybe that means we start saving a little earlier, or maybe that means we buy smaller gifts and less of them. I want to encourage you, this is especially easier to do while the kids are still young and we are teaching them what to expect from us. If our young kids expect hundreds of dollars in gifts each Christmas, it's only because we have enabled those expectations. So go ahead and establish a budget first, then decide who you can afford to buy for and what you can afford to buy within those means. Organizing and prioritizing. Remember that Christmas is about Jesus' glory, not ours in giving the best gifts to everyone.

5. A Little At A Time
In other words, don't procrastinate. Do a little something every day this month. That big list (which hopefully is a little smaller after prioritizing) will shrink a little more with each passing day. By the time the 24th rolls around, the lights will be hung, the gifts will be wrapped, and there will be hot apple cider on the stove for the whole family to enjoy. Riiiiight. :) But really, not all the gifts have to be bought at once. And if you get half the tree up today and half up tomorrow and decorated next week, GREAT! Tree is done! If you hate shopping for a new dress for the party, do it NOW, even if the party isn't for two more weeks. Doing a little at a time allows us to take our time on the road, smile at people we stroll past in the store, and continue being pleasant to our kids. Ha. It allows us to move with ease through the holiday season, thinking about other people first.

6. Keep A Clean Home
This is that icing on the cake tip. It is not equal to remembering Jesus... cleanliness is not next to Godliness, but it helps a ton in alleviating stress when we can manage it. We have some friends who set their kitchen timer for 15 minutes every night and pick up the house until the timer dings. It is amazing what can get accomplished in 15 minutes! I always feel so much better the next morning if I take a few minutes to finish the dishes the night before. Our homes are supposed to be our havens away from stress. If we feel anxious in our homes because of the pile of papers, or the sink full of dishes, or the should've-been-mopped-yesterday floor, we can not expect to feel peaceable anywhere. This, I am finding, is true any time of the year, but is magnified during the holidays. Prioritize making your home the place you want to come home to.

This Christmas I want to remember Who I celebrate. I want to enjoy the company of my family. I want to be a giver of hugs and kisses and stress-free smiles. I'm guessing you want all these things, too. We will only achieve this for ourselves and our families if we are intentional. I can do it and so can you... let's choose a stress-free holiday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All That From One Chicken?!

Talk about stretching a buck AND getting max nutrient benefits... use the whole chicken! I used to be so intimidated by the thought of cooking a whole chicken. Now I don't know what I was so scared of because it's about the easiest thing you could do in your kitchen (besides watching hubby do the dishes). So take the plunge; walk confidently up to that meat counter, proudly ask for a whole fryer chicken, then read what to do with it below:

Whole Roasted Chicken
(This recipe is from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, slightly modified.)
What You Need:
1 Whole Chicken Fryer (about 4 pounds)
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, or Butter
Fresh herbs - Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Orange or Lemon slices (optional)
Roasting Pan (about 2 inches deep, give or take)

Pre-heat oven to 375. Place a few sprigs each of chosen herbs into cavity of chicken. You also have the option of placing some orange or lemon slices in cavity (a woman at my church just gave me this tip this morning!) to help keep it moist and add a little citrus flavor). Place chicken in roasting pan, under-side up. Brush with butter or oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for one hour. After an hour, turn chicken over (using wooden spoon inserted into cavity) so that the top-side is facing up. Brush with butter or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to 375 oven for one more hour.
Enjoy the dark meat and some of the breast for dinner, but reserve the majority of the breast for recipes the next day. Also reserve the carcass and all the fatty, grizzly pieces that you (ok, I) would never eat. Basically, don't throw any of it away. You're going to make stock!

Chicken Stock
(This recipe is from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, slightly modified.)
What You Need:
Reserved Chicken bones, feet (optional), gizzards (optional), fatties and grizzlies. :)
4 Quarts cold filtered water
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery sticks, including leafy tops, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

Place chicken, water, vinegar and all veggies except parsley in a large stainless steel pot. Let stand 30 minutes to one hour. Bring to a boil and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth. Remove carcass from the stock, then strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Leftover Breast Meat
You can use it for just about anything! My favorite thing to make is chicken salad sandwiches for lunch the next day. Shred the breast meat, add mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add dried cranberries and/or apple pieces and celery.
Another favorite use is to shred and spread on a BBQ Chicken Pizza.
Or you could add it to a killer Southwestern Chicken Soup. (If you use Lindsey's recipe you'll have to modify a bit because you already have cooked chicken ready to go! I would also suggest halving the recipe since there's not as much chicken going in.) Oh, and go ahead and use that delicious stock you just made.
Oven melt sammies, quesadillas, chicken pesto pasta... oh the possibilities!

One 4 pound chicken can really go a looooong way. It has become one of my favorite and EASIEST things to cook. Go ahead, give it a shot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toddler Book Review
Fool Moon Rising
Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty

Dear God,
I heard a cosmic story
And wondered if it's true.
The moon was stealing glory
And this is what he'd do. begins this imaginative tale about the moon's attempt to steal glory from the Sun. Fool Moon Rising is a story about pride and honesty, ultimately teaching our little ones about the importance of humility in God's great light. We see the moon's foolishness as he proudly proclaims to the world what a great light he is, "until one day a piercing ray showed him a shocking sight."

He saw his pride and then he cried
For all that he had done.
For he had lied when he denied
His light came from the Sun."

In the final pages we see the moon pointing all toward the Sun... the true source of his light. It is a gorgeous portrayal of sin and repentance.

There is a half or whole stanza on each page, so it's a little more wording to take in than a board book, but not too overwhelming for a two-year-old who enjoys reading. My 22-month-old son usually wants to absorb each page at least long enough for me to read all the words. The beautiful illustrations are enough to keep him focused. The theme reads clearly, although probably wouldn't be understood until age 3 or 4. My younger toddler, however, has come to recognize the ideas of prayer, remorse and joy as he's become more familiar with the story.

For as many times as I've read this to Maddox in the past two weeks, I still haven't gotten sick of it, and even my husband commented (totally unprompted!) about how much he likes "that moon book." Now THAT'S saying something! I would recommend Fool Moon Rising for any child 3 and up, or a younger toddler who likes to read... or likes pictures of the moon. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homemade Carob Banana Ice Cream

(photo credit)

I realize I've been posting a lot of snack recipes lately. Probably because I'm pregnant and want to snack ALL THE TIME! And probably because after Halloween all I want to do is get all the processed candy out of my life! I can go all year without a Snickers bar, then Halloween creeps up and all of a sudden I have no self control. What is that??

You DO need an ice cream maker for this recipe, and I'd love to convince you to go buy one! Mine was only $35 and it has WELL paid for itself. This is by far my favorite kitchen appliance! Here's the beauty that graces my counter top...

I'm going with carob because it's the perfectly delicious, caffeine-free sub for chocolate!

Homemade Carob Banana Ice Cream
1 Cup Whole Milk, well chilled
1/2 Cup Cane Sugar (I've already cut the sugar here and still think I could use less... you be the judge.)
6 Tbsp Carob Powder
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream, well chilled
2 ripe bananas, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

In a bowl, mix together sugar, carob powder and cinnamon. With hand held mixer or whisk, beat together milk and dry ingredients until all sugar is dissolved. Gently mix in cream, just until incorporated. Turn on ice cream maker and add contents of bowl according to your appliance's directions. Five minutes before ice cream is done, slowly add bananas while ice cream is churning. Allow to churn until bananas are well incorporated. Enjoy right out of the maker or allow to "set" in the freezer for a few hours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Unexpected Life

Some days we get out of bed, go through the motions, and don't feel like we sowed or reaped much of anything by the time we're crawling into bed that night. Some days we get out of bed and have great expectations for the day. We wait for God to move and work through a church service or retreat or small group, and He does, and when we crawl into bed we feel refreshed and excited. But then there are other days, when we think we're just going through the motions, but God does something amazing. He teaches us a great divine lesson in the midst of our daily activities. And when we crawl into bed we have nothing else to feel except complete awe. Today has been one of those days.

I was reading a book to my son before nap time, as is our usual routine. Today's book was The Tale of Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt. The story is about three young trees who have big dreams for themselves. The first wants to be made into a treasure chest and hold the finest treasure in the world. The second wants to be made into a great ship and carry Kings across the sea. The third wants to stay on the mountaintop and become the tallest tree in the world, pointing all eyes up toward God in heaven. As the story progresses, we see the aging of the trees and what becomes of their lives. The first is made into a simple feed box for animals, the second is made into a rugged fishing boat, and the third is chopped down, cut into beams and stored away. Not exactly what they were expecting.

And then the Holy Spirit began his work in my heart, as I read to my son, "Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams." I broke down. Right there in the rocking chair, toddler by my side looking up at me rather confused, I started crying. How many times do we forget, or more likely feel like God has forgotten, about our dreams? As mothers, is it not so easy to feel like as soon as that first child walked in the door, our dreams walked out? After Maddox was born there was a small part of me (a big part at times) that thought my Creator had forgotten me. He had forgotten about my destiny. We spend our childhoods dreaming about the great things we'll become, and as our stories play out, and those initial dreams don't seem to take shape, we often find ourselves feeling alone... left alone by the One who made the promises in the first place.

As I was browsing through some friends' Facebook pages this morning, I came across this quote:
"We all think we’re going to be great and we feel a little bit robbed when our expectations aren’t met. But sometimes expectations sell us short. Sometimes the expected simply pales in comparison to the unexpected. You got to wonder why we cling to our expectations, because the expected is just what keeps us steady. Standing. Still, the expected’s just the beginning, the unexpected is what changes our lives.”

Many of you may know the end of the three tree tale. The first tree, the one that was made into a feed box, ends up in a stable, used as a humble manger for the Lord Jesus. He realizes his dreams are fulfilled because he is holding the greatest treasure in all the world. The second tree, the one that was made into a fishing boat, carries Jesus across the sea when He calms the storm. He realizes his dreams are fulfilled because he is carrying the King of kings. The third tree, the one that was cut down and stored away as a pile of beams, seemingly left to become nothing at all, is pulled out and formed into a cross. He is returned to the mountaintop on which he wanted to stay, this time with the Christ laid across his chest. He realizes that he is pointing the whole world to the God of Heaven, and not only has his greatest dream been fulfilled, but it has happened in a way that is endlessly better than what he initially expected.

Sister, your Creator has not forgotten you. What we expect is not always what He plans to give, but the unexpected gift He so generously gives will far exceed anything we could have planned for ourselves. Let's live this unexpected life with a heart that swells up in thankfulness. That can be our best and only response during this season in life; a season when we could otherwise feel forgotten. We can trust that the One who had a reason for putting us here, also has a purpose for us to fulfill. He will bring it to completion in His perfect timing and we will see the greatness He had destined us to all along.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five Free Kitchen Tips

Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a FREE cooking class with a few ladies from my church. A friend of a friend is starting up his own school of classes and wants to run several test classes before he starts charging. We were his very first test class! He had just moved into his kitchen an hour before we arrived, so it was a little crazy, but a ton of fun! Each person could decide whether they wanted to observe or participate. I love to cook, so I jumped in with two eager hands! Chopping, frying, stirring... I was glad I hadn't made dinner earlier. We put together a basic side salad, and cooked Cream of Potato Soup and Minestrone Soup. I had never made either soup before so it was great to try two new dishes! We also learned how to make a vegetable stock (easiest thing EVER), potato skins, and sopapillas. I savored those sopapillas straight out of the deep fat fryer...mmm. I'll be making them in my oven. :-)

"Chef Pete" also shared several kitchen tips with us as we went along and I want to share the knowledge with all of you! I love learning new tips to help things run more efficiently in my kitchen.

Tip #1: Mise en Place
Do you ever find yourself frantically galloping circles around your kitchen trying to locate the next ingredient before the first ingredient sets the house on fire on the stove top? Sometimes this feels like a nightly routine in my kitchen. Mise en Place is a French phrase meaning "everything in its place;" literally, "putting in place." It describes the process of preparing your kitchen to cook. Wash and ready your ingredients, set out your tools and utensils, and pre-heat your oven. When everything is readied before cooking begins, cooking is more efficient and has less interruptions. Whenever I can manage "mise en place" in my own kitchen, prep goes quicker, clean up goes quicker, and there is waaay less mess in between!

Tip #2: No-Slip Cutting Board
Have you almost chopped off a finger (or hand) because your cutting board likes to play slip 'n slide? Well you can buy one with rubber feet, OR you can save the cash and put a damp dishtowel between the board and the counter. No more slippery cutting board!

Tip #3: You Don't Need a Peeler
Vegetable peelers annoy me. Who would have thought I don't even need one! I can use the knife that's already in my hand.
Let's work with a carrot. Holding one end of the carrot in one hand, set the other end down on your cutting board. Hold your knife at an angle, perpendicular to the carrot, blade facing you, and scrape down toward the cutting board, peeling off the outside layer. Voila!

Tip #4: Cleaning Mushrooms
A once tedious task in my kitchen, this will now be one of the fastest veggies to clean. Put all your mushrooms in a colander and get 'em wet. Then (are you ready for this?) toss them in corn starch. Get 'em all coated well, then rinse. All the dirt and muck rinses away with the corn starch! 30 seconds to clean mushrooms!
(Interestingly enough, the corn starch method also works for fresh spots on your carpet. Sprinkle with corn starch, wait 15 minutes, vacuum up.)

Tip #5: Easy-Out Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is very thick and usually requires some prodding with a spoon to get it all out of the can. Or, try this: Use your can opener to slice all the way around both ends of the can, then push one end all the way through the can, ejecting the tomato paste (and other end of the can) out the other side! This is my favorite new tip! It's the little things in life, ya know.

Here we are gettin' our cook on!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kale Chips... a SUCCESS!

After trying kale chips so many times I about gave up... I finally found success! Some coconut oil (I always sub for olive oil when I can), low oven temp and long cooking time make these babies perfectly crispy! No browning and no soggy kale (gross). These are something I can feel good about eating the whole batch in one sitting! (Which I do, every time.) Here's what I do:

Basic Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
coconut oil cooking spray

Pre-heat oven to lowest temperature setting allowed (or 170 to 200 degrees). Wash and dry kale (dry VERY well). Pull kale off stems and tear into "chip" sized pieces. Spread out on cookie sheet and lightly spray with oil. Toss to coat all kale evenly in oil. Re-spread on cookie sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about an hour and a half, or until crisp. Then go ahead and eat it all because kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can put in that beautiful body!

When we "bake" the kale at such a low temperature, the process is actually much closer to dehydrating than actually baking, which is why the kale gets crisp without browning. We're just taking the water out!

For another delicious variation on kale chips, check out Lindsey's Cheesy Kale Chips over at Enjoying Healthy Foods. Lindsey has a GREAT recipe blog all centered around whole foods. Go give her a read while you munch down some kale!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anxiety... Let's Start a Conversation

I want to be honest about something. I struggle with anxiety. There... it's on the table. This post has been swirling around my head and heart for a month or longer now, but I have been too intimidated to write it because the topic could turn out to be enormously consuming. But then I thought, I just want to start a conversation, with maybe more to follow later. I don't have to offer a bunch of fancy stats or the perfect answers. I don't have any of those, really. I want to do what this blog is intended to do: encourage other moms by sharing my story. So that's what I'll continue to do now.

When I say "anxiety" I do not mean that feeling that comes over you every now and again from a day to day worry. I do not mean the stress you feel from running late or forgetting something on the grocery list. I do not mean the sense of guilt and responsibility that comes with being a decision-maker for your kids. I mean something a little different... a little bigger... a little harder to escape. I think everyone knows what it feels like to be anxious at one time or another. To worry or stress or come down with a case of the Mondays. But anxiety, as a day in and day out experience, can be daunting.

It's the thing that has had me staring at a pile of dishes for half the day because I just can't seem to conquer it. It's the thing that has had me running late almost everywhere I go. It's the thing that has had me starting tasks to never finish them. And it's the thing that has had me imagining awful (highly unlikely) things happening to myself or my family. It can keep you in the house or make you feel like you have to get out. It manifests itself in fear, depression, stress, anger, compulsion, obsession, paranoia, panic, and physical health issues as well. Anxiety can be literally debilitating.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have talked with so many women lately who struggle with anxiety on some level or another. I used to be embarrassed about my compulsive habits, or that I was the sloppy one in my marriage. But now I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm not so "crazy" after all. Maybe this is something a lot of women are silently dealing with. Scared to bring it up because, frankly, it can just sound weird. Like when I stand at my sink to fill up the Brita filter and have to take a deep breath and calm myself down because it makes me tense up to wait for the water to fill. Weird, right? Well, maybe not.

Why are we, as women, so silent on this issue? Why don't we want to talk about it? Why don't we share this part of ourselves with our friends? I think it has a lot to do with pretense and pressure. Young moms, it seems, can get into this mindset where we think we're supposed to look and act a certain way. We're supposed to have certain things figured out. Our houses are supposed to be clean when a guest comes over. We should have fall decorations up in the fall. We should be good cooks, or good bakers and should mail out our Christmas cards (ya know, the cute ones from Walgreens) on time. We should have play dates and a Bible study. We should be joyful in all that we do. And while none of these are bad things in and of themselves, it's hard to reconcile bringing something so messy as anxiety to the surface of the pretty pond. It's way down there at the bottom, with the mud and the rocks and last year's lost fishing boot. And maybe if we don't disturb it, it won't disturb us... maybe we can keep it from making ripples on the surface.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23:25)
Please don't misunderstand. I am not saying anxiety is greedy or self-indulgent. I do think, however, that Jesus brings up a good point that we could follow in all areas of life. What good does it do to make the outside look like something that the inside is not? Sometimes when I'm unloading the dishwasher I'll pull out a bowl that got nice and pretty on the outside but still has old food residue caked on the inside. Do I put it in my cupboard to be eaten out of? No way! It still needs more washing.

I have seen such a desire in young moms (including myself) to fulfill a great purpose in God's kingdom. No matter what it is for each person, the desire is overwhelming. But if we can't clean the insides of our cups, what can we realistically be used for? If outwardly I am all put together, but inwardly I am caught up in the chains of anxiety, how will I fulfill the purpose for which God has destined me? Will I not always be struggling with the things buried at the bottom of the pond? Will they not always hinder me? I have seen this to be the case in my own life, as I imagine it is for many others.

So for me, I say NO MORE. I don't have a great answer here. But I do know this: Anxiety is not an easily defeated enemy. It takes a great amount of focus, determination and intentionality on my part to overcome her. And I also know this: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus' promise to me. He will not leave me. And He does not think less of me for my struggles. He calls me daughter and leads me with kindness back to Himself. It is in these times when I feel the most unworthy that He calls me to lay myself bare before Him, not holding back these "secrets," and let His forgiveness and grace wash over me. And this, I believe, is the beginning of sanctification; that thing that happens when God actually changes us. When He actually makes us better... makes us less like ourselves (all those parts that we hate) and more like Christ.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control..."
(1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

I owe it to my children to be a mom who is not victimized by anxiety. Anyone else want to throw a thought out on the table?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cacao Freezer Bites

My friend Renae served up some of these goodies right out of the freezer the last time we visited her family in Laramie. She was kind enough to share the recipe and I just got around to trying them yesterday. Why did I wait so long?! These little guys are perfect for getting your chocolate fix without filling your body with junk. While the recipe calls for cacao powder, I used carob powder (a great sub for chocolate) because I'm pregnant and carob contains zero caffeine. I hope you enjoy this whole food dessert-snack as much as I do!

Cacao Freezer Bites
1 cup almond (or peanut) butter
1/4 cup agave (or honey)
2 heaping Tbsp cacao powder (or cocoa or carob)
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients well. Using hands, roll into teaspoon sized balls. Freeze on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Store in bag or tupperware in freezer. yum yum YUUUUM!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toddler Book Review:
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Ashley Bryan

Lately I have been very interested in getting my hands on some more purposeful literature for my toddler. He is now beginning to understand stories, repeat themes, and ask for specific books. Who knew, at only 22 months old, that a child could grasp and retain so much of what is read to him? (You did, ya good mom, you.)

If he can understand the books we're reading, shouldn't I be reading to him the things I want him to learn? "Well of course you should, Tasha!" (Again, you are a fabulous mom who already has these things figured out.) So I've been searching for themes about God's love, kindness, creation, etc. I stumbled upon this wonderful book in the library (that I'm so sad I'll have to return next week) and wanted to share it with you.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, by Ashley Bryan, is literally a BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL storytelling of Cecil F. Alexander's 19th century hymn, celebrating God's creation and our response. The pages are bursting with colorful, paper-cut scenes, all put together by multi-award winning artist and illustrator, Ashley Bryan. Children go on an adventure over "purple-headed mountains" and along "rivers running by." The images are exciting and the theme is even better, encouraging children that we can see all that the Lord God has made and we can tell of His glory. This book is appropriate for toddlers and younger children, as there is usually only one sentence per page.

This is one book I would highly recommend adding to your collection of toddler faves.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Psalm 131 and Waiting

"O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me."
Psalm 131:1-2

I love reading the Psalms, because you really get to see David experience and respond to the full spectrum of human trials and adventures, and chances are I will find a response to empathize with; or more often it seems that he is empathizing with me.

Psalm 131 has been speaking that empathizing word into my ear this week. For as long as I can remember, literally, ambition has been a central player in my life strategy. In high school, working my way to holding the position of captain on the cheer squad and dance company (don't judge me, ha); in middle school, starting a club called Kids For Hope, with the goal of helping other kids (we collected dues and everything); in kindergarten, when one sad day I forgot to wear underwear to school, and made my very own paper panties during craft time. Ambitious indeed.

For possibly the first time in my life I feel the Lord saying to me, "Stop. Wait. Not now." I went to a youth conference in high school where the theme was "Now Is The Time." Well, if my life has a theme at this moment, it is "Now Is NOT The Time." Interesting, because as Americans we are cultured to be ambitious people. Not pursuing a greater end is often considered laziness, and being content with where we are in life is looked upon with elitist condescension. And yet, this is still where I find myself.

This new position in life is not for lack of direction. On the contrary, I believe God is very definitively telling me that this IS to be my current direction. A direction of waiting. Waiting on Him. We all go through days in our lives which call us to "wait on the Lord," but I think a season of waiting is a little different. Perhaps it is the intentionally patient walking beside the Lord, without lifting up my heart to something greater and without raising up my eyes to find my future.

As the Psalm says, "like a weaned child with it's mother... is my soul within me." I think about the time when my son was still nursing. He would grope and grab and rood. He would dream about nursing (and we would stand over him and laugh, of course). He would cry and fuss and flail his arms, until he finally achieved the goal. Then he went into that special milk drunk heaven. Finally satisfied. Now that he is weaned, he can sit calmly beside me and wait for me to give him what I know he needs for that moment. What a difference. And of course, you can see the correlation. In a season of rest and waiting, God calls us to trustingly walk beside Him and allow Him to give us what He knows we need for the moment.

It is so easy to occupy ourselves with things that are too great and too marvelous for us... for this moment. It's not that my dreams and ambitions are being shot out of the sky by some tyrant who just wants to bind me to the home (oh the horror this would bring on my life!!); it's that a loving God is teaching me the importance of humbly conquering the small things, that He might prepare me to do that great and marvelous thing that He has given me to do, in the right time, in the right season. "Blessed is the man [whose]... delight is in the law of the LORD. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season." Psalm 1:1-3

For this moment, God is calling me to be a leader in my son's life. That is the great and marvelous thing for this time. Maybe in the future I will lead more people, but I know that now is not the season for that. And not only would it be naive of me to hold onto that ambition now that I've heard the word of God over this time in my life, it would be sinful.

I am so thankful that the Lord is teaching me how to calmly and quietly set my soul before him, like a child, trusting that He knows the future as it should be. Contrary to what western society would have us believe, the "grab it by the horns" mentality is not always God's mentality. But we can always, always, ALWAYS know that His ways will take us farther in life than we could ever have imagined on our own.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Life Covenants

I clearly remember my wedding day. I remember receiving the last order of wholesale flowers that morning, and putting the bouquets together with my bridesmaids. I remember my dress draped from the upstairs banister down to the foyer. I remember all the girls sitting in my bedroom at my parents' house getting their hair and make-up done. And I remember asking my bridesmaids to unbutton the endless line of buttons down the back of my dress minutes before the start of the ceremony because I couldn't breathe. My mom seeing me in my dress and crying, my dad proudly offering his arm for the walk down the aisle. Nervousness, chest heaving, so many eyes looking on, spotting my fiance. My dad's speech, taking Matt's hand, and carefully walking up the steps at the front of the church. Seeing my sister and sister-in-law, in their beautiful black dresses, pearls softly sweeping across their necks, cheeks red and eyes full of tears. I remember that in the midst of my brother's emotional state, the paper wax-stop around his candle caught on fire and had to be stomped out by the rest of the groomsmen, right there in the middle of the ceremony. I remember some inappropriate comments and impromptu vows, because Matt decided in the rush of the moment that the vows we had written together just weren't witty enough for him. And I remember making those promises, looking right into his eyes, meaning them the best I could as a 22-year-old right out of college, who had known little pain, little struggle, and little want in life.

I don't remember understanding the weight of the covenant. I don't remember even knowing I was entering into a covenant. Now, more than five years later, having experienced pain, struggle, and want... I know what I meant when I said those vows that day.

A covenant is simply a promise, or as Wikipedia says: "a solemn promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action." Have you ever thought about marriage as a covenant? What about childbirth, adoption, or fostering? What about ministry? What about death? All of these things are covenants that life offers us. Some we can choose whether or not to partake in, others not so much. Death is a promise that we are required to experience whether we want to or not. But we have the choice (most of the time) whether or not we will have children.

I had no idea the promise I was making the day my son was born. I never would have imagined I was entering into a covenant the first time I saw his sweet little slime-covered face. But I was. The day you bring a child into the world (or welcome an adopted or foster child into your family), you are making a solemn promise to that child. What if we had to make vows on that day? They would go something like, "I promise to be your mother. I will love you unconditionally. I will provide for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs until you are old enough to provide for yourself. I will train you in the ways of the world and the ways of God. I will accept responsibility for you." And so on. It is the unspoken covenant of motherhood.

Matt and I were visiting recently with some friends who don't have kids, and aren't sure if they want to have kids. Maddox was there, too, acting like a normal one-and-a-half-year-old; giving hugs and testing boundaries. Upon leaving that afternoon, I could only imagine our friends plopping down on the sofa, sharing an empathetic glance, and deciding they should wait a while longer before having kids.

It is so easy for a person without children to look into the lives of a family of 3 (or 4 or 11) and see all the negatives about being parents. We are exhausted, chasing our son around the house, swatting here, spanking there, holding back tears of frustration. I don't have to explain to my kid-less friends the difficulties of living with a toddler. They are pretty clear. But there is no way I could explain to my kid-less friends the benefits of being a mother. The rewards are not tangible. The positives are not visible. They are deeply understood, only by the woman who has entered into the covenant of motherhood, and only to be known after the covenant is made.

It wasn't until talking with Matt after visiting our friends that afternoon, that I realized how important life covenants really are to our human development. When I enter into a life covenant, something is required of me. I am expected to give something. When I entered into the covenant of salvation, I was expected to give my life to the Lord. When I entered into the covenant of marriage, I was expected to give my life to my husband (and he to me). When I entered into the covenant of motherhood, I was expected to give my life to my children. And when I enter into the covenant of death, I will be expected to give my life to Judgement. Every covenant we enter breaks us a little more, because we are expected to give of ourselves. Nothing so quickly pounds out our selfishness and pulls out our selflessness as a new life covenant.

Covenants have broken me. They have caused me to realize that me, myself and I are not the most important people in this world. My needs don't have to be met first. My way does not have to be realized. My opinion doesn't always have to be heard. My plans, dreams and ambitions don't always have to see fruition. It is a grave act of self-denial to enter into a covenant in life. I think that's why so many people are scared to do it. I know I was.

When we stand in front of a life covenant, towering over us and look up into it's glaring eyes, it is so easy to see the risk. "What if I can't follow through? What if it hurts? What if the promise isn't there waiting for me? What if the other party doesn't commit? What if there's hardship? What if it doesn't go as planned? What if I fail?" It is much more difficult to see the pay-off. In so many life covenants, we won't clearly understand all the good parts until we enter in. In Genesis 17 we can read about one covenant God made with Abraham:

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." Than Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations." Genesis 17:1-4

It wasn't until after Abram entered into the covenant by showing his total submission to God that God allowed him to know the full promise of the covenant. We also read in 1 Corinthians:

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Life covenants are worth entering into, even if we can't see the value clearly from the outside. I have never known such reward in my life as the covenant of motherhood has given me. And I know that when the covenant of my salvation is fully realized, I will be so overwhelmingly blessed, I will wonder how I ever considered holding onto myself and not committing.

Life covenants force us out of ourselves and into new understanding. They bring new perspective and new positions for empathy. They require everything from us, and promise to return more. Have you allowed these covenants to give you their gifts, as is their intention? I used to be afraid, but now I have experienced many fulfilled covenant promises. They are worth their risk. I want to encourage you, in the right time, to enter into your life covenants with gusto.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Special Offer from tasha.tulip!!!

I am offering a special from my Etsy Shop!

Tutu Tote for $18!!!!

The usually price is $28, so this is a darn good deal! There is a small catch though... I will make the bag in the fabric and colors of my choice, still personalized in the name of your choosing, of course. Why am I offering this deal you say? I would like to build my Tutu Tote inventory for Etsy and offer some varied fabric and color options... so I need to make a couple personalized bags with new prints and colors.

Want to see more pictures and read a description? Take a look at the listing on Etsy HERE.

This is a great chance to purchase a fun gift for a sweet little girl for CHEAP! Please message me on Facebook if you're interested. Do not order through Etsy! Total cost will be $18 plus shipping. I will take the first two orders received. Thanks all! I'm excited to get some new bags out!


Monday, August 16, 2010


When I was in 5th grade I had an awesome best friend. We had been wandering down the sidewalk to play at each others' houses since we were in diapers. We did everything together (although tonight I can't seem to remember what us 5th graders actually DID). As we headed into middle school, life began to change for both of us. We headed in different directions, adapted, and moved on.

In 9th grade I had an awesome best friend. A different friend now. We were just as equally, if not more inseparable. We stayed up until 2:00 a.m. doing honors projects together, made home movies of cooking shows (a smoothie recipe), and awkwardly danced through the hallways at school (no really... we did). By 12th grade, two more awesome best friends had been added to my life. We were running through the sprinklers together, singing pop songs together, illegally ice-blocking down the 15th hole together, squealing over the new colors in the Sharpie package together, and holding our own in-living-room dance parties together. Then we all graduated. Life began to change for all of us. We headed in different directions, adapted, and moved on.

In college I had some pretty awesome friends, too. We did church together. We worshipped with our hands in the air for the first time. We built houses in Mexico and taught VBS in Jamaica. We prayed. We rode all the best roller coasters at Magic Mountain. We saw people come to Christ, and people walk away. We were there for each other through all the new adult things that just started happening to us. We transitioned into "real life" together. Then we started moving, and getting married, and having kids. Life was yet changing for all of us once again. We headed in different directions, adapted, and moved on.

Or did we.

Something shifted after kids entered the picture. For some reason, it is now much more difficult to form new friendships, and the ones that we are blessed enough to have become increasingly difficult to maintain. Why?

I think it comes down to this one little word... Community. Everyone needs a community. Human beings function with their utmost only when in relationship with other human beings. God's great design. When we are young, our family is our community. Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters. Or maybe Grandparents, Godparents, or cousins. We are found knit tightly to those people we spend the majority of our days with. As we grow up into middle school and high school, then on into college, we look outside the family for our community, still looking to build our community around the people we spend our days with, which has now become our peers. I can still remember my parents' frustration when I was more interested in spending time with my friends than being home with my family. But that's because my parents were not building their community with their peers, but instead with their family.

That is where I find myself today. Since my wonderful son came into the world, I find that my focus has turned inward toward my family again; now, MY family. My investments of time and energy are poured first and foremost into my son and husband (and then into naptime if I can convince myself). And I find myself a little lonely. Ok, sometimes a LOT lonely. Why? We come back to why. Because all my peers are doing the same.

When I first became a mom (welcome to the club), I would look around at all the other young moms and think, "Wow, they really have it together. They must have all these cute young mom friends, too, who they have play dates with and family dinner dates with and make deep heart connections at Bible study with." But then I started talking to these moms, these peers of mine, and realized that 9 times out of 10 they were feeling just as lonely and isolated as I was, because all of us are focused inward. Especially as moms, we all naturally fill our community needs in our children and families.

Please understand, I think this is a good thing when we put our families first. My parents sometimes joke that they had no friends the whole 23+ years my siblings and I were living at home, and I deeply appreciate their sacrifice. But it doesn't help me to feel less lonely today.

When I was in high school, I was naturally pulled toward my friends and peers. If I wanted to maintain family relationships, I had to be INTENTIONAL. I had to decide I would stay home for a movie night, instead of going out to the movies. And over time, this intentionality paid off. Now that I have a kid (and will most likely have more), I am naturally pulled toward my children. If I want to make and maintain peer friendships, (hear the revelation moment now) I have to be INTENTIONAL. No longer in life will bonding as a result of spontaneously running through the park sprinklers happen on a regular basis. If I want those deep peer relationships in my life, I have to invest in them.

One thing I started doing to invest in other young moms in my life is hosting a monthly craft night. It's called a Cake 'n Craft, because I invite a group of young moms to my humble abode to share dessert and learn a new craft. It's been neat to spend time with women who I might otherwise be too intimidated to just call up on the phone and ask to hang out. And just as with family in high school, I believe this extra bit of intentionality will pay off in time.

It is not easy maintaining a peer community with other young moms. What is something you do to be intentional? How do you pursue these relationships in your life? And if you haven't been, join the club! Now, what is something you will do this week to change that?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Etsy Shop Is Open!

I can't tell you how excited I am to announce that my Etsy Shop is finally OPEN!! YAY! Let's all squeal for joy together. I only have 3 items listed at this point, but I'm happy to share them with you.

If you see something you like in the shop but want to bypass ordering through Etsy, just shoot me an e-mail or hunt me down on Facebook.

Thank you for letting me share this part of my life with you. I'm excited for this new adventure in creativity!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whole Wheat Crepes

I am loving loving LOVING this breakfast recipe right now. It comes from Lindsay over at Passionate Homemaking. Batter in a blender? Brilliant! It uses kefir instead of buttermilk, coconut oil instead of canola oil, and I sub whole wheat flour for all-purpose. Sometimes whole wheat flour can make things taste gritty or too dense, but not in these babies. She suggests letting the half-mixed batter soak overnight, which I haven't tried yet, but fully intend to if I ever remember to think about breakfast the night before. She also suggests using a crepe pan or a non-stick pan. While those are probably the best options, I have to say I use my small stainless steel pan with no problem as long as I give it a once over with coconut oil (or other non-stick) before starting.

This is such an easy recipe! It's my new breakfast fave. We usually eat them with strawberries or maple syrup, but the possibilities are endless! Let me know how you like them if you give it a try!

Whole Wheat Blender Crepes
¾ cup kefir
2 tsp coconut oil
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp honey, only for sweet crepes
¼ tsp cinnamon, only for sweet crepes
½ cup flour or 1/3 cup whole grain (raw, uncooked) – we love it with spelt or kamut, but you can also use a combination of brown rice and millet or quinoa (make sure to rinse for a full minute before grinding) if you are gluten intolerant

Combine in a blender: kefir, oil, and whole grain and blend for 3 minutes on high, or just 30 seconds if using flour. If desired, cover blender and let batter stand overnight at room temperature to benefit from breaking down the phytates. After soaking, add egg, salt, honey & cinnamon (if desired).

Lightly spray or wipe a seasoned crepe pan or non-stick pan with oil (coconut oil is preferred). Use a napkin or wax paper to wipe out excess. Pour 3 Tablespoons batter (filling a ¼ cup measuring cup ¾ full) into your hot pan, quickly tilting pan to swirl the batter evenly to edges of pan. Keep mixing your batter as you make each new crepe. Bake until the edges are browned (about 1-2 minutes). Loosen along edges with table knife or shish kabob stick. I use a metal spatula and that works great, too. Turn over and bake on opposite side for about 30 seconds. Lightly apply further oil with napkin or wax paper between crepes, wiping out excess. These freeze very well and can be eaten hot or cold.

Check out the original recipe here, along with a great recipe for cottage cheese filling and more info on soaking. Happy breakfast adventures!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Household Cleaners

I am always in search of the next best natural ANYTHING that I can use in my home. I think living a conscious life includes being responsible for what we eat, wear (although I haven't tackled this one yet), and clean with. Usually I buy natural cleaning products at the store (Seventh Generation), but they are SO expensive! So, recently I did a little googling to find some recipes for natural household cleaners and stumbled upon this little beauty of a webpage!

Non-Toxic Home Cleaning

Bathrooms, carpets, kitchen, laundry, all-purpose and LOTS more; there is a cleaner recipe for any occasion, all using simple, CHEAP ingredients (which are all explained at the top of the page). I have only tried the All-Purpose cleaner so far. It is great for counter tops and general wipe-down jobs. Eventually I plan to try the carpet cleaner because our carpets look like they've been broken in under an elephant bath.

Give some of these a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Zeal Without Knowledge, or, The China Shop

Sometimes I feel like a bull in a china shop, I swear. This is the second night in a row that I've jumped into a dinner that I thought would be quick and simple and instead it just turned out to be completely disastrous. Soup all over the kitchen, clumpy cheese in the ziti, and way more stress (or dishes) than I need over a "last-minute" dinner. But I jumped in without thinking it through... again.

Earlier today I was inspired to help a friend who is about to have a baby by setting up a meal sign-up calendar. I was excited to do it, so I set it up and e-mailed it out without running it by anyone (first mistake). Now it's been brought to my attention that some of the details of my set-up might be offensive to others (I won't get into why), and of course now that I've had time to think it through I see where I could have planned more thoughtfully, more holistically; seeing the whole picture in front of me instead of the one detail I wanted to focus on.

I remember one of the worst experiences I ever had at my most recent job was when I made a pretty major decision, one that affected a lot of people, without consulting any of my peer employees. The response from fellow staff members was awful, and I knew I had made a mistake, because I hadn't thought it through before acting on my excitement. In fact, that whole year at work felt like I was making one mistake after another. Like a bull in a china shop, I would excitedly run into something, shatter it all over the floor, and awkwardly back away, only to break something else.

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."
Romans 10:2-3

I have always applied this verse spiritually (as it seems it was intended), but what an important lesson to let rest over all our decision making. Often I find myself jumping into a task because I'm excited or inspired or moved, only to discover failure in the end because I leaped in on emotion (ah, selfish emotion) without THINKING. Paul told the Romans that while zeal can be positive, if it isn't married to knowledge it will result in pride and stubbornness. Boy was he right! The last thing I want to do after justly failing at something I was so excited about is admit I was wrong. Pride and stubbornness. Zeal without knowledge really is like a bull in a china shop. It is clumsy, foolish, and destructive.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kindly and gently reminds me that my agenda is not the most important thing. His is. My zeal is not what matters because it is meaningless when divorced from His love and graciousness. "...God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4) I am so thankful I serve a kind God, who draws me back to His way of doing things like a parent patiently reminding his child of an important truth. Tonight I am reminded by the Father that faith often involves thought, and zeal must hold hands with knowledge, the two cupped together... spooning. That's right, zeal and knowledge have to spoon and walk the bull out of the china shop together. How's THAT for an over-involved metaphor!

Welcome to Life On Purpose

My story is not one of epic proportions. It is not great or triumphal or even very exciting. But it is normal. And I think that is what I have to share here. Embarking on this adventure that is motherood has not been easy, nor has it been predictable. And the more women I talk to, the more I find that all us moms are struggling with the same issues of success & defeat, community & isolation, freedom & guilt, joy & saddness. And none of us think that anyone else must feel these things. Well I'm starting to figure out... that's just ridiculous!

I have been blogging half-heartedly for several months now, knowing it's something I enjoy but not completely sure what I want to share with the blogging community. Then I stumbled upon an article by a guest-writer at one of my favorite blogs, Passionate Homemaking. The Lord struck me right in the heart as I read the very words of my life difficulties in front of me on the computer screen, written by a woman I have never met, and probably never will. She had me crying, alone, in the middle of my kitchen. I hadn't been blind-sided like that since my junior homecoming date dumped me for someone else 2 weeks before the dance! (OK, maybe that's another issue.) Please read the article now. Just go do it. No really... now.

Remember the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23? Whenever I read them I have an inner dialogue that goes something like this:
"Love, ok got it, Joy, duh life is great!, Peace, no problem, I'm a peace-maker, Patience, been married for five years, I'm a master, Kindness, hellOOO I am sooo nice, Goodness, I'm goooood on goodness, Faithfulness, still believin'!, Gentleness, gentle as the Snuggle Bear, and Self-Control, .........ah crap."

It's that darn self-control that gets me every time! For as much as I think I've mastered all the other fruits (which I really don't; there are definitely uglies that rear their heads in other areas), I KNOW that I am almost completely lacking in the area of self-discipline. And it doesn't help being married to the king of self-discipline. (I bet you didn't know there was a king of self-discipline. Well there is, and he's downstairs doing something responsible right at this moment.) But self-discipline, or self-control, is exactly what God is trying to work into my stubborn heart, because there's no way I will accomplish what He has set before me and called me to if this continues to lack in my life.

"As mothers, our daily submission to God, and our willingness to surrender to what He desires to accomplish “under the surface” directly corresponds to how (and to what extent) we will eventually fulfill God’s overall purpose for our lives."

Self-discipline is so difficult because it involves putting what I want aside, and obeying what God wants. Sometimes the two wills go hand in hand. But usually it's more like, "I want to stalk people on Facebook," and God is like, "I want you to do a load of laundry so your son has clean clothes to wear." And these things sound so small that it's easy to grow indifferent to them. But the Lord prepares us for the big thing with lots of little small things first, so that we really know what we're doing (His Will) when we get to the big thing.

That is why this fresh-and-clean blog is called "Life On Purpose." What I can share in this crazy cyber-world is some encouragement on finding passion and purpose in the day to day things in life, as I do my best to submit to my Creator and honor Him in all the small things, trusting that He is preparing me for more than just folding clothes, picking up blocks, and cooking dinner. When you feel like being a Mom has lost some purpose (as I have often felt), remember that you are sumitting to God by serving your family, and that is something He can and will use in GREAT ways! This is not a craft blog, or a sewing blog, or a cooking blog, or a Christian or ministry or Stay-At-Home-Mom Blog. It is a blog about life; a conscious life. So sometimes it will include all or none of these things. Above all, it is intended to encourage and build up. I will be honest about life and motherhood and the things I learn, and I would love for you to stay tuned in and do the same.

(If you have been following/subscribing to tasha.tulip, go ahead and switch over to Life On Purpose as I won't be posting at tasha.tulip anymore. Tasha.tulip is now the name of my business [more on that another day], and I will eventually be deleting the blog after moving over a few posts. Thanks guys!)
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