Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hold On A Minute...

Yep... you'll have to hold on a minute. I'm excited to announce that Life On Purpose is taking a little R&R. Reason uno - she's getting a face lift. At one of those fancy pants medical spas. We're talking major cosmetic surgery here. Reason B - Tasha has been focusing all her time and energy into getting the house ready for baby number two and she is going a little mad. She was already half way there, so you see the concern.
Posting will be put on hold for a couple weeks. This includes Thirty One Thursdays. I know, bummer. But we'll all be back so soon, and maybe with a newborn in tote. Say a prayer for healthy baby in March!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thirty-One Thursdays - Go On... Taste It!


New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

Proverbs 31:18 (Part One)
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Verse 18 is represented by the Hebrew letter Tet.












First she bought.  Then she planted.  In strength she worked.  And now she benefits.
Verses 16 and 17 tell us of a woman who does some serious mental and physical work.  Now in verse 18 we get to read about her reward.  The fruit of her labors has been profitable... and she knows it.

The Hebrew word translated here as "perceives" is ta'am, and it literally means "to taste."  I don't know about you, but I LOVE food.  No, I mean like, Lucy and Ethel working the factory chocolate line LOVE food.  My husband likes to tell the story of the time he was trying to flirt with me in the kitchen when, after receiving little response, he turned around and realized I was distracted by the mouth-watering turkey sandwich piled high on the table.  He had no chance.  I LOVE food.  So for me, ta'am is a great word! 

Imagine collapsing into your favorite chair at the end of a hard day and setting a plate of creamy chocolate cheesecake (or chocolate-dipped strawberries, or hot caramel apple pie, or giant chocolate fudge brownies, or perfectly caramelized creme brulee, or... have I gone too far?  No?  Or Thin Mint cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream, or Blackberry Creme de Pot, or... well now I've gone and forgotten my point) on your table-top of a belly (wait, you might not have one of those right now).  You stare longingly at the untouched dessert, and with an exhale that releases all the tension of the day and cries "Finally the work is finished!" you sink your fork slowly into the sweet mound of goodness in front of you.  The fork, slathered in that first wonderful bite, creeps slowly toward your mouth, making sweet love to your taste buds before it even touches your lips.  And then, the magic happens.  Anticipation meets gratification and you are, at once, satisfied.  Yes, I am still talking about food.  Have I mentioned yet how much I LOVE food?

This is the experience of the Virtuous Woman in relationship to her labor.  She tastes the reward of it.  She devours it.  She relishes in it.  She is ever-satisfied in knowing that she has done well for her family with her resources.  She swallows it down and it nourishes her soul.  Like chocolate cheesecake on the back of the tongue.

I love what George Lawson's commentary says:
"...for when the lazy are perpetually uneasy by their reflections on their own conduct, the consciousness of having done her duty, and the prospect of the advantages arising from it, are a constant source of satisfaction and cheerfulness to the virtuous woman."
I have been in that place of perpetual unrest, knowing that I wasn't doing as God would have me do in my home life.  In the past I've felt like, "I know I'm not doing a good job here, and I am stuck.  I don't know how to lift myself out of this hole of procrastination, disorganization and lack of motivation."  It is not a fun place to live.  It's like eating beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then being served a big 'ol pile of beans for dessert.  That is not the life that God wants to give us as wives and mothers.  He wants to give us cheesecake.  Chocolate cheesecake.  He wants us to know the full, rich, warm, gooey,  melty reward of living and working within His Will.

It is ok to be proud of the work that we do, as long as we are remembering that it is God who enables us to do it.  He is the one who conforms us to His Will and transforms us into women who are capable of managing such responsibility.  And to feel good about that, to breathe a sigh of "thank you God for turning me into this woman," is more than ok.  It is to taste deeply of the Lord's goodness and kindness toward us.  It is to recognize that His ways are so far above ours, and so much better than ours, and He allows us to experience them anyways.  It is to partake of the reward offered to us when we align ourselves under His authority.  And it is so, so good.

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP: 
Make dessert.  Make a special dessert.  An elaborate, fancy, delectable dessert.  Your favorite dessert.  Or a new dessert.  Grandma's tradition.  Or a Google recipe. 
But make it from scratch.  No boxes allowed.  Only real butter, real sugar, real flour, real labor.
Then enjoy it.  One slow bite at a time, after the kids are in bed, at the end of a particularly trying day.  Dig in.
And be reminded that God's rewards are good.

NEXT WEEK'S VERSE
"Her lamp does not go out at night."
Proverbs 31:18 (Part Two)

Citations:
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for ta`am (Strong's 2938)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 24 Feb 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

Strongs=H2938&t=KJV >


George Lawson, Commentary On Proverbs, pg 564

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Establishing Expectations for Your Family Culture


I believe you can have exactly the kind of family that you imagine.

I believe you will have exactly the kind of family that you expect.

In readying ourselves for baby number two, I have talked with so many people who have warned me about inevitable sibling rivalry.  It always goes something like:  "Yeah just be ready for those two to get into it.  That's just how it is with kids."

But is that just how it is?  Or is it how it is because those are the expectations of our children that we hold as parents?

I firmly believe the latter.  If I expect that sibling rivalry will be a normal part of the culture of my family, then it will be.  I expect that it is normal, so I will allow it in my home.  But what if my expectation is different?  What if I expect a culture of kindness and respect among my sons and daughters, and what if I expect my marriage to be a model of that for my children?  My actions, decisions and directives will all stem from what I expect my family to be about.  If I expect no sibling rivalry, then I will work hard to keep those attitudes out of my home.

What about the "terrible twos?"  If I expect the terrible twos to flood my home because "it's just a phase," then they will.  But if I expect my children to learn how to manage their frustrations, then I will become a focused guide for them in that education, and they will learn, even at such a young age, that a bad attitude is not a part of our family culture.

What about obedience?  If I expect my children to obey after I count to three, then they will.  And I will constantly be counting to three because they will learn that that's their cue to obey... and no sooner will they do it.  But if I expect my children to obey the first time, every time, then they will, because I will take actions in my home to turn those expectations into realities.

The culture of your family can be whatever you want it to be.  And you are creating that culture within every expectation you have of the way things are "supposed to be" in your family.  You, the parent, have the God-given authority in your home to create an atmosphere of love, kindness, servitude, gratitude, patience, respect, and anything else you desire... if you expect that as the norm.

The kids do not determine the culture of the family.  You do.  And whatever the culture of your family is, it is what you have made it, knowingly or not.  And whatever the culture of your family will be in the future, it is what you will make it, knowingly or not.  Let us be conscious of the expected norms we set up in our homes.

I want to encourage and challenge you tonight to dream up a beautiful family for yourself.
Now expect that as a reality for the family you are culturing.
And take action to bring those expectations to fruition.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - Acting in Readiness, Growing In Strength

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

Proverbs 31:17
She dresses herself with strength and
makes her arms strong.

Verse 17 is represented by the Hebrew letter Chet.







One day, not so long ago, when my son was just a wee little babe, I was carrying him in the infant car seat up the walk of long, shallow steps to my front door.  I must have been a little extra sluggish that day, because around step four I didn't pick up my foot enough to make it onto the next step.  I tripped and dropped the car seat, sending my 3-month-old, still strapped in, into a roll-over accident down our front lawn.  I think it was much more traumatic for me than it was for him.  Nevertheless, I still think about "the incident" every time I walk up my front steps, now two years later.

Have you ever tripped over yourself out in public?  Or maybe slipped down a stair or two with newborn in tote?  Or been the cheerleader on the top of the pyramid to fall flat on your back in front of the entire high school at the homecoming pep assembly? (This happened to a friend of mine, not me... thankfully.)  Falling is not fun.  In the moment you realize you're going down, everything turns to slow motion and you feel your stomach hurdle upwards into your throat and you think, "Oh poo... this is not how I planned it."

The literal translation of our verse this week is, "She girds her loins with strength..." 
"To gird" simply means to bind up with a belt.  In Bible times, everybody ran around in tunics. The tunic, if left ungirded, would inhibit agility and freedom of movement.  So it was important that the wearer bound that tunic up into his or her belt in order to accomplish the tasks of the day.

Biblically, the loins are representative of the seat of strength and procreation.  (See Job 40:16, Genesis 35:11, 2 Samuel 20:8, and Ephesians 6:14 for a few examples.)  And girded loins were a sign of readiness.  Exodus 12:11, describing how the Israelites were to eat the Passover, says, "And thus shall ye eat it; [with] your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it [is] the LORD'S passover."

So when we read that our Virtuous woman dresses herself with strength, we are reading about a woman who makes herself ready, In God's strength, to accomplish the task that He has given her.  And she does it without tripping up the front steps sending the baby rolling down the lawn!  She takes care to remove the things from in front of her that might weaken her. 

We have to remember that there are going to be days (or weeks or months) when, as mothers, we feel weak.  We feel like we can't pull it together to do what we need to do for our families.  This is normal.  No, I think you should read that again...

THIS IS NORMAL.

We are not ever-strong.  We are not super heroes.  We are not God Almighty.  I think it's important to accept this about ourselves.  Because when we see how weak we really are, we can begin really turning to God for His strength, which He offers to us.  And as the second part of verse 17 goes on to teach us, as we continue to ready ourselves in strength (by God's strength), we will grow stronger and stronger.  We are only enabled to "make ourselves strong" when we first make ourselves ready, clearing out weaknesses and stumbling blocks, in the places where strength is meant to be carried.  We have to take small steps to make ourselves ready, and then we will become strong.

So this week, let's hike up those tunics!  Let's clear out some things in our lives that are holding us back from freedom and strength.  Let's take one small step toward making ourselves strong, and let the cyclical work of growing in strength begin!

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:
Read Colossians 3:1-10 at least once every day.
Consider how "setting your heart" and "setting your mind" on the things of God can help prepare you to better face those moments of weakness that the day will inevitably bring. 
Then take off one "practice" of the old self.  Bind it up, out of the way.  Get one thing out from in front of you that you know is holding you back.  And enjoy the new freedom that this brings!

NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night."
Proverbs 31:18

Citations:
Blue Letter Bible. "The Proverbs of Solomon 31 - (KJV - King James Version)." Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 17 Feb 2011. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Pro&c=31&t=KJV >
http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/homefam/prov31.htm
http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/L/LOINS/

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WINNER of Fool Moon Rising Giveaway!

And the big winner of the first ever Life On Purpose giveaway, receiving an autographed copy of the book Fool Moon Rising, by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty, is...

"The Shwizzys"!!

Congratulations and thanks to all for entering!  I'm looking forward to offering many more giveaways in the future because they are just too darn fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Drool Worthy

I just wanted to give you something to focus on tonight... in case you needed a chocolate fix.


This is what went in my homemade ice cream last night.  Have I convinced you to buy an ice cream maker yet??  Oh my yum.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

GIVEAWAY!Fool Moon Rising


I LOVE giveaways!  So you can imagine how excited I am to be offering my very first GIVEAWAY here at Life On Purpose!  That's right... free stuff from me to you!  Woo!

A while back I wrote a  Toddler Book Review of Fool Moon Rising, by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty.  Well, T. himself (Thomas) found the review, got in touch and generously sent me an autographed copy of the book to give away to a reader!  That means YOU!

I can't say enough about how much I adore this book!  The story focuses on the themes of pride and honesty, teaching our little guys and gals how to be humble in light of who God is.  It is an imaginative metaphor that toddlers and young children are sure to fall in love with... my son sure has!  I am so excited to be able to offer a copy to a reader, thanks to the authors!  Read on for how to enter this lovely little giveaway...

The Nitty Gritty:
-To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post sharing your favorite book for little ones, or tell us who you'll give the book to if you don't have little ones.  That's it!  Easy peasy!
-Entries will be accepted until noon on Wednesday (mountain time).
-Winner will be selected at random and announced Wednesday evening.
-If you're the winner, I'll mail ya the free autographed copy of Fool Moon Rising!

Thanks for joining in the first ever Life On Purpose GIVEAWAY!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - A Wife and Mother's Financial Responsibility

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.



Proverbs 31:16
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

Verse 16 is represented by the Hebrew letter Zayin.












I am a financial dummy.  Seriously.  I have to ask the bank teller to slow down her explanation of opening a savings account because I just don't get it.  Go ahead and laugh, it's ok.  I've accepted it.  My husband, on the other hand, is a financial genius.  In another life (one where he was married to someone who supported a 65 hour work week) he should have been a financial advisor.  Ya know, the guy you go sit down with because you have no idea what a 401K or 502C or avujAEGGN4583 is.  And then he explains it to you, and you nod your head and say, "oooh, it all makes sense now!" but you leave the office feeling like you just came out of a higher math class and the only thing you remember is the first two decimal places of pi (and you only remember that because you were thinking about pie the whole time).

A lot of women, though, experience the exact opposite in their marriages.  Maybe this is you.  Maybe you just "get" the finance stuff... or have been forced to figure it out because hubby doesn't want to.  If this is you, I applaud you!  You are quite literally my hero.  And maybe this little diddy isn't for you today.  But we'll see...

Financial issues are discussed more than any other topic in the description of the Virtuous Woman.

Verse 16 is one of seven from our poem that discuss buying, selling, trading, or profit (verses 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 24, 31).  This is not including verses that merely allude to the necessity of the woman's financial involvement or understanding (verses 19, 20, 21, 22, 27).

Surprised?  I am!  So many times, especially in conservative Christian circles, we are confronted with the idea that women do not have a place in the financial business of the home, and the "career woman" is the only image we get of a woman exercising financial authority.  The man should be responsible for "providing for his family" in the way of money in (paycheck!) and money out (check's in the mail!), and the woman should be responsible for "issues of the home."  In my marriage I have never really minded accepting this "norm" because I am so bad with all that money stuff, and frankly never had to be responsible for it while growing up.  I have been content to let my husband be the financial guru because he loves it so much and is just so darn good at it!  But I can't ignore the fact that our Virtuous Woman seems to be heavily involved in family financial business.

I am currently reading A Woman's Place, a challenging book about women in house churches in the first century.  The authors discuss several ideas about the role that Hebrew and Greek women played in their own homes at that time, often drawing from earlier evidences like Proverbs 31.  One idea brought to the table is that a woman was the chief manager of the home.  The man was not, as we so quickly assume, considered the "head of the household."  The woman was.  The home was the woman's domain, and she was responsible for managing everything that went on in that capacity - including any and all financial decisions that affected the family or home.

It seems sometimes that the "Christian" ideas we have about men and women's financial roles in the home stem more from 1950's television than they do from the Bible.  The Virtuous Woman was not only capable of managing money, but responsible for doing so.  She considered the best ways to spend money for the family and she worked hard to make sure her trading and purchasing was ultimately profitable for the family.  As much as I can gather, the situation wasn't one of "his and hers," with the Virtuous Woman making financial decisions divided from her husband, but instead the husband could trust his wife to make such decisions on behalf of their family, and they had a mutual understanding about what part of the finances fell within her domain.

We might read this verse about the Virtuous Woman buying land and planting a vineyard and think about what an enormous responsibility that was!  And it might seem foreign, especially for us married gals, that she would just go out and do it on her own.  But I think our poem is simply describing a normal category of household management for a well-off woman of that time.  Maybe your husband trusts you to do the laundry on Mondays, as that is just part of household management.  Well, perhaps the Virtuous Woman's husband trusted her to make profitable purchases for the family.  It was just part of the expected role.

This means a few things for us in our marriages today.  If you are the woman who manages your family finances, take heart in knowing that this was one of the Virtuous Woman's central responsibilities.  Often times, a woman can grow resentful in managing finances because she feels it should be hubby's job.  But in all reality, finances affect the family more than most things, and the family is clearly the Virtuous Woman's primary concern.  Be encouraged this week that you are doing an excellent thing for your family when you fill this role!  If you are the woman, like myself, who has been somewhat removed from your family finances, I want to challenge you (as I challenge myself) to take up a more active role in this area.  In our family's budget, for example, we have a category called "gas/food/allowance."  It is really the only unfixed portion of our budget every month, and it seems to be all over the board from month to month.  What if it were solely my responsibility to ensure we stayed on track in this area of our budget?  Would my day to day spending look different?  Could my husband be under less stress over our budget, knowing that I was doing my part in managing an appropriate portion of it?

Finance management is not something for us wives to shy away from or resent in our marriages.  It is something to embrace, following the example of the Virtuous Woman, because money is a great steering wheel for the culture, focus and success of our families.  So... go buy a field!!
(please don't actually go buy a field this week... I'm just trying to be encouraging.)


THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  Sit down with your husband and talk through your family's budget.  (This might be a normal exercise for you in your marriage already, so no extra work there.)  Evaluate together if there needs to be a shifting of responsibilities anywhere.  Maybe you should take more responsibility for miscellaneous spending and he should take more responsibility for investing in college funds.  Whatever you figure out, make sure it's an arrangement that involves both you and your spouse appropriately, according to your strengths.  If you, as wife, have remained uninvolved in finances, it's time to make a change!  No beginning is too small, even if it's just learning the password for your online banking.  Discuss with your husband an area that you are interested in piloting, and take one step toward making it happen.


NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong."
Proverbs 31:17

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Computer Is Mean

Oh computers. 

I haven't been able to post today's Thirty One Thursday (or anything else in the last few days) because Blogger isn't letting me upload any pictures and is being finicky with links.  I will have it up as soon as I can get this nasty little scenario worked out.

Thank you for reading! And I hope your day is filled with the benefits of technology... not the crud!

<><  Tasha

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - I HATE the morning... is that ok?

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

Proverbs 31:15
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.

Verse 15 is represented by the Hebrew letter Vav.














I have been dreading this week's study.

In fact, I don't even want to write this post.

Why?  Because I am NOT... I repeat, NOT a morning person.

This is how I feel in the mornings:

And I live with this man, we'll call him "the husband", who feels like this in the mornings:

Which makes me feel even worse... like this:

Yep... that is an ACTUAL picture of me at 6:00 a.m.**

But the Virtuous Woman... she is a morning person.  Bummer.  Or at least that's what we assume.
When I imagine the Virtuous Woman in the morning, I picture something like this:

Beautiful and serene after a refreshing night's rest.  She happily rolls off her satin pillow to joyfully greet the sunrise streaming in through the streak-free window.


But then again, maybe she's not like that at all.
Maybe she's something more like this:

The verse doesn't give any indication that she likes getting up in the morning... just that she does it.  And this realization is both incredibly encouraging (because maybe I'm not alone here) and monumentally discouraging (because now I have no excuse) all at once.

Whether or not I'm a "morning person" has nothing to do with making the decision to get up early.  For me, in order to make that decision, I need to know that it's worth it.  I need to know why I'm doing it.  I need to know that there will be some great benefit, and not just that I'm getting up early for early's sake.  Because I think that's stupid.

"She rises" comes from the Hebrew word quwm (pronounced koom).  I am so struck by the meaning of this word.  Sometimes it can mean simply a general rising, but more often than not it is used to describe a rising up that is connected with a purpose; often God's purpose.  It can mean:
-to become powerful
-to arrive on the scene
-to be established or confirmed
-to stand, endure
-to be valid
-to be proven
-to be fulfilled
-to persist
-to be set or be fixed

The word is used in many other passages in Scripture, including:
Psalm 40:2 - "He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."
Genesis 13:17 - "Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you."
Esther 8:4 - "Then the king held out the golden scepter to Esther.  So Esther arose, and stood before the king..."
Proverbs 15:22 - "Without counsel purposes are disappointed:  But in the multitude of counsellors they are established."

So maybe this means a little more than just going from laying to standing, even though at 6:00 a.m. that's usually all I can manage.  I love the idea of being established first thing in the morning.  Being set up for success right away.  Receiving power for my day and arriving in my home.  When I think back on the times that I have been successful in getting up before Maddox, this is exactly how I've felt.  Those mornings are so unique.  It's like discovering a treasure that pays my way through the rest of the day.  The Psalmist writes so sincerely about the mornings:
"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."
Psalm 5:3
He goes to God first thing in the morning, and God hears him.  Would we be different in how we greet our children when they wake up if we are first greeted by the Lord God when we wake up?  Maybe this would cause a totally different chain of events between us and our children throughout the day.  We could be prepared to meet them with peace, patience and kindness, instead of resentment for waking us up.  We could be prepared to lead them in the ways of the Lord, instead of being annoyed by their sin and stubbornness.

Funny enough, quwm is also the word used at the end of our poem, in verse 28, to describe the children and husband of the Virtuous Woman rising up to bless her. 

Waking up early in the morning, before my children, allows me an opportunity to be established in the Lord for the sake of my children.  And not only does the Lord establish me, setting me on the path of my daily purpose, but I also receive the reward of my family's praise, which is possibly the greatest reward of the day for a woman who devotes her life to loving and serving her family.  If I rise up to bless my family, they will rise up to bless me.  And that is the amazingly great benefit.


THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP: You guessed it... set your alarm.  Set your alarm to a time before your kids wake up.  Then don't press snooze.  That's right... get out of bed.  Then make the very first thing you do (after emptying your bladder) something, ANYTHING, that wakes you up to God.  Pray, read your Bible, sing a worship song.  I am not talking about an hour long intense Bible study here.  I am talking about a very small step, something you know you can manage.  It might be a two minute prayer while you're in the shower... and that is ok.  We have to start somewhere.  We just have to start.

If you want to go the extra mile this week, or if you've already got the habit of early rising down and want some more direction for your mornings, I really, really, no REALLY want to encourage you to check out the Maximize Your Mornings ebook, written by Kat over at Inspired to Action.  It is an excellent, FREE resource that I have used before and will likely revisit, helping women get up early and make the most of their mornings.

Here is a list of some more encouraging morning-time Psalms:
Psalm 30:5
Psalm 59:15
Psalm 65:8
Psalm 88:13
Psalm 90:14
Psalm 92:2
Psalm 101:8
Psalm 130:6
Psalm 143:8


NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard."
Proverbs 31:16

**not an actual picture of Tasha at 6:00 a.m.  That's an old woman... come on now!

Citations:
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for quwm (Strong's 6965)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 3 Feb 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

Strongs=H6965&t=KJV >

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February Reads

This is what our family is reading this month.  These are not recommendations, only what's on our menu.

For Me:
A Woman's Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity, by Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Y. MacDonald

This ironically titled book is a graduate level read (courtesy of hubby) that I am getting through slooooooowly, but definitely liking so far.


Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin

This is the book that has been recommended to me more than any other read in preparing for natural childbirth... so I've got a hold on it at the library!


For Maddox:

Best First Book Ever!, by Richard Scarry

This book was a gift from some good friends who wanted to share a family fave with us.  It is hands down Maddox's favorite book right now!  The pages are FULL of things to look at and new words to learn.  It includes ABC's, numbers, shapes, sizes, verbs, months... and a lot more!   

What are you reading this month?  I would love to know!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Soaking Flour: The Why's and How's


The process of soaking flour was always a little confusing to me.  ("Wait, I'm supposed to get my flour wet before I use it?  Wouldn't this change the recipe?  What am I supposed to soak it in?"  etc...)  But a few pages and a few clicks later, it all made perfect sense.  "Soaking" your flour before you bake with it has numerous health benefits, and can give baked goods a deliciously rich flavor and texture.  Sally Fallon, in her book Nourishing Traditions, sites the following benefits of soaking your flour before baking with it:
-activates the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phytic acid (phytic acid inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc)
-provides lactic acid and lactobacilli, helping to break down complex starches and proteins
-increases vitamin content
-makes the nutrients in grains more readily available
-softens whole grain flour, making it more palatable

Basically, soaking your flour makes your end product more digestible, readying nutrients for easy assimilation in the body.  Also, soaking your flour is one awesomely healthy change you can make for your family's diet without spending any extra money!  Can I get an "AMEN!"  Here's how it's done:

How to Soak Flour
You need the flour called for by your recipe and an acidic liquid medium.  Here are some of those mediums:
cultured milk
cultured buttermilk
cultured cream
yogurt (Can't contain additives, even natural ones.  Just milk on that ingredient list.)
kefir
whey
vinegar
lemon juice

If your recipe calls for cultured milk, cultured buttermilk, or cultured cream as the liquid base:
Mix the cultured milk/buttermilk/cream from your recipe with the flour from your recipe and let sit in a warm place, covered, for 12 to 24 hours.  After soaking, add remaining ingredients and finish recipe as instructed.

If your recipe calls for water as the liquid base:
Replace one tablespoon water with one tablespoon acidic medium for every cup of liquid in recipe.  For example, if your recipe calls for two cups of water, spoon two tablespoons of acidic medium into your measuring cup first, then finish filling with water up to the 2 cup mark.  So you still have two cups of liquid, but two tablespoons of that are now acidic for soaking.  Mix the water/acid from your recipe with the flour from your recipe and let sit in a warm place, covered, for 12 to 24 hours.  After soaking, add remaining ingredients and finish recipe as instructed.

If your recipe calls for uncultured milk, buttermilk, or cream as the liquid base:
Use cultured instead... it will be so much better!  :)  But if you can't...
Follow the "calls for water" directions above, using yogurt or kefir as your acidic medium.

The actual process of soaking is super easy, it just takes a little bit of thinking ahead.  An easy way to start getting in the habit is to soak your breakfast batter (if you're making pancakes, waffles, etc) overnight.  When you get up in the morning you'll have a half-finished recipe already (yay!) and a more beneficial breakfast to devour!

Happy soaking to all!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - An Inconvenient Journey

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.


Proverbs 31:14
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.

Verse 14 is represented by the Hebrew letter He (or Heh).





I love the international aisle at the grocery store.  I get my whole wheat pasta, my flour tortillas, and my Thai peanut sauce all in one 50 foot stroll.  I can be in the store at 2:00, and have just about any dish from any place in the world on my dinner table at 5:00.  If you think about it, that's pretty incredible.  Bringing food "from afar" for my family is as easy as tearing open the taco seasoning packet (and no, I never feel guilty about using a taco seasoning packet).

When we think about it this way, one might think it's not so hard to be this Virtuous Woman.  One commentary I read on the issue put it this way:
"This means the wife of today can actually top this rare wife of Prov. 31, and so we
see that the progress of history has made it easier in some areas to be superior to the most superior wife of the past. Congratulations modern wife, for you have in

this one area surpassed the woman who surpassed all the women of her day."(http://www.scribd.com/doc/33960878/Proverbs-31-Commentary)
Hmm.  Why doesn't that congratulations feel deserved?  Is it true that just being born in my current era and culture has made virtuosity more attainable?  Or is this commentator missing something?  Perhaps a better question is, in my search for virtuosity, am I  missing something?  The above commentary, in my opinion, is coming from a very western-minded (dare I say American) perspective.  It congratulates me, the modern wife, for winning... just because I was born in the 20th century.  Is that how one becomes virtuous?  You just have to be born at the right time?  Sounds pretty convenient to me.

Are we searching for convenient character?

If I don't feel like fixing lunch, I can drive my family through McDonald's (shame!) and feed everyone for less time (and possibly less money) than it would have taken to make it myself.  And that's what we're used to in American culture.  If I want something, I just push a button, make a phone call, or double click and it's mine.  But I'm not sure that McVirtuosity is on God's menu.

The author of the poem could have easily said, "She is like the merchant.  She brings her food from afar."  But she is not compared to the merchant... she is compared to the ship.  I imagine things were a little more convenient for the merchant himself.  He could sit comfortably behind his desk sending his merchant fleets in and out of port without ever having to step foot on board.  The ship, on the other hand, is the vehicle through which all the trading was accomplished.  The ship journeyed back and forth between countries; the ship carried the load of goods; the ship suffered the dangers of the sea; the ship was the one to GO.

Maybe you've heard someone say that a woman's place is in the home.  After reading this verse (and the rest of the poem), I beg to differ.  It is here that we see a picture of a woman who was willing to GO that extra mile, and weather the journey, to provide for her family.  She was active in the marketplace of life.  She did not sit comfortably at home all day.  Her tasks were not simple, nor were her duties for the faint, weak, or ignorant.  Like a ship, she was powerful, strong, and prepared for the trip.

I don't think the heart of this verse is a discussion about food.  Otherwise, our commentator is right.  We've achieved virtuosity in a quick trip to the grocery store.  That would be pretty convenient.  I think the heart of the verse is saying that the Virtuous Woman is willing to GO the extra mile for her family, to accomplish the difficult tasks, and provide for them in ways that no one else is equipped to.  It is not a picture of easily accomplished work.  It is, on the contrary, a beautiful portrait of a woman who gets her hands right down into the hard, dirty, menial dirt of the day and (remember verse 13?)... she loves it.

We can not wake up in the morning expecting to just be this woman.  The kind of character we are reading about here is not gained easily or quickly.  It is not for sale at the mall.  It will not come off a fast food line.  It is not on Amazon.  Instead, it is learned; slowly, with focus and hard work, on an inconvenient journey.  Oh, and with lots and lots and LOTS of prayer! 

Are you willing to get off the couch and GO, that this character might be developed in your own heart?

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  What is one task in your home/marriage/family life that you know will improve things for your family but you've been putting off because it's not convenient... or because it's hard... or boring... or requires a lot of preparation... or is menial... or... well you get the idea.  Make this task your top priority this week.  Schedule a time for it in your calendar if you have to.  By the end of the week, see it finished. 

NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mission for Family, or Family for Mission?


"My family is my number one ministry."

Have you heard any moms say this before?  Have you ever said it yourself?  I have.  In fact, I was just recently telling a friend that if I don't do my job as a mother then my kids have to become someone else's mission, so I should just do my job as a mom in the first place.

And this is true.  BUUUT...

Should the mission be the means to which my good family is the end?  No.

In the natural living community I have read and seen a lot of moms who are making wonderful choices for their families' diets, apparel, education, and health.  I have also seen and read a lot of moms who, because their family is their number one mission, are focused only inward on their families.  There is nothing wrong with making our families a priority, and we should.  But for the Believing mother, cultured, educated, healthy children is not the end goal.

The end goal is that God's glory would be made known in all nations.  That includes Him being made known in my family, by my children... but it certainly doesn't end there. 

Are you building a mission for your family, or building a family for the mission? 

What if we stopped, as mothers, focusing inward, and started teaching our families to collectively focus outward?  What if our kids could learn from the very beginning that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and that they have a role to play in God's mission?

Would our families look different?  Would our suburban communities look different?  Would our churches look different?  Would we be more effective for the Kingdom of God?

Our homes are only where the mission begins.  "Good" families are not the goal.  Well-rounded children are not the goal.  A pantry full of organic food is not the goal.  The goal is Christ - for as many people as possible.

I would love to hear what you do to turn your family toward the mission!  Let's have a conversation about it, and maybe we can all benefit from hearing others' ideas!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - Loving Our Work

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

photo by Noel Mount

Proverbs 31:13
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.

Verse 13 is represented by the Hebrew letter Dalet.
Have you ever felt unwilling to accomplish your day to day work?  It has been one of those weeks for me.  I haven't been sleeping well because I'm now in my third trimester of pregnancy and that has made for a rotten attitude during the day sometimes.  Add a toddler to the equation and, wow... I just want to call a babysitter to take the boy and sit on my couch watching movies all day.  I think we've all been there for one reason or another.

I will come back to the first part of the verse in a minute, but want to begin with the second part for our study this week:  "[she] works with willing hands."  The Hebrew word that's translated "willing" is chephets.  After reading about this noun (yep, the Hebrew form is a noun, not an adjective), I think "willing" is sort of an underwhelming translation.  The Hebrew word means delight, desire, longing, the good pleasure.  So the verse is saying much more than "she is willing to do it."  It's saying that the Virtuous Woman's desire, the thing that she longs to do, is her work.

I don't think I've ever gotten out of bed in the morning with a burning desire to rush downstairs and empty the dishwasher.  As if the most basic tasks of the day, the boring stuff that just has to get done by somebody, should be the highlight of my day.  Riiiiight.

But Proverbs is telling us that our Virtuous Woman is not merely willing to do the hard, laborious, boring stuff... she loves it.  She longs for it.  It is her delight and pleasure.

Let's jump back to the first half of the verse now.  "She seeks wool and flax."  We're all familiar with wool, ya know, the stuff that comes off sheep.  It was, and still is, used for clothing.  Flax was, and still is, used for its fibers as well.  That's where linen comes from - the flax plant!  Bet you didn't expect a lesson in fabrics today!  The process of getting flax from plant stage to linen stage is interesting to me, mainly because I don't have to do it.  Otherwise I'm sure I would see it only as painstaking labor. 

The plant is pulled from the ground, then laid out to dry.  Once dry, it undergoes a process called retting.  Retting is a controlled rotting, or decaying of the plant.  It is left to lie in a field for several weeks, allowing dew to collect on it.  The very abridged story here is that the dew, over time, yields a desired softening and decay of the plant, wherein the usable fibers separate from the core.  It is only after this retting process that the fibers can be pulled from the rest of the plant and turned to linen, which is historically one of the finest, most beautiful fabrics in the world.

When the flax is retted, the fibers become soft and willing.  It isn't until the unusable portion rots away that the plant can be used for a purpose.

But is this retting process harsh?  Nope!  In fact, it sounds quite calming.  The plant just spreads out there on the ground, enjoying the dew of the morning.  Flax can also be retted in a stream or a pond.  Like a cool bath.  Now I am starting to like this metaphor.

Sometimes God uses the harsh situations of life to break us and mold us and change us and make us more like Himself... and other times, He calls us to rest.  I notice that the times when I feel the most unwilling to get out of bed/love on my kid/tackle my list/find something- ANYTHING -to make for dinner are the times when I am the most unrested.  Burn out takes over and every nasty part of myself that normally gets battled way down deep inside comes springing up to the surface.  And I am thinking more and more that what I DON'T need in these times is to just put on a smile and push through.  That doesn't change anything in my heart.  It only makes me more resentful of the fact that I have to do all this crap.  I think what we really need when unwillingness takes over is REST
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30
That sounds like the dew of the morning right there. 

The ability to take pleasure in our work is not usually part of who we are in our original form.  Going to Jesus to receive rest must become a part of our routine, in order that all the rotten stuff would fall away and we would become willing to be used by Him in whatever way He so desires.  When His desires become our desires - that is when we will delight in the work we've been given to do.

THIS WEEKS ACTION STEP:  Schedule a break.  If hubby can't take the kids, get a babysitter.  Get a mother-in-law.  Get a mama friend who will swap break time with you.  Just make it happen.  It's in your planner, so it is the law.
Let's not miss the very important part here that Jesus is the source of our rest.  Doing whatever we want might bring rest to the body or brain for a moment, but going to the Lord will give rest to our souls. 
So this is a very specific kind of break.  Here are the guidelines:
-It must be at least 4 hours. 
-It must begin with prayer and time in the Word.  You have a good chunk of a break here... go ahead and spend a longer-than-usual amount of time with God.
-Ask God to remind you of His Will in your life.  Ask God to remind you that He is your resting place when things get crazy.
-Then, do whatever you want for your remaining break time.
-No kids/housework/lists/planning/errands allowed.
-Just rest.

NEXT THURSDAYS VERSE:
"She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar."
Proverbs 31:14

Citations:
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for chephets (Strong's 2656)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 20 Jan 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

Strongs=H2656&t=KJV >

Monday, January 17, 2011

Being Missional Families



I am up in the middle of the night. 

And I think God is doing it to me.

Tossing and turning for an hour and a half in bed, I can't get thoughts about missional living out of my brain.  And believe me, I am trying, because I really just want to go back to sleep.  I have to chase a two year old around in a few short hours.  But it's no use.  So I'm up, out of bed, to the computer, researching.

I google: "Being a missional family"

Results:  "Did you mean: Being a missionary family"

Now I'm awake.  Google's programmed response shot me straight up in my chair.

No, Google, no I did not mean "being a missionary family."  We have come to believe, as American Christians, that missions are for families who travel overseas and live in the dirt and eat weird food and don't wear make-up and build things and......................  What happened to the day in and day out missional command of Christ for EVERY believer?  Have our families lost sight of this?  Do we think "missions" are to be the responsibility of a select few who "have a heart" to live in another country, or do we see missional living as a central building block in the foundation of our family make up?  Do we have to be a "missionary family" to be missional in our family, community, and world?  Or in another sense, should not every Christian family be a missionary family, no matter your address?

I want to share a short excerpt with you from a book I'm reading (a refreshingly challenging book!) called, Radical, by David Platt.
"Where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church?  We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make His glory known in all the world.  Indeed, Jesus Himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; He has created us and commanded us to go to all nations.  We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling - something that only a few people receive.

I find it interesting that we don't do this with other words from Jesus.  We take Jesus' command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say, "That means other people."  But we look at Jesus' command in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," and we say, "Now, that means me."  We take Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, "That means some people."  But we take Jesus' promise in John 10:10 that we will have abundant life, and we say, "That means me."

In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the
obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all."
I think the Lord got me out of bed tonight (eerrr, this morning) to begin showing me that He wants my family to be missional.  And not because He is "calling" us to it, but because He has commanded it of all believers and wants us to obey Him.

I am excited to obey Him in this.  I am excited to seek out ways to be missional in my family, in our city, and in the world.  And I am excited about the conversations that we might have about it here at Life On Purpose.

Life In Purpose, indeed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - Deciding Our Dealings

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

Proverbs 31:12
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

Verse 12 is represented by the Hebrew letter Gimel.

"She does him good..." is a continuation of verse 11, further elaborating on why the husband of the Virtuous Woman trusts in her.  This might seem like a simple tag-on at first, and many commentaries I've read through have had little to nothing to say about verse 12.  But I think there is a wealth of teaching here, because doing good to our husbands, especially in the post-women's-lib culture we live in, can prove to be the most difficult task to accomplish on the entire list.

"She does" comes from the Hebrew verb Gamal, which means:
-to deal fully with
-to deal bountifully with
-to recompense, repay
-to deal out

A couple other places we see the word used are:

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:6
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love.
Isaiah 63:7
We're not talking about any passive "doing" here. We're talking about an active, decisive giving of ourselves in the fullest sense. The Virtuous Woman decides every day to deal out goodness to her husband, much like the Lord gives Himself fully to us.  That is one heavy verb!

As a believing woman, you probably let God challenge you in many areas.  If you are working, and your employer is being nasty, do you feel that conviction to act kindly toward him/her?  When you clean out your closet, do you drop the clothes off at Goodwill?  When your kids are giving you an extra challenging day, do you hear the Lord calling you to be patient?  Do you take a meal to a family in need at church, or say something kind to a friend who's having a bad day, or decide not to honk your horn when someone cuts you off on the road?

We are usually more than willing to obey God in dealing out kindness to others...

...except when it comes to our husbands. 

For some reason, if hubby is being nasty, or challenging, or having a bad day, or cutting us off at every word, we tell ourselves that it's ok to be nasty and challenging in return.  In whose eyes do we think this is ok?  Who are we conversing with when we say, "he doesn't deserve my kindness right now"?

Jesus taught us,
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... for if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?"
Matthew 5:44,46
Have you ever felt like your husband is your enemy?  I have!  Two people living in close quarters trying to do life together are bound to get into it here and there.  But the Lord tells us to hang up our pride and repay kindness to those who deal unjustly with us (husbands are not excluded here).

Peter also tells us,
"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing."
1 Peter 3:9
Remember what the other part of that "doing" verb means?  To recompense or repay.  Not only are we talking about how I treat my husband on the front end, but also how I respond to him.  Whatever his attitude is toward me, I am called to respond by dealing out goodness to him.

I, the woman, am supposed to be "the bigger man" in my home.

And not sometimes.  Not on good days.  Not when all is going well.  But "all the days of her life."

Not only does the Lord call me to deal out goodness to my husband, but He calls me to be consistent in my dealings, even when it's not deserved, following the example of Christ.

At the end of the day, this has far less to do with being good to hubs and far more to do with submitting to the Will of God.  Our culture wants to make it about the former, but if we remain tied to the Word, we can know the truth of obedience and decide to apply it in our marriages.  We can fully and actively deal our husbands a hand of goodness, and not harm or evil, all the days of our lives.

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  Read 1 Samuel 25:1-42.
Consider the kindness Abigail showed her husband in her actions toward David, even though it was totally undeserved.
Consider how the Lord rewarded Abigail's righteousness.
Consider how you can carry the same attitude into your marriage this week.

NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands."
Proverbs 31:13

Citations:
Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for gamal (Strong's 1580)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 13 Jan 2011. &lt; http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

Strongs=H1580&t=KJV >

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Craft from PW - Faces of the Month


A friend of mine recently shared this craft idea and I immediately fell in love with it!  And I thought... what better way to share my love than to pass it along to you?  WOO!   The craft comes from a guest writer at one of my favorite blogs, The Pioneer Woman.  Here's the "Faces of the Month" tutorial so you can go get down with your creative self!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bulk Pancake Mix Recipe

I love homemade pancakes in the morning... I hate the extra time it takes to make them.  Preparing a bulk mix ahead of time cuts the prep in half, yay!  This recipe can't be used if you want to soak your flour overnight, because the baking powder and salt, which inhibit all the good stuff we get from soaking, are already mixed in.  (When soaking, you can mix the sweetener into the dry ingredients ahead of time, but that's about it.)  So this recipe is for your basic, easy, I-WANT-PANCAKES-NOW! breakfast.

Bulk Pancake Mix
5 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
6 Tbsp baking powder (make the last one shallow)
5 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cane sugar

Sift all ingredients together and mix until combined well.  Store in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Bulk Mix Pancakes
1 cup bulk pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter, melted

Whisk together melted coconut oil and milk.  (Do this first to cool the hot oil/butter so that it doesn't cook the egg when mixed together.)  Whisk in egg.  Slowly whisk in bulk mix until well incorporated.

Pour batter in 1/4 cupfuls onto medium heat skillet.  If using stainless steel, lightly butter the skillet first.  Cook until the edges turn dry and bubbles start to form in the middle.  Then flip, cooking for one more minute or until pancakes are cooked through.

Maple Oatmeal Pancakes
This is a simple (and DELICIOUS!) variation on the above recipe.
1 1/8 cups bulk pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup oats (not instant)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Whisk together milk and oil.  Then whisk in egg and maple syrup.  Slowly whisk in bulk mix and cinnamon until well incorporated, and finally stir in your oats.  Cook as described above.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Today, I Am Content


We recently had some good friends over for dinner who are going through a tough time financially, and we, in turn, were able to share with them the financial roller coaster that we've been on since being married.  After our story-telling was finished they asked us, "So how did you do it?  How did you keep your head up and keep your stress down in the middle of it all?"

A good question.  And we have in no way been experts in living the answer.  But there is one thing, or one Person, who can help us.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11-13
That's Paul writing to the Philippians, exclaiming that he know the secret to always being content!  That is crazy!  So often we focus on finding the secret of getting out of trouble.  Or we look at our escape from struggle as the enabler of finding contentment.  Paul is not saying that he knows how to keep trials at arm's length.  He is not saying that there is a magical secret to avoiding hardships in life.  In fact, God often kept Paul in the midst of hardship, instead of removing him from it.  But instead, Paul is saying that no matter what the circumstances, he can rest content.

Have you ever been stressed out by your financial situation?  If you're human, then probably YES.  Have you ever felt anxiety over a relationship?  Or experienced the weight of loss, or need, or trouble?  These are unavoidable experiences on earth.  We will meet them head on.  And Paul says he knows how to be in the middle of the hard stuff and still be content.  Imagine being $20,000 in the hole and still being able to wake up every morning full of joy and without worry.  Wow.  So what does Paul tell us is the secret to this contentment?

The secret is Christ.

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."  This is Paul's secret.  And not that we would receive strength from God to get out of the situation, but more often than not, He will fill us with strength that we may remain in it!  Christ is the one who provides what we need to lift our heads, even when those waves keep crashing down on us, and say, "I have joy.  I have peace.  I know contentment today."

What is it that Christ provides? 

Himself.

As Americans, it's easy for us to get wrapped up in the Gospel of Prosperity.  If we are prospering, God must be blessing.  If we are struggling, God's blessing must be absent.  But this is not the Gospel of the Bible.  One of the first recorded teachings we have from Jesus (second only to "Repent") is this:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Matthew 5:3-6
Blessed are the people who are just having a hard time.  Because God will meet you there.  There's something we don't hear a lot in our churches on Sunday morning.  It is God's blessing to you when you are struggling.

We will only see the greatness of a Savior when we know that we need to be saved.

When Jesus took on the sin of the world that day on the cross, He gave me freedom from worry.  He gave me freedom from stress and anxiety.  Because no matter what hand this life deals me, I now have the treasure of eternity with Him.  That is why He is the secret to a stress-free life.  Only complete abandonment to Him, only utter dependence on Him, only the realization that His grace is sufficient, will enable us to remain content through the most difficult struggles that the Lord allows into our lives. 

This world of sin sucks.  Sometimes it seems like there's hardship waiting around every corner.  But that's why God gave us Himself, that we can stand to our feet in the middle of our trials and say, "Today, I am content."
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.""
Hebrews 13:5

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thirty One Thursdays - His Heart Will Trust

New to Thirty One Thursdays?  Start by reading the Intro Week and The Value of Virtue.

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



Verse 11 is represented by the Hebrew letter Bet.







Isn't it interesting that the first thing Lemuel's mother tells him to look for in a wife is someone he can TRUST?  She says, a good woman is a rare and valuable find... you will be able to trust her.

This is one of the most personally convicting verses for me in the whole poem about the Virtuous Woman.  We often think of trust in terms of - "Will she keep the things I told her in confidence?"  Or - "Will she run around on me?"  And based on this interpretation most of us could say with confidence, YES, his heart CAN and SHOULD trust in me.  I have often expected my husband to trust me based solely on these terms, not understanding why he still seemed to receive me with a tinge of skepticism.

But I was not as trustworthy as I thought I was.

Sure, I wasn't running around cheating or telling all my friends his personal problems, but I think verse 11 is speaking of something deeper than this.  For example - One night my husband and I were both in the kitchen, me at the computer and he getting ready to head upstairs for bed.  The counter was piled high with dishes.  He looked longingly up the stairs toward the bedroom where a restorative night's rest awaited, and I said, "Don't worry, I will do the dishes before I go to bed."  And ya know what, I meant it.  I really did.  And I was happy to relieve him of the weight of that stress and send him to bed care free.  But to my surprise, he turned toward the sink, without saying a word, and angrily started doing the dishes.  "I said I would do them!"  No response.  "Matt---what is your DEAL?  Just go to bed and I will do the dishes!"  He finally replied, "It's not a big deal," and kept working.  And I thought, well that's fine if he wants to be a stubborn baby after I've repeatedly offered to take care of it.  Stubbornness indeed.  But not on his part.

His heart didn't trust in me.  He expected to wake up the next morning to be greeted by a counter full of dishes.  He did not expect that what I said I would do, I would do; because in the past, I hadn't.  Perhaps trust in a marriage is MOST MONUMENTAL in the small things.  We believe we are owed the luxury of trust because we're not cheating wives... but trust is something more deeply rooted than that.  It thrives or dies every day, in every small decision we make, and every day we are teaching our spouse whether or not his heart can trust in his wife.  And one way or the other, he will learn.

I think this verse is really saying, "Your wife should be your solid.  Next to the Lord God Himself, she should be the one who is steady, who is stable, who's got your back no matter what.  You can depend on her." 

And when a guy has a girl like that to walk through life with, he will not lack anything.  The second part of the verse tells us that he will have no lack of gain.  These are the same Hebrew words as those used in Psalm 23:1: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."  Whenever I read Psalm 23, I am overcome by a deep feeling of rest, because of God's faithfulness in my life.  This is how our husbands should feel when they think of us, their wives.  Trust brings rest.  It brings a peaceful confidence.  When my husband trusts me, he can rest in the fact that my habits will not be one more stress in his life.  I can be the person he wants to come home to after a day of all the other stresses. 

But if I spend the day watching TV, or shopping, or dreaming without putting anything to action, I am adding stress to my husband's life, because now he also has to worry about making up for the losses that I have cost our family in my idleness or over-indulgence.  And this is where trust will break down... over the small things.  It's all those things that we think sit so close to the surface that actually run the deepest.  (I should say here that, of course, either spouse can be guilty of these habits, but I'm just talking to the gals right now.) 

I am resolving to be a woman my husband can DEPEND ON.  There are enough burdens in this life as it is; a spouse should be a relief from them, not an addition to them.  Let's not assume that we are owed trust in our marriages.  Let's instead check ourselves to ensure we are making decisions everyday that teach each other about our trustworthiness.

THIS WEEK'S ACTION STEP:  Identify one (and only one) habit in your life that you believe is hindering your husband's heart from trusting in you.  Then take one (that's right, one) small step in changing that habit.  It's amazing what one small step away from one bad habit can accomplish!

NEXT THURSDAY'S VERSE:
"She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life."
Proverbs 31:12

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Reads

This is what our family is reading this month.  These are not recommendations, only what's on our menu. 

For Me:
Radical, by David Platt
"But do you and I realize what we are doing at this point? We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, afterall, that is whom we are most comfortable with. And the danger now is that when we gather in our church buildings to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead we may be worshipping ourselves."
So far I am 16 pages in, and hooked.


Life Principles from the Women of the Bible (personal Bible study), Wayne Barber, Eddie Rasnake, Richard Shepherd


For Matt:
A Christianity Worth Believing, Doug Pagitt


The Fidelity of Betrayal Towards a Church Beyond Belief, Peter Rollins



For Maddox:

Read With Me Bible for Toddlers, Doris Wynbeek Rikkers

Maddox and I have been reading one story each day during lunch, starting at the beginning, out of this Bible.  We both love it!  He always wants to read the story several times through.  It's a great alternative to opening up the computer, and gets us in the habit of doing a daily family "devotional."

What are you reading this month?  I would love to know!
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