Archive | March, 2011

Comparison Gets You Nowhere But the Gospel Takes Us Far

I have struggled with comparing myself to others since my childhood when I would compare the giftings my sister had in relation to my own. She was more gifted creatively, musically (having to put half as much into her practice as I), and physically. I knew nothing about how to take care of my hair, makeup, and dress attractively. Practically everything I know was gleaned from her. She could speak well and won numerous awards where I miserably failed in speech/drama class.

And you know where all these comparing and envious thoughts got me? The truth is, they got me no where. It damaged relationship, stirred up discontentment, and robbed me of fruitfulness in my own life and relationship with the Lord.

In all reality, I doubted God’s goodness. This was at the core of my sin. I thought that if I was in the spotlight, then I would be happy. I imagined that if I had her giftings, I would be happy. I doubted His love for me. In my heart of hearts, I thought that God didn’t care about me unless I looked and acted in that manner. I wanted to be acknowledged. How far from the gospel I had slipped! I needed to stop those envious thoughts with the gospel truth – I am a recipient of undeserved mercy. The cross is the undeniable evidence that God loves me. He was willing to separate himself from heaven’s glory, come to earth, and suffer and die in my place. He chose to graciously love the unlovely. Through His resurrection, His love for me is secured. I am a guaranteed recipient of His grace and mercy and eternal life. His righteousness has become mine. I needed to stop and mediate upon these simple truths:

“For the Lord is good.” Ps. 100:5

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Ps. 84:11

The foolishness of envy is brought to light through these passages:

2 Cor. 10:12, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

Do you see that? To compare myself with another is a sign that I am ignorant. I am without understanding. I have forgotten God’s selfless love for me.

Upon learning that he would be martyred, Peter responds to Jesus: “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:20-22)

Jesus brings it home. When Peter wants to know what will happen to John, Jesus simply says, “what is that to you?” It was an eye-opening jolt to reality. Jesus was challenging Peter to not even go there. Don’t even let the thought go through you mind. If the Lord wills that another receives the blessings and giftings I desire and don’t receive, or is not the recipient of the struggles and sufferings that I am called to endure, what is that to me? God has a unique plan and purpose for me, and it is not for me to know the outcome of another’s story. He is creating a beautiful tapestry of my life. Instead, my eyes should be fixed on my Savior. Jesus offers the simple command, “You follow me!”

As Carolyn Mahaney shares in response to this passage, “He [Peter] did not need to hear or do anything else. These three little words were sufficient to enable him to face the agonizing death assigned to him by God: You follow me! Our Lord gives us the same command. For every unwanted experience or withheld blessing, the Lord would say to us: You follow me! And just as these words were enough for Peter, so they are enough for us.They are all we need to hear and obey in order to glorify God in every difficult experience God assigns us. You follow me!”

God’s love for you is real. It is eternal. Your purpose is to follow Him. Not to look around horizontally to the people around you, but to fix your eyes vertically on the cross and our beautiful Savior.

God’s grace can free us from the destructive comparison thoughts if we stop, pray, remember the gospel, confess our sinful doubting of God’s goodness, and embrace His love for us.

Another powerful response to envious thoughts is to stop and pray the Lord’s blessing upon that person. I remember when recently struggling with envious thoughts of another’s successful ministry, a true friend stopped me and said: “Just pray for them. Pray that God would bless their work.” That is certainly not an easy task, nor did it prove to change my feelings overnight. But in the end, God mercifully changed my heart. God can change us into loving people as we confess our sins and seek freedom in the cross of Christ.

And finally, start journaling your thankfulness. Have you thought about how He has immensely blessed you lately? The simple fact that He loved and died for you is an immeasurable gift. Start making your own thankfulness journal, recording his gifts to you every day. And see your life transformed!

God created an apple and an orange both within the fruit category but that is the only thing that is the same between them. In all other ways, the taste, texture, color, and smell are completely unique. Different but equally delicious. In similar manner, you are a unique and beautiful person, fashioned with your own set of gifts. Every part of the body of Christ is valuable and needed for the health of each other (1 Cor. 12:12-26). Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to the head, hand, or neck of the body. Focus rather on serving the Lord together – we all have something unique to contribute that another cannot offer. Let’s follow Him together!

Recommended Reading:

For further rich thoughts on the topic of envy, I heartily encourage you to read Girl Talk’s thorough series on this topic, which can be found here or in a PDF version here.
Pleasing People: How Not to be an “approval junkie” by Louie Giglio
When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man
by Ed Welch

Photo Credit

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Gluten Free/Dairy Free Blender Waffles or Pancakes

We had a lovely waffle dinner the other night with family and friends in our community group and it was fun to be able to meet the needs of some of our food sensitive friends with this scrumptious variety that is completely gluten and dairy free. They are mighty tasty! They turn out light and fluffy so you cannot even notice the difference. Even if you are not sensitive to these foods, its a nice recipe to have on hand if you run out of your other  grain choices. Plus, I am becoming more and more convinced that having a good variety in your diet is very beneficial!

This recipe is made with the simple use of your blender. No grain grinder is necessary. You can soak the batter overnight for increased benefits (as brown rice has a small amount of phytates, learn the benefits of soaking here), or simply skip that and proceed with the recipe. Soaking also helps to break down the grain so it is softer, otherwise it will add a bit more crunch to your waffles, which is yummy too. I often prepare this recipe for last minute pancakes if I forget to soak my standard whole grain blender recipe.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups coconut milk, rice milk or hemp milk, or coconut milk kefir/water kefir (I prefer canned coconut milk and water it down 1/2 and 1/2 otherwise it is a bit thick. It adds the best flavor and texture to the waffles. If you use other options, make sure to increase grain choice by 1/4-1/3 cup so the batter is not too thin.)
1 1/2 cups whole raw brown rice and millet (I like to do half and half of each grain, but you can also do all brown rice or all millet. You can also use gluten-free rolled oats or quinoa, which are also wonderful additions.)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil (preferably extra virgin cold-pressed)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs (preferably pastured farm fresh)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

1. In a blender, combine your choice of milk, grain, oil and vanilla extract. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until the grain is broken down into tiny little bits.
2. Cover and soak overnight (about 8-12 hours).
3. After soaking, add eggs and blend again for 1-2 minutes, until the batter is smooth. You may have to add a 1/8-1/4 cup water to get the batter blending in a vortex.
4. Add the baking powder, salt, and baking soda and pulse briefly just until blended.
5. Prepare waffle iron or pancake griddle. I use olive oil on my Krups waffle iron for best results and grease generously between each waffle.
6. Cook for approximately 4 minutes on the waffle iron. If making pancakes, rotate when lightly brown and fry on other side till fully cooked.

Top with your favorite maple syrup and berry sauce (recipe to come)! You can get organic maple syrup at Amazon for only $16.83 with the Subscribe and Save option. A great deal!

Yields: 3-4 waffles, 20+ pancakes

For my standard whole grain waffle recipe, visit here.

Comments { 44 }

What Kind of Shoes Do You Wear?

Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:10 NASB)

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. (I Peter 4:10 ESV)

Funky, Chunky Shoes

I am almost 30 years old. I finally know what kind of shoes I like.

Flat shoes.

Wide shoes.

Casual, comfy shoes.

No-Heel shoes.

Funky, chunky, spunky shoes.

I don’t do boots. I don’t do heels. I don’t do tennis shoes (every day). I don’t do trendy shoes. I don’t do dressy shoes. For years I’ve been trying them all, and none of them were “me.” Nothing wrong with heels or boots. They’re just for not me.

I’m ready to be me. In my kind of shoes.

Within the last year, I’ve started recognizing a pattern in the shoes that I love to wear. Now, I know exactly what to look for…and exactly what to eliminate. I got rid of all the reject shoes in the back of my closet, given to me by other people, or purchased on a whim. I quit thinking someday I might start loving and wearing them, and said “bye-bye” to them forever. I’m ready to say breezily, “Thanks! But they’re just not my style.”

“Each One Has Received A Special Gift”

I think spiritual gifts are a lot like knowing your shoe style.

I have a friend who is gifted in organization, administration, and the ability to teach skills of practical knowledge, and strives to maximize her life to serve well.

She knows what kind of “shoes” she likes to wear!

I, on the other hand. Not so good at those things. I work sooo hard to be a good homemaker. And rightfully so! It’s part of my calling as a wife and mother. But I will never be the organizational and practical gal as my friend is. So, I do the best I can.

And I’m ok with that. Because those spiritual gifts are not my “style.”

Because there are other things that make my heart sing.

When I explain the Trinity to my toddlers, my soul feels on fire.

When I craft a blog post, cutting and pasting scriptures from the internet tabs I have open to 6 different passages in my online Bible, I feel especially useful and close to God.

When I talk theology with my husband and we talk hours on a tough topic, I revel in the meeting of our minds, in what a marvelous match we are!

When my girlfriends call me for help understanding some deep issue, I know I’m specially crafted by God to meet unique needs in the people I love.

I love to teach. I love to encourage. I love to exhort. I love to write. I love to dig with my mind and my words and my heart.

I love wearing my own “shoes,” if you know what I mean.

Some Principles for Practice

Don’t ask other people to wear your shoes.
I need to safeguard against expecting others to love the things I love to do. Not everyone will have such a thrill at searching out a matter as I do.

However…

Wear your own shoes, loud and proud!
I can usually flesh things out pretty well on my own. So why not make the effort to do it myself, share it, and view it as a gift God is giving them, through me?

Appreciate and enjoy boots and heels, too. ;)

First and hardest: Admit your weaker areas.

Second, and more fun: Gratefully receive what others have to offer, and allow it to supplement your own strengths and gifts.

I am always checking various organizational and homemaking blogs, and with friends for great recipes, homemaking ideas, homeschooling units and lessons, and such. I basically steal other people’s homemaking skills! Just because I may not be particularly gifted in organization and homemaking, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to glean from others and grow in this area as well.

Result: You will develop into a pretty well-rounded beautiful person! God designed us all differently so that we ought to mooch off each other, be humbled by our limitations, enjoy giving of our strengths, and all grow closer in the process! Let us all prayerfully evaluate where God has uniquely gifted us and strive to utilize those gifts for His glory!

A Final Thought: This post wasn’t designed to be theologically exhaustive. In fact, no matter what you believe about gifts, we can all agree that each person is built somewhat differently. I’m simply reflecting on how we can maximize our own strengths and help others do the same, so that we all give and take in thriving, loving relationships. Please refrain from creating theological debates and discussions. Above all, keep comments kind and encouraging.

________________________________________________________________________________________

On another note, in light of the topic last month that Natalie wrote on Intimacy in Marriage, Natalie has written a follow-up post on her blog addressing the question raised concerning those women who have a higher sex drive than your husband and how to graciously deal with that. She addresses the topic here.

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Jesus Walked with Women

Before time began, God carefully designed and fashioned women. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Did you know that our sweet Savior cherishes you as a woman? Right from the beginning of time, God declares that men and women together mirror the image of God. One without the other is incomplete. Men alone are not up to the task, but in partnership with women, we can display God’s glory and character before a watching world.

As Gary Thomas so beautifully shares, “While the apostle Paul does ascribe a certain significance to the man’s being created first, if you look at the line of creation, females are the culmination! Everything keeps getting more sophisticated, more intricate, until finally a woman appears – and only then does God rest.”

Men and women together were recipients of God’s blessing and commissioned to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28)” We are not sideline cheerleaders but rather co-regents. We share the command. Of course we fulfill it in different manners, but we are fully responsible to be active in participating in God’s stewarding commission.

While Eve led the way in the temptation in the fall, she also has an active role in our redemption. It was through the seed of the women that the serpent would receive his certain and annihilating destruction. “As it was through the woman that the craft of the devil brought sin and death into the world, so it is also through the woman that the grace of God will give to the fallen human race the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the devil.”

Have you considered the numerous occasions where he chose to give women a special place during his life on this earth and lineage? Women have a special place in his heart. In the very genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1), we see the inclusion of Rahab, Ruth, Mary, and Bathsheba. He chose women of all different walks and backgrounds, the most unlikely of candidates, and yet, he graciously chose the meek and humble that His glory might be displayed to a greater extent. And He chose to be born of a woman. The beautiful miracle of the incarnation through a woman. He specifically honors one woman who pours expensive perfume on his feet (Mark 14:3-9), and declares that she knew and understood his purpose and who be remembered wherever the gospel was preached. Throughout his life on this earth, women walked by his side among his disciples.

And in the hour of his death, we see the presence of women mentioned at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40-41). It could have been easily overlooked, but Mark stops and highlights their presence, emphasizing the care and devotion Jesus had for them. Jesus made sure his mother was cared for.

And most amazing, at His resurrection, we see Jesus presenting himself in His new body, risen from the dead, to the witness of women. “According to ancient Pharisaic law, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in a tribunal as too untrustworthy. Only men could give witness. So when Jesus rose from the dead – the most important event that has ever occurred or ever will occur – who was present to give witness and testimony? Women!”(Gary Thomas)

You are a unique creature fashioned beautifully in His image. You uniquely display His glory in a way that our men cannot. You might not have the strength of a man that images God’s power and strength, no matter how you exercise those muscles. You are just not designed to have that physical physique and stamina to defend, protect, and provide. But you have the gentle, nurturing, sweetness of woman that displays His gracious loving-kindness, tenderness, and beauty. Woman is beautifully gifted to nurture, love, comfort, organize and support in ways that men just cannot fathom. Her words have power and influence. She can build her home or tear it down with her own hands.

1 Corinthians 7, “Don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.” (The Message)

You matter and are valued, dear sister, not because men like you, or you have the perfect body, or are gifted in the ways you desire, but because you are made in the image of God, are loved by God, and are regularly empowered by God to make a difference in this world.

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Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: IDENTITY

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

What do Blog-comments, Grace, and Gone With the Wind have to do with your IDENTITY in Christ? Lindsay’s discussion for us this month focuses on IDENTITY. As I continue in my Q & A style format, I want to share with you my experiences and my heart (balancing raising 7 children while also being passionately involved in world missions).

Special Give-Away: At the end of this article is an opportunity to receive one of 10 FREE copies of Ann’s book, The Mission-Minded Child.

Q. LINDSAY @ PASSIONATE HOMEMAKING:

How do you guard against comparing yourself with others?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:

What is it about us, as women, that drives us to compare ourselves — often so critically and so harshly? Why do we think so much about what other people think? Why do we keep a record of our faults and shortcomings, or crave that public pat-on-the-back (even from total-strangers) for a sense of approval?

Let me give you an example: If you’re a regular Passionate Homemaking reader, did you happen to notice last month that my MARRIAGE post only received 11 comments? Considering the surrounding 10 posts, did you know that the average “comment-count” was 40, but my contribution received only 1/4 of that number? Comparing those 10 posts, my comments came in last place. Hmmmm . . . that’s depressing. Even the next-to-last-place post (in my secret comment-count competition) had over twice as many as mine. Wow . . . Maybe I should quit. Maybe my writing is boring. Maybe nobody likes me.

Now, more than likely, you never even noticed my comment-count; and even if you did, you probably didn’t care. But I do have to admit that it “bugged” me; and here’s my point: As women of God, we can’t live our lives by constantly comparing ourselves with others, or judging our worth by worldly standards. Comparison and self-criticism focus on the fear of men (or women), rather than the fear of God.

Q. LINDSAY @ PASSIONATE HOMEMAKING:

How do you properly understand God’s love for you and finding security in Christ?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:

In a nutshell, I believe the key is GRACE. God loves us SO much. Once we’ve surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ and received His salvation through His Cross and Resurrection, God adopts us into His family. He becomes our Father and calls us His daughters. And isn’t God amazing?! He’s an infinite Creator, with unlimited possibilities. He’s designed each of us to reflect His love and His glory, in a totally unique way. We’re not here to become better than others, or to push-and-shove for that “first-place” in God’s kingdom (like James and John in Mark 10:35-45). And we’re not to rely on our self-efforts. Instead, we’re simply to obey whatever God wants us to do (or “not” to do), relying on His strength and grace.

The Bible says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV).

God’s path for you is not going to be the same as His path for me; and His unique GRACE for you is not going to be the same as His GRACE for me. This past month, for me, was a biggie. God’s grace on my life included sending my husband to a dangerous area in BUDUDA, Uganda, where he preached to thousands of people, checked on hundreds of orphan children we’re responsible for, and narrowly missed a head-on African collision). God helped me when missing my “big kids” — including a college son 2,000 miles away, and a grown daughter in a serious relationship with an awesome 2nd generation missionary “kid” from Niger (that’s Sahara-desert-hot, predominantly Muslim, and one of the world’s poorest nations). God helped me to pray for our oldest son, who’s serving as a USMC 1st Lieutenant in a very hostile area in Afghanistan, and for our next-oldest son and newlywed daughter as they’ve been preaching in remote Hindu villages through PROJECT INDIA (in an area where believers are persecuted and average workers make only $2/day). That might sound tough (and I didn’t even share the month’s biggest challenge). But God empowers me, daily, with His continual amazing grace.

God gives each of us His identity in Him. We’re not to compare ourselves with others, and we’re not to compare our grace, or our family, or our husband, or our kids, or our calling, with others.

Q. LINDSAY @ PASSIONATE HOMEMAKING:

Can you tell us about your identity in Christ, and how you know God’s mission for your life?

A. ANN @ MISSION-MINDED FAMILIES:

We’re not to be known by what we “do” but by who we “are” in Christ, by His grace. We’re all called to simply walk with God, and to live our lives with integrity before Him. As we walk with God, He may give us assignments along the way, but those job-descriptions are not who we are. Who we are is based on our relationship with Him. We’re God’s children, His daughters, and a vital part of His family.

I would like to end with a vivid and compelling “picture” I saw (in my mind) during a time of prayer about two weeks ago. It relates to the urgent need for world missions, helping orphans, and God’s unique call on my life . . . and a dramatic scene from Gone With the Wind.

Recently, a lady in our church had a dream, in which she was walking through a beautiful mansion. As she went through some of the rooms, she she felt left out and unneeded. But finally, she found a particular room she loved. At last, she felt “at home” in the mansion; and soon, this woman was making friends and given a specific job to do, that was perfect for her.

Our pastor recently related this woman’s dream in a sermon. He believed this mansion represented the Kingdom of God, and the different “rooms” represented various churches and congregations. Just as this woman had found her “place in the house” (finding a church family and a place of ministry where she could thrive) our pastor encouraged us to seek God for His purpose for our lives.

Using this example, I spent some time in prayer, asking the Lord to show me, more specifically than ever, my specific place and purpose in His Kingdom. As I was walking on a wooded trail surrounding our home, I felt like I saw a picture in my mind. I too was in a mansion, similar to the opening scenes of Scarlett O’Hara’s home, “Tara,” from Gone With the Wind. Then, in my thoughts, I felt led to go downstairs . . . to a massive basement. As I looked over the “room” (which suddenly appeared to be outdoors), I was reminded of another scene from Gone With the Wind, when Scarlett is searching for the doctor to come help with her friend Melanie’s birth. In the movie, Scarlett walks through a graphic Civil War scene, where many wounded soldiers are lying in row-after-row on the ground, moaning for help. As the imagery is captured on film, the camera pans to a broader-and-broader viewpoint, as the intense scope of the Civil War’s casualties are revealed. At last, when Scarlett finds the frazzled doctor and begs him to come help, he responds, “Are you crazy? I can’t leave these men for a baby! They’re dying . . . bleeding to death in front of my eyes, no chlorophyll, no bandages, nothing to even ease their pain!”

In my picture, I saw a “room” filled with people. As my view expanded, I saw a massive open-air crowd, of all ages. It included multitudes of faces, from all nationalities . . . and many crying children. The faces extended on-and-on, farther than I could even imagine. I knew they represented people from around the world who needed to hear about Jesus, and orphans who needed to be rescued, and SOULS. And just like that lone doctor in Gone With the Wind, there was hardly ANYONE working in this “room.” People were dying everywhere, and the need was beyond anything I had ever seen. As I prayed, I simply felt the Lord say to my heart, “Ann, you and Jon are called to THIS room . . . but you’re also called to go to other rooms in my house, to get others to come help. The need is great, and there aren’t enough workers. Go to mothers, families, homeschoolers, and churches . . . but don’t get distracted in the other rooms.”

This image is very raw right now in my emotions. This is the first time I’ve shared it publicly, or written it down, but I felt it fit with this month’s theme about identity. “Missions” is our family’s place in God’s Kingdom. We’ve seen desperate needs (even the past few weeks in Africa and India). We know we’re called to reach the lost and to rescue orphans . . . and also, to recruit others.

This week, I want to do a drawing for 10 FREE copies of my book, The Mission-Minded Child – Raising a New Generation to Fulfill God’s Purpose. To be entered in the drawing, go to 100 mission-mottos and pick one motto or quote. For a 2nd or 3rd entry, link to this post (on your blog, facebook, and/or twitter), and mention each in a separate comment.

And please do think and pray about this need in the “basement.”
It’s real.

And you could help.

Comments { 163 }

Communing Daily with the Lord as a Mother

“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished . . . I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.”  –George Mueller, Delighted in God

As a wife and mother, I am acutely aware of my desperate need for fellowship with my Lord in preparation for my day. How else will I find strength to face the next battle, fight, or attitude from my children that needs to be guided towards repentance? How else will I be able to train their precious hearts to love Jesus? Can I expect them to desire to follow Him if I don’t demonstrate my utter need and commitment to Him by seeking His fellowship? How else will I be able to withstand the cultural temptations to consume my time on the internet, television, beautifying myself, or other carefree hobby? And most importantly, is there anything else that is of true lasting value that can make my soul happy and satisfied? I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. And He is a loving Savior that loves me, cherishes me, adopted me, and paid for my sins, so that I can enjoy eternal, free, and open access to His presence. I simply have to come and sit at His feet.

Is it possible to spend time with the Lord when I am rising multiple times a night to nurse or care for a little one? Dear sisters, it is not only possible, but it is essential. We serve a mighty and gracious God who called the world into motion, and He can certainly guide you to discovering the right time, place, and plan for your personal communion with Him. It will be something we have to fight for, but the reward is well worth it. We will find strength to persevere through multiple battles of childhood illnesses that seem never to cease, to graciously address the heart issues and temptations of our children even when no end seems in sight, to be the godly help meet our husband needs even though he may not deserve it, and to demonstrate to a watching world that we are in love with a beautiful Savior that is worthy of ours and their adoration.

In order to cultivate this habit, we must plan. We must choose a time, place, and reading method. As John Piper shares: “Most Christians neglect their Bibles not out of conscious disloyalty to Jesus, but because of failure to plan a time and place and method to read it.”

Time

“I earnestly recommend that it be in the early morning, unless there are some extenuating circumstances. Entering the day without a serious meeting with God, over his Word and in prayer, is like entering the battle without tending to your weapons. It’s like taking a trip without filling the tires with air or the tank with gas. The human heart does not replenish itself with sleep. The body does, but not the heart. The spiritual air leaks from our tires, and the gas is consumed in the day. We replenish our hearts not with sleep, but with the Word of God and prayer.” – John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God

Mornings may be difficult for you, and there is grace to adjust to your family’s needs, but that quote is definitely compelling, and I have personally experienced these benefits. Even if you start waking up 15 minutes earlier each day, you will have 15 minutes to dine at the Master’s feet. Other means of getting the Word into your heart throughout the day might be: Download an audio version of the Bible to listen to throughout your day. Place a Bible in key areas throughout your home where you spend the majority of your time – the kitchen sink, the bathroom, the changing table. While at these locations, glance down and mediate on a verse. Get creative! During one season, I had my Bible on my ipod and would read during my early morning nursing period.

Your children may be at an age where you can start helping them develop their own quiet time. Guide them in learning how to pray, look at Bible story books (Jesus Storybook Bible, Big Picture Story Bible), listen to a CD of Christian music, watch a Bible story DVD, or color Bible story pictures. I remember using Keys for Kids when I first launched into my own quiet times. They are free and can be ordered in paperback copies or downloaded on the web. While they do that, you can have your own quiet time.

Place

“Pick a place of seclusion…. It needs to be secluded so that you are not distracted, and so that you can speak out loud and sing and cry. If your family situation or home does not have such a place, then create it, not by space, but by rule…. One saintly mother (Susanna Wesley) with a large brood of children (mother of 19) would use her apron to make a tent for her head and her Bible at the kitchen table and the children were taught, when mother is in her tent, make no noise.” – John Piper

I love that quote! If it is there is no quiet moments, then we can glean from Mrs. Wesley’s example of defining the space through training our children. Do you have a favorite comfy chair? Add a little nightstand to hold your Bible, journal, and pens. I will never forget observing the frequent occasions as a child when we would discover our mother spending time with the Lord in the front seat of the family car in the driveway. She was close enough to manage in the case of emergencies, but far enough away to enjoy some peace and solitude. With a family of eight children, she learned to adapt to make it still her priority. Even now, my devotions may be very well surrounded by my little ones (with my son often waking at 6:45am), but we are teaching them to play quietly near by. They are observing that I am making it a priority, that it is important to me. My children are not first in my life. Jesus needs to come first.

Method

Without a plan it is easy to loose focus, routine, and develop more a hit-and-miss approach. One tool I have used for years is the The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. The design is to read daily from two Old Testament and two New Testament books. During busy seasons of young motherhood, I have chose to read one of the Old Testament portions and one of the New Testament portions each day, and followed the next year with the other two columns, thus completing the Bible in two years.

Justin Taylor links to ten different Bible reading plans offered by Crossway Books and other sites. Chose a method that works for you, print it out, and put it with your Bible. You don’t have to wait till the beginning of the year either. Simply start on the current date and make your way through.

If you are new to developing your own daily devotion time or would like further inspiration, I highly recommend you check out Nancy Leigh Demoss’ book, A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God through a Daily Devotional Life.

“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. The first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Other Recommended Resources:
When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney

What works for you?

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Naturally Battling Depression

I have suffered from depression through various periods of my life, unfortunately as it seems to run in my family, but most recently during my extensive bought of 1 1/2 years with insomnia. I was extremely tired, weary, lazy, and unmotivated. You would often find me lingering in bed in the morning after a pitiful nights rest and desirous of doing nothing else but staying in my jammies all day and watching movies. I felt a darkness hovering over my spirit. A sick feeling in my gut that did not want to let go. Depression went hand in hand with fear and worry about the inability to sleep. Where can we find deliverance and freedom from these feelings?

Cling to the Savior

During periods of depression, there is little to no desire to read the Word or prayer. We are just trying to cope and find little strength there. But we must be persistent. We must wait on the Lord.  “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” This what Isaiah 40:31 promises the faithful, the persistent. Don’t give up even though strength might seem miles away. Press on to know the Lord in your deepest periods of darkness.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4).” This is your true, enduring, and faithful life-line. You will see a light at the end of the tunnel. God does not give more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

And don’t forget to preach the gospel truth to your soul. Proclaim it from the housetops. Sing and worship with your voice. There is much refreshment and healing as we take our eyes of ourselves and focus on the beauty of our Lord. Read Romans 8:35-39 – no one can separate you from the love of Christ. I often clung to repeating out loud, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalms 43:5).

Cultivate Thankfulness

It is easy for our eyes to focus on the depressing thoughts and events that surround us and lose sight of the little blessings. Count your blessings. Record them. What gifts has the Lord bestowed on you today? Adopt the recording 1000 gifts challenge and see God transform your thoughts and understanding. It can be the hardest thing to start. But in cultivating gratefulness there is further grace. Colossians 3:15 states, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live..He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” - Albert Schweitzer

Do the Next Thing

The worst culprit I found for feeding depression was to linger in bed in the morning or sack out on the couch too frequently throughout my day. This is not to say you shouldn’t rest, but guard against extended periods. Keeping yourself busy is an effective preventative against allowing your mind to wander into depressing thoughts. In these moments when I am struggling with fear, or simply the motivation to keep going, I like to read this poem:

“Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.

Moment my moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’
Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’”
–author unknown

The simple step: do the next thing. This may be just getting out of bed and taking a shower. Or refreshing your soul by reading the word for 5 minutes. Or simply getting off the couch and changing that diaper. God’s grace is sufficient if we are willing to get up, change our attitude, and do the next thing.

Be in Fellowship

The easiest thing for those who struggle with depression is to hide themselves and avoid the company of others. I discovered that there is such healing in being open and honest with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t try to hide it. This will only feed it more. Seek prayer. Seek support. Let others love on you. Take time to laugh with others. I found on many occasions that by just opening up and sharing my personal struggles, that I experienced release and freedom from the weight of it. We need the body of Christ. We need the support and fellowship of the body. This is one extension of God’s grace to us.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

Surrender

Ultimately, the place of deliverance and freedom for me has come from the place of surrender. I remembered Paul who graciously adopted his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) as the Lord’s means of purifying and maturing him in godliness. The Lord revealed to me that I had been striving for healing and restoration all in my own strength. Yes, I certainly had been crying out for mercy, and depending upon him daily for strength, but ultimately I was looking to the next natural remedy to give me sleep, to release me from depression. I tried every concoction and recommendation possible, offered through meaningful family, friends, herbalists, naturopaths and sleep specialists, and more often then not, they would simply get me more discouraged and depressed because of their uselessness.

I had to come to a place of surrender. If God wanted this to be my “thorn in the flesh” for the rest of my life, then I could choose to embrace that and walk in His joy and grace, or alternatively continue in this path of hopelessness. I knew that if I fully released my efforts, my striving for healing, and let go, there would be peace, whether I was restored or not. And I can testify to that amazing grace. God helped me experience freedom.

Natural Remedies

I have experienced various help from supplementing with these following remedies for helping keep my hormones and feelings in check. But ultimately, we cannot depend upon them for our hope. Our hope must be first and foremost in God alone.

Get Some Fresh Air

Try to get outside for some good exercise each day. Even if it’s just a quick 15 minute walk around the neighborhood while your little ones nap, you will find great refreshment for your soul. Get outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Fish Oil

I have found supplementing my diet with cod liver oil or fish oil has been extremely helpful for balancing my hormones. I supplement with Nordic Naturals DHA oil and take two tablets daily. During pregnancy, I am taking Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA because it has so many good benefits for healthy infant development in addition to mood and nerve support for mommy.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are essential for balancing your nervous system and stress levels. I take 1 tablet of Wild Harvest’s Stress Guard but any B multi-vitamin is very helpful for this. Dark green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin B as well. Green smoothies are an easy way of boosting these in your diet.

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are great hormone balancers with their high level of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat them raw, freshly ground in a coffee grinder, over oatmeal, yogurt, or various cereals, in smoothies, etc.

Develop a Peaceful Evening Routine

I have also found it helpful to establish a peaceful evening routine. I stopped getting on my computer or watching any possible intense movie (whether action packed or overly dramatic) that might get my mind going full speed or put my emotions in an upheaval. You just have to be guarded as to what you fill your mind with. Give yourself a good stretch of time to wind down from the day. Avoid staying up too late, as the best hours of sleep are between nine and midnight. Reading myself to sleep with a calm peaceful book, or simply the Psalms, has been most effective for cleaning out my mind and allowing it to rest from the days activities and get a better night’s rest.

Let me leave you with this quote:

“Therefore, depression, regardless of the causes, is a time to answer the deepest and most important of all questions: Whom will I trust? Whom will I worship?” - Ed Welch

Sometimes there will be no answer as to the reasons that you might be suffering from depression. Sometimes God doesn’t clearly define the why. Your struggles and solutions likely will be different from mine. But He does supply the grace to help us acknowledge where we can put our trust. And the only true and lasting foundation is the Lord Jesus. He is a solid rock upon which we can stand.

Additional Reading

For excellent spiritual encouragement on the topic of depression, I highly recommend Depression: A Spiritual Darkness by Ed Welch. For the life of me, I did not want to read this through my various bought of depression, but the Lord really convicted me again not to depend upon my own strength. I read it and found such encouragement!

Treating Depression Naturally by Keeper of the Home

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DECORISMS: Spring is Here!

Here is some inspiration for decorating your home for spring, by my lovely sister, Christa Taylor.

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3 Things That Are True About You: A Musical Post

Written by monthly contributor, Kat.

These three songs have taught and inspired me and I hope they do the same for you.

1. What You Do Does Not Define You

(True Things by JJ Heller)

One of the best things about leaving the working world and staying home when I had my first child, was that learned how much I put my identity in what I did.

I went from a very cool job in the music industry to staying at home and watching Barney reruns over and over and over and over.

When people asked me, “what do you do?” I felt lost because I had mistakenly let the answer to that question DEFINE me when all it really should do is DESCRIBE me.

Our definition, value, worth is not found in the things we do. And it’s not found in the children we love.

It’s found in Who loves us.

2. What You Look Like Does Not Make You Beautiful

True beauty isn’t something that changes. The Mona Lisa isn’t less beautiful now than when it was freshly painted. Because it’s beauty isn’t in the taughtness of the canvas or the freshness of the paints. It’s beauty is in the excellence of creation and the skill of the creator.

I have always loved this quote:

Whatever is in any way beautiful hath it’s source of beauty in itself. Praise forms no part of it, so it is none the better or the worse for having been praised. -Marcus Aurelius

You are beautiful because of Who is in you. You are beautiful because you have been made with excellence by the ultimate creator of beauty.

(Beautiful by Bethany Dillon)

3. God Cannot Love You More

He is infinitely perfect and powerful, so is His love.

He cannot love you more than He already does.

You cannot earn more of His love, He has already given it fully. You can only believe it, receive it and live it.

Do you remember when you first got engaged? How for days afterward, regardless of what you were wearing, you walked like a princess because the ring on your hand showed that you were well loved.

There are marks on His hands that show you are unfathomably, unimaginably, indescribably loved.

(How He Loves by the David Crowder Band)

I pray today you would be so well marinated in His love that you would walk differently. Talk differently. Live differently.

Not out of effort but because you know these things are true about you and you simply can’t help it.

Question: What song has inspired you recently?

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Sourdough Chocolate Cake & Natural Powdered Sugar Frosting

We celebrated my little man Titus’ second birthday this last week and what a joyous celebration it was. I knew it was my opportunity to experiment further with a healthy use of sourdough to make a chocolate cake. What a surprise! With my sourdough starter, whole wheat flour, and sucanat (as my natural sweetener of choice), the result was a delicious moist semi-sweet chocolate cake that was not sour in the least. I was thrilled to make a healthy dessert. I made two 8 inch round cake pans with the recipe and then cut them each in half to make a four layered cake. I layered it with cream cheese frosting and finally cocoa powder dusted over the top. A healthy cake? Amazing. Here’s my adaption:

  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter (I purchased my starter through Cultures for Health and it was alive and well in one week!)
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (I used half cow’s milk and half hemp milk)
  • 1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour (preferably whole wheat pastry flour for a softer texture)
  • 1-1/2 cups sucanat/rapadura
  • 1 cup unrefined, virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup traditional cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground coffee
  • 2 large pastured eggs

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sourdough starter, milk, and flour. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours. I like to set my sourdough to soaking in the evening and then finish it the next morning. You can sit up to 24 hours but you will have more of a sourdough taste to the mixture which may be less desirable.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease 2 (8 inch) round/square cake pans with butter or coconut oil. Dust with flour to make sure it comes out easily after cooling.

3. To the sourdough mixture, add sucanat/rapadura, coconut oil, vanilla, and eggs. Beat gently until well combined.

4. Add salt, baking soda, and ground coffee. Beat briefly till smooth.

5. Pour cake mixture into your prepared pans and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before turning over the pans and allowing the cakes to pop out onto your platter of choice.

You may frost between the two layers (which will more likely fall apart at slicing), or divide the cake into four layers (each cake cut in half horizontally) by  inserting toothpicks half way up the side about 2-3 inches apart all around the side circumference of the cake. Take a serrated knife and line it up on top of the toothpicks, using them as your guide, and slice carefully through the center of the cake until it is divided in half horizontally. This technique results in a much more even cut. Here is a picture of this process.

For more inspiration on how to create your own sourdough and a wealth of delicious recipes, check out the Gnowfglins Sourdough eCourse. Thanks to Gnowfglins for the original recipe that can be found here. Highly recommended!

Cream Cheese Frosting with Powdered Sucanat

Did you know you can make a healthy natural frosting by blending sucanat (the whole cane sugar) or rapadura in a blender to make your own powdered sugar? Thanks to Laura at Heavenly Homemakers inspiration, I made my own cream cheese frosting. You may add 1/2 cup cocoa powdered to frosting for more of a chocolate flavor.

1 cup sucanat/rapadura
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place 1 cup of sucanat/rapadura in your blender and blend until light and powdered (about 30 seconds). Combine cream cheese and butter together in a large bowl and whip until creamy. Slowly add your powdered sucanat and vanilla until it reaches your desired sweetness. Spread out over your cooled cake and enjoy!

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