Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update on 14 days of no complaining

15 days ago I wrote this post about embarking on 14 days of no complaining. When Jeremy and I first talked about this, like a true husband who would love to never hear his wife mention (okay fine, whine about) how messy their house is ever again he asked "Why don't you just go for a month and make it a habit?". Ha ha, slightly self serving, but good suggestion regardless.

I wish that I could look back now, 15 days later and say that I never complained in the last 14 days, that the Spirit has produced so much fruit in me. I started out strong, I started out not verbally complaining for the first several days... I may have even made it a week. But just as I mentioned in the initial post, just because I stopped the actual action didn't mean that the heart changed. So although I was determined not to let a complaint leave my mouth I would still catch them welling up in my thoughts and then try to suppress them and fight to not let them out. My heart wasn't transformed, my heart still saw the same things it saw before, and still had the same reaction whether I made others aware of it or not. The whole problem was still that I was doing this and fighting this on my own. Nothing other than the power of the Holy Spirit can produce the love, gentleness, patience etc. necessary for my heart (and therefore thoughts)to be transformed and to be completely free from all of this complaining. So in its' own way trying to quit complaining for 14 days just for the sake of quiting complaining is like instituting a law, following a set of rules, rather than living in love and relationship with my Lord and letting my actions overflow from that. It made me anxious to hold in my thoughts and not be able to express them, I was so afraid of complaining because I didn't want to break "the law" that I analyzed everything that I said before I spoke to make sure that it wasn't a complaint. This wasn't speaking in freedom and in peace as I know that I'm free to do in Christ, it was acting out of fear.

So what did I learn? Don't try to change myself. Don't try to fix a problem within me or my actions, fix my relationship with the Lord, let Him handle the sin in my life, He is more than capable of that, and I am less than able to do it on my own. Exert all of my energy, time and effort into my relationship with Him, and He will take care of the rest. Stop picking up heavy yokes that are not my own, for His yoke is light. As in Romans 8:28 God can use all things for His good, even when I try to institute a law on my own, He can use that to break my heart for Him, show me my need for Him, and bring me back to Himself.

I still desire to be free from any sort of complaining, exaggerating, boasting, deceit, defending myself, gossip, or any other treacheries of the tongue, however I am done tackling those on my own. I am seeking the Lord, and His power that is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Thank you Lord for your wisdom, guidance, power and love. Thank you for freedom in you from the law, for your death on the cross which paid for my sins, thank you for making me new in you. Lord help me to understand that my life and provisions are not my own, but all gifts, that you have entrusted to me, to be used for your glory. Lord, show me opportunities to faithfully serve you with what you have entrusted to me.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

"I simply remember my favorite things..."

Lately I've seen several people do posts on their favorite things like this, this, this and this. I started to be inspired to do a post on my favorite things. In brainstorming my favorite things I couldn't get the song "My Favorite Things" out of my head (was that from The Sound of Music)? So I looked up the lyrics.

My Favorite Things by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

I love how all of the favorite things listed in the song seem to be quite random. I love how they all seem to be simple pleasures, not elaborate material desires. This is the same tone that most of the posts that I've read reflect as well. I love to focus on finding gratitude, pleasure, and delight in the small things right in front of me, rather than spending my time uncontent, hungering, and desiring more. My list may not be quite as short as several of the lists that I've read, but maybe that's a reflection of my ability to find joy in so many things (or ramble on endlessly).

a few of my favorite things...
-anything sweet. particularly carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, cheese cake, brownies, pumpkin cake, apple cake... okay fine, i like it all!
-hats. not only can these complete an outfit, they are amazing at covering up a bad hair day and the awkward stages of your hair growing out from a regretfully short hair cut. this is one of my favorite casual ones.

-ethnic food. sushi, thai, mexican, indian, lebanese, ethiopian, afghan, and more.
-bing cherries.
-kelly green. like the shade of my new coat.
-top chef. i'm not much into tv, but i love this show, new season starts in a little over a week!
-board and card games. chinese checkers, scrabble, phase 10, scattergories, yahtzee, outburst and more.
-book stores or libraries. I can spend hours sifting through craft, cook, christian, decorating and frugal living books.
-the beach. not only does this provide me with hours of free entertainment each weekend during the summer, an hour of refuge from the chaos of my work day each week day, but it's breath taking!
-bright colored shoes. i have stillettos that i love in purple, pale pink, hot pink and red. i've recently capitalized on the inflation of gold and sold some old gold jewelry to buy these and these beauties that i've been drooling over to add to my collection.
-jersey sheets. i've had one set since i was about 19 and i've never found another set that fits my bed (most jersey sheets are made for kids beds, i guess adults are supposed to use "grown up", "nicer" sheets). (these can be seen under the hat in the picture above)
-pampered chef chopper. i love the quick work it makes of chopping onions, garlic, peppers, nuts and more. the biggest bonus is it protecting my eyes from the onion fumes while chopping.
-the smell of fresh baked cookies or banana bread.
-just about any hillsong song.
-putting on warm clothes that just came out of the dryer.
-homemade everything. my purse, toothpaste and cards.

-the purity and innocence of a child praying.
-childlike faith.
-a cup of coffee.
-deep conversations.

(i intentionally avoided talking about specific people or memories with them and focused on being more general in this post. that doesn't mean that i don't greatly appreciate all of the amazing people in my life, memories we share, and our glorious god! it is more of a reflection that my god, family and friends are way more intricate than i can explain in a post on simple delights)

what are some of your favorite things?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY October 21, 2008...
Outside My Window... A parking lot. Sunshine. Everything is still.
I am thinking... About my memory verses for class tomorrow morning. Galatians 3:26-28, Philippians 3:20-21.
I am thankful for... Jeremy’s deal closing last week. The coat that I got to buy as a treat resulting from that. My amazing husband and his heart. My girls and their fellowship and encouragement. Fall; nice weather, fun seasonal traditions.
From the kitchen... Curried chicken salad.
I am wearing... An Ann Taylor suit, can’t wait to be in lounge clothes!
I am creating... I have more projects underway than I can keep up with; homemade Christmas cards, knitted scarf, scrapbook from when Jeremy and I started dating through now, homemade birthday cards, various Christmas presents, and hoping to start sewing something with my new machine very soon.
I am going... Going on a walk with my hubby and then hangin' out at home and working on my memory verses.
I am reading... This week… Judges, Natural Family Planning, A New Kind of Christian, The Tightwad Gazette, Organic Disciplemaking, Putting Together the Puzzle of the Old Testament, The Arrival Kit and flipping through Generation Tshirt for inspiration for some sewing projects
I am hoping... For good weather for Saturday. We’re going to a Harvest Party that a friends church is putting on at her house and I’m looking forward to pumpkin carving, marshmallow roasting and lots of outdoor fun!
I am hearing... Bad radio, but too lazy to get up and change it.
Around the house... Dishes to be put away, broken faucet knob in need of being replaced, scattered cardmaking and scrapbooking supplies, laundry waiting to be put away and an unfinished game of Chinese checkers from last night.
One of my favorite things... My new green coat! I have had my eye on it and am just dying to wear it!
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Class at 5:45 tomorrow morning. Work all week. Thursday night coffee with Caitlin. Friday night praying with our home church about whether or not we are going to continue on as a church, or uproot (pray for us please!). Saturday morning coffee with the girls. Saturday afternoon Harvest party.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...

(an evening sunset view from our front "porch")... isn't our God creative? isn't His creation breathtaking?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Small groups, and smaller groups

I'm a firm believer in small groups. Whether you call them home churches, Bible studies, small groups, life groups or the various other lingo used. What I'm about is groups of people meeting together regularly, studying God's word, sharing life, holding each other accountable, encouraging each other, admonishing each other, serving others together, praying together, eating together and so on. Maybe it's because these types of groups have had such a major influence on my spiritual growth, or maybe it's because they are Biblical, (there are various examples throughout Acts and the New Testament of people gathering in homes for meals and/ or study) but I have a huge heart for small group ministry. To be involved in it, to minister to others through it, and to be vulnerable enough that I may receive ministry through it as well. Most small groups that I've been a part of have included anywhere from 4-20 people. While this is good, powerful, and smaller and more intimate than a large church setting, it does not provide the same type of intimacy, sharing, and fruit that smaller groups offer.

Smaller groups are two to four people. They offer less lines of communication then larger groups (or small groups in this case), and therefore allow members to share more openly, have more time to talk, and less room to escape the tough accountability questions that we should all have someone who loves us enough to ask. All of these concepts are derived from the Your Next Step Lines, Triangles and Squares material developed by our friends the Dorman's. This bookmark that can be printed by clicking the link provides some good guidelines for smaller groups, as well as a good baseline for questions to ask. I think this is absolutely great material.

Small groups have been on my heart a lot lately as our home church as a whole is praying for direction and guidance for our next step, so this post was a reflection of that.

What has your experience been with small groups?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Modge Podge Journal

Last year Jeremy and I made homemade journals as Christmas gifts for several people. As I've just filled mine up it was time for me to make another journal for myself. I think this time I improved upon the technique and quality of last year's product. Last year we bought composition notebooks, took full sheets of patterned paper, used a glue stick to adhere contrasting paper to the inside and outside covers of the composition book, and then cut around the edges with an exacto knife and glued in a ribbon for a page marker. This year I made my journal from tiny bits of paper (all of the scraps from the numerous journals we made last year), then painted the paper with Modge Podge Matte and secured them in place, after these had dried I applied a top coat of Modge Podge Gloss and then glued in the ribbon. On the inside cover this time I got a little more creative and did a hodge podge of pictures of me and Jeremy and cut out magazine words and pictures of things I like to inspire me. I like the eclectic look of this journal and think the Modge Podge will hold up much better than the glue stick did (half way through last year my journal started coming apart and I had to use tape to fix the bubbles that came up). Either way I love the creativity of this journal, I love the satisfaction of knowing that I made it, and with using scraps of paper and a composition book that was less that $0.90 to purchase at any grocery store this is the most inexpensive (and still attractive) option that I can come up with.

finished outer cover

finished inner covers

my journal from last year (notice the corner coming up)

inside of my journal from last year


Monday, October 13, 2008

14 Days of no complaints

I read this devotional by Elisabeth Elliot on Jessica’s blog today and in light of my post from Friday the thought of focusing on positive and not negative really resonated with me. Therefore I have accepted the challenge at the end… I’m going to make an intentional effort not to complain about ANYTHING (weather, politics, economy, headache, slow internet, gas prices, an unorganized home, an unfair situation etc.) for 14 days.

I know that complaining is a bigger issue, it’s the (bad) fruit and overflow of a poor heart that is not yielding to the Spirit. By simply changing the behavior of not complaining it is not necessarily taking care of the bigger heart issue of lacking gratitude, contentment and peace… which would all naturally flow forth and be fruit of a heart yielded to the Spirit. At the same time of not complaining I’m hoping to turn my thoughts from negative, and complaints, to positive, praiseworthy, and be more focused on gratitude. To be aware of my tendency to complain at times, realize that I’m responding in my flesh, and see the need to submit myself in prayer and thanksgiving (Phil 4:6-7) to the Spirit. So at the very least become more aware of my sin, how much I need the Lord, His grace and forgiveness and how amazing He is to bestow that upon me!

Anyone else in?

Jeremy, as you are probably the one that I would be most likely to complain around I’m going to need you to hold me accountable darling.

Lord, I submit my heart and tongue to you and your purposes. Use me to build others up, free me from anything conflicting with that. Thank you for all of the encouraging brothers and sisters in you that have been placed in my life, for the ways that they have encouraged me. Thank you for you grace and forgiveness for the times where I wrestle with you, thank you for your loving, gentle nudge. I love you Lord.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Do you want the real answer?

Today I find myself pondering this question….

What answer am I supposed to give when someone asks me how I am?

I pride myself on being a “real” person. On being vulnerable and transparent with those close to me. On openly sharing my life with those around, and that includes the good, bad and ugly. On being willing to share my highs and lows with others so that we may praise the Lord together, or submit our petitions to Him in prayer. I love the encouragement, admonishment and counsel of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of that said, when someone asks me how I am do they really want to hear about the breakdown that I had that morning, the argument that my husband and I had earlier in the week, or whatever I may have struggled with recently, or do they just want a positive cheerful response?

I don't want to be a negative person. I don't want to bring others down by saying negative things and bestowing my struggles on them. But at the same time I don't want to be fake. So often "the church" is criticized for being some where that people aren't real, that they just put on a happy face, feel they have to be perfect and can't come as they truly are, hence the reason a lot of outsiders label "the church" as hypocrites. So where is the line between being real and being fake? Where is the line between being a positive and a negative person? Is it possible to still be a positive person and be completely "real", or does being "real" label one as negative? I think of a two of my favorite passages of Scripture...

Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (NLT)

That everything you say be good, helpful and an encouragement to those who hear... well that would be a ton of pressure if we didn't have the grace and freedom of Jesus! How about most of what I say be an encouragement, and thank goodness for grace and forgiveness for those unfortunate times where I respond in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)

This goes along with the whole garbage in garbage out thing. I notice the more negative stuff I'm exposed to, and then allowed to dwell on, the more flows out of me to others. The best way for me to adhere to Eph 4:29 is to follow Phil 4:8 and minimize my exposure to anything that's not consistent with it.

All of these questions and this thinking has started from me being surrounded by people who are talking about the economy. You can't get away from this topic right now, it's every where I go. The conversations take tolls of negativity, sarcasm, anger, fear and more. All of this takes a rather draining toll on me who likes to walk around in my little bubble not thinking about or worrying about the state of any of this (fortunately I have Jeremy to follow it and make informed decisions for our household while I remain in ignorant bliss as much as possible). So I've come home at least one day this week just in a funk, completely impacted by the negativity I was surrounded by, and it having worn down my connection to the Spirit, my trust in God, my desire to not worry about tomorrow for each day has enough worries of it's own. Granted I could be more aware of the situations I'm exposed to, of remaining in the Spirit, of focusing on the pure and noble and praiseworthy, and the Truth. But now that I've been impacted by the overflow of worry coming from others it makes me wonder if the times that I worry and express it what kind of impression I could be leaving on those around me. What kind of lies and mistrust I'm implanting in the heads of my brothers and sisters rather than spreading encouraging words. All of this brings me back to the point of when is it okay to be "real", and when is it necessary to be more concerned with edifying others? When do these two conflict?

I don't by any means have the answers, this is just my thoughts, prayers, and search right now.

Lord, please guide me in your ways. Guard my heart with your truth. Fill me with your Spirit that I may respond in you. Thank you for your grace, and your forgiveness. Use me to encourage others for your glory Lord. Forgive my mistrust and worry as I turn from it and seek you.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

I've started my Thanksgiving menu planning... I know, I'm early, but I'm a planner and like to be super organized, prepared, and have things done in advance to avoid the last minute chaos, confusion and rush.

This year for Thanksgiving Jeremy and I will be eating at our place and having mom and Fransisco over and maybe a couple friends who don't have family in the area. Mom and Fransisco are vegetarians so I generally plan two entrees as Jeremy and I love the traditional Thanksgiving fare that isn't so vegetarian friendly. This is what I'm thinking so far;

-Turkey- this year I want to try something new and use this recipe to try brining the turkey ahead of time
-Jeremy's mom's delicious sweet potato casserole recipe
-Jeremy's mom's stuffing/ dressing recipe
-The traditional green bean casserole
-Turtle Pumpkin Pie I made this last year and we all liked it, it's hard to find dessert recipes that don't have eggs (which my mom and Fransisco don't eat). I was super thrilled when I found this one that was good for the holidays also, and that Jeremy enjoyed.
-Spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer, and then for the vegetarian entree I stuff some of this inside of portobello mushroom caps and bake.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
-1 32 oz bag frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry using a kitchen towel
-1 can of artichokes, drained and chopped
-2-4 cloves of garlic minced (depending on your taste, but I can’t get enough of it!)
-1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
-1 cup mozzarella cheese (it tastes so much better if you splurge and get the mozzarella that comes fresh in a ball and chop it up, forget the pre-shredded stuff for this recipe unless you’re in a major time crunch)
-3/4 cup light sour cream
-3/4 cup light mayo

Combine the spinach, sour cream, mayo and garlic. Stir well using a large fork, breaking up the spinach clumps until the dip is thoroughly mixed. Stir in the remaining ingredients. At this point I always place this directly into a small crock pot on low to heat until warm, and then keep warm for guests. For an alternative method you could place it into a greased baking dish and bake on 350 for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with your favorite crackers, Jeremy likes garlic pita chips, I’m partial to garlic Melba rounds… but either way it's delicious!

-1 medium onion, diced
-½-¾ cup celery, diced
-½ cup margarine or butter
- 1 (4 or 6 oz) can mushrooms, drained
-2 oz pecans, chopped
-2 eggs
-1 (7 oz) package stuffing
-1 can beef consomme

Saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Add mushrooms and nuts. Break eggs in large bowl and beat. Stir in stuffing mix. Add sauteed mixture. Add consomme. Mix well and turn into buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, cover during first 30 minutes of baking.

Sweet Potato Casserole
(when serving vegetarians leave the eggs out, Jeremy's mom only makes 1/2 of the topping for the top, I also add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the mashed sweet potatoes and mini marshmallows to the top of the casserole during the last 5 minutes of baking)
-4 cups mashed sweet potatoes
-1 cup sugar
-2 eggs
-½ cup milk
-½ teaspoon salt
-1/3 stick melted butter or margarine
-1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients well and pour into buttered pan.

-1 cup brown sugar
-½ cup flour
-1/3 cup butter or margarine
-1 cup pecans

Crumble topping evenly over potato mixture and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes uncovered.

Yum... Why do we only eat these foods once a year, my mouth is salivating in anticipation already just thinking about this menu.

What are your favorite holiday comfort foods?


Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Boaz!!!!!

Today is Jeremy's 24th birthday! Every day Jeremy blows me away with his character, maturity, heart for God, leadership and wisdom... he is wiser than his years, but is physically one handsome man... so I win, I get the best of both worlds, he has an amazing heart, and is pretty nice to look at also!

Baby, As we've been together over time the way that we celebrate birthdays has changed... your first birthday that we shared we went to Charleston for the day, and that year I gave you a Mutemath cd and a bottle of Curve for a present. Last year I made you a quiet dinner at home and gave you tickets to see Mutemath live as well as those dog tags that you never take off. This year we'll get to enjoy a dinner out (thanks to a gift certificate) and you'll get to pick out your own present with some cash from our bank account (Enjoy!). As the years go on the ways that we celebrate birthdays may continue to change, but how much I love you and how proud of you I am won't!!!!

I love you Jeremy!!!! Now let's celebrate, this is your day! Let's make 24 even better than 23 was, I'm up for the challenge, are you?

posted by Shannon aka Your Ruth aka Shifty aka House Jogger and more...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Are Your Priorities?

Yesterday in our class we had a discussion about benefiting your friends and/ or disciples by asking them what their priorities are (Question #1) and then asking how you can help them with those (Question #2). We talked about how a lot of time in these relationships we can end up assuming unnecessary burden by assuming what their priorities are, and jumping in in the wrong ways. By asking first we get a clear picture of their priorities, we are invited, and welcomed because they are apart of the process and idea forming and it's their idea and not just us forcing ourselves upon them. We also talked about how these priorities could vary anywhere from that of spiritual discipline or nature to completely secular and recreational. Priorities could range from desiring to be a better wife or husband, succeed at one's career, devote more time to prayer, learn to play a sport, learn to cook and so on. I've been thinking about this ever since and if/ how I'm contributing to the priorities of my friends... or if I even know what they are. I want to be the type of friend that helps to build my friends up, encouraging them in life, spurring them on, helping them achieve their goals. So slowly but surely I desire to reach out and put this into practice in my relationships.

(I believe that the material mentioned is consistent with and derived from the book Mentoring by Bob Biehl but that was not part of our class work so we didn't cover the text directly)