Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Celestial Show Outside Tonight

A learning opportunity is going on outside your door right now! You can view, without a telescope, Venus just below the Crescent Moon. The sky is nice and clear tonight in Michigan and it is beautiful. The kids and I have enjoyed having a cup of hot chocolate and looking at the sky tonight.

For more information, read this article from Yahoo News.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Stress: A Reader Question

I recently received an email from a reader asking about enjoying Christmas when you have to spend it with unsaved crabby people who like to verbally abuse you as their own special Christmas tradition. I am not sure if what I wrote helps, but as a fellow momma in a similar boat, I shared a few things the Lord had taught me.

Edit: after I wrote this, I read an article at Focus on the Family's which addresses a similar but somewhat different situation (mostly from the perspective of singles coming home for Christmas). I feel the author also has some helpful food for thought in her article!

I love Christmas, but to be honest, I hate family gatherings because my unsaved family is very against some of our family's lifestyle choices, and they want to spend every moment with me picking apart my life. I wish I could just be a better person than that and let them treat me as they do knowing they aren't Christians, but as the day approaches I feel more and more defensive and irritable.

There was more to the email than that...but this is the gist of it.

I read your email last night, and my husband and I both smiled to each other at the familiarity of the story, because as much as I LOVE Christmas, I find this awful pit in my stomach at the thought of family gatherings, being criticized by those who think they are being helpful by pointing out all the ways you don't measure up over Christmas dinner.

Like you, I love Christmas. I dread family gatherings.

I know what holidays are supposed to be, and I know how holidays are when extended family is not involved, and I know how holidays are when my extended family on both sides are involved. I admit...I wish I had way more grace for extended family, and I pray for it often, especially this time of year.

There are a few tactics that help. I wish I could tell you something That would "Work" and make them stop being rude to you and your family. I have not yet found that magical formula to transform a grouchy, critical mother in law into a saint, other than her getting saved (though bringing up the reason for the season around mine makes her jack up the ugliness factor 10x). But I have found some things that help our attitudes.

1. Pray.
Don't walk into the situation without some prayer time before hand. Take time from the Christmas busy-ness and spend time on your knees or standing at your kitchen sink crying out to God. Ask Him to put a love in your heart for them, and the grace to overlook their meanness. Ideally, pray all year long :-)

2. Let your husband run interference with his parents.
This is a little more complex, because you can't control your husband any more than you can control his mommy. Some guys have a hard time standing up to their parents, even to defend their wives.

The thing is, he knows how she is. He grew up with her. He can deal with her easier than you can and may not be interpreting the situation the same way you are. However, good communication in ways that he understands (don't use the phrases "she always", "I never...", etc. Those don't compute for most guys) to help him see how this hurts you, may help him to see how this is affecting you, and help him to know what he can do about it. Be specific. As my honey always tells me, "I don't read minds!" We ladies seem to like to infer things and hope our men connect the dots from point A to point B...they don't often think that way, so be specific.

3. Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:1-4)
In short, don't dwell on the rude ramblings of grouchy people. Dwell on God's goodness to you, all the things He's done this year (if you have a blessing book, then use it to remind yourself of the good things God has done). Fill your mind with Scripture. This time of year, fill your mind with godly Christmas carols. Have a song in your heart (Col. 3:16).

4. Remind yourself about the facts
What are the facts? The facts are you are a child of God, and they sound like they are miserable, empty people who need to tear others down to make themselves feel better. If anything people like this are to be pitied.

5. Walk Away
There is a Bible principle that I learned while praying about this several years ago. In Proverbs, in a few verses it talks about going from the presence of a foolish person, and not making friendships with angry people. When someone gets ugly, walk away. If they follow you, be nice, but say something like, "I came here to celebrate Christmas, not to be treated rudely, even if it is 'in jest'. When you are ready to talk nicely to me or be silent, I'll come back in the room.".

A caveat: less is best when doing this. Don't be so overly sensitive that you are throwing, essentially, a temper tantrum whenever someone says something stupid that hurts your feelings. I have politely and calmly asked various offenders to be nicer, or let them know that it hurt my feelings, but if it escalates to all out verbal abuse and meanness (and it has), I have walked away. Sometimes I have driven away even when it was at my own house!

6. Don't "answer a fool according to his folly" (Proverbs 26:4)
Don't respond back in kind. Don't answer a snarky comment with an even snarkier comment. Don't repay evil, rude treatment with equally evil and rude treatment. You're better than that. If you are tempted, walk away. Take a breather. Step out on the porch and enjoy the fresh air. Go play with your kids. Help them put together some insanely complicated toy. Resist the urge to snap back if that is your tendency, as this will only make it escalate.

7. Check Your Expectations
There are two kinds of expectations that can be bad in these situations.

The first is expecting a Norman Rockwell Christmas Card sort of Christmas. This tends to lead to disappointment when it doesn't happen. Don't build up expectations to the point where you are going to come crashing down when they don't happen just the way you dreamed about it. Real life is not like those Currier and Ives postcards, though it would be nice, wouldn't it?

The second is anticipating negativity and being stressed and anxious before you even arrive at your destination. Don't expect to walk away with more baggage and bad memories. If you or I walk into our in-laws houses tomorrow, defensive and expecting the worst, our attitude may evoke a similar response in those we are visiting, and, shall we say, "get the party started" in a negative way.

8. The Day is not What's Important
If you have to spend the 24th and the 25th with the extended family, you can still observe Christmas your way on the 23rd or the 26th, or any other day for that matter. Even if you have to observe the incarnation with people who use His name as a profanity multitple times per hour, doesn't mean you can't still spend time (sometime during this season) reflecting on the miracle of the time when Jesus "...was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What is your FAVORITE Christmas Tradition?

I'm curious to know, what sort of traditions do you have at your happy household that make this time of year extra special?

Some of ours include the Advent calendar idea I mentioned a few weeks ago, as well as our cute advent wreath we keep on the table. The kids like progressively seeing more and more candles lit each week, as we get ready for Christmas.

We love Christmas music...a little too much in fact. I had to make a rule that there was no Christmas music allowed until after my Birthday (October 29)...we also love to learn some Christmas music for the piano to play in church (our church has music matter the prelude Christmas music every Wednesday during December), and for grandma when she comes. This year, with my cell phone having MP3 capabilities, I uploaded all of my Christmas music to it, and I plug it into a pair of speakers, so that we can all enjoy it. :-). I set it to shuffle the music, and the mp3 player says we have over 1 day of music in the Christmas playlist. Whoa. that's a lot of Christmas music!

As the kids get older we also talk more about the Christmas story and asking them what the Lord is showing them through it. This is very exciting to hear how God is touching their hearts!! Sometimes we also talk about Christmas carols and the stories behind them or the message communicated in them. Much food for thought there. Many of those Christmas carols are powerful songs of worship. I remember the the Christmas after I got saved...listening to O Holy Night and just being BLOWN AWAY by the words...why hadn't I noticed that before?

We like to bake Christmas cookies of course. We really love Gingerbread, but we also like some sugar cookies. We also make some Gingerbread houses (pictures at this post) and gingerbread people. Going to be doing that today (While listening to some Christmas music of course).

This year I've had to slow things down quite a bit more than usual, because of my shoulder. The MRI came back "normal" (PTL) but the x-ray is still a concern, so I have to see a surgeon. That's scary to me. Some days it feels good...and then I do too much...and then it hurts again. So, by my husband's orders, I'm sitting here from my command post wondering what everyone else is doing for Christmas. :-)).

So, what's your family's favorite thing to do around Christmas to make it special? What's your favorite Christmas carol, and why? I posted about mine last year in this post.

The Perils of being a Good Samaritan

I was again playing around at today, icing my shoulder, and this video caught my attention. : The title is "Can a Good Samaritan be sued?"

When I was in high school, I took lifeguard classes, and I also spent some time working as a life guard at a few different public pools. I also had my first aid card (and have, sadly, had to use my first aid training a few times). I don't like having to use my first aid or lifeguarding training, but when I have needed it, I am thankful to have it. I am especially thankful to have taken Infant-Child CPR (I think every mom should).

I was thankful to be able to help others in a knowledgeable way. I am thankful for my Red Cross training (though now expired....note to self, take a refresher course), as it helped me to learn how to assess a situation, and how to help others properly. I know how to rescue a drowning child (or adult)...and have done so. I know what to do when someone is cut, or not breathing, having a heart attack, or in some other emergency situation. It's good training to have.

This video I am linking to is about a man who rescued a co-worker in a car accident, and the co-worker was left paralyzed, and is suing him.

I have mixed feeling about this.

On the one hand, because of my training, I know that there is a right way and a wrong way to get an injured person out of a car (and there is even such a thing as doing nothing when the situation dictates simply sitting with the person until EMTs get there). I don't know all the particulars of this exact case, so who knows just how negligent this guy might have been? You can't just do it like they do on TV (don't even get me started on shows that show lifeguards jumping in as a first response--that's a big no no).

On the other hand, It's a scary precedent to set. I think that the human response, the compassionate response is to help. Who's going to help if they are afraid of being sued? What sort of world will this be if people just stand around worried about a lawsuit when someone is, say, bleeding to death, or when someone's toddler is drowning? I pulled a toddler out of the lake two summers ago. The mom freaked out that I ran and grabbed her child until I flipped the baby over and she vomited lake water everywhere (the lifeguard response doesn't go away even after 20 years...I don't find beaches or swimming pools, especially ones full of kids, at all relaxing). What if that lady sued me?

What do you think? Do you think people will be less likely to help if they worry about being sued? Do you think this will make more people get training to know how to properly respond in emergency situations?

My heart totally goes out to the woman who is left paralyzed, but it also goes out to the guy who thought he was doing the right thing, trying to help, thinking he was saving her life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ode to Tolerance

Well, my computer is finally on the road to recovery, thanks in part to a reader and her husband, and the Ultimate Boot CD. I now have to reinstall everything back on that computer to get it fully functioning, but thankfully it's working again.

Today, I was reading the news, and this small, barely-reported story caught my attention (it was not even under "news" but under "religious news"). Two things stood out: one, that it didn't make headlines that someone poured flammable stuff around the entrances of Gov. Palin's church and lit it on fire while people were inside, or that no one thinks this is a hate crime. I guess it's only a hate crime if it is some politically correct minority.

Kudos to the Wasilla Bible church for the grace with which they've handled this situation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unreal and Beyond Absurd

I have avoided the news for the last 6 months only because it seems to make me feel worse. You too?

Well, I feel like we the people do need to rise up in revolt over this whole bailout scheme. A news report today reported that bailed out failures Goldman Sachs and AIG (Among others)are paying Christmas bonuses with your tax dollars. Did YOU or anyone in your family get a bonus this year? Our company told my dh that they didn't have any money this year...and hasn't for the last 8 years in fact (unless you were of the same upper management that ran the company into the ground with bad business which case you do deserve a bonus!). It's time they stop giving OUR money to overpaid losers at these companies, or in congress for that matter.

Goldman Sachs and AIG (Among others) are saying that this was necessary to keep their top talent. TALENT? Oh, you mean the PEOPLE WHO RAN YOUR COMPANY INTO THE GROUND IN THE FIRST PLACE?? Yeah, I could see why you would want to keep them. (NOT!) There are also reports that they are still flying around in corporate jets, you know, suffering through this hard time like everyone else.

Oh, wait, I don't have a corporate jet, nor do any of my neighbors who are having genuine rough times, but no bail out.

I am not at all against making money, being rich, or successful at all. I think it is a great thing if God enables you to be a success. Hey, if you earned that private jet, enjoy it. I would love to have one myself!!...I am against people who are poorly managing money, resources, time, and talents, and ignoring warning signs of danger ahead (whether they be "rich" or "poor") who then steal out of my wallet via a taxpayer funded bailout of any size...The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but they just went on, business as usual, tooling around in their private jets with their hands out asking for money, and threatening financial ruin for our country if we don't play ball on this. I am all for helping someone who gets into a lurch...but I am not for rewarding ineptitude without any oversight or rules.

It's like loaning money to that one relative who you know needs it for some need...but who is so without self control they are going to blow it on whatever grabs their attention the second it is burning a hole in their pocket. It's the friend who never has any money, but always has toys, and a hand out. Note to execs (and other classes of mooches): if you have run your company into the ground, you could sell us all that sympathy thing a little more effectively if you took the public transit system.

In addition, as predicted (in my heated and unpopular discussions on this topic with relatives over the holidays), when you bail out one industry (banks) and then another (autos), you will soon find that EVERY industry has their hand out. Is it not so? Everyone wants a slice of the proverbial pie (of YOUR money, as a US taxpayer!! YOUR MONEY AND MINE). [to be fair....the auto industry just wants a loan, which they asked for after flying THEIR private jets to washington to cry poverty].

Now "adult industry" mogul Larry Flynt (I am using that term in quotes, and very loosely as I think it is an insult to adults....but if I use the other word for that industry, most filters will block my blog) now says that HIS industry also needs a bailout. *sigh*. Hopefully congress has enough good sense not to touch that one, but with the idiotic policies they've passed through as of late, I am not really hopeful at all....

...thankfully I trust in the God who owns a cattle on a thousand hills to be my provider, not the US Government. I'd be in despair right now were it not for my faith in the Lord!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Viruses--anyone help?

If you're wondering why I have been rather silent lately, it's because of some nasty virus problems on my computer. I am so frustrated I could scream (and have). I am resorting to working on a much older, slower, computer right now. I crave prayer. All of this is happening while I am still struggling with my badly injured and very painful shoulder.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a driver for my video camera (with the permission of two different virus scan softwares!) , and shortly after that I had a problem with someone hijacking my web browser and Windows Explorer (opening all sorts of new windows all over my computer), and later my computer freezing up. I couldn't ctr+alt+del or even power down (I had to physically remove the battery to shut off the computer!). The amount of damage this Trojan is able to do seems to be progressively growing and advancing, to my disappointment.

Long story short, though my virus and malware scanning software keeps finding and removing the programs, they keep coming back over and over again. No matter what I do, it comes back.

We tried to do a system restore, and we ran the Dell Diagnostics to no effect. The tech people we called at Dell were clueless as to what to do too. Windows finally stopped working so we are booting up off of the CD Rom now. We tried to reinstall Windows XP but that won't work either.

So, if anyone has any suggestions, post a comment. :-) We have been told I simply need a new computer...but that is no good as I have clients waiting for graphic work that I can't do on this older computer (the programs won't run), and we can't get a Windows Vista computer as my graphics programs won't work with Vista either.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Training Little Helpers into Big Ones

My recent post about my helpful children in light of my shoulder injury had a few friends and readers asking me the question in person or by email, "How do you train your children to be helpful?" Most agree that, when you have a younger child or children, it's way easier to do it yourself (and it is!)...however, you will reap good fruit if you invest now even though it's a little frustrating.

Just some random, somewhat incoherent thoughts (keeping in mind I am on prescription meds LOL just in case this makes no sense):

1. As soon as a child is able to dump the toys from the toybox, they can be playfully taught that the flow of toys can go both ways...both out of and into the toy box. You don't have to be a drill Sergent about it. In fact, it's probably better if you aren't. Just show them that the same toys that went sprawling over the floor can now jump back in now that they are done.

On that note too, less is more with toys. This is not easy to enforce when you have enthusiastic grandparents buying toys, but you can pack up some toys seasonally and rotate them so that there is less of an overwhelming feeling regarding all of those toys, and it becomes easier to clean the room.

2. This desire to help that a young child or toddler has needs to be harnessed now. If you wait until they are of an age to be really helpful to your standards, then you will find them less willing to be your helper. A 2 year old doesn't do a perfect job setting a table, but she loves to help and will be encouraged if you help her and also, over time, show her how to do it right.

3. Toddlers/Preschoolers can do things like this:

  • Hold the dustpan for you while you sweep (and empty it into the trash)

  • Put their own toys away (maybe with help)

  • Put silverware around, and napkins, when setting a table

  • Follow you around as your "helper"...for example when I've made bread, I would knead it well, and then let my younger ones knead for a while. Of course the bread didn't need to be kneaded any further. However, talk about thankful! I can't knead bread right now at all with this shoulder, but I have five someone's who can!

  • Make their dirty laundry hit the laundry hamper, and put their pj's under thier pillow in the morning

  • Maybe even make their bed somewhat, with help

  • Dig around in the garden with you, help plant plants or seeds, and do some weeding after being instructed which ones to pull (with supervision!).

...all with heaps of praise!!! It's little things like this that will help them as they grow.

4. "Chores" is not sticking a chore chart on the wall and expecting them to do it even with the promise of a sticker or some other treat. Until they are about 8-9, and maybe even after that, they need to be reminded, encouraged, shown, taught, trained, and directed as to what to do, so that when they are 15 they can look around the house and say, "Oh, I should sweep the mess up in the kitchen even though it's not on the chart."

Having worked lots of odd jobs over the years before having children, especially as a night-manager of a donut shop, and one of the assistant managers of a restaurant, I want to point out that the ability to look around and see what needs to be done without being told is a skill that very few people enter adulthood with. I'll even admit that I didn't really learn this skill until I was left in charge of a restaurant one day when my boss had an emergency. I didn't want to disappoint, s I wanted the kitchen to look as good as when he had to run out of there to the hospital, and I suddenly realized how annoying it is to have people look at you and ask "I washed this pan over here. What should I do now?" (uh....dry it, put it away, and wash the other pans!!!!) when it should have been obvious. I had instant sympathy for my boss. Some direction giving is necessary, of course, but sometimes it is frustrating when you have adults who can't see that, if one dirty pan needs to be washed that perhaps all of them do.

My husband once was hired for a job because, while waiting for his interview, he fixed something that was malfunctioning in the shop without asking for any remuneration. His volunteering to do this showed a prospective boss that he was a go-getter and hard worker.

Younger children need you to be guiding and directing them, so that being able to know what to do soon becomes second nature, a habit developed (I appreciate Charlotte Mason's philosophy on training children in good habits from a young age). You can't, for example, say "Clean the kitchen" to a younger or untrained child or group of children. You will be more effective if you show them, multiple times, what it means to clean the kitchen, start to finish. Now when I say to one of my older kids, "Could you please clean the kitchen?" they know what I mean (mostly ;)). Sometimes they'll ask, "A deep clean or just picking up?" because my daughter knows that I don't always mean to empty out all of the cupboards and wipe down shelves. Some of them are still learning. I just had a training moment with my two younger daughters who were cleaning the kitchen up and thought it better to start from the floor and work up (We went back over the whole idea of cleaning top to bottom, and doing the floor last, and they saw why when they saw how bad the floor looked after cleaning off the counter where we were baking).

To sum up this point, training children how to work when they are younger is more valuable to you, long term, than the help they are providing, because at this training level they are taking way more time than it would cost you to just do it yourself, and I'll's easier to just do it yourself many times. I have been tempted to do it, and I have done it many times. However, the more you work with them, especially when you are not in a time crunch, the better it is long term.

5. A Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down. Yes, we watched too much Mary Poppins when Ruth was a toddler. However, the principle works well. If you are showing them that cleaning and work is something to begrudgingly tolerate until it's time to have fun, then don't expect them to be cheerful about helping. You are not just training them to work, but you are also training an attitude about work. This is hard if we were trained with a not so great attitude about work, and maybe view it as punishment.

Many times I have found child training and raising (and even marriage for that matter!) to be like sandpaper rubbing off my rough edges, and the parts of me that needed to change. Nothing convicts you more than looking into the face of one of your kids and seeing one of your negative traits reflecting back. Ouch. The Bible says that as iron sharpens iron, we sharpen each other (paraphrase of Proverbs 27:17). Specifically, Proverbs refers to our friends in this verse, but I think it is even more true within the context of our homes and families who see the good, bad and ugly on a daily basis.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Commands and Licenses

I was just reading an interesting article on the web, about an article in Newsweek about the "religious case" for Same Sex Marriage. My reaction? At first I was angry about it, and found it upsetting, but then I found the Lord impress on my heart a question as I prayed: "Who causes two people to be married to each other? The state? Or ME?" No it wasn't an audible voice for heaven, but more like one of those divine impressions on my heart that I knew didn't come from me.

I realized this was true. God ordained it from the Garden, did He not? God ordained it throughout the Bible in fact. But, where did the concept of state-issued marriage "licenses" come from, I wondered?

A quick Google search later, I learned something new.

Marriage licenses in the USA originated in the mid 1800s because people were against what they referred to as "interracial marriage" (Because I believe there is only one race, that being the HUMAN RACE, I don't like the word "race" when referring to the level of melatonin in our skin...but that's another sermon). Essentially they were intermarriage licenses, which later evolved into licensing all marriage.

In 1923, the Federal Government established the Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act and by 1929, every state in the Union had adopted marriage license laws (From, which takes some radical views on this issue)

I am not about to go have my marriage annulled and I am not really sure how I feel about avoiding licenses altogether at this point (what's done is done). But let's think about this for a minute.

What benefit is there to being "legally" married with a marriage "license" (license is defined, by the way, as a government giving us PERMISSION to do something! We need their PERMISSION to enter into a God-ordained union?!?!)? Well, the benefits tend to be financial. There are tax breaks for married couples. There's the whole health insurance and "benefits packages" that are only available for legally married couples, and in essence it is mostly economic, isn't it? (unless you are on the edge of poverty, in which case being, for example, a single mom, will get you more social service benefits).

Why do homosexuals wish to marry? Most of the arguments are economic, relating to getting benefits, and being legally recognized for something that is going on anyway. To the state, void of God, this sort of thing seems logical and to exclude them seems like a violation of "rights", which these days is like the unpardonable sin in our selfish, secular society. We are reaping the bitter fruits of allowing the state to license marriage in the first place.

By "selling" something that is only God's to give (the right to marriage) even to believers who allow this for the financial benefits of having a legal marriage or so that racists could hinder "interracial" couples from marrying, we have opened the door to where it is the STATE and not GOD who makes the decisions about marriage. And, sadly, the STATE at this point could give a hoot what the Bible says about anything.

There are two things about the whole Prop 8 thing that have really gotten me fired up.

The first has been the absolutely inflammatory way in which people of faith have been portrayed, with the rather scary, fascist mob mentality that the gay rights advocates have been walking in since election day. Just to mention a few I've read about: mobbing a group of Christians in downtown San Fran, shoving and shouting down a grandma for having a cross, and invading a church in Lansing MI during Sunday worship with the purpose of intimidating and disrupting the service. (Who's intolerant?)

The second is really a sadness in me over the time, energy, and cash that the average Christian has given to this sort of thing INSTEAD OF doing what we were COMMANDED to do by our Lord and Savior, Jesus. What were we commanded to do? It's not as Newsweek preaches (being tolerant and inclusive) but it also isn't taking to the streets and demanding our rights, and whining about being persecuted because of some bad press or angry people expressing their hateful's about making His last command our FIRST priority (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:18-20)

If I were in a voting booth, making a choice, I would vote against same sex marriage without a doubt. I pray for our country, and then I do the only thing I can do...the only thing He commanded me to do about it...the only way to really make a CHANGE, a LASTING CHANGE, is in doing things the way Christ told us to in the first place. Preach the Gospel (Which changes lives), disciple those new believers (teaching them how to live the Christian life, and how to tell others about Christ's love), and then do it some more, until everyone in the world has HEARD. They still have to make a choice, and are free to do so, but they at least need to be told the good news.

The Bible tells us homosexuality is a sin, and that marriage is between one man and one woman, but it does not tell us to take that message to the highways and byways. Instead, we are commanded to tell others that Christ died for our sins (all of them, not just some), that that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).

Before I got saved, I heard the first message a lot but don't remember hearing the second! How sad is that? It was like a drink of living water to hear that God provided a Savior for me as I traveled in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Only the gospel changes lives permanently. Laws change, politicians change, governments rise and fall as do nations. Ours sadly seems to be in decline, and whether America lives to see another century, or whether it goes the way of the once-great civilizations before it (all of which fell due to a focus on hedonism), God will be glorified. The best thing we can do is to preach a message that truly changes lives, protects traditional marriage, and glorifies God: that

"God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).

To Ponder: Think about the last month. How many people have you told about the saving power of the Gospel of Christ? how much time have you spent telling others His Good News? Got that number in your head? Now think... how much time have you spent talking about, reading about, fretting about politics? Now, make this into a math problem. What is the ratio of minutes spent talking about what Christ did for you and can do for others versus the minutes spent on the latter? How much money did you invest in evangelism, missions, and in the lives of those you have a ministry with, vs the amount of money you have thrown to a political cause? This could be why America is in decline. If we want to change the World we need to do it His way!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Some Good Fruit on a not so good day

I'm having a bad day.

I have been in pain for the last 6 months, but last week it became unbearable, and so I finally went to the doctor, only to be told that I need surgery on my shoulder and having seen my x-rays it hurts even more now LOL I have been feeling pretty stiff and having a hard time using my hands.

But I was blessed today by some good fruit from seeds sown years ago.

I hate medical situations and such because I don't really have too many people around me that I can call on in an emergency, and those that I can call on are also busy mommies that I would rather not add my burden onto their busy lives. I tend to be a do-it-yourselfer, for better or worse.

Well, this morning, I woke up a little later than usual (having been given some serious drugs last night, and being unable to sleep because of hospital-related nightmares ;)) only to find out that life goes on without me. ;) My 10 year old daughter was making French Toast. My coffee was brewed, poured, and handed to me. Another child directed me to a chair with a heating pad hook up. Today, they did their schoolwork, shoveled the snow, washed and folded laundry, cooked dinner (venison steaks!), and cleaned the house cheerfully, amid giving me hugs and well wishes.

I love having older children.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

...and that's what Christmas is all about...

I was recently reading another blog where they posted this clip (below) from a Charlie Brown Christmas. I hadn't watched that movie since I was a kid, and so I guess I never noticed this scene before, but it sure blessed me:

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Christmas Wish List

Today, I'm going to get a little bit silly. This post is more of a fun one.

It seems like various persons in my family struggle with what to get me for Christmas and yet I have stated that Gift Certificates to (or any Bookstore), or an iTunes gift card (of any amount) would make me super happy, and thus these have been the only two items on my list for the last 6 years...there's really not a lot of mystery in what to get me for Christmas or my birthday because my request stays the same from year to year...This post is really a response to a discussion I was told about by my children in which adult family members (you know who you are) were murmuring about how hard it is to get me a "real gift" because they hate giving gift cards...which also makes me wonder if they hate the fact that I get them gift cards...hmmmm...doesn't everyone love gift cards? :-)

Well, here is my "real gift" wish list....and it may inspire you for those hard to buy for people in your life too ;)...though I think that a gift card to Amazon may be easier and cheaper. Group gift maybe? I figure I can post this here since most of them now read my blog and then I don't feel so much like I'm asking. Hi mom! :-)

1. Clocky
At the top of the list, we have a Clocky. This gift was MADE for me. Clocky is an alarm clock which you need to chase around the bedroom before you can turn it is robotic and has mountain bike wheels on it. This is perfect, as I am able to both hit the snooze, turn on my coffee pot, and hit the switch to download email to my phone each morning without even waking up (my husband has observed this and finds this to be my most annoying trait). This would make a nice group gift.

Check out this video of a Clocky in action.

2. Replacement bowls for my dinner set (Gibson: Fruit), because most of my bowls are broken after 17 years of marriage...oddly the plates are all okay and I don't know why that is. Strange, huh? (Ruth, my 15 year old daughter, interjects: "It's because we eat a lot of soup and salad in our house"). This is one of those gifts that family members will say is a "household gift" and therefore should not count as a Christmas present. Still, it would make me super happy.

3. I was going to ask for an upgrade on memory for my cell phone but I just learned that my sweet children pooled their resources and bought me one for Christmas. Thanks, kids. :-)). Out of all of the things in the Tiger Direct catalog, they knew just what mommy wanted, and they have my skill of finding things like this on sale...woo hoo.

4. I need the air conditioning compressor in the van fixed but I am pretty sure everyone would tell me "that's not a Christmas present". Still, it bears mentioning. It's probably more important than a clocky, unless you are frustrated by my inability to get up in the morning.

5. I already got my request filled from the Lord....snow and lots of it. Thank you, Jesus. I love it, it's perfect, even if everyone else is grumbling about it. And thanks for the snow tires too. You always know just what I need. :-)

If all of this seems way too complicated, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and iTunes all have gift cards. Any amount. I'm easy to please. :-)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gingerbread House Party

A few days ago, with our mother's group, we had a Gingerbread House Building Party. Look at these marvelous works out art!

Recipes and instructions are in Joyful Momma's Guide to Christmas Gingerbread and Other Holiday Treats

Monday, December 01, 2008

Our first day of Advent

Today we opened our first "bag" on our "Advent Calendar"! This part of Christmas is always the kids' favorite thing in the world. Normally, I use paper bags, but this year, I sewed some nicer bags from some pretty Christmas cloth, as you can see below!

I also made some tags for the bags that I wrote the numbers on. I printed these on business card stock, and laminated them.

We put our "Advent Calendar" up the staircase, and fill it with different goodies each day, usually some little, inexpensive craft or candy. Today, the children were delighted to find Candy Canes in it.

What special Christmas traditions do you have? How to do share Christ's love with others, including your children, during this season of the year?

We find that Advent is a great way to remind ourselves of the real REASON for the SEASON...the incarnation of Christ! God was made flesh, and He dwelt among us! Just the thought, if you meditate on it for any length of time will just blow your mind.

This is one of the reasons why I put together my Advent ebook, Advent: Preparing for the Coming of the Lord. It's a 4 week long devotional for families to help us to focus on the Lord, His first coming, and His imminent return during a season of year full of the gimmes. If you buy the Advent ebook before December 21st, you'll get a free Gingerbread book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New from Kimberly Eddy and Joyful Momma Publishing

Did you have a great Thanksgiving Day? I know I did. I love turkey and the trimmings. In a few days, I'll post about a new way to prepare your turkey for roasting, by brining it. The flavor was amazing.

Just after finishing my meal, I sat down while the children built their snow fortress and my husband watched the Detroit Lions lose badly (~smile~), and I put the final edits on a little ebook I have been working on called "Joyful Momma's Guide to Christmas Gingerbread and Other Holiday Treats". Unlike my other ebooks, this one is rather short (25 pages total), but it's packed full of information. I have great instructions and recipes for Gingerbread people and houses, homemade hot chocolate, fresh chai tea, Venetian bar cookies, and even how to make your very own Turkish Delight to eat the next time you watch Narnia.

This ebook is sold separately and it is also available for free when you buy my Advent Ebook from now until the end of 2008.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I'm Thankful For (not necessarily in this order)

I have long since given up on my traditional "A Month of Thanksgiving" posts where I post about the different Bible commands to give thanks to the Lord. I totally messed it up this year, but oh well. :-) There's always next year, right?

But I was just thinking about all of the things I am thankful for, and I wanted to post about that. These aren't in any particular order...just off the top of my head.

I'm thankful that 18 years ago last August, the Lord found me, saved me, and has been at work in my life to make me more and more into His image. I think it is an understatement to say that I wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for that. The me I am today and the me I was 18 years ago (or even 10 years ago) are not the same people, and I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that I am married to a guy who is willing to support his family even when it is hard and stressful, and even when, in a bad economy, that means he has to drive an insane amount to go to work.

I am thankful for five healthy, smart, beautiful children who all have a heart to serve the Lord and who are a real blessing. I am thankful that I was able to have any children at all...when I was 19 I had such a bad case of chicken pox, combined with some other health issues, that the doctors told me I never would....but here we are.

I am thankful that my lupus stayed in remission the whole year. \o/

I am thankful my in laws have finally decided that driving around is not a good idea (it was getting scary and they were unwilling to let go of the car keys)

I am thankful for those big, fluffy snowflakes outside of my window that look like cotton balls.

I am thankful for the freedoms we have here in America.

Though the vote didn't go as I would have preferred, I am thankful that we live in a country where we get the privledge to vote for our leaders.

I am thankful for my BlackBerry (LOL)

I am thankful my husband and I got to go on a marriage retreat this year.

I am thankful for teenagers.

I am thankful that God is my provider.

I am thankful for the car the Lord just provided Martin. Sure, it's not what he'd prefer, but it is great on gas and runs well

I am thankful for children who know how to cook, and how to cook well.

I am thankful that generous people donate to food pantries. I am thankful that this year (unlike last), we don't need a Thanksgiving box from the food pantry, but I am thankful that I am able to instead donate this year to one.

I am thankful that things are looking up in my husband's job and that he got his first raise in years recently.

I am thankful that I understand Algebra, and am able to explain it to my kids. ;)

I am thankful that gas prices are well under $2 a gallon.

I am thankful to live in Michigan, surrounded by all of this beauty

I am thankful for a good church, with sound preaching, and others who are able to be a good example to my kids, supporting, rather than undermining, what I am doing at home. After years of being in a host of "really really bad" churches, being here for the last 7 years is a blessing. I am thankful for Godly youth leaders and godly sunday school teachers that work with instead of against me.

I am thankful that my daughter, Isobel, is going to be baptized.

I am thankful we celebrated the Lord's Supper last night.

I am thankful that all of my Christmas music (and then some) fits onto my blackberry, with room to spare. ;))

I am thankful for Christmas music.

I am thankful for the pretty coat my husband bought first in 12 years (I was pregnant with Anastasia last time I got a new coat...and I sewed it myself!)

I am thankful that Anastasia is turning 12 on Friday, and that she has a heart for missions and for the Chinese people.

I am thankful for the opportunity to publish and sell my writings.

I am thankful for the opportunities God has for me in the coming year.

I am thankful my Christmas shopping is done.

I am thankful for kids who are diligent and eager to learn.

I am thankful for the opportunity to manage the church website.

I am thankful I already wrapped my Christmas presents.

I am thankful that "every kiss" does NOT begin with a trip to some lame Jewelry store (my husband says "AMEN". I really hate those commercials, don't you? I am thankful that I got a new wedding ring this year...that looks really nice...but cost less than a new book.

I am thankful for Skype, which lets me keep in touch with family and friends far away, nearly "face to face"

I am thankful for the opportunity to teach art at our homeschool co-op

I am thankful for the Internet. I am even more thankful that I don't have dialup. I am thankful the phone company gave us a sweet deal on phone and internet for a super low price.

I am thankful for Digital Cameras because film is expensive and kids love taking pictures.

I am thankful for my clawfoot bathtub, and for hot running water, as most of the rest of the world is not so blessed.

I am thankful for the opportunity to learn how to play piano. I am also thankful for the electric "portable grand" yamaha piano keyboard that was gifted to me 2 years ago. I am thankful to get to play piano specials for church on occasion, and for children who do the same.

I am thankful that we still have a roof over our heads.

I am thankful to the Lord for His goodness towards me, and His mercy endureth forever!

How about you?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are you ready?

So, are you ready for the Thanksgiving festivities?

Did you put your turkey into the Fridge to THAW? You may want to do that today! :-)

I'm only posting this reminder because I forgot last year, and turkeys just don't thaw fast.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: Give Thanks to Magnify the Lord

Before I get started: my shopping cart is having some technical difficulties. I need the web host people to take care of something for me so that it will work again, and I'm currently waiting on that. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please join me in prayer that this will be resolved quickly. :-)

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30

One of the reasons we are given to thank God is to magnify Him. What does that mean? How do we magnify someone?

Think of it this way, if you will.

Say you are in Paris. You are standing within view of the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. If you put your hand in front of you, you could cover up the Eiffel Tower with your hand, if you are far enough away. However, if you are standing right at the base of the Eiffel Tower, waiting in line to get on the elevator, you cannot do that anymore.


Did the Eiffel Tower get bigger? OR...did you just get closer to the Eiffel Tower?

Now, let's apply this to our walk with God.

When you magnify the Lord, you are so close to Him that you can't cover Him with one hand (or even both hands). You are so close to Him and He is so massive you realize you can't even begin to scratch the surface of who God is. When you stand afar off, we can sometimes put God in a box so to speak, or make Him fit into our worldview. We can make Him fit what we think about Him. We can cover Him up with our own view of who He is...but when we are drawing near to Him, the bigger He gets. we thank Him, and rejoice in what He is doing in our lives, the bigger He gets not only in our lives, but the bigger He gets in the lives of those around us who are hearing our hearts of thanksgiving towards Him.

"I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together."
(Psalm 34:1-3)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: Because of His Lovingkindness and Faithfulness

I again snoozed on sending out my month of faithfulness blog posts.I realized I had missed a few when I checked my RSS feed today, and it turns out there were a few more I didn't hit publish on. I don't know why I zone on that ;)

I was challenged this week about having an attitude of thanksgiving during our Wednesday Night Bible study at our church. I thought it was appropriate, given that I am also trying to focus on thanksgiving. I find that an attitude of thanksgiving really does breed contentment in my own heart. When I verbalize thankfulness (even if I don't "feel like it"), God works in my heart, and the thankfulness I am saying starts to seep in.

One of the things that was suggested during the message was to send out at thank you note every week for the next year to someone who has been a positive influence on you and who has blessed you in some way. I started to realize that I don't do that enough. I don't think any of us really do. We are faster to complain than we are to say thank you when we get bad service (if you don't believe me, try waiting tables for a month, or answering customer service emails). Complaints bring people down, but compliments energize us and keep us going. A reader recently sent me a compliment and I have been flying high on that compliment for the last few days. :-). Who can you BLESS by saying thank you this week? Why not write them an email? Send them a note?

God's lovingkindness is another reason to thank and praise Him. We are not just to thank Him for it for the sake of thanking Him but to let others know of this lovingkindness of God. This world needs to know of His goodness!

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Did you know that His lovingkindness and mercy is new every morning? We always want a fresh start, and some people wait until January 1st for their fresh start on a new diet, a new devotional plan, a new habit, or kicking an old habit, but God gives us a fresh start every time the sun rises!

"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

A Very Special Offer!

One of my absolute favorite homeschooling books is "Teaching the Trivium" by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn of Trivium Pursuit. I have especially enjoyed their list of ten things to do with children before age ten. I have found this to be a great resource to all new homeschoolers and anyone interested in early childhood education. Now having teens and pre-teens, I can tell you that these principles have bore out some great fruit in my own children.

Additionally, their sons, Nathanial and Hans Bluedorn, wrote two of our family's all time favorite books, "The Fallacy Detective" and "The Thinking Toolbox". Both of these books are entertaining and educational reads on logic.

Well, Laurie Bluedorn just emailed me with a special offer to share with you, which I think you'll love:

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In addition, if you subscribe to Christian Logic's Fallacy Detective
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Christmas Gift for My Hubby(Shhhhh, don't tell!)

My husband and I met 17 years and many pounds ago ;)....and over the course of time, our wedding rings stopped fitting. I had mine cut off of my hand during one of my pregnancies when the usual pregnancy swelling made my ring too tight, cutting off my hand circulation (ouch). Martin had to take his off every day at work (company rules when working on machinery), and eventually it became harder and harder to get it back on.

I don't like not wearing a wedding ring because I feel like it is not avoiding the appearance of evil to be out with a bunch of kids and no wedding ring, and I want others to know (especially guys!) that I am married.

A few months ago, we were out together, and I saw a beautiful and very inexpensive ring in my size...and so that has become my wedding ring. Martin asked me a short while later for a wedding ring for him if I find one, so I got his ring size and started looking.

I found a nice, plain stainless steel band at Walmart for under $50, and they even engraved it (for free). I was thrilled to have it come in yesterday. It is engraved with:

"I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3).

I can't wait to give it to him. I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to wait until Christmas. LOL

A Month of Thanksgiving

All the time, God is good....and God is good all the time (Amen?!?)

I was negligent to mention yesterday (because as I said in the first post, I originally wrote these up a month ago, scheduled to publish one per day for the month of November, but failed to hit publish!), though it is not specifically in the Bible, a THANKS to those who have given their lives to ensure our freedom here in the USA. Happy belated Veterans day, Vets!

God's goodness is another reason to give thanks to Him in the Bible.

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
(1 Chronicles 16:34)

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 106:1)

O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 107:1)

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 118:1)

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 118:29)

Thank Him for His Goodness!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: To Let everyone know what He's done for us

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

One aspect of thanksgiving in the Bible is to give thanks to the Lord to tell others what He has done for us. Let them hear how He's working in your life. Let them know what He has done for you lately. Doing so accomplishes a few things:

  • God is glorified in front of others, including those who may not know Him yet.
  • Christians are encouraged, perhaps in a hard time.
  • Our own hearts are encouraged as we rehearse, outloud, what HE has done for us. That's one of the main reasons why I keep a blessing notebook, to record the blessings Christ sends my way, so that when I am feeling down, I can look to Him and remember His goodness to us.

Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
(1 Chronicles 16:8)

O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.
(Psalm 105:1)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: His Mercy Endures Forever

When you do a search of the Bible verses which contain the phrase "Give thanks to the Lord", you find that the next phrase most often is "for his mercy endureth forever."

Mercy. God's mercy towards us is mind-boggling.

As children, we all heard (and maybe even sang) the song, "Santa Claus is coming to town", and sometimes we think of God like a sort of cosmic Santa Claus. If you are "good", He fulfills your wish list. If you are naughty, well, you get coal in your stocking. Though our actions do often have consequences (for better or for worse), were it not for God's mercies, we would all be deserving of Hell, because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Don't believe me? Try taking this simple test!

God's mercies are new to us every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Each day is a fresh start in Christ!

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 136:1-5)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: Thank Him for Protection and Deliverance

Since 9/11 we haven't had any more terrorist attacks (yet). Maybe because of this we take for granted the job that homeland security, the military, and the governments of our allies have done to thwart any attacks that could have happened on our soil...but didn't. In the same way, the Lord protects us and delivers us often in ways that we will never know this side of heaven. As He orders our steps, He often protects us from dangers we are blissfully ignorant of, as well as situations that we find ourselves in, crying out to Him for His help.

God is truly our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation. It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. He is the tower of salvation for his king: and showeth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.
(2 Samuel 22:47-51)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving: Thank Him for our Very Lives

Continuing on with my series, a Month of Thanksgiving....

God gives us so many blessings to be thankful for which we often take for granted. We don't even think about what He does for us sometimes unless it is "big" and "obvious".

The fact that we can communicate, that we can understand the written word (how our amazing brains even work by His design!), that we can learn and grow, that we are sitting here right now breathing. Psalm 150 says to let everything that has breath praise the Lord. That means you too!

Have you thanked Him today for being alive? For having life in your bones? David asked God for deliverance so that he could continue to thank the Lord before others and praise Him:

"Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
(Psalm 6:5-6)

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving, part two

Continuing with my series, a month of Thanksgiving...we give thanks because of the most important thing that ever happened to us: our salvation.

I think that maybe, sometimes, after being saved for a while we lose the absolute wonder and amazement that every child of God should be feeling towards the powerful truth that God Loves Me. This truth is really mind boggling.

Even more, He loved me (and everyone else) so much, that He sent His only begotten son to die on a Cross for my sins. Jesus willingly left the riches of heaven to be born in a stable to a poor family, and to grow up and die for all mankind. That is almost too much to grasp at times when you really think about it.

And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise.
1 Chronicles 16:35

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
Psalm 30:4, 11-12

Thank Him for His Salvation!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Month of Thanksgiving

I recently noticed my posts that I had set up for "A Month of Thanksgiving" were not coming through. Yeah, it took me 6 days to notice ;), so we are going to be just skip a few of them this we focus our attention on GIVING THANKS. Apologies to my Canadian and overseas readers who celebrate Thanksgiving in October, though in reality Thanksgiving is something we shouldn't limit ourselves to once a year, amen?

Day 1: Give Thanks because it is His Will for our Lives!

Too often we wonder what God's will is and make it out to be some sort of freakish mystical thing, a mystery seldom understood but by the most spiritual. The fact is, God often doesn't reveal His specific will for our individual lives to us, until we are already obeying His general will for all Christians, as seen in the Bible. One of the four things the Bible specifically declares as being the will of God for our lives is to give thanks in everything.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

In every thing, give thanks.

In the good stuff
In the bad stuff
When the guy with the scary policies wins the election
When we don't get our way
When we do get our way
When people let us down
When people bless us
When we have a big spread on the table
When we are trying to make dinner with a scant selection of things leftover in the pantry
When we get a raise
When we get a pay-cut
When we have a bad day
When we have a good day.

In EVERY THING give THANKS, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus concerning YOU (yes, you!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

To Change the World

Well, the election is over (anyone want to agree with me in saying, THANK GOD!?), and so there will be no more annoying phone calls that disregard the do not call list, door to door solicitors who disregard my sign, or mail boxes stuffed with enough full color printed materials we could have balanced the budget with the funds spent on them, and this is the last of my posts on the topic (probably).... Most of my friends and acquaintances are upset, and looking to emigrate elsewhere (most of the rest of the world is in worse shape...been there, done that). It think it is obvious I'm not an Obama fan, but he's now my president...and I am starting to pray for him, just as I prayed for Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Bush.

Prayer is taking an issue before the Lord, realizing that HE ALONE can make the changes necessary. You are taking it up with the One who really can do something about your request.

I remember when Mr. Clinton was elected--it was my first election as a Christian and I was a little shocked to see the absolute despair everyone at church was walking in. I also had to wrestle with my feelings about it. As the president-elect, he stopped into a printing factory I worked while pregnant with my first child. We had printed up quite a few of the materials and my boss gave generously to his campaign. He was doing a meet and greet with all of us (attendance was compulsory and I was the lone non-democrat), and as he shook my hand, I found myself saying, "I'm praying for you Mr. President". He stopped came back to me, looked me in the eye, and said, "Thank You. I sure do need it".

The thing is, my hope in that election was not in the likes of George H.W. Bush or Ross Perot, and my hope in this election was not in John McCain--and woe is you if it was. My hope is now and always has been in any politician, ballot initiative, proposal, or piece of legislation, but in Christ alone.

Read with me, Acts 17:6-7

"And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus." (emphasis mine).

The first century Christians, living under the tyrannical rule of a series of very wicked leaders (including the crazy Nero, who lighted his garden with Christians dipped in tar and lit on fire), TURNED their WORLD upside down. They didn't do this through rallying around "their candidate" (Christ was rightly their true King), but by preaching Christ wherever they went.

How does this effect change?

When you change a law, that law can be changed back, misinterpreted by a judge or jury, or struck down in some other form or fashion. It is temporary. When you change the leadership of a government, the next time elections roll around, they leaders can change yet again. They are temporary. Someone can obey a law begrudgingly without being changed by it--a racist is still a racist even when it is forbidden by law. If someone wants to murder their pre-born baby, their attitude about life will not change even if they can't go down to an abortion mill to slaughter their child...they may still do so with or without the law's approval by finding a way however illegal...and so forth. Pick an issue.

However, when you change a heart for Christ....oh, my sisters!...that is eternal. A heart that is following after Christ is changed forever. One that is serving Christ is also developing the fruit of the spirit, changing more into His image. Every person with Christ in them (the hope of glory!---Col 1:27) is going to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

That's how a pro-choice feminist liberal came to be writing a conservative blog to encourage mommas to love their children and husbands and homes, to serve the Lord with all that is in them...Christ changed me from the inside out, and that change goes way beyond the way I vote, to the way I live (or try to live) each day.

Want to change your world? Tell others about the Savior. Need help doing so? Ask your local church, or check out Way of the Master.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On My Mind Today

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Proverbs 21:1

Today I braved the crowds, and voted early. Just got back, actually. I live in a very small town outside of Lapeer Michigan, not some big metropolis (I feel for ya'll in urban and suburban areas!), and we had something I've never seen before at our polling location: a wait! We had no parking available when I arrived, and a line that wrapped through the fire hall. This is a good thing. People need to be involved in THEIR country. Whenever people at work would complain about President Bush, my husband would say, "So, you voted for the other guy, huh?" but most people admitted they didn't vote. My husband would always say, "Then please, don't complain with what you got."

Ultimately, though, God is the one who is in control, no matter who wins. God isn't running for president. He's sovereign over all anyway, with or without our approval. We may not always get the leader we want, but God always allows us to get the leader our country needs and deserves (scary thought). We need to vote our conscience, and leave the results up to him.

Oh, and after you vote, go on down to Starbucks Coffee, where you get a free tall coffee just for voting! Thanks, Starbucks. I wonder if they'd still give me my coffee after finding out how I voted

Monday, November 03, 2008

LOL: Top Ten Reasons to Vote Democrat

Sort of for fun...but also with a message to be pondered on the election eve.

This is not original with me...I don't know who wrote this. No, I'm not democrat, and if you read carefully you'll see what I mean (it's tongue in cheek, obviously). This appeared in an ad in the Lapeer Newspaper, paid for by some sort of Republican group, but I felt it summed up my thoughts exactly. I edited some of the wording, and added two of my own, as well as citations for further research.

However you vote...please VOTE tomorrow if you are an American. It is a privilege and a duty. People have given our lives that we might have this freedom, and God has been so truly good to us to allow us to live in a country that has free elections and the freedoms we have. Remember to thank Him tomorrow as you enter the voting booth and cast your ballot!

Top Twelve Reasons to Vote Democrat in this Election

12. You believe that it would be good for America to have someone with the endorsements of Hamas and other terrorist groups as our military's commander in chief.

11. You believe that the constitution is a "flawed document" because it doesn't call for the redistribution of wealth.

10. You believe the government will do a better job of spending MY MONEY than I would. I think when you spread the wealth around it is good for everybody. It's patriotic!

9. You believe partial birth abortion (Warning, graphic illustrations) is okay, but water boarding a terrorist is disgusting. See also this article: Obama more pro-choice than NARAL.

8. You believe having a domestic terrorist like Bill Ayers as a close friend is a good thing. It allows or great relations with foreign terrorists.

7. You believe social security is solvent, and that there is a social security lock box and don't believe social security is a ponzi scheme.

6. You believe MOST AMERICANS are bitter and cling to their guns and religion. Let's rid our country of Guns and Religion!

5. You believe corporations should pay higher taxes and that higher taxes on businesses will make the price of products and services be less expensive.

4. You believe groups like ACORN who register Felons, drug addicts, wino's, homeless drifters, illegal aliens, dead people, children, fictional Disney characters, etc. shows respect for me and makes my vote count.

3. You believe hard core criminal murderers and rapists deserve to live and the innocent unborn deserve death. It's a choice you can live with.

2. You believe we need to rid ourselves of dependency on foreign oil, but am against offshore drilling for oil and natural gas (Obama has publically changed his position on this when it started to hurt him but I seriously doubt he plans to allow it once in office given his strong opinions before it hurt him in the polls), building nuclear power plants, and clean coal technology. You also agree that raising prices on energy to force people to go green is a good idea.

1. You believe Reverend Wright when he said, "G**D*MN America" and "OUR CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST" and you want someone who has sat under his teachings for years to run our country.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Voting the Dream: longing for color-blind politics

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."- Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week in a public school in America, a girl was called racist for wearing a t-shirt supporting the white candidate. What would Martin Luther King Jr say? He was dreaming of a world where no one judges anyone by the color of their skin. Where the guy running for president is either elected or not elected based on his quality of his character not on the color of his skin.

I could care less if he was white...or brown...or yellow...or red...I wouldn't vote for Obama if he was the only one running. I wouldn't vote for anyone who has Momar Quadaffi's support. Nor would I want to vote for anyone who went to the racist, anti American church of Reverend White, or who has supported the dictator Odinga of Kenya.

This whole thing confuses this election has become about race for too many people. I believe that racism is when you judge someone (either positively or negatively) based on skin color.

King's dream is not about having a black president voted in on the basis of his blackness but his dream is about a day when his blackness or whiteness wouldn't even be an issue.

I can't stand this year's election choices now that Ron Paul is out of the race. I may do that which I never thought I'd do: hold my nose and vote republican just to keep that friend of terrorists and dictators out of office.

Uncertainty and In Whom do YOU Trust?

When I write my books and articles, it is always off of a combination of research and things the Lord taught me. I don't want to just rehash the same stuff to you, my readers. That would be pointless. I want to share with you what God taught me, and what I personally know to work...not just the same thing you read in every money management book.

Well, a few years ago when I wrote my book, Thriving on One Income, I got some emails saying things like,

"I think you are wrong to say that if you can't save towards retirement right now, don't sweat it! I work just so we can have a retirement! Don't you realize how much you are going to need...."

"I feel like I am right to work to save towards my children's college education. I want it to be there for them in 18 years, and if I start now, and invest, it will be a sure thing. I don't want my children to not be able to go to college or to start college in debt" (For the record, I am very much against debt for college, because that is what started my husband and I off on the wrong foot too)

There were more but that was the jist of it.

There are no sure things.

My point wasn't that faith means not investing or not saving. As I wrote in an earlier post, and even in my book itself, I have invested too. However, I was making the point that we all make decisions based on what is important to us.

If you sit down with some of these financial guru people, they will scare the wits out of you making you think you need to put asside hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month towards retirement and college for the still infant children who need their mommies right now. When we had 4 young children, one of these guys came over to our house, and had us convinced that we needed to double our income just to save enough for college for all four as well as for our retirement savings. He left and we felt really down and low.

Is that God? Is He not our provider? You save what you can save...that was my point.

So, I's that working out for those who have put the babies in daycare so they could work towards a goal some 18 or even 30 years into the future?

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:5)

"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17)

We got our 401K statement in the mail of last week Wednesday we have 50% less than what we had before.

I wish I would have just taken the money and blown it on something fun. I can say that right? I'm human...if money is going to be wasted I wish I was the one who blew it on something I at least got to enjoy.

That's not just money that was lost but also husband's valuable time with his family went up in flames because of the bozos who invested in the bad mortgage loans (as I said, without a fancy Ivy League degree in finance I don't think I will ever understand the illogical decisions made that caused this to happen).

Wanna hear the real shocker?...neither one of us said, as we read it together, "Gee I wish you would have stayed employed so that we could have had even more in that 401K when it imploded." No in fact we both expressed regret that we put all of his last raise directly into the 401K when we could have better used it in the day to day operation of our home.

We have to be wise about these things...we have to save what we are able, and wisely manage what God gives us, and trust in Him for the outcome.

Coming soon: a Recession Supplement for Thriving on One Income, as well a Workbook/Study Guide! (Pray for me).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Master or Servant? Tech in Balance (Part Two)

To read part one, click here

About three months ago, I lost my cell phone while at the grocery store. I had been talking on the phone, and put it down, and apparently forgot it in the shopping cart. I know. Pretty stupid. I was panic stricken as I called the grocery store, and they didn't find it but took my number down. I finally just took a deep breath, prayed, and trusted God would work it all out. I hated the thought of costing our family more money due to negligence. When I got home, my husband told me that he had tried to call me on my cell phone because he had just gotten an interesting email. Apparently since I had my cell phone for so long and my model of cell phone was so old, I was being given a HUGE credit towards an upgrade. Seriously? Woo hoo! Praise God. I was pretty geeked up to say the least, given the fact that I had deliberately ignored the latest tech in the area of cell phone paraphernalia to guard my heart.

Off my hubby and I went to the cell phone paraphernalia shop (my kind of date night :-)), where I got to spend my upgrade credits....and low and behold, of all the blessings that could have befallen me, there was a BlackBerry Curve on sale for just $9 above the amount of the credit after rebate. I almost wondered at this point if it wasn't a dream. I wanted a BlackBerry (a perfect mesh of my obsessions with both planners and with tech), but I knew it was out of the question at the normal price...but lo and behold, here it was in my reach. Woo Hoo and Praise God again.

Well, my vote is in. I love my BlackBerry. I love it so much that for my birthday I got an 8GB microSD card because I had used up most of my memory with my entire music collection, writing new ebooks on my phone, keeping track of recipes, my shopping list, address book, an entire Bible, and I even have Pac Man on there for when I'm bored, to say nothing of the fact that I can answer email while waiting in line at Walmart. I especially love that it beeps to remind me of upcoming appointments on my calendar. That was the fatal flaw of paper planners. You had to look at them and remind yourself, and I'm not always so disciplined.

But, there's also a danger here. My BlackBerry does so much for me I could stay absorbed in it for hours or days if I didn't deliberately pull myself away. As I said in my last in and of itself is not evil....but allowing something to be your master is not pleasing to God. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

In this world we live in, with everyone plugged in to their bluetooth devices, walking around Walmart like a bunch of crazy people talking to themselves, the irony is that this telecommunications revolution has brought a disconnect in the area of face to face relationships.

Do you notice the lady at the checkout? Do you smile to her or do you just continue to talk on the phone while checking out?

Are you open to being a blessing to those God brings across your path?

Do you unplug your headphones long enough to hear the Lord?

Make your tech your servant and not your master.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Master or Servant? Technology in Balance (part one)

We all have our areas of weakness which normally get us off track or "coveting" after things we don't yet have, and for me this has been mostly high tech things and art supplies for most of my life. When I was 14 I saved up all of my pennies (and dollars, and so forth) until I could buy my own Commadore 64 personal computer, which my parents of course thought was ridiculous, but I just had to have it. Since that time, I have had to have a selection of other cool toys...the stereo...the huge record collection (just saying that no doubt reveals I am pushing 40)...being one of the first people to study Computer graphics at our college of art and design (learning, as I have said before, things my 9 year old daughter Isobel now does as a matter of degree is a teensy bit out of date)...I also have a problem with planners. I have a plethora of planner books, and I have always diligently kept a journal and planner, and have been on the prowl for the ultimate planner that would make me organized (since, by nature, I'm just not at all there in this area of orderliness).

From time to time, in an effort to break the chains that bind me (namely, my covetousness problem relating to high tech gadgetry and office supplies), I have done tech fasts. I also live a fairly old fashioned lifestyle by choice: I'm a stay at home mom, I have a big garden, I can my own food, I am paranoid of cooking with a microwave, I own a whirly pop (and use it!), I make my bread by hand, and sew quite a bit, among other things. I'm also, while living in a rural homestead, a freelance web and graphic designer (often working on my laptop, with my canning apron on, standing up in my kitchen, surrounded by bushels of tomatoes to peel, if you can only picture it).

Because God, in His providence, allowed me graciously to be born for such a time as this, my view has been to use that which is available to me in this decade for His glory, rather than, as some, to long for the Little House on the Prairie days. Although living a slower life would be a blessing, starting my chicken dinner with catching a chicken, killing, and plucking it would not be. There are some modern conveniences I would rather not do without...but the key is using these modern conveniences to be better able to give God glory in whatever God has called us to...whether as a keeper at home, mother of many, student, or what have you.

As I was thinking and praying, and studying the Word recently, I came across a familiar that actually influenced me greatly when I was a new Christian. That verse is this: "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Corinthians 6:12) The problem is not technology. Technology is a tool that can be super helpful in enabling us as we serve the Lord in any way He call us. The trick is to remember who is the master and who is the servant here. Tech makes a great servant but a lousy master.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian Friends well as to those who celebrate Thanksgiving in other lands.

My blog post today is on just that topic...but it isn't found's at TEACH Magazine's Publisher's Blog...right here!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Confused? Maybe this will help...or make it worse ;)

Maybe this doesn't really fall under the category of things that are specifically for moms, but I have had a few readers of my book, Thriving on One Income ask me what this whole banking situation was about, and later on an egroup this was discussed. Using the questions I have been asked, I am going to try to explain this in such a way that hopefully you will have a better understanding.

The thing is (1) I am not an accountant or stock broker...but I do like to read up on this stuff and invest the Lord's money as wisely as possible. (2) everyone involved seems to be giving a different story and pointing the finger all around, so some may contradict what I write problem, I'm not claiming to be an insider with vast knowledge on this topic. (3) this situation is occurring in an election year and thus many of the "facts" are tainted with political mud slinging and blame shifting.

I have tried to cite my sources as much as is possible for further reading.

Ultimately though, keep in mind, God is bigger than all of this scary stuff. He is in control. He owns the cattle on the thousand hills (and doesn't need AIG to insure it! LOL). God can take care of us, and meet our needs, and may even use this awful situation to bring some badly needed revival to our lands. Our God is a recession-proof God. God is faithful.

Julie wrote,

Julie, I don't understand all of it to the most minute detail but I have kept up with this and understand most of it. Friends and I had a huge discussion on this just this weekend, and I feel I have a pretty good understanding now...In a very, very basic nutshell here is what happened.

In the 1990s, the government put pressure on Fannie Mae (A government backed mortgage enterprise that makes and guarantees mortgages via our tax dollars--Freddie Mac is the other government enterprise which is similar) to make home ownership for lowering the standards and "not discriminating". These loans are "sub prime" because the people who took out the loans (1) didn't have good credit (2) didn't have reliable employment or good income and (3) the home usually was mortgaged to 100% or 120%...on the faulty gamble that home values would always go up (not when you are giving poor people with a track record of poor money management skills mortgages!!!! Now everyone's savings and home values are in the toilet..but more on that later.). There has always been "sub prime" (high risk) loans but this was ramped up to a new level with the influx of new home buyers with bad money management skills.

This created a sort of insulated cocoon in which home values have gone up at insane rates because pretty much anyone qualified for a mortgage of some sort (even if it was at 14% ARM--meaning the rate would go up when the fed raised interest rates). More home buyers, meant more competition when buying a home, which meant the prices went up.

In the later Clinton years and in the Bush years, various policies and different circumstances caused the manufacturing sector (people who work in factories) to start to falter...and a few people started to default on their mortgages, and fewer people were buying new cars...causing the factories to lay people off, causing more home mortgage defaults...and this huge cycle was put in motion in which people couldn't pay their bills if they were maxed out, or were paying late, and after a while they couldn't even sell their home to move due to job changes because the value of the home had dropped so dramatically (this happened to us, in fact, in 2005 when my husband was laid off, got a job out of state, but our house wouldn't move, and appraised for quite a bit lower even after we made improvements). Some incomes stagnated and others went down, which meant foreclosures, bad credit, etc.

Sure, they claim more jobs were created, and that the workers just needed new training, but let's face it: a daddy working 50+ hours per week in a skilled trades job trying to support his family with no other job skills is hooped if his job is outsourced, because he can't take time off from working and supporting his family to take some class and learn a new skill, even if that class is "free". Not everyone is flexible in their career choices. Single moms, breadwinners,'s not like you can just stop paying your bills while learning a new skill only to have to start over again at entry level wages.

A house's appraised value (what a mortgage underwriter feels it is worth) is based on a number of things including the value of "comparables" (similar houses that have sold in the area recently). This caused many problems....for example, when my husband lost his job in Michigan and was working in Ohio, we couldn't sell our house because all of our comparables that had sold recently were foreclosures that sold for 1/3rd of what we owed on our mortgage! Nice, huh? So, we couldn't sell our house because (1) no one would pay full price for ours when there was a few foreclosed bargains up the road and (2) the house would not likely appraise high enough for a mortgage even though we had done some improvements to it. So we were stuck, not that I wanted to move to Ohio (I didn't). So, for someone who, say, couldn't get another job in that area, that caused HUGE problems...and more foreclosures. We have foreclosed houses all around us right now. It's bargain shopping time in Michigan...if you can find a job.

Why did banks do it? They could justify higher than normal interest for one, and they could also count on people who get sub prime mortgages not being smart enough to read the fine print, or understand what an Adjustable rate mortgage was, or understand that it is NOT a good thing to have your house mortgaged to 120% it's appraised value (the best is to only mortgage 80%...putting a 20% down payment down). This whole Fannie Mae thing "generously" allowed people to buy houses without downpayments, and sometimes borrowing on equity that they gambled would be in the house in a few years. Ie, say a house is worth $100,000. Because values were climbing at a certain rate, the bank allowed people to borrow $120,000 for a mortgage (keeping the $20,000 for moving costs, home repairs, or whatever), and so now they owed $120K on a $100K house...with the assumption that the house would climb in value, and be worth way more than that in the future. This was true...for awhile...but isn't anymore.

Add to this the fact that even my not-quite-16-year-old daughter gets credit card pre approvals, and most Americans are in debt up to their eyeballs...we have done what the banks did, but on a smaller scale...spread ourselves too thin financially. This also contributed to the present situation.

Through all of this AIG, an insurance company, was insuring these loans for the banks, and making a killing...but they were also creatively balancing their checkbooks, and didn't actually have enough money to make good on the promises they were making in their insurance policies. They were promising bankers that they would pay for a loan where the person defaulted...and 10 years ago that was a safe bet, because few defaulted, home values consistently went up, and they were making lots of money. But, it was a house of cards. AIG didn't have enough money to pay the banks if too many people defaulted....and too many people did default.

Now these banks are crying poverty and those of us who pay our bills on time are getting rewarded by having to pay this bill.

Picture two columns on a spread sheet. One has a plus over it and one has a minus. The minus is money the bank has to pay (to keep the place open, to pay dividends on investments and deposits, etc.), and the plus is money that is coming into a bank (people paying the bank interest for loans it is giving out, for example). The bank is not going to make money by just charitably holding onto other people's money for nothing, and in fact if often owes people who have deposits, due to interest dividends they receive (for example, I have some money in a CD right now that is earning 5.05% interest...that is money that costs the bank it needs to earn money somehow to pay me when it comes time to get my dividend come November). The money has to be put to work for them while they are holding onto it. Loaning it all out to Joe Blow who is already maxed out on his credit cards is RISKY, but the higher the risk, the higher the potential return (profit)...though the higher the potential loss too. Instead it looks for ways to invest that money so that it can make some money for itself while it holds onto it for you. The problem is those risky loans make way more money in interest, because you can charge more interest to someone who is higher risk...though if you do that too much, and too many are in serious trouble. Thankfully those kind folks at AIG insure these risky loans so that the banks don't have to worry .... er, until the day AIG files bankruptcy! Whoops.

Imagine a bank is buying up a bunch of mortgages made to people who shouldn't have been given them in the first place ("subprime"), and earning all of that interest, but just in case, he needs to insure this investment, against people defaulting on them, so he goes to an AIG guy, and buys some insurance for this investment. If all of this sound surreal, it's because it is completely whacked. Without a fancy Ivy League degree in finance, I am pretty sure that normal people like us will never understand why banks thought investing huge percentages of their money into very risky loans was a good thing, or why no one bothered to ask if AIG could really back all of these loans.

On our ficticious 120,000 mortgage, the banker is paying some percentage rate based on the likihood of the mortgage holder defaulting (let's say, 2%) to insure the loan and thus the AIG guy gets $2400 a year with a promise that if the person who was given a loan without being able to manage their money defaults on the loan, then AIG promises to pay the bank whatever this person still owes on the loan. The big problem was that AIG made this promise way more than it could actually BACK the promise. It simply didn't have enough money to back all of these risky loans and no one really noticed (or they noticed, but didn't care).

Here is the problem. In a secured loan, you have to put down collateral. That means, you insure it with something real. you don't just get a $120,000 loan with a handshake and a smile. The problem is that these transactions were "unregulated" and AIG didn't have to prove to anyone that it had enough money to back up these presumptous promises it was making. It was promising to pay these banks all of this money for all of these loans if these people defaulted...counting on them not defaulting, of course...but it was allowed to write up these contracts and make these promises to the banks without proving to anyone that it could back up the promises (with capital...namely what it owned...what it was worth...the money it personally had in the bank)

Now the Fed is reaching into our wallets now to pay for their day to day operations (supposedly...I wouldn't be surprised if someone is also lining their pockets with some of this green too)...because they are having to be far more cautious and conservative with investing money, and so less is coming in...and they have to pay those who have deposited me with my CD that is coming due in November. Essentially, the banks are not earning enough money on a day to day basis anymore (because they can't invest) and so now their cost of operations, in addition to what they owe depositors, is coming out of the pockets of we the people. Don't you love how the CEO of AIG gets a 15 Million Dollar Severance package after running the company into the ground and WE get the bill?.

I'm glad God is in control, and that even in this situation, He can work, frustrating as it is for the rest of us.