Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Have You Fallen?

If you're in your thirties, like me, you probably can't read that title without thinking of the "I've fallen. . . and I can't get up" commercial, but let's try to get our minds off that poor senior citizen and focus here!

Rachelle is looking for stories for her new book that will be published for Women of Faith. She asks us to "tell of a time that you fell as a Christian and how you managed to recover from it. . . or if you are still trying to recover." You can email her, and names and details will be changed to keep you anonymous, if you'd like. Check out all the details at her blog here.

Do you have a story to tell that would help others? I find that no experience is wasted if we can help someone else to avoid the pitfalls we've taken. Think about it. Pray about it. If you come up with something, you can email Rachelle with your story.

A Dog, a Superhero, and a Really Useful Engine

Kailani at the Pink Diary is having a Halloween contest, and there are prizes! So, post pics (today) and then link to this post. There are prizes for best pet costume, cutest kid's costume, scariest kid's costume and best adult costume. So, post your pics by the end of today, and then go back to Kailani's and leave a comment and vote on your favorite. I am entering these cuties (hint, hint).

I asked Kailani if I could post a picture from another year, because Amanda is being, in her words, a "famous soccer player." I actually did pretty well replicating Mia Hamm's jersey and she has a medal, but it's not too cute, you know? However, when she was three, she wanted to be, in her words, "a girl superhero." So, non-sewing mom went to work, and glued a big felt A on a navy t-shirt, got some navy leggings, a big roll of ribbon that I glued to an old baby blanket, and used for a ribbon in her hair. I cut her mask out of felt (and cut slits in it to slide over her glasses)--voila--Super Amanda was born! So, here she is with her trusty sidekick, Super Shadow, who has her own cape.



And here she is in action (doing a Wonder Woman kind of twirl, I think).




Kyle is a Really Useful Engine, but as you can see, he's not too keen on the costume. He sure looked cute when we went to Amanda's carnival at school on Friday, but he wouldn't wear the costume too long. We'll see what he does tonight. I've tried to tell him that getting candy is linked to him actually being cute and wearing the costume, so we'll see.



Shadow is also quite reluctant. Kyle picked out this dinosaur for her, but don't worry, I won't subject her to wearing this again, or humiliate her by entering this picture in the contest. UPDATE: Shadow has quite a fan following, so yes, this will be the pet costume I enter. So, make her embarassment pay off by voting for her tomorrow (there are books at stake here, people!).



You can click over to Kailani's starting tomorrow and VOTE for Super Amanda at Snapshot, or Kyle as Thomas at Snapshot for cutest kid's costume, or for Dinosaur Shadow at Snapshot, as cutest pet. Voting is open November 1 - 3.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Christian Writing


The first Carnival of Christian Writers is up at Writer. . . Interrupted. Check it out if you are interesting in the writing process or product. There are some great links there. The Writer. . . Interrupted blog is a great daily source of writing information and inspiration from many different writers (published and those striving to be). You can click over there from my sidebar, or check out some of the other writers on the ring.

Transformation




Janice asks in today's Monday Meme on Faithlifts, "What is God revealing to you about your purpose? What are some action steps you can take to help keep those lessons firmly planted in your life?"

It's been such an interesting month, giving us the opportunity to really reflect on all the different aspects of purpose: the purpose of my roles, my walk with God, suffering, God's work, our service. . . . As Janice mentioned today, I struggle with keeping my primary focus on God. God is the underlying context of all my conscious choices, but I'm not sure that my daily actions and words always reflect that. Lauren's Faith Lifts post really stuck with me this month, asking how we can keep that eternal perspective at the forefront of our minds.

A dear friend long ago shared her prayer, “Lord, decrease my desire for the things of this world, and increase my desire for things of you.” I’ve found that prayer “works.” And, yes, unfortunately being shaken by tragedy (as Lauren addressed) works, too. I know that nothing I give up is enough, so I have to keep praying for transformation, instead of just trying to have reformation of my present state.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

Philippians 2:12b-13 Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

So, I pray. I ask God to work in me. I grasp for the understanding that it is completely His work, and not mine, and yet in spite of that I continue to do my part by continuing to read His word, and grow in knowledge and in the practical experience which comes from living my life and fulfilling my earthly purpose of taking care of my family, and speaking of Him and His work in me.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

1978

I recently uncovered this picture of myself, taken in the fall of 1978 when I was in 3rd grade.



Well, it speaks volumes in and of itself. But I just got back Amanda's third grade pictures, and I realized that in when both of these pictures were taken, we were each exactly eight years old.



Notice her closed-lipped smile. Perhaps a little discretion in those awkward years is a good thing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Whole Truth Eating and Recipe Guide

I love the idea of food as fuel, not just dried pods of health-filled goodness, but a wide variety of foods that are meant to be enjoyed in the tasting and beneficial in the eating. I go in phases of actually eating a healthy diet, rich in five to ten servings of vegetables a day, and well, does strawberry ice cream count as fruit? I've been in the second stage for a while now, and I keep trying to motivate myself to get back into that love of all things healthy stage, to no avail.

So, reading about it is the next best thing.

I bought this book after seeing Andrea Beaman on Top Chef last year and loving her positive upbeat and informative style. (Complete aside here--I have been so out of the "TV scene" that I didn't even know that the new season started two weeks ago. I guess it's good since I've been spending my time with family, reading, and blogging instead, and since Bravo reruns them like crazy, I should be able to tape them this weekend, yes on my VCR, and get caught up).

This book is written in a very warm, conversational tone. It is also filled with practical advice for making the most of your food choices. The end of each chapter features a listing of "tasty tidbits," where she highlights the main points or the changes that she's suggesting to you, making it easy to actually act on them. She uses some terms that seem a little out there to me, like hot food and cold foods (and she's not talking about temperature, but the heating and cooling of your body). One chapter is titled "Climate Control" and in it she advocates eating with the seasons, and claims that our bodies crave certain seasonal foods for a reason--such as roasted root vegetables in the fall and cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer.

The second half of the book is filled with recipes. I haven't tried any of them yet, but I probably will.

One thing about this book is that it seems "self-published." The font is sort of a type look. It didn't really bother me, because the quality of the paper and the binding are just fine, but I thought I would add this in case that sort of thing would catch someone unpleasantly by surprise.

In summary, I enjoyed this book. It gave me some motivating information that might help me get out of my poor food choice rut. Other books that have inspired healthy eating for me, that I've enjoyed as much, or more, as this one include The Color Code, and Superfoods Rx.

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This review will be linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

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Fall Reading Challenge: five finished, making progress on five others, four still in the wings, one finished and two almost finished that aren't even in the challenge.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Circumcision of the Heart


Romans 2:25-27 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision are a lawbreaker.
You may have thought that the only time you really had to think about circumcision was that moment you found out you were having a boy and you agonized over whether or not to subject your baby boy to the knife. And yet, Paul is challenging all believers in this matter. First off, I will give you a way out, as Paul did, both for those circumcised already (Jews) and those who are not circumcised (non-Jews, or the Gentiles). If you have kept the law, then you will be regarded as one circumcised (as heirs to the promise of God).

"Oh, good!" you might be thinking, "I'll take the easy way out and claim those promises without pain." If that is the route that you are going to take, let me remind you of this law that you are going to try to uphold in your own power. The New Testament law is generally agreed to include the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), and the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:34-38), as well as the Golden Rule (Matthew 29:39-40) So, to make it easy for you, I'll list the laws that you can follow perfectly in order to avoid going under the knife:

Have no other gods before Me (God).

Starting off with an easy one--I don't worship other gods. Popular culture, money, family members, work--those things aren't really gods.


Don't make for yourself an idol.

Right, good again. No golden calves here. The time and energy I spend making my home and myself beautiful for my family--those aren't real idols.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.


Well, I have to serve my family right? And work, I have to go to work to support them. That's not worship. I wonder if God is jealous of all the time I spend on things other than Him.


You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

I wonder if listening and accepting it when others do counts?

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

This is 2006. What does that one even mean anymore? I go to church. I think that's good enough.

Honor your father and your mother.


What about "leave and cleave?" I have to do that. I have my own family now. I think I'm probably okay here, too.


You shall not murder.

Finally! No doubt here. Never killed anyone. Wait, do I remember Jesus saying that if I am even angry with my brother or call someone a fool, I'm guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22)?


You shall not commit adultery.

Oh, I haven't, but I do think that Jesus also said here that if I even look upon someone with lust, that's considered adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). And what about all those times my mind wanders or wonders?


You shall not steal.

No, I'm not a thief, but I suppose that I have stolen something at some time--that time that I didn't give the extra change back, or wasn't charged for that coffee after dinner at the restaurant.


You shall not lie.

Sigh.

You shall not covet...anything that belongs to your neighbor.


Not anything? I mean, just because I'm a little jealous, doesn't mean I'm unhappy with what You've given me.

Love the Lord with all your heart, and soul and mind.

Hmmm, that really does require some pretty hefty commitment.


Love your neighbor as yourself.

I'm pretty selfish, so I guess that means that I should be pretty generous to my neighbor.

Romans 2:28-29 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
So, yes, there probably are things that we should remove from our lives in order to have a heart that pleases God. And yet, at the same time, we can't simply focus on doing all those things that seem to be the right things to do, at the expense of truly turning our hearts towards God. In today's church culture, you can substitute any number of things for Paul's use of the word circumcision, such as baptism, church membership, attending organized Bible studies, or service in the ministry.

What I gathered in studying this particular piece of scripture is that the things I do might garner praise from men, but not God. I may care what others think of me, or how my walk of faith looks to others, but God doesn't care what others think of me one bit. He doesn't care if they think that I am the Christian of all Christians (because He knows), and He doesn't care if they think I'm not upholding the right image of a Christian (because He knows). It is freeing to actually move from doing what we think others expect us to do, and doing what we know pleases God. It's not easy. It's definitely a higher calling to be good instead of just looking good.

So now I think that the question is not whether or not to cut, but rather what it is that we must subject to the knife of the Holy Spirit. What is it in our lives that needs to be removed in order to help our hearts be fully obedient to Christ?

Index of Romans posts

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Called to be Holy

Check out my last post addressing this month's theme of Purpose over at Faithlifts.

A Group Blog for Christian Moms

Non-toy Gifts for Children

In her post introducing the Gift Idea Exchange, Gette mentioned "Several years ago, as we were trying to fight the battle of clutter, I asked the folks to think about alternative presents for the kids: ie, things that don't wind up on the floor for Mom to step on." She gives a couple of great ideas. If you are buying for kids, or want some suggestions of things that you could put on your children's wish lists, check out Non-Toy Gifts for Children, and leave your own ideas in the comments too. Here's mine:

I've been wanting to share this idea for a while, and it definitely fits as a non-clutter producing gift. In fact, I've given things from this company for Christmas and birthday gifts, and they make excellent baby gifts as well. I will admit to my bias upfront, since I am an agent for this company. Please email me if I can answer any questions about the products. Shameless plug: I would love for you to use me as your agent if you do decide to buy (just select Jennifer Donovan from the dropdown box when placing your order). Stuck on You
produces a range of vinyl stick-on or fabric iron-on personalized labels that stay put in the dishwasher, microwave or washing machine. The labels on Kyle's sippy cups have been there for over a year, and they are still on and readable. Additionally, the picture icons are great for prereaders who can identify "I am the ladybug," even if they can't read their name. The shaped labels and the sticky dot labels are original ways to make sure that you keep track of your stuff. Kids love their names on things and they love stickers, and labeled property is more likely to stay with you, so it's a great practical gift.

My favorite gift idea are the personalized notepads. Choose from 16 brilliant and colorful designs, whether you're into fairies, rockets, surfing or butterflies - there's something for everyone.




Since the items are personalized and manufactured overseas, you need to order 3 weeks before you need them to ensure on time delivery (although the East coast delivery time is often shorter than that).

This company has a presence in many countries, and is actually based in New Zealand. If you are from Canada, or elsewhere, see if your country is listed, and order through that link.

Check out more gift categories HERE.

Check out more helpful hints at Rocks in My Dryer today and each week at Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Tween is a Tween


My friend Aidan is a single mom. Not only that, but she is a single mom to a special needs child. Twelve year old Caitlin has Down's Syndrome. Because of that, Aidan has seen her lag developmentally in some areas. However in other areas, she is right on track. Caitlin demonstrates a complete understanding of what it means to be a tween--that stage in between child and teen. She has long ago given up her Disney movies for Lindsey Lohan and Hillary Duff shows and music. Kidz Bop has been in her turntable and on her lips for a couple of years. She recently received an ipod for her birthday and loves exploring new groups such as Barlow Girl and Zoegirl.

One morning before school, Caitlin woke up and got dressed as she did every morning. The problem is that it was March and she was wearing a Christmas shirt. "Caitlin, why don't you change your shirt. It's not time for a Christmas shirt." Caitlin wanted to stick with the shirt. She liked it. Aidan kept insisting that she change. Finally mother and tween found a shirt suitable to both of them and Caitlin changed. Unbeknownst to Aidan, Caitlin tucked that Christmas shirt into her backpack, and as soon as she got to school, she went into the bathroom and changed. At the end of the school day, she went back into the bathroom carrying the shirt that she had worn to school. The teacher stopped her. "I'm not sure what's going on, but you need to wear the shirt home that you wore at school all day." When Aidan got home, Caitlin sheepishly presented the note from the teacher explaining the situation.

Along with this typical sneaky pre-teen behavior has come physical change as well. Yes, Caitlin has started her period. Aidan had begun educating her about it each month as the opportunity presented itself. When that day came, Caitlin told Mom, and Mom set her up with the necessary supplies, giving her more of those crucial facts for taking care of herself. Caitlin hasn't missed a beat in taking care of herself. Fortunately, it started in the summer, without the added pressure of school, but when that first time of the month came once she was in school, she proudly walked into school with her purse over her shoulder, carrying those supplies that signified her as Woman.

None of us like the struggles that those teen years inevitably bring: defiance, independence and self-reliance as opposed to thinking that mom knows it all; strange music and strange clothes; mood swings and physical changes that come along with puberty. . . . but along with the frustration, Aidan has also experienced some delight over the emerging teen with whom she's sharing a home.

Amanda and Caitlin have been friends since Amanda was 2 and Caitlin was 6. At that time in Amanda's life, she would not even have thought to fear, judge or ridicule because someone was different. Her only criteria in a new friend was someone with whom she could run and play, or sculpt playdoh, or agree to the same show on TV. I am so thankful that because of the friendship with Caitlin she learned a lesson that different is no cause for alarm or avoidance.

Caitlin, 6, on the left and Amanda, 2 1/2, on the right

How do I know that this is true? In second grade, when I was looking at her class picture, several months into the school year, she was identifying each child by name. There was another teacher in the picture, and I was fairly sure that she did not have a full time aide this year, as her first grade class did, so I asked who the teacher was.

Amanda said, "That's Ms. Fitzgerald. She helps Stephanie."

"What does she help her with?" I asked.

"She doesn't talk very well," Amanda explained.

I came to find out that she had Down's Syndrome and had been mainstreamed into Amanda's class for part of the day. What amazed me was that I had never heard any mention about a girl in the class who couldn't talk well, or who needed help with Math, or any of these things. I think that part of it is Amanda's lack of judgment due to past experiences, but I also think that part of it is due to changes in children's sensitivity in general. I was delighted to see Stephanie at the first birthday party of the school year, included along with all the other girls in the class.

Aidan and Caitlin have moved away, so they are no longer a frequent, visible part of our lives. One thing that Aidan and I always worried about was that as Amanda grew up and matured, at some point she might outgrow Caitlin as a playmate. Even though they haven't seen each other in over 2 years, I would say that hasn't happened yet. At eight, Amanda is still solidly an elementary kid--enjoying kid stuff, kid shows, and kid play (and I am praying that she stays that way for a long time). Caitlin, at twelve, is as tween-aged as they come.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well, Since You Asked. . . .

Well, I guess technically, I asked you to ask me some questions. Thanks to all of you for your sweet birthday wishes and the one word that you each chose to describe me. I think that some of you put your finger on something that I might not readily identify myself as, but I suppose that each is accurate in its own way. A big thanks to Barb for suggesting that everyone do it, because she's right, what a rush. In fact, I also challenge each of you to do it, especially those who asked me these questions, and left me comments. Consider yourself tagged.

So, here are the answers:

What is something you've learned in your 30s you wish you'd have known in your 20s?

I love this question! Maturity (or years of experience or whatever) has mellowed me, to an extent. As I said in my post on what I loved about being 35,"there are times I should keep my mouth shut." I have learned that I am not always right, I do not always have to share everything that I know, and even if I am right, I do not always have to have the last word! I have not perfected this art of keeping my mouth shut, but I'm much better about it than I was when I was younger. I hope that maturity will continue softening the edges around me and helping me to put others' needs before my own.

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I had decided that I wanted to rekindle my desire to write. I know that discipline is a huge part of writing, and that the more one writes, the better one writes. I was not even a blog reader when I started mine, so all of that was a pleasant surprise to me. So, I continue to enjoy honing my writing skills, but I also love the interaction, both here at my blog and at other blogs I visit.

If you were a children's book, which one would you be?

The first thought that came to my brain was The Very Hungry caterpillar, ha ha ha. But then I thought of the books that we really enjoy around here, and I decided that Sandra Boynton's Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs! because I think it just describes life, "Dinosaurs happy, dinosaurs sad. Dinosaurs good and dinosaurs bad" (Kyle likes the bad paint splattered dinosaurs). And I especially like how at the end they are "looking back at you, to say goodbye, because we're through," and they are sad to have us go. I am sad to leave when I finish a good book. I am sad to say goodbye sometimes, too, but I enjoy the range of everything--good and bad, happy and sad, plump and lean, early and later. . . .

If you had to choose one author to read for the rest of your life, who would it be?

I won't take the cop-out answer and say, God. I really don't know, though. Jan Karon's Mitford books really touch me, and are ones I have read over and over again, but I'm not sure she's prolific enough for me to choose her. I might want someone with lots and lots of books that I can enjoy and mull over. I really don't pick "favorites" as far as authors etc, so I would have to think it through logically. How about Madeleine L'Engle? I still haven't even read everything she's written, but if I chose her, I'd have her fiction, of which I've read three or four, and really liked, plus some nonfiction, and the Wrinkle in Time series.

What one time as a parent do you wish you had as a "do-over?"

Well, there was that time that I yelled at Amanda in a really ugly voice, and I saw her sadness right there. Oh, wait, I forgot about the time that I was so frustrated and impatient that I yelled really loud at her as she was getting ready for bed, and we had company downstairs. Maybe the time that I practically pushed her out of the car because she was dawdling. Many events, same do-over. I wish I could take back the words. I can't, but I keep trying to keep them in instead.

You live in Connecticut. Are you a native or a transplant? Are you a born and bred New Englander?

Nope. I'm a Texan (not by birth, but as we say, I got there as quickly as I could!). We have lived here for two years and love it.

Have you been to the Danbury Fair Mall and did you ride the carousel--top or bottom?


Yes, I sort of live in the Danbury area, so I have been several times (although I'm not a weekly mall-goer). I just rode the carousel my first time a few months ago. My daughter wanted to ride on the top, and she did, but I was riding with my 2 year old, and he was surprisingly squeamish, so we just sat in one of the big cup things (that didn't spin).

What's your favorite thing about living in Connecticut?

It's beautiful. I love the four seasons, and I love that we can live in a country or small town type environment, yet have good schools and amenities, and like-minded folks around us. Being a big city suburb girl (from Houston), it's just like night and day.

What is your idea of a date, no holds barred, with your hubby?

I can say with glee that I have experienced this date, and hope to again (and again) soon! Since we live away from any of our family, we haven't been able to travel together as much as we did in Houston (a yearly trip together and maybe an overnight or two thrown in). But here we are less than 2 hours from New York City (which we love as well), and we have found a college girl who we love to have babysit overnight. So, a wonderful date that we had recently, and I would love to relive just as is, is to go into New York City, have a casual dinner (we ate at Chipotle, which they have in the City, but we don't have here in CT, and since we love Mexican food, it was perfect). Then we browsed quietly and separately at a bookstore. Then we went over to Broadway to see a show, and spent the night in a hotel. We had breakfast together and then rode the train in, him getting off at his office and me heading back home.

What type of hairspray to you use?

None, really. I buy what's cheap (Suave usually), but I don't use it daily.

Can you share a joke that made you laugh out loud, I mean really guffaw?

Share this one with the kids:

Knock, Knock.

Who's There?

Interrupting Cow.

Interruptin--


MOOO!

What author has inspired you most in your walk with Christ? What person that you know has been your best mentor?


I think that I might have to say Elizabeth George as the author. Her book A Woman After God's Own Heart truly changed my outlook about my role in life. I've read another of her books that I enjoyed, and also read a little Anne Ortland, who she recommended.

As far as a real person, I think that I have to say that the person who most inspires me would be Katrina. She is younger than I am, but so wise in the ways of the Word. She is different from me in many ways, but also very similar. She is one who I can always count on to listen and give me sound godly counsel, and hold me to a standard that I should be keeping. She has shown faithfulness and perseverance in her walk with the Lord and as her role of wife and mom that I strive to emulate.

When are you coming to visit me?

Well, Danielle, since you called me funny, it may be sooner, but my answer to you would be two years ago, and when are you coming to visit me?

Wishing on Dandelions Review

I enjoyed Wishing on Dandelions, this second novel by author Mary DeMuth. The writing was poetic, but also fast-paced narrative, with the words flowing into the next seemlessly. An example of this writing is, "He left out the back door, as she offered the glass of tea to an empty space."

Reading this book, I was still rooting for Maranatha. Since her character has aged eight years since I became acquainted with her in Watching the Tree Limbs, it was fulfilling for me to see her strength of character developed in spite of no early positive influences, and lonliness due to lack of love and security. She knows what is right and minds her manners. She lives without prejudice in a place and time when it is so deeply ingrained that it is hard to overcome. She longs to be known, but fears to open up.

One thing that I struggled with early on was that she was constantly asking God to show her proof that He loved her. But then I began thinking about it, and realized that her asking was an expression of her faith in itself. She had been without love for so long that she did not feel that she had any right to be loved. The fact that she even feels that she has the right to ask for this, shows her realization of God's love as something that she does deserve, but she still longs for proof to silence the skeptical thoughts that have been sown in her mind for her whole life.

As with the first novel, this book deals with a character's struggle in the midst of trial, yet it's within a context of hope, not doom and despair. In fact, if you avoided the first novel due to the subject of sexual abuse, you could definitely read this one without the context of the first one, although I would still highly recommend that you read Watching the Tree Limbs as well.

I think that anyone who has endured sexual abuse, or is close to someone who has, should read these books together, since we, the readers, experience the gradually healing to wholeness that Maranatha experiences. I think that these books are perfectly appropriate for teens to read, as well. Perhaps the struggle that a teen has (with God, or with life) is not with sexual abuse, but with another hurt such as divorce, abandonment or some other disappointment--that person could relate to Maranatha's struggle as well. Even though this book is written in the third person, DeMuth has done what every writer has wanted to do since Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye--write in the voice of a teenager.

I will close with a poem from the book:

Swaddled with aching truth,
You speak.
Tangled in listless hope,
You mourn.
Smothered from slavery,
You breathe.
Crumpled by circumstance,
You live.

And I smile to see it.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

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My Review for Watching the Tree Limbs

My Interview with author Mary DeMuth

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Fall Reading Challenge: four finished, making progress on six others, four still in the wings (and, um, two almost finished that aren't even in the challenge).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Remembering

I really enjoyed my grandmother's visit. She left the day before my birthday, so she left me this very sweet card:
On your 35th birthday (ooh--I'm liking this already, because she's off a year), think back on the other 34 and remember things that you did on those days. Bring the memories back and see what happens. You will remember your friends at that time in life and all the fun things that you did at each. I pray that you will have a "happy happy," (our family slang--happy happy instead of birthday). You have matured to a very eventful young wife and mother. Mimi wishes for you to have many more birthdays that you and I can be together some other times so I can "let" you win at Skip-Bo (the score for the week was me, 9 games--Mimi, 2). I love you very much. I want to say thanks to you for your help during and after my darling husband's death. I will always remember and love you and yours.
Anyway, when you have lived and loved for 86 years, shouldn't people take your advice? So, in Mimi's honor, I am taking her advice and thinking back on some of my earlier birthdays, in general--what I did in those days and the friends with whom I did it:

2001-present
I have enjoyed celebrating my last 15 birthdays or so with Terry and my family. Terry is a big Quality Time sort of guy (which is dearer and dearer to me as we grow up together--that he still just wants to hang out with me). So my birthday celebrations are usually a special date for us, with a nice dinner out. I think that last year we saw the Producers in NYC, which was awesome. Having kids makes the family celebrations great, too, because an 8 year old really knows how to pull out all the stops in a birthday party.

Additionally, I know that I have spent many good moments with friends. Last year, new friends here in Connecticut honored me with a birthday brunch. I don't know specifically about birthdays, but I know that we spent many a fun night eating out, laughing and playing games with friends from our church in Houston. We had the blessing of family around there at that time, too, who really did "know me when."

1997-2000
In Portland I don't remember any birthday celebrations, but I do remember dear neighbors. We moved there, knowing nothing about the area or anything, and God placed us on a wonderful street. There were a couple of mentor moms, a few years down the road from me with kids in school, and a few young soon-to-be-moms just like me. These nice ladies gave me a "neighborhood shower," when I was pregnant with Amanda. We had only lived there 7 or 8 months, and they invited everyone--even people that none of us knew very well.

1993-1997
These were our "young married kidless" years. I guess that they are long enough and far-removed enough that I am a little nostalgic about them. We also played lots of games and laughed a lot. We even went through a house-wrapping stage (or TPing or rolling or whatever you call it in your area). Yes, we wrapped the minister of music's house, who was just a few years older than us, and we let the teenagers take the rap for it (no pun intended, but it's pretty punny). Then we started wrapping each others' homes as well. I remember cleaning up my first home's first christening of the white stuff. My friend recently showed me a picture of myself in a sombrero being sung to. I don't even remember that, but we had all gone out to celebrate some "big" birthday of mine--probably 25 or something! Seems like nothing now.

1988-1992
The College Years--that first fall birthday away from home was hard. My dad did come up to visit that weekend, and it was nice, but I distinctly remember being alone. My freshman roommate had bought me a birthday cake/cookie, which was really sweet, but then she had a date or something. I think that experience made me realize that things really do change when you leave home (on top of the fact that when I would return home on weekends to my parents and my sister, they were doing things differently than when I lived there!). I'm pretty sure that after that year, I didn't feel alone. I had good friends, and since my roommate the last two years was a HUGE birthday person (who counted down the days to her birthday on our whiteboard outside the door for at least a month), I know that she didn't let any go by. I do remember going out for my 21st birthday with her and my freshman roommate. She was mad that I wasn't ordering a "drink" for myself. I was going through a temperance phase, apparently (which I live in now).

1981-1987
Speaking of wrapping stories--a longtime friend (a guy) had a birthday the same week as mine, so often I was having a girl's slumber party, and he had guys over at his house the same weekend. Inevitably, they would wrap my house, and one year they got it good! There were long TP streamers draped over the trees, completely blanketing them in white. They had rolled out the words "Happy Birthday" on the lawn. I did love birthday parties, and Mom always let me have friends over (and have cake fights later). I don't know why I would want to have sleepovers, though, because I do always remember crying and having hurt feelings. But I also fondly remember eating lots of junk food, playing "Make Me Laugh," when you're so tired that anything makes you laugh. I remember the surprise 16th birthday party that my friends and my mom planned for me. I also remember being delighted at the effort, but being slightly disappointed because I was the last of "my group" to turn 16, and we had celebrated the other two by going out to dinner (driving on our own, of course), and I was looking forward to that rite of passage.

1970-1980
Do I really remember anything about these years? I have vivid picture-induced memories of my first birthday in the house I grew up in. I was wearing a long white dress with red piping (and a lace up bodice). I was stylin' for 1976 or 1977. Mimi had made me a cake--one of those Wilton pans with the little frosting rosettes. I had friends from my old neighborhood across town, my sister, and my cousin, and maybe a new friend or two? I don't know what we did, but I can just see us sitting around the table (which was painted harvest gold and reddish orange), surrounded by the harvest gold and avocado green wallpaper of the breakfast room. . . .

I hope you enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. I sure did. Thanks for suggesting it, Mimi.

It's my birthday, and I'll (_____) if I want to

You see, I can't decide what the (____) should be.

Should I
  • Take Barb up on the opportunity to do the One Word Meme? She said that it's a real boost--the idea is that you ask your readers to pick the one word that describes you best.

  • So, my birthday is Saturday, and I'm post dating this because I am allowing "all of you" the opportunity to read, comment or do whatever you would like over these next few days, since weekends are kind of slow.

    Take your pick--leave me a comment, and "introduce" yourself--especially if you read, but don't often comment (I wonder about all of you who do that and would love to get to know you better by hearing from you in the comments), OR, ask me a question right in the comments or you can email me, OR describe me with one word, OR better yet, do all three.

    So, lurkers, friends, family--this means you. You can comment anonymously (but give me your initials or something), or as "other" with your name there. I don't want to fill in that blank up there with "cry," so pick one of the three options and make my day, since I'm now on the backside of 30, and I might need a little lift. Actually, I anticipate that everything that I said here about being 35 will be just as true in this my 36th year.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My Abilities

Heather is doing a series about the Shape of Our Faith. This week's topic is on our abilities.

So, for this week, I am asking that you take a good look back over your life. What abilities do you have? What talents? What have you learned to do or had to do that might be useful to God? Is there anything that you are sure God could never use for His glory? Anything that you are sure He would use? Have you ever been surprised by what He has chosen to use? Why? Has He ever used your weakness when you expected Him to use your strength? Has He ever grown you through a weakness in your ability? Have you ever jumped in and used an ability and realized that it was not His will?

Many things come easily to me. I tend to be a quick learner, I can do new things easily and teach myself as I go along. I am not a perfectionist, so I can give things the amount of effort that is sufficient for the job, instead of stressing myself out over minor details. I am learning that these traits of mine (whether nurture or nature) help me to do a lot of things for the Lord, as needed. Specifically, my talents and spiritual gifts are in teaching and exhorting with a dab of hospitality and encouragement thrown in, and tied up with a nice bow of leadership (but not necessarily the details of administration).

Have I ever jumped in an used an ability and realized it wasn't His will? Yes. I was asked to be the assistant coordinator for the ladies' retreat at a church which I had been attending for less than a year. It turns out that a big part of the job was in recruiting the people to head up the various committees. I didn't really know a lot of people, so this was hard for me. Then, the coordinator's husband became very ill, so I basically planned most of it on my own. I floundered. I think that the retreat turned out okay, but I felt disorganized, unsuccessful and unfulfilled. Now before saying yes, I make sure that I fully understand what is involved, instead of just assuming that I can handle it.

From that experience, I learned that even though I can fill in to a spot in a pinch, I should really make sure that a new long term ministry fits into my heart's passion, which I believe has been planted by God. Is it something I really want to do? Is it something that the Lord really wants me to do? I love encouraging others (especially women) to study the Bible and make life-changing application from it. I have also enjoyed teaching children, especially lately. It was something that I didn't necessarily see as a calling, but my gifts fit it, there's always a need, and now God is really using it and filling my heart with a real love for it.

Because of this self-confidence and God-given ease in doing a lot of things, my biggest weakness is pride. So, to answer the question about my weaknesses being used--yes, they have been. As I have become aware of my pride, and tried to clothe myself in humility, I have had a few instances where I needed to teach or lead and did not have the time to prepare. Instead, I took the time to pray. It has been absolutely amazing to see God combine my talents and abilities with His power and choice to work in me. When I am serving Him, I do think that the work deserves nothing but my best effort, but I have to say that the times when I didn't have the effort to give are the times that stand out as "my best" work.

What's the Shape of Your Faith? Link up each Friday at Graced by Christ.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Homemade Gift Ideas

GiBee at Kisses of Sunshine is hosting Homemade with Love on October 23. On that day, she will have a Mr. Linky for you to post ideas, including recipes and instructions, for all of those homemade gift ideas that we can use to bless our neighbors, friends, bus drivers and more. So, this is to give you some notice to come up with your own great ideas and link up on Monday. I will use her page with all of the links as the link for Homemade Gift Ideas on my Gift Idea Exchange main page. So, check out her link for all the information, and as a bonus, many ideas for celebrating Christmas in your home as well! And come back after October 23rd to check out all of the other great ideas submitted from readers like you.



Thanks to those of you who have posted or linked to the Gift Idea Exchange. I have updated the page with some new categories, submitted by others, so check it out, and even more importantly, dig down deep in your brain and share! Is anyone a treasure trove of ideas for men? Am I wrong, or are they the hardest to buy for?? I mean, I do okay with my own husband, but what about those brothers in law (actually, my own brothers in law are fairly easy, too), and fathers and grandfathers? If any of you have just one or two great ideas, start a post on your site, let me know, and I will use that post as the main link and maybe some ideas will trickle in. . . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Minty Memories

Mimi's house is Chocolate Mint Pistachio Cake, warm from the oven with mint candies melting over the top. Last year we were going to be staying with her for a while, and I specifically requested the pistachio mint cake. It used to be a regular feature in her kitchen, but it had been a while since it had made an appearance. Perhaps the fact that I had my own daughter with whom I could share this tradition jogged my memory. My sister was overjoyed as well. "That was always my favorite!" she agreed. One thing that is so wonderful about it is that the children can unwrap all of those foil covered mints that go on top of the cake. Then when it comes out of the oven, they can lay them in a row over the top of the warm cake, watching as they harden into a shiny topping. As good as it was to eat, I think that one thing that made this my favorite was the part I got to play in helping my grandmother make it.

Cooking with a child takes a little longer and is a little messier, but it is such a fun activity and it creates memories for the child and the adult, not to mention building skills and self-esteem for the child. They are so proud of something that they help to create, and one day they will be cooking for you, not with you.

As anticipated, my daughter loved the cake as well. It's moist, chocolatey, minty and green. What kid doesn't like green food? Because of the color, this cake is especially good to serve at Christmas or as a St. Patrick's Day treat, especially if the batter is enhanced with a couple of drops of green food coloring.

Chocolate Mint Pistachio Cake
, as made with a child helper

1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
1 4 serving box of pistachio pudding
3 eggs
3/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups of chocolate chips or chunks
1 13 oz bag of wrapped chocolate peppermint patties
green food coloring, optional

Cut open the bag of cake mix and let your little helper pour it in the bowl. Do the same with the pudding mix. Using a liquid measuring cup (1 cup or larger), show your helper the 3/4 cup mark, and ask her to tell you when to stop pouring the cooking oil. Let your helper pour the oil into the mix. Add the water to the mix. If your helper wants to try cracking the eggs, let her do so into the measuring cup so that it's easy to fish out any shells that might get in. I also find it handy to have paper towels ready to wipe the egg ick off little fingers. Mix the eggs a bit before adding them to the batter. If you would like to add a couple of drops of food coloring to the batter, do so now.

Even a young child can use one of the small hand held mixers, so let her mix the batter with you standing by, or even help you by putting her little hand over yours. Add the chocolate chips, and yes, the child can eat a couple of them right now (You can, too. I won't tell)! Let your helper stir the chocolate chips in with a big wooden spoon.

Bake the cake in a 9 x 13 inch sheet cake pan as directed on the box. While it's baking, let the child unwrap the mint candies. Try to hold off on sampling any, to be sure you have enough to cover the cake.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, lay the candies in rows, just touching, over the whole cake. An older child can help with this, being careful to avoid the hot cake pan. After the cake's heat softens the candies, spread them a bit with a spatula. If they don't soften, return to the oven for a couple of minutes.

Let the cake cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Romans: God's Kindness



Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance (Romans 2:4)?
God has been teaching my husband to be merciful and kind and patient in dealing with the exploits of his wife lately. A few recent, very true, examples:
  • paying a large credit card bill out of the wrong account, narrowly missing a big bounce
  • narrowly missing someone's mailbox, which knocked off my side mirror on my car (but didn't seem to damage the mailbox)
  • and most recently, overshooting the garage and slamming into the house.
These are just the big things that I recall from only the last six months. Now these were all careless errors on my part, deserving of judgment. I hated to own up to my errors, worrying about his response, which would have been justified. But, like I said, God's been teaching him. Terry has been growing in tolerance and patience and kindness. He loves me just as I am and accepts me without reservation. Now, does his kindness cause me to disrespect him and be more careless with my driving (I'm not sure that is possible actually) and less careful with our finances? No, just the opposite, actually.

Since Terry is more financially savvy than I am and I can be more of a spender than he is, we recently went to a cash budget system at my request. This has helped me to obey his wishes on our monthly spending. Before, I would overspend "just a little" each week, often for good causes, like stocking up on a great deal at the grocery store, which ended up in a larger overage for the month. Now the law--the guidelines of the budget--has pointed to my disobedience, and led to repentence under the guidance of his kindness.

Because of the kindness, I want to please him more. I still fail, like when I crash into our house with our own car in broad daylight, but knowing that I will most likely be mercifully forgiven, I am able to own up to sin and admit that it is wrong (repent).

I am thankful that my husband is a godly man who reminds me of the attributes of God. It helps to see examples in the flesh. God is kind. He has given us the law, but He has provided a solution for us all caught in the hopelessness of sin. Because of this, I draw nearer to Him, embracing His kindness and patience and tolerance of my sin, while it paradoxically becomes more and more detestable to me as a result of His kind and complete love.

Index of Romans posts

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hi, I'm "Ro-Kare-Jennifer"

My grandmother Mimi is here this week. I am so proud of her for coming on her own. We have big plans for the week. She's already been blown away by the beautiful New England Fall (being from Texas, the land of one, maybe two, seasons--hot and not hot). Tomorrow we are taking a lovely drive to a nice little town, where we will drive country roads, see a gorgeous waterfall, and eat a pastry or two in town if we so desire. Wednesday I'm taking her into "the city" (as those of us in the New York area call Manhattan), and we're going to see the Phantom of the Opera.

So, since she's here, I've gone from being "Jennifer," or "Mom," or "Honey," to my childhood name of "Ro-Kare-Jennifer." Roselyn is my mom, and Karen is my sister, to me, but to Mimi they are Jen-Kare-Roselyn or Ro-Jen-Karen. Does anyone in your family call the role when they are trying to get your attention? Do you in your own family? I know that I am most guilty of calling Kyle, Shadow or Shadow, Kyle. Will you agree with me to the similarities between a dog and a toddler underfoot when you are trying to get dinner ready?

I have a few advance posts ready, and I'm sure I'll come up with much to say, but if I'm a bit scarce over the next week, that's why.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Royal Diaries, Elizabeth I

In writing the review of this book, I will remind you that The Royal Diaries, Elizabeth I is a children's book in a children's series, and I am not a child. However that has not hindered me from enjoying some books as much as a child in the target age range would. This book is written for ages 9 - 12. I think that my eight year old daughter might like some of the books in this series, and I would also like to explore some more of them. This book didn't really capture me until I read the back part of the book, the glimpse into history, which I did about halfway through. For some reason, that gave it more context and interest for me. Yes, I know the basic history about Henry VIII, but this helped, so I think it might actually be beneficial, especially for a child, to explore this section before reading the fictional diary.

I did enjoy the interesting details of the sixteenth century that were included from a child's view, such as dealing with fleas and nits and bathing only every few weeks. The descriptions of children's pastimes, including play and school, was also informative. I also think that many children could relate to her desire to please and be loved by her father, Henry VIII, and her turmoil in being part of a blended family.

The short journal entries of the diary format was also interesting, but I'm not sure if that made it more fast paced or if it just afforded me more opportunities to place my bookmark.

For fiction that also teaches history through the eyes of a child of the age, I would recommend the American Girl's Historical Collection of stories. Amanda and I both really love all of Kit's Depression era stories, but Addy's (Civil War), Kirsten's (prairie settler), Felicity's (Colonial), Molly's (World War II) and Josefina's (Spanish America) are good reads, too. We haven't gotten to the others yet.

Read other reviews each Saturday, or link your own, at Semicolon.

+++ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ +++ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ +++ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ +++


Fall Reading Challenge: three finished, making progress on five others, six still in the wings (and, um, two started that aren't even in the challenge).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Excellence

I'm an ENTJ. Actually, that particular description I linked to included some interesting things that I hadn't heard before. I love personality stuff. Myers-Briggs, temprament studies, birth order, you name it--I like it. I posted my kudos about The Birth Order Book in my review last week. One quality that many firstborns share is that we are perfectionists. That's not me. Yes, I'm a high-achiever, but in some weird warped way, I'm also pretty lazy, and subscribe to the "why go for the A when the assignment is just pass/fail" theory for most things in my life. I didn't make straight A's in school, or even strive for A's. I was more a "B will do" sort of student. Honestly, that mentality has been good for me. It allows me to do things that I wouldn't normally do if I couldn't achieve excellence.

For example, I invite people into my home in its pretty much normal state. Yes, I run the vacuum and brush the toilet bowl and make sure that the kitchen is fairly presentable and the toys are sort of contained, but my normal life includes some crumbs under the table and some dog hair in the corners and even dirty dishes, and lots of piles (of books, mail, newspapers, magazines etc.). Don't you wanna come over now? But seriously, I am glad that my attitude allows me to be content with that, because since I am not, nor will I ever be, a neat freak, if I waited for everything to be perfect in my home, I would not ever be able to open the doors to someone new. Someone came to lunch yesterday, in fact, who has only seen my home when she's dropped off or picked up her daughter. There's no telling what it looked like then, but now she's coming for a planned lunch date. I did use the excuse to do some organizing/putting away that probably should've been done already, and I did mop the kitchen floor (which again, doesn't happen as much as it should), but things weren't perfect. I hope that doesn't show a lack of respect for her. I've been told it sets people at ease, and I hope that's true. So, I give myself an A for making the effort of inviting her over. But lovely surroundings might earn me a C--just passing (or maybe a B since I did make an effort). And I kept it simple--just a salad (but a tasty one that she did enjoy), but nothing else, so maybe that gives me a B.

I do have a few regrets about things that I wish I had put more effort into, so when I see someone who strives for excellence, it sort of puts me in awe. A friend of mine (who is nameless and linkless by choice), has started a blog. It's not listed and she's only told a couple of people about it, I think. She wants it to be private. But she still publishes it with excellence. She links to other blogs, she adds lovely pictures, she asks questions. It's wonderful. And she's not doing it with excellence in order to grow her readership, or impress someone, or get 15 comments on a post, or cause someone to link to her. I guess she does it that way because that is who she is.

I think she's a first born. . . .

Do you always try to earn the A, or do you go for a passing grade at times? In what areas do you strive for excellence and where do you let things go? Are you failing in any subjects right now? What can you do to bring up your grade?

Also, if you've been typed (in any type of personality test), and you think it's accurate, I'd love to hear it. You can label yourself when you comment if you like so that we can all get to know each other better.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Laugh More

Go read this post first, please. It gave me chills, in a good, thoughtful, embrace-what-we-have sort of way. Click it now, and a new window will open up. Read and return. . . . I'll wait.

I need to laugh with my kids more, just as Heather described. I need to let them laugh. Can I admit to all of you here that sometimes I get irritated at the mayhem? I'm quite sure I'm not the only one, but to be irritated at the joyful merriment of Amanda and her friends or Amanda and Kyle? How sad is that? Their joy (no matter how loud and frenzied) should bring me joy. Now, in my defense, as you also know if you are often around children, joyful merriment between a toddler and his much older sister often turns into shrieks, not of delight but of annoyance, which does not stop the older sister's antics. But, seriously, I often (but apparently not often enough) ask in prayer concerning my children that I will delight in them. I want to love that sound, and I want to join right in more often.

If you feel so led, pray for Emma Grace, and I'll ask you to pray for her Mommy too.


Lord, thank you for entrusting me to raise Amanda and Kyle. Thank you for their strong joyful personalities. Help me to delight in them and to give them the boundaries that they need to continue and explore those personalities in way that is honoring to You and to the family. Let our home be filled with laughter and joy.

I pray for Heather. Thank you for the strength that you give her each day. Thank you for her openness to share her lessons--her ups and her downs--with those of us who read her blog. Help her to enjoy each day with Emma Kate, unhindered by worry or fear. Strengthen and protect Emma Kate's body and keep her spirit strong as well.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gifts From Your Children

Before my sister-in-law had kids, she pointed out that because we had kids, it made gift giving much easier (specifically to the hard-to-buy for grandparents). Yes, between my husband and me, we still have three grandparents living, and it's hard to always come up for options for them.

So, what has worked for me is to plaster my children's faces on something, and call it a gift. One that I particularly like is a one page laminated calendar that you can order very cheaply at any Kinkos. I like to add magnet strips to the back, and it's perfect for the refrigerator. This has been a hit with our parents and grandparents alike.

Another stroke of genius which was very well received is these coasters. Remember that they take time, so you should think of what you might want to order now if you don't want to pay for quick rush service, which I ended up doing this particular year. I liked these, because I could select six different pictures, and they come in a neat little stand (which I do not see listed, so you might call and ask or search for another company), which is perfect for display. Would you not have loved to receive coasters with these cute pictures as my family did in 2004?




I just saw that dotPhoto is offering free shipping all October, and they make all the mugs, T-shirts, etc (even a chocolate photo card!).

Framed portraits are always well-received as well. Generally, you are going to be passing our portraits at your own personal expense anyway, so why not give them as a Christmas, Mother's Day or Father's Day gift instead? Something requiring much more coordination, especially if your family is spread across the miles, is a "cousin picture." Try to get all the cousins of one particular side together for a picture. This picture was a delight to everyone who received it for Mother's Day. Hmmm, we might need to try to make another appointment at Thanksgiving. . . . This idea is of course not new or original. This picture was taken in 1973: me, sister in the middle, cousin on the right.



What about you? What sweet memoirs of childhood have you given or received as a priceless gift? What unique, original or fun photo gifts do you enjoy?

What is the Gift Idea Exchange? See the post here for the info and other gift ideas.

Great Gifts for Cooks

I went to Costco last week. Oh, it's such a wonderfully dangerous place for me, especially at Christmas (which in retail world is apparently now October 1), when they have all of their gift items out, so their book and toy departments are just overstocked with wonderful bargain-priced items that are hard to resist. I came across these two items that I just had to share and which might be finding a place under my tree for a special someone.

The first book I happened upon (and yes, purchased) was Taste of Home Cookbook. If you are not familiar with the Reiman Publication magazines, they are wonderful. Each issue is jam-packed with photos and practical recipes, and no ads. In fact, I have given subscriptions to these magazines to many. This cookbook is a compiliation of their best and most requested magazines. Any home cook would love this. But what I could not pass up, is that for slightly less than $17 at Costco (I think), I got not only this great spiral bound, thick, photo packed cookbook, but also a year's subscription to Taste of Home, which usually costs that much alone! The good news for all of you non-Costco afficianados is that the amazon link above offers almost the same deal--at $17.97. It doesn't mention the free subscription, but I would assume that it's in there, because the way this was packaged is shrink wrapped with the subscription card inside, so this is a two for one deal (or as I think will happen in my case, one gift, and one bonus for ME!).

The other temptation for me (which I didn't buy, but I'm thinking that I will when I return), is Rachael Ray's Classic 30 Minute Meals. I am not the biggest of her fans, but I do enjoy her fun and simple approach to cooking and she's very popular with many. This cookbook looks like something I would like to own, and something that I know my sister-in-law would enjoy (don't look, Dana). What's odd, is that when I tried to link to it at amazon, it is in pre-order status, for a great price of $13.57, but I saw it on the shelves (or table as it were) at Costco, for the amazing price of $11, I believe.

Good books, made even better by the incredible prices.

I love to cook (and actually more than cooking, I love to read about cooking--cookbooks, recipes, etc). Magazines are a great gift, as well. They last all year long! My new favorite cooking magazine is Everyday Food. A search on ebay turned up these results, for as little as $9 for year (half price). I have ordered many magazines this way and have not yet been disappointed.

Other gift categories are listed here.

What other gifts have you given for those who love to cook (or hate it, but appreciate the helpful gifts, since they have to do it anyway)? If you love to cook, what sorts of things are on your gift list?

Will you consider participating in the Gift Idea Exchange, so we can all spread our ideas for gifts this Christmas? See all the details here. Cheap, useful and fun gifts always work for me. See other tips for the week over at Rocks in my Dryer (who is making me feel better about getting into Christmas already, because her tip is Christmasy, too).

Join Me at FaithLifts

A Group Blog for Christian Moms

I am pleased to announce my affiliation with Faith Lifts. Every other Wednesday, I will be contributing. Please check out my first post today on October's theme, purpose, Purpose in the Ordinary. Notice the button on my sidebar? Click it every day to get a new lift by one of the great contributors. Check out the Meme on Mondays to give your own perspective each week.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gift Idea Exchange

What is it that makes a "great gift" for you? I know that for me the hallmarks of finding a great gift for someone include something that was wanted or will be enjoyed, originality, thoughtfulness (fitting the gift to the receiver of the gift), and as a bonus, value (getting a lot of bang for your buck).

I am not always big on ideas. I have had a few good ones, but since I've used them and can't use them again, I can pass them on to you. I'm sure that most of you have one or two really great ideas as well. Let's consider our exchange of these great ideas our little bloggy Christmas gifts to one another.

The more people we have participating, the more valuable it will be to all of us. As an incentive to spread the word, I will be giving out a beautiful book on traditions (because what is gift giving but a great tradition?). If you do a post (or a sentence somewhere in another post) introducing this idea and linking to this post, and preferibly display the icon (small or large) in your sidebar so that others can see and it and come participate as well, you will be eligible to win Together, Creating Family Traditions. Just leave me a comment here if you link up. I will draw the name of the winner right after Thanksgiving.

Always link back to this post, because I will keep a running list of all the new categories and ideas.

How can you participate? By doing any or all of the following:
1. Introduce your readers to this idea by linking to this post and asking them to get involved. Feel free to grab a button for your sidebar or for your post.

2. Leaving your comments in the specific posts with your own ideas--gifts you've given, received, or would love to receive, in any or all of these categories. You can provide a link to a site or announce a sale (online or in store) that we should all take advantage of. You can also link to your post on your website sharing your idea, within the comment here, by using the steps listed here.

3. If you want to start a post on an idea that hasn't been covered, for example, teens, great gifts under $10, husbands, just comment here on this main post that you started a post about ___, and then I will add the link to that new category here on this post, so that everyone can come and read your idea, and build on the idea by leaving their own comments as well.

4. Check back here at Snapshot often. I will have the small button in my sidebar with links to all the current ideas!

Is this as clear as mud? Any questions or suggestions? Please ask by commenting or emailing me.

If you would like to keep a small button (or a big one) in your sidebar as a permanent link, you can use the code at the bottom of the post. If you would like to use either of these in your post introducing the idea or sharing your own, that is fine, too.


Categories of Great Gifts--Read the comments at each link for additional ideas in the category, and add your own new ideas in the comments. If you have a new category that you would like to start on your blog, email me, and I'll link it up.

For Cooks
From Your Children
Non-toy Gifts for Children (thread hosted by Gette)
Games as Gifts, for all ages (thread hosted by Katrina)
Gifts Homemade with Love, gift themes and general creativity (thread and Mr. Linky hosted by GiBee)

Also, PezMama linked to her idea for a personalized photo album in the comments here. She includes pictures, and even for you non-crafty types, it doesn't look too hard. Check it out.

So keep the ideas coming--either just a great idea suitable for many types (leave or link in comments) or start a great new category.


Small button:



<a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://jennifersnapshot.blogspot.com/2006/10/gift-idea-exchange.html"><img style="margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer;" src="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/936/1762/200/giesm.0.jpg" alt="" border="0" /></a>

Big button (use this code for the button seen at top of post):
<a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://jennifersnapshot.blogspot.com/2006/10/gift-idea-exchange.html"><img style="margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer; width: 173px; height: 173px;" src="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/936/1762/200/giebutton.jpg" alt="" border="0" />

Monday, October 09, 2006

Romans: Given Over

If you haven't read this post on Romans 1:21, please read it first. This is a continuation of those thoughts. Also, this is a mature subject meant for adult eyes.

"How dare she be so ungrateful," I thought. "She chose what she wanted to do, and I let her. Now instead of saying 'thanks mom' for bringing her to this fun place, she is complaining that she didn't get to ride something a second time! Why I ought to just. . . " To just what? Show her what's it's really like to miss out on fun? Never do anything fun with her again? Let her see what it's like not to have a Mommy who loves her?

God giving them over is a response to their ingratitude and lack of glorification (proper acknowledgement of Him). My poor example is not the same at all, but I think that it helps clarify the reaction to our behavior. Also, God giving them over is not the same as giving in (to our whining or complaining). It's more like Him allowing them to experience the true consequences of their rebellion--not only physically, but spiritually as well.

I couldn't help but think of "tough love" parenting (which I am not endorsing, because I am unfamiliar with the specifics beyond my high school movie of the week experiences), where you've warned, rebuked, punished, and reasoned all you can to no avail. At some point, that wayward child must be left to see and fully experience the results of his own poor choices.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another (Romans 1:24).

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Romans 1: 26 - 27).

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what out not to be done (Romans 1:28).

Yes, these passages are stating unequivacably that homosexuality is wrong. I don't feel the need to defend this, but I do want to expound upon it a bit. I find it interesting that when left to their own devices and choices, that the people were first given over to sexual sin. We already discussed the inability to glorify God that had already been happening at this time. When there is no god to whom we feel accountable, we become more focused on self. If we want to do only what seems best for us right then at the moment, with no limits, there is no reason to try to control our sexual desires. I don't know of anyone who has not struggled with sexual sin in one way or another. It's something that is hard to say no to, because it's fun and harmless, right? Sex outside of marriage is just as sinful as a homosexual lifestyle. There is no difference, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Lest you still feel safe and secure in simply skimming over these verses for yourself and pointing a finger at those sinners who choose a homosexual lifestyle, I would like to share the additional list of sins that follows:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (Romans 1:29-31).

I would hope that after reading that list, none of us would still be pointing fingers. The key is not to have a critical spirit towards the sins of others, but to examine our own lives. Also, know that this kind of evil in all its fullness is only ascribed to a depraved mind. Depravity is complete moral corruption. God only gives those over to depraved minds who have continually denied the truth of who He is. If you have been ignoring God, won't you take your golden ticket now? If you have accepted Christ's death on behalf of your sins, please don't be weighed down by your own sin. Confess it, hate it, but don't live under condemnation.

All of God's word is valuable to study. Some is harder than others, but hang in. Next up is God's kindness.

Note: One of the best explanations I've ever read of our loving response as Christians to friends and loved ones who are living the homosexual lifestyle was in this post at Seek First His Kingdom called Just Love Them. I invite you to prayerfully consider her words.

Index of Romans posts