Saturday, December 30, 2006

Northanger Abbey

I enjoyed Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen a good bit. The book jacket described it as "the most joyous of Jane Austen's novels," so I looked forward to a light and encouraging read. That is pretty much how I would describe it. I wanted to read something by Jane Austen, because I wasn't sure I ever had. I may have read Pride and Prejudice in school, and I know I've seen the movie, and the movie of Emma as well.

Jane Austen was able to draw me into her characters, even with a somewhat detached third-person sort of story-telling. She begins the story about Catherine, the unlikely heroine, and periodically inserts her narrator's voice in this way throughout the story. However, in spite of this, I found myself saying, almost out loud at times, "How dare you do that! Leave her alone! Stop lying!" or something along those lines. It also made me long for the genteel life of a young English woman, with nothing more to do than read and discuss novels, take strolls, and enjoy elaborate meals, in between dances and other social events.

I wanted to dip into the Jane Austen well. I did, and I will do so again soon.

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

Visions of Sugarplums

A Christmas Recap

Sharing a Room--I don't know if he had visions of sugarplums, but sharing a room with Kyle at my in-laws house enables me to hear all his chatter. As he wakes up, he talks to himself. He's a sound sleeper, so at night it's not a problem to go in and turn on a lamp to get ready for bed and read a bit before going to sleep. But he wakes up and starts talking. At home, I leave him in his bed and he sometimes dozes off and on for an hour or so. So, I waited him out. One morning he talked from 6:25am until about 7:10, so I got him up. But I listened. "Hair. My hair. Yeah." "A, B, E, E, G, H, G. . . . " "A. Next letter? O. oooo. O. O. ooooo." "Thomas? Where's Thomas?"

Some Conflict is inevitable with a houseful of people, and young kids with varying responses to being away from home. I probably wasn't as charming or stupid as I could have been, but I was okay.

Tradition--We saw the Christmas trees in the D.C. Ellipse near the White House. It was one of the warmest visits there ever, and even at night it was near 50 degrees, which made it more pleasant. There are all sorts of trains running on a very large track around the tree, which Kyle could have watched for hours. I think we may have started a new tradition, which my sister-in-law had already decided on for their family--watching the movie Elf with Will Ferrell. Funny stuff.

Family--It was our first year without Daddy Dick, but Grandmommie seemed to be okay. It's been almost a year. It was also the first year that Sarah was able to be with us as an in-law to be. She and Kevin announced their engagement earlier this month, and instead of spending Christmas with her family, she was with us. We all look forward to the 2007 wedding.

I'm still not back in my normal routine. Amanda stayed on in Virginia at the in-laws for a few days, and they brought her back and are here with us this weekend. That gives Terry's grandfather a chance to see our place here in Connecticut, so that's nice. Today we will do a bit of sightseeing. They'll leave tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll have some friends over for New Year's Eve, another tradition that we found they came to expect after we did it for the last two years! Amanda loves having a few friends over, and we enjoy playing games and keeping it low key.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Santa's Coming!

Santa is coming to our house tonight. You see, he is very smart. He knows that we will be gone to Gramm and Grandpa's house for Christmas. He also knows that we like to have our own immediate family celebration on our own, so he has come early, or late, ever since I can remember, since we're always gone on December 25. It only makes sense, because after all, he's kinda busy on Christmas Eve, trying to get to all the other houses.

So, tonight, when my husband gets home from work (which should be early, since no one is really working today), we will go out to dinner, and when we get home, Santa will have taken advantage of us being gone to work his magic. We hit the road first thing in the morning, so we prefer to open our gifts at night. Amanda has been really excited about opening her gifts this year. Kyle has already unwrapped two gifts (but they got wrapped right back up and all the gifts are now under lock and key), but he's looking forward to re-opening the one that he remembers: "Cars movie!"



I like this little video, and since one of our dear friends works for Coca-Cola, I might as well give them some free advertising, eh?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Recipes--By Popular Demand

Okay, maybe it's by mild inquiry, and not popular demand, but Laura and Shalee asked about some of the no-bake items I mentioned on Wednesday. I made up a sample plate, just so I could post a pic here:



The pretzels are very easy, but a nice addition to a gift bag or goodie tray. I bought pretzel rods, dipped them in melted white chocolate, then Amanda sprinkled them with red and green sugar. You can also press mini M&Ms into it, or drizzle melted chocolate, or tint the white chocolate and drizzle red and green over the dipped white chocolate.

The toffee (on the left) is similar to the recipe that Big Mama posted. One thing that I did was took the white chocolate that had hardened in the bowl we used for dipping and scrape it over the top. I thought it made it look pretty.

The Peanut Butter Krispies (in the front) come from the Country Cookbook by the Eastland County Extension Homemaker's Cookbook. My husband's grandfather and his great aunt live there. Aunt Arleta is a great cook and featured in the cookbook, and it's from her that I got the toffee recipe.

Peanut Butter Krispies

4 3/4 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
1 1/3 cup peanut butter

Mix syrup and sugar and bring to a boil. When all is melted, add the peanut butter, mix well, and pour over the Rice Krispies. Mix and roll into balls or you can pour into a square pan and cut into squares. (I just dropped them onto wax paper, sort of randomly. I'm sure that the balls would be nice, and the bars would be more precise, but my way was easy.)

My aunt Dianne made these holiday treats one time (back, center). They are similar to the Girl Scout cookies, and perfect for kids to make. I just improvised this "recipe."

Peanut Butter Patties
Ritz or Town House crackers
peanut butter
chocolate chips, melted
optional garnish: M&Ms, or red and green sprinkles

Spread peanut butter on crackers, dip in melted chocolate (using two forks works pretty well). Place on wax paper to dry. Garnish as desired.

Amanda really wanted to make Peppermint Bark (right side) for some reason. I also made up this "recipe."

Peppermint Bark
Red and/or green peppermints, candy canes etc, crushed
white chocolate chips (I think I used two bags)
peppermint extract

Line a rimmed baking sheet (9x13) with wax paper. Melt white chocolate (I use the microwave. Cook for 1 minute on half power. Then stir. Cook for 30 seconds, and stir. Repeat until melted). Add a few drops of extract. Spread white chocolate on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the crushed candy. Break into pieces after it hardens.

I Fell into Reading!

I did it! I took Katrina's challenge to focus on reading. I have loved to read since I was a child, but as an adult, my reading habits are sporadic. I go on jags, reading novel after novel in every moment of spare time, preferring them to eating, sleeping and watching TV. I also really enjoy non-fiction--a travel book that will take me to another time and place and show me an adventure that I will never experience, or a parenting book that gives me helpful advice and motivation when I need it, or a Christian discipleship book that helps take my walk with God to the next level.

Since I'm competitive by nature, the fact that I had set a goal to read--more--helped me get going in those initial weeks. Then it became a habit and a joy. I most definitely read more than I would have if I hadn't have thought out a list and gotten it done. I also didn't feel compelled to stick to my list, although I did make sure that I was reading widely (fiction and non-fiction of different types), and I did keep that goal. I finished almost everything on my original list, with the exception of a Jane Austen book (but I am halfway through Northanger Abbey and enjoying it), and Eat, Play and Be Healthy, which I will read in January.

I would say that my favorite reads were nonfiction this go 'round. I enjoyed the kid's nonfiction (that I have been reading in preparation of judging the Cybils. I also really enjoyed The Birth Order Book.

I'm not sure that there are any on my list that I wished I hadn't read, or could have done without. I think I chose a good balance and I enjoyed the books I chose. As much as I enjoyed The Greatest Generation, had it not been for the challenge, I might not have finished it. I picked up Northanger Abbey at the library a week or so ago, hoping to finish it because Jane Austen was on my challenge list. Had it not been for the challenge, I might have just waited to pick up something "later," which might translate to never.

So, one thing I learned is that having a list of books that are sort of priority reads really does help me get through books that are important to me. Katrina's not doing another challenge for winter, but I will post my list of to-be-reads here in the next couple of days.

Here are the books I read this fall, linked to my reviews if available:


Wishing on Dandelions review
Catcher in the Rye review
Elizabeth I, the Royal Diaries review
The Known World review
Arms of Deliverance review
Straight Up review
The Greatest Generation review
The Birth Order Book review
Generation Next Parenting
The Whole Truth review

Page after Page
--Actually, I didn't finish this one either. It got buried on a bookshelf. However, I did read two other books on writing instead, which were very helpful to me: How to Write Attention Grabbing Query Letters, and Writing Articles from the Heart

Other books not on the list that I read:
Isaac Newton
Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini
I'm Still Scared
Lisey's Story

I also read a couple of great young adult fiction books, which I will review when I finish the series.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joy to the World!

I am continuing my look at some Christmas carols over at Faithlifts today. This month's theme is joy.

Check out my thoughts on Joy to the World.

Other Carols Blogged:

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen


Away in a Manger

Christmas Rambling and a Cookie Tip

I have felt a bit out of the whole Christmas spirit this year. Actually, I've really enjoyed shopping (about 75% online) and feel like I've gotten some great gifts for many people on my list that I think that they will really enjoy. But, the tree fell over after we decorated it, I didn't participate in Boomama's Bloggy Christmas Tour of Homes, and I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do about a Christmas card this year.

BUT

I mailed off my Christmas cards last Friday, and sent a Bloggy wish to all of you, and my stress level decreased.

I mailed off the three presents that I had to send physically, and my stress level decreased.

I wrapped all remaining presents yesterday, and my stress level decreased.

Yesterday, Amanda and I baked. It wasn't a stress increaser or decreaser, but it was another thing checked off my list. I made Dianne's Ginger Cookies before Amanda got home, and as I was setting them out to cool, I thought I would share this tip with the WFMW folks (see more tips by clicking the link).



Yes, I do have a couple of those nice big cooling racks, but I learned this trip from my husband, which he learned from his proficiently baking mother: set your cookies out on newspaper to cool. A bonus is that they absorb some of the grease as well.

Simple, but even if you are a proficient baker, it seems that you never have enough cooling racks.

We also made toffee, using a recipe from his great aunt that is much like the one that Big Mama shared, peppermint bark, at Amanda's request, and some peanut butter Rice Krispie clusters, and a few white chocolate dipped pretzel rods.

So, I guess that making Christmas treats makes me officially in the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stupid and Charming

I like to listen to talk radio. One of the call in shows I listen to features a psychologist who gives people advice. This kind of theme comes up frequently, and I think it's particularly appropriate to this time of year.

Caller: My sister-in-law hates me. She talks about me behind my back, and tells my husband she wishes that he would divorce me and marry a real woman. Do I still have to go to the family dinner and be around her?

Dr: You should go. Act stupid and charming. Be nice. If you react to her negativity, then you've let her win. If you pretend like everything is fine, you end up having the upper hand and looking like the better person.

I'll admit that I've had to do this. Just act nice. Act like everything is just fine. Sometimes it's hard, but then sometimes things get to be fine. I've realized that I don't always have to show all my cards, so to speak. Often venting my thoughts and feelings, or treating someone like they "deserve" makes me feel even worse than when I started.

I'm not going to try so hard to be intelligent and compelling. Here's to stupid and charming.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Beauty for Ashes

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Honestly, that phrase "beauty for ashes" has always been one of those Christian-ese things that is said, but one that never really resonated for me. However, when I saw that this was the subject of this Monday's Faithbuilder meme, I really began to think about it. Heather asks, "Where is Christ leading you? Have you traded your ashes in for beauty? Have you replaced your mourning with JOY? Do you wear forgiveness like a crown? He wants you to lay every burden down- He died so that you would have a place to lay it- at the foot of the cross." Maybe on this day that phrase does have new meaning, because I am seeing God at work in a difficult situation. In the Old Testament, ashes signify mourning. He is promising us beauty instead of ashes and joy instead of mourning. In reading the verses before Isaiah 61:3 in which that phrase appears, I have to say that I feel called to wear that forgiveness like a crown and to preach good news to the poor. I think that it's my heart that must be bound up. Proclaiming freedom from my own heart of darkness is and will bring joy to me and to others. How?
  • Bringing joy to others instead of grief by loving them unconditionally
  • Binding up negative thoughts which cause slaying another in spirit
  • Staying focused on the truth of God taught in the Bible
  • Focusing on uplifting others instead of being right
  • Giving up my rights and instead clothing myself with humility
There may be some Christian-ese there, too, but these are the areas in which I can focus to keep joy before me. That way, even if I don't "win," I know that I do gain freedom through obedience to God. Joy comes in the midst of trouble and sorrow and confusion as long as I hold on to that which God has called me to do. I don't know if we are all called to do those things listed in verse 1 (above), but I do know that when I am focused more on serving and less on self then I don't feel as frustrated, whether things are going my way or not. So in that, I don't let anyone steal my joy!

Click over to Faithlifts to read Heather's perspective and the others linked up.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Greatest Generation

Since I lost my grandfather last summer, who was a proud World War II vet, I really wanted to read The Greatest Generation in his honor. (I wrote about his and my other grandfathers' service in this post on Veteran's Day). In fact, it was one of the books that I had specifically hoped that the Fall into Reading Challenge would help prompt me to finish. It's the kind of book that I often leave unfinished, for a lot of reasons. A non-fiction book doesn't generally have a compelling flow, or an ending that must be resolved, so even if it's a book which interests me, it often ends up sort of buried in the pile, despite my good intentions. So, I had just barely begun this book last November when I made my list for the challenge. It got put aside more than once. Knowing that my December 21st deadline was approaching, and still wanting to finish this book, I picked it up again. I am really glad that I finished it.

My grandfather (the handsome
Navy man on left with the big grin)

Tom Brokaw tells these stories with interest and true insight into the individual's motives. I would have written him off as just another liberal journalist, but he highlights the issues without bias that were important to many of these soldiers, both during their battle years and throughout their lives, such as faith, family and conservative values. The book is divided into chapters which tell the story of a particular veteran, which are included in sections that focus on a particular theme.

Because of the chapter to chapter format and changes in story, it could be easy to stall in reading this, but I encourage you to continue on if you have any interest in history, the second World War, or understanding your parents or grandparents who were of that generation. I particularly enjoyed the sections called Women In Uniform And Out and Shame, which covered our treatment of minorities, including women and American Japanese citizens who were interred during the war.

Tom Brokaw wrote this book because he wanted to honor the men and women who he consider to be the greatest generation, which include his parents and his in-laws. In the chapter on Andy Rooney in the section on Famous People(which also includes the elder George Bush, Julia Child, and Bill Bradlee), he defends his position that this was the greatest generation that society could hope to produce. Andy Rooney maintained that other generations have the potential to be just as strong of character, but they simply haven't had the chance to prove their mettle as his did in responding to the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War. I think that I side with Tom Brokaw on this. It seems the subsequent generations have been all about what's best for us, not simply what is best, because it may involve personal sacrifice.
Throughout this book, I was struck by the way that the country did without during the time of the second World War--food was rationed, oil was rationed, silk and nylon stockings weren't available, women raised families alone, and filled positions in the factories that were left by men (famous and well-to-do as well as poor and common) who volunteered to serve the country. I don't think that our generation would have that in us--to give up our rights for the greater good.

By the way, if you are an Xer, as I am, and want to understand your own generation better, I encourage you to read Generation NeXt Parenting. It gives a lot of insight into our culture and values and why we do things the way we do, as well as delving a bit into the way that our parents, the Boomers, raised us, who were responding to this Greatest Generation, who raised them.

This is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Check over there for more weekly book reviews, or link one of your own.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Bloggy Christmas Wish

Well, since I mentioned uploading photos, and some old blogger hanger-ons specifically asked, let me share my Christmas photos for all of you in bloggyland. And if this isn't enough, head over to Boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes. I didn't quite have it in me (or much to show for that matter).

Unlike those who will just be receiving my card (which I am mailing from Bethlehem, Connecticut today!), you blog friends will get the whole story.

We tried in front of the tree, but that wasn't working (notice the nice white sheet and no other decor).


We moved to the fireplace, and Amanda put on a good pout (this was for real, not posed).



Then I got a great picture of Amanda, but a distracted one of Kyle.



Then, voila, with Terry's help, both kids looking and smiling!



P.S. The photo upload worked just fine. I was even able to load all 4 in at once, which I wasn't often able to pull off with old blogger.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still the Same Old Me

This is only of interest to fellow Blogspot users out there, but I've officially made the big switch to "beta" (which I think is not really in beta status anymore). It was so simple. No problems at all, even with my custom template. Just wanted to share the knowledge. . . . I resisted, and there was no reason to worry. I think that there are a lot fewer problems with publishing etc. I'm not sure about picture uploading. That remains to be seen.

Also, for those of you who haven't switched and are having trouble commenting on those that have switched, just go ahead and set up a google account (that's an option on the comment screen). You'll have to do it anyway when you switch over. I had done that yesterday just so that I could comment, after not being able to comment for a couple of days.

Away in a Manger

Sunday when my little 2 year old, along with the 3 - 5 year olds, sings this song at church, it may have a whole new meaning. It is a sweet song, and one of the first that little ones learn to sing.

The first couple of verses actually appeared anonymously in a book of verse in the late 19th century. James Murray wrote the music, and published it as Luther's Cradle Hymn, causing the lyrics to be wrongly attributed to him for many years.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

Be near me Lord Jesus,
I ask thee to stay.
Close by me forever,
And love my I pray.

Bless all the dear children,
In thy tender care.
And take them to heaven,
To be with thee there.


You probably thought when I said it would have a whole new meaning that I meant that I would well up with tears when I hear it. That may be so. It may also cause me to flush with embarassment or anger. When we tried to practice last Sunday night, he would not stand still. He would not sit beside me on the stage step. He would not let me hold him in my lap (that resulted in flailing and screaming). Sunday could be verrry interesting.

The Sweetest Gift by Tricia Yearwood features this hymn. I love, love this CD. I know, the cover is a bit early 90's, but if you like Tricia Yearwood at all, you'll like this CD. If you really like her, you'll love this CD. What's interesting is that all but two or three songs are what my hubby and I call "made up songs." You know, the artist gets creative and includes their own new song. I usually prefer the traditional carols and fun festive Sleigh Ride type numbers, but these are great, especially Sweet Little Jesus Boy and Take a Walk through Bethlehem.

Other Carols Blogged:

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Do You Need a Moment??

My 2 1/2 year old gets into everything. All the time. So, especially in a busy time of year (such as Christmas) or anytime I need to be able to get dinner going, make a phone call or any of those things that toddler's (and preschoolers, and eight year olds) just don't seem to understand, I often use the flashlight.

Flashlights are lot of fun. Just turn it on, and let them explore. Show a younger child how he can shine it in a dark corner, or under an end table. For the brave, shut them into a windowless room or closet. One flashlight is fun, but two flashlights and two kids is even more fun. Try flashlight tag.

The bright little flashlights make great stocking stuffers, and we always have plenty on hand.

Need more tips this busy time of year? Go over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Goes Around Comes Around



"I am the one holding the keys to the atmosphere in our home."
~ Terry Maxwell ~

Thanks to Christine at Fruit in Season for a great quote! I've still been working on my patience and kindness around here, and as I do so, I notice a huge difference in the days on which I am displaying this fruit, and the days on which I am not.

When I am able to show these fruits and be the kind of mom and wife that I want to be, my husband can come home to the haven that his home should be after work. When I don't, I imagine his thoughts are along the lines of, "Do I have to deal with strife here, too?"

My daughter can obey cheerfully, when I live out the example of patience. When I am kind in my requests, she is kind, too. Not only in following directions, but in going above and beyond as well.

I don't want to talk about my son right now. We're potty training, I think. I say "I think," because I'm not sure what key I am holding right now. Does the key unlock a door to frustration and a battle of wills? If so, who's will is more important--his in saying, "I don't want to do this right now," or mine, which observes, "I know you can, but you are choosing not to." I already made a plea for help and encouragement, and got some great advice (if you are interested, read the comments from my wise readers). The issue is not physical readiness, but a battle of wills, which I will have to decide if I choose to fight.

She who holds the key also unlocks the door. Which door will I choose? Can I choose to unlock those doors that hold the fruits that I am desperately trying to squeeze into my home? Can I keep the ones locked up that hold my selfish nature, such as laziness, impatience, lack of compassion?

So, between getting ready for Christmas, working a new part-time job, and trying to institute the discipline and routine required in potty training, you can see why my posting has been more sporadic. If I let certain things go, I am able to focus a little bit more on the greater good. I've realized that when I am making a choice that I think will be best for me in the short run, that unless I consider the effect of the household in general, I may not be creating an atmosphere that is best for me. Even if I end up sacrificing something for myself--a little sleep or some downtime--if my family ends up happier in the wash, I find that I rest a little easier myself.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Known World

The Known World was my "hard book" on my Fall Reading Challenge list. It's a Pulitzer Prize winning novel (which I tried to fit into conversation as much as possible: "Could you hand me my Pulitzer Prize winning novel, please?") examining a country during the years of slavery in our country. However, this book seemed to really tackle the tough moral issues of the time period, from those who were living them: White slave-owners, Whites who opposed slavery, Whites who tolerated slavery, slave owners who were Black, freed Blacks and slaves, both house and field. We all know what an awful injustice slavery is and wish that it had not been such an everyday part of our lives, especially in the South. But in reading this book, about humans as property, I was really struck at the true horror and thinking that has and will take years to completely correct.

This book is not depressing, but it does deal with a difficult subject. I found the first few chapters hard to get into. There was a large cast of characters, so it was difficult to keep up with all of them as the author jumped back and forth. The novel reads like a cross between some sort of historical narrative (this fictional county and population seems real) and a yarn that is told from year to year at family gatherings. Edward Jones patches the story together like a quilt. Not in a linear, chronological fashion, but by adding the pieces when the add the most beauty or function. For example, he will be recounting an event in a character's life, and the narrative will change saying, "Four years later when they found him dead, he still . . . . "

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

My Fall Reading Challenge list: finished 9, 3 in progress, 2 not started, and at least 6 completed that are not on the list.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Peace with God

Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Do you like to memorize scripture? Or maybe think that you should memorize scripture, but you don't? Here's a little secret for you. Many verses can be put to a familiar tune, such as Happy Birthday to You. The above verse is one of them.

I thought that this might be a good time to clearly define some of these terms (again):

justified through faith--the act of receiving Christ's righteousness (perfect, holy standing before God)

peace with God--being free of fear of his wrath

through our Lord Jesus Christ
--all of this can only happen by personally acknowledging Jesus Christ as your Lord and His sacrifice on your behalf

Also, through this study it was pointed out to me that justified does not mean "just as if I never sinned." That's a way that people have used to remember it, and in fact, it does help to remember that the act of justification is what removes our sin from God's sight, but we in fact have sinned. That's what makes it so necessary and wonderful. In spite of our sin, God sees us as right before Him. In spite of our sin, not because we never did sin. That's what makes it grace--God's undeserved favor.

Index of Romans' posts

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christianity is Not a Buffet



It's been quite a while since my last Romans' post. There must have been a herd of sheep blocking that Roman road for a while. Hopefully our journey will continue in a more timely future throughout these next months.

In chapter 4, we take a look at Abraham. Abraham received and believed the promise of God, in spite of the fact that his human circumstances were rather grim: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead." Faith in the hard times is difficult, but if we look at Abraham's example, we can see that a genuine faith, which involves looking towards God and His power and plan, can overcome our humanly imposed obstacles.

We know that having faith in the hard times is tough, but what about faith in the hard things?
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:20-25
Abraham was credited with righteousness for his belief that God had power to do what he had promised. One of the things that God promises is our justification which comes as a result of Jesus being delivered over to death for our sins. That's one of those hard things. For some of us, it's hard to believe that Jesus' death was real. It's hard to believe that He was sent to the cross for our sins, like an innocent lamb sent to slaughter. None of us have a problem with Jesus, the babe in the manger, although we might have problems with the idea of Mary's virgin birth. We might believe the miracles of healing that Jesus performed, but have a hard time accepting the miraculous resurrection from His death.

One of the great things about a potluck dinner, or a holiday table groaning with more dishes than we could possibly eat, is that we can pick and choose. We can heap on our favorites, and skip over those dishes that we don't find so appealing. Christianity is not a buffet. We must accept the whole of God's word--the difficult and ugly truths, such as sacrifice and shed blood, as well as the comforting and pretty ones, such as love and forgiveness. Is it difficult for you? If so, ask God and He will give you the wisdom to move forward in faith.

Creating our own delicious buffet of tantalizing treats is dangerous in the world of religion. We can overeat by tasting things such as mercy and security, forgetting to balance them with discipline and humility. God's word as a whole is rich. It's a puzzle that fits together. Some of the pieces might look like they would never fit, but together they create a picture where each piece has a function and creates a thing of beauty to be enjoyed.

Index of all Romans' posts

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Thanks to Heather at L'Chaim for posting this quiz. I hadn't seen it, and of course I love reading, and quizzes that seem to peg me pretty accurately with only a few questions.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Book Snob
Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
Non-Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz


Okay, for some reason the bars don't show when you copy the code. On the page it shows you how much you are of each of them. I am about 3/4 of the way on the bar (like a bar graph) Book Snob and Dedicated Reader, and slightly more than 1/2 on OCD Bookworm, and a tad of the Fad reader, and 0 non-reader. Fun!

This isn't a meme, but I'd love to see some answers from Barb, Katrina, Lindsey, Susanne, and Dianne and I thought that they might want to try this one. Also, I'd like to see Laurel Wreath's answers, because I think that we have scored the same on every single quiz, but I'm not sure about this one.

What a Difference!


Remember last month, when I posted the mess in the basement? Well, Laura got me thinking on what I really wanted to use the space for. She suggested that the closet, which I find small and useless with its narrow shelves, would be good for craft supplies and stuff. When the before picture was taken, I'm sure that I had had to upend everything in search of something, and never got it all back in. I hadn't been able to close the doors in a while.



So, I took everything out. To be honest, the basement was an even bigger mess for a couple of weeks! I removed everything from the closet, and tried to get stuff out of the room that I knew I was going to get rid of (like the diaper boxes holding baby clothes--I passed them down to my sil), and the bags of clothes in the middle of the floor that had been waiting to be taken to Goodwill. I went through boxes, and threw away 2 large bags of stuff--papers mostly. But finally (yesterday, waiting for that final deadline to get me in gear), I put everything back neatly and orderly.


As suggested, I moved the craft stuff into this closet, which formerly was another giant mess (see below). Now it's very organized--that's scrapbooking stuff on the left on the floor, the craft drawers, and on the right is painting stuff. On the shelf above is storage on the left, office supplies are in the middle (in that shoe box with the orange hinged lid), and in the green file box is construction paper and stickers (in hanging file folders), and then coloring and workbooks. On the top right is beading stuff, in the middle is stamping stuff, and on the far left are extra containers--things I can use for future organizing efforts! What's great about this, is that instead of me going down and rummaging to find Amanda some glue or pipe cleaners or construction paper, she can get it herself!

One of the most amazing things is that all of this stuff was either thrown out (a fair amount) or moved to the closet, and that space now looks like this:


Yes, really! I'm going to move the bookshelf into either my son's or daughter's room, and try to just leave that area uncluttered. It gives the room a much better feel.


Yes, there are still a couple of boxes around--that white one to the left of the slide is my husband's youth ministry stuff, and since our church is hiring a new guy, that will be gone soon! The other box beside the bookshelf is my Bible study materials that I need to decide what to do with. And the one that you can see beside the chair is some stuff that I will either list on ebay or sell. Now, my other proud accomplishment is the space where that chair is used to look like this:

I again used Laura's theory about "like with like" and using designated space, and I moved all my cookbooks (which is what were on that little black bookshelf) on the single shelf above the desk in my kitchen. I got rid of some of them (and that was painful for me!) and there are some on the bottom of that bookshelf there. Then I was able to move that bookshelf back into the kitchen (which is where it used to be holding my bookshelves), and put it beside my desk with my writing stuff in it.

So, I think that I met my goal. The challenge caused me to rethink the space, and so I purged some of my cookbooks so that they are in a logical place. I moved all the games from that top shelf in the closet to an upstairs closet with other games. I got rid of some stuff, and stored a few things away. It is a basement, and we don't have any unfinished space for pure storage, so yes, there may be a box or two there on occasion, but I really hope to be able to keep that to a minimum and avoid it become a dumping ground like it was in this picture.

Thanks, Laura, for your daily encouragement, practical advice and keen eye, and for encouraging me to tackle this area once and for all!

Jesus Others You

I'm posting at Faithlifts today. December's theme is Joy, so check it out.

J
O
Y

Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Trees bringing Joy?



This week's questions are, "How do you display the joy and peace that Christ has filled you with? How do you use the gifts that He has entrusted to you to heap joy on those around you?"

I read this morning's post and took the time to read a couple of responses (you can link up your own response by clicking on the graphic above). Jennifer Cote blogged that she took some extra time to decorate this year, especially in her shop, as a way to say, "I am excited. Jesus is coming." That spoke to me--loudly.

You see, we are in the process of getting our decorations up, and I would not say that I am joyful about it. Decorating is not my "thing." I don't have a passion for it and I don't have much talent for it. So, in the craziness of life, if something is going to go, then decorating it will be. Last year, I didn't even want to put up a tree at all! I couldn't deal with getting all those boxes out, just to have to put them back in a few weeks. Sad, huh? Well, this year, we went to get our tree on Saturday. It was a nice day, and we had fun picking it out and Terry cut it down himself and dragged it out to our car in a very manly way. We got the lights on that night and were going to decorate on Sunday after church. Amanda definitely had the joy. She had been invited on a playdate Saturday afternoon, and cautioned us, "Do not decorate the tree without me."


Sunday was a big boxful of joyous memories as she pulled each ornament out of the boxes, and said, "Oh, I remember when I made this one at preschool!" or "Ooooh, this one is pretty. Where did we get this?" That really did bring me joy (and a little shame at being such a reluctant merry-maker).

Later, I had a reminder that Christian joy shines in spite of our circumstances. Was it all a holly, jolly Christmas once the halls were decked? No, not at all. In fact, within two hours of getting the tree decorated, it fell over! ARGH! Three years ago, our tree plagued us with falling over several times. Yes, that was a joy-stealer. So, the carefully placed ornaments are now awry and some are even broken, but I'm going to take Jennifer's lead and finish up my decorating in anticipation and celebration of Christ's glorious birth. I won't just do it so that it's done, I'll do as a joyful reminder of the glorious season.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is a SAHM?

Well, of course it's an acronym for stay-at-home mom. But what I'm really asking is who can call themselves one, and why do they claim the title? It seems to be one of the labels that floats around, and I think that with it comes a bit of a claim to superiority, "I love my children, so I am staying home with them." I know that most people wouldn't say that outright, so I think that sometimes they use the title to say it for them. I even had it on my "About Me" description, but I changed it. I think that the message that we try to convey with that SAHM label is "I'm home. I'm available. It's what I do." Now, of those three phrases, "It's what I do" is the one that I think that most people mean to convey. It's my job. I guess that Homemaker is outdated and old-fashioned, but I think I'm going to start using that one. I like that one, because it focuses on my role in the home (which honestly takes up as much time and energy as mothering), and also does not exclude the care and nurture of my husband. My role in this family goes beyond being a mom.

What is the intent of indicating that you are "at home?" Is it the presence? The sacrifice? The availability to meet the needs of your kids? Don't women who work outside the home strive to be available and meet their kids' needs? In fact, I'm sort of starting to buy in to the quality versus quantity time argument. I do not take the opportunity of every hour that I am with my kids. In fact, as a full-time homemaker, instead of craving time with them and making the most of it, as I know many of my working mom friends do, I am instead looking for the opportunity for a break.

One thing that has brought this to mind, is that I recently took a part time job. I'm working one day a week with a friend of mine. We get to ride together and visit, Amanda's at school all day anyway, and Kyle is staying with a friend of mine who keeps another toddler during the day. He loves it. I love the break, and the little bit of extra money is going to be fun. This change has caused Amanda to begin to worry a bit. I'm not exactly sure why, but we've talked a lot about it. In explaining it to her, I realized that when she was the only one home with me, in her preschool years, I was a lot busier than I am now. Currently, I attend Bible study at church one morning a week. Just this year, I added a volunteering commitment at Amanda's school which is two hours every other week. When Amanda was in preschool, I attended (and led) Bible study once a week, and once a month had fellowship which lasted another couple of hours. I had a weekly training meeting, and in addition to that, we attended and I served in our MOPS group. I was a full-time stay-at-home mom, but I wasn't home a whole lot. . . . So, that's what I meant by, "What does it really mean?" I know many women who squeeze in almost a full-time schedule on weekends or working nights so that they will be "home," and I know women who work a bit, as I have started to, and women who work full time, and then do the whole "mom thing" after work and on weekends, giving it all they've got.

I think it's all about trying to be available to your kids. I wrote a post a while back that I'm proud of called Homeraising Mom, where I basically claim some of the virtues that I see in homeschoolers, even though my daughter is in public school. What am I trying to say with this post? Am I trying to alienate those who proudly use those labels? No, in fact I think that most of us use those labels to try to find common ground with some people, not to alienate those with whom the label differs. A homeschooling family leads a very different daily life than a non-homeschooling family, so simply by identifying yourself as such, you let people know your choices, struggles, and daily routine. But I think that sometimes there's an attitude that if you don't stay at home full time with your kids, or if you don't choose to homeschool or whatever else that divides, then you are somehow less of a mom. I think it can go the other way, too, although it's not the pervasive attitude in Christian circles--if you don't choose a fulfilling career outside of the home, you are somehow less of a woman. Having children has even become some type of a badge of honor. A truly devoted woman has a quiver full of children, thus signifying her as a mom above compare. What about the woman who has no children, either by choice or circumstance, or for that matter "only" one, also by choice or circumstance?

How do your experiences help you edify all women, regardless of their personal choices? Do you believe that there are certain absolutes that are right and wrong, or do you believe that there are areas that work fantastically for you that you would not change, but that you can support other women's choices that differ from yours? I will not hide my bias. I think that this is where we should all be--living our own lives the way that God is calling us to, but lovingly supporting others who are living out their own lives in the way that God has called them to. Do you know, intimately, women who lead different lifestyles than you do? If not, I encourage you to seek some out. If you are a SAHM, invite one of your daughter's friends and her working mom over on a Saturday morning. If you are a part of a bookclub or something that meets in the evenings or the weekends, make a conscious effort to have lots of differently labeled women. Truly knowing and loving women who make different choices, and seeing how it works so well for them in their lives has really helped me to appreciate all the differing walks of life. Give it a try.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen


For the last couple of years, Amanda and I have gone to see her Grandpa (and my father-in-law) usher in Santa Claus with his choral group. They sing, and Santa rides in in his horse drawn carriage and lights the tree at this large open-air shopping center on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This last year, while we were singing carols along with them, fake snow in the form of bubbles (like those that come out of the liquid dish detergent bottle when you puff it), was blowing around, and since it wasn't frigidly cold as it had been once before, it was quite enjoyable (not to mention that Starbucks was giving out free good-sized samples of gingerbread lattes). The woman who was announcing for the group gave a little background on many of the carols, which inspired me to dig up a little history on some of these songs that we know and love. I'll be sharing some of my favorite songs, including a CD that features that carol, perhaps in tandem with a little Snapshot holiday family fun.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" dates back to 1823 and is featured in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, signifying its great popularity of the time. Did you think that I might have misplaced the comma up there? That has been a point of contention, with it commonly appearing after Ye these days. However, then it is a well-wish to merry gentlemen as opposed to a wish of good cheer to the gentlemen, which is in keeping with its somber tone.

Singing this hymn along with the choral group that night, the lyrics really struck me. I never thought much of this song, to tell you the truth. But from this year on, it will be one of my favorites. This song, which has been and will be sung around many a family piano, at Christmas parties and by groups going from door to door, clearly gives the gospel message. I could honestly understand someone singing this song and coming to faith in the Reason for the Season Himself, Jesus. So, in my mind, not many songs are more Christmasy than this one. Because it's so old and so popular, there are many variations. I got this one from this site which gives complete lyrics as well as a little history on many carols.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
Chorus
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
Chorus

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
Chorus

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
Chorus

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
Chorus

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
Chorus

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
Chorus
or Alternate Final Chorus:

That God send you a happy new year,
Happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.
Mercy Me's The Christmas Sessions has an excellent version of this carol that is combined with Carol of the Bells (which is another favorite tune--I specifically remember singing it in 7th grade choir and thinking that we were really awesome). I recently bought this CD when Blest pointed out that Family Christian stores was selling it for $5. Alas, the price has gone back up, and amazon now has the lowest price. I like this CD a lot.

In case you would like to know the official dance to the tune, check out this site. Yes, there's an official dance. It's all very Victorian. Think Jane Austen.

I am also indebted to this source which has information about many Christmas carols.

The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition

The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition is the book celebrating twenty years of the Magic School Bus. Author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degan created these characters twenty years ago. For the twentieth anniversary they wanted to go back to scientists and the scientific method. In this book the quirkily lovable Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a fieldtrip on foot to the local science museum to help them get ideas for the Science Fair. What, no school bus? The students thought that this might be a normal field trip, but don't worry, there's a cardboard bus in the musuem, and in that bus, the students visit many scientists including Galileo, Isaac Newton, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, Louis Pasteur, and more. The wonderful thing about this picture book series is that each page is full of information in the form of text on the page, sidebars which are from journals created by one of the students, an additional story about one of the scientists, and also funny bubble cartoons from the students and Ms. Frizzle. This makes these books great to re-read time and again.

Recently, illustrator Bruce Degan came to our town library and did a talk with the kids. It was really wonderful to hear his explanation of the months of research that went into this book. He and the author work together once she has compiled all the research so that the information flows from page to page and scene to scene. I was also interested to learn that once the public television show began (now seen on Discovery and Discovery Kids), many new smaller format books and chapter books were written to support the industry of television. These books are overseen by Degan and Cole, but not as extensively researched as the orginal ten, which are larger format hardcover books (except for the new social studies series that they do write, which are large format paperbacks).

My daughter began loving the show as a young preschooler, which surprised me because I thought it would be over her head. It should be no surprise to me now that 2 1/2 year old Kyle loves to watch these shows with his sister as well. Because of this, and the fact that they are picture books, I hope that they don't miss their audience. I would recommend this book as a read-aloud from first grade on up, and my third grader has not been able to put down this book and the book on Egypt that we bought (and had signed from Bruce Degan).

One fun thing he did with the kids after his talk was to have them think of an imaginary dinosaur and he would draw it. Amanda was called on and got to share her idea: the Broccolisaurus. In a jiffy, he drew a brontosaurus type dino, with broccoli florets along his ridge as scales, and one one his tail. It was a lot of fun for the kids, and Amanda was especially delighted to get to take hers home.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fledgling

The baby eagle tests his wings, staying close to mama bird until he's ready to fly.

n 1: any new participant in some activity [syn: newcomer, fledgeling, starter, neophyte, freshman, newbie, entrant] 2: young bird that has just fledged or become capable of flying

I think that we are potty training here. Kyle is 2 1/2. He has been showing signs of readiness for several months actually (and I know that all kids aren't ready at this age, but I think he is), but it just sort of hit me recently, "He's two and a half! It's time." My daughter was already out of diapers by 2 1/2 (although not at nap or night time, I'm sure). I just kept thinking, "He can't be old enough already?" Where does the time go? He's my last, but I've seen him getting those wings ready to fly in the last few months--talking more, playing and exploring in new, bigger ways, helping me get himself dressed. . . . He's growing up.

Preschool is next, friends, riding a trike and then a bike, and before I know it, I'll be marrying him off. I'm sure that those of you whose children have left the nest can testify to that. He's my last, and it's been a while since I had a toddler in the house, so I can appreciate it for all its wonder (and frustration).

We bought the potty chair today, and he likes it, but it's still a game. A game that he is very much in control of. I'm going to really give it a try this week. I've been reading Potty Training for Dummies and even though the couple of reviews on amazon aren't very favorable, I have loved it. It is the perfect combination of really practical advice and recommendations (on potty chairs, books and more) coupled with inspiration and motivation that I need (because, like most moms, I hate potty training). I have bought several of the Dummies books, and let me just say, that even though I'm no dummy, I love the books in this series.

So, if you have any potty training encouragement, advice or commiseration, let me have it. This is one step in Kyle's learning to fly on his own that I can gladly accept with no bittersweet wishes that he would stay little, so let's do this thing!

Shall I Make Brownies?


Wow.

Everyone come on over. I'll make brownies, and perhaps some chips and dip (ya gotta have sweet and salty to satisfy all tastes).

I'm so honored to be in the same category as Shannon and Laurel Wreath. Just recently a non-blogger real life friend was asking about the people who read my blog--if they were my real friends. I explained that only one or two who comment are my "real friends," but that this blogging community is amazing, because I enjoy popping in to your place and reading what you are up to, and having you leave a note here commiserating with me, encouraging me, or laughing with me. Thank you all so much.

Click on the graphic to see the other nominees in all categories and instructions for voting. Voting ends December 15.