Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creaking Door No More

I have recently begun doing my Bible study in the early mornings after my husband leaves for work. I know that most people already understand to start their day off in prayer and worship but I am stubborn and I like to sleep as long as the children will let me. But no more.

I was convicted by the following verses to change my drowsy ways:

Proverbs 26:14 NKJV
As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed.

Psalm 5:3 NKJV
My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.

I will not be the creaky door. I will be the upturned face with voice calling on my Lord.

I now enjoy going to bed early as a part of my worship and honorable service to God. It is good to be able to focus on the Scriptures I am reading and process each phrase or thought as the Lord leads without the children interrupting me. I now cherish the quiet of the morning as I tune my ears to hear the Holy Spirit’s teachings. God is so good to meet with me daily as I seek Him.

I also believe that it encourages my husband to see me up and cheerful in the mornings preparing to keep his home all the day until he returns in the evening. My husband works so that I can homeschool and be a diligent, God-honoring keeper of the home. He does not go to work so I can sleep in and ignore God’s promptings. And I know that honoring my husband is honoring to God.

This is a new form of worship for me, to seek God's face in the morning, and it is already changing my perspective on many things.

Turkeys in an Oat Coat

I’ve found myself privileged to be able to experiment with some dietary changes for my husband. He was diagnosed with severe hypertension and I quickly researched some nutritional suggestions to help lower his blood pressure and improve his overall health. We are attempting to find a balance between reducing bad foods and increasing good foods. For example, we seek to reduce his fat intake while increasing whole grains. This recipe for Turkeys in an Oat Coat is my healthier alternative to pigs in a blanket. The turkey sausage is much lower in saturated fat than pork and the fortified baby cereal has oats which are great for heart health. This is not to mention the whole wheat flour which is a whole grain that is easy to gobble up!

Turkeys in an Oat Coat

Makes 28 wrapped sausages (You can easily half this recipe but I make the entire batch and freeze them for easy breakfasts for one or for many.)

2 - Jenni-O Turkey Breakfast Sausage Links – 14 links each 14oz. package
3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp molasses
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp salt
2 pkgs regular or quick-acting active dry yeast
2 1/4 cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
4 cups Gerber Oat Baby Cereal

Oat Coat Instructions:
Mix whole wheat flour, molasses, honey, oil, salt, and yeast in large bowl. Add warm water. Beat on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough of the oat cereal, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle. Depending on the humidity in the air you might also need to add in more whole wheat flour to reduce the stickiness of this dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; spray the top of dough with non-stick cooking spray. Cover and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until double.

While the dough rises cook the turkey links on the stovetop until golden brown and thoroughly cooked to appropriate internal temperature. Remove from pan. Drain on paper towel. Immediately place sausages into freezer until needed for assembly.

Dough is ready when indentation remains when touched. Lightly flour a rolling surface. Roll out half the dough into a rectangle until dough is about ¼ inch thick. Use pizza cutter to make 14 strips of dough. The rectangle and the strips do not have to be perfect. Just try to evenly distribute the dough. Remove sausage from freezer. Roll up links in dough strips until completely covered with dough on all sides and ends. Smooth dough slightly to evenly distribute dough and close all seams. Place on cookie sheet. Cover and allow to rise 20 minutes. Prepare the other half of the sausage and dough. After the first set has risen 20 minutes preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake: Bake one sheet at a time for 15 minutes or until bread coating is light golden brown.

This dough is a modification of my all-time favorite honey whole wheat bread recipe which I will post at a later date.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Family Meetings

My husband recently instituted family meetings. This is a time that we set aside to come together as a family and grow in the Lord.

We decided to have our meetings each weeknight after baths and before bed. This would allow us to have a set schedule leading up to bed. Also, my husband is currently leaving for work around 6:15am, so morning meetings are not practical for our family.

The reason we call these family meetings is because the two older boys have heard us discuss Dad’s meetings for work or ministry. They know that meetings are very important and very grown-up. They enjoy being a part of something so significant. We add to this importance, I believe, by also keeping it a priority in our schedule. When we skip family meeting it makes it appear less vital than it really is.

We begin each meeting with prayer. This is followed by dispensing rewards to the children for behavior throughout the day. These rewards are awarded for godly behavior exhibited. Attributes rewarded include cheerfulness, perseverance, patience, kindness, gentleness, selflessness. We also reward the children for any progress in ceasing negative behaviors. Examples of this might be an award for not throwing a fit when you don’t get your way; staying calm and not retaliating when you are hit; or using your words calmly and respectfully to resolve a dispute instead of lashing out and hurting someone physically or emotionally. Click here to read more about our "minute" reward system.

Next we read a modern devotional called "Keys for Kids." This is a free publication by CBH Ministries. You can find out more here.

We always look up the scripture references and read from the Bible to reinforce the fact that all of our learning in godliness comes from the Word of God. The devotionals are one way that we open our children’s understanding to the application of the Word. It helps tremendously with the very difficult task of making abstract teachings into concrete wisdom for daily living.

After discussing this story we move to a passage from Little Visits with God: Devotions for Families with Small Children by Allan Hart Jahsmann and Martin P. Simon. We use the 1964 printing of this family classic. I like this version for its use of language and simple lessons. The questions at the end of the lesson are easy for my 5 year old to answer and my 3 year old can often chime in with a question about the details of the story.

I have not studied the newer editions of Little Visits with God. Many editions of this book can be found on Amazon. I think I prefer to stick with the classic version (originally published in 1957) as it makes me feel connected to what my grandmother might have read to my father. I know that she faithfully prayed for me until the day she went to be with our Lord. She was a loving example of Jesus my entire life.

The next section of our meeting varies. Sometimes we have Bible quizzes. This is my oldest son’s favorite because he can often beat his parents to the answer. My daughter’s favorite use of this time is looking at the Evangecube. Michael guides the children through the salvation message with the 5 year old taking the lead in narrating the pictures. Hannah loves to hold the cube and look at the pictures. What I would like to do next with this tool is to teach my children the scriptures that directly correlate to each image on the cube. This will make the cube truly educational and beneficial in instruction. You can learn more about this teaching tool here.

After this time we go around the table and ask each person to say something they are thankful for. Now and then Mike will change it up and have us say something nice about someone else in the family. In any case, we are all encouraged to participate and use our mouths for thanksgiving and blessing.

Sometimes we do communion during our meetings or we talk about prayer requests that we have. Mike mentioned recently that he wanted to add worship songs to our meeting times. We have also considered adding scripture memory to reinforce qualities that we believe our family should exemplify everyday. We might occasionally read from my favorite children’s Bible storybook Kid’s Bible Story Book by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. This is one of the best books for children because of the vivid storytelling. I also appreciate that my children have to listen harder when there are no pictures to distract them. These stories are not watered down for children. But they are accessible. This book is no longer in print but you can find it at a deceptively low price here.

We are just starting out on this journey. I am not sure what the future holds. I am sure that God is in our midst as we gather in His name. He is growing us closer as a family as we grow closer to Him through study and prayer.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Minutes for Moments

An epidemic was brewing in my home a few months ago. My two older boys, ages 5 and 11, were playing their portable game systems an inordinate amount of time. I let them play so often that they felt entitled to game time if they simply asked politely. They wanted to play every spare moment. If everyone was getting ready to leave the house and one of my sons was ready first he would ask to play his game while he waited…even if he knew it would only be for 2 minutes. I had created this situation and I had had enough.

Another plague was looming over my home in the form of overwhelmingly negative discipline. I was spending much of my waking hours telling my children what they had done wrong. On the other hand, there was a severe lack in positive affirmation. I don’t mean filling the children with useless “good jobs” just for mundane activities or praising them for things that are out of their control like being naturally good at something. I was failing to praise my children for good character choices. I was neglecting to recognize the Holy Spirit working in my children. I was getting tired and worn down from all the negativity. I had had enough of this as well.

In an effort to solve both problems with one solution, my husband and I came up with “minutes.” We created a reward system for positive attitudes and actions while limiting game play to the weekends. The children would earn minutes, little foamboard tickets in varying denominations. They would accrue these each day for remembering to act out their faith. Then they could redeem those minutes from Friday evening to Sunday evening. There would be no game play during the weekdays but plenty of recognition in the form of minutes. It was amusing to me in the beginning how excited the boys were at the thought that they would not be able to play games all week long but could earn the privilege to play on weekends.

Since we have instituted the minute system we have seen a dramatic reduction in attitudes of entitlement. We have also seen our boys light up when we recognize their righteous deeds and love for others. They have really grown in so many ways. It is exciting to be able to recognize it daily.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Culinary Creativity

My husband’s mother was a very good cook. In fact, his whole family is full of people who love to cook. His grandmother, mother and father all owned restaurants at some time. This makes him a natural born lover of food. He just didn’t know what he was getting himself into by marrying me.

My mother and father worked very hard and long hours when I was growing up. We ate a lot of hamburger helper and canned vegetables. My mother never really seemed to enjoy being in the kitchen so I didn’t learn all the secrets and tips that many women bring with them into marriage.

It’s not that I don’t know how to cook. It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking. I just didn’t have an arsenal of information to build on when were first wed.

In the beginning of our marriage, I made my debut in creative culinary arts. One night I was making meatloaf. I was so excited because this was not something my family ate when we were growing up but Michael and I both very much enjoyed down-home country cooking. I let Michael know what I was planning and got him all excited about the evening’s meaty meal. The time came to make the meatloaf and I realized that I didn’t have any crackers or bread crumbs. We only had one car which Michael had with him at work. I couldn’t walk to the grocery store and be back in time to have dinner ready. I really wanted to please Michael’s tastes but I had no reasonable substitute for the missing ingredient.

This meatloaf had to be good. So I closed my eyes and made a surprising substitution. I chose to take a chance not knowing if it would ruin dinner or be a masterpiece.

When Michael sat down to enjoy the dinner I gave him no indication of my dilemma. I didn’t even hint that there might be anything wrong with dinner at all. I just watched him very closely for any hint of displeasure. There was nothing. He genuinely enjoyed the meal and even commented on my first big attempt at cooking.

My substitution went completely under the radar. No raised eyebrows or suspicions. That is until later that night when Michael was looking for a little snack in the cupboards.

“Hey, what happened to the rest of my Pringles?”

I had to tell him the truth and he had no objections. The meatloaf did turn out yummy.

Recently I desperately wanted to make some Magic Bars only to find that my dear husband had given the kids almost all of the graham crackers for snack. So again I had a choice to make.

I scoured the pantry to find some reduced fat Triscuits and a few packets of McDonald’s granola that I’d saved from the yogurt parfaits. (I really don’t know how I thought I was going to use these packets but I just couldn’t waste them, and they give them to me attached to the parfait.) So that’s what I used.

They were so good. The granola added a little bit of cinnamon flavor and the triscuits gave a touch of salt.

Michael didn’t notice. Most of the time he can’t tell at all. But he always gets suspicious when I ask him, “So what did you think?”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Marriage Resurrected: Part III Powerful Prayer for Marital Triumph

Photo Courtesy of clarita via

Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

A few months after Michael and I began attending church the walls began to cave in around my miracle. Michael sat me down on the couch in our living room and calmly announced to me that there was someone else. He didn’t say he was divorcing me. He just told me that he was having an affair and then he walked out of the front door.

I did not know what to do. I was not prepared for this bombshell. I called his cell phone and he had turned it off. I began to panic and run around the apartment hyperventilating. I was so mad and confused. We were going to church. I was trying to be good. This is not how my miracle would die. I was not going to stand back and watch my marriage fall a final time.

Then I called a young couple that we had just met. The wife was much younger than me and they were barely newlyweds but I knew that she would be able to help me. I had heard her talk about her quiet times with the Lord, and the faith in her eyes could light up a room. I told her what was happening. She immediately knew what to do. She told me that we needed to pray and she set her husband to praying at that moment also. She picked up her copy of The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian and began to read the prayers to me over the phone. She took my husband and placed him before the throne of God. She lifted me up there to intercede for our union. She raised my expectation of what God could do.

That couple then came directly to my home and brought me my own copy of this wonderful book to study for myself. My husband was in the arms of another woman and I was in the throes of battle. Even though it seemed I would have to pray every chapter in the book to cover all my bases, I was given peace that things would turn out in God’s favor.

He came home that night. I was never so happy as when he came home. I still thank God often when Michael comes home. Many men don’t.

From that point forward, I knew the war was already won. I prayed hard. I didn’t like him but I prayed for him. He hurt me deeply but I prayed for him. And most importantly I prayed for his wife. I needed serious change. I needed a change in perspective and focus. Despite my growth in the things of God I was still focusing on changing my husband. I began to see the darkness in my own heart. It was ugly.

Even so, I am hard-headed and stubborn and I hate to lose. It was my new mission to convince him through my actions, demeanor and spiritual warfare that I was a wife worth having and he was a lucky man.

The enemy fought a vicious fight. He attacked what seemed to be a weak point – our marriage. We had been through so many marital issues that it seemed an obvious strategy. But God is so much smarter. He had placed it on Stormie Omartian’s heart to write an amazing, life-changing book. God had put that book in the possession of the young newlyweds. And He brought that book to me to transform the way I prayed.

The miracle of this story is that God continues to renew and strengthen our marriage when I remember to focus my prayers for Michael toward God changing Michael’s wife.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Marriage Resurrected: Part II From Darkness to Light

Photo Courtesy of xololounge via

Ephesians 5:8-11 NKJV
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

This is continued from Part I found here.

After our marriage was given true life by the power of the Holy Spirit, Michael and I began to see things in a new light. We thought about the world differently and tried to figure out all the right things to do to make this work in our day to day lives. Our marriage was still afloat and the Lord was with us in this transition. But for me the journey was painful because I wanted Jesus to be my Savior without being my Lord and Master.

Let me paint a picture of my life. I had wallowed in filth and every vile thing. I was a disgusting sinner through and through. It was as though I was completely covered in mud and muck from my head to my toes. It was in my hair and face, even in my mouth, covering every part of me with a thick coat of slimy darkness. I knew I was dirty and I knew Jesus could wash me as pure as snow. But I only wanted Him to wash my head. I wanted to know in my head that I was saved without giving over the other parts of me that were needed for the entire temple to be complete. I could not imagine the painful process that it would be to be all the way clean.

I held on to many lusts of the flesh. I smoked and drank and flirted with men. I spent afternoons dreaming of how perfect my life would be if I could just have a perfect husband or better job. I cursed like a sailor and filled my mind with gossipy magazines and ungodly music.

As much as I still reached for them, these fleshly desires were driving me mad. I would cry while I was driving to my women’s Bible study. I repeatedly fell apart during worship service at church because I was so unworthy of anything Christ had ever done for me. His sacrifice for me was very generic in my mind. “For God so loved the world…” I was part of the world and that’s why He thought to include me in the offer of salvation. I had no concept of what God wanted to do with my life. I just knew that this couldn’t be all there was.

I needed to make a clean break from the things of this world, and God knew just how to wake me up and make me choose a side.

You can read the next part of this story here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Feeding 5 for $5.51

I enjoy making every dollar the Lord blesses us with stretch to its fullest capacity. One way I do this is to try and control our grocery spending. Each time I grocery shop I spend some time picking out items with their prices reduced for quick sale.

We had a very thrifty dinner tonight that incorporated many of my latest frugal finds. Tonight’s menu was spaghetti with meat sauce, steamed vegetables, organic mixed greens and Italian sweet bread. This made plenty for our growing family of 6 (with one of them only eating a few mushy carrots) and enough pasta for everyone’s lunch tomorrow plus veggies and salad to add to Michael’s lunch.

The vegetables were bought fresh from the produce section. The hamburger meat was from a 5 pound package that has provided several meals. The bread is a much-loved family favorite that has slumbered in the freezer waiting for such a time as this. This bread tastes fresh after reheating. I simply unwrap it, pop it in the microwave with a cloth napkin on top to trap the steam and keep it moist. It goes in on defrost for 3 minutes and then on high for 1 more minute.

ground beef – 1/2 pound - $0.48 CLEARANCE
whole grain pasta - $1.00 on SALE
spaghetti sauce - $0.89 with COUPON
bread – $1.39 CLEARANCE
broccoli, carrots and snap peas - $1.00 CLEARANCE
organic salad ½ pkg - $.75 CLEARANCE
Total Cost for Dinner - $5.51

(Dinner price does not include grape juice or dressings pictured.)

This meal was relatively healthy and it fed all of us for less than the price of one McDonald's "value" meal.

My Marriage Resurrected

Isaiah 61:4 NKJV
And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.

If you aren’t convinced that God still performs miracles today then prepare to be amazed. God stepped into my marriage and brought it out of the pits of hell to bring glory to His Son Jesus Christ.

Michael and I married in 1997 and our first blessing was already on the way. Neither of us was walking with the Lord. We were both headed straight for hell and I think I was driving the bus. We loved the world and sinned accordingly. I was a terribly selfish person and I could not understand why this man who said he loved me could not even attempt to make me happy. He didn’t do as I pleased and he didn’t care when I cried about my miserable state of being. I was pretty pathetic.

Our poor child had to suffer through our fits and pouting. We threatened divorce three times, each time the gap between us grew and the apathy crept in. The Lord was there watching and waiting.

When we hit the bottom He caught us. I nagged my husband that we could either get a divorce or start going to church. Either way I really didn’t care. He should decide. After four years of self-induced agony I gave up any hope of reconciliation. But God’s plan was so much greater than we ever imagined. My husband who had not been to church since childhood chose church over divorce. I firmly believe that the Spirit of the Living God convinced my husband to choose church. There was no reason for him to choose the petty brat he called a wife. God personally stepped in and chose for us.

We began attending a church where God worked miracles. We met people who God trusted to shine the light into our dark places. We attended small groups where we learned God’s true ways of operating in people’s lives. We listened to sermons that were directed right at where we were and directed us where God wanted us to be. We grew leaps and bounds and our marriage began a long journey toward God’s plan for us.

This path back to God’s heart was not easy. Our growth pains would soon begin. But everything has to have a beginning. Our marriage was born again in 2002.

Read Part II here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Reason I Write

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Connors via

The Lord has been so good to me that I cannot be silent. I have been strongly encouraged by my husband to start this blog to talk as a wife and mother to encourage women to live for God in every aspect of their lives.

My blog title comes from Exodus 35:20-29 NKJV. The Israelites were commissioned by God to build the tabernacle and everyone did their part. The New King James Version states in verse 21 that “everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering.” Women and men gave what they were moved to offer. This passage catalogues extravagant offerings of gold, fine linen, silver and bronze and many other freewill offerings of great monetary value. Then in verse 26 we find that “all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair.” What in the world is goats’ hair yarn doing in the midst of all the precious metals and stones of great price?

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible notes on Exodus 35:20-29 illuminated these verses to me. It states:

“Without a willing mind, costly offerings would be abhorred; with it, the smallest will be accepted. Our hearts are willing, when we cheerfully assist in promoting the cause of God. Those who are diligent and contented in employments considered mean, are as much accepted of God as those engaged in splendid services. The women who spun the goats' hair were wise-hearted, because they did it heartily to the Lord. Thus the labourer, mechanic, or servant who attends to his work in the faith and fear of God, may be as wise, for his place, as the most useful minister, and he equally accepted of the Lord. Our wisdom and duty consist in giving God the glory and use of our talents, be they many or few.”

This comment states my mission for this blog very well. My talents, wisdom and service are the Lord’s. I pray that He be glorified in every post.