Tuesday, April 10, 2018

To Carson, On Your 10th Birthday

Dear Carson,
         So, I really had to force myself to write this tonight so that it would post on your actual birthday. Life right now is...crazy, to say the least. Your dad and I took a big leap of faith and we finally bought a house. One in which, after seven years, you should *finally* have your own bedroom. You've kind of been a champ about the whole room-sharing thing, I think you know there are things you will miss about sharing with your sister, even if you will never admit it. You don't really remember what it was like to have a room of your own-the last time was before you turned three!

   But I think you're up for the challenge. You are so excited to have a place of your own to invite your friends to-you definitely have the gift of hospitality. Your greatest pleasure is to make plans and have people over. You have this really great group of boys that you are friends with, and it never ceases to amaze me how popular you are. You demonstrate traits of a good leader, and you are always thoughtful about other people and what they may want or need. Your sensitive heart is one of my favorite things about you.

   Nine was a good year for you, I think. You took recorder in co-op and really enjoyed it, so much so that you are considering band. (We'll see, I'm not sure about adding anything else to the schedule!) You really developed your friendships-spending so many Thursday afternoons at other people's houses I've lost track. You've worked hard in school and Awana. You keep me on track with my verses, and I love sharing the goal of finishing this year's T&T book. You make it look easy!

  You've continued to love soccer, and I really appreciate the team that you are on, you put in a lot of effort, but you have a good time. I'm glad that you are starting to figure out what you want, and going for it, even if it is out of your comfort zone. I try really hard to encourage you to do things that you're afraid of-we're a lot alike and I don't want you to be trapped by silly fears. That isn't what the Lord wants for us, and you help me to be brave so I want to do the same for you.

    I'm looking forward to this year. Ten is kind of a big deal, you're not a "little kid" anymore. I'm thankful for those sweet days, but I'm eager to see where this new phase takes us. I really like you, and I think it's just going to get better. I'm so thankful God put you in my life. I love you.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Wounds We Cannot See

    The intricacies of Christ's death and resurrection are something that I am certain I will study all my life and never tire of. The saying goes, "the devil is in the details" but I wholeheartedly and vehemently attest that *God* is in the details. He can speak more meaning into a single sentence than I will ever utter in my entire life.

   This Easter I have been contemplating the wounds of the Savior. He was beaten without mercy, tortured by whips and thorns, He was pierced by nails and swords. He endured hideous physical pain and that swamps me with grief because I know He was pierced for my transgressions.

   And that would have been too much. Those wrenching, life-stealing bodily wounds would have been more than I deserved. But He went a step further. The worst torture He endured was something we could not see.

"About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,ema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)" Matthew 27:46 NIV

The Father turned away from His only Son.

"But your iniquities have separated    you from your God;your sins have hidden His face from you,    so that He will not hear." Isaiah 59:2 NIV

He was there because of us.

“He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 NIV

When He was bearing the weight of ALL of our sins, His Father had to hide His face. The Son was separated from the Father. That was the greatest wound of all. We could never be with God because of our sin. That was the punishment that Jesus bore on the cross. The perfect Son, who is One with the Father, and our sin tore that bond asunder.

 Peter was quoting this passage from Isaiah:

"Surely He took up our pain    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressionsHe was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,    and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray,    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him    the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV (emphasis mine)

   The wound that we could not see is the one that caused our Christ the greatest grief. That was the cup He begged to pass from Him. He knew that separation from God was the absolute worst punishment imaginable. And He took that upon Himself so that we could be freed.

   He gave Himself to save us so that we would never have to bear that unfathomable pain. That anguish, that horror, didn't show on His skin but it was etched on His heart.

He took that on Himself because He loved us.

He bore that for me. For you.

He took that so that we could say:

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-39 NIV (emphasis mine)

  Nothing can separate us. He took that separation on Himself so that we will never have to endure it once we are in Him. He was wounded with the greatest wound, the wound we could not see, so that we could be healed.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

-Stuart Townend

HE IS RISEN! By His wounds we are healed... Thank You, Jesus.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Super Simple Pan Roasted Bacon Brussel Sprouts

     Making Brussel sprouts always seems to upgrade a meal. I'm not sure if it is just that I don't throw them in the microwave like so many vegetables, or if they're cooked rather than just tossing a salad,  but they feel "fancy".

   And my family loves them! Thankfully, they are ridiculously easy to make. So many of my recipes have "Super Simple" in the title, because to me, that is their chief attribute. Of course, they're delicious, but let's be honest: I'm not making anything on a regular basis that isn't stupidly easy. But that doesn't have quite as nice of a ring to it. ;)

 These take maybe 10 minutes from start to finish, and serve 2-4, depending on portion sizes.

You'll need:
-four strips of heat and serve bacon (you can use raw bacon, but it will take a bit more time)
- 1/2 to 1 tbsp. butter
-a cup of onion, sliced (I cut the onion in half, then slice it, then I cut the slices in half again)
-fresh Brussel sprouts, 8-10 oz.

    First, you will want to slightly steam your brussel sprouts to make sure you end up with a tender final product. I bought a heat-in-the-bag type from Trader Joe's and I popped it in the microwave for two minutes. If you prefer, you can also bring an inch or so of water to a boil in a saucepan and steam the brussel sprouts covered for two minutes until they are bright green. Cut sprouts in half.

 Since I don't prefer to cook raw bacon, I use the pre-cooked kind. It is easy to cut the slices into strip with my kitchen shears. I cut them right over my skillet. Cook the bacon until it begins to crisp-you don't need to cook it to done, as it will continue to cook with the sprouts and onions.

  Depending on how fatty your bacon is, you will want to add 1/2 to 1 tbsp. of butter. Immediately add the onions. Saute briefly, about one minute. Add the sprouts.

 Cook until the bacon is crispy, the onions are translucent and the sprouts are nicely browned, stirring occassionally. You can add salt and pepper, as you cook, or after. Sometimes I add a little garlic salt.

   Serve immediately! I find these to be preferable to pan roasting, as I can more easily control the tenderness of the sprouts, and I don't have to heat up my oven when it is warmer. These are so quick and easy, and honestly, even with the butter and bacon, they are still a great way to get your veggies in. Even my kids love them! I think it's the bacon. :)

  That's it! A super simple, healthy, "fancy" side? That's a big "yes" for me! We love to eat these with roasted pork tenderloin, steak, or grilled chicken. They're pretty good with almost anything. So, go! Eat brussel sprouts and feel fancy! 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Silent Night

     It's been quiet here on the blog. Usually that is a good sign that real life is CRAZY. That is definitely the case this year. I have had ideas for about five different posts. As you know if you follow me, I have posted zero. I even have photos taken for a post, but yet, nothing. The time just hasn't been right.

    I've been busy with Christmas stuff, preparing and planning, making and baking, running here, there and everywhere. But you haven't seen it (unless, of course, you're my husband). You have just seen....nothing. You haven't heard anything from me, but that doesn't mean I'm not here.

    And that is what I am thinking about tonight. Dwelling on the FOUR HUNDRED YEARS between the Old Testament and the New Testament. You know, the one or two pages between Malachi and Matthew in your Bible? That was lifetimes-generations coming and going. Waiting. Watching. For a while, at least...

    But waiting is hard. And we lose interest quickly. And days slip into weeks, years into decades. We lose track of time and we give up, forget, move on. But that didn't mean He wasn't there...

    That inter-Testament period? It is known as the silent, or dark, period. Pretty bleak. Quiet is nice at first, but after a while it can drive you crazy. You start talking to yourself, you start hearing voices. You wonder if maybe you are losing it, you wonder if you were confused about what you heard. Weren't promises made? A Savior. What was going on? Four hundred years...

    " The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9 NIV

   Quiet days turned into silent nights. Promises seemed unfilled, hope felt empty. Memories were short, and soon, for many, thoughts of the Messiah slipped into the oblivion of forgetfulness...

    Until another silent night soon became a holy night. The most Holy of all Nights. The Silence was broken with the most powerful Word ever spoken.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among US..." John 1:14 
    The emphasis is mine, because I can't get over the beauty of ending that phrase with those two little letters that mean me, and you, and everyone. The Word, a clarion call that prayers were answered, promises fulfilled, not just after four hundred years but for all of eternity. At just the right time...

     We don't ever have to live in that uncertainty again. Hope was born, and the Word doesn't just dwell among us, He dwells in us.

"Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 CSB
     If your night seems silent, I have a hard truth for you: you aren't listening. He is speaking, the silence is broken. He didn't just give us words at Christmas, He gave us THE Word. He spent four hundred years planning, preparing, perfecting. At just the right time, He tore the veil, broke the barrier, and glorious light and sound poured out, from Him to us. Christmas is Him speaking, flooding our ears with the most beautiful Voice ever heard, promising us that this Jesus was indeed, the One:

"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”" Matthew 17:5 NIV
     We don't have to endure the silent treatment anymore, Jesus offered His life to free us to hear. He is speaking, we just have to stop to listen. He is there, He always has been, but now, His plans are apparent, His purpose clear. He fulfills all of His promises, no matter how slow the fulfillment may seem. I encourage you: if it seems like you are suffering through too many silent nights, remember that the Word is already here. We don't have to be wait, He has come.

    That is the beauty of Christmas. The Word that many in those hundreds of dark, quiet years died longing to hear, has come. Just listen: His name is Jesus.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart Day 30

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV
   So, this is the only verse in the plan that isn't in Biblical order, and it pained me a little to do that (it really should have been flip-flopped with yesterday's verse to stay in correct order) but I really, really wanted to end with this one.

   It is so perfect for the holiday season, and I'm sure you've seen it used on Christmas cards, but that isn't the only reason why I chose to place it here. It is just exceptionally fitting verse for the end. So, so short, but really the entire motivation behind this thing we do, with the praying and thanking.

I loved this commentary from Chuck Smith:

"So we're talking about giving to God, but yet, you think of what God has given unto us: that unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ. And what was the motive behind it? "God so loved the world that He gave" (John 3:16).
And so the motive behind our giving must be love. Our love for God. And any other motive is not really valid. Give because you love the Lord. Give what you purpose in your heart. What you can give hilariously, that give unto God and God will bless you abundantly for it. So the rule's really about giving. And I want that those rules should apply here." 
    See, that's the thing: we have to have love to be able to give anything, and especially thanks. And that indescribable gift? Well, that's Love, with a Name above all names: Jesus. I can't not put this Scripture here:

"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:7-12 NIV 
    And this is what I want you to take away if you don't ever read any other words I write: if your thanks is based on something you totally understand and can completely describe, and you can do it simply and shortly, and be done with it, you have it all wrong. True thanksgiving-the kind that is an absolute outpouring of gratitude, a flood of gratefulness, appreciation without limit, isn't something you can write out for 30 days and be done with. It demands, He demands, your life, your soul, your all. He is Love, and He came down and He offered Himself and He can live within you. That kind of thanks... there are not enough words or days to ever express it. Because you can't really describe that kind of Gift. You can't put that type of sacrifice into human expression and really imbue it with the meaning it deserves.

   So here is the thing: indescribable gifts deserve endless thanks. Because you can't describe it doesn't mean you give up-it means you have to try every day for all of eternity. Not for 30 days in November, and certainly not for one Thursday a year. Every. Single. Day. For ALL of your life, with every breath if you truly have the slightest grasp of the weight of it.

   This gift...THIS IS LOVE. I can't write poetry, or music, and my words are stilted and limited and feeble. But I am going to keep trying because this is my offering of thanks. This is my sacrifice of praise. To try to share this indescribable gift until one day, perhaps, when I am finally in His presence and He will give me the opportunity to truly give Him the thanks He deserves.

Today's Reflection:
   Give thanks until your words fail you. This gift, it is indescribable, but we are allowed to offer our praise anyway. That is an awe-inspiring privilege, and one we should practice as long as we draw breath. Pray that the Lord will so fill your heart and mind with the awesomeness of that gift that you can't help but thank Him for it each and every day.

Looking for the printable scripture writing plan? Or another day of the "Thankfulness: From Hand to Heart" study? Find them here!

   It's almost Christmas! Another way to praise is through song, and I have a free printable devotional for December: your favorite Christmas carols paired with Scripture to celebrate the season. Find "Sing of His Birth" here


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