Splinters: Allowing God to Heal and Restore

Splinters: Allowing God to Heal and Restore

Last week my nearly three year old son had a splinter in the bottom of his foot. I told him to wear shoes outside on our wooden playset, but he chose to disobey and took them off before climbing the ladder. Lo and behold, he got a huge splinter. And it hurt him a lot.

My husband was working late that evening so it was just me versus the splinter. BIG SIGH.

I tried a few different tactics with my little boy trying to gain access to the bottom of his foot with my needle-nose tweezers, but he screamed and wiggled before I even touched him. I found myself contemplating sitting on him to keep him still. Seriously.

Finally, I grabbed him up in my arms and held him tight. I told him I needed him to relax and calm down and focus on the movie I turned on so I could help his foot feel so much better. He looked at me with tear-filled eyes and cried, “But mommy, no! I love the splinter.”

Suddenly, it struck me how similarly we act when we have a “splinter”–something harmful we hold on to when God is trying to make us new. But we can’t seem to let it go.

Whether it’s a particular sin we are struggling with, something we aren’t trusting the Lord with in our lives, a pain we are holding on to, or lack of obedience in our lives–how many times have you held on to your “splinter” and said you loved it instead of letting Christ heal your heart?

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Psalm 31:19 says:

How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.

It also reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce when he describes the man with the Red Lizard.  I found a partial transcript in Christianity Today if you want to read a longer segment, but pick up the whole book if you haven’t already. In this story, a man has a lizard on his shoulder which represents sin in his life. It’s a startling allegory about what separates us from God.

A mighty angel approached the man and asked, “Would you like me to make the lizard quiet?”

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away!” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel…. “Shall I kill it?”

“Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

After much discussion and indecision, the man finally allows the Angel to kill the lizard. As the lizard dies, it transforms into a dazzling white stallion.

The man, now free from his torment, climbed upon the stallion that had been his sin and rode into the glowing sunrise toward the Savior.

That is available to all of us. We can be free from our torment. Free from the sin in our lives.

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Galatians 5:1 assures us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” {sin}

Walking around life with “splinters” in our feet is slavery. What pain, what agony, what self-inflicted misery we can wallow in if we don’t seek the forgiveness, restoration, and loving healing of Jesus Christ.

Why is our old nature so hard to let go of sometimes? We think it will hurt, and it might a little…but life will be so much better afterward.

Do you have a “splinter” in your life that you need to surrender to God? Have you experienced the forgiveness and healing of Christ? Did you know that even though it seems incredibly hard to be refined by God through repentance and obedience and trust in the Lord, that He loves you and wants to see you restored, healed, and following Him?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Romans 8:1-4

 

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

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Note: Our story is our story; marriages can be quite different and face unique challenges. We just hope to encourage those with what we’ve learned in our life.

Best Decision of My Life

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. We were very nearly babies when we wed–I was twenty years old and he was twenty-one. We were very grown up, or so we thought.

Honestly though, despite being young, it was the best decision we ever made. I remember hearing people who had been married for twenty years say they were more in love than ever with their spouse. At the time, that concept made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine being more in love with this guy.

We dated for three years, half of which was our engagement.  Despite my “plan” to have a career before I entered into a serious relationship, we fell in love pretty early on in our relationship. We attended a Christian liberal arts university and I was bound and determined not to be there for my “MRS.” However, God had other plans for my life.  We married before our senior year of college. After we graduated, we moved out of state so my husband could attend law school in his hometown.

We Fell In Love, Yet I Was Miserable

Year one was a breeze. I thought marriage was not hard.

Year two was the most stretching year of our relationship.

He was in law school, I was in a new town, surrounded by everyone who knew my husband and his family but not me, and I was working but incredibly lonely. What happened to college where all our friends had time to hang out every day and come over any time? How fair was it that I was being a “grown up” starting my career while he was still in school? Why was this town so small and why is there no decent retail? These were all things my twenty-two-year-old self was struggling with daily.  I was married to the love of my life. I worked in my degree field in a job that was a great fit. And yet, I was miserable.

I did not understand why the second year was so much harder. For goodness’ sake, we were in love! We had even gone through two premarital counseling sessions for “extra-good premarital preparedness training.” Because I thought that both of us being believers, doing extra premarital counselling, plus having successfully married parents, made us experts. Oh, and don’t you know, we knew each other incredibly well and had discussed everything under the sun.  (Cue eyeroll…remember, I was twenty-two).

Or did we?

Our new church family became the reason we have the marriage we do today. They challenged us in our own relationships with Christ in new and profound ways. We realized we both had a lot of spiritual growth to do. I realized that as amazing as my new husband seemed (and is), he is a human and will let me down somehow. He doesn’t mean to, but it happens. And I let him down, even though he has never told me as much, but I’m sure I have at some point.  We learned a lot of things about each other, but most importantly we learned how to live for Christ, to die to ourselves, and to grow in our faith more deeply than we had before.

It came down to this: the closer each of us grew in Christ independently, the better and deeper our relationship grew together.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As it turns out, that’s also a progressive transformation.

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The Secret to a Great Marriage

Over the years, we’ve participated in some awesome and challenging marriage studies with small groups, such as Eggerich’s Love and Respect, John Piper’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Saving your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott. Each one provided great tools and things to consider or work on in a new way, but it comes down to your own relationship with God. You will be a better spouse when you are working on your relationship with the Lord. It’s not magic. It all takes time and intentional investment, but that’s the secret.

Ten years and four kids later, I can now say that I’ve never been more in love with my husband. I understand him in a deeper way. He challenges me to be in the Word, and works tirelessly to “fill my love tank” daily (see The Five Love Languages).  He leads our family devotions each night and parents better than I do, and none of it has anything to do with me.  Yes, we both are very different people than we were ten years ago. Little by little, we’re becoming new people in Christ. If we were the same people we were ten years ago, I don’t know if our marriage would have lasted. (I hate to think that, but the selfishness in both of us was unsustainable.)

There are still occasional tough days, and we each still have a lot of work to do. But there are a lot of wonderful days. I can’t wait to see where we are in another ten years.

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Super Soup Series: Harvest Soup and Beer Bread

Super Soup Series: Harvest Soup and Beer Bread

This harvest soup recipe came to life when I was desperately needing a good dinner and I had to play Chopped in my own kitchen. Menu planning fail. We’ve all been there, ha!

Harvest Soup is so great during the fall but it is a total comfort food for me all winter long. I love this recipe because it is very forgiving and ingredients are easy to sub out if you need to clean out your pantry  (I’ll make some suggestions below.).

Essentially, this is a beef vegetable stew that uses pumpkin puree instead of canned tomatoes and broth. Stay with me, I know it sounds weird but it works. I am terrible at measuring when I’m cooking, so please adjust below for your own taste.  I love to serve this with warm beer bread, and that recipe is also below.

What you need:

1 lb ground beef

1 tsp salt

ground black pepper to taste

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of pumpkin puree (not sweetened pie filling, plain puree)

1/2 cup of diced onion (red or yellow vidalia is best, but can be any kind)

1-2 Tbs of dried Herbs de Provence (or use dried thyme, rosemary, tarragon, basil, marjoram, etc)

1 Tbsp butter

Olive oil

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (I often substitute for 2 Yukon golds as seen in the picture for this post, but the sweet potato really is best in this soup)

1 cup of frozen sweet corn or 1 can of sweet corn, rinsed and drained)

1/2 cup of carrots, diced

1 cup(ish)of white wine (You can also use broth–I usually have broth ready to add to this anyway if I need to bring up the liquid level without diminishing the flavor)

1 cup of milk (plus more if needed), or half-and-half

For soup:

*Note: I’ve made this with leftover roasted sweet potatoes and it was delicious. If you have time to roast them ahead of time to get great caramelization on them, it’s delicious. If they are pre-cooked, then add them toward the end of cooking to avoid them becoming too mushy.

Begin to brown the beef with salt and pepper and about 1/2 Tbsp of the dried herbs. Next, add the onion and saute until tender. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds to 1 minute more; then remove all from pan into a bowl and set aside. Drain the extra grease.

Return pot to burner and add 2 Tbsp butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Add potato and carrots and saute until potato begins to brown on the outside or soften slightly. Deglaze pan with white wine (scrape up all the brown bits). Put beef mixture back in pot,  then stir in the pumpkin puree thoroughly until well combined. If it’s very thick, add broth until it can combine smoothly. Pour milk in slowly along with the rest of the dried Herbs de Provence. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer until potatoes and carrots are cooked through. Season to taste and add corn in the last 5 minutes of cooking. If it reduces too much and becomes too thick, add more wine or broth until you like the consistency.

Again, I love to serve this with beer bread!

Here is a super easy, versatile beer bread recipe:

3 cups flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/3 cup brown sugar, loosely packed OR white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces of your favorite beer (I prefer malty beers. I also tend to think IPAs leave a hoppy aftertaste that I don’t love in this bread.)

3 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard size bread pan or line with parchment.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Carefully pour over beer of choice and mix gently just until combined. Don’t overmix–the dough should be light and sticky. Place in a bread pan and form it gently into place. Pour melted butter right on top and pop it in the oven for about 50 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. You can smell when it’s done. 🙂  It is delicious with a pat of butter on a warm slice.

Hope you enjoy this meal!

 

Let your taste buds enjoy these delicious soups as well!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Chili Lemon Thyme Chicken Noodle Soup  Creamy Mushroom Soup

 

5 Fun, Simple Things to do with Kids for Christmas

5 Fun, Simple Things to do with Kids for Christmas

Making Family Traditions without Making Yourself Crazy

It seems like every year there is a new “tradition” or fun thing to do with the kids to enhance Christmas for the family. I think that is GREAT and I love creating family traditions with my kids. More power to all you super-creative mamas!

However, I’ve recently been trying to scale back our holiday commitments in an effort to not over-extend or over-commit our family or stress myself out. So in an effort to accept my own challenge to keep things simple but special–and most importantly, intentional–I’ve made a list of 5 things we will do with our kids this year.

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Don’t get me wrong! If you go all out every year and have three trees and wrap up 25 Christmas books for your kids to open each day, or make everyone an advent calendar, then please know I admire you greatly and someday I might be just like you!

But this year, here are five fun, simple things we are doing:

1. Christmas Advent Calendar {or Wreath}

I bought mine to do with the kids. It has Bible verses and involves chocolate. 🙂 There are SO MANY cute ones available. We wanted to focus on one that worked itself into our family worship each evening. Advent wreaths are also my favorite!

2.  Put out the Nativity scene together.

I have two Nativities. One is my “nice” one that stays up high, but I also have one that is kid-friendly and having them help me set it up is such an easy way to keep up the discussion about Christmas.

3. Christmas movies

Our family movies have predominantly turned to Christmas movies. In our house these days, it’s mostly the ones with our much beloved truth-telling vegetables (aka Veggie Tales).  There are some great Christmas movies out there that include the real meaning of why we celebrate. But hey, there are also plenty of family-friendly classics. The point is, it’s fun to hang out on the couch for some extra family bonding over popcorn and hot cocoa this time of year.

4. Add a manger under your tree.

Whether it’s a baby bed with swaddling clothes or a small wooden crate, adding a manger under the tree is a great conversation starter for the kids. It is also a wonderful reminder for all of us when we begin to see ALL of the presents under the tree…including the manger.  On Christmas Eve, add a baby doll Jesus and do a family devotion to remind the kids who the real gift is for everyone.

5. Sing!

My kids love singing and it seems to be the best way to get through to them sometimes. Cue an adorable little preschool Tiger who sings about EVERYTHING. My daughter is a song-sponge. We’ve been making it a habit since we put the tree up to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” ” Away in the Manger,” and “Silent Night,” as well as others. We sing them at all sorts of times during the day, usually when the kids are trying to resist the temptation of climbing the tree. They love it!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and if anyone feels a little overwhelmed or “behind-the-power curve” or already buckling under the holiday pressure for greatness, just keep it simple and keep it true.

Kids’ Craft: Thankfulness Tree

Kids’ Craft: Thankfulness Tree

My dear friend Candace wrote a great blog here about being patient and encouraging your kids in love, especially when doing crafts with your kids.

She challenged me to do fun things WITH my kids more often even if it means it might not turn out Pinterest-perfect.  That little lesson has been tugging at the back of my mind as we approach the holidays with my almost three year old. This is such a magical age of understanding and excitement. How could I not capitalize on this finite time of being little and awesome? Well, I was not really one to enjoy group projects growing up, if you know what I mean. I’m a bit of a control freak. Guys, it’s a struggle!

BUT, I’m letting go and picking my battles because God is gracious to my ridiculousness and teaches me His ways instead. Slowly but surely. HA!

So, I’ve picked some specific crafts this year to do with my daughter throughout the season to teach and play and hopefully start some family traditions. I honestly can’t wait to include the boys next year. It will be so much more messy.

My first attempt was a Thankfulness Tree. I had grand visions of a home decor-worthy tree to accent our living room with sweetness.

LOL

I knew I was going to have to let go and let her love the craft without taking over immediately.  Laying out the paper and sketching the tree got…sketchy. PLUS the construction paper pack I bought didn’t have brown (WHAT?!) so I guess we have a Birch Thankfulness Tree.

Anyway, this really is a easy craft to do, whether you keep it up for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, use it the week prior, or even fill it up on Thanksgiving day with the whole family!

Here is what I did, but you could do this in so many different ways!

I purchased a standard poster board from the craft store along with a big pack of construction paper in various colors. You will also need a pencil, glue stick, tape, and scissors. But THAT’S IT!

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First, I set out a few pieces of construction paper (in white, but if you are cooler than me, you can really play around with the colors) and taped them together in a general tree shape. Next, I sketched a tree and branches with a pencil (not too detailed) and cut it out.

I then let my daughter use the glue stick. Oh, my!

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It was actually fine.

See?

After realizing I have no skill at drawing leaf shapes, I googled leaf drawings and traced a few different varieties onto lots of different colors. TIP: Fold the paper into quarters and cut the leaf shape only once to get four. This size ended up being perfect.

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My girl even helped fold the paper and draw leaf shapes too.

We had a great time.

Finally, I found a silver paint marker and wrote Psalm 107:1 on the bottom: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

There are a TON of great thankfulness verses! I chose this one because it was short and simple enough for my daughter to memorize.

TADA!

I hung it on the wall at about her height (mistake because her twin baby brothers have tried to destroy it, but it has survived.)

Now every night, we say the verse together. Then we write something she is thankful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree.

I’ve had to let go of the tree aesthetic–I let her choose where to place the leaves–but she loves it and is very proud of our craft.

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It has been so fun to hear what she is thankful for each day. To date, the list includes:

Apple juice, pants, lions, trees, Dad, Mimi, noses, pillows, and cars.

I encourage you to do this or something similar with your kiddos while they are small! It was SO EASY ! Even though I made it even simpler than I may have initially planned, I loved including my daughter in our craft. I think in the best ways, it is definitely Pinterest-worthy!

TIP: My mom had the idea to laminate the tree/background part so that it lasts for a few years. Then you only have to re-do the leaves. My mom is a teacher. Also, full disclosure, she made some of my leaves and hers look legitimately awesome. She has the gift. 

thanks tree

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