Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pinterest-y Easter

As I was scurrying through Target with the little bit of energy I had that the flu had not taken from me to gather items worthy of my children's Easter baskets, I contemplated how I wanted to make it a point that Easter wasn't about candy and bunnies and eggs.  I have no extra energy for anything extravagant, and I want to be to the point.  No fluff.  No "Jesus Loves You" Bunnies.  Of course, we love giving our kids gifts, which is why we give them an Easter basket, but I want Easter to be a day that focuses on more than just the Easter basket, the big meal, and the egg hunt.

I searched Pinterest high and low for Christ-centered ideas to celebrate Easter with kids.  Most of the ideas that I found, were, well, just cheesy and didn't help explain why we celebrate the fact that Christ is risen.  For example, I was not looking for a "No Bunny Loves You Like Jesus!" printable to put in the kids' Easter baskets.  I don't want to force Jesus into our Easter baskets.

So, this afternoon, I found it.  I found the Easter-y thing that creatively connects eggs and Christ AND helps explain why we celebrate, "He is Risen!"

I believe the "proper" name for the thing I found is "Resurrection Eggs."  Sofia's Primary Ideas is the blog that best explained each egg for me.  (CLICK HERE FOR LINK)  All you need is 12 plastic eggs and all the other items you can find around your house and yard.  Each egg contains a message, a passage, and an item to describe the events leading up to the Resurrection of Christ.  It is sort of like an "Easter Advent."  My kids LOVED the advent calendar we did at Christmas time, so I know they will enjoy this.  You fill the eggs, label them, and hide them.  The kids find them, open them, and you read each message and passage.  I'm not sure if we will do this Easter morning or after church, but either way, I've made the eggs (it took me about 30 minutes) and I am excited!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Christ in the Chaos: A Review

I remember growing up, painting or drawing a piece of art would be a common thing for me to do. When I was close to finishing up the piece, I would show my parents the almost-finished product for their opinion. To them, these pieces of art were beautiful. To me, there was always imperfections and room for improvement. I was critical and always very hard on myself as an artist. I remember my mom telling me that "You are your worst critic." Oh how true it is! 

In reading Christ in the Chaos, I have had the opportunity to examine my heart, especially in regards to the motives of my heart.  My motives seem to be driven from high expectations from myself and false (or perhaps nonexistent) expectations from others.  I will never meet these expectations.  I will always find myself lacking.

No matter how I may see myself lacking---a canvas painted with many imperfections and mistakes---God sees me as a perfect masterpiece because He sees Christ. You see, I can continue to try to improve and cover up my bad brush strokes and blemishes. I will. It's in my nature. I can continue to care about what other people think and seek their approval. That, too, comes very natural. Even as I write this post, my sinful heart seeks your approval and many views from my followers---all 14 of them. But, those things don't matter. All God sees is Christ! Not my imperfect paintings or my blog posts seeking approval! Oh, and for that, I am so very thankful! That drives me to obedience. I pray that The Lord continues to work in my heart and that I would more often look to Christ and not to what others think of me. 

 Now, I have a confession to make.  Christ in the Chaos is the first book written to women (but not only for women) that I have finished since I became a mother.  I started plenty, but I was never motivated to finish them because they showed me my weakness (the weakness I already very well knew of!) and didn't show me Christ.  Yes, they showed me passages in Titus or Ephesians or Proverbs which are great reminders of how I am to act as a woman.  But I always would become discouraged because I could not live up to those expectations.  I always mess up.  Always.  This was the first book that not only assured me that would happen, but pointed me to Christ in that he has already done all the work for me.  Now, I need to clarify that this doesn't make me lazy.  Quite the opposite.  This amazing outpouring of God's grace drives me to repentance and obedience.  In fact, that grace is the same grace that sort of "smacks the sense" into me with I go on a sinful rant when something (or many things) don't go the way I think they should.  Kimm points that out several times in this book.  And it is true!  It's truly extraordinary what God's grace can do!

One of my favorite passages from Christ in the Chaos is as follows: 

"Mothering has taught me how very weak I really am, and that is a hard, hard truth to accept.  But by living in my weakness, I see more and more how powerful God really is.  I come to understand that his power is shown to be perfect through my weakness and failures."  

Oh!  How I relate to how mothering has truly shown me my extreme frailty as a human being!  What comfort to know that especially in our weakness, God is showing His power!

Summing up the same chapter, Kimm writes, "Let me encourage you to take off the "strong mother" mask and embrace your weakness.  Stop hiding the very inadequacy God wants to use to display the gospel.  Believe his grace is sufficient.  Allow his power to be made perfect in you and then boast!  Boast all the more gladly so the power of Christ may rest upon you.  In your weakness, you will be made strong."

One of the chapters in Christ in the Chaos addresses the "Masks" that we put on in order to "fake it" so that we may get the approval, acceptance, and love of others.  I am constantly, in the deepest, darkest center of my soul, comparing myself to everyone around me.  Whether it be the mother at church who has more kids than me and somehow seems to be holding it together very well, or the mother who home-schools with several little ones with what looks like ease, or the mother who manages to find time to weight lift and compete and has more muscles than I would ever know what to do with.  I am constantly seeking the approval of my own self.  My "self" tells me that I need to have the kitchen sparkling everyday, that my kids don't need to watch any TV (Ha!), that I need to workout six days a week, and that I can never show any weakness to my kids, my husband, or my peers.  I have to constantly battle this.  Kimm shares that she does too.  That makes this book different than all the rest that I ~ahem~ started to read.  She says that these things will always be a struggle, but to run to Christ---to remember (Christ's work on the cross and how it relates to YOU daily), to repent (daily of those sins and desires to do it on your own) and to rest (in knowing that Christ has FINISHED the work for you.  He has paid it all.  We owe nothing.) REST!  What a truly freeing concept!  

Here is where I am going to say that if you have not read this book, READ IT.  It is only $9.99 in paper form and $5.99 in Kindle form.  I knew Kimm before reading this book, but even if I hadn't, I would feel as if she is one of my dear and closest friends after reading this book.  She is the first woman who has said to me, "You will fail. And when you do, run to Christ.  Rest in Him." I appreciate that honesty so very much.  And for that reason, as Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) would put it, I feel as though the author of this book and I are "Kindred Spirits."  I know she has gone through (nearly in earthly terms) hell and back as a mother.  I know she understands me and my weakness.  I know she prayed that it would effect me and everyone else who ate up the words from cover to cover.  I am so very thankful that God has used her life ---from the seemingly bottomless pit of despair she was in to the completely freeing Grace of God that she has come to know as a mother--- to speak to women who really, really needed to hear how the Gospel changes motherhood.  Thank you, Kimm, for the love, effort, prayer, and hours you poured into this book. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Quotable Jackson: Emergencies, Lightbulbs and China

In efforts to explain to Jackson what a real emergency is, because there have been many "false" emergencies lately, I clarified to him a few times what an emergency was (fire, someone hurting or taking you, earthquake, someone else getting hurt or doing something that could hurt them, etc.).  When putting him down for a nap or bedtime, I also explained that he wasn't to get out of bed unless it was "an emergency."  The other night, after I told him that, he sighed heavily and said, "Well, we just don't get too many of those around here!"  I had to agree.


Troy told me the other day that Jackson informed him that I had replaced the lightbulbs in the bathroom.  Jackson said that I "restored the light."  Ha!  I wonder where he came up with that!


Last night, Jackson's new water bottle broke while Troy was trying to take the lid off.  It was said that the cup was made in China.  Jackson then looked toward the bathroom where we had several new lightbulbs go out recently.  He asked, "Mommy, were those lightbulbs made in China?"  I replied, "Probably."  He then concluded, "Well, China needs to get some better materials!"  Well said, son, well said.
Jackson, age 5.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Busy Mom's Orange Chicken

The main ingredient of this Orange Chicken is, well, the chicken.  I understand that it probably is healthier for me to cut up my own chicken breasts, dip them in eggs and bread them with almond meal or something like that.  However, 355 days out of the year, I just don't have time for that.  So, the main ingredient for this meal is pictured below.  

That's right!  Trader Joe's saves the day, once again!  This tenderloins are actually very tasty and are around $7 a bag.  Well worth it to me!  By the way---an extra bonus is that these chicken breast are very low in sodium for a frozen item!  Although, the chicken is the main ingredient, it is all about the sauce, which is the homemade portion of this recipe, fresh squeezed OJ and all!

Busy Mom's Orange Chicken
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serves 8-10

1 bag of Trader Joe's Breaded Tenderloin Chicken Breasts
Homemade Orange Chicken Sauce (recipe below)

1) Heat oven to 400*F.
2) Spread chicken across a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
3) Put Chicken in oven for 10 minutes. (While chicken is cooking, prepare sauce!)
4)  Turn chicken over and cook for another 8 minutes.  
5)  Pour half of sauce over chicken.  Turn chicken over to make sure it is coated in the sauce.  
6)  Bake chicken for 7 minutes.  Pour most of the remaining sauce over chicken.  Garnish with green onions.  Enjoy!

Homemade Orange Chicken Sauce
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon orange zest  (Tip:  zest orange before juicing it.  A LOT easier!)
1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 c honey
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (fresh)
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 Tablespoon white or rice vinegar
3 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1)  In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the cornstarch and the 1/4 cup water.
2)  Turn on heat and bring to a boil.
3)  While the sauce in heating up, combine 3 T cornstarch with 1/4 cup water.
4)  Slowly mix cornstarch into sauce until it thickens.
5)  Pour over Chicken.  (Follow instructions above.)

If you are wondering what we eat this delicious Orange Chicken with, we always pair it with this rice medley from Trader Joe's.  It takes 3 minutes in a microwave for steamed rice.  Nothing beats that!  I make sautéed veggies to have with it most of the time, but tonight, I quartered Brussels Sprouts, put them in a 13 x 9 pan, sprinkled olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and fresh garlic and onions on it and put it in the oven with the chicken.  It took about 5 minutes more to bake than the chicken, but WOW!  It was worth it! 

If you use the whole bag of chicken, this meal feeds a good amount of people.  It tastes great the next day, so leftovers are always nice!  My husband is getting it in his lunch tomorrow!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Christ in the Chaos: What Sweet Truth!!!

I just received Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall in the mail a few days ago.  For two days in a row, I got some much needed (and very rare) quiet time while my two youngest napped.  So, I took a break from my chaos---from my kitchen counter stacked with dishes, from my living room with couch pillows strewn about, from the laundry in the washer waiting to be transferred to the dryer before it gets sour, from the already wrinkled clothes needed to be folded in the dryer, and read the first two chapters of this book.  As I sat down and started to read the forward by Elyse Fitzpatrick, my two cats got into a fight in the kitchen and the patio umbrella fell down from a gust of wind outside.  I silently laughed.

I had a good idea of what the first chapter would be about.   I met Kimm about eight years ago through my husband, who is an old friend of Kimm and her husband, Justin.  Several years ago, I remember sitting at Kimm's table and her telling my husband and I that she came to the conclusion that see wasn't a Believer---that she was trying earn her favor with God and that she was working through those things.  She believed that she had been saved since then.  I saw the changes in her shortly after I became a mother.  Instead of conversations on homeschooling or how to make your own sour cream, I started to enjoy long, late-night Gospel-centered conversations with her when her family slept over at our house.  I value her candidness and honesty as a fellow mother.  I even breathed a big sigh of relief when she told me she used paper plates all the time, just like I did.  Her willingness to "rest" in the Christ and the Gospel has been such an blessing and an example to me.  I am so thankful that she encouraged me to steer clear of those "dress-wearing, child-bearing, homeschooling, bread-baking, perfect-living" blogs that I naturally had an interest in (not that there is anything wrong with those things themselves, but you know what I mean).  With that said, reading chapter one of Christ in the Chaos still brought me to tears.  I struggle with focusing on Christ's faithfulness to me.  I struggle with beating myself up if I don't get my bed made in the morning, or if Jackson is late for school, or if I drop 3 dollars worth of Greek yogurt on the floor, or forget to buy the butter (all of which happened yesterday).  I must admit, those things, at the moment, seem tragic to me.  My sinfulness creeps into my heart and mind and the truth I know---that Christ is faithful, even with all my shortcomings, HE IS FAITHFUL---becomes harder to grasp in those moments.  It is in hindsight, perhaps moments later, or hours later, that I realize His faithfulness despite my imperfections, and the chaos, once again, becomes strangely dim.

At the end of each chapter, Kimm has a few questions for the reader entitled "Getting Real."  Here are my answers:

Chapter One
1)  A summary of my testimony:  I was very young when death and mortality became a reality.  I saw a man drop from a heart attack right in front of me.  My mom was in and out of the hospital with severe, sometimes deadly illnesses.  My friends were murdered at a very, very young age.  My dad was diagnosed with Melanoma.  Not only that, I saw that I couldn't depend or rely on the material things of this world.  [Parent's] Jobs are lost.  Houses are lost.  This all happened before or around the age of ten.  Sometime in the mix of those trials, I was saved.  I had said The Prayer at five, but I surely didn't understand the Gospel then.  It was when I realized that everything was out of my (and my parents') control, when I realized that the things I relied on the most wouldn't always be there, when certainty became uncertain, that Christ showed me his faithfulness, despite my sinfulness and my undeserving of favor.   I, too, like Kimm, rededicated myself many times to God, but I remember realizing that just because I still sinned, didn't mean I was no longer a Christian, or had fallen any farther from God's favor.
2)  What do you think makes someone a "Good Christian?"  Why?  What makes someone a "Good Christian" is absolutely nothing.  I can do nothing to become a "good Christian."  God does His work in me.  He changes my heart.  His son, Jesus, covered me and all my impurities so I am spotless and blameless to him.  What a sweet relief!  I'm not saying that I don't struggle with trying to be good, or patting myself on the back when I do something that would look good to others.  It is a struggle to remember these truths in the midst of sin!
3)  What do you find yourself putting your faith in today?  Does the hope you have in your parenting, marriage, or ministry override your hope in the finished work of Christ?  What does it really mean to "rest" in Christ?  I find myself putting my faith in myself and my abilities (or lack thereof) to clean house, cook, and take care of my family in a way that pleases others.  This is a struggle of mine.  Christ always seems to reel me back in to the reality that none of that matters and that I need to "rest" in him.  But, sometimes, that may be after my sin has gotten the best of me and I've wallowed in my frustration, anger, or resentment for a few hours.  Resting in him to  me, looks like this:  Instead of running around all day cleaning, cooking, washing, and tirelessly taking care of kids, then, then throughout the day, throwing up prayers to God in tough moments, "Oh! Lord, please help me!", not expecting, or having faith in the how much I complete in a day.  Resting in Christ means knowing that it doesn't matter if I get the laundry washed, the dishes loaded, or the kids bathed.  Although I will continue to try and do those things in order for my family to function, I have the comfort to know that no matter what shortcomings I have, Christ will always be faithful, and he is my portion.  As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
4)  What assures you of your salvation?  Are you afraid that if your commitment to God waivers, then he will drop his commitment to you?  What does 2 Tim 2:13 tell us about God's faithfulness?  I am so very thankful that my salvation does not depend on anything I can do.  It is a gift.  I often cling to Ephesians 2:8-9 in regards to salvation.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation, and there is nothing I can do for it to be taken away.  2 Timothy 2:13 is a wonderful reminder that no matter how much we screw things up or don't accomplish what we think we should have accomplished, no matter what, He is still faithful.  What a relief, isn't it?

I have completed the first two chapters of Christ in the Chaos, and there are so many sweet truths that God is using Kimm to remind me of.  I look forward to reading chapter 3 today!

PS:  If you are a mother, I would recommend this book, even though I've only read the first chapters.  That is how good they were.  So, buy the book here:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Christ+in+the+Chaos

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Quotable Madelyn: Diamond Ring

Yesterday while driving home, my ring was reflecting the sunlight into the van.  Madelyn saw it and asked what it was.  I told her it was my wedding ring.  She then clarified that it was a diamond ring.  Then she said very sweetly, "Mommy, I want one of those!  I want a diamond ring!"  I said, "Well, when  you grow up, if a man wants to marry you, he may give you a diamond ring."  In a positive, upbeat voice, she exclaimed, "Oh!  I'll have to remember that!  They're so beautiful!"  Uh-oh.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pinterest Post: Mom's Surprise Party!

I've been holding back on my "weekly" Pinterest posts because I was busy planning my Mom's surprise 60th birthday party.  I had a nice Springtime luncheon with our family for her.  She was very, very surprised!  I was so happy to bless her in that way.  Pinterest comes in, of course because I used many ideas from Pinterest to make her party extra special, from the menu to some of the decor.  Here are some photos of the extra special party!

I used a lot of vintage table cloths and rose china for the tables.  

The first surprise...

(Skip to 1:10 for the "Surprise!")


The menu was a "laid-back Easter Sunday dinner" from my recipes.com. (LINK HERE)  I found this menu on Pinterest.  Instead of making the chicken myself, I let Costco make it.  I also replaced the pasta bake the menu suggested for Juan Pollo's potato salad (which is delicious!).  This way, I was able to focus on the other sides like the roasted asparagus and Brussels sprouts and the spinach-strawberry salad.  YUM!

To include my siblings who live out of state, we set up two laptops and Skyped with them.  This was the setup for the second surprise.  About seven years ago, the diamond fell out of my mom's ring at church.  Despite several church members looking over every square inch of the floor and the pews, the diamond was not found.  She hasn't worn her ring since.  I had my brother sneak it from her jewelry box and with the help of family, we were able to get the diamond replaced, the ring repaired, and get it all shiny!  My mom was soooo surprised!  See for yourself...

I loved her reaction!

Trying on the ring.


The cake was from Alberston's.  I usually don't like store bought cake, but I've tried this cake several times in the past and I loved it.  I knew my mom would like the light cream, the fresh strawberries, and the light and moist cake.  It really is delicious.  Well done, Albertson's!

My mom and I!

For the bunting, I folded paper doilies over brown string. I then brushed on a little Mod Podge on to secure the middle of the doily.  Very easy, but very pretty!  (Another Pinterest idea!)

I love to use chalkboards.  This time, I used one for a menu and one for a birthday sign.
Flowers always look great in pitchers! 
And in Mason jars!
The butterflies were used at my wedding reception around the cake table.  I was glad I could bring them out again!  The wooden blocks on the wall spell out "Happy Birthday."  The were made a while ago by my father-in-law and they can spell out several different things.  Very cool!
Overall, I really liked how my mom's party decor turned out.  Most of all, though, I enjoyed being able to bless her with so many surprises in one day!  Thanks to all the family who made that possible!