Christmas Is . . .

Last Sunday we were sitting in church with our five not-so-angels. As you mothers know, Sunday morning can turn from peaceful worship preparation to frantic survival mode in less than a second. This particular Sunday had more trigger points than usual:

  • It was Christmas program day. Not only that, but it was also last minute rehearsal day and we were having a potluck at church between the rehearsal and the actual program. I had promised to take sandwiches and squares.
  • I was expected to curl my youngest daughter’s hair and she doesn’t like anyone touching her. She didn’t want me to use rags in her hair the night before, so that meant I had to plan extra time into my Sunday morning routine.
  • The children had been promised horse-drawn wagon rides and caroling, adding more excitement to the already frenetic activity of the day. The wagon rides were supposed to happen the day before, but the weather had been frigid and the activity had to be post-poned
  • My husband was in the shower when I had hoped he would lend a hand.

Despite all the extra stress, we made it to church on time with everything done and all the props, clothing, and food we needed.

That’s when it happened: Pastor Kelly called all the children up to the front to say a prayer with them before they went to Sunday School. Our four younger children said goodbye to us and walked to the front. As the children were finding a place to sit, Pastor Kelly asked, “Are you getting excited about Christmas and presents and . . .”

Our son, Luke, blurted out, “Pastor Kelly, Christmas is NOT about chocolate or presents or trees or anything else. It’s about the KING!”

Wrapping paper

Those are words I’ll treasure for a long time. Some days when we are instructing our children, we wonder if anything is sinking in. This was a rare moment when we glimpsed the depth of understanding Luke has about Christmas. It’s even more special because although Luke has celebrated 13 birthdays, his comprehension is closer to that of a 5 or 6 year-old. He may not be able to understand numbers beyond 10, but in my mind, he understands something much more significant and important than anything he’ll ever learn in school. He knows that Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and King. Not only that, but Luke enjoys a personal relationship with his King and tells anyone willing to listen.

How would you finish the sentence: “Christmas is . . .”?

 


Is God Enough?

There are times in our lives when all of us ask, “Is God enough?” We live in a fallen, sinful world where bad things happen to good people. I’ve had a few experiences in my life which have shaken me and forced me to think about what I believe and why.

  • Gifts from a loving God, the first piece I had published, details my journey through infertility and adoption. My husband and I were told we would probably never have children of our own. Several months later, I found out that I was pregnant. I was ecstatic! However, after a few short weeks I miscarried. I still grieve the loss of that baby. Is God enough? Yes!
  • We adopted several children, including twin boys who are now 13. We knew before we adopted the twins that they had special needs. They were born at 27 weeks gestation and were not expected to live because of their high needs. We found out several years later that they were born early because of abuse. More opportunity to grieve. Is God enough? Yes!
  • My dad was diagnosed with dementia about 5 years ago. It’s painful to watch his decline, to see him become a shell of the amazing person he once was. Is God enough? Yes!

I appreciate what Renee Swope challenges us to do in chapter 11 of A Confident Heart:

“Let’s make a promise that every time doubt casts its shadow over us, we will run back to Jesus, turn toward the light, and stand in the shadow of the cross where everything changes. In the shadow of the cross:

  • When you feel inadequate, God says: You are CHOSEN (Isaiah 43:10)
  • When you feel afraid, God says: You are REDEEMED (Isaiah 43:1)
  • When you feel unloved, God says: You are LOVED (Isaiah 43:4)
  • When you feel forgotten, God says: You are REMEMBERED (Isaiah 49:16)
  • When you feel insecure, God says: You are SECURE (Deut. 33:12)
  • When you feel unable or unstable, God says You are ABLE (Hab. 3:19)
  • When you feel worthless, God says: You are CALLED (1 Pet. 2:9)

Open book

Here are a few truths I would add:

  • When you are grieving, God says: I UNDERSTAND (John 11:1-35)
  • When you don’t know how to pray, God says: I’ll INTERCEDE for you (Romans 8:26)
  • When you are staring death in the face, God says: I am preparing a HOME for you. (John 14:1-3)

[youtube=http://youtu.be/yUR7BFTphmI]

As the Apostle Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (I Cor. 15:19) Fortunately this life is not all we have to look forward to – – we also have the hope of eternity in Heaven because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul ends his teaching on the resurrection of Jesus Christ by challenging us:

“With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (I Cor. 15:58 The Message)

When life throws it’s worst at us, we can:

  1. Stand our ground – meditating on God’s truths
  2. Refuse to give in – choosing to live by fact, not feelings
  3. Continue on in the work God gives us – stepping out in faith and allowing Him to work in and through us.

Is God enough? YES!


Saying Yes to God Every Morning

Lysa TerKeurst says,

“…Satan hates the radically obedient soul. He hates it when a person jumps off the fence of complacency and into the center of God’s will. There is a spiritual battle raging around us and, because of that, life can be hard. While saying yes to God does bring blessing, it’s not easy. If our desire for obedience is born merely out of duty, we may be quick to give up. However, if our desire is born out of delight, out of a love relationship that burns deep in our soul, it won’t be extinquished–no matter the cost.”

I’ve been reminded this week of the intensity of the spiritual battle we face. First there has been the last minute rush to get my five children ready for school. Usually school doesn’t start until after the September long weekend, and usually I’ve purchased all the necessary school supplies weeks before school starts. This year, due to busyness the purchases didn’t get made until this week and school starts tomorrow! I’ve found myself tempted to be impatient with my children, short with my husband, and discontent with my lot in life. which way?Secondly, I’m facing several transitions right now. My husband is transitioning from working away from home to working at home. My children are transitioning to school, including my youngest daughter. Which means I’m transitioning to having an “empty nest” during school hours. I’m also transitioning out of my position as school board trustee to being home and teaching Music for Young Children. There have been several times in the past couple of weeks when my resolve to step down from my school board position has been tested. However, God continues to confirm that now is the time to build into the lives of my children. Thirdly, there have been struggles in several of the areas where I volunteer my time. One morning I literally woke in a panic because of some of the circumstances I was facing.

I have a lot of knowledge about God – my parents were missionaries, I accepted Christ as my Saviour at an early age, and I was also privileged to attend school at Prairie Bible College where my faith was grounded in the Word of God. However, each day, several times throughout the day, I still have to choose to follow God and allow Him to work in me and through me. I have decided to start each morning off on the right foot by saying a prayer similar to what follows:

Good Morning, Father

Thank you for the gift of this new day, for air to breathe and strength to breathe it, for your presence with me no matter what. Thank you that you are aware of my personal limitations due to time, commitments, and physical strength (or lack thereof). Today I choose to place my life in your hands again. I give you my desires and goals, my fears and limitations, my time and energy. Today I say, “Yes, God” to whatever you bring across my path, no matter what, no matter when, no matter the cost. I choose to be faithful to Your calling on my life, even if I don’t understand. I choose to be faithful, not necessarily successful; and I leave the results in Your hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen

How do you start your day? What is the prayer of your heart? I look forward to hearing from you.


Teen Issues: Dating, Courtship … OR?

Guard your heart
Guard your heart

casual couple smiling

Our eldest daughter is 15. Recently our discussions with her have centred around dating. We’ve had some good talks, but we haven’t come to an agreement on when we will allow her to start dating.

Here are some questions we’ve been discussing:

  • What is your definition of dating?
  • What is the goal of dating?
  • How old do you want to be when you get married?
  • How long do you think it is reasonable to date before you get married?
  • What kind of man do you want to marry? (What qualities are you looking for in a husband?)
  • Does the guy you want to date have the ability and desire to provide for you and any children you may have in the future?

Here are some resources we’re exploring:

My husband and I chose not to date multiple people before we were married. We also chose to set our standards high – we did not kiss each other until our wedding day. We have no regrets. However, we realize there are other godly people who made other choices. We also know that we can encourage and teach our kids, but ultimately they will have to make their own choices and face their own consequences in life. We pray for wisdom in this and other parenting issues!

If you have suggestions, we’d enjoy hearing them.


My Take-aways from Breakforth 2013

This past weekend my husband and I had the incredible privilege of attending Break Forth 2013 in Edmonton. The first bonus was having a weekend away with my husband. The second bonus was being surrounded by 15,000 other people who love Jesus Christ and want to serve Him.

On Friday I attended the Social Media intensive course taught by Marie Page of Musicademy. If you want details of the session, check out the slideshare. I appreciated the opportunity to learn how to use a Facebook Page more effectively and plan to try out some of the ideas on the InScribe page.

Break Forth poster
Break Forth 2013

One of the main session speakers was Francis Chan. I really appreciated his honesty. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the session:

“In Scripture, the times God came through are the times when the people were living by faith, out in their world. We are to be HIS witnesses. If we are not out being witnesses, we won’t experience His power. When was the last time you share your faith? Are you out making disciples?”

“Am I more concerned about my friendship with someone than I am about his eternal destiny?”

“Are you spending too much time in church and not enough time out in the world making disciples?”

For the workshop sessions I chose the Children’s Ministry “track”. Roger Theimer from King of Kings in Omaha, Nebraska taught all the sessions:

1. Training Volunteers – ideas on ways to train Sunday School teachers and other staff using an online system.

2. Preteen Retreats about Sex – Father/Son and Mother/daughter retreat ideas to prepare grade 5/6 kids for adolescence.

3. Teaching Kids to Serve – Mentoring kids and teaching them to serve Jesus by serving their community.

4. Develop a “Faith-at-Home” Culture – providing training, support, and encouragement for parents to share their faith in practical ways at home so that faith becomes a way of life, not something you just “do” on Sundays.

5. Transform Sunday School – ideas for making Sunday School something kids look forward to every week.

If you want more information, check out the Kids Kount Publishing website. I appreciated the practical nature of these sessions and am looking forward to trying out some of the ideas.


Choosing to Rejoice

I was rinsing dishes my youngest son was washing for the third time because he didn’t get them clean the first two times. In my mind I was reluctantly going over my “to do” list for the day—washing clothes, folding clothes, baking, cleaning, cooking …. The phone rang.

It was Marie. She wanted to talk to my husband, who wasn’t home. As we continued talking she said, “I’m really looking forward to vacuuming today. It’s been almost a year since I moved into my place after living in a car for months. I’m glad I have rugs to vacuum!”

”It’s amazing what we take for granted sometimes, isn’t it?” I looked around my home with a new perspective.  Items on my list suddenly switched from things to sigh about to things to rejoice about:

  • Active, happy children who wear the clothes I wash
  • The ability to smell and taste warm-from-the oven chocolate chip cookies
  • A house to live in and a vacuum cleaner to use when it needs to be cleaned
  • Good health and energy to do the work before me
  • Opportunities to teach my children not only skills like washing dishes, but also character qualities like perseverance.

Christmas is just around the corner. My conversation with Marie not only reminded me of my need to be thankful, but also of the fact many people are living in difficult circumstances. Yes, I need to be thankful for the many blessings in my life. However, I should also help those around me so they can enjoy Christmas too. I can:

  • Make or find that special gift for my child who often frustrates me.
  • Invite lonely people to join us for Christmas dinner
  • Spend an evening caroling around my neighborhood
  • Volunteer to look after children so a single parent can go shopping alone
  • Donate food or time to a local food bank or shelter

Advent Candles

Will you join me in rejoicing and reaching out this Christmas? What will you choose to be thankful for? How will you reach out to those around you?

 


Gluten Free Recipe: Ultra-Fudge Brownies

Allergy Cookbook

Here is my favorite recipe from the past week or so. It comes from the book Food Allergy Survival Guide: Surviving and Thriving with Food Allergies and Sensitivities by Vesanto Melina, Jo Stepaniak, and Dina Aaronson.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup gluten free flour mix
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8″ square metal pan and set aside.

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.

In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients and whisk together. Gradually add the wet ingredients. Stir well after each addition. Stir in the nuts.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool before cutting.  Enjoy! NOTE: These brownies are even better the next day than the day you bake them. No need to freeze them.


A New Challenge – Baking with Allergies in Mind

Mother and two children at Halloween making treats and smilingOften life sends us unexpected “curves”. This summer I’ve had a new challenge thrown my way. One of my sons has intolerances to eggs, milk, wheat, gluten, peanuts, almonds, cashews, soy, and lentils. So, I’ve been learning how to bake without wheat, gluten, eggs, or milk.

One of the best resources I’ve found to this point is Gluten Free Baking for Dummies. I especially appreciated the effort the author took to explain “regular” baking ingredients and what they do. Then she explains how to replicate those expected results with gluten free ingredients.

For those who need to avoid other ingredients, I have also discovered there are a number  of cookbooks which address cooking for allergies. Here’s a list of books I have in my library:

  • The Autism Cookbook: 101 gluten-free and dairy-free recipes by Susan K Delaine
  • Allergy Friendly Food for Families by the editors of Kiwi
  • The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook by Marjorie Hurt Jones, R.N.
  • Food Allergy Survival Guide by Melina, Stepaniak, and Aronson
  • The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook by Linda Larsen
  • The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal

Another good resource book suggested by the naturopath nutritionist I’m working with is Coping with Food Intolerances by Dick Thom. This book explains why substances may NOT show up on allergy tests, but may still cause problems. One tip I picked up from this book was an easy substitution for eggs: 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed and 2 Tablespoons of water for each egg.

As I discover great recipes, I’ll share a few with you.