Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stop looking at the wind

I was making dinner last night and the room started getting really dark.  I peeked out the window and saw the darkest clouds coming.  Grabbing my phone, I ran out back to quickly capture the sight.

My husband loves storms; they remind him of growing up in West Africa, hearing the plink of rain on their tin roof.  He often sits outside and listens to the rain, and loves the sound of thunder in the middle of the night.

Me, not so much.  I still jump a little bit when I see flashes of lightning and hear claps of thunder.

It's that way in my heart, too.  Storms come in the form of troubles, uncertainty, what appear to be closed doors, or what I perceive as unanswered prayers.  My natural tendency is to shudder in fear, doubt God, and grow weary with anxiety.

Only a few hours after I took that picture of the storm, we received word that the tenants we thought had secured our home with a three year lease, fell through.  I went to sleep last night, fighting worry.

My heart was fixed on the storm.

During my Bible reading this morning, I was looking through the gospels and Acts, reading about the life of Peter.  He was an ordinary guy, a fisherman, familiar with boats, water and storms on the sea. I read in the book of Matthew the story of Jesus walking on the water, in the midst of a storm, heading toward the disciples' boat.  The disciples were terrified, thinking Jesus was a ghost.

Peter, the eager spokesperson of the group, said, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."   When Jesus told Peter to come, "Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came to Jesus."

But, then, Peter saw the wind.  And he was afraid.  And he began to sink.

Peter fixed his heart on the storm.

After Jesus had taken hold of Peter, rescuing him from the water, He said, to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Just like Peter, I had doubted.  I had doubted God's goodness, His ways, His plans.  I had doubted His character.

We are not promised a storm free life.  We are promised a never-changing God, who walks with us through the storm.

I don't know what storms you're facing right now, but whatever the storm might be, there's a choice:   We can look at the wind of uncertainties and troubles, or we can look at the One who controls the wind, carries us through the wind, and promises His presence and grace.

It is only by looking to Jesus that our hearts can be calm in the midst of troubling storms.

Scripture taken from Matthew 14:22-33

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Friday, May 23, 2014

It is Not Death to Die

The words that provide the most encouragement to me are ones that point me to the truth of God's Word.  This was especially true when my brother was killed almost five years ago.  I remember receiving the call telling me of his death, and after I hung up the phone, I immediately opened up my Bible and started flipping through the Psalms.  I was desperate for truth in the midst of a traumatic time.  As I cried over the loss of my brother, I was strengthened reading about the character of God, His promises, and the hope of heaven for those who are in Christ.

As we put together my brother's memorial service over the next few days, I came across a song by Sovereign Grace.  The words of this song were an encouragement to me as I thought about my brother's death, for they pointed me to God's truth.  Death for him meant life. 

But that isn't what we feel when we lose someone we love.  All we feel is death, and the magnitude of loss in our lives.  And so as we grieve we must cling to the truth.  Cling to the hope that is found in God's Word.  For it is only in His Word that we find the most powerful encouragement for any situation we are going through, any hurt we feel, any longing of our heart.  

Today would have been my brother's 24th birthday.  It's a sad day for us as we miss him and the joy that he brought to our lives.  So on days like today, and everyday, we remember:

"Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Below I've typed out the words to the song I mentioned above, as well as a link to the recording.  May it be an encouragement to those of you who have experienced the loss of someone you love and for those who are facing the possibility of losing someone you love.  In Christ, death means life.  "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who've found their home with God

It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just

It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

Thursday, May 22, 2014

From the Kitchen :: Strawberry Ice Cream

My laptop is sadly broken, and with it are all of my pictures.  We can hopefully recover them, but it's been a little busy around here with getting ready to move in just two weeks.  I did want to quickly share this recipe with you, though, because it would be a perfect addition to any Memorial Day festivities that might be going on this weekend.  And, it's strawberry season, so berries are ripe, sweet, and on sale :)

Strawberry Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half and half
4 cups strawberries, hulled

Stir whole milk and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Heat until hot, but not boiling.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for about 2 minutes, until they turn a lighter yellow.

Spoon a ladle full of the milk/sugar mixture into the egg yolks and whisk together.  Add another ladle full and whisk again.  (This keeps the eggs from cooking and looking scrambled).

Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture and cook for about 4 minutes, until thickened slightly.  Pour into a bowl and add the half and half, stirring to combine.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Puree the strawberries to desired consistency (I like to leave a few little chunks).  Mix the strawberries in with the cream mixture.  Place in your ice cream maker and follow the directions to make ice cream.  You can freeze this when it's finished, but it's best eaten right away.

source:  slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman

Monday, May 19, 2014

You're Invited to be (in)couraged

When I started blogging a little over three years ago, I found myself swimming in a world of creativity and DIY projects.  The inspiration was phenomenal and I loved learning from the women who were making their homes lovely on a small budget, with their own two hands.  It was fun to jump into this group, sharing little pieces from my own home.

Reading blogs became a part of my daily routine.  

As I became more acquainted with blogs and the bloggers who wrote them, I was introduced to women who were writing about the Lord, their walk with Christ, and pointing me to the truth of God's Word.  My daily blog readings started shifting away from the home decor scene, and I was growing in my knowledge of God through the words that these women were sharing in their little spaces on the internet.

I discovered (in)courage, an online community for women that seeks to encourage women in their faith.  I was reading blogs of many of the contributors for this site, and so I signed up for the daily emails that (in)courage sends out.  Real women write real stories of their life in Christ, how His grace spills out into it, and these stories have been an encouragement and blessing in my walk with the Lord.  

One of the blessings of (in)courage are the Online Community Groups they offer several times throughout the year.  These are groups that women can join to connect with other women from all over the world, who share similar interests, stages of life, or experiences.  I've never been a part of one of these groups, but for the next six weeks, I'll be co-leading a Bible study group.  And I wanted to invite you to join!

We'll be studying 1 Peter together,sharing what we're learning through a Facebook group page.  My co-leaders are Julie Holly and Lauren Huss {click on their names to check out their blogs}.  We've never met in real life, but already I've been encouraged by them as we've worked through putting the details together for our group.

If you want to join us as we study 1 Peter, click here and you'll be directed to our registration page.

Ours isn't the only group, though!  There are over 70 community groups that you can join! Head on over to (in)courage and look for a community group that fits your needs/interests.

Registration for the groups begins today and will continue through this week.  The session officially begins on May 26 and will close on July 4.  The groups fill up quickly, so be sure to sign up right away if you're interested in joining.

I look forward to all that the Lord has in store for each of us who participate in this community of women who long to be more like Christ and (in)courage others to do the same.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  
Hebrews 10:23-25

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

From the Kitchen :: Grilled Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Pasta Salad

Summer is coming!  Actually, today when we walked outside at 10:00 this morning, it felt like summer. Humid, sticky, and hot; that's Georgia for you :)

We always do more grilling during the summer months, and we have really enjoyed our garden that we've had the past three summers.  Moving away is going to be hard for lots of reasons, and missing the garden is going to be one of them.

This pasta salad is a great alternative to the mayonnaise versions that I usually make {like this one, yummy but not as healthy}.  A friend made it for us at the end of March and she shared her recipe with me because Bradley was asking me to make it.  Do you try to cook the dishes your husband requests?  I recommend it...

Asparagus has been on sale for the past month, but I think it might be coming off of its peak now, so during the summer, you could certainly swap out the asparagus for some roasted zucchini or yellow squash.  Sauteed mushrooms or grape tomatoes would also make a nice addition.  Just keep it colorful and fresh!

Grilled Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Pasta Salad

Italian dressing or Balsamic vinaigrette
6 chicken breast halves

1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil

1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 lb. fresh asparagus*
olive oil
salt and pepper

1 cup fresh basil {measure, then finely chop}, optional

Marinate chicken in Italian dressing or balsamic vinaigrette approximately 8 hours.  Grill chicken.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Mix next seven inrgedients and stir into pasta.

Lay asparagus on cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.

Mix chicken, pasta and vegetables.  Add fresh basil, if desired, and toss.  Refrigerate until ready to eat. Stir gently before serving.

source:  my friend, Jenny

Monday, May 12, 2014

Life at 10 Months & A little word on Wisdom

This little girl's life is going by way too fast!  I can't believe she's already 10 months old!

Although a surprise baby, one that brought me lots of fears, this precious girl has been a tremendous blessing to our family.  She and Mason are best friends, partners in crime, and constantly learning from each other.  More and more we feel like we have a set of twins, which I've always wanted.  I just didn't think it would come in the way that it has.

Having a child with Down Syndrome has certainly changed us in many ways.  Mason's development has been delayed, and we had forgotten the 'normal' patterns of development in children.  Jennavieve has started doing things that Mason just recently learned, even though they are 15 months apart.  We often look at Jennavieve, then at each other, shake our heads and say, "One chromosome makes such a difference."

Sometimes I grow sad when I see how quickly Jennavieve is catching up to Mason, but lately I've been excited.  They are having fun together and I really think Jennavieve is going to push Mason throughout his life to excel.

God's ways are certainly higher than ours.


Bradley and I are heading away for a few days together.  (Thank you to Bradley's parents for watching our children!! And, to the Lord for beautifully working this out).  We have countless decisions to make in the coming weeks, and time alone together will hopefully lend itself to much conversation.  And sleep.  And quiet.  And doing whatever we want.   I would be lying if I said that I'm not looking forward to being away.  And, I really hope that I'll be ready to come back home.

The decisions that are facing us have been weighing heavily on my heart.  And I know I'm not alone in that.  We all face decisions every day, 'big' ones and even day-to-day ones.  It can be overwhelming and confusing, especially when the perfect answer to decisions isn't coming to us.

I picked up a book by Kevin DeYoung yesterday, Just DO Something, and appreciated what he had to say about wisdom:

"After you've prayed and studied and sought advice, make a decision and don't hyper-spiritualize it.  Do what seems best.  Sometimes you won't have time to pray and read and seek counsel for a month.  That's why the way of wisdom is about more than getting a decisive word about one or two big decisions in life.  The way of wisdom is a way of life.  And when it's a way of life, you are freer than you realize.  If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others and in your prayer life, then you'll probably make God-honoring decisions.  In fact, if you are a person of prayer, full of regular good counsel from others, and steeped in the truth of the Word, you should begin to make many important decisions instinctively, and some of them even quickly.  For most Christians, agonizing over decisions is the only sure thing we know to do, the only thing that feels safe and truly spiritual.  But sometimes, often times actually, it's okay to just decide."  (p.96-97)

I'm not going to unpack that, because it's pretty plain and simple.  I hope it's encouraging to you as it was to me, in the decisions that you might be facing.

From Proverbs 6:

Call out for insight.
Seek wisdom like silver.
Search for it like hidden treasure.

"then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding..."  (Proverbs 2:5-6)

Let's walk in God's wisdom today.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Six Years Ago Today...

Six years ago today, I found out that I was pregnant with our first child.  I vividly remember slipping quietly out of bed that morning, so I wouldn't wake up Bradley, taking the test and waiting for those three long minutes before reading the test result.

Just like every other morning, I walked to the kitchen, made the coffee, and then took my favorite seat on the couch to journal and read my Bible.  That morning, though, my thoughts were all over the place. I was nervous, excited, thankful, scared, and already in love with the precious life inside my womb.

What is she like now?

Eager to learn.
Ready for school.

I love her and I can't wait to see all that God has in store for her in the days to come.