Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bountiful Gifts

I love my Mr. B tremendously. Prior to getting married, Mr. B found creative ways to bless me. One time he blessed me with a nice pair of Montana Silversmith earrings and another time with a new washing machine. However, after marriage he sort of ... well, lost his creativity but not his generosity. Prior to marriage there were many things I and the older boys were in need of and all sorts of wants we'd enjoy, so finding ways to bless us was a pretty easy task. After I roped Mr. B into marrying me (inside joke among our family & friends, Mr. B used to be a rodeo cowboy, specifically a calf and team roper), finding ways to bless me became more of a challenge. Since Mr. B. is very generous, if there is ANYTHING I or the children need or want, within reason, Mr. B instructs me to purchase it immediately. Because of this generous quality, I am never without any necessity and most of my wants are taken care of as well. Thus, after years of marriage and proving that I very effectively handle gift giving on our family's behalf, Mr. B has also given me the task of selecting, purchasing, making, crafting, etc. my own gifts. He is delighted that I always get exactly what I want and he doesn't have to be bothered with the task of shopping. If there is one person on this earth who dislikes shopping more than I, it is my Mr. B.

I LOVE homemade and handcrafted items and products. For some time now, I have been wanting to try Ms. Kay's, The Rustic Cottage, (http://therusticcottage.blogspot.com/) handcrafted soaps and room sprays. This year I decided that one of my Christmas gifts from Mr. B would include some of her products. My order of soaps and room spray arrived today!! I am absolutely thrilled with the quality and speed of service. The scents are as heavenly as I had hoped they would be. My favorite is the Country Clothesline, as I suspected it would be. You all can be assured that I will most definitely order from Ms. Kay's Esty Shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=16118) again. Now, I've gotta go get my gift wrapped. I think Mr. B will be very pleased with his gift selections this year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

~Christmas Blessings Abound~

I am a rare sort of lady. I despise shopping. Shhhhh!, don't tell your husband's because he'll want me to become your new best friend. It's not necessarily the purchasing of goods I dislike, it's the traffic, the crowds, the "where's a sales associate when you need one?". As the years have passed, I've found myself completing most of my shopping through co-ops, mail order, and on-line. Even with all these convenient "shop from home" avenues, I still have a need to occasionally venture into the grocery stores, malls and shopping centers.

Yesterday was our BIG adventure day to the mall and a couple shopping centers to finish up the Christmas shopping I couldn't/didn't finish through mail order or on-line. We left early afternoon before our mail was delivered. Imagine my delight when returning home to a mailbox containing a large envelope from my dear sweet pen pal. Excitement bubbled inside me as I opened it wondering what would need to sent in a padded envelope. To my absolute delight I found the following handmade nativity set, homemade lip balm and "so me" stationary. I had spent my entire day shopping for and thinking of others then came home and found that someone had been thinking of me. What a blessing!!!

I find it amazing that the Lord cares so much for me as to put such wonderful and generous folks in my life. I am surrounded with a fabulous family and the best of friends. James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Handmade Nativity Scene
Stationary and homemade peppermint lip balm (creamiest & smoothest I've ever tried)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Banana Butter

My dear sweet friend over at Heart for My Home, (http://heart4myhome.blogspot.com/), noticed that on the shipping box I used to mail pumpkin pies to the older children I had written "banana butter". She's inquired about the recipe. Believe it or not, banana butter tastes very similar to baby food bananas when consumed by itself. However, spread it on a warm homemade biscuit and you'll suddenly think your eating a slice of warm banana bread. Of all the jams, jellies and fruit butters I make, banana butter is KM's favorite. Here's my very simple recipe:

3 1/2 lbs. bananas

3 c. sugar

1/2 c. lemon juice

1 teaspoon butter

Thoroughly mash bananas; measure 4 cups into a 4-6 quart kettle or dutch oven. Add sugar, lemon juice and butter; mix well. Bring to a hard rolling boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer gently, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring often. Pour into hot jars leaving 1/2 headspace. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath (half pints) 10 minutes. Makes 6 half-pints.

Samson Update

Although JP does not like to have his picture taken nor likes for me to blog about him, he has asked me several times lately if I've posted any updates regarding his little Samson. Well, this post is for JP ... as you can see his little "girl" is rapidly growing up. She has learned to play fetch and obeys the commands "sit", "outside", "come", "find your toy", "let's take a bath" and "let's go bye-bye".
It is really cute to watch JP interact with his baby. He is so affectionate and patient with her. Each time she masters something new, his face beams with pride. If his interaction with Samson is any indication of how he'll interact with his own children, when he has them, I think he'll be a wonderful father.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Musings

We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving. (by the way, the photo on the left is not a photo of our Thanksgiving table, I down loaded it from the internet ... I forgot to take a photo of our table setting ... a blogger & scrapbooker who forgets to take photos ... go figure) In years past we often journeyed to Mr. B's grandmother's home for Thanksgiving. On the years we elected to enjoy a quiet intimate gathering with only our immediate family in our home, it has been a tradition to prepare roasted chicken, a delight for a very worried turkey somewhere out in this world. However, since Mr. B's grandmother passed on earlier this year (http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/05/reflections.html ), I thought I'd break our immediate family tradition and prepare a turkey instead of a chicken - sort of in remembrance of Granny. Well after many years of marriage, my dear Mr. B informed me that he actually prefers roasted chicken over turkey! Here I was feebly attempting to re-create his grandmother's Thanksgiving dinner and he surprises me by letting me know he's always preferred our smaller intimate family gatherings with roasted chicken. Not only was that a huge blessing, but I was also gently reminded that it is always best to just be one's self. Imitating others may be a form of great compliment, but most folks, especially the one's who love you most, prefer you just as you are, uniquely and wonderfully made.

Since I had planned ahead with regard to our celebration of abundant blessings, I was able to enjoy the day with my family. Aside from roasting the turkey, my entire Thanksgiving Day preparations took less than 2 hours in the kitchen. Later in the evening, I spent about an hour with clean-up ... Not bad when you've served enough food to feed a 3rd world country. One of the things I love most about having Thanksgiving dinner at home is the leftovers. I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving our family enjoyed a three day hunting trip. Upon our arrival home, I was so glad I had not taken any leftovers with us. We savored a second round of turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie. Waiting a few days only made it all the more tasty.

Our older children live out of state and thus we normally do not get to spend Thanksgiving with them, but I do send them homemade pumpkin pies (see "how to ship perfect pies and cakes", http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-to-ship-perfect-pies-cakes.html). I miss them so much, especially during holidays. However, this year the "missing the babies blues" were not quite so bad because it is our turn to have them for Christmas!!!! We alternate Christmas celebrations with the in-laws. We get the even years & the in-laws get the odd years. So far, this plan is working out great. It saves a whole bunch of hurry, hurry, rush, rush for our children and each side of their family gets to enjoy a relaxed gathering. Also, by making only one holiday trip each year, it is much more cost effective for the children. How much celebrating can one REALLY enjoy when you have the knowledge of the arrival of a large credit card bill looming in your mail box because you felt obliged to travel to several locations all over the country to spend a holiday with your and your spouse's families? No, I'd rather be able to FULLY enjoy my children, knowing that they had plenty of time to save up air fare and that they don't have to go into debt to come see us.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that we went hunting for a few days. A couple funny things, as usual, happened during our time in the woods. The best one being our little EJ and OG crashing the four-wheeler into a tree. Of course, at the time of the crash I was not laughing. I was actually fussing at Mr. B, "I told you they were not old enough to drive that thing ... what were you thinking?" Mr. B's reply, "Well, I didn't think they'd wreck the thing." My response, "Yeah that is what caused the crash ... you didn't think ..." (my older kids know exactly how this conversation played out and yes, in my mind, it's all Mr. B's fault even though he wasn't driving). The crash wasn't a serious one, they weren't even driving fast enough to get thrown off the thing when it crashed or even make a mark on the tree - (Thank you Lord). But they were frightened and worried. The entire time I was carrying EJ back to the camper to give him a good "look over" asking, "Where does it hurt, Where does it hurt?" (Mr. B was carrying OG), he was crying, "Daddy's going to be mad at me, Daddy's going to be mad at me. WHAAAAA! Daddy's going to be mad at me. WHAAAA! " They weren't hurt, not a scratch on either of my little chicks. BUT, they were worried that they wouldn't get to ride the four-wheeler anymore. Turns out this was a perfect opportunity for Mr. B to, again, discuss four-wheeler safety with the little ones. Well, it's taken a few days, but I have have finally begun to see the humor in this little drama. By the way, it only took Mr. B, OG and EJ about 5 minutes to find the humor in all this and practically laugh their heads off their necks - I guess I am way too serious. My brothers and cousins were allowed and did FAR more dangerous things than this. But when it comes to my little chicks, this mother hen doesn't want them out from under her wing - EVER!

Last night, I "made-over" our Thanksgiving leftovers. Here are a couple of my "make-over" recipes.

Turkey Florentine Casserole

2-4 c. cooked, cubed turkey
1-2 c. cooked, drained spinach OR 1 pkg. frozen, spinach, thawed and drained OR 3 c. fresh chopped spinach
3 c. prepared cream of mushroom soup (see cream of anything soup mix recipe: http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/11/simplified-sundays.html )
3-4 c. dressing, add enough water to make it into a spreading consistency

Grease 8" x 11" casserole pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine turkey, spinach and cream soup. Pour into casserole. Spread dressing over top of turkey mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 -40 minutes until top begins to brown and casserole is bubbly. 10 servings

Sweet Potato Cakes

3-4 cups Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole (see recipe below)
3 bunches green onion, chopped
1 c. frozen corn OR 1 can, drained
2-4 tbs. oil

Combine twice baked sweet potato casserole, green onions, corn and enough flour to make a soft dough. With floured hands form into approximately 8 patties. Fry in oil until browned, flip and brown other side. 8 servings

Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
(recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine)

4 sweet potatoes
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. melted butter

Wash sweet potatoes, prick with a fork, wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until tender. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins. In a medium bowl, mash sweet potatoes. Add cheese, bacon and butter. Pour into a greased casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until top begins to brown. 8-10 servings

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Ship Perfect Pies & Cakes

When baking a pie or cake that you'd like to ship to someone out of town, bake your pie or cake in a foil pie or cake pan that comes with a plastic domed lid. After your pie or unfrosted cake has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. (note: when shipping cakes it is best to ship them unfrosted. I pack an 8 oz. jar of frosting in the box and my loved ones frost the cake when it arrives.) The next day remove it from the freezer and follow these simple steps:Step 1
Assemble the following items:
frozen pie or unfrosted cake & frosting in an 8 oz. jar
plastic domed lid
packing material such as, newspaper, shredded paper or foam peanuts
box large enough for pie or cake pan
packing tape
address label

Step 2
Place packing material on top of plastic covered pie or cake.

Step 3
Using packing tape, affix the plastic domed lid over the packing material. This will keep the pie or cake from shifting during shipping.

Step 3
Place the pie or cake in a box and stuff with additional packing material.

Step 4
Using packing tape, secure the box closed and attach the address label.

Step 5
Immediately go to mailing center and ship via next day delivery. (note: if your loved one lives in a very small town, 2 day delivery will also work well.)
Pies that ship well include fruit pies with a double crust, thick custard pies such as pumpkin and pecan. Cream pies and meringue pies DO NOT ship well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving To Do List

If you are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year, whether for a large crowd or just your immediate family, it is usually a grand affair, requiring many hours of preparation. In attempt to reduce the amount of stress in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, I usually begin my preparations one week in advance.

Friday before Thanksgiving -
~If you aren't a regular baker, test your oven & make sure it is operating correctly
~Make Thanksgiving Day dinner menu & if you don't usually prepare a weekly meal plan, making one the week before the large gathering can be the difference between a smooth week and a week filled with chaos. Remember to keep your meals easy and small. You don't want a bunch of leftovers taking up valuable storage space in your refrigerator.
~Grocery shop for Thanksgiving dinner AND the rest of week
~Wash the "company" china & polish the silver. If yours sits in the china hutch for months at a time, like mine, it is probably a little dusty and should be washed before the big day.

Saturday before Thanksgiving -
~Tidy up the lawn
~Wash the windows (inside & out)
~Clean the window blinds
~Vacuum under the furniture and wipe down all the base boards (especially in the gathering areas such as living/family room and dining room).

Sunday before Thanksgiving -
Sunday is our Sabbath, so it's our day off

Monday before Thanksgiving -
~Bake and freeze pies, breads & rolls
~Place turkey in refrigerator to begin thawing process (if your turkey is large you may need to do this on Saturday or Sunday)

Tuesday before Thanksgiving -
~Pack and overnight mail frozen pumpkin pies to the children who live out of state & can't join us this season.
~Deep clean the bathroom(s) and kitchen

Wednesday before Thanksgiving -
~Place frozen pies in refrigerator to begin thawing process
~Prepare deviled eggs, refrigerate
~Prepare twice baked sweet potatoes, refrigerate (do not bake 2nd time - this is to be done Thanksgiving day)
~Prepare cold vegetable, fruit, snack, appetizer tray(s), refrigerate
~Prepare salad (do not add sliced tomatoes until just before serving), refrigerate
~If you will be serving dinner in a formal dining room that your family doesn't have to use for breakfast Thanksgiving morning, set the table
~Give the kitchen a good "wipe down" before bed

Thanksgiving Day
~The size of your turkey and the time you'd like to serve dinner will determine how early your day will begin. I suggest you figure in a 1 1/2 hour "crisis" time cushion. (if you plan to eat at 2pm a 12 lb. unstuffed turkey will take about 5 hours to bake @ 325 degrees - this means you should have your turkey in the oven no later than 7:30 am, don't skimp on the time cushion)
~If you couldn't set the dining table the night before, set it as soon as breakfast is finished.
~After breakfast remove bread & rolls from freezer, to begin thawing
~Set desserts out on dessert table/buffet; set cold appetizers & salads out on buffet table; cover with a clean sheet or table cloth.
~Begin preparing hot side dishes such as, vegetables, dressing, gravy, etc.
~Approximately 1 hour before dinner is to be served, your turkey should be finished. Check internal temperature with meat thermometer (185 degrees).
~ Place roasted turkey in a warm draft free place, covered with foil to "rest" before serving and slicing.

Remember even if we have yet to attain all our dreams and goals, if we live in the United States of America we are indeed abundantly blessed. My great grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland during the great potato famine. When he arrived he had no money, no friends and no family. However, because America is synonymous with the words "choice" and "hope", my great grandfather's hard work and a successful life in America has left our family with a strong legacy of choosing hope, not despair, for a better tomorrow. I pray you and yours have a most blessed Thanksgiving.

Mrs. B

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Simplified Sundays

Since I wrote on observing a Sabbath in my article, Godly Stewardship, Part V, I thought I'd share a glimpse into our Sabbath with you.

We begin our Sabbath by attending church. Notice in the above photo, we don't even make our beds on Sabbath. (I will wash the day's dishes before bed tonight). After church we enjoy a very simple crock pot meal or chef salads. Today we enjoyed chicken stew, cheesy toast and iced tea or water. After our meal we usually find a comfy place and relax for a while - aren't OG & EJ precious when they sleep?
Here's my Sabbath chicken stew recipe & routine:
Sabbath Chicken Stew (only 15 min. prep time)
1 1/2 c. chicken, cooked & de-boned (left overs are great)
2 - 3 c. left over vegetables (today I had carrots, spinach, peas and corn)
1 small potato, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 1/2. c. water, divided
2/3 c. cream of anything soup mix (recipe below)
salt & pepper to taste
When I first get up, I place the chicken, left over vegetables, potato, celery, onion and 1 c. water in crock pot on HIGH heat. I then prepare a simple breakfast (we usually have muffins & fruit), get myself and everyone else ready for church. Before leaving, I reduce the crock pot heat to LOW. Upon arriving home from church, we change into comfy clothes and then I head to the kitchen. In a saucepan, combine cream of anything soup mix and 1 c. water. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thick, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, vigorously stir in remaining 1/2 cup water. Pour cream soup into crock pot and stir well. Replace crock pot lid and set dining table. Serve with crackers or bread. 8 servings
Cream of Anything Soup Mix (about 5 batches, doubles well)
2 1/2 c. flour OR 1 1/2 c. cornstarch
2 c. dry milk
1/2 c. chicken bullion powder
2 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients well. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
To Reconstitute:
Heat 1 1/2 cups water over medium heat until simmering. Add 1/2 c. flour base OR 1/3 c. cornstarch base soup mix, stirring constantly, until thickened.
(equal to one 10 1/2 oz. store bought can. For cream of mushroom, add 1/2 c. canned or fresh sliced mushrooms; for cream of chicken, add 1/2 c. diced cooked chicken; for cream of celery, add 1/2 c. diced celery; for cheddar cheese soup, add 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'd Like To Thank ...

The other Mrs. B, over at A Home Keepers Journey (http://homekeepersjourney.blogspot.com/) has passed the Marie Antoinette Award to me. This award is passed to those who are brave enough to be transparent in blog land. Thank you, Mrs. B. Now, I am to pass this award on to seven others.

Mrs. G @ Dancing Among Infinite Love, Yahweh's, (http://dancingamonginfiniteloveyahwehs.blogspot.com/)

Patty @ The Morning Ramble, (http://morningramble.blogspot.com/)

Jewels @ Eyes of Wonder,

Civilla @ Civilla's Cyber Cafe, (http://civillascybercafe.blogspot.com/)

Nicole @ Heart 4 My Home,

Jamie @ Homeschooling Baptist Brood, (http://www.thestroupefamily.blogspot.com/)

Kay @ The Rustic Cottage, (http://therusticcottage.blogspot.com/)

If you decide to visit the lovely ladies, I hope you enjoy their company as much as I do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part V

Time management tools. Philippians 4:8, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

Chapter 4 of Godly Stewardship addressed recognizing the season of our life, accepting the season of our life and prioritizing the absolutes in our lives. Which ever season we find ourselves in, none of us are exempt from the temptation of busyness. We live in an era of convenience. We flip a switch and lights come on. Most in today's America do not know how to use an oil lamp or make candles. Transportation is faster than it's ever been in human history. The vast majority of Americans do not know how to saddle a horse, hitch up/drive a wagon or realize that it takes 15-20 minutes to walk a mile. We have pre-prepared meals at our convenience. Very few Americans grow and store their own foods, most don't even know how to prepare foods from scratch/raw food products. We have others to educate our children via public and private schools. There are a few home educators who still research and compile their own lessons but in today's era of convenience, most home educators opt to purchase prepared lessons and curriculum. With all these conveniences, Americans still find themselves searching for more time each and every day.

It seems convenience has become the door that opens to the curse of busyness. Because of convenience, we try to pack more and more into our schedules. As I observe, I see an entire nation of pink energizer bunnies, always going, going, going. Trying to see whom can outlast who. I see sleep deprived people everywhere I go (I used to be one of these people, myself). It is so sad that as a society we've packed so much into our lives that we tell ourselves, year after year, "I can make it on 5 hours sleep." Our irritability from lack of adequate sleep shows up in rudeness at the grocery check out lines and road rage. Our stress levels from constantly going, going, going has shown up in an epidemic of heart disease. When compared to past generations, the relationships within our families would be considered non-existent. Does anyone else see a problem when families have to go on vacation so parents can "get to know" their own children?

Prior to home educating our three younger children, I worked outside our home and I worked a lot. Just recently, I had an opportunity to visit with a very dear friend and she mentioned that when she first met me I was working THREE jobs (1 full-time, 2 part-time) outside my home. The path that home education has brought me down has me looking back and asking, "Three jobs? How did I ever do that?" There were others who praised my hard work ethic and were very impressed that I somehow managed to juggle three jobs and a family. However, I was never impressed. I knew the truth. I knew that I always had to say no to my children. "No, I can't take you", "No, we can't do that", No, because if you go then we will loose our 2 hours of family time this week." (We literally had only 2 hours every Sunday afternoon.) I was always grumpy because I was always exhausted - I had run on only 4-5 hours sleep each 24 hour period (sometimes only 2 at night and then 1 on the commuter bus to my daytime job and 1 on the commuter bus home from that job - why? laundry, dishes, vacuuming, weekly meal preparation and scrubbing toilets happened at night while my children slept) for more than a decade. Although I was a productive employee (I'd won numerous employee of the month awards, etc.), I know that if I had not been so exhausted I'd have been a better employee and would have had more advancement opportunities. I know that if I hadn't been exhausted I would have had more patience with my children. I know that if I hadn't been going, going, going I'd have developed a closer relationship with the Lord. Yeah, I wasn't impressed because I knew the truth - I was not a full-time anything. I was a part-time everything. I didn't have time to give my best at work. I didn't have time to give my best to my family. I didn't have time to give my best to the Lord.

Now, I know that most are not in my past situation of HAVING to work three jobs outside the home. But, I see many folks filling their schedules up with enough busyness to equal my previous work schedule. How does one stop all this going, going, going craziness? Well, as mentioned in chapter 4 we must recognize AND accept the season of our life AND we must prioritize our absolutes. Once this is done we can then access the many organizational tools available to assist us in managing our priorities. During my first year as a stay at home mom and wife, I realized how exhausted and fatigued working two and three jobs for more than a decade had made me. My poor husband and children probably wondered what had happened to their energizer bunny. My batteries finally went dead and I slept for an entire year. (not literally, but I did sleep about 10 hours each night and another 3-4 hours of nap during the day. no, I was not depressed - I was exhausted.) After a year of sleep, the Lord began directing us to home educate our three younger children. When we first began this adventure, I made sure to attend a HUGE home education conference in a neighboring city each year. Not only did this conference provide a plethora of curriculum vendors, but it also hosted various workshops geared toward teaching methods, learning styles AND time management. I have found that home educators and other stay at home moms/wives often have more temptations to the curse of busyness than working moms. Why? Because we and others assume that we have an abundance of "extra" time. In reality, we ALL have 24 hours per day whether we work away from home or work in our homes.

The habit of busyness is a hard one to break. After my year of sleep, I found myself navigating the uncharted waters of home education, teaching a Jr. high school Bible study class, cooking meals for the funeral ministry, volunteering for the Angel Food ministry, volunteering in the church nursery, volunteering in children's church, assisting with the Bible quiz program, driving to and from athletic practices/games and field trips. Yep, I and others had found a host of things to fill my calendar/schedule with until the proverbial light bulb clicked on in my head. One day, I realized that we didn't have time to be spontaneous. We didn't have time to take a day off and goof around or be lazy. My sleep time had been reduced to 4-5 hours each night. My relationship with the Lord was not growing and had began to spiritually stagnate.

I decided it was time for some serious changes. I eliminated the volunteer activities one at a time. I began making my relationship with the Lord my first priority. I now spend time everyday reading my Bible and various Christian life study materials for my personal growth. I used to do this as research for my Bible study class or other projects - I didn't have time to focus on personal growth. I began working to make my relationships with my family my second priority. My husband's job comes with an extensive travel schedule. When he's home, I make sure the children and I are home. I no longer accept long-term volunteer projects that will interfere with dad's time while at home. I no longer schedule appointments outside our home early in the mornings as that's my time with the children. When asked to do something at the church I literally began praying about whether or not to accept. (Yeah, I know ... I recently had a preacher tell me that if I have to pray about it, then that's my Christian way of saying "no". He asked someone else to volunteer. I find this sad, because I am one of those who is serious when I say I'd like to pray about it first. He hasn't asked me to volunteer for anything since. I wonder how many others this man has brushed aside because of impatience?).

Of all the changes I have made, observing a Sabbath has been the most important and prosperous change to date. Deuteronomy 5:12-15, "Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day." Since I grew up in the Bible belt and I am old enough to remember the "blue laws", (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_law), I remember a time when our society was not a 7 day a week, 24 hour a day hustle and bustle. I remember spending Sunday mornings at church and Sunday afternoons at home with my family. I remember taking a nap after dinner on Sunday afternoons. I remember extended family gathering together for dinner, picnics, softball games, etc. I remember neighborhood bar-be-ques. A few years ago, the Lord convicted me about observing a Sabbath and returning our Sundays to a day of rest. [very brief Sabbath history - the original Jewish Sabbath was on the seventh day of the week, Saturday. The early Catholic church moved the Sabbath to Sunday in an effort to combat paganism (in the past many pagan sects performed rituals to their sun gods on Sundays). During the reformation era the Protestant churches continued to observe Sunday as a Sabbath because of a lack of historical education AND all of their society was geared toward a Sunday Sabbath (Jewish communities were segregated communities thus allowing business, education, trade, etc. to be conducted among themselves based on a traditional Jewish Sabbath of Saturday). When the immigration to America began, the Protestants and Catholics brought their tradition of a Sunday Sabbath with them to the new world. Thus, the old "blue laws" and most Americans equating a Sabbath with Sundays.] Since I attend a denomination that meets on Sundays, my husband often has to work on Saturdays, America's historical culture recognizes Sunday as the Sabbath, I've selected Sunday as my Sabbath, (I am open that there may come a day when the Lord convicts me to observe my Sabbath on the Jewish Saturday). God has given us explicit instruction to rest one entire day each week. Why would He do this? I think it is so that we will take time to focus on observing who He is and what He's done for us? I think it is because He recognized that if we were to get too busy or too tired our relationships with each other AND Him would suffer.

For just a moment let us look what we have allowed the enemy to do to our society. We've allowed the "blue laws" to be repealed and in doing so we've become a 7 day/24 hour society. We are constantly going, going, going. Few of us have time to rest. We may attend church on Sunday mornings but we rush out to dine in restaurants, shop, attend movies, engage in recreation activities, etc. And let us not forget all the employees in these restaurants, shops, movie theaters, etc. who are working for us. When will they have an opportunity to attend church? Although the restaurant, shops, etc. may not open until the common hour of church letting out, those employees have been there preparing for your arrival since early morning. They could not have attended a church service if they had the desire to do so. By serving the public they have one less day to spend with their families (most children are out of school on Saturdays and Sundays). By business owners conducting business on Sundays, even Christians are spending less time with their families because everyone is out and about doing something. How many times have you skipped church because you had things or errands you absolutely had to get done before the work week begins on Monday? How many Sundays have you forgone time with your family because you had things to get done? When I was a girl these things were done on Saturday because that was the last opportunity to get it done before Monday. Sunday was the Sabbath and we spent our day worshiping the Lord and in fellowship with our family.

The Lord has blessed my observance of a Sabbath. Since we don't have any plans to go anywhere after church, we are not "watching the clock" hoping the praise/worship and preaching doesn't go late. We are able to enjoy our time during praise and worship and focus on the message the Lord has sent forth that day. We no longer have a need to rush away from the Lord's house. As long as we stay home and rest after church on Sundays, we have an adequate amount of energy for the rest of the week. When we fail to rest on Sunday afternoons, I find us needing naps and becoming irritable throughout the week. Having an entire day where our family just hangs out together at home, no specific agenda, has brought us closer together. The slower pace of observing a Sabbath is like a cool refreshing rain on a hot summer afternoon poured upon our spirits and our physical bodies.

What sort of tools have I found to be most beneficial in helping me maintain my priorities? Of all the gadgets and whatnot out there, I have found a simple daily/weekly routine and pocket sized (6"x3.5") academic calendar to be the best. I've tried the big wall calendar where everything is written down so everyone can see it. Unfortunately, it was too big to take with me when I left the house and I'd loose all the little slips of paper that I wrote appointments down on, so they ended up getting missed. The pocket sized calendar fits well into my purse. Otherwise it sits open on my desk. I've tried typing up the daily schedule at 30, 45, 60 minute intervals for our entire day and posting it on the refrigerator. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be a glitch in the day and everyone ended up getting behind and stressed out trying to catch up to the schedule. Many professionals carry around a blackberry or something similar, however, I occasionally don't have access to electricity to charge the battery on the thing, like when visiting my dad who lives off-grid in a mountain cabin, it, like a laptop, becomes useless.

Yes, the pocket sized academic calendar has worked out best for me. I cross Sundays off on the calendar as soon as I get it. The big line through the day prevents the temptation to forgo our Sabbath. A few years ago, I noticed that various appointments continued to conflict with schooling, chores and the general flow of our day. One child would have a dental cleaning on Tuesday at 10 am, another would have a doctor's check-up on Thursday at 1:30, etc. I noticed that almost everyday of the week required that we leave the house for something, slicing into our school time and causing chaos and confusion on a much too regular basis. I decided to stop that insanity. Since many banks, dentists, doctors, etc. are closed on Saturdays, I selected a specific weekday and designated it our errand day. We don't have school on errand day, we run errands. When making dental appointments I specifically schedule all the children, myself and hubby on errand day with back to back appointments. I do the same with doctors. I also go to the post office, grocer, bank, etc. on errand day. On some errand days we will leave at 7:30 in the morning and not return home until supper time. I love this because I get all my "running around" for the week out of the way in one day. By stubbornly sticking to this weekly routine, I have found that most things can and will wait until errand day. Occasionally something urgent or an emergency will arise and I'll have to adjust, however, leaving the house each and every day or even 2-3 times per week is not the norm. Some wonderful benefits of this once per week errand day has been a HUGE reduction in fuel consumption, being a one car family is no longer the inconvenience it used to be, chores and school are completed more adequately, and my stress level has been GREATLY reduced. I also like using the pocket sized academic calendar because it contains only six lines per day, which is itself another tool. With only six lines, I am limited to how much I can schedule on my errand days. If I have more than six appointments, I prioritize and push something(s) ahead to the next weekly errand day.

Another tool I use regularly is the meal schedule. Several years ago we discovered that one of our children had terrible reactions to many food additives (artificial food colors/flavorings, mono sodium glutamate, bleached flours & sugars, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, etc.). This forced me to make/cook everything (including condiments and bread) from scratch. Although not difficult, this can be time consuming. Thus, I found it important to find a way to reduce the hours I was spending in the kitchen each day. By making up a two week meal schedule, I know each day what sort of kitchen prep work needs to be done for that day's meals or meals later in the week. I no longer find myself standing in the kitchen for 20 minutes wondering what to cook for supper. If preparation for our supper meal is time consuming, I will begin preparing a little bit here and there (washing/chopping vegetables, making cream soup for the casserole, etc.) throughout the day (errand day is left over night), so as to reduce the actual prep time come supper. Not only has the meal schedule resulted in a healthier diet, by making it for two weeks at a time, it has also reduced my grocery shopping to once every two weeks - a time saver, fuel saver and budget saver (less temptation to impulse buy).

For me, more simple time management tools have resulted in a more simple schedule. I realize that there is not a one size fits all when it comes to time managment. But I hope that the information and personal story I've shared will assist you in recognizing and accepting the season of your life, evaluating and priortizing absolutes and trying various time management tools until you find what does fit your family. Learning to be a good steward of one's time is an area that we as Christians need to learn to excell. By doing so, we will find that we have more patience and time to minister to our families, the body of Christ and our neighbors. (Now, if I could only conquer the 15 minute late thingy ... )

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Dress

OG has been reading the "Little House" books by Mrs. Laura Ingals Wilder. She absolutely LOVES them. (I remember when I was a girl and loved them too... ). OG requested a prairie dress for her birthday gift this year. With our kitchen remodel, travel schedule, etc. I just didn't have time to sew one myself. A while back I "stumbled" upon "As Lillies Sewing" (http://www.asliliessewing.com/) and decided to have the prairie dress made. Oh! I cannot begin to express how impressed I am with Miss Sarah's professionalism and quality of the garment's construction. If you ever find a need for new modest clothing for yourself or your daughters, I highly recommend As Lillies Sewing. I am sure you will be as pleased as we are.
Here's a few photos of OG modeling her new prairie dress. Dress, Pinafore, Sunbonnet
Dress & Pinafore

Dress for church on Sunday

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Drum Roll, Please ....

Twelve (12) years ago I bought a very old "fixer upper" home. The kitchen was in terrible shape - (but usable, if I could bake pizza in a homemade cardboard box and foil oven on camping trips, I could find a way to make that kitchen work until I could get it remodeled). Well, twelve years and a long time saving, it has finally been remodeled. Mr. P and Mr. S did a fantastic job. I am very pleased and will certainly give them good references. (Note: my photos posted backwards, for some reason. The after shots are 1st and 3rd and the before shots are 2nd and 4th.)



Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Riddle Box

Since we are busy, busy, busy with our kitchen remodel, I thought I'd let you all ponder a riddle while I'm away ...

You can have me but cannot hold me
Gain me and quickly loose me
If treated with care I can be great,
And if betrayed I will break
What am I?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Away For Just A Little Bit

I recently received a message from a friend wondering where I've been and inquiring as to if I needed any prayer. Is that not sweet or what? Well, we've all been fine ... we are just real busy remodeling our kitchen. I'll be back soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Busy As A Bee

For those of you who personally know me, you know that I am very "bummed out" with Tuesday's election results. However, I am still fervently praying that the Democrats do not get those three remaining (Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia) Senate seats because in doing so the Democrats would have a filibuster proof Senate. I do not think a filibuster proof House or Senate is good for our nation, no matter what political party one supports. (Sorry, but my emotions are so jumbled right now, I can't post anything else about it at this time).

Today, I choose to post something uplifting. Well, at least it is uplifting in my little corner of the world. During my "down time" in the evenings I've been crocheting some hat and scarf sets. Last weekend I hauled out my sewing machine and supplies and made OG and I new denim skirts and a new blouse/skirt set for myself. Here's a couple photos of the finished work my busy little hands have been doing. I hope it inspires the creative energy that lies within you.
seven hats and matching scarves
my new outfit

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Fun Week

This past week has been a busy one around the B house. We've had so much fun. OG and EJ had birthdays AND we attended the "School Days" at the Renaissance Festival. I also had the opportunity to enjoy a rare "movie day" with a couple friends. Our movie selections included "Sense and Sensibility" (one of my most favorites) and "Elizabethtown". I took an artichoke & spinach dip to the movie day. The girls asked if I would share the recipe, so here it is:
Artichoke & Spinach Dip
1 16oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
1 4 oz. can diced green chilie peppers
1 c. mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients well. Pour into a greased 8"x8" baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot, bubbly and edges begin to brown. Serve with crackers or toast points.
As mentioned in a previous post, we join some other home school families for history and creative writing a couple times per week. This week I served fried rice for supper. Here's the recipe:
Fried Rice
6 tablespoons oil
6 c. cold cooked rice (I use brown rice)
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen peas
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 onions, diced
4-6 green onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. cooked meat, (chicken, pork, beef, seafood, etc.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon lemon grass
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 eggs, beaten well
In a large skillet saute over high heat diced onions, carrots, celery and meat in oil until tender. Add garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce , spices; mix well. Add cold rice, stir and mix well. Add corn and peas; stir and mix well until hot. Remove from heat, stir in green onion.
(note: I always pre-measure all ingredients during my prep time when preparing this dish).
Here's a few photos from our week:
Birthday Cake
Gifts from Aunt Liz

A new outfit

EJ's 7th B-Day

A new 100 piece jigsaw puzzle
Excited about his gifts!!
Birthday Cake

Dress Up & Living History

Playing King of the Log
Who do you think won?


William Shakespeare

Posing with King Henry VIII

Our day was very educational. We saw many demonstrations, including glass blowing, metal casting, coin pressing, leather tooling, yarn spinning, paper making, movable type press, and a jousting tournament. Often times my little knight and fair maiden were the only students observing the demonstrations which afforded them an up close view and even a couple hands on activities.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part IV

Stewardship of one's time. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

As previously stated when many hear the word stewardship they immediately think of finances. However, there is much more to Godly stewardship than our finances. As Christians we are called and held to a different standard, a higher standard. Not only does this include our finances but, also our time management skills.

Time management is an area that I personally find challenging. For many years I couldn't understand why because time, in and of itself, is concrete. We all have 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week, 727 hours per month, 8,760 hours per year. Time is non-discriminatory. All of us, each and every one, has been allotted the exact same amount in any given day, week, month and/or year. I used to ponder, "If time is so concrete then why do many of us, especially me, find it so elusive?"

Once my husband and I grasped the concept of "managing our money" and we stopped allowing our "money to manage us", our perspective changed thus, helping us to improve our financial situation. Upon realizing that I had personally grasped and, through trial and error, had successfully implemented this change in my life, I had a personal revelation - "I found time to be elusive because I was not managing time, I was allowing time to manage me." I realized that I needed to establish my priorities, make a plan and work my plan.

There are many, many, many tools readily available to assit one in planning out their time - aka time management. However, try as they may, I still see so many people struggling with this issue. It seems like they've tried every idea and tool available and they still have trouble grasping that ever elusive thing we call time. In my own personal situation, all the tools and ideas failed because tools and ideas are not where one begins when it comes to time management skills. I had skipped previous steps and evaluations and I have a strong suspicion that many others have too.

The first area of focus in learning to be a good steward of one's time is prioritizing which, consists of three steps. The first is to recognize the season of our life. The second step is to accept the season of our life. Time may be concrete but the seasons of our lives are not. They are ever changing. Most of our lives will consist of four seasons. They generally include a spring, summer, Autumn and winter. Spring is the time of our life when we are children and teenagers. During this season, our time is, for the most part, managed by others. We then progress into our summers. This is the period of life that is the most adventurous AND busy. We enter adulthood, careers, marriages, and train-up our own families. The third season of our lives is autumn. Autumn, I think, is one of most beautiful seasons. Our careers are established, our husband or wife has become an extension of our self ("...and the two shall become one") and we can see the fruits of our labor in our grown children who are starting their own careers, marriages and families. During the autumn we have a tremendous oportunity to mentor the younger generation who is experiencing the summer of their own lives. Finally, most of us will experience a winter. These are the conclusion years of our lives. They complete who we are as a person. These years are meant to be grand because we get a glimpse of our legacy. We see our grandchildren grow up and some of us get to see a fourth or, for those of us who are really blessed, a fifth generation branch forward.

We must learn to recognize where we are. We must be content with and embrace the season we are experiencing. I find myself to be abundantly blessed in that I have been given an Indian summer. In regards to weather, an Indian summer is most commonly know as an extended summer. The heat of summer lingers, the trees keep their green leaves a little longer than usual and it often feels like the cool crisp air and the beautiful multi-colored leaves of autumn will never arrive. In my specific situation, my eldest child is 17 years older than my youngest. By the time I enter the autumn of my life, my husband and I will have have been growing and training up our family for approximately 37 years. Now days, most people's summer season lasts approximately 25 years. I am blessed with an Indian summer. I find it unfortunate that many seem to have a very difficult time entering the autumn season of their life. They continue to be too involved in their adult children's lives OR they make the terrible mistake of unnecessarily taking on the parenting role of their grandchildren. (note: I am not referring to those who are forced into parenting grandchildren because of the death, incarceration or other extended circumstance of their own children.) Here of late, I have met many folks whose children are adults, but mom and, sometimes, dad still drives them to the doctor for minor illnesses or check-ups, these adult children go to mommy's house when they have the flu (with all the grandchildren in tow), mom and/or dad is contacting prospective employers after job interviews, mom and/or dad is taking sides or getting overly involved in marital disputes ... this list could go on and on. It is obvious that these folks have either not recognized that the summer season of their life has ended OR they refuse to accept it. They are attempting to create their own Indian summer. They are doing themselves, their own families and society a great injustice. They are missing out on the joys and wonder their own autumn. How sad skipping autumn and jumping from summer into winter without the magic and scents of autumn. They are stealing their own children's summers by not allowing their children the satisfaction of victory of independently overcoming challenges. And they are robbing God of the mentor ship they have to offer the church and society.

The third step in prioritizing has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Where is He on our list of prioritizing? I know many will scold me because I haven't placed Jesus before recognizing and accepting our seasons. However, I ask - when we haven't recognized or accepted the season of our life, how can we begin to put Jesus first? If we are living outside our season, aka out of order, then we will have a very difficult time placing the Lord in the position of first. Leviticus 27:30, "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord." I believe this includes our time. Our time has been given to us by the Lord. He has determined how many seasons we will spend upon this earth. We should gladly and with thanksgiving give 1/10 of it back to Him. We are all allotted 24 hours each and every day. The tithe of our time equals two hours and forty minutes to be set aside for Lord daily. This time should be spent in a combination of studying His Word, prayer, preparing for a Bible study class (as an attendee or instructor), volunteering for various outreach ministries, etc. We must recognize the season of our life we are in AND accept that season so we can then best prioritize our time with the Lord and still accomplish all the things we need and want to accomplish during each day.

The second area of focus when learning to a good steward of one's time is in recognizing the absolutes in our lives. The daily absolutes in my life are: time with the Lord, time with my husband and children, home schooling, preparation of meals, and the keeping of my home. When I began to scrutinize my priorities, I realized that I had confused many desires/wants with absolutes. For instance, I had a desire to be "super home maker extraordinaire" - I wanted to sew all my daughter's and my clothes, I wanted to cook and bake absolutely everything from scratch, I wanted a spotless home, I wanted my home decor to look like a magazine advertisement, I wanted the largest garden my property could provide, I wanted my garden to be as clean, neat and well designed as the one's in the gardening catalogs and how-to books, I wanted to home educate my children, I wanted to be active in the women's ministry, the kitchen ministry and the children's ministry at my church, I wanted to volunteer in my community, I wanted to be available to babysit for friends and family, I wanted all the gifts I gave at Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, etc. to be homemade, the list went on and on.

We must all stop for a moment and ask, "What desires/wants am I confusing with absolutes?" Homemade clothing and gifts, a beautiful garden, exquisite home interior are all very nice but, are they absolutely necessary for one to enjoy a simple and peaceful life? Are these desires/wants preventing us from giving back to the Lord? 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work". When it comes to prioritizing our life, God has already given us an abundance of grace by allotting us 24 hours each and every day. It is our responsibility to prioritize that time sufficiently so that we may accomplish good works for Him. We must give some serious thought to our time management absolutes and desires/wants.

When I became aware that I had confused wants and absolutes with regard to effectively managing my time, I had to figure out how to get things in order. I began keeping track of exactly what I spent time doing each and every day. During this period, I kept a small pocket sized notebook and would quickly jot down various tasks/activities, the time began and the time finished. For instance, I wondered exactly how much time did I spend every day preparing meals and cleaning the kitchen? How much time did I really spend watching t.v. or surfing the internet? How much time did I spend in an average day taking or making telephone calls? How much time did I spend looking for things because of inadequate organization? At the end of the month I was very surprised by my tally. For instance, I found out that I spent more time watching t.v. and taking telephone calls than I had previously thought - I found that I had allowed many things to creep in that were robbing me of the time God had allotted me each and every day. These "time robbers" were also interfering with my relationship with the Lord.

Once I identified "time robbers", I made a list of my absolutes and the tasks/activities required to accomplish these absolutes. When examining the time spent with/for the Lord, I must be careful that the "work" I am doing does not interfere with or replace my relationship with the Lord. Other women my age are taking on more challenging areas ministry. As exciting as this is and as temping as it is to become involved with, I must recognize and accept that I have been blessed with an Indian summer. My ministry priorities, husband, children and home, are still very time consuming because our younger children are elementary aged. The Lord, my husband and children expect me to be their mommy 24/7. Unlike their older brothers, they are not yet adults and thus, they require intimate care on a daily basis. Whereas our adult children are busy enjoying and building the summers of their lives. To the older boys we have become mentors and are no longer their primary care givers. I strive to be wise with my use of time, thus I have had to step away from some areas of ministry and, as much as I'd like to be involved, I've had to decline some ministry opportunities. A time will come when I will need to transition into the autumn season of my life. When that time comes, the Lord will have a ministry suited specifically for my talents awaiting me. This same concept applies to my relationships with my husband and children. I must also guard myself so that the "work" (home schooling, cooking, cleaning, keeping our home) done for their benefit, does not become a replacement for their relationship. It's O.K. if we eat a quick meal of leftovers from paper plates once or twice per week. This allows us more time to spend together. It's O.K. if our home does not look like a picture from the "Southern Living" magazine. I promise you, our children would rather have a relationship with mommy than a "picture perfect" house to live in. Remember, I also have adult children, so I know this is a factual statement.

Once we recognize and accept the season of our life and we prioritize our absolutes, we are then ready to focus on the planning and working the plan areas of our lives. Next time, I will share some ideas that I've tried, sometimes successful and sometimes not. It is my prayer that you will take the opportunity this teaching has afforded and begin a new journey toward becoming a good steward of your time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Call Me Lucy ...

I was too panicked to take a picture. SOOOO, you'll have to use your imagination ... (which may make the following story even funnier).

Have any of you ever seen the "I Love Lucy" t.v. episode where Lucy decides to bake bread and puts too much yeast into the dough? The loaf of bread that comes out of the oven is about 12 feet long! Too funny ....

Last week I posted a photo of the beautiful bread I baked using H4MH's recipe. Well, her recipe turned out so nice, I decided to use it again this week. This afternoon was, as usual, busy for me. I had a ton of laundry to do, as usual AND I'd got a late start on my baking. Well, while I was mixing the dough in the mixer my washing machine stopped and I needed to put some clothes out on the line and begin another load. So, I decided to turn the mixer off "for just a moment while I hang the wash", was my thought.

Out to the clothes line I go. While hanging the wash, the mail was delivered. Once all the wash was hung, I collected the mail. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. Once inside, I glanced through the envelopes and noticed my husband's pay stub had arrived. I decided I'd "quickly" pay a few bills. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. After paying bills (not as quickly as I intended), I noticed a small stack of filing and figured that since I was already at my desk, I'd go ahead and take care of it. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. Upon completion of the filing, I, again, decided that since I was already at my desk, I'd quickly check my e-mails. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. As I was checking my e-mail, an interesting news article caught my eye and I began reading it. About half way through the article, from the kitchen I hear OG,

I then very calmly thought to myself, "Oh yeah, I have bread dough in the mixer." So, I got up and walked into the BREAD DOUGH! I had let it sit in the mixer so long it had risen. It wicked up the dough hooks, all over the top of the mixer, down the bowl, onto the counter, dripped down the cabinets and pooled onto the floor. It was everywhere!!
My family and I are still laughing OUT LOUD over this one! It is just too funny. From now on, you all can just call me Lucy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part III

Financial Stewardship. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

According to Wikipeia, in 2007, there were 111,162,259 households in the U.S. According to the Barna Group, in 2007, 46,688,148 (42%) of those households regularly attended at least one Christian church service each week, excluding weddings and funerals. With that information, lets take a look at what America would look like if Christians were to eliminate their household debt, consistently give tithes and offerings and invest in savings.

In 2007, the average annual US household income was $50,233.00. The average full-time employed male earned $45,113.00 annually and the average full-time employed female earned $35,102. 00 annually. Since I have a strong conviction that women should be keepers of the home, the following figures will be based on the average annual full-time employed male earnings of $45,113.00. So, let's do some math ...

$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 tithe (1/10 of a whole)

$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 savings/investments

$45,113.00 - 20% (tithe & savings) = $36,091 living expenses

If every Christian household consistently tithed, then $210,610,235,629.00 ($4,511.00 x's 46,688,148) would be funneled into churches, ANNUALLY, for the spreading of the gospel and social programs. Subsequently, if every Christan household saved and invested 10% of his earnings that would ANNUALLY inject $210,610,235,629.00 into our nation's economic foundation.

What would our nation look like if our churches had $2.6 billion annually? How many urban and world missionaries would that support? How many low-income American families would that feed through "food pantry" or "soup kitchen" programs? How many bundles of school supplies and clothes would that purchase for low-income American school children? How many affordable private Christian schools could be started? How many affordable Christian child care and after school programs could that support? (these programs would give children a Christian, Biblical foundation for their lives) How many young widowed mothers could stop working 2 jobs to support their fatherless children? (the Bible directs Christians to care for widows and orphans - not governments) How many prison and recovery ministries could be established? How many sick and elderly could have the loneliness taken out of their lives by implementing visitation programs? When asking these sorts of questions we also need to remember that the $2.6 billion dollars that should be going into Christian churches is a full $2.6 billion because ALL OF IT, every dime, is exempt from taxes. God has been so generous with us that He's placed us in a nation where churches are considered non-profit organizations which do not pay taxes. Thus, we qualify for a personal tax exemption when we sow 1/10 of His blessing back into His kingdom. Matthew 25: 34-40, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when we saw the sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

What would America's economic foundation look like if Christian families saved and invested 10% of their household incomes? In addition to the $700 billion Wall Street bail out, just last week our government decided to purchase an additional $2.5 billion in junk assets (these are worth less than the paper they are printed on) from our banking systems to ease up "cash flow" between lenders. Today's headlines read that our government is now poising itself to begin purchasing money market mutual funds. We need to remember that this is OUR money. I find it ironic that if Christians had saved and invested 10% of their annual incomes in 2008, then we would have put more than $2.6 billion into the US banking system, just in this year alone - that's more than the $2.5 billion the government decided on last week. Am I the only person who finds our nation's economic situation absolutely disgusting? In all reality, we have no one to blame but ourselves. In 2007, full-time employed Christian males earned approximately $2,106,242,420,724.00. However, Christian households spent $463,373,332,559. 00 more than they made - all of it borrowed. We must realize that this figure does not include the compounded annual interest that will be charged on that borrowed amount. Am I the only Christian in America who thinks it's time for all this to stop? It is time for Christian households to repent of their worldly attitudes regarding the financial blessings God has bestowed upon them. Deuteronomy 28 speaks of the blessings of obeying God and the curses of disobedience. God desires to bless us far above all others. Deuteronomy 28: 12-13, "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou harken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and do them." How do we achieve this awesome financial blessing? By ridding ourselves of the god of materialism. Philippians 4:11 says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." When will we be content with what God has blessed us with?

I'd like to share a personal testimony. When I was a young adult and not living for the Lord, having enough food to eat was a challenge we faced every day. As the years progressed, I eventually surrendered to the Lord's call and accepted the free gift of salvation. No, our finances did not magically improve overnight. We continued to struggle for several years, until my husband found Dave Ramsey's radio program. He began listening to it daily. Over time, a hunger for a debt free lifestyle began to grow within my husband's heart. He realized that if we were debt free then I would be able to stay at home and care for our children full-time. But more importantly during this time, he and I both began looking outside ourselves and our selfish wants and desires. We began to see that although we had a lower than average American income, we still had far more than 80% of the rest of the world's population. We began focusing on our areas of blessing instead of the areas of want. Over the course of about a year, we learned how to not only be content with our socio-economic station, but to also be thankful for the things we did have. This change in perspective assisted us in changing our financial behaviors. Within 9 months of making a decision to become debt free, we paid off our debt. Once debt free, I quit my job resulting in a more than a 50% reduction in our household income. We were able to support a family of 6 on considerably less than the national average income. Yes, at times it was tough, but we did everything we could to be good stewards of the blessing God had bestowed upon us. We continued to view our financial situation as a blessing. We were a one vehicle family & that vehicle now has more than 320,000 miles on it. We shopped at re-sales stores, we made our Christmas and birthday gifts. We did not have cell phones, internet, cable t.v., etc. We never went out to dinner or movies. Most importantly, we continued to live debt free. As time went by, my husband, who is not a born again Christian, decided, without prompting from me, that we should begin to give to the church the children and I attended. After consistently giving for about two years, week in and week out, no matter how tight our finances may have seemed, my husband was offered a career change that included a significant pay increase. After he had made the transition into his new career, he decided to increase the amount we were giving to the church. Not long after implementing that decision, he was awarded a pay increase.

Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For withal it shall be measured to you again." The greatest testimony from our financial freedom is the joy we find in our family. By gaining control over our money we inadvertently, gained control over our time and the relationships within our family. We can not, nor will we ever be able to, out give God. When we are obedient, thankful and content, God will bless us abundantly.