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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do the Next Thing

Husband and Baby Girl at the Aquarium on Spring Break

I am just now out-growing my tendency to over think things.  I can still make myself crazy wondering and second-guessing.  It’s been a long time and taken a lot of life experiences to remove me from the days of self-torture wondering if God has led me somewhere and worrying that I’ve missed Him.  Thinking maybe He’s whispering just loud enough for me to hear Him, but not loud enough for me to make out the particulars.  I am often asked this question – how do I hear Him?  How do I know what He wants me to do?   

Go back to the last thing you knew He called you to do and do the next thing.  Many years ago when I was either a college student or a newlywed I heard this somewhere.  Maybe one of you knows where – because I can’t remember and would love to give credit where credit is due.  I guess I’ll just look up and say THANK YOU God! for this little bit of advice.  When I don’t know what to do and can’t find the directive hand of God I intentionally make myself go back to the last thing I know He instructed me to do.  And guess where that almost always takes me?  To the affectionate heart of God.  Once I stick there a while and remember how much I am loved and am reminded of those all important spiritual disciplines that go with knowing Him, I am ready to do the next thing - even if it is waiting.  Here I can honestly ask myself the questions that simplify my decision.  In a Bible Study I'm doing author Angela Thomas calls this part of our walk with God the secret life.  "When we keep a secret life, the applause of God will be deafening."  Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering, p. 75  Yes, we can hear that.

This post is about the daily-ness of everyday decisions.  I don't mean to be flippant in decisions, some are BIG and wrapped up in grief and joy and hope and dread so profoundly that you think you will never sort it out.  I've been there too.  But even then, I believe God wants us to focus more on His character than our perception of His expectations.

“Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment my moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’
Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, ‘DO THE NEXT THING.’”

–author unknown

How easy it is to become powerless; a spiritual wallflower, overanalyzing the sound of His voice and never making any meaningful motion in life.  Instead:  Love Him, love others, be winsome, know the Word and obey it, enjoy life, be generous - holding things lightly and people closely. 

Do the next thing.  Yep, me too.

All the pictures in this post were taken with my phone in the everyday life God has given.

Walking with Baby Girl trying to keep up with the Big Kids around the pond in our neighborhood.

Ropes Course Field Trip with our Oldest - last one before high school.

Celebrating with my Oldest Daughter - JOY!

As I was working on my Hosea manuscript this week I ran across this verse that has been a sweet comfort to me.  2 Thessalonians 3:5 says, “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance."   Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Birdfeeders at 39

I try to only put positive comments in the status update bubble on my facebook page.  But I still think about a whole bunch of other things I would like to say.  The other day I very nearly wrote, Very aware that I am the 39 year old mother of a 3 year old”.  It was just one of those days.  In our family everyone is in a different stage of growing up and it makes me feel old.  I talk about our family as the Big Kids (now 13, 10) and the Baby (3).  Our big kids were 10 and 7 when our youngest was born.  And when I say we are all in a different stage of growing up I’m including myself.  I am a different mother to the baby than I was to my big kids when they were preschoolers.  There are good and bad things about this observation; but last week I was wonderfully reminded of the good. 

Our Baby came home from her Mother’s Day Out class with a peanut butter pine cone birdfeeder.  We made a fun afternoon of putting it up and then watching for the birds to come.  She’s in a “dresses only” stage and was wearing a hand-me-down that her sister wore 8 years ago for her 2nd birthday party. [Insert sentimental sigh] Taking pictures of her this particular day reminded me of how much my family has changed and how quickly my kids are growing up.  There are a few turns we wouldn’t have taken given a choice, but it makes my heart lurch into my throat to imagine what we would’ve missed. 

So I spent a few sappy momma moments considering what I've learned over the last years, here are few :

As a young mom I made the peanut bird feeders with them myself, but I can’t really remember hanging them up.
As a 39 year old mom I felt no mom guilt when she came home from school with one already-made.  I just enjoyed the hanging up part.

As a young mom I took a lot of pictures of events.
As a 39 year old mom I take a lot of pictures of everyday.

As a young mom I worked very hard to control my life.
As a 39 year old mom I work harder on controlling myself.

As a young mom my house stayed picked up and I made the kids help.
As a 39 year old mom my living room looks like this and worse almost all the time.

As a young mom no child in our house knew the name of any current pop stars and neither did I, except to use as an example of poor role models in youth Sunday School lessons.
As a 39 year old mom our Baby recently told her dad she wants to marry Justin Bieber.

As a young mom I would've gone to extensive lengths to explain the Justin Bieber comment.
As a 39 year old mom, I'm just.......not.

As a young mom I made a big huge deal of birthdays.
Yep, that one is still the same.

As a young mom a disrespectful tone coming out of my children’s mouths would often launch me into a guilt-inducing lecture.
Yep, that one is still the same too.

As a young mom the skin on my hands was smooth.
As a 39 year old mom there are more wrinkles but still a great preschool manicure.

As a young mom I thought I should strive to make my children independent.
As a 39 year old mom I’ve learned that their independence is inevitable, and I strive harder to convince them I’m always on their side.

As a young mom my expectations of my kids were high.
As a 39 year old mom my expectations still are.  I make sure they know that it’s only because their potential is higher still--a lesson learned from their Grandmother.

As a young mom I organized and meticulously planned for child-sized devotions.
As a 39 year old mom I try harder to make the most of every teachable moment.

As a young mom I would never have allowed a picture with a purple dress and a red barrette.
As a 39 year old mom…..well, please.

As a young mom I worried some that my kids would make big mistakes.
As a 39 year old mom I know they will and that it’s OK, in fact the lesson after is uniquely good.

As a young mom I felt inadequate almost all the time and worked harder.
As a 39 year old mom I still struggle with inadequacy and still work hard, but I have way more fun on purpose.

As a young mom I would scold and hassle when I had to take a toddler to a restaurant bathroom right as my food came. 
As a 39 year old mom, I just roll my eyes, grin, and go – chances are the trip is mutual.

So as I look out the window right now I am watching the peanut butter birdfeeder sway.  I remember the innocent delight on Baby Girl’s face when she caught a sparrow eating from it a few days ago.  My ugly wannabe status update comes to mind along with this thought:  39 and hanging a peanut butter bird feeder, and I am so very thankful.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hosea on my Mind

I am excited and terrified to blannounce (my made up word for blog announce) a new endeavor.  I'm writing a Bible Study.  On the book of Hosea.  Yikes.

I've been curious about the book of Hosea since college when friends would come out of Dr. Byargeon's Old Testament class gushing about it.  There are a few little popular and poetic parts of Hosea that would pop up into my life at various points; interesting, but the book in general scared me.  A few years ago, after reading a popular novel based on Hosea and hearing a verse taught by an even more popular Bible Teacher I felt compelled to figure out what Hosea was all about.  I dove in and was astonished.  Whenever I learn something amazing I want to teach it, so I did.  I made a weekly set of bullet points from what I was learning and taught it to and with the ladies in my Wednesday morning Bible Study. My friend Amanda then encouraged me to to teach it to a group of moms and daughters at our church, so I did.  I just love the lessons in this book from the Minor Prophets (named because of the length of their books not the size of their messages)

After years of foot-dragging and leadership juggling and LOTS of encouragement from my friends I am finally stepping out of my comfort zone and turning those bullet point lessons into a real-life 30 day Bible Study. 
It's such an exciting blessing for me. 

Here's what my dining room table has looked like for the last two weeks. 

You know I get tickled and roll my eyes at the acknowledgements in a book where the female author (men don't tend to do this) thanks her husband and children for eating macaroni and cheese and pizza while she was busy writing......these are real life authors with important things like publishers and deadlines and editors.  I almost laughed out loud the other night when I was reading over something I'd written....there are no publishers or deadlines or editors waiting on me, and our baby girl came up to me for about the third time asking for chocolate milk.  When I finally looked down at her she was totally naked except for a little green purse she had slung over her shoulder.  I shut my computer down right then amid guilty thoughts of macaroni and cheese and pizza.

I hope you will watch for more news about this book, I hope to have a manuscript submitted by the end of the month and books in hand by the end of August. I'll be posting updates and announcements and excerpts as we go along.  More than anything thanks especially to those who have encouraged me so much in this endeavor.  I am such a scaredy-cat, you all make me feel brave.

“Hosea put it well:
   I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
      I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.
   In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!"
      they're calling you "God's living children."
 Romans 9:25 The Message

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Maple Chicken

I very, very rarely venture away from good old-fashioned boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders; this is one of my only exceptions.  I like to make this recipe with Bone-In Chicken Breasts.  I can't remember the why or when of making this one up, but it's yummy and very versatile. You can slice the meat off the bone after baking and top a salad or serve alongside rice or potatoes.

Here's how I make Maple-Glazed Chicken.  Pull or cut the skin off the chicken breasts - ick.  Now I remember why I like the boneless ones.  Once they are good and naked, rub with a good bit of olive oil and sprinkle with the seasonings so they look almost good.

Since raw chicken juice is super nasty I learned this trick.  I open up all the containers I will be using first thing so that I don't have to open anything while the chicken guts are on my hands.  Actually, I intend to - forget - wash my hands - and then open them up.  Brilliant, I know.

While the chicken is baking with the spices, mix up the ingredients for the maple glaze.  They just hang out on the counter while the chicken bakes.

After the chicken is done baking, take  it out and increase the temp on the oven. Pour the glaze over the chicken and return the pan to the oven.  This is what they look like all finished "pre-slice".  You could serve them just like this.  In fact, after I slice the chicken off the bone my husband stands over the pan and picks out all the little pieces I missed......this is also how we eat ribs.

Maple-Glazed Chicken

3 large bone in chicken breasts - 1 (sliced) usually serves 2 people, although tonight 3 barely fed my family of five. Go figure.  You can easily make this with boneless chicken breasts but will need to decrease baking time.
Remove skin from chicken.  Coat chicken with olive oil and then sprinkle with seasoned salt, coarse pepper, and rotisserie chicken seasoning (glue and glittler style).  Bake on a foil-lined jellyroll pan for 50 minutes  or 1 hour at 350 degrees. 

Remove chicken from oven and boost oven temp to 375.  Mix 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 Tablespoon honey mustard, 2 Tablespoons maple syrup and 1 teaspoon soy sauce in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup.  Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes until melted together.  Stir and pour over warm chicken.  Return to oven for 5 minutes at 375.  Let chicken sit for 10 minutes, then remove from the bone and slice.