Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Best Parenting Tips (for now)

So I am currently enjoying time off from work, and more time with my children. By God's grace, there are things that we've done well as parents; although I don't claim that ANY of these tips or ideas originated with me, but since others might find them useful, I wanted to share them.

Here are my favorite things we're doing with our kids at their current age level:

Alex is 8 years old. This stage of parenting is challenging because it's about character development. Since he's reading well, we've started having him read a children's Bible every morning before he does anything else. We're praying that the habit continues throughout his life.

Jason and Alex share a love for games. We only allow our kids to play video games once they're 7 years old; we want to make sure a love for reading is established first. Alex is allowed to play video games on Saturdays and Mondays (Jason's day off). So far, this has worked very well for our family.

Sunday afternoons Jason plays board games with the kids. We've already seen the benefits in Alex's reasoning skills and math skills. If you don't like the idea of competing against your kids, check out cooperative games like Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple.

Lauren is 5 years old. Her main parenting challenge at the moment is dealing appropriately with emotions. She has not responded to discipline in the same ways as Alex so we've had to change up our routine. We've begun a habit of praying with her when she faces temptation, and she feels free to come tell us because she knows we're on her team. Praise the LORD! We're still working on developing her communication so that she can control her anger without lashing out verbally. And yes, all of this is a very convicting and sanctifying process in our hearts as well. Check out this video for more teaching on parenting. We love Paul Tripp!

I'll echo the board game comment here as well. Lauren is motivated to learn to read so that she can play more games! Her addition skills have improved dramatically along the way as well. Games also allow kids (and adults) to practice patience, grace, and love as they win or lose. King of Tokyo is a great game for this age.

One more quick note about Lauren. Her interests and giftedness appear to be more artistic, and so to love her is to provide opportunities for her to enjoy those interests and gifts. She is happiest in a world of music, dance, cooking, painting, drawing, coloring, and just creating. 

Olivia is two years old. At this stage, our main goal is to keep her busy, fed, and rested. :) So my main idea for two year olds is to invite them to participate in life with you. We let Liv sit on the counter or stand on a stool while I cook. She throws clothes in the washer that I hand to her. She sorts clean cloth diapers into piles and puts them away in the drawer. I ask her to entertain the baby for a minute while I finish a task. She can find and bring to me most things in the house. 

Of course toddlers also throw tantrums and have bad attitudes. Our main way of dealing with fussing and whining is to send her to her bed until she can control her emotions and speak normally. Of course sometimes further discipline is needed, but most times teaching her to handle her frustration and disappointments is the main goal. Also if the underlying issue is exhaustion, sending your toddler to bed could  lead to an early nap, as Liv has done many times.

You may think that two is too young for games, but I spent a long time this morning playing Memory with Liv. We play it with the cards face up, and she makes matches. The experience is teaching her to find things, discriminate visually, use her dexterity (picking cards off table requires fine motor skills), increase patience, and build confidence. If you are looking for another game for this age range, I'd recommend Chicken Cha Cha Cha. 

Emily is 9 months old. My favorite parenting tips for her age is to begin room time with siblings. Room time is when the kids go and play in their room together in the afternoon after lunch. It's a part of our daily routine. For a baby like Em, just place an exersaucer or pack n' play into the room where the older kids are playing. Please note: I don't recommend leaving a baby in a room with zero supervision. The room in which the kids play has french doors, and I can hear perfectly if not see everything. I think she lasted 5 minutes the first day. Now she spends 15-20 minutes with them. It's a great break for me, and a wonderful way to build her ability to play and be happy with her siblings.

The other tips are for moms. As babies get older, a common issue for nursing moms is that the baby might stop nursing and prefer baby food. The tip is to establish a routine of nursing first. When the baby is hungry, nurse. Then, only if the baby still seems hungry, offer baby food. Along with feeding the baby, this is a great age to start using baby signs. We stick with the basics, more and all done. Here's a great resource if you want to expand your baby sign vocabulary. Babies can definitely sign earlier, but I always forget to use it until around this age. 

I hope you found this helpful, and of course, feel free to let me know what some of your favorite parenting ideas are!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Daltons

Note: It's been several years since we've sent out Christmas cards. We'd like to get back into the tradition, so if you'd like a card next year, let us know and we'll add your address to our 2013 Christmas card list. This year, we decided to do a blog post instead.

Merry Christmas! 2012 has been a year of blessing and change for our family. We're thankful for God's leading in our lives, and for His provision of jobs, house, family, and health.

In December 2011, Jason graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree. Just a few weeks later, we jetted off to Welches, OR to visit a small church to see if God would have us minister there. In May 2012, Jason was ordained and installed as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America (picture above is from his installation service at Evergreen Presbyterian). The next weekend, he was able to officiate at the wedding of some very dear friends. Because of the generosity of our friends, family, and our church family at Pear Orchard Presbyterian, we were able to move in June to Oregon. Jason is now the pastor of Mt. Hood Community Church. We are so thankful for this opportunity and pray that God will bless His church through Jason's ministry.

Our family welcomed Emily Grace Dalton on March 17, 2012. After her maternity leave, Elizabeth transitioned to part-time work with Kaplan. She is now solely teaching online for work, though she instructs at Dalton Academy in person. :) Elizabeth is also helping the church by teaching children's church and organizing Women in the Church activities and ministries. 

Alex turned eight years old in December 2012. He is currently a yellow belt in taekwondo and a second grader at Dalton Academy. He is a voracious reader as well as an excellent older brother. His favorite books of 2012 were the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. He reports his favorite school subject is History; we use the Story of the World curriculum.

Lauren turned five years old in July 2012. She enjoys being old enough to play board games with Alex and Jason. This fall she played soccer, but she has just begun taking taekwondo classes and plans to continue those in the new year. Lauren is a kindergartner at Dalton Academy; she loves to paint, color, and draw.

Olivia turned two years old in February 2012. She loves books, especially Margaret Wise Brown and Sandra Boyton, and anything with bears. Olivia enjoys dancing and coloring as well as being a big helper around the house. 

Emily is excited to celebrate her first Christmas at the age of 9 months. She is crawling and pulling up to standing. She has only two bottom teeth, but she may receive her two front teeth in time for Christmas!

And that's the Dalton family update! Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Drinking Coffee without Dairy

One of the tough changes to make if you do a Whole30 challenge or decide to go dairy-free for various reasons is what to do with your coffee. If you're like me, part of the pleasure of coffee is the creamy flavor of half and half or cream. If you decide to go dairy free, I have used a couple different approaches.

First there is the simplest: drink black coffee. I have done this in a pinch, but most of us will find this an unsatisfactory solution. It's hard to go cold turkey to plain coffee. If you don't enjoy black coffee, I have a couple other suggestions as well.

The easiest transition will be to use coconut cream. It's pricey but incredibly delicious. You want the good stuff from Aroy-D, a Thai company. Amazon sells it in large packs. I pour a carton into glass jars and shake well. You'll get a nice stiff cream from whipping this, and it's naturally sweet from the coconut flavor, but not cloyingly sweet. It's a nice treat.

What I've been doing recently is a third alternative. I've been adding a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa (full of great antioxidants) and some maple syrup to cut the bitterness, just a teaspoon or two. It's not that much sugar overall, and maple syrup is my favorite natural sweetener. It's a nice mocha flavor and a great treat for this time of year.

If you'd like more ideas for dairy free creamers, here's a list of recipes that call for coconut milk and use date paste for sweetener. Enjoy exploring the world of dairy-free coffee treats!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Abide with Me

Yes, we're still here and doing well. Life can sweep away the time to blog, but I have been clinging to this song this afternoon, and wanted to share it.

Abide With Me 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.
Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday HYMN 10/14/12

I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

thredUP Haul

Last spring I ordered a Clean Out bag from thredUP. I filled it up with name brand boys clothes that Alex had outgrown. A few weeks later, I received an email telling me how much money thredUP was giving me for the clothes. It was really just as simple as that! Now that they had added the money to my account I could choose to cash out, making the transaction just like consigning clothes, or I could use the money on other items for sale, which also happens a lot when I consign clothes. :)

So just a few days ago, I ordered some lovely clothes for Lauren and Olivia. To appreciate these pictures, you need to know that my girls will wear these clothes every day. For some kids, these clothes would be Sunday only, but for my girls, they are good for everything but hiking. Seriously. Don't look at me! I don't dress like this. Also please note that all these clothes are in AMAZING condition. None of them has any signs of wear or pilling.

Here's the first dress on Olivia. It's a 4T by Savannah and cost $4.49.

Yes, she's the cutest 2 yr old in the world. And no, she's not for sale!

Here's a 4T zippered hoodie dress from Gymboree. It was $9.49. Something similar at Gymboree is on sale for $40!

The embroidery is really sweet.

Lauren is growing too fast to count on cousin hand-me-downs so I picked up 3 dresses for her.

Here is her favorite: It's a size 7 Mossimo sweater dress that cost $8.99.

She is so lovely and grown up looking!

Here is my favorite: It's also a size 7 from Mossimo that cost $8.99.

We'll probably pair this with tights or leggings, but the colors look amazing with her blue eyes.

The final dress is from Gymboree. It's a size 7 black turtleneck dress with pink ballet slippers and crowns in the embroidery. It was $13.50.

The prices are for your information, but I didn't spend any money out of pocket for these great outfits!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday HYMN 9/16/12

Why So Heavy by Red Mountain Music

You can listen to more and purchase here.

I remember thinking when I was in middle school and high school about how very blessed I was. My parents were still married and loved each other as well as loving their kids. Our family was healthy and whole. But it scared me. I know that I didn't trust God to love me beyond these blessings that I enjoyed. So I was fearful that they'd be taken away.

Flash forward, oh let's just say a few years. :) In the last two years I've experienced the most loss and change as well as uncertainty in so many areas of my life. However, God has kept our family together and close to Him through out the process of Dad's death, Jason's job hunt, our subsequent move across the country, and even now as we seek to minister to the Hoodland area.

However, being me, my heart is not always soaked in truth. It doubts, it pouts, and generally it tries to dictate reality by making me feel abandoned or lonely. That's where the great hymns come in. They remind me of God's truth in a way that spurs my heart back toward Him.

Here's the lyrics written by Edward Caswall in 1873:

Verse 1

Oh why so heavy, oh my soul?
Thus to myself I've willed
Oh why so heavy, oh my heart?
And so sorrow-filled?


Hope thou in God, He still shall be
Thy Glory and thy endless praise
His saving grace shall comfort thee
Through everlasting days

Verse 2

His goodness made thee what thou art
And yet will he redeem
Oh be thou of a contrite heart
And put your trust in him.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A few house pics

I realized that I haven't posted any pictures of the house. Well it was clean last night so I took a few to share.

Here's the front door.

After you walk in, there is a big open great room that encompasses our living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Living Room

Dining Room


Our renovations are coming along. I'll post some pictures of the progress soon!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dalton Academy 2012 The Pupils

Dalton Academy is in session. Here are this year's pupils:

Alex is starting 2nd grade this year. 

Second grade is serious. He'll be working a full load of awesomeness.

Lauren is starting kindergarten this year.


She's focusing on art, reading and simple addition.

Olivia is 2 years old. 

She'll be focusing on coloring, recognizing letters and numbers, and maybe even potty training!

Emily is 6 months old. 

She'll be working on motor skills and solid foods!

We're trusting God for a great year. I heard Heidi St. John say, "Some trust in curriculum, but we trust in the name of the Lord." I'm praying that we'll be a family that trusts God as we learn together.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday HYMN 9/9/2012

This was on my brain this morning as I contemplated my youngest daughter's baptism:

How Deep The Father's Love for Us

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Whole30 Report

I finished my Whole30 August challenge on Saturday. Since then life has been extremely crazy. So here's the quick report.

I lost 5 lbs doing a 100% perfect Whole30 diet. I lost 6lbs of fat so that's pretty exciting. I wish I had measurements to compare but I'm pretty sure I lost a full size despite the lower weight loss.

I'm taking this week off, but I'll be back to it on Monday. If you have any questions about Whole30 just let me know!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday HYMN 9/2/2012

Did anyone else grow up with Psalty, the Singing Songbook? Today's "hymn" has been on my brain all week long:

The words come from Matthew 16:24.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 ESV)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hello Mornings Week 2

We spent this week exploring 1 Peter. What a treasure trove of wisdom and encouragement! God used this little book mightily in me this week, and I'm so glad to have spent some time in these verses.

We were asked to choose one verse each day for meditation. Here are mine:

Day 1 - Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13 ESV)

Day 2 -  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:16-17 ESV)

Day 3 - Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV)

Day 4 - Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)

Day 5 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

I wanted to focus specifically on 1 Peter 5, though the entire book was just perfect for where I'm at these days. I'm so thankful that God provided His words to me at the right time.

1 Peter 5 is initially directed at the leaders of the church, the shepherds of God's flock. The encouragement is to lead humbly, not for personal gain, not domineering, but being examples of Christ. Peter reminds the leaders in v4 of why they should behave this way: there is a Chief Shepherd! He will return one day, and his faithful servants will receive the crown of glory. My husband is the pastor of our church. This passage gives me great examples of how to pray for him as he leads God's people as well as assurance that every pastor is truly an under-shepherd that is called to faithfully serve the Chief.

Peter begins to wrap up his letter, but he has many important reminders thrown together in v6-11. Humility is a Christian word, one that not many people use outside of churches. We've been working on teaching our son the meaning of humility and have tied it very closely to being teachable. Here Peter ties the idea of humbling yourself first to the mightiness of God. Be humble because God is awesomely powerful, mighty to save, more than able to meet your needs. Next Peter says be humble so that God might exalt you at the proper time. Show the world that your treasure is Christ and that God's promises are true by being humble in the face of suffering and persecution. Peter says demonstrate your humility by casting all your cares on God because He cares for you. How we handle our daily stresses reveals our hearts. If we believe that we can carry the world, we will be on edge, constantly planning and attempting to control our circumstances. But Peter calls us to a different life. One that says, God, I know I'm incapable of changing my situation. I'm even incapable of changing myself. However, Your Word says that you care for me, that you will keep me, and that you will not give up on me. A humble life embraces these truths and trusts in God to complete the Spirit's work in our lives.

Verse 10 sums it all up: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

I'm so thankful that God chose to preserve this encouraging letter from Peter for the good of the church eternal. What a great testimony of His grace that a man who denied Christ would write of the goodness of God to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish His people. May we too be drawn into the fellowship of suffering with hearts that turn to God in our time of need.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 Dinners 1 Hour Review - part two

So we really enjoyed trying out the sample menu from 5 Dinners in 1 Hour.

The five meals were:

Honey Sesame Chicken
Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Broiled Steak Bites
Panko Pork Chops
Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

I loved the idea of assembling the meals so quickly. The directions were pretty clear on everything. I had to adjust a few things to make the meals tasty for my family:

Honey Sesame Chicken - I made the marinade again so that after the chicken came out of the crockpot I could put full strength sauce on it. Otherwise it didn't have enough flavor

Panko Pork Chops - the Panko crumbs didn't brown well. I think this would be a better dish to cook on the stovetop with some oil in a pan. We made it with coconut flour for our extra pork chops, and we loved it.

Black Bean Enchilada Casserole - Be careful serving this to little ones. Our kids thought it was too spicy, even with mild sauce and mild salsa. We were able to mix in some corn to help them eat it. It may be a more adult meal.

Overall it was a great experience with a great product!

Now she's offering a Clean Eating version. I'll have to work through that next!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday HYMN 8/26/12

We're worshiping with all the churches in the area in a unity service this morning at Wildwood Park. In honor of the body of Christ in it's various forms, I chose this hymn:

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!
’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hello Mornings - Day 5

So today's passage is 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. As I was reading, I realized that 2 Cor 5:17 has become a favorite verse of mine, in part because of the Rizer's song, and the joy of hearing my children sing along to such a glorious truth.

 Also, v21 is a one that I will always lovingly attach to the memory of my dad. He often helped us memorize Bible verses for AWANA. I think it stands out in my memory most because of the sound of the verse rather than the amazing meaning behind it. However, that that being said, I'm thankful that God is faithful to use our service, sometimes years later, and even after we are gone (Dad went to heaven in April 2011).

The more I read today's passage, the more I am seeing the depth and significance of its teaching. Since we only have 5 lessons to do each week, I'm going to spend the next couple days exploring this passage.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
(2 Corinthians 5:16 ESV)

v16a - As we live in community with other believers, we ar ecalled to set aside our impressions of their shortcomings. "Flesh" is often used to describe the sinful nature that remains even as we are being made holy by God. So we are encouraged by Paul to love despite sinful tendencies that remain. I think its fair to interpret this is two ways. First, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to love other people even though they are sinners. Secondly, we are called to no longer view other people from our own sinful attitudes and prejudices. Of course we fail at both often, but as we grow as believers, may God lead us toward a loving and embracing mentality that accepts others as they are, acknowledging that we are all sinners.

So then as the verse continues, we move away from how to handle interpersonal relationships, and Paul wants to tie back in to how we relate to Christ. Before our spiritual connection to Christ, we may have judged him in various ways: as a good teacher, humanitarian, heretic (as Paul did), demon-possessed (as some of the spiritual leaders of the day thought), uneducated hillbilly (Can anything good come out of Nazareth?), etc. These impressions came from our own sin. We know from verse 21 that there was no sin in Christ; so the failure must reside in us. And the truth that we were blinded to is so glorious!

Christ is God who became man to show us the depth of our failure, but then lovingly took the punishment for our failure on himself so that we might be invited to the world's greatest party. It will be an eternally joyous, perfectly loving, wonderful fellowship of men and women enjoying God's presence forever.

Thank you Jesus that you have called our hearts to you so that we may see beyond ourselves to the glorious truth. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hello Mornings - Day 3

For those of you who aren't aware, we read the same passage of Scripture on Day 2 as Day 1, but we focused on the character of Jesus rather than Peter. I found that my thoughts were mostly conveyed in my previous post.

Today we read Acts 4:13-21 seeking to note changes in Peter's character. Here are my thoughts:

Throughout his life Peter retains his passion for Christ, but now in Acts 4, he faces danger again (this time imprisonment) for naming Jesus as his Lord. He stands up to the high priests and proclaims with John that they will not be silent about what they have seen and experienced.

I was thinking about how God's transformation of Peter is not about erasing his personality and making him a holy robot. God is not interested in issuing standard makes and models of Christians. Instead God takes all the best gifts that He gave Peter and refines away the fear that held Peter back while granting boldness through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This passage reminds me that God calls a person to do His will; a person with gifts and weaknesses. And many of the annoying or less admirable traits we see in ourselves and in each other can be redeemed for the kingdom and used for God's glory as He makes us more like Christ.

Let it be said of us that we will not be silent about what we have seen and experience that the world may know we are His disciples.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hello Mornings - Day One

Our Hello Mornings Challenge begins today! The challenge is designed to provide accountability for women desiring to spend time with God before the day begins.

My goal was to wake up around 6:30 AM to have time to read and get the day going before the kids got up, but Emily had other plans as she didn't go to sleep until past 11:30 PM. So when the alarm went off, I just decided to turn it off. God graciously woke me up just early enough so that I was able to do the little Bible study before the girls woke up..

This challenge we're studying 1 Peter, and we're looking to see how Peter's faith was matured from the gospels to his epistle.

Here are my thoughts on Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75:

On the night of Jesus' betrayal, Peter was passionate about his love for Jesus and secure in the knowledge that he would be willing to die for him. However he clearly did not know the weakness of his faith until he was tested. We know that God allowed this test of Peter's faith, and that He did not do it out of bitterness but love, so it must be that Peter needed to see himself fail his own standards catastrophically.

Peter and the other disciples had healed and cast out demons in Jesus' name. They had seen His power over storms and even death. Yet God chose to begin the new chapter of His kingdom on Earth by showing Peter how utterly powerless he was on his own. Matthew 26:75 says that Peter wept bitterly after his denials of Christ. God led Peter to a place in his life where he could not mistake his overwhelming need for forgiveness and grace.

And later we'll see how the character of Peter is refined so that his passion and leadership will be qualities that God uses to bless His people through the power of the Holy Spirit acting in and through Peter. I often forget when I see men and women of amazing faith that their faith is a gift from God forged in the flames of testing and trial. I pray that God will graciously preserve me in the time of testing that I too might know even more the power of Christ in me, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday HYMN 8/19/12

This hymn has been an anchor over the last 18 months or so. It's been my prayer while my dad was in hospice, while we waited on God to provide a call for Jason, while we waited to see where we would live, and even now as we prayerfully anticipate God's work on our behalf here in the Hoodland area.

1 How sweet to wait upon the Lord, 
While he fulfils his gracious word; 
To seek his face, and not in vain, 
To be beloved, and love again! 

2 To see, while prostrate at his feet, 
Jehovah on the mercy-seat; 
And Jesus, at the Lord’s right hand, 
With his divine atonement stand! 

3 “Father,” he cries, “I will that these 
Before thee on their bended knees, 
For whom my life I once laid down, 
Be with me soon on this my throne.” 

4 Amen! our hearts with rapture cry, 
May we with reverence look so high; 
Ascended Saviour, fix our eyes, 
By faith upon this glorious prize! 

5 With this delightful prospect fired, 
We’ll run, nor in thy ways be tired; 
And all the trials here we see, 
Will make us long to reign with thee.

Friday, August 17, 2012

5 Dinners 1 Hour Review - part one

On Plum District, I ran across 5 Dinners 1 Hour. It's a subscription meal planning service like many others but the unique aspect is the idea of assembling 5 dinners in one hour of kitchen time. Your goal is to refridgerate the assembled meals until cooking. Some of the meals will allow you to freeze them as well. I was intrigued, particularly because I feel crunched for time in the afternoons and would love to have meal prep done ahead of time. I was also interested to see if I could modify the meals so that I could eat with my family rather than cooking separately all the time. So I requested the free sample menu. Now Michelle does not provide the cost breakdown for her meals but she does provide the shopping list, assembly directions, and cooking directions. Let's look at the meals:

The first meal I cooked was the Monte Cristo Sandwiches. Since I had just returned from the grocery store and needed a meal, this one was perfect. Now the recipe calls for a baking mix, but I know some of my healthy-eating friends will be able to concoct their own substitute. What you're going for is a biscuit dough to layer on bottom and top. The middle layer is deli ham and turkey with swiss cheese. This meal was an enormous hit with my family. My kids and my husband LOVED it. I think it would also be easy to double or triple and use as a potluck dish. I served it with fresh strawberries as recommended. This meal was impossible to convert for me as I'm eating none of the ingredients these days. I did eat the fruit.

The second meal we ate was Crispy Pork Chops. The recipe calls for Dijon mustard which we don't usually use in our house. So instead I flavored the panko bread crumbs with mustard powder, since that is a common substitution I've seen. I also added black pepper and salt. It was an easy meal to cook; the cooking time was perfect, and the kids ate up. I changed the breading for my pork chop to coconut flour and spiced it up with greater amounts of mustard, pepper, and salt. Jason preferred my version to the panko version. I had a few pork chops left over so I cooked them up with coconut flour so anyone can eat them. I did serve it with frozen mixed veggies, but not the green salad. I just didn't have the time to wash and chop. I'm thinking the salad may need to be fixed as part of the kitchen prep time.

So tonight is Broiled Steak Bites. I made my own Whole30 friendly marinade for my steak and used Michelle's recipe for the family. I love that it makes a nice Friday night meal for the family: steak, potatoes, and green beans. The potatoes can go in the crockpot, which is also nice on a hot day in Oregon with no air conditioning!

The Slow Cooked Honey Sesame Chicken will be for tomorrow, and the Black Bean Enchilada Casserole will make a nice Sunday dinner. So I'll review those recipes later, but the biggest hit so far is the Monte Cristo Sandwiches. It's definitely going to make our meal plan a few times a month!

Another BIG Day

Yesterday was filled with the little but momentous events that fill our lives. The morning started off with a visit from the plumbers, who are really nice Christian guys. They okayed our ideas and will get back to us on cost estimates so we make sure that we don't go bankrupt in the process of remodeling. :) We also talked with them a lot, and I think we'll have made some friends by the time the project is done!

Later, Lauren and I met up with her friend Natalie and Natalie's mom, Kristina, at Wildwood Park for a playdate. Lauren and Natalie became fast friends at Hoodland Lutheran's VBS program this summer. They are perfectly matched little girls and had a great time. Kristina and I were able to relax in the shade and talk. What a blessing!

In the afternoon, Jason took Lauren to get her ears pierced. It was like a repeat of my own ear piercing experience: first ear hurt like the dickens so trying to keep her calm for the second ear was very tough. She's happy now though, and she was able to choose really cute little butterflies for her first earrings (see pictures below).

Rounding out the day was another tooth adventure with Alex. He has two adult teeth erupting and so the second loose tooth had to go. We'd been working on it for a few days but it was a no go, so in steps mom to wrestle the tooth. I was able to get it close, and then Jason finished it off. Now we have a momentarily gap-toothed kiddo. He is thrilled.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Filling in the Little Spaces

When you're a mom, there are many times throughout the day when you're unsure of what to do with the kids. Maybe they were playing or coloring but now they're done, and its not nap time or lunchtime or any other time in particular. During these in-between times, it's easy to let the children watch TV or play video games. We've gotten into a bad habit of doing just that as we packed, moved across country, unpacked, and now try to fix up our new house. I needed to fight back against this habit, and the best way to fight a bad habit is to establish a good one!

This weekend I went to our local library, which is tiny but awesome, and picked up The Bad Beginning, the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. My plan was to read a chapter each evening in the interval between dinner and bedtime. Our kids do chores to clean up the house after dinner but there always seems to be a lull of about 30 minutes that needed filling. So I read one chapter of The Bad Beginning on Saturday night.

Since then, the kids have been clamoring for more. We read mid-morning while I drink my coffee. We read after lunch but before bedtime.We read at the dinner table while Olivia takes forever to finish her meal. I rarely have to suggest reading to them. It's easy to forget that no matter how old the kids get and how well they can read, they still love to hear stories read aloud.

This morning I read one chapter but then I needed a break to answer some emails. When I came back, Alex was reading the Disney version of The Prince and The Pauper to Lauren and Olivia.

I hope that we can build a lifelong love of reading in each of our children and help them to serve one another with their gifts and skills. The Bible reminds us, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV) We desire to use even the littlest spaces of time wisely, which may mean the occasional TV show or video game, and we pray that God will faithfully teach us to do just that!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Adventures of Emily - Part 4

Day 151: My language acquisition lags far behind my physical progress. In truth I cannot fully determine if my captors use an intelligible language or merely use a combination of grunts and gestures at each other. There is no comparison to our own soft, tonal form of communication. Whether there is in fact a true language with structure and grammar behind it, I cannot say; nothing I have seen so far can confirm it. In lieu of learning my captor's way of speaking, I have begun attempting to teach my primary jailer our own native tongue.

At first I was quite impressed, she seemed eager to learn and able to repeat a few simple phrases. However I have since learned that she is an excellent mimic and apparently lacks the sophistication to acquire a new language. Our sessions have had an unexpected benefit; we have developed a certain rapport, and I may be able to turn her. An inside agent would be exceptionally beneficial to our cause. Still the communication gap looms. I have turned to physical gestures to communicate my most basic desires. My captor certainly understands my expressions but often misses the nuances. What she understands as, "I'm happy!" is often truly, "I'm delighted that I have created something foul for you to clean up!" She may perceive that I am displeased but be wholly unaware of how she has thwarted some well-thought-out plan of attack by relocating me.

My jailer does have one skill that I enjoy. Before placing me back in my cage, she will often make sounds in her language that are melodic, reminding me of our own tongue. This has a calming effect and may be related to their mission against me. I am unsure of it; however, I will continue to work towards turning my captor. I do believe that she has a soft spot for me despite my imprisonment and rough treatment. Further reports to follow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bring On the Cuteness

So over the past 5+ years, God has been pleased to give us three girls. We haven't always been quite sure what to do with them, but as they've grown up and we've learned to parent more effectively, the girls have been a delight and a blessing. One of our favorite things right now is how Olivia is old enough to enjoy playing with Lauren. They like to dress up and dance around. I've included several pictures and a couple videos as proof.

This is Olivia "reading" her bible and dressed to impress.

Lauren is all set to help Mom in the kitchen with her new apron.

Lauren dancing to Jesus, I Come

Lauren and Olivia dancing to Arise My Soul Arise. At the end they dance together, and it's really cute.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday HYMN 8/12/12

Our hymn for August is one that we've done before. Our kids are so young that we have to repeat often to make sure they remember it. We're singing the RUF version of O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus.

One of the things that I like about this song is the metaphor of the ocean. It's nearly impossible for me to imagine God being everywhere and extent of Jesus's love, but when I think about swimming in the ocean, I can start to comprehend the strength, power, and enormity of the blessing that is Christ.

This is a slightly different arrangement, but I like it too:

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Buddy System

As I work through the Insanity fitness program and eat through the Whole30 program, I am reminded again and again of the importance of the buddy system. When we were little, the buddy system helped ensure we didn't get lost or stolen, but as an adult, the buddy system helps us reach our goals and have more fun doing it!

Jason is doing the fitness program with me. It's hilarious because we are so different. He's 6'2, at or below his recommended weight, but he really struggles with the cardio aspects of the program and always complains about his quads burning. I, on the other hand, am 5'4, always above my recommended weight, and struggle most with my calves burning and holding in my core. The juxtaposition of our weaknesses is very helpful and motivating.

I have a friend in Atlanta who is accompanying me on the Whole30 program. I'm so thankful to have her support via email. She has young kids to feed too, and we face many of the same struggles. She's also a great cook and has wonderful ideas for meals!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV)

P.S. Next week I'll be starting the Hello Mornings Challenge. We'll be studying 1 Peter. Go here to learn more. :)

Alex is Growing Up... Or the Things We Do for Love

Alex had a momentous event this morning. His tooth has been loose for a while, but he has been tentative in wiggling it. I noticed a couple days ago that the adult tooth is coming in so it was time to get serious! I always  tell my pre-med students that there is a significant reason why I had no desire to become a doctor. The issue was not for the lack of scholastic ability but for the lack of an iron stomach. I felt queasy just thinking about him moving his tooth around.

Jason tried several times to tie some floss around the tooth, but even when we got it tied under the base of the tooth it just wouldn't work. Enter the mom. So despite my queasiness, I grabbed a piece of paper towel and yanked out the tooth. Alex is thrilled!

Here he is talking on the phone to Nana about his lost tooth.

In this one, you can really see the adult tooth coming in.