Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Basement Beautification

When we bought our 1918 Colonial Style home back in 2002, it had a creepy basement.

    We hung drywall to hide the crawlspace, painted the floor, stairs, and walls.

While shopping in a market in Pakistan back in 2003, I purchased fabric and later stapled it to the joists to create a ceiling and keep up the cords and insulation. 

Recently, I was inspired by the blog, The Stories from A to Z, to embellish my wooden staircase. With some of the old paint and a $6 stencil, I went to work.  On Halloween, I donned old scrubs as paint clothes and worked on the stenciling. I ran out of time, and took my kids to the Harvest Festival at church in scrubs with red paint stains, which, I am told, made a very realistic costume.

I love the look of my basement stairs now! 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

'Tis the Season of Pumpkins

Fall is here and it is pumpkin season! In the past, I've celebrated by hosting a pumpkin recipe tasting at my home, where everyone brings a food item made with pumpkin to share. This year, I'm responsible for creative activities chair for my Mothers of Preschoolers' (MOPS) group and so I wanted to share a fun and festive pumpkin craft creation that is frugal, too:

Paper Bag Pumpkins

1) Select bag size you want to use (we offered lunch bag to grocery bag size)
2) Paint bag orange (except the bottom), also paint some paper green for leaves
3) Round the bottom of the bag by reaching in, pulling it up and tying it
4) Fill with scrunched up newspaper
5) Add stem (stick) and tighten around stem with raffia, wire, or hot glue. The stem can be wrapped with florist tape if desired.
6) Add leaves

When my son saw my paper bag pumpkin, he asked whether it was a pinata for his sister's birthday. I decided to use it for that, inserted candy, added a tape strap at the top, and then my husband threaded a rope through the tape loop. I was impressed with the durability of the bag, but with adult intervention, the pumpkin was smashed and candy released.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


It’s wedding season and I love weddings. I also really hate to see marriages break up, even in couples I’ve never met.

Last week, I tried unsuccessfully to e-mail Jon and Kate—parents featured on TLC’s reality show Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Recently, the media has feasted on rumors of their marital problems, yet before that, it was disheartening to see their ways of relating on the show. It was the classic “crazy cycle” discussed in the Love and Respect DVD series. That seven hour series by Emerson Eggerichs (www.loveand respect.com) discusses how women often become critical, the man responds by being unloving and the downward spiral continues to feed itself in this warped fashion. The series goes on to teach the biblical way of relating with lots of practical help. I wanted to encourage them see the DVD series, which is like a marriage conference in the privacy of your own home. It also comes in book form, I recommend it to everyone, and bought the DVDs to share.

My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this summer. Here are some other marriage resources that have helped us along this journey:

1) The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book talks about how individuals express (and expect to receive love) in five main ways including: gifts, acts of service, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. The book explains how to better express love to your spouse by showing love according to their preferred love language.

2) The movie Fireproof and its book Love Dare. Fireproof is about a couple on the brink of divorce. It is a powerful and thought provoking movie with a Christian perspective. The husband in the movie decided to complete a love dare and change his actions toward his wife. The book is a practical exercise in agape (unconditional) love.

3) Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. The premise of this book is that God’s goal for our marriage is not for our happiness, but for our holiness. Yes, this is in total contrast to the world’s thinking! God uses the trials in marriage to refine us and draw us toward Him. Marriage is a spiritual discipline, growing and testing us, and causing us to rely on God. The book is not a formula for perfect marital bliss and happiness, it’s a realistic view that we are created for paradise, yet we live in a fallen world, and so the journey isn’t guaranteed to be wonderful or pain free.

This year, I planned ice breakers and games for our church’s moms group. One of our lessons was on marriage and I was a little stumped in planning a game to correspond with this theme, but had a voice in my head saying, “call Chris.” I called Chris, who told me she had been in the process of calling me, too. (At this point, I knew it was a God thing!). She had the game idea—having everyone draw a question and share positively about their husbands. I’m attaching the list in case anyone else can use it.

What is your spouse especially good at?
What did you do on your 1st date with your husband?
What is the 1st movie you watched together with your husband?
What did you eat on your first date with your husband?
What did you wear on your first date with your husband?
What initially attracted you to your husband?
Describe the first time you decided you really liked your husband—was it love at first sight?
What is your husband’s favorite dessert?
What is your husband’s favorite food item to order at a restaurant?
What is your favorite date to go on with your husband?
What song was sung at your wedding?
What type of flowers did you have at your wedding?
What was your wedding color/the color of your bridesmaids’ dresses?
Describe your bridal gown
What was the most embarrassing thing that happened at your wedding?
What were your new, old, borrowed or blue items (that you can recall)?
How did your husband propose to you?
Did you ever read a book together? Which one?
What TV show(s) do you like to watch together?
What is your husband’s favorite food?
What is your husband’s favorite restaurant?
Would your husband prefer chocolate chip cookies or brownies?
What is your husband’s favorite pie flavor?
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
What is your husband’s favorite thing to cook?
What is the most romantic thing your husband has ever done for you?
What was your favorite vacation with your husband?
What do you like to do together with your husband for fun?
What is your husband’s love language (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch)
What is your husband’s favorite hobby?
What is your husband’s favorite style of music or favorite group/artist?
What is your husband’s dream job?
What is your husband’s favorite "comfort food"?
What is your husband's favorite color?
What was the last book your husband read?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kindergarten choice "revealed"

So, I went through the Kindergarten selection craziness—visiting nine schools and additional preschools. I was a bit preoccupied by the whole thing—our designated public school frightened me, yet I am a product of public schools and felt as a taxpayer they should work. I had narrowed it down to three options and was planning to apply to two public schools in hopes that one could take Eli. Plan C was Norfolk Christian—attached to our church, triply accredited, but with a cost. (I might add that my husband had told me from the beginning not to worry about the money aspect, but the coupon queen and garage sale bargainista in me couldn’t handle the thought of paying out).

As I was explaining my preoccupation with this process, a Bible Study leader asked me, “Have you prayed about it?” I answered quickly and a bit defensively, “well, yes.” Of course, I’d prayed general prayers over the situation, but in my quick answer, something didn’t feel right. I recognized I had not asked God what He wanted me to do. It took me a few days to figure out why I was holding back. Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church, it became clear. I was afraid God would want us to pay for schooling for Eli, and I didn’t want to ask the question because I didn’t want to hear the answer. This exposed my root unbelief of God as provider. Right away it clicked with me, God is my provider (Jehovah Jireh), and He can afford his own plans, so I might as well be open to know them and trust Him.

That Sunday morning the pastor preached about Abraham’s faith—Abraham is noted for readily obeying God even when it didn’t make sense. During the sermon, the pastor also mentioned the faith involved with building our church and Norfolk Christian School which he said is now a top Christian school. This was news to me and I wondered if God was using the pastor to tell me something.

Then Monday night, I was in a small group and we were discussing the kindergarten dilemma and our leader mentioned that Norfolk Christian was excellent and really the ideal choice for school if it is a financial option.

That night, I was involved in a conversation in a dream where I was told Norfolk Christian. I argued a little bit and felt kind of put in my place and, while not frightened, I got the impression that I didn’t want to disobey.

Tuesday morning I was wondering whether I was just crazy or if God was speaking to me through the dream. He has been known to do that, but I couldn’t remember it happening to me before. Before lunch, I met up with a friend who is also going through the kindergarten selection process; we got together to exchange notes on our findings. I told her about how things were not going the way I’d planned; it was looking like God was pointing me to Norfolk Christian and had even had a very direct dream about it that I didn’t know quite how to take. One of the things she said was perhaps I should call or visit the school to get all of my questions resolved . . .

About two hours later, THE PRINCIPAL OF THE SCHOOL CALLED ME!! I had visited their open house a few weeks back so she was calling (on this particular day) to follow up. It was sure looking like God was trying to get a message through to me, but I was still a bit reluctant to accept it.

Wednesday morning, I ran a quick errand before Bible Study at 9:30. As I was returning, I found myself right behind a Norfolk Christian school bus (and I’d never even noticed their buses before). Anyway, I felt like a character in that routine, “here’s your sign”—there it was, smack dab in front of my face. Okay, I finally succumbed, and was laughing and crying at the same time how this had been orchestrated for my benefit.

I had lunch with my husband, Jason, and was explaining to Him all of these things and how I was feeling led that way. I wasn’t sure if he was going to say I was crazy for seeing God’s hand in all of these things. He suggested I just step out in faith and destroy the other applications and get working on the one for Norfolk Christian. He asked why I was continuing to try to doubt the message and what I was going to do next. I told him find a cave (or maybe the basement would do) or perhaps I could follow in Jonah’s footsteps and find a ship to take me away from Norfolk. He reminded me that that hadn’t work out so well . . . Anyway, I started on the application.

Over the next few weeks, I began asking God, “what about Ava?” (my younger daughter). I explored many, many preschool options, but none were working out for many reasons including geography, start times, and waiting lists. It didn’t make sense that God would have a great plan for Eli but not for Ava since He knows everything and could have anticipated this problem. I’ve heard that when God remembers, it isn’t that He has forgotten, it’s that he springs into action. Well, I found out a couple weeks ago that Norfolk Christian had just decided to expand their preschool program for Ava’s age group! It is exactly what we needed, and the geography and start times are perfect! He remembered!

Just got an e-mail today that they’ve both been accepted!

I found out where the Norfolk Christian buses are stashed and got a picture of the sign on the back of the bus.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Trials and Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

The fall of ’07 was horrid for me! We were re-doing our 90 year old house and about everything that could go wrong did, money was flying out the window, our family of four lived in the homes of three sets of friends over seven weeks (I felt homeless), my husband seemed to change personalities in a bad way, my then 1 year old got an ear infection that did not respond to the first round of antibiotics and lasted a month (and caused screaming that I thought might seriously put me into insanity--sort of how flashing lights can cause seizures in some). She also was six months behind developmentally which worried me (would she ever crawl or walk?). Anyway, those were bleak months and I do sometimes think it was a miracle that I survived. At one point, I took my kids to the park and literally could not lift myself off the bench to push a swing.

I just (tearfully) kept going and passed through that very horrible “season” and it has taken me a while to feel recovered from it and I am very grateful to have passed through. Now, I feel like I can relate and empathize with so many more people in crisis (whether with their house, marriage, children, finances, etc). I was reminded of the scriptures (above) about comfort when I was driving through a huge storm last fall. I kept driving on, and praying for those who were on the side of the road. I felt like the storm was an illustration from life, to keep on and saw this perspective of cars ahead, beside, and behind me on a journey. The storm was like many trials in life. For a time it was really strong, then stopped abruptly at one point, and later re-started. We really can’t get away from them in this life!

A couple weeks ago in my EGP Bible Study we had a very thought provoking lesson and discussion about tests in our lives. The notes from the class will be posted on this website:
God gives and uses tests to humble us, let us see what is in our hearts and our level of obedience, and to causes us to depend on Him. Tests can grow our faith, deepen our relationship with God, and let us recognize what we don’t believe about Him. We may think that this life and all of the problems in it are all about us, but tests are another way God is drawing us to himself. This world is temporary, but eternal glory awaits believers. Per 1 Peter 5:10, after suffering, God will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us.

When I look back on that fall’s stressors, I can see a lot of ways in which I didn’t respond well. I went into control and worry mode versus depending on and communing with God. Now I can look back and see how silly this was—I was living out a belief that I could out-smart God by trying to take care of everything myself instead of letting God take care of it. I was focused on my own circumstances instead of focusing on God and the big picture. This is quite a reminder of what NOT to do and it certainly led to despair, not peace. Through all of this, I became more aware of my tendency to try to do things my own way instead of trusting God and it is a lesson to remember. I’m told that if we don’t learn the lesson to totally rely on God, he will give us more opportunities to grow in that!

God was faithful, too (whether I recognized it or not at the time). We were provided wonderful, free, housing from friends. My husband has since returned to his normal self. We financially recovered from the endeavor and corrected dangerous structural deficiencies. My daughter caught up in her development and her ear infection eventually subsided. Our house is lovely now, and I even lost ten pounds through the process (but I’ve found them again).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joy Amidst Reality

Last Saturday night in the middle of the night, I woke and began pondering some disturbing and sad things. Two women I know in their thirties (with three kids each) are fighting cancer. I was pondering how, if God is on the throne, and He is—and I am still acutely aware of and in wonders I cited in my previous post—then what is the deal in these two situations? Sometimes when I wake during the night I get up and have some quiet time, but this night I prayed a bit and then had a sense that my question would be answered in the morning (Sunday) and was able to fall back asleep.

In Sunday School, we had a guest speaker, a visiting missionary from Pakistan. He spoke from Isaiah and about those troubled times and likened them to the present. He mentioned that in troubled times, hold on to the things you know are true. He has been asked whether he should leave Pakistan now, as it is very unstable, and he said, no. People are asking questions and the message of hope is needed. Biblical hope is assurance—not just a whimsical wish. He also recounted two accounts of people who had sought out his ministry after they had visions/dreams of Christ which they did not understand.

The sermon was on the subject of being joyful even in tough times. As I sat there, I was acutely aware that I was receiving the answer to my question from the middle of the night. The pastor spoke about how God has a purpose and God is at work. He mentioned Philippians 1:29, that suffering can be part of the calling in the life of a Christian. Tough times show the world the truth of His Word. There is power in weakness. There is joy in choosing to understand spiritual realities versus focusing on temporary problems.

I reflected on the lives of the two young women with cancer. April told me that she asks God to give her someone to encourage every time she waits for her treatments—and God provides. The waiting room is a gloomy place, patients are slumped in their chairs, but they sit up taller and liven up as she engages them. Her faith is strong and she is an inspiration. The other mom, Melissa, has a blog, http://danceintherainmelissa.blogspot.com/, in which she shares her journey and testimony. She feels God carrying her through and has peace, even through the trials. God is working, in these situations, too.