Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Meaning Behind the Carols

Nick Batzig, a pastor and blogger, recently posted a compilation of sermons by Ligon Duncan and Derek Thomas, pastors of First Presbyterian church in Jackson, Mississippi, on his Feeding on Christ blog. Here is an excerpt from his post and below is the web address, which will direct you to the sermon links. They will certainly transform the way you listen to and sing these familiar tunes. Want to know what "rest" and "merry" meant in the original context? Listen, learn and then worship the infant-King who brought true "Joy to the World!"

"One of the burdens of a minister’s heart is to bring his people to a place of thinking about the theology of what they are singing, and to sing them with a mind and heart, filled with grace, to the Lord. In 2004, Derek Thomas and Ligon Duncan gave several lectures on various, well-known Christmas hymns, at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS. These lectures are quite unique, in that they give the cultural, historical and theological backgrounds of both the hymn, hymn writer and composer of the tune to which the lyrics were set. These should be required in seminary for men preparing for the ministry."

http://www.feedingonchrist.com/derek-thomas-ligon-duncan-lectures-on-the-songs-of-christmas/

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Recs for the Little Ones

If you're in the hunt for some good Christian books for your little ones, or to give as gifts to others, here are some that we love:

*The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
*Fool Moon Rising by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty
*The Prince and the Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul
*The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul
*The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul
*God's Wisdom for Little Boys by Jim and Elizabeth George
*God's Wisdom for Little Girls by Elizabeth George
*My ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt
*Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt
*Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt
*Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
*Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Five Minutes and a Laundry Basket

I have several disaster zones in my house. Do you? I'm looking around my desk at stacks of miscellaneous papers as I type, then over my shoulder to see the huge pile of laundry in the corner of our bedroom. I know that toys are scattered around the corners of our home and everywhere in between and that there is an ever-growing accumulation of items on the bookcase in our kitchen in need of being taken down to the basement. These "disaster areas" wouldn't be called such if I'd just deal with them, but there are so many that sometimes it's too overwhelming to know where to start!

I've decided to do something about them, but I know I need to start small. So here's my plan: I'm going to take just five minutes to conquer one (just one) of these disaster zones. We're all busy, but we can all spare five minutes. I've convinced that if I determine to do this, I'll reap an abundant reward. I'll spare myself the headache and frustration that a "zone" can cause each time I pass by without dealing with it.

If you're accepting the challenge and part of that challenge includes gathering items from around the house (e.g. toys!), try using a laundry basket. This will increase your efficiency in cleaning up and may even keep you under the five-minute mark, which is our goal!

Here are some suggestions, if your "zones" aren't obvious (who are you and how do you do it?):

1. Tackle a bathroom - bathrooms are relatively small and a real good cleaning can easily be done in five minutes.
2. Go through mail - throw out junk mail and then sort mail into piles of immediate and not-so-immediate attention.
3. Desk - purchase (totally worth it) two paper sorters or files to keep track of things that need to be filed, bills that need to be paid, etc.
4. Refrigerator - clean out refrigerator or freezer

Kathryn Dunlap

The following is an e-mail that was sent out to family and friends by my dear friend, Amy, and her husband. I wanted to share their story (with their permission) because their experience has reaffirmed to me the hope, joy and peace that believers can experience in the midst of tragedy. It has also encouraged me to so steep my daily life in the means of grace - reading Scripture, prayer, communing with other believers, etc. - that when trials come, I'll be upheld by the truths that I already know.


The Dunlap family have conducted themselves with tremendous grace and trust through the loss of their daughter, Kathryn, and while their trust in the Lord has inspired me to an extent far greater than they will ever know, their example does not surprise me. Their pain and suffering are very real, but they maintain hope in the promises of God that "all things work for good" (Rom. 8:28) and they can confidently say of their Lord, "Because you are my help, I can sing in the shadow of your wing" Psalm 63:7.


I know most of you have heard our story from various people by now, but I wanted to fill in some of the details and give you some of my perspective on the whole thing. Let me start by saying that the Lord is good! Though He allows us to go through very hard things, He does it so gently and shows us His grace along the way (thank you, Gail Schoellkopf, for that reminder).


I found out at 15 weeks that we had a twin pregnancy, where one twin developed into a perfectly healthy baby and one developed into a molar pregnancy. This “mole” is essentially a mass of abnormal placental tissue. Molar pregnancies are fairly common, but the chance of a young couple having one with a coexisting twin is literally one in one million. The doctor who did the sonogram (Dr. Rinehart) sent me home and warned me that it could cause major hemorrhage or high blood pressure brought on by preeclampsia. At this point, there was still a chance that the growth of the mole could slow down and preeclampsia could not set in, allowing us to make it to the healthy baby’s viability.


Within the next week, my ankles grew to the size they might have looked had I been 9 months pregnant, so I started monitoring my blood pressure. When it got up to 152/102 last Saturday night, the doctor on call sent me to the emergency room. I drove myself with a toothbrush and a pair of pajamas thinking I would maybe stay one night and everything would be fine. Blood work the next morning revealed that my liver function was abnormal and my body was not keeping up with my blood loss. I saw two doctors on call who both recommended that I terminate the pregnancy on Monday because there was no way I could get better and would continue to get more sick.


Craig and I just could not do this. We valued our baby’s life and could not think of ending it based on the assumption that the mole would keep growing and I would get more sick. We believed the Lord could still perform a miracle and reverse what seemed to be happening. On Monday morning, we finally got to see my doctor (Dr. Ann Lutich). We learned that she was Catholic and very pro-life and valued our baby’s life as much as we did. She sent us for an amniocentesisand sonogram (where we found out that we had a perfectly healthy little girl) and thought we should wait a little longer to see how things unfolded. I cannot tell you what relief the Lord brought to us in showing that we could trust my doctor because her beliefs were in line with ours. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday my blood work looked better! We thought things were turning around and began preparing to get comfy in the hospital for at least 7 weeks until she could survive if we delivered.


After reviewing my blood work Thursday morning, my doctor came in to say that things had dramatically changed. Those three extra days when things seemed to be getting better gave Craig and me some time to feel a real peace, even joy, in trusting what the Lord would do. We felt ready for the news when it came Thursday morning. It was now clear that severe preeclampsia had set in and we were putting my life at risk (my death, of course, would mean that our baby would not survive either). My liver function was even more elevated and I was having pains that could have indicated I was on my way to liver rupture. My hormone levels had increased so much that my doctor knew the mole was growing very rapidly. We found out later that my kidneys were starting to be affected and there was fluid on my lungs. I still the chance of hemorrhage, seizure, or stroke. She said that we were not going to terminate the pregnancy, but we had to do a C-Section to remove the mole that was taking over my body. We knew that a baby had never survived this type of surgery before but also knew that the Lord could do anything!


I have to say that I was very scared as I headed in for surgery that morning. There was a great chance of hemorrhage and hysterectomy and Craig and I have always dreamed of a big family. The surgery went very well in that they were able to completely remove the mole and not do a hysterectomy but our little girl did not survive. I had trouble breathing after the surgery, so they put me back on the ventilator and kept me in ICU until Friday evening.


On Friday afternoon, we got to spend some time seeing and holding our daughter, Kathryn Diane Dunlap. She was only 7 inches and 4 ounces but looked so fully and perfectly formed. Our pastor was there to pray during this wonderful time. I thought that 20 weeks was the mark when you got to see, name, and bury your child and I plead with the Lord to let me make it to that point. Though I was only 17 weeks and 3 days, we got to do all of this. The hospital even gave us a box with the blanket she was wrapped in, her wristband, footprints, and a picture of her. She is named after Kathryn Livesay Bruce, whom the Lord used to draw me into a relationship with Him in my college Bible Study. Diane is my mom’s name, Kady’s middle name, and the name of Craig’s aunt who passed away and whose diamonds I wear in my wedding rings. We have every reason to believe that Kathryn went to be with the Lord on Thursday and that we will see her again in glory (Psalm 139:13-16, Luke 1:44, 2 Samuel 12:23, 1 Corinthians 7:14).


I am home from the hospital but my blood pressure has still not come down so I’ve been trying to take it as easy as possible. This is just fine with me as I try to recover from a C-Section! Everyone with a molar pregnancy has a long road ahead of them, as there is a 50% chance of cancer. We are waiting for the biopsy and will monitor my hormone levels very closely to decide if we need to do a low dose of oral chemotherapy. We cannot try to get pregnant again for at least a year.


This has been a long sad week for our family, but we have felt inexplicable joy and peace as well. God revealed His presence to us clearly along the way. We are so thankful for the visits, calls, texts, and emails. Each one has taken a little of our burden and made our load lighter. Thank you for the physical ways you have served us and will serve us over the next few weeks- food, time with the boys, and work around our house. We were not completely settled from our move just three weeks ago, so all that everyone did to help us get settled and decorate for Christmas made me really look forward to returning home. This could have been a very sad time, as it made things feel so final. Craig and I are glad to talk about what happened so please do not hesitate to bring it up. We are also fine with you forwarding this to others who have asked about us.


Thank you again,

Amy

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!

If you're growing weary of the same old chicken recipes, try these extremely easy and tasty dishes!

CHICKEN ENCHILADA DIP
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayo
1 (8 oz.) package shredded cheddar cheese
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chile peppers

Boil chicken breasts until cooked through.
Cool and shred with hands into small pieces.
Mix cream cheese, mayo, cheddar, and peppers in a large bowl.
And chicken and mix well.
Transfer chicken mixture into medium baking dish.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until edges are brown.
Serve with Frito scoops or tortilla chips.

HERBED YOGURT CHICKEN
1 1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 t. onion salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. celery salt
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 (16 oz.) package herb stuffing mix
tad of melted butter

Combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients. Marinate chicken breasts in yogurt mixture overnight or at least 4 hours. Remove chicken and coat with herb stuffing mix. Place in shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. While hot, pour melted butter evenly over each breast (not too much or it gets too greasy).

From Food for Thought - Junior League of Birmingham cookbook

CHICKEN, SPINACH AND FETA
Heaping portion of spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon pepper, to taste
Handful of Rotisserie chicken
Feta cheese, to taste
Handful of walnuts, toasted
Craisins, to taste

Saute large amount of spinach in extra virgin olive oil until leaves are fully wilted, add lemon pepper to taste. Combine spinach, warm Rotisserie chicken, feta, walnuts and craisins. It's that simple. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love

Many of you have probably heard of C.H. Spurgeon, the powerful 19th-century English preacher. While he is probably best known for his illustrative sermons, little is known about his wife. Susannah Spurgeon was an extraordinary woman, with a sweet affection for Christ and confidence in His perfect purposes in the midst of severe suffering. A chronic illness left her confined to the home for much of her adult life, but instead of sulking her way into uselessness, she continued pursuing an endeavor that she began before becoming so ill - the Book Fund. Through her efforts, the Fund supported numerous pastors, missionaries and theological students with theological literature to enhance their knowledge of their God and Savior. For some, these hand-outs were the only resources they had besides the Bible in order to grow in their teaching and preaching. Needless to say, her disability in no way hindered her from fulfilling the role to which the Lord had called her in the extension of His Kingdom.

Free Grace and Dying Love is a wonderful book that includes twenty-four devotions written by Susannah followed by a biography by Charles Ray. The former carries a heavy emphasis on seeing his loving and sovereign face behind the black clouds of suffering that will encourage you to meditate on the kindness, goodness, and greatness of God. These writings could only come from the pen of one who had suffered much, yet who loved and trusted more. The biography section will inspire you to set your sights above and seek first His kingdom regardless of your circumstances.

Here is an excerpt from her devotion entitled The Mourners' Comforter:

"The Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces" (Isa. 25:8).

"Come, all you sorrowful, mourning souls and see what a fair pearl of promise your God has brought to light for you, out of the very depths of the sea of your affliction. Here is an assurance so inexpressibly tender, a fact so blessed and joyful, that you can hardly regret the weeping which is to enlist such divine sympathy and consolation." (p. 28)

If you're interested only in the biography, I found the entire thing on-line (see below)!

http://www.biblebb.com/files/SPURGEON/mrsspur.htm

Thursday, December 9, 2010

31 Days of Prayer for Your Husband

I just read about a brilliant idea that is guaranteed to bless your marriage! It's a document that contains 31 daily prayers for your husband, including 2 or 3 Biblical verses from which each prayer is derived. Check out the blog site below. If you become a follower of the Better Life Bags blog and leave your e-mail address in the comment box, or if you become a fan of the blog on Facebook, she'll e-mail you the document. She even shows you how to make your own prayer flip book if you prefer a more aesthetic presentation.

http://betterlifebags.blogspot.com/2010/04/homemade-photo-flip-book.html

The Bible promises that prayer is effective (James 5:16). It's a wonderful expression of love for your spouse, and continual prayer will serve to remind you of the necessity of God's grace in your marriage. So whether you follow the pattern mentioned above, or another, make praying for your beloved a habitual practice.

Holiday Event Schedules (and Theirs!)

Only two weeks and two days until Christmas! Time is flying and as preparations are gearing up for holiday festivities and celebrations, parents should be gearing up to make some preparations of their own. Amid all the hustle and bustle of the season, the little one's needs can sometimes get lost in the swirl. Begin voicing suggestions now to give all involved plenty of time to adjust as needed to make this a merry Christmas for all!

1. Think about the timing of the meal(s), gift opening, gathering, etc.. Go ahead and decide what times are best to schedule "the biggies." You might want to request an early lunch or dinner for your big Christmas day meal to keep in sync with the kid's normal routine. If you think that both you and they would enjoy eating separately, plan around nap times, or pick up a new video to provide quiet entertainment while the adults feast. As for gift opening, try to coordinate with the extended family so the kids can be rested at that time and at their peek.

2. Pray for patience and understanding. If all of the events surrounding this Christmas go off without a hitch, in terms of the children, then you are one of the lucky few! Otherwise, prepare for the inevitable - kids will get overtired, overstimulated and one or more fits will be thrown. If your schedules are filled to the brim with people and activity, this will likely affect them, and, unfortunately, the affect may very well be negative. Be patient with them and give them some quiet reprieve when needed. This may even mean that you have to miss out on some events for their sakes. If this is the case, switch off with your spouse or find a babysitter if you think the kids might be better off missing an event than miserably enduring it.

3. Go with the flow. While mothers (at least I can speak for myself) love to be in control, we can't control everything, particularly when many others are involved, as they usually are this time of year. There will be times when you'll be much better off rolling with the masses, than fighting against them. Prepare for this ahead of time and relax in the moment. You'll enjoy the celebration far more, as will those around you.

4. Plan for quiet time. Make sure that you pencil in some alone time for your immediate family - enjoy going through an advent calendar, reading the gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, watching a Christmas movie or playing at home, or in a room separate from the chaos if you're not in your own home. Don't let the season fly by without allowing for time to let all of the joys of remembering that "the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:11) assumed human flesh all those years ago so that we might have life on this earth and life everlasting!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Homemade Mac and Cheese and Falafel Pita

My friend gave me this recipe recently when I was looking for an alternative to boxed Mac 'n Cheese.

HOMEMADE MACARONI AND CHEESE
1/2 box macaroni noodles, cooked
1 package shredded cheese
1 T. butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 t. salt
1 t. dry mustard

Mix in bowl. Cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Here's a healthy and delicious Middle Eastern meal that can cover lunch, dinner or, if you really like it, both!

FALAFEL PITA WITH CUCUMBER-YOGURT DRESSING
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 t. salt
1 (15 1/2-oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (1-oz.) slice whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/2 T. olive oil
2 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, split
1 cup arugula
1/2 Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing*

*Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing:
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup diced seedless cucumber
1/ cup minced red onion
1 t. fresh lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.

For falafel: combine first 10 ingredients in a food processor, pulse 6 times or until well blended (mixture will be wet).

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spoon about 1/3 cup chickpea mixture per patty into pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Line each pita half with 1/4 cup arugula, add 1 patty to each pita half, and spoon 2 tablespoons Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing into each half pita.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 filled pita half)

Recipe compliments of myrecipes.com.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Digging vs. Plowing

Nothing has been more beneficial to me as a mother than regularly reading Scripture. There have been seasons where I have been able to read chunks of Scripture each day and others when I can only seem to fit in a chapter, or even a verse. It has often discouraged me when I can't carve out more time for "chunk reading." While prioritizing our time in the Word is needed for our growth and sanctification, the amount of Scripture that we read each day is not nearly as essential. In addition to having seasons where you set goals to get through a certain amount of the Bible, there is great benefit to reading, and really meditating on, small portions at a time.

Thinking of this reminded me of what a tour guide on a trip to Israel several years ago exhorted us to do while reading the Word - "dig, dig, dig." He warned us against treating the Word of God like a novel that we fly through in order to reach the end of each chapter, potentially missing important details on the pages in between. Essentially, he wanted us to be more intentional about setting aside times to focus more on quality than quantity. He challenged us to read a verse, or a phrase, over and over again. To pray through it, think on it, memorize it, and meditate on it throughout the day.

We sometimes hear the phrase "hang on to his every word." If we believe that the Bible is the very written Word of God, then we should most certainly be hanging on God's every word, because, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).

If you want to give the "digging" method a go, here's a great verse to start with:

"You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound." Psalm 4:7

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flying with Kids

Many of us will be traveling with our kids this holiday season. You may be a seasoned traveller, or this may be your first venture into the air with your little one(s). Either way, here are some tips that will hopefully limit the turbulence, both in the airport and 35,000 feet above!

1. Stay calm. Our kids are always watching us and reading our demeanors. If we're stressed and hyper, chances are they'll be wound up too.

2. Pack lightly. You certainly don't want to forget any essentials, but you only want to pack what's necessary. If you're meeting someone at your final destination, see if they can pick up diapers, wipes, etc. to lighten your load. You can always pay them back once you arrive. Also, this might be a season when you need to make some sacrifices in terms of clothing for yourself. Plan on re-wearing outfits or get creative and mix and match to feel like you're wearing something new. And do laundry when you can.

3. On-line check-in. This is probably obvious to most of you, but make sure you do anything you can at home to make the time at the airport go as smoothly as possible.

4. Backpack it. Trade your cute baby bag in for a backpack. You won't be worried about things falling out or about the bag sliding off your arm. This also might keep you balanced if you end up carrying a little one through the airport. Another plus is that most backpacks have multiple shortage spaces so you can easily keep up with items that you'll need throughout your trip. Prioritize what you're carrying and place the most important items (i.e. snacks) in easy to reach locations.

*I try to leave my pocketbook at home - one less thing to carry. Make sure you have pants with pockets and stick your license/passport, money and ticket in there. Everything else can go in the backpack.

5. Stroller with a pocket underneath. A stroller can be useful for carrying babies or bags. Storage underneath the stroller can come in handy, too.

6. CHECK BAGS and car seats* (wrapped in clear plastic). "Check bags" is in caps, because if you're anything like me, you can't bear to pay the extra fee to check a bag. When you're traveling with kids, however, the $25 might be well worth it. If you are checking, make it easy on yourself and use the curbside check-in. My theory is to drop off as much weight as possible as quickly as you can. You will have to check the car seats inside, and it's usually a good idea to ask them to wrap it in a clear plastic bag to keep the germs at bay.

*Keep a car seat with you if your child isn't too big and would be better off contained on the plane.

7. Make sure you get a boarding pass for your lap child. This hasn't always been a rule, but they now require each person, ticketed or not, to have a boarding pass in order to get through security.

*Ask the person at the gate if there are any extra seats available. They will often bend over backwards to keep families together and happy and snagging an extra seat for more room or to seat a "lap child" in could make for a far more comfortable flight!

8. Slip-on shoes. Choose your shoes wisely. Wearing slip-on shoes will enable you to easily take them off and put them back on when going through security.

9. $5 for 2 hours of happiness. I try to bring all of the food we'll need from home. This saves you money and time and is ideal. However, if you run out of food, or if your child complains of thirst right before you board, a snack or drink is worth every penny. Consider it an investment with a return of a whine-free flight (or greater chances of one anyway).

10. DVD player or other forms of entertainment. You want to be prepared to entertain, but you don't want to be burdened by the extra weight. Choose four toys or so that typically keep your child's attention for an extended period. Hit the Dollar Store for little distractions or now may be the time to splurge on a small toy they've been eyeing.

11. Light blanket. Plane temps can be unpredictable so bring a light blanket along to cuddle up with in case it gets chilly.

12. Food. Food. Food. Food is likely the most important item you'll need. They're much happier when they're not hungry, so come well stocked for your entire journey. Don't forget a plastic bag and napkins or wipes to help with clean up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday's Menu - Appetizers

There's so much food to be eaten over the holidays, which, as we well know, include not only the end of November and December, but every week in between. With all of the eating that you'll be doing and menus that you'll be making, opt for an assortment of appetizers instead of heavy main dishes.

Cocktail Saltines

2 sleeves unsalted saltines
1 heaping t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. cayenne
1 package dry ranch dressing
1 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients in a gallon zip lock bag. Add oil and mix thoroughly. Carefully add the saltines. Seal the bag and gently turn to coat crackers with oil mixture. Marinate at least two hours and overnight if possible. Lay crackers on a paper towel to absorb extra oil. Put in a new bag or airtight tin.

Recipe from Nancy Mansfield

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

3 T. unsalted butter
6 T. fresh rosemary, finely chopped (use a food processor or coffee grinder)
1-1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cayenne, or to taste
3 c. cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter, add rosemary, salt and cayenne. Pour butter mixture over nuts, tossing to coat. Bake the nuts on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Grits Toast with Creamy Mushrooms
Makes 48 toasts.

3, 14-oz. cans chicken broth
1-1/3 c. quick-cooking grits
1/2 c. grated Parmesan, plus 1 cup
1/2 t. salt
2 T. butter, melted
2 c. mayonnaise
8 oz. Portobello mushrooms, chopped
2, 2.8-oz. cans French-friend onion rings

Spray 2 mini muffin pans (24 muffins each) with PAM.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until grits are thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in ½ c. cheese and salt. Remove from heat. Spoon grits evenly into pans to make 48 mini muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm. Cool and serve.

Saute mushrooms in butter until soft. Cool. In a bowl, stir together mayonnaise, 1 c. Parmesan, mushrooms, and onion rings. Top each grits round evenly with mushroom mixture. Broil 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through.

Mini Lemon Pork Sandwiches

Makes 24-30 appetizer servings.

6, 11-oz. pkgs. frozen dinner rolls (Sister Shubert’s, for example)

5 lbs. pork tenderloin

1 c. vegetable oil

½ c. fresh lemon juice

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

¼ t. ground red pepper

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise

2 c. mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. lemon juice

¼ t. chopped tarragon leaves

¼ t. salt

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Rinse tenderloin and pat dry. Combine oil and next 5 ingredients in a large zip-top freezer bag or shallow dish: add tenderloins and seal or cover, and chill at least 4 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade.

Grill pork to 160ยบ. Assemble sandwiches with mayonnaise and pork. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Mommy Vest

I had to include a short post on one of my favorite mommy items because thanks to Cyber Monday it's on sale for $20 + free shipping (today, Nov. 29th, only!). It's a Lands' End Women's Regular Down Vest, regularly $34.50.

Here is why I have made this a staple in my mommy wardrobe:

1. Keeps your core warm while leaving your arms free to grab, hold and hug.

2. Deep pockets for mommy essentials like keys and cell phone.

3. Comes in a variety of colors.

4. Wind resistant and water repellant, guarding you against inevitable spit-up or spills.

5. Keeps you warm - at least your core - in temperatures as low as 5-25 degrees F.

6. Versatile - wear it over a lightweight long-sleeve top or over a sweater on especially cold days.

There are more fashionable versions of this piece, but for the price and Lands' End quality, I think this is a steal!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Devotions

There are only so many hours in a day, and as a mom there often seems to be even fewer. If meditating on the truths found in Scripture is difficult for you to do on your own, and you want the time that you do set aside for meditation to be more focused and directed, try one of these devotional books:

For the Love of God, 2 vols., D.A. Carson

Daily Light for the Daily Path, Samuel Bagster

Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon

Voices from the Past (Puritan Devotions)

Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Day by Day with JC Ryle, edited by Eric Russell

Tabletalk Magazine, Ligonier Ministries (https://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk/subscribe/)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Virtual Gift Exchange

If you're looking for a way to give family or friends a thoughtful gift, but are working within a tight budget, or if you just want to mix things up this year, consider a virtual gift exchange. Determine your group - immediate family or extended, neighbors, church friends, playgroup friends, etc. - and draw names. Each person will need to write (and perhaps describe) their gift on a card to be presented to the individual whose name he/she drew. You can create your own guidelines. For example, there can be a monetary limit - $5 to $10,000. The present can be a trip, tickets to an event or a valuable item - get creative and enjoy the opportunity to give whatever you'd like while ignoring the price tag! My family did this is lieu of actual gifts this year (we decided to celebrate over Thanksgiving when we were all together) and I truly think everyone had more fun! The presentations will provide easy entertainment and priceless, in every sense of the word, memories!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Puritan Prayer of Thanksgiving

"O MY GOD,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joy of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity."

From The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

Give Thanks...

...for dirty diapers, wet sheets, early risers, tantrums in your home, tantrums outside of your home, spills on white sofas, runny noses, skipped naps, picky eaters, messy eaters, back and neck aches from carting 30+ pounds up and down stairs multiple times a day, toys to trip over, loud noises, bruised knees, bumped heads, endless dishes and laundry and ...

...for diapers to get dirty, sheets to get wet, children rising healthy and happy in the morning - a reminder of the Lord's mercies, teachable moments to talk to our children about their sinful nature and the forgiveness, hope and life that is theirs in Christ, sofas to spill on, kleenex for runny noses, napless afternoons that afford extra time to tangibly love on them, food options to be picky about, abundance of food with which to be messy, working bodies to hold and carry our little ones and homes to carry them around in, toys for their enjoyment, joyful noises, knees to bruise, heads to bump, dishes and laundry that remind us of all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon our family.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." James 1:17

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday's Menu

With Thanksgiving coming up later this week, you're probably wanting to minimize the thought and time that go into your meals Monday-Wednesday. If you're in need of some quick ones, try these:

Monday:
Crock-pot BBQ Chicken
Place chicken (one breast per person) in crockpot and cover well with your favorite BBQ sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Remove chicken, shred and return to crockpot. Cover with remaining sauce and keep on warm until you're ready to serve. Tastes great by itself or on a bun!

Green Beans and Onions (make enough for Monday and Tuesday)
Sprinkle green beans with salt and pepper and steam until tender. Meanwhile, saute one medium onion and add half to green beans before serving (reserve half of onion for rice recipe below).

Rice, Onions and Cranberries (make enough for Monday and Wednesday)
Cook rice as directed. Add half of sauteed onion and halved cranberries (or Craisins) while still hot.

Tuesday:
Turkey Burgers
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Seasoned-Turkey-Burgers/Detail.aspx

Green Beans and Onions (leftovers from Monday's dinner)

Sweet Potato Cubes
Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and nutmeg. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so (done when you can easily stick a fork through).

Wednesday:
Salmon
When purchasing salmon, ask them to slice the skin off the bottom. Cut salmon into serving portions and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle generously with Emeril's Original Essence Seasoning. Drizzle olive oil on grill pan to prevent from sticking and turn stove to medium-high. Place salmon on pan once stove is heated (you should hear a sizzle). Cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until cooked halfway through, and flip. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. When salmon is finished, it should flake easily when a fork is pressed into the fish.

Crockpot Apples
Cut three Granny Smith apples in half. Place in crockpot and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Rice, Onions, and Cranberries
Use leftovers from Monday's recipe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Written Prayer

I'm going to assume something about you. Please forgive me if I'm wrong, because I may very well be! I'm going to assume that it's easier for you to write a to-do list than to pray. You may even prioritize the former over the latter. I have done this and I can easily pinpoint at least one reason why. I'm a doer. I love tasks. I love being active. There is a lot of activity going on around me and I get swept up in it and do, do, do most of the day long. One thing that falls by the wayside due to all of my busyness is concentrated prayer. I pray on the fly a lot, but rarely do I sit down for any extended period of time to be still and pray to the Lord in a thorough and intentional way.

I've been advised numerous times throughout my Christian life to keep a prayer journal, but I'm not much of a journaler, so I usually brush that idea aside. The idea resurfaced recently, however, because I knew that I needed to find some way to discipline myself in this area and trying to sit and pray in my mind usually resulted in drifting off into my mental list of the day's to-dos.

Writing my prayers down has not only kept me focused as I pray, but I can re-read the prayers that I have recorded and see how the Lord answers them over time, according to His good and perfect will. I pray that you will find this to be as much of a blessing in your spiritual life as I have!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surviving the Check-Out Line

I have a gift. I don't mean to brag, but it's remarkable really. I can always find the slowest line at the check-out. I end my shopping trip by scouring for what seems at the time to be the quickest line, and then, almost inevitably I stand and watch as customer after customer in the lines adjacent to mine breeze through. Now it's possible (probable) that this observation has more to do with my perception of the situation than the reality of it. After carting and chasing kids through the store while trying to make sure I've covered everything on my list, I'm ready to get out of there. The check-out line is the last hurdle we have to get over before we head home, so any hindrance can, and frequently does, cause major frustration. Although it's a mundane little task, I've found that I need to start preparing myself for check-out time prior to our arrival.

Here are some things you can do to make it a more pleasant experience:

1. Bring something for your kids to eat. Try to find something that will take a long time to eat. Perhaps something in a bag that they have to reach in to get. You can play a game to see if they can pull out one piece at a time.

2. Hand songs. Depending on their age, this could keep them amused for a short while.

3. Tell a story that will keep them in suspense.

4. Make it a learning opportunity. Sing the alphabet, practice counting to ten in Spanish or French, or count to ten backwards.

5. Pray for the cashier. Confession: this post is a result of multiple experiences I had in stores this past week. Instead of trying to make the most of my time in line, I spent it thinking of all of things the cashier was doing to inhibit me from getting on my way. I'm determined to pray for him/her now instead - a far more productive and loving way to fare the wait in line.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Humility by C.J. Mahaney

Well, the Mahaney family continues to blow me away. I plugged a book by Carolyn Mahaney recently, a must read, and I meant it - life-changing and definitely worth purchasing! The same can be said of Humility. Carolyn's husband, C.J., shares his wife's gift for writing passionately about topics that are Biblically and theologically substantial in content and practical in life application. Humility: True Greatness will knock you down flat, but you'll be thankful for the beating. Mahaney doesn't knock us down with harsh words and stern reprimands, but he gently and persuasively reminds us that we can only be truly humble when we recognize just how sinful we really are and how holy God really is. He encourages us to study and meditate on Christ's life and death, God's attributes, and to find evidence of God's grace in the lives of others. C.J. Mahaney clearly has years of training under his belt in the pursuit of humility and, by God's grace, much wisdom to share with us. So while this book was not written directly for parents, we all know that parenthood is a wonderful training ground for learning humility and this is a great manuel for battling sin in our calling as wives and mothers.

Here are some excerpts:

"At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend" (p. 29).

"As sinfully and culturally defined, pursuing greatness looks like this: Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification. Contrast that with the pursuit of true greatness as biblically defined: Serving others for the glory of God. This is the genuine expression of humility; this is true greatness as the Savior defined it" (p. 44).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emergency Kit for the Car

You may not have an "emergency stash" in your car, or you may have one but haven't repacked it in weeks, months or even years. We've all found ourselves in those unfortunate binds when we're out and about and need something and we need that something fast! Without it, kids will be crying, or even screaming, messes will get messier and an otherwise pleasant car ride will turn into the longest ten minutes of our lives. Okay, I'm exaggerating on that last point, but it's definitely no fun to have to deal with the consequences of not having a key item when it counts. To make life much easier and car rides much more enjoyable, start packing (or re-packing) your emergency bag with these key items.

1. The bag. First, you need "the bag." You can certainly use any bag, but I would recommend that you switch out the plastic grocery bag for a real bag with a zipper. This will keep everything contained and you won't have to worry about items falling out and rolling under seats so that they're just out of reach when you really need them.

2. Medical supplies. Even if you've never had to use medical supplies while you're out, having the contents will be worth it if a medical emergency (however minor) arises. Band-aids, Neosporin, Cortaid, Antiseptic, gauze, latex gloves, tweezers, and hand sanitizer. It may sound way too intense to keep all of these supplies, but you never know when you, or someone else, could use them. To simplify the gathering process, you can always just buy a first-aid kit.

3. Change of clothes. Pick out an outfit for each child (don't forget socks) and stick them in the bag. Your young children could have accidents, get sick, step in puddles, spill food or drink and...Again, you may never have to use these, but let's be honest, with young kids, chances are good that you probably will.

4. Snacks, snacks, snacks. I don't really need to elaborate here, do I?? Haven't we all found ourselves stuck in traffic or running errands and cutting it way too close to dinner time when the kids get hungry? Make sure to choose the emergency snacks wisely. Perhaps something that is somewhat healthy - so that if it spoils their dinner, at least it will provide some nutrition - and something that doesn't crumble or will be easy to clean up if it does spill (we love raisins, Kix cereal, and granola bars covered with yogurt).

5. An extra blanket (or two or three). These don't have to fit in the bag, but an extra blanket for each child is a great thing to have. Use them for warmth, drying off or laying down on the ground for picnics. If you're looking for versatility, pack towels, which can keep them warm and dry!

6. Miscellaneous essentials. A large box of wipes, paper towels, sunscreen, bug spray, plastic fork, knife, spoon, extra pacifier, bottle or sippy cup.

7. $5. You probably don't like the idea of leaving money in your car, but 5 dollars could come in real handy someday. This could buy food or drink for the kids, pay a toll or cover an emergency grocery store run for one or two items.

**It's a good idea to stick a small bottle of instant hand sanitizer in the drink holders of all the car doors. That will help you remember to wash off the germs while you're strapping the kids, and yourself, in.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Edible Christmas Gifts

If you're looking for a little gift to give to family, friends and neighbors for the holidays, here are some recipes for treats that you can make in bulk, package in festive bags, tins or other containers and hand deliver (all in early December so you won't be stressing over it closer to Christmas!).

*SHORTBREAD (**with Hershey's Kisses) - I have wonderful memories of my mom making these every Christmas. They're my dad's favorite!

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. rice flour
2 1/4 c. unbleached flour

Cream softened butter with sugar. Sift rice flour into mixture and stir well. Gradually add remaining flour, stirring until dough no longer sticks. Knead with hands and spread on greased cookie sheet, flattening dough until it is about 1/2" thick. Prick with fork tines for decoration and bake at 325 degrees until golden (about 20-30 minutes). Cool on pan for five minutes and cut into small squares. If adding Hershey's kisses, stick on top of squares before cooling.

**Optional, but highly recommended.

*CHEX MIX - My grandmother makes this between Thanksgiving and Christmas and our family devours it so quickly that she ends up having to make several extra batches each year!

6 oz. pretzels
1 lb. of mixed nuts
1 small package rice cereal
1 small package wheat cereal
1 small package corn cereal
1 small package oat cereal
(We use Rice, Wheat and Corn Chex and Cheerios)
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
1/4 cup Worchestershire
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. onion salt
1 T. celery salt

Bake at 225 degrees, uncovered. Stir thoroughly every 30 minutes until crisp.

*CAKE BALLS - Paula Deen's recipe for this bite-sized (or maybe a couple of bites) treat will look beautiful and taste even better!

http://www.smithfield.com/recipes/recipe/paulas-cake-balls

*LACY COOKIE CRISPS - These delicate cookies will be the perfect complement to your favorite cup of coffee or tea!

3/4 c. butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light molasses
2 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. vanilla or bourbon
1 1/2 c. sifted unbleached flour

Heat butter, sugar, molasses, and ginger in a heavy saucepan until butter melts, stirring to blend. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring and flour. Drop one tablespoon of dough on greased cookie sheet, allowing room for spreading to 3" cookie. Bake about 4 cookies at a time at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will bubble and become lacy in texture. Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes. Lift off cookie sheet with spatula, quickly rolling around the handle of a wooden spoon, before cookies become crisp. Cool on rack and store in airtight container.

*SAUSAGE-CHEESE BALLS - These are easy to make and are great for hors d'oeuvres, but can certainly be enjoyed throughout the day!

1 lb. sharp cheddar
1 lb. hot sausage
3 cups Bisquick

Mix well and shape into small balls. Bake at 350 degrees until well-browned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Delighting in the Lord

If you're seeking a memory verse for the week, try this one from Psalm 37:4:

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

I memorized this verse when we were trying to get pregnant with our first child. It did not take us long, relatively speaking, but it wasn't immediate either. As many of you know, the waiting game can become consuming. And so I became consumed; just waiting and praying for my heart's desire to be fulfilled.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring good things and praying that the Lord will grant you those desires. It's easy to lose perspective though and focus so much on getting the gift that we forget the nature and promises of the One who gives. We forget that "every good and perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17). And that God declares, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9). That "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all good things" (Rom. 8:32), things He knows we truly need.

In this instance, I was craving the benefits stated in the second part of Psalm 37:4 without adhering to the first part. Once I realized this I still had to wait a little while, but the waiting period became marked less by anxiety, impatience and irritation that things weren't working out as I would have planned for them to, and more by peace and trust in the Lord's goodness and perfect plan for our family.

We should delight in the Lord at all times and in all circumstances, rooting ourselves in Christ to such an extent that we ultimately desire only what He, in His holy wisdom, deems beneficial to give.

From the Time Management and Organization Queen!

Here's a guest post from my dear friend who has taught me tons, by example, on time management and organization. Enjoy!

I often feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. My day starts early when my son wakes up and I get him ready for school before I head to work. The morning brings a hive of activity. I am usually scurrying around, racing the clock hoping I can squeeze in all the things I need to do before I leave the house. By the end of the evening, I fall into bed after a full day.

I am definitely a planner, but I am constantly trying to hone my organizational skills so that I feel like I am using my time wisely. I have found that I am intentional about the way I spend most of my time these days. As a working Mom, I want to spend quality time with my family, have a productive day at work, and handle all of my other responsibilities at home. Here are the top ten things that help me feel like I am able to keep up with the quick pace of life these days:

1. Prioritize - I love keeping a "to do" list. I keep it in my planner and remind myself to have realistic expectations for tackling a little bit at a time. This helps me at work and at home by allowing me to order the importance of the tasks at home. I recognize that I cannot do all the things on the list each day, so I choose what I feel is most pressing that day.

2. Do your work at work - My job can be intense during the day, so I try to practice healthy boundaries by going home on time each day and leaving the issues of the day at work once I head home. After all, everything at work will be waiting for me the next day!

3. Tag team - Come up with a way to split up your responsibilities at home so that you are not taking on too much. While you are at home, you want to be spending time with your loved ones, not slaving away over an unreasonably long list of chores. Divvy up household responsibilities with your spouse or give your older children different chores if they are able to help.

4. Cook with a Slow Cooker/Crockpot - it is wonderful to arrive home to the smell of the tasty dinner you have already prepared simply by plunking ingredients into a slow cooker on your way out the door.

5. Wash clothes at night - Before I go to sleep, I start a load of laundry. When I wake up, I put the clothes in the dryer and try to fold them when I get home from work that evening.

6. Get plenty of rest - Enough said!

7. Catch up on phone calls in transit - Keeping up with family and friends is very important to me, but it can be difficult once I get home and begin my son's bedtime routine. I like to catch up on phone calls while I am inching along in traffic. Of course, this only works if you can drive safely and talk at the same time!

8. Take time for yourself in the evenings - At the end of the evening, take time for yourself to wind down from the day. I love to read each night before I go to sleep. It is a relaxing way to end the day.

9. Use the weekends to recharge - Don't over-schedule your weekends so that you have time to recover from the week. Feel comfortable saying "no" to social invitations and ensure that you will be able to enjoy some free time before your busy week starts again. Take time to enjoy resting and spending time with family and friends!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

I don't know about you, but I have often gone through seasons when my prayer life is dull and aimless. I can feel so overwhelmed by the tasks of the day and the pace at which life moves that my prayers come out more like afterthoughts than a heartfelt, intentional conversation with the Creator. If you share these struggles, I would highly recommend Bryan Chapell's book Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name. Chapell walks through the Lord's Prayer - backwards - and offers practical and helpful tips on ordering your prayer life not around yourself, but around the one to whom you pray. One reviewer explains that the author hopes readers of the book will "pray believing in the power and the goodness of the One who hears, and thus to pray boldly, expectantly, and persistently." It's an easy read and will undoubtedly direct and enhance your prayers to the God who hears us in Jesus' name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dads and Donuts

With dads who work long hours during the week and don't get to spend as much time with their little ones as the mommies do, it's important that we help them carve out some daddy and son/daughter time.

Here's a short list of potential activities:

1. Dads and Donuts - My sister-in-law told me that most Saturdays her husband will take the kids to a park to meet up with other dads and their kids. The dads rotate picking up donuts for everyone to enjoy.

2. Putt-Putt - My brother takes his 3-year-old son to play putt-putt on Saturday mornings. It's precious one-on-one time and it's hard to tell who has more fun - the father or the son!

3. Yard work - The kids can play outside with dad while he does yard work. They'll likely even offer to "help." While this won't be the most efficient way to get the work done, they'll have fun being together!

4. Basketball court - If your husband loves basketball, he could take the kids to a public court. They will all have a blast chasing and bouncing balls and your husband may even get to practice his jump shot!

5. Ice cream date - All daddies and kids love ice cream (right??) and this is a sure-fire way to make some sweet memories! Check your local ice cream store for kid's nights. Baskin-Robbins usually has a kid's night where you can get a kid's cup for $1 each!

6. Bath time - My husband will often give the kids their bath. This has proven to be an incredibly sweet time because the boys stay (somewhat) contained. Because they're always up and moving, I usually don't get this much face to face time and I'm with them for most of the day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organize the Chaos

I am by no means (the boldface and italics are necessary to stress this point) "Miss Organization." Martha Stewart would balk at many things in my home and quite frankly, I'm okay with that. There are a couple of things that I have found to be really helpful though and I wanted to share them.

1. Keep a basket by the door. I'm trying to impose a new rule in my home that we take off our shoes when we come in the door. The rule was initially in response to the fact that I was having to vacuum our carpets daily. The carpets are now cleaner (well at least a little bit), but an even greater benefit is that I always know where my boy's shoes are when we're heading out the door. This truly saves me about twenty minutes of searching time a day and we're no longer late to events because we can't find one shoe! You can also keep an extra pair of socks for each child, hats, mittens, or anything else that might be useful!

2. Toss (or store) some toys now. With the holidays coming up, you're bound to be receiving more toys for your little ones. Now is a great time to sift through the toys they already have and get rid of (or store away) some of the ones that don't get much use. Try not to hold on to things that only receive attention once or twice a month. Don't feel bad about taking things away, you may be surprised that they're actually pleased to have fewer options!

3. The ultimate toy container. There are many different containers that you can use to keep toys "contained." I have found one that I love. It's actually a pop up hamper and you can choose from a variety of colors and styles in the storage and organization section at your local Target (or other home goods stores, I'm sure). We are currently holding all of our blocks in one, but you could use it for dolls, cars/trucks, stuffed animals, or whatever toy your child has an abundance of. It could also be a catch-all container for easy clean-up. I've found that they actually enjoy cleaning up when they get to throw things in the hamper. Another use is to be able to efficiently transport favorite toys to a grandparent's house or a vacation destination.

4. Hang up the best outfits in their closets. We have all had kid's outfits that have gotten shoved to the bottom or back of a drawer and when we finally uncover them we find that the season changed or our kids have outgrown them (this is tragic when it's a really cute outfit!). A friend of mine once told me that she hangs up most, if not all of her children's clothes. You can view them more easily this way and they're far less likely to slip through a season unnoticed. If the closet that you have for your child is small, you can hang up just the favorite and nicer outfits.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Being Your Own Advocate at the Doctor

I think that many of us treat doctors more like mind-readers and magicians than we should. We assume that if we just show up at the doctor's office and sit silently on the crinkly white paper that they will magically deduce anything that might possibly be wrong and, with a wave of their wand, or stethoscope, all will be fine. It's sometimes easy to forget that doctors are fallible creatures who have hundreds and even thousands of patients and they just can't, and don't have the supernatural resources to, cover it all. This is why we need to step in and serve as our own advocates.

Consider these:
1. Be aware of your symptoms and keep a journal so that you can have as much information as possible when you visit your doctor. What does it feel like? What time of day are you most affected? Is it worse after certain activities? Writing everything down will ensure that you don't forget anything when you're seeing the doctor.

2. Get blood work done routinely and insist that you receive a full report ASAP. If you have any questions about the results, ask your doctor if you can meet with him/her to discuss them. Having your blood work done periodically can help doctors detect conditions before visible symptoms arise and it can be helpful down the road in determining whether a condition is chronic or acute.

3. Don't be afraid to ask. I have made the mistake numerous times in the past of not asking my doctor enough questions because I was too afraid that I was going to come across as an annoying, time-consuming or ignorant patient. You have every right to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable about your health. If your doctor seems annoyed and makes you feel as though he/she doesn't have time for your questions, find another doctor!

4. Seek the best doctor possible. We often need to see a specialist and just consult the yellow pages or call the hospital to find the first available appointment with whomever will see us. When you need a doctor, for a routine visit or otherwise, putting in some extra legwork on the front end can be well worth it. Ask family and friends if they know of anyone who has experience with a doctor in that field, or if they know anyone at the hospital who could find out which doctor is most highly regarded. Or look on-line to see if you can find credentials and patient's reviews.



Monday, November 8, 2010

A Must Read!

I usually include a book recommendation on Fridays, but I couldn't wait until the end of the week for this one. Here's why:

1. I could be hindering you from saving time this week!
2. I've actually found something redeeming about Daylight Saving Time!

The book is a very easy read. It's called Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters. I really expect that the wisdom proffered will transform my daily life - and with eternal implications (hence the immediate post)!

The subtitle is "How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed," and the theme verse is from Ephesians 5:15-16: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." The Mahaney girls cleverly use the shopping metaphor to encourage us to be intentional "shoppers of time." They devised five tips - rise early, sit still, sit and plan, consider people and plan to depend - with Biblical and practical support that will not only "buy" you time, but will help you make the most of the time you have.

So, what does it have to do with Daylight Saving Time? You'll need to read chapter 2 for more details, but they encourage you to rise early - specifically before your children do (which could be really early for some of you, I know!) - to spend time reading the Bible and in prayer. You can also use this time to plan your day, get the house in order, get yourself dressed, etc. before the "little bees" wake up and swarm around you. Now is the perfect time to start this habit. We're all getting to "sleep in" an extra hour and if instead of enjoying that luxury we continue to get up at the time our bodies are used to, we've just scored another productive hour of the day! I've been doing this for a little while now and it's not always easy, but I have always found it to be worth it!

Here are some excerpts from the book:

*"We can actually do all that God has called us to do." (p. 13)
*"We must look around. We must develop keen eyes. We must examine our lives. We must evaluate our present manner of living and consider how to prepare for the future. We must walk circumspectly through each and every day." (p. 18)
*"In the end, our highest goal each day is not flawless execution of our plans or increased productivity. It's our relationship with God, walking in dependence upon Him throughout the day. We should not be more consumed with the completion of our to-do list than pleasing and glorifying the Savior." (p.90)

Quick link to purchase:
http://www.amazon.com/Shopping-Time-How-All-Overwhelmed/dp/1581349130

Monday's Menu

I was never really a meat-loaf fan until I tried this! The dish is an Italian-southern combo and the result is down right delicious!

Italian-Style Meat Loaf

1 1/2 pounds 92% lean ground beef
1 cup fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) preshredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine beef, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl. Shape beef mixture into an 8 X 4-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush remaining 1/2 cup pasta sauce over top of meat loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 12 slices.

My aunt is a culinary genius. She pulls together recipes from all over the place and then adds her own twist to create combinations that will satisfy just about any palate. Here's an easy and delicious side to go with the meatloaf.

Roasted Marinated Vegetables

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Vidalia (or sweet) onions, cut into slices
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal
2 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices on the diagonal
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pkg. Portobello mushrooms, sliced

Whisk together the vinegar and garlic. While whisking, drizzle in the oil to make a smooth dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the vegetables with the marinade. Refrigerate for several hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place vegetables on a roasting pan and roast for 40 minutes.

This next recipe is one that my sister-in-law makes every Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is so popular that you'll be looking for excuses to make it long past the holiday season!

Toffee Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
4 ounces chocolate-covered toffee bars (about 3 bars)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of a 9-inch pie crust with chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars. Combine eggs, corn syrup, butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour mixture over broken chocolate-covered toffee bars in pie crust. Bake 50-55 minutes or until done.