Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hot Days, Cold Drinks: Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte

In the summer, I love a cold, sweet drink in the middle of the afternoon as a refreshing pick-me-up, or after dinner for a cooling dessert.  Last summer, I did a series of my favorite cold drink recipes.  This summer, I want to link back to those recipes and add one that I just recently made up: iced pumpkin spice latte.

Pumpkin spiced goodies are usually enjoyed in the fall, but having recently discovered how to make this at home, I have been making it quite a bit.  Not only is it tasty, but you can feel good about having a vegetable in your snack/dessert!

Iced Pumpkin Spice Latte
1 cup of milk (I use whole milk,  raw when we can afford it)
1 tsp instant coffee or powdered coffee substitute (cafix is my favorite coffee substitute)
3 T pumpkin puree
1 T raw honey or 5 drops stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or you can use 1/2 tsp of cinnamon with a pinch of ginger and a pinch of nutmeg)

Blend together until smooth (if you are using raw honey, make sure the honey is well blended in, raw honey tends to just break into small lumps in a cold beverage).

Pour over ice and enjoy!

Did you miss the series last summer?  Be sure to try one of these yummy recipes:

Chocolate Banana Shake - thick and chocolately
Green Tea Smoothie - creamy and energizing
Mocha Avocado Shake - my favorite pick-me-up
Hazelnut Iced Latte - slightly bitter but balanced
Vanilla Peanut Butter Banana Shake - smooth and rich
Homemade Lemonade - tart and refreshing
Coconut Iced Chai Latte - sweet n' spicy
Sun Tea - brisk and easy
Green Peach Smoothie - nutritious and fruity

Monday, July 7, 2014

Best Biblical Advice for Newlyweds

"When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken." Deuteronomy 24:5
Noivinhos from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Jeff Belmonte, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

As far as I am aware, this is the only Bible verse that has a direct command to newlyweds (feel free to correct me in the comments if I am wrong!).  Though this verse was intended specifically to be directed to the Israelites and how they should run their society, the principles of this verse are instructive to modern-day believers as well.

Commentators say that there are likely two main reasons for this command.  First, so that newly wed couples could have time to develop their relationship without distraction.  Secondly, so that they would have time to conceive and bear a child early on.  Many newlyweds would do much better in their relationship if they would heed this advice.

Take time to develop your relationship.  When you first get married, it is important to continue pursing building your relationship.  Indeed this should be happening during the entirety of your marriage, but to do so in the first year is laying a good foundation for your future years together.  Make it a priority to go on regular dates, weekly or every other week at least.  Look for things to do together; it is not enough to simply live together under the same roof, but it if important to really live life together.

It is also important to avoid major changes and other things that can put strain on this foundational year of marriage building.  Many couples marry and then move right away to start a new job or grad school.  It is very difficult to lay a healthy foundation for marriage while also trying to find a new church, make new friends, and figure out a new city.  It is worth putting off a job or grad school for a year to stay put in your familiar area to make sure you can focus on your marriage.

Make babies.  Early (and often!) God tells us to be fruitful and multiply and that children are a blessing.  Couples who reject the modern philosophy of children being a burden and choose to obey this will receive God's blessing for obedience.  Having children makes a marriage stronger as it gives husband and wife something to work on as partners: a ministry that involves their whole lives together.  Having children is also incredibly sanctifying, which has the added benefit of making a marriage stronger as man and wife are humbled before God and seek him more and more for godly character and help to be good parents.

It is important to remember that the advice to wait to have children is coming from a society that kills 1.3 million babies per year, doesn't honor God and has an incredibly high divorce rate.  Believers choose to follow God and do things differently, because we know that the ways of God are higher and better than the ways of man.  This includes seeing children as a blessing ALWAYS (not just when they are convenient), which practically means having children early and often while the world says wait and stop.

When thinking about this verse, I realized that ALL of the Christian couples I know who are already divorced chose not to have children in the early years of their marriage.  On the other hand, most of the couples I know who have mature walks with God and good marriages had children very early on in their marriage.  I know that this is not a scientific study, and that correlation is not causation, but it is interesting to note that I have seen in practice how this does affect a relationship.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Post Modern 10 Commandments

The Bible tells Christians not to love the things of the world.  Many people rightfully acknowledge that this includes the material items that are rampant in our country: cars, clothes, houses, etc.  But just as important (maybe even more important) is that we do not love the world's systems, the world's philopsophies (Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 5:1-5).

There are many philosophies that are popular in our world today.  But the dominant one in our country is post-modernism.  And while followers of Post Modern philosophy say to ignore the "oppressive" commands of the Bible, they lay out their own oppressive commands.  These rules stand in direct opposition to God, whose commands are actually freeing, not enslaving.

To help you identify and flee from these worldly values, I have compiled a list of the 10 Post Modern Commandments

The 10 Commandments from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Taylor, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
1. Thou shalt not judge.  You may not tell other people what to do or judge them for what they are doing, no matter what.  There are a few exceptions though.  One is if they are doing something that goes against your personal pet issues, like not recycling, not breastfeeding, driving a big car, having too many kids or not eating organic food.  Then you can judge them.

Another exception if they fall into a class of people whom you look down upon (usually, someone less educated).  For example, you may condemn and judge the sexual perversions of the red neck who loves his sister, but you will adamantly stand by the "right" of the educated upper middle class man tempted by homosexuality to "choose whom he loves".

2. Thou shalt tolerate thy neighbor.  You need not love your neighbor, because loving your neighbor sometimes involves sacrifice or having hard conversations if they are doing something to destroy their life.  You should let them live their own life and do whatever they want without comment from yourself.  In other words, thou shalt ignore thy neighbor, but that doesn't sound as nice as tolerate.

3.  Thou shalt not take responsibility.  Don't worry about it, someone else will take care of it.  Sign up for $100,000 of college loans and then blame every one else for your debt (clearly it was unavoidable and you were making a wise decision to do so).  And then if you don't feel like facing the music, sign up for grad school and complain about how much that costs too.  If you conceive a child at an inconvenient time, just kill the baby or abandon the mother, but don't take responsibility for the life you created if it doesn't fit into your plan for your life at the moment.  If you lose your job, it is because your boss hated you, not because you were a poor worker.  If you fail your class, its because of your professor's funny accent, not because you didn't do the reading.

4.  Thou shalt be a victim.  The world is out to get you.  Make sure everyone knows how hard your life is and how you've been victimized by sexism, racism, classism, poverty, riches, your parents, your boss, your significant other, "the system", your genetic make up, etc.  Its much easier to evade responsibility if you can pinpoint all of the ways that other people have caused your life to be hard, therefore making it impossible to succeed.

5.  Thou shalt not obey authority.  Everyone in a position of authority is corrupt.  Their aim is to victimize you.  You have a much better idea of how to run your life.

6. Thou shalt feel entitled. The world owes you something, if not everything.  You do not need to work hard or provide for yourself, or take responsibility.  The world needs to pay back the debt of your victimhood, so sit around and complain until they pay up.

7.  Thou shalt not believe in truth.  There is no one real truth, so follow your feelings.  Feelings will never cease to guide you to the right path for your life. If someone breaks the first commandment and dares to challenge you on something in your life, then talk about your feelings and how hard everything is.

8. Thou shalt do what seems right in thine own eyes.  The world would be a much smoother and well run place if everyone did their own thing.  Clearly, each person is the best judge of what is right for their own life, and need not even bend an inch to live up to some higher standard.  So go ahead, plow forth in your own direction, heeding not those you trample on in your way.

9. Thou shalt not feel conviction for sin.  Don't feel bad for what you did.  You were doing the best you could at that time.  Ignore or stuff down any feelings of guilt.  Remember that you make the rules for your own life.  Everything will feel better if you just don't think about your wrongdoings.  Kinda.

10.  Thou shalt honor thy educated people (of choice).  It is clear that educated people are without sin, so you should honor and heed all that they say (if it fits in line with what you already feel on a certain subject).  If you are a university professor, you must be right.  Educated people never have underlying motives, never seek to justify their preconceived notions in their research, never have any selfishness. If the educated individual is a woman or minority, s/he is even more right.  They are seeking the greater good of the world and should always be honored as such.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June in Our Home

Midway through this month we moved into an apartment complex 3 minutes from our church.  Not only is the rent just over half of what we were paying at our old place, its only about 1/5 of what we paid in California! Another plus is that 8 other families from church live in this complex, giving Esther tons of other kiddo friends to play with.  We also have a little postage stamp sized back yard now, which is just big enough to dry some laundry and give Esther playing room.  And when that's not enough, there are several play sets around the complex within walking distance.

Hudson turned a bit of a corner in June, moving from wanting to be held constantly while awake to playing on the floor or bouncy seat for 10-15 minutes here and there (but still wanting plenty of snuggle time :) ).  He also moved from very little personality to lots of personality.  He's quite smiley, as his sister was at this age, and loves to converse (in oohs and aahs of course). 

This month has been a funky mix of I-feel-like-we-should-be-past-the-newborn-stage, but why-can-I-still-not-get-anything-done-all-day!  I have a never ending list of sewing projects, books to read, blog posts to write, work outs to do, but most days I'm just keeping my head above water with keeping people fed and clothed.  Its meant to increase my trust in God, to keep me humble as I realize how finite I am.  It keeps me repenting as I keep feeling like I could be the perfect mom if only I didn't have these kids to care for!

And it has also been a month of thinking about and looking forward to getting back in to fostering.  We heard from friends who are also foster parents that every single house in our county is at full capacity for foster kiddos.  It breaks my heart and makes me want to sign up tomorrow.  But on the other side, there is fear.  How will fostering affect Hudson and Esther?  What if we adopt a child who never comes to love and know and fear God?  What if we get a very fussy/difficult baby?  What if...?  There is so much to trust God for, to seek him in.

Books I started this month (but yet to finish!)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin

Don't Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman

Monday, June 30, 2014

Christian, why are you playing it safe?

When I talk to people about foster care, the number one thing I hear in response is "I commend you for being a foster parent, but I could never do that.  I would be so sad when the kids leave!"

I get it.  I get that feeling.  I too want to protect my heart.  I want to keep it safe, keep it hidden, keep it close.  I don't want to pour out my love, my time, my energy, never getting any return for it when the kids leave.  I don't want to cry.  I don't want to wonder what their life is like when they are gone.  I don't want to bear the burden of finding out later that after their parents got them back and moved them away, things blew up in their family again and they are back in the system.  And I can't do anything about it.  And I don't even know where they are sleeping at night or who is tucking them in or if anyone is even tucking them in.

I don't want to care.  Because caring hurts.  I would rather ignore the problem and play it safe.
Healing from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Dare*2*Dream, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

But the reality is that there are almost a half million children in the foster care system in the US today.  More than a third of them are adoptable if someone would step up.  And thinking about these numbers crushes me.  Because I know that it is more than just a massive number, that each precious one has a face, a story, a name.  And I am reminded of this by thinking about the six little ones that we have been able to serve so far in our time as foster parents.  And I know that each one of these nearly 500,000 children is precious, made by God, with potential to know Him and be known by Him.

And then I think about how my God is the Father of the fatherless.  I remember that he has tender care for the orphan, the afflicted and the needy.  And I think about how he has transferred his heart, his compassion for "the least of these" to my heart, and that I need to reflect his love for them by pouring out my life for them.

Most importantly, I remember that Jesus says that he came to bind up the broken hearted.  That implies that it is an expectation that as Christians, our hearts will be broken.  If you do any kind of ministry, any thing to serve others, your heart WILL be broken.  But the good news is: Jesus will bind it up.  And each time he binds up my broken heart, I find that it is actually a better heart than it was before the breaking.

So, Christian, don't play it safe.  Don't keep your heart in a little protective box, away from the sin and dirt of the word.  Put it out there.  Let it get stomped on, kicked around and beaten up.  Because you have the promise that Jesus will bind it up, and the promise that our work for the gospel and the inevitable trials that come with it will be rewarded in heaven.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Friday, June 27, 2014

On Joy in the Home

How would a visitor describe your home?  How would your children describe your home?  How would your husband describe your home?

By God's grace, all three of these questions would be answered with a description that includes the words, "full of joy."  One of the most important things you can do to build your house is to work hard to make it a joyful home.

Joy from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 John Taylor, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
A home that is full of joy is a display of the gospel.  It is a foretaste of the future joy that we are to experience in Heaven, a taste of the joy that comes from knowing God.

A home that is full of joy is obedient to the repeated commands of scripture to be joyful.

A home that is full of joy rejects the enemy's lie that God isn't good, that pleasure is bad and that joy can wait until Heaven.

A home that is joyful is full of the Holy Spirit, as true joy cannot come apart from the Spirit.

But this doesn't mean that working for joy isn't hard work.

Making a joy filled home is work for me.  As a recovering curmudgeon, my natural bent is towards frugality and stoicism.  Joy takes too much energy, too much time, and too much money.  I want to reserve these things for more important work, for Kingdom work!  But, alas, working for joy IS kingdom work.

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
  Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad." Psalm 126:1-3

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Growing Empathy for Foster Children

I don't love everything about this video.  But I do think it is a great starting place for having empathy for children in the foster care system, which is especially helpful for foster parents dealing with the type of outbursts in the video...

Lord, please raise up more foster parents who love you and foster as ministry!  Please give all of us foster parents abounding love and patience with these precious children.