Thursday, January 9, 2014

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches

At our church for the past six months we have been taking this amazing parenting class!  Amazing and challenging...some days I would walk out of class feeling like I was challenged and needed to change some things about my parenting, but most days I would walk away convicted of my sins and feeling somewhat like a failure.

http://www.christianbook.com/loving-the-little-years/rachel-jankovic/9781591280811/pd/227568

One of the neat things about my Amazon wishlist is that when I hear about a good book I put it on my list.  Years (or just months) go by and I don't remember how I heard about the book or who recommended it to me, but I leave it on the list thinking, "It must have sounded good or else I wouldn't have put it on the list."  So it goes with this book.  I don't remember putting it on my wish list, much less who suggested it to me or how I found out about it, but I'm so glad it made it's way on there!!

My friend Rebecca bought me this book for my birthday last year and I had a chance to read it on our trip down to Louisiana for Christmas.  It is great!  It was just the encouragement I needed to balance out our parenting class at church.  The chapters average about 2-3 pages and take you 3-5 minutes to read.  Sounds like the author knew her audience!  Chapter Two was my favorite and lucky for you, if you download the sample Kindle book, you can read the whole chapter for yourself.  She compares motherhood to life in a rock tumbler.  We are always being rubbed by the (little) people around us and our sins are constantly being exposed.  Instead of it becoming overwhelming, we need to view it as an opportunity to become more like Jesus.

Whether or not you are the mother of little children I think the illustrations Rachel lays out will be an encouragement to you.  Relish this time you have with your littles and let God work in your life and theirs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I've never written a children's book and I certainly have never tried to write one about God's word.  It is with humility that I write this post; I'm not trying to bash the author or question her motives but instead, point out some places where this story book Bible took liberties that other children's Bibles have not.  I'm not mad at anyone who reads or loves this Bible.  I just want to raise a warning flag about some certain problems I see with this book.

Problem Number One: Quotation Marks

I'll admit right off the bat that I'm a recently converted grammar lover.  I hated grammar in grade school, but after reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves several years ago I have loved investigating and learning the grammar rules that govern the English language.  Some might think that this is a nit-picky thing to mention, but if you follow my logic you will see that it can have more serious implications than you might think.

If you remember from English class quotation marks can be used when directly quoting what someone has said or, in a story, they can indicate when a character is speaking.  They are useful in narratives to set the dialog apart from the rest of the story.  The problem comes in this book when the author chooses to put God's words in quotes but does not directly quote Him.  Page 18 is the first place this appears, but just for comparison sake here is a quote from page 19 of the text:
God said, "Hello light!" and light shone into the darkness.  God called the light, "Day" and the darkness, "Night."  "You're good," God said.  And they were.
We know what God said at the creation of the universe. What God really said is written down for us in the first chapter of the book of Genesis:
3 And God said, "Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
This difference might be a small one.  Does it really matter if God said, "Hello light!" or "Let there be light"?  Maybe it doesn't but this is not the only time this literary technique is used.  In almost every chapter in this book, God is quoted but His actual words are not used.

To try and quote God but not include the actual words that He used seems to imply that God is merely a character in the author's story.   We know what God said and it seems best to me that we should only use quotes when we are directly quoting Him.
 
Problem Number Two:  Speaking where the Bible does not speak

In addition to adding words to the things that God has said, this book also seems to go beyond what is necessary when adding details to a story.  It almost seems like a Hollywood version of Scripture.  This next quote is from the story of Abraham and Isaac:
Abraham felt his heart leap with joy.  He unbound Isaac and folded him in his arms.  Great sobs shook the old man's whole body.  Scalding tears filled his eyes.  And for a long time, they stayed there like that, in each other's arms, the boy and his dad.
Was Abraham relieved when the angel of the Lord called down to him and told him not to kill his son?  I'm sure he was!  The Bible however, does not mention any of the details that this story book does.  I don't necessarily think there is any harm in this embellishment of the Scripture, but why do it?  What is the purpose of writing about something that we don't know happened?  I think in this case (and others) these embellishments are unnecessary and can hurt the validity of this book with older readers.  The other points that the author makes about this story (that one day another son will climb a hill and again God will provide the lamb) are great, but with these added embellishments the truth of God's word seems to be drowned out.

Problem Number Three: Inaccuracies

Going a step further than the first two problems, inaccuracies in the text are the biggest area of concern for me.  After the world wide flood on page 46 God is quoted as saying,
"I won't ever destroy the world again."
This is not what God promised after Noah left the ark; instead what God said was:
"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  Gen 9:11
Is there a big difference or am I splitting hairs?  The problem with the first quote is that it implies that the earth will never again be destroyed.  My five year old pointed out during the reading of this particular story: "Except at the end, right Daddy?"  He is right.  God will destroy the earth again.  John saw it and recorded (Revelation 21:1) what it will be like when this earth is destroyed and God makes a new heaven and earth.  Also, 2 Peter 3 tells us that

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Problem Number Four: Using language the Bible does not use

...which can lead to doctrinal errors.  An example of this occurs in the story of King David.
No, David made a big mess of his life.  But God can take even the biggest mess and make it work in his plan.
Is that what happens?  Do we mess things up and then God makes it work in his plan?  Some people would say there is nothing wrong with this phrase, but I think you might be hard pressed to find this language used in the Bible.  Instead the Bible says in Genesis 50
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Maybe I just would have chosen different words for this passage.  There was an opportunity here to highlight God's sovereignty in all circumstances, even those we seemed to have made on our own.


Another example is in the story of Ezra:
"God wants us to be happy!"  Ezra said.
This is a very popular half truth in our culture today: "God is love and He wants you to be happy."    What Ezra really said was:
 "...And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b
God is love (1 John 4:8), but God is also just to punish those who do not repent and believe (John 5:19-29).  Ezra wasn't telling the people God wanted them to be happy for happiness sake, he was telling them that God wanted them to find their joy in the Lord. 


Finally, on page 329 the author is describing Pentecost and saying:
...-- and Jesus himself was coming to live inside them.
Jesus lives in our hearts?  The Bible says (in Acts 2:4):
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
When we study the trinity we see that the Father is God, Jesus is God and the Spirit is God, but Jesus is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Son.  Jesus does not come to live in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts at the point of our salvation.  In John 14 Jesus explains that God will come to dwell with us, and that will be through the Holy Spirit:
23 Jesus answered him,“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. 25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Matt. 26:64, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69, Eph. 1:20, Col. 3:1, Heb. 8:1 and 12:2).  To use Jesus's name interchangeably with the Holy Spirit does not follow what Scripture tells us.

Problem number Five:  Wrong emphasis

Several times during the New Testament stories (page 220, 235, 278) there is an emphasis on how Jesus came to heal the sick and show people that God was pleased with them.  When Jesus healed the sick or lame, even raising people from the dead, he performed those miracles to show his deity.  The point of these miracles was to show that He had power over creation, not that He was going to fix everything for everyone who is alive or even everyone who believes in Him.

Another stark omission is the mention of sin or repentance.  The only time I believe sin is mentioned is in Ezra, right before Ezra tells the people God wants them to be happy.  When we talk about Christ and what he did for us, how can we leave out the fact that our need to follow Him is really our need to repent of our sins and turn away from the life we have led before?  On page 258 the author goes as far as to say that God's love is:
...a gift and, as anyone can tell you, the whole thing about a gift is, it's free.  All you have to do is reach out your hands and take it.

While salvation is a free gift, it is obtained by a God given repentance of our sin and faith in Jesus’s work on the cross alone, and this concept is not explained well.  She does go on to say later in the Bible that salvation is not truly free, since Jesus paid the cost.  Still, no mention of salvation being tied to repentance.


What is right?

This book does a great job at a couple of things:
  • Every Old Testament story points back to the overall story, the redemptive work that Jesus accomplished on the cross. 
  • Bible references are listed in every story.  I love it when children's Bibles do this because it makes it easy to find the story in the original text.  This is very helpful for parents and for older children who can look up the original text and read all of God's truth.
  • Artistically this book is beautiful.  The illustrations are great and changing the orientation of the text and image so that very tall images could be portrayed fully is neat and unique.
  • The book points out to the literal meaning of baptism: "he plunged them in and out of the water"

Your conscience:

I wrote this blog post not to discourage anyone from reading or purchasing this story book, but instead to offer a warning to my fellow believers about it's content.  There are plenty of other good children's Bibles out there that try to stay as true to the Word as possible.  One of my favorites is The Big Picture Story Bible.  We've had the The Jesus Storybook Bible for quite a while and I don't have any plans to get rid of it.  Instead we will probably only read certain stories from it and (as with all books) use discernment and wisdom when explaining these stories to our children.

How about you?  Do you love this storybook?  Are there things I (and the author) missed?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cooking for Friends

I love cooking for friends, but I'm sure if you are anything like me more and more of your friends are on restrictive diets.  This week for small group we had the theme of "Pies" for dinner.  After naming the theme I immediately realized that many of our members are gluten free and most pies have gluten in them.  We also have several members that are dairy and egg free.  Here is my solution:

Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free Shepherd's Pie

To start I used Alton Brown's recipe and just applied some minor tweaks:

Ingredients
For the potatoes:
 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 -2 cups chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil (to taste)
1/2 tbl. The Melting Pot's garlic and wine seasoning (to taste)
For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons tomato paste (I had some, but I didn't have the original container so I omitted this ingredient)
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1-2 cups frozen mixed vegetables 

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the chicken stock, olive oil, MP seasoning, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Make a slurry of the corn starch and 1/4 cup chicken stock.  Add slurry the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the frozen vegetables to the beef mixture and spread evenly into an 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Cover with aluminum foil and place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until warm and bubbly.  Because these potatoes do not have milk or butter in them do not expect them to brown! Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
I hope you enjoy this recipe!  Like any other recipe be sure to check all of your ingredients before beginning for allergens!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Babysitter Info Sheet

I first thought of making this sheet when I wanted to build my "Love Folder".  After all, if you were to die tomorrow, what important information would you want those left behind to have about your kids??  But then I began to see how my babysitters would probably also love to have the same information.  I've had it up in our kitchen for about 2 years and I get comments all the time about how much my babysitters love it.  Here is my sample document for you to edit and enter your own information:

If you don't already have the dosing charts for the meds you keep at your house, you can print them off here:
Of course you may want to double check with your pediatrician that these doses are correct for your child.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Remember the Milk

I may have just eliminated my need for a paper planner!  I have had a paper planner for as long as I can remember.  All through out middle school up through college my favorite part of August (other than my birthday) was picking out a new planner!!

Now that I am a home manager the need for a planner is even bigger.  So far I have depended on Google Calendar, my iPad, and a paper planner to stay organized.  I've tried to use larger planner systems, but it never quite worked out.  The problem has been I don't always have my iPad and I don't always have my paper planner to write things down in.  Enter the iPhone!  Verizon recently changed their data plan and I was able to finally buy an iPhone with some left over Christmas money that was collecting dust.  Now my Google Calendar is ALWAYS with me :)

Last week my sister was telling me about a list app that she was enjoying and I remembered that Simple Mom had suggested Remember the Milk years ago.  I decided to try it again since it now has an iPhone and iPad app.  It has been wonderful!  I decided to splurge and get a pro account so that my lists would always be synced across my devices, but this is definitely not necessary.

I love this task manager for a couple of reasons:
  • you can organize tasks by lists.  So far I have: Blog posts to write, Evening Routine, Gift Ideas, Home Management, Kids, Money Matters, Morning Routine, School, Study, and Tidy Up Tuesday.  There are also two default lists of "Inbox" for routines you email yourself (or Siri sets up for you) and "Sent" which I think is used for tasks you share with others.
  • you can use shortcuts to set up when a list is due, priority, when it repeats, where it takes place, and to add tags.  Tags help you to sort your task based on subject.  I have a tag for computer tasks that I use to help me get things done while I'm at the computer.  You can also use tags to sort by tasks that you have for different children.  Here is the list of shortcuts:
          If you wanted to use these shortcuts it would type this in the "add a new task" section of the website:  "Call Betsy ^tomorrow !2 *weekly"  Then a new task will be created with all of the parameters you have specified.  You can also email this to your RTM account and it will set up the task for you.
  • you can also set a task to repeat based on when it was last done instead of just when it was last due.  This is helpful for things like taking your vitamins.  You want to take them once a day, but if you forget them today you don't want to take two tomorrow.
  • you can associate notes or a URL with each task.  I do my grocery shopping on Monday, so I have a reminder on Sunday night to do my meal planning.    I use the note feature to keep track of meals that I see during the week that I think would be interesting.   


Even if you don't have a smart phone remember the milk can send you text messages or email reminders when tasks are due.  I choose to do most of my household cleaning on Tuesday hence the list "Tidy up Tuesday" I have a morning and evening routine based on Tsh's book 52 projects to a simpler life.  She encouraged readers to choose 3 to 5 things you do every morning and every evening. this helps bring structure to an otherwise unstructured day.
 Here is a view of my current account:

I have just started using Tsh's suggestion of identifying three things a day that are your most important tasks and marking them priority 1 (orange in color).  I do not mark anything else with that priority so that each day I can choose three new things.

Please ask any other questions you have in the comments section.  I hope I've given a quick overview and have helped you get started with this great website!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Organization - Winning the never ending paper battle

We recently added a huge piece of furniture to our family and it has exacerbated an already losing battle. It is a beautiful post master's desk with a nice flat surface area. I don't know about your house, but at ours where there is flat space there is paper!! We have mail coming in everyday, school papers for Ethan, church papers from all of us, receipts and coupons.
The Post Master's Desk
While reading Tsh's book "One Bite at a Time" I was inspired to rethink how we handle paper in our house. Project 7  in this book was to downsize your book and magazine collection, 8 was managing your mail and 9 was streamlining your receipts. All of these tips made me want to tackle our paper problem. With all of these categories I think the first thing we all should consider is what comes in to our house. Tsh talks about the fact that if we stop the paper before it makes its way in to the house then we don't have to organize it! One of the things I need to get better at is not bringing home receipts. More than half of the receipts I'm handed during the week can be put directly in the trash!  The same thing goes for mail...before you set the mail down in your house sort through it and throw the trash away immediately!

Note - This is not technically a "before" picture since I took the huge amounts of paper out before I took it.

We have a organizing device on our desk, but it never seems to organize anything in a way that is accessible. I've fixed that by coming up with categories of paper that comes in and I've made folders for these categories. Now the folders can be pulled out and papers can be filed and accessed easily!  For me this works better than a "home notebook".  I like everything in one place, but I don't want it all together all the time.

School folder with calendar taped to the outside.
A place to keep all of our school handouts.  I'll bring this folder with me to school meetings and such.
Final organized desk! 
My folders include:
  • River's Edge - a place for school newsletters as well as handouts from meetings and such.
  • Correspondence and bills - a place for all bills or other piece of mail that needs a response from me.
  • Money - we don't get bank statements by mail, but I do get quarterly reports from Philip's retirement plan and occasionally we get other important financial papers.
  • Love folder - this is not done, but having it here helps to remind me to work on it!
Down at the bottom is also my half-size clipboard that holds sermon notes.  To the right of this desk there is a notebook on the bookshelf that contains room for papers dealing with current projects.  Currently it has a folder for coupons and one for the boys birthday party.  Next to it is a small notebook where I can keep receipts that need to be kept for a time (birthday gifts and such).  Also not shown is a magazine holder for all of the magazines I need to look through (save that project for another day).

I know none of this is new, but I hope I inspire you to tackle your paper problem.  We will see how well this works in the upcoming weeks.

Does anyone have tips for school papers??  In the fall Ethan will be in Kindergarten and I know he will be bringing home worksheets everyday.  I know he worked hard on these, but we can't keep them!  Do you have a grace period before you chunk something?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

RSS Reader

Sometime last year my friend Meg introduced me to a beautiful thing....an RSS reader.  Now, I consider myself a technical gal.  I like pretty much all things technology and I had heard of an RSS feed before.  I had seen the little RSS icon:

But what is it?  How do you use it?  Well, that my friends is what I'm about to tell you.  RSS stands for RDF site summary, but really it means updates from a website sent straight to your feed (we'll get to what a feed is in a minute).  I love to read multiple blogs.  I have friends who have blogs, but I also love blogs of people I don't know, but that have really interesting content.  An RSS feed allows you to receive all of the updates from all of the blogs that you like to read in one place.  Think of it like a subscription to all of your favorite blogs or websites.  Instead of having to search out new content from the places you like, all of the new updates are sent directly to you!

Where is this "place" that the updates are sent?  Most blogs will allow you to receive email updates, but what is neat about readers is that they do not clog up your email inbox.  Instead the updates are stored in a second location and you can read them at your leisure.  I am currently registered with Google Reader.  Google Reader is where I subscribe to all the different blogs that I like.  Anytime any of my favorite blogs posts something new the updates come straight to my reader.  Now, I can read these updates on any computer (since Google is internet based), but I choose to read them on my iPad using a free app called Mobile RSS.  This app downloads my recent updates to my iPad and allows me to read items in my feed even when I am not connected to the internet (score!).

If you like to read multiple blogs I really think using a reader can simply your life and cut down on the amount of time you just "poke" on the internet.  Once you are signed up with a reader service add the blogs you like by typing in the web addresses or just look for the RSS symbol above and subscribe!  Here is what the icon for Google reader looks like:
 
Do you use an RSS reader that isn't Mobile RSS or Google Reader?  I'd love to hear about the different readers that are out there.

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