Monday, November 29, 2010

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

You probably already know what I think.  Well, if you have read this blog before, you know what I think anyway.  I was going to write a post, but I see Stacy McDonald at Your Sacred Calling beat me to it and did a fabulous job.  I couldn't add any more to this, so I will just share the link.  Enjoy!

God Loves You

My all time favorite Christian group is Watermark.  Ask anyone at my church.  50% of what I sing on Sundays are Watermark songs!  This song is a bit more obscure, because as far as I know, it was never released, but one of my favorites.  Very encouraging.  Consider these lyrics:

I have hidden you,
I've set you apart,
and saved the best for me.

I loved you that much-
That I would hold the things that you think you want,
And give you the things that you really need.

Don't you know, I know you.
Don't you know, I know where you are.
And all of heaven sings over you,
Because of the depths of My love.

I love you with a love-
That you cannot think of.
I am near you even though you feel far away.
I rescued you and carried you and caused your world to stop.
Just so I could hear you say that you love Me too.

Don't you know, I know you.
Don't you know, I know where you are.
And all of heaven sings over you,
Because of the depths of My love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So Much to Give Thanks For...

I am so in awe of all that God has done for us this year.  We have so much to be thankful for!  I wanted to just share a few things with you that have happened over the past 2 months.

Many of you know that Will's work has slowed down, both due to the economy and the season of the year.  I have to say that I was a bit concerned when he went 2 weeks straight without working.  Paying for 2 homes over the past 3 years has put us in a place where we have no reserves!  My first response was to panic.  My second response was wiser....simply to trust.  This is not the first time we have been in this situation, and the Lord has always brought us through.

A couple of months ago, our van broke down.  Will spent the whole day working on it and finally got it going...only to come inside and find that the washing machine was broken, and so was the vacuum cleaner!  My wonderful man went to work and fixed the vacuum, but the washer was a lost cause.  The parts needed were expensive!  All of this with the knowledge that we had car insurance, homeowners insurance, and property taxes looming at the end of November, beginning of December.  So I put a post up on Facebook asking if anyone had a washer they wanted to sell.  I got a response form my friend Jane at work.  My husband went to pick up the washer and Jane refused to take the money.  She said it had been a while since she used it, so take it home and try it out first.  It worked great.  I had forgotten the few times I saw her to give her a check, but it was in the back of my head.  Meanwhile, the vacuum cleaner broke for good, and Will's paychecks ground to a halt!

One day there was a knock at the door, and one of our neighbors wanted Will to do a side job for him.  Then my father wanted something done.  Then someone at church called about him doing a job for them.  It was amazing how God was providing these people (who didn't usually knock on our door...) so that He could provide work for Will.  What's more, he came home from work one day with a vacuum cleaner that one of his customers gave him.....he was going to throw it away!! I had been vacuuming the house with a shop vac hose.  Pretty funny to watch!  Around the same day, I was at work and I reminded Jane that I owed her money and requested that she not leave without a check for the washing machine.  She refused the money and stated that the washer was a gift!  Jane, if you read this, please know that God has used you greatly!  :)

God has used so many wonderful people to help provide for us.  Just to ice the cake a bit, Will had been wanting to get a food processor.  We just pretty much dismissed that one for now.  Not a need, just a want.  However, my sister had one in storage (I am not even sure she knew that we wanted one?)  and asked if we wanted it.  (free, of course!)  We have received (as well as given away) bags and bags of clothes for our kids from friends simply wanting to clear out closets.  I have been able to pick up weekend shifts at the hospital to bring in a few bucks. 

God has taught me so much about contentment in the past 14 years.  I used to wonder why we didn't have a fancy home, a nicer car, more electronics, etc..etc.. 
But He has shown me that I have everything that I need because I have HIM.  I do not need earthly possessions.  My eternity will last much longer.  With a view of eternity in my heart and mind, I intend to store up my treasures there rather than here.  I trust God that He will provide all of our earthly needs here.  He has never failed me before!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Decorating for Christmas on a Tight Budget of $0 Part 2

I finally finished it.  But I cheated.  Okay-okay, I spent $5.  That's it though.  No more.  I couldn't get my commissioned artists to work fast enough--so no homemade snowflakes.  Instead I went to Walgreens and bought 2 packages of glitter flakes, for $5. 

I find that little cheap greenery garlands can be spruced up with ornaments, figurines, etc.  I have had this garland for many years.  I made it sparkle a bit with the glitter flakes.  I suppose, if you were determined to spend nothing, you could make paper snowflakes and glitter em up.  I used sticky-tack to put some up on the mirror.  Not sure if they will stay through all of the humidity, I'll let you know.

When I first redecorated my bathroom, I decided to give my wedding bouquet a makeover.  Otherwise, it would have sat in a closet all of these years......So I replaced them into a pretty little urn.  Pretty easy to just tuck a few snowflakes in.

What a cute little boy :)

Okay, so I had fun.  Now onto the rest of the house.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Star Wars Science for Kids: Learning About Friction

Have you ever wondered about all of the power that tiny little Yoda has?  Yes, yes....I know....small but mighty and all that... David and Goliath..and so on.  But really, could it all just be smoke in mirrors?  Could it be that he is really just a scientific genius?  Lifting ships out of swamps, pulling beams off of walls.  All of that could really be accomplished with a few well-place pulleys and some forethought.


Yes I am.  So today Yoda is teaching my kids the principle of reducing friction.  He looks so smug......

Well, you would be too if you knew what he knew.  Anyway, some of Yoda's friends decided to have some fun.   They challenged the poor little guy to try to use his body weight to pull them all in a box.  Probably a stupid party trick or something....

So how in the world can one tiny little Muppet move this big ole box of metal and plastic?  Hmmm, how unfortunate he is...most unfortunate.  (little Yoda laugh here)

Yoda pulls and pulls on the box...but, oh it must weigh a ton!  He COULD use to force, if in fact the force was real.  Or he could use science.

Yoda sizes the situation up like a small green MacGuyver.  Too much friction there is...hmmm  (little laugh again)  Must find way to reduce friction between friends and ground.....

Fortunately, there are some trees nearby.  And since light sabers ARE real, he pulls his out and makes short work of them into logs.....
 Seriously now.  Use your imagination!!!!

So He loads the "logs" up and rolls the ole box on top:

Off they go!  Next lesson, however will be on gravity......

Poor little guys.  It seems that maybe a good science lesson for them prior to their party trick would have been gravity.  It pays to pay attention in science class!

It has been theorized that this could have been the method the Egyptians used to move bricks that weighed over a ton up ramps and onto the pyramids.  Simple machines make life....well...simpler.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Before the Throne in Humility

One of the things that I have to remind myself of day in and day out is that God desires us to seek Him in humility.  If anyone struggles with pride, they probably realize this.  Music can minister to the heart, and this song really speaks to me!

Chris Rice

You'd think I'd have it down by now,
Been practicing for 30 years.
Should have walked a thousand miles,
So what am I still doing here?
Reaching out for that same old piece of forbidden fruit.
I slip and fall and I knock my halo loose.
Somebody tell me what a boy supposed to do?

I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I can get so stupid sometimes,
And then I feel so useless.
But Your saying you love me.
And You still want to hold me.
And that You want to be near me,
Because Your making me holy....
Keep making me holy.

Gonna get it right this time.
I'll be strong and I'll make you proud.
Prayed that prayer a thousand times,
The rooster crows and my tears roll down, again..
You remind me You made me from the dust,
And I can never, no,  never be good enough..
And that Your not going to let that come between us!

From where I stand Your holiness is up so high I can never reach it.
My only hope is to follow Jesus..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh Gaze of Love, so Melt my Pride

What use does God have with a heart that is not broken before Him?  Lord, I fall on my face today and ask you to forgive me for my pride.  Pride that stands in the way of deep relationship with you.  Words cannot express......

Oh gaze of love
So melt my pride,
That I may in your house but kneel.
And in my brokenness to cry,
Spring worship unto thee...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Decorating for Christmas on a Tight Budget of $0

I have startling news for you:  we are in a recession.  Ha!  Well, unless you have been hiding in a cave for the last few years, that is not new news.  This year promises to be extra hard for us as my husband's work has dropped off early.  I am fortunate to have a job to fall back on, but we will once again be scrimping for the holidays.

I love decorating my house for Christmas.  My fondest memories of childhood include sitting in front of the Christmas tree listening to Elvis belt out "Blue Christmas" from our record player speakers.  I used to just sit and bask in the beauty of the lights and sparkling decorations.  The tradition of decorating is important to me.  I hope to pass on those traditions to my children, along with some new customized DEVINE family traditions.

A couple of years back, I bought a shabby chic shower curtain that I was in love with and redecorated my bathroom around it.  Unfortunately, I do not have to many Christmas decorations that fit in that color scheme.  I really wanted to go out and buy a few pretty decorations this year, but......    I decided to get creative!  I want to show you what I did and I would love for you to share any ideas you have with me :)

This is my undecorated bathroom shelf.  I pushed everything around to dust.  I found a white tin on top of it from Christmas last year that had some pretty pine cones in it.  That gave me an idea!  I headed out to the evergreen bush in the yard and cut some greens.....

Here is what I came up with.  Everything (except the Hallmark ornament) was on the shelf already, I just spruced it up with greenery.  As for the little tin with the pine cones.....

The pine cones had been spray painted white and tipped in gold glitter.  I bought them that way a couple of years ago, but they would be easy to make.   Next was this area......

My pretty little towel shelf.  See the picture frame with my petite little sweets in it?  I decided to download a Victorian picture from the internet and replace the pic for the holidays....

The flowers were ones I have had since I was first married.  I used to decorate my tree with them, but they have been sitting in a bowl in my bedroom for years...  If you are a mom, you most likely have art supplies lying around the house.  I took a cue from my pine cones and got out the glitter and the Elmer's glue.  (that Egyptian death mask project has paid off once again! )

Then, I was back out to the evergreen bush....

Here's the finished product.  Admittedly, I had the tree already.  Funny thing, it sat out in my kitchen all year and never got put away after Christmas last year.  :)  I have not pulled my Christmas decorations out this year yet!  I am just using things that I find around the house. 

Next I need to tackle this....

 I have commissioned my family artists (my husband and kids) to make me some paper snowflakes.  I guess I need to get my decorations out and see if there is anything packed away that I could use.  If you have any suggestions let me know!  I will be plugging right along, cleaning and and decorating...

History Meets Science: Making a Chicken Mummy

Two of my favorite subjects are history and science.  Needless to say, when I acquired the activity guide to our history curriculum and found a project called:  Make a Chicken Mummy---I was intrigued!  For the adventurous lot of you out there, I am including detailed instructions on how to make your own chicken mummy.  We named ours "Cluck-O-Patra."

I used to think that it took hundreds or thousands of years to make a mummy.  When I would look at the dehydrated remains of bodies, I naturally thought that it was just time that had dried them to a crispy crunch.  As it turns out, there was much more to it.  For older children, here is where the biology part comes in.  You know how people associate salt with water retention?  Well, it is a fact that water follows salt.  So, if there is a lot of sodium, there will surely be a lot of retained water.  If you put a human cell into a dish of salt water, the salt will pull all of the water out of the cell and the cell crenates, or shrinks.  Water will follow the salt in order to balance out the concentrations both inside and outside the cell.    This is one of the reasons why you can't just preserve a drop of blood on a microscope slide in a drop of water.  Pure water is hypotonic, meaning that the concentration is less than that of the blood cell, therefore, water is pulled into the cell and it ruptures.  But with the higher concentration of sodium and other particles outside the cell, water is pulled from the cell and it shrinks.  This principle was used in preservation of mummies.

Here is what you will need for your experiment:

Several boxes of cheap baking soda
Several cans of baking powder
One small whole fryer
Large freezer bags
Plastic gloves
Rubbing alcohol
Several boxes of salt---I found that canning salt was the cheapest.

You may want to finish off your mummy and keep it for a while.  If so you will need:

Various spices (cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg..)
Scented oil (recipe follows)
White glue and water
White linen strips (or any other fabric you have on hand)

2.  Remove the neck and packet with the liver, heart, gizzard, etc...  You can mummify these, but they smell!
3.  Wash your chicken in hot water.  Dry with paper towels.  Make sure you wash the inside of the bird too.  Wash the entire bird with rubbing alcohol, including the inside.  This will decrease the amount of bacteria on the bird .  Dry as much as possible with paper towels before continuing.

4.  Mix 1/2 box of baking soda with 1/2 can of baking powder and 2 boxes of salt.  The baking soda and powder increase the acidity of the mix and decrease the amount of bacterial growth.  Next I recommend that you add a teaspoon of a good-smelling spice, like cinnamon.  It helps combat the smell.   The mixture is very close to the Egyptian natron that was used in large tubs to preserve bodies.

Hannah smelling the cinnamon scented natron.

5.  Pour some of the mix into the cavity of the chicken until it is full.  Then pour some into a large freezer bag.  Put the chicken in the bag and add the rest of the mixture.  If the chicken isn't completely covered add more salt until it is.  Seal the bag.  Place into another freezer bag and seal that one too.

Ready for her journey into the afterlife

6.  Week 1:  Check the chicken every day.  If the salt is wet, PUT SOME GLOVES ON and remove chicken from the bag.  Dust off the bird and repeat step 4.  You will probably have to do this after day 1, 3, 5, so on.
7.  After week one :  Check the chicken once per week.  If the salt is wet repeat step four.
8.  At the end of week 6, PUT ON YOUR GLOVES,  remove the chicken from the bag dust off salt as completely as you can.  Wet a paper towel and wipe the remaining salt off of the bird.  Dry immediately and thoroughly with paper towels.
After one week, Cluck-O-Patra is pretty dehydrated.

At this point, you can see the major difference in your chicken.  The tissues will be dehydrated and the bird will be much lighter than when you started.  We actually saw dramatic differences in the first week.  The bird goes from that mushy feeling to a hard feeling quickly.  We stopped here and threw the bird away, but if you want to go that extra mile, you can continue to rub and wrap your bird as follows:

A jar with a lid
oil (cooking oil is cheapest)
Spices-any combination of 3-4 good smelling spices

You might want to hit the dollar racks for your spices.  Fill the jar to the top with the spice mixture, then pour oil over the top.  Set in a sunny location for a week, shaking the jar 2-3 time per day.  Drain the oil.

Rub the fragrance all over the chicken, inside and out.  Stuff the inside of the bird with fabric or sawdust.  Cut your fabric into 1- inch strips.  Mix glue and water 1-2 parts water to 1 part glue.  Dip your strips into the glue and begin wrapping.  Wrap wings and legs separately.  The body should be wrapped in 2-3 layers.  Let dry completely. 

Mummies were not always made with the same technique.  It varied according to the time period.  Here is a good link that provides a short read of the differences:

separate canopic jars and keep them with your chicken. 

 I have a feeling that this is one of those experiments my kids will not soon forget!  :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Name Change

I decided to return to my former blog title:  A Lifetime of Learning.  I think it really describes me better.  I believe it is important to have a "teachable" spirit.  I know for a fact that I will never stop learning!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why I Love AWANA

Over the past 11 years I have been involved with the AWANA program at our church.  For those of you who know nothing about AWANA, it's name comes from the verse 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth."


Now you are officially in the loop :)

Anyway, AWANA is much more than just another youth group.  AWANA is a Bible club that focuses on the memorization of key Scriptures and principles. The average age group for a club is K-6th grade.  Some clubs go down to toddlers, and some as high as high school.  If your child attends faithfully K-6th grade, they will emerge with over 200 Bible verses committed to their memory. 

AWANA is based on real life principles:  you get out of it what you put into it.  Children work to memorize "sections" which contain memory verses, Bible searches, and some just for fun activities.  They are awarded according to the number of sections they do with AWANA bucks that they can choose to spend at the AWANA store as they wish.  There is also a devotion time when leaders speak truth into the lives of the kids through God's Word.  Last, but not least, there is a game time where kids are allowed to unwind and learn the principles of working together and sportsmanship.

For those of you who shy away from youth group settings:  take heart.  You can volunteer to serve as a leader and be there right along side of your kids to observe and guide them when needed.  I have watched my girls and been there along side of them throughout their AWANA  experience.  It has been a wonderful thing for them because they are forced to work together with others and accept their strengths and failures with the guidance of a loving parent.  Also, helping my girls memorize the verses at home has been valuable to my own spiritual growth!

Over the past two years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to share my heart with the 3-6th grade girls during devotion time.  This is such a blessing for me because of the struggles that I faced at their age.  My heart is for them to really love Jesus at a young age.  There have also been opportunities to encourage good social graces.  For instance, I have been able to encourage some of the more confident kids to reach out to the newer girls or ones that have fewer social graces.  I believe that it helps them to see beyond themselves into what is more important: good relationships with others.  It also helps them to look beyond outer appearances and see the beauty that is inside. I have been amazed at their willingness to give of their time and efforts to make others feel welcome.

Beginning at 3rd grade, AWANA boys and girls are separated so that the leaders can deal with gender-related issues.  Women teach girls, Men teach the boys.  I think that is another important point to be aware of because I am a firm believer in feminine girls and masculine boys.

If you are interested in getting your kids into this great program feel free to contact me.  If you are not in Northwest Indiana, it is simple to do a web search and find an AWANA club.  I will admit: a club is only as good as it's leaders, so get to know the ones who run it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dealing With Conviction

Let's face it: we have all had times when we got angry at someone for being judgmental.  I mean, we are only human, right?  Seriously, I can't believe she would let her kids wear that, or I can't believe he would watch that TV show.  It seems, though, that we sometimes have difficulty finding a healthy line between facing our own convictions, and walking away from inappropriate  judgments. At least I can tell you that I have this problem .  Maybe you don't *cough--denial*......

So how should we respond when we feel conviction in our lives?  Should we run from it?  Justify it?  Should we sever all ties with the ones who bring the conviction to us?  Should we find people who share our values to commiserate with? Should we find a new church with a pastor that preaches what makes us feel good?

Well, when you put it that way........

Let me just suggest to you that conviction is something that should be embraced. 
After all, why do you do what you do? What keeps you from doing what you are not supposed to do?  Is it your friends? Your church?  Your image?  In reality, it should be none of these.  Our desire and drive to live a life of holiness should come purely out of our love for Christ!  Stop and think about this for a second.  You are a sinner.  You deserve a death worse than Christ's sufferings on the cross.  Yet, out of love for you and me, Jesus took that punishment on Himself.  You don't have to suffer that way.  All that is required is that you believe.  Conviction is evidence of relationship.  It is proof that God is working in our lives to transform us to the image of Christ.  I say praise God for it.  When you are sitting under good preaching and you feel like the pastor has been spying on your life, and you want to crawl under the pew and hide.....GOOD!

I am not a proponent of works-based faith.  The Bible says that it is by the grace of God alone that we are saved.  BUT, I will say that I believe that when we are truly head-over-heels in love with and devoted to the one who saved us, our lives will look different from the world.   The indwelling of the Holy Spirit accomplishes some very supernatural traits in us.  At least, that is how it should be.  We know that the Holy Spirit is present with us with every breath that we breathe.  Maybe it would be beneficial to ask ourselves: If I could see the Holy Spirit sitting next to me, would I type that status update of Facebook? Would I be watching this show on TV?  Would I use the word I just used?

When someone challenges us, our tendency is to get angry and call them judgmental.  Our response instead, should be to ask ourselves: is my position Biblical?  It is a time to really dig into the Word of God and find truth.  Not digging in with the intent to justify ourselves, mind you.  Digging in with an open mind and a prayerful heart.  God, if this is what you want/ don't want from me show me.  I want to glorify you with my life.  I want integrity.  I want to be the same person in the privacy of my living room as I am at church on Sunday.  Show me what YOU have to say about this!  It may also be beneficial to seek out the person who has called you into judgment and work things out.  After all, we are called to love the brotherhood of believers.  If we are to look different from the world, then we must not be quarreling among ourselves.

The heart that is so full of gratitude is likely to share with others what God is doing in their lives.  The Bible says that "...Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."  Luke 6:45   When our hearts are so abundantly filled with Jesus, our mouths will frequently speak His name.  We will tell others what He has done and how our lives have changed as a result. Some will become angry with us. Some will praise God with us.  Some will call us judgmental and avoid us.  If we love the truth, though, a few detractors will not silence us.

The health of our walk with Christ can be gauged on how we handle conviction.  Will we choose to quench the Holy Spirit, or follow His leading?   Pride is hard for some of us (like me) to overcome.  But the truth is, if I really think about it, I should be falling on my face everyday before God.  I need to approach Him in humility and ask for wisdom.  Sometimes I am wrong.  Sometimes I am right.  It takes strength just to walk away from judgment without an argument.  But, the meek will inherit the earth.  Cool.
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