Equal Need

There is a great leveler in our worship service. When we kneel during our confession time we are all on equal footing. I am there beside my children as their sister, equal in need for grace, equal in standing as a child myself. In one sense this truth is always…well, true. I’m never not their sister. Even as I mother, I am their sister.

I can see the back of my husband’s head as he too turns and faces the cross. As he steps apart from his role as Pastor, as Shepherd, and kneels just like me, like our kids, like our congregation, he is there as a brother, equal in his need for grace, equal in standing as a child.

Friends take part in this glorious exchange. No older or younger, in some ways no wiser or more foolish, all equal before a Holy God. All equal in our need for grace, in our standing as children.

No one is better off than another.

No one has more need than another.

In that moment we all need.

We need grace.

We need mercy.

We don’t sin a little or a lot so there isn’t a sliding grace scale. He doesn’t evaluate our whispered “Please forgive me for _________” and parcel out forgiveness in an appropriate and equal measure.

It’s not a waterfall of grace in row three, fourth seat from the left, and a thimble passed on to the person in the sixth seat on the second from the front row.

Because we are all there, side by side kneeling in our need, we lift our faces to the shower that pours down with overflowing grace. Its abundance splashes out into our dry and sin cracked places. It floods our hearts and hydrates our minds and washes our souls clean.

And, like little children dancing in the rain, we find joy.


Test Kitchen # 50 ~ Pineapple Casserole

This is one of those weird dishes that you will either love or hate. (Kind of like the frito dessert I shared here.)

I happen to fall into the love category…there is just something yummy to me about the blend of salty and sweet. I first had it years ago made by an elderly woman in our church. I forgot about it for a while and then around the holidays remembered it but couldn’t find my recipe. But I did find it on pinterest (Is anyone surprised by that? Yeah, me neither.) The recipe isn’t complicated and centers around a love triangle between pineapple, cheese, and Ritz crackers.

What you’ll need:
1 cup of sugar
6 TBS all purpose flour
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 20oz cans of chunked pineapple drained (but reserve 6 TBS of the juice)
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1 stick of butter, melted
What you’ll do:
Stir sugar and flour together.
Add cheese and toss until well mixed.
Add the pineapple and stir until well combined.
Spoon into a 8×8 or medium sized casserole dish.
In a separate bowl combine the reserved pineapple juice, Ritz cracker crumbs, and the butter until it is evenly mixed together.
Sprinkle over pineapple mixture.
Bake at 350 degree for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

When I make this for a potluck most people aren’t sure whether to include it with the desserts or not. You can but it makes a great side for pork which is usually what I pair it with.


It’s Her Birthday!

I thought having her become a teenager last year would be hardest but the truth is she kept growing and it hasn’t gotten any easier. And now she’s counting days and weeks and months to milestones that lay ahead of her.

Can I get my drivers book? I’ll be able to take the test next year.

Do you know I am going to be in high school next year?

It won’t be long and I’ll be able to fill in the blank.

My heart cries out for her to slow down and not be in such a rush! It will all happen far faster than what she thinks because just yesterday she was this fat round faced baby sitting in my arms and yet here I am, walking beside this tall slender beautiful girl.

She is growing into herself with a poise and confidence that astounds me.

She is gentle and kind and my goodness, does she love the babies. Some friends at church call her the baby whisperer because she will coax and cajole the babies right out of their mother’s arms and into her own.

She can make her way around the kitchen with ease. And, despite being one of my messiest children, has begun to display some great organizing skills.

She is like the butterfly just coming out of the cocoon. The woman she will be is unfolding before my eyes even if her wings have not fully opened yet. But I’ve no doubt that God is working His grace in her life and that she will soar in the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that He holds so dear.

Happy birthday, Emily Grace! Remember, sweet girl, that who you practice to be now is setting a foundation for who you will be next year, and the year after that and so on. Live fully in this day, savor these moments, even as you look ahead. What comes next will be all the sweeter for the life you live for Him now.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8

Sam’s World ~ An Evening of Theater and Recitation

Sam loves school.

He loves his class mates and knows just about all the students in the school.

He loves his teachers. (Although he wouldn’t say that ~ too romantic, you know!)

He doesn’t give us any trouble about homework and seems quite happy to do it.

Recently, the school held one of its annual events, An Evening of Theater and Recitation. Every class memorizes and performs some piece of literature. This year was the best ever as they all choose very well known classics and delivered them with skill and humor.

We weren’t really sure how Sam was going to do for several reasons. One, he has a tendency to mumble and smash all his words together into a barely coherent  blather of sound when asked to read aloud. Two, we didn’t know how he would handle being in from of a crowd. And, third, how well he would do following all the directions and controlling his body on stage.

Turns out we had no need to worry at all but he kept us guessing right up to the moment he got on stage. At home he was reluctant to practice his lines for us. And if he messed up he would make this horrible garbled sound pretending to rewind his words. Needless to say the words, “You can’t do that on stage!” came out quite a bit. But he didn’t make any mistakes, he spoke clearly and was easily understood.

Oh, I wish you could have seen him! He stood so tall and proud with his class and practically vibrated with excitement. His eyes sparkled and his smile was HUGE! Because I was photographing the event he saw me on the front row and winked at me several times.

He stepped forward to deliver his lines and the stepped back, glancing at his neighbor as if to say, “I did it right, didn’t I? Did you see me?!” Thrilled with his delivery and the success of the performance he gave a nice little fist pump as they all walked off stage. I missed that though. My eyes were a little blurry because I teared up at the sheer joy that showed on his face the whole time.

Afterwards, many people told us how much they enjoyed seeing his anticipation and excitement. Many people congratulated him and it fueled his idea that he is now famous. He sat back in one of the seats and slung both arms across the back of them and pronounced himself very satisfied.

As we celebrated with McFlurries on the way home he asked Rob, “It was the best day ever, Dad?”

“It sure was, Buddy.”

I know this is a Sam’s World post but I just have to let you know the girls did a fabulous job too.

Baby Wise

We’ve had a bunch of new babies born into our church family in the last several months. I’m talking one a month since September (and two in October!). And that’s just at our church, if you factor in school life there have been even more. It’s been a tremendous and beautiful blessing.

There is nothing quite like the joy a new baby brings. That precious bundle of life and hope and mercy and grace. But if we aren’t careful we can end up despising that gift.  This sort of despising is crafty and masquerades itself as true affection but in the end only leads to destruction. Since the beginning of time the cunning one has sought to distort a God-centered love, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.

As all of these little ones have come into our community I’ve had time to consider what it is to not despise the gift of life that God gives to us in our children. It’s advice that I’ve gleaned over the years by raising my own children but also from watching and heeding the wisdom of those who have gone this path ahead of me. I think it’s perfectly applicable for first time parents of newborns and also completely adaptable for parents of toddlers and older children.

Don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. They need to know that they are a big part of your world but not the center of your world, Christ is.

Expect obedience from the very beginning and teach it to them. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us but if they learn to obey in simple age appropriate matters they will continue to grow in their obedience to you and others and it will be easy for them to obey in the times when it is really important and possibly really difficult to do so.

Don’t be afraid to let them fall down and get the occasional boo boo. Kids need to be tough. If you teach your child from the very beginning that they are strong then they will grow up and be strong.

Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. Often times hard work is dirty work and you want to raise good workers who aren’t put off by the hard work.

Resist the urge to always make life perfect for them. Real life is seldom perfect and they need to 1) be able to cope with that and 2) know how to think and figure out a different way when things aren’t going perfectly.

Give them chores and responsibilities at a young age. There is so much they can and will learn from these simple tasks. If nothing else it will teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.

From as early an age as possible teach them that they have nothing in their possession that is more important than the people in their life. “Special” toys and things are fine and not everything has to be communal property, but they should be encouraged to know and understand that more joy comes from sharing those special things then keeping it only for themselves.

Keep your word count low as you seek to teach or train your child. It’s very difficult to teach them to have a quiet heart and mind so they can listen if you are bombarding them with  an avalanche of words. What you expect from them should be clear and precise. So should your correction. Think about the book of Proverbs. God’s words to us are few and simple and to the point. Don’t over explain.

Know the difference between a teaching time and a correcting time. Sometimes they will just need to cease and desist whatever they are doing no questions asked or explanations given. Other times there will be an opportunity to teach them through why they need to stop what they are doing. It’s important that you know the difference.

There is a difference between teaching and training. You want to teach your child to sit quietly with you in church (that’s the concept) but you train them by practicing quiet time at home. Be deliberate in what you want to teach your children so that you can be very clear in how you train them.

Don’t hide your mistakes and failures from them. They need to know what it looks like to mess up and try again.

Don’t try to hide your sin either. They need to see what it looks like to be genuinely repentant. And let them be sinners. What I mean by this is you need to recognize that they are precious little adorable sinners. It’s not always the other kids fault and your child is not always “just tired.” Help him to own his sin so that he can honestly deal with his sin as an adult.

As much as possible remind them that everything they have is in some way given to them by their father. Whenever my kids thank me for some thing, be it a new pair of shoes or a trip through the drive thru, I always find a way to remind them to thank their Dad for it. Not just because in our case he has made the money that provided whatever it is but because in a small but very real and profound way it prepares their heart to recognize that all they have comes from the hand of their Heavenly Father.

You are not just raising hard working good adults. Want more for your child than his own happiness.

Raise them to protect the weak and care for the poor. Raise them to go out under the banner of Yahweh and wreak havoc on the enemy for, and in the name of, Christ.

Raise them to die to self and sin so that they can truly live.

Titus 2 Tuesday    Tending Home

Test Kitchen #49 ~ Super Summer Kale Salad

I love how friends can impact your eating. We have friends that are waaaay more adventurous in their food than we are and consequently in the last month I have eaten sushi, edamame, and now kale. The sushi was okay but will require a cultivation to fully appreciate it I think.

The edamame?

SO good! I mean really really good. I liked it. A lot.

And it makes an appearance in this oh, so yummy kale salad. Do yourself a favor and pin this recipe or save it or whatever it is you do because you will want to make this. Not only is it tasty but it’s colorful and pretty.

What you’ll need:
For the dressing:
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad mix:
1 bunch of kale, chopped and without stems
16 oz thawed edamame 
1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped red onion
1 cup shredded carrot
2/3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup cashew pieces
1/2 cup shelled and roasted sunflower seeds
What you’ll do:
Mix the first five ingredients together until the sugar dissolves.
Toss remaining ingredients together. 
Pour about half of the dressing mixture over the salad mix and toss again to coat well.
Refrigerate for about 4 to 6 hours and serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

All the flavors blend together for a very pleasing taste. I’m sure you can tweak the sugar and vinegar amounts to get it exactly to your liking. I can’t wait to try it again in the heat of summer…a fantastic compliment to something right off the grill I bet.