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Monday, July 30, 2007

Quick Query #22: FAVORITE MEALS?

As we go about setting up a new apartment, I can't wait to have my own kitchen again and begin making our family's favorite things: baked french toast, chicken pasta casseroles, homemade cornbread and biscuits, and pancakes with syrup. Today, I'm interested in what YOUR favorite meals are. I'm particularly trying to find out what you make that is unique or unusual that is a family favorite. Whether it's a unique quiche, meatballs with a secret sauce, some special marinade, or whatever your family LOVES... I want to hear about it.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE FOR EACH:
  1. BREAKFAST-TYPE MEAL (whether or not you eat it for breakfast)
  2. LUNCH-TYPE MEAL (something good for a light mid-day meal)
  3. DINNER-TYPE MEAL (something that sticks and pleases the family!)
Can't wait to hear your delicious ideas!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Clematis

Clematis(Clematis viticella)In a previous post I spoke of Clematis, a beautiful flowering vine. This is one vine my husband will let climb on the side of the house. It does not damage the siding or motar like English Ivy or Trumpet vine. Clematis does need to be supported usually by some type of trellising system. I had two clematis growing at our old house. One was transplanted from the

Saturday, July 28, 2007

English Boxwoods

English Boxwoods(Buxus sempervirens)English Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) are broad leaf evergreens. These are wonderful, easy to maintain shrubs that add a sense of formality to gardens. They line our laneway creating a welcoming entrance. These shrubs have densely packed light green leaves with a rounded, compact growth habit. They reach about 3 feet high at maturity. We have a lot of

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Grace of God and the Kindness of Strangers

So many things about living overseas lend themselves to either humbling yourself or being humiliated. Take language, for instance. Having to use gestures instead of words because you haven't started language study yet is humbling... and then even once you've STARTED language study, feeling like you are doing well while realizing that your sentence construction is like that of a toddler... these are all humbling situations. But I have also found that the extravagant grace of God covers over my inadequacies and He consistently rains down kindness on me in the most generous ways.

Last night, on my way to the large grocery store here, I realized that I didn't have my cell phone with me. No big deal, I thought, except that I was going to be out at nighttime and it might have been nice to be able to call Doug if I got in a jam. AND I forgot my language handbook (a handy little wallet-sized book containing basic phrases and words to use as a cheat sheet). RATS!

As I was shopping (for two apartments- food and short-term items for where we're living right now, and spices, cooking items, and other odds and ends for where we'll be living once we get enough furniture there to move in), it didn't look like I had too much in my cart. It wasn't even half-full, which for me is doing pretty good. (I like to stock up on things so I don't have to shop so frequently.)

But when I got to the register and began bagging, and realized that they only had medium-sized bags, I suddenly knew that I wouldn't have enough fingers (or circulation!) to carry this many bags all the way out to a taxi and then to both apartments!!! And I didn't have my phone to call for help from Doug or anyone else- ACK!

So I realized I would need to go back in and buy one of those handy rolling grocery carts they make for city dwellers who walk to and from the grocery store (similar to the one pictured, only mine is in a garish kilt-like plaid and has plastic in the place of all the metal you see in the one pictured) in order to remotely get close to being able to carry all those bags. But then I needed to figure out what to do with my shopping cart loaded down with two-apartments' worth of goods?!

I went over to the customer service center and hesitantly asked, "English?" Two heads shook no. Uh-0h. But then, just as my eyes were cast downward and I awkwardly smiled (the joke overseas is that Americans are the only people in the world who only know one language), I hear, "Maybe I can help you?" in a French-ish accent. GRACE.

The customer to my left was able to translate my question ("Can I leave my cart here while I go purchase one more item?"), which was immediately answered by two heads again shaking no and a string of words I didn't understand with a point to two men near the store entry. "Thank you so much for your help", I tell the customer to my left as I walk towards the men.

Man #1 didn't know what to think of this helpless American woman. He kind of laughed at me and motioned that he didn't know what to do, so perhaps I should just go back in with my cart. "With all this?", I motion by the shrugging of shoulders and a confused look while pointing to all of my groceries. He asks man #2, who looks at me, looks at my cart, smiles kindly, and motions for me to bring the cart over to him, behind his desk. He makes it clear that he will watch my cart for me so I can go back in to get what I need. GRACE.

I go in and get the cart, pay for it and go back to the man, thanking him (I DO know how to say "thank you", even if I am in all other ways a complete imbecile in the language), and thanking God for being so gracious towards me.

I stop in the hallway to separate out my bags: I'll carry the ones going to the apartment we'll be living in (because that's where I'd be going first), and put all the groceries for short-term use at the apartment we're currently staying at into the handy rolling cart I had just bought. They just barely fit, but they do fit! PTL!

So here I am, getting loaded up with a plastic tub filled with items under one arm, a 10-pound bag of laundry detergent under the other arm, and about 5 bag-fulls of groceries, thinking, "how in the world am I going to be able to pull the rolling cart while holding all of this?!" That was when the taxi-coordinator-man (I don't know what else to call him) ran over with sympathy in his eyes and picked up the rolling cart for me to carry all the way to where the taxis were. GRACE.

Got in the taxi and remembered the name of a neighborhood near our new apartment, but it took me a minute to remember the name of our apartment complex. I did eventually remember... still, every single action overseas can serve to remind you of your complete ineptness in the language. When we arrived, I apologized for my poor language skills (using bad grammar to do so, how's that for irony?), and he laughingly said something that I'm sure was kind and forgiving. Then be began unloading all my bags for me onto the front steps of my apartment building. (Most taxi drivers would not do this.) GRACE.

Then, just when I was about to replay the scene at the taxi stand, loading myself up like a cross-desert camel, a kind old man appeared out of nowhere and said something I didn't understand. I just looked at him. He said the same thing again, with a quizzical look and a point at the cart. I smiled and nodded "yes", thinking he might be offering help up the front stairs to the building.

Sure enough, he grabbed the cart and hauled it up the stairs, opened the front door for me (which if I had been alone, I would have had to have put down my things and unlocked it and then tried to shimmy in while kicking all the bags before the heavy door closed on me or my bags), and carried the cart straight to my front door. I said "thank you" and he walked away with a smile. GRACE.

After unloading the items I had purchased into our new apartment, I grabbed the cart (full of all the items we need for the short-term), and practically skipped back to the place where we're currently staying while we prepare our apartment. I know this was a long story, but I just had to share about His grace. It is easy to marvel at the grace of God, evidenced in the kindness of complete strangers, when you are completely insufficient for the task before you. What a blessing that He cares for us!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Show & Tell: Hot Links & "Ketch-up!"

I've been gone for a while, so I want to "ketchup" on some links I've meant to highlight for a while. My favorite highlights (i.e., things I really want to hear from you about and/or recommend) are in a nice ketchup-y red!

CHILDREN & RELATED ISSUES:
  • Found another great article over at "His Abiding Love": Whining and Complaining
  • What do you think about the supposed "age of accountability" (an age where a child attains the knowledge of right and wrong; some would say that children who die before this age go t Heaven)? The most biblical support I can find for it is in Deuteronomy 1:39. What say you?
  • Why is Hollywood afraid of abortion?, asks Al Mohler. It is very interesting that aside from a few dark films (a la Cider House Rules), Hollywood consistently makes movies that acknowledge (albeit tacitly) that abortion is not a desirable outcome for a pregnancy. If there's nothing at all wrong with abortion, and it's simply the removal of some tissue, then why not show that on the silver screen?
  • An interesting, and theologically-examined, spelling out of the biblicality of the "no birth control" perspective. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions Bayly draws, I think you might find it an interesting read.
  • A laugh for moms of sons who are Thomas the Train fanatics- I could SO relate to this cartoon!

MARRIAGE & RELATED LINKS:
  • Emotional Affairs- This is a great article about protecting yourself on the front end from adultery. To continue a conversation from my post on premarital advice... I myself feel strongly about this- that affairs don't spring out of nowhere, and that choosing to invest in opposite sex friendships (other than your spouse) is inviting sin. What say you?
  • Scroll down to the part of this article that says, " Some ideas for boundaries for married cross gender interactions ." It's about a third of the way down the page. The point she makes is a good one: we ought not consider these things as a way to judge other marriages, but as a way to fortify our own.
  • Kerry @ hishelpmeet.com has written a thought-provoking series of articles called, "Affair-Proof Your Marriage". (This is part one. Follow the links at the bottom to read the entire series.)

OF HOME AND HEARTH:

  • Frugal redecorating: How to find great colors and good brands and buy your paint inexpensively... I used to do this all the time when we lived in our own house in America!
  • Thoughts on Hospitality: giving and receiving, particularly from the perspective of a larger-than-average family!
RANDOM ISSUES & LINKS:
  • "CLASSIC HUCK" : a Democratic who shared a plane with Mike Huckabee offered this set of in-person observations of the Governor running for President 2008.
  • Concerning the MBTI personality stuff (which I intend to return to eventually)... here's a funny list that gives a humorous look at each personality.
  • An EXCELLENT article- I can't recommend it highly enough- called "Eyes of Mercy" from Sara... about not judging others- with practical ideas for growth in this area. Get thee to this link and read!
Can't wait to hear back from you ladies about these "hot links"! Happy reading!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Premarital Primer


A good friend of mine recently wrote me, asking what I would say to a couple who is about to begin premarital counseling- what they need to talk about, and what advice I might give. And here's what I came up with (as always, feel free to comment or add your own advice in the comments!):

T
he main thing I would tell any engaged couple is this: TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!! If something comes to your mind, you might as well talk it through! You'll never be sorry that you discussed something in advance of making the biggest human commitment of your life.


SOME SPECIFIC THINGS TO TALK ABOUT

  • How each of your parent's marriages worked-- the pros/cons strengths/weaknesses
  • Be COMPLETELY open and honest about who you REALLY are- when no one's looking, what REALLY gets you mad/sad/frustrated/etc. Talk about your real weaknesses- the ugliest things from your past that no one else knows... he should know yours and you should know his.
  • The situations that seem far-off... what to do about birth control? how many kids to have? whether you dislike some particular age of children? whether either of you have fears about having children, or having boys, or girls?
  • Household things - how you'll split household duties
  • How you are with pain/sickness... how much you depend on medicine... (by that I mean that some people never take anything, and some people take Tylenol and Sudafed at the drop of a hat- that might be good to know) Plus it's good to know if your future spouse is a real weenie about pain or will tough it through most anything... it's just good to know in advance.
  • What your feelings are about ailing relatives, aging parents... how much will that affect your work and home? Will you want to take them in and care for them or will you be prepared to help a sibling or facility take care of them in your stead?
As you get closer to marriage, you'll want to talk about any fears/issues that come up with intimacy. Share about your sexual histories- be fully blunt and honest. Talk about how you both feel about the roles of a man and woman. Find out the REAL scoop- not to discourage you but to prepare you realistically... how much of this will be your responsibility or his? Does he like certain chores more than others? Do you? Find out who does which chores in your parents' homes: cutting the grass, doing dishes, cleaning the garage, cleaning the kitchen, maintaining the garden, caring for pets, etc. You may be surprised to find out that your expectations of who does what may be different.

And then what about finances? I won't delve too far into that one because there are heaps of books and resources that talk about that... who will pay the bills? Whether you're a spender or a saver? What about him? Etc...

PRINCIPLES FOR MARRIAGE
There are some principles I want to share with you that have served us well in our marriage:
  1. Don't let the sun go down on your anger. We have always talked things through- even if we're up til 4am, which happened a time or two early on but hasn't happened in years, we deal with arguments and disagreements before we go to bed... we don't have lingering "issues" that cloud each day and each additional disagreement.
  2. Don't ever let divorce be an option. Don't mention it, don't threaten it. Don't talk about roads not taken. Once you commit, commit. And let that be evident in your communication with each other-- "you're my only". (And of course, I'm NOT talking about situations of abuse or infidelity. I'm talking about in normal marriages with two fallen human beings who disagree and differ on many things, there shouldn't be an easy "out".)
  3. Don't entertain ANY hint of affection towards other people. Other Christian women will talk about how "cute" some actor or musician is... but this has always been off-limits for me. I don't even allow a HINT of attraction to be fed in my mind or heart- one way that I go about this is to not "feed" male friendships, and not have physical contact with people of the opposite sex. We just don't want any hint of it... sometimes it will mean that I seem cold or distant towards other men, but that's OK. In this day and age of over sexualization, I would rather be seen as unapproachable by a man than to be seen as someone that he thinks he can have a flirtation or fling with.
  4. Just say "YES" (to meeting each others' needs). Once your married, I mean. For me, that means that I don't say no (in words or body language) to intimacy. We didn't start out with this as a rule, but we've just always been open to each other in that way. I've found that a LOT of my friends use or have used sex as a negotiating tool and it has become a point of difficulty in their marriages. For my husband, that has meant being willing to TALK and meet my communication needs, when that was not his natural bent. Both of us have gone out of our ways to be open to saying yes to each other so that we are the ones meeting each others' needs, rather than each of us feeling like our needs have to be met outside of the marriage relationship.
  5. Be each other's biggest cheerleaders and defenders. Your husband ought to know that if ANYONE has his back, it's you. You are the one that cheers for him and promotes him in his strengths, and shields and protects his weaknesses. In many marriages, sadly, it's the other way around: the wife is the one who points out every failure and flaw and overlooks the strengths and good things in her husband. And that just ought not be. He ought to know that you are going to protect the areas where he is weakest (for example, that might mean that you take the lead on balancing the checkbook, or that if he struggles with an organized workspace, that you take the time to organize it for him so that he can be effective and efficient... rather than deriding him for the disarray in his office.) Basically, this is just being a good helpmeet, I think. Where he is weak, I can help him, and where he is strong, I can promote him and praise him.
  6. Make your marriage your top human priority, just behind your relationship with God. Too many women in particular allow the kids to take the place that the marriage ought to have in their mind and hearts - children become a bigger priority than their husband, and that just ought not be. Our "nest" will some day be empty, but we will still be together. I don't want to get to that stage and just be barely hanging on by a thread- I want to get to that stage, excited about our time together- ready to start a new phase together, and delighted in the job we've done together as parents. The way to make that happen is to continue pouring ourselves into the marriage relationship- with physical and verbal intimacy... making sure that we're on the same page about life choices and events, and then continuing to work on it and work on it and work on it, and - well, you get the picture.
  7. Commit to do the maintenance! It's constant upkeep and work- but I've heard some analogies that it's kind of like a car or a house- that you can either do the regular maintenance and enjoy it for a LONG time, or you can skip the maintenance and end up with HUGE problems to fix. It's true- as a couple, we just try to do the maintenance and adjustments on the front end, rather than at some future date when there are way too many "issues" to narrow it down to what the real problem is.
For further reading:
For female readers, I would HIGHLY suggest that you read "For Women Only" by Shaunti Feldhahn. It will give some great insights into the male psyche and make-up.

Establish your "norms" now!
If you are a newly engaged couple, I would encourage you to talk through these things and establish a pattern of honest communication now. You can lay the way for a good marriage by communicating openly now, and giving yourselves realistic expectations about what's to come. I pray that this next phase of your life is a true thrill and a blessing to your life- that God will grow you and change you into the man or woman he wants you to be through this new role as husband or wife. Many Blessings!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gnomes & Garden Lighting

The majority of the work in our new gardens has been the removal of an over planting of shrubs and other plants. Most of these have been under large shade trees. Some like an overgrowth of low growing evergreens were removed not only to enlarge the usable greenspace but for mosquito control. Others like English Ivy and Trumpet Vine growing on the brick of the house were trimmed back and

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Purple Martin House

Purple Martin HouseThe Purple Martin (Progne subis) is a member of the swallow family. It is a medium sized, migratory song bird much desired in gardens. The male is entirely a glossy dark, purplish black sheen while the female is purplish black with a duller sheen and lighter underpants. Several Purple Martins will nest in a multi-compartmented birdhouse much like a bird condo building. They

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Last Thursday was moving day. It was an extremely long and tiring day yet I was up at the crack of dawn to explore our new surroundings. I did a walk about the gardens with the camera noting some of the plants that I haven't grown before or have very little experience with.GreenspaceOur property is on a deadend road. A greenspace dotted with a stand of trees separates our road from the main

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Interesting Thoughts From Acts

As I've been reading through Acts this go-round, I've noticed some interesting things I thought I'd share with you all:

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS
I began looking carefully at biblical characters and how they are first mentioned. Look at some of these descriptions, all from chapter 16:
  • "A disciple" - Timothy
  • "a worshiper of God" - Lydia
  • "a slave girl with the spirit of divination" - was later freed from that spirit
  • "the jailer... was about to kill himself" - he and all his household were saved
Just interesting the way different people are described... it makes me wonder how I would be described.... what would be the first thing someone said about me, or would I be mentioned at all?

WHAT THE APOSTLES DID
Paul and Silas and other apostles at that time have some interesting phrases that others use to describe what they were doing (evangelizing the known world). Check these out:
  • "These men have turned the world upside down" -17:6
  • "You bring some strange things to our ears" -17:20
  • "This Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods." -19:26
  • "This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere" -21:28
Again, I wonder what would be said of me.

THE WOMEN OF ACTS
Women play a prominent role in Acts. In nearly every city or location of Paul's journey, women have some part to play in his work and ministry. This book makes a point to highlight not only the men who became believers, but also the women who follow "the Way."
  • "On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate... and sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, ... who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized and her household as well," she urged them to stay in her home. (16:13-15)
  • "Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women." -17:4
  • "Some men joined him and believed, among whom [was]... a woman named Damaris." -17:34
  • Priscilla is mentioned, along with her husband Aquila, as Paul worked alongside this couple in ministry together. She not only works with her husband, but we find her explaining the Scriptures to Apollos because he didn't understand accurately about God. (Chap 18)
  • In the beginning of Chapter 21, we see that wives and children are accompanying the men to the coast to send off Paul. They have such a connection to Paul, after only seven days, that they too (and not just the men) are included in his bon voyage "seeing off".
This kind of inclusion of women in the evangelism plan (16:13-15), ministry (17:4, 24), discipleship (18), and lives (21) of the followers of Christ is not only interesting- it is REVOLUTIONARY. No other 'religion' included women in this way from the beginning. Christianity has, from the beginning, respected and sought out the inclusion of women in evangelism, worship, and discipleship. And in this time period in particular, including women in the very fabric of faith was radical.

This lends even more credibility to the belief that Luke wrote Acts, because in his own gospel, Luke mentions and includes women more than in the other gospels. The book of Acts has women woven throughout.

One more thought... as far as I can tell, women are never included in the descriptions of people who participate and call for the persecution of the apostles. But women are consistently included as persons who minister to the apostles' needs and who hear and receive the words of truth.

THE VARIED EVIDENCE/OUTCOMES OF BELIEF
One other thing I noticed in this read-through of Acts is that there is not only one clear response of faith. Nearly every time belief is mentioned, an outcome is given, but those outcomes are not always the same. Here are some examples:
  • Chapter 16: Lydia's response of faith is to open up her home to the apostles
  • The jailer's response is to minister to the apostles by washing their wounds and feed them
  • Chapter 17: The Thessalonians who came to faith are generally regarded as having learned their lessons well, as the 2 letters to the Thessalonians are not written to clear up many doctrinal issues, as much as they are to continue teaching deeper things to the Thessalonian believers. These believers only had Paul with them for three Sundays, and yet they seem to have been well discipled during those three weeks.
  • We aren't told of the outcomes of the faith of the Bereans or the people who heard Paul in the Areopagus
  • Chapter 18: The Corinthians had Paul with them for a year and a half, and yet (in stark contrast to the Thessalonians) the letters written to them are written to clear up doctrinal misconceptions, to correct believers who have erred, and to exhort them towards love and forgiveness towards one another. This was a church in crisis after coming to faith.
  • In chapter 19, the people of Ephesus who had believed began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
  • Many Ephesians who had become believers came, "confessing and divulging their practices. A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all." These followers had a radical awareness of the seriousness of their sin, and they not only confessed their sin- they took steps to ensure that they would not return to their sin!
Just some interesting (to me, at least) observations about this incredible book of the Bible that gives such a rich picture of the beginnings of the Church and the early days of Christian faith.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy Canada DayHappy Gardening!Garden Gnome©2007

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