Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Treetop Nursery Reveal

Maybe it's because I never got a chance to decorate a nursery for Josh, maybe it's because I'm a major nester and love any excuse to (re-)decorate a room, or maybe it's because we're having a girl this time around, but I really dove into the nursery decor and love, love, love our Little Girl's nest!

Since I really know the value of a dollar but love a custom look, I basically had no option but to DIY almost everything!  I started building my "nesting fund" with some Christmas and birthday money I received, along with some ebay and Craigslist sales. Shortly after I found out I was expecting (October 2012), I fell in love with the "Treetop Friends" theme from Skip Hop and went from there. Spending nearly $200 for the crib set would have wiped out my entire nesting fund and then some, though--never mind that it would have been no fun at all!

I totally lucked out just after Christmas in finding a similar 4-piece crib set (it included a window valance instead of a blanket, but who need another blanket, anyway?!) at our "Once Upon a Child" for $20. Although we didn't know for sure that our Little Girl would help balance out the testosterone overload around here, I wishfully bought this tea set by a tried-and-true toy company there, too--kinda reminds me of Fiestaware dishes, huh? (You can see part of it on the 2 corner shelves to the left; they're mounted between the window wall and the wall adjacent to the closet wall.)


I pinned a lot of ideas to this board and started collecting supplies . . .

Then there were the walls. . . . As a girl, I would have loved this room, with its slanted ceilings, but as a decorator . . . not so much. I absolutely adored the large tree vinyl clings I saw listed, but any with good reviews were oh-so-pricey! And I'm not good with detail painting. The walls were already painted a neutral tan color, but I wanted to do one accent wall. Maybe green?

My hubby suggested the sliding closet doors instead, since they were white but had goopy stuff all over them and needed to be repainted anyway. He also thought he could remove them and put them up on saw horses for me. He couldn't, but the  choice had already been made. "Asparagas Green" it was, and I had those handy 8-ounce sample cans in tow. I figured I'd need 3, but that glossy white I'd sanded didn't let the primer-plus-paint (by Behr at Home Depot) tick too well. I might have been better off buying a quart, but hey.

I'd already painted matching dressers (from Craigslist in 2 different states, believe it or not!) for the boys and primed a wall in the bathroom before I got to it. I was a little nervous about how it would turn out.

I'd decided on these vintage girl silhouettes, but I couldn't spring for the ready-made vinyl clings I saw on Etsy or Ebay. So I followed the trail and purchased the graphics (and some branch and treetop ones) from another Etsy shop owned by the same gal who runs this site, printed them, used the overhead projector at church to enlarge them, and traced them onto brown vinyl I purchased on Amazon and at Hobby lobby (They were about an even deal, when you use the HL 40% off coupon, but I liked the Amazon roll better, partially because its liner had grid lines on it like typical Contact paper).

Cutting out the designs was a bit putsy, and I had to learn the hard way to peel and stick part of the design before peeling off the backing of the whole thing, but we made it!


The kneeling girls and words were an afterthought (2 images from iStock Photo and one from the Etsy shop where I found the others), but my hubby likes them the best. What do you think? (My fave is the girl on the swing, above. I feel like I should  have extended the branch on the right side, but alas, I've decided to just be done.)


You can also see my childhood rocking chair in the above pic. My hubby refinished it, and it looks amazing! Who says daddies don't nest?!

I found the papasan for $5 on Craigslist, and I told the boys it was our "nest chair." They're so cute when they say "tweet, tweet, let's go read in the nest chair, Mom!" :)

I purchased wool felt from an Etsy shop (it's now MIA) because the cheaper stuff at Jo-Ann and Hobby Lobby didn't come in my colors, and if you know me, you know I'm kinda OCD about matching! :) After making felt mobile stuffies for my sister Tiffany's strawberry-themed nursery, I was "rockin' the blanket stitch," so away I went with the free owl and birdie templates I pinned!


I loved the idea--for the budget and the au naturale of it all--of using real branches in the design, but I didn't  want too rustic of a look, with the bold colors and more modern crisp design elements I was using. So I spray painted the branches holding the mobile, as well as the one that will hold her name made from branches tied together with string (Wouldn't you like to know?! It's a secret until she's born--but I've been hinting, if you're perceptive enough!). I got a little addicted and did the same with our stumps-turned shelves. The idea of making corner ones was my hubby's brain child--good one, huh?

The bird houses were $1 each at Jo-Ann, and my mom bought that painteg for me when I told her it reminded me of Hobby Lobby, who appeared more than once during my childhood. A friend from church made the owl papercraft, another made a blanket to match my colors, and many contributed to "feathering the nest" with more blankets and clothes and cash for other things we needed . . . ahem, "needed."

 

We also replaced a 70s light fixture and plastic blinds and used the same crib and dresser that Little Girl's big brothers used. The crib will probably finally get a chance to transition to a toddler bed and full-size bed in this cozy little nest.

Now, like the mama birdie who made a hnome for her little ggs outside our front door, I just need to wait for my Little Girl to "hatch"!



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Never (Quite) Good Enough

Okay, so you know me at all, you know that I'm kind of a half-hearted type-A, goal-oriented person. The perfect example of imperfection. I remember preparing for free days like Saturdays as a kid by charting out my mornings with unrealistic minute-by-minute schedules. Without fail, I'd wake up at least 2 minutes too late to brush my teeth according to plan, and by 15 minutes after I awoke, I'd be a failure--according to my now impossible plan, according to myself. I'd hit myself (glad I'd never heard of cutting), throw something no one would hear, and go about the remainder of my already-ruined day, moping around and hoping it would end sooner, rather than later. Maybe just take a long nap to sleep off the guilt, the frustration, the day.

I said all that to say that unfortunately, I haven't grown up all that much. I still set high, humanly unattainable goals, and even when my aims are reachable, I blow it. All. The. Time. I waste time on Facebook when I should be writing (for pay), I choose to peruse Pinterest instead of prepping for dinner, and sometimes I even choose my own perceived needs above those of my precious little boys. I've done it this week, even today.


I need grace. God's grace. So do my kids. So do you. And your kids. And everyone we know.

I've only recently become awakened to this need in my life--not just a one-time infusion of grace for salvation from the eternal penalty of my sin, but a day-by-day grace that enables me to release my pride, my schedules, my dreams, and try harder, empowered by His all-forgiving, empowering grace.

I need it for parenting, for worshipping, for cooking, for cleaning. I need it for every breath of life.

One of the many books on my 2013 list that revolves around the topic of grace is this one. I first heard about it on The MOB Society blog (love, love, love their tagline!) and then from a FB friend. As if the title didn't already make me smile, this "negative" (2 star) review put me over the top in wanting to read it: "Kids need to know that we all need Jesus, but this book seeks parents to impress on their children that they are not good . . . It seems to encourage parents to break a child down so they see their need for Jesus . . . it tells the parent that building up their child's self-esteem is turning them away from God." Good! Amen! I need that, too!


When I attended True Woman '12 this fall, I realized that I seldom give grace to others: I want them to earn my favor, my good behavior, my love. I think I tend to do this because I fail to humbly realize how undeserving I am of Christ's forgiveness and blessings in my life. Some of the issue probably has to do with a somewhat legalistic tendency I come by naturally, similar to the one described in this blog post. Some also comes from my background which appeals to my natural tendency to think I can be--or am--good enough. Here's another blog post , this one by the husband of a dear friend, on the topic of grace vs. legalism that really hits the nail on the head:

"As Christians, we are able to go years (even decades) believing we are basically holy people because we’ve never messed up in any big way, don’t go here, don’t say this, or look, talk, dress, and act a certain way. And yet we do not encounter Christ daily through his Word. We are not seeing Jesus Christ and savoring him for all that he is to us. We do not understand the depth of our sinfulness so that they we out to God for daily mercy. We do not understand the gracious kindness of God towards us so that we are filled with joy, life, and love. We do not know what it is to depend upon the Holy Spirit and to be led by him into holiness. For us holiness is simply x, y, and z–not Christ."



The same friend blogs about the freedom of grace: "Many of us resonate deeply with the message of grace that rightly corrects the artificial constraints and condemning attitudes of legalism. We should recognize, however, that grace also frees us from the bondage of lawlessness."

As Candace Cameron Bure (childhood star of "Full House" and sister to outspoken Christian Kirk Cameron) considers the theme of her personal testimony: "Being good isn't good enough."


Even still, I will try to be good, do better, set (reasonable) goals, and try to follow them. Goals like this 20-day challenge I mentioned last week, along with another post or 2 I've pinned on this board. And I'll do so knowing I won't be perfect, I'll need grace, and I can move on in the right direction without moping through the rest of my day, my week, my life as a failure. I hope you will, too.

(Don't forget to sign up tonight if you want to receive the e-mail reminders!)



I'll end with a quote from a friend, fellow baby-mommy, and former student of mine because I simply couldn't say it better myself, so I won't even try:

"It’s one thing to determine how to live based on principles and goals. It’s another to imagine the awesome life I can have because, I mean, c’mon, I’m a pretty awesome person. When I build that dream, and reality fails to match it (as it inevitably does), the weight of my mediocrity and normalcy crushes me. I want to hide in bed, distracting myself and others from the knowledge of my failure.

"That is pride. It is the secret, ugly belief that I am somehow better. Others’ failures I can understand, but my own? I am capable of more.

"So here’s to humility. Here’s to acknowledging our weaknesses, and being patient with ourselves while striving to be better."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Easter Preparation 2013

Like Nancy Leigh DeMoss mentions to be her experience in the intro. to her wonderfully Christ-centered series about "The Incomparable Christ," I didn't grow up in a church that celebrates Lent--or any particular period or manner of preparation for the Easter season. (Ironically, many people I knew celebrated "Fat Tuesday"!) However, I've personally tried to implement some special ways to set myself apart for God during this season.

Starting during my high school years, I would spend extra time reading the gospel accounts that correspond to each day of Passion Week as well as extra-biblical books that helped me focus on Christ. These are some of my favorites:

I'm sad to admit that since my due date for my first baby on Easter Sunday 2009, I've pretty much let that tradition lapse. Well, that baby was born 2 days later, and now I'm mommy to an almost 4-year-old boy, a 2-and-a-half-year-old boy and am full-on nesting with my baby girl, expected in June! Between then and now, we've moved 4 times and just been in transition mode a lot! (In fact, my negligence of this blog for nearly a year shows how non-creative, scatter-brained, and just plain spent I've been for quite some time. I finally feel like I've recovered from our serial moves!)

I know that it's easy to let life in general, as well as our Martha-style Easter celebrations eclipse the Mary kind. You know what I mean--entertaining guests for a big, beautiful meal; practicing and preparing for Passion Week church events; and putting together egg hunts and baskets for the kiddos--not to mention new coordinated family dress clothes fit for spring! Now, don't get me wrong, I still plan to enjoy many of those Martha-type tasks, but I want the quiet, Christ-focussed preparations to fuel such activities.


I think I was first challenged to consider Easter preparations seriously from Noel Piper (wife of prolific preacher/writer John Piper) in her book "Treasuring God in Our Traditions." Her series of 8 devotionals, entitled "Lenten Lights" can be read over the 8 weeks, or 8 days, preceding Easter. I think we'll make this a special focus after breakfast each day of Easter week, and instead of the candles, we'll use a Resurrection Garden (maybe we'll even do one with freshly planted grass!)

I might incorporate some of these other ideas by Noel Piper, as well. Maybe I'll even create a magnet activity like this one, so the boys can participate in the Passion Week story, somehow.


Last year, I also discovered that spring cleaning actually started as a Jewish tradition associated with Passover, which begins (and is gloriously fulfilled!) on Easter weekend. That started me thinking of cleaning as a part of my worship, which has helped me become more passionate and purposeful in it--even though I have a l-o-n-g way to go!

One of my goals for 2013 is to keep up with a weekly/monthly/quarterly cleaning schedule, and Crystal at Money Saving Mom has been my mentor in this regard, so it makes sense that I'm planning to retake her "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" challenge as part of my Easter preparation, this year, starting next Monday, March 3. It's just 20 days, instead of 40 days of Lent, since it's just 5 days per week (see the downloadable schedule here.) Would you care to join me?

(I'll try to post next Sunday with this link, again, so we can receive the daily e-mails starting that Monday.)

Music is also a huge part of setting the mood for meditating on the victorious Resurrection of Christ, and I absolutely love how the Gettys' music focuses on this glorious reality. Already a huge fan of "In Christ Alone" and "The Power of the Cross," tears came to my eyes when I first heard them in person, singing "Christ Is Risen, He Is Risen, Indeed,"--just look at & listen to these rich lyrics!

Just like I have been trying to prepare for Sunday worship by having my weekly cleaning completed by Saturday evening and extending that by doing the 4-week challenge, I'm going to try to read and listen to only Christ-focussed material and music during these remaining weeks leading up to Easter.

In the midst of those efforts, I'm so thankful that it's not my faltering attempts that earn me favor with my Savior. In fact, this past week, I've failed miserably in many areas, including my cleaning goals and a restful, Christ-focused Sunday (today). I'm so thankful for God's 
grace--my key word for 2013!

Do you celebrate Lent? How does your family prepare for Easter? I'd love to read your own insights and traditions!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Proverbs 31--Days 9-11

Okay, I didn't quite fall off the wagon, here, but it's been really tempting! Between working hard on prioritizing properly and getting criticized for not giving more to others and then going on vacation and not having internet access to post and then the aftermath of vacation, let's just say it's a struggle to get back into the practice. But here we go . . .

I actually typed out my S. O. A. P. for last Thursday, day 9 of the study, and now I'll copy and paste it here:

·         Scripture: Proverbs 16:20, 28:25, & 29:25

Proverbs 16:20—Whoever gives thought to the word [or matter] will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

Proverbs 28:25—A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.

Proverbs 29:25—The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

·         Observations: Trusting in the Lord brings blessings, riches, and safety; however, these terms are defined differently by God’s people (those who do trust in Him) than others. I don’t think I’ve ever associated strife with greed, but I know that I often when my attitude encourages less-than-peaceful interactions, it’s been prompted by my desire for having my own way.

·         Applications: I think it would help me to call my “strong will” and “independent, driven personality” as what it is—sinful greed. Greed isn’t just about materialism and money, after all. I think I excuse this mindset in myself all too often. If I want a peace-filled home and desire to raise my sons to be selfless servant-leaders, then I need to demonstrate the fact that I truly value the kinds of blessings, riches, and safety God promises when I truly trust in Him rather than my own fulfilled desires.

·         Prayer: Lord, help me to see my sin for what it is and recognize how I’m failing to trust you when I care more about my own desires or how others perceive me. You know I’ve struggled with this greatly this week, and You know that Satan would love to have that victory in my life. Help me to be willing to sacrifice my own prideful selfish ambition for the sake of others’ good and Your well-deserved glory.

Today is Wednesday, but I'm only on Monday's reading, so here's my day 11 S. O. A. P.:

  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:12, 1 Kings 11:4
  • Observations: Good versus evil--such a constant struggle, not just on a cosmic level but an individual heart level. I don't want to even admit that it's sometimes a temptation to do him "evil." While it's easy (and true and expected) to say I love my husband more than anyone else, I also know him better and can more easily become frustrated with his shortcomings--after all, I know those better than anyone else, too.
  • Applications: Lot's wife and Job's wife come to mind--and let's not forget about good ol' Eve! It's amazing the power we women can have over men. Of course, men of integrity can sometimes stand up even to our "womenly wiles," but we're still responsible for the influence we weild--or attempt to weild. (As a side note, I love how Dannah Gresh discusses this issue in "Secret Keepers"--the best book on modern, feminine Christian modesty, ever, but so much about feminity and the nature of sin, as well!)
On a side note, over our little vacation, I did finish reading an excellent work of fiction that made sense of the old adage about fiction sometimes holding significant amounts of truth. I'd highly recommend "By the Light of a Thousand Stars" by my college creative writing teacher, Jamie Langston Turner. It's more than a literary success--it's a story of life-touching-life and healing and all sorts of other winding pathways exploring biblical womanhood and goodness and godliness. Yes, it's really that good! It helped me recognized some sinful thinking patterns and ugly aspects of myself that I might not have realized through any other means.
  • Prayer: Lord, you know that sometimes I let my grumpy, discontented attitude spill over into my words and let them attempt to influence the godly man you've entrusted to me. Help me to be like the woman of Proverbs 31 and be a source of grace in his and others' lives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 8

Okay, I've been writing like a feind today (10 articles! That might be a record for me! And I still fed and bathed my boys, played outside with them, did 1.5 loads of laundry, and went to church tonight! Amazing!) so this will have to be brief.

Day 8 S. O. A. P.:


  • Observation(s): One of the areas in which I know of many women who aren't trustworthy is in the area of finances, so it's interesting that the proverb about how foolish it is to trust in money is included in today's reading.

  • Application(s): For a brief hiccup of time, I was a Mary Kay "beauty consultant," and I'll never forget how appalled I was when the director in my area discussed what she called "the husband unawareness plan," which was a payment method we were encouraged to promote. Basically, women could pay part of their beauty bill in cash, part with a credit card, and part with a check. Pretty sneaky, huh?

    I'm glad my hubby and I have joint finances, and we track all our expenditures in a budget form, so I'm not even tempted to try to do such things! At the same time, I'm thankful that our budget allows for some "mad money," because we all need to splurge on chocolate or a manicure now and then, right? :)
  • For some reason, I've always thought about the "idea of trusting in riches" as something like trusting in them for the future or basic needs, but some life experiences have encouraged me to think of what my deceptive heart lures me to sometimes do--trust in them for happiness, security. "If I could just have XYZ, I'd be content." Yeah, right. The Devil is such a liar! And if I trust God instead of putting my faith in material things for my happiness, I'll be less likely to even entertain materialistic yearnings that could prompt me to go against my husband's wishes with my spending.

  • Prayer: Lord, help me not to believe Satan's lie that my security is wrapped up in finances, and help that knowledge to keep me from even being tempted or longing to be anything but upfront about my spending, so my husband can feel secure in allowing me to make wise choices of which he approves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 7

Day 7 S. O. A. P.:


  • Observation/Application: The idea that I as a wife am called to be a "good thing" or God-given blessing to my husband is definitely a challenge. While this definitely has various implications for different women, I'm pretty sure we all know what our husbands consider "good things."

  • Prayer: Lord, help me to be mindful of what my husband desires and considers good and selfless enough to be that to him, even when it means not being or doing what I would prefer. I know that by laying down my life for others, I will be most fulfilled as a woman and as your child. Help me trust you enough to do that instead of vying for my own way, the way you know I tend to do, all. too. often.

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 6

Here's yesterday's blog post, complete with an encouraging video from Angela at Good Morning Girls.

Yes, I'm a day behind, and hopefully I can rectify that by the end of the week. (Yesterday, I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. I did accomplish much, by the grace of God, but by evening, I had so little mental energy that I literally came close to arguing with my husband that 7 would be fewer than 6!)

This post really made an impact on me, and I've read part of the ebook mentioned. I'm finding that ending my day, however long and tiring it is, with a clean kitchen is truly key to starting out the next day well--and even at my exhausted, numbers-confused state of mind last night, I'm glad I went to bed with a clean kitchen!


Day 6 S. O. A. P. :




  • Observations: Pairing these two verses together was interesting. The contrasting thought in Proverbs 12:4 is quite an ugly picture: "She who shames him is like rottenness in his bones." Jewels or crowns speak of royalty and offset a person's already fine appearance. Rotten bones seem to refer to weariness and illness.

  • Application: One way in which I can "shame" my husband is when my attitude is less-than-content. I also struggle with selfishness far more than I care to admit. Another way is by not having our home organized and clean, and this is something God has been chipping away at me about through our serial moves in the past 2 years. I may have a ways to go, but I'm far less of a pack rat and more diligent of a home organizer than I've ever been!


I'd like to describe a little bit of my recent journey toward more effectively running my home:


  • Some came as a direct result of living in smaller spaces (amazing to think that a year ago, we were crunched into a 2-bedroom apartment that was smaller than the main floor of the home where we now live, and 2 years ago, we had 2 bedrooms total, in my parents' house--that after having a 4-bedroom house with an attached 2+ car garage at our disposal!) and moving (once you move a box a couple times and still haven't opened it, what's the point?!).

  • Some came from financial hardship that led to my starting to work part-time from home as a freelance writer--yes, even to afford our little apartment. (Pastors of small churches don't typically get paid very much, but those with an advanced degree in such a field looking for secular work aren't often offered high-level positions or salaries in the world, either.) That  huge addition to my to-do list required me to become more organized with my time. (Our resolve to have me prioritize the home was truly tested during that time--I'll write more about that, someday.)

  • During the fall "semester," I attended a women's class at our church in Madison, Wisconsin, based on this inciteful book by Carolyn MaHaney (wife of C.J. Mahaney). Terrie, the Bible study leader, encouraged us at the close of the class to come up with a couple homemaking goals for the new year. I had never been challenged to develop my homemaking skills or create goals. As a fairly goal-driven person, this gave me a renewed sense of purpose in my chosen and God-given full-time career.

  • Just like my dear friend Terri brought up in her introductory lesson in the class, this post discusses determining priorities and sifting out what doesn't belong in our lives--not that what we filter out is necessarily "evil," just that sometimes it's not the optimal use of our time, money, energy, etc., given our stage and station in life--and that's constantly changing, isn't it?!

  • My first goal was to get into freezer cooking for the sake of our family budget and nutritious needs. (We all have crazy days, and mine typically meant having easy, pre-packaged frozen meals on hand or diving into fast food--options we still sometimes do, just not nearly as often!)

  • Once we moved here to Linesville in January (a major answer to our prayers and desires, in so many ways!), I knew something had to give. My husband's much different work schedule meant that we'd have more together time, but that also dipped into what was formerly my prime writing time. Add to that, opportunities for ministry I hadn't had in a while, and I've really had to get organized if I wanted an opportunity to pursue my writing, at all.

  • After getting moved in, I started experimenting with freezer cooking, helped largely by this awesome Christian blog. You can see many of the pages I've printed and filled in for my "homemaking notebook" on my "I can get organized!" Pinterest board. My notebook is a full-sized 3-ring binder that includes sections for calendars (& flyers and invitations), medical information, coupons, my address lists, and then ideas I want to use. (I once had separate places and methods for all of that, but it's really handy to have it all in one size and place. I also have a half-sized binder for recipes, and most of them are all typed out and in plastic sleeves, like the larger ones I use in my homemaking notebook.)

  • I still have yet to get something official in line re: my other goal from last semester's class: setting up and implementing a cleaning schedule that includes weekly, monthly, quarterly tasks. (You can see a form I downloaded re: daily routines from Money-Saving Mom site on my Pinterest board I mentioned, but there it sits, with a few handwritten notes scrawled on it. You can also see a link to her "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" series, which I followed semi-faithfully.)

  • Prayer: Lord, thank you for putting those seeming obstacles in my life that have actually become stepping stones that would encourage me to become a more virtuous woman that is an asset to my husband rather than a shame to him and to You. Please help me to be encouraged by how far your grace has brought me this past year, in this area of being a home-manager, and help me to continue to improve and master the skills with whch you've equipped me to serve You, my family, and others.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Making of a Good Works Quilt


I spoke at our church's "Mother's Day Banquet" last Satuday--what an honor to be asked! I was also on the program team, so I had part in deciding on the theme. If you know me, you know how much I love themes! We chose a patchwork quilt theme, and it came together beautifully! So much work went into every detail.


Our theme verse was Titus 2:7a, but the main verse I used for my challenge was 1 Timothy 5:10, a little gem I discovered sometime this winter. In some ways, it's an outline of the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, but I've never heard this passage used for a ladies' challenge--and I've heard more than a few!


I wasn't originally intending to publish these notes, but I thought maybe someone could benefit from them. If you want to use them as a springboard for a Bible study or challenge you're giving, I'd be happy to provide you with the PowerPoint I used (including the above graphics), as well. Btw, in case you're wondering, "Character Cameos" were brief first-person descriptions of the women mentioned, performed by women from our church.)

Introduction:

What is a successful woman? What does success mean to you? I’ve heard it said that the main difference between Super Man and Wonder Woman is that at some point, most men have stopped believing that Super Man is real.

Depending on which women’s magazine you pick up, you may see a successful woman portrayed as a flamboyant fashionista, a sparkling socialite, or a decorating diva.


If you find yourself closely resembling any of those ideal images, you may feel pretty good about yourself. However, if you know you don’t measure up, you may feel inferior. Or perhaps you’re the type of woman that doesn’t care about such unrealistic expectations: “I am who I am,” you say with confidence. Whatever your response to the world’s idea of success, I trust that we all desire to evaluate our lives according to the measuring tape of His Holy Word.


The difference between the world’s idea of a successful woman and God’s expectations, as shown in Scripture, is similar to the difference between an intricately designed pattern quilt made for show and a traditional patchwork quilt. The patchwork quilt originated in 1800s America, not for decoration but for a purpose. Fabric from old blankets and outgrown clothing was repurposed (upcycled, if you will) and pieced together into a quilt that would keep loved ones warm at night. As Christian women, we’re all equipped to do more than “sit pretty” in church each Sunday and be “good girls”: He wants the kind of good that works.

Prayer

Let’s explore this idea of “the making of a good works quilt.” We'll look at 1 Timothy 5:10, where an honorable woman is described as follows: “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”

Background of passage: Describing worthy widows, women deserving of God’s (and the church’s) approval and financial support

How many of you can multi-task? How many of you have forgotten how to single-task? Sometimes simply planning our family’s menus can be overwhelming, while we consider the sometimes conflicting priorities of nutrition, budget, time-management, and personal preferences. Many women face chronic fatigue, and some of that is because we try to do it all—not over a lifetime, but Every. Single. Day.

We can get burnt out easily when we do this to ourselves. I did this with my first quilt—to-date, my only quilt. Let’s not do this to ourselves or one another as we build our “good works quilts.”


Before you start to get overwhelmed by these biblical principles, keep in mind that this “good works quilt” you’re making isn’t your project for this weekend, this month, or this year. It’s the project of a lifetime, a resume of sorts.

2 Timothy 2:15—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

“Rightly dividing” has the idea of measuring, cutting, and piecing together, much like you would various fabrics in a quilt. Paul, after all, was a tentmaker. He likely pieced together camel skins in order to make tents. Wisdom is skillful application of biblical truth; “rightly dividing” both God’s Word and our own lives in order to piece together a life that glorifies Him. 

Consider which good works God has best equipped you for, with your unique background, spiritual gifts, talents, and current life stage.

2 Timothy 3:16-17—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Good works are the end use, or purpose behind studying Scripture; knowledge is not enough. God wants the kind of good that works.

Let’s look at some of the “works” God had in mind when He designed us as women and equipped us as believers.

As we look through them, you may think that some of the most obvious applications may not apply to you, at your age and your situation. But be creative—there are ways you can apply them!

The first good work listed in this passage is the idea of raising children. What better example to consider than Mary, the mother of our Lord.

·         Brought up (raised) children—Mary, the mother of Jesus—character cameo

Of course, not all women biologically bear children. Note that while the idea of having one’s own children to care for full-time is the implication of this verse, I praise the Lord for many women who do not have their own children but purpose to impact other children in their families and in their church.

For young women today, you’re growing up in a culture that promotes the pursuit of self-centered dreams and careers over a commitment to marriage and family. You should know that when it’s your kid, the diapers are still gross, and the wakeful nights are still exhausting. But the selflessness that motherhood requires is a huge part of how God designed us as women to serve Him and receive fulfillment.

I once heard a man say that he wasn’t raised, but rather “yanked up by accident,” describing the less-than-purposeful way that his parents approached his upbringing.

Excerpt from “Why Youth Stay in Church WhenThey Grow Up” by Jon Nielson on The Gospel Coalition.org:

The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading, and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church. They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough, but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula! Kids from wonderful gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it’s also not a crap-shoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively, and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church. The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Questions: Are you willing to live sacrificially in raising your children? Are you just rolling with the punches, focused on surviving the day or your children’s current stage, or strategically orchestrating their influences and experiences, training your children with purpose?
·         Have lodged strangers (practiced hospitality)—Tishbite woman—character cameo

This scenario was unique in that God directly spoke to His prophet, who told this woman to care for him rather than her own son. Usually, any good works should be focused on our families, first. In a way, she was prioritizing her family in that she believed that they would be blessed if she obeyed God’s Word. (Illustration of deacon’s son)

That shouldn’t be an excuse not to minister beyond our own households, but an incentive to manage our households wisely. By being industrious, we can make the most of our limited resources of time, energy, and finances, in order to have some “extra” with which to serve others.

There’s a distinct difference between entertaining and showing hospitality. This isn’t about friendship, but about ministry. (I was once challenged to think of all friends as ministries, and that would help me not to get hurt. Guess what?! It works!)

Luke 14:12-14—“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

I’ve heard it said, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today.” Well, I have a new spin on that idea: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only those possessions with which you were willing to serve God today?” The tithe is supposed to represent the idea that we realize that we’re only stewards, not owners, of all that we possess.

How can you truly minister to people if they don’t let you into their lives? How can you expect them to let you into theirs, if you don’t let them into yours? Nothing represents your life like your home, and when you let people in, you invite them to connect with you in a unique way that they otherwise would not do.

·         Have washed the saints’ feet—Mary, the mother of John Mark—character cameo

Proverbs 3:27—“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”

Hebrews 10:24--"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"

·         Have relieved the afflicted (helped those in distress)—Rahab—character cameo

Run to the problem, & be there for people. It may mean providing a meal, helping with others’ kids, writing a note, or listening or lending a shoulder to someone who is hurting. It’s being a true friend.

You can’t help unless you know the person and the situation. Getting to know people to the point that they’ll share their burdens with you takes time and intentional interaction, beyond the surface. Developing a “radar” for hurting people takes practice, intention, and opportunity.

·         Diligently followed every good work (exhibited all kinds of good works)

In that list, we have women with a variety of less-than-ideal circumstances and backgrounds—a Gentile prostitute, a wealthy single mom, an impoverished single mom, a young Gentile widow, a good Jewish teenaged virgin whose character was questioned by many. God is not concerned with your heritage or history, but with what you allow Him to piece together to create a unique patchwork quilt of your life.

Application

Warning #1: This is not in place of trusting Christ, but on top of it.

Isaiah 64:6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Ephesians 2:8-10--For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Warning #2: This is not a contest!

“Steps To Making a Good Works Quilt”

Step 1: Measure out what you’ll need & set goals for adding to your quilt

Step 2: Cut Out some activities and priorities that aren’t part of your quilt

Step 3: Find a mentor to advise you in designing your quilt.

Step 4: Gather Materials you need for your work.

Step 5: Get to Work on your quilt, realizing it will come together, piece by piece

Step 6: Trust God to help you stitch it all together into a masterpiece!

One thing that’s great about this list in Scripture is that it kind of gives us a set of goals or lifetime “to-do list.” Whether or not we measure up to the world’s standards of glamour, we can feel satisfaction knowing that we’re prioritizing the qualities God honors.

Fringe benefits of developing a “good works quilt” include lack of boredom and loneliness that comes from the self-centered lifestyle encouraged in our world. Proverbs 31 pits the world’s emphasis on popularity and outward beauty against what’s truly beautiful: “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 4

This will be another quick one. As I've been trying to more diligently follow the already-familiar example of this phantom woman, God is truly blessing my efforts! Even though I didn't get up *quite* as early as I'd planned, I was able to write 5 articles (I wrote a total of 4, all of last week, so that's major progress!), straighten 2 rooms, do 2 freezer meals in addition to our lunch (my favorite mac-n-cheese using this recipe, only I add in ham cubes) and make up some peanut butter granola for snacks and then baked oatmeal for tomorrow morning in addition to one to freeze. Whew!

(By the way, all those recipes turned out well, except that the granola was really piec-y and crumbly--maybe too much oatmeal? Everyone likes it, though, and it's great with yogurt or as an ice cream topping! Anyhow, one new chicken recipe I tried for the first time this week is
this amazingly easy one, and everyone loved it! Yea!)

Beleive it or not, everyone was taken care of and fed and everything, too, and now I'm about to snuggle with a very tired gardener who's just getting out of his shower while we watch our favorite shows!

One more thing: Here's a great post by Angela about parenting intentionally, for God's glory! (Especially if you don't have the money for a Disney vacation, this post should be an encouragement to you!) You'll also see my family's picture at the bottom because I decided to join her link-up party--yea!
Okay, without further adieu, here's my S. O. A. P. for today.
  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:7-9
  • Observation: She is teaching him to speak up for others, not on his own behalf. This reminds me of Proverbs 27:2--"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;A stranger, and not your own lips" as well as Philippians 2:3--"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." So different from a worldly focus on self esteem and selfishness!
  • Application: While I want to teach my sons to stand up for themselves, I also need to make sure to teach them to look out for one another and for others around them.

    This is an interesting thought for me this week, because I was thinking just last week about something similar, when my hubby had the opportunity to show his true manliness by pulling a man who was beating his 14-year-old daughter off of her: As much as I tend to focus on my boys' safety at their young ages (1 and 3), ultimately, I'm preparing them to be willing to do what isn't safe, for the benefit of others and God's glory. I want them to be courageous enough to run into a burning building to save a child or risk their very lives to share the Gospel.

    I really should upload a picture of my sorry first attept at homemade granola, never mind the "P" part, but my tired gardener is ready to snuggle and veg. :)





Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Proverbs 31 Study--Day 3

This will be a short post--fitting, after yesterday's novella!

Here's my "S. O. A. P." for the day:


  • Scripture: Proverbs 31:5, 6
  • Observations:
    1. The idea of alcohol as a danger because it may result in a person's forgetting what's important is interesting. In fact, of the many arguments against drinking I've ever heard, this has never been mentioned.
    2. Both verses point out concern for the less fortunate ("in distress," "perishing," "afflicted"). This is truly a mark of nobility and leadership.
  • Applications:
    1. I think the idea of being distracted from what's important connects well to today's post by Courtney about the danger of rat-race living. (By the way, anyone read this book, on the same topic? Looks interesting!) I think that our busy, busy lives and overload of information and entertainment can easily become as distracting as a mind-altering substance.
    2. Even though I do tend to be politically conservative, I think many similarly conservative Christians can come across as real jerks by being anti-welfare, etc. I understand and can empathize with the idea of helping people voluntarily, rather than out of mandatory taxes, and I realize that many do abuse the "system." However, I strongly believe that we need to be cautious not to come across as uncaring about the needs of others and raise our children to do the same, not to assume anyone in need has been foolish or in some way intends to "take advantage" of others' kindnesses. That kind of cynical view is quite unlike that of Christ.
  • Prayer: Lord, help me not to forget what's really important in my parenting. May I raise my sons to be concerned about the needs and difficulties of others, whether those problems are self-inflicted or innocently endured.