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Friday, October 30, 2009

Devotional Christian Giveaway

Devotional Christian is giving away 22 books!  Titles by Sinclair Ferguson, J.I. Packer, John Piper, Jerry Bridges, and C.S. Lewis are included in the books being given away.

You need to be able to blog, tweet or post a note on your church's website to be entered in the giveaway.

If I happen to win, I will be doing some giveaways here at the blog of some of those books!

So, hop on over there and check it out!

Counting it all Joy,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A gypsy...a football player...a ballerina

I may be slightly partial, but how cute are they?  Cecily the gypsy, Bentley the football player and JennaBeth the ballerina.

We had our annual Fall Festival at church last night.  Our parking lot was full of the likes of princesses, spidermans, Hannah Montana look a-likes and so on. We even had "Twister Girl" aka Darci...

We had such a good time, but it was SO HOT!!!  The Floridians keep telling me I'll get used to the weather, but... I'm really not sure about that!

Bentley had such a good time playing the games, but of course the bounce house was his favorite...

I was able to pry him away to play some of the other games...

Since Cecily is now in the youth group, she was a helper at some of the games.  She was doing that while I took Bentley and JennaBeth around the Festival...

JennaBeth was so patient as she and I took Bentley around to play games.  She rode in the stroller and watched everything.  She is very observant these days...

During the first hour while I was taking the little ones around, Mike, pastor Hal and another gentleman in our church played and sang for the crowd...

Our Senior Adults really work hard and help out in a big way by cooking and serving hotdogs.  I think they cooked somewhere around 600 last night!

Another highlight of the night for Bentley was getting his picture taken with his highschool football hero, Birchel...

This young man is a member of the youth group and Bentley just thinks he is the coolest, because he plays football.  He tells us all the time, "When I get to be a big boy, I'm going to play football like Birchel."

JennaBeth also got her picture taken with on of our Elders, David Moody.  She has really taken to him!  You know how babies will raise their little arms and squeeze their hands together for you to take them?  Well, JennaBeth did this for Mr. David first!

I got these shots of Cecily and JennaBeth towards the end of the evening...

Even though the little "saint" was drenched with sweat from head to toe by the end of the night, he still is grinning from ear to ear!  I don't know where the energy comes from!!!

Mike was able to take today off and Cecily is out of school today and tomorrow.  We are just hanging around the house.  I think a trip to the beach is planned for tomorrow!  Yes, the beach in October!!!  Only in Southwest Florida!!

Counting it all Joy,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Impersonating Sandra Lee

This is a smorgasboard of a post!

But first, I want to share this awesome recipe I tried last night for supper.  My family loved it, even my little four year old who is eating these days like a 14 year old!

The recipe comes from Sandra Lee, you know the Semi-Homemade lady from FoodNetwork.  I am a FoodNetwork junky by the way!!  Although I do not care for Ms Lee's communication style, I love the idea behind her recipes:  easy, few and easy to find ingredients, and cost conscious menus.

Creamy Penne Pesto Bake

8 ounces penne pasta
1 1/2 cups Alfredo sauce
1 5 ounce jar pesto sauce
1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained/rinsed
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
2 packets grilled chicken strips
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray a 2 1/2 casserole dish with cooking spray.
In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook pasta for 1 minute less than directed on package.  Drain and set aside.
For creamy pesto, in a medium bowl, stir together Alfredo sauce and pesto sauce; set aside.
In a large bowl, toss to combine artichoke hearts, Italian cheese blend, chicken, and roasted red peppers.  Add cooked pasta and creamy pesto;  using rubber spatula, fold together until well mixed. Transfer to prepared casserole dish.
In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese,and oil; sprinkle over pasta.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

*I made a few adjustments when I made this last night.  First I doubled everything, because my family loves chicken alfredo and like I said the 4 year old has the appetite these days of a monster!  I also left out the artichoke hearts, because I didn't think Mike and Cecily would care for them, although they said they would be willing to try it again with them added .  I also seared my own chicken breast in a pan seasoned with garlic powder and Italian seasoning.  The already cooked chicken strips are a little pricey.  I also covered the dish with foil when I baked it in the oven.

We are resting today a little, because we have a big night tonight at church.  It is Northside's annual Fall Festival.  Our parking lot at the church will turn into a carnival of sorts with bounce houses, obstacle courses and lots of booths with fun games. We also serve hotdogs, chips and drinks.  We offer this to our community all for free.  Last year we had approximately 700 people come through.  We expect that many and more this year with family's on the search for fun things to do with their family in this crazy economy.  I am looking forward to spending the evening with my church family along with the cutest Gypsie, New Orleans Saints football player and tiny ballerina you have ever seen!!!!  Yes, grandparents, I will post pictures!!!

Finally, thank you to everyone who responded to me in the comments or on facebook to Monday's post regarding my parenting question.  This kind of thing hurts especially when you don't expect it to come from where it came! If you haven't had a chance to read Monday's post, please scroll down and read and leave any advice you may have for me!

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, October 26, 2009


Have you ever woke up on a Monday morning and just felt weighed down by so many things going on in your life?

Well that's me this morning.  I feel weighed down by so many prayer needs of which I am aware, and by the responsibility of being a mother.  That's my question before you this morning.

I tell you this job of being a mother presents some choppy waters to navigate sometimes.  My heart is to honor and glorify God in all that I do.  I realize that my children are some of the greatest blessings God has granted me.  I desire to love them well and handle them with Godly wisdom.

So, I need your help with something.

How do you handle it when your child is the one "left out", "not included" in the "group"?

My sweet Cecily (11 yrs old) is dealing with this and she's hurting.  I hurt for her and as her mom, I want to fix it!

Any advice or wisdom from scripture would be appreciated.  Leave me a comment with how you would handle such a situation.  Or maybe you've encountered this situation with your own kids.  Tell me what you did that seemed to work.

Counting it all Joy,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A full Saturday...

Today has been a FULL day.  This morning our family went to an appreciation picnic at the Florida Baptist Children's Home in Fort Myers.  Mike and some others from our church were part of the program and provided music for the gathering.  Bentley is always super excited about picnics.  When we parked the car at the children's home, he headed straight for the playground.

He immediately found the punching bag.  Bentley, Cecily and I just a few weeks ago watched a Rocky movie marathon.  Yes!  We watched all the Rocky movies.  So, isn't he a sweet little boxer?

I loved the table decorations!  Each table had a pumpkin that had a mum placed in it.  

They served an awesome lunch of bar-b-que beef, sausage, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, veggies and dip.  It was all so good!

We left there and headed to the Pumpkin Patch at Lakes Park in Fort Myers.  We were a little disappointed, because the advertisement for this event made it sound like a free fun day for the family.  However, when we arrived there, we had to pay for parking.  Then we discovered that they did have the games and bounce houses and slides, but each activity costs something!  Mike and Bentley took a train ride, while me, JennaBeth and Cecily sat and tried to cool off.  I think it was like a hundred degrees or something today!  Then the kids picked out a pumpkin and we took a few pictures.  Bentley was not at all happy when we explained to him he couldn't bounce and slide FOR SIX DOLLARS!!!  He was NOT cooperative with pictures!

Anyway... here are the pictures we were able to get...

Cecily went straight to carving her pumpkin as soon as we were home.

Bentley was supposed to help her with the "removing the guts" part, but he decided he didn't want to touch it.

And finally, I present to you "Bob" the snaggle tooth Jack-O-Lantern...

We have another busy day planned tomorrow.  It is Friend Day at church.  After Sunday School and Worship service, we have a picnic at a local park. 

But tomorrow is special because it is Granny's (my mother) birthday!
Granny, we love you and miss you!  We wish we could be there to spend this special day with you, but because we can't, we send this to you...
Counting it all Joy,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is God up to?

That's the question that Ligon Duncan tackles in chapter two of his book "Does Grace Grow Best in Winter?".

How many of us has asked that question in the midst of a difficult trial trying to understand the purpose in our suffering?  All of us, I would imagine!

We had another great night of discussion and prayer at Bible study last night.  I can't tell you how encouraging it has been for me to meet with this group of ladies and witness how God has and is working in each one of their lives!  I don't want this to end in two more Monday nights!

Mr. Ligon drives home the point in this chapter that "ultimately, suffering is under the sovereignty of God".  In that we find our security, comfort and hope.  He offers four things God is "up to" in the midst of our suffering:
  • Teaching Us Godliness:  He says, "God ordains for your suffering to produce endurance, character, and hope... We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that God the Holy Spirit is working in us according to His sovereign plan.  God uses suffering to build something in us that would not have been there otherwise."
  • Giving Us Surpassing Joy in Christ:  Philippians 3:8-11 "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may atain the resurrection from the dead."  Mr. Duncan stresses that "suffering gives us a correct estimate of the things of this life:  they are passing away.  As the pleasures of this world fade in our estimation, the salvation of Jesus Christ is magnified."
  • Building up the Church:  The ladies and I had to confess that we had never thought of how our sufferings or trials could build up the church.  God doesn't waste an ounce of our suffering!  He uses it to build not only our faith, but the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  "God ordains, by the Spirit and by faith, for our suffering to bring about in the church the purposes of Christian affliction.  These purposes are: Christ in us , the hope of glory, and every one of us being made mature in Jesus Christ."
  • Preparing Us for Glory:  "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  (2 Cor. 4)  Mr. Duncan shares, "You couldn't bear the glory that God has in store for you, unless you had been held up by God in your affliction in this life.  There is a hope that cannot be taken from believers in suffering, because God is up to something bigger than us."  
I would love to hear how God is working in your life or questions you may have!

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Being the Body

Being the body of Christ sometimes involves this

plus this

Last Tuesday night a group of ladies from church met together and we put together bags of candy each including a pamphlet of information about our church.  We did this so that when we give candy out at our houses on Halloween night, each child will not only get some candy, but homes will have some information and invitation to our church.

We also cut and sorted sheets of info about our Fall Festival to deliver to local elementary schools.  Last year at our Fall Festival, we had over 600 people come through our church's parking lot.  Each year we do this as a ministry to our community.  In our parking lot we set up game booths, and a bounce house.  We serve free hotdogs, chips and drinks to everyone who comes through.

Being the body of Christ sometimes means this

and this

On last Wednesday night, my husband loaded up the bus with a few youth and we went to visit one of our Senior Adult members who is in a local nursing facility.  Mike had a couple of the youth read some scripture and we sang a few hymns that we knew were some of Ms Nancy's favorites.

If you look closely in the picture you will see Mr. George holding his wife's hand.  He did that the entire time we were there.  We went to minister, but I was ministered to myself!  I was challenged to love my husband well as it was so apparent Mr. George has loved his wife well even in the midst of her sickness as well as his own.

And I wish you could have seen the look on her face as we sang hymns.  She wanted to sing along so badly, but did not have the strength.  Mike mentioned yesterday that Mr. George had communicated to him that Nancy had said the visit on Wednesday night was the highlight of her week.  It was the highlight of mine as well.  

You know, it is not easy getting a family of five fed supper and out the door to church on Wednesday nights.  It is not easy to wrestle two little ones and make sure a middle schooler has her load of homework done in time to go and be involved in Wednesday night activities.  But as I look at the world around me,  I find my heart yearning for the eternal, for those things that will make a difference and matter in eternity.

"Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children
and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us
 and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant
offering and sacrifice to God."
Ephesians 5:1-2


Counting it all Joy,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Disce pati

Learn to suffer.  That's what those two little Latin words mean...learn to suffer.

I met with a group of nine ladies Monday evening to discuss chapter one of "Does Grace Grow Best in Winter?" by Ligon Duncan.  The chapter's title is "Why Me?".  

Have you ever asked yourself that question in the heat of a trial?  We all agreed that we certainly had!

Suffering is to be expected, because of the sinful world we live in and the sinful nature we still battle on a daily basis.  Mr. Duncan says, "None of us should ever be surprised by suffering.  Instead, when it comes our way, we ought to be saying, 'I've been waiting and preparing for you.  I knew you were coming, because this fallen world is full of the likes of you. I've been preparing, by God's grace and by God's Word to glorify God as I experience you.'  The question remains, will you suffer in a way that honors Christ."

Mr. Duncan gives five things we need to learn in order to suffer well:
1.  Magnify Jesus
      "You must learn how to suffer in such a way that Christ will be great in 
        your eyes and in the eyes of all who see your suffering."
2.  Love Him more
     "Every single experience, good or ill, is designed by our loving heavenly 
       Father to cause us to prize Jesus Christ more and more."
3.  Know that God is for you
     "You need to know that even in your darkest days God is still 100 
       percent for you.  He is not against you, and everything that you need
       to endure, you already possess in Christ Jesus."
4.  Rest on grace
     "Learn to suffer knowing that you are accepted by grace through faith, 
      apart from anything that you do either before or after your 
5.  Embrace suffering
     "Talk about shaking the world our of its slumber - if we were a band of
       brothers and sisters in Christ dying yet living, suffering yet rejoicing, 
       sorrowful yet full of inexpressible joy, what a comfort it would be to us
       what a glory it would be to God, and what a witness it would be to the

We had a wonderful discussion about what the lost world would see and know of Jesus if we as believers learned to suffer well.  God doesn't waste our suffering.  It is meant to strengthen our faith and the faith of those around us.  But most importantly it is to glorify God.

How many times have you found yourself in the midst of very difficult circumstances and you've thought "I've gotta fix this."  And you begin to think "Ok, how can I get out of this. I don't like this."  Our group talked about how especially as women and mothers, we are "fixers".  We want all to be well in our world and the world of those we love and care for.

One of the passages we read Monday night was Romans 8:28-29:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

What do you mean when you use the word "good"?

In the original Greek the word good in this passage means:
What is the goal in the Romans passage:  "to be conformed to the likeness of his Son".

We are being conformed to the likeness of Jesus!

A parenting devotional I got in my email last week said this in response to Romans 8:28:
"Our response to painful situations in life demonstrates the level of trust we have in God."  Let that sink you respond to difficulty demonstrates the level of trust you have in God.
The devo went on to say:  "Trials are not to be avoided or dodged as much as they are to be endured for the sake of the lesson.  Asking God the right question in the middle of a trial is an expression of your trust in Him.  The question shouldn't be how am I going to get out of this?, but what am I going to get out of this.  By changing the 'how' to 'what', we illustrate our dependence on God to teach us and our willingness to learn."

After this our group had a lively discussion about trusting in God and using "other" resources i.e. Christian counselors, lawyers in legal situations, etc.
The question arose:  If I am whole heartedly trusting God like I should is it a lack of trust in Him to lean on these "other" resources.

So, what do you think about this?  I would  be interested to hear your thoughts!

I reminded the ladies about all that scripture has to say about waiting on the Lord, and how that does not mean we sit with our hands folded in our laps and look up and say, "Ok God.  I trust you and I'm waiting on you.  I'm just gonna sit here and wait on you."  

We are fighting a battle against the enemy of our souls who only wants to steal, kill, and destroy.  We are in a contest for the glory of God every day of our lives.

What are we to do while we wait?  I think John Waller has a good grasp of this...

Counting it all Joy,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Makes me want to drink Evian water!

If you love babies, Micheal Jackson music (well some of it anyway!) or you just plain need a very good belly laugh, then watch this video!  I needed this today!

Counting it all Joy,

Sunday, October 11, 2009


We went to the Island Coast Homecoming football game Friday night and cheered the Gators on to a 23-8 victory over another local highschool.  One of our youth at church is a Senior and we wanted to go support him.

Go Birchel!!

That's him standing on the sideline... number 8.

Bentley adores all the big boys at church and especially Birchel, because he plays football.  We live less than a mile from the school and everyday when we go to pick Cecily up from school he is straining out his window to see the guys practicing.  He always asks where is Birchel.

This was JennaBeth's first football game and she loved it.  The noise did not bother her one bit!

As you can see, she enjoyed cheering on the Gators!  She ate her supper at the game and I just knew she would konk out on us.  She stayed awake the whole time!  She did not fuss one time.

JennaBeth liked the Gator mascot and the cheerleaders.  She just couldn't understand why her daddy kept yelling.  I think she jumped every time he did!

Cecily brought her friend Macy to the game.  Macy's brother goes to Island Coast.

Here is Macy, Cecily, Bentley and Birchel's little sister Christina.

Earlier in the day, Bentley had his four year old check up at the pediatrician's office.  He did really well even with having to get three shots.  He would have gotten four except they were out of the flu vaccine dosage for his age group.
Speaking of flu vaccines, what are your thoughts on giving them to your little ones?  I'm not quite sure how I feel about them, especially the H1N1 vaccine.

Anyway, Bentley weighed 43 lbs. and was 43 inches tall.  The nurse told him she guessed he was a square.  He thought that was funny.  We thought we were done after the shots then Dr. R's nurse said the doctor wanted a urinalysis and hemoglobin.  I knew that meant another stick!

He did really good though.  He was a big boy and knowing we were going to this football game later helped alot!  Man am I glad this appointment was on the same day as the game!!!

Counting it all Joy,


Thursday, October 8, 2009

My answer to Uncrustables

Here is my answer to the expensive and frozen Uncrustables:

I don't know too many kids who like the crust on the bread.  Mine certainly don't.  And those Uncrustables you can pick up in the frozen section of the grocery are so expensive.
So I came up with a budget friendly and less hassle way of dealing with the crust on the bread issue.  I mean who wants to clean up all that crumble mess after you try to cut the crust off of the bread for every sandwhich you make?
My four year old loves PB&J, so he and I came up with PB&JP or Peanut Butter and Jelly Pizzas!
You take one flour tortilla and spread your favorite peanut butter on it.  Take a second tortilla and spread your favorite jelly on it.  Put the two together and cut into pizza slices!
Bentley loves them and to him its something different than you run of the mill peanut butter and jelly sandwhich.  He likes to have a banana with his!

What is an idea you have to make a kid friendly snack food fun and inexpensive?

Counting it all Joy,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grandparent Updates

It has been a while since I really did an update about our family and all that is going on and boy is there plenty going on!  The Fall time of the year seems to get really busy.  From now through the first of the year is nonstop.

I'll start with the big folks.  

There are lots of things going on at church, so that keeps Mike pretty busy.  He is working hard along with the choir on "From a Blue Christmas to a True Christmas", a Christmas program involving songs Mike has put together and drama written by another gentleman in our church.  I think it is going to be a different kind of Christmas musical, but a message that is much needed.  I hope to be able to get a video of it to post here some time in December after it is presented for you all to enjoy.
Mike is also working with the youth on Wednesday nights and is involved in the Senior Adult Gatherings.  He also does alot of visiting.  Seems as if he has fielded several calls lately from people interested in finding a church home, so he will have alot of those to follow up on.  And of course he leads worship each Sunday and occasionally teaches a New Member's Class and will fill in for a Sunday School teacher when needed.

I stay at home each day with Bentley and JennaBeth.  Enough said!  No really, I love it, but my days are FULL.  It seems like I get up in the morning and turn around and its bedtime.  We get Cecily off to school at 7:15 a.m. and the little peeps usually get up about 8:30 a.m.  On Thursday mornings, Bentley, JennaBeth and myself have a morning out in South Fort Myers to Southside Christian Church.  Bentley and JennaBeth both have classes they go to and I am able to attend a Bible Study with a sweet group of ladies for a couple of hours, usually 10 to 12 a.m.  Presently we are studying James MacDonald's "Downpour".  It will end before Christmas and then in January we will be doing Beth Moore's revised "Breaking Free" study.  I've done the original one and it was powerful.  I can't wait to go through this one!

Now an update on all my little peeps:

Cecily is thoroughly in the trenches of Middle School.  And can I say I don't like Middle School very well!  Kids are really cruel to one another.  She has had to deal with a couple of incidences that just make mama bear want to roar right on some little guys heads.  Yes I said guys!  It seems the new trend is for these little punks to want to pick on the girls!  I could rant on forever, but I won't.
Cecily is in all Advanced classes and she stays in the books alot!  Staying on this track, she will be able to work on some high school credits in 8th grade and have them completed when she leaves Middle School.  Her electives are Computer Applications, Drama, and Keyboard.  She really enjoys her drama teacher.  Cecily has a monologue she is doing Thursday and is a little nervous.  So you guys say an extra prayer for her!
We are really surprised at how she has really gotten excited about Keyboard.  She has never been interested in piano lessons before and we have not pushed them on her.  However, Cecily is doing really well in this class.  She also has a science project due in her Advanced Science class.  She and Mike are putting together a Chrystal Radio.  I have helped her with science projects in the past and I am so relieved to hand this one over to her dad and just be the photographer for the project.  And speaking of photographs, I don't have one single one of Cecily to post! Not a recent one anyway.  She stays so busy and isn't crazy about pictures anyway.
One last thing, Cecily will be 12 in December!  I feel so old saying that...12, I can hardly believe it!  She is in the youth group and choir at church.  Moving on before the tears start flowing...

Bentley is still going full speed ahead!  He is into transformers and his trains and race cars.  He is really the sweetest thing most of the time, I think.  No, he really is.  He is just 100% boy.  I don't think there is a drop of estrogen in his little body!
He has officially graduated from the nursery at church :(.  This past Sunday, was his first Sunday to come out in big church with me for the song portion of the worship service before going back into Children's Church.

Thankfully, the couple that teaches him in Sunday School have Children's Church this month, so it wasn't so different for him.

This was him when I went to pick him up after church.  They had learned about the story of the talents in the Bible and Bentley had doubled his!  He was working on this picture...

The verse at the bottom is Colossians 3:23.  The version we are working on him memorizing is "Do everything you do for God not for men."  That's a shortened version easier for him to understand right now.
He got a New Orleans Saints football uniform for his birthday back in September.  This past Saturday, he and his dad had a football game in the back yard... so without further ado.... meet the newest recruit for the New Orleans Saints....number 9... replacing Drew Breese....Bentley Terrell McIlwain!

Sweaty head after the game...

JennaBeth is growing every day!!  We just noticed yesterday that it looks as if her hair is turning strawberry blonde!  We affectionately refer to her as the "Princess Beast", because she growls at you now, and guess who taught her that?  She is very verbal these days!  In certain lights her hair looks really red almost.  We go some of these this past weekend...

and can I tell you she knew EXACTLY what they were for...

She has been a very good eater from the beginning.  She was the best at breastfeeding and knew exactly what the spoon was all about when we started solids.  Not sure how this puff made it to the forehead...

We have also begun letting her experiment with the sippy cup some...

She just can't quite get the hang of the handles and thinks she can do it with no hands!

We plan on going to the Island Coast homecoming game this weekend, so I'll have plenty of pictures from that next week.  And yes, I will make sure I get some of Cecily, whether she likes it or not!!!

Counting it all Joy,