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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Grace of the Cross

O my Saviour,
I thank thee from the depths of my being 
for they wondrous grace and love
in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.
May thy cross be to me
as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,
as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,
as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.
By thy cross crucify my every sin;
use it to increase my intimacy with Thyself;
make it the ground of all my comfort,
the liveliness of all my duties
the sum of all thy gospel promises,
the comfort of all my afflictions,
the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,
the very essence of my religion;
and by it give me that rest without rest,
the rest of ceaseless praise.

O My Lord and Saviour,
Thou hast also appointed a cross for me to take up and carry,
a cross before thou givest me a crown.
Thou hast appointed it to be my portion,
but self-love hates it,
carnal reason is unreconciled to it;
without the grace of patience I cannot bear it,
walk with it, profit by it.
O blessed cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee!
Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will,
heavy because I shirk thy load.
Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour,
that with my cross thou sendest promised grace
so that I may bear it patiently,
that my cross is thy yoke which is easy,
and thy burden which is light.
(taken from "The Valley of Vision:  A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions)


Monday, March 29, 2010

Proud of My Girl!

We are now officially living with a smarty pants!

Cecily was notified last Thursday that she was accepted into the NFMAA chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.  She is taking a hefty load of classes this year and we are so proud of her.  Sixth grade and middle school has been quite a transition for her and she has had a difficult year in school this year; not so much with academics as with other things.  We are so proud of her for hanging in there!  She'll have her induction service on April 12th.

One of the classes she is taking as an elective this semester is Art.  Cecily has always been the artsy/crafty type.  When we were living in TN, she was four years old.  I worked outside the home at the time about an hour and a half drive both ways so I missed much of her growing up during those two years.  Mike recalls a story of one after noon he was with her and she insisted on getting some sponges and cutting them into animal shapes so she could paint with them!

One of her latest projects in Art was to draw a grid drawing.

Her drawing is on the right and the black and white copy is on the left.  Her teacher picks a few of the best drawings to hang up in the school and is considering Cecily's because it was so good!  I unashamedly would agree with the teacher on this one!!

Cecily is also getting ready to go on her first Youth Camp trip to Georgia this summer.  She has been getting sponsors for her trip and this weekend helped with a youth car wash to make money for the camp trip.
The kids were really busy and had cars backed up for parts of the morning.  I'm hoping they did well on the donations.  They also had fun I think...
JennaBeth even got in on the action.  She was used by the girls as a ploy to get people to turn in for the car wash.  They held her up along with their signs hoping people couldn't pass up a cute little baby!
Bentley even helped out a little.
He was surprised by a gentleman that gave him a "tip" of $1 for drying his truck off so nicely!  He thought he had really done something.  He went straight home and put it in his piggy bank!

Praying you have a blessed week,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And the winner is...

After a very sophisticated process of determination...
the winner of the Phil Vischer "What's in the Bible?" DVDs is...
Madonna, please send me your mailing address and I'll get your certificates for the DVDs right out to you!
We are off to get the kids haircuts, attend a reading festival, picnic and a visit to the nursing home to visit two of our sweet ladies from church!  Have a great weekend everybody!


Monday, March 15, 2010

"What's In the Bible?" Review and Giveaway

When Phil Vischer started out years ago with his hit "VeggieTales", his desire was to start a conversation with kids that would take them into the Bible and get them thinking about faith.  I know we certainly owned more than our share of VeggieTales videos and our daughter, now 12, loved them.  She quickly caught on to the point made in every video:  God made you special and He loves you very much.

According to Vischer's testimony, he spent two years after the bankruptcy of Big Idea Productions diving into the Bible and his own relationship with God.  It was revealed to him that during the VeggieTales days, he had spent more time working for the Lord than having a relationship with the Lord.  He deeply felt the need to go beyond the message of VeggieTales.  Thus his new series "What's in the Bible?" was born, getting back to the original call to take kids deeper into the Bible; teaching them the gospel and how to live it before the world.

Part of Vischer's passion behind the "What's in the Bible?" series is his alarm at these statistics:
  • Sixty-five percent of young people stop attending and being connected to a church after high school
  • Fifty percent of protestant American adults can't define the word "grace"
  • Half of Americans can only name one of the four gospels 
While many churches are doing a great job in their children's ministries, they only have kids for about one hour a week.  During that week, these kids consume about 23 hours of Disney, Nick, and Cartoon Network.  Mr. Vischer says there is no wonder these kids are more attached to Hannah Montana than the apostle Paul or more emotionally engaged with the outcome of American Idol than the gospel and seeing their friends come to know the Lord.
We are losing a generation of kids. Mr Visher is passionate about getting this generation back through teaching them what is in the Bible and re-starting this conversation with them regarding how to know not only the Bible, but how to know the God of the Bible and how all the "stories" in the Bible tell the one main story of  God's plan of redemption for the world.  His answer is a 13 part DVD set that will take kids through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

I received a screener copy of the first two DVD's in this set, "In the Beginning" and "Let My People Go", from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of review.  The only thing I'm expected to do is provide you and honest review here on the blog.

These DVD's are GREAT!!!  I am so thankful for the work God did in Phil Vischer's heart that led him to the production of this series and that he gets what is really important for our kids!  Don't get me wrong, VeggieTales were great, but these videos do so much more to engage kids in the main way God speaks to us which is through His very words to us:  the Bible.  In the "What's in the Bible?" series you will find a very strong message about sin and how it separates us from God.  They also make it very clear that there is only one way to bridge that gap:  God's plan of redemption.  I appreciate that this series is so more than your typical "Bible story video".  Nothing is watered down here!  The truth of the gospel is made clear.

The videos are very engaging using catchy music, puppetry and animation, along with inserts of Phil himself talking to the kids and actual "real live" kids themselves.  Your kids will meet Buck Denver (news reporter), Chuck Wagon, The Sunday School lady and her magic flannel graph, Dr. Sniffenhousin (The scientist who gives the "world's explanation for things), Pastor Paul, The Bentley Brothers (provide music) and Captain Pete along with his parrott, Reginold.  The neat thing is that Captain Pete is the guide to church history.  Yes, church history.  How much of it do you know?  Now your kids will have a chance to know church history and how the Bible has been translated and developed through the years.

There are three features about the DVDs I really liked:
  • "Big Questions" where the "real live" kids ask and attempt to answer some of the questions you might sometimes get from your kids like, "Who wrote the Bible?" and "Who picked the books to be in the Bible?". 
  • Pastor Paul would explains words like "covenant" and "patriarch"  in a way that a child can grasp.  This way when your child is sitting in church with you and hears such words as "covenant" from the pulpit, he or she will actually know what the preacher is talking about!
  • The way the episodes "flow" together:  At the beginning of each episode, Mr. Vischer "recaps" what was discussed in the previous episode.  This helps the kids see how these "stories" are connected to form God's story of redemption.
I was particularly impressed with the fact that "In the Beginning" made the point that God created us for relationship with Him and that He created us with the ability to choose.  "In the Beginning" also makes the point that Genesis isn't so much a story of how we were created, but who created us, laying the strong foundation of the importance of a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ:  the answer to the problem of sin in our lives.  It explains salvation and redemption.
The only negative thing I have to say about these DVDs is that there is so much information packed in each fast moving episode.  It might be a little bit of an overload for very young children.  My four year old watched these DVDs with me and he liked them; however, he became bored with them after a while.  They would be excellent for children a little older than four year-olds.  
I see this series as being a very good resource for use in your children's ministry at your church.  They would be excellent "teaching" tools.
Here is a sneak peak from Mr. Vischer and the characters themselves:

You may find it helpful to visit the "What's in the Bible?" website to learn more: 
The publisher of this DVD set, TYNDALE HOUSE, has many reliable resources to help you and your family grow in your faith.

NOW, for the BEST part:  I have certificates for a copy of the first TWO  DVD's in this series ("In the Beginning" and "Let My People Go") to give to one of  you!!!  All you have to do is leave me a comment answering this question:  "What is your biggest parenting challenge"?  I will choose a winner by the old fashion "names in a hat" method on Thursday evening and post the winner here on the blog on Friday morning.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recipe and My First Giveaway

When I was little, it was a big deal to go to Wal-Mart.  Now that all of them are "super centers", I really can't stand going in one!  They are always so crowded and rather than being a "one stop" convienence, for me it is overwhelming and gives me a headache.  I still go in Wal-Mart for some things, but I no longer do my main shopping there.  I have found that with making a really organized grocery/household item list, taking advantage of BOGO deals, and using coupons, I save more money in the long run shopping at Target, Publix and WinnDixie.

My husband told me the other day that I needed to come up with another way to get my grocery list made so that it doesn't take two hours out of my day to make one.  If that stinker only knew how much money I was saving his sweet self...

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Publix and they had Barilla pasta as part of their BOGO specials.  I had never really noticed Ditalini pasta before, but when I saw it on this occasion, I thought it was just the cutest thing!
Ditalini pasta is a small tubular shaped pasta.  I had no idea what to do with it, but I went ahead and got it along with my box of Lasagna noodles.

When taking inventory of the pantry on a grocery list project a few weeks later, I came up with a recipe to try using the Ditalini.  I cooked this for our supper last night and the family liked it so I thought I'd share it here.

Ditalini with Pan Seared Chicken
1 lb. Ditalini Pasta
2 14.5 oz. cans Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
4 tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. Chicken Cutlets
Grated Ramano Parmasen Cheese
Seasonings:  Garlic powder, Italian seasoning, pepper, salt

I used Chicken cutlets (really thin cut chicken breasts) because they were on sale at Publix, but you could just use boneless/skinless chicken breasts just as well.
Coat the bottom of a non-stick skillet with the olive oil.  Dust both sides of the chicken with the seasonings.  Let the pan get a little hot and place the chicken in the hot pan.  Do not move the chicken around, but let it sear well on one side and then flip over.
In the meantime, cook pasta according to box directions.  When it is done, drain well.  Then mix pasta and diced tomatoes (undrained).  Drizzle a little olive oil in this mixture and stir gently so as not to brake apart the pasta.
Cut chicken into bite size strips and mix with the pasta mixture.  When served on individual plates, sprinkle with a little of the grated cheese.
*I served my family this dish with bite sized Eggplant Parmasen, which can be found in the freezer section of the grocery store.  The ones I had came from BJ's Wholesale.

On Monday the 15th, I will be posting a review of a new series of videos by Phil Visher.  You may know him as the creator of VeggieTales.  He has a new series called "What's in the Bible?"  I was given the opportunity by Tyndale Publishing to not only review this product, but I have been given a copy of the first two videos in this series to give away to you!  So, come back on Monday for a chance to win these copies.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Swap Shop

I think I've said it before, but I love Women's Ministry!  There is something exciting and encouraging about a group of ladies getting together and having a blast in fellowship with each other.  And, that's exactly what I had the privilege of doing last night.

One of the ladies on our Women's Ministry Team came across the neatest idea.  You might want to try it at your church, because it was a huge hit for us.  There is already talk about making this an annual Spring ladies event.  Here is how it works:
You take a survey around your house.  Look for things that you have that may be becoming clutter for you or maybe just things you aren't using anymore and would like to get rid of.  Bring those items to your church.  For every item you bring you get that many sticky notes to write your name on.  Look around at what the other ladies have brought and if you see something you would like to have or could use then place your sticky note on that item.  If more than one name is placed on an item, those names are placed in a basket and one drawn out.  That lucky person gets to take that item home.  Our ladies chose to donate the unclaimed items to a local hospice organization's thrift store.

This was really alot of fun.  It was neat to hear some of the stories behind the items that were brought!

And of course the best part of an evening like this is sitting around with snacks and just chatting with one another.
Here are the things I ended up bringing home:

I don't know of many women who don't like to "shop", talk and snack; so this was a near perfect night!


Monday, March 8, 2010

These are the days

On January 12, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti.

On February 27, 2010 a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile.

Birth pains?

"Jesus answered:  Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.  Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."  Matthew 24:4-14

When will the end come?

Pretty heavy thoughts for a Monday I know, but this is just where my thoughts linger this morning.  I don't know when "the end" will come.

"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning...It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes."  Luke 12:35,37

"No one know about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert! You do not know when that time will come."  Mark 13:32-33

I began thinking on these things last night after church when my family and I were over at the Civil family's home.  They had invited us to come over after church and hang out with them and another family from our church.  Tchella (the wife and mother in this family) is leaving tomorrow for Haiti to have her first face to face contact with her family over there since the earthquake hit back in January.

The Civil family are just precious to us.  They have faced and are facing difficult times, but you just about wouldn't be able to tell it being around them.  They are very giving even when they themselves have needs.  They are a testimony and example to me personally.  Their kids are sweet friends to my kiddos.
Poor Carl, the Civil's oldest child is so patient to put up with Bentley hanging on him all the time!  Carl collects transformers and has been so sweet to give some to Bentley and teach him how to "transform" them.

While we were hanging out, the guys began a little jam session on the keyboard and guitars.  It didn't take long for the ladies to join in singing.  I of course was chasing JennaBeth, but as I listened I couldn't help but think, "This has to be a little taste of heaven."  I heard singing in Jamaican accents, Haitian accents, Southern accents.  I watched people of color spontaneously worshiping with people of no color.  Then Tchella began singing in French.

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"  Rev.7:9-10

I want to be ready for that great day, don't you?  I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like to praise and worship The Lamb for all of eternity with such a multitude, but I'm thankful for the tiny picture of it I was blessed with last night.

Please pray for Tchella's trip to Haiti tomorrow.  She will be gone for two weeks ministering to her family over there.

Now, enjoy the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing "Days of Elijah"...


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Catching Up

This post is all about catching up!  My goal when I started blogging was to post something everyday.  Busy life with a pre-teen, a four year old, and a one year old and a husband simply doesn't allow me to do that; hence, the catch up post for today!  And by the way, do you notice what time I'm posting this?  Nuff' said!

A few weeks ago we set up a "school" corner for Bentley.
He is so interested in learning right now that I feel impelled to take the opportunity to work with him while he is so willing!  His Sunday School teacher works with him on letter and number recognition at the end of Sunday School for a little bit each Sunday and it is my goal to follow up on that during the week.  We haven't gotten into a real structured routine yet (hence my issues with catching up!), but I've been praying and seeking the Lord about how to organize my day to fit this in.  Any suggestions from you homeschooling moms are welcomed.  Keep in mind I have a one year old as well during the day, but I know this is a really important thing for Bentley right now.
Another new thing happening for Bentley is TeamKid on Sunday nights.  I have his weekly Bible verse taped under his "letter" wall so we can work on memorizing that as well.  By the way, don't you just love that verse!

Last weekend we took advantage of the "free" hour at the Southwest Florida Fair. If you got there at 5 o'clock, you were able to take advantage of free admission and free rides from 5 to 6. Bentley has absolutely NO fear!  He went for the "big wheel" first thing!
Cecily is a little more timid when it comes to the rides; however, we did manage to coax her into riding one ride with Bentley:  the Dumbo ride!
Mike had to ride most of the things with Bentley, because I'm...well a chicken too when it comes to the rides!  Here they are coming down the big slide.
After getting off every ride, I would ask Bentley, "So, how was it?"  His answer was a very happy, "It was so aweshum" and on we were to the next one!

They even rode this...
I'm not sure Bentley knew what was in store for him.
He said the Himalaya was "aweshum" but it was "way so fast and I didn't like the going backward part".

A few more of his adventures that day...
Before we left, I had to have some fresh squeezed lemonade.  For some reason, there is just nothing better that lemonade from the fair.

This young man was from Nebraska.  When I asked for a large lemonade, he immediately said, "You must be from the South.  Where are you from?"  I get that question all the time!  I really must rock a southern accent!  When people down here in Florida ask me that, I've started asking them, "Where do you think I'm from"?  The guy fixing my lemonade guessed Georgia.  When I told him Mississippi, he said, "Well then I know just how you Mississippi folk like your lemonade.  I'll fix you up right!"  THAT WAS THE BEST GLASS OF LEMONADE I BELIEVE I'VE EVER HAD!!!!!  Yep, he knows us "Mississippi folk" pretty well!  Felt like I needed to tip him, but since that stinkin' lemonade cost me FIVE dollars...

Today, oops yesterday (it's 12:42 a.m.!!!) was spent catching up on laundry and installing this...
JennaBeth has graduated to the "big girl" car seat.  I caught this cute seat on sale at Target.  I had sold her swing on Craig's List and pooled that money with some birthday money from grandparents and got this seat this week.
And just so you know that after reading the directions ( yes I did ), that it actually did make it into the car...
I'm gonna get the Fort Myers police officer who lives next door to come inspect it to make sure it is installed properly so if THIS ever happens again, I know she will be safe.

Alrighty then.  That post was about as joined together as my brain cells feel like they are about now.  I think I'll go to bed now!  Ya'll (insert very strong southern drawl!) sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite and have a blessed day in worship of the Lord tomorrow, oh excuse me, today!!!!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Dwelling In His Presence" by Cynthia Heald

As a mother of three children (two under age 5), I long to dwell in God's presence, but find it difficult to do that on some days!  So, I was extremely interested in this title right away.  It did not disappoint.  I have done a couple of Ms Heald's Bible studies and knew her as a solid Bible teacher and trustworthy to rightly divide God's word.

This is a very attractive book with about 185 pages of material.  In "Dwelling In His Presence", Ms Heald takes the reader on a 30 day journey of intimacy with God.  The subtitle calls it a "devotional for today's woman".  But I found it to be more of a short Bible study broken into 30 short segments with each segment about 3 to 4 pages in length.  

One of the things I really liked about each day's reading is that you are not left hanging with just Ms Heald's thoughts.  You are given the opportunity to respond in relationship with God.  At the end of each day's study, the reader is given the opportunity to "Listen to the Most High" where a scripture passage relating to that day's thoughts is given to be read and a corresponding question for thought and meditation.  Also the reader is given the opportunity to apply the scripture with a section called "Experiencing His power and Presence".

Being a busy mother of three, I appreciated the opportunity given in "Dwelling In His Presence" to have a time of Bible study without having a lot of reading to do.  Don't misunderstand the shortness of each day's reading for shallowness of thought on Ms Heald's part.  Those 3 to 4 pages pack a powerful punch.  She very concisely fills each day with deep biblical thought and leaves you with plenty to "chew" on.

If you feel the following words taken from the preface of the book, then you should seriously think about getting your hands on this devotional book:
"A continual cry of my heart is that I might always be deepening my intimacy with the Lord.  I do not want to become complacent, or even satisfied, in my current relationship with Him.  I desire to keep growing in my love and knowledge of God in essence, I thirst for His ongoing power and presence in my life."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
"Dwelling In His Presence" can be purchased at Amazon by following this link:  Dwelling in His Presence: 30 Days of Intimacy with God: A Devotional for Today's Woman.

*An affiliate link has been provided above.  This means that if you purchase this book by following that link I get a very small percentage of your purchase.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Are You Watching Over Your Family?

I am linking this post to

Melissa at Breath of Life hosts this blog carnival each week.  I'm also linking to Jodi's Sunday Stirrings.

I was reading in Isaiah this morning and chapter 62 verses 6-7 jumped out at me:
"Jerusulem, I have put guards on the walls to watch.  They must not be silent day or night.  You people who remind the LORD of your needs in prayer should never be quiet.  You should not stop praying to him until he builds up Jerusalem and makes it a city all people will praise." (New Century Version)

When I read these words I was immediately reminded by the Holy Spirit of my duty and privilege as a wife and mother to pray for my husband and my children; to stand and guard the walls of my family.  I was also immediately convicted of what a poor watchman I've been. 

Our Senior Pastor was preaching out of Ephesians chapter 3 verses 11-13 Sunday morning.  He provided us with this quote from Bryan Chapell:
"Thus the mark of a true Christian calling is a willingness to offer personal sacrifice in order to bring together in Christ the strands of humanity separated by sin, misunderstanding, and prejudice, so that we may experience and be a witness of the greatness of the grace of our God."

Pastor also made the point in teaching upon verse 12 of Ephesians chapter 3 that we have freedom of speech before the throne of God!  He made the point that the boldness we will have before men (our families) is in direct proportion to the boldness and faithfulness we have in prayer to God.  
So, how are you watching over your family?