Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Heb 12:1-2 (NLT)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Art By My Hand

I scrapbook. Or at least I used to. These days I mostly accumulate scrapbooking supplies which sit on shelves.

Having faced the reality that I just do not have the time to scrapbook in the traditional sense, I have taken up digital scrapbooking. However, I am the belief that digital scrapbooking is cheating, so I aim to (traditionally) scrapbook a few pages for my kids and for my husband each year.

I've decided to do "all about me" albums for each of my kids. I am currently working on my daughter's "at age 3" pages. These will be the first in the album, so I had to fill three 12x12 pages.

In the journal boxes I plan to write what my daughter's likes and dislikes were at age 3 (she is four now, so unless you can remember a lot of details from when your children were younger, I would start with their current age, or up to one year ago if you can remember that far back). I'm going to use either a picture taken of her at her 3rd birthday party, or her preschool picture from that year.

Children bring home a TON of crafts. Way more than I know what to do with. After having a turn being pinned on my "Masterpieces" bulletin board, I have either recycled or stuffed away my kids crafts with intentions to figure it out later.

I have decided to choose a few of my favorite ones that my daughter completed at preschool and at home when she was 3 and include them in her "all about me" album. Since the second page is titled, "Art by my hand", I choose the crafts that used her handprint. I got pretty well all of the supplies seen here at Costco.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Make me look good

I melted down on my children this morning while trying to get out the door. This is a fairly common occurrence in our house. There are only three mornings a week when we have to be out the door by a certain time, and those three mornings are my least favorite times. I almost always resort to yelling at my kids who inevitably take eons to eat breakfast, think it's funny to hide on me instead of get dressed, and who have to fight me every time I say they have to wear a toque and mittens (it's January in Alberta, so this means they fight me EVERY morning).

Before the holidays, I read about dashed expectations in Donna Partow's Becoming a Vessel God can Use. She hit really close to home when she observed that all too often, her own joy evaporated because of selfish expectations.

Selfish expectations? What's that now?

I'm starting to realize that's exactly why I freak out at my kids (and my husband, but we'll save that for a later date). In the getting-out-the-door example,  it's because if we are late I take it as a reflection of my parenting abilities. It makes me look bad and I don't want to look bad. I want to look organized, put-together and efficient. Really it boils down to my own selfish expectations. I expect my kids to cooperate in the mornings so we can get to where we need to be on time in a presentable fashion, which makes me look good. In Partow's words, I am expecting my kids to minister to me. It only follows that with these kind of expectations, I am setting myself up for disaster every morning.

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me just how often my motives are selfish ones. Sure, getting to preschool on time is good for my daughter too. But I'm not yelling at her in the morning because I'm afraid she might part of her class time. I'm yelling because I don't want to look like a parent who can't get out the door on time.

Mark 10:43-45 (NLT) says, "among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others...". *Sigh*. Nothing about being a slave sounds particularly appealing.

Suddenly having the attitude that I am here to serve my husband and my children doesn't happen over night. This is definitely a work that I am not going to accomplish on my own.  But I truly do desire to be a more selfless person. Especially if it means I can drop my daughter off at school without all the lousy drama.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Small group rookies

My husband and I recently joined a newly formed couples small group. This is a pretty big deal because my husband is fairly new on the Christian scene and finds group Christian settings a little uncomfortable. I can't blame him. For someone not used to such things, being in a group talking about God, taking prayer requests, and praying out loud together can be a little overwhelming even for more seasoned Christians. So I'm going into this knowing that my husband is participating mostly for me.

This is my husband and I's second small group. Even though I've been in a number of different women's small groups, I often still feel like a small group rookie. We even feel a little bit fraudulent because while some of the other couples have been on amazing mission's trips and more often than not have some sort of  musical talent (have you ever noticed that about Christians?), and are part of the choir or worship team, my husband isn't very "churchy" and in the past, I've gone in and out of regular church attendance. The other couples always seem much more knowledgable and comfortable with it all. But that's our perception and not necessary the way things really are. Nevertheless, it feels a little bit hard and intimidating walking into a new group.

So why join a small group? Well, I love learning. One of my favorite things to do is discuss something I've learned about. I get such a high from suddenly seeing something in a new light. I get inspiration from being part of a joint effort. It's an instant support system. When my mother died, on the scene were our small group members. When there is a difficult decision to make or a hardship to get through, I get comfort from knowing there are others praying for me. It provides accountability. I am much more likely to read scripture and think about things if I know I am meeting with people to discuss it.  It's a great way to get connected in the church and meet other couples who are in roughly the same stage of life as us. And if we never step out of our comfort zone then we won't grow in our faith and we certainly won't get past feeling like fraudulent newbies.

The Bible is pretty clear that Christians should get connected and fellowship together. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) says, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another...".

Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them."

I think the challenge for us will be to be ourselves and not censor our past (it's not like we have out-of-control pasts but we have spent more time living a non-Christian lifestyle than living a Christian one). We have already met several times and the other members do not strike me as judgemental or exclusive so I'm sure things will work out. It will just take a little time to grow comfortable.

Too bad it's not as easy as inviting your neighbour over for a glass of wine or a beer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


It was my grandmother who first introduced me to Jesus. I was eight years old. She led me through a simple prayer to invite Jesus into my heart. At the time, I had no idea what this meant.

Although my mom would attend church sporadically in later years, my parents were not church-goers. My childhood could be a bit unstable. My father struggled with alcohol and gaps in employment. My mom battled chronic illness and depression her whole life.

It wasn't that my parents didn't love me. They did and I knew that. It was that they weren't always available. At times, I felt very alone.

My grandma starting taking my sister, brother and I to church with her. My grandparents attended a very charismatic Pentecostal church. The congregation was small and older. It was the kind of church where a lot of people shouted out during the sermons. Very legalistic, very fire and brimstone; a lot of passionate loudly preached sermons. In short, it scared the crap out of me.

I was told that if I didn't believe in Jesus with my whole heart, I would go to hell. I became so fearful that I didn't believe enough. I continue to struggle with this today.

As soon as my parents determined I was old enough to say so, I stopped attending church.

I had a very idealized version of what a family should be in my head and it wasn't what I had at home. So I started looking elsewhere. I found a nice picture of it through a friend of mine. She was mormon and had 8 brothers and sisters. They ate their meals together, they practiced things like family games night and family meetings. I was smitten and started spending more and more time with them.

It wasn't long before they started inviting me to their young women's group and church on Sunday's. Since I was attending for social reasons, this did little for the fearful, confused idea of God I had in my head. Nevertheless, I am convinced that my friendship with this girl and her family kept me out of trouble. Highschool was an incredibly lonely time. I could have gone in any direction.

One day I was completing an exercise for the young women's class that involved looking up passages in the book of Mormon. As much as I loved the friends I had, as I was doing the exercise I realized that I had no connection to what I was reading. More than that, I didn't believe what I was reading. So I stopped attending.

Shortly after that I went to University and became a student of science. Whatever poorly conceived notions of God and Jesus I had in my head became even more muddled. Out of the fear I picked up attending my grandma's church, I had continued to pray to God every night before I went to sleep. But that was the extent of my relationship. And that was where I was at when I met the man who would later become my husband.

The two of us moved to northern Alberta for the job opportunities and I started working shift work in a chemical lab. I became instant friends with a very lively, outgoing co-worker. Night-shifts could be long, and we started having conversations about God and church. She ended up inviting me to her Baptist church. I went, and enjoyed it! Instead of being yelled at for over an hour, we primarily sang  songs! It was there that I met her mom, who happened to run a women's small group. My own mom and sister were very sick at this point, and I found myself really struggling so when I was invited to attend the small group I went.

I found myself interested and excited about what I was learning. And sharing my troubles with other women who had their own battles, was immensely therapeutic.  But I didn't know what it meant for my boyfriend who was not a Christian, so I broke things off.

That was a really difficult time. He couldn't understand why we couldn't be together when we loved each other and shared the same goals. Truthfully, I didn't really understand either. But I had picked up the notion that if I wanted to be a true Christian, I couldn't marry a non-Christian.

A couple of months later, his parents invited me over to celebrate a birthday and as we were sitting outside I felt myself struggling with the feelings I had not only for my ex-boyfriend, but also for his family. In my head, I suddenly heard the words, "Lucy - here is the family I have for you". I'm not kidding. As the girl who had longed to feel some family ties, I didn't need to think twice about getting back together with my boyfriend. As for the Christian-non-Christian thing, I figured that would work out some way or another. We got married shortly after.

We then found ourselves transferred to Southern Alberta for work and not long after we moved down, we got pregnant with our daughter. We didn't know a lot of people, and we certainly didn't know anyone else having babies. I was terrified. The same friend who invited me to church with her, had moved to the same city the year before and once again invited me to her church. My husband and I both liked this church!

When I was six months pregnant, we were sitting in the congregation and a couple roughly our age sat down next to us. The woman looked to be about as pregnant as I was. This led to a conversation. Turned out they led a couple's small group. My husband and I started going.

I can't tell you how much this saved me. I was ridiculously insecure about becoming a parent and felt totally alone in it. And now here was this girl who was going through the same thing. Not only that, but she knew what it was like to have a critically ill mother. In fact, on the day of her mother's funeral, my mother passed away.

This event could have devastated me. It devastated my dad and my sister. Three years later, and they are still not coping well. Instead, I felt myself surrounded my an incredible amount of sympathy and support. The peace that exceeds understanding talked about in Philippians 4:7? I experienced that peace after my mother died.

Not long after that we became pregnant with our son and my husband lost his job. For perhaps only the second time in my life, I trusted God to work out the details. We needed to sell our house and fast! In a flooded housing market our house sold in 36 hours. One day later my son was born. Two weeks after that we found ourselves relocated back to northern Alberta (just not quite as far north as last time). A couple of years later and we have settled into a new life, a new church and recently new small groups.

My husband and I still have a lot of growing to do in our relationship with God. "Not worrying", is not a concept associated with me. I still struggle with deep insecurities.  Trusting God is something I have to work on every day. But if my story has taught me anything, it's that God doesn't leave us alone. You can interpret this story any number of ways, but they way I see it is that God could have let me walk away. Instead he used people to draw me back. Again and again. God knows that I am vulnerable to loneliness and feelings of despair. Circumstances that could easily leave me feeling alone and defeated, instead were buffeted by the right people at the right time.

You will have ins and outs with your relationship with God. But God never leaves you.

Philippians 4:6-7Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Snickerdoodle cookies are a family favorite. This is the muffin version of those cookies.

I like to make my mini. A more suitable size for my kids, and more melt-in-your-mouth!

You will need:
  • cooking spray for muffin tins
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 C all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 F. 

In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir until well mixed. 

Scoop batter into a prepared muffin tins (fill each one 3/4 full). This makes ~24 mini muffins (or 10-12 regular sized ones). 

Bake for 18-22 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small shallow dish. Place melted butter in a second small shallow dish. 

When the muffins are done, cool in tins until you are able to handle them. Then dip the top of each muffin in the butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon. Cool completely on a cookie rack. 

Enjoy! These are fantastic when they are still warm!

Here is a simple baby gift idea...

A couple in our small group just had a baby girl and I made this pretty package to give them.

I used a heart-shaped basket, lined it first with parchment paper, and then a layer of saran wrap. I filled it with the muffins, wrapped the muffins up in the saran and parchment paper. 

Then I wrapped the whole thing in tulle and closed it first with a pipe cleaner, and then pink ribbon. Simple and sweet!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What do you think?

One of the things driving my effort to find greater meaning and purpose in my life, aside from always feeling vaguely dissatisfied, is recurring jealousy and insecurity.

I've realized how consumed I can be with worrying about what my friends think or agonizing over why I wasn't invited out for coffee or for a run or whatever the case may be.

This sounds so ridiculous but if I don't get an answer to a phone call or an email I sometimes invent entire stories in my head about that friend being too busy with other people to get back to me. Sounds like I'm describing a pretty pitiful person, doesn't it? Exactly.

I thought that if I went back to work, I would have my own "thing" and I would meet other professionals, so that what my little group of friends were or were not doing wouldn't matter so much. In other words, I thought I probably had too much time on my hands and that was why I was over-analyzing every little thing in my relationships.

But then I thought back to when I did go back to work after my daughter was born. I remember sitting in my office reading my stay-at-home-mom friend's Facebook statuses about playdates and strollercise and coffe-time and feeling really sorry for myself. Gosh. I have spent a lot of my life feeling sorry for myself! And it's because of all the time I spend comparing myself to others.

 I want my life to be driven by something more meaningful than worrying about what other people think. I want to spend my time doing something more meaningful than comparing myself to my friends. And I want to be a person who feels genuine happiness and love when their friends experience success instead of niggles of jealousy and envy.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 states, "I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless".

I don't want to be this particular cliche anymore. I don't want the successes I do experience to be temporary and ultimately meaningless. The obvious solution is to change my attitude and my focus. 

Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!".

Perfect peace sounds lovely, doesn't it? I just have to fix my thoughts on God? No problem! Easier said than done I'm afraid. But that is what I am planning on spending time on this year: practical ways I can turn my thoughts to God. Not just in those easy moments when things are going great or I'm sitting quietly by myself. But in those hard moments when I am tired, frustrated, hurt or angry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

One of the things I missed the most when we moved a couple of years ago, was my book club. There is something about knowing that other people are reading the same book as me, that increases the experience. I love to talk about books I've read. So after I had been here for about a year and had met enough women to make it a go, I started my own book club.

Our pick over the holidays was A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. We picked it because we wanted something light-hearted to read over the holidays.

While this book was light-hearted, it was deeper and more poignant than I had expected it to be. There is a lot of emotion in this book. You will likely cry when you read it. Unless your soul is dead.

Cameron's descriptions of dog behavior are bang on. I could really picture the mannerisms he described, which made Bailey all the more endearing. It also illuminates what many dog owners already suspect, and that is that our dog's really do experience what we go through emotionally.

Whenever I read a book about dogs, it's always with a certain level of anxiety. I'm always waiting for when the dog you grew to love, dies. So that was doubly true with this book since you know the dog dies several times. Cameron is very good at building a sense of doom several times throughout the story, and when that happened I found myself having to put the book down in order to be able to sleep. Not wanting to give too much away, I appreciated that there indeed was a purpose that tied the whole story together.

I wasn't sure about the reincarnation angle when I started the book. But God uses people and he uses circumstances to influence our lives, and I like the idea that he is possibly using our pets too. Now whenever I watch my dog while she is dreaming, I wonder if she isn't possibly remembering a past family.

All of us agreed it was one to recommend to others.

If nothing else, this book will remind you to repeatedly tell your own dog, that s/he is "a good dog".

Our next pick, to be read by mid-March, is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Crock pot Porridge

I don't know about you, but I often find myself in a breakfast rut of Cheerios, Cheerios and more Cheerios.

A big part of that is because I often don't get going in the morning early enough to have time for anything but cold cereal.

I've decided to be a little more disciplined and introduce a little more variety into our breakfast routine (I know, New Year resolutions, right? You probably give it a week? Me too). 

This recipe was perfect because you set it all up the night before and just eat it in the morning! It is actually faster than cold cereal! Well, one downfall: cleaning the crock pot later that day sucks and pretty much evens out whatever time you saved in the morning. BUT at least you had a healthy, more exciting breakfast!

This recipe has a nice homey, stick-to-your-bones kind of taste. A perfect chilly morning treat. Just the kind of thing I envision eating in a mountain chalet before a day of skiing (if I did that sort of thing).

What you'll need:
  • 2 C steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 C oat bran
  • 1/2 C brown rice
  • 1/4 C wheat germ
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed
  • 3 C skim milk
  • 3.5 C water (or any combination of fluids to equal 6.5 C)
  • 1 C raisins (or anything, really - apple, cranberries, dates, nuts etc.) - optional
  • 1.5 Tbsp vanilla
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • fruit toppings - optional (I like to top mine with berries and banana)
  • brown sugar - optional
Place all ingredients in crock pot. Stir well. Cover. Set to cook overnight on low. In the morning, top with fruit and a sprinkle of brown sugar, and enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's "to-be" list

Several years ago, a previous small group leader gave our group this New Year's idea, to take the place of the usual New Year's "to-do" lists that people often make.

Lately, I seem to be constantly reminded of the truth that I can't "be" much without God. So rather than focusing on what I want to accomplish in the next year, this strategy involves asking God for fresh insight on what I am becoming.

Galatians 5:22-25, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."It is the "fruits of the spirit" that I am using to write a 2012 "to-be" list.

I suggest making your own. I chose the fruits that I struggle most with. The more specific you can be, the more meaningful it will be. This is what mine looks like today:

Be loving...when your kids won't leave you alone
Be joyful...at the end of the day when you are tired
Be patient...when you are running late
Be kind...when no one will notice

I don't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, I find it much more practical to re-start each day with a set of goals. So this year, I plan to start over every day asking God for help in being the things on my list. I know I won't be able to do it on my own! I've tried!


God, I ask that you would reveal to me the things I need on my "to be" list today. Help me to grow in being rather than simply doing. I ask that you give me big picture direction for this year, and that you would fill me with the fruit of the spirit in increasing quantities. Please fulfill me with your purposes as I concentrate on who you want me to be. Amen. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Risky Business

Our spirits are immortal. Yet God puts us in earthly bodies with a sinful nature and allows Satan to surround us with temptation. One theory is that God does this to develop our character.

Doesn't this seem like a risky choice? God knows that not all of us will come back to heaven. Some of us will succumb to Satan. Yet he puts our souls at risk anyway. Almost seems contradictory to a loving Dad, doesn't it?

My other immediate question is, isn't there a better way? Yet this is what God had chosen to do. So although brief, our time here on Earth must be pretty important. God risks our salvation putting us here, so his reasons must carry some weight.

Maybe it isn't that different from sending our children to school. We know they will face temptation, culture, peer pressure, and at times even danger. They could get beat up by a bully, or hit by a car on the way there, or succumb to any number of other potential risks. And we know that there will be times when they have to make difficult decisions and they will make mistakes. Yet we do it anyway. Why? Because we know that despite the risks, it is for their own good. They are getting an education. They are learning how to become more like us, i.e. adults. It is not inconceivable then that God is doing the same thing sending us here to earth. To get an education and learn how to become more like him.

Okay, so if we are not here on earth for ourselves or for comfort, but are here to become more Christ-like, I would have to say based on observation that many of us do not have this as our number one priority. (Perhaps this can explain why I often find myself feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by my circumstances).

I would have to say that complacency is my biggest obstacle to staying focused on becoming more Christ-like. Which seems crazy when put in the context that God is putting my salvation at risk putting me here in order to build my character. And yet, when I am not at church or small group, I just don't always care enough about trying to be like Jesus. In the heat of dealing with uncooperative children I have to admit that it is often the last thing I am concerned with. Like a child who doesn't make getting their homework a priority despite knowing that being there to learn is the whole point of going to school.

So as we make our way into a New Year, I think I will be seeking practical ways in which I can keep focused on "what would Jesus do" mentality, moment by moment. Not just when I am peacefully reading the Bible or enjoying a tea at small group. I do not understand his methodology, but hopefully I will make some progress this year in coming to better understand who he is.

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