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, April 15, 2012

5 easy spring-time kids crafts

Spring time here in Alberta can just as easily mean spring snow as spring showers. It is an emotional time for me, where one day I feel great and excited for summer, and the next totally dejected and stuck indoors. 

Recently, we've had snow about every 3 days. In between snows it has been quite nice outside so the kids and I have got serious spring fever. As a result, I've been scouring Pinterest for simple spring-inspired crafts appropriate for preschoolers, to complete on our wretched snow days. Here are 5 we really enjoyed: 

1. Cupcake liner flowers

Original website

2. Egg carton bunnies

Original website

3. Rainbow hand-prints

Original website

4. Paper caterpillars

Original website

5. Easter egg bugs

Original website

I have to admit, I'm getting a little crafted-out so let's hope the weather smartens up a bit. Seriously. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 4: When things don't make sense

I took a little break from the Women's Retreat Blog Series over Easter, but I'm not finished yet. I seriously went home from that retreat with so much to think about. This topic is another big one...

One of Sandy Cooper's sessions was on seeking God during hard times. She shared the story of her own loss of her son. And as she was talking about her experience and the struggle with her faith in God during that time, I kept thinking back to a conversation with a friend about the senseless murder of a young girl that had been in the news recently. My friend had made the comment that she just couldn't understand why God would let something like that happen. 

I was struggling with it too. Where I struggled, was in the brutality of it. I found myself asking God that if the little girl had to die, why couldn't it have been a quick, clean death? Why did she have to suffer at the hands of her abductors first? Why does God allow us to get so lost that it takes such terrible grief to create change? 

There is no answer for me. 

I kept thinking about this verse:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV), "'For I know the plans I have you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart'."

Having to suffer unthinkable things at the hands of another seems like such a contradiction to that verse. Even if good does come out of it, how can suffering - possibly to the point of death - be called a hope and a future? 

To use a quote from Sandy's seminar, "It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan. Sooner or later, most of us will come to a point where it appears that God has lost control - or interest - in the affairs of people. It is only an illusion, but one with dangerous implications for spiritual and mental health. Interestingly enough, pain and suffering do not cause the greatest damage. Confusion is the factor that shreds one's faith." (Dr. James Dobson, When God Doesn't Make Sense). 

What we need to have when we don't understand suffering, is an eternal perspective. My suffering here on earth doesn't just affect me here and now, it has consequences outside of this place and time. My hope and my future doesn't end here. In fact, it just begins. My hope and my future is in my eternity.

Sandy went on to talk about what faith really is when you are going through something really terrible. Faith isn't when you believe God and then get what you prayed for. Faith is trusting and believing God even when you don't get what you've prayed for. In other words, it's trusting and believing God even when you don't understand why something has happened or is happening. It's trusting God that there is a purpose to the suffering. That there will be healing from the suffering. It's trusting God that even suffering is for my (eternal) best interest. 

Trusting that God is still in control even if we can't see it. 

I believe that there is no way we can possibly know all that will happen as a result of that little girl's death. I'm sure that voicing any of the possibilities would sound hollow to her grieving family members. What I do feel deep down though, is that there is a heaven and that little girl is there. She is there waiting for her parents. And God will throw such a party when they are reunited. This life is so temporary. That little girl's suffering, while horrendous, was temporary. She's now in an eternity of love and peace. One day God will wipe away all of our tears and take away all the pain we have suffered on this earth (Rev 21:3-4). If I find myself picturing my daughter in that little girl's shoes ever again and wondering how God could allow something like that to happen, it will be these thoughts that I will cling to.  

I was reminded at the retreat that it's okay to question God. It's even okay to get angry with Him. God doesn't get offended at our questions or our anger. But I also know that there are things going on in this world and in the next, that I can't even begin to comprehend.

Blog Retreat Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him
Blog Retreat Series 2: Are you wickedly busy?
Blog Retreat Series 3: Am I REALLY seeking God?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mini-Egg Thumbprint Cookies

Happy Easter!

The kids and I made this fun little Easter treat today. I found this recipe on pinterest (where else?). They are short-bread cookies and they were good, but I think next time I would add an egg white as I found the dough quite crumbly which made it difficult to roll into balls. They were also a tad on the dry side when finished.

But look how pretty they are!

You will need:
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • (1 egg white)
  • 1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1.5 tsp corn syrup
  • 1 bag of mini chocolate eggs (I used Cadbury)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until whipped.

Add the salt and flour (I would try adding an egg white at this point) and beat until well mixed and dough-ish.

Roll dough into small balls and place evenly on un-greased cookie sheet. 

Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and using thumb, press down in center of cookie to create an indentation. 

Put back in oven for 2-5 minutes (until bottoms are turning golden).

Remove from oven and and let cookies cool completely on cookie rack. 

While cookies cool, in a small sauce pan melt the chocolate chips and mix in the corn syrup, stirring constantly. Let cool for a minute and then using a spoon or knife and add a dollop of chocolate to the center of the cookies. Top with a mini-egg. Makes ~24.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 3: Am I REALLY seeking God?

Another take-home message that blared out at me like a trumpet from the retreat was the hypocrisy of saying you are seeking God, and then turning around and doing as you please, including treating the people around you poorly.

Isaiah 58:1-14 tells the story of a group of religious Israelites who complain to God that He doesn't hear them. That God doesn't answer them. And yet when they claim to be seeking God through fasting, they are actually off doing their own thing. They think they are humbling themselves before God, but then they turn around and exploit their workers, fight one another and neglect the needs of the people around them.

In Isaiah 58:1, the Bible says, "shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion..."

What was their rebellion?

Well, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then treat those around you badly? I'm sad to say that I quite often do this with my husband. I take out all my frustrations on him. I use him like a punching bag. Do you gossip about your friends? Or emasculate your husband? Or humiliate your children? Or ignore your parents?

How many of us are doing anything for the homeless?

Or, how often do you say you are seeking God, and then go off and try and solve all your problems yourself without even consulting God? Guilty! 

Hosea 10:13 says, "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors,".


Before the retreat, treating my husband with more respect and listening for God's direction were things I knew I needed to work on, but I had never thought of myself as being hypocritical or rebellious. I certainly didn't think I was planting wickedness and reaping evil!

The bible tells us that if we stop doing as we please; if we stop the fighting, finger-pointing, malicious talk and neglect of those in need, "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.". (Isaiah 58:8-9).

That's pretty powerful. It helps to answer why I often feel distanced from God. God is not going to listen to me and answer me if I'm saying I'm seeking Him, while at the same time doing as I please.

Our retreat speaker Sandy Cooper, observed that a lack of joy and feeling too weak to handle everything is a sign that you are depending on your own strength instead of God's. A tense, stressed-out home is often a sign we are off doing our own thing instead of listening and obeying God's voice.

Sandy reminded us that as women, we often set the tone in our home. So the next time my house feels like a place of bickering, tension, stress, fighting and exhaustion; the next time I feel distanced from God, I need to take a close look at my actions. Are they saying I am a woman seeking God? Or are they saying "me! me! me!"?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 2: Are you wickedly busy?

A message from Sandy Cooper at the women's retreat that resounded with me, and has continued to resound in my head is the truth that busyness to God is often the equivalent of pride-fullness and wickedness.

How many times have you had the best intentions to read your Bible, but you got too busy?

How many times have you planned to spend some time in prayer, but you got too busy?

How many times did you plan to send an encouraging note to a friend, but you got too busy?

As women, we have busy lives. We are really good at filling up our time. Have you thought of it as wickedness?

Psalm 10:4 says, "In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God."

We were just calling it being too busy. God calls it prideful and wicked. Wicked!

Sandy Cooper reminded us that balancing the demands of life is not measured by the amount of things we get crossed off our to-do list, but by hearing and following God's voice.

I tend to start my day by consulting a to-do list. Here is what it looks like today:

- go to Costco and get dishwasher detergent and coffee mugs for dad
- go to Wal-Mart and buy plastic Easter eggs and candy for Easter egg hunt
- pick up birthday card for babysitter
- return phone call to friend
- send pictures of kids and a letter to Grandma
- consult calendar for days when we can host small group
- submit receipts to husband's health care plan
- book dentist appointments for everyone
- make photo board for niece's birthday

And this doesn't even include the day to day things that always have to get done: play with the kids, clean the house, make healthy meals, exercise, connect with husband, check email. The list goes on and on and on.

If I try to methodically make my way down this list, I am left with little to no time to spend with God. I often feel drained, overwhelmed and frustrated at the end of the day. That is when I am vulnerable to feeling like a total failure.


But if I start my day out with prayer and scripture, if I ask God to set the priorities of my day, things tend to go a lot smoother. I'm serious! Especially if I spend some time alone over the course of the day (in the shower, in the bathroom, even driving in the car) in reflective prayer or scripture. I may not get everything done on my list. I may not get even half of them done. I might complete things not even on the list! But if I spend time in prayer and in scripture, at the end of the day I feel more organized, more efficient and far more peaceful no matter what got completed.

I'm not saying it's easy. To accomplish this I've had to cut way back on the amount of t.v. that I watch, and the amount of time I spend on the computer and iphone (as noted in my Technology Fast post). It's a commitment. A difficult one to make some days.

As soon as I start to feel overwhelmed and super-cranky with my life, as soon as I start to feel like I can't possibly get everything done, I know I've focused on myself too much, and not enough on God. So if you are feeling tired, disorganized, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed with what's on your plate, I encourage you to carve out some time daily to spend in prayer or in scripture. Ask God to help you organize your day. It's worth a try, right!

Blog Retreat Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him

Monday, April 2, 2012

Retreat Blog Series 1: He rewards those who earnestly seek Him

I had the wonderful privilege over the weekend of attending my church's first ever women's retreat.

I had a few reservations leading up. I was a little afraid it would be a weekend of cheesy "get-to-know-you" games and awkward, "come to the front and be prayed for" moments. But it so wasn't!

Our guest speaker was Sandy Cooper. You can visit her website at www.godspeakstoday.net. She is not actively blogging at present, but she has a wealth of information on her website on a great range of topics. If you go there, I assure you that you will find something relevant to your life.

It was one of those conferences where I found myself constantly saying, "yes! I totally get it!", or "this is so for me!". In fact, there were a few moments where I actually blushed or had tear-filled eyes because I felt so directly spoken to.

If you have spent much time on my blog, you know that I have been seeking God. But I have never felt very close to God. I have rarely felt His presence in a tangible way, despite desperately wanting to.

Going into this weekend, I tried not to have high expectations of something spiritually profound happening to me, but I did pray to hear from God in a real way.

He answered.

Over the course of the weekend, there were a couple of messages that were literally dumped repeatedly over my head. At first like cold-water, and later like a salve. And to paraphrase our guest speaker Sandy, when God gives you something, it is always for someone else, too. So I thought I would write a little "retreat series" about what God has been teaching me.

To start, I want to look at Hebrews 11:6;

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Emphasis mine).

There are two parts to this verse. In the last year or so I've really come to understand that faith is a gift from God (see Ephesians 2:8). Not something I can hope to pick up at the store, or something I can hope to convince myself I have. But this weekend, it was the second part of that verse that jumped out at me. To please God, not only do we have to believe that He exists, we also have to believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

I've come to realize that I've never really believed that. This goes a long way to explaining why I so rarely felt the presence of God. Although it was something I wanted, I didn't actually believe that He would reward me for seeking Him. I knew He rewarded others, but I had bought into the lie that I wasn't good enough. That I wasn't doing enough or that I was doing something wrong. That is all a lie! As soon as I released this to God, I felt Him draw near. I felt in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I recognized God's voice. Can you hear the trumpets?! Rewards from God, feeling God's presence - that's for me too!

Which means, it's also for you!

If you think this applies to you, I encourage you to take some quiet time today and ask God to open your heart and remove the lie that being in His presence is something that happens to other people, but not to you.

But here's the kicker: if you don't immediately feel in His presence or hear His voice: YOU AREN'T DOING ANYTHING WRONG. Just ask again. And again. Eventually, I promise, he will answer you. But in His own time. Do not buy into the lie that you are doing something wrong or that you don't believe enough. That's what Satan wants you to think. God wants you to know Him. He will reward you for seeking Him. It's just that sometimes, He has reasons for making you continue to seek and the key is to KEEP SEEKING.

And let's pray that the next time I feel distant from God, I have the sense to read my own words and KEEP SEEKING, instead of allowing those same doubts to creep back in (pay attention, Lucy!).

Other relevant verses:

Isaiah 45:19: "I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right."

2 Chronicles 7: 14-15: "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 

Psalm 24: 5-6: "They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob."

Psalm 34:10: "The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing."

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