Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Bad Review

A bad review because I am not good at reviewing books, not because the book was bad. The book was, in fact, excellent.

I am referring to Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. An exceptional book. It has shifted my understanding of my purpose as a believer living here on earth and fanned the flames of my joy in Christ.

To give a brief description of the book, I will simply quote Piper:

Someone might say, "But isn't the Gospel about finding forgiveness of my sins and getting the hope of eternal life and being filled with the Spirit of holiness and being changed into the image of Jesus so that I am a better mom or dad or son or daughter or friend or employer or citizen?" The answer, of course, is yes. But if that is all we focus on in our walk with God, we miss the big picture. We miss the bigger point of it all. We are like batboys at Yankee Stadium who think the great point of the World Series is to hand the players a bat.

This excerpt comes near the end of the book after he has already illuminated what that "bigger point of it all" really is: primarily, finding our joy in "making much of Christ."

Of practical importance are his thoughts about:
- specific things that pull us away from God and numb us to living out his purpose
- asking the right questions when faced with decisions: not "is this right or wrong?" but "does this help me make much of Christ in another person's life?"
- the "war time" mindset as it relates to our commitment to Christ's purposes
- the necessity of having Christians in both secular and "spiritual" careers, and some ways to determine which we will pursue.

The only part that I didn't like about the book was its slow start. It took about three chapters before really getting to the meat. But once there, I found this book was encouraging, challenging, and practical.

Believe it or not, I am planning on reading it again.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nothing You Wanted to Know

-I finished Every Man's Battle. Some good stuff in there about how to train your mind to take every thought captive, and how to flee from temptation.

- I am almost finshed with Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. This is a fantastic book. End of review.

- And, not that anyone is counting (aHEM!) but that will make my tenth book of the year. I know. You feel so inferior, don't you?

- God is working in my life. If I could describe it to you, I would. But most of the time I don't feel like describing it. I just feel like living it. And that probably explains why I haven't been blogging much lately.

- Lainee still dislikes homeschooling. Mostly, I think, because: a) it is boring and b) she probably hates reading as much as her mother... which is difficult when reading is what she spends most of her time learning how to do.

- My husband is running the New York Marathon this coming weekend. I really hope he does well.

- I have surpassed my goal of 3200 blessings on my blessings blog. I say "I have surpassed" only because the goal was that I would recognize at least that many before the end of the year. As far as providing, I think God surpassed that goal on the day I started counting.

- I really wish that I had something interesting to say. But I don't.

- I told you this was nothing you'd want to know.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Because I'm all Crafty Like That

I went to JoAnn last night. You know, The Craft Store. I saw that they had open-stock scrapbook paper on sale. 5 for $1. This is the only way I will buy said paper. No way will I pay 59 cents (does anyone remember when the "cent" sign was right there on the keyboard?) for one piece of paper. That trip made me think... Jennifer has a post up in which she asks folks for gift ideas. This last trip to JoAnn convinced me to post about my favorite gift to give: a mini scrap-album.

I often give this gift when someone is having a baby, but these could be used for just about any occaision. I buy a 6x6 album when they are on sale or I have a coupon. Michael's has a simple one that is only about four or five dollars (regularly priced) and Hobby Lobby has some very cute ones regularly priced at $10. (The last time HL had a sale on albums, they were 50% off and I snagged a bunch because they were such a good deal.)

The scrap album can be made with as few as 6 pieces of 12x12 paper. I already have adhesive that I use for my own scrapbooking and cardmaking. But adhesive, and a few embellishments (like ribbon or buttons) are fairly inexpensive, especially considering that they will last you through several albums. Even adding these in, I'd estimate I spend less than $8 on each album I make.

I think any album, even one without embellisments, will look nice.

Here's the general idea: 5 sheets of paper are cut into 6x6 squares. (You can choose 5 sheets that are exactly the same, or choose different ones.) Use a sixth sheet of a coordinating paper to make a frame, matte, or border on each page. (Plan your cutting carefully.) Use the white sheets that come in the album pages to layer your mattes, or, if you have stamps, stamp some designs on them and cut it into a border or matte of its own.

If you want to personalize a page or two, use stickers or stamps for lettering. This is optional, obviously.

I know a bunch of you are groaning at the thought of crafting, so I thought I'd show you some of the pages I've made. I selected some pages that are not highly embellished to prove that EVEN YOU could do this, if you wanted.

This one couldn't be any simpler. Two pieces of coordinating scrap paper. I cut a piece for the border to fit the page and ripped down the edge. Looks better when the two papers have more contrast, but you get the idea. If you don't like the torn look, use a pair of decorative edged scissors instead. The border can be oriented horizontally or vertically.

Also very simple. Affix two 3x3 squares to the corners of a page. You can also overlap the corners of these squares a little at the center of the page, which leaves more border around the outside of the page.

Another variation of this is to cut the 3x3 square into two triangles. Glue these onto the two, or all four, corners.

I used a simple circle paper cutter to make the circles. Cut a matte out of white paper and glue the circles in place. Use horizontally or vertically.

I used a set of small stamps for this one. Instead of stamps, I sometimes glue on those small plastic confetti pieces that are made for baby showers. Those look cute too. The rest is simple squares.

Simple squares again. See how little ribbon is used? One spool of ribbon could make a whole bunch of pages like this. Even without the ribbon, this page would still look nice.

This last page is also simple squares with an easy button embellishment. Also looks good with a button in each corner... or no buttons at all.

I share this gift idea for those of you who want to craft but think you can't, or for those who need something special that doesn't break the bank. I have made a ton of these, and I think everyone I've given them to has liked them so far.

Hope you do too!

(For more gift ideas, head over to Jennifer's place.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

When you have nothing Worth While to say

Post a cute picture.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Beauty for Ashes

Last spring, as part of her Breaking Free study, Beth Moore taught about how God exchanges beauty for our ashes. (See Isaiah 61:1-4) It encouraged my heart greatly to know that God would take the ashes of my hurts and make them into something beautiful.

But it hasn't been until recently that I have come to realize that my ashes might not just be the hurts that others have inflicted upon me. My ashes might very well be my own sin. The stuff that eats away at me from the inside. The stuff that, if left unaddressed, will make me waste away.

Can I praise God enough that he will give beauty even for THOSE ashes? He will redeem them, my sin, into something beautiful. If I'll let him.

More and more over these past few months, I have come to realize that redemption is God's MO. Where there is hurt, anger, or despair, He wants to redeem it. Where there is hatred, unforgiveness, or disobedience, He wants to redeem it. Where there is any sort of yuck that we humans can come up with, God wants to make something good out of it. If we'll let him.

Recently, I have had the privilege to pray for a friend who is confronting something that is potentially devastating for her family. I (and others) had been praying for her as she took an extremely painful and scary step toward healing; one that she has been putting off for a long time - while she slowly wasted away.

I have found great joy in praying for her. That joy comes from the confidence I have that God desires to redeem her life and her relationships - that he WANTS to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. I just know that's what he wants. Redemption is what he is about. She just had to let God do it.

My friend called me today, and I could hear the smile on her face. God is answering prayers in very specific ways.... and I am not surprised.

He redeems.

He gives us beauty for our ashes. I'm watching it happen.

There are not words to express how my heart wants to praise my loving God.

Hard to Believe

That it has been a year. A whole year since Bethany joined our family.

It's been a good year. Hard at the beginning - for a lot of reasons that had little to do with Bethany. I wish I'd had more of my wits about me when we were in China and for those first few weeks at home. It all seems like a blur to me. And when I look at that sweet face in those photos from a year ago, I find myself wishing that I had done a better job of remembering for her - what she was like, what China was like. I wish that I had been better prepared for how difficult that time really was; wish I had done a better job of being her mom rather than worrying about myself.

Nevertheless, I couldn't be happier to have her in our family. She brings me joy. Much joy. And she has come a long way in this year. Come to think of it, so have I.

I am proud to be her mom.

And Bethany, I am so glad you are here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Amen and amen.