Saturday, May 26, 2012

Planters and Petunias

This whole home-owner thing has created a beast within me. A few months ago, we found some flower planter troughs at Salvation Army for $2.79 each.  I thought it seemed like a pretty good deal.  After all, the tags and hanging hardware were still attached.  Even better.  The real price was missing, so I was unaware of our savings margin.

I thought we needed new hardware because the brackets on the basket hung over the railing too far, so I ventured to Lowes.  I strutted my way past the DIY kits to the inner aisles, where people who really know what they are doing shop.  I found my L-brackets and proudly paid for them.  Turns out, we didn't need them (we are dummies and didn't know you could flip the brackets upside down), but I did peak at some of the planters they were selling just to see the price comparison (because, well, don't all of us cheap skates do that?  Of course!).
20 bucks.  Whhhhaaaat?!?!  Hmm, I paid $3 instead of $20.  That would be an 85% savings, folks.  Booooooooya.

The sweet hub set them up for me and taught me how to plant them and prune the flowers inside.  He is the best (unless you are planting flowers in a tree bed and a frog leaps out at you when you are moving mulch- in which case you will scream and he will throw a hunk of dirt at your face that was intended to-what, kill???-the toad)!
I purchased the petunias at Walmart for about $3 each and the geraniums in the middle were from Mother's Day at church.  It took us a few days to plant them, so hopefully they survive.  I thought about putting something more lively in the middle, but they are special to me!

I'll say it once and say it again- the sole purpose of weeds has got to be evidence of the fall of man.  Really.  Hurray for spending most of our day tomorrow picking them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Bridge

This week was the last full week of school and our last FCA meeting.  I am looking forward to a summer off more than I ever have before, but I can honestly say this is the first year that I'm not looking forward to letting some of my cherished ones go.  Don't get me wrong- I love all of my students.  Sure, some get on our nerves a little quicker than others, but I still enjoy them.  That being said, there are some students that you have a special connection to.  For me this year, it was a few students that I was able to share Jesus with.  They were students that came in on Monday afternoons after school for a bible study with me.  They were students that I have seen grow in their relationship with Christ and lead others in doing the same.  They are students I wish, with all of my might, could stay in our school and sew with me every single day.  If this is what it feels like to have to let them go, how much harder is it to be a parent?  I can only hope that I will get to feel this ache with my own children one day.

For the last FCA meeting, we prepared a pancake breakfast (note to self- do not make scratch pancakes with 1 part half-n-half just so you can clean out the fridge unless you want cakes that take 10 minutes to cook.  Woof).  I shared a short message with the kids because several had invited friends that don't normally come (most likely for the food) and I wanted them to hear Jesus.  They needed to hear Jesus... not because they are especially unruly, but because we all do.  I used an illustration I learned in college when my husband and I were part of an on-campus ministry group called The Navigators.  Its easy to learn and clearly explains the gospel, so I thought I would share it so you can use it!

Step 1:  God's Love and His Plan
God created us in his own image to be his friend and have a relationship with him, one the allows us to enjoy him and know him.  He created us to experience joy and abundance of life.
  • Jesus said, "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
  • So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)  He looked at his created and said it was very good and was delighted in it.
  •  Ask:  Since God planned for us to have peace and abundant life right now, why are most people not having this experience?
Step 2: Our Problem:  Separation from God
Even though this was God's plan for us, man chose to rebel against him, both in the garden through The Fall and ever since.  This means that we are separate from God.  The bible tells us that if we do not belong to God, we are his enemies-an enemy to the One who created the universe and holds it for eternity?  Frightening thought for sure. 
  • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
  • "Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27)
  • "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6)
Because we are sinful, we deserve death- not just a physical death, but a spiritual one.  This death means that we deserve to spend eternity without God and in eternal punishment:  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  On  your own, there is no way to bridge the gap to God, because the only way to get there is through perfection.  We cannot jump to him by earning our way through good works, religious duties, money, or wisdom.  We don't get a second chance after we die.  What can we do?

Step 3: God's Remedy:  The Cross

Jesus Christ is the only answer to this problem. He died on the cross and rose from the grave, paying the penalty for our sin and bridging the gap between God and people.
  • "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God..." (I Peter 3:18)
  • "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ." (I Timothy 2:5)
  • "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
God didn't have a plan that was suddenly taken off track by man.  While it's an attribute of God we will never fully understand on Earth, God knows all things for eternity.  He gives us free will to choose.  Even though he designed us for a certain purpose, we chose not to take it.  We sinned and we fell.  But, before we chose to rebel, he designed the plan of salvation.  Christ wasn't a man born 2000 years ago.  We was and is God:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:1-5)

Step 4:  Our Response

Believing means trust and commitment - acknowledging our sinfulness, trusting Christ's forgiveness and letting Him control our life. Eternal, abundant life is a gift for us to receive.
  • "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
  • "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)
  • Ask:  Is there any reason why you shouldn't cross over to God's side and be certain of eternal life?
If you believe in Christ, admit you are a sinner and confess your sins, believe Christ died for you and rose again, and invite Christ to be Lord and Savior over your life, then the Bible says that you can be sure you have eternal life.
  • "...for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)
  • "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:12-13)
Once you have received Christ, you are reborn into a new family- one you will be a part of for eternity.  You can rest assured that the same God who made you and saved you is the same one who will keep you.

The offer is for everyone.  Just because you know these truths exist does not mean you are saved:  "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder."  (James 2:19)  You must trust and place commitment in the only Savior that has the power to stand before God and claim you as holy and blameless because of his blood- Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chilaquiles Casserole

Mexican Lasagna of sorts.
Mmmmmm.
That's all I can say to start this one.

I don't know about you, but I am always looking for new things to do with chicken... and ground beef... and everything else.  I don't really like to cook with a lot of ingredients, partly because I am cheap (and more ingredients means more moolah), partly because we try to eat meals that are fresh and simple.

The foods teacher that I teach with made this recipe with her kiddos during their international foods unit the day before Cinco de Mayo.  There was a lot leftover, so I was able to have some for lunch and was officially addicted (yep, your thoughts are confirmed.  I do have the best job ever). Might I add that I'm almost certain I ate my weight in guacamole to go with it?

My husband really liked it (even emailed me at work to say how great it was!), and it also allowed me to finally use some of my very own Cilantro that we've been growing.  I am woman, hear me roar!

P.S. You can make this in the microwave.  Helllllo!  I will most likely bake this in the oven on days when I want to feel overly domestic... or make my husband think I actually accomplish something during the summer other than cackle at The View and catch up on Greys.


Ingredients
  • 4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans Rotel with juices
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (you can leave this out)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce (confession- I used Louisiana hot sauce and couldn't tell the diff)
  • 6-9 Corn Tortillas (I will go out of my way to get to Trader Joes just for their corn tortillas)
  • 2 cups Cheese (cheddar, chedda jack, mexi-blend, whatever)
Directions
  • Cook and shred chicken (ideas-bake, crockpot, saute or boil).  Chop cilantro.
  • Once chicken is finished and shredded, start a sauce pan with some light extra virgin olive oil.  Add onions and cooked chicken and cook until onions are translucent, but not caramelized.  Add rotel, chilies, cilantro, and Tabasco to chicken.  Mix together.
  • Spray your pan.  Layer:  Tortilla, chicken mixture, cheese.  Repeat until gone.
  • Microwave for 5-10 minutes or bake at 350 for 15 minutes-ish.
  • Serve with fresh guacamole/tomatoes/tortilla chips/obligatory vegetable.  I will share my guac recipe later (delicious, healthy, and Aldi had avocados on sale for only $.29 each.  They were so good!).
P.S. Blogger Secret- Whatever is not in the picture is a total disaster.  Check my kitchen:
Ya.  Pigsty.

P.P.S. My bakeware is Temptations from QVC.  It's dishwasher, microwave, freezer, and oven safe and oh, oh so cute.  Comes with trivets and lids too.  You need some, I promise!

Skip To My Lou

Monday, May 7, 2012

Garden Update

First of all, I wanted to say thank you for the love and encouragement that Daniel and I have received since confessing our fertility struggles.  I know people are praying for us and, to be honest, we have felt comfort in knowing we don't have to go through this alone.  A struggle regardless, our burden has truly felt lighter.  Several people have contacted us about their same struggles, and it has been a blessing to be allowed to walk together in this difficult journey.  I won't be updating frequently on the issue, but we will let you know if developments arise.

I was listening the radio this morning and they were discussing the names of God.  Someone said that no matter the name of your ailment- sickness, depression, unemployment or infertility- Christ's name is stronger.  He knows everything and has it under control.  Everything in our lives has been decreed and allowed by God.  Like a parent, he doesn't want us to be in pain over this.  But, for some reason, He wants us to walk through this.  Sweet relief.

Anyway, back to baseline.  When I married Daniel, he was anxious to teach me how to garden and grow plants because it was something he enjoyed doing, knows a lot about, and it was something we could do while spending time together .  Since we moved into our house, we've done quite a bit of landscaping and finally put in a garden.
We have made some headway on our farm garden (work has been so busy and it has rained a lot!), so I wanted to update you with how things have been going and what we have been up to!

On March 17, we started with seeds in planters using seed-starter soil.  We kept them in front of the back window in our dining room on tv trays (which was totally tacky and I hated it).

Here are some sproutlets at 3-5 days post-plant:

Check those babies out after 2 weeks (beginning of April)!  We had to transplant several green bean and tomato plants to their own pots so they could actually grow and live because they were getting so big.  At this point we weren't out of the clear of a frost (welcome to the Midwest), so we were fearful of planting outdoors just yet. They moved from TV trays to our kitchen table.  Even tackier.

Last weekend we finally planted the garden and finished it up during the week (it took us 3 different days to plant!).  We planted 7 jalapeno plants, 18 regular tomato plants, 13 cherry tomato plants, 6 cucumber plants, 5 sweet pepper plants, 18 green bean plants, 9 radish plants, 9 lettuce plants, and 2 blueberry bushes.  We ran out of room for the cantaloupe, so we are trying to figure out where we can put them so we don't have to give them up all together.  We tilled the ground with a rent-a-tiller from Bledsoe Rentals ($40), laid down landscaping timbers for a border (they were only $1.97 for an 8-ft timber!), and attached some rabbit fencing so that those pesky little critters don't eat my plant babies.  Here is where we are at as of right now:
 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Cross We Bear

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a wife and a mom.  I had an awful self esteem growing up, so I never thought either of those things would happen because I was just so gosh darn undesirable.  When I met my husband, I could not believe this was the man God had prepared for me- a man who was everything I had dreamt of and desired and who loved me for me, even considering all of my imperfections.  A man who, above all, loved me because I loved Jesus.  A man who wanted nothing more in this world than to see me grow in my relationship with the Lord and lead me in doing so.  That was this man.  Through Daniel the Lord made me a wife, he made me a daughter-in-law, he made his family my family and my family his.  I assumed one day he would make me a mom.

Isn't that what we are told?  Once we hit a certain age, we get married.  Surely someone will come along and sweep you off your feet.  Married life will be perfect and, once we feel like something is missing, we will get pregnant and finally feel "complete".  Getting pregnant will be easy, I will carry a basketball belly with pride, and eventually welcome a perfectly healthy baby into the world.

No, No, and-guess what?-No.

I've always loved babies and, throughout college, worked in daycare centers and preschools.  We were married for about 3.5 years before we started "trying".  Waiting that long really wasn't too difficult.  I knew early in our marriage we couldn't afford a baby, and I knew that getting married when we were 20 and still in school meant we would be waiting until we were at least graduated, if not longer. We prayed for years that the Lord would clearly tell us when he wanted us to have a baby.  We finally felt it was time last August.

I cannot tell you the excitement I felt ditching the pill and thinking-wow- I could be carrying our son or daughter in just a few weeks.  The night we decided to start trying, I got 3 hours of sleep.  Daniel snored.  In my head, I ran through images of decorated nurseries and rocking a crying baby.  I imagined our families with us in the hospital, passing around a sweet, tightly wrapped baby, telling us how proud they were of us.  I was giddy.  At the time, Daniel's sister was pregnant and we wanted to be conscious and considerate of this exciting time for them.  We didn't want their special time to be interrupted with exciting news from us.  We knew one day our time would come.  We weren't not trying, but we weren't obsessed with it.  Once we knew we could get pregnant and keep it a secret until after my niece was born, we got serious.

I thought, at most, it might take 2-3 months to conceive.  I battled long cycles, ovarian cysts, progesterone deficiencies and anovulatory cycles.  Every time we had a new chance to try for a baby, we were optimistic, only to be devastated when it didn't work.  The problem was with me and, to be quite honest, I felt broken and ashamed.  The natural thing God had intended for me to do since the beginning of time- and given me an intense desire to do-wasn't working right.  I looked at my husband, saw him fall in love with the thought of being a Daddy, and my heart was broken.  Did he wish he had married someone else so he could have babies?  Absolutely not.  Not ever.  But I told myself it was a possibility.  Did his parents wish he had married someone else for that same reason?  Absolutely not.  Not ever.  But I told myself it was a possibility.  Were my parents disappointed that they couldn't be grandparents yet?  Absolutely not.  Not ever.  But I told myself it was a possibility. 

It seemed like everyone else around me could get pregnant with ease.  It felt like we were "left out" because everyone our age had kids and took their kids to places that are kid friendly-together.  It felt like no one wanted to be around us or talk to us because they were just waiting for the moms with babies to walk in so they could hold them, cuddle them, and laugh about all the funny little things they do.  To be honest, we felt invisible. We felt like we could no longer bring anyone else joy because it was clearly our time to have a baby and we seemed to not want one.  People would ask us if we had the "baby bug", if this cute little baby in someones arms "made us want one", and would predict when we would have one, nudging us with "you're next".  Deep down, all of those comments were like a knife being twisted in my gut.  No, we don't have the "baby bug".  We have been praying for years and feel called to be parents and want to raise kids to know, love, and serve the Lord.  Yes, other babies make me want to be a mom so badly that it's, at times, too much to bear.  You can nudge me all you want, but it hurts.  We've been trying and it's killing us.  But I never wanted to say that-out loud at least. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but mostly I didn't want to admit that those things were true. And, stepping back, I can see now that these people were just trying to be supportive by telling us they thought we'd be great parents... and knew it would bring us joy.  It was their way of supporting us.

But, again, the world lies to us.  It tells us that if a couple doesn't have children, it's because they've chosen to not have any.  It tells us that people who do not yet have children are waiting for the "perfect timing" and aren't relying on God to provide.  Because we are supposed to carry this burden and fight this battle in silence, we are hurt by comments and actions that we view as insensitivity instead of ignorance.  How are they supposed to see the hurt inside of me?  We are trained to think that "support" means trying to say the magical words to make the hurt go away. No matter what is said, it almost always makes it worse.  The most comforting thing I ever heard was "I don't know what this feels like.  I don't know what God's trying to lead you to understand.  I do know that it must be hard for you.  I do know that nothing will make this better.  I do know that I will commit to praying for you."  After I mustered up enough guts to admit our struggle out loud, I was comforted beyond explanation in knowing that other people have gone through the same thing, that I wasn't alone and that, finally, someone understood me.

No, I don't have a chronic condition making it hard for me to conceive.  No, there is nothing wrong with my husband.  Yes, we still are not pregnant.  Yes, we are trying, and we are hopeful.  And yes, we are undergoing testing and treatments to help us have a baby.  When you start to taste the pain of infertility, it's easy to fall into an emotional "cycle" along with your body.  Starting with hope, moving on to anticipation, and ending in devastation.  The few things I can say, with confidence, are these.

My marriage has reached new heights I could never imagine.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God designed my life before I was conceived to include such a wonderfully strong and godly man.  There is no person I would rather talk to, rather listen to, or rather run home to.  No matter how much time we spend together, it never seems to be enough- I thirst for more.  I grieve to know he feels this pain, but if, for some reason, we could never have a child, I would be content and cherish my life with only him.

One day, I will be able to testify to my child that they were wanted.  They were prayed for.  They were worth the wait and pain.  Sadly, too few children get to hear that.

And lastly, I know that if I believe the God of the Universe created me for His purpose and to glorify himself, then whatever and however he chooses to do that very thing should be what I desire. A few weeks ago, I wrote this while taking notes on the sermon at church:

I thought, "Am I more determined to let Christ be glorified in my life or more determined to have a baby?"  I confess that my attitude, at times during this journey, has been the latter.  I should be honored to be worthy to carry such a burden for the sake of the one who bought me for a price, who authored my salvation and completed it through suffering on my behalf.  A new month brings new hope, and, today, I set my eyes on the One whose timing and plan is far better than ours.

I hesitated in writing and posting this.  I sent Daniel draft after draft.  I cringe at the thought of attracting attention, especially for something like this.  I fear everyone will know our "business", will think of me as the selfish woman who wouldn't shut up about her baby frustrations, and will pity us.  We don't want attention and we don't want pity.  We want prayer.  We have a burden and have a desire for those who love us to help us carry our burden.  In the end, I wanted to write this because I know other people are fighting this battle in silence, carrying their burden alone, crumbling under its weight.  There is no need to go through this alone.  Finding journeys common to ours has given me peace, hope, and lift from this heavy heart.  If you are going through something similar to this, I hope you are able to find support and encouragement in knowing that you are not alone.  You will one day be someone who will help another in ways you cannot fathom, simply by listening and understanding their pain.  If you know someone going through this, give a little extra love.  Consider them on Mothers/Fathers day, give them some grace when their pain seems to consume them, and seek to spend some alone time with them.  It makes the heavy laden a little less heavy, even if you can't find the words to make it better.

My sweet sister-in-law texted me this verse this afternoon:
Romans 5:3-5
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.


If this is the cross we have to bear, I thank God for letting us do so.  Come, Lord Jesus!
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