Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TMTT


Good morning!  I hope you are all doing well and I hope you are starting to see an improvement in the conditions of those who have been affected by the storm.  

Although delayed, I am very excited about this post because I have some guest contributors today!  I have gotten many exciting ideas for my typical tuesday posts in hopes that I can make it more fun and share even more tips with you!  I have decided to start having “guest contributors” for my blogs.  Periodically I will be asking friends of mine to chime in and answer some questions and share some tips with all of you.  I will also be doing interviews down the road with people from different aspects of life...maybe even from a man!  lol  
I will still be doing Q&A, but keep your eyes open for guest writers on here, and also keep your eyes open because I might be asking YOU for your input on a future post!

So for today’s post I asked 3 friends of mine for their input on meal planning!  I asked each of them to send me a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that they commonly use in their homes.  Jennifer is a friend of mine from Zion and she is a mom to 3 children (2 girls and a boy).  Chrissy is actually my beautiful cousin and is mom to 2 daughters (who also makes and decorates AMAZING cakes).  Gina is also a friend from Zion and she works full time and is mom to a daughter.  They are all friends of mine on facebook if you want to friend them and check them out!  They all were so awesome in sharing their tips...they gave me some great ideas-thank you so much girls!!  Hope you enjoy and hope this helps give you some ideas!!  I also have posted a picture of my current menu that I have posted for the week to give you an idea of what I make in a typical week.  

Breakfast- 
  1. Ok for breakfast, a favorite here is apple and cinnamon oatmeal and I add a drop of maple syrup on top and it's been an almost everyday fav! Sometimes I'll split a banana between the two kids with it.” -Chrissy
  2. “For breakfast, my kids LOVE "Egg-in-a-hole" Basically, you tear a small hole (about the size of a half dollar) out of the middle of a slice of bread. You melt the butter in a frying pan, put the bread on top, and crack an egg into the hole. Cook to desired egg "doneness" lol - and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. A great idea (if you didn't already know it) is when cutting pancakes, waffles, toast, etc. use a pizza cutter! It goes so much faster and easier :)” -Jen
  3. “A breakfast we like a lot is steel cut oatmeal - but we make with coconut or almond milk instead of water. Much better tasting and for you! Then we add a few chocolate chips for added yummy flavor!
    Also, most Saturdays are pancake or waffle days. We try to do all different types of pancakes. Our favorite is banana-walnut pancakes. I also swear by my electric pancake griddle. You can make 9 regular sized pancakes at a time, rather than just a few on a pan on the stove--Something large families I'm sure would love
    :-)
    We also make blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, and when we make plain pancakes- we use a pancake pen...Because plain pancakes need a little fun added
    :-)”Gina

Lunch- 
  1. “I give them grilled cheese on whole wheat bread- recently I found toasting whole wheat bread, a bit of butter and two peices of cheese is a fun way to switch it up and it's a time saver-as opposed to getting the pan out, etc.”- Chrissy
  2. “For lunch, I usually do PB&J with a piece of fruit or fruit cup and a class of organic milk.”  -Jen
  3. (Gina works full time and packs her daughter’s lunch for school) “Sunday night, I pack 2 lunches using her planet box lunchboxes. I Put them in the fridge overnight. Those are Monday and Wednesdays lunches. Tuesdays are pizza lunch day a school, and Tuesdays I work till 8, so this is what works best for me.
    Then on Wednesday night, I pack two more lunches for Thursday and Friday. (Note-- i do add crackers or snap pea crisps or other foods that may get soggy sitting in the fridge in the morning!- I usually write on a post it "add crackers" and stick it to the lunch box so I don't forget!)
    She gets a "main meal" it can be pasta, a half sandwich, cold cuts, dinner leftovers, chicken nuggets...
    She always has a fruit- orange slices, mango, pineapple, berries, banana...
    She always has a veggie- baby carrots and slices of cucumber are a big hit (ranch to dip!), a scoop frozen peas - she can warm them at school, but sometimes eats them cold as well, cut up sweet potato, cherry tomatoes..
    She has A protein- if her "Main meal" isn't chicken or a meatball or another protein, I will include something like Greek yogurt, cheese stick, a protein pancake                                                                    She also gets a "dessert" - maybe a peppermint patty, 5 lemonheads (that's how many fit in the dessert compartment of her lunchbox!) a small brownie or cookie, a fruit leather strip....” -Gina

Dinner-
  1. “The kids love whole wheat twirly pasta with butter, parmesan cheese mixed with either cooked peas or broccoli. It's a simple easy go-to dish for us and can be made ahead of time! Just add a little bit of butter and parm cheese to cooked pasta and add your cooked vegetable! Sometimes i add roasted chicken breast to it or buy sliced Boarshead classic chicken, cube it up, heat it and add it as well..just a quick alternative!” - Chrissy
  2. “One of the kids favorite dinners is my lemon butter chicken and brown rice. The chicken is prepared in a frying pan on the stove - sauteed in butter until browned. Then, Add the juice of one lemon. I then transfer that to a oven safe dish, cover it with onions (sliced) and button mushrooms and an extra TBSP of butter and let it cook in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. I serve it with brown rice and steamed broccoli.” -Jen
  3. “We both work late, and dinner is not on my fun list of things to do at 7 pm... So I have been becoming good friends with my crockpot!
    And Pinterest! I get many meal idea there! Here is a favorite of mine- pasta fagioli:
    http://www.favfamilyrecipes.com/2012/08/olive-garden-pasta-e-fagioli-soup.html
    Oh, and this is a must make!! Copy cat Chick-fil-A nuggets and sauce! We don't have a Chick-fil-A by us, and we miss it!
    http://iowagirleats.com/2012/03/01/chick-fil-a-bites-with-honey-mustard-dipping-sauce/comment-page-1/#comment-1045866
    Also- lasagna is a good dinner- easy and you can freeze individual squares for quick go to lunches as a later time!” -Gina

And below is a picture of my menu for the past week.  I wanted you to see my format, but I know it's too small to see so her is the list form of what is on this menu:

  • Breakfasts 
    • Cheese filled crescent rolls, Cereal, Egg toast (which is the exact thing Jen had on her breakfast part!), Pizza toast, cereal, buttered bagels, and pancakes (that I make the day before and freeze)
  • Fruit- I dont put it on the menu b/c they know every day at 10am they can grab a piece of fruit
  • Lunch 
    • Italian wedding soup, Cold cuts & cheese & crackers, Cheese quesadillas, Pigs in a blanket, Grilled cheese, Minestrone soup w/ homemade pizza, & Pot roast w/ veggies (Sunday's lunches are more of a dinner meal, and then we eat light leftovers for dinner) (I also never write down side dishes because it's a rotation of whatever fruits & veggies or whatever I have on hand.
  • Snack- 
    • Granola bar, Cheese stick, Oatmeal cookies, Cinn. graham crackers, Goldfish, Brownies, & Misc 
  • Dinner- 
    • Crock pot lasagna, Chicken & veggies, Leftovers, Tacos, Chicken cutlets, Chicken pot pie, & Leftovers


I find you should have one or two nights of leftovers/smorgasbord because otherwise it is really easy to waste food.  My kids actually enjoy when I call it smorgasbord because they think it's fun to eat a mishmash of different things...and I like that it teaches them that we don't waste food.  I also plan meals according to Jeff's work schedule- the best meals will be made on his busiest work days b/c I think it's a nice gesture and a mood lifter.  And I always make enough for him to bring to work- we don't buy meals out, we pack him what I make...saves money that way.  And soup meals are also great because I can just throw it all in in the morning and then it's ready for when you want it...I usually do this on Jeff's day off so I can be around him more instead of in the kitchen.


Food is one of my favorite topics, so I loved doing this post...Hope you enjoyed it as much as me! lol


Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Delay

Hello friends...I truly hope you all find yourselves well.  I am currently writing this Monday night just in case we lose power, so I do not know what Hurricane Sandy has done yet, but I pray that you are safe.  Out of respect and consideration for those who find themselves dealing with the aftermath of this storm (including my parents and sister on Long Island), I am delaying my usual Tuesday post until Wednesday or maybe even Thursday.  My prayers are with everyone who has been affected. <3 font="font" nbsp="nbsp">

Friday, October 26, 2012

Worth It All

I want to talk about marriage today....but wait!  Don't stop reading if you are not married.  I believe that most areas of life can be conducted under the same principles.  What I mean is that the principles I apply to marriage are principles that can and should be applied to all other areas of life.  It comes down to character...whether you are married or not.

In all honesty, I have an insanely great marriage.  There are nights we just lay in bed and talk about how thankful we are for each other and for the marriage we have.  Yea, yea, I know it's really sappy...but it's true.  However, when we were first married we used to fight like crazy!  People in the married dorms could hear us fighting from way down the hall.  It took us some time to learn how the other person worked and how to fight properly.  A big problem was that Jeff just was not used to the behaviors of a seriously Italian woman. ;)  For those of you who are also unaccustomed to us Italians, we have 2 passions- food (specifically bread and pasta) and fighting.  We don't see it as fighting though...we see it as all talking really loud at the same time about some hot topic.  And when you are done fighting (usually hours later), you then all go into the kitchen and start reheating the meal you were eating earlier.  What's not to love??  

But seriously, we have endured quite a bit in our nearly 9 years of marriage.  We have had 2 miscarriages, 6 children, buried 2 loved ones, been through 3 surgeries, 2 hospital stays, my illness, 7 moves, a challenging ministry, and now are 2 years deep into a wilderness period.  It's enough to break you.  Yet we find our marriage to be stronger now than ever before.  And it comes down to our personal walks with God.

I have read many books on marriage, and most of them are good.  However, I find that no matter how many tools you have, you cannot build unless you have a foundation.  If I had followed a lot of common dating advice, then Jeff and I would not be married.  We have completely different interests- I like to be active, watch movies, and talk.  Jeff likes to sit down, watch sports, and not talk, lol.  He was called to be a pastor; I told him I think church is boring.  He moves at a snails' pace; I move on fast forward.  He hates messes and pranks; I instinctively get into shenanigans.  He is quiet; I am loud.

I tell single girls any chance I get not to have a “list” of what you want in a guy.  I don’t think thats wrong, I just think that it really does not matter.  With all of our differences, Jeff and I have learned the art of compromise.  I learned about sports and Jeff learned to sit through movies.  I learned how not to fight over everything, and Jeff learned how to fight with me when I needed it.  These differences we have can easily be resolved over time.

What can not be easily resolved and what is really the only thing that matters is character.  Jeff and I got engaged 6 months after we started dating, and got married 8 months after that.  I married Jeff because I loved him, I felt God was leading us together, and because we had the blessings of our families and other leaders in our lives.  But the only thing I really knew about him was that he loved Jesus more than anyone or anything in this world.  He prayed and read his Bible every single day, and he had...and still has...an unmovable integrity.  That is the only thing you should have on a list.

Every day you make choices.  These choices become more magnified when life gets really, really hard.  It is easy to pull away and even easier to compromise.  The desert has a strange way of making our convictions seem less and less viable.  We start to allow ourselves little indulgences which quickly and without warning turn into little erosions in our character.  These erosions can eventually crack your foundation.  That is why it is so important to maintain your integrity even in the hardest of times.  It is tempting for Jeff and I to just “check out”...but we don’t.  We fight to stay connected, we fight to maintain our standards, and we fight to keep our feet steady on the path.  And the reward for that is an intimacy that you cannot fake- both an intimacy with each other and an intimacy with God.

The thing is, this diligence does not depend on what the other person is doing.  Marriage is not 50/50...it’s 100/100.  You need to be pulling 100%.  And sometimes your spouse is really going through the ringer and only pulls 30%...that means you need to pull 170%.  See that?  Character does not count the tallies...it simply does what needs to be done when it needs to be done.  Sometimes you fall and he carried you...and sometimes it’s the other way around.  But all the time you need to be remembering that marriage- just like life- is about making every choice a God-honoring choice.  

Jeff and I are walking hand in hand.  There is not a day that goes by that I am not eternally grateful for the man God gave me for a husband.  He is everything I wanted and way more.  He has my utmost respect.  We are each giving all we have to God, and thus each other.  We have walked through valleys that had shadows of death upon them...but we keep walking.  We keep praying. We keep loving.  We keep believing.  We keep pursuing.  We are never giving up.

Make sure you can say that about your life.  Maybe your marriage is great and maybe it’s not.  Maybe you’re single.  The specifics don’t matter because the principles are the same- and that is to make sure that you are walking the walk.  You need to keep praying.  You need to keep loving.  You need to keep believing.  You need to keep pursuing.  Don’t you ever give up.

You do that...and just wait and see what He will do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

TMTT

You may have noticed there is an extra "T" in the title of this post....ok, you probably didn't notice, but I will explain anyway.  Continuing with my alliteration skills, I decided to add an extra word to my Tuesday posts...it is now technically "Talk to Me & Tip Tuesdays".  I added "tip" because I will be periodically be sharing tips on different things, as well as favorites and just all around things I think of that I would like to share with you.  K?

So I was all excited to write this blog about some of my favorite books, but as the week went on I got very panicked...I have read hundreds and hundreds of books- how will I EVER manage to a) remember them all and b) condense them down to just a few favorites????  I just know that after I post this I will suddenly remember a whole bunch of awesome books.  

Before we get to that, I do want to answer a question that got sent my way this week.  I think it’s a great question...one that I know people are wondering, and also one that I wonder about other families. Here goes!

  1. How do you make ends meet?
Suffice to say, it is not cheap to keep 8 people fed, clothed, etc.  I am a stay-at-home mom, so the only income we have comes from Jeff.  He works 2 jobs to make ends meet...he works part time at the church and full time at a warehouse.  He works about 50 hours a week, give or take, and he makes enough to pay our bills.  However, we make a lot of sacrifices so I can stay home.  There are a lot of things we do not have or do not do because we chose to be a one income large family.  We do not own a home yet. Until this year we have always had just one car.  We have never owned a new car- when we have bought a car we have bought cars that are old and used because we save up and pay cash for it.  We shop at thrift stores, amazon and on ebay.  We do not have cable, nor do we have nice cell phones (we do the Straightalk plan, which is half the price of our old Sprint cell phone bill).  We do our best to live debt-free.  We do not take regular vacations, do not have lavish birthdays or holidays, and we generally just live very simply.  We don’t have a lot of wiggle room financially, but our needs are met.  I am so very blessed to have such a hard working husband, and I love the family life we are creating which focuses on our relationships rather than things.

And here is the book list!  I have made categories, because there are just so many different kinds of books I love!  Each category will have a few of my favorites in it.  Like I said earlier, this is definitly a “first draft”...I am sure I will come up with many more of my favorite books, and so I think I may do something like this every couple of months!  Also- next week I will be sharing some of my menu items.  I have a rotation of things that I make for breakfast and lunch for the kids, and I will be sharing that with you.  

Happy reading!

Fiction-
  1. Cry My Safari by Stefanie DeLeo- Amazing book written by my sister.  Different storyline, fast-paced, and a GREAT read. You can get it on Amazon and also on your kindle or nook.  She is also a published playwright...you can find her writer’s page on facebook- Stefanie DeLeo, Writer
  2. Hunger Games
  3. Left Behind series- I have read all the books several times- love it!
  4. Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers- I like all three but the first two are the best
  5. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks- AMAZING book
  6. Pride and Prejudice 

Non-Fiction
  1. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson- Very inspiring
  2. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson- Makes you want to pick a fight...in a good way :)
  3. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge- Must read for women
  4. Jesus Freaks by DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs
  5. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala

Pregnancy Books
  1. The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy by Vickie Iovine
  2. The Girlfriend’s Guide to the First Year of Motherhood by Vickie Iovine
  3. The Girlfriend’s Guide to Toddlers by Vickie Iovine
  4. The Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Your Groove Back by Vickie Iovine                                                                                     -Clearly I love her books..she is not a Christian author, but her books are so great...not only are they accurate, but they are HILARIOUS!  I have all of them practically memorized.

If I had to pick one book to be my ultimate favorite, other than the Word of God, I would have to say it would be Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.  I read it every year and it is encouraging, heartwarming, inspiring, and touching.  

I am DEFINITLY going to do a “Part 2” to this list another time.  There are so many books I just know I am leaving out...so for now, hope you enjoy some of these!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

This Side of Heaven

I am just taking a brief moment from my normal posting because today is a day that never goes by unfelt.  Four years ago today this world lost a husband, a friend, a youth pastor, a worship pastor, and just a all-around great guy.  Heaven's gain cost us our tears.

I am forever grateful that one of my sons has the privilege of bearing his name.  When he gets older and asks me about it, I will gladly tell him about the great person he was named after.

I still think of him on certain Monday mornings.  I still can't sing the line "You give and take away" without crying.  And I still wish I could hear him tell a story one more time.

We still miss you Landen.  See you on the other side.


Friday, October 19, 2012

For Frodo


I have a confession to make.  I wrote the blog for today and I am not publishing it.  I wrote in depth about my medical condition but I am just not ready to share it yet.  I am not talking about the facts of my condition, which a lot of you know- I am talking about how I feel about it.  What it does to me on the inside.  It’s just too personal and I am not ready to go there just yet.  One day I will...I’m just not ready right now.

But there is one aspect of it that I do want to talk about today: fear.  Fear is the enemy that many people do not know they have.  Fear can cause us to hide our true selves. Fear can cause us to give up before we even try.  Fear can keep us complacent.  

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” -FDR  This is very, very true.  When you break down your fear and you take a hard look at what it is that is keeping you hostage, you will realize that the fear itself is the worst offender.  You can deal with the consequences of pursuing the fight...but you can never deal with the fight from the sidelines.  

If I haven’t mentioned it before, let me just tell you that I love movies.  I love to sit and just watch a good movie.  One movie I really like is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  There is a scene from The Return of the King that illustrates my point very well.  This is the third movie in the trilogy, and the end is near.  Frodo and Sam have finally come to the end of their journey and the only thing standing between them and their final destination is an entire army of foul creatures.  They are unable to pass without being seen, so the men of the country unite in one final attempt to help Sam and Frodo...they decide to storm the gates and draw the army out to fight, thus giving Frodo and Sam a chance to cross the land undetected.  The problem is, the men were so outnumbered by the army that victory was impossible.  And yet they fought.

The scene in the movie was very moving.  The men charged into a battle they knew they would lose...all in hopes of a greater victory.  The worst thing that could happen to them was death- and they did not fear that.  Because they did not fear the worst, they were able to perform at their best.  Victory was theirs before the battle even began.

I encourage you enter the fight.  I encourage you to face the things which keep you from moving forward.  Victory does not always mean winning the fight...victory is a state of the soul.  Victory is something you achieve inside before you even step up to the battle.  The fight is not about the issue at hand, but about who you are going to choose to be.  Maybe that is what you are afraid of.  Maybe you are really afraid that you don’t have what it takes.  Let me remind you that you can lose and still win.  That the sincere pursuit of victory is in itself the victory.  The only way to lose is to not play. You truly have nothing to fear.
But what if I lose?  Yea...but what if you win?  
Let’s roll, friends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TMT


So I went to the store the other day and I had all the kids with me, so of course I got the usual round of questions, comments, and stares!  A woman stopped and started looking at all the kids and saying hi, when Anthony suddenly blurts out "Yes, they are all her kids!"  LOL  I laughed so hard...but seriously, I only have 6...I don't really see what the fuss is all about. :)

Today is another bunch of kid questions...no hot topics today! lol  This is just a casual set of questions I have gotten many times.  And I have to say, these are also questions that I find myself asking other moms too!

1) Do you plan your meals ahead of time?  Do you freeze meals?
Feeding my family takes up more time than anything else that I do (even laundry!).  Every week I make a menu for all meals and snacks.  I do it because I don't like to worry about what I am going to make-I like to have it all planned out so I don't have to think.  It also puts a stop to the "what are we having for dinner/snack/breakfast" questions.  They just go and look at the menu.  And it helps me stay within my grocery budget...if it's not on the menu, I don't buy it.  As for freezing meals...sometimes yes, sometimes no.  We are officially at the point now where I have to double all recipes for them to feed my family, so in order to freeze a meal for later use I would have to quadruple it and I just don't have the pots and pans for that as of now.  I do freeze some things- if I make pancakes or muffins, I make enough for 2 breakfasts and freeze one.  Same with soup...I just make a huge pot full and freeze half.  

2) How much laundry do you do?
I do about 8-10 loads a week.  I do one load of clothes every single day, and then throughout the week there are sheets, towels, and blankets that get washed.  Sometimes I make my own detergent...I have made several different kinds and while I like it in general, I don't always feel that it does a great job with really "dirty" loads- like potty accidents, muddy clothes, etc. so I will buy regular detergent and use it for heavier loads.   

3) Do you ever get any time to yourself?
Yes.  I have a very strict bedtime for my kids, and once they are in bed my day ends.  Unless there is a special occasion, you will not find me doing chores after the kids go to bed, except for taking care of the baby who usually needs one more bottle.  When Jeff is home we spend the night together hanging out.  Sometimes we watch a movie, sometimes read a book...it's our time.  Neither one of us has any real energy or brain power for anything other than that, lol.  It works for me because I LOVE to read.  I read anything I can get my hands on.  All around the house I have books, so I pretty much read whenever I have a few minutes.  Reading and cooking are my major decompressors...cooking I get plenty of, and reading I make sure I get plenty of- keeps me sane. I also get out of the house whether it's to go shopping or hang out with friends.  This doesn't happen all the time, mainly because I don't have the energy, but it does happen pretty much whenever I want.  Jeff is really awesome about letting me get out when I want to.  If you want your marriage to survive these years, you really have to have a giving attitude.  You have to look past your own wants to see if your spouse has a need- and then you have to step up and meet that need.  It's give and take, and you both have to play.  When one of you has been in the ring for a while, you need to extend your hand and let them tag out and catch their breath. And after a while, you will need the tag out and you'll want to make sure your spouse is well rested enough to cover for you.  Don't sacrifice your relationship with your spouse during these years in the trenches of raising kids.  One day your kids will grow up...and you’ll want to make sure you’re still in love with the person you’re sharing a bed with every night.  

4) Do you use cloth or disposable diapers?
Disposable.  I used cloth for 6 months several years ago when I had 4 kids and 3 in diapers.  It was just too much work and too much laundry.  And now that I have 6 kids, I just will not add that much extra work to my life.  Obviously if I had no choice I would, but like I said, I already do 10 loads a week, I cannot add 3 kids in cloth diapers worth of laundry!

In addition to maybe a question or two, I was thinking of sharing a list of my favorite books next week...I always love when good books get recommended to me, so I would like to do the same.  Hope you all have a great week. :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Still You


My mouth is dry.  It’s amazing how fast a parched mouth can consume a drip of water.  Getting water in the desert feels great but when you finish it...man, you finish it.  The heat is suddenly hotter, the sand is suddenly more gritty and your mouth is dryer than before you drank.  

Maybe it’s just perspective.  Maybe I got so accustomed to walking in the desert that I forgot what it feels like to not have to gut it out each and every day.  But when that drip came I got a reminder of what it used to be like...for brief moment I forgot I was actually in a desert.  So when I opened my eyes and saw nothing to the right, left, behind, and ahead...it has become harder to bear than before.  I feel as if I have nothing left to strip away...except my very self.

For the first time I actually feel like my very core is being tested.  Up until now, I have been able to walk this path knowing who I am.  Now, I am not even sure I know that anymore.  No...let me rephrase that.  I know exactly who I am.  The problem is that there is nobody around to see it anymore.

Desert walking is a lonely, lonely path.  It is a time of testing, a time of refining, and a time of trusting everything you have built your life upon.  But you must do it alone.  Yes, people can come alongside you and hold your hands up...but it is you who has to choose to keep going.  At first it doesn’t seem so bad.  It almost seems like an adventure- a time of testing in which you will come out stronger and more prosperous.  You still live your life, although it is a little harder.  You still enjoy the same things, you still have the same interests and you still have the same routines.  But then time goes by.  And then some more time goes by.  And as this time goes by it gets less and less amusing.  You begin to withdraw- not so much in a bad way, but because the fighting is getting harder.  You start to cut the excesses in your life to preserve your strength.  You begin to turn inward and it takes everything you have to get through each day.

And one day you look in the mirror and you realize you have become the fight.

I know.  I know it’s a scary feeling to feel like you are no longer there.  I feel like I have a small glimpse into Job’s life. He went worshipping in the temple and enjoyed having dinner parties with his family and friends.  Maybe he liked to sit on the hill and enjoy the view of the stars at night.  Maybe he enjoyed the thrill of making a really great business deal.  That was who he was...and then it was gone.  Instead of telling jokes over dessert he was alone in a damp room wallowing in grief.  Instead of shaking hands with business parters his hands were covered in bandages to hide the marks of his curse.  Nobody was left to witness the man known as Job.  But he was still there.

And you are still there too.  I promise you will sing again.  You will taste, and see, and feel, and dance, and love, and live.  I know I am writing a lot about the desert and maybe you were hoping I would have something a bit more upbeat, but I set out to write my life.  This is my life right now.  Trust me...when the floodgates open in my life and this difficult season is over I will write about it.  I hope one day you get tired of hearing about how wonderful life is!  But for now, I am being true to my life.  I believe that God is to be honored in all circumstances.  I will testify of the time in the desert just as much I will testify in the time of blessing.  Don’t ever forget that.  Your testimony is now, regardless of where you are.  And don’t ever forget that you do not need witnesses to confirm who you are...you have a Witness.  

You’re still there...let's finish this thing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

TMT

Good morning!  Well, we are back from our wonderful time in Niagara Falls.  The laundry is all done, the suitcases are all put away, and life is starting up again...which means a chance to sit and chat with you!

I tried to group the questions into categories, but today is kind of a mix of stuff.  Again, if you ever want to ask any questions, feel free to e-mail me at artyler@mail.com or facebook me.

1) Can you fast as an offering of gratitude or thanks?
I got this question after I wrote last weeks questions on fasting, but I think it's good to touch on again.  This question was interesting for me, because normally it would seem that any fasting unto the Lord would be good.  And for the most part, I think it is.  The reason I am questioning this one is because it implies more than just fasting.  To fast out of gratitude seems more like you are trying to "earn" the blessings you have been given...like you want to make yourself suffer because you feel unworthy of His blessings.  I do not think that is what fasting is about.  Fasting is about denial of self for the purpose of going deeper- whether it be a pressing need in your life, a spiritual battle, or because He calls you to.  But fasting out of extreme gratitude seems like trying to feel worthy of His goodness, which you will never be.  His blessings are gifts, just like His grace.  We are not worthy of Him, but through Jesus we are redeemed and He takes us to be His own.  I think about how much I love my own kids.  I want to bless them and give them gifts simply because I love them.  And I want them to enjoy it and feel loved, not feel like they have to deny themselves to earn it.  There are better ways to show thanks.  Just love Him, worship Him, and honor Him with your life and with the blessings He has given you.

2)  Did you circumcise your son?
I have 4 sons and the first 3 were circumcised.  I did not circumcise my 4th boy.  Like many things, I did circumcision simply because "everyone does it" and never stopped to research it at all.  Well before I had David I started looking at it and I just was not convinced it was something that should/needed to be done.  Many other countries do not routinely do it, and some even have banned it.  And in America, the statistics for those who circ. versus those who don't in this generation is almost 50-50.  So socially, I do not see a problem, seeing as it will be pretty equal among his peers (not that I expect a lot of show and tell in this area, but still, it's a consideration to some extent).   Second, I see no medical benefit...I actually see it as harmful.  The foreskin has a lot of nerves endings in and is said to play a role in sexual pleasure, so removing that removes part of the sexual experience.  As far as there being fewer UTI's, I think this is absurd.  I won't cut off a healthy part of his body to lower the chance of him possibly getting a UTI.  If he gets a UTI, I will treat it...just like we do for women.  I feel that if he was born with foreskin, then there is probably a reason for it.  There are risks that go along with circumcision, and I do not feel they are worth taking for absolutely no reason.  He was born perfect, I do not see a reason to cut off part of his body.
Now, I am not as passionate about this as other things, mainly because I don't understand the God part of it.  I don't think we should circ. because the Israelites did it.  First, I am not 100% Jewish, nor do I follow any other Jewish customs, and second, I am a Christian and the Bible is clear that under the new covenant of Jesus we do not need to circumcise.  However, I do not understand why God would have circumcision done to begin with.  Was there a reason?  Then why did He create men with foreskin to begin with?  I don't know.  But for me, there are no religious, medical, or social reasons to do it, so I don't.

Just do me and yourself a favor though- when we touch on hot topics, don't start arguing.  Start researching.  Your decisions should come from prayer and understanding, not passion or social expectation.

4) How did Jeff feel about your not circumcising?
I have to take a moment and say that I am very blessed in my marriage.  I have a wonderful husband who accepts and loves me for me and does not try and change that.  That said, he does think I am crazy though!  Sometimes he will say to me "can't you just be normal??", and then he will laugh, knowing that I probably never will be.  This is how I am...I question things and will make a decision whether or not it is popular.  I don't do it to be "rebellious"or to make a point...I am simply living my life and trying to make the best choices for my family.  Ultimately Jeff is the final voice in our home, but he does not flaunt his authority- he takes it seriously and thinks about the matters we discuss.  Jeff wanted David circumcised, but he respected my feelings and allowed me to make the final decision. He knows my heart, he knows that I research before deciding, and he knows that my calling is our family and home and I take that seriously.  So while he doesn't always agree, he does always listen to me and makes his decisions after talking with me.  Communication and the state of your heart are very important in the home and in making big decisions.  Make sure you are being respectful, make sure your heart is right (as opposed to just wanting a fight), and make sure to really listen to your spouse even if you disagree.  Do your best to communicate, and then honor the decision your husband makes, even if you don't agree.  Take it to prayer.  Respect your husband and trust that he is your authority- and that God is his authority.

3) How do you find time to write?
This is a question I asked myself before I started.  The funny thing is, I still don't have the answer!  I do not have a set time each week that I go away and write.  I just incorporate writing into my life, just like anything else.  I think a lot...all day long I am thinking.  So with my writing, I typically am "writing" in my head all day.  I am thinking/tweaking/mulling all day so that when I do sit down to actually type, I already know most of what I am typing because I have "written it" in my head  Make sense?  Sometimes it works out that the kids are playing and I can write in one shot...other times, I get interrupted a million times and it gets written in bits and pieces over the course of a whole day.  Sometimes it is a hassle, but most times it's not- and that is because I really love to write.  There are things I love to do that I just cannot fit into my life without sacrificing something else, so I don't do them.  But this is something I love to do and can work into my life.


Friday, October 5, 2012

A Drip in the Desert


I am writing to you from Niagara Falls!  Me, Jeff, and our six kids are all in Niagara Falls, enjoying the blessings of friendship and rest.  But we almost didn’t make it here.

I have been having a very difficult few weeks physically.  I know I said I will discuss my medical problems in another blog- well this isn’t that blog.  For now, let me just say that I have a condition that flares up every few months and makes my life miserable.  This has been one of the longest stretches, and I spent four straight days in bed before we left for this trip.  We almost didn’t come here, because we didn’t want to make things worse...but I just could not sacrifice this trip.  It means too much to me.

A couple of months ago I was talking to an old friend of mine from Zion Bible College.  She and her husband are very dear to Jeff and I...it was because of this friend that the door to our hearts were opened regarding having children.  I am eternally indebted to her for speaking truth and shining light in an area of my life I didn’t know was dark.  Anyway, she was ministering to me over the phone, knowing how difficult these past couple of years have been, and she suggested that we come out to her house in Niagara Falls for a visit so we could get away for a while.

I know what you’re thinking- I thought it too at first.  How on earth would it work, bringing our three-ring circus to their house in addition to the four kids they themselves have.  But the more I thought about it, the better it sounded and felt.  We are all very like-minded.  We have similar parenting styles, similar beliefs, and similar ways of conducting our lives.  And they offered themselves to us- it was a chance to be ministered to.

We have been here 2 days so far and it has been the most peaceful 2 days I have had in a long, long time.  We were greeted with gift baskets and the house set up to not only to accommodate all of us, but any extra you could think of to make our stay comfortable.    We have not had to do or buy anything.  And you would think that a house with 10 kids under the age of 7 would be crazy, but it has been just the opposite.  Our parenting has been like an ideal tag-team.  We simply act like mothers to any child that is near us.  And in the evenings, we gather in the living room while they allow our family to join in on their evening Bible reading. We have literally been able to just relax in the godly comfort of this home. 

Now I personally have a hard time with receiving.  I would rather have a debt to pay then to simply receive a gift.  With a debt, I know I can pay it off.  WIth a gift, I always feel indebted.  It is the same with asking for help...I never do it.  I hate that my husband has to run the house while I am sick.  I have people who always tell me to call them for help when I am sick and I never do.  I never want to owe, especially when I am unsure that I can pay it back.  But this time around I asked for help...and I received it.  And it blessed me.  Yes, I have to battle my feelings of owing people, but that is something I need to learn to get over.  And you need to get over it too.  The body of Christ is supposed to work like this.  We are supposed to work together to help one another finish this journey.  It’s ok to receive help.  It’s ok to need to lean on your brothers and sisters.  Today, I need the help; tomorrow, I may be the one helping.

I am telling you all of this because I want to convey to you just how wonderful it feels to allow yourself to get a drip of water when you are in the desert. We are not staying here at our friends’ house forever.  We are leaving Sunday and then we will return to our difficult, confusing, and stressful life.  In the scope of the past 2 years, this is barely a blip on the radar...but I need you to know that a drip is all you need to keep going.  It may be years before you get to dive in the rivers and drink your fill, but you will get just what you need along the way to carry you until you get the next drip of water.  I want to encourage you to keep your eyes open for these drips in your life and be encouraged when they come.  No, it may not be the end of your time in the desert, but it will give you what you need to keep going just a little bit longer.

He will not let you die in the desert.  He will not stand by and watch you hunger and thirst.  It may look that way and it may feel that way, but it is not actually that way.  If you choose to keep walking and you choose to keep trusting and you choose to keep believing, then you will get just what you need, just when you need it.  So don’t give up.  Take the drip of water, give a prayer of thanks, and keep walking.

You never know...the Promise might be right around the corner.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TMT (Talk to Me Tuesday)


Once again, I am so grateful to all of you who have been supporting me in this writing endeavor.   I have especially been enjoying receiving questions from some of you.  A lot of the questions I am being asked are questions that I have asked others, and I am more than happy to share what I have learned.

I received a few questions about different topics, so I will try and group them together as best I can by topic, so if you asked a question and you don’t see it right away, you will see it on another Tuesday post.  Again, if you have any questions about anything (I am not shy), go ahead and facebook me or e-mail me at artyler@mail.com.
1) Did you work your way up to your 40-day fast?
I did not work my way up to the 40 day fast.  The most I ever fasted before doing it was a 4-day fast, and even that wasn’t really a fast because I let myself have milk and broth.  My 40-day fast was God ordained, and because it was, I was given the grace to finish it.  You can most definitly do an extended fast even if God has not specifically called you to do it, but it is a little more difficult because you may not have that extra grace.  Since that 40-day fast, I have done a 10-day water only fast, a 21-day juice and water fast, and a 16 day juice and water fast.  The 40-day one was the easiest one of them all, because God specifically called me to do that one.  The other fasts were me just wanting to seek God in a fast...which there is nothing wrong with.  Fasting is a great discipline to practice, and it happens to be something I love to do in my walk with God.  But if God specifically calls you to do a fast, then He does give grace during it.   

2) How did you do it?  
Unless specifically doing a water fast, I just drink water and 100%, no sugar added fruit juice.  It is important to only drink real juice, nothing with any sugar or additives.  As far as an actual fast goes, I do not agree with using shakes, meal supplements, or even “Daniel” fasting.  A Biblical fast is about denying your body food...hunger is a part of it.  You deprive your physical being in order to enhance your spiritual being.  I feel especially in tune spiritually when I am fasting.  Also, water fasts are very different than juice ones.  I did my 40 day juice fast 6 weeks after giving birth to my 4th child and I was completely fine.  However, because of the busyness of my life, the most I will water fast is 10 days, and by the end of that I was weak.  To do an extended water fast you need to make sure your life can handle it.  If you are active or busy and unable to get adequate rest during the day, then a prolonged water fast may not be wise.  A water fast makes you very weak, and you should be resting during one.  A juice fast is different because you are able to get some calories and sugar to keep your stamina up.  
I also was careful about what I read and watched during the fast.  It is tempting to just do whatever you need to in order to pass the time, but try and resist. I did this for the first week of my fast, but then I knew I needed to get down to business.  Remember...it's not about "not eating"- it's about fasting.  Not eating is a diet, fasting is opening up your world to Jesus in a much deeper way.  Be sure and make that distinction when fasting.

3) Did you fast while pregnant?
I did not fast during any pregnancy.  Because Jeff and I practice abstinence for at least 6 weeks after having a baby, I knew with certainty that I could not have been pregnant when beginning my fast.  

4) Do you need to do any special preparations before fasting?  What about after?
If you are going to do a shorter fast (1-4 days) then you do not really need any preparation beforehand.  However, with an extended fast you do need to be very careful about how you eat before you start.  You want to make sure the day or 2 before you start that you eat a very mild diet.  Stay away from fatty or fried foods, and even watch your dairy intake.  You want to eat veggies, fruit, whole grains...just eat healthy and not too much.  The same goes for breaking your fast.  I broke my 40-day fast with about 2 ounces of mozzarella cheese (weird, I know...I was really craving cheese during the fast!) and I was on the toilet for a couple hours!  Not fun.  You really want to spend the first few days eating veggies, fruit, and broth.  Your stomach needs time to ease back into normal function.  Make sense? 

5) Do you lose weight on a fast?
Yes, you do lose weight on extended fasts, and while you do put some back on when you start eating, you can keep a lot off, depending on your eating habits after.  I know a lot of people, including myself, have second thoughts about fasting because they don't want weight loss to be the motive.  I want to address this because people tend to pretend they don't care about the weight loss and stress that that's not why they are doing it.  Listen, ignoring a natural and practical feeling or emotion does not make it go away. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you would be happy to lose weight.  Fasts are great both spiritually and physically, and that can mean by cleaning out your insides and shedding unnecessary weight.  If you are concerned about your motives, I can tell you that your motives will become evident during your fast- if you are fasting mainly to lose weight, then you will not finish it.  I have had a couple of fasts that I was not able to finish because my motives were off.  Fasting is amazing and the physical benefits are just another great thing about them.  When your spirit is in the right place, it's ok to want the physical benefits as well. :)

Here is just a few words on fasting.  Fasting is Biblical, and it is a great discipline for a Christian to practice.  Extended fasts may not be for everyone.  Take time to seek the Lord and really find out what He wants you to do.  If you are married, then make sure to discuss this with your spouse and listen to what they have to say about you fasting.  Make sure you understand the value of it and also understand that even with grace, it is very challenging.  If you plan on doing one, I encourage you to prepare ahead of time, make sure your life is conducive to it, and don’t give up!  Hang in there, seek the Lord, listen to worship music throughout the day, and keep your mind focused on why you are doing it.  It is not easy, but you will be blessed.