Thursday, April 29, 2010

Devoted Followers of What?

Coffee Talk Thursday

Recently, (I think it was on "Earth Day") I caught the tail-end of a radio program, where the guest was contrasting environmentalism with Christ's Great Commission. The call for Christians is to "go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15). The guest said Christians today are emphasizing less the making of disciples and more the advancing of a "green" lifestyle. His point was: While we can take steps to be wise stewards of creation, we should not replace evangelism about Christ with evangelism toward going green.

I thought his point was a good one--definitely something to chew on. There are so many blogs, books, and other sites that are dedicated to sharing the "dangers" of dairy, deodorant, sugar, flour, conventional chicken and beef, non-organic food and much more. (For the record, while I am committed to providing my family a healthy diet with as many whole foods as possible, I don't buy into much of this propaganda).

We can become devoted followers of pursuing an organic, green lifestyle and sharing that "gospel" with others; or we can aim to live healthy lives while keeping the emphasis of our time and attention on growing as a follower of Christ, and sharing His Gospel with others.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17).

So what do you think about all of this? Are we replacing growth as Christians with growth as organic foodies and environmentalists? What can we do to put priorities back in their proper places?

(By the way, just a reminder that our once-a-month cooking festival will fall on the 1st, a Saturday).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Glory of the Usual

Last night, a young mom (24) of three children, ages four, two, and 15 months, called into the Dr. Laura program. Overwhelmed with the challenges of raising multiple little children, she was a definite mom in need of mercy! She told Dr. Laura she knew staying home with her children was important, but she felt so unimportant at the end of each day and wanted some encouragement.

While Dr. Laura did tell the caller that being a mature adult means doing what we need to do--even though it doesn't always feel particularly great, she missed sharing what the mom questioning her value really needed to hear the most: there is glory in the usual. At the close of each day, she couldn't see it. That's why she felt like, in her words, she needed to make a "bigger imprint" in the world.

As moms, we make a huge imprint each day, yet it's rarely glaringly obvious. That's why it's so easy to miss. The biggest impressions are left by the most ordinary things done consistently (see my series, "Super Parents are Just Ordinary People Doing Ordinary Things Consistently").

As Carol Van Klompemenburg writes (as shared in the NIV Women's Devotional Bible),
"[Sometimes] we think we will start to live at some future date...Our drive to the mythical future prevents our savoring the present. It becomes simply a step...with no meaning of its own. I do the dishes so I can get to the laundry...I read to my children to augment their verbal skills.
But said Sophie Kerr, 'The future is now!'...We shape our future by how we handle the present...In each moment the real future for the real me is now."
Present moments, strung together, create the tapestry of "the future." There is a glory in the usual. This is what leaves an incredible imprint. This is what that mom was hungry to hear.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Sense of Order

This weekend, we took some time to clear out clutter. I went through my closet and made some hard decisions about what I loved the most; lesser loved items went to the thrift store. My husband and I did the same thing in the garage, tossing items that were past their prime and bagging up usable items to donate. After filling the van, I immediately drove to the thrift store, before I could reconsider and start removing items from the donation bags. There is still more to be done, but I feel lighter now.

It seemed fitting that I came across this reading in my Women's Devotional Biblewhen I returned home:
"A Sense of Order"
by Emilie Barnes

A home [filled with a welcoming spirit] has a sense of order about it. A sense that people, not possessions, are in charge of the household...that life is proceeding with a purpose and according to an overall plan.

Most of us respond positively to that kind of order in our lives because we are made in the image of God, and because God organized the whole universe to proceed in an orderly fashion. Think of the creation, when God created a beautiful, populated globe out of darkness and chaos. He is the ultimate organizer, and the results or his ordering Spirit are always good. We automatically feel more comfortable and more welcome when we sense his kind of order in our lives.

In a truly welcoming home, organization takes its proper place in the overall scheme of the universe. The daily chores of maintenance become something we can glory in, partly because they don't overwhelm us or define our whole existence.

Don't let this talk or order and organization make you feel guilty or panicked. Even in chaos and clutter in your home and life are wearing you down, the solution is not a whirlwind effort to "get organized." Unless you begin with the heart, the most complete reorganization of house and home will just give you a clean slate for chaos--and may drive you and everyone else crazy in the process.

We humans weren't made to "get organized." We were made to live as God's children, worshipping him and delighting in him. As we open our hearts and attitudes to God, putting him first in our lives and looking to him for guidance, he will show us little ways to organize the chaos and lead a more peaceful, ordered existence.

And it doesn't happen all at once. It has taken me thirty years to develop the systems that help me maintain my life--and I'm still learning.
I really want to second that it doesn't happen all at once. Getting it together takes time--skills build on top of each other; seasons of life change and make organization either easier or more difficult (such as  children in the toddler phase). Think of it less as baking a "dump-it cake" and more as building a layer cake.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Day with No Sin

image by John Morgan

These roses aren’t cowering under the rain; they’re standing strong despite it. Yet, unlike the roses, as I’ve felt rained on this week, I’m wilting. After talking with a friend today, I finally realized what the problem is: I’ve been expecting days with no sin—or little sin. Yet the day begins and sin happens. Kids whine. They bite, they hit, they misbehave, they argue, they act disrespectfully, selfishly, impatiently—and that’s just the children. The amount of foolishness and sin that displays itself in a day leaves me reeling. But, like the roses, I should ready myself for the arrival of rain.

Sin will indeed reveal itself as the day unwinds. We are all, after all, sinners. Saved by grace through Christ’s atoning sacrifice for those who put their faith in Him, but sinners this side of heaven nonetheless. Only Christ can cleanse any of us from our sin. My job as a parent is not to prevent sin at all costs but to disciple and train my children to learn why their specific sins—once done--are wrong, how to avoid them in the future, and how to live an increasingly holy life for the glory of God. It is foolish of me to expect the clean slate we are given at the start of each day will stay blank all day long.

Realizing that I will see sinful behavior from my children each and every single day frees me from my impossible expectation of a sinless day. That’s not to excuse it; we should certainly devote much effort to snuffing out wrong attitudes and behavior. Yet the difference in philosophy is night-and day: if we expect perfect holiness, we will be dealt huge blows when we see how far we all fall short; if, on the other hand, we are fully aware we will fall short, our reaction to sin as it displays itself will be much more realistic. It won’t be such a shocker if we’re expecting its arrival.

Like showers of rain, downpours of sin are not particularly desirable. I much prefer sunny, cheerful days. But just as the rain is necessary, sin shows us our need for a Savior. Like a gardener weeding the early summer garden, we diligently work with our children as sin pours out of their lives. The rainy days will produce beautiful roses that stand firm when the storms blow. And after the storm, they will smell of the sweet fragrance of Christ.

So the bottom line is—yes, we work hard to fight sin, but no, we shouldn’t be surprised by it. That revelation, for me, allows me to adjust my attitude when I see sin in my children’s lives. Instead of being shocked and angry, I can deal with it much more calmly, collectively, and in my right mind.

May we embrace this glorious day, with all its sin, ever thankful that we have a Savior who will someday give us an eternity of perfect, sinless days.

holy experience

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

photo by Linda Aslund

In For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life(one of my all-time favorite books), Susan Shaeffer Macaulay writes with fondness about her childhood in what is today inner city, St. Louis. She shares about riding her tricycle up and down the sidewalks, warned not to ignore strangers but rather to be courteous to adults and turn to them if in need of help. She and her neighborhood friends had freedom to go in and out of each other’s houses, playing while their mothers hung out wash on the line. Yet, no matter where in the neighborhood their play took them, they were always “under the caring eye of some grownup in the neighborhood.”

Granted, she’s writing about the 1940’s, and yes, things were different back then. Still, I cannot help but wish to emulate that kind of neighborhood in today’s era. Yet today, instead of knowing our neighbors , many people keep completely to themselves. With such a strong sense of individualism, one cannot possibly feel comfortable trusting neighbors enough to know they’ll be keeping a close eye on one’s children if they ride trikes or bikes on the sidewalk in front of their house. Of course the primary responsibility for watching one’s children rests with the parents, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a neighborhood where one had the assurance that all the neighbors truly looked out for each other?

We live in a neighborhood that has been deemed by our city as a “Weed and Seed” area—weed out the bad and seed in the good. Many people, not just in my neighborhood but throughout the country, are becoming intentional about neighborhood renewals—not just accepting the way things are but actively working for redemption. Along with some other neighbors, we just started a neighborhood watch program with our local police department, and I like how it has already brought neighbors—not just immediate neighbors—closer together. I feel hopeful that a day is coming when my children will be able to ride their bikes and trikes down the sidewalk, and I will feel confident knowing they are being watched—not just by me but by neighbors who have become friends as well.

Do you know your neighbors? If so, how did you build that relationship? If not, what are some ways you could build a relationship? Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Say hi and be friendly when you see them outside, getting mail, doing yardwork, etc. This is often the first step, and perhaps one of the biggest. We can keep to ourselves, and ignore them, or we can bridge the gap by taking a little extra effort to be friendly.
  • Bake cookies and take them to them at Christmastime, and at other times too.
  • Invite neighbors over for a BBQ (summer grilling time is almost here!)
Since it is Coffee Talk Thursday (up late), I'd love to hear your ideas on how we can be neighborly,  build fellowship in our neighborhoods, and redeem them when applicable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why I Said Goodbye to Ads

Offering ad zones on one's blog allows a blogger to write for fun and earn a little money at the same time (in my eight months of blogging, I've finally earned enough to pay for a couple of lattes). The bigger the blog, the more advertising revenue one generates. Unfortunately, there is also room for a lot of sleeze--however inadvertent. That's why I removed all Adbrite zones on my page.

Although ads must be approved before they show up here, one horribly offensive ad slipped through. I am so, so sorry if you saw it. I was appalled when I saw it. The picture was against every single one of my values. I could have just deleted the ad, but again, I don't know how it got there, since none of the approved ads bore any resemblance to this vulgar ad. So to be on the safe side, I deleted every Adbrite ad zone.

Making a few extra dollars is just not worth the cost of something that egregious. If we blog with integrity, our ads should reflect our integrity. While we cannot control the content of every single ad, we can control what we allow on our pages. They are, after all, our blogs for which we are selling ad space. So ultimately, the responsibility rests with us.

Again, I want to apologize if you saw that ad. Apparently, different ads will pop up based on your browsing habits, so not everyone will see the same thing. Modesty, traditional marriage, and fidelity are virtues I cherish; having an ad on my blog that promotes something different is just not something I am willing to do, even if someone pays me for it. The cost is too great.

Linked to We Are That Family.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Messy Monday: The Benefits of Developing Discipline

One of the biggest keys to keeping things under control at home is developing the discipline to fully finish a task. Even if this does not come naturally, it can be learned--we can train our mental responses and learn to finish a job before moving on to something else. This can be hard work, though, for those of us who more naturally fall toward the "messy" end of the spectrum; we also are highly creative people, and our minds are always thinking of the next thing, which can pull us away from the current thing if we let it. Disciplining ourselves to stay on course, however, not only allows us to keep our homes tidier right now, it may also result in improved health down the road.

A recent article, titled "Duty and Discipline," in Remedy magazine states that conscientiousness preserves one's cognitive function in later years. In a recent study of nearly 1,000 senior nuns and priests, researchers found that "those who were highly conscientious--meaning they are purposeful, self-disciplined and scrupulous--had an 89 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease over a 12-year period; conscientiousness was also linked with decreased odds of developing mild cognitive impairment."

The hypothesis is that "highly conscientious people are better at controlling [the way they pay attention to things], which is an important way to compensate for declining memory and thinking in old age." The study goes on to encourage us that, even if we're not naturally conscientious, we can become more so "by being more organized, exercising better self-control and becoming more achievement-oriented."

So when I am faced with several things that need to be done, plus the distractions (and new messes) that children bring to the table, and my mind feels like a ping-pong ball bouncing in a million directions, it is helpful to clear out everything but one thing and fully focus on that until it's done (even if I have to leave it and come back to it several times). The the nature of motherhood means there will be frequent interruptions, but developing discipline will help us keep things neater in the short-term and may keep our minds sharp in the long-run.  Cheers to discipline!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Do You Find Blogs?

Coffee Talk Thursday

So here's a question I've been wondering about for awhile: there are sooo many blogs out there, how do you find good ones? For me, a main way I learn about certain blogs is by stumbling upon them--usually the title sounds interesting in someone's blogroll, so I click over. Then, on that blog, there are mentions of other blogs that sound intriguing, and so on. So "word of mouth" is a big factor.

I also look at entries in weekly meme/carnival lists. When you comment here (thanks!), I try as often as possible to make it to your page too. I have noticed, though, since I started writing, I have less time to read other blogs. Unless one wishes to increase computer time, something's gotta give. Funny how kids don't do well when their mother is anchored to her computer chair. :)

Right now, there is a great way to find new blogs. The Ultimate Blog Party, hosted by 5 minutes for Mom, allows bloggers to link up with their blogs, and allows visitors to discover new blogs.

On the topic of books, I find those much the same way. I listen to a lot of Christian radio programs. Many times, the hosts interview authors. If their books sound interesting, I will check it out from the library or order a copy. (To keep expenses down, I wrote about how to get a copy of a book for free). Sometimes I find great books in catalogs. We receive Vision Forum's catalog--it's great! Also, for homeschooling, I just waded through Rainbow Resource's catalog and discovered some wonderful books, for me and the kids, that way too.

Since Coffee Talk Thursday is like inviting a group of girlfriends over for coffee and a visit, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you found your favorite blogs (and how you find new ones).

By the way, I have not heard from Hilary, who won the church cookbook. I even left her a comment on her blog to let her know she won. So, since it's been a week, I drew a new winner. picked #3--Alicia. Congratulations, Alicia! Can you please email me your address (, and I will get that out to you. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Save on Kids' Clothes (and make them last) with KidVantage!

I don't buy my boys many clothes. That doesn't mean, though, that they don't have many clothes. They do; most of what we receive comes as hand-me-downs from friends, or from my mother, who works at JC Penney and has great access (plus an extra 20% discount) to clearance racks. But when I do need to shop, I turn to Sears. Why? The reason is simple: KidVantage.

This program costs nothing and yet saves you so much. When I do purchase brand-new clothes, I buy them on clearance (By the way, March is great for winter clearance; August-early September is when you'll find the best prices for summer stuff). At check-out, the cashier asks if I want to put these on KidVantage. I have no clue why anyone wouldn't. As I already said, it's free. The cashier just enters your phone number and registers your purchases in their computer. No credit card, no loyalty card, no oath to buy from Sears 'til-death-do-you-part, nothing.

Here's where the beauty of the program comes in: if the item wears out while your child is still in that size, Sears will replace it with a similar item--for free. Some examples for you: I bought my baby a clearanced overall set one fall. He wore it the next fall, but it ripped near the diaper snaps. I took it in and walked out with a brand new, full-price overall set, thanks to KidVantage. Another son wore out the knee in his camo-pants. Sure enough, KidVantage replaced them with a similar pair. I also had a coat replaced, which seemed to be mis-sized, as well as a few other pairs of pants.

KidVantage is great for parents of boys (girls, too, I'm sure), since they can be so hard on their clothes. Knees wear out quickly. Isn't it great to know you don't have to buy a new pair of pants? It's even better when you save money by buying the first pair on clearance (you can replace it with a similar pair in the same brand, even if it's not on clearance.). I believe the program is for items that wear out only; stained items would probably not fall under the guarantee. Sears will replace Levi's jeans under KidVantage, but only if you have the receipt. You do not need the receipt for other items.

Here is an article I found that offers more information.

I could not find this on the Sears' website but found it on another website that had quoted the Sears' site in 2008:

The KidVantage® Club offers the Wear Out Warranty. When your baby grows up and your kids clothing or kids shoes wear out before they are out grown, Sears will replace them for free.

By buying clothes on clearance and using KidVantage, I can outfit my kids in new clothes and pay less than I would if I bought more worn items at the thrift store. (I just paid $1.19 for a new long-sleeved 3T shirt for my son). KidVantage definitely works for me!

Starting Over Again

Depending on how up you are on 80's pop songs, you'll recognize that title from a Cher album (Heart of Stone, circa 1989). Regardless of whether it's familiar or not, we all have those days that we simply need to start over. Today was definitely a "mom's in need of mercy" morning. The boys woke up an hour early and two of the three were extremely whiny for two hours--the whiny with constant crying,  "hold me, hold me," (if they can talk) and just grabbing your legs with incessant crying if they can't. You know, those really fun mornings that make you so glad to be a stay-at-home mom, with your kids. All. day. long.

So, inspired by this post, I decided to restart the day. Sometimes, all cranky kids (or kids of any sort, for that matter) need is some extra-long moments of undivided attention and cuddles from Mom. So went back upstairs, crawled under the covers, read a story, and the day started over again--much better on take two. I encourage you to read Sara's post, "Reboot." 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mesy Monday: Lighten Up A Little!

Photo by C.N. Gokul

For those of us who tend toward disorder, we do need to discipline ourselves if we wish to get our acts together. That’s why many of my Messy Monday posts focus on doing the work and finishing the jobs around the house that are waiting for us. Yet, those who are naturally clean and organized sometimes need to learn to loosen up (as a friend of mine pointed out). I’m good at that! So a little switch in tone today as I encourage the cleanies among us to lighten up a little.

We can all think of people who are constant cleaners. They just can’t sit still. While the fruit of their work is a beautiful home to enjoy, the enjoyment of it can sometimes turn sour. What fun is it to be a guest in someone’s home when the hostess is not visiting with you, but rather scurrying around cleaning up after all the guests? (Certainly some immediate clean-up is necessary, but I am focusing on the kind that goes to the extreme). This makes me think of the Mary-Martha account in the Bible, when Martha was so busy preparing the meal (and getting flustered that Mary wasn’t helping) and Mary was just sitting, listening to Jesus. Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was better. Relationships need time and attention to grow. Guests wish to feel important enough that the hostess sits to chat with them, instead of getting busy picking up after them.

What memories do we want to leave behind when people think of who we were? Someone recently told me of his deceased mother, “She was always cleaning.” He went on to say that she was so compulsive about it, she could never relax. Ouch. The clean house turned bitter for those inside. On the other end of the spectrum, people remember the pain associated with growing up in a sloppy home (such as never having people over, etc.).

So balance is called for. Clean and work hard at it, but take plenty of time to sit and show undivided attention to your children, other family members or guests. When you’re reading a story, the dirty smudges on the windows can wait. When you're sharing a cup of coffee, guests are in our homes such a short time that the dishes can wait. It's a simple way to show the people in your life that you honor them above housework.

If you have a homemaking post you'd like to share, please link to it below. Please, as a courtesy, link back here too. Have a great day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting Back to the Basics

We, as women, have come full-circle as cooks. In the early 19th century, there was no such thing as running to the grocery store for a tube of refrigerated crescent rolls or a cake mix and frosting in a can; everything was made from scratch. Then somewhere mid-century, after World War II, home-cooks began appreciating the ease and convenience of using packaged mixes. Companies thrived on their business, and their test kitchens invented new recipes--published on the back of the boxes--to keep their items rolling off the shelves.

It seems like hard work these days to find a recipe that does not involve a boxed mix (or any other pre-made item) of some sort, whether it be pudding, stuffing, muffins, or cakes. I admit, some of my favorite recipes use mixes of some sort (or refrigerated crescent rolls or biscuits). But here's where the full-circle part comes in: I want to get back to the basics in my kitchen, as do many other cooks these days. Whether it is for financial reasons, or health reasons, or a mixture of both, I want to convert recipes back to their pre-1950's-from-scratch-versions.

Unfortunately, converting a box-mix recipe back to a scratch-recipe is not always as easy as it sounds.
For example, recently I made a mandarin orange cake. The recipe called for a yellow cake mix. I made my own yellow cake. But, the recipe also called for a can of undrained mandarin oranges. The extra liquid stumped me: should I decrease the liquid in my from-scratch recipe to compensate? The box mix recipe was starting to look tempting, since I new if I followed its proportions, everything would turn out fine. In the end, I decreased the liquid slightly, added the mandarin orange juice, and it turned out ok. Not great, but good enough.

Yet, conversions can be fairly straightforward. If your recipe calls for a box of brownie mix, just make your own brownie batter (yes, from scratch). If you find a recipe calling for a white cake mix (or whatever kind), make a white cake from scratch (the only difference between white and yellow is white uses only egg whites and yellow uses whole eggs). If the recipe uses a tube of biscuits, make your own biscuit dough and proceed from there. If you need a pudding mix, you can google how to make it from scratch. I learned that butterscotch pudding is: 1 c. dark brown sugar, 1/4 c. cornstarch, and 1 tsp. salt; I use this mix in my overnight caramel rolls recipe (which does call for Rhodes rolls; I'm working on modifying it!). There is a way to convert any item back to its made-fresh-in-your-kitchen state (if you want to).

In this going-back-to-scratch endeavor, old-fashioned cookbooks are your friend. I just found my 40th anniversary edition Betty Crocker cookbook. In it, I found a recipe for caramel rolls that did not involve a package of frozen dough; it was entirely from scratch. I think a copy of Joy of Cookingwould also work. I recently heard a recommendation for an early 1970's Pillsbury cookbook. The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbookis helpful (or The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Heavy-Duty Revised Edition). In addition to cookbooks, you could also turn to your local county extension service, or an older cook for help getting back to the basics.

If you have any other conversion tips to help us get back to scratch, I'd love for you to share them in the comments section!

(By the way, if you like the ease of using mixes, I'm not trying to force you away from it. But for me, personally, I already have most everything in my pantry to make stuff from scratch, and it is
more satisfying for me to do it that way (plus, I save money).)
Some interesting historical information about the early reaction to boxed mixes:

"What Pillsbury/Betty Crocker hoped to achieve after World War II initally backfired because home cooks felt compelled/obligated to return to the way things were. Like mom used to cook. They say good salesmen don't take "no" for an answer. America's largest food concerns obviously hired these men. Despite the fact that early mixes often produced less than satisfactory results and invoke a complicated set of psycho-social baggage, they prevailed. Eventually mixes were accepted. Today? Most people who make cakes for people they love regularly employ mixes (universally perceived as home-made, as in "made in the home") instead of buying a premade "cake in the box." The real "scratch cake" is very nearly lost.

"The very marketable premise behind cake mixes was, and still is, the ability to have a fresh, "home-made" cake with very little time and effort. Though Betty Crocker--like her competitors--promised that cake mixes offered freshness, ease, and flavor in a box, the market was slow to mature. Puzzled, marketers reiterated the message that homemakers need only drop this scientific marvel into a bowl, add water, mix, and bake. But that was still a little too good to be true for Mrs. Comsumer America. Certainly, cake mixes sold, but--compared with the early performance of Bisquick or Aunt Jemima pancake mix--not up to industry expecations. The "quick mix"...industry, eager to correct the shortfall, conducted research even as the development of new mixes continued. General Mills considered the market research of the business psychologists Dr. Burleigh Gardner and Dr. Ernest Dichter to explain the mediocre sales of cake mixes. The problem, according to the psychologists, was eggs. Dichter, in particular, believed that powdered eggs, often used in cake mixes, should be left out, so women could add a few fresh eggs into the batter, giving them a sense of creative contribution. He believed...that baking a cake was an act of love on the woman's part; a cake mix that only needed water cheapened that love. Whether the psychologists were right, or whether cakes made with fresh eggs simply taste better than cakes made with dried eggs, General Mills decided to play up the fact that Betty Crocker's cake mixes did not contain...dried eggs of any kind...Before long, cake mix started to gain some acceptance and notoriety; even Mamie Eisenhower instructed her cooking staff to use this novel invention at the White House."

---Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food, Susan Marks [Simon & Schuster:New York] 2005 (p. 168, 170), quoted from

Friday, April 9, 2010

Defining Success

 "To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God." (Ecclesiastes 5:19, NLT)
Photo from Being There
Everyone is created with talents, but few rise to full-blown fame because of those abilities. With a current world population approaching 7 billion, the vast majority of us live in relative obscurity. Many hold the notion that the most talented among us will eventually rise to the top, but that’s not always the case. In fact, I would dare say it’s not the case. That’s why it is so important to define what success means to us personally.

Take blogging, for instance. Many write, but few become sensations. Consider Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. A homeschooling mom and rancher’s wife in the middle of Oklahoma, since starting her uber-successful blog, she has also published a New York Times #1 bestselling cookbook, has been featured in Southern Living and Woman’s Day magazines, appeared on the Bonnie Hunt show and Good Morning America, and is now in talks to have her love story play out on the big screen with Reese Witherspoon possibly acting her part. How does that happen? She is talented, no doubt, and charismatic, but her success involves much more than just her talent. You can call it luck, or chalk it up to connections and publicity, but ultimately, it lies with the sovereignty of God. (I did email her to ask for her comments and insight on what brought her to where she is today but have not heard anything back; I think my blog is not successful enough).

Since there is such a huge spectrum of what success looks like, we must all ask ourselves what success mean to us, individually. Rather than defining success against other’s success, and possibly feeling deflated, let’s be our own measuring sticks. In any area of life, what does success look like to you personally?

I came face-to-face with this question several years ago and learned so much about myself in the process. For as long as I can remember, growing up, I dreamed of making it to network news someday. After graduating from college, I got my first reporting job in a small news market, as most all newbies do. From there, the aim is to work up to constantly bigger news markets, eventually arriving in a major city and then possibly being swallowed up by the network. But I met my husband, and we settled here--in our small news market. I wasn't going to be moving on.

I could have felt like a failure for not moving higher up the ladder, or I could choose to redefine success. For me, success wasn't making it to the network after all, but rather doing the best job I possibly could, right where I was. Then, a few years down the road, I got to figure out what success looks like in a new role: Mom. I reevaluate that one every day!

God gifts each of us with specific talents and prepares good works for us to do with those abilities (Ephesians 2:10). We don't do well when we look at others' achievements, especially achievements in our same area of giftedness. As the old saying goes, bloom where you're planted. A sunflower can't become a lily, or even the sunflower blooming beside it; it can only be the best sunflower it can be.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

TGIF: Time for a Blog Party!

Ultimate Blog Party 2010
So I just found out about the ultimate blog party, hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom.

If you're new here, welcome!
If you're not new here, I'm supposed to write about myself and my corner of bloggy land.

This is me. I'm Cheryl. These are my boys. There are three of them. They are amazing, and mischievous, and ingenious. I just wish they would use all that creativity for good and not for evil. That's why the title of my blog is Moms In Need of Mercy. I need a lot of it. Every single day.

Here I aim to encourage you with what I'm learning--in housekeeping (I'm a reforming messie), saving money, saving time, parenting, homemaking (cooking/baking/crafts--wait, I don't do those), marriage, and more. You'll just have to read for a wee little while to see what I'm about. So come along for the ride. Read this tale of misadventure (or this one)and feel right at home. Take five minutes to read this to inspire you as a mom, and join the party!

Moms In Need of Mercy Moments

Coffee Talk Thursday

Someone commented once that she felt right at home here because of my tales of misadventures. It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any of my outings-gone-wrong. No better time than Coffee Talk Thursday to update you on all the mom’s-in-need-of-mercy moments in my life. So without further adieu, here are a few highlights from the past week:

  • My son has a case of stray-itis in the grocery store. This week, as he wandered too far from me, the power in the store went out for a few seconds, creating complete blackness in the aisle we were in. I think he became temporarily cured of this strange medical condition.
  • When we got to our vehicle in the parking lot, said son also began dancing like Michael Flatley in Lord of the Dance, announcing through hops that he had to go pee. Before I could do anything about it, he dropped his pants, in the middle of the Albertson’s parking lot, and peed. Yeah. That’s a moms-in-need-of-mercy moment.
  • Same son let out a demonic sounding scream when I wouldn’t allow him to drop (I mean drop) the eggs in the cart. Same scream when I wouldn’t let him throw the cantaloupe in the cart either. So proud to call him mine in public ;)
  • We have been delivering cookbooks and press releases to local media. While waiting in the lobby to give one to the features’ reporter for the newspaper, the boys were enamored with the right-at-their level buttons on the wall. These were fire alarm buttons. Let’s just say I left the book with the receptionist and out we went.
  • At the feed store to buy dog food, one of my boys insisted on refusing to listen to my instruction to stay right by me (stray-itis must be contagious). After jumping on bags of food for all sorts of animals and running throughout the warehouse, I—in a moment of better judgement, thank you—decided to take the boys out to the vehicle and strap them in their car seats until I was done. Only problem with that is my four-year old can successfully unstrap himself from his booster seat. So all the while I was paying, we were all graced with the lovely harmonic sounds of the mini-van horn honking over and over, and over again.
  • My one year old has this thing with splashing in toilets. (Usually unflushed thanks to his big brothers; fortunately it’s only #1—so far).

Well, that's about all I can think of right now. Your turn to share any mom's-in-need-of-mercy moments from your life!

By the way, the cookbook winner is--#7 from, which is Hilary. Hilary, please email me your address at, and I will get your cookbook out to you. Congratulations! For those who didn't win, if you're still interested, the cookbooks are available here. A review here. Have a great day, and enjoy a good cup of coffee (or tea!).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Transformative Power of Straightening

One of the things I love about staying at hotels is good housekeeping. You leave the room and return to find it entirely transformed! The bed is made impeccably, the floor vacuumed, counters picked up neatly, toiletries arranged precisely, and new towels and washcloths folded impressively.

The relatively simple act of straightening makes such a difference, not just in hotel rooms but in life in general. Taking a few minutes to straighten a room lends it a transformative power. The same is true with our attitudes and thoughts. We have the power (with God's help through prayer) to straighten those up too, when they have gone awry. We can choose what we think about, what thoughts we dwell on. Dr. Laura Schlessinger often tells callers that they can think about an apple, or an orange; it really is that simple--even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes.

Sometimes, a relationship may need some straightening. If there is conflict or tension, finding a few minutes to discuss it calmly as to straighten it up will also usually transform the situation.

Blessings can be found by straightening things up!

"In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:6).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cleaning Up After Ourselves

Recently I heard an Intentional Living radio broadcast about hoarding. Even though we may not consider ourselves hoarders, many of us struggle with clutter to some degree. I know I sure do! Dr. Carlson’s advice to the callers was helpful to anyone trying to get it together.
Imagine if you died unexpectedly—let’s say today (just pretend)—and someone else had to go through all your stuff. Every hidden place: every single drawer, every cupboard, every shelf. Would you be:

a) A little embarrassed?
b) Mortified?
c) Calm and peaceful—every nook and cranny is under control

I would probably be a little embarrassed. Because of that realization (and possibility—after all, who except God knows the future?), these are the areas that need some extra attention. So whether you want to call it good old-fashioned spring cleaning, or the worst-case scenario cleaning, let’s pick some places and get cleaning!

If you have a Messy Monday tip for getting it together, please link up and share! As a courtesy, kindly link back to Moms In Need of Mercy somewhere in your post.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Resurrection Cookies: Great to make with Kids The Night Before Easter

A great, hands-on way to share the Easter story with kids!
Courtesy of my friend Jodi, in our church cookbook
What you'll need:
1 c. pecan (whole or halves)
 wooden spoon
1 tsp. vinegar Ziploc bag
3 egg whites Bible
pinch of salt packing tape
1 c. sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pecans in Ziploc bag and let children beat them
with the wooden spoon until broken into small pieces. Read John 19:1-3 and remind
them that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.

2. Let each child smell (or taste) the vinegar. Pour 1 tsp into the mixing bowl. Read John
19:28-30 and explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar
to drink.

3. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Read John10:10-11 Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.

4. Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it, then brush it into the bowl. Read Luke 23:27. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers as well as the bitterness of our own sin.

5. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because of His great love for us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

6. Beat with mixer on high for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3. Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.

7. Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper (or parchment). Read Matt. 27:57-60. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.

8. Place the cookie sheet into the preheated oven. Close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape to seal the oven door. Read Matt 27:65-66. Explained that Jesus' tomb was sealed.

9. Go to bed. Read John 16:20 and 22. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were very sad when the tomb was sealed.

10. On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are empty!!
On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt 28:1-9. HE HAS RISEN!!!

Happy Easter!