Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Neislers!

Merry Christmas everyone!

As I looked through the year's photos, trying to find a good one for our "Christmas Card", I was reminded of what a great year Josh and I have had together in 2008. Starting in January when my little sister Emily came to Louisville to go to college, attending T4G in the spring, summer travels with Josh's family for the weddings, my big 3-0 at the end of the summer and SURPRISING news when we found out we were going to be parents this fall! Those are just the events, but the day-to-day and weekly blessings of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ we've found through our church, the uplifting times of encouragement in our small group, and excellent teaching we receive both in school and through Clifton Baptist are highlights that aren't often photographed.

So the picture I chose is from the summer, but I liked it because the happiness you see on our faces reflects the joy in our hearts when we think about how richly we have been blessed during this year. Christ has become more dear and the gospel more precious. Our relationships with brothers and sisters have become more intimate. Our times with our families have been thoroughly enjoyable. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and continues to pour out His favor on us. I am so humbled when I pause and reflect on blessed we are to be anticipating a baby on the way, and many, many of the other good gifts God continues to send our way.

Just a few weeks ago we had some troubling news about my heart from a cardiologist. To make a long story short, I was born with a congenitive heart defect, and the doctor was concerned that I was in trouble because of my pregnancy. God's grace and kindness have never been so close to me during those f
earful, unknowing days. I would wake up each morning thinking "thank you for today", and the Lord would pour out His grace, and make me REALLY APPRECIATE each day. His Word was like honey dripping to my tongue, and many of the Psalms I read each morning would come to mind throughout the day and even when I would wake up at night. He has been my Song in the Night, singing over me with Salvation. We were really baby-stepping along, until last Thursday when I had another consultation with a pediatric cardiologist who gave me the opposite diagnosis as the first one. We were in AWE of God's mercy to us, and overjoyed to hear the news, of course! We know He is the Giver of Life, and were so thankful that He had us walk the road of dependence on HIM for every beat of my heart (and the baby's!). PRAISE HIM for His goodness to us!

Please rejoice with us as the year wraps up by reflecting on the GIVER of all good gifts -- our sovereign, merciful God.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

7 Shopping Days until Christmas

I'm so sorry I neglected to post a book suggestion yesterday on the blog. I started writing it, and ran out of time. I taught last night at church, so I spent my lunch hour prepping for that rather than finishing my blog post.

Today's suggestion is a Christmas book. I know some of you enjoy getting out special Christmas books to either display in your home, or for the kids to read. I know a family that has all these lovely Christmas gift books on their coffee table that have been given to them from the same family over the years. A Christmas book to pull out year after year can be like an old friend -- especially if it contains the message of Christ's first advent!

The book I'm recommending is One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham. This book is a cross between a children's book (I'd say it is meant for kids, but lots longer than most picture books) and a gift book. It begins with a boy being lost in a snowstorm and finding his way to a kind old lady's home where she takes him in, and tells him the story of redemption, starting with creation, and tracing the need for Christ all the way until His coming. She tells him about Christ's death and resurrection, too. This book is rather long, and beautifully illustrated (though there's not a picture on every page). Last year we had people asking to buy it at the bookstore, and were not able to get it, but this year, we're selling it for $5! I've been recommending it as a hostess gift, or a small add-on gift to unbelieving family or friends. Some of the girls I know here are nannies for nominally Christian families, and I thought it would be a simple gift for the kids. Or maybe you would like it for your kids!

I'll be back tomorrow to complete my week of books-for-gifts recommendations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

9 Shopping Days until Christmas

Today I want to feature a book that is for kids, but would make an excellent family gift, or for someone who is a book lover. It is Dangerous Journey: the Story of Pilgrim's Progress by Oliver Hunkin. This children's version of the Christian classic is well told and amazingly illustrated. If you'd like to look at the inside, here is the link to the Amazon reader. However, I would never advise you to endanger your local retailers by buying online! Please check with your local bookstore or bookstore chain and see if they can get this wonderful book for you.

We have been reading Pilgrim's Progress with our small group this year, and I have found it to be so insightful and encouraging. I know several families that read Dangerous Journey together as a family, or with the children before they go to bed, and the timeless story of Christian's travels never grow old! I LOVE this book! Perhaps you'd like something classic like this to give as a gift to a family that means a lot to you, or you're looking for a meaningful gift for your own child or niece or nephew -- this is the best suggestion I can think of!

Monday, December 15, 2008

10 More Shopping Days Until Christmas!

I've decided this week to feature a book each day in case any of you are looking for a great last minute Christmas idea! Maybe you are behind the game a tad (like I am), and still have several hard-to-buy-for people on your list. Hopefully I can give you some good suggestions.

Today I want the feature the NEW ESV Study Bible! This study Bible came out in October, and is FULL of great notes, color maps, articles, and comes with a free on-line study aid that you can only use if you own the Bible. My friend Pam claims the on-line part is her favorite part of the ESVSB because you can make "notes" in the margins, search the text and articles, etc. My pastor, Tom Schreiner, was the editor for the New Testiment of the ESVSB, and wrote the study notes for several of the books, as well as quite a few articles. The layout of the Bible is beautiful, easy to read, and useful.

Here's the great part! Right now, my store is featuring the ESVSB in hardback, simulated, bonded, genuine and calfskin leather ALL at 50% off their regular price! This is an AMAZING sale, especially right before Christmas! Please let me know if you are interested in having one of those in time for Christmas, because I'd be glad to ship you one (if you live out of the area), or hand deliver (if I will be seeing you before Christmas!). You can contact me through e-mail, or call me at work (502-897-4506).

Check back tomorrow for the next book in my Christmas countdown!

Friday, December 12, 2008

World's Easiest (and YUMMY) Christmas Cookies!

I have probably share maybe ONE recipe on my blog so far (as much as I like to cook, that's not usually what I use my blog for). But I had to put this up for you. In the spirit of saving time and enjoying the Christmas season, you may want to try these very easy and fast cookies. I made them this afternoon in about a half hour.

I got this recipe from a girl at church after eating WAY too many of her cookies at a VBS meeting. I told her how great they were, and she immediately wrote the recipe down for me. I have used it one time and can give it to you from memory:

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

2 cups Bisquick
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cups peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together the 3 wet ingredients, then add the Bisquick. Roll into balls, and roll in sugar (it's surprisingly not sticky). Bake 8 minutes at 350. Press a Hershey kiss in the middle of each cookie right when it comes out. These seriously are BETTER than most PB kiss cookies I've had (and I am a HUGE PB eater -- love it!). It saves time because of the few ingredients, and little measuring. Plus no sitting out butter to soften, or chilling the dough.

Save some time and make a batch of these!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Enjoying the Season

This year I've really been enjoying the Christmas Season. Maybe I'm procrastinating, but I haven't been caught up in racing around everywhere this year, but have been taking the days slowly and enjoying them one at a time. God's grace is so sweet to me right now, and I'm enjoying quiet mornings sitting by the light of the Christmas tree in His Word. We rearranged our living room so that it would fit in there this year, and I'm so glad we did. I love the tree to be very well lit (I think I inherited this from my dad who inherited it from his dad -- those are some LIT UP trees). My tree has 100 lights per foot. This picture is taken with no other lights on in the room and no flash on the camera! It really only looks this bright when it's dark out, but I just love the soft warm glow in the morning.

I have a few gifts bought (but not wrapped), one batch of cookies made (and nearly all eaten), and have listened to hours of Christmas music. It has been great taking it a bit slower this year and just enjoying Christ and the season! Here are some links to a few really great posts by GirlTalk on planning your time during the Christmas season so you can focus on Christ. May Christ give you joy in your preparations!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pictures in which I look pregnant!

Holding the McCurdy's baby at Johanna's wedding (my sister said "don't show that to anyone! you look pregnant!")

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Post I've Been Waiting to Write

Guess what?

I've picked up some new reading material (side bar soon to be updated).

But sadly, I've been way too sick to read a whole lot lately. If I'm not crouching in the bathroom losing my lunch, I'm laying on the bed hoping it will pass.

And I've been falling asleep earlier, and having a harder time getting out of bed, which cuts into the reading, big time.

But that's okay! I feel like it's worth it. 6 months from now, I'm REALLY sure I'll think so.

We're pretty happy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cute Gift Idea

My friend Carrie is so creative! This girl works 2 jobs and is a full time seminary student, but still has time for her creative side -- photography, and now her new hobby, making jewelry. Her sealed glass pendants are the BEST I've seen -- I just love them! Here is a picture of me wearing the "simple trees" pendant she gave me. I thought it was my favorite (it still is, probably), but every time I look at her etsy shop, I find new ones I love. Please check out her shop here. She is running a sale at "The Blue Door" in time for Christmas shopping. Leave me a comment and let me know which pendant (or ring) was your favorite.

Before you go out shopping for Christmas, check out some unique handmade items at Carrie's etsy shop!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Forget Advent!

Since Thanksgiving falls so late this year, you may be like me, and not realized that the Advent season is quick to follow. This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, as a matter of fact! Whether or not you rigidly follow the liturgical calendar that gives us these dates, I think you'd agree that it's incredibly important to be intentional about focusing on Christ and his incarnation during this season! If we don't go into the Christmas season with PLANS and INTENTIONS of focusing our time and hearts on Christ, then we surely won't.

What is Advent? Quite simply, it is "waiting for Christ to come". That is the way I try to focus on it with children, talking about waiting on Jesus, to create a longing for Jesus in their hearts. The obvious fruit of this is longing for Jesus' return to earth! So our thinking on Christ and his 1st advent, should also remind us that He will come again!

Josh and I typically celebrate the Sundays of Advent similar to the style Noel Piper describes in her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions. (The link I've posted allows you to read the book for free on line if you wish). We light a candle each week by our Nativity and have a special time of reading Old and New Testament passages on the coming of Christ. If you're interested in doing something every day (say with children, so the countdown seems more frequent), I'd recommend Christ in Christmas which is a compilation of scripture, songs, and readings for each day during Advent. Sundays are special in this book, though, and there is more, including a prayer for these days. We have not been able to keep this book in stock! It is excellent, and I think it might be going out of print, but you can still get a used copy.

Don't you love listening to Christmas music? Maybe you are strict about not pulling it out yet, but plan now to listen to rich, Christ-centered worshipful Christmas music to draw your heart toward Christ. I love it that my friends at Sojourn are making this CD available at a price anyone can afford. Another one of my favorite Christmas CDs is Incarnation featuring Kristyn Getty. The prologue of Kristyn reading John 1 is so stirring, and I love the originality of the songs.

Perhaps you have advent traditions you'd like to share here. I'm hoping many of you use these precious days to still your hearts and ponder the wonder of God becoming a man.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My "Paintings"

I've been working on these little canvasses/wall hangings for the past few days, and I'm pretty happy with them. I could only dream of being TRULY artistic. But this project incorporated some painting and something else I love -- Children's books! I began with 2 very inexpensive children's books from Half-Priced books, and then took them apart for their artwork. I know, it's terrible, tearing up books. At this point, I felt like the value of their illustrations was higher than their value as a whole. One was a Golden book of counting animals, and the other was an old illustrated version of Tom Sawyer (don't freak out -- it was abridged, and only 98 cents).

Tonight is the Holiday Christmas Exchange for the Pendergraph Women's Ministry, and I'm bringing my "paintings" as my gifts. Last year I brought these little sets of children's books, which were wonderful, but I decided to go a little more inexpensive and try to make my own thing. I really like my "paintings", but they don't stack up to those sets of books, in my opinion. Anyway, if you'd be so kind, let me know which one is your favorite! (if you like them at all).

This one is of Tom and Huck, so I made the theme "friends". I was pretty happy with the colors.

I loved this one with the 2 lambs. My friend is adopting 2 babies -- one boy and one girl -- and she took this home because of the little poem, as well as the color scheme! I admit, I thought of her while I was making it.

You might not be able to tell, but on this "N is for Nest" one, the chocolate colored N is 3-D, and really cute and thick. I tend to like the letter N.

This last one might be my favorite, because I like the colors. My sweet friend Jo is from England, and her little girls love horses, so she nabbed this one for them. Just what I was hoping for!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cranberry Butter

Okay, friends, if I become the size of a house, please point me back to this post and show me where I started going wrong. :) I am totally addicted to one of my favorite fall foods -- cranberry butter! MMM. I got this idea from Martha Stewart 3 or 4 years ago to use some of your extra cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and make cranberry butter with it. That has developed from being a great left-overs-from-Thanksgiving idea to the REASON I make cranberry sauce as soon as November hits. Take equal parts softened butter and cool cranberry sauce (made from whole cranberries, not that "shaped like a can" kind) and beat them using a paddle attachment (I use my Kitchen Aid) until the butter is pink and chunky. WOW!

It's amazing on biscuits, warm rolls, toast, plain bread -- you know, all the health foods. :) It's a week and 4 days until Thanksgiving, and I might be able to last, with the help of a few rolls and cranberry butter.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

November is C.S. Lewis Month

Where did November come from? Suddenly I'm a whole week into it, and just now realizing that I've not yet chosen what book to read in honor of C.S. Lewis. Every year I read at least one book BY Lewis, and perhaps others that are about him, or that he liked. Any of you who have read my blog for some time know that near the end of this month, we have a birthday party in his honor, which always involves drinking gallons of tea and plenty of read-aloud. You can read about past celebrations here and here.

So this month I think I'll read E. Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, which will complete the trilogy that Lewis cherished reading so much as a child. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis says "the last [book in the trilogy] did most for me. It first opened my eyes to antiquity . . . I can still reread it with delight." Since Nesbit is also one of my favorite authors, I'd better read what Lewis still found delight in as an adult!

I'm also going to read at least parts of Myths of the Norsemen. Again, as a young man, Lewis loved myths, and especially loved "the north". I believe this is the book that he found on his neighbor's bedside table and discovered a bond of friendship because they both loved it so much.

But what Lewis book to read? I have read almost all his very best (in my opinion). I could do a reread, but I'd like to go for something new. I think I'm going to read a lesser known book of essays called The World's Last Night. We have this really incredible old hardcover copy with a great vintage cover -- it's really my friend Misty's, she left it at our house probably 2 years ago. I'll be very careful with it, and besides, knowing Misty, she would be SAD if good books weren't being read, even if they are old and valuable.

Will you join me in reading C.S. Lewis this month?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanks for your 2 cents!

I really appreciate all the helpful comments you all gave me on cheap food! By all means, you don't have to stop the suggestions, but I wanted to post again and let you know a couple of things I am implementing in order to take those "2 cents" to the bank! :)

#1 -- today is Aldi shopping day. Praise the Lord I have a half day this week because I'm working on Saturday, otherwise going to Aldi is an evening totally gone, and I just don't have any of those left over! Our Aldis in L-ville are pretty spread out, not anywhere near the ritzy-ish neighborhood the campus is in, so I really want to go when I have time.

#2 -- meal planning for 2 weeks! I have NEVER done this. Not completely. After about 10 meals, I get tired of trying to think of things, and I just think "and then I'm sure something will come up that I can use". Great strategy, right? :) I've got a shopping list made from a FULL 2 weeks of 21 meals a week, all to be bought at Aldi. We're going to see if we can make it work. This is my trial run. I tried to think of meals that overlap ingredients (drawing from the once-a-month cooking stints that we did when I was a teenager and my mom had babies).

#3 -- a baking/cooking day. I've decided to block out a Saturday in the near future and just dedicate it to making stuff to put in the freezer. So many of you suggested soup, so I'm pretty sure I'll be fixing a soup to freeze, as well as pizza dough for calzones, and biscuits (2 new things for me!).

#4 -- the great pop debate. . . this is still being tabled. Josh and I LOVE pop (or soda, or whatever you call it). We haven't been buying it as much lately, but I know Josh especially misses taking it in his lunches. Around here we can never find the kind of pop sales they have in northern Ohio, so it's either drop $5 on a 12 pack, or skip the pop. We try to do 2 liters, but it's still not cheap. So we're thinking about counting pop as part of our "entertainment" budget! Is that crazy? Haha!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cheap Food

I am trying to do my part to help with tightening up our budget, and I've really been rather stumped when it comes to the groceries. For whatever reason, I've had a hard time trimming it down! I think I just like variety too much, so it's hard to plan otherwise. I already save pretty well on meat because I buy so little (we eat a lot of eggs, PB, tuna, beans, etc).

So thrifty friends -- what do are your helpful hints for saving $ on the grocery bill? I'd love some feedback so I don't feel like I'm only eating starch! I mean, Ramen noodles bring back that college spirit like nothing else, but it probably is not the healthiest staple out there. :)

PLEASE post some of your favorite cheap foods/meals for all of us to benefit from!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

Last night was our annual Reformation Celebration at Clifton Baptist Church -- this year celebrating the lives of John Knox and the Scottish Covenantors. Well over 100 children and adults crowded onto the 4th Floor of our church building (I'm just glad it held us) to play, sing, learn and of course EAT together for this exciting party. I never take enough pictures of things WHILE they're happening, because I'm too excited running around and enjoying it while it's going on. Plus, it's always so PACKED OUT that some photo ops are not possible. Here are a few fun ones that show a bit of what the night was like:

Just a FEW of our amazingly dressed volunteers! This is not even a third of the willing brothers and sisters that helped out to make it a special night. Unfortunately, this is the ONLY picture I have that shows part of the painting we made. I forgot to take a picture of it completed! Sorry! you can see just a tiny portion of the elaborate puppet stage one of our moms labored long and hard to build and paint this week. She and her team put on a puppet show about John Knox's call to preach in "St Andrew's Puppet Theatre". I bet you've never watched a puppet show like that before!

One ongoing activity is kids getting arrested and put in jail. It happens throughout the night while the kids are going around playing games. This year we made it so their clans had to come and pay the price on their heads to free them (I got the idea from reading Danger on the Hill in which Margaret Wilson's 13 year old sister was freed from jail because her father paid the ransom). Everyone basically really wants to get put in jail so they can thrash around and get attention (I guess!). One of my junior high girls, Chrissy, paid the guards to arrest me! This year I made sure to capture that moment on camera. I should be honored to be jailed for standing up for my beliefs, I suppose. I don't look too happy about it here, though! I love the way Bethan is posing with me here!

Look at this precious child in jail! This sad face is so believable, I was beginning to think he was truly sad. I think he might have been missing out on collecting candy or something.

We don't give prizes for costumes, but I'm always amazed with what people pull out! The Wright family (one of our Elders' families) are big history buffs and descendants of the Campbell clan, so they pulled out all the stops last night (as evidenced by this ADORABLE picture of their youngest child in the wig and kilt).

I also like this picture of 2 of the boys in the youth group chatting by the "fireplace" in the Knox home. Ignore the modern looking trash can! Ha ha!

I better stop with just a few more -- so here are some pictures of a couple booths I really liked. The first one is called Gedes versus Laud and you were supposed to throw the bean bag "stool" at the liturgy book the dean is holding. This booth is in commemoration of Jenny Gedes standing up for what she believed in St. Giles' church. Marilyn and Virginia donned the garb of the common folk to run the booth.

In this one, "Barricading the Priests", you were trying to throw the "priests" (made from socks -- so cute!) through the windows of the "church building". Britney and Courtney sat inside the church, trying to deflect the flying priests and toss them back out. It was really funny to watch the kids hurl them back at them!

One last picture -- this is Caitlin and me having a sip of water in the Knox home. I just love this girl AND all the other great friends that came out for the party! I learned so much about the heritage of my faith this year!
Tomorrow I'm doing a (mini) Reformation Party for story hour at the bookstore. What will I do without all the help?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Almost Reformation Day!

Okay, so I'm bummed that no-one wanted to take a chance on my Covenantors Quiz, but I guess I should have offered a prize for it or something. :) I understand that most of your lives are revolving around the things you do, not around the Reformation like mine is right now. Just spent a lovely 7+ hours at the church working on setting up for the big night, and I was so encouraged to have so many great friends from Clifton show up to lend a hand. I think it would have REALLY been a lot for Annie and I to carry the whole load this year -- thank you, Lord!

Here are a couple pictures that show som
e of the stuff we worked on. It's a bit hard to tell quite how cool it is on the 4th floor of our church building where everything still looks . . . well, OLD. I'll be sure to put up some fun pictures of the night of next week to show the cute kiddos in their costumes and such. For now, here are some people-less shots.
Here is what greets you at the gates of Edinburgh. You come up some large stairs to this sight, so it was a little hard to get a shot that was broad enough and high enough to include the banner. I figured you could imagine the rest of the castle gate look. I am very happy with the Christ's Crown and Covenant banner, which was drawn free-hand by my sister Emily and then painted in by willing volunteers.

This is one of the adjoining rooms -- the Great Hall. Several sort of carnival games are in here, which I'm sure I'll get some good photos of on Wednesday. A couple of super-generous Seminary guys came and hung all the brick wall paper in the room, which was AWESOME. If you can see through the doorway into the room in the background, you may notice something that looks rather like gravestones on the wall, which is what they are. That booth is the "Last Words" booth in which the kids remember the martyrs who died for their faith by reading their last words. It seems a little strange, but a really great way to emphasize how they persevered to the end.

Well, it's still a few hours until Josh gets off work, so I think I'll do some organizing in my bedroom and watch "Luther" while I'm in the Reformation Spirit!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reformation Party Update!

I've got a one-track mind these days -- The Reformation Party! Here is a picture of my sister Emily beginning to sketch out the highlands landscape we painted last Saturday. It's not quite done, so I'll wait until it's complete to give you some updated pictures.

Here's a quiz I wrote for the kids about the Scottish Reformers. Feel free to use wikipedia or whatever and answer the questions yourself! You can even put the smiley and frowny faces in your comment box by the villains and covenantors. Sorry, I could not control the size or spacing of the quiz.

Scottish Covenanters Quiz

Kids, you will find the answers to these questions in your Scottish Reformation booklet. Parents, feel free to give aid to children who need it.

1. What did Jenny Gedes throw at the Dean when he began to read from the Book of Common Prayer?

a. a pillow

b. a rotton tomato

c. the Bible

d. her stool

2. Who offered to die in the place of George Wishart? (hint: it was his bodyguard)

a. Patrick Hamilton

b. John Knox

c. John Graham of Claverhouse

d. King Charles the II

Draw a frowny-face next to the villains listed below, and a smile beside the covenantors:

a. John Graham of Claverhouse

b. James Turner

c. Jenny Gedes

d. Hugh McKail

e. Archbishop James Sharp

f. James Renwick

What churchyard did Presbyterians gather in to sign the National Covenant and declare their commitment to the Reformed Faith in 1638?

a. Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh

b. St. Giles Kirk

c. Clifton Baptist Church

What did some churches do when the King sent young, inexperienced and less-than-holy preachers to take over for the Reformed pastors? Put True or False next to each suggestion

a. they threw a big potluck dinner to welcome them _____

b. they boarded up the doors so they couldn’t come in _____

c. they made them climb through the windows to get in _____

d. they liked them better than their old preachers _____

The people could still gather to hear the preaching from their preachers who had been expelled. In what kind of places did they gather? (circle all that apply)

a. at night

b. in the pouring rain

c. in the hills and valleys

d. in the king’s house

7. What was the name of the brave young preacher who did not recant his beliefs even under severe torture, and was eventually hanged?

a. Richard Cameron

b. Hugh McKail

c. Samuel Rutherford

d. Archibald Campbell

8. The years 1684-1685 were known as:

a. The Killing Times

b. The Restoration

c. The Revolution

9. What were the names of the King and Queen that finally brought peace and religious freedom to Scotland?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Reformation Party Time!

Every year our church, Clifton Baptist, hosts a Reformation Party near October 31st (the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door in Wittenburg). I get to help organize the event, and now that I've been around a whole year, I've got an idea of how it goes, and I can really help my friend Annie administrate the event (she is the main brains behind the operation).

This year our Reformer we're focusing on is John Knox, and along with him, the tradition of the Scottish Covenantors. Even though I remember studying about Knox in college, I didn't know much about the persecution the Covenantors underwent over the course of a couple hundred years. It has been fascinating! I read an excellent little book based on the true story of teenage martyr Margaret Wilson, who died near the end of the "killing years" for her faith. The amazing thing about Margaret, and her younger brother and sister, who were also Covenantors with prices on their heads, was that their parents were loyal to the Parish church, and signed the oath saying the king was head of the church. I was awed by the faith of these KIDS who stood for what they believed, and in Margaret's case, to the DEATH. I highly recommend Danger on the Hill by Catherine Mackenzie, Christian Focus Publishers. It tells Margaret's story in a fictional way, adding in characters or details where history is not certain, but of her death it is quite precise.

Here are past posts I did last year about our Reformation Party, and I'll keep updating this year as things emerge and become more set in stone. Today we're going to start on setting up some of the decorations, including painting a mural of the Scottish Highlands! Hope to be back with some photo updates! Also, I'd be interested in some costume suggestions. I'm probably going to go peasant (with a plaid shawl or something) again unless I can come up with something better.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Favorite Children's Bibles Article

It's been awhile, since I've posted, I know! My husband had fall break last week, so he was doing a ton of homework, and I just had less access to the computer. Sorry about that.

I've been meaning to post a link to this article by Justin Taylor on favorite children's Bibles. I've found more and more adults mention reading children's Bibles as a great source of encouragement to their faith! My sweet friend Jen even added The Big Picture Bible by David Helm to her wedding registry.

Think about reading from one of these Bibles along with your morning devotions. When you read your child a bedtime story, consider how that story applies to YOU! I remember so vividly my friend Christen telling me how she was convicted when she read her daughter Hannah the story of Jesus calming the storm from The Jesus Storybook Bible. I hope you are likewise blessed with reading these good books.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Christian Fellowship

One of the highlights of my year came and went last weekend with our Women's Retreat at Clifton Baptist Church (where Josh and I are members). Once again, I was overjoyed by the time away, to take time to be quiet and focus on Christ, to grow together with my sisters in Christ, and to enjoy fellowship with them. And once again, even though I took my camera, I barely remembered to use it. Not every good moment at a retreat is a good photo op as well, you know? The best things of all, are the quiet moments of reflection, and you can't exactly take pictures of those times. (Note: This picture looks crooked because the camera was up on a hill near where we hiked).

I really tried to be intentional with my time at the retreat. First, I printed off some good discussion questions from GirlTalk to promote edifying conversation in the car ride (a little over an hour to the retreat center) with the girls in my car pool. It was great! I felt like I grew a lot in my understanding of these friends during our trip there. Another thing I tried to do was sit with a variety of people during meals and worship time so I could get to know a range of women. I have been at Clifton long enough, I guess, that I knew almost everybody at the retreat this year! Even though I stayed up kind of late Friday night, I still rose early on Saturday to enjoy that early morning quiet in the pretty lodge we were sleeping in. To aid my reflection time, I brought along this Personal Retreat I downloaded from GirlTalk. I had brought these questions with me last year, and was very glad I'd taken the time to reflect on my priorities. This year was even better, because I'd managed to get up so early, that no one else at the retreat was up yet -- not even the girls making breakfast for us all. I had plenty of time to read my Bible, work through the Personal Retreat, and write a note of appreciation for our speaker before the coffee was ready. I am so thankful for God's grace to enable me to rise early that morning!

At lunch, that day, one of my favorite ladies, Doris Stam, led those of us huddled around a round table with our soup and sandwiches in a conversation where we each shared where we lived when we were 6, how we heated our house, and when we first began to warm towards the Lord. It was a great time of sharing! I always love to hear how friends have come to Christ.

Our speaker was a lady I respect greatly, Gretchen Wright. She has been a friend to me here at Clifton, and impacts the younger women with her genuine and open life. She spoke to us about being rooted in Christ from Colossians -- which was just amazing. Her teaching was profound, and yet very practical and applicable. She suggested we filter life through 3 thoughts -- God's sovereignty, glory and grace, which was SO HELPFUL! I'm still chewing on these thoughts. When her talks get uploaded to our church's website, I'll be sure to put up the link.

I was WIPED OUT when I got back from the retreat, but overflowing with joy in Christ. The Lord used this time to convict me of areas of sin, and grow my affections for Christ. What a weekend!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sweet Sacrifice -- an Evening with Jani Ortlund

Last evening, Pendergraph Women's Ministry here on campus hosted speaker and writer Jani Ortlund (author of Fearlessly Feminine and His Loving Law, His Lasting Legacy). I had been so blessed when I read FF last fall for a class, and eagerly anticipated hearing directly from Mrs. Ortlund. We were so richly blessed by her years of experience and wisdom! It is occasions such as these that cause me to reflect on how blessed I am to be here at Seminary with my husband. Here is a photo of me with Mrs. Ortlund -- doesn't she look like a movie star? She is beautiful inside and out. You'd NEVER guess her age. :)

One sacrifice that Jani emphasized in her address was the sacrifice of your reputation -- being willing to turn one deaf ear and blind eye to any unkind rumors. She encouraged us to determine to live our lives in such a way that if people hear rumors, they would automatically dismiss them because of the testimony we bear. However, this is no guarantee that we won't be falsely attacked and misun
derstood! She gave us several examples from history of great leaders who were treated poorly even when they lived lives of purity. We are promised suffering, right? Christ, who made Himself of no reputation, when reviled, reviled not again. Or as Romans 12 (which I have been memorizing and meditating on this week) tells us "Bless those that persecute you -- bless, and curse not. . . Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."

I was so challenged with this wise advice. I know I am guilty of being defensive when I am misunderstood! It also challenged me to consider how I use MY tongue.

After Mrs. Ortlund spoke, we went over to Dr. and Mrs. Mohler's gorgeous home for dessert and (MY favorite) exploring the library in the basement! Here are a couple photos from the rest of the evening.

Me, with our lovely hostess, Mrs. Mohler.

This one is a little far away, but I like how it captured the scope of one of the rooms in the library. My friend Jena (with me in the picture) did a little video tour of our exploration of the library last night. It was great fun. Here is the post I wrote after my first visit to the Mohler's house 2 years ago. Kind of fun to see how my perspective has changed a bit. Not entirely, though. I'm still in awe!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Poetry Reading

My lovely friend Virginia hosted an evening of poetry reading and sipping tea last Saturday night. We dressed up, shared desserts and read aloud to one another (some quoted by heart) a wide variety of verse, reminding me how much I enjoy good poetry. One guest had been a literature major in college, and brought a nice stack of thick anthologies to browse through, so we continued to flip around and find more and more forgotten favorites.

Several people brought original verses they had composed for the occasion, including myself. Mine was a tongue in cheek limerick written in answer to a challenge from our friend Micah. I had mentioned the kind of poetry I'd written in college wasn't edifying -- more man-hating and obsessed with eating disorders. Micah suggested I write a poem contrasting my old mentality with my current happy state. I'm truly not a good poet, but these are the lines I dashed down:

There was a time when I nibbled on leafs
And glared at you all snarfing beefs
but now all that has changed
Josh my heart rearranged
So I guess you could say "love's a feast".

***Edit: Girls, you're quite mistaken if you imagine reading poetry to be a chiefly serious activity. Of course, there were occasions to ponder the words read, but for the most part, everybody read things that drew more than a few chuckles. Josh's original work "Deep Darkness", which was a satyr on the dread life of singlehood (clearly a JOKE) brought hearty guffaws, and I must say I got not only a standing ovation, but also a couple tee hees. One girl read this horridly hilarious poem called "The Lady's Dressing Room" by Jonathan Swift in which a devoted young man discovers, to his disgust, all the gross things his young lady does to beautify herself. We roared. So let me dispel any "refined" myths.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meditations on Sin and Mercy

Tonight I'm just about overflowing with joy and blessings, not because of any one event or happiness, but because of God's grace measured out to me all day today. I had an extremely long work day today with a myriad of events and conversations (several really meaningful ones) followed by my discipleship class tonight where I was blessed beyond measure by God's goodness to me through the women in my class. So I can't pinpoint it to one THING that is making my cup overflow, but I think I can pinpoint it to one idea.

This morning I "randomly" picked up a new book to sort of thumb through and see what it was about. This is the sort of thing people do in bookstores when they consider making a purchase, but I had been given this book by a kind soul and I set it on my "to read NOW" stack because of the author and title. T
he book is Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul Tripp. I read the intro, the "story" about David and Bathsheba (which I had recently read in my Bible, as well as considered when reading through another good book) and then the Psalm that David wrote after he was convicted of that sin. Then I skimmered through and read chapter 3 "Something in my hands I bring" which is like a streams of conscience-type poem about bringing words to the Lord. Hm. Very original thought.

So I think I have been chewing on this idea of my sin and God's mercy ALL DAY. Sometimes I've been more aware of it and sometimes it's been more seeping in my sub-conscience. But now I come to the end of this long day and I am nearly in tears for all the mercies that have been new to me -- nearly each hour this day. I am so grateful for the opportunity to SEE the mercies. I stumble around so blindly trying to make things happen by my own effort so often that I miss them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book-Themed Birthday Party

My sister-in-law Kari threw a first birthday party for her son Max, last weekend. She chose Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? as the theme, because it is Max's favorite book. Guess which Auntie bought that book for him? :) Kari did a great job, and the party turned out really well. I'm so proud of Kari for being such a great mom, and among other things, reading to Max so much. He's sure to grow up loving books and reading with this kind of care! Here are a couple pictures from the party:

If you look closely, you can see the blue horse on the side of Maxy's little cake. He wasn't so sure why EVERYONE was looking at him and singing, but he fell to once the cake was in his reach! (and the candle safely out).

Story time! Kari reads Max's favorite book to all the guests. She has it memorized, and quotes it to him all the time. Maxy was pretty excited and lunged for the red bird page! I just love it when babies love books!

Here is Maxy playing with his present from Uncle Josh -- a real Louisville Slugger with his name on it! Good thing it's still a little bit heavy, or watch out!

Great party, Kari! I wish I had some more pictures of the cake and things, to show the Brown Bear theme, but you get the gist. Have any of you done book-themed birthday parties? I think it's such a fun idea!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lessons Learned in the Dark

So Hurricane Ike sent some of his winds up to us last Sunday -- no rain, just wind -- and wiped out the power in our lovely city. A couple pockets were not affected, but hundreds of thousands of people lost their electricity for a few days -- many have still not been restored! We were out for 3 days, and I tried to take a few pictures here and there to document the lessons I learned in the dark. Some are practical, some more thoughtful -- but here they are:

Lesson 1: You can do a lot of cleaning without electricity. For instance, look at how great my freezer looks!
Lesson 2: Unbelievers can be enormously generous (often putting Christians to shame). Josh and I were fed like kings at the Louisville Slugger Factory where Josh works as a tour guide. They gave us tons of ice as well. Lesson 3: You don't need electricity to enjoy the warmth of friendship -- in fact, you bond quite closely without it. We had a lovely campfire with several friends, singing and telling ghost stories around the fire. No outlets needed!
Here is a picture of me with my sister Emily and her roommate Faith. We had some nice bonding time charging our electronics at the local coffee shop. I appreciated their positive attitudes. Emily didn't complain once even when we had to hike to Java carrying all our earthly goods in backpacks.
Lesson 4: Our school has excellent leadership. Now I knew this before, but it was really good to see firsthand. After the first 24 hours passed without the lights, Dr. Mohler called a meeting on the lawn (where it was light) and updated everyone on how the place would run without power. Free food, canceled classes -- what did I say about generosity?! I really appreciate how everything was quickly addressed and organized. We are so blessed to have this kind of humble leadership on our campus!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kingdom Kids Prayer Festival

Wednesday night was our end-of-the-summer festival for the kids at church. We had a prayer Festival around the world, as a fun conclusion to learning about unreached people groups in the 10/40 window. The kids got boarding passes and passports, and traveled around the world with their pilots. Each classroom was set up to represent a different people group in a different country. Here's a picture of my room. We were the Khamba people in Tibet. So use your imagination, that is my tent. My room was probably the most creative and imaginative and the LEAST accurate. Ha ha! We can't all have it all. Here I'm serving the cute kiddos Tsampa to eat when they visit my home. I bet when the Khamba make tsampa, it doesn't taste EXACTLY like cookie dough, but that's what it was when I made it. So mostly everyone really liked it. Also, the Khamba do not wear saris exactly. But that is all I had and I tied it differently so it's not so traditional-Indian.
Doris Stam hosting the China room. She's so cute! Her husband, Chip, is our Worship Pastor and the nephew of the John and Betty Stam who were martyrs in 1934. The Stams are some of my favorite people in the world! My friend Amelia, hosting the Turkey room (the kids had just come from the India room where they were shown honor with flower necklaces). Her husband went to Turkey this summer, along with a number of people from our church, Clifton Baptist. What a blessing to be in a community of believers who are so aware of God's movements in the world, and who desire to be a part of that!

Thanks, everybody, for helping! It was a great night of co-operating with a great team of competent , like-minded servants. I'd highly recommend the Caleb project material. The DVDs about unreached people groups are fabulous. Check out their website. I think you could even just use this for your family, or for a geography class in your homeschool group.