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Casting Grace

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She somberly looked down at the ground – too intimidated and utterly ashamed for the crime she had committed. She could feel their condemning eyes piercing her weary and broken spirit. Death was the only penalty for such an act against the Law.  Perhaps in that moment, she wondered what brought her to this point? How had she become so entangled by the chains of sin? Perhaps she longed for mercy and the gift of a second chance.

The Pharisees stood – stones clutched in hand – prepared to deliver their verdict. But before casting the penalty, the Pharisees looked to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?”  Jesus knelt down and began to write in the sand.  The guilty woman awaited her imminent fate – bracing herself for impact – when a gentle voice arose and hushed her merciless accusers.

Jesus replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more, Jesus bent down and wrote in the sand. Slowly, one by one, the woman’s accusers dropped their stones and walked away, until only Jesus stood before the woman. Jesus said,  “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11).

The woman was face to face with Saving Grace. When the Pharisees were ready to stone her to death, it was the grace of Jesus that interceded.

Oftentimes, we are easily tempted to cast our own stones onto others who we believe fit the bill of deserved judgement. Perhaps the pregnant teenager we pass in the baby isle at the store – completely unfit to be a mother.  Maybe the homeless man who stands by the side of the road – unkept and filthy. Or the unpolished, inappropriately dressed woman who finds her way to the front pew of church on Sunday morning.

It is so easy for us to assume our own preconceived notions about people – the teenage mom is a promiscuous and insubordinate adolescent. The homeless man is obviously nothing but a lazy drunk who is in search of a handout to fund his alcohol addiction – who refuses to work and has no one to blame for his predicament but himself. The inappropriately dressed woman in the front row is just coming off of her drug high and happened to stumble into church. She’s nothing but a distraction and will likely reject any form of truth offered to her. Surely our conclusions are without error.

But even if we assume correctly, does that give us license to cast a stone? Remember how Jesus knelt down to write in the sand? Many believe that when Jesus bent down the first time, He was writing the names and sins of the Pharisees (theory based on Jeremiah 17:13). But what did He write the second time in the sand, after the Pharisees quietly dispersed? No one really knows for sure and the Bible does not indicate as to what He wrote. Although some speculate that he simply wrote one word: FORGIVEN.

We are acting like the Pharisees, when in reality, we all are the adulterous woman. Satan stood as the accuser, declaring us guilty. Because of sin, we deserved the penalty of death. But the Cornerstone, the only One blameless from sin, withheld punishment. He interceded. Rather than casting a stone, Jesus casted grace. And His verdict? FORGIVEN.

We can conveniently stash our sins away before others can see them. We can hide behind our seemingly put together outward appearances, so it is easy for us to cast stones upon someone who appears outwardly undone. Not only do we tend to shy away from these outwardly undone people, we either inwardly or outwardly condemn them.   After all, it’s always easier to point out someone else’s sin before taking a hard look into the mirror.

Maybe the pregnant teen is in deep need of guidance, not judgement. Maybe the homeless man is in search of a new opportunity, not a handout. Maybe the woman in the pew is in search for a second chance, not condemnation.

Even in spite of ourselves and need for grace, we fail to extend the love of Christ and His grace. We instead choose to cast stones of insulting assumptions, looks of disapproval, and judgmental accusations. We look upon them and perhaps feel that the last thing they deserve is grace, when grace is exactly the last thing we deserved. We cast stones without acknowledging the fact that while we are yet sinners, our Savior chose to bestow His saving grace upon us. And by His grace, we received new life – a second chance.

The Gospel would reach a lot more hearts if we were more diligent and eager to cast a helping hand, cast the Truth, cast encouragement, and cast love. But first, we must be willing to cast the very thing that determined our salvation – grace.

Maybe if we could get off our own righteous high horse and extend God’s grace to the pregnant teenager, the homeless man or the woman in the front pew, we can become less like the Pharisees and more like Christ. Jesus did not come to either condone or condemn. He came to simply save the lost.  And because He bore our sin and shame, we’ve been given the undeserved gift to freely and unabashedly dance in the presence of His grace.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

“The lost” – like the pregnant teen, the homeless man, the woman in the front pew, and you and me. Anyone who comes to Christ was formerly enslaved in sin, but became set free by amazing grace. Grace. That is the heart of our Redeemer. And that is the heart He desires to create in us. To seek and save the lost – not to push the lost out the door with our Pharisaical verdicts.  He calls us to release our stones and cast grace.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why My Kids Won’t Be Getting An Easter Basket This Year

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It goes without saying that I love holidays – especially the traditions and festivities that coincide as an intercal part of the celebration. For years, I have religiously obliged to culturally endorsed customs as a part of our children’s upbringing. Like most loving parents, I want my children to experience the fun, excitement and nostalgia of an Easter basket- filled with all the usual staples – jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, perhaps a toy or two, and even those borderline inedible, pastel marshmallow chicks. So why have I experienced a sudden change of heart? I mean, what harm is there in giving kids an Easter basket?

I realize this may not be a widely accepted, popular concept. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly inclined to the thought at first either. After all, it’s just a basket.

But the problem is not a basket- the problem is what the basket represents (or in better words, fails to represent). I have become rather fed up with buying into traditions that shift our focus from the real meaning of our celebration, whose sole purpose is to further encourage our innate hunger for self-centeredness. Easter and Christmas alike, have become nothing but reason to indulge our children with more stuff they really don’t need-  empty stuff filled with empty promises and temporal joy. A risen Savior is simply not a good enough reason to rejoice-  we need an Easter Basket. And what would the gift of eternal life be without candy-filled eggs and plush bunnies?

 Easter baskets are certainly not evil, but they are certainly irrelevant.

While shopping the other day, I was faced with my usual Easter dilemma of choosing the perfect vehicle for my kids’ Easter goodies. Should I opt for the classic and sturdy  whicker baskets or something more practical-  perhaps one of those beach totes from the dollar store? I couldn’t decide. Fast forward to 3 pm that afternoon. I picked up Joanna from school and she began reminiscing about the birthday party she had attended over the past weekend. She loved one of the gifts the birthday girl received and asked if she could have one too. I told her what I always tell the kids when I’m not ready to commit to any kind of purchase: “Maybe for your birthday.”

With her birthday being less than two months away, I was certain my answer would suffice and put an end to her persistent questioning. But then she asked, “How many more days until Easter?” I instantly knew where this was going right before she added, “can I get it for Easter instead?” It’s amazing to me that more kids don’t grow up to be lawyers, because they are natural negotiators.  Please refer to exhibit A (my daughter) and exhibit B (my son).  The wheels in my head began to turn when I realized my daughter was associating Easter as another opportunity to get what she wants.

Our attention can become so easily focused on creating the perfect holiday experience for our children. We carefully consider every detail from decorating the house, planning an “eggstravagant” egg hunt, and the perfectly trimmed Easter basket.   In doing so, we become distracted by tradition and lose sight of Easter’s purpose. It’s about the cross. It’s about Christ.

Driving in the car, I pondered her suggestion for a moment before I came to my concrete decision. After discussing my thoughts with Jesse, we both felt strongly to forget about the Easter baskets this year.  Easter is not about a basket. It’s about our Mighty King, whose body was beaten beyond recognition, who feebly carried His own splintered instrument of death, who paid the debt we owed, who conquered the grave, who restored us to the Lord, and to this day, the One who victoriously sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf.

Jesus’ crucifixion was not wrapped with a pretty bow. It was grotesquely horrific, but in spite of this severe image of pain and anguish, we find the very definition of love and eternal promise.  Yet somehow, even with all this beautiful truth, we have become content and complacent with overshadowing Christ with commercialized pagan traditions. And once more, the purpose of the holiday becomes synonymous with  false senses of significance .

When you place your perspective on Christ, all the man-made customs of Easter  suddenly become so trivial. It’s not that I don’t want to lavish my children with the joy from gifts, candy, and fun. But I would rather my children be lavished by the joy of redemption, not chocolate bunnies. Lavished by the joy of salvation, not battery-operated, chirping chicks. And lavished by the joy of Christ, not a basket. There is no harm in a basket, but there is harm in allowing a basket draw our focus away where the real attention is due.

So while I can conclude that Easter baskets are not evil in of themselves, they do fail to accurately represent the Son of God. The Easter holiday marks the single most important event in all human history. Jesus fulfilled His prophesied purpose when He died on the cross and rose again.  You and I were washed white as snow by the Blood of the Lamb. And that, in itself, is worth celebrating!

“And the angel said, ‘do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said'” (Matthew 28: 5 & 6).

He is alive!

Christ is risen!

Hallelujah!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

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“It’s Ok, Mommy!” (When God Uses Our Children to Encourage Us)

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About two years ago, Jesse and I found ourselves in the blazing heat of a fire that put our faith to the test. We had been renting a house- a charming bungalow- that I just loved. From the original hardwood floors throughout the interior to the grape hyacinths that adorned the backyard in Springtime, it felt like an answer to prayer. This quaint and cozy house affectionately became home to our family and we felt immeasurably blessed to live there.

I had prayed to God for years to give us a home of our own. But no matter what measures we took, the door kept closing again and again.

You see, Jesse and I had overcome many obstacles to reach this point in our lives. We endured set back after set back before we reached two pivotal life goals- obtaining Jesse’s teaching licensure and home ownership. For years, it was nothing but battling one dead end job to another within seasons of living with family and in tiny apartments.  We sacrificed our living situation in order for Jesse to finish school. Finally, it was in March of 2013, that we moved into our beloved bungalow.

But even though we were overjoyed to finally live in a house, it was not officially ours. There was still a battle ahead of us. While the owner was satisfied with having us rent the house in the beginning, he soon desired to remove himself from the liability and sell the property.  In all our best efforts, we struggled in our attempt to purchase the place we had called home for the past year and a half.

The owner became impatient for us to secure the mortgage and eventually listed the home for sale in March of 2015. I can recall those disheartened days when I had to make our house presentable for perspective buyers that were coming to view our home- each one posing a potential threat of our eviction.  Despite unconstructive advice to leave the house a complete mess for showings, my convictions would not bring me to disrespect the owner’s wishes in that way, as hard as it was for me to feel as though I was participating against my will.

We would have to lead our family out of the home we dearly loved and desperately wanted to keep while the showings took place- each one feeling like an eternity. Every time we watched from afar as strangers pulled out of our driveway at the conclusion of their showing, a great sense of uncertainty lingered within our hearts.

While we were fighting to keep our family in our home, we were hit with heavy news in late May, which pushed back our efforts to secure a mortgage once more. Jesse’s school district was undergoing building consolidation that resulted in the non-renewal of his teaching contract for the upcoming school year.

Not only could our house be sold and taken out from under us at any moment, but we now had to scramble to find a new source of income. In the midst of what felt like God  fighting against us, we soon discovered He was really fighting for us.

Jesse quickly searched for a new teaching position, but while several local schools were hiring, nothing was opening in his favor. One day, he approached me with the notion to apply to schools farther away. If offered a position, I realized our family may be required to move.

I was immediately resistant and not ready to give up the fight and relinquish the home I had earnestly prayed and longed for. In a desperate effort, Jesse pursued the long-distance positions with an open mind, while I kept pleading that God would not uproot us and keep us planted right where we were.

One morning, I was driving my kids to the library and began to talk to God. Within the parameters of my mind- a space where only my quiet thoughts exist and only God can hear- I cried out, “Jesus, I need you. I can’t do this alone. I’m not ready to walk away from this home. I don’t have the strength to endure this. I don’t think I can take much more. I’ve wanted a home for so long. Why is this so hard? It’s a battle too much for me to bear.” At that very moment, my daughter, Joanna (who was only 4 at the time), simply uttered these words in her small, sweet voice: “It’s ok, Mommy. Jesus fights all our battles and He always wins.”

“From the mouths of babes, you have established strength” (Psalm 8:2). God spoke to me from the mouth of my 4-year old, who didn’t audibly hear my cry for help or realize the profound encouragement in her spoken words- words not from her own wisdom, but completely orchestrated by God.

I was so overcome by the presence of God, I had to quickly pull the car over to re-gain my composure. As I sat there with my head on the steering wheel, weeping tears of remorse and tears of joy at the same time, I knew God had heard my plea. And He boldly answered me through a most innocent vessel. That defining moment, right by the side of the road, changed the course of my faith. I peacefully released all my questioning worries, thoughts of doubt and yes, even our home into the hands of Jesus.

God reminded me that His plans are always higher than my plans. His ways are not my ways. But most importantly, He reminded me that I don’t have to fight my own battles. I can surrender my will to a Mighty, Sovereign Lord who stands in my place and fights on my behalf. So I prayed, “God, forgive me for my lack of faith. If it is your will that we move, I submit myself, our home and providing resources into your hands.”

God doesn’t need our permission to fulfill His will, but He does desire that we trust in His will.

Exactly one week later, Jesse was offered a teaching and coaching position that brought our family to Cleveland. Even against all the prior adversity we faced in obtaining a mortgage, God quickly opened the door for us to buy a home- a home that was newer and larger than the home we left behind. He fought for me- and He victoriously won the battle for me. Through this journey, I grasped a little more of the divine authority and power of God, His provision and even the route He chooses to speak to me. And I have been truly humbled ever since.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” -Jeremiah 33:3

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Overwhelmed Mom-You Are Blessed

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While perusing the isles of the grocery store one day with my 4-year old, I couldn’t help but notice the familiar sounds of a disgruntled mother (kind of resembles a ticking time bomb that’s about to explode) who appeared to be reaching her breaking point in the midst of isle 8, right next to the dairy. Her four boys, all under the age of 5, were running up and down the crowded isle, playing monkey in the middle with a tube of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls (and making impressively accurate monkey impressions, I might add), as passing onlookers offered their snide remarks and glaring looks of disapproval.

As much as the mother tried to ignore the looming judgment around her, while attempting to round up her boys to remind them that they were at the store and not the set of Planet of the Apes, her human limitations became all the more evident. She was clearly outnumbered 1:4 and probably wished she could teleport to a happy place (alone) or at least miraculously grow an extra set of arms. She wore a weary expression on her face while she reached for the coffee creamer- probably thinking to herself, “I’m going to need this today.”

For a brief moment, I felt sorry for her. I empathized with her frustrations with both her rambunctious kiddos, as well as the “offended” shoppers. After all, grocery stores are practically battle fields for mothers. The struggle is real- VERY REAL! But then I realized, despite the simple fact that I could completely understand how she feels, I was no better than the other onlookers. I shouldn’t feel sorry for her because her children aren’t “perfectly behaving.” Because even when our children are challenging, disobedient, and utterly frustrating, may we not forget- they are still a blessing from God.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” -Psalm 127:3

It’s in these moments, society will quickly name children with all sorts of discouraging labels- embarrassing, distracting, and a nuisance. I’m certain the mother could even relate to these feelings in that moment. Yet, even when our children push our buttons (and our limits), they are a blessing, nonetheless. They have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a divine Creator, who as a  Father himself, must constantly bestow extensions of grace to His imperfect children.

Fellow mom, do not be dismayed. In every season of parenting, there will be a share of trials, but don’t allow the trials overshadow the triumphs. Since God entrusted you with little souls to train and nurture, you are highly blessed. And don’t allow discouraging moments with your children or even other onlookers convince you otherwise. Motherhood is not merely about survival. God has given us a calling and He has equipped us to answer that calling.

“Having children is not about surviving another day of changing diapers, cleaning up messes, refereeing sibling rivalries (or monkeys in the grocery store isle). It’s all about having another day to point your children to Christ, to train them to take their place on the front lines of the battle for God. ” -Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth

Motherhood sometimes (okay, oftentimes) depletes us of patience, hope and even our joy on difficult days. We doubt our ability to be effective mothers and we may even doubt the gifts God has placed in our care. But God makes no mistakes. Your children are not by chance. They are a blessing- in spite of their imperfections and human tendencies- they are a blessing. And because they are a blessing, you are inherently blessed.

While I stood there and debated between apple or orange juice, I overheard an elderly woman speak to the discouraged mom, “Four handsome young men you got there.” The mother reluctantly nodded and added, “Thank you. If only I could get them to listen to me.” The elderly women gently placed her hand on the mother’s back and said, “I raised five children- two girls and three boys- sometimes it’s the most challenging children that grow up to be the most influential adults.” It was as though her words parted the storm clouds just enough so the mother could see a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon- and hope for the future.

That elderly woman has no idea that she will likely forever be known to that weary mother- who was at her wits end and the brink of defeat- as “the hero of isle 8. “What a beautiful encouragement for all moms that our work is not in vain. It can be extremely difficult to see past the day to day struggles. Sometimes we are too caught up with the tiring demands of what motherhood requires of us and easily forget that our children are indeed a blessing. So sometimes, God sends us a reminder.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'”- Proverbs 31:28 & 29

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

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Birthdays On A Budget

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April-June marks birthday season in the Robinson household. But while birthdays are supposed to be a time of celebration, many parents (myself included) find themselves overwhelmed with planning, preparations and the attention to details. And in a society where 8-year olds are getting iPhones for their birthdays, resisting the urge to overspend on birthdays can be a bit of a challenge. When you are a one-income family, the challenge is magnified times a gazillion. Thankfully, over the years, I found the joy in simplifying birthday parties…plus, extravagant just wasn’t in the budget!

But since when did creating memories require the assistance of maxing out the credit card anyhow? There is a common misconception that in order for a party to be fun, it must be extravagant. But you can achieve an extraordinary birthday party without it being extravagant. One is determined by imagination and one is determined by budget. I’m just going to leave that little tidbit there and let you decipher which one is which. Imagine throwing a kid-approved party with no buyer’s remorse. No nail biting while balancing the checkbook. Just a little planning and creativity, and the only one that will notice your birthday party was on a budget is your wallet.

Plan Ahead

Just like making out a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases, planning ahead is key to party planning when you are on a budget. Make a detailed list and give yourself plenty of time to shop around. Shopping at the last minute increases your likelihood to go financially overboard.  Be sure to search for coupons before your embark on your mission to take advantage of sales. Remember, you will often pay a premium for convenience, so try avoiding making all your purchases in one place.

Minimize Theme Incorporation

I realize kids love themes for their birthdays. I love themes for my kids birthdays. It gives me a focus. But you don’t need to elaborate this theme in every. little. detail. Themed items tend to be more costly, so when you are shopping, stick to solid-colored balloons, plates, cups and utensils.  Incorporate themes in other areas, like creatively naming the food. Like most little boys, my son went through a car phase. For his third birthday, I threw him a Hot Wheels party, so I served the guests motor oil (sweet tea), antifreeze (Kool-Aid), spare tires (mini chocolate donuts), Hot Wheels pasta salad (pasta salad with pinwheel pasta), “Pit Stop” sliders (mini deli sandwiches) and “Nascar” cupcakes.

Digital Invitations

While I enjoy good ole’ fashioned snail mail, I discovered that I could utilize modern conveniences to my advantage by sending out digital invites. Mailbox invites add a nice touch, but they add an unnecessary expense as well.  This saves money on the invitation, envelopes and stamps.  It also creates an easier method of reply since most people would rather click a “yes” or “no” button than formally RSVP.

Keep the Menu Simple

It’s easy to overthink food when feeding a crowd. But keep your audience in mind- kids are pretty basic in their culinary preferences. Hot dogs, for instance, are a universally accepted kid food. Your goal here is to avoid fancy and aim for simple. Make some of your child’s favorite side dishes-  with the use of some of your own discerning here as children may offer very random selections. When it comes to beverages, don’t worry about stocking up on bottles of water and cans of pop. Serve refreshments in pitchers instead. You might be surprised at how much beverages can add up.

Borrow Instead of Renting

When hosting a crowd, you may discover that your dining table, suitable for your family is not quite enough. But before you place orders on renting out tables and chairs, ask around to family, friends and neighbors first to see if they are willing to lend you some extras. Don’t worry if the chairs don’t match (even I had to set aside my OCD for the sake of saving money here). Mismatched tables can be easily covered with colorful tablecloths and the chairs, well… it’s eclectic. More importantly, it’s a place for your guests to sit, so it works.

Forget the Venue

Venues create a large portion of party cost for many parents. Inflatable arenas and trampoline parks cost an arm and a leg and often offers a very limited time frame to party. If you are really trying to stick to a humble budget, there is no better place to host your party than in the comfort of your home, backyard or even your garage.

Stock Up at the Dollar Store

Party stores may have a large selection of party-specific items, but the Dollar Store has a great selection for savings. In fact, this stop is the best place to load up on party décor items such as balloons and streamers, plus all you need for party favor goody bags. Even rummaging through your local thrift store can uncover hidden party treasures.  I had a friend who threw a girl’s tea party for her daughter and discovered a 20 piece tea set from the thrift store for $19.

Affordable Entertainment

This has always been the most challenging aspect of party planning for me. I have no trouble creating the menu, decorating, and even spending hours baking the day before the party. But activities tend to leave me stumped.  Then I realized that instead of being a one-woman circus or purchasing several items I will likely never use again, I could inject a little 80’s entertainment into my kids’ parties.

Organizing a simple game of dodgeball or freeze tag is one way to keep kids active and engaged in fun. Scavenger hunts are another great way to get the kiddos excited. If you have a child who loves crafting, incorporate this concept into the party. Even something simple like allowing the kids to decorate tiara-shaped sugar cookies for your daughter’s princess party will keep them pleasantly occupied- and sugar induced.

Go Homemade

Sure, a catered three-tiered fondant masterpiece is eye-catching, but also a tad bit expensive and let’s be honest, over the top. Baking a homemade cake is not only better on the budget, but it adds a touch of nostalgia (something kids in this generation don’t get enough of). And rather than stressing over a Pinterest- worthy cake, make cupcakes or cake pops using simple decorations of icing and sprinkles. Fondant tastes like sugary plato anyway.

The imminent temptation to skimp on prep time will not allow you to skimp on savings. I can save about half the cost in prepping my own veggies than purchase a store-bought vegetable and dip tray. Put together cold-cut sandwiches rather than splurging on the “Ultimate Deli Party Platter.”  Whatever shortcut the store offers, you can make it for less.

Don’t allow the details of the celebration overshadow the real reason for the celebration. And remember- you don’t need an extravagant budget to have an extraordinary birthday party!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

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I Will Rise

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As tears welled up in my eyes, I could feel the anger well up within my soul.  I stood still, feeling powerless, defenseless, and defeated. It’s like watching a raging storm unfolding before you and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You only hope the damage is repairable and eventually, the sun’s rays will shine a favorable light into the devastating ruins, offering some form of clarity in the aftermath of dust and debris.

When your character becomes the spectacle for others to attack, our natural instinct is to rise up to defend our honor. When someone persecutes your beliefs, when your integrity is on trial, and when you are knocked down by malicious accusations, we are heavily tempted to strap on our fighting boots and go to battle in self-defense. And yet,  Matthew 5:39 commands, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Does this mean we are passively permitting our accusers to continue in their scoffing? We seek justice and we feel entitled to our vindication. Every fiber of my being was ready to pounce- to retaliate. I wanted to take control over the situation and prove to the doubters of who I truly am,  and not what they say I am.

God met me where I was in that broken moment. And He led me back to the cross- where Jesus bore our sin and shame- where He was falsely accused and mocked. As I considered the upcoming celebration of Resurrection Sunday, He reminded me of not only the excruciating pain He endured on the cross, but the humiliation He received.  The very personification of God was placed on display and publicly ridiculed, questioned and insulted. They didn’t believe Jesus to be who He really is- the Son of God- and instead, called Him a blasphemer. But Jesus never wavered. He never retaliated.

As Jesus willingly hung in atonement for our sins, the soldiers jeered, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40). Even though Jesus was the way, the truth and the life, who had all the power and authority in heaven and earth, He did not retaliate. He did not save himself. The words of the mockers could not alter the unchanging character of the One true God.

But He did respond, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).  When our redeeming Christ was slain on the cross, the enemy thought he had won! He pulled out all the punches, every low jab. While His body was broken, while He was made a spectacle, He chose forgiveness. And in three days, the Truth was brought to the light.

“Those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29).

The grave could not hold Him. The father of lies was defeated. The false accusers were put to shame when He conquered death and He rose.  Jesus’ character on the cross is the perfect demonstration of our attitude when we are wrongfully accused and attacked.  We are not commanded to retaliate, but to respond. And our response is to be like Christ– we turn the other cheek, we forgive, and we trust in the Righteous Judge- the One who justifies us.

The Lord has already told us, “For we do not fight with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We will face many battles in this world, but I praise God that He has overcome the world! And while we must remain constantly on-guard and steadfast, we do not need to be defensive. We can stand back, without standing down. For in time, the truth always finds its way to the light. Because no matter what anyone can conjure up about me, it doesn’t alter the truth.

I am a child of God. He has called me by name, to work according to His purposes-to be His instrument. He has vindicated me. He searches and knows my heart.  From the ashes, I will rise- I will rise above with the divine strength the Lord gives me. Because He won, I am heir of His victories.  And even when slanderous words try to knock me down, because of who I serve and who am in Christ- praise His name- for I have been called blessed.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” (Matthew 5:11).

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

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German Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie 2

The alarm clock (also known as the worst sound in the world) went off. The moment I dread each morning was upon me once more- where I am forced to decide whether to hit the snooze button or  unveil the quilt that had so perfectly encapsulated my warmth and face the chill that awaits me when my feet hit the floor. The terrible- awful season, also known as winter, was in full effect.

Other than the simple fact that I am solely responsible to get my children to school on time, I pondered other reasons to motivate myself to get out of my warm cocoon.  Thus, it was in that defining moment I determined that only a good meal-one with carbs- would combat the flurried fury of North East Ohio and move me into a vertical position. Rather than “rise and shine,” I have found rolling out and caffeinating to be more effective.

Despite the fact that it was the wee hours of the morning, I was diligently in search of something hearty for later on. A casserole, beef stew or soup just wasn’t going to cut it today.  I craved authentic comfort to warm me up- a quilt for my belly, so to speak.  There was only one recipe that came to mind. And it fit the bill perfectly.

German Chicken Pot Pie. This dish takes me back to my childhood- sitting in my Grandmother’s kitchen. There was nothing like Grandma’s chicken pot pie (or Grandma’s kitchen). The dictionary has yet to create an adjective worthy to describe this dish, but I will do my best.  Traditionally, chicken pot pie is made with a chicken and vegetable filling inside a flaky pie crust. But not in my Grandma’s kitchen.

My German Grandmother’s chicken pot pie was simply made with chicken and thin, dumpling-like squares in a heavenly broth. Really- the broth is heavenly as it is made with the holy trinity of vegetables (also known as the Mira qua)- carrots, onion and celery. Ever wondered what liquid gold looks like? Well, here you go! I realize this recipe highly resembles chicken and dumplings, but my Grandma calls it pot pie- and you don’t disagree with Grandma!

I promise this recipe will completely change your definition and your standards of chicken pot pie. Even though I have her recipe, I have yet to exactly duplicate hers. It must be the extra pinch of love-a key ingredient that belongs exclusively to Grandma’s.  But that won’t discourage me from making it to soothe my cravings for comfort and nostalgia.

My Grandmother told me the secret to any flavorful broth is to use the whole chicken. We’re an equal opportunity kitchen and we’re not leaving anything out- it’s the combination of the white meat, dark meat, bones and skin- working in harmony that produces a richly satisfying stock. And this recipe is no exception to the rule of flavor! It almost makes me look at boneless, skinless chicken and ask, “what’s the point?”

German Chicken Pot Pie

For the Chicken…

1 Whole Chicken

1 Whole Large Onion, Peeled

3 Stalks of Celery

3 Large Carrots, Peeled

2 Cartons of Good Chicken Stock

1 Tablespoon Chicken Bouillon Granules

1 Teaspoon Pepper

Combine all ingredients into a large kettle. Cook until chicken juices run clear, about 1-1/2 hours.  Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Debone and cut into chunks. Strain out the vegetables, reserving the heavenly chicken stock, also known as liquid gold.

For the Pot Pie…

2 Cups Flour

3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder

3/4 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Butter, Softened

2 Eggs + Milk to Measure 3/4 Cup

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry cutter or fork. Make a well in the flour and add the egg and milk mixture inside the well.  Combine to form soft dough. Roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thick rectangle on a well-floured surface. Let the dough rest for one hour. In the meantime, bring the reserved stock back to a boil. Cut the dough into 1- 1 1/2 Inch squares. Drop the dough squares into boiling stock, stirring constantly. Add the shredded chicken into the pot and heat through. Serve on a table covered with a floral 70’s plastic table cloth.

It’s a one of a kind recipe from a one of a kind kitchen.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When It Rains, It Pours

standing in the rain

On the day of our wedding, I was anticipating becoming Mrs. Robinson and celebrating the beginning of a new journey with my husband, Jesse. About 30 minutes prior to the ceremony, there was a downpour of rain- just long enough to leave our fairytale outside wedding completely drenched. There was no time to dry  the damage, so we reluctantly had to implement plan B and move everything inside the building where our reception was to take place.

My dreams of a beautiful sun-kissed June wedding by the lake suddenly shattered into pieces. I felt utterly devastated as I began to cry, testing my water-proof mascara before its original performing debut.  Attempting to catch my composure, I just remember thinking, “my wedding is ruined!” That is, until someone, whom I can’t even recall, put their hand on my shoulder and reassured me that the rain on my wedding day was a sign of God’s blessing. It didn’t feel like a blessing at that moment- it felt more like a bummer than a blessing- a total damper in our plans (pun intended). But afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of our guests specifically described our ceremony as not only beautiful, but intimate.

I can remember our wedding day fondly, as it has rained many times on our anniversary over the years. And each year, as we learn to trust in God more and more, I am also reminded how the rain truly is a sign of God’s blessing. We often use the expression, “when it rains, it pours” as a metaphor of our encounter with negative circumstances- ones that seem to arrive in this extraordinary wave, creating a full domino effect of devastation. Suddenly, we find ourselves overwhelmed, flooded by life, and struggling to keep our head above water.

I guess you could say it rained very hard on our family last October, when Jesse was told by his district that due to financial strains, many teachers would be losing their jobs. You can safely guess who was one of the teachers. He was facing a lay-off after Christmas break, leaving us without full income and medical benefits. Completely devastating news when you are a one-income family. Yet, in a time when I should have been trembling, I was not shaken. Faith stirred inside me and I had peace that God was going to make a way, even when I- in my finite mind- could not fathom how.

Thanks to divine favor with his district, Jesse was recommended to another district, who oddly enough happened to have an opening for a health/physical education teacher in an unlikely time of the school year. In November, Jesse began working for his new district, restoring his job security and benefits.  But devastating rain hit once more in January, which left his job uncertain once more. I am sparing details at this moment, but in due time, I will perhaps tell of this extraordinary trial with a testimony. However, I will say this: God’s plans are for good and not evil. I have complete assurance of this.

After receiving a vision from God the other day, I was prompted to read in the book of Joel.   As I was reading, God drew me to a specific verse: “Rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both the autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil” (Joel 2: 23,24). The revelation God gave me transformed my entire perspective of the rain. Rain was not designed to be devastating. In fact, the only historical time rain was considered a devastation was the flood. Since then, God promised not to destroy the earth by flood. And thereafter, God’s people greatly rejoiced when God provided the rain.

I wasn’t certain what the verse meant exactly, but I knew I had to find out. In Biblical times, the people were incredibly dependent upon the rain for the well-being of their crops and their livelihood. There were two seasons of anticipated, abundant rain: autumn and spring. The autumn rains fell between the months of what we consider October-November. The spring rains fell between March-April.  The rains were both significant of God’s faithful provision.

It was then I understood why the Holy Spirit led me to this word. When God provided Jesse with his new job in November, He provided the autumn rain. And even though we are knee deep in the trenches of a trial, I stand steadfast and believe in God’s promises. In times of drought, there is nothing more refreshing than a shower of God’s faithfulness. It is because of His faithfulness, I can be fully dependent upon Him.

Life has a tendency to knock us off our feet from time to time. In seasons such as this, we are tempted to question God. Where is He? When will He bring forth the rain? Looking back over the years of my life and marriage, I can testify that He brings “both the autumn and spring rains, just as before.” He remains the same. Yesterday. Today. Forever. And it is in the midst of such seasons that I experience intimacy with God that I would otherwise not understand. His rain floods my heart with joy. Hope springs up within me and it is well with my soul.

Even now- as I sit writing this- hearing the sounds of the rain against my window pane, I rejoice in God’s unfailing provision. If you are facing extraordinary trials, remember that God never leaves us or forsakes us and He always provides. He makes a way, where there seems to be no way.  He brings forth restoration to the desolate areas of our lives.  He pours out His faithfulness, just as He promises to be faithful. And just as He promised new wine and oil,  His mercies are new every morning.  I have assurance of the harvest and I peacefully anticipate the spring rain.

God’s Blessings (in the spring and autumn rains),

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop Comparing & Count Your Blessings

compare

In a society where comparing has become a national pastime, we can easily fall prey to this unhealthy habit from time to time. For example, ever notice the domino effect that takes place when you or a neighbor decides to mow their grass? Suddenly, everyone is summoned by the beckoning of their lawn to pay them the same attention- it quickly cues a symphony of revved up engines.  I mean heaven forbid someone’s lawn looks newly manicured- all the more showcasing the fact that yours could stand to be cut. Comparison can be found almost anywhere and has virtually no limitations! It’s easy to compare income, family, physical physique, lifestyles, talents, abilities, education, career…the list goes on and on!

Comparing is embedded in our culture and heavily influenced by our media- and I’m not even just referring to commercials, TV shows, and magazine ads.  The most tempting outlet for comparison is likely found at your fingertips.  Just take a scroll at the posts of your facebook friends- their beautiful new house, the amazing vacation they just went on or the professional picturesque family photoshoot that graces their profile .  Perhaps you see women who homeschool their five children, always maintain a spotless home, bake homemade organic chocolate chip cookies in their “spare time” and are somehow still a size 2. And your left thinking “I washed my hair today…”

So as a result, we are often left feeling discontent and discouraged, hungry for what we believe has the ability to make us happier or feeling more fulfilled.  The enemy already knows he’s lost the battle, but that doesn’t stop him from throwing a few jabs of inferiority.  We can quickly feel inferior when we compare our lives to others.  In truth, nothing this world can offer can fill the void of pure joy- a  joy that can only be found in a Savior, not in things or even circumstance.  I want to encourage you, friends, that life is not about competition- who has this or that.  Stop looking around you for what you don’t have and be grateful for the abundant blessings you do have.  Try remembering these verses when you are tempted to compare:

  1. Desire for more: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  -Hebrews 13:5
  2. When you can’t see past your circumstances: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.  -Hebrews 12:28
  3. Feelings of Inferiority: But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  -Jeremiah 17:7

In reality, who really knows what battles “supermom” faces, insecurities your CEO next-door-neighbor has or even the harsh truth behind those picturesque family photos you’re seeing on facebook. Don’t allow comparision to blind your eyes to beholding the countless blessings God has given you!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

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12 HGTV Fixer Upper Copycats

Have you ever found yourself watching Fixer Upper on HGTV and wondered “if only the Gaines’ could come and remodel MY house!” Well, it sounds like you make up the other 99.9% of viewers on TV!  But since the Gaines can not physically  make- over every home in America, there are ways to bring the “Fixer Upper” look to your house without having to knock down walls, install French doors, and reframe your house in shiplap. Incorporating simple design elements as seen on the show can give your home the style you’re hoping for, but in a practical and budget-friendly way.

  1. Mason Jars/ Glass Bottles with Flowers or Greenery. Joanna loves to sprinkle color in small, sophisticated pieces through flower arrangements. And most often, the flowers are fake! She may use some fresh flowers once in a while, but this look is totally achievable and long-lasting. The green adds a warmth and earthiness to the room.

 

2. Distressed Furniture. You never find a lot of traditional- style wood in Joanna’s  designs. Her furniture is often simple, but elegant. But instead of pitching what you already have, consider trying to “fix” it or “Fixer Upper” it. You can sand furniture, paint it or stain it in order to give it the rustic look you desire. A good rule of thumb is to go light (such as white, cream, or beige) or dark (espresso, slate).  It just requires a little elbow grease! And don’t forget to consider different hardware to improve the appearance.  Simply giving  a fresh coat of white paint can brighten it up and bring a cherry wood finish into the 21st Century.  Proceed with caution- start off with a small piece of furniture to test it out first and practice technique!

 

 

3. Antique Pieces. Rather than spending a fortune at Pier 1 or Bed, Bath & Beyond, Joanna finds her decorative elements at antique shops and garage sales. Unique and creative décor is part of the “Fixer Upper” charm! Begin with less adventurous items like clocks, mirrors and picture frames, then work your way into other extraordinary pieces.

 

4. 3- Dimensional Wall Art. Most people tend to hang flat décor on their walls (mirrors, picture frames, etc.). But Joanna loves to hang art that stands out (literally). These offer interest and draw your eyes to small and large-scale focal points. And the pieces Joanna chooses are often found on the side of the road or other unlikely places and would otherwise be considered a bit of a misfit to most, but works beautifully.

 

5. Light Paint Colors. Even though you may not be able to afford white subway tile in your bathroom or a beautiful mosaic for your kitchen backsplash,  paint is the cheapest way to transform a room in a dramatic fashion with a humble budget. Maybe it’s time to re-think those 90’s saturated colors.  Joanna rarely goes outside the box of light colors. Often, her make-overs are glazed with soft grays, creams and beiges.

 

6. Letters, Words, & Phrases on the Wall. Most staging experts would advise to limit personal décor- like family portraits- to a minimum. In order to walk this line, but still incorporate a more personal touch, Joanna uses letters, words and phrases to capture the family’s sense of home.

 

7. Graphic Feature Wall.  This might sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy and affordable. And somehow, despite decades of horrifying wallpaper and border prints, wallpaper has made quite the comeback in modern design.  A DIY shiplap wall can cost as little as $40 (as seen on Pinterest)! Or you can opt for a more sheek look with a printed wallpaper accent wall. Joanna does not use wallpaper often, but when she does, it is a large, bold print and we all know her relationship with shiplap!

 

8. Stacks of Thick, Old Books. From a floating shelf to an end table or fireplace- Joanna will likely have a collection of books stacked. These books are not your “New York Times Best Sellers.” These books are more like something you would find in a historic Castle library- large, weathered and purely decorative.

 

9. Plenty of Throws. This can be easily attainable by scattering pillows on the couch and beds and draping a textured throw blanket over the back of a chair. These kinds of details bring a nostalgic, welcoming invitation for family and friends to sit and relax. Just like paint schemes, Joanna also chooses pillows with simple patterns and colors to compliment a light, airy space. Try using either bold solids, like yellow or subtle patterns.

 

10. Collages. In most designs, Joanna designates one wall for a collage. This collage could be random art, pictures or clocks. These collages act as a feature wall, creating a different kind of focal point not found in built-in structures like a fireplace or bookshelves.

 

11. Unique Light Fixtures. Joanna always manages to bring lighting to a space that combines the perfect balance of a polished, yet antique finish. She also does not steer too much towards the modern look and isn’t afraid to utilize a chandelier in non-dining spaces like bedrooms and living rooms.

 

12. Wood Textures. An important aspect of Joanna’s designs is containing décor pieces of wood. Maybe you don’t live in Texas and your house was not built with beautiful shiplap, but you can still bring natural wood through floating shelves, a bench, or DIY sliding wood shutters.

 

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker