Wednesday, May 30, 2012

S'more Station (Imperfectly Pinterest)

I found an idea on Pinterest that totally makes up for all of the ridiculous, mommy-acheiver guilt. Using a small flower pot, aluminum foil, and charcoal, you can create a great little s'more station! The idea was originally posted here as a party idea, but our form is a little more kid friendly and much less fancy. We had s'mores for dessert on Memorial Day, and I completely mimicked the picture on the original post. I realized that filling the pot completely with charcoal made the flame too high, and it was better to light the little fire about an hour before you actually get to s'more making. The result is a perfect, well-contained pile of charcoal with just enough flame to make s'mores with a much smaller threat of burns. The girls and I enjoyed a mini-campout of sorts, making s'mores on our front porch, and it was even a school night!

DeLaynie loved this idea! She does not like s'mores, but she enjoyed eating half of a Hershey bar between frivolously roasting marshmallows.

She said that it was just like camping out. I have no intention of correcting her idea of camping.

Ella enjoys roasting the marshmallows as well, though she does have an unhealthy fear of burning her marshmallows.

Her favorite part, unlike DeLaynie, is the actual s'more at the end. She was completely chocolate covered and deliriously happy by the end of it!

For all of you marshmallow perfectionists, you can use a skewer as a spit with this method as well. It's a great method for roasting the ginormous marshmallows that are in stores these days.

For less than $10, I bought the flower pots, charcoal, and s'more materials, and these things are going to get some serious usage this summer! I love finding something that works!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Imperfectly Pinterest: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Peer pressure is highly overrated in my opinion. I never did anything that I didn't want to do. Honestly, the first time that I heard someone mention making her own laundry detergent, my initial reaction was to question her sanity.

Then came Pinterest. The ginormous guilt trip to which so many of us subscribe. I found a couple of recipes for both liquid and dry detergent, and it seemed to be a big deal. I made both. I prefer the powder version for whites and lights, but my HE machine makes me nervous when using cold water and powder detergent. You can find the liquid recipe that I used here, and the simpler powder detergent recipe here.

If you want to know why I decided to give it a whirl, I honestly don't know. I think it's my way of compensating for the fact that I do not coupon. If you were looking for a girl who decorates her laundry detergent container, you have come to the wrong place. Don't worry. I'm sure that the next time you stop by, I'll have cricut acrylic letters to label the antique glass jars in which I keep my housekeeping supplies. Because that would make me a better wife and mother.

A few hints:
  • Although you don't have to use Fels Naptha soap, I recommend it. I didn't use it for the first three attempts because I read that it can cause skin irritation. I read further to discover that the old formulation could cause skin irritation, but the new formulation does not. Using Fels Naptha does make a difference in that the clothes smell better. I also add sweet lemon essential oil, which blends well with the soap. It is more difficult to hand grate, though.
  • I set my machine on "Presoak". It doesn't use any more water, but it does take a few minutes longer. I've found that homemade detergent doesn't have as intense of a smell, but presoaking does help the scent stay longer.
  • Do NOT feel guilty if you decide to stick with the store-bought stuff. even if you do a ton of laundry, this will only save you a few dollars a week. Although it will make you feel better on that one day that you typically buy laundry detergent, it isn't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. If you like making stuff, go for it. If that just isn't your thing, who cares?!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Power of Words

They were the most hurtful words that have ever been spoken about me, but they weren't said to me. When Edwin and I got engaged, there were some people who were unhappy about it. My friends and family were ecstatic, but Edwin's friends weren't as thrilled. His family was always supportive, but there were some very important people in his life who were unhappy about the situation.

On three occasions, different representatives from this group tried to dissuade him from marrying me. They went so far as to say that I would ruin his ministry. Honestly, I was only 19 and I was coming out of the darkest period of my life. It wasn't that they didn't have reason for concern, but what I couldn't understand is why they didn't trust Edwin's judgement. One of the people who was most adamantly against the marriage had never even met me, which meant that there were conversations taking place. My complete ineptness was a topic of conversation. Most of the people discussing the "problem" that was our engagement had met me a handful of times.

I believe that they thought that they were speaking words of discernment, but they were wrong. Their words did nothing to build up the Body of Christ (of which I am a part), but they did manage to break the heart and crush the spirit of a young, often times foolish, version of myself. Edwin saw something that they didn't see. He believed that God wasn't done with me. They believed that I would end his ministry, but he believed that I would grow it. Where they saw brokenness, he saw usefulness.

Although they failed at breaking up the most wonderful human relationship in our shared life, they were quite successful in tearing down my self-worth. For the first five years of our marriage, I believed that I owed Edwin. I rarely told him "no" on anything. I rarely gave my input on his ministry. I didn't get involved in church work. My spiritual walk was weaker because I felt so unworthy of my husband, and of God. It took God pursuing me for me to realize that I was not as undesirable to Him as Edwin's friends thought I was. I was not only not damaging, I was able to be beneficial, and I really believe that I am a benefit to Edwin's ministry at this point.

I remember in college, one of my professors actually bragged about an insult he made in high school. I was appalled, but everyone else in the class had a lovely story made up in which the girl that my professor crushed eventually became a beautiful, successful adult. I'm not sharing my story because I'm angry or bitter. I'm sharing my story because I have come to realize that most people use their words in terrible ways, and then excuse their behavior. Life doesn't work like a country music video or a teen movie. Words hurt. In my case, words left wounds that still haven't gone away. I still become very self-conscious whenever we go to Alabama. I feel like the whole state is watching, just waiting for me to mess up and destroy Edwin's life and ministry. Although God used those words to make me more aware of my own words and to encourage me to be a better pastor's wife, their actions are inexcusable.

To be human is to make an impact on other people. We aren't allowed to take a break and "just get it all out." It's a constant job, a duty that we have as Christians to strengthen each other to do a better job at serving Christ. We don't have the right to have bad discernment. Every word must be tested according to the Holy Spirit and Scripture. To ignore this truth is to deny the essence of relationship, that I can impact you, for good or bad, and you can impact me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unpredictable Life

Since I last blogged, a lot has happened. I've worked a part time job as a reservation agent. I then decided that I wasn't going to be able to work the required number of hours during the summer, and turned in my resignation to take effect on June 5th. Yesterday we received a call from foster care that a couple of boys needed a place to stay, so I turned in an immediate resignation, which my incredibly awesome company accepted with utmost kindness and respect.

The circumstances have changed drastically, but my heart has changed even more. Working 30 hours a week was the best thing I have ever done for my attitude toward mothering. Since having DeLaynie six years ago, the opportunities to really miss my children have been few and far-between. The experience of a daily routine that required me to stuff quality into the time available has helped me to value the time that I used to have, and will now have again.

Life is full of surprises. The caveat to foster care is that you never know what's coming next, but when do we really know what the future holds?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Birthday Week Ends with a 4!

The week of birthday madness ends at midnight. I wish that I could show the photos taken at the party, but my card reader is still somewhere in the universe where I cannot find it (and my keys, all of them, have joined it), and I keep forgetting to buy one when I'm in a store. I did take a couple of pics with my iPod of Ella playing with a birthday gift.

There's something downright disturbing about your baby turning four. She isn't a baby anymore. She isn't a toddler. She's a big kid. The good news is that she is a cuddly big kid.

3 and 4 are my favorite ages. I remember when DeLaynie was almost four, and I kept worrying that I preferred DeLaynie over Ella. Now that Ella is at that age, I find myself concerned that I prefer Ella. I suddenly realized that it wasn't the person that I prefer but the age. It's the time in a kid's life when she is independent enough to play alone and with other kids, but not so independent that a mom feels unnecessary. I felt much better with this realization.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oh No, She Didn't!

Yes. Yes, she did. Today my daughter DeLaynie turned six years old, which is theoretically impossible because yesterday she was a 6 1/2 lb newborn. I keep telling her that she has to stop this whole "growing up" thing, but she is so stubborn that she flatly refuses to listen to her mother. I have a feeling that she is going to continue her rebellious streak right into adulthood.

DeLaynie and Ella will have their combined birthday party on Saturday. They are both anxious for it to get here. I'm anxious to complete the preparations. I'm just glad that their birthdays are close enough that we can celebrate them together. I know that the day will come when they are no longer okay with sharing a party, but I have every intention to ride this train to the very last stop.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When I Listen to Michael Buble...

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which included many romantic additions to my day. My husband began my morning with a cinnamelt from McDonald's, which doesn't sound like much until you take into consideration the fact that the trip to and from McDonald's is thirty minutes or more. I also received 3 Hershey's Cookies and Cream bars at the end of the day.

In between those treats, the Valentine's Day party at DeLaynie's school, and getting pulled over by Border Patrol for accidentally making a U-turn just before a check point (oops!), I went for a walk. Seeing as it was Valentine's Day, I chose Michael Buble's album, "Crazy Love: Hollywood Edition" as my walking accompaniment. Whenever I listen to Mr. Buble, I imagine what I would be doing if not a Christian. If not for Christ, I am absolutely positive that I would be a lounge singer, with loose ties to non-violent crime, and I would be wearing these shoes:
Product Image

And allow me to say, my rendition of "Baby (You've Got What it Takes)" would rock your world. Then, of course, I am reminded of the bazillions of reasons that I'm not a lounge singer. At the top of that list is the fact that I am, in fact, a Christian, and I think it would be pretty difficult to glorify Christ to the greatest measure if I were a lounge singer. (To all of you Christian lounge singers out there, allow me to encourage you to use your career to the glory of Christ, just as long as it doesn't lead you into sin, because I know just how common of a struggle that is.)

And that's what happens when I listen to Michael Buble.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Speaking Up and Shutting Up

This is an excerpt from "The Feast," the Bible Study that I'm organizing for the Sunday School class that I teach. I know that I don't write nearly as many posts as I used to, but it isn't because I'm not writing. I wanted to give you a look at what I've been up to. If you are looking for more information about "The Feast," click here.

I have a difficult time knowing when to speak and when to keep my mouth shut.  I remember being at the hair salon when I was thirteen. I don’t know how we got there, but I felt the need to tell everyone in the room that, “My dad is completely different guy when he isn’t behind the pulpit.” What I meant was that my dad is at his most interesting when he is preaching. It’s almost like there’s some dormant part of his personality that wakes up as he preaches. As my mother later informed me, it sounded like I was saying that my father is giant hypocrite who doesn’t live the way that he teaches others to live. Oops! Though I’ve learned many lessons in inter-personal communication since I was thirteen, I still spend large amounts of time debating when to speak and what to say, and I often get it wrong.

          Maybe that’s why the story of Abigail is one of my favorites. In 1 Samuel 25, we see a woman who speaks up with boldness and grace, and earns a position as queen. As I re-read her story this week, I suddenly realized that I had never understood the full impact that Abigail had on David.

          Just as a reminder, Abigail is a beautiful and intelligent woman who is married to a “harsh and evil” man named Nabal. David protected Nabal’s shepherds as they sheared Nabal’s flock, but the rich Nabal refuses to share his food and wine with David and his men on a feast day. David reacts violently when his servants return with word of Nabal’s stinginess. David takes 400 of his men to attack Nabal, with the intention of killing every man in his household. That’s when Abigail enters the scene. She takes food and wine and rides out to David, just as he is speaking of his violent intentions toward the house of Nabal. She gets off of her donkey, bows with her face to the ground, and says,

"The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly. Listen to the words of your servant.  25 My lord should pay no attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he lives up to his name: His name is Nabal, and stupidity is all he knows. I, your servant, didn't see my lord's young men whom you sent. 26 Now my lord, as surely as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, it is the LORD who kept you from participating in bloodshed and avenging yourself by your own hand. May your enemies and those who want trouble for my lord be like Nabal. 27 Accept this gift your servant has brought to my lord, and let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive your servant's offense, for the LORD is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the LORD's battles. Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you…” 1Samuel 25:24-28 CSB

           David blesses Abigail for her discernment and refrains from killing Nabal. When Abigail tells her husband what happened, he becomes paralyzed, and he dies ten days later. When David hears about Nabal, he blesses the LORD for restraining him from doing evil, and he sends for Abigail to take her as his wife.

          It’s a pretty cool story, but this week I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before. At the end of 1 Samuel 25, we see that David also took Ahinoam as a wife, but we don’t hear her story. Why is this story more significant that Ahinoam’s? I believe that we see the reason in the next chapter.

          David and his follower Abishai go into Saul’s camp, where they find the king asleep. Abishai asks David if may kill Saul with the spear that Saul has stuck in the ground next to his head. David’s response is very interesting to me.

David added, "As the LORD lives, the LORD will certainly strike him down: either his day will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 However, because of the LORD, I will never lift my hand against the LORD's anointed. Instead, take the spear and the water jug by his head, and let's go."

1 Samuel 26:10-11 CSB

           David seems completely confident that the LORD is going to handle Saul. Just last chapter, David intended on taking matters into his own hands with Nabal, but something has changed since then. It appears that the LORD used the incident with Nabal to prove to David that He is going to bring about justice. In many ways, Nabal is very similar to Saul. He is a wicked man who is very powerful and rich, and who doesn’t recognize the kindness that David has shown him. God used this episode of David’s life to intervene before David took matters into his own hands. God saw the temptation that David would face as he stood over King Saul, and God stepped in through a woman named Abigail.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Un-Illustrated Stories of Our Lives

So, here's the deal: I really wanted to give you some photos in this post, but I can't find my card reader for my camera's memory card. I've looked, but it simply does not desire to be found at the moment. You're just going to have to use your imaginations.

DeLaynie has lost two teeth. She actually pulled them out herself! When we went to the dentist, the hygienist told me that one was wiggly. I was a little concerned about how DeLaynie would react. She's so sensitive about so many things that I was afraid that the idea of losing a part of herself would be disturbing. I was incredibly wrong. She pulled out the first one while at school. When she got off the bus that day, she kept yelling, "Look, Mommy! Look!" She was pointing into her mouth, but it still took me a second to figure it out. The bus driver filled me in as to her excitement. On Sunday night I was able to witness the encore. DeLaynie had been rolling on a mattress, and she must have bit down on her other wiggly tooth. As I watched, she stuck her little hands into her mouth and yanked out the offender. I'm very grateful that I was completely passive.

In other news, both DeLaynie and Ella have suddenly become cuddly. They started sleeping in one twin-sized bed last week. We were afraid that one would fall out, so we pushed their beds together. They still end up sleeping in one bed, but they generally pick the one next to the wall, so they should be safe. Ella's always been cuddly, and she adores DeLaynie, so she's positively thrilled that her sister is finally reciprocating her desire to snuggle.

Finally (for now), I am about to start my first job since having kiddos. I have a friend who has worked as a reservation agent, and has now been promoted to human resources. She mentioned that her company is hiring people for her original job, and I was beginning to look for some work. It's a completely work-from-home gig, but we'll still send Ella to a friend's house one extra morning a week because the job requires a distraction-free environment. Although this job will change our lives as little as any job could, I'm still a little nervous about the adjustment. I'm really not concerned about the kids. Ella's life will only change by one morning a week, and DeLaynie will only realize I'm working on Saturdays because I'll work the rest of my hours while she's at school. It's been a long time since I've had a job, and I'm interested to see how it plays out. The whole truth is that I'm more excited than nervous. Although I have hoped for a writing or ministry opportunity to open up, it hasn't. Until it does, I'm grateful for the opportunity to have a structured job that will allow me to bring in some funds.

Trust me that I had an adorable pic of the girls all scrunched up on one twin bed and another cute one of a much less toothed DeLaynie. Sadly, you can't see them, but it isn't because I didn't try. I should definitely get some Mommy points for this post, despite the lack of photographic evidence.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

White Chick in Denial

I've had to move my work-outs indoors. I always have a difficult time transitioning from outdoor walks to indoor treading. I can't even cross country ski at the moment because all of our snow melted. The silver lining is that inside work-outs can include Pandora radio on my iPod. I don't have iPhone, so I need an internet connection in order to enjoy Pandora. And I do so enjoy Pandora.

This finally gets me to my point. I love Lecrae and 116 Pandora stations! My favorite album is "Man Up" by 116. I realize that I couldn't be less of the target audience. The intended listeners are, well, men, and generally from an inner-city background. I'm a white, small-town, suburban kind of chick. But I still love it.

I'm not sure if I should ask for permission to borrow the awesomeness of the African American Christian culture, if only for the time that I'm on the treadmill. I want to say a giant, "thank you!" to Lecrae, Tadashii, Trip Lee, and so many others who are producing theologically sound, high-quality, fun music. And thanks for letting me elbow my way to the front of the virtual stage, despite my minivan and complete lack of rhythm. It's definitely a good thing that they don't have to see the desecration that is my praise dancing. I'm pretty sure that the LORD is the only One who gets a kick out of that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

[Insert Evil Laughter Here]

We got ourselves a skunk! My beloved hubby went downstairs to check it out, and there it was: a black and white pain-in-the-neck, behind bars. Somehow, I feel like I've accomplished something, although I had very little to do with it.

As I mentioned previously, I have no idea how many skunks there are. I'm desperately hoping that they see their friend in a cage and run for their lives. I'm pretty sure that isn't how it works, though.

This little victory has given us the courage to carry on. And carry we shall.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


We checked the trap this morning. The door was shut, but no skunk. Either the animals are getting smarter or the people designing the traps are getting dumber.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Smell of Death

We've been skunked! Thoroughly, unrelentingly skunked!

My initial reaction was guilt enveloped by denial. We're well passed that point now. We have recently learned that our house has had a long, sordid history with skunks, and that it has nothing to do with how much I clean the house or how domestic I am. So don't judge me, or I may just send the skunk to your house.

The good news is that it isn't dead. When a dead skunk decays, the smell can literally run you out of your house. The bad news is that we can't find the demonic thing in order to get rid of it. The other bad news is that our skunk may actually be a family of skunks.

We called in a wildlife control guy, who set some traps, but all we've managed to do so far is feed the skunk(s). He came back and re-baited the trap and we're hoping that tonight will be the last night that demon-skunk is with us.

Or else we'll become "the stinky people"... and we'll have no friends... and no one will visit... and my daughters will die old maids...

Maybe I should try some positive thinking. "We will trap the skunk. We will trap the skunk. Oh, please God, let us trap the skunk!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Almost Blogging

I know that it appears that I haven't blogged since last Saturday, but I've been doing quite a lot of "almost blogging." I've written several drafts, full of wit and pith, but with every almost-post, I came to the conclusion that it was too critical or could easily be misinterpreted.

Maybe I'm more aware than most of the potentially disastrous effects of a misstep in communication. Pastor's daughters grow up with a higher than average amount of pressure on our words and actions, and I am not someone with a sixth sense of what is appropriate and what is not. I have had to learn the difference between outside thoughts and inside thoughts, a lesson that most people seem to grasp naturally.

I know that there are many people who hold to the philosophy that the best thing to do is say what is on your mind without concern to those who are offended. I have a couple of problems with this idea. First, communication is a two step process. The communicator expresses a thought, and then the receiver interprets. To ignore the second part of the equation is foolish because you will never be able to fully connect with others without ensuring that the interpretation is consistent with the thought you wish to express. The second problem that I have with the "just get it all out" plan is that we all represent our ideologies to the world. I represent Christ, my husband, women as a whole, my parents, and my church when I express my thoughts. It's just, plain foolish to ignore the responsibility that I have to those whom I represent.

On the other end of the spectrum is the belief that you should never offend anyone. I have just as big of an issue with this philosophy as I do with the first. It seems like some people like to get their feelings hurt, and they spend their whole lives looking for the opportunity to be offended. It isn't everyone else's job to coddle them in their over-sensitivity. There's also the issue that there are times when the truth must be spoken, even though it is offensive. There are more than a few situations in which healing can only grow from initial hurt.

So here I dwell on the median between the ditches of complete insensitivity and oversensitivity, guarding each word as if it could be my last. There are times when the only right thing to say is nothing, and the only opinion that needs to be expressed is the opinion that not every opinion should be expressed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kids and Their Imaginations

Ella loves all things Narnia. She isn't obsessed (yet!), but she asked to buy "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" with her Christmas money, and she has been watching it and its predecessors ever since. As I was watching the original today, I began to think about the process of writing such a story. C.S. Lewis is quite obviously a genius, and his background in medieval literature and preoccupation with mythology obviously had an impact on his work. Still, there's something that Lewis and his friend Tolkien tapped into in a distinctive way. I began thinking about the way that Lewis captured childhood imagination with unmatched artistry.

What is it about children that makes them imagine such grand things? Everything that they see can instantly become a part of a mythical adventure that only they can comprehend. I began to consider the possibility that children are more acutely aware of the fact that something is missing in this reality. As they grow older, they become more accustomed to the absurdity of normal, and they slowly lose their grip on the truth within their myths: There is so much more!

As I read the book of Judges, I found myself questioning such a reality that could house such horrific ideas and such completely broken people. Of course, I am quickly snapped into an equally broken present time, which brings me back to the idea that it isn't children who live in a fairy tale. We are the ones who deny what is so utterly obvious to the younger members of our society. There is something more, something greater, something more real than can be perceived. There is a central part of our reality that demands to be discovered, not by touch or sight or sound, but by the inner person that hungers for something more, something complicated, wonderful, inexhaustible.

Maybe children just like to play pretend because they're so small and their minds haven't learned enough about the world to keep them from wandering. Or... Maybe... they're just holding on to the intrinsic desire of the human heart to return to the greatness of the unfallen glory in which we were meant to reside. I'm not sure which is more likely, but there's still a piece of that child in me that begs to ask Ella's favorite question:


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Stories

I know that I'm incredibly late in posting these, and that most of you are done with the Christmas holiday, but give yourself permission to re-visit Christmas for a few more minutes in order to enjoy these family photos.

This is how Edwin wrapped my present. I really get into wrapping, but I found this method especially adorable because it's from my man.

Ella snuck down to her presents before we woke up. She came upstairs with the only unwrapped presents (pillow pets that she and DeLaynie bought for each other), and said, "Hey! Mom! There are tons of presents down there!" I was obviously shocked that the gifts had suddenly appeared in our living room. Ella then told me that there were "More than 11 of them!" When asked where they came from, she responded, "Hmmmm. I have no idea." (The baby princess dolls are from Edwin's brother and sister-in-law, and the girls absolutely love them!)

DeLaynie is more experienced in this whole Christmas morning thing, but I don't think she slept more than a couple of hours at a time for a week before the big day, she was just so excited. They both ended up in our bed on Christmas Eve, but I have no idea where Edwin was, probably in their bunk bed. There's nothing quite like seeing a little girl in the midst of a sea of wrapping paper, ripping into a new gift with total excitement.

This was the best facial expression of the morning. Although the still photo can't capture the shaking, you can at least see Ella's sweet face about to explode. Edwin and I have no idea why she was so excited about "Sleeping Beauty," but she it appears that she has always wanted it.

Christmas on Sunday has its benefits and its challenges, especially when you're a ministry family. Edwin had to preach with very little sleep, and I had the joy of trying to keep two excited, exhausted little girls quiet through a church service. On the other hand, it really was a joy to be with our extended family on Christmas Day, and it was a real privilege to enjoy corporate worship on the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

At the end of the service, our church gave us a gift, which the girls helped to open. For some reason that I will never comprehend, DeLaynie yelled out, "Underwear!" as she was helping to open it. Apparently, the same girl who is too shy to get in front of the church and sing Christmas songs is not too shy to get in front of the church and scream out the word, "Underwear!" My sweet DeLaynie is such a mystery at times.

I hope that you had an equally delightful Christmas, full of stories to tell and pictures to show.