Is Your House Clean?

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Have you ever noticed how God uses the ordinary, mundane things of life to teach us? I love that the lessons He has for us are not usually sent by audible voice or great revelation but by everyday things that we can all relate to. It’s a new year! A time for new beginnings, resolutions, and plans.

By the time January 1 arrives, I find myself rather grumpy at the clutter of Christmas decorations and chomping at the bit to take them down. As much as I love Christmas and the beautiful décor that comes with it, I enjoy putting it all away and refreshing my home just as much as I did putting it up! Am I weird, or can you relate?

So earlier this week, I grabbed my storage boxes from the garage and started pulling down my garland and unplugging my lights. But as I did, I noticed something unpleasant: my house was dirty!

I’ve always considered myself a good housekeeper, one of those “a place for everything and everything in its place” type of people. But as I went deeper, I started noticing the crumbs and dust bunnies under the furniture, the dust on the top of my kitchen cabinets, the sand and debris under the living-room rug. Everything looked great on the surface. But those hard-to-reach hidden places that I don’t look at on a daily basis needed a lot of attention.

As I rolled up my sleeves and started to pull apart my house to take care of those neglected areas, it was almost as if the Lord nudged me. “This is what I want to do with you,” I heard Him say.

As I went deeper and moved more things, I found more dirt, more dust, and a couple of stains that I hadn’t known were there. What God wanted to speak to me was so evident. How often do I, do we, look nice and clean on the surface but hide dirt, dust, cobwebs, and stains inside? This is a short and simple truth, but it cuts right to the heart of our Christian lives.

Matthew 23:25–26 says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (NIV). Jesus was speaking to the religious, self-righteous, learned men of the day. He saw their pride and was unmoved by their words and actions. He saw beneath the surface, into the heart of each one.

What was spoken back then is still being spoken today. Not to the Pharisees but to us, God’s people. We spend a lot of time working on the surface stuff that people see, but much like in our homes, we don’t go deeper very often. I believe that as we move further into this new year, God wants us to dig deeper, to move things around a little so we can expose the dirt and stains in our lives that maybe we don’t even realize exist.

As I finished up my cleaning project and started putting my home back together, it felt good to know that even though those hidden places are usually unseen, the layers of dirt and dust in them were stripped away. They were spotless. For now. But I realized that it will be necessary to uncover those areas more than a few times a year. I made a decision to incorporate that task into my regular cleaning routine.

May it be so with our spiritual lives. I pray that God will continue to nudge me this year. To show me through the mundane, everyday activities and jobs I find myself in that He is interested in me, in my heart, and that He wants to make things new and fresh. May we recognize His voice, pull out the feather duster, move around the furniture, and respond.

Lord, help us to hear Your voice and act in humble obedience to it. May we allow You to expose the dirt that we try to keep covered and hidden. I pray that we would be transparent and allow You to do the work in us that You desire to do. Amen.

Happy New Year!

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Good-bye 2016! Wow! What a year it has been.

From the Olympics to the US election, from the devastation of global unrest and violence to Chewbacca Mom’s viral three minutes of joy, 2016 has had ups and downs, uncertainty and unrest, hope and despair. In the midst of it all, I have found myself reminded over and over again that the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills holds everything in the palm of His hands. Nothing happens without His knowledge.

For my family and me, it has been a good year, one of provision and blessing. I am so grateful for my hardworking, faithful, godly husband and my precious children.

For me, 2016 has been a year of learning to be content where I am—to bloom where I have been planted. In the past, living in Florida was never on my radar, so moving here six years ago was not in the plan—well, my plan! I am definitely a four-seasons type of girl. I love the fresh air and new life of spring; the changing colors of fall; and cold, cozy winters. Living among palm trees, sand, and 80 degrees year round is not something I get excited about or particularly enjoy.

This year however, I have come to accept that I am here in Florida for a reason, or, you might say, for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14, ESV). It’s only taken me six years of complaining to figure this out! I don’t know what the purpose for being here is, but I am resolved in 2017 to rest in God’s plan for my family right where we are. You see, God knows what we need and wants to be intimately involved in every area of our lives.

As the great preacher and writer A. W. Tozer said, “Outside the will of God there is nothing I want. Inside the will of God there is nothing I fear.” That is my heart for 2017. God is in control, and I choose joy while placing myself under His will.

Moving forward into 2017 comes with a little trepidation. Big changes are coming for our nation, and in turn, our world. I am hopeful, but we really don’t know what these changes will bring. However, we do know who holds our future!

I am reminded of Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (ESV). It doesn’t matter who the president is or who is running our government. We trust in the Lord! He has the final say.

I pray that as Christians, as the church, we would not continue to be complacent. That we would not rest on our laurels because we now have a God-fearing president and a few Christian leaders. We are still called to be light and salt. The world is still lost and in darkness. Let us be awake in these days, alert, bold, standing firm for truth and ready for whatever we are called to do.

May your 2017 be full of blessing, learning, and God’s mercy and grace. Amen!

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;  the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26, ESV).

Easy Peasy Baked Spaghetti

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So being a mom of four and having to make my food budget stretch, I love it when I can make simple, easy, cheap AND nutritious meals for my family. Winner, winner, spaghetti dinner!

Ingredients:

1 pound spaghetti thin or regular

1 pound Italian sausage or ground beef

1 jar of spaghetti sauce

4oz cream cheese softened

3-4 cups mozzarella cheese

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the noodles.

While the water boils and the noodles cook, brown the meat in a pan. Drain the fat.

When the meat is cooked add the sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Drain the pasta just short of al dente, as it will cook a little more when you bake it.

Return the noodles to the pan and add the meat mixture and the cream cheese. Stir until well combined.

Pour into a 9×13 pan, top with mozzarella and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the top is melty and golden. Serve with a salad or steamed veggies. Enjoy!

Ham & Egg Scramble

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I am always looking for great ways to use all of those leftover meats that hang out in the fridge after the holidays. Here is a great, quick and easy breakfast!

Ingredients:

Ham diced into small pieces

Eggs (2 per person)

Splash of half & half or milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Cheese (optional)

How to:

In a small pan add a little butter and sauté the ham dices on medium low until slightly browned.

While ham browns whisk together the eggs, milk, salt & pepper.

When ham is browned add the egg mixture and let it set for a few seconds. Slowly fold the eggs until they reach your desired consistency. Sprinkle cheese and give one last fold.

Enjoy!

Saltine Toffee

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One of the easiest, most delicious treat recipes ever!!! Perfect for movie night treat, family get together or last minute gift!! BEWARE!! They are addicting!

37 saltines cracker squares
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Chopped nuts, sprinkles, any topping of your choice

How To!

Place crackers in a single layer in a foil-lined 15-in. x -10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.
In a large saucepan, bring butter and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved.
Spread over crackers.
Bake at 350° for 7-8 minutes or until bubbly.
Sprinkle with chips.
Bake 3-5 minutes longer or until chips begin to melt; spread chocolate evenly over top.
Sprinkle with your desired toppings
Chill for 30 minutes or until set; break into pieces.

An Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

On July 16, 2016, I wrote and posted an open letter to Hillary Clinton on my blog, Courageous Motherhood. To my surprise, it garnered a lot of attention—more than three million views and tens of thousands of social-media shares. The majority of the feedback was positive, although I did receive many hateful messages and emails, which I guess was to be expected.

One assumption made by my critics was that because I chose to point out some of Mrs. Clinton’s, shall I say, flaws, I must be fully steaming ahead on the Trump train. It was surprising to me how many people made this assumption, as I never once mentioned you in my post, nor did I compare you to Mrs. Clinton in any way. For all anyone knew, I could have been voting for Santa Claus.

But people demanded that I play fair and write to you also.

I am not one to cave to pressure. So I refused. My intent with my letter to Hillary  was not to compare her and you as candidates; it was to show my daughter that anything is possible for a woman in this country but that emulating Hillary was not the way to go about pursuing her goals.

However, as election day draws closer and what faces us as a nation becomes more of a reality, I now feel compelled to address you also.

I must admit that when you first announced your intention to run for president, I rolled my eyes, laughed it off, and said to myself, That’ll never happen—but I couldn’t have been more wrong! I will confess, Mr. Trump, that you were not my first choice. The thought of having a thrice-married, casino-owning reality star and billionaire businessman as president was almost a little too much for my motherly Christian mind to handle. I was, and at times still am, very conflicted.

Christians in America, me included, are faced with a very difficult decision and somewhat of a dilemma come this November. You see, I can envision what a Hillary presidency would look like, and boy, would it be ugly. Integrity aside, just her liberal agenda and what she stands for politically make her an impossible option for me. A Trump presidency, on the other hand, is an unknown. That to me is scary.

Some have made the commitment not to vote, because they feel that you don’t align well with a biblical worldview. I, however, think that to forgo our opportunity to vote is disrespectful to the freedoms that we as Americans have been given. It has also been suggested that a third-party vote is an option. To me that’s a copout.

Many Christians are confused about the role of the president in our society. I am not looking to elect a man of God for president, although that would be refreshing! Neither am I looking for a pastor. I believe it is the church’s job to change and influence the spiritual and social climate of our nation, not the president’s. I am looking for a president who will give us solutions for our national debt, our open borders, our failing schools, and our healthcare system. My desire is that my children grow up in a safe, prosperous, and strong country. We need a president who will recover the freedoms and liberties that have been systematically stolen from the American people over the last decade; a president who will once again make the United States a leader on the world stage instead of a joke.

I hope you can understand why this election cycle has been a struggle for me and, I know, for many others.

Honestly, Mr. Trump, I want to support you! Some days you impress me with your composure and common sense. It is refreshing to hear a non-politician say the things that so many of us want to say but don’t. You do speak for the people in so many ways.

Unfortunately, though, some days I get up and read the cringe-worthy social-media bickering you’ve engaged in, and I find myself at a loss. It is not necessary for you to talk about Bill Clinton’s mistresses or refer to Miss Universe contestants as disgusting. There may be truth to some of these things, but they are a distraction. Discussing them does not garner respect, and it is certainly not presidential. You see, Mr. Trump, this election is not just about you! It’s about me, my husband, my children, and millions of other Americans who are looking and praying for a leader who will bring some semblance of order to a nation that is spiraling out of control.

We are facing one of the most pivotal times on our nation’s history. This election is about the enduring freedom of the United States of America. This is so much bigger than petty Twitter arguments and ridiculous banter. Your time needs to be spent listening to those who so desperately want America to be, for lack of a better word, great again!

Please, for the sake of the people, me included, who are planning to put a check next to your name on November 8, stop! Please, put your pride aside, and stop taking the bait of the liberal left to engage in things that don’t matter.

You have millions of Americans counting on you to show the rest of our citizens that you are not a joke, that you can be taken seriously, and that our votes for you will not be wasted. Please show us and your naysayers that you will make a good, strong, levelheaded, and serious president.

May God have mercy on and bless this beautiful nation—the United States of America.

No Longer Silent

As I have watched many of the events in the American news cycle this past year, I have felt a range of different emotions—sadness, frustration, disappointment, and confusion.

I have watched news of the riots that took place recently in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have watched the news from Dallas, Texas, and from Ferguson, Missouri, and now from San Diego, California, where violence, looting, and stealing have been rampant. Lives lost, others forever changed.

I have  listened to presidential candidates seek to destroy one another, name calling and stooping to preschool-type behavior all while trying to persuade us that they are the ones best suited to run our country. I watch as our leaders lie and deceive us, seemingly without consequence, when the truth is right before us.

I have heard of baby parts being sold on the black market. Baby parts! Do we even comprehend the evil it takes to do such a thing? We hear outcry over suspected criminals being shot, yet we murder more than three thousand babies a day! A day!

I have seen people vilify law enforcement for maintaining order and security. Does it not occur to those who are taunting and disrespecting police that these officers are human beings? That they are people with families who pray for their safe return at the end of every shift?

I have seen spoiled, entitled athletes and other members of our society decide that it’s okay to spit in the faces of those who have fought and continue to fight to defend our nation. They disrespect the very flag that represents the right they have to speak their minds.

As I look around at the chaos perpetuating itself throughout our nation, from government dishonesty all the way on down to riotous conduct by people in the streets, I am honestly astounded with regard to the depths to which we have fallen as a society. While I cannot claim to have walked in others’ shoes or to know what it’s like to be of a minority race or to be poverty stricken, as a mother, my heart is broken. Not because of wrongs done to me personally but because I wonder what the future holds for my children.

So, fed up with all I have seen, I decided it was my job to fix the situation! I sat down to write a post. I began it as an open letter—one full of frustration, disappointment, and annoyance.

My intention was, in some ways, to point a finger at people engaging in these behaviors. To tell you all whose fault I think it is. I thought about suggesting that it was the government’s fault, since in many ways our political leaders have facilitated much of the behavior of our day and are responsible for a portion of the unrest and social degeneration we see. I thought about pointing to certain civil-rights groups or even church leaders.

But as I pondered and prayed, and as I listened to counsel from a wise friend, the old adage “When one finger is pointing forward, four are pointing back at you” came to mind. Not that I am directly responsible for any of these issues, but the question I began to consider is, have I been complicit in the unrest I see around me by keeping silent regarding the things I see happening? Has my desire to be a loving, kind Christian actually helped pave the way for some of the issues facing us today?

While it’s true that we gain nothing by pointing the finger at others, it’s also true that as Christians, we must speak up against wrongdoing. It’s as Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias recently said: “If you and I don’t stand up and speak with love, and speak with concern, the day will come, as Margaret Thatcher warned us, that if the church does not rise up and speak, the political structure will collapse.”

We have become a church full of silent people! We are afraid. We are scared of being labeled. We have become so politically correct that we are crippled. As Christians, we have somehow come to think that speaking truth is not loving, not Christian. But love speaks truth. Love is just. Love speaks for righteousness. Love serves; it does not take; but love is not always easy, not always pretty, often times hard to hear. Jesus spoke out against unrighteousness, sin, and lawless behavior. We are His voice here on earth. We, I, need to start using our voice.

So I am asking, as a Christian mom, how do I teach my children not to lay down in the face of unrighteousness yet still love? How do I  teach them to be strong and courageous but also to have hearts to serve others and show empathy toward them? How do I teach them to block out the voices that tell them they are owed something in this entitled generation and grow into responsible servants in society?

The truth is this: Americans owe a debt we can never repay. We owe a debt to the Pilgrims who decided in the face of persecution to say “No more.” We owe a debt to our founding fathers who, despite what some may believe, laid down laws that not only granted and perpetuated freedom but honored God above all. We owe a debt to those who have fought for our freedom, not only in foreign lands but on our own soil. We owe a debt to those who have said “No more” to oppression and segregation—those who gave their lives for peaceful resolution and change and who spoke wisdom and truth. Above all, we owe a debt to Jesus. He came, He died, He rose, and He did it for one purpose: to give you and me life and to call us into His service.

People have sacrificed their lives for my children’s freedom, just as they have for every individual blessed enough to call America home. In light of that great sacrifice, should we sit quietly for the sake of political correctness and tolerance so as not to rock the boat? I know I can’t. I cannot in good conscience sit by and watch while the fabric of our nation is slowly unraveled by selfish, lawless, and godless behavior.

So as I put away my pointing finger, I pray that God would instead use me to be His voice. Not to shrink back, not to be afraid—but to stand for truth and righteousness.