December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

I can hardly believe that 2009 is coming to a close!  In many ways it has flown by, in others, it has felt like the longest year of life.

The Lord has taught us a great deal about life, love, sacrifice, marriage and parenting this year.  It has been, without a doubt, the most challenging year of our lives.  But in the sleepless nights and colic, the Lord's grace has been abundant.  He brings challenges to us in order to refine us.  Malachi 3:3 talks of the Lord refining His people and them becoming righteous as a result.  This is a hard truth of the Christian faith.  If I am to become more holy, I will have to walk through the fire of suffering and live in a way that opposes everything the world tells me is right.  Things that are natural must become unnatural.  He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30).  Sin must be put to death.  And death hurts. 

Suffering is not fun stuff.  Sure, certain ways people suffer may look appealing or "godly".  But in the depth of our hearts, we don't want to suffer, ever.  A call to Jesus is a call to suffer.  2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that "All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted."  We are called to share in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10) .  The Bible is loaded with verses about this issue.  But its not one that gets much press in the pulpit.  I have to be honest with you, if you have heard that the call to Jesus is a call to be rich, healthy, and happy all your days, you have been very deceived.  To submit to Christ is to sign a blank contract.  He makes the calls, all the time.  And you trust His goodness. 

There is a page that my Bible tends to fall open to.  I have an index card wedged somewhere around Psalm 119 and it reads "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  This is a verse I have to read over and over.  The circumstances of life aren't always fun.  I easily become discontent, overwhelmed and resentful (among other things).  The truth is this.  Jesus left the perfection of Heaven to live in this broken world and die a death I deserved so that I could live in glory with Him one day.  That truth, is worth my life. 

So as 2010 rolls in my prayer is this: that you and I would love the Lord God with all our hearts, souls, and with all our minds.  Where suffering is found, holiness is close at hand.  The fire is hot....but the beauty on the other side is more than you could ever imagine.

What is a Paradox?

Is it a pair of ducks? 

This week we are on the road again!  This time to the nation's capital!  Last night kicked off our annual New Years Conference in DC!  This year our theme is Paradox.  We would love for you to get a sneak peek at what we do here, so our wonderful Tech guys have set up a live feed on the web!  Go to UStream and search "Paradox event"

Hope you enjoy it and are deeply impacted by the life-changing Word of God!

December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It seems that Christmas has snuck up on us this year!  3 days separate us from the most anticipated day of the year...and I am just now making a Christmas music list, and cookies are nowhere in sight!  We just got home Sunday night from a week of staff training, and a very fun Darst Christmas in Shelby.  On top of much traveling, I have a toddler ( read that right!) who is teething (that's our guess anyway) and is very very fussy.  She is presently in her bed because that is the only place she seems to be able to calm down. Tylenol is our only hope.

In the midst of the elevated stress levels at our house, there is joy.  Clint and I are super excited about spending our very first Christmas at home.  My parents and sister are coming to join us in creating memories, enjoying our new home, and starting some new traditions.  Something that the Lord has convicted me of in the past few years, is making an effort to make Christmas about Christ.  It seems pretty obvious that it should be, but the Americanization of Christmas has sadly often left Jesus out of it.
So here are a few things we plan to do to ensure our hearts and minds will be turned to the Prince of Peace this Christmas.

1) Nativity Scenes- Since Thanksgiving, we have had our nativity scenes out.  This seems normal, but this year we have two that are solely for Eden.  One in her room, one under the tree.  It's amazing how sponge-like little ones really are.  Within 2 weeks, Eden learned that the pink-cheeked baby in the hay's name was "Jee-us".  Mission accomplished.

2) Reading the Story- We have read to Eden Luke's account of Christ's birth a few times.  She isn't overly interested. :)  Last night we starting reading the delightfully illustrated and captivatingly worded The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This is an amazing little book.  It not only helps children understand the stories of the Bible, but every single story points back to Jesus and to God's plan to redeem His people.  Not only that, it has breathed new life into the way I now read God's word!  Somehow, the reminder of the big wonderful story, even as an adult, will bring out the 5 year old in you.

3) Emphasis on Giving- last year Clint and I decided that we wanted one of our family traditions at Christmas to be an emphasis on giving.  We are so wired to want to receive, but God tells us that "it is more blessed to give than to receive"(Acts 20:35).  I wholeheartedly believe this.  Gifts are not bad things, in fact, the Bible talks about gifts a lot!  Gifts are good things, and God is the best gift giver there is!  It is just that we want our children to grow up knowing first hand that loving and being generous is much more blessed than even getting a much anticipated gift. In light of this, we will be orienting the gifts around who's turn it is to give, not whose turn it is to get.

Hopefully, there will be many more traditions to add to our list!  Thankfully, I feel like I have some time to think about more specifics before Miss Eden has a memory (or so I think)!  I hope these get your creative juices flowing about how to make Christ the gift this year!  Merry Christmas! 

December 8, 2009

Cookie Exchange!

Virtual Cookie Exchange

My friend Carrie is doing a little virtual cookie exchange.  Since I cant share with you my famous (with Wingate students, anyway) chocolate chip cookie recipe (top secret), heres the next best thing!  These are super rich so pace yourself.  But man...are they good!!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars
1 cup butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp vanilla

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 c oatmeal

12 ox chocolate chips
15 oz. Sweetened condensed milk
2 T butter
2 tsp vanilla

1. Cream together: butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. 

2. Mix in a separate bowl: flour, soda, salt, and oatmeal

3. Melt together: choc. chips condensed milk, 2 T butter and vanilla

4. Mix first two mixtures and spread 2/3 batter into a 9x13 in. pan.  Cover with chocolate mixture.  Dot with rest of batter.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  ENJOY!

So much to update!

Since we have last updated you we have.....

1. Celebrated a first birthday!

2. Went on a marriage retreat

3. Celebrated Thanksgiving

4. Packed up everything we own

5. Moved to a new city

6. Decorated for Christmas


7. Went to our first ever Festival of Lights
(it was cold and bedtime.... note the look on her face)

Boy have we been busy!  Thank you for your prayers as we made the big move.  The Lord provided us with an amazing house in a great location and we moved within 2 weeks of finding it!  We had a ton of help even though it was the day after Thanksgiving, and we are now officially settled in the 'boro!  We are LOVING living in a small city and are looking forward to learning more about it as we settle down here!