Churros

392145Each Friday night we host 20 adults and 15 kids in our home for LifeGroup. We eat a potluck dinner with a theme before teaching and discussing a Bible lesson. Tonight our food theme is Mexican. In honor of that theme, I am sharing my favorite Churro recipe with you. These simple treats are easy to make and add a little sweet fun to any fiesta or Friday night.

Photo credit: allrecipes.com

Not Our Home

Phil 3-20.001This week I was reminded how very much this world is not our home. I was asked to pray for marriages that are struggling and breaking down. A friend was rushed to the hospital because of a chronic illness. We learned that the son of family friends shot himself and the prognosis is not good. And on a less significant, though more personal level, I struggled with the realization that our oldest daughter is old enough to know a kid who shot himself. (WARNING – This is not the time or place to start a debate about guns. Doing so will see comments deleted.)

It sounds so cliché, but he’s a good kid from a good family. My oldest did not know him well, but did know him. This is, thankfully, her first experience with something like this, but I am saddened because I know it won’t be her last.

So in the midst of all this pain, all this sadness, what are we to do? The temptation is to ask why but I believe I already know the answer. Broken. This world is broken. Broken by the weight of evil. Broken by our own sin. Just broken. And I am burdened with prayer for those who are experiencing more of the broken now than they were a week, a day, even an hour ago.

So how do we go on? How do we keep walking in this our brokenness? Hope. Not that by some magical happening things will “get better,” but in the hope given to us through Jesus, our Savior. Romans 8:24 tells us that our hope is not in the know things of this world but in what we don’t currently see. Our hope is not that the world will get it right, but that our God got it right and offers us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). With that hope we can move forward. We can go on. We can reach out to our broken world and tell them about the hope of Messiah, Jesus Christ.

If you would like more information about a relationship with Jesus, please click here.

So hug your kids a little more today. Have a little more grace for those around you. Take the time to call that friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Reach out to that coworker who seems to always be alone. Yes, the world is broken, but Jesus, who was broken for the world, offers us hope in the midst of the broken.

Back to School?

College word artNot the kids this time! Right now, my husband is pursuing his Master’s degree in an accelerated program that will have him graduating in May, just 12 months after starting. I’m not sure why, but I thought this would also be the perfect time for me to go back to school too. Maybe I was jealous that everyone else was in school? So now all 5 of us are in school. And it is crazy. Plus our ministry has ramped up and we are counseling two couples each week while still leading or hosting 3 small groups and leading a group of small group leaders. Oh, and then there’s our regular activities at church…praise team and the Connections ministry where we are leaders. Plus the kids activities. I’m tired just writing it all out!

I don’t tell you this so that you feel sorry for me. We have made these choices with prayer and purpose. But it is a crazy time at our house. How are we doing it? ORGANIZATION! This season of busyness has brought to light the need for organization beyond menu planning and clean closets. Here are some tips we have learned:

1. Shared calendars. 4/5 of us (the 6 year old is excluded at this point!) have smartphones and we sync calendars. Every family member has their own calendar (color-coded of course) and we have calendars for special groups. For example, there is a wife calendar, a husband calendar, and a couple calendar. Anything that is for us both goes into the couple calendar. The kids all have their own calendars and there is one for activities that involve all three kids. Then there is a calendar that deals with all-family things. Each person has all the calendars that affect them syncing to their phone (and for us it goes to the computer and iPad too). This way everyone knows what is going on, where we need to be and when. We use the notes section to include instructions such as what to wear and if they need to bring something like a book to occupy time or sports gear for the next activity. We parents see all the calendars so we know exactly what is happening in the family schedule. This helps keep us all moving in the same direction as a team.

2. Boundaries. Now more than ever we are also saying no. No to things that take our focus away from our primary mission. No to people who suck the life out of us. No to requests from others when it is our family time. No to good things that just are God things for us.

3. Scheduled family time. We have scheduled Mondays as non-negotiable family night. Everyone is expected to have work and school finished by dinner time on Mondays so that we can eat together and then play together. Whether swimming at the base pool or playing cards or Wii games, we spend time as a family uninterrupted. We don’t answer calls or texts. We just enjoy each other. This recharges us for the crazy week ahead.

4. School schedules – for the parents! Since my husband and I are both in school too we keep detailed plans of each class. Required online meetings go in the calendars. Before a class starts we make a detailed plan of each week’s assignments and schedule each part of larger projects. This keeps us from rushing around at the end of the semester.

5. Staying connected. Not just with each other, but with outside people too. The tendency for many when things get busy is to stop church activities like LifeGroups and service areas. We have found that when we withdraw from fellowship and service with other believers, everything else suffers. So we plan our time, use it wisely, but we stay involved.

The only way to be successful is to put in the hard work. That means doing the organization and planning that will help keep our family focused during this season of life. I am looking forward to Jonathan’s graduation in May. Then we get three months of calm before he starts on his Master’s of Arts in Religion and Doctorate!

New Year’s Resolutions

new-year-2015

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t believe you should wait until 1/1 to make a change that you know you want or need to make. I do see the value in taking this time to reflect on your past year and new goals for 2015. We review and update goals regularly: short term every quarter, annual, and 5+ year.

So whether you make resolutions or are just reflective this time of year, here is some help for common goals:

#1. Get Organized! You have definitely come to the right place. Here is a collection of organization tips. Or you can tackle your house room by room with these guides.

#2. Get Healthy! Click here for a variety of healthy menu plans and recipe ideas.

#3. Travel More! Check out these travel tips.

#4. Read More! Here are great reading lists for the whole family.

#5. Get Our Finances In Order! Here is a collection of financial tips.

#6. Promote Family! Start here by giving your family a vision and brand.

#7. Entertain More! Here is a collection of hospitality and entertaining tips.

#8. Start Home Schooling! Here are curriculum reviews and tips for starting your homeschool

#9. Focus on My Husband! Here are posts about marriage with tips, encouragement, and ways love your husband.

#10. Do More Projects! This is a collection of project ideas that range from sewing to building, practical to fun.

Philippians 2:14 Jar

Philippians 2-14 Jar.001In many homes, kids complaining and arguing is normal. But should it be? I think not! At our house we have used jars and a fine (5-25¢) to help curb poor mouth behavior. One of my favorites was our “Third Commandment Jar” based on the command to not take the Lord’s name in vain. We went further than most with this and restricted all use of the words Holy, Goodness, Heaven etc. to God or His Kingdom. We learned that I was the only most guilty of the violation with sayings like “holy moly” and “holy cow!”

Now, as the kids get older, grumbling and arguing seem to rear their ugly heads in our house. So we are starting a Philippians 2:14 jar. This verse tells us to do EVERYTHING without complaining or arguing. So every time a child – or a parent – grumbles, complains, or argues, they must pay the fine. We are starting at 10¢ per infraction. If that doesn’t curb behavior we will go to 25¢. As we see fines dwindling we will donate the money to a worthy charity, leaving us and others better off!

Click on the picture to print your own Philippians 2:14 jar label. Simply follow this recipe for homemade Modge Podge and apply the label to any recycled jar or can.

Homemade Modge Podge

Crafting can get expensive so I am all about finding ways to make my own supplies at home. One of the more expensive supplies is Modge Podge. However, this is easily made at home. Simply combine equal parts white school glue and water in a recycled jar with a tight lid. Shake well. This can store for several days, up to a week.

Myth: Adding Salt to Water Will Help It Boil Faster

salt2When you watch a cooking show on TV, you get evenly divided advice to either add or not add salt to water because it will affect the boiling speed. Those on the side of adding salt contend that it will speed up the process to add the salt, while those telling you not to add say it will slow down boiling.  So, will adding salt to water speed the time which it takes the water to boil?

This myth is confirmed! Adding a small amount of salt to a pot of boiling water will generally take some time, up to about 1 minute, off the time it takes to boil.

Now for the science: When water boils, the bonds that hold the 2 hydrogen molecules to the one oxygen molecule begin to loosen because of the heat. Eventually, enough heat (212°F) loosens the bonds so that the water boils. When salt is added it changes how the molecules move in the pot, making them move faster, which produces more heat. Because you are now heating the pot of water on the stove AND the salt is causing the molecules to move, the by-product of which is heat, the water in your pot will boil slightly faster. Basically, adding salt reduces the temperature at which water will boil – meaning you have to add  less heat from your stove because the way the salt makes the water molecules move adds heat too.

Remember that the salt in the water will alter the taste of the food you cook in it, so take that into consideration as you try this at home.