Tag Archives: grace

Book Review and Deal: Conscience by Andrew D. Naselli and JD Crowley

9781433550744Naselli, Andrew David, and J.D. Crowley. Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who DifferWheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016.

This book has literally been life-changing for our family. Bryan and I have been fortunate to hear many of these principles either from JD or Andy or our pastor, Danny Brooks. JD presented some of this material at a missions conference a few years ago. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, and Bryan and I had the privilege of attending this conference together. My parents have been faithful followers of Jesus for nearly their whole lives, but the principles they heard that weekend were a brand new way of thinking–a liberating way of thinking!

A couple of years later, this book came out, and my parents read it together. Then they bought 20+ copies and gave them to their small group friends and to their kids (us) to work through with our spouses. Bryan and I read through this book together over our vacation this past month. We took time to talk through the various chapters, applying them to various situations we’ve come across recently. I went to school with one of the authors, Andy, and have had the privilege of getting to know JD over the past few years. This past fall, I got to hear JD and Andy co-teach the principles outlined in this book at a missions conference in Minneapolis, and it was a boost to my heart and mind.

Reading through the book, my biggest take-away was gratitude that a vital resource like this finally exists for the Church at large! It deals with tough topics and gives a practical and theological way to work through various issues of conscience. If you’re expecting exact answers on what to believe, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it walks you through every New Testament passage that mentions the conscience and helps you ask the hard questions to calibrate your conscience to the Word of God.

And it’s currently on sale! The electronic version is available on Amazon for only $2.99 for a short time. I encourage you to purchase a copy and dig into God’s Word as you calibrate your conscience (and learn how to love others whose consciences differ from your own).

May God show you His power and true, biblical freedom as you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, calibrating your consciences to His Word. It’s not easy…but it’s so worth it!

 

 

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Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

To Know Him & To Make Him Known

2017 Theme: To Know Him & To Make Him Known (i.e., Word-Filled and Overflowing!)

Theme Verse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Theme Song: “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

Book Review: “Glimpses of Grace” by Gloria Furman

I love to read. Always have. Over the years, I’ve had a handful of books that have risen to the top of my list to “Must Read” status. Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman is definitely one of those books! It is probably one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years!

Gloria has a personal style that lets you know she’s been there–in the trenches with kids and cross-cultural ministry, serving her husband who pastors while struggling with a debilitating condition, keeping a home and keeping up with writing books and blogging.

Glimpses is full of encouragement from real-life illustrations and Gospel-centered, soul-refreshing, rich, theological concepts. Glimpses is full of Scripture and quotes that reflect Truth and Hope. Gloria doesn’t see herself as a super-mom, but rather a woman with a powerful Savior! She talks about glorifying God in the mundane–where, if we’re honest, the majority of our lives fall. God uses these simple, everyday things to communicate Truth to our hearts. From doing dishes to sweeping up sand again and again, God showed her to see her own dirt and sin that needs repeated repentance and to rejoice in His faithful forgiveness and unrelenting grace.

Here’s a glimpse into Glimpses from the author herself:

And some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory, our faith and hope are in God (1 Pet. 1:21), not in our ever-changing circumstances or in the comforts of our homes and meticulously planned routines” (21).

“Even in my darkest doubts, when I do the same thing again the next day, my hope is still built on the righteousness of Christ. The gospel keeps me relating to God on the basis of Jesus’s perfections, not on the illusions of my religious achievements. God strengthens me and protects me according to his faithfulness, not mine (2 Thess. 3:3). So I can scrub dried blueberry bits as unto the Lord as my heart is satisfied in God because his kindness to me in Christ leads me to repentance again and again” (33).

“Christianity is not a how-to manual for having a nice life. … Jesus’s work on the cross means more for you than an example for good living. The Bible is God’s story of how he redeems a people he has chosen to worship him for all eternity. …In the end, the good-life formula will not bring you to God and save you from your sins. Only Jesus does this through the gospel. In its worst work, the good-life formula can help create a delusion that because you are living in a Christian-like manner, you must be pleasing to God. In reality, your righteousness may be like that of the Pharisees, whom Jesus described as whitewashed tombs with dead men’s bones inside. In this way, the good-life formula is an offspring of self-justification” (45).

“The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God himself and not our stuff or our circumstances” (59).

“…the point in forgiving one another is not just about the act of forgiving–it is the aim or goal that forgiveness seeks, which is reconciliation with God. … The forgiveness of our sins is a gift of grace, but it’s not ‘the’ gift. ‘The’ gift God offers us through Jesus’s work on the cross is everlasting fellowship with a holy God” (60).

“Whatever the ‘this’ that you desperately feel you can’t do anymore, it’s ultimately not about your circumstances. It’s about peace with God. And God has provided a way for you to have that peace that dominates any and all circumstances, regardless of how difficult they are” (78).

“Self-righteousness comes from within us and leads us to worship ourselves. Grace comes from God and leads us to worship him” (80).

“The gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” -Milton Vincent (qtd., 84).

“When we minimize the offensiveness of our sin, we are attempting to diminish the holiness of God” (101).

“Our hearts cannot be the end-all authorities on truth. Only God can claim that right. Sometimes we really need to wrestle our hearts into submission to God’s truth” (124).

“We see glimpses of God’s grace in our homes when we cherish God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The solution to our problems in the home and the impetus for our enjoyment of life in the home is fellowship with God through Christ Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the cross” (180).

Recent Readings and Reflections…

I have don’t a lot of writing recently, but I have been doing a little more reading. So, I wanted to share some articles that I’ve been reading recently. Warning: many of these are hot topics in the Christian world today, and some are uncomfortable, but in order to preach the full counsel of God, we are forced to deal with the hard topics too.

My friend Holly Stratton recently wrote, “The world is changing fast, and we need God to fill us with a love for Christ that is strong enough not to be left in the dust w/ our petty preferences. We need ministry leaders who are too driven by gospel conviction & Spirit power to be hindered by fear that they’re not honoring the preferences of others. Not leaders who don’t care what others think, but leaders who care deeply what others think. Humble leaders who care enough to boldly & confidently call for a self-forgetfulness that doesn’t allow the demanding of one’s own way. We may not like change, but we’ll dislike irrelevance even more. For the glory of God, let’s move.” (Author’s Note: “Relevant: related, pertinent, connected, applicable. The gospel is always relevant. Always. Ministries & people, however, are continually faced with decisions within the bounds of sound doctrine & biblical authority that can needlessly render them irrelevant.”)

One interesting article, along those lines, that a friend shared was “Keeping Young Fundamentalists in the Camp” by Jeff Amsbaugh. Amsbaugh writes, “My heart is not to eradicate the fundamental movement but to correct the abuses of it. These words are offered as a friend from within, not an enemy from without. But if the caricature of fundamentalism that we have presented is not replaced with an authentic model, my fear is that we will lose even more young preachers in the coming days. And though part of it may be attributable to the ‘coming apostasy,’ a good portion of it may be because of the raging lunacy. God help us to keep the baby but get rid of the bath water, for the bath water is indeed dirty.”

One of the more difficult topics I’ve been studying is homosexuality. It’s been a taboo topic for too long, and lots of young people, especially, are struggling with same sex attraction. It’s time we came alongside them, empathized as fellow sinners, and showed grace and hope for change by conformity to the Word of God. Here’s an article that gives one perspective: “When Two Lesbians Walk into a Church Seeking Trouble” (an excerpt from John Burke’s book, Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others Through the Eyes of Jesus). Burke says, “Do you realize that Jesus is not shocked by the shocking things people do?” He gives examples of Christ dealing with Zaccheus, the Samaritan woman, and Simon the Pharisee, and goes on to say, “It’s all about love! Don’t miss this very critical point Jesus makes to us all: If you truly recognize how much it cost God to forgive you, it will flood your heart with love for God and others who need more of the same;” and again, “It’s all about love! Not a love that ignores the mud and the damage that destroys God’s Masterpiece, but a love that recognizes how much loving mercy God has given a messed-up person like me! … That great love brings grace and truth together to give hope to a broken world in need of forgiveness and restoration.”

Another topic is modesty, and Jefferson Bethke wrote an interesting articled called “The Idolatry of Modesty.” Regardless of what you might think of Bethke, he makes some good points in this article. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Above that though, bring glory to God through your clothes. Dress in such a way that points to your Savior and Creator, not yourself. … Remember that clothes (and the attitude that puts on those clothes) are simply an outflow of what’s in the heart. … So, ladies, let our Savior’s grace, rather than your righteousness, be exalted through your dress.”

And yet another topic I’ve been thinking about is marriage.  I read an article called, “What You Really Need in Marriage” by Mark Altrogge. Altrogge says, “Our culture is extremely self-oriented. We are continually bombarded by messages that tell us we need greater self-esteem. We begin to think, I need to do this for me, I need to be validated, I need to feel good about myself, I need to think about my desires for a change, etc.”

Often we convince ourselves that our desires, wishes, wants, and even lusts are actually needs. It’s an easy error to make, especially in an “It’s-all-about-you” culture. But it’s important to constantly go back to the word…ground yourself…intentionally…to know what God says is really a need.

Speaking of intentionality and marriage, one couple had a brilliant idea that I read about in an article by Sarah Lang, called “A Slower Cup“: “A couple reflects on the slow and methodical brewing technique [of coffee] that allows them to spend time together and offers a relaxed start to their day.” What a great way to start the day…slow, intentional, and calm! Lang writes, “A beverage as alluring, delicious and influential as coffee should be savored.” I couldn’t agree more. And whether you take time to savor a quiet, slow cup of coffee (or tea) with your spouse or your Savior or both, make it intentional and enjoy the moment.

Photographs by Chantelle Grady

And while we’re on the topic of slowing down and being intentional, I read two articles by Leslie Ludy called, “Running on Empty and Refueling Our Souls” and “When Your Soul Needs Rest.” I’m working on being more intentional about refreshing and refueling my otherwise empty soul. Ludy says, “Taking time away to refresh and refuel should flow from a motive of becoming even stronger and more equipped to serve Jesus Christ—not simply to ‘escape’ from the responsibilities of serving and godly living. … Instead of looking to the empty allurements of the world to find the refreshment we seek, may we remember that He alone is the One who can fulfill us, revive us, and meet our every need.”

Sometimes we allow our culture to dictate our beliefs, instead of the other way around. And sometimes we allow lies to creep in. Other times, we make excuses for our sin, or expect perfection instead of the process of sanctification. I’ve been reminded over and over again recently of Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NKJV). And the prayer of my heart is that I would focus on those three things. That I would be intentional about doing the next right thing. That I would love mercy and grace and love and truth. And that above all, I would walk humbly…not in conceit or pride or biting or devouring (Galatians 5, again), but that I would walk in reality of my depravity and the greatness of God’s saving grace that is both humbling and awe-inspiring.

Finally, I want to share two songs that have meant a lot to me recently. The first is one of my favorite songs, “Before the Throne of God Above.” It was a special part of our Baltic Musical Mission Team in 2003! Guitar, flute, and a bunch of crazy Americans singing their lungs out for Jesus on street corners and buses, in churches, schools, and hospitals, in Poland and Latvia. And it’s as powerful today as it was then.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
 
[Verse 2 from “Before the Throne of God Above“; Original Words by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1892), Alternate Words and Music by Vikki Cook]

And the second song is a new favorite “Across the Lands” (Townend/Getty):

May God give you grace to live intentionally, loving Him, loving others, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God. Enjoy the journey, friends, and find rest in God alone along the way.

Taking Time to Read

I’m not saying I’m a huge fan of Confucius, but he got this one right! And it fit with my current theme of reading more and watching less, so I thought I’d share it. Yesterday, I was able to spend a good chunk of the afternoon listening to an audio book–did you know they have audio books on YouTube now?! I listened to a few chapters of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Gamebefore falling asleep for my Sunday afternoon nap. (It’s a sci-fi classic and quite entertaining, if you haven’t read it before.)

After evening service and some really encouraging conversations with some friends afterwards, we headed home for a quiet evening in–without watching the Super Bowl, believe it or not. Bryan finished up a bit of homework, we had a quick dinner, and then both picked up books to read for the rest of the evening. Currently, I’m finishing up this one:

I don’t know much about this author, but so far, it’s been pretty encouraging. So thankful that God continues to work on each of us and gives the grace for each day. I’m looking forward to reading more of this book tonight…and maybe falling asleep to another chapter or so of Ender’s Game too.

Speaking of grace for each day, I found this article by Justin Buzzard that was written a few years ago: Grace Sufficient for Today. It starts out with the following quote: “Worry is interest paid on a debt we may never owe.” I’m not sure who first said it, but it was an illustration that hit me in a profound way. So thankful that God’s grace is sufficient in my weakness and available in the exact amount I need.

 

Lessons from Sunday’s Song Services

As I prepare for tomorrow’s services, I think back over last week’s lessons. Before we even got to the preaching this past Sunday, I felt like my spirit had already been ministered to, and the quotes and songs have stuck with me through this week.

The front page of the Order of Worship had this quote from Robert Mounce: “No matter how devastating the sin of the first [man, Adam], the redemptive work of the second [man, Christ] reverses the consequences of that sin and restores people to the favor of God. Only by grasping the seriousness of the first is one able to appreciate the remarkable magnanimity of the second.”

Here’s a reflection from the songs that we sang as a congregation:

Stuart Townend: “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, That He would give His Only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”

Melody Green: “There is a Redeemer, Jesus, God’s own Son.”

Chris Anderson: “…to His cross, as grace prevailed, God pinned my wretched sin,” and “Oh love divine, O matchless grace – that God should die for men! With joyful grief I lift my praise, abhorring all my sin, adoring only Him.”

Walter and Ethelwyn Taylor: “Calvary covers it all – my past, with its sin and stain. My guilt and despair, Jesus took on Him there, and Calvary covers it all.”

Anna B. Warner: “Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.”

Drew Jones: “Holy God, in love, became perfect man to bear my blame. On the cross He took my sin. By His death I live again.”

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend: “In Christ alone, my hope is found, …on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied; For every sin on Him was laid–here in the death of Christ I live. …Then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me. …From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”

Stephanie Horne: “Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all.”

One Busy Week in Review

Tis the Season for holiday hecticness! I’m almost done with Christmas shopping. I have a few more small items I want to get Bryan, but other than that, I think all I have to do is finish wrapping gifts and tucking them under the tree! It certainly has been a busy time, ever since we got back from our little mini-post-Thanksgiving-vacation in Tennessee. I haven’t had a lot of time to post, so let me share a semi-brief recap.

Let’s start with last Friday. A dear friend and coworker, Grace, is moving away soon, so a group of us got together and had a sushi lunch at Murasaki downtown to celebrate and wish her well in her new endeavor.

That night, I started decorating for Christmas. I pulled out all the Christmas China and stemware and started setting up the dining room.

 Saturday was a wonderful day! Bryan came home from work around 9:30AM (my night shift man) and we decorated the Christmas tree! It’s a sky blue, white,  and copper/brown theme this year, and of course we always hang the little wooden bear ornaments.

I attempted my first batch of homemade English Muffins, using Simply Life’s recipe. They turned out pretty good. I used white wheat flour instead of the recommended combination of whole wheat and all purpose, and my yeast was a bit old, so I added a little extra “for good measure” and I also think the heat on my stove was a little high for the griddling process, so they were slightly different from the recipe, but they were still tasty. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture.

But since those had to rise twice, I decided to make some Pomegranate Orange Scones using ingredients from last week’s basket. They were so good!

I even got a “retweet” from the recipe’s creator, Gina @runtothekitchen.

I bought a white tablecloth for the dining room and two cranberry red taper candles for the crystal candle holders we got at our wedding five plus years ago (not shown). And I put up the mini tree in the dining room with all of my “produce” ornaments. Yes, there’s a little chef’s coat that says “Bon Appetit,” one of my favorite sayings, and all kinds of hand-crafted ornaments from Poland in the forms of fruits and vegetables! I found them at Sur La Table last year, my mom bought several pieces for me for Christmas and I bought several more in the after-Christmas online sale. Now, that’s my kind of tree!

There’s even a precious little garden gnome with his own produce wheelbarrow!

I found a special treat in the Christmas decoration boxes this year that I had forgotten about from last year. Tucked neatly under the tree skirt was my set of Christmas pint glasses that I purchased last year on after-Christmas clearance! I love the gold lettering, even if they do have to be hand-washed.

After a day full of decorating (and cleaning up from decorating), Saturday ended with a dinner of Chicken Lentil Soup with my friend Shannah, and some coffee and scones. I love hanging out with like-minded friends (and including coffee with fellowship is always a win).

Sunday started with going to morning service with Bryan at Heritage, followed by teaching 2nd grade Sunday school. This week’s lesson was on the Trinity and Unity of God. That afternoon included some fellowship and a time of rest for me.

Monday night, I had lunch with a new friend Tami from church. It’s amazing how God can bring people from different backgrounds together to have such a special bond in Christ!

Monday night, I had the privilege of attending a ladies’ banquet at Locust Hill Baptist Church and hearing Gracia Burnham share her testimony of God’s grace through being a missionary in the Philippines, being captured, being rescued the same day her husband was killed, and walking in faith while raising her children without him. I remember praying for their release back when I attended a small Christian high school in Ohio, and tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Gracia and shaking her hand. She took my hand and hugged my neck, and graciously agreed to let me share her story on my blog. She truly lives up to the name Gracia, as she walks in grace towards her fellow mankind, even sharing the Gospel with her former captors! And I pray for those in attendance who do not know Christ, that they will remember the words they heard and trust Him alone for their salvation.

Tuesday night was Bible study. We served a baked potato bar and salad bar, which is always fun. And we discussed topics relating to confrontation, edification, and our obligation for accountability among fellow believers.

Wednesday night was Shepherding Group. We love our Shepherding Group at Heritage Bible Church and are thankful for how the Lord is knitting this diverse group of believers together in His Name and for His Glory! Bryan and I went out for a quick date night dinner before Shepherding Group for a little “us time” in the middle of this busy week.

Thursday night was my office Christmas party. In the last couple of months, our good friend Dave joined the team, working in IT, so it was fun to have him and his wife Rachel with us at the party this year. I thought the food was great, the decorations were well done, and overall, it was a good time had by all. We left early, since Bryan had to work, but it was just long enough to have a nice meal, mingle for a bit, and relax with friends. Plus, it’s always fun to have an opportunity to get dressed up a bit.

Friday was our Sunday school Christmas party (no, not the 2nd graders – our adult Sunday school that we’re apart of when we’re not on rotation to teach – the LifeBuilders class with Pastor McCormick). What a refreshing time to catch up!

On top of all this is full-time work as an Executive Assistant, plus blogging here and for Milk and Honey Organics, trying to keep the house clean, laundry done, and yard in decent shape, and still see family and friends, all while staying sane.

Next week shouldn’t be quite as busy, but it is a busy time of year for sure. We’re looking forward to welcoming our brother-in-law James home from Afghanistan and seeing family for Christmas!

Oh, and one more exciting thing for me over the past week or so was having some very positive feedback on Twitter from my posts using PepperPlate.com as a Meal Planning Tool! Check out what they had to say:

Today was filled with fellowship with my friend Gina, running errands, hanging out with my sister and her boys, babysitting the neighbor kids so they’re parents could wrap up Christmas shopping for them (this included making shortbread press cookies and gingerbread and teaching them to play Blokus, along with much laughter).

I hope you had a fun-filled week and are beginning your preparations for worship tomorrow. Good night!

I hope you had a wonderful time