Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Inexhaustible Gospel

I've recently joined a church that is teaching me to "preach the gospel to myself" everyday. Having been a believer for over 30 years, one would think that there would be no need for that by now. Well, I'm learning that the gospel is the power of God (Rom 1:16).

The atmosphere and discipleship at this church is also revealing sin in my life as never before. Not scandalous sins, but sins that one could possess, verbalize, and even act on in most church settings and no one would ever blink. These are called, I'm learning, "refined sins". Oh, just to name a few, impatience with others, judging others, being prideful, fear of man (seeking to please people more so than pleasing God), being self-seeking, self-absorbed, self-sufficient, uncharitably judging others, gossiping. Need I go on?

Throughout my Christian life, people would say, "You're such a good person". More often than I'd like to admit I would believe them. I mean, all I had to do was look at the wreckless disregard for God all around me and it would be easy to believe. Yep, I could seem like a pretty good person if you looked at it that way. But through God's eyes? Wow. Never, never, never would I appear "good" up against His holy standard of perfection. It's only because of Christ that I can approach God - forgiven. As Jerry Bridges says, "Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace".

Now, as the realization of my sinful heart is setting in, I long to give glory to Him for any shred of goodness that may be found in me. I just need to learn the words, the humility, and grow in my courage to do so. There's the fear of man right there. How can I point out that, I'M A SINNER without having a false humility about me. I suppose the more keenly aware of the sin in my life everyday, the more REAL humility will happen.

As I grow to understand the gospel more (and my desperate need of it), the light shines brighter on the sins that I've not been able to see in the dim lighting. Marinating (as it were) in the gospel seems to be turning up the lights and allowing me to see the "refined" sins. Seeing these come to light drives me to the cross for the forgiveness I had almost forgotten I needed. It's dangerous as a believer to compare ourselves with others and find their sins more grievous and scandalous than our own. That can lead to pride and a false sense that we are in fact "good".

I am LOVING the book I am currently reading, The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. This book is really helping me to grow in the areas that I've mentioned in this post.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Precious Times, Precious Friends

I can't believe it!! Katherine came to see me and she brought her daughter "Libby" to play with "Grace". As I waited for them at the airport, a ton of strangers poured through the doors (evoking zero emotional response from me). Oh the contrast when I saw their faces! I was overwhelmed with emotion. What a joy to be together again!

There were so many things to show them in my (relatively new) neck of the woods. We got up early and stayed up late, and boy did we cram a lot of fun into those 3 days. We hiked, toured the Smokies, watched synchronized fireflies, stared at the Milky Way, tubed down the river, went way underground to see some amazing caverns and laughed until we cried.

Our girls hadn't seen each other in years, but they hit it off again and kept us laughing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Signing Off - For a time

Hey friends and fellow bloggers I am going to take a LONG blogging break. This stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four cannot keep up with blogging without getting behind on my digital photo albums, compromising quality time with my children, quality time with husband, or quality time sleeping. In other words, this is currently LAST on my list of priorities.

However, if in bloggityville you search for and find encouragement for your souls then I would promptly point you to my very dear friend's site Raising Five. She has made a ministry of her blog. It's not just a hobby, she truly encourages those in the trenches by being real and by being godly.

Blogging has been a fun learning experience and I will certainly return to it in the future, if the Lord allows. For now, I am needed elsewhere. If you want to know the next time I post (which could be next summer) you should probably subscribe to receive an email when I post something new. Just look down the side bar of my blog and click on the link (don't worry Mom, no one will try to sell you anything after you enter your email address).

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven -- Ecc. 3:1

Friday, November 2, 2007

Simon's Sixth Birthday

I saw a really cool slide show on Julie's blog and decided to try it out here.

These pictures are from our trip to the US Space and Rocket Center for Simon's Sixth Birthday. Remember, the names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Click on "View All Images" below to slow the process down and look at the pictures one by one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Seeking Out My Sins

Just a few months ago I asked the Lord to reveal my sins to me (risky, I know). Being the prideful person that I am, I thought the search for my sins would take awhile. Because of course, my sins would be hard to find - right? NOPE! Right here, staring me in the face, moment by moment I find PRIDE. Aggh!

But He gives a greater grace Therefore it says,

Okay, I'm thankful to have my eyes opened, but my goodness it hurts and (because of my pride) it's embarrassing. Have I been this prideful my whole life? Yuk!

I've also realized that my pride is most evident around my mother. Does anyone else have this problem? Let's say that I've lost something. My mom could ask me an innocent question like, "Did you check in the car?" I instantly bristle and think to myself, "Of course I checked in the car - that was the first place I looked! What? Do you think I'm stupid?" Then, my friend could ask the exact same question with the same tone of voice and my answer would be a simple, "Yes", without all of the emotional baggage attached. What is up with that? I hate it. I've hated it all of my adult years, but now it bothers me more because I finally recognize it as sin - Aggh! The sin of pride.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. - Proverbs 12:15

One thing that has been helping me to recognize pride in my life is a list from Nancy Leigh DeMoss entitled "41 Evidences of Pride". Here are 16 of them:

  1. Do you look down on those who are less educated, less affluent, less refined, or less successful than yourself?

  2. Do you think of yourself as more spiritual than your mate, others in your church? Do you think of yourself as more spiritual than other believers you know?

  3. Do you have a judgmental spirit toward those who don’t make the same lifestyle choices you do . . . dress standards, how you school your kids, entertainment standards, etc.? Now maybe you don't think you do. If you wonder on some of these, you may want to go ask somebody who knows you really well. "Do I come across that way, as having a judgmental spirit toward those who have different lifestyle choices than I do?"
  4. Are you quick to find fault with others and to verbalize those thoughts to others? Do you have a sharp, critical tongue?
    We would call it discerning, analytical.
  5. Do you frequently interrupt people when they are speaking?
    What we are saying when we interrupt is that what I have to say is more important than what you have to say. It's pride.
  6. Do you frequently correct or criticize your mate, your pastor, or other people in positions of leadership (teachers, youth director, etc.)?
    Think about the people who are involved in your life, people in leadership.
  7. Do you often complain about the weather, your health, your circumstances, your neighbors, your job, church?
    Complaining. How's that pride? You think you deserve better. It shouldn't be happening to me.
  8. Are you proud of the schedule you keep, how disciplined you are, how much you are able to accomplish?
  9. Are you driven to receive approval, praise, or acceptance from others? Do you get hurt if your accomplishments/or acts of service are not recognized or rewarded?
  10. Do you worry about what others think of you? About your reputation or your family's reputation? By the way, that's one thing that motivates a lot of parenting, isn't it? With mothers, "What are people going to think if my child is this way?" That can be pride.
  11. Do you generally think your way is the right way, the only way, or the best way?
    Think about how you go about cleaning up your kitchen (or whatever) and then your spouse comes along and he/she does it differently. Is your way the right way?

  12. Do you have a touchy, sensitive spirit? Easily offended? Get your feelings hurt easily?
  13. Do you have a hard time admitting when you are wrong?
  14. Do you have a hard time confessing your sin to God or others? (not just in generalities but specifics)
    We all say I need to be a better woman. I need to love the Lord more. I need to read my Bible more. But when it comes to the specific issues. "I'm in love with food. I'm in love with television. I love entertainment more than I love God".
  15. Do you become defensive when you are criticized or corrected?
    That anger that wells up. What is that? That's a fruit that grows on the root of pride. Why do we get angry when somebody criticizes us? We may not express it outwardly, but inwardly. Because our pride gets hurt.

  16. Are you sitting here thinking how many of these questions apply to someone you know? feeling pretty good that none of these things really apply to you?

      Isn't it crazy? Every time I turn around these days I see my prideful heart acting and reacting to all of life. My heart has been this way for almost 40 years and I'm just now beginning to see it. If you'd like the more exhaustive list of evidences of pride, click here.

      I've always thought of myself as pretty obedient to scripture and therefore not that big of a sinner (as if there are big and small sinners in God's eyes). I've "prided myself" in thinking that I've NEVER done any of the BIGGIES anyway. Well, since that fateful day, when I prayed that fateful prayer asking God to open my eyes to my sins, I've been amazed at the "Biggies" I'm guilty of. Here's one example from a quiet time recently:

      You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. - James 4:4

      Adulteress? What? Okay - that's a biggie!! Oh, there are so many times that I am a friend to the world. I am so thankful for Jesus when I read that verse. Without Him I am an enemy of God. As these truths have been revealed to me, I have been dying inside. I've been sad, overwhelmed, and downright humbled over the extent of my pride. Yet because of His mercy, I am not feeling discouraged even though more and more sin is being revealed to me.

      And to further expand my idea of what sin is, I've been memorizing the following verse.

      Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:17

      Wow - this comes in to play with parenting just about every hour. I mean, I know I should get up from whatever I'm doing and go resolve a conflict or discipline a disobedient child. But instead, I choose to keep doing what's important to me at the moment. Is it sin? Yep!

      The Lord has been faithful to answer my prayer and continues to reveal my sins to me (#8, #9, and #10 above are prevalent in my life). The more I realize that my heart is only evil continually (Gen 6:5), the more thankful I become for God's truly amazing grace. My worship has become deeper, more real, and more important to me as my sins have been revealed. How sweet is that?

      Wednesday, October 17, 2007

      No More Muddy Swingsets

      For this week's WFMW (Works For Me Wednesday) I'll share something that I implemented just this summer.

      I love for my kids to go outside and play on the swings or the trampoline. However, after a good rain, encouraging them to play on the swings can be like asking for them to go play in the mud. I've found a wonderful solution! These mats keep the kids out of the mud and therefore keep the mud out of my house!!

      The mats that you see in these pictures can be purchased at any Home Improvement Warehouse or Sam's Club. They are called anti-fatigue floor mats. If you are patient, you can use an Exacto-Knife or other razor type cutter and slice them into appropriate sizes for your outdoor play equipment. I don't even hesitate to send my kids out after a rain now.

      Oh, one more thing, the mower doesn't pick them up. I just mow right over them. Hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!

      For more great Works For Me Wednesday ideas visit Sharon at Rocks in My Dryer.

      Friday, October 5, 2007

      Acorns in the Bathroom

      Our family just returned from a 3-day camping trip. All six of us slept in the same tent. I can handle tent camping when the campground has electricity and public restrooms with showers (very unlike where Dennis is going).

      There is one thing from our trip that I just have to share, even though I suppose it is rated PG.

      Okay. So as Austin(3) and I are walking to the restroom, he is collecting acorns. We are discussing how some of the acorns still have hats on them, how squirrels like to bury them, etc. I'm thoroughly enjoying being able to give him (and his interest in these acorns) my full attention. Being the fourth, Austin seldom gets my full attention.

      Anyway, we get to the bathroom (acorns in hand) and step into the second of four stalls. Austin, before getting up on the potty, looks up at me and says, "Look at my nuts mommy!"

      I grin to myself, trying hard to remember if there is anyone else in the bathroom. Then he says, "Aren't they cute?" I'm starting to chuckle inside when he innocently adds, "Would you hold them please?"

      Had I been at home, caught up in the busy-ness of life, I know that the humor would have escaped me. I'm glad Austin had my full attention so I could smile at the little innocent words he said about his acorns in the bathroom.

      Friday, September 21, 2007

      Deep Thoughts

      Being new to Blogittyville and not having ventured far and wide in it, I have a limited view of this "place". I have skipped around a little bit, but for the most part I have stayed within a circle of bloggers that are Christian moms. I have been amazed (and pleasantly surprised) by many of the posts. Your heart for the Lord and your desire to live for Him come through loud and clear. I continue to be amazed by your ability to express your thoughts in such beautiful ways.

      Proverbs 27:17
      Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.

      You ladies sharpen me! Bring it on! Keep challenging me! However, the depth of thought on many of your blogs has been both challenging and troublesome for me. I began to ask myself: How do they have time to develop such deep thoughts? Am I too busy? Am I just living on the surface? Am I even capable of thinking deeply anymore? In essence, I began to compare myself to you as I read your blogs. Now comparing ourselves to anyone can be just down right discouraging. That's a topic for another post.

      But, isn't it amazing how subtle pride is? I have wallowed around for weeks thinking that I "needed" to post something more thought provoking or more spiritual to keep up with you ladies (little PRIDE slipping in there ya think?) What a twisted way to look at things. This is not a competition. We are all gifted in different ways and you are using your gifts in wonderful ways.

      Romans 12:4-6
      For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly...

      May the Lord put to death my desire to "keep up" with the "Blogger Reflection Award" winners and just post what He puts on my heart.

      Wednesday, September 12, 2007

      Birthday Cakes

      My friend Terra recently asked me to post pictures of all the birthday cakes that my husband and I have done over the years. She said it would encourage everyone that they can do it too. Well, we've certainly never had any training and we started off with the Wilton Cake Pans that bake or draw the shape right into the cake for you.

      We then either grew tired of accumulating ($10-20) cake pans that were only used once or couldn't find a pan for the desired theme and we started branching out. Here are some of them.

      It's as simple as coloring between the lines with one of these cake pans. Winnie the Pooh was our first cake ever. We practiced a few stars on a plate and then started in on the cake. Mickey Mouse was our second. We found that the stars looked best if we kept the icing cold. To be honest, the hardest part about these cakes is making and coloring the icing.

      Once we discovered disposable icing bags, things got a lot easier. I can't believe how many times we actually took one color icing out of our ONE bag, washed the bag, and then reloaded it with a different color. MISERABLE rookie mistake. And it took more than two cakes for us to figure that out. I have to laugh now. I can't believe we ever made the second cake. The instructions on those Wilton cake pans often go back and forth between colors - Aggh! Oh, what we do for our children!

      The Air Craft Carrier cake was fun and easy.

      This is the only upright (3D) cake we've ever done. It was so fun to add the licorice track and the puffs of smoke and the candy nose.

      This race car cake is my husband's design and he decorated the whole thing! All I did was make and color the icing. The roll bar is licorice and the spoiler is a large Hershey bar. Of course the wheels are chocolate covered donuts.

      We used a wok to shape the big basketball and an oven-safe cereal bowl to shape the small one.

      The Scooby-Doo cake taught us a good lesson. Icing darkens over time and in the fridge. So when coloring, we now do just a shade lighter than the end result we are looking for.

      The "dirt" is just graham-cracker crust (you know with melted butter and sugar mixed in) stuck to recently applied icing. This was one of the easiest cakes we've done. If I ever do anything like this one again though, I will use a darker colored icing underneath. I used a cream color on this one and if I missed a spot with the dirt, bright white seemed to shine through.

      I found the idea for this Treasure Chest cake on the internet.

      Now, don't worry. We do not go all out like this four times a year (just two times a year). I mean, we have four kids. We've settled into a nice, every other year routine. Each kid gets a store bought cake every other year. What's funny though, is when our kids are reminiscing about their past birthdays, they say things like, "Was that my Batman or my Race Car birthday?" They remember their cakes. So, on the times that we buy store bought cakes, I grieve a little knowing that they will not remember those cakes as clearly. But it sure is nice not to have to make four cakes a year.

      We've been known to have the bakery (Kroger or somewhere) scan in a picture from a themed napkin or from a themed plastic tablecloth. I'm big on tablecloths aren't I? Here's an example of a scanned in napkin that Kroger printed on rice paper and put on the cake for us.

      Well, happy baking! No deep thoughts here today (well none that I'm ready to blog about).

      Thursday, August 30, 2007

      Why Did I Start Grinding my Own Wheat?

      "Why?", I ask myself , would any sane woman grind her own wheat and make her own bread? Why would she MAKE WORK for herself? Those were my thoughts as I listened to my crazy zealous friends tell me that they baked all of their own bread.

      A couple of years later I was attending a Homeschool Bookfair in my area. By 9:30am I had found (and purchased) everything that I needed for my next year's curriculum. I had scheduled a babysitter for the better part of the day and there was NO WAY I was going home this early.

      About 9:45am, I bumped into a friend of mine at the Bread Beckers booth and was amazed to find out that this reasonably normal woman made her own bread also. I was thinking again, "What is the DEAL with these women?" As I was talking with my friend, I noticed that a a seminar titled "The Bread of Idleness" was about to start at 10am. Well, my curiousity got the best of me and I decided that I had to go hear what these people were telling everyone to get them to make their own bread. Just to clarify, I went in to the seminar with a very skeptical attitude and felt more like a spy in ememy territory than a student.

      Well, believe it or not, I cried about 5 times during the 45 minute seminar on BREAD. Yeah, yeah - very funny. Bread - go figure. I was crying because I realized that I HAD to begin grinding my own wheat. Never mind that I was 8 months pregnant with our fourth child and feeling overwhelmed already. Honestly, I think I was sad because now that I had heard the truth, I was responsible to act on it. After all, about six months before this bookfair I had prayed and asked God to help me to provide healthier meals for my family.

      In case you don't have time to click on the links above to learn more, I'll tell you these nuggets that amazed me:
      • Of the 44 known essential nutrients needed by our bodies and naturally obtained from foods, only 4 are missing from wheat--vitamin A, B12, and C, and the mineral iodine.

      • Within about 72 hours of milling, 90% of over 30 nutrients are virtually gone.

      • Refined white flour (like you buy at the grocery store) is missing up to 80% of the nutrients found in the original wheat kernel

      Now, 3 years later, I'm still grinding my own wheat and making my own bread. I make five loaves a week. Unlike before, if the kids aren't eating the meal I prepared for them and they ask for another piece of bread, I say YES. Simply because the bread is healthier than whatever else I've cooked. My fourth child, Austin (3 years old), is my healthiest child: No asthma, no allergies, no eczema. I began eating this type of bread during the last month of my pregnancy with him, ate it while I nursed him, and fed it to him as soon as he could eat solids. I don't have any proof that it's the bread, but I personally believe that it is. There are a lot of testimonies on the Bread Beckers website.

      If you've read this far, you may want to request a free CD from the Bread Beckers, but be careful! Once you hear the whole seminar, you may be compelled to make YOUR own bread. Then we can all call YOU crazy.

      Wednesday, August 29, 2007

      WFMW - Birthday Decorations

      I've never REALLY participated in WFMW (Works for me Wednesday) before. Although, before I was a "blogger" (which I still don't consider myself one - not yet anyway), my friend Katherine posted an idea for me called Color-Coded Kids. Here is my first official contribution to WFMW.

      When having a themed birthday party (or any themed party for that matter), decorations can be expensive. I have a trick that I've been using for a few years now and it's affordable and fun. I purchase two plastic tablecloths that match the theme of the birthday and that is just about ALL I need for decorations. No, I do not use them as tablecloths, because we all know what can happen when a little kid grabs the edge of the tablecloth and pulls.

      Most themed tablecloths are folded in such a way that there are four even strips. The two outside edges have the most color and the biggest pictures of the theme and then the inner two strips have a repeating pattern (to a lesser degree) of the same theme. So, from my two tablecloths, I get 8 strips for decorating. Here are some pictures of how I used this idea this past weekend at Austin's third birthday party.

      The picture above is only half of one strip.

      In the picture above, the part on the left is from the outer edge of the tablecloth and the part on the right is from the inner strip of the tablecloth.

      Partial strips help to decorate everything!

      In the end, I use the eight strips (or even more if partials are used) all over the house!

      After the party, I moved a few of the strips up to the room of the birthday boy and voila, more celebrating!

      For more WFMW ideas visit Rocks in my Dryer.

      Tuesday, August 21, 2007

      An Introduction

      Okay, I just jumped right in to this blogging thing without really introducing myself. I'm tempted to go deep right from the start, but I'll keep it simple for now and just know that my unique life experiences could provide months of blog topics. For now . . .

      My name is Sherri and I'm 39 years old. I've been married to Chuck for 15 years. We have four kids (not their real names): Grace (10), Jerry (7), Simon (5), and Austin (3 - next week).

      I'm an only child who is amazed at her current position in life. I never babysat as a teen and didn't particularly enjoy being around children. NOW I have four children of my own. And let me tell you, a family of six seems REALLY big to me.

      When I got married I couldn't cook. NOW, I am one of those crazy women who grinds her own wheat to make bread for her family. How I came to grind my own wheat would be a great topic for another post.

      Ten years ago, I loved computer programming and enjoyed the perks and pats that the working world gave me. NOW, I stay at home with all four of my children and even homeschool them.

      Suffice it to say that if you had told me, 10 years ago, what my life would look like now, I NEVER would have believed you. To be sure, I love where God has me right now and am so blessed to have the opportunity to be a helpmate to my husband and a mother to my children.

      One last thing, I need to give credit where credit is due. Grace (10 years old) named this site. She knows when things get too loud and crazy I often yell say "Mom is on Noise Overload, everyone QUIET!!" I mentioned one day that I didn't know what to name my blog and Grace immediately said, "You should name it Noise Overload". Thanks Grace - I love it!

      Wednesday, August 15, 2007

      Enjoying Life

      There's something about your youngest child approaching three that feels so freeing and so delightful. Is it just me or is this a typical phenomenon?

      I've carried a diaper bag for 10 years and I AM DONE. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of parenting ahead, but an era is definitely over.

      I mean look at us. There's no one back at camp with a fussy or sleepy baby. We are all enjoying the waterfalls together.

      I know that there are those of you who would warn me not to be too happy, that these years fly by too quickly, but I intend to relish in the moment for now.

      Next milestone - no car seats?

      Monday, August 13, 2007

      Time off

      I've just had a wonderful weekend with my dear friend Rita. My totally awesome husband (Chuck) took the day off on Friday to go play in the waterfalls with us and THEN gave me the whole day off on Saturday. I hardly knew what to do with myself, but Rita and I had fun coming up with a plan for our day. We hiked, ate, talked, hiked some more, shopped, sat in the hot tub and ended our day marveling at shooting stars and the Milky Way. Now, if I could only get my friend Katherine to come see me.

      Thursday, August 9, 2007

      To be like Daddy

      One Sunday morning in June, I came down the stairs to find Austin(2.5 yrs) on the front porch with Daddy. It's one of those moments that must be captured in my heart and on film digitally. Austin went all the way to the garage to retrieve his own chair, all the way to his room to get his own book, and didn't feel the need to copy Daddy's coffee - yet.

      In the Beginning . . .

      In the beginning, long-ago before kids, Sherri was a computer programmer. She programmed in COBOL (not C, HTML or even Java). Today, she set out to join the new and fascinating world of her amazing blogger friends!