Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In My Garden

In front of my porch lies a little flower bed. There is a climbing rose known as Seven Sisters in the center. Every summer it covers itself with blood-red blooms and I never seem to have enough opportunities to enjoy its beauty. The Seven Sisters bush was already in place when we moved in; beside it, we added 3 more bushes known as Knock Out roses in varying shades of pink. Yes, I have a thing for roses. 
(image by thephotohiker.com)

Every year, as soon as the air becomes warm, I notice a creeping vine come up in different spots. If I don't catch it in time, it can and will completely surround my roses, choking their growth and blocking the sunlight from their limbs.
This happened recently when I left town for several days. When I returned, the vine was everywhere, weaving itself in and around the roses, up the railing and wrapping over the decorative stones surrounding the bed. There were stalks a foot tall of another breed of weed (dandelions maybe? But surely not that tall...?) in one end, and the vine was even wrapping itself around them, weed entwined with weed. I started ripping it out piece by piece, catching a thorn in my bare palms from time to time. I kept at it, though, until I could finally see the mulch again.
While I was tugging and digging and cursing Adam and Eve (you know you've done it too!), I felt a soft touch, followed by that soft voice. You know, this is exactly what I do, too... No, I have to be honest. That wasn't really what I was thinking about at all.
You see, our lives are like a garden full of unique and beautiful flowers. He wants to walk through the garden every day, admiring the beauty of the life we are living. From time to time, vines of bitterness, bigotry, hatred, quick temper, impatience, sarcasm, etc. begin to sprout up here and there among the blooms. He notices these weeds and points them out, but being the gentleman that He is, He allows us to pull them out when we are ready. Sometimes the vines become too entangled and prevent His light from reaching us so the growth in our relationship with Him becomes hindered. It might take a while, but eventually the vines will overcome the garden and will kill us spiritually, if not physically as well. Thankfully, He is the Master Gardener and, if we allow Him, He will come into our garden and begin to pull the vines away from the flowers. He'll clear away all the noticeable evidence of the weed. But you see, if that's all we allow Him to do, the vine will inevitably come back.
The only reason I have to keep pulling away pieces of vine to protect my roses is because I haven't located the root. Somewhere in the soil, perhaps under my porch where I can't access it, is a root that keeps the vine coming back, no matter how much I rip away at it. Unless I remove that root, I'll be pulling vines until the day I die. The Gardener knows this, too, and wants to prevent the vines from returning so we can grow and flourish and be a beautiful display of how He can transform imperfection into impeccable. But we have to allow Him access to the root. We have to allow Him to dig deep enough to remove the cause of the __________ (<-- insert the name of your vine here). Yes, it's uncomfortable and yes, it might hurt, but it's worth it to have that beauty in the end.
Don't know if you have any vines? There may be one unnoticeable vine entangled with another, you won't know until you hit your knees and repent for allowing it to take root, then ask God to remove it and show you others and how to prevent them from taking root again. Ask Him to reveal scripture to read relating to your situation; write them on Post-Its and stick them everywhere- the bathroom mirror, cereal cabinet, refrigerator door, your steering wheel. Set reminders on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day. If you close this blog remembering nothing, remember that all is in vain without daily maintenance with the Gardener.
I hope this speaks to your heart.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why I Gave Up the Farm

To continue the focus of "responsibility", I'd like to share a personal story about one aspect of being responsible that I definitely struggle with- setting priorities and keeping them.

As a stay-at-home mom, my job description mentioned cooking, cleaning, and making sure the kids didn't kill themselves or each other. Sounds easy enough, right? I ran into a serious problem, though. Okay, so that's a little dramatic... My problem wasn't the problem; my problem was me.

You see, I had a family farm. It was beautiful. The picket fence was painted white in stereotypical fashion, with the expected 2-story farmhouse and acres of surrounding farm land. I had pigs, chickens, cows, goats and even a couple llamas. I was an expert, producing award-winning crops and baked goods for the county fair. My neighbors were friendly and helpful, and I reciprocated their generosity at every opportunity. We had ourselves a 1950's Mayberry right in the 21st century. I loved it.

My success at the farm even granted opportunities to travel and help others farms. I assisted in establishing successful farming, as well as fishing, locations in Hawaii and Japan, restored a lighthouse in New England, and even farmed Her Majesty's countryside of England. I've gone down un-dah, mate (Australia), and I have an invitation to the Mediterranean Riviera. You'll never believe this, but I've even been to the North Pole and Atlantis.

And this is where you know my tall tale has to end. Joke's over.

I'm talking about FarmVille. I can't (and don't want to) tell you how many hours I wasted on that game. It's geared to hook you into coming back for more. Your crops ripen at varying times, some 4 hours while others grow at 12 or even 24 hours, and you achieve more crops, animals, and even other farm locations by mastering levels. You can't master levels without performing tasks on your farm.

I set timers on my phone to tell me when to harvest my crops, and I even planted certain crops based on when I would be available to come back and harvest them. I was one of the first to download the app when it was published in the app store. It was an addiction. And what's sad is that my addiction was mild. Check out these pictures of others' farms. I shudder to think of the hours spent strategically placing hay bales into portraits of The Joker, someone's wedding photo and even the Mona Lisa. *sigh*

Meanwhile, the laundry piled up, the sink was full of dirty dishes and I just "didn't have time" to do it all. My farm, on the other hand, was spotless, the animals well-fed, and never did a crop go to ruin. There was a serious problem in my priorities.

The basis of this blog is about being a virtuous woman and finding what being a virtuous woman means in the 21st century. If we look at the verses about her, we see that she is up before dawn, stays busy spinning wool that eventually makes the clothing for her household and also to sell, buying land and planting vineyards, tending to the needy and, after all that, she stays up late at night to do more. She tends to real fields while I'm busy pretending in a game. Shame on me.

I came to this realization quite a while ago during one of my evening glasses of whine (spelling intentional). "God, I just don't know what to do. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day and I'm so tired of the disorganization. What should I do, God? What am I doing wrong?". When the answer didn't come immediately, I picked up my phone and opened the game app. "That." What? "How much time do you spend on that game? Don't play for 3 days and see what happens." 

I'm sure you know what happened. My husband came home from work on the first day and asked who had come over to help me because there was so much done. After 3 days, I was so pleased with the progress I had made and the peace I felt that I realized I didn't even miss it.

Fast forward to nearly a year later. I felt the Lord nudging me about writing this blog post, but I ignored it. Through the course of events in our life, I had found a new game, Village Life, and was falling into the same rut. How can you be preaching responsibility on your blog but not taking care of the responsibilities in your own life? The guilt sunk in deep.

If you are disciplined enough to set a limit on your game time and still accomplish your every day responsibilities, more power to you honey! I know I can't. I get sucked in and "5 minutes later" it's really been 45 minutes. Don't let a "5 minute" stress reliever take precedent over the priorities. Keep all things in moderation, and see if you can't put that 5 minutes to a better use. Maybe that stress reliever is really just a way to procrastinate? Think about it... And speaking of 5 minutes, listen to this song. It's one of my favorite reminders, and I hope it makes you think, too.

Until next time...

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Label in my Window

There's a label in the back window of my car. It looks like this:

That label, seemingly, serves one purpose: to tell anyone that sees my car that I am licensed to sell Thirty-One merchandise. (Ad break: Now that it's posted on the World-Wide Web, feel free to like my Thirty-One facebook page and don't forget to like the Purple Threads facebook page, as well, so you can keep up with all things Virtuous Woman! Now back to our regular programming...) ;-)

It wasn't until I sat on the trunk of my car after dark and applied that label with the edge of my debit card by the light of the garage that I realized it also serves another purpose: accountability.

If I'm driving 80 MPH on the freeway, zipping in and out of traffic like a NASCAR driver, or honking at someone and yelling about their driving, is that a good representation for my business? If someone notices that label and walks up to my car to write down my number or web address and they notice the cereal my daughter dumped out a week ago and random junk thrown all over that I haven't had time haven't bothered to clean up (which is exactly the way my car looks right now, so obviously it's eating at my conscience), is that a good representation of my own personal organization and, therefore, ability to help you organize yourself with the products I'm trying to sell?

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
~ 1 Corinthians 10:31
While my car should be acceptable for advertising my personal business, every aspect of my life should be acceptable for advertising a far more important business- my Father's business. I am, in theory, to be a walking billboard for the love of Jesus and the Holy Spirit that dwells within me, but is that what is actually being displayed? Jesus was patient, kind, understanding, but he was also firm, tactful, and precise. He loved the sinners, and His choice of friends proves it. Tax collectors, prostitutes, fisherman, the woman at the well... Yet how many times do we see picket signs instead of Bible studies? How many times have we stuck up our nose when we should have held out our hand?

What's the label in your window? Does it impact the way you live your life?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Modern Jesus

I like music. A lot. I listen to music when I work, when I drive, when I'm reading a magazine.... and I like music of all genres. Every once in a while, though, I run into a problem like the one I had today. I was driving to work mindlessly flipping through stations for something spunky for the ride. A song came on the alternative/indie station so I stopped for a listen. Then my ears perked to the lyrics.

Come on in 
Take a seat next to me 
You know we got 
We got what you need 

We may be liars 
Preachin' to choirs 
But we can 
We can sell your dreams 

You don't need sympathy 
They got a pill for everything 
Just take that dark cloud 
Ring it out to wash it now 

Don't pray for us 
We don't need no modern Jesus 
To roll with us 
The only road we need is never givin' up 
The only faith we have is faith in us 

We're the ones who start little fires 
Yet they burn out 
But when they're on the rise 
It can't help but shine 

And when the wave approaches 
Take our ashes to the ocean 
Who cares if hell awaits 
We're having drinks at Heaven's gates 


We know that we're helpless 
At least we always assume 
But we don't need to prove nothin' to you 

Let's keep it cool 
You don't need to feel blue 
Cause we wont sell you nothin' 
You can't use 

I fought the urge to change the station only because I wanted to hear the full message of the song. At the close of the last note, I shook my head and switched to another station. "I live for the applause, applause, applause.... I live for the way that you cheer and scream for me, for the applause, applause, applause." Again, I shook my head, but this time I hit the power button instead of another preset station. I sat in the silence for a moment processing what I had just heard and began to pray. This is the music of my generation (and, unfortunately, the generation succeeding mine). Media and government leaders promote self-reliance, self-promotion, and, well, just simply self. You can be what you want, do what you want, and you don't have to answer to anyone. Wrong.

It pains me to hear songs like this, to know that this is what our kids are exposed to. At the risk of sounding like that little old lady you'd roll your eyes and scoff at, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed within our Christian homes. We can't wait until our children are older and leave their salvation in the hands of the Sunday school teachers. Even if your children are older, start now. In our home, we have a small corkboard that I use only to hang a piece of paper with one scripture written on every week. It's hung on a wall in our living room where we'll pass by every day and read it. When it's posted, we talk about what it means and how to apply it to our lives, and I encourage our son to commit it to memory. (Psalm 119:11) I failed to teach him scripture and songs as a toddler, something I've made every effort to rectify and prevent with his little sister. Now I encourage him to learn them as an example to her, so that he can help teach her as she grows older. (Proverbs 22:6)

Today I want you to think about three things.

  1. How do you view Jesus? Is He your friend? Is He your Father? Or is He just the guy that is waiting around the corner for you to screw up?
  2. How does your life portray Jesus to others?
  3. Are you teaching the children in your life about Jesus? If so, post your tips and ideas below for others to consider.
If you don't have a personal relationship with the true "modern" Jesus, feel free to contact me or post your comments and/or questions below. I'd love to chat with you about Him.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 - Responsibility

That's kind of a big word- in letters and meaning. It implies maturity, presence of thought, and acknowledgement. It requires time, planning, and effort. Responsibility.

I have been mulling over what I want to do. Do I stop blogging? Do I wash my hands and walk away and pretend I never tried? It's not like anyone really reads this blog anyway. I don't have a huge following like some of my favorite blogs or even 50, for that matter. In fact, I just checked and the highest number of views I've received on any of my posts is 23. 2. 3. Twenty-three.

Then the thought occurred to me: this isn't what I want to do. I never want to stand in front of a room and talk, or in this case type, to a crowd of onlookers who would rather be eating a piece of cheesecake than listen to me drone about pantries, potlucks and pretties. I never want to trudge downstairs and cook another meal or wash another load of laundry or dishes. I'd much rather be outside playing in the snow with my kids (especially since there's been plenty lately!) or watching Downton Abbey or The Paradise and eating popcorn, scones, and chocolate chip cookies. But these are the things that make me tick, the things that inspire me, the things that I must share with the world. I have a purpose. Therefore, I have a responsibility.

I started the year in debt (collectively with Mr. Threads), in clutter, and in turmoil. How did I get here and how am I going to get myself out? I devoted this blog to discussions about how to be a "virtuous woman" and vowed to display that in every aspect and fiber of my being as I wrote what God has and is teaching me on the same subject, but as I stood in my home on January 1 and looked around me, I realized I was failing. I wasn't keeping track of our finances and racking up fees by not paying on time. I wasn't cooking or cleaning the way I should and creating more work and frustration for myself later. I understand no one has a perfect, spotless home, but when you set something down to "do it later", only to "do it later" for several more things, it all starts to pile up. Before you know it, you have, well, my house. :-\

And now, 2014. It's a new year and a fresh start and we're already through the first 37 days of it! Ladies, we have a mission to ourselves, our men, and our children, as well as our peers, bosses, etc. Let's stand up and accept it: our Responsibility. Jump into this journey with me with both feet, and let's hold on for the ride!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is Your Receiver Dirty?

I have a problem. My two adorable children love to play with mommy's phone. It has several versions of Angry Birds, including Star Wars, which is my son's favorite. Baby Girl loves to look at the picture of herself, her brother or both, depending on which of them has done something most recently that I deemed adorable enough to be plastered as my wallpaper. Needless to say, with kids comes crumbs, snot, slime and all other manners of filth. So what's the problem you ask? Somehow the receiver of my phone (the part where I listen to what the other person is saying) has gunk jammed into it. The only way I can hear them is to use the speakerphone or earbuds, neither of which are very convenient.

This got me to thinking the other day, though... How much junk do I have crammed into my heart that I can no longer hear the voice of God? He could be yelling, even screaming at me (although I don't think He would ever do that), and I would be utterly clueless.

It's cliché to say this these days, but we really are nearing His return. If we cannot hear His voice, how will we know that He is urging us to witness to the woman sharing the ice cream aisle at Walmart, calling us to missions work in Ghana, or intercession for our church, pastor, city and families? We're too busy being busy for God, that we don't have time to take His call and couldn't hear Him anyway.

Today, I ask you to take a moment and clean out the receiver in your heart. See what He's been trying to say to you.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday's Munchies - Pumpkin Banana Bread

We have the best neighbors. They help us any time we need it, keep us informed about things going on in the neighborhood, etc., which is why I'm going to be making some of this bread for them today. It's so moist and delicious and the banana flavor is hardly noticeable. This recipe makes two loaves, so I'll be keeping one to enjoy with my coffee in the morning!

2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 cups whole wheat flour (if you don't have whole wheat flour, you can replace with 2 more cups of all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda 
4 teaspoons baking powder 
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup granulated sugar 
 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil (canola or vegetable oil will work too)
4 eggs, lightly beaten 
 1 cup lowfat (2%) milk
 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin 
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through pumpkin pie spice) in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. 

Combine sugar and all wet ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. 

Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Cool loaves in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool loaves completely. 

Yield: 2 loaves, 16 slices per loaf (serving size: 1 slice) 

Number of Servings: 32

Let me know if you try this recipe and how you like it! Also, what kinds of recipes would you like to see on future Monday Munchies posts?