All articles written by: Heather

We’re Expecting!

pregnancy-announcement

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3

My Favorite Toys {For Kids Under Three}

favorite-toys

Since Christmas, Cody has officially reached the point where I can say that he does not need anymore toys for a long, long while. He has a house full of toys, many of which he plays with; but he also has a lot of toys that he rarely touches, or only plays with for a few seconds every once in a while. Some of his toys are ones that I think he will grow to enjoy more as he gets older, and some of them are probably ready to be retired and saved for the next baby. But overall, there are a few toys that he loves most of all, and those are the ones I’m going to share with you today.

Toys can be a big source of clutter in families’ homes, so it’s important to make sure that the ones you have are ones that are worth the space they take up. All kids are different, so some of the toys that Cody loves might be completely uninteresting to your children, and vice versa. But if I had to choose one type of toy as the best for almost any kid, I would say toys that encourage imaginative play are the best. Electronic and musical toys, those that encourage physical activity, and creative activities like painting and coloring are all fun, too. Yet I have found that most of them don’t get used as much as imaginative play toys. In Cody’s case, he especially likes toys that let him pretend and mimic activities that he sees me doing.

Here are my top five favorite kids’ toys, for kids under three!

1. Play kitchen

Cody has a play kitchen similar to this, which he plays with every day. Personally, I think Step 2 makes pretty good toys compared to some other popular brands, and the kitchen is a good example. It’s well-built and has cute features that are fun for kids. It comes with a reasonable amount of accessories, too.

2. Play cleaning sets

If I had to pick Cody’s favorite toy, I would pick this one. He loves to run around the house with these cleaning toys, especially the broom. He also really likes the little spray bottle, which actually works but I turned it to “off”. 😉 He enjoys pretending to clean and, ironically, making a mess by scattering these toys all around the house. Melissa and Doug is definitely my favorite toy brand; they make toys that use less plastic, are high quality, and encourage imagination.

3. Animals

These toy animal figurines are another favorite of Cody’s. He likes to play pretend with them, practice his animal sounds, and show us how he can identify them by name. He takes them in the bath sometimes, too. This set is cute and sturdy, and safe for the smallest baby hands. Cody also likes stuffed animals, which were a favorite toy of mine as a child.

4. Cars

Like many boys (and girls!), Cody loves cars. He likes to hold them, drive them around, stack them up, and anything else you could think of. These ones are fun and cute because they make noises and are chunky enough for little hands without being too big. There are many different cars in this line of products, like a trash truck, fire engine, truck and trailer, construction trucks, trains, a plane, a bus… you name it! The fun part is that all of the toy vehicles in this line work and interact with the Go! Go! Smart Wheels tracks, which are expandable.

5. Knick knacks

As many parents will attest, kids often seem more interested in playing with things that aren’t toys. So while I have already shared four of Cody’s most beloved toys, I also have to admit that a lot of his playtime is spent on the box of knick knacks we have assembled for him. This box includes things like small prizes from kids’ play places, cereal box toys, old credit cards, old sunglasses, cleaned plastic food containers, lids to random bottles, and even some rocks. He likes to dump out and examine these items, and use them for different imaginative purposes. While most of these items have just been collected for free around our house, we also have added things like these stacking cups and these plastic chain rings.

Those are the top 5 toys I would choose to keep if I had to get rid of everything else. Lucky for Cody, that’s not the case! 😉 But if you’re interested in limiting the number of toys in your home, or trying to find new toys that will hold your little ones’ interest, then these might be a good place to start.

Happy play time!

What I’m Into in December

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December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

What the Fruit?

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What does it mean to be fruitful and abundant? According to the Bible, it means that we display the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It means that our lives reflect and prove God’s goodness.

All Christians are called to be fruitful and abundant. This is not only a gift from God, but a design for his glory. Our fruitfulness comes naturally when we seek God and allow him to change us.

God desires for us to live in complete surrender to him. That means we let him in, trust him, and follow his guidance through the Holy Spirit. When we do that, we are transformed and our lives are transformed. We become people who produce good things (fruit). The Holy Spirit produces these godly traits in us. Our lives are abundant and we are able to feed others with the bounty that God has created for us. In simple terms, we become better, our lives become better, and we can help others better. That is the meaning of the Fruit of the Spirit.

In John 15:5-8, Jesus said:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

The Bible describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. It says: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

From these verses we can understand that the fruit of the Spirit is what we develop when we remain in deep relationship with God. Our abundance and our fruitfulness can then point others to God. Each of the character traits listed here has an important role in what it means to be a true follower of Christ, rather than just a “Christian” living outside of relationship with Jesus.

Love

Love is the reason for everything, the greatest purpose in life. God created us and the entire world so we could love him. When we failed to do that, he sent his son, Jesus, to sacrifice himself so that we could be reconnected with God and all of his perfection. Since the beginning of time, God has desperately loved us and wanted to be loved back by us.

In Matthew 22:37-40, we are told that love is our greatest calling. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’”

Joy

Joy is not only a gift to us, but a gift to others. Joy is contagious. And I am convinced that we can never find true joy until we learn to delight ourselves in God, above all else. When we do that, we will also find that he gives us the desires of our hearts. God is a loving God who gives us great gifts! Yet contentment and gratitude with what we have now, and an intimate relationship with God, are keys to finding joy that can never be taken from us no matter what the circumstances. This attitude of joy is not one we can develop in our human power, but one that God creates in us through his power.

Peace

I have learned the hard way that God isn’t a genie. But he is a loving Father, who longs to care for us and bless us with great gifts, especially when we are living close to him. It give me great peace to know that God cares so deeply for me, and that he can be trusted to care for my needs. And even though it can be difficult for my human heart to accept it when God doesn’t grant my requests, ultimately I have peace knowing that he has my best interest at heart. It brings me peace to know that God will enact his plan for my life, not my plan for my life.

Patience

One of my biggest struggles in life, time and time again, has been patience. I become easily discouraged when I feel that things aren’t moving fast enough in my life. But God continues to remind me that I can accept where I am each day knowing that his timing is perfect, and he has me exactly where I am for a reason. He reminds me that he has good things in store for me, and that I have good things to enjoy today, too. That gives me patience to live in the moment.

Kindness and Goodness

I don’t know about you, but I need the Holy Spirit to be the one guiding my actions each and every day. On my own, I am human–often selfish, unkind, and weak. Yet in Christ I am perfect and whole and overwhelmingly good in God’s eyes, because when he looks at me, he sees Jesus. Knowing that just makes me want to live up to the person that God has shown me I truly am. The Spirit helps me to be this person. Through God, we have supernatural power to be good and kind in a world that is often anything but.

Faithfulness

Faith is a decision to trust. With God, it also means accepting that he is greater, and that his ways and his thoughts are far above ours as humans. The fact of the matter is that I will never fully understand God, at least in this lifetime. But I can choose to trust that he is good, that he loves me, and that ultimately, he has saved my soul for eternity. I can choose faith even when I don’t understand and I can’t see what he’s doing. God meets us where our faith is. If we trust him to save our souls, he will. If we trust him to provide for us, he will. If he trust him to heal us, he will. If we trust him to give us marriage and children, he will. He may not always work in the way or timeframe that we think he should, but he is faithful. One of the most precious ways that God helps us through his Holy Spirit is by giving us the gift of faith. Faith enables us to believe him in the face of struggles and disappointment. Faith is the root of our hope.

Gentleness and Self-Control

These traits require humility and trust in God. To develop them, we must learn to let go. When we let go of the things that we can’t control, we can focus on the things we can control; our own thoughts and actions. God can empower us to rise above what other people do or say, and reflect his mercy and strength instead.

 

The fruits of the Spirit and an abundant life are ways that God desires for us to be identified as his followers to the world. These should be the things that make us different, that make us into salt and light for the world. By these things, we can begin to fulfill our mission in this life, which God has given us. We are here to lead others into relationship with God, the only one who can heal the brokenness and satisfy the hearts of all humanity. We are here to build his Kingdom of love.

 

This is a refreshed repost of a series I did around three years ago, about the fruit of the Spirit. For the original series, click here. This will take you to a list of all 9 posts from the series. =]

 

Recipe of the Month – Creamy Eggnog

rotm-creamy-eggnog
This recipe is for delicious, creamy eggnog–a perfect holiday treat! I created this recipe to fit my idea of a perfect eggnog. Three unique features of this recipe are that the eggs are cooked for safety, the whole eggs are used rather than just the yolks, and there is no alcohol included. These are my preferences, but the recipe can be adapted if yours are different! See the notes at the bottom for more details.

Servings: 8 cups (½ gallon)
Total Time: 35 minutes to prepare + 2 hours or so to cool

Ingredients:
6 eggs
6 cups half and half
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:
Beat eggs with an immersion blender* or electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Add half and half, and blend well. Pour into a nonstick pot and heat over low, stirring frequently.

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Cook until the mixture reaches 160° F. Remove to a bowl, and add the sugar, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Beat together with an immersion blender* or electric mixer on medium high for 2 minutes, until everything is smoothly combined.

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Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge or freezer to cool completely. Once cooled, taste test, and add more sugar or spices to taste if desired. You can give it another whirl with the blender or mixer for extra smoothness. Pour into mason jars, a pitcher, or a punch bowl and refrigerate or serve immediately.

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Notes:

Most eggnog recipes call for using the yolks only, and using them raw. Or, you might find recipes that use beaten egg whites as a topping for the eggnog. I have tried those methods and found that I can’t tell the difference, taste-wise. And since I prefer to cook the eggs for safety, and I’d rather get more use from the eggs, I don’t separate them. I think this nog is pretty delicious despite being “non-traditional.” However, if you prefer to separate your eggs, you can do so. In that case, you might cook the yolks with the half and half, or just use them raw and skip the cooking step. The whites can be beaten to stiff peaks and folded in at the end, or left out entirely.

I use half and half because I think it’s easiest, and has a good creamy texture without being too heavy. An alternative option is to use 3 cups whipping cream and 3 cups whole milk, instead of the 6 cups half and half. Personally, heavy whipping cream tastes too “greasy” to me, which is why I prefer regular whipping cream, the slightly less fatty version. Ultimately, the goal is to get a mixture that is about half cream and half milk.

*I recommend using an immersion blender or a regular blender, rather than an electric mixer. The blades of a blender do a much better job of pulverizing any egg chunks that might be in there. Personally, I really dislike egg chunks in my eggnog. Blegh! In the picture you can see I was using an electric mixer, but later I had to use the immersion blender because I discovered some unwanted chunks during the taste test.

When you are cooking the eggs, cream, and milk, make sure to stir very frequently and keep a very close eye on it. The eggs can quickly start to solidify if it gets too hot or isn’t stirred enough. If this happens and you catch it right away, you can remove it from the heat immediately and blend the small amount of cooked egg back in. However, if you don’t catch it quick enough, you will have a big pot of fluffy scrambled egg. I may or may not know this from experience… and I may or may not have turned it into a quiche to avoid wasting it. That quiche may or may not have been delicious. 😉

img_20161212_202507When life gives you ruined eggnog, you make a quiche.

If you’d like to add alcohol to your eggnog, you can take away some of the milk and cream to compensate. Try to keep the overall liquid content the same to avoid an overly thick or thin eggnog.

To avoid having your eggnog go bad, I’d recommend drinking it within the time you’d want to finish an opened carton of milk, about a week. Since the eggs are cooked, you don’t need to worry about using it up within a day or two. Although, let’s be honest, that might happen anyway!

I Do… Or Do I?

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What do cold feet, long engagements, and runaway brides have in common? They all stem from the myth and the fear that marriage changes everything.

I’ve seen it countless times in real life, on TV, and in movies. A couple gets engaged, but starts to waver when it comes to actually making it to that alter. Or, in a similar situation, a couple stays together for years and years, supposedly committed to getting married one day, but postpones engagement for all of those years, or even goes through breakup scares or “on again, off again” cycles. It always makes me wonder, why do people make marriage so intimidating and complicated? Or more accurately, why do people have such trouble with commitment?

The way I see it, marriage is simple. It is a commitment to be with another person for the rest of your lives, to love and care for each other, and to be partners in life. To agree to such a commitment would be a scary thing if you weren’t sure about yourself, or the person you were committing to. But what does it really take to be sure?

I’ve heard many answers to this question. Some seem to think you need to know everything about your significant other to be ready for marriage. Some believe you need to resolve all of your issues as a couple first. Others think that a certain age, or educational, financial or career goal must be reached before marriage. My own marriage counselors seemed to believe that in order to be ready for marriage, a certain level of spiritual maturity, assessed by them using some arbitrary process I wasn’t aware of at the time, was necessary. But all of these answers are really just excuses.

I’ve been married for five years now, and I still don’t know everything about my spouse, nor does he know everything about me. We still have issues we need to work through, and we find new ones sometimes too. We were married young, before finishing college, and without having established careers or even the financial strength to support ourselves; yet none of those factors had a negative effect on our marriage. We have enjoyed these last five years growing together spiritually and in maturity, and building our lives together, despite the fact that many people said we “weren’t ready.” We were sure, and we were 100% committed to our marriage, and we had Jesus at the center. That was all that mattered.

So, I ask again, how can one be sure? I think the truth is, it’s simpler than it seems. As cliche as it sounds, when you know, you know. But also, it takes time to build a relationship to that level (but not that much time). What I mean is that it’s a process–you meet, you date, you get to know each other, you fall in love, you create memories together, you experience conflicts and struggles and learn to resolve them, you test your compatibility, you choose to love each other… and somewhere along the way, you discover that you know. Even when the newness and excitement wears off, and you start doing real-life together, you still feel that knowing. You find that you are not afraid of committing to this person. You find that you are already there.

When somebody is ready, engagement is a promise to demonstrate your commitment, and marriage is the final seal to that promise. Engagement and marriage are the proof that you are committed, but they aren’t the commitment itself–that comes before. In other words, the commitment should already be solidly and firmly in place when you decide to take those vows. It’s not a decision you can make on the spot after you’ve already walked down the aisle! It’s not even a decision you can make on the spot when your significant other is down on one knee. It’s something that you already know in those moments, because it has grown naturally and is ready to blossom confidently into marriage.

Marriage doesn’t change everything. It just declares what is already there. A wedding isn’t the beginning of a life together, it’s just one of the many steps along the way. A wedding won’t solidify a commitment that’s weak to begin with, but it can very easily expose that weakness. On the other hand, when it’s right, weddings can be a beautiful way to celebrate your love and commitment as a couple. But it has to be right, first. (And, sidenote, a marriage can start before a wedding happens, if financing the wedding is the hurdle holding a couple back. Personally, if I could go back in time, I would have gone and gotten married at the courthouse a year before I had my wedding, because we were ready then!)

So if you’re in line to get engaged or married, ask yourself: is it there, or is it not? Are you compatible, or are you not? Are you sure, or are you not? If the answer is “not,” then maybe the knot is not something you should tie. If you’ve been together for many years and you’re not sure (or they’re not sure), it’s likely you never will be. The truth is, marriage doesn’t make a relationship easier or harder. Time is the only thing that changes things, and those changes are out of our control. We can only control ourselves, and decide in our hearts and minds that we will stay the course. Are you ready to do that, or are you not? The answer should be simple.

Bible Giveaway Results

I’m posting this only because I said I would reveal the winner today, and I didn’t want to leave a loose end. Unfortunately, nobody entered the giveaway, so there is no winner! Boo. 🙁

Oh well, looks like my husband gets a new Bible courtesy of I Do… Now What?. 😉 He’s been wanting a new one anyway, so I guess that works out.

Anyway, have a great week!

 

The Algebra of Marriage

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Christian marriage is a union of two people before God and man; it includes a promise to be faithful, and to love and cherish each other for the rest of your lives. Those are the facts that most of us can agree upon. Yet there are many aspects of marriage, within the Christian view, that have the church divided in opinions.

For example, some people believe marriage is eternal, lasting beyond our earthly lives, while others believe there is no marriage in Heaven. There is also disagreement about divorce, and when it might be acceptable to God, if ever. And of course, there is the huge debate (with most Christians on one side of it,) about whether same-sex marriages are accepted by God. I have my opinions about all of these things, and I could spend a lot of time writing about each of them and analyzing the Biblical support for both sides. But today, I want to focus on one of the issues that affects most of my readers, and myself, the most in our daily lives. That is, what are the Biblical roles in a marriage?

The two distinct viewpoints are known as complementarian and egalitarian.

Most Christians, and many non-believers, are familiar with the concept of the husband being the leader in a Biblical marriage. Traditionally, churches teach a complementarian view, in which husbands and wives each hold roles in a marriage that are equally valuable and important, but different. These roles are defined by Bible verses such as Ephesians 5:22-24, which says:

“22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the
head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the
church.24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands
in everything.”

In a complementarian marriage, the husband is seen as the leader while the wife is called to be submissive. Importantly, this type of marriage is not oppressive to the wife, because in many other Bible verses, husbands are commanded to love their wives selflessly. Any misuse of this view which allows abuse or disrespect towards women is not Biblically supported. Love and respect are the key components.

The lesser known view in the church is called egalitarian, which means equal. Roles are not defined based on gender, and the individuals in this type of marriage work more as a collaborative team. Decisions are made together, and disagreements are resolved by discussion rather than defaulting to the husband’s authority. Mutual submission and respect, based on love, are the key components here.

The egalitarian system is often criticized as being ignorant of scripture. Yet Biblical egalitarians, like myself, do not hold this view by ignoring scripture. I base my views in every area of life upon my best understanding of the Bible and God’s character. Verses such as this one, Galatians 3:28, support the idea that gender roles are no longer necessary when we are new creations in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I do not disregard the verses which might point towards a complementarian model for marriage, though. I simply view them with the understanding that translation, context, and interpretation of the Bible can lead to very different understandings of issues like this. I find different lessons in these verses, which are just as valuable and applicable to my life. And so, in the same spirit as I am a “rainbow fish,” I also believe in egalitarian marriage. (Coincidentally, egalitarianism is the only view that makes sense in same-sex marriages.) I see the big picture of God’s message as being one of love, freedom, and a call to willing selflessness–for everyone, no matter what their gender may be.

Both complementarian and egalitarian marriages can be beautiful, loving, healthy, and strong. And I emphasize again that both can be supported convincingly by passages in the Bible. I would not criticize a healthy and happy Christian marriage as being “wrong” for following a complementarian approach. For some marriages, the man may be a natural leader and the woman may be naturally submissive, and as long as the marriage is strong in love and mutual respect, I see no issue with that.

But for other marriages, like mine, these roles are not what feels right or works best. I was always confused and uncomfortable with teachings about gender roles in marriage, until I finally discovered that there are egalitarian Christians in the world. I used to worry that we were going against God’s best plans for us by working as a team, or even by my leading our decisions at times, rather than following a traditional “male leadership” model. Now I have peace knowing that my marriage is Godly, strong, and healthy just the way it is. As long as we are growing in love and maturity, and striving to serve each other rather than ourselves, I know that we will continue to thrive.

If marriage is a math equation in which two individuals come together make a whole, the question is this: Is the husband the bigger piece? Or are they equal? This is something you will have to decide for yourself. But the most important thing is that the two are a whole together. Marriage is all about unity in Christ. If you have that, I can’t see a way that God wouldn’t be pleased.

What kind of marriage do you have, or want to have? Have you ever been confused about God’s will for individual roles in marriage? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

P.S. Here are some great resources for more information on this topic!

For an overview on the differences and overall views of complementarian and egalitarian marriage:
http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2014/march-week-4/complementarian-versus-egalitarian.html?start=4

For a Biblical foundation of egalitarianism:
https://www.pbpayne.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Payne.pdf

For a Biblical foundation of complementarianism:
http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/god-created-man-male-and-female-what-does-it-mean-to-be-complementarian

Christians for Biblical Equality:
http://www.cbeinternational.org/

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
http://cbmw.org/

A Giveaway for Giving Tuesday!

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Today is Giving Tuesday! After all the shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s about time to set aside a day for giving instead of receiving. Don’t get me wrong, I like shopping as much as the next person. 😉 But today, let’s focus on giving to others!

In honor of this day, I am offering a free giveaway. I’ll be giving away one of these Bibles from Amazon to one of my subscribers!

Here’s the catch–you have to enter to win. You can enter by subscribing for updates here on my blog. If you are already subscribed, you can enter by sharing my Facebook post about this giveaway. You can find my Facebook page here. After you’ve subscribed or shared, post a comment on this post to let me know. Then I will enter you into the drawing! A winner will be chosen at random next Tuesday, December 6th, at 5:00 PM. I will post the winner’s name on Facebook and Instagram, and then send the free gift–a beautiful new Bible. The winner will be able to choose which of these Bibles they would like to receive.

Let me know if you have any questions, and good luck!

I’d also like to give a shout out to Compassion International for this Giving Tuesday. Compassion is a Christian organization focused on releasing children from poverty in Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. They work by connecting sponsors with children, who develop a supportive relationship and correspond via letters. Sponsoring a child costs $38 per month, and provides the child with access to a local church-based program where they can receive education, health services, self-confidence and social skills, and a relationship with Jesus through Bible education and ministry. I have been a sponsor for several years now, and it has been such a special relationship and a way for me to minister to a child in need. If you are interested in sponsoring a child, you can get more information here.

Compassion also offers a gift catalog, where you can purchase specific items to donate to families and children in need. In the past, I have enjoyed purchasing things like newborn survival kits, a water pump, and livestock! These gifts can make a huge difference for impoverished families. Check out the gift catalog here. You can give a gift in someone’s name for Christmas!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

Someone’s in the Kitchen…

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When Cory and I first moved to our own place together, cooking became a hobby of mine. Growing up, my dad taught me the basics of cooking and gave me a foundation of confidence in the kitchen. Then I became responsible for feeding myself and my husband, and my interest and skills grew. Cooking for just the two of us, I enjoyed making elaborate dishes with tons of fresh ingredients, and trying new things.

When we had Cody, cooking went on the back burner (hehe, pun). We had about three months’ worth of dinners in our freezer, which I prepared before Cody’s birth, and that helped a lot. But once that food ran out, we started eating a lot of convenience foods that required minimal cooking, and we ate out often. Our food budget really started to suffer.

In the past year, we’ve finally started to find a balance between spending less time and energy, and still eating healthy and economically. One of the key components that makes my system work is my collection of recipes that are easy, quick, and that I know my family enjoys. The other key component is meal planning.

Cooking dinner at home most nights has saved us a lot of money, and allowed us to finally stay within our food budget. It’s also reignited my love for cooking. I’m again enjoying learning to cook new things,  and since I abandoned my vegetarian diet during my pregnancy, I have even more choices for cooking than I used to. I also love to experiment and make recipes my own!

One of my favorite aspects of cooking is sharing delicious food with others. While I may not be able to send food through the internet, I can share recipes. And as part of my recent blog “re-launch,” I’m going to be sharing a recipe every month! I hope you enjoy cooking some of them for yourself.

But I want to use the rest of this post to share my thoughts on the importance of meal planning. It helps us stay within our budget for food, saves time and energy, and helps us eat healthier and more balanced diets. I highly recommend it!

For us, meal planning only includes dinners. We eat the same few things for breakfast most days, and lunches are either leftovers from dinner, or things like sandwiches or bagels. Snacks are also unplanned, but we keep our kitchen stocked with our favorite healthy munchables.

Meal planning is a simple process for me. I plan out our dinners for the week on the same night every week, and make my grocery list at the same time. Some families plan out their meals for longer periods of time such as two weeks or even a month. For us, planning a week at a time works best.

My dinner planning session doesn’t usually take long, maybe 15 minutes or so. I start by looking at the calendar and taking note of nights we may need to eat a fast dinner. I write down the evening activities we have planned for each night of the week in my weekly planner, so it’s easy to visualize the entire week. I also write down my dinner list as I’m creating it, in the same planner, off to the side.

I start making my dinner list by checking out what we have in the fridge and pantry that needs to be used up soon, and plan a few meals using those things. I make a note next to the meals with time-sensitive ingredients, to make them earlier in the week. I also make a note next to meals that are fast and easy, to reserve them for busier nights of the week.

Then I look at other food we have that could be used for dinners, including frozen foods, and dry or canned foods in our pantry. Sometimes, we might have several dinners in our freezer because I make big batches of things on weekends that aren’t too busy. Finally, I choose a few meals from my “Dinner Master List,” to complete the week. Any meals that include fish or meat are designated for one of our grocery days (we have a big shopping trip on Monday, and a smaller mid-week grocery trip to pick up some favorite items from a specialty store). We also often plan to eat out one night of the week. Between all of these sources for dinner options, we can usually vary our meals quite a bit and we don’t have to repeat dinners more than once a month unless we want to.

The biggest tool in this process, other than my weekly planner, is my Dinner Master List. This is a list of all the dinners we like to eat, categorized by type of food, ease of preparing, and time required. It’s definitely one of my favorite organizational tools that I have created! I’m planning to share an editable copy of my dinner master list here on my blog soon, so stay tuned for that.

After planning my dinners for the week, I make my grocery list. I look at the recipes and double check every ingredient to make sure I don’t miss anything. I also add our regular breakfast, lunch, and snack foods onto my grocery list. Then when I go shopping, I follow my list! This is important for the money-saving aspect of meal planning. I’ve also chosen my grocery store based on their selection and prices, so that helps with the budget as well!

For the rest of the week, it’s as easy as choosing a meal from the list each night to cook. Some nights, we end up needing to change plans and we push a meal or two to the next week. It’s flexible!

There are definitely many benefits to meal planning, and I know I’d have a hard time feeding my family if I didn’t plan ahead.

Do you like to cook? What do you think about meal planning? Share your thoughts in the comments below!