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

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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!

How to Love Your Significant Other Every Day

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Sometimes, we all need a reminder to actively love the one we’ve chosen to commit ourselves to. After all, love is a verb. Here are five things we can all do each day to love our significant other!

  1. Speak Kindly

I often need to step back and check myself on this one. Sometimes my words and my tone towards my husband are less than loving. The way we speak to those we love matters. Use words that are encouraging, kind, and considerate, and speak in a way that demonstrates how much you care. Control yourself when you feel like snapping at them, and choose to speak gently. And of course, don’t forget to tell them that you love them!

  1. Connect Physically

Little things like holding hands, hugging, kissing, or snuggling on the couch can have a big impact. It can be easy to neglect physical affection after years of being with a person, but it is still important! In a marriage, a healthy sex life is also vital. Physical touch has power to connect and strengthen relationships. Find a way to show your affection every day.

  1. Be Supportive

In a marriage or any committed relationship, there are bound to be times when you must choose between serving yourself or serving your significant other. Take care of yourself, but remember to support your spouse, too. Support means being a teammate, managing your lives and home and family together, and working as a team to balance it all. Support means encouraging the dreams of your significant other, and doing what you can to help them achieve those dreams. Support also means being open and accepting of emotions—both yours and your spouse’s.

  1. Use Their Love Language

Not everyone gives or receives love in the same way. If you don’t know your love language and that of your spouse, find out what it is! Then, learn to speak in it. I know that my husband feels most loved through physical touch, so I need to make this a priority. He knows that I also need quality time and words of affirmation to feel loved, so he tries to show his love in those ways. You can take a love language quiz here, and purchase the incredibly helpful Love Languages book on Amazon here.

  1. Pray for Them

One of the most important things you can do for your significant other is to pray for them. Pray for their safety, their health, their career success, their happiness, their spiritual growth, their relationships, their dreams… and anything else you can think of! Praying for somebody you love not only invites God to work in their lives, but it changes your heart to be more humble and loving towards that person.

Happy loving today, my friends!

 

Word.

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The Bible. God’s Word. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. However you tend to think of it, it is perhaps the most important tool that Christians have when it comes to living out their faith.

Believers know that the Bible has value. Many of us treat it with reverence. When we are confronted with a Bible verse that speaks to us, we know that we are communicating with God himself. Through his Word, we receive inspiration, correction, guidance, comfort, help, healing, relationship, and so much more.

And yet, so many Christians rarely open the Bible at all. How can this be? And why?

I think one major reason is that it can sometimes feel dry, or inapplicable. Reading the Bible can also feel like a chore, just one more thing to add to the endless list of things we need to do better. For some people, it is simply overwhelming to know where to begin.

Is it possible that we over-complicate the simple act of reading God’s word?

For me, the habit of reading the Bible became just that—a habit—when I learned a few simple things that I’d like to share with you now.

  1. Choose a time that is already a part of your day, and use it to read the Bible. I choose to read at breakfast most days, or lunchtime on days when the mornings are busy. Cody goes in his high chair, and I usually put a movie on the tablet for him to watch while we eat. Before I sit down, I grab my Bible.
  2. Follow a plan, use a devotional, or make your own plan. Just do something. If you don’t know where to start reading, take advantage of the multitude of Bible reading plans available on popular Bible apps for smart phones. Try as many as you like, for as long as you like. Or, buy a devotional at the book store. There are so many different ways to get into God’s word. You can even make your own plan. I follow a self-made plan of reading (in order) one chapter in the Old Testament, one chapter in Psalms or Proverbs, and one section in the New Testament. I keep track of where I am on a piece of notebook paper. Sometimes, though, I press pause on my plan so I can follow along with a church devotional email series. As long as I’m reading my Bible, I know it doesn’t matter what system I follow from day to day.
  3. Get into it. As I’m reading, I underline and occasionally take notes right in my Bible. I stop to think, evaluate, re-read, ask for clarity, and let it sink in. Sometimes, I write down my favorite verses in a note on my phone, to look up again later or add to my personal concordance. Please note that it will be hard to “get into it” if you’re reading through the Old Testament, and not complimenting that with any other parts of the Bible. The Old Testament has its purposes, but it can be very dry by itself. This is why I recommend more of a blended plan, or a devotional!
  4. Don’t get caught up on missed days. Sometimes, you miss a day, even when Bible reading has become a normal part of your life. That’s okay. Just open it back up again.
  5. On the other hand, don’t make excuses. I don’t believe anybody is too busy to take five or ten minutes to read the Bible every day. If you are, then it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities as a follower of Christ. Forgetting or having a chaotic day is one thing—not setting any time for God’s word is another. No judgment here, guys, just encouragement. You do have the time!
  6. If your Bible reading time is fairly casual, like mine, set aside a different time for more focused quiet time with God. Once I realized that prayer and reading the Bible don’t have to be at the same time, I became much more free and encouraged to do both. And one benefit of breaking your spiritual disciplines down into smaller pieces is that your mind is more focused on God throughout the day, not just for those 15 minutes in the morning. For me, I typically use the beginning of Cody’s nap to have some focused prayer time. When that doesn’t happen, I use those quiet minutes in bed before I fall asleep at night to talk to God. Sometimes I do both. And talking to God throughout the day is a good habit of relationship with him, too.
  7. Recognize the value of God’s word. If you don’t have motivation to read the Bible, it may be because you don’t really understand why you should. Simply put, the Bible is one of the main ways God speaks to us. It isn’t often that he speaks through a booming voice from the Heavens, but he speaks to us personally and frequently through the Bible, if we take the time to listen. We can’t have a flourishing relationship with God if we never listen to what he has to say. But if we do take the time to read his Word, we can learn so much about God’s character, his heart, his love for us, his desires for our lives, and his eternal purposes. There is nothing that can replace God’s Word when it comes to having a relationship with God.

I hope that you are inspired to read the Bible today, and make it a normal part of your life.

If you don’t have a relationship with God, but you’re interested in learning more about that, send me an email and we can chat!

How are you doing in terms of reading the Bible regularly? What things have helped you or hindered you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

 

My Top 10 Kitchen Essentials

In this post, I’m sharing the 10 most important, and frequently used products in my kitchen. These are all products I own and love, with the exception of two which are currently on my wishlist.

1. Nonstick cookware

Pots and pans are obviously a necessity for cooking. But what you might not think about are the reasons to choose either nonstick, stainless steel, or some other material. When my husband and I got married, we registered for a stainless steel set, which we were blessed to receive as a wedding gift. We thought that it was a good idea because stainless steel is more durable and we expected it to last forever. Well, it very well may last forever, but that doesn’t actually sound appealing since I discovered how difficult it is to cook with! Everything sticks, and you have to cook with a lot of oil and high heat to help reduce the sticking. When we switched to nonstick, I discovered how easy and wonderful it is to be able to cook potatoes and eggs and meat and anything really, all without sticking! Cleanup is super easy, too. This set in particular is really well made, looks nice, and comes with a reasonable price tag. We have the dutch oven that matches this set (but doesn’t come with it), and I plan to buy this set for my family (really myself, haha) for Christmas.

2. Silicone utensils

When you have nonstick cookware, you want to avoid metal cooking utensils. This set of silicone utensils are my favorite to use. That spatula spoon is the best! And the ladle is so much easier to use than a hard plastic one because you can really “scrape” the bottom of the pot and scoop up whatever you’re ladling. This set is a great price for five utensils, and it comes in red, gray, or teal.

3. A thin turner

The only thing I don’t like about silicone utensils is that they are chunky. The spatula is good for flipping things in the oven or flipping meat, but it’s really too thick to handle pancakes well. That’s why I bought this, and it works perfectly for flipping more fragile foods.

4. A good knife set

We have this set, minus the smaller santoku knife, which didn’t come with our set (purchased elsewhere, before I discovered the joy of Amazon.) These knives are sharp, durable, look nice, and come with a knife block for storage. We hand wash ours rather than tossing them in the dishwasher, and as a result they have held up very well. I don’t see us needing to replace them for many years, if ever.

5. Measuring cups

These measuring cups are great because they have little magnets in the handles which keep them together and organized in the drawer. They’re metal, meaning more durable than plastic, and they have the measurement markings etched into the handles. I bought these to replace my plastic measuring cups when the ink smudged away after a couple of years going through the dishwasher. These have held up much better.

6. Measuring spoons

And of course, if you want your measuring spoons to match your measuring cups, then you should get these too! Did I mention how cool those magnets are? My measuring spoons are always neatly stacked in the drawer, and it takes almost no effort to keep them that way. It makes it easier to find exactly the spoon I need without digging around.

7. Measuring cups

These glass measuring cups are awesome for when you need to measure larger amounts of things, or when you’re measuring liquids and you don’t want to spill. I use the largest one for making pancakes, and it’s super easy to pour the batter onto the griddle with the built in spout. The smallest one comes in handy for making buttermilk, to add to the pancakes, too. (I do cook things other than pancakes, by the way, even though this post is oddly pancake-centered.)

8. Cutting boards

I currently have a mismatched set of cutting boards, two of which are on their last legs. I’d really like to replace them with these! While bamboo was appealing to me when I was first starting out building my own kitchen tool set, I have now learned that plastic is preferable. Bamboo doesn’t hold up in the dishwasher very well, and it can’t be sanitized as thoroughly as plastic. On the other hand, a cutting board made of cheap plastic isn’t going to hold up very well either. These ones have great reviews, so I’m hoping they’re durable and well-made. I also highly recommend a set of cutting boards with nonslip feet (like these), because it can be difficult to cut on a board that’s slipping around the counter!

9. Rice cooker

I have no idea why it took me so long to buy a rice cooker. For years I struggled to make the perfect rice in a pot. Why, oh why? Rice cookers are awesome, and this one does its job well and has a great price. I use mine about once a week! If you take a minute to get your rice started earlier in the day, it saves time when you need to cook dinner. This one has a “keep warm” function, so I can make the rice hours ahead of time. It’s also nonstick, which makes it ridiculously easy to clean.

10. Food thermometer

If you cook meat, then investing in a food thermometer is a must (and it’s really not much of an investment)! Checking that your meat is cooked to the proper temperature prevents food poisoning, and it’s quick and easy to do. I always check my meat, ever since the Westropp hamburger fiasco of 2014. (What, you haven’t heard of this historical event? How strange.) Seriously though, a food thermometer is a must. It’s also important for making yogurt at home, if that’s something you’re interested in.

So there you have it! I’ve given you a glimpse into my kitchen, and the tools I use most.
What about you? What are your favorite kitchen essentials?