Monday, January 11, 2010

Not Another Resolution

I have said before, and I will say it again, I am really not all that sold on the whole idea of New Year's resolutions. However, as I have also said before, January 1st does give a good fresh start to just about anything. So, along with trying to live a bit healthier, Hannah and I are reading through the Bible. Now, this isn't really a resolution....just want that to be crystal clear. If we give up in February and try again in May, so be it. I don't want to set ourselves up for failure by setting expectations that are too high. What I do want, is to encourage both of us to read God's word as often as possible!

Over the years I have tried several different ways to incorporate daily devotions into our lives, with little success. What could be better than actually reading the Bible? I am using the Daily Walk Bible and Hannah is using The One Year Bible - Kids Edition. It isn't the full Bible word for word, but it has 365 daily readings from Genesis to Revelation. I'm not sure which books or chapters aren't included, but I'm guessing the publisher was trying to make sure kids would stay attentive. I'm not suggesting that the Bible is boring, but to an 11 or 12 year old, the attention span can only handle so many "begats." We are on our 11th day and so far this is an incredible journey together. We are talking about what we read and it has sparked an interest in Hannah to learn more. She has asked lots of questions, some of which I don't know the answer to, so she asks grandpa as he is our go-to-theologian and Bible scholar.

I absolutely love reading the story of Abraham and Sarah. Maybe I love their story because I am almost 45 and still secretly hope God will bring more children into my life. After all, Sarah was around 90 when her beloved Isaac was finally born! Not that I want to give birth when I am ninety, but this story reminds me of two truths: God can do the impossible and He will do it, in His time not ours! I relate to Sarah on so many levels. I have to believe that in her heart she knew God would keep His promise, but as the years crept by, the doubt had to consumer her. In fact her doubt led her down the path of trying to help God out a little, by giving her maidservant to her husband. That sentence just boils over with trouble! But how many times in my own life have I tried to step in and "help God out?" Clearly, He needs my help....right? I love that God packed His word with people just like you and me. People who faced the same struggles we do.

Tonight I'll be reading about Jacob's dream and his flight from his brother Esau. Hannah will be reading about Sodom and Gomorrah....I'm sure that will bring a barrage of questions! I am excited about what the next few weeks and months will bring in our daily readings....not that this is a resolution or anything!

The Panko-Crusted Pork Chops turned out great! Hannah really seemed to like them. Are they still healthy if you eat three of them?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Snow Go Away

We are beyond White Christmas now. We are looking at a "White Winter" and I'm fearful of a possible "White Spring!" Snow has been on the ground for 15 days so far, and there is no end in sight! The outside world looks like one big frozen white blanket. We will have a couple days of no new snow and then BAM, it snows again just adding to the already huge piles.

Looking out the window, while in the cozy comfort of home, the winter landscape is absolutely beautiful. The snow softly drapes each house and covers everything in sight. Oh but how this powdery stuff can really mess up life's plans. Hannah hasn't been in school since before the Christmas break and I just received an email that it will be canceled again tomorrow. Shoveling the driveway has become a daily chore and we all know how much I love shoveling the driveway! I once hoped that I would get to heaven without ever performing this task! I have a friend who has never in her life pumped her own gas! Her husband does it for her! Have mercy, she has a good man! Anyway, she has often said that she will in fact get to heaven without ever having pumped gas into her car! But alas, that is not my life and again today I was digging out a path from my garage to the road. When oh when will it end!

Hannah helped a little!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Witch Hat Tree

The mind of a child never ceases to amaze me. Children just see the world differently. They see animals in the sky instead of clouds and angels in the snow after wildly flapping their arms. Oh the things we could see through the eyes of a child.

Hannah has been taking dance lessons from the same studio for over six years, and for those six years we have traveled the same road from our house to the dance studio at least a million times. (It probably isn't really a million times, but math isn't my strongest suit, so I am guesstimating!) Several years ago on one of our treks to dance, Hannah said "look mom, it's the witch hat tree." Hmm, I had no idea what she was talking about. By the time I figured out she was trying to show me something, we were long past the tree in question. The next trip, she pointed it out again. "Wow, it really does look like a witch's hat," I said in surprise. I would have never seen it. It was just another big green tree. But through the eyes of a child. . .

Isn't it the same with our faith? If only we could keep that new child-like faith forever, how rich our walk with God could be. With the onset of the pre-teen years, it seems the world is already chipping away at Hannah's faith. She recently told me that God doesn't answer her prayers. "He answers other people's prayers, not mine," she said. Oh how I tried to explain that He does answer prayer and that He is delighted every time she talks to Him. But she had put up a wall and didn't want to hear anything about it. Girlfriend troubles at school had convinced her, at least for the moment, that she was on her own.

Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to the little children and anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Luke 18:16-17). I pray Hannah will not lose that child-like faith she had when she first gave her heart to Jesus. I pray her faith will grow not diminish. And, I pray that along the road of life she will always be able to see the witch's hat instead of just a tree.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Single Mom Cooks

Well, actually this single mom doesn't cook. At least not very often and certainly not very well. With the new year upon us, I thought it might be a good idea for both Hannah and me to start eating healthier foods. I'm not big on new year's resolutions, but January 1st does give a good fresh start to just about everything. Healthy homemade meals are scarce at our house...what with working full time, running here and there for dance, church, school activities, violin lessons, homework and trying to squeeze in some sleep. Taco Bell, McDonald's and Pizza Hut have become good friends! But alas, it is a new year. A new chance to live a bit healthier!

To get myself started I headed out to my friendly neighborhood bookstore with high hopes. Apparently just about everyone on the planet is looking for information about healthy eating....hence the huge display at the bookstore! I stood there browsing through the stacks of books promising better nutrition, great tasting food and a bikini body by Spring, and felt totally overwhelmed. How do you change a lifetime of habits? I scoured the recipe books and quickly put them back. These books are not written for the single mom! On top of having limited time and energy at the end of the day, my daughter is the world's pickiest eater. These recipe books are not for us. Hannah would NEVER eat "Braised Lamb Shanks" or "Pasta with Eggplant and Sun-Dried Tomatoes". Yes, there are a few simpler recipes but even those Hannah wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Breakfast ideas like the "Quick and Easy Frittata" would not work in our home. So, I left the bookstore and went home feeling utterly defeated.

The next day, I dusted myself off and went back for more. I figured there just had to be a book that could help me make a healthier household! In fact, I had searched the handy dandy Internet and was sure a specific Weight Watchers book was just the thing I needed to head me in the right direction. Again, I stood in the aisle with hundreds of books and that familiar feeling of dread came over me. I found the book I had seen on the Internet and to my dismay it featured recipes like "Smoked Salmon, Dill and Red Onion Pizza." Again, she won't eat that!! And, this is the book that promises meals in just 20 minutes. I don't know about you, but there is no way I could make some kind of pizza with smoked salmon in just 20 minutes! I need the book titled "Easy, Healthy Recipes For the Single Mom with No Time and No Cooking Skills Whatsoever!" Oh, and add..."With A Picky Eater!" No one has written that book.

Once again, I felt defeated. My mind raced as I saw books about no sugar diets (that definitely won't work for us), and books about the power foods we should all be eating. There are books about this diet and that diet and how not to be on a diet and still lose weight! To take a word from my daughter...WHATEVER! Ugh! I just stood there in utter despair.

I'm a smart person; this shouldn't be that hard. And then I thought about the "Pineapple Story." This story was told by one of my favorite author's at a writer's conference. She was teaching us how to write a book. She likened the process to cutting up a pineapple. Fresh pineapple always seemed quite daunting to her. How do you actually get the fruit out of that scary looking thing? And, so she always bought canned pineapple, although she secretly craved the fresh juicy stuff you can only get from the real thing. Thanks to a friend, she discovered the secret to cutting the pineapple: cut it in smaller chunks. First, cut off the crown, then cut it in half, then half again, etc. Writing a book should be tackled in much the same way. Break it down in small, manageable chunks. Aha! The pineapple theory could work now. My problem was that I was trying to change a lifetime of habits immediately and I was looking for that one book with all the answers. I snatched up a simple healthy cookbook and headed home with a brand new attitude.

Don't get me wrong, this cookbook has some doozie recipes in "Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Honey." I don't even begin to know where in the store I find the "figs!" But, there are some simpler recipes as well. I decided to tackle the whole healthy living thing one step at a time, starting with the pantry and the refrigerator. Out went all the pop and sugary snacky things. Don't worry I didn't actually throw good food and drink in the trash. Nope, I drank all the pop and ate many of the sugary snacks, but nonetheless they are now all out of our house! I went to the grocery store and stocked up on flavored water drinks, fruits and healthy snack items. I even planned a week's worth of meals. My goal is to work in one of the cookbook recipes at least once a week and this week we are going to try "Panko Crusted Pork Chops." I'll let you know how it goes! Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Christmas Coming Down

This week I have slowly put away all things Christmas, from the Santa towels that hang in the bathroom to the beautiful porcelain nativity set to every last ornament adorning the tree. As I carefully wrapped up the Christmas decorations I couldn't help but think about what I was really packing away for another year.

Along with the all the trimmings of the season, it seems as if we also store away so much more. Why is it, life seems a bit different for the month that bridges Thanksgiving and Christmas? There is an innocent, hopeful sense of wonder that comes along just once a year. Life feels a little more shiny, inspiring and filled with potential. Time is spent with family and friends that we rarely see the rest of the year and for Christians, Jesus takes center stage.

Is the Christmas story just a story I pull out once a year? How often do I really think about how God designed His plan of salvation? As I laid the porcelain Mary and Joseph figurines into their box, I thought about the birth of my Savior. Nativity sets and Sunday School pictures depict a beautiful setting under the backdrop of a nice neat stable. But I suspect there was nothing nice and neat about the true place of Christ's birth. Mary was a teenager who had been asked to do the unthinkable - carry God's child. Did anyone believe her? Joseph didn't at first. Did she ever doubt what God was trying to do? I believe she probably did. Was she scared? She had to be. When it was finally time to give birth, she was far from home. She had traveled the long journey to Bethlehem and I'm sure she was tired, scared and homesick. There was no hospital with a fancy maternity ward. There was no epidural to help ease her pain. There was just her and Joseph, outside in a barn. The Bible doesn't give us a lot of details of the birth, but it was certainly humble to say the least.

With the last ornament packed away, my heart aches to keep Mary's story close for the year to come. Just an ordinary girl that God used in an extraordinary way.

If God could use Mary, He can use me as well. Not everything has to be put away until next year.

The Christmas story isn't just a story to be brought out for a month. It's a true story of how a loving but just God began His plan to save His people. Because, for you see, if not for the birth in that barn so many years ago, we would be lost in a world of sin with no hope. I pray that as the Christmas decorations come down, the hope of the season rings true in your life not just for a month, but for eternity.