Monday, October 27, 2014

Redemption Wins

For the past four month I've been working through the Old Testament. The Old Testament is tough. So tough that I'm finding my head hurts and I just feel spiritually drained after my days reading. The Old Testament is dense, strict, and rich in the history of the world. And to be honest, it is a lot of information to absorb. (I know, I know. That's why they say you shouldn't read through the Bible too fast.) I am not an expert on the stories of the Kings, the prophets, the Judges, the priests, or anyone in these books. I have so much more to learn and study, I know. But here's what I do know. No one is perfect in the Old Testament. Not even close.

The great stories we read about Moses, Noah, King David or King Solomon are simply portions of a life. Sometimes the ones we hear about most often omit the struggle, the disgust and the humanness in each person.

We forget that even though David was a brave soldier with enough faith to defeat his giant and save Israel (1 Samuel 17); even though he spared King Saul's life twice when most wouldn't have in the name of self-defense (1 Samuel 24 & 26); even though he proved to be faithful to the end, a man of God that understood God's way is perfect and the word of the Lord is flawless (2 Samuel 22); he was also an adulterer that slept with another man's wife, had the husband killed, then took his wife for himself (2 Samuel 11). He also was the father to a son, Amnon, who raped his sister, Tamar, and then was killed by his brother Absalom (2 Samuel 13) who eventually would conspire against his father and rebel against his country until his death (2 Samuel 15 &18).

Are you keeping up?

Yes, David did many great things. He also did some pretty horrible things too. He was foolish. He begged for the Lord's forgiveness. He was not perfect. His life was messy, complicated. But he loved God.

Sound familiar?

And that's just one example. Don't forget Moses, the poster child of the Old Testament, disobeyed God and tried to take credit for himself (Numbers 20). Noah was a naked drunk (Genesis 9). Lot offered his virgin daughters to a group of men to have sex with them. Those same daughters later got Lot 9 (yes, their father) drunk, slept with him and became pregnant (Genesis 19). Hosea married a prostitute that kept selling her body to men after getting married (Hosea 1).

Wait. What?

Are we sure this is in the Bible? Did I read that correctly? What brokenness! What filth! Surely, if God can work through these wretched people, I am not hopeless. I am not saying this to make myself better. No, I've never committed incest, or killed somebody for my own benefit, or pretended to possess the powers of God, or been a prostitute. But that doesn't make me better. It just reminds me that redemption wins. Always. It just does. There is nothing that come between me and my God. Nothing that will make Him love me less, nothing He won't forgive.

That doesn't mean I should live a life where I do what I want or sin how I want whenever I want (Romans 6:1-2). It just means I am forgiven. There was not a single perfect life lived in the Old Testament.

Enter Jesus. For it is by grace we have saved through faith in Jesus. (Ephesians 2:8)

We are broken, people. All of us. Every day. There is not a single day I have gone without sinning. But I also have not gone without God's forgiveness - His mercies are new every morning. He wipes my slate clean.

In Revelation 7:14, it says, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." I cannot even pretend my robe would not be drenched in filth and shame and guilt and lies and gossip and brokenness without the blood of Jesus. So then, "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22.

Ah, yes. Praise Jesus. Sweet redemption.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Homemade Pad Thai

I've cracked the code, y'all.

I have seen so many recipes for Pad Thai (thank you, Pinterest. But sometimes you are a liar.) and I've even bought the already bottled sauces and kits and NOTHING tastes even remotely like Pad Thai.

Until now...

And I really must give credit where it is due. Jen Hatmaker is a Christian author that I happen to like and it just so happens she loves food (probably more than me). I've tried a few recipes of hers that she swears by so I knew I could trust her. When she posted a Pad Thai recipe on Facebook I had to try it. The most important thing you'll get from this is the SAUCE - the part that is never right. There are a few ingredients she uses in the sauce that are only found at specialty food stores. I don't even know where an Asian one is around here, nor do I have the time/energy to burn going to another store so I Googled some easy substitutions and it totally worked!

Jen's Sauce:

2 T Fish Sauce
3 T Palm Sugar
2 T Tamarind Concentrate

Melt together. I'm sure that tastes fabulous but I could not find Palm Sugar and Tamarind Concentrate. So here was my version:

2 T Fish Sauce
3 T Brown Sugar (to substitute the palm sugar)
2 T Rice Vinegar + 1 T Brown Sugar (to substitute the tamarind)

(Fair warning: the fish sauce stinks really bad until everything is combined.)

UPDATE: I always double the sauce and make all the noodles. Because leftovers. If you choose to double the sauce the recipe is: 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/2 brown sugar.

I made two mistakes while cooking: 1) I made the whole package of noodles and only really needed half so I ended up doubling the sauce. 2) I don't have a Wok. That would have made life easier.

Okay, so once you get the sauce done the rest is easy, peasy.

In a large bowl, soak the rice noodles in hot water.

Chop up all your veggies. I used sweet onion, shredded carrots, green onion, and zucchini.

Slice chicken into thin strips (or have shrimp or tofu ready).

Mince 3 cloves of garlic.

In a skillet or Wok heat up 3 T of vegetable oil on medium-high heat, add garlic and chicken (thinly sliced) or shrimp or tofu or whatever. Sautee for about a minute. Add veggies, stirring continually for a few more minutes.

If you have space to scramble an egg in your skillet, go for it. I used a separate skillet because I didn't.

Add the scrambled egg, drained noodles, and sauce. Toss it all together and keep tossing until everything is hot and the noodles and chicken are cooked through. (Note: Add red pepper flakes, red chili sauce, or sweet chili sauce if you want it to be spicey. I added a little sweet chili sauce because my little ones don't do super spicey.)

Once plated, add a squeeze of lime and top with chopped peanuts. If you don't have one of those chopper thingies (as pictured above), you've got to get one! I love mine.

You can also add sprouts but those were also not available at my grocery store.

And that's it! Super easy. Darren and I took one bite and said, "The sauce is right." Sweet victory!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My $30 Gallery Wall

This project was a long time coming. When we first moved into our house 3 years ago I was so excited to paint this wall a dark chocolate brown and have it be somewhat of a feature in the room. So we painted it and we loved it but I could not figure out how to decorate it. I seriously disliked everything I put on this wall. It always looked great in my head and then, when executed, it looked like crap (for lack of a better term).

After finally watching enough home renovation shows and pinning enough DIY projects on Pinterest, I had a better idea of what I could do with this wall so that I would love it.

[PS - when it comes to DIY artwork, keep it as simple as you possibly can. Unless you are an artist, then go crazy. But for the somewhat-crafty like myself, simple is better.]

This was my end result.
 [We'll be painting the other walls in the house a greige-tope color and I'm debating whether or not to keep the brown. We shall see. I'm also planning on having Darren build white built-ins across the bottom of the wall but for now, we're keeping our dark console how it is.]

So now, let me tell you how I put this wall together and how it was only $30...
This was a canvas print I snagged from a friend that was throwing it out (along with another few you'll see as you read more.) Originally it was a teal/brown geometric type print and I thought it would go perfect. When I brought it home I realized it was too dark. So I painted the whole thing a mixture of white and brown. Once that dried I hand drew an anchor (Hebrews 6:19 is one of my favorite verses) and then painted it black.
Cost: $0

The wooden "GRACE" sign used to be in my laundry room as lost socks sign and it kept breaking so I painted the entire thing dark turquoise then stenciled "grace" in white. And by stencil, I mean I printed out the letters, traced them and then carefully hand-painted it. I drilled 2 holes in the back so it could be hung.
Cost: $0
The Family sign was one of the wall pieces my friend let me have.
Cost: $0

The "M" was purchased 3 years ago from Michaels. It came white and I distressed it by sanding the edges and painting it with coffee. The frame was also purchased 3 years ago and was silver at the time (no idea why I thought that would go in my house). This I simply painted the same color as the "grace" sign.
Cost: $0
The bottom wood sign I made in about 5 minutes. With children awake. It's a piece of scrap wood leftover from a bench my husband built. I sanded it, stained it with the leftover stain. Sanded the edges again to roughen it up a bit. Then I painted the wooden "laugh" and "love" words. Those were originally purchased from Michaels and used for a different [outdoor] project and they kept falling off so they've been tucked away in my craft closet for months. I used hot glue to attach the letters and painted the periods onto the wood. I also drilled 3 holes in the back along the edge about halfway deep so the piece could easily be hung.
Cost: $0

The key on the top was a find at Ross (LOVE that store!).
Cost: $10
The burlap canvas on the left was another find at Ross.
Cost: $18
The canvas on the right was painted by the same friends throwing out the other wall pieces. She used more of an aqua color and it was a little to light so I darkened it with the same dark turquoise I used on the other pieces.
Cost: $0
The bottom "Home" sign was another steal from my friend.
Cost: $0

I'm wondering what kind of tweaks I'll make to it in the future but for now, I think I'm finally happy. And not bad, only spending $28. Go me! This wall ended up being such a resourceful project because I simply used what I had, altered what I'd been given, and bought two inexpensive pieces to tie it all together. The result is rather eclectic, clean, and very, very me.

Side Note: I have a pretty big acrylic paint selection but when I have trouble finding the right color of paint at a craft store I go to the home improvement store and buy a sample of paint. It's usually about $4 and is quite a bit of paint. The dark turquoise paint you see above was from Home Depot.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Life Isn't Meant to be Comfortable

Meet Rubble.

A little over a month ago, we got a puppy.

It was kind of a stupid idea, really. Sure I love dogs. My husband loves dogs. My kids love dogs. My husband even promised me he’d be really disciplined with training him. And he is, when he’s home. That’s the funny thing about staying home with your husband’s pride and joy – the training, the poop on my new floors , the pee on the carpet, the jumping on the kids, the eating of the children’s toys – that all falls on me.

Joy. Pure joy.

The first week we had him, he was new and cute and loveable. The second week I’d lost my stamina and wanted to burst into tears at any given moment. I became stressed. Tense. Annoyed. I started yelling. Why did we get a dog? Why did we get a puppy? When you have two young children, that just doesn’t seem logical. I clean up enough poop, pee, and break up enough fights throughout the day, thankyouverymuch. [As I write this I’m ignoring the fight over a lego. Really. Because there aren’t enough legos. Ever.]

I wanted to send him back. I wanted to sell him on craigslist and increase his price by $50 so I could at least consider him an investment.

Then I opened my Bible. I didn’t expect God to give me an answer for how to handle my puppy. But I needed something…guidance, strength, patience, peace. And I needed a large dose of it.

I was in Numbers. I’ve heard the story of the Israelites wandering the desert with Moses for decades. They grumbled, they complained, they begged Moses to turn them around so they could go back to Egypt and return to a life of slavery and bondage. All the while they forgot to trust God in the process and believe in His promises.

“Now the people complained about their hardship in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused.” Numbers 11:1

If there was ever a verse that made me feel like a brat, this is one of them. Look at my life. Sure I know many people much more affluent than me – some friends have nicer cars, nicer clothes, bigger houses, a nanny. But honestly, we live a great life, a fulfilled life, a life full of joy. We have more than enough of everything even when we believe in our minds that we need something more.

And I’m not wandering in the desert. With nothing but what I can carry on my shoulders. With two young children saying they are bored or tired or cold or hot or hungry. I mean, can you imagine? And these were God’s chosen people. He was leading them to a place much better than any of them could have ever imagined, to the land of milk and honey. And yet, they had virtually nothing (by American standards).

But they had enough. Manna fell from Heavens high. [Exodus 16:4-5] And when they complained, God sent them quail. [Numbers 11:31]

How often do I complain…er…beg for God to send me more. “Give me something else!” “If only I have that, I can deal with this!” Whine. Whine. Whine. Nag. Nag. Nag. Complain. Complain….

I have to wonder how often God has been angry with me. Truthfully, I feel entitled, materialistically competitive, and I give in to the desires of the flesh even when I hear Jesus whispers, “Careful…” Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving in sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”

I am not slow to anger. My frustration rises faster than the dog can finish eating Maci’s corndog…off her plate. I sin and rebel every day. I know Truth and I understand Truth but still my bones ache for things of this world. God has enriched my life with love, hope, and joy. I’ve also been fortunate enough to live a life of luxury. Honestly. We have a roof over our heads, food in our pantry, central air in the summer, and heat in the winter. Why do I still want more?

And I don’t deserve any of it. I deserve death. Praise Jesus. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:5]

Now even though in my mind, the Israelites had every right to complain. (I mean, put yourself in those conditions.) That’s not the point. The point is life isn’t meant to be comfortable. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. When things are comfortable and easy, we get complacent. And when that happens we forget to lean on Jesus. He is our strength. He is our treasure. He is our comforter. He is our peace.

The dog still jumps on the kids and knocks them over. He still eats Maci’s food. He still wakes up an hour earlier than the rest of the family. [But he no longer pees on my floor! Progress!] But so what. If my only complaint/frustration in my life right now is an adorable puppy picking fights with my 2 and 3 year old, then my perspective on life is totally twisted.

It’s funny how God can use a firecracker of a fur ball and something that happened 3,500 years ago to snap me back to reality.