Tuesday, December 14, 2010

God and Sinners Reconciled

Throughout the Christmas season, I often sing along with familiar Christmas carols. I burst forth in jubilant song, trying to outsing the radio, but I rarely ponder the words. This morning, God stepped in and caused me to focus in on a very important line of a very familiar song.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing was on the radio this morning, and one line has been on my mind today: God and sinners reconciled. That's a powerful line jam packed with truth and grace - comfort and joy!

In the midst of the American hub bub that is the Christmas season, most of us Christians take at least a little time here and there to ponder the true reason we celebrate: Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. I wonder how often we take those thoughts beyond the sweet baby in the manger. We rarely think on how unpleasant the circumstances were surrounding his birth that night, so I wonder how often our thoughts drift to baby Jesus all grown up and hanging in bloody shreds on a cross for us.

Sweet baby Jesus was God incarnate - God with a purpose - God come down to rescue sinners. A terrible chasm existed between God and man, a chasm caused by sin. The perfect sacrifice of Christ was the only thing that could reconcile God and man.

So, this Christmas, when you sing about the sweet little Jesus boy, born on a silent night, and tucked away in a manger, remember that He came so that you, a sinner dead in your trespasses, might be reconciled to God.

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Transition ... More Difficult than I Anticipated

I found out several weeks ago that I will be losing my job (along with a lot of people, but I'd prefer not to discuss all the details on a public blog). While most people have been upset, angry, scared, and a whole host of other emotions in relation to the news, I've been elated. I'm so excited about beginning a new chapter in my life.

God provided my current job to me about 5 1/2 years ago, and it has been a blessing. God has used this job to provide financially for my needs (and now my little family's needs), as well as to grow me. Over the last several months to a year, however, I've grown to realize it wasn't the best fit for me any more. Joseph and I both sensed the Lord leading us to transition me to something new, but we knew it wasn't the right time for me to leave.

God's sovereignty has been so evident in all of this. Joseph and I paid off all of our debt (sigh ... debt that I brought into our marriage) this summer (woo hoo!), so we aren't as dependent on me having a full time job. We also started our own business at the end of August. We are independent distributors for Premier Designs, a wonderful, biblically based jewelry company. With those two pieces in place, finding out I'm losing my job sooner than we thought wasn't scary to us. Of course, trusting a kind, loving, gracious God who always provides for our needs gives us a lot of peace, too!

We were given a very likely end date of January 3rd, so I started planning! I want to go back to school. More specifically, I want to go to Greenville Tech and earn a degree in photography. I think that will really help us with our photography business. With a deadline for applying approaching quickly, I submitted an application to begin classes in January.

Now there is a kink in my plans. January 3rd is no longer the likely end date. February 1st is much more likely. Because classes begin the week of January 10th, school (at least full time like I had planned) seems very unlikely.

While I still completely trust that God is in control and has all of the details of my life mapped out, I'm still finding it very difficult to be content with this change of plans ... yes, this change of MY plans. I recognize that God's plans may be very different from my plans.

I say all of this publically on the internet because I need prayer. I want to be filled with peace and trust as God's plan unfolds. I don't want to miss out on what God is doing because I was so bummed out when my plans didn't go as I had hoped.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crock Pot Black Beans - Totally Worth the Effort!

I'm starting to enjoy cooking in bulk. A few weeks ago, I cooked several pounds of chicken in the crock pot and stocked our freezer with shredded chicken. It was super easy, and we've really enjoyed having the chicken prepared ahead of time. It takes about 3 minutes to defrost the chicken in the microwave so it's ready to be incorporated into a recipe (so far, we've used it for enchiladas and tacos). I found the instructions for the shredded chicken here. The only thing I plan to do differently next time is cook more chicken. Our large crock pot can handle almost twice as much I cooked before. I'm going to keep an eye out for chicken on sale so we realize a cost savings.

After being successful with the shredded chicken, I decided I wanted to prepare black beans in bulk as well. Typically, we buy a can of black beans, divide it in half, and use it for two recipes (tacos and enchiladas ... hmmm ... I'm sensing a theme here). That works great, but canned black beans are loaded with sodium. I knew buying dried black beans would be more cost effective and would cut out the sodium. I just wasn't interested in cooking beans on the stove every time we wanted them. So I searched for instructions on cooking black beans in bulk in a crock pot, and I found those instructions here. The only thing I did differently was purchase 2 bags of black beans. She mentioned at the end of her blogicle (is that the correct term for a blog article/post/thingy?) that she would cook more at one time the next time she cooked beans, so I just started with more. Two bags of beans fit in my largest crock pot for the soaking part, but I didn't think they would cook well without overflowing. I decided to use my largest and my medium size crock pot, and the combination was perfect!

We like about a cup of black beans in the recipes we use them in, so I bagged the beans in snack size baggies. I had 21 snack size baggies of beans!! That's the equivolent of 10.5 cans of beans! Woo hoo! I must be honest. I don't know the cost of a can of black beans vs. a bag of black beans, but I think they're similar in cost. So I'm going to say our cost savings was equal to approximately 8.5 cans of black beans. How do you like that fancy math?

I didn't think the snack size baggies would work well in the freezer, so I put 4 snack size baggies into a quart (?) size freezer bag. That worked really well! Photo:

It turns out black beans in baggies stacked on the counter aren't exactly photogenic. HA! Oh, well. I'm still proud of them!

Let me know if you've tried cooking in bulk. What worked or didn't work? Any tips? Thanks!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I Used to be Dead

I wasn't born with a terminal condition. I wasn't diagnosed later in life. I didn't suffer from an accident or someone else's wrongdoing. I was born dead.

If it weren't for the grace of Jesus, I would have stayed that way. I would still be dead. I would be a 28-year-old zombie.

But Jesus didn't want me to stay that way. He didn't want me dead in sin. He wanted me to be alive in Him. So He drew me unto Himself. He rescued me from sin. He gave me new life. In a sense, He resurrected me.

I thought about that today as we celebrated Resurrection Sunday. The focus, of course, was on Christ's resurrection - the fact that He died on a cross on Friday, laid dead in a tomb over the weekend, and arose from the dead on Sunday.

That's unheard of. People just don't come back from the dead. I'm very fortunate, because I haven't experienced a lot of death in my lifetime. I know something about death, though. Once the people I knew died, they didn't come back. Only Jesus did that.

The only other "resurrection" experiences I know of are the believers in my life. You see, I'm not the only one who was born dead. We all were. Every last one of us. No one escaped that.

As I was watching everyone worship in church this morning, I really thought about the fact that I was in a room filled with people who used to be dead. I was in a room filled with people who know the power of sin and death but who also are very familiar with the resurrection power of Christ. They worshipped so freely and joyously. They worshipped the fact that we serve a risen Savior, and they worshipped the fact that just as He arose from the dead, conquered death, and is alive, Jesus raised them from the dead into life with Him.

I love moments like that, when I look around and observe people worshipping. I love them because I know they're glimpses of what heaven will be like. I look forward to being in heaven with millions of believers rejoicing over the fact that they used to be dead, but Christ gave them new life, eternal life. Now that's going to be an awesome worship experience!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Joseph and I made a quick trip to Conway over the weekend. We arrived late Friday evening, and we left late Saturday afternoon. I hate that it had to be such a short trip, but it was a really good one.

My cousin Katie and Aunt Kathie hosted a really nice shower for us at the church where I grew up. We had a pretty good turn out, and we received a lot of nice gifts. It was so good seeing people I hadn't seen in years. My favorite gift was a set of dessert/salad plates from my grandmother Kirkpatrick. She and Pop Pop received them as a wedding gift almost 61 years ago, and they look almost brand new! They made a really sweet gift that will mean a lot to us over the years.

Yesterday afternoon, we went over to Grandmama and Pop Pop's house for a litte while. It was a little surreal seeing this and knowing it may have been the last time I ever visited them in their house in Conway:

My grandparents have lived in their house for almost 50 years, and they're now selling it and moving to the Charleston area. I know that will be a great move for them, but it's still hard for me thinking of them being somewhere other than the house where they've been my entire life. I have so many fond memories there. But those memories aren't going anywhere!

While we were there, my grandparents mentioned that my grandmother has 3 sewing machines. My first thought was "I have 2 I don't use, so I probably don't need another one." Then my grandmother started telling me that her old Singer, while needing some TLC, was always the best machine she had. I really do want to learn to sew, and having a good, sturdy machine would certainly be helpful. So ... now I have a "new" sewing machine!

It's made into a nice cabinet, and it has a coordinating stool.

I'm going to attempt to recover the seat of the stool with the fabric that matches my desk. :O)