Always prepared to give an answer?

Today someone asked me how it is that I always seem to be so peaceful.

Someone whom I have no reason at all to believe is a Christian; someone whose relationship with me does not generally entail talking about religion or personal beliefs at all, in fact, whose relationship with me (i.e., “professional”) makes such conversation socially verboten.

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
(1 Peter 3:15)

Needless to say, I was caught off-guard by her question.  I have a neat litany of excuses for my failure: the irregularity of the conversation, the exhaustion deluging my brain, my todo list burning a hole in my pocket, the rarity of my interaction with nonbelievers at all now (as a SAHM)… I was very much off-guard.  Secondly, the subtlety of the question threw me—”peaceful” didn’t immediately turn my brain to the Gospel.

I have lots of excuses.

The conversation was not a total flub, because for some odd reason, she kept pushing it and, surprisingly, turning it in ever more spiritual directions.  I felt like I’d stepped into the twilight zone and was off-balance and uncertain the entire time.  Looking back, I feel like the conversation was enough that God could use it, or that I could bring it back up again on the strength of the conversation, but I’m also really sorrowful at my own ineptitude and inattention and lack of focus.

“Always being prepared.”  I would have done better if she had asked me a direct question, like, “how do I go to heaven?” or “how does your faith help you remain calm?”  Or, “why is this theological confession better than that one?”  I could have done well with any of those questions, had my brain snapped into focus and put on the evangelism track.

But sadly, preparation doesn’t mean knowledge here.  It doesn’t mean ability to argue theological points.  Peter is talking in the context of suffering Christians in a hostile world, and what is the source of the “preparation” he names?  “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”

My problem was that my brain was going a thousand places this morning, none of them focused directly on Christ.  I was totally being “a Martha.”  I’d thought plenty about theology this morning, but not much about its Author.  My fellow conversationalist actually asked me (if you’re a Yankee, you know how shocking this is) if I prayed in the mornings—and all I could think of was, well, I sure hadn’t THIS morning!  My answers were all over the place because my heart was all over the place.  God gives me peace when our son has facial palsy—a peace I have very much clung to in the past week and a half—but somehow, the lesser things, I act like I can strike out on my own.  I can bundle my kids up and out the door, carefully-organized schoolwork schedules in hand.  I can get everyone breakfast, everyone in shoes, raggle-taggle hair tamed, snacks packed… all in my own strength.

But I can’t.  This morning was absolutely shattering to my self-inflated spiritual ego.  It doesn’t matter how much Scripture I read or recite, how many theological terms I can rattle off, or how excellent of “Christian” parenting advice I can dole out when others ask me… if my very own heart is not filled up with honoring Christ, it’s all rubbish, to quote Paul.

It’s a quiet little sin to simply lose focus, to stop feeling thirsty for the refreshment of the Spirit, to stop depending on Him and glorifying His holiness and instead to fall into pride and self-focus, distraction, and worry.

Such a quiet little sin.  But such a lethal one.  I’ll never get this morning back.

(Written July 2015, forgot to post it.)

How-To: Sew Children’s Pilgrim Costumes for less than $5

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Please excuse the unironed costumes.  I didn’t want to wait until Halloween to take the pictures for my quasi-tutorial here, but today turned out to be very, very chaotic.  You can still totally get the point, I think. ;)  I should also add that I can’t tie bows for anything, and someone else will have to tie them on Halloween so they aren’t sticking out everywhere!  Haha.

I thought it would be really cool for the children to dress up as pilgrims (and Squanto) for Halloween this year—there are many qualities of the pilgrims and Puritans that I find very imitable for young children, and thought dressing up as such would raise their curiosity in a rather good historical subject—and pilgrim costumes are not very hard to find on Amazon.  But even at the relatively affordable costume prices, with four children, we were looking at $80-$100 for costumes that were made of cheap material, which would tear easily and not make good additions to the dress-up bin.  I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it!

Then, after I started trying to figure out how to make them myself, I realized that pilgrim costumes must not be a very common DIY, because I could find very little information on Pinterest or elsewhere on how to make… anything.  I was hoping for a bonnet pattern.  A collar pattern.  Anything.  Nada.

I eventually found this page from Plimoth Plantation on what pilgrims actually wore (most specifically, that they didn’t particularly wear black), and this page for a simple, more-accurate-than-most-costumes bonnet (pilgrims don’t seem to have worn the frilly brimmed or gathered bonnets that they are often depicted with now).  I was afraid, however, that if I dressed them like completely accurate pilgrims, then no one would realize they were supposed to be pilgrims at all.  And that’s no fun for kids.  So I decided: no black, because I had no idea what I would do with black dresses after Halloween was over; and I would do the simple bonnet, and make the “simple” theme a pervasive one and an opportunity to talk about dressing as for God and not for man or fashion; but otherwise I would somewhat loosely abide by modern ideas of pilgrims, i.e., the bib-type collar, the stark white, the slight flare on the bonnet, the buckles on the (anachronistic) boy pilgrim hat, and so on.

I also ordered a Native American costume for our Squanto.  I figured making three pilgrim costumes would be quite enough for a somewhat last-minute dash!

Bearing all that in mind, practically, I wanted to write down somewhat what I did, in case someone else out there would also like to make a non-paper pilgrim costume for their child! 🙂

DSC06307Girls: the dresses
The need was for a long-sleeve dress, which is surprisingly hard to find a pattern for, and also something quick-ish, because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time sewing a dress in a plain color that was unlikely to be “pretty” enough for everyday wear.  I soon settled on a peasant-style yoke, which are soooooo easy, but they tend to be a bit poofy and unfitted and I thought it might be worth a little extra effort to find a pattern that would be a bit more tightly drawn (and useful for making other dresses in the future that weren’t destined for the dress-up bin).  I finally settled on the Molly Peasant Dress, which cost me $10.  Although I could have made a regular peasant dress for free, I think it was a good decision; the Molly takes very little fabric (the entire pink dress is made from one single curtain panel) and is indeed more fitted, and I look forward to using it for more dresses in the future! I think the cap sleeve version (which is included) is really cute. I made the brown dress mostly according to the pattern, DSC06337with a $2 sheet from the Goodwill store, and long sleeves with elastic at the bottom (as per the pattern).  I made the pink dress (from a $2 curtain) without a lot of the “tack in place” sewing (which is to say, when the pattern said straight-stitch and then finish the edges, as two separate steps, I just serged it all in one), and cuffed the sleeves instead of elasticizing them.  Now, here’s the huge caveat with this pattern: pilgrim dresses definitely should not be high-waisted. I had originally planned to make a vest-like cover of the same fabric, ideally with buttons, to make it more realistic, but once I actually tried the dress on the girls, I think the giant pilgrim collar distracts from the high waist and that it’s fine for a Halloween costume.

Girls: the bonnets
DSC06317DSC06331All the white stuff was made from a single large new 99¢ sheet from Ikea.  Doesn’t get any cheaper than that! And it’s an extremely cheap sheet, so the fabric is rough and “matches” the pilgrim milieu. I followed the general idea for bonnets in the post I linked above, basically measured the girls’ heads side-to-side, to made sure my DSC06318rectangle was adequately wide, and then folded the brim back (and basted it down, except for about two inches on each side, so that it would flare out as seems more typical with pilgrim costume bonnets) with it on the girls’ actual heads.  I didn’t include side ties because they don’t seem historically accurate.  The bonnets were fundamentally very easy.

 

DSC06307Girls: the aprons
DSC04284Aprons are soooo easy.  Especially the ones from this era, which are basically giant rectangles.  I had made pretty much identical ones for their colonial costumes in February, but those had been eyelet lace (which doesn’t fit with the pilgrim-simplicity theme, obviously) and since aprons are so easy, and I had the fabric already, I made two new ones.  I should say at this point that the outfits as a whole, including the aprons, are rather less poofy and full-skirted than a lot of depictions.  I’m not sure which is more historically accurate.  If I had it to do over, though, I would have added some extra yardage to the skirts of both the dresses and the aprons, so the skirts would look more like the colonial ones did.

 

DSC06322Girls: the collars
And here we come to the part I really struggled with!  Again, what is historically accurate seems quite broad, but mostly it seems like there weren’t these extraneous giant white things hanging around their necks for no obvious reason.  But this also seemed to me to be a key to making the kids look like pilgrims to random viewers, since it is so much a part of our modern conception.  So I made collars.  I couldn’t find a pattern for these at all, so I made my own:

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You can download it—click the picture.  There are lots of extra lines, obviously; think about what your collar will look like (round or elongated) before you decide which lines to cut! Children’s necks are not very differently sized in diameter, so I was able to use the center hole unaltered for everybody from my 1-year-old to my 5-year-old. (It looks big on the one-year-old, but that’s actually an optical illusion because his shirt is a turtleneck.) You can easily add extra seam allowance on the outside lines for wider shoulders, and cut the inside hole a teeny bit bigger (or just sew with a deeper seam allowance) for older kids.  I did the circle collar for our boy pilgrim and the elongated one for the girls; if I had more time / less costumes, I considered doing buttons down the front… I ended up doing ribbon ties at the top instead.  The really easy thing would have been to cut these out of white felt or fleece, single-layer, no sewing.  But I didn’t have white felt and have been too busy/tired to go to the store to get some!  So instead I used my reliable old sheet, cut two layers, sewed them together around all the edges (leaving a hole on the inside back of the neck area to turn), turned them right side, top-stitched all around, and sewed up the hole.  I should have left the hole at the end of one of the straight parts of the collar to turn, and then been able to tuck it back inside, and top-stitch, all very neatly.  Live and learn!

DSC06291Boy: the outfit
Since I was dealing with a one-year-old, and dress-up is pretty meaningless at that age… I hunted and found a plain black shirt and plain black pants out of his drawer.  That said, you could make a peasant type shirt and simple elastic pants, if there are no plain clothes in your boy’s drawer.  Lose the ruffles and the skirts and they’re workable enough boy patterns, especially if you used a drawstring tie on the shirt instead of elastic. :)  For Halloween, I need to find him some kind of belt!  And tall white knee socks.

Boy: the collar
DSC06298The same as the girls’, but in the fully round version.  And I left both ends open to turn it right-side, and then tucked the ends in at an angle before top-stitching so that there is a bit more of an upside-down V shape at the front.  This is much easier than the bib style I did for the girls.

DSC06338Boy: the hat
This was an ADVENTURE, let me tell you!  I’ve never made a hat and couldn’t find anything remotely like instructions or a pattern online.  Nothing.  I finally decided to just go for it and see how it turned out.  This was an attempt at a fully stereotypical pilgrim hat, not an actual in-any-way-accurate one…

First I made the tall part.  (See, I’m so hat-ignorant I don’t even know what that’s called.  The non-brim.)  I measured my kiddo’s head, about where a hat would seem to fall, cut a piece of felt a little bigger than that (and what seemed a good height, in the other direction), serged it up the side, and stuck it on his head.  Felt stretches a little, and it fit.  Obstacle one complete; I now had a big black tube that fit snugly on my son’s head.  But how to get the brim and the shaping?  DSC06342Shaping:  I experimented a little and kept sticking it on the poor child’s head to test, but since it’s black, just for Halloween, and he’s a baby, I think it’s good enough by far.  You can see what I ended up with (right, picture of the hat inside out), and when it’s right-side I kind of punch it down on top a bit and round it out to make it look even a little better.  If he wasn’t going to outgrow it right away, I think this could be a pretty decent way to go about it, and add some starch or something to keep it from folding flat.  Of course the great thing to do here—which was way too much trouble for me—is to make a proper cone with a tiny circle for the top, like a birthday hat with the very top part cut off and replaced with a flat piece.  Brim: I suggest using actual math for this step.  If you fold the tube flat, measure, and double, you have a circumference, which you can use to find the diameter of the circle you should cut for the inside of the brim.  Add about six inches (three all around) more to get the diameter to use for the outside of the brim.  I didn’t use math, DSC06341because I wasn’t near a calculator.  Trial and error also worked but it was a lot more work!  Anyway, you’re going for a shape pretty much like the collar shape, except without a cut down the middle—you want a solid, flat, wide ring.  I should also add that the little felt rectangles at the store will not be big enough, you want felt by the yard, which is quite cheap but I’ve only found at an actual fabric store.  Then turn your hat-top right side and slide the brim over the end of it, matching the inside of your newly-cut felt ring with the right side of the hat-top-tube.  If you’ve done the math right, this will lay flat with no gathers or folds (see right, the fabric to the right of the seam, and under the seam, is flat).  Pin as much as necessary (I’m not a fan of pinning, DSC06339and even I used four!) and stitch around, continuing to make sure fabric lays flat.  Buckle: This doesn’t really need instructions, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out for as simple as it was.  It’s just a piece of tan felt with two slits cut in it, and then a long strip of the white fabric sewn into a belt and made to fit just above the rim.  Easy.  Again, white felt would have been even easier.  Also, glue would have been easier.  One last thing: The brim is really floppy.  It would look better stiffer.  I think this might could be accomplished with schoolglue-and-water-mixture, or spray starch, but I haven’t yet experimented to figure out which.  It would also work to cut it down to less width.

Boy: the cuffs
DSC06298Again with the sheet; I just made two simple white rectangles, turned right side, and then basted the center of them over the center (inside) seam of his shirt sleeves, at the very bottom.  They are actually sewn on, until after Halloween.  Then the “cuffs” open on the outside, where you can see them, and are pinned so they make a V rather like the collar.

The great conclusion:
Three Halloween costumes, including a fairly pricey pattern that I’ll be able to use in the future, and fabric (about 75% of which I didn’t even need, and folded back up for future projects): $15.  Less than the single costume I decided to buy for Squanto. :)  If I hadn’t bought the pattern, this would have been 3 costumes for $5 total.

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Duty of Parents to Children

Part Two of Julie attempting to make the Puritans more accessible to other sleepy mommies. (See Duty to Wives for a much wordier prelude.)  This is another piece from John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior.

If you are a parent—a father, or a mother—then you must consider your calling as a believer in light of that fact.  Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as born of you, or they will perish.  Further, unless you are very careful in your behavior to them and in front of them, they may perish because of you: this thought should provoke you to both instruct them and to correct them.

Instruct them as the Scripture says

To “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and to do this diligently, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:7).  To this end:

  • Use terms and words that are easy to understand.  Don’t talk in pretentious flowery language; that will drown your children.  God spoke thus easily to His children (Hosea 12:10) and Paul to his (1 Corinthians 3:2).
  • Be careful not to fill their heads with imaginative and unprofitable things, for this will teach them to be imprudently bold and proud, rather than sober and humble.  Talk to them about the innate sinfulness of man; talk to them about sin, death, and hell; of a crucified Savior, and the promise of life through faith: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Fill all your instruction with gentleness and patience, “lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). And,
  • Work to convince them by reasonable discussion, that the things you teach them are not fables but realities: not only that, but realities so far above what we can enjoy here, that all things, even if they were a thousand times better than they are, are still not worthy to be compared with the glory and worthiness of the things of God.  Isaac was so holy in front of his children, that when his son Jacob remembered God, he remembered Him as “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53).  When children can think of their parents, and bless God for that instruction and good they have received from them, it is not only profitable for children, but also an honor and comfort to parents: “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him” (Proverbs 23:24-25).

The duty of correction

  • See if fair words will win them from evil.  This is God’s way with His children (Jeremiah 25:4, 5).
  • Let the words you speak to them in correction be sober, few, and pertinent, always adding some relevant sentence of Scripture; for instance, if they lie, then something like Revelation 21:8, 27; or if they refuse to hear the Word, something like 2 Chronicles 25:14-16.
  • Take care that they not be friends with those who are rude and ungodly, rather, with soberness show them a continual dislike of their naughtiness, and often cry out to them, as God did of old to His children, “Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!” (Jeremiah 44:4)
  • Mix everything you say with such love, pity, and a spirit of anxiousness, that as much as possible, you may convince them that your dislike is not of their person, but of their sin.  This is God’s way (Psalm 99:8).
  • Constantly try to impress upon them the day of their death and the judgment to come.  Thus God also deals with His (Deuteronomy 32:29).
  • If you are driven to physical punishment, be cautious and clear-headed, soberly showing them a) their fault; b) how contrary it is to your heart to deal with them in that fashion, c) that you do what you do out of conscience to God and in love of their souls, and d) telling them, that if they could have been won over by any other way, that the severe punishment would not have been.  In all this you will be sure to not only afflict their bodies, but also their hearts, and since it is the way God deals with His children, it is the most likely to accomplish the desired goal.
  • Pray. Follow all this with prayer for them, and leave the issue to God: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Things to avoid

  • Be sure that the sin which you try to correct is not one they learned from you.  Many children learn the sins of their parents, the very sins for which the parents beat and chastise.
  • Be careful not to smile at them for small faults, and encourage them, so that your behavior will not be an encouragement to them to commit even greater sins.
  • Don’t use unsavory and ugly words in your correction of them, such as railing at them, calling them names, and so on: this is of the devil.
  • Don’t mix chiding and threatening words with lightness and laughter: this will harden their hearts.  Don’t correct them too long or too often, but be relevant and very serious.

The Duty of Wives

John Bunyan’s Christian Behavior is a marvelously useful little work.  Unfortunately, it is also hundreds of years old and difficult to read.  Here I attempt to modernize the most immediately relevant part, and I hope to continue and add on some of the other parts.  I have had to add phrases here and there and try to simplify some things, because I think Bunyan’s assumptions of his audience’s foreknoweledge is different and inaccurate for today’s audience, and I have also changed the Scripture text to the modern ESV (modernizing the old English seemed pointless when we have our own even more accurate translation available).  But I’ve tried to understand and put forth what Bunyan intended to communicate as accurately as my grasp of English allows, without adding or taking away anything on my own.  Let me only add that there is some very useful advice hiding in the “Objections” section even for us whose situation is far from objectionable.

First, let me speak to the wives.  The wife is bound by Scripture to her husband, as long as he lives (Romans 7:2).  Therefore her work and place is in the family.

Let me discuss the things which the wife should conscientiously observe in the way she treats her husband.

She must look upon him as her head and lord.

“The head of a wife is her husband” (1 Corinthians 11:3), and so Sarah called Abraham lord (1 Peter 3:6).

She should therefore be subject to him, as is fit in the Lord.

Paul says, “wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1; Colossians 3:18).  As I said earlier [in a different section of the book], if the husband walks toward his wife in a becoming manner, he will be an ordinance of God to her, in addition to the relation of a husband, that will show her how Christ loves His church.  Similarly, if the wife walks with her husband in a becoming manner, she will preach the obedience of the church to her husband. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:24).

Run away from these evil tendencies:

A wandering and gossiping spirit.

      This is evil in the church, and it is also evil in a wife, because she is the figure of a church.  Christ loves to have his spouse keep at home, i.e. to be with him in the faith and practice of His things – not to be ranging and meddling with the things of Satan.  So, too, wives should not be prone to wandering and gossiping outside their home.  Proverbs 7:11 says, “She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home.”  Wives should be about their husbands’ business at home, as Paul says, let them “be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.”  Why?  So “that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:5).

An idle, talking, or squabbling tongue.

      This is an odious habit in all women, married or not, if they behave like parrots and do not control their tongues.  But the wife, who knows that her husband is her lord and over her just as Christ is over the church, should control her tongue.  Do you think it is good for the church to ramble and repeat nonsense against Christ rather than being silent before Him, looking to His laws, rather than inventing its own fictions?  Why should the wife behave any differently toward her husband? “Let a woman,” Paul writes, “learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12).  It is a horrifying thing to see a woman so much as once in her life to strive to be over her husband; she ought in everything to be in subjection to him, and to do everything she does as if her ability, license, and authority is from her husband.  This is her glory, to be under him, just as the church is under Christ; “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Taking on immodest apparel or behavior.

      This is evil both outside the home and inside.  Outside, it not only gives a poor example, but tempts others to lust and vulgar behavior.  In the home, it offends a godly husband, and encourages ungodliness in children.  So, “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,” (1 Timothy 2:9-10), and, “do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands” (1 Peter 3:3-5).

Do not think, however, that because of the subjection I have just discussed, that I intend women should be their husbands’ slaves.  Women are their husbands’ yoke fellows, their flesh and their bones, and he is not a man that hates his own flesh or is bitter against it (Ephesians 5:29).  Let every man “however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).  The wife is master of the house next to her husband, and is to rule all in his absence: in his presence, she is to guide the house, to bring up the children, provided she does it so that no adversary can reproach her (1 Timothy 5:10, 13).  “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. A gracious woman gets honor, and an excellent wife is the crown of her husband,” (Proverbs 31: 10, 11:16, 12:4).

Objection: But my husband is an unbeliever. What can I do?

In that case, what I have said is even more important for you.  Your husband as an unbeliever will be even more watchful to take your mistakes and weaknesses and throw them as dirt in the face of God and your Savior.  He will be apt to make the worst of each of your words, actions, and gestures, and all this will harden his heart even further and prejudice him and cause opposition to his own salvation.  So Peter said, “wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  Your husband’s salvation or damnation is strongly influenced by your manner and behavior before him.  So, if there is any fear of God in you, or any love for your husband, seek to win him to the love of his own salvation by your behavior full of meekness, modesty, holiness, and humble behavior toward your husband.  By doing this, “how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband” (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Objection: But my husband is not just an unbeliever, he is very prone to be contrary to God, to be easily irritated, and quick to anger. I don’t know how to speak to him, or behave in front of him.

Indeed, there are some wives in great slavery because of their ungodly husbands, and we should always pity and pray for them so that they may be even more watchful and careful in all their ways.

1. Be very faithful to him in all the things of this life.

2. Patiently bear his unruly and sinful behavior: remember that you are alive in Christ and he is dead in sin; you are principled by grace, he is principled by sin.  But, seeing grace is stronger than sin, and virtue is stronger than vice, do not be overcome by his vileness, but overcome it with your virtues (Romans 12:21).  It is a shame for those who are filled with grace to be as careless with their words as those who do not have that grace: “whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).

3. A wise woman will observe convenient times and seasons, if at any time you want to speak to your husband for his conviction, concerning anything, whether good or evil. There is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).  Now for the right timing for your intentions, here are some thoughts:

  • Consider his disposition, and approach him when he is the least in the thrall of those sins that are so bothersome to you.  Abigail would not speak a word to her disagreeable husband until he was no longer under the influence of alcohol, and was in a sober temper (1 Samuel 25:36-37).  If you don’t take heed of his disposition, that’s why so much of what you say seems to be ineffectual.
  • Talk to him when he’s being loving and friendly toward you, and when he proves his love and delight in you.  This is what Esther did with her husband the king, and she prevailed (Esther 5:3,6; 7:1,2).
  • Notice when he is seized by conviction, and follow his conviction up with sound and serious words from Scripture.  This is similar to how Manoah’s wife dealt with her husband (Judges 13:22,23).  Even then, a) let your words be few, and b) let nothing you say be domineering over him, but still take care to speak to him respectfully as your head and lord, pleading and entreating him, and c) speak in such a sympathetic spirit, with deep and obvious affection for his well-being, that the entire manner of your speech and behavior toward him is itself an argument that you are speaking in love as one who is aware of his misery, and enflamed with the desire in your soul for him to be converted to Christ.  Further, d) follow your words and your behavior with prayer for his soul, and e) continue to keep your behavior holy, pure, and modest before him.

Objection: But my husband is an addict, a fool, and can’t even hold down a stable job.

Still, you must know he is your head, your lord, and your husband.You must take great care that you don’t want to steal his authority.  He was not made for you, for you to rule over him, but he was made to be your husband, and rule over you (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8).So, even though you may have more discretion and ability than he does, you have to keep in mind that you, and all that is yours, is to be used under his authority.  Even “everything” (Ephesians 5:24).  Be careful that what you do is not done to your name and your credit, but to his; not to your praise but to his; arranging everything so that by your hard work and wisdom, no one may discover your husband’s weaknesses due to your actions.  “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” and, “she does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 12:4, 31:12).

Therefore act, and behave, as one who is under the power and authority of your husband.

Conclusion

As far as your behavior to your children and your servants: you are a parent and an employer, and so you ought to consider yourself.  Because the believing wife is a figure of the church, she ought, as the church, to nourish and instruct her children and her servants, just as the church.  And, actually, the wife being always at home, has a great advantage in this task – so do it, and may the Lord prosper your obedience.

The worst version of myself.

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On one of my favorite chick flicks, You’ve Got Mail, at one point Tom Hanks’s character asks, “Do you ever feel you become the worst version of yourself?”

Oh, boy, Joe, do I ever.

I am exhausted much of the time.  I am pregnant quite a bit, too.  Even on a good day, my brain has four separate threads dedicated to each one of my four-and-under children, making sure they aren’t drowning in the toilet or secretly acquiring diaper rash.  If you’re lucky, my kids are elsewhere or amusing themselves happily so that I can sit down and have a nice conversation with you… more likely, though, my kids are crawling all over the place (and probably in cahoots with your kids, should you have any), and 75% of my mental powers at any given moment are completely dedicated to watching them.  But even if they’re being little angels (or absent!), my brain is just not used to grown-up conversation anymore. I’ve gotten really good at repeating myself, and my memory has officially gone on vacation.

In other words: I am one of those horribly rude Mommy-people who occasionally leave off in the middle of sentence, and never return; who talk a lot about poop and throw-up, regardless of whether or not you are also a Mommy who likes to talk about such things; who struggles to talk about current events (what are they and why on earth should I even care?); who struggles to talk theology because right now I’m clinging to all my might with the nitty-gritty of the Gospel that even a five-year-old can recite… and that’s probably not what you were hoping I’d contribute to your Bible study.

In short, I think I probably come off really self-absorbed, because I probably talk a lot about myself, my family, and whatever current child-rearing adventure has reared its head, and because I have an almost complete inability at this point to actually pay attention to any kind of real, linear conversation.

I feel like I have become the worst version of myself.

At least I hope this is the worst.  I’m forever plumbing new depths of how fallen I can be.

Exhaustion, in particular, has been a really profound learning experience.  I can even be kind of psycho, at the end of week of stomach-bug-induced sleeplessness followed by a week of trying to restore some kind of order to our house.  Or at the end of two months of relentless morning sickness surrounded by toddlers watching my every heave.  I didn’t know I could be such an unreasonable person—surprise!  Sleeplessness is the mirror that shows us our wretched selves.

I’ve begun to look at it like this is when I am having trouble not sinning.  This is when I have trouble not being quick to anger.  This is when I have trouble keeping my mouth shut.  This is also when I have trouble stringing together a coherent sentence.  This is when I have trouble listening sympathetically.  This tiredness, this distractedness… this is making my sin real.  It makes it come out to play.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:21-24 ESV)

It’s always good to be thrown helplessly into the arms of grace.  I appreciate that it makes me appreciate my Savior, appreciate my own inability.  It’s pretty easy to pass for a nice person when we’re refreshed and happy all the time, isn’t it?  It’s hard to be a nice person when we’re grumpy and tired.  It’s hard to be kind.  It’s hard to be a good friend, even; it’s much harder still to be a good wife and a good mother.  It’s like a pot with tiny flaws being constantly held up to the light so they can’t escape notice.

Maybe one day I won’t be tired and distracted anymore, and I’ll be able to do a better job of hiding away all these flaws that are magnified right now.  In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling with them, and struggling to improve them, to “depart from iniquity” and become “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2).

And feel free to tell me I’ve talked enough about poopy diapers for the day, and help me talk more about the things that matter.  My brain might relearn old paths and I might be able to speak intelligibly again. Smile

January Angel Food Meal Plan & Recipes

It’s finally finished, almost two weeks earlier than last month’s! My goal is to have the February plan up before the ordering deadline, so you can order the boxes after you get a good look at the plan. But this is what it is, for January:

January Angel Food Meal Plan and Recipes (single page, much better formatting)

Ordering: This plan uses the 2 Bountiful Blessing boxes and 1 S3 (premium fresh fruit and veggies) box.  Total $105.  The only thing I’m using that’s not in the 2 BB boxes is some of the vegetables, so you could just buy the 2 BB boxes (total $82) and buy the produce at the grocery store for probably less than $10.

 

Comments:

  1. If you’re only going to the grocery store once, at the beginning of the plan, cook the recipes with celery, bananas, and/or fresh bread first.  
  2. I’m using some of the same recipes as last month, because I didn’t actually get to cook them thanks to the arrival of number 3.  I won’t usually repeat recipes that fast.  Exceptions are the Sausage & Potatoes recipe and the Blackeyed Pea Soup recipe, which are just really good (hearty, healthy, yummy, and inexpensive) recipes that we actually want to eat as often as I want to cook them!
  3. I divvied up some vegetables, but a couple meals still need the addition of a can of green beans or something.

 

Goal: As usual, to feed my family of five (including three little people) 30 meals, while buying little from the grocery store.  I’m not using the hot dogs, the fruit, or the meat box in the plan, and we’ll give away one of the bags of fries.  This also doesn’t use nearly all the breaded chicken–I’m still learning what to do with it.  This plan feeds 28 meals.  I’ve been trying to find somewhere to squeeze out the extra meals, but the truth is that we don’t eat that many meals a month at home, that there will be some leftovers anyway, and that I really don’t want to squeeze out the extra meals this month–I like the recipes I’ve picked!

 

Meal

from box

from pantry

from store

Spaghetti

1/2 Fully-Cooked Meatballs

Pasta

Pasta Sauce

parmesan cheese

bread

 

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

quick oatmeal

milk

eggs

butter

baking powder

salt

vanilla

peanut butter

 

Crockpot Black Eyed Pea Soup

*freeze half*

Sweet Italian Sausage

1 onion

1 cup diced carrots

6c chicken broth

italian seasoning

1 c diced celery

1lb dried black eyed peas

Stuffing-topped Pork Apple Skillet with Sweet Potatoes

Bone-In Pork Chops

onion

apple

sweet potatoes

Balsamic Vinaigrette

brown sugar

 

stuffing

Sausage and Potatoes

Breakfast Link Sausage

potatoes

onions

 

 

French Dip Sandwiches

and Fries

*reserve leftovers*

Choice Beef Netted Roast

Fries

soy sauce

bouillion cube

bay leaf

rosemary

thyme

garlic

french bread

Beef & Barley Soup

leftovers from French Dip

carrots

onion

butter

beef broth

1can diced tomatoes

basil

oregano

1c quick-cooking barley

celery

frozen peas

Meatball Orzo Soup

1/2 Fully Cooked Meatballs

½ bag yellow squash and zucchini

2 eggs

chicken broth

parsley

lemon juice

3/4c orzo pasta

Minestrone

Minestrone

 

 

Stir-Fry with Sauce and Rice

Breaded Chicken Breast Assorted Pieces

onion

carrots

cabbage

Beef-Flavored Rice & Vermicelli

assorted vegetables

stir-fry sauce (e.g. La Choi sweet & sour)

 

White Chili and Cornbread

1lb Lean Ground Beef

Northern Beans

Jiffy Cornbread Mix

 

1c medium salsa

1c frozen corn

8oz jalapeno pepper cheddar cheese

Spaghetti

1/2 Fully-Cooked Meatballs

Pasta

Pasta Sauce

Bread

Parmesan cheese

 

Italian Sausage Soup

Sweet Italian Sausage

carrots

northern beans

½ bag yellow squash and zucchini

garlic

beef broth

1 can stewed tomatoes

2c spinach

Roast, Potatoes, Carrots, Onions

*save leftovers*

Choice Beef Netted Roast

onions

carrots

potatoes

 

 

Roast Beef Hash

eggs

oil

garlic

thyme

cayenne

nutmeg

heavy cream

Lasagna and Green Beans

Lasagna

Green Beans

 

 

Moist Cheddar Garlic Oven-Fried Chicken and Peas and Carrots

Split Chicken Breast

 

Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots

butter

garlic

seasoning salt

dry bread crumbs

cheddar cheese

parmesan cheese

Herbed Chicken and Tomatoes and Yellow Squash and Zucchini

Split Chicken Breast

 

Yellow Squash and Zucchini

2 cans italian diced tomatoes

pasta

sugar

1 envelope savory herb with garlic soup mix

parmesan cheese

Chicken Nuggets Parmesan and Green Beans

Breaded Chicken Breast Assorted Pieces

Green Beans

 

1 jar pasta sauce

parmesan cheese

mozzarella cheese

Pork Chops with a Maple-Mustard Glaze and Cornbread

Bone-In Pork Chops

Jiffy Cornmeal Mix

butter

chicken broth

maple syrup

dijon mustard

sage

thyme

2tsp heavy cream

Sausage and Eggs

Breakfast Link Sausage

Eggs

 

 

Meatloaf and Rice

1lb Ground Beef

Oatmeal

Onions

Egg

Beef-Flavored Rice & Vermicelli

Ketchup

 

Minestrone

Minestrone

 

 

Crockpot Black Eyed Pea Soup

*from freezer*

 

 

 

Hearty Harvest and Ham Stew

onion

cabbage

potatoes

carrots

olive oil

garlic

celery seed

caraway seed

paprika

1lb ham steak

3c greens

Lasagna and Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots

Lasagna

Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots

 

 

Baked Banana Oatmeal

Quick oats

2 eggs

milk

brown sugar

butter

baking powder

vanilla

chocolate chips

3 bananas

Meatball Subs and Fries

1/2 of Fully-Cooked Meatballs

Fries

pasta sauce

rolls

 

Grocery List:

  1. rolls
  2. french bread
  3. 3 bananas
  4. celery
  5. 1lb ham steak
  6. 1 jar pasta sauce
  7. 1 envelope savory herb with garlic soup mix
  8. 1pk chicken stuffing
  9. 1c medium salsa
  10. orzo pasta
  11. quick-cooking barley
  12. 1lb dried black-eyed peas
  13. pint heavy cream
  14. mozzarella cheese
  15. parmesan cheese
  16. cheddar cheese
  17. 8oz jalapeno pepper cheddar cheese
  18. frozen corn
  19. frozen peas
  20. 3c + 2c greens (spinach)

 

Cost-cutting tips:

  1. both the recipes that call for heavy cream could be substituted with milk
  2. making your own sandwich rolls and french bread is much cheaper than buying them
  3. you can find a recipe for the soup mix here
  4. I will probably substitute regular cheddar cheese for the jalapeno pepper cheese, since we buy cheddar in bulk
  5. the recipe comments have instructions for substituting regular barley for the quick-cooking kind

Happy eating!

December Angel Food Meal Plan & Recipes

So, I had great plans of publishing this weeks ago–it was complete in the particulars–but I wanted to finish/polish a few things and life has not exactly cooperated!  Hopefully this will be better (and earlier) in future months.

Here’s the plan (DOC), based on two Bountiful Blessing boxes and one fresh fruit and veggie box:

Download a PDF.
The main thing I had hoped to accomplish before publishing it was to come up with a good ordering to the meal plan in order to use the fresh ingredients (celery, onions, potatoes) before they went bad.  Instead, just keep that in mind and pick the meals off in the order that makes your family happy!  I’ll try to get this all straightened out by next month. Edit: just FYI, I’m beginning with the chicken fried rice tonight and the slow-cooker black-eyed pea soup tomorrow to use up a good chunk of the produce without going to the grocery store yet.

Unlinked recipes:

  • Mom’s Sausage Stovetop Casserole — this is my mom’s recipe. Basically… if the sausage/hamburger is raw (it’s supposed to be, but I’m using cooked this month because that’s what’s in the AF box, just going to dice it and toss it in), then you cook it, drain it, and mix all the ingredients together on the stove. (It’s also supposed to be made with noodles and Velveeta, not mac-n-cheese packages, but I think this will turn out to be quite good and use lots of the mac-n-cheese which is otherwise a bit of a mammoth on this month’s menu.) Adjust proportions according to whimsy; the recipe also handles substitutions well. Onions are good too.
  • Chicken de Provence — My recipe. Rip up / dice the chicken, season quite heavily with herbs de provence, cook it on the stove in lots of olive oil, then add alfredo sauce (1/2 a jar or so), a dash (1/3 c) of tomato sauce, and maybe 3 oz of cream cheese. Stir till all melty and bubbly, serve over rice. This is not a giant recipe, but it’s very easy and yummy and we almost always have all the ingredients on hand–this is one of my what-am-I-going-to-make-in-10-minutes recipes.

January Angel Food boxes:

I’m very excited about next month’s boxes; they look like they rely even less on pre-prepared food and are generally healthier.  My current plan is to order:

  • 2 Bountiful Blessing boxes ($41)
  • 1 S2 box (steak and chicken, $23)
  • 1 S3 box (fruit and veggie, $23)

That’s probably more than we can eat in a month, but the S2 box is too much in line with what we like to have on hand in the freezer to pass up!  Maybe I’ll shift some of that to dinners and use some of the more lunch-like items in the Bountiful Blessing boxes for lunch and extras!