She works with willing hands.

Oversharing

oversharing

If you’ve read my blog for even a little while, you know that I share personal details about my journey through life – especially my walk with God.  And while the overwhelming feedback from y’all has been positive and encouraging, every once in a while a dear reader will write me and say:

“I don’t know how you share all of that stuff.  You’re brave.”

I do not view these comments as criticism.  Rather, I view them as honest reflections and responses to my willingness to share my story in a raw and vulnerable way.  And if I’m completely honest, I’ve spent many a night restlessly awake in my bed pondering whether I’ve shared too much – and what the implications may be to me both relationally and professionally.  So the question that I often find myself wrestling with is:

Am I guilty of oversharing?

Google defines oversharing as “reveal[ing] an inappropriate amount of detail about one’s personal life.”  And we all know people who regularly do it, especially on social media.

Much like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stuart’s discussion of obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, I shall not further attempt to define oversharing, “and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so.  But I know it when I see it.”  Oversharing is subjective.  And if you’re anything like me, it kind of makes me squirm.

So as I prayerfully consider which pieces of my story to share on this blog, I find myself returning to these three questions:

1.  Am I speaking truth?

My story is the truth of what God has done for me, and I am cautious to be truthful and accurate in my retelling of past events.  I want my words to be trustworthy.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life, and in my past I veered far off course from the small gate and narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).  And because of my waywardness, I have experienced the depths of my own sin.  I have tasted my own depravity.

And God knows it all.  None of it is a secret to him, for none of it was hidden from his omniscient eyes.

God saw it all, and still he loves me.  Still he chose me, and saved me, even though I did nothing to earn his forgiveness, and everything to deserve his wrath.

So how could I not shout that from the rooftops?  How could I not share my story of redemption in open and truthful ways?  My immeasurable thankfulness to my savior is reflected in my willingness to share both the bitter and sweet pieces of my story.  I want to speak truth.

2.  Does this truth have the potential to encourage a reader or draw someone closer to Jesus Christ?

I desire to encourage and uplift those of you who take precious time out of your busy days to read my words.  I do not take your time for granted, and I am incredibly thankful when you stop here to spend a few moments with me.  It is my prayer that my words might encourage you, and cause you to consider your life from an eternal perspective, for “you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Life is short, and we only get one chance to do it right.

3.  Is it God’s desire that I share this piece of my story?

Before I share anything deeply personal, I pray.  And then I pray some more.  In fact, I spend much of my time thinking about this blog in conversation with God.  I desire that my words be pleasing to him.

And for those of you wondering – NO – I have never received an audible response from God.  Never have I heard a booming voice commanding me to do something.  Rather, I pray and then look to my Bible for God’s guidance, with sensitivity to the mysterious leading of the Holy Spirit.

So have I overshared?  In the eyes of some – maybe.  But in my heart, between my savior and I, it is well.

Father God, please make my words trustworthy and clear.  Help me communicate your truth in relatable and understandable ways.  And please give me boldness to continue sharing the ways you changed my life – and my heart – even at the risk of oversharing.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

How My Miscarriage Changed Me

It was 2008.  I was practicing real estate law at a large and prestigious law firm, and the mood at my workplace was one of stress and anxiety.  The market tanked that year, business dwindled, and all of us lawyers sat in our offices biting our nails for fear of a layoff.

No longer working twelve hour days, I often found myself heading home on a 5:30 p.m. train to share the evening with my Jersey Boy.  And more time together meant more conversations about our future and the possibility of starting a family.

The idea of having a child terrified me.  I was a professional woman, with a career trajectory to worry about, and I couldn’t imagine fitting a baby into my life.  I also feared cementing myself to Jersey Boy through the birth of a child.  Yes, we were married, and yes, I loved him.  But I was concerned that I would grow dependent on him if we shared a little one.  And although Jersey Boy was eager to be a responsible and involved father, I was an independent woman.  In my mind, while I chose to marry Jersey Boy, I certainly didn’t need Jersey Boy.  And I didn’t want that to change.  I was prideful and self-reliant.

But even deeper than that, I didn’t think that I would be a good mother.

As I shared in My Abortion Story, only seven years prior I aborted my child, and because of that I saw myself as hard-hearted.  I didn’t think that I had the capacity to love a child in the way that a child needs to be loved.  I was neither maternal nor nurturing.  And while I was a Christian who was beginning to understand God’s redemptive love and forgiveness towards me, I also feared his vengeance and punishment.

What if I couldn’t get pregnant?  What if God punished me with infertility?  What if we had a baby and Jersey Boy left me?  What if I didn’t love my child well?  What if my child didn’t love me?  The “what ifs” were endless.

Today I know that those were all just lies from the evil one.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he wanted me to fear motherhood rather than be filled with joy at the thought of it.  He wanted me to believe that, because of my abortion, I didn’t deserve to be a mom.  He wanted me to think that I would be a bad mother, that my husband would leave me, and that I would be left alone with a child who didn’t love me.

Despite my fears, I became pregnant in the summer of that year, and during those early weeks of pregnancy I grew optimistic.  Although suffering from morning sickness, I looked forward to my eight week appointment during which we would have our first ultrasound and see tangible evidence of the life growing inside of me.  I researched which foods to avoid and started thinking about nursery colors, all the while remaining cautious and concerned – anxious that my fears would be realized.

And then just days before my appointment, I started bleeding bright red blood – a lot of it.  I called the doctor’s office and they told us to come in right away.

I had miscarried the baby.

The emotional pain was immediate and sharp, and as Jersey Boy and I sat sobbing together, the grief that I experienced after my abortion returned.  Another child of mine was dead.

But in the midst of the suffering, through my grief, I sought the Lord.  I prayed to him for comfort.  I prayed for a greater understanding of his plans for my life, and his will for Jersey Boy and I.  I cried out to him with a heart of anguish and asked him to show me whether I was meant to be a mother.  And I asked him to deliver me from my fears and conform my desires and thinking to that of his own.

“Not my will, Lord, but your will be done,” became my prayer.

And through those prayers and seeking of the Lord, my self-sufficiency, independence and hard-heartedness turned into reliance and dependency on God, and broken-heartedness for the things that break the heart of my Savior.  Through my grief, he mended my heart, taking away many of my fears, and replacing Satan’s lies with the truth that I found in his Word.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I knew that God meant to use the pain of my miscarriage for my good – to change me and purify me of my pride and self-reliance.

I suddenly wanted to be a mother, and believed deeply that I would be a good one.  I yearned to cradle a baby as I never had before.  And at the same time, my trust in my husband grew.  Not only was God calling me to be more reliant on him, he was also calling me to be more reliant on Jersey Boy, for “a cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  I realized that Jersey Boy and I were stronger together.

God changed me through my miscarriage.  He increased my faith in him and delivered me from the bondage of many of Satan’s lies.  He blessed me with the desire to be a mother, and thanks to his grace and mercy upon me, today there are three little people who call me “mommy.”

Glory be to God.

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

11 Things We Don’t Do To Stay (Mostly) Happily Married

Allie Skylar Photography
Allie Skylar Photography

This coming weekend Jersey Boy and I will celebrate eleven years of marriage.  Whew.  Thank God.  Seriously, thank God.  When we married eleven years ago I was 25 and Jersey Boy was 26.  And while I think that those are fine ages to marry, I now see more clearly how blissfully clueless I was about the hard work of marriage.

When we were going through pre-marital counseling, our mentor couple told us, “There have been full years in our marriage when we didn’t like each other.  But we stayed together.  Because we are committed to each other.”

Honestly, and I’m now ashamed to admit it, but Jersey Boy and I shared a bit of a mocking laugh behind our mentors’ backs.  “Wow!” we said.  “That’s pretty messed up – to admit that for years of your marriage you didn’t even like each other.  They must be difficult people.  I’m sure that we’ll fight, but certainly we’ll never be like them.”

Ah, the arrogance of my youth.

Our mentors’ words still ring in my ears.

And today I’m so incredibly thankful for the humility that they showed all those years ago by telling us the truth.  You see, marriage is really, really hard work.

Overall, Jersey Boy and I are well suited to each other.  Our personalities are largely complementary rather than competing.  While I am prone to assertiveness (at times bordering on pushiness), Jersey Boy takes a more coolheaded approach.  While I am quick-tempered, Jersey Boy is largely unflappable.  We are both competitive, but about different things, so we rarely compete with each other.  He likes my home decorating style and I think that he has good taste in clothing.  We share religious and political beliefs, and for us, those realms rarely give rise to marital strife.  And after eleven years and three babies, we remain physically attracted to each other.  We are well suited.

But we have still suffered through seasons of significant marital discord.

Today I read an article on the uber blog Scary Mommy, and to be honest, it ticked me off (or at least made me feel inadequate).  The title was 16 Things We Don’t Do To Stay Happily Married – so of course I read it.  Who doesn’t want a happy marriage?  Maybe there are sixteen secrets that I don’t know about!  Maybe I will reach a higher level of marital enlightenment after reading this article!

It was written by a woman who was celebrating sixteen (happy!) years of marriage to her hubby.  As I read through her list of sixteen things not to do in order to have a happy marriage, I thought, “okay, a lot of this is good advice.”  She urged, “don’t place blame…don’t play mind games…don’t read into things…don’t hold grudges…don’t complain about each other to other people….”  It was all good advice.  But then I got to number fourteen, when she proclaimed:

“We don’t fight.  No really, we don’t.  We might argue a bit, bicker sometimes, disagree on things, but we’ve never had what I would classify as a fight.”

Wow.  She lost me there.

And made me feel like a failure.

I’m not saying that she’s lying.  In fact, I hope very much that she’s telling the truth.  What a blessing to be in a marriage where you never, ever, fight!

But I think that for most of us, even those of us who are well suited to our mate, marriage is still really hard work.  And we will fight.  Sometimes with regularity.

So, in response to Scary Mommy’s 16 Things We Don’t Do To Stay Happily Married, I will share my own 11 Things We Don’t Do To Stay (Mostly) Happily Married (in honor of my eleventh wedding anniversary).  Here goes:

1.  We don’t compromise the role of God in our lives.

He is our alpha and omega.  Our commitment to God and our savior Jesus Christ is of primary importance to us, above all else.

2.  We don’t expect our spouse to be God.

We understand that our spouse will disappoint us, sometimes even fail us.  They can never truly fill the role that is intended only for God.  God is to be our ultimate protector and comforter.  Scripture tells us to cast our cares on him (not our spouse) because he (God) cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  I am a sinner, and because of my sin, I will regularly disappoint my Jersey Boy.  He will disappoint me, too, and when he does I must seek the Lord.

3.  We don’t skip Bible study.

I don’t mean that we never, ever miss a week here or there throughout the year (when one of us is sick or we have an unavoidable schedule conflict), but Jersey Boy and I have been committed to hosting and attending a small group bible study for the entirety of our marriage.  Rarely has a week gone by when we haven’t gathered to study the bible with a small group of friends who know us well.  Those same friends have prayed for the health of our marriage for years, as we have prayed for the health of theirs.  Which leads me to my next point…

4.  We don’t underestimate the importance of prayer.

What is the old saying?  “A family who prays together, stays together.”  Do I sound like a grandma for quoting that?

But there’s a lot of truth in that old phrase.  God desires that we pray to him, and there are few things that we can do together as a married couple that are more important.  Colossians 4:2 says that we are to devote ourselves to prayer.

But what exactly do I mean by “prayer”?  Well, according to the Westminster Catechism, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.”

We pray together, as husband and wife, to God, through Christ Jesus and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We thank God for his might and for loving and blessing our family, we pray for guidance in raising our children, and we bring before him our cares and concerns.  We also ask him to protect our marriage, and I believe that he does.

5.  We don’t place other earthly relationships above our marital relationship.

Jersey Boy is the most important person in my life, and although it’s often difficult (and sometimes I get it twisted), I value my relationship with him above my relationships with my kids.  My wee ones will grow big and one day fly the coop, leaving Jersey Boy and I staring at each other.  My hope is that over time we will have nurtured our relationship in such a way that we’ll enjoy those empty nest years.

6.  We don’t view pornography (together or separately).

This is a big one.  And a difficult one for people to discuss.  Porn is insidious.  A body of mainstream, secular research shows that porn does disturbing things to our brains and alters the way that we view sex and our sexual partner.  Porn is bad for us, and bad for our marriages.

7.  We don’t allow ourselves to be ruled by greed.

Sure, I like gorgeous dishes and designer handbags as much as the next unbored housewife (or maybe those are just my personal vices), but as a couple, we do not allow ourselves to become consumed by the love of “stuff” (including money).  It’s a matter of the heart.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

8.  We don’t allow our schedules to interfere with regular meals together.

Most nights, we share a home cooked meal together as a family.  We do our best to jealously protect our dinner hours, and although I understand that this will grow more challenging as our kids get older, I foresee us telling our children “no” to activities that routinely interfere with family dinner time.

9.  We don’t give up on complimenting each other.

Jersey Boy is a handsome man, and I tell him so.  It makes him feel good.  He also regularly compliments my appearance and my cooking, which I appreciate.  If you’re not complimenting your spouse, someone else might, and I don’t know about you, but I want to be the one who makes my husband feel like a stud.  Complimenting your spouse goes a long way to protect your marriage.

10. We don’t think that marriage counseling in shameful.

We’ve been through marriage counseling.  For us, it was necessary and fruitful, and we aren’t ashamed of it.

11. We don’t complain about each other to other people.

I stole this from the chick writing over at Scary Mommy because it’s an important one.  She was wise to put it on her list.  When I have an issue with Jersey Boy, I take it to him.  I don’t go complain about him to my girlfriends.  (Although from time to time I will ask trusted friends for marriage advice, or share with them something that I’m struggling with, which is wholly different than talking badly about my spouse.)  To the world, I am his biggest cheerleader.  I’ve got his back, and he’s got mine – even when we don’t like each other.

Happy eleventh anniversary, Jersey Boy.  You’re still a stud, and I love you more than words.

Hospitality (and Yummy Steak) with Lindsey

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9).

What do you think of when you hear the word “hospitality”?  Does it conjure images of mounds of perfectly prepared food, Pinterest-worthy tablescapes and spotless powder rooms?  Does hospitality necessitate pretty dishes and matching linens, a shiny sink and mad cooking skills?

True hospitality requires none of those things.

True hospitality simply requires the willingness to lovingly welcome people into your home – even when you don’t have time (or money) to plan a fancy meal, clean your toilet or clean up all the Legos.  True hospitality has nothing to do with projecting a perfect image, and everything to do with serving other people – and doing it without grumbling.

I have some friends who are really good at this.  One of them is my girl Lindsey.  She recently welcomed my family into her home for a casual summer dinner.  No, the kitchen wasn’t spotless and the living room was strewn with toys – but you know what – I liked it that way.  It felt real.  I appreciated her desire and willingness to add five people to her dinner table, even after a long week spent caring for her own brood of four young girls.

Lindsey’s husband owns his own business and works long hours.  She often does the heavy lifting at home from dawn until dusk, and has every excuse not to practice hospitality.  However, she joyfully welcomes people into her home – and she does it with a heart of service and the absence of grumbling.  She’s good people.  (And, in truth, she does boast mad cooking skills, making her invitations all the more appealing.)

First we headed to her home garden to harvest the vegetable portion of our meal.

e and b in garden

It’s nice to have friends who don’t take themselves too seriously.

l and squash

My middle child ate more tomatoes than he picked.  The orange ones were so darn sweet.

a and tomato

Quite the bounty.

bounty

Then we moved on to the steak portion of the meal.

Lindsey had a flank steak chillin’ in the fridge.  She whipped it out, and covered it in this:

steak rub

steak rub1

steak rub2

steak rub3

With coffee as the first ingredient, this interesting rub is a definite Trader Joe’s high.

Then Lindsey introduced me to the miracle of the Veggetti.

veggetti

I need to get myself one of these, stat.  Just look at those beautiful ribbons of squashy perfection.

squash ribbons

The squash ribbons went straight into a pan with vegetable oil, lemon zest, salt, and coarsely ground black pepper.

squash ribbons in pan

We coated the squash well with the oil mixture and sautéed it in onions and butter.

final squashThat is a pan full of flavor.

And look at this gorgeous assistant we had helping us.

gorgeous assistant

She helped us slice and dice,

slice kale

dice salad

And we ended up with this:

salads

All of it straight from the garden.

After a few minutes on the grill (no oil required), the steak was equal parts easy and delicious.

steak

In Lindsey’s home, showing hospitality does not mean inviting family and friends over for perfectly curated meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Rather, it means a constant attitude and practice of inviting folks over to dig around in the garden, roll up their sleeves and collectively prepare a meal.  It means a desire and willingness to serve the people around her.

Those of us who follow Christ are motivated to practice hospitality because we serve a God who is fundamentally hospitable.  Through Jesus’s sacrifice, God welcomes us into his kingdom with divine love.  We seek to mirror our maker by inviting friends – and strangers – into our homes with hearts of service, for Jesus “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Thank you, Lindsey, for welcoming my family into your home and serving us with willing hands.

An Interview With Unbored Housewife

Photo cred the talented Allie Skylar Photography.
Photo cred the wildly talented Allie Skylar Photography.

Isn’t it narcissistic to interview yourself?

Trust me, I considered this question several times before writing this post.  However, folks have asked me a bunch of these questions since I started this blog, and since you asked, I’ll answer.  🙂

When and where were you born?

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1979, making me one year shy of being a Millennial.  (I’m not sure whether that makes me want to groan or cheer.)

When and how did you learn to cook?

Before I quit my job as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home parent, I could scarcely cook a thing.  I worked late most nights, so I often ate take-out for dinner at the office, while Jersey Boy cooked and ate his own dinner at home.  Those days, Jersey Boy did 99% of the cooking in our home, and he never complained once.  His mama taught him well.

After I quit my big-money job and nightly take-out was no longer in the budget, I realized that I better teach myself to cook.  I learned mostly from reading cooking blogs, the Pioneer Woman being foremost among them.  Her detailed descriptions and large photos of each step were necessary for a beginner like me.  What the heck is the meat supposed to look like after you “brown it”? – I had not a clue.  So visuals of each step were a necessity.

Now I adore cooking and I enjoy writing detailed recipe posts with clear photos for beginners just like the former me.

You have three little kids.  Do you really “adore cooking”?  How do you find time to do it?

Trust me, there is not a gourmet situation going on here every night.  Last night we ate grilled hot dogs.  But most nights, I prepare balanced meals with real food.  Two of my littles still nap (thank heavens), so I do most of my dinner prep during naptime.  Jersey Boy gets home around 5:30 p.m., and I do much of my active cooking thereafter.

I adore the creativity that cooking permits.  I bore easily, and cooking is a healthy outlet for me to continually try new things – new spices, new cooking styles, new ingredients.  I also cook a lot of cultural food – Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Italian – I pretty much love it all.  I want my kids to grow up loving the same Cajun dishes that I ate as a child, so I’ve mastered most of my mom’s classic Louisiana dishes.

What is your religion?

I am a Christian.

Why do you write so much about your faith?

My faith informs everything about my life.  It is not something that I compartmentalize and take out on Sunday morning.  My faith is interwoven in everything I do every day.  But that does not mean that I am always an excellent example of my faith.  I live in a fallen world, and I screw up all the time.  I am a perfectly imperfect Christian, striving to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called (Ephesians 4:1).

Do you miss practicing law?

I have to say, I don’t miss the hours.  But I did work with some truly wonderful and wickedly smart people, and I miss them.  I miss the people.  And the paycheck.  The paycheck was nice.  (Just keepin’ it real.)

Have you always enjoyed exercising?

Um, no.  I was formerly a ballerina and a college cheerleader, and those activities kept me in excellent shape.  However, when I started law school I had no desire to hit the gym, and I went many years without consistent physical activity.  Add to that all my evenings of take-out dinners, and I was in fairly poor shape.  I never gained much weight, but I completely lacked tone, definition, strength and endurance.

Now I love working out, and it’s for one reason – I found an exercise class that I thoroughly enjoy.  For nearly two years, I’ve attended Mojo Fitness classes two to three times a week, and I love it (so much so that I lead classes from time to time).  The founder and lead instructor of Mojo, Cindy Brauer, has become a personal friend.  With Mojo, Cindy created a unique exercise experience, and she works tirelessly to keep the class fresh and accessible to women of all body types and fitness levels.  Plus, it’s crazy fun.  It’s my happy place.

Now I count down the hours until Mojo.  And I have a good excuse to buy all of that cute and trendy exercise gear.

Where and how did you meet your Jersey Boy?

Jersey Boy and I met in a bar in Philadelphia.  After downing two cosmopolitans, I didn’t mind brazenly calling him over to chat with my friend and I.  I thought he was handsome, and I expected his ego to match his visage.  Much to my delight, however, he was shy and unassuming.  He asked for my phone number and we went on our first date a few days later.  When I got home from our evening at the Cheesecake Factory, I told my roommate, “I just went on a date with my husband,” and I haven’t looked back since.  (And he somehow remembers exactly what both of us ordered for dinner that night, including the specific type of cheesecake.)

Are you done having children?

I get a little weepy when I think about this question.  Jersey Boy and I are in agreement that our family is probably complete…but I can’t imagine never cradling my own little newborn again.  So the answer is probably.  But only the Lord knows what he has in store…

Did Jersey Boy mind when you posted your abortion story?

No.  He was fully on board and supportive.  He helped me edit my story, as he does with all of my posts.  We prayed about it together, and we thoughtfully considered a range of possible outcomes and responses to publishing such a personal story.  I would have never published my story without his full and complete involvement and support.

Why don’t you post more pictures of yourself?

I am completely camera shy, and I typically dislike the way I look in pictures.  The photo at the beginning of this post makes me totally uncomfortable.  But I also value documenting my life in pictures for the benefit of my children.  I want them to know what their mama looked like when they were little.  So there I am – silly pose and all.

How did you come up with the name for this blog?

I wanted to crush the cliché of the bored housewife eating bon bons.  (What the heck is a bon bon, anyway?)  I work pretty darn hard, and I do it with willing hands for the benefit of my family and the glory of my God.  Amen.  Halleluiah.

Peace out and lots of love,

Unbored Housewife

No Coincidence

The past few weeks I’ve been feeling a bit lost.  I started this blog for fun and to nurture my love of writing.  I intended it to be a place where I shared bits about my lifestyle…my love of cooking, my desire to be a godly wife and mother, my enjoyment of fitness…I wanted to write about my experiences in a light and uplifting way to encourage others.

I never intended this blog to be a place where I spilled my guts.  I certainly never intended to write about my abortion.

But when God places something so strongly on your heart, how can you ignore him?  How can you walk away from his urging?

So I wrote my abortion story.

And then I felt a bit lost.  And a bit raw.  And I wasn’t sure what else to say.

Then today something amazing happened.  Around noon I received an email that read, in part: “…I was the post abortion counselor you met with 14 years ago…I am currently living in Florida and continue to work in a pregnancy center…I am the Director of Abortion Recovery at First Care Women’s Clinic in West Palm Beach, FL!”

Wow, God.  Wow.

This is a woman who I haven’t spoken with since the months following my abortion fourteen years ago.  The office where she counseled me no longer exists, and I could not remember her name.

This is the woman who God used all those years ago to pull me out of a deep, dark pit.  And here she was again today…encouraging me, just as she did before.

She thanked me for writing my story and explained that it was a blessing for her to learn that I am happily married with three little ones.  She remembered my personal story even after fourteen years and hundreds (maybe thousands?) of clients since me.  She also asked whether a well-respected association of Christian counselors could publish my story in their newsletter in an effort to help counselors better understand how abortion affects women, and of course I obliged.

It is no coincidence that she showed up in my life again today.

God orchestrates not just the enormous, momentous moments of my life.  He is the author of even the small things.  He reconnected my old counselor and I today because he is a personal God, who knows and cares for me.  Her email was a comfort, and evidence to me of God’s control over the specifics of my days and the order of my life.

So I will continue writing about my lifestyle – including all the craziness of maintaining a home and my sanity while parenting three little kids – but I will do it with a greater awareness of how God is intimately involved in all of my affairs, both the momentous and the mundane.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

The Foremost of Sinners

cross

Since posting My Abortion Story, I have spent many of my “in-between moments” in prayer and with my nose in my Bible (my Bible app, that is).  All unbored housewives know those “in-between moments”…in-between diaper changes, in-between preparing meals, in-between refereeing my children’s arguments…they are the tiny moments that God gives me each day that I can choose to either use fruitfully or wastefully.

And during my quiet in-between moments, God has given me a sense of peace and a desire to boldly proclaim what he did for me.  Fourteen years ago, I aborted my baby, a child who he fearfully and wonderfully knit together in my womb.  That act was abhorrent to God.  But he loves me nonetheless, and when I wept for my dead child, with a heart of repentance, he forgave me.  How could I not shout that from the rooftops?  I am forgiven and set free from the bondage and weight of my sin!  And out of his love, God gave us an example in Scripture of a man who was the worst of the worst, who God also set free.  That man was named Paul.

The apostle Paul wrote a significant portion of the New Testament of the Bible.  And before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a bad, bad man.  He was the worst of sinners.  In fact, it was his chief aim to persecute, imprison and murder Christians.  He hated the people who followed Jesus Christ.

This is how Paul described himself in 1 Timothy 1:12-16:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.  But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Did you catch that?

God chose Paul, the foremost of sinners, to display the perfect patience of Jesus Christ.  He chose Paul to show that no matter how sinful we’ve been, there is mercy and forgiveness available to us through faith in Jesus.

And I am so thankful that God chose Paul to communicate this to us.  He was the most unlikely of people.  He was a man who neither earned nor deserved God’s approval – but God chose him nonetheless.  It encourages me to know that no matter how sinful I’ve been, nothing is beyond God’s sovereign grace.

So as I focus on God during my in-between moments this week, I do it with a heart of thanks for Christ’s perfect patience towards me.

Thank you, Lord, for converting Paul for my sake, lest I think that aborting my baby makes me undeserving of your sovereign grace.  For you sent Christ Jesus to save sinners like me.

“All people will know that you are my followers…”

I spent this week serving as my five-year-old’s camp counselor at his preschool bible camp.  Our memory verse for the week was John 13:35, which reads, “All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”  These words were spoken by Jesus to his disciples after he humbly washed their feet.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, said this of the passage,

It may be understood of the special instance of love to all his disciples which he was now about to give, in laying down his life for them.  Greater love hath no man than this.  Has he thus loved us all?  Justly may he expect that we should be loving to one another.  Not that we are capable of doing any thing of the same nature for each other, but we must love one another in some respects after the same manner; we must set this before us as our copy, and take directions from it.  Our love to one another must be free and ready, laborious and expensive, constant and persevering; it must be love to the souls one of another.  We must also love one another from this motive, and upon this consideration—because Christ has loved us.

We love because Christ loved us.  And we aren’t just called to love people who look and act like us – that is easy to do.

When is the last time you loved someone in a “laborious and expensive, constant and persevering” way?  I ask myself the question as much as I ask you – for this is the type of love that Christians are called to.

With news of hatred and murder in a historic place of worship in South Carolina, my heart is heavy and my mind is burdened by thoughts of what the future holds.  The men and women who died there during a bible study gathering were my brothers and sisters in Christ.

How do we respond to such darkness, hatred and evil?

Through the love of Christ Jesus.

“All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”  John 13:35

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Last week the littles and I went strawberry picking.  Strawberry season is short here in Pennsylvania, so we have to carpe diem if we want fresh local berries.  And these pretty little strawberries are really, really sweet…so much better than what we buy at the grocery store.

strawberries

I wanted to do something fun with my fresh berries, and while watering my garden I noticed how well my basil was growing.  Then it came to me…Strawberry Basil Ice Cream!  Two in-season local ingredients and one deliciously sweet result.

So I called my girl Lindsey.  That chick makes homemade ice cream all the time.  She’s sort of a guru.  She also has a sweet ice cream maker.

ice cream maker

I’ve got friends in high places.

I gathered my ingredients, loaded my offspring into the SUV, and hightailed it over to Lindsey’s casa.

Her youngest babe admired my freshly picked basil.  Just look at that sweet little chin.

strawberry basil ice cream

While our littles jumped on the trampoline with the sprinkler underneath it (resulting in a wet and wild and mildly dangerous trampoline experience) and I did my best to allow them to enjoy the thrill of it and not freak out at the thought of head collisions and broken bones – Lindsey and I concocted a recipe for our ice cream.

We used a few of the recipes in this cookbook as inspiration:

ice cream book

Game plan in hand, we gathered some small helpers to hull the strawberries.  Hulling strawberries simply means removing the green stem and leaves from the top of each berry.

b hulling

Yes, our small children were permitted to use miniature dull-ish knives to hull the strawberries.  Learn by doing, I say.  It’s the old-fashioned way.

Baby Girl was exceptionally enthusiastic about the process.

baby girl strawberries

strawberries in colander

Strawberries hulled, we cut the larger berries in half and then made a strawberry sauce.  We put the strawberries into a square baking dish with one-third of a cup of sugar, and stirred to combine.

strawberries and sugar

Then we popped the dish of berries into a 375 degree oven for eight minutes.  After eight minutes, we removed the berries from the oven and let them cool slightly.  Then we juiced three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and added the juice to the strawberries.  Next we threw it all into the blender, pureeing it into some fantastically delicious strawberry sauce.

puree strawberries

We could have just stopped there and slurped down the sauce with a straw – it was INSANELY YUMMY.

But onward we went, next starting the ice cream base.  To make the base we used cornstarch, whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, light syrup and softened cream cheese.

First we created a slurry in a small bowl by combining one tablespoon plus one teaspoon of cornstarch with two tablespoons of whole milk and stirring well.

Then we combined the remainder of the two cups of whole milk, one and one-quarter cups of heavy cream, two-thirds of a cup of sugar and two tablespoons of light syrup in a medium saucepan, bringing it all to a low rolling boil on medium-high heat.  We left it at a low rolling boil for about four minutes, and then removed it from the heat and gradually stirred in the slurry.  Then we returned the saucepan to the heat and while stirring, allowed the mixture to boil for one additional minute.  Then we removed it from the heat.

Next we creamed three tablespoons of softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and then poured the hot liquid mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese.

pouring cream

We whisked until the cream cheese was well combined and the mixture was smooth.

Then we grabbed an even larger mixing bowl (or a small tub would do) and created an ice bath by filling it with cold water and ice.

After creating the ice bath, we poured the hot ice cream base mixture into a gallon-sized plastic storage bag.  Then we tore the basil leaves into small-ish pieces and threw them into the bag along with the ice cream base.  We sealed the bag well and submerged it in the ice bath, allowing the ice cream base to cool and the basil to steep for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, we strained out the basil leaves, turned on the ice cream maker, and poured the ice cream base into the machine.

Then we poured half of the strawberry syrup in with the ice cream base.

pour strawberry sauce

I want to lick my screen right now.

lick screen

After the ice cream churned for 20 minutes, it was ready to go into jars.

final ice cream

Lindsey swirled some of the remaining strawberry sauce on top of the ice cream, and popped the jars into the freezer for a few hours.

Later that afternoon, our kids’ beloved preschool teacher stopped by so that we could celebrate her birthday with some freshly made Strawberry Basil Ice Cream.

mrs. v

Friends, sprinklers, trampolines, freshly picked strawberries and basil, tiny bare feet, handmade birthday cards, a visit from our favorite teacher and homemade ice cream…it’s the stuff that perfect summer days are made of.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE STRAWBERRY SAUCE:

1 pint strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

FOR THE ICE CREAM BASE:

1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch

2 cups whole milk

1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp. light syrup

3 tbsp. softened cream cheese

handful fresh basil leaves