Last weekend, my parents spent the night. My dad is a morning bird...I guess this apple didn't fall far from that tree. When the rain (of all things in December in Minnesota) woke me up and I heard rustling downstairs at 5am, I decided, well, I can always sleep, but I can't always visit with dad. So, with the coffee brewed, just the two of us cozied in next to the fireplace for an early morning chat.
After they had left and our home returned to normal, I began to reflect on the experience of that early morning chat. I love listening to my dad, hearing her perpective, thoughts, his heart. I can't hardly explain it, but I just love being in his presence. A day later, sitting in my spot gazing out the window, conversing with my heavenly, perfect Dad, I realize that I was given a gift. A gift to see a glimpse of what my heavenly Father is like. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully..." Enjoying a relationship with my earthly father, is a glimpse of how I will enjoy my heavenly Father's presence when I finally get home. Not only does it give me a faint image of my Heavenly Father, it fills my heart with joy because I've been blessed with a good relationship and godly earthly dad. I can't begin to fathom how awesome heaven will be.

Here & then gone

I've learned a bit about gratitude this past year. And I'd like to think that I see things to be grateful for which a year ago may have escaped me. Unfortunately, it is easy for me to be stuck in a rut and ungrateful, pessimistic. A grouch really.
This past week, waking as usually, to what the boisterous one has coined my "own time" and setting a pot of coffee, I see the thin, sliver of a crescent moon gorgeously illuminated and nestled into passing clouds. I saw this beauty as a gift, "Thanks God for this gorgeous sight! It is beautiful! You are so crafty!" I continued with setting the coffee to drip and snuggled into my chair with a blanket, continuing conversation with my Maker. Glancing out the window, I see that it's gone. The gorgeous sliver of a crescent moon is now diffused light behind puffy clouds. What struck me was that I realized it was a gift when I could see it. Imagine my obliviousness and loss had I not purposely stopped to thank God for that gift.
Contemplating more, I'm sure there are many gifts that He gives that I don't see: little feet kicking me at night, stinky golden head breath in the morning, golden heads fighting and arguing again, opportunities to snuggle, teach or impart wisdom. Oh, I am so foolish! James said in 4:14, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Just like I didn't know that three minutes after I saw the crescent moon, it would be out of my sight, I don't know which of the gifts He's given to me will be gone tomorrow, or in a minute for that matter.
My thoughts and prayers weep for my dear sister. I know she saw her precious Micah as a gift. A gift on loan from God. And now her gift is out of sight. My heart aches even though we don't mourn like those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Pressing on, I will strive to "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.


Just finished a book called, The Uncommon Woman by Susie Larson. I really enjoyed my time with her book and Scripture in hand (highlighter and pencil too.) One of many truths, that was revealed to me vividly as I studied was really stopping to look at Matthew 5:8:
Blessed be the pure in heart for they will see God.
Parked in the middle of the beatitudes, I'm not sure I've ever really given this one thought. The point Susie made is that when we have pure hearts, we can see work in others.
One of my many struggles is judging others. I feel horrible confessing that. (Remembering the truth of Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever covers his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.") So I do confess this and forsake this attitude and action of mine. What I have come to realize it that when I judge others, I am simply not sure of my own standing with God. I am loved my God beyond measure, He thinks of my constantly, He never lets go of my hand. When I see myself this way (solid and grounded in Christ), I am able to see others as Christ sees them and Christ in them. I am able to Christ at work in their lives. I am able to love them because I can begin to grasp just how much I am loved.
The more I think about this truth, the more it makes sense to me when I read other scripture. I John 2:10 says,
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
I am pure in heart when I love others and am standing in His Light. So when I'm in this state (abiding with Him, loving others, in the Light), I can see God and I abide in His presence, His Light, so there is little chance for me to stumble into sin because I'm not groping around around in the dark.
Even in Luke 6:28, "bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you," I see that if my immediate response to personal attacks is to fall on my face in prayer for those who use and abuse me, then I will be purifying my heart and I will see God at work in their lives and mine.
As a mom, my golden heads driving me batty, whether being disobedient or just annoying, I find myself asking God to purify my heart so I can see Him at work in them.
I hope this challenges others in some way, so that they too will think about how having a pure heart will allow them to see God.

Makes me

I've wrestled with this post for a while. I often find myself thinking I am so inadequate to write anything that might be beneficial to the reader. However, I will press on knowing that God called me to write.
In Psalm 23, a commonly quoted and often memorized psalm, a question came to me that I've never had before. In past perusing of this psalm, I've always pictured God leading me through green pastures, but recently in verse 2, I notice the phrase, "He makes me to lie down," and I wonder, what did David mean? Does he mean that God will make me by force to lie down in green pastures or does it mean that God made me by design with the need to lie down in green pastures? So, I study.
I don't actually have much experience in studying Hebrew. It seems complex to me, a trite bit intimidating. But I'll attempt to relay what I've come to understand. First off, the Hebrew for to make lay down is rabats and is repeated twice consecutively in Psalm 23:2. Here's what I found online in regards to repeated words in scripture that I found interesting.
In the Jewish understanding of Scripture, there is no such thing as repetition for its own sake.  That is, if a word or phrase is repeated, there is something new being conveyed; it is not simply the same thing said over again for emphasis (which can be eliminated without losing anything). Therefore, Jewish scholars search repeating elements more closely to discover what is different between the two (or more) cases, and what God was saying in each occurrence.

Because I'm not a Hebrew scholar, I couldn't see a difference in the two cases, a bit frustrating to me, but maybe God will show me an answer to that later. I did find that rabats is an active verb and causative verb, meaning that God actively causes me to lie down. I am given a cross reference of Ezekiel 34:14-15:
I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest," declares the Lord God.
 I also found Zephaniah 3:13 as a cross reference that was enlightening to me:
The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths, for they will feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble.
I am so thankful that God is the Good Shepherd choosing to cause me lie to down not in dark, terrifying valleys but in green pastures (think abundant life to the full) where I can rest with no one to make me tremble. How fitting the David says in verse one, "I shall not want." Neither will I.


Posting from "the most magical place one earth"...Disney World. I am thankful that most favorite time of day (even on vacation) is in the early morning hours, everyone else tucked in bed, coffee in hand, seeking my Maker. I am most thankful that He chooses to speak to my heart, convict me of sin, reaffirm His love for me despite my selfishness through His Word which gives me direction. This morning, found myself in Jude. At the end of the book, verses 20 & 21, I am reminded to constantly check my heart, my faith, standing with God. Jude encourages me to "build up on the faith, pray being led by Holy Spirit, keep myself in the love of God." The song from childhood rings in my ears, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love. Beloved, let us love one another. 1 John 4:7-8." I may not be like most, but I most often daily need reminding myself that God loves me even though I'm not worthy and do nothing to deserve it. If He can love me that much and even fills me with His power, I need also love others in response to His love for me first and His power in me gives me strength and will to love others. Last, Jude reminds me to "look for mercy." Just last week, God opened the truth about mercy in Proverbs 28:13, that if I confess and forsake my sins I am given mercy.
I am to do these things first. Then, after I've given myself a diagnostic check and repair, Jude teaches in verses 22 & 23, in regards to others, have "compassion with discernment." Perfect teaching, as I navigate Disney theme parks with a tired 4-year old. The engineer and I were just wrestling yesterday how to have empathy for the boisterous one who's exhausted but not lower the expectation of obedience and respect, allowing it to be okay to throw a temper tantrum. Ah, have compassion but "save with fear" (fear of derailment from the faith) "pulling them out of fire" (sin or path to hell) hating their sin but  by your word and actions, loving them. This verse perfectly reaffirmed our parenting game plan in dealing with these stressful parenting moments. I believe parenting is a call to discipleship, and this command in these verses is a warning to be heeded by the discipler, the parent. Thank you God for giving me direction in parenting through Your Word, even when I'm on vacation.


I can't express how much I appreciate people being willing to be transparent, real and willingness to take off the mask that hides hurts, struggles and pain.
Today, I will be quite transparent. Something that God's brought to my attention lately is how easily I am offended. A fabulous discipler from Billings, Fred Nelson, teaches that a sign of spiritual maturity is that you are not easily offended. Lately, this has been a big struggle for me, which is humbling, because you'd think at this point, I'd be getting at least a bit spiritually mature. In the past two weeks, I've caught myself get especially offended when the engineer points something out to me. He might be pointing out the fact that I'm in sin or he may be simply asking a question about how I do something, but my initial response is to get edgy, defend myself and think of a reason why it's really someone else's fault. For example, when he tells me that my tone of voice was rude to the waitress, it's not her fault the menu doesn't list something, immediately I feel personally attacked and blame him for attacking me. Not so graceful! This has probably gone on for years but by God's grace, I've noticed in recent weeks.
I was so thankful that God gave me a verse this week,
He who covers his sins will not prosper,
but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
Proverbs 28:13
When I get defensive and blame someone else for my mistake or actions, I am covering my sin and will not prosper. That's not a direction I want to head in life. By confessing and choosing to turn away from that sin, I will be shown mercy by my Maker. Quite convicting truth to me and I'm praying that when I begin to feel offended, I will be prompted to repeat this verse, so to begin breaking free from this flesh habit.
I'm been thinking lately that this whole sanctification process is hard! And honestly, sometimes I'm sick of it and want to quit! Thankfully, God gives me grace to persevere! Now I understand why Paul quoted the psalmist in Romans 8:36, "For your sake, we are being put to death all day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." It wasn't until about a week ago, when I was wrestling with doing a crappy job as a wife that I finally understood the point Paul was making. Sanctification is a daily (hourly, minute by minutes sometimes) process of dying to my flesh and replacing the flesh with things of the Spirit. This revelation happened about the time Micah went to heaven and I truly rejoiced for him because praise Jesus, his sanctification is complete. He's done with that, perfect, mature and complete! Lately, Toby Mac's "Break Open the Sky" has been the cry of my heart!
Break open the sky 
Won't You turn off gravity so we can fly?
We wanna see Your faceSo tear the roof off this placeJesus, break open the sky
But until He chooses to call me home, I will, by God's grace, persevere in the process of being made holy. And pray that the next time I am offended, I will choose the wisdom of Proverbs 28:13 and expose my sin, confess it and repent of it and then be given mercy.


I've journaled repeatedly how pivotal choosing a life style of gratitude has been to me: choosing to thank God's for each gracious gift that brings joy. Reading Ann Voskamp's, One Thousand Gifts opened my eyes to this truth that is constantly revealed in scripture. In Luke, Jesus walks with Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. These men walked with Jesus, were taught by Jesus, probably touched Jesus, they were with Jesus, but they didn't know it was Him until Jesus "took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him," (Luke 24:30-31). Giving thanks opened their eyes to see Jesus.
Yesterday, we found out that quite soon our nephew Micah will go meet Jesus. How God made Micah is so amazing and wonderful, the doctors can't figure it out, so it's time for Jesus to restore Micah in heaven. It's a whirl of emotions, I can't imagine being the parent in this situation, it's heart-wrenching enough being the aunt and sister. But when despair gets too great, I have stopped myself to think...this is the hard eucharisteo, the hard thanksgiving, but I know it's there. Much for which to give thanks. I begin a mental with Micah the night before he got really ill, his love for root beer, living in Minnesota now instead of being 12 hours away in Montana... Then I recall the passage in Luke. Giving thanks opened the disciples' eyes to see Jesus. When we ask why (just as the disciples were asking why Jesus had to be crucified), we can't see Jesus in the midst of our pain of losing Micah. When we list each of God's gifts, we see Jesus, our hope. I feel led to begin at one:
  1. Having the "Sechler Seven" around my table the night prior
  2. Pictures that turned out
  3. Micah throwing his spiral with his mom
  4. Micah getting his wish from Make A Wish
  5. Micah excited about his really good book and A&W
  6. Talking "normal life" with my sister
  7. Traci taking over in my kitchen
  8. Light on the pumpkin pumpkin bars for dessert so Micah can have one
  9. Mike & the engineer laughing at how similar Traci & I are
  10. Living in Minnesota
  11. Quoting "When I am afraid, I will trust in You" Psalm 56:3 when I had a missed call from Mike and the calm that followed
  12. The compassionate one praying for the Sechler family while we waited to leave school
  13. The golden heads reaching out to comfort mom...holding my hand, hugs, rubbing my back and arm
  14. The engineer knowing to go be with family
  15. Safe travel to and from Litchfield
  16. Laughing about the boisterous one's "opinions"
  17. "Grandpa Leon is here?" followed by a big smile
  18. Being with family
  19. Peacefullness exuded by Mike and Traci
  20. The new digital camera arriving
  21. Hospice nurse
  22. Kids Club that the cousins got to go to
  23. Sitting alongside Micah
  24. Traci talking about the Big Big House Micah's going to
  25. All the good food Micah will soon get to eat: Mountain Dew, chocolate, pizza with lots of cheese...
  26. Dad and Lucas being finished in the field
  27. The engineer playing Mario Kart with his nephews
  28. The sweet sound of cousins playing
  29. Rebekah asking for a tray to play house with all the cousins
  30. Coffee and caffeine in general
  31. Getting Abi-girl ready for bed
  32. Singing and praying alongside Micah before we left
  33. Kissing Micah's head
  34. Christian Music
  35. "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller on the radio
  36. God directing steps
  37. No school for the golden heads the next few days
  38. Mercies new every morning
  39. "Break Open the Sky" on the drive...tears streaming down
  40. Good Music to lift us up
  41. Mike's silly smile and quirks despite the grief--makes him, him
  42. The boisterous one playing play dough with Abigail
  43. Abigail's big smile
  44. The engineer being girl-trapped 5 times over
  45. Mike taking a picture of it
  46. Caleb being excited about XBox and needing another controller
  47. An abundance of goodies to choose from
  48. Mom's goey lazy day bars
  49. Holding Rebekah for a long snuggle
  50. Talking with dad on the phone
  51. Sharing memories of Micah
  52. "Brother, let's make a deal"
  53. "I got a booger"
  54. Remembering the Amazing Race
  55. Seeing pictures on Facebook of Micah
  56. Being with family
  57. Giving fun gifts...Keurig
  58. More pieces for the game room delivered
  59. Seeing each golden head as a bit more precious...a gift on loan
  60. Kisses stolen while the golden heads sleep
  61. Shopping as therapy
  62. Being 2 hours from Litchfield
  63. Toby Mac tee
  64. Cousins playing outside without shoes on
  65. Dad processing grief through the truth of scripture
  66. Cuddling with Caleb
  67. The compassionate one giving up to so Abigail could have a gift bag
  68. Daniel's servant heart - bringing his computer
  69. Pictures
  70. Photo albums
  71. Lori
  72. Amazing attitudes of our golden heads 
  73. Micah's thankfulness journal
  74. Micah's letter to Rebekah
  75. A face to face visit with Lori
  76. Hugs
  77. Seeing extended family
  78. Watching Traci & Mike worship
  79. And Abigail too!
  80. Rootbeer Keg
  81. Pizza
  82. Visit with Ashley
  83. A huge real hug from Traci
  84. Vacation for the Sechlers
  85. ...


"I am adopted, I'm a special kid you see. I'm proud to be a member of God's royal family." I remember singing that song as a child and singing it at church when dad taught the children's sermon bringing in an orphaned baby calf... Adoption is truly a picture of what God does for us.
Four years ago, I watched my sister and her husband adopt little Abigail. I've watched many at our church in Billings, adopt internationally from Ethiopia. I've see the sacrifice made on the part of the adopting parents and how the adopted children receive all the rights of natural-born children.
However, reading in Hosea 2:23, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,' and her who was not beloved, 'beloved.'" In 1:10, "In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' instead they shall be called sons of the Living God." As I contrasted those words not My people with sons and beloved, and see that God says I will call, meaning He chooses to call, it totally struck me that God chose to adopt me. Just as my sister and brother-in-law chose to adopt Abigail, God chose me. I am awed by this. I don't have much to bring to the table. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that He would decide to call me beloved and daughter, but totally humbled!
As I further study the idea of Christ adopting us in the Word (I'm realizing how much I find, so this is by no means extensive) I began a little list contrasting life as adopted or not adopted. Paul teaches in Romans 8:15, that we are not given a spirit of slavery which leads to fear but a spirit of adoption as sons. As a daughter, I am not called to be fearful for John says in 1 John 4:18, "perfect love casts out fear." As a daughter, I am heir to God and His glory (Romans 8:17). And reading through John, I am surprised to find how much Jesus talked about sonship or adoption. In chapter 8:34-35, Jesus says the the "son abides forever in his father's house," but a slave to sin (not adopted) does not live forever. In John 10, Jesus gives us the word picture of a good shepherd. As His daughter, He's my good shepherd and He knows me (verse 14). Contrast that with not being adopted, where Satan is given the title of "hired hand" who doesn't care about his sheep (verse 13). As the parents of an adopted child really get to know that child and truly care about their precious child, so Jesus cares about His children! In John 11, upon Lazarus' death, I believe Jesus weeps because He cares that His children are hurting.
Not Adopted
No fear
Abides forever
Does not abide
Jesus is a good Shepherd
Satan as a hired man
Knows His sheep/children
Does not know his slaves
Cares about His children   
Doesn't care about his sheep/children
Look at the list, there's no doubt in my mind that adoption is a better way. The only way to life that never ends! But seeing this list convicts me and breaks my heart for those who haven't yet been adopted. May I live my life and love unbelievers so that they too may be adopted by the One who knows them.

Pointing them to Jesus

I was caught a bit off guard yesterday when a neighbor asked me for  parenting advice. Maybe she wasn't serious, but it got me thinking, maybe people are watching me parent. I sure hope I am pointing them toward Jesus. Which is one of the many gifts I was thanking Jesus for yesterday.
As it happens in any home (at least I hope this is normal), sometime my golden heads wake up crabby, bickering, complaining, blaming...ugly! What's I've come to realize in the past six months is that it's not just a fact of life. It's a spiritual battle. They wake and Satan already has a foothold on their little lives. Imagine how the bulk of the day is going to go when Satan has squelched part of the Holy Spirit out of you. How do I redirect them when we start out this way? The same way I redirect myself: at the feet of Jesus.
This is sometime a tricky part, but I try persevere without being annoying. Sometimes, they are open to reading their devotional book. Sometimes, we start singing a song that pops into my head. Yesterday, I asked the boisterous one to sing her sisters, "The Butterfly Song" that we learned in preschool. At first the sisters resisted, but before too long, everyone was singing and SMILING. Sometimes all we need to get our eyes off self and on Christ. Praise be to God for His wonderful gift!

Jesus is Hope

I've always thought of hope in the light of Hebrews 11:1, "Now hope IS being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." I believe that, but I never realized that it really only scratches the surface. Parked in Romans 8, I see the word hope repeatedly and I couldn't help but take a closer look.
As I've mostly understood hope, it is the desire of good with the expectation of obtaining it. I love the example that Paul gives the Romans  in Chapter 4:18, Abraham is said to be without grounds to hope (Sarah was barren and 90+ years old), but was still hoping in fulfillment of God's promise to give him as many descendants as the stars. I stop to ponder that and compare myself to this example. I am without grounds to hope (because I'm not deserving of any good thing on my own) but I am still hoping in the fulfillment of God's promise to be with Christ and to know Him even as I am fully known (1 John 3:2, 3). I fully expect to obtain this promise.
I am inspired by David in Psalm 16:9, "My flesh will also rest in hope." Because God gave him instruction for life, David rested in hope, not having seen the Messiah, long before Jesus came to earth in bodily form, died and rose again, David had hope. What preceded David's hope? A glad heart and his body being tranformed into glory rejoicing. Shouldn't I have much more hope having the Scripture that testifies to Christ's sacrifice, burial and resurrection?
What I failed to see in the past about hope is how Jesus is our hope. I have to back up a littler here. Back to when God gave Moses the law. I never full understood that God's purpose for the Law was that we'd realize that we couldn't keep it and that we need a better way. Christ was that way. Christ is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1).
Interestingly, Jesus didn't use the word hope. Perhaps He didn't want to deter Jews to believe in Him, the Messiah, he just said, come to Me (Matthew 11:28). It would not have made sense for Jesus to say have hope in Me. He was the hope fulfilled. When we get something and see it, we don't need to have hope in getting it anymore. Hope is complete...past tense at that point. I understand why Paul wrote, "Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes in what he already sees?" Romans 8:24.
Today, our hope is closely tied up with our future transformation of glory, when we are made complete and perfect, just as Christ intended. But the creation was subjected to vanity, in hope (remember, Jesus is hope). So, we are subjected to vanity but IN Christ. Christ dwells in us and in this we have a small foretaste of the future glory. Christ is the hope of glory (Col 1:27). Therefore to be without Christ, is to be without hope....this reminds me of Obama's 2008 campaign slogan...Hope. Not really. Hope distinguishes us from non-believers. Those who do not have Christ do not have hope (Ephesians 2:12). I can't really imagine not having any hope. I need to pray that God gives me a bigger heart for those who don't have hope and courage to share hope (Jesus).
I am so relieved that I can have REAL hope, expecting what I long for to really happen. I have Jesus (hope) to heal Micah and those we love facing cancer. I have Jesus (hope) to give Madison a good friend at school. I have Jesus (hope) to provide good friends for our family in Minnesota. I have Jesus (hope) to provide us with a small group. I have Jesus (hope) to bring Derrick home safely from work travel. Now, may I follow David's example REST in hope (Jesus)!

*Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may about in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit

What's the plan?

At Canvas a month ago, I heard Jeff Wendt ask, "So, what's the plan?" Teaching from the book of Acts, Jeff shared how life doesn't always go as expected, but we have the promise then when life doesn't go as planned, we have the promise and comfort of knowing we don't face difficult circumstances alone. Jesus promised his disciples in John 14:27, peace and commands do not be troubled or fear for He is with them. This promise is for me today as well. He is with us, He will never leave for forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 31:6). I decided to wake every morning and ask God what His plan is for the day. I may have a plan, but I've decided to let God direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).
This morning, reading and rereading Psalm 16, suddenly the last verse, 11, jumped out of the page: "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." I see three promises:
1. When I ask God to show me His plan, He will show me a path for life, not sin and death. "The mind set on the flesh (self) is sin and death, the mind set on the spirit is life and peace," Romans 8:6. I can not see His plan unless my mind is set upon Him.
2. When I'm on the path for life, I am in His presence and no matter the circumstance, I can experience joy. His presence is enough.
3. At His right mind's eye sees Jesus sitting at God's right hand and me kneeling down beside Jesus' right hand in worship experiencing pleasure forever more!
Even as I type, the sun peers from behind a cloud as if God is saying, Yes, you get it, now stay in a posture of worship at my right hand today!

Yogurt...a bonus!

When we moved and were somewhat settled, I had a couple Suzy Homemaker goals for myself:
  1. Start making our own bread again
  2. Make our own yogurt
Making yogurt was a brand new adventure for me but totally intrigued a kitchen nerd like me. (Who am I kidding, the kitchen is my favorite place to be!) I feel like I've streamlined the process now, six months later and thought I'd put my process to paper...or keyboard. This is what I've found works for my crockpot:

Late afternoon, I begin the process (3 or 4 pm). I put 1 gallon of milk in the crockpot on high. It will take 2-3 hours for my pot to heat the milk to 170-180 degrees. At that point, I cool the milk on ice water to 120 degrees. Then whisk in a heaping tablespoon of old yogurt. (So always save a little bit left from your last batch.) Reassemble the crockpot, and wrap it up in a beach towel or blanket and shove it to the back of the counter. I put my thermometer in the middle of the milk with the digital reader out of the towel wrap so I can easily check on the temperature for the next 8-12ish hours. The aim is to keep the temperature between 110-120 degrees. I've read that if it's below 110, the cultures don't reproduce, if it's above 120, the cultures are being killed. If I'm at the 120 degree range (usually after dinner time) I just leave it wrapped up in the blanket (crockpot NOT on). Then before bed, I plug in the crockpot for 10 minutes while I get ready for bed and then unplug before signing off for the night. In the morning, you have yogurt. It will be runny though. When I wake, I line my strainer with a clean old t-shirt, set it on top of my biggest bowl and pour the yogurt into the strainer. It strains quickly when it's warm, so if you leave it for 15-30 minutes, it might just right. If you leave it for 1 hour, you'll have greek yogurt I guess. (If you don't want that, just stir in more of the whey.)
What's in the tshirt is your yogurt ready to go. What's in the bowl beneath your strainer is whey. I've been tossing that, but just recently thought, there has got to be a use for this. I LOVE google! Mostly, I've been soaking my whole wheat flour in the whey, it makes for awesome wheat bread. Here's the other uses I've googled (I've adapted this list from Salad in a Jar):
  1. Substitute for other liquids when baking— gives breads and pancakes a nice sourdough-ish taste.
  2. Use for soaking whole wheat flours. (This is my number one use of the whey.)
  3. Use whey for boiling noodles or cooking rice. (Haven't tried this yet.)
  4. Feed it to outdoor plants, tomatoes particularly need and benefit from the extra calcium.
  5. Mix it half and half with iced tea — sort of an “Arnold Palmer without the lemon-aid.”
  6. Use it to thin out a batch of homemade hummus or pesto.
  7. Use it to cook quinoa.
  8. Boil your oatmeal in whey. Top with dried Montmorency cherries reconstituted in (you guessed it!) whey.
  9. You can use it as the liquid in pizza dough, and it adds a wonderful flavor to the crust. (Great!!)
  10. Use whey as clear buttermilk. (I made biscuits.)
So, I guess the sky is the limit, but I won't be throwing the whey out anymore! Your yogurt will need to be sweetened with sugar, honey or artificial sweetener. My favorite is 1/2 a mashed banana, 1/2 a packet of equal and blueberries! I've also just stirred in a spoonful of jam when in a hurry.

Yes be yes

Why do I talk so much? Sometimes I hear myself and think, just be quiet. I'm reminded of my friend in Billings who often quoted, Ecclesiastes 6:11
The more the words,the less the meaning,and how does that profit anyone?

I've been pondering this in parenting while reading Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman. (I am a big Leman fan...he's so entertaining and to the point.) Why do I feel the need to explain everything to death with my golden heads? Yes, teach them, make sure they know the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) but why should I have to tell her more than once why she isn't getting to play with the neighbor kid today. It's exasperating! Matthew 5:37, "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." I also agree that it's a bit demeaning to my child. When repeating the same thing, it's like saying to her, I don't think you're smart enough to get this the first time, so I'll say it again.
I am striving to stop repeating myself. It will also train my golden heads to be better listeners. I pray for consistency and to always say what I mean and mean what I say.

What we don't have

I am learning so much from my children. As I talk with God throughout my day, I can't help but see what He teaches me as their little lives unfold. A big irruption of barbies was going on first thing in the day. After a few hours, the compassionate one was finished. It wasn't fair that both her sisters have barbie houses and she was in the position to share a barbie house with the calculating one. I love an opportunity to be creative! So I attempted to have her think outside the box in how she might "make" a barbie house of her own. The card table idea won. Back in the "game" of barbies, the calculating one thinks this not fair! Why does her sister get the cool, "new" barbie house? Think of that, a card table, covered in blankets over the top (verses a real barbie house) was cause for jealousy. After pulling my hair out, I heard God gently say, "See, how you're never content or happy with what you have?"
Aren't I just like that? I am constantly looking for a new gadget for my kitchen, functional furniture for our home. If a neighbor gets a new car or friend get the new iPad, I think how I'd like a new ____. How does this line up with the Word of God? I think of Solomon writing the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon who had everything, at the end of his life saying, "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless," and concludes his writing in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man's all."
I make note that I need to study the fear of the Lord. I want to understand what that fully encompasses. Until I carve time for that, I strive toward obedience. What I have or do not have is meaningless,
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6

Eyes on the LORD

As I was struggling with a common sin for me (one you might call a pity-party) God directed my path to Psalm 25. I could barely peel my eyes from the Text. What kept resonating with me was verse 15:
My eyes are ever on the LORD, for He will release my feet from the snare.
I love the word picture snare creates in my mind's eye: a trap, hidden in the brush, waiting to clamp its jaws around my leg. Satan wants nothing more than for me to be tangled in my sin, thinking that I am unable to be freed. My snare is a bad attitude and assuming the worst about the Engineer. This is a sin because I am not rejoicing in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) and not obedient to 1 Corinthians 13:7, "love believes all things."
So I look, I look, I look. I look to Him. At this moment, all I can do is keep reading and rereading Psalm 25. I begin to notice the if...then statements.
  3 - IF I hope in God THEN God will not let me be shamed
12 - IF I fear God THEN God will instruct me in the way
14 - IF I fear God THEN God will confide in me
15 - IF I keep my eyes on God THEN He will release me from the snare
21 - IF I hope in God THEN God will let integrity and uprightness protect me
I have to first choose these things THEN He is able to show up. I also can't help but notice that David asks for forgiveness in verse 11 and verse 18. This strikes me and makes me realize that even though I feel victim, I am not without sins...they are many and great offenses. It makes me stop to examine my own heart and confess my own sins of selfishness, pride and judgement. I need to own it and realize it's not about the blame game.

I love how this psalm begins and ends with hope. Something I blogged about last week. No one who hopes in God will ever be put to shame (verse 3) and my hope is in you (verse 21).  Praise be to God, for He alone is my hope! My hope of future glory, my hope to have the ability to change my sinful actions into integrity and uprightness. Where would I be without my amazing Savior?

Lastly, David asks much of God in this psalm. I count 16 things David asks of God and I probably missed some. As I stood in church to receive the benediction of Ephesians 3:20-21:
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generation, forever and ever. Amen.
I realized that our list of asking may be long, but may I never forget that He can do way more than I can even imagine!

Waiting eagerly

My nephew Micah is eleven years old and is really sick. He's been in and out of the hospital many times since April of this year. All the while, I've been trying to persevere with memorization of Romans 8. Somehow, whenever I get to the paragraph beginning with verse 18 ("For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,") my spirit is always lifting their family up in prayer. And meditating on this passage more and more I notice that within that paragraph, "wait eagerly" is used three times. In verse 19, creation waits eagerly for the revealing of glory. In verse 23, even Paul admits to wait eagerly for his adoption as a son, the redemption of his body. In verse 24, Paul encourages the Romans to wait eagerly for what they do not see. In every usage, I understand that what we wait for is glory.
I think this applicable in every struggle. Whether you are waiting eagerly for healing, an addition to your family, redemption in your marriage, to make friends in a new community or any difficult circumstance, it is hard in the midst of struggle, but notice that verse 22 says, all creation groans and suffers with the pains of childbirth. Paul even admits that although the Spirit lives in him and he has the first fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), he can hardly wait for the redemption of his body. However, hope is what keeps Paul persevering. We don't see the glory yet, but we long to see that glory. "But if we hope for what we do not see, but with perseverance (doing good despite difficult circumstances), we wait eagerly for it," Romans 8:25.
In Exodus 33:18-23, Moses asks God to show him His glory. Moses' request comes right after God promises that His presence will go with Moses as he leads the Israelites and God will give him rest (verse 14). So God grants Moses as much of the request as possible, for no one came see God's face while on earth. God placed Moses by Himself, He covered Moses with His hand while He passed, and after it was "safe" Moses could look at the back side (if you will) of the glory.
I can't help but stop and reflect on these three things:
  1. We have a place BY God
  2. He covers us with His hand
  3. We will only see the back side of the glory
When I read this, thinking about waiting eagerly for His glory I wonder, what if His glory is passing by and we don't realize it in the midst of the painful circumstances? Surely, we are in the cleft of the rock, being covered by His hand. And if we persevere as we hope for what we do not see (Romans 8:25), God's glory will pass by and we'll see Him and His will from behind. I love the picture that Casting Crown's song, "Already There," paints:
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there...
One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

Praise the Lord that He's already there and while we don't see the glory yet, He's covering us with His hand.

Eucharisteo precedes the miracle

Monday, August 13, 2012
For months, the tug of war keeps repeating. The passions and selfishness of my mortal body wage war against the law of my mind where God is on the throne. A struggle with the sin of my flesh as Paul describes in Romans 7. I see a new battle on the horizon. I know the good that I want to do as the occasion ahead arrives, but I know too well from the past, that I may not win this war. I'm feeling disheartened. Oh Lord, how can I emerge victorious?
This morning, with kids conversing in the background while munching on the once-in-a-very-rare-while treat of Lucky Charms, God reveals a mystery. Still parked in Romans 7, and reading about Paul's wrestle, letting it sink in, I read verse 24-25, "Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" What I've found interesting for weeks if that "thanks" in the NASB is Strong's G5485, charis. I recall this word well after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It's greek for grace, God's gift that cause us joy. Digging deeper, and looking to other translations, I see that in the KJV, "thanks" is labeled with Strong's G2168, eucharisteo, which contains the root word charis, but means to be give thanks for the the gift of grace that causes joy. I am struggling to see how gift and joy fits into this context. (I may be slow to connect the threads.) I review my notes from One Thousand Gifts. In Voskamp's work, she studied all the different occasions eucharisteo occurs in the New Testament. One of them is John 11:41, when Jesus prays and thanks God for hearing him right before Lazarus is raised from the dead. Eucharisteo-thanksgiving-always precedes the miracle.
In that moment, the lightbulb goes on! Yes, I know that Jesus is the only way I can be free from the slavery of sin, but the vehicle He uses to set me free might just be eucharisteo!
As I face the situation ahead which I expect to be a struggle and doubt I can emerge mature and complete in my faith, is all I need eucharisteo? I believe it! From making my list of 1000 gifts, I have seen God completely change my attitude and heart in tough situations by intentionally naming the gifts He does give, why would he not also set me free now as I give thanks? Yes, I will start my list of thanks, fully expecting eucharisteo to precede the miracle!

Our protector

Friday, July 20, 2012
Enjoying dinner in the comfortable shade amidst the stifling July summer, the golden heads and I are excited for the engineer, daddy, to return home after a week-long work trip out of town. In between the "I miss Daddy," and "What time will he be home?" I become the student.
"I like it when Daddy's home because if it thunderstorms, he knows what to do."
("Mommy doesn't so much.")
"Yea, it's because he cares about us and wants to take care of us."
At first hearing, I am offended, but not when God graciously reveals the symbolism. Their daddy cares about them and wants to take care of much more does God care about them, us, and want to take care of us? What a beautiful analogy. What a privilege we have as parents. And what a blessed woman am I to realize that the engineer is modeling to our golden heads two of God's characteristics: protector, lover of our souls.

Do less...BE more

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
It’s counter-culture really. We’ve been taught to do more. The more you do, the better you look, the more worth you carry. If you work more hours, you’ll move up the career ladder more quickly. If you keep your home immaculate, you’ll be the envy of your friends, not to mention housewife of the year. However, there’s something that doesn’t sit quite right with me. The New Living Translation of Psalm 39:6 pinpoints it, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.” NOTHING.
In my last correspondence with my mentor, she said, “We have been brought up to DO.  We're not good enough if we don't do.  You're not good enough unless you work hard, unless you garden and can and get up early and clean and bake for others and do and do and do.  What about just being?  What about just talking to God all through the day…”
That thought resonated in my heart for a week. All week long echoing, “Do less. Be more.” Especially with my family: resisting the urge to clean instead of just being with my golden heads. Putting aside my work at 9 o’clock to spend time with the engineer. In visiting with my mother-in-law attempting to share some of my resolve, she offers her wisdom and life-findings, “I realize now, the time is so short.”
Yet the world says, do, do, do. When I reflect on what I’ve learned about eucharisteo, thanksgiving (thanks for God’s gifts that bring joy) there isn’t much do in that. In fact, I believe that doing takes emphasis off the person you are serving and puts it on a tangible task like the Martha vs. Mary debate in Mark 10:38-42. While Martha runs around scurrying to do, Mary sits at Jesus feet and Jesus’ reply is “Mary has choose that good part, which will not be taken away from her,” (verse 42.) Jesus wanted Martha to do less, and look at Him. Jesus wants me to do less, and be more. So often, since this revelation, I find myself saying Jesus, direct my path, (Proverbs 16:9.)
“You do not delight in the tasks I can do or I would do them; you do not take pleasure in a long checked off to do list,” Psalm 51:16, my paraphrase.

“Seek first, the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:33.

Tastes like summer

Monday, July 16, 2012
Summer is here. Awake your taste buds! Try this out when peaches are on sale in your neck of the woods: Peach Salsa.
Peach Salsa
1 c. diced peaches
2 T. diced onion
2 T. diced green pepper
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vinegar
1/4 t. garlic powder
Mix and let marinade at least 1 hour.
So easy and fresh. I enjoyed it on a chicken wrap, on my salad (as my dressing) and I think it would be tasty with tortilla chips...ate it all before trying it though.

Choose life

Monday, July 9
We are given two options in this life: life and prosperity or death and destruction (Deuteronomy 30:15).  What God demands of us isn’t too difficult or beyond our capacity. It’s really quite simple. I recall Lori, my mentor, says that about praying with the engineer, “It’s really pretty simple.” We simply need to put God’s word into our mouth and in our heart so we may obey it.
Camping is fun and great to be in God’s creation, enjoying the lakes He’s given us. But honestly, by day 3, it’s hard for me to choose the life and prosperity. It may be fatigue, it may be that I’m a homebody and want my home, my routine, but whatever the reason, I find it hard to be obedient to God’s Word. I was faced with having to submit to the engineer in a silly matter really. (But when I’m struggling with being obedient to Christ, it doesn’t take much to make me falter.) We had differing views of how to strike camp. I began repeating Colossians 3:12 , “Clothe me in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” on a walk with the calculating one. I admitted to her that I was struggling with wanting to do something my way, not daddy’s and asked her to pray for me. As she did, 1 Corinthians 13:5 came to my mind, “Love does not demand it’s own way.” Making my way through the rest of the day, God gave me the grace to respond to situations the way that He asks me to, not the way my flesh wanted to.
And later, I realized, what a gift my golden heads are to me. I often ask them to pray for me when I’m struggling and they immediately stop what they are doing and pray for their momma. I have had friends in Montana who would do that, and I miss their faces dearly, but I felt God say to me, I’ve given you the gift of friendship with your daughters, enjoy them! Thanks be to my Lord for giving me the gift of friendship and the realizing that I have to choose life and prosperity. Oh that You would be gracious and allow me to choose life the next time my flesh tries to overcome me.

First Love

Friday, July 6, 2012
“…you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-5.
Jesus says this to John while he is exiled on the island of Patmos, so that John can pass this information on to the church at Ephesus. I heard Driscoll’s sermon series on the Seven Letters to the churches in Revelation. What I recall most vividly, what etched the deepest into my heart is when Driscoll said, “guard your time with God,” while teaching this scripture. If I guard my time with God, I do not forsake my first love.
Indeed, I have noticed over the past year, that if I do not guard my time with God, I just don’t feel right. I’m often short-tempered, crabby and irritable. I’m not me, and definitely not my best. What I’ve notice in the recent past that if my time is even possibly jeopardized, I get ruffled. It’s no wonder that on days everyone else sees as opportunity to sleep in, I know I need to wake early (possibly earlier than usual) so that I do indeed get my alone time with God.
One character flaw that I don’t know how to file away at is that I’m a pleaser. I often succumb to everyone else’s wishes because I feel guilty if I put my preference over theirs. So when the engineer says, “What time do you want to leave in the morning?” I think it doesn’t really matter when I want to leave because even if I say what time I was thinking and he says something different, I’ll just say, “That’s fine,” so that he will be pleased. Even if it means I have to forego my time alone with God. I don’t know how to work through my dilemma, pleasing people even when it compromises my first love.
Oh Lord, give the engineer wisdom as the leader of our family, of me, and make me a gracious follower. Clothe me with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.


Friday, June 29, 2012
Today, I got a word of encouragement from my younger sister. It was very kind and resonated with something I’ve learned this past week in my study of Romans 4. In chapter 4 alone, the phrase “credited as righteousness” is used 11 times! As I studied the greek word for credited, logizomai, I realized it essentially mean the God puts righteousness in my account that I will have to settle up with him on my day of judgment. Now, I don’t deserve righteousness, but condemnation. But righteousness is instead imputed to me in a substitutionary manner because what I do deserve (eternal death) was placed on Christ. I feel undeserving, guilty. But Zodhiates says, “the imputation of righteousness whose correlative is freedom from guilt.” Ah, yes, Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Right after Paul’s first introduction of crediting righteousness to my account, he quotes Psalm 32:1-2, saying those who receive this crediting are blessed, this crediting is a blessing. But digging into the greek for blessing, makarios, I find that means marked by the fullness from God. It means you’ve found satisfaction from God, not favorable circumstance. So when I read, “I pray that your family will be blessed in all you say and do,” and I know that as an American society really, what more blessing could we ask for, I think, I don’t need to be blessed, I need to realized that I am blessed. Lord, forgive me for finding my satisfaction in favorable circumstances instead of from You.
1.       Sun Tea
2.       Sitting on the engineer’s lap in his “office”
3.       Going to Target field with the engineer
4.       Seats in the shade
5.       Kettle corn
6.       Little old Farmington
7.       Collecting cups from sporting events
8.       Not getting hit by the train or the car
9.       Laughing about it later
10.   Ending the date perfectly
11.   Sleeping with the sheet on because its cool enough
12.   The calculating one calling me to tell me about her day at grandmas
13.   Opportunity to have Sechler cousins overnight
14.   Plans that give Micah a hope and a future
15.   Seeing spiritual growth in the calculating one
16.   Guarding my time in the morning with God
17.   Having my girls home again
18.   Swapping Caleb for Braelyn
19.   Having to drive two vehicles because we have too many kids
20.   Grandpa Great coming to the party
21.   Dar driving him
22.   The engineer praying before dinner
23.   Bean Salsa getting 5 Stars
24.   Providing a meal for our family
25.   Birthday ice cream jello-cake in the shape of a butterfly
26.   The calculating one’s new hat and sunglasses
27.   The engineer being okay with 6 little girls in his house
28.   Getting more solar lights for the flower bed
29.   Four cousins on one air matress
30.   Four cousins in the hot tub
31.   Having a hot shower after 6 baths
32.   Perfect weather for slip & slide
33.   Mom & Dad helping with errands for the party
34.   Watering the garden
35.   Carter’s seal stunt that inspired everyone to try it
36.   Saving the cucumber plant
37.   Carter & Daniel surfing down the slip & slide
38.   Watching the dads do slip & slide
39.   The engineer burning his back because he did more sliding than he thought
40.   Having a campfire because the girls cousins got to stay
41.   Watching them roast marshmallows & eat s’mores & s’moreos
42.   Timing Braelyn while she burned her mallows
43.   Cowboy gulf with the engineer, the compassionate one and Braelyn
44.   Crush, Mountain Dew, sunglasses & four cousins posing for a picture
45.   Email from Ashley
46.   Grandpa stopping to see Micah
47.   Listening to the cousins play
48.   Canny bucks for bringing friends
49.   NOT vacuuming before the party
50.   Working WITH the engineer
51.   Slippers on in summer
52.   Bakery buns
53.   Free coupons at McDonalds
54.   “Take all the time you need”
55.   Rebekah sitting next to me in the chair
56.   Hanging out with the big 4 in the sunroom
57.   Taking six kids to the lake
58.   Being with the VanKlei ladies
59.   Cousins getting the golden heads out of comfort zone on the tubes
60.   Pizza & movie party starting at 9:30pm
61.   Traci calling me
62.   Family night board game & movie
63.   Water balloons with or without water
64.   Traci sharing Isaiah 26:3
65.   “Normal” routine
66.   Where you are…there you are
67.   Visit with Heather
68.   The Oasis
69.   Humid, hot growing weather
70.   Being an hour from Rochester
71.   Micah’s smiles
72.   Bringing the Sechler three Italian
73.   The golden heads being patient and not whining at the hospital
74.   Knowing we can bring more goodies to them
75.   Texting with mom
76.   Jessica keeping the other Sechler three
77.   Quiet 4th of July
78.   Ginger Pye with the big girls
79.   Meat thermometer
80.   Night to myself
81.   Coffee ice cream with oreos
82.   Able to run 4-miles
83.   Cold shower to cool my body
84.   Clothes wet from sweat
85.   Ability to memorize
86.   Golden heads giving each other pedicures
87.   Cool down in forecast
88.   Clouds to block sun’s intensity
89.   Cooler temps for Celebrate Freedom