Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving Week!

There are so many things, as always, to be thankful for this year.
God has been so gracious to give us so many wonderful gifts - especially His Son!
We look forward to traveling up to northern MN to celebrate this holiday with my family.  Brian and I both keep talking about all the things we want to do & eat (is it super obvious that we live in a very rural area!?).  We are SO excited and this will be a much needed break from the rigors of ministry.

This little man can't wait to see "Bop Chuck," "Grammie Jane," "Auntie Callie," "Uncle Andy," and "Jack & Savvy!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

National Adoption Day

Yesterday was National Adoption Day.
During the last few days, I've begun following a new blog:
This sweet Kansas family is currently in China picking up their new daughter!  It has been such a joy to be "on" this journey with this blog family, and I encourage you to take time to read through their story and prayerfully consider how Jesus may be calling you to "care for the orphans," (James 1:27).

[In love] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ...
Ephesians 1:5

Monday, November 12, 2012

Christlessly Annoying

I was usually standing by his side when he'd tell fellow seminarians, "It's my desire to find a pastorate in the Midwest due to the lack of Reformed teaching there."  I thought I understood what Brian meant at that time, but I really had no clue.  It's only now, two and a half years into our ministry in rural Iowa, that I understand (and grieve over) the lack of Reformed tradition here in the Midwest.

How do I know that I'm finally "getting it"?  One way I know that I "get" what it means to be Reformed is because I cringe when other sources (Christian magazines, sermons, speakers, books, etc.) aren't Reformed.

For example, I subscribe to a magazine for pastor's wives edited by Jill Briscoe called "Just Between Us" and the primary authors reside in the Midwest.  At first, I really enjoyed it and now it just drives me crazy.  In this season's issue, there's an article titled "Help! I'm Burning Out!" by Amy Nappa.  Her suggestions for avoiding burnout at home and in ministry are helpful (such as communicate more, delegate tasks, encourage one another with kind notes/emails, etc.)  However, not once does she mention anything Christian until the last paragraph: 
Especially as you look forward to a new year, why don't you carve out a chunk of time and sit down with your schedule...Decide how you're going to intentionally avoid burnout so you can enjoy the life God intends for you to live and enjoy the people He's given you to love both at home and in your ministry.

That's fine and true, right?  So why are my undies in a bunch?  Because it's so man-centered.  It's all about me - my schedule, my homelife, my priorities, my vision, my my my.  When we lose focus of Christ - who He is and what He has done - that's when we go astray.  I wish she'd encourage us to spend time in God's Word and seeking Him in prayer as we reevaluate our lives to avoid burnout.  You see, all of her suggestions are fine - and some of them probably work - but Christ needs to be at the forefront of a Christian's life - including her schedule, priorities, vision, communication, etc.  I know that I can't succeed on my own, not even to keep myself from burning out.  That's what ministry women need to hear; you can't do it on your own.  Yes, plan; yes, schedule; yes, reevaluate.
But put Christ first because He's the One through which you will avoid burnout.

I'm reading Michael Horton's Christless Christianity now, and it's incredibly eye-opening to see American evangelicalism disappear from before our eyes.  A quote in Horton's book from George Barna states:
In short, the spirituality of America is Christian in name only...We desire experience more than knowledge.  We prefer choices to absolutes.  We embrace preferences rather than truths.  We seek comfort rather than growth.  Faith must come on our terms or we reject it.  We have enthroned ourselves as the final arbiters of righteousness, the ultimate rulers of our own experience and destiny.  We are the Pharisees of the new millennium.

It's so pervasive - Christless Christianity is everywhere.  Even in so-called "ministry" magazines.  It drives me crazy.  I'm praying for a Modern Reformation!  ;)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat!
Last Wednesday, my in-laws and a few families from church came Trick-or-Treating with us.  Aidan was super excited; whenever you'd ask him, "What are you dressing up as for Halloween, Aidan?", he'd respond with, "CANDY!"

Aidan was a parrot, and his #1 pal was a rufferee.
Pre-Trick-or-Treating pics:

 Aidan loves it when Bop chases him through the leaves.
 A friend of Leo's, CJ, also came Trick-or-Treating.  She dressed up as an alligator.
 Aidan would always say, "Hi Man (or Woman)! I have candy, please?"
 At each house, he wisely waited until the big kids were off the step before approaching.
(He was only knocked over once.)

 Yay for Bop & Grammie.
Aidan had so much fun with them.
 "I up so high."
The Laus - a ninja, kitty, and Mario.
 The Haacks - a knight, princess-witch, and alligator.
 Us - a parrot and a rufferee.
"I up so high with Bop."
This was Aidan's favorite way to keep up with the big kids.
He even insisted on carrying his candy bag the entire time - it got so full & heavy, it developed a hole as he dragged it from house to house.

Having a two-year-old is such a blast.  I am so thankful for the ways he loves life - everything is new and exciting.
And guess what!?  He hasn't asked for any candy since the morning after Halloween.
Guess who has been into the candy?
Well, OK, both of us...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pastor Appreciation

I never knew October was Pastor Appreciation month until I became a pastor's wife.  I wish I had been more aware and could have blessed my former pastors in ways that we have been blessed.  These last few weeks, I have been completely overwhelmed by the generosity of our congregants.

Let me share:
  • Gifts of prayer.  Our head elder brought our family up front a few Sundays ago to verbally show his appreciation for our ministry on behalf of the church and pray for us.  His prayer for us meant so much - that's what we need the most!
  • Gifts of money.  Some in the church have been so generous to show their appreciation through wonderful cards and gifts.  I used all of the money for bills except for $100 of which I spent at Pottery Barn for home decor.  What a fun treat that was!  Maybe my package will arrive today!?
  • Gifts of meat.  Many in our church our farmers.  Our freezer is always full of beef and pork - we are so thankful for how this reduces our grocery bill.
  •  Gifts of yummies.  Some sweet ladies are always dropping off baked goods.  And there is one man who usually drops off muffins for Aidan a few times a month.  Now Aidan always associates muffins with Mr. Al.
  • Gifts of grace.  Sometimes this mama just needs to get out of the house.  I am so thankful for those who invite us out to their farm to ride in the tractors, see the cows, feed apples to the donkey, pick pumpkins, rake leaves & ride in the Gator, etc. 
We are thankful to our congregants for all the ways they love on us, pray for us, and bless us with their gifts.  THANK YOU, Zion-ites.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Party

Aidan was invited to a Halloween party earlier this week.  He was very excited to wear his costume and get "CANDY!" 
 Here's our parrot, making sure he's not too close to the girls.

After the game of Duck-Duck-Gray-Duck (which had nearly all the kids running in a circle at the same time), Ms. Connie fed us hotdogs and other goodies.
 Aidan stayed long after the girls left the table, cleaned up their hotdogs and asked for more chips.
Sweet Mary waited with him while he finished eating.

What a fun time!  We can't wait to show you the pictures from Trick-or-Treating last night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Be On Guard

One of the things that Scripture is very clear about is guarding the deposit of the faith (II Timothy 1:14), testing the spirits (I John 4:1), and keeping a close watch on your doctrine (I Timothy 4:16).  Unfortunately, since moving back to the Midwest, I've noticed how most evangelical Christians are not discerning in what they read, the pastors they sit under, or the studies they attend.  I was shocked when one retired evangelical pastor told me he had no doctrinal convictions regarding what church he was now going to attend - as long as it was "Bible believing."  I was shocked when a Reformed woman said she goes to a non-Reformed church in the summer just because they hold the services outdoors.  I was shocked when the MOPS group in Forest City endorsed Rachel Held Evan's new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

It scares me to think that evangelical Christians are no longer discerning; they willingly trust any Bible study or pastor or author as long as they use the word "God".  We have fallen so short of guarding our faith as Paul told young Timothy, and no longer keep a close eye on doctrine.  People are too trusting.

I am not trusting.  And there is a struggle that comes with that distrust.  When a friend invited me last month to MOPS which is held at First Baptist in Forest City, I was torn.  On the one hand, I'm all for meeting other young moms who love Jesus, getting out of the house on these cold days, and enabling Aidan to have some structured social time.  But on the other hand, I hate not being able to go and soak in teaching - I'm always on guard.  The evangelical community has become so undiscerning and spread their wings to accept everything as long as they mention "God."  The MOPS speaker that day (sorry, I don't even remember her name) endorsed A Year of Biblical Womanhood before she gave her talk, and I was disturbed.  Now, I know better than to read what she writes, but what about these young moms who don't have pastor-scholar husbands like mine?  They eat up everything these speakers say.  How can we teach our communities to become more discerning?  I don't want to come across as this all doctrine guru, but I also want women to be careful and to fill their minds with solid food that will satisfy and enable them to endure when the hardships come.

Why do we need to be careful about Rachel Held Evans?  Let's take a closer look at this woman who, as one of Christianity Today's 50 Most Influential Women, has a blog that daily draws thousands of "highly evangelical" readers:
Firstly, her degree is in English literature.  Check out this interview at 1:30:
So why does she write about theology?  Who knows, but she does.  The question is why are women so eager to purchase her "Biblical Womanhood" book?  If you wanted to know about Biblical womanhood, wouldn't you purchase a book about the topic from a Biblical scholar?  I'm all for asking questions; the concern lies in where you go to find the answers.

Additionally, Kathy Keller (who holds a Masters degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) wrote a valuable critique of Rachel's book:

Desiring God also wrote a review that I highly encourage you to read:

So my plea for you and me:
Please be on guard.  Guard your faith  and keep a close watch on your doctrine - "persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers," (I Timothy 4:16).
We sing, "Oh Be Careful Little Eyes (or Ears)..." with our children; why, then, are we so quick to forget our own advice?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Fun!

Garner held Treats on the Streets today; it was our trial run with Aidan in his parrot costume.
Since it was 30 degrees when we left, I bundled him up - he could hardly move and the parrot head wouldn't come up over his head due to the hat and two hoods.
Poor kid!

Kurk, Jenn, and Abs were there too!

So were Nikki, Blake, and Carson:

Off we go!

Aidan walked about half a block before we started to hold up the line.
Thankfully, Mr. Kurk held Aidan "up so high!" to each storefront.
 Sometimes Aidan tested out his wings...

 Yay for fun friends and Trick-or-Treat!

Aidan dumped out all of his candy the moment we got home.
He was in sample mode: Take one bite, open another piece, take one bite, etc.
We finally convinced him the candy would last longer if we placed it in a Ziploc and kept it in the cupboard.
Surprisingly, he agreed!

Then we carved Aidan's pumpkin.

He was no help separating the seeds from the goo - "No hands dirty."
 "I done wif pumpkin."
 "I see Leo."

 But he was back at it when Daddy asked if he could use Aidan's markers to draw the eyes, nose, and mouth.
 Wonderful pumpkin, Aidan!

The parrot is invited to a Halloween party Monday afternoon, and we look forward to Trick-or-Treating with friends on Wednesday night (followed by a soup supper & games at church).  I can't tell who's more excited: Mommy or Aidan?!
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Favorites from Nancy

Author Nancy Guthrie has been my favorite lately.
I've been absorbing all she has to say in her books on suffering and chewing over some powerful quotes.  

The following quotes are from her bible study, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms & Wisdom Books.

Regarding Psalm 42:
"[The Psalmist's] feelings of drowning in his difficult circumstances are not what define his reality but that God's covenant love is his security in the storm."
"Rather than listening to his own desperate thoughts, he speaks the truth to those thoughts.  Rather than trusting his feelings, he defies them.  Rather than talking about the truth of the gospel as something out there for other people, he applies it to himself personally.  He prays to God, and he preaches hope to himself in the midst of his desperate dryness and despair."

In the chapter on Job regarding God's purpose in suffering:
"What allows us as his children to endure it is that while it's painful, we're confident that it's purposeful.  Never punitive.  Never random.  Never too harsh.  Always out of love."

And when God finally spoke to Job in the last chapters:
"...rather than revealing all of the answers to Job's questions or explaining the spiritual battle going on behind the scenes, God revealed himself.  Rather than telling Job what he might have wanted most to hear, he told Job what he needed most to hear...and the message became clear to Job: God is Creator and I am the created.  He can do anything with me that he wants to do with me."

"And when God revealed himself to Job, Job came to realize that the more he knew about who God is, the more he could accept what God gave - even when he didn't understand it."

"The wisdom of God...moves us from demanding from God what we think we deserve to thanking God for all that we've received that we do not deserve."

And more quotes from her devotional, Be Still My Soul: God's Purpose & Provision in Suffering:

"God recompenses outward losses with inner enjoyments" (see II Cor 1:5).

"Our comfort lies to a great extent in the choice of our main happiness."

"God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives."

"Trust is not a passive state of mind.  It is a vigorous act of the soul."

"Trusting God is first of all a matter of the will, and is not dependent on my feelings."

Whew - SO many good quotes - these are just a few!

I'll leave you with a pic of the boy:
 Last night we did a craft with Aidan (since it was too cold and wet to play outside).  We made the ABC turkey in the background - Aidan ended up getting bored so it's more like Mama and Daddy made an ABC turkey last night.

My cute lunch dates yesterday:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Male Bonding

This is what I found when I walked into the playroom one evening last week:
My favorites all in one (close) space.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two-Year Picture Flop

We hired a photographer to take Aidan's two-year pictures last Friday.  I'd spent so much time coordinating outfits and preparing props (his favorite books, red ball, painted a metal "A" red, borrowed an antique Dude Racer from a friend, etc.) so things were supposed to go perfectly...just as I had planned!
Yeah right.

When we first arrived at the park, I unbuckled Aidan from his carseat and thought Brian was coming around the otherside of the Jeep to get him out.  I proceeded to get Leo out of the back, leaving the front passenger door open so I wouldn't forget the diaper bag.  Suddenly I hear the photographer (a young, sweet gal who doesn't have toddlers yet) scream.  I look to see Aidan tumbling out onto the ground from the passenger seat.  Thankfully, I caught him just before he hit the ground head first, but he was still very shaken up.  We calmed him down and proceeded down the trail for "just a few" family pictures (because, this is Aidan's two-year shoot).

By the time we were done with those (just 15 minutes later), Aidan decides he's done altogether.  His cooperation, smile, and happiness are gone.  What about my props?  ALL the props that fill the back of the Jeep!?  I had planned and prepared, but alas, God had other plans for our photo shoot.  Aidan spent the rest of the time either clinging to Brian or screaming & crying (this is so unusual because 99% of the time he's the happiest, most content, agreeable child).

We were so disappointed.

On our way home, I remembered the list of poses that I'd seen on photography blogs and realized we hadn't done any of them.  I also lamented the fact that we hardly got any with Leo in them, none of Aidan & Leo, and none of Brian & me (all of which I'd wanted but forgot about when our son started melting down).

So sweet Brian set up the camera when we got home to take our picture (Mr. Fuss was napping peacefully at this time).  Unfortunately the tripod didn't work:
Gotta love thick theology books!

 Best husband ever and me.
 There's my Leo-man!
(He chased down a senior girl getting her picture taken while we were at the park earlier that day...I've never run so fast in my boots OR seen a senior girl jump up so quickly.  It was so embarrassing...oh, and this happened because we forgot his leash.  Yes, we had all the props and outfits for Aidan but no leash for Leo.  What. A. Day.)
(We totally crashed after this picture.)

Although God deemed it best not to grant us a cooperative two-year-old, he did give us warm(er) weather, sunshine, and just a tiny bit of wind (for Iowa).  Now I'm praying that the photographer got a few good ones...

I'm lovin' my mums.
 This is the first fall I've purchased mums, and I LOVE them!
The pumpkins are from Ms. Margaret (church organist); she let Aidan pick all these from her garden!  Doesn't she grown amazing ones!?
Here's the boy peeking out to see what Mama's doing with the camera.
(Yes, he was in a much better mood this day - back to normal now that pictures are over.)