10/17/14

Jesus Is Better | Hebrews 1-2

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(I originally took this photo for The Peony Project's Instagram feed.) 

I have decided to do an in-depth study of the book of Hebrews - to read why, check out my first post in this series!

I think the main thing that I have learned so far is that if you don't understand the Hebrew culture and traditions, you are not going to understand Hebrews.  Which totally makes sense since this is a letter to Hebrew Christians.  I thought I knew a decent amount about Judaism, but there are so many subtleties in the Hebrew traditions, and knowing those subtleties goes a long way in understanding where the writer of Hebrews is coming from.

The main point of chapter one is that Jesus is better than Moses and the angels.

As a modern day Christian I was thinking "Well, of course He is!  Why are we reading about this?"

I learned that this was not actually a given for the early Hebrew Christians.

The Hebrew Christians that are addressed in this letter came out of the Old Covenant of sacrifices to cover their sins.  In the Old Covenant, the High Priest would sacrifice a bull to atone for the sins of the people, as well as his own sins, and he had to do this year after year.  This was a system passed down through Moses, and it was given to Moses by God, through angels.

But then God became a man (Jesus) and brought about a New Covenant that changed everything.  The Hebrews weren't sure how much of the Old Covenant they should keep.  They didn't understand the sufficiency of the New Covenant that Jesus brought through sacrificing Himself for our sins.

The writer of Hebrews was trying to show them that this New Covenant was fully sufficient and superior to the Old Covenant.  It replaced the Old Covenant, because it was better.  In order to show them that the new was better than the old, he needed to show them that Jesus is better than Moses, and the angels who they believe passed the Old Covenant to Moses.

I think my favorite aspect of chapters one and two is that the writer shows with Old Testament scriptures why Jesus is better than Moses and Angels - it's such a smart way to do it since the Old Testament scriptures obviously carried a lot of weight for the Hebrews.

The author of Hebrews goes over so many ideas through the scriptures he quotes.  Jesus has inherited a more excellent name than angels because He is called Son. He made the worlds.  All things are made by Him and for Him.  All things will be put in subjection under Jesus.

And then after all that, Hebrews reminds us that even though Jesus is so much better than everyone and everything, He is not ashamed to call us brethren.  We are His children.

As His children, He holds us in His hand, and through his death and resurrection He releases His children from bondage to sin.

As His brethren, He was made like us in all things.  He was tempted like we are.  And He can aid us because He overcame those temptations and lived a sinless life.

He doesn't give aid to angels, but He does give aid to us.  He became a perfect sacrifice for our sins, and we are His children when we believe in Him.

What a beautiful thing to belong to Jesus.

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In addition to studying Hebrews, I have decided to try to memorize it as well.

I'm not sure why, but I recently picked up a book that has been sitting in my shelf for years, called His Word In My Heart by Janet Pope.  It is all about memorizing Scripture.

I used to memorize chapters of the Bible as a girl, but I haven't memorized any new verses in years.  This book really made me want to start memorizing Bible verses again - if you need some motivation, I definitely recommend it.  The whole thing was very timely, because I started reading this book right as I started studying Hebrews - so it only seemed natural to start my memorization with Hebrews.

Ever since I decided to memorize Hebrews, I've been hearing about the importance of Scripture memorization everywhere, so I think it's just a confirmation that this is a good thing to focus on right now.  I've also realized how much more I get out of Bible study when I memorize the verses that I'm studying!  It makes a big difference to me in remembering the context, and I understand the subtleties of each verse so much better when I can remember all the verses around it.  That is especially useful when studying book that is as complex as Hebrews.

So all that to say, my goal is to memorize a chapter a week.  I've got the first two chapters of Hebrews down.  I'm falling a little behind in my memorization schedule, but I'm working on chapters three and four now to try to catch up.

I recorded a vlog of me saying Hebrews 1-2 from memory, because knowing I have to record myself saying the verses is good motivation!  Here it is - I'm reciting from the NKJV if you want to follow along, though I know I mixed up a couple of the words in this video.


If any of you want to join me in memorizing chapters of the Bible (whether it's from Hebrews or a different book), I'd love it if you'd post a video of yourself saying your verses - then come back here and let me know so I can check it out!

10/13/14

Fun Fall Party Ideas

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It is officially fall!  Like so many people, fall is my favorite time of year, and I just feel like it is worthy of some type of celebration.  This is the first year in two years that we haven't had some type of baby-related celebration to plan in the fall, so I was itching to do some kind of gathering.  I decided to throw a party, and the start of Autumn was a good enough reason for me!

I have a lot of fun planning our parties and figuring out how to make it cute without spending a ton of money.  I have to say, this was probably the easiest party we've had when it came to planning and decorating, because I had so many items already.  I think simple touches add a lot to a party atmosphere and help to make it memorable.

Without further ado, here are the pictures of our party.


Fallpartyinvitations

I like sending out invitations to our parties.  It makes it seem more official to me.  I don't know about you, but I am much more likely to attend a gathering if I get an invitation in the mail, as opposed to email.  That's just me.  So I almost always send out paper invites.

I made these invitations myself.  Several years ago I bought a couple boxes of plain colored cards and envelopes from Target, and that purchase has served me so well - I make so many invitations just from the cards in those boxes!  For these invitations, I created a graphic in Photoshop and had it printed up at Staples (I think it cost five dollars or so).  Then I cut it out to fit into the colored envelopes I had, and sealed the envelopes with some fun wash tape.


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I kept the decorations really easy for this party.

-I bought some fake leaves from Hobby Lobby for a few dollars and hung them from the light fixtures with thread.

-I got some paper straws - they are fairly cheap and so festive!  I stuck them in a mason jar and tied some raffia around it with a scrapbook-paper leaf cutout.

-I made a leaf banner using scrapbook paper, double-sided tape, and glitter (using this glitter method).  The banner took the most time, but I did it with the kids, so it doubled as a fun craft activity!

-I lit some of my fall scented candles.

-The apples doubled as an activity for the party and a decoration.

-I made labels for the food and activities (see below) using our printer, scrapbook paper, and some of the notecards from the Target notecard box.






I've come to realize that I go a little overboard on food for my parties - but it's better to have too much than too little, right?  We called this party a "fall barbecue", so for the main meal we had burgers and brats - then I made a few other goodies.

-Pumpkin Fluff Dip.  Oh my goodness, this was so good.  We used the dip with apples and crackers, and it tasted great.  I think I am going to have to make this one again before the fall is over - the picky eater in the family, who shall remain nameless, actually ate apple slices with this dip.  It's a winner.

-Pumpkin Blondies.  I thought this recipe was really weird (no baking soda or baking powder - what?), but the bars actually turned out really well.

-Leaf chocolates.  My own experiment, using Candiquick, flavoring, and leaf-shaped candy mold.  I thought they tasted good, but I didn't have any red food coloring when I made them, so I was bummed I didn't get to make any orange leaves.  Oh well.

-Candy Corn Fudge.  I used a white chocolate fudge recipe that I have had for years, and I just split up the batch into three bowls and added food coloring.  The idea is to layer the different colors like candy corn, but I realized I should have let the layers set a bit first before mixing.  It ended up having more of a marble effect, but I think everyone still got the idea.

-Pumpkin Pie Popcorn.  Another experiment of mine, using brown sugar, coconut oil, and pumpkin pie spice.  I liked it, but the recipe could use some tweaking before I share it.



My philosophy is that if I am inviting different people to my party who don't know each other, I should have something to break the ice and keep the guests busy.  I don't want anyone to feel awkward, or as if there is nothing to do if they don't know the other guests.  So we came up with some activity ideas - here is what we did:

-Caramel Apple Station.  I hardly ever make caramel apples, so this was fun to me!  I made it easy on myself and bought caramel apple wraps, and some nuts and chocolate chips to add to the outside of the apples.  Bonus: the bowls of apples on my counters also added a nice decorative element!

-Candy Corn Guessing Game.  The traditional game of guessing how many candy corn pieces were in the mason jar.  Everyone wrote down their guesses, and the person with the closest guess received a prize ($5 Starbucks gift card - aren't those leaf gift cards cute?).

- Find The Pumpkins.  I bought five mini pumpkins and hid them around our house, inside and outside.  Once someone found all five pumpkins they wrote down the locations of each pumpkin and dropped their entry into a mason jar.  Then I shook up the entries and picked a winner.  I gave out another Starbucks card for a prize.  Everyone who played had fun with this game, and it definitely kept the kids busy as well!

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As I said before, I think this was one of the easiest parties we've thrown!  It all came together pretty seamlessly, and we planned ahead a bit more so we could just relax and visit when everyone arrived.  I was really happy with the way everything turned out.  A party doesn't have to be super elaborate or expensive to be festive and fun!

10/10/14

Oh Hebrews, You Puzzle Me

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Earlier this year I bought a Bible Study guide for the book of Hebrews.  I bought it because I thought it would be good for me to do a more in depth study on my own, since I usually only do studies like that in groups.

I stuck with it for several weeks, but then I kind of tapered off, for one main reason.

I don't get Hebrews.

I think I originally picked Hebrews because I like Hebrews 11 - the "faith chapter".  I had it memorized as a girl, and it is always inspiring to me, so I thought, why not study the whole book?

Which was good in theory.  But then Hebrews goes into a whole bunch of deep stuff about angels and sacrifices and Melchizedek . . . and I just didn't get it.  I'm not a newbie when it comes to Bible study either - I've been listening to sermons on this stuff since I was born, and I've read through the Bible several times.  But I found myself reading about concepts that I had never really thought through on a deeper level, and I was just confused and not getting a lot out of it.

So instead of trying harder, I just stopped.  I guess I got discouraged.  But every time I heard something about the book of Hebrews over the last few months, it niggled at my brain.

Recently I found my Bible study book stuffed under my bed.  I have been reading more theological books lately, books that make me stop and think - so when I saw my old Hebrews study guide, I decided that if I really apply myself, I can figure this book out.  It might require me to take a little more time to stop and think, but I don't want to abandon it just because it is not an easy book to read.

Not a single word in the Bible is wasted, and God put everything in there for a reason.  I know Hebrews has some deep truths that will be applicable to me.  I just get this feeling that if I dig into it, I'll find something valuable.

So over the next few weeks I'm going to buckle down and really apply myself to the book of Hebrews - and things tend to stick better when I know I have to write about it, so I will post updates here.
These are the study tools I am planning on using:

John MacArthur Study Guide - I have been listening to John MacArthur sermons for years, and I really respect and generally trust his interpretation of Scripture.  I like his study guides because he includes the complete scripture passages with commentary on the key words and phrases, plus questions for reflection.

The Mounce-Reverse Interlinear translation on Bible Gateway - I did a little search on "hermeneutics" (which basically means interpretation of Scripture), and I realized that Bible Gateway has a version of the new testament that allows you to see what each word of a passage is in the original Greek - and if you click on the words it gives you a definition, plus other places where the word is used!  It's pretty spiffy, and as someone who does NOT know biblical greek, I'm kind of excited to get my feet wet with this tool.

My good 'ole NKJV Bible - I've had it for years.  

Notecards - I have decided that I don't just want to study Hebrews - I want to commit as much of it to memory as I can.  I have been reading "His Word In My Heart" by Janet Pope, and it has really been inspiring me to memorize more Scripture, and part of my process is writing out my verses on cards - so there you go.

I'm excited to start this study!  Like I said, I have been in the habit of reading the Bible daily for years, but this is probably the first time I have chosen one book and really studied it in depth on my own.  I'm going to try to do a post every week or two about what I'm learning, so stay tuned!

Have any of you ever studied Hebrews?  Any resources you have used (I know She Reads Truth just did Hebrews, so I might look at that too)?  What resources do you use for personal Bible study?

10/7/14

When Life Is Scary

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Whenlifeseemsscary


I think one of the scariest things to realize as you grow up is that life may not always turn out like you planned.

I know when I was a girl, I had lots of ideas in my mind of what my life would look like.  And as an adult, some of the most scary, stressful times for me have been when my life wasn't looking the way I thought it would.  One of those times was when I wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to get pregnant.  It was hard because I was afraid my life wasn't going to happen the way I wanted.  I feel like I am going through another time like that right now, and not sure if or when things will change - or not sure if it will change in a way that I like.

However, I've come to accept that God's plans for our lives aren't always going to fit in with what makes us feel comfortable.  And if we fight to stay in a comfortable place against what He has planned for us, we might miss out on something so much greater than what we had planned for ourselves.

Of course we don't want to be in whatever difficult situations we find ourselves in, but I think it's important to realize that God is always taking care of us, and His plans always work out.  It sounds trite to say that, and it isn't always encouraging when going through dark times, but it is the truth.

I think sometimes we have to look for the way the Lord is growing us through our hard times, because through everything in life He is working to make us more like Jesus.  When we recognize that as His plan for us we can learn to embrace the good that God is working out for and in us, instead of fighting our circumstances and getting nowhere.

What prompted these musings today?  Would you believe it was a children's book?


Itwillbeokaychildrensbook

Lysa Terkeurst (of Proverbs 31 Ministries) has written a children's book called It Will Be Okay, all about a frightened fox and a seed that doesn't want his life to change - so Little Seed is upset when the Farmer takes him away from his cozy seed packet and shoves him down into the dirt, while his friend the Little Fox runs frightened looking for him.  But they don't know what the Farmer knows - that something beautiful is about to happen.

This book is so sweet for helping kids understand God's sovereignty through life's changes, but I think it speaks so strongly to adults too!  The language flows really well, and it's one of those children's books that is just fun to read to your kids.  It comes out today, and I'm pretty sure it's destined to be a Christian children's book classic.

One of my favorite lines in the book is:

"But the Farmer was good, and the Farmer was kind, and the Farmer was always watching over them.  Even when they didn't know it."

How true is that of our lives?  God is good and kind, and is always watching over us.  He has good plans for us even when it doesn't seem like it.  And even when we are in the thick of the "dark, messy places", He sees the beauty that is coming.  That is so comforting to me, and such a simple but profound reminder from a place I least expected it.

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Note: I received "It Will Be Okay" for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

If you are a blogger and want free children's books, sign up to be a "Tommy Mommy" here!

10/2/14

Why I Tell My Kids When They Are Good

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Earlier this year, I went to listen to a dental lecture on communicating with children.  I was expecting something that I could apply to my job as a dental hygienist - how to talk to kids to reduce their fears of the dentist, etc.

Instead the course ended up being more about a parenting philosophy that was . . . shall we say, interesting.

There are so many things that I could say about what was said in that course, but the main point that I think the speaker was trying to make is that it's important to get kid's to evaluate their own behavior (okay, I can live with that).

Where it gets interesting is when the speaker said that you shouldn't come out and say what "good" behavior actually is.  Instead you should deal with their behavior in one of two ways - either you should describe the situation or their behavior without making any "judgement" on it one way or the other and let them come to their own conclusions, or you should describe it in terms of the feelings you have about the child's behavior.


Examples:

"Oh Johnny, I feel so happy when you take out the trash!"

Child does well on a test  - "You must feel so happy, you tried so hard."

"Johnny, I get frustrated when you hit your sister."


According to the speaker, you should under no circumstances use the word "good" (or "bad").  Things like "good job", and "I am so proud of you" are off limits, because these comments either 1) make a judgement about the child's behavior (which you shouldn't do, because no one likes to feel judged), or 2) they "steal" the pride your child should feel in themselves.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking on so many levels, but the biggest issue I see with this is the inability to help your child establish the difference between what is right (i.e. "good"), and what is wrong (ie. "bad" or "not good").

Of course I want my child to be able to evaluate their own behavior to determine whether it is acceptable or not.  But with this philosophy, I'm teaching my child to base their actions on how it makes others (or themselves) feel.

So what happens when their friends want them to do something wrong?  Your child has been taught to act in a way that keeps others happy - if it will make their friends happy or proud of them, there is no reason they shouldn't go along with the shenanigans.

What happens when your child decides something that is wrong makes them feel good?  Why shouldn't they do it if it makes them feel happy, accomplished, etc?

Kids need a more solid basis for right behavior than feelings, or they will find themselves lost.

I have no problem telling my child when they do something right (i.e. "good"), or when they do something that is wrong.   I'm not teaching them these things because it will make me "happy" when they do right (even though it will), or it will make me "frustrated" when they do wrong.

I'm teaching them these things because I don't make the rules.  "Good" and "bad" behavior isn't based on emotions - it is based on what God says is right and wrong.  I want what is going to be best for my kids, not what is going to make them feel good.

I don't want their behavior based on what will make me (or them) happy or unhappy.  I want them to think of their behavior in terms of what makes God happy.

I want them to come to know Jesus as their Savior, and to desire to act in a way that is pleasing to Him. When they are young, they will need me to guide them on that - to teach them what good behavior is based on what God says in His word.  They're not going to figure that out based on their own feelings - because you know what, sometimes wrong actions feel good.  I have no problem opening my Bible and reading what it says to my kids, letting them know that this is how we know what is right and wrong.

They will still (with God's help) eventually get to the point where they can evaluate their own behavior and make good choices.  But it will be more solid, because they won't be pulled back and forth by the whims of their own or others' feelings.  They will have the Bible to stand on; they will have Jesus, their Savior, to look to as an example.

That is what I want for my kids.  That is what I pray for.

And I'm still disappointed because I never even got to learn any tips for dealing with children's dental fears!  Oh well.

9/30/14

Music City

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As you all know, I started writing for the Tommy Nelson blog earlier this year - and last week Tommy Nelson flew all of the ladies who write for their blog out for a meet up!  I have never done anything like this before, and it was so exciting!  Here are some of the things we did.

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On Thursday they flew us in, and we got to meet Tommy Nelson's amazing marketing team - the ladies we work with regularly, and who planned this wonderful trip!  

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(They had these goodie bags waiting for us in our rooms - I felt like a VIP!)

We settled in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort - and I just have to say, it was beautiful.  The rooms were spacious, and out room had a balcony that overlooked one of their three gardens!

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Before dinner, we took a boat ride through the river system that runs through the gardens - it was so cool.  Then we went out to eat and it was so neat to meet the other bloggers in person!

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On Friday we went to the Thomas Nelson offices and had meetings, and we got to meet so many people from the Tommy Nelson team.  I was just so impressed and encouraged to hear everyone's heart for reaching kids for Jesus through the books they publish, and it left me even more honored to be able to work with this company.

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(All of us with the Tommy Nelson team!)

We went out to Puckett's Grocery for dinner that night.

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(Me with my roommate, Whitney from Rambles Of A SAHM.)

Then we walked around Broadway - we did not go into any of the honky tonks, but as we were walking past I could hear the live music in each one.  It was quite the experience!  Then we went to a boot place that had an amazing deal on cowboy boots.  Derek has been wanting a new pair for a long time, so I got him a pair, and I couldn't resist getting myself some too.

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(See, the turquoise on my boots?  I couldn't pass that up.)

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(Gorgeous night in Nashville.)

On Saturday we went out to breakfast at the Loveless Cafe!  The biscuits were so good.  I don't think I've ever tasted a biscuit like that.  I'm serious.

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(They had these custom Tommy Mommy Meetup t-shirts made for us!  That is my Twitter and Instagram handle on the back!)

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(All of us at breakfast.)

We went shopping at the Opryland Mills that afternoon, and then Johnny Rocket's for dinner!

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(Sporting my new boots.)


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After dinner we went to the Grand Ole Opry to see a show!  I am definitely a country music fan, so I really enjoyed the artists!

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At intermission a lady came up to our rows and had us follow her, and we found out that we were getting a backstage tour!  We got to see the back entrance where the stars enter, the dressing rooms, and the green room.  

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(That guy on the left in this picture is Jonathan Jackson, one of the stars of the show "Nashville".)

We watched a song from the side of the stage - it was so cool!

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Then we got back to our seats, and Vince Gill came on!  It was so cool to see him perform!

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The whole Grand Ole Opry experience was so cool, a once in a lifetime thing!  

We went back to the hotel and I had to get a picture with my roomy, Whitney.  She was so fun to hang out with on this trip, and we actually have a lot in common!  We stayed up way too late on Saturday night talking - I was so glad I got to room with her!

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The next day we flew back home.  I was excited about getting to see my kiddos again, but sorry to see the trip end - everyone at Tommy Nelson made us feel so special and planned everything so well!  I am proud to be a part of this group!

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Check out the Tommy Nelson blog to read more from all these ladies!

To see more pics, follow me on Instagram!

9/29/14

God Is Always Good Review

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Godisalwaysgoodbook

The other week I had one of the worst nights of sleep I have had in a while.  I was up eight times with the kids.  Eight separate times!  In one night.  Needless to say, we were all exhausted the next morning.

The main reason the older two kept waking up was because it was a stormy night, and because I suspect there may be squirrels in our attic.  If it wasn't the thunder waking Gwen up (she hates thunderstorms), it was Wyatt wondering if the noises he was hearing were Ralphie ( I skirted the question because I didn't think telling him there were squirrels in the attic would be helpful).

I hadn't yet received God Is Always Good in the mail at that point, but when I did read through it with the kids later, it made me think of that night.  I especially think the section on sometimes being scared would have been great for reminding the kids that God is always with them!  I did remind them of that at the time as well, but it's always nice when you can read a book together and reinforce something that you are trying to teach your kids.

I think this book is perfect for explaining to kids why they don't have to be afraid or worried - because God is always with them, and He is always good.

This book also tackles tougher subjects, like bullying, death, and why bad things happen, in ways that are understandable and comforting for young kids.  The illustrations are so cute and colorful, and I also loved that each page contains a Bible verse!  I'm adding several of the verses mentioned to my list of verses to help Wyatt memorize.

If you are looking for a book to help your child when they are scared or anxious, I'd definitely recommend this book.  Each page is such a good reminder that God is good, His plans are good, and He is always there to help us.

Preview the book here!

Note: I received this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.
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