Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

In-Laws, Illness, and Insight April 14, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 3:18 pm
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Hoping that you all had a wonderful and blessed Easter!

My in-laws joined us for the week of Easter. Their presence in our home is always a blessing. They live about 14 hours away, so my children eagerly look forward to their visits. Both my mother and father in-law have been blessed with the gift of generosity–and not just a regular generosity: but a this-can-only-come-from-faith kind of generosity.

My mother-in-law in particular is an inspirational woman of faith. She spent the first half of her life in a small village in South Korea. She met and married my father-in-law while he was stationed there during his time in the military. The whole family moved back to the States when my husband was about five.

The Korean culture is very much a part of our family because of the influences of my mother in-law. She jokes that my father in-law is in fact a asian man in a white man’s body. We had a wonderful dinner together at the Wu-Jung, the best Korean restaurant in our area. As is common with most fantastic restaurants; it is an unassuming  little place that would never catch your attention from the outside. People wait for hours during the dinner rush, and there is always a constant stream of people picking up takeout We decided to go there for lunch. Once inside we removed our shoes and took out seats on the floor. My mother in-law proceeded to order an array of savory dishes which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace. I love this style of dinning for my kids because when sitting on the floor kids can engage in their normal fidgeting and moving about without being disruptive. Makayla also got several lessons in cooking from her Halmoni  (grandmother). Theirs is a special relationship. She is extremely patient when teaching the kids.

Unfortunately, my husband was abed for most of his parents visit. Henry woke up one morning with partial facial paralysis and extreme vertigo. The doctor diagnosed him with Bell’s Palsy and a virus. All the information we got from doctors over the week was conflicting and rather ambiguous. My husband has been speaking out a full healing for himself. He refuses to believe the lie that he is sick. It has blessed me so much to see his faith during this time. Rather than beg God for a healing, we are trusting that it was already accomplished on the cross, and that Henry’s healing is forthcoming. I know that this is going to help Henry, and those around him, to have a powerful revelation of God’s healing power.

If you are sick, or someone in your life is dealing with illness, here are some scriptures you can speak out:

* Psalm 107:20 “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Jesus is the Word!)

* Mark 11:22-24 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Use your words carefully! Do not speak discouragement, speak healing and healthy. Do not cut one another down, but speak love and encouragement)

* Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,  And by His stripes we are healed.” (Write this verse on your heart! Christ died for our sins and our healing)

* Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Believe!)

While sitting in church this past Easter morning I kept thinking of the following line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; “Marley was dead to begin with…The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

The same is true of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We must pray for a full revelation of the Easter story, because unless it is distinctly understood, nothing else matters–not the tithing, not the bible study, not the fellowship, not the service, nothing. Nothing wonderful can come of the story unless we understand that Jesus was dead, and that He rose, because the same power resides in us through the Holy Spirit. All healing and salvation was accomplished on the cross–this is the God’s wonderous story, and it is the foundation of the insight and revelation He longs to give us.

Be blessed,

 

Stephanie

 

The Fickle Season Of Lions and Lambs April 1, 2012

Filed under: faith,Family,Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 6:40 pm
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Here in New Hampshire we have ended the fickle month of March, which as the old adage goes; comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The uncertain nature of this season can leave us all wary, because we are not sure if the lion has in fact left and if the lamb is here to stay. The beastly winter storms give way to the gentle lamb of green sprouts and warm rains, but any old fashion New Englander knows that the lion can return, unexpected and with a vengeance.Many of us refuse to put away our winter clothes, knowing we made need them at any  moment. While at the local garden center this week I joked with an older woman over the pansies that we may be acting on an overly optimistic impulse  with our flower purchases. The mothers pushing babies at the park declared that

“We should enjoy this warm weather now–because it could very well be snowing next week.’

We all nodded in agreement, because this warm weather could be snatched away at any minute.

Observing all this has made me think how this fickle season is so unlike the kingdom of God. Unlike March in all its unpredictability, the Kingdom of God unshakable and unchanging. His character is eternal, His promises are not fleeting, and once we abide in that kingdom, nothing can snatch it away. There is a sharp contrast between God’s kingdom and the world we live in: and the weather is not the only thing that is given to unpredictability. This past week the lottery jackpot was upwards of a half a billion dollars. People bought tickets with the fantasy that they could become a millionaire overnight (myself included). How like the American dream; our national ethos that by simply being born here we are guaranteed entry into the middle and upper class. We believe that we have the right to prosperity and success; without necessarily having to work for it. We have all been sold this bill of goods; this idea that riches will bring us happiness, this idea that our self-worth is inherent on college degrees, car titles, and paychecks. This American dream was a roaring lion in the 1990’s with the technology boom. But, what do we see happening now? People are realizing that this dream is not consistent, it is not stable, and it is given to erratic changeableness. Our riches can be gone in a second; snatched away by bad investments and failed businesses. What was once a roaring lion is now a meek and humble lamb.

Please do not misunderstand me here: I love my country. I thank God that I live in a place where I am not subject to abuse and oppression, where I am free to share my faith with others and to worship openly. I also know that simply because I am an American, and because I have a home and a car and food in my kitchen, I am in fact among the world’s wealthy elite. I am rich, and not just in a spiritual sense, and if you are reading this so are you. However, I know that many  have fallen victim to this American dream. They invested in the world’s economy and were left disappointed. We are called to be good stewards of what we have, and I would be lying if I said I never prayed to God about my husbands work life. I pray about Henry’s work life all the time, I pray that God would bless him with sales and opportunity. I do however know that our true investments are in God’s kingdom.

Because we are blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12: 1-3)

We sometimes confuse our ‘blessings’ with the materials things that are given to us. Blessings are way more than money and belongings. Blessings are the capacity to know God. There is so much in my life that allows me to have a relationship with the Lord. I am blessed that I have time to spend in fellowship with other believers. I am blessed that I am educated enough to read God’s word and study it. I am blessed that my husband earns enough money so that I might stay home with our children and be actively involved with ministry.

I will say it again: we are blessed to be a blessing.

All that God gives us we can use to bless others, that is helping them to know God better. If you invest your time and energy in God’s kingdom, you will not be left bankrupt. If you plug into the Jesus dream, rather than the American dream, you will certainly not be left disappointed. If we get too caught up in the American dream we are in danger of becoming  that camel trying in vain  to squeeze its enormous hump through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24).We can become bogged down with the never-ending desire for ‘things’. Once we get the shiny new ‘thing’ we desire, we cross it off the list and move onto the next ‘thing’. This desire can become insatiable and distracting. We will never be satisfied if we desire materials things. However, if we seek after the kingdom dream, we find ourselves thirsting and longing for Jesus. This is a healthy desire!

There does not have to be any fear or hesitation when investing your time and blessings in God’s economy. You don’t have to feel like the gardener who is worried that by planting her garden, the frost may come and destroy her work. No, God promises us that we will bear fruit.

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

 to loose the chains of injustice  

  and untie the cords of the yoke,

 to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

 and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter

 when you see the naked, to clothe them,   

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,  

 and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,  

  and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;   

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,   

 with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry   

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,   

 and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;   

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land   

 and will strengthen your frame.

 You will be like a well-watered garden,

   like a spring whose waters never fail.

 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins   

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called repairer of Broken Walls,   

 Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58

This is perhaps one of my favorite verses. When I feel tired and worn out I remember that God promises strength to those living their lives according to His will. He promises that we will be a beautiful thriving garden watered by His very spirit.

There are lions and lambs in our world. There are roaring beasts that can consume us. There are also quiet lambs that can secretly creep into our lives and cause us to misstep. In the kingdom of God however, the lion and the lamb are one in the same.

“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.” Revelation 5:5

“Worthy us the Lamb who was slaughtered–

To receive power and riches

and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and blessings.” Revelations  5:12

We live in an ever-changing world. The seasons here in New England are unpredictable and erratic. Everything seems subject to change and even disposable. What is hot and trendy today is forgotten tomorrow. We change our hair, our homes, our friends, our spouses, and our politics. amidst this whirlwind of erratic change however, there is one place we have a guarantee of return on our investment, a promise of thriving spring,  and that place is God’s kingdom, because there is no difference between the lion and the lamb and there are no fickle seasons. His promises are eternal and His character is steadfast. His love for us is unending and His dreams for us will not leave us disappointed.

“For I am the Lord; I do not change.” Malachi 3: 6

 

Starting Small March 30, 2012

Filed under: Books,Creativity,Family,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 1:34 am
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I have been wanting to share how we are ‘scratching the homeschool surface’ as it were. I am a certified teacher and hold a master’s degree in secondary education. Because I eat, live, and breath teaching and learning, we have chosen to homeschool our children. There are many other reasons, that I may go into in a later post. For now, I just want to share what it is we do each week.

This is our learning ‘space’. In reality however, we learn all over the house. I have this space designated for learning and teaching for organizations’ sake. Henry built our learning table. We created a vertical art and project station with items purchased from Ikea (stinking love that store).  We spend time here in the morning going over the date, weather, our letter/sound of the week, and our memory verse. We have been working on a bird watching station, but have yet to attract an actual bird.

We also keep most of our children’s books here. I love displaying the books on these picture ledges because I think it entices children to read, and is visually stimulating. We go to the library several times a week and keep our loaner books in one basket and our personal books in the other. The themes we are studying at the moment are ancient Egyptians, Seeds, and Elephants. Makayla always selects some pleasure reading books on  topics she is interested in as well.

This week we have been learning about the letter F. We made this nest out of paper mache, and then made this cute little bird family. Makayla named them Fluffy, Mr. fluffy, and Cheeky. I try to emphasize the sound of the letter, rather than the name. So we do activities and emphasise the sound, as in feather and fort! Makayla likes cutting and gluing (who doesn’t?) so we usually do a collage based on our letter/sound as well. I am working on basic math skills with some manipulative and everyday objects. Makayla loves to sort and categorize.

As  you can see, we are really just beginning to get the feel for homeschooling. I know the actual structured curriculum and such will not come for a few years. For now we are just getting comfortable and trying to figure out what type of routine will work for our family. I have been thinking about homeschooling since Makayla was a baby. As soon as she was born,  I knew there was no way I was going to hand her over to someone else at age 5, and essentially surrender my family’s rhythm and schedule. I love the ebb and flow of our learning as it is now, there is a natural flow from reading, to crafting, experimenting, and impromptu learning moments.

Happy Learning and Teaching,

Stephanie

 

Preparing a Child’s Heart for Easter March 25, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House,Lesson Plans,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:37 am
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Lent is a time of preparing our hearts and homes for Easter and the celebration of the Risen King. As moms, we should also make it a point to prepare our children’s hearts and foster a sense of anticipation for this most blessed and miraculous event.

This year I did two things, created a set of resurrection eggs and planted an Easter garden. The eggs are used in a daily object lesson in the 11 days prior to Easter morning. The Garden is a representation of Jesus’s tomb and a hands on way for children to engage in the Easter Story.

To make our Easter Garden Makayla and I filled a shallow glass bowl with rocks and then soil. We partially buried a small terra-cotta pot to serve as the tomb (I have seen Easter Gardens with actual  caves that people either made or bought at an aquarium supply store). We planted cat grass which grows fast, and also thrives indoors. For some detail, we created a path leading up to the tomb, placed a cross on the ‘hill’,  and put a small Lamb in the tomb to represent Jesus.

This is (hopefully) what it will look like when the grass grows.

The garden can serve as the focal point for another tradition; using resurrection eggs. Resurrection eggs are a series of plastic Easter eggs that are filled with objects and a corresponding scripture. You can either hide them and open them all on Easter morning, or place one near the garden each morning and have a sort of Easter advent. I like the later option because it creates anticipation, and you can spend more time with each element of the story.

You will need to find objects to fill the eggs with, and I am certain you have all of these things in your home already. If you do not, you can make an appropriate substitution. You can buy resurrection egg kits already made, but I like creating my own. There are lots of different ways to do it, this is just mine. So if you do want to make your own set, be creative and make yours unique for your family.

 

Here are the directions for making the resurrection eggs I put together for my family.

Egg #1:

Message — Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people waved palm branches.

Scripture — Matthew 21:1-11
Object– A donkey or a palm branch

Egg #2:

Message — Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.
Scripture — John 12:2-8
Object — A small perfume bottle or cotton ball sprayed with perfume. (There is a very strong connection between smell and memory, so anytime you can incorporate smell  into a lesson you should do it!)

Egg #3:

Message — Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples.
Scripture– Matthew 26:17-19

Object– A piece of bread

Egg #4:

Message — Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Scripture– Matthew 27:3
Object– 3 dimes or plastic “silver” money

Egg #5:

Message — Jesus carried His own cross.

Scripture– John 19:17

Object – A cross

Egg #6:

Message — Soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head.

Scripture– John 19:2
Object– a branch with thorns

Egg #7:

Message — Soldiers parted Jesus’ garments and cast lots for His coat.

Scripture– John 19:23

Object– Dice

Egg #8:

Message — Jesus was nailed to a cross and pierced in His side.

Scripture– John 19:18,37 & John 20:25-29
Object– A nail and/or a small play sword from an action figure

Egg #9:

Message — They gave Jesus vinegar mixed with gall on a sponge to drink.
Scripture– Matthew 27:34
Object– A small sponge soaked in vinegar. (make sure the sponge is dry when you put it on the egg,  you just want the vinegar smell)

Egg #10:

Message — Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.
Scripture –John 19:40
Object– a roll of gauze (the kind you would find in a first aid kit) and some spices

Egg #11:

Message — The stone covering Jesus’ tomb was rolled away.
Scripture– John 20:1
Object — A rock

Egg #12:

Message — The tomb was empty,  He was not there. He has risen!
Scripture– John 20:6-7
Object — Nothing! The tomb is empty!

I play to place one of the eggs near our Easter Garden each morning. As part of our homeschool lesson  Makayla will open the egg and then I will share the story with her and read the scripture from our illustrated family bible.  Also,  some of the items can be added to the garden or placed in the tomb; for example the  shroud from egg #  10 can be left behind on Easter morning and the rock from Egg # 11 can be rolled away to reveal the empty tomb.

These are just two examples of ways we can honor God in our traditions, and make sure that the focus is on Him, rather than some made up story about a rabbit! I hope you have a blessed Easter season creating memories with your family.

There are many different ways to create resurrection eggs and an Easter Garden. Here are some links to some other versions of these ideas.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/03/a-family-christian-activity-for-easter-make-a-grace-garden-a-visual-parable/

http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/non-editible/other-non-edible/easter-garden.html#.T2dkLwUIHNs.pinterest

http://www.rainbowcastle.org/resurrectioneggs.html

http://www.livingonadime.com/recipes/reseggs.html

 

Table Art March 24, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Hospitality,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:55 pm
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One of my favorite parts of cooking a special  meal for people is creating a tablescape. My husband built our diningroom table; it is beautiful and one of a kind. Similar to what are sold in high ends stores as ‘farmer’s tables’ it was built with left over wood. It has a beautiful wood grain and deep knots, along with some dings and scratches my husband calls ‘character’. Because we love our table so much, I almost never use an actual tablecloth. Instead, I like to create themed centerpieces with some unexpected elements.

Today we started making the centerpiece for Easter. I wanted lots of colored eggs, so we made a batch first thing this morning. Makayla watched in awe as I poked each egg and blew the yolk and white out into a bowl (the dogs were lucky this morning and had 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast.) I used a regular store-bought kit to dye the eggs, but I added some lemon juice to mute the colors into a more pastel tone.

Next I wanted to creat some terrariums. I should preface the remainder of this post with an admission: I am incapable of keeping a house plant alive. Even the heartiest breed of plant fail to thrive under my care. I decided to try putting together some terrariums because they apparently ‘thrive on neglect’. Perfect! I can neglect a houseplant! I went to the garden center this morning and bought some plants. The key is to select an odd number of plants (odd numbers are always more esthetically pleasing) of varying heights, colors, and textures. I could not tell you the names of the plants, I just picked them based on the above criteria.

You can use any glass container to make a terrarium. I had some around the house and just picked a few with a wide mouth.  You need to fill the bottom with small rocks for drainage. Makayla helped with this part.

Now you can start arranging the plants. Be sure to have a front and back view for the terrarium. There are lots of other steps if you are a more serious terrarium-builder. Because this is my first attempt at terrarium making, I did not want to purchase lots of expensive supplies. I will include a link at the bottom if you want a real professional instructions on how to do this.

The really fun part is to hide little objects inside the terrarium, like small animal figurines and seasonal items. I put some eggs and decorative rocks in mine, and these adorable little birds. Makayla and I put together a couple smaller terrariums and then arranged them all on an antique wooden tray on the dinning room table. We added the colored eggs to complete our centerpiece. Now all we have to do is neglect them! The only care they need is sunlight and the occasional squirt of water.

I love how the centerpiece came out because it is short enough not to obstruct the view around the table, and it is interesting. There are lots of little hidden details and unexpected elements. This was a really fun project and totally kid friendly.

Here is a link to everything you need to know to build you own terrarium.

http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/

Happy Spring!

 

Eggplant and Avocado ‘Burger’ March 22, 2012

Filed under: Family,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:04 am
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I am about halfway through a 30 day vegan challenge; which truth be told has not been very challenging at all. Vegan cooking is so simple: the basic flavors and qualities of a food becomes the centerpiece making lots of fancy cooking techniques and expensive ingredients unnecessary.

Tonight I came up with this recipe based on what was left in the kitchen at the end of my shopping week. I was so pleased with how it came out I had to share. It features eggplant and avocado. Eggplants are fantastic, and they have such a unique texture which I find rather ‘meaty’.  Avocado on the other hand has a sort of buttery quality which complimented the eggplant perfectly. The recipe also calls for vegan mayonnaise, which I have just recently discovered and love. I recommend the brand pictures above.

Ingredients:

one eggplant

one ripe avocado

4-6 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

fresh basil

fresh rosemary

grape seed oil

diced tomato

bread crumbs

sea salt

#1. Peel an avocado and place it in small bowl. Add  2-4 tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise and mash. Add diced tomato and stir. Chill until eggplant is ready.

#2. Mix about a half a cup of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of sea salt, and a two tablespoons of fresh herbs finely chopped–I used basil and rosemary.

#3. Slice the eggplant into circles. Spread vegan mayonnaise on each side and then press into the breadcrumb mixture. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet of the same size and use this to cook the eggplant slices.

#4. Drizzle a small amount of grape seed oil on each slice, and broil until golden brown on one side. Remove from oven and flip.  Drizzle the other side with grape seed oil. Broil this side until golden brown.

#5. Serve eggplant slices topped with avocado mixture.

Happy Vegan Eating

 

More than Shamrocks and Snakes: The Real Saint Patrick. March 16, 2012

Filed under: Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:02 pm
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A few years ago I learned the story of the real Saint Patrick. His story is amazing, and a shining example to all of us believers. He was a humble man who lived a life marked by complete obedience and trust in God. I would like to share his story with you, so that  you too may know the real story of Saint Patrick’s day (if you don’t already). unfortunately, this story has managed to get lost amidst a sea of shamrock t-shirts, beer, and corned beef; it is a real shame.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Guinness just as much as the next person, but I think understanding the true history gives the annual remembrance a much deeper meaning, and recognizes God’s hand throughout history as well as His love for all people.

Patrick was born in the 5th century to Roman parents, who were living in Britain, a then Roman colony. At the age of 16 Patrick was kidnapped my Irish bandits and sold into slavery. For six years Patrick worked as a herdsman in the Irish hills. In the face of isolation, starvation, ill-treatment, and total loss of freedom, Patrick turned to God. He spent his entire days communing with God, and ultimately trusting that God had not abandoned him. It was while sleeping on one of these hills, that Patrick had a dream of great importance. God told him to go at once to the cost, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. Patrick obeyed, and made his escape to the coast, where a ship was in fact waiting. After a somewhat tumultuous journey during which he was nearly starved to death and briefly recaptured, Patrick arrived back in Britain and was reunited with his family.

Now, one would think that our Patrick would have kept his feet firmly planted in British soil, and steer clear of ships, but God had other plans. In yet another significant dream, God told Patrick to return to the Irish and bring them the Gospel. Patrick obeyed, and with no Jonah like reluctance. He became ordained as a priest and set sail once more to save the very same people who had enslaved and abused him.

Patrick preached the Gospel in Ireland for over 40 years. He traveled extensively throughout the island ministering, baptizing,  making disciples and church planing. Martyrdom was always a possibility, and he was regularly threatened and imprisoned at least once. Patrick died in Ireland, at the site of the very first church he built. By that time thousands had heard and received the Gospel, and many fruitful churches were established.

Patrick has become a legend, and a Saint of the Catholic church. He is associated with Shamrocks, which legend would have it he used to illustrate the concept of the trinity. He is also credited with banishing all snakes from Ireland, after a group of unruly serpents assailed him while on a 40 day solitary fast. Some have recently begun to suggest that Patrick was in fact two individual men, who overtime merged into one historic figure. However, there are two existing papers which Patrick wrote, and the details of his life and generally accepted as fact. How did this amazing story, with pirates, daring escapes, prophetic dreams, and radical obedience and trust, get so lost? I have no idea. Let us all then, offer a toast, to Patrick the great Missionary and Evangelist to the Irish:

‘Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!’

(Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)