Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Monday, February 28, 2011

We're Debt Free!

WE'RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!  On Saturday, 40 months after beginning our Total Money Makeover, Travis and I officially completed our "debt snowball," bringing our grand debt-payoff total to $47,873.92.  Included in that total were three student loans, two vehicles, two store credit cards, and three babies. :-)

As exciting as it is to be moving beyond the bondage of debt and into the blessings of preparing for the future (financially speaking), we recognize that our security must always be found in God alone and not in our finances.  We must keep an eternal perspective, knowing that even as we begin saving money for the future, we more importantly ought to be storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)... like Abel did on Saturday....

In order to allow our kids to share with us in the excitement of being debt free, we gave Abel and Amariah each $20 to spend as they would choose.  As I began asking Abel what he might consider spending his money on, he decidedly announced, almost through tears, that he would be using his money to buy something for a couple kids who he apparently thought needed a new toy more than he did.  Travis and I were so blessed to see his selfless and sensitive heart as he confidently and joyfully carried through with his decision.  We watched as he, with humility of mind, regarded others as more important than himself, looking out not merely for his own personal interests, but for the interests of others (see Philippians 2:3-4).

As we enter into our newfound debt-freedom, we seek to--like Abel--be faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to us.  We are so thankful for God's provision in our lives, and we give Him the glory as we scream, "WE'RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!"

Friday, February 25, 2011

The "Dawn" of Laundry Success

In honor of Laundry Day--and in light of the many loads of laundry I processed over the past week and a half of potty training--I would like to share my latest and greatest laundry discovery!

I've mentioned here before that stain removal has been one of my unsolved laundry problems.  Aside from finding that Fels-Naptha works great on baby poop stains (and on the stains that form around the collars and cuffs of my husband's dress shirts, I've recently found), the past several years of dealing with child-induced clothing stains has left me frustrated and perplexed.  The frugal perfectionist that I am, I am scarcely able to accept a stain as irremovable on even the oldest of child play clothes.  I suppose I could say that I've made it my unofficial mission to keep my family's clothing in as "like new" condition as possible.

A while back when I discovered melted chocolate all down the front of Isabel's brand new white shirt, I was determined to salvage it.  I went to the trusty Internet and did a search for "how to remove a chocolate stain from cotton."  I found this eHow.com article, and decided to give it a try--with Dawn dishsoap.  Here are the steps I followed in order to save a white shirt from what could have been certain death by M&Ms.
  1. Run cold water from the back of the item to loosen the stain.
  2. Saturate the stain with Dawn dish soap and rub lightly.  Allow the soap to set for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Gently rub the ends of the stained fabric together to help agitate the soap.
  4. Soak the stained fabric in cold water for about 15 minutes, lightly rubbing the stained area every few minutes to help loosen it.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the stain disappears, and then launder as usual.
Since the M&M incident, I have also used this same stain removal process to conquer both a tomato-based stain (on another cotton shirt) and a black stain which I believe was grease (on a pair of poly/wool dress pants).

Fels-Naptha bar soap and Dawn dish soap:  two common (and cheap!) soaps for the most common of laundry stains!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joel Northrup: Conscience and the World

Joel Northrup, an Iowa high school wrestler, has been all over the news for his recent decision to not wrestle a girl at the state tournament.  When Joel, a contender for the title, drew Cassy Herkelman (one of the first two females to qualify for Iowa's state wrestling tournament in its history) as his first round opponent, he was faced with a decision that put his Christian faith up against his hope of athletic success.  In a move of great character and integrity, Joel defaulted the match in favor of following his conscience; but, all the the world will see is that he refused to wrestle a girl.

Despite Joel's explanation of his decision (in which he stated, "Wrestling is a combat sport, and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner."), the media and countless others are hung up on the so-called disrespect Joel has shown Cassy and even women in general.  Really?  Since when has it been disrespectful for a young man to treat a young lady like a lady?  Since when has it been chauvinistic for a boy to not seek to dominate a girl?

I don't get it.

But, then again, neither does the world.  The world does not understand Joel's decision because it was based on Christian faith and conscience--two things the world is utterly opposed to.  I feel both angry and disheartened as I read and listen to the irrational and hollow arguments of those who fail to see beyond the gender issue they have chosen to make of this.  Admittedly, there is a definite gender component involved.  After all, Joel defaulted on the match because his opponent was a female.  But, what the world fails to recognize is that underlying Joel's decision to not wrestle a female was his resolve to not violate his conscience.

Travis and I happen to know the Northrup family personally, and we can attest to the fact that they are an upstanding Christian family who in no way seek to diminish women.  What a shame that Joel is being painted on a national level as anything less than the fine young man of integrity that he is.  And, what a shame we live in a world that is rocked and shocked by one of the most honorable conscience-based decisions this generation has seen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Potty Training: The 3-Day Method

When I found out several months ago that a method existed for completely potty training a child in three days, I knew I would likely be using it for my twin daughters.  Any method that could guarantee I wouldn't have to relive the 18-month long nightmare that was Amariah's potty training would be worth a shot, I thought.   As it turns out, I was right.

There are at least a couple different 3-day potty training methods out there; but, I chose this one because it was the one for which I had heard personal testimonies.  I purchased the eBook, emailed the author with a few twins-specific questions, chose a start date after carefully studying my calendar, and began preparing myself for what I expected to be the toughest three days of my life.  (Okay, so maybe not THE toughest, but pretty intense nonetheless.)

As the author had warned me might be the case with training two children at once, three days was not quite enough to simultaneously potty train my girls.  Isabel was trained by the end of Day 6 and Elliana by the end of Day 8.  So, while it was indeed a longer process than the method's guaranteed three days, I feel that six or eight days is still astounding--especially after the overly long periods of time I spent potty training my first two children.

If you are looking for a method of quickly and effectively potty training your child, I would definitely recommend www.pottytrainingbasics.com.  The eBook was only $17, and with the purchase I got email support from the author (which was very helpful).

Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm Back!

At the end of a two-week break from blogging, I'm back and feeling spiritually refreshed but physically exhausted.  (Extra time in the Word was refreshing, potty training twins was exhausting.)  I have missed writing, but it seems that I truly did need a little break from it.  There are only so many hours in my day, and sometimes something just has to give.

Thanks for your patience during my absence here.  I hope to tell more about the events of the past two weeks in the coming days; but, for now, I must call it a night. :-)

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Note to My Readers

Dear Readers,

I have decided for a couple different reasons that I will be taking a break from blogging this week.  Not only am I preparing to potty train Isabel and Elliana this coming weekend, but I am also feeling the need for a time of refocusing on my first love--Jesus.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be back at Eternal Outlook early next week!  Thanks for reading, friends.

With love,

Friday, February 4, 2011

Not Fun, but Fruitful!

My mom always says that she can count on one hand the number of times she had to spank me when I was a child.  I think I remember a couple of those instances myself.  Not fun. :-)

No discipline is pleasant, is it.  Hebrews 12:11a says,
"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful."
Chastisement is never fun.

I couldn't prepare a blog post for yesterday because when it came time for me to write, I was busy having some "not fun."  I was in the midst of some discipline from the Lord, and my heart was sick with that feeling you get when you know you've done something wrong.  You know the one.

The thing is, the wrong which I had inadvertently committed and of which I had been immediately convicted was one that I had already confessed to God.  I knew He had forgiven me, so when that awful feeling of guilt still hadn't left me even after several days--at which point it actually greatly intensified--I realized that God was disciplining me.  He was requiring me to confess my sin to the person who was affected by it even though unaware of it.  (As our pastor said on Sunday, sin is never singular.  It always affects both the sinner and at least one other person.)

I felt mortified.  I found myself thinking, "Please God, tell me I'm misinterpreting this.  Can't it just be enough to keep this between You and me?"  But, of course, I knew what must be done.  God had disciplined me in this same way twice before; and as "not fun" as His requirement of me had seemed, my obedience in the matter had resulted in great peace.  I knew it would be the same way this time.  I knew that I must obediently face the consequences of my sin and that when I did my burden would be lifted.  And, it was.

You see, there is a second half to the verse I shared above.
"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11)
The moment I finished confessing my sin to the person whom it had affected, a great weight lifted from me.  That heart sick I-know-I've-done-something-wrong feeling departed from me, and I was relieved and blessed to be past the "not fun" part of the Lord's discipline and on to the "peaceful yields" of it.

I "do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, for [I know that] those whom the Lord loves He disciplines" (see Hebrews 12:5-6); and I also know that "He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness" (Hebrews 12:10b).

It would take several hands to count the number of times that God has disciplined me.  Among them there are a few especially painful instances (this one included) that I will never forget.  They weren't fun at the time, but ultimately they made me more greatly aware of not only my need for continued sanctification but also of my Savior's love for me.
"My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12)
I am thankful that my Father loves me enough to correct me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Refuge

As I write this from the warmth and safety of my comfortable home, the 26 mph northerly wind outside my window is angrily blowing the snow that continues to fall and is causing the 11 degree temperature to feel like a -10.  What a night to be thankful for the haven that is my home, my refuge from the storm.

Winter storm or not, we all need a refuge, don't we?  The mother of young children needs a refuge from the noise.  The husband with great responsibility needs a refuge from the stress.  We all need a refuge from something.  One frazzled mother flees to the shopping mall while another retreats to "FaceBlogging" (as Abel calls it :-)).   One mentally and physically tired husband zones out in front of the television and another escapes to the gym.  We all need relief from time to time, and we have all found our ways of coping with the demands of life.  But, no matter how seemingly effective are the temporal saviors to which we run, they are just that--temporal.

There is only one Savior who is a sure bet.  There is only One on whom I can rely to never fail me.  There is only One who will be there to help me no matter what happens.  What an assurance is mine when I reflect on the fact that "God is [my] refuge and strength, [my] very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1)!  What joy I feel in knowing that I can "trust in Him at all times... [and] pour out [my] heart before Him... [because] God is a refuge for [me]" (Psalm 62:8)!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not Done, But... Over!

About three months ago I became convicted that I was spending too much of my time online and not enough on task; and, with a renewed focus, I began taking extra effort to not "eat the bread of idleness" (see Proverbs 31:27).  The changes I made were spurred on by nothing more than a simple desire to live out the Word of God.  I gave no thought to what the rewards of obedience might look like (or even if there would be any); but, I must testify after the fact that there have been benefits of "look[ing] well to the ways of [my] household" (Proverbs 31:27)--benefits that go beyond the obvious pleasure of having a neat, clean home.

They say that a mother's work is never done--and, indeed, it isn't.  There is always "just one more thing" (or twenty) that we could do.  So, no, a mother's work is never done.  But... it can be over.

There are for me certain tasks that almost have to be completed before I can call it a day.  This has only ever been a problem for my family when too much of my work spills over into the evening hours because I failed to work hard enough during the day.  Too much of my day wasted in idleness meant that the time of day that should have been spent relaxing and enjoying my family (evening) was instead spent doing the most necessary of the stuff that should have been done earlier in the day.  The elimination of this problem has been the greatest reward for my increased efforts to "look well to the ways of my household."

At the end of a busy and successful day (where success is measured by the number of items checked off my list :-)), I not only have fewer tasks that must still be done but I also have greater peace in just being done.  I know that I have accomplished much during the day, and I know that I will be working hard to accomplish much again the next day; and that allows me to see my work--while never "done"-- as simply "over" for the day.

The peace and joy I feel in my heart each evening while sitting carefree on the floor enjoying my kids and engaging with my husband is just another confirmation to me that God's ways are better than mine.  I have eaten the bread of idleness, and I have tasted the fruit of hard work.  With God's help, I'll stick with the fruit.
"She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31:27)

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