Titus: A Poetic Summary {by yours truly}

Well, my women’s small group has been at it for 6 weeks now.  We’ve read the entire letter to Titus.{It’s only 3 chapters.} We’ve listed key words, phrases, and themes.  We’ve looked at each chapter by itself, and have re-written crucial passages in our own words.  We’ve even memorized a section of verses that well sums up the book’s purpose.  Tonight is our final night together, and the assignment I gave our group was to write a paragraph summary of the entire book.

I had the wonderful opportunity of being at The Gospel Coalition Woman’s Conference over the weekend in Orlando, Florida, which I can’t wait to tell you about,  and it was on the plane coming back to Massachusetts that I decided to start writing my paragraph.  I pulled out my Bible and journal to start writing, but the idea of trying to summarize it in rhyme kept coming to mind. {rhyme/mind = poet/didn’t know it} I finished most of it before we landed, and then was able to complete it yesterday while waiting in the local high school parking lot for Cooper to finish up his first day of basketball camp. {A plane and a mini-van = my creative writing spaces and only available moments for sitting still.} So, without further ado, here is my poetic summary of Paul’s letter to Titus:

Graciously granted apostleship, I, Paul
But for life, and by choice, now a slave
To the God Who entrusted me with Gospel Truth
So that Gentiles could be saved.

Dear Titus, you are my beloved friend
Child in faith, bold servant, a brother
I left you behind there in Crete
To set the new churches in order.

So, appoint church leaders in every city
Men above reproach, godly elders, mature
Faithful husbands, selfless fathers, good stewards
Grounded in truth, and a faith that endures

They must teach and defend sound doctrine
It’s of utmost importance, you see
On that island where Cretans and Jews
Misconstrue customs and create heresies.

And speaking of sound doctrine, Dear Titus
Here’s one very important way
That the church should proclaim the Gospel
But not only by the words that they say.

The men should trust Christ in their leadership
For dignity, steadfastness, faith, and love
They should always exemplify good deeds
And live blamelessly by grace from above.

The women should also be reverent
Not given to gossip or addicted to wine
They should focus first on creating their homes
Being pure, submissive, and kind.

Teach all the Christians in Crete to obey
Its leaders, its rulers, its laws
They should never speak evil of others
But be gentle and choose peace with all.

Encourage in each a humble heart
That recalls its former condition:
Foolish, hateful, disobedient, deceived
Until His mercy accomplished salvation.

With proper roles, leadership, and good works
All Gospel-born and grace-transformed
Not only are Crete’s churches and people profited
But the Gospel of Christ is beautifully adorned.

Along with our study of Titus, we’ve been reading this book, which covers in expanded detail the seven virtues that the older women are encouraged to teach the younger women in the second chapter of Titus. To be honest, it’s not an easy book for some to readily embrace on their first exposure to the principles of biblical manhood and womanhood.  It’s quite counter-current-feminist-culture.  However, I have been really blessed to hear about its fruit in the lives of a few of the women in our group whom I have been privileged to discuss it with over coffee.  Just yesterday over iced coffees at Starbucks, a woman shared with me how she was beginning to try and bless her husband by prioritizing some of his desires for their home.  It gave her joy to consider his temperament over her own, and serve him in a way that would specifically bless him and make for peaceful, relaxing evenings at home.  Another sweet member of our group shared that she had learned so much about godly family dynamics from the book , not having ever really seen those modeled in her own home.

But as usual, I get the biggest blessing by interacting with wonderfully unique women from my church, being encouraged by God’s amazing work in their lives, and by deepening my own understanding of my Lord and His Word through it all. I love my “job.”

Speaking of…Stay tuned for how I got to hang out with John Piper, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson and 3800 godly women from all over the world!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Coconut Chicken Curry {in the crockpot!} {with a side dish of Bible exposition}

 Y’all.  It’s been one heckuva week; a gully-washer of problems and pains. {Pulling out some Texan for effect.}  Honestly, I think it may go down in this mama’s history as one of the top ten most stressful weeks of her life so far.  People, and issues, and more people, and more issues, and messy battle after messy battle, and tons of drama to top it all off.  Honestly, I don’t think you would believe me if I told you the many sordid details of the multiple situations that had to be faced this week, so I’m not even gonna try. I do know I’ve never spent that many hours engaged in intense dialogues over the phone, via email and text, and face to face. I woke up this morning feeling like I had been run over by a semi. The Lord is so faithful, though, and His presence is so near.  His Word has sustained me. Prayer with my husband has sustained us. 

It also happened to be the week we discussed the virtue for wives and mothers listed in Titus 2 as “workers at home.” Oh, I knew it would create questions and controversy and even anger {it always does, sadly}, and by the time Wednesday evening rolled around, and it was time to go to church, I had dissolved into tears and told Robert I could not go into one more battle. {Why does THIS chapter have to fall on THIS week???} I was kind of hoping he would offer to go and lead the discussion for me. He did not. {He’s actually teaching the kids on Wednesday nights for these first 6 weeks of summer!}

 And it was a bit of a heated discussion, but a good one, I think. {I hope.} One thing I know for certain is that when Titus 2 says “workers at home” it really does mean that married women with children should “work at home.” It comes from the Greek word οἶκος, which means house. Now, I know there are some tricky Bible passages to properly translate out there, but this really isn’t one of them. Woman means woman. House means house. Worker means worker. {or guardian or keeper} Women are called, in this passage and several others, to be at work in their own homes ~ and to do it with kindness. Not that they can’t work elsewhere also. Not that they can’t earn money. Just that their principle focus and area of work is to be in their own homes. The word “homes” also does not really connote anything broader than a person’s household here, and the exhortation isn’t qualified in any way except that these are women with husbands and children. They don’t need to be specifically gifted by God for domestic duties, or even receive some special and unique call or vision from Him to be at work in their own home rather than somewhere else. It’s a call on ALL women with husbands and children. And it’s not meant to be oppressive, either. Rather, it is lifted up as a principle way to adorn the Gospel as a woman. 

What? Work at home and draw attention to the Gospel? Yes. Loving my husband, loving my children, and working in my own home makes Christ attractive to people? Yes. Literally, we are asked to practice those things “so that the Word of God will not be dishonored” {Titus 2:5} and “to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.” {Titus 2:10} The cool thing is that the Gospel also provides the only means of living these “good deeds” out: the grace of justification and the freedom from a slavery to unrighteousness.

But it’s still not easy.  To be honest, it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. The tasks are endless and the relationships emotional. But you learn as you go, and wisdom is provided each step of the way even if it’s by failure.

It may sound silly to write all of this in a post about a crockpot curry dish, but I view this recipe in particular as a provision of wisdom from God on this homemaking journey.  You see, my whole family enjoys Indian food.  Interestingly enough, they also all like to eat dinner…nightly. {I know.  Downright selfish, huh?} And I have been trying to honor God by taking a sort of Sabbath on Mondays, which means I’d like to not cook something that requires a lot of time and effort on that day{especially when there are no leftovers}.  I happen to discover a recipe that combines Indian food and ease, and I slot it for our Monday menu. The groceries get purchased over the weekend, and I can still take a breather on Monday and provide a meal that everyone will enjoy.

And I get to glorify God and adorn His Gospel in the process?  Yes!  
{It’s biblical!  See Titus 2}

Coconut Chicken Curry ~ in the crockpot!

4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
4-6 red potatoes, cubed
4-6 carrots, thickly sliced
1 onion chopped
2 cans coconut milk
6 tsp curry powder
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Place frozen or thawed chicken in a 350* oven for 30 minutes or until done.  {You can brown the chicken in a skillet, but that will require more work. I just pop mine in the oven and chop veggies while it cooks.} Chop potatoes, onion, and carrots, and place in crockpot.  Pour two cans of coconut milk over veggies. Add curry, garlic {I had a jar of minced garlic = more ease}, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  When chicken is done, chop it up and stir it in to the crockpot mixture.  *Serve over basmati rice. 

*If you have older kids, they can really make this on their own ~ the whole recipe or just the rice. Both Kayla and Kory have cooked rice this week for various meals. Kayla made an entire batch of chicken tortilla soup last week while I was away at a training in Vermont.  I gave her the recipe and a few helpful tips before I left that morning, and she did great!  It’s a form of managing your home, you know, and training children as well!

The Gift of His Voice

Robert had to leave extra early this morning for a meeting with regional pastors and church-planters.  We usually run together on Monday mornings, but today I went alone, and I went long.  Longer than our usual six miles, because it was a longer than usual weekend, filled with the pain of perceived betrayal, and the exhaustion of emotion and grief.  
We’ve been running a new route lately, too, and we’re hooked on its natural beauty.  It takes us through a swampy conservation area {on a paved trail}, and almost always includes a surprise.  Last week it was snakes and turtles and rabbits.  Today it was a deer literally blocking the trail, and then later the surprising beauty of water lilies ~ lots of them beginning to bloom on the surface of the sprawling ponds.  I tried to pray, and it usually happens easily while running, but not today.  Today was prayer interspersed with all-consuming thoughts, back to prayer, back to overwhelming confusion and erratic wonderings, back to prayer.  Finally, when home was in sight, I just threw up a desperate plea to know the Lord better through all of this, to be able to hear Him in all of this, to grow closer to Him because of all of this

 Back home, I headed up to my room to spend a little more time with the Lord. I read the next chapter in Luke, because I’ve been reading through the Gospels.  I read the book of Titus, because that’s what we’re studying in small group.  I even pulled out The Message, and read its version of Titus. {Don’t tell Josh or Greg. ☺}  Then I started to try and pray about things again.

I’ve never really heard an audible word from God, but the next thing that happened has taken place several times in my life. I couldn’t pray, because this idea, this thought, this prompt kept coming into my mind:  
I want you to keep reading.

I prayed and asked, What do you want me to read?

Psalms, was the “heard-in-my-mind” reply.

Which Psalm, Lord?  I asked again.

93 was the first thing that came to my mind.

I turned to Psalm 93 with quite a bit of anticipation, and began to read.  I was nearly finished with its hopeful words when I noticed that I had made a notation in my Bible’s margin next to this Psalm.  I rotated the Bible to read what it said, and the tears began flowing as I realized that this was the Psalm I had read last summer when this same unsettling circumstance had started. {I was reading through the Palms in order and this was the one for that day.} I had written the date and where I was at the time, and also had written the name of someone dear to me, since I knew that the Lord was using His word to reassure me that He was in control of a heart-breaking situation with them. Seeing the date prompted me to go and find the journal I had been using at the time.  Sure enough, there was an entry for that day. I happened to be in Maine at the time, up early, and sitting next to the wood stove in our vacation cabin while my family slept.  There had been a storm the night before, but it was so quiet and calm sitting there that morning.  I knew He was speaking to me so clearly {floods and waves and breakers and waters? How much more clear could He be?}, so I copied the Psalm in my journal, and began to write out my prayer…

Lord, you have so firmly established the world ~ unmoving ~ that you would have me be instructed and comforted by this Psalm today. Today,  on this morning after the strong winds and rain over the cove and ocean all night.  Today when the sounds of her choices feel like unending mighty breakers in my mind and I can’t easily let it all go ~ or trust you with all of it.  But you are high and mighty and clothed with strength.  You can perfectly reveal yourself to her and protect her and give her wisdom and strengthen her, and you can calm my heart and mind ~ you can humble me and temper my passions regarding the situation.

And do humble me, Lord … sort of a scary prayer, but I do want my prophecy/teaching/discerning/correcting tendencies {gifts from you} to be perfectly tempered, balanced with an awareness of my own sin and equal need for grace.  Please let my motive in confronting and questioning be love and a desire for her to know Truth and its protective principles.

I confess my own selfishness and desire for her to be a close friend and to think me wise.  I want her to think of me as godly and desire that we be each other’s confidant and kindred spirit.

I confess pride and judgment.  I confess anger and any disdain.  Please cleanse me, Lord, and the next time we talk may my tone and words be in true love and humility ~ only words from you.  May she not be blinded or deceived by emotion.   May her eyes and heart be receptive to truth and wisdom. Amen.

After re-reading the Psalm and my prayer from a year ago, I was completely overwhelmed by this morning’s sweet, gentle, reassurance and leading from the Lord.  He had spoken to me.  He had interrupted my prayer to speak to me.  And it’s an answered prayer, too, because so often I say to Him, I’m sorry I talk so much.  I want to listen.  I want to hear you speak.  Well, He spoke, and obviously so.  There was no mistaking His voice this morning.  And there was no mustering up of the ability to listen on my part.  He just spoke.

After I thanked Him through tears for all of this ~ especially the reassurance that this heart-wrenching situation is being fully presided over by Him, He urged me to keep reading.  So I moved on to Psalm 94.

He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke?
Even He who teaches man knowledge?
The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are mere breath.
Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and whom You teach out of Your law.
That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity, until a pit is dug for the wicked.
For the Lord will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance…
…If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
If I should say “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O Lord will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
Can a throne of destruction be allied with You?
One which devises mischief by decree?
They band themselves together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord has been my stronghold, and my God, the rock of my refuge…
Psalm 94: 9-22

His consolations do delight my soul.  Actually, He is my consolation, my stronghold, my rock, and refuge in the pain and grief and confusion.  And He doesn’t have to do any more than He already did, which was rescue me from sin and death, and yet He does.  He reassures.  He gives hope. He speaks.

It’s an incredible gift of grace.

And P.S. ~  The Joy Dare prompt for Saturday was “Gifts that really made you smile.”  I REALLY didn’t think there were going to be any.  It was a dark day for us, filled with tears of confusion and pain.  But grilled burgers and sweet potato tater tots { ! }were on the menu for dinner, so Robert worked magic on the grill, the kids set the picnic table in the backyard, and we thoroughly enjoyed the perfect weather and absolutely delicious burgers.  Then Kayla ran in the house and returned with The Game of Things. {Thank you, Graf family!}  We played a few rounds there at the picnic table and talked NBA basketball interspersed amongst turns. I ended up being to fill in the gift of a real smile three times over:

1. Cooper and Kory impersonating NBA hot shots after making 3-pointers. {we rolled!}
2. Kayla recounting the inappropriate Father’s day cards she had found at Wal-Mart that day {involving the passing of gas. more rolling}
3. “Things You Would Do If You Were a Giant:” 1.) Save Lilliput. 2.)  Run around with my head in the clouds. 3.) Paint the house. 4.) Say Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum a lot and last, but definitely not least… 5.) Fight Manny Pacquiao.

Lots of real smiles.  Lots of laughs.  Such grace gifts.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Mango – Radish Salsa

 Each week as I walk into Whole Foods for the usual four to six items that I can’t really get anywhere else {or maybe for a lunch date with a friend}, I’m greeted by a display of ice packed containers of fresh guacamole and mango salsa.  I’ve caved to the in-house made guac a time or two.  Who can resist when there sits an open container for free samples and tortilla chips offered nearby?  But I’ve never let myself purchase the intriguing and highly appealing, beautifully bright orange mango salsa. {never seen a free sample of it either}

It happened again last week.  The display called out to me to purchase these pre-made goodies, but I walked on by.  I gathered the items on my short list ~ rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and coconut oil ~ and headed to the next store in my weekly shopping routine. As the bagger was loading up my cart to leave, she stuck the weekly store coupon magazine into one of the bags. Once home, I decided to take a quick flip through the magazine before tossing it into the recycle bin when I noticed a recipe for….you guessed it….mango salsa.  And not only mango salsa, but mango salsa with radishes!  Radishes!?  I never know what to do with the radishes that I get in my farm share at the beginning of every season! {except toss them into green salads}

I decided to give the recipe a try on Sunday evening when Robert had a group of men from church over for a cookout and meeting.  They each brought something to grill, and I was provided the sides, so I thought this might be a nice dip for chips and crackers as well as a sweet garnish for whatever meat they chose to grill.  It was a bit stressful, because I was still dicing veggies when the first few guests arrived, and I had hoped to have everything ready to go.  Thankfully, all of the other sides were ready, so I just kept chopping.   That’s the thing with this recipe.  Chopping.  Dicing.  Finely dicing.  It’s tedious, but the end result is worth it!

 One way I know it was worth it, was that my friend Jenny, one of the men’s wives, sent me a Facebook message this week asking for the recipe.  Her husband had enjoyed the “mango and corn” salsa that I made.  We both got a chuckle over the fact that it contained no corn, but now that I think about it, corn wouldn’t be a bad addition to this recipe!

It’s also kid approved ~ my own were gobbling it up!  I think we had about 1/4 cup leftover the next day, and the kids finished it off with their lunch.

Except for the mangoes and limes, we get ALL of these ingredients in our weekly farm co-op share.  Looking forward to making a few more refreshing batches of this over the summer!

Mango – Radish Salsa

1 cup mango, peeled, pitted, and finely diced.
1 cup radishes, finely diced
1 cup English cucumbers, finely diced {I used a regular cuc, and cut the seeds out}
1/4 cup red onion
1/2 small jalepeño , seeded, membranes removed, and finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice {I used the juice of one lime}
1/4 tsp salt

and corn, if you like! ☺

In a medium sized bowl combine mango, radishes, cucumber, onion, jalepeño and cilantro. Toss gently to mix. Sprinkle salt and lime juice over and toss again to coat.  Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later.

Counting One Thousand Gifts ~ May {Springtime & Sorrows}

Even with the many joys and delights of springtime and beginnings of summer ~ beautiful baptisms, baby chicks, backyard cookouts, blossoming trees, and a touch of warmth from the sun, I still found myself writing these words from my favorite book in a difficult-to-write card to an old friend of mine…
“God knows whom He can trust! He would not lay His hand thus on all His children.”
Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward, p. 282
My friend’s son took his own life a few short weeks ago.  He was only 16 years old.  
We weren’t close in high school, but we really connected at our ten year reunion (14 years ago now), because she and her husband (also a high school friend) had become Christians sometime in those ten years post high school. It was fun to share our common walk of faith that weekend.  Lots of Christmas cards have been exchanged in those 14 years with news and photos of their happy family, their ministry (on a church staff for a while), individual milestones, family vacations and more. Facebook messages of encouragement and prayer for our respective ministries have been shared, too. She oftentimes asked how she could pray for me, for us, for our church.
 I’ve been waking up almost every morning with her on my mind.  I have a 16 year old son, too. 
How will she face this day, Lord?  
Lord, strengthen her to face this day. Yes, you’ve entrusted her with this trial, but I’m certain it doesn’t feel like a privilege. Lord, may she not harden her heart because of the extreme grief you have allowed.  Rather, may she find comfort in you.  May she glorify you on this painful journey, even in the midst of overwhelming pain. Pour out your grace, Lord. May she and her husband indeed be found trustworthy in this. Pour out your grace in abundance on their lives, on their marriage, on their college-aged daughter who loved her brother…

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

And there were other sorrows in May…

Another dear friend lost her relatively young mother last month.  Her mom had suffered with physical and mental illness for many years. Because of her mental illness, she always functioned in extremes.  One day she might be grateful for my friend, her daughter.  The next day she was accusing my friend of her own version of schizophrenia, and spewing ingratitude and complaint against the daughter who has shown her patience and forgiveness for 30 years. This is the same friend of mine who cared for her grandfather in her home until he died, carries grief over her infertility and childlessness, and has spent literally hundreds of days in the hospital between a chronically ill husband and father, a dying grandfather, and a dependent mother.

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
Job 13:15

Another friend has been hospitalized with a severe eating disorder after months upon months of various treatments, programs, and rehab facilities.  She wants to get better, but still struggles to see and believe truth.  Truth about God.  Truth about herself. She harms herself and fears relinquishing control.  It’s a moment by moment battle.

For the good I want to do, I do not do, but practice the very evil that I do not want… Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7: 19-25

Another friend is grieving her beloved, senior-in-high-school, 17 year-old daughter, who decided to move out and into an apartment with her boyfriend recently.  Both are seniors, from Christian and church-attending families. Reports of drug use by the rebellious couple abound, too. There have been tearful and angry confrontations, appointments with school counselors, sleepless nights due to anxiety, physical illness due to grief.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress, my eye is wasted away in grief, my soul and my body also.
Psalm 31:9

We had to have a long devotion and debrief time with our kids after the recent baptism service at our church, because the testimonies were so full of the pain and effects of a fallen world. Rape, abuse, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, pornography, homosexuality, neglect, bullying, violence, promiscuity…you name it.  It required us to check in with our kids, make sure they understood all of it, ask them if they had questions, make them promise to share any of these struggles they might have with us, assure them that we want to know, want to be of help and support.  We made them promise that if they ever got to the very dark place of wanting to take their own life, that they would reach out to us for help.  They did promise, but I know there are no guarantees.

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Indeed, it is a life full of sorrows.  There is no escaping of pain on this earthly journey.  The unpopular truth, though, is that it could be worse.  It should be worse.  But it’s not.  Grace ~ extravagantly, miraculously ~ still abounds, and ALL of the above mentioned friends would testify to that truth.  I know, because I’ve talked to each one in person or via message or real snail mail.  All of them, while acknowledging the pain, the devastation, also acknowledge their grace-giving Savior.

Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet your commandments are my delight.
Psalm 119:143

I, the least of all of these faithful sufferers, can also testify to grace in the midst of grief, but I can only pray that when the seemingly unbearable and devastating blows of this fallen world come my way, I will still choose to see His grace gifts.  Trying to practice this now…

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, not was any deceit found in His mouth.
1 Peter 2:21-22
Grace gifts for May…

1. Kindness and care at the chiropractor (tasted)
2. Fellowship with God in prayer (tasted)
3. Roasted garlic hummus and raw veggies (tasted)
4. Beautiful bike trail to run on (flat)
5. Pretty new bookmarks from Karla (flat)
6. A laptop for work and fun (flat)
7. A photo card with an adopted daughter featured! (flat)
8. Invigorating six mile run (before 9am)
9. Spinach, garlic, and egg scramble (before 9am)
10. Tasks accomplished (before 9am)
11. Redeemed fatherhood signs on the wall (in a sign)
12. Latina smiles, love for Christ, acceptance of me (in a smile)
13. Almond butter with flax seed from Trader Joes (in a snack)
14. Joint heirs (in Christ)
15. Abba Father Joy (in Christ)
16. The making of all things new (in Christ)
17. Proximity to many things/places (about my home)
18. Financial provision that is lasting (about my home)
19. Red brick beauty ~ especially in the snow (about my home)
20. Keepsakes from treasured times (inside a closet)
21. Old journals (inside a closet)
22. New shoes (inside a closet)
23. Downton Abbey in bed with hubby (in the dark)
24. Peaceful sleep (in the dark)
25. Calls to prayer (in the dark)
26. New tree swing (outside)
27. Electric blanket (inside)
28. Baby chicks put down for a nap by Kayla ☺(upside down)
29. Desire to provide (about my dad)
30. Desire to spend time with us (about my dad)
31. His health and abilities (about my dad)
32. My camera (held in hand today)
33. Whole Foods bag (held in hand today)
34. Fajitas shared with Kayla for dinner (held in hand today)
35. Opportunity to grieve (about my mother)
36. Opportunity to mature (about my mother)
37. Opportunity to set healthy boundaries (about my mother)
38. Savings on produce for juicing (picked up)
39. Homemade chicken broth (put away)
40. Chicks in fresh paper shreddings (put back)
41. Salvation by grace alone (about me)
42. Many loving, joyful relationships (about me)
43. Happy home and family (about me)
44. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds… Titus 3:5 (in His Word)
45. He pours the Holy Spirit on us richly in Jesus… Titus 3:6 (in His Word)
46. Justified by His grace, we are made heirs… Titus 3:7 (in His Word)
47. New sandals to replace broken ones (in a box)
48. Emotional Purity‘s wisdom for my kids (in a book)
49. New dress clothes for Coop for mock trial and Stu’s wedding! (in a bag)
50. Conservation land beauty (unexpected)
51. Notes of encouragement in my mailbox! (unexpected)
52. Mother’s Day homemade booklet with prayers from my kids and husband (unexpected)
53. Loving and sacrificial grandparents ~ one still living! (from my childhood)
54. My salvation (from my childhood)
55. “Miss Riggs” ~ a loving teacher turned close friend of 30+ years (from my childhood)
56. Agave in my morning cup of hot tea (sweet)
57. Lemons and limes for summer drinks (sour)
58. Dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt (salty)…and sweet, too! ☺
59. Snuggles during a nap (in little ones)
60. Their complete dependence (in little ones)
61. Their simple, easy joy (in little ones)
62. Tim Hawkins DVD re-runs (made me laugh)
63. Date with Izckra (made me laugh)
64. Double date with Ryan and Christie (made me laugh)
65. Encouragement of faith (in community)
66. Celebration of baptisms (in community)
67. Shared memories (in community)
68. A new dinner recipe (on a plate)
69. Rice Krispie Treats (on a plate)
70. Morning breakfast tea (in a pot)
71. New shoes (in a package)
72. Skepticism in a child (hard to give thanks for)
73. Confrontations (hard to give thanks for)
74. Chronic pain (hard to give thanks for)
75. Cross and garnet rings (worn)
76. White eyelet summer shirt (white)
77. His love for me (whispered)
78. Godly and inspiring people (at church)
79. A chance to serve and teach (at church)
80. A home and foundation for my kids (at church)
81. Provision for groceries (in today’s work)
82. A home to take care of (in today’s work)
83. Perpetual new relationships (in today’s work)
84. A long run after being sick (8am)
85. Sunshine to soak and study in (12pm)
86. A cooling thunderstorm (8pm)
87. Anthropologie mug for my morning tea (blue)
88. A speckled robin’s egg found by Kayla (blue)
89. Index card with names of new Bible study girls to lead and pray for (blue)
90. Letter to a grieving friend (given today)
91. Training and correction to a child (given today)
92. Prayers for Bible study girls (given today)
93. Lessons on what not to do (in difficult people)
94. Lessons in creative communication (in difficult people)
95. Lessons in prayer (in difficult people)

Gluten Free Friday ~ Sweet & Crunchy Chicken Salad

We’re finally getting a bit of summer weather here!  We always try an hold off until June to pull the window unit air conditioners out of the attic and start using them, but we didn’t quite make it this year.  Last week we had some high 80’s and HIGH humidity, and this week began with a couple of days in the low 90’s with HIGH humidity.  That makes for some difficult, hot, and sticky sleeping conditions, so the window units have helped!

Last week I had the privilege of getting together with about six different women from my church throughout the week, and the highlight may have been the one who brought her one month old over for a lunch date!  That’s right, my friend Katie brought little Tristan over on one of those humid (but not warm and sunny) days, and we had a lovely lunch visit.  The best part was the LONG nap that Tristan took while I held him on the couch, and Katie and I chatted.  There is just nothing like cuddling with an infant, and I loved every minute of it.  Tristan’s daddy was even here for a visit this week, as he has been coaching Kory in test-taking skills and helping him prepare for the SAT on Saturday ~ a huge blessing to us.  So thankful for these two in our lives!

My own kids were at home as well, and I wanted to make us all a special lunch, so I put together a veggie plate, a cheese plate, and then created a chicken salad from a few different recipes that I have.  My kids love chicken salad, and have even gotten to a place where they don’t mind all of the crunchy stuff in it.  It seemed to be enjoyed by all, and I can’t wait to make it again.  It’s a keeper for the hot summer days ahead.

Sweet and Crunchy Chicken Salad

4 – 6 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (I baked my chicken)
2 – 3 stalks celery, chopped
1 – 2 sweet, crisp apples, cubed (I used Gala and left the skin on)
1 small onion, diced (purple ones work well)
 1/2 – 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp honey or agave
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken, celery, onion, and apple in large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, honey/agave, and salt and pepper.  Add dressing to the chicken mixture and thoroughly combine.  Toast the slivered almonds, and either add them to the mixture as well, or sprinkle them on top.

For a pretty presentation, wash and dry a few lettuce leaves, and place them on a plate or platter so that the ruffled edges skirt outward.  Spoon chicken salad gently on top of the bed of lettuce.  Sprinkle all or a few of the almonds on top for a garnish.