Posts Tagged ‘Gospel Living’

When the Gospel Becomes White Noise – Counsel From the Cross Devotional, Part 1

Click here for the introduction to this series.

“Many Christians love Jesus and the gospel but just don’t know how his incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and reign ought to impact them in the ‘real world.'” 

Have you ever heard the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt”?  Well, that proverb is unfortunately true, even when it comes to believers and the gospel.  We have seen our sin, and how it deeply offends a holy God.  We have recognized that our sin caused the death of God’s Son Jesus Christ.  We have placed our trust in the truth that Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sin.  And now we have been restored to fellowship with God, and we are new creations!

But somehow, once we have acknowledged and believed all of those things, we lose sight of the application of those truths in the pursuit of “deeper” things, or some secret to living the Christian life in victory.  The story of the gospel becomes old news, something that we “did,” and now we are ready to move on.  We hear the gospel over and over, and soon we find ourselves tuning it out, waiting for the “good stuff.”  We already  know the gospel.  Why do we need to hear it again and again, and how will it do us any good? Because of our familiarity with the truth, we stop allowing it to change our hearts.

In Counsel from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson call our attention to Ephesians 5:1 and ask what stands out to us in it.

Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.”

As humans, we have a propensity to look inward, and a need to try to “fix” our current, sinful condition in our own strength.  We might look at this verse and see the command to “imitate God” and be tempted to despair at our failure to do that.  Or perhaps we will see the command and strive harder to do better at it.  It is all too easy for us to gloss over the “therefore” and “as beloved children” and go straight for the imperative.  But “therefore” and “as beloved children” are placed there for a very important reason.  If we gloss over those words, we miss the very truth that will enable us to live out the command–the gospel itself.  But how is the gospel in those words? You see, they are so familiar to us that we cannot even hear them anymore.

“You see, if certain concepts in Scripture have become white noise to us, it will be all too easy to read a verse like Ephesians 5:1 and see only its obligations.  I, too, can see myself using the verse to develop a list of the attributes of God and then mking a plan to implement those attributes in my daily life…This month I will concentrate on being holy.  I’ll research what it means and then I’ll try to implement it in my life.  Next month I’ll…Because I’m like you, if you asked me what I saw in that verse I would tell you, ‘We’re called to imitate God.'”

Our ability to block on what is familiar to us can cause us to miss life changing truths.  “We will be quick to strip out the familiar and boil down Scripture to a tidy little take-away list of do’s and don’ts.”

The key to understanding where the gospel is in this verse is by reading the verse immediately preceding it, which the “therefore” points to.  Ephesians 4:32 says that “God in Christ has forgiven us.”  Oh, what a glorious, beautiful truth! We have been forgiven!  Ephesians 5:1 ought to inspire in us to obey out of love.  That is the only acceptable motivation for obedience.  Anything else is simply moralism.  “When we lose the centrality of the cross, Christianity morphs into a religion of self-improvement and becomes about us, about our accomplishments, and about getting our act together.”

“You might be wondering why it is so important to hear yet again what Jesus has already done…We need to hear it again because if we have forgotten his work on our behalf, it will skew the way we think of him, the way we think of ourselves, and the way we think of others.  In addition, we will miss the emphasis on imitating God’s forgiveness that this verse is meant to communicate.”

But why is the gospel so difficult for us to see?  “Because we are so familiar with the gospel message, it gets shoved to the periphery of our spiritual consciousness and becomes nothing more than words to be remembered at Christmas and Easter.

“We naively press the gospel out to the margins of our faith because we have never really been taught how it’s meant to connect with our daily lives…We relegate the gospel to the back of our religious bus because, although we may admit our spiritual impotence with our lips, deep in our hearts we remain convinced of our own ability to live a moral life…As long as I have my ‘list to work on,’ I can keep my hands on the reigns of my life and on my struggle against sin.”

So how can we fight against the gospel becoming simply background noise?  How can we remove it from the “back of the bus” and put it back into the center where it belongs?  We must preach the gospel to ourselves daily.  We must fill our minds and hearts with its truths.  We must continue to learn how the gospel applies to every moment of every day, giving us the strength to fight sin.  “I need to hear that gospel song over and over again because my soul is like  sieve and the gospel leaks out of it, leaving only the husk of Christianity–my self-righteousness and obligations.”


Developing a Taste for What is Good

I have a major sweet tooth.

Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times.  And they are usually food related.

I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt.  I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night.  When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.

Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.

I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.”  I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.”  I have always just assumed this came naturally for them.  And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.

And then it occurred to me.

That point will never come.

Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel.  No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet.  But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many.  I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.

It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives.  We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally.  If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.

In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.

I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent.  The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved.  What an awful thought!  And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable!  But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved.  And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.

That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it.  At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.

But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism.  We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice.  So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.

James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.

But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food.  I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food.  In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.

But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”


The Idolatry of Eating

Recently, I blogged about why we should celebrate Lent.  Today I want to share what I have given up for Lent, in an effort to encourage you and to be held publicly accountable.
The Spirit has been convicting me lately that I have serious issues regarding my love to indulge myself in pleasant activities.

Especially if it involves eating.

This never used to be an issue for me. In fact, I used to struggle with the exact opposite of overeating. But with this last pregnancy, it was like my “I’m full” button shorted out, and I discovered the ability to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. And I really liked it! And then I realized I couldn’t stop eating. It was just too delicious. My palate simply had to be satisfied further, most of the time, until I had made myself sick on chocolate chip cookies or a half bottle of sparkling grape juice. Or I would find that I was craving something that we didn’t have on hand, I would load the kids into the car and drive out just to get it. If I did not have something I was craving, I found myself descending into a pit of depression.

I told you I had issues.

But as I am working through this and talking to multiple other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am realizing I am not alone in this struggle.  In fact, it seems to be rampant in our land of plenty.

One of the things we often conveniently overlook is the fact that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Food in itself is neither good nor bad.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial.” It is not that food and eating are inherently sinful, it is our heart attitude towards food. Why am I eating? Is it because I am legitimately hungry? Is this food even nourishing, or is it simply fulfilling a lustful craving I have?  The truth is, we can actually be eating out of greed and lust, not a real hunger or need for nourishment.

The problem is, eating is one of those necessary evils. We have to eat, or we will die of starvation! So a person cannot simply give it up.  This makes it imperative to be disciplined in our eating.  We simply must learn to control ourselves.

If you are wondering if you have an issue with food, perhaps you might relate to some of my temptations:

If faced with a particularly doldrum task (like filing and paperwork), I cheer my spirits by allowing myself to enjoy a Pepsi and a chocolate bar. If the kids are not behaving well, and I am tired and stressed, I console myself with looking forward to eating dinner out instead of cooking. When I am lonely or bored, I raid the kitchen to fill my stomach with something–anything to occupy my hands and mouth. If I am gloomy, I decide the perfect treat would be playing games with Stephen after the kids are in bed and eating popcorn and drinking sparkling grape juice, my all-time favorite combination.

The problem, however, is not food. It is my heart. It is my flesh that craves satisfaction outside of Christ. It is my sin that causes me to hunger for something edible to fill a spot of loneliness in my heart. It is believing the lie that that brownie, cookie, or sugary beverage will not only fill my stomach, but whatever emotion seems to be lacking.

As I have been increasingly convicted about this area of sin in my heart, I recognize the temptation to attempt self-denial out of my own strength. And that has never worked before. The Lord has convicted me to give up high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, a sugar that is in nearly everything processed and packaged, over the period of Lent.  And while I am choosing to not eat anything with that sugar in it, to be assessing my heart every time I am tempted to indulge.

To help identify the idolatry in my heart, I am listening to Revive Our Heart’s radio broadcast of “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” with Elyse Fitzpatrick, as well as reading the book as a devotional.  Another helpful resource has been the Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabry’s on food and eating right.

Over this period of Lent, I do not simply want to deny myself for the purpose of self-discipline. I want to rid my heart of the idol of filling up emptiness with food and pleasure. I want to seek God instead and find him to be more than enough for all my desires.  I want to say “no” to my flesh in something as simple as eating whatever I want whenever I want it, so that I can say “no” to my flesh when faced with a temptation to sin.

Aside: Because my hubby was not giving up HFCS and one of our special date night traditions is sparkling grape juice, I made the exception of allowing sparkling grape juice throughout Lent.  But though I am drinking it occasionally, I am checking my heart for motives and praying over it. Lent does not need to be legalistic–it is for the purpose of examining the heart and coming on our knees before God continually as we recognize our need for Him.

Preparing for Childbirth

With the birth of our second little one only a few weeks away, I am beginning all of my final preparations for bringing another baby into our home.  Some of the most important preparations this time around have been actually preparing for labor itself.  While I had a vague idea of the importance of preparation for labor the first time around, I had no idea the magnitude of its significance.  Now that I have been through it once, I am excited to do all I can to ease the way for the second time around.

One of the most profound truths I learned the first time around is that giving birth can be so much more than just something our bodies do after we have been pregnant for nine months.  We can either view labor and childbirth passively as something that simply happens to us, or we can see it as something intensely spiritual and even miraculous, with the God-given ability to sanctify us and make us more like Christ through the process.

In light of that fact, here are some of the practical ways in which I am preparing body, soul and spirit to give birth.

1.  Prepare Physically

Physical Exercises.  Giving birth is a massive physical effort.  Our bodies need to be toned and ready for this incredible feat.  But preparing physically does not have to be a task of insurmountable proportion!  Simply taking a daily walk is extremely beneficial.  Most childbirth books will recommend at least a few stretches and toning exercises to prepare for labor.  What to Expect When You are Expecting has some helpful exercises.  Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor, wall-squats tone leg muscles for giving birth while squatting, the dromedary droop aids in relieving back pain and pressure, just to name a few.  I have also done German Stabilization core strengthening (similar to Pilates) throughout my whole pregnancies and felt the positive effects daily.  Find a routine that is helpful to you and build these exercises into your morning routine just as you do with washing your face and brushing your teeth. You will find yourself feeling better during pregnancy, throughout labor and following birth if you do! You will not regret it!

Use Herbal Teas and Supplements.  Herbs have been used for thousands of years in the physical and emotional preparation for childbirth.  Some of the most widely used herbs are red raspberry leaf and nettles.  Red raspberry leaf is believed to relieve leg cramps, diarrhea, and morning sickness in pregnant women, as well as tone the uterus, reduce the risk of hemorrhage, ease pain in labor and post-partum recovery and increase breast milk. Nettle leaf is excellent to add to a tea around four weeks before delivery to aid in postpartum milk production. I enjoy Traditional Medicinals pregnancy teas.  My two favorite for preparing for labor are their Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and their Organic Pregnancy Tea.    Mountain Rose Herbs offers a wonderful variety of organic herbs to brew your own tea at a fraction of the cost.  Be sure to check with your midwife before drinking these teas, though, as red raspberry leaf in particular (depending on how strongly it is brewed) can cause contractions and even induce labor.  I have been drinking Traditional Medicinals throughout my entire pregnancy with no increased contractions, but as I am at risk for pre-term labor, I am holding off on brewing my own raspberry leaf tea until closer to my due date.’

Visit a Chiropractor.  Since our experience with upper cervical chiropractic care dramatically altered our son’s life, we are new “believers” in the amazing benefits of chiropractic care.  As there are many different forms of chiropractic–many of them not beneficial–I recommend finding a certified upper cervical chiropractor in your area.  Our wonderful chiropractor is Dr. Newhouse of Newhouse Health Solutions, and if you live in our area, we cannot recommend him highly enough!  Chiropractic care has been proven to decrease pain and duration of childbirth, can help align the baby for a safe and quick exit (using the Webster Technique), and can help keep your whole body aligned as your ligaments loosen up during pregnancy. For further information on the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy, visit here.

2.  Prepare Emotionally

Studying the process of childbirth as God designed it has been one of the most amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring things I have ever done! Preparing my mind for what to expect during labor and delivery, how the body works and functions, what problems can arise, and how to work through them, has been eye-opening and empowering.  I cannot recommend enough that each woman study this amazing process before they go through it! With my first, as excited as I was to experience giving birth, I didn’t feel the need to learn much about the process myself.  I expected the doctors to handle that department.  And I figured my body would just kick itself into gear and do what it was supposed to do whether I informed myself on the process or not.  After all, women have been giving birth for thousands of years, right? What’s to know? I actually found that informing myself on the process has helped immensely in relieving fear and anxiety, as well as giving me tools to cope with labor.

Two Excellent Natural Childbirth Resources:

The Christian Childbirth Handbook. I have been so     blessed by reading this book! Obviously coming from a Christian perspective, this book details not only the body’s physical process of giving birth, but weaves in Scripture and God’s good design to offer comfort for anxiety and fear during labor.  I also love the balanced approach to a desire for natural childbirth and the reality of complications or medical emergency making that impossible.  The wealth of information on how God designed our bodies to work in giving birth caused me to stand in awe of our Creator and fall in love with His design.  The knowledge it afforded me has increased my excitement and given me tools to cope with the fear and pain involved.  It also addresses issues at the heart level and encourages belief in God’s goodness and sovereignty no matter how labor and delivery may differ from what you had planned.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth is an excellent tool for informing yourself about the process of birth, as well as what to expect in a normal birth, variations, possible complications, the risks and benefits involved in each medical intervention, etc.  A wonderful resource for understanding all that is happening and could be suggested to aid the labor process.

Take a Childbirth Class

Most hospitals offer childbirth or Lamaaze classes for their patients before they give birth.  These can be a one day class or a multiple week course, depending on where you go.  You can also take more advanced courses on natural childbirth like Bradley offers.  These can be pricey, but they are well worth the investment!

3.  Prepare Spiritually

Labor is, for most people, intense, painful, and exhausting.  No matter how prepared you are for childbirth, the experience can throw curves you did not expect and test even the most educated laborer.  Childbirth brings with it not only physical pain, but emotional fear of the process itself.  Labor can try your patience, perseverance, and pain tolerance!  All of these things can either cause a person to spiral out of control into panic, or you can ask the Lord to give you the presence of mind to allow all of these things to sanctify you and draw you into deeper relationship with Him.  Childbirth can be a miraculously spiritual experience of crying out to the Lord and finding his grace and strength is sufficient when you are at the end of your own.

Ushering a new life into the world and then nurturing that life is one of the most amazing tasks the Lord has given to us.  It is one of the sweetest and most rewarding blessings.  It is also one of the most intensely challenging roles we can possibly have.  I had no idea the truth of this statement until our firstborn arrived, and I found myself sorely lacking in spiritual preparation for all that motherhood demanded of me. I have prayed ever since Jeshuah’s birth that the Lord would use the lives of our children to mold and sanctify my heart through the sacrifices required of me.  In my pursuit of holiness in the calling of motherhood, I have found a couple of books I particularly refreshing.

Calm My Anxious Heart.  Linda Dillow addresses the issue of contentment in all circumstances and its relation to anxiety.  She challenges our hearts to rest in God’s sovereignty in all things and not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with “what ifs” and “if onlys.”  As post-partum fear and anxiety was a huge struggle for me after my last birth, I am clinging to the truths of Scripture and words of wisdom found in this book.

In The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson outlines the importance of the calling of motherhood with Scriptural encouragement to not grow weary of doing good, even when we do not see the result of our labors some days! A great resource to remind us of the eternal value of our roles as mothers.

Comforts from the Cross. Elyse Fitzpatrick has a profound gift for weaving the truth of the gospel into the circumstances of everyday life. With short, almost devotional-length chapters, she addresses multiple issues that we each face daily and confronts them with the gospel.  A delightful, easy read full of long-lasting, heart penetrating truths.

Finally, as you do all you can to prepare your body, mind, and spirit for childbirth and motherhood, come before the Lord with hands open in surrender to His will in all of it.  Preparation is important and it is a wise task, but it can cause us to claim too much ownership in an area we are meant to continually surrender to God’s providence.  We can be tempted to insist that, because we have “done our part,” God owes us a labor, delivery, and baby just the way we prepared for.  But I am reminded of Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  However labor, delivery, and recovery progress, God is good in the midst of it all.

Ask the Lord to enable you to let go of your desire for control in the area of both childbirth and motherhood.  Entrust the process of birth and the life of your little one into his care, knowing that He knows what is best for us so much more than we do!

Further Childbirth Reading:

Embracing the Pain and Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth

Scriptural Encouragement for Preparing and Giving Birth

Preparatory Resources for a Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth

Toxic Talk Tuesday-Laundry Care

Baking Soda

As I continue on my journey toward healthy living, ridding my home of chemicals has been high on my priority list. I find that most of the challenge in healthy living is not in the actual practice itself, but in the process of learning how to do it.  Toxins and chemicals are so normal in our day and age that we don’t even give it a second thought. Most of the time, when we are faced with a new study that concludes certain chemicals are toxic and shouldn’t be used in our home or on our bodies, we may want to change, but we feel paralyzed to actually know how to carry it out. We simply are not aware of any other options.

I stumbled upon Chris Fabry Live!’s broadcasts of Toxic Talk Tuesdays with Andrea Fabry recently and have been so excited by their wisdom, knowledge and passion for toxic-free living.  They themselves have been on a horrific journey of household mold causing serious health issues and have now relocated to Arizona where they are detoxing and learning to rehabilitate. The journey left their entire family extremely sick and highly sensitive to any trace of chemicals.  It was this that sparked Andrea’s quest for knowledge on toxicity and its relation to health.  She challenges people to live healthier even if they don’t find the immediate need, and they will find the benefits far outweigh the labor involved in learning how.  But another passion of hers is making this whole journey simpler for others than it has been for her.

Each month the Fabrys do a broadcast focusing on a different aspect of our lives or homes, identify toxins, and give practical, economical suggestions for substitutions for common chemicals. I found it helpful to summarize these broadcasts and use them to walk through de-toxing my own home. I am not always directly quoting as much as I am summarizing key points and consolidating ideas and suggestions.

Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabrys-Laundry

July 19, 2011

  • “I do have a heart to help people know change is possible. I have discovered something that is so much fun and freeing, too! We know this subject can be so negative, but we don’t want to live in fear.  I took action out of fear and necessity, and what I found is there are great alternatives that are better and less expensive, and you will feel better, but you don’t have to walk around afraid of the world.”
  • Most people hearing this program will say “That would be so nice! But you know, I’ve got the mortgage to pay, I’ve got the kids, etc. I don’t have time! And changing is just–it’s global, we are surrounded, so why would I change anything?” The Fabrys made this massive life change out of health necessity when they realized they were chemically sensitive. It was overwhelming. They had to change every thing from cologne to shampoo to deodorant to detergent. Andrea’s immediate reaction was to go out and buy everything “natural” and “organic” and ended up spending a lot of money and throwing a lot away that still didn’t work for them.  Learning to read labels and identify harmful ingredients was pivotal.
  • You can make your own of pretty much anything. “I know that is the part that is most overwhelming, but that is the most exciting to me! There is a spiritual component, as I have walked through this journey one tiny step at a time, I discovered something very enriching. The focus on most of these products is ‘Look at what man has done, isn’t man amazing!’ And it’s true, there are some incredible things that man has done. I mean, think if we didn’t have insulin for our son! But, when you go back to some of these basic ingredients, plants, herbs, minerals, there is some connection with God that I have sensed is so moving and so unexpected where I will be putting together a mixture of something and I’ll smell lavender and it and I’ll think ‘He made that! And it smells so good!’ It’s just taken me to a level that I didn’t expect.”
  • In the end, you will not only feel better, but in the end, it’s less expensive!
This can be so overwhelming, where do I begin?
Start with the laundry! Whatever we do with our laundry stays on our clothes 24/7. Whatever detergent and softener we use in our laundry touches everything–clothes, sheets, towels,etc. It affects us the most, and it is also the most difficult to change. For an article on the 31 most harmful chemicals found in fragrances used in detergents, read here.  Let’s work backwards from the least to most difficult. Just take one step at a time if you can!
  • Eliminate dryer sheets. Their fragrance is putting chemicals onto our clothes at the last step before they come in contact with our bodies, and it does not get washed off. If you really want a scent on your laundry, you can take a spray bottle and fill it with filtered water and an essential oil, such as lavender, and spray it on your wet clothes as you transfer to the dryer. You can also try a damp rag sprayed with the solution and add it to your dryer with your clothes. Essential oils can be found at your local health food store or online. Just make sure it is 100% pure.
  • Do not use fabric softener. This is also a chemical that stays in the clothes. You can use dryer or tennis balls to help reduce static cling. Try using white vinegar in your rinse cycle. It kills some of the pathogens that may still be left after the soap has done its work. It will not feel exactly the same as you are used to, but the switch is worth it.
  • Options for laundry detergent substitute: Soap nuts, homemade laundry detergent.  A key to using soaps is less is more. We tend to oversoap, and soap doesn’t rinse out very well.
  • Natural stain removal.  Most Stains can be removed without harsh chemicals such as bleach.  It’s all about chemistry. Grass stain is alkaline, so an acid like white vinegar will neutralize it. For an acid, like a meat or a blood stain, you would want to use a mineral like baking soda. A high concentration of hydrogen peroxide will whiten when used as a soak. If you can find 33% concentrate, add to water to soak overnight, then wash as usual in the morning.
  • In every load, I use 1/2 cup of baking soda at the beginning and 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle. Tea tree oil, which is an anti-fungal, can be helpful to add into the wash, especially with towels, which tend to get musty and moldy quickly.
Baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean your whole house.  Baking soda makes and excellent “scrub” for counter tops, around faucets, etc. When vinegar is added, it bubbles up as you scrub. You can use a pumice stone to scrub around your toilet with baking soda and vinegar.  White vinegar is one of the most versatile natural cleaning agents available.  At around $1.50 for a gallon, it is a very economical way to clean. Hydrogen peroxide is also an excellent carpet stain remover. Test a small area first to make sure you do not discolor your carpet! You can buy 33% hydrogen peroxide and dilute it to 3-6% for household use (the little brown bottles in most stores are diluted to 3%).
A common argument heard is, “But it doesn’t smell the same! It doesn’t smell clean!” This is the hangup. We think “clean” has a certain smell, which is actually a chemical smell, such as bleach or fragrance.  But do you know how a clean house should smell? Like nothing! And before long, you begin to love the smell of nothing, because you know it is clean and chemical-free! However, if you like some natural fragrance, find an essential oil you love and use it in your cleaning.  (I love using tea tree oil, which is a natural anti-microbial, in my housecleaning. I love the fresh smell while knowing it is safe to breathe in and God-made!)
Andrea’s motto: I would rather use something that is contributing to my health rather than using something my body has to fight. Essentially, I want to be as close to the natural form as possible. There is something so creative about  finding natural ways to keep things clean.
To hear the entire broadcast, click below.  A link to Andrea’s extremely informative website, MomsAWARE is also below. Stay tuned for Toxic Talk Tuesday on how to clean your kitchen and personal care products!

Chris Fabry Live! July 19, 2011


Taking Refuge in the Gospel

Willcox Baby, Week 16

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13: 5-6

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill my with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:9, 10, 11

Stephen and I have been reading the Psalms lately. It has been awhile since I poured over them, and I had forgotten what a balm to the soul they are! If anyone knew suffering and trials, it was David! I love how honestly he relays his struggles, “How long will you forget me, oh God?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger…be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint.”  He grapples with serious, painful situations, but in the end, he always comes back to preaching truth to himself. Even while David may feel abandoned by God, he knows that God has always been faithful in the past. The Psalms always end with truth and rejoicing in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Two major things have weighed heavily on our hearts these past few months.  The intensity, difficulty, and increasing demands of Stephen’s job, and this pregnancy, which seems to be ever hanging in the balance.  While we are grateful for his job, because it brought us to the Quad Cities and First Baptist Church, it is taking its toll on our family. The ever-lengthening hours and physical requirements take everything Stephen has to give, and he has practically nothing left when he gets home.  While we have been crying out to the Lord to provide another job the whole time we have been here, in the last few months, our cries have reached a new intensity as we both have reached our breaking point. Some days it is tempting to wonder if God has indeed forgotten us.

And then there is this little life within me.  It seems every couple of weeks, we are shakily calling the doctor again (it always happens to be after hours, too!) asking what we should do in light of the current situation.  When I get into the ER or the office, the answer is always the same.  They simply do not know what is wrong, if anything is wrong, what to do about it, and if or how this pregnancy will continue.  On our last visit, the doctor’s main concerns were 1)possibility still may miscarry 2)risk of preterm labor.  While it is wonderful to hear a heartbeat every visit, and amazing to see that tiny little body on the ultrasound screen wriggling around inside me, I am always left with the reality that that doesn’t promise anything for the future.

I have good days and bad days. I have days where I feel confident, hopeful, and peaceful, that everything is going to be fine, and I will deliver a healthy, full-term baby.  And I have days where I cannot climb out from under this weight of heaviness over my heart, gnawing at me that I will not get to raise this baby either.

That is why I am grateful for the Psalms! In God’s wisdom, he inspired men like King David and others to detail their heart’s wrestling over similar struggles, and in the end, to point them to God’s faithfulness, his goodness, his sovereignty.  In that is my hope found, and in nothing else.  God has placed us in such a way that we really have nothing to place our hope in, other than him. The doctors are baffled. They have no answers, only more questions. They have no promises that everything will be fine. They can quote statistics and say “You’ve carried the baby this far, hopefully that means something good!”  But that is a false foundation on which to build my hope. If I placed my hope in all of that, I would crumble and fall if that all fell through.

But if I hope in the Gospel, Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, in God’s love for me, in his faithfulness and control over all things, I can rest securely that his will will be done, and he will be with us through it all, whether painful or joyful.  And I can trust that he is working all things together not only for my good, but for his glory.

“I have set the Lord always before me…I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

Intentional Living: Daily Routines

One of the most important ways for me to stay on track with my household jobs is making daily routines.  I find having tasks divided up over the week and assigned to specific dates not only helps make certain they are accomplished, but it also keeps me from stressing all day every day about “what else do I need to do?! A million things!!”  I also find it very helpful when I am fighting the fury of feelings and every little thing is overwhelming me to help me get off the couch and know what needs to be done. And then, when (some days if!) I accomplish it all, I can actually relax in the evening with my husband instead of wanting to collapse into a ball of tears because I can’t even begin to finish everything in the whole world that needs to be done! (that was a bit of drama, usually trying to slip its way through my rationale multiple times a day. I struggle to keep it at bay!)

It takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you, but I encourage you to try it–it is well worth it! Sometimes I balk at having too much structure and feeling like if I make routines it will enslave me to them.  But it is important to remember that a schedule is there to serve you, not for you to serve it!  Making daily routines is not law, and it should not bind you to them, but it must be held loosely, recognizing that some days that baby will be sick or cranky and need extra attention that may have gone to putting all the laundry away. It will get done another day!

Here are some helpful hints to get started:

1.  Make a list of the large/important tasks you need to accomplish on a regular basis.  For me, this includes making bread, making yogurt, taking lunch to Grandma, care group, laundry, etc.   Some people like to include every single detail (e.g. brushing teeth, making bed, taking vitamins, etc.) but I find this overwhelming to look at on a list! I do those things out of habit. I don’t want to see them written down! But do whatever serves your personality

2.  Ascertain how often these things need to be done.  I do laundry twice a week, Monday and Friday.  I make yogurt once a week.  I get milk from the farm twice a month, etc.  I have both a weekly and a monthly calendar since some things are only done once a month, like grocery shopping and bread making. Some things need to be done only once or twice a week, other things, like packing the hubby’s lunch, need to be done daily.

3.  Assign a day for each task.  This is the hardest thing for me and requires flexibility and trial and error.  If you try one day and it isn’t working, find which day you seem to naturally do it and re-assign.  For instance, I used to try to clean my house, make yogurt, bread and do laundry on Monday. I like to start my week of right! But, oh my!! Way too much in one day, especially since Monday is “recover from the weekend” day in my home since I don’t do housework or dishes on Sunday–things pile up! I have found by Tuesday and Wednesday I have the energy to tackle things like bread and yogurt, so I re-assigned.

4.  Divide each day into three sections, morning, afternoon, and evening routines.  Grouping the day into chunks of time helps keep me on task, and also mentally helps me turn the page from one thing to the next and feel like I’ve accomplished something. Divide your day into whatever serves your family best. I find having all three is very convenient since Jeshuah naps in the morning, afternoon, and goes to sleep at 7!  There are some things that remain constant every morning, afternoon and evening. Devotions, dinner prep, and making Stephen’s lunches, for example.  However, Monday mornings I start a load of laundry and Tuesday mornings I start a batch of yogurt.  Each day will have some of the same and some different.

5. Write routines onto pretty paper/print them off computer and post in a prominent place. I printed mine onto cardstock with pictures of nature at the top of each day, placed magnets on the back, and stuck them on the fridge near my monthly menu plan and shopping list.  I actually rarely look at it now, but if I feel stuck or confused about what comes next, there it is for reference.  And sometimes I even sigh in relief that there isn’t anything left for that block of the day, and I can head outside and enjoy reading a book or something else leisurely:-)

5. Wake up, look at your daily routine, and stick to it as best you can!  before long, you have it memorized and become comfortable enough to rearrange when life happens. Which brings us to the final and probably the most important tip!

6. Pray over each day and be open to the leading and intervention of the Spirit! Each morning, over my coffee and quiet time, I ask the Lord to bless and guide my day and make me open to his intervention. Again, routines are a tool to help serve your family and help you best serve those around you.  It can be tempting to enslave yourself to it and not be flexible when someone is sick and needs a meal, or a ride, or you get sick that day, etc.  But if you keep Christ at the center, praying for his guidance along each step, this can be a very effective tool to increase your efficiency as you serve in the kingdom!

I am a very practical, hands-on, visual type of person, and it is always helpful to see examples of other people’s schedules. Below is an example of my routines. Hopefully you can zoom in on it and get a better idea of what it says…Unfortunately, because I am not very technologically adept, I cannot figure out how to attach these files so you can download and personalize them, but I hope you can manufacture your own without too much difficulty. Enjoy!

Daily Routines on my fridge