Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Glory of Homemaking

First, I feel I should apologize for my absence on here. Life has been going at a hectic rate. Really, it's not been that bad though. I would even have to say that life's been pretty good. Since March I've been teaching a Fascinating Womanhood class in my area. What a wonderful group of thirteen ladies we have. Furthermore, I've discovered that teaching is the best way to go deeper in any subject. It's been a wonderful way for me to gain a better understanding of Biblical womanhood - and to (hopefully) live it out more and more.

Praise God - I also want to report that my marriage is stronger than ever. Just a few days ago my hubby called to say, "I needed to talk to the love of my life." Aw! So sweet! But I have to give God all the credit. Truly. Nothing I've learned, nothing I've done or accomplished in becoming a better wife was done by me in my own strength. God has just been amazingly merciful to me in my weaknesses and has allowed me insight so that I may "stimulate (my husband) to love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24) Everything always to His glory.

Before I begin today's topic, let me also tell you that my posts are likely to be rather sporadic from now on. Forgive me, please. I was hoping to find a guest writer (or two) who would also be able to share here on Oil of His Grace - but, thus far, that hasn't happened. However, I'm leaving it in God's hands. Not to worry! Mainly I wanted to give a little disclaimer so I don't have "blog guilt." And now I feel much better. I can enjoy my summer without being blogged down... Did I really just say that?! I meant "bogged down!" 

The Glory of Homemaking

Homemaking is a large responsibility but one that need not be mundane or overwhelming. A good homemaker considers it a joy to research and learn things pertaining to her role. She delights in bettering herself in the art of homemaking. This attitude is so critical in making your house a home! Really, being a "domestic queen" is one of the best ways to minister to your family on a daily-basis, and provide them with a sense of well-being.

For inspiration on this subject recently, I looked to the Bible. Starting with the verse that states, "The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands" (Proverbs 14:1), I began noticing things regarding the Bible's theme of building. For example, in the OT there was the building of altars; the ark; the Tower of Babel; the "building" of the nation of Israel; the tabernacle; followed lastly by the building of the temple. (There were other things, of course, but those mentioned here are probably of greatest importance.) 

Continuing in the New Testament, we have the building of the kingdom of God and of the church. Each and every one of these "building projects," from both Old and New Testament, are connected by one major theme: God Himself. Whether it be something constructed to offer sacrifice to God; a vessel of salvation provided by God; an edifice of rebellion against God; a nation which would glorify God; a tent to meet with God; a permanent residence for the name of God; the mouthpiece which spreads the good news about God (and His Son, Jesus Christ) ; or the final culmination of all that IS God- each of these things were "constructed" with the express purpose of either exalting or denying the glory and majesty of God.

Then I studied another passage that speaks of "building." Namely, Proverbs 9:1 which says, "Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars." While commentators are not agreed on the exact meaning of the phrase "seven pillars," one rendering I really appreciated was from Clarke's Commentary on the Bible: " 'She hath hewn out her seven pillars' - Everything has been so constructed as to exhibit a scene of grandeur, stability, and durableness." 

Allow me to share the insights I gained in a nutshell. Our homes - that which has been given to us by God as our personal domain, our own "building project" as it were, is either going to be a place where His glory is exalted, or where His glory is denied.

If we are concerned for His glory, then naturally we will be concerned for our home. After all, it is the only place on Earth where you and I can "decide" what sort of dwelling it will be. This does not mean that we will have control over every person in our home. We will not. Nor will we have control over every situation and circumstance. However, most of the domestic work done in our home is either by our own hands, or under our direction. To a large degree, the quality of that work will reflect God's presence and Lordship in our home, or it will reflect  a different story. The same is true for the overall warmth and atmosphere of the home.

Like the quote from Clarke's Commentary above, I've decided that I want my home (like the one wisdom built) to "exhibit a scene of grandeur, stability, and durableness." You and I will never be perfect; but the little touches, good food, clean clothes, and peaceful environment we seek to provide in our homes can all work to bring glory to God's holy name. Therefore, I encourage you to think of your work as "housekeeping with a purpose."

Let me conclude my exhortation. 1 Corinthians 3:10 says, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it." Here the apostle Paul tells us about the foundation he laid -  the preaching of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (see 2:2). Then he mentions another builder, Apollos, who was a teacher in the church at Corinth. Finally, Paul speaks of everyone else - including you and me. He says that we are to be careful how we build. Of course, there is the spiritual sense of that, which is the most important. But I think as wives we can take something else from this as well... If Christ is the foundation of each of our homes (and I hope that He is ), then we need to be very careful about how we build on that foundation.  Although housekeeping is something we do in the physical realm, I believe our home, just like any service for God, deserves our best workmanship and materials!

I hope you have a great week... A great summer! Keep your eyes on Jesus - the author and finisher of your faith. Comments are very welcome and I'm still hoping and praying for a guest writer - so if you're interested, let's talk!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Culinary Feast and More

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Are you looking for an ideal gift for Mother's Day? A bridal shower? Seriously, look no further than Tawra Kellam's and Jill Cooper's excellent cookbook, Dining on a Dime Cookbook. The founders of the popular website Living on a Dime have delivered a fresh, exciting edition of their classic and award-winning cookbook. (Yes, in fact, cookbooks can be exciting! This one definitely is - I promise.) With the premise of eating better for less, this book packs over 1200 recipes! That's a ton. Honestly, this is the best cookbook I've seen in sometime. I've actually had fun pouring over its pages. No doubt it will be my "go-to gift" from now on which means no more headaches trying to decide what to get for the bride-to-be, friend's birthday, or as a "thank you" gift.

Besides excellent and money-saving recipes, Dining on a Dime Cookbook offers: timely tips (including an entire chapter on substitutions and equivalents); ideas for mixes, gift baskets, & jars; beauty aids from scratch; and homemade cleaning products. I love that there's even sections which include: how to save on herbs, an herb guide, a pantry shopping list, a freezer guide, lunch ideas, snack ideas, and leftovers.

Additionally, here's some intriguing questions answered in Dining on a Dime Cookbook...

  • Did you know that dirty dishes cause debt? (Find out how on page 394)
  • Want to save $10,000 a year at the grocery store? (Tawra's tips are on page 4)
  • Want to clean your bathroom in a flash? (Page 398 will give you a 7-step plan)
  • Need to cut down on meat? (There are pages of eating better and spending less)
  • Make three meals from one chicken? (The answer is on page 176)
I really hope I've whet your "appetite!" (Yes, pun intended.) If so, let me conclude my review by listing all the recipe chapters: Beverages; breakfast; breads; soups and sandwiches; vegetables, beans, pasta, & rice; salads, dressings, pickles, & dips; meats and main dishes; cakes, pies, candy, cookies, and desserts; and miscellaneous recipes. Truly a complete cookbook for beginner or experienced cook alike. So far, since we're a bunch of sugar addicts, my family's favorite recipe has been the amazing Chocolate Pie on page 250. (I even made a homemade crust to cut costs even more.) Anyway, let me tell you - it was absolutely to die for!

I am not receiving any royalties or payment for my review, but wanted to include this here to let you know how much I highly recommend the Dining on a Dime Cookbook. It already has over 200,000 happy and satisfied readers. Click on the link above and it will take you directly to the page  for this wonderful resource, including buying information. You'll also be able to read other people's reviews and comments. (So you don't have to just take my word for it!) And while you're there, if you haven't explored the Living on a Dime website before, I encourage you to spend some time doing that as well. I'm sure you'll find loads of interesting and useful stuff! 

If you have any questions, as always, feel free to contact me at titus2homemaker@gmail.com. 

I'm hoping and praying that you spend time this week just meditating on God's awesome gift of salvation through our risen Lord! Have a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From Where Do We Derive Our Value?

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This week I'm going to preach to myself. Busted! Guilty... as... charged.

What exactly am I talking about?

I am talking about something that has the potential to ruin or, at the very least, seriously undermine our relationships. When this thing which I'm talking about happens in our life we have a tendency to become sensitive; we pout when things don't go our way; and sometimes we even quit on relationships because we feel we don't measure up.

Let me begin by asking you a few questions. Answer them honestly, trying to understand that these situations, while hypothetical, represent similar situations that we've all experienced at one time or another:

1. How do you react when you take your "famous" pie/cake/casserole to a potluck and bring half of it back home with you... while the inferior-looking food item that someone else brought got cleaned-out?
2. How do you feel when someone makes a helpful suggestion about some aspect of your parenting without being asked? Or your husband mentions something not-so-positive about your housekeeping? your gardening? Or, if you're in the same position as me... your homeschooling?
3. What are your thoughts when someone dislikes, snubs, or mistreats you because of your faith in Christ?

Now, lest you think I'm talking about pride today, let me say, "I'm not." At least not directly. I'll clarify that by saying that at the root of most of our sins is pride. However, today I want to focus on a specific, troublesome manifestation of pride. A thing so insidiously difficult to recognize in ourselves that I felt compelled to write a blog post about it! (And, let's face it - it's been awhile since I've written!)

Where Do We Get Our Value?

I suppose you've guessed what the problem is from this post's title and the section title above. Yes, I'm talking about where we derive our value from. You see, each of those questions above represents myriads of situations we face, where it's easy to fall prey to finding our value in the wrong things. These include the things we do, who we are (or think we are), and whether other people accept us or not.

Let's go back to those questions for a further explanation of what I mean. In the first question, if I feel offended, "put out," or inferior because someone else's pie was preferred over mine, it may be because I find my value in my performance as a cook. When my status as a top-notch cook is threatened, I feel threatened. I don't feel good about myself and I experience shame and hurt. My problem is a hang-up with performance.

In the second question, when I react negatively, the issue could be described as a perception problem. If a situation like one of these occurs and I experience anything other than a teachable spirit, my sense of value may be coming from how I believe others perceive me. Whether that be as a parent, housekeeper, gardener, or homeschooling mother. I care too much what others think of me.

In the third question the issue is the same core issue, but with a slightly different twist. In this scenario it may be that I'm deriving my sense of personal value from others' acceptance of me. 

Finally, here's one not mentioned above that may hit home for some of you... How do you feel when your husband no longer seems to love you, pay attention to you, or worse - when perhaps he's found another woman? All of these situations are, of course, far more serious than the others above. Yet sadly, they happen in homes everyday. Yes, they hurt. We cannot deny that. But whether your husband loves you or not, whether he's pursuing another woman or not, none of these things determines your value! I chose to add this paragraph because perhaps it will help someone reading this today. I understand; I've been there. But I also praise the Lord that through my husband's unfaithfulness, He mercifully allowed me to realize that I had, for many years, found my worth in what my husband thought of me. Unknowingly, that dynamic had put a tremendous and unjust amount of pressure on Aaron to "prop me up" - as I looked to him (instead of to God). Talk about a recipe for an unhealthy relationship!

Before we move on, I'd like to ask you to look over the reactions I've described above once more. Do you see how these various ways of responding to life's unpleasant encounters with other people can undermine relationships? I'm praying that you do! What's more, these things will ultimately undermine your faith as well. And that, my sister, is very serious. We'll see why in a moment.

Freedom in Christ

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

So, if these reactions are all unhealthy and unwholesome, what is the solution to our weakness of finding our personal value and identity from what we do or what others think of us? The verse above gives us our answer. Quite simply - it's Jesus Christ! But, if we're honest, the hard part is not knowing the answer - it's knowing how to make the work of Christ a practical solution in our life. To our problems. I mean, to say that Jesus is the answer sounds a bit simplistic, a bit nebulous! As if it were some sort of spiritual "band-aid." We might ask, What does it mean that He is the answer to all of life's problems? 

I think John 8:32 will help us - "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The truth, when applied to your sense of value, will free you from needing other people's validation. Then you will be enabled to respond to situations, rather than be caught in the trap of reacting

Did you know that your feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness are a form of bondage that come from Satan? They are not from God. Therefore, let's start with truth number one: God created you in His image(Genesis 1:26). You've heard it before but it's worth repeating, "God doesn't make junk!"

This may seem elementary, but if truth is what we need, where can we obtain it? Yes, of course, from God's Word - which incidentally calls itself "The Word of Truth" in Ephesians 1:13 and many other places. Many have also called it a "love letter" from God. Rightly so! I truly believe that your understanding of God's love for you is key in your freedom from performance, perception, and people's acceptance. Here's a wonderful verse to show you what I mean: 

"We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." 
1 John 4:16-18

If you have truly "come to know and (believe) the love which God has for (you)," you are free. Free from fear - and free to love. By grabbing hold of God's love for you, you become enabled to imitate the pattern of the "holy women" of former times - who did "what is right without being frightened by any fear." (1 Peter 3:5-6) They loved and respected their husbands - regardless of their circumstances - because they were secure in God's favor of them. (verse 5) Besides loving our husbands, resting in assurance of God's love gives us strength to love other people. Much of the focus of 1 John is about love. God's love for us and our love for others: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11) If it's been awhile since you've read 1 John, let me encourage you to do it soon.

Finally, knowing and believing that God loves us, helps us in all our struggles. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that it allows us to maintain a sense of value in the face of judgement, rejection, or persecution.

An example of this happened to me a few days ago. I was on an internet forum where I was going back and forth with someone who complained that women should not be forced to be "incubators" for babies they do not want. (Not ever a good idea to waste time like this!) Anyway, I was appalled at that kind of talk! When another person joined in and took my opponent's side, however, I admit that my sense of value became threatened. I took it personal. While I knew that God would want me to defend unborn life, I didn't necessarily like being the messenger! Deep down I wanted to be accepted and liked by these people, rather than the object of their scorn. 

Not long afterward, while I was still pouting, the Lord gently reminded me of His love. He led me back to a key verse that's meant a lot to me over the years: "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:6, emphasis mine) You see, I don't need others' acceptance - I am "accepted in the Beloved," and so are you!

But let's continue on, shall we? I hope you will now allow me to take you on a short "tour" of some New Testament truths. It will consist of a few key verses that may help free you from deriving your value from anything other than Christ:

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) I encourage you to hang on to the truth of this wonderful verse whenever you feel like you don't measure up. Whenever you perceive that others are looking down on you. I encourage you - let gratitude fill your heart instead! Look at who this verse says you are! You're the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! 

"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." (Ephesians 1:4) You were chosen in Christ before the world even began. Whenever you're feeling rejected, let this verse speak to your heart. Others may reject you, but God chose you.

"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." (Ephesians 1:5) Okay, are you experiencing a longing to be accepted or liked? Do you want people to notice your wonderful pie, or your beautiful yard, so they think more highly of you? Is your identity wrapped up in anything other than Christ? This verse tells us that we are accepted, that God thinks highly of us, and that being a child of the King is our identity. I hope you find these things very exciting, dear sisters!

"In Him you have been made complete..." (Colossians 2:10) Here's another truth to counter the lie that you are inadequate. That's not what the Bible says!

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:3-4) Are you alternately proud of your "accomplishments," but then embarrassed or ashamed when you fail? Let's talk, for example, about that famous pie of yours. Perhaps you swell with pride (admit it - I do!) when everyone begs a second piece, but hang your head when it's less than perfect. Your value was wrapped up in that pie! But here in this verse is an alternative way of thinking: That pie isn't your life; it's not who you are. Rather, Colossians 3:4 says that Christ is your life! Really think about that for a moment... Doesn't that truth make you just want to praise God?!

"For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers." (Hebrews 2:11) The next time someone is mean to you, tell them (at least in your mind) that they better watch out because you have a big brother! You are sanctified and one with the Lord, therefore He's not ashamed of you.

"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) If it weren't enough to be called a brother or sister of Christ, we're also His friends! Just think - you've got a friend in high places. The Creator of the universe in fact!

So Many More!

Wow, what I didn't realize before I started this blog post is that I could literally go on and on. There are so many verses that demonstrate your worth. (And I didn't even touch the Old Testament!) Let me end this by saying that the best way for you or I to derive our sense of value from the right source - that is, from God - is to get into His Word and look at what He says. Ask God to help you understand who you are. And who you are is rooted entirely in your identity and position in Christ.

Questions and comments are always welcome. I thank God for each one of you. Have a good and Godly week!