25 July 2012

3 Things We're Looking For in a Daughter-In-Law

Dear Nate & Matt,
Lissy's away at camp this week, so it's time for a letter to my bestest men.  We just finished a mighty round of mini-golf and celebrated the birthday of the hot fudge sundae.  The summer weather is perfect, but I'm fighting a monster head cold, so we're just doing simple day trips rather than our planned hiking and camping.

Someday in the not-too-distant future, you two will be bringing home young ladies for us to meet.  I'm sure we'll all be a little nervous, but I want to reassure you that we have only three things we "require" in a future daughter-in-law.

First and foremost, your young bride-to-be must have surrendered her life and will to Christ. 

We'll ask questions to determine if you both have a common life goal.  Does she dream of serving the Lord in Africa while you have a burden to work in a local church?  Does she want the American dream (or a slightly sanctified version) while you have plans to head to Papua, New Guinea?  We'll be looking for a heart that desires to serve the Lord whether he calls your family to corporate America or the bush of Kenya.

Is she willing to live where God calls you, or is she expecting to live within a certain distance of her own family?  If her parents have expectations, is she willing to follow you even if it disappoints them?  Are they willing to let her - and their grandchildren - live far away, or will they keep pressure on you your whole life?

Is she willing to live on the salary God provides, or does she have expectations of a certain lifestyle?  Do her parents have expectations that may be disappointed by your choices?  Are you both willing to honor her parents' requirements for marriage?

Secondly, we'll be looking at whether or not your chosen one has been faithful to live within the structure of authority God has placed in her life.

You can tell how a young lady will follow your leadership by looking at how she interacts with her father, bosses, peer leaders, and teachers.  Does she pout, yell, or use the silent treatment to get her own way?  Is she outwardly compliant and then complaining or deceiving them behind their backs?  Does she honor the limits we and or your college have set for you while dating/courting?  Is she honoring her parents' wishes regarding you, even if they aren't saved or she doesn't agree with them?

Does she love you or the idea of you?   There are some girls who dream of a husband and home and seek only to fill in the blank with a breathing male.  If she appears to be "in love with love", or more excited about the wedding than about a lifetime with you, she's going to have a difficult time following God's plan for wives.  That's already a challenging role, and it will be far more difficult if you're a faceless Disney prince rather than her beloved.

Is she willing to serve in and be a vital part of a local church?  Christian young people are deserting the church by the thousands, even though it is God's vehicle for growth and service in this present world.  We are unlikely to approve a young lady that embraces the home church movement or a personal spirituality that eschews the church.  Is she obedient to the commands in God's Word, or does she regularly substitute the words of science/psychology, her own (or her parents') experience, her education, or her feelings?

Lastly, we'll be looking for a young woman who doesn't think of herself.  Her confidence is in God, and she seeks to love and serve others with a Christ-like spirit.

Does she have a teachable heart?  We don't care if she can cook, run a home, sew, decorate, write, play an instrument, or complete a marathon.  What we do care about is if she is willing to learn the things that are important to you as her husband and head of her home.  Nate's wife is a lucky gal:  if she can manage to heat a frozen pizza or pick up cheeseburgers at a drive-thru, he'll be a happy man.  Matt's wife had better be able to keep pace with Rachael Ray -- he likes good food! (She'll also need to appreciate being wrestled down and tickled -- she is going to be a spunky and extraordinary woman, I am sure!)

Is she modest in dress and demeanor?  You have a sister who loves to dress boldly and be the center of attention in any gathering.  We've spent the better part of eight years teaching her to be aware of others.  She will not be allowed to enter a dating or courtship relationship until we are confident that she consistently has a heart for others, even if she's of age.  Your chosen young woman will most definitely have a personality and personal preferences, but we will be looking to see if those are expressed withing the boundaries of godliness.

What service opportunities has she already pursued?  Has she served in her local church?  Is she on a Christian Service or Mission Prayer Band team?  Has she completed any service at a Christian camp or on a short term mission trip?  Does she have any experience with community service?  Does she quietly encourage and pray for others within her church and circle of friends?

How does she interact with others, especially family and close friends?  There's a reason you won't be going on a lot of "single" dates at first.  We'll be asking you to carefully watch how your sweetheart interacts with other close friends and family.  How does she respond to good natured teasing?  Is she kind to those younger or less fortunate than herself?  Does she pitch in and help out or sit waiting to be served?  How does she interact with the elderly or toddlers?  Is she patient, or does she become condescending?  All of these will become vitally important when you're living daily life with someone.

Ultimately, we are far more concerned with who your love is than what she is.
We don't care what nationality or ethnicity  or IQ your chosen beloved is.  We'll welcome a Southern Belle or a little Japanese girl that would fit in a golf bag with room to spare.  Indian or African, Midwesterner or Middle Eastern, she will be loved!

Love you both dearly,

Linked up at Raising Homemakers andWomen Living Wisely

24 July 2012

Packing for Camp(ing)

Dear Lissy,

We dropped you off at summer camp yesterday for the first time.  You've been planning and packing for weeks, and nearly died from excitement when you saw your little cabin.  While it's still fresh in my mind, I wanted to remind you how we pack for camp/camping.

19 July 2012

Packing A Sunday Tote Bag

Dear Liss,

I nearly dislocate my wrists every Sunday trying to carry in all my stuff into church -- if I don't forget it at home!   On top of all my flotsam and jetsam, Dad used to be a defacto sherpa to handle the additional diaper bags, busy bags, and bucket seats that accompany young children.  We teased that our van looked like we were invading Cuba, not just heading out for a couple of hours.

I'm loving this $5 pattern with handles and a strap from
I'm determined to get everything into one tote bag like our friend, Mrs. W.  She helped me get each of you trained to carry Sunday bags of your own so that our pew didn't look like a FEMA disaster area after church.  Thankfully, the old New England tradition of the Pastor's family pew facing the congregation had been discontinued by the time Daddy took his first church, but we still felt a responsibility to keep our spot tidy.

Looking at what I want to bring...
  • Purse 
  • 911 kit in a repurposed fanny wipe box with Advil/Tylenol, Bandaids, wet wipes, mints, tissues, earrings (why do I ALWAYS forget earrings on Sunday???), cough drops, sewing kit, hair ties and clips, hand sanitizer, and stain wipes.  
  • Bible and notebook  
  • Music books/binders
  • Junior church Flash-A-Cards, story props, and craft supplies
  • Junior church snack
  • Additional space for items to lend/return
  • Snacks for the ride home from church (cheese sticks, chewy granola bars, etc.)
Maybe I should just give up the tote idea and buy a grocery cart!

If I had children under 5, I'd also include. . .
  • A quiet interactive activity for before and after the service and during the offertory or special music.  Something as simple as a magnetic tic-tac-toe or similar game they can play WITH a parent or sibling helps to keep them quiet and still.  We've always been a part of small churches where parents were responsible for their children before, between, and after services.  It is oh-so-hard to give up that precious fellowship time to train your children to be thoughtful of others.  I was blessed to have a few brothers and sisters in Christ who made a point to come over and fellowship where we were sitting or even walk around outside with me so I could keep an eye on you.  Obviously I wasn't perfect, which explains the scar on your forehead and everybody's favorite story about 2 year old Matt gleefully sitting in a drainage swale up to his armpits in murky runoff from the parking lot.  In a suit. Not my best parenting moment.
  • A couple of quiet independent activities for the message.  Your favorites were always a little water game that involved pushing a button to get tiny plastic rings to float into goals and a magnet set.  You had a paper doll set, a farm set, and a circus set that we rotated. Unless you have an unusual toddler, they rarely spend more than a few minutes coloring or drawing on any one page and the rustling papers can be distracting.  
  • A quiet snack like gummy bears or yogurt dots.  Remember your Sours addiction as a toddler? 
For children between 5 and 8ish. . .
Stacy Vaughn's DVD case tutorial is the Bombdiggety!

Keep a notebook and pen or pencil and perhaps a plastic egg with a marble sized blob of sticky tack for a wiggly soul like your brother, Matt.  We had you pack your own bag with a Bible, notebook, pen, tissues, and a Fun Pad at this age, so I really only needed an emergency backup plan.

I'm hoping that condensing my kit down to one tote bag will ease the stress of getting out the door in the morning. . .we shall see!

Much love,

Linked up at Women Living Wisely and Raising Homemakers

16 July 2012

Cheap Eats: Honey Mustard Sauce

Dear Lissy,

"God is never late, but seldom early and what He gives needs no improvement," has been a favorite saying of our family since Daddy and I first married.  I began praying at the beginning of the year for a new (to us) vehicle because our mechanic had warned us that ours wouldn't pass inspection this August.  My wish list was nearly a page long, but our "God of the impossible" provided once again:  an elderly couple in our church gifted us a classic Chevy Caprice with a rebuilt engine, tranny, and new paint job.  Your brothers are ecstatic -- this is a "cool" car for teen boys in our neck of the woods, and they no longer have to fold themselves into pretzels to get into the back of a minivan.  I'm just in awe of our God that found a way to keep us car payment free even though we've had a lean couple of years. 

I'm sharing one of our family's favorite recipes with you today, Honey Mustard Sauce.  It works equally well for salad dressing, dip, or brushing on grilled meat.  Nate likes to drizzle it on baked sweet potatoes -- kind of gross, but hey, he's 14.

Honey Mustard Sauce
from Family Feasts for $75 Week

1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate in airtight container.  Keeps for up to 2 months unless you made it with homemade mayonnaise.



09 July 2012

One Quick Tip: Whiteboards

Dear Lissy,

Whiteboards are the ne plus ultra of the KISS principle (Keep it simple, sweetie!).  An old school whiteboard re-attached to the back of the kitchen door holds menus, appointments and to-do lists for summertime. There are dozens of tutorials for pretty "Kitchen Command Centers" online, and I've pinned more than a few.  This system has worked so well for our family that I may upgrade to a designer version in the fall, but this old board is serving me well for the summer when I'd rather be outdoors.


Linked up at Works for Me Wednesday

05 July 2012

Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!

Dear Lissy,
Wasn't the 4th beautiful?  I always enjoy family get togethers at the lake. We've done an enormous amount of work Observing, Interpreting, and Applying through chapter analysis.  We need to have a readily accessible record of our study so we can refer back to it often.   Everyone does this a little differently, but there are five things I want to have on permanent record from my study.

02 July 2012

Time Management 911

Dear Lissy,

Life feeling like three gallons of crazy in a two gallon bucket?  Or maybe it's an overwhelmed friend dissolving in tears on your couch instead?  Dry those eyes, square your shoulders, and start in on Momma's Emergency Plan!

week one:  Without a list you're listless.
Write down the 5 most important things you need to get done today.  Do not just "think" them.  Do not make more than 5.  You may want to brush up on the most important household tasks before making your list.
  • Going to any appointment or meeting counts as one item. 
  • Only write things you can actually do.  Don't write "Dishes", but "Wash and put away dishes, scrub sink and counters."
  • Up to 3 loads of laundry = 1 list item.  If you want to do more than that today, it will have to be done after you've completed the list
Do it.  Put on some zippy tunes, and get to work.  Don't go to the park with friends, take a computer break, read a book, or pull out a craft project until those 5 things are done.

Repeat.   Do this every day.  You're off to a great start!

week two:  Write a  morning and evening routine.
Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half.  Write down everything you do (or should do) first thing in the morning on one side and last thing at night before bed on the other side.  
  • Do not add items you want to do someday like family devotions or exercise yet.
  • Put "Write tomorrow's 5 To-Do" on the evening routine list, and "5 To-Do List" after breakfast on the morning routine.
  • "Run Load of Laundry" should be on the morning routine.
  • Put a bedtime and alarm time on each routine.
Post your routine where you can see it easily.  The front of the fridge is great.  So is your nightstand.  Don't put it out of sight in a notebook, though.

Do it every day, first and last.  Do your morning routine before you do anything else (even checking e-mail!), and don't go to bed without doing your evening routine.  

week three:  Establish a mealtime routine.
Here's your new mealtime routine.  Do or delegate, just get it done.
  • Prep the meal.
  • Serve the meal.
  • Put away leftovers
  • Clean all the dishes & pans now.
  • Clean the kitchen and dining room, including a quick sweep/damp mop under the table and edges of the counter.
  • Prep as much as possible for the next meal.
Keep doing your evening and morning routines (and writing that list!)

week four:  Write a Weekly Plan
Designate each day of the week for specific household tasks.  Here's our family's plan.
  • Monday:  Regroup & Plan
  • Tuesday:  Errands
  • Wednesday:  Desk
  • Thursday:  
  • Friday:  Cleaning
  • Saturday:  Car & Yard 
  • Sunday:  Lord's Day
*Notice I left one day completely blank so I can either take the day off, or take another day off and slide that day's work onto Thursday.

Weekly plans are a powerful productivity tool with many applications, but for now: 
  1. Set a timer and spend one hour per day on the category you've chosen.
  2. Schedule to-do items for the day they most closely fit.  Take the suit to the dry cleaners on Tuesday, don't make a special trip on Friday.  If a friend wants to get together, suggest Thursday (but be flexible!)
  3. Create some visible way to save reminders for things that need to be done on a particular day.   I prefer a whiteboard divided into seven squares on the back of the kitchen door, but an SMS or e-mail reminder sent to the day works fine, too.   Out of sight, out of mind:  be very wary of creating notebooks or folders that require you to open and use them.
Keep up with your morning, evening, and mealtime routine.  The list should be a habit by now, too.

This plan is rather bossy, and it's meant to be.  If you're feeling overwhelmed, you need a clear voice to cut through the fog and just say "do this".  I've included gobs of  background and philosophy for each of these steps in other letters.  

 Love and a big hug,

linked up at newlifeonahomestead.comraisinghomemakers.comwomenlivingwell.org, and Works for Me Wednesday