Sunday, April 25, 2010

the Lord's provision

"No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised." ~Romans 4:20

It's very true that the Lord is always at work, even when we're feeling very unsure about a future that we just can't see. He sees all things. He is not bound by time at all. Doesn't that just blow your mind!!! We can't even comprehend that reality, because we are slaves to time in so many ways. So in considering the future, we're often too filled with worry or anxiety as we just simply don't know. Yet again, I'm reassured that the Lord does know. He is not hindered as we are, He is all-knowing and all-powerful. So not only does he KNOW, he can make things happen as He designs them to. He is sovereign over it all, controlling all things by His goodness and grace. And we're undeserving, yet He chooses to let us know Him and His ways as He works.

So lately, Matt and I were praying and thinking about our plans for jobs in the upcoming months. Matt has been working as a part-time bank teller for over a year now and enjoys the bank he works for a lot. They've been really understanding and flexible with his class schedule at the seminary, which has been great. I have been teaching kindergarten this year as my second year in the Jefferson County Public Schools here. Teaching has always been the only thing I could imagine myself doing, but it hasn't been filled with easy days, and it also requires a lot of "take home" working... both real work and emotional exhaustion after difficult days. We knew that things needed to change in preparation for our little girl Moriah in August. We just weren't sure what the changes might be.

Matt found out about a full-time teller position at a branch he'd particularly enjoyed traveling to while a roaming teller. He applied for the position, interviewed (a lady retired after working 50 years for the bank to open up this opportunity), and soon after was hired! So we knew Matt would start working full time this summer, continuing into next school year and begin taking evening classes at the seminary. Not our original plan (although it only adds one semester to his time frame for completion - about 2 1/2 more years), but a plan that would provide for me to find a different job and take care of our new baby in a way that would fit us better. Matt's new bank income and preaching income will cover all of our current bills and expenses and also offer more affordable and better health insurance for him!

I started looking for jobs with many options in my mind... maybe nannying (and bringing our baby with me I'd hoped), maybe teaching more "part-time" in a different type of school (we have great private schools in Louisville), maybe tutoring, maybe baby-sitting the baby's of seminary friends, etc. We had lots of options it seemed like. While I tried pursuing them diligently nothing had quite materialized. I was too discouraged, just really unsure about which things would be best and how to "secure" something - the sooner the better I thought! Over Spring break a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd look on Craig's List for job postings. Sure enough there were a lot! I called a daycare center which had a posting that was about a month old, not thinking much of it but deciding it could be worth exploring. Sure enough, they were still hiring and told me I could stop by to complete an application and meet the directors. So why wait! :) I went to the daycare center right away since it was my last day of Spring break. I completed their application while I was there, then met the directors who were very friendly. One even knew the principal I've been working for (a good connection to have)! I toured the center which was newly opened (in December) but filling up with children quickly. It was very clean, fresh, and nice. The teachers all seemed friendly and the children were all busy and well cared for. The rooms were big and well-stocked with supplies for lots of learning! I left encouraged and hopeful, but tried to be realistic knowing that it was out of my control. We prayed about the opportunity and waited a few days to hear from them. Praise the Lord they offered me a job, when they called! I'll begin the week after school gets out (no summer break this year) as a pre-school teacher in their most newly constructed classroom. I'll be working 8:30-5pm, full time hours to help provide financially for Matt's Seminary tuition (we're continuing on a debt free track here). Once our baby arrives in August, I'll take a 6 week maternity leave then return to work. Our baby will stay in the daycare's baby room which is only across the hall from me through a big glass window that I can peek in at any time! :) She'll also be given a half-price rate as the baby of an employee!

The Lord's blessings are truly abundant towards us in Christ alone. Then to add that He cares to continue providing for our earthly needs is so gracious and loving. We're thrilled with His most recent goodness. Please pray for us in this time...
~that I'll have energy all summer with pre-schoolers :)
~that we'll be wise is knowing how to pursue health insurance for myself and our baby
~that we'll have financial wisdom with these new incomes, knowing how to balance our expenses in new ways
~that I'll be ready to return to work after my maternity leave ends
~that Moriah will be well cared for, and that I'll adjust to someone else caring for her
~that our new school-year schedule will provide us with quality family time and enough study time for Matt as he works (his classes will be Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-10pm)

Monday, April 19, 2010

blueberry French toast

Here is one of our new favorites... I think you'd probably love it, I know we do! The best part of it all, really it's healthy :) Even Mr. Matt who is pretty aware of the health involved in most things we eat, was pleasantly surprised when I told him the simple ingredients included - to have his stamp of "healthy approval" is a really "good thing" as my friend Martha likes to say!

So here it is
(and it can easily be halved, that's what we do, otherwise it serves 8-10):

for the French toast...
6 whole wheat buns, or 12 slices whole wheat bread
8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, cubed
1 c blueberries (mine have been frozen, but this summer I'll use fresh!)
10 eggs
2 c skim milk
1/3 c honey

for the sauce...
(I've always used blueberry syrup that I found at ALDI, amazingly, so I've never tasted this sauce)
1/2 c sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 c grape juice
1 c blueberries

Grease a 13x9 pan (or a 2 quart round baking dish if you make half).
Cube (or tear) buns and put half in pan.
Add cubed cream cheese on top of buns.
Top with remaining cubed buns and blueberries.
Beat eggs, milk, and honey together then pour over top.
Refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.
Remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes before cooking, to stand at room temperature.
Bake at 350 degrees, COVERED, for 30 minutes.
Uncover, and bake 30 more minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

for the sauce:
Heat and stir all ingredients until smooth in sauce pan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat until blueberries burst. Use to top French toast as desired.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

life in Turner's Station, Kentucky

Since about September Matt has been preaching on Sunday mornings in Turner's Station, Kentucky. I really wish I had pictures to help you imagine this amazing little place. It's in the country off of winding wooded roads. The entire city is comprised of one main street with an old post office that is now someone's home. The city also has a two story old brick bank building that closed about 20 years ago, we were told. There's a Christian church right down the road, but I always mistook it for an old school house - it has a bell out front. We've since seen the school house where most of the church members attended in a two-room style of education. Now it's also a house and has unfortunately lost a bit of the charm it probably had in its plainer days. I was trying to estimate the population and did a quick Google search, they claim 1,200 people... totally astonishing to me. I'm not sure I really believe it. If that's true there must be a lot of them who live quiet lives alone on their secluded and self-sufficient farms, never venturing out - because we rarely see a car pass us as we make the drive. Oh yes, this is important, Turner's Station used to be a railroad stop making it a bigger city then. The train still passes through often and we hear it. The townspeople become concerned with the way the railroad company cares for the tracks and the noise they make as they work on them.

We've been blessed deeply by our time there, and look forward to continuing ministry in such a quaint and welcoming place. On average there are about 12-15 in attendance each Sunday for church... imagine that! Really, it's true, and it's probably not like anything else you've experienced before... I haven't anyway. Church begins with "announcements" usually entailing a weather report and praise to the Lord for His goodness in spite of the weather. We sing together as the piano is played. We listen to CD's for our "special music". Matt shares two Scripture readings as preaches from the Word. He's been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew. Pray for him, this week he's preaching from Matthew 12:22... the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit - expository preaching bring challenges to those who preach no doubt.

Our Sunday School class is held before church, in the back of the sanctuary behind some old wood panel partitions. Then we hear the great wisdom of the most faithful people we've ever met. That's a big claim I realize, but Matt and I both agree. We've heard a woman in the midst of breast cancer say, "Well don't we know He won't do anything to hurt us. We should just trust Him." I've watched her husband grimace in shock as Matt explained that the response of some to the earthquake in Haiti was to ask why God would cause such evil. It was clear that this man had never before considered the like of those thoughts. His response to his wife's suffering through cancer, "Why not us?" They often remind us, and rightly so, that the Bible seems to be pretty "plain" about lots of things. They don't struggle with the complications that theologians almost invent it seems. Rather, their faith is as simple as a child's but as deep and full of perseverance as I've ever seen. Matt has asked on many occasions some hard questions of the faith through Sunday School as challenging passages have come up. Their answers are always clear and direct, never becoming distracted by the secular thinking of so many. They discuss History channel specials about Biblical topics in which the producers mock the truth of Biblical claims, events, etc. To our friends in Turner's Station, they say it takes more faith to believe the outrageous stories and claims made by those on TV than to trust the Bible's straight-forward reality. They've never tried to squirm away from Truth, even difficult Truth. When we discussed sin nature as explained in Psalm 51, some struggled to imagine their infant grandchildren as sinners. As Matt pointed out the Word in various passages and explained the significance of original sin we saw hearts instantly believing God for the Truth He was revealing... not fighting it, not denying it out of inconvenience or a desire to pick-and-choose the easiest theologies.

They lean on the Word and know the Lord in their daily lives. They are such a blessing and source of great wisdom.

There are more great stories about the time-warp it seem like we take as we drive each Sunday from the "city" to the "country" as they call it. There are parts of life I've never known that they commonly experience. I'll have to keep updating with more soon, this is already long I think.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

If you're looking for an experiment in frugality I'd highly recommend trying some homemade cleaning supplies! When we first got married, I received a Martha Stewart Homemaking Book which I've enjoyed as a reference for all sorts of things. She recommended some homemade cleaning supplies, so I thought I'd give it a try. She was onto another one of her "good things" in my opinion. So for about two years now I've been cleaning everything with the following...

"heavy duty" bathroom cleaning (toilets, bathtub, counters sometimes)
Soapy Ammonia
1 c ammonia
1 c water
2 TBSP liquid Ivory soap

glass windows (also mirrors and dusting)
Glass Cleaner
1 c ammonia
1 c water

soap scum remover (as a daily shower spray and also while cleaning)
1 c water
1 c white vinegar

counter-top kitchen cleaner (also could be for dusting)
1 c water
2 TBSP liquid Ivory soap

I bought plain spray bottles that I found at the grocery store and labeled. Super cheap and easy to remember what's in each one. While there are some "start up" costs to buying these items, they've lasted me a long time through many batches and refills so it's very, very economical over the long run. The most expensive item to buy was the liquid Ivory soap, but even that is used in such small portions it will last a really long time! As a side note, make sure you'd never use bleach around any of the ammonia-based cleaners. The combination is one that causes really dangerous fumes, don't do it!

Now, as a new experiment I'm trying Grace's Laundry Soap. I'm sure she'd tell us it's not "her" idea, but I got it from her, so to me it is :) I just made it last night for the first time and haven't used it yet, but I figure if it can thoroughly clean Grace's laundry with cloth diapers, a little kid stains, it will do the same for ours! So here it is:

Laundry Soap
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar, grated finely
1 c washing soda
1 c Borax
Mix all together. I plan to sort of "pre-mix" it before I use it, in the following way: use 1-2 TBSP per load, mix with water in a Mason jar right before use and then pour into washing machine as you would use liquid soap normally.

The more amazing thing is the amount of money saved... you can read the detailed breakdown here, but the final cost is 1 cent per load! Seriously, it's true and amazing I think :)

I hope you enjoy the blessings of some frugal finds if you get a chance to try these out. It certainly has been a blessing to us!