Wife to Wife Wednesdays {Topic 2}

Tags

wof_wed

I am linking up with Wives of Faith again for Wife to Wife Wednesdays! Today’s topic:
Pick a word to be YOUR word for 2013. What is it? Why?

As you can probably guess from my post last week (if you missed it, you can check it out here), my word for the year is intentional.

intentional

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the primary definition of intentional is “done by intention or design”. They define intention as “a determination to act in a certain way; resolve”.

I cannot think of a more fitting word or definition. I am determined to act in the way I was designed to act by God. That is the ultimate goal of being intentional. We live in a society where it is so easy to be consumed by distractions. We can often forget that the things we enjoy every day are big blessings other people are praying for. Food. Shelter. Freedom. Love. It is so easy to become wrapped up in the world of “me” and hence miss chances to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I just finished the book “Undaunted” by Christine Caine (Thanks to Sarah for this wonderful birthday gift!) and all I can say is that once again I was affirmed that God has led me to a desire to live intentionally, even if I am not completely sure where to focus a lot of my effort. This book was an interesting answer to prayer, as it wasn’t a book that was on my radar at all. In this book, Christine talks about how hard it can be to not be intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappointment. I wonder how many times I have missed the chance to be a blessing to someone for fear of how that choice would affect ME. So, a goal of mine in seeking to be intentional this year is to be intentional about sharing my faith, even in the face of difficulty, danger, or disappointment. It makes me think of the Introduction Luke gives at the beginning of the book of Luke…. in a few short sentences, he basically says, Here, Theophilus… since I have studied this in so much detail for myself, it seemed like a good idea for me to write this out for you, just to help you know that the things you’ve been taught are true. How easy it is to overlook the significance of these few sentences.

Had he not taken the time to invest in his friend in such a way, how many may have missed out on the gospel message? Don’t I have the same opportunity to care for my friends in such a way as Luke did for Theophilus?

I am praying that by being intentional, I won’t miss opportunities that God gives me to be His hands and feet.

What about you? If you had to pick one theme word for 2013, what would it be and why?

Blessings,
Rachel

Advertisements

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

its-my-birthday-04
As many of my readers know, today is my birthday. I have greatly enjoyed the birthday wishes I received from my friends today, some in person, some via phone and email, and others via Facebook. One of my friends, however, decided to break tradition and left me the following message:

“No, I am not going to wish you a happy birthday. That would imply that every other day I am not as concerned with you being happy. Rather, I hope today is like every other day of the year. I hope today, like all others, you have your heart focused clearly on God, you are living at peace, are wrapped tightly in His love, and God’s greatness oozes out of every aspect of your life such that all who know you know God through you. I am praying for you always, and you have my deepest respect and love.”

I am blessed to have so many friends who took time out of their day to wish me happy birthday; I am even more blessed that God has put people in my life who are such great reminders of his unfailing love for me all year long. This message reminded me of a few verses from Psalms….
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained before me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
-Psalms 139″13-16

My earthly birthday is  a wonderful opportunity to reflect. I have gone through many changes throughout my life, and I am sure I will go through many more changes in the years to come. Sometimes, it is overwhelming to think about how much things can change, and how quickly those changes can seem to happen to us. This is one of the many reasons that I consider my earthly birthday to be such a great reinforcement of God’s love and care for me. All throughout today my mind wandered….
‘Just as so many were joyful with the news of my earthly birth and as so many happily celebrate its annual day with me, how much more overjoyed is the Lord with every spiritual birthday? How much more does Heaven rejoice when we overcome both earthly and heavenly milestones?’

God knew me and loved me before I was even me. He has loved me even when I didn’t know who I was; He has loved me through my troubles and challenges. I can mess up and melt down and He still loves me. Just this knowledge alone is far better than any physical birthday gift I could ever receive.

Psalm 139 concludes with the following 2 verses:
‘Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.’

See, even today in this Psalm I was prompted to think about by my friend who made a point to NOT wish me a happy birthday (in the traditional sense, anyway), I am reminded of how indescribable God’s love is for me, and of how I can only truly follow Him if I let him search me, test me, and then change me. After all, He already knows how the rest of my story goes….
At His Feet,
Rachel

Wife to Wife Wednesdays {Topic 1}

wof_wed

Today, I’m answering the question “What will you do differently this year than last? Why?”

I’ve thought a lot about my answer to this question today. In short, my answer is “To be more intentional”. This is a broad category, to be sure. I want to be more intentional in everything I do. I want to be more intentional in how I spend my time; I want to be more intentional in my relationships; I want to be more intentional in my quiet times; I want to be more intentional with how I choose to spend my free time.

We live in such a “plugged in” world. It is so easy to be distracted by the technology we have access to. While this technology can greatly improve our efficiency, I think it can be just as detrimental to how intentional we are with our time. Time management is a funny thing; I look back on seasons in my life where I had far more obligations and wonder, “How in the world did I get it all done?” I largely wonder this because there are days where I have a hard time accomplishing half of the things on my to-do list, and I’m nowhere near as busy right now as I was at this same time last year!

I also must be careful to not confuse efficiency with ‘intentionality’ (is this not a word? it’s in my vocabulary, even though spell-check is giving me the red underline!). I am guilty of not being able to see the forest for the trees when I get into a to-do list mentality. I become focused and driven, but at what cost? I definitely do not want to miss an opportunity to serve someone else just for the sake of checking items off of my list.

The only problem I am having is that trying to live with more intentionality makes it difficult to set goals, because I believe that it is difficult to set an easily tangible goal when you are fully surrendered to following God’s will. I certainly am just a small piece of God’s masterpiece, and within that small piece, I still have a difficult time seeing the big picture for me until most of the ‘drawing’ is complete. Even then, sometimes it takes years of perspective before we see the masterpiece that God created in our lives in a season for what it truly is… if we ever truly do grasp understanding of it at all (in this lifetime).

One of my ongoing prayers for the year is that God will empty me of my expectations for my life so that he can wholly fill me with His. Slowly but surely, The Lord is teaching me that while my eagerness to reach the things He has set before me is good, I must not take shortcuts. My assignment is beautifully simple- to follow Him, allowing Him to direct my path to and through the things set before me. To let those this beckon me onward, but to stay close to Him. I have a feeling that by focusing my effort of being more intentional first and foremost in my quiet times, the rest will fall into place.

I would love to hear from you! Did anything I said in this post stand out to you? What are you going to do differently this year than last?

At His feet,
Rachel

Wives of Faith is starting a weekly blog link-up called “Wife to Wife Wednesdays”; if you’re a military spouse, check it out and join in!

Better Late than Never?

I sat down with the intention of writing this post on several occasions… but that intention hasn’t carried this post to fruition- until now that is.

In my last post, I said I would be back the next day with some thoughts on ‘resolutions’. You see I use that word lightly because I think it means a different thing to me than it does to many people. We live in a society where people set many resolutions; however, we don’t live in one where most people actually stick to them. Our society is one of convenience first and foremost. I personally have never believed in ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. My theory is this: if it is something you have procrastinated on throughout the better part of December, saying ‘Starting January 1, I am going to _______ (fill in the blank)”, then you are likely not truly committed to that goal. If it is something that you come up with on January 1, you are also not likely to be committed to the goal/idea because it is not one you have had time to think out!

Those that know me know that several years ago I set out with a goal of becoming more healthy and increasing my fitness. I watched what I ate and committed to working out several times a week. Several months later, I had lost about 35 pounds and felt the best I had to that point in my life! Want to know when I started that journey? December 20th. That’s right- I thought about it, and was committed to the idea. I knew that I couldn’t have a ‘New Years Resolution’ frame of mind about it or I was likely to give up on the goal. (Did any of you set a goal to become more fit/watch what you eat in 2013? Are you still keeping up with it 13 days into the new year?)

I want revolutions in my life, not resolutions. To me, there is a big difference in the mindset between the two. I’m not just passively deciding to do something differently than I have before; if I am going to do something, I want to do it with zeal and fervor!

With that being said, I do have some goals this year; one of which I started on January 1! I have challenged a dear friend of mine to read through the Bible with me chronologically in one year. You see, I realized toward the end of December that I had gotten to a point where I was at times more interested in the words of the author of whatever Bible Study I was using more than I was in the Bible reading itself for that day, and I didn’t like that realization. In thinking on this, I felt strongly led to read through the Bible in a year; something I haven’t done before. I am excited to see what God teaches me this year through this process. I am following a plan that gives me several chapters per day chronologically (at least, as it is understood today; so for example, I read the first part of Genesis and just completed the book of Job. My next reading is back in Genesis). There have been days where I did not complete all of the chapters listed for that day, but there have also been days where I read into the next day or two’s worth of reading. Our pastor has had several sermons that really spoke to me recently about my spiritual walk. I am at times guilty of seeing it as a project to be completed, rather than a process to engage in. I am continuing to pray that God will help me to engage in the process and focus more on what He wants to teach me and less on completing a task. So, while I feel that God led me to the goal of reading the Bible in a year, if I feel he leads me away from the structure of the reading plan, I am certainly not going to fight it!

My bigger goal and revolution is ongoing- to live a fully surrendered life, dedicated to passionately following Jesus. This can be a really hard thing to feel successful in doing. How do you quantify it? There are days when I feel that I am right where I should be, and days when I feel restless. God is still teaching me about what this means; I have a feeling that that teaching isn’t going to stop any time soon!

I apologize if a lot of this is incoherent. Perhaps God will help me put these things into better words over the coming year 🙂

Did you make any ‘resolutions’ this year?

On a separate but still related note, today we began our 2013 Awakening at church- 21 days of prayer and fasting. We as a church are following the Daniel fast. Please pray for our church and all of us as members during this time. We are praying for and believing in great things for this year- believing that this will be our best year yet, if it is our best year yet spiritually!

Blessings,
Rachel

Year In Review

A lot happened for me in 2012. Here is a {hopefully brief} synopsis of my year.

(c) Carter Jones Photography

(c) Carter Jones Photography

N and I became engaged to be married in the fall of 2011. By the time January 2012 rolled around, I was already deep into wedding planning. As funny as it sounds, while I enjoyed parts of planning our wedding, I was more excited for it to be done! Anyone who has planned their own wedding knows the stresses it can entail. As our wedding date neared, I continued to plan details while still working full-time. N was also working full time and carrying a full college course load…. so we didn’t have much time together, especially considering that we were still dating long-distance and we were attempting to save money to pay for our wedding outright. I can happily report that we were successful in not only paying for our wedding but also in paying off 2 loans during that time period!

(C) Carter Jones Photography

(C) Carter Jones Photography

On May 19, 2012, I was blessed to marry my best friend with my family and some dear friends by our sides. It was a truly joyous occasion, minus me becoming slightly sick toward the end of the day due to the heat from being outdoors in my wedding dress all day!

Dip

We ended up spending the first 3 1/2 months of our marriage living in different states (approximately 600 miles apart!) due to circumstances beyond our control. Have you ever wanted something terribly but just not felt at peace about it? That is how we felt about me moving right after our wedding. After extensive prayer about the timeline for me to move to live with N, the Lord finally led us to choose September 10 as my move date and gave us great peace about that decision.

On Aug 31 I worked my last day with a company I had been working for since I was 18.

I didn’t fully grasp how tough moving from my hometown would be. I know that I love VA greatly and that FL would be quite a change; however, it is hard to know how many small things you appreciate about the area you grew up in until you leave it. Among other things, I miss being close to my family and friends, the scenery in the area, the fall weather, and just my familiarity with the area.

FL has been quite a change. I really have grown to love some things here, but there are things about VA that I will always miss and hold near and dear to my heart. It is not in my own strength that I have made this move; God has really challenged me this year to lean on His strength and not my own. This move has broken me in many ways; ways that were necessary for me to feel vulnerable and to learn to lean not on my own understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all my ways and let Him direct my paths.

I was pretty anxious about moving and not having a job here; when I finally surrendered that anxiety to Him, He blessed me with a job that is a far better fit for my life than I could imagine on my own.

The Lord has also blessed me greatly through Celebration Church; we have made fantastic friends there and I have found great encouragement and teaching through the small group we have been a part of.

What are the major points of your year in review? I would love to hear about them!

Tomorrow I will post some of my ‘resolutions’.

Blessings,
Rachel

Catching Up

Christmas has come and gone, and I realize that it has been almost 2 weeks since my last blog post. Time has seemingly been flying by!

The past 2 weeks have been full of blessings. First and foremost, my husband and I had a wonderful first Christmas as married people 🙂 It was nice to be able to spend the day together, just the 2 of us. We were also blessed with the opportunity to skype with my family and then his family for a while. We even saw our baby cousin on facetime via skype- wow! Technology is amazing. It has been so nice to have N home from work more; he is only having to work a few days over the Christmas/New Years time frame, which is wonderful.

In the days before Christmas, I completed another nursing school examination with a ‘B’. I am thankful for the Lord’s provisions! These exams are so difficult to study for; they cover a broad range of information. 

My horse is also doing  better. She has had a series of health issues since moving south to Florida, and I am so happy that she is finally healthy again. 

This week, my parents and younger siblings are visiting us from Virginia. N and I are enjoying the time with them and have some plans to show them some things in the area. We exchanged gifts with them yesterday, Mom and I got some much needed barn time in, and they attended church with us this week. We have also enjoyed playing rock band together, watching a movie, and family game night tonight. 

We are excited to have my older sister and her husband visit us next week, along with their dog. Our dog is obviously excited for this as well 😉

Tomorrow we are getting together with our dear friends from church and we are having a game night to ring in the new year. What a blessing it will be to fellowship with them! It always is a blessing to spend time with them, but this will be especially nice because Sarah has been sick recently, so we haven’t been able to make plans recently.

What are your plans for ringing in the new year? Hopefully I will be able to share more tomorrow 🙂

Blessings,
Rachel

Operation Christmas

Some of you may recall reading my post the other day in which I mentioned that I was participating in “Operation Christmas” with my Sisterhood group from Celebration Church on Saturday. I am happy to say that it was a success, but sad to say that it is over!

What was Operation Christmas? Our church sponsored Christmas for approximately 20 families in an economically challenged area of town. Our church has been doing extension gatherings/services in this area and recently debuted a mobile food pantry there; we also hold a function called “Summer Night Lights” there in the summertime, which my husband has volunteered at in the past. Our church also has started an “Adopt a block” program where Serve team members go and clean up trash, mow lawns and help do other clean-up projects in the area. The area is known as New Town. We are blessed with the opportunity to partner with the city in our outreach there.

My table from Sisterhood mornings (a weekly women’s gathering) decided to sponsor a family. We were the largest team and we sponsored the largest family; a single mother and her 7 children. The sponsorship included providing them with Christmas decor and gifts (including new uniforms for the children that are in school), cleaning their home, and also providing food items for them to prepare a Christmas meal. The church decided (wisely) that it was best to provide the families with ingredients/supplies to put together a meal that they could eat as they needed (be that Christmas day or over the course of several weeks as supplemental food) instead of providing them with just one meal already prepared.

newtown1

After we cleaned their home and set up all of their decorations, placed their gifts under the tree, and put the food we brought them away, the church hosted a Christmas parade and a “block party” where they had free food and music for the entire community and also gave away 50 bicycles.

It was such a blessing to be able to serve this family; all of the children are so precious. One even wrote us a thank you note. It was wonderful to be able to share the Christmas spirit and the message of Christmas with a very special family.

I hope you enjoy the photographs I have to share with you 🙂

Newtown2

Finishing up the cleaning and decorating!

newtown3

One of my lovely sisters with the sweet boy who wrote us the thank you note pictured below

newtown4

Christmas Nativity table setting

newtown5

Our group 🙂 So blessed by these wonderful ladies!

newtown7

The sweetest thank you note.

 

Parade!

Parade!

I can’t wait until our next opportunity to serve here. It is amazing to be a part of a church that cares so much about our community and about people in general.

Blessings,
Rachel

28 Meals in 1 Hour and 20 Minutes {Freezer/Crockpot Meals}

28 Freezer Meals in 1 Hour and 20 Minutes
I recently posted a blog giving some background into why freezer cooking works for us. If you missed it, you can find it here.

freezercooking

Today, I am back to tell you a little more about this cook. As I said in the title of this post, this took us 1 hour and 20 minutes, and it yielded 28 meals (14 gallon size freezer bags with 4 servings each; so 2 meals total per bag for me and my husband).

It is really hard to say exactly what this cost us, because I do coupon… so a lot of the items that we use we did not purchase at full price. My husband made me a fancy tracking sheet (he’s an excel wizard)- my tracking sheet tells me that the cost on average of our freezer meals is $2.50 per serving– and that includes veggies as a side.

My recipes come from a variety of sources- many of them are adapted slightly for taste after the first time we try them.

On the Menu:
4 bags of Chicken Delicious (adapted from recipe found on this site)
6 bags of Beef Fajitas
4 bags of Lime Salsa Chicken

Remember, you will need gallon size freezer bags. I have had success with both the ziploc and glad brands. For freezer cooking, I don’t buy off-brand because I have found they tear more easily and that makes it a pain to thaw them out.

Step 1: Write the directions of how to cook and what to add day-of cooking onto the bag with a permanent marker before filling the bag.
Step 2: chop food
Step 3: fill bags
Step 4: Freeze
Step 5: If you bought the items that need to be added day of, you may want to note on the can/bag what you are saving it for. This definitely helps me as a couponer… that way I know what I have that is “Extra” and not reserved for a recipe, which helps me to make my grocery list next time. Also, unless otherwise noted, all ingredients are added to the bag uncooked.

To get any of the recipes, just download the picture and print. Voila!

chickendelicious

Chicken delicious freezer meal recipe and directions

Lime Salsa Chicken freezer meal recipe and directions

Lime Salsa Chicken freezer meal recipe and directions

Beef Fajitas recipe and directions

Beef Fajitas recipe and directions

Please let me know what you think about these recipes, and any tweaks you may choose to try! Are there any freezer meals that you make that you absolutely love? Please share them with us!

Blessings,
Rachel

Faith Renewed….

Tags

, ,

I’m linking up with Wives of Faith again for today’s blog topic:
How is your faith in Christ refreshed at Christmas?

This is a hard question for me to answer. It’s difficult to put into words all of the ways that Christmas has helped to refresh my faith.
One big way is just by helping me to be more comfortable talking about Jesus to people. I feel like talking about Jesus shouldn’t make me as uncomfortable as it does sometimes, but the reality is that Christianity can be a really difficult thing to bring up in conversation at times. I feel this is easier at Christmas time, because it is more “socially acceptable” to talk about it.
I also feel like people tend to be nicer and more receptive in general around Christmastime (black Friday excluded!). It’s as if everyone gets into the hustle and bustle and is able to find something that they are looking forward to or that they enjoy about the season.

The biggest way that my faith is refreshed at Christmas is just by celebrating Jesus with those I love… it is the reminder that Jesus didn’t just beam down from Heaven  like some crazy sci-fi movie; he was actually born, just like all of us… he grew up, with similar struggles to what we face… and he CHOSE all of this… for us… for me and for you! Hands down, the best gift ever!

What about you? How is your faith refreshed at Christmastime?

Blessings,
Rachel

I’m linking up with some wonderful military wives as we celebrate 12 days of Christmas by answering questions and sharing memories. I am sad that today is the last day; I have been so blessed by reading others posts and sharing my own thoughts. Head on over to Wives of Faith and check it out… or even join in if you’re a military spouse!
Image

Christmas Changes….

Tags

, ,

I’m linking up with Wives of Faith again for today’s blog topic:
How has Christmas changed for you as you have gotten older?

Growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid, for those of you who may not be down with the lingo….), Christmas was always about Jesus. I am blessed that that is the case. That hasn’t and won’t change!

One way Christmas has changed as I have gotten older is in respect to gift-giving.

gifts

My dad commented on another blog post and said (in part), “I think we were well-intentioned as parents in celebrating Christmas with many gifts to exchange, a way of expressing love for one another in the family. However, I also think that it is better that several years ago we began shifting the focus away from giving presents to one another to giving gifts in honor of members of the family to ministry to those outside of the family who are in need.”

I do agree that we had more extravagant Christmases when I was younger, and I feel that the changes in my family over the past several years in respect to our gifting have been good ones. My dad still feels that we still give too much attention to spending money on each other and not enough to giving to those in need outside of our family; while I understand his servant-hearted spirit, I feel in many ways that we have found a good balance… from my perspective, at least. I am not certain what amount goes into gifting overall from others in my family, but in recent years I have set what I thought were reasonable budgets for Christmas shopping overall (as well as for individuals).

Giving or receiving gifts are love languages. I can’t recall a time in my adult life when I was focused on the possible monetary value of the gift rather than its sentimental and personal value (and I do have my parents in part to thank for shaping my viewpoint of priorities!). I think it is important to give gifts to our loved ones when we can to show them things we appreciate about them. I think it can be too easy to take our loved ones for granted and not appreciate the ways they have been there for us in the past if we decide to only give to the least, the last and the lost. I don’t think anyone in either of our families (mine or N’s) “expects” gifts. We don’t feel that anyone should ever give a gift out of “obligation”; we feel that you should give with a joyful heart, out of the abundance of what God has given you.

Giving gifts inter-family is something that N and I feel we should do for two reasons. First, because we are joyful about the ways in which God has blessed us! Second, because when gifts are given in the right spirit and express knowledge of a need or a desire, it is a tangible expression of our love for each other. Just because my family members are not typical examples of “the least, the lost, and the last” doesn’t mean that each member lacks needs and desires; it delights me to know that God can use me to help meet those needs and delight their hearts in a unique and personal way. After all, God didn’t stop at just saving us from Hell, he continues to work in us for good until completion… and throughout the process, I am constantly finding little (and big) ways that God delights my heart. Why wouldn’t I want to share that with my family?

God wants us to develop a network and a support group around each other that we can add people to. While some people may be called to “abandon family for the mission field”, I feel that unless God shows us otherwise, our family should be an integral part of our “network”, whether we are blessed with a family that needs to see people act out Christ’s love from an evangelical perspective, or blessed with family who can encourage us forward in our walk with Christ. The fallacy is not in the gift-giving itself, but rather the extravagance that it can become. If it is the center of your Christmas, then I feel you have lost sight of what Christmas is for and should mean. As I said in the beginning of my post, Christmas for me always has been and always will be about celebrating Jesus.

In closing, I would like to say that the object of this post wasn’t to pick on my dad; He has a wonderful desire to serve others as an expression of celebration for Christ’s birth, and I am so thankful that I was raised by parents who are so servant-hearted. I am also thankful that God has blessed me with the opportunity to serve others; in fact, I am extra excited because this Saturday, our Sisterhood table is reaching out to an economically challenged family of 7 for Christmas through a joint effort between our church and the city. I have been looking forward to this opportunity to bless this family since it was presented to us several months ago! I cannot wait to tell you all about it!

How has Christmas changed for you as you have gotten older? I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Rachel

I’m linking up with some wonderful military wives as we celebrate 12 days of Christmas by answering questions and sharing memories. Head on over to Wives of Faith and check it out… or even join in if you’re a military spouse!
Image