Sunday, April 6, 2014

Loving a Toddler

Have you ever heard of "love languages"?  Many adults have.  Dr. Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages" book is a common and powerful resource that is often recommended to engaged and married couples.  I've read it.  I know my love language.  And while I think there might be a "language" or 2 that Dr. Chapman missed and I also think the principles MUST go hand in hand with the "Love and Respect" principles of Dr. Emerson Eggerich (I'll post about that sometime, maybe soon, maybe not), it is a great resource.

The five love languages Dr. Chapman proposes are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.  I believe we all have a primary love language but again, I think Dr. Chapman possibly misses one or 2, that some people have 3 or 4 that are pretty equally important and that in general, men have "respect" languages that make them feel loved and women are more based in the "love" languages. 

I also think as a society we focus too much on getting our own love tanks filled by outside influences and don't focus enough on loving others and choosing to see that others are trying to love us, even if its not done in our primary love language.  The principles, if used incorrectly to push another to focus on us and force them to show us love in our own "language" instead of using it to help us love others better can be very damaging.

So...after all that intro, let's get to the point of this post.   This morning, out of the blue, I had a bit of an epiphany.  I have NOT been focusing on our toddler's love language!  Yes, littles have love languages too, just like adults. 

Adults and older children can take a simple "quiz" to identify their love language.  But a 2 year old can't.  So how do I know his love language and how do I know I haven't been doing a very good job showing him love through it?  Well, it's an educated guess based on knowing this child.  My guess is his primary love language is "quality time", which is mine as well, so I feel even sillier that I haven't focused on it more.  I am making this guess because he is happiest when we are doing things together.  Whether it is a walk, playing tractors, making muffins, playing with play-doh, just going for a drive, he likes to be with me.  Now, some would say that's just a toddler but I don't think so. I know toddlers who are very independent.   Who don't want anyone to play with them.  That's not our toddler.  He comes to me and says "come play with me, Mama".  And I often find myself telling him "I will in just a second, as soon as I finish ________".  Now, am I saying I should spend every second with him?  No.   Am I saying he should depend on me for entertainment?  No.  What I am saying is I need to focus on making sure, especially if he is having a bad day or is extra toddler-emotional, or if he has just coming home from 3 days with his Dad, that I focus on some true quality time with him and make sure he knows that time with him IS a priority.  It also means that as he grows up, if quality time is and remains his primary love language, I need to assist him in learning to look for ways to feel that love, by spending quality time with Christ, with looking for ways that those around him are trying to show him love in other ways and by teaching him that others might feel love from him in ways other than quality time and he needs to make an effort to show them that love.

I believe is closely secondary love language is physical touch.  He is an affectionate child.  When he was about 16 months old he would hug EVERYONE!  He scared other toddlers at play group because even if he had never met them he would run at them, arms wide, and hug them tight and try to kiss them.  He is all about hugging, snuggling, cuddling, fist bumps and high fives, wrestling.  Is this a pretty common love language for a toddler?  Probably.  But I know toddlers who aren't as physically affectionate as he is.   And that means I need to make sure I am making a concerted effort to make my hugs mean something.  It means when he wants to give a kiss or a hug or be picked up and snuggled a bit I need to make sure I'm never too busy.  And it again means I need to help him learn to recognize that not everyone has the same love language and that people he wants to show love to might not always feel it through hugs.  And that people who love him might not always give him love through his love language and he needs to look at their intentions and their heart, not necessarily their actions. 

Our baby has love languages too, right now it's probably physical touch more than anything else.  But as he grows I will learn more and will need to make a concerted effort in helping him learn about them and about those of others.

We all have love languages, maybe one or 2 of the 5 above, maybe one not listed, maybe more respect than love.  And it would be ideal if those around us always showed us love in our love language.  But we can't make that happen.  And expecting it or demanding it will make us miserable.  What we can do is try to identify the love language of those around us and make an effort to show them love in their language.  And we can learn to see that others are trying to show us love, even if isn't shown in our primary love language. 

Christ showed love through many ways...but the most ultimate was an act of service.  If we can see his sacrifice as love, even if that isn't our primary love language, surely we can see the efforts of love from others even if it isn't in our primary love language.  And surely we can choose to show others love in their love language so they can feel our love.

Because LOVE is the greatest gift, language, currency and blessing of all.    

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"God's Plan for You"

As humans we say a lot of things to each other, especially in times of stress or grief.  But as Christians, when we say something we need to make sure it's truly biblical and not just the World's version of our faith.  We need to be responsible with our words, because they have great impact. I used to say some of these "platitudes" and thought I was helping.  I believed them too.  I didn't have enough of a knowledge of my own faith not to and I heard them from people I assumed had a great enough knowledge of the bible to know what they were talking about.  Since I've made the mistake myself many times I 'm going to try over time to dispel some of these sayings...because as Christians we need to stop spreading false information about our God and about our faith.

Have you ever heard someone, a Christian or not, say something like "Don't worry, God has a plan, it will work out the way it's supposed to" or "that must not have been in God's plan" or something similar? 

Is it true?  If we just do whatever we choose will God eventually work out His "plan" in your life, despite our lack of effort or even our effort to the contrary?  And how do we know if His "plan" is happening in our lives?  How do we know what it is?

Many Christians and non-Christians alike quote Jeremiah 29:11 when they talk about God's "plan" "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Which is an AWESOME passage, right?  But...as happens a lot when we quote scripture, this passage often gets taken very out of context.  Here's the bigger picture of this passage...It's a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles, sent from Jerusalem, with God's instructions and promises TO THE EXILES.  It is a specific letter, from a specific source, to a specific set of recipients.  Not only is it not a general passage intended for all as a promise of God "working things out" in our lives like some sort of puppet master, it is also a passage full of instructions the exiles were to follow before His plan was fulfilled.  Like to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have families, pray for peace and prosperity for their current city, to not listen to false prophets.    God promises that after the exiles have been in Babylon for SEVENTY years, FOLLOWING His instructions...THEN He will come for them and fulfill His plan.  Only then does the infamous "plans" verse come, followed by verses 12-14 "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  Note what the Lord is saying "after you live in exile, following my instructions...THEN when you call on me and pray, WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART, you will find me".  In other words, He didn't just have a plan for them and carry it out quickly and with no requirements or participation by the exiles! 

This is a passage that makes very specific promises to a very specific group of people.  But it also carries very specific instructions, about how the exiles were to live.  And the promise wasn't right around the corner, it was YEARS down the road.  Hard years, of living in a foreign place. 

So...in reality, quoting that verse to someone and telling them "don't worry, if it's in God's plan it will work out" is ridiculous and damaging.  It leads people to believe we can make choices contrary to God's instructions and that He will just mold a new path to get us where He wants us to be.  He doesn't do that!  He has expectations of us. 

Does God have a plan for our lives?  Absolutely!  He had a plan from the beginning.  He gave it to Adam and Eve.  But did He play puppet master and force them to obey it?  Obviously not.  And when they disobeyed He changed their lives...there were CONSEQUENCES.  God wanted them to have the Garden, He gave them simple instructions how to live there.  And they disobeyed.  He has had a plan since the beginning and since the beginning He has given us instructions on exactly how to make sure that plan happens.  And since the beginning as humans we have ignored His instructions, walked our own path and let Satan or the World convince us to twist God's Word as an excuse to do whatever we want.  Because "He has a plan" so everything that happens must be on it, right?  WRONG!

What is God's plan?  Well...I would say the Bible pretty clearly spells it out.  Delve into it, see what you find.  Read the sermon on the mount, the 10 commandments, all the writings by Paul and the apostles, the letters of King David.  They give pretty clear instruction about how we can live to ensure His plan gets pretty closely carried out.  It's pretty clear what His plan is...and it's pretty clear it's our choice to follow it or not.  But when we choose not to He's not going to pull our puppet-strings and orchestrate everything to fall in line.  He will never leave us but He also won't control us.

Please don't misunderstand.  Does God work miracles?  Every day!  Does God answer prayers according to His will? Absolutely!  Does God work details in our lives to help situations, get us to places we need to be, bring people into our lives for His reasons?  Of course!  But does He sit in Heaven with a big controller, controlling our every situation like a great big video game?  NO!  He gave us free-will.  So that when we DO choose to follow His BIG plan we do so willingly, not because He forced us to.  Because He loves us too much to force us into anything, even loving and following Him.

So...next time a friend is having a hard time...a lost job, a hurting marriage, a child with an illness or is just making bad choices...or any of hundreds of other things...please don't say "if it's in God's plan it will work out".  Because as Christians we need to be more responsible.  Instead suggest they pray, not for things contrary to His word of course, but for His will to be done.  Suggest they choose love, grace, forgiveness.  Recommend they stop listening to those in the World and start listening to the One who made it.  If they are facing a decision support them in looking to God's playbook for His true plan, instead of suggesting it will just "work out the way it's supposed to".  Because since Eve ate the fruit God's plan has been off-kilter.  And He doesn't force us to get ourselves back on His path...He let's us choose.

Ultimately...He will complete His plan.  And some of us will eternally regret believing this World's advice.  So until then it's up to us to choose how we live, based on the instructions He provides in the Bible. 

As someone who has felt the sting of someone saying "if it's in God's plan it will work out" in reference to my marriage being restored I beg of you....PLEASE stop saying these things!   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bossy...is the word the problem...or the attitude?

So...there is a new campaign in the world...led by a group of successful women whom many look to as role models for young girls (though a few I'm not sure SHOULD be seen as role models).  So, what is this group working toward?  Equal pay for women?  Equal opportunities for girls?  Equal educational efforts?  Equal support to reach their dreams?  Well...maybe?  Maybe not? 

What they are working toward is to ban the word "bossy".  They claim, with shaky support of outdated statistics, that words like "bossy" cause little girls to be less likely to seek leadership roles as they enter middle school age.  So, their solution is to ban a word...and their choice of word is a little iffy as well.

Is being bossy a good thing?  Maybe in a few limited situations but in general I don't think so. It certainly isn't the same as being a leader.  It certainly doesn't scream "confidence".  Actually, in my opinion, being bossy is just a few steps down from bullying.  In my view it's right up there with "mean", "rude", "controlling", "abusive", "dictatorial".  Honestly, is THAT what we want our little girls to learn?

I hope not!

Let's be clear...I'm a mother of boys.  And I certainly don't want my boys to grow up thinking ANY of the above characteristics, including bossy, are ok.  I also have a lot of girls in my life, of varying ages, that I would hope would not exhibit any of those either. 

What would I like my boys AND the girls in my life I love very much to learn?  I would love for them to learn its ok to be smart.  It's ok to be a leader.  It's wonderful to be respectfully and lovingly assertive.  I want them to learn it's ok to stand up for yourself but only in a way that doesn't hurt someone else. 

I also want them to learn that sometimes it's ok to just be part of the team.  I want them to learn that every role is important and that as long as you do it with integrity, honesty, respect, devotion and as long as it is a role that is honoring to God and to themselves, that it's ok.

I understand that in our country and in our world women have been and still are in some ways oppressed.  But I don't think the mothers, wives, sisters who fought, sometimes with risk to their own lives, would want our little girls to be bossy just to get ahead.  And I personally think they would also not want our little boys to fall behind just for the sake of little girls getting ahead.

Another issue I have with this campaign is their choice of spokespeople.  While some seem like people I would want little girls to look up to, like Condoleezaa Rice, I'm not so sure about others, like Beyoncé.  Condoleezza Rice is a woman who exudes confidence in a calm, respectful way.  She screams integrity.  Beyoncé?  Not so much.  A singer who is known for wearing costumes that are as closer to lingerie as is legal, dances that are sometimes pushing it for a strip club and lyrics like "I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world, don't forget it, don't forget it, respect that, bow down b*tchs" and "He Monica Lewinski'd all on my gown" in her song Partition, as well as using a recording of the Challenger disaster as an opening for another song, without permission, should we really be promoting her as a role model for our little girls? 

Yet another issue I have with this campaign and others is the idea that ALL girls MUST be executives, doctors, lawyers, famous actors or singers, etc.  If that is their dream, great!  But what about the little girls whose genuine dream is to be a wife and mom.  What about the ones who want to be a dental assistant?  Or a nurse?  Or *GASP* a secretary?!  Those roles must be filled.  They are honorable roles!  Where would Condi be without them?  Where would Beyoncé be?  Where would any of us be?  Why is it not ok for their dream to be to raise well-rounded children and support their husbands?  Why is it not ok for them to want to be in a support role? 

On a football team not everyone can be the quarterback.  But without a skilled center, tackle or fullback the best quarterback in the world can't do anything. 

Shouldn't it be ok for our kids, girls AND boys, to learn to do their job with integrity?  To work hard no matter WHAT their role is?   Plumbers, mechanics, trash collectors are often looked down on...but what will our world turn into if it's full of executives and doctors and lawyers and singers and actors but none of those?  A big mess that's what!  Those jobs, and many others, have HONOR! 

Shouldn't we be teaching our kids that in some circumstances you should be the leader and in others you should be part of the team?  But that no matter what you should do it confidently but respectfully?  Lovingly?  Patiently?

Some of the strongest, most confident women I know have never sat in a board room.  They are my grandmas.  They are my role models and have been my whole life.  Now...have they been bossy at times?  Sure!  They are human.  But that isn't what makes them my role models.  They are seen that way because of their patience, their calm strength no matter what the circumstance.  Their unending love for their family.  And you know what?  Those characteristics have earn them unending love and honor from not only family but pretty much everyone who knows them. 

That is what I hope all of us's boys AND girls learn.  That genuine character traits, like respect, integrity, confidence, honesty, patience, love, fairness, loyalty, joyfulness and so on will get you MUCH further in life than being bossy, arrogant, pushy. 

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pain...

So…this post is about pain…

I’ve become very aware lately that as a culture we have somehow gotten an idea in our heads that pain is always a bad thing…unless it comes to something like sports or exercise, in which “no pain, no gain” is a very acceptable slogan. We treat physical pain with drugs, nearly immediately it seems.  And our country has insane out of control abuse of pain killers.  We treat emotional pain like something that should never happen and we focus on being “happy” all the time and we come up with platitudes about only sharing your life with those who never “hurt” you.  We as Christians even come up with completely unbiblical sayings or twist scripture to make it seem like pain isn't even a real thing. 

But are we possibly missing some blessings in the form of pain?  Can pain ever be good?  Ever useful?  Ever just plain necessary?

What about the pain of disappointment over not getting something you really want?

What about the pain of losing a loved one?

What about the pain of childbirth?

What about the pain of your child being angry at you for sticking with the consequences of a broken rule?

What about the pain of sacrificial love for a spouse?

What about the pang of pain in your heart as you pack up baby clothes?

What about the pain associated with vaccinations?

What about the pain of sore muscles from a long, honest day of physical labor?

What about the pain that comes with a broken bone or an infected appendix?

I could go on and on and on.  So…is pain ever good? 

Let’s take the last, for example…is the pain of either of those physical conditions a good thing?  Initially some would say “NO”!  But if we didn’t have the pain, how would we know about the physical condition that needs attention?

What about the pain of disappointment?  If we never walked through the valley could we ever appreciate the view from the top of the mountain?

The pain of loss…that’s a hard one!  But, if we never lost a loved one…would we rapidly start neglecting and taking for granted the important people in our lives?

What about the pain of childbirth?  Many would say it’s a “curse” from the original sin…which it might be.  But I think it’s also a blessing from God in disguise.  As a woman who has delivered 2 babies with no medical pain mediation what-so-ever I can tell you getting through the pain of natural childbirth will give you confidence in your own body like nothing else will. 

What about the pain Jesus suffered through His crucifixion?  He was the living Son of God, 1 and the same with the creator of the universe.  And He saw the value, the benefit, the NECESSITY of pain and he gladly, lovingly, sacrificially endured it for our sins. 

So…is pain good?  Is it bad?  Is it necessary?

As a culture have we put too much emphasis on either avoiding pain or just pretending it doesn’t exist instead of learning from it, valuing it, and learning to be joyful and content through the pain?  How will it affect our future?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

In case you didn't know, today is "International Women's Day".  I'm not going to go into the history of the day, you can have the pleasure of searching it out if you want.  Instead, I decided to write a little post about women and our "role" (please keep reading!).  This is something near and dear to my heart because 1) I am a woman, 2) I am a Christian woman, 3) I am an educated woman, 4) I have a lot of women in my life I love dearly and 5) because I am a mother who is majorly responsible for shaping how our boys view women. 

Through history, as we know, women have in many, but not all, cultures been seen as inferior.  And due to that fact we now live in a culture who, in my opinion, sometimes says we should go too far to the opposite, forsaken our inborn womanhood just to prove a point, that we are equal to men.  So...or society often looks down on women like me...who choose to give up careers to raise children, who choose to fight for their marriages when they would be "perfectly fine" on their own...who choose to love, respect, forgive when society tells us we "deserve" better and that we look "undignified" and like "doormats".   But, I'm at a point in my life where my thoughts are not dictated so much by culture or society.  Instead I have learned, the hard way, that society is oftentimes wrong and that God's word tends to be a much better guide.  So...what does God say about women?  Are we inferior?  Does choosing to overlook offenses and respect and love our husbands make us "pathetic"?  Does building him up tear us down?  Sadly, there are many in this world who use the Bible to say many different things about women.  But here is what I believe and why. 

In Genesis 2:18-25 we find the story of God's creation of woman...
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

There is much discussion and disagreement about the true meaning of "help meet" in this passage but suffice it to say it does NOT mean "lesser", "inferior", etc.  It's a position of honor!  What this passage says is that Adam, God's very important creation, had a need for companionship, other than with God.  And that need was not filled by any beast God thought up and created and presented to Adam.  So...God took a portion of Adam, because that creation was already so good, and made another creation...a woman...EQUAL but different, and Adam, upon seeing her, recognized her worth, her importance, her EQUALITY and said "this is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh".  And recognizing the importance of woman a man is instructed to leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they are joined back as one flesh. Does that sound like an inferior position to you?  God is already setting up that he sees it as man's responsibility to put his wife in a place of honor, not inferiority.  The next verse mentions they were naked and unashamed, NOT that one was and one wasn't, NOT that Eve was ashamed of her body or that Adam saw her body as more important than her spirit.  There appearance was not important.  

God created them...equal but different...and then sin entered the picture and messed up a WHOLE lot of things....

So...God created women as equal but different than men, in a position of honor, to be his companion, his helper...so what does He expect of us as women?  God's Word is a guidebook for our lives so what does it say women should be?

The Bible is full of guidance that applies equally to men and women but Proverbs 31:10-31 is one of the best descriptions in the Bible of what God expects specifically from women

10  Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.

11Her husband can trust her,  and she will greatly enrich his life.
12She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
13She finds wool and flax and busily spins it.
14She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.
15She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
16She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.
18She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
19Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.
20She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
21She has no fear of winter for her household,
for everyone has warm clothes
22She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
23Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.
24She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.
25She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
26When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
27She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
28Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:
29“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”
30Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
31Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
 
Many take this verse as a bad thing, an indication that women should work themselves to death, that God has too high of standards for women.  But really, he has high standards for all of us, doesn't He? 
 
So...what does this passage indicate women should be?  To me...it says a woman should be virtuous, kind, hardworking, diligent, an example to her family, her community and a glory to God.  Isn't that what God wants us all to be?  Does that mean she works outside the home?  Maybe...if that's what glorifies God and is best for her family.   After all, this woman goes out and buys a field, she sells things!  Does it mean she is a stay at home mom?  Maybe...if that's what glorifies God and is best for her family.  The woman described rises early and makes her family breakfast.  So...does this passage mean we all have to do those exact things?  No.  It mostly means that she should be God's light...His city on the hill...an example that others look up to. Not because of her outward appearance but because of her character...her giving, loving, hardworking heart.    This passage mentions specifically a "wife" but does that mean all women have to be married or should get married just to be a "Proverbs 31 woman".  No...not if being single now or for good are glorifying to God. 
 
What else does the Bible say about women?  Titus 2 gives us another example:
 
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
 
This says we should be teachers, examples, that we should out our family as our first priority under God, that we should be virtuous, kind, an example of God's word.  Again, isn't that what God calls us all to be?  It doesn't specify HOW we do those things, through a job outside the home or by staying home, by being married or single.  Because we are each individuals and we can exhibit God's instructions through various ways. 
 
This passage also hints at another "instruction" for women...submission...oh that horrible word!  But is it so horrible?  Not really.  Because God sees us as EQUAL to men, but different.  And he calls men to submit as well...to God himself.  So...we are ALL called to submit, in equal but different ways.  And when a man submits himself fully to God his heart is changed and therefore it is comfortable, safe, glorifying to God for a woman to submit to a man.  When is it not so glorifying, safe, comfortable....is when sin enters the picture.  But sin is the reason we do ANYTHING contrary to God's instructions, its why we no longer live in the perfect Garden He created for us...so why is submission to Him or to our husbands any different?
 
Submission doesn't mean being a doormat, it means choosing to honor God by being loving, forgiving, caring, virtuous, no matter what another individual's actions.   That means different things in different situations but it always means honoring God through our OWN actions and reactions.   

We are also reminded that we are not to do things just for appearance sake or because society dictates it.  In Luke 10:38-42 we hear the story of 2 sisters, Mary and Martha, who both love Jesus dearly but show it differently.  While Martha is busy with "preparations", Mary sits at Jesus's feet, listening.  When Martha gets frustrated and points out to Jesus she is doing all the work while her sister sits He reminds her that He is the most important thing.  Life for all of us...women and men...is a constant balance of finding the true way of glorifying God, whether it is through hard work done FOR Him or sitting with His word.  Hardwork, diligence, a clean home or a successful job in itself is NEVER enough, not without Christ. 
 
There are many verses in the Bible about specific women and about womanhood in general.  They have been used and misused.  
 
So, how can we as women make sure we are glorifying God?  By being virtuous, Christ-filled individuals who strive to be what God created us to be.  THAT is what will bring us true equality...because God created us equal...but different. 

What are YOUR thoughts on God's goals for women?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the Norwex Fluff and Tumble Dryer Balls is.......LaTanya Thornhill!  Congratulations!  I will email you this morning to get your info for shipping LaTanya. 

Thank you all so much for your entries.  I have really enjoyed reading your comments on the other blog posts and I think Jeni is appreciating your input on your other "want to try" Norwex products.  I have a few more giveaways in the works, I am having so much fun hosting them! 

Check back later today for a new post...I'm trying to decide which of a couple I have in the works I want to put up first. 

Have a great day!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Norwex Dryer Ball Review and GIVEAWAY!!!

A while back my good friend Jeni told me she was going to become a Norwex consultant.  I had heard "Norwex" in passing on some of the chat threads I'm on but really knew nothing about it.  So I went to her launch party and fell in love.  Norwex helps you have a clean home without so many strong cleaning agents.  I have always liked finding alternative cleaning methods and have used vinegar as an alternative cleaner for quite sometime so this intrigues me.  I love that their products are high quality and that they support moms by giving them a home-based career opportunity.  I have more to say about what all I love about Norwex but I'll save that for a future post.

So...while we were talking about my upcoming "favorite cloth accessories" post I mentioned to Jeni that the cloth diaper accessory that I wish I had but have never gotten was wool dryer balls. Well, she offered to give me a set of Fluff and Tumble Dryer Balls to review and then give away!

 


Well, after a little over a week of using them I'm not sure I really want to give them away!  Wool dryer balls are most commonly used to reduce drying time, therefore saving you money through reducing your energy bills and extending the life of your dryer.  And I agree they did reduce my drying time, I would say by about 10-20%, depending on what I was washing (please note, I have a very old washer that leaves the clothes quite damp so you will likely get better results than I did).  But what I love MOST is that they made our clothes and diapers so much softer!  I don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets for several reasons 1) I always forget to put them in, 2) I don't want to risk absentmindedly putting them in with a load of diapers and 3) because they cost money.  So I am LOVING that the dryer balls bounce around and soften up my laundry by keeping it from bunching up or sticking to the sides of the dryer!   And they reduce static.

Since I promised to give this set away I will definitely be buying a set of my own soon.

If you would like to purchase a set of your own please visit Jeni's Norwex page or contact her on Facebook.

But first...you can enter to win these!  Let's be clear, I am giving away THIS set of dryer balls, they are not new in the package, they have been through the dryer with my laundry about 15 times.  I have wild, sometimes dirty little boys and I have 2 small dogs.  I wash my laundry in either Tide or homemade detergent.  So...please don't enter unless you understand you are getting THIS set of dryer balls (I will put them back in the original box before sending them).   They should last a total of about 1000 cycles so after around 15 at my house they have PLENTY of life left in them.  They have linted up a bit but that is normal and actually good, it increases their surface area. 


So...use the rafflecopter tool below to enter!

*********NOTE...giveaway is NOT open until 12am Feb 28th, 2014**************

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Story of Faith and a Baby

February is American Heart Month and the month has almost gotten away from me without a couple of very important posts being written (1 is probably gonna slip back into March but I'll blame it on February being so short).  This post is about physical hearts and the faith that lives in our hearts. 

This is Mason...
 
 
Isn't he just so stinking cute?!
 
Mason is the son of my friends Cory and Meagan.  While I don't get to see them much I, and many others I know, have a pretty strong connection to Mason because many of us have a whole lot of prayers wrapped up in that sweet little boy!  So...here is Mason's story...in a shortened version that I know won't come close to doing justice to the faith, the pain, the joy of the actual happenings (my writing could never do justice to the miraculous things God has done through Mason's existence).
 
Meagan and Cory were so excited when they found out they were expecting their second little boy, due May of 2011.  The pregnancy progressed happily, with a few hiccups, until their 20 week ultrasound and checkup.  That was the day that changed their lives in many, many ways.  They found out after 2 different ultrasounds that Mason had physical defects, cystic hygroma, atrioventricular canal defect in his heart, a thick nuchal fold and poor foot arches, which are all consistent with Down Syndrome.    That day their image of what their lives would be came crashing down around them.  They were told their baby may not even make it.  And through the chaos, they immediately turned to their faith.  Within days the diagnosis of D.S. was confirmed through an amniocentisis.  At that time the cystic hygroma alone made Mason's prognosis of survival only 10%.  And so...we started praying, a whole lot of us!  Cory and Meagan and their family felt the most direct impact of all the updates, twist and turns, the downright roller coaster of physical and emotional changes that came with this pregnancy.  But they held their faith and a massive prayer army formed and grew.  And on each update from Meagan we prayed for specific things.  And through it all God was faithful, as he always is.  Meagan endured physical pain like no one should have to, including multiple amniotic reduction procedures because Mason's various physical condition caused buildup of excess amniotic fluid.  They endured legally having to hear the "option" of terminating their pregnancy (which happens in 93% of pregnancies with Down Syndrome and 98% of pregnancies with Cystic Hygroma).   They endured the torn emotions of healthy pregnancies and babies close to them.  They prayed through not being able to prepare to bring home a healthy baby and instead made "alternative" birth plans depending on if Mason made it to delivery.  They had frequent sonograms and check-ups to keep a close eye on Mason and each one seemed to bring conflicting information...this is good but this is bad, this is better than last time but now we have this to worry about.   They dealt with the emotions of praying their baby would be born and survive and knowing if he was he would always be "different" and the struggles that would bring.  They walked through the process of preparing special clothes and a blanket for Mason upon the very real possibility that he would not survive.  All this while trying to support each other and be great parents to their little 1 year old boy.  And through it all they stood fast in their faith and so did we...and we PRAYED! 
 
And God stayed faithful as well and SHOWED His presence, through many ways, small special gifts, the perfect verse shared right when it was needed, tiny messages sent from above. 
 
Mason made his surprise arrival on Apr. 22, about 1 month early, at 6lbs 14 oz and 18.75 inches.  He did wonderful, needing only a little oxygen right away but quickly not even needing breathing assistance and learning to eat quite quickly.   This little miracle, who at one point was given a 3% chance of survival and the option of "termination", went home with his Mommy and Daddy, with no machines or meds, at 11 days old! 
 
 
Here's Mason at about 3.5 weeks old
 
 
 
Mason thrived and grew, even mastering breastfeeding, which can be challenging for some special needs babies.  Now obviously, the struggles weren't over.  Just because he was here and home he did still have a serious heart condition!  That wasn't just going to go away.   But while the Drs. expected Mason to go into inevitable heart failure within days of birth that didn't happen until he was around 5 weeks old!  Mason as put on medication at that time to help his heart and was monitored closely.  He continued to grow and thrive, with a few small hiccups, and defy the odds, meeting developmental milestones way ahead of expectations. 
 

 

Here he is at 3 months showing off his awesome head control
 
Mason eventually had open heart surgery in late September 2011 to correct his heart defect.  It was a rough road for a while but soon he was on the mend! 
 

 
 
Today Mason is a bouncing 2.5 year old who defies expectations!  And this month he was honored as 2014 "Heart Child" for the American Heart Association!  And, he's an awesome big brother now as well.  And will start preschool soon!
 
 
Meagan and Mason next to his fundraising artwork at the annual Heart Ball
 
 
Through Mason's journey Meagan and Cory's faith has been an inspiration to me and to so many others and I just had to share their journey with you.  They never doubt that Mason is their perfect gift from God, exactly how he is and I firmly believe that too. 
 
Read more about Mason's journey at Prayers for Mason or on his Facebook page.


Monday, February 24, 2014

A Whole New World

Well, Good Night! (that is my Grandma's most common phrase of surprise or emphasis), I can't believe it's been a week since my last post!  I am so sorry.   Most days I truly do not know where the time goes. 

Anyways, this post has been on my mind since last week and I am finally getting it all typed up.  At the very end of last year my favorite Christian music station, KLove, issued a challenge to it's listeners.  It was called the "30 day challenge" and it asked you to listen to nothing but Christian radio for 30 days, beginning January 1st and see what happened to your attitude, perspective, faith, etc.  Well, I started a little late, but I took the challenge!  Since reception for KLove is spotty here I changed it a touch, I listened nothing but KLove and to Christian talk radio on Bott Radio Network (I have listened to BOTT for several years now). 

Well...can I just tell you, well over a month in now and my perspective has completely changed.  Since last January, when my world fell down around my ears, I have had some hard lessons about how easily I had fallen into the trap of being a Christian who really doesn't notice the "worldliness" of the society around her and when I did notice I usually just chose to overlook it or say "it's not THAT bad".  But this challenge has given me even more tools to notice those things and not ignore them.  It has been amazing.  And it has been such an uplifting, encouraging gift to my life.  It seems no matter how my day is going, good or bad, the program or playlist on whichever of the 2 channels I'm listening to is always perfect to uplift me from the drudgery or boost my good day even more. 

So, the other day I had a wonderful reminder of how I have come to view the world around me in a different light.   Our 2 year old wanted to play with play-doh so I was sitting at the computer doing some work while he played beside me at the table.  I decided to turn on some Disney Movie songs for him (please don't roast me about Disney!).  About halfway into the third song I realized now I was hearing those songs in a completely different way than they were intended and completely different than I had ever heard them before.  Why?!  Because the emotional, spiritual filter through which all outside influences must pass to get to my brain is different than it was a year ago or even a month ago, it is so much BETTER!   Now, you might think I'm a little silly but let me give you an example (I'm fairly certain most will recognize which movie these lyrics come from);

I can show you the world
shining, shimmering, splendid
tell me princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you
Now I'm in a whole new world with you

Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky

A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

A whole new world
Every turn a surprise
With new horizons to pursue
Every moment red-letter
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you

A whole new world
That's where we'll be
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me

Now, most of you will immediately recognize that as Aladdin and Jasmine, right?  But make yourself forget that for a moment.  Change your filter.  And read it as a conversation between Christ and YOU!  Obviously not quite ALL the lyrics work but many do, many could easily be an encouragement from Christ about how amazing the world is if we just follow His guidance.  Think about it for a bit, read back through those lyrics Princess, daughter of the almighty King (2 Cor. 6:18)....

Try another one...a very good friend of mine might like this one...it's from the Lion King...

So many things to tell her
But how to make her see
The truth about my past? Impossible!
She'd turn away from me

He's holding back, he's hiding
But what, I can't decide
Why won't he be the king I know he is
The king I see inside?

Need some help "filtering" this one?  Try it this way...as an unsure believer, like me until recently, who feels like they might not ever "deserve" Christ's gift in the place of Simba, and Christ in the place of Nala...

So many things to tell Him
But how to make Him see
The truth about my past?
Impossible! He'd turn away from me!

She's holding back, she's hiding
But what, I can't decide
Why won't she be the woman I know she is
The woman I see inside?

You don't have to take a challenge like the KLove one to change your perspective, your filter, but it certainly might help.  Challenge YOURSELF to see this world in a different light, the filter of Christ.  Look at things that were never intended to glorify Him and MAKE them do just that! 

"Can you feel His love tonight"?  I can, like never before!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cloth Wipes...my system

As a member of a few cloth diaper groups on Facebook I often see questions about the easiest way to use cloth wipes and about cloth wipe solutions.  I've also had several friends ask me about them and because a friend asked today I decided I would share my system.  Obviously this may not work for all but I've used it for 2 years now and haven't ever been even a little tempted to do anything different because I find it to work so well. 

I pretty much exclusively use RagaBabe wipes.  They are made of fantastically soft cotton Sherpa material and in my opinion are just the perfect size and thickness for wiping little bums.  I've tried a few other brands and have always gone back to my RagaBabes.  And, as mentioned in my "favorite cloth diapers" post, RagaBabe is a small, family owned company from right here in the USA so that's an added bonus.

I store my wipes in "GladWare Family Size Food Storage Container", I got them at Walmart for right around $5 for a pack of 3 and they measure about 9" x 9" x 4'.  I have one with dry wipes that I fill as a load of diapers gets folded and one with wet wipes that I keep ready for changes (I use the third for actually storing food).  As you can see the RagaBabe wipes fit PERFECTLY in this container.  I just lay them out flat, all stacked up.



Then, for my wipes solution...well...I buy it.  I know, I know, the internet is teaming with recipes for DIY wipes solution and that is a perfectly acceptable route to go!  But again, through a wonderful group of cloth diaper mamas on Facebook I discovered Scarlet's Naturals.  They are yet another small, family owned USA company and have the most amazing line of natural products.  I use their Hiney Honey Bites to make my wipes solution. 


As I said, I've used this system for 2 years now and unlike reports I frequently hear from other mamas I have NEVER had an issue with mildew, mold or even just bad smell in my wipes container.

Desiree at Scarlet's recommends using a "bite" per 3oz of water but I haven't found I need that much.  For my container, full of wipes, I use 4 cups of water and 4 "bites".  I heat my water in the microwave for about 4 minutes until it is quite hot to the touch but not boiling (yes, I am sure you could use the stove as well) and then I drop in my 4 "bites" and stir until they are melted (only takes about 30 seconds). 


 
 
Then...pour the solution over your wipes in your container, pop the lid on and you are done!  The lid is easy to take off with one hand if you forget to open the container before you remove a poopy diaper and stays sealed really well!  Then just throw them in with your diapers to wash.
 
 
 
It might sound gross to some but I use the same CLEAN wet wipes for wiping noses, faces, hands, spills, etc. (I know my wash routine and trust me, those suckers are CLEAN by the time I get done with them).  The ingredients in the "bites" are all natural and the wipes themselves are so wonderfully soft they are perfect for sensitive kid and baby skin.
 
If you hurry over today (Feb. 17th) Scarlet's is having a President's Day Sale!
 
Let me know if you have any questions or feel free to share your cloth wipe system!  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thankfulness....even when it's work

This morning I woke up with a bit of a headache, probably from sleeping in the chair part of the night with a baby who is working on 6...count them SIX...teeth all at the same time.  And for the first little bit of the morning I was pretty grumpy.  I just wanted to boys to sleep a little longer, I just wanted them to curl up and go back to sleep with me.  Honestly, the last few days have been a little...frustrating.   And then I was laying on the floor, watching the boys play and that sweet, wild little 8 month old who kept me up part of the night came crawling over with this amazing smile of his, grabbed my ears and gave me his version of a sloppy baby kiss and then laid his sweet little head down on the floor beside me and just looked straight in my eyes.  And I decided right then and there that my attitude for the day needed adjusted.   That I could choose to let it be a crummy, frustrating day just because I was a little tired and had a little headache or I could choose to make it a day of thankfulness and worship.  I chose the latter.  So, I prayed to the Lord for a little help and set about to make it a good day.  Here are just some of my thoughts today....

I was thankful I have a Lord in Heaven who hears my prays, loves me, knows my heart and sent His son to not only die for my sins but die in a way that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt I am valuable to Him beyond measure.

I was thankful for that sweet little baby boy who had a bit of a scary entrance into this world.  I watched him play and crawl and laugh and thought of the mamas out there who have lost their little ones, or have sick babies or are faithfully carrying babies they know won't make it long after birth and I thanked the Lord for teething and sleepless nights.

I was thankful for a dependable, comfortable, safe vehicle when I had to stop and get gas on the way to church.

I was thankful for a country where I can listen to whatever radio station I want while we drove to church and was particularly thankful for Ravi Zacharius's program on BOTT radio and some uplifting music on KLove.

I was thankful for my amazing church who, just to name a few things, welcome our boys with such enthusiasm and know them by name, talk to the toddler so intelligently, check on him in the toddler room for me during Sunday so I know he is doing ok but won't see me and want to go with me, make the baby feel like he has about a dozen extra "aunts" who he is wonderfully safe with while I get the toddler to the potty, a snack, etc., who genuinely care enough about me to keep praying for my situation without constantly bringing it up and who respect and value my thoughts and insights during our wonderful adult Sunday School classes.

I was thankful for a squirmy, wild, fidgety toddler who ran from one end of the pew to the other, chattered about his tractors and snacks most of church service, full volume and wanted so bad to help with communion, "needed" a wafer and some wine (which of course he didn't get).  I know he could be fighting for his life, like one little one I know, or hooked up to oxygen and not able to jump and dance, like another I know, or be gone from this world much to soon, like few sweet toddlers I know.

And I was again thankful for my church family, who sends me sweet smiles at his toddler jabber, even Pastor in the middle of his message, who pick up that squirmy toddler or hold his other hand to help keep him still at communion, who tell him good job when he announces to everyone after church that he peed in the potty and don't think its silly when he tells them he had to put his pants and shoes back on afterwards.

I was thankful for the 50ish year old, very rugged outdoorsy looking man in Walmart who stopped me and profusely complimented me on my "baby holster" (my Action Baby Carrier) and told me I was a "smart mom" and "doing a good job".  It would have been a compliment and brightened my day from anyone but it came from someone I would have least expected it from and it was just what I needed, right when I needed it as the toddler squirmed in the cart and tried to throw our groceries out of it and the baby pulled my ears and bit my chin and I was starting to slip from my "thankfulness" mindset. 

I was thankful for an ample supply of food and groceries as we waited in line for quite some time at checkout.   I started to be annoyed but I reminded myself its all about perspective and I made myself realize there are people in this world who would give anything to stand in line to check out with any sort of food they wanted in the quantity they needed to feed their family.

I was thankful for my ability to nourish my baby with nothing but my own body when we had to find a parking lot and make a pit stop because he was desperately hungry because I know there are mamas who hurt greatly because for one reason or another they are unable to do so and for the focused mind of a toddler who was more than content waiting for the baby to eat since I had the forethought to park for said pit stop in a implement dealer parking lot. 

I was thankful for a warm, safe home when I scanned the scattered toys on the living room floor. 

There are many other thanks given today, some important, some mundane, some just too raw and personal to share right now.   But overall, it was a really good day, not because of luck or because it just happened that way but because I chose it to be and change the perspective I was viewing it through when I first woke up.  And it was a reminder of the lesson I've been working hard to learn and live this last 13 months...that joy and contentment and thankfulness can be found anywhere and anytime...if you decide to find it.  Happiness is fleeting and man-made, but JOY, that comes from the inside, from a decision you make with your heart and then with your head.  And once you find it, happiness isn't such a big deal, because you know you have something so much better.   It doesn't mean you won't ever have a bad day...but it means when you do have one you have the ability to get yourself out of it instead of relying on some external force or event to change it. 

What are you thankful for on hard days? 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Links to Free and Discounted ebooks!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and PLEASE check the price, they are marked free or discounted at the time this is posting but that could change at anytime! If you don't have a kindle just download the free Kindle reader for your PC or mobile device (or both!). 

FREE:

21 Days to Loving Your Husband Melinda Borda and Carrie Martin-Vegue

Bigger Than Impossible: Keys to Experiencing the Impossible through God Lydia Chorpening

Rice Flour Recipes - 40 Gluten Free Recipes Rice Flour Recipes for all Occasions Sarah Stevens

Natural Remedies for Children and Family Elizabeth Roxas

Give Me a Break - The Art of Making Time for You Hugh Culver

Spurgeon Gems Charles Spurgeon

Personalities in Love; Understanding the Man in your Life Donna Partow

Hearts Awakening Delia Parr

How to Save Money; A 21-day Challenge to Save $500/month Bob Lotich

The 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience Stormie Omartian

Greater than Rubies Hallee Bridgeman

Hope Being Gone (Trusting God in the Tough Times) Cherie Hill

Reduced Price
 
A Woman and Her God Beth Moore
 
 
 


Sacred Marriage Gary Thomas

Wife After God

Desperate Marriages: Moving Toward Hope and Healing in Your Relationship Gary Chapman

I Will Carry You Angie Smith

Mended: Pieces of a Life Made Whole Angie Smith

For Kids
 
The Reader Amy Hest
 









Monday, February 10, 2014

Breakfast Casserole Recipe

Well...a weekend that just didn't go as planned, a baby who isn't feeling super and a toddler who has been snowbound in the house for WAY too long all add up to not getting the post I planned to put up today quite finished.  So, I thought I would share another of my favorite easy recipes instead. 

I originally got the basis for thise recipe from my "2nd mom", Cindy and loved it.  I've seen others similar to her original one but most of them turn out...in my opinion...a little...small.  If I'm gonna make a breakfast casserole I want it to be worth the effort.  So, I tweaked this one until I got it how I wanted it.  In my former job I often held "meetings" with groups of farmers and ranchers, on the side of a dirt road by a field of wheat or grain sorghum, at 7am or so.  And I almost always served them breakfast out of the back of my SUV.  The guys loved this casserole so much I learned I was going hear a lot of grief if I ever showed up at one of those meetings without it!  I've also served it at baby shower brunches, church potlucks and my MOPS group and it gets the same overwhelmingly positive response.  So...here ya go!

What you'll need:
1 8oz can of crescent rolls
2 lbs regular ground sausage
2 cups shredded fiesta blend cheese
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
butter for greasing pan
9 x 13" casserole dish

Crumble and brown sausage in a skillet.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat sides and bottom of 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with butter.  Line bottom of casserole dish with prepackaged crescent rolls.  Layer sausage evenly on top of crescent rolls (I apologize I forgot to take pics of these first steps!).  Cover sausage with shredded cheese.  
 As you can see, the sausage will be almost completely covered with cheese.
 
 
Crack eggs into a large bowl, whisk together, add milk, salt and pepper, whisk together.  Pour egg mixture over sausage and cheese.  The egg mixture should almost completely cover your cheese and sausage. 
 
 
Bake at 350, usually about 35-45 minutes but it seems to vary each time I make it, until top is browned, casserole is firm and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cut and enjoy! 



You can assemble this casserole ahead of time and stick it in the fridge until you need it.  And the leftovers warm up really well.  Hope you find it as tasty as I do.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Easy Crockpot Chili

So....it is cold and snowy here, really snowy.  I decided yesterday morning was a perfect day to make a big batch of chili.  Then I decided I would share my recipe.  I make chili in a slow cooker.  I believe chili is best when slow cooked so the ingredients meld together and cooking it that way makes the house smell wonderful.  The bonus is that is you can't be home you can start it in the morning and it will be all wonderfully warm and ready for supper when you get home.  This recipe is very easy and I have made it in very large batches for meetings for my former job and it has always gotten rave reviews.  So....here ya go.

What you'll need:
1lb ground beef
1lb beef stew meat
1lb sausage
1lb ground deer, elk, etc (completely optional, if I have it I throw it in, if not, no biggie)
2-3 cans your choice of beans (I use 1 can chili beans and 1 can dark kidney beans)
1-2 cans petite diced tomatoes (you decided how much tomato chunks you want)
1 12oz can tomato juice
1 12 oz can regular V8
1 12 oz can spicy V8
       (you can do 2 cans of either V8 depending on how much spice you want)
2 pkgs chili seasoning

Directions:
Cut stew meat into small chunks if the chunks are originally very big.  Brown each meat, separately, in a skillet and add to slow cooker. 
 
Stir in the beans and tomatoes one can at a time, deciding how "beany" and "tomatoey" you want your chili
 
 
Add in the cans of tomato juice and V8.  If you put a lot of beans and tomatoes in you might need to add an extra can of V8, your choice depending on how spicy you want your chili. Then stir in your chili seasoning.  That's it!  Put the lid on, put the crockpot on high if you are cooking it less than 4 hours and can stir occasionally, low or medium if it will be on all day and you won't be able to stir it. 
 
 
This recipe makes quite a bit but left-overs are nearly always my goal any time I cook.  I freeze leftovers in small twist-top storage containers.  They make super easy lunches or suppers later. 
 
Enjoy!
 
What's your favorite cold-weather meal?  Or your favorite slow-cooker recipe?
 
***Edit; this recipe is also wonderful for large gatherings, made in a large roaster, just keep the proportions the same.  Make way more than you will need and freeze the extra in gallon freezer bags laid flat on a cookie sheet***