Thursday, March 31, 2011

Prayer, Part Two: Light

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
so that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of
His power. (Ephesians 1:17-18)

You could probably meditate on these verses for a week—one phrase at a time--but I chose the word “light” to summarize what Paul is praying for his friends here.

When we pray for light, who are we addressing? Who is the light of the world?
In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world."

The Light of the World brings light to our hearts. This enlightenment begins when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. For the rest of our lives, He illuminates us with “the knowledge of His will.”

What does it mean to pray for light? Look back at the verse. Notice the words wisdom, revelation, and knowledge. We all need wisdom every single day. The Greek word Paul used for revelation means “uncovering” or “revealing God”; knowledge is “discernment” or “recognition.”

Think for a moment about carrying a flashlight on a dark night: it allows you to see or discern your path. It helps you recognize the faces of your friends. It uncovers truth and increases your knowledge about your surroundings. Praying for light is praying for discernment, truth, and knowledge—knowledge about your situation and a more intimate knowledge of the Lord.

Light also changes things. Sunlight nourishes plant life and literally brightens our life. Inside our homes, lamps cheer up dim corners, and candles add a romantic glow to dinner tables. In the same way, when the Light of the world cheers us up and changes us.

My bedroom window looks out toward the rugged mountains that surround Las Vegas. The red and orange layers in the mountains seem to shift as the sun moves across the sky. Between me and the mountains stands Red Rock casino, a sleek copper building that reflects the mountains and the clouds and, best of all, the sunrise. If I wake early enough in the morning, I watch the sunrise change the skyline. The mountains, the neighborhoods, the casino, the palm trees...all are touched by the light. I love to think of my Savior as the sunrise, His rays of love bringing hope and change to our world.

Here are some of David's prayers for Light:

Lord, You light my lamp;
My God illuminates my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)
Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation;
I wait for You all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)
Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15)

If you've trusted the Light of the World, He is shining in your heart today. If you need discernment, joy or change, ask Him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Prayer, Part One

Last weekend I spoke at Shiloh Bible Camp. I shared my "Spiritual Scrapbook" message on Friday night (see previous blogposts) and on Saturday morning I shared a message on prayer. Here is a slightly adapted version of the first of four segments of that message.

The gazebo in this picture is in a little park in our neighborhood. When I take the kids there, they carry little plastic dolls to play with in the sandbox. Last time we went to the park I noticed that the two older girls spent a long time building sandcastles. They told me these were houses for their dolls. I asked my youngest daughter Tina why she wasn't building a sandcastle and she said, “My doll lives in the gazebo.” Tina is very practical and she was tired that day, and she realized that she could use an existing structure and jump right into her fairytale game with her doll without any preparation work.

I watched my kids play that day, and I thought about prayer. I thought about how much easier it is to jump right into prayer when I have a little structure in mind. God hears the quick spur-of-the-moment prayers I pray, but when I have time, He is worthy of thoughtful meditative prayer.

This week I'm sharing a prayer structure with you: it's just three words you can use in your prayer times...three words you can count on your fingers and pray as you're drifting off to sleep..three words you can pray while you wait for your teakettle to boil in the morning.

We're going to read some prayers from the Bible, from the book of Psalms and the Epistles of Paul.

Here's a verse from Psalms:

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You, and will eagerly watch.
(Psalm 5:3)

When I read David's declaration that he would “order” his prayer, I see the beauty of an appointed time to pray, and a plan for that appointment.

Here's another verse—this one's from Paul:

Devote yourselves to prayer, stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
(Colossians 4:2)

If you've read Paul's writings, you've noticed that he was definitely devoted to prayer, devoted to his friends, and devoted to the Lord. I like his phrase “stay alert” – it tells me that prayer takes a little effort, it's something I should make time for, not just do when I feel like it or when I suddenly need God's assistance. This verse also holds a reminder to give thanks – it's so easy to remember to ask the Lord for things, but He deserves my praise also.

I call on You, God, because You will answer me;
listen closely to me;
hear what I say. (Psalm 17:6)
Be gracious to me, Lord,
for I call to You all day long.
Bring joy to Your servant's life,
since I set my hope on You, Lord.
For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive,
abundant in faithful love to all who call on You. (Psalm 86:3-5)
... I call to You for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer meets You. (Psalm 88:13)

Tomorrow I'll share the first prayer word with you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spiritual Scrapbook, part 5

I want to share a Bible story with you. You know this story: Jesus was on His way to heal a dying girl when he was interrupted by a sick woman.

Just then, a man named Jairus came. He was a leader of the synagogue. He fell down at Jesus' feet and pleaded with Him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter about 12 years old, and she was at death's door.

While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for 12 years, who had spent all she had on doctors yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the tassel of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched Me?" Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are hemming You in and pressing against You."

"Somebody did touch Me," said Jesus. "I know that power has gone out from Me." When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before Him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched Him and how she was instantly cured. (Luke 8:41-47)

Jesus could have kept this healing secret. Jesus was in a hurry, the woman was completely healed—why stop to talk about it? Well, it shows us that Jesus cares for each of us and values us individually, but I also see that it was important for this woman to share her story with the crowd. It was probably embarrassing—this sounds like one of those female problems that one doesn't usually talk about with just anyone. But Jesus had done something for her, and she was supposed to share.

As a follower of Jesus, you too have a story to share. I don't mean just an account of How You Got Saved, but your journey, your life with Jesus. He is your constant companion, leading and guiding you and encouraging you.

Remember I told you I have a lot of scrapbooking stuff and I never use it? You have the materials to make a spiritual scrapbook. It's like a very condensed journal. You need a Bible and a pen and some paper. Don't wait til you can make it look pretty with scalloped scissors and glittery stickers. That would be a fun project, but start now. Start simple.

Think about the seasons of your life. You might have recognized some of the seasons I mentioned. You might think of others: joy, productivity, weakness, repentance, waiting, rest, endurance...

Write down the verses you have held on to during those times. And when you find a verse that encourages you right now, in this season, write it down. Sometimes you can't label the season til it's over, but you'll have a verse handy.

And when you have those written down, talk to God about them. Have a little praise session, thanking Him for His presence and His guidance and His faithfulness.

You'll have those verses ready to share with others in similar seasons of life.

Finally, brothers, rejoice.
Be restored, be encouraged,
be of the same mind,
be at peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you...

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11,13)

Spiritual Scrapbook, part 4

A Season of Contentment

We moved to Vegas in 2002. We settled in, making friends and finding ministries at our church—Mark plays the piano and various other instruments, and I teach women's Bible studies. We had two more children: Annika was born in 2004 and Martina in

We enjoyed living in Vegas but we always planned to move back to the Northwest, and we prayed about when that was supposed to happen. In 2007 we heard about a job opening in Warrenton, Oregon, and surprisingly my first reaction was, “No! No! I don't want to move!” But that year my dad was very ill, and we began to think that maybe we should move back to be closer to him. My dad continued to go downhill and he died in 2008. The urgency for a move was gone, but we still felt a willingness to move.

In the spring of 2009 the job opening was indeed available, and Mark applied. Mark and I both flew out when he had an interview. We found a charming house for rent in Seaside, two blocks from the beach. I felt that perhaps I could live in a small town again if it was on the beach!

Mark and I both prayed and prayed about that job. There were so many reasons we wanted to move--and so many reasons we wanted to stay. For both of us, it was really a time of submitting to God's will. God really seemed to be directing us towards a move. Everything seemed to point in that direction.

And then Mark didn't get that job. I was so relieved not to have to pack and move, not to give up my church and living in a large city—but I was also frustrated! “What was that about, Lord,” I kept asking. “Why did You take us on that journey, working in our hearts to be willing to move....what was that all about?”

But then the fall came and I knew exactly what that was all about. I began teaching at Bible Study again and the weather cooled down, and I was completely content. I'd always been wishing for just a little more in my life...first I was wanting to be married, then to have a child, then to move back to the Northwest (or Ireland)...but now I am absolutely content to be right here, right now.

God took us on that journey, not to move us, but to change our hearts and to give us a joy and contentment in our current situation. We liked Vegas, but now we love it. Now it's home. I know the season of change will come again someday, but for now God has given me contentment.

I know, Lord, that a man's way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

A Season of Serving

Now I'm in a season of serving God. I remember when I went to that Elizabeth George conference, I watched Elizabeth on stage and I thought, “I want to do that. Maybe I could do that at Shiloh some day!” And last weekend I did.

I write a book every year and teach it at women's Bible study at our church. You can follow the links on the side of this blog to Sacred Signposts (about prayer) and Praise Patterns (about praise.) I'm writing a book on the topic of serving God—using our talents for God and looking at Biblical and historical people who served God in different ways.

I'm also very busy caring for my children—that's serving God too. Serving God can be exhausting, but it's rewarding too. I learned that at Shiloh Bible Camp when I was a teenager and I had so much fun serving God here! There was another result of that volunteer work. I didn't realize this til Lissa pointed it out to me.

In 1994 I cut down on my volunteering, because I had to get a paying job, but that was the year my dad retired. He looked around for something to do, and began mowing the lawn at Shiloh and helping in the office a little. Eventually I moved away but my dad kept going out there. Even when my dad moved away, he kept driving back to Shiloh. And when my dad died, Dan Small (a former manager of Shiloh) spoke at the graveside service and then we had the memorial service there. (The cemetery where my family is buried is very near Shiloh.)

A few months later, my Grandma died. I wondered where her memorial service would be because my aunts and uncles don't have any church connections. My aunts, however, are very organized and competent women, and they'd been taking notes during my dad's memorial service. They contacted Dan Small about speaking at the graveside service and having a luncheon there. I flew up here for that service, and Lissa attended with me. As we walked from the cemetery back to Camp, Lissa said, “Your family is here because of you.” I was startled. “What? My family were pioneers out here.”

“You started this.” she said. “You worked here for years before your dad did. You are the connection to Shiloh.” And I realized that my unsaved relatives had heard the gospel and then had lunch in such a pleasant Christian atmosphere...because of a chain of events that started when I was thirteen and I set tables and dished up pudding.

I want to encourage you today that whatever small actions you are doing to serve God—He sees, and He will reward you.

...You serve the Lord Christ. (I Corinthians 3:24)

Spiritual Scrapbook, part 3

Another season that we all experience in the Christian life is a season of darkness. You might call it grief, loneliness, discouragement, despair...but you know what I mean. When Mark and I got married, it seemed that all our friends got married within the same year, and they all had babies very soon after that. We didn't. My goals in life were simple: I wanted to be a wife and a mom, and I somehow thought that the one followed the other quite soon. I became discontent and discouraged.

In the third year of our marriage, we lost two babies. No one told me that miscarriage can lead to postpartum depression. It was a very dark year. But it was the year I started reading Psalms again. I'd discovered Psalms when I was a teenager and I was in a bit of a dark year—my best friend Lissa had moved away and I was lonely!

I also rediscovered another favorite verse: Hebrews 13:5. I knew the last part: "He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you,'" but I noticed a bit more of that verse: “Be satisfied with what you have.” I felt that God was asking me, “Am I enough?” and I realized that I was living as if He wasn't enough.

I finally saw the light at the end of that dark season, strangely enough, on September 11th, 2001. By that time I was pregnant with Lydia but I'd really given up hope that I'd ever have a living child—everyday I expected something to go wrong. I sat on the couch and watched the television that day and I prayed for our nation—and I realized I wasn't the only person in the whole world who was grieving.

Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

I love this verse. When dark seasons come, they cannot overcome the Light.

Next, I entered a Season of Change.

Lydia was born in October, 2001. We sent out baby announcements that included
Psalm 126:3: "The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad."

I loved being a mom. Lydia was so beautiful and I felt complete. When Lydia was seven months old, Mark and I celebrated our fifth anniversary, and I was so excited (I'd lost weight and I was wearing a skirt I'd bought five years before) Mark was strangely quiet. The next day he told me he'd lost his job. I told him he was not supposed to carry burdens like that overnight without telling me!

I remembered the dark season we'd just been through, and I thought, “well, we've been through worse things! We have God, we have each other, we'll survive!”

Later that day we heard about job opportunities in Las Vegas. We'd never been to Vegas. Within two weeks he had a job offer, and within two months we moved.

It was a whirlwind summer and it was exciting and the desert was very hot but I was fascinated with the palm trees...and then suddenly that fall the palm trees weren't interesting anymore and I began to wonder what in the world I was doing in the desert. I had this repeating thought: “This just isn't the way I pictured my life!” Over and over again, it echoed in my mind.

That fall, Several ladies from our church went to a women's conference where Elizabeth George was speaking. I'd never heard of Elizabeth George, but I wanted to get acquainted with women from church, so I went too. Elizabeth talked about overcoming discouragement. She talked about meditating on God's truth, the the truth of reality—not the what if's and the if only's and the thoughts of “this isn't the way I pictured it.”

When I heard that phrase that had been replaying in my head, I took notice of her next words: “No, this isn't the way you pictured it. But this is the way it is. Stop yelling. Get up. Move on.” I bought her book “Loving God with all Your Mind” and read and reread it, and I began to absorb the fact that change—when it's planned by God—is a good thing. I realized that God had removed a lot of distractions from my life—things I loved—nearby friends and family and beautiful scenery and rain—in order that I would focus on Him. When Lydia took her afternoon naps, I drank a lot of tea and read a lot of scriptures, especially the book of Philippians.

Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spiritual Scrapbook, part 2

This is the second in a series, sharing my spiritual journey. Earlier today, I shared why I recorded my story in a spiritual scrapbook. Now I'll share the beginning of that journey.

I grew up in a Christian home, and I spent a lot of time at church. When I was four I realized that I needed to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. No one was with me, but I'd heard all the instructions many times, so I asked the Lord to take away my sin and give me a home in heaven. My favorite color at the time was white, and I chose Psalm 51:7 as my favorite verse: “...Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” That was the beginning of my walk with Jesus.

When I talk about Beginnings, I have to mention Shiloh Bible Camp. I came to Shiloh for the first time when I was ten—and I immediately felt at home there, perhaps in part because my great-grandfather was a pioneer just down the road from the camp's location. When I was thirteen, I was asked to come work in the kitchen. I see Shiloh as the beginning of my ministry—the first place I was aware that I was serving God. I was just the “gopher” in the kitchen—I didn't even cook! I brought ingredients to the cooks and I dished up pudding and I set the tables. I worked in the kitchen for several weeks every summer and I did some junior counseling too, until the summer I graduated from highschool. That year, there was something new at Camp, the Christians In Training program, and it was the only option for teenagers who wanted to volunteer at camp. I was very anxious to stay involved at camp, so I filled out my application as soon as I received it and mailed it the next day. I've been told I was the very first CITer. I remember one of the verses we learned in CIT:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)
Shiloh gave me a wonderful beginning in serving God and seeing that every job from cleaning bathrooms to mowing the lawn could be done for His glory...and it was fun when I was working with other Christians!

Of course I also began a lot of friendships at Shiloh—including my very best friend Lissa, and my husband Mark. Mark and I met in 1989, and we started dating at a Study Retreat in March 1993. For that first year, we only saw each other at Shiloh. This was a wonderful way to begin a relationship because it was all very real. There weren't any romantic candlelight dinners—we were washing pots and pans and making pizza!

The next page in my scrapbook is titled "Guidance." As I look at the four years of our dating relationship and the first few years of our marriage, I see God's guidance. I know God guided us to meet the way we did, and as He led us toward marriage, He guided me through a series of jobs. I worked in a clothing store, where I worked with a woman who knew the manager of the Washington Mutual Bank in Aberdeen. Eventually I went to work at that WaMu, and that led to a transfer to a branch in Salem, Oregon where Mark was going to college when we got married. I didn't get the first job I applied for—it seemed perfect at the time—but God was guiding me to the next job, and it was better. It was inside a Fred Meyer store, and after Mark and I were married he worked in that Fred Meyer. We had two less-than-dependable cars, so it was very helpful to work in the same building! Experiencing that season of guidance prepared me for a later season of guidance when Mark lost his teaching job in Oregon and we moved to Las Vegas.

I trust in You, Lord; I say, "You are my God." The course of my life is in Your power. (Psalm 31:14-15)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spiritual Scrapbook, part I

This is the beginning of a blogging series in which I will share the talks I gave at Shiloh Bible Camp at a Women's Retreat. On Friday night I shared my testimony. While I was making my notes I read an article about "How to Give Your Testimony." It said I should describe my life before I was saved and then tell you how my life is different now. Well...I was four when I trusted the Lord. I didn't have a lot of time to develop a long list of pre-Jesus habits. Since I can't tell that kind of a testimony, I'm sharing my spiritual scrapbook with you instead. I'm not really a scrapbooker. I have a lot of supplies but I haven't really done anything with them for years. Of course I do take pictures of my children and at Christmas time I make a calendar online and have the calendar sent to the grandparents. One of the scenes I record each year is my children jumping in a pile of leaves. We live in the desert, so we don't have a lot of autumn leaves, but there are a few, and my kids gather them up and make piles of leaves to jump in. We've done this four years in a row, and we know now that the leaves aren't there until the first week of December, and we've learned that if we see the gardener's truck parked outside we should run and take the photo before he takes away all the leaves! Because we take that picture every year, we anticipate this seasonal event and we're prepared.

Here's what happens if I'm not prepared for next's the one snowy day of the year and we don't have gloves, so my oldest daughter wears a potholder while she builds a snowman.

Like the seasons outside our windows, some seasons in our souls come around again. Taking a few notes—making a spiritual scrapbook—can help us be prepared the next time.

My scrapbook is very simple: it's just verses on file cards. I'm going to share just a few pages from my spiritual scrapbook this week. Remember the physical seasons —my cold winter in Vegas might be a lot shorter than yours, but it's still winter—and in the same way, my spiritual seasons might look different from yours, but we probably have some things in common too. God's Word is full of encouragement, comfort and triumphant praise—and it can help prepare us for the coming seasons.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Prayer

Christ as a light, illumine and guide me
Christ as a shield, overshadow me
Christ under me
Christ over me
Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me
Lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the hearts of each to whom I speak
In the mouths of each who speak unto me.

You can find this version at Itunes by John Michael Talbot.
A more modern (and longer) recording is "St. Patrick's Breastplate" by Stefan Van Voorst. I also like the version of "St. Patrick's Breastplate" by an artist named Mr. Jag.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Learn a little about this hero of our faith here.

This is my post for Thought-Provoking Thursday, hosted at Some Girl's Website. I find this prayer very thought-provoking. It shows prayer as a desire for Christ to permeate my whole life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Little Prayer Humor

Prayer is a serious thing, but some of our prayer rituals are a little funny...
I like these funny looks at serious matters; they make me stop and think.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Five on Friday

This blog is quite new, but certainly looks promising. Check it out:

Here is a touching post on disabilities and learning difficulties.

This is a good post on Lent, from the author of 1,000 Gifts.

St. Patrick's Day is next week! You'll need a recipe for Irish brown bread.

And here's a comic for my Nascar-loving friends.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Praying with Psalm 39-41

You, indeed, have made my days short in length,
and my life span as nothing in Your sight.
Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor. Selah.

I waited patiently for the Lord,
and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.
He brought me up from a desolate pit,
out of the muddy clay,
and set my feet on a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

I delight to do Your will, my God;
Your instruction resides within me.

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
let those who love Your salvation continually say,
"The Lord is great!"

May the Lord, the God of Israel, be praised
from everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and amen.

(Psa. 39:5, 40:1-3, 8,16, 41:13)

My life is so very short
compared to eternity,
and I am so very weak
compared to omnipotence --
yet You care for me
encourage me
and instruct me.

Thought-provoking Thursday is hosted at Some Girl's Website.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Avocado Bean Salad

This is a simple recipe that is very yummy! All measurements are approximate and can be tweaked to your own preferences.

3 TBS olive oil
1 large sprig each: sage, tarragon, marjoram, oregano (or any combination of herbs you love)
a bunch of chives (define "bunch" to your own taste)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans or cannellini, drained and rinsed
1 or two green onions, diced (optional)
2 avocadoes, diced
salt and pepper

Chop herbs and place them with olive oil in a bowl or pitcher. Optional: process with a stick blender (chopping blade) for a few moments.

In a large bowl place the beans, green onion, and the avocado. Pour the herbed olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Mix vigorously. The avocado will mash up a bit, coating the beans.

The flavors are best if you prepare and chill the salad for an hour or two before serving.

For a more colorful salad, add fresh diced tomatoes.

I like to just eat this with a spoon, but it is lovely on a bed of greens, on whole wheat crackers, or on small slices of rustic bread.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Promises of Safety and Guidance

Yesterday I prayed for the Lord's guidance. Today as I read my Bible and studied Catherine Martin's A Heart that Hopes in God, I read God's promises of His watchful care, His sustaining power and His direction.

...The Lord watches over the way of the righteous...(Psalm 1:6)

...You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. (Psalm 3:3)

I lie down and sleep: I wake again because the Lord sustains me. (Psalm 3:5)

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)

The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever. (Psalm 121:8)

Under the aegis of such a promise [the promise of Psalm 121:8] we may go on pilgrimage without trembling, and venture into battle without dread. None are so safe as those whom God keeps; none so much in danger as the self-secure. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon in The Treasury of David, quoted in A Heart that Hopes in God

Times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord...(Acts 3:19)

I ask, gracious Lord, that You keep me watchful and alert, so that at any moment I may discern the movement of Your hand and detect Your will and guidance in the providence of little things. -- F.B.Meyer in Daily Prayers, quoted in A Heart that Hopes in God

Lord, thank You for answering my prayer and reassuring me that You will continually guide and protect and energize me. Keep me aware of You!

This is my post for "Multitudes on Mondays" hosted at the link below.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Fun: A Wall of Calm

I bought these fun Keep Calm prints from various sellers at I hung them all up on the stairway wall. Our livingroom has an Irish theme with photos from Ireland all over the place, and I wanted a separate place to hang this fun London sign and the London photo from Starry Blue Sky. The Keep Calm signs seemed like just the thing to fill the wall. I'm not a fan of blank walls.

And one fun link today: an easy recipe for yummy mini pizzas.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Shield and a Secret Place

Do you ever have a devotional time using several books and find that they all speak on the same topic just when you need it? Today I needed a shield.

I am praying through a prayer of St. Patrick, one phrase at a time, and today's phrase was “Christ as a shield, overshadow me.” This was just what I needed to pray today: I've been anxious and simply not peaceful for a few days.

Then I opened A Heart that Hopes in God by Catherine Martin, to a reading called "The Secret Place in the Trial." This quoted Psalm 31:8, which told me that my heavenly Father won't hand me over to the enemy but He has set my feet in a "spacious place." I meditated on that for awhile and I could see that when anxiousness is a cage, the Lord has a far more spacious refuge for me. I looked up a suggested cross-reference and found Job 36:16: "Indeed He lured you from the jaws of distress to a spacious and unconfined place." I pictured worry as a dragon with jaws open to devour me, and the Lord as my Shining Knight rescuing me.

Another verse in the reading was Psalm 46:1, which reminded me of my refuge and strength, my "helper who is always found in times of trouble" and I realized that He is always there to be found, but I only see Him when I look--when I make an effort to spend time with Him and talk with Him.

Catherine Martin quoted F.B. Meyer's description of the secret place as "the royal withdrawing room." I remember a travel program that showed the interior of a Georgian house in Dublin. The tour guide said that the term "Drawing Room" came from "Withdrawing Room," and it was the place where the family would withdraw after a meal. I thought of the spiritual nourishment the Lord gives me each day, and how He invites me to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of life to enjoy His presence.

Next I read a few pages of Ruth Myers' 31 Days of Prayer, where I found this beautiful prayer:

Strengthen and renew me through Your Word, keeping me from sin--so that time after time I may know the refreshment that comes from Your presence.>

Next my daily reading in Psalms brought me to Psalm 68. Verse 35 says

"God, You are awe-inspiring in Your sanctuaries.
The God of Israel gives power and strength to His people. May God be praised!"

In the sanctuary--the refuge, the secret place--I meet the awesome Lord, and He provides power and strength.

Lord, how I need Your shielding today--shielding from anxiousness and worry especially. Forgive me Lord for sometimes looking at myself and my troubles instead of my refuge. Lord, Your presence is my shield and my refuge today. Keep me resting in Your secret place.

Thought-Provoking Thursday is hosted by Some Girl's Website.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everything I Know about Treating Eczema

My kids all had eczema shortly after they were born. We found several things that made the eczema bearable, and one that made it go away.

When my oldest was an infant, my nurse practitioner/pediatrician suggested that I limit my intake of milk and wheat as long as I was breastfeeding. This made a very big difference, and when my daughter started eating solid foods we immediately noticed her eczema would get worse if she had milk or wheat. It was the same for all my kids, until they were about five years old. Around that age the sensitivity seemed to go away. (Yogurt and cheese did not bother them, but ice cream did.) Though we limited their intake of milk and wheat at home, it was difficult when visiting or attending any social functions, so after a snack at church or a visit to relatives, the kids would have a flare-up. (Note: if I were doing this all over again, I would send the kids with a different snack. I was so concerned about them fitting in and not being That One Odd Kid With Her Own Snack. Now I look back and I think of the rash they had every week, and I don't think fitting in was worth it. My middle child would draw pictures of herself with "itchies" on her legs.)

I quickly learned to avoid any soaps/shampoos/lotions/sunscreens/hand sanitizers that contain sodium laureth sulfate--but I think all public restroom soaps have this ingredient. Their eczema also flares up if they sit in the grass outside or if they visit people in different parts of town, so it seems to be connected to dust or pollen.

To treat the outbreaks, I make a bath salt treatment. It is
5 drops calendula essential oil
1 drop tea tree oil (optional)
2 tablespoons jojoba oil (or almond or olive)
1 pump natural soap (Jason's lavender satin shower is great; so is California Baby Shampoo)
1/2 cup epsom salts.

Put the oils and the soap in a small bowl and then add the epsom salts. Mix. Add to the bath after all the water is run. Soak for at least 25 minutes. Note: this is what I use in a regular bathtub. For an infant tub I would make about a third of this, and I'd skip the tea tree oil. None of the measurements need to be exact. I don't keep measuring spoons in the bathroom. :)

By the way, some doctors recommend that kids with eczema don't bathe often. I have found this advice to be completely wrong for my children. Daily baths are best--long soaks in very warm water. If you can find California Baby Lavender and Tea Tree Shampoo, it makes a great body wash. Vitacost no longer carries it, but I think Whole Foods does, and I've heard it's at Target.

When the kids have an outbreak that seems to be due to playing in the grass or other outdoor allergens, a helpful over the counter oral medicine is Zyrtec, but it seems that if they take it too many days in a row they get nosebleeds. I try to limit its use to three days at a time, and only if necessary.

We have a cortizone cream with aloe in it that is helpful for really awful outbreaks, or if they just won't stop scratching long enough to heal up. The cortizone cream without aloe made my youngest daughter scream. I won't use cortizone constantly though. Melaleuca's Renew lotion is great for eczema, but my youngest daughter said it "stings" and she convinced the older children that it stings also (they'd used it every day since birth....and suddenly they wouldn't use it!).

A very helpful treatment is Aloe Life Juice. This is a liquid that they drink. The kids love it. For awhile when their eczema was really bad, they drank an ounce of Aloe Life Juice every day. I mixed it with apple juice at first, but then they decided they like it plain. I buy the cherry or papaya flavors. Look for it at

Two years ago we finally beat the eczema. My friend shared a smoothie recipe with me, and it contains omega oils. We'd tried the gummy bears with omega oils, but they were not effective. The smoothie worked. I added aloe to it most days (it's good for digestion) and I sneaked in some celery--they couldn't taste it, but it adds another vegetable to their diet. The best news is that the kids LOVE to drink this. I added protein powder, so this either accompanied their breakfast cheerios, or made a great mid-morning snack.

Omega Oil Smoothie for Kids
(serves 3)
3 TBS Flax Oil
3 TBS Orange Flavor Cod Liver Oil
6 TBS Aloe Vera Juice
4-8 ounces water (or 1 cup kefir or yogurt)
1 banana
3 TBS Rice Protein powder (watch the ingredients on protein powders. Some are soy-based, an ingredient I try to avoid.)
8 frozen strawberries (or some fresh or frozen peach slices, mangos, or blueberries)
20 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract (optional: this is not for eczema, this is an immune booster, helpful for allergies)
1 or 2 stalks celery (in chunks)

Blend in a blender...till blended. The blender can't always cope with the frozen fruit and the celery all at once, but once the fruit and everything else is blended, I add the celery. Sometimes I add a shake of cinnamon or a drizzle of honey. If your kids are used to really sweet drinks like koolaid or soda pop, you may need to add honey or agave nectar or a spoon of jam.

Serve in a glass with a straw.

After seeing such great results with the smoothie, I was impressed with these healthy oils. About a year later, I went on the Flat Belly Diet and I had such wonderful weight loss with its focus on monounsaturated fats. Because I had nuts and hummus and pesto and olives and avocado in the house for me, the kids ended up eating them often too, and suddenly their eczema was gone. Gone!

A month ago I noticed the my youngest either had a new outbreak of eczema again, or she just had really really dry skin. I made sure I included a monunsaturated fat at each of her meals, and I served a lot of popcorn with olive oil (the light-tasting kind that is lighter only in taste). I also made the bath recipe for her. It didn't take long for her skin to improve.

I wish I'd known about monounsaturated fats sooner! They've made such a difference in my children's skin. I've even put olive oil directly on my children's skin. Be careful if you're doing this with an infant...she'll get so slippery!

Note: almost all the ingredients in both recipes can be purchased at

Update, July 2013: I had to go gluten free in 2012. We've changed our diet to use more veggies, very few grains, and whole fat milk. We eat more real food. The kids haven't mentioned their eczema in months.

Be aware that eczema can be a indication of a gluten intolerance. Lots of things can cause eczema, but keep this one in mind. If your child develops other health problems later, it can be helpful to add up all the little things and find that one big issue that just might solve most of them.