Listen…her heart is crying

This begins a series of writings from women living in difficult, disappointing, or destructive marriages…or leaving destructive marriages/relationships. When women are physically abused the harm is often visible, but what about verbal and emotional abuse? The injury is internal…on the heart, soul, mind and strength. You may never guess her husband rages in a different way but the family knows. Her body knows and it often manifests in depression, anxiety, and/or auto-immune diseases. Allow me to show you the inner cries of this woman’s heart.

These are all true accounts from women I personally know.

First up is from a friend who struggled through difficulty and disappointment in her home life,  and from destructive relationships in other areas of life. She now finds time to process her history through poetry.

 

Some Things I did not choose…

I never asked to live in Oklahoma.

I never asked to stay put, either.

I never asked for two complicated children.

I never asked for an exceptional marriage.

I never asked for PTSD.

I never chose to join a cult.

I never chose life on a battlefield.

I never chose the power to hurt others.

I never chose a trashed reputation

I never chose avoidance and insults.

I never chose severe isolation

I miss our partnership.

I miss my friends.

I miss my family.

I miss feeling safe.

I used to rest.

I used to laugh.

I used to sing.

I used to please people.

I used to feel valued.

I used to warrant respect.

I used to speak freely

I used to love openly, honestly.

I used to live surrounded by forgiveness.

I used to count on friends.

I used to hold a purpose.

I used to know where I was headed.

I used to decide.

I used to enjoy life with kids.

I used to revel in marriage.

I used to host all kinds of people.

I used to feel satisfied I’d done some good now and then.

I did not choose to tangle with depression.

I did not choose neglect.

I gradually quit thinking.

I gradually quit growing.

I gradually quit loving life.

I hate living within a battlefield.

I hate parenting in loneliness.

I hate misogyny, and chauvinism.

I hate denying myself food.

I hate anonymity.

I buried my gifts.

I buried my reputation.

I buried a child.

HonorGuard

I buried myself.

 

(a post written earlier this year, and published on another blog of the author of maknsweetmusic.blog )

Used with permission/copyright/2018 by maknsweetmusic.blog

Advertisements

Naghmeh Panahi (Abedini’s) Divorce

 

Here is an another update on Naghmeh Panahi (Abedini). It has been over a year and a half since I first began writing about her, and eight months since my last update: Naghmeh Abedini One Year Later.

Naghmeh gave me full permission to post a letter she wrote. She’s in a place where she is growing closer to Jesus; where He will redeem the lost years and heal her heart, soul, mind and strength.  I bring people like Naghmeh to my readers who feel alone, broken, and hopeless in their abusive marriage. I want to validate them, tell them they’re not crazy, they are not weak. Actually, they’re stong to have endured for so long. I want to point them to True Hope: Jesus. He can and will do the impossible to care for them and protect them. Women need to understand that divorce is an option; it is a gift from our good, gift giving Heavenly Father for times such as these.

I wrote about Naghmeh’s revelation of marital abuse in a high profile case involving her then imprisoned husband, Iranian, American Saeed Abedini in the Iranian prison system. Read more about this here: Naghmeh Abedini’s Leaked Letter.

It turns out Saeed ordered his certificate to be a pastor over the internet. This coupled with his abusive treatment of his wife and family; along with, the extreme verbal abuse many who advocated for him during his imprisonment received from Saeed does not qualify him to be a pastor.

Many in the Christian community didn’t believe Naghmeh even though she had legal evidence: She Said He Said: Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini.   For some who did believe; they still said derogatory things about her for speaking out against her husband. How dare she say something bad about him; especially considering what he had been enduring in prison!

I understand much of what Naghmeh shares in the below letter because I had some of the same thoughts when I was in a difficult and abusive marriage; knowing that good wives don’t tell, especially good Christian wives. I briefly wrote about my journey here: Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 1  and here My Destructive Marriage.

I still believe in listening, affirming, and believing spouses who say they are in an abusive relationship as I wrote about in Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond, Part 2.

You never know what goes on in someone else’s home. You have no way of understanding if the woman sitting next to you in Bible study, or worshiping next to you in church is secretly being mistreated in  her home. If she should muster up the courage to tell you; please listen. Please believe her.

I worked off the premise that, domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.

The abuser needs healing. I don’t believe women should go to counseling with their abuser. Why? The victim shares no responsibility in the abuser’s character, attitude, or actions.

There is scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle.

We considered Nabal and Abigail from I Samuel 25; and other examples that you can read about here…Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 3 

So many women have a similar story. There is a strong community of these women across the country, and throughout the world.

This is Naghmeh’s story. Yet I remember having some of the same thoughts and feelings. I’m grateful that today we have the tool of the internet to connect  hurting women to one another. They can find help navigating a seemingly impossible road and find encouragement and support from one another.

Naghmeh believed what so many other women are taught; that having a good marriage is up to them alone and based solely on their ‘dying to self.’ This is a destructive and often deadly teaching for women married to abusers.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
By: Naghmeh Panahi

 

This is in reference to one of the best articles I have read: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce. I hope it is a source of encouragement to those who have had to walk through this and that it gives a deeper desire to study the Word of God carefully and to know Jesus more.

Until two years ago wherever I traveled and spoke, my advice to women (those who even confessed to me horrific abuse and adultery) was to die to themselves and love and obey more. You can look up YouTube videos of my talks at different conferences and churches (under Naghmeh Abedini).

Therefore I put the burden of saving a corrupt marriage on the oppressed. I believed with all of my heart that if we, as women, would just die to ourselves more and love and submit more, a marriage could be salvaged. I judged those who divorced and specially the woman. I would think to myself “I am sure she was not so innocent herself and was to blame.”

No one in the world could have changed my mind. It was deeply rooted in what I was taught by the church of how much “God hates divorce,” but also my deeply rooted Middle Eastern culture that as a woman you put up with anything for the sake of the children; not to mention the shame and rejection a woman of Middle Easter origins has to face when she is divorced.

I was taught that love “covers a multitude of sin” which meant that I should hide the sin of my spouse, not talk of it, and in the process created a false image of our family. Oh, the shame I felt whenever the smallest negative word or confession would escape my lips about my husband…even to my parents and closest friends…I was taught not to even approach another about sin because “we are not each other’s Holy Spirit.” That a good wife hides and not airs the dirty laundry…

So I gave it my all. And in the process of giving it my all and trying desperately to get mySave Saeed husband out of prison and to honor him as my husband, a very false image was created of him. I gave and gave convincing myself that if I laid down my life enough, he would change. But things got worse and the world didn’t know. The world didn’t know that the abuse and porn addiction continued from behind prison doors. How could he have a smart phone with internet inside of an Iranian prison??? I kept crying out to God! The world did not know and the burden got heavier and heavier to carry. No one knew the night before his arrest he had cheated on me with the same woman that he now advocates for from the minute he got out of the Iranian prison. But a godly Christian woman would forgive the adultery and the porn addictions and abuse. But would I have to live with it for the rest of my life? Under such darkness?

Yes. I gave it my all until I had nothing to give and reached the end of myself. It was then that I cried out to Jesus and I heard the gentle voice of my Savior, “Enough!” It was through His Strength that for the first time I drew boundaries and said no more to such darkness and abuse.

My heart was broken into a million pieces when Saeed filed for divorce. I had hoped that my separation and pleading would end in him getting help and it would end in reconciliation and a healed marriage. NOT DIVORCE.

Saeed prayer vigilHow I was broken. Facing my worst fear of being a divorced single mom. Yet I could not back down. The same love that took me before presidents and governments to get him out of the physical prison, demanded that I would not back down on my boundaries in the hopes that he would be freed from his spiritual prison.

Through it all my Savior stood with me and cleansed me and is healing me and my children with His Word. For almost two years I have sat under the feet of Jesus and am learning to pay close attention to the Word of God and step into obedience of His Word by His Grace alone. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know and what a filthy sinner I am covered by the blood of The Lamb and in desperate need of God’s Grace.

So I have been hesitant to share. Surely most Christians know so much more than me. I feel like a babe in Christ. And the times I do share, I see it tinted with pride and arrogance. Oh this fallen nature. To be freed of it one day when I see Jesus face to face!

So I share this article and hope and pray that more rise up and are a voice for the oppressed.

“Evangelical and confessional churches are striving to maintain a high view of marriage in a culture that is ripping the institution to shreds. So extra-biblical barriers to divorce can be well-meant. They try to protect marriage by doing everything possible to avoid divorce. In doing so, they not only fail to keep a high view of marriage. They also spread lies about the gospel, divorce, the value of people, the character of God, and the nature of sexual sin.”
Naghmeh Panahi

Read the article referenced here…A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce

 

6th Anniversary: Traumatic Brain Injury

AJ

 

Today I celebrate because today is the 6th anniversary of my son, A.J. being released from the hospital after suffering a severe traumatic brain injury.

004

Those eyes. Those cheeks—that I never tired of squeezing when he was little.

A severe traumatic brain injury rocked our world and almost claimed A.J.’s life.

(Original Post is here.)

 

A.J., at age 7, was supposed to be in the P.I.C.U. for at least two weeks…whatever! He was released from the hospital on day 6! This was due to the power of prayer. I placed medical problems on Facebook or his Caringbridge page with specific prayer requests…and then I sat back and watched God answer! Requests such as:

January 1, 2012 – We are still waiting for A.J. to wake up from his surgery that went through the middle of the night to the wee morning hours. (Little did we know; his score on the coma scale was so low that he should not have awakened the same A.J. with the same mental and physical abilities.) It took a couple of days, but he woke up with the same personality and intellect as the boy we took to the New Year’s Eve party before his injury happened just before the stoke of mid-night.

10:30 a.m. January 3, 2011
Please pray for the next half hour to prepare the way for the doctors and techs who will be removing the breathing tube. Pray that the swelling is down and that AJ can breathe on his own so he won’t have to be reintubated.

11:30 a.m. Tube successfully removed

Next up: Please pray for the inter-cranial pressure monitor to be removed. This surgical procedure will take place in A.J.’s room and the environment needs to be sterile. Pray for his vital signs to remain steady and in good range.

Another answered prayer: Removal went well and A.J.’s vitals were super!

Around 2 p.m. – A.J. is crying for a drink of water but due to just having his intubation tube removed; he can’t drink anything for 1-2 days.  (The doctor in the E.R. intubated with an adult size tube which did some temporary damage to A.J.’s throat; and we just noticed, knocked one of his baby teeth out.) The P.I.C.U. doctors said A.J. could asphyxiate on the water so we can only allow him to suck water off of a small sponge.

Late afternoon – A.J. talked the doctors into allowing him water. He’s now allowed sips of water. He is so grateful.

January 4, 2011 – Moved to the neurology floor.

January 4, 2011 – Speech therapist wants to begin therapy; however, A.J. can’t stay awake past the couple of bites of cereal she fed him. It take so much energy to chew. Please pray for him.

A.J. informed me  that he’s ready to start back to school if I’ll take him home from the hospital. Sweet happy tears running down my face.

The physical therapist came in the room to attempt to have A.J. move around, get out of bed and walk. A.J. can’t hold his head up on his own and can’t begin to move his legs around to sit on the edge of the bed. He cannot possibly walk…yet. He needs to begin walking. Please pray about this.

P.M. A.J.’s surgeon came in and with some incentive and motivation A.J. held his head up on his own, swung his legs around to the edge of the bed, and took a walk in the hallway with his doctor who held A.J. under the arms. I could barely see through my tears. There was no explanation for this; except, God answered prayers.

January 5, 2011 – A.J. ate over 2 full bowls of Lucky Charms that his speech therapist gave to him. He was talking like normal, but she was a bit concerned about how he was rapidly changing subjects. We assured her that was perfectly normal for our talkative, verbal to the max. son.

P.M. – A.J.: “I just love talking. I’m in word heaven. I just think a word and it happens.”

January 6, 2011 – Released from the hospital to go home; at least 2 weeks earlier than what doctors anticipated.

Aspects of A.J.’s healing that should have taken weeks or months were, through the power of prayers going up and answers coming down, happening in minutes and hours. Never before had I witnessed anything like it.

I asked God to show me His glory through what He chose to do in A.J.’s life that night while A.J. was on the life flight helicopter.

And our Great Physician did!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ll never tire of it.

Praising God, that is.

He has answered so many prayers in huge, glory making ways! (Original Post is here.)

God is so wise not to allow us to know our future. I cannot imagine how this child would have lived his life had I known what was in store for him. Would I have allowed him out of the house? Would I have bubble wrapped him? I most certainly would have made him wear a bike or baseball helmet AT ALL TIMES!

A.J. 001
Baseball 1 1/2 years later

Today my joy abounds as I recall snapshots my heart has taken of A.J. over the last six years. Snapshots of answered prayers, therapy appointments, fun times, teachable moments, frustrating moments, caring moments, ornery moments, giggles, spiritual growth, church moments, friend moments, a deep thinker who I do not always have an immediate answer for, a boss man who has great potential as I teach him to become a servant leader,  an avid debater (pros and cons), brother moments, tender moments, a young man on his way to only God knows what. My heart if full!

Our family benefited from McDonald’s charity, through the Ronald McDonald room in Children’s Hospital. A.J. ran in a 5K fund-raiser for them three years later and was able to speak to the crowd after the event.

 

 

 

 

 

Narcissistic Slanderer

npd-32

Paul wrote the following New Testament verses to Timothy; concerning the character and behavior of leaders within the church, not in the world. He warned Timothy to beware that some will act out of a self-love attitude.  Paul says, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT)

In 2 Timothy 3 Paul named many attributes associated with today’s modern psychology term; narcissistic personality disorder. Our world is quickly becoming familiar with this disorder in record numbers.

 

Today we will take a look at why a narcissist uses slander.

(We are not talking about a narcissist in general, but specifically someone with narcissistic personality disorder.)

npd-30

Narcissists tend to worship the fantasy of who they are in their mind. Larger than life is a good description of how to view the narcissist. They have built themself up to be greater than reality. They believe their own hype and therefore feel intrinsically superior to everyone around them. Their inflated false view of themselves (huge ego) is the foundation of their misinterpretations of reality; I refer to this as the, “I am and there is none besides me” mentality.

They feel superior in every way to everyone. This is a source of pain and envy for them whenever they feel out talked, out worked, out smarted or out done…by anyone.

Envy and jealousy are integral parts of narcissism (envy is a desire for what another person has, while jealousy is the fear that something can be taken away).  Narcissists are envious of anything in others that they themselves lack (i.e. beauty, possessions, knowledge, personal qualities, power, skills, achievements, qualifications, relationships, money etc). Envy can consume them, and the list of what they covet can be endless. Envy is a feeling which can range from mild to severe, from healthy to unhealthy, from positive to negative.  For example, healthy envy has positive qualities.  Healthy envy acts as a valuable guide. You may see something you admire in another person and decide you will grow in wisdom or character to achieve that quality—you use it for personal growth. Healthy envy is empowering because it brings you nearer to your life’s goal, or closer to the likeness of Christ.  Unhealthy envy is disempowering because it keeps you bound to a fantasy, making you blind to your own true nature.  Because the narcissist is a grand actor who acts out of a false self, they suffer from a twisted heart, leaving them at the mercy of their unhealthy envy—envy that can trigger their feelings of vulnerability, shame and self-loathing.  Any of these feelings can result in narcissistic injury, to which the narcissist almost always reacts with rage.  In order to free themselves of such emotional turmoil and recover their equilibrium, the narcissist mirrors those intolerable feelings onto the person of their envy.   npd-000Once you become the object of the narcissists envy you are in serious trouble.  In order to improve their own self-image they are likely to make false allegations about your integrity, lie about your motives, or paint you as a fool.  This is not innocent gossip, rather it is an intentional and premeditated character assassination that is aimed at defaming you in order to destroy your reputation and make them feel better about themselves.  Be warned, they are cold, ruthless, malicious, aggressive, self-serving, uncompromising in the pursuit of their objective, and do not care about your feelings. This can be dirty politics at its best.

If your narcissist is a family member you may wonder how they can love you and destroy you at the same time. Remember: They are and there is none besides them! Although narcissists are grand actors they have a difficult time sincerely bonding and loving unconditionally; even with their own family members. Their grand acting keeps people on the outside from seeing the inside truth.

npd-56

No amount of love, logic, accountability, discipline, or reasoning will get through to the narcissist. Trying to gain their understanding, attempting to bring them to repentance, or hoping for an apology is not an outcome based scenario in the life of someone with this personality disorder. In the end you will be increasingly frustrated over the time, energy, emotion, and/or finances you spent in vain. And here’s the real kicker…all your efforts simply reinforce to the narcissist that you are the irrational one.

Let me leave you with this: You are not crazy. What you’re experiencing is real. It’s wrong, it’s harmful, and it messes with our mind. Don’t allow the narcissist to place blame on you.

Learn 4 simple phrases for setting boundaries with a narcissist, or a difficult person…here.

npd-64

20 More Narcissistic Red Flags

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Because I know there are those of you who woke up today asking, “Is it me? Am I crazy? This all has to be my fault! I can’t do anything right. My defects are continually pointed out; character traits that I thought were good, positive and helpful, are identified as terrible and wrong. I feel like I should just go sit on the shelf and be quiet until I am asked for and needed. I thought I was strong, intelligent, capable, a good friend, generous, happy and hospitable. Now I feel empty—sad…erased. Where did I go?”

Perhaps it isn’t you! No loving, empathetic human would treat another like this. Maybe it’s time to look at your difficult person through a new set of lenses.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

So here, I’m handing you a new set of eyes. While I’m at it, I’ll lend you a new pair of ears so you can recall if these are phrases you often hear. Do the below statements reflect how you have felt, how your heart has ached, questions you have asked, or statements that have been made to you?

If so, you may want to study narcissistic personality disorder. If the below problems identify a relationship you are in, you will need professional help; along with, prayer and bible study to make it through to healthy thinking, wise boundaries and an emotionally safe relationship.

You can do it!

 

NPD 12NPD 32NPD 33NPD 34NPD 35NPD 38NPD 75NPD 44NPD 45NPD 47NPD 48NPD 49NPD 51

NPD 73

NPD76NPD 52

 

 

 

 

 

NPD 53NPD 54NPD77NPD 56

Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 2

Save Saeed
One of many times Naghmeh brought her husband’s unjust imprisonment to the attention of the world.

 

Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.

The abuser needs healing.

If a woman’s husband has cancer she cannot go to the doctor and receive treatment for him, nor can she consume half of his prescriptions for him. He would need to take all the treatments and meds by himself; for himself. In the case of marital abuse; experts recommend isolated counseling for the abuser. Alone. Long term. Without the spouse.

 

This is a continuation of my last blog post, “Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond?”

Saeed prayer vigil
One of several prayer vigils and times of fasting and praying, Naghmeh, led on behalf of her husband.

Today I again write from a place of vulnerability for the sake of abused Christian wives, especially pastors’ and missionaries’ wives, who are in abusive marriages. My heart goes out to hurting women who are not believed when they finally muster up the courage to tell their family, friends and/or church that they have been secretly abused in their own home and are now seeking help and healing.

As I wrote in my last blog post; Christian women are taught to stay, pray, hope, encourage, love through actions, and wait on God. Here is the catch—God gives us free choice and the spouse has a choice in the outcome. The above does not apply in an abusive marriage or a marriage plagued with unfaithfulness.  God does allow for separation and divorce. See Toxic Intervention. A Toxic Relationship and a Therapeutic Separation. Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse.

You never know what goes on in someone else’s home. You have no way of understanding if the woman sitting next to you in Bible study, or worshiping next to you in church is secretly being mistreated in  her home. If she should muster up the courage to tell you; please listen. Please believe her.

GRACE 11

What is at the root of abuse?

Most abuse comes from one, or a combination, of these factors:

  1. Pornography and sexual addictions
  2. Substance abuse
  3. Personality disorders or untreated mental illness
  4. Deep seeded societal and/or nonbiblical religious views of women as objects/property
  5. The abuser has a background of victimization
  6. The abuser is emulating what they learned as a child from their own dysfunctional parent/s.

Yet an admission of guilt from the abuser is rare; and more exceptional is an abuser seeking heartfelt help to overcome their attitudes and actions. What’s more common is the abuser denying responsibility, placing the blame on the victim, and justifying every unloving word, dishonorable behavior, and/or violent act. As if this isn’t difficult enough for the wife to survive (or in some cases the man because there are abused men too) she has to endure his grand acting ability to win over anyone who will listen to him.

By the way; the above is not limited to marriages. It can be found in other relationships: Friendships, significant others, extended family, siblings, co-workers, politicians, community leaders, or neighbors.

In Naghmeh Abedini’s case she has to endure seeing television and internet interviews, and reading newspapers, blogs, forums and Facebook posts where Saeed acts like nothing is wrong except a wife who has undergone extreme stress for the last few years during his imprisonment and needs help overcoming her issues.

I understand some of Naghmeh’s heartache and frustration, but I never suffered in a media driven, national and international, environment as she is.

By the way—you’ll notice I don’t refer to Saeed as, Pastor Saeed. It is purposeful due to the fact that he is not an ordained pastor through any church denomination, or non-denomination; rather he purchased a mail order certificate.¹ Plus the Bible has clear teachings about those in leadership and teaching positions in the church for which Saeed does not presently qualify.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” I Timothy 3:1-7

 

In a statement to the Idaho Statesman (January 30, 2016), Saeed thanked his wife for advocating on his behalf. He said that his marriage is troubled and that he is not perfect, but he downplayed the allegations of abuse.

“Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports is not true,” he said in the statement. “But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media.”

“In private.” “Not on social media or other media.”His words.

Two weeks later on social media Saeed posted this:


FACEBOOK:  Saeed Abedini
 added 2 new photos — with Saeed Abedini.

February 14 at 8:38pm ·

Warm Greetings Dear Saints!

We Love because He first Loved us. (1John 4:19)

This is my first post on Facebook after 4 long years of imprisonment. I see there is a LOVE story between us as I went through hardship of imprisonment by you showing your support with sending hundreds & thousands of letters of encouragement and LOVE to the prison. 1000’s of cities and countries and locations gathering for pray vigils, sending gifts to my wife and children, etc.. .
You created a LOVE story that even Muslims in Iran talked about.

My beloved sisters and brothers, I want you to know how much I LOVE you and how much Your prayers and support changed my situation and how much I am thankful for your heart and Care.
I am grateful for marriage counselors who have been helping me but my wife’s relationship with me is not good at this point, so we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us.

Free By Christ For Christ
Saeed Abedini

 

An emotionally and spiritually healthy husband would not put such a spin on his words. I read an agenda, an ulterior motive coming through loud and clear. He could have requested, “Please pray for my family” but didn’t. He referred to marital problems and stated, “My wife’s relationship with me is not good.” He manipulated words to indicate to his readers that Naghmeh is the one getting in the way of reconciliation; not him.  Please refer to my opening paragraph, “Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.”

Abusers lack humility and honesty. They fail to take responsibility for their role in the condition of their family and marriage.

A godly man would not treat his wife like this—he should advocate his willingness to seek healing and restoration, or make a full admission and acknowledge she has biblical grounds to leave him. Publically, Saeed is making no attempt to win her back. We read nothing like this.

 

This reminds me of my own ex-husband. He was abusive in the home, ripe with mental illness, and void of conscience all while publicly portraying the godly, soul-winning, personable, full of charisma, scripture quoting, dynamic speaking pastor.

While he was sitting in jail, awaiting trial for being a child molester he penned a letter. The letter was downright disturbing for me to read but what angered me was the fact that the evangelistic association he sent it to believed him. Then they adored him—and praised him—and forwarded the letter to their prayer and financial partners all over the world so they could pray for this (supposed) humble, misunderstood, wrongly accused man of God. Read the letter here: Man Sentenced to Life in Prison Under Jessica’s Law

 

Based on personal messages I receive from readers; abusers know no boundaries and come from every walk of life including Christian ministry homes. I read of abuse in evangelical homes being common place. I read of some church ministries which recommend the wife stay silent for the sake of Christ’s reputation. What!

Christ does not need us to protect His reputation. He is completely secure in who He is. There is nothing we can do, good or evil, that changes who He is and what He can do.

The book of Isaiah holds a prophecy of the coming Messiah: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,  to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” Isaiah 61:1b

He came to set us free; on earth, and for eternity.

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them;” Ephesians 5:11

 

Sincere sorrow, true repentance, and a renewed heart toward his wife and children would keep Saeed Abedini out of the spotlight, or at least initiate confessing his problems so healing and reconciliation could happen in his family.  Instead he is enjoying the fame and taking advantage of the free press, television air time, and financial help while it is available while showing no remorse for his actions toward his wife.

 

As my ex-husband insisted, God had called him to the ministry and not even his wife and child were going to keep him from his calling. The truth was he relished the public popularity ministry afforded him, and he enjoyed his sinful, messed up choices in life more than he desired healing and reconciliation.

Many friends, mentors, family members and church leaders attempted to call my ex-husband (at the time my husband) to accountability. People saw character flaws, sin issues, and leadership problems but he refused help, church discipline, and would not listen to those in authority over him.

 

I’m glad Saeed Abedini was delivered from an unjust prison sentence. I pray he finds the strength and courage to repent, honor God and honor Naghmeh, and show both God and Naghmeh respect from a grateful heart; a heart full of healed, true love.

In my next post I will give scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle for a marriage in crisis due to abuse.

Naghmeh remains verbally, publicly challenged by many who do not believe her story.  I hope through sharing my history and insight with my readers that more people choose to trust her testimony, and lift her up in prayer.

 

GRACE 5

 

_______________________

¹. Facedbook; Naghmeh Abedini, public profile page, March 1, 2016, 6:07 a.m.

love and admire for strength

Holiday Hospitality Bar

Hospitality Bar Autumn

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13

It’s the perfect time of year to gather supplies and prepare a hospitality bar for your Thanksgiving and Christmas guests.

Here is how I made mine…

Fall decor on William Sonoma 3 tier tray
Fall decor on William Sonoma 3 tier tray

Having boys in the house necessitated adding a non-girly item. When my boys have friends over during warm weather we keep iced tea and lemonade on the bar but boys being boys, (translation = always hungry) we needed a quick easy snack they can grab and prepare to take care of their munchies.

I looked at the hospitality bar and saw the perfect slot for microwave popcorn, as well as, a place to add popcorn salts and disposable bags. (Pictures and details below.)

Top tier Fall decor
Top tier – Fall decor
Middle tier -Fall decor
Middle tier -Fall decor
Bottom tier - Fall decor
Bottom tier – Fall decor

I used gourds I grew in my garden, Burr Oak acorns (I have a love affair with Burr Oak acorns; they are huge, beautiful and unique), leaf trays and pumpkin/cornucopia creamers I found at Target a few years ago. I also used some silk greenery and a ceramic Blue Bird.

Top view of 3 tier William Sonoma tray
Top view of 3 tier William Sonoma tray

They say necessity is the mother of invention. My need to save time while preparing for a Mother/Daughter Bible study in my home led to this organized Hospitality Bar.  This saved me an easy hour of pulling all the drinks, condiments and mugs out of the cupboards and then organizing them into a centralized location. Add to that my incessant need to have seasonal or holiday decorations placed at this centralized location and—well—no matter how I tried not to worry myself about having everything just right; the hostess in me had no peace until everything looked pretty and was fully functional.

I did not care so much that my house was clean and picked up perfectly for other guests but Bible study was different. I desired for participants of the study to feel at home, relaxed and safe to share their needs and their hearts. I wanted them to feel pampered by me but more importantly, by their God who is crazy-in-love with them. I needed my attention off of the refreshment details so I could welcome, listen and interact with the mothers and daughters as we discussed and studied God’s word.

DSCN1987

Between homeschooling and extra-curricular activities I was finding it difficult to fully prepare for leading our study, cleaning the house and prepping the kitchen for refreshments. Thus I decided a central location was essential for storing all the refreshment items. Function was all I had in mind.

I began searching for cabinets that would match or coordinate with our current kitchen but could not find an equivalent or anything to bring together the old with the new while remaining within my budget.

Then one day while pulling in our driveway, a neighbor’s garage door was up and to my surprise I saw cabinets sitting against the wall of their garage that looked just like our cabinets. I did a double take. No. Yes. No doubt, they were a perfect match. Hmm?

A few weeks later I saw this neighbor and told them about my search for matching cabinets to install in our kitchen and my dilemma because the particular line of cabinetry was no longer available. I mentioned that I saw cabinets in their garage that looked like a perfect match and asked, “Do you have plans for those or are you interested in selling them to me for (a disclosed price)?”

Our neighbor was willing to sell them to me for the disclosed price and I found out the reason they were an exact match was because they  were a hutch that came out of our house.  I was thrilled!

Next, I planned how to use the hutch then took it apart piece by piece and gave all of it a good scrubbing.  2 X 4 lumber was used to build a frame behind the cabinets so I could acquire more depth for a deeper countertop.  I also pulled the shorter center cabinets out front more to add dimension to the unit. Bead board was added to the sides for decorative purposes and to hide the false depth. Since these are upper cabinets being used on the floor I added a one inch toe kick at the bottom to keep the doors from scraping the floor. I wanted to place feet underneath the cabinets but that would have required moving an outlet, changing the windowsill and making the countertop out of reach for young children. So, no pretty decorative feet but it overflows in functionality.

DSCN2642

I no longer have to prepare for guests’ arrivals. Relatives and friends know where to go for a drink when they come to my house. Below:  Ice water and a carafe of hot water. I also keep hot water in the tea kettle on the stove and in the coffee pot. This allows three separate areas for a large group to fill their mugs.

DSCN2019DSCN2035Left: I keep this 3-tier tray from William-Sonoma on the bar for seasonal and holiday decorations. And I always have a candle ready to burn. A guest will rarely come to my house without finding scrumptious looking chocolate on display. The only problem is that the chocolate usually isn’t real and I have offended a dear friend, and fellow chocoholic, on multiple occasions with my inedible treats.DSCN2037

If budget and space do not allow for a hospitality bar in your home; you could use a portion of your countertop, a buffet, a re-purposed dresser or a shelving unit to accomplish the same objective.

DSCN1994

Right: This is a bamboo utensil holder turned sideways for holding tea bags and coffee singles.

DSCN1996

Below: Flavorings and droppers for mixing flavors into drinks (3-4 drops does the job). Sprinkles – top cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles or Cappuccino Accent Toppings; Cinnamon, Sweet Nutmeg, Vanilla, Chocolate.

I buy my Stash teas and bottled flavorings at the Old Towne Spice Shop, Main Street, St. Charles, MO. http://www.oldtownspices.com/ The Cappuccino Accent Toppings are from Main Street MarketPlace, St. Charles, MO. http://www.mainstreetmarketplace.com/

DSCN2657 - Copy

Right: Drinking straws. Small shelves: Sugar and sweeteners on top. Extra coasters on bottom. Hot Cocoa Mix and Hot Cider Mixes. (The compartments are a desk caddy organizer.)

DSCN2656

Below:  Flavorings and droppers. Sprinkles and Cappuccino Accent Toppings. Single serve coffee. Small shelves: Creamers on top. Napkins in bottom. Stir straws on right.

Popcorn salts/toppings
Popcorn salts/toppings

Above: I added microwave popcorn, flavored popcorn salts and disposable popcorn bags to the bar. The microwave popcorn is next to the apple ciders and cocoa packets; to the left of the red and white striped popcorn bags. Popcorn salts are in located with the popcorn isle and come in a variety of flavors. A word of caution about the popcorn salts; the Jalapeno Cheddar and the Buffalo Wing make us choke. It has nothing to do with the heat because we are huge fans of spice, but it tends to go down the airway and asphyxiate us—every single time. We now avoid these seasonings.

Popcorn bags
Popcorn bags

Left: The popcorn bags are from Hobby Lobby’s party supply department. I used a 40% off coupon so the cost for 25 bags is $1.93. SAMS Club sells a box of 500 popcorn bags for under $7.00.

DSCN2001

DSCN2025 - Copy

Above and Right: Extra tea supplies, extra sugar, Mullin spices for cider, pink and regular lemonade, drink pitcher.

DSCN2026

Left: Oregon Chai Tea Latte (Wal-Mart), Peppermint Hot Chocolate & Barra Mexican Chocolate (both need mixed into hot milk), Cappuccino Double Mocha (Aldi’s), Extra coffee singles, Cocoa, Diet-Sugar Free Swiss Miss Cocoa, French Vanilla Cappuccino (SAMS)

DSCN2028 - Copy Right: Mugs/Cups

Below: To go/travel cups with lids (collected from Hotel stays), Hot water carafe, cold water carafe.

DSCN2005 - Copy

DSCN2030Above right: Mexican Lava Rock Molcajete with coffee beans. Sometimes used for decoration but my favorite way to use it is for homemade Guacamole.

DSCN2016

Left: Windsill decorations.

 

I hope you have fun  inventing your own hospitality bar for the holiday season.

~Cheers!

DIY Mini Utensil Set

Mini Utensil Sets

DIY Projects

Okay—it isn’t completely DIY. You won’t need your own foundry to forge the utensils but since you will not find a mini utensil set/holder/crock in the stores; I will show you how spectacularly charming, efficient and necessary this set is to the everyday functioning of your kitchen.

Several years ago for my birthday my mom gave me the red tea-cup filled with multiple measuring spoons. I am a stay-at-home mom who usually cooks a homemade meal every night of the week; plus breakfast, lunch and quite a bit of baking. Mom knew I would love the splash of red in my kitchen (everyone needs a splash of red especially if their kitchen isn’t red) and the extra measuring spoons are time saving because I don’t have to stop, wash, and rinse spoons in the middle of meal preparations. DSCN3335

I immediately added a variety of utensils to my cup and have used the set every day since; so have my kids. We whisk eggs, stir pancake batter, spread jams, measure, scrape bowls and jars, flip small pancakes, bake cookies, remove hot items from the toaster oven, squeeze the last flavor from tea bags and much more. Our kitchen would not function well without the cup which sits on top of our toaster oven in a centralized location. I am all about function; pretty—decorative function!

The tea cups with the front tea bag pockets are difficult to find and Ebay has been my only success over the last few years. (Mainstreet Market Place on Mainstreet in historic St. Charles, Missouri, currently has a similar cup in stock.) I like the pocket for the Smidgen/Pinch/Dash measuring spoons.

DSCN3337DSCN3336

Here are my favorite places for finding miniature utensils. I order in quantity for future bridal showers and birthday gifts which saves on shipping costs. This is my favorite gift to give at Bridal Showers because it is almost guaranteed the bride does not have a mini utensil set.

You will need a short squatty type tea-cup, soup mug, or creamer for the utensils to be visible and the side of the cup needs to go somewhat straight up; not curved out like a bowl or expensive China tea/coffee cup.

Have fun making your own!

These utensils can be found at http://www.amazon.com/

DSCN3357
Mini Condiment Spoons
DSCN3358
Mini Wooden Condiment Spoons
DSCN3353
Measuring Spoons
DSCN3347
Heart Measuring Spoons. (Different price ranges)
DSCN3346
Mini Whisks. 4 on left come as a set. 1 on right is sold individually.

The below utensils can be found at Main Street Marketplace – This is a local store located on Main Street in historic St. Charles, Missouri. Best prices except for the heart spoons http://www.mainstreetmarketplace.com/

Smidgen/Pinch/Dash Measuring Spoons
Smidgen/Pinch/Dash Measuring Spoons (located at cash register)
DSCN3346
Miniature Whisks – 4 on left come as a set. 1 on right is sold individually.
DSCN3762
Mini Flipper/Turner
DSCN3345
Honey Dipper – in a jar on top of the fridge covered in magnets (to the right of the cash register)
DSCN3352
Mini Toaster Tongs
DSCN3355
Mini Scoop
DSCN3356
Dozens of Cheese Knives/Appetizer Spreaders
DSCN3361
Tomato Corer
DSCN3362
Citrus Zester
DSCN3351
Tea Bag Squeezer/Toaster Tongs

Start Now: DIY Autumn Leaf Art

DIY ProjectsAutumn Project: Leaf Collage

Because I thrive in an organized and visually appealing environment I like our home to have a comfy, cozy, welcome, “Sit down and stay a while,” feel to it.  We had a big empty wall that screamed, “Lonely. Void. Help me!” Which led to this project.

The concept came from the desperation of wanting a large piece of art for the lonely living room wall. I found a beautiful painting of a turkey at a Missouri Conservation Artists’ sale but the $2000 price tag did not fit my budget.  Farm Boy is an excellent painter but since he already has a demanding day job I knew he did not have time to paint me a large — very large — turkey in an autumn landscape.  I brainstormed from March to September attempting to decide what to place on our large empty wall. Autumn descended and as I looked out my windows at the beautiful colors on the 100+ trees in our yard and I realized I wanted those colors; all year long. How? Bring them in? Hmm… I knew I could do it. Yes, instead of colorful turkey plumage on canvas I would place the hues of fall foliage on canvas. So I began.

Here is how I created my Leaf art:

In Missouri, autumn will be peaking over the next four weeks which makes it the perfect time for collecting colorful fall foliage.

Six years ago I drove around looking for deep purple and red leaves which I did not have in my yard. I found them at a local lake along with gold Ginkgo leaves.  I also collected leaves from friend’s yards so I could think of them when I delighted in my finished project.  To this day the red Japanese Maple leaves, from my friend Ann’s house, are my favorites.

I am going to estimate I collected around 700 leaves, from small flaming red Burning Bush leaves to a few large dark brown Sycamore leaves. It sounds like a lot of leaves but it doesn’t take long once your begin picking. Other leaves included: Bright orange Sugar Maple, deep purple Red Maple, yellow Silver Maple, several types of brown Oak, gold Ginkgo, red Japanese Maple, purple Sweetgum, pumpkin orange Sassafras, bright gold Shag Bark Hickory, deep reddish-brown Red Bud and various shades of tan and brown from Elm and Poplar. I also collected several very small branches with 4-5 leaves still  intact.

DSCN1965                   DSCN1967

I allowed the wet leaves to dry then placed them in large heavy books for pressing.   2/3 of the leaves remained pressed 4-5 weeks  1/3 of the leaves were pressed for 2 weeks then removed so edges could slightly curl.

In a large ventilated area, our garage, I set up 4 saw horses and placed large pieces of lumber or old doors on top of them. I covered the large flat surfaces with wax paper to eliminate sticking.

I watched for a 50% off sale and then bought a 4’ x 4’ wrapped painter’s canvas at Hobby Lobby  for $40.00.

For the base color of the canvas I used two coats of a coordinating trim paint which we had left over after painting trim in our house. You will notice in pictures we do not have baseboards finished yet. I will admit we have way more projects going on than we can keep up with or afford. As the cost of living continues to sharply and painfully increase our rehab budget keeps shrinking. Add to that doctor bills and therapy for a severe traumatic brain injury plus some newly added college costs and well; maybe we will finish the house during retirement — if we ever achieve retirement. Nonetheless, I still enjoy my home of perpetual autumn and I love the people who live in it.

I was after a natural look for preserving the leaves; nothing shiny, which meant wax was not an option. I watched the ads for Hobby Lobby and Michaels to purchase flat finishing/ polyurethane spray 50% off. I used 5-7 cans (memory is foggy here).

To preserve color and ensure my leaves lasted for years, I used a flat spray and gave the slightly curled leaves two coats on each side, allowing dry time between each application and making sure the leaves did not touch/stick together.  When completely dried I loosely piled the leaves in a box and brought them back in the house to deter bugs from feasting on them in the garage.

When the remaining 2/3’s were finished being pressed I spread them out on the saw horses.  Using the flat polyurethane spray I gave the leaves two coats on each side, allowing dry time between each application making sure the leaves were not touching/sticking together.

Attaching the leaves to the canvas proved to be tricky. I attempted just about every type of adhesive and glue a soul can find at the arts and crafts store. None held! Out of desperation I took a look through our garage. Neither wall paper glue nor wood glue worked. While considering Liquid Nails I spied: Henry Premium Multipurpose Carpet and Sheet Vinyl Adhesive. Out of curiosity I opened the tub and my eyes beheld thick gooey beauty! Just what I needed to grab hold of the veins on the back of the leaves. I applied this adhesive, allowed dry time, turned the canvas over, shook it and nothing happened. Nothing! It held the leaves in place. No falling off. No breakage.

Using a small craft/paint brush I turned over each individual leaf and generously applied adhesive to the back then pressed it down on the canvas; wiping away any excess with a damp cloth. I covered the entire canvas with the flat-pressed leaves allowing overage along the straight edges of the canvas.

I allowed the pressed leaves to dry then sprayed two more light coats of poly on the entire project.

Next I generously applied adhesive to the curled three dimensional leaves on the spots where they would touch the canvas base of pressed leaves. I set them in place and allowed them to dry.

I allowed the newly adhered leaves to dry, then sprayed three more light coats of poly on the entire project; allowing dry time between each coat.

Done.

My boys know when playing with Nerf guns that the guns may NOT be aimed at the leaves and they have been careful to obey. Someone did toss a pillow hitting a leaf and breaking a small portion off. To my knowledge this is the only damage to my leaf art. I have had minimal fading to the leaves but with the unfiltered direct light coming into our home I have had minimal fading on everything in the living room.  I do not have an expensive camera for taking quality photos but I believe I am showing a good representation of the final product.

I used just under ½ quart of the Carpet & Sheet Vinyl Adhesive for this project.

From start to finish, because of pressing time, this was a 2 month project.  My guesstimate on time spent is 25 working hours. This does not include dry time for the paint, poly & adhesive. Total cost was approx. $80.00. That’s $1920.00 less than the $2000.00 turkey painting!

DSCN1972 DSCN1948

Above: View of the dimensional aspects.

DSCN1968 DSCN1951

Above: View of edge                                                            Side profile

DSCN1941 DSCN1946

I enjoy my little piece of autumn in winter, spring and summer too.

Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip Recipe

TEXMEX Recipes

Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip (A.K.A. Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip)

IMG_0054

Last year I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, and visited my dear friend, Michelle, from years past. Once upon a time our families lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, at the same time where I taught her youngest daughter at a local Mom’s Day Out program. We later belonged to the same homeschool association and would hang out at each other’s homes while her daughters and my daughter played together.

Allow me to tell you what Michelle did to me; she interjected herself into my personal life. Ha! I tell you this in the most light-hearted way with a smile on my face because I absolutely positively love this woman. It’s a long story and one I am working on writing in it full detail. The abbreviated version is that several homeschool moms, along with Michelle, were praying for me behind my back and asking God to provide me a husband and to give Riley a daddy. I mention, “Behind my back” because my friends knew I had no interest or intention of dating or remarrying. Read here for why…..MY DESTRUCTIVE MARRIAGE. I named Michelle the instigator of this but she insists it was the Holy Spirit. I heard through the grapevine that while some of my friends were meeting for homeschool playdates they would huddle in the garage and pray for me while their children played in the yard.

And they were not the only friends doing this! It began months earlier with my friend Pam speaking to me about the same subject.  Little did I know, God was working out His plan (definitely not mine or Riley’s) for my life and for Riley’s life.

Here is a quote by Michelle, “I figured out a long time ago, that when several God-fearing women walk into God’s throne room together…whatever they are praying about…better watch out!” – #moveoversatan #nottakingGod’sglory #getunderourfeetwhereyoubelong

I obviously got over Michelle’s Holy Spirit led intrusion and allowed her in-depth private details of every aspect of my life; beginning to present day, for Restoring the Foundations ministry. Michelle was training to minister with RTF and is now officially part of the Restoring the Foundations Ministry team. I can honestly testify that RTF was the most beautiful, personal, empowering, healing and tender time I have ever spent with the Lord. I love Him!

How does this connect to a Tex-Mex recipe you may be asking?

Well, before visiting Michelle I texted her and asked if there was a Chuy’s Tex-Mex in Nashville. To my delight she responded that Chuy’s was; in fact, located down the street from her home in Franklin, Tennessee.

Chuy’s was my all-time favorite eating establishment. If I were allowed to have only one option for eating out, from present day to the day I die, Chuy’s would be it. I believe it is impossible that I could ever tire of their deliciousness; however, my body was malfunctioning due to eating many of the foods used in dishes at Chuy’s. Little did I know, I had acquired multiple auto-immune diseases from genetics and a life of extreme stress. Almost every food Chuy’s serves is now on my cannot eat list. Sniff, sniff….

My boys crave Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip, but since we live in the heavily populated Italian cuisine city of St. Louis, Missouri, we have no Chuy’s Tex-Mex.

Every time I ate at Chuy’s I attempted to pull apart the individual flavors; veggie, pepper, herb and spice in the salsas, Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip and meats.

I have made the dip with Jalapeños, Anaheim Chile’s, Poblanos, Serrano Peppers and blends of these peppers. I use fresh Serrano peppers in my Creamy Jalapeño Ranch Dip—no Jalapeños. We find this recipe every bit as flavorful, if not the same, as Chuy’s. I did ask a manager at a Chuy’s in Kentucky if there were Serrano’s in the salsas and dips and she confirmed that there were.

When it comes to preparing dishes with peppers you get to decide the amount of heat you want in your recipe. Here is the trick:

Mild heat: Remove seeds and devein the inside of the peppers.

Medium heat:  Remove seeds and leave the veins in. You can always add a few seeds if you want more heat.

Fiery heat: Leave seeds and veins in peppers.

I always double this recipe.

~Enjoy!

 Creamy Serrano Ranch Dip (Jalapeño)

IMG_0044

½ cup sour cream

½ cup real mayonnaise (low fat is not tasty in this recipe)

¾ cup milk

½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar (this turns milk in to buttermilk)

1 (4 ounce) can green chilies

1 (1 ounce) packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix

2 Serrano peppers (remove seeds and veins for mild) Remove seeds for medium heat. Leave seeds and veins for hot heat.

¼ cup cilantro

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

IMG_0046

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

IMG_0049

Refrigerate for two hours before serving so ingredients can soak into the dressing.

Serve with chips or use as salad dressing on Mexican salads, or sauce for Mexican foods and casseroles.

*Heat oven to 350 degrees and place a cookie sheet of white corn restaurant style tortilla chips in the oven for 3 minutes. Enjoy fresh restaurant style chips and dip.

Freedom Run for Ronald (McDonald House)

Run-for-Ronald-logo-2014-300x194

A grateful heart…

 

family room

Ronald's kitchen
Ronald’s kitchen

I wish I could find the pictures of our family using the Ronald McDonald Family Room at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The room, staffed by volunteers, offers the families of patients a comfy home-away-from home setting. Friends can drop off meals, marked with the patient’s name, for the patient’s family in Ronald’s fridge; these can be warmed and eaten at the family’s convenience.  The Family Room provides computers with internet access, a T.V., beautiful sofas for lounging, a kitchen, dining table, fully stocked snack and refreshment bar, laundry facilities, toys, books, board games, phone and an immaculately clean bathroom with a hot shower for family members to use.

Family room
Family room

Bleach and a pair of flip-flops could not entice me to use the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit’s shower for patients’ family members. I don’t know how anyone can manage to spray the walls, floor and the outside of the toilet with human waste of almost every kind, but someone did. And did it every day. Nasty!

Don’t get me wrong, we were and are grateful for the hospital, doctors and staff. Some of the best in the world! But some of the visitors had not been taught good bathroom etiquette and the importance of good hygiene.

January 1, 2011- Day after middle of the night brain surgery

 

Our family benefited from McDonald’s charity when my son, A.J., had a severe traumatic brain injury three, almost four, years ago.

Blessed Beyond Measure briefly chronicles A.J.’s hospitalization.

Celebrating an Answered Prayer Again was in celebration of A.J.’s 11th birthday.

Improving by the hour. Day 4
Improving by the hour. Day 4
Day 5
Day 5
About three months later with his puppy, Clancy.

Fast forward to October 2014.

A.J. has been on a mission convincing me that he needs more opportunities to serve others so he can become more like Jesus. He’s looking for ways to be involved in helping, serving and learning. He, better than anyone besides me—his dad—his brother (poor little brother)—and his sister—maybe add a few close friends—okay anyone who knows him, understands his bossy side. But he wants to become a servant leader.

A.J. and Colson have enjoyed participating in the local 40 Days for Life prayer chain the last few years. Recently they began preparing  food platters for Parent University, classes offered to parents who have chosen life. Our church hosts classes where parents can learn positive ways to parent, run a home, and build relationships.  Because of his heart for the unborn, A.J. wanted to run in the pro-LIFErunners 5K on the Katy Trail in Jefferson City, Missouri, but found out he had to be twelve to enter; he’s only eleven.

This led to looking for a local 5K for his first ever running event. I found the Freedom Run on the internet, sponsored by Missouri Baptist University. It was in honor of veterans, and his dad served in Desert Storm as a Marine. Plus it was benefiting the new Ronald McDonald House at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. Perfect! He already held a warm affection for Ronald McDonald because of the Family Room at Children’s Hospital.

Farm Boy signed the two of them up and they began walking and running to prepare for the race. Their goal was for A.J. to finish in under 45 minutes considering the short training time for his first 5K race.

Signed in? Check. T-shirt and bib number? Check. Streeeetch and stretch some more. Check.
Lost in the pack at the start line
Lost in the pack at the start line
Start!
He’s so excited that he runs 13 minutes without walking.
Excited! Feeling nothing but positive thoughts about running this for the Ronald McDonald House.
Excited! Feeling nothing but positive thoughts about running this for the Ronald McDonald House.
Colson and I are waiting at the finish line. The race began at MOBAP and finished at the new Ronald McDonald House.
Introducing the Ronald McDonald House at Mercy Hospital.
Introducing the Ronald McDonald House at Mercy Hospital.
36 minutes. He beat his goal.
36 minutes. He beat his goal.
Carbs and fruit for the runners.
Carbs and fruit for the runners.
He said he never once regretted the race, was only happy, and wants to help out next year.
He said he never once regretted the race, was only happy, and wants to help out next year.

He also hopes to run without walking next year.

One last surprise of the morning. He was put on the spot and invited to the podium to briefly tell his story about being in the hospital. It was purely by chance that the organizer found out about A.J.

A.J. had his serious face on as he explained he had a brain injury and that the Ronald McDonald room and staff helped his family while they stayed with him in the hospital. He ended by thanking them.

A.J. made me promise that I would not post the video on social media.

I promised.

 

Happy Veteran’s Day to the brave, honorable and loved men and women who have served and presently serve our beloved nation, the United States of America. Thank you!

Oorah! (For Farm Boy)

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread: Gluten Free

It’s fall.

Its scent is in the air, the rustling leaves sound like it, and the chilly outdoor temperature confirms it.

This means one thing in our home: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread baking time. Since we have a bon-fire to go to this weekend, and we committed to bringing this bread, our home is about to smell like the glorious scent of chocolate harmonizing with pumpkin. Our taste buds are preparing to dance!

GiveMe Chocolate Recipes

Life is hard.

Chocolate is good.

482337_4978087528715_240579493_n

But chocolate mixed into pumpkin in next to heavenly! Literally. I believe God made the cocoa bean specifically for women as a little gift to compensate us for the once a month hormonal upheaval we endure. And when we discovered the scrumptiousness of mixing chocolate into pumpkin, God may have smiled, leaned over to Jesus and said, “Do you see that? She discovered another little treasure we left for her.”

Make yourself a batch of this bread, which makes three loaves, and see for yourself that Gluten Free does not have to mean flavorless, fall-a-part dry bread. This bread is fit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack or anytime in between.

Eating Gluten Free means putting extra time and thought into almost every meal or snack we eat. I am thankful to have the resources to eat what we need and want but the planning is time-consuming. Plus, eating gluten free can make my boys’ taste buds whiny. They’re not whiny—but their taste buds are. The best way to hush them is with this dense, moist, bursting with flavor treat. If you have never tried chocolate and pumpkin together you are missing out on one of the finer things in life. Chocolate and pumpkin are perhaps the most perfect union since the pairing of chocolate and peanut butter. Don’t doubt it ’til you’ve tried it!

This is my own personal recipe I am sharing with you. My kids and friends can NOT keep their hands off it. Prepare to gain a pound—or two.

Our dog became a thieving table jumper the first time she smelled it. She is willing to suffer consequences  to wrap her mouth around this delicious concoction of chocolate and pumpkin. To manipulate us in to giving her more she has, without being prompted, been known to perform every trick we have ever taught her; one after the other, until we almost die laughing and cave to her cuteness. When we have a say in the matter we remove the chocolate chips from the dog’s bread. Sometimes we don’t have a say in the matter. Like when she runs by, jumps and grabs a mouthful from our hands. She’s fast like that—for Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

With no further ado I present to you:

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

This is a very forgiving recipe. Combine the  ingredients in the same mixing bowl in the order listed.

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

3 eggs at room temperature

1 – 29 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Mix

DSCN2994

Add 1 teaspoon each: Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg & All spice

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (located in the baking aisle near the yeast or GF items)

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix

DSCN2995

Add 3 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill, gluten free 1 to 1 Baking Flour (I purchase this at Sam’s Club but you can also find it at a grocery store).

 

¼ cup ground Flax seed (Flax seed helps hold the bread together)

*If you love Flax seed you can adjust the recipe to ½ cup pot. starch & ½ cup Flax seed; this slightly changes the texture.

Mix

DSCN2996

Mix in 2 cups chocolate chips.

DSCN3000

Pour into 3 ungreased 4 inch X 8 inch pans.  I use the disposable pans from the store because they bake the most uniform nicest looking loaves of bread and for some reason they bake more evenly than any of my other pans. This makes a nice size loaf of bread for DSCN3003gift giving. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips down the center of each loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Insert a toothpick. When it come out dry, except for chocolate smudges, it is finished. Test each loaf. Cool about 20 minutes then use a metal spatula to loosen the bread from the sides of the pans. With one had on the top of the bread and one hand on the bottom of the pan; turn the pan upside down to remove the bread. Completely cool before placing in a bag or container.

This bread freezes beautifully in a freezer bag.

DSCN3006Optional: You can use a combination of your favorite grains and starches. For this option use 2 cups of grains, 1/2 cup gluten free ground oats, and 3/4 cup potato starch. I buy most of my grains from Whole Foods and mill them at home with my electric mill but many grains can be purchased already ground/milled. I am listing my favorite combination of flours for this post but I have used many combinations and never disliked any of them. I have used Millet, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Brown Rice, Sweet Rice, cooked Quinoa, and Almond Four. I do not care for Garbanzo and Fava Flour in any baking product.

Gluten Free baking needs to be done with room temperature ingredients.

~Enjoy!

 

 

Prayer Tool Box

DIY Projects

DIY Prayer Tool Box

DSCN1898

“I can’t do this but I’m doing it anyway,” is a quote by Nicole Lavelle that pretty much sums up my life.

How then does one do what they are not capable of doing?

Prayer!

Do you have insurmountable obstacles? Do you know someone in need of a miracle? Are you desperate for an answer to prayer?  Are you concerned for someone close to your heart? Are you anticipating God’s activity in your life?  Are  you seeking a creative way to teach your children to pray and to involve your family in meaningful prayer? Are you finding it difficult to appropriately thank God for something He has done in your life?

I have encountered all these scenarios and found prayer was the tool I needed for every one of them.

I was inspired by my church’s Prayer Room, with various specific prayer stations, which we have utilized over the years while holding prayer vigils. When I compared my prayer time at home to my prayer time during the vigils it resembled drive through fast-food compared to an elaborate five course dinner with the One I love at an upscale restaurant.  I enjoy and depend on my daily prayer time but my soul found uninterrupted intimate relationship, renewed strength, and blissful zeal in the simple structure the prayer vigil offered participants.

The idea of dedicating a room in our house solely for prayer was a grand idea but did not realistically fit our family at this stage in life. So I condensed prayer tools, some of which were replicas of the prayer vigil along with some of my own, into a Photo Box. The box coordinates with our home decorated in the seasonal colors of fall because I could live in perpetual autumn.

I am teaching my kids to use this box of prayer tools which makes our prayer life richer, organized and meaningful. Although this could be used daily, we reserve it for special occasions or special needs. I want to ensure my children do not become bored and do not feel inadequate while praying. Christ’s disciples fell asleep in the Garden so I know we are capable of doing the same.

Here is a list of what I keep in our Prayer Box:

  • Step by step directions
  • Scriptures
  • Candle and matches (keep out of reach of children)
  • ABC cards. Go through the alphabet to find a descriptive word or phrase for God that correlates with every letter of the alphabet. Write the word or phrase that describes God to you in this particular situation or write how  you are asking Him to work in this situation.
  • Clay
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Psalm 100 cards
  • Hymnal
  • Journal
  • List of missionaries from our church
  • Small pad of paper and a sealed box
  • Current list of prayer requests for our church family
  • Bible
  • Essential oils: Cassia, Cedarwood, Cypress, Frankincense and/or Hyssop
  • I keep these tools in a decorative photo box

DSCN1927

These are inexpensive therapeutic grade oils I ordered from Edens Garden.

Don’t forget a box of Kleenex or a travel size pack of Kleenex

We find a comfortable spot and gather close. (There are times when I use the box in private).

We do not consider quiet time during prayer uncomfortable but rather an opportunity for God to speak to our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is good to discuss something with the Lord and then be silent as we wait on Him. (This is a discipline I lack and hope to enjoy the benefits of before moving to my residence in heaven).

We follow the A.C.T.S. approach to prayer and worship time. We read the scriptures and instructions out loud. You may use all the tools/helps or choose according to your prayer topic. Pray the printed scriptures out loud; add your own prayers anywhere you choose.

A drop of Cedarwood may be rubbed into the palms of your hands before beginning your prayer and meditation and/or a drop of Frankincense to symbolize you are bringing your best to Jesus.

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” Revelation 5:8 (NIV).

“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.” Revelation 8:3 (NIV).

“May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2 (NIV).

We read in scripture that incense represents the prayers of the saints and in the tabernacle the altar of incense was before the throne of God, the arc of the covenant, burning continuously because we are to pray without ceasing.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved…                    2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV).

Take a moment to light a candle, or light incense, and as you enjoy it’s sweet aroma, be blessed to know that your prayers are always a sweet aroma to our Heavenly Father.

DSCN1903

ADORATION

“But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,  knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” 2 Corinthians 4:13-14 (NASB).

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him… Savior, Master, Yahweh. There is something about that name!

Use the abc card and go through the alphabet to find an adjective, word or phrase for God, that describes what you are asking of God in this request. When you are finished take time to read the list back to God, just fill in the blank —

“Lord you are_____________________”

(We believe, therefore we speak!)

DSCN1914

When you have finished this card, pick one of your words and find a hymn or praise song for that word/adjective. Meditate on that song and sing it to God, either out loud or in your heart.

DSCN1915

 God “inhabits” the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). As your heart begins to adore him, you’ll sense his presence more deeply.

CONFESSION

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (The Message).

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“Change my heart, Oh God.” Make it ever true. Change my heart, Oh God. May I be like you. You are the potter; I am the clay; mold me and make me; This is what I pray…

Take a piece of clay from the bag. As you work the clay into the shape of a heart, use this time to search your own heart. What do you need to give Him? Pride, greed, selfishness, anger, lust…

DSCN1906 DSCN1904

(Symbolically use the hand sanitizer to ‘cleanse’ your hands.)

Use a drop of Hyssop as a symbol of the cleansing work Christ has done for you. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7 (NIV)

“… let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.”                             2 Corinthians 7:1 (The Message)

 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

 Accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing and thank Him for it.

Use a drop of Cypress which scripturally symbolized purification and can be used as incense.

THANKSGIVING

 “We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!” 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (The Message)

“For all that you’ve done, I will thank you. For all that you’re going to do, for all that you’ve promised and all that you are is all that has carried me through, Jesus. I thank you.

And I thank you, thank you Lord! Thank you for loving and setting me free. Thank you for giving your life just for me. Jesus, I thank you, gratefully thank you.”  -D Jernigan

Take time to meditate on Psalm 100.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

 DSCN1912

On a Psalm 100 card, write your own personal Psalm 100  by filling in the blanks.

Know that the Lord is ________________________________________________

It is He who ________________________________________________________

And we are His ______________________________________________________

Enter His _____________________with ___________________________________

Give ________________________to Him and ________________________His name.

SUPPLICATION

 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

 If you are praying over someone in your presence you may anoint them with drops of Cassia, a holy anointing oil, used during Old Testament times.

Pray for the people on your prayer board, church prayer request list or your church missionary list.

Other prayer needs:

  • Church staff, leaders, teachers and members including families, singles, widows, sick and shut-ins.
  • Life’s difficulties, struggles, relationships, finances, studies or job.
  • Friends, loved ones, relatives, neighbors, co-workers. Talk to God about their needs. Ask for their salvation.
  • Our nation: President, legislators, justices, judges, governors, mayors, police and emergency personal.   Grant us wise leaders. Turn our nation’s hearts and minds to you, God. Pray for righteousness. Pray for the weak, the oppressed and the enslaved.
  • Internationally: Pray for the weak and oppressed and pray against modern day slavery. Pray that God’s word is accessible to all people in our generation. Pray for pastors and churches in countries where Christianity is persecuted. Pray for the poor and the starving that Christ will provide their every need. Pray for Israel to recognize their Messiah and pray for their purpose and safety.

Use the journal to record and date thoughts, prayers, dreams, etc.

Use the small pad of paper to write down your struggles and give them to God. For this I have a completely sealed box (glued & tied) where the struggle may be placed.

DSCN1975

Another option is to pray for ourselves or others and then give the request to God by releasing a seed outdoors. The seed symbolizes something we need to let go of. When we release it outside we are showing God it now belongs to Him. We may see the fruit of our prayer some day or God might be the only one who knows the outcome of the prayer/thrown seed.  We know whatever the outcome— it will be a supernatural work of God. (I have found gourd seeds to be vigorous.)

I hope you find this prayer time refreshing and that it makes you long for the next time you come before the Lord. I pray that God ministers to your heart, soul, mind and strength during these prayer times and that you begin to notice and remember answers to prayers.

DSCN1976 DSCN1928 DSCN1895

Completed Cards

More information on the above mentioned essential oils:

CASSIA* (Cinnamomum cassia) Cassia was an ingredient in the Holy Anointing Oil given to Moses. This exotic fragrance of vanilla/cinnamon might be similar in its aroma to cinnamon, but it is physically and chemically much different. Care must be taken in topical use as it may cause skin sensation. It is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and an anticoagulant.

Scriptures: Exodus 30:24; Ezekiel 27:19; Psalm 45:8

Historical uses of Cassia:

  • A drop placed in the hands rub hands together and cup over nose for a joyful, uplifting feeling.

CEDARWOOD* (Cedrus atlantica) Produced mainly in Morocco, it is the species most closely related to the cedars of Lebanon. Of all essential oils, Cedarwood is highest in sesquiterpenes, which are oxygen-delivering molecules capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier.

Scriptures: Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 52; Numbers 19:6

Historical uses:

  • Diffuse or inhale from bottle to enhance prayer and meditation.
  • A drop of oil in your palms and then cup them over your nose and mouth. Inhale, breathing deeply to help with mental clarity.
  • Used as an effective insect repellant).
  • A drop to a cotton balls and place in drawers to repel insects.
  • Egyptians used 1-3 drops rubbed into the scalp may help to inhibit hair loss.
  • A drop or two rubbed on wounded skin may help to clean, disinfect and protect from infection.
  • Rub a drop or two on the chest area to help relieve symptoms of (difficult breathing) bronchitis.
  • Applied to help with sleep.

CYPRESS* (Cupressus sempervirens) The oil of Cypress has been used since ancient times for purification and as incense.

Scriptures: Genesis 6:14; Isaiah 41:19; 44:14; I Kings 9:11; Song of Solomon 1:17

Historical uses:

  • Used to help with healing cuts and healing of scars.

FRANKINCENSE* (Boswellia carteri)  It’s a generational tree that takes forty years to produce its first resin. One of the gifts of the wise men to our Savior, frankincense would have been rubbed all over the body of the baby. Egyptian tradition says that “Frankincense is good for everything from gout to a broken head” or in other words “good from head to toe”. If in doubt, use Frankincense. Other names for frankincense are “olibanum” or “Oil from Lebanon”.

Scriptures: Exodus 30:34; Leviticus 2:1, 5:11, 6:15, 24:7; Numbers 5:15; I Chronicles 9:29; Nehemiah 13:5, 9; Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:6, 14; Isaiah 43:23; 60:6; 66:3; Jeremiah 6:20; 17:26; 41:5; Matthew 2:11; Revelation 18:13

Historical Uses:

  • It was used improve concentration.
  • Spiritual oil that enhanced and promoted emotional and spiritual feeling.
  • Diffused to elevate mood.
  • A key ingredient in the holy anointing oils and the oil that stopped Biblical Plagues. 

HYSSOP* (Hyssopus officinalis) It has a very long history as a cleansing herb.

Scriptures: Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51, 52; Numbers 19:6, 18; I Kings 4:33; Psalm 51:7; John 19:29; Hebrews 9:19

Historical uses:

  • Used to prevent the Plague.

 

You will love your new prayer tool box!