Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bloggy overhaul for the new year--construction warning!

If you are one of the few folks who visit my blog occasionally, I must warn you--I have a renovating bug and a small (okay, nonexistent) budget, so my blog is going to be undergoing an overhaul.  I shall have some free time on my hands when hubby leaves for three weeks in Germany just after the new year, so.....blog I will!

Just a warning!  Proceed at your own risk!  LOL

Friday, December 17, 2010

A twist on an annoying "tag"!

You know those horrid games that once a year some random person will play on you either via your email or Facebook, where you are "tagged" along with 25-or-so other people to list 25ish random things about yourself or answer a bunch of off-the-wall questions, then (of course) pass it on so you can torture tag 25 MORE people with the same "game"?

Yeah, well apparently it's that time of year again.  Normally if I'm tagged by someone who knows me pretty well, I'll either totally ignore the request or I'll (in a feeble attempt at consideration for THEIR time spent on such a monumental time-waster) list things that I know will make the other person laugh.  This time, though, well, the person who tagged me really doesn't know me all *that* well, and shoot ... I'm bored.  But this time, I'm switching things up a bit!  I'm taking the random out of it, and in a real, true effort to make the "real" me a little bit more obvious, I'm gonna do this MY way.  Hmm ... I guess that's Fact #1--I'm apparently a bit of a control freak?

Here's my take on it--I'm going to list not 25, not 30, but 37 things that make me happy.  Why 37?  Because that's how old I am this year.  Why things that make me happy?  Because THAT is how you understand what makes someone tick.  I'm not going to "tag" anyone else; I'm going to leave any participation in this little game completely voluntary--but you know what?  I'm actually, really, and truly interested in how people would answer this very same question!  If you want to, I'd love to have you play too!  So, if you make it through my list, feel free to comment with a link to your OWN list!  Okay?  Alrighty then--now here goes.

37 Things That Make Kris Happy ...
1. Devil's food cookies.  They're those little chocolate-covered circles of devil's food cake that have a thin layer of marshmallow under the chocolate coating.  I inherited my love for these little yummies from my Papaw (who I don't think ever told another soul that he had such an affinity for them) and I'm just so sad that I can't seem to find them anywhere anymore except in the low fat version (which we all know is NOT the real thing).
2. Big, fat, red roses.  Those big, deep-crimson blooms that fill up your entire hand.  Awesome.
3. Gardenia bushes.  My nose is tuned in to that scent every time I'm anywhere near them, and my memory immediately goes straight back to my Mamaw.
4. Waking up late on a Saturday morning with two or three little ones asleep between me and hubby--instant silent smiles shared across little blonde heads ... ahhh.
5. Having a cat curl up on my lap.
6. Freshly finished scrapbook pages.
7. Thin crust NY-style cheese pizza.  I have still yet to have a slice as yummy as the one we last had the night before our wedding, at New York Style Pizza in the shopping center at the corner of Jog and Lake Worth Roads.  One day ...
8. My hubby's homemade buttered popcorn.  He makes the BEST buttered popcorn.  Better than any movie theater!  I've watched him; I've done exactly the same things he does when I attempt to make it, but I can't recreate it.  I guess the secret ingredient really is love--and he's never hesitant or even huffy when I ask him to make up a batch.  Seriously--it can even make an Adam Sandler movie worth watching!
9. The beach.  Not sunbathing; not the skin-fest, but the actual sand-meets-ocean *beach*.  The sounds of the surf, the smells, the beauty in the horizon, the solitude even among the crowd, the sheer magnificence of God's creation.  Wow.
10. Snow-capped mountains.  More specifically, the Bavarian Alps.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to camp at their feet three times in my life.  Yet another grandiose display of the power found in the Master Artist's brush.
11. A baby's laughter.  Communication that needs no translation!
12. The smell of fresh-cut-grass.
13. Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars dipped in Jif creamy peanut butter.
14. Seeing my grandmother's, my great-grandmother's, and my great-grandfather's Bibles on my shelf.  It is a heritage of faith that I hope and pray continues through my children.
15. Cinnamon Spice tea from Barnes & Noble's Starbucks.
16. The sight and sounds of my children playing together peacefully.
17. Philly cheesesteaks.
18. A phone call from an old friend that lasts altogether too long but is altogether too short.
19. Newly-opened Crayola crayons.
20. Being at home with my children--few sacrifices in this life are as rewarding!
21. Mamaw's carrot cake.
22. Freshly washed cloth diapers drying on the clothesline. 
23. York Peppermint Patties!!!
24. Seeing soldiers in formation. 
25. The scent of Jergen's lotion--the "original" sweet cherry almond fragrance.
26. Carvel ice cream cake. Maybe one of these years, my family will take the hints I've been dropping?
27. Homeschooling.  Everything about it makes me happy.  This could be a list completely by itself--the box of books arriving at the door, the stacks of papers, supplies, and folders........the whole experience of being the one teaching my children how to learn and love learning; it's such an amazing blessing that I thank God for every day!
28. Having a crying toddler bring me a boo-boo to kiss.
29. Five-year-old enthusiasm because she's just figured out how to curl her tongue!
30. Bubble baths in those long, deep German bathtubs!  OH how I miss those tubs!!!
31. Seeing God "show off" by providing for our needs--usually with a major flourish!
32. Gibson's BBQ
33. Time spent in fellowship with other Christians.  There truly is no finer company!
34. Comfy jeans.
35. Clean, crisp sheets.
36. Homecomings.
37. This--having our whole family, including its new "extension", all together.  We're not a perfect family, we can't get everyone smiling at the camera at the same time, the camera makes at least one (in this case, two) of us look thirty pounds heavier, and one of us is inevitably wearing something as offbeat as Shelby's Elmo slippers, but I wouldn't trade this family for anything this side of heaven!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My mission

... and I did choose to accept it, is to somehow re-create the (okay, I'm going to steal one of my teenage daughter's descriptions here) awesomeness of the little crusty, chewy bits of doughy goodness that we had in Germany.  There truly is NOTHING that compares to a warm brotchen with soft, salty, creamy butter slathered all over it.  Nothing.  And I'm determined to learn how to do it.

I have one German cookbook with a brotchen recipe in it, and I gave it my first try yesterday, with the hopes of accompanying a hearty German meal of bratwurst, sauerkraut (doctored, of course, as Pete's Oma showed me with bacon, onions, and apples), potato balls and a brown mushroom gravy.  Here's what I ended up with:
It was yummy enough, but the brotchen was all wrong.  I'm off to find another recipe that will work.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lessons from Facebook

Unlikely source of an education of sorts in spiritual matters, no?  Funny how God works sometimes to teach us things!

Recently, I had a security breach on my computer, all due to a lot of the junk I probably should never have been bothering to expose myself to in the first place.  Facebook is terrible about having applications that require you to "allow" access to your profile, and unfortunately, a lot more than that.  You may "only" be playing Farmville or placing a badge on your profile, but at what cost?  I am STILL having issues with my computer.  I can't use any "remember me" applications on anything, regardless of its connection to Facebook.  I even managed to trace my Blogger issues back to that Facebook hacker incident.  I had a period of about a week that I was completely unable to access my Facebook at ALL--I coudln't sign in, I couldn't change my password, nothing.  It was insane.  And it probably wouldn't have been a big deal at all if I had another way to keep in daily contact with my deployed son, but sometimes you just have to deal with the demons, right? 

Do we?

Once I got my mess straightened out, I came across a rather heated disagreement between one of my friends and another random poster on a random blog, about the toll "allowed" access to sin in our lives takes on us spiritually ... and since the whole Facebook application debacle was fresh in my mind, it occurred to me that there is a huge lesson to be learned about what we "allow" in our lives. 

I receive constant (every day....multiple times a day, in fact) invitations to one application or another on Facebook.  It all seemed so harmless when I first signed up for the social network.  I had NO IDEA the damage that those completely benign forms of virtual entertainment could bring upon me.  See, plenty of people use Facebook and its applications with absolutely no problem.  They never have any security issues, never have problems with applications or what is "allowed" on their profile.  But then there are those of us who DO get 'hacked', whether inconvenienced with minor disturbances like I was, or completely barraged with viruses and identity theft.

We need to value and protect our identity and our computers, yes.  No doubt about that.  We need to pay special attention to filters on our computer and whether we're properly protected against outside malice.  But do you realize that, by and large, most people who would be ridiculously careful with their virtual life are not nearly as diligent to protect their hearts and minds?

Think about the last time you plopped yourself down and mindlessly watched TV because there was nothing better to do.  What did you see?  What commercials flashed before your eyes while your brain was checked out, yet still looking at the screen?  How about what movies you've watched lately, whether via DVD or in the theaters?  What books and other printed media have you filled your mind with?  In short, what have you occupied your time with in the name of entertainment?

And what of "entertainment" itself?  What purpose should it serve to us?  If we should rightly discern what entertainment to take part in, why should we not define its entire purpose and what worth it should hold in our lives?  Permit me to quote Webster's 1828 Dictionary, if you would (I prefer older, more Biblically grounded definitions of our words to the current watery versions) ...

ENTERTA'INMENT, n. The receiving and accommodating of guests, either with or without reward. The hospitable man delights in the entertainment of his friends.
     1. Provisions of the table; hence also, a feast; a superb dinner or supper.
     2. The amusement, pleasure or instruction, derived from conversation, discourse, argument, oratory, music, dramatic performances, &c.; the pleasure which the mind receives from any thing interesting, and which holds or arrests the attention. We often have rich entertainment, in the conversation of a learned friend.
     3. Reception; admission.
     4. The state of being in pay or service. [Not used.]
     5. Payment of those retained in service.
     6. That which entertains; that which serves for amusement; the lower comedy; farce.

It is the second definition I would like to center on for just a minute--"the amusement, pleasure or instruction, derived from conversation, discourse, argument, oratory, music, dramatic performances, &c."--this pretty much sums up what our current definition of entertainment is, does it not?  Interestingly enough, when I looked up 'amusement', one of the definitions was "a distraction".  Yup, right on the money.  Distraction from reality is what we seek in our entertainment, isn't it?  To be entertained is to be swept away, in a manner of speaking, to another world, free from the cares and worries of the current one.  We want something to occupy our mind--something we don't have to *do* for ourself; something that requires nothing of us except our attention.  Am I wrong in that assumption?

Here's where it gets tricky for the Christian.  What we choose to (and it is a choice!) allow to entertain us WILL be what our mind dwells on.  Have you ever watched a cooking show and realized that suddenly you are incredibly hungry?  How about getting thirsty watching a Pepsi or Coke commercial?  Ever had the sudden urge to complain about your relationship with your spouse after watching one of those cheesy chick-flicks or reading a romance novel? 

**For the record, I will admit my fervent distaste in both chick-flicks and romance novels.  I think they're a recipe for disaster.  I could go on for HOURS, but not now.**

The entertainment industry depends on awakening our desire for whatever "product" they're selling--whether it's an actual product or an idea or ratings or box-office numbers or a spot on the bestseller list.  They don't get paid unless you partake.  And, dear Christian brethren, just what are you **getting** when you partake?  Is it an unhealthy dose of profanity, sexual innuendo (or worse, perverse reinactments of the "real deal"), immodest dress and behavior, violence, witchcraft, drunkenness, and debauchery?

"But it's just entertainment.  It's just 'pretend'; it's not real; there's no harm in it."

Is there not? 

How's your conscience doing?  Is it seared?  What is your mind dwelling on?  What should the mind of a Christian be dwelling on??  As in all things pertaining to life and godliness, let the Word of God be the one to speak:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Philippians 4:8  ESV)

What do we think about?  What "rules" us and our choices about how we spend our downtime and our moments of diversion from work and responsibility?  Christian parents, are you raising up a generation of spiritual weaklings who look, sound, and think like their worldly counterparts?  Are you training them up in godliness?  Are you teaching your children to abhor the things which God abhors, or are you celebrating it with their "entertaining" choices for movies and reading material?  Are you training them to see things that God detests as "okay" as long as it's "pretend"?

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."  (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

We guard our computers with virus protection.  We guard our identity.  We guard our houses.  We guard our purses, our wallets, our cell phones, our vehicles, and we even microchip our pets.  But do we truly, diligently, and vehemently guard our hearts????  Are our choices for entertainment any better, any more wholesome, any more worthy of our time (and God's) than those of people who do not claim the name of Christ?  Are we offended by the things that offend God, or have we been thoroughly brainwashed by the world into believing things are "okay" if we are only watching/reading them and not actively taking part in them?  Need I quote it?  Sure, I will.  "For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)  Do we even CARE to see things as God sees them, or are we more content and comfortable fitting in with the world?

Like it or not, when you view a TV show or movie, you are in effect clicking on the "allow" button to your heart.  You allow Satan access to your mind and your heart, and that is no light matter.  Just as with our Facebook accounts, we have no control once we do the "allowing" what will be affected.  It could be nothing.  Or it could completely infect your life.  Why take that chance??? 

"Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind." (Romans 12:2 GNB)

Does your mind need some anti-malware protection and a good re-format?
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