For All The Extroverts

What have you been up to lately? This extroverted girl has been learning just how hard it is to get along without her routine people around. And I think I’m pretty normal for struggling through this.

God has designed us to need community. If you were to look in scripture you would see over and over that He has not designed us to do life alone. He has created marriage, the family, the church; all different forms of community. And yet, because God has temporarily removed the broader community from my life, I am becoming increasingly convinced of an even deeper truth: He has designed us to need Him more than community. In fact, often the very point of community (marriage, the family and the church) is given to direct us and others back to Him. Any time these relationships take a higher priority than God Himself they are being taken out of context. 

I didn’t realize just how greatly I can depend on these relationships, looking to them for my source of fulfillment instead of God. Can you relate? Have you felt discouraged because you haven’t had a fellow sister to pour your heart out to in person? Have you felt depressed because you haven’t had anyone to do a game night with in order to take your mind off of a stressful life situation? Have you found yourself wishing desperately for a coffee date with your spouse just to get a break from the mundane tasks of daily life? Me too! 

Honestly, as an extrovert, I kind of found myself believing the lie that I can’t/won’t survive this quarantine well, because… I need my people! God has graciously shown me some good news though! People, while good gifts in and of themselves, aren’t my source of satisfaction in life; God is. 

Psalm 107 is just full of all the beautiful things God has done, but one thing in particular that we read is he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” (vrs.9)

What? You mean, it’s not my friends, a good book, projects, Facebook or Netflix? 

Nope. 

And there’s more… 

Let’s keep going.

Psalm 16:11 says “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” 

What good news for extroverts! Even in the absence of friends there is joy for us to find; in God’s presence!

Psalm 62:5-8 says “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

These truths do not change, my friends. So, let’s trust Him. When our souls feel empty and we are tempted to look around for something to fill it, let’s run to Him instead.

During this time of social isolation, let’s continue to pursue relationships with people to the best of our ability. Let’s send texts/emails of encouragement. Let’s create unique opportunities to interact with loved ones from afar. God has called us to love, support and serve others and it is a good, good gift. But…at the end of the day, let’s not forget that HE is the best gift of all. And He isn’t going anywhere “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
Vile and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.

(“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley)

At home activities for kids

Sometimes life consists of the mundane. Dishes, bills, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Our children learn from us just by participating in our everyday tasks. Sometimes, however, we need some fresh ideas for how we can interact more closely with our children in order to make memories they won’t forget…or we may just need some new ideas for how to  keep them busy while we get a few extra chores done! Either way, today we’re providing a list of our favorite activities. If it helps you to structure your day, think in blocks of time, having specific activities assigned to each segment. For example: 9:00-9:30–Chores/clean up, 9:30-10:00 -Crafts/Projects,10:00-10:30 – Independent play and so on. The following activities are simple and don’t require a ton of random supplies so we hope that you find these helpful as you continue to love on your kids!

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Outside

– Go on a walk and plan things you are going to look for (red houses, labrador retrievers, old cars, etc)

Go on a walk and flip a coin at every intersection you come to. Heads you go right. Tails you go left. 

– Look around in your backyard and see how many different shades of green you can find. 

– Sidewalk chalk

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Inside

– Read a book out loud

– When reading picture books, talk about what’s going on in the picture: count items, identify characters (mom, dad, baby, etc), identify attitudes. 

-Turn on some music and sing together

– Build a fort out of couch cushions and pillows

– Bake something yummy together

– Assemble a puzzle

– If you have a little girl, paint your nails together

– Have a tea party

– Play musical chairs

– Facetime a friend

– Have your child pretend you’re a mummy.  Tell him he needs to build you a great pyramid by covering you with toys/blankets, etc. Remember, mummies can’t move. You get a nap and your child learns some history. Win!

– Pop some Popcorn and have a family movie night

– Work on scripture memory together

– Bubble Bath

– Play a game such as Dominoes, Uno or Spot It. Check out this post on modifying games for young kids. http://heartsrefreshed.com/2019/07/30/5-games-you-can-modify-to-play-with-your-young-child/

– Play I Spy: use a little plastic animal or person and take turns hiding and finding it. 

– Get wiggles out acting out different animals: milk a cow, gallop like a horse, flap your wings like a bird, slither like a snake, roll in the mud like a pig, and so on.

– Clean the house! More often than not when I am doing some deeper cleaning around the house, my toddler will get right in the middle of it and want to help! 

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Crafts/Projects

– Make crafts out of toilet paper rolls (a simple google search will give you hundreds of ideas!)

– Make paper airplanes

– Draw simple designs such as a flower, tree, house, etc., and then “color” them with rice (mix food coloring into the rice and let dry, then use glue)

– Make a mosaic using cut up pieces of construction paper. 

– Make simple designs from construction paper and then have your child put together the picture. For example: cut out the trunk of a tree, the leaves, and fruit and then glue them together onto the tree you drew.

– For young children learning their alphabet, write out names of family members or friends for them to trace. As they trace the names, point out the different letters.

– Playdough More than likely you have all the ingredients to make your own playdough! Homemade playdough stays soft for so long and is super easy to whip up! I use this recipe – https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/

– Color (google “free coloring sheets for kids”)

-Write a letter to Grandma or a friend

– Create your own book- Fold multiple construction paper pieces and then staple together. Let your child write or draw pictures inside to create their own story.

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Independent Play

– Play store with canned goods, cereal boxes, etc. 

-Fill up the sink and let your child “wash dishes”

-Use masking or painters tape on your floor to make roads that your child can drive their cars on. Legos/Blocks can be used for making houses/parks/stores. 

-Listen to an audio book (look on your libraries website and see if you can check out an audio book online).

-Set your toddler inside a large cardboard box and let him color away with crayons or markers

-Finger bathtub paint https://www.food.com/recipe/kids-bathtub-paints-66418

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Online

-Cincinnati Zoo is offering a Facebook Live Safari every week day while the zoo is closed! https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/

-“Scholastic” has put together a great set of free learning resources! https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html

-“The Relaxed Homeschool” facebook page offers lots of freebie worksheets that you can print off. https://www.facebook.com/therelaxedhomeschool/ Laminate them or use a sheet protector for repeated use of the same page!  

-Check out this list for 50 ideas on ways to sneak in learning! https://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2015/03/50-easy-ways-to-sneak-in-learning.html?m=1


I Am a Church Member — A Book Review

Not too long ago, I read two fantastic books on church membership: I am a Church Member by Thom Rainer and What is a Healthy Church Member by Tabiti Anyabwile. Until reading these books, I really hadn’t thought too deeply about the implications of church membership except that I knew it was important and that “it is imperative that I be involved and serve where I am able to.” However, after reading these books, I am more convinced than ever of a few things:

Church is a big deal.
Going to church is a big deal.
Being a church member is a big deal.

If these things aren’t a big deal to you, they should be, for Scripture has a lot to say about the function of believers within the context of the local church.

With only 79 pages, I am a Church Member is an easy read and provides a concise and practical discussion of what it means to be a member of the local church and not just a member of the Body of Christ.

But why church membership? Is it just a technicality that really committed Christians do? Is it an admissions ticket to special privileges? Does it bring us greater favor with God? Is this an issue of earning our salvation? Is it just for the sake of the church leaders to be able to report a growth in numbers? In fact, isn’t membership just an old-fashioned idea that people did in generations past?

I would say no, no, no, and NO!! Being a church member isn’t about any of these things!

So then, if it isn’t about any of those things, what is it all about? What are the Scriptural reasons for why a believer should become a member of the local church they attend?

Answering this question is the purpose of I am a Church Member. In this little book, Rainer endeavors to help us gain a better grasp of the importance of membership by discussing what it means to be a member and what it does not mean. In doing so, he outlines six key attitudes every believer should have concerning his responsibilities as a church member.

While clearly this is not an exhaustive list, here are six key attitudes Rainer argues that every church member should have:

1. I will be a functioning church member

2. I will be a unifying church member

3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires

4. I will pray for my church leaders

5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members

6. I will treasure church membership as a gift

Key to this entire discussion of being a church member is the passage in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 where Paul lays out how the physical body has different members and then compares this to the spiritual Body of Christ also having different members. Each of these bodies desperately needs every member within the body to do its part so that it can function properly.

While in the broader sense this passage does apply to the universal Church–the collective group of believers all around the world that makes up the Body of Christ–the specific application of this passage seems to be for the local church, for Paul makes mention of specific roles that are set within the local church. While one could argue that “we are all working together, around the world, using our different gifts to further the cause of the Gospel” it truly is in the context of the local church that we see most clearly the various giftings of each believer: Susie loves teaching the children’s Sunday School class; John brings encouragement to the the sick and elderly; Amanda serves in the area of hospitality; Joe is particularly gifted in the area of preaching; Jennifer finds joy in keeping the church bathrooms and foyer spotless.

Yes, God has given each individual believer something to contribute towards the edifying and building up of the body and this happens as we interact on a more personal level.

So wherever you are in your journey, I believe I Am a Church Member will grow your understanding of why the local church is so unique and why every believer should be making it an intentional priority!

(A version of this post was originally posted on Angie’s personal blog)

Helping Your Friend Move

Our family recently went through the process of selling our old home and buying a new one. It was a crazy time of showings, inspections, paperwork and packing. Our new house was in need of some TLC before we could move into it and many of our friends were right there alongside us as we cleaned, painted and moved. We couldn’t have done it without them! Today I thought I’d share some of the things I discovered to be extremely helpful to someone going through the moving process. Trust me, your support and encouragement can make a huge difference! 

1. Pray for them. Moving is draining, both physically and emotionally, and your friends need the extra prayer support from you. Pray that they will have extra energy. Pray that they will have extra patience with their kids. Pray that they would have extra compatibility/humility towards their spouse as they work together on a lot of decisions/details. 

2. Ask if you can come over and wash the dishes for them while they work on packing.

3. Offer to bring some food for any cleaning/moving helpers they may have on moving day, etc. Let your friends know you will bring fresh fruit, bottled water, a veggie tray, etc. for everyone so your friends have one less thing to worry about during this process. 

4. Provide them a meal. Drop off soup and bread. Stick a freezer meal in the freezer that they can pull out on a day when they are so busy unpacking/setting things up that they don’t have time to restock groceries. 

5. Give them gift cards for Subway, Little Caesars, etc. 

6. Supply them with a huge supply of paper plates, cups and plastic silverware. This will come in handy over a time when the dishes are packed in boxes, but it will also help to ease the load in the days following the move when your friends would rather be hanging those curtain rods instead of doing dishes. 

7. Put together a housewarming basket with practical things like dish soap, scrubbing pads, toilet bowl cleaner, tape, a candle, etc. Your friends  may not know where some of those items got off to during the move and having someone to supply these things can really help make everything seem a little more like home for them. 

8. Offer to help babysit their kids. 

9. Tell them you want to help with cleaning/packing/moving and that they are to just give you the time and place and you’ll be there! Repeat your offer so they can remember and know you meant it. 

10. Offer to come over after the moving day to help them unpack boxes and move furniture. 

11. Ask what they need from the store, whether it’s the hardware or grocery store, and offer to pick it up for them on your way over.

12. Show them you care! Ask how everything is going. Ask how they are feeling with all the changes and if there is anything else they need that you might not have thought of.

Favorite Soups for Cold Winter Days

As a missionary kid in Brazil, we never had winter: it was hot all year around. But that didn’t keep us from having soup! So when I moved to the United States and would hear comments about having to wait for winter to have soup for supper, it never made much sense to me. However, after living through ten winters in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I am beginning to understand that there is definitely something cozy and yummy about having a hot bowl of soup on cold winter days!

Even as I write this, today feels like a “soup day”, for snow is falling outside and the fire in the wood stove is going. And so, because we are still in the clutches of winter and have a few months to go before the birds start singing again and the trees begin to look alive, we have gathered up some of our favorite soups to share with you!


Chicken Tortilla Soup

I grew up having this chicken tortilla soup and it is still one of my favorite soups to make, even now as an adult. The key is all the toppings that you add at the table–make sure you pile them on! ~Angie

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced (or powdered garlic)

1 – 4oz can green chilies

6 cups chicken broth

1 – 10oz can cream of chicken soup

2 ½ cups water

1 ½ tablespoons A-1 steak sauce

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cajun or taco seasoning

¼ teaspoon pepper

3-6 cups chicken, cooked and cubed/shredded

Directions

In a large stockpot, saute onions and garlic in a little oil until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer.

When serving, load each bowl with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, and fresh diced tomatoes. Cilantro, green onions, and avocados are also yummy toppings!


Hearty Potato Soup

This is my husband’s all time favorite soup! It is creamy, savory and hearty! Jeremiah is very happy when I make this soup and serve it with a side of warm dinner rolls! ~ Rachel

Ingredients

6 slices of bacon, cooked

1 onion, diced and sauteed

32oz chicken broth

10 potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 teaspoons flour

1 pack Ranch Dressing mix

2 cups half and half

1 cup sour cream

Directions

Boil potatoes in chicken broth until tender. Scoop out ⅓ of potatoes and mash them (by hand or with a mixer). Return to pot.

Add sauteed onion.

In a bowl combine flour, ranch mix, half and half and sour cream. Whisk into soup slowly. Do not boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with bacon and cheddar cheese.


Chicken Rice Soup

I just discovered this easy, gluten/dairy free soup and was so happy with the amount of flavor it had. My husband and all three kids loved it! – Chrystal

Ingredients

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, minced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 rib celery, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried parsley

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

5 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 chicken breasts, raw

1 cup long grain white or brown rice

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook and stir for 3-4 minutes, until onion begins to turn golden.

Add garlic, parsley and thyme and cook 1 minute.

Add broth, chicken, rice, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium-low (a simmer), cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables and rice are tender.

Remove chicken from pot and shred. Add back to the pot and stir. Serve.


Chunky Chili

This is so easy to mix up and have ready for a quick meal! I usually make a big batch and then serve leftovers for a loaded potato bar or even for a quick variation of taco salad! ~Angie

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it)

1 pound hamburger

3 – 15.5 oz cans of beans, undrained (any variation of kidney, pinto, black, or chili)

2 – 15.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

Salt to taste

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions

In a large kettle, saute onions, peppers, and garlic in a little oil. Add hamburger and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients, except for cilantro. (Taste before adding any salt–I have found that I rarely need to add salt due to the canned ingredients already being seasoned.)

Just before serving, add chopped cilantro.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, Frito chips. We also like to add cooked rice at the bottom of our bowl for an even heartier bowl of soup!