Wholly Delightful

Woman Dancing in Flowing Dress

I have been studying James 1:2-4. One day I was reading the verse in the NIV and the words, “pure joy” captured my mind. Say it to yourself slowly, “Pure joy.”

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

So I pulled out my old Strong’s concordance and began to seek the truth-treasures from these words that tell a life-giving story…

You are the ruler of a land.  One day you stand outside on your stone balcony and look out over the land.  Holding your hand over the land, as if to bless it, you move your arm from one reach of land to the other furthest reach and you begin to make a declaration.  Here is what you declare, “I declare it to be completely delightful, these trials that come my way, like thousands of various-looking arrows and bullets coming over the wall to assault me.  All this is purely delightful!”

Unbelievably you are blessing the trials that are completely and utterly surrounding you, so that you may not take a step to the left or to the right without falling into them.  They are your only way to go.  You are going to go through them and fall into them and swim in them.

And these trials are not just big trials, there are also little trials of all different sorts. They are numerous and varied, checkered with built-up stressful, life circumstances. And you are saying, “God bless it!”

Why in the world would you do that? Because in effect you are being put to proof to test the stuff from which you are made. These trials have a beneficial purpose and effect and are being divinely permitted or sent to you to perfect your character. You are finding a new level of fellowship with Christ.  He is refining you into a metal of highest quality, so that you will shine and reflect Him in every way.

And that pure delight in the face of various trials?  It is producing more of the same–cheerfulness, hopeful endurance, constancy, enduring patience and the ability to wait. As the onslaught continues, and it will continue, God is completely transforming your character.  The Lord is pointing His divine purpose towards you, like an arrow full of God-infused adrenaline, aiming with the intent to continue working in you until it is utterly completed.

God will not leave you as a destitute, though. No!  There is not one part or portion of these trials you now face (have faced and will one day face) that the Lord will not complete in you.  He will toil in this labor to develop in you His ability, His character, His strength.

And when He is done, we can exclaim joyfully with Him, “It is finished!”

So here is my version of James 1:2-4, “Deem it wholly delightful and exceedingly joyful when you fall into manifold provocations, because you know the trying of your faith effects cheerful and hopeful endurance.  Let enduring patience result in a complete toil, so that you may be full of every grace and reach Christ’s full purpose in your life, lacking nothing and without delay.”

I don’t know about you, but in my life there are some areas, where I can exclaim, “It is finished!” over a work.  And there are some areas, where I am struggling to see how He is using various trials for the hurts they have caused are still tender. I guess the one thing I do know.  When I can say those words, I have grown thankful and delighted in the trials.

I challenge you to be delighted.  I challenge you to deem it delightful. We are running this race to win it…not just finish. I cannot wait to see your shining face at the end, my friends!

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How to Make Homemade Corn Tortillas

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Yes, corn tortillas can be really inexpensive at the store.

Yes, it can get messy making homemade ones.

Yes, it does take a little time to get them to come out right.

However, it is SO worth it!

I recently got a tortilla maker. I have never used one before, so I was bound and determined to learn how to use it and make fresh corn and flour tortillas.

I have heard how tasty and fresh homemade ones are.

I wanted to experience it for myself.

The verdict?

AWESOME!

It wasn’t that hard to make them once I got the hang of it. They cook up quick and taste really, really delicious!

Here is how to make your own. Even if you don’t have a tortilla maker, you can still make them using wax paper and the backside of pot.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups masa

1 1/8 cups of hot water

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together masa and hot water until thoroughly combined. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead until pliable and smooth. If dough is too sticky, add more masa harina; if it begins to dry out, sprinkle with water. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high.
  3. Divide dough into 15 equal-size balls. Using a tortilla press, press each ball of dough flat between two sheets of wax paper. Don’t try to pull the paper off of both sides. Just remove one side and place the other side face up and tortilla on the griddle. In just a few seconds you can pull the other side of the wax paper off.
  4. Immediately place tortilla in preheated pan and allow to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn tortilla over to brown on second side for approximately 30 seconds more, then transfer to a plate. Repeat process with each ball of dough. Keep tortillas covered with a towel to stay warm and moist until ready to serve.

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Movie Review- “What if…”

Film Strip

Did you ever make a decision in your life, and later wonder “what if” I had made a different choice?  Well, the movie “What if…” from PUREFLIX entertainment addresses this question.   “What if…” ran in theaters for awhile and then was released to DVD about 2 months ago.  “What if…” is a Christian/faith based movie and was produced by Jerry B. Jenkins, and in my personal opinion it is one of the best Christian movies I have seen to date.

This new movie stars very well known actors that are currently starring in movies today.  The lead role is played by Kevin Sorbo (remember “Hercules”?) and his fiance/wife is played by Kristy Swanson.  Fans of “Cheers” will smile when they see who stars in the role of God’s messenger, John Ratzenberger (Cliff).  Even fans of the Disney Channel will be able to see Debby Ryan on the big screen as Kevin Sorbo’s daughter.   So rest assured that the acting in this movie was not “che

The plot of “What if…” reminds me of the movie “The Family Man” starring Nicolas Cage, but with a Christian twist.  Even though the movies are similar “What if…” definitely stands alone.  I don’t want to really give away too many details about the movie, as I want to encourage you to go rent or purchase the movie for yourself.  However, I will say that this movie is so wonderful because it expresses the message of the gospel pretty clearly.  This would be a perfect movie for you to watch with other Christians, but even more importantly to watch with others who maybe asking questions about God and the Christian faith.

I recently had a movie night at my house with about 9 people, and everyone agreed that the movie was good, if not great.  “What if…” is also a movie that you could watch with your family, or even host a movie night of your own at your local church.  You will not be disappointed!!!

Please let me know if you have seen the movie, or if you go and rent or purchase it please come back here and let me know what you thought of it.   Blessings to all…

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Keeping Your Bedroom a Sacred Place

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Phocea Yacht Master Bedroomphoto © 2009 Maxine Simpson | more info (via: Wylio)
What is the most important relationship in your family?

I hope you said your marriage! Your husband was there before the kids, and he’ll be there after the kids move out. And more importantly, once you have children, you have even more of a responsibility to work on your marriage, because other people count on you now. You can’t give your life entirely to your kids. That is wrong.

And ladies, sex is a big part of marriage! Men feel loved through sex, and we women feel much closer to our husbands when we’re connecting on a regular basis.

So let me ask you: is your bedroom a haven for your marriage?
What does that mean?

It means no laundry to be folded all over the bed and the floor. Don’t use your bedroom as a place to store laundry! I know that nice, beautiful big bed, at just the right height, makes it an ideal folding surface. But if you start, chances are you won’t finish, and then at the end of the night clothes are scattered everywhere. Not inviting.

Don’t make your bedroom a repository for stuff, either! I’ve known women who have so much junk in the bedroom because it’s out of the way so company won’t see it. But who is your house supposed to nurture, first and foremost: you and your husband, or the occasional guest? When you put junk in your room, then you feel the weight of it everytime you walk in. It isn’t inviting; it’s like having a neon sign in your bedroom saying, “I need to be cleaned! I need to be organized! I take a lot of work!” That’s hardly conducive to relaxation.

And here’s the hardest one: Making your bedroom a haven means that kids go to sleep in their own rooms. Many women believe in sleeping with the babies and toddlers in the bed because it promotes bonding. You can find co-sleeping websites all over the internet, and this is a widely debated topic on many sites.

Let me give you my two cents. Most men don’t feel comfortable having the kids in bed. My husband is a pediatrician, and he talks to co-sleeping parents all the time, and he has yet to meet a couple where the man didn’t secretly admit that it gives him the creeps having the kids there all the time (and it scares them that they’ll roll on the kids). Usually this is a woman-initiated thing, and the men go along with it.

And this will ruin your sex life! Some moms have written to me saying, “we just make love in other rooms, and be more intentional about it!” But let’s be honest: most sex occurs when we’re not being intentional; we’re just lying there and we snuggle and it goes further. Being intentional takes more energy, and means that sex will be less frequent. And men really do need it.

I know when a baby is first born you may want it in bed to make nursing easier, and if you’re absolutely exhausted, perhaps that’s the best idea. But let it be very temporary. You don’t want children to be your birth control!

Of course, keeping kids out also means that you need a lock on your door. Once, when my youngest was 6, Keith and I were having a good time when we heard the pitter patter of little feet. Freeze. She rattled the doorknob. “It’s locked!” Keith yelled. “Oh, that’s okay,” she replied. Pitter patter pitter patter. We resumed. And all of a sudden the door flew open. Grab the sheets.

It seems that 6 is old enough to know how to pick a lock, but not old enough to know that you don’t want to pick it.

So do what you can to keep kids out. Keep the springs on your bed oiled so the bed doesn’t squeak. Tighten the screws periodically, if you have them, on the headboard so that it’s secure and doesn’t rattle. Invest in comfortable sheets and a nice duvet. Get some candles. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but doing little things to help you feel comfortable and stressfree in your bedroom will help you to relax in it, and then maybe more will happen!

Finally, making your bedroom a haven may involve ditching the television. Do you really need to watch TV together at night? It just intrudes on couple time. Why not let the bedroom be where you snuggle, pray, talk, and cuddle? Why not let the bedroom be just for your relationship, and keep other stuff out?

I think if we show that we prioritize the time with our husbands by keeping the bedroom free of distractions, we’ll reap rewards! Your marriage is the most precious relationship God has given you, and we need to be doing all we can to honor and nurture that relationship!

Sheila is the author of the upcoming “The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex”. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

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Chicken Spaghetti

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4 frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (save broth)
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of mushroom
4 T. butter
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium vidalia onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
16 oz. spaghetti noodles (note a difference from package directions)
1 small jar pimentos
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan

Boil chicken (adding salt, pepper, onions, sweet basil and other seasonings you like in chicken, to taste)–save broth.

In a large stock pot, pour in all the chicken broth minus one cup to set aside for the recipe. Heat on high until boiling rapidly. Add spaghetti noodles and cook for the time on the package. Set aside and drain, gently stirring in 2 T. butter.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter and sauté celery, onions and red bell pepper on medium heat until onions are translucent. Slowly add in 1 c. hot chicken broth (after the chicken is completely cooked) and the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups (undiluted). Add in Velveeta cubes and melt slowly on medium low heat, stirring often. When melted, add in pimentos. Cube the chicken and slowly stir into mixture.

Layer in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish noodles, then sauce and top with Parmesan. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly. Great for company. Serves 8-10. Recipe from a dear woman to me and our pastor’s wife in East Texas, Susie Watkins.

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The Freedom Dance Continues…

white dove

Hello friends…  In February I wrote my first article titled The Freedom Dance here at the AMH website, and I committed  to come back here periodically and give an update on how I was doing on my journey to become spiritually free from my food addiction.  Well, it has been about 2 months and I can tell you I am not completely “free” yet, but I have experienced little glimpses of what freedom feels like.

In my first article, I mentioned that I was reading Lysa Terkeurst’s new book “Made To Crave”. This book has been so instrumental in my journey to freedom.  I am so convinced that God is using Lysa Terkeurst as a mighty warrior to help women become free from food addiction, and I am so glad to be one of these women.  In addition to the the book, Lysa also taped a 6 week teaching session/Bible study for “Made to Crave”. The book is wonderful, and the teaching sessions on the DVD are amazing.  As mentioned in my earlier article, “Made to Crave” is not a “how to” book, or another “dieting” book, but a book about how to become free spiritually.  Actually, the principles taught in Lysa’s book could be applied to any addiction.

Since I began my journey in January I have lost about 13 pounds and have started to work out regularly.  I even joined a gym and signed up to take some “boot camp” type classes.  If you knew me, that would astound you :)  Normally me mentioning that I lost weight would make me feel happy and I would think that I am “free”.  However,  what I have come to realize is that I am far from being “free” because the war in my mind is still raging strong.

When I began this journey this time around I said I was going to seek God to become free from food addiction.  I have in some ways, but I see now that I still have been fighting this journey in my own strength, and have really only been treating this journey like a “diet”.  Lysa’s “Made to Crave” book has help me to see this reality, and at this point I am recommitting myself to seek God to become free.

I have a long way to go, but I learn something new everyday.  If you are like me and need some encouragement and guidance when it comes to food addiction/issues, I am asking you to consider purchasing Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, “Made to Crave”. You will not be disappointed, and you might just find yourself “free” in the process.

So the dance continues…I will check in soon.

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Salsa

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2 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 jalapeños (can add one extra for more heat)
3 cloves garlic
2 t. Accent seasoning
2 t. salt
1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Drain 1/2 c. juice from the tomatoes into blender. Add garlic, jalapeños, Accent, salt and cilantro. Blend thoroughly.

Drain rest of juice from tomatoes into sink, then add tomatoes to blender. Pulse gently about three or four times for chunky salsa. May blend thoroughly for smooth salsa. Great with these, Tostitos Sensations Red Chile & Lime Tortilla Chips.

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A Letter To My Future Self

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A lot of people have written letters to their past selves here on A Martha Heart.  I’m taking a different angle and wrote a letter to my future self.

Dear 42 year old Donna,

So, now you’re over the hill.  How’s the hair?  Are you completely grey yet?  I’ll bet you just have a small streak of brown on your left side instead of the streak of grey on your right side.

Right about now you have a 15 year old daughter and an 11 year old son.  It’s possible that between puberty and teen-hood that you all may not be getting along so well.  So, it is important right now that you remember a few things and bits of advice you received from moms that you trust.  Things that you always have said you would do, especially where your daughter is concerned.

Keep talking.  Don’t allow the lines of communication to close down just because she rolls her eyes at you and finds being around you to be the most repulsive thought ever.

Don’t make anything off limits.  Believe it or not, you do want her to tell you and ask you things.  You may think, “I’d rather not know this” but you really do.  Really.

Be the parent.  You don’t have to give her a choice as to whether she is going to spend time with you.  Be the parent and spend time with her.  Force the issue if you must.

Remember what each of them were like just a few years ago.  Remember how Sarah used to just impress you so with her knowledge of the Bible and things of God.  Remember how she used to love to play outside, climb trees and hated the thought of shaving.  Remember how Nathan could always make you melt like buttah with those blue eyes and eyelashes of death.  Remember how he used to love to cuddle and snuggle in your lap first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

And most of all, remember how badly you have wanted grandchildren for the longest time.  If you kill your kids now, there’s no chance.

Hang on, dear one.  These teen years will be a wild ride, but the reward is coming!

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I Saw a Man Today

Tropical beach scene on a sunny day in Oahu, Hawaii

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join my husband, Phil, on a business trip to Hawaii.  I almost didn’t go because he would be working most of the time, leaving me to my own devices and because it is such a long flight (eight hours each way from Denver).  Since I could only stay for a few days, I wasn’t sure that a total of 16 hours in a plane was worth the trek.

About a week before the trip, my husband said to me, “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to Hawaii with me.”

When I heard him say those words out loud, I realized that I was CRAZY for not jumping at the chance to spend a few days in the warm sun in one of the most beautiful places on earth with my man – even if I had to share him with work.  So, we packed our bags and off we went!

The first night we were on Oahu, there was a welcome dinner for my husband’s colleagues and their spouses. After enjoying a sumptuous dinner on a poolside patio overlooking the ocean, we all walked as a group back to our hotel along the street that runs parallel with Waikiki Beach, taking in all the sights and sounds around us as we strolled.

Between Waikiki Beach and the sidewalk we were walking along, there is a grassy area with park benches so folks can sit and enjoy the view of the surfers by day and the sunset by nightfall. That’s the direction I was looking when I saw him. A homeless man reached into one of the public trash receptacles and pulled out a “to go” box that contained the remains of someone’s discarded meal.

The man opened the box and examined the contents. He tossed part of it aside with a flick of his wrist, but the rest of the leftovers would do for his dinner as he eagerly started eating whatever it was in that box.

Immediately, my mind recalled the meal I had just enjoyed. The smell of salt air, the sound of live music, the laughter of new friends, and, of course, the taste of delicious food – of which there was more than enough for all of us.

The sight of that man eating out of a garbage can haunted me the rest of that night and for the next few days. Of course, I have seen homeless people before, but the stark contrast between our two meals that evening shocked me to reality.

And to be completely transparent with you, I am very confused about what my response should be.

The “experts” on television tell us not to give the homeless money because it just prolongs their stay on the streets keeping them from getting the help they need. Then there is also the possibility of it being used for drugs or alcohol.

For a while, my response was to ignore those standing at the exit ramps and entrances to the shopping center in my neighborhood with cardboard signs asking for food or money. The problem is too big and overwhelming, plus I don’t want to be contributing to an alcoholic’s binges or a druggie’s fix.

But the knowledge that each one of these people is God’s child, dearly loved by Jesus as much as you or I am weighs on my heart.  I don’t know what the answer is.  Anything I can think of to do falls so short.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a wonderful thing and a great opportunity to expose our children to the idea of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, that still doesn’t address the man on a corner asking for something to eat.

I thought about programs like Habitat for Humanity that helps those who are willing to help themselves. I may look into volunteering with them. There is something about that program that speaks to my heart and seems like a more permanent solution for those who seek their help. But I still don’t know if that’s enough.

I realize that in many cases, mental illness plays a huge role in homelessness. And, yes, so do to drugs and alcohol.  There are many shelters and programs “out there” for the homeless and that is great. My question is what do I do when I come face to face with another human being asking for my help? What would Jesus have me and you do to help “the least of these”?

I’d love to hear your ideas and ways you have helped others in the comments section!

Only You Can Save by Chris Sligh

I saw a man today, his whole world across his back
A living monument opposed to my success.
I tried to look into his eyes as his shuffled past my car
Sweat beading on his skin, his clothes and hair a mess.
As the light turned green and I pulled away, he slowly disappeared
Just a memory of another chance I failed to show your love here.

I wanna love because You love
I wanna give because You gave
I wanna reach my hand out to the lost
because I know Your hand can save
Only You can save
Only You can save

Sometimes I have to wonder if I really want to know
The struggle and the pain that others feel.
Do I want to hear the stories I see echoed in their eyes
Or is this love I say that I’m reflecting even real?
As the light turns on inside my head and I slowly disappear
I steel myself cuz what you call for me is to show your love here…

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