Monday, November 2, 2015

The Gospel of Ananias


Whatever happened to baptism? I remember, when I was 6 or so, hearing my friend had been baptized at the local Christian camp. It made me so excited! And I remember this being prevalent when I was a kid: hearing about kids my age being baptized right and left.... but not anymore. What happened? 

Suddenly, I look around, and probably a good quarter of my adult friends haven't been baptized, let alone their kids. My question is... why?

Baptism is a commandment. Both baptize and be baptized. 

Baptize:
Do you know that, with the way the Greek is formed in the Great Commission, an American would read it "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you." What I mean by that is Jesus said is to go and make disciples by baptizing and teaching. That is how we are commanded to make disciples. We are commanded to bring the Gospel to the nations, baptize the nations, and teach the nations. Not just evangelize. Not even just mentor. We're commanded to baptize, too. If we refrain from doing any of these things, we are not only disobeying a direct commandment, but we are restraining our mentorees from doing as they are commanded to do. 

Be Baptized: 
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." -Mark 16:16 
"Repent and be baptized every one of you in name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" -Acts 2:38
"And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." -Acts 10:48
"And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name." -Acts 22:16

And what about the enthusiasm to be baptized? Where did that go? The Ethiopian eunuch begged to be baptized right then and there! Paul baptized the jailer "that same hour", him and his entire household! When people were brought into the fold, they jumped on the opportunity to be baptized! Now people are waiting till they're 30 or 40. What's up with that?

Maybe it's because people don't realize the benefits of baptism. No, I'm not going into baptismal regeneration right now. For the sake of peace, I'm just talking about those who are saved considering baptism. What does the Bible say about those who have been baptized?

"Do you not know that those of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."-Romans 6:3-4
Meaning: Baptism joins us with the death of Jesus Christ and also to His resurrection, and enables us to walk in newness of life. Why turn that down?

"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit."-1 Corinthians 12:13
Meaning: Baptism unites us and brings us closer to God and the Holy Spirit. Also, the verses following this one go on to speak of the body of Christ and how He has made us all to do different things for His glory; how we are all a necessary part. But it begins with this verse, showing that this unity and purpose are only given to those who are baptized. Have you ever felt that you don't know what your purpose is in the Church, that you don't fit in? Maybe it's because you haven't been baptized, so this gift of unifying purpose hasn't been given to you yet.... Ever wondered why there are so many divisions in the Church? Maybe it's because the gift of unity is absent from many of the believers... This point can be emphasized the other time Paul talks about being part of a body, where the unifying bond of peace is found in believing "one Lord, one faith, one baptism". Kinda hard to find peace in baptism when you haven't been baptized.

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 
Meaning: Baptism acts as an appeal to the Lord for a good conscience. This is very understandable, since baptism is just as much a commandment as not lusting after a women, getting drunk, or any other commandment in the New Testament. To directly and purposefully disobey the commandments of God, especially to convince yourself and others that it is okay, is the definition of grieving the Holy Spirit, which the Bible says is the only way to lose your salvation... not a very smart way to have a good conscience. Additionally, whether or not you agree with baptismal regeneration, as we have seen, baptism does contain promises from God which act as a bolster for a threatened conscience. 

"What about those who are saved, but not baptized? Do they go to Heaven?" The Bible simply does not say, because the Bible simply should not have to. That's like asking, "what about those who are saved, but are practicing homosexuals?" or "what about those who are saved, but regularly steal from the supermarket?" Answer is simple: 1. there is no way of knowing the condition of other people's hearts, so don't go telling them they're not saved. This is a question you should only be asking of yourself. 2. If you are asking this question of yourself, there is a simple solution. Be baptized!

"What if someone was saved on their deathbed and died before they were baptized?" 1. Why do we always have to argue over hypotheticals? Really? Unless this happened to someone you know, why is this even relevant? 2. "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." -Mark 16:16 Although I can't say for certain, I take this verse to be that person's hope. The latter half does not say "whoever does not believe AND not baptized will be condemned", no, it just says "does not believe." The Bible does command us to do a lot of things, but I don't think God condemns us if we die before we have a chance to do them all. It would be the same to ask, "if a person is saved on their deathbed, but died before they had a chance to attend Church, are they saved?" Isn't that a kinda of ridiculous question?

But to take Mark 16:16 backwards and say, "Well, I don't really have to be baptized to be saved...." Do you have to go to Church? Do you have to partake in communion? Do you have to love your neighbor? Of course you do. To shun any of these things or baptism would be to shun the Lord, and therefore He will deny thee in Heaven. Not cool.

If you are a Christian, you are commanded to both baptize and be baptized. As Ananias said, "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name." -Acts 22:16


Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Greatest Concession in all of Christendom: The Story of Halloween


There have been many rumors circling the Church of the true origin of Halloween and it's particular practices. So many, in fact, that I decided, as a Christian parent, it would be a good idea to research these things myself before making a definitive statement one way or the other to my children. I have spent the last few weeks immersed in history and ancient Church literature, as well as my husband having learned some of this from a Church History professor here at his school, and my findings have been shocking, to say the least. 

So, where did we get Halloween and it's customs, particularly dressing up, receiving candy or other food, and jack o'lanterns? To answer that question, we must go back to the Middle Ages....

Back in the Middle Ages in Europe there existed one singular church. One of the peculiarities of said church is the practice of honoring Christian saints both in the loose term of the word: anyone who is redeemed by Christ, and in the stricter sense: a particular saint who's true or supposed works have, in the eyes of the Church, earned them a special place in Heaven. The custom of sainting someone became so popular that, soon, the Church ran out of days on which to hold festivals in their honor. The solution? All Hallows Tide: a three-day celebration to worship all the saints in all time. The first day, All Hallows Eve, served to honor those of the saints (loose-term) who had died in the last year, leaving behind the church militant (those still on Earth, fighting against the Devil and his darkness) to join the church victorious (the saints in Heaven who have won the victory by remaining faithful to the end). This day was a way of bringing peace and honor, also, to the families of the saints who had died. 

Another one of the peculiarities of the Church at the time is the teaching of purgatory: the place where one goes after death to pay the penalty for sin before going to Heaven. Different ways of shortening one's time in purgatory were presented to congregates: pilgrimages to holy places, touching a relic of a particular saint, or, later, indulgences: literal payment for sin. This teaching was highly condemned at the end of the Middle Ages, by Martin Luther.... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

To celebrate the lives of their now-deceased family members, children would go from door to door collecting soul cakes: small round cakes baked with a cross on the top, and bring them home to their parents. These cakes were not eaten, but rather left out in memory of their saint until the end of All Hallows Tide, when they were discarded. Hence, the giving out of food on Halloween (the shortened version of All Hallows' Eve).

While the children were collecting these cakes, their parents would carve out turnips in the shape of their saint's face and put a candle inside to remember them and wish them a swift passage through purgatory. A prime example of a turnip carved with such a purpose sits in the Museum of Country Life in Ireland. Hence, jack o'lanterns, though the name came along later, which I will speak to.

And now we come to the most distinctive custom of Halloween: costumes, particularly those costumes of creepy ghoulies and wicked witches. All Hallows' Eve, as already mentioned, served to honor those saints who had remained faithful till the end, therefore victorious over Satan and his minions. The next morning/two days served to honor, additionally, all the Saints of the Church and their lives of devotion to the Lord, and, vicariously, God and all He had done through His Church over the course of history. Such a glorious celebration it was, dispelling fear of Satan and bringing hope and confidence in the Lord, that an additional custom was added: that of taunting the Devil for his failures, of his lack of ability, of his puniness (if you will) in the sight of the Lord and the Church. The celebration gave the people such a radiance of joy in the Lord that the Dark Prince suddenly seemed insignificant, irrelevant, childish. And, consequently, propelled the Church on to cast aside his wiles and schemes to cling to the Lord, just as their family members had done, for another year.

So, the children began to dress up as Satan and his minions as a means of mocking and chiding him. To declare to the world they weren't scared of him, and that his work was child's play compared to the glory of the Lord. Now... such boldness might understandable in an adult... but a child taunting Satan? Where did they get such confidence?

Well, children were taught that God accepted them as sons through adoption when they were baptized at a few days old. They were taught that they now belonged to the Lord, and no longer had need to fear the Devil and his schemes. They were taught "greater is He that is in me than he who is in the world." So, with childish faith and fervor, they clung to the promise of God, that He would protect them and that He was greater than anything the Devil could throw at them. Consequently, as is a typical child's practice, they taunted him who was weaker than they by dressing up as him to humiliate him and threaten him with God's power and wrath.

And that, is how Halloween and it's customs started. But, that is not all of the story.

Fast forward a few hundred years to somewhere around 1930 in America. The Church is no longer unified, as, in his attempt to reform the Church back to Scripture, Martin Luther was excommunicated and a church body believing as he did, who called themselves "Lutherans" (much to his chagrin...he wanted them to be called Evangelicals, which is the German custom now), started their own congregations, therefore starting a new church, something which hadn't been done since the split of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church hundreds of years before. At about the same time, a whole other group of believers split off, calling themselves the "Anabaptists", and so began a long and painful history of split after split in the Church, creating the Church as we have it today, fractured and differing in doctrine and truth. As orthodoxy (clinging to the old faith/customs/liturgy in the Church) became more and more unpopular, Church holidays were, for the most part, abandoned. Exceptions to that exist mainly in Christmas (which actually does have pagan origins and all of it's customs also stem from paganism) and Easter (which started out Christian, but is mostly overrun by paganism today). Them, and curiously, Halloween. By 1930, very few people knew why they celebrated it except that it was a tradition handed down by their immigrant ancestors. Most assumed it to be of folk origin, but fun and. mostly, harmless. 

Enter the Wikkens: a demonic cult which teaches that, in the beginning, the world was at peace through worshiping "The Mother Goddess" and that discord came when people began going off and worshiping male gods, who were necessarily violent, and creating wars. Wikkens focus on empowering women through demonic practices, sacrifices, spells, and incantations. In order to validate their claim to be  returning to an old and universal belief, they had to find some way of making it believable to the public so as to increase their already growing appeal (especially due to their beginning around the same time as woman sufferage). (Note: I am not in any way inferring that feminism is Wikken! I am simply stating that Wikka was and is attractive to many feminists due to its' focus on empowering women). And look what they found ripe for the plundering: Halloween! They quickly made it their sacred day, and asserted that Halloween predated the Church because a similar custom called Samhain was practiced by the Celtic Druids, and that the carved pumpkins actually stemmed from another Druidic custom named after a legend of "Jack" who was kicked out of Heaven and Hell to roam the Earth. Actual historians can tell you that the similarities are only consequential, except where a few immigrants mingled the two towards the end of the 19th century due to ignorance of the differences.  

Because the people no longer celebrated All Hallow's Tide (with a few exceptions), and the reason behind it had been lost in the splitting of the Church, such a claim made sense to them. Educated and uneducated, and especially Christians, accepted this faulty assertion, and some even began to abandon Halloween altogether. Most (shallow) history sources will now tell you that the origins are unknown, but will list Samhain as the most viable suggestion. The lie was swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

Now, it is true that Wikkens perform all kinds of nasty practices on Halloween. Now, it is true that the darkness is slowly and steadily claiming this Church holiday for itself. Now, it is true that demons walk the Earth on this night that used to put them in their place. Now, the Church is losing. 

Wow! It may have taken him hundreds of years, but Satan officially took a holiday that stomped him into the ground under the feet of a faithful Church and turned it into something that worships Him. Well... that is... if we choose to believe his lies.

Satan: 1 
Church:0

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can, once again, take a stand on the power of Jesus over the sin and the Devil! We can, once again, teach our children that they are redeemed and have naught to fear! We can tell Satan that we are no longer afraid of him and that he has no power over us because of the blood shed on that Cross on our behalf! Whether or not your children go so far to spit in the Devil's face as to dress up like his minions, or just go out as princesses and cowboys, they are still taking a stand for the Lord on this night. 

And.... grandmas love it. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Letter to Extended Family: 5 etiquette tips to maintaining a good relationship with a post-modern generation




Have you ever felt like you're getting nowhere in your relationships with the younger generation? Like they aren't really listening or worse, are resenting you?

Yeah...my generation is totally full of themselves. Who's to blame, I don't know. But, there are some good things about us, too... Like we can help you set up your new smartphone or navigate around a city that doesn't look like it did last time you were there. Most of the time, we really do love the older generations, we just stink at relating with you. And, one could argue, it goes the other way around. 

So, here are some tips as to how to love your post-modern relative.

     Post-modern kids are overladen with information and people telling them how to do things. One person says one thing, another person says another. We don't know who to listen to, so we quickly get overwhelmed and end up listening to nobody. And this leads me to:

#1. Unless we're asking for it, we don't want your advice. 
                              instead
                   We want your example

     Honesty, openness, and relationships are the most important things to us. If you are living one way, and talking another, you immediately get written off. And if you portray yourself as perfect, we'll run away screaming. We know that all people screw-up because we screw up. What we need are people who are open about their flaws and lead by example. And your advice won't mean one iota unless we know you really truly care about us and will love us even if we don't listen,
   My advice? Love us unconditionally and lead by example. Then, when we see you succeed, we will want to know how and ask about it.

#2. Don't try to fix us
              instead
      Show us a better way

   Again, unconditional love is a rare commodity in this world, and we all need it. You need us to pour into you, and we need you to pour into us. Don't get upset that your grandkids don't ever come talk to you if the only thing you talk to them about when they come around is how they need to shape up. Correction is an occasional need, but love is always needed. The question they are asking is, "Does he/she really love me, or they just see me as a problem that needs to be fixed." 

#3. Don't give us gifts with obligations
                           instead
      Give with love in your heart for us and what is best for us

    Ok, so here's the situation I see all too often. Grandmother sees something at the second-hand store that they are sure their loved one will treasure. They bring it home, wrap it up, and wait with anticipation as they open it. So far, so good. Then, the teenager takes it home, only to realize..,. it doesn't fit. Or it is flawed. Or someone else would appreciate it more. So, they give it away to a friend who loves it and is super excited to have it. It's not that the teenager didn't appreciate the gift, just that they wanted to be generous just as Grandma was. So far, so good. Then.... Grandma calls to see if they are using their gift. DON'T do that! If we are loving the gift, we will tell you. I can't remember how many times I have called one of my grandmothers to tell them how much I loved this or that item. But, if we didn't like it, or if someone else needed it more, suddenly we feel guilty. And Grandma is mad because we're not appreciating their gifts. 
  This is especially true if your loved one is a mom. Moms have soooo much on their plate. They were living the life of a single lady, shopping and on the town, and suddenly there's a sticky little person whining for their attention all day long. There's diapers to change, baby food to make, baths to give, clothes to wash... and that's not even mentioning housework. Then, their loving mother-in-law gives them a toy that the baby's Daddy used to play with. Now Mom has to worry about keeping the toy safe, and clean, and often baby doesn't like it just because different baby's like different things. Or it's some precious keepsake, like baby shoes or a teddy bear. Babies can't tell the difference between this shoe or that shoe. All they know is that looks really good to chew on and tease the cat with, and...oh... wonder what happens when you flush it. Now you have a ruined toy, a stressed-out Mom, and a livid Grandma.... I can tell you I appreciate my parents' baby shoes way more now than I ever did as a baby. Even if it's not a hand-me-down, sometimes the toys just make life harder in ways grandmas don't anticipate... like noise toys are great, until there's 3 going off at the same time dischordantly, or a toy police siren going off at 2 in the morning, 
   You need to give without strings attached, or be prepared for some very frustrated daughter-in-laws/grandkids. Which do you love more, the gift or the person?
    And if we've never told you the things we have gotten are appreciated, it probably has more to do with the gifts themselves than the people. If your daughter-in-laws/grandkids ask for matchbox cars and you give them balls of yarn from Salvation Army... they're probably not going to appreciate your gifts.

#4. Don't get too stuck on the old ways
                 instead
      Try something new

I know, this one is scary. It is so easy to get into a pattern of doing the same thing the same way for your entire life, and trying something new can totally throw you off. But, one thing to remember is that you grew up with stirring everything by hand and listening to the radio, and so it is not only the way you are used to it, it is also nostalgic. In the same way, we grew up with KitchenAids and TVs, and it is what we are used to. Add to the that the adventure of youth, and relating to teenagers means trying new things. And don't say this wasn't true for you. Try to remember when you were a teenager: trying new lipstick and fashions, going out with your boyfriends to dance to Elvis and Frank Sinatra, and regularly scaring your parents/grandparents silly with your shenanigans. I'm not downtalking that at all.... in fact, I personally wish I was raised in that time instead of this, but you need to remember that you were a teenager once too. 
   So, listen to a little of the music your grandson loves, or watch a chick flick with your niece. Live a little in their world, and you will understand them so much better,

#5. Don't try so hard
           instead
      Remember we love you, too.
  

Whereas you may have your issues communicating with us, we're just as bad if not worse. Teenagers have no idea what you want, or what you want from them. They don't know how to show you love any better than you do to them. Be patient, and let's hope we can be patient back.

Baby on a Budget: 5 steps to save a boatload



My husband and I are 22 with a soon-to-be six-month old; on the young end of our friends with kids. Consequently, we have people say things to us like, "Babies are expensive...but I'll bet you could tell me horror stories about that." Actually, we can't.

With hubby being a full-time student, he can only work about 20 hours a week, and I'm a stay-at-home mom. Yet, we're paying off college as we go, eating a healthy satisfying diet, and have an adorable little chunker to boot! How do we do it?

I intend to write further posts when it comes to budget/groceries, but today I'll just answer the baby aspect of this question. But, first, I want to make two things clear.
       1. Though this is how we do it, there are many ways to go about things and I'm not about to tell you how to raise your child or live your life. If you both want to work and put baby in daycare, that's your prerogative. Every family is different and you need to be able to make your decisions without some bossy newbie mom telling you what to do.
      2. The #1 thing that has helped us is our strong support system. We both have wonderful, loving, and generous families who have helped us in so many ways, friends who are there for us, and a church that supports us and our values. Without these things, I don't know how we could make it, in fact, I doubt we could. We have been so blessed, and I hope that we will be able to turn around and bless other young families in the same way.

Now, on to business. :)

The numbers for how much a baby costs in the first year, according to most sources, is close to, if not in, the 5 digits range. AH! There is no way we could make it that way. But, with some minor changes in how we think, we brought that number down drastically. Here is the "How-to's of Baby on a Budget":

1.Midwife vs. Hospital
$30,000 (1) vs $2,000

  Due to a lot of extraneous circumstances, we decided to do both our prenatal care and delivery at home with a midwife versus going to a hospital or clinic. Obviously, this choice isn't for everyone, but I would encourage you to look into the research behind it and see if you can find someone who has gone that route before totally writing it off. Midwifery is an ancient well-versed practice that is becoming more and more viable due to extensive training resources available. Caution: midwife-assisted home deliveries are illegal in some states, so you will need to look that up.
   Also obviously, we did not make this decision primarily due to finances. The safety of the baby and I was first and foremost in our minds and, ultimately, why we made the decision.
   That being said, our midwife works on a purely donation basis, asking only that we cover her gas costs, anything else being up to us. She said that her clientele usually pays from $500-$2000. Because we could, we opted to pay closer to the top of her price range because we were so pleased with her services. This included all prenatal care, the delivery itself (and cleanup), and three follow-ups (24 hrs, 1 week, and 6 weeks) as well as the ability to contact her 24/7 (which extends to this day). She is so wonderful, and I was so pleased with the experience I fully intend to do it again (granted we have another child)
    The only prenatal care we received outside of our midwife was an ultrasound at 20 weeks. Usually, this comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but the local pregnancy support center provides them for free, as well as birthing/parenting classes in which one can, on top of learning these things, earn points for the "store" within the center. If you are expecting, I would highly recommend looking around for such a place, as they are very helpful.

2. Gently Used vs. New
     I am not the kind of mom who has an "everything goes" attitude. It is important to me that my family looks well provided-for, because we are. Holes, stains, and severely outdated clothes will not do for me, and just because something is free doesn't mean I'm going to take it. I have high standards.
     That being said, I am not at all opposed to getting things secondhand. A lot of parents end up with boatloads of barely-used baby items and no way to get rid of it. Who says it had to be brand new? If it is clean, durable, and functional, I'm all for it. The best way to find these things are on Craiglist or a Facebook Garage Sale Group. These save the hours trolling the neighborhood for deals and possibly finding nothing that fits your high standards. Caution: always check over items before making the final sale! Make sure to check for things like smoke or animal odor, holes, or broken/missing pieces. Some people try to get away with stuff on these sits.  For example, I got:
   -A car seat that the previous owner had bought brand new and only used for three months. That was $25 vs.the $200 I would have had to pay at Target. This came with all the parts and a base.
   -Same lady and situation sold me a nursing pillow. $10 vs. $40
   -Same situation on a playpen complete with raised bed, bassinet, changing table, and noisemaker. I decided to go with a playpen vs. a crib for 3 reasons: 1. Seperation anxiety. I had a little sister who hated to sleep away from home. She was used to her crib, and as soon as she was in a playpen she screamed... all... night...long. Not fun. But, my parents transitioned her to a playpen at home and she slept soooo much better away from home after that. 2.SIDS. No one really knows how this tragedy happens, but we do know enough to know that playpens, with their thin breathable (and wipe-down) mattresses are much safer than the traditional crib/mattress. My son could sleep on his stomach in a playpen and I wouldn't need to worry as there is not enough give in the mattress to block his airways. 3.It doubles as a play-yard that I can roll out into the living room to keep the baby contained but in sight while I do dishes or vacuum.
 Anyway: $50 vs. $450 ($150 each for crib, mattress, and changing table)
  -I found a brand-new, in the box, breast pump for $50 instead of the typical $250 at a garage sale!
  -Same garage sale: stroller for $10 vs, $100
  -same could be said for clothes. Admittedly, I haven't had to buy clothes for him yet, due to the generosity of our support system. But, I have budgeted $20 a month for him which is more than enough having looked around, which could come to $240 a year vs. $60 a month (2) and $720 a year.
   Add that up and it's $385 vs. $1760!

3. Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable.
$125 (startup cost (3) + extra detergent) vs. $600 (plus, you won't have to get more for the next years)
     I remember that I used to say that I would never ever do cloth. But, that was because I was used to tri-folds with vinyl pants. Yuck! That baby felt and smelled wet all day long. I don't really appreciate the aroma of urine, do you? But, then I discovered snap-over covers/fuzzibunz. Trust me, there are tons of options out there that leave baby and mommy quite happy both comfort-wise and washing-wise. The start-up cost kinda kicks you in the butt, but they're reusable! You don't have to go out and buy more every week, let alone for the second baby! I use old washcloths for wipes, so they really didn't cost me anything. My mom's youngest was just potty-trained when my buddy was born, so I got my diapers for free, but that is what it would cost.
  I want to add to this that I don't use cloth when travelling. I find asking friends/relatives if I can wash diapers at their house embarassing/rude. But, I was given one Pampers box in each size, and even with long trips, I still don't get all the way through before he needs to move up to the next size.

4. Homemade vs. Store-bought baby food.
   very little vs. $300
   Store-bought baby food, is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wastes of money out there. My baby food costs consist of taking whatever piece of fruit or vegetable is starting to get too ripe, cooking it, running it through my $3 grinder, and feeding the baby. I really wouldn't say I spend more on groceries now that he is eating solids since he eats the produce that I would probably end up throwing away anyway. Not that I give him bad stuff, but I end up throwing away probably an average of 1 piece of fruit or vegetable a day, which is how much he eats. As he is getting introduced to new things, his diet gets more complex, until he can eat with us. Since our meals don't consist of wheat or peanuts or other dangerous things to feed to a baby, I doubt it will be long before that happens.

5. Nursing vs. Bottles
   $50 (bras/pads) vs. $2000
   This is a biggie. I know not everyone can nurse, and I totally get that. But, man! It is a blessing! No worrying about clean water, no warming it to the right temperature, no buying formula, no hassle of formula allergies... There is literally no prep time with nursing! Baby's hungry? I sit down with the baby and a cover-up (usually whatever blanket is closest to me), and feed him. Badda bing, badda boom. Done. Yes, I do eat more, but it's not enough to really influence my grocery bill. And nursing is also super beneficial to both baby and momma! Read more here:
http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc
I love how healthy and easy it is, plus it is literally sucking away my baby weight!

There are a lot of other things I do too, but most of them are more life decisions than ways to save. Things like I'm stay-at-home (so no daycare), I'm allergic to vaccinations so he doesn't have them either.... things like that.

Good luck to you in preparing for your baby!!!!




(1)http://www.parents.com/blogs/everything-pregnancy/2013/07/01/must-read/labor-delivery-costs-hospital-bill/
(2)http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/budgeting-for-baby.asp
(3) http://clothdiaperaddicts.com/2013/02/start-up-cost-for-cloth-diapers/

Monday, September 7, 2015

What sets us apart?


Yesterday, I posed an interesting question on Facebook:




There were a lot of guesses all across the board, from Methodist to Brethren, but some of the answers were shockingly accurate...

Technically, my friend, Sanne, had it right:

Yes, it was a Mormon ward. Surprise you? My friends, Debi and Jim hit the issue right on the head, the terrifying truth-denying head:



Walk into (I would argue) most churches today and this is what you will hear. Sounds great, doesn't it? Talking about a personal relationship (admittedly with no definition) with God, how the only way to Heaven is Jesus Christ, and here's how we can live for Him. The children are raised "in the faith" with morally upstanding lives. Could it get any better? 

YES! Because that is not Christianity. That is moralism, at best. That is not what sets us apart as Christians.

"Well", you ask, "what does? Is it Jesus?" Well, if we're just talking about how we believe He's the only way to Heaven, no. Muslims believe Allah is the only way to Heaven. Mormons believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. And they both claim to believe in the same God as we do...so that doesn't set us apart.

"Is it our behavior?" No. Any secular can be a good citizen, do right and wrong, show love. Yes, Jesus does say, "They will know you are Christians by your love." But, unless we have what it is that makes us Christian, what looks like love to the world is actually sin. As filthy as dirty rags. 

"Is it talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" No, Mormons believe in that too. Do you know how many Mormons walk around in the "It's not about religion, it's about a relationship" t-shirt? Do you know how openly heretical that saying is? 1. They don't define the word "relationship". It's just an ooshy-gooshy feel-good word that means whatever the hearer wants it to. 2. Religion:"a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects"  (taken from dictionary.com). What that t-shirt means then, is "It's not about who or what you believe in, but the feelings you get when you think about whoever you're thinking about." That's not Christianity either. That's Universalism. 

"Well, that's all fine and good for you. I'm glad it works for you, but I believe..." AH!!!! For the love of God, never ever say that again! Jesus said, "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life". Paul said, "There's ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism." Either the Bible isn't our source of truth, in which case you had better stop calling yourself a Christian, or the Bible is our ultimate source of truth. God said what He meant, and meant what He said. There is ONE truth. Anything else is the definition of Relativism. Also, not Christianity.

Now, I'm not saying someone who disagrees with me doctrinally is going to Hell or anything like that. This is not a denominational slam. Yes, I am a Lutheran of the Associatian of Free Lutheran Congregations. Yes, I do believe that our doctrine is the closest to Scripture's. Yes, I wish all my friends and family were part of it. But, that's not because I don't think they're saved. It is my firm belief that all who believe in what it is that makes us Christian are saved. It just makes me sad when I see my loved ones under the weight of false doctrine and the Devil's lies, when I see the affect it has on their lives. This is why I cannot say, "What works for you works for you" because not only does it deny Christ's truth, but it also is incredibly unloving to stand aside as Satan crushes my friends and family with lies and the consequential sin patterns. It doesn't actually...really... work for you.  

"What does set us apart then? What do we have that no one else has?" Grace. The bloody, gory, all-fulfilling grace given to us in Jesus Christ. The fact that nothing we ever do will get us not only in right-standing, but better standing with God. When we believe that, that we will never earn God's favor on our own, but it is only by the work of Christ on our behalf, then and only then are we Christian. When we try to merit favor on our own and demand it of others, we are lost and Pharisees in our own right. That is moralism. That is the Devil's snare that the Catholics, Mormons, and many main-line denominational churches across the board have fallen for. Through the Great Exchange, all the sin we have committed was put on Christ, and all His perfect works were put on us like a spotless white bridal gown. We are perfect in the sight of the Lord, and there is no improving perfect. 

Does that mean we can then live as we see fit? Does that mean that pastors don't need to preach what it is God requires of us? Heaven forbid, no! And if we truly believe that, we won't want to. "If you love Me, you will follow My commandments" doesn't mean that in order to prove we love God, we obey Him. No! It means if we love Him, we will consequently desire and begin to follow Him. We will need our pastors to preach God's Word to us, both to remind us of the Gospel and convict us of sin. Without both, we lose Christ. Just remind us of the Gospel, and we will become like the ELCA: flippant about Christian living and betraying our Lord for political correctness. If we just speak of what is required of us to the expense of the Gospel, we have fallen into moralism. 


So, preach the Law (hereby meaning what God requires of us)! Preach it in it's fullness! It's not called the "Hammer of God" for nothing. Bring down that hammer on sins like gossip, worry, fornication, slander, and unforgiveness just as you do on homosexuality or murder. Make people squirm until they realize there is no way on Earth they can do this on their own so they will stop trying and turn to the Cross. 

And, please, preach the Gospel! No, I don't mean the pathetic little blip that pastors tack on the end of their sermons to get people to come up to the altar. The Gospel doesn't fit in an A-B-C, or 1-2-3 format. It took God an entire book and 4000 years to bring forth the Gospel and it's taken Him another 2000 to demonstrate it to us. Preach of Jesus! Preach of the blood He wept because of the agony He bore on our behalf! Preach of the whips tearing his flesh as mankind rejected Him! Preach of  the thorns piercing His brow as He demonstrated His love! Preach of the nails tearing his sinews asunder just as His communion with God was riven! Preach of the wrath of God poured on Him, causing the ground to shake and the sky to rumble because of the depravity of our sin! And preach of His glorious resurrection, giving us life and hope! 

And when I say, "Preach!", I don't just mean in the pulpit. I mean live it. Speak of it as you lie down and as you rise up. Saturate your life in Jesus. Drown your children in grace! 

Why? Because He died so you could die to sin! He rose again to give you life! He ascended into Heaven to interceed on your behalf! And He sent the Holy Spirit to help you on your way:reminding you of His sacrifice and grace! 

"To whom much is given, much is required." or, as Uncle Ben said to my favorite superhero, "With great power, comes great responsiblity." 


(PS) stay tuned for the next intriguing question... 




Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pinterest Done-it's: Day 9: Bookworm Baby Shot


Who's the kid of a preacher now? I mean, come on! That is just classic, don'tcha think? 



Here's the link to my inspiration: http://www.thenamemeaning.com/baby-articles/name-meanings-history-and-importance/

Pinterest Done-it's: Day 8: Baby in bed shot



Mr. E. loves the camera. What can I say? His mom is a photographer. As soon as a camera or phone is pulled out, he is looking right at and grinning to high heaven. I couldn't get the same angle as the original picture idea, but I think they still turned out great!


Black and white...
...or color?





Here's the link: http://www.thenamemeaning.com/baby-articles/name-meanings-history-and-importance/

Pinterest Done-it's: Day 7: Baby under blanket shot


I wouldn't call this a win. Maybe a so-so. My little guy was ready for a nap and didn't want his picture taken. Consequently, I only got the one good one. But, I think with some more time and better timing for the little guy, this could be fantastic. Good thing is, this requires no special equipment of any sort! I just laid him on his tummy on our bed and draped the towel over him. Normally, one would use a blanket, but his newborn shots were with this towel, so I wanted the age contrast. 

Here's the original link: http://www.lifeinmotionphotography.com/blankie-boy-austin-baby-photographers/

Pinterest Done-it's: Day 6: Baby photo in a Box



My Mister E. isn't big enough to sit up on his own, which makes my choices for photo shoots pretty limited. You can only do so much of a baby lying on the floor, especially as it seems that half the photos are up the baby's nose!

But, I came across this idea and decided to give it a try. I have a few crates that came from my mother-in-law when we moved all my husband's books (well...not all.... like a tenth... yes, I married a nerd) out of his bedroom after we got married. 

Score! These are some of my favorites! I would highly recommend this to anyone trying to find a cute way to prop baby up for another angle.  Here's a few more shots of my little hunk...






 That face, though!





Well, there ya' have it, folks! Another Pinterest success. 

Here's the link to my inspiration: http://confessionsofapropjunkie.com/?p=8457

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pinterest Done-its: Day 5: DIY Onesie from T-shirt

I'm loving my sewing machine! And making clothes for my little ones has always been a dream of mine. One problem...I have a son. Don't get me wrong, I love my little guy! But it seems like 90% of the cute little patterns on Pinterest are for girls. Headbands, dresses, ribbons, bows. Pink, pink, pink, and ...oh...did I mention pink?

Anyway,.. After searching for ideas for Mr. E., I found this tutorial and got really excited. My husband has tubs of t-shirts still sitting in his parents' closet at home from all of the activities he did in school. Way more than he will ever wear. Couple that with a little guy who is growing faster than I can afford to keep up with, and this tutorial looked perfect.

I sewed the whole thing by hand, as I prefer to do so when I make something small for the first time. And, again, another success! I will be adapting it slightly, as the legs are a little short for "Mr. Longshanks", and I think I might try velcro for the closure instead of buttons next time, Thankfully, the pattern looks easy to adapt. But, here it is!


Here's the link! http://www.feathersflights.com/2012/04/baby-shortall-from-adult-t-shirt.html

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pinterest Done-it's: Day 4: Carseat Cover

Well before my now 3 1/2 month-old was born, I came across this tutorial for a car-seat cover. As I was wanting to get back into using my sewing machine, I decided to try it.

Yeah...I was 10 minutes short of finishing it when I stopped for the day and I went into labor the next day. 36 hours later, my little Mr. E. was born and the project was put away for later.

This week was "later" and I am so excited to announce it finished and a success! Well.. a success minus two minor hitches: 1)I forgot to make sure I had enough fabric for the top to make sure my fabric faced the right way. I didn't. Thankfully, I had extra of the back fabric, so I added a few inches to the top and bottom, and I think I actually like it better. You get to see more of the contrasting fabric. 2)I somehow misplaced the tutorial, so I ended up making the straps out of just one fabric and without instructions, Thankfully, I think it turned out great. I also love the fact that there is enough fabric that my son, who likes to hold on to something when he is sucking his thumb, pulls it to his face when I have it folded up so I can watch him while he sleeps.

Oh, and thanks to my mom for buying the fabrics for me. They're quite perfect as my dear father-in-law is a stamp dealer.




Here's the link! http://www.lifewithmylittles.com/2012/10/car-seat-cover-tutorial.html/

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pinterest Done-Its: Day 3: Eggroll-in-a-bowl



For those of you who don't already know, my family and I try to adhere to the eating/living principles found in the "Trim Healthy Mama" book. Today, I'm going to share one of my favorite recipes that I found on Pinterest: Eggroll-in-a-bowl. My husband and I love it! It's simple, cheap, and suuuuper yummy.





Once again, a success! 0-3! So far... Pinterest for the win!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Pinterest Done-Its": Day 2: Wedding Card Book

Oh my heavens! All the cards I've gotten over the last year and half between bridal showers, the wedding itself, baby baptism, and the baby showers are piling up on me! What do I do with them? Keep them, toss them, sort and do some of both? AH!

Thankfully, I came across this idea, and since I really did want to keep them seeing as how I loved going through my grandmother's collection, I'm glad this worked out so well.

This is the DIY Wedding Card Book:
http://somethingturquoise.com/2011/11/11/diy-card-mini-album/

I did adapt it a little, and added a second ring. Some of the cards were thin, and I was afraid having just the one hole would cause them to tear. This way there's less  stress on the holes, and it turns easier too.

This is what it looks like open.

Ah! Love it! Yet again another success. Stay tuned for tomorrow's Pinterest trial.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pinterest Done-Its: DIY Magazine Envelopes


Today, I decided that maybe it might be a good idea to actually utilize all the pins I have on my Pinterest boards instead of just adding more.

So, I'm starting a series of "Pinterest Done-Its" so you can follow my progress.

I started this off with DIY Magazine Envelopes. I've done something similar to this before, but they never quite worked out. So, I gave it another go.

Wow! This was a success! I love them!

This one is my favorite



'Cuz who doesn't want bacon on their mail?...

...or pie?



All in all, a great success. Stay tuned for more Pinterest Done-Its. (original pin below)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Introducing the Electrician joke (a.k.a.) Lightbulb Jokes 2.0



Introducing the Electrician joke: a new take on the infamous lightbulb joke.

How many ___ does it take to contact the Electrician?

Catholics: Who knows? They're still in Purgatory trying to figure that out.

Charismatics: Who knows? The verdict is out on whether or not He'll hear their tent meeting.
 
Unitarians:  "We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for an Electrician. However, if in your own journey you have found that He works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your Electrician, and present it next month at our annual Electrician Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of electricity traditions, including batteries, wiring, or abandoning in favors of campfires,  all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence."

Calvinists: None.The Electrician has predestined when the electricity will come on.

Methodists: Undetermined. It depends on whether the electricity is strong, weak, or is completely out.

Baptists: Who knows? They're still trying to decide if Mrs. Jones really believes in the Electrician or is just pretending to get them off her back.

Jehovah Witnesses: Who knows? The bicycle repair man is out of town for the weekend, so they can't ride over to get Him.

Evolutionists: What Electrician? That lightbulb evolved there.

Existentialists: None. They would rather  observe how the light bulb itself  symbolizes a single incandescent beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld of endless absurdity reaching out toward a cosmos of  nothingness.

Quakers: Undetermined: So far, all they've done is sit around in circle and wait for Him to show up.

Evangelicals: None, They ask for help and then read the instructions and proceed to rewire the building themselves.

Neo-Evangelicals: They don't even know they're in the dark.

Nazerenes: None. They discovered that it could be renewed by a second blessing.

Lutherans: None. By the time they realize they need Him, He's already there. 

Camp counselors: The verdict is still out on if the first "Person-in-need-of-an-Electrician's Prayer" they prayed last year is sufficient, otherwise they'll have to resort to praying it again harder, committing to read their contract every day, or coming to camp next year to teach little children to spend the rest of their lives asking the same question.

Believers in Eternal Security: If you really meant it last time you called, then there's no need.

Church of God: The signs are there that He is just around the corner already.

Mennonite: They're not really sure who their Electrician is, but if they seclude themselves from the rest of the world, refuse to do anything that might be considered improper, and follow all the instructions in the manual, He may decide to come.

Restorationists: Well, the important thing is that no one else on this list has called the right Electrician for over 2,000 years!

Foursquare Gospel: Who knows? They're not sure on the details of their Electrician, but as long as everyone calls a vague idea of the same one, let's go tell the world more about Him!

Born Again: Who knows? They may or may not have communicated intense enough for Him to come.

 









Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Introducing Wonderful Resource Wednesday (and the Reverend Jonathon Fisk)

There is a lot that goes into being a stay-at-home, future-homeschooling mom and wife to a Lutheran pastor-in-training and it always wonderful to find new tips and resources to help become better and better at what I do. I love being able to share these with like-minded people so that their lives may also be so improved.

Consequently, I am starting "Wonderful Resource Wednesday".

This week, I am sharing a resource under the category of theology. It is very difficult in today's day and age to be a confessional Lutheran. Evangelicals tend to peg us as nut cases with no regard for Scripture, primarily because of the ELCA. They give Lutheranism such a bad name.

Thankfully, there are people like the good Jonathon Fisk who are working to bring Lutheran principles to our generation in a way we can understand. His youtube videos have helped me, a recovering Evangelical, comprehend true theology in a fun and straightforward way. I hope you will visit his channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/Revfiskj and enjoy his work!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Beginning THM


Honestly, I am a lot better off weight-wise than I thought I would be. But, that doesn't mean I'm a fit healthy mama. Sure, Mister E is only 5 weeks old, and I'm not going to get depressed this soon after giving birth the first time. That being said, eating more healthy has been a goal in mind for awhile. I just have a good reason right now (primarily that nothing in my closet fits anymore). 

A lot of my friends and family have tried the Trim Healthy Mama ((THM) lifestyle with much success. The mentality makes a lot of sense to me and so I'm going to try it too. If you want to know more about what it is, here's the link to their website: http://www.trimhealthymama.com/

So I spent a good part of yesterday looking up recipes and tips (here's my pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/leeannazahn/thm-to-be/ ) and working on a menu. Along with starting a new way of looking at food, I also am trying to figure out the price of each meal as I'm a stay-at-home-mom and wife of a college student, so I'm doing the best I can to be economical. Consequently, I made up an Excel spreadsheet with the menu, the ingredients in each meal, and then another to plug my groceries into in order to determine price per serving of everything. This way I hope to be able to tailor my menu to what is actually cheap instead of what I think is cheap. 

So begins #THMTuesday. Every week, I plan to post a recipe or tip for those following this lifestyle. 

Tip #1: Give yourself grace. 

It's hard to change your lifestyle, and going cold turkey right away is a great way to get overwhelmed. The important things is that you're beginning to eat more healthily and every little good decision is an investment in your future. Don't sweat the little stuff. Example: finding things that are 100% "on-plan" takes time. For me, finding condiments without added sugars is hard. I plan to make my own eventually, but making all those meals from scratch this week... well, it's not gonna happen. I figure cutting out candy, cake, cookies, pop, etc. makes way more a difference than that gram of sugar in the ketchup. 

Additionally, at least for now, I plan to reward myself once a week with a coffee from my favorite cafe in town. Having that to look forward to will help me push through the little temptations. 

Good luck and thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why I'm not worth your time


I am not worth your time...
... No...
... Seriously...
... I'm not!

Now, before you protest, just hear me out. 

I may look like a really nice person who has it all together and will always be an awesome friend. I may seem like I'm super loyal and will always stick with you. Yeah... nope...

Honestly, I am super duper selfish. Most of the time, all I care about is me. 

I'm not on Facebook to help you. I'm on Facebook to feel good about myself. 99% of the time, I scroll right past your statuses about how you're hurting or need help to find some dumb 50 second video about dogs "talking". 

I'm not a good listener. The whole time you're talking about your issues, my mind is wandering to what outfit I'm going to wear tomorrow, why in the world I ordered that coffee, or how I can help you fix your problems cuz... well... I'm just that smart. 

Loyal? HA! I spend most of my days wishing I had better friends when there are friends galore to choose from right in front of me. I leave people who have only slightly disappointed me in the dust to pursue the new "shiny" friend who may meet up to my ridiculously high standard of impossible perfection. 

It's not like I actually take the time to keep up on everyone's lives... The only thing I'm "up on" is the newest trend on Pinterest. 

I am NOT worth your time. I will fail you. I will hurt you. I will disappoint you. No, I don't do those things on purpose... but I'm such a screw-up that being friends with me means these things will happen. Ask the people close to me. They're the ones I've hurt the most. They KNOW I am no worth it.

No, this is not a pity party where I am seeking validation in a crazy not-so-veiled attempt to receive compliments. Yes, I do have a point.

When we really look at ourselves... are any of us worth anyone's time? I mean, come on. Don't tell me you've never hurt anyone, or acted selfishly. We all have. And who's to say you won't again?

No one... not one of us... is worthy of love from someone else. And yet... people still do. Why?

Maybe because it's not about worth. Maybe it's not about what we do right or what we do wrong or how many times we've hurt someone. Maybe... it's about something more.

One could argue many different things for that "something more". Me? I love because He first loved me. Me: the worst of all sinners and hopeless beyond belief... and yet He loved me enough to die for me. Not because of anything I had done, but simply because He loved me. 

Please! If you hear anything, hear this! I broke His heart. I stomped on His love, spit in His face, walked away from Him so many times I was, by anyone else's standards, beyond forgiveness. It was my hate and selfishness that nailed Him to that Cross and caused Him to die. It was my treachery and foolishness that seperated Him from His Father for the first time since the Creation of the world. And... yet... He still loved me. He still forgave me. And... He did the same for you who believe on His name. 

Why do I bring up this "old story". Because I see many Christians today posting and liking pictures or statuses similar to the picture at the beginning of this article. One day, one of Jesus' Apostles was particularly frustrated with someone, as we would put it: "pissed off". And he asked Jesus, "How many times do I have to forgive someone?... 7 times" Jesus said, "70 times 7." meaning not 490 times, but unconditionally. Then, Jesus told this story: 

 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” -Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus' followers couldn't have realized at the time the full implications of His words. But, later, when Jesus died on that Cross to forgive them and us all... the ultimate debt was paid. And if you, who believe on His name, aren't willing to forgive your brother... well, Jesus laid out that ultimatum in the last two sentences.

This unforgiving judgmental attitude is the very attitude that drives people away from the Church, away from Jesus. 

"I'm holier than you." 

"I forgave you too many times already" 

"You're just not worth it."

What would have happened to us if Jesus had said such things? Thankfully, He didn't. He has promised forgiveness unconditionally to us through the Cross.

That is what real friendship looks like. 

May we all desire and learn to be more like Him.






 

Template by Suck My Lolly - Background Image by TotallySevere.com