The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources


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Confessions and Comfort

(I want to first express my sympathy to everyone affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings. I had planned to write this post before this horror happened, and I decided to still write it. I cannot imagine the depths of grief that the parents and friends are going through in Connecticut right now. I am so, so sorry for them, and am praying for God to fill them with comfort and hope as only He can.)

I don’t typically like to share my struggles with people I’m not close to, but at my last MOPS meeting, a girl spoke about her experience with cancer, using the points from John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Cancer. All of the points are pretty good, but these four most applied to me:

3. You waste your cancer if you put hope in your odds rather than in God.

4. You waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

8. You waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

The last point was the reason I decided to blog about this:

10. You waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means to witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

I hope this post can do that and provide some resources and bring some comfort to others now and in the future.

On November 30th, the three of us went to the doctor’s office hoping to see a wiggly baby on the ultrasound screen. Instead, we found out our baby didn’t have a heartbeat, and had stopped growing a few weeks before. The verse on our whiteboard (see this post) was 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we may abound in every good work.” It was a sweet reminder that God was with us, and working things out to good for them who love Him and a called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

This wasn’t the first time we’d dealt with this. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage a couple of years ago. That one was very difficult emotionally, and I spent several months reading about God’s character, and putting together lists of His promises about things. Here is the list I made of God’s promises to believers regarding comfort.

Something that was especially helpful to me was this sermon series (Part 1 and Part 2) by John MacArthur on the salvation of babies, which a friend had emailed to me on my birthday, two years ago. It is full of Scripture and hope, but what was most helpful to me was the comparison of King David’s reactions when his baby son and his son Absalom died. David, a man after God’s own heart, cried, prayed, and fasted for God to spare his baby son, but when his son died, he stopped crying and cleaned himself up. When Absalom, who was leading an army to kill his own father, died, he mourns a lot, saying, “I wish I had died instead of him” and weeps, until the captain of his army told him to get it together or he would lose the kingdom. These reactions are both the opposite of what those around him expected, and they are frequently the opposite of what we would do. David, who knew he would be with God after he died (Psalm 16, 23), knew that he wouldn’t see Absalom again, while he would see his baby son again.

I think seeing David’s reactions reminded me that this is not a tragedy when we look at the eternal picture. It is sad for a time, but our family will be restored one day. It is much more tragic when someone forsakes Christ. This quote from C. S. Lewis Screwtape Letters (which TSH and i got to see performed a year and a half ago) sums it up. One demon is talking to another about humans: “They, of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda.”

This time around has not been as emotionally difficult. Some days I still cry, and every day I hope we never have to go through this again, but most days I feel really blessed to have a sweet little girl and a loving husband. I think of my two kids sitting on Jesus’ knees, and I look forward to the day when sin, death, sickness, and sorrow will be banished. This world is messed up from sin and it’s effects. Badly. But Christmas is when we remember that God had a plan to heal the world–and carried it out even though it brought Him a lot of pain. Just as He kept His promise about sending a rescuer, He’s going to keep His promise to come back and defeat evil. He’s waiting, so people can still come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus will return, and I hope soon! Then we can celebrate a seriously merry Christmas. Until then, we have hope!

Wishing you grace, peace, joy and hope for the new year!

andrea


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The Christmas Gift Strategery

I mentioned before that we had listened to an interview with Phil Vischer talking about Christmas. (Sadly, I couldn’t find the original interview online–available through Focus on the Family’s podcasts, but here is the DVD he was being interviewed about.) He talked about its history a little bit, and said Christmas was actually a couple of holidays merged into one. (Disclaimer: I didn’t do my own research to determine the validity of these claims, but you have to admit, the current Christmas does seem like it should be a couple different holidays.) The two celebrations are for Jesus’ birth, and Saint Nicolas Day, a day where kids celebrated a man who loved kids (and God–we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt), and gave money to help kids stay out of slavery.  St Nicolas’ Day is where the gift giving traditions come from. I’m not really sure why I feel the need to point that out, except that the gift-giving tradition we settled on continues to merge the two holidays.

We don’t want PG to grow up thinking Christmas, or life in general, is about getting stuff, but it sure is fun to give gifts to people, and your children, especially.  This is what we decided, based off this blog post.  You can read there for a longer explanation, but here’s the short version. PG will get three gifts based off the three gifts the wise men brought baby Jesus, plus a stocking. A gold gift–something she wants (or a toy at this age). A frankincense gift–frankincense was used in the temple, so this is something to further spiritual growth. Finally, there is the myrrh gift. Myrrh was used for medicinal purposes, so this is something for the body (e.g. clothes, shoes, etc).

For PG’s gold gift this year, we got her a xylophone. The girl is not into books much, but she loves all things music. To save some dough and the earth, I got the xylophone at Once Upon a Child, a kids’ consignment store. [Warning, slight rant: There were about ten xylophones there, but only one with the eighth note.  I had to pay a dollar extra for the xylophone that had the final note of the scale. Why would someone make a xylophone that you could not play an entire octave on? You just can’t resolve a full scale with only seven notes. Anyway… oh yeah, and none of the twenty toy guitars there had any strings. What is up with that?]

For PG’s frankincense gift, I got her the Seeds of Purpose CD, Bible verses put to music that I mentioned here.

For the myrrh gift, I got her some toddler training pants. We won’t be using them by Christmas, but I am foreseeing sometime in the next year.

IMG_5558

As for her stocking, we’ll fill it with Goldfish crackers, Craisins, socks, toothbrushes, and hair barrettes.

That’s it. a Christmas that doesn’t break the bank, should still be fun, and hopefully sets some traditions we can maintain in the future. Do you have a system for your gift giving?

And just for fun, here’s a picture of her eyeing Santa suspiciously from the safety of my lap:

IMG_5538


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Money Saver: Zapping the Electric Bill–the Results!

Unfortunately I needed to guest post for TSH on this one. He was kind of busy, and I didn’t want to leave you on the edge of your seats any longer. If you are wondering what I am talking about, check out this post, where we made some changes to our electricity consumption (stopped using the chest freezer and replaced most of the light bulbs with CFLs) and hypothesized how much we would save. TSH guessed $6.13. I guessed $8.

Now, being the scientists we are, we love results. Especially significant results. And these results did show a significant (although not exactly well-defined) difference. Ha!

The short answer is that our bill was $32.03. (194 kWh for a 31-day month = 6.26 kWh/day). This is the lowest our electric bill has ever been since we have lived here. Not bad. The question of how much we saved was harder to answer, because we don’t have a good control. Our use fluctuates, not even including the months we have air conditioner. For example, if you compare last month’s bill ($36.17) to this month’s bill, it appears we only saved $4.14. However, if you compare last November’s bill ($41.65) to this November’s, then it appears like we saved $9.62.

To help you visualize it better, here’s the data from the past year in kWh/day. The months are named by the month the electric use ended in. For example, the month named November is actually mid-October through mid-November.

kWhperday

Now here is the data in bills:

Electricbills

In an effort at a better control, I averaged the previous bills, excluding months December (extra family for Thanksgiving and Christmas lights), June, July, August, and September (Air conditioning and less efficient refrigerator, etc). That came out to 7.94 kWh/day or a bill of $39.91. Based on that, we saved $7.88. Anyway, our conclusion is that we saved somewhere from $4-$8. A rate of $48-$96 saved per year just by switching out some light bulbs and not being so spacious with our freezer use. Sorry that is so inconclusive, but I think we can safely say we will have at least an extra $50 at the end of a year. Maybe we’ll have a follow-up post at the end of the spring when we can average several of the new use months to compare to the old use months, especially because we can’t tell if TSH or I was more accurate on our estimates. Sadly, I think he is more accurate regarding just the freezer and CFLs, since I have been extra careful lately about only turning on lights if I really need them, but maybe I have still helped us save $8 in general.

Did any of you try to cut down on your electric bills after the last post? What was your result?

Oh, and seriously this time, the next post will be on what we decided to do about PG’s Christmas presents.


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Christmas Ornaments and Little Girls

(Sorry, no electric bill update yet. The TSH has been busy.)

One Christmas tradition we started last year was giving PG an ornament. Last year we got her a Precious Moments “Baby’s First Christmas” figurine, but this year, I made her a half-eaten gingerbread man. Here was the tutorial I used. It came out great and went really fast. IMG_5483

Then I tried to embroider her initials with the only hand stitch I knew–the back stitch, and decided I really needed to learn some new stitches. But even that didn’t turn out too bad. IMG_5484

Finally, I was enjoying watching this sweet little girl color today. So thankful for her!IMG_5498

Next post, I’ll let you know what we decided to do about her Christmas presents this year…