Fridge Meme

Amy at Contemplations Amid Chaos tagged me for the fridge meme! Here is my fridge:

Because we spend so little time in the kitchen, I don't put much thought into the fridge decorations. :-) And in one week when we move, I'm sure it will be cleaned off and the fridge in the new house will look quite a bit different. The most used item is the whiteboard on the side where we keep track of shopping lists and notes to each other.

The other items are kind of just random pictures, postcards, comics, and magnets I've acquired in the past year of living in this house. I have a phone directory for my company to the right of the whiteboard. Displayed prominantly on the front is a cool art thing Paul made for me: The Alien and the Redhead, as he calls it. (He considers himself an alien for some reason, and I am a redhead. I think it's cute. :-)) He made it out of paint and apple halves. But I think that's it as far as interesting things on my fridge. :-)

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on Suffering

One day recently, as I was finishing up my work in the clinic, I returned back to my lab, on the other side of the hospital. As I got into the elevator, an elderly mom and her daughter hopped inside to join me on the journey downstairs. Tears were streaming down the daughter's face. Her elderly mom held her hand and tried to comfort her, but for the moment, she couldn't be comforted. I didn't hear anything else between them, for at this point the elevator opened, and they walked out. As I walked on my way, I said a silent prayer for them, but I never spoke to them. I wanted to put my arms around them, to comfort them, and tell them that the Lord is still caring for them. But I kept silent. I didn't know them.

What caused this daughter's grief, I do not know. I can only guess. Maybe her elderly mother's cancer has spread, or maybe the daughter herself is sick. (I work at a cancer hospital, so I have an educated guess.) Even still, they have touched me more than they have realized.

In my line of work, I tend to see such suffering often. It's not always obvious, as in this case, but I know it's there. Sometimes I can see fear in the eyes of the patients, as they know they have a fight ahead of them. Sometimes I see patients in the halls, and the sickness from chemotherapy is obvious. Sometimes I read about patients who seem to be on the way to recovering, only they take a turn for the worse and die in their fight. I can only imagine what their families are feeling.

I don't know if these patients are Christians, but even if they are, saying to them that "good comes to those who love the Lord" seems sort of hollow to me. It's become the Christianized way of saying, "everything will be okay," when in reality, it may not be so in this life. Christians in the throws of suffering realize the truth in this verse, that God is working for their good, but it is so hard to see in the darkness. Naturally humans tend to want their cup to be taken. They want healing and freedom from pain. But in the Bible we find that this is not the way for the Christian to live:

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5
Rejoice in suffering? How radical is this statement! The suffering of which Paul speaks could be struggles with sin, persecution, or degeneration of the body. Obviously, we know that God Himself does not send suffering, it is a result of the Fall and our complete rebellion from God. By His grace and Christ's death on the cross, and by His "pouring out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit" He uses the suffering to bring us to Him and teach us more about Him. And that is no tragedy. What amazing grace!

I don't pretend to know much of anything about suffering. For those interested about the subject, I recommend reading "Desiring God" by John Piper. The last chapter of this book discuss suffering and the Christian response to it. Piper also has co-written an entire book on the subject, entitled "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God." I haven't read it, but if it's like Piper's other books, it would be well worth the read.

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Carnival Time!

Blair over at Scribblings by Blair is hosting this week's Carnival of Beauty: The Beauty of Forgiveness. I encourage everyone to go check out the other great pieces written about this important subject. The previous post I wrote here on Onward and Upward was my submission to the Carnival. I thank God that He has taught me so much about forgiveness, but I know there is so much I still need to learn - including a relationship He is currently convicting me about. Sigh, just when you think you've gotten it all down! :-)

To learn more about what the Carnival of Beauty is all about, please go here.

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The Beauty of Forgiveness

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
Did you ever had one of those years when you were growing up? When everything seems to go wrong? Perhaps you were the target of a class bully, or tormenting by a former best friend. Perhaps it was the year your parents moved to a new town. Whatever the reason, it was the year plagued with loneliness and awkwardness as you moved from childhood to adulthood, not really sure of where you stood or what you really wanted in life.

I had one of those years - 5th grade. Fourth grade was bad too, but not like 5th grade. The year I cried myself to sleep with my mom rubbing my back trying to convince me that someday this would all pass by and everything would be okay.

Usually the tears were thanks to a certain girl named Tina* (*name changed) in my class. Due to the small nature of our mission school, we were the only two in our grade, and Tina felt it her competitive duty to make sure she always came out on top. Being the compliant child I was, I let her push me around, tease me, and hurt me until I was convinced that I was everything she said I was.

I think every girl can understand that confusion when you try so hard to please someone and they just return bitter words. I think everyone knows what it's like to be lonely, to play with your dolls wishing for a real friend. I don't think I have to explain the hurt I felt to anyone. Tina left for the States after 5th grade, and all of 6th grade I dealt with the repercussions of the year of teasing. No longer under her, the hurt turned into anger and bitterness, especially as I realized to what extent her affect had on me.

This story does have a happy ending. In 7th grade, I was assigned a paper on the topic of "forgiveness" for Bible class, and I think that is when I really let the hurt and anger slide away and truly forgave what she did. God taught me a lot as I poured through the Scriptures looking for references to forgiveness. The biggest thing of all: anything that Tina had done to me, had been done to Christ. And Christ not only forgave but He paid the price for those sins. How could I not do the simple act of turning around and forgiving her? It wasn't easy, I don't think - is it ever? But a necessary step. And God wasn't finished with our story yet.

Fast forward about 5 years. Tina and I both returned to Peru, but we went to different schools and rarely saw each other. Again it was a lonely time in my life, but not at the fault of any particular person or persons. I was desperate to know who I was, as a person and as a Christian. At the time I was involved in an active youth group at my church. Each year, we had a weeklong retreat on the beach, and my senior year Tina was in attendance. I remember one evening climbing the steps to a little rooftop area where patio furniture overlooked the beach. It was quiet and peaceful. I saw Tina up there, and as I joined her I noticed a Bible in her lap.

We talked then. We talked about what had happened. We talked about remorse, and forgiveness. We talked about healing. We talking about friendship and moving forward. We talked about where we were today, and how God was working in our lives. I remember Tina sharing things from her heart, showing me some of the Bible passages she had been pouring over and meditating on. I remember telling her about the aching loneliness I felt, and her assurance of God always being there as a friend. There is more to our conversation, and the things God taught me at that time in my life, but they are for another time. What I always love is how God brought things full circle. He took the girl who used to torment me, and seven years later He used her to draw me closer to Him.

To me, that is the beauty of forgiveness.

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Messages In the Dust

These past few weeks have been very difficult for me. On top of recurring headaches and the beginning of a cold, I have been very busy at work and just overall stressed and tired. I have practically crashed every evening without doing anything around the house, or even going grocery shopping.

Our small apartment is looking a little worse for the wear, as evidenced by my desire to lay down every evening instead of cleaning. My not-so-tidy husband isn't bothered by the mess as much as I am, but it drives me nuts. My perfectionist tendencies want my home to look like a picture from a magazine.

A few years ago, I was visiting my dear friend Beth at her old house before she and her husband moved to Texas. As I was walking through the house, I spotted a small inscription written in the dust on a small table: "I (heart) Stu". At the time, I thought it was so sweet and I wondered about the smile on her husband's face when he saw her little note.

But now, I see it in a different light. Perhaps Beth could have been a Super Wife and kept their house Super Clean all the time. However, there would be no dust to leave special little "I love you" messages. So perhaps some dust isn't all bad. Often the beauties of life are made up of the seemingly "imperfections".

Thank you, Beth, for the little dust message that you inadvertantly left with me. :-) And no one please misunderstand me about Beth's housecleaning abilities - she is a wonderful housekeeper, and her home is warm and inviting. And if you're like me - tired and frustrated about not achieving perfection, I challenge you to reevaluate what really is the important thing in life, and go from there! :-)

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Frugal Friday

This past week, I wasn't feeling well. Among other things, I was having horrible cramps. As I was lying in bed bemoaning womanhood and all sorts of stuff, Paul asked me if there was anything he could do. When I mentioned a hot water bottle would be nice, but we didn't own a hot water bottle, he disappeared into the kitchen. Soon he came back with an ingenious creation: he poured uncooked rice into a clean sock and then put it into the microwave for about a minute. It was deliciously warm and heavy enough that it gave the perfect amount of pressure. When I was done with it, I just needed to wash the sock and Paul can wear it again! Paul said we could probably cook and eat the rice too, but I guess I don't trust the cleanliness of his socks. :-)

Be sure to go over to Crystal's blog and check out all of the other Frugal Friday posts!

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Shopping Methods

Somehow, I made it to adult life with no cooking skills whatsoever. I am pretty good at toast, and brownies, and I can make a mean rice and tuna mix - but meals escape me. I pretty much lived on frozen dinners and Tuna Helper when I was on my own for a year and a half - and I ate out way too often. (I was fed occasional homecooked meals by dear friends, which I much appreciated.)

Enter husband, and suddenly I realize that he doesn't enjoy Lean Cuisine as much as I do! So I have set out to change my eating and cooking habits to benefit the entire family. Recently, we decided to split the tasks so that I would do the meal planning and shopping, and Paul does the cooking. This works out well because he gets off work at 3 (much earlier than me), and also he is less terrified of cooking than I am. Also, Paul works on Saturday mornings so I use that time to menu plan and then do my weekly shopping trip.

I recently discovered which has helped immensely in planning the menu! Previously, our meals had consisted of what we knew how to make: tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, hamburgers, and grilled chicken. However, now that I'm not doing the cooking and I have at my fingertips a quickly-searchable database of recipes, we are branching out with the meals we eat. I also like the feature of being able to do a shopping list based on the recipes I've selected. All I have to do is transfer the list to my PDA and off I am to the store! I must admit shopping for unfamiliar foods like this requires many phone calls to my mom. I am pretty ignorant about a lot of things - like what fresh parsley looks like, for example. Or that you can buy refrigerated pre-cooked noodles (who knew??). But in the end I'm able to get everything and we eat happy for a week.

This little story does have a point! Recently Crystal at Biblical Womanhood has featured a series of posts about Supermarket Savings. This series has been challenging me a lot about the amount of money I spend on food. To be honest, I just buy what looks good and don't worry about the price too much. But I know that is the wrong, wrong way to do it, especially if my goal is to pay our loans off early! I know that I can't get too ambitious with couponing, etc. because I just don't have the time with a full-time job, but it seems that there should be a happy medium of saving and still having evening time to spend with Hubby.

So I am curious how our other readers approach grocery shopping. Do you plan your menus first and then shop, or do you plan your menus based on the food that you have already bought? Do you plan your menus around sales? What's the most effective way for you to stay in budget when grocery shopping?

For further reading, I recommend Crystal's posts: part 1 (planning shopping trips), part 2 (example shopping trip), part 3 (meals), part 4 (tips), and part 5 (couponing for beginners).

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Keats Said It Best!

After reading Beth's recent post on autumn, I was reminded of a poem I read and studied in high school. I did a huge project on John Keats, and though it took me a bit to truly understand his work, I really appreciated it! (It's like that with Shakespeare too.) He wrote one classic poem which really seems to fit the season. (For a more in-depth analysis, click here.)

To Autumn
by John Keats, 1819

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
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And the Winner Is . . .

Thanks to all for participating in the first ever Onward and Upward CD Giveaway! Before we announce our grand prize winner, let us discuss our completely random and scientific selection process:

We began by assigning a number to every letter of each contestant's first name. For example, A=1, B=2, C=3, and so forth. Each of these numbers was added together to create a sum, which was then averaged by the number of letters in each contestant's name. (To make things fair and all.) Next, this average was cubed, then divided by 2. This number is the Primary Identification Number (PIN) for the contest. The PIN of each contestant was then entered into a secure computer database, and the number closest to the secure, randomly generated computer number was the winner. We assure you that ever effort was made to ensure the authenticity and reliability of the random drawing.

And so, without further ado.

The winner is . . .

Your winnings will be mailed to you shortly. Allow 4-6 weeks for deilvery.

Thank you all for playing!

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Free CD Giveaway!

Recently we have received in our possession a CD by Jeremy Camp called "Restored". Since neither of us are as much Jeremy Camp fans, we thought we'd give it away to someone who would appreciate it!

To win this fine, still-in-the-original-wrappings CD, all you have to do is mention this blog on your site! You can link to any specific post or just this blog in general! Then leave a comment here so we know to put you in the running. We'll choose one person at random (probably the old-fashioned method of closing our eyes and pulling a piece of paper from a hat) and announce it here on Friday, October 6th at 9pm (CDT). The winner then needs to email us her address so we can get it out into the mail! (We'll mail it to anyone in the US and we're willing to work with anyone outside of the US. :-))

If you don't want the CD then we would invite you to go ahead and share the news on your blog anyways in case any of your readers are interested. And yes, this is a shameless plug to get our name out there. :-)

Questions? Comments? Email us at

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The Beauty of Autumn

Allison over at The Autumn Rain is hosting this week's Carnival of Beauty. I encourage you to head on over there to read many other women's thoughts, musings, and reflections on this most glorious of seasons.

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Reflections on an Autumn Day

Just when the lazy days of summer seem to be very lazy indeed, a crisp breath of air awakened me one morning. Excitement always floods my head, for autumn is just around the corner. In the heat and humidity of the summer, I long for the days of hot apple cider, crackling fires, brilliant leaves, and spicy pumpkin pie. Of hay rides through corn mazes, golden-hued mums, long autumn walks, and toasty marshmallows. And scarecrows. And of course hot chocolate :-).

As I sit here writing, I think about what I miss now that I have moved to Southeast Texas. I so cherish the autumns of my past--it is my favorite season after all. But now, many traditional things are gone. Of course the days are cooling off, but it never really gets cold until November. So that means no more changing leaves, no more snuggling by a fire (at least not until winter!). No more bundling up to protect against the nip in the air. It's still too warm to enjoy a mug of spiced cider or steamy chocolate. I'm learning to appreciate what God has given me here. And to live vicariously through my Northern friends :-). It hasn't been easy, but I'll adjust.

You know what I'm discovering that I love most about autumn? The fellowship with family and friends, the celebration of the bounty and blessings from God, the thanksgiving we share in another year. In other words, the spirit of the season doesn't have to change just because I have moved to a new place. May we continue to praise the Lord for His bountious grace and thank Him for His provisions and care for us.

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