March 31, 2013

"Don't Judge Me!"

So very often, I come across people who profess to be followers of Christ, yet twist Scripture to serve their own purpose. If we profess to follow Christ, we are commanded to follow His laws as the Bible says. Perhaps one of the most distorted and misused verses in the Bible comes from the start of Matthew chapter 7:

Matthew 7:1-2: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."

Yes, in these verses Jesus warns us directly not to judge others. If you continue reading Matthew chapter 7, you will see that this passage teaches us to examine our own hearts before we go around judging the actions of others. That is absolutely and undeniably true. Read verse 5 carefully. It does not prohibit Christians from making judgments, but we must first see our own sin clearly.

When we read the Bible, we must read it accurately. Otherwise, we become completely confused as to the meaning and make costly mistakes that can be easily avoided. This passage is the last of three chapters that make up the Sermon on the Mount. You can read all of it here. Chapter 7 is talking about salvation. When Jesus talks about not throwing pearls before swine, He is warning us not to throw the truth of God in the faces of those who are unwilling to hear it, "lest they...turn and tear you in pieces". You know the type, the ones who so adamantly hate God that they will say anything to make a devout follower of Christ out to be a complete fool. We should spend our time trying to reach people who are open to hearing the truth rather than engage in fruitless arguments. He also talks about how anyone who asks shall find. Now, this does not mean that God will magically grant all your wishes simply by asking. He is talking about salvation. If you ask for salvation...if your heart desires to know God, He will give you the desires of your heart. You are His child and He wants to bless you with eternal life, which is the greatest gift of all. He goes on to talk about how few people will actually become saved, that the gate is narrow. He even says that many who call, "Lord, Lord" and believe they have done good works for Christ will be turned away from Heaven (see verses 21-23).  Not everyone who claims to be a follower of God is actually saved. Jesus ends the sermon warning that anyone who hears these words and does not obey is basically a fool and will fall. It's definitely a stern warning.

Now that we understand the context of this passage, we can better understand the first part about judgement. Jesus is warning us not to judge a man's (or woman's) heart.  Only God is Judge. In the end, only He will have the final say. It would be a sin for you and I to say with absolute authority that someone is or is not saved. Why? Because we are not God.

But God does give us some guidance in chapter 7 to help us determine whether a person is likely saved or not:
Matthew 7:17-20: "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
You can read more about about the fruits here.  You see, Christians are not banned from making judgments about what is right and wrong.  It's actually quite the opposite. We are called to be the light in this dark world. Sometimes that means exposing sin and trying our best to help people overcome it. For example, if you know that your best friend, who claims to be a Christian, is enthralled in reading steamy, sensational erotica (which happens to be on the best seller list), is it right for you to keep quiet, or is it right for you to try to help your friend out of the sinful behavior?  You can find the Biblical answer here. I believe the two most damaging things you can do are (1) be silent and (2) condemn others with a "holier than thou" attitude.

The next time someone uses Matthew 7:1 out of context, use the good judgement that God gives to ask yourself if the person is trying to "trample your pearls" so to speak, or truly has an open heart and a genuine misunderstanding of what judgment truly means.  From there, examine your own sin. Repent. Only then will you be an effective judge of right and wrong in the lives of others.

In the meantime, let's keep studying God's Word and hiding it away in our hearts. Let's keep being bold in our faith and standing strong, but make no mistake- having the last word is not always the most beneficial. Perhaps even worse is being accurately accused of hypocrisy.

March 26, 2013

Too Few Hours...

There are so many good things that fill up literally every moment of my day, yet there is one thing that I am having the hardest time figuring out how to fit into my regular schedule as a mom.

Devotions. Ones that aren't crammed into a 15 minute session or follow a program. Devotions that leave me feeling so refreshed, comforted, and engulfed in God's love.  I miss those.

My days are packed. Starting around 6:00 a.m, I become a half-awake playmate for a busy baby boy. I feed him breakfast, lunch, make dinner for the family, wash-dry-fold endless amounts of laundry, clean my house, walk the dog, bake treats, change diapers, keep a tiny bit of a social life, spend time with my husband, and by the end of the day... I am spent.

Before having a baby, I had no trouble finding ample time for devotions regularly. Now, I'm lucky to get one decent session in any given week.

How can this be?

So I am once again re-thinking the way I do life. What should I spend less time on so that I can have more time with God? Maybe I should cut out time on the internet? But then I would miss out on so much going on with people, news, etc...Can't do that. Maybe I should do devotions when Baby Boy is sleeping? But that is my nap time, too! Such precious down time... Can't do that. Maybe I should stop watching the news? But I MUST keep updated on the latest world events! Can't miss that.  Maybe we should just get rid of TV all together.  But then the husband would miss sports and I would miss my design shows...Can't do that.

What exactly is the answer?  I know. I make excuses.

Each day, I wake up thinking that today will be the day that I devote a good amount of  time to individual Bible study...and the day passes...and I crawl into bed at night...and I haven't gotten around to that precious devotional time that I promised myself. And I feel convicted. I've let myself down. I've let God down. I think about my testimony as a Christian. Sure, I go to church and listen to the sermons. I go to small group and study with other believers. I meet with a group of friends for a Bible-based book study...and those are all good things that I love and keep me accountable, but I really, really miss having time to read God's Word on my own. I miss just getting lost in the Bible and forgetting completely about the time or any other responsibilities, knowing that I'm having quality time with my God and He is actively speaking to my heart.

So I write this post not to tell you that I've figured out the key to having a perfectly balanced life, but to  keep myself accountable. I can't make excuses. If God is absolutely the most important part of my life, my reason for existing, I can't keep spending so much time on other trivial things each day. I have got to make my devotional time a priority.

As I wrap up this post, I am heading straight for my Bible and my journal. I'm going to read about whatever God leads me to read. I'm going to write down what He speaks to my heart. I will make Him a priority today. It's a start, right?

And I plan to do it again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that day. And so on.

Next week, I'll let you know what I've learned about being a new mommy with a jam-packed day and trying keep up with daily devotions.  Maybe I won't fall flat on my face...and maybe...just maybe I'll have learned something worth sharing.

Ephesians 6:11-17- "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"

March 23, 2013

Master Bath Makeover

You may have seen my last post for a sneak peek at my latest project...and I am so happy to share the finished product today!

This was such a fun project. I got to do the whole thing while the homeowner was out of town and had a "big reveal" moment when she got home. What a blast!

Here is one of my favorite "after" features of this room...
The paint color, the hint of sparkle and the seashells make this a room that I would love to have!

And now for the before and after shots:

 Here's what you would have seen when first walking in before. Not bad, but nothing memorable.

And here is what you see now.  I painted the walls a color called "Jules" by Valspar. It's so much brighter! 
We also added a cabinet for storage. 

This is the shower/tub area before. Again, it's basic. Notice how little of the bathroom you can see in this picture. That wall on the right is actually a cabinet that I loathed from the moment I first saw this room. It was making everything seem so much smaller. But did you also notice that awesome spa tub? 

We took out the "wall" cabinet. This is what it looks like now.
Notice that I took the photo from the exact same location. 
The room is opened up so much more now that the eyesore cabinet is gone.

Here's the before shot of the sink area. It needed some updates...
You get a much better view of the giant, ugly cabinet.

And here's what it looks like today.
I added a new light fixture with 6 lights that spans across the vanity, changed out the brass knobs for some beautiful glass knobs from anthropologie, and replaced the giant cabinet with this smaller one that does the job much more effectively (and looks much better). This smaller cabinet also adds counter space for some decorative touches..

As for the details: 
These canisters are so beautiful! They sparkle even more when set on the mirror tray.

And glass knobs are such a simple way to transform the drawers and cabinets.

This rug was an unexpected and great find from Target. It matches my color scheme perfectly!

This homeowner has a large collection of fragrance sprays that look beautiful on this mirrored tray. And she also has a gorgeous collection of large seashells that work perfectly in the glass jar. I also love how the cabinet has some space underneath for every woman's bathroom necessity- the scale. We have to have one, but who wants to look at it? 

 This new light fixture is chrome to match the other chrome fixtures in the bathroom. 
Always match your metals. 

 Remember that spa tub? It had so much untapped potential...

And now you can see that actually looks like a spa. It was tempting not to start a bubble bath for myself...

 I love how this turned out!
 Another project is complete...
What on earth will I do with myself now? 

March 14, 2013

New Project Preview...

Well, I'm at it again. This time I'm giving a makeover to someone else's master bathroom and I am so excited! I've been shopping for the past few days... 

Here's a little preview of what's to come in a couple of weeks:

It'll be a mix of seaside elegance and sparkle. I can't wait to see it all come together! 

Check back for more on this project later. :-)

March 13, 2013

Spring Weather + New Baby = Fun!

The past few days have been glorious around here! Weather is just perfect for playing outside...and we have been taking advantage of it.

Our boy is fully mobile now and needs activities that burn off energy. Oh, he has so much energy! We have already started a little collection of fun outside toys, but with a very (and I mean verrrrrry) small amount of storage space for outside kid stuff, we are trying to make purchases that won't clutter up our property. You know what I mean. We all have them...the neighbors who have a million kid toys randomly strewn about their yard, with no proper place to be put away. I'm determined not to be that neighbor.

Thanks to Grandma, we have one of these amazing wagons. I love it because it folds up small enough to slide pretty much anywhere in the garage. The bottom is surprisingly sturdy and when it's set up, feels very secure. And it's BIG. It'll fit our boy plus a few more. So fun!

And bubbles! Our little one is giggles galore when I bring these out. You can't beat the price- under $1. It's almost too much fun to sit in the sunshine blowing bubbles for a happy baby (am I really an adult?). I love it!

And this hangs from a tree in our yard. It's also been a huge hit. It's super easy to install and costs around $25. For all the fun we are going to have in it, I thought it was well worth the cost. It holds up to 50 pounds of kid, too, so he won't outgrow it super fast. And it's easy to take down and put away. I like that feature (keeps it from getting dirty and moldy).

I'm sure there will be more toys added to this little collection over time. We're looking forward to practicing T-ball and basketball and football, riding trikes and bikes, running through sprinklers, and more that I can't even think of yet. One thing is sure- there is much fun in store for us!

Have a great day and enjoy the sunshine!

March 12, 2013

Recipe: Cranberry Nut Salad

Part of my life post-pregnancy is a new diet. Like it or not, salads are healthy and low on calories. I typically prefer mine with all the cheese and high-fat dressing that my little heart desires, but I'll never lose all the baby weight by eating that way...

Well, this is a salad that I absolutely love. It's also pretty healthy and takes about 2 minutes to throw together. 

I use spring mix for the lettuce mixture. It's topped with Crasins, candied nuts and blue cheese crumbles. For dressing, I like balsamic vinaigrette. A raspberry vinaigrette would be really yummy, too. 


March 11, 2013

First Trip Without Our Baby

Having a child has forced my husband and I to experience all kinds of firsts, which usually center around our baby boy. Seems the whole world centers around our little bundle now. This weekend we experienced another first- our first trip away together without our baby. I must be honest; it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. Granted, he stayed with his adoring grandma so I didn't need to worry. I've always heard stories of moms who leave their babies overnight for the first time, crying because it's so hard to be away.  Come on, you know you've heard them too. I did not experience this. In fact, I was looking forward to some time away with my Mr. Right. I was looking forward to sleeping a whole night through without having to get up for a feeding. I was looking forward to waking up well after 5:30 a.m. and actually feeling rested. And you know what? I don't feel guilty about it.

It's tough caring for a little one around the clock. Truth be told, we get exhausted! Now, I love being a mother with every ounce of my being, but I also love having a healthy marriage. That's why I don't feel guilty for letting Grandma have some bonding time with our baby while we rest and re-group. Some of the best advice we've been given since becoming parents is to keep our marriage strong, our friendship close, and our love alive. That's why we go on a date every month and it's the reason we decided to spend our first weekend away together, finally!

Don't be mistaken, I missed my boy (we both did). Sure, I called to check on him a couple of times each day. Yes, I took some pictures of him along to look at...and I looked at them several times. I missed his sweet snuggles. You guessed it, we checked out of the hotel a little early...even eating lunch in the car to shave a few minutes off the drive to pick him up from Grandma's.

But that's healthy!

Despite the pressures of our mixed-up world, our marriage actually is a higher priority than our son. If we keep that strong, we'll be better parents in the long run. What's most important is that we had time to focus on being Mr. and Mrs. for a couple of days instead of Mom and Dad around the clock. I suspect we won't regret it when our kids (present and future) are all grown up and move away. After all, we'll be stuck with each other. We might as well enjoy each other's company!

God first. Marriage second. Children third.

And as for Grandma...judging from the plethora of new baby gear at her house, I'm guessing she is up for the challenge again. :-)

So if you're a new mom and nervous about leaving your baby overnight, rest assured. As long as you've got a trusted caregiver who loves your baby, you will survive.  You might not cry. You might even have fun! And I'll bet you won't feel guilty when you wake up from that glorious, restful night of sleep!

March 5, 2013

Tea, anyone?

Naturally, after spending several years of my childhood in England, I developed a love of fine china, true antiques, and tea cups. Sometimes I have the worst craving for a proper scone topped with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Sigh. Today is one of those days.

Anyway, I've been collecting teacups since I got married (they remind me of England).

On the tray you can see three different teacup styles. The blue one is your standard English size, the white one is French, and the little pink one is Japanese. The teapot is American made and also happens to be part of my wedding china.

Here is my newest addition:

The blue goes perfectly with subtle blue accents in my dining room. So pretty!

And I absolutely love this little display rack. When I need a bit of a change, I just switch out the teacups for a new look.

Here's a fun way that my mom added to my collection: 

Measuring cups! Fun, right? 

Even more fun than displaying the pretty china is using them with friends who enjoy a good cup of English tea. :-) 

Have a great day!

March 1, 2013

Sweet Baby Feet

Sometimes it's the small things in life that I find most lovely. 
You may wonder why there are so many references to my baby's feet on this blog...  
Well, I'll share about that. 

We are so blessed to live in a day and age where 3D ultrasounds are available and affordable. This is one of the first pictures that I saw clearly of my sweet baby boy. Oh, this picture made me realize how real this whole about-to-be-a-mom thing was. I loved those little feet instantly! I marveled at how perfectly God made him. I still do. So beautiful. 

After he was born, my sister got this sweet shot. What a dream come true. His perfect little wrinkly feet, right there for me to see and touch. Wait. He hated having his feet touched. Bummer. But still adorable! Just a few hours after this picture was taken, his little feet were pricked and bandaged again and again in the NICU, 
so I treasure this because it reminds me of the few hours of normality that I had with him 

Now this picture is special because it's taken just a few weeks after our baby came home. Healthy, happy and plump, his feet are precious. There are no scars from his hospital stay, thank goodness! He loves to squeal and giggle when I tickle them. He smiles when I give them kisses. And he thinks they are a snack, as he's figured out how to put them in his mouth. 

I love being this little boy's mommy. What a precious gift.