Friday, May 12, 2017

Boaz' 3rd Birthday

Boaz turned three last Saturday. He is the sweetest little boy - always happy and good natured, with a huge big tender heart. He has brought our entire family so much joy in his short life so far.



The day before his birthday, as we usually do, we went to put flowers on his twin brother's grave site in memory of their birthday. This is the only time every year we go there. Afterward, we always go peach picking at a local u-pick orchard that has been a family favorite of ours for many years. They also have a playground, train, petting zoo, and many other wonderful activities that give an upbeat ending to the outing. I am hoping it is the right amount of keeping the memory alive rather than making it seem like a taboo subject, without forcing him to think about something he might never feel strongly about.


This was the first year that Boaz grasped the concept of having had a twin brother, death, and heaven. He is starting to ask questions but is usually very upbeat as he does so.

I let him pick the flowers and three balloons. A lady at the store thought he was so cute she bought him another one and wished him Happy Birthday :)

Boaz got more somber once we got to the cemetery, but he was thrilled to discover that there is a little teddy bear on the headstone. He really likes bears these days since hearing the book "The Bears on Hemlock Mountain" about a dozen or more times. He likes to call us 'Mother Bear' and 'Father Bear' often, which is our cue to refer to him only as 'Little Bear'. It's very cute.





He kept saying, "I feel so bad for Jachin. I feel so bad for Jachin." I told him Heaven was a far better place, and that Jachin was much happier to be there watching over him. I am comforted to know Boaz thinks life in our family is so much fun that he doesn't want his brother missing out on it. 



Maybe you have wondered what it is like to only have one surviving twin. I can only speak to my own experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is what I imagine it would be like to lose one eye. I can still see with one eye, it is not near as bad as losing both eyes, not even half as bad - but I am always, always aware that I only have one left. I am thankful the boys are identical so I never have to wonder what Jachin would have looked like at any given age. Most of all, I am thankful not only for the promise of Heaven and one day seeing them both side by side, alive and well, but also for the peace of God in this life. I have seen other moms in twin loss groups online, and have had to leave them because it was too sad to see them struggle so. It is easy to guess which of the grieving moms know the Saviour, and which ones don't. Those who don't are consumed more and more by their grief and the eternal question, "Why?" I am plagued by neither. I have my precious Boaz, and the knowledge that this life will pass in the blink of an eye and we shall meet again.



Boaz had fun releasing the balloons and 'sending them to heaven for Jachin.' In all, it was a happy and memorable morning.






The next day was Boaz' actual birthday. He slept in, and was still a little too tired for pictures when he first got up.



Pretty soon, he was his chipper self and ready to open presents. I took a picture of him with each sibling and the gift they gave him. He is a very loved little boy!













For breakfast, Boaz had asked for birthday cake, and even though I had balked at the thought I of course obliged. You can find the recipe here.



The little kids had fun playing with the tent that was one of his gifts from us parents.



This past week, we have been blessed with incredibly beautiful, cool, and even rainy weather that is unheard of in our area this time of year. The kids have had many hours of playing outdoors in their tent pretending to be anything from Indians to Egyptian pharaohs.  

The next birthday is Chloe's first birthday less than a week away, next Thursday. She is accompanying us parents on a trip to Maine for a soulwinning marathon that Friday. Miriam is coming along for an extra set of helping hands, and because with a family our size, we like to single out one or two each time to bring on out-of-town trips. The kids are hurrying up to finish their school books early (I once again offered a $5 bonus for each week they finish up earlier than planned) so we are just about to move on to summer with its relaxed schedule, extra activities, and ice cream. I am so thankful for God's countless blessings in our lives.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recipe for German Lemonade Cake

This cake has been a family favorite for at least four generations. It was the traditional birthday cake we had growing up, and it is what I make for my own kids now.

When I say 'Lemonade Cake' it really should more accurately be called 'Orangeade Cake,' but that just doesn't have the same nice ring to it. 

You see, in German, 'Limonade' means any type of soda. Most sodas are made from fruit juice plus carbonated water, and orange juice is the most common choice among those. The closest thing I can compare it to is Pellegrino orange or blood orange soda. In fact, both are great choices for this cake. 




Then there is the chocolate frosting. There is no way to accurately describe this frosting without doing it injustice. It is, at its core, the most delectable frosting in the universe. Period. The magic in transforming its simple ingredients into perfection is to follow the directions exactly, or it will not whip up smooth and creamy but clumpy and flat. Easy directions, but they must be followed to a T. 

Also, to warn American sensibilities, the frosting contains an egg. A raw egg. You may think it is only by the grace of God and many miracles that after hundreds of instances of my grandma, her six kids and all their descendants, and now myself and my family eating this cake we have not ever fallen ill or died from eating it, but it's true. I lived to tell about it! Raw eggs are not inherently dangerous! Chickens that live in squalid unnatural conditions might fall sick with E. coli, which could end up on the outside of the egg, which could end up in your frosting and go downhill from there, but rather than rejecting the raw egg, just buy from a reputable source of pasture-fed chickens. Or choose a pasteurized egg (only in America, lol!). Or take your life into your own hands and use a regular ol' cheap egg. The chances of getting sick from it are near zero because all eggs in stores are washed, washed, and washed again. You could even give it one more rinse yourself before using it. 

Who knew a recipe could get this political just in the intro??!? Without further ado, here is the recipe:




German Lemonade Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sunflower oil or melted butter
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup (blood) orange soda or orange juice mixed 50:50 with carbonated water

For the frosting: 
2 sticks + 2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs


Directions

For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x13 baking dish.

2. Mix together eggs and sugar. While the mixer is running, add the oil/melted butter and vanilla. Turn the mixer off, dump the flour and baking powder into the bowl, and slowly start mixing again while pouring the soda into the cake batter. Turn mixer off as soon as the batter is well combined. 

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges are turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Completely cool cake in the pan before frosting.

For the frosting: 

1. Melt the butter completely and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool down to room temperature or a little warmer. This is critical! The recipe will not work with just softened butter - the butter has to be melted and warm, but not hot (that would make the egg curdle).

2. Add powdered sugar and cocoa to the bowl, and beat with electric egg beaters or an immersion (stick) blender until well combined. 

3. Add eggs to frosting and continue to beat. You will see the frosting become smooth and creamy immediately. 

To finish:

1. Frost the cooled cake while the frosting is still soft. 

2. Add colored sprinkles (we love these).

3. Enjoy! The cake tastes best at room temperature. If you have to store it for an extended period of time, do so tightly covered in the fridge, but allow the cake to come to room temperature again before serving.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Mama Bear bragging

I know other moms think their babies are cute, and that's ok. The difference with me is that my kids really are the cutest...  ;)



 


I sure struck a winning combo between my husband's gene pool and mine!


 Miriam staged and took this artsy shot of Becca. I think she has a talent for photography.



Please don't mind my shameless picture overload of my beautiful baby girl, sweet little Chloe Pearl.



She finally sprouted her first two teeth!






What's that old saying? "There is only one cute baby in the world, and every mother has it." True dat!



Chloe looks like my grandma is this one 





See what I mean? That right there is the cutest baby ever - right up there with my eight other babies!








Friday, May 5, 2017

15 ways to be a blessing to your Pastor's wife (and a real-life application)

I have been thinking about writing this post for over two years, but have always shied away from it. By necessity, this post will be candid. Being a pastor's wife (PW) myself, I do not want to come across as directing points at anyone in particular, nor do I want to give the impression that being a pastor's wife is a burden. My husband and I are blessed by a church that has always made us feel loved, appreciated, and has held us in high regard. Thus, many of the points below do not apply to me in the first place.

But - the majority of my readers do not go to our church, therefore I am not their pastor's wife. These readers may be interested in and benefit from the "behind-the-scenes" points I and other PW's have gleaned without feeling like I am grinding some sort of personal ax.

Some time ago, I asked in a Facebook group for independent Baptist pastor's wives for ideas on 'how to be a blessing to your pastor's wife'. I was surprised how this topic was immediately picked up and eagerly commented on. It was obvious it had struck a chord with many of my fellow PWs.

In I Timothy 5, verse 2 the Bible advises us to treat "elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity." Without trying to be offensive or belittling, the closest thing I can compare pastoring to is that of raising a family. Some of the family members are more mature, and others are "babes in Christ". The pastor is the shepherd of this flock. In accordance with I Timothy 3, he is not even qualified to hold this position unless he is married to a godly Christian and has children that are in subjection. Ready or not, people look to the wife of the pastor for guidance and an example.

Yet, even as the Bible outlines specific requirements for deacons' wives (a deacon would be our modern-day assistant pastor) and for Christian women in general, it never lists any specific requirements or roles for the pastors' wives. I am sure they still apply - grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things - but I have to wonder if God did not make specific mention of them because He knew people would have high and sometimes unattainable expectations of their pastor's wife even without them being outlined in the Bible.

A pastor's wife, is, first and foremost a wife. Her first duty besides God is the same as that of all other wives - her husband, then the children, her household, and only after that outside obligations, which any work for church would fall under.

I am thankful that my husband does not expect me to do any work for church - zero - and never has. And while it is true that I do work for church every week, and did so even more in the past when my family was smaller and we did not have any staff to help, my contributions are voluntary. I am giving of my time and efforts just like other people in the church are, of their own free will as an offering unto the Lord, because we believe that doing so will benefit others, not because we 'have to.'

If you have a church that you love, and a pastor that preaches the truth and upholds the Bible whether it's popular or not, rest assured that they are fighting battles you will never see nor hear about. You can be an asset and a blessing, or a burden to your pastor, depending on your actions. One very effective way to be a blessing to him is by being a blessing to his wife and children. You can fill the cups of those who fill his cup, as it were, so that they in turn can pour out unto him and he back to the congregation by way of preaching, teaching, and his work in the church.

On that note, here are 15 ways  to be a blessing to your pastor's wife:


1. Pray for her and her family

One of the best ways to be a blessing to your pastor and his family is to pray for them, even if it is only a short prayer for protection and blessing. As a family, they face many trials that they will never talk about outside the home, but rest assured that pretty much at any given moment, they are facing a battle on some front.  Just knowing that other are always praying for them is a huge comfort.


2. Respect her husband

Don't make jokes or complain about her husband to her. If you loved the sermon, let her know. Don't criticize him or her kids to her or to others. If you have a legitimate concern, go to them first and give them a chance to give their side on an issue. If someone says hurtful things about their husbands or kids, it hurts PWs just like anyone else. Do not try to drive a wedge between her and her husband. In the same vein, do not put her in an awkward position by complaining about your husband/wife or kids to her, or airing your dirty laundry for shock value.

3. Send her notes of encouragement

You could let her know if you think she is doing a great job or otherwise encourage her. Text her every now and then just to tell her your praying for her. Don't expect a reply, but rest assured your message will put a smile on her face and brighten her day.

4. Don't expect her to be your BFF

As much as you may enjoy feeling like you are your PW's best friend, imagine how you would feel if you knew you weren't, and that someone else was. Even among a moderately-sized congregation, the PW would not have time to cultivate deep, exclusive friendships with some people without compromising her care and concern for others. For the benefit of all involved, you should not expect your PW to give you or anyone else "best friend" status. If you love spending time with her, the best way to be able to be around her is to offer to help her with the work around the church or her home, whether that's cleaning, decorating, or just showing up for a ladies’ event.
  

5. Realize she goes through different seasons in life

Like all of us, the wife of the pastor might go through seasons that are more challenging than others, especially if she is in her childbearing years. This could be due to sickness, pregnancy, financial stress, certain trials in the ministry, her children's ever-changing needs, marital strains, or a host of other reasons. She may be less available to help and counsel during these times than during others when she can give more freely of her time. Please do not take personal offense if your PW seems to be taking less of an interest during this time, or compare what she does for you to what she did for someone else at another time. 


6. Realize her time is limited

Even in a perfect world, when everything is going smoothly, your PW like all of us only has a certain amount of time each day. Respect her time. She's a mom and wife first and foremost. Don't expect that she can or wants to meet every need that you have. If everyone in the church called her every time they had a problem, she wouldn't be able to minister to her own family. Be respectful of their family time. They give so much time to the church - allow them to have their own family day (unless there is a major emergency). Most pastors try to take it easy on Mondays, as they are extra busy with church work on weekends and understandably exhausted.


7. Participate in activities she plans

If you can't or don't want to go, don't announce it loudly in an attempt to discourage others. If you have RSVP'ed for an activity, unless you have a truly compelling emergency, please be sure to show up, especially if it is one that costs money for each attendee like a field trip or tea party.


8. Do not stab her in the back

Go to her when you have a problem with her (or better yet, just get over it) - in either case don't just stand in the back and talk about her. Be her bulldog and stand up for her when others criticize her. Refuse to participate in trash-talking her or any of the other church members. Do not engage in drama. Always be the biggest cheerleader for the church, pastor and family. Lift them up rather than tear them down. Be friendly but respectful. Teach your children to call her Mrs. _______.


9. Find out her love language and show her love that way.

Remember her birthday and her children's birthdays, their wedding anniversary, and the church anniversary. Tell her if you think she is doing a good job. Thank her for things she does. Your PW might be one that likes to get hugs now and then, or she may really enjoy going out for a cup of coffee with you. On the other hand, she might be much too introverted for either of those ideas. You could find out what her favorite restaurants, grocery stores, or shops are and give gift cards. You could find out what her hobbies are and get her something she enjoys, like books, supplies, etc.This may seem carnal, but it might be the only time your PW can enjoy those things. 
 

10. Volunteer to help

Be zealous about volunteering when help is needed. Be the first to raise your hand. One huge area there are never enough volunteers for is cleaning.  If you see something in the church that needs done, maybe ask if you can do it. Help with all the small stuff without being asked - empty a trash can, wipe down a sink, replenish the coffee station. Share your ideas and be ready to work on projects together.


11. Make a meal for the family on a busy week

Remember they are church members too. Death, sickness, and surgeries come to the pastor's home too.  Understand that they are human and go through the same struggles as everyone else does. Even just unexpectely getting pizza delivered is a huge blessing!


12. Respect their family finances

Don't go to the pastor for a loan. He cannot legally give church money that came in the offering plate to private people to help them out in a pinch with their rent money, bills, etc. If your pastor does give you money, realize it is coming out of his wallet just as if you asked anyone else. Please think twice about asking for money from your pastor who may be supporting more people on his income than most others in the church are. Do not try to police how and on what the pastor's family spends their money. Different people have different priorities. They might buy used clothes all year round but splurge for new holiday clothes. They may prefer to spend their money on trips rather than toys. They may want to drive an old clunker to save money, or a new vehicle to save headaches. Bottom line, it's not anyone's business but their own how the pastor spends his paycheck.


13. Be respectful of her and her family's personal space

Don't move into a house so close to theirs that they see you every day and their kids share the park with your kids now. The pastor and his wife might want to take a walk around the neighborhood in the evening without being watched or overhead talking to each other. They need their own space and already feel like they live in a glass house with everyone watching every move they make. Don't move within sight of them. And please don't follow the PW into the bathroom at church to talk to her - she already gets that from her kids at home ;)  


14. Be kind to her children

Love them and treat her children as you do the other children in the church. Don't give them special treatment because they are the pastors kids, but don't make things harder for them because they are the pastors kids. Don't expect her children to not act like children. Don't expect her kids to be your kids' best friends.

15. Remember that she is human

Your PW does not have it in for you. She loves you and prays for you. She serves your pastor so he can better serve you. Be quick to forgive as she is not faultless. Do not have unrealistic expectations of her. Don't compare her to any other pastor's wives. Let her be human and have fun too. Ministry can be one of the loneliest places to be. Sometimes ladies are afraid to invite the PW to different activities that aren't church related. We do enjoy being with others and having adult conversations about things other than the Bible, children, and other people's problems! It's nice to be treated as a "normal" lady at times. Talk to her like you would talk to other ladies at church.


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And now for a real-life application, I am excited to share with you all that I am putting together gift baskets / care packages for the following pastor's wives: Mrs. Berzins, Mrs. Jimenez, Mrs. Perry, and Mrs. Romero.

My goal is to be an encouragement and a blessing to them. You may have guessed that being married to the men on the front lines of the spiritual/cultural war is not always stress-free and fun. We know our labor is not in vain in the Lord, but having tangible reminders that we are not alone in this is both encouraging as well as plain helpful. 

If there is anything you would like to contribute to put into these baskets, please mail them to me at:

Faithful Word Baptist Church
c/o Mrs. Anderson
2741 W Southern Ave. Suite 14
Tempe, AZ 85282

You could include anything from a heartfelt note to a gift. These baskets will be presented to the pastor's wives in person. The ladies will be traveling home by plane so please bear that in mind (no liquids over 3.4 oz, nothing overly heavy or bulky, etc.). The 'deadline' to send cards or gifts to the address above is the first week of August.


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Your turn - how do you like to be a blessing to your pastor's wife? What is the best way others have encouraged and built you up?

  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Easter 2017

Easter typically marks the beginning of swimming season for our family. Our tradition for years has been that the boys get new swim clothes and the girls get new dresses on this occasion.

This year however, with the holiday falling later than usual in the year, the kids had already started swimming a month ago. They big boys still had tons of swim gear from last year so I decided to get them a bean bag floatie for the pool instead. It is filled with styrofoam pellets rather than inflated, which is great because traditional pool toys don't last long around the cactus by our pool!





The girls got new dresses as usual. We buy almost all of our clothes used, but I do make an exception for their Christmas and Easter dresses. I have really fallen in love with the store Gymboree, the only one that seems to have clothes in a wide enough size range to match all four of my girls. The girls opted for matching theme rather than identical dresses. I thought they looked adorable!







You would be reasonable to assume the sun must have been in the kids' eyes. You would also be incorrect. They were facing due west, with the sun completely behind their back. Anna and Chloe were apparently the only kids who did not got the memo that they were all supposed to keep their eyes shut for this photo shoot.




















For the Easter meal, I got off the hook big time this year! Friends from church invited us to come over after the morning service and eat with them, and I didn't bring anything! Not even the flowers I had bought for the hostess... ahem. 







They also organized an egg hunt, died eggs with the little kids without getting any paint on their clothes (how is that even possible??!), and took more pictures of my squinting kids.






We all went home for a food-induced nap before church in the evening.