Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Are Blessed

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

Recently my pastor (aka my dad) gave out the challenge of being thankful for our spiritual blessings. He wanted us to think of a spiritual blessing for each of the letters in the word THANKFUL and back each blessing up with a scripture. I wasn't able to complete my assignment before our discussion this past Sunday but I found this exercise very rewarding and thought I would share. I came up with several answers for each letter but I am only going to share one for each because I want to encourage you to do this as well. We have so much to be thankful for every day, every moment. As the verse in Ephesians says, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every last one. Sometimes it doesn't quite feel that way, does it? And that's exactly why it is so important to stop and literally count and recount our blessings. I'm starting tonight with these eight spiritual blessings:

T—I am thankful for our TRIUMPH in Christ.

Romans 8:35-37—Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

H—I am thankful for the HOME waiting for us.

John 14:2-3—In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

A—I am thankful for our ACCEPTANCE in Christ.

Romans 15:5-7—May the god who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unit among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

N—I am thankful there is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ!

Romans 8:1-2—Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

K—I am thankful for chance to KNOW CHRIST.

Philippians 3:8-11—What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

F—I am thankful for the FORTRESS we have in God.

Psalm 18:1-2—I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

U—I am thankful for Christ's UNDERSTANDING of our weakness.

Hebrews 4:15—For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

L—I am thankful for the LIGHT OF THE WORLD
John 8:12—When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Okay, now it's your turn!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'Tis The Season...

...for redecorating!

I've made some changes to my blog design and decor, so for all of you subscribers to Google Reader--you really should click on over to the real thing and check out the excitement!  Okay, maybe it's not that exciting for you, but personally, I. Love. It.  Yep, I just went all super-cool on you and used the periods for emphasis.  What is the world coming to?

You will notice that my blog now has TWO sidebars.  That's right, thanks to the lovely people over at The Cutest Blog On The Blog, I managed to edit the HTML in my template and create TWO glorious sidebars to fill up with all manner of widgets, gadgets, and whatnot.  I have not yet had time to organize my sidebars and add new things yet, so don't be alarmed to see things moving around or magically appearing and disappearing.

And, yes, I decorated for Christmas BEFORE Thanksgiving.  I know, I know.  But I just couldn't wait any longer!  I've been wanting to redesign my blog with three columns for a while now and once I started playing around with it tonight, I couldn't help but go all the way.  My previous fall background didn't fit my three-column layout, so I was forced to choose a Christmas theme.  Okay, okay.  Who am I kidding?  I absolutely LOVE Christmas and pretty much NEVER make it to Thanksgiving without listening to Christmas music.  This holiday-themed designed makes me smile big every time I see it.  I hope it does the same for you.

I even added a few of my favorite Christmas songs into the music player (which is currently located in my top right sidebar, but I make no promises as to where it will be located when you try to find it!), so just press the play button if you'd like to add a little holiday serenade to your blog-reading experience.

Enjoy your visit and let me know if something is hard to find, doesn't work right, or needs a little tweaking.  I have no idea how to fix those things, but there is a chance I can find out!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Her Name Is Venti

For six years I have been the proud sponsor of a little girl through Compassion International. A little girl who lives across the world in Indonesia. A little girl who has grown up in abject poverty. A little girl who is just shy of her 13th birthday. A little girl whose name is Venti.

I have been meaning to tell you about Venti for a while now but it just hasn't happened. Tonight I have no choice. Tonight my heart is broken for my sweet, beautiful Venti who has almost nothing and yet has lost more than I can imagine.

I got a letter from Venti today. It was dated July 29, 2009. It's not unusual for our letters to take a few months to reach each other. That's one of the many hard things about loving, praying for, and believing in a child who lives a world away. But still we keep at it, wishing each other Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or Happy Easter even when we know those special occasions will be three or four months in the past before our blessings reach the other's heart. Tonight, though, I would give almost anything to take back the four months that have passed since Venti wrote these words:

Dear Sister Courtney,

Thank you for the letter and picture. I keep the picture. I like the picture very much. I feel sad at the moment because my dearest mom has passed away. The picture from Sister has become my courage. Please pray for me, Sister, that God will give me strength. I believe she is now with Jesus and I will meet her someday. I can feel how Sister was feeling when you were left by your friend a few months ago. I will continue praying for Sister. Let us pray for each other that God will keep on encouraging us, Sister. I hope everything goes well with you. Please send my warm regards for your friends and family.

I will always miss you, Sister.


Now more than ever, I long to wrap this little girl in my arms and tell her I love. To cry with her, pray with her, whisper hope and blessings in her ear. Instead, it will be three more months before she will even read the words "I am so sorry. I love you. Please don't lose hope."

I have to be honest. After reading Venti's letter three times to be sure something hadn't been lost in the translation, my first thought was this: "God, how could you? Hasn't she suffered enough?" Yes, she has.

But the truth is that Venti is only one in a million. Make that many millions. Millions who have been born into nothing and still end up losing everything.

Venti, though she has already suffered much, is one of the few children who have hope. Venti, through the incredible work of Compassion International, is being released from poverty in the name of Jesus. And Venti has already been set free from the penalty of sin by Jesus himself.

Yes, Venti has suffered. Yes, Venti has lost too much. Yes, Venti has an uphill battle in front of her. But Venti belongs to a Father who will never leave her. And that means Venti has hope.

Please join me in praying for this little girl who has lost her mom. Pray for her dad who has lost his wife. Pray for the Compassion staff that they would know how to minister to Venti and give her hope. Pray that my letter would reach her quickly. Pray that she would not lose heart. Pray that God would wrap her in His arms of comfort and protection. Please just pray.

And if you feel compelled to give a child hope, please visit the Compassion International website and sponsor a child. I don't know if it will change your life. But it absolutely will change the future for a child who is currently lost among the millions.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cranberry Mandarin Sauce

Last weekend I discovered a delicious cranberry-mandarin sauce which shall henceforth become my official holiday sauce. And honestly, I may just eat it all year long. It's that good. I made it to accompany the spiral-cut ham we served at our church Luau Dinner last Sunday, but I think it would go equally well with chicken or turkey—and I dare say it would also be a mighty fine ice cream topping. Of course, it's great straight off the spoon, too! In case you, too, would like to add this fabulous sauce to your holiday meals, here's the recipe:

1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 can (16 oz) whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (canned), drained and cut in small pieces

Mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and cloves in sauce pan. Gradually stir in cranberry juice and orange juice. Cook over medium heat until fairly thick, stirring frequently. Stir in the whole berry cranberry sauce until it dissolves. Stir in mandarin orange pieces and serve.

As a side note, we were joking about coming up with a name for this sauce by combining "cranberry" and "mandarin." We came up with Man-Berry Sauce. And the name stuck. Probably permanently. So enjoy this fabulous Man-Berry Sauce with your next holiday meal. It smells AND tastes amazing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And The Winner Is...

I know you've all been waiting FOREVER for me to announce the winner of the scarf giveaway.  I'm a little slow.  Or a little busy.  Or a whole lot busy.  In any case, I decided to do this the old-fashioned way.  I actually wrote down each person's name on a slip of paper, put them in a hat, mixed them all up, and then drew out a name without looking.  It just seemed kind of silly to use a random-number generator when there were only eight entries to choose from.  So without further prolongation of your agonizing wait, the winner of the very first giveaway on Growing Is Beautiful is...

Mama Griffith from The Great Griffith Caper!

Congratulations, Mama Griffith!  Send your mailing address to Courtney AT GrowingIsBeautiful DOT com and I promise to get your scarf in the mail before too awfully long.

To everyone who entered and didn't win, I feel terrible!  And I'm not just saying that.  If Christmas wasn't coming up in a mere 50 days, I would be tempted to make something for ALL of you.  I guess I will just have to plan on having many more blog giveaways in the future so you will all get a chance to win. 

Happy Thursday to all of you and if you don't hear from me for a while, remember that I'm slow.  And a little busy.  Okay, a whole lot busy!