Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hardened Hearts

Reading through Exodus today, I pondered what it means to have a hardened heart. Scripture mentions the hardened heart of Pharaoh over and over again:

Exodus 4:21
The Lord said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go."

Exodus 7:3
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt.

Exodus 7:13
Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:22
But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 8:15
But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 8:19
The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 8:32
But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

Exodus 9:12
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.

Exodus 9:34
When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.

Exodus 9:35
So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.

Exodus 10:1
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them."

Exodus 10:20
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.

Exodus 10:27
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.

Exodus 11:10
Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

Exodus 14:4
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

Exodus 14:8
The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.

Exodus 14:17
I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.

Pharaoh's heart was hard because he was unwilling to change. His people suffered plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, and flies (Ex 7-8). Their livestock died off (Ex 9). The people themselves got boils. The hail beat down the flax and the barley (Ex 9:31). The locusts ate the wheat and spelt (Ex 9:32; 10:5). Whenever the plagues would remit, however, Pharaoh would refuse to let the Israelites go.

Pharaoh's heart was hard because he was proud. God even asked him, "'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?'" (Ex 10:3). Proverbs 16:18 says that pride goes before a fall.

Pharaoh's heart was hard because he was unrepentant. He asked Moses to forgive his sin (Ex 10:17), but he never admitted his sin before God, or even acknowledged God's power. He was most likely sorry for the consequences of his sin in not letting the Israelites go. It does not appear that he was sorry for the state of his heart.

Before I beat up on Pharaoh for his hard heart, though, I must examine my own. Where am I unwilling to change? Where am I proud, thinking I know the right ways, paths, and decisions for my life. In 1 Samuel 6:6, the priests asked the Philistines, "Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way?" Am I unrepentant for my sins of not acknowledging God, of trying to be my own god, of worshipping idols? Am I truly sorry for my sins, or due I just rue their consequences? Do I have a hardened heart?

(All verses from The New International Version, 2011)


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Magazine Envelopes + "Open When" Letters

A kind friend from college sent me a special note in a unique envelope, and I just had to ask her about it. She explained that she made the envelope from a magazine page. I Google-searched the idea and found lots of ideas, but I found Creative Green Living's tutorial especially helpful.

I made an envelope or two, and then set out on a bigger project: a series of envelopes to house, "Open When" letters. "Open When" letters are a way to share thoughts and encouragement with someone far away. Simple provide a list (or a key) that tells the person when to open each letter. I used an idea I saw on Pinterest as a foundation and then used the internet to search for ideas. I came up with 25 prompts, and a series of letters that looked like this:

My friend texted me when she received the package yesterday. I am so excited for her to begin opening them. I really enjoyed this project because it combined note writing, encouragement, crafting, and using up excess (old Conde Nast Traveler magazines) all in one.

Friday, January 29, 2016

God is our Intercessor.

My mom is a prayer warrior. She taught me to pray using the ACTS model:

Adoration: Praise of God for who He is
Confession: Repentance for personal and corporate sin

Thanksgiving: Thanking God for blessings and for answered prayer
Supplication: Making requests of God

[The Moms in Prayer, "Four Steps of Prayer" article explains each step (by different names) in more depth.]

I like to use my adoration time to reflect on a specific aspect of God's character, as supported by scripture. This week, I chose to reflect on God as Intercessor. According to The Navigator's website, attribute means that, "knowing our temptations, God the Son intercedes for us. He opens the doors for us to boldly ask God the Father for mercy. Thus, God is both the initiation and conclusion of true prayer."

Below are the verses I found that reflect this attribute of God:

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Romans 8:26-27
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:34
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 7:25
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

(All verses from The New International Version, 2011)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Berry Chia Oatmeal

I really like The Oatmeal Artist’s Fruit Salad Oatmeal with Poppy Seeds. I did not have poppy seeds in my pantry, but I did have chia, so I decided to mix it with those few frozen berries I had left to see if I could replicate a similar oatmeal. Once again, the frozen berries cooked down into a rich, jam-like compote. The chia seeds thickened the oatmeal, and I enjoyed this new breakfast treat.


½ c. quick cooking oatmeal
1 c. water
1 T chia seeds
½ c. frozen berries


1. Bring water and oats to a boil and reduce heat to medium.
2. Add frozen berries and chia and cook until berries break down and oats reach desired consistency.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Afghan # 44

According to my records, this is the 44th baby afghan I have made. This goes out to a college friend who just had her second son. (Congratulations!) For this afghan, I used the Red Heart Baby Comfort Blanket pattern with light blue yarn.

Here's a closer look at the edging:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hot Chocolate Oatmeal

Continuing with my “to-go” oatmeal theme, I tried a new spin on my favorite peanut butter chocolate applesauce oatmeal. That recipe used up the last of my applesauce, so I needed a new filler. So this is what I tried.


½ c. quick cooking oatmeal
2 T flax seed
2 T cocoa powder
1/3 c. powdered milk
1 c. water


1. Bring water and oats to a boil and reduce heat to medium.
2. When oats reach desired consistency, stir in flax seed, cocoa powder, and milk powder.
3. Add additional water to thin out the oats.
4. Simmer until the flax seed has re-thickened the oats to desired consistency.

(This is a normal Saturday breakfast table for me: oatmeal, water, vitamins, my planner, and a whole lot of God’s Word and journaling to help me get a good start!)

The recipe turned out great! The flax seed (which becomes thick when mixed with water) extended my oats and gave them flavor. The cocoa powder and milk made the oatmeal rich and creamy. Another win for using up my pantry supplies.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"To-Go" Oatmeal

Going on a grocery shopping fast forced me to become more creative with meals. One “recipe” that developed from this fast was my “to-go” oatmeal jars. I really enjoy eating oatmeal for breakfast, and normally I pair it with Greek yogurt and fruit for a healthy mix of whole-grain carbohydrates and protein. Sometimes I use the yogurt to make overnight oatmeal, and sometimes I just eat the fruit and yogurt on its own. The only problem was that I didn’t have any Greek yogurt or fresh fruit in my kitchen.

I started looking in my pantry and freezer to see how I might flavor my oatmeal and find some protein. For flavor, I found ground flax seed and some frozen berries. For protein, I found some dried milk powder. When reconstituted with water, dried milk powder does not have a true milk-y flavor, so I was a little hesitant to use it. Desperate, I decided to try it anyway. I packed my:

½ c. quick cooking oatmeal
1 T flax seed
1/3 c. powdered milk
½ c. frozen berries

in a jar and took it to work for breakfast. Before microwaving, I added a cup of water. Two minutes later, I dug my spoon into a creamy bowl of warm goodness. The berries broke down into a jam like consistency and the ground flax seed gave the oatmeal some depth. This recipe was a win for my grocery fast, and a win for me in that it has become a new “go-to” recipe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Grocery Store Fast

Okay, so I was not exactly “out” of food, but I went to the grocery store last night. Sunday noon, I made tomato soup out of the last two cans of Rotel I had in my cupboard, a little bit of celery I had in the freezer and some of my housemate's onion. The soup was pretty good, but not utterly satisfying. I had not had fresh produce for days, and I desperately wanted some. At dinner, I binged on my housemate's kale salad, and then ate more kale and a little bit of butternut squash from the freezer for snack. My body was craving fresh fruits and vegetables, but I had very little. I had to squirrel away a half cup of butternut squash and a few raisins to eat as “fruit” for Monday. Other than peanut butter, a few almonds and cashews, and a bit of powdered milk, I was also out of protein sources. It was time.

I realize in my “lack, though, how very rich I was. I still had food. I could have “survived” off the food I had for days or possibly even weeks more. I just might not have felt well due to lack of vitamins and nutrients from fresh produce. This is the story of many, however. Many people do not have food. Many people do not have enough food, or good food. I am blessed.

So what did I buy at the store? Here's a look:

2 lb black beans $2.29
2 lb carrots $0.99
3 heads garlic $0.99
16 c. skim milk $2.22
3 lb oranges $2.99
4 c. 0% fat Greek yogurt $3.69
2.43 lb bananas ($0.29/lb) $0.70

2 stalks celery $1.94

I am trying to eat “in season” as much as I can, so I am proud of myself for buying oranges. They are not my favorite fruit, but surely I can eat them. They are also one of the cheapest fruits at this time of year. With the black beans, carrots, garlic, and celery, along with some leftover ketchup I have in the fridge, I hope to make Budget Byte's slow cooker black bean soup. That sound keep me in vegan protein for awhile. I can also eat carrot and celery sticks to get my produce fix. Bananas make great additions to oatmeal for breakfast, and the milk and Greek yogurt give me more protein. I like to freeze Greek yogurt with peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips for a sweet treat, so that gives me a dessert option. I still have some of that Rotel tomato soup, along with some pumpkin bread and leftover Thai restaurant food. My housemate said I can still eat her kale salad, and we have leftover pancakes from house dinner tonight (a new tradition—throw in whatever leftovers you have to feed the crowd and get rid of excess food). I've still got a lot of overcooked granola, which is not as bad as I thought it was. I can eat that for snacks. After two weeks and a day of buying no groceries, I look forward to “feasting” for the next while.

What have I learned? I keep a lot more food on hand than I think I do. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I need to be careful to put my faith and security in God, not in my food-stores. Having less food forces me to be more creative. I actually came up with some good recipes, especially "to-go" oatmeal jars, berry chia oatmeal, and hot chocolate flax seed oatmeal. I heard something on the radio yesterday about being careful what you do because people are watching you. Though my housemates did not join me in my grocery shopping fast, I think it did impact them. One housemate came up with the house leftover dinner idea. We originally planned to buy food to make new recipes for this night, but we realized we did not need to. We can eat the food we have and still have a great spread and enjoy ourselves. (We had cilantro lime black bean cauliflower rice, pumpkin curry, and garlic cheese herb biscuits for house dinner last week, which made enough for several lunch meals as well.) When I shopped, I thought more about what I bought and how I could use it up, rather than stockpiling it. The specialty aisles at Aldi tempted me less because I realized I would need to use up what I buy. Why buy something new (e. g. that cool-sounding “coconut spread”) when I already have something like it (virgin coconut oil) in my cupboard? I feel wealthy with the $20 in groceries I bought. Practicing self-discipline is a skill I need to continue to develop. And you know what? It's kind of fun to find new and creative ways to be thrifty with grocery spending. So much of life is about perspective!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Peanut Butter Chocolate Applesauce Oatmeal

My All-Time Favorite Oatmeal Recipe

If you know me, you know I love oatmeal. After stumbling across The Oatmeal Artist's Blog a few years ago, I started becoming more creative with my oatmeal. I tried the Brownie Batter Oatmeal and learned that adding cocoa powder to oatmeal is a beautiful thing. Next, I tried the Sweet Potato Fudge Oatmeal and found that stirring other foods into my oatmeal wasn't such a bad idea. One night, in desperate search for something rich and chocolate-y, I tried my own version of these recipes: Peanut Butter Chocolate Applesauce Oatmeal. Since then, it's been my go-to recipe for a decadent, but healthy breakfast or snack.


1/2 c quick cooking oatmeal
1 c water
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
2 T natural peanut butter


1. Bring water and oats to a boil and reduce heat to medium. (I find that cooking my oats in the water from the beginning makes them creamier.)
2. When oats reach the desired consistency, stir in the cocoa powder and applesauce. Simmer oatmeal on low until some of the liquid from the applesauce absorbs and the oats become thick and rich.
3. Transfer oatmeal to a bowl (or cup, as in my case) and top with the peanut butter.


Yes, I often eat oatmeal out of a cup. It keeps the oats warm longer and makes the oatmeal conveniently portable. A special friend gave me this Wonder Woman cup and I use it often.

Others Above Self

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Phil 2:3-4, New International Version [NIV])”

I'm struggling tonight. I'd say I'm “on the struggle bus,” but that's not necessarily kind to the real people who ride special busses. I'm struggling because I want to be selfish, because I want to care about myself more than others. I want to make this verse say that I value myself and others, but it says to “value others above [myself] (Phil 2:3). The Message [MSG] translation reads, “Put yourself aside and help others get ahead” (Phil 2:3-4) I can do that in the counseling room, but not in real life.

In real life, I feel like I'm constantly trying to survive, constantly fighting to be calm and even-tempered, and I think I have to be selfish to do it. “I have to protect myself,” I say. “I have to practice self-care.” Yes, and Yes. These verses do not say to abase myself, but to value others more than myself, so I have to value myself some. Self-care does lead to others-care. But selfishness does not lead to the kind of selflessness God desires. It does not lead to the kind of sacrifice that creates unity in the church and in the body of God (Guzik). Selfishness puts me first when I need to put God first.

Oh, how I want to be my best advocate, my greatest cheerleader, but that's not my calling. I am “chosen” in Christ to be His servant, His vehicle for showing His love to the world (Eph 1:11). Serving in that role means putting myself aside, trusting in God to take care of me instead of trusting only myself. It means looking for excellence in others, rather than tooting my own horn (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown). It means laying aside my passions and ambitions for God's, trying to see the best in others and help them achieve their God-given potentials. But even in this, I can be selfish. I can put others ahead and try to tag-along behind them. That's not what the verse says. Look not “to your own interests,” it says (Phil 2:4). Oh, have I got a lot of learning and loving to do! Help me, Jesus.


Guzik, D. (2006). Humble living in light of Jesus' humble example. In Study Guide for Philippians 2. Retrieved from

Fausett, A. R. (n. d.) The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians. In Commentary on Philippians 2. Retrieved from 

The List

16 Things I'd Like to Do in 2016

(Not that I'll do all these, but I'd at least like to try)

1) GO! on a cruise.
2) Stop checking e-mail on my phone while at work.
-“Constantly being available on e-mail reduces your sense of control” (Pevzner, 2016, p. 127).

3) Use more glass storage containers and less plastic (Liddon, 2016).
4) Find my rambunctious side again.
5) Memorize some new scripture, or at least review the old. (Ps 119:105).
6) Clean out the pantry (fridge, freezer, et. al) and go on a grocery spend fast until it is done (Shinabarger, 2013; Wiest, 2015a).
7) Purge excess. Soak up blessing (Shinabarger, 2013; Wiest, 2015, November; Wiest, 2015a).
8) Run a 5K.
9) Embrace the quiet (Lindley, 2016).
10) Pursue counseling licensure.
11) Rest (Ps 46:10; Matt 11:28-29).
•“Pace yourself ….Make physical relaxation a priority – no matter what you’re doing....It is not the quantity of what we accomplish, but the quality of it” (Wiest, 2015a).

12) Trim down the processed. Bulk up the produce. (In my diet)
13) Bullet journal plan—streamline my to-do list (Bullet journal; Wiest, 2015b)
14) Finish the books I have (Every Thought Captive  and How We Love) and read more (Wiest, 2015, November; Wiest, 2015a).
15) Spend time with and love the people around me (John 13:35; Wiest, 2015a). 
•Send notes. Pay compliments. Give unexpected gifts. Cancel personal plans in lieu of hang-out time. Whatever it takes.
16) Blog. Instagram. Something. (Experiment.) 
•I need to share more with the world (1 Pet 3:15). I need to document and record God's blessings for myself (Ps 103:2).

Bullet journal: The analog system for the digital age. (2016). Retrieved
Clark, J. (2006). Every thought captive: Battling the toxic beliefs that separate us from the life we crave. Colorado Springs, CO: Th1nk.
Liddon, A. (2016, January 3). Daily habits for happiness. Retrieved from .
Lindley, J. K. (2016, January). Can I have some peace and quiet? Real Simple, pp. 79-82.
Pevnzner, H. (2016, January). Real Simple, pp. 122-127.
Shinabarger, J. (2013). More or less: Choosing a lifestyle of excessive generosity. Colorado Spring, CO: David C. Cook.
Wiest, B. (2015a). 16 goals to set for the new year that are more about enjoying what you have than chasing down what you don't. Retrieved from
Wiest, B. (2015b). 26 things every person should do for themselves at least once a year.. Retrieved from
Yerkovich, M., & Yerkovich, K. (2008). How we love: Discover our love style; enhance your marriage. Colorado Spring, CO: Waterbrook Press.