Wednesday, November 7, 2012

PLEASE stop assuming the gospel is understood...

I grew up in the church.  My Dad is still pastoring the church that I grew up in.  I went to a Christian school.  As a young person I was immersed in church, 24/7.

And yet, for so long I THOUGHT I knew the gospel.  I figured that because I was saved I could mentally check out at church/school/youth group anytime someone shared the gospel.  It wasn't for me.  I didn't need it.  It was for my non believing friends or whatever.

After a while, some of my teachers (not just at school but any of those who were in a position of authority in my life) caught on.  They stopped teaching the gospel to me.  They assumed I didn't need it anymore.  Instead we talked about Bible characters or biblical principles.  Things that are supposed to full of gospel but some how they just weren't.

As a clear disclaimer, I want to say that it is totally possible that the gospel was in all of those lessons and I just wasn't getting it because of my hard heart.  But now that, by God's grace, my heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh, I hear lessons, messages, and sermons where the gospel is still absent.  I find that my heart of flesh is desperate to hear and speak the gospel at all times.  But why is it missing?!

A couple of things happened recently that stirred up these thoughts of mine.  A couple of weeks ago, I attended a training conference hosted by a well known Christian organization.  The conference was full of helpful tips on how to do ministry better.  We sat under teaching that showed a biblical framework for the kind of discipleship that this organization promotes.  It was really wonderful stuff!  But where was the gospel shared?!  In a 30 minute break out session via VHS video tape.  Thats right, I said it.  VHS.  I also recently sat in amongst a group of people who have experienced a very similar childhood and youth to my own.  I found that most of these people were fumbling around with what the Gospel really is.  They couldn't articulate it.  Even after we heard the gospel shared with dramatic and gripping biblical references.

I left both of these settings feeling a bit disappointed.  I want to be the kind of person that hears the gospel in every message.  Even more, I want to be the kind of person that shares the gospel in every conversation I have with people.  As I examine my own heart, I find that I assume the gospel doesn't need to be shared anymore with certain family and friends.  I either figure that its easier not to share it because it might make things uncomfortable, or that there isn't anything that any of us can learn by talking about the gospel together anymore, or maybe some other foolish idea that causes me to think something else is more important to talk about.  How do we all get this so wrong!

Well isn't that just the gospel itself right there?!  Its not about what we do.  We are actually powerless to do anything.  We can't save ourselves from sin.  We can't earn our way to heaven.  We can't share the gospel or talk about in a way that will cause anyone to believe/trust/repent.  For us it is impossible!  Jesus had this to say in the gospel of Matthew, "...with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  And so I am stopping to ask (because that I know I can do :P).  I am asking God to once again change my heart and mind.  I am asking him to work in and through me so that I won't assume the gospel anymore.  I am asking him to give me eyes to see and ears to hear.  And lastly I am asking him to give me the words to say to everyone I meet that my life and others might be changed by what HE has to say.

Friday, October 19, 2012

False Gospel Fridays: I need the Gospel everyday

True words, no matter how soft, can often be offensive.  I had that experience while on retreat recently with some women from my church.  One of my fellow retreaters, remind me oh so very gentley how important it is to remember that the Father delights in me (in all of us actually) and that I should not feel condemned by my sin.  These incredibly true and powerful words are at the very heart of the gospel message.  And yet when they were shared with me, my pride was set off and I began to feel the need to explain that of course I don't feel condemned, I just feel the need to confess my sin, I KNOW better than to feel condemned.  I could even cite Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ..."

It took me the rest of day to receive God's grace that was extended to me through a sister in Christ.  And as I began to see through my own pride I felt reminded of how important the gospel is for us all!  For believers and non believers or unbelievers or anyone really the gospel is life!  I need the gospel spoken to me each day, many times a day in fact!  And I especially need it when feeling convicted of my sin.  In fact it is the gospel message that leads me from conviction and confession to restoration with God rather than condemnation.  Because the gospel is this...that "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were sinners, Christ died for us."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Salvation Stories

Today I had a great conversation with Silas about the gospel.  I wanted to have a way to remember our conversation so after I put all the kiddos down for a nap, I ran to my computer and jotted down a record of what we discussed.  It was such a fun thing to do and I am so grateful that the idea popped into my head!  As I began writing, the story turned into more of a letter written from me to him.  I could picture him reading it one day when he is older and I am sure that I will want to read again and again too!  I created a special folder called "Salvation Stories" on my computer and within I made a special folder just for Silas.  I saved it with the date and now its tucked away for our family to enjoy for years to come!  I plan to write more letters like this to Silas and to each of my other kids as well.  I am confident that they Lord will use this to continue to bless our family!  And I pray that he finds a way to bless yours as well!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Luke James Carroll

We welcomed this little guy into our family on July 18th, 2012!

He is almost 3 months old now and its taken me until now to get some time away to share his birth story here on the blog!  Better a little late than never, right?!  He is precious and delightful, smiley and sweet!  We certainly all feel in love with him right away!

Each night the week of LJ's birth, I was kept up late with regular contractions.  We even went to the hospital twice thinking that it was finally the real deal!  But on Wednesday the 18th, he let us know for certain that he was ready to make his debut!  I went to bed early while Sean hosted our weekly bible study with some young adults from our church in the basement.  Shortly before the bible study ended some regular contraction began again.  By this time I was pretty used to my body throwing me for a loop but I could also tell that this time there was something different.  These contractions came on hard and fast.  We made the call and headed over to the hospital as soon as we had some one at the house to watch the other sleeping cherubs!

There isn't much to say about labor at the hospital this time around because Luke was out of my belly and in my arms about 45 minutes after we arrived!  And of course, it was love at first sight!

If you've read around on our blog, you will know that name meanings are pretty important to us.  Luke's name represents the ability that light has to chase away and overcome darkness.  "And Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me, will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."  John 8:12

Friday, July 20, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 4.0 Changed

I used to think that a change in my behavior was the right kind of response to the gospel.  For me, this reduced Christianity to a set of rules and morals.  It was all about not doing x, and making sure I did y.  But recently I have been convinced that a genuine, heart felt acceptance of the gospel will lead to a much deeper change then that of just my behavior.  It will lead to a change of my very character.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  And Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

When I thought behavior change was enough, I was really taking my salvation into my own hands.  I was believing that if I lived right, I would be saved.  And yet the scriptures clearly tell us that we can't accomplish this on our own.  No matter how many bad behaviors I manage to curb, I'll never be able to accomplish making myself new.  No matter how much of myself I "put to death," I could never really give myself new life. The scripture is equally clear that how we choose to live does matter.  We must choose to "live by faith."  But moving beyond changing my behavior or morals and allowing Christ to make me new is where salvation is found.

So its about a character change, not just a behavior change.  And its not something I can do to or for myself but It is something that the Lord does in me.  I am starting to see how the gospel is less and less about me and what I do, and that it is more and more about Him and what He has done or promised to do!  I rejoice that He has made this promise in His word: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

Friday, July 13, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 3.0 Qualified

Sometimes I find myself believing that the more training, education, qualifications that I pursue the more God can use me.  This is really only half true.  I remember hearing a friend quote something like this a number of years ago..."God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called."  We find this concept true throughout scripture.

The disciples were noted in Acts as being unschooled men and yet they were able to teach with such wisdom that it simple amazed all of those who heard them (Acts 4:13).  Consistently throughout the new testament the Lord chose to use those who came from humble backgrounds.  Moses was afraid of public speaking (Exodus 4:10), Gideon was found hiding in the wine press and asked the Lord how he could possibly be the mighty warrior needed to lead Israel (Judges 6), Solomon started his reign as king with such a humble view of himself (1 Kings 3:7), Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  And the list could go on and on!

Personally, I have put a lot of emphasis on my own education and training.  At times I lean on these qualifications in pride.  But if we think back to the disciples, the thing that qualified them more than anything else to speak and teach was the time they spent with Jesus himself.  That time was a true gift of grace from Him.  Nothing can prepare you for life better than time spent soaking up God's grace!

In conclusion, and just to be very clear, education and training is a very good thing!  But we should remember that it is not the ULTIMATE thing!  Lets not trade worship of the Creator God for worship of a created thing (Romans 1:25).  Sometimes, I don't need to read another book or attend another seminar to teach me how to be a better wife and mom.  I just need more time with Jesus so that he can carry on the good work he started when he began to change my life, heart, mind (Philippians 1:6).  Sometimes, I don't even need another bible study to gain more understanding or knowledge.  I just need more practicing living out the knowledge and understanding that he has already given to me.  Sometimes, I don't need another degree to be a better servant in His church.  I just need to step out in faith and serve trusting him to take care of the rest.

God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called.  And he is faithful to meet all of our needs out of his immeasurable grace! 

2 Corinthians 9:8 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Friday, July 6, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 2.0 Justified

Do you believe you are justified before God?

His word says that if we believe, we are justified.  And this is not because of ourselves but as a result of God's grace.  The Lord continues to work salvation in me but I have to confess that this is a way that I have failed to believe and live out the true gospel.  I have discovered that I seek justification from others through my ability to verbally explain my perspective to them.  If I can make them understand then I'm good and justified in doing whatever I do.  It has made me self righteous, not really righteous as a result of His work, just plain, old, false gospel, self righteous.  I hate apologizing and I am starting to see that at the root, apologies are so difficult for me because I have believed that I can explain anything away and in the end be justified and if I am justified there is no need for forgiveness.  Oh this is so wrong!

Romans 5:1-2 says "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."  Ephesians 2:8 says "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,"  Justification comes from faith.  Faith comes from God, as a gift.  And not just any gift.  The best kind of gift.  The one you did nothing to deserve!

God is the one who accomplishes our justification.  He did it through what many people call the great exchange from 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  Jesus took on our sinfulness and gave to us his righteousness.  Because of this those who believe can stand before God in confidence, knowing that God sees Christ gleamingly white righteousness instead of our dirty sinful pride, selfishness etc.  God accomplished this out of his love for us and his natural goodness.  Thinking we can accomplish justification on our own is just silly.  We can't.  But he offers it to us anyway.  Therefore, out of gratitude that God has made me justified, I should seek repentance and forgiveness.  Not because it gets me anything of value but because God has already given me everything I need

Friday, June 29, 2012

False Gospel Fridays 1.0 Intro

I've been hearing a lot of people talk about false gospels lately.  Many are examining how in their own lives they have come to believe false gospels.  In our sin we have masterfully designed new ways to feel saved and we live out what we believe.  We so desperately need to take the time to learn what the True Gospel is as laid out for us in God's Word.  We need to repent when we fail to believe the truth, we need to search God's word for truth to believe, we need to speak truth to others so they to can believe the true gospel.

God's true gospel is this...

Romans 5:8 says "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  I just love that verse!  I love this one too from 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us."  The Gospel is about God.  It is about what He did and when He chose to do it.  He loved us.  AND he chose to love us before we did anything to make ourselves lovable AND without any guarantee that we would love him back.  That's awesome!  So how do we receive this love?  Listen carefully because this is where it gets even harder to believe...(cue loud speaker) ITS FREE!  Check out Ephesians 2:8 that says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,"  Anyone else think that that is just incredibly good news?!  I get all excited thinking about it!

And yet, In my own life I live out false gospels every single day.  This series is going to be my attempt to repent and reveal my false gospels.  My prayer is that the Lord would use this series to teach me the truth to undo the lies that I believe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Examine Yourselves, A Follow Up

 Recently, I wrote about a youth group teaching on 2 Corinthians 13:5 which reads "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!".  You can read that post here. These are some follow up thoughts to that post and that teaching.

Examination can be a very scary thing.  Most of us can remember waking up in a cold sweat the night before an important exam convinced that we have overslept and missed it.  But as I spent some time reflecting on this verse I felt the Lord reminding me that examination is not for my condemnation but it is for my restoration.

Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  O how I need to remember this verse when I feel convicted of my sin.  The Holy Spirit convicts me so that I may repent and find forgiveness.  So that I may have a restored relationship with Christ.  He does not convict me to condemn me.  Because of God's gift of grace in Christ I have already passed from the condemnation that my sin deserves into new life with him!

In the end, what have we to fear?!  God is gracious and patient.  We can trust him to finish the work he has started in each of us!  Philippians 1:6 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  And so, I will go on examining myself...even when it hurts...confident that God's grace is enough for me and that his power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Signs

 A friend of mine recently asked if I could put together some tips from our personal experience teaching our kids sign language as infants.  This is for her!

Baby sign language is a fairly new trend in the parenting world.  Using signs with your baby is a great way to help him or her begin communicating with you while its still too difficult for him or her to verbally put sounds and words together.  There are a variety of online resources and studies that you can peruse.  Start with a google search and go from there!

We started using signs with our twin boys when they were somewhere between 6adn 9 months old.  We modeled the sign for "more" during meal times until they began to see a connection with our hands, our words, and the actions we took directly following.  We also modeled the sign for "all done" to signal the end of meal time.  When they began to imitate our signs, we encouraged them with all kinds of yeahs, clapping, and other such positive affirmations.  At first, their signs were sloppy and didn't look too much like our own but with our help they began to improve.  After learning "more" and "all done," we taught the twins to say "please" and "thank you."  As their signing improved and as they began to mature verbally we continued using signs while speaking.  Once they were able to talk it was important to us  to be sure that signs were paired with words so that the boys didn't become to dependent on the signs themselves and remembered to use their words.

With our next baby, we started signing a little earlier.  Again, we chose to teach her "more" and "all done" first.  As soon as she had "more" down, we added "please" and "thank you."  Other early signs that we chose for her were "diaper" and "milk."  She has done great with them all!  She is more verbal (as were her brothers) than most of her peers.  I do not believe she would be as verbally advanced had we not used sign language early on.

So here are some of our practical tips:
  • Choose simple signs to introduce consistently
  • Don't introduce more than 3 signs at a time
  • Remember to give lots of positive encouragement even if signs seem sloppy at first but don't be afraid to help your baby learn how to sign correctly as he or she progresses.
  • If you have older children, teach them to sign too and encourage them to use signs with the baby also.
  • We love baby sign language books by Annie Kubler, they make signing fun for the whole family!
Its also important to remember that if you are from a bilingual home or if you are teaching your child more than one language, it may take longer for your child to catch on with the sign language.  Your baby just has a lot to process.  But don't give up!  Consistent use of signs should help you as you teach your child to communicate!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Prom 2012

Its that special time of year again and I wanted to take a chance to remind all of my prom going friends to be cautious and careful with their choices.  I recently read a post from an AIM World Racer that I believe is a relevant read for all young people.  Please take the time to read her story before hearing some of my thoughts on the oh-so-popular topic of sex before marriage or the oh-so-even-more-popular topic of how far is too far.

Stephanie shares from her personal experience of telling thousands of students in Uganda about her regret over not waiting until marriage to have sex.  In 2004, I had a similar opportunity to share with students in Botswana, who also struggle to understand how AIDS is transmitted and how to express love for one another without having sex.  At that time, I was already dating Sean (he actually proposed to me at the airport as I returned from this trip) and I had the blessing of using my personal experience of being in love with him and not needing to have sex with him to show it.  I remember standing in front of class room full of students saying, "I have a boyfriend at home in the US and I love him very much but I don't have to sex with him to show it."  The students were astounded, just as I am sure that Doreen was to hear this same message from Stephanie.

But here is the really important thing that I want to say to you all.  Please read carefully.  You don't have to have sex before marriage to learn some of the same painful lessons about sex, your body, your value etc that Stephanie mentions in her blog post.  I may have made it to my wedding day with my virginity intact but there are plenty of mistakes that I made that left me (and consequently, my spouse) with the same kinds of wounds.

The Lord is faithful to heal.  And he makes good on all his promises, including the one Stephanie mentioned about working everything together for good (see Romans 8:28).  If you're already bearing wounds and scars, please allow the Lord to heal you before inflicting any further damage.  If you're struggling to hold on to your virginity by throwing everything else to the wind, please hear me when I tell you that there is a better way.  If you feel like the only who isn't having sex or isn't messing around, don't let other people make this important decision for you by pressuring you because of their foolishness, sometimes it good to be the only one ;)

1 Thessalonians 5:23 "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Examine yourself...

This is from a recent teaching at youth group in response to chapter 4 of Francis Chan's book Crazy Love.

In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches the parable of the sower.  This parable gives us a picture of the differing responses people have to the gospel.  In chapter 4 of Crazy Love, Francis challenges his readers by saying "Don't assume you're the good soil."  Check out Jesus' words from Matthew 13.
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears,a let him hear.”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.b 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 believers are challenged to examine themselves, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"  Honestly, I think we (Christians) test ourselves all the time.  We are constantly looking at others in the church or our peers in the world and comparing ourselves to them.  When we do this, we inevitably find people on either side of us.  Some that make us feel really lousy about ourselves and some that in turn make us feel down right awesome about ourselves.  This is not the kind of test that will leave us with an accurate understanding of our personal salvation.  If we truly want to examine and test ourselves to see if we are in the faith we must use scripture to do so.

Jesus said "If you love me you will obey my commands." (John 14:15).  Notice how the love comes first.  Obedience is simply a response to that love.  It is not how we earn or attain it.  Its just what you do if you truly love Him.  Its the natural response to His love.  At youth group this last week, we took a tour of 1 John and examined our own hearts.  I encourage you to do the same.  Here are some of the key verses we looked at.

1 John 1:5-9
5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John  2:4-6
4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:15-17
15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 3:4-5
 4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1John 3:16-18
16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:19-21
19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Those verses are incredibly convicting and can be even more incredibly defeating without a proper understanding of the gospel.  Jesus lived the perfect life that we cannot live and died the death that our sins deserve allowing us the opportunity to accept God's gift of grace and mercy where we get to exchange our sinfulness for his righteousness.  So what is this test to see if we are in the faith?  Its an examination of your heart.  When you read these verses do you find that you have calloused yourself to seeing your own sinfulness?  or that you have plenty of great excuses why you don't love your brother, walk in the light, or keep his commands?  or are you willing to confess your failure to live up to God's standard and repent in order to receive not only his forgiveness but the power to overcome the sin in your life through him for his glory?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Many of our friends have tried to come up with a good spin on Valentine's Day for their whole families to celebrate.  This year we are trying one of our own!

We decided to think of Valentine's Day this year as an opportunity to encourage the ones we love by thanking God and them for the example of Godly character that they live out each day.  We thank God and Pops for his example of service and leadership.  He is very committed to his job because he knows that it is a way that God has called him to serve our family by providing financially for us.  He is equally committed to spending time reading the Bible with us and practicing Bible memory verses with us.  We thank God and Meme for her generosity.  She loves to give us special treats and take us out to eat.  We thank God and Nana and Poppy for investing time in us.  They love to read to us and play with us at their house.  We thank God and Abby for her hospitality because she lets us play with her in her room.  We are thankful for many other special people in our lives.  God has really and truly blessed us.

Happy Valentine's day to all our loved ones!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lesson: Learned

Our verse for last week's challenge is from Romans chapter 5.  It says, "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  Although our temporary experience of mild hunger fails in comparison to what much of the world experiences as suffering, we prayed throughout the week that the Lord would use our experience this week to produce in us endurance, Godly character, and hope.

Energy levels ran low all week and irritability ran high across the board in the Carroll family.

We struggled to remember to ration certain items, especially milk.  Lily got close to the bottom of her soy milk after 3 and half days which is when I realized I needed to be giving her more water to make the soy milk last the whole week.  Somehow it still didn't connect that I should be doing the same with the cow's milk that the rest of us drink and I had to start cutting back on the use of that after 4 days.  We did make it through the week without running out of any particular item.  In fact we had a few items that we didn't even touch from our shopping trip!  Our adjusted total for the week came to $45.31.  We ate oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, grilled cheese and apple slices for lunch, and soup for dinner that was made of chicken, rice, and some frozen veggies.  We gave up snacks and desserts (which in our house is usually some kind of fruit) and stuck to smaller portions sizes so that we would have enough.  On our last day we got to eat pasta and tomato sauce which was a nice change of pace after eating the same things all week.

So much of the weekly ministry that we do has some kind of food component.  Sean had lunch with our pastor one day.  There was food at our small group bible study and Friday night youth group.  We do breakfast with an elderly women who has become family to us each week.  We also usually have a big family dinner with extended family members weekly.  I was impressed that on a normal week all the extra bits of food is just part of the routine and normally goes unnoticed.  I'm still not entirely sure to make of it.  Shouldn't we be more conscience to not waste things that are such precious comedies in other places?  What can we really do to help people who don't get three meals a day, let alone snacks and dessert?  These are just a few of the questions that are getting bounced around here at the Carroll house after accepting this $33 grocery bill challenge.

We do want to praise the Lord for working in us.  We did see our kids grow in endurance this week.  It was a very difficult challenge for them but we are still confident that God will use it to teach us more and more!

Please also check back with our friends the Straleys and here what they learned through their week long challenge experience.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Challenge: Accepted

Our dear friends, the Straleys recently put out a challenge that you can read about on their blog.  They are missionaries living in the Dominican Republic and they have challenged their blog readers, the majority of whom are their family and friends living in the US, to experience a tiny bit of life as a Dominican by spending only $33 for one week on groceries.  Please do take the time to read about the challenge so you can understand their hearts in putting this challenge out there.  Just click on their name in the first sentence of this post!

We eagerly accepted this challenge because we would love to gain some perspective and learn whatever lesson God has intended for us.  Today I attempted to shop on the alloted $33 budget.  I came home with a gallon of milk, a half gallon of soy milk, a box of cherrioes, some rice and beans, oatmeal, apples, bananas, pasta, one can of tomatoe sauce, frozen mixed vegetables, some chicken, and a dozen eggs.  These items seemed like the bear essentials that would get us through a week.  My total bill came to $52.60.  Well over the challenge price.  I'm not disappointed.  I am excited to see what lessons we learn this week, it will still be a challenge.

Sean suggested we try the challenge again next month.  In fact he suggested we try again each month until we really see what its like to live on $33 a week for groceries.  Please join me in praying that we would keep our hearts and minds open to hearing from God on just how blessed we are to live here in the US with such vast resources, with so many family to support us, with so many opportunities to make our lives better.  God is good and he is faithful to answer our prayers so expect to hear back from us soon on what we learned!