Archive for October 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is God's Greatest Good?

"It is difficult for us to see God's hand of love in the adversities and heartaches of life because we persist in thinking, as the world does, that happiness is the greatest good. Thus we tend to evaluate all our circumstances in terms of whether or not they produce happiness. Holiness, however, is a greater good than happiness, so God arranges and orchestrates circumstances to produce holiness before happiness. He is more concerned about our eternal than our temporal welfare and more concerned about our spiritual than our material welfare. So all the trials and difficulties, all the heartaches, disappointments, and humiliations come from His loving hand to make us partakers of His holiness." (Jerry Bridges, "Transforming Grace")

As I read this quote in during my quiet time yesterday, my heart resounded with a strong "amen." It's true; I evaluate whether something in my life is good or bad in the very same way that those who don't know Christ do-based on whether or not something makes me happy. God doesn't look at my life that way, though. There are many situations that I wouldn't have chosen for myself because they don't seem to bring much happiness in the moment. But, God cares more about conforming me into the image of His Son than He does my temporal happiness. Being conformed more into the image of His Son, will ultimately bring me the most joy anyway! As John Piper so often talks about, God's glory and our joy do not have to be two separate things. God intends that they be one! We get the greatest joy when we are most satisfied in Christ. And we're most satisfied in Him when we are becoming more like Him, when we are reflecting His holiness rather than living for temporal joys.

Lord, help me to see Your loving hand in every challenge that I face this week. Help me to find joy in the process of sanctification, knowing that nothing else can satisfy me but You!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Suffering When Tempted

"Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:17,18

I read these verses earlier this week in my quiet time/devotions. They are obviously jam-packed with meaning on a number of levels. Probably the most important thing in them is the reminder that Jesus Christ came as a propitiation for our sins, taking on the wrath of God that we deserved that we might know peace with God. That is reason to stop and worship! But this week, what God impressed upon my heart were the words "he himself has suffered when tempted." I started thinking about all of the suffering of Christ and let's be honest, there was a lot of suffering in His life, particularly the suffering of His death. The suffering that He endured while tempted was deeper than any suffering I've ever known or will know. As He awaited the cruel death before Him, He prayed to His father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me." I can't imagine the variety of temptations that He faced in that moment: despair, fear, the desire to run away, etc. He was suffering so much that He sweat drops of blood. Still, Jesus said, "Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He did not give in to those temptations but honored His father.

When I'm tempted to sin by my own desire (James 1:14) I can sometimes think that it is huge suffering to resist. Or when I give in to the sin and later repent, I can think that there was so much suffering involved in turning. But what is my suffering when tempted compared to the suffering of Jesus on my behalf when He was tempted? As I consider His suffering and the ways that He was tempted, I am humbled and put in my place. My sufferings during temptations suddenly do not seem so looming in comparison with His.

May we worship Him with gratitude as we consider how our God was willing to go through extreme suffering and temptation on our behalf. And may that bring us comfort as we go to Him when we're tempted. He is truly able to help.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Pretender

One of my favorite things about this month has been Tali's newfound love for pretending. After she finishes her bottle, she promptly puts it by her baby's mouth and lets her have a sip. When she's eating her lunch, she'll periodically stop to turn around and give the bear on her high chair a bite of her food. It is so much fun to watch her play!

Giving the bear a Cheerio


Sharing her sippy cup with Baby



This one has nothing to do with pretending, but isn't it just plain cute??

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ma Ma Ma

Tali has decide to start speaking with her voice and not just her hands. While the sign language is definitely fun, this is even better. However, it is a bit challenging when the little dear is supposed to be in her crib sleeping and instead I hear her belting out "Ma Ma Ma Ma" at the top of her lungs! My heart says, "She's calling for me with an actual name" and wants to go pick her up. But, my tired body and my head says, "That girl needs her rest and so do you." So I'm off to the couch to pray that she falls asleep soon and stops calling me with that sweet little voice of hers. We both need a little rest time.

UPDATE later in the afternoon: it took her over an hour to fall asleep. This girl is just so unpredictable!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Personal What?

My hubby is off on a "personal" retreat for the next couple of days. (By "personal" I don't mean that he's going to go take naps and watch the World Series...although I'm sure that would be fun for him! It's just called a "personal retreat" because he will be alone and his agenda will be one that is aiming to refresh himself spiritually & to study.) I'm so grateful that he truly wants to watch his "life and doctrine closely" and so is willing to take a couple of days out of the normal routine to go and pray, study, and evaluate his own soul and ministry. He said that he had heard from another pastor that it can be tempting at times to think of a personal retreat as selfish but that, in truth, it's a very loving thing to do. It's loving because as he draws near to the cross and is freshly aware of what God has called him to, our family and Sovereign Grace Church are the beneficiaries! And so, while it is never fun to have him away, I'm praying and thanking God for this time that Josh has. If you think of it, please join me in praying for him!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Easy Baked Potato Soup


These days, I am feeling so tired that I don't even care what a meal tastes like; I just want it to be easy to fix. When I found this recipe in "The Joy of Hospitality" it definitely fit my qualifications for easy: ingredients that I actually have on hand, little chopping, short prep & short cooking time. What I didn't expect was that it would be so good!

Baked Potato Soup (serves 4-5)
2 large baking potatoes
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
3 T. thinly sliced green onion
4 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup flour
4 slices bacon, crumbled


1) Bake potatoes at 435 for 40-60 minutes. Cut in half and scoop out the middle. Set it aside.
2) Cook onion & butter in a soup pot until butter is melted.
3) Stir in flour, salt, and pepper; add milk. Cook on medium until thick and bubbly; stir often or it will stick to bottom of pot.
4) Add potato and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Break up any large potato clumps.
5) Serve topped w/bacon & the remaining cheese.

Have a wonderful weekend!

p.s.-Please pray for Tali. She's got some weird fever with no other symptoms. Thanks!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Greatest Good

The Lord has been working on my heart lately in the area of living for God's glory and not for what I want. I'm fairly convinced that this is the long-standing lesson that He is trying to teach me each and every day. In one particular life circumstance that is not at all what I would choose, Josh has been encouraging me to think about how God might want to bring good out of it. To be honest, I have had a really hard time thinking of anything. I mustered up a couple of thoughts but all that I could see from my vantage point was one bad thing after another.

As I mentioned this to some friends yesterday and asked for their input, the Lord gave me great help. I shared, "Really, the only thing remotely good that I can see for myself in this is that it's leading to sanctification." My friend, Elisabeth, kindly shared this thought: really there is no greater good than my sanctification. It is precisely in the circumstances that we wouldn't choose where God reveals to us how dependent we are on Him. It is in the situations that are hardest that we generally grow the most. My sanctification (aka, being conformed more into the image of Christ) brings God great glory and magnifies the amazing beauty of the Gospel. This brings me great hope as I look at my circumstance.

No, I would not have chosen this circumstance but God did, and He always knows what is best. Even though I've thought that greater good would be done if I could just have things my way (on my terms, when I want them, etc) it's simply not true. The greatest good is that God be glorified through my sanctification. It's not easy or necessarily fun but it is worth it because He is worth it.

As I fight to want God's way and not my own, I've been encouraged by knowing that what God plans and chooses for me really is best.

"...the most important things on our agenda weren't planned by us. God planned them. The most significant moments of our lives are moments we wouldn't have chosen to have. God chose them for us." (Paul Tripp, JBC article)

He knows better than I do. May He be glorified in the painful process of sanctification!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We Love Mondays!



(Here is Tali, enjoying the beautiful fall weather. Sorry-we failed to get any pics of her with dirt in her mouth. Probably because I was too busy frantically digging it out of her cheeks...)

While most people in the world eagerly await Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as "the weekend," at the Fenska's, we can't wait for Mondays. Monday=Daddy's day off=Mommy's morning out=working on projects=special family time. We love Mondays!

Josh has been doing a fabulous job of planning for our special day as a family, thinking of fun things that both a seven month pregnant wife and an 11 month daughter will enjoy. As I've said before, he's the best! This Monday we went to one of our favorite spots by the river to enjoy a fall picnic. We had a ton of fun talking, taking pictures, and watching Tali scoot around picking up dirt clods and eating them (sadly, no joke). The poor girl is getting some more teeth and will basically stick anything that she can find in her mouth for a little comfort. I'm not so sure the dirt eased the pain though!

I am so grateful for my husband who works hard to plan for our day together. Aside from Sundays, it's always the highlight of my week!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Gift of Family


Comparing "baby bellies" with my cousin, Carrie

God is able to do amazing things in any and every family. I am particularly aware of that today as I reflect on the grace of God that I see at work in my cousins that I had the blessing of seeing a couple weekends ago. My Grandma, Aunt Patti, Tara & her girls, Meg, and Carrie all came for a visit. It was a blast to be with them and encouraging as well.

When God saved me from my sins back in eighth grade, it was not very common at that time for many in our family to talk about the Lord or what He was teaching them or what was going on at their church. There weren't comments like, "I've been praying for..." or "I know that God can..." Don't get me wrong, we had wonderful times together and the atmosphere wasn't necessarily bad. We loved each other very much, it was just that God wasn't really as much "in the picture." But, by His grace, things have changed! It is easy to see that Jesus is an ever growing integral part of their lives. God has done an amazing work in my cousins!

I've loved the times when I've talked with my cousin, Jenny, and we've had a chance to share about what the Lord is teaching us or when Meghan has given me a prayer request, or hearing about Sam & Carrie's baptism or the ways that Tara is serving in her church. Josh & I love getting to talk with Bill about what he's learned from being in ministry or seeing the difference in Jess over the years as he's changed to live for Christ. God is at work in the lives of my cousins and their spouses!

I could go on much more about other family members or more specifics on their testimonies, but suffice it to say that I just feel so blessed to have the family that I have. I know many who face significant challenges when they are with extended family, some even getting shunned for their faith. And that simply has not been the case for me. My faith has been strengthened and challenged as I have watched the work of Christ on the cross transform my cousins. What a reason to rejoice in the Lord today and to be grateful for my family!

p.s.-If you're part of a family where God isn't very central, let the testimony of how He's changed my cousins be an encouragement for you to pray. Pray that the Lord would save. Pray that He would radically change the lives of your family members. Nothing is impossible with God!

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Monday, October 8, 2007

11 Month Update


Our little sweet girl is now an eleven month old. It's hard to believe that she's almost been in this world for an entire year. Time really does fly when you're having fun! We are so grateful to God for the gift of Tali.

Here are some Tali facts for those of you who don't get the pleasure of playing with her each day like we do. :)

Favorite Foods: anything Daddy & Mommy are eating, if it comes off of their plate
Clothing Size: 12 months on most things but is starting to fit some 18 months for pants
Hair: Curly when wet or in humid weather, straight when dry
Eye Color: Yet to be determined
Favorite Books: Anything new or anything with flaps
Naps: 2 a day for about an hour or 1.5 hours each
Favorite Activities: getting mail, pulling up on anything and everything, going outside, seeing other babies, playing with her school bus, trying to climb up the stairs, eating
Things that make her laugh: Daddy, dogs barking, someone else laughing, being tickled
Signs: Daddy, eat, drink, more, please, all done, cheerio, bottle, ball, bath, airplane, flower, where is it, bye-bye, (sometimes does: Mommy, Grandma/Grandpa, baby)
Noises: "woof, woof" for dogs, "rarrr, rarrr" for teddy bears/lions, "eee, eee" for monkeys
Girlie Things: points to barrettes most days for me to put one in her hair, pulls out clothes and brings them to me to put on her, hugs anything that's stuffed, loves to give kisses

That's our Tali. I can't even imagine what all she'll be doing a month from now. This girl changes at lightning speed! Stay tuned; maybe next month she'll be walking...

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Reflecting His Image Each Day

As a church, we're going through the book of Genesis right now. It has been a rich series and a refreshing look at this first book of the Bible. Today, my husband preached an excellent message on Genesis 1:27:

"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them."

Josh's main point was that being created in God's image should shape the way that we view and live our lives. One aspect of being a created being is that I have a Creator. (Seems obvious, but it's important!) This should shape the way that I view myself. I am not the center of the universe and I am not God. I was created. The wonder of this miracle of creation should lead me to stand in awe of God. Also, viewing my life through this lens should function as a means to guard against complaining. How dare I, as a created being, demand things from the God who created me! I owe Him my life. He owes me nothing.

Being created in God's image means that we have a dignity and a purpose. This point stood out to me as vitally important. I was created to bring God glory through reflecting and representing Him. How mind boggling! The very God who placed the stars in the heavens and knows them each by name, the very God who created each cell and organ and molecule inside our bodies, the very God who holds the heavens in place, this God chose to have His image reflected and represented by people like me. This means that each and every moment of my life is an opportunity to reflect and represent God. Viewing life through this lens makes my day seem a lot more purposeful!

Josh also reminded us of the bad news that we're never going to reflect and represent God's image perfectly. We are sinful creatures. But the good news is that Jesus came and perfectly bore God's image; He was the very image of God. Jesus took on the wrath of God that I deserved for not reflecting His image perfectly. Jesus stands ready to give me grace to change as I seek to image God's image to the world.

As I walk through this week, loving my husband and my daughter, I want to think more about the way that I mirror God's image. When my neighbors see me, what kind of representation of God are they seeing? When I train Tali, am I reflecting the image of my patient and loving God? When I work on seemingly mundane tasks around the house, how accurately am I reflecting the image of my joyful God? I pray that God will give me, and you, grace this week to seek to be the clearest image reflectors of God that we can be.

p.s.-If you've got some time, check out the message. It's a goodie!!!! (http://www.sgclife.org/tools_for_growth/recent_sermons.aspx)

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