Normally I blog on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Today I am throwing in an extra bonus post but only because I'm linking an old Pinterest Test Kitchen to Saturday Dishes, a weekly feature over at a fun blog I follow named Call Me PMC.

This week's Saturday dish theme is corn so I shared this frito corn salad recipe. It's a perfect side dish for all the grilling and picnicing that will be happening this week. Cold and crunchy with just a little sweetness.

So head on over to Paula's blog and see what else is going on. She has some links to several neat-o 4th of July ideas that you'll enjoy.

We've learned that there are twos ways to view having a pool. They are a lot of work and not worth it or, and this is us, they are a lot of work and worth it. It gets so hot and humid here in Florida and we have a lot of little guys running around in our world so having the pool is a lifesaver. And a lot of fun!

Although apparently you can be just as happy with a water hose and a willing victim.

 And baby floatie mats can make great disguises...he looks like something out of Despicable Me, doesn't it?

I think maybe he was doing the robot dance as he got out of the pool??

Pencil dive!

Photo bomb fun because that's the way Sam rolls.

Cannon ball!!!

It's a flipping good time!

I think as we continue our conversation on courtship it would be helpful if we remembered to view courtship as part of a whole. Our position on courtship and dating are part of the bigger overall picture of our family way. It's not a subject that exists in a separate compartment that comes up only when our children reach a certain age. It is fertilized and finds it's roots in our family's theology of life.

Because each family has it's own distinct culture courtship, stories will be varied, illustrated by the personalities of the individuals involved. While I expect a certain amount of similarities among the tales of love and romance for my five children, I also expect that no two stories will be written in just the same way.

However, there are certain non-negotiables that we'll work from that will be the same for all of them. Our children, being raised in covenant households as believers, will not be allowed to court or marry unbelievers. A teenager's social life, especially in the heart department, is not a mission field. We do not seek to win the lost by allowing our children to have romantic relationships with them in the hopes that they will turn to Christ. It is far more likely that our own children's heart would be led astray. And since I know that many of you are already gearing up with the "But I know a couple" stories where one or the other was not a believer that came to know God through that relationship, I ask that you remember what I said last week. The exception does not become our rule. Just because we know someone that has survived swimming with the sharks doesn't mean that we should throw our children into those waters.

This will also be a no contact sport. Until a ring is on a finger, there will be no hand holding, no kissing, no nothing. (Total sidebar: do any of you remember that 80's song by the Georgia Satellites, Keep Your Hands to Yourself? I always liked that song.) It seems inconceivable that we would expect this from our children in this day and age. This is shocking and radical behavior even among the most devout evangelicals. But it really isn't. It's smart and safe. There are two phases to this and they both have the same starting place. Physical attraction is designed by God and is quite powerful. It is beyond foolish to think that somehow because our children know better and are Christians that they aren't tempted.

Courtship is not the same as engagement and it is a time when clear thinking is sorely needed. Physical activity can blur the thinking and cloud judgement during a time when a couple is searching out whether they are suitable for each other. I know the question begs to be asked, how will they know if they're physically compatible if they never touch, if they never kiss? I have a better question. Why wouldn't they be physically compatible? Physical attraction is already a given because one really doesn't enter into any stage of courtship if one finds the other physically repulsive. So why wouldn't a young lady thrill to the young man's touch if she has already found him to be attractive, trustworthy and honorable enough to consider marrying? Why would he not want and enjoy kissing her if he has already determined that her worth is far above rubies?

Sex is a part of any romantic relationship...couples will have sex - the question is whether it will be honorably or dishonorably. We can do a lot to help make sure that it is experienced without regret and shame and with honor. Even after a ring has been given and accepted strong and sturdy boundaries should be in place for the protection of the couple. Wisdom tells us that alone time should be limited and handled with great care.

So, with our chief end being to glorify God, as we walk the road of courtship with our children and those two load bearing walls in place let's talk a little about what we'd like to have happen next. My husband will have essentially vetted the young man and given him permission to press his suit with our daughter. If she has no interest, Rob will let the young man know and she is spared any awkwardness. If, however, she does have an interest then we will all sit down together and lay out what expectations are. By "we" I mean everyone including his parents, so that we're all on the same page. We hope for both families to spend as much time together as we can. Everyone is better able to give counsel to their respective offspring by watching how each family interacts and is governed. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and insight is gained by getting to know how each family functions.

Time apart from everyone will be done according to the discretion of my husband. Whether they are allowed to be alone from the rest of the family on the front porch, going on walks or the young man picking up and driving our daughter somewhere will be established by her father. This may seem like overkill and ridiculous to some but my husband's job is to protect our daughter. I wonder how many christian fathers look at the messes their daughters have ended up in and wished they had done a better job protecting her?

This is a heavy responsibility on the father and a lot of trust is required from the daughter to rest easy in his decisions. A godly father will have shown himself to be seeking only her good all of her life. She will trust that he will withhold no good thing from her, so while it may not be easy to go at his pace she will yield to him in good faith.

Rather a fitting way to enter a marriage, don't you think?

Guarding Hearts Part One

*Yucky bar Schmucky seems I have a few friends that are lemon haters and they aren't happy that I have toyed with the chocolateness of brownies. Feel free to join in the conversation in the comments ;-)

Ahhhhh, lemons ~ the taste of summer. At least for me it is and I can't think of much that is as satisfying and refreshing  in the hot days of summer as lemon flavored desserts. It doesn't get much better than the tangy bite of citrus. (My friend Lauren can just ignore this post...lemon anything doesn't work for her. Bless her heart.)

When I came across this recipe last year for lemon brownies I was intrigued. When I saw how easy it was to throw together I knew I would have to make it. You may be thinking, "How can this be any different than lemon bars?" and I am glad you asked. It's the texture. They really have the feel of brownies but all the sweet crisp lightness of lemon. 

What you'll need for the batter:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 TBS lemon zest
2 TBS lemon juice

What you'll do:
Mix together first four ingredients until well combined.
In a separate bowl stir together eggs, zest and lemon juice.
Combine the two mixtures and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. 
Be careful not to over bake.

The brownies have a delightful and pert glaze on them that really just completes the dish.

What you'll need for the delightful and pert glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
4 TBS lemon juice ( more or less depending on how tangy you like)
8 teaspoons lemon zest

What you'll do:
Whisk together all three ingredients until smooth.
Poor glaze over brownies.

I've yet to have them done long enough (without eating them) to chill before savoring their citrusy goodness but can you just imagine it right from the fridge?!

Also, last year I stirred in a handful of fresh blueberries right before baking the brownies and oh, my goodness they were swoon worthy! 

You should make a pan right now. And maybe throw in some raspberries for fun. I bet that would be good.

Over the weekend I had a conversation with a friend about courtship. This is a topic of conversation in our lives quite a bit right now. Partly because Sarah is, at seventeen and going into her senior year of high school,  frequently asked, "Do you date?" or "Do you have a boyfriend?". When she says no she immediately gets this very puzzled look from the asker and the follow up question, "Why not?"

This is a fine question, but I would like to turn the tables and ask, "Why date?" For most of us the answer is literally a no brainer...because dating is what our society says in normal. Our culture dictates that dating is expected so there is no real thinking going into the process of dating. It's just the way it's done. But if we can agree, and we should, that the culture is not God oriented much less family friendly, then we have to know that the culture's way of doing things will not be God oriented or family friendly. And if we agree, and we should, that as Christians we have been given the task of reclaiming the culture...of remaking culture...then the topic of dating is something that cannot be a no brainer.

Let me begin by saying that I dated. My husband dated. And yes, we survived. But we survived with a lot of drama and heartache that was not necessary. I realize that having your heart broken a time or three is like a right of passage in our world but every relationship leaves you with baggage. And even little stones add up to a cumbersome and heavy burden after a while.

My sister Lisa started dating her husband when she was fourteen years old. Chuck has been my brother and part of my life for as long as I can remember.

 But, and I shamelessly borrow this from Douglas Wilson's book "Her Hand in Marriage", just because someone survives a plane crash does not mean that we are advocates of plane crashes. Stories like Lisa and Chuck's are becoming more and more rare and the exception should not become our rule. And I think it is high time that God's people begin to question the rules and ways of dating because something other than Biblical wisdom seems to be driving the process.

So what does not dating look like? What does courtship look like? Well, remember up there I mentioned that my husband and I both come from dating backgrounds? Being perfectly honest...we've no idea :-) Actually, we have something of an idea but it isn't completely in focus. It's a work in progress, and thankfully we have a community of people around us that are living their stories of courtship and love and romance in front of us. Each story is different because while our lives all tell the same story...His story...we all live different chapters.

It has been said that modern dating is a training ground for divorce. People get their back up at this and emphatically disagree, but think about this a second. How do you comfort the friend or child that has just gone through a break up? By telling them that there is something better out there for them...someone better. We automatically condition ourselves to believe that there is someone better suited to us out there...someone better looking, or with a better sense of humor or who will love us better. At best dating plants seeds of discontent that will have to eventually be weeded out with much labor, or at worst it cultivates a very casual disposable view of relationships that will perpetuate itself repeatedly.

While we may not know exactly what it will look like there are a few things that we do already have figured out.

We believe that courtship is a time when two people, who are ready for marriage, explore whether they are suitable for each other. Having your daughter's boyfriend eating dinner with you every night is not the same thing as courting.

By ready for marriage we mean a few things. The obvious readiness to look for is maturity and that will be different for everyone.

For a young woman it is also about whether she is prepared to tend a home. If she cannot find her way around a kitchen, manage money and other practical duties that are a wife's work she has no business accepting anyone's suit. If she will work after she marries or go to college then she needs to be prepared for what it is like to juggle those things. While she is in school at home under the safety of her family she should have responsibilities so that she is training herself to do multiple task and do them well. She also needs to know how to work within a budget.

For a young man it is about being able to provide a home. As the father of four daughters, my husband will expect the young man who is interested in our girls to be able to, on paper, show that he is ready to provide a home and to care for a wife. My husband will want to know that the young man not only handles his money well but that he is aware of what it costs to have a home, no matter how modest, whether he buys or rents one. He has to have knowledge of what insurance cost, car maintenance, and what other living expenses are like.  It's well and good for a young man to feel all warm and fuzzy about a girl, but if he cannot provide materially for a wife he has no business pursuing one.

Wise parents will be raising their children with the idea of marriage in the future. If a young man is taught from his early teens that he will want a wife one day and that he will have to provide for her then he is able to work toward that goal earning and saving money. Whether he will be eighteen or twenty eight when he finally meets her doesn't really factor into the plan...he'll be ready regardless. It is the same for a young lady. She is taught to love and tend home then she will have the skills needed to be a blessing to her future husband.

We believe that courting necessarily involves the parents and that there are steps in the process in the beginning between the young man and the girl's father that provide a measure of protection for the young woman. And this is a big deal. Ideally the young man will approach the father, who will spend as much time as he deems necessary to get to know him. He will evaluate what he knows and learns of the young man before it is ever brought to the young woman to decide whether or not she is willing to accept his suit. If the father sees any moral failing or poor character qualities then the young lady is spared possibly having her heart broken by a man who is not worthy of her.

Please also note that the father is not ultimately deciding who his daughter will marry. Many who object to the idea of courtship do so on the misguided belief that the process happens without any input from the girl and the father is dictating her life partner. The father is actually sparing her heartache or any awkwardness if she has no interest in the man.

Rather than try to cram more into this post I think next week I'll post a part two. What happens after the father has presented his daughter with the young man's suit and she is interested in getting to know him more?

Not everyone is going to "court," and I am not suggesting that it is the only way to find your spouse or that if you date you somehow love Jesus and your spouse less than the rest of us. I am saying, however, that Christians are crazy if they think doing it the way the world does will yield different results. The process of preparing for marriage must be redeemed.

Part Two 
Part Three
A Few Follow Up Questions

Twenty-six. I have twenty six chicken recipes pinned.

Apparently we eat a lot of chicken in our house. To be fair it is extremely versatile and in casseroles can go a long way to making a meal stretch. Which is great when you're a family of seven that entertains a lot.

We also love us some bacon. So when I found this recipe I knew I would have to try it. It has a tangy sweet thing going for it that is quite delicious. The only thing I have discovered is that it needs to be eaten immediately. I made it once for a potluck kind of thing and keeping it warm until we ate caused the chicken to dry out.

What you'll need:
bag of chicken tenderloins, thawed
bacon, enough for a slice for each piece of chicken
3 TBS honey
2 TBS  coarse mustard

What you'll do:
Wrap one piece of bacon around each piece of chicken.
Place them in a 9x13 baking dish.
Mix together honey and mustard until well blended. 
Brush half of it on the bacon wrapped chicken.
Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about ten to fourteen minutes, (until the bacon is getting nice and crispy).
Turn the bacon chicken over and cover with the rest of the honey mustard.
Return to the oven and bake for an additional ten to twelve minutes.
Serve immediately.

This last picture is a little sad, don't you think? It pairs well with rice and veggies but this was the time I made it for the potluck so it's all by it's little lonesome on the plate. I almost didn't include it but the idea of just posting a picture of uncooked chicken wrapped in bacon just seems kind of gross to me. My issue I know but there you have it. On my blog you get the real me...weird hang ups and all :-)

Sweet Sharing Monday   Marvelous Monday   Melt In Your Mouth Monday   Try A New Recipe Tuesday

One of the greatest things about photography is being allowed to be a part of the special moments in peoples' lives. It's extra awesome when those people are also friends. It's bombdiggity awesome when you get to photograph lots of special moments for the same friends.

Three years ago I took Jeff and Alicia's engagement pictures

A few months after that I had the honor of photographing their wedding

Last night I was able to take some pictures as they found out the gender of their first baby. It was quite the event! Alicia's family and longtime friends don't live here but with the help of google chat they were able to be part of the celebration.

 How adorable was this idea that Jeff's Mother came up with? Using some old wives tales for predicting the sex of the baby she made this cute board to tally up which ones applied to Alicia.

Questions about morning sickness, whether she's clumsy more now that she's pregnant...even to how she held her hands up when asked to show them or picked up a key can apparently all reveal whether she's having a girl or boy.

After that everyone was logged in and ready for the big moment. The lady who did their ultrasound had written the sex of the baby on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed envelope. Jeff and Alicia took it to the bakery and ordered cupcakes with instructions for the cupcakes to have strawberry filling for a girl and blueberry for a boy.

How exciting is that?! I'm stilling smiling :-)
So you want to know what the old wives tales predicted?

 Maybe there is something to all that stuff?

Not a word we hear often in our society, is it? And if it is used it's usually in conjunction with being quiet about keeping a dirty little secret. But there is more to discretion than what our modern times would describe.    

As a mother of four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, I spend a lot of time contemplating and pondering things like modesty and beauty. Modesty, I believe, is intrinsically intertwined with real beauty. Unfortunately I don't think we have a good grasp of either beauty or modesty. Culture seems to have two main default positions:

1.) The glam, sexy, up-to-the-minute fashion that shows everything off or
2.) Prairie muffin

Like I said, I think about this a lot so I have plenty of thoughts on the matter. More than can be shared in a  blog post...or two or three. But I can sum part of it up rather easily.

We, the church, need to stop dressing like the other team. Our clothes shouldn't look ready to move from the Communion Table to the nightclub. I'm not saying that skirts and dresses should come down to your ankles, but if the length and style of your skirt would fit right in with what the party girls are wearing on a date Friday night then there is a problem.

Nor am I saying you have to immediately set up shop with Holly Hobbie and forsake all things fashionable. But I do think the Christian community has got to stop complaining about how hard it is to find modest and stylish clothes as if that is some kind of free pass to stay as close to edge as you can. It is hard. But it is also possible and should be pursued joyfully so that the world doesn't view it as mere keeping of the rules or being a drag. Of course there is no special virtue in being drab and dowdy either, and we would do well to avoid both extremes so that a reasonable conversation can be had.

I think a good place to start would be Proverbs 11:22 ~ Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Have you ever seen a pig's nose? They aren't all cutesy and pink like Wilbur from Charlotte's Web or Babe.
The pig uses it's nose to root around and dig in the dirt. You can see why Scripture contrasted the dirty and gross pig snout with the shiny gold ring...they don't belong together. The ring doesn't take away from the dirt of the pig snout but the pig snout certainly takes away the beauty from the gold ring. It just looks foolish.

A woman without discretion is like that. 

Consider what the word discretion actually means ~ the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.

A lack of modesty is a lack of discretion wouldn't you say? Revealing clothing reveals a lot of private information. The curves and softness of a woman were designed by God to be enjoyed by man just as surely as the strength and lines of a man were made for woman to enjoy. But without discretion the beauty is dimmed and can be just as wasted and foolish as the gold ring in a pig's nose. 

For many within the church the greatest argument for modesty falls under the first part of discretion's definition...the idea of behaving in such a way to give offense. Or in church speak, to cause a brother to stumble. While this is important I think it is far too narrow. We should be training our sons and daughters with the understanding that we are all a part of the Body of Christ and what we do affects those around us. But the offense caused by immodest dress actually goes to our Bridegroom. 

Earlier I said we should stop dressing like the other team. As the bride of Christ we are set apart, made holy because the Bride price was impossibly high and yet it was paid in the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ. He replaced our tattered, torn and filthy rags with garments of grace and beauty. To allow culture to dictate our fashion without restraint, without the boundaries of being His bride, is like piercing the pig nose. 
Modesty is about way more than our clothing though. Modesty begins in the heart and shows itself in choices and actions that show discretion. The visible manifestation is important yes, but not enough. I can be dressed modestly (and fashionable I might add), but if my mind and tongue lack discretion I'm still only as pretty as that pig snout. 

God's people have been given the task of redeeming the culture, of reclaiming it, shaping and forming it to reflect it's true King. It's time that the Church says modesty is important. But we have to understand that it is about much more than the length of a skirt. 

It's been a few weeks since I posted a test kitchen so I'm dusting off the recipe box to share something a little extra special. Today's recipe is a family favorite circa BP (before pinterest) and I can't even remember where I found the recipe. But with it's delightful combination of lemon and blueberry it is a summertime treat. Technically considered a type of torte it is a layered cake with homemade cream cheese frosting.

What you'll need:
lemon cake mix
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup of butter softened
3 to 5 cups confectioners sugar
lemon juice
fresh blueberries

What you'll do:
For the cake: make according to directions. On this point I will share that I have made the lemon cake from scratch, used a plain yellow cake mix and added lemon juice, and used a lemon cake mix and added more lemon juice. Whatever works best for you and pleases the taste buds in your house. I also found it easiest to bake three round cake layers instead of two normal ones and cutting them in half. (I can't draw a straight line with a ruler either so there's that. I'm looking for easy and pretty :-)
Let the cakes completely cool.

For the frosting: You may have noticed there aren't exactly precise measurements on the ingredients here. I'm more of a little bit of this and a dash of that kind of cook. I tend to follow the basic idea of a recipe and tweak and taste test it until I get it like I like it. Plus, as far as the confectioners sugar goes, in depends on how sweet you like it and how much icing you actually want between your layers. I don't want the icing, however tasty, to overwhelm the cake and I usually have some left over. Which completely thrills my kids.
Combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Add confectioners sugar until you reach your desired taste, consistency, and amount you think you'll need. 
Stir in lemon juice, beginning with 2 tablespoons and adding more if you want a stronger lemon flavor. You don't want it to be pucker up lemony but you do want the flavor to make itself known.

Ice one layer of the cake. Sprinkle fresh blueberries across the top and add the next layer of cake. Repeat with icing and blueberries. Add the final layer of cake and icing. You can sprinkle the blueberries on top again or, like I did, arrange them in a heart. (Remember, when I said I can't draw a straight line with a ruler? Be impressed with my ingenuity rather than my skills on my blueberry heart. I lightly pressed a giant heart shaped cookie cutter into the icing and then placed the blueberries on the outline.)

The cake is best served slightly chilled in my opinion but doesn't have to be.

We're wrapping up our first week of summer break, and between it and the final week of school, blogging has become somewhat sporadic. But I think things will settle down pretty quickly. You know, once I figure out schedules that include flute lessons, a photography class (for Em...not me), volleyball practice, moms group, etc, etc, ect. It sounds hectic and summer still comes with a flurry activity but it's different, more laid back...less checking the clock to see how close to bedtime we are...more sleeping in and late night swims.

Last night we went to Music in the Park. This week's band, The Not So Fab Four, was a Beatle's cover group. They had a good sound, the weather was perfect with a wonderful breeze, and the company of lots of good friends.
My girls...growing up so fast.

 Best buds...

Goodness but this little fella will just make your heart melt!

Some tasty watermelon...

Squishy hugs...Mr. T wins!

Photo Story Friday

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