19 December 2011

Pauline Burress' Chocolate-Covered Peanuts

I have an awful sweet tooth, which I somehow passed on to Avery. So one of my favorite parts of Christmastime is all of the yummy sweet treats we get to enjoy. Here is a delicious candy recipe courtesy of my Aunt Pauline. It's quick and easy. And it's a great gift for anyone on your Christmas list!

5 squares white almond bark
5 squares chocolate almond bark
1/2 12-oz. bag chocolate chips
1 can (12 oz. or 16 oz.) salted peanuts

Preparation Instructions
Melt both almond barks and chocolate chips together. Add peanuts. Drop candy onto wax paper. Let candy sit until firm.

16 December 2011

Mash up!

Several weeks ago, we enjoyed a family dinner with Chris' parents after church. Mommaw invited Avery to help her make the mashed potatoes. I think she liked using the electric beaters!

Right now, Mommaw is nearing the end of a wonderful 17-day trip in Japan to visit her new grandson. (Poppaw now is home after spending a week with the Japan Clarks.) Since Mommaw is probably going through a little Avery withdrawal, we thought she'd like to see these pictures and remember this fun day!

14 December 2011

Decking the halls

According to family tradition, we put up our Christmas decorations on the day after Thanksgiving. Usually we watch "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" while decorating. But since Chris was working on homework and didn't want to miss watching the movie, Avery and I just listened to some of our favorite Christmas CDs.

Avery had her own decorations to unpack. She spent a lot of time setting up and playing with her Fisher Price nativity set. She loves all of the animals and people, especially Baby Jesus. That little baby is carried all over the house. (And at Grandma and Grandpa's house, Baby Jesus rides on the electric train!) But thank goodness He always ends up back in the stable with His mommy and daddy.

Chris took a break from homework to help Avery hang the stockings.

Next we decorated the tree. Each year, I love pulling out the ornaments and reminiscing about the memories behind each one. This year, I got to explain each ornament's significance to Avery.

I'll share some of these memories with you, too!

Casey's wife, Elvie, loves all things Disney. So it's only appropriate that she gave us this Minnie Mouse ornament with their family picture. Now we need a new picture that includes Caden!

Although this technically is a football referee, this is still an awesome ornament. After all, how many referee ornaments have you seen in the stores?

My cousin Lori Anne gave me this adorable pregnant snowman ornament the Christmas before Avery was born. Just like the referee above, how often do you see a maternity-themed ornament? :o)

Eleven years ago, my parents and I visited my sister in England while she spent a semester studying there. In London I picked up this ornament of a Buckingham Palace guard.

I can't tell you about our Christmas tree ornaments without showing a Lucy ornament. This one depicts Lucy taking ballet lessons in the episode "The Ballet." I may have a lot of Lucy ornaments, but Chris has just as many sports ornaments!

Avery helped hang some of her own ornaments. Every year we get one dated ornament for the family and one for Avery. Her ornament this year features Curious George, one of her favorite characters.

Chris is always responsible for putting the star on the top of the tree. My arms are too short to handle this task!

Besides our tree ornaments, we have many other decorations with special meanings. I decided to share some of them with you.

After moving to Tucson, my grandma fell in love with DeGrazia, an artist who specialized in southwestern art. My grandparents featured much of his work in their home, especially in the form of needlepoint crafted by my grandma. This is another one of DeGrazia's items, a beautiful Hispanic nativity set featured inside a small glass box. Looking at this unique nativity scene always makes me think of Grandma Hromada.

Avery loves naming everyone in each nativity scene she sees.

Here's another precious nativity scene. This one belonged to my Grandma Rork. My sister and I proudly displayed this set in our bedroom when we were younger.

Chris' mom bought him this mini-Christmas tree several years ago. It features teddy bears sitting on basketballs and soccer balls. Since he's a two-sport referee, it's like this tree was made just for him!

I hope you enjoyed a small glimpse into our family Christmas decorations!

13 December 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Hebrews 11-13


It's easy to say you have faith in something or someone. Yet this is a challenging Christian doctrine. Faith is woven all throughout the book of Hebrews but especially in these last three chapters. The first verse of chapter 11 gives us the Bible's clearest definition of faith:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
According to chapter 11, we have faith in four basic things which are unseen: creation, a holy God, eternal life, and wrath and judgment. The writer then goes on to give multiple examples of Old Testament men and women who had faith in God's unseen promises. The amazing thing about each of these faithful believers is that they never received what was promised (11:39). They had so much faith in the unknown and acted on that faith, but they never saw their faith come to fruition in the birth of the promised Messiah. How blessed we are to see the full picture and have God's full revelation in his written Word!

Our faith will be tested because that's simply a part of life. But we can't give in to that testing. We must persevere. And the only way to persevere is by fixing our eyes (12:1b-2) and thoughts on Jesus (3:1). Look to Christ, not self. Where are my eyes looking?

Then there are evidences of true faith, including loving one another, helping those who are suffering and experiencing contentment in our circumstances. Which evidences of faith do others see in me?

There are three parts to faith: content (head knowledge), consent (believing what you know) and commitment (put the knowledge into practice). These are not steps we must take to achieve faith, but each part works together to help us experience true biblical faith.

06 December 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Hebrews 7-10

There is so much doctrine in these four chapters of Hebrews! I could go on and on about how Christ is the superior sacrifice, how He is our King and Priest in the order of Melchizedek, how thousands of years earlier the old covenant and sacrifices pointed to Him, and how He is in heaven interceding to God on our behalf. But there was one short verse from these four chapters that really hit me this week:
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Hebrews 9:14
Because of Jesus' great sacrifice and death, not only are my sins cleansed but I also can serve the living God.

So many people today struggle through life without a purpose or plan. They wonder why we're on earth. They wonder if God really cares about us. They wonder what they should be doing with their lives. They wonder how they can experience true satisfaction and fulfillment. This verse clearly tells us that part of our purpose on earth is to serve God.

Am I being the best person I can be? Am I being what God has called me to be, and am I doing what He has called me to do? How well am I serving Him? Do I thank Him for the opportunities to serve Him? Do I ask Him for more opportunities to serve Him? How can I better serve the living God?

29 November 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Hebrews 4:14-6:20

This section of Hebrews focuses on how Jesus is superior to the Jewish priesthood. There also is a brief change of topic when the writer warns the readers against laziness by not moving past basic Christian doctrines into "meatier" teachings (5:11-6:3). Apparently the Hebrews were not applying what they were learning. So true for many of us today!

This weekend, I was trying to determine what to write about from this week's Scripture. I couldn't really land on anything specific until I heard last night's lecture. Read 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.

Because Jesus is our Great High Priest, we can confidently approach God's throne of grace. Do I realize what a great privilege this is? In the Old Testament, the Israelites didn't have direct access to God. They could only approach Him through a priest. And the high priest could enter God's presence in the Holy of Holies just once a year. Now we can enter His presence at any time, from anywhere. What a privilege!

In what manner do I approach God's throne? How often to I approach His throne? Do I do it boldly? Reverently? I'm still working on my prayer life this year, so this was a good reminder about how I should approach God's throne. I want to picture myself in God's presence as I come before Him in worship, thanksgiving and petition.

22 November 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Hebrews 2:5-4:13

What a challenging Scripture! This portion of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus is superior to mankind. These verses also warn against hardening our hearts by disobeying God, just like the Israelites did while wandering in the desert (Numbers 13-14).

My favorite verse in this section is 3:1: "Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest." Some synonyms for "fix" include "make stable," "hold steady" and "remain strong." According to one principle from last night's lecture, fixing our minds on Jesus gives us the courage to live the day in Him.

How do we fix our thoughts on Jesus daily? There are countless ways. Some include filling our minds, hearts and ears with God's Word; praying continually; serving others; memorizing Scripture; and choosing an accountability partner.

I know sometimes this is easier said than done. But our attitude and outlook on life are so much better when we choose to think about Jesus instead of anything that causes us stress!

21 November 2011

New toys at Grandma and Grandpa's house

Recently my parents have freshened up Avery's toy choices at their house by giving her some new-to-her toys.

This huge pile of Barbies used to belong to me and my sister, Karen. A few years ago, Karen and I went through our Barbie collection and pared it down to the dolls with all their legs, arms and heads. It's fun to see Avery playing with these Barbies. A lot of memories come flooding back when I see these dolls.

Avery loves to line up her toys and books. So Grandma helped her position the Barbies here.

While looking at a Christmas toy catalog, Avery saw a trampoline made just for kids. She has played on one before. So when she got excited and shouted, "Trampoline!" Grandpa knew she'd love to use his old exercise trampoline.

I think Avery is getting more use out of it than Grandpa ever did!

20 November 2011

Avery's new cousin

We are so excited to announce that Avery has a new cousin, and we have a new nephew!

Caden (or Cayden, we're not sure which spelling!) Michael Clark
7 lbs., 2 oz.
20 inches
3:45 a.m.
Nov. 20, 2011

Elvie scared all of us with some severe complications a few hours after the birth. But everything is fine now, and Mommy and Caden are doing well. We wish Casey and his family didn't live halfway across the world. But until we're all together again and we can hold precious Caden, we know they'll share lots of pictures, videos and stories.

Casey, Elvie and Shin-ya: Enjoy this special time as a family because it will go very quickly. And try to get some sleep! :o)

16 November 2011

Booty shop

I've mentioned before how much Avery loves going to the beauty shop (or "booty shop," as she says). It didn't take too many visits before she started playing beauty shop at home.

While at the beauty shop with Mommaw Clark last week, Mommaw's stylist generously gave Avery a bag full of hair styling goodies. And that's just about the only thing Avery played with all weekend!

She had so much fun working on her babies' hair. But it's much more fun to have a real customer, right?

Luckily, her grandpas were willing to step in.

You'll notice that she has created her own style for wearing headbands. It doesn't do much for keeping her hair out of her eyes, but that's the only way she'll wear headbands.

After working on her customers' hair, then it's Avery's turn.

I have a feeling that "hair stylist" may be on her list of possible future occupations!

15 November 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Hebrews 1:1-2:4

For the next few weeks, we'll be in Hebrews. Although we don't know the author of Hebrews, we do know that this book was written to Jewish believers during the last 10 years of the time mentioned in Acts. Often Hebrews is called the Book of Encouragement. It is filled with many encouraging and uplifting verses that reconfirm our faith in Christ. This book goes back to the basics and reminds Christians why we believe in Christ.

I love this illustration from lecture last night: We don't need the blueprint after a building is complete. In the same way, we don't need the Old Testament sacrifices after Christ arrived. This first section of Hebrews emphasizes that because Jesus is God, He is superior to everyone and everything. So we don't need to rely on anyone but Him.

The lesson I learned this week came from Hebrews 2:1: "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." We drift away from God when we ignore Christ and His message. Spiritual drifting can happen to both Christians and non-Christians. Christians will drift daily when we ignore God's truth and turn to our own ways. Non-Christians will drift for all eternity when they reject the truth of the gospel: Salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.

The only way not to drift is to be tied to Christ. Just like a boat that isn't tied to a dock will drift in the currents, we also will drift in the currents of the world when we ignore Christ and choose to live our lives for ourselves and not for Him. Are you tied tightly to Him for all eternity?

08 November 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Acts 15:1-35 and Galatians 2

The great influx of Gentile believers was causing some rifts in the new church. Most notably, some Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile Christians to follow the Jewish laws and customs, including be circumcised. But Paul and Barnabas told these men that salvation is based only on faith in Christ and His work on the cross, not the Law or works. As you can guess, an argument ensued.

The Jewish Christians didn't want to lose their traditions or their special standing with God. But He clearly said that salvation is in Christ alone. The bottom line of this issue is that the Jewish Christians were trying to compromise the truth of God's Word. They wanted to add works to salvation. It's a good thing Paul and Barnabas stepped in!

Even today, Satan uses internal controversies to try to destroy Christ's church. As believers, we must watch out for Satan dividing the church with false doctrines. We will recognize false doctrines and know how to dispel them when we stand firm on the truth of the Scripture.

How do I handle church divisions? Am I a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Do I pray for unity in the church? Do I know the truth of the Scripture?

The early church worked through this divisive issue to bring unity to believers and to show that they are God's children (John 13:35). Will we commit to doing the same today?

02 November 2011

Fun with a microphone

As you saw in a recent post, Grandma and Grandpa Hromada gave Avery an electronic microphone. We mistakenly thought that it would stay at their house, but Grandpa quickly rushed it out the door and put it in our car.

It's really quite funny to watch Avery play with this toy. She must have received some performance genes from Chris because I certainly didn't have anything to do with her stage presence!

A good performer tries to get the audience to participate.

You have to be sure the audience can see you as you perform on stage.

Besides singing songs, Avery also likes to do her impression of a fire truck siren. (Yes, Daddy taught her this one!)

01 November 2011

BSF 2011-2012: Acts 14

For Paul and Barnabas, the city of Derbe brought rest and comfort. While traveling, healing people and sharing the gospel, these brave men faced many trials. They were threatened with death in Iconium (Acts 14:1-7). And Paul was brutally stoned in Lystra before receiving a miraculous healing from God (Acts 14:8-20a). Through it all, they never were discouraged.

But God knew it was time for some rest and refreshment. So He sent them to Derbe. After surviving a torturous stoning, the next day Paul with Barnabas walked 18 miles from Lystra to Derbe. After overcoming a trial, he just got up and kept going!

While in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach. Many people believed, and there was no opposition, unlike the countless attacks from Satan before this time. God knew that these men needed an "easy" task to recover from all they had already been through. Derbe was God's chance to give Paul and Barnabas rest and strength before he sent them back to the battlefield.

I'd like to think I have a pretty good life. But just like everyone else, I have struggles, too. My biggest challenge right now is being a good mommy and living out Jesus to a sweet 2-year-old girl. Sometimes, my impatience gets the best of me and I lose my temper with her. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with parenting duties and need a vacation from being a mommy. Sometimes, I just want to drive in the car alone without a tiny voice in the backseat requesting a certain song or asking it to be "louder" or telling me not to sing along with said song!

But in all of this, God gives me Derbe moments. I have an amazing family, including a wonderful husband, the best sister I could ever ask for and caring parents and in-laws. I work at a part-time job I love and with co-workers I love, including my best friend. I spend most Tuesday evenings eating dinner and relaxing with my parents and Avery, followed by some alone time before Chris gets home from class. I get to serve God alongside an amazing team of godly women every Saturday morning and Monday night. Through these blessings, God provides rest and strength before I face the battlefield again.

Even when the stresses of life take over, I need to be like Paul and keep on keeping on. And I need to enjoy Derbe but not linger there...because God is preparing me for battle!

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was a lot of fun this year, even though we won't go trick-or-treating tonight. Instead Avery and Mommaw Clark are going to pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

As you can see, Avery dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with Toto! After Mommaw Clark bought the ruby slippers this summer, Grandma Hromada made the Dorothy dress.

To be sure Avery understood her character, Aunt Karen introduced Avery to The Wizard of Oz movie last weekend. Karen fast forwarded through some of the spooky parts, but Avery really liked the movie. In fact, Karen taught Avery to say Dorothy's signature phrase (with her eyes closed):

Mommaw Clark tried getting her to click her shoes together, but she can't do that very well. Last night the grandparents and Aunt Karen came over for food, fun and games. That was a fun way to spend the evening!

On Friday night, we went to ZooBoo. The zoo is opened later than usual, and the kids can trick-or-treat at certain spots throughout the zoo.

Avery had a list of animals she wanted to see: tigers, elephants, giraffe and penguins. Despite the large crowd, we saw all of the animals Avery requested. We think it was close to dinner time because a lot of the animals were pacing and waiting for their meals! First we stopped at the relatively new tiger exhibit.

There are several large windows where you can view the tigers. See how close this tiger got to us!

Just as we stepped away from the window, another family with a 1-year-old boy in a wagon walked up to the window. Suddenly we heard a bloodcurdling scream from the boy. As we turned around, we saw the tiger standing right up against the window, breathing on the glass and staring at the boy. The boy's mom said the tiger charged at the boy through the glass. The parents weren't concerned and were laughing at the boy's reaction. But that poor boy will be traumatized for life and never will go see the tigers at the zoo again!

Avery got some yummy candy as she trick-or-treated at the zoo. In fact, I caught her sneaking some of this candy on Saturday. When I returned from Bible study early Saturday morning, the house was still dark. But I found Avery sitting on the couch with her candy loot on her lap. She was eating some Sweet Tarts while Daddy was still sleeping in bed! Luckily I stopped her before she ate too much candy!

The cheetah exhibit has glass windows similar to the tiger exhibit. Here is one cheetah pacing on the tree branches, looking for dinner.

One of the activities at the zoo was an obstacle course. Avery didn't hesitate to get in line and try it out.

That sweet little blond girl didn't even try to race Avery through the course. She wanted to be right beside her the whole way!

We hope you have a spooky Halloween filled with your favorite candy!