Living in a climate like Houston can make for a pretty stuffy, indoors-type of life for much of the year.  It seems like it’s often either too hot or too cold or too humid to do anything outdoors or even just to open the windows.  Lately I’ve been learning about indoor plants and I’m hooked!

Bring the Outdoors In

One of the easiest ways to brighten up (not to mention bring fresh and clean oxygen into) your home is to bring in flowers and plants!

The Science of It

Plants absorb carbon dioxide and other chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde.  They also regulate the humidity in your home.

The EPA estimates that indoor air is 2 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. Things like adhesives, carpeting, furniture, mattresses, ply-wood, and shower curtains add to the crazy levels of pollution inside.  This is not to mention any harsh chemicals you might use to clean your home or body.  (Click here to learn about natural cleaning alternatives and here to learn about natural body alternatives!)

Two small plants or one medium size plant per 100 square feet will provide fresh air and healthy, mold-free humidity in any room so everyone can breathe deeply with ease. (Easy Green Living by Renee Lou)

Other Benefits

The obvious benefit is that bringing plants indoors makes for a cheery, bright home.  I love the look of beautiful, live plants!  It just really makes a room look alive!

Additionally, having a host of different beautiful plants makes for a great discussion with your kiddos about God’s fabulous creation.

It also makes for a built-in, easy way for children to help take care of something while learning about growth and responsibility!

So Which Plants are Best?

Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen, Chrysanthemum, Corn Plant (Dracaena massangeana, not edible corn), Dragon Tree, English Ivy, Peace Lily, Philodendron, Pothos, and Snake Plant.

I can’t wait to continue decorating our home with beautiful and healthy plants!

Naturally Keeping the Pests Out

The biggest complaint when it comes to live plants indoors seems to be the bugs that come in with them.  Here is a recipe to a homemade natural pesticide that I found, have used, and love:

Natural Homemade Pesticide

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped hot peppers
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 cups water
  1. Combine ingredients in a clear glass jar.  I think I just covered a glass mixing bowl with saran wrap, which worked fine for me.
  2. Leave in the sun for 24 hours to let “tea” steep.  Obviously the sun is not out for 24 hours.  Just leave it outside for 24 hours!
  3. Strain “tea,” pour into spray bottle, and spray on plants. Store extra in a gallon jug.

Naturally Keeping the Fungus Out

Sometimes, particularly in our humid climate, plants can get fungus (mildew) growing on their leaves.  Here is the natural fungicide recipe we use:

Natural Homemade Fungicide

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  1. Mix thoroughly and place in a spay bottle.
  2. Spray on plants. Store extra in a gallon jug.

So there you have it: a charge to bring plants in your home and a way to keep those pesky pests and no-fun fungi out!  In fact, both of these recipes work great for outdoor plants and flowers, as well.  Happy in-home gardening!


During my three week hiatus I was once again blessed to be able to be published at my sweet friend’s blog, Desiring Virtue.  Last time I was able to write for her I wrote about Why Natural Living Matters to Me.  This time I gave her readers several tips to slowly slide into living a more natural life in terms of the products we use on our bodies.  Several of the tips and recipes were similar to my own series, Natural From Head to Toe, however my posts on Desiring Virtue are a bit more succinct and might be easier to follow for one just beginning in the Natural Living world!

10 Ways to Ease Into a Natural Body (Pt. 1)

Last time I told you why natural living matters to me. Hopefully that sparked some of your interests and maybe you desire to know how you can begin to live more naturally. The first area of natural living that I learned about was beauty products-things that go on our bodies. My hope is that this list will help you ease into a world of Natural Living when it comes to your body and your family’s bodies . . . (read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

10 Ways to Ease Into a Natural Body (Pt. 2)

# 10. Take it slow! Be patient. Find a balance.

The hardest thing for me about easing into natural living is that I didn’t ease into it at all.  I tried to jump in head first and I just ended up getting frustrated because I either didn’t understand or couldn’t afford whatever it was I wanted to do. Learn from me!  If you’re just starting out, go slow!  Pick one or two things to switch this month.  Then maybe add a third next month. Be patient!  The most important thing is not that you switch to a natural deodorant. You’ve been using aluminum since you were 12.  A few more months—or even a year—won’t kill you.  Find a balance . . . (read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

My heart was to post this update three weeks ago.  I knew that I would not be able to write during those three weeks and so I wanted to give you a heads up and let you know why.  As it is with so many best laid plans, that did not happen.  And so here I am on the backside of those three weeks, finally updating you on the going-ons in our family: my heart during the first seven months of this year, the reason for my three week hiatus, and our plan for the future.

January

Luke on Halloween--more than two months before being hospitalized.

The last time I gave an update about our family God was teaching me contentment while in the hospital with our sweet son, who had been deemed “malnourished” and “severe failure the thrive.”  (I still don’t know how to structure sentences with the awkwardness of those two terms.)  Needless to say, we are past that trial and Luke is doing very well.  That was January.  January was filled with confusion, and thankfulness, and contentment, and blessings.  It is impossible for me to remember (why didn’t I journal more?!) every single person who blessed us while in the hospital (and shortly thereafter), but we were so overwhelmed with the love of our friends and family–we truly felt Christ’s hands and feet at work.  Thank you.

It is the lesson that God provides that permeates the months that follow.  I cannot say it enough.  God will provide.  He does provide.  He is providing.  It is remarkable to me to look back and see him take that bill away, provide food for that week, change those numbers in the bank account (no, really.), and allow those three things to happen so that this other one is possible.  He is so gracious to me.

February

The rest of January and most of February is a blur.  I spent every day of these few weeks pumping, supplementing, measuring, feeding, drinking, popping, pumping again, freezing, defrosting, changing, clothing, and washing.  In my attempt to continue nursing while gaining my milk back I ran myself into the floor and finally, at the end of February, gave up.  This was a very dark time for me.  Mothers are supposed to be able to provide for their children!  What is wrong with me that I can’t provide for my son? Thankfully, my sweet husband agreed to look into a natural homemade formula alternative, and so it wasn’t long before Luke was gobbling up a wonderful, nourishing goat’s milk formula.  I still do not know how we afforded the ingredients for the formula–back then or now.  It’s a mystery–a miracle.

God was so gracious to me during this time.  I’m sitting here trying to think of exactly how he brought my sin to light and I cannot remember, however it was the end of February when He showed me my life-long, super-ingrained love affair with pleasing others.  As I read and studied about this sin I realized that practically everything I did, everything I said, most of the motivation behind most of what I did was to please others–including even the intense desire to breast feed.  Of course, I wanted to (and still wish I could have), but the reason that I was so crushed that I couldn’t anymore was because of how others would look at me!  I spent the next few weeks in prayer over this sin and began mortifying it with the help of sweet, sweet Jesus.

March

The month of March is a bright shining light in my mind.  The Lord provided so that our family could travel to Los Angeles where we spent two marvelous weeks with our very best friends: my husband’s brother, Jason, his wife, Claire, and their two adorable daughters, Sophia and Alaythia.  This trip was exactly what I needed.  A break.  A refresher.  A time of loving confrontation.

It was at the end of this trip that the Lord showed me glaring sin in my life in three or four different areas.  It was overwhelming, to be sure, but so needed.  I had been living on autopilot since the hospital in January and I needed my sweet sister-in-law to lovingly talk to me about my sin.  How fabulous to see one’s sin–it is then that we can repent and let the Holy Spirit change us!  Pride and discontentment in different areas of my life permeated.  How wonderful it was to talk those things through with Claire and how gracious God is to forgive me my sins!

April

I am having a difficult time remembering April.  I suppose it’s because nothing monumental took place.  I really just spent the month getting back to life after a crazy winter.  This was the month that I finally began to feel as if I had a handle on this mothering thing.  I think now that it was simply because I wasn’t in unrepentant sin that I was able to relax and find joy in being the mommy to my joyous little boy!

May

Luke and his sweet great Grandma

May is the month that my grandmother passed away.  We knew she had cancer for several months, but that didn’t seem to make the sting any less harsh.  I spent a great deal of time contemplating death and Heaven and Hell.  I found comfort in God’s sovereignty in a way I never had before.  This was also the month that U.S. forces found and killed Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind the September 11th attacks on our country, which forced me to think about death in terms of two very different souls–one being my sweet, sweet Grandma’s and the other, one of the most twisted to ever live.  It was difficult to find a place to land, but in the end I landed with Christ.  I landed with the knowledge that He suffered, died, and was buried.  That He rose again and ascended into heaven to reign forever.  I landed with Christ and Him crucified.  Who am I to question His Plan?  I landed with the following:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)

This was the beginning of a new way of thinking for me–a way that has completely changed my life and the way I interact with others and my circumstances, but most importantly, it has changed the way I think about my Savior.

June

June was a difficult month for our family.  Since . . . well, I don’t really know when . . . I had been feeling tired.  No.  Really tired.  I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, I struggled to stay up past 7:30 at night, I struggled not to take two three-hour naps during the day.  In addition, my hair began falling out, my toes and fingers were always ice cold, I had trouble (during the times of the day I was actually awake) coming up with the words I wanted to use.  All this and the fact that I hadn’t lost hardly any baby weight was hard on me physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.  Needless to say, keeping a home, being a loving wife, and caring for a sweet baby became more and more difficult.

Finally I researched my symptoms and (as I’m sure a few of you have already figured out) it seemed as if I might have had a problem with my thyroid–Hypothyroidism.  I made an appointment with my doctor and my suspicions were confirmed.  In fact, it seemed as if I had built up yeast in my body that was causing the thyroid issues.  So I cut out most grains and sugar from my diet, I began taking a multitude of natural supplements, I began drinking more water than I ever have before in my life put together.  I began (after a while) using a drop of lemon essential oil a day and practically bathing in Progessence Plus Serum (a natural combination of oils with progesterone in it).  And I started feeling better.  Unfortunately the jury’s still out on whether or not all this will heal me, but I for sure can tell a difference in how I feel.  I’m excited to see if this will work and ask you to pray that taking care of the yeast in my body and my thyroid naturally will solve my health issues.  Be sure that I will update you if it does!  Also, please pray that I would be diligent and disciplined in the way I take care of my body.

July

July should be called The Month of Grace.  It was actually the end of May (during my Grandma’s passing) when the Lord began teaching me about His Amazing Grace, but then in July He gave me two very difficult situations in which to apply what He was teaching me:

In the beginning of the month someone close to me sinned against me in a major way.  This exact situation had happened years before and I believed that I had forgiven them back then.  As my head reeled and my heart ached, I reached for a book I knew would help me see this trial through the lens of the Cross.  A few weeks before, for my birthday, a sweet spiritual mother, Liz, gave me a book by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Counsel From the Cross.  I ran to the first chapter and the one about relationships and found the following:

By faith [you] can war against anger, self-pity, and self-righteousness because [you] trust that [your] struggle against sin isn’t in vain.  On Calvary it seemed as though all had been lost, but Calvary isn’t all there is.  There is an empty tomb.  The empty tomb assures [you] that even though [you] feel hopelessly trapped by anger and self-pity, the power of sin has been broken in [your] life.

Then, as [you] experience the enveloping comfort of the Spirit, [you] will be humble enough to seek to comfort [others], to see [other’s] sin as no more repugnant than [your] own, and much of [your] self-justifying wrath will be drained.  (pages 32, 33)

We are sinful and flawed, errant children who have been welcomed by a patient, long-suffering, kind Father.  God loves us and draws us to himself.  He speaks words of love to us continuously because we are so slow to believe.  He is patient, kind, gentle, and faithful, and he always uses every opportunity to reveal himself to us.

He showers us with grace, mercy, encouragement, and generous words of love.  Because we are more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope, we can become effusively loving and welcoming. (page 163)

This changed my view about sin.  How could I get upset?  How could I be so angry?  How could I be so selfish?  Did Christ not have to die for me?  Had Christ not forgiven this person?  Of course He did!  Of course He had!  Who am I? I was amazed with how quickly my heart changed.  I was in awe of how quickly I could show compassion to this person.  This was not me.  This was the Holy Spirit within me. This was God’s Grace.  It is not in my nature to forgive quickly and easily.  In fact, through this trial I realized I had not forgiven this person for the incident years ago and I was able to fully forgive them for both situations.  Praise Jesus for His forgiveness and His work in my heart.  I am in awe of Him.

A few days later Tim and I found out that we were pregnant with our second child.  I had known for a couple weeks, but it was so wonderful to see that confirmation “Pregnant” on the stick!  The very next day we left for Glorieta, NM to attend a high school summer camp with our church.  I had begun spotting a tiny bit, but that happens in the early days of some pregnancies, so I thought little of it.  As the week went on I began bleeding more and more.  After a call to my doctor we decided that going to the Emergency Room was what would be best.  The E.R. in Santa Fe confirmed the pregnancy, but because I was only 5 weeks along, they received no information from the Ultra Sound.  They did, however, find out that my HCG level was 31, which should double every 48 hours or so.  While at camp I continued to bleed, although not nearly at the rate of other women who have miscarried.  In addition, I wasn’t cramping or in any pain.  It was a very confusing time with no real answers.  God kept pushing back the day that we would get answers: first Thursday, then Saturday, and then Monday.

Camp was a difficult week.  I wavered back and forth between complete devastation and timid trust in the Lord.  It was strange.  I knew God was in control, but without knowing what was happening to my baby, it was so difficult to apply the truths I knew to my situation.  At first I couldn’t believe I was going through this at camp–away from my home, in this far away place.  But now, thinking back, I am so thankful that we were at camp.  God was so good to surround me with so many older, godlier women, and so many sweet, sweet friends to hold me and cry with me and pray with me.  Having my best friends, and near 100 family members from our church there to go through this with me was so wonderful–God’s grace.

The Monday we got home from camp we went to the doctors and they confirmed that we had had a miscarriage.  I am still in awe of what God did in my heart at that moment.  It was sad, please don’t get me wrong.  I cried.  A lot.  But truly moments after the confirmation I just felt so at peace.  I finally knew what was going on and I was able to thank God for who He is.  I was able to praise Him for what He’s done.  I was able to love Him and trust in Him in a way that I never thought was really possible.  I will soon blog more specifically about what God’s been teaching me about Himself, but for now, I was just so amazed by Jesus and the Cross and Grace, that while losing our baby was very sad, I felt at peace . . . that’s the only way I know to describe it: peace.

The Last Three Weeks

As you might have guessed, the week of summer camp was three weeks ago.  The following two weeks were full of family get-togethers because Jason, Claire, and their girls came back from camp with us to spend their vacation time in Texas.  Needless to say, things were much too busy to blog–in addition, my hormones were so wacky it’s only God’s grace that I had always planned not to blog during those three weeks anyway!  We had such a wonderful time with our sweet friends and it was a great taste of what life will be like in just a few short months.

Things to Come

That’s right, Lord willing, Tim, Luke, & I will be moving to Los Angeles so that Tim can attend The Masters Seminary.  Tim will graduate with his Bachelors in Christian Leadership this December (just one semester to go!) and we will head out to California as soon as the Lord provides.  Please pray that God will provide a place to live (we’re praying for a Resident Manager position that would pay for rent) and a job for Tim.  Lord willing he will start seminary next fall (Fall 2012), so there will be several months that he could work full-time before classes start.  We are confident that the Lord will direct our steps and we know that He will provide exactly what we need, even if it’s not what we want or what we thought we needed!  Please pray that as His plan unfolds we continue to have such a perspective!

Thank you for being a part of our lives.  Thank you for praying.  Thank you for loving!

Today’s post will be short and sweet.  There’s not a lot I can say about how you should apply Scripture to your life–I can tell you how I should, but that might not be much help to you–you, who are in different seasons and struggle with different sins.

Basically, in order to apply Scripture to your life you must look back at the conclusions you made at the end of the Interpretation phase.  To refresh your memory, here is Titus 2:4-5 that we’re studying and the Interpretive Conclusion I came to:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • In Titus 2:4-5, Paul wrote to Titus to tell him that in order for the Gospel–the word of God–not to be dishonored–in order that the young Cretan womens’ testimonies for Christ not be ruined, they were to love their husbands, love their children, be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, and subject to their own husbands.

Our job in the Application phase is to decide how this truth will change our lives.  What things can we do, think, etc. to apply the verse we’re studying to our lives?

The best way I’ve found to do this (for me) is to simply write what I’m thinking.  I write it as a prayer sometimes (because prayer during this phase is incredibly important), but the point is that I just write.  I write for as long and as in-depth as I need to.  I confess areas in my life that I have not been applying the truths in whichever verse I’m studying.  I ask for strength.  I ask for wisdom.

More than anything else, though, once I have repented and prayed for me, I spend time thanking God for who He is.  For Jesus.  For the Cross.  I meditate upon the Cross in light of what I’ve learned and look to Jesus as my over-all motivation for change.

This is new to me–this Gospel-centered repentance and I won’t lie to you: I don’t have it all figured out.  It’s different from anything I’ve ever heard before and it’s radically changing my life.  As of right now, I can’t explain it any better than to tell you simply: the application to any Bible passage is the Gospel: Christ and Him crucified.  He is our motivation.

My hope is to learn more and explain this all better at a later date, but for right now, this is what I know to be true.

Here is a link to the free Application printable.  You can find the Observation and Interpretation printables by following this link, also:

View this document on Scribd

Finally, here is a Bible-sized printable you can print out, cut to fit your Bible, and carry with your Bible.  This has proved helpful to me to use as a guideline as I’m studying.

View this document on Scribd

I hope that this series as opened your eyes to a simplified, yet in-depth way to study your Bible. I hope that this series will help you navigate the Scripture.  Mostly I hope that you will begin to see Jesus as the main point of your Bible!

Are you confused?  Is something I wrote fishy?  Do you want more information?  Let me know and I’ll help you/correct myself!

How often do I hear this coming from bright, capable, godly women?  How often have I said and thought this?  How often as our husbands begin to discuss theology do we turn to one another, smile sweetly, say something like, “Well, that’s just way over MY head!” and then begin to discuss the newest trend in cloth diapering?  Why do we not listen to these men God has put in our lives to lead us?  Why don’t we contribute our thoughts to their theological topic of choice?  Why don’t we discuss the same topic among just us women?  Why as Christian women do we sometimes think we can’t think!?

Please don’t misunderstand me! I am not saying there’s not good that comes from discussing cloth diapering.  (When I was pregnant I visited a friend solely to have her explain cloth diapering to me!)  What I’m saying is, in our hussle and bussle to be Christian wives, moms, and daughters, have we turned our brains off to Christ?  Have we decided that in order to be good Christian women we should live our lives without using our minds–without learning more about our Savior?

If you think that you have neglected to learn more about Jesus and the Gospel I believe it boils down to one of two issues:  1) ignorance towards what the Bible calls Christian women to, or 2) a true lack of knowledge (i.e. maybe it is “just way over your head”).  Either of these possibilities is a problem, though.

Ignorance towards what the Bible calls Christian women to.

Our culture and the way it perceives womanhood is in stark contrast to the Biblical woman–the Christian woman, it’s true.  I’m afraid, however, in our attempt to distance ourselves from the world and its strong, aggressive, over-bearing picture of woman we’ve created this meek, ignorant ideal of a woman who cannot think on her own who is found no where in Scripture.

It is true the Bible calls women to be quiet, gentle, and reverent (1 Peter 3:4; Titus 2:3).  This does not mean we should be completely out of it when it comes to the things happening in the world, trends in Christianity (the good and the bad), and most especially theology!  Check out the Proverbs 31 woman if you don’t believe me–she was all over it!  The Bible is full of women who were quiet, gentle, reverent, but also knowledgeable, intelligent, and resourceful.  These women knew what it meant to follow God.  These women knew Christ and knew His Gospel–his Good News.  These women knew their theology!

My sweet sister in Christ, Jessalyn, wrote a wonderful article about the importance of theology.  Click here to head over to Desiring Virtue to read her post titled, Why Theology is Important.

“Again the question arises, is there more to theology than head knowledge? Is it practical? Does it impact my daily life? Why does your knowledge of God demand your attention as a wife, as a homemaker, as a mother? The answer is, how could it not? Theology isn’t an end in and of itself. It is a means to an end.

The end is Jesus.  It’s Christ.  The end that Jessalyn is talking about here is knowing Jesus better.  How can we be like Him if we don’t know about Him?  How can we fall more and more in love with him if we don’t know more and more about Him–who He is and what He’s done?  How can we further the Gospel if we don’t understand the Gospel?  Theology is not boring, stuffy, or unnecessary.  Theology is not extra.  Theology–the study of God–should be the Christian’s favorite subject–man or woman!

A True Lack of Knowledge

Maybe the reason you can’t follow theological conversations isn’t because you think they shouldn’t concern you as a woman.  Maybe you just really don’t know your theology.  Well that, my friend, can be fixed!  Back in Jessalyn’s post that I linked to earlier she lists several resources to help you learn more about God.

The first, and most important, is your Bible.  The authors of systematic theologies, who have filled libraries with their huge volumes, got all their information and knowledge from the Bible.  And so can we!  The best way to learn more about God is to read, meditate on, study, and fall in love with the truths in His Word.

However, if you need a little assistance figuring it all out, systematic theologies can be quite helpful.  A resource that I just love is a little book (only about 100 pages) called Bitesize Theology.  The 20 topics (things like God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, The Trinity, and Sin, all the way to things like Grace, Redemption, Adoption, Union with Christ, Eternal security, and The Second Coming) each have their own small chapter and the author, Peter Jeffery, quickly, but completely explains the back bone of each doctrine.  It’s really a wonderful little book for the new believer and the seasoned saint–the truths in it don’t get old.  In fact, we need to daily be pouring over these truths!  At the end of each chapter, Jeffery gives a quote from a famous theologian, offers some questions to help us think through the truths in the chapter, and then lists a book that would be helpful for further study about the doctrine.

So there you have it.  No more excuses for not knowing the beautiful doctrines!  You, as a woman, are called to fall more and more in love with Jesus each day.  You can’t do that if you aren’t learning more and more about Him each day!  Read His sweet Word, and if you feel like it would help you navigate the truths of Scripture, pick up this little book, Bitesize Theology.  The truths of Scripture don’t have to be over your head anymore!

Welcome to the second part of interpreting the Bible!  This fifth part in my series about how to conduct an in-depth, simplified Bible study is the last day that we’ll learn new things about the text.  Last time we looked at the first six parts of Interpretation.  Today, the last five.

Here is the passage we’re studying:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4-5)

7. Cultural Context

The cultural context of the text you’re studying is learned similarly to the historical and geographical contexts.  Like these earlier contexts, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Handbook and the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible are very helpful in learning about the culture of the time you’re reading about.  When using a Bible Handbook you should look up the passage you’re studying and the introduction to the book you’re in.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4-5)

  • Crete, where Titus is ministering, was the center of the Minoan culture.
  • There were Cretans at Pentecost (Acts 2).
  • Cretans had the reputation in the ancient world as being unruly and depraved.  Epimenides, a Cretan himself, wrote of the culture, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)

8. Theological Context

This is where it’s all at.  To me, the Theological Context is the most important part of the entire study.  This is basically figuring out what the passage you’re studying has to do with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel.  This requires thought, prayer, and eventually consultation.  You may need to back up and read the entire section, passage, or even book in which the passage you’re reading is found.  The main idea to focus on–the question to ask yourself–is What does this say about the Gospel?

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • The whole purpose for the letter of Titus was to teach him how to teach the Cretans to have a church that was good for evangelism.  (Titus 1:1-3)  He begins with qualifications for elders (chapter 1), then discusses how specific members of the congregation should act (chapter 2), and then how everyone should act (chapter 3).  The reason–the motive–behind acting these ways is so that the word of God would not be dishonored (Titus 2:5–although this is just speaking about a small portion, it applies to the whole letter.  Also see 2:10).
  • Therefore, young women are not to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that they would be saved. (This would be a works-based salvation which is un-Biblical).
  • Nor are the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that God would be pleased with them. (This, too, is the wrong motive–there is nothing believers can do to have God look on us with any more or any less pleasure.  The way God looks at us has nothing to do with us or our deeds!  We can do nothing right apart from Jesus–God looks on believers and is pleased–because He is pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice!)
  • The motive behind the young women loving their husbands, loving their children, being sensible, pure, working at home, kind, and being subject to their own husbands is Christ–so that the word of God (the Gospel) would not be dishonored!  So that our testimony will not be tarnished–so that our lives would be intriguing to unbelievers–so that our evangelism will not be done in vain.
  • You see, unbelievers (not God!) judge believers by our actions much more than by our words.  How many times have you heard an unbeliever complain that Christianity is full of hypocrites?  Too many times!  Therefore, if we are to be used as instruments of the Gospel, our conduct must be fitting as one who’s sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus!
  • A Note about Hypocrisy: I don’t think anyone expects Christians to be perfect.  Please don’t think Paul is saying that in order for us to be able to evangelize to our neighbors we must be perfect and never let them see us sin.  Of course not!  In fact, often times it’s the humble confession of sin and asking for forgiveness that will get an unbeliever’s attention.  Even so, Paul is calling the young women to a lifestyle of love in verses four and five–a lifestyle in which we will sin, of course, but one that is so marked by the love of Christ–the grace of the Gospel–that it will still catch the attention of our unbelieving friends and honor the word of God (the Gospel) instead of dishonor it.

Again, this is a tough passage that I’ve chosen to use as an example (sorry!)–however, we have found the Gospel in it, which is the whole point of Bible study!  Isn’t it refreshing!?  The Bible is not just a list of rules that we should follow!  It’s all about Christ and Him crucified!

9. Consultation

Here we are at the end of the search!  Consultation is simply looking in others’ commentaries, listening to others’ sermons, reading others’ articles, etc. to see how they interpreted it.  For a long time this is where I began and finished my Bible study.  I would read the passage in my Bible and immediately pick up my John MacArthur commentary to see what it meant.  Doing this last, though, is so much more rewarding:

  • I learn more by doing my own study.
  • I learn the passage I’m studying better because I get so far into it.
  • Every once in a while after doing my own study I find I don’t agree with a commentator’s interpretation of a certain text.  If I had just read his to begin with I probably would have just “agreed” with his findings.  This is not how it should be!  We need to be good Bereans and search the Scriptures for ourselves! (Acts 17:10-11)

Some Commentaries that We Like:

I’m not going to write here all of the notes I would take and the things that would change after reading these commentaries.

However, when I do an actual study I write down in my own words anything that any commentator says that is pertinent to my study.  Often times I go back to my Observation or Interpretation notes and cross things out, change things, and add things.  The most important things or the things that don’t fit into another category, I list out in the “Consultation” box.  I also make sure to take note of which commentator I got a piece of information from!

10. The Interpretive Overview

Finally you’re ready to summarize your thoughts and findings in one to three paragraphs.  Make this concise, but thorough.  Don’t leave anything out.  Everything that you’ll need to find the application of the passage needs to be in the Interpretive Overview.  This is an example of (a very short) overview for Titus 2:4-5:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • In Titus 2:4-5, we find ourselves in the middle of a long list of characteristics that older men, older women, young women, and young men are to exemplify (2:1-10).  Paul was writing to Titus to tell him what he needed to teach the Cretans (1:5; 2:1).  The reason for the teaching of these characteristics was so that the word of God would not be dishonored (2:5).  Paul wanted Titus to teach these things to the Cretans so that their testimonies–their efforts at evangelism–would not be thwarted (1:9; 2:5; 2:11-15).
  • Ultimately Paul was concerned about the Gospel.  If the Cretans did not conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (for young women, this conduct is found in verses 4 and 5), unbelievers looking upon their lives would be able to contradict and disregard them (1:9; 2:15).
  • And so while these are all good characteristics to achieve, achieving these characteristics is not the point.  The point is that Christ came, died, and rose again for them-that is their motivation–that the Gospel of Christ would not be dishonored.

11. The Interpretive Conclusion Statement

Lastly, crystallize your interpretation in one clear, concise, carefully worded sentence in third-person, past tense.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • In Titus 2:4-5, Paul wrote to Titus to tell him that in order for the Gospel–the word of God–not to be dishonored–in order that the young Cretan womens’ testimonies for Christ not be ruined, they were to love their husbands, love their children, be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, and subject to their own husbands.

And that’s it for Interpretation!  Obviously if we were really studying this verse (and it wasn’t just for teaching purposes) we would have gone much deeper.  We would have studied more words.  We would have read more commentaries.  We would have explored Blue Letter Bible deeper.  But I hope this gave you a good idea of what a simplified, yet in-depth Bible study can look like!

Here, again, is the Interpretation printable to organize your findings:

View this document on Scribd

Are you confused?  Is something I wrote fishy?  Do you want more information?  Let me know and I’ll help you/correct myself!

The next step: Application!  Next time I’ll show you how to take this overview and statement and transfer it to your life.  The more I learn about Bible study the easier this step gets.  As it turns out, my heart is not very different from the men and women Scripture was originally written for.  In addition, I’m learning more and more that the Bible has far less to do with me than it does my Savior.

Because it has been five months since I shared my Whole Chicken Week with you, I will remind you of my heart behind making a Healthy Menu Plan:

Whole foods, fresh produce, meal plans, whole wheat, raw dairy, soaking grains, homemade . . . everything . . . it’s overwhelming, really.  I want so badly to be a better cook.  I want to cook faster and smarter and cheaper.  I want the food I cook to be healthy for my family.  I want to get rid of processed foods and preservatives.  I want to learn the traditional ways of cooking–things women did up until 50 years ago.  Only I want to be able to do them in an efficient way that fits into today’s lifestyle.

Well, that may be a tall order, but I think I might actually be on my way to achieving this.  I’ve learned (during the past year of trying to be more natural) that baby steps are the best way to go.  There’s no point in me throwing myself into a way of life that I don’t really know how to live in!  I started a year ago learning just about natural beauty products, then house-hold cleaning products, then I very slowly began switching things like my all-purpose enriched flour to things like whole wheat flour, and now I think I’m finally ready to continue adding more natural ways to my cooking by making even bigger steps than just switching to purchasing bottom or top shelf items (because that’s where they tend to store the “good-for-you” products).

Step Number One: Create a Healthy Menu Plan.  This will be a 6 week schedule of meals where each week the meals I make will include some of the same ingredients so I can re-use fresh produce without it going bad.  My goal is to create these 6 weeks worth of meals using healthy ingredients and homemade items whenever I can.  Then I can start over with week one and run through the 6 weeks again without my husband getting bored with the same old meals every week. 

Today I will share with you my Mexican Beef Week.

Meal #1: Crockpot Nachos

  • 1 lb. ground beef, uncooked
  • 16 oz. black beans, canned or fresh and soaked (if using fresh beans, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can)
  • 10 oz. corn, canned, frozen, or fresh (again, if using fresh, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can or would melt from the frozen corn)
  • 10 oz. (or about a cup of the homemade) Rotel*
  • 1 packet (or ¾ oz. homemade) taco seasoning**
  • cheese (we use mozzarella, however, you may want to use cheddar since that’s what Enchiladas Fantasticas calls for)
  • chips
  1. Put beef, beans, corn, Rotel, and taco seasoning in crockpot.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.
  2. Serve with cheese and chips. No really, it’s that easy!  And it is so yummy!

*Homemade Rotel

Makes about 5 cups

  • 1 ½ qts. peeled chopped tomatoes (seeded) (about 4 lbs.)
  • 12 jalepeno or hot chili peppers, sliced (7 for medium, 4 for mild)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  1. Place it all in a 4 quart saucepan and simmer until reduced to 1 quart. (Before you do any cooking, fill the pan with 1 quart water and mark with a dry erase pen–on the outside of the pan–where the 1 quart mark is.  Dump the water and then cook the tomatoes and peppers all up.  That way you’ll know when it’s reduced to 1 quart!)
  2. Freeze in 1 cup portions.  This will be equal to one small can of Rotel!

**Homemade Taco Seasoning

This makes enough for Crockpot Nachos, plus some.  I usually multiply the following amounts by 4 to make a bunch of taco seasoning.  This way I don’t have to re-make it all the time!

  • 6 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 5 tsp. paprika
  • 3 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
  2. This is twice as strong as store-bought seasoning, so only use half as much.  That means ¾ oz. would be the equivalent to the 1.25 oz. packets in the store.  Of course, you may want to use a little more or a little less depending on your tastes.

Meal #2: Enchiladas Fantasticas

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 c. picante sauce***
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach (or 3 oz. fresh chopped spinach)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • 14.5 oz. Rotel* (for homemade Rotel, use the above recipe.  This calls for 1 1/2 cups, though)
  • 12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Brown beef.  Add 1 cup picante sauce, spinach, 1 ½ tsp. cumin, and salt.
  2. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add cream cheese, stirring just until melted.  Remove from heat.
  4. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla, roll up, and place seam-side down into 9 x 13 inch dish.
  5. Combine the Rotel, remaining picante sauce, and remaining cumin.  Smooth this mixture over enchilads.  Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 min.  Enjoy!

***Homemade Picante Sauce

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1 Serrano chili (or Jalapeno), seeds removed, chopped fine
  • 6 medium (or about 8 Roma) fresh tomatoes, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin with green tops included
  • 1/8 cup loosely-packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, crushed between your palms
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild green chilis (or 4 oz. fresh chopped green chilis)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine Serrano chili (or jalapeno), tomatoes, red onion, green onions, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, tomato sauce, green chilis, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Let sit overnight to let flavors blend.
  3. Store any leftover salsa in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Grocery List

This list is if you’re going to make all three homemade recipes (Rotel, taco seasoning, and picante sauce).  The asterisks let you know what you don’t  need to buy if you’re not going to make these from scratch!

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • bag of shredded Cheddar cheese
  • bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese (unless using cheddar for both recipes)
  • tortilla chips
  • bag (or 16 oz. can) black beans
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce***
  • red wine vinegar***
  • frozen or canned corn (10 oz. either way), I’m not sure how many cobs this would be :\
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • spinach (10 oz. frozen or 3 oz. fresh)
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped mild green chilis*** (or 4 oz. fresh chilis)
  • 4 lbs.* + 8 Roma tomatoes*** (I would weigh 4 pounds and then add 8 to the bag.  We use our garden Roma tomatoes, though, so I’m not sure how many pounds 8 tomatoes is, sorry!)
  • 7 jalapeno peppers* (12 for hot, 4 for mild) + 1 jalapeno pepper***
  • 1 medium red onion***
  • 3 green onions***
  • cilantro***

Items you probably already have

  • cumin
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • paprika**
  • onion powder**
  • cayenne pepper**
  • chili powder** & ***
  • garlic powder** & ***
  • oregano***

*can substitute 2 cans (24.5 oz.) of Rotel for these ingredients

**may substitute 1 packet of taco seasoning for these ingredients

***can substitute 1 ½ jars of picante sauce for these ingredients

And there you have it.  It might sound boring to have Mexican dishes with beef in them all week long, but it’s not!  These two dishes are so different that we don’t even notice we’re eating basically the same ingredients!  Also, it saves money!

A final tip

You’re not going to use all of the cilantro or green onions you have to buy.  You may buy too much corn.  You may decide one red onion is just too much.  Don’t throw the left overs away!  Chop ‘em up, put ‘em in freezer bags or Tupperware and throw ‘em in your freezer.  Then the next time you need one of these ingredients you may have so much frozen that you don’t need to buy any at all!

Was any of that confusing? Are you trying one of these recipes and running into a problem?  Do you have a question?  A comment?  A suggestion?  Leave a comment!

This is where it really starts getting fun.  Last time we finished up Observation–simply seeing what the text said on the surface.  Today we’re going to interpret what that text meant for the people to whom it was written.  That will ultimately help us apply the truths in Scripture to our lives today.

The verse we’re studying, Titus 2:4-5:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

There are 11 parts to Interpretation.  This could take anywhere from one day to a whole week–it really just depends on how in-depth you want to get.  For our purposes here I will not go near as deep as I, or you, ordinarily would.  Today I will go over the first six parts.

1. Look back over your observation.

This doesn’t involve any writing–just simply remind yourself of the things you learned while observing the text.

2. Ask any “why” questions you didn’t ask (or get answered) during Observation.

I usually just jot these down at the beginning of the Interpretation phase.  As I study the text I will almost always stumble upon the answers to these questions or find out that my questions aren’t really as important as I once thought.  If, when I’m through studying, I still have some questions left unanswered that I think merit further study, I will try and find the answer to them.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • What does the “so that the word of God will not be dishonored” refer to?  All of these characteristics?  Just the “subject to their own husbands?”  Just that the older women should encourage the young?
  • Exactly what does it mean “the word of God will not be dishonored?”
  • What is the significance of “to be sensible?”
  • What exactly does Paul mean “workers at home?”
  • How does this relate to the gospel?

3. Word Studies

Studying the words of Scripture is my very favorite part of Bible study.  I have to be careful, though–it’s easy to get tied up in what the words mean and miss the whole point–Christ and Him crucified!  There are several different ways to study a word.

The easiest way I’ve found to study a word in-depth is to use the Blue Letter Bible (BLB).  There are several different features that are useful when using the BLB.  In this section, I’ll only cover the features that are helpful when conducting a word study.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Let’s look at the word “sensible” in verse five.

  1. Type in “Titus 2″ and choose the Bible translation you’d like to use.  Press “Search.”
  2. Find the verses you’re studying.  Pick a word to study.  To the left of each verse there are five or six different little blue boxes.  They are labeled, “K,” “C,” “L,” “I,” “V,” and “D.”  The “K” stands for “Treasury of Scripture Knowledge.”  The “C” for “Concordance and Hebrew/Greek Lexicon.”  This is the feature we’ll be using for words studies.  The “L” stands for “List Audio, Study Tools, and Commentaries.”  The “I” stands for “Images/Maps”  The “V” for “Versions/Translations.”  Finally, the “D” stands for “Dictionary Aids.”  Clearly, there is a great deal of information to this resource.  Honestly, I don’t even know half of the amazing things that the BLB offers!  Anyway, click on the “C” next to verse five to go to the concordance/lexicon section.  A box will pop up with some Greek in it.  Well, I don’t know Greek either, but that’s okay.  Under the Greek is a list of the important words within Titus 2:5.
  3. “To be sensible” is the first of the list.  If you click on “sensible” you will be taken to the concordance.  Here you can see everywhere in the Bible where the same word, “sensible” is used.  This gives you a great idea as to what else it can mean.
  4. Go back to the concordance/lexicon list.  The second column is titled “Strong’s.”  This refers to a large concordance that you can use to look up words.  The best thing ever is that BLB has all the information that Strong’s Concordance offers built right in!  This saves several minutes of leafing through thousands of pages squinting just to read the text!  Simply click on the number next to “to be sensible” in the “Strong’s” column.  This will take you to the lexicon.  The most helpful information for me, is usually the “Outline of Biblical Usage.”  This tells you other ways this word is used in the Bible.  Finally, if you scroll further down, you’ll find other places where this exact Greek word is used.
  5. Lastly, I usually click the “K” and the “V” to see if the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and if some different Bible translations might help me learn more.
  6. This is what my notes on this word might look like:
  • Sensible: of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses; curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.  1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, Titus 2:2.  discreet (KJV, NKJV), self-controlled (NIV, ESV).

 If I still felt like I needed some further explanation,  I would turn to our other Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias.  I like Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary because it’s linked to Strong’s Concordance–they use the same numerical system.  Zondervan’s Bible Dictionary, and Encyclopedia of Bible Words, as well as Unger’s Bible Dictionary are some of our favorite.

I would also look up other translations of “sensible” (discreet and self-controlled) in these many references and take note of anything new I learned.

Oh, and then I’d do this to any other important words in the passage I’m studying–like encourage, love, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject, and dishonored.

4. Grammatical/Textual Context

This is very similar to the word studies.  Basically, I search through my word study notes and solidify them.  As I’m simplifying my findings I ask the question, Why did the author use this term in this way to these people at this time?  For instance:

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • Sensible: Paul included this command to everyone–not just the young women.  It can be translated “self-controlled,” which is a fruit of the spirit.  So maybe this wasn’t so much a command as a reminder that these believers already have a power to be self-controlled, or sensible–they’re believers after all . . .

5. Historical Context

A very useful tool when finding out the historical context is a Bible Handbook.  We like Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Handbook.  It’s organized by book and so it’s helpful to read the section about the passage you’re studying and the “About” section at the beginning of the book, in this case the “About” section for Titus.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • A.D. 65 or 66.  False teachers had moved into Crete–this whole letter is instruction to Titus on how to call this unruly population to “good works”–for the sake of Christ.
  • Crete is where, during Paul’s journey to Rome (Acts 27), they decided not to stop and ended up crashing further west on Malta.
  • Later, after leaving Rome, Paul came back to Crete (Titus 1:5)
  • Crete is known for having unruly, creepy people on it

6. Geographical Context

Both a Bible handbook and a Bible Atlas are useful for finding the Geographical Context.  The atlas we have is the Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible.  Don’t think of the “geographical context” as only being “that ol’ map stuff!” (as my old Geography professor used to say).  Geography is much more than just maps.  It’s human history, as well.

so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

  • Crete is an island in the Mediterranean.  The Cretans came from the Minoan culture and were mostly seen as slobs in ancient society.

Sometimes there’s just not a lot to gain from some of the different context studies and that’s okay.  Imagine, though, how important the historical, geographical, and cultural contexts would be if studying an Old Testament battle!

This is all for today.  Next time I’ll go over the Cultural Context, Theological Context, Consultation, The Interpretive Overview, and the The Interpretive Conclusion Statement.

Here is the free printable to help you organize your thoughts while you’re Interpreting the text!

View this document on Scribd

Again, don’t let that green scare you!  When you print it out it should be the sea-foam green found all over home | health | heart!

Finally, Are you confused?  Is something I wrote fishy?  Do you want more information?  Let me know and I’ll help you/correct myself!

I am so excited to announce that I have been asked to begin contributing to a very dear friend’s blog, Desiring Virtue!  Jessalyn (the author & editor) has such a beautiful heart for the Lord and I am so very excited to be able to be a tiny part in the growth of her fabulous blog so that she can encourage even more souls to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ!

My periodical is called Natural Living, which will focus on just part of home | health | heart (the “health” part, obviously)!  If you’ve ever wondered how I became interested in living a more natural life and why it’s important to me, well, here is your answer:

Why Natural Living Matters to Me

It was two summers ago that I became interested in living a more natural life.  At first it was incredibly overwhelming and intimidating. At the time I was on my summer break from teaching high school freshmen about world geography.  My sister-in-law was dipping her big toe into the realm of natural living and I couldn’t decide if I thought she was crazy or if I wanted to join her . . . (Read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

Sharon is back with tips to save your yard this hot, dry summer!  Remember last time she told a story about wishing her grass was as green as her neighbors?  Well, the Lord was good to bless her!  Also, Sharon will share a sweet devotional written by Charles Spurgeon.  Spurgeon’s heart is just exactly where I feel the Lord leading mine.  I know his writing will greatly bless you!

Praise God that He saw fit that I not only would I learn a lesson in humility regarding my neighbor’s grass but then to top it off, and just like the Lord, after repenting He blesses me with an email sharing that I had won a $100 gift card to Houston Garden! Thank you, Jesus. I had forgotten that I had signed up at the cash register back in March for the chance to win a $100 gift card; as I was waiting in line, I happened to notice the entry box and kind of as a joke, I thought, “Well, why not? I will not win and hopefully I will not start receiving junk garden mail, but here I go.”  Lo and behold, I actually won! I just wanted to give God the glory in this. I am so blessed by my Savior that He would see fit to surprise me with a present—and not just any present, but FREE PLANTS!

A note about the drought: If you haven’t already guessed it, we are in an extreme drought. We have had the driest winter, spring, and summer on record so far. What normally happens is we get our good spring rains to prepare our landscapes for our blasting, hellish-heat in the summer. However, we did not have these so we are left to the mercy of running our own sprinklers (bye-bye water bill). With that said, make sure you are watering three times a week for at least 30 mins. -1:00 (for large portions of grass) and three times a week for at least 15-30 mins. (for raised beds). Our raised beds and grasses here in Texas need good, deep watering so watering just three times a week for 10 minutes is not going to cut it. The roots need time to soak up the water. And only water between 1-6 a.m. If you water between 7-10 p.m., you attract disease—which is no good. And if you water between 3-7 p.m. during the day, most of the water is evaporated due to wind and sun. You need a good inch of rain or a little more each week during this drought.

Early Summer To Do List

In your yard:

  • Time to do your summer application of Nitro-Phos Super-Turf Fertilizer (15-5-10) or 3-1-2/4-1-2 controlled release fertilizer of your choosing.
  • Be on the look out for cinch bug (tiny black bugs with white wings) damage to your yards. Look around the turf nearest to the sidewalk and driveways. The best line of defense is good watering practices (since they hate moisture), following the fertilization schedule, and mowing tall. Best method of attack if you sense a problem is to apply Permethrin, Cypermethrin, or Bifenthrin every 7 days, up to 3 applications.
  • Ants a problem? Make your own ant killer with a blend of garlic, liquid dish-soap, hot peppers, and water; strain and pour over the mound. “Hasta la vista, baby!”
  • Consider night lighting your yard to add light for outdoor, nighttime fun!

With your plants & flowers:

  • This is a good time to walk your yard and make notes of what is working and not working with all this heat. Is there a plant getting too much sun or too little (like roses need at least 6-8 hours or sun to bloom)? Plus, some plants might be overgrowing their bounds.
  • Plant a Hibiscus. They love heat, but not in afternoon, late day sun. They perform better in morning to early afternoon sun. Enjoy all the colors and textures. I personally like the double-blooming ones. You can special order these. They will freeze if your Hibiscus is not a Hardy Hibiscus, so if you want to still have it for next year, don’t forget to cover it up when temperatures fall.
  • Feed tropical plants like Hibiscus and Bougainvilleas with tropical plant foods, but not bloom-boosters, which have too much phosphorous (or high middle number). You can feed them Nutri-Star food specifically formulated for Hibiscus and Bougainvilleas. They are slow-release fertilizers as opposed to liquid fertilizers such as Miracle Grow.
  • Keep your azaleas well-watered, especially in this drought. They are setting blooms for next year. But don’t over-water.
  • Plant some heat-loving annuals such as coleus (pinch the flowers off that pop up), cosmos, mistflowers, pentas, zinnias, or vincas.
  • If your plants are looking yellow (especially with green veins on the leaves but yellow tissue), then you should put out some iron/soil acidifier supplements. You can get these almost anywhere.
  • Hit insect-infested plants with a strong spray of water under the leaves early in the morning.
  • Sprinkle earth worms on beds and lawns. They do wonders.
  • You can re-apply your shredded wood mulches to help retain moisture and cut down on weeds.

In your vegetable garden:

  • Pick your okra quite often. The bigger they get the harder they are to eat.
  • Put a bird bath near tomatoes to distract the birds looking for water from your tomatoes. Or you can hang red coke cans on your stalks like my mom used to do. Pick the tomatoes at first pink blush and set them in the window to ripe.

I read the following a few weeks ago from Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon. If you don’t currently subscribe to a free Blue Letter Bible devotional, such as Mr. Spurgeon’s classic Morning & Evening, then you are missing out. Check out what the Lord showed to Spurgeon that touched my heart! Enjoy.

Evening Reading

 I am come into my garden, my

sister, my spouse.

 —Song 5:1

The heart of the believer is Christ’s garden. He bought it with His precious blood, and He enters it and claims it as His own. A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness; it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear Christians saying, “Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that,” thus getting as near to the world as possible. Grace is at a low ebb in that soul which can even raise the question of how far it may go in worldly conformity. A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated lands. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ’s garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor compared with Christ’s deservings; let us not put Him off with withering and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses ought to bloom in the place which Jesus calls His own. The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the Husbandman, and the Holy Spirit the dew from above. A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our souls as a place in which He can manifest Himself, as He doth not unto the world. O that Christians were more retired, that they kept their hearts more closely shut up for Christ! We often worry and trouble ourselves, like Martha, with much serving, so that we have not the room for Christ that Mary had, and do not sit at His feet as we should. The Lord grant the sweet showers of His grace to water His garden this day.

Mid-summer To Do List

In your yard:

  • Have you ever seen those fairy-ring mushrooms pop up in your yard after a rain (LOL…not lately, though), then rest assured. Those are signs of good organic matter in your soil.
  • Drink lots of water yourself when working out in the yard!

With your plants & flowers:

  • Mist plants in the morning. They try to go dormant with all the heat and will wilt in the evenings, which is normal. They will perk back up when temps drop.
  • Roses can be pruned lightly to keep them productive and vibrant during hotter summer months.
  • Watch for signs of lacebug damage on azaleas, indicated by a mottled, washed out leaf. Treat with systemic insecticides like Acephate, Merit, or Disyston. Also, do at least one application of liquid insecticide, like Bifenthrin, on the undersides of the leaves.
  • Check your azaleas, hydrangeas, and magnolias for pale leaves due to too-alkaline soil. Use soil acidifiers and/or mulch with oak leaves and pine needles.
  • Don’t over water azaleas and camellias. Some wilting is normal at this time.
  • You can try to extend the blooming season of Crape Myrtles by pruning off the expiring bloom heads. This can encourage a new– albeit somewhat smaller—flush of blooms.
  • “Dead-Head” or pinch off non-budded branches or old-budded flowers on annuals and perennials to encourage bushier growth and more blooms.
  • Divide crowded perennials like summer phlox or day lilies.
  • Try rosemary and wormwood to deter snails; catnip, chamomile and wax myrtle for fleas.
  • Don’t water bulbs with no greenery showing. They are dormant, and you will cause them to rot.
  • Cut utility bills with vines on a trellis to shade the west side of your house! Try black-eyed Susan vine, coral vine, mandevilla, Mexican flame vine, passion vine, or trumpetvine.

To your trees:

  • Hold off on any major pruning of larger trees and shrubs. December through March is considered the best time to perform major pruning or even planting of trees and shrubs for that matter. Light pruning of hedge shrubs is acceptable.
  • Keep pecan trees well watered to protect developing pecans.
  • Open tent caterpillar webs in trees. Birds will eat the worms. Worms won’t kill healthy trees.

Lastly, I thought I would share a good article from Kathy Huber, writer and Houston Chronicle contributor to the gardening section. Currently, we are trying to save our only Bradford pear tree in our yard that is dying due to the heat. I am praying for the tree and hopefully it will not die, but if it does, then the Lord has something better for us in store, like maybe an Aristocrat Pear tree. LOL. Alas, I am not looking forward to removing a huge tree. Anyways, this is a link to a good recent article on trees and drought.

Late Summer To Do List

In your yard:

  • Start thinking about building a compost pile. This will accommodate all your fall leaves and grass clippings during the fall.
  • This is a good time to control nutgrass/nutsedge with a selective herbicide called Mange. I know why they call them “nutgrass.” They drive me nuts!
  • If Brownpatch was a problem in your turf last year, be prepared to start a monthly treatment of systemic fungicides as early as August.
  • If you missed your early summer lawn fertilization, please don’t do it this late because it’s too HOT, like 100+ degrees. However, you can add iron supplement if there is a general yellowing to the grass because of all the irrigation.

With your plants & flowers:

  • Give perennials, annuals, and roses and fall-blooming shrubs a light feeding and slight haircut.
  • Work ½ cup of Epsom salt around roses, hibiscus and other bloomers for more flowers.
  • Watch for hummingbirds and keep the feeders clean every 3-5 days.

To your trees:

  • Consider (I know I am) deep-watering of your established trees.
  • Prune deadwood from trees. Hurricane season is upon us!

In your vegetable garden:

  • Set out fall tomatoes (plants), green onions, cucumbers, corn and green beans.

Finally, remember to just take a break and enjoy your garden, but definitely early morning or late evenings due to extreme heat!

What a blessing to have an experienced gardener help those of us just beginning our gardening journeys figure out what we should be doing!  If you have any questions for Sharon or if you have any suggestions yourself, please comment!  How strange is it that the next time we hear from Sharon it will be autumn!

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