Author Archives: Ashley L Jones

About Ashley L Jones

My heart's desire is to show people of all ages how the Bible applies to their lives. I use my Masters in Biblical Studies to dig into the Word, and I share what I've learned on my blog (BigSisterKnows.com). Check out the About section of my blog for more details. Thanks for stopping by!

Remembering the Missing Pieces at Christmastime

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See the missing piece? (Puzzle is an image of a painting by Robert Lyn Nelson.)

For Christmas six years ago, my aunt gave Robby and me a beautiful puzzle. We’ve worked on that thing for years, and we finally completed it this month! I thought I’d be happy to finish it and reclaim my dining table.

But once we were down to the final few pieces, we became nostalgic. We began to think about all our experiences over the past several years and about our loved ones who have passed on

Just as my mood was turning from merry to melancholy, we realized our 1,000-piece puzzle had only 999 pieces.

Suddenly, that one missing piece symbolized all those who are now missing in our lives, from our sweet kitty Sue to my late grandmother. It was like the hidden holes in our hearts were made visible, right there on the dinner table. I started to cry. Then Robby said Sue probably ate the missing piece, and we laughed. It seemed appropriate somehow.

The Interlopers

The emotions of loss and grief seem especially cruel at Christmastime as they settle over our merriment like a blanket of snow. What’s even worse is that we’re taught that it’s inappropriate to feel anything but happiness around the holidays. It’s as if negative emotions aren’t spiritual enough for Christmas.

But where does this idea come from? Why do we feel that sadness and loss are interlopers in the Christmas scene? Perhaps we need a refresher on the real meaning (and cost) of Christmas.

 

Cost of Christmas

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Christ, or the Anointed One, whose name is Jesus. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He brought salvation to mankind. That’s why the angel spoke of “great joy” when he announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. (See Luke 2:10-11.)

At Christmas, we recount the story of the birth of Jesus, His parents Mary and Joseph, the heralding angel, the shepherds, and the wise men who came from far away.

But this year I keep wondering, what about God the Father? What was He going through during the miraculous birth of Jesus?

I’m sure the Father was glad to bring salvation near to us. I’m sure that, like any good parent, He was proud of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, I can’t help but think that the Father was also sad.

We know that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Although He spoke to the Father constantly through prayer, this was the first time that He was physically separate from the Him—and not just for a day or a week but for 33 years! This idea is hard to understand mentally, yet our hearts empathize with the feeling of separation, and perhaps even loss, that the Father and Son must have felt toward one another.

One in Heaven. One on Earth.

Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense.

 

Missing Pieces…Found

When we lose loved ones, we feel like our lives are incomplete. They’re in Heaven, and we’re here on Earth.

But the good news—the great news!—is that God is in the business of restoration. Just as the Son reclaimed His position at the right hand of the Father, so we, the children of God, will claim our rightful place with Him in Heaven. That’s where we’ll find our missing pieces.

 

Encouragement for Christmas

If you’re struggling this season, I encourage you to let go of worldly expectations. Christmas isn’t a time for us to be fake with our loved ones or with God. It’s a time to remember that God is real and holy, and that through His sacrifice, the missing pieces of our Christian family will be restored.

If you need more peace this season, start with a simple prayer like this one:

“Thank you, Father, for all that you have done for me. Help me to remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and to appreciate what it cost you. Please give me peace and comfort, especially during this season when I miss my loved ones more than ever. I trust that all things happen according to your plan, and that you love me and want good things for me. Thank you, Father. In the name of Jesus, the reason for every season. Amen.”

May you come to know the heart of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—this Christmas season.

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).


[Click to Tweet: Our gift of Christmas came at God’s expense. #bigsisterknows #crosslife #christmas2017]

 


I want to hear from you! How is the Lord helping you deal with loss during the Christmas season? Are you helping others who are going through a difficult time?

 

4 Questions to Declutter Your Home

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In a recent blog post, I mentioned that Robby and I are exploring the “simple life.” Part of that involves decluttering the home—not just reorganizing, cleaning, and buying more storage bins, but letting go of items we no longer need or want. It also means not buying more stuff that we don’t need.

I’ve actually tried to do this for years, but I couldn’t seem to make a dint in our boxes of stuff. Finally, I realized my approach was all wrong! Before, when I would try to get rid of something, I would ask myself, “Can we use this?” I’m a creative, resourceful person, so I would often think of several uses for it. (Empty glass jars can store juice in the fridge, loose buttons, or change. Torn items can be repaired. Old t-shirts can be torn into rags to wash the car. And so on.)

Now I ask myself different questions—and I’m getting a different response! We’re letting go of items we don’t need and we’re making the most of what we do keep. Even better, we’re helping others by passing down good items that still have some life left in them. It’s a win-win!

Here are four questions that can help you declutter the house and avoid buying more junk.

 

1 – Is it necessary?

We all need clothes, toiletry items, blankets, pots and pans, etc. But do you need that particular item?

  • You may have needed it in the past…but do you still need it?
  • Is it still in proper working order, or is it missing a lid, broken, or damaged?
  • Do you have multiple versions of the same item, or a similar item in better condition?

Consider letting go of duplicates and items that have outlived their usefulness.
Avoid buying new items that are not necessary for your health, wellbeing, or everyday needs.

 

2 – Is it beneficial?

Most of us would probably consider the majority of our belongings as “beneficial.” Why else would we have bought them in the first place? Comfort items (e.g. extra blankets, pillows, candles, and decorations), make our homes feel cozy—until we have so much it becomes suffocating. Sentimental items bring back happy memories—if we can actually find them. Even kids’ toys and electronics can lose their value to us if we have more than we can use and enjoy.

Is all that stuff really beneficial to your household?

  • Does it stay in a box, out of sight, for most of the year?
  • Does it take up valuable space that could be used for something more important?
  • Does your family appreciate it the way you do?
  • Does it give you joy or stress you out?

Focus on those items that are really special.
Consider limiting items to a certain number of boxes or a specific closet shelf.
Avoid buying more until you’ve gone through all the items you currently have.

 

3 – Is it affordable?

We usually think about cost only when we make purchases, but that’s just the beginning. Expensive items—like cars, lawn mowers, phones, TVs, and computers—must be insured and maintained. Technology items usually require installation and periodic updates. All items, regardless of type or cost, take up space in our homes. They also take up our time as we store, dust, and organize them. All of this adds to the true cost of the item.

The question, then, is not just can you afford it, but do you really want to pay for it?

  • Does the item’s benefit to you outweigh its true cost?
  • Would your money be better spent elsewhere?
  • Will you have to pay for someone else to maintain it?
  • Will you have to insure it?
  • Will the item become obsolete in the near future, requiring you to upgrade it?

Consider your goals. If an item doesn’t help you meet those goals, then it may not be worth buying or keeping.
Avoid the expensive “bugs” of new technology. Instead, look for tech items that have been on the market for awhile.
Avoid buying brand-specific items that only work if you use components by the same brand.

 

4 – Would it benefit someone else more?

For Robby and me, the simple life isn’t just about decluttering the house; it’s about putting God first and foremost in our lives. As we focus on Him, we lose interest in consumerism. We walk out on faith that God will provide for our future needs. The natural by-product of this is generosity.*

The question then becomes, should you pass the item on to someone else who needs it more than you do?

  • Do you use the item, or does it sit on a shelf or in the garage?
  • Do you know someone personally who could really benefit from it?
  • If you no longer owned the item, would you be glad to have more space in your home?

Recognize that you are just a steward of your belongings. Ask God to show you people in need and give you the courage and opportunity to help them.

[Click to Tweet: 4 Questions to Declutter Your Home #minimalism #thesimplelife #bigsisterknows]

 

Let me know your thoughts!

What is your goal in decluttering your home?
How do you determine what items to keep or pass on?

 


* See my post Practicing Simplicity for three great books on the discipline of simplicity and how it fosters generosity.

You may also want to check out the blog BecomingMinimalist for practical posts on living the simple life.

 

Recipe: Easy Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Pie

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Can you believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner? Perhaps you’re the cook in the family, and you’re getting your menu ready. Or maybe, like me, you’ll take a small cooler when you visit family over the holiday, ready to bring back tasty leftovers.

Whatever your plans, this recipe is sure to make you happy! That’s because there’s nothing more comforting than a homemade pot pie on a cool night. Make it traditional with chicken, or use that Thanksgiving turkey. You can even make it gluten free! You just can’t go wrong with this one.

 

Ingredients 

1 rotisserie chicken, deboned
2 deep dish pie crusts, frozen
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
3 Tbsp condensed chicken and herb soup
4 Tbsp condensed cream of potato soup
1 cup peas, carrots, and corn mixture (canned or defrosted)
1/4 cup half-and-half, cream, or milk
1 dallop sour cream
seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic powder)
chicken broth (add a little if the ingredients are too thick)

 

Preparation

Stir all ingredients together and then mix in the deboned chicken pieces. Let the pie crusts sit out for 1-3 minutes until they become malleable. Place one crust on the bottom of a deep baking dish. Don’t be afraid to tear apart the crust and reform it until it covers the bottom of the dish. Add the chicken and soup mixture and cover with the second pie crust.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until done and the crust is slightly browned.

This makes one large pot pie or multiple smaller pies (which are great for sharing!).

[Click to Tweet: Easy chicken (or turkey) pot pie! #comfortfood for #thanksgiving2017 @bigsistertweets]

 

Kitchen Notes

Gluten Free Option – To make the chicken pot pie gluten free (GF), you’ll need to ensure each ingredient is GF, from the pie crusts to the soups. Our Publix doesn’t carry GF pie crusts, but I really like the ones at Earthfare.

The price of GF soups is ridiculous though (at over $3 a can!), and they don’t have the same flavor or consistency that I’m used to. I just use the same Campbell’s soups Mom always used, even though they do contain wheat flour as a thickener. Since this is the only time I knowingly cheat on my GF diet, and I don’t have celiac disease, this doesn’t pose a serious problem for me. However, if you need to make this GF, you’ll have to splurge on the soups or make your own from scratch.

 

The Chicken (or Turkey) – I use organic rotisserie chickens from Earth Fare because they’re only $5 on Mondays. However, any rotisserie chicken will do fine. You can even substitute turkey if you have some leftover from Thanksgiving.

Deboning a chicken sounds daunting if you’ve never done it before and, even if you have, it’s never fun—but it’s not a complicated process. Simply place the rotisserie chicken on a non-stick cutting board. (I use plastic for easy clean-up.) Using a knife, remove the skin and legs. Then remove the breasts and other large chunks of meat. You can then use a knife or fork to remove the smaller pieces of meat around the bone. Cut up the larger portions with the knife and shred with the fork for a finer texture. The trick is to do this while the chicken is still warm. If you put it in the fridge overnight, the fats will turn to gelatin, making this job a lot less appetizing.

 

Lunch for Tomorrow – Depending on the size of the chicken, you may be able to set aside a portion of it for later. I usually make some chicken salad for the next day’s lunch by adding mayonnaise, mustard, and seasoning. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

 

Broth for Later – Nothing is healthier than homemade chicken broth, especially if you use an organic chicken. If you’d like to make your own, simply put the bones, skin, and “icky” pieces in a crock pot. Add a little onion, seasoning, and water, and cook on low for about six hours (depending on your crock pot’s heat level). Keep in mind that the more water you add, the more broth you’ll make, but the more diluted the flavor will be.

Once it’s cooked, let it cool. Using a strainer, pour out the broth. If you plan to use the broth over the next few days, keep it in the fridge. If not, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze. Four cubes is roughly 1/4 cup of broth. (If you want more broth, you can repeat this process the next day using the same bones and skin, but there will be less flavor.)

Do you have any tips for using leftover Thanksgiving turkey? Share them in the comments below!