Monday, December 21, 2009

Devotions and Legalism

Do you approach your time set aside with God as a means of gaining merit? Let's put it another way: Do you feel guilty and condemned when you skip your devotions? Do you feel that when you do have a time of prayer and reading your Bible, you have merited blessing? I have been listening to a sermon by C. J. Mahaney entitled "Enjoying Grace and Detecting Legalism." This quote was taken from the sermon. Mahaney repeated a prayer he had prayed that morning as an example of how to approach devotions and any other spiritual disciplines without legalism but depending upon God's grace and focusing on Jesus and the cross. I hope this helps some of you Christians out there. I know it helped me.

Father, thank you, thank you for speaking to me this morning as I waited on you, as I worshipped, as I read Your word, as I studied your word, and as I reviewed my notes. I received Your grace, thank You for these means of grace, but I want to acknowledge right now that I don’t merit Your blessing because of my previous practice. And my appeal to You now, yes, I want You to bless me. Bless me, Lord, as I have this privilege to serve Your people, but I ask You to bless me only, ever, and always because of the person and finished work of Your Son, because it is only on His merit that I can receive blessing because of what He has achieved that I can receive blessing from You and not because of any contribution that I have made through my practice of the personal or the corporate disciplines.

You see, a legalist is more aware of and reliant upon godly practices, (this is subtle) godly practices. This is not someone living in blatant, obvious disobedience to God, disregard for God’s word. No, legalists often can be the ones who appear to be the most zealous. But as Mr. Schriner said earlier “the attempt to obedience to the Law to gain recognition before God is insidious. It is the height of arrogance.” You are a legalist if you are more aware of and reliant upon godly practices than you are upon the cross. --C. J. Mahaney

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How To Make Lefse (a.k.a. Norwegian Potato Lefse)

This is the Potato Lefse recipe handed down from my norwegian great-grandmother, Bergliot Rindal Pogue:
8 c. mashed potatoes (5 lbs.)
1/2 c. cream
8 T. butter (1/2 cup)
1 T. salt
4 c. flour (chill before in freezer or refridgerator)
1 tsp. sugar

Cook potatoes until soft. Mash and add cream, butter, salt, and sugar. Whip until smooth and no lumps are left. Chill.
Add flour and mix with hands until dough is soft but does not stick to hands. Roll out on pastry cloth and fry on griddle. (The less flour you use the more tender the lefse.)

This recipe is pretty basic. There are a lot of "tips" that need to be added to make it successful. I am by no means an expert lefse maker, but I have watched both my husband's parents and my mom make lefse several times, and I have done it myself many times. Here is a tutorial:

Peel 5 pounds of potatoes, boil until tender, drain.

Mash potatoes with a potato masher or potato ricer. Add cream, butter, salt, and sugar. Whip until smooth and no lumps are left. Chill.
Once cool, mash again or put through the potato ricer again. Add 4-5 cups chilled all-purpose flour. Mix with your hands. It will probably still stick to your hands, but if you add too much flour, it will make the lefse dry and harder.

Divide lefse dough into golf ball size pieces for individual round lefse or baseball size for large griddle size pieces that will be cut into wedges to be eaten. In this example I did larger pieces and later cut them into three wegdes per piece.

Take ball and pat down flat. Dip into small pile of flour on counter on both sides of dough.

Pat flour into knit-covered lefse rolling pin and work flour into pastry cloth. Begin rolling out lefse until thin and large enough to cover griddle. Make sure to add more flour to the rolling pin and pastry cloth before you roll out the next piece. Add flour in between each piece to prevent sticking.

Take lefse turner and gently roll up lefse (not tightly) onto turner. It is not necessary to roll it up all the way, but just enough to be able to transport it to the griddle.

Grill on both sides until a light brown color.

Lay flat in between two cotton towels to keep moisture in until cooled. If you made the large lefse size, cut into wedges in thirds. Store in gallon-size Ziploc bags. Eat it fresh and warm or save it until later when it has been cooled on the counter. If you do not plan to eat it within 24 hours, then refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve. When ready to eat, spread butter on one side and sprinkle about 1/2-1 tsp. sugar per piece. My Norwegian/Swedish friend eats it with cinnamon-sugar. I also know some Norwegians who eat it with brown sugar. We personally prefer plain white sugar. Enjoy!

Optional: I have made lefse in Eastern Europe without any special griddle or pastry cloth. I still used the special rolling pin, but simply covered it with clean (never used) nylons (pantyhose). I simply cooked it over the stove on a non-stick pan or cast-iron skillet. I had to make the lefse smaller to fit the pan, but it worked just fine!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

True Forgiveness

After hearing this sermon today based on Luke 15:11-24, I realized how very weak we as humans are in forgiveness, and how gracious God truly is. In comparing God's relationship with us to one of a father, Jesus told a story about a foolish son who brought shame to his family through wasteful and sinful living. What amazes me is how the father's forgiving heart sought out a restored relationship by a gracious welcoming act even before the son repented. The father ran to him and kissed him. How often we withhold affection and lovingkindness to people because we have been hurt by them or we want to teach them a lesson through our disdain. May we become more like the Father and reach out to loved ones who have hurt us with a willingness to forgive and be gracious to them.

Note: These sermons are free to listen to from Dr. Timothy Keller and they are available on Redeemer's free sermon resources website: I found these under the heading "What Is The Gospel?" with the subheading "The Prodigal God." There are several sermons in a series on The Prodigal Son story Jesus told. I highly recommend listening to this series.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


God has been good to us, and we are filled with thanksgiving. Over the past few months, my faith has been tested and I have struggled more than ever before with doubting God's goodness and love as we have undergone some trials. God has graciously turned my attitude from anxiety, doubt, and spiritual depression to faith and trust once again. One of my biggest prayers has been "Revive me according to your word." Psalm 119:25 God is doing that as I spend time with Him reading His word and in prayer and as I turn all these cares over to Him. Two hymns that have brought tears to my eyes and comfort to my soul have been "O The Deep Deep Love" and "'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus." Listen to this line from the first hymn:

Underneath me all around me
Is the current of Thy love

God's love has been the sustaining and overflowing river that has brought life to me over the years of my life. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness, your goodness, and your grace. You are good.

Things I Have Learned About Potty Training

This past month I potty-trained Amy who is 22 months right now in order to save money on diapers. It has gone pretty well. This is my fourth time doing it so it seems to go a bit better every time. Here are four suggestions for a successful potty-training experience learned mostly from failures training my first child, and successes training my younger kids:

1. Start Early. Get them familiar with going on the toilet at a young age in order to prevent fear of going when they are 3 and 4 years old. Child #3 started going poo-poo on the toilet at age 10 months. Child #4 started going poo-poo on the toilet at age 8 months. Whenever they would start to grunt or look like they were about to go in their diaper, I would pull off the diaper and sit them on the toilet. You can see an example of this by clicking here.

2. Train them in underwear or naked if you prefer. Do not try to potty train them while they are wearing diapers. If kids have been "trained" for two years to go to the bathroom in their diaper, how are they ever going to learn to use the toilet wearing a diaper? I like Gerber underwear for potty training. It has double layers and is very absorbent. It prevents larger messes on the floor when they do have accidents. Accidents WILL happen so be prepared, but don't try to prevent the accident by training in diapers!

3. Take them to the potty chair every 20-30 minutes. Just have them sit there and try. If they don't seem to go after a few minutes of sitting and playing with a toy or reading books while they are sitting on the potty, don't frustrate them further. Just pull up their pants and try again in 5-10 minutes. Spend 2-3 days focusing on the task. It helps to give them sips of water or juice after they go potty so they will have the urge to go again in a half hour. Accidents will happen. You don't need to be upset. Just encourage them to keep their underwear clean and dry, and encourage them to use the potty next time. Teach them what to do. "Tell Mommy when you need to go pee-pee or poo-poo." "Run to the bathroom when you need to go potty."

4. Give a small reward. When we lived in Hungary we had a potty chair that made music every time liquid or anything went in the potty. It played "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." This was enough to thrill child #3 and encourage her to fill the potty again. I have also used small treats such as a chocolate chip or an M&M after the child actually goes pee-pee or poo-poo. When they are fully trained after a few weeks, I quit with the treats. The child doesn't need it anymore. The biggest reward of all is your praise and excitement for a job well done! This is very important to excitedly congratulate them when they go. Clap your hands, do a dance, sing a song. Anything to show your joy over their accomplishment. They are so proud of themselves when mommy or daddy congratulate them!

I don't want to sound like a know-it-all by this post. I only want to pass on the wisdom that I have gained. Hope it helps someone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pictures to Make You Smile

We stopped at Auntie Anna's house to get some candy on Oct. 31!

I love the looks on their faces trying to play some things on the guitar!

Baked Oatmeal Recipe

I have been making this recipe since this summer. I made it again today, so I thought I would share it here. I have modified the original recipe significantly, so I feel free to share it here as an original recipe:

Baked Oatmeal
3 cups rolled or quick oats (I use half of each)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
walnuts or another fruit may be added as an option

Spray a 9" x 13" pan with non-stick spray or any kind of oil. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Pour into pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree Farenheit pre-heated oven. Top will be dryer and edges slightly brown when it is finished cooking. Serve warm in bowls. Pour milk on top and enjoy! Serves 6.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Big News! Larson Kids Win Poster Contest

BOTH Gretchen and Peter John won the Fire Prevention poster contest for their classes. It turns out they both have an artistic, creative bent. They were pretty excited to be able to ride on a fire truck with the firefighters and eat lunch with them at Burger King this week. Here are some photos from the events. Gretchen went to lunch today and Peter John went on Monday.
Gretchen on engine #1 today!

Great poster, Gretchen!

Here is Peter John's poster. I love the warnings and all the details he added in there, especially the fire extinguisher. Of course, I also love the large propane fire starter. He was always getting in trouble this summer when he found Grandma's and was VERY curious about it. We had to hide it in several places to keep his curious fingers from playing with it. He always found it.
Peter John with the firefighters at Burger King on Monday.
Great job Gretchen and Peter John! Way to go!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kids' Pix

It SNOWED October 9th, and two times after that!

Amy working hard raking Grandma's yard!


Lindig Farms with my nephews and Melissa.

Last Month's Dinner Menus

When I make a meal, I try to write it down to give me ideas for next month. We have been eating a lot of vegetables from the garden this past month. We were also given a large supply of potatoes from a retired pastor who grew them himself and gave them away to seminary families. So, we have been eating potatoes, too. I also make my meals from scratch to save money and to make it healthier. Here is what I made for the past four weeks or so. I share it to pass on any ideas if you need some fresh ones.
Week One
Chicken Roast, squash, salad
Chicken Pot Pie (use the leftover chicken from the roast), green beans, rolls
Stuffed Green Peppers, salad
Potato Soup, homemade rolls, salad
Borshch, bread
Week Two
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad
Tomato & Zucchini Penne Casserole with Cheese
Chicken legs and rice, salad
Potato & Ham Casserole, veggies
Week Three
Homemade Pizza
Krautbaruch, veggies
Bean Barley Hot Dog Soup
Meatballs, squash, mashed potatoes
Spaghetti & Meatballs, homemade breadsticks, salad
Week Four
Ukrainian Zucchini Pancakes, ham
Chicken Roast, herbed potatoes, broccoli
Tuna Hotdish, cooked carrots
Chicken N Rice Casserole (use leftover chicken from the roast)
Burritos, mexican rice, chips & fresh salsa
This Week So Far
Chicken Stir Fry, rice
Beef & Noodles, broccoli

Monday, October 5, 2009

Words from E.L.Langston

"The evidently attacking you in your inmost heart, not causing you to doubt so much as causing a spirit of discontent. Fortunately we both know that temptation is not sin, it is yielding to temptation that causes us to sin and I feel that you must count it joy that you are passing through these times of difficulty, for they are sure signs that the Lord is blessing you....
"There is another reason, I think, for the cause of the feeling within us. It comes from the flesh and self-introspection. It is good for us to look at self and know how loathsome it is, but with one look at self we must take ten looks at Christ....
"No one goes to church more than the devil does, and no one appears as an angel of light as he does. We are in the thick of facing powers of darkness who are determined to rob us of Him and rob God of us, and you and I, my brother, have just got to hope in Christ and rely on Him for His Spirit to direct our thoughts, our ways, and our works so that it is not us but Christ in us."

These words were written in a letter to Elisabeth Elliot's father by a missionary to Africa, E.L.Langston, taken from the book "Keep A Quiet Heart" by Elisabeth Elliot.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Glory

While Ethan was at work today, we headed out on an adventure to Maplewood this morning, but we never made it because of 44 degree weather and the rain. Just past Pelican Rapids we ran into a farm selling pumpkins. The kids were thrilled, and since I didn't want to risk hypothermia for any of us, I decided to stop at the pumpkin patch instead of hiking at Maplewood. We were not disappointed. The kids loved picking out their pumpkins, and the decorations were so adorable. It was a beautiful, colorful drive with all the leaves.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Decade!

Ethan and Elysia were married 10 years ago today!
God has given Ethan and me ten great years! Ethan's niece, Rachel drew this picture the year we were married.
October 2, 1999 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Honeymoon in Duluth, Minnesota. What I wouldn't give to be there right now!

Happy Anniversary, Ethan! I love you! Love, your wife, Elysia

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lizzy's Four!

Sept. 11, 2005 Lizzy was born in Kyiv, Ukraine!

Happy Birthday, Lizzy! A very happy reason to celebrate this day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aunt Crystal

Last night our beloved Aunt Crystal was taken to heaven. She and Dick were traveling to see family in WA when their car was hit and she was killed. Crystal was Luther's youngest sister, and she was truly a delightful person. We are so grateful for the time we had with her this summer both here in Fergus Falls and in Bottineau for the Larson Family Reunion.

Crystal had a way of making everyone feel at home in her presence. She was beautiful inside and out. She was such an encouragement to me as a mom. She raised six children in North Dakota on a tight budget. She told me that she thought I was a good mom. This encouragement came at a time when I was feeling quite down about how things were going with my children. We shared the same Christian values, and she affirmed me in these things as I raise my children. I will always cherish her warm smile and the love that she showed my children when we visited this summer.

While we were on furlough four years ago we spent a delightful Thanksgiving at Dick and Crystal's home in South Dakota. Here is a photo from that wonderful day in 2005:

(l to r) Ethan, Luther (Ethan's dad), Uncle Dick, Aunt Crystal

Ethan's cousin Jackie sent this beautiful photo of Dick and Crystal Grorud taken last week in Arizona:
We loved Aunt Crystal, and we will truly miss her. We rejoice that she is in the presence of our Lord and Savior in heaven worshipping at His throne. We will cherish every memory we had with her. We are praying for her wonderful husband Dick and her entire family that the God of all comfort would comfort them all during this time.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Monday, September 7, 2009

Minnesota Neighbors

I really enjoy the Fergus Falls, Minnesota culture in certain respects. We have awesome neighbors right behind the house we are staying at. They are so generous, welcoming, hospitable, forgiving (of our kids' crazy antics sometimes), and friendly. Today our neighbor gave the kids a box of popsicles. How generous! The other day she invited us to have homemade donuts and juice at her picnic table. In Fergus Falls there are no privacy fences. The yards all connect to one another with no fences in between. My mother-in-law says that if people put up fences, the neighbors are usually offended. In Boise, Idaho it is the opposite! Privacy fences are required by law in the city. People generally avoid talking to their neighbors and independence/privacy are highly valued. It can be lonely sometimes. It is different here, and I like it a lot better.

Let the Studies Begin

I am very proud of Ethan. He did great on his Greek pre-requisite class in August. Tomorrow the semester begins, and he is taking a full load: 16 credits. God has made lots of provisions for this to happen, so we are taking it one day at a time.

The kids had a good first week of school. They rarely give me all the details, but at least they are happy when they leave for school, and they are happy when they get back. That's a good sign, right? Now if I could just make some friends here in town so that Lizzy and Amy have some other kids to play with once in a while. That is something I am praying about. It was so easy in the other places we have lived because everything was all together. At Calvary in Boise it was a "one stop shop" where we had school, church, Bible studies, mom's groups, volunteer opportunities, etc. all in one place. And in Hungary, well, that's a whole different reality. The Bible College was friends, fellowship, Bible study, prayer, etc. all in one. Now we are in a smaller town so it is harder to find what we need. We are also still praying about what church to join. That is a new and interesting experience (looking for a church). God will open the doors for what His will is for us. I am praying and trusting in His guidance.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Good Times with the Kids

Lizzy at Maplewood. I took all four by myself. It was a fun adventure!
Amy hiking up the hill to the lookout at Maplewood State Park.
Sunny day hiking. Sorry kids for taking your picture in the bright sun!
He's a Larson. He has a map in his hands!
Gretchen checking out the landscape at Maplewood. Birdwatching?
Any tree worth climbing will always have Peter John in it.
Freezing carrots together.
Makin' tortillas with Amy. Thanks for the new apron, Mom!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Prayer Request

Please pray for a dear Christian brother in a middle east country who is imprisoned and will go on trial this weekend. Please pray for his release.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Silent Protest

Today I removed my Concordia graduation ring from my finger. This is my silent protest against the ELCA's blatant move away from the truth of God's word, and their stubborn ways that would completely ignore God's warning through the tornado in Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. I agree completely with John Piper's article written in response to the ELCA's decisions on human sexuality that contradict God's Holy Word and seeks to reinvent the word into their own crafting. Not that I was surprised. When I went to Concordia 15 years ago, they had already gone off the deep end into the abyss of atheism and liberalism. The denomination seems to have followed their colleges into the abyss themselves. I am probably going to get in trouble for writing all of this down, and being the nice Minnesota girl that I am, it is hard to write it. And the criticism I will receive will be hard to swallow, too, but may the truth ring out! Lord, save us, and come quickly!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Background Music by Elysia

How many of us have the same attitude towards reading the Bible as the Psalmist in 119:162? "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure." When Jesus was tempted by the Devil to turn stones into bread, He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Mt.4:4 The Scripture was what sustained Jesus Christ--our perfect, divine Savior needed God's word. How much more do we need to search and seek out all that God is saying in His holy word. Or is God's word just background music to us.

Some of us LOVE to hear preachers....I know I love to go to church and listen to great sermons that actually teach God's word. I love to listen to John Piper and J. Vernon McGee along with Jon Courson on the internet. I also love prophecy. When someone speaks a word of knowledge or encouragement or shares a vision, I am so greatly encouraged and edified. But are we actually LIVING what we hear? Are we building our lives on a solid rock by not only hearing Jesus' words, but obeying them. Last week, I read such a striking description of this in Ezekiel 33:30-33:

"As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, 'Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

"When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Do we treat the Word just like lovely music that is pleasant to listen to but never put into practice? How about prophecy? Do we despise prophecies? (1 Thes. 5:19)

Let's seek out the treasure of God's word and by God's grace, LIVE IT.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cold But Green Summer


Some of you have been wondering what we have been up to since moving to Minnesota in June 2009. Well, God has given us the opportunity to stay with Ethan's parents while he continues his education. The goal is to receive a master's degree at some point. Ethan is currently enrolled at a small seminary here in Fergus Falls. He is in the world of Greek right now as he takes a refresher course required to take further classes this fall. He took Greek 15 years ago when he was at the Calvary Chapel School of Ministry, but it has been such a long while that this course has been a great start again to thorough biblical study. Our friend Larry Krum really drilled the importance of that in expository preaching, so we are grateful for his zeal reminding us of this importance.

The kids are enrolled in school beginning August 31. I am glad for their sake as they are bored right now. It has been a difficult transition for them having moved again. They are growing a lot and it is hard to believe Gretchen will be in 3rd grade this fall!

Keep in touch!