Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Weekend Of Seeing The Difference

There is an extensive trail system that runs through our property, and each one has incredible views and lots of hills. One of my favorite trails runs along the front of the property, near the highway, and has many different types of bushes, trees and flowers. It also has the most prolific growth of blackberries, so I spend a lot of time here in the summer.

With all the beautiful shades of green in the trees and shrubs, anything that's not green stands out like a sore thumb. Such is the case with this dying tree smack dab int he middle of this path. The rest of the trees around it are very tall, and it is rather short. The bushes are a deep, dark green, and this tree is brown and brittle.

It's different from everything around it, so it's easy to see.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:1, 4-5

The darkness was so dark that when light arrived, it didn't understand what it was. Jesus' light stood out as a bright spot in the dark world because it was the exact opposite of everything else around it. In a creation so filled with darkness, sin and evil, the light of men was a beacon to all who would believe.

Make this a weekend of seeing the difference between light and darkness. They should be such polar opposites that the light is a spotlight showing you exactly where to walk, step by step. Where you would normally rush through ignore the light because the darkness is cozy and well-known, look up for a moment and pay attention to the light.

It's different from everything around it. It will be easy to see.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lessons From A Cow Bird

Here in Iowa, we have cows and we have birds. We also have cowbirds, like the one pictured here. It's a very average, dull-looking bird, just black and brown and not much to look at.

We have these cowbirds at our feeder every single day, but you really don't notice them. They're not pretty like the cardinals, not as large as the bluejays and not nearly as cute as the nuthatches. They're just not a special bird that you would write home about.

Until you dig a little deeper into their characteristics. Cowbirds are considered parasitic birds. They won't build their own nests, instead laying their five to seven eggs in another bird's nest. One bird guide I read says that cowbirds have been documented laying their eggs in the nests of more than 200 different species of birds.

And it's incredibly interesting that while some birds will reject these foreign eggs, most will actually raise them as their own. For tiny birds like starling and warblers, this means raising babies twice their own size! Doesn't sound like cowbirds have the greatest parenting skills, does it? Freeloaders.

I challenge you to take some time this weekend to notice the world around you. Maybe you'll want to watch the birds for a time like I did, or you might want to walk some local trails, go to the park for a picnic or just prop your feet up by the pond. It's ok to just be still and quiet for a while every day. It's in these moments that we observe, question and learn more about the way God's creation works and thrives.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Takes On Strawberry Shortcake

Everyone loves summertime because there are so many things we can enjoy only in these months. We go to the beach, we hang out on the deck all evening and we sip lemonade from pretty mason jars.

And we eat strawberry shortcake. By the truckload.

But who wants to eat strawberry shortcake the same way every time? We only have a few precious months to savor it, so let's put a new spin on an old favorite.

* Instead of the typical white cake, split a glazed donut in half for your top and bottom.

* Add your favorite ice cream as another layer of flavor.

* Layer it up in a glass jar or a miniature version.

* Thread pieces of cake and strawberries on a skewer and drizzle on vanilla icing.

* Use fluffy biscuits instead of cake.

* Turn the cake into cupcakes, with a strawberry in the middle and whipped cream instead of frosting.

* Instead of individual portions, make a multi-layer cake with strawberries and whipped cream between each layer.

* Bake the cake as a sheet cake, topping with vanilla frosting and piles of strawberries. Then just cut it in bars.

* Crumble the cake after it's cooled and make strawberry cake pops, adding finely diced strawberries to the cake crumbles and coating each ball in white chocolate.

* Layer cake, strawberries and whipped cream in a large trifle bowl and let everyone fend for themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

DIY Coffee Packet Gift Card

When my mother-in-love asked me to make some gifts to take back to the Mongolians at the end of the summer, I was thrilled. It's so amazing to know that my work is going around the world, so I really had put my thinking cap on. For the women, I made sticky note holders. That was the easy part. 

The men's gifts were a little more challenging. But they all drink coffee, so I knew I wanted to do something small and coffee-themed.

This adorable little gift card opens up to reveal a packet of instant coffee tucked in a tiny pocket, along with a white panel to write a quick note. I think it will be the perfect size to travel back on the plane, plus be a cute surprise.

Since I was making these from an idea in my head and not a pattern, my measurements aren't precise. They will also vary depending on what size your coffee packet is, as I've learned they're not all the same. Start by cutting a rectangle of card stock that, when folded in half, is approximately three times the width of the coffee packet.

Then cut a piece of decorator paper slightly smaller than the folded panel. Don't tack it down yet, as this is going to be your template.

Use that piece to cut a second rectangle out of another pattern.

Cut it on the diagonal and this will be the front of your pocket.

Only use adhesive on three sides - not the diagonal side. 

And put them together. Now you have a lovely little pocket!

 I finally found a use for this awesome coffee-themed decorator paper that I've been saving. Use the piece you've already made as your template again, cutting the front panel and adhering it.

Now you can attach the pocket to the inside of the gift card.

 Now all that's left is to tuck in the coffee packet and add a white piece of card stock to the other side if you need a place to write a note. Tie it up with a piece of ribbon and you'll have a lovely, thoughtful gift for someone special.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adopt A Palms-Up Attitude

The babies in our church nursery have the strongest grips I have ever known. Once they get a hold of your hair, your glasses or your jewelry, they’re determined to pull them off and keep them forever. Not to mention if you give them your finger - you’ll lose feeling in your fingertips in a matter of moments.

We carry this grip into adulthood, whether we realize it or not. But instead of holding on to someone’s finger as a reflex, our fear and worry teach us to hold on to things as tightly as we can. We squeeze the life out of our relationships, position, home, possessions and other “stuff” in our lives because we’re desperately clinging to them.

God says “Cling to me instead. Let go of the ‘stuff’ you’re trying to hold on to and show me the palms of your hands.”

This palms-up way of thinking releases the emotional need to tightly grasp people, things and memories just to keep them close. In order to see your palms, you have to uncurl your fingers and drop whatever you’re holding. And for many of us, this is a scary proposition.

You’ve probably been holding on to some things all your life: your need to be loved, your fear of rejection or your desire to have that white-picket-fence life. Or maybe you’ve acquired things over the years that you don’t want to let go - things that are now packed away in boxes that you only pull out once in a great while. Or perhaps you’re clinging to ideas, notions and assumptions that God never intended for you to have in the first place.

And now you’re in a panic over giving them up. How could God ask you to drop these important things? They’ve always been there, and now you’re worried about what life will be like without them.

Living with white knuckles in each part of your life doesn’t bring the best because you’re not willing to trust and expect God to fulfill His promises. Clinging to anything but God just brings doubt and discouragement to your soul and numbness to your hands.

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah. Psalm 143:6

What if living with a palms-up attitude isn’t about the negative, but about the positive? What if you don’t turn your marriage over to the Lord, expecting Him to take it away, but allow Him to do miracles in your heart and in your husband? What if you don’t release your home or your property to Him, convinced that He’ll just make you move, but let Him open your doors wide for beautiful acts of hospitality and fellowship?

Instead of letting go and expecting the worst-case scenario, what wold happen if you gave everything in your life to the Lord, knowing that release brings the best? By throwing your hands wide open, God has the opportunity to work His plan without your interference. There is no fear over the results because God’s glory and your good are now the focus.

By giving up your control, you’re really just trusting in God to be in control instead. By releasing the death grip you have on your husband and your marriage, choking the life out of it, surrender means God can work in great and mighty ways that He couldn’t when you were stubborn. 

Let go of your anger, and He can put His peace in your heart. Give up the need to control every situation, and He can work miracles in them. Give up. Let go. Show Him the palms of your hands.

Are you willing to uncurl your fingers and relinquish control of your life to the Lord? If so, prepare yourself for blessings beyond compare. The palms-up attitude He is looking for in you can change not only your heart and immediate life, but the outcome of so many issues in the circumstances around you.

Are you ready for the blessings that come from clinging to God and nothing else?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Today's sketch gives you a chance to practice cutting paper ribbon, a look that will serve you well in so many projects!

The background for this sketch is very simple - just three patterns, including two blocks as panels to build on.

The fun part is the ribbon. Cut a fairly thin rectangle of decorator paper and set it aside. Then cut a 1.5-inch square of card stock. Use this square to cut a notch out of the bottom of the strip of decorator paper. Play around with widths and sizes to get just the look you want.

Then overlap the sentiment onto the paper ribbon and embellish as you see fit!

For my card, I started with a dark blue denim background. I cut two more panels of coordinating decorator paper to complete the foundation of my card.

With another decorator paper, I cut a thin strip and used my card stock square to cut the notch out of the bottom.

After I adhered everything down, I added my Bible verse, overlapping it onto the ribbon.

For more great layout ideas, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of handmade cards, journals, paper crafts and gift ideas there, along with all the inspiration you need to complete your own projects.