Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Contract With God

Everything that we put into our bodies shows the Lord exactly what we think of the temple He's provided us. The choices we make about food, drink, supplements and medication are all reflective of the respect we have for our God-given bodies.

Food is a wonderful, enjoyable thing that God has allowed us to nourish ourselves with. When we are physically satisfied, we are better equipped to serve Him to our fullest. We get into trouble, though, when we forget that all-important word: moderation. Or as we call it in our house: portion control.

Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. Proverbs 25:16

You can see how easy it is to get carried away - with food, with drink, with exercise, with anything, Good is good so more must be better, right? God knew from the beginning of time and the creation of the deadly sin of gluttony that we would dream up the all-you-can-eat buffet - it was no surprise to Him! We go beyond that is sufficient for our bodies, to the point of overflowing and well past, to the detriment of our efficiency. This Proverb clearly and descriptively explains that when you overdo on what is good, you lose it, which means you also lose all joy you originally had.

If you eat too much of this honey, make yourself sick and spend the night in the bathroom, will you remember how much you enjoyed the honey? Chances are all you'll remember is the color of the tile in the bathroom. Moederation in eating the honey helps you enjoy the honey at the time, and possibly a little cheesecake for dessert.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1 Corinthians 6:12

Of course there's no law against eating all the honey you want, right? There's no one standing in the kitchen telling you not to open the cabinet and eat the honey. But eating whatever you want will do nothing for the testimony you're trying to establish elsewhere in your Christian walk. There's no law against eating the way you want, but to do so is to be brought under the power of another, under the power of an appetite. Consider what you put into your body as a contract with God, not just an activity you perform several times a day when your tummy growls.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

God blessed us over and over again with food on our tables this past week, and we probably made some interesting choices of what to put into our bodies. Maybe we had to eat on the run, or we ate at a resaurant, or we just threw together whatever was in the freezer. We probably didn't put much thought into the actual choices we made and whether they were pleasing to God. He truly cares how much, when, where and with whom we eat, drink and make merry - they all point to where our true devotion lies.

So think "moderation" over the next few days and see if your eating habits match God's standards.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

One Smile For Good Measure

Something very interesting happened to me the other day - something that hasn't ever happened to me before.

I was going on post to shop at the commissary and stopped at the gate to have my ID checked. The gate guard took my card, looked at me, looked at my card, looked back at me and said:

"You have a beautiful smile."

Now, if this had not been a man old enough to be my grandfather, I might have been concerned. I just continued to smile and said: "Thank's the only one I have." He continued. "No, thank you for sharing it - not many people do when they drive through here." And then he sent me on my way, shocked, amazed and blessed all in one.

Psalm 42:11 says: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

When our heart attitude is right, it shows on our faces. When I am right in my end of my relationship with God, apparently it is reflected in my smile. And can't you truly tell when someone is faking their smile - no one is so good an actress that you can't tell what's happening behind a put-on smile.

The people we come in contact with every day should be able to tell immediately if we're happy in the Lord and resting in His love. If that doesn't make your smile glow, they'll begin to wonder if Christianity is really all it's cracked up to be. Are they truly saved if they can't even crack a smile?

Let the love of God shine through your smile today - you never know who may need it!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walking Within Your House

I was sitting in the home of one of my Titus older women several months ago, and commented on how beautiful she kept everything. There were no piles on the floor (as there were at my house at the time), the knick-knacks were neatly displayed in a glass case (as mine were not), and there were pictures of family and friends arranged everywhere (that I did not have).

She is well up in age and while she handles it gracefully, I just had to know how she kept her house so lovely all the time.

Her answer astounded me - "Because I tidy up every morning before I do anything else."

This beautiful Christian woman will clean her home first thing every day, freshen up each room and make it presentable for those who may drop in. She makes her house a peaceful refuge for anyone who walks through her door. Her love for the Lord tugs on her heart to work as unto Him, and that includes the simple household chores of the day.

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:2

I know a lovely lady who is doing just that - she is wise in the ways of keeping a home and because of the work she does there, she can keep a perfect heart. Her relationship with the Lord is strong because everything she does serves Him.

This one statement from a woman I deeply love and respect changed how I look at my home's upkeep and how I can use my hard daily work to serve God. I want everything I do to be pleasing unto Him, and I want my home to reflect that to everyone who enters.

Thank you, my dear sister in Christ, for showing me how to use my home to create something for God's glory.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Do You Know Your Limitations?

There are certain things in this life that I cannot do. I don't have the strength of a bull rider. I doubt I will ever be able to solve quadratic equations or decipher chemical formulas. I will never have the speed to outrun a train.

Sometimes I feel this same way when I try to tackle other things in my life. There are days when I don't think I'll ever be able to get the house clean enough or well organized the way I'd like. Sometimes it seems like there are bills to pay and not enough money to spread over all of them. Other times I feel like I'm not a good enough letter/e-mail writer, a good enough wife/daughter/niece/friend, or a good enough witness in my daily life.

Those are the times when certain Scripture pop into my head and set me straight.

For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God? Psalm 18:28-31

I am in complete darkness when it comes to many things in my life. I don't understand God's plan for the next hours, days or weeks of my life because I am not God. He is the one who lights up the darkness of my confusion and puts me on His path. That is the only way I function, grow relationships with those I love, keep my home and learn more about how to live a life glorifying to Him.

There are basically two choices I can make when I start my day - I can plan, organize and do everything myself in my own way, or I can seek God's face and let Him show me the right decisions.

When I am uncertain, I remember that His way is perfect.

When I am concerned, I remember that His Word is tried.

When I am fearful, I remember that He is my buckler, keeping me shielded.

When I am shaky, I remember that He is the rock I am grounded in.

So I can waste time making lists of things I'm only mediocre at, or I can be victorious through the gifts God has given me. There are many things I am unsure of, but with God's help I can learn, I can grow and I can become the complete, fulfilled woman He desires me to be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Cure For Puppy Boredom

I came across a website recently that offered puppy toys that were guaranteed to eliminate your dog's boredom.

They ranged in price from $20 to $70!

Do dogs really like expensive, plastic toys better than a rubber chew toy filled with treats and peanut butter? I think not.

So, what can we do to make life exciting and fun for our furry companions...and keep them from destroying the house?

* Walk them every morning. A tired dog is a happy dog, and it doesn't cost a thing to walk around the block. Plus, you'll get a great, quick workout.

* Hide treats for a game of hide-and-seek. I've said this before, but this is a favorite in our house. Not only is it a great time-consuming game, but the girls have had to work to get their treats. (And they work them off running from room to room looking for more!)

* Don't put out all their toys at once. This may sound silly, but how often do we rearrange the furniture or change decorations for the seasons? Don't we get bored when everything looks the same day after day? Leave a couple of for a week, and then switch them out.

* Give your dog a job! Bailey has a backpack that she wears that holds our water bottles, their bowl, a small ball and a plastic bag. She knows when she wears it that we're going for a walk, but she also knows she has an important job. You can also use these backpacks around the house - Bailey can help me carry things from room to room. She'll follow me just to see if there's something she can help with.

* Make the outside as interesting as the inside. I realized the other day that the girls really didn't have anything outside to do. Well, Bailey chases the squirrels up the tree for hours on end, but that's not what I mean. I started taking a couple of balls into the back yard with us when they do their thing, and that's made a world of difference. We get some time in the fresh air together, and they're all worn out in just a few minutes.

*Take time for obedience training. In just a few minutes a day, your dog can keep her mind active and learn more about what you want from her. It's a bonding experience and schooling all in one!

Friday, September 25, 2009

What God Says About Your Money

The way people talk about the economy and finances, you'd think money problems were something new. God has been answering financial prayers since the beginning of history. There are so many references in the Bible to how we are to be good stewards of the substance the Lord gives us. There are also many people, both good and poor spenders, in Bible times to learn from.

So what are some of the money mistakes Christian women make? It's not about investing or shopping...

1. Forgetting that all financial blessings come from God.

Praise ye the Lord. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth forever. Psalm 112:1-3

The fear of the Lord is that reverence of God that turns us away from evil. When our focus is on following God's commandments and trusting in Him, there's no time to worry about where the next dollar will come from.

2. Not tithing in obedience to God.

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

The law commands a tenth of all we possess, and it is through our obedience we are blessed. We are to give the first and the best to the Lord always, and He promises to fill all our needs and then some, until our barns and presses burst with His goodness.

3. Being reckless with our money and possessions.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever; and doth the crown endure to every generation? Proverbs 27:23-24

Why would God feel obligated to give us something bigger and better if we don't take care of what we've already been given? Being good stewards of the blessings God has given glorifies Him and opens the door for future mercies.

4. Putting our "things" above God.

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life constisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Luke 12:15

It's very easy in today's materialistic world to look at what other people have and compare them to your own. We want to feel equal, if not superior, to our friends and neighbors. This kind of fleshly thinking changes our perspective on God's priorities and puts it on the world's. We should be satisfied with the Lord and His blessings, and put those gifts over the fixations that are out there.

5. Hoarding what God gives us.

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Ecclesiastes 11:1

What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours, right? Well, in actuality it's all God's. He calls us here to show love and generosity to all we come in contact with. The return may be slow some days, but it will always be glorious because it's in God's timing.

6. Not finding contentment in what we've been give.

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lists, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:7-10

Money itself is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is. When we learn to be content with however much or little God gives us, we can be happy whether we're having a grand banquet or sharing a bowl of beans. Striving and worrying are never part of God's plan for our lives, so the victorious Christian woman will be at peace with all of the Lord's blessings in her life, large or small.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raiding the Pantry

It's time to plan dinner, but you're short on time and resources. What's a woman to do?

Let's raid the cupboards and use what you already have!

Chances are you have tons of meals sitting in your kitchen right now, so why run out and buy more or call for take-out? With just a few staples we probably all have in the refrigerator and on the shelf, we can have a great meal ready in no time, and no one will ever know it wasn't planned.

* Breakfast for supper. One of our all time favorites, breakfast foods like eggs, pancakes, frozen waffles and fruit can be pulled out and mixed together for wonderful meals. Throw the vegetables you probably have leftover into omelets. There might be some biscuit mix in the pantry and waffles in the freezer, so top them with fruit and whipped cream. Tasty, fun and super-quick.

* Create your own casserole. Mix a meat, vegetables, pasta or potatoes, a can of soup and some great spices all together and bake. All of these may be leftover from another recipe or lurking in the back of the cupboard. It's time to pull them all out and put them to good use.

* Have tortilla night. This is another good opportunity to use up leftovers. You can throw everything but the kitchen sink onto a tortilla, then roll it up, sprinkle with cheese and place under the broiler until melted. Try different meats, beans and veggies, or put together some fruit and chocolate tortillas for dessert.

* Go international. Make fried rice one night, refried beans the next and mini pizzas another. It's more than likely you have everything you already need.

* Keep it simple. There's no rule that says you have to use twenty-seven ingredients to have a great meal. Just combine potatoes, olive oil and ground red pepper for some tasty baked potatoes. Beef, mustard and some fresh herbs make an easy tenderloin. Simple techniques with great flavor will make anything you pull out of the pantry taste fabulous!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Magnetizing Makeover

Take a moment to check the front cover of your telephone book.

Does it have one of those square magnets advertising one of your local businesses on it? If so, you've got a great new craft project in your hand!

These magnets are perfect for covering in scrapbooking paper scraps- you can use up all those little remnants from other projects.

Just cover the front of the magnet with double stick tape and lay a piece of paper over the top. Trim around the edges to clean it up, and then ink them with a coordinating color of stamping ink (as desired, of course).

Because they're square, you can use your favorite scrapbook page layouts as the background for your magnets. Make several with matching paper and do a variety of styles of layout.

Then add borders, stickers, Scripture, pictures...whatever your heart desires. Using 3D, metal, acrylic and other stand-out embellishments creates a charming, finished look to your magnet.

Make a set of unique magnets in Christmas themes to give as gifts in three months (that's right, it's coming quickly!). Make some with pictures on them to use as place cards at your next party and let everyone take them home. Or use them as the invitations themselves - they can be put up on the refrigerator as a reminder of your gathering.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Body, God's Way

God only gave us our bodies for the short while that we're here on earth, and as temporary as it is, it's still His creation. From that first breath of life in Genesis 2:7, God has used these human vessels as transportation for His creation. Even as we wear out and break down, our body is a glorious gift.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The Lord Himself says that my body is a temple, a place of worship. And think about how your behavior should be in the House of God - a little more reverent, a little less distracted. Imagine being that way with your body - being more aware of the things you eat, how much you eat, how much sleep you get, how much time you spend on the couch, the way you medicate - simply because your body is a temple, a gift from God.

Does your body feel like a temple today? It may feel like we suffer alone with our headaches, backaches, knee pain, chiropractor visits, trips to the oncologist, and frequent outings to the pharmacy. Does that sound like a temple? Does that sound like something to give thanks for? It should be, because this is the only one we get! We can't trade it in for a newer model, so we learn to adapt, to pamper the one we have a little so it looks and feels a little more like a temple, and we should try not to let negative feelings show on the outside of our temple.

We tend to think that just because God bestowed free will upon us that we're entitled to do anything to our bodies we want. But that's how the world ends up with drug addicts, alcoholics and 900-pound people, right? God's view is completely the opposite.

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people. and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

We had nothing to do with the creation of our physical bodies, but we seem to think that because we're in them 24/7 that we have supreme control, and that just isn't true. We do make the choices about what foods we put on them, how we exercise them, how much rest they receive, but ultimately God is the only one who determines how they function, how well they function and how long they will last.

Part of our relationship with the Lord is viewing our bodies as part of the Child of the King along with our spirits, so they can be nurtured together. It may not be perfect, it may not function the way it always has, but it's working exactly the way God needs it to at exactly this moment in time for exactly the purpose He intends.

It's about the Lord's expectations for my body, not mine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Library: Land of Opportunity

It started out as a simple enough task - return a library book. One simple little paperback book had to be returned. The errand should have taken 20 minutes, because there were no other stops to make - just drive, give the nice lady the book and drive home.

An hour later I arrived home with six more books and four magazines. I never met a library I didn't like.

This sounds like a contradiction to what I said yesterday about what we allow our eyes to give our brains, but it's not. Yes, too much information and any of the wrong kind of information is harmful to mind and spirit. Making poor decisions about what you let seep into your life can have lasting repercussions.

On the other hand, Proverbs 4:5-7 says: Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. We can make our homes, our bodies, our finances and our families better and more glorfying to God when we strive to know more. More about the good things, though: the true, the honest, the just, the pure and the lovely.We can reach up and out to learn and grow in all areas of our life.

And what better place to search for some great knowledge and understanding than at the library. There is a whole world of information at your fingertips on so many different subjects. And yes, you could probably find more on the Internet, but I love paper. There is just something about holding a book in your hands and turning the pages that you can't feel when you're sitting at the computer. Libraries are made for people who want to wander through the stacks, let a title or author's name catch your eye, and discover something you didn't even know was out there.

The library provides a refuge from the world for a little while, a place to escape that has no admission fee, no deadlines and no loud, thumping music. You can spend an entire afternoon looking for information on housekeeping, books on raising a great dog, or magazine articles on gardening. You can lose yourself in the craft stack (yes, I speak from experience) or find the just-right cookbook for your taste.

Just this month at our local library there were literary discussion groups, gardening classes, a quilter's club, author presentations, resume writing instruction and a story time for children. You could go every day and soak up all kinds of the good information that will help you grow in your daily walk with the Lord. It may seem like a lot of work, or of little consequence, but are we truly willing to lay all we are at God's feet and let Him show us new and wonderful things?

We are commanded in God's Word to better our lives and our work for Him. I strive to be a better cook, more talented crafter and a willing housekeeper. These are things I want to do to answer the call God has placed on my life, not just to keep up with the Joneses or flaunt my own skills. Someday I will stand before God and be accountable for how I used my time and talents. If a trip to the library every week can give me some knowledge and understanding to be a better servant day by day, I'm willing to make that joyful sacrifice!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Going On An Information Diet

What are your eyes sending to your brain every day? What are you putting in front of them and allowing them to send?

We live in a society that is addicted to information - newspapers, television, magazines, books, the Internet - and it creates an overload to our system. It's like our brains are stalled in rush hour traffic all the time because there is so much going on around and inside of them.

What do you remember most from all the information you've absorbed this week? Can you name all the new legislation from Washington? Are you caught up on all the family news? Have you memorized the sports scores? Did you do lots of great puzzles and games? Or can you remember the Scripture you read during your morning devotions? Whatever we spend the most careful time to soak up sticks in our minds for future use.

And the information we take in first thing in the morning sets the scene for the rest of the day. By choosing God's Word first, before we've read the paper or checked the e-mail, we are not only giving the Lord honor but we're giving our groggy brains something healthy and filling to digest. This can be the difference in our mood for the entire day.

So let's make up our minds to go on an information diet starting today. Instead of monitoring everything going into our mouths, let's keep watch over everything we read and look at. We won't lose any inches, but we can reclaim the mind that's underneath all that clutter.

Ask yourself a few questions about any information you take in:
* Is what I'm looking at holy and honoring to God?
* Would I want to share this information with another Christian woman?
* Is this the best use of my time at this moment?
* Who is disseminating this information?
* Is it vital to my day or is it just entertainment?
* Am I taking time away from my tasks for the day?
* What is my motivation for absorbing this particular information?

There's nothing wrong with reading the newspaper or finding some great websites, but there has to be a point where we reorganize our minds and focus on the information God has placed in front of us. He is often showing us beautiful, miraculous, precious works, but our brains are too tired and too full to notice. Paring down that continual feed can make all the difference in our energy, our attitudes and our relationships, especially our walk with the Lord.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Home Safe Home

Is your home this safe and comfortable? When we first bring our pets home we're so careful to puppy- and kitty-proof the house just like we would for a new baby. There are no cords hanging loose, tiny objects are picked up off the floor and nothing is left open on the counter.

But how about now, months or years after they're become part of the family? Are we as protective and concerned about our dogs' and cats' safety as we were when they were little? I think now is a great time to review what our pets should be protected from at all times.

The Kitchen:
* Coffee grounds, grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, tea, macadamia buts, any type of alcohol, fatty foods, avocado, garlic, gum, candy, breath mints
* Cleaning products
* Human medications

The Bathroom:
* Soap, cleansers and other personal hygiene toiletries

The Garage:
* Insecticides, pesticides, herbicides
* Gasoline and antifreeze
* Paints and solvents

The Bedroom:
* Mothballs
* Potpourri, liquid or dry

The garden:
* Lilies - heart problems, kidney damage in cats
* Rhubarb and shamrock leaves - kidney failure
* Sago palms - liver damage
* Tulip and narcissus bulbs - heart abnormalities
* Azalea and rhododendron - coma and death from cardiovascular collapse
* Amaryllis - vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anorexia and tremors
* Chrysanthemum - gastrointestinal upset, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea
* Fertilizer

The easiest way to prevent your pet from ingesting many of these products is to put them up high or behind lock and key. The best additions to our kitchen cabinets were child-proof latches. Cayenne is forever trying to get them open, but now she stays safe and occupied!

If you have outdoor pets, clean up gas and antifreeze leaks from the driveway and garage floor. Even one tongue-full can be lethal.

Keep a lid on trash cans, the toilet and food containers. Any of these can contain things potentially harmful to pets. (Think cleaners, sharp objects and tummy-upsetting people treats.)

Remember that our four-legged friends are very curious, so it pays to keep an eye on their environment. Keep cords, aerosol sprays, batteries, glue and all fragile knick-knacks out of their way.

I can't imagine life without our three girls, so I'm willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. I'm sure it's the same way around your house, too, so do a double check of their safety this weekend - make sure your home is an inviting place for all members of the family.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dining Out On A Budget

As a couple of foodies, our favorite thing to do when we're out and about is find a great place to eat. The only problem with a hobby like this is the expense - how often can we truly afford to spend so much money on a meal. With prices skyrocketing, we've been eating in more and more...but sometimes you just need the atmosphere (and wait service) of a restaurant.

In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul writes: "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." We are to rejoice in the blessings God has bestowed, which include money and food, but we are to also be stewards of those gifts. So let's look at some ways to make eating out both pleasurable and cost-effective.

Lunchtime is always cheaper than dinner. Plus you get smaller portions. Plan your day around a mid-day meal and you might even have some leftovers to save for supper.

Portion control!
The temptation when you're eating out is to fill up while you can. This is not only expensive, but incredibly unhealthy. One great way to solve this problem is to split a meal with your husband - how romantic...and thrifty! It saves you from spending money on two meals, and you don't feel like you have to eat more than necessary.

Order water instead of another beverage.
I have gotten to the point where I refuse to pay what restaurants think they can charge for soda, tea and other beverages. I now order water with lemon and my thirst is just as satisfied. You can also order hot water in most restaurants and bring your own tea bags. This will save some serious money on after-dinner caffeine fixes.

Check out the restaurant's website before you go.
Lots of national chains (and even some local businesses now) have coupons, discounts and nightly specials on their website. Just print them off, take them in and enjoy your savings. Also ask to be put on the e-mailing list of restaurants you visit all the time. They send updates and specials on a regular basis and you can save even more.

Choose appetizers over entrees.
If you really want to save some money, order a sampler platter or a small-portion plate from the appetizer section of the menu. This is especially great if you're out with friends or going somewhere else after dinner. You can have a great meal without overwhelming your stomach.

Take advantage of take-out service.
You can order the exact same food, dine at home where there's no temptation to buy more, and you don't have to pay the tip. Plus there's next to no cleanup, you don't have to dress special and you're still eating in the comfort of you own home.

Only have dessert on special occasions.
While the picture of that triple-layer chocolate cake may look incredible, it's price is probably pretty incredible, too. You can always find something cheaper at the grocery store during the week and go home after eating out for dessert and coffee.

Look for your city's discount books.
They're everywhere - in your mail, in the newspaper, in the front of grocery stores, at the welcome center. You'll find tons of discounts to places you may not even be familiar with. Some of your new favorite restaurants may have the best coupons.

Don't think you have to eat it all now.
If you're filled to capacity, take the leftovers home for lunch tomorrow. If your spouse does the same thing, you can trade meals tomorrow and get a taste of both. Plus if you've gone out for lunch, you'll have something to share for supper later in the evening.

Be sensible when you're dining out and you can have a fabulous experience. Don't forget that the tip is part of the waiter's income, so don't skimp just to save a dollar or two.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Four Ingredients or Less!

Dinnertime is one of my favorite moments of the day - right behind planning the meal itself. I made the decision a couple of months ago to try at least one new recipe every week, and so far I've stuck with it. (It really cuts down on the number of torn-out recipes I have tucked around.)

Lately I've been on the look-out for recipes that use very few ingredients and have very few steps. Not only is our money precious right now, but so is my time and energy. This is one of those great finds: Ravioli Lasagna. Just three ingredients and a spice, plus you can fix it in just a couple of minutes and walk away for the hour that it's baking. If you want to play with the kind of cheese or different seasonings, let me know what worked best for you!

1 jar (26oz) pasta sauce
1 (13oz) bag frozen ravioli, thawed (meat or cheese)
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
Italian seasoning

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9in square baking dish and a sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Pour pasta sauce into a separate bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of water.

3. Spread about 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with 16 ravioli, flat side up and touching. Cover with more sauce and 1/2 cup of cheese. Sprinkle this layer with Italian seasoning.

4. Repeat the layers until all the ravioli has been used. Top with last of the sauce, more Italian seasoning and end with cheese. Cover.

5. Bake 1 hour, then uncover and bake 5 more minutes, until cheese is browned. (Cheese may already be browned even with foil. Skip the second baking as the situation dictates.)

6. Serve with salad, garlic bread and a tall glass of milk!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Fall Centerpiece

We had another beautiful, cool night last night, so now I'm in the mood for Fall! The trees in the neighborhood are starting to shed their leaves and the sound of the school bus echoes through the morning air.

So in honor of the occasion, I've been changing out some of our home decorations. All of the candles have been switched to deep colors and sweet, earthy fragrances. And this great new centerpiece sets the mood as you walk into our dining room.

The best part is, you can make this centerpiece yourself for just $5! I made a quick spin through the local dollar store and picked up six battery-operated tea lights, two floral picks and a bag of river rocks. I found this antique mini bundt pan at a garage sale several years ago, and I was finally able to put it to good use.

Cut a small circle of cardboard just large enough to fit in the bottom of your bundt pan, muffin tin, whatever you decide to use. (Just make sure it's something you never want to bake in again.) Use a hot glue gun to adhere rocks around the edges. I found it was easier to put the glue on the rock and then the rock on the cardboard. Use the candle as a guide to place each one so you still have room to nestle it in, but don't get glue on the candle itself.

Cut apart the individual stems of the floral picks and tuck them into the nooks and crannies around the rocks and candles. Remember that the pieces will fall out when you take out the candles, unless you tuck them in where they won't move.

This whole project took about a half and hour - a great quick, inexpensive centerpiece that can now be changed with the seasons, too. Take out the fall picks once winter comes and fill it with snow-covered boughs and holly. Use a larger or smaller pan and find interesting places to display it. Be creative and you'll find tons of ways to personalize this decoration.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ruth: A Virtuous Woman

One of the characteristics of a woman who is leading a victorious Christian life is virtue. A virtuous woman is willing to conform to both moral and divine law, someone who glows with purity and goodness. Sounds like an overwhelming goal, doesn't it? Well, just like everything else in our lives, God has given us exactly what we need to triumph in the virtues He would have us attain.

"And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman" (Ruth 3:11).

Ruth was a poor widow, one who chose to leave her native Moab for her mother-in-law's home town of Bethlehem. She was given the choice to stay behind, but her relationship with Naomi was more important. Ruth was devoted to both her former family and the new family that would greet them (Ruth 4:15).

While she was forced to work in the fields to supply the household's needs, Ruth worked with diligence and stamina. In the second chapter of this book, we read about her gleaning well into the evening, the beating the barley and gathering it to take home. She did this amazing work through the entire barley harvest - and was rewarded by both God and Boaz for her efforts.

She was committed to being discreet around men. In Ruth 3:10, while she sat at his feet, Boaz tells her that he had noticed she didn't chase after the young men of the town as some of the women of the time were known to do. Her desire for purity and honor drew him to her and soon she became his wife. "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones" (Proverbs 12:4).

Elsewhere in these four lovely chapters, Ruth shows examples of honorable speech and awareness of proper dress. Her actions, her words, her faith and her attitude were all models of virtuous living that we can put into practice today.

All of these virtues radiated from Ruth so brightly that her neighbors had to notice. The world says be like everybody else, but God says, Be what I want you to be. "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all" (Proverbs 31:29).

God knew then, as He does now, that many women choose not to follow the virtues He outlines through the entire Bible. "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies" (Proverbs 31:10). Instead of falling into temptation to be part of worldly things, we should remember that God values virtuous women above all others.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Organized Fall Cleaning

I know fall is almost upon us because we've slept with the windows open all week. This is my absolute favorite time of the year - the smells delight me, the colors entice me and the sounds envelop me. Everything is different when the temperatures start to drop and that brings joy to my heart.

Did you do a good spring cleaning at your house? We moved in the spring, so we're not doing a spring cleaning...we're about to do a fall cleaning! Does that sound daunting? Well, it doesn't have to be. I'm going to show you how to do it in as little as a week, and then keep up a similar schedule all year round. (That will make the next major cleaning so much easier!)

First and foremost, I am a list maker. I need to have everything in writing in front of me before I proceed anywhere. So, before I begin my cleaning I start a list...and not just any list but a Master List. "Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches" (Proverbs 24:3-4). So now we go chamber by chamber and stuff by stuff in writing.

This list has all of the rooms in the house on it in order from the front to the back. Under the name of each room I have listed the many different chores that are specific to that room - dusting, closets, filing, washing linens and finally, sweeping and mopping. This may seem tedious at first, but I like to have everything facing me all at once so I know what to tackle.

Then I break down this list into days. For example: I have ten rooms in my home including the bathrooms and the mud room. I generally put two rooms in each day and I'm done in a week. If there's more to do than can be done in one day, everything shifts and I finish up on Saturday. This breaks up the whole house into manageable chunks and I can cross each task off as I go.

There is a pared-down version of this list in my planner all the time. Each week I print out a new one, and tackle two rooms every day. I may not get everything done, but the rooms are straightened, cleaned and attended to every week. This makes the deep fall cleaning that's coming up so much easier. Plus I know that I'm managing and building my home room by room.

Even if you don't want to take the time to make up a list, consciously decide to tackle a room every day and make a positive difference in your home. We are called to be keepers at home, and cleaning and organizing our home sweet home are just two of the ways to do that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Can I Write This Blog Later?

I should have written this yesterday. I could have written it a week ago. I might have been able to do it before now, but I didn't. Why not? Because I have a tendency to procrastinate...there, I've said it!

With all the hustle and bustle in the lives of today's woman, it's the easiest thing in the world to put something off until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next week. Please tell me this sounds familiar.

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14).

I have no idea what will happen in my life this afternoon, let alone tomorrow. Scripture reminds us that in the grand scheme of things, our time is very short. God treasures every moment of it with us, but He also expects us to treasure and use it wisely in a way that glorifies Him.

So what projects do you have waiting for you today? Do you have the drive and energy to get them done? Are you seriously thinking about putting some of them off until later? Knowing that later may not come, or at least not happen the way we expect, how can we fight procrastination and do our work as unto the Lord?

* Figure out exactly why you procrastinate. Are you too busy with other tasks, or has laziness crept in, or have you found better things to do instead? Once you identify why you do what you do, you can plan a strategy to change your ways.

* Set the week's priorities now so that important things aren't put off until the last minute. Pull out that fabulous calendar and start marking it up. Note the tasks that have to be done by a certain time, so then they're glaring at you every time you look at that page.

* Sometimes chores on our to-do list are unpleasant and we "save" them for another time. Just for this week, plan on doing the icky stuff first to get it out of the way. Make special marks by them so you'll really pay attention to them and get them checked off.

* Break up all those great big jobs into little pieces. It's daunting for me to look at organizing my entire craft room all in one session, so I'm taking it area by area, a few minutes at a time. It may take a few days for me to get all the way around the room, but at least I'm making progress.

* Don't be ashamed to reward yourself for your accomplishments. Women often think that they have to plug along nonstop, but there's nothing greater than crossing a little something off your list and then reading a chapter in your new book. Stop mid-morning for a cup of tea on the front porch, or in the middle of the afternoon to walk the dogs. Looking ahead to nothing but more work makes the decision to procrastinate that much easier.

* Some days I have terrible focus. I need to be concentrating right here, but my mind and my eyes are all the way over there, maybe in the same place yours go. At those moments we have to buckle down for a little while, saying we won't move until this next little part is finished. Sometimes completing a small portion of our task relieves the discouragment of going on to the next part.

Right now I'm so proud - I resisted the urge to quit typing and go find chocolate. It's not easy sometimes when we're working on a project and the thought of procrastinating crosses our mind. However, there is great victory in completing the tasks for the day that God has given us. We can complete them with His help...and then go get chocolate!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kitty? Puppy? Outboard Motor?

When I was a little girl I collected anything with a cat on it. I wrote school reports about cats and I even have a letter I wrote listing all the reasons why I deserved to have my own cat. I had to wait until I was 30 for that dream to come true.

In the meantime, I became a dog person. Our two black labs are the four-legged loves of my life. But we discussed getting a cat every now and then, just in passing. Then we learned that a precious little kitty was about to be up for adoption, so of course we said we'd take her. Sight unseen I picked her up and that was that.

The very first day she was with us, Danny introduced this little ball of fluff to one of his favorites - hot sauce. I laughed that she would turn up her nose and high-tail it out of there, but to my shock she lapped it off his finger and looked around for more! That's how she earned her name, Cayenne Pepper.

We had specifically gotten Cay to be a little sister for the girls. They needed some excitement in their lives and what better way than with a two-pound, fuzzy squeaky toy! Well, two years and 10 pounds later we have three dogs. Growing up between two 55-pound labs, Cayenne has come to the conclusion that she must be a puppy, too. When it's time for the dogs to go outside, she'll trot to the door with them, wait patiently until they're back on the porch, and then follow them to the kitchen for a treat.

After watching the girls be told to sit for a treat for over a year, Cay finally picked up on the command herself. She will pace around while the puppies get theirs, and then on the sit command she'll plop herself down and gently take the treat from between my fingers. The girls chomp theirs down and watch Cayenne savor every morsel of hers.

The one thing "cat-like" that she still has is her purr. She has a purr the volume of an outboard motor - it drives Danny insane at 4:00 in the morning, but I consider her a furry white noise machine. Every morning I wake up to Cay either on my stomach or curled up by my side. The bed shakes violently like an earthquake and she just sits there staring at me as if she doesn't even notice. Then the vocals begin - we are on a pretty normal schedule around our house, and Cayenne knows when breakfast is supposed to be served in the main dining room. If it's not, the whiniest little mews you've ever heard emanate from this sweet-looking kitty. If we don't move fast enough we are poked, rubbed and sat upon until rolling out of bed occurs.

Several months ago I went to the doctor to find out if I had Springtime allergies. I was suddenly sneezing and coughing like crazy. Even with his prescription I was going through half a box of tissue every day. That's when the lightbulb went off above my silly little head - who is on our bed every morning? Who curls up in my lap every day while I write? Who lays behind my head while we watch television? Whose favorite spot is the corner of my scrapbooking table? I'm allergic to my cat!!! So what do I do? I wash the sheets more regularly, I use those great new pet hair rollers on our furniture and I keep her brushed as best as I can. Dry itchy eyes and a 12-pack of tissues is worth Cayenne's sweet eyes rolling in my direction when I call her name.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Little Thrift Shop 101

I was asked yesterday where I most often shop for clothing. I didn't have to think for very long - looking through my closet I realized that a good portion of my favorite clothes have come from thrift shops. Then I started looking around the rest of the house - there were many things that had come from thrift stores. Some of my favorite home decor, clothing, accessories and books have come from an expedition thrift shopping.

What better way to be frugal with you money in the current economy than to check out some of the local thrift shops. Many ladies do this on a regular basis anyway, but if you haven't been for a while you may need a refresher course on getting some bang for your buck.

1. Take some donations with you when you go. Do some sorting ahead of time and be ready to drop them off when you go shopping. Not only will you be helping the shop stay in business, but you'll be making room at home for you new purchases.

2. Know the stores' schedules. Some stock the first of the week, some late in the day...figure out (or just ask) when new items are stocked.

3. Also find out when your favorite stores have sale days. They will often lower prices on items that have been in the shop for a certain length of time, so you can get an even better deal.

4. Find our if your thrift stores will take a credit card. Some will and some won't, so just make sure that you have cash and your checkbook with you in case they won't take a card.

5. Go in with lots of patience. If you're clothes shopping, it can be difficult to find sizes in a thrift store unless you're willing to take some time. Many of my favorite pieces were "accidental" finds after I'd been in the store for a while. If you have a particular list of items you're looking for, you might be disappointed at first, but the best purchases can be the serendipitous finds.

6. Be prepared to do some digging. This kind of shopping isn't like going to the department store. Chances are clothes won't be grouped together in matching outfits, so find a few pieces and look for some others to mix and match them with. Look under, on top of and behind items on the shelves for even more goodies. Who knows what's in the bottom of that bin until you dig through the stuffed animals to find out. Don't just glance over the top of anything.

7. Try things on. Just because you find something beautiful doesn't mean that it will fit. Take the couple of extra minutes needed to check the size for sure.

8. Decide if you're willing to fix broken zippers, sew on buttons or refinish a piece of furniture. If the answer is yes and you love the item - BUY IT! If not, keep looking.

9. If you have to replace major parts, do a bunch of mending or buy additional pieces for it - DON'T BUY IT! You're supposed to be saving money, not creating more purchases.

10. Keep track of how much you're spending. A couple of dollars here and there won't seem like much until you get to the checkout with your two carts filled to the brim and have to dig for extra cash. Have fun, but be a smart shopper!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cookie Cups = Chocolate Lover's Delight!

I have craved a lot of things in my life, and most of them were covered in chocolate. This sweet little cookie cup treat is perfect for a light snack or to put out at a gathering. Just remember to set some back for yourself - they go very quickly!

All you need to make these cups are:
1 package of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie bar dough
1 cup chocolate chips

When picking your dough, it's better not to use the kind with chunks because you're going to be putting each piece of dough in a mini muffin tin, so the chunks make it difficult to make your thumbprint (the cup part of the cookie cup).

The creative part will come with pairing your dough and chips. I used white chocolate for this batch, but you can pick any of the variety of flavors available.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 24-count mini muffin pan.

2. Place one square of cookie dough in each of the muffin cups. Press the middle of each with your thumb to make a deep well.

3. Bake 9-11 minutes until the edges are set. Remove form the oven and place the entire pan on a wire rack. While still warm, fill cookie cups with chips. They will soften but keep their shape. Allow to cool completely. Remove from the pan.

4. Remove cookie cups from pan. If desired, drizzle chocolate syrup (the thicker the better) over the top.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CDs Take a New Spin

Mini-albums are my favorite paper craft projects ever. I really enjoy being able to combine scrapbooking and stamping techniques, while accessorizing with my favorite Bible passages. There is a verse on each of the 12 pages of this album, plus a spot for adding in your own pictures.

This project is perfect for gift-giving - baby showers, wedding rehearsals, birthdays - the list goes on and on. You can easily customize it for a specific person or event. Either give it with pictures already in it, or let the recipient fill it up themselves.

Or you may decide to make one to fill and keep for yourself. It makes a great conversation piece on the coffee table or shelf, and it's small enough to carry in your pocketbook.

Making a CD Mini-Album:

1. Drill a hole in each of six CDs. You can use new ones (which gets expensive) or you can gather up the free ones we all get for free in the mail or in the entryway of the grocery store. I am blessed to have a loving husband who does all the drilling of CDs for me, but it's super easy with a cordless drill.

2. Line the edges of the CD with doublestick tape or another non-drippy adhesive. (You'll find tape and gluedots work really well because they don't add bulk behind the paper or run like regular glue. And make sure it's acid-free so your album won't deteriorate over time.) Then flip your CD over onto the back side of your chosen decorator paper.

3. Trim the paper off around the CD and ink edges if desired.

4. After one side has been covered, punch a hole through the paper using the drilled hole as a guide. If you don't do this now, the hole will be completely covered when you tape the paper onto the other side. Searching through paper and tape for a hole is no fun.

5. Decorate each of the pages with additional paper, stickers, stamps, ribbon and 3D elements. For this album I printed Scripture from my word processing program for each page. You can use coordinating paper and run it through the printer, or use regular copy paper and ink the edges to make it less stark.

6. When all sides are completed, use a book ring (found in the stationary section) to hook them all together. Then cut small lengths of ribbon in various colors and designs and tie them to the ring. (There's no ribbon in the picture so you can see the pages.)

Depending on the number of CDs you decide to cover, this project only takes an afternoon. If you're a scrapbooker or other kind of crafter, you probably have tons of extra paper and supplies that you can use. Use your creativity and make an extra-special gift.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Debilitating Disappontment

The things of this life tend to disappoint us. People aren't who we'd like them to be, events we'd hoped for never occur and things we'd expected to happen in a certain way never come to pass. I've tried relying on everything else in this life - relationships, career, better finances. When we look to mankind for answers or for hope, we will surely be disappointed.

Our own misconceptions of life's circumstances leads us down a long, dreary path. What we plan and see inside our head doesn't always match what others see, or what may actually be reality. Looking into ourselves for "clarity" directs us straight to depression and failure. Have you ever heard yourself say, "I couldn't care less" and truly meant it? Having confidence in our own power to change our outlook means that we care more about the circumstances themselves rather than how to grow as Christian women.

God is the only unchanging factor in our uncertain world. Focusing on God and His will instead of looking inward or outward places us on the path to a victorious life. We cannot conquer the pull of disappointment by changing outside influences or closing ourselves off altogether. Faith in the Lord's plan for each moment of our life is the one saving grace. "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Deuteronomy 31:6). No matter what our mood or attitude, He is constantly with us, a stronghold against anything that creeps into our mind.

As long as we are traveling through this world, people and things will disappoint, but we must remember that we are never walking through it alone. Our Lord and Shepherd is consistently available, regardless of where the rest of the world stays.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A House Becomes A Home

I have not always loved my home. Over the past 10 years I have moved six times for a variety of reasons. With so brief a time in each home, it's been difficult for me to develop any kind of attachment to a house. Oh, I have scrapbook pages filled with pictures of each place I've lived, but decorator paper and frilly sentiments do not a home make.

It wasn't until I began to study about God's plans for a Christian woman's life did I realize how deeply I needed to care for my home. "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2:4-5) We are called by God to keep our home, not just take up residence there. Keeping means tending, caring for and making better. So often we see mundane, everyday tasks around the house as chores, not as an occasion for service and glorifying God.

My personal goal for my home is to make it a refuge for all who enter. No, I don't particularly enjoy cleaning and straightening the house, but I do love serving my Lord and my husband in the duties I have been called to. I may not look forward to cleaning the bathroom in the morning, but I delight in a clean, welcoming place for anyone who chooses to come in.

The Proverbs 31 woman is one of my inspirations for keeping my home. "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." This victorious woman chose her service to God over anything else that would take away from her daily work. It is a struggle for me some days to stay on task and not be drawn away by the computer, the television or the many books on my shelves. But by her example, the Proverbs 31 woman reminds me that the bettering of my home comes before all else.

Anyone who walks into our home sees a glimpse of how our walk with God is right now. We should reflect the pride and gratefulness we have in the blessings God has given, not let them get run down, covered by dust or buried under a pile. It is only by His grace that we have a roof over our heads today, so it is out of a loving heart and a thankful response that we care for all He has provided.

It takes a woman of strength to put her heart and soul into her calling to keep the home. That strength and passion come from God Himself. The closer we walk with Him in our daily lives, the easier it is to willingly give of our time and effort.

So just for this week in my home:
Cleaning will be a joy because I'm working for the Lord.
I will find comfort in creating a safe haven for my loved ones.
There will be effort put into arranging things according to God's will.
Organizing my home and life will be not be a struggle but an opportunity.
Errands will be done with gladness in my heart.
My family will be put before all else, because Christ put us before everything.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Simplify Your Week

The menus need to be planned. The dogs need to be bathed. The house needs a thorough cleaning. Appointments need to be scheduled and attended. The gardening needs to be tackled. The bills need to be paid. The laundry needs to be done. I'm frazzled already and it's only Sunday!

What if there was a way to simplify a week's worth of planning and organizing so we could actually enjoy our days and not just try to get through them? In Psalm 31:15 David wrote: My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. Our minutes, hours and days are not ours, but God's alone. The way we use them is to be glorifying to Him.

Begin your planning in prayer. Seriously pray over what the Lord would have you accomplish and that you be shown which activities and obligations are most important. Only with God's input can we be truly effective in our service to Him, our families and our homes.

Make sure you have all of your schedules on one calendar - I get confused looking at just one some days without chasing several notebooks around the house. The best organizers have day, week and month views, so you can see at a glance what's happening. Write down all the appointments and obligations you know of for the upcoming week. If you don't combine all of this now, you'll accidently schedule two things at once or forget something completely.

Now add in the chores, errands and other tasks you need to accomplish in their appropriate places. You may not have to clean the back bedroom on Thursday, but having it written down there will keep it fresh in your mind - and give you the opportunity to check it off Thursday afternoon when you're done!

Write down your intended meal plan for each night and start on your grocery list. If there are pre-planning steps that need to be taken (like thawing out meat or looking up a recipe) jot those down on the necessary days. If there's one thing I hate it's getting halfway through meal preparation and realizing I'm either out of something or it's frozen solid. Having a plan of attack saves both time and stress.

Purposely leave space in between activities. If your day is crammed full with back-to-back-to-back jobs, you'll have no room left for emergencies, down time or fun things that might come up. If there's too much writing on each day, rethink the way you've scheduled.

Constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve your planning efficiency. A victorious Christian woman is willing to grow in God's image so she can function to the best of her ability. That includes setting priorities, planning activities and keeping them all organized.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's a Dog's Life

These are our girls – Bailey and Sadie. They were each adopted from a shelter as puppies, and have lived the life of leisure ever since. The only thing that breaks my heart is when they lay at our feet with their heads on their paws, staring at us with a combination of love, wonder and complete boredom. If we get busy in “people activities,” they want to know why they’re not involved and how quickly we’ll be doing something they can help with.

I think our pets fall into the “desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4) category. They love our companionship, and dogs especially can be taught the most wonderful games to entertain us both (although I have taught our cat to sit for a treat). What follows are just a few ideas for some exercises, tricks and games to spend some quality time with your favorite puppy.

  • Hide and Seek: While your dog is somewhere she can't watch you, hide several treats around the room. Put some in plain sight and others behind, under, on top of and between things. Then let your puppy back in the room and watch her tear around trying to find all the treats. Cheer her on and help if you need to. When we play, I keep track of which of our dogs finds the most and she gets an extra scratch behind the ears.
  • Teach your dog to lift each foot – “front right,” “back left,” whatever words you want to use. Our girls know “front feet” and “back feet.” This is so useful when you’re clipping nails or you need to wipe muddy paws.
  • If you’re tired up picking up balls, chew toys and stuffed squirrels, teach your dog how to do it. They probably already know the names of all their toys, so just teach them “get” and “basket” or “box” – wherever you want their toys stored. Make sure they get lots of loving and treats for all their hard work.
  • Introduce the words “back up” to your dog’s vocabulary. There’s nothing worse than a 55-pound black lab in your way while you’re moving around the house, so we’ve taught the girls to “back up.” They’ll take a few steps backward and then sit until they see the path is clear. Just use an arm motion to begin with that starts above their head and moves back to where you want them to be.
  • Dogs can learn the names of many different words, so work on fetching useful items. Try “leash” to be prepared for walks, “keys” for your absent-minded days, and “pen” for when you’re a little clumsy. They can also be taught to fetch certain items on a sound cue, like a box of tissues when you sneeze or the phone when it rings. Just be prepared for the slobber that comes along with it.
  • Do you have a dog with spots? Sadie has one white spot on her belly, so I’ll ask her to roll over and show me her belly. Then I pretend to take her spot off, close my hand in a fist and say “Look, I’ve got your spot.” She gets all excited and sniffs at my hand trying to find her spot. Then I’ll have her flip over on her back again, rub my hand over her spot and say “There’s your spot back.” Sadie thinks this is the most fun ever and smothers me with kisses.
In the end, I don’t believe it really matters what games or tricks you choose, as long as you’re spending time with your four-legged friends. They deserve more than lounging around the house all day, so find something that challenges them mentally and physically. And have fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Saving Time, Energy and Money

One of my favorite times of the week is when I head to the grocery store. Some people find it tedious and time-consuming, but I love being able to scan the aisles and find new and interesting food choices. Wouldn't it be fabulous if we could not only save time and energy when we go to the supermarket, but save some money, too?

Here's one way I've found that takes only a little pre-planning. The Bible says it is wise to be conscientious of your finances and take steps to be careful with all your earnings. "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?" (Proverbs 27:23-24). Any little changes we can make in how we use our money will be honoring in God's eyes.

The next time you go to the grocery store, take a piece of paper with you. Using the signs above each aisle as a guide, write down where each of the items you typically purchase are located, in order back through the store. When you get home, either on the computer or a piece of typing paper, list each aisle and its contents, from the front of the store to the back.

Next, use your receipts to add in the regular prices of the food and supplies you buy. When you have these prices in front of you, you'll know in a quick glance what is on sale or what has gone up in price. You'll also be able to see the trends in pricing and you can purchase certain things at different times of the month when they are less expensive. Make a little note to the side if you're using a coupon for an item so you can grab them before you head out the door.

Hang this new list in the kitchen so you can mark down when you run out of something. Also use it as you prepare menus for the week - you'll know exactly where everything is when you need it and you're less likely to forget something from a long recipe. That saves you from making an extra trip on another day.

By developing a system for your shopping, you can breeze through the grocery store, resist impulse buying because you're probably not traveling down every aisle, and your saving tons of money because you've planned things out. Time, energy and money - all saved because you took a little time to be prepared.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leaving My Comfort Zone For Turkey Pasta

There will probably never be a cookbook published with my picture on the cover, and I will probably never open a restaurant featuring my own personal recipes. I have never been an adventurous cook, and I am more than willing to stay inside the comfort zone that is the written recipe.

I guess I've been scared to ruin a dish or disappoint those seated at my table. It can generally be assumed that the creators of each recipe and cookbook have better knowledge of their trade than I do, so why venture beyond the security in those ingredients and measurements? Safe has always been good in this case for me.

Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. This recipe was my first expedition outside my culinary comfort zone and has quickly become a favorite at our house. It is very, very simple, but a different twist on something you may already make. Plus, there are lots of opportunities to adjust it and make it your own.

Sweet and Sour Turkey Pasta:
1 box of whole grain pasta
1 package ground turkey
1 16oz can jellied cranberry sauce
1 26oz jar of pasta sauce (the chunkier the better)
Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper
Fresh parsley

1. Cook the pasta according to the directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground turkey in a large skillet with Italian seasoning.
3. Once turkey is browned, add the cranberry sauce. Mash it with the back of the spatula to break up any chunks. This will turn it into a creamy sauce.
4. After the sauce is melted into the turkey, stir in the pasta sauce. Use less than the full jar for a thicker sauce.
5. Drain the pasta. Toss with Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and fresh chopped parsley to taste. Serve with salad, garlic bread and a big glass of cold milk.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Scrapping and Recycling

When my husband brought these two cans of treats home recently, I was touched - not just because I had some really great Starbucks snacks, but because he supplied me with two new containers to play with. Thank you Danny!

It would have killed me to throw away such neat boxes to begin with, but being able to recycle them into gift jars blesses my heart and hopefully the heart of the recipient.

Plus, we are called to be good stewards of what we have been given. Luke 16 speaks of being faithful to wisely use all God has given. In a small way, we can show our appreciation for all of the Lord's blessings by eliminating as much waste as we can.

So, what do you have saved up around the house that you can reuse? It literally took me 10 minutes to put this box together, so don't be turned off by the time factor. You can create beautiful gifts and wrapping using just scrapbook supplies and objects you were going to throw out. Use your imagination!

Box instructions:
1. Cut a strip of decorator paper to proper length and width. (Cardstock doesn't work as well on smaller, round boxes. It tends to pull away unless you really tack it down.) Adhere to the box with double stick tape, glue dots or other favorite adhesive.

2. Thread ribbon through metal ribbon charm. Attach to the top edge of paper strip with glue dots.

3. Stamp your chosen sentiment on coordinating paper. Ink the edges to give a distressed look. (Distressed look on the paper, not on you.) Mat with another coordinating paper if you so desire. Adhere to box.

4. Complete decorating box with chipboard letters, charms and 3D stickers.

Lid instructions:
1. Remove the Starbucks stickers so you have a clean work surface.

2. Choose two paper or fabric flowers in coordinating colors, one large and one small.

3. Thread a large matching brad through the middle for center of flower.

4. Attach the flower to the center of the lid with glue dots.

5. Get creative - hang tags from the lid, ink edges in different colors, add smaller flowers to the sides. Have fun and find all kinds of new uses for your extra stuff!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Victory or Weariness?

I am committed to the notion that Christian women can be whole, happy, content and busy, all at the same time. There are times when we all feel overwhelmed by the burdens of everyday life, but our circumstances should never steal away the joy of our walk with God. We can live a victorious Christian life no matter what comes our way.

Psalm 51:12 says: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit." Often the reason we feel weary and depressed is because we're not relying on the Lord to feed us daily with the joy and strength that come only from Him. My greatest joys in the day are when I'm in Bible study, when I'm journaling and when I'm on my knees in prayer. The closer we are to God, the more we will feel His comfort and power while we go about the routine of the day.

Today may be a tough day from the world's prospective, but in God's eyes it's just another opportunity to serve Him, to praise Him and to share His Gospel with someone. Everything else He blesses us with is just icing on the cake.

My intention for this site is to edify any Christian woman who comes to visit, giving her a place to go daily and be fed from God's Word. Along the way I will share with you some ways we can all live as a Victorious Christian Woman.

Praise ye the Lord!