Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eliminate Distractions And Get Something Done!

I'll be the first to admit it - I have the attention span of a flea! Now, I don't know that many fleas personally, but I have a feeling they wouldn't be the best at concentrating. Similarly, my mind enjoys wandering from here to there on a whim...usually at the worst times.

Usually those are the times I'm trying to be productive and actually accomplish one whole task. Generally I work for a little while, remember something I was supposed to do, go do that, and then find something else out there I was planning on doing, too. (While writing that sentence I realized it's time to move the laundry to the dryer. Hopefully I'll find my way back...today.)

If I don't work hard to eliminate the distraction in my everyday life, I'll never complete anything. You'll walk into our home and see partial scrapbooks, half-read magazines, piles of clean clothes and water boiling over on the stove. To prevent this kind of scene, these are some tricks of the trade I've picked up on over time.

1. Woman, know thyself. I cannot work uninterrupted from breakfast until supper. I cannot sit in one chair for hours on end looking at the same computer screen. I cannot be expected to create the perfect schedule. These realizations took years to figure out, but once I did I had the freedom to move from project to project and not feel guilty. Instead of beating myself up over inconsistencies, I simply laugh, move on and finish what I was working on.

2. Set a time limit. There are many things I enjoy doing - crafting, writing, reading, cooking - and I like to have the freedom of doing several of them each day. The only way I can do that, and keep my sanity intact, is by limiting the amount of time I spend on one activity. As much as I love stamping and scrapbooking, I can only play for a little while before I have to get up and do something else - I've only got so much stamina. If I decide to stamp until lunchtime, that will give me the afternoon to accomplish some other things, but I can still have fun until I get hungry.

3. Make a list...yeah! I love lists more than just about anything. By seeing exactly what I'd like to do today written in black and white (or sometimes fluorescent pink) I can bounce back and forth between those few things. This keeps me from wandering around in a haze wondering what I should/could be doing, because that is a very definite possibility. Just for today pick half a dozen chores, projects or tasks you'd like to work on, even if just for a few minutes. Then work on the first one for half an hour - if you'd like to keep going, keep going. If you're bored or just want to do something else for a while, pick something else off your list knowing you can always come back to this one later.

4. Only set achievable goals. Yes, I would love to spend an entire day writing, but my fingers and my brain will not let me. If I set out to try to spend all day at the computer, I would go blind, break my back and put parts of my body to sleep. Then I would get all disappointed because I didn't accomplish what I set out to do. Instead, I cut the time down, choose one chapter goals and work until I reach them. This way I don't feel bad for not pushing myself to the breaking point. Doing that squeezes the fun out of one of my favorite past times.

5. Remove any offensive objects. I can't listen to music while I write. I can't do anything if I hear the dryer buzzer go off because I feel like I need to go handle it right now. If there is something you know will pull you away from your current project, take it out of the equation. You might need to turn off the music or television, sit the kids down with a project of their own or gather all the supplies you need before you get started. Don't try to multitask and don't be tempted to answer every phone call and e-mail, even if just for an hour. You'll be shocked at what time-eaters those things are when you see how much you can accomplish.

6. Be accountable. Whether it's to your husband or a friend who can check in on you, there's a lot of motivation when you have an accountability partner. They're not meant to poke at you until you get something done, just to remind you that there's someone supporting you - and you need to get something done! Pick somebody sweet or somebody stern, depending on what kind of help you need. Then look forward to a phone call or talk to them at church about what you've accomplished.

7. Create a temporary distraction of your own. There's also nothing that says you have to be on task every minute of every day. I have times when I have to close my eyes for a few minutes or step away and read a magazine for a little while. Walking the dogs gets my blood flowing and a quick game on the computer stimulates my mind again. These breaks will make going back to your project that much easier and give you some motivation until your next break. Remember - all work and no play makes for a dull woman!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On The Road Without Them

In May we'll be flying to Colorado to attend a graduation and visit family. Since we'll be gone for almost a week, we've been seriously investigating what to do with the girls while we're gone. We've ruled out taking them with us for OH so many reasons, but there are still several options for them here.

* Boarding kennel: People often think that boarding their pets means leaving them in rows of cages for hours on end, only to be taken for a walk and put back in. This is no longer the case, as many boarding centers are more like little day spas than jail cells. (A couple I've seen make me wish I was the one going there and not the pets!)

Do your research before leaving your pets at a kennel. Ask about their schedule - are they allowed out and about during the day? How often are they fed, walked and groomed? How many other animals will be around for them to socialize with? Is there someone available overnight to check in on them?

If you decide on this route, drop in unannounced sometime during the week before you leave and see what a normal day is like. Do you like the atmosphere? Is it clean and full of interesting things for your pet to do? Are the people friendly and helpful? If yes, enjoy your vacation without concern. If no, consider one of these other options.

* Pet sitter: These are popping up all over the place and can truly put you at ease. These professional pet sitters will come to your home multiple times each day, feed and walk your pet and give them some much-needed attention. If you make arrangements for it, they'll even bring in your mail and water the plants, making sure everything in the house is taken care of while you're gone.

The best advantage to hiring a pet sitter is being able to leave your pet in your home. Most animals don't handle change well, and not having to cart them somewhere can be a huge plus. Also, you know that you can check in on them and make sure everyone is doing OK. Sometimes having that peace of mind is all you need. And you don't have to impose on friends or neighbors to come over all the time, which can get old after a couple of days.

Before allowing anyone into your home, do some investigating into their reputation. Go online and read reviews of the business to see how previous customers would rate them. Check all their references and even go to the Better Business Bureau if you feel it necessary. Remember, this is your home and these are your pets.

* Friend or family in their home: If you know some really great people who would like to pet sit in their home, this may be a great vacation for everyone involved. Your pets can have a break from the normal routine and you know exactly where they are and who they're with. (That sounds like teenagers, doesn't it?)

This option is not for any animal that has separation anxiety or any antisocial behavior. If you pet is most comfortable staying at home in her own little world, consider other options.

On the other hand, out-going and fun-loving animals will love this road trip! Pack up their little overnight bag and bring plenty of food, toys and treats. Make a trial run sometime the week before you leave to make sure they're compatible with any other pets and people, then leave them to have fun.

All of these options are workable, but some are better for different kinds of pets. Please make some common sense choices before you leave your animals anywhere. Once you make that decision and hit the road yourself, check in as frequently as you want and enjoy your time away!

Friday, January 29, 2010

See Your Town Like A Tourist

Even with little in the way of extra money in the bank, your family can have a great "stay-cation" anytime you want! Try thinking of the activities, restaurants and historic sites in your town the way a tourist visiting you would, and you can save tons of money while having some great quality time together. And you don't have to spend money on a hotel!

* Visit your town's tourism office. Walk into a visitor's bureau office and you'll be instantly surrounded by information, tickets, offers and specials for all those great activities happening around you. Chances are you haven't been to some of them since you moved to town, so this is a great opportunity to see what's happening. Plus you know whatever money you do spend is staying local.

* Peruse the free papers. They're outside of the grocery store, at the hair salon, at the library and some even show up in your mailbox. Take a few minutes to look through the ads and articles to discover what new and exciting activities you might be overlooking.

* Go online. Many museums, stores and restaurants have schedules and special offers on their websites, but you have to go to them to find them. Local spots are just as good for these specials as the chains, so think "out of the ordinary" and try some different locations. You'll save some money and get a great new experience.

* Think "historic." What does your city have that no one else has? Is it a museum or a great river walk? Has it been a while since you visited the historic homes, walked through downtown or shopped at that area of local shops? Choose the path less traveled and you'll find you don't want to go back to your rut.

* Pretend you're only here for one day. What would you do if you were visiting some other city for just one day? Find coupons for the putt-putt course, visit all of the free museums downtown or go see a play. There are all sorts of activities that are constantly changing, if you just know where to find them.

* Take your camera, not souveniers. A typical tourist would probably spend money on knick-knacks to take home, but you can take tons of pictures instead. After this fabulous day of family activities, have everyone help you put together a scrapbook of all the pictures you took. Let everyone have space to write down their thoughts and adventures from the day. It will be like a real vacation, but you get to sleep in your own bed!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Easy Shrimp Scampi over Whole-Wheat Pasta

I've been craving shrimp lately - I adore seafood to begin with, but our grocery store has had BOGO bags of shrimp every week throughout January. That helps decide what I'm going to enjoy.

So needless to say I've been looking for some new shrimp recipes to use it all up. I used to say I was trying to get out of my cooking comfort zone, but I think that's long gone. This easy, delicious shrimp scampi recipe serves two (how romantic!) and takes just a few minutes to make.

Ingredients:
12 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb large shrimp
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper (we use more because Danny is from Louisiana, but you should season to taste.)
1/2 cup white grape juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup parsley

1. Cook spaghetti as directed on the box.

2. Heat shrimp in olive oil over medium heat, about three minutes, and transfer to plate. Add garlic, red pepper, juice and salt to skillet and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Stir shrimp back in.

3. Toss together with pasta and parsley. Serve with some great crusty bread and something chocolate for dessert.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making My Own Snow

I am just about desperate for snow. We live in South Carolina, a state with perpetually warm temperatures and little chance of flurries. Now I'm originally from Iowa and this corn-fed girl needs some snowflakes every now and then to keep the winter spirit alive.

So I decided this week to work on a project that involved snow - in the paper form. If I can't see any, I can at least create some. (But only God can make a snowflake, you know!)

These are a couple of masking techniques, using one piece to cover up another and stamp ink around it. If you're craving snow as much as I am, these might just do the trick.

For the snowflake frame, cut a 3x3 inch square of cardstock. Cut a 2.5x2.5 inch square and adhere it in the center of the larger square.

Using an embossing ink pad, coat the exposed edge with embossing ink. Sprinkle with light blue embossing powder and heat with heat gun.

Remove the center square and stamp a snowflake in the middle with embossing ink. Sprinkle with powder and heat to set.

For the snowflake background, punch a small snowflake using a paper punch. Using your tweezers to hold it in place, stipple brush over and around it with blue ink. Move the snowflake to
another part of the card and repeat,
like random stamping but in reverse.

To complete the card, stamp your message in a coordinating blue ink, then double mat it. Adhere both pieces to the background. Then let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! You an use these same techniques for scrapbooking, card making and any other paper craft you want to emboss.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Joy - Part 4

For the entire month of January I have been studying what the Bible says about joy. Some of it has come as a surprise to me, and my own cup has overflowed on many occasions. Joy is a powerful gift from God that washes over both ourselves and anyone we come into contact with. What a true joy joy is!

But there are days that we sure don't feel joyful, and begin to wonder where the joy has gone. How do you claim the joy of the Lord for yourself? It's already inside you, at least it is if you're a saved woman. God placed it there at the moment of salvation as His gift to you. So if it's already there, firmly planted in our heart, we'll never be able to lose it. We simply neglect it and allow the day's circumstances to overshadow it.

Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. Psalm 43:4

The very first step in reclaiming the joy of the Lord is to return to Him. He is the source of joy and the keeper of everything that makes that joy bubble over in our soul, so rebuilding that connection with Him is imperative. Find your altar, whether it's the altar at church, your prayer closet, a sofa in a room by yourself, or wherever else you can kneel in prayer, and rekindle that flame of joy you once had. Spending time with God in prayer is the most important time of the day, so ask Him to breathe on your soul for a while and fan the fire of His joy in your heart. Only in His presence will we find what we're looking for.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Psalm 51:12

And God is the only one who can reveal the joy in the center of our being. It is His, a precious gift for His children, and through a devoted relationship with Him He delights in showering us with joy. The joy of God's salvation isn't something that will fade over time or change with the seasons if we determine in our hearts to keep it fresh and alive. Our salvation never changes, and neither does our joy. It's all about our perspective on the situation.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

We are so determined to do things for ourselves instead of relying totally on the Lord to work through us. There is nothing we can physically or emotionally do to find joy ourselves. Happiness in this sinful world and the joy of the Lord are two completely separate things. The only way to be continually and eternally joyful, not just momentarily happy, is to rejoice in the things of God and look to Him for reasons to rejoice. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and so is the joy He has planted in our hearts.

These things have I spoken unto you, that me joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. John 15:11

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Closet Overfloweth!

The closet in our master bedroom has been driving me crazy for ages! Danny's side is wonderful, but mine has slowly been flowing over and out of control, as you can see from this before picture. This weekend I went to setting it to right, and you can do exactly the same thing in any of your closets with the same four steps.

1. Clear everything out. Empty your closet of anything and everything - take the clothes out, clear off the shelves, make sure the floor is empty and remove anything from the walls. We want a completely blank slate to work from.

2. Clean. Wipe down all the shelves and the rod under them. Sweep the floor with a carpet powder or sweep and mop if it's a tile floor. This is also the time to repaint if you're going for a completely different look.

3. Sort. Nothing goes back into this closet unless you use it, wear it or carry it. Be ruthless - have a thrift shop donation bag close by and fill it. Throw away anything that's broken or ripped, even if you have a notion to fix it. If you haven't already, you probably won't. Donate anything that doesn't fit properly or make you feel wonderful when you wear it.

4. Organize. This is the fun part! You get to decide how to arrange everything and put it back into the closet. Consider some new rolling drawers for smaller items and a great wicker basket for larger ones. I found the one pictured here at the thrift store for just a couple of dollars. When you hang your clothes back up, organize them in a way that works for you. I put my dresses and skirt hangers in the back, short-sleeved shirts (because I'm not wearing them in the in the winter), then jackets, long-sleeved shirts, 3/4-length shirts and sleeveless shirts, organized by color within each section. At some point I'd like to replace all my wire hangers with matching padded ones so their more gentle on my clothes - someday!
My shoes are also organized by color and season.

You don't have to organize as methodically as I did - the idea is to clear out the excess in your life and feel like you have control of the "stuff" instead of it having control of you. This is what works the best for me, so find what's going to make your space attractive, make what you need accessible and keep them in great condition.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just The Two Of Us

When you're the wife of a funeral director, time becomes incredibly precious. We never know what hours of the night and morning Danny will be out on a call, and he can't just stop what he's doing when 5:00 rolls around. Sometimes we'll see each other long enough to eat dinner and go to bed, but that's part of this calling God has given us.


So when we had the opportunity this weekend to take a free tour of the Riverbanks Zoo, we jumped at the chance! We left all our concerns in the car and forgot about all the pending projects at home. For one afternoon we were simply a couple.


I had truly forgotten what it was like to stroll arm-in-arm, regardless of cold temperatures and chilly winds. It was a blessing to my heart to watch my husband ooh and ahh over the tigers - his very favorite. We enjoyed watching the bear do a face-plant in the mud, and then shared a cup of coffee.

For a handful of hours we didn't have to talk about bills or home improvements. There was no conversation about the animals at home or what we needed to take care of when we got back. We just walked and we looked, we talked and we laughed. Days like this remind me of why our relationship is so strong, and how God will bless our efforts to connect with each other.

Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou hast taken under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9

I'm ashamed to say how often I have taken for granted just a little uninterrupted time with my husband. The Lord has given us each other for a short amount of time, and I believe it's to His honor and glory to make the most of each precious moment.

It's now my prerogative to make this an everyday event - treasuring time with Danny, not going to the zoo. There doesn't have to be a special occasion or dire emergency to appreciate, love and care for your husband. It's simply a blessing from God to be given one more day to live joyfully together.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Puppy Sitting 101

Our home population has grown exponentially this week with the addition of one house guest - a tiny Dachshund named Tootsie. Now remember, my girls are getting up in years, so adding a year-old energy ball to the home dynamic has been interesting.

We've puppy-sat for other friends before, so the opportunity seemed wonderful. And she is a cutie. She loves cuddles, she'll play endlessly and if we needed one, she'd be a great watch dog.

However, she is definitely a puppy. We're having to readjust to housebreaking, chewing on things that aren't chew toys and bursts of pent-up energy. She doesn't quite understand that she can do her business outside while she's running in circles barking.

The girls, especially the cat, are adjusting very slowly to our guest. Cay has spent most of her time on a dining room chair, well out of reach of teeth and claws. Every now and then I'll hear a distinct hiss of anger, and then a little yelp to let me know she's taking care of herself.

If you're ever thinking of pet sitting for someone, friend or not, please take a few things into consideration:

Never feel obligated to keep an animal that doesn't get along with yours. Our four are fairly friendly now, but if there is any fighting, barking or bloodshed, reconsider the offer.

Make sure they come with everything they'll need for the visit. Tootsie came to our house with all the food and toys she'll need. There should be no reason for you to buy anything unless there's an emergency or something runs out.

Fit the new guest into your schedule, don't try to make a new one to suit them. Remember that this is your home, not this animal's. We have a routine in place that makes us comfortable, so Tootsie has had to adjust to us. Yes, we're taking more walks and we've been spending more time outside to get her schedule regulated, but it's still our routine. The whole idea is to provide a temporary home, not turn yours upside down.

Know when it's time to send her home. While we've thoroughly enjoyed having her in in our home, it's very soon going to be time for Tootsie to go. We're learning that we're not in puppy mode right now, and our schedules aren't flexible enough to have four animals in the house. If you get to the point where you're feeling overwhelmed or there are behavior problems that you just can't tackle right now, end the visit and let her reunite with her family. If you're all anxious and the house is getting out of control, it's OK to say that's enough. Your sanity is probably more important, right?

There are so many things about pet-sitting that are a blessing - we've gotten to spend time with a sweet little dog, our girls have had a chance to practice their manners and hostessing skills, and we've been able to help some friends from church. The next time, though, we'll have to make sure that the match with our girls is a little better. Now...I think we're all off for a nap!

Friday, January 22, 2010

If Only We Had More Money...

For some reason women tend to have a dissatisfaction with their bank accounts' balances. We always wish there was more there at the end of the month, just so it looks and feels like we're getting ahead. We make plans for that money, should it ever come in , and we spend tons of time trying to find new ways to bring more money into the home.

The problem with expending this energy, though, is that it's often fruitless. We already have a preconceived notion in our heads of how we'd save our money, or find other ways to spend it. And unless you're a "Once I've decided, my mind's made up" kind of person, having that money in hand probably wouldn't change much.

Besides, is it really about the money, or is it more about the concept of having money? The love of money may be the root of all evil, but the love of knowing we have money is just as bad. We tell ourselves all sorts of interesting stories and make odd decisions based on our family finances.

Myth #1: If only we had more money...we'd pay off our debt. We like to think this is exactly what we'd do, but the world puts other "things" in our path. Our eye is on the prize (or the debt reduction plan as the case may be) but then we see an advertisement from an electronics store or a great clothing sale. The whatever money we had is gone and we're no closer to our goal. There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up. Proverbs 21:20

Myth #2: If only we had more money...we wouldn't fear the future anymore. We've been conditioned to think money will solidify the future. "Things are bad now, so prepare while you can - it's going to get worse!" We get shocked into thinking that having a padded bank account is the only thing keeping us alive, which takes our eyes off God's Word. Better is fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Proverbs 15:16

Myth #3: If only we had more money...we would have the resources to make our lives better. There's a common misconception that we have to either spend tons of money or make lots of sacrifices to improve our standard of living. The truth is that life is often great the way it is...it's all about perspective. Do you really need that bigger and better whatever or can you make do and enhance what you already have? Often we overlook the blessings of what we possess now because something shiny distracts us. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:8

Myth #4: If only we had more money...we could invest and make that money work for us. Would you really? We'd like to think we'd put money away for a rainy day and be consistent with our savings plan and investments. But what about the first time a really great sale comes along? Or there's something we see that we don't know how we've lived without? The best laid plans can be wiped away in a moment if we're not dedicated to being good stewards of the riches God has given us. 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. 1 Timothy 6:17

Myth #5: If only we had more money...we could buy those big-ticket items. Which would be great if we followed through with this plan. More than likely we'll find several ways to spend a little here and there than save and buy what we really want. And then we'll go ahead and buy that large item on credit - then we're back to Myth #1! This can be a vicious circle unless we're truly grounded in what God says about our finances. And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth. Luke 12:15

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...For Cupcakes?

When I was a little girl my grandmother had a copy of the Betty Crocker Cook Book for Boys and Girls. It was published in the 1950s and had the most wonderful recipes and color photos of meals children could easily handle making. I looked through this book so many times that the covers eventually came off and several of the pages were loose.

My absolute favorite picture was the two-page spread of the ice cream cone cupcakes. Each cone was a different color and they were so carefully decorated with sprinkles and candies. I thought they would taste almost as good as a real ice cream cone, filled with some special cake batter.


So here is my version, made 20+ years later. So sweet, and so easy!

You'll need:
1 box cake mix
24 ice cream cones
frosting
sprinkles and other toppings




1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the cake mix as directed on its box.

3. Fill each cone 3/4 full. Place on baking sheet, being careful not to topple them when you move it to the oven.

4. Bake 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. The cake batter will mound slightly as it bakes.

5. Allow to cool completely. Frost and decorate. (If you haven't tried the Pillsbury Easy Frost frosting in a can, do it! Not only is it point-and-frost easy, but it makes a gorgeous pattern.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Do We Craft?

Think about all the different kinds of crafts there are - scrapbooking, jewelry making, sewing, home decorating, rubber stamping, knitting...and there are so many more. But why do we feel the need to make and do these lovely things for our homes?

Look through the Scriptures and you'll see many examples of crafts and homemaking. God has given us a very special ministry and our crafting is part of that.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 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 2:3-5

Home is to be a retreat for you and your family, a refuge, a sanctuary, a paradise. It's about creating an atmosphere that people are drawn to because you have wrapped everything in loveliness. Our ministry in the home is to offer a place of love and peace to everyone who needs it. The crafts we make and the decorating that we do are expressions of ourselves and the love of Christ that lives inside us.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

Building means growing, improving and maintaining a happy, healthy home. Once we get beyond cleaning and providing for the physical needs of those living in our home, our creativity kicks in and we'd like to grow something beautiful, improve on the aesthetics and maintain the order we've established. Crafts, gardening and organizing can all create an atmosphere of peace and joy within our four walls.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bringeth forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:16-20

What kinds of fruit are you known by? Are you following the instructions of the Scripture and keeping your home? Do you take the time to clean and arrange and create loveliness in your home? This is our calling, our purpose set forth by God Himself. Let's take advantage of our creativity and make home beautiful and inviting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Joy - Part 3

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

What's the point in rejoicing? Why should I have to be joyful all the time? What if I don't feel any joy right now?

Scripture doesn't say, you'll have joy waiting for when you feel like being joyful. Or, be joyful when there's a good reason or the perfect opportunity. And it definitely doesn't say, some days you'll have joy and some days you won't.

Joy isn't wearing a new outfit or having a great meal out at a restaurant - that's happiness. Happiness is an emotion that changes with our circumstances. Joy is the deep-seeded pleasure and excitement that comes only from God.

As Christian women, we rejoice because we have a Savior. If nothing else for the rest of our lives happened the way we hoped or planned, it wouldn't change the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again to cleanse us of our sin. The guarantee of Heaven for the saved is one of the primary ingredients for a woman's joy. Salvation itself, thanks to our blessed Savior, brings unparalleled joy.

We rejoice because we have been given a purpose. The lost stumble through the world trying to find joy and purpose, thinking they'll find them somewhere between work, family, money and entertainment. When they can't, they decide that joy is unattainable so they'll stick with being happy every now and then. When we read through Scripture, though, we learn exactly what God's role for women is and can see examples of women who were and weren't in sync with that plan. There is joy (mixed with a lot of peace) in knowing God is directing our path and showing us exactly who and what we're supposed to be.

There is joy in God's promises, each and every one of the thousands that are recorded in the Bible. The less we believe in those promises, the more we forget that joy is planted inside us. Our God is a true and faithful God, and I honestly can't think of a single time when He hasn't followed through on a promise. The truest joy comes when we focus on those promises and remember what He's done for us.

* In times of fear: So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:6

* In times of discouragement: I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, Psalm 27:13-14

* In times of temptation: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

* In times of frustration: For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. Isaiah 50:7

* In times of anger: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32

* In times of sickness: And ye shall serve the LORD you God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. Exodus 23:25

In the Scriptures are eternal life, truth, promise, and most of all, joy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Echoes of P90X In My Daily Walk

Were you one of those women who determined to exercise more in 2010 than you did in 2009? Danny and I started the P90X workout program for the third time last week. I get up every morning and exercise, then watch what I eat during the day. And we're more determined than ever to get in shape, keep our weight managed and eat a healthy diet.

There are a lot of cross-overs between the exercise world and our Christian lives. I've found that many of the same things that I've heard Tony Horton say on our DVDs are things that I say to myself and read in the Bible when I'm improving my walk with God.

* Don't just go through the motions. Kenpo karate is my favorite workout, and I only get to do it on Saturday mornings. Theoretically I could stand there and swing my arms around a little and say that I did the routine, but I'll only get the results I want if I keep up the intensity. Our Christian walk is exactly the same way - we can go sit on the pew on Sunday morning and maybe read some Scripture during the week. Or we can be in church every time the door is open, we can reach out to our sisters in Christ during the week and we can actively study God's Word. The results (and rewards from God) are completely reliant on the heart we put into it.

* Do what works for you. I have to modify several routines because I have asthma. I suppose I could try to follow every move the folks do on the video, but Danny would have to take me to the emergency room before work every day. Instead, I work to the level I can, I take more breaks and I stop when I feel an attack coming on. There are aspect of your service for God that bring you joy and fit your path. There are other roles that other people can fill better than you can. You don't have to emulate some other woman or try to do everything that she does, because you're not her! Serve God in your way on His terms, and then He will truly be honored.

* Don't quit if you start to struggle. I always hear that people quit exercising way before they should - whether it's not doing enough reps or quitting the program altogether. When we get weary in our well-doing, our flesh says go ahead and stop, no one will even notice. Well, God notices and He knows our heart. Pushing through and pressing on toward the prize will help us see results in God's plan that we never knew were possible.

* Set a goal. You never know what your body is capable of unless you set a goal and then exceed it. You can decide to do 10 pull-ups today, and then keep going if you can surpass that. Do you want to read more Scripture? Then set a number for the day or the week. Would you like to start calling church members who weren't in church or Sunday School this week? Start with making one phone call and see where it goes. Pray about where God would like you to grow in your Christian service, and then do it heartily as unto the Lord.

* Good form prevents injury. I don't always have the best form during my workouts because I've only been at this for less than a year. The blessing to my life is that Danny's been doing it for ages and can tell me how to change my form, prevent me from injuring myself and see better results. Who in your life can be your accountability partner and help keep you from making mistakes that can damage your relationship with God and the people around you? Watching the way you live your everyday life can be a real eye-opener when you look at it from someone else's point of view.

* Variety and intensity are the keys. Most people give up on exercise after a few weeks or months because they do the same thing every day and get bored. Variety is the spice of life and may be exactly what you need to relight your desire to serve God. Don't read the same Scripture all the time - follow one of the read-the-Bible-in-a-year guides and explore what else God wants you to know. Attend a nursing home service or volunteer to teach Bible School this summer. Get out of your rut, give God your whole heart and remember the joy you had when you first got saved.

* You have to be disciplined. With Danny's work schedule so erratic, we have to get up at 4:45 in the morning to get our workout done before he leaves. We know that if we don't it will be well into the evening before we can get to it, and there's nothing worse than trying to cram in a workout, dinner, showers and relaxation before we go to bed early and do it all again. We could very easily reset the alarm and not do our workout in the morning (yes, we've done this), but we feel so much better when we follow through and start our day out right. It's also easy to say, I don't really need to go to the Wednesday night service this week. Or, Sunday School is no big deal, I'll just go to the church service. Or, maybe I don't need to tithe every paycheck. Discipline means that you keep going, you keep doing what's right and you keep following God's leadership. That's when you see the fruits of your labor.

* Do you best and you'll see results. There is no real rule book for what exact exercises we need to do to stay healthy and in shape. There are a lot of things Danny can do that I can't (but I'm working on it), and there are a few things I can do that he can't (yet). The whole point is to do your best and forget the rest. God expects our complete heart and soul, and the best that our heart can offer is submission to His will. Your best is on level ground with someone else's best because it's not about what you're doing or how much you're doing, but that you're giving God the best you can offer and serving Him with your whole heart.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?

On Tuesday of this past week our power went out. It was out from around 9:00 in the morning until about 4:00 in the afternoon. We found out that all the rain we've been having in central South Carolina had ruined the cables in the backyard and they had burned through. This in turn had jolted our phone lines, which meant we had no phone service or Internet until Wednesday evening.

There was no electricity of any kind on Tuesday, which meant no heat, no lights and no power to heat food. I spent most of the day reading and scrapbooking, two activities I haven't given myself time to do lately. I just praise God that it wasn't super-cold or a cloudy day so I could sit by the window with my book. I moved the craft table over by the window, too, so I could see all the little parts and pieces.

But I ask you - when was the last time you went two whole days with no telephone conversations, no computer, no e-mail and no Internet? I hadn't realized to what extent I was hooked on technology for many of the things I do every day. I was craving my blog (which I didn't have access to for two whole days) and an e-mail connection. Obviously our land line phone wasn't working, so I couldn't even call Danny to let him know what had happened. Having no tools for communication (I don't have a cell phone) was driving me a little stir-crazy.

The real shock was that I didn't need those things, I just wanted them. I've been so concentrated on what I can do sitting at the computer that I had totally neglected everything else. The girls and I had time to play on the living room floor. I read almost an entire book in one sitting. A craft project that I'd been putting off was almost finished. There was time to bring in firewood, clean up the mud room like I'd wanted to, organize my side of the closet and just sit with Cayenne and watch the power company workers dig giant holes in the neighbor's backyard.

We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of an electronic world that we forget about all the other ways our time can be spent. It took a major incident for me to really see where my priorities have been - don't let it get that extreme before you set your focus on the things of God and the joys He'll bring to your daily life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Little Gray Around The Edges

I can tell the girls have reached middle-aged: they're going gray, Sadie's slowing down a bit and they've both changed their attitude over the years. I'd like to say they've mellowed out a little, but it's actually the opposite.



As dogs age they have different needs and issues than when they were puppies. (But the girls will be perpetual puppies, I'm sure.) The only thing that gives their age away is the gray around their muzzles. I think it looks distinguished.

Most noticeably, older dogs gain weight much more easily than they did when they were younger. They tend to be less active and we baby them with more treats because they seem so pitiful. Talk to your veterinarian about balancing amount and kinds of food with the activity level of your pet.

Sadie has severe hip dysplasia in both back legs, and the limping has gotten more noticeable as she's aged. Hip dysplasia and other degenerative conditions appear more frequently as dogs age, so be aware of changes in walking, running, sitting and laying down. See the vet about pain control medications if the conditions worsen.

Exercise is just as important in older dogs as it is in younger ones. They might not last as long on a walk as their puppy companions, but exercise is vital for respiratory, skeletal and muscular health. Take shorter walks and play less rigorous games. But don't cut everything out or you'll have a bored, fat, lazy dog instead of the best friend you have now.

Did you know that senior dogs can have dementia just like humans can? Often it starts with mood change and then forgetting their house training and socializing less with their humans. In all honesty, Bailey has been showing some of these signs every now and then. But this is also the dog who walks into a room, forgets why she's there and walks out again. There are lots of ways to battle this dementia, so talk to your vet about the options, like finding food with more antioxidants when you notice these symptoms.

We've decided that we're not going to slow down until the girls slow down. They may have a few years on them, but they're still active, happy and healthy. Of course they each have some troubles just like their humans do, so they're just taking life one day at a time - stopping to smell the roses, and whatever else happens to be laying around.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It's been downright chilly over the past couple of weeks - by South Carolina's standards. The thing about winter, though is that you can always put another layer of clothing on, but in summer you can only take off so much.

One financial concern during these cold months is the drastic increase in our energy bill. We just can't afford to pay so much extra...so what's a woman to do? Without knowing a thing about how thermostats or central heating units work, we can make a few small adjustments and reduce our heating bill substantially.

1. Lower the thermostat during the day. Remember the number 68. Don't set your thermostat any high than 68 degrees regardless of how cold it gets - put on a sweater. Lower that number during the day when it's a little warmer outside and you'll save even more.

2. Harness the power of the sun. And I don't mean solar panels all over the roof. If you're lowering the thermostat, open the blinds and let the sun heat the house naturally.

3. Check your insulation. Seal up cracks around the windows to keep warm air from escaping and cold air from infiltrating your cozy nest. Also make sure you have adequate insulation in the attic and outside walls.

4. Heat only the rooms you use. Close the doors on your closets and any rooms that aren't being used. Pay special attention to the door from the garage and the attic.

5. Clean your vents. There's nothing worse than dusty, dirty air vents. They'll prevent the warm air from getting out into the room and they'll circulate those particles back into the air. Sweep them with your vacuum cleaner attachment or rinse them in warm water.

6. Utilize your fireplace. This is the coziest, most romantic cold-weather idea I know of. Start a fire in the fireplace and you can lower the thermostat for a while in the evening. The crackling sound of the logs will warm up your soul while the flames warm up the room. Remember to keep the damper closed when it's not in use.

7. Mind your cooking times. Turn off the stove for the last five minutes or so of cooking your meal. Don't open the door - the heat that's still inside will continue to cook your food, so don't let it out. (But please - don't ever use your oven for heating the room. It's not only dangerous, but it's bad for the appliance and it doesn't do a very good heating job.)

8. Change out your shower head. How will that save on energy? By using a low-flow shower head, you can reduce the amount of energy the hot water heater uses. This lowers your water and your heating bill. Plus it'll be like showering the rain - how wonderful!

9. Minimize the use of fans. You can suck all of the warm out of the house in next to no time if you run the bathroom or kitchen fan more than necessary. Use them only when truly needed and only for a short amount of time.

10. Have a professional check out your heating system. For much less money than replacing something that's broken or something that's been destroyed because of faulty equipment, have an inspection done. Cleaning out your filters or replacing a soon-to-be-broken part is a much better idea than ripping out duct systems or replacing heating units later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Joy - Part 2

War. Hunger. Poverty. Depression. Recession. Abortion. Violence. Abuse. Homosexuality. Drugs. Rejection. Debt. Homelessness. Alcohol. Death. Suicide.

They're everywhere - on our streets, in the newspapers, posted all over the Internet. We are bombarded with reasons to hate, to give up, to give in. But with all of these terrible issues going on around us, Christ speaks of His joy.

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. John 15:10-11

No matter what may threaten to overwhelm, we are to follow the Lord's commandments. Whether those around us will keep them or not, we are to be faithful. Obedience and God's love go hand-in-hand, and that love is where our joy comes from.

The deep-rooted, long-term joy that radiates from our very soul is directly related to our relationship with the Lord. The closer we are and the more read His Word, the more we will see the joy building in our hearts. The only reason it wanes is because we drift away from God when circumstances change. Other things become central and those things temporarily blot out our joy.

When was the last time you turned your focus away from the nasty headlines and placed it back on the things of God? His blessings and His mercies are the reasons we recognize joy - they are so beautiful and so perfect that they outshine the filthiness of the world. Think about a joy so full that you can't contain it. It spills out of our overturned cup and bathes us in the Lord's perfection.

Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forever more. Psalm 16:11

We know that God is our constant companion, but it is only in His presence that we find the meaning and the source of pure joy. We can look elsewhere - people, things, money, the future - but we will never find true joy outside of Christ's love. What really makes life worth living are His path, His gift of eternal life to the saved, His joy and the pleasures He delights in giving us daily.

If you are saved, joy is never lost or taken away. It simply gets pushed into the background while we search for something bigger and better. We will never find anything on this earth as joyful as our relationship with the Lord, so take the time to nurture it and rediscover the joy He pours into us.

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. Psalm 16:8-9

Monday, January 11, 2010

Preserving The Past

When you look at the items a woman has chosen to decorate her house with, you can immediately tell if she appreciates the past. You'll notice antiques, framed black-and-white portraits and souvenirs from great trips. Or you'll find mass-marketed knick-knacks that anyone can go buy. The difference is how much she allows the past to influence her life.

So how can you pull out the treasure trove of memorabilia from your past and put it in its proper place in your home?

* Pull out your pictures. Remember that I'm a scrapbooker! Photos weren't meant to be stuffed in a box and thrown in the back of the closet. Fish them out, sort them and then frame them or scrapbook them. Turn them into conversation pieces, not box-fillers!

* Create a memory wall. In our spare room Danny has gathered his Army pictures, helicopter models and his family's military history all in one place. Choose some pieces and pictures that you love and group them on one wall or in one corner. You can find inexpensive, single shelves to put just what you want exactly where you want it.

* Actually use your treasures. Put that family quilt out on the bed. Place a mother's hope chest in a prominent spot of honor. Use your handed-down china for more than special occasions. Restore an old piece of furniture to it's original condition. Don't be resigned to hiding special family memories in a closet.

* Choose a classic style. When updating your home's interior, consider restoring it to the styles appropriate for the age of the house. Instead of a modern remodel, think about patterns and colors that you loved growing up, or ones that were popular when the house was built.

* Do some family history. If you don't already have a genealogist in the family, do some background work on your ancestors. This is information that is so interesting and so important to our sense of family. In a time when the devil is working so hard to destroy families, it's a comfort to know where we've come from.

* Record your stories. There may come a time when you can't tell the story of your life, or you won't be able to just talk to your parents and ask them questions about their lives. Take the time and effort to record the important, the simple, the everyday and the special events that make you, you.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An Extra Hour Each Day

How many times have you wished there was just one extra hour in the day? There seem to be more things we'd like to do, or have to do, than there is time to get to all of them.

What if I told you there's at least an extra hour of time in each day just going to waste? Here are some simple changes you can make in your own life and find that extra time you've been looking for.

1. Go to bed earlier. What? That sounds like you're losing time, not gaining any! But wait - think about you're probably doing during those evening hours. Are you watching television shows you shouldn't be? Reading books you could live without? Eating food that not the best for you? If you can, go to bed an hour earlier and use that time to rejuvenate yourself for tomorrow. You'll be rested and ready to go instead of worn out before the day begins.

2. Get up early for prayer and Bible study. Many of us struggle through the day because we don't have much direction for our lives. Putting time with God first will give us His direction in the events of the day and give us the opportunity to focus and soak up His wisdom. Then we'll be ready to tackle the day with renewed inspiration - divine inspiration!

3. Run errands during non-rush hour times. Sitting in traffic wastes so much of our daily lives. Without so many other cars and shoppers on the road and in the parking lots, you can sail through those tasks and move on to other important chores. Plus there's less of a chance of getting into a car accident.

4. Multi-task your meal preparations. Cut up all your veggies while you make the first meal of the week. Make dessert while waiting for water to boil. Clean dishes and counters while the meal is cooking so you won't have so much to do after dinner. Fix tomorrow's lunches while you're packing up leftovers.

5. When you're finished using something, put it away. How much time would you guess you waste just picking up things around the house? Undress in front of the hamper so there aren't clothes all over the bedroom. Hang towels up after your shower. Put dishes in the dishwasher as soon as the meal is over. Two seconds at the time can save many minutes later.

6. Shorten your shower. This is a super-difficult one for me because the hot water is part of my fibromyalgia therapy. But cutting just five minutes from your shower can save you time, money and energy. It's alright to pamper yourself sometimes, but try to keep them brief.

7. Prioritize your television and computer usage. Take a wild stab at how much time you spend in front of some kind of screen each day. Instead of plopping yourself down for the evening, choose one or two favorite shows, and then spend that extra time working on a project or spending face-time with family.

8. Do away with telemarketing calls. It's such a waste of time to answer the phone and have to discourage an over-zealous telemarketer. Instead, take a minute to get on the national do-not-call registry. Go to www.donotcall.gov and add your name and number. We've done it and it really works!

9. Free yourself from paperwork. Open your mail over the trash can so there aren't envelopes and junk mail in piles - sort them and file them now! Sign up for e-mail statements and notifications instead of receiving so much mail. See if you can find articles online so you won't have to keep magazine clippings.

10. Feel free to say "No" or "That's enough." We are Christian women, not Superwomen. There's no rule, written or otherwise, that says we have to do, complete or attend everything. Pray about how God would have you spend your time, and then budget it among your interests accordingly. You can tell people you can't add one more event or take on one more responsibility. If they truly love you, they'll understand - and they might follow your lead.

What it comes down to is priorities - what are yours? You'll find the time to do the things you really want to. Just follow God's direction in your life and allow Him to organize your day and your time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hello Squirrel!

The girls have an adorable, and terribly annoying, habit of following me from room to room while I clean. Sadie needs to be able to see me at all times and Bailey protects the entry way. It's very sweet until I turn and trip over a 55-pound black lab.

Last week I made my way back to the entry way to find Sadie frozen in place. She could see through the front door and neither of us could believe this little one was sitting there having lunch.


It was a good thing that Bailey was in the backyard because she absolutely hates squirrels. She has a stuffed squirrel that she carries everywhere, often cleaning it or whipping it around. So if she sees one outside she chases it up a tree and then paces below growling. Not a pretty picture.

So when Sadie and I saw this little guy so close to the front door, we took a few minutes to sit and watch it. If Bailey had been there, she'd have been through the door in a heart beat. But Sadie was content to sit like a statue and see what he'd do.

I thought he could see us through the door, but he stared at us a little and then went back to his meal. I have never seen a squirrel up this close, and I was fascinated. He destroyed an entire nut and then cleaned up after himself.

Then he walked up to the door, inspected his reflection and then walked down the steps. Sadie stood up and rushed the door so she could continue watching. Since Bailey usually chases all the squirrels away, this was the first time Sadie had seen one up close. She watched him clear up until the moment his furry little tail turned the corner of the porch.

And everything went back to normal. I cleaned, the girls followed me and Mr. Squirrel probably found something else to eat. But for a moment, Sadie and I had a new experience and communed with nature for a while.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Five Financial Figures For Fiscal Futures

As a general rule, I don't advise making resolutions. They aren't lifestyle changes, but things we decide to do on January 1 and have probably already broken. Instead, why don't we make some financial decisions today that are actually doable and can last the entire year?

Before you do anything financially, pray about your choices and talk through them with your husband. This is Biblical and necessary for the Lord to bless anything you do with your money. Remember, He's the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. It's just ours for a time because He allows it.

After your prayer time, think about each of the following steps and write down a plan of action for the upcoming year.

Figure #1. Plan your major spending now. Look ahead to the large ticket items you're planning on purchasing over the next 12 months, and then do the math. How much do you need to save in order to pay for them? How long will it take and how much will you need to set aside from each paycheck to reach those goals? In all possible instances, don't purchase anything unless you have the money on hand to pay for it.

Figure #2. Set a weekly spending limit. Yes, things will happen and you'll need some emergency spending options. But if you have determined to not spend more than $x each week for groceries, $x on eating out, $x on clothing and $x on entertainment, then you'll have that extra money when you need it. Keep all of your receipts from the week and figure exactly where your money is going.

Figure #3. Get in debt-riddance mode. It's lovely to have money to go buy things and tuck into a savings account, but if you're hanging onto any kind of debt, that needs to go first. That skirt you saw may be really cute, but that money can go toward your credit card or car payment instead. Think about each purchase you make in terms of how much debt you could pay off it you didn't buy it. Set a goal for when you want to be debt free, then figure out how much you'll have to pay each month to reach that date.

Figure #4. Think "minimalist." There's something to be said for living beneath your means. If you cut back on extravagant spending, you'll have extra cash on hand for the things you really want and need. Don't buy steak every week when ground turkey will do. Choose watching a movie on television instead of going to the theater all the time. Instead of buying new furniture, refurbish what you have or buy something at a thrift shop and fix it up. Use the money you're saving with these frugal choices to reduce your debt or pay cash on a big-ticket item you've been looking at.

Figure #5. Look into the future. If you're planning correctly,setting realistic goals and setting aside money instead of draining your account every month, you'll be able to see some real growth in your finances. It's easy to say, well it's just one outfit and won't matter that much. But eliminating your debt and having some emergency money set aside should be the focus. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, but making financial plans for tomorrow is always a smart idea. Look at it as a challenge and then handle it as God would lead.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lemon Shrimp On Pasta

I think I could probably eat shrimp every day. It's by far my favorite seafood and it's so quick and easy to fix. Shrimp can be paired with so many different flavors, so I really could have it every day for a month and not have the same dish twice.


This is a new recipe I found (and quickly altered to fit my personal taste) that is absolutely dreamy.

Lemon Shrimp:
1 package of large shrimp
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp mustard (I used stone ground - please don't use the yellow stuff!)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti
chopped parsley
crushed red pepper

1. Mix lemon juice, mustard and garlic in a zip top bag. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

2. Prepared spaghetti according to box directions.

3. Heat shrimp in 2 tsp olive oil over medium heat, about five minutes, until pink.

4. Drain pasta and return to pan. Toss with crushed red pepper and parsley. Top with shrimp and serve with a pretty salad or some steamed vegetables.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Organizer For 2010

Are you ready to get yourself organized? Here's a great do-it-yourself organizer that takes just minutes to make. Plus you can hang it, lean it and make it in any color combination for keeping or giving as a gift.

I used some leftover Christmas ribbon and a silk flower for this one.

You'll need:
* a piece of thick cardboard (I used a piece that came in one of our Christmas calendars.)
* ribbon - 2.5 to 3 inches wide
* packing tape or a really strong glue
* coordinating decorations

1. Overlapping about 1.5 inches on the back of the cardboard, wrap one length of ribbon even with the top edge. Tape the ends with packing tape. (You can try a strong glue, but wet glues will go through many types of ribbon.)

2. Run a length of tape along the bottom edge of the ribbon creating a pocket. This way you can tuck papers into each one without it falling through to the bottom.

3. Add layers down the length of the cardboard, each one overlapping the tape from the one above it. Tape back and bottom.

4. Overlap the final piece of ribbon so that you can tuck it under and tape it unto the back of the cardboard. This will give you a final pocket at the bottom.

5. Decorate with coordinating embellishments. Then attach a picture hanger to the back or tape on string for hanging. You can also leave it as is and lean it against
the back of your desk or bill-writing station.

6. Fill the pockets and begin your organized new day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Joy - Part 1

Have you ever heard someone say, or heard yourself say, that they'd lost their joy? I read an article the other day about some women who were part of a "happiness project" to spend a year finding the happiness that they'd lost.

Happiness and joy are two completely different things - joy is planted in your heart at the moment of salvation by a loving, merciful God. Happiness is a human emotion that fades or increases based on circumstances. The confusion happens when we forget that joy never leaves us, it's all about focusing on what joy truly is.

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. Psalm 16:8-9

More often than not we get that feeling of "joy loss" because of fear, anxiety or sadness. Our everyday happenings become larger in our minds than the God Who controls all things. When our perception gets all out of whack like this, we begin to think that there's no hope, no joy left, no explanation for what's happening around us.

It is a personal choice to set the Lord before our eyes continually, as David did, and keep Him by our side. God as protector stays by our right hand all the time, removing the need for worry and fretting. Knowing this, or remembering this if need be, we can shake off that foreboding of our circumstances and look for the joy He's planted in our hearts.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Joy doesn't come from a change in location, a different hair style or a new career - those are all related to happiness. Joy comes from taking our eyes off ourselves, off our immediate surroundings and off our concerns.

Joy is of the Lord, and Him alone. He has blessed us beyond what we deserve, with our salvation, with the desire to serve Him, with provision for the day and with exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Joy glows brightly when our confidence is in God alone.

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

God is the source of all joy and happiness in this world. We can look to programs, people or projects, but we will never find true, pure joy until we look back inside ourselves to the wellspring of joy that the Lord has already placed there. It's never been lost and it's never gone anywhere - we've just decided to push it down deeper or cover it up with human emotion.

The joy unspeakable is inside every saved woman. There is no need to search when it's been right there all along. The closer we are to God, the more that joy will overflow and find its way out into our daily lives. Joy is ever accessible because the Lord is ever accessible.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Packing Up Until Next Year

This is the day that we take down our Christmas decorations at our house. There's not the same excitement that there was putting them up, especially when I think about dusting and cleaning again so the everyday things can come back out.

As we un-decorate (de-decorate? anti-decorate? re-decorate?), we can make the task more manageable and organize so that next year's decorating will be that much easier.

1. Take pictures. If you really liked the way something was displayed or arranged, take a quick picture before you tear everything down. Then store them all in a file until December.

2. The tree. Don't store the tree back in its original box - the cardboard will break down over time and attract bugs. Instead, invest in a tree bag that seals so nothing can get in.

3. Holiday linens. Dedicate one space to all your Christmas towels, tablecloths and napkins. Set aside one shelf in the linen closet or kitchen, or use a suitcase and tuck it out of the way. Just make sure to label it so you don't try to travel with it.

4. Christmas lights. Throw out any bad bulbs or strands of lights that aren't worth keeping anymore. Cut a piece of thick cardboard to about a foot square and wrap each strand around it instead of wadding them up or trying to put them back in their boxes. Save time and energy!

5. Pack each box by theme. Before you put decorations away, organize them by category - put all of the lights in one box, put the tree ornaments all together, everything from the mantle in a box together and all of the decorations from each room in their own box. Label them accordingly so you can take each to its appropriate room next year.

6. Christmas candles. Never store candles near a heat source, even if they're wrapped up. The attic is a poor choice, as is the closet where the heater is. Pack them separately, tucked into old socks or pantyhose to keep them from getting scratched and dented. Then store them somewhere in the house where the temperature is regulated.

7. Tree ornaments. If you've kept the original boxes, using them is always the safest packing job. Otherwise, use smaller boxes (like shoe boxes or mailing boxes) and organize tissue-paper wrapped ornaments in each one. Try to keep them in a single layer so nothing gets crushed. If you can afford an ornament box that already has dividers in it, consider one with a variety of opening sizes.

8. Do's and Don'ts. Don't use newspaper to wrap anything. The ink will rub off. Do use paper towel tubes as protection for smaller ornaments and decorations. wrap the item in tissue paper and slide it into the tube for some added protection. Don't spend money on storage if you don't have to. Ask stores for their empty boxes and bubble wrap or reuse the boxes and paper your gifts came in. Do try using an old garment bag for a gift wrapping center. Tuck away ribbon, gift tags and tape in the pockets and slide the rolls of wrapping paper and gift bags into the main section. Zip it up and tuck it away in the back of a closet until next year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Are You Thinking Long-Term?

Do you know where you want to be in life this time next year? In five years? In ten or twenty years? If you've prayed about the direction God would lead you, you'll want to do some serious long-term planning.

And that means lists! I love lists - I have daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists, yearly lists, prayer lists and lists of what lists I have. I enjoy making them, following them and marking things off them. I even have a friend who buys notepads for me just so I can make more lists!

When you're thinking about the future and the goals you'd like to attain, figuring out the steps to get there is vitally important. Most long-term goals have lots of little short-term goals that lead up to them. Making lists of those steps and seeing in black and white what needs to be done can make reaching them a little easier.

* How do I choose my goals? The first step to that is prayer. Ask the Lord to show you what's truly important in His plan for your life. This is the only way you'll achieve what you set out to do.

From there, picture your life ten years from now if nothing were to change. Are there things in your home that need improving, trips you'd like to take or a career change you'd like to make? Maybe you'd like to start homeschooling or move to another part of the country. Whatever God is leading you to do, write these goals down.

* What do I need to do to reach those goals? Begin by setting smaller, short-term goals for each longer goal -the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Set up a time line for when you'd like to accomplish each small step so you have something to push toward.

For example: I want to save enough money to remodel the kitchen. I will save $x from each paycheck. I will have $xx saved up by December. These don't have to be written in stone, but seeing some numbers on paper can really let reality sink in.

* How can I help myself follow through? Get an accountability partner if you need one to keep you on track. Tell them your goals and time line so they can keep you focused.

Post your goals somewhere obvious so you'll have to look at them every day. Put a sticky note on the mirror. Tape a picture to the refrigerator. Wrap a note around your credit card. Do something out of the ordinary that will really get your attention.

* What do I do when I'm stuck on one goal? Ask yourself if it's the goal that's the problem or something personally. Maybe the goal is too big or can't be completed at this moment in your life. Or perhaps you've procrastinated or gotten lazy about fulfilling it. Maybe you just need a jump-start on this one, or a different way to approach it. Don't consider it a failure if there's some other way to achieve it.

* What if I don't achieve my goals? Goal-setting is a trial-and-error, day-by-day process. If something didn't work out today, pray about it and try again tomorrow. Or pray about it and change the goal a little. Nothing says you are locked in to these goals forever or that you have to accomplish them exactly like you'd planned.

God is pleased when we put in the effort to serve Him and live for Him. If we pray for the strength to achieve wonderful things in our lives, He is faithful to provide. There are so many wonderful opportunities in the future and a little planning, and prayer, is all we need to reach them.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Am NOT A Water Dog!

Sadie has been incredibly itchy lately, probably from the dry air in the house. We've changed her food and began bathing her with a medicated anti-itch shampoo. This is her typical look when she's in the tub - not a water dog by any stretch of the imagination.

I have fibromyalgia, so bathing puppies in the tub has never been easy for me. Sadie also has severe hip problems in the back, so I've had to find lots of ways to make this process a little more enjoyable for all three of us.

1. Groom the puppies first. If you don't, the hair will mat and never get clean. Or it will all come out in the tub and you'll be fighting with that, too. Grooming will also help remove that dead hair and dander that make them dry and itchy.

2. Gather all your supplies. Chances are they're not going to stay in the tub if you have to go find something. Have shampoo (not people shampoo, but designed specially for dogs) and plenty of towels on hand. You also want to put a non-slip mat or a towel in the tub so your dog won't slip and slide. They'll feel more confident if they have some traction, and you won't have to worry so much about them hurting themselves. If you want, use one of the hose attachments made specifically for washing pets or the hand-held water nozzle on your shower. This will save you from filling up a water pitcher and leaning over your pet for so long.

3. Wet 'er down! Set the water temperature to lukewarm and adjust it before you turn the water on the dog. Imagine if you got sprayed with super cold water! Keep the flow gentle and keep it out of eyes, ears and face.

4. Shampoo. Lather up your dog from back to front, so there's not so much around her face for very long. If you have a long-haired dog, make sure you work the shampoo clear down to the skin. This is my bonding time with the girls - they get massaged, coo-ed over and pampered for a few minutes. As much as they may not like being in the tub, they melt during this part.

5. Rinse. Again, keeping the water warm and low, rinse this time from front to back, top to bottom. Get in all the nooks and crannies so there's no soap residue left. This will decrease their scratching and licking because there will be less skin irritation.

6. Drying off. I use at least two towels on each dog because they have such thick fur. Squeeze all the excess water out of their fur first, then wrap them up and lift them out of the tub. Blot and lightly rub their coat in circles to pull out the remaining water. If you have a long-haired dog, don't rub briskly or you'll have new mats to work out. Generally the girls and I will go to another room for the drying process so they can spread out on a towel and get a really great rub-down.

Quick and easy - and not too hard on the human's body! Then there's a little rinsing of the tub, and you take the towels to the washing machine. A couple of notes - when it's warm outside, you can do all of these steps with the hose in the yard. Never bathe a dog outside in the cold. It's just not healthy for them. And while your dog is wet, keep her away from vents and drafts so she won't get sick. Love on her and get her all warmed up before you let her go outside. Then you'll have a clean, happy dog that's ready for the rest of the day.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Preparing For The New Year

Perhaps you read what a popular woman's magazine recently wrote: What happened in 2009 stays in 2009!

I understand the logic of the New Year - a fresh beginning and a chance to try things differently than you did last year. January first is a good marker of milestones and and opportunity to start something new. But what this magazine wrote for thousands of women to read just isn't true.

The sins that we committed in 2009 have consequences that will carry over into 2010 regardless of how many balls are dropped or horns are blown. They don't get magically erased when the cheers begin at midnight and everyone sings Auld Lang Syne. The stroke of twelve doesn't produce some fairy tale reaction in our hearts, promising that the coming 12 months will be markedly better than the previous.

The only way to start the New Year cleansed and pure is through the Lord's forgiveness of sins. We must approach His throne in true, honest humility and seek forgiveness for the iniquity in our lives. This may seem like putting a damper on the festivities, but what better way to ring in 2010 than in prayer.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

God blessed us with many, many wonderful days, people, surprises, events, sunrises and opportunities in 2009. Some we appreciated, some we thanked Him for and some we might even have shared with others. The Lord has been faithful, as He promised, in every area of our lives.

He has also promised to never leave nor forsake us, which means He will be by our sides through whatever 2010 brings. "Thank you" cannot express my gratitude for the peace those words bring. God is the only one Who knows what this year will hold, but I'm looking forward to walking whatever path He puts me on because I know He will walk it with me.

And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20b

There is a bright future with the Lord ahead, but we will also have the reality of the sins of the past. We may have sought His forgiveness, but the consequences of our actions will remain as long as He desires. Our Heavenly Father is just in His chastisement, and that won't end just because we turn the calendar page.

He will, however, remain with us and give us strength through each upcoming day. I am humbled to think that the great and wonderful God Who created the earth would choose to take up residence in my heart. That is the true blessing of the New Year, not a party or getting to wear a silly hat. It's knowing that today is another day, the beginning of another year, to serve the Lord and walk with Him along the most beautiful path.