Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tackle Your Projects 1...2...Or 3

If you're anything like me, you've spent plenty of time wandering around the house looking at all of the half-completed projects and chores that need to be wrapped up. One room has craft projects, another needs a deep cleaning and several have little things that need to be done.

But where do you start? How do you budget your time and decide what to do and when? This can be the biggest challenge - just getting inspired and started - but it's actually as easy as choosing Strategy One, Two or Three.

Strategy One: Chronological Order

One of the easiest ways to prioritize your to-do list is to set it up in the order things have to be done. Instead of staring at baskets of laundry, stacks of paperwork and piles of craft projects, think about them as an item on your calendar.

Start with today: What absolutely has to be done by the end of this 12 hours? Within that list, arrange all your chores in order - are there things that need to be done before the kids go to school? Before lunchtime? Before the kids and husband come home in the afternoon? Simply sometime before evening when you fall over from exhaustion?

What about in the next week? Decide to do the things that need to be done early in the week first, like notes for a meeting on Monday and craft projects for a ladies' gathering on Tuesday. Then move on to the ones that don't have to be done until Friday or the weekend.

Looking at the calendar can help you focus on the time line rather than the chores themselves. Plus you won't be caught short when you need to have one of them done because you planned ahead.

Strategy Two: A Room at a Time

If you walk from the front of the house to the back of the house you'll find a great variety of things you'd like to accomplish. Each room may have clothes to be put away, papers to file, closets to straighten and projects other people need you to do. This strategy allows you to tackle one room at a time.

You choose whatever floor plan works for you. You can start at the front door and work through an entire room before you move on, working in a circle. Or you can start in the room people see or use the most and move on from there. This part is just a matter of preference.

Do everything in that particular room that needs to be done - file papers, clear off desk tops, clean counters, wash windows, straighten closets, organize cabinets, take out the trash and sweep when it's all done. Work from the doorway, along the wall and into the middle of the floor, attacking any clutter, dirt or projects along the way.

Have trash bags and boxes handy for things that are getting thrown out, filed somewhere else, donated, taken to someone else or need more time. Once this room is done you can move on to the next one, until the entire house has been completed.

Strategy Three: Each Room Every Day

This is perhaps my favorite, just because I get bored very easily and I like to see the progress I'm making. If you're not too hip on thinking and planning, or you're too intimidated by the thought of taking on a whole room, this might be the plan for you.

In this strategy you simply do one task, chore or project in each room every day. It might be as easy as clearing out one dresser drawer, or it might be as complex as completing that scrapbook. But you only get one project per room per day, and then you move on to the next one.

So for today you might hang a new coat rack in the entry way, dust the shelves in the dining room, clean out the microwave, clean pet hair off the living room couch, wipe down the counters in the bathrooms and change the sheets on the beds. Each one only takes a few minutes, so by the time the morning is over you'll know you did something in every room of the house.

Regardless of which strategy works best for your schedule and personality, the point is to get things done on time and to the best of your ability. God knows your heart and the motivations there, and everyone relying on you will appreciate the extra effort you went through just for them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Own LOLCat

One of my favorite websites to visit daily is It's simply pictures people have uploaded of their cats and then added funny captions. It took several months to realize it (silly me), but we have an LOL Cat right here!

Oh yeah? Come in here and say that!

MY mommy. Get your own.

Your call will be handled in whatever order the cat deems necessary. Or relevant. Or interesting.

Mommy, look! The new neighbors have parakeets...for the moment.

You woke me up? Unless the house is on fire, back away slowly.

Nobody knows...the trouble I've seen...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Money Myths

Finances are such an important part of our everyday lives. We think about money while we're looking for groceries, when we're planning for the future and as we check the mail each day.

So we look for information about making more money, making what we have work for us and making it last as long as possible. The problem is that everyone has an opinion about what's best for you and your situation. There are lots of myths and strange ideas about finances. Let's take a look at a few of them.

1. Little savings here and there aren't worth it. Before I go to the grocery store, I take 10 or 15 minutes to go through both my coupon envelope and the store's weekly circular. I plan my meals around the sales and double up on savings by adding in the coupons for those sale items. There are also several sites and stores that will e-mail you coupons, too. (Just make sure your grocery store accepts them. In one week (and a few minutes of planning) I can save about $50 just by using coupons. A little can go a long way.

2. High price means high quality. We get this drummed into our heads by the manufacturers so that we'll spend money on their higher-priced products. Instead, think this way: does a less-expensive version still give me all the features I need? Will the generic pain killer still kill my pain or do I need to buy the more expensive name brand. Try it and if it doesn't work, you'll know better for next time.

3. I don't have time to be diligent in saving money. Do you have time to eat at home instead of going out? Do you have a few minutes once a week to clip some coupons? Do you have time to watch movies at home instead of going to the theater? There are so many tiny little ways to save tons of money that it's just an excuse to skip over them. Take a few moments every now and then to think, to clip and to save.

4. When I have ___ dollars in the bank, I'll be satisfied. Where do these numbers come from? Once you've figured out what it would take for you to comfortably retire or to achieve some purchasing goal, these numbers are fine. However, randomly picking an amount based on emotion can lead to discouragement. Satisfaction comes from trust in the Lord's supply for our needs and doing only what you can to save and prepare for the future.

5. Everyone should save 10% of their income. Everyone should also drive red cars, wear blue three days a week and own four cats. We are each individuals and have individual financial needs and goals. Instead of making broad sweeping generalizations about your finances, do your homework, a little math and a lot of praying. You can be a money whiz just by being intimately familiar with your own spending and saving needs.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Friend, Lend Me Three Loaves

Last week I posted a recipe for banana bread, but I didn't write everything I had wanted to write. I didn't leave out any ingredients or forget a step in the recipe, but I didn't take the time to write out everything that was on my mind.

This recipe made me think about the passage from Luke 11 when Christ tells the parable of the man who comes at midnight asking for three loaves of bread. He explains that a friend has arrived and there is no bread in the house, so he awakens his neighbor to borrow some. The neighbor has excuses - it's late, the children are in bed and he's too tired to get up and do anything.

The greatest blessing comes from verse 8: Jesus says that because of the man's preseverance, the neighbor would rise and give him all that he needed. In the previous verse he had only asked for three loaves, but the story says that he was given more than he asked for.

These few verses bless my heart every time I read them. Isn't this what God does for us when we pray? He hears and waits for the perfect time to shower us with blessing, sometimes long after we think the prayer has gone unanswered. And His response is always much more than we asked for, or could hope for. The Lord goes exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think.

And then out of our overflowing bounty from the Lord, we can pass something on to others. Jesus instructs that we aren't to be like that tucked-in-for-the-night neighbor that was disgruntled when asked for help. Our calling as Christian women is to have the bread on hand so we can give freely whenever we're needed.

Do you have what you need in the "pantry" to offer those in need? Have you stocked up the necessary bread by doing your own studying, praying and reading? We never know when our service to God will be needed, so we're called to have the bread ready and waiting for the perfect moment.

What bread do you have to offer?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Manly Gift Cubed

It's so hard to find gifts for a man. I know my husband better than anyone, but it's still difficult to find something out of the ordinary and yet perfectly in tune with him.

And then I found this craft idea!

It's a great photo cube with a guy-theme that you can personalize in any way you want.

You'll need:
6 floppy disks (Yes, they still exist, and you can probably find several in your closet somewhere.)
hot glue gun
scrapbooking paper and embellishments
six photos

1. Using the hot glue gun, run a line of glue along one edge of the back of the first disk. Quickly, before it cools, position the second disk in the glue to make the second side. Continue for all four sides of the cube.

2. Run glue along all four edges of the finished square, then lay the top disk on. Flip the cube over and repeat with the final disk. Allow to dry and cool for a few minutes.

3. In the spot where the label goes, adhere coordinating paper and your chosen photos. Then embellish - in a guy-appropriate manner.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love - Part 4

Love is a gift.

Can you truly comprehend that God knew you and loved you before the foundation of the world? We were on His mind before He even put heaven and earth in place. If we could understand that kind of love, we would want to be filled to the brim with it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

We hear this verse over and over, but until you understand the gift of love that can only come from our Heavenly Father, it doesn't really sink in. And until it does, and until you realize that you have the capacity for the same love in yourself, there's so much untapped potential for love.

Think about all of the things you can't be without love.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Without the gift of God's love in our own hearts, we can exhibit none of these loving characteristics. But when we're blessed with that overflowing love, we have the ability to be patient and kind. We have the strength to resist envy and pride.

God's love controls our mind - leading us to think on the good things and not the evil. It rejoices and encourages, believes and endures. But without our intimate relationship with the Lord, that love doesn't grow in us or get shared with others.

Love is a most precious gift that God uses through us to bless everyone we cross paths with. Now it's our time to use it wisely.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I had a terrible couple of days this past week fighting some kind of head cold. Even this weekend I was still nursing a sore throat and some sneezing. I hated being down and out for so many days with a to-do list a mile long, but there were certain things that had to wait so my body had a chance to recover.

The temperatures have been so up and down over the past few weeks that many people are fighting some kind of cold/flu/virus/etc. Once you've got something in your system, you want some quick and easy ways to get rid of it.

* Stay home. Please don't share your germs with everyone else! I went to church yesterday and felt like I was infecting everyone I came in contact with. Think about each person you might see while you're sick, picture them sick, and then stay home. You might feel like you're backsliding, but you're sparing other's people's health.

* Drink lots of fluids. Water is the best because you need to stay hydrated, then add in fruit juices and broth. You're losing a lot of fluid, especially if you're blowing your nose a lot, so replenish as much as you can.

* Sleep! When you're zonked out your body has the chance to heal itself and recuperate from the bombarding it's receiving. You might feel guilty being so lazy, but you'll recover more quickly and allow your body to heal naturally.

* Sore throat? Gargle as soon as you feel the first twinges with mouthwash or salt water.
You want to get all your passageways cleared out so they don't drain into your throat, making the irritation worse.

* Take a hot shower. What? No, seriously. The steam will clear out your head quicker than any prescription. Use a shower steamer, those little disks that release medicated steam when you place them in the tub with you while you shower. The shower will help open you up and get you on your feet.

* Regulate your body temperature. Staying warm is incredibly important when you're sick. Your immune system fights the intruders better when it's warm, so give them a fighting chance and bundle up as much as possible.

* Stock up when you feel something coming on. Since you're already planning to stay home and keep warm (go back and reread these other steps if you need to), so shop and stock up on whatever you need - meds, heat packs, soup, water. Gather up your extra pillows and blankets and get some great old movies for your couch-laying time. Make sure you're all prepared before you're down and out and have to rely on other people.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remember The Sabbath

Quick question - How do you spend your time on Sunday?

Is it church, dinner out, sports on television, some yard work, supper and then to bed? Do you have the same routine every Sunday just because it's the one day you don't go to work?

This is a touchy subject for some people, but the Bible is incredibly clear about what is and is not supposed to happen on the Lord's Sabbath.

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shall not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:10-11

Ultimately, the command is to spend a day, the Sabbath day, doing nothing but resting and worshipping the Lord. As times have changed and people drift away from church services and a day of relaxation, Sunday activities have taken over our time.

There can be all kinds of discussion about what work really is and what's appropriate and not appropriate on Sunday, our Sabbath. For example, Danny has a service job as a funeral director. Every other Sunday he has to go to work and serve the families that have immediate funeral needs. The same goes for hospital workers, emergency team members and law enforcement. I don't think anyone could argue that there are certain jobs that we need seven days a week.

However, working for the sake of earning a little more money is completely against God's command. The Lord will provide financial security to those who follow and obey Him, and that includes resting on the Sabbath. Would you agree that devotion is rewarded more than personal effort?

So, should you go out to eat or go shopping on Sunday? That may be personal preference, but we have chosen not to. We don't want to "enable" other people to have to work on Sunday. We prepare meals ahead of time so we can eat when we get home from church. We plan on doing our shopping over the rest of the weekend so we don't have to be out and about on Sunday afternoon.

Our rest and relaxation also includes napping, movie watching and time for just the two of us. If you have a bigger family then this may include everyone who's attended dinner, which adds several opinions to the mix. Then you have to decide to what extent you'll take this choice.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

Whatever you choose for rest and relaxation on Sunday should be honoring unto God, not just easily justified or excused by mankind. In the end, we answer to a holy and living God Who knows our motivations and will bless us for following His commandments.

So, are you ready for your Sunday afternoon nap?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Groom, Groom, Everybody Groom

I went around the house last week getting a list together for our Spring cleaning. I'm a die-hard list maker, so this was one of the highlights of my day!

Until I noticed a reoccurring theme on every page - dog hair!

There was black fur on every floor, in nooks and crannies, behind doors, on furniture (which is interesting because there aren't supposed to be puppies on the furniture) and under just about everything.

So before I start a deep cleaning of the house, it's time to do a deep cleaning of the dogs! In just a few minutes a day (which I should have been doing all along) you can keep fur under control and make your dog feel loads better!

* Find a really great dog brush. There are different kinds of different types and lengths of fur. Choose one that matches your dog and will do the required job. For example, we used a wire brush on Bailey for a while, but we finally figured out that the bristles hurt when they dug into her skin. I found a different one that still gets all the way to the skin's surface, but doesn't have sharp points. Now she loves getting groomed and will turn from side to side just to make it last a little longer.

* Use it! As often as you can! Remember that you're revitalizing their fur while you brush, stirring up the natural oils and removing mats and dirt. If they don't love grooming right off the bat, give your dog treats as some incentive to stay put. Plus they'll learn quickly that it's bonding time with you and a massage all in one.

* Invest in an under-coat comb. Those Shed-Enders advertised on television really work. Bailey has a true lab coat (get it?) and has tons of extra fur underneath her top coat. These special combs are designed to slide through the silky top coat and release all that matted fur in the layer closest to the skin. And they work! Bailey loses about 10 pounds every time we use it, just from the extra hair she didn't need.

* Finish up with a lint roller. This may sound silly, but it works like magic. I use two or three sheets of lints roller all over the girls and it picks up those hairs that I loosened with the comb. I much prefer spending a dollar at the store for a roller every now and then, rather than have shed fur all over our home.

* Prepare to see the fruits of your labor. They may not always sit still. They may shake and stir up dust and dander. They may rebel against the brush or comb you've chosen. But all the struggle is worth it when you see the results of just a few minutes of grooming time. Their fur will sparkle. All those natural oils will be distributed throughout their fur and they'll be all soft and luxurious. And you've removed dirt and tangles so she'll feel like a new dog!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quick-N-Easy Banana Bread

Normally I think of baking bread as some out-of-reach goal that only the best of bakers even attempt.

Then I tried it.

Not only was the outcome of this recipe incredible, it was so easy that I was afraid I'd done something wrong! You can mix the whole batter right in the pan and adjust the mix-in ingredients most any way you want. The prep time takes just about as long as it takes the oven to preheat.

3 large eggs
3 large, ripe bananas
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups baking mix (I used our store brand's reduced fat variety)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup chopped almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

2. Beat eggs in the loaf pan. Break bananas into pieces and mash them into the eggs. Add oil and vanilla.

3. Add the dry ingredients. Mix unto completely combined.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recycled Mini Album

There are so many ways to save money when you're stamping and scrapbooking, but this is one of my favorites. Using three little brown paper bags you can put together a great mini album for your coffee table or a gift.

For this album, I used three 10.5x5.25 inch lunch sacks and Scripture I printed from a word processing program. Choose whatever color combination and theme you'd like.

1. Stack the three bags, alternating the direction they open. The openings will end up being pockets in your album, so you want them to open in different directions.

2. Punch two holes along the folded edge. Thread ribbon and fibers through the holes. (If you do this now you'll be able to keep them all in place and see exactly how big your paper needs to be cut.)

3. Cut coordinating paper to fit each square (page) of the bag. Trim down pictures, Scripture or other journaling to fit on each page.

4. Cut tags or mat small pictures to go in each pocket. Attach them to the inside of the pocket with a small piece of ribbon so they won't get lost - they'll slide in and out without falling completely out.

5. Embellish and journal as desired. Everything that you'd normally use on a card or scrapbook page can be used in this album because it's also made of paper. So cute!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love - Part 3

Love is decision.

Just because a Christian woman has God's love placed in heart doesn't mean she's going to share it. That's the down-side to free will - something that should be given freely and without restriction is often kept under wraps to the detriment of everyone.

The decision is ours to make. Will we share God's love today or will we keep it to ourselves? Will we spread the Gospel through our testimony of charity and kindness or will we be seen as just another woman?

Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified. Psalm 70:4

Will you make the decision to witness to someone today or will you walk through life with your head down?

Will you put God's laws and commandments above all else or will you let doubt, compromise and human choice overrun your life?

Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. Deuteronomy 11:1

Will you pray for your pastor, your pastor's wife, your deacons, your church family and your community or will you make all of your prayers personal?

Will you give of your time to help those in your church and neighborhood or will you get wrapped up in your own concerns?

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18

Will your treat your husband with the love and respect befitting the head of your home or will you allow bitterness and shallow thinking to set in?

Will you control your tongue and speak only kind and loving words, or will you allow whatever crosses your mind to spill out?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Proverbs 18:21

Will you choose to call or write your church's shut-ins or will you spend your time enveloped in your own activities?

Will you support your brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what the obstacles or will you give up when the going gets tough?

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Each one of us will make thousands of decisions over the course of this day. Some will result in kind, loving, fruitful actions, while others may end up hurting others or ourselves. To love - through action, through words, through time spent in fellowship - is a decision. It's a choice we consciously make over and over again because the love God placed in our hearts makes it impossible to walk away.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why I Dress The Way I Do

Leaving the commissary a while back, the older man carrying my groceries for me asked me a question I had never heard before. We had been talking for a moment - a little small talk about weather - and then asked me: Why are you so dressed up today?

I had to look down to remember what I was wearing. I knew I was going straight home (frozen foods and all), so I had no other plans. I was wearing a blouse, jacket and denim skirt - nothing I'd wear to weed the garden for sure, but a more casual outfit for me.

So I said these were my normal clothes, not for anything special.

After he looked at me funny, the man said, Most people don't care what they wear out running errands. Thank you for taking care of yourself.

I was shocked, to say the least. I always notice when ladies wear their pajamas or something similar out in public, but I wasn't dressed in anything unusual - for me.

So I explained that I was an independent fundamental Baptist and that when God saved me He changed me from the inside out. That meant wearing skirts and dressing my best to be a good testimony of the God living inside me.

Now it was this man's turn to be shocked. He was a Christian himself, but didn't go to the kind of church that had that kind of dress code.

But my church isn't the reason I dress the way I do. Yes, my pastor is the one who introduced me to the doctrine of female dress, but it was my belief in God's infallible word that convicted me.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, nether shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 22:5

This becomes a touchy subject for some women because they don't want to give up their jeans and pants suits. They'll tell you that the Old Testament is outdated and we live under grace now. That means the law isn't necessary or applicable anymore, but God's Word is timeless, just as He is.

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

In the end, I decided that I wanted my outsides to match what God has done for me on the inside. When I got saved I became a new creature, one that has the Holy Spirit living inside it. That kind of temple, as the Scripture says, means dressing right and well. If simply dressing appropriately is honoring unto the Lord, then I am willing to make that effort for my God.

I take care to dress in a way that separates me from the world, so that you can truly tell a difference between me and a lost person who doesn't have Christ living in them yet. I also want to make sure that what I wear won't create lust in a man who isn't my husband. Did you realize there were so many effects of the clothes you put on your body?

Christian women can dress in a way that is comfortable and easy to work in, but in the end we are to be honoring unto God in all we do, say, eat and wear. Make sure that your clothing choices reflect the Christ residing in your heart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Gift of Your Time

Since Danny has already received his Valentine's Day present, I can tell you what it was. (He reads this every day and I'd hate to spoil the surprise!)

One of our traditions is chocolate for special events, so I gave him a plastic heart full of M&Ms. I'm sure it found its way to work today. I also made a Valentine, but my favorite part was what was tucked in the envelope with it.

Instead of buying some "thing" that will sit on a shelf or spending money on a short-lived gift, I gave my time.

I printed out eight love coupons and laminated them before putting them on a metal ring. Each one promises a special gift, event or activity - but each one has to be done together. And they're laminated to be reusable over and over again.

We also have a date for next weekend for our actual Valentine's Day celebration. It's hard to make plans when Danny's on call because the phone usually rings right in the middle of something special. And I'd hate to be grilling and he leave for a removal, leaving me to finish up by myself. We'll just wait until we have uninterrupted time together.

Oh, I could have purchased a huge stuffed tiger or a bouquet of balloons, but I wanted to give something more special. We've realized over the past few months how important our time together really is. We have no idea what God has in store for tomorrow, whether He'll take one of us or if we'll be raptured before the end of the day. That makes each moment with my husband so much more important.

So my Valentine's gift for Danny this year was designed specifically for taking the time to make the most of the day God has given. Each minute is a treasure and I want the two of us to treasure them together.

It doesn't have to be Valentine's Day to be a special day with your husband. Just for today or tomorrow, for all next week or for the rest of your married life, make every minute with him special and tender. It takes time and effort to grow a marriage, and focusing on the Lord's blessing of life puts your time in perspective.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let It Snow!!!

The practically unthinkable happened in South Carolina last night - and the girls loved it!

We ended up with several inches of wet, packed snow, something the girls hadn't seen since before we moved to this state.

Bailey tore all over the yard, and Sadie just trailed behind, barking her encouragement. They'd stop and shake their paws, and then keep right on running.

And apparently it was all the dogs in the neighborhood could talk about, because everyone was yipping or woofing at the top of their little puppy lungs.

When they came back in they had all sorts of white speckles all over their black fur. I suppose it had been quite a while since the last time they'd been snowy, so Bailey immediately ran to the living room. (As a rule they will automatically wait by the door until they get dried off.) From the next room I could hear her shaking the snow off, and I just wondered what piece of furniture was now soaked.

The one downside to this beautiful weather is cleaning up water from the mud room floor after every trip outside, but it's worth it to watch them play in the new-fallen snow. (I'm just glad they're black so I don't lose them! The chihuahua next door sort of blends in.)

Well, they're ready to go back outside! I'll go get the towels ready. Silly girls.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Importance of Tithing

Did you know that the best way to make money is to give it? Huh?
No, really.

You can be assured of financial security and favor from the Lord by following one simple command - to tithe.

What is your tithe? It is a tenth of your income before taxes. The Hebrew word for tithe translates to "tenth" or "tenth part." You figure one tenth of all you and your family earn and that is your tithe.

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD. Leviticus 27:30

Where do you give your tithe? To the local New Testament church you are a member of. This is not money for missions or the money you choose to send to a TV evangelist - your tithe goes to your home church.

Why is my tithe so important? Several reasons, but most importantly because you are being obedient to the Lord. Anything we read in the Bible, regardless of whether it is Old Testament or New Testament, is relevant to our daily Christian lives.

Another reason is the blessings for that obedience. We read about the bountiful blessings God bestowed upon Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (to name a few) even before the law was given. How much more will we be blessed now for continuing to follow this command?

Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thy oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. Deuteronomy 14:22-23

Do I have to tithe everything? If by everything you mean all the money and possessions you have, then yes. Whenever money comes into our home, whether it's a paycheck, piano lesson money, a gift or a rebate, we write a check for ten percent and take it to church on Sunday. This isn't to have a great statement at the end of the year or for people to see us putting an envelope in the plate. We want to be honest with the Lord about what we give Him.

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8

Everything that we have and will ever have is God's and not returning a portion of that is not only disrespectful, but cheats ourselves out of His glory. The Lord knows our hearts and He knows why and how we give our money in tithes and offerings. The blessings for our obedience are many, as we support our church and watch God bless our own finances in return. If you're not already tithing, or doing some imitation of tithing, I encourage you to pray about your obedience and your finances. There is never any penalty for putting money into the bank of Heaven, but the penalties are great when you deny the Lord what is His.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Smart Spice Storage

There was a time, not so very long ago, that I was scared to death of spices. Not because I thought they were stalking me or bugging my phone, but because I didn't know anything about them. The only spices I ever really used were salt and pepper. (Boring, huh?)

Then I began trying recipes that called for seasonings I had never even heard of...and they were fantastic! With a little husbandly encouragement, I was off and running.

One of the first things I learned was that spices can be fickle little creatures. They can lose their flavor, they can cake together in their container, they can lose their color and even eventually lose their potency. So here's what I've discovered about keeping your spices fresh and useful.

* Keep your spices away from heat. If they become to warm, seasonings will lose their flavor much more quickly. Don't store them above the stove, next to the refrigerator or near the dishwasher. While it may seem more convenient, choose a spot away from your cooking area to preserve their whole flavor.

* Keep your spices away from moisture. Humidity can cause caking in some spices and flavor-loss in others. We've been told over the years that storing seasonings in the refrigerator will help them last longer, but the humidity level is too high and they'll just be old and ruined. Also keep them away from the sink area, for the same reasons.

* Keep your spices away from light. Think about leaving a piece of construction paper out in the sun. It won't take long before the color is so faded you can't tell what color it really used to be. The same goes with spices - bright light will fade both the color and the flavor of your currently vibrant seasonings.

* Keep your spices from getting too old. Do a regular check of the expiration dates on your seasonings and check the color and odor before you use them. Throw out any that have passed their date, faded, caked or smell funny. Then buy new, smaller amounts of the ones you use regularly.

* Keep your spices fresh by thinking small. The smaller the container, the more likely you'll be to use it up before its flavor fades. That great big bottle from the mega-store may seem like a great bargain, but not if it's too much to use up before it loses its potency.

* Keep your spices organized. Choose a cabinet, drawer or pantry away from heat, moisture and light. Consider spice drawers that are specially designed for this purpose, or store a spice rack inside a cabinet. Alphabetize them or put them in the order you use them most. Add a little shelf int he back so you can see them all. Use what works for you, but make sure their organized in a way that you'll use them and be able to tell when they've lost their usefulness.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Valentine With A Special Gift

There's nothing more boring than a store-bought card with a single heart on the front. That's what you'll see everywhere when you browse the greeting card aisle of your local store. Plus, you'll fork over an arm and a leg for that one little card - unfathomable!

Instead, use some of your paper scraps and couple of extra ingredients to make a one-of-a-kind card/gift/smile-maker.

1. Make a card out of white cardstock. Cover the entire card with a light-colored, patterned paper. Using a darker colored ink, random stamp a heart design over the entire piece of paper.

2. Cut two panels of coordinating paper, one for a background and one to attach your wire. For this example I cut the black patterned paper to fit on the left side of the card, then a piece of white cardstock to fit inside that. Then I random stamped the hearts and colored them with a stipple brush.

3. Poke two small holes very close together in the center of the top panel. These are for the wire that will hold your gift in place. Thread a piece of craft wire through the holes, leaving them long in the front to tie and curl.

4. Choose your gift - a pencil, pen, lollipop or other stick candy - and tie it onto the paper. Use a strong scrapbooking adhesive to attach the panel to the card. Stamp your phrase and adhere it to finish the card.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Love - Part 2

Love is a noun.

Love is a very tangible, very real force in our lives. It can be given, it can be taken away and it can be shared.

This becomes even more real in our Christian walk when we read and study about how we even have the capacity to love in the first place.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

We have no love in us until the moment of salvation. We think we love people and care about them, but we can't fully comprehend or share true love until we've met Jesus. That's because He is the source of perfect love, and we can only share what He's given us first.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Jesus Christ was a precious gift the Father sent to earth. We are loved so much (For God SO loved the world) that He was willing to go even unto death on the cross for us. There are very few, if any, people we would do that for, but Jesus did so for the entire human race - out of love.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

The gift of love is planted in the heart of every Christian woman - the question is, how deeply buried is it? Love is one of the fruit of the spirit, one of those "faith in action" gifts that God bestows freely and willingly on His children. It is then our decision how we will share it, how much we'll share it and with whom.

That love can manifest itself in gentleness toward our husband, kind words to our children, care and concern toward our sisters in Christ and connection with our families. God the Spirit living inside us will lead, guide and direct us where that love is needed, and He can work His plan through us when we're willing to share His love with whomever He places in our path.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Home Sweet Leaving Home

Whether you're headed out of state for a week or across the country for a month, leaving your home for any length of time can be a concern. You think about thieves, bad weather, leaving your pets at home and the other headaches that come with being away.

We're going to a graduation in Colorado in May, and we're already making plans for being out of the state for a week. What are the options for the time you're away? How can you protect your home for those days it's empty?

1. Look for a house-sitter. Is there someone you know who can actually live in your home while you're gone? This is the best option for our family because we're leaving the girls here. This is a great way to make sure there's someone in the house at night and the mail and paper are brought in. Plus you can have your plants watered, your messages checked and the lights on in the evening.

Consider some single friend or young adult living with their parents. Offer to pay for gas and have the kitchen stocked for them for the time they'll be there. Not only is it added protection for your home, but you can give a young person the opportunity to get out in the real world.

2. At the very least, have a friend or neighbor bring in your mail and paper. If your comfortable giving them a key, have them check on your plants and the inside of the house. They can turn on lights in the evening and bring in the trash can from the curb. Have a nice gift ready to give them when you get home for all this special work they're doing for you.

I don't recommend leaving your pets at home in this kind of situation because they'll be alone too much of the day. If you have to leave them while you're on vacation, find a pet-sitter or take them to be boarded.

3. If there are no other choices and you decide to leave your house unattended while you're gone, make sure everything is unplugged in every room. If there are storms or power surges while you're away this will protect your electronics.

Invest in automatic light timers and leave the blinds the way you normally would. You want the house to look just as when you are there. Clean up your home and take out the trash - the last thing you want to come home to is an awful odor.

Make the outside of your house neat and tidy, mow the yard, replace anything like windows or doors that are broken and store anything that thieve could remove from your property.

Lock all the doors including the garage and any storage buildings. Make sure that someone you trust has a spare key in case of emergency. Also give them all your contact numbers while you're on traveling and an itinerary of where you'll be.

Once you've secured everything and found a trusted watcher, you can travel in confidence and in peace.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Do You Linger Over?

Linger, verb: to delay, to hesitate, to be in suspense, to remain in one state.

Can you remember the last time you lingered? In this fast-paced society it's probably been a while, and it probably wasn't for very long. We tend to cram as much into every single minute as we can, as if the busier we are the happier we'll be.

Lately the word linger has been in the forefront of my mind. I feel like I've been hurrying so quickly through daily life that I've forgotten a few things.

* It's called a walk with God for a reason. No one encourages you in your sprint with the Lord. Life isn't a timed event with medals handed out at the end for how quickly you did everything on your list. Walk speaks of a leisurely pace, taking time to enjoy the path God has placed you on and growing your relationship with Him. Linger over each special moment with the Lord.

* Life may be short (compared to eternity) but each individual minute has importance. I've found myself hurrying through some moments just to get to the next one as quickly as I can. I often throw a craft project together just so I can say it's done and move on to the next one. Then the quality suffers and I'm not enjoying any of the time spent doing something I'm supposed to love! Lingering over each one ensures that I'm creating the best work I can and honoring the time God has given me.

* My loved ones are the most important time investment I have. I am possibly the worst correspondent ever. I am constantly promising myself that this will be the week I write my parents, my family, friends in other states, our church's shut-ins...but something always comes up and I put it off for another day. I've hurried so much through everything else that the people I love have been put on the back burner. I want to linger over letters, linger over phone calls and linger over e-mail, just so I can reconnect and enjoy the people I haven't kept up with.

* I have the choice of what I'll linger over. With every new minute of the day comes a new opportunity - I can either race through it like the one before or I can choose to linger over it and make the best of it that I can. That decision is entirely up to me. God gives us each minute of each day to serve Him to the best of our ability. Hurrying through them doesn't honor Him in any way, and it makes life terribly frenzied.

Just for today, choose to linger over each minute, each task and each person that crosses your path. Not only will you appreciate them more, but it will be easier to bring God the glory through your service because you're able to concentrate on Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Day In The Life

We have pretty scheduled days around here. We don't always plan it that way, but the girls and I are pretty structured. Throw something new and different into the mix and we're thrown out of our frame a little. On any given day you'll find us doing many of the same things.

4:45 We all wake up to exercise. Or perhaps I should say we are awakened to get up and exercise. Cayenne lets us know by poking me and crying that it's 4:45 already. The girls go outside to stretch their legs and then come in for breakfast.

5:00 Exercise time begins and the girls wait patiently in their corners for us to be done. Sometimes they think we need a little extra help and end up getting underfoot. Not great when you're
doing Kenpo karate.

7:15 Danny heads out the door and we all settle in for the day. The first thing I do is my Bible study and prayer time - usually with a kitty on my lap.

8:00 Nap times begin for anyone with more than three legs. This will continue off and on throughout a typical day.

9:00 After getting around and ready for the morning, I usually start cleaning. If I put it off until later in the day, I often get distracted by other activities. The puppies will follow me from room to room, more for company than cleaning assistance. (Cayenne continues sleeping.)

10:00 The girls and I head outside to either play in the backyard or go for a walk. Sadie has severe hip dysplasia in both back hips, so she can't keep up with Bailey and me all the time. She'll go until she can't go any more, playing frisbee or chasing sticks, then we'll take a break. (Cayenne keeps on sleeping.)

12:00 Lunchtime for me and snack time for the girls. Cayenne will finally stretch and make her way into the kitchen for a treat of her own. (Yes, she still sits for it - cutest thing ever! Check out the video posted on November 7 to see for yourself.)

12:30 Time for writing and crafting. The girls find their places underneath my chair and settle in for more napping, perhaps recovering from their busy morning.

2:00 For the first time all day, Cayenne will generally begin to stir in the middle of the afternoon. She loves to sit by me in the craft room and watch the birds and squirrels outside. When the girls are out there, she'll keep an eye on them too.

5:00 I am informed by a very loud kitty that it's time for supper. Sometimes I think the girls put her up to it just so they don't get in trouble for barking in the house. The girls have these great raised dishes so they don't have to bend so far - they do a great job of improving their digestion.

5:30 Danny arrives in the driveway and the girls let me know. The rest of the evening is spent eating our dinner, playing on the floor with the girls and catching up on our day.

9:00 The girls will head to their beds in our room and crash for the night. They're like little alarm clocks letting us know when it's time to call it a day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

The South Carolina State Fairgrounds will be filled with bargain-seekers this weekend as they host the Clean Sweep Sale. A fund raising event, an entire building will be dedicated to yard-sale style shopping in massive quantity.

My first thought when I heard about this event was - Ooh Ooh Ooh! I love a good bargain just like the next woman, and this seems like a great way to do some one-stop shopping. They'll have everything from books and music to furniture and appliances at some pretty decent prices.

My second though was - I need to stay away from this event. Not because it's not a worthy cause or because of the crowds, but because financially it wouldn't be smart.

Think about this go with $50 to have a fun day of shopping the bargains. You find many, many things you'd love to buy, but only carry a couple of them around with you. Then you see a crowd around certain items and you decide to go see what they've found. Suddenly you're hauling much more stuff behind you and you're contemplating bringing in a truck to get it all home. And you're way past the $50 limit you had set several hours ago.

For some reason women have little antennae that go into overdrive when we hear certain words: on sale, BOGO, cheap, deal, limited time and yard sale can all be triggers for spending. We feel like we're getting something special because we're not having to pay retail price for it.

While it's a fabulous idea to shop sales and be on the lookout for bargains, there is too much of a good thing. It's not difficult to spend more than normal because everything you purchased "was on sale" and you wanted to stock up. In a place like this giant yard sale, you have no idea what you'll run across and want to bring home.

So this is my big question of the day: are we buying things because they're items we need around the house and can't pass up the price, or are we buying them simply because they're cheap? Is there a place specifically designed for that piece or will it go in a pile with others just like it? Does it serve a function and will it improve your home in some way or is it simply a spur-of-the-moment buy that brings satisfaction for a while?

What have you been saving your money for? Recently I wrote about long-term planning and reaching some financial goals you've been dreaming about. Are you willing to sacrifice money you would have used for a new ___ (insert your goal here) for something you found at a sale that you didn't even know you wanted?

Shopping is wonderful when you're looking for something that will benefit your home and the people inside of it, just as the Proverbs 31 woman shopped from the merchants' ships for unique items. But the key is spending wisely and in the direction of the Lord. If you have self-control and have prayed about an amount to spend, then shop to your heart's content and enjoy the fruits of your searching. If not, it's probably safer to stay home where it's warm, start a fire and watch a great old movie. A penny saved is a penny you can spend another day on something you truly love.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pantry-Cleaning Skillet Dinner

Did you ever have one of those evenings where you didn't have a meal planned and there didn't seem to be a whole lot of food in the cupboards? I had one of those earlier in the week, so here's the clean-out-the-kitchen-and-still-have-a-really-great-meal recipe I used. Look through your refrigerator and cabinets and see what you can throw together.

1 can beef broth
1 cup rice
1 tbsp veg oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 cups chopped peppers (I used a 10 oz box of pre-chopped traffic light peppers. Letting someone eles do some of the work can often pay for itself!)
1/2 sm bag frozen mixed vegetables
Worcestershire sauce
Seasoning salt (I used Tony Chachere's)

1. Cook the rice using the can of broth and 1/4 cup of water, cooking for about 20 minutes.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, ground turkey, garlic, peppers, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning salt. Once the meat is browned add the frozen vegetables. Cook until everything is tender and heated through.

3. If rice is still cooking, remove meat mixture from the heat. When the rice is done, stir it into the mix and serve immediately.

There are so many options with a skillet recipe like this. Danny's first suggestions were diced tomatoes and okra. You can use pretty much anything from your pantry and refrigerator, especially those great leftovers! Use your imagination and your odds and ends will go a long way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Iced Over

We've been having incredibly cool weather for the past little while - I went to the mailbox this weekend and had to chip the ice off before I could get into it. Very out of character for South Carolina, but something I've missed since having moved to the South.

So in the theme of winter, I made the cutest little icy decoration for the front porch. (Trust me - it's not going to melt for a while.) It's so easy and can be adapted for a variety of themes and colors.

You can freeze pretty much anything in ice. For this example I used a crocheted doily and submerged it in an appropriately-sized plastic container. If you spray it with non-stick spray first, it will slide out quite easily. To make the hole for hanging, slide in a straw (sprayed) and hold it in place with some tape. When you pop it out of the bowl you may need to chisel a little extra ice out of the hole, but do so carefully so you don't crack the ice.

Experiment with different cake pans and multiple sizes.

Make this a holiday themed ice sculpture with some cranberries and pine boughs frozen in a fluted pan.

Put in some bird seed and your feathered friends can feast as it melts.

Change color themes by using orange slices or apple slices.

You can also use pine cones, other nuts and a variety of foliage to create interesting patterns in the ice.

Then just put them in the freezer until completely solid. The cooking spray will help them pop out of the container much easier.

Tie them up with thick ribbon or twine - coordinating, of course.

If you hang them up high on the porch, the wind will catch them and they'll swing, refracting the sunlight around. Hang them lower if you don't want the ribbon to break and send your piece flying.

The fun is waiting to see how long they'll stay in one piece - if you're super-cold right now it may last for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Love - Part 1

Love is a verb.

Love means demonstrating your affection and respect for someone. It's an action word, showing what we do because of those feelings.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Matthew 22:37

Love without action is just words. Your husband can tell you he loves you a hundred times, but if he doesn't show you respect or respond to your requests, you probably won't believe him. And if you repeat loving words all the time but don't serve your husband with honor and compassion, he won't believe you either.

God responds to love in the same way. We may flood Him with songs of praise and prayers of thanksgiving on Sunday, but if we're not serving Him in our daily lives during the rest of the week, those words lose their meaning.

Being doers of the Word includes the actions we perform out of love and respect for the Lord. If our heart is right, our love will show by the work we do in Jesus' name. Our service becomes a reflection of His love inside us, which becomes love for Him, which turns into service dedicated to Him.

Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth convenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9

Love answers love in action. When someone does something for me out of love, I am not only appreciative, but I will probably reciprocate. If our own cup is overflowing with love and respect, we are much more likely to pour some of that over into another cup, giving them an added blessing.

One of the great promises of God is His faithfulness to bless those who love and serve Him. No one ever could or ever will love us more than the Lord. And He shows that love exceeding abundantly above to those of His children who both love Him back and obey Him.

Our desire should always be to glorify and honor the Lord in all we do. Any action that we perform out of love is because He has loved and blessed us first, not because of some emotion or some feeling on our part. It's that loving relationship with our Heavenly Father that makes all other loving relationships possible and healthy.

These things I command you, that ye love one another. John 15:17

Love is a Divine gift, and nothing of this world can ever compare. Our flesh tells us to either keep to ourselves or to do things for other people for selfish reasons. Once the Holy Spirit is living inside us and directing our paths, the love that He brings with Him spreads into our other relationships.

When we get saved our marriage is enhanced, our friendships are stronger and our family becomes more important. Christ's command to love another is easier because we finally have something to offer - the love of God that He has tucked into our hearts. Where we were once going through the motions, we now have motivation, sincerity and a pure heart.

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. Psalm 5:11

Love is a verb. It's an action that we perform because of the love God gave us first. That simple truth is reason to shout for joy and prepare to spend eternity bathed in His love. While we're here on earth, though, love is something we do because doing is the best way to demonstrate that overflowing, everlasting love that only God supplies.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Do I Love Thee...?

The month of February warms my heart - I can prepare for Valentine's Day, Danny's spiritual birthday is the 10th and Spring is just around the corner. Love is in the air more now than ever, and the Bible says affection for your husband is both right and lovely.

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness...that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands... Titus 2:3-4

There are so many ways to show your love for your husband, and much more than just on February 14th. Here are some ideas I've gathered over the years. (And knowing Danny will be reading this, I'll have to come up with some more! I love you Sweetie!)

* Hide love notes everywhere. Get some kids' valentines, make some cards or buy a big box of stationary at the dollar store. Fill them out with lots of sweet words, and then the fun begins! Hide them in his briefcase or computer bag. Tuck them into his dresser drawers. Put one in the freezer. Place another one by his toothbrush. Stuff them under pillows, set them in his car and put them by his dinner plate. In other words, let him find them everywhere he turns.

* Go big. Take a helicopter ride over your town. Fill the house with balloons, or chocolate or cards. Make reservations at that restaurant he's always wanted to try. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride to a private picnic. Be bold and extravagant once just to say "I love you."

* Stay small. Give him a fishing lure with a tag that says, "I'm hooked on you." Give him a paper clip with a tag that reads, "We're stuck together forever." Give him a donut with a tag that says, "You're the sweetest." The little things are often the most powerful and memorable.

My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Song of Solomon 2:16

* Listen to his off-hand comments. Has he mentioned needing something? Get him a gift certificate so he can go ahead and get it. (There are many times this is better than buying it, just to make sure he gets the right one. Never try to purchase software, tools or any big purchases without knowing your husband's buying habits REALLY well.)

* Plan an activity together. Bake cookies. Take a walk. Go grab a cup of coffee. Cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. Pick something that's completely out of the norm for you, or choose something that you used to do when you were first married and never do anymore. There's nothing more romantic than a little undivided attention.

* Do the unexpected. If you always eat out every Friday night, make reservations for somewhere new. If you always eat in front of the television, make a romantic dinner at the dining room table. If you never have, pick up your husband at work and whisk him off for a special evening. Surprises can be a great way to say, "I love you" that's completely unexpected.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. Genesis 29:20

* Communicate. Daily. Often. In new and different ways. I know that my funeral director husband gets tons of e-mails every day about embalming supplies and schedules for memorial services, so I try to break up that monotony. I'll send funny pictures, links to web sites I think he'd like and romantic e-cards. We'll also find time at least once a day while he's at work to talk on the phone, even it's only for two minutes. I think that part of my responsibility to my husband is to keep in contact and uplift him as much as I can.

* Get an attitude adjustment. Do you see romance as a chore or do you think it require tons of energy and brain-power? If so, look at it another way - our job as wife is to lift up and encourage our husband. By putting romance and your marriage first, you're letting your husband know he's still the most important person in your life. Consider coming up with romantic ideas as a challenge and put the time into it you put into other important parts of your life.

* Reclaim the humor. Life can get so serious that we forget our husband actually has a sense of humor. Clip some funnies from the Sunday paper and tuck them in the book he's reading. Watch your favorite funny movie together. Catch his eye just to smile at him. Make it your personal mission to laugh more and smile more on a daily basis.

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 takest under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9