Friday, April 30, 2010

Living Within Your Means

I am constantly finding blogs and magazine articles and television specials about how to reduce, reuse and recycle everything in your life...just to save money. Some people choose to make all their own cleaning products. Others have sold their vehicles and extra homes. Still others have decided to live on next to nothing and claim they're "living the old-fashioned life" when all they're doing is going to the extreme.

The secret to living within your means and still saving, investing and being good stewards of God's money is to be content with the monetary and temporal blessings the Lord has given.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:12

There are two extremes in the financial world - spend nothing and spend what you don't have. Paul explained in this epistle to the church at Philippi that there was (and is) a happy medium when it comes to "stuff." He had discovered after being saved that happiness comes from relationship with the Lord, not from money in the bank or paying off a credit card.

Part of the problem with living in this lustful flesh is that we often covet all those shiny things that seem bigger and better than what we already have. Instead of living within our means and not relying on credit to help us out, we decide to get what we want when we want it. There is no room for satisfaction in the moment because we're wrapped up with paying off debt or finding new ways to save a few bucks.

If we choose to find the joy of the Lord in the present moment, with the things we already own, we can put our money worries aside. The trials and tribulations come when we refuse to be content with what we have, whether we're abased or abounding.

So just for today I pray you will look past the number of zeros that are or aren't in your bank account. I challenge you to find the satisfaction in what God has given you right at this moment. And I encourage you to praise His holy name for the blessings of the day regardless of your monetary status. Stay within your means and enjoy what the Lord has blessed you with.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunflower Cupcakes - The Follow-up

As promised, here's what 100 sunflower cupcakes look like all lined up in their sunflower field! It took the better part of the day Friday to get them all together, but it was SO worth it!

And the best part is the ladybug! It's just an M&M and I used a little bit of decorator gel for the design. I was afraid it would look too simple, but I think it turned out great!

They went like hotcakes (or would that be warm cupcakes?) at the Ladies Jubilee on Saturday and the last few Sunday night at fellowship. What a blessing.

For more info on how to make these, check out last Thursday's post.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Simple Button Magnets

When I saw these buttons at the craft store the other day, I knew that I had to have them. I just finished a blog series about hope and these buttons were the most beautiful combination of colors. I could surely find something to do with them. And I wonder why my husband cringes when I shop by myself.

To embellish the button itself a little, thread some fancy fibers through the holes and tie them in the front. This makes them look more finished and adds some extra color.

I had some magnets left over from the denim pocket craft I did a few weeks ago. They're self-stick, so all you have to do is peel the backing off and stick 'em on.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hope - Part 4

It finally happened, and I had faith it would. That beautiful deep red rose bush that I introduced to you a couple of weeks ago broke into glorious bloom yesterday!

The tiny little buds have been sitting there for days and I started to get impatient. I knew I couldn't force them open or they would be ruined. I knew that nothing I could put on them or in the soil would hurry the process along.

My patient hope was put to the test waiting for these spectacular blossoms. They bring joy to my life each spring and I spend the winter months waiting for the warm weather to encourage them to open.

This is exactly like our hope given through Jesus Christ. My faith and my hope are intertwined - I have faith that God will fulfill His promises and I have hope in His faithfulness.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

There is faith in the re-blooming of roses every spring, and there is hope in their beauty because we have seen them bloom in the past. I have faith that sunny days and light rains will bring my blooms because the same thing happened a year ago.

I have seen God work in my life and I have felt His presence in the past. Faith is believing that He will continue to supply my needs and throw in some blessings just for His joy. Hope is watching Him move the pieces of our lives around to our greater good and having the faith that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I have hope in the promises of eternal life, a mansion in Heaven and joy unspeakable. My faith makes these hopes a reality through God's Word, and His Word alone.

Where have you placed your hope today?

Monday, April 26, 2010

An All-Over House Cleaning

I don't know about your home, but I know about mine right now. With Ladies Jubilee this past weekend, I've hardly been home for the past week...and the house looks like it. There's a lot of work to be done and it's often hard to know where to start. This is how I plan to tackle things today, and I pray it will be a help to you.

1. Pray, pray, pray. It's so overwhelming to look at everything that needs to be done. Spending time in prayer before I ever get started focuses me and helps me clear away all the mental clutter. There may be things God wants me to accomplish today that weren't on my list, but by taking the time to listen can show me exactly what's important in His priorities.

2. Do a super-fast, room-by-room straightening. Trying to tackle everything in a room all at once gets discouraging, so don't even try. From the front door to the back of the house, start with just the surface "stuff" and put them back where they belong. Carry a basket with you and throw in anything that doesn't live in that particular room. Then clear off all the counters, tables and floors in each room as you do.

3. Multi-task the right way. I am notorious for getting distracted because I think of 27 other things I need to do while I'm trying to complete another project. To get through that temptation, the only things I will multi-task are time-consuming and mind-numbing. I can run the dishwasher while I'm scrapbooking, answer e-mail while the carpet powder is doing its thing and do the laundry while I do anything. What I won't do is anything that requires me to get up or leave the room while I'm working on something unrelated. If I do, I'll never come back!

4. After the basics, go back for a deep clean. Once you see some real progress throughout the house, you'll get some serious motivation to keep going. Stay with the room-by-room strategy and tackle whatever tasks need to be done in that order. Start at the front door and work your way back, or choose the rooms people see the most first. Whatever way you choose, work in a circle around the room and really get things clean and straightened.

5. Pace yourself. Making my plans for today, I was all gung-ho about what I thought I could accomplish. I'd love to see the whole house picked up in one morning so my afternoon will be free...but that's not going to happen. Instead of being frustrated when I don't do everything everywhere and then giving up on the whole process, tackle the house in chunks, take plenty of breaks and reward your self in little ways for what you do accomplish.

Ultimately, housekeeping is a calling, not an activity to be done in a day. I know the potential in my home, and building it for the Lord is a great goal. I look forward to clean carpets and clear counters, but my real purpose is in accomplishing God's plan for my day, my home and my life.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Only The Lord

I just had to share this with you this afternoon...

Yesterday was our Ladies Jubilee and it was fabulous! Our speaker was an incredible inspiration and she was so used of God. But the best part was the two precious souls that got saved. One of them was a college girl who thought she was just gaining assurance of her salvation, but realized afterwards that she had never really been saved.

This morning I sat down in my pew after the choir sang and there was a piece of paper there. It was one of the cards we had handed out yesterday for the ladies to register their attendance. I almost started crying when I saw that it was the card of that college girl.

Now, that might be just sweet in the grand scheme of things, but here's what makes it so wonderful. When we fir st start planning Jubilee at the beginning of the year, I start praying for whoever is going to be sitting in my seat on that Saturday. We have no idea who will be coming that day or what kind of baggage they'll be bringing in with them, so I just want my little area to be bathed in prayer.

So when I saw that one of the two ladies who got saved was sitting in my seat, I about started shouting. Now I'm a crier not a shouter, so that is really saying something!

You never know how God is going to answer prayer or how He is going to use your faithfulness. I just pray that each one of us will take the time to point out certain people and situations for the Lord to take care of.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One Of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days?
The cat wakes you at 4:00 in the morning by banging on the closet door. She doesn't want food - she's just trying to get your attention and annoy the dog.

That makes the big dog anxious and forces her to try climbing in bed with you. After several minutes of sending her back to her bed, she finally calms down.

When the alarm goes off, everything with four legs comes flying to your side of the bed. It was sweet a long time ago, but now it's a persistent alarm with no snooze button.

The cat insists on being in the bathroom with you while you get ready. Not too bad until she starts banging on the door to get out - she would have done that to let her in, too.

Everyone gets trips outside and breakfast, then stays as much underfoot as possible while you do your workout. Not so bad if you weren't lifting weights today...

Both dogs want to go outside again.

The little dog wants to come back in.

The big dog refuses.

You make a trip with the little dog to the trash can and mail box. She decides she needs a quick tour of the neighborhood, leaving you to trail after her, calling her name repeatedly. She finally returns, only to take off in the opposite direction.

The big dog still refuses to come back inside.

You try to get some work done around the house with your 55-pound shadow following you, laying right where you're trying to walk, sweep and move. She pouts when you suggest she find somewhere else to watch you from, since she's not helping a whole lot.

Lunchtime comes and you are stared at and drooled on while you fix your meal. Giving treats doesn't help because it smells completely different than yours.

The big dog finally agrees to come back in.

Nap time all around - but doggie snores interrupt you off and on.

As soon as you wake up the dogs want to go back outside.

The cat finally wakes up from her day-long snooze and demands treats and attention - in that order.

The little dog wants to come back inside.

The big dog refuses.

And on and on it goes - but I wouldn't have it any other way. These are my girls.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More Important Than Money In The Bank

Yesterday was the Going Home Service for one of my dearest Titus older women. Francis Rice was saved when she was just 12 years old, and has been a faithful Christian and preacher's wife ever since.

During her funeral our preacher said something that stopped me in my tracks. He was speaking about how she was doing very well, thank you. Then he said she treasured family, friends and her Lord much more than money in the bank. Something to seriously think about.

Finance Fridays are some of my favorite topics to write about because I learn so much about saving, investing, spending wisely and being good stewards of the money God has blessed us with. But these words from the man of God made me start to analyze what's truly important in my life.

* My salvation is much more important than money in the bank.

* My God and our relationship is much more important than money in the bank.

* My husband and our marriage are much more important than money in the bank.

* My parents and extended family are much more important than money in the bank.

* My church family and their friendship is much more important than money in the bank.

* My writing ministries are much more important than money in the bank.

* My relatively good health is much more important than money in the bank.

* Having God's blessings of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities are much more important than money in the bank.

* Taking opportunities to share the Gospel any time and any place is much more important than money in the bank.

We can be watchful of our money and conscious of better ways to spend and save it, but the most important thing is being aware of the blessings in our lives. While the love of money is the root of all evil, putting finances and worry about finances in prominence is also a sin.

A Christian woman should never spend more time thinking about or spending money than she does working to grow her relationship with God. Trusting Him with her money erases all the worry and puts her focus back where it belongs - on Him.

What is your life is much more important than money in the bank?
* Seeing the joy in the life I've been given is much more important than money in the bank.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunflower Cupcakes

Our church's Ladies Jubilee is this Saturday - Alpine Baptist Church in Columbia South Carolina. (It's absolutely free: let me know if you want times and directions!)

Instead of several different desserts this year, we're making more than 400 cupcakes! Coolest idea ever! We've been digging through all those amazing cupcakes cookbooks that are on the market right now. A couple of favorites: Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, and Cupcakes, Cakes and More, a mini mag from Betty Crocker. Both have some amazing design ideas.

The cupcake that I chose to make 100 of for the Jubilee is this beautiful sunflower cupcake. It's from the Hello, Cupcake book. The only things the pictured cupcakes are missing are their spearmint candy leaves and little M&M ladybugs. When they're done I'll add a picture.

After making the cupcakes from whatever recipe you want (mine are orange supreme from a box mix), cover the top of the cupcakes with green frosting for your grass. Before it hardens, tuck one large and one small Oreo cookie into the frosting.

Mixing orange and yellow frosting and using a flat leaf tip on your decorating bag, make leafs on both the upper and lower edges of the cookies. Then embellish with leaf candies and little bugs for that special touch.

It took me a little over half an hour to decorate these 24 cupcakes, but they're so worth it! So Friday I'll make my 100-cupcake contribution to Jubilee and see what everyone came up with! So much fun!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flowers In Glass (Not Under Glass)

If you want a simple, striking centerpiece for your spring events, try this beautiful idea. I found all the parts for these decorations at the dollar store, so it cost about $6 to create, with several flowers left over.

You'll need:
3 glass jars
2bags of colored glass stones
1 spray of brightly colored fake flowers
3 small pieces of florist's foam (optional)

1. Divide the stones evenly between the three jars.

2. Using wire clippers, separate three flowers from the spray. Vary the lengths if you like to make an interesting arrangement.

3. Tuck one flower into the stones of each jar. If they won't stand up straight, stick them into a tiny piece of florist's foam and bury it in the stones.

You can coordinate the colors of the flowers and stones by season, event or theme. Set them up on the dining room table, on the tables at a shower or along the mantle of the fireplace.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hope - Part 3

The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. Joel 3:16

For the Christian woman, hope brings strength. The blessings of salvation include knowing that our future is firmly rooted in Christ. This hope is what makes life in this world bearable and the thoughts of eternity so incredible.

The eyes of the Lord watch the just and the unjust, punishing sinners and blessing the righteous. He knows exactly what our needs are at any given moment, and we have hope in Him to do what is right and just.

The circumstances of the day will bring disappointment, but our hope is grounded in the Lord. When we wait on God to lead us down His path, we are placing our hope in His plan being the best. We place our complete trust in Him with the hope of both blessings here on earth and the promise of eternal life with our Lord.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

Being able to share our hope with a lost and dying world is a privilege and a responsibility given from God. That hope can often make all the difference in the heart of a sinner to choose God's plan for their lives over the sinful life they're living.

Do you need to reclaim that hope in your own heart? It's impossible to share it if we're not deeply rooted in it ourselves. Take some time today to dive into Scripture and find exactly what you're hoping in.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Pleasure

While checking out at a local shopping establishment recently, I was given the impression that I was interrupting the employee's already bad day. She didn't greet me, threw my items in the bag and then refused to make eye contact while I paid. I left frustrated and disappointed in the business and that girl in particular.

Contrast: We went to a fast-food restaurant last week (my favorite eating-out place) and felt welcomed the moment we walked in. There was no loud greeter spouting off rehearsed lines or frowning while telling us to have a great day. The girl taking our order simply smiled, welcomed us and asked how she could help. When I asked to add something extra, she shocked me!

"It's my pleasure."

Huh??? No one talks like that anymore. Or treats anyone with respect like that anymore. I wanted to jump across the counter and hug her, just for making me feel like a human being!

And she was completely sincere about the whole situation. She spoke to her coworkers with the same tone, she smiled at everyone and treated us like invited guests. This sweet girl not only spoke volumes about herself, but she represented her company with dignity and honor.

Am I doing that in my daily living for Jesus Christ? Not always. Do I act like it's my pleasure to serve my Lord and my church family? Not as often as I should. Should I be more aware of the way I treat people that I come into contact with, letting them clearly see the Jesus Christ that lives inside me? That sounds like a great idea.

In the upcoming days (weeks, months, years) I'd like to be remembered the way I will remember that restaurant cashier. Our everyday effort should be toward finding pleasure in our service to the Lord. We might be surprised - we'll smile, folks around us will smile, and what a blessing to think about God smiling right along with us.

"It's my pleasure."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Organize To Save Time

Have you ever wasted time because you couldn't find the paperwork you needed, your favorite blouse in the back of the closet or all of the ingredients for tonight's meal? Of course you have! We've all done and redone things because of our lack of organizational skills.

So how can we save time and energy by being organized? Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

Set some goals. Do you want to attack the entire house or are there certain areas that steal your time? Would you like to get caught up on your filing so you can find what you need when you need it? Can you clear out the bedroom closet just so you can find your clothes in a hurry? By deciding exactly what you'd like to accomplish, the process doesn't seem so daunting.

Think ahead. Are there guests coming soon that you'll need to organize and prepare for? Are there meetings or sessions on the horizon that need you to have projects completed? By planning ahead based on your personal schedule, you'll see what needs to be organized and in what order.

Write things down. I love lists, and this is a great opportunity to use one...or six, depending on your personality. While there is supreme gratification in crossing thing off your list, the important part is seeing what needs to be done. By having a quick reference list in front of you, you won't feel so overwhelmed by all your organizing plans. Keep it handy and refer to it often!

Make time matter. What is the most important thing that you lose when you're disorganized? Besides one shoe here and your favorite magazine there, you're losing precious time that you could be doing other things. If you spend ten minutes filing paperwork, you can save hours later when you can't find that bill. Five minutes cleaning out the refrigerator can save you an extra trip to the grocery store with a half-finished meal on the counter. Your time is important, so take whatever steps you need to in order to be organized.

Work at being efficient. Once you reach your organizational goals...stay there! It's so easy to maintain a system once you've created it. Take a few minutes each day to improve your filing, clean out a drawer or sort e-mail. A little effort now can translate into serious free time down the road.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Poor Sick Kitty

Cayenne has been through it over the past couple of weeks. You can tell by this picture that she wasn't feeling well - true, she often looks at me similarly, but this wasn't because I had bothered her.

While we had company two weeks ago, we made the mistake of changing Cay's litter box that same weekend. Not only was she dealing with the addition of another person around the house, but she was more than a little miffed about her special spot being violated.

One of the pet companies has come out with a litter box system that does away with the tiny little granule litter and replaces it with larger pellets. This is a fabulous idea for those of us who don't want to clean the mud room floor every day, but not a great idea for a three-year-old kitty who violently rejects change.

So...long story short, she found a couple of other places for a litter box. Very not good when you have guests staying in the house. She was perturbed to the point of banging on closed doors, meowing constantly and doing her business wherever she felt like at the time. Cranky kitty is an understatement. We were seriously considering finding her a new home, but that broke my heart. The topic was quickly changed amidst a flood of tears.

On top of the obvious intrusion on her personal life, we also found out that she had a urinary tract infection. (Which explains a couple of the places she was doing her business.) So we put her on antibiotics for several days, which seemed to do the trick.

And in a last-ditch effort to set everything aright, I changed her back to her old litter and box. The change in her personality was like night and day. Apparently that was the precipitous of all the problems over the past two weeks. She used her box within about half and hour and we've been right as rain ever since.

So, to conclude, unless you want anarchy in your home, never change anything without first consulting your cat. It will save time, money, energy and your sanity. But apparently the cat doesn't care about any of those things. She cares about comfort, stability and being admired for the beautiful kitty she is.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Looking For Recipe Inspirations?

McCormick has come up with a splendid idea for those of us whose culinary creativity is sputtering. I know that's me some days, so it's probably you, too, right?

These great new Recipe Inspirations are pre-measured spices with a recipe card on the back. There's also a shopping list for all the other ingredients you'll need.

Then when you get ready to prepare the meal, you pull the recipe card off, the open each little package of spices. You just mix everything together and cook according to the package directions.

Plus, the recipe card has a picture of the finished meal on the back, so you can save it for the next time you want to fix this meal. Included are the measurements of spices so you can use them from your spice rack, too.

And they have a ton of great recipes to choose from: Apple and Sage Pork Chops, Quesadilla Casserole, Spanish Chicken Skillet and Shrimp and Pasta Primavera, just to name a few. I fixed Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes earlier this week and it was fabulous! A little oil, the six spice packets, chicken and potatoes...and you're all set. Just roast for half an hour and add some veggies. (And dessert.)

Look for them in their own little section of the spice aisle. There are at least six to choose from, so you'll have a variety on hand. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Card's All Sewn Up

I'm always looking for new and different techniques to use on my cards and scrapbook pages. Sometimes, however, the best ideas come when you revisit old standbys.

Sewing on your paper is nothing new, but it's been a long time since I added stitching to a project. Here's how easy it really is.

1. Cut card stock to desired size - this one is 6.25x4.5 inches when folded. Then cut two pieces of decorator paper to fit, making them long enough to overlap. (This is super-important.) Either cut or tear along the overlapping edge to make an interesting embellishment. Tape the two pieces together, but not to the card.

2. Using a small sewing needle, poke a series of alternating holes on either side of the overlap. You're going to "lace" the two pieces together, so stagger the holes accordingly.

3. Choose a coordinating color of thread, ribbon or cord and attach one end on the reverse side of the paper. Lace the thread through all the holes, alternating from side to side. When finished, attach the end of the thread to the back of the card.

4. Adhere the decorator papers to the card stock and embellish as desired.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hope - Part 2

We have two beautiful rose bushes at our house, one near the front porch and one by the road under the mailbox. For the past few months the deep red bush has looked like this - dormant, dry and lifeless. The cold winter shriveled it up and took away all its color and growth.

But I saw it in the fall. It was full of dark, deep crimson blooms. The highlight of running errands was being able to see those precious blossoms when I arrived back home.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

The resurrection of Jesus is the very foundation of our entire faith and hope. That's what makes it a living hope - it's the proof that what He said during His life was true, all of it.

I have hope that in the next few days my rose bush will break out in red blooms again because there is already a new bud waiting to open. But even more precious than that, the hope I've placed in Jesus Christ has living power.

The active, powerful, beautiful hope in Christ tells our hearts that this world is not our home, salvation is the answer to all our earthly problems and God's path is the perfect one to travel down. What a special alternative to antidepressants and therapy sessions!

The living hope of Christ revives our hearts, just as the spring will regenerate my rose bush. And our hope is set on the soon-returning King Who will renew us from our physical bodies and give us eternal life with Him. I may be waiting on my roses for temporal beauty, but soon we will be with the Lily of the Valley for all eternity. What a hope indeed!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick and Easy Adhesive Removal

This may be the shortest, easiest post I've ever made. The funny part is that this piece of sticky tape has been on my kitchen counter for months, and I've never been able to get it off. I've tried all kinds of things to remove it, but it wasn't until I tried this little trick that I finally have a clean counter again.

1. Spray a good amount of kitchen cleaner onto the adhesive. The kind doesn't matter, you just need the moisture and the chemicals to loosen the stickiness. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

2. Once the adhesive is loosened, use a dull razor blade to ease it up. Don't dig into the counter top or you'll leave marks. All you want to do is graze it over the surface, right underneath the sticky. It will lift off easily.

Just two steps and you'll be right as rain. I've done this in three different spots on my counter and now it's all smooth and shiny again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm Too Blessed To Be Stressed!

If your schedule has looked like mine lately, you've been super-busy! It seems as if I've been trying to stuff more and more into each day and feeling more and more exhausted by day's end.

The around-the-house chores would be enough in themselves. I run two web sites, I just finished writing my first book, I cook, clean and keep up our home.

There are also church projects: the dresses that we're making for Jubilee are now finished after many hours and there are several missions projects that need to be finished.

Not to mention the things I would like to do - corresponding with family, scrapbooking my own pictures and really digging into the spring cleaning.

I used to think it would be nice to add an extra hour or two to each day, but the Lord knows better. I would probably just fill them with more chores, projects and activities.

Up until just a couple of days ago I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed like never before. I couldn't concentrate on any one project because I was busy thinking about another one. My time is very precious and I felt like I was wasting it worrying about everything instead of enjoying what I was doing at the moment.

Then God's plan for my time came into better focus. I am far too blessed to be stressed. At this precise moment I have everything I could ever ask or hope for. I may not feel like it sometimes, but praise God we don't have to be controlled by feelings.

When I'm up to my ears in church work, I thank the Lord that someone trusts me and appreciates my work enough to allow me the opportunity to serve.

As I'm trying to balance house work and personal work, I appreciate all the blessings God has flooded me with. He has given me a husband, a home, ways to serve and obey and enjoy. Those are the important thoughts to focus on.

If we're willing to take the day one moment at a time and find God's purpose in what we're doing, time flies and we're successful in all we do. If we're willing to take ourselves out of the equation, we can see how this path the Lord has led us down is for our own personal good and a blessing for another people.

Seeing our daily work through God's eyes makes it crystal clear that we're too blessed to be stressed!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Girls and Their Toys

This is our girls' toy basket. We don't keep them all out at once, but this is exactly how many fun stuff our pets have to play with. They have their favorites, as I'm sure you're animals do too. Here's just a sampling of what's in ours.

This is Sadie's basketball. She loves anything that rolls. It used to be one of my favorite shelf-sitters (I've had it since junior high) but she has more fun with it.

And then there's her squeaky toy. Sadie has severe hip dysplasia in both back hips, but she;ll hoist herself up every time just to go fetch this.

Cayenne would actually rather play with a bottle cap or a paper towel tube, but she'll cuddle with her bouncy mouse on occasion. It used to be attached to a pole for teasing your cat, but she did away with that.

Bailey just got this adorable bunny. She's a huge fan of fluffy animal toys, especially Mr. Squirrel, but we're trying to get her to branch out. She'll take it to the door when Danny comes home, apparently as a bribe to keep him from leaving again.

This is one of my favorites. Sadie still hasn't figured out that the little red ball doesn't come out...ever. It may be a little frustrating for her, but I think it's fun to watch.

While she has a big scratching post in the dining room window, this miniature one will keep Cay's attention for a couple of minutes.

This is Bailey's all-time favorite toy. I think it looks like something on Normandy Beach, but each of the points squeak, so she'll carry it everywhere making noises.

This is another great one to watch. It's one of those cars that drive themselves when you pull them back. I think it's the sound that really gets her attention, and then she'll carry it off to keep me from sending it out again.

It's great to have a variety of play-things around for the girls. We rotate them every couple of weeks, though, so they don't get too bored. There's nothing worse than a bored Labrador!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Off To The Farmer's Market

Praise the Lord that spring is finally here! Yes, I love the colors and smells and sounds of spring, but more importantly, I love the farmer's markets!

We have a great market just down the road from us underneath an attention-grabbing red and white tent. They just opened last week and I've already been there twice! It's so exciting to see fresh fruits and veggies like I haven't seen in months. Isn't spring fabulous!

When you go to a farmer's market, it's completely different than shopping at the grocery store. There's time and opportunity to browse, to talk to the farmer and get the story behind where their food is coming from. It's great to know exactly who is getting your money and know that they'll be back tomorrow with more great buys.

There are times when you'll spend much less on produce at a farmer's market because they may have had a bumper crop of something fantastic. You can negotiate some prices because you're face-to-face with the farmer. They may also reduce prices or group items together to make room for new crops.

But you may also spend a little more on other items. Remember that this isn't a mass-market retailer who can discount on a whim. You're not only paying for the products, you're paying for their time and labor. They'll spend day after day greeting customers and evening after evening harvesting more to sell for tomorrow. That kind of service means you might be charged a little more than the grocery store, but isn't it worth it to support a local farmer?

Not to mention paying for amazing customer service! This market may be the farmer's livelihood, so they'll meet you, greet you and treat you right just to thank you for stopping by. This means you can often get great deals just because you know the supplier and they get familiar with you and your shopping habits.

You're also spending your money on quality. Fresh produce from local growers is less likely to be sprayed with 27 different chemicals before it reaches you. And how many times have you said that homemade (insert food here) is so much better than what you get at the store. At a farmer's market you're much more likely to find homemade jams, jellies, butters and spreads all at your fingertips.

The flowers are more colorful, the veggies look better and the fruits are out-of-this-world sweet! Spring has sprung and I'm so excited about my next trip. So if you're celebrating the same season we are here, head out to the farmer's market closest to you and find some great deals on some great food.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's A Frame-Up!

If you're looking for a quick, personalized gift idea, or you just want something special for your own home, try this chalkboard frame.

You'll need:
A picture frame of desired size
Chalkboard spray paint

1. Take apart the frame, saving all the pieces. If there is a piece of cardboard in the frame, you'll be using that for your chalkboard spray. If there's not a piece of cardboard, cut a spare piece to size using the frame's parts for a pattern.

2. Using chalkboard spray paint, put two coats on the cut piece of cardboard following the can's directions. Be very careful not to drip or smear between coats.

3. While the paint is drying, embellish the frame as desired. I used two silk flowers adhered together with a metal brad and a verse of Psalms I printed out on the computer and matted with cardstock.

4. Once the cardboard has dried according to the specifications on the can, place it the frame (without the glass) and add the other parts behind it. Follow the paint's direction for priming the surface for writing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heat Up Those Grills!

With South Carolina temperatures in the 80s and 90s over the past week, it seemed so natural to fire up the smoker this past weekend. We had half a brisket in the freezer and company to share it with, so Danny put together the most wonderful Saturday evening meal for us.

I wish I could give you recipes for some of these, but I'm told there aren't any! Danny mixes some of this and a dash of that, and you can smell the mingling of spices, meat and beans creating something fabulous.

The brisket sat in dry rub overnight and went into the smoker early in the morning. While that was starting, he put together a fruit cake (that's it in the upper right corner of the picture), since the only one we made last fall went to Mongolia. We were going to pack it away for a couple of months to work itself into an even better state of affairs, but we just couldn't wait.

Then my favorite part - the baked beans! They're a decadent mix of pork and beans, brown sugar, cane syrup, traffic light peppers, half the spice rack, some secrets from the other cabinets...and lots of love. They simmer on the stove top for hours and then sit some more until dinner time. They turn into the most fabulous concoction of culinary delight I have ever eaten.

So, if you haven't already cleaned off the grill for the season, I suggest you do so as soon as possible. Many of the grocery stores have great prices on meat right now, so the possibilities are endless! Let me know what you come up with.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hope - Part 1

Society tells us that hope, wish and dream are all interchangeable words. Little girls are taught to dream about their future mate, wish for the perfect career and hope for all the good things in life.

Each of those well-meaning practices take salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ out of the picture. All of the future is left to chance and good intentions, regardless of heart condition.

True hope, Christian hope, has two simple components - the good and the future. The good is eternal life with Jesus. The future is for all eternity. This earthly world has nothing that compete with those two truths.

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:24-25

The circumstances of the day can be ruthless. Events beyond our control take their toll on our minds and hearts. People disappoint us, activities deplete us and situations discourage us.

But the Christian has hope. Today is not forever. This world is not our home. Our current state of affairs is not eternal. With those truths in mind we can look past the bleak present and see the bright future.

For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope. Acts 2:25-26

I cannot hope in people because human beings are imperfect.
I cannot hope in government because nations, republics and democracies fail.
I cannot hope in circumstances because situations change.

I can hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ.
I can hope in spending eternity with my Lord and Saviour.
I can hope in joy unspeakable.

We serve a living God Who has made promises that we can hope in. He has never failed nor forsaken us, and that brings hope for the future. He has given us examples of His grace and mercy every day, and they bring us hope.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Use Your Time WISELY

It feels like I've been cramming more and more into each day lately. I love every single project that I'm working on, but if there were 26 hours in every day it would be a little easier. Now don't tell me you can't relate!

So what would happen if we looked at the way we use our time through God's eyes instead of our human reasoning. The Bible is very clear about the wisdom needed to be successful in our lives - it's God's wisdom. He has the best plans for

W: With Wisdom.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are in vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours. (1 Corinthians 3:19-21)

We can decide as individual women what our schedule will be for the day, week or month. This is the privilege of free will. However, if we want the most out of life and those things that are for our greater good, we'll talk to God about what He wants.

There are so many options for activities, work, hobbies, fellowship and relaxation that we can easily get overwhelmed and make selfish choices. The only sure way to plan and live your life is to start the day in prayer and find out exactly what the Lord has planned for your time.

I: Intently.
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 I shall not be ashamed. (Isaiah 50:7)

When we've devoted our lives, time and energy to the Lord and His will, we have to then set our face as a flint, setting out to do what He would have us do, never wavering. Many things will happen in the upcoming week that will challenge that resolution, but with God's strength we can accomplish anything.

So whatever comes up in your schedule this week, remember that this is the way the Lord has planned it, and then resolve to follow through with all your heart. Intensity can be a great virtue with all the bombardments from the world.

S: Steadfastly.
When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left off speaking to her. (Ruth 1:18)

I'll be the first to admit that I'm easily distracted. While doing something in one room, I suddenly remember something else elsewhere. So I go start to take care of that, and then I'll think of something else that can be done quickly. Soon I have a handful of partially-completed projects and nothing to show for them.

It is with a steadfast heart that we accomplish God's will for our lives. The desire to be pleasing and honoring to Him keeps us focused and progressing through the day. It is a conscious decision to put the things of God first, but the benefits outweigh any rewards we could try to give ourselves.

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

It would be so easy to plan our day around the fun stuff - eating, crafting, reading, talking on the phone and playing on the computer. But those are all the human responses to seeing a whole day spread before us.

Scripture says that whatever we choose to do, it should always bring glory to God. Every activity we plan, every chore we take on and every errand we run has to be part of God's plan or we'll never get the most out of our time. It's time to take ourselves out of the equation and give our all to the things that honor the Lord.

L: Looking.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. (Luke 10:33)

Even after we've prayed and scheduled and planned, we can still get thrown for a loop during the day. Emergencies happen, accidents happen and the layout of the day has to change completely. A flexible woman can handle this easily, but some of us turn change into anxiety.

But just like us, the Samaritan wasn't looking for a beaten man in the middle of the road. It may have been a strain on his schedule and a change in his plan, but he was placed where he was for a reason. We should be looking just as closely for ways that we can help and encourage regardless of what it does to our precious schedule.

Y: Yearn.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. (1 Peter 2:2)

The number of things getting written into our planners for the week may be daunting already. There is much to do and often little time to do it in. But the most important things we can do this week is yearn - yearn for time with God in prayer, yearn for wisdom from our Bible study and yearn for direction in our daily living.

While this isn't something that can be penciled in for each day, it is a way to spend our time diligently seeking God's voice. Yes, things have to be done and many others will come up as each day passes, but the joy of the Lord comes while we're yearning for His presence.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lost In Translation

Have you ever had those moments when you knew your cat or dog was trying to tell you something, but you just weren't quite sure what? Chances are you know the big things like, May I go outside NOW please? And, Are you sure you don't want to put food in my bowl NOW?

But what about these, more obscure questions and statements? Have you ever seen these before?
What's next Mommy? I'm all ears!

The pounce is coming in 3...2...1...

People food, Schmeople food. I'm cute enough to share with!

Best hiding place ever! Sort of.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Technologically-Advanced Tithe

This one blew me away.

There is a new Iphone app that allows you to pay your tithe directly from your fancy phone.

MyTithe ( allows churches to register on their website, then accept payment from church members through their MyTithe app. When an individual signs up they are given a merchant account that does an electronic transfer between church-goer and church.

The best part was this comment on their website - No more lost givings on Sundays when members are out!

I have no idea what the heart condition is of the woman who created this app. (I did read an article that gave a woman credit for its creation.) But it seems to me that she was more concerned about making money of her own than helping grow someone else's Christian walk.

If I'm not planning to go to church on Sunday, I'm probably not too concerned about getting my money there, either. If I don't have consistent church attendance, I probably don't have consistent giving. An app on my Iphone probably won't prove my devotion to my church, my pastor or my sisters in Christ.

On the other hand, both my attendance and my commitment to tithing are contracts with the Lord. The "convenience" of electronically transferring money doesn't mean a thing to God if my heart attitude isn't right. The point isn't that we'd be saving tithe envelopes from ending up in the landfill or that we're suddenly able to give on-the-go. The point is that giving my tithe directly into the collection plate means that I am physically there and hearing God's Word from God's man.

Call me old fashioned, but this rubs me the wrong way. I believe that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but I also believe that He loves obedience and my presence even more.

So for the moment, my church treasurer will have to keep watching our tithe envelope go in the trash can. Sorry Bro. Steve!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Little Dippin' Chocolate

For the baby shower last weekend I made these beautiful chocolate spoons for a special treat. The best part was how easy and inexpensive they were to make, and they can be customized for whatever your celebration or event.

Dipping chocolate (either microwavable or for a double-boiler)
Decorations as desired

1. Prepare chocolate as directed. If you have time and patience, you can melt chocolate in a double boiler or glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. If you'd rather have the luxury of speed and convenience, use the microwavable kind.

2. Dip spoon in melted chocolate up to the small part of the handle. Make sure you cover the entire back, too.

3. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes or until solid.

4. Decorate as desired. I piped melted white chocolate in swirls and shook colored sprinkles over it before it dried. Experiment with what works for you and what fits your theme.

5. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes or until solid.