Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DIY Outdoor Lighting

In the heat of June, the only time you can comfortably sit outside is after the sun goes down. By that time, you need a little mood lighting. This easy, pretty outdoor candle holder can help illuminate the evening in the perfect way.



You'll need:
glass jars of multiple shapes and sizes
chain, twine or other rope strong enough to hang on
small candles
rocks, shells or other tiny bits for decoration

Choose your favorite style of jar and tuck a votive candle into your rocks or shells. Tie your hanger tightly around the mouth of the jar. Stagger them around your sitting area and light up the night.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming Back In A Cloud

South Carolina has been knocked around by thunderstorms over the past few days. For someone who loves storms (like me!), it's been a fantastic week.

The beautiful part of sky-watching during the storms has been the cloud formations. This one came over our house after church Sunday night. We had been hearing thunder all through our revival meeting, and there was even a rainbow over the fellowship building after the service.

When I see clouds like these, I always think about the rapture of the church. We read in the book of Acts how Jesus Christ returned to Heaven in the clouds.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Acts 1:9

Picture men standing there, gazing up at the sky and looking into the clouds. I've always wondered if it was just one cloud in a bright blue sky, or if it was a sky full of dark clouds. This is the most precious part of the life of Christ, and He could have used any kind of cloud He wanted. Then came the angels describing His return.

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:10-11

Can you imagine watching the Lord ascend into Heaven on a cloud and being told He will return the same way? For this very reason cloud formations like the one Sunday night get my heart racing. Could this be the cloud? Could Christ Himself be on one like that? Will He use the big, fluffy, white type or the angry dark ones? The excitement builds when we think about getting to share that glorious ride.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Though we don't know the day or the hour, we can enjoy the anticipation of being caught up in the clouds. When Christ returns we will get to meet Him in the air, perhaps on one of those clouds in the sky right now. Until that time arrives we won't know for sure, but it's such a joy to think about sharing a cloud with the Lord.

So, is it a cloudy day where you are? Today might be the day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lessons Learned From My Lists

I'm the first to admit it - I'm addicted to paper. I love notebooks, scrapbooking paper drives me crazy and I'd rather get a note in the mail than an e-mail any day. I even have the sweetest friend - she'll give me yellow notepads as gifts! How sweet is that!

My favorite use for paper, though, is my list. I have lists of everything: what I have to do today, where things are, plans for the future, ideas I have. I even have lists of my lists...how silly is that?

Seriously, there are lots of great benefits to being a list-maker. The best one in my opinion is being able to use my list to overcome my failing memory. At my age I shouldn't be having senior moments yet, but I am. When I have my list handy I don't have to worry about forgetting something super-important. When I have it written down in black and white, I can actually tackle the things on the list and not waste time thinking about what I should be doing.

Do you have a notepad next to the bed? One of the worst things we women can do is lay awake at night going over and over and over things instead of sleeping. When I have paper handy, I can do a quick brain-dump while I'm thinking about it (and most times I do mean quick), and then it's recorded and I don't have to keep rehearsing it. How much deeper could your sleep be if you could stop thinking?

It's also a blessing to have different notebooks for different lists. I have separate ones for household chores, daily activities that need to be accomplished, honey-do lists and things I'd like to see us accomplish over the next few weeks. Several lists may not work for you - you might want one master notebook with different sheets of paper. It's not about following one plan, but making a list system that works for you and your family.

My favorite list of all time is my grocery list. I have a word document on the computer separated just like the store is laid out. I can print it out each week and post it on the refrigerator, marking everything I need each day. This makes figuring out meals and refilling staples so much easier. There's also plenty of room to mark whether I have coupons and what's on sale. Adding to this list daily saves me from be out of an ingredient in the middle of cooking.

What kind of lists do you use? Would creating some new ones make your life easier? Would you worry less? Get your thoughts down on paper and you'll see what a blessing paper can be!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

While You Were Waiting

Last week I found myself waiting: at the post office, at the library, for Danny at a restaurant, for everyone to gather for prayer room on Wednesday night. We're all put in situations every day that we have to practice patience, and I don't remember praying for patience!

So what can we do to make good use of our time while we're waiting patiently?

1. Read the literature around you. This is an especially great idea if you're waiting in the doctor's office, but also works at restaurants and in the car. Just try to keep from reading what's around you while you're waiting in line at the checkout counter: there's too much there you don't need to read.

2. Make a list. Jot down some ideas for dinner, a surprise gift for your husband or those book titles you've been wanting to read.

3. Write a note. If it's going to be a few minutes before you get in to see the doctor or you're early for church, write a quick note of encouragement for a loved one. Always carry a little stationery in your bag for just such an occasion.

4. Power up your brain. Do a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku. You can keep your mind active and still be aware of what's going on around you.

5. Memorize Scripture. Carry a small Bible or memory verse book with you when you're out and about. Focus on your favorite passages or learn a whole section like the Proverbs 31 woman. (Check out my post from Wednesday, June 9, for an example.)

6. Sit back and people-watch. This can be one of the most fascinating ways to pass the time. You can learn a lot about strangers just by watching their everyday behavior. It may also convict your own heart about some of the things you do and say.

7. Witness. If you've got tracts in your pocketbook, offer one to someone else who has to wait, too. Be prepared if someone asks you about your memory verse book. Ask the person behind you if they have a church home, then offer yours. If you're desperately shy, be on the lookout for places to leave tracts and pamphlets about your church. We have no idea who might pick one up - God can work through the tiniest of efforts.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Help Your Dogs Be Cool

Our thermometer said 100 degrees several times this week. The air conditioner has been having a hard time keeping up, especially with dogs laying in front of the air vents. It's been hard enough for the humans of the house to keep cool, so it's twice as hard for your pets.

It's time to make some effort to keep our dogs just as cool and comfortable as we are. They'll thank you for it...trust me!

* Fight dehydration. Water is just as important to our four-legged family members as it is to the two-legged ones. Make sure their bowls are always full of fresh water, and place them in convenient places. If they're outdoor dogs, change the water often since you have no idea what might have gotten in there.

* Time your exercise. Plan on going for a walk first thing in the morning or as late in the day as possible. This important for two reasons: first to be out during the coolest times of day, and second to keep puppy feet off the hot asphalt. Imagine if you had to walk around barefoot on hot coals...

* Bring 'em in! One of my biggest pet peeves (pun completely intended) is leaving pets outside during the heat of the day. I understand there are certain situations where they need to be out, but I can't stand seeing animals miserable in the steam of summer. If it's possible to have them inside, please do so! It can prevent health problems as well as give you some extra bonding time.

* No parking. Never, ever, ever leave dogs in a parked car for any length of time. I had Cay at the vet the other day, and contemplated stopping to do a quick errand. It would have taken three minutes, but I decided that would be dangerous to her. It was approaching 100 degrees in the car that day, and if anything had happened in the store to delay me, it could have been disastrous. Instead I ran her home quickly and then went back out. It might have been a few minutes out of the way, but I love her enough to make a sacrifice.

* Have a pool party. Get a kiddie pool and fill it with cool water. Then let them have at it! This a great way for your dogs to cool off and get some energy out. Never, ever leave dogs unattended around a pool, even if it's shallow. Some dogs aren't great swimmers, and you never know what might happen.

* Give a good grooming. All dogs have different grooming needs, but it's even more important when the temperature sky-rockets. If you can, have her fur trimmed and combed out. Don't get it all cut off, though, or you'll be treating for sunburn, too. For other dogs, a great combing will get out that second layer of hair that keeps in so much heat. They'll feel much more comfortable with their summer hair-do's.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stewardship - Thanks Be To God

God has significantly blessed our family financially. My husband has a wonderful job to go to every day that provides our home with all its needs. I have two wonderful businesses that give us a little extra help along the way. We don't have an abundance of money, but what we do have we thank the Lord for constantly.

I think we can all agree that God supplies our needs - all the time and exactly when we need them. Not a day goes by that I don't see one more instance of His many blessings on my life and those around me. Finances are a huge part of that, because I think God understands better than anyone how money makes the world go 'round.

With that in mind: How are you spending your money? If my God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and a wealth in every mine, how am I using what He has blessed me with? Yes, we've worked for that money, but God provided us with a job, our husbands with jobs and our bosses with good enough financial skills to pay us on time. Everything that we receive in the form of payment for our time and effort comes from the Lord.

We have never gone hungry, we have clothing and a roof over our heads, and there's enough left over to put gas in the car. With just those needs covered financially, we have more than enough to sing God's praise. We owe Him everything for sending His Son to die on the cross, and we dedicate our lives to His service because of how He supports us eternally.

And our stewardship of His money is our thanks to Him for His faithfulness. He doesn't have to send my husband home with a paycheck every two weeks. He doesn't have to send people to my website to buy cards. He doesn't have to provide me with piano students. But He does. And to show my gratitude, I want to be the best steward of His money that I can be.

That means trying to live frugally and make every dollar count. It means paying our tithe regularly and giving to missions and other offerings. It means saving and planning ahead so we don't get into financial strain down the road. It means using God's standards and commandments as guidelines to structure our finances.

Putting God first, even when we're talking about money, is our way of thanking Him for giving us any money to be talking about in the first place. We are so blessed to have just wheat we need, when we need it, and anything else He decides to give us is just the icing on the cake.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Different Presentation

Five years ago I couldn't have told you a thing about cast-iron. Lodge was somewhere you went to get off the slopes. To say nothing about washing them with soap (gasp) and water. Times have changed, sweetheart.
Today I won't use any other skillet but our cast-irons. They make a difference - in cook time, in heat distribution, and most importantly in taste! You can tell when something's been cooked in a well-seasoned iron skillet. (And no, that doesn't mean covering it in salt and pepper!)

It was a great day when we discovered the Lodge store at Myrtle Beach. I had never been in one until a couple of years ago, but now that stop is the highlight of our visits. Forget the sand and surf...give me skillets, muffin pans and dutch ovens!
On our last visit I found this adorable mini muffin pan and had to make it mine. It uses almost one whole muffin mix to make these six perfect little mini-muffins. This is great for some special presentation - one tiny muffin for six people, or six muffins for just you!

The best part of having kitchen equipment like this is that you can break out of the mold and do something completely different. I don't always make teeny tiny little corn muffins, but you have to admit they make a precious presentation. There are all kinds of pans, tools and dishes out there that can make an ordinary dinner special just because you feel like it.

I encourage you to break tradition this week and think outside the muffin mix box. You may stumble across a new favorite!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Accordion Mini-Album - Music To My Ears

I'm always looking for great, simple ideas to use up my leftover scraps. I have tons of little pieces that won't really work in a card or scrapbook page, and if you're a paper crafter you do too!

This tiny album (it only measures 3.75 inches square) is a fantastic way to put those scraps to good use. It's perfect for a brag book to tuck in your purse or for a last-minute gift.


1. Cut two 3x9 inch strips of paper. Score in thirds (every three inches).









2. Fold in alternating directions to create accordion. Tape the two opposite ends together so you have one long accordion.









3. Cut base for the accordion out of decorator paper, measuring 3.5 inches square. Then cut a base for the piece 3.75 inches square out of the same paper you made the accordion from.





4. Adhere accordion to the first base. Mark a dot on either side of the accordion and punch a tiny hole. Thread your fiber through and tie a bow on top. Adhere the bottom layer to the back.






5. Decorate the pages as desired. Choose your favorite Scriptures, poem or turn it into an album with several photos. Don't use embellishments that are too thick or it won't tie together very well.

This album and many other paper crafts are available for purchase on my etsy website - http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In The Rumble Of The Thunder

On Friday afternoon, a wild and woolly storm broke loose. The lightning was so bright and the thunder rumbled loudly enough to rattle the window frames. I knew it was bad because my Bailey dog wouldn't go outside with me, and she's my storm watcher.

And then the rain fell.

It didn't just fall, it cascaded. The clouds let go and we were enveloped in a desperately-needed downpour. The drops were so close together that they blocked out the view to the other side of the street. It was the best afternoon I've had in ages!

And all the while, the thunder boomed.

The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Psalm 77:18

God's voice is often described in Scripture as rolling thunder. There is such power in it that you can feel it clear through to your core. The Lord is constantly speaking to us, and we have to take the time to listen. Sometimes He can be that still small voice, but other times He has to get through our thick skulls with His thunder.

Then on Sunday afternoon, right at the time we were all headed back for evening services, the rumble of thunder was in the distance again. As I drove the 20 minutes from our house to the church, the rain started. It got harder and louder as I drove straight into the storm. Cars were stopped all along the sides of the highway because there was next to no visibility. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, the car was rocking back and forth from the rain and rattling from the thunder.

When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Jeremiah 10:13

I absolutely adore rain, and this thunderstorm was no different. (Although it would have better if I'd been inside watching it and not driving 12 miles in it.) When you're in a vehicle in the rain, you can't hear anything but the storm. The thunder gets amplified and the showers drown out the world around you.

If only we could jump in the car in a storm every time we needed to hear from God. Then everything around us would be blocked out and we could truly listen and focus. The thunder of God's voice has to cut through all the junk in our heads, so it has to rattle us on occasion.

So enjoy the next storm: relax and listen to the thunder for the leadership of the Lord.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Four Things To Do Daily

Before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the week, I'd like for us to seriously talk about budgeting our time. A lot of things are going to happen in the next seven days - some will be planned and others will take us by surprise. That's just the way life works, because that is how God uses time to grow us into mature Christians.

For these next seven days, I challenge you to find time to do each of these four things. None of them will take more than a couple of minutes, but God can use that sacrifice of time to do great and mighty things in your life and the lives of others.

1. Tell someone you love them. And not just somebody that you share this phrase with all of the time. Look for someone who truly needs to have the love that God has placed inside you spilled over onto them. Don't be fake, or secretive, or showy, or hasty. Simply give them the words they need to hear.

2. Write someone a note of encouragement. We all know people who are really going through it - financially, emotionally, health-wise, spiritually. Taking five minutes out of our day to lift someone else up may be just the boost they need to make it through another trial. Write an e-mail, make a card or send a text. Let them know there are at least two somebodies who care - you and the Lord.

3. Do something that will make someone laugh. I don't think there's nearly enough laughter in the world today, and what little bit there is has been distorted and perverted. Counteract all that filth by sharing a good, holy, precious laugh with someone who may not have even smiled in a very long time.

4. Share your faith with one someone. Leave a tract. Leave a comment on someone's website. Leave a lasting impression by telling someone about the God you serve. You may be the only way some people ever hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and sharing your testimony is a quick, simple way to share God's love with a lost and dying world.

Four little things that will take just a few minutes of your precious time today - but what a difference those minutes might make in someone's heart.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Long Nap On A Summer's Day

In the crazy-hot weather of South Carolina in June, there not much better to do than take a nap. We're professionals nappers around here, and everybody usually ends up congregating in the same room.

Just this week all four of us were in the craft room while Danny was at work. The air conditioner can't always keep up with the outside temperature, so everyone gravitated to the coolest room in the house - how smart are we?

Sadie will always curl up under whichever chair I'm in, regardless of how uncomfortable she might be or how balled up she has to be. As long as she's a close to me as she can be, she's happy napping wherever she ends up. She's my heart - my unconditional love.

Cayenne sleeps anywhere that's comfy and smooshy. On this particular day I kicked her out of my computer chair (simply because I wanted to sit in it!) and she made her way up to the back of the futon. I crocheted those throws out of chenille yarn, so they are perfect for winter cuddling - or summer naps apparently.

My Bailey dog is my protector - she never really goes all the way to sleep because she's constantly listening. But she'll follow me from room to room just to be close. I can't be out of sight for more than a minute or two, so she'll move just enough to have me in sight. As long as we're all tucked in cozy, Bailey can relax.

A long nap on a summer's afternoon can be such precious time, but even more so when spent with those you love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Temptations Turn To Fickle Finances

Everything in this world requires money. We need money to cover our daily living expenses, prepare for the future or free ourselves from debt. And unfortunately we often plan our finances month by month or paycheck by paycheck, just surviving rather than getting ahead. We can struggle financially or we can be victorious in this aspect of our life.

Setting ourselves up for success can be a challenge - we take on new ways of thinking about money, we pray and read about what the Bible says about our money, and we step forward into new actions and responsibilities.

So what happens when we finally get settled into our new fiscal decisions? Temptation. I've been cracking down on extra spending for weeks now and thought I had a pretty good handle on it. Then came...the post card. A coupon for a really great discount at my favorite clothing store innocently found its way into our mailbox.

Now normally I would have been there before the week was out, whether we could afford it or not. How can you pass up a really great deal on something you're planning on buying anyway? Sounds pretty fiscally responsible to me!

But this time, I had already decided that I have plenty of great clothes and we need that money for other things right now. I have prayerfully decided to be more structured in my spending, which doesn't include new skirts on a whim or chocolate at the checkout counter. Impulse buys are my particular temptation, and I'm learning to work around them, avoid them, or beat them into a pulp, whichever is necessary.

What are your financial temptations? Are they impulse buys or going over on your phone minutes every month? Do you rack up bills on your credit card or do you shop for entertainment? Maybe you've told yourself that a little spending here and there won't hurt anything, when in reality it's breaking the bank.

Scripture tells us that for every temptation we face in life, God gives us a means of escape. That may be as simple as tearing up a coupon, like I did this week. The shopping would have been great and I would have brought a couple of new pieces home with me, but how important would those experiences have been compared to reaching our financial goals a little sooner.

Denying myself the chance to overdraw our bank account doesn't seem like a toughie to me. But there are other times when financial temptation can be overwhelming. My husband and I hate to tell each other that we can't afford something, because we despise hurting each other's feelings. But we're in the new mindset that our financial stability is more important right now. That's the means of escape for us personally for this particular temptation.

What do you have planned for the future? You'll probably need money to accomplish those goals, and temptation can strike at any moment. Be strong, surround yourself with comforting Scripture, and know that the Christ living inside you is stronger than any force out in the world. Rely on Him to set your budget, give you clarity of thought when it comes to money and direct you to the proper ways to spend what He has already blessed you with. As a team, you and your family can resist financial temptation and live a victorious life the way God has planned.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

National Eat Your Vegetables Day

Believe it or not, today really is National Eat Your Vegetables Day. I would imagine that most of us aren't doing so on a regular basis, so here are some ways you can participate today.

* Throw some veggies on the grill for added flavor.

* Put together a giant salad and make that dinner for the evening.

* Try one vegetable you've never had before, or one you thought you hated as a kid.

* Have some vegetable wontons instead of the usual pork for some variety.

* Make a stir fry with lots of fresh veggies.

* Bake some zucchini bread - that's still vegetables!

* Pull out some old recipes - my grandmother used to make Scalloped Corn for all our special events. I haven't had it since she passed away because no one can find the recipe. If you have favorites, use them, keep them and pass them down.

* Browse the produce section for recipe and idea cards. Match them up with what's on sale.

* Mix frozen veggies into you rice while it's cooking. Just use a little less liquid for boiling and you'll have a special rice mixture.

* Blend up a fruit and vegetable smoothie and get twice the health benefits.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Decorating For Next To Nothing

It has been blazing hot around here lately - I'm sure you know the feeling. Even sitting on the couch can make you feel sticky when it's this warm. If you look around the house, you'll probably find all sorts of cool-weather decorations around and about.

Did you realize that you can change the feel of your home, literally and figuratively, by thinking cool? And you don't have to spend much at all to do it...bonus! Wander through each room of your home and see where you can find ways to lighten up and cool things off.

Kitchen:
* Update your dishes with something light-colored or clear.
* Clear off your counters and clean thoroughly, replacing only the essentials.
* Replace anything dark and heavy with light, airy pieces.
* Clean cabinets and give them a fresh coat of paint or finish.
* Set out a bowl of summer fruit for snacking.

Living Room:
* If you can afford it, replace dark paneling with light-colored paint. If you can't remove it, try painting it.
* Cover your dark, heavy furniture with light, soft slip covers.
* Change out your heavy drapes for wispy curtains.
* Bring in some inexpensive foliage for easy house plants.

Bathroom:
* Choose a pretty summer theme like shells or the beach.
* Switch out the towels, choosing something in light shades.
* Put out some light, pretty scents in the form of candles or infusers.

Bedroom:
* Exchange your winter comforters for summer quilts.
* Trade out the linens for something in whites or pastels.
* Put out pillows and lamp shades in lighter colors and patterns.
* Flowers, flowers, everywhere!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God Knows

I absolutely adore flying in an airplane. There's something special about being up in the clouds, a little closer to Heaven than when both feet are on the ground. And knowing that the Lord could come back in any one of those clouds at any moment is a comforting thought.

It's so amazing to watch the ground get smaller after take-off and see miniature communities out the window. The best part of the flight was after the sun set. All the porch lights came on and there were thousands of head lights from the little cars.

That's when it starts to set in - God knows the hearts of every single person in every one of those houses. He knows the life of everyone driving those cars. We must have flown over hundreds of different cities packed with people - people that I will probably never meet, sit down and talk with, or ever get to know.

But God knows. He knows every tiny detail of their lives. He knows if they're saved, all about their families and where they are in their walk with Him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11

That expected end is one of a future and a hope. God has already intertwined our hearts and our lives together in a way to honor and glorify Himself. We just have to be willing to accept whatever circumstances come across our paths.

The Lord may have already decided to let me meet one of those people we flew over the other day. I might have a wonderful friendship with a woman whose porch light was on, or I might never see any of them until we get to Heaven. Only God knows how our separate roads will be traveled.

The miracle is that while God is working in the lives of all those millions of people that I've never met, He's also working in mine. That''s the beauty of an omnipotent, omniscient God. He may be working miracles in the lives of women all around the world, but He still knows my name, the condition of my heart, the number of hairs on my head and the needs in my life.

God knows me. And He knows you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Rearview Mirror

A couple of years ago we were read-ended by an 18-wheeler. Traffic on the Interstate was slowed to a crawl and the truck driver couldn't get stopped quickly enough. We were bumped hard enough to get some whip lash and the back end of the car was crushed pretty good.

The worst part of the whole situation was that I saw it coming. I was looking in the rear view mirror and saw the truck barreling down on us. I even braced myself for the impact because I knew that "objects closer than they appear" were already too close for comfort.

That few minutes in time years ago still affect me. You'd think I'd be over it by now, but other drivers still scare me. Just last week an SUV came up behind me much too quickly and my fingers started to tingle...the first sign of my nerves. He was zooming up in the rear view mirror, and I had a flashback to that 18-wheeler. This driver had no idea of what I had experienced in the past, because he was just trying to get to Point B.

How many times have we been like that SUV driver, just looking out for self and trying to get from Point A? We have no idea of the stories, worries or concerns of the drivers around us. This man eventually zipped around me, probably not even thinking about that woman tightly gripping the steering wheel, praying that everything would be alright.

As we pilot our vehicles this coming week, let's allow the Lord to pilot our driving etiquette. We have no clue what's happening in the minds of those other drivers around us, but we can be in control of our own. When we're conscious of safe distances, turn signals and speed, we can make driving a pleasant experience again. Imagine if every Christian woman across the country suddenly began to drive the way we were taught in Driver's Education! We could have a safer, enjoyable journey every time we leave the house - and some of us wouldn't be so nervous every time we see a vehicle in the rear view mirror.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is Time Apart A Good Thing?

Danny and I spent almost all day yesterday apart. Not that we were upset or anything...we just went our separate ways for the day. I had errands to run and he had chores around the yard to take care of. After lunch Danny headed to his woodworking shop and I went to the craft room. As far as I can tell we both had a fabulous day and ended it together watching movies.

His work schedule is really taxing - he works eight days in a row and then gets a 3-day weekend, works two days and has one more day off. Then it starts all over again. It works really well for the company, but can make it difficult for me to schedule time with my husband.

I used to think that every waking moment of that 3-day weekend needed to be spent together. I felt like I was missing out on Danny's time during that long week, so I deserved to make up for it. There were several weekends that I was severely disappointed because he just wanted to nap and watch television and recover from those long days at the funeral home. All I was thinking about was reconnecting and spending as much time together as humanly possible.

However, we are two completely different people. We love many of the same things but there are times we need to be able to pursue separate passions. For example: I am not particularly fond of the sawdust and noises in the garage, but that is where Danny's creativity flourishes. On the other hand, decorating paper with stickers and stamps isn't exactly Danny's cup of tea, while I can stay in there for hours preserving our memories and making cards.

So how important is time apart? Danny gets time to relax and rejuvenate while I get some extra time to work on my favorite projects. We can eat on our own schedules, get some fun things accomplished and still meet back up at the end of the day. And my favorite part are those little pecks on the cheek as he passes my chair.

Yes, my time with my husband is incredibly important and comes before everything except my time with God. But that time is worthless if we're in bitter frames of mind over it. The evening is fabulous when we've spent the day doing the things we love. Then we can truly make the most of our time because we haven't denied each other anything or forced anything. We can simply enjoy the relationship we've been blessed with - because we're allowing each other to be individuals in an incredible relationship.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Trip To Congaree

The girls have been bored. You can sense when they're not really interested in playing with their toys or walking around the backyard. You can almost hear them asking, Isn't there more than this?

So we found something to keep them from being bored yesterday. We are just minutes away from Congaree National Park near Hopkins, South Carolina. Danny has the weekend off so we packed the girls in the back seat and headed over. You can see how excited they were to be on the road!

The park has several trails of different lengths that are perfect for dog walking. Our girls are funny, though, because they have to walk side by side. If there's not room on the trail for that, they have a fit...I imagine because one doesn't want the other to see or smell things she can't. So funny!

Sadie has severe hip dysplasia in both back hips, so we really had to watch her workout. It was already almost 80 degrees by the time we stopped for lunch at 11 am, so she was letting us know it was quitting time. But she had so much fun and had to keep up with her sister.


The girls were definitely on sensory overload while walking the trail. Bailey is black lab/chow, but there are times like today when the lab takes over. She had to track anything and everything, and couldn't resist doing some puddle stomping. Sadie is exactly the opposite - she's not a big fan of the outdoors to begin with, and hates getting her paws wet. Our little princess.


By the end of the trail the girls were more than ready to call it a day. We pulled out our picnic lunch and they collapsed on the cool concrete of the picnic area. They got tons of water and a beautiful breeze while we ate. They just watched the other people walking through the park and seemed happy to get back in the car.
It was the perfect way to break up the monotony of our days, plus work our way to a really great afternoon nap!

Friday, June 11, 2010

To Spend Or Not To Spend...

I was given $20 this week. My first thought was, "Yeah! There's a sale at my favorite clothing store this weekend, so I can put this toward something I've been looking at!"

My second thought was, "Don't I have a closet full of clothes? Haven't I been concerned about finances lately?"

So that $20 is safely tucked away for another day. Maybe it will even have attracted some friends by then and they can all get spent together.

How do you decide when you'll spend money and when you'll save money? Are you thrifty in the face of financial opportunities or do you spend it as you get it? Do you have confidence in God's provision or do you feel like you need to prepare yourself for the financial times ahead?

As we've scrutinized our own finances to look for the ways the Lord would have us prosper, here are a few of the realizations we've come to.

* If you've already got one, don't get another one. I am the most guilty of this...I love scrapbooking supplies, cupcake cookbooks and journals. (You notice that they're all made of paper.) Even though I have many, many items in each of these categories, my eye (and my pocketbook) are drawn to new ones. By limiting myself and using up what I have before I add to my collections, I can save money and grow my imagination.

* Re-purpose what you already have. When I redecorated the house for summer, I was all set to buy a whole new set of accessories. Then I started pricing home decor and realized that would be impossible. I still want the house to be welcoming and inviting, so I started digging through what I already owned. I found a treasure trove of things I had forgotten I'd even owned - because I had tucked them out of the way. Out of sight, out of mind. If we'd all do a sweep of the closets, basement and attic, I'm sure we could all find things usable again.

* Think thrifty. If you do have to buy something new, don't immediately run to the regular stores. I always check the local thrift stores, the dollar store and the clearance sections when I'm making larger or special purchases. For expensive items, there are always times to haggle on price or use a buying service to find the best prices. If you know your budget, you'll always be aware of what your spending limits are.

* Ask yourself if you can live without it for a month. I am terrible about unplanned purchases. I may have a list, but if something catches my eye it will probably go into my cart. Recently I started a new line of thinking: I will put off this spur-of-the-moment purchase for a month, giving me time to save the money necessary for it. If I still want it four weeks later, and it's still available, I have enough saved to buy it and it's no longer an impulse buy. If I don't want it anymore, it's not available or there's something even better out now, I have the financial ability to get it. What looks good today may not be so important down the road, saving you from overspending and being disappointed.

* Question your priorities. There are many things in life that would be nice to own. There are several purchases that have to wait until we're further down the road financially. There have also been times when we bought things we wish we hadn't, because that money would be really useful right now. Is a bag full of your latest purchases worth more to you than getting out of debt? Is having fancy meals on the table every night more important than paying off your bills or paying your tithe check? We all have decisions to make about when and where we'll spend our money, but God's priorities come first. Listen to His desires for your time and money and trust that you'll always be satisfied with your spending practices.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Smoothie Move

When the temperatures skyrocket and the sun fries us every time we step outside, we start to crave something cold. While I love to turn to ice cream or lemonade, smoothies can be a healthy alternative for cooling off.

In addition to being incredibly versatile and easy to personalize, they take next to no time to make. And if you have a Magic Bullet or similar blender attachments, you can make individual smoothies in their own glasses.

If you think you've tried all the flavor combinations available, you'd be surprised. Pull out your blender and get smoothing!

Strawberry-Banana: banana, strawberries, OJ, plain yogurt

Melon: honeydew melon, frozen green grapes, lemon yogurt, mint, lemon juice to taste

Island: banana, peach yogurt, mixed-fruit juice

Fruit Salad: peach, banana, strawberries, evaporated milk, frozen OJ concentrate

Sparkling Fruit: assorted fruits, coordinating flavored yogurt, nutmeg, ginger ale

Sweet Fruit: assorted fruits, vanilla frozen yogurt, frozen apple juice concentrate, honey

Creamy Fruit: vanilla yogurt, skim milk, frozen mixed fruit, maple syrup

Add protein powder to any of these combinations for an instant meal replacement shake. Cool off and treat your body right.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Create A Scripture Memory Book

One of the ways I have decided to grow in my walk with the Lord is by memorizing more Scripture. I adore the verses about being ready in season and being accountable for what you know. I think memorization has a deeply important place in my Christian life.

So here is a great way for you to put some Scripture together for your own memory verse book. I used the Proverbs 21 Woman, my favorite section of Scripture in the entire Bible.

The book itself is made of chipboard, a sturdy material a little thicker than cardboard. I found these two books at Target for $1 each, but you can make your own if you'd like a different shape. They already came with a ring to hold them together, and you can use book rings in colors to coordinate if you'd like.

Using your favorite adhesive, cover each side of the chipboard pages with coordinating decorator paper. They can all be alike or you can alternate throughout the book.



Write or print out your Bible verses on coordinating paper and attach to each page. For my book I typed the Scripture into a word processing program, which let me adjust the font, size and color. Then I printed it out on coordinating paper and cut them out with the paper trimmer.


The cover can have all sorts of 3D embellishments like my paper flowers, but the inside pages can get easily torn and scratched if you put too much bulky stuff in there. Try using flat versions of those items (stamped images or regular stickers) on the inside pages. Keep the coordinating color schemes and objects.

Now as you flip through my Proverbs 31 book, you'll see the verses in order and that makes memorization much easier.

Try this with your life verse, your favorite verses or some that you'd love to have written on your heart. They're the perfect size for carrying with you everywhere you go, so you'll never have an excuse for not memorizing Scripture again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Temptation

Whether you've been saved for 6 minutes or 60 years, all Christian women face temptations in their daily lives. Each individual woman have some temptations that are easily to overcome and others that are terribly difficult to deal with. While we tend to think of sexual temptation first, many women battle laziness, gossip, depression and many varied sins of the flesh.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. James 1:12-14

Enduring temptation means getting beyond the lust of the flesh at that particular moment without giving in to it. This can be terribly difficult when we're bombarded with images, words and attitudes everywhere we go. Add in the "need" to satisfy a momentary desire and the brain gets overloaded.

There are hundreds of choices to make every day - will I follow what I know God would have me do, or will I stray off and fulfill some temptation in front of me? These decisions can weigh heavily when they affect not only ourselves but those around us.

But the Scriptures say that, despite our weak flesh, there are ways to overcome the temptation of the world.

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

God gives us the opportunity to turn our backs on the temptation and walk the other way. It shouldn't be any surprise when we're confronted by our weaknesses, but it takes a conscious effort to look for the way to escape that God has promised.

The greater good that the Lord has planned for us does not include our choosing to go against His commandments. Using His own Word as a weapon against temptation is one of the tools He has provided us in our daily walk. If you've been reading Scripture on a daily basis, you've already stored up hundreds of Scripture that fight the evil of temptation with the voice of truth.

We are never left to fend for ourselves - we serve a faithful God Who desires the very best out of our lives. What seems overwhelming to us isn't even a challenge to our Heavenly Father. Staying close to Him and drawing on His strength and power can give us the confidence we need, and the loyalty to Him, to turn away from those difficult temptations.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why I Love My Girls

Every pet owner has their own reasons for falling head-over-heels for their four-legged friends. Here are a few of mine.

* Unconditional love.

* Looking down and seeing an upside down puppy.

* Waking up to that slow and steady purr.

* Going for a jog around the block and seeing those smiles when we're done.

* Having a sounding board whenever I need it.

* No matter when I'm doing, I have to stop when a doggie toy gets dropped at my feet.

* Sitting on the porch together during a thunderstorm.


* That little sputter that comes before the purr.


* When the ears go up and the tail starts to wag.


* Knowing that no one will break in with that kind of barking going on.


* Having a tiny kitty head tucked under my chin while we cuddle.


* The joy of the pack, whatever mix it might be.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What A Bunch Of Money Can Get You

Did you ever think about what you might purchase if you had all the money you needed? Lord willing we will probably never be in that predicament, but it's interesting what's available if we had extra spending money. Would you buy any of these things? I found all of them in the most recent Sky Mall catalog while we were traveling this week.

* $299 - a hair laser that treats thinning hair through advanced technology.

* $99.95 - a telekinetic obstacle course, which lets you maneuver through using just your mind.

* $79.95 - a ceramic pet fountain that keeps a constant stream of clean water running for your cat or dog.

* $59.95 - the canine genealogy kit, designed to test your dog's DNA and identify the breeds, potential health risks and genetic profile in your pet.

* $109.95 - the traveling pet seat with a booster underneath so your dog can easily see out the windows while traveling.

* $895 - a re-creation of King Tut's Egyptian throne chair, hand-finished with authentic gold leaf.

* $995 - an 8-foot-tall resin giraffe garden sculpture

* $149.99 - a pen that both writes and records 4GB of video, letting you have an eyewitness in your pocket.

* And my personal favorite: $59.95 - the only underwater pogo stick, which for some reason my husband won't let me buy...hmph.

There are so many people and companies out there that just want your money. The Scriptures call us to be good stewards of however much or however little God blesses us with. While the underwater pogo stick seems tempting, I think I'll stick with the Lord's plan for my money instead.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Recipes From the Back Of The Box

It's truly been a struggle to find interesting recipes lately. Everything seems too complicated, has way too many ingredients or takes too much time. Talk about cooker's block!

Then, while cleaning out the cupboards, I happened to notice a recipe on the back of the stuffing box for a chicken bake. I already had all the ingredients on hand and all I had to do was mix it together and bake - perfect!

Immediately I started looking on all the grocery items I had to see if there were more ideas, and almost everything I had featured some kind of recipe, cooking tips or other ideas. It was like a treasure trove I didn't even know I had.

Here are just a few examples:

The back of the rice box:
* Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken
* Teriyaki Steak and Brown Rice Dinner
* Southwestern Chicken Skillet

The back of the pasta box:
* Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta Salad

The back of the instant potatoes box:
* Potato Soup
* Potatoes for Baby

The back of the baking mix box:
* Blueberry Muffins
* Banana Nut Bread
* Strawberry Shortcake

The back of the fish fry breading box:
* Crispy Southern Fried Vegetables

The back of the french fried onions container:
* Crunchy Onion Chicken
* Green Bean Casserole
* Crunchy Onion Pork Chops

The back of the marshmallow creme jar:
* Fantasy Fudge

The back of the bread crumbs box:
* Italian Chicken Breasts
* Zesty Lemon Pepper Fish

Plus many of the packages direct you to their website for more recipes and special offers. This can be a great way to get free recipes, coupons and ideas. So start browsing through your cupboards for some great new menus.