Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's A Hummingbird's Life

Early in the morning and in the evening hours, we are blessed to have four hummingbirds flock to our porch feeder. Apparently we have the sweetest nectar in the neighborhood because these tiny birds can be quite piggy with their food.

We have a bench on the porch beside this hook where the glass feeder hangs. We've spent many evening out there talking and watching the activity in the yards around us.

One evening recently we were just sitting quietly watching the sun set when Buzz, our favorite hummingbird, zoomed past the feeder. He had come for a taste and hadn't expected to find us there. A moment later he buzzed past again, scoping out the situation. He was quite thirsty and just wanted a moment to stop and drink.

We didn't want to keep Buzz from getting his evening meal, so we sat as still as we could. The girls were out with us, but they were half asleep at either end of the bench. After another minute Buzz came back, a little slower this time, but kept going around the corner of the house. Another minute and another fly-by.

This continued for several minutes, until finally he hovered near the feeder. His hunger was so desperate now that he was determined to get a drink. He flew to the nectar, then flew to look at us...then back to the feeder and back to us. He was judging the safety of the situation and weighing it against the desire to fill his belly.

Soon we rewarded with the sweetest moment. Buzz landed on the feeder, flapping his tiny wings, and gulped down a little nectar. He flew off for a moment, then returned and repeated the process several times. Then his fear was completely gone and he came and went without even looking at us. It was the most precious sight I have ever seen, and it's right on my front porch every day.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalm 34:8

Have the people sitting on the bench underneath your feeder kept you from getting the nourishment you need? Has God's Word taken a back seat because of your fear, apathy, temptation, peer pressure or personal choice? Does your desire to be fed from God overwhelm all your other senses?

The hunger for God's Word can get so desperate that you'll look past all those circumstantial things just to drink as deeply as you can. Just like my tiny feathered friend, you can drop your fears and get your fill straight from the hand of God. It may be the best meal you've had in a long time.

So now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go refill a couple of feeders...Buzz's and mine.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Finished Room

I took my own advice a couple of weeks ago. Remember when I challenged you to clean the entire house in one week? Hopefully you did a little bit, just to be a blessing to your home and your family. Well, I actually went the opposite direction and redid an entire room.

My craft room is my favorite room in the entire house. It's not a large room, but it's perfect for a few pieces of furniture and my scrapbooking supplies - what more do you need? Everything was still in the same place it was when we first moved in almost a year and a half ago. The layout of the room really didn't work for what I needed, so two weeks ago today I cleared everything out and started over.

There was still a ton of cat fur behind the furniture, so all of that got cleaned up and I dusted every surface I could find. (Needless to say my allergies put me in the bed for two days!) I emptied the closet and cleaned all those shelves and walls, and swept the carpet two or three times.

I had always imagined the futon in front of the window so it was the first thing you see when you walked in. I crocheted the blanket on the back and my mom made the puppy love pillow, so they are very special pieces. Plus they're soft and squishy and they make me happy.

The entertainment center went to the opposite corner so you can watch videos from the futon. We save money by only having television in one room of the house, so the craft room is limited to DVDs and VCR tapes. (Yes, I still have some.) When I'm up to my eyeballs in paper and stamps, I really just need some background noise.

The accessories in the room are super-duper special to me. The very first piece of art you see from the doorway is our Psalm 100 art. Danny is partial to it because of the trumpet and I love all of the books. Having Scripture in each room of the house is something I've been convicted of. I want God's Word everywhere I look. I also have gifts from my husband and my best friend from high school is prominent places. And now that it's almost fall, my favorite season, I pulled out my autumn decorations.

I also have my Boyds Bears and all of my paper crafting books in one central location now. There's enough floor space for my craft table in the middle of the room, so having all of my idea books and supplies close at hand is super-duper important. And having bears extolling the virtues of prayer and chocolate helps, too.

And the best part of the whole room is the closet. There's still some sorting and organizing to do to get everything back in here, but I'm so thrilled over this closet. I have several bags of paper lined up on one side, albums and chipboard on the other, and wheeled carts in the middle. The stacks are all organized by project, and one shelf has all of my receipts and post office paperwork. It's like breathing fresh air to know where everything is and be able to find it quickly when I need it. It saves so much time and frustration, and actually makes being creative a joy, not a hassle.

I hope this has been some inspiration for you to tackle something in your own home. It doesn't have to be an entire room - just clearing off a kitchen counter can breathe new life into your home. If you need some help or support, just ask. If you need prayer, just ask. You'll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when it's all said and done - trust me!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Have You Ever Been So Busy?

Have you ever been so busy that you realized at dinnertime that you hadn't been in God's Word yet?

Have you ever been so busy that God's plan for your life took a back seat to the things you felt just had to be done?

Have you ever been so busy that your own schedule became more important than what other people needed from you?

Have you ever been so busy that the purpose behind the things you were trying to accomplish got lost somewhere along the way?

Have you ever been so busy that crossing off items from your to-do list was more motivation than the joy of serving the Lord?

Have you ever been so busy that when friends and family checked in to see how you were you considered it an outside distraction from what needed to be done?

Have you ever been so busy that you became frustrated, discouraged and withdrawn?

If we don't stay in the perfect will of God for our life, our day and this very moment that we're living in, we will become that busy. Busy to the point of burn-out isn't healthy and it's not in God's plan.

The joy of a new day on the horizon is the opportunity to serve the Lord. Nothing on the calendar is more important or more timely than following God's instruction.

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

I encourage each of us, myself included, to take a look at that calendar or to-do list for the upcoming week. If we haven't prayed over it and asked the Lord for His guidance and direction in our every action, then now is the time. I don't want to spin my wheels doing anything that isn't God-approved and all for His glory.

Then we'll be busy doing the things that will last for all eternity, not creating more wood, hay and stubble.

I pray your time will glorify and honor God this week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The A B C's of Life...

...according to Bailey and Sadie, our two black labs. Apparently the world looks really great through the eyes of a puppy!

A...adoption. Rescuing a dog from the shelter is a great way to find a friend!
B...bones. Treats are the way to a puppy's heart!

C...captivating. Once a dog has your heart, you're hers forever.

D...devotion. Nobody loves you the way a dog does.

E...entertaining. Don't watch television - watch your dog!

F...family. There's nothing more important than the pack.

G...guardian. Who needs an alarm system with two barking dogs?

H...happiness. One wag of her tail or one lick of her tongue can change the course of the day.

I...inexplicable. There are some things dogs do that defy explanation. Don't even ask.

J...joyful. Very little affects the mood of a lab, except when the food runs out.

K...kindness. When you treat a dog kindly, she is always willing to show you kindness in return.

L...loving. Unconditional is a great word for it.

M...memories. How many of your special memories revolve around your pets?

N...napping. A cuddle and a power nap with the dog can fix anything.

O...outdoors. A few minutes of playtime is better than an hour on the treadmill.

P...playtime. Now? Yes, please.

Q...quiet time. Some of the best times of the day are those quiet moments cuddling on the floor with a puppy.

R...responsibility. There's more to keeping a dog than just playing and cuddling. Care and concern mean even more.

S...simplicity. Unlike most human beings, dogs don't add extra "stuff" to their lives. Maybe we should take the hint.

T...trouble. Maybe just a little...like chewing...stealing food...barking too much...but other than that...

U...ultimate. The ultimate in friendship, love, protection, companionship and devotion. That's a dog for you!

V...very cute. And you know that your dog is the cutest ever, right?

W...water. Whether you have an actual water dog or just a puppy that loves to wade, a trip to the creek, river or ocean can be the best trip ever!

X...extra special. With each little personality and each gift of love, friendship with a dog is priceless.

Y...yard. The back yard is a favorite place to play, explore and sniff.

Z...zeal. Dogs don't do anything half-way, whether it's loving their humans or chewing through a rawhide bone. That's what makes them steal our hearts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Create An Emergency Fund

Do you know what's going to happen tomorrow? I sure don't. The day could be filled with wonderful experiences, or the Lord may decide to allow trials and tribulations into our lives. Since God is the only one who knows what the future holds, it's upon us to prepare for any circumstance.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8

If you or a member of your family had an accident tomorrow, would you have enough money set aside to cover medical expenses, groceries and utilities for a short period of time? What if ---

Look at the ant tucking away food for the winter and you'll see exactly what we're called to do with the money God has provided for us. She gathers while it's plentiful so that it will be available in the time of need. She's looking ahead instead of fulfilling the lusts of the moment.

If we did that with our money, we would be able to buy what we need with cash, avoid using credit and make better choices in emergency situations. Imagine having that kind of spending freedom. Does it seem out of reach?

We often don't put any money into savings because we think the little bit we have to spare won't add up. If you received a paycheck every two weeks and put just $5 into saving from each of those pay periods, you would have $130 at the end of the year. You probably wouldn't miss it from your monthly budget, and you would have a cushion if finances got tight.

An emergency situation is frustrating enough without worrying about having money to cover your immediate needs. God will always provide what we need for the circumstances, but He also gives us the means to look to the future. Wouldn't you rather be a good steward of God's money by planning ahead than force your family to go into debt in an already trying time?

Sit down with your husband and pray about how much you can afford to put into a savings plan each paycheck. Once you have a plan, stick with it! That amount, whatever size it might be, can make a huge impact on your financial future.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

This is one of those recipes that is wonderful on its own - it's an old standby that has been a staple for years. But in the old Betty Crocker cookbook that my grandmother gave me when I was in junior high, it's simply Peanut Butter Cookies.

Sometimes, though, you just need a little something extra. I was craving these cookies recently and Danny said, Why don't you put chocolate chips in them?

I was scared to death. Not of the chocolate by any means, but of altering a recipe. I don't normally adjust anything because I assume the writer/cook/baker knows what they're talking about. What if I do something different and they come out hard as a rock? Or they aren't sweet and chewy like I think they should be?

Well, I got way out of my comfort zone (don't laugh...you may need to some day, too) and altered the recipe. They were absolutely amazing! So I just had to share my version of this recipe with you. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used Smucker's All Natural)
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 package miniature chocolate chips

1. Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with the back of a fork to create crisscross pattern.

3. Bake 9-10 minutes, until tops are light brown. Cool two minutes, then remove from cookie sheet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Christmas In August

It's almost 90 degrees outside as I write these words, but it's Christmas around our house this week!

Yes, on August 24 I began making Christmas cards, ornaments and gift wrap. I'm wearing a short-sleeved blouse, and I'm pulling out all my snowflake stamps. It may seem odd, but I needed to start putting Christmas items in my etsy shop as quickly as possible.

It's actually been a blessing to my heart to read the Scripture about the birth of our Lord this week. It seems like longer than 8 months since Christmas, and apparently I really needed it. I know a church that celebrates Christmas in July - a special service halfway between Christmases. They sing Christmas carols and hymns, and hear preaching about the day our Savior came to earth.

Can we ever hear the Christmas story too often? Christ the Lord came to take the sin of the world upon Him and invite each person to come unto Him. Stamping a nativity scene or embossing Scripture reinforce that in my heart.

So come visit my shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/. We're celebrating Christmas already - maybe it's just what your heart needs, too. All of the items pictured here are available for purchase and more are coming every day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Contentions of the Contentious

The days we have rain are my favorite times ever. I know there are many places around the country that are battling floods right now, but I love everything about a rainy day.

Rain drops on the roof is my favorite sound ever - second only to my husband's voice. There's something about that pitter-patter than soothes me completely.

A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping. Proverbs 19:13

But when that pitter-patter of comfort becomes the constant annoyance of a woman's voice, the Lord tells us that we've crossed the line. While the rain drops relax and calm the soul, picture our words more like a torrential downpour on a leaky roof. There's nowhere to hide from the droppings, as they're irritating and non-stop. Eventually the dam will burst and our husbands run for cover.

Is this how you want your husband and others to see you? We need to be conscious of our contentious-ness.

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. Proverbs 21:19

So what would it take for people to think they'd rather live in the middle of nowhere with no shelter than stay in the same room with you? Those would have to be some pretty harsh words, continuous and sharp. Have you spoken any words like that lately? Some days we need to listen to the things we say from the ears of others.

A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Proverbs 27:15

Contentious is defined as given to angry debate, quarrelsome and apt to provoke. Imagine living in a world with a woman whose angry words were as continuous as rain drops on a stormy day. Would you be willing to be around someone who was constantly picking at you, scolding and provoking you to anger with just her words?

Our husbands and those around us don't deserve to be in that situation either. Being in the presence of a Christian woman should be a refuge and a sanctuary, not a concern over the words she'll say.

If God repeats a common theme this many times, it must be vitally important. Let's take this repetition as a warning to watch the words that flow out of our mouths. It may mean the difference between pleasant conversation and talking to yourself.

Monday, August 23, 2010

One Room At A Time

Today I'd like to issue you a challenge - clean your entire house in one week.

While that may seem out of the realm of human imagination, you can make a huge impact in your home's cleanliness, organization and mood by attacking one project, one room at a time.

Whether you have a few minutes a day or a whole afternoon, there are different sized projects for every room. For example:

* Quick: Put away shoes, bags, keys and all that other stuff that gets dropped when everyone comes home.
* More time: Deep clean the floor right inside the door, where everybody tracks in dirt. Consider a new rug or shoe rack to solve this problem.

Dining Room:
* Quick: Set out new tablecloth, napkins, place mats or anything that will change up the look of the room.
* More time: Clean any hard surface that may be collecting...stuff. Pay special attention to the rungs of the chairs, the shelves, the picture frames, the window sills and the table itself. You probably don't want to eat near all that's gathered.

* Quick: Unload the dishwasher and straighten all the cabinets.
* More time: Clear off all the counters and disinfect them. Attack the stove top, the refrigerator handles and the sinks as well. Keep you family healthy in one easy step.

Living Room:
* Quick: Round up anything that needs to go in another room in a basket. Get them all back to their rightful homes.
* More time: Go over the furniture with a pet hair remover, vacuum cleaner and fabric refresher. This is especially important if you have pets or you eat regularly in there.

* Quick: Change the bed linens and dust all areas.
* More time: Sort through your clothes closet. As we're getting ready to change seasons, you might know of another Christian woman who would be blessed to have the things you don't wear anymore.

Spare Bedroom:
* Quick: If you don't use it much, take a few minutes to dust all surfaces and fluff the bed pillows.
* More time: Clear out the closet and under the bed. Do you really know what all is in that room?

* Quick: File the paperwork.
* More time: File the paper work and clean out the old files. There's probably a ton of old bills, magazine clippings and check stubs that you don't need to keep anymore.

* Quick: Change out the dirty towels and shower curtain.
* More time: Clear out drawers and cabinets. Get rid of anything that has passed its best-by date and make a list of anything that needs replaced.

If you don't think a few minutes a day will make a difference in your house, try this for one week, taking on one chore each day. Not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment, you might discover the initiative to take on something bigger!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Loyalty Of My Dogs

This week has turned our home upside down. Early in the week I emptied out my entire craft room to rearrange the furniture. (Story to follow, another day.) The I was sick for a couple of days, so everything was left in the hallway, on the couch, in the spare room...you get the picture.

So I set up my crafting station in the living room so I could get some work done. I'm using up tons of old supplies and finding things I forgot I had. What a fun way to spend the long weekend!

But here's the best part - no matter where my scrapbooking table goes, there also go my puppies. I can rest assured that no matter what room I'm in, there will be dogs at my feet. That's devotion if I've ever experienced any.
Dogs have something special that a lot of women need to take notice of: unconditional love. That's what makes them follow you from room to room, stay close by no matter where you go and just want to cuddle, regardless of what mood you're in. Imagine if all of your friends had those qualities.
So next week when I move back into the finished craft room, the girls will follow. And maybe they'll bring a squeaky toy or two with them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Living A Frugal Life

As money gets tighter and prices get higher, we hear the word frugal used more. We're encouraged to practice frugality and plan a frugal budget. But what does that word really mean?

The dictionary says that frugal is the economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful. That sounds like something our parents and grandparents have been trying to teach us for decades!

We're all looking for ways to be frugal in our spending, even if that's not the word we use.

Frugal cooking:
* Look for 3-ingredient and 4-ingredient recipes.
* Create dinners that will have enough leftovers to use for several meals during the week.
* Make use of your spice cabinet to make a meal tastier instead of using more expensive ingredients.

Frugal shopping:
* Cutting coupons only takes a few minutes a week and can really add up.
* Try to never buy anything at retail price - shop during sale weeks and with store discounts.
* Combine your shopping trips to save on time, gas and money.

Frugal hobbies:
* Instead of spending tons of money at the movie theater, hook your computer to the television and download your favorites.
* Take up gardening and you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, saving you money and getting you outside.
* Make a trip to the library and stock up on new titles instead of buying them all at the bookstore.

Frugal budgeting:
* Cut back to one car if you can - think about not paying insurance, gas and upkeep!
* Find that balance between cutting out unnecessary expenditures and keeping some of the fun things in life.
* Decide if there are things, like car or home or wardrobe, that can be downsized.

Frugal time-management:
* Don't go shopping unless you're looking for something specific - window shopping can waste time and money.
* Plan ahead so you don't have to make extra trips out and about because you forgot something.
* Keep your calendar up-to-date so you know where each member of your family is supposed to be and when.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello Cupcake!

Saturday was a fantastic day at our house - my dear friend Renee and I had a cupcake party to celebrate her birthday! We spent the morning at a local cupcake shop and then came back to play and make our own recipes.

We used a couple of different kinds of box cake mix for the cupcakes themselves and got fancy with the toppings. The best part, though, was when we realized that the mixer motor hand burned out and we'd be making everything by hand...fun times. Fun times.

The one I really wanted to try was the sugar-berried cupcake. We learned several things about fruit, particularly that frozen berries turn into wet berries when thawed, which in turn means that the sugar won't stick and stay crystallized. When it says use an egg wash first and then coat the berries with sugar...do it!

The second row is filled with a vanilla cream mix that gets poured in before you decorate. I absolutely adore the Pillsbury frosting in a spray can. If you haven't tried it yet, you'll be hooked immediately. We used that on the tops of one set of cupcakes, and then garnished with some fresh strawberries. Yummy!

The next set were my absolute favorites - the strawberry shortcake cupcake! You make the cupcake a little larger than normal, then split it is half. A layer of frosting and several slices of strawberries get sandwiched in the middle. Then we drizzled a warm raspberry glaze over the top - wow!

We had a few cupcakes left over, so we injected those with the raspberry glaze and topped them with fudge frosting. Not bad for a couple of box mixes, some fruit and a broken mixer.

So our house got cupcakes, Renee's house got cupcakes and Danny's funeral home got cupcakes. It was a sweet weekend all around.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Teacher's Survival Kit

The kids in our neighborhood started school this week. They and their teachers are in my prayers, because if the school year goes the way their conversations were on the street walking to the bus Monday morning, they're all going to need them.

Start the school year off right with this great gift basket for your kids' teacher. It can easily be modified for your students if you home school, or for just about any life event.

Each item in the basket has a meaning behind it, so write each one down in a card to give along with the basket.

* Cup: for when your cup runneth over with joy.

* Gold thread: love will tie together the hearts of everyone who enters your room.

* Aspirin: when all else fails, take two and have a time out.

* Matches: when you need to light a fire under some of your students (or yourself!).

* Battery: to help you keep going...and going...and going...

* Toothpicks: remember to pick out the good qualities in every student.

* Angel pin: you are the guardian angel for these children.

* Clothes pin: to help you "hang in there."

* Band aid: you may need to heal someone's hurt feelings.

* Tissues: so you can dry the tears of a child's broken heart.

* Paper clip: to help hold things together when it seems everything is falling apart around you.

* Rubber band: remember to be flexible.

* Tea bags: take time to relax and recharge for the next day.

* Notebook and pen: remember to list your blessings every day.

* Key: your attitude is key to each of your students' attitudes.

* Penny: to help you remember you are priceless to these children's education.

* Colored pencil: to color every day bright and cheery.

There are many, many other ideas, so use your imagination. Tuck everything into a basket or jar and attach the card explaining each item. Then let the teacher (student, nurse, boss, co-worker, preacher's wife) know that you're praying for them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Content With Jesus I'll Be

We can't even sit and watch television anymore without being bombarded with all the things we "need" to have. Magazines have glossy pictures of those things we just can't live without. There may be little money in our pocketbooks, but there is always something else we "have" to go purchase.

God has blessed us exceeding abundantly above our wildest imaginations. If you have a roof over your head, food of some kind on the table, clothes on your back and shoes on your feet, then God has done something wonderful for you today.

And how do we show our love and appreciation for the provision of the Lord? We look around for additional ways to spend His money and get more "things" in our home. There's always something bigger, better or shinier out there, and that keeps the flesh searching and straining to do whatever it takes to be satisfied.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

I would never begin to say that Christian wives shouldn't improve their homes, do what they can to build lives for their family members or replace old, broken things around the house when necessary. The difference is the decision to go beyond our means to the point of causing financial problems, marital difficulties and a destroyed relationship with God.

There is nothing wrong with the clothes in my closet, but I often wish I had different ones, better ones or prettier ones. But then when I do have them, the moment passes and I'm looking toward the next purchase. Peace comes when I'm content with the blessings of the day and am happy with what I've already been given. If that means not stretching our budget out of its limits to keep temptation at bay, then so be it.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11

Do you have a large home or a tiny one? Therewith, be content. Do you have one car or several? Therewith, be content. Do you have a closet full of clothes and pocketbooks or just a few? Therewith, be content.

We have no idea what God has planned for us in the next few hours, the upcoming days or the next year. We can spend the time we have on this earth striving to have more and be more, or we can be content. The peace contentment brings is more precious than any "thing" or desire of our heart.

Content with Jesus I'll be. How about you?

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Of Those Days

Did you ever have one of those days that was so overbooked before it ever got started? When you'd like to cancel today for lack of interest just because you've seen your to-do list?

I've had several of those lately...they've been wonderful, blessed days, but they've been terribly busy. By the time they're over I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Is this how God intended for me to live my life for Him?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

If I don't start my day with Bible reading, I can tell it for the whole rest of the day. There are many, many things on that pad of paper that need to get taken care of today, but if I'm not in God's Word first, none of it matters.

Bible study is God's time to speak to us. We're holding the voice of the Lord in our hands, and there's so much there to delve into. When Luke wrote this verse of Acts, it was to encourage us to receive Scripture with a ready mind and a willing heart. If we take the time to start the day in the Bible, we're allowing God to set up direction for our day - how nice to have some divine direction!

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. Mark 1:35

Jesus Christ is our perfect example of how to live life for God. In this verse He woke before the day began and spent time alone in prayer. There's no better time than early to speak to the Lord. Many mornings I pray before I ever swing my feet over the edge of the bed. There are so many things I want to thank Him for and let Him know are on my mind.

And Jesus prayed in a solitary place, away from the eyes and distractions of the world. The best prayer times are have are in my prayer closet, hidden away from everything on that to-do list. Oh, I'll get around to as many of them as I can, but these moments in prayer belong to the Lord.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:17

Finally, we must be choosy about what goes on that to-do list today. I imagine there are many things I've written down that are simply "extras," chores I'd like to accomplish or maybe something I'd just really like to do for myself. But how many of them are really for our service and the glory of God?

Several of the things I've jotted down will only take a minute - my short-term memory is horrible, so I write them down while I'm thinking of them. A number of my to-do's are chores around the house that need to be done today. These are part of my calling as a wife, because keeping the house is a Biblical command. These will get done first, as the plan is laid out.

Many others center around my greeting card business, my book and my blog. Each of these are special projects that I have dedicated to the Lord, but they are extras, too. My workout is tucked in there this morning so that I have strength and energy to serve God for the rest of the day. And then there's fun stuff like working on the song we'll sing for church Sunday night and working on a scrapbook page. These things are necessary to keep me sane, but they come after all the requirements of the day.

So let's plan our days around the Scripture, our prayer time and our service to the Lord. Everything else we add in is our own fault!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back Up!

The greatest command we ever taught the girls was "Back Up!" It's a marvelous tool for whenever you have someone furry and four-legged underfoot and need a little space. Watch and see how well it works, even with a little growling.


Bailey can't catch anything...the vet told me once that she didn't have sight problems, she was just klutzy. The Sadie-dog, on the other hand, would have been a fabulous Frisbee dog if not for her hip dysplasia. So we're happy just tossing sqeakies in the living room. As long as they back up far enough.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sin of Comparison

We've all been there - a sister in Christ comes into the church house on Sunday morning with another new outfit on. Or the neighbors have traded in their used car for something brand-spanking new. Or a relative is moving to an exclusive community, into a house with more bathrooms than family members.

Then we start to think about what we have, and it just doesn't seem to compare. We wish we had more money, spending money and mad money...just a little more something than what we have now.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

Paul warned the people of Corinth that coming up with human standards is dangerous business. Whether it's looking at what other people have, or what you don't have, is stepping onto shifting sand.

Can you substitute the words foolish or stupid in place of "not wise" for a moment? You and I are completely different people, and we are at different points in our lives. Comparing myself to you would be like apples and oranges - it just doesn't work, and Paul said it was just plain dumb.

Whether you're the one with more than someone else, or you're looking on with envy at what other people can afford, comparison is simply pride rearing its ugly head. This sin makes us blind to the success of others, keeping us from rejoicing with them in their achievements. It also means that we don't have enough pleasure in the blessings God has given us, but we have to try to achieve some made-up standard.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7

Who am I to decide who has it better than I do? I don't know your situation or what it is that you truly have need of today. You might come to church in a new outfit on Sunday morning, simply because someone was lovely enough to give you hand-me-down. The neighbors may have been praying for funds for a new car because there were just too many miles on the old one. And that relative who moved into a new house may have been blessed with a raise, a bonus or some other gift from God.

I can only see the tiny little picture of life that is right in front of my nose. Praise His holy name that God can see the entire thing from beginning to end. He knows what blessings you and I need today and He knows what things to hold back from us for a while. Seeing someone else doing well financially is a reason for rejoicing with a sister in Christ, not for comparison and envy.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
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 4:11-12

When we are truly content with the blessings the Lord has chosen to give us, the need for comparison dies away. Growing in His grace is difficult, but God will bless us for each step we take to be closer to Him and further away from the flesh.

So let's be slow to judge, quick to support and separate from the need to compare our financial situations with those around us. We'll be more joyful in the long run and the focus will be on God's riches, not our own.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Joy In The Kitchen

Sometimes I forget that I have shelves full of cookbooks, many of which have barely been opened.

Sometimes I forget that the Internet is full of websites with millions of recipes in them.

Sometimes I forget that my best friends are all foodies and have tons of great ideas.

Sometimes I forget that my inbox is full of e-mails with coupons and menus.

Sometimes I sit for hours looking up recipes, only to find the exact one I'm looking for in the cookbook my grandmother gave me when I graduated from high school.

Sometimes just glancing through Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard sparks some culinary creativity for the evening.

Sometimes going back to the simplicity of favorite recipes is all the comfort I need at the end of a busy day.

Sometimes I need to be reminded of why I enjoy cooking so much in the first place.

Sometimes I need a break from cooking so I can be reminded of why I enjoy cooking so much in the first place.

And sometimes it all comes together. The coupons fit with the sales at the grocery store. Everything that's on sale fits with the recipes that I find. I can clear out my cupboards and refrigerator, using our resources to the best of my ability.

May today be one of those sometimes for you. I pray you'll find joy in your kitchen, service to the Lord in all you cook and something sweet to satisfy all your cravings.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DIY Paper Crafting Embellishments

There is so much "stuff" in my craft room right now, to make use of a good Bible word. I'm starting to feel overwhelmed after being in here several hours a day, several days a week. Sometimes I just want that one thing that I know I saw earlier, but I can't find exactly where it is...I'm sure that never happens to you!

I was looking for some 3D flowers for a special thank you card when I came across some flowered paper that I forgot I had. And I had just used it recently for something else. That's when this particular flower out of an entire sheet of 12x12 paper caught my eye. It was the perfect size and shape for the card I had in my head!

Using a pair of Cutterbee scissors, which have a tiny, sharp point, I carefully cut around the edges of the flowers and leaves, leaving just a little of the surrounding color. Then I used double-sided tape and a Zig 2-way glue pen to tack it down. It's probably more perfect than any store-bought element I could have found. (And much cheaper!)

So the next time that you're swimming through "stuff," keep your eyes open for that little something special. It could be exactly what you needed, whether you know it or not. Just another reason to organize myself, I suppose!

This card, along with many other cards and gifts, can be found in my Etsy shop: http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Hidden Testimony

The woman sitting in front of me Sunday morning was a visitor - I had only seen her there once before. She was wearing the most beautiful summer dress with a huge, lovely floral print. Now, because she was sitting right in my sight line to the preacher, I had to notice this lovely fabric.

Then it caught my eye. Right on the edge of one flower petal were three little lines - one of them was rounded like a mountain and the other two created a cross coming out of it. I quickly looked elsewhere in the pattern and didn't see anymore, so I knew it wasn't intentional. But it was powerful.

I have no idea if this woman knew she had a rendering of Mt. Calvary on her back. I know I rarely look at the back of my clothing. So for over an hour I was looking at the picture of the ultimate sacrifice worked into the patter of a piece of fabric.

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

Imagine if this woman had been standing in line at the restaurant after church and someone who was lost saw the exact same thing. Talk about conviction! Or what if someone had started a conversation with her about the Lord simply because that image was visible. She might never have known why they approached her, but it could change someone's life.

We have absolutely no way of knowing how the things we say and do can affect someone today. A tract left in a grocery cart can get someone thinking. A smile from a woman carrying her Bible can start a conversation. God has great plans for us if we're willing and ready to be used.

Share the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Own Rose of Sharon

It's Monday morning again. You know exactly where I've been already today.

One of the things that came with our new house is the rose bush out by the mailbox. Now, I have two brown thumbs...I once killed a cactus, truth be told. But I wanted desperately to make this scrawny, sick little bush into something beautiful.

With a little research and some TLC every Monday morning, I've been able to nurse this puny little bush into something beautiful. I clear away the overgrowth in the dirt around it. There are usually some dead, diseased leaves that need to be trimmed away. The old blossoms have to be pruned off and special vitamin-enriched water will keep the plant thriving for another week.

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. Song of Solomon 2:1

My Lord and Savior is the fragrant blossom that flourishes in the field of bounty. Knowing that makes my own flowers that much more special Each blossom that comes up from the ground is His creation, fashioned exactly the way He envisioned it. It's my pleasure and my responsibility to care for those few little blooms He has placed at the edge of our property.

In much the same way I have maintained my little rose bush and turned it into something pleasing to the eye, my Lord is doing the work of a gardener in my life.

I constantly need to have the soil around me cleared out and fertilized. There are all sorts of weeds growing up in my heart and in the life I need, and Jesus Christ is the only one who can rip those nasty things out by the roots! If I'll turn over all the junk and sin in my life over to Him, He's so willing to tend the soil I'm planted in.

The Lord is also faithful to prune away the diseased leaves and dead stems from my life. I may have gotten saved and become a new creature, but the old man has to be put off every morning. There are old, nasty parts of my life that spring up all the time, but now I have a loving caretaker who loves to snip them all off.

And I'm so blessed to have Living Water drenching me every day. I don't have to worry about being broiled in the sun or run out of nourishment, because my Savior is my constant companion, providing fresh water whenever I need it.

One tiny little rose bush sits by the mailbox, and the Rose of Sharon sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for me. What a blessing to my heart every Monday morning when I tend my flowers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are We Too Busy For Revival?

Over and over again I hear people praying for revival - in their own hearts, in their churches and in their communities. We are a dry, thirsty people these days, and we are desperately seeking the Lord's Living Water so we can keep going.

He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. Psalm 107:35

But once we're prayed for a spiritual jump-start in our lives, what are we doing after that? Do we go right back to our normal routine and hope that God will perform some miracle? While He doesn't need our help to do anything, He would appreciate our participation.

We pray that we'll be burdened for lost souls. We pray for enthusiasm and excitement over His Word. We pray for the Spirit to move in our services and for friends, loved ones and strangers to come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Then...we sit back and wait.

Revival is supposed to shake things up, make us change our ways of thinking and serving the Lord. The key to staying in a revival state of mind is being willing to schedule our time around God, not just wait for Him to move in some mystical way. What do I mean by that?

1. Why do we expect the Lord to show up when we're not taking the time to be aware of what He's already doing? If we go through the day with our lips dragging the ground, we're in a terrible heart attitude. We have been blessed exceeding abundantly above and recognizing that will bring us closer to a revived soul. We expect preachers and musicians to get us all stirred up once a week, when God is trying to move in our lives every moment of every day. It's our responsibility to bring the Holy Ghost with us, not show up trying to see if we can get Him to move.

2. How can we get closer to God when we're already thinking ahead to the rest of the day? Sure, we may schedule some Bible reading time in the morning or have a few minutes of prayer once or twice a day. But how many times are we half-hearted because our thoughts have already strayed to the next item on our to-do list? If I'm not 100% focused on how I'm interacting with the Lord at this exact moment, it's no wonder I;m not feeling Him working and moving. My time is simply borrowed from God's timeline for my life, which means I need to turn each minute back over to Him.

3. Where is it written that only the preacher and Sunday School teacher do Bible study? If we're not immersing ourselves in God's Word, we'll never understand it, we'll only be repeating what we've heard someone else say and we'll never grow the ways God wants us to. My Bible study time each morning is desperately important to me, and I can really tell the difference in the days I don't get very much. This is part of my bonding time with the Lord - imagine what your marriage or your friendships would be like if you only spent a couple of minutes every day with those people. God deserves so much more of our time and attention than that.

4. When will we make time to simply be happy in the Lord? When we've been in a really great church service, we feel like we're floating on a cloud. We're so excited that someone was saved or the message was a shout-her-outter. Then, instead of taking that feeling and putting it to good use, we're disappointed when it doesn't last. Faith and joy aren't about feelings, but about rejoicing in the Lord. That alone provides us with what we need.

5. Who is in charge of your time? Are you allowing others and other things to dictate when you will focus on God? We can't spend a couple of hours in church on Sunday morning and expect other people's feelings and emotions to help us get through the next week. A close relationship with the Lord requires daily maintenance and upkeep. You know what your home looks like when you don't clean it for a week - that's what your heart and soul turn into, too, when you're not faithful in your time with God.

Each of us as individual women makes choices every day about how she'll interact with the Lord. Those decisions make the difference in how we feel His presence in our everyday lives, not just when we're sitting in a service. We need to be fed form God's Word as frequently as we can, and that means making time for Him whenever possible. That's how we'll bring revival to our soul.

Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. Psalm 85:6-7

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ways To Save a Bored Dog

For about 9 months out of the year, I don't have a problem leaving the girls outside for a while. They have tons of backyard space with trees that give them plenty of sticks to play with. And now they have a kiddie pool to wade in/avoid, depending on which puppy you're talking about. Bailey would spend all day outside if we'd let her, as long as she had squirrels to chase and birds to watch.

But during those other three months, the weather in South Carolina takes over my schedule. I can only let them out for a few minutes at a time when it's over 100 degrees before the heat index. We go for our walks very early in the morning, and they can go out back briefly during the day.

So obviously, I have two very bored puppies. They're very clingy to begin with, but when there's nothing to do they get even worse. I love their devotion, but not when they're underfoot. While the looks on their bored little faces break my heart, that time of doing nothing can lead to destructive behavior in some puppies.

Our favorite boredom-buster is the peanut butter chewy. These heavy rubber treat toys have holes in the bottom for treats to be tucked into, and then the girls have to spin them and turn them over to get the food out. What makes it even more time consuming is when I cover them with peanut butter and let them have at it. Generally we stay in the kitchen, but they've been known to wander. But then I have the cleanest floor in town because they have to get every bit of that peanut butter up.

Another great game to play is Hide and Seek. I place small treats all over the house and then release the hounds! Bailey finds the most because she actually uses her nose to find them. Sadie, my super-smart dog, hasn't quite grasped that concept. You can put them over, under, in and around everything - just make sure you know how many you put out or you'll be finding them for days.

Other ways to beat puppy boredom:
* Exercise them as much as you can in the morning, while it's cool. If they're all tired out, they'll nap during the hottest part of the day.

* While I'm working in my craft room, I'll roll a ball out the door every few minutes and let Sadie play a little fetch. She'll bring it back and leave it at my feet on the "drop" command. Then she's ready to go again.

* Work on obedience training. The best cure for boredom is something that stimulates the brain as well as the body. Practice old commands that may not be enforced all the time and learn some fabulous new ones.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Breakfast Wrap On The Run

Would you like a breakfast idea that's quick, easy and completely portable? Try this breakfast wrap - everything from a fancy plate meal in a take-with-you package.

You can vary the ingredients of this recipe depending on how healthy (or not healthy) you want to be, or hwo hungry you are this particular morning. That's the beauty of a wrap!
Two eggs, scrambled
Three slices of turkey bacon
Two slices of cheese or a handful of shredded cheese, your favorite variety
One large whole wheat tortilla shell
Plus: aluminum foil

1. Cook the bacon in a cast-iron skillet, then scramble the eggs in the same pan. (Awesome flavor!)

2. Spoon eggs into tortilla. Tear bacon into pieces and layer on top of eggs. Top with cheese. Wrap edges of tortilla in, making a large bundle.
3. Wrap entire tortilla in foil, creating a pocket with the opening at the top. This makes it seal-able and travel-able.

4. Enjoy with some OJ or a hot cup of coffee.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Beauty of Liquid Glass

Have you made one of those discoveries that jump-starts your creativity? Maybe it's something in a magazine or a new product you happen to walk past in the store. Or perhaps you've done what I did this week - find something fantastic that you've had for ages but completely forgot about.

Last week I was sitting at my craft table staring at a blank piece of paper - not a good thing. I sell Christian greeting cards in an etsy shop and I was completely empty. So on a whim, I brought all my paper, die cuts, stickers and stamps out to the living room floor and started going through all my extra supplies.

In one basket I found a bottle of something I forgot I had. Several year ago I had purchased some Liquid Glass from Close To My Heart Scrapbooking and Stamping. Not knowing what to do with it, I tucked it away and lost track of it. This tiny squeeze bottle rocked my creative world and allowed me to create some beautiful cards.

You can use it to make tiny dots anywhere you want. It can make spots on a butterfly or bubbles in a bathtub.

It can be the center of flowers or rain drops falling from a cloud.
Liquid Glass can outline particular areas for some extra shine. Because it's clear, it will darken the color underneath it.

It can be put on top of chipboard letters to add more dimension.
It can even be used as glue to attach paper.
Liquid Glass will hold glitter.

It will seal your project and give it extra shine if you apply it with a paintbrush.
The fun part of finding an old product is making it new again. Experimenting with an embellishment can change the way you look at your favorite hobbies and jump-start your creativity.
These cards, notebooks and many other gift ideas can be found in my etsy shop: www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Right On Time

There are a couple of prayer requests that have been on my mind for ages. The Lord and I have gone round and about over these two very specific prayers again and again. I've shed tears over them, I've tried to work around them and I've questioned the Lord's timing.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Then several days ago the Lord finally got through to me. Yes, I would still love for these two prayers to be answered a certain way, but I finally understood God's timing in my life.

If He had given me exactly what I asked for the first time I asked for it, I wouldn't have been prepared for it. There are many times in our lives when God answers our prayers with a "not right now" answer.

Imagine that you've been praying for a new house. All you know is that you're outgrowing the one you're living in now and it's starting to fall apart. You don't understand why the Lord won't answer your prayer for a new home...when He's really just saying wait a while.

Because what God has planned has a special purpose in His grander plan for our greater good. We as human beings can only see the immediate picture of our life - we're designed to follow the Lord's guiding, not plan our own way. If we did, we'd receive everything we'd ever wanted without knowing the consequences.

I don't understand all of God's thoughts or ways because they aren't my thoughts and ways. The testing of my faith comes when I wait to see how my prayer requests fit into His plan. Sometimes waiting on the Lord to work things out grows me more than I really realize.

If I can be a stronger, more victorious Christian woman by waiting a while for my prayer to be answered, then I;ll be happy to relax and rely on God. He knows so much better than I do about all the things I need. And the added bonus is that I get to draw closer to Him while I wait. Isn't the Lord always right on time?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creating A Prayer Closet

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:6

After living in this house for over a year, I still hadn't found a really great place for my daily prayers and Bible study. I needed one desperately, just so I could have a routine.

So I did a prayer walk around the house to find the prefect spot. This may sound silly, but God will always show you what you need when you ask. I tried several different spots but either couldn't get comfortable or was too distracted.

Then I found my way to the recliner chair in the living room. Here I had a comfy spot, plenty of light from the window and light, plenty of table space for the things I need and a quiet corner to be by myself. Now I have the perfect prayer closet and I can truly grow my relationship with the Lord from here.

If you need to create a prayer closet of your own, you just need a few things.

Quiet - You need to find a space that will help you fight distractions. Choose a spot that's out of the way of other family members, phones and the temptations of televisions and computers.

Away - Have a way to separate yourself from the world. If you're in a separate room, shut the door. Stay away from all forms of noisy entertainment. Let the family know that this portion of your day is all yours.

Sounds, sights, smells - Certain additions to your prayer closet can relax you and make your time with God more special. Try a fountain or quiet instrumental music to block out other noises. Light a candle with a light scent. Hang some Scriptures on the wall or frame some to place on the table. Anything that focuses on the Lord is perfect to have around.

The right tools - My favorite part of my prayer closet is my basket of books. I have two Bibles (my favorite one and my girly one - all the verses about women are highlighted in pink), my prayer list, my praise journal, several notebooks and pencils, and the books I'm studying right now. With everything in one place I don't have to get up in the middle of a great talk with God.

Make your prayer closet the perfect fit for you so that you'll look forward to going there every day. Even if it's just for a few minutes at a time, having a special place will help you make time for the Lord.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Personal Goal Setting

On my birthday each year I set some personal goals for the upcoming year. Then I spend the next 12 months referring back to that list, praying over how I can improve myself, my relationship with the Lord and my service for Him.

Last year I had a fairly short list.

* Set up my own prayer closet. I had so much fun working on this goal. I did a prayer walk through the house to find just the perfect spot for my Bible study and prayer time. The Lord led me to the recliner chair in the living room, which is next to a window and a side table. It's also underneath a great light, and there's plenty of table space for my basket of books, notebooks and pens. That chair has now been bathed in prayer, and the time I spend there is extremely precious.

* Be a better correspondent. Writing letters, sending e-mails and making phone calls are not my strong suit. I'm the first to admit that I get wrapped up in my own little world and neglect those who love me the most. In some ways I made some strides in this area over the past year, but I have a long way to go. I really want to be able to build stronger bonds with my friends and family, so this is one to continue. Luckily I can duplicate this one on next year's list.

* Finish The 12 W's of the Christian Woman and get it published. This one was super-important to me, and I received my first copies of the completed book just days before my birthday. Writing a book and knowing that it's being read by Christian women around the world is one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life. I praise God every day for allowing me to serve Him this way.

* Start a blog. You're reading it now, so I must have accomplished this one. Seriously though, I wanted a place where Christian women could go for Bible study, a little encouragement and some practical tips for living a victorious life. There aren't many places like that in this world, so I'm glad you're here.

* Expand one of my hobbies into a business. And this one is one of my favorites. Right after the first of the year I opened a shop on etsy to sell my handmade Christian greeting cards. I've now sent packages off to women around the country and to the other side of the world. It's just another way that I can spread God's Word to as many people as I can, plus add a little income to our home. It's a double blessing!

And now I have a new list to work on. I'll talk to you in a year and let you know how it goes. You don't have to wait for your birthday to set some personal goals for your life. If you want to get out of debt, write the next great novel, get a new job or just improve your relationship with the Lord, set some practical goals and get to work!