Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Did You "Used To Do?"

Our house has been closing down for the night earlier and earlier lately. I'd much rather get a good, long night's sleep than stay up until the wee small hours of the morning doing something less than important. I guess that's age settling in...

As we were getting ready for bed a few nights ago I suddenly asked, Didn't we used to go places in the evening? All of a sudden we were talking about dinners out and concerts and movies. They are things we still enjoy, we just don't enjoy them enough to stay out late doing them anymore.

Over the next couple of days that question was still on my mind. What did we used to do that we don't do anymore? I thought of several right away because they are things I love to do. We used to go camping, but having the undertaker on call every other week takes away a good chunk of your spare time. I used to put together scrapbook pages of all our pictures - probably an album a week. Since making it my job, doing extra doesn't seem so necessary right now.

What did you used to do? Are there things you love doing that have gotten pushed to the back burner? You think about finding time, you still love doing them, but they're just not a priority, right?

I've challenged myself to get back to some of the things I love - some of the things I used to do. I miss the joy of putting together a scrapbook album. It's been a long time since I curled up on the bed with a good book in the middle of the day. The girls and I used to sit in the back yard together in the afternoon. I want those moments and those memories back, and it's simply a personal decision to make them happen. The only one who dictates my day is me, especially when I'm listening to the Lord's calling on my time.

I encourage you to rekindle one of your own passions. And you don't have to stay out past your bedtime to do it!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making The Food Comparison

No two pets are alike, and neither are their nutritional needs. What works wonderfully for your lab mixes may not be the perfect choice for mine. Sadie has a rather sensitive tummy and Bailey just slowly works her way through whatever you put in front of her. They may look similar, but their appetites are completely different.

That's why there are so many different kinds of pet food on the market. Depending on your cat's weight, your dog's breed and your bird's age, there are specific foods for specific needs. Within those individual categories there are still more choices - active formula, high fiber, high protein...it can really make your head spin.

So what do you need to consider to make the best food choice for your own pet?

1. Stage of life. Puppies need different nutrients than an older dog. Senior cats don't need the same food as kittens. Read the packaging to find the recommended ages for each type of food.

2. Ingredients. The list of ingredients on the packaging is ordered by weight. Look for those good meat, fish, egg, meat meal or fish meals as the first or second ingredient. They have a high percentage of protein in the form of digestible, usable amino acids, which result in better digestive health. The others are processed and not as healthy in the long run.

3. Preservatives and by-products. Just like human diets should contain high amounts of fresh, natural food, so should your pet's. Even if the label gives protein as the first ingredient, check how many of the following ones are weird-sounding, man-made additives.

4. Talk to your vet. If your pet has any health conditions or diseases, the vet may have serious suggestions about food and supplements. We've had Sadie on special food and vitamins over the years because she has severe hip dysplasia in both back hips. Overweight animals, aged animals and those with certain ailments can make vast improvements when given certain foods, so ask and take good notes!

5. Price. Remember that you get what you pay for, but don't skimp on your pet's health. There are plenty of great foods that hit every price range, you just have to do some comparison shopping to find them. If you can find a food that your pet loves and you love the price, try to find it in bulk and save even more.

6. Dry, moist or canned? Again, every pet is different and some will take to different styles of pet food. Each type has examples of great, healthy food, so read the labels carefully. Vets will most often recommend dry food, but ask when you visit the office (see #4). Canned food can be more expensive, while dry can be more convenient. See what works for your pet and what fulfills their nutritional needs.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Setting Short-Term Financial Goals

Many financial goals would be possible in our lives if we didn't eat, drive or pay rent. We'd have all sorts of money left over each month if we chose not to pay the utility bill or we never talked on the phone. As completely unrealistic as those scenarios are, a little planning can go a long way.

In the professional world, short-term is defined as goals you can accomplish within a year. Anything longer than that takes more planning and effort. Generally we're thinking ahead to some special purchase or event. In just 12 months, with self-control and forward-thinking, there is so much we could accomplish with our budgeting.

There are many financial situations that can be planned for in the short-term. You may be trying to cut household spending by a certain amount each month. Maybe the family wants to buy a boat or a camper. Or maybe you just want to get out of debt and live in the clear. All of these are attainable within that year if you set some reasonable goals.

1. Sit down with your budget. If you take a look at where your money goes, you can discover simple ways to keep it in the bank. When you're seriously trying to save, or just trying to cut spending by a certain percentage, analyzing the numbers puts it all in perspective.

2. Make a reasonable decision. I would love to put aside $100 a month into savings for a couple of special projects. Realistically that can't happen every month with the budget we have now. Instead of getting frustrated or not putting anything into savings, we can find a smaller amount that won't put us in financial trouble right now but will still add up considerably in the long run.

3. Practice self-control. But I just need a little money to spend this weekend. I'll put it back when I get paid next. It's something really important. It just means one more month of saving, right? Excuses can totally undermine everything you're trying to accomplish with your money. Instead, look to Christ and the fruit of the Spirit which is longsuffering to motivate you to your goals!

4. Determine a savings technique. Figure out if you need to start a savings account that you won't touch until it's reached your goal amount. That may not work for you personally because you prefer watching the cash pile up in an envelope. Everyone is different and views money, bank accounts and numbers in a different way. Whatever technique works best for you, use it consistently and watch your savings grow.

4. Have your goals in plain sight. If you're saving for a vacation, put a picture of the destination somewhere that you can see it all the time. Write "Camper" on a piece of paper and tuck it into your checkbook. Having a visual keeps your goal in the front of your mind and helps prevent lack of self-control.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's National Chocolate Day!

Happy National Chocolate Day!

While eating chocolate around our house isn't anything out of the ordinary, this holiday gives a chance to celebrate one of our favorite treats. Here are some great ideas of how to spread the fun and festivities out - all day long!

1. Breakfast - Have some of your favorite chocolaty breakfast cereal or some chocolate chip pancakes.

2. Treat - Make a little gift bag of chocolates and hide it where you husband and children will find it.

3. Share - Take a variety bag of miniatures to work or school with you to pass around.

4. Lunch - Have a glass of chocolate milk with your sandwich!

5. Snack - Eat healthy with some chocolate covered raisins or pretzels. (Well, it sounds healthy.)

6. Special - Enjoy some chocolate covered cherries or strawberries.

7. Love - Use tiny chocolates to make the outline of a heart on your husband's dinner plate.

8. Dinner - Chocolate and cocoa make great sauces and rubs for many different meats.

9. Dessert - Dust off that old fondue pot and dip some of your favorite fruits and cakes.

10. Evening - What's better than chocolate ice cream or ice cream with chocolate syrup?

If you know of some other great ways to celebrate with chocolate, please let me know!

Instead of either deciding to abstain from chocolate all together or eat entirely too much, just remember to use some self-control. As fabulous as National Chocolate Day is, portion control and moderation can make it even better at the end of the day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Joy and Blessing of a Craft Show

Saturday was the Fall Arts and Crafts Show at one of our local Christian schools. The entire day was an absolute joy from beginning to end, as you can see by the smile on my face! Danny and I had been working for weeks to put together what we thought was enough product to fill a table.

I hadn't been in a craft show since junior high, and I really don't remember much about that one. I had taken everything from my etsy shop, Danny had made several pieces in his wood shop and I took along my book.

It was such a pleasure to have sweet, wonderful women at the tables on either side of me. It made for sparkling conversation, a couple of sales and a comfortable day. There was such a wide variety of handmade items inside and outside, so there was much to wander around and look through.

The very first thing that sold from our table was a collection of birthday cards. All of my cards have KJV Scripture either on them or in them, and that was a huge draw for most people. It's also interesting how different people have such different tastes - I liked these cards, although they weren't my favorites by any means. This woman, however, just loved them! And that's why I make a sampling of styles...

The very next piece that sold was Danny's nativity. This was a huge disappointment for several people because they had seen me unpack it. Praise the Lord that we had decided to take special orders that day, because someone was going to buy it as a gift. Danny is going to make her one this week and we'll hand deliver it over the weekend. I may have to see if I can sweet-talk him into making one for me, too. Isn't it beautiful? It's not even 12-inches tall, but the detail is remarkable!

While sales were well above what I had expected, money wasn't the point this particular day. Traffic was steady throughout the day, and everyone was appreciative of the vendors being there. It was an absolute joy for me to be able to talk about my service to the Lord through these paper crafts. It was such a blessing to know that I had the ability to send God's Word through all these purchases, plus share a smile along the way. I heard talk that there might be another opportunity at Christmas time, so I'll be ready!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Disappointment

While watching baseball on television recently, I noticed a man waving a gigantic state flag. It was very difficult not to notice him, as he was sitting directly behind the right batter's box. Every time the camera angle changed to show the hitter, this man would stand up and wildly wave his huge flag. Did I mention it was enormous?

Then my focus shifted. There was a young boy sitting behind the flag waver. He had to shift in his seat over and over again just to see the game around the flag bearer. You could clearly see the frustration in this little boy's face - he wanted to watch baseball. The man in front of him had an ulterior motive.

Disappointment breaks my heart. I ache when I see people with unfulfilled dreams. One of my deepest joys comes from the little I can do to change a discouraging situation into something lighter. This little boy was a perfect example. I wanted desperately to hurry to this baseball field and move that fanatic flag-waving fan. In his efforts to be noticed, he was ruining a wonderful experience for a child.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12

Trials and tribulations will happen in each of our lives, over and over again. We can't be everywhere at once and prevent all disappointment, although that would be really wonderful. What we can do is rest in our faith, knowing that there is more to life than this.

We may struggle for a season, suffering disappointment and discouragement. People will do and say things that are hypocritical, inadvertent or not. There are days when we won't see anything work out the way that we had planned.

But that is here on earth, and only for a little while. God rains showers of blessings on us every day even through the clouds of disappointment. Each drop is just a taste of the peace and joy we will experience when we reach Heaven. Nothing can compare to the contentment and comfort that waits just ahead.

In the last moments of that baseball game, I couldn't help but cry a little. I was drawn to that little boy and his disappointment over that man in his way. And then I cried a little harder - as the game drew to a close and his team was just a few outs away from winning, something wonderful happened.

The man was still enthusiastically waving his flag. He was still in the same seat. But the boy had been lifted up so he could easily see over the man. His disappointment over missing out on the joy of the game had been wiped away. Someone had taken the time to notice him and give him the desires of his heart. He cheered so loudly and smiled so broadly that I just sobbed into my tissue, baseball forgotten for a moment.

Our Heavenly Father does the same thing in our life continually. When we're ready to give up from disappointment and discouragement, God lifts us up so we can see what truly matters. He is aware of our every heart break and is ready, willing and able to give us the desires of our own heart. What more joyful place is there than safe in the Lord's hands, focused on exactly where He'd have us to be? Baseball is optional, God's comfort is eternal.

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Clutter Or Not To Clutter

You can probably tell by many of my posts here that I hate clutter. Messiness makes me anxious and scattered. It's difficult for me to accomplish anything during the day when I'm surrounded by disorganization. It's always been my personal philosophy to maintain whatever order I could.

I read a quote over the weekend that gave me a different insight on clutter. The woman wrote that a cluttered home showed that someone lived there. It was an accumulation of life that caused one to think that home doesn't have to be perfect, just warm and comfortable.

Order works for me. It may be different for you. I enjoy a home that is clean, neat and tidy. You may enjoy a home that is clean, rumpled and a little disorganized. I function best when the piles are gone and the world is in place. You may function best just knowing that what you need is in that pile over there.

When are you the most happy in your home?

Is it when your ducks are all in a row and quacking happily?
Or is it when the ducks don't mind waddling around a few piles?

Is it when the clothes are neatly folded and the dishes are put away?
Or is it when you're joyful that the clothes even made it to the laundry room and dishes were actually taken to the sink?

Is it when you can see the entire floor of a room?
Or is it when the family is gathered on the little bit of floor you can still see?

Is it when everything is in its place?
Or is it when everything is all over the place, but you still know exactly where it is?

There's no reason you can't have a joyful, functioning, thoroughly wonderful home that isn't perfectly perfect. My vision of a clutter-free zone blesses my heart. Your vision of a lived-in home may bless your heart. The conviction of the heart may be different, but if the home is lifted up to the Lord every morning, the blessings will be there.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Are You Putting Off?

There is an ever-growing stack of paperwork on my craft room floor. It's been there for over a week now and I do believe that it is feeding and replenishing itself. I couldn't even begin to tell you half of what's in it, but I know there are pages that need to be filed, some that need shredded and some that just need to be read.

Yes...I've been putting it off. I'm fully aware of how much time and energy that one particular pile is going to take. It's not a fun task, it's not exciting and it's definitely not the most glamorous thing I will have done all day. I'm just plain procrastinating.

I also know that I need to go tackle the rose bushes. If I want more brilliant blooms, I need to get out there and prune. There are a couple of closets bursting at the seams that are overdue for a straightening. And don't even mention cleaning the fan blades all over the house - so far I've only done one fan. The rest have been on my list for absolutely ages.

Does this sound like your own personal putting-off list? We procrastinate with a lot of things, not just with the chores we'd rather not tackle. While there are things around the house that deserve our attention, matters of greater importance quickly fall into that "I'll Do It Tomorrow" category.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10

* When was the last time you visited one of your church's shut-ins, or even wrote her a letter? I am so guilty of waiting until a more convenient season, which never seems to come. Then I imagine checking an empty mailbox every day and waiting for the phone to ring. Tomorrow isn't soon enough to touch someone's life with God's love.

* Do you pray immediately when someone asks you to? How easy is it to say, Of course I'll pray for your health/child/spouse/situation, and then forget all about it? Either write it down in your prayer journal at that moment, or take the time right there to pray with that person. Yes, God knows about the situation, but it's our responsibility to intercede. Can't do that if we never get around to it.

* That woman who scans your purchases in the grocery store may not be there next week. The man who fills your prescriptions may have moved on by the next time you stop in. If we don't take every opportunity possible to witness to those around us, we may never have the chance. Today may bring something we weren't expecting, leaving no option for tomorrow. And God's Word will never return void, so don't put it off.

I would hate to put something important like these blessings off until tomorrow and then face God this afternoon. I would only have excuses for why I didn't use the time He gave me to the fullest - for Him. If tomorrow never comes, I want to fill this day earnestly and lovingly with things that can't wait until another day.

So now, I'm off to write a note of encouragement. And pull out the shredder.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Backpacking Through Columbia

...well, through our neighborhood anyway. When your dogs are almost half your size and you walk them together, it quickly turns from a stroll to a trot.

We've had a lot of trouble with the girls pulling terribly while on the leash over the years. They are very competitive with each other so they hurry to get "there" first. Their walk time is the best part of their day so they pull to see how much they can see, smell and hear before we go back inside.

With my fibromyalgia walking the girls can be pretty painful. Imagine already hurting to your bones and then having a 60-pound black lab decide to pull your shoulder out of its socket. Not how I want to spend my morning, that's for sure.

So Bailey has a job on our walks now. She is my little Sherpa dog. This doggy backpack is possibly the best investment we've ever made. When it has some weight tucked inside, she doesn't pull as hard, and not for nearly as long. It tires her out quickly and by the time we get back to the house I've got a slack leash and they're ready for their morning nap.


The backpack that we have has several pockets - we use the largest ones for water bottles and a collapsible bowl. The idea isn't to have water along the way all the time, but to weigh Bailey down so she's really working hard. Otherwise we'd be in Lexington County before lunchtime. I can't say that's a run I want to take anytime soon.

It also has smaller pockets for treats and the ever-necessary plastic bag. In the end she's carrying a couple of pounds with her, which is just enough to tire her out but not put too much pressure on her. Whoever invented this little gizmo deserves a hug.

So at the end of our walk I have happy puppies, tired puppies and an intact body. One little modification to our day and it's so pleasurable for all of us.
If you're having this same difficulty on your dog's walk, try a lightly-filled backpack and see if that doesn't make a difference. Your puppy and your body will thank you! It might even get you out there more often!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Money Mistakes You Might Be Making

There's no cookie cutter answer to how to spend and save your money. I wish there were because that sounds like a really great cookie, but each family is personal and individual. The Scriptures give many commands on proper stewardship of your finances, and in the end it's all about personal choice.

There are, however, some issues that tend to arise when looking at money difficulties. Do you fall into any of these categories?

1. Not tithing. Even when the budget looks thin for this paycheck, your tithe is the first thing that comes out. Deuteronomy 26:10 says: And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God. Firstfruit means the first portion, and it is given to the Lord because He gave to us in abundance. The blessings that will come from obedience to the tithe will greatly outweigh the little advantage of that money now.

2. Making payments late. Want to throw dollars down the drain? Pay late fees. A little adds up to a lots of waste, and some fees have been astronomical. Plan your payments so that you're either on time or early and keep up with the payment schedule. Think of the money you could be putting toward something much more important.

3. Living outside your budget. We live in a world of bigger, brighter, better. Somehow we always get convinced that what we have isn't good enough and we need to go into debt to have that ___ (insert your own necessity here). When we are content with what we have and are willing to sacrifice some of the new and bigger, we'll stay within our budget, have money to pay off debt and some to put in savings. Not spending is a great way to save!

4. Making excuses. But we could really use that. But we've never had a problem before. But it was on sale! But...but...but...it's just an excuse for a lack of self-control. Do you have larger goals that you'd like to achieve? They won't happen if you "excuse yourself" right out of them. Paul said that he put his body under subjection daily, and maybe we should do the same thing with our money.

5. Not taking part in your company's 401K. Do you like free money? Then sign up for that 401K matching plan that your company (or your husband's company) probably has. Many people don't because money is taken out of your paycheck initially, but you do the math. If they're willing to match up to a certain amount, they're offering you the chance to have extra money down the road when you really need it. It's kind of like a money tree, but you just have to wait for the fruit to ripen.

6. Spending money you don't have. We put that large purchase on the credit card with the mental stipulation that we'll be sure to pay it off next payday. Then there's an emergency and that "set aside" money gets used for something else. It's a vicious circle that leads nowhere except further into debt. If you have to purchase something, use cash or your debit card that's linked right to your bank account. If you don't have cash on hand, don't make the purchase. Wait for 30 days and see if you even still want that item - you might be surprised. If you do want it and you now have the cash, treat yourself. If you don't...walk away.

Money is like a relationship - if you misuse it, it won't be there tomorrow. But if you respect it, it will be there when you need it. Then you can praise the Lord for His leadership and guidance in your financial stewardship.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Easy Chicken Stir Fry

Last week I challenged you to pull out some old recipes, so I decided to take the challenge myself. I love this chicken stir fry, even though I can't remember for the life of me where it came from. It is both easy and incredibly sweet, so I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

1. Cut 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 2 tbsp corn starch to coat.

2. Heat a little oil in a skillet, then stir fry chicken until cooked through.
3. In the meantime, heat a 16-ounce bag of microwa-in-bag broccoli.

4. To skillet, add 1/4 cup sweet and sour sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp orange zest and crushed red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

5. Stir in broccoli and 1/4 cup chopped cashews, almonds or peanuts.

6. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Think Outside The Traditional Card

The traditional is ordinary.
The usual is boring.
The everyday is a yawner.

Let's take the changing season to heart and try something a little different.

I made this card in the usual way with one slight modification. Instead of opening from the side or the bottom, this card opens in two panels, slightly off-center. It's a beautiful look and one that really draws attention to your focal point.


To start, measure your envelope. Cut a piece of card stock to the proper height and twice the width. Fold this new strip into thirds, making the meeting point a little to the right of center. Crease the edges well with a bone folder or another straight edge.

Cover each of the two panels with their own pieces of decorator paper. Layering is crucial to make an interesting, finished card.
Place the focal point accent overlapping the gap in the two flaps. Adhere the right side only so it will open up properly.

And I always put Scripture somewhere on my cards. This time I used the Ecclesiastes 3:1 verse: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. It works perfectly with the autumn theme.
Try something out-of-the-ordinary with the next paper craft you make. You might surprise yourself!
This card, along with many other cards and gifts, can be found in my etsy shop: www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Empty Jar

There once was a man and woman, husband and wife. They lived an average, ordinary, everyday life. They had an average, ordinary, everyday marriage. After many years they had settled into a comfortable, normal routine.

One Monday night during supper, the woman noticed that her husband seemed a little down. That had been happening more frequently lately, and she was becoming concerned. When she asked him if everything was alright, the husband got up from the dinner table and went into the kitchen. After rummaging around in the cabinets for a minute, he came back holding a glass jar. He set it on the table next to his wife's plate.

"This is how I feel," he said, pointing at the empty jar. "I used to be filled, even overflowing. But after a while we settled into life and now I feel empty like this jar."

Her heart was broken. In an effort to create a home, complete all the tasks of the day and keep life in order, she had been drawn her away from her love. She was absolutely crushed.

The woman didn't say a word...to her husband. She closed her tear-filled eyes and bowed her head in prayer.

"Lord, please forgive me for not adding things to my husband's jar. I don't want him to be empty anymore. Please show me how I can start filling up his jar again."

That night in her devotion time, that empty glass jar was still vivid in her mind. She prayed again for the Lord to show her how to fill her husband's jar. Her eyes landed on one particular verse in Isaiah, which she read with great delight.

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. Isaiah 58:11

God had already blessed her exceeding abundantly above all she could ask or think, but now she needed to let some of that blessing spill into her husband's jar. With the Lord's guidance, she would probably see several opportunities each day to replace its emptiness with joy.

So on Tuesday she added a good morning kiss on his way out the door.

On Wednesday she added some hand-holding while they walked into the prayer meeting.

On Thursday she added a home-cooked breakfast before he left for work.

On Friday she added a love note in his briefcase.

On Saturday she added a whole day of letting him do whatever he wanted without nagging him with a honey-do list.

There was a joy in her husband's face that she hadn't seen in ages. He was smiling more, being more considerate, laughing with her and being more affectionate. Filling up her husband's jar was turning into the joy and challenge of the day, just to see how happy they could be together.

Soon she began looking at the rest of her family like an empty jar. Their children, their parents, their nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins...they all had jars that needed some attention. Her joy was so full that she was putting something in everybody's jars.

She went to church and saw all of her brothers and sisters in Christ as empty jars. She realized she hadn't been serving them as she should have been, so she started looking for ways to fill their jars, too. A hand-written note went a long way, as did help with the cooking for the monthly fellowship. The preaching suddenly became more meaningful, the music more moving and the prayers more precious.

And then the woman looked around her at the grocery store, the pharmacy, the bank. Here were all of these empty jars in front of her that she had never noticed. A little thing like a smile meant more than she had realized. Politeness and kindness to a complete stranger filled a jar like nothing else could. And it gave her the opportunity to witness and explain how God had given her the joy to begin with.

She suddenly became very aware that the more she tried to fill other people's jars, the more joy welled up in her own. The more she gave, the more God gave her to give. It was a startling revelation, but it gave her the motivation to see who else she could fill up with God's love.

Then one day the woman returned home to find that glass jar on the dining room table again. This time it wasn't empty and lonely, but overflowing with the most beautiful wild flowers she had ever seen. The card beside it had just two words written on it: Thank You. Her husband had even drawn a heart around them, making her smile. Right then and there she realized her God-given purpose in life:

To attack the emptiness of the world with God's love and joy, one jar at a time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Living The Simple Life

I found myself doing simple Internet searches this week...literally.

A simple cake recipe.
A simple cleaning routine.
A simple fall craft.

A simple life.

It's easy to remember a time when life was simple - before running a business, promoting a book, keeping a home and being a church member. There was a time when I didn't think as much, do as much or care as much.

That's when I was a child.

As a grown woman, wife, daughter, niece, crafter, piano teacher, Sunday School teacher...the list goes on and on...I am called by God to care for His people and the things He has blessed me with here on earth. That takes time. That takes energy. That takes a lot out of a woman!

Those are the moments when we long for simplicity. A few quiet moments. Something to happen today that doesn't require multiple steps, multiple ingredients or multiple stitches. We want one peaceful, easy day...hour...even a minute would be great. But life keeps rolling by, filled with to-do lists and activities for the day.

So how do we live the simple life? How can we stop the roller coaster of high-speed living?

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

How hard it is some days to rest in the Lord. We get wrapped up in busyness and accomplishing tasks that we leave God's plan behind us in the dust. Instead of getting ahead, we get weary. Instead of being successful, we get complicated.

Living simply means simply living for God. Paring down everything extra will bring us to that point where His plan is in focus and His Word makes sense in our daily life.

Living the simple life means simply living God's way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time Flies

There are so many cliches about time, but one in particular seems to fit these days.

Time flies.

Do you remember when you were little and time seemed to stand still. You would stare at the clock waiting for the final school bell to ring. You would fidget in the car just waiting to get to your destination. And you would probably count the ceiling tiles during the Sunday morning church service. No matter where you were you were also wishing time would go faster so you could move on to something else.

But now that we're grown, time flies. There are more things to try and accomplish than ever before. Our responsibilities keep us busy and then we squeeze in some fun stuff on top of them. We live out of our cars and grab something to eat whenever we can. There's always one more thing that could get crammed into the day, and so we do.

Is that really all that's changed - our age? God is unchanging. Time is unchanging. The seasons are unchanging. And in all honesty our lives are unchanging. The only thing that has changed is our perception of time itself.

When I was young, there were books to explore, gardens to play in and new foods to try. That was how I imagined my time being spent every day. Now I have a full page of to-do list and only a few more hours before bedtime. It seems like the push is on to be more and to do more.

Look through the eyes of that child you used to be, back when time would stand still on occasion while you learned and absorbed. When was the last time you just sat on the porch in the evening looking at the sky? Were you too busy with someone that seemed more important at the time?

When was the last time you curled up with a good book and a cup of cider? Or a glass of lemonade and your praise journal? Have other responsibilities gotten in the way of living a peaceful life?

And most importantly, when was the last time you immersed yourself in God's Word? When I feel like I'm spinning so fast I may pass out, that's when I need the stability of the Lord. There is nothing that can't wait just a little while while we rediscover the wonder and power of the Scriptures.

Slow down.
Take a deep breath.
Say a prayer.
Listen for God's response.
Calm your soul with His peace.

And then start your day again. This time it will be at God's pace and time will fly just as slowly or quickly as He desires. Enjoy the journey.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Little Miss Pushy-Pants

Our Bailey-dog is the most submissive puppy ever. She's a little protective of us around strange sounds and people she doesn't know, but she's happy to flop on her back and let you take charge. In exchange for belly rubs, which is fine with me.

Now Sadie on the other hand...she's a pushy, pushy girl. She gets very jealous and very excited about whatever is happening around her. She's not aggresive - she's just pushy. If Bailey's getting a treat, then she'll push her way in for one, too. If it's time to go for a walk, she has to be the first one to the door. If there's company, she wants full attention regardless of who they're actually here to see.

We've really had to put the brakes on this kind of behavior. Pushy puppies are cute and you giggle over their antics, but a pushy 60-pound black lab isn't so cute anymore. Pushing turns into dominating and we refuse to let it turn into that.

If this sounds like your home, try what we've found to be the best ways to control a pushy dog.

1. Control your personal boundary. Your space is yours until a cold, wet nose intrudes. This is the perfect time for the "back up" command or a "sit-stay" command. It may take some time to comprehend this new tactic, especially if you have an older dog, but it's definitely worth it to not trip over a puppy every time you move.


2. Control your front door. This is super-important if your guests aren't particularly fond of puppy kisses. Or getting knocked down. Or being forced to stand on the porch while you put your dog in another room. Instead of changing your behavior or your guests' behavior, make the entry way off limits until your visitors are in and settled. You set the boundaries, not your pets.

3. Control your walk. We still have issues with this one because both of our dogs L-O-V-E their walk time. Having a dog almost half your size take you for a walk isn't fun, so take control from the moment you step out of the door. You decided when to walk, where to walk , how fast to walk and whether you want them right by your side or not. It's supposed to be a fun time, but it's also a time to practice discipline and respect.

4. Control your games and treats. Do you buy your children something every time they ask for it? If not, why should you give your dog something every time she whines, pushes or drops toys in your lap? This is not cute...this is dominence. They actually have to do something in order to be rewarded not matter how cute and sweet they are. When they sit, reward them. When they come when they're called, reward them. When they wait for your spoken command to do something, reward them. Put yourself in the driver's seat and prevent that pushy behavior.

5. Control your tendancy to make excuses. But she's so stinking cute! But she's just a puppy! But she's...no. Stop. She's a dog and you're the human. You are in charge and she'll be just as cute when she's curled up at your feet instead of pushing you off the couch so she can get comfortable. Obedience and respect are much more important than the sweet little labels that we put on animals. If you want to take the push out of your pet, all it takes is you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finding Financial Happiness

Did you know that creating some financial habits can actually help you discover happiness? When women feel like they're in control of their finances, regardless of the amount in the bank, it takes away that helpless feeling.

So using some basic Biblical principles we can gain control of our money, create some new habits and find that financial happiness that God intended.

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

Give your tithe faithfully. The first and most important step to financial happiness is to give one tenth of all you make to the local church. What? Give money away to be happy? Yes, because it is what the Lord commanded. No matter how much or how little you make, God will provide all you need when you give back that portion of what He's allowed you to have.

2. Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:4-5

Set your financial goals. Saying, "I want a million dollars in the bank" isn't the answer, but setting up a schedule to pay off debt is. Preparing a savings plan is. Designing a vacation/college/new car fund is. Money isn't the answer, but prayer and satisfaction in where you're at right now are. Preparation leads to contentment, which leads to happiness.

3. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Proverbs 28:20

Plan your savings. Having money for the sake of having money is sin, according to this Scripture. Instead, put money aside rather than spending it as a poor steward. Following God's plan for your money is faithful living, and He will bless those who are willing to be led.

4. And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. Luke 12:42-44

Plan your spending. What good is a million dollars in the bank if you never use it to the glory of God? Why should you work hard all day to continue on in debt? Wise choices in the way we budget our spending will keep us from swerving away from paths God wants to show us.

5. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5

Don't be afraid to talk about finances with other Christian women. You don't have to share your monthly bottom line, but you can seek advice from women who've already been there. Find out how they save and spend, and ask where they get their financial information from. Our Titus older women are a fount of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into.

So sit down with your husband and do a fall review of your finances. Your happiness will grow exponentially as you gain control of your money.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Fall is officially here, which means I'm more than excited to pull my slow cooker out more often. And that means warm, tasty meals without a lot of work...my favorite combination!

So this week I blew the dust off my Crock Pot cookbook and found a fabulous new sweet and sour shrimp recipe to try. This one also takes only 3 hours, so time is an added bonus. I've varied a few ingredients to my personal taste, and I imagine you'll do the same.

Ingredients:
1 can sliced peaches in syrup
1/2 cup chopped red peppers
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sesame seed oil
red pepper flakes to taste
1 package frozen snow peas
1 pound cooked shrimp
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup walnut pieces
rice, cooked to package directions

1. Place first nine ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 3-4 hours, on high 2-3 hours. Vegetables will be tender. Stir.

2. Add snow peas and cook on high an additional 15 minutes.

3. Add shrimp, tomatoes and walnuts. Cook on high 4-5 minutes, until shrimp are heated through. Serve over rice.

Please use this recipe as a jumping-off point for your chilly-weather cooking. Pull out those old recipes, give them a new twist and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Holiday Mission

As we head into the holiday season, etsy has asked its shop owners to write a mission statement - a single sentence that explains who we are, what we do and why we do it. This is ours.

Stuff From Trees helps Christians share God's Word by creating one-of-a-kind greeting cards and gifts of the highest quality to bring glory and honor to our Lord and Savior.

Our goal for our shop is truly this simple. I craft because I want to create something that reflects my devotion to God. It's not to promote myself, but lift up the name of Jesus. It's not simply to make a profit, but to spread the Scripture as far as I can. With the Lord's help this is becoming a reality and it is a precious time for me.

If you were to replace our shop name with your own, and replace our products with any area of your lifeCheck Spelling, this mission statement turns into your own testimony for the Lord. Whether it's crafting, keeping your home, working a job or witnessing in the world, the mission remains the same. We want to share God's Word by creating something of the highest quality to bring glory and honor to the Lord.

What a mission. What a blessing. What a Savior is He!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Think On These Things

There's a line in Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man" that says, The idle brain is the devil's playground...Oh we got trouble! We fight with the mind every day, whether we're working, relaxing, in fellowship or laying down to sleep at night. Our brains work overtime on whatever settles into them, and that can be dangerous.

How often have you worried over something that never happened?
Or prepared a conversation, repeating it again and again?
Have you speculated about someone's actions instead of asking them about it?
Do you ever picture the worst-case scenario so you're ready if it happens?
Maybe you've let your mind consider all the possibilities rather than take God at His Word?

These are all ways that we allow evil to creep into our minds. Without giving him too much credit, the devil can whisper lies in your ear that sink into your brain. Then you think on it, work it over, chew on it for a while and then turn it to worry, hate and more lies.

And he knows that this is one of my weaknesses. My fleshly brain doesn't turn itself off too often, especially when circumstances get tough. Evil uses this point of entry to steal my joy and wreck the day.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

The quickest way to shoo the devil from your side is to quote Scripture. It is the balm of the soul and the clearer of minds. When I'm swamped with thoughts that drag me under, this is the first Scripture I turn to. It's the perfect checklist for whether or not I need to be thinking on whatever I'm thinking on.

Is it true?
Is it honest?
Is it just?
Is it pure?
Is it lovely?
Is it of good report?
Is it virtuous?
Is it full of praise?

If you answered no to any of these questions...don't think on it! Sound easy? Well, I assure you it's not. There is nothing in our human flesh that could clear our minds on its own. We do not personally have the power to overcome the working of evil, but I serve a Living God who does!

By flooding your mind with the things of God - Scripture, music, prayer - you can force out all of the nasty stuff. Fight fire with holy fire from God Himself and He'll help you win the battle of the mind.

So turn on some great music full of Bible truth, dig deep into the Scripture and fall on your knees in prayer. You'll be so overwhelmed with God's presence that you won't have any room in your brain for anything else. Think on those things for a while!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Creating A Safe Food Environment

There's nothing worse than working diligently to prepare a meal in an unsanitary kitchen. Not to mention the health risks and potential hazards a contaminated workspace can create. A little elbow grease and the sacrifice of some time can eliminate the chance of food poisoning and a trip to the doctor.

Start at the top and work your way down. Clean out the light fixtures to be rid of any bug parts and dust. Wipe off fan blades and any other flat surfaces (like the tops of cabinets and the refrigerator) where the nasty stuff collects. Getting rid of this now will keep surfaces you've already cleaned from getting showered on later.

Empty the cabinets and clean your dishes in hot, soapy water. Chances are some of them haven't been used in a while and are covered in dust. If you own a pet there is probably fur and dander on the shelves, so wipe them off as well. Thoroughly clean the outsides of the cabinet doors and disinfect the handles. Reorganize as necessary and restock.

Focus on the refrigerator. Empty it, remove the shelves and drawers and wash everything in hot, soapy water. Your owner's manual may have specifics about what types of cleaners to use or not use. Get rid of any food past its prime and replace the good stuff. (Now is also a great time to plan some menus while you have everything out where you can see it.) Repeat in the freezer. Lastly wipe down the outside and the handles.

Clean all those horizontal surfaces, starting with the stove and then the counters. Remove everything and get in all the little nooks and crannies. Then clean each item as you put it back - the coffee pot, the knife stand, the cup tree, the containers. You don't want to put grimy pieces back on top of all your hard work.

Drain and disinfect the sinks and faucet. Replace all the towels and dish cloths.

And finally the floor. Wash the rugs as necessary. Sweep and mop, then call it a day! You've got a sparkling, decontaminated, happy kitchen that just begs you to dirty it up again with meal preparation. This time, though, you'll be more motivated to clean up as you go, deep clean cutting boards, pans and skillets before you put them back, and keep things organized. Your food, your family and your own body will thank you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Things I Do, Or Don't Do

As long as we live on this earth, we are flesh. We do fleshly things and think fleshly thoughts. This includes the decisions we make about spending our time. The choices will come in a heartbeat, over and over again, and the two results are worlds apart.

If I'm spending my time this week doing what God has called me to do, then I won't be spending my time doing the things that are against His will. The things that grow me in my walk with the Lord will occupy my time instead of those that satisfy the flesh. This sounds like a terribly easy concept, but how often do we actually follow through?

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. Romans 7:14-20

God never gives us liberty to do evil, negative things. Scripture says we can get angry, but we are not to sin in reaction to that anger. I can be upset over a circumstance, but I'm not to retaliate in any way that is unholy. So if I turn my anger over to the Lord instead, there is nothing left in me to attack the person who made me angry.

On a more simple level, I can choose to hit the snooze button in the morning and get a few more minutes of sleep - sounds like a pretty good way to spend my time! But that decision means that I may not have time to start my day with prayer and Bible study. What seemed like a positive at the time turns into a negative in God's eyes.

But if I exert some self-control and get out of bed when the alarm rings, I'll be assured of time in prayer and study. I might read something vitally important for an encounter with someone later in the day. If I hadn't taken the time I would have been unprepared and useless in God's plan for the day. We never know how the Lord is going to use our time if we give it willingly.

The upcoming week will be filled with thousands of choices for using our time. If we're spending each moment in service to the Lord, He has promised blessings exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Benefits of A Dog Walk

This is my view every morning on our walk. It is one of the best times of day because we can start the day off right. We're getting sun, fresh air, exercise and bonding time all in one. You can't say that about a gym membership!

The American College of Sports Medicine recently reported that in a 15-minute dog walk you can burn over 60 calories, plus lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. And all while breathing some fresh air!

Whether you create an exercise program around walking your dog or simply want to enjoy some time together, a trip around the block has many benefits for both of you.

For you:
* It's a chance to meet people in your neighborhood.
* You can improve several health issues including cardio, circulation, blood pressure and joint problems.
* You'll develop a closer bond with your pet.
* Setting aside time every day will help you plan, schedule and build a life routine.
* You can get fabulous exercise without spending money on a gym membership.
* Watching how much your dog is enjoy her walk is a great stress reliever!

For your dog:
* Exercise lessens bored and destructive behavior.
* You have time to work on discipline and obedience.
* Regular exercise will improve her health and quality of life.
* A walk lets her work off excess energy.
* A tired dog is a happy dog!
* She can lose weight or prevent obesity, whichever the case may be.
* She can check her messages on the corner stop sign, absolutely making her day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Do Your Own Upcycling

It wasn't until I opened my etsy shop that I heard the word "upcycle." The word literally means turning something that would normally be considered useless into something useful and beautiful. Think about the amount of money we could save over a month or even a year if we looked at things we might usually throw out as the supplies for upcycling something new and wonderful.

For example, without even realizing it I took an old beat-up cake pan and turned it into my year-round centerpiece. I wasn't even familiar with upcycling, but the pan was something I had planned to donate to the thrift shop. Instead, it has become one of my favorite pieces.


Other ways to upcycle:
* Cut the pictures out of old Christmas cards and turn them into tree ornaments.
* Old, broken jewelry can be restrung to make new, original pieces.
* I read about a woman who shredded her family's old T-shirts and knitted them into dish cloths.
* Turn old CDs into clocks, magnets and photo albums.
* Artists are finding ways to upcycle jewelry, furniture, dishes, clothing and crafts.

For more great ideas on how to save money by upcycling, head to http://www.etsy.com/ and search "upcycle." You'll see tons of ways women and artists are turning trash into treasures, and you're sure to come up with some creative ideas of your own.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Easy Meatball Sandwiches

As the temperature cools off, I'm looking for simple, warm meals that will get us through the day. I dug out this meatball sandwich recipe that I put away in the spring and pull out in the fall. It's prefect for chilly days because it will warm you up quickly - because it cooks quickly!

Ingredients:
1 can of tomato soup
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
course ground black pepper
1 package precooked meatballs
your favorite rolls
shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat broiler.

2. Heat soup in a saucepan with the spices. I don't do measurements, but go by look and taste. Use the amounts you'd like.

3. Add the meatballs and cook until heated through. Don't let it get too hot, though, or the soup will curdle and get sticky...very nasty stuff.

4. Divide the meatballs among the rolls and top with the extra sauce and cheese. I used soft hoagie rolls with sesame seeds this time. Set them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, just until the cheese is all melted and gooey.

5. Serve with chips, salad and dessert.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Overwhelming Crush of Creativity

If there were 27 hours in each day, I might be able to get all the ideas out of my brain and into creation. There's a craft show in less than three weeks. There's an etsy shop to stock and tend. There's a home to clean and tend. There are so many things that I would love to decorate, create and design, but there are just so many hours in each day. Sigh...

We live in an age where creative ideas are at our fingertips - literally. We can flip through magazines and mark things we'd like to try. We can type a few words into a search engine and be given thousands of pages to browse. We can even channel surf for a few minutes and discover entire stations devoted to crafts and decorating.

I don't know if you're like me, but after all that input I get mental and visual overload. The ideas and enthusiasm to try something new start to trip over each other in my head and that leads to...that overwhelming shutdown.

Instead of actually utilizing and following through with these countless, wonderful suggestions, I end up not being able to comprehend it all. I would love to make the card in that idea book, but look at that web site over there. There are great patterns there that I want to try, but that pretty paper I just bought calls my name. I'm piled under too much fabulous stuff and I can't focus long enough to complete a project!

So what is the answer? How can we claw our way back to the top and actually enjoy the bursts of creativity that we're blessed with? I tuck away the magazines and idea books that scream at me, "Look at this! Don't you want to try this?" They come back out one at a time as I play my way through them. Then they get recycled or passed on to someone else.

The Internet browsing gets limited to my free time, or else there won't be any free time. When I'm stuck creatively, I know there are great places I can go look and get recharged. But that time is spent in moderation or I'm right back where I started.

God has blessed us with creative minds and willing hands to create beautiful things for His honor and glory. We can decorate beautiful homes that bring peace and comfort to all who enter. We can craft treasures that offer the joy of God's love. Those are the calming effects of coming out from underneath the crush of creativity and rediscovering the passion behind why we do what we do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

There's a broken coffee cup on the kitchen counter right now. It's poor little handle is in two pieces next to it. Later today it will get some glue and be right as rain, but for the moment it sits there empty and pretty useless.

I've felt like that cup a lot lately. It seems like I've been so full of other things that God hasn't been able to fill me with His goodness. That's what I've been lacking - not joy or happiness or peace, but my empty vessel for Him to fill.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Psalm 23:5

Sometimes we have to be broken in order to see how badly we need the Lord to put the pieces back together. It's painful and it's uncomfortable, but it's necessary if we're going to grow. There's nothing that coffee cup can do to reattach it's own handle. It has to wait for me to take care of it. And I will...just like God will take care of me.

And when the repair work is done, we can use that cup again the way it was designed. Sure, right now I could use a handle-less cup to hold markers or a stencil to draw circles, but that's now what it was created for. If I'm not empty of all that heart-attitude junk, God can't fill me to overflowing with His blessings. My clean, empty, available vessel is all He desires and it's exactly what He can use for His plans for my life.

I'm ready for my cup to run over with all of the good things the Lord has to offer. What about you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Creating A Home Office Space

Every home is different, but in each one there is a place where the work gets done. You may pay bills at the dining room table. You might do all of your banking at the computer desk. There is business to attend to and space is usually in short supply.

When I reorganized my craft room, I sacrificed our broken-down computer desk for more floor space. It has been a wonderful blessing for my card-making business, but it left our bill paying center without a home. We needed a place for the everyday office supplies that would be safe, hidden from sight and out of the way.

And that's where one of my favorite pieces of furniture saved the day. I adore this telephone stand, mostly because it came from my aunt and uncle's home. The other part is that it is the perfect size and layout for the jobs we need it to perform. Plus it's the exact width of the tissue box cover my wonderful husband so thoughtfully and skillfully made for me! Isn't it beautiful?

If there's one thing that annoys me it's having to run all over the house to find the little things I need to accomplish one task. You can save time, energy and frustration by filling a central location with everything you need for those office-related tasks.



In the flip-down top section of my stand are all of the bill-paying bits. Envelopes, stamps, the budget book and address labels are all in one place. There are two books full of business cards, addresses, phone numbers and other contact information, and it's a blessing to have them right underneath the phone for easy access.

In the little drawer there is plenty of space for all those tiny bits - paper clips, safety pins, markers, pen and pencil, plus some extra odds and ends that just needed a home. If you've got way too many of something, donate them to your local school, library or thrift store. You may never need 27,000 paper clips, but the few that you have on hand will be within reach.
The shelves at the bottom are perfect for all of our business' shipping supplies and other packing necessities. When you're not using things, they can be tucked away in an organized way. You may have different needs, so find what works best for you. If you do a lot at the computer, you might want a filing system near the desk. If you normally work at the kitchen table, invest in a rolling cart that can be wheeled out of the way. Think creatively and find something that really works well for you!

Sound like an awful lot of work? Take just a few minutes to clear out the old, sort, organize and restock as needed. You'll be able to breathe a deep cleansing breath because you can actually function again!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Apparently Time Is Of The Essence

There is a spot in Columbia, South Carolina, where Interstates 20 and 77 cross. Three lanes of traffic going north go three separate directions, and if you're not in the correct lane, things can be a little messy. Consideration for those around this area seems to take a back seat to doing what's necessary at the moment.

Drivers tend to make last-minute decisions about which highway they need to be on and which lane takes them that direction. Turn signals aren't necessary for lane changes because they know where they're headed, right? It's frustrating to be in the right lane, traveling the right speed and going in the direction I need to be going while everyone else is hurrying and darting and breaking numerous traffic laws.

While telling this story the other day, I realized that we often do this in our personal life, too, not just behind the wheel. Time is of the essence constantly - whether it's to get a little further down the road or to get everything accomplished we need to today. If we can just get a little breathing room we can whip over into that other lane and make up for lost time.

But the risks outweigh the rewards for this kind of time-keeping. Instead of taking a leisurely journey through the day, we veer off course and scare other drivers. If we don't look ahead and know where the lane change needs to happen, we end up cutting someone off and causing frustration in someone else's life. Hurry in our own vehicle shouldn't mean chaos in someone else's.

And what happens if we miss our lane change? We get thrown out of whack because know we have to go down to the next exit and backtrack. That probably wasn't in the plan for the day anymore than being in the wrong lane was, but now here we are...

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14


I don't want to spend my time this week consumed with lane changes, cutting people off in my hurry and worrying about which lane I need to be in! James wrote that my life is a vapour in God's grand timing, and I don't want to waste any of it being a nuisance on the road. The Lord has glorious things planned for us this week, so be a safe, courteous driver and enjoy His journey.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Is National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

The ASPCA estimates that around 10 million animals are dropped off at shelters across the country each year. They're just waiting for those forever homes with people who want to love and cherish them.




October is National Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, and if you're looking for a special friend you'll truly be blessed by a trip to your local shelter. Both of our girls were shelter dogs, and I can remember the days that I got each of them like they were yesterday.

Bailey was the first dog I had ever owned, and she came from the Fort Knox shelter. She was one of eight puppies and there were three left when I found her. She is truly the four-legged love of my life and I treasure every moment we enjoy together.





Then a few months later came her little sister, Sadie. She was a parvo puppy and there was no way I could leave her in that shelter in her condition. After a few days at the vet's office on an IV she was good to go and she's never looked back.






They came from two different shelters and Bailey is four months older, but our girls are sisters at heart. They are almost nine years old and they have had the most spoiled rotten nine years any dog could ask for.

And that's all shelter dogs are looking for. They need love, attention, discipline and exercise - and you might be just the one who can provide it.

If you're interested in a shelter dog, the ASPCA says you should ask yourself these questions:


1. Am I ready to make a long-term commitment? Adopting a pet means being responsible for it's health and happiness for the rest of his or her life, which could be up to 15 years for dogs.

2. Is the animal right for my household? A strong, active pet may be too much for a young child or elderly person to handle. Small pets may be too delicate for rough play with children. Always make sure that everyone in the household agrees to adopt an animal.


3. Who will be the primary caretaker for the animal? One adult in the home should be designated as the primary caretaker so that the pet's needs do not become lost in the shuffle of busy schedules.



4. Can I afford the animal? The cost of a pet is more than just the purchase price or adoption fee; remember to include the cost of food, pet supplies, veterinarian bills and training.


5. Am I ready to commit to making this dog a good canine citizen? A well-trained dog is a pleasure and is welcome in public parks, on walks, and as a visitor. Research shows that people who take the time to train their dogs are more likely to keep them longer than people who don't.



If you passed this test with flying colors, it's time to go find a forever friend. In return you'll get unconditional love, puppy kisses every morning and an endless supply of smiles and warm hearts. October is the perfect time to make a canine addition to your family.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall At The Dollar Store

Fall is my absolutely favorite time of the year. I love the colors, the smells and the changes God makes in nature. It's such a beautiful season and I could handle it 24/7, 365!

And this is the time to be cleaning, redecorating and changing your home into an autumn haven. I love replacing all the bright summer colors with the muted, deep shades of fall. You don't need sea shells anymore, so the leaves and wreaths come out. It's just an exciting time of year.

If you're a nester like I am, you want your home to be comfortable and cozy, but you also want to respect your budget and the money God has given your family. There are many, many ways to do both and one of the best is checking out the local dollar store. You can easily decorate, entertain and craft with the fall theme without breaking the bank just by comparing prices at these discount places. For example, here's what I found at out local dollar store this week.

Decorating:
- pumpkins and gourds
- garland
- leaves
- moss
- doilies
- pine cones
- candles and holders
- stones and marbles
- floral picks
- wall art and hangings
- window clings

Kitchen:
- platters, plates, serving dishes
- baggies
- maple cookies
- fall-themed snacks
- roasting pans
- foil and wrap
- oven mitts and pot holders

Housewares:
- towels
- brooms
- baskets
- frames
- wreaths
- table covers
- turkey centerpiece

Crafts:
- wired ribbon
- note cards
- yarn
- stones and marbles
- gift jars

The possibilities are as endless as your decorating imagination, so fall into those autumn themes! (Get it?)