Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Upon Us

The season of Advent is that beautiful time of the year when we both anticipate the return of Jesus Christ and count down the days celebrating His birth. While Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas, we often look to the first day of December for our starting point.

Over the next 25 days, we are going to look at Advent from the victorious Christian woman's perspective. How can we separate ourselves and our families from the trappings of Christmas commercialism? What can we do personally to recover the joy of Christmas and experience the miracle of His birth? Stay close and we'll discover the answers together.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

Instead of opening a door on the Advent calendar to find a gift, let's open the Scripture and find those perfect gifts God has blessed us with. Instead of making a list and checking it twice, why don't we anticipate the precious presents from our Heavenly Father. They can't be wrapped or placed under a tree, but they are life-altering none the less.

There is great excitement during the month of December. Allow your heart to transfer that longing for something new onto a desire for growth in the Lord. We grow in grace every day, and how much more special that growth is during the Christmas season.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Advent is the perfect time to combine God's Word with our daily living. Let's spend the next four weeks growing, living, worshiping and falling in love with the Lord all over again.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Questions About Your Time

I have no idea what your day looks like. I don't know if you're scheduled within an inch of your life for the next four weeks. I don't even know if I am...and that's a scary thought. My calendar and I are in two different rooms, and without that I don't know my own schedule. I just know it's going to be a busy month.

But the motivation behind that busyness often gets lost in the shuffle. We're planning...we're asked to do things...we're expected to be places...and we're trying to accomplish everything we can in a short period of time. But why? Is it truly about celebrating Christmas? Is it honestly about sharing the Gospel with our loved ones?

As you glance at your calendar frequently over the next few hours, days and weeks, ask yourself some serious questions.

* Are you making time to spend with the Lord?

* Have you scheduled yourself so tightly that you're rushing from one thing to another?

* Do you feel like you have control over your time or are others telling you where to be and when?

* Is there time for you to just relax and enjoy the season?

* What could you remove from your list, delegate, reschedule or eliminate altogether from your life to free up your time?

If you struggled with these questions, it's time to pray about how the Lord would have you schedule yourself over the Christmas season. It's all about Him...it's always been about Him. If God isn't the focus and the very center of all we do, the time is wasted as wood, hay and stubble.

Instead, let's spend this month celebrating Christ's birth with open hearts and minds, not full calendars and multiple trips to the store. This is a glorious time of year and a precious event will be upon us soon. Let's not miss it, but glory in the miracle that is Christmas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Over The Backyard Fence

Bailey is my protector. The big dog is the one who stays at the front door and the windows, watching for potential danger. She's the one with the deep growl and the threatening bark.

She's also the one who loves belly rubs more than life itself. She's the one who will whip you with her lab tail while she shakes with pleasure over your mere presence. She's content to curl up with her head on my leg and drift off into a nap knowing her human is safe.

I'm convinced that part of our calling to keep the home is protecting our pets. Bailey protects me above all else, and it's my responsibility to make sure she is safe and secure.

Last weekend I was working in the far end of the house when I heard Bailey barking. She was outside in the beautiful fall weather, so I assumed she was chasing squirrels. They love to torment her, and I don't think she really minds it all that much. So I worked my way to the back door to return our neighborhood to peace and quiet.

I called to her from inside the mud room, even before I got to the door. Normally she will come right through the doggie door on the first call, but this time she didn't. The barking continued and I heard something else that made me broil.

The little boy next door and his little friend were kicking the fence between our two houses, making Bailey run and bark. I'm honestly surprised that the section of fence they were kicking didn't come out of the ground and go flying, they were kicking so hard. They were within inches of my dog, and she was just as irate as I was.

Now, I don't mind if neighborhood children want to play with my dog. She is the sweetest thing in the world and after some initial introductions is your friend for life. But Bailey is very protective and must have thought that these two boys were trying to get into our yard. What hurt my heart is that she probably didn't know they were targeting her, not the house.

So I called again and she came running. I took a deep breath and said a quick prayer, then opened the door. As I was stepping out onto the back step, I heard the little friend say, Wait until she gets quiet and then kick it again! Another quick prayer...

With all the calm I could muster, I spoke up so they could hear me and I said, Hey guys...could you please not kick the fence at my dog? Thank you. And that was it.

There was a little mutter of something unintelligible, so I went back in the house. For the next day or two I was very careful not to leave her out by herself and I found myself checking that yard constantly to see if they were there. My protective instinct was just as high for Bailey as hers normally is for me.

Our homes are our castles and sometimes we have to defend the kingdom. It can be done without a single weapon if we're careful and prayed up. That's a personal choice and one that can make all the difference in a chaotic one full of barking dogs and terrorist children or a peaceful one marked with compassion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple Enchiladas

For our Bible study meal a couple of weeks ago, we were using a Mexican theme. I was asked to bring a dessert, so immediately I started doing some recipe research. What I ended up making was a huge hit for any nationality! Please enjoy these apple enchiladas as much as we did!

2 (21 ounce) cans apple pie filling
8 large flour tortillas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
ice cream
whipped cream
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spoon fruit evenly onto each tortilla and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Roll up tortillas and place seam side down on lightly greased 9x13 baking pan.

3. Bring margarine, sugar, brown sugar and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. Stir until all of the sugars are dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

4. Pour sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle with extra cinnamon on top if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

5. To serve, sprinkle with more cinnamon/sugar mixture. Top with ice cream and dollops of whipped cream.

Makes 8 large enchiladas; you'll probably want to cut them in half to serve 16.

For an extra-special filling, whip 8 oz of reduced-fat cream cheese with 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Add this mixture with the apple pie filling mixture and use to fill the tortillas.

You can make the sauce early in the day and re-heat just before popping the enchiladas in the oven. the same goes for the tortillas themselves - prepare them early in the day and then lay a damp paper towel over top (to keep the tortillas from drying out) and cover with cling wrap.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings

In the midst of everything else you're working on today, take a few moments now to reflect on the blessings God has placed in your life. Give thanks for all He has done in your life! Our pastor's wife gave us this idea in Sunday School recently and it was a real eye-opener. I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

For each letter in the word Thanksgiving, write one blessing God has bestowed upon you that begins with that letter. May God continue to bless you in each of these ways and many more!


My list ended up like this: Today to serve Him, Home sweet home, Amazing family, New mercies every day, KJV Bible of my own, Salvation, Gladness in my heart, Inexplicable joy, Victory over sin, Immediate and intimate communication with Him, Never-ending love, Grace when it's needed most.

Happy Thanksgiving! May God continue to bless you exceeding abundantly above all you could ask or think.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Presentation

Thanksgiving dinner is already in the works, family are on their way and you're checking your list for tomorrow over and over. Slow down, take a deep breath and have some fun making wonderful holiday decorations.

The house:
* Why sweat over a cluttered house? Throw stuff in a basket and tuck it away until the weekend.
* Tuck various bits from your fall decorating into a basket.
* Coordinate napkins, place mats, cups, plates...whatever makes you think of the holidays.But keep it simple!
* Ask the kids to make place cards for the table or design place mats on white sheets of paper. You'll keep the occupied and know they're part of the celebration.

The food:
* Pull out all those platters and dishes that you never use - this is a special occasion!
* Forget a traditional fruit salad and make a centerpiece! Poke holes in a pumpkin, then add skewers of various fruit chunks.
* If you need someone to pick up something at the store on their way to the house...ask! It's easier than running out yourself, and much less nerve-wracking at this point.

Special things:
* Have everyone at your meal tomorrow write what they're thankful for in a notebook. Keep it until next year and you'll have memories to talk about. Remember that you'll never meet this way again...

* Plan to take pictures of each family member present and then each family group. If there's time, have your computer nearby so you can make everyone copies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Corner Bookmarks

Everyone has books and magazines around the house. But almost no one I know can read an entire book in one sitting - that offers the opportunity for you to share your faith by making these lovely corner bookmarks.

What blesses my heart about these bookmarks is that they're very out-of-the-ordinary. Everything overlaps off the bookmark itself and features lovely Scripture!

Each bookmark is made from one corner of an ordinary envelope. Cut off the bottom two corners (the ones that are opposite the flap) at an angle large enough to fit easily over the edge of a book page. For an interesting angle, cut one edge longer than the other like the far left example pictured here.

From there, the sky's the limit! For these, I cut triangles to fit inside each corner, leaving a little bit of white showing around the edges. The more layers the better in my estimation, so there are both coordinating blocks and flower die cuts on each.

Then the best part: the Scripture! All of the corners overlap off the edges of the bookmark for a neat look.

Think about Christmas themes for gift-giving. Match the paper colors and themes with the Scripture. Make sets for your Sunday School class or Bible study. The possibilities are endless...as long as you have plenty of envelopes!

These bookmarks, along with many other Christian gifts and cards, can be found in our etsy shop, www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com. Come browse and see what you can find!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Be Prepared - Know Your Shipping Dates

Time flies when you're having fun, but don't let it go by so quickly that you don't get your holiday packages shipped in time. The deadlines for getting Christmas gifts boxed and sent off are quickly approaching, so mark your calendar now.

United States Post Office Mail-by Dates:
Dec. 4 - Military mail destined for Iraq or Afghanistan
Dec. 15 - Parcel Post
Dec. 20 - First-Class Mail
Dec. 21 - Priority Mail
Dec. 22 - Express Mail

UPS Christmas Dates:
Dec. 23 - Normal pickup and delivery service for air, international and ground packages.
* UPS Next Day Air packages picked up today will arrive on Friday, Dec. 24. UPS 2nd Day Air packages picked up today will arrive on Monday, Dec. 27.

Dec. 24, Christmas Eve - Normal delivery service for air, international and ground packages.
* No UPS Ground pickup service. Pickup service provided for air and international shipments if prearranged by Thursday, Dec. 23. UPS On-Call Pickup service and all UPS Drop Boxes also are available for air and international packages. (UPS Next Day Air packages picked up today will be delivered on Monday, Dec. 27. UPS 2nd Day Air packages picked up today will be delivered on Tuesday, Dec. 28.)

FedEx Ship-By Dates:
Dec. 17 - FedEx Ground and Home Delivery
Dec. 21 - FedEx Express Saver
Dec. 22 - FedEx 2Day
Dec. 23 - FedEx Standard, Priority and First Overnight
Dec. 25 - FedEx SameDay

For international shipping, check out schedules on their web sites or in their local offices.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Schedule, God's Way

Have you ever been so over-scheduled and over-booked that you've just wanted to collapse? Perhaps you've just wanted to cancel the day for lack of interest? God never intended for us to extend ourselves past the point of caring. Our service to the Lord is to be joyful and uplifting, not a chore that needs to get checked off for the day.

As we head into the busiest season of the year, let's take just a moment to reexamine what we're writing down in our planners and put God's plan where it belongs - first!

* Time in fellowship with the Lord comes before all else. A humble heart first thing in the morning sets the stage for the rest of the day. Energize from the start and ask God what He would have you accomplish today.

* Don't try to be more or do more than God has planned for you. Women have the terrible habit of adding things to the schedule instead of simply enjoying the moment. Our service, our testimony and our sanity are all on the line when we over-extend ourselves.

* Love your family and the time you spend with them more than anything else on your to-do list. It's not about buying lots of presents or attending all the parties that you can. We will never gather like this again, things will change, so absorb every precious second with those you love.

* Be content with what God has given you. If we weren't always working for something bigger and better, we might not be constantly moving. Do what you do heartily as to the Lord, and the rest of your schedule will fall into place.

* Take time to see the beauty and worth of the season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both hectic weeks - planning for family, shopping, cooking, cleaning. But the holidays are times of reflection, giving thanks and celebrating the arrival of the Savior of the world! If our noses are buried in the lists and the chores, we'll never see the value of God's precious blessings.

* Keep your eyes on the eternal. I often wonder how much of our to-do lists are of eternal value. Caring for family is. Keeping the home is. Scheduling time for loved ones is. But beyond that, if God hasn't laid it on your heart, it's not eternally important. Listen for that still small voice as you plan your day and pay attention to how the Lord is leading you.

* Remember that we're only passing through. You and I are pilgrims in a strange land, serving the Lord until our time comes. There is nothing too serious, too trivial or too important for the Lord to handle. Pray, pray and pray some more until His peace which passeth all understanding gives you comfort in this busy world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Give A Puppy A Pill

Well, we were close in our diagnosis of Sadie's itching. She does have an allergy and has scratched herself to a skin infection. Bless her heart. So the vet gave us medicated shampoo, an antibiotic and an antihistamine.

Now we have five pills to give our dog every day. It was eight, but we're in the phasing out stage! Usually giving pills can be a pain in the neck. From experience we know that human medicine can take horrid, and apparently pet meds are the same. When offered plain, Sadie will look at me like I'm insane - You want me to do what with those?

Instead of forcing pills down the throat or make the situation a struggle, our secret is peanut butter. Both of our girls are addicted to peanut butter, so it was easy to use this as my trick for getting many pills into Sadie.

With just a plastic spoon and some creamy peanut butter, I can medicate my dog easily and effectively. We can pile them all onto one spoonful and Sadie thinks they're a treat. Apparently the smell overwhelms her nose and mouth instead of the taste of the nasty pills.

What tickles me even more is that Bailey gets jealous at pill time now. You can see her in the picture, trying to get her share of the peanut butter. At least I know that if she ever needs pills, too, she'll be just as willing as Sadie...when there's peanut butter involved!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why We Support Missions

Many people cringe when they hear that it's time to take up a missions offering. It seems like one more reason to give money that they really don't have. And why should they give money to help people they've never even met in a country they'll never even visit?

Not our family and not our church. We are very missions-minded and not just because my in-laws are missionaries to Mongolia. (That's just an added blessing.) God's Word is incredibly clear about why we're left here on earth after we get saved and not taken directly to Heaven.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

I don't know about you, but I am not physically able to go into all the world. We are not all called to travel to another country or spend most of the year traveling around our own country. Each of is given a path by God to follow and we are to support those called to paths different than our own.

And this means supporting missions financially. Those who have been called into all the world desperately need our help - think about the financial situation in our own country and multiply that exponentially around the world. When our support decreases, it snowballs down to our missionaries.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:13-15

If we are giving money on a regular basis to the local church for missions, we are able to provide a preacher to a place that wouldn't hear the Gospel otherwise. I don't know your church's giving, but if we give just $6 a week to missions, each family can support a missionary for an entire year. Take that amount times two or three and you could support missions work in several places all around the world.

The feet of our missionaries are beautiful because they are willing to go places we can't and talk to people that are longing for God's Word. How will those people hear about the love of God and the message of salvation until we loosen our purse strings and be just as missions-minded as Jesus was?

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

I'd like to be part of that power, having some small part in sharing the Gospel with people I may never meet in a country I may never visit. Some may find that a waste of money, but isn't it God's money to begin with? What better way to put His rewards to good use than spreading His Word around the world?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cooking On The Fly

I am not one of those people who generally works without a recipe. I don't particularly enjoy throwing a bunch of ingredients together to see what happens because I am desperately afraid of disappointing those eating it.

It's not as bad as it used to be - I'm venturing off the beaten path some - but I'm perfectly happy with recipes.

That wasn't destined to work last week as I prepared a sugar-free dish for our revival dinner. I had researched some dessert recipes because I had never made anything diabetic-friendly before. I had my Orange Angel Food Cake Dessert recipe in hand and I was ready to go.

And then Murphy's Law kicked in. The first ingredient on the list was an angel food cake box mix. Well, I chose to go to the store and buy one instead to save a little time. Would you believe it - our grocery store didn't have a single one pre-made. I had run out of time and couldn't make one, so I had to think on my feet. Instead of one big pan of dessert I decided to use mini dessert shells for individual servings. Problem one solved.

The rest of the ingredients were no problem. I got back into the kitchen and went to work. The next step was making the orange gelatin to pour over the cake for extra taste and presentation. (It solidifies in the cake and makes stripes.) But when I made the gelatin, I used the package directions and not the recipe's modifications. It was too runny, but I poured it over the cakes anyway.

I was truly blessed that after a few hours in the refrigerator, the gelatin didn't make the cake solid like the recipe, but became a soaked flavor that was fantastic. With that cooling time, the cake became more sturdy and smelled wonderful. It wasn't what I had planned, but it sure worked!

The topping in a mix of sugar-free pudding, orange extract and reduced-fat whipped topping. It was smooth, easy to divide among the cakes and had a light, sweet smell. Then I changed the recipe a little more because I was using small cakes. The recipe called for slices of orange, but one slice would have covered my entire little cake. Instead I used slices of mandarin oranges in a spiral around the top - perfect!

So, here's the modified recipe the way I would do it today if asked. They were all gone but one when I was ready to take the above picture - I'm lucky you get to see one before they disappeared. I was told they tasted like a Cream-Sicle. Mmmm...

Sugar-Free Orange Angel Food Cake Dessert
12 miniature angel food cake dessert shells
1 package (.3 oz) sugar-free orange gelatin
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups cold fat-free milk
1 package (1 oz) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp orange extract
1 carton (8 oz) frozen reduced-fat whipped topping (thawed)
1 jar mandarin orange slices

1. In a small bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in cold water and set aside. (Use the measurements above and not the ones on the package.)

2. Poke small holes in cakes with a fork. Pour gelatin over cakes. Chill until set.

3. In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding for 2 minutes. Whisk in extract. Let stand for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping.

4. When cakes are set, dollop topping into each divot. Garnish with orange slices.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Check Out This Review of My Prayer Journals

A lovely woman named Stephanie contacted me throug my etsy shop about reviewing my prayer journals on her blog, Stay-funnie Mom. She did an amazingly wonderful job of explaining what I do and why. So lovely.

Read her very kind words here. Let me know what you think!

Flip Up Picture Card

Did you ever see something beautiful but then had your own variation on the theme? That's what happened when I saw a card example in a magazine years ago. I loved the "little card on a big card" idea, but it wasn't exactly what I had in my mind.

This card is. It's created to hold a picture in the little card and the big card gives you room to present Scripture and write your message. The one I saw was attached to a single piece of card stock, not a whole other card. That's the function I needed.

The creation is simple. Make one big card and one little card. Adhere a picture inside the small card. The attach the small card to the center of the big card. I always put KJV Scripture inside my cards, so that goes inside the big card. It's like having a gift and a card all in one.

I think this a fabulous idea for sending your friends a special message or have the kids make one for their grandparents. It's that unique touch that will guarantee this card will be kept for years to come.

This card, along with many other cards and gifts, can be found for purchase in our etsy shop: www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lord, Walk With Me

Lord, Walk With Me

I’m tired today, Lord. Walk with me I pray.
Grant me strength and courage to make it through my day.

I’m feeling blessed today, Lord. Walk with me and share,
How you know just what I need and answer every prayer.

I’m in pain today, Lord. Walk with me, take care.
As the Great Physician, I know you know the hurt I bear.

I’m busy today, Lord. Walk with me, be kind.
Show me how to care for things and still keep you in mind.

I’m scared today, Lord. Walk with me this road.
Just to have you close seems to lighten up my load.

I’m meeting friends today, Lord. Walk with me and be
The giver of those kindest words that others need from me.

I’m full of bitterness today, Lord. Walk with me, please do.
Create in me a clean heart to bring me close to you.

I’m eager for our time today, Lord. Walk with me and show
How I can be close to you and what I need to grow.

I’m getting envious today, Lord. Walk with me and take
All the pride away for the amends I’d have to make.

I’m full of joy today , Lord. Walk with me each turn.
As the love I have for you, God, makes my heart to burn.

~ Written for the Alpine Baptist Church Ladies' Sunday School Class
In February 2008

Monday, November 15, 2010

Basic Car Care For Women

You don't have to know how to change a tire, the oil or the wiper blades to take good care of your vehicle. We are a one-car family and maintenance on that one car is my husband's domain. But even if we never fix a flat or tinker with the engine, there are many ways women have control over our vehicle's performance.

Pay attention to your tires. Poorly-inflated tires won't last as long and are more prone to flats. Learn what the proper inflation level for your particular tires are and how to use a tire gauge.

Name that smell. If you notice any unusual smell - burning, hot, rotten, gas or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary - your vehicle needs attention. Don't wait until the car has a problem, be proactive.

Wipe your wipers. Use a paper towel and window cleaner every couple of weeks. This will get rid of the road dust and grime, extending the life of your wiper blades.

Learn to check fluids. Windshield wiper fluid, oil, transmission, antifreeze, coolant - there are many fluids under the hood that are necessary for good vehicle performance. Check the owner's manual for their location or ask your husband for a quick tour.

Watch how you drive. Taking care of your car can be as easy as take care of how you drive it. Don't brake too quickly or start too quickly from a stop. Anticipate what actions are coming up so you can ease into them. Do everything gradually and you'll save wear and tear on brakes and other essential parts.

Pick up after yourself. If you maintain a certain level of cleanliness inside your vehicle, detailing it later will be much easier. Clean up messes and spills when they happen. Keep a crate or bag in the car to control clutter. Neutralize odors before they become unbearable.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When Push Comes To Shove

Friday was not one of my better days when it came to patience. Normally I'm pretty even-keeled, but a series of events pushed me over the edge and I'm not proud of it at all. And it was all over wasting my time.

My time is incredibly precious to me, just as yours is to you I'm sure. If you'll remember, one of my e-mail accounts was hacked a few weeks ago. If you don't remember, click back on my post from September 20. The hacker sent out e-mail from my account that were definitely not from me. So I wasted several hours of my time sending apology e-mails to everyone in my contact list and closing the account.

On Friday I received an e-mail message from a church member and friend that these spam e-mails were still being sent and my name was still attached. I was irate because I was now going to have to take the time to do this all over again. On top of it, my agitation increased when the mail provider made it incredibly difficult to register a complaint. I've had to repent of the evil thoughts I had about them...

Now, when push comes to shove I'll invest whatever time is necessary to make things right, complete a task or help someone who needs it. The difference is when someone evil doing something evil attacks not only my privacy but my time. You know as well as I do that women are balancing enough on their plate as it is. When my time is getting used up cleaning up the mess from someone who doesn't know me, doesn't care what affect they have on me or the horrible amount of time I've spent on them, I get a little perturbed.

So I've been deep in thought this weekend about my time. God has created 24-hour days, 7-day weeks and 365-day years for a reason. We must protect every precious moment that He has blessed us with and use it to His honor and glory. If that means I'm serving the Lord while fixing this e-mail problem, then I should do it with gladness. If it means serving Him while balancing my plates, then I will. Our goal every day should be spend our time on His path and keep from being a hindrance to anyone else on theirs.

When push comes to shove, that's time well spent.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Doggie Door Saga

When we moved into our new house a year and a half ago, the doggie door was part of the package. I was all excited that the girls (Bailey especially) would be able to be outside when it was nice and come in for water and belly rubs whenever they wanted.

And then reality set in - we had an indoor cat, and the idea of her exiting the same way never to be heard from again didn't sit well. So the cover stayed on the doggie door and the girls were none the wiser.

So this summer when the cat went to her new forever home, it hit me. We can open up the doggie door and give the girls a treat! They can have a little freedom and I wouldn't have to be constantly getting up and down to let them out.

Now, our girls had never even seen a doggie door, let alone understood the concept. We've taught them that they need permission to go outside, eat, go for a walk or greet people at the door. This keeps us in control of the situation instead of getting over-dominant dogs.

The fun part was just teaching them that the door moved. Sadie didn't care because she's our indoor princess, but Bailey was in awe. She'd love outside if she could, coming in occasionally for love and food, so this was her cup of tea. It only took a time or two of calling her name from either side for her to understand that she could come and go as she pleased - within reason.

Sadie, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. She hates that door almost as much as she hates being outside without us. She doesn't seem to understand that she can open it herself, so she'll sit outside peering in until she can't stand it anymore. She'll bark a little to summon me and I'll have to pull the doggie door back for her or open the door completely.

The best part is when I don't get to the door quickly enough. Bailey gets annoyed with Sadie's whining and barking, so she'll come in through the doggie door. Sadie will follow her anywhere, so she'll come in right behind her. Then Bailey turns right back around and heads outside again. What a dutiful big sister!

Today is another beautiful fall day in South Carolina, so I know I'll hear that doggie door swing several times today. I'm so blessed to have the sweetest puppies ever, so if a dog-sized swinging door is all it takes to make them happy, it's music to my ears.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Five Ways To Avoid Holiday Splurging

In case you hadn't realized it yet, we're into the second week of November already. Christmas will be here before we know it, and the focus is on our family gatherings. There are groceries to buy, presents to find, rooms to decorate and traveling to plan. How long is your list now?

The difference between breaking the bank over the next two months and being a good steward of the money God has given you is in planning. There is nothing wrong with buying and decorating and traveling, but there is danger in splurging - at the moment and down the road.

Instead, try these five tips in order and make the decision to spend wisely during the next six weeks.

1. Make a budget. Look at any debt you already have, the money coming in over the next two months and how much you can safely spend. Sit down with your husband to make some clear boundaries for the holidays. Know your financial situation better than anything else in your life or it will take over everything. Pull out cash along the way, put it in an envelope labeled "Christmas" or "Groceries" and when it's gone, it's gone.

2. Stick to the budget. There will be great sales, there will be temptation and there will be deals they call "Too good to pass up." You can pass them up, and you should pass them up, if they throw your planning completely out of whack. Spending $50 on something marked 75% off is a great bargain, but not if your budget only allows you to spend $20 to begin with. Nobody wants to receive any gift wrapped with guilt and tied with a ribbon of debt. Stick with the limits you set on your money.

3. Make a list. This is my favorite part of the whole thing! Think, plan, decide, look ahead and write it all down. Talk to your husband about how much you can safely afford to budget for Thanksgiving meals, Christmas gifts and holiday decorating. Then plan your shopping trips accordingly. Take lists of gift ideas with you, make out your grocery list while you look at your cookbooks. Have it all written down so can see where is dollar is going.

4. Stick to the list. And make no excuses. "But little Susie will love that 2700 piece crayon box with the flip top lid, three built-in sharpeners and neon carrying case!" If you didn't plan for it, don't get it. Or be willing to sacrifice something else in its place. If we can talk ourselves into buying just about anything, we can also talk ourselves out of it. Our finances are the first and best place to have self-control this holiday season. You can't work off debt on the treadmill.

5. Be accountable. Choose an accountability partner and check in regularly during the holidays. This could easily be your husband, but you might pick a friend who will be ruthless with you. You don't have to share exact amounts spent, but it should be someone who will make you justify your purchases and the motives behind them. Shop with them, or just call during your planning time or after you return. Knowing there's someone waiting to hear about your spending habits will make you think seriously about what you buy.

In the end, we each have to make serious decisions about what our money is truly worth. Yes, having several piles of gifts under the tree would be nice, but splurging on one event isn't worth it in your pocketbook's eyes. Self-control and moderation will ensure that we all have a happy, healthy, financially sound Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oatmeal Spice Drop Cookies

Perfect for the lovely fall weather and just right for any gathering, these candy-covered cookies are conversation pieces. I took three batches to a recent church fellowship and they were devoured! If possible, bake them right before it's time to eat them so they're served warm.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup coarsely chopped spice drops

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

3. In another larger bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the oats and gumdrops.

4. Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, leaving space between each. (The dough will SPREAD as it bakes.) Add 2-3 small pieces of spice drop to the top of each dough ball.

5. Bake until golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. The tops will still be soft and shiny. Let stand on the baking sheets briefly, then transfer to wire racks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Simple Fall Centerpiece...Plus

The grocery store by our house is completely sold out of miniature pumpkins now. They're also short many of those beautiful ornamental gourds. It's autumn in the city (finally) and I'm in the decorating mood!

With just a few basic, traditional fall-themed pieces you can create home decor that is both simple and vibrant. For example, this lovely centerpiece contains:
* mini pumpkins
*ornamental gourds
* pine cones
* silk flowers
* ornamental picks cut into pieces

From there, choose a basket with some personality. This one was a gift from one of my dearest friends, so I wanted it front and center. If yours has holes or openings as part of the design like this one does, just line the bottom with a paper plate and a handful of rocks. This will make a solid surface for your other elements.

Then start with the largest items like the pumpkins and gourds. Fill in the empty spaces with flowers and the sprigs from the floral picks. Finish it off with a few leaves and you're all set!

I even had a few pieces left over to make a little decoration in the entryway. Coordinating decor throughout the house ties everything together and gives you a lovely fall theme.

Add in whatever your personal taste begs for. Tuck a taper candle into the middle of the centerpiece. Tie red, orange and yellow ribbons around existing decor. Line up wooden chairs, frames or baskets to make a grouping of things you love. Fall will only be here for a little while, so enjoy every moment of it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Bother To Memorize Scripture?

One of the greatest computer programs I own is my e-sword. "The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge" they call it. In one fell swoop I can read my KJV Scripture, search for words and themes, find dictionary definitions of Bible words I don't understand and study commentaries from a dozen different places.

I could spend hours reading, searching and delving deep into this program. Acts 17:11 says: 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. So many conversations with the Lord all at my fingertips.

So why should we bother to memorize Scripture anymore? With a search engine in your lap and the Word of God small enough to fit in your pocket, why should we strive to stretch our minds with memorization?

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:10-11

The memorized Word shows our time and effort. Anyone with a computer and few minutes can run a program that will find what they need. They don't have to have an interest, a love or a passion for God's Word, just a "search" button. Memorization is the message to the Lord that we're willing to put in the long hours to learn the meaning behind His Gospel and hide it away in our heart. His message will only be available at the moment we need it when it's tucked into both our memory and our heart.

The memorized Word shows our commitment. There are many things on your to-do list today, I'm sure, because it probably looks just like mine. Giving God the precious gift of our time to commit His Word to memory is the perfect way to strengthen our relationship with Him. Again, anyone can read Scripture off a prepared page, but it takes a deeply committed woman to go the extra mile for time with the Lord. The rewards for that kind of devotion are eternal and blessed.

The memorized Word shows our need. We have many situations each day when Scripture is necessary. Someone needs encouragement. We need reassurance. The lost need God's saving grace. That desperate soul needs the immediate blessing of the memorized Word, not a computer screen or devotion book. Ready at a moment's notice, the memorized Scripture is our first line of defense in a needy, greedy world.

The memorized Word shows our love. Everyone has favorite songs that we've memorized. We know certain recipes by repetition. And we could probably quote some movies in their entirety. The difference between those memories and the memorization of the Word is in our love. If we love the things of God more than the things of the world, we will put more effort into His Word than anything else in our lives. What better way to show the depths of our live than in committing His conversations with us to memory?

How can you begin to memorize Scripture?
1. Choose one verse of Scripture each week. Study it, read it in context, learn what God's reasons for saying those particular words were.

2. Write the verse on a note card. Writing it by hand will help commit it to memory as you watch the letters formed one by one.

3. Carry that verse with you everywhere you go. Pull it out every few minutes, every hour, several times a day and read it, looking at each word, each punctuation. Repeat this until you are comfortable with the entire verse.

4. Continue on to the next verse. Add this card to the first, put them on a ring together or in an envelope - make it something easy that you can keep with you at all times.

5. Take your time and choose verses that are especially meaningful to you. Start small and work your way up to entire chapters and passages that you love. God will begin to reveal new meanings and purposes for those verses as you grow in His Word.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pyramid Napkin Fold

For some reason, autumn always makes me think of napkins in pretty folds gracing the table. Perhaps it's because the next few weeks will be filled with occasions when we can make our dining tables beautiful with treats like this.
Here is a very simple, very clever design for your next gathering.
1. Lay the napkin face down in front of you. Fold the napkin in half diagonally with the point at the top.

2. Fold the right end up to meet the far corner, matching all the edges.

3. Repeat with the left side, folding the left tip up to the far corner, creating a diamond shape with a seam running down the center.

4. Flip the napkin over, keeping the open end facing away from you.

5. Fold the napkin in half by bringing the top point down to meet the bottom point.

6. Turn the napkin over again, keeping the point toward you. It will look very similar to the other side, but this is a necessary step.

7. Fold the napkin along the center seam and you have a neat little pyramid. The front fold will open a little to help it stand a little better. So cute!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Time Management Myth

The myth that we are fed is that if we somehow hurry or work harder we will eventually get everything accomplished. If we just had one more minute or hour or day we could finally defeat the time crunch. There must be some magical time management tool that will create a 25th hour and an 8th day, making it possible to finally be done and relax.

That's exactly why this is a myth. God has blessed us with 24 hours of time today. No matter how I plan, organize or beg, there will only be 24 hours today, tomorrow and the day after that. The number of hours we have to work with doesn't change. And the blessings that He provides in those hours are as eternal as the promises He has made.

So how do we get past the urge to schedule ourselves to the point of no return?

Analyze: Look at the many things you are trying to cram into the day. Are they all glorifying and honoring to God? How many of them are chores or activities we've simply created to make ourselves busy? This is the moment to whittle away all of the extra stuff in our schedule and focus on the few things that the Lord would have us accomplish. Pray over your planner and listen to how God would have you stay busy.

Prioritize: With your pared down to-do list in hand, put your priorities in order. Anything with a deadline should be done first - this is how to be a good steward of the time God has given. This is especially true of those things we are doing for other people, so we can complete their tasks first and efficiently. From there, set your priorities by time, supplies on hand and ease of the day. Some tasks might not be pleasant, but putting them off until later doesn't make the day any easier.

Neutralize: Get rid of the need to be continuously busy all the time. Avoid those activities that keep you from accomplishing your goals and achieving God's instructions for the day. This may mean not spending so much time on the phone, turning off the television or saving your books and magazines until the end of the day. We'd all be surprised at the time-eaters in our lives. Banishing them from the schedule would mean more time with the Lord, more time with family and possibly even more time for yourself!

None of these suggestions will add an extra hour to the day. But they will help you look seriously at how you spend the 24 hours you do have each day for the Lord.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Makes Sadie Scratch?

Our poor Sadie-dog has been miserable for ages. We think we made a terrible mistake in changing her food and she had an allergic reaction to one of its ingredients. The result? She's been scratching like crazy...
continuously. Bless her heart!

The solution? A fabulous, wonderful, incredible product called Pets Best from the Animal Supply House. Designed to calm and soothe hot spots, itching and irritation, this is possibly the most useful pet product we've ever had to buy. And it worked overnight!

Pets Best is a spray, so you don't have to touch, rub or irritate any already sensitive areas. Sadie has several red places where she's licked and itched so much that she's tender to the touch. Not a problem with Pets Best because you just spray it on and let it sit.

We were afraid it would smell like medicine or have some weird odor since it's for dogs. The surprise was that, because it's an all-natural product, that it smelled wonderful! It's made of cloves, cedar, eucalyptus and wintergreen, so it was like having a lovely forest instead of a vet's office smell. Fantastic!

And it worked almost immediately. Apparently it is cool and soothing, taking away the burning and irritation. The red is turning to pink and Sadie isn't scratching nearly as much. You wouldn't believe the change in her from Thursday night to Friday morning! She hadn't been sleeping well because the itch was keeping her awake. (Honestly it was keeping us all awake. She probably thinks her new name is Sadie-Stop.) We sprayed several places Thursday evening and then we all went to bed. I slept almost completely through the night without hearing her scratch, and Danny said he heard her much less.

Friday morning was the true blessing. After weeks of being tired and miserable, we woke up to a happy, perky, loving dog. She even bounced...my dog hasn't bounced in ages! She's been too busy scratching to bounce. But now her ears are up, she's interested in the world around her and she's napping like a baby.

It truly blesses my heart that people are committed to making products like this for our pets. When their quality of living is high, we're all happy. God has blessed us with the desires of our heart, and our pet's health and happiness are definitely our desire.

So, the lessons learned today:
* Don't change food without understand your pet's digestive system.
* Don't allow any behavioral change like scratching to go on for very long.
* Don't hesitate to call the vet when conditions get worse.
* Don't hesitate to ask the pet store employees for their expert opinion on the products they sell.
* Don't wait until tomorrow to solve your pet's health problems.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homemade Or Store Bought?

The holiday season is approaching so quickly that I can't flip the calendar fast enough. There will be many gift-giving opportunities ahead, too: hostess gifts, winter birthdays, Christmas and several other special occasions. One gift for each of them will add up quickly.

Not to ruin the surprise, but my friends and family will be receiving handmade gifts this year. I'm not being a miser, although I love a good bargain as well as the next woman. This is a conscious effort on my part with a particular meaning.

Can you remember back to birthdays and Christmas mornings when you received a hand-knit sweater or a piece of embroidery to hang on the wall? If you were very young it probably didn't mean much, and they were laid aside for the shiny new toy or sparkly jewelry.

These days, perhaps I'm showing my age, I would much prefer a set of handmade note cards or a crocheted throw for my prayer closet. There are many ladies who have already gone to Heaven who would make me those precious types of things every year, and now I don't have them to look forward to as often. Now those homemade gifts are more special than any trinket from the store could ever be.

It means more to me that someone took the time and effort to make something particularly for me. I know as I make cards that I'm praying over each one of them and thinking about the special people in my life who will receive them. Anyone can go to the store and buy the same thing as everyone else, but it takes planning and love to make something from the heart.

Carefully consider how you spend you money on gifts this holiday season. Perhaps no one will remember the electric drill or the appetizer tongs a year from now, but the warmth that you give in a handmade gift will last a lifetime.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Candy Corn Popcorn Balls

Use that fall classic - the candy corn - to make a sweet treat for all ages to enjoy. I took these to our church's fall festival last weekend and they were a hit with the grown-ups, too!

two bags of popped popcorn (I used kettle corn to make it a little sweeter and less greasy)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
1 cup of candy corn (or more, depending on personal preference)

1. Combine the popped popcorn and candy corn in a very large bowl. Stir to mix.

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the salt, corn syrup and marshmallows. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously until the mixture is all melted and smooth. This may take up to 5 minutes - just keep an eye on it.

3. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and candy corn. Allow to cool for a minute, then coat your hands with butter and mix thoroughly. Shape into balls. Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes until they harden slightly. This will keep everyone's hands from being as sticky as yours are now!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple Cider Cups

Apple cider is my favorite beverage ever! Now that fall is here you'd think I'd be drinking more, but I've been drinking it all year 'round!

While searching for something completely different I found a great gift idea that uses this favorite drink of mine. I wasn't even looking for this template. I was digging through a notebook and there it was...hmmm.

After tracing the template onto the back of card stock, I cut it out and folded it in half. The front panel is cut down so you can see the drink packet inside. I used some of my leftover fall-themed paper to decorate the front. The apple is a fabulous stencil that I have, so I can make as many as I want.

Then I printed out Psalm 17:8: Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wing. It's matted on ink-distressed card stock and added to the drink holder.

I'm planning on doing some of these in a winter theme with hot chocolate when it gets colder. It's a fun, versatile gift for any season. It would even work with lemonade in the summer. If you'd like the template, just let me know.

These apple cider cards and many other gifts and cards can be found for sale in my shop: http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/. Come check them out and get into the autumn spirit.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Blessing of God's Comfort

There's a big, fluffy blanket in my prayer closet that gives me comfort. Having my puppies curled up at my feet gives me comfort. My husband coming home from work every night gives me comfort. But those things are all temporal and can be lost in a moment. Nothing temporal lasts, but I know what does.

The only lasting comfort in this world is the blessing of God's eternal comfort. Resting in His mercy and grace provides the comfort I need to go about my daily life without worry and doubt. That's a blessing that can only come from a loving Heavenly Father.

And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. Exodus 33:14

I've found myself making a lot of sympathy cards lately, and they're selling in the shop very quickly. Apparently many people need to share God's Words of comfort. Those words are the only peace that will soothe the soul and calm the nerves. When times are difficult and everything seems up in the air, Scripture will ground you and keep you focused.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

There is nothing in me and nothing in the world that will comfort. As wonderful as those earthly comforts are, they don't last. They aren't eternal like the peace and joy of God's sheltering arms.

Search the Scripture and find the words that speak to your heart. Allow God to show you exactly what you need to hear from Him to rest in His strength. Then that peace which passes all understanding will guide you and direct your path.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest. Genesis 28:15

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cleaning Catch-Up

While we were preparing for last weekend's craft show, I hate to admit it but many other things went by the wayside. When I came home Saturday afternoon with joy in my heart from the wonderful day, I was shocked to see how the house had been left for the past few days. I'm not a fan of clutter to begin with, but this was beyond what I'd realized. It wasn't Health Inspector failure by any means, but apparently I'd had blinders on while I'd been in my craft room.

With renewed vigor in my soul, I began to tackle the piles, dog fur and general messiness with zeal. Truth be told you own home may need the same cleaning catch-up that mine did. Let me explain how I organize a mass cleaning project and perhaps you can use it to put your house in beautiful condition, too.

First is returning everything to its rightful home. I carry a laundry basket with me from room to room. Anything that doesn't belong on the dining room table goes in the basket. Then on to the kitchen - anything that was on the table that belongs in the kitchen comes out of the basket and gets cleaned or put away. Then things that don't belong in the kitchen go in the basket. Then on to the living room...see the pattern? Continue around the house until everything is at least in the room it belongs to.

Then I clean room by room, making a circle around the house. Begin at the front door (the porch even, if you like) and clean from top to bottom. This means organizing, straightening, dusting, windows, mirrors, picture frames...everything. You'd honestly be surprised at how quick this will go because you already did step number one, clearing out everything that doesn't belong there. Save all the floors for last so you don't track anything.

Due to the changing seasons, you may want to pull out your fall decorations now, if you already haven't. They'll look even more wonderful in a lovely, clean home. And remember that in a few weeks you'll want to put out Christmas decorations (that's right...I said it!) so make room now.

This is also a great time to make your honey-do list and any shopping lists you might want. While I was cleaning I noticed several things that needed fixed or replaced. Some of it I could do myself, but there were several chores that I'll have to have help with. If you love lists the way I do, jot them down for the moment and keep cleaning. Do your shopping all at once and you'll save boat loads of time and energy.

I try to catch up in one room each day. That speed isn't too daunting and I can still get my shop work done. Tackle this kind of project in little bites so you don't get worn out or overly frustrated. Remember that you're trying to keep an entire home, but it doesn't have to be done in one day, no matter how excited you get when the first room looks wonderful!