Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Weekend of Newness

If you're anything like me, and I imagine you are at least somewhat, you have been anything but perfect during the past year.
I know in my own life, I've been proud, angry, discouraged, mean-spirited, unloving, judgemental, suspicious, lazy, arrogant and probably more than a little selfish. I am just a sinner saved by grace, and my daily living is often proof of that sinful nature.

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

This weekend many people will use the New Year as their "reason" for starting anew. They will look for newness of life in diets, kicking bad habits and trying to do a 180-degree turn in other areas.

But Scripture tells us that we have new mercies every single day, not just the first day of the year. We can look for God's faithfulness today, tomorrow and even sometime next week when we've broken the diet, forgotten the exercise and turned back to our human ways.

So make this a weekend of newness, just to look for the mercies and compassion that fail not, even when we do.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Weekend of Christ

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:18-24

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:1-20

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Candy Cane Treat - Part 2

So, here's my pile of leftover, broken candy canes. These are the ones that I couldn't make into hearts yesterday because they've cracked and crumbled.

Now what?

We get into the kitchen and use them up!

Whole candy canes:
* Get fanciful and hang them around the kitchen.
* Tuck them into plants, into cups and into glasses for a quick snack.
* Offer them as an alternative coffee stir stick.

Bits and pieces of candy canes:
* Drop them into a cup of hot cocoa.
* Scatter them around a dessert plate as garnish.
* Add to a party mix with popcorn, chocolate candies and other munchable goodies.

Crushed candy canes:
* Sprinkle on top of chocolate cake.
* Mix into no-bake cheesecake.
* Stir into softened ice cream, then refreeze.
* Add to the frosting of your favorite dessert.

May the week bring you many candy canes, broken or otherwise. It might get your creativity working!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Candy Cane Treat - Part 1

It's not every day that I air my mistakes before the entire blogging world, but today is the day.

I bought the wrong kind of candy canes.

There was an amazingly cute craft in a magazine that I'd been saving for just this week, so I went to the dollar store and bought two packages of candy canes. They're all pretty and red and perfectly striped.

But then I got home and reread the instructions. Instead of my pretty, edible candy canes, I needed the candy cane ornaments made of plastic. Real ones won't work.

So, that one will have to wait until next year. And now I have 24 candy canes. What's a girl to do?

Make candy cane crafts and recipes! Yay!

So here's the easiest, cutest candy cane craft int he entire world. They're perfect for a quick gift, decoration or ornament.


All you need are two candy canes and a hot glue gun. Please leave the candy canes wrapped, unless you plan to never, ever eat them.

 

After preheating your glue gun, place two drops of glue on one candy cane. One will go almost to the end of the curved part and the other where you want the two sticks to cross.

 

IMMEDIATELY lay the second candy cane on top and press together. Don't let go, don't move, don't pass go and don't collect $200. Hold them together for about half a minute, just to make sure they're good and tight. Then lay them aside briefly until they're completely cool and dry.

You can use these as table decorations, tie a Bible verse to them for a gift or add them to your Christmas greenery, swags and garland. Just be gentle - they're delicate and fragile. Trust me...I know.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Who We Are

Human beings, women humans especially, tend to categorize themselves in funny ways. Ways very different from how God sees us.

We measure our self-worth by physical traits - those we lack and those we have too many of. We judge our character by the things we've failed at more than our heart condition while we've attempted them. And we'll often be much more harsh on ourselves than we would ever be with someone else.

There are many times when our self-critique prevents us from seeing the saved child of God that He sees. "How could the Lord love me when He knows who I am, what I've done and what I've been?"

Isn't it amazing (and such a wonderful blessing) that God sees us through the blood of Christ. Because we've come before His throne in repentance, we are a new creature, completely covered in the crimson flow. What was once a lost, struggling, sinful person is now seen clean, pure and refreshed by the grace of God.

So who are we to belittle, judge and degrade the creation of God? That's like telling Him that His work isn't good enough, that we've found flaws that we think need to be ironed out. How prideful and sinful that line of thinking is.

So what does God see when He looks at us through the blood of His Son? Who are we because of Jesus Christ?

We are complete. (Colossians 2:10)
We are a new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We are alive. (Ephesians 2:5)
We are a vessel of Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
We are His workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)
We are born of incorruptible seed. (1 Peter 1:23)
We are blameless and harmless. (Philippians 2:15)
We are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37)

And that's just the beginning!
How do you see yourself today? Is it the way God sees you?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Weekend of Anticipation

Everyone's hurrying around this weekend - attending events and parties, shopping for numerous gifts and writing out the last of the greeting cards.

Are we anticipating the event or the arrival?

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:20-23

Make this weekend one of anticipation over the birth of the Savior. The other stuff can wait - praise and worship of the soon-coming King can't!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rain In Due Season

 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Leviticus 26:4


My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. Deuteronomy 32:2


And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. 
1 Kings 18: 41


And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. James 5:18

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting Adjusted

Just wanted to let you know that the girls are having a wonderful time in their new home. There was a little anxiety at first, but everyone is now settled and adjusted to life in Iowa.


They love to be out on the property, sniffing for the deer, turkeys and the occasional raccoon. The woods surrounding us are the perfect place to do a little exploring.


You can tell that everything's back to normal when your Labrador Retriever spends her time in the kitchen with you while you're baking. Just in case you need help cleaning up...


And they're happiest when they can watch the world go by from the warmth of the inside. Bailey protects the house with all her heart, especially when there are birds and deer on the loose.

It's a great time to be a puppy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Would You Like Your Ravioli Toasted?

This recipe is so easy and so fantastic that I made it twice in one week. Restaurants everywhere have included it on their menu, but for a better value (and quicker service) you can make it yourself.

I found several recipes around and about for toasted ravioli, mainly because I didn't want the hassle of frying them. These are baked instead, and take just a few minutes in the oven.

Interestingly enough, I had also screwed up some step in each recipe I had saved...yes, surprising, I know. So I had to modify and make things up as I went along to compensate.

Mind you, my measurements are a little guess work - I added enough spices to make the bread crumbs smell just right and look really pretty. The exact numbers are really up to you. Take a whiff and decide what you like.

Ingredients:
1 bag frozen meat ravioli, thawed overnight
1 egg white
2 Tbsp water
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 Tbsp basil
3 Tbsp oregano
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
marinara or pizza sauce

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. (You probably won't need it, but spray it the first time just to make sure nothing sticks.)

2. Beat the egg white and water in a small bowl.

3. Mix bread crumbs, basil, oregano and cheese in a separate bowl.

4. Using one hand, dip each ravioli in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Use that hand to drop the ravioli into the bread crumbs. Use your other hand (the clean one) to cover the wet ravioli in the crumbs. (It's a little neater and you won't get clumpy egg stuff in the crumbs.) Then line them up on the baking sheet.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until they've puffed up and are toasty brown. Serve immediately with a marinara sauce or pizza sauce.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Not That Time Consuming

After a while I get tired of hearing people say that it's too time consuming and too difficult to make your own Christmas cards. Then they settle for some generic design that many other people will purchase and that may not say exactly what they'd like.

Let me show you, in just seven pictures, how quickly and easily you can make a beautiful card to share the joy of the season.

Step one: gather one blank card, one sheet of decorator paper, two coordinating scraps and one 3D embellishment. Yep...that's it. That took me about two minutes, mostly because I'm still not reorganized yet.

Step two: adhere the decorator paper to the card and trim to fit. That took about a minute.

Step three: with your paper trimmer, cut a small strip of paper, long enough to run top to bottom on your card. Then adhere it to the coordinating piece so there is a thin border on either side. This may take three minutes, tops. 

Step four: adhere your new strip to the center of your card. This takes about 30 seconds. 

 Step five: center your embellishment on the strip, slightly higher than the middle of the card. This shouldn't take more than a few seconds, unless you're a perfectionist.

And there you have it...a finished card. If you're happy with the amount of time that took, that's all you have to do. Unless the creative juices just got flowing and there's ideas just rushing out of your head!

 I added four coordinating dots to the corners of my card. They have the same shiny glitter effect that the Merry Christmas phrase does. So pretty, so sparkled!

You might want to run a piece of ribbon down the center of your strip, or tie a bow underneath. Maybe you'd like more layers and want to start with a solid color, and then mat the patterned paper on top of it.

And the finishing touch for all of my cards - the Scripture. I never make a card that doesn't have God's Word in it, on it, around it, through it...somehow. His Word is so much more important than mine could ever be.

Have fun and spend a few minutes this Christmas season to try your hand at a simple greeting card.
If you'd like more ideas, visit my etsy shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reading Through The Bible In A Year

If you've been following along with the Daily Devotion on this site, you've just read through the entire Bible in less than 50 weeks. It's truly hard to believe that it's been that long, but it's been a blessed journey.

We've watched the Lord of all Creation make a universe...and then create a man. Through the miracle of His power He made that man a help meet, which started our own beautiful family.

But we've also had to read about sin coming into the world and the need of man for a Savior. From the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, we've clearly seen that scarlet thread that is the blood of Jesus Christ work its way through history.

We've seen how God can use a shepherd, a slave girl, a king, a harlot, a publican, a Pharisee, a fisherman and thousands of other lives to give glory and honor to the King of kings and Lord of lords. If He can do that with this variety of people, what can He use me for?

And possibly the best part of all, we've seen how God sent His only begotten Son as a substitute for each one of us. Blood had to be shed for the forgiveness of sins, and it should have been us on that cross suffering. But grace and mercy took over, and Jesus Christ took our place. Glory to His holy name!

So now there's a new question on the horizon: Do we stop here? We've made it through the Bible and there's a feeling of accomplishment. Do we really need to read more, or again, or still?

The joy of the Word of God that you hold in your hand is that it is a Living Word. Every time we read through its pages, the Holy Spirit leads us to different meanings, new applications and assuring verses. It is never the same twice, although the message is always and eternally the same.

I pray that each of us will continue to search God's Word daily to find His direction and leadership in our own personal lives. He can speak directly to our heart when we make the decision to read and listen.

And I can only imagine what He has in store for us when we turn the next page!

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: liveth and abideth for ever. 1 Peter 1:22-23

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Trespassing

Our new home sits well off the road in a great area of trees. You can't see it from the highway and there is little traffic noise. It's not somewhere people just happen to be passing by, so when someone arrives in the driveway, it is normally planned and expected. And usually they are here for a purpose.

Anyone who isn't here by invitation or to complete a necessary task for our family is trespassing. They have no reason to be here and probably aren't up to anything good. We've heard about people hunting on surrounding land without permission, and that is a scary thought. This space is precious to us, and we like to protect it from anyone who would do it harm.

Unfortunately, I have been guilty of allowing trespassers onto our property. No, it wasn't hunters or salesmen. There hasn't been anyone on our doorstep that shouldn't be, but I have allowed other things to creep their way in.

When I worry, I am allowing those people and issues that have evil intent full use of my home and my mind. They affect every corner of everything that I do. Essentially I have given permission for those evil things that I hate to enter right through the front door and stay a while. All the alarm systems get turned off and then I wonder why I can't find peace in my heart. Instead of blocking them at the door, or even at the property line, I brought them in myself with an engraved invitation. How silly is that?

When I concede my time, my thoughts and my efforts to things that aren't completely glorifying and honoring to God, I have allowed trespassers onto our property. No dead bolt or key can keep them out when I've already given them entrance all by myself. There is no room left to wonder how things have gotten the way they are, because I have given each one of them permission personally.

So what's a woman to do?

#1 - Pray a hedge!
Have you ever done a prayer walk of your home? I just did an extra long one, and it has made all the difference in my heart. Begin at your property line and pray a hedge around everything you own. Start with the land, the driveway, the front door and the exterior of your home. Ask God for protection, safety and the ability to keep trespassers at bay. Then move through each room, thanking Him for how He's already blessed and ask Him to keep out anything that would harm you, your family and your relationship with Him.

This may take minutes, or it may take hours. I spent a good chunk of the morning just moving through the house and asking for the Lord's protection to stand guard over my home. The peace that passeth all understanding comes from this - trusting that God will hear and answer prayer. He has promised to do all for our greater good and to respond to our requests in the best way He knows.

#2 - Build a wall!
Instead of inviting trespassers in through worry and other sinful actions, we have to take control of our thoughts and actions. Building a wall means doing everything in your power, through the guidance of God Himself, to protect your home from evil intruders. For you personally, it may mean tighter controls on the computer, phone or television. Or it might mean turning off those thoughts that bring worry, despair and anger. Each of these, and many many more ways, keep our focus on God instead of the possibilities out in the world.

This is an on-going effort that doesn't stop after one day, one week or even a year. This calling is a lifelong, life-altering change that can transform the way our house, our family and our life run. Building that wall tells the Lord that we're serious about being clean and pure for His use, and we're prepared to be vessels of honor for Him.

I pray that you'll join me in this fight against trespassers. One soldier can do much, but an army can do so much more. I'll pray for you - please pray for me, that I can pray a hedge, build a wall and protect everything that is precious to me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Under A Blanket Of Snow

Just wanted you to see what happens when you try to "encourage" the snow. (Reread yesterday's craft post.)

This is how we woke up this morning, and it's still coming down. Just sitting inside praising the Lord for the beauty of His creation.

Have a wonderful day bundled up in God's love!

Farewell To Fall Cupcakes

It's finally time to share the culmination of a past post - one you've probably been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for, right?

I've been thinking about these tiny cupcakes for days, and finally made them yesterday morning. Half went to work with Danny and the other half went to the newsroom with me. Only a handful made it home, but we're not complaining.

Ingredients:
one white cake box mix
the ingredients called for on the package
one jar marshmallow fluff
one can creamy white frosting
one can spray frosting (or your favorite kind)
one container of chocolate-dipped graham crackers

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one tiny cupcake wrapper in each spot of a 24-count mini-cupcake pan.

2. Bake 48 miniature cupcakes, 10-12 minutes for each batch. (Try not to eat them as they come out of the oven.)

3. Meanwhile, mix most of the jar of fluff and most of the jar of frosting together. If you use all of each one, you'll have tons leftover. Hmm...

4. After they've cooled a little, use a sharp knife to cut a little cone shape out of the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with fluffy cream and gently smoosh the cutout piece back into place.

5. Use only enough frosting on top to cover the seams of your cutout piece, leaving some of the cake showing around the edge. Top with a covered graham cracker.

These are very, very top-heavy, so be careful if you have to transport them anywhere. I had them in their carrying case and a couple still took a tumble during the car ride.

The best part of these tiny gems is watching people's faces when they don't realize there's a cream filling. Too much fun!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Snow, In All Its Many Forms

After spending six years in a state with very little snowfall, I'm so looking forward to winter in Iowa! It's been predicted that we'll have some snow on the ground soon, and I can't wait!

So perhaps to encourage it along, I challenged myself in the craft room this weekend. Each card I made had to be on the snowflake theme, but completely different. Have you ever tried that? Not as easy as it sounds...

I used my snowflake punch to just make some accents for my phrase. I love the way they look against the dark tree background. Contrasting colors make everything pop a little more. And there's also a snowflake in the torn corner panel. Did you see it? It's really subtle.

The look of these snowflakes on their contrasting circles proves my point about making colors stand out. Layering also adds tons of texture and makes your project more interesting to look at.

Two punches, a simple border cut from another sheet of paper and there you go. Sometimes it's the leftover pieces you've saved that make the neatest cards.
Here I used the same two colors, in different solids and patterns, and two different kinds of snowflakes. It's not always easy to mix colors and patterns, so controlling how much and where can make all the difference. I also love this little "winter" sticker - the perfect touch and style I was looking for.

And mixing styles, products and colors can give you an amazing outcome. I added three letter stickers to this monogram and created something completely different. The three coordinating punched circle copy the circles in the border and they're all held in place with the blue background. I love...love...love this card!

For more ideas on winter themes and to see more cards, visit my etsy shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Weekend Of Breaking Through

It's been a very chilly week...alright, it's been downright cold! This icy scene has been pretty typical on our ponds for the past few days. And it's quite beautiful - from the warmth of inside!

If you're brave enough to venture down to the water's edge, you'll quickly see that the waters are still swirling underneath that thin sheet of ice on top. It will get thicker as the weeks of cold continue, but for right now a light tap will break through that covering.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Psalm 95:6-9

Make this a weekend of breaking through whatever has begun to harden your heart. It may be like that thin layer of ice right now, just a little bitterness or a touch of jealousy. But if that covering isn't broken through now, it will harden and make it more difficult to deal with down the road.

Break through and find the joy that lies beneath.