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Showing posts from 2012

A Weekend of Prayer and Planning

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The new year is peeking at us from around the corner. This is the time that so many people will be making resolutions, filling in all the dates on their calendars and coming up with great plans for the next 12 months.

But what if all those resolutions, dates and plans are just a waste of time?

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 20:11-13

In His very own words, God tells us that He already knows. He knows. There is an expected end that He has already worked out just for you. He knows every step along the way between here and there, thoughts of peace and not evil.

What if we prayed and listened and learned what those thoughts were before we made resolutions, filled in the dates and came up with great plans? Would …

Hello Barn Kitty!

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This is the newest addition to the Carrell Wildlife Preserve.

Danny found this little kitten in one of our  raccoon traps. The funny thing was that there wasn't any bait in it - she was just curious and got caught.

She can't be more than six or seven months old, which just about broke my heart. She's an attention hog, which makes me guess that she was a house kitty. Either she was dumped out here in the country, or she wandered away from home and didn't know where she was.

So now she's our barn kitty. That's her name. Barn Kitty. She has to be an outdoor cat because I have severe kitty allergies. Just loving on her for the couple of minutes twice a day when I feed her can be a problem. But then she sits in the window like this and I can't help myself.

It's a cold Iowa winter, so she's got a bed under the deck out of the wind, and she's even got a heated water bowl just outside the back door. Barn Kitty is incredible talkative, very snuggable…

How Much Longer?

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How long will you leave your Christmas lights up?
When will your decorations go back in their boxes?
How soon will family leave and get back to normal routine?
Did it take long to clean up all the wrapping paper, gift bags and tissue paper?
How quickly were the leftovers gone and the dishes done?
Do you get everything Christmas packed up and put away so you can move on with your life?

If this is our mentality, I'm so afraid that we've missed the point of Christmas altogether. I don't want the day to mean so little in my heart that it's just like any holiday of the year - because it's not.

I pray that we don't rush. I pray from the bottom of my heart and the top of my lungs that we keep Christmas going. Sure, the decorations can go back in their boxes and the lights can come down, but what's going on in our hearts is so much more important.

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that…

A Weekend of Anticipation

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We're probably all excited with the anticipation of the next few days. There will be friends and family, church services, evening activities and awaiting the arrival of the new coming King!

Can you imagine what the anticipation must have been like over 2,000 years ago?

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 …

The First Snowstorm

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For the past two days, we've been experiencing the first snowstorm of the season. There's been no snow since March, so everyone's a little excited - one way or the other.
Here are a few pictures of the property so you can share the chilly beauty with us. You'll notice that they're all taken from inside. There's an obvious reason for that ...




Looks like we'll have a white Christmas after all!

Who's Afraid of a Monster?

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This was one of my favorite books growing up. I would do a high-pitched Grover voice, and I had the entire thing memorized. Probably drove everyone crazy, but I loved this book.

I recently found it at the grocery store, so I just had to get it. Reading through it, I fell in love all over again. In the little bit of a plot, Grover learns that there is a monster at the end of the book. If you're aware that Grover, himself, is a monster, you can see the amazing twist that's about to take place.

 Grover panics and tries desperately to keep the young, impressionable reader from turning to the end of the book and confronting the monster. In his fear, he takes elaborate measures, like building a brick wall and nailing the pages of the book together, to impede process.
I immediately think of my own fear in life - maybe not from a monster at the end of the book, but of other, more real, everyday things. There is some uncertainty in everyone's life, and there are days when I woul…

Scallop Shell Journal

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This is what I've been saving the shells from our stuffed scallops for. I love the look and color of these shells on the front of a journal.

 The struggle was actually finding a notebook large enough for the shell and without a cover that's already been decorated. I finally found some at my third stop. Then I covered it with card stock and decorator paper. The tag is a card stock sticker.

Now comes the fun part - finding the perfect glue. I tried a couple before I found one that actually worked. This one is still a little too wet for my liking and water-stained the paper a little. Experiment with different ones until you find one that not only works but doesn't leak out from underneath the shell.

We're supposed to have inches of snow overnight tonight, so this journal has made me think of summer and warm evenings on the beach. Maybe those are exactly the thoughts we need in the last days of December!

Stuffed Scallops ... Or Finding Something New

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There's something special - in my mind anyway - about getting the grocery store circular in the mail. When you love food, planning and listing and getting ready for a week's worth of menus does lovely things to the heart.

So when our local store had a hugs seafood special this week, I was thrilled! Danny and I both marked up the ad and made our wish lists. Since you can't really get one of everything - as much fun as that would be - making choices is lots of fun.

My favorite choice for the week were these stuffed scallops. They are a gorgeous mixture of seafood nestled in a perfect scallop shell. Not only do they taste amazing, the presentation is one of the most beautiful I've seen from a grocery store.

I've saved the shells and have a lovely craft project for them. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I encourage you to try something different. Look through your grocery store circular this week and find just one thing that's one sale that you've never tried befo…

The Pursuit of Perfection

Everyone is striving for some kind of perfect - the perfect hair, the perfect husband, the perfect outfit, the perfect home, the perfect kids, the perfect life.

Guess what - your definition of perfect may be different than God's definition of perfect.

If we take a look at just a few of the Scriptures that talk about God's kind of perfection, we'll see that a change of heart might be in order.

This is one of my favorites:

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:2

Perfect doesn't mean that you will never do wrong or have a bad day. Perfect in God's language means mature, complete and fully informed. It's about learning and growing and becoming exactly who the Lord wants you to be. Then you can behave in a perfect way because you have the tools necessary.

Follow that same line of thinking into the life of David:

And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the L…

A Weekend of Christmas Focus

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For the next few days, people will hurry to buy gifts, rush to make holiday preparations and finally take time to breathe on Dec. 26.

Doesn't that seem like such a waste?

The Advent season isn't about what you can do or how much you can get. Christmas means so much to those of us who believe.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:9-10

Make this a weekend of refocusing on the meaning of Christmas. As much as we love the lights and the decorations and the presents, Christmas is leading us to Calvary. Jesus Christ was born to die. This is not a sad thing, but a reason to rejoice. This is the beginning of the salvation story.

Gifts For Good Little Dogs

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Don't the girls look like they're in the holiday spirit?

You have no idea what it took to get them to sit still like this. Danny had to get involved. It wasn't pretty.

But you'll notice the two stockings behind them. They're empty right now, but on Christmas morning they'll be full of special treats just for puppies.

There are tons of great ideas out there for puppy presents. Here are just a few.

Treats:
* bones
* rawhide anything
* homemade biscuits
* toys that you can put treats into

Toys:
* toys that you can put treats into (Did I already mention that? Maybe that's for a reason.)
* squeaky toys
* fetching toys
* balls

Experiences:
* free running on the property (Yes, that one's directed at me.)
* Time at the off-leash dog park
* A game of "Hide and Seek the Treat" around the house
* Puppy playtime with some canine friends

More for you than them:
* grooming tools
* new beds
* collars, leashes, tags
* automatic watering bowls

Now, I don'…

Tater Tot Casserole

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Sometimes, no matter how healthy you try to eat or what's on the menu list for the week, you just need to have some comfort foods.

That's what this tater tot casserole is for me. I adore every single ingredient that's in this, and the combination fulfills all those salty, meaty, crunchy cravings.

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
1 1/4 cups water
2 envelopes sloppy joe seasoning
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 small package frozen green beans
1 4oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 inch baking dish.

2. In large pot, brown beef over medium heat. Add water and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until thickened.

3. Add tomato paste, green beans and mushrooms. Stir until blended.

4. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with tater tots.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cover with cheese and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until heated through …

A New Line In Our Etsy Shop

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Starting tonight, I'm adding a new line of cards to our etsy shop. I think they are absolutely beautiful - I hope you will, too.
Here's a sneak peak.

They're so colorful and perfect for breaking the winter blahs.

Each one has chipboard and 3D embellishments, so they're much nicer than the plain cards you'll find at the store. And they all have KJV Bible verses on them or in them. There's no better way to share your faith than by sending one of these.

To see the entire line, visit www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com all this week!

Better In The Light

I wrote an article for the paper this week about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Long story short, it's harder to keep an upbeat mood in the winter because your body is so used to having more light. The sun is out for a shorter period of time right now, and the body doesn't know how to act when that light is taken away.

I spoke to a local doctor about the disorder, and he gave me all sorts of information about depression, the need to stay active in the winter and how professionals diagnose SAD when it goes beyond the winter blues. And then he said something that strummed every string on my heart.

Go places where there is lots of light because YOU ALWAYS FEEL BETTER IN THE LIGHT.

I couldn't help but smile. I know that feeling, and it has nothing to do with winter.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past we…

Wonderful Words of Life

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Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  Mark 9:23

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:11

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Dog Grooming In Winter

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This is Bailey. Please note the beautiful eyes and the distinguished gray around the muzzle. She's going to be 11 years old in just a few weeks. She's my sweet Big Dog.

This is Bailey's fur. She is part black lab and part chow, so she has this weird combination fur. It is very, very thick and has a very heavy undercoat. This requires frequent grooming or you'll find bits of Bailey all over everything. Which we often do, and even more so in winter than any other time of year. Thank you to whoever invented vacuum cleaners and lint rollers.

This is Bailey during one of her grooming sessions. She absolutely adores it and gets so incredibly relaxed. It takes about 45 minutes to really get all of that undercoat brushed and cleaned out, so she has plenty of time for a nap. My favorite part, though, is taking her paws and flipping her from one side to the other. It's not Bailey's favorite part, but she's very patient with me, and I think it's hilarious!

And …

The Chili Cookoff

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We had our church's annual chili cookoff this past weekend. I clearly remember last year's because we had only been here for a few weeks and I had to work that night. I took my supper break right as it started so I could sample everything and get back in time to get the paper out.

 This time was different because I specifically had the night off and I made two different kinds of chili. One was my meatless chili, which uses soy burger crumbles instead of hamburger. It's one of my personal favorites, but it's definitely a different taste and texture.
The second batch was a variation on a pork chili that I absolutely adore. Apparently the judges did, too, because it won first place in the mild category. I have included the recipe at the bottom of this post so you can try it and judge for yourself.

And the next best thing to chili - the dessert table! We have so many wonderful cooks and bakers in our church that I am truly humbled. Humbled enough to try as many samplings …

The Size of The Canvas

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A local paper crafter told me a couple of weeks ago that she was loving the opportunity to make some bulletin boards. It was like making cards or scrapbook pages, just on a larger canvas. This had me thinking!

So when I was asked to put together a Christmas bulletin board at the church this weekend, I pulled out one of my favorite card templates and used it on that larger canvas. Wrapping paper, wired ribbon, card stock letters and glittered Christmas ornaments replaced my usual scrapbooking supplies.

Then I just had to come home and make a card with the same layout. I love this design and how versatile it is. I could use this exact same arrangement for Christmas or birthday photos on a scrapbook page.
How creative can you get with the same layout, shape, template or design?

Behold!

The word "behold" is used more than 1,300 times in the Scriptures. It may seem like a simple word, but the Lord uses it in powerful ways.

The definition of "behold" generally means to look at or to see. But a deeper, more spiritual definition is used in Scripture - to fix attention upon an object, to attend, to direct or fix the mind.

When we are called with the word "behold," we aren't just being told to look at something with our eyes, but to fix the attention of our hearts in a certain place. And if the word is used 1.300 times, that's a lot of important things that we are to fix our minds on.

One of the most familiar "behold" verses in from the Christmas story.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10

In the shock of the moments after the angel appeared to the shepherds, they were reminded that this wasn't the important part. Behold - fix y…

Another Year of Bible Study

If you've been keeping up with the daily devotion on the left-hand side of this site, you'll notice that today we finished the last chapters of Revelation. That means in just 11 months, we've read through the entire Bible.

But chances are, if you're anything at all like me, you weren't perfect. While I read many, many of those days, there were some when I didn't. Either I thought I was too busy, I didn't feel well or I just got distracted with the stuff of the day. If this sounds familiar, know that you're definitely not alone.

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

Some days I have great readiness of mind and I'm delighted to search the Scriptures. But there are others when it's a struggle and a difficult mindset to focus on the Word of God.

Does that mean that God doesn't have anything for me on t…

Some Rare Puppy Playtime

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It's not very often that the girls actually play together. Apparently they're both a very mature 10-going-on-11 years old now, and that means that they don't "play" anymore. But this week I caught them romping on the living room floor and had to take some pictures.

Well, hello there.

The upside-down big dog.

Whatcha doin'?

Is she still there? She's still there, isn't she?

The Bailey dog poses for beautiful pictures.

And Sadie gives me this...

There's nothing sweeter than a little snuggle time. Glad I got to be in on it before they're off and running again.

Danny's Slow-Cooked Lima Beans

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A note from Laura: This recipe is all Danny's! So I thought it would be neat to have him tell you all about it. Enjoy!

One of my all-time favorite meals is beans and cornbread. I remember when I was growing up and we'd go visit my grandparents in Alabama. They'd always have black-eyed peas or butter beans and pones of cornbread and onion slices - not to mention any other type of southern comfort food you can think of. Mmmm ... good!

Well, this recipe is inspired by those childhood memories. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it!

Ingredients:
2 1-pound bags of large Lima beans
2 32-ounce boxes of chicken stock
1/2 pound (or so) of bacon
1 onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (there are different varieties available, so pick your favorite.)
course-ground black pepper to taste
few dashes of paprika
little bit of basil

1. Soak the beans according to package directions. I used the overnight method, but actually started in the morning so the beans soaked during t…

Christmas Countdown Calendar

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Can you believe that Saturday will be the first day of December? I'm not exactly sure where this year has gone, but the Advent season is just a few days away!

So I've been getting into the Christmas spirit. This adorable Christmas countdown calendar is the perfect way to build anticipation for Jesus' birth. Just a few pieces of paper, stamps, embellishments and a secret ingredient, and you've got a great gift - if you can part with it.

I matted my piece of background paper on a piece of cardboard for extra durability. Then I layered ink-distressed card stock and decorator paper and added two acrylic ornaments. The word Christmas is hand-stamped, and since I couldn't find letters small enough, I hand-wrote Days Until.

And the secret for a great perpetual calendar - velcro dots! One on the back of each chipboard number and you can interchange them easily every day. Plus they act like 3D adhesive and give the project a little added dimension. The whole thing is 5 …

Keep Asking

As I read through the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis, I am amazed at the fellowship he had with God. He is called the friend of God, we watch the Lord tell him things close to His heart and time and again God blesses Abraham simply because Abraham believed.

Genesis 18 is one of those special chapters on faith and fellowship. God decides to share with Abraham the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. There has been so much sin in these places that the Lord has had enough. There will be destruction and death as a result of that sin, and Abraham learns the full extent of God's plan.

His response is part of what amazes me.

And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. Genesis 18:22

When the days get dark, do you turn to your husband, your girlfriends or your mother - or do you choose to stand before the Lord? Who among these can actually answer your questions and give you perfect peace?

Then Abraham goes one step further.


And Ab…

Offer Your Thanks

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Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High. Psalm 50:14

 And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Jeremiah 30:19

But thanks be to God, which giveth the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

In every thing, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18