Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Weekend of Wandering

The path you're on right now is probably familiar and comforting. Or maybe you're tired of the rut you're walking in. How long have you been on this path?

And how many different paths could you take this weekend?

* Physically, you could go somewhere you've never been before, or haven't been for a long time. You could meet people, share yourself and learn something new.

* Spiritually, you could begin a Bible study on a section of Scripture you don't know much about. Start with a passage that interests you and see where the Lord leads.

* Emotionally, you could lay aside some baggage and see how the path feels when you're not weighed down. The freedom might surprise you - and heal you at the same time.

* Intellectually, you could read something different, watch something different, talk to someone different or experience something different. Expanding your mind can be one of the greatest wanderings of all.

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. Psalm 89:15
Make this a weekend of wandering to somewhere different. See where God's path for you is leading - go with an open mind and a willing heart. Your wandering this weekend may be the trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

FibroFog

This is what my brain looks like many mornings.

Part of fibromyalgia (along with intense pain, stomach problems and trouble sleeping) is what's known as FibroFog.

You can see the trees across the pond - sort of. You know they're there, you just can't quite make them out. You strain your eyes trying to see the details, but the fog is just too thick.

This is how FibroFog affects your mind. You know you're having thoughts, but they're clouded by the fog. It's a struggle to find details, and it can be difficult to find the right words when you haven't thought them through.

The fog is thickest in the morning. I can function physically (fairly well), but the dense fog makes it difficult to reason and communicate. It can make it seem as though I'm still sleepy or am in a foul mood, but really, I'm just having trouble processing thought.

Another sister in Christ who has fibromyalgia too once compared it to these verses of Scripture:
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13

Someone trying to think through FibroFog can only know in part speak in part. We see through the glass very darkly and have a difficult time making out our thoughts. But, joy of joys, there is coming a day when the fog will lift forever and we'll be able to think and see and speak with the utmost clarity. That is God's promise.

Some things I'd like you to know about FibroFog:
* It may make me a little slower to think and speak, but it doesn't make me stupid.
* It may take me an extra minute to answer or put all the words in the right order, but it doesn't mean that the words aren't there.
* It may try to take over my mind, but it won't take over my life or my motivation.
* It may complicate things and frustrate me at times, so please have patience with me.
* It may make my day, especially the mornings, much more difficult to navigate, but I will navigate them at my own pace and in my own way.

More and more people, especially women, are finally being diagnosed with fibromyalgia and finding doctors who can help them. But the FibroFog is still a personal, mysterious battle. Soon the fog will lift, though, and we'll be blessed with clear, beautiful thoughts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nesting

 I remember being told at a young age to never, ever disturb a bird's nest. In the springtime, those birds are working busily to build their home and prepare for the new season.


This is our bird. Apparently she rebuilt this nest this spring, because we removed it in November when we moved in. She built it on the front of our garage, directly over the motion-activated security light. I often think about it like the people who live in front of neon signs in the city. The blinking and flashing must get old after a while.


And this is why she was working so hard to get her nest completed. She very rarely leaves, being a diligent keeper of her nest. If I had four precious little packages in my home, I would probably never leave, either.

Spring always stirs up thoughts of nesting in our own homes. I've just begun the spring cleaning in our new home, sorting and purging and cleaning all the surfaces. There's a nesting feeling deep down inside, whether you've been in your home for six months or 60 years.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

Nesting is a wonderful tugging of the heart that God has given us. It's the desire to turn our house into a more lovely home and create that cozy, welcoming environment for all who enter. We build our home every day that we work to make it beautiful, clean it, learn more about it and bless the people who live in it.

The opposite is what this verse describes as plucking it down. Notice that she does it with her own hands - it's an action verb and a personal choice. Whether through evil thoughts, --- or even just neglect, this is a violent destruction of the home.

Like the little bird who stays in her nest for hours a day protecting her eggs, I pray that we will each desire that nesting spirit. Your home is your sanctuary, your castle and your calling from the Lord. It deserves your love and attention.

And possibly a little fluffing around the edges.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Weekend of Awareness

This was not the video I had intended to take. I heard water rolling down the roof during a recent storm and just wanted to share it with you. I was thinking about how God puts tiny little blessings all around us, and we just need to be aware of them.

That's when I heard the birds chirping and singing in the background. When I panned over to find them, I saw that the wind and rain has knocked the bird seed from the feeder onto the ground, and the birds were having a wonderful time with their new-found feast.

video

It was something little, something that I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been listening to the rain on the roof. That was God's blessing for the moment, and all I had to do was be aware of it.

What will you be aware of this weekend?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weary to the Bone

On a dark, dreary morning, it's even worse.

When you're already tired and run down, an enveloping storm makes the weariness you feel magnified. It would be the perfect day to go back to bed and stay under the covers - if there wasn't so much to get accomplished.

And the thought of all those things on the to-do list piles on some more weariness.

Soon you have no motivation, no will power and no interest. The exhaustion claims both body and mind.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's probably because you're a typical woman. Many of us have a tendency to go until we can't go anymore. We'll keep fighting through day after day until we're weary to our very core.

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. Jeremiah 31:25-26

The answer to this aching fatigue isn't sleeping pills, a new pillow or giving up on our daily service. When the urge to quit and collapse in self-pity hits, we are called on to rest in God.

For He has satiated - satisfied and filled to the full - the soul that thought it had nothing left. Well, it didn't have anything. But God does. He is a never-ending supply of strength, motivation, courage and energy for the shell of a body that gets tired and frustrated.

The flesh is weak and prone to emptying itself quickly. The Lord says He is the source of replenishing when we're completely down and out. There is nothing in ourselves or in the world that can possibly fill and restore the way God can.

Jeremiah was given this renewing message, and it struck him straight to his core. He woke up truly understanding the power of God's Word in his life. The truth of God's filling satisfaction made his sleep sweeter and more restoring. He probably had a better day because of it. He might have been a bigger blessing to those around him because of the renewing of his strength.

We have no idea how the Lord can use us when we're fill and strong and ready to take on the day. But that can only happen when we've opened ourselves to the replenishing nature of a perfect God.

How weary are you today? Are you ready to stop and ask for rest from the Lord?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Is it fair to say that every recipe I try is my new favorite? I've said it every other week for more than two years now.

But this time I really, really mean it.

This is a lovely way to have "real food," as we call it around our house. It's way better than what you'll get on the buffet at the restaurant, and they're ready in less than 20 minutes.

Plus they're yummy beyond measure! And believe me, we tried to measure!

Ingredients:
2 packages frozen meatballs
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp allspice (or to taste)
4 servings brown rice
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1 green pepper, roughly diced

1. Thaw meatballs according to package directions.

2. Over medium heat, combine cranberry sauce, BBQ sauce, water and allspice. Heat through, stirring frequently, until melted and combined, 3-5 minutes.

3. Make rice according to package directions. I like to use chicken stock instead of water.

4. Add meatballs to the cranberry mixture and allow to simmer 2-3 minutes.

5. Layer the rice, meatballs, pineapple and green pepper in a bowl. Serve warm.

This works great in a slow cooker when you want to keep them warm for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Change the Way You Take Photos Forever

So, maybe you take pictures for scrapbooking. Or perhaps you're the family's genealogy expert. Or maybe you just enjoy taking photos of the world around you.

Regardless of why you take pictures, we all need a little variety in our lives. You can only take a picture of the same people and places a few times before it begins to feel stale and contrived.

So here are a few ideas to get the creative photography juices flowing.

1. Try a different angle. Sure, you could take a picture of the clouds in the sky, but how about framing them through the moon roof of your car? Or the skylight in your living room? Or the collapsed roof of an old barn? Something typical can become spectacular when you put it in a different context.

2. Go somewhere new. Once I'd taken a handful of pictures in our new backyard, I was hooked. We've got different trees, ponds and animals than we've ever had before. New subjects and interesting places should make you smile! Try the neighborhood park, the center of town or just somewhere you've never been before.

3. Photograph people, not things. I remember a journalism professor in college getting upset because we were taking boring newspaper pictures. He said that the fire wasn't the most important picture - it was the family's reaction to the fire. It wasn't the room that was important - it was the people who filled the room. Think people, not stuff.

 4. Add some contrast. If you normally shoot during the day, take a few pictures at night. If you normally take pictures of your family in the house, take everybody outside. If you always take photos of people, do some still life, and vice versa.

Basically, if it's something you're comfortable with, quit doing it. Get out of your comfort zone and change the way you take pictures forever.



Monday, April 16, 2012

A Time For Tears

When your heart is broken and you feel like you're finished, God can read your tears.

When you've cried so much that you can't even speak, God can translate the tears.

When it seems like no one understands, remember that God understands you tears.

When you feel silly for shedding tears over something small, God has saved those tears.

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? Psalm 56:8

Tears are their own language, a gift God has given for when words won't do. They're special and precious to the Lord - so much so that He'll personally catch every one of them and place them aside for safe keeping.

God knows the emotions and situations behind every tear you've ever shed. His heart breaks when yours does, and He keeps record of your trials and hurts.

And there's coming a day when we will shed tears for the last time.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

What a day, glorious day that will be. But for the moment, we live through tears and the troubles that come with them, knowing that God knows, too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Personalized Notebook

Coming back from a home and garden show recently, I emptied out the bag of goodies we'd collected from the various booths. We had pens from insurance companies, a ruler from the local college, stickers from the police and fire departments and a key chain from an area builder. Is this why our junk drawer is overflowing? Hmmm...

But the best part of the day was the stack of notebooks I ended up with. Everyone wants to get their advertising out there, and if you're not going to use the item, why not make it into something lovely!


So I took the cover off one of those advertising notebooks. The pages were all blank and white inside, just begging to be covered with pretty paper!


Then I cut two pieces of cardboard an unth larger than the notebook. (That's a Midwestern word that means 'slightly.') After choosing a color scheme, I cut a piece of decorator paper, cut to the width of the card board, that will serve as a binding over the top.

I taped one edge of the paper to the cardboard, attached the notepad to the cardboard...


...and laid the second piece of cardboard on top. Then I wrapped the binding paper over the edge so it will tuck inside under the pretty paper on top of the front cover. This way it will be hidden a little for a finished cover.

I finished it off with some springtime embellishments, and I think it turned out wonderfully. For some added stability, you can tape the covers to the first and last pages of the notebook itself. This will keep it from tearing away from the binding so easily.

For more Christian gift and craft ideas, or to purchase this notebook and other KJV cards and gifts, visit my etsy shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What's In A Salad?

Most people hear the word "salad" and shudder. We've had bland, boring, tasteless salads forced on us for so long in the name of being healthy that now it's difficult to enjoy them.

But there's so much more to a salad than some lettuce and veggies. There's taste-a-plenty out there, we just need to find it!

Greens:
We have to start with a firm foundation of greens under everything else or a salad is pretty worthless. The more green (the darker and prettier the green) you have, the better it is for you. So skip the almost-white iceberg lettuce. We usually use a romaine mix or spinach. They're so much tastier.

Protein:
Before we start adding fun toppings, we need something substantial in the bowl. We often turn to chicken because that's very traditional and very fundamental. But what about some steak meat or shrimp? They both come in pre-prepared packages, making them easy and handy. Or try crab meat or tuna, both of which can be found in cans and pouches, too. Mix it up and add some variety to your life.

Also look at adding some protein in your toppings. Diced hard-boiled egg or tofu can provide both texture and filling food. There are many different kinds of beans to choose from - chickpeas and kidney beans are favorites.

Toppings:
This is the fun part, but it's also the part where we get carried away.
* Veggies: add all you want! Carrots, peas, peppers...if God grows them, add them to your bowl!
* Fruits: diced apples, pears, grapes and oranges can all be added to a salad for texture and different flavors.
* Cheese: in moderation! Add no more than 2 tsp of cheese or you're defeating the purpose of eating healthy.
* Crunchy stuff: we all love the crunch of croutons and sesame sticks, but they're often full of carbs, salt and calories. Try water chestnuts, trail mix, apple slivers or crumbled up crackers if you want that crunch.
* Just for fun: a little salsa, drained a little, can spice up your salad!

What are your favorite salad fixin's?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring In Iowa


And this is why spring in Iowa is such a joyous time. Everything that's been dormant for the winter months springs back to life in vibrant colors!


Colors like vivid white...


Bright orange...


Striking blue...


And even some spots of purple.
I pray that wherever you are today, God has blessed you with the colors of spring.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Desperate Need For Quiet

Right after I got saved, when I first started learning about what makes up the beautiful woman after God's heart, one of my Titus older women shared this verse with me.

And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

I had always assumed, however prideful it may be, that whoever talks the loudest is the one who is heard. If you don't assert yourself and stand out from the crowd, you'll disappear into the woodwork, right?

That's not what the Lord says in His Word. That's not it at all in His characteristics of beauty. He instructs us to study to be quiet, to learn how to calm our soul, our minds, our words and our physical actions. That is how we stand out from the world around us, and that is what gets noticed.
 
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 1 Peter 3:3-4

Lately I've had several opportunities, particularly at work, to put these Scripture into practice. The newspaper business isn't the first place you'd find a meek, quiet spirit. We're busy and loud and pushy - some days it's just like the newsrooms you see in the movies. But when the scanner is yelling about crimes, the reporters are all talking on the phone getting interviews and the computers are whirring to get our work done, there is a desperate need for quiet.

And I'm not just referring to the noise level in the room. Tempers flare, frustration sets in and anger causes mouths to move in strange ways. It is in these moments that the quiet spirit, the one that has studied about how to handle this exact situation, takes a breath and says a prayer.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
 
I've added these two verses to my prayer list, just so I can create a quiet and peaceable life around me. I want to be a solid, dependable, quiet spirit for those around me. At home, in my church, the community and the newsroom, there is a desperate need for quiet.
 
In quiet there is peace.
There is relief.
There is the moving of the Holy Spirit.
There is time to stop, to think, to regroup and to act the way God desires.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Healthy Bites

Did you start to not read this recipe when you saw the word "healthy" in the title?

With all the cakes, cookies and ice cream in the world, why would you surrender to snacking on something that's good for you?

Mostly because these healthy bites are not only quick and easy, but they're SO yummy! Just a handful of ingredients - most of which you probably have in your pantry right now - and a no-bake recipe, and you're all set!

Ingredients:
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
 
2. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
 
3. Roll into balls.
 
4. Eat!
 
* Store these in the fridge and they'll continue to harden, making them a little less sticky and messy.
* Some people have told me that these can be a little chewier than they like. Adjust the ratio of ingredients to suit your personal taste.
* I plan to use dried cranberries instead of the chocolate the next time I make them. You can remove and add whatever you'd like, just make sure you have a combination of sticky and binder to keep them together. Don't let them get too dry or they'll turn into little chunks instead of balls.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mixing Patterns

 Patterns can be a challenge. Too many and the confusion takes over your eyes. Not enough and you've got a boring phrase on a single piece of paper.


So many paper collections these days come with several different patterns and a limited number of solids. Mixing the patterns means finding a balance of color, design and texture that won't overwhelm the sense. In this card, for example, using smaller sections of two busy patterns tones them both down. Inking the edges with black or brown will also create one more division for the eye.


If I had used this circle die cut as is, you would have seen the background paper through it, and then the pattern on the circle itself would have been lost. So I matted the circle on a contrasting pattern to create a thicker embellishment. This creates not only visual interest but a change in texture.


So adding small pieces of pattern to a contrast of colors and texture made a simple yet elegant card. It can be challenging to find the perfect combination of patterns to be pleasing to the eye, but the results can be very dramatic.

This card, along with many other cards and paper gifts, can be found in my etsy shop. Visit http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/ for purchasing items featuring KJV Scripture and for more ideas.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Growing Pains

Growing pains hurt.

It's been quite a long time since I was a little girl, but I remember the aches and pains of growing up. Trying to catch up with longer, taller, uncoordinated, different and new body parts was hard work. And that's just the physical - there were also a billion emotional adjustments and learning situations in those years of transition.

But now I'm going through them again. Not the physical ones, but definitely the emotional and learning pains of growing in the Lord. He's using a variety of people, some difficult situations, a few mistakes and lots of tears to grow me into something better, something different and something more suited to carry His name.

We've all been through these growing pains. They're difficult at the time because we can't see the completed picture of God's plan. All we see is the hurt, the confusion, the frustration and maybe some anger and discouragement at the present moment.

We just want everything complicated to go away so we can find some peace and relief from the pressures of the growing pains. The mistakes embarrass us and the trying times break our hearts. But each day that we persevere and praise the name of the Lord is one more opportunity to grow into the woman God wants us to become.

And He knows we're going to make mistakes, but like any good parent, God also knows that we're going to learn from them. And grow from them. If we want to. If we choose to. If we desire a closer walk with Him.

The Lord has already seen the beautiful finished product that each of us will become. He loves the possibilities and the potential in us. And He desires our willingness to go through the growing times, just so we'll come out the other side stronger, more dedicated to Him and better prepared to take on the next challenge that comes our way.

Growing pains hurt.
For the moment.
But joy cometh in the morning.