Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Weekend of Half-Year Remembering

Today is June 30 - the halfway point of 2012.

Six months down, six months to go.

As you think about the past six months of your life, what stands out? Have you had some incredibly wonderful days? Some terrible heartache? A sprinkling of both?

What about the upcoming six months? What would you like to accomplish before the year is over? Do you have goals, hope and wishes for the rest of 2012?

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. James 4:13-15

Make this a weekend of both remembering the first half of the year and planning for the future half. Lord willing, we have six more months to glorify Him, grow as a Christian woman and do our best to bless those around us in His name. How do you plan to spend the next 26 weeks?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where Has Telephone Etiquette Gone?

Part of my job description at the newspaper is answering the telephone calls that come in after hours. This includes fielding calls about classified ads, subscriptions, missing newspapers and taking messages for people I've only spoken to a handful of times. You know, things that I know nothing about and have no information to provide to these people.

But the worst is when the person calling is frustrated, put-out or even angry with whatever situation they're in. I understand the frustration of not receiving your paper this morning, especially when you've already called twice today. I have empathy for someone who has already left half a dozen messages and just wants to talk to a real person. And I feel for the people who work all day and can't call in until they get home - after the time our front office has already closed.

But the biggest difference between having an issue treated with respect and being given the run-around can be your own attitude. Telephone ettiquette and old-fashioned politeness go a long way to having someone deal with your questions and problems effectively and efficiently.

* Identify yourself at the beginning of the call. This week a man called and asked me who called him. I had no idea who he was, where he was calling from or why someone had called him to begin with. He was truly offended that I was in the dark about everything and ended up hanging up on me. I would have handled his need immediately if I had know who he was and who he needed.

* Please understand that the first person you talk to may have no control of your particular situation. When people call after hours at our newspaper, the only people still there are reporters, editors and pressmen. But many, many people they can call at all hours of the day and night and place an ad ... or have their paper stopped ... or submit items for the calendar. Just because I transfer someone to another person or voicemail doesn't mean that I don't care. It means that I have no power over this particular situation.

* Your attitude and tone of voice deeply affect the person you're talking to. I could be having the best day ever, but one phone call from someone rude can wreck it completely. Or if I'm already having a bad day, that impatient, angry caller can make it even worse. While it may be a complicated, frustrating situation, the way you handle it as the caller can make all the difference in someone else's day.

* It's true that you can catch more flies with honey - if what you really want are flies. While I'm not proud to admit it, I am much more apt to be as quick and curteous as I can be when someone calls and treats me with kindness and respect. I try to be that way with everyone, but it's easier when it's a two-way street.

When I go to work each day, I get myself prayed up about being exactly what the people who call our place of business need at that moment. I also pray that they'll be warm and receptive to whatever I need to do to handle their needs. If that person happens to be you, I hope I can help.

I'm not just answering phones at night, I'm also writing stories, laying out pages, editing photos and proofing copy. I'm happy to stop talk with you and hel

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Repotting Plants Part 2

I just had to give you an update on a past post. This is the little plant that I repotted in late March. Three others had died, and I desperately wanted to keep this one alive.

So I repotted it in a much larger container, added nutrient-rich soil and watered it every other day or so. It gets tons of sunlight in our dining room's bay window, so I hoped that it would do well in its new environment.

And it has! This is it today, three months later. It is about three times the size it was and has completely unfurled all of its leaves.

It needed a little pruning from the bottom as it grew because there were a few rows of leaves that just didn't make it. But the ones at the top are strong and thick and waxy, just like they're supposed to be.

Soon it's going to have to be replanted again, and it will probably go outside this time. It's thriving in here - I can't wait to see how much more it will grow with unlimited space!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nothing To Fear

There are two things that I truly fear - disappointing other people and being rejected. Snakes I can handle, spiders aren't so bad and the dark doesn't worry me too much. But these two personal issues stir up my anxiety and make me fret like nothing else.

In reality, these are two silly fears. There is nothing I can do that will prevent someone from being disappointed sometime. I just don't want to be the cause of that disappointment. That can make for stressful times emotionally because the motivation is in the wrong place. Instead of doing all to the glory of God and being about my Father's business, it's easy to put the desires and hopes of people above where the Holy Spirit is leading.

And there is absolutely no way I can control what others do and say. Stopping myself from saying something because someone else might make fun of me gets tiring after a while. And trying to blend in to the surroundings so I'm not a target is no solution, either. Once bitten twice shy, I understand, but avoidance creates more fear ... and then it grows into something ugly and unrighteous.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:15-19

Nothing on this earth will ever stop fear, disappointment and rejection. Scripture says that only through God's love will we ever find peace and acceptance. Love - perfect love - comes directly from Heaven. It's not through man's appreciation or the absence of crude, mean people. It's from the love of God that will drive out fear and end our torment.

You probably fear different things than I do. But it doesn't matter what characteristics your fear has, dwelling in the Lord and accepting His perfect, all-consuming love will drive that fear as far as the east is from the west.

But overcoming fear isn't a destination or somewhere that we've arrived to. Conquering fear through God's love is a process, and it can be something that has to be consciously done every day. Claiming victory through the blood of Christ and the saving grace of God can be done any time, any place, anywhere. It can be fearful, but there is boldness in the perfect love of God.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Weekend of Rising to New Heights

It's the weekend of the Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races here in town. Dozens of pilots bring their balloons to the park and fly for days. You can see them from anywhere in the city, and it's an amazing sight to see.

With just a little material, flame and wind, people can rise high into the sky and look down at the world they normally just walk on. How amazing to rise high above the ground.

And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee. Acts 26:14-16
 
Make this a weekend of rising to new heights. Saul had to rise and stand on his own two feet before he could be the minister and witness the Lord wanted him to be. Let's rise to the occassion and see what God has in store for us this weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Meatball Appetizers

I can't take a bit of credit for this meatball appetizer. The checkout lady at the grocery store saw the meatballs that I was purchasing for another recipe. She said, You know what you can do with those? My "new recipe idea antenna" went up and I couldn't wait.

This was what she gave me - and she couldn't take credit for it either. She had gotten the idea from someone else. And so the cycle continues!

Ingredients:
1 package of Italian style frozen meatballs
BBQ sauce
shredded Italian cheese
1 bag Scoops tortilla chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Thaw the meatballs according to package directions. Mix in enough BBQ sauce to generously cover all the meatballs, then reheat.

3. Choose the nicest, most stable scoops chips on a baking sheet. Fill the bottom of each scoop with shredded cheese. Add a meatball and more cheese.

4. Bake in 350 degree oven for 4-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and chip is nice and crispy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy 1st Day of Summer!

Today it's official! Summer is here!

So find a great way to celebrate today ... or tomorrow ... or all week ... or over the weekend! Or just enjoy it all summer long!

* Pack a picnic dinner.
* Go fishing.
* Take in a summer concert series.
* Put together a fruit salad.
* Go to the beach, lake or pool.
* Decorate with those big, happy, colorful daisies.
* Take a day trip to somewhere nearby that you've never been.
* Go to a yard sale.
* Have a craft day and make your own flip flops, pinwheels or other nostalgic project.
* Spend one entire afternoon reading.
* Make your own iced coffee and lemonade.
* Send a whole handful of postcards - whether you've been on vacation or not.
* Plan a no-cook meal.

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Birthday Hat Birthday Card

 Here's a great, quick card that looks much spiffier than a normal square card. It's pretty small, but it has a dramatic effect.


There's enough room inside to write your special birthday wishes. You can make it any size you'd like to fit in your chosen envelope. Or give it without one - you can attach it to a package or leave it on someone's desk.


Fold a coffee filter in fourths so you have a cone shape. Fold a piece of card stock slightly larger than the filter in half.


Overlap the filter over the folded edge of the card stock. Use it as a template to cut your cone shape.


You may want to make it a little taller or trim up the edges once you're done cutting. Decorate with punched or die cut circles. Overlap them off the edges and trim.


To make the pom pom on top, cut a slightly larger circle. Then cut little notches out at random intervals. Adhere to the pointy top of the card.

For more interesting card ideas, go to our etsy shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Home Should Be A Refuge

Our community was devastated by a storm this weekend. It knocked out power, leveled trees and severely damaged houses. There are people even today that are still without air conditioning - and it's going to be about 100 degrees by mid-day.


You can imagine the energy level in town right now. There are frantic people trying to find out when they'll have power again. Some are trying to find a place to stay until their home is livable. Many are just standing around talking, trying to figure out how to get things cleaned up and back to normal. Frenzied is a good word, as the daily routine has been knocked out of whack.

In contrast, our land was barely touched. Sure, we've got a few limbs down, but the house is fine and we're all safe and sound. We're not dealing with the life-altering damage that others just a few miles away are.

A friend came to fish the ponds yesterday and commented on how quiet and peaceful the property is. We're far enough off the highway that you can't hear much traffic. There are no city noises or other people to deal with. Once you drive to the top of our hill, you're pretty secluded from the world outside.

This the haven he was desperate for after a night of no power, having to go out looking for a meal and interacting with other anxious people. This isn't a normal situation, and there was very little peace to be found within the city limits.

It blesses my heart that the home we've created is a refuge for someone other than us. We've always felt like this was our safe haven from the trials and tribulations of the day, and it means even more that we're able to share it with someone else who needs some peace and quiet.

But it's not the peace and quiet that comes from the world. We have purposely bathed our home in prayer and thanksgiving for the many blessings God has bestowed. No amount of landscaping, paint, furniture or electronics can ever add up to the security of trusting in the Lord.
The next storm that comes along may damage our house this time, but that can't destroy the refuge that God has created in our home.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. Hebrews 3:4

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Weekend of Harmony

You don't have to read music to enjoy the complex harmony of the notes. An expert composer can interweave melody and harmony, sharps and flats, highs and lows to create a precious sound for the Lord.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:14-16

The body of believers has the same harmonies intricately woven into its very being. We are fitly joined together to create a whole that is meet for the Master's use. You are a precious, perfect piece of that whole, just as I am.

Make this a weekend of harmony - keeping your own notes in perfect pitch with those around you. It's not always easy, but the Lord's harmony is always beautiful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Yep, That's A Beaver

When you walk through the woods down near the pond, you can see the evidence. There are trees broken off near the base, looking much like pencils that have been through the sharpener.

That can only mean one thing - beavers.

The previous owners of our land told us that they had removed some from the property in the past, so we assumed they were gone.

They're not.


We've never seen the beavers themselves. They are very quiet, very private creatures. They've even built several dens along the bank of the pond, and we never knew it. But once we learned the beavers were out there, we began to see the dens everywhere.

They've crept in while we weren't looking, and they're tearing up our forest little by little. They're not cute and they're not pleasant in any way. They're simply destructive, and we can't have that on the property.

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7

Just like our big beavers, there are things and people that will creep in unawares. They are a silent, deadly threat. Like the beaver will fell a tree, sin will devour us to our very core. 

The only way to stop the destruction in the woods is to remove the beavers. The only way to remove the destruction in our hearts and lives is to remove any trace of sin and draw close to the Lord. Then the trees will grow back and the landscape will be full and beautiful again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Masking Technique

Masking is a technique that allows you to create a design inside a shape without spilling out over the edges. Many times when you see a stamped image inside another image, the outside was masked off to create the illusion of shape in a shape.


This beautiful summer card was made using this masking technique. That's how the circle of stamped and chalked images are contained within the circle shape.


Start by cutting or punching your shape. I used my circle cutter to make a 3-inch circle in a scarp piece of white card stock. Use temporary adhesive to attach your new template to the paper you're going to stamp on.


Stamp your image in first and second generation stamps, overlapping the edges of the template. This is why you want to tack down the template - any movement and you'll ruin that circle you're creating around the edge.


Lightly chalk the edges of template and then remove it. Blend any dark spots, being careful not to go outside the circle you've created.


Now you can use this image for anything you want. I trimmed it down, inked the edges and matted it on two coordinating colors of card stock. Then I stamped the phrase in a very deep black ink so it would show clearly. A little twine around the top and it's the perfect little package.

To purchase this card or to get some more great ideas, check out my etsy shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's Stopping You?

This is our backyard. We have acres of land that looks just like this. Some mornings it just takes my breath away that God has created this view just for me to enjoy.

But why don't I? Sure, I love going out every now and then and wandering through the woods. And it's a pleasure to sit by the window and watch the endless stream of creatures walking by.

It's hard to do all these wonderful things, though, when I'm rushing through life to get through one more day. It seems like there are a hundred things to accomplish and fewer hours to sleep. It's been hard to figure out a balance between work, home, family and self. I know there are people and things that have fallen by the wayside, and for that I deeply apologize.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

Rejoice and do good. Eat and drink and enjoy the good of your labor. Celebrate the gifts God has given. Everything else is just wood, hay and stubble. Today is the time to rejoice in what the Lord has given, been, offered and created.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I Just Want a Good Book

Have you tried finding a good book lately?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been to the library, the library book sale, two different book stores and looked all over the Internet. All I want are some fun new books to read.

That's all. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

If you've been looking for books yourself, you've probably noticed the same trends that I have. Books are dark these days - very dark and very evil. The covers, even of many children and teen books, are black and gray. The titles are all words about evil, magic, witchcraft and dark things I just don't want to read about. But writers and the book industry are feeding this darkness to every age group.

And if you read the blurbs and reviews of today's books, you have to censor them. The topics are all things that make me blush, let alone want to know about other people. I don't know about you, but I don't mind not knowing some of those things.

So what's a girl to do? I love to read - I have since I was old enough to understand the stringing together of letters and words. But you have to make serious, deliberate choices when picking out books these days. Protecting your mind and your heart often begins with protecting what comes through your eyes.

I've made the choice to read the Bible more than I read any other book. Some days that's a challenge, but I have recommitted myself to God's Word. That's what will feed my soul and sharpen my mind, not the fluff of the world.

Here's what else is on my bookshelf right now:
* The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie (2010). Living out in the country gives us an up-close look at nature, and this book has all kinds of activities, ideas and information about what's going on in the world around us. Lots of journaling space and room to sketch and add photographs make this a keepsake as well as a lesson in the outdoors. Love it!

* Southern Living's Big Book of Cupcakes (2011). Is this any real surprise? I'm always drawn in by pictures of impressively decorated cupcakes, and this book is full of them! But they're not over-the-top, intricate recipes and designs that you would never use. They're just a jumping off point to actually create something of your own.

* Death Dines at 8:30 (2001). Now, I'm not usually a murder mystery kind of girl, but this one is lovely. It's a collection of short stories, none more than 10 pages, by a variety of authors. Each story has a food story line, the murder happens at 8:30 at there's a recipe at the end that was used in the story. It's delightful, and I can't wait to try out a couple of those recipes!

* Faith Made Them Champions (1954). A Guideposts collection of articles, this book is an oldy-but-goody. Sixty-five sports figures, business executives, adventurers and historical figures tell how God has made them able to succeed when life gave them challenges. Fabulous!

It may take some looking and some digging to get past the filth of today's book world, but when you find some really great reading, it's totally worth the effort.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cupcakes

This is the miniature version of a cake I made ages ago. Make it simple by using a box mix and a can of pie filling - or go all out and use your favorite from-scratch recipes.

Either way these are sure to please!

Ingredients:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 21 oz can of cherry pie filling
vanilla frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Make sure the mix is broken down well so there are no clumps. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then on medium for 2 minutes, scraping well.

3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, spoon batter into paper liners.

4. Place one heaping teaspoon of pie filling into the center of each cup. This will be about two cherries and a little sauce.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick near the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a rack.

6. Top with frosting and a cherry from the pie filling.

Note: The pie filling is more dense than the cake batter, so it will fall to the bottom as it bakes. This will make the paper liner absolutely necessary to contain the moisture at the bottom. Use a second liner if you're worried about mess, or just serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ripping Out the Weeds

There has been very little time this spring to work outside. It's been a challenge learning how to balance our new lives in the country, so some chores have gone by the wayside.

Like this rock garden at the front of the house. It's right next to the front door, so it's the first thing you see as you walk up to the house. Not a very pretty sight to welcome you home when it's full of weeds.

But these aren't just any weeds. I don't know what it's called, but it's a creeping, spreading weed that takes over entire areas like a blanket. You can see here how it pulls up in sheets.

But the problem is that while you get the majority of it in one pull, the roots and some of the shoots are left in the ground. Underneath the top, visible growth are clumps that will have to be pulled out by hand.

That means a second pass through the garden. You can't just give it a quick once-over of weeding and call it a day. The roots that are left will continue to grow, and soon this garden will look exactly like it did today when I started.

There is joy in looking back over where you've been and seeing the progress you've made while you weed. There's still a lot of work to do, but there's also a lot of motivation to continue when you see how much you've accomplished.

This rock garden goes clear across the front of the house and down part of the hill. That means time and energy on my part to pull weeds and keep it clean.

Just as this is a wonderful description of the hard work necessary to keep my garden free of weeds, there is an amazing spiritual application here, too. I encourage you to read Proverbs 24:30-34 and Matthew 13 today. Are the only weeds we tackle the ones in the garden?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Filled With the Glory of God

And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. Psalm 72:19

I have completely forgotten to be focused on the glory of God. I've gotten wrapped up in schedules and responsibilities -  so distracted by the stuff of the day that the Lord has taken a back seat.

God has filled every moment of every day with His glory. He creates absolutely stunning moments in our lives, just because He can and because He delights in us.

He may show His glory in the colors of a sunset through the clouds. Or He may give us five peaceful minutes in the middle of a hectic day. And He'll always make His glory shine through when we need it most. He is everywhere, giving us a piece of Himself.

But it's up to us to be actively searching for His glory during our day. That's what turns a discouraging, disappointing life into one that glows with light and life. We could cram everything possible into one day, which we often try to do, and it would never compare to one precious moment of truly understanding the glory of God.

I pray we will all begin again today and seek God's glory in both the small and great things that will happen today. His glory is everywhere - can you see it?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Weekend of Power

There are some amazing windmill farms across Iowa and several other Midwestern states. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they are generating much-needed power for their nearby regions.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:5-7

As much power as we can generate here on earth, it will never compare to the power of God. We serve a great and might and powerful Lord Who is beyond all that we can imagine, and that is to our benefit. Wind power or electric power are just for a moment, but He is forever.

Make this a weekend of being truly aware of the power of the Lord. He will do great and mighty things for us.