Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What 300 Sales Have Taught Us

All praises to our God and King - with His marvelous help, we reached 300 sales in our etsy shop last week!

All we wanted to do back in 2009 was share our faith through Stuff From Trees. Danny makes wood gifts and I work with paper, hence the very clever title, right? We've met some amazingly wonderful people along the way, many of whom are now repeat customers.

My humble and overwhelming thanks to those reading this.

Our success has absolutely nothing to do with anything we've done and everything to do with the blessings of the Lord. It's been an interesting trip over the past two and a half years - and here's what we've learned.

* Even when the customer is wrong, the customer is right.
* Fix mistakes as soon as they happen and apologize for the inconvenience.
* Be consistent - in what you say, what you do, how you do it and how you present yourself.
* Have fun! When it's not fun anymore, find out why.
* Tell your story, because you're the only one who can - and will.
* Be yourself. Everyone will know if you're faking it.
* Keep it all in perspective. We started a business to spread the Word of God. The sales, the money and the interest in our work are just side benefits.

If the Lord be willing, we will continue on for another 300 sales. It is truly my joy to share what I'm working on with you. To God be the glory!

Check out our shop at http://www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com/. I pray the visit will be a blessing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting Rid of the Filler

We switched to a new bird seed this week. Our birds go through feed like crazy, and we keep it coming so we'll have a wonderful flock of birds to watch right up next to the house.

It's fun to see them pick through the seed for their favorite kinds. It's a mix of seeds, and apparently some types of birds like certain kinds more than others. It will cause an occasional fight and even lead to birds chasing each other off.

But what is most interesting is how every single kind of bird will throw one type of seed on the ground. They'll scrape it out with their beaks or kick it out with their feet, just so they can get to what they want. Other birds, maybe less aggressive birds, will eat that seed off the deck. But the others won't have anything to do with that filler seed - they want the good stuff.

We suffer from an excessive amount of filler in our own lives. We add on and pack in until we're so built up that we have to kick out some of that stuff just to get to the good parts that will truly be good for us.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42

What's the filler in your life this week?
* An overly full schedule?
* Things you've procrastinated about?
* Wants that you've decided are needs?
* Worry?
* Fleshly desires?
* Bitterness?

We can take a lesson from the birds - since that is Scriptural - and get rid of that filler. Claw, scratch, throw and toss that junk right out onto the ground. It's just jamming up the works and keeping use from enjoying the best part, the part that Jesus Christ has given freely.

That part is needful - the filler isn't.
Jesus Christ Himself is that good part - get rid of everything else.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Weekend of Celebration

On Sunday, July 29, I will turn 35 years old. According to Scripture, this means I am possibly halfway through my life - and that's an amazing accomplishment.

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

I know why I'm celebrating, and it's only partially because of my birthday. We have been given this example from the Psalmist - we WILL rejoice and be glad, simply because this day was made especially by God for us for this moment.

Make this a weekend of celebration. Maybe it's your birthday, maybe it's an anniversary, maybe it's another special occasion. Or maybe it's simply another Saturday and Sunday that you get to celebrate on this earth.

Celebrate the day that the Lord has made - today. Rejoice and be glad in it - today.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Overwhelming Thoughts

God's instruction.
Things around the house.
Issues at work.
Church, brothers-in-Christ and sisters-in-Christ.
The world situation.
Evil in the world.
Today's to-do list.
What day today is.
(It is Thursday, right?)
The weather, the heat and the drought.
Running a home business.
Finding time to eat, sleep and maybe relax a little.

So ... what are you thinking about at this moment? Is your brain cluttered with a bazillion different things? Does it feel like something important might be oozing out your ears?

The female mind is an interesting place to be. We're not only multi-tasking physically, we're trying to multi-task mentally as well. And for most of us, that just doesn't work.

I often feel like my brain is on overload - overwhelmed with everything that I'm supposed to take care of, remember, think about and deal with. That burden gets heavier with every conversation, phone call, hour that passes and issue that comes up.

There are two strategies that I use when these overwhelming times wash over me. Instead of crawling back into bed and praying it all goes away, I use one of them and God gets me through.

1. Write. It. Down.
I have forgotten more than I've ever known, I'm sure. My short-term memory is horrid, which gets me into serious trouble and a good amount of anxiety. With a tendency toward depression and panic, this is not a good thing.

Instead, I write it down. Everything. The little stuff. The big stuff. The important stuff. The stuff I'd like to remember more than five minutes from now.

So it's a good thing that I love lists. I've got notebooks and journals and pads of paper everywhere just so I'll get things out of my mind and onto paper. Then I'm not rehearsing it and letting swirl unendingly through my brain in an attempt to memorize it.

Having it out and on paper means I'll quit worrying about forgetting and have a record of all those necessary things. Then I can move on with the day a little lighter because those thoughts aren't weighing me down.

2. The chalkboard.
After I've done a brain dump and gotten everything written down, I can turn my mind into a chalkboard. All those swirling thoughts become notes on the chalkboard. I close my eyes and picture myself writing them all down - sometimes all lined up in order, sometimes just as jumbled and incomplete as the thoughts themselves.

And then comes the best part. I can now take the eraser and clean the chalkboard. Watch as each word, each doodle, each heavy issue in my brain gets wiped away. I start in the top corner and methodically work my way down, the white scribbles becoming a clean, pure black surface.

Then I take that piece of chalk again and write eight simple words that will replace all of the writing and worrying of the day.

Be still, and know that I am God.

There's no physical chalkboard - I can't reach out and touch it. But it's just as real a picture in mind as if it were hanging here in front of me. The hurriedness and busyness of life is what led me to the overwhelming thoughts to begin with. If I followed these words, which come straight from the Lord Himself, I wouldn't have to keep repeating these two exercising over and over again.

But sometimes I have to. Life happens, I'm human and my minds gets filled with stuff. The combination of writing everything down and wiping clean the chalkboard of my mind has a powerful effect on my personal well-being. Replacing all of that junk with the Word of God makes all the difference in my mind, my heart and my soul.

Be still, and know that I am God.

Be still.
I am.
Now what are you thinking about?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Keurig Vue Coffee Maker

We needed a new coffee pot ... desperately ... so we splurged a little and got the new Keurig Vue. Now, I don't usually given product endorsements, but this machine is so worth it, that I just had to tell you about it.

Basically, you keep the water chamber filled all the time and use the newest version of the individual coffee packs Keurig has invented. There aren't as many flavors yet as there are for their older version, but they say they're on the way.

The convenience: It's programmable, so it will be all warmed up and waiting when its little internal timer goes off. It only takes a couple of minutes to heat the water, and you can program it to start up and shut down whenever you want. Plus, it uses prepackaged grounds, so you don't have to measure anything.

The timing: Again, it only takes a couple of minutes to warm up, but you can set it so it's ready when you walk into the kitchen. Then it takes less than a minute to pop in a V-cup of grounds and have the coffee brewed.

The cleanup: Or lack thereof. The coffee goes directly into the cup, so there's no pot to maintain. You use the old V-cup to run cleansing brews through the machine, keeping it clean in less than a minute, too. Just rinse and and clean the water chamber when it gets low and you're all set.

The variety: While there aren't as many flavors as the older version of the machine, because it's a single-cup coffee maker, you can mix and match the flavors any time you want. That means you won't have one large container of coffee in the cabinet that you're trying to get through so you can move on to something else.

The personalization: The touch screen allows you to choose the size, strength and type of drink that you're creating. So I can have a 10 oz. cappuccino that's regular strength, and then Danny can immediately have a 12 oz extra-strong coffee. All you do is punch in your specifications, run a quick cleansing brew in between and fix the next one.

What especially tickles me is reading people's reviews of machines like this. People are VERY particular about their coffee, and they have VERY strong opinions about what they like and don't like. For example, I read terrible reviews about the Keurig hot cocoa. They said it was horrid and had a terrible after-taste. Despite the disappointment they showed, I tried the one that came in the variety box with our machine. To my surprise, it was very possibly the best cup of hot cocoa I've ever had. Now I'm excited to try the dark chocolate version.

One reviewer gave the best suggestion for a review I've ever heard: If you're done reading everyone else's opinions, go get one and make your own decisions. We did, and we're loving it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken Wire Frame Flower Vase

Have you ever had one of those projects that just swirls around in your brain for days and weeks and months? This chicken wire frame flower vase art was mine.

This week I finally had all the supplies on hand - a $4 picture frame from the thrift shop, chicken wire from the farm supply store, the vase I gave my mother-in-love flowers in when they were here to visit and some twine from my craft room.

Yes, I let Danny do some of the hard work. You have to take the frame completely apart, including removing the glass, and some frames have some staples left in. He was sweet enough to take them out for me with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. That was a huge help!

Once you get the frame down to its bare bones, you'll need a pair of wire cutters and a staple gun. Each of these was easily accessible in our garage. Danny showed me how to use each one because, to be honest, I had never had to use them before.

You'll want to wear work gloves from here on out because chicken wire is thin, pointy, sharp wire. It's also easier to bend and work with if you're not concerned about profuse bleeding and gouging of the digits.

Staple the wire to the back of the frame, making sure you hit the spots where the wires cross. My staples didn't go in all the way because the frame was super thick wood - which is what I wanted. That's OK, though, because I just whapped them with a hammer when I was done and they went in the rest of the way.

Once you've stapled all the way around the frame, use the wire cutters to clip up close to the edge of the staples. If any of the wire still hangs over the edge, just bend it back until it doesn't show. You'll also want to trim a little extra around the hanger so it will be flush against the wall.

Then you just tie the vase to the chicken wire and you're set. I looped the twine around a couple of extra times because my vase was a little chunky and heavy. Then just hang it against a solid background so you can see the shape of the chicken wire in the background. Beautiful!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Of Marriage and Motorcycles

Danny and I went for a bike ride Saturday night - from our house, up the highway and all through town. We saw some parts of the city that I hadn't seen since I was in school. Just a lovely time of riding and talking - something we sorely needed.

As we were riding, and thinking about our ever-growing marriage, I realized how intertwined the two really are.

1. The rider has to trust completely. On the back of a motorcycle, the rider has no control over when and how the bike moves. She has to turn herself over entirely to how the driver is going to handle the bike. This is trust and this is submission. I believe with all my heart that Danny is going to be extra careful and extra safe with me behind him, so I can relax and allow him to do what he neds to do. This is a marriage characteristic that we oftentimes overlook.

2. The rider has her part to play, too. I can't make sudden movements or do anything during the ride that could be dangerous. While Danny's looking out for the road, I can't be distracting or unsafe in any way. The same goes for our marriage - if he's working hard in his life to build a godly home, I have to play my part and work with him to build it up.

3. Driver and rider have to lean into the curve together. Motorcycles drive a little differently than cars do. Turning is more about leaning than it is about steering. Think right, push right, go right. So if I don't lean with Danny, it throws the bike off balance. If I lean more than he does, it's off balance. Driver and rider have to be in synch, just like a husband and wife do for the relationship to stay upright.

4. Driver and rider both have to be paying attention. It would be disasterous if I fell asleep on the back of the bike. If I was looking elsewhere and didn't lean into a curve, it could cause an accident. Not seeing a pothole coming and not bracing myself for it might distract Danny and cause a problem. We both have to watch the road and our surrounds to look out for upcoming danger. If husband and wife don't both have their eyes on path God has laid before them, they could end up going in two different directions. It's not always about gazing into each other's eyes, but looking outward together.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Weekend of Bearing Fruit

There were several grape vines staked behind our new house when we moved in. We weren't sure what they were going to be at first, but this summer they exploded into beautiful fruit.

It's been so hot and dry for the past few weeks that the grapes are very unhealthy. They're basically rotting on the vine because they don't have the right weather and water conditions to thrive. Instead, they're turning brown and caving in.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:16-20

Make this a weekend of bearing fruit. Ask yourself if you're receiving the right kinds of nutrients, sun and water for your fruit to thrive. See if your vines are trimmed and ready for harvest. Check your fruit for any signs of rotting or decay. Make sure your fruit is fit for the Master's use.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dry, Brittle Grass

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. Genesis 1:11

Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up. 2 Kings 19:26

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Psalm 37:1-2

Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. Psalm 102:2-4

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Isaiah 40:7-8

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:24-25

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My First Grilling Experience

Over the weekend, I decided that I was going to grill - all by myself. Now, I've helped plenty of times, even planned the menu before, but I've never done the whole process alone.
Danny was going to be at work all day Saturday, so this was the perfect opportunity. I went to the grocery store and got a package of fresh beef short ribs and four large pork chops. It's good to be in Iowa. I added four twice-baked potatoes and eight crab-stuffed mushrooms to the order and I was set.

I marinated the beef in beef broth and onion soup mix for about two hours, and marinated the pork in chicken broth and onion soup mix for two hours. A few minutes before I was ready to grill, I took everything out of the fridge so it wouldn't be cold when it went on the grill.

We have both a gas grill and a charcoal grill, but I chose the charcoal. It's the one I've used and seen used more often. I carefully followed Danny's instructions and made a pile of coals in the middle, then covered them in the special lighter fluid and let that sit for a few minutes. Then I spread them out a bit so they'd cover a wider area and cool off a little. (I learned later that I hadn't spread them out quite far enough so my heat was a bit too high.)

I sprayed the grate with cooking spray and it was time to add the meat. The beef went on first since it was thicker. Then the chops. The sides went on last on the upper grate. They just needed to get hot since they were already cooked. I sprinkled the beef with Season All and the chops with Montreal Chicken for a little more flavor. (Not too much or the meat gets really salty.)

About this time, Danny came home, so he was able to help me with cooking times. That's always my biggest fear - that I'll overcook something and disappoint everyone. The chops were done well before the beef, and I could have left the sides on for a little longer, but other than that, everything turned out great.

Now, I'm not a big beef eater, but the ribs were my favorite part of the meal. They turned out juicy and tender with just the right amount of seasoning. Lovely!

It was such a wonderful learning experience - and eating experience - that I can't wait to do it again. But maybe I'll wait until it's not 100 degrees in the shade ... maybe.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Variety of Birthday Cards

 I was able to fill a special order of birthday cards for my dad last week. There were 24 of them - each one different. Special. One of a kind.

I made the first few cards in the "traditional" birthday theme. They were all covered with cake and candles and balloon animals. They looked great, but I was quickly running out of birthday-themed embellishments.

As I was preparing to rush to the store and stock up on more cake and candles and balloon animals, I realized that I could make a whole series of cards that weren't so blatantly birthday. They could be beautiful, natural cards like this one - my absolute favorite - and still be a birthday card. 

It's often very smart, and very creatively stimulating, to stop before you shop and see what's already in your supply stash. You can create stunning cards with what you have on hand and make them in whatever theme you'd like. And save the cake and candles and balloon animals for the party.

Monday, July 16, 2012

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

... then stay out of Iowa for a while.

We're in the middle of a 25-year heat spell and intense drought right now. This 111 degree day was the one Danny spent in the garage building my prayer bench. You just keep doing what you have to do.

It's fun to read and listen to stories about global warming and how millions of years ago ... and how millions of years from now ... yeah, that's when I tune out, too.

Yes, this may be a record-high summer across the country. Yes, it can be unbearable without air conditioning. Yes, it's uncomfortable to breathe when the humidity is so high.

But there is something worse.

And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. Revelation 16:7-9

Scripture is filled with verses about the heat, fire and flames of the end times and hell. If you're saved, you'll never feel a bit of that heat, even if July in Iowa may seem that way. We won't ever know a fraction of the heat and burning of death and hell.

That should be reason enough to witness to the lost around us - can you imagine someone you know scorched and burning? That terrifying picture is what awaits those who rebel against God.

While 111 degrees may seem unbearable, it's nothing compared to eternal life without Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Weekend of Working It Out

I'm so excited - I met my workout goal! I increased my routine every day for two whole weeks!

That may not seem like a huge victory to some, but to me, that was immensely fulfilling. I fought through the excuses, the pain, the discouragement and everything else to achieve what I set out to accomplish.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

Make this a weekend of working it out.

Physically: Start an exercise plan, change your eating habits or just get out and walk for a little while. Working out your body is a great way to praise God and thank Him for the health He's given you.

Emotionally: Is there something holding you back from experiencing the joy of the Lord? Take the time this weekend to work it out - pray about it, journal about it, talk to a sister in Christ, whatever it takes for you to being working through it.

Spiritually: Are you growing in the Lord the way you'd like? Have you made time for Bible reading, prayer and other activities that will bless you right down to your soul? Work it out that these two days will be filled with spiritually renewing moments.

Financially: Are you trying to save for something and can't seem to work it out? Have you been trying to get out of debt or pay off a bill? Take a few minutes this weekend and create a saving/spending plan that will truly work. Be a good steward of the money God has blessed you with.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I Am The Door

And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door. Exodus 33:9-10

And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2:15

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. John 10:1

But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. John 10:2

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Revelation 3:8

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. Revelation 3:20

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Lead and How To Follow

For part of yesterday, Danny and I had to spend time in two different vehicles. At one point, I was leading because I had the GPS. For those brief minutes, I was a wreck. (Not literally, just emotionally.) I was concerned about going too fast and losing him, which I did for a minute. I had trouble focusing on the road in front of me because I kept looking in the rear view mirror for him. And I almost drove right past our destination because I lost focus on where we were actually going.

Leading is difficult, whether it's in a car or in a leadership position you've been given. From the time I spent as a leader yesterday, and the time that followed as a follower, here are a few lessons I quickly learned.

* A good leader has focus on the road ahead of them. I spent more time looking behind me to check on things than I did on the road and the traffic around me. This misplaced focus could have been incredibly dangerous if I wasn't paying attention. A good leader will see both the road and the destination and trust that the followers will follow the route they set.

* A good leader has trust in the people following them. In that one minute that I couldn't see Danny in the line of traffic behind me, my confidence in my leadership abilities plummeted. I must have done something wrong or he would have been there. A good leader has faith that the followers are then, and the followers need to reiterate that they're there. It may not always be a visible following, but it should be.

* A good leader can set a steady pace. It's incredibly difficult to follow a vehicle that can't maintain its speed, decide which lane to be in or which exit to take when the time comes. That breaks down that entire feeling of trust and safety that the leader is working so hard to build. A good leader will find consistency and make the job of following that much easier and more enjoyable.

* A good follower has trust that the leader is going down the right path. Danny knows the roads and I know that Danny knows the roads. I still had the GPS, but I had complete trust that my husband knew where he was going. That trust is what gives the leader respect and power to maintain their leadership role.

* A good follower is willing to run interference. The traffic around us didn't care that we were going the speed limit and definitely didn't know that we were travelling together. Being in the back, I was able to protect Danny from being run over by the drivers who wanted to exceed the speed limit and possibly cause accidents. A good follower will do whatever is necessary to protect the leader from the people around them.

* A good follower will follow at the safe and proper distance. It was much easier for me to stay at the speed limit and drive safely because Danny was. I could have ridden his back bumper, pushed him along and made him anxious as all get-out. But that could have caused an accident and it would have been my fault, not his. Keeping the pace the leader sets gets everyone involved in the groove so they can focus on moving efficiently down the path.

Some days you're the leader and other days you're the follower. You can take all the lessons you learn from being one of them to excel at being the other.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No-Cook Summer Meals

Who wants to turn on the oven or crank up the stove when it's 100 degrees outside? Even the thought of grilling, a summer cooking staple, can induce heat flashes over a certain temperature.

Instead, think about some meals that don't require any heat at all.

* Caprese salad - tomato, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and some basil. Super easy and so tasty!

* Wraps - some deli meat, sliced cheese and some fresh fixin's. Serve with macaroni salad, potato salad or chips.

* Fresh green salad with chicken - use a warm rotisserie chicken already cooked at the grocery store so you don't have to heat anything up yourself.

* Chicken salad or tuna salad sandwiches - again, get your ingredients already fixed from the store to keep from cooking.

* Hummus and pita bread - think appetizers and you'll have a light meal as well as a no-heat meal.

* Shrimp cocktail - pre-cooked shrimp can simply be thawed and eaten, combined with a really great cocktail sauce.

* Sushi - 'nuff said!

* Dessert - cookies baked on the dashboard of your car ... or ... ice cream and lots of toppings, frozen fruit bars, fresh fruit, pudding.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Landscaping Timbers Bench

My sweet and loving husband gave me my birthday present three weeks early.

I had asked Danny for a bench that I could put down by the big pond. I wanted a place where I could go, pray and relax away from the struggles of the day. He blessed my heart in so many ways by creating this bench out of landscaping timbers with his own two hands. His talents amaze me all the time.

But what meant even more was that he was willing to brave 110 degree temperatures to finish this just for me. That speaks volumes about the loving heart of this wonderful man. Thank you, Sweetie!

I'm so excited to get it down by the water and spend some time with the Lord. The first thing I want to do is thank Him from the bottom of my heart for the husband He gave me. I'm blessed beyond measure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The ABCs of My Week

This is my ABC list for the week. I have printed it off and I'm going to mark off each one as I pray about them over the next seven days. I encourage you to do the same - print it, pray about it, adjust it to fit your own personal needs and see if your heart finds conviction to make some changes in your life for the Lord. He already has in mine. I can't wait to see what the week brings.

Just for this week:
Accept the week that God has planned for you.
Believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord delights in you.
Change your attitude in a drastic way.
Determine to be dedicated and devoted to Christ.
Escape the devil's grasp through repentance and prayer.
Forgive...no matter how hard it might be.
Go forth and take on the day knowing you walk with the Lord.
Hope against all hope...in everything.
Invite one family to come to church with you this week.
Just live in the moment God has given you right now.
Keep on keepin' on...even when it hurts.
Leave all your cares at the foot of the cross.
Memorize one verse of Scripture every day this week.
Notice your blessings more than focusing on the negatives.
Open your heart and your eyes to the people around you.
Praise God with every breath you breathe for the next seven days.
Quit trying to fix everything and let God handle it.
Resist the urge to beat yourself up over your shortcomings.
Sit, be still and know that He is God.
Tell your testimony to one person who has never heard it.
Uncover a need that no one would ever tell you about, then fill that need.
Visit one person you know desperately needs someone.
Walk the walk you want to be remembered for.
eXamine your motivations in how you act, speak, think and live.
Yearn to be so close to God that His presence envelopes you completely.
Zoom through the difficult times in the days ahead so you can spend more time rejoicing in the good ones.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July Brownies

Happy Fourth of July! These tasty treats are going with me to the newspaper office this afternoon for the few of us who have to be there on the holiday.

To make these brownie firecrackers, prepare a box brownie mix according to the package directions. Then let it cool completely.

Cut the cooled brownie into small circles with a small cookie cutter. Or a knife if you're really talented. Or a rolled up piece of card stock if you need to.

Then stack them with a good amount of frosting in between. I cut a piece of patriotic garland into smaller pieces to make the sparklers on top. Please remind people not to eat them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

God Bless America

This week is filled with celebrations of independence and freedom. The Fourth of July is an amazingly patriotic week, but I always think about the phrase: God Bless America. It's not so much about flags and fireworks, but about praising God for the blessings on our nation.

So I made a couple of adorable Fourth of July cards with just that theme. This one is made from a few scraps I found in a bag - I bet you have some, too! The flag is raised on some 3D adhesive for added dimension. I have two different God Bless America stamps, but this one fit the space better.

And this sweet patriotic bear has been in my collection for absolutely years! Now he has a special place on this Fourth of July card.

You don't have to plaster religion across the front of everything to share God's Word. Instead, I used this powerful verse of Scripture on the inside. This is a great way to use something typical for the time of year and still share your faith.

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's God, Not Weird Timing

"Well, that all worked out in the end, didn't it?"
"That's pretty lucky, huh?"
"And then everything just came together!"
"I couldn't believe the timing of it all."

We hear these innocent statements all the time. Circumstances just work themselves out, people come together when they're needed most and the events of the day wrap up like a tv sitcom after half an hour.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

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. Jeremiah 29:11

Can you believe that you've already been thought over today? Things aren't just going to happen in some random way and people aren't just going to wander through your life. God says right here in His own Word that He is thinking toward you. He has already had thoughts of peace for you and the day you'll have today.

There is no luck, happenstance or chance when it comes to the thoughts of the Lord. He is the God of order and perfection, not waiting to see how things might work themselves out for you. No matter how small or unimportant this moment may seem, He has already had His hand on it and His thoughts working through it just for you.

I have no idea what the day holds - for you or for me. But I do know that the circumstances have already been ordered by my loving and perfect Heavenly Father. So if someone tries to explain how dumb luck ruled the day, agree that luck is dumb.

And then tell them about the thoughts God is thinking toward them today.