Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Obedience - God's Glory

Joshua is one of my favorite people from the Bible. I love the description of his faith and obedience, and I am always encouraged by the blessings God gave him for his follow-through.

And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. Joshua 6:2-5

Now, I am not a mighty man of valor, but I can just imagine the very human thought Joshua must have had at this point. "Walk in circles for six days, then seven more times on the seventh day. Blow the horns and let out a shout ... seriously?"  

Step back from Joshua's life for a moment and think about your own. If you're anything like me, the Lord's guidance doesn't always make sense. Love people who don't love me back? Keep going when everyone else has quit? Do something that the world may think is foolish? Seriously?  

Joshua's situation was no different than ours - it was just in a different setting. God had already given them the city, so now they just had to obedient to His direction.  

And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD. And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD. Joshua 6:6-7  

There is no hint of hesitation between verses five and six. We don't know if Joshua was confused or alarmed by the words of the Lord, but what we do know is that he immediately obeyed them. He obeyed them without making a deal with God, trying to talk his way out of it or make himself not look so silly in the process. 

Have you ever tried to compromise with God? Is there hesitation in your follow-through? Is it easier to question and procrastinate than actually comply with the will of the Lord? Joshua didn't think so.  

And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. Joshua 6:8-9 

And it must have been a convincing presentation of God's Word to the people as well. We don't read about any questioning or complaining among the people, either, when they learn about God's plan for the week. It says here that when Joshua finished speaking, the priests obeyed. Then the armed men obeyed. The blowing of trumpets and passing by of the people came just as God had spoken - with pure obedience.  

And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. Joshua 6:16  

Can you imagine that seventh day? A week of walking in circles and suddenly you know it's time. Joshua ordered the shout and it came without question. But it wasn't because Joshua gave the command. It wasn't because the people were ready for this to be over with. And it certainly wasn't because they were looking forward to the bloodshed of the people inside those walls.  

God had given His people this city. He had given them an instruction. They were following through to give Him all the honor and the glory for the victory of the day. Instead of laughing and changing the plan to fit their pretty little picture, they simply obeyed.  

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Joshua 6:20  

The outcome of obedience is always the same - whether it's in the accounts from the Bible or the memories of our own walk with Him. God is faithful and just to do what He says He's going to do. When we carry out His commands - with the right heart attitude - we can stand amazed as He tears down walls, gives us the city and makes a week's worth of walking in circles more than worth it.  

So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country. Joshua 6:27  

Whose fame do you really think was travelling throughout the land? Sure, Joshua's name was probably on the lips of everyone who knew the story of what happened in Jericho that day. So it goes when something spectacular happens. But more importantly, the wonderful works of God were going out as well. People everywhere were hearing about how God had used His people to cause something wonderful to happen.  

Your obedience brings glory to God.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Weekend of Change

The first frost of the season hit southeast Iowa this morning. The grass crackled under our feet as we went for our morning walk and the chill in the air went straight through three layers.

I suppose this signals that fall truly is here. Almost all of our leaves are gone and the hours of sunlight are getting shorter and shorter.

This time of change in nature reminds us that nothing is still - nothing remains the same. The comfort and stability of yesterday turn into a whole new day today and the excitement of what the Lord has planned for tomorrow.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Make this a weekend of change. Are there changes in the season of life that have you worried or concerned? Take them to the Lord in prayer and leave them at His feet. Are you excited about where God is leading you in your current season? Thank Him and praise Him for all the blessings He has delighted in giving.

'Tis the season.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Advice From Financial Experts

I've had interviews with two financial experts this week - not usually my favorite topic, but these discussions were very interesting. They'll make great newspaper articles in the upcoming days.

What really caught my attention were the two pieces of advice that overlapped between the two people. Usually experts have their own way of thinking about things, or have a company line to quote, but not them. They actually made sense, backed up what the other said and were encouraging.

Here are those two pieces of advice.

1. When trying to make financial decisions, talk to someone locally. Sure, the Internet is a wealth of information about all kinds of things. But it's also full of people who don't know you, don't have time to get to know you as a person and probably can't be available every time you need to be in touch. Not that they don't care, but they're just not as equipped as someone in your own community to deal with your individual needs.

Seek out someone who knows what they're talking about. Have face-to-face conversations with someone who lives close by who truly enjoys the work they do. Find that expert who is willing to learn what you need and tailor they're advice just for you.

2. Have some financial goals. One of these experts is a local lender. The main mistake she sees is people who think they'll find the perfect home and then someone will let them buy it regardless of how much money they have (or don't have). Yes, there are ways to make this happen, but it's very difficult.

We live in an instant-gratification culture that expects to make purchases on a whim. As long as you've got room on the credit card, why not use it? Saving, investing and growing personal resources is becoming a forgotten art. But having some goals and being diligent about them means being prepared for both the best and the worst of times.

Both of these experts said they're always available to help chart a path to having what you need when you need it. This is a gift to those of us who need some professional advice every now and then. So find someone in your local community who can guide you through the twists and turns of the financial road.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Slow-Cooker Apple Crisp

If you're looking for a quick and easy recipe that just screams fall, this is it!

Your first thought might be soggy apples in a slow cooker, but that's the furthest thing from the truth. at about the 4-1/2-hour mark, it is absolutely delectable. I suggest you leave the house until it's done or you'll never make it that long, just because of that amazing aroma.

4-5 cooking apples (I used gala) sliced (peeled if you'd like, but I didn't)
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (I used quick oats because it's what I had on hand)
3 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter, softened

1. Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray. Set it on low to begin warming.

2. Layer the apple slices in the bottom of the cooker.

3. Combine the sugar, flour, oats, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl. Cut in the butter.

4. Sprinkle the mix over the apples. It may seem weird to not mix it all together, but it will melt down in and be all sorts of gooey and wonderful.

5. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

6. Serve with ice cream and some caramel sauce. Yummy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sadie Gets Lost - Sort Of

One of the nice things about Sadie is that she's a mama's girl. She doesn't have to be on a leash when we're outside like her big sister does. I never have to worry about her going too far away because she has to be in eye-sight of me at any given moment - indoors or out.

I should say ... normally she has to be in eye-sight of me at any given moment - indoors or out.
This weekend I had one of the biggest scares I've had in a long time. I took the girls out for a short walk just like we do several times a day. I don't know if Sadie caught a whiff of something or just needed to stretch, but all of a sudden I realized she wasn't with Bailey and me anymore.  

Normally this wouldn't be a problem. Call her name and she'll come at top speed just so you won't leave her behind.  

So I put Bailey back in the house and went around calling her. And calling her. And calling her. We don't have neighbors very close, but I'm positive those within a 10-mile radius heard me. I was getting panicked.  

This was the last place I saw her, on the levee headed for the other side of the pond. So that's where I headed. I made my way all along the edge of the pond, clear back to the burned out tree, which is at the base of the path that runs the edge of the property. And I kept calling her name.

All of a sudden I realized how close to the highway she'd be if she went that far. And then I put that thought away and called her name some more.

The I started to wonder if she even knows her own name...

Soon I backtracked to the house. I had already texted Danny, cried a little, prayed a lot and finally decided to search in the other direction.

That's when I saw her.

Sadie had finally heard me and seen me turn the corner of the house. She came barreling down the hill from the barn - the opposite direction from the levee where I'd seen her. She'd either circled all the way around or cut back when I was taking her sister inside.
I was all prepared to have words with her over wandering and worrying me, but that was the furthest thing from my mind. I actually sat down on the driveway and cuddled her for a few minutes before we went back inside. How can you look at that face and not know that you're loved?
And that was our adventure for the day ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Variations on a Decorating Theme

It's amazing how different people can look at the same things and use them in completely different ways. You and I could look at the same furniture, flowers or scrapbooking supplies and never come close to creating the same results.

Last weekend's ladies retreat at the church was the perfect example of this creativity. Some amazingly wonderful ladies created small displays around the entire church, focusing on the fall season and our theme of sewing.

They thought of some layering and color combinations that I never would have dreamed of. They were absolutely beautiful - and perfect for the occasion. 

A simple table can become a conversation piece with a few themed accents. A collection of fall became a tiny hideaway at the bottom of the steps. Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest impact.

Our sewing theme was so much fun - pun completely intended. This is my mother-in-love's sewing machine, which the ladies lovingly decorated with their sewing supplies.

Even the top of the piano received a touch of the theme. Quilts and sewing notions were everywhere, and the ladies created special scenes in each nook and corner.

You probably have a themed collection that is just begging to be arranged in your own home. See what might be tucked away and bring it out to create something special.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Heart Convicted

What do you do when you feel that rumbling in your heart? You know what I mean - the poke or squeeze or tug that God does around the very center of your being. You can feel Him leading and guiding through the convicting of your heart.

Conviction is not a bad thing. It's not a condemnation or judgement. A heart convicted simply means that the Lord is dealing with about an issue in your life and cares so deeply that He'll reach into the very depths of you to converse about it.

Does that mean that a convicted heart is a happy heart? Maybe, but probably not. It's hard to accept that something needs to change and be done differently. Conviction tells us that there's room for growth, stepping out of our comfort zone and finding God's footprints on this brand new path. That's not easy for anyone.

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
What an amazing example of conviction and moving in our hearts. Jesus was moved with compassion for the people, and the only response He could make was to do all He could. He recognized the moving of God in the situation and immediately went into action. It was that response that glorified God and changed people's lives.

My heart has been under conviction over two or three topics lately, and that conviction was never more apparent than at our ladies retreat this weekend. When you hear lessons that so clearly match what God has already been discussing with you, you can't help but make a decision for Him.

I thank our dear, sweet Mina Oglesby for allowing the Lord to speak through her and directly into my heart. He used her to convict me in such a way that there is no doubt I understand more about what He wants from me in my daily life. I am blessed beyond measure that she was available and willing to share God with our ladies this weekend.

But now, that convicted heart rests solely in my hands. I have two choices, as do you - submit to God's will or continue on my own path. The first leads to peace, joy and life more abundant. The second leads to frustration, discouragement and friction.

What do you think God is leading you to do with your convicted heart?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Someone Hurts You

Earlier this week, I almost hit someone with my car.

An older woman was walking through the parking lot while I was driving down the lane to leave. I saw her, walking along the right side of the two rows of parked cars. All of a sudden, she turned to her left and walked out in front of me, leaving me just enough room to swerve a bit and slam on my brakes.

"If looks could kill" isn't just a figure of speech - I should be dead right now.

She then proceeded to - and I'm not joking here - slap the hood of my car with her hand. Then she shouted some very not-nice things in my general direction. I had cracked my window because it was such a nice day, but I very quickly rolled it up all the way.

She stormed off toward her car, which was apparently on the opposite side from where she had been walking, leaving me heartbroken. I just wanted to get out of there and go home, but I still had another stop to make. So I sat in that parking lot, bawling like an absolute baby. That made me feel better, as did talking to my husband. I went on with my day, but that woman's anger bothered me for ages.

When I explained what happened to a co-worker later, this is what he told me:

You realize there are three types of people in this world. One doesn't have any clue of the effect their words and actions have on other people. The second knows their effect but doesn't care. The third knows the power of words and actions and does everything possible to make them have positive effects.

It's easy to make excuses and say she must have been having a bad day. We all have them. But those excuses aren't going to cure broken hearts or soothe a troubled soul. The consequence for words and actions lasts longer than an apology or the moment that it happened in.

When someone hurts you, intentionally or not, there is a chain reaction in the soul. Do you take that anger and pass it on for the rest of the day, brooding in your self-pity? Do you squash it down and pretend like it never happened, forgetting how terrible those feelings are? Or do you lay it all at the foot of the cross, pray for healing and forgiveness and work hard to keep from making someone else feel the way you do?

Hurt is inevitable when you're human, but passing it on is a choice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Love - The Great Motivator

Why do you do what you do?

When you look carefully at the motivation behind the reason you do every little thing that you do, you will see either love or self. Love or fear. Love or the flesh. Love or pride. Love or personal gain.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:37-39

There a whole lot of love in these three verses - love for the Lord and love for people. This love should be the great motivator in a Christian woman's life.

Do you stay late at work because you want the extra money or because you want to help the group as a whole get its work done and get it done well?

Do you already have an excuse planned for why you can't do something or are you looking for opportunities to serve those around you?

Are there murmurs and grumblings in your heart or are you delighted that this is where God has called you to be?

Can you get past the sting of self-sacrifice and see the joy and blessings of doing for others?

Are you willing to take yourself out of the equation and see your day the way God sees it - 24 hours to love Him and love each and every person you'll come into contact with?

Love is the greatest motivator in the world. What is it motivating you to do right now?

Monday, October 15, 2012

How To Know When You're Too Busy

It should be fairly obvious to tell when you're too busy. Certain signs should just be talking to you in bright, flashing neon. But maybe we're just too busy to notice that we're too busy...

What are these things we should notice when we're overbooked, scheduled too tightly and busy beyond belief?

1. It takes five pieces of paper and half a dozen calendars just to figure out where you're supposed to be right now.

2. You're already thinking about the next task while still performing the first one.

3. The things that the Lord has called you to do have been put on the shelf while you tackle other projects.

4. Friends and family think you've been exiled to Patmos because they haven't seen you in ages.

5. Your time in Bible study and prayer has turned into glancing and hasty comments.

6. The dogs growl at you when you come home every night because they barely recognize you anymore.

7. It's harder and harder to prioritize your to-do list because you can't remember the purpose and meaning behind everything you've scheduled yourself for.

8. You've heard yourself say, "I can't keep track of my schedule - why would I expect anyone else to?"

9. Your idea of slowing down is actually sitting down ... to catch up on the filing.

10. God is an after-thought instead of your first thought.

If any of these (or any combination thereof) sound like you, there is hope. You, too, can become less busy.

* Pull out those five pieces of paper and half a dozen calendars. Take a minute (or 10) to put it all together and see just where your time is going. Cut through the confusion and truly have a plan for the week.

* Cut out all the extra stuff that's clogging your schedule. Do you absolutely have to do every single thing on your to-do list today, or will some of it wait until tomorrow so you have some free time today?

* Prioritize God's way. Bible study and prayer first. The things He has called you to second. Things you've laid upon yourself last. People before things. Memories before accomplishments.

* Rediscover the joy of the Lord. If God's not in it, you'll know. Remove anything from your schedule that doesn't glorify Him to the uttermost. You might be surprised at how much time you really have when you use those criteria.

So - what's your day look like?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peanut Butter Chewies

Peanut butter chewies are a very special treat at our house - but only for the puppies. They each have a rubber dog toy that we fill with crushed dog treats and cover in peanut butter. Apparently it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, which I don't think they've ever had.

The girls each have a very specific way that they attack a peanut butter chewie. Bailey will immediately dump out all of the treats from the inside of the chewie. This is quite comical, because she'll chase it all over the room as it rolls, dropping crumbles in its path. Then she'll hunker down for a few minutes and carefully remove all traces of peanut butter from the outside. When she's confident that's taken care of, she'll come check with me to make sure I don't have a second one hiding somewhere.

Sadie, on the other hand, is very meticulous about her peanut butter chewie. Sometimes she forgets there are treats inside until she accidentally dumps them out. Her attention is completely focused on getting every single drop of peanut butter off that chewie. No amount of coaxing, talking or poking will distract her from the task at hand. The house could be burning down and she'd still be intent on that peanut butter. Eventually she'll get around to the treats inside, and then she'll commence with cleaning up the floor around her.

One dog toy, peanut butter and crushed dog treats. That's all you need to keep your dog happy and entertained for at least a few minutes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mexican Slow-Cooker Stacks

Want a great slow-cooker meal for a chilly fall night? How about something for a fellowship or international-themed get-together?

These Mexican slow-cooker stacks will fit all these occasions.

Just layering a few ingredients in the cooker creates a lovely melding of flavors that you can eat on for days! If it lasts that long ...

1 1/2-2 pounds ground beef
Small corn tortillas
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 small red onion, chopped
1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz jar of taco sauce
Chili powder
Onion powder
1 bag frozen corn
Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour cream for topping (optional)

1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Drain well.

2. Turn slow cooker on to high. Spray inside of cooker with non-stick spray.

3. Line bottom of cooker with tortillas. It will probably start with two, then more as the cooker gets wider at the top.

4. Begin layering ingredients as they are listed. In this cooker, I was able to make four complete layers and use up all of my ingredients.

5. At the very top, add one more layer of tortillas and the last of the cheese. This will get all browned and melted as it heats, which is absolutely lovely.

6. Leave on high for one hour, then reduce to low for 2-3 additional hours. Serve immediately with sour cream and tortillas chips if desired.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall and Christmas Cards In Our Etsy Shop

It's not every day that you can design for both fall and Christmas at the same time!
Our etsy shop, Stuff From Trees, is now stocked with plenty of each.

I adore the fall colors. This gorgeous praying for you card has Psalm 5:3 inside.

There's something so sweet about an autumn card covered in tiny pumpkins, apples and acorns. This encouragement card is blank inside for your personal message.

And now for the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas brings out all those reds and greens - and in this case, plaid! Inside is the good tiding of great joy from Luke 2:10.

There's nothing like the sparkle and shine of ornaments on the tree - and on the front of a Christmas card! Inside is Luke 2:7, the moment of Christ's birth.

All of these cards, and many more, can be found at Come visit soon!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lift It Up In Prayer

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6

When I'm confused and unsure, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When my heart is light and full of praise, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When it seems like the world is crashing down around me, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When the day is full of blessings, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When I'm feeling alone and unloved, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When I need direction and guidance, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When circumstances weigh me down, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When my soul and my cup overflow with joy, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When there is sickness and suffering all around, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When I'm filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When the day is packed with hustle and bustle, I need to lift it up in prayer.

When the day is quiet and reflective, I need to lift it up in prayer.

In every thing, by prayer and supplication ...