Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Weekend of Prayer and Planning

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

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

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

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

What if we prayed and listened and learned what those thoughts were before we made resolutions, filled in the dates and came up with great plans? Would we save ourselves some time, energy and heartache?

Make this a weekend of praying and planning. Get some alone time with the Lord and listen to His thoughts. Find out how He is choosing to lead, guide and direct in your life. Then start planning the new year, knowing that you are in perfect accord with God's perfect plan.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hello Barn Kitty!

This is the newest addition to the Carrell Wildlife Preserve.


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


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


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


It's a cold Iowa winter, so she's got a bed under the deck out of the wind, and she's even got a heated water bowl just outside the back door. Barn Kitty is incredible talkative, very snuggable and the sweetest thing ever. I'm glad she wandered our way. Hopefully she'll be a great mouser and the perfect addition to the property. She has been so far!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Much Longer?

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

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

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

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Are we keeping the Christmas story and its meaning before our eyes? Are we teaching them, talking about them and making them the very pillars of our home? Without Christmas, there is nothing worth talking about.

How much longer will we keep Christmas going? Dec. 25 is just a day to celebrate what's happening all year long in the life of a Christian. Jesus Christ was born so that He could die for my sins. That's not a one-day-a-year affair. That's every moment of every day of every week that passes.

And for that reason alone we should be holding on to Christmas with every ounce of our strength.

You never know - if you choose to hold on as long as you can, it could change the lives of everyone around you.

You never know - it could change your own life.

How much longer will you keep Christmas going in your heart?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Weekend of Anticipation

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

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

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. Luke 2:8-15

First they received a message from angelic beings, and then they learned that Christ the Lord was born that very day. Can't you just feel the anticipation as they hurried to the place where He lay?

Make this a weekend of anticipation - but not for people, activities or events. Make this a weekend of anticipation for celebrating the birth of the Lord in your own heart, fresh and new and wonderful. After all, that's why He came.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The First Snowstorm

For the past two days, we've been experiencing the first snowstorm of the season. There's been no snow since March, so everyone's a little excited - one way or the other.

Here are a few pictures of the property so you can share the chilly beauty with us. You'll notice that they're all taken from inside. There's an obvious reason for that ...





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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Who's Afraid of a Monster?

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


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


 Grover panics and tries desperately to keep the young, impressionable reader from turning to the end of the book and confronting the monster. In his fear, he takes elaborate measures, like building a brick wall and nailing the pages of the book together, to impede process.

I immediately think of my own fear in life - maybe not from a monster at the end of the book, but of other, more real, everyday things. There is some uncertainty in everyone's life, and there are days when I would love to panic like Grover, build a wall or nail the pages together so I can avoid the things that scare me.

But then Scripture says:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7

I don't have to be ruled by fear. That's not one of the gifts God has blessed me with. Instead, He has replaced it with power and love and a sound mind. Those are His blessings and those are the things that get me through each day. The fear is my doing - the power is God's.

If you hate it when people tell you the ending of a book you haven't read yet, please turn away now.
You've been warned.

On the last pages of this adorable story, Grover learns that they were talking about him, Grover Monster. It wasn't something scary at all ... and he had panicked for nothing.


That seems pretty typical, doesn't it? There was really nothing to be afraid of all along.

What are you afraid of at the end of your book? I pray that today you'll discover the power and love and sound mind that God has already given you to replace the fear.

Don't waste time trying to nail the pages together.
Enjoy the story as you go and give up the fear.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scallop Shell Journal

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


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


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


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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stuffed Scallops ... Or Finding Something New

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, I encourage you to try something different. Look through your grocery store circular this week and find just one thing that's one sale that you've never tried before. The results might be as fantastic as ours!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Pursuit of Perfection

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

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

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

This is one of my favorites:

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

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

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

And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him. 1 Samuel 18:14

A perfect heart behaves itself in a way that is glorifying and honoring to God. Because of this goal in David's life, the Lord was with him. He walked beside David, blessed him and protected him for his entire life. Isn't this what we want in our own lives? Then why do we get cluttered up with immaturity and selfishness? That's not God's definition of perfect at all.

And then there's Joseph:

And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.  Genesis 39:2-3

Perfection in Joseph's life spilled over for everyone to see. Even an unsaved Egyptian recognized that it was the blessings of the Lord that made Joseph who he was. His master saw the perfect heart in Joseph, and he saw how everything around him prospered because of the relationship he had with God. This is no accident. A perfect heart and a perfect life - God's perfect - become a beacon to those around you.

So how to we achieve perfection? Not by making no mistakes, having no faults and doing everything just right. Remember, that's the world's definition, not God's.

Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day. 1 Kings 8:61

Walk and keep. Walk in the way the Lord leads - willingly and with great delight. And keep - keep His commandments and follow His direction. Walk and keep sounds so simple, but this is the path that leads to perfection. The pursuit of God's perfection is so much more simple than you would think.

There are many, many more verses that talk about achieving perfection in the eyes of the Lord. Read them for yourself and let me know what other ones you know and love.

Genesis 6:9
Genesis 17:1
Deuteronomy 18:13
2 Samuel 22:33
1 Kings 11:4
2 Kings 20:3
1 Chronicles 29:9
Job 1:1
Psalm 18:32
Proverbs 2:21
Matthew 5:48
2 Corinthians 13:11

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Weekend of Christmas Focus

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

Doesn't that seem like such a waste?

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gifts For Good Little Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I don't know your thoughts on the subject, but I just can't bring myself to put my dogs in clothes or costumes. I know there are a lot of cute ones out there, but my girls can't stand them. You should see their faces when we try to put them in t-shirts. Not fun.

So have some fun, put together a great gift collection and let me know what you found. The girls love new ideas as much as I do!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tater Tot Casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A New Line In Our Etsy Shop

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

Here's a sneak peak.


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


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


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

Monday, December 10, 2012

Better In The Light

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

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

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

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

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

We have been called out of the darkness into the light. And not just any light, but marvelous light. And when we are nestled deeply in that light, we feel better. No matter what is happening in the darkness around us, there is light in our souls. The light of Jesus Christ outshines the weather, the economy and the circumstances of the day.

We feel better when we're in the light. Find that light and forget about the rest of the darkness.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wonderful Words of Life


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


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


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


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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dog Grooming In Winter


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


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


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


And this is the finished product. It's Bailey's new baby brother, and I have named him Harry. Get it? She weighs about 10 pounds less than she did when I started, and her mood has changed completely. See the ears up? That's a happy, lighter dog. Now rinse and repeat.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Chili Cookoff

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


 This time was different because I specifically had the night off and I made two different kinds of chili. One was my meatless chili, which uses soy burger crumbles instead of hamburger. It's one of my personal favorites, but it's definitely a different taste and texture.

The second batch was a variation on a pork chili that I absolutely adore. Apparently the judges did, too, because it won first place in the mild category. I have included the recipe at the bottom of this post so you can try it and judge for yourself.


And the next best thing to chili - the dessert table! We have so many wonderful cooks and bakers in our church that I am truly humbled. Humbled enough to try as many samplings as humanly possible without exploding. I believe I succeeded.

I have a plan for next year's entry in the "hot" category. I'll let you know how that turns out. I imagine it will need some practice in the coming months, don't you?

Pork and Salsa Chili

Ingredients:
1 pound ground pork
1 16-oz jar chunky salsa
1 15-oz can red beans, mostly drained
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
chili powder to taste

1. Brown meat in a large pot and drain.

2. Stir in salsa, beans, sauce and chili powder.

3. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

4. Serve immediately or transfer to a slow-cooker and keep warm until time to serve. (I kept mine simmering for about 6 hours and then took it to the church. Hmmm...maybe that's the key?)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Size of The Canvas

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


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


Then I just had to come home and make a card with the same layout. I love this design and how versatile it is. I could use this exact same arrangement for Christmas or birthday photos on a scrapbook page.

How creative can you get with the same layout, shape, template or design?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Behold!

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

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

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

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

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

In the shock of the moments after the angel appeared to the shepherds, they were reminded that this wasn't the important part. Behold - fix your attention on this part - that I bring you good tidings of great joy. The Savior is born today, and that's the most wonderful place to fix your mind at this moment.

God says behold to His children hundreds of times in the Old Testament.
The angel of the Lord says behold to many different people to direct their attention.
Jesus says behold to His disciples, followers and the needy throughout the Gospels.
The writers of Scriptures say behold to get the attention of generations of readers.

As you're doing your Bible study this week, be on the lookout for the word "behold." See who uses it, in what context and what specifically they're being called to pay attention to. How wonderful that this word can draw your attention, too.