Thursday, February 28, 2013

Planning for the New Month

Somehow, the month of February is now gone! Time flies when you're having fun, I suppose.

But looking ahead, there's a brand new month just waiting for us. Thirty-one days lay before us, waiting to be filled with all sorts of wonderful things that will bring glory to God.

So where do you start? If you're like me, you're a planner. A blank calendar page is just longing to be written on, and here are some great ways to get a handle on everything you'll need for the month of March. "Stuff" is my favorite Bible word, so that's what I'll use today.

* Family stuff. The best way to see who goes where and when is to have it written on a master schedule. This may sound like a lot of work, but then there won't be any surprises. I know we get tired of asking each other every morning what the schedule for the day is. With us, it changes a lot, but we generally have a good idea that we can put down on paper. The family stuff includes work and school schedules, lessons, sports, family activities and anything else you do, either together or as individuals. It's so important to know where everyone is.

* Church stuff. Know what's going on in your home church and be there for it. When you bring home your bulletin on Sunday, write down the schedule of events on your master calendar. Add in birthdays, anniversaries and special events so you can have cards and treats ready. Put it all in one place so you can see it at a glance.

* The financial stuff. Go ahead and write down when all of your bills are due. If you've got electronic bill pay set up, then use it as well. But make sure you have a visual of when everything has to be paid. Then you'll be prepared and avoid all those late fees. This will also help with budgeting because you'll be able to see exactly when you get paid and exactly when things are due.

* The food stuff. This is one I never leave to chance. Write out menus, and then use this plan to make your grocery list. Sure, it may change from night to night if schedules change, but you'll still have all the ingredients you need on hand. No more emergency trips to the grocery store because you forgot one or two things. That's how your spending can get out of hand so easily.

* The fun stuff. And please make sure you put some great, fun things on your master monthly list, too. Check the newspaper for some events or activities you'd like to try. Plan an indoor weekend or a weekend out and about in the community. If you have it down in writing, especially somewhere you'll see it all the time, you're more likely to remember and do it.

Fill the month of March with so much wonderful stuff that your calendar can't even hold it all

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's Like A New Living Room!

I'm so excited to get to show you this picture! Our living room has been one of the thorns in my side for a while, but it's finally back to normal.

Why was it abnormal? Because up until this weekend, it still had Christmas decorations everywhere - and I do mean everywhere. Don't laugh ... I've been sick.

First, everything that doesn't belong in the room went elsewhere. They may not all be in their homes yet, but at least they're not in the living room anymore.

Then the whole room got a good dusting. I can't believe how much dust can accumulate, even in winter. Combine that with the puppy dog hair and the room really needed some work.

All the furniture was cleaned and the windows washed on the inside. Since it's frigidly cold here, the outsides will have to wait. Plus we need a ladder for some of them, and that's not going to happen right now. Call me lazy ... I don't think ladders and snow mix.

And lastly, everything was swept - three times. Until I can convince the girls to let me shave them, the vacuum is my very best friend. And yes, I'm slightly obsessive about sweeper lines. Until we get a carpet that doesn't show them, I probably will be.

So that's one room down and one more block in my year of building. It's such a great feeling of accomplishment, and it's amazing to walk through this room now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Time-Lapse" Photography

Time-lapse photography doesn't have to be some complicated process where you fix settings on your camera. Just taking a series of photos over a period of time can give the effect of moment-by-moment changes.

Before our snow storm last week, the forecasters seemed pretty certain of the time it would start. So an hour before it began, I took a picture of our back yard.

This is what it looked like at 1 p.m. on Thursday.

At 2 p.m. I went back to the same spot and took another picture because, yes, the weatherman was exactly right about the start time.

And another picture at 3 p.m.

Another one at 4 p.m.

Back at 5 p.m.

 By 6 p.m., it was almost too dark to get a really good picture. But I love the way everything turned blue as the sun went down.

And by 8 a.m. the next morning, we had our total amount - about 6 inches. It was absolutely beautiful to watch the snow pile up in the backyard and turn the property into a winter wonderland.

What events, activities, people or places do you have that you could do some "time-lapse" photography with? It could be something as simple as rain falling in the rain gauge. Or you could take photos of the dog over the course of an hour as she rolls around, moves from place to place and takes her nap.

The possibilities for some dramatic photography are endless.

By the way, we had a squirrel, too. He might be my next time-lapse project. Maybe.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Special Salmon and Dragon Fruit Meal

The other night I had the most wonderful meal ready. I had salmon with salsa and dragon fruit - it looked so yummy!

And then Danny called and said he wouldn't be home for dinner. Maybe not home until bedtime.

That's life as the undertaker's wife.

We did get to share it the next day, so all was well. And now I'm going to share this lovely, exotic meal with you.

For the salmon, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with nonstick spray and place the salmon fillets in. Cover with your favorite salsa. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

For the dragon fruit, cut the fruit in half. Like with a grapefruit, run a spoon around the edges and loosen the white, edible part from the flesh. Do not eat the flesh - any of it. Cube the white fruit and put it back in the flesh for a beautiful display.

And that's how simple this was. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Weekend of Wonderful Works

The beauty of a snowy morning absolutely amazes me. My Lord created each of those little snowflakes out there, and He knows their shape, size and number.

God made this beautiful scene outside my back door just because He can. He delights in giving us these moments of joy, and I delight in soaking them up and thanking Him for them.

Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Psalm 40:5

Make this a weekend of declaring the Lord's wonderful works. There's no way we could ever name or number them all - that's just how good He has been. But we can give it our best effort. Every time you speak for these two days, praise the Lord for a wonderful work that He has done in your life. Write down all the blessings God rains down on you this weekend. Take the time to appreciate everything He has given.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Overcoming the Weariness

When you're sick, your body tries to shut down so it can recover. When you're coughing and blowing and busy being sick, you certainly don't get the rest you need and you end up being weary to the bone. That's just how being sick works.

That weariness of illness is one that goes straight to the bone. After two weeks of fighting bronchitis, asthma and fibromyalgia all at once, I can say that I have truly experienced weariness.

It's hard to fight back when you're weary, and the enemy knows that. During my illness, I heard so many voices telling me all kinds of things while I was stuck in bed trying to recover.

You're not that sick, are you?
This is your vacation time! You should be up enjoying it.
It's not that bad.
Get out of bed and accomplish something.
How lazy you've been.
Everybody gets sick. Why shouldn't you?
Aren't you stronger than this?

All the while, I thought about Ahithophel and Absalom pursuing David.

Moreover, Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only. 2 Samuel 17:1-2

The enemy was just waiting for David to be exhausted and unable to fight back. That's when they would strike - when he was weary.

This is still Satan's battle plan today. How often do we hear ugly words in our heads when we're at our lowest? How often, late at night, to you hear:

Wow. You really didn't accomplish much today, did you?
Was all that work really worth it?
Do you really think anyone noticed what you did today?
You could have done more, but you didn't.
A stronger Christian woman wouldn't feel like you do right now.

Just like with the men chasing David, the devil has an easier time manipulating us when we're weary. He can't do as much damage when we're all rested up and ready for the fight. So he bides his time and waits until we're utterly exhausted.

So what's a victorious Christian woman to do?

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. Psalm 27:13-14

God has promised to be an unending supply of strength and endurance. If we push ourselves to the breaking point, we will reach that point of exhaustion and be a target for the devil's attacks. But if we're waiting on the Lord and drawing out goodness and courage and strength from Him that we possibly can, those voices don't do as much damage.

You may not be weary from sickness today. You may be weary from expectations, your to-do list and the circumstances of the day. But the Lord promises to be there every step of the way, replenishing us as we walk with Him.

Wait on the Lord. Rest in His rejuvenating strength. Then go back out to fight the good fight.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Right now, one of our local grocery stores has a sale on rambutan, this adorable and spiny fruit. They are native to Indonesia and are are totally irresistible.

It's about the size of a golf ball, and if you pinch it at its seam, it will pop right open. The fruit inside is incredibly juicy and tastes very much like a kiwi fruit. It has a giant seed in the middle, but that, too, will easily come out.

We were feeling adventurous yesterday and got a couple of these. They are fantastic - if you've never tried one, check out your local produce section to see if they have any. You'll be so glad you did. Believe me, I'm going back to get more!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Today On the Carrell Wildlife Preserve

 It's amazing what you can witness when you're up early and you're paying attention.

Barn Kitty just fits between the rails on the decks, and she loves to sit here and watch the wildlife on the property.

  This morning it was a whole flock of geese. They weren't noisy or anything. They were just out for a stroll around the big pond.

It's been warm enough that the ice at the edge of the ponds has melted, and that's exactly what they were looking for. They were an absolute joy to watch.

 And then Barn Kitty decided she wanted a better look at these silly birds. Remember what curiosity does to kitties? She was the perfect picture of big cat stalking on the plains.

Well, they let her get right down to the water's edge. They just watched each other, Kitty drank from the pond for a minute, and then she came back to the house. That was all they needed - just a moment to check each other out, have a quick welcome conversation and go their separate ways.

You couldn't pay me to live in the big city anymore. It's too much fun out here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Sickness and ... In More Sickness

Please forgive me for not being here for the past few days. I have been desperately sick, fighting a serious bout with bronchitis. I've been alternating between our bed and sleeping in my living room chair for the better part of a week.

As I've been down and out (literally), reading Scripture has not been at the forefront of my mind. I know that sounds terrible, but it's been a terrible few days. I'm sure you've been there.

But when I opened my Bible and began reading through Psalms this morning, I realized that David had been there, too.

I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.  For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me. Psalm 38:6-10

I can relate to several of these words in particular: feeble, sore broken, disquietness, groaning, panteth, strength faileth, the light of mine eyes is gone from me. Not only was I fighting one illness, I was actually fighting two. I've had asthma since I was in school, and that makes bronchitis twice as difficult to defeat.

Hold a straw up in front of you. That's your airway. Now squeeze it a little with one hand. That's what bronchitis does, putting ickiness in the way of your breathing. Now squeeze a little more from a different direction with your other hand. That's what having asthma does coupled with bronchitis. The doctor at the clinic yesterday morning told me I had almost no air movement in my lungs. That's why I wasn't able to recover - my lungs couldn't get enough breath.

So I picked up all the normal medications that go along with bronchitis - steroid, antibiotic, cough syrup with codine. And then they added the extra ingredient that made all the difference - a new asthma inhaler! Now I had the tools I needed to fight both illnesses at once.

Not being able to breath - or coughing every time you breathe - is one of the scariest places ever to be. I'm feeling better today, but I can still relate to David's feeble and sore broken body. But every breath I take now is a little better than the one before. That's the miracle of God's healing power.

The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. Job 33:4

With every breath the Lord chooses to give me, hindered or not, I will continue to praise His holy name.

Are you aware of the breath of God today?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is It OK To Question God?

I've heard it many times from many people - I'll just have to ask God about that when I get to Heaven. We have so many questions about things that happen here on earth, but we often don't receive answers to our questions.

Is it OK to question God? Is it acceptable for a human being to ask questions of the Creator of Heaven and Earth?

Of course it is. We read all sorts of questions in the Bible, when God's people asked Him direct questions about very sensitive, very serious problems.

But did your mother ever tell you to watch your tone of voice? The way we ask questions is just as important as the questions that we're asking.

If someone comes up and ask you what on earth you were thinking, or even if you were thinking, would you be very responsive? Most likely not. Think about this multiplied to infinity when approaching the Lord God Who reigns on high.

We've been guilty of that, though. God, why on earth would you allow that to happen? I don't understand! What were you thinking? Why would you put us through this?

If I was being asked those questions, my flesh would be tempted to respond in kind. Fortunately, our God is longsuffering to usward.

Instead, look at my favorite question in the Bible.

And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. Gensis 25:21-22

Rebekah was incredibly pregnant and she didn't understand the turmoil going on inside her body. So she did exactly what a victorious Christian woman would do - she took her question straight to God. She didn't go to her girlfriend, her mother or the Bible-times version of Dear Abby. She went straight to the source.

Once she asked her question, God was able to take the time to explain exactly why He was arranging events the way He was.

And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

When we go directly to God in the beginning, we take a lot of pain, heartache and trouble out of the equation. Rebekah asked a simple question and received a simple response.

And then her ninth month arrived ...

And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Genesis 25:24

Behold! What a concept - believe that God will do what He says He'll do. Rebekah's relationship with the Lord was so strong that she was able to find comfort in His response and rejoice when everything came to be just as He said.

There are days when our questions flow freely, and those are the days when our heart attitude must be just exactly right. We are not whiny, impatient babies anymore. We are children of the King, a God Who wants to be asked things so He can explain things.

We show the depth of our faith when we can take our questions to God respectfully and honorably. He longs to hear from us, and we should crave a loving, two-way conversation. When we have control over our own hearts and are trusting in our relationship with the Lord, we can approach Him with whatever is on our minds.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Prints in the Snow

 When you have even a little bit of snow, you can immediately see the snowprints the next morning. It's fun to do some research and see what animal made which tracks.

 These are Baileydog tracks. I can tell her feet a mile away.

And Barn Kitty has pretty easy tracks to identify, too.

 And these are tiny little bird tracks. We have tons of birds on our deck at the bird feeder every day, so it could have come from any number of types of bird.

On our property, we see lots of deer tracks. The hooves aren't difficult to distinguish from others.

And our deer are pretty big. Look at the deer print on the left compared with my boot print on the right. I think that's pretty amazing.

There's always something out on the pond. We can tell when something was being stalked because the tracks go in the same direction. Or if there are two sets, one going out and one coming back. It's neat to try to come up with a story that matches where the snowprints go.

If you've still got snow on the ground, go look for some tracks and let me know what you find. If you don't have snow, look in a book or on the Internet to see how different tracks look in the snow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Showing Off Your Collections

A few weeks ago, my dad brought me his collection of sand and shells from North and South Carolina. I already had some scallop shells from another project, and I really wanted a way to show them off.

So I pulled out my container of blue glass pebbles, put them in the bottom of one of my favorite dishes and then stacked the shells on top. The sand was already in those adorable glass bottles, so that part was easy.

The result was a centerpiece that I absolutely adore. And it's more interesting than sticking them in a box somewhere and coming across them every couple of years.

We all have collections that are tucked away or set haphazardly on a shelf. But what fun is that? Let's take them down and do something exciting with them.

* Clear off a couple of your bookshelves and put your favorite collection out. Unless your collection is books - then leave them there. Just arrange them differently.

* Turn one whole room into a collection showplace. Fill it with bears, quilts, baskets or posters. Then they're all in one place - a great conversation piece.

* Clean them up, dust them off and get them working again. Why have a collection of anything if you're not going to take care of it. Give you special pieces a good cleaning and put them on display in great shape.

* Do some sorting. Maybe having 350 coffee cups is a great collection, but are there duplicates or broken ones? Are there some that are special that your children and grandchildren might enjoy having. Trim down your collection so that it's not overtaking the house or just taking up space.

* Put your collection to good use. Instead of having 27 baskets stacked in a closet, use them all over the house. Put extra towels, magazines and potted plants in them. Put a handful in each room. You'll enjoy seeing them and they'll be helpful every day.

 Don't just have stuff for the sake of having it. Build a collection that you truly enjoy and have it out so that others can enjoy it, too. That's what makes them truly special.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Weekend of Community

Guess what the big event in town this weekend is.

If you guessed bake sale ... I'd laugh, but you'd be wrong.

One of my favorite weekends out of the entire year is when the Bullriders of America finals are here in Ottumwa at the Bridge View Center. Last year was my very first bull riding event, and I got hooked.

So I spent all day yesterday talking to cowboys, announcers, bull fighters, rodeo clowns, event organizers and members of the community. The story that I wrote for today's paper really just links a whole bunch of quotes about how much this event means to the people involved.

Make this a weekend of discovering your community. You don't have to go to a bull riding event - although you won't regret it if you do. Just do something that gets you out of the house and talking to the people who live right around you.

Building our community is how we thrive outside our our home and our church family. Find something this weekend that will help you connect and build those relationships.