Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Weekend of Rejoicing!

The end of days of sorrow is now. Jesus' disciples and followers were in the depths of despair following the crucifixion. There were questions, darkness and confusion hour after hour after hour.

And then came the morning. And a trip to the tomb.

He is risen; he is not here. Mark 16:6

And in seven small words, there was hope once again. There was joy unspeakable because all He had spoken was now fulfilled.

Make this a weekend of rejoicing! He is risen! He is not here! Lay aside all the trappings of the world's Easter celebrations and look to the empty cross and empty tomb as beacons of hope. Share the joy of a resurrected King for the weekend - and all the days to come.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Importance of Planning

Just in case you haven't figured it out yet - I'm a planner. I adore lists and researching gives me great joy. Being organized and prepared just makes me happy.

So I love the verses in Luke that show how important the Lord thinks preparation should be in a Christian woman's life.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. Luke 14:28-32

Whether it's a party, the day's to-do list or renovations on the house, it's always smart to have a plan. Otherwise, we might jump in to building our tower and not be able to complete it.

How do you create the perfect plan? Try these steps and see how the Lord directs your heart.

P - Pray. This is the very first step. We can't start any plan without talking to God about it first.

L - Listen. Wait on the Lord for His response to your prayer. His direction may be completely different than what you had in mind.

A - Analyze. Take a deep look at whatever you're working on from every angle. Think about the what-if's and the maybe's and put everything in writing.

N - Number. Prioritize. Some things need to be done first, others can wait and some are just wants. If you've got them in order, you won't waste time on the extra stuff.

N- Needs. Balance out the present and the future. Will planning this affect how you live in the moment? Are you more concerned about next month than right this very minute? Are you balancing your life, mind, body and soul?

I - Inspiration. This is the fun part. Do your research. See how other people have decorated for a party. Compare paint colors at the store to find the perfect shade for that room. Ask how that super-organized woman you know prepares for a new month. Glean what you can from the world around you and then make it fit into your own planning.

N - Name. Name your first step by deciding what actually needs to be done first. The only way to eat an elephant is to start with one bite, but you have to choose the perfect place to start.

G - Get to it! Enough writing and planning and preparation! Get started!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cleaning ... Spring Cleaning, I Guess

The rumor is that it's spring. Watching the snow melt today and fill up the ponds, I'm starting to think they might be right. So you know what that means.

Spring cleaning! Yay!

What? You're not cheering along with me?

I actually started my spring cleaning this afternoon. I got home from the paper a couple of hours earlier ... and it's better than watching snow melt. (Although right up there with watching paint dry.)

Here's the plan that I'm using this year. Basically, I divide the house into three parts: main level front, main level back and basement. This makes it seem a little more manageable.

1. Organize. This is the part that I started today. I go room by room and put everything away. Things that belong in other rooms find their homes. Papers sitting out get filed. Counters get cleared off and shelves get straightened. I don't do any cleaning or floors yet. There's much left to do before that.

I also carry a notebook around with me as I go. I have a 5-second short-term memory, so I write down everything I think of as I go. Yes, some of it doesn't make sense later, but at least I have a running dialogue with myself. This list includes things I need to do later, those tasks that I can't do by myself and the things that Danny will have to help me with. Yep ... that part's pretty long. Sorry, Sweetie!

2. Cleaning. Again, room by room, I'll work from top to bottom. This is not just horizontal surfaces (floor and counters) but vertical. I couldn't believe the fingerprints on the front of the oven when the sunlight hit it today. (I couldn't believe the sunshine either, but I'm sure you understand. We just haven't seen it that much here.) In this part, you'll want to be as thorough as you can, so it may take a while in each room. Clean out cabinets, wash things and organize them as you put them back. Dust. Throw things out. Put other things in a box to donate. Clean! Clean! Clean!

3. Save the floors for last. After all that dusting and sorting, this is the time to mop and sweep. If you do it any other time, you'll just track dirt and dust around, negating everything you just tried to accomplish.

I'll keep referring back to the list, too, so I'll know if there are things I need to go buy, little tasks I can do in a few spare minutes, things like that. Then I can also cross them off and see the progress I'm making.

It's a lot of work, but I can already see the finished product in my mind. That makes me smile when I think of spring cleaning. Try it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Changing Bad Photograph Colors

 Saturday night I had the opportunity to go see The Rat Pack Tribute show here at our Bridge View Center. It was absolutely phenomenal. I had interviewed the performers for the preview article for the paper, so that made it even better. They were incredibly nice guys and wonderful musicians.

This was one of the pictures I took afterwards, while they were greeting fans. I love the wall of the old colosseum in the background. This is actually the picture that I used in the paper, I loved it so much. But the color sure had some issues. 

 First, I lightened the whole picture using the basic Windows photo gallery on my laptop.

Then I increased the contrast so the darks would be darker and the lights would be lighter.

Then I turned down the color saturation on the whole thing to even out the colors.

I cropped in to make it a little more interesting.

And I increased the detail to un-blur the edges. I'm not sure if that's a word, but it is now. There was a little bit of movement in the picture, so this helps a little.

And just because they were portraying guys from the 1960s, I turned it black and white for a flashback look.

It was such a wonderful evening, and now I have an amazing photo for a keepsake.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Weekend of Doing It Heartily

Who and what do you have a heart for?

Is it family? Friends? The church? Your work? Your home? A special charity or cause? Missions? Serving?

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:24

Whatsoever you have a heart for, make this a weekend of doing it heartily, as to the Lord. Put all you have and everything you are into doing exactly what God tells your heart is important. Then watch as you see love, peace and joy in the hearts of those around you.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Having the Same Love

Spring is an amazingly wonderful time on the property. Yesterday we had several different kinds of birds join us, including geese, woodpeckers and a pair of cardinals.

But these wood ducks were my favorites. First of all, I had never seen any outside of a bird book before. We're just sure we didn't see them last year, so this was a wonderful discovery.

Wood ducks are also fascinating to watch. Wherever the male goes - he's the one with the red and white head - the female goes, too. They are never more than a few feet apart, even when they're swimming or feeding. I just had to smile, thinking about them gliding wing-in-wing across the water.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Philippians 2:1-4

Imagine how much different - how much more joyful - our lives would be if we truly took these verses to heart. The same love, of one accord, of one mind. Esteem other better than self.

Is this the way we look at our marriage?
Our family relationships?
Those we work with?
Our brothers and sisters in the church?
The community around us?

The ducks seem to have this figured out better than I do. What a change we could make in the world if we thought the way she does - wherever you go, so do I. I am willing to follow. I will put your wants and wishes before my own, never straying off course and being separated.

I am humbled by this small creation God placed in the water for me yesterday. And now I want that same attitude, beginning with trusting and abiding in my Lord.

Where can we go from there?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Get Well Soon Gift

There has been so much sickness going around this winter. I was down and out for the better part of a month, and I know people who were sick longer and had it worse.

So I started thinking about what made me feel better - tea with honey in it, a full box of kleenex and something soft and warm to cuddle.

This get well gift that I put together encompasses all these ideas into one container. Have the parts handy for the next time someone you know is sick in the bed.

Here are some starter ideas:
* tea bags
* lemon
* throat drops
* hand warmers
* honey for the tea
* an eye mask
* lip balm
* a soup cup or other container to collect it all
* a pretty card

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Driving Away the Fear

What are you afraid of? What's holding you back from being the best, most perfect you? What fear is keeping you from being everything God wants you to be?

What are you afraid of?

Unkind words?
Questioning looks?

I absolutely adore Psalm 18 because every time I read it, my fears vanish. It doesn't matter what the situation, these 50 verses of Scripture give me strength and courage.

How can you be afraid when you read these words?

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. v2

The strength is not mine, but the Lord's. I don't have to do it on my own - He never said I had to.

He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.  v19

God blesses my life and protects me simply because it delights Him. This is one of my favorite thoughts in the entire Bible. Forget about all the people on earth - the Creator of the Universe delights in me ... and you.

As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. v30

When I'm afraid, His way and His Word are always there to lead, guide and direct. Instead of leaning on my own understanding, I can hide in Him, finding all the peace and comfort I'll ever need.

 Whatever your fear is today, drive it away with the Word of God. We don't have to be held back by anything when we're planted solidly in the Lord.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Weekend of Celebrating Spring

 I don't know about you, but I'm so ready for spring that I can taste it! I spent part of the day yesterday - when it felt like 60 degrees - outside soaking up the sun. And here's what I saw:

And heard, I might add. These are very possibly the noisiest geese ever. They had conversations from one end of the pond to the other off and on all day. Interesting, especially when you don't speak goose.

Make this a weekend of celebrating spring - you know spring starts on Wednesday, right? Our plan for our weekend of nature is to take a walk through the woods and find all those little signs that spring will be here in just a few days. So exciting!

So take these two days to say goodbye to winter and celebrate the new life all around you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Finding A Healthy Life Balance

Over the past few weeks, all the reporters at our paper have been gathering stories for a special Progress edition. The theme each year is: Southern Iowans who are making a difference. As busy as we've been traveling all over the area, we've met some amazing people who are doing some amazing things to make a difference in their communities.

One of the common themes that I noticed in several of them - whether that part gets put into print or not - is how important balance is. So many of us are busy beyond belief and trying to cram 25 hours of stuff into a 24-hour day. But if there's no balance to life, everything suffers.

So here are a few of the things I personally learned from these difference-makers:

* Balance mind, body and spirit every day.
* If you aren't taking care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.
* Whatever you're doing, do it with all your heart.
* Try something new - you never know what you enjoy until you try it.
* Express gratitude every chance you have.
* Encourage others when you see them struggling.
* If what you're doing doesn't bring you and those around you joy, find something else.
* Enhance your life with the arts - theater, music, art and writing increase your well-being.
* Do whatever you're able to support your community. Just be there.
* Be aware of the needs around you - and within yourself - and be ready to act on them.
* Take on a servant's attitude.
* Give others the accolades and the focus when things go well.
* There's always something new and exciting coming along - enjoy it!

The special Progress section will come out in just a couple of weeks and I'm so excited! I pray it's as much of an inspiration to everyone else as it has been to me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A 3D Paper Butterfly

 Here's a great way to use up some of your scraps and create an amazingly cute 3D embellishment.

Stamp an image three times, once on three different patterned papers. Simple shapes are easier to match up, but anything will work if you have a little patience.

 Cut around the edges of each image so they match up. This is why a simple shape is easier. You could also use a punch if you'd like.

With a sewing needle, poke small holes in the top image. I only did three here because it's such a small butterfly, but you'll need enough to run the length of your project. Then use the top layer as a template to poke holes in the remaining images.

Attach thread to the back of the bottom image and sew the three layers together.

It will only take a couple of stitches to keep them together. Secure the thread on the back.
But Laura, that looks terrible! Who wants to look at thread?

Not me! Cover it with beads, gems or other texture to cover up your work. Fluff the wings a little and you have a layered, textured 3D embellishment. It's perfect for any card, scrapbook page or other paper craft.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just Above the Clouds

Yesterday was an incredibly dreary day. It was so cloudy that it actually felt like late evening when I first got up in the morning.

On days like that, you desperately search for the sun. It was there - it was peeking through the clouds at times. But when the sun is hiding, the wind bites a little harder and the cold is a little colder.

But the reality is that the sun is still there. Even though there is a barrier of clouds between us, we haven't lost it. It's still there in the sky, giving us its light.

By evening, the clouds had separated and the sun turned a beautiful, deep shade of orange. We have the best sunset view from our deck right as the sun hits the tree line.

A view like this makes the cloudy part of the day not seem quite so bad. And it definitely makes me appreciate the times when it's bright and warm and lovely.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Whether it's a dreary day or a bright day, God gave us this day for a reason. As this day goes on, we'll find blessings and grace in multitude, blessings and grace that we should be thankful for every minute. This is the will of God - to be in an attitude of gratitude all day long no matter what the sky looks like.

What are you thankful for already today?

Monday, March 11, 2013

When You Need A Motive To Pray

How's your prayer life? Is it as deep and rewarding as you'd like? Do you feel like you're in a meaningful relationship with the Lord?

If you answered negatively to any or all of these questions, this brand-new week is the perfect time to start fresh. Building a prayer life and relationship with God are time-consuming, on-going processes, which can also be some of the most beneficial to your soul.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is His delight. Proverbs 15:8

Even the most wonderful of sacrifices is worth nothing when it comes from someone who has no relationship with the Lord. The wicked - someone who doesn't believe in Him to begin with - can sacrifice in His name all day long and it's just wood, hay and stubble. They aren't just worthless, they're an abomination. They're something God can't stand even being in the presence of.

But prayer - simple prayer - is God's delight. No religious act will ever take the place of speaking directly to the Creator of the universe. Praise His holy name that we are no longer under the law and have to resort to sacrifice to maintain a right relationship with the Lord. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Christ was sufficient for all.

What a motive to be in prayer. Our prayers delight the Lord. He's just waiting for us to approach His throne and speak with Him from our humble hearts. His delight! With the right heart attitude, we can come before the Lord with anything and know He will listen. As you read through the book of Psalms, notice how many times the writers begged God to listen and hear their requests. Each of those moments was a delight to the Lord.

And it's a delight when you and I speak with Him, too. I can just imagine Him leaning forward with a smile to hear every word that we say. That's attention we don't often receive here on earth.

 If you need motivation to grow your prayer life and spend more time in conversation with the Lord, remember that your prayer is His delight.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Weekend of Organizing

 This is a picture of my empty cabinet. It has five drawers that go the complete depth of the kitchen cabinets. This is a phenomenal idea because it's the perfect place to store all of my baking supplies.

 And I mean ALL. I didn't realize I had collected so much. I even found a couple of really neat pans that I don't remember acquiring. Very interesting. But very fun.

Organizing a tiny space like this may not seem like a huge step, but rearranging this cabinet so that I can find what I need makes all the difference. Now it's all wonderful and organized and I love it! Plus it only took about half an hour, and that included washing a few things so they'd be ready to go.

Make this a weekend of organizing. Pick one thing and put it back in tip-top shape. It might be something as simple as your pocketbook or something as complex as a closet or a room. But celebrate when you're done, knowing that you've accomplished something lovely.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Love Iowa So Much

We drove to Iowa City and back today. 
Here are just a few of the reasons why I love Iowa in the winter.

There's something about all the fields covered in white, a dilapidated barn and a horse in the pasture that just make me smile. And spring is on the way, which means tractors, plowing and planting. 
There's no better place to be than Iowa.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Does It Take To Steal Your Joy?

Danny sent me a text the other day after listening to a preacher on the radio. His paraphrase of the message was: Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy.

The Lord must have known that I needed to hear that. I'm getting sick again and it has me a little discouraged. The circumstances of the day seem to all hit at once. I'm not sleeping well and never feel quite rested, leaving me drained to begin with.

But I'm reminded of the Scriptures:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

The devil can't have my soul, but he works as hard as he can to steal my joy. He'll use all of those little things - my health, my circumstances, my energy - to make me as miserable as possible.

Spiritual maturity can be measured by what it takes to steal your joy. We have to be so firmly grounded in Christ that it takes more than a little poke from the devil to wipe away our joy. That means spending time in His Word, time in prayer and time listening for His direction. Then we'll have some ammunition to fight the daily battle.

Protect your joy at all costs!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring Home Decorating

I spent part of my day today at Kim's Kottage in Fairfield. (This is one of my favorite places to shop. We stop in every time we're in town.) I'm working on a story for Saturday's real estate page about spring home decor and the current trends. I've been looking forward to this for a week!

The interior designer there, Pam, made several great points about making the change over from winter to spring. Even though we're still in the middle of the cold season, and getting more snow all the time, lots of ladies have already started buying their spring pieces.

One of my favorite things that she talked about is how we nest through fall and winter, making everything warm and cozy. Then spring comes along and we're so completely ready for light and air and sunshine. She said many of the people coming through the store are so sick of winter that they're ready to put some spring anywhere they can.

And it's not about getting rid of everything you own and starting over. Pam talked about how you can use many of the pieces you already own and add little touches of spring colors. Right now, the popular spring colors aren't so much the pastels, but the bright yellows, oranges, greens and blues. Think somewhere between pale and florescent.

The example that she used was a bowl. A bowl is just a bowl if you put it in the middle of the table. But if you fill it with a battery-operated string of lights and some decorative spheres, you have a spring-themed bowl that is much more interesting to look at.

It was a wonderful day of thinking about spring. Then I walked out to the car ... in the snow ... and the wind ... and the freezing rain. Even if it isn't spring outside yet, I can put some spring in my home. What fun that might be!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Faith Defined

These days, people don't have a whole lot of faith in anything. You can tell that just by looking at their faces. Walk through the grocery store or your workplace. There's nothing there - they have no faith in the government, the people around them or even the fate of the world. And that explains all the dark, depressed looks that so many nonbelievers wear anymore.

And that's what makes Christians different. We've read the back of the book and know Who wins. We have a Bible full of promises and a life full of God's miracles to base our faith on. That explains the smile on my face - my faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I have never seen God, but I have confidence that He exists. He moves in my life in such powerful ways that I cannot help but have faith in Him. I have never seen Heaven, but I have confidence that my faith in the Lord means I will see it someday. These are the things hoped for because of my faith in Him.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that his is, and that he is a rewarded of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

What a sad place to be, not having faith in the Lord. I can't imagine going through life being unpleasing to God. But that's the consequence for those who don't believe. Coming to God in faith means putting complete trust in Him, having never seen Him, which is often what stands in the way of the lost.

My faith is what keeps me going. It's what gives me hope when the circumstances around me aren't so wonderful. It's how I can smile in the midst of trial and press on when the goal seems a million miles away. Faith is everything.