Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Emergency Spaghetti Sauce

The pasta was boiling away. The meat was browning in the skillet. This was going to be some great spaghetti.

I went to the pantry to pull out the jar of spaghetti sauce - and there wasn't one. I looked everywhere and was then reminded that I'd already used it.

Well, now what?

I'm not an improvisational cook. I''m firmly rooted in recipes and guidance from others. But here, I didn't have that choice.

So with a deep breath, I went out on a limb. Into the meat went a small can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies and a jar of bruschetta. This would be a true test of my pantry-stocking skills and my go-with-the-flow nature. (FYI, I don't have a whole lot of either one.)

The truth is, this sauce turned out amazingly wonderful. The chilies gave it a little kick and it wasn't runny like jar sauce. Plus, I felt pretty good about my culinary skills in a pinch. It doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's Wrong With Change?

Yesterday was my 36th birthday. (Special, wonderful thank-yous to everyone who helped me celebrate.) It was a lovely day, one that makes me excited to see what this next year will bring.

If it's anything like this past year, it's going to bring change. These 12 months have been filled with a myriad of new, different, sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good changes. 

But think about it - aren't we changing a little every single day? We learn something, experience something or receive something that makes us different than when we started the day. It's the little things that really add up to making huge changes in our lives.

We only really see the impact of these changes when we step back and look at the time as a whole. It's like trying to watch your hair grow every day versus noticing the difference six months later.

And change doesn't have to have negative connotations. We get comfortable with the way things are, so change rocks our world a little. The unexpected rips us out of our comfort zone and forces us to adjust our way of living and thinking,

Have you ever caught yourself saying:
But I like things the way they are.
This is the way I've always done it.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

When we're walking closely with The Lord, change can be a welcome, exciting thing. We can trust that every single change that comes into our day will have gone through His filtering hands. Resting in God and welcoming the changes He desires in our lives can have some amazing results.

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

So I'm excited to see what great and wonderful changes God has in store for me today. How about you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Weekend of Shedding

This is one of the best parts of summer when you have black labs. They're trying furiously to get rid of their heavy coat so they'll be cooler, and you're furiously trying to keep up with it so there's not fur everywhere.

But once they've shed all that extra, heavy, unnecessary fur, they feel so much better. They're lighter and happier and bright-eyed again.

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:21-25

Make this a weekend of shedding. What a relief it is to shed the old man. All of that junk just weighs us down and holds us back. Be fully aware these two days of what needs to be shed in order to have a perfect relationship with the Lord.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Double-Seasoned Baked Popcorn Chicken

One of my favorite things in the entire world is spending time in the kitchen with Danny. I learn so much - because he's so much smarter with ingredients than I am - and we have such a wonderful time.

So when I told him that I had an idea for a double-seasoned chicken but didn't know how to make it happen, he stepped up and had some great ideas.

Here's our recipe, thanks to a lot of teamwork!

Ingredients:
2 pounds of chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
Cajun seasoning
Pinch of Herbs seasoning
2 eggs
2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
black pepper
Old Bay seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

2. Toss the chicken in a bowl with Cajun seasoning and Pinch of Herbs, to taste. I enjoy flavor but not too much heat, so Danny kept it pretty tame for me.

3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. In another bowl, combine the Panko, black pepper and Old Bay. The Panko will take in all the seasoning, so it will look like there's not any there. Add the seasoning in liberally, but carefully.

4. Dunk the seasoned chicken pieces in the egg, then into the Panko, then lay them on the baking sheets.

5. Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they are slightly browned and cooked all the way through.

I used a sweet and sour dipping sauce, while Danny used a super-spicy BBQ sauce.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Creative Punching ... On Cards

Do you ever get tired of creating the same cards over and over again? Are there new ways to do something different with tools you already have?

I answered both of those questions this weekend with a resounding "YES!"


Creativity needs a little boost every now and then, and this punched card did it for me. Just by backing the punched images with contrasting paper, I was able to made a 3D card that literally "popped."


All you have to do is randomly punch you paper. Any image will do.


Then choose papers that are drastically contrasting so they'll really stand out.What? These don't you say? Well, that's because this is the back of the top layer. Use regular one-sided tape so it won't stick to the card. We're going to raise it on 3D adhesive!


And it's that simple. Imagine this with butterflies or circles for bubbles or another great shape.

You can find this card and lots of other great Christian gifts in our Etsy shop at www.stufffromtrees.etsy.com.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Words of Faith

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to stand at the bank of the Red Sea? Perhaps they could feel the hooves of the Egyptian horses beating through the ground. Maybe they could even hear the soldiers yelling out their battle cry. And all they could see before them was water.

And their first instinct was probably what ours would be today - murmur. Complain. Question. Gripe. Grouse. Whatever word you want to use, it means the same thing - they were lacking in the faith department. Read their words:

And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. Exodus 14:11-12

Moses, you brought us here to die. Why would you do this to us? We trusted you! Oh, that we were back in Egypt! Oh, that we were still slaves! Oh ... my goodness.

How dramatic.

I have never been in this situation, soldiers behind me and water in front of me. I don't know exactly how I would react. But haven't these people seen miracle after miracle and moment of mercy after moment of mercy? And still they're uncertain, afraid and critical.

But Moses' reaction is our model for showing faith in the most dramatic of times. He doesn't get angry. he doesn't join in the pity party. He simply speaks words of faith.

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:13-14

Where did this faith come from?
Chapter 11 verse 1 says: And the LORD said unto Moses...
Chapter 11 verse 9 says: And the LORD said unto Moses...
Chapter 12 verse 1 says: And the LORD said unto Moses...
Chapter 12 verse 43 says: And the LORD said unto Moses...
Chapter 13 verse 1 says: And the LORD spake unto Moses saying...
Chapter 14 verse 1 says: And the LORD spake unto Moses saying...

Moses was listening and tucking away everything God said to him. He recorded the miracles, he remembered the blessings and he relied on those past experiences to give him faith through the new ones.

Do we have those words of faith living inside of us, too? If we're reading our Bible, studying the Word and spending time in prayer, we have the same words of faith Moses did. We've seen the miracles God is capable of in our own lives, so these words of faith should come freely and joyfully as we recall what He's already done for us.

Are we prepared to put away fear, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord? Have faith that He'll be just as amazing in this moment as He always has been. He has great and mighty things planned in our lives - we just have to have faith.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Weekend of Strength

I didn't plant this sunflower out in front of the house, but it's growing up big and strong all on its own. The stem is almost half an inch thick and I can't wait to see how tall it's going to be!

Sunflowers are a great example of how we can be grounded and strong in our faith. To hold up such a huge flower, the stem has to be proportionally thick and strong. The roots run deep to maintain that firm foundation in the ground.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. Proverbs 31:25

Make this a weekend of strength. Find a few verses of Scripture, like this one, about the strength that comes from knowing the Lord. Take advantage of opportunities to share that strength with those in need. And build up your own strength so your stem will be strong and your roots deep.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Summertime is the perfect opportunity to create some adorable mini fruit pizzas. And who doesn't want to eat their RDA of fruit when there is delectable frosting and a sugar cookie underneath?

Ingredients:
Sugar cookies
1 can creamy vanilla frosting
1 small jar marshmallow fluff
an assortment of tiny fruit

1. Combine the frosting and fluff in a bowl. You'll have enough for about 24 cookies - if you don't sample too much of it. And trust me, that's really an issue.

2. Spread the frosting liberally over each cookie.

3. Decorate with your favorites fruits. Small ones work best, like blueberries, raspberries, grapes and even sliced strawberries.

When I took these to the church picnic, I used patriotic colors for my fruit. They were gone before I even got through the line.

So I made more when I got home!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Someone Else's Message

This Spurgeon quote is at the top of our bulletin every Sunday morning. I agree whole-heartedly, and I love seeing it there, reminding me to worship the Lord through actually listening to the preacher's message.

But aren't there times when we listen half-heartedly, when we think, "Well, I hope someone here is getting something out of this. It's definitely not for me"?

I already tithe, so I don't need to hear a message about tithing.
I'm not in a storm, so I don't need to hear a sermon about weathering the storm.
I don't cheat or lie or swear, so I don't need to hear messages about those sins.
I think our family's doing pretty great, so I don't need to hear a sermon about strengthening the family.
I'm not bitter or angry in my soul, so I don't need to hear a message about clinging to God more than ever.

It must be someone else's message.

Or is it?

Just because I'm not going through a storm right now doesn't mean I won't be in the center of one before the day is out. How much better I could weather it if I had the preacher's words already tucked away in my heart?

I may work as hard as I can not to cheat or lie or swear, but can I show someone who does the places in the Bible that call that a sin? I may be able to through the hearing a sermon.

And it may be well with my soul this morning, but will the words of a sermon echo through my heart when it's not so well? Will the Word of God spoken through His servant at the pulpit be the help I need in a dark hour?

There are a lot of what-if's here, but do you really want to risk it?

If I have the opportunity to grow my relationship with the Lord, I want to take it!
If I have the chance to make myself a better Christian, woman, wife and friend, I want to do it!
And if I have the moment arise when I can share what I've heard with someone in need, I want to use it!

That sounds like the worship of God to me. And it makes me want to sit up a little straighter in the pew and listen a little more closely when the preaching starts.

Who knows what I might learn!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A View From Your Knees

I spent the better part of an hour on my knees yesterday - scrubbing the bathroom floor.

Now, if you know me, you know that I hate cleaning the bathroom. I also have fibromyalgia, so this type of serious cleaning is also very painful. But it has to be done, so I take care of it.

While I was down there this time, my mind wandered. Probably not a new occurrence for my brain, but it wandered some fun and interesting places, and I wanted to share those random thoughts with you.

* Time on your knees gives you a better perspective. The floor looked pretty OK as I was standing up, but once I got down on my knees, I realized just how much fur and hair and hairspray there was. That change in perspective makes all the difference in what you really see.

Time on your knees in prayer gives you a better perspective on your heart condition. You may feel OK and look OK from a distance, but your prayer time really makes you focus on how you're doing ... up close and personal. God already knows the details, but time on your knees gives you the opportunity to do some serious looking, too.

* Time on your knees tests your endurance. With FMS, I can only be down on my knees for a little while at a time. But once I get going with my floor scrubbing, I don't want to stop! Once I see the progress I'm making, I want to just a little more ... and a little more ... and soon I've done a whole big chunk of the work. It may take me a minute to get back up, but the effort was definitely worth it.

Time on your knees in prayer tests the endurance of your very soul. Do you say a couple of thank yous and move on with your day? Do you throw out some requests every now and then when they come to mind? Or do you set aside some serious fellowship time with the Lord? When we make our time with Him a priority, our endurance grows a little more ... and a little more ... until we're craving even more time on our knees.

* Time on your knees puts you in the right position. I could very easily have just used a mop and floor cleaner and done a once-over on the bathroom floor. But that would have only gotten the top layer of gunk off. (Yes, it's wonderful having a white floor and black dogs.) Not until I got on my knees could I really put in the physical effort necessary to get through the gunk, getting in all the nooks and crannies.

Time on your knees puts you in the right position to really make an effort. We're in such a hurry these days to "do things" for God, but we often neglect the quiet times to just commune with Him. Sure, we could race through the day and still be working for the Lord, but time on our knees focuses us. We're not just skimming the surface, but getting to all the tight corners through our prayer life.

Now, if only my floor and my heart would stay this clean. Maybe that's why cleaning is an all-the-time chore. That's how the Lord gets us to be still and get things in order.

Monday, July 1, 2013

One of Those "Ah Ha" Moments

 Did you ever have one of the moments where you see something and wonder why you never thought of that? It's so blissfully simple, but it just never crossed your mind.

I saw a picture of a t-shirt drawer and it looked very much like this one. This is most of Danny's t-shirt collection from over the years, but I absolutely hate these drawers. It's impossible for him to see what all is in there, and they never stayed folded up and looking nice.

And then ...

The answer was so easy, but I sure never thought about it. Just fold them small, like you're packing a suitcase, and then store them vertically instead of horizontally.

It's very much like either looking through a pile of CDs or flipping them all up on end to see the name written on the spine.

Seriously???

It saves an incredible amount of space - he has a whole empty drawer now. Plus, he can see all of the shirts at a glance and know what he has. I guess I could have organized them by color ... or size ... or how often he wears them ... or by when he wears them.

But I have my limits.