Monday, October 31, 2016

Things I Loved In October

I truly can't believe that it's the end of October already, but the temperatures are getting cooler and the leaves are quickly falling from the trees. We're blessed here on the property to have three bucks and their does right now. The twins are almost fully grown, and it's still fun to watch them play in the yard.

The change in seasons also means a change in how much sunshine we get each day. I love waking up early while it's still dark, and I really don't mind it getting dark a little earlier. We've had some amazing sunrises and sunsets recently, including after this storm and a few this week highlighted in pink. So pretty.

 One of my greatest joys in October was our church's ladies retreat. Everyone was blessed beyond measure but the word of God that was shared, and we had lots of fun surprises for the ladies. One was our trail mix bar, which stayed open the entire weekend. We had about 20 different types of nuts, candy and dried fruit for them to pick and choose from, and they could fill up bags and bowls to eat then or take with them. There were always people at the table, and it was fun to see the different combinations.

A dear friend has been teaching me how to cut vinyl with a machine that hooks up to her computer. We made these door prizes for ladies retreat with it, and we both learned a lot of new techniques.

These signs were my favorites, though. The finished products were almost exactly what I saw in my head, and we had so many nice compliments on them. Wait until you see what we work on next!

Spending time cuddling with our girls is always a special part of the day for me. And when you have a 125-pound lap dog, it's even better. Molly has gotten into the habit of letting me get up from my chair and then just falling over. One day this week I could hear her snoring from the other end of the house, and this is where she was - I had left the chair at least a half an hour before this. That's my girl.

October was so wonderful. I can't wait to see what God has planned for the next month!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Find that patterned paper with a repeating pattern and use it to make today's sketch into a one-of-a-kind handmade card.

Adding embellishments to a patterned paper can completely change the look of your card. It makes it more than just a sticker on a piece of paper, turning it into something three-dimensional.

You'll also need a coordinating pattern, as you're going to make a small side panel out of it.

Add a lovely sentiment to connect the two panels and you're ready to brighten someone's day.

For my card, I started with a dark green background made of textured card stock. Then I chose a repeating dragonfly pattern and added teal gems on each of their little bodies. Not only does this tie the card together, it adds dimension and sparkle.

The small side panel is cut from paper of the same stack, so I didn't even have to think hard about coordinating it. I like that kind of crafting!

I printed out my verse from 2 Timothy and matted it on two shades of card stock.

For more great layout ideas, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of handmade cards, journals and other paper crafts, along with some gift inspiration.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Weekend Of Up Close And Personal

When I upgraded to a new camera this summer, one of the most important functions I needed was a better lens. I wanted to be able to zoom in tighter from farther away, just to get a little sharper detail and shoot from a longer distance.

I didn't realize how up close and personal it would take me. The new lens lets me zoom in all the way across the big pond and has such clarity that you can see each hair on an animal's body. Talk about opening up a whole new world, this new camera does just that.

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:22-23

Make this a weekend of getting up close and personal with the Lord. I would imagine that during the course of the week we all have drifted away from His side a little, allowing the things of the world to overcome us. This is the time to zoom in, take in all the details and praise Him for how He's moving in your life.

Determine in your heart to spend the next two days in intimate conversation with your heavenly Father and break down any barriers that you may have established. Draw closer and closer to Him as He draws closer to you this weekend.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Telephone Etiquette 101 - Back To Basics

When was the last time you actually used your phone to make a phone call? And no, texts and tweets don't count. Go back to the most recent time that you dialed numbers, waited for a "hello" and then had a voice-to-voice conversation with someone. How far back did you have to go? This week? Last week? Sometime in the 21st century?

Technology is an amazingly wonderful thing, but it's far removed from common courtesy. I will admit that I find it easier to send a text and go about my business while I wait for an answer. It might sound lazy, but it's a simple way to multitask. However, it also takes the better part of an hour to text a conversation that would take two minutes if I had called. So it's a trade-off.

The other problem with all these electronic forms of communication is that we've lost the unwritten rules about how to hold a polite phone conversation. In two of my jobs, I'm required to spend time on the phone. I can't begin to tell you about the variety of people I've spoken to over the years - some who welcomed my call and others who have responded with anger and vulgarity.

Here's a quick refresher course for the next time you are actually on the phone, talking to people, verbally, in real time, with the handset to your ear.

If you're the caller:

* Give your name immediately. There's nothing worse than being on a phone call with a complete stranger and not even knowing their name.

* Explain who you are, where you're from and why you're calling next. If you try to engage someone in small talk right off the bat, they're likely to be on edge because they don't understand what your ultimate purpose is for calling.

* Smile while you talk. If you sound like this is the most boring or most uncomfortable thing you've done all day, you're sure to get a grouchy response in return. But if you smile into the receiver, your voice changes. Suddenly you can make the person you're calling know that you're excited about your purpose, too.

* Take no for an answer. Whether you're selling something, passing on information or asking for a response, there's a limit to your pushiness. It's ok to repeat yourself in a different way, but understand that no really does mean no in a lot of cases. If you push, you're more likely to leave a bitter taste in their mouths after you hang up.

* Get to the point. Unless it's someone you know very well on the other end of the line, they probably don't want to hear about what's going on with you. Ask your questions, answer theirs and then wrap it up. I have to do a lot of cold-calling, so whoever answers the phone doesn't know me from Adam. If I launch into a soliloquy about my personal life, I'm probably going to get rejected and hung up on.

* Wrap up your phone conversation with gratitude. Even if they said no, had to share something bad with you or didn't want to hear your whole message, remain as calm and polite as when you started. Thank them for their time and wish them a nice day. After all, you called them in the middle of whatever they were doing. They didn't have to answer the phone, but they did, and they found you there.

If you're answering the phone:

* Even if they've interrupted you, don't bring frustration to the phone with you. That caller has no idea what you're up to, so don't take it out on them.

* Remember that this person is doing their job. They probably didn't beg the boss to let them make the phone calls for the day. They're just following through with their job description. And it's possible that they don't really want to barge into your life this way, so it's best to be calm and gentle with them.

* You can smile and be excited, too. Manners and common courtesy work two ways - if you start out politely, they will, too. You can be a huge influence in a stranger's life by just being kind in a phone conversation.

* Don't lie. This may seem simple, but so many people tell me they're just walking out the door or just sitting down to dinner at odd hours of the day. Everyone has their own schedule, but if you receive a call in the middle of the afternoon, it's best not to make up a story about going places or doing things. It's perfectly acceptable to just say no or you're not interested.

* Hear the caller out before you respond. It's very likely that what they're saying means very little to you - I'm thinking of telemarketers here - but many callers are calling simply because they have information to pass on. If you cut them off, you may miss out on a deal, a sale, and exciting experience or an opportunity to help someone. You'd miss out if you hung up or got angry.

* Don't answer the phone if you can't talk right now. It's frustrating to have someone answer the phone and immediately say they can't talk right now because they're in a meeting or just sitting down to dinner. If you're not available for a conversation, just don't answer the phone. Let them leave a message and you can call them back if necessary. Caller ID was invented for a reason.

There are so many different personalities in the world, and it's a little nerve-wracking to make phone calls and not know who's going to pick up at the other end. Common courtesy and politeness can make having an actual, real live phone conversation that much more pleasant for all involved.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fiesta Chicken And Rice Skillet

Some evenings it's nice to not have a lot of cleaning up to do after dinner. This one-dish meal only uses one skillet, and you'll have enough for leftovers the next day for lunch. It's a win-win situation.

4 servings brown rice, cooked
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 chicken breasts, thawed and diced
1 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1 16-oz jar salsa

1. Prepare four servings of brown rice according to package instructions.

2. Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Season with cumin and cinnamon.

3. Pour honey over chicken and stir, allowing it to caramelize.

4. Stir in salsa and cooked rice. Heat through.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Please Don't Try To Eat The Fuzzy Socks Cupcakes

For pastors' wives gifts at our ladies retreat last weekend, we handed out fuzzy sock cupcakes. I doubt that anyone tried to snack on them, but they'll sure be a treat as the fall temperatures set in.

I used a cupcake wrapper template from the back of a paper crafts magazine I had. You can do a search online for a template, look through the books you have for one or you can cut your own.

Trace it onto your card stock and cut it out.

Then lay your socks on top of each other and roll, keeping the bottom edge in one long line. This gives you the swirl like frosting not he top of the cupcake.

Then tuck it into the taped wrapper. If it doesn't stay rolled well, just slip a rubber band around the bottom so it will out of sight.

Stick the handle of the lollipop into the center of the sock swirl for the cherry on top - literally and figuratively.

I did this in several different color combination.

That way you can have several "flavors," and you can adapt it to any occasion or celebration.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Secret To Defeating Your Giants

The story is familiar: Israel sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Their mission was to look around, see what it looked like and determine who was already there. When they returned, ten of the men decided to lie about what they'd seen and focus on the terrible giants that they saw.

Their report was that these giants were too big and fierce to defeat ,so they'd better not even try. How could this band of rag-tag soldiers, who used to be slaves and brick makers, go up against huge enemies that made the spies feel like tiny grasshoppers?

You probably know a little about how they felt. You have the giant of fear or the giant of poor health or the giant of a broken relationship in your life right now. That giant seems so big and so daunting that you just want to hide under the bed until it disappears. High-tailing it away from the problem seems safer and better for your self-preservation. Live to fight another day.

But the Israelites' giants were actual giants. They were bigger, faster, stronger giants than anything God's people had ever seen before. They thought they were out-manned, out-gunned and completely out of their league.

Nevertheless the people be strong and dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. Numbers 13:28

How do you fight an enemy that makes you feel small and worthless? This description served their evil purpose, as they were more detailed about the bad things than the good things. Who wants to go up against an enemy that towers over you, even on your best day?

Ten of the spies saw these giants and forgot about God.

The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. Numbers 13:29

This part of the report was actually true. They thought that by listing all of the giants and where they lived, they would be backing up their argument. But herein lies the weakness of those giant enemies. Yes, they were large. Yes, there were many of them. But they weren't all standing at the border of the Promised Land waiting to attack. They were spread out, living in their own area of the country.

It's easier to battle the enemy when you find a weakness.

Two of the spies chose to see the land God promised them and not focus on the giants.

And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. Numbers 13:30

Looking at the same land, the same giants and the same problems, Joshua and Caleb come back with a completely different report. They saw scattered enemies in a land they had already been promised by God Himself. They were 100 percent positive that they could go into the land, defeat the enemy and claim was had been given to them. There was more weight to God's promise than in some spread-out giants.

Caleb was so focused on that promise from God that he was beside himself with anticipation. They were to go possess the land, not try to win it, because it was already theirs. God had already given it to them, so all they had to do was follow Him in obedience and they would receive their inheritance. And they weren't just able to overcome it, Caleb said. They were well able - above and beyond able - because God has never once broken a promise.

You have been promised victory in your situation, too. Your giant may be formidable, but it's already been defeated. Your giant may seem larger than life, but He that is within you is greater than anyone in the world.

The Lord has directed you where to go, when to go and how to get there. Whether you focus on the giant or God is your choice.

Do you want to be one of the negative spies that were ready to turn and run? Or do you want to focus on the promises of God and let Him tell you how and when to fight?

I'd rather find the enemy's weakness and claim my victory. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Today's sketch makes me think of a wall in an art gallery. You're going to frame up three pretty portraits and line them up in a row. Too much fun!

First, choose three small embellishments or images cut from decorator paper for your art exhibit. Mat them or raise them on 3D adhesive to make them really stand out.

Then use the colors from the images to select your gallery wall - patterns or solids will be just fine. Double mat so you have a picture frame around the outside.

Finally, run a border across the bottom to hold your sentiment.

For my card, I chose three Christmas ornaments from a sheet of patterned paper and matted them on black card stock.

Yes, I said Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year...

I used a striped paper from the same mat stack for the background, so I knew the colors would coordinate. Yep, I'm just that lazy. The very back layer is the same black card stock as the image mats.

Then I added a tiny white gem between them for a little sparkle.

Finally, I cut a strip of patterned paper covered with "Seasons Greetings" for my bottom border.

For more great layout ideas, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of handmade Christian cards, journals and other paper crafts, perfect for a special gift or possibly to keep for yourself.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Weekend Of Looking For Hope

Our house sits in the perfect place to watch changes in the weather. We're out in the middle of the country, and up on a hill, so winds and clouds swirl around us every day.

One evening recently we had just had a full day of dark, thick clouds. There was no rain to speak of, but the clouds filled the sky all day. Even in the middle of the afternoon, it was as dark as late evening.

But then, right at dusk, the clouds moved away in one large sheet, revealing a beautiful sunset. The sun had been back there all day - just like normal - it was just hidden.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13

Make this a weekend of looking for hope. Just like the sun is always in the sky, even behind the clouds, there is always hope that we can cling to. Paul even calls it a blessed hope, knowing that we can look forward to the coming of Christ.

And as we hope and wait, we can also look for hope in our everyday lives. We can look for the sun to pop out from behind the clouds, so to speak, as we pray for our family, our friends and ourselves. There is always hope in the answers God gives to our prayers, as His grace shines so brightly day by day.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Front Porch Decorations

 Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but fall is a close second in my book. I love the colors, the cooler temperatures and a season devoted to thanks and giving.

We've been in our home since the fall of 2011, but this is the first year that I've really done outdoor decorations for a special season. I suppose Christmas lights count, but we only hung those for a couple of years.

A friend of mine is a farm wife, and she and her husband brought me some stalks of corn after the harvest was over. I tied them together in a bundle and leaned them up against the wall, in front of the ladder from the tree house. (Since the tree house is falling apart, I asked Danny to salvage the ladder for my decorating purposes!) Then I just added some crates, hay bales, baskets and gourds for stacking.

A suggestion for outdoor decorations: Don't put out anything that won't withstand wind and rain. There are specific products for the elements, but you can use things that can be throw out when you switch displays. This may seem like common sense, but I know how easy it is to get carried away when there are such cute things you want to use.

There's something about seasonal decorations that make me feel like a house is really a home. I love the little, cozy touches that welcome people onto our property, even if it's something as small as a decorated front porch.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vanilla Trifle

Normally when I make trifle, it's the Death By Chocolate version. I layer chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate cookies, chocolate chips and anything else I can find that's loaded with chocolate.

But this week, while planning desserts for our ladies retreat, someone else was bringing the chocolate version. So I went out of my comfort zone and put together an out-of-this-world vanilla trifle.

Judging by the six bites that I came home with, it was a hit!

vanilla sandwich cookies
vanilla frosting
angle food cake
white/vanilla chips
whipped topping

Start with a layer of bite-sized chunks of angel food cake.

Heat the can of vanilla frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds, until slightly runny. Drizzle the frosting over the layer of cake.

Crumble 10-12 cookies into a layer on top of the frosting.

Spread a thick layer of whipped topping, then sprinkle with vanilla chips.


You should be able to get two of each layer into a regular trifle bowl.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall Bulletin Board Inspiration

We received such a blessing at ladies retreat this past weekend. It was a time of rest, renewal and soaking in the word of God. So much time and energy was put into the food, the activities and the decorations, which are my favorite parts of the planning process.

I designed several bulletin boards for the ladies of our church to put together, and they knocked it out of the park. We generally use plastic tablecloths for the backgrounds, and then print out letters and words on the computer when we can't find remade letters we like. I also picked up several packages of multicolored leaves at the dollar store.

This one is my favorite. Each letter has two holes punched in the top, and they're strung on twine and stapled to the background. This is a great way to make a rustic banner in just minutes.

We were also able to use a variety of borders from the church's massive collection. Each bulletin board then had the same theme, but drastically different colors and patterns. Mixing and matching is definitely allowed, especially when there were multiple boards to decorate like we have.

This is the bulletin board at the back of the church, right inside the doors. While it looks just like the plan I had in my head, it was so much fun to see how they added little touches like the arrangement of the leaves, the layout of the letters and the pile of leaves at the base of the tree. I'm glad fall is just beginning so we can enjoy them all for several weeks. They're too pretty to take down!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Turning Your Circumstances Into Prayers

If I had to wager a guess, I would say you're probably going through a trial or a storm right now. If you're not, it's also possible that you will be before long. These times of testing grow us, change us and prepare us for whatever God has planned for us next, but that doesn't make them any less painful.

The best way to thrive - not just survive - in these long days is simply to pray. We always want to do something, try something new or ask someone else to change something in our situations, but none of these are the answer. No one can begin to touch your circumstances the way God can with a simple touch of His hand. And whatever He has you going through at this precise moment is exactly what you need to mature in your faith and rely on Him for your every need.

But so many times we don't know exactly what to pray. Are we supposed to pray that the situation just goes away? No. Should we ask that God changes that other person so everything will be like it once was? Of course not. Can we pray that He punish someone for the harm they have inflicted? Not a good idea.

So how do you turn these difficult circumstances into a prayer? Here are just a handful of ideas to get you 

* Pray for wisdom. (2 Chronicles 1:10) Solomon didn't pray that God would bless him with riches or power, but simply the wisdom to make the best decisions he could as ruler and king. If we ask the Lord to give us His wisdom in the midst of a trial, we can rest assured that His prefect guidance will get us through.

* Pray for God's peace. (Philippians 4:7) This is one that I have prayed more times than I can count. It's incredibly difficult to make good choices when you're anxious and worried, so it's such a blessing to be covered with His perfect, all-covering peace when times get tough.

* Pray for His hand of conviction in all involved. (Ezekiel 11:19) God is the only one who can change a heart - yours or someone else's. He can turn a stony heart to flesh, a cold heart to warm and a broken heart to one that can sing with joy.

* Pray for His will, not your own. (Matthew 26:39) Here is Jesus' perfect example of praying the Lord's will over our lives. How easy it is to simply enter God's throne room and complain about how life is treating us. It's another thing altogether to lay everything at the foot of the cross and leave it there.

* Pray to be used as a testimony, even in this. (John 3:32-34) While you're waging spiritual battle in the midst of difficult times, you stand before the world as a testimony of what God can do. Your witness will be even stronger in the hard times than the bad times because anyone can be faithful and true when it's all sunshine and roses. You will make the most impact when you stand firm in your faith even when the ground seems to be crumbling beneath you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Sketch

For today's sketch, you're going to make a paper ribbon. This fun, simple embellishment will make your card stand out, as well as save you from trying to find something to coordinate with the colors and styles you're using.

You'll need at least two patterned papers for the card itself, another pattern for your paper ribbon, a large square embellishment and a fun sentiment.

To make the paper ribbon, cut a strip of paper to a width that will fit behind your square embellishment with about an inch to spare. Then use the corner of a piece of card stock as a guide to cut a perfect triangle out of each end.

For my card, I chose four fun, coordinating patterns: one for the background, one for the panel on the side, one to cut down for the square embellishment and one for the paper ribbon.

They are all layered on top of a textured brown paper.

I wrapped it all up with a card stock die cut sentiment.

For more great layouts, visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of handmade Christian cards, journals and other paper crafts and wood gifts along with some inspiration for your own projects.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Weekend Of Clinging

This is what happens when you take a 2-year-old Great Dane for a walk in the woods. This is what my pants, shirt and socks looked like when we got back to the house. I'm still not sure how they got inside my boots...

Molly and I went for a tour of the property the other day, looking for fallen logs for a project for ladies retreat, and we ended up in some tall grass. Once we fought our way through, I came out covered in burrs. Apparently Molly's fur was a great barrier against them because she emerged with only a couple of the little Velcro-type seeds stuck to her.

It took the better part of an hour to get all the burrs off so I could wash my clothes. Molly and I sat on the deck together while I pulled each individual seed out. My clothes were fine, it just took some time to un-cling the burrs. (If it's not a word, it is now.)

Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. Deuteronomy 13:4

These little burrs are the perfect example of how we should look at our relationship with God. We should be cleaving - clinging - so tightly to the Lord that someone would have to pry our fingers off of Him to move us away. In faith, we hold onto Him for dear life, not letting go with every new wind that blows through, but tightening our grip so we cannot be moved.

Make this a weekend of clinging to God. Whatever you're going through, hold on to Him so tightly that your knuckles turn white. Cling to Him in prayer, in obedience and in service to Him throughout the next two days. Find joy in His presence and peace in knowing He will never leave nor forsake you. Have confidence in knowing you're holding on to the One who will never change and will carry you through every circumstance that comes along.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Smells Of Fall

Are you ready to fill your house with the smell of fall - and spend very little money to do it? Pull out your favorite wax burner and try this idea.

You'll need:
a wax burner
a votive candle
3 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the oil and spices in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon into the top of your wax burner and light the candle.

If it's too strong or not strong enough for your taste - I mean, smell - then adjust the ratios a little and try it again. After each candle has burned out, just wipe out the slightly cooled oil and start again.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Italian Meatloaf

Maybe it's because I'm an Iowan, but I much prefer pork to beef. (Sorry cattle farmers.) So when I found a recipe for Italian meatloaf, I was so excited to make a few changes to it and make it the southern Iowa version.

Just a note: while the flavor of this meatloaf gets better with each serving of leftovers, the cheese topping gets a little dry. If you can finish it within a meal or two, it will be at its best and freshest.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground Italian style pork
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
2 slices of bread, cut into tiny cubes
1 Tbsp milk
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup marinara or pizza sauce

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Heat the oil in a skillet, then add the onion and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until slightly browned and soft.

3. Set aside 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese and all of the marinara sauce.

4. Combine everything else in a large bowl and mix. Your hands will work best to combine everything until smooth.

5. Press mixture into the baking dish. Pour about half of the sauce onto the top.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

7. After 50 minutes, pour the remaining sauce and cheese over the top.

8. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Tale Of The Pumpkin

'Tis the season for finding pumpkins everywhere. You can eat them, drink them, make your house smell like them ... you name it, it comes in pumpkin for these few months.

Most everyone likes pumpkin pie, but there is one problem: no one likes cleaning it out. The pretty orange outside covers up stringy, sticky, gooey junk inside. Remember skipping that part as a child and just drawing a Jack-o-latern face on with a black marker? I was that child.

But until that internal mess gets removed, the pumpkin is pretty much useless. You can't take a bite out of it like an apple because of the seeds. You can't carve it up because the ickiness will just ooze out the holes. And you definitely don't want to make it into a pie until you've opened it up, scraped it out and washed it down. Only then is it fit for anything except decoration or pumpkin chunkin'.

Whether you realize it or not, you come before God just like this pumpkin. You're full of selfishness and a mess of emotions and lots of other ickiness. This stringy pile of stuff inside you keeps you pretty useless - how can you fulfill the Lord's plan for you when you're too full of yourself to listen?

God is more than willing to cut you open, get His hands messy and remove the junk that is holding you back. Yes, it hurts to get cut open, but it is necessary if you're going to let Him into the innermost part of you. Yes, it's going to be messy, but a little stickiness is nothing compared to the growth He has planned for you. Yes, having the junk in your life torn out is going to be uncomfortable, but the results will be worth it.

Would you rather hold on to your selfishness, or would you like God to give you a love for people? Do you want to keep that anger and resentment, or could He replace it with compassion and empathy? How about trading your tendencies of gossip, laziness or a lack of self control for the fruit of His Spirit? Those things don't just happen - they require letting the Lord do whatever He has to do to clean you out, cleanse your heart and get rid of all that ugliness.

What's left after all of this work and change is the sweet, fleshy part. Of you and the pumpkin. Once your pumpkin is clean of seeds and gunk, the possibilities are endless: lattes, pie, cookies, soup ... the list goes on and on.

The fleshy part that remains after God has His way in you is just as sweet. Your possibilities are endless when you let Him cleanse and renew you from the inside out. When you refuse to stay the same - wrapped up in yourself and refusing to let go of the stringy, sticky stuff - you'll find yourself ending up so much more wonderful than you began.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Upcycled DIY Pillow Boxes

Why buy mass-produced gift wrapping when you can spend a few minutes and no extra money to create a one-of-a-kind upcycled pillow box?

Just save a few cardboard tubes.

Then fold them in half, creasing the edges really well.

When you gently press one side down, it will show you where it naturally wants to bend. Crease that round line a little.

And then repeat on the other side, overlapping the edges.

Then flip it to the other end and do it again!

With creased edges, the flaps of the pillow box will stay in place.

Then decorate as much or as little as you like, adding some fibers around the middle to secure the flaps. You can customize the embellishments to the person who will receive the gift, or you can make them match any event or theme.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chocolate Dipped Apple Slices

Perfect for fall, you'll enjoy sharing some chocolate dipped apples with those you love.

You'll need:
three apples, thickly sliced
chocolate almond bark
butterscotch or caramel chips
white almond bark

Slice your apples fairly thick so the chocolate has something to hold on to. Slice until you reach the seeds from both sides, the cut off the two ends of the core, as shown in the picture.

Melt six bricks of a package of chocolate almond bark in the microwave, in 30-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Dip each of the apples, covering them as much or as little as you like, and place them on wax paper-covered baking sheets. Immediately place them in the refrigerator.

Melt the chips and white bark in separate bowls in the microwave using the same technique. Drizzle them onto the slices in pretty patterns. Put them back in the refrigerator.

Since you can't save these longer than a few hours, eat them as soon as they have hardened. Saving them just leads to soggy, brown apples, and that's just a waste of good chocolate.