Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Paint Chip Christmas Tree Cards

Create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind Christmas card this holiday season by using something a little unexpected - paint chips from the hardware store.

If you've ever done a home renovation project, you're quite familiar with these colored cards you'll find in the paint department. If you're like me, you've stood there staring at all the possibilities and wondered exactly how different sea foam green is from green mist.

To make your tree, just cut the card at a diagonal on your paper trimmer.

Then turn it the other way and cut off all the words.

When you use several of them together, you'll get this lovely collection of trees for your forest. Each one will be slightly different, so play around with the combinations and you'll have a woodsy scene in no time.

You can leave the trees bare, like in the first card pictured, or you can decorate them from your stash of embellishments. These are self-stick gems, but you can also use shaped buttons as ornaments or wrap the trees in twine or ribbon to act as the garland.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Planning An Acts Of Service Advent Calendar

Advent calendars have been around for generations and began with Bible verses behind each door. They have changed in meaning over the years, adding chocolate, candy or small gifts behind each door. These little surprises have kept us excited to get up in the morning and see what might be waiting for us.

In addition to my traditional Advent calendar, this year I've decided to do an Acts of Service Advent calendar as well. It's not anything fancy - just a printed-out December calendar from the computer. It's the ideas on each day, though, that I pray will have more of an impact on the people around me than any piece of chocolate could.

For the entire month of December, I am planning a different act of Christian love on each day until Christmas. It's easy to say this in November, but I'm praying that I will have the determination and perseverance to keep up with it, showing family, friends and strangers alike how important this season is to believers.

So what can you put on an Acts of Service Advent calendar? I've listed several ideas that you can pick and choose from if you decide to make one of your own. It makes me smile to think of how many lives can be touched in these final days of 2016 when we're purposeful in our service to others.

Ideas for acts of service:
* Bake two loaves of bread or cake and give one to a widow or shut in.
* Tape quarters to a vending machine.
* Buy a coffee for the car behind you in line at the drive-through.
* Send Christmas cards for injured soldiers to a military hospital.
* Take cupcakes or cookies to work.
* Leave donuts for your favorite bank teller, hair dresser or mechanic.
* Write a thank you note to a Titus older woman in your life.
* Hide a little money in the toy aisle at the dollar store.
* Make a donation in your favorite pet lover's name to the Humane Society.
* Pay strangers' overdue book fines at the library.
* Put together care packages for your local homeless shelter.
* Leave sticky notes with some great Christmas Scriptures on public bathroom mirrors.
* Offer to babysit while a busy mom goes shopping.
* Organize a cookie exchange and save some back to give to a local soup kitchen.
* Place a Christmas-themed tract in your shopping cart as you're leaving the store.
* Send emails or texts to someone you haven't spoken to in ages just to say hi and Merry Christmas.
* Gather up the youth of your church and find a volunteer opportunity in your town.
* Choose a woman you don't know very well, invite her for coffee and compare holiday plans.
* Give your mail carrier a special thank-you gift for delivering all those packages.
* Take children's activity books from the dollar store to the hospital waiting rooms.
* Tie up a gift bag of Christmas treats and hang them from a neighbor's from door knob.
* Get to church early and leave notes or gifts for the Sunday School teachers.
* Send a friend or family member an old Christmas picture and tell them why that memory is still so special.
* Deliver flowers or plants to a local nursing home or retirement center.
* Inconspicuously leave candy canes at the checkout as you're running errands.
* Visit some of the shut ins from your church and take goodies with you.

What can you think of to add?

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Words of Advent - Hope

The first candle of the Advent wreath symbolizes hope — hope for the Christmas season, hope in God's perfect will for our lives and hope in the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope is such a powerful word in Scripture, one that means a joyful and confident expectation. It combines perfectly with our renewed faith and rejuvenated heart as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Hope is mentioned more than 120 times in Scripture, most often in Job and Psalms. We read many phrases like rest in hope, hope in the Lord, hope in His mercy and in thee do I hope. Well-placed hope was a hallmark of many of the Biblical writers, and they had no qualms about sharing their confidence in God.

In Psalm 71, one of my favorite psalms that spotlights hope, David begs God for deliverance from his enemies. Those who hated him had been lying and gossiping about him, claiming that God had left him alone in his time of need. The solution David sees is for the Lord to step in and take them out, to deal with the situation in some drastic way.

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. Psalm 71:14

That word "but" signals a beautiful turn of attitude for the king of Israel. The first 13 verses were filled with negative, frustrated words of pain and distress. David poured out his heart to the Lord, telling Him just how painful these enemies were. But comes the sudden change. Pain is exchanged for hope. Distress is traded for confidence in God.

Not only would he hope, but David added the word "continually." Not just for this one moment or until disaster was averted. He would hope continually, ongoing, making hope a permanent fixture in his heart. What a beautiful picture of David's confidence that God would do all things well and in all circumstances.

It's hard for me to wrap my head and my heart around this thought. My natural instinct is to pray for my negative circumstances to change. Isn't it always easier for the other person or problem to go away or make a change than for me to examine myself? 

What David teaches us today is that having hope in God and His plan is that it should be present in our hearts no matter what's happening around us. The worse David was treated by his enemies, the closer he drew to the Lord. What a crazy concept, right?

The second half of this key verse always makes me smile. The secret to David's ability to maintain his hope in God was his determination to praise Him, even in this. When the enemy reared its ugly head and did everything possible to destroy David, the king vowed to keep on praising the Lord. Imagine how frustrated the evil-hearted people around him must have been when they turned the screws and David sang a little louder. He spent a little longer on his face before God. He had more of God's word read in his chambers.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, David told the Lord that he would praise Him more and more because the amount of praise he was already giving wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough. There are always more words to use in praising God, and David was determined to find them. He chose to praise more today than yesterday. Tomorrow he would praise more than today.

That's David's not-so-secret way to stop the enemy in their tracks - hope and praise. This winning combination got David through many perilous and heart-wrenching times, and it can be our tool as well. Never lose hope, David says, and find new ways today to praise God for what He's doing in your life right this minute.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Today's sketch will have you cutting corners - figuratively, not literally.

The easiest way to make a corner embellishment is to find one that's fairly round, overlap the edges of the card and trim away. This gives you the ability to turn a flat image into something new and different.

Combine it with three or four pretty patterns, and you have a beautiful card.
For my card, I started with a brown decorator paper that has a little visual texture to it. Then I cut three coordinating patterns into blocks to run across the card.

My corner embellishment is a large flower cut from another piece of decorator paper from the same stack. I cut it out, adhered it to the corner and then trimmed off the parts that went off the card.

The perfect sentiment for my sympathy card is matted on coordinating paper.

For more layout designs, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of handmade Christian cards, prayer and praise journals, wood gifts and paper crafts, as well as something special for yourself.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Weekend Of Clearing Things Out

On a 33-acre property that is mostly woods, you'll find deep piles of leaves on the trails. Different trees drop their leaves at different times, so there is a constant layer of brown, dead leaves everywhere.

I'm praising God today that I don't have to rake them all!

Sometimes you can barely see the paths because of the ground cover. I know where they are, mostly because we've walked them so many times, but they're hidden right now by millions of crunchy leaves.

I know the path is under there somewhere, I just can't see it very well.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

When our hearts get cluttered with the junk of the world, it's very difficult to see God's path for our lives. We know it's under there somewhere and we vaguely remember which way it was going, but it's hard to find it for all of the worry, anxiety, fear and pride that come from just living these lives every day.

That's why David asked God to create a clean heart within him. His sin had taken him far from God's presence, and he couldn't see the path because it was so covered with ugly, dead stuff. He needed the Lord to forgive him of that sin, cleanse his heart and clear off the path that had become so cluttered.

Make this a weekend of clearing things out, beginning with whatever has covered the path God has you on. It's much easier to walk down a trail when you're not waist-high in dead leaves - and it's much better to walk through this journey called life when there's no sin clogging your way. Pray that God will cleanse you, renew your heart and clear out all the obstacles that stand in your way.

Friday, November 25, 2016

One Day Until Santa's Workshop!

Yes, it's that time of year! Santa's elves have been busy preparing Christmas gifts, and on Saturday we'll be putting them on display.

It's been a busy week as I've been making some last-minute goodies to take to the show. You'll find prayer, praise and gratitude journals, explosion boxes in two different sizes, magnets, mini albums and - of course - lost of Christian greeting cards, all with KJV Scripture.

This is my last craft show of the season, so come visit my booth in person. Everyone who makes a purchase on Saturday will receive a coupon code for my Etsy shop along with a surprise gift.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Gratitude Journal For Thanksgiving Week

There's no better way to spend the week of Thanksgiving than giving thanks. I know that sounds a little obvious, but this is a holiday that many of us skip over while focusing on food and football.

Let's make this year's Thanksgiving celebration more about finding words of appreciation instead.

Put together a large gratitude journal, one that's large enough to be used year after year. All you need is a blank journal, some printed-out words, some embellishments and the perfect Scripture.

When you're done, you'll have a treasure to use for many Thanksgivings to come.

You can use this gratitude journal on a daily basis to record all the blessings God has given you.
Or pass it around the room on Thanksgiving and have everyone write what they're most thankful for.
Add pictures of family and friends so you can capture what life was like in November 2016.
Let the kids draw and color in it.
Copy your favorite Bible verses about giving thanks.

What would you use your gratitude journal for?

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Truth About Our Spiritual Enemy

We often give too much power and too much authority to the devil in our lives. He is a very real enemy, and we are called in Scripture to be very aware of his presence in the world. However, we cannot attribute anything and everything that happens in our lives to him.

The devil cannot read your mind, he cannot be everywhere at once and he does not have God's permission to do anything to you that he wants. He is very powerful, however, and it is in our best interest to be prepared for spiritual battle against him at any given moment.

So this week, I pray that you will take some time to study the Scriptures and see exactly what they say about the differences between the enemy and our all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God.

The devil is called your adversary for a reason. He uses you for his own purposes.
God wants the most personal, intimate relationship you have to be with Him.

The devil desperately wants you to think things are worse than they are.
God gently reminds you that you have so much to be thankful for.

The devil gives you just enough truth to convince you to believe his lies.
God is the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.

The devil's goal is to devour, as a roaring lion would.
God sent His Son as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, for our salvation.

The devil has been sin and evil from the beginning.
God has been purity and honor since before time, and will be throughout eternity.

The devil tries to show you good and wonderful things when his own light is just a disguise.
God shines His perfect light through you for all the world to see.

The devil magnifies himself to make you think he's unstoppable.
God's word says you can submit to Him, resist the devil and he will have to flee.

The devil spends his time scheming and dreaming up new ways to distract you.
God spends His time drawing you closer to Him so nothing can steal your attention.

The devil spins webs of lies to catch you like a fly.
God speaks uplifting words so you will soar like an eagle.

The devil is here to steal, kill and destroy.
God came to earth so we can have abundant life.

The devil has a place prepared for him in hell as his eternal punishment.
God is waiting for the day you will be with Him in heaven, worshiping and praising Him for all eternity.

For scriptural references about the devil and his attributes, start here:
* 1 Peter 5:8
* 1 John 3:4-10
* 2 Corinthians 11:14
* James 4:7
* Ephesians 6:11-12
* 2 Corinthians 4:4
* John 10:10

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Congratulations - it's triplets!

No, it's not three babies. But you'll still love lining up three panels across the page and adding some cute embellishments. And I promise it will be the most adorable card you make today.

Create a background from a solid color or a light pattern. It's not terribly important what it is because you'll be covering most of it up with the panels.

Make panels out of the same pattern or coordinating patterns, but keep them simple, too. The three circles are really your focal point. And they don't have to be circles, but they stand out from the square corners of everything else on the card.

Then add a long phrase across the bottom to tie the panels together - otherwise they're floating panels and that's just no fun.

For my card, I started with a light grid pattern for my background and then cut three panels our of a beautiful teal patterned paper.

The three circles each have two punched layers and are accented with tiny silver jewels.

For the big finish, I printed out Psalm 46:10 and double matted it to center at the bottom.

For more great layouts, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find one-of-a-kind handmade Christian cards, prayer journals, desk sets and many other gift ideas - for the special people you love, and maybe for yourself!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Weekend Of Focusing On The New

You can't tell by looking really, but this is the thickest, heartiest, most productive area of blackberry bushes that we have on the property. There are hundreds of bushes in this few square yards, and they give us the most consistent yield of any other area.

But right now, as autumn comes to an end, they're dormant. They've lost all their leftover berries, most of the leaves have turned brown and fallen off, and you wouldn't guess they're blackberry bushes unless you had seen them this summer. They're completely different from what they were just a few weeks ago.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

This passage of Scripture takes on a different meaning when you place it next to these dried-up bushes. They are losing everything that they once were - their leaves, their color, their sustenance - to prepare for the next growing season. The old things like their fruit and greenery have to wither away for a few months so they can grow back fuller and thicker than they have ever been.

So I could sit around until spring and lament the loss of our berry bushes, or I can rejoice over the apparent death in front of me and look forward to bigger, better blackberries next summer. That choice is up to me.

Make this a weekend of focusing on the new. You may be going through a season of pain and suffering right now, but like the dormant season, it will only last for a little while. It may hurt your heart and make you want to give up, but the season of renewal is on its way. The choice is yours as to whether or not you'll look forward to the coming good God has planned for you or linger over the dead stuff that He's trying to remove from your life.

Choose to focus on the new. There's a beautiful day on the horizon.

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Autumn Scavenger Hunt

When the girls arrived for our teen Bible study last weekend, the first thing I did was throw them outside to burn off some energy. If you've been around 10 teenage girls in one place, you understand how important this is.

We started out with a fall scavenger hunt. With 33 acres of woods, there was plenty of room for the two teams to go their separate ways and find everything on their lists. It was fun to stand on the deck and watch them search diligently, trying to be the first ones back with everything they needed. Each team took a dog and headed out.

Some of the items they chose were nothing like what I expected, and that made it so much fun. Teenage girls are some of the most creative people I know.

If you try out this scavenger hunt, please let me know what your group found. It's a great way to spend time together and get to know each other a little better, plus you'll hear shouts and giggles like never before if you take a bunch of girls outside.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sugar Cookie Ravioli

Since we've started a monthly Bible study for the teen girls of our church, I've learned a lot about how a young woman's mind works. It's been a while since I was a teenager, so it's been quite the learning experience - or remembering experience, I guess I should say.

One of the constants on our list of things to do at each study is baking. All of the girls love to destroy our kitchen and make tasty things to eat here and share at church. It's really become a time of bonding and fellowship as they talk and get to know each other better while measuring ingredients and watching the oven timer.

At our study in October, one of the girls asked if we could experiment with a baking idea she had. I said we absolutely could, and she shared this great thought about making ravioli with sugar cookies and chocolate chips. We ate every single one of them this weekend at our slumber party, and I just have to share her recipe with you.

1 package sugar cookie dough, the kind already divided into little squares
1 bag mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.

2. Slightly flatten one square of sugar cookie dough and form it into a square. Lay it on the baking sheet and use your thumb to make a slight indentation.

3. Fill that little whole with a small handful of mini chocolate chips. Add a second flattened square to the top.

4. Use a fork to crimp the edges together. This will keep the chocolate from oozing out.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes, or until slightly browned.

6. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a cooling rack. Allow to cool on the rack for 3-4 minutes or until they're not too soft anymore. Remove cookies from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Snickers Gift Tag

I'm in the middle of preparing for my final large craft show of the year, a Santa's Workshop the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I created these fun little candy bar gift packages to take to the show. They're a little time consuming on your first attempt, but they go quickly when you're ready to make more.

My candy bar is 1.5 inches wide and 4.75 inches long, so these are the measurements I will use for this tutorial. You can adjust accordingly for your candy of choice. Start by cutting a 12x12 inch piece of heavy card stock into a 2-inch strip. 

Then fold up an inch from the bottom, and then fold up a second inch and crease them both. This will be the base for your candy wrapper.

Make pencil marks 3 inches up from the second crease on both sides of the card stock.

Cut in 1 inch from that mark and all the way to the top of the card stock. This creates flaps that will be the sides.

Fold the sides up and crease them.

Cut the outside inch of each side on those crease marks and crease again.

Flip the whole piece over and cover the four 1-inch squares only with adhesive.

When you fold the bottom up and in, press the taped pieces firmly to create the bottom of your box.

When you put the candy bar in, it should have some room on either side.

Trim the remaining length of card stock down to 5.75 inches from the bottom of the holder.

Cut off the corners and punch a hole for ribbon.

Now that you're done with the card stock, you'll want to choose a thick paper for the front of your wrapper. For mine, the sides are 1 inch wide and the front is 2 inches wide. Crease them tightly so they'll match the front of the box.

Adhere the sides and the bottom of the front panel but not the top, as there will be no card stock behind it.

 Tie on your ribbon, some for decoration and some for attaching to a package or to use as an ornament on the tree.

This gives you a finished candy gift tag perfect for the holiday season!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Confessing, Repenting And Forsaking

While it's not a pretty subject to talk about, sin is the cause of so many of our problems. The enemy is prowling about, tempting us and attempting to divide and destroy us. People with evil in their hearts lash out and try to hurt us as deeply as possible. Our own sin often keeps us from enjoying the depth of blessing our heavenly Father has prepared for us.

What a sad state of affairs - sin forces us to break fellowship with God and drags us down further than we ever thought we'd have to go. Our flesh gets in our way and tears apart any healthy relationships we have. We wander off the path of righteousness and find ourselves in a mess of our own making.

This is where we find the prodigal son in Luke 15:15. He had wasted all of his inheritance on a frivolous lifestyle and found himself wallowing in the pig pen, longing to sample those corn husks the hogs were dining on. It doesn't get much lower than that, so it was here in the muck that he came to his senses.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. Luke 15:18-19

This young man had figured out in both his head and his heart what needed to be done - confession and repentance. When he came to himself in a state of want that he had never experienced before, he rehearsed what he would say when he arrived home. First of all he would confess his wrong-doing, and then he would tell his father of his repentance for all he had done.

How often do our painful and heart-breaking situations prove to be the breaking point in our selfishness, convincing us to turn from our sinful ways and return to our Lord? The lost son knew that he was wrong, had experienced just how devastating his choices had been and then humbled his heart to the extreme, heading for the home he had abandoned.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13

God gave Solomon one more piece of the puzzle when He inspired this proverb. Just as the lost son figured out, the first two steps to restoration were confession and repentance, and Solomon took it one step further. Once the relationship was reestablished, it would be time to forsake that sin and receive God's mercy. Confession and repentance are part of the heart condition, but forsaking sin - walking away and deciding not to repeat that sin - is an active metal choice we make every single day. The situation may not change, but the choices we make each day make all the difference.

We can be sorry for our sin, but nothing changes until we decide not to return to it.

You know the story of the prodigal son from here. He was welcomed home without question and was treated to the rejoicing of a delighted father. He didn't even get to use the whole speech he had planned out because his father was more interested in celebrating the young man's return.

Our heavenly Father has the same reaction when we confess our sin, come to Him with a repentant heart and vow with His help not to make the same mistakes again. And just like the earthly father welcomed his son back with open arms, God is standing on the porch, watching for us to start down the road to redemption, where we can find Him ready to welcome us home.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Sketch

Have you started putting your Christmas cards together yet? Start crafting them today with this adorable sketch - you'll be able to use it with a variety of papers and colors, making each card an individual work of art.

Layer two background papers, a solid color and a light pattern. Then mat a piece of decorator paper on a coordinating color and tilt it slightly off center.

You can use two images for the top square and circle, or you can make one another block of pattern.

A small sentiment in the blank space at the top of the card will finish off your design.

For my card, I found three Christmas cookie-themed images and stacked them for a cute layout. The background paper is a very light peppermint candy pattern. Then I cut a gingerbread man image out of a piece of decorator paper and matted it on a light color, layering it slightly askew on the right hand side.

The square cookie is also from a piece of decorator paper, matted on a pink solid card stock. The dove cookie is a card stock die cut layered on the very top.

I finished it off with alphabet stickers for my personalized phrase.

For more great layouts, come visit my Etsy shop. You'll find hundreds of Christian cards, journals and other paper crafts, perfect for holiday gift giving.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Weekend Of Getting Stuck

The ground around our ponds is incredibly soft even when there has been no rain. As the water recedes, it leaves behind vast mud puddles that are strong enough to suck your boot off. You may think I'm joking, but mud is a serious subject.

Danny has to be careful driving the tractor near the water because the mud is so strong it can even trap a huge vehicle in its clutches. Then there's nothing you can do but go get the truck, tether it up and get some good traction.

I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. Psalm 119:30-32

Make this a weekend of getting stuck - stuck to the Lord the way the psalmist was. His getting stuck was a choice, one that he made over and over again. He decided to be adhered to God's commandments to tightly that it would have taken more than a truck and tow straps to pull him away.

This is the challenge before us this weekend. God's promises in this passage are to honor us and enlarge our hearts when we put Him first in our lives. So get stuck today, so stuck that your relationship with Him grows beyond anything you could have hoped for. When you're stuck, you'll be in the midst of His perfect will.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stamped Thanksgiving Wreath Card

If you're going to send thanksgiving and fall cards this year, now is the time to get them put together. Otherwise it will be spring and you'll still be stamping leaves and looking for green and brown paper. Don't put it off - make a beautiful autumn card!

Start by stamping leaves on a variety of colors and textures of paper. You may not use them all on this card, but you'll have them when you're ready to make more. When the ink is dry, fussy-cut them as detailed as you'd like.

Wrap a length of twine around your hand four or five times and tie off the ends. A few well-placed glue dots will hold it all together.

Create your card's layout and use glue dots to attach the twine wreath to the card.

Use more glue dots to arrange your leaves and easily hold them in place. (Trust me - don't bother with tape or glue. Go straight for the dots.)

This type of card, one with several dimensional elements, is best for tucking in a box, in a padded envelope or hand-delivering.