Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Wood Burn Stamped Images

When you have acres of woods on your property, it only makes sense to want to use some of it for your craft projects. I'm always on the lookout for fallen branches and logs that can be turned into something even more beautiful. Obviously, that's why my Etsy shop is called Stuff From Trees.

This particular piece of tree was the perfect size for stamping, which I had done in the past. But this time I wanted to kick it up a notch and do some wood burning on those tree cookies, too. And that's how these ornaments came to be.

After cutting the discs, sanding them smooth and drilling a hole in the top, I matched them up with stamps that would fill most of the space.

Then I used a pigment ink on the stamp. It was just dark enough to be seen but not too big to cover with a wood burning pen. Since I've only done a few wood burning projects, I started as simply as I could with this method, sticking to thin line drawings.

Once I went over them with the wood burning pen, they were exactly the way I pictured in my head.

I added a little bit of color with colored pencils and strung them with baker's twine. This little bear stole my heart.

All but one of these ornaments are now available in my Etsy shop. Come visit today and see which ones you'd like to have for your very own.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lessons On A Servant's Heart

I knew it was a problem when I checked caller ID and didn't pick up the phone. I knew exactly who it was, but I was too busy. Too tired. Too strung out by the events of my own day to listen to hers.

I was "too" a lot of things, but mostly I was too selfish.

When the phone rings and your first instinct is to just unplug it, you know it's a problem.
When you really do have some time to talk but you'd rather spend that time on your own stuff, you know it's a problem.
When innocent people are an inconvenience as they're reaching out to you, you know it's a problem.

God has a habit of convicting your heart in ways you can't ignore. He's not going to be subtle when what you need is to be slapped upside the head.

So when I began my Bible study the next day and found myself in the middle of Matthew chapter 14, it wasn't a physical slap. It did, however, make me a little queasy as I suddenly saw two verses in a whole new light.

The portion of Scripture beginning at Matthew 14:13 gives us the first account of the feeding of the five thousand, a story that is detailed in all four gospels. Jesus had just heard of the death of John the Baptist and had taken a ship across the sea. On his heels were five thousand men, plus their wives and children. As Jesus left the boat and saw the multitude that had followed Him, Matthew says the Lord was "moved with compassion toward them." These thousands spent the day with Him, watching as the sick were healed and miracles were marveled over.

And then the evening came.

His disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. Matthew 14:15

It seems like a natural human response to a long day of work. "Master, it's late in the day and these lovely people need to get on their way so everyone can rest. They can go get something to eat and get to bed early. We'll gladly meet up with them again tomorrow."

To the ears of a Savior whose very character is hospitality, this was not the right course of action. Yes, the people were hungry. Yes, it had been a long day. Yes, it was getting dark. But the Bread of Life had a different meal in mind.

But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. Matthew 14:16

The disciples' first reaction was to send hungry people in search of food. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? They'll find something, somewhere, right? There's nothing here for them to eat, so there's really no other option.

I can almost hear Jesus' heart break as He gently nudges them in the right direction. No, they don't have to go anywhere. Everything they need is here in the presence of the Christ.

And here, at the end of the day and in front of thousands of people, provision was given where there seemed to be so little. A handful of loaves and a couple of fish. Good for one or two people, but surely not a multitude.

Until Jesus steps in.

When the disciples began passing baskets of bread and fish around, each row of people had more than enough. Matthew described them as "filled." Not just enough to get by or a snack to tide them over. They were filled to the brim and could have had even more. The disciples brought back twelve full baskets - one for each of them.

When the disciples held out their hands to be used as waiters for the Lord's meal, Jesus Christ was able to use them to share His miracle. Jesus filled their hands with everything they needed to do as He commanded: give ye them to eat. They didn't have what they needed under their own power, but with Christ they had more than they needed.

It was at this point that I understood the message God was laying on my heart that morning. When I was too wrapped up in my own agenda and my own schedule, I had echoed the disciples: Lord, it's time to send the people away. By not giving up even a moment for the needs of another, I mirrored the request of the disciples: They'll find something, somewhere. Send them on their way.

Praise the Lord that He never sends anyone away. He never says He's too busy, too tired or too anything. He will never take the phone off the hook or pretend He didn't hear it ringing. His heart is too loving to turn anyone away when they approach Him. How many times has He been there waiting for me when I needed Him most? Isn't this, then, an example of how we should be treating one another?

Once I had confessed my heart condition, I immediately went to the phone and called that number. We talked, and I was able to provide a listening ear, a suggestion to a problem and opened the door to some hospitality down the road. Through His word, God gave me exactly what I needed to give up my selfishness and take the opportunity to reflect Him a little brighter. I pray now that I will see these moments not as interruptions, but as opportunities to do for someone else what Christ has done for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Week Of Delight

It's always a great day when you open up the tool box and there's a great big smile waiting to greet you!

Ok, so it's really the back side of a mounting bracket, but there's very distinctly a smiley face there. Right? You do see it. Please say you see it, too.

If you open your eyes to the world around you, not just get your pliers out and move on, there are all kinds of things happening to make you smile.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

When your heart is in tune with God, His desires become your desires and His delights become your delights. Then you'll see moments of joy everywhere you go because you're aware of the blessings all around you.

Make this a week of delight. Look at things you've looked at a thousands times with eyes of joy and delight in the Lord. Trust Him to put delightful things in your path, and you'll soon find smiley faces everywhere you look. It might be a challenge at first, but the delight of the Lord will give you a whole new outlook on how He moves in lives.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Teach Your Dog The Muffin Tin Game

If you've never played the muffin tin game with your dog, today's the day to start. Molly adores this game, mostly because she has an affinity for treats and balls ... and probably muffin tins. I'm not sure about that last one.

When you play for the first time, put half a treat in each muffin tin section. I picked up a few tins at the thrift shop so we wouldn't be making muffins in them, too.

Then place a ball on top of most of the treats. As your dog figures out that there are more treats underneath the toys, all the compartments won't have to have treats in them.

Molly knows exactly where the treats are and has no issue throwing balls out of the way to find them.  You can't play this game too much or you'll have a roly-poly puppy who doesn't care if she ever plays this game again. On the other hand, it's great for dogs who get bored very easily or are motivated by food and treats. And if you throw the balls around afterward, she can chase them and work some of the treats off.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kitchen Finance Advice From 1943

I love finding old cookbooks at thrift shops and book sales. It's fun to read through the different ingredients and techniques that were popular, and there are always a few recipes that I want to try. Some of them turn out wonderful, but others need to stay in the decade the book came out, so I will politely leave them there.

The one that has fascinated me recently is a guide from a popular food company that was published in 1943. Right in the middle of World War II, women of America were desperately seeking advice on how to make their share of the available food stretch the farthest. It's a topic I've read about in history books, but until I saw the actually book these woman would have poured over, it really didn't feel real. There were also seven basic food groups in the '40s, adding butter/margarine and yellow and green vegetables specifically in their own categories.

What struck me the most was how relevant much of the information from 1943 translates to grocery shopping today. We're not concerned with points and rations like these faithful women were, but using available foods and still providing healthy meals is great advice for 2017.

Here are just a few of my favorite entries in this amazing book.

* Meat is precious, so store it properly, freeze what you can and thaw only what you'll use.

* Almost every part of an animal can be eaten, so don't be afraid to try "off cuts," which are often much cheaper.

* Save every bit of fat from your cooking. When you cut fat from meat or poultry, melt it over very low heat and strain through cheesecloth. It can then be kept in the refrigerator. To clarify it, heat the fat with a raw potato until it bubbles and the potato slices turn brown. Strain it again and it's ready to go.

* If you're going to separate eggs for a recipe, save the part you're not using. Leftover egg whites can be kept in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator. They can be used in all kinds of baking and will keep a long time. Keep leftover egg yolks in a dish covered with wax paper. Two yolks can often be substituted for one whole egg.

* Milk should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator or bacteria will develop quickly. Take it out, measure it and immediately return it. Stay away from storing it in the door where it will be warmer.

* Fresh vegetables will quickly lose their vitamins and minerals if they are cooked in too much water. Keep them covered in the pan so air doesn't get in, and simmer them in salt water instead of boiling.

* Save the vegetable water, now full of vitamins and minerals too, and use it in soups and gravies.

* If you can't use fresh fruits right away, substitute canned fruit so there is little to no waste.

* To keep cookies soft, place in a air-tight container with a slice or orange, lemon or apple to keep them moist. To keep cookies crisp, cover only loosely.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Lemon Baked Tilapia

In an effort to clear out the refrigerator and pantry before stocking up on groceries again, I found a package of tilapia fillets in the very back of the freezer. I had forgotten all about them after taking the first few out, putting new frozen foods to the front.

Fish and citrus are an amazing combination, so tilapia and lemon are the perfect marriage for a lovely dinner. You can buy individually wrapped fish fillets at the grocery store, so pick up a few on your next trip, along with a couple of fresh lemons, and enjoy this tasty meal.

4-6 tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices fresh lemon
1/4 cup (half a stick) melted butter
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
1 Tbsp parsley flakes

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.

2. Place fillets into dish and season with salt and pepper.

3. Cut four slices off one lemon. Then zest the remaining lemon and juice it.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Pour over fish. Top with sliced lemon.

5. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until fish is baked through and flaky.

6. Garnish with parsley and serve with tartar sauce.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Matters Of The Heart

There are television commercials about it. There are songs written about it. There are displays of gifts and decorations for it. Companies of every product imaginable are focused on it.

Matters of the heart.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a day of showing love to that special someone. Somewhere along the way, though, it became a day of buying and spending and showing love by how much and how big and how expensive your gifts can be. Quiet demonstrations of love and much-needed acts of devotion aren't comparable to something lavish and sparkling.

It's been the same in every generation - matters of the heart have been written about, sung about and examined. Where does love come from, people ask, and what makes it last? Matters of the heart lead to weddings and anniversaries, jealousy and murder, repentance and forgiveness, adulteries and abandonment, babies and grandchildren, and couples devoted to serving God together. The heart can also be easily swayed to the unholy and the ungodly when left unprotected.

There are more than 760 verses of Scripture that talk about the heart. Most of the time it refers to the inner man, the soul that God gives each individual. It's not the root of lovey-dovey feelings, but of discernment and is the location of our determination and devotion to God and those we care about.

Believe it or not, the first references to the heart in Scripture had nothing to do with love and definitely had nothing to do with Valentine's Day. Nobody cut out a heart and pasted it in construction paper. They didn't draw a heart shape and write their initials in it. No, the first heart spoken of in the Bible was as far away from a picture-perfect romance as can be.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

In my Bible, this verse is found on the fifth page. In just the ninth column of words in the book of Genesis, God's creation had let its heart run wild and strayed from Him. This generation of men wasn't just looking around to see what else might be out there - they were firmly rooted in wickedness and evil. And not just a little evil here and there - evil continually. How can they have gotten so turned around in just a few chapters?

The answer is simple to see now as we read the words penned so long ago. They simply chose to follow their heart instead of following the Lord. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, the prophet Jeremiah would write hundreds of years later. Leading with our heart instead of following God in obedience always leads us farther in the wrong direction.

Keep reading. It gets worse, if that's possible.

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Genesis 6:6

God watched the evil, wicked men on the earth, and it broke His heart. The choices they made weren't a surprise to Him, but it was still painful to see the people He had created with such love and care turn away and choose their selfish, destructive ways over the peace and joy of walking with Him.

We can read these verses and judge them for their poor decisions. We shake our heads and wonder why they couldn't see what was right in front of their faces. All they had to do was turn away from their evil ways and serve the Lord. It's just that simple.

Then why do we follow our heart and say things we regret?
Why do we follow our heart and abandon those we love most?
Why do we follow our heart and root ourselves in selfishness?
Why do we follow our heart and treat others with envy, hate and anger?

The heart isn't some fluffy pink pillow that we pull out every February for a few days. The heart isn't a drawing or a carving or a symbol of love and affection. It's the living, breathing center of being that was created by God for a single purpose - to follow Him.

We know the rest of the story. God chooses Noah, the man who walked with God, to continue the human race. Though His heart was broken over the hearts that had turned away from Him, God focused on the one heart that didn't. Because of his dedication and faithfulness, Noah and his family were spared from the flood and protected from the rain storm. It might have been easy for Noah to follow his heart and follow the thousands of people around him who were headed in the opposite direction, but he didn't. He kept his heart in tune with God's, and he was able to reap the benefit of it in a powerful and mighty way.

As you're celebrating the love you share with your spouse and family this week, be aware of all the hearts you see. The world may see them as decorations, but you know the truth. And when you feel the tug that would pull your heart away, even for a moment, I pray that you will remember the true purpose of the heart and keep yours focused on the Lord.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Week Of Examining God's Love

The world is bombarding us with the word "love" this week. We should buy this jewelry if we love her. If we love him, we'll do and make all these fancy things. And don't forget the card, flowers and chocolates because ... well, because.

The overwhelming feeling is that Tuesday will be the only day we can show our true love how we really feel. Everything from the past 364 days doesn't matter anymore because this is the day to pour our hearts out, and then we wait until next February to do it up big again.

That's why it's such a relief to read about true love, God's love, in Scripture. God's love doesn't hinge on remembering a certain holiday or buying the largest stuffed animal known to man. God's love isn't a purchase or a requirement determined by the calendar. It's about passing on what we've already been given.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

When we were so obsessed with our sin and our feelings and our emotions, when we were guilty and broken and undeserving, God loved us. He loved you. To show how giant that love was and how deep it ran in His heart, God gave us the life of His own Son. We were undeserving, but He loved us anyway. We were more interested in loving ourselves, but still God loved us enough to give us a way to find Him and fellowship with Him.

This kind of love is hard to fathom. Human love has stipulations and conditions. It flashes like a fire, it runs out, it gets mishandled and it fades away. We could all tell a broken-heart story that would bring the room to tears because we've all been there. People have disappointed us, and that gives us a jaded view of love.

But God's love is different. While we were yet sinners, dirty and unworthy, His love ran deep and pure. It wasn't until we gave Him our hearts that we understood what true love meant.

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

We have no love to give - no real love - until we receive it from God Himself. He gave His Son to die on the cross for us out of the deepest love we could ever imagine. That love now lives in our hearts, and that's the love He now wants us to give to everyone around us. The only reason we have a desire to love is because we've felt that love for ourselves. The only desire of our hearts to love is that we have been given the most perfect love ever imagined.

This love doesn't come with balloons and streamers but with peace and joy. Make this a week of examining the love God has placed in your heart. As He so loved you, how many people can you pass it along to? God's kind of love never runs out - it multiplies as you give it away.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Many Heart Shapes Can You Find In Your Kitchen?

 If you were to tear apart your kitchen drawers and cabinets, how many heart-shaped pans, tools and decorations would you find? Until I took this challenge myself, I would have been far off in my estimation.

With just a few days before Valentine's Day, I present to you this challenge. Look for anything and everything in the shape of a heart. (By the way, a circle cake can be cut in half and placed on two edges of a square cake to make a heart cake. Just saying.)

I truly was shocked at everything I had, and they were all different. Many of them were purchased in the week following Valentine's Day last year, and others I found at the local thrift shops. 

I guess I'm prepared just in case somebody needs dozens of lovey-dovey treats on short notice. 

Something as basic as a heart shaped pan... 

...can be turned into an incredibly pretty finished product. Think about strawberry and cherry chip cake, pink frosting and all the sprinkles, candy and other decorations you've saved up. If you're like me, you could probably make enough Valentine's treats to supply a metropolitan school district with lunchtime desserts for the entire month of February.

If you accept my challenge, post some pictures here of what you've made. I'd love to see how you use your creativity.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Valentine's Day Filled With Love, Not Dollar Signs

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, as I'm sure you know. If you've been to any store in the past two months, you've seen shelves packed with candy, decorations and stuffed animals the size of a cargo van. You could spend anywhere from a few dollars to your first of the month paycheck to give that special someone a gift covered in hearts.

But what if you were to give a more thoughtful gift, something not found on a shelf or in a store? What if you could share your heart without having to take out a second mortgage on the house? A day like this should be filled with love, not dollar signs.

If this sounds like a wonderful, relaxing, less taxing plan, read on...

* Give your husband a handmade card, one that reminds him of a special time you shared. Think back (as far as you can) to when you were dating or first married and theme the card around a special moment or place. Let him know that those are still some of your favorite memories.

* Surprise him. What would knock his socks off? Show up at his work with a flower or a cupcake. (Or something else you deem appropriate.) Leave a note or card on his car seat for him to find in the morning. Bake some homemade cookies and send them with him when he leaves for work. Go out of your way to show you care.

* Make his favorite dinner instead of going out. You know, the one he always asks for and you just never seem to get around to making. Spoil him a little and let him know that you're actually listening to him.

* If you look around the house, you're sure to find all sorts of ideas for love-themed stuff. Present your man with everything in the shape of a heart - the cinnamon rolls at breakfast, drawn on the mirror in the bathroom, coffee in a lovey-dovey mug, the tie in the back of the closet covered with hearts. Pull them out and put them to good use today.

* Turn your bedroom into an oasis for the evening. Clear out all the clutter. Dust everything. Wash the sheets. Sweep the floors. Use fabric refresher and air freshener everywhere you can. Open the windows and air out the room. Candles and rose petals are definitely optional.

* Let him know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the love of your life. You already know exactly how to do that. Think about his likes and dislikes, his passions and interests, his hopes and his dreams. There are a million little things you can do to show him that you respect him, understand him and want him more than anything else in the world.

Just a note - don't go into this Valentine's Day preparation with any expectations. You're not showing him how much you love him so that he will do the same in return. You're doing these special things so he knows you love and respect him. That's all. Pray about your own heart attitude and then get busy!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cinnamon Spice Cake Balls

I often do a few hours of baking at a time and put much of the finished product in the freezer to have later. This makes those moments when I remember at the last minute that I was supposed to have a treat to share a little less embarrassing.

That's how these spiced cake balls came to be. I made spice cake (one of my favorites) several weeks ago and tucked it away in the freezer. Then when I needed something fun, I thawed the cake and made these super-easy cake balls.

1 spice cake made with package directions
1 can vanilla frosting
4 bricks of chocolate almond bark

1.  Make or thaw the cake. Leave until it is at room temperature, then crumble as small as possible into a large bowl.

2. Add half the can of frosting and stir just until sticky. Add more as necessary depending on how much of the frosting your cake sponges up.

3. Roll into small cake balls and place on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Once it's full, put it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, long enough to cool them down but not refreeze them.

4. When you're ready, put the bricks of almond bark in a microwave-safe bowl for 30-second intervals. Stir until smooth.

5. Use a fork to dip the cake balls in the chocolate and return them to the covered baking sheet. They will warm up with the hot chocolate, so move quickly and get them into the fridge as soon as you can or they will lose their shape and begin to fall apart.

6. Once they're cool again, store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. If you haven't already eaten them all, which is a definite possibility.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

An Upcycled Little Golden Book Album

One idea for an altered album has become a never-ending hunt for Little Golden Books. After making this altered album from a vintage children's book, I've been looking everywhere I go for used copies that I can turn into fun, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Everyone I know says they grew up with Little Golden Books, and everyone has a favorite. This is the first one that I found, and it brings back so many memories for kids of all ages.

And while we all remember the cover art to our favorite books, it's the colorful images inside that are permanently etched in our minds.

To make the altered fire engine book album, I started by very carefully taking the pages out and pulling back the spine so I could take the inserts out.

All of the old pages are going to be trimmed down to make embellishments for my new pages.

The staples go through the pretty golden edge, so I cut a tiny slit with the craft knife so I could slide them right out with jewelry pliers.

With a craft knife, I sliced the binding down the middle to make separate front and page covers.

Now that I no longer had inside pages, I cut white card stock just smaller than the covers and put a different color of coordinating, textured card stock on both sides. This makes the pages extra-strong.

I used two book rings for a binding and punched two holes slightly larger than the rings so the pages would turn easily.

Then came the best part - embellishing and decorating! Some pages I left whole, just trimming them down a little to fit on the new card stock.

Others I punched shapes from, traced shapes and cut out and used every bit of every image I could.

Once the rings were in, I tied lengths of coordinating ribbon onto them. I absolutely adore the finished product and can't wait for someone special to buy it and pass it on. To learn more, check out the listing for it in my Etsy shop.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Lessons From The Light

I heard a message last week about characteristics of light and how we as Christians are to be that light. We have a little shelf in our entryway that reminds us every time we leave that we are to be salt and light in the world, but sometimes that can be a rather abstract instruction. The lesson I was listening to explained that God's light is a guiding light, a warming light and a warning light. It was a wonderful illustration and I thought about it for several days.

And as often happens when I'm studying on a particular verse or topic, God blessed me with some insight that I just had to share with you today. If you're ready to be a light in the darkened world this week, read on!

  • Light is healthy — it gives us our daily Vitamin D3. Without it we get sick and tired. (God’s energy is our healthy boost of the day. Without Him we get sick and tired, too.)
  • Nearly all life on earth hinges on sunlight. (Without God, we are nothing.)
  • Staying in the sun without moving burns the skin and cause other physical sickness. (You can’t be useless or lazy in God’s healthy economy.)
  • Sunlight can reach down more than 260 feet into the ocean. (There is no height or depth God cannot reach.)
  • When sunlight passes through a prism, it refracts into the ROYGBIV rainbow as the colors all move differently and separate from each other. (We each go through different experiences in life, but they all go through the filtering hand of God.)
  • Light waves have both magnetic and electric fields in them. (God’s light draws us close and energizes us all at once.)
  • Sunlight is transformed into energy for our local power grids. (When you have God’s light, you can pass it on to others.)
  • Light travels at approximately 186,411 miles per second. (God’s light is even faster and much more efficient.)
  • The human eye cannot see without light. (God’s light is our illumination.)
  • Unless bent by an obstacle, light travels in a straight line. (God’s light will keep us traveling a straight and narrow path.)
  • When light is stopped by an opaque object, a shadow of that object is created. (When sin blocks God’s light from our lives, all we see is the shadow of our sin.)
  • Even humans are bioluminescent, meaning they create their own light, but it is too weak for our eyes to see. (Nothing we do in and of ourselves can compare to the light of God.)
  • The United Nations declared 2005 the International Year of Light. (The world will recognize optics and technology, but so many will never see the light of God.)
Hopefully these facts about light will give you something to think about this week. God's light is so much more powerful and beneficial than anything in the world, and it's such a blessing to be able to reflect that light from Him into the world.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Week Of Seeking

When we were in junior high, the seventh graders always took a class trip west, visiting Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota. It was pretty amazing for these small-town farm kids to see mountains, buffalo and long-horn cattle. I don't know how many rolls of pictures we must have taken, but it was a spectacular trip.

At one of our stops, we got to pan for gold ... sort of. Each student was given a bucket of dirt and rocks to put through a sieve and see what we could find. It wasn't the same as standing over a rushing river, dipping your pan in and looking for those sparkling treasures, but it was fun to see if there really might be something in that bucket. I don't remember finding anything myself, but a few kids found some dust and specks. That kept all of us working to see if there was something bigger waiting for us.

This is the image that comes to mind when I read Solomon's words in Proverbs 2. Those who are willing to be taught are reward with wisdom for their efforts. The wisest man who ever lived, the King Solomon was surrounded by riches, but he wrote that the wisdom of God was worth far more than anything he had laid up in the treasure rooms.

If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:4-5

If we had just shaken the bucket a little and scraped off the surface of the dirt, we might have found a little bit of gold dust. But by digging and searching and checking every last rock we had to find something worthwhile, we could be rewarded with something bigger and better than we had hoped for. Treasure doesn't just sit on top of the pile waiting to be discovered. It's buried deep within, the reward for diligence and desire.

Make this a week of seeking God's wisdom. You won't just run across it on your daily errands, though. You'll have to dig into the Scriptures, careful remove the nuggets of knowledge and treasure them away in your heart. It may sound like a lot of hard work, but the sparkles it will add to your testimony for the Lord will be worth all the sweat and energy.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Paw Print Photos Memory Frame

Both of our big dogs are gone now, and I hated seeing their collars sitting around empty. I wanted to make some type of shadow box that would make me smile, not tear up when I think about them. When I told Danny my plan, he suggested pictures in the shape of a paw print at the top. What a perfect idea.

My shadow box started out as a pretty ugly $5 picture and frame from the thrift shop. (I'm sorry if you love it - it's just not me.)

I removed all the parts, keeping the cardboard backing. This meant folding out all the staples and breaking the glass to remove it. I do not recommend this, but my glass was wedged in too tightly to get it out otherwise.

Yes, those are plates from the kitchen. I put the girls' collars in the bottom two corners and found dishes that would create circles to fit in the space left over. This is often easier for me than measuring and using the circle cutter. Numbers and I don't get along very well...

I printed out five of my favorite pictures - two of each puppy by herself and one of the two of them for the largest circle. I used the plates as my template and just cut them out by hand. They are tacked down with a mile and a half of double stick tape, more or less.

The collars are adhered with hot glue, mostly on the plastic parts. This will work well with smaller, lighter collars, while you may want to tack them down with thread through the backing or some kind of clip that you don't mind showing. Hot glue worked the best for these particular collars.

Once they were dry, I tacked down the tags so the girls' names were on the front. I love the way this looks.

 And the final step was printing out the label: Bailey Sue and Sadie Mae, footprints on our hearts. Now I'm off to find the perfect place to hang it. Please let me know if you try this yourself - I'd love to see the results!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Elementary Financial Truths To Help You Save Money

Sometimes I need a financial guru to speak to me on a sixth-grade level. I am not particularly fond of numbers to begin with, but when it comes to our finances, it gets even foggier in my brain.

Truth be told, I could often use a basic, kindergarten description of how to spend and save money. Save words like "assets" and "dividends" for other people - I want simple language that will click in my mind and motivate me to treat our money wisely.

So if you're like me, these basic truths may be simple enough for you, too.

1. Don't spend money you don't have. This is where debt rears its ugly head and sticks to you like Velcro for years. If you don't have the money on hand, don't try to spend it.

2. Don't spend it all in one place. When you do have funds in your account, it's easy to rush out and spend it. It's like Christmas morning, only you're doing the shopping. Don't rush to the grocery store and stock up on everything in sight, as this will just deplete that money more quickly.

3. A penny saved is a penny earned. You worked hard for that money, and chances are you'll need it down the road. Whether it's a savings account, a coin jar in the closet or a long-term CD, setting aside a little bit for a rainy day is always smart.

4. Never pay retail price for anything. Groceries, electronics and pet supplies all go on sale on a schedule. Add in coupons and online savings and there is absolutely no reason to pay full price. If you want it, wait until it's more reasonable and rake in the savings.

5. Once it's gone, it's gone. The interest rate on nothing is still nothing. Looking into your purse repeatedly will not help you find what isn't there. You'd better love what you bought and plan to keep it forever because the money you spent on it is now tied up in it.

6. Be satisfied with what you already have. The easiest way to save money? Save it. Don't spend it. Enjoy the television you have with the family you love instead of splurging on the television that would cover your entire wall. Contentment with the stuff you already have will always save you money.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Breakfast Waffle Sandwiches

Never scramble (pun intended) to get breakfast together again with these make-ahead waffle sandwiches. You can change out what's stuffed inside to make each morning special for everyone in the family.

All you need are your favorite refrigerator biscuits - I used the smallest ones - and breakfast foods like ham, bacon, eggs and cheese. Stretch one biscuit out as far as it will go without tearing. Then pile on your cheese, meat and egg. Place another biscuit on top and crimp the edges.

Place one filled biscuit in each of the wells of your waffle maker. They will spread out and fill it perfectly. You also don't have to worry about overcooking them because the waffle maker will tell you the exact moment when they're done. It's too easy, I tell you. Too easy. When they're ready, you'll have all those lovely breakfast goodies tucked inside the biscuits.

And to make it even better, they freeze wonderfully. Wrap them individually and heat them up in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. Put them back in the plastic wrap and you're ready to head out the door.