Showing posts from 2020

Why The Passion Story Should Lift Us Up Today

In today’s dark and uncertain climate, the last thing we want to do is read a story that is equally dark and cruel. At any other time we would read the Passion story in all four gospels, harmonize them and share some important and powerful verses.

But right now, this week seems painful enough. We are scared, separated and sure of nothing. We have never been in this place before, and the unknown is a frightening place to be.

What better time, then, to read the story of Jesus Christ’s last week on earth? He faced the powers of darkness and evil on the field of battle, and He walked away triumphant and victorious. Jesus knows your heart, understands your pain and promises you an ending to your story that’s just as wonderful and miraculous as His.

Are you lonely today? Jesus was abandoned by everyone who claimed to love Him, even the friend who pledged his life to Him, so He understands your loneliness.

Are you scared today? Jesus walked into the courts to face His accusers, keeping our …

My “Holy Week” Planner Layout

This is my favorite week of the year, where the culmination of all time comes to the single moment of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. I wanted planner pages this week that would reflect the awe and the gratitude I have for this ultimate sacrifice for my salvation.

I have a pretty substantial collection of Christian-themed stickers and paper, so it was very easy to pull out images and phrases for Easter week. I love the bright, bold colors and the striking cross images - which are empty, by the way, because Jesus is no longer there! Praise the Lord!

This week is going to be fairly busy, so I left plenty of space for lists and for schedules. But I also left room for notes about the importance of this week in Christian history and prayers for our community and our country. As I write in my planner this week, I will be constantly reminded of Christ’s resurrection and my belief in this miracle. It’s going to be a great week!

Puppies In The Sunshine

We interrupt your ordinary day to bring you puppies in the sunshine! Praising the Lord today for the bright sun, warm temperatures and the best dogs ever.

Cluttered Home, Cluttered Mind

My organizational mind hates piles. It hates stacks and clutter and bleh. I’m happiest when the counters are clear and clean, the shelves are orderly and stuff is put away in its proper home.

Unfortunately, I am also a procrastinator. The two don’t go together well at all, and the piles show up anyway. And yes, it takes longer to sort and file the piles than it does to put them away in the first place.

Self-lecture over.

That’s why these shelves of books in the office make me smile. It took several hours to sort, organize and store this collection of books. It’s by no means all of them (yes, there are many, many more.), but being able to see them in some resemblance of order does my heart good.

The opposite of this closet were the stacks of books I had laying around the house. No room is complete without books, but it was borderline ridiculous. We couldn’t even open the spare room door all the way because I ran out of shelf space and lined them up on the floor.

I don’t know if your m…

Make Your Easter Cards With Supplies On Hand

We don’t need another trip to the craft store or some new product to make something amazing. In these days of restricted movement, we can find the joy and beauty of creating without ever having to leave our homes. This Easter card is made completely from supplies I already had in my craft room, and I couldn’t be happier with it! 

To start this supplies-on-hand creative endeavor, I pulled out some spring paper I’ve had for years, a handful of ribbon, two Easter stamps and a tray of embellishments. As I explored the depths of my supply collection, I was amazed at some of the things I forgot I had or hadn’t seen in forever. It’s like shopping in my own stuff - and I don’t have to pay for it again!

I made this card backwards from how I normally design a card. I knew these paper tags were in the stack, so I stamped them first. Luckily I had a second sheet to practice on. Enough said.

From there, I didn’t even have to match colors because the stack was already color coordinated. Three chee…

Words For Wednesday


Vegetable Beef Bowls

In a time when we’re pulling ingredients from our pantries more than ever, here is a tasty stew that you can make in a matter of minutes. And the best part - you probably have it all on hand right now!

In a large cast iron skillet, brown a pound of ground beef with your favorite seasoning. Then pour in two cans of vegetable soup, using the juice to scrape the bottom of the skillet. (Because that’s the best part.) Heat until bubbling and yummy!

To serve, bake a can of fluffy biscuits and place one on the bottom of your bowl. Fill to the top with stew and top with another biscuit. Shredded cheese is optional. Add some fruit and more biscuits for getting all the goodness out of your bowl.

Spring Comes To The Carrell Wildlife Preserve

It was warm enough this weekend to venture out and around the property - and it was wonderful! I was completely over winter a month ago, and it’s been so wet and sloppy that going out on the trails wasn’t very appealing. So the sun broke through and we couldn’t get out there fast enough.

It was’t the best day for fishing because it was so windy, but that didn’t stop us from trying. Danny caught a couple of fish over on the levee, and I fought several tree branches. I wish I was joking...

The highlight was an up-close-and-personal encounter with the two geese who live by the big pond. They keep the dogs hopping by wandering around the yard and squawking at anything and everything they see and hear. This weekend was the first time we’d found their nesting spot, and that was pretty thrilling.

The male goose is incredibly protective over the female and their nest. He talked to us the whole time we were out and kept a close eye on us as we moved around the ponds. He is huge and absolutely…

My April And “Pray Without Ceasing” Planner Layouts

Spring has sprung, and it’s written all over my planner! I’ve been hoarding these stickers for ages and for just such an occasion. This April I’ll get to look at these darling bunnies every day on the spread I use to plan my blog content. Plus ... they’re metallic and shiny! Bonus!

As we start the first week of April and spend another week at home, I’m understanding more and more that this needs to be a time of intense prayer. All of the crisis in the world can either push us into fear and panic, or it can urge us into our prayer closets for time with our Lord.

As for me and my house, we will pray and serve the Lord. The entire left page of my planner for this week is dedicated to prayer lists. I’m looking forward to filling it with needs, requests and - eventually - answered prayers! And I’ll be able to fill in the food lists with lots of great dinner menus because our Butcher Box came this weekend!

There is much to do this week, both doing CVB work from home and around the house. S…

Here Comes The Rain Again

The rain came softly, and it made the geese laugh.
You didn’t know a goose could laugh? Well, that’s sure what it sounded like. The rain was coming down harder, and the two geese who live on our big pond were splashing around in it. Their cackles made it seem like this was the most fun they’d had all week, and I’d have to agree that it was a pretty wonderful thing.
After a long month of concern and quarantine, it was nice to watch the gentle, cleansing rain pour down. It was good to hear a goose laugh with delight. It was a blessing to know that God has created a spot where there is no fear, only joy and rest.
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. Zechariah 10:1
While Zechariah spoke to the people about restoration for Judah and Israel, we cling to these words about answered prayer and God’s blessing of rain in due season. God alone can bring the cleansing and refreshmen…

The Story Of David And Goliath Through The Eyes Of A Child

At this time I would like to thank the dollar store for stocking up on these adorable sticker books based on heroes of the Bible. Yes, I am 42 years old, but I have the best time using them in my Bible study. Sometimes you need something fun and silly to actually learn more about Scripture than just another adult workbook.

David’s story is the fourth activity book like this I’ve worked through, having already studied Noah, Joseph and Moses. What I love about studying this way, besides that I LOVE stickers, is that I begin to question what we’ve always been told are the facts of the story. What I’m learning is that we may have been taught a simplistic version of the Bible as a child, and then we never dig into Scripture and see if those details are true.

So when I work through the children’s book, I have my Bible and commentaries right there, too. Then I make notes in the margins and write out full verses of Scripture so I have the words straight from the Bible alongside the children’…

Brighten Your World With A Spring Centerpiece

Nothing brightens your room and lifts your spirits like spring decor! With some free time this week to work around the house, I decided it was time for some beautiful pastels and truth from God’s word to cheer things up a bit.

Look at those beautiful pastels! How can you resist flowers and eggs and tiny sheep that you wish you could cuddle? And when I found the tiny bird nest, I knew it would go perfectly in my tiered trays.

After winding and intertwining the two garlands together and around the trays, I tucked a piece of floral foam under the branches. This makes acute, hidden stand for the Easter Bible verse to stand on. It’s super easy to rearrange the branches a little and cover it right up.

With the verse on the bottom tray, I used the nest on the top one. Then I felt like a mama bird as I carefully placed all those speckled eggs among the garlands. The finished centerpiece is absolutely adorable, and I can keep it out all spring long. What fun pieces would you add to a spring o…

Words For Wednesday


The Lord God Is A Sun And A Shield

The morning was a little darker than normal. Clouds filled the sky and the colors seemed dull and dreary. There was no storm or impending doom on the horizon, but the air seemed heavy in the overcast world.
Does your heart ever feel like that? You can see what’s going on around you, but everything has taken on a gray hue? There is light in the sky, just not the brightness you’ve come to expect in the merry months of spring.
The phrase “uncertain times” is being thrown about constantly now. No one knows where the economy, the country and the world are headed. News reporters share numbers and information in the moment, but they’re not able to tell us what tomorrow or next week or next year will look like. Businesses budget, promote and hope for the best even though they don’t know how long their doors will stay open. We think about (and sometimes worry about) our health, our families and our communities. Uncertain times, indeed.
But the truth of the matter can be found in today’s psalm, Ps…

Chocolate Covered Cherry Tarts

If you’re looking for an extra-yummy treat in a pint-sized package, you’ll want to try these tiny tarts. Created with a chocolate covered cherry theme, they combine some of your favorite flavors in one dessert - and what's better than that?

This tart can be made in a regular-sized graham cracker crust or in mini crusts like the ones pictured here. They are pre-made crusts in little pie tins, perfect for individual desserts.

On the bottom of the tart, I spread a heaping tablespoon of marshmallow fluff and sprinkled it with chocolate chips. Then I spooned in cherry pie filling up to the edge. Ok, it’s a little over the edge, but it’s totally worth it, right?

Then I topped it with more fluff and another sprinkling of chocolate chips. Just a note - marshmallow fluff does NOT hold its shape, so wait until the last minute before serving to add the toppings. In all, it only takes about five minutes to make all six tarts. Then you’re ready for eating and enjoying!

How much fun would it b…

My “Be An Encourager Today” Planner Layout

Even though I’ll be working from home this week, I still need a planner layout to help me stay organized and focused. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re out of your normal routine, so having a familiar place to get my thoughts together will be a comfort.

The theme for the week is also going to be a gentle challenge - encouragement. While I’m going through a couple of tough situations right now, there are always people who are suffering above and beyond my own problems. I want to lift others up and make that my priority, more so than what I’m working on, cleaning or organizing at any given moment.

I’m super bummed that we haven’t been able to have Sunday School or youth group recently, but I’ve been planning and writing lessons in my copious amount of spare time. I added the Bible study block to Wednesday because I want to remind myself that there are some teenagers out there chomping at the bit to get together and study God’s word. That’s some great encouragement for the week, …

Our Callie Dog Is Such A Talker!

The one thing you need to know about our Callie Dog is that she is probably the most vocal dog I’ve ever known. She talks to us about absolutely everything - from what her brothers just did to her to complaints about being ignored to letting us know that leaf blowing in the wind looks pretty suspicious.

While taking part in one of her favorite pastimes, burrowing under the covers, she always talks about something. I’m never sure if she’s telling me that she’s happy or that she wishes there were a few more layers of blankets to dig through. Sometimes she’s just a lump, hidden away, and sometimes she lets a leg or her nose stick out while remaining very vocal about the current situation.

Here is just a short clip of what her grumblings sound like.

And while she looks like the Emperor from Star Wars, she’s not hatching an evil plans under those blankets. She’s just letting us know how she feels about the current situation. Loudly. Incessantly. In high decibels. Frequently. And that’s wh…

How Many Books Do YOU Read At Once?

For some reason, over the years I’ve convinced myself that I can only read one book at a time. It sounds so silly, I know, but sometimes my mind convinces me that it can’t comprehend well if I throw too much at it.

Yes, I have personified my own brain.

But what I’ve discovered recently is that my brain retains much more than it thinks it can. Maybe it’s because it’s older and more mature. Maybe middle-aged brains have more experience picking out what’s important and storing it away for later.

Yes, brain personification. It’s a thing.

Right now there are eight books on my study table, and I’m reading from each one of them every day. I never would have guessed I could do this, but it’s stretching and growing my Bible study chops. Each one has something different to say, and it’s so interesting to read multiple books on the same subject.

For my year-long study of the Psalms, I’ve been reading several commentaries and devotionals. Many years ago I would never written in a book let alone …

The Thrift Store Outfit Challenge

There are very few people in my life who I love more than our youth group girls. Time with them on Sundays and Wednesdays are some of the highlights of my week, as we get to worship God together and learn more about His word. It’s such a joy to watch them grow as teens and as Christians.

But with the start of the new year, we decided that we needed more time together, one-on-one, outside the church setting. And so began our Ooo Time. (Ooo, One-On-One. Get it?) Each girl gets an afternoon with me to do whatever they want - crafts, shopping, sweet treats - and then we end our time at a local coffee shop for Bible study.

When Cailyn and I had our Ooo time last weekend, I offered her a challenge and she totally stepped up to the plate. We went to the local thrift store and I told her my sizes and one thing I didn’t want to wear. Beyond that, the racks were hers to explore and find something I could wear to church the next day. I did the same for her.

To say she knocked it out of the park…

Words For Wednesday


Broccoli And Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

One of the cool things about being an adult is that we get to play with our food! If you want broccoli as a side dish, eat the broccoli. If you want a little cheese with your meal, have some cheese. If you want both, but you don’t want them as side dishes, just stuff them inside your chicken and let them mingle together!

The recipe below is for making two stuffed chicken breasts, so multiply as necessary. You may also want to experiment with the type of cheese you use, as different cheeses will change the flavor of the chicken and the broccoli.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut the chicken through the middle on the long edge to butterfly thee breast but not cut al the way through.

3. Combine all spices in a small bowl. Completely coat the chicken with the spice mix.

Teaching Kids About The Power Of Their Words

If you’ve ever listened to a group of children speak to each other, you probably heard a variety of words. Loud words, soft words, happy words, angry words, words in song and words they weren’t even sure the definition of.

Our Sunday School lesson this week focused on the words we speak and the power they hold. The words we use as adults had to come from somewhere as children, and we wanted them to know exactly what the Bible says about how we are to speak to each other.

We started with five “good” words and five “bad” words. I wrote them on small pieces of paper and included one of the verses that contain that word. On ten pieces of paper, I wrote out the verses on the word cards so they could read them aloud.

Then their mission, and they chose to accept it, was to work as a group and match the good word with its opposite bad word. They each chose one of those words and matched it with its Scripture. When they found the student with their opposite word, they read the words and the S…

My “Little Bit Of Coffee, Whole Lot Of Jesus” Planner Layout

I’m sure I’ve said it about other planner layouts, but I’m pretty sure this is my favorite planner spread ever. Between the puffy coffee cup stickers and the coffee ring stains I stamped, I can’t help but smile. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I never use the journaling blocks on the left hand page of my planner the way they were designed. I always cover them up and decorate over the words so I can use them however I see fit for that week. This gives me a lot of creative license for that page. The arrows from my Pen+Gear sticker book make the perfect section headers.

The right hand pages uses several styles and types of coffee images, including Me & My Big Ideas, Paper Studio and several that I’ve had forever and definitely don’t remember where they came from. All those different collections come together for a spread I can’t wait to fill up with this week’s activities!

Sort-Of Spring On The Property

With all the warm, sunny days we’ve had lately, you’d think spring was here! There’s nothing prettier than the sunshine on the pond, and the puppies and I have actually been able to enjoy it out on the deck. In Iowa, in March. Craziness!

There is so much wildlife on the Carrell Wildlife Preserve these days. We have many, many does who travel around together. We’ve also seen raccoons, possums, rabbits, turkeys, the mounds of dirt kicked up by moles and a multitude of birds. Both ponds are thawed out now, and we know there are boatloads of fish in there.

In years past we’ve had a doe with a broken leg, but she didn’t let that stop here. She even raised three fawns one year, getting around on three legs with no problem. This year we have a member of our coyote pack with a broken leg. He moves so fast that I’ve not been able to get a good, clear picture of him, which tells us a lot about his strength and stability. As we get closer to the actual first day of spring, we’re looking forward…