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Party Mix

IMG_2506My Aunt Nancy used to bring “Nuts & Bolts” to our holiday parties.  As a kid, I loved picking through the mix and choosing the cereals that were my favorite in order.  I still ate all that was in the mix, but I prioritized them and ate them in a specific order.  There is a slight chance that by the time I got to the mixed nuts and pretzels, I just pitched what was left on my napkin into the garbage, but who knows?

There are many recipes for the delightful tradition, but instead of using garlic cloves, paprika, cayenne pepper and even fresh rosemary as some of these recipes recommend, I have simplified and made the following my own.

Party Mix

1 Stick of margaine

1 1/4 tsp  Seasoned Salt

4 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

6 C Crispix Cereal

1 C Pretzel sticks broken in pieces

1 C Cheerios

1 C Salted Peanuts

Melt butter in microwave, add season salt and Worcestershire and mix well.  Pour over dry cereal, nuts and pretzels in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on High for 2 minutes, stir, microwave on high another 2 minutes, stir, Microwave on High for 1 minute more and pour onto paper towels. Enjoy.

May use different cereals or different amounts of different ingredients to equal 9 Cups of dry mix.  (It’s a great way to use up leftover plain cereals!)

 

 

 

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A Simple “Good Morning”

bell_ringerWe woke and headed out to the frigid temperatures to man the kettle and ring the bells for the Salvation Army.  An annual event for our family continues to bless us with good cheer.  We intentionally greet each person entering the store and we smile and say “Good Morning” and “Merry Christmas.”  Everyone returns a cordial nod and most put donations in our kettle.

Today I “trained” some 11-year-old girls on the importance of greeting each individual and offering them a Hershey’s kiss whether they donated or not.  I explained to them that our purpose for being there was two-fold.  One, to collect donations for our community and two, to share the joy and spread the love by simply speaking, greeting and smiling.  We definitely accomplished both.

How we treat people in our lives is very important.  God loves us and he wants us to love each other.  This morning our group of bell-ringers served God by loving his children. It is my hope that people felt a little better after sharing a smile. I encourage you all to make eye contact and greet those people outside of stores whether you choose to donate or not, just as I encouraged the girls today to greet each person respectfully whether they gave or not.  The gift may not be monetary, it may be the gift of a smile or just a few moments of kindness.  Today individuals shared smiles, jokes, and cash and all were much appreciated.

Then, when you enter the store, share the smile with the clerks and fellow customers, go home and share the kindness with your family and continue to do so with everyone you meet.

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If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

— 1 Corinthians 13:2New International Version (NIV)

 

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Notes on A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

23ba83cec5ba8af3a75ea77ea1e4a4c2If you are like me, you have stacks and stacks of books in your house.  I have books in every room and many I haven’t read and those that I have, I probably will not read again.  However, there are pencil underlines, notes in the margins, lessons attempted to be learned in their pages.  I’ve decided in an attempt to get the books off my shelves and into the hands of others who may benefit from them that I will make notes in my blog and maybe some of them will touch you….then, the book moves on!

Notes on A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

  • Prayer is meant to be the conversation where your life and your God meet.
  • When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God. We don’t know how bad we are until we try to be good. Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer.
  • Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.
  • Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God.
  • At some point, each of us comes face to face with the valley of the shadow of death. We can’t ignore it. We can’t remain neutral with evil. We either give up and distance ourselves, or we learn to walk with the Shepherd. There is no middle ground.
  • Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life.
  • If you are going to enter this divine dance we call prayer, you have to surrender your desire to be in control, to figure out how prayer works.
  • Don’t just ask for spiritual things or “good” things. Tell God what you want. Before you can abide, the real you has to meet the real God. Ask anything.
  • Why do we have to spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our time doing things which…are just the opposite of what we were made for?” — Thomas Merton
  • Guidance means I’m driving the car and asking God which way to go. Wisdom is richer, more personal. I don’t just need help with my plans; I need help with my questions and even my own heart.
  • Until you are convinced that you can’t change your child’s heart, you will not take prayer seriously.
  • I prayed because I was weak. I wasn’t trying to control God. I certainly wasn’t in control of (my child). I was simply praying God’s own heart back to him. I couldn’t imagine him not answering such a prayer.
  • If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for a relationship.
  • When we suffer, we long for God to speak clearly, to tell us the end of the story and, most of all, to show himself. But if he showed himself fully and immediately if he answered all the questions, we’d never grow; we’d never emerge from our chrysalis because we’d be forever dependent.
  • Living in our Father’s Story: To live in our Father’s story, remember these three things;
  1. Don’t demand that the story go your way. (In other words, surrender completely.)
  2. Look for the Storyteller. Look for his hand, and then pray in light of what you are seeing. (In other words, develop an eye for Jesus.)
  3. Stay in the story. Don’t shut down when it goes the wrong way.
  • I want success, he wants authenticity.
  • If we pursue joy directly, it slips from our grasp. But if we begin with Jesus and learn to love, we end up with joy.
  • When we understand the story, it quiets our souls. It’s okay to have a busy life. It’s crazy to have a busy soul.
  • Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

May God bless the author and the reader of this book and may God bless you, the reader of this blog!

 

 

 

 

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Gorgeous Christmas Card Photos

IMG_2442They arrived yesterday.  The Christmas card photos.  Gorgeous families that I am blessed to call friends.  There were no notes, just photos of smiles and Christmas scenery emitting feelings of joy and peace. I know these families.  Some of these families are indeed celebrating the season with joy and peace.  Their children are young and would make every day special.  The twinkle in their eyes is sincere and they will indeed be awestruck come Christmas morning.  The others, though, are not quite as fortunate.  Some of them have been transparent with me this year and have allowed me to know that behind the superficial smile on their child’s face is a deeply troubled soul who causes havoc in the family. These kids have troubles.  These parents have troubles.  But, for an afternoon, they tried to get all the personalities represented in the photo to cooperate and to smile.  I don’t know how much blood, sweat, and tears went into this photo shoot, but I do know that in the end, it was worth it.

The ones who are not dealing with mental illness will laugh at the antics their kids did while trying to get the perfect picture and the ones who are dealing with mental illness will cling to the photo that represents a tiny bit of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic home. I hope that the struggling parents will feel a sense of accomplishment in actually getting a photo that can be sent out to others and I hope the “typical” parents can treasure and appreciate the gift of happy children.

I thank them all for sending the cards to me.  I will display them all season and I will pray for them.  I will pray that the holidays do bring them joy and peace. I will pray the same for my family….with or without a gorgeous Christmas Card photo shoot.

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Oh What a Beautiful Morning!

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9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.    —2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NIV)

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Man, was I anxious this morning!  I had what felt like a million things on my plate and I had no idea how I was going to accomplish them.  I prepared in advance as much as I could, I prayed earlier in the week for the strength and organization to get through this busy weekend, but this morning panic set in.  There was NO way I was going to be able to do everything I needed to do in the manner in which I wanted to do them.

This morning I had to do a Sunday School opening, assist the kids in singing a song during worship, sing a duet during collection, prepare lunch for 10-15 kids, and manage pageant rehearsal. I needed to take candy canes to church, plug in the crockpot to make sure the sandwiches would be warm, grab a couple of spare cans of cat food for a friend, gather and deliver invitations for a small group, and see that the balloons for Jesus’s birthday party got into the right hands.  TOO MUCH!  There was NO way.

I woke this morning very aware of my limitations.  I just couldn’t get it done and certainly not without mistakes.  But, since I was aware, I started my day with prayer.  I tried to talk to God, but quite honestly, I thought maybe I should just double check the pile of stuff that had to go to church. Maybe I should do more and pray less. I was distracted.  But I knew that I needed His help.  I asked my husband to pray with me or for me and then I scattered to do another task.  Finally, as he passed through the room, I said, “Sit. Pray for me.”  After he smiled and commented on my forcefulness, he prayed for me.  His confidence in my ability with God’s help gave me some comfort, but I still had my doubts.

Fast forward to right now….when the day is in my past.  Unbelievable.  The day was so successful.  It truly happened.  All the things that caused me stress and anxiety went fine.  In spite of me, not because of me, I was able to do what I needed to do.  And, I did it through His strength, not my own.  As the scripture says. “when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Today I thank God for my weakness that allowed Him to show His strength.  And, I thank my husband for all that he did to help! Oh, What a beautiful morning it was!

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Daily Bears Our Burdens

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Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,

who daily bears our burdens.

— Psalm 68:19

I know that praise means to express warm approval or admiration of, I know bears means to carry or support and we all know what burdens are and indeed we have them daily so it’s good news to hear that the Lord is daily bearing them. But, what does it look like for Him when He hangs out with me?

In this week alone, my burdens have looked like a washer full of bubble gum, a trip to the ER, making dinner, preparing notes for a meeting, disciplining children, laundry, a sick cat, sixth-grade homework, chauffeuring to scouts, administrative paperwork, and making plans for a bathroom remodel. The Lord bore all of that!

When I wanted to take a look at my daily burdens, I consulted my to-do list.  As I looked at the items I crossed off, I immediately felt blessed that with the Lord’s help, I accomplished many of them. I also felt blessed when I looked at each item and tried to determine if it truly was a “burden” and realized that most of them weren’t. My list included:

  • Prepare Sunday School Opening Lesson
  • Email Pastor Joe
  • Write Katelyn
  • Write Martha
  • Send books to Diane
  • Make Ice Cream cake
  • Virginia Christmas plans

It also included some pesky paperwork items, but when I looked at the items individually and tried to decide if, in fact, my to-do list represented my daily burdens, I realized that wasn’t the case. Most of what I do each day isn’t a burden, it’s an honor, it’s an opportunity, it’s a blessing. I recognize that I unintentionally turn some of my blessings into burdens by listing them as “tasks” to do when in reality they are incredible gifts and opportunities.  Writing to a friend in the service, sharing an enjoyed book, making a cake for a celebration and studying God’s word for a lesson are all incredible opportunities for me! The burden is not the task, it’s in the heart of the one who does it, my perspective of it. Is it a chore or a gift?

I think I need to be more aware of this new insight and celebrate those blessings and cling to the truth that God is available to help me daily bear my burdens. Thank God, HE is here to help me clean the kitchen

 

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Life in the Desert

desert_2I hope that the following may speak to someone as it spoke to me when I read it in July of 2016.

Excerpts from A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller:

Life in the desert: The hardest part of being in the desert is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.

Thriving in the desert: God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden.

The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face to face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.

You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self.

You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert a while that you are different. Things that used to be important no longer matter.

Oh God, you are my God earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1) — He finally gets your attention because he’s the only game in town.

The best gift of the desert is God’s presence.

You cry out to God for so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God.

Watch for the story God is weaving in your life. Don’t leave the desert. Corrie ten Boom’s father often reminded her, “The best is yet to come.”

If you dear friend, find yourself currently in a desert, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone there and you have the best companion anyone could ask for….God. May you feel his presence!

 

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