How to Go From Pleasant to Bitter In A Decade

We all want to age gracefully, but that doesn’t just happen. In fact, in a decades time, we can go from sweet to bitter or vice versa. And although beauty is only skin deep, bitterness of soul goes straight to the bone and can poison you and everyone around you. Let me explain.

In times of trial, it’s easy to want to escape and get away from our problem. We want to make the emotional or physical pain stop. We can have many different reactions to trials:

  • We can play the Spartan and simply endure the trial–teeth gritted, keep a stiff upper lip– we grow bitter from focusing on the hardship. We end up being self-driven instead of Spirit-led.
  • We can try to escape the trial running for relief to friends, emotional outbursts, finding comforters in sleep, food, drink, spending, overindulgence or other “saviors.”
  • When we embrace the trial, we grow in grace because we know the Sender of the trial and His good intentions for us. We humbly accept good and bad from the hand of God. We know God is leading us THROUGH a trial and He’s promised to be with us.

Trials are always a wake up call and they are a good thing. It’s a mercy when we realize how much we crave self-rule in our own lives and how much we resist God’s rule when we are in the midst of something unthinkable, unplanned and unwanted. ruth I’m studying Ruth right now and it has been eye opening and refreshing. I was struck by this quote from Warren Wiersbe and have been mulling it over for days: “They exchanged famine in the land for three funerals.”

Famine is a pretty desperate situation, yet, God sent the famine as judgement for the sin of the people of Israel. (Lev. 26:14-20) He had a good purpose for the famine. However, Elimaleck, Naomi’s husband, decided that the best course of action was to leave the covenant community and go for help in the land of their enemies, the Moabites.

Matthew Henry: “It is an evidence of a discontented, distrustful, unstable spirit, to be weary of the place in which God hath set us, and to be for leaving it immediately whenever we meet with any uneasiness or inconvenience in it. It is folly to think of escaping that cross which, being laid in our way, we ought to take up. It is our wisdom to make the best of that which is, for it is seldom that changing our place is mending it.”

In a sense, they left their covenant God because they believed they needed bread and had to find it for themselves when in fact In God we live and move and have our being. (Acts. 17:28) This life–bread, food, water–the physical life– seemed so big when what they were used to was lacking.

Once in Moab, they assimilated. So much so that they let their sons marry two women of the Moabites, a practice forbidden by God. (Deut. 7:3, 23:3, 4)

Then all three men in the family died. Naomi found herself husbandless, sonless, and stuck with two Moabite women and no resources. She hears that there’s bread in Israel and decides to go back. “She was still primarily interested in food, not in fellowship with God.” says Wiersbe.

What she does next is strange and shows how far out of bounds her thinking was: She encourages her daughters-in-law to go back to their old gods and people. Oh, she prays for them and wishes them many children, but she cared so little about their souls that she encouraged them to return to false, forbidden gods. Instead of taking comfort in the God of all comfort, she’s so consumed by her own grief that her thinking is seriously off. “God has dealt bitterly with me!” was her testimony, when really God was doing something amazing and redemptive by putting her family in the lineage of Christ.

And we do that as well, when we’re not thinking right thoughts about our God or when we experience a “famine” or sorts in our own lives. When friends are sparse, money’s gone, health fades, children rebel, husband’s leave, we “charge God foolishly,” and accusations fly.

We complain that life hasn’t been fair, that God’s shortchanged us somehow. We emote that we deserved better, that people should recognize and appreciate us, that life should have worked this way instead of that way. We demote God from His place of prominence and praise on the throne of our heart. Our words condemn a perfect God, and malign His intents. Our sin proclaims that He’s not worth following. Hey, if it makes you happy, go back to your old gods as well, Ruth and  Orpah. You’ll be better off than where you are now. Really. God’s dealt so bitterly with me, you should try your luck with another god. 

Not the behavior of a woman who is fully in love with her own God.

How did Naomi, {whose name meant pleasant and sweetness} go from a sweet spirit to a sour spirit in less than a decade? What would make her announce “Just call me Mara! (bitter)” I jotted down a few ideas:

  • She focused on her trials.
  • She let her feelings rule.
  • She looked for help in places God forbid.
  • She ignored God’s clear commands.
  • She valued physical gain over spiritual gain.
  • She failed to go to God for comfort.
  • She blamed God instead of confessing their sin.

I’m wondering if she also tried to send Ruth and Orpah packing because she didn’t want the “evidence” of their sinful life back in Moab to be seen when she returned to Israel. Sometimes hiding sin is easier than confessing it and finding grace. Yet the Lord encourages us to “return to the Lord” and find mercy. It’s helpful when we are in times of trouble, to soul-search.

  • Am I wiling to trust God in my famine?
  • Am I content and thankful right now?
  • Do I believe God’s in control?
  • Where am I seeking comfort?
  • Am I doing what God has forbidden?
  • What do I love more than obedience to the word?
  • Is my life showing the fruit of the Spirit in this moment? If not, why?
  • Have I confessed my sin? Am I right with God and others? If not, why haven’t I?

Ruth is a redemptive book. It’s such a wonderful story of a loving daughter-in-law who chose to saddle herself to a bitter woman because she loved that woman and her God. And God honored Ruth, allowing her to be in the Messianic line. God was not dealing bitterly. He meant it all for good. And I’m trying to remember that today. My choices have consequences. My attitudes affect and teach others. My thoughts about God can center me or send me into despair. And whatever my thought life tells me, God’s Word is always accurate and His promises are true, whether I believe them or not.

You Have A Job To Do Today For Eternity

Do you have a lazy side? I do.

The lazy side of me says, “I’ll do that tomorrow. I’ll clean it, call her, get to it, work on it, figure it out, deal with it tomorrow. Today, I’ll take it easy, zone out, relax. And maybe tomorrow…”

You know what I mean, don’t you? Lots of plans, but little implementation, then we get distracted…..OH MY WORD, isn’t that a gorgeous outfit on Pinterest! And I must look into that book and try that recipe. Someday.

As women who make God our #1 priority, we can’t afford an “I’ll get to it later” mindset. We have a job to do today that impacts someone for eternity.

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Your big opportunities for faithfully serving the Lord come in the tiny tasks:

  • It might be serving a bowl of cereal to your child with a smile rather barking orders for him/her to get it themselves.
  • It might be picking up the phone to honor your mother with a phone call just to see how she is doing.
  • It might be making your husband’s favorite meal just because he loves it and you love him.
  • It might be giving of your talent to help a friend be successful in her pursuits.
  • It might be using your time to sit with a hurting friend, or listening to a lonely shut-in or neighbor.
  • It might be bringing food and comfort to a grieving family.

We have a long legacy of women before us who got the job done, went the extra mile, were faithful and dependable.

  • Jocabed and her early training of Moses, not to mention her amazing basket weaving skills,
  • Rebekah and her water pitcher, providing comfort for family and strangers
  • Israelite women who “had a willing heart” and “brought an offering to the Lord.”  (Ex. 35:5) These women used their time, talents and treasure to benefit the building of the tabernacle.
  • Ruth who worked hard to support her mother-in-law Naomi.
  • Dorcas who was full of “good works and charitable deeds.” (Acts. 9:36)

The list is long, but the message is clear: They went about doing good because they loved the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength.

Although they were human, and selfishness must have been a struggle for them as well, I’m thankful for these examples in scripture where they did the right thing.

Edith Schaeffer made this observation and offers encouragement for creating a caring family environment:

This is what is being said today to most children, as well as to most husbands or wives: “Just get it yourself” or “Do it yourself…” it becomes a refrain without a very pretty tune: “I have my rights.” “I’m tired.” “I’m reading a book, I don’t want to be disturbed.”….
How do I regard my having run upstairs with tea, or having served breakfast in bed, or having continued for years to do this kind of thing for a diversity of people as well as for husband and children? How do I look at it? Do I feel like a martyr?

Let me tell you exactly how I see it…”Thank You that there is a practical way to serve YOU tea [or breakfast in bed, or whatever it is I am doing for someone]. There would be no other way of bringing You [God] food, or doing some special thing for You. Thank You for making it so clear that as we do things that are truly in the realm of giving of ourselves in service to others, we are really doing it for You. These things can be done so often!”

Laziness is not your friend. It robs you of your ideals and goals. It steals the joys you’d planned for others. It silences the love and encouragement that another person was meant to hear. It leaves you empty because self-focus always leaves guilt and regrets.

Who can you serve today? Time is a gift, that must be used wisely. All we may have it today to do good! Today, make it a point to love those around you well.

 

Something Every Parent Needs to Know Before You Seek Medical Care

This is like a nightmare from a science fiction novel. You bring your child to the top Children’s Hospital in your area,

a child that already has problems but right now needs treatment for a cold, only to find our that they will not treat your child’s cold because they have “terminal” issues.

As parents, we assume that when we take our kids to the hospital, they’ll treat the child to cure them or give them the best possible quality of life they can. But this is not always the case for kids with special needs.

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My niece, Addy. She’s a hot ticket.

In fact, efforts are being made that would force hospitals to disclose to the parents UPFRONT when life giving care will be withheld.

Little Faith was born with Trisomy 18 and doctors assumed that she wouldn’t live. They “pursued” a treatment of nothing, which would have led to her death if her mom had not fought for her life. Today, Faith is FIVE.  Doctors were wrong, I’d say.

Faith’s mom fought for her life. And she also fought to change the law.

From Jesi’s blog:

“5 years ago Faith was born on December 23, 2008… We spent that Christmas in the hospital with specialists coming to see her.  The original cardiologist came in on Christmas Day to examine her.  He discovered several holes in her heart including one so large that the blood flowed through it without causing a murmur.  Well, they didn’t know at the moment that Faith had Trisomy 18 so they took care of her like a little girl.  It wasn’t long after this that we got her T18 diagnosis and quickly found out how the medical industry would not help her. ” story here

The Medical Good Faith Act is named after Jesi’s daughter, Faith, and is law in Michigan already. Thanks to Jesi, Michigan residents

“can now go to hospitals and request their policies on providing life saving treatments before they check into a hospital and find out later that the hospital won’t help them, or worse and have a loved one die and never find out the hospital deceived them. “

It forces hospitals to be upfront about their policies so parents can choose to use that hospital or not. Choice is always a good thing. Especially when it comes to life or death.

Jessi, found this out the hard way, when time was of the essence, that the doctors at her local hospital were not being transparent about whether they would “treat a child they believed would die anyway.”

So, instead of being transparent with the family, hospitals already have policies in place that determine what they’ll do in terminal cases. And moms do not know. They bring their kids in for help and there is no intention of helping them, except for pain management in preparation for death. Even a common cold or pneumonia that could be easily treated with antibiotics may be withheld from a child that is considered “terminal.”

“That confusion delayed the family’s decision to seek care elsewhere — a delay that nearly cost Faith her life, they said. The family looked elsewhere only after a doctor told them privately that they would be better off seeking care at another hospital, they said.”

If you have a child with special needs or any kind of long term illness, you need to know this.

Of course, this issue is infuriating and distressing to our family because of our sweet Addy. Hannah and Jonathan have been tenacious about pursuing a course of LIFE for her. The last thing a family with a special needs child needs is a labyrinth of legal wrangling and/or misinformation with their hospital to figure out what kind of care they’ll be given.

These things are good to know and to inform your friends about.

This information might save a family from heartache after the fact by allowing them to make INFORMED DECISIONS about their child’s treatment.

***You can listen to Jesi’s radio interview with Janet Mefferd here. She tells how Senator Rick Santorum’s experience with his own daughter, Bella, who has Trisomy 18 child prompted him to help, giving them life saving advice. “For those who say there are no death panels anymore, let me assure you, people are very subjectively saying who lives and dies with treatment.” ~Jesi on Janet Mefferd.

Facebook’s Quiet Change: Your Restricted List Is Gone. {Yes, They Can See It All.}

Anyone else notice that Facebook has removed your restricted list? Yes, overnight, it seems to be gone. So anyone you had “restricted” from seeing your posts can now see them.

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Facebook Restricted list has vanished.

Why do people restrict what other people can see? 

For many reasons. Maybe a teacher doesn’t think it’s appropriate to post everything about her life to her students, maybe an employer doesn’t want employees to know all her personal business, or vice versa, you’ve got people in your past you’d rather not be close to, and the list goes on and on.

I use “Restricted” for several reasons:

  • I don’t feel it’s wise or necessary to share your life equally with people you hardly know. Acquaintances don’t need (or want!) to know the stuff you’d share with your sisters or closest friends. My sisters might like to know what I’m up to today but my high school teacher doesn’t need to know that.
  • Sometimes Peter’s guy friends “friend” me, and I don’t feel comfortable sharing daily posts with them (nor do they care to see my daily posts!)
  • I restrict women who are “frenemies.” Aristotle wrote that friendship involves a degree of love, and there are women who don’t love you for whatever reason, who’ll try to be “all up in your grill” as my sister Hannah puts it. You know the woman: she asks to be your friend, but she’s moody to you, and you’re always hearing through the grapevine that she’s constantly criticizing everything you do. Um, no.  In these cases, knowledge about you become ammunition against you.
  • I restrict “live wires.” People who are always on the verge of snapping or just plain angry. People who are callous in their speech and don’t seem to know it. They’re constantly in some bees nest because of their speech. (Words. Facebook is an extension of your words. If you have real life struggles due to words, you’ll have drama on FB, too.) I just don’t have time, energy or interest in a close friendship with that kind of person. I could just unfriend them, but I tend to be a people pleaser and a peace maker. This way, we’re “friends”, they don’t see my stuff unless I post it as “Public” and I don’t have to see their stuff.

I don’t know if this is just a temporary glitch or if I’ve missed something. Here’s what I did. I went through my friends list and moved anyone who was formerly restricted to my acquaintance list. When I post to “friends” it will be using the feature post to “friends except acquaintances” for now.

Does FB’s constant changes freak you out? Have you considered closing your account? Did you know about this glitch? Do you have a better way of handling this? Did you use the restricted feature as well? What were your reasons? Share in comments.

Believing God In the Middle of the Night

It’s amazing how fragile our faith can be, especially during times of waiting or trials.

We teach our children that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and always present, but then we function throughout the day as though He’s dead. We’re Confessional Christians, yet practicing atheists for all intents and purposes.

At least I was last night.

Last night I woke with night terrors and couldn’t go back to sleep. My mind swirled, scenarios played out, and thoughts raged. I tossed and turned. Flesh-woman was alive and well at 2 a.m.

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My thoughts weren’t the thoughts of a Biblically sound woman. They were thoughts controlled by fear and doubt. Thoughts I had entertained during the day forgetting that sinful thoughts are sowing a harvest that I would surely reap.

Fear of the economy, money troubles, fears that my homeschooling attempts might short change my kids, and that I’m failing them. Failing. Because I had never heard of Manifest Destiny in History on one hand, and had missed a dentists appointment on the other. And let’s not forget Obamacare, and the economy. Yes, that’s important to remember at 2 a.m.

I finally got up to get a grip. I paced like a crazy woman. I had weeds to pull. I had to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself.

So, I began talking to myself, in my dark kitchen at 2:30 this morning, because I had to. I had soul clutter. It had to go. I recalled verses I had memorized:

“Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

“Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He will act.”

“But I trust in You, O Lord, I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands…”

My security does not rise and fall on the state of the United States of America. My security and safety is in God’s hands. 

“And God is able to make all grace about to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

“The Lord is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing will He uphold from them who walk uprightly.”

My kids will not be ruined by my deficiencies. If anything, my shortcomings are a chance for God’s glory and grace to be seen in our family. My job is to trust and obey His Word. He’ll give me what I need to do this job.  

On and on, reminding myself of the promises that I’ve forgotten as evidenced by my fitful night of sleep.

Whenever I choose to think Biblically I’m embracing the fact that God is God, and I am a created being, dependent on such a great God. I submit myself to God again. I remember who I am and who He is.

When I choose to let my thoughts go out of “Biblical bounds,” I’m living as though God’s a liar and that I know better. I’m doubting His word and entertaining my fears. His Word is true, whether I feel like it is or not at the moment. I’m wise to sift my thoughts through the truth of scripture because as you think, you act and become.

I’m not alone. Scripture tells of another Sarah who struggled with doubt and thinking problems. She was the barren wife of Abraham who was promised a child. She struggled with doubt for so long that she took matters into her own hands and told Abraham to use her maid, Hagar, to be her surrogate mother.  Sarah had God’s promise. God’s promise. And she doubted it and manipulated life to work in the time frame she was comfortable with using methods that God forbade. She focused MORE on her circumstances than on GOD’S words to her. She got tunnel vision and we get it, too.

Doubt is the direct response to looking away from God. If your circumstances are what you focus on, they will dictate how you think…

Since discouragement comes when we allow doubt to dominate our thinking, it stands to reason that discouragement left to fester eventually leads to despair. Have you experience this downward spiritual spiral? Have you grown weary of waiting for one of God’s promises to come to pass in your life? If so, how are you handling your thoughts?

Have you tried to escape doubts or discouragements by racing ahead of God? Perhaps there has been something in your life for which you’ve waited for God’s provision for a very long time. While waiting, did you cling unswervingly to His Word, or did you become fixated on your problem, thus making room for doubt to creep in? Did you become desperate for a solution? Did you look around at what you could do to solve your problem yourself, to fulfill your dream…reasoning that a particular [sinful] course of action was within God’s will, even if that path contradicted Scripture?

 

Lydia Brownack, Legacy of Faith: From Women of the Bible to Women of Today

It always comes back to trusting God to be God. To wait for His timing. To rest under His watchcare and to know that He’s good.

Are you waiting today? In the middle of a trial? Are you discouraged in your own fight against sin? You’ve seen the enemy and it’s you! lol. Have you tried to manipulate life so many times that it’s hard to know what the next right thing to do is? I’d encourage you to read God’s Word for direction. We can’t do this alone. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth and to give you the wisdom you need to rely on Christ. We need God’s grace, and that’s a great place to be. Don’t give up. Trust and obey.

DIY Spring Tulips for the Front Door

picmonkey_imageNever mind the fact that it’s blizzardous outside, today. I’m sharing a spring décor idea.

Everywhere you look on Pinterest and Etsy, you’ll see tulip wreaths.

Etsy

Pinterest

I’ve eyed this one for some time and have seen variations galore on this same theme, so I  decided to try my hand at making something similar.

I tried analyzing the ratio of pink, fuchsia and white tulips in the pics so I could make mine similar. I’m so scientific like that, don’t you know.

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Anyway, when I got to Michael’s last night I learned two things:

  • You want to buy “mini” tulip bunches, not regular sized tulips. I used Ashland brand which were 50% off, making each stem $2.
  • THEY sell the very tri-color tulip bunches I wanted, so all my math was wasted. ;)

I quickly decided that the wreath was out of the question financially, because I’d need 20 bunches of tulips! I decided to move to plan B which was to fill a container with tulips.

 

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I used 10 bunches of tulips. They didn’t have enough of the tri-color tulip bunches, so I bought a bunch of white, pale pink and fuchsia. (I just matched the tri-color bunches.) I moved all the greenery up the stem before I clipped them apart with wire cutters. I grouped a fuschia, pale pink and white together so the color would be evenly distributed.

I used a piece of floral foam and shoved it into the container. (You can fill any flat backed container that you like.)

Then I started filling the tulips in making sure they were as tall and wide as I wanted the finished piece to be. I added a bow. Simple and Spring-y.

I used the rest of the tulips to fill a tea pot for my living room.

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Do you have a hard time thinking of front door decorations like I do? Someone should open a business selling just front door decor and table centerpieces! There’s a market for that. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Race is Customized

Life is like a race. I know it feels like an uphill battle sometimes with its busyness and pressures, but one truth that helps me to run patiently is the realization that I have a customized race, perfectly designed by my loving Heavenly Father for me. My life is not a jumble of random out of control events, and my race is different than your race.

I’m studying Hebrews 11 and 12 with my church, on my own, and for an upcoming study with my teen youth group girls. I’m looking for the mindset behind the faithful men and women of these chapters. Like, what exactly was their focus? What drove them? What did they hold on to and what did they drop? How did they view this life? I found this mindset to prevail: they kept in mind the invisible God’s plan, and they trusted Him, whether they benefitted in this life or not.

Heb. 12: 1,2

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I found this truth to be very comforting:

We are all ordained of God to run a very specific race. God has charted our course. He’s going to help you run it while you keep your eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith.”

I also have stuff to lay aside, specifically my “weight” and “sin”–the things that hinder me from running well. Your “weight and sin” might vary from mine, but it’s easy to identify: it’s that thing that trips us up. That obsession or preoccupation, any distraction or coddling of our flesh that “pulls the soul downward when it should ascend upwards,” as one commentator puts it.

For me, it might be electronics. For you it might be an obsession with food, drink, clothes, status or acceptance. Maybe it’s even a preoccupation with good things, like social justice, holiness or church purity that makes you act sinfully in order to get your desired end. Maybe it’s a destructive thought life that feeds on self-pity and spirals you downward, isolating you from others. Whatever our “darling” sin, it must go.

Running with patience is important because when we take our eyes off Jesus and allow ourselves to be weighted down again with our “junk”, we may miss the opportunities God had planned out for us.

And for those of you running an uphill battle right now–remember that God’s charted this course. He’s designed this race to be the perfect tool to make us more like Himself and to fulfill His purpose for our life.

Or, maybe you find yourself under His correction right now for disobedience or unbelief. Remember, God’s correction is always “restorative.” He’s restoring you, not trying to harm you. If you were never corrected by Him, you’d have to wonder if you were really His son or daughter. He corrects all of His children and alters our paths for our good. If we patiently endure it, it will lead to peace and holiness.

So as you’re running today, whether your race includes little sleep due to children, or tears due to a suddenly empty nest, a spinning head because of a crazy ministry schedule, or loneliness due to relocation, God has ordained this day-in-the-race with you in mind.

Don’t compare your situation with someone else’s. You’ll end up taking your eyes off of the Lord. Just embrace every moment as an ordained moment and an opportunity to do what God’s put in front of you.

“Looking unto Jesus,” today and every day,

Sarah

 

 

 

6 Money-Saving Tips for Throwing A Graduation Party

I love trying to save money, playing the CVS game, and have been inspired anew after reading Crystal Paine’s book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
(I loved Crystal’s story, by the way. Practical, inspiring and manageable.)

I had a thought. Not a deep one, mind you. But what if you needed an extra $100 dollars a month? There are 30 days in one month which means you’d need to make $3.30 per day of income. Then, I wondered, “How easy would it be to save that much money by clipping coupons?” I would need to find roughly 4 one dollar printable coupons per day on things I already buy. I think it’s doable! For any of you who are looking to pinch pennies, maybe this strategy would work for you as well?

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Which leads me to my post. I’ve thrown two graduation parties so far and I’m sharing what I did. Nothing novel or new, but it might just help someone! :)

Six Smart Money-Saving Steps for Throwing a Graduation Party.

Graduation season is just around the corner! If you have a teen who is graduating high school, you likely have two big ticket expenses in your very near future: a graduation party and college bills. And while can’t help on the college bill, I can give you some money-saving tips for throwing a great graduation party without blowing your budget.

The key to staying within your budget is to plan way ahead. Last minute shopping puts you at the mercy of store prices, while planning ahead puts you in control of your budget and make you “Most Likely To Succeed.”

Here are six simple strategies to help you save:

 

1. Plan your menu early. Decide how simple or elaborate your event will be. Make a detailed list of appetizers, drinks, desserts, utensils, chairs, tents, and anything else you’ll need. This helps you avoid costly last minute surprises.

2. Choose low cost main dishes. $2/per pound is a great price for main dish meats like chicken, beef and ham. Here are some of my favorite inexpensive party meals:

  • Finger sandwich platters. Buy boneless chicken breast on sale for making chicken salad.
  • Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Remember to use coupons for the hot dogs and buy ground beef when it hits its lowest price.
  • Pulled Pork BBQ. This easily feeds a crowd and whole pork loin is often on sale for $1.99/lb. The night before the event, grease a large crock pot, cut the pork loin in half, put it in the slow cooker and slather with bbq sauce. (I love Sweet Baby Rays. I use a whole bottle.) Cook all night on low. In the morning, shred it, discard any fat, add more sauce and put in tin serving trays. Cover until ready to serve. Warm in oven before serving.
  • Lasagna or Stuffed Shells. Assemble ahead and freeze.
  • Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti Bake.  Delicious served with grated Romano, Ceasar Salad and garlic bread. Yum!
  • Spiral Ham. Plan to buy around Easter when the prices drop.

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3. Shop for non-perishables now.  Decide what appetizers you’ll make and begin using coupons to stock pile things like crackers, juice for punch, soda, coffee, chips, pickles, condiments, paper goods, etc. Don’t forget to use coupons for any brownie mixes, cake mixes, or baking supplies you’ll need.

4.  Save money on printed invitations by watching coupon sites for photo deal alerts.  Many sites have great deals on photo printing around Easter. Use a photo of your child, insert text and party information— you’re good to go.

5. Beg, borrow or steal props. (Okay, don’t steal.) Ask family and friends to borrow folding chairs, shade tents, table clothes, crock pots, or even decor. Nobody will mind lending a hand.

 

Peter made this 9-Square-In-The-Air for the kids out of PVC pipe and rope. It was a hit.

Peter made this 9-Square-In-The-Air for the kids out of PVC pipe and rope. It was a hit.

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6. Decorate Well. Even if your menu is simple, the atmosphere of a party is important. Simple, inexpensive decorations will pull your party together and make the day extra festive. Some ideas:

Cans wrapped with twine or colorful yarn. Easy, beautiful.

My friend, Julie, wrapped these cans with twine and colorful yarn. Easy, beautiful.

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  • Candles displayed in Mason jars–especially gorgeous at dusk!
  • Flowers tucked into old cans which have been wrapped with colorful yarns.
  • Well-wishes scribbled on an old chalkboard.
  • Childhood photos pinned to a running clothesline. Make sure to include old pictures of your family and friends with your child. It’s fun to remember old times with people you love, and they appreciate being remembered, too.
  • White christmas lights hung in tree branches.

Other tips: 

  • A pitcher of ice water with sliced lemons or oranges are perfect (and pretty!) on a hot day when people are thirsty.
  • Make ice ahead and freeze in ziplock bags. You won’t have to buy ice that day.
  • Ask a camera-savy friend to photograph the day for you. You’ll want to have pictures of the day for that baby book. ;)
  • Buy a journal and ask your guests to pen a few lines of advice to the graduate. This makes a wonderful keepsake.

Don’t forget tissues. You’re gonna need them! :) You get all emotional thinking about them leaving for college. Trust me on this one.

 

Family Pics of our Trip and Two Prayer Requests

You may have noticed that I was MIA last week. Here’s why: last week, we were in Puerto Rico for the Ocean Spray Convention. It was gorgeous, sunny and a warm 85 degrees. We ate the most delicious rice cooked in coconut milk with chunks of pineapple and chicken and served in a hollowed out pineapple. We tried fried plantain. We read by the pool, went snorkeling, visited a rainforest and ate many delicious meals provided by Ocean Spray. I didn’t realize how tired I was or how good the sun would feel. :) We were so thankful to be able to vacation with my parents. I thought I’d share a few pics with you.

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Grower’s Reception Dinner with my parents.

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We visited a rainforest and saw this beautiful waterfall. God’s creation is simply beautiful!

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A local man made this fish out of palm leaves.

And he made this rose for Holly.

And he made this rose for Holly.

We celebrated Matt's 17th birthday. We rented this jetski for him. He says it was awesome. :)

We celebrated Matt’s 17th birthday. We rented this jetski for him. He says it was awesome. :)

My favorite guy. Jealous that he always tans so easily and I burn!

My favorite guy. Jealous that he always tans so easily and I burn!

Also, I have a few prayer requests for you.

First, on Sunday night we found out that my second cousin, Dan, had passed away. He was 31, and leaves behind 3 young children and a wife. He had a heart transplant 10 years ago and recently had complications and his body started rejecting it. He was waiting for another heart and his body just couldn’t take it any more. We’re so heartbroken for our Uncle Dana and his wife, Beverly. Would you pray for their comfort as this was her only son.

Also, I’d like to ask you to pray for me as I speak this weekend at a ladies meeting in New Hampshire. I’ve had the hardest time getting my material together for it and I’ve been working on it for well over a month. It usually isn’t this hard for me. I’m assuming that God is trying to teach me dependence on Him as I prepare, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall. I’m speaking on this and also a heart probing question: Am I a distracted or a devoted Christian? Would you pray about it with me?

Thanks so much! I really appreciate your email and prayers, even though I don’t always get to respond to every one. Each one is an encouragement.

Have a wonderful day!

Spring Cleaning the Soul

There’s a lot of talk about Lent online and while I don’t observe Lent, I like the idea of focusing on the Lord in a concentrated way. One blogger noted that God doesn’t call us to give up coffee, He calls us to present our entire beings a living sacrifice. That’s our reasonable service.

I struggle with presenting my body a living sacrifice every day, because truth be told, my mind is sometimes pre-occupied.

Distraction is another word for pre-occupied. Pre-occupied shows that my heart’s bent is polarized towards other things. Small g-gods. Good things, maybe. But good things without a steadfast heart for God is a slippery slope into idolatry.

I spend my time thinking about what my heart loves and clings to.

I extend energy doing the things that I believe will bring me happiness.

My reasons/motives show what my heart is serving.

If my heart’s motives aren’t centered around Christ, and if I’m not weaning myself away from the distractions and preoccupations that crowd out Christ, my spiritual life is going nowhere fast. Scratch that. It’s going downhill.

That’s why it’s so very important for me to loosen the death grip of the things of this world.

Spring is coming and soon I’ll be spring cleaning. I’ll be getting rid of furniture that no longer works, deep cleaning areas that have been neglected, washing curtains and bedding, getting rid of excess and clutter.

In a spiritual sense, the same needs to be done to our souls. Our souls need spring cleaning.

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We need to take a spiritual inventory. What needs to go? What needs to be cleaned? What’s been swept under the rug for too long? What is excess and clutter? And what is all of this stuff doing to my spiritual walk?

We are a pre-occupied group of Christians. And sometimes distraction is a mask for covering the emptiness that’s inside. We’re searching for satisfaction in things that can never satisfy. We live as though Christ were not enough. And the truth is, at that moment, Christ isn’t enough because we’ve developed a taste for carnal things instead of spiritual: like a child who only wants candy and soda instead of food that nourishes and promotes healthy growth.

I use Windex constantly to clean around my house. But sometimes the dirt won’t come off with Windex. Sometimes I need to take out the Soft Scrub or Bleach to really deep clean.

The same is true spiritually. Sometimes I may need to take more drastic measures. Perhaps admitting my own stubbornness, my lack of brokenness over my sin is a good start. Instead of brushing my indifference under the rug, I should shine God’s word on it and call it what it is: idolatry.

Perhaps you, too, may need to abstain from something that has the rule over you until it no longer has the victory over you. You may need to eliminate sinful preoccupations, thoughts and practices. Maybe something needs to be removed, like a critical spirit or harsh words. Maybe hypocrisy or poor use of time. Maybe you need to add godliness in an area of your life such as giving of praise and rejoicing rather than complaining. Maybe we need to be “set apart” to God which means separating from things God hates.

This is our reasonable service. We’ve been bought by something so precious that we can barely appreciate it in our sin-tainted, limited, “see through a glass darkly” earthly minds: The Precious Blood of the Lamb.

Someday in heaven, I suspect we’ll “see clearly” all that Christ has done for us, but for now, we trust. We trust God’s Word and His prescriptives for life. When we don’t understand, we obey anyway. We trust that His ways are all righteous and lead to an abundant live. And we walk in faith, which doesn’t always understand or see the end. It just obeys and leaves the results to God.