Monday, November 23, 2015

The Greatest Gift YOU Can Give

Here's a magazine article I wrote for this holiday season.  
I thought I'd share the message with you this week.   

Happy Thanksgiving
God Bless You and Yours!

Monday, November 16, 2015

For Your Own Good

Every Fall we have the task of taking our horse's grazing pasture back down to dirt, in order to make room for the new seed that needs to be planted.  

And, every year I watch the horses stand at the gate and wonder what we're doing to their sacred field and I feel bad for them, because they have no idea why they can't get in there for months to come.

Little do they know - we're doing it for their own good.  

Sometimes this is what God does with us.....he strips us down to the bottom layer, in order to plant something better within us.

When life has caused weeds to grow in our lives - weeds of doubt, fear, jealousy, laziness, pride - whatever it is that we have allowed to slowly take over our hearts and minds - God needs to remove,   in order to grow something worthy and fitting to use for His good.

For several seasons now, we've had a horrible weed growing among the nutritious grass.  We've hoped it would be gone with each purging, but it keeps coming back.  

As the beautiful, green grass would grow, so would the weeds, until the entire field was a mixture of good and bad.

The horses wouldn't touch the weeds.   They knew there was no value there, so they would eat around the weeds, depleting the field of all the good stuff, until there was nothing but a pasture full of ugly stems sticking up.

I think this is what our lives look like sometimes.

If we are not constantly pulling weeds, we will wake up one day with a field full of bitter root, seeds of doubt, jealousy, fear, negative thoughts, complaining, criticizing - all doing their job of choking out the good in our lives.

And then one day God says it's time - time to take you down to the bottom layer of nothing but the foundation of Him.   It's for your own good. 

He strips your weeds and it hurts.  One by one he pulls them and shows them to you and opens your eyes to all the choking out of good that has been going on.    All the discontentment, all the negativity, all the doubt and fear you have allowed to grow there.   And, he takes you back down to the bare soil, where there is nothing left but Him.  

Because only when there is nothing but Jesus, can HE begin to grow the good stuff.

Only when you allow the Lord to purge you and pull at you and take what's no good, can he plant the stuff that good fields are made of - love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness and self-control.

Only then, can God build something useful and worthy - something that isn't poisonous to the work He wants to do in you or through you.

Only then, can the soil be tended to, the way it needs to be.

And, when all the purging of weeds is done - only then, can the beautiful green grass start to really flourish and grow with all the good stuff it was intended to be.

Is God pulling at you these days?

Do you feel like He's trying to purge the weeds from your heart?

It's not easy.   Our initial reaction is to stand at the gate and ask Him "Why?"   We don't understand the circumstances, the hurt, the things we are being deprived of, and yet, He knows.

He knows that it's for our own good and He knows that in due time, the weeds will be replaced with new growth, that will sustain us and bless us, far more than all the weeds that were choking the life from us.

Take stock of your weeds today and what God might be speaking to you, in reference to them.

Be open to what He's doing within you and know that in due time, you will be standing in green grass once again.

It's for your own good.

"But blessed are your eyes because they see,
and your ears because they hear."
Matthew 13:16

Monday, November 9, 2015

Making Things Stretch and a Weekly Challenge

After running into a slight crisis (and I mean very slight) this weekend, I thought it would be fun to take on a little challenge of using what you already have on hand - in all areas of the home.

Here's what happened:
I had 3 hungry people, 2 hot dogs I pulled out of the freezer (always save what you don't use), 3 hot dog buns, some leftover chili and some fritos.  

Since Collin and I had sandwiches the day before, I told David that he could have the sandwich this time, while Collin and I ate the chili dogs.    That idea didn't seem too appealing to David, so while the food was heating up, I was trying to figure out how I could split 2 hot dogs between 3 people and here's what I came up with.......

Chili Dog Bowls

I heated everything on the stove, fixed the buns with mayo and mustard, then cut the hot dogs into bite sized pieces, as well as the buns.

 Next, I layered 3 bowls with the bun pieces,then a mound of fritios, split the chili 3 ways, then divided the hot dogs among the three bowls, topped it all with cheese and came up with 3 amazingly good chili dog bowls!

And you would have thought I was a master chef!

Collin was amazed and said he loved it!  David was so happy he wasn't eating a sandwich (and he actually loved it too) and I was so thrilled that I made something stretch and it wasn't gross!

It was a win-win!

So, after this successful, little venture, and after reading Jordan's November Spending Freeze (HERE), I thought it would be fun to challenge myself and YOU to one week of using what you have - be it in the kitchen, the bathroom (toilet paper excluded) or elsewhere in the house, where you would normally run out and buy something if you needed it.

So, here's the way I would suggest you play this game:

1.Take inventory of what you have (if you're challenging yourself in the grocery dept., then inventory your fridge, freezer and pantry.  If it's the bathroom - shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, etc.)

2.Decide on a very minimal list of needs (if you're almost out of milk or bread or some other essential, then buy just the bare minimum for one week's use).

3.Buy the bare necessities and that's it! (you get ONE trip to the store for this challenge, but only buy something you can't live without and be honest!)

4.Now challenge yourself to go for an entire week using only what you have on hand.

Make this challenge good for the entire house, meaning, if it's some other area that you would normally run out and buy more, rather than using what's on hand, then choose that area.

For instance, if you're a crafter or you sew every week, use what material you have on hand instead of overlooking what's been stuffed in a drawer for months.

If you have cardstock and stickers, make your own cards.

If you have paint and old frames, make your old frames look new.

If you're trying to redecorate, shop from your own house and simply move something to another room, rather than running to the store and buying new.

Do you get the point?

And, by all means, use what food you have on hand and get creative!

Squeeze the toothpaste all the way out of the tube!

Mix all the shampoos together to make one big bottle!

It's only ONE WEEK!  You can do this and it will be fun!

At the end of the week, you'll feel good about the money you saved and how creative you were.

Then you can treat yourself to a real meal or tuck the money away for the holidays.

Either way - you got a little farther down the road and a little wiser and hopefully saved a few pennies along the way.

Ready - Set- GO!

(Oh, and don't forget to share your victories in the comments!)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Happy Saturday!

I'm spending this weekend doing, what I call, loving on my home.

Cleaning out a closet I've been avoiding (and continually shoving stuff in and closing the door).

Baking, cleaning, and just giving a little attention to things that I've been neglecting.

I love these kind of days!

I hope you're doing just whatever it is that makes you happy today!

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review - Heroines of the Old Testament Coloring Book

Coloring books for grown ups have been all the rage this year and if you're anything like me, you've already enjoyed an hour or two of getting creative and standing back and marveling at how well you stayed in the lines (heehee).

So, when I was asked to review Betsy Karounos' coloring book, Heroines of the Old Testament, I was happy to try it out.  After all, you never really outgrow coloring!

This book is beautifully done and offers plenty of opportunity to use your artistic skills.

In my opinion, it is also a great tool to use as you study the women of the Old Testament, on your own, or with your children.

The illustrations are very elaborate on some pages and then beautifully simplistic on others.

With each page that introduces the name of a heroine, there are several more that show features of that particular story, as well as a scripture from the same.

Cover to cover, the book features these 10 women in beautifully done drawings:

Eve, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Rahab, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah and Esther.

If you've been meaning to add a coloring book to your book list this year, this is one that I highly recommend.

And, when you're finished with this one, you can order Heroines of the New Testament in the Spring of 2016!

Have fun and remember to let your kids use the crayons too!

*** This book is for sale on Amazon***

Choose Joy Today and Tomorrow it Might be Easier

 I woke up this morning with an immediate craving for the outdoors.   Funny thing is....if you know me at all, you will be shaking your head right now, wondering what happened to the real me.   That's ok....I surprise myself sometimes too.

It's the first day this week that I don't have somewhere to go and I'm just really looking forward to being at home.

So, here I sit, on my back porch, watching the horses give me little signals that they are hungry (gee, there's a shock), squirrels running around gathering stuff, the dog gracing me with her stinky presence, hot coffee and a good attitude.

What was that last thing?  Oh, I said a good attitude!

Nothing exciting is happening today. No holidays or company coming or any major event approaching (well....unless you consider choosing joy an event).

Just a determination that I'm going to make the most of this day that God has given me.

Y'all, I look around at some people and wonder why they continually wallow in their own pit.

Yes, life is hard.  Yes, our plans don't go the way we hoped.  Yes, we get discouraged and wonder how we're going to survive certain things.   I'm not trivializing hard times!

But, I do know that aside from disaster or something heartbreaking, the regular ole' days should bring us joy - because we choose it.

Joy is a really is.

Truth be told - I don't always choose it.

But, today I'm going to - even among the mopping, the laundry, the cooking, the accounting, the writing, the reviews - and all other assignments I have - I'm going to choose joy for this one day.

And my guess is, that if I make it through this day with joy in my heart, tomorrow will be slightly easier and the next day, even more.

Joy is a muscle that must be stretched and worked and conditioned.

Choose it today and see what happens.

Hey, the good news is - you can say you worked out - just in a joyful way!

Be blessed, my friends!

Good day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Favorite Things

Isn't it great to walk through your house and catch glimpses of things that really move you and make you happy?

A few times a year I like to share some of my favorites with you.....

So, here goes:

My office chair that David bought me.  It came from an old courthouse and is just like one that my dad had when I was a little girl.  It brought back some great memories for me, so it's a special piece that I will treasure forever.

This sweet little heart/paddle that came from a dear friend.  So darn cute!

And, speaking of cuteness.......

  Can you handle it?  (Of course, she doesn't live here, but she is one of my favorite things so I had to include her :)

When I walk outside and find my horses doing something strange - like just standing in one spot, staring at me.  They count as two of my favorite things, I guess.

This new shelf I bought last week.

This chalkboard where I am enjoying writing positive messages each week, to remind us of our blessings.

One of my birthday gifts.

This old syrup bottle.

This old cake pan.

This cute little dresser in my office.  And, of course, more pictures and a big "E" for Emmalyn.

And, last....this very old milk crate that some good friends gave me for my birthday.  I still haven't figured out what to do with it, but I will come up with something soon!

It's so important to fill your home with things you love!  

The great thing is, you don't have to spend a lot of money to make a house a home.

(More on that later this week!)

Thanks for walking through the house with me, friends!

Stay tuned for some great tips on how to make a house a home, straight out of the book,
The Nesting Place!

Guest Post - 10 Things Homeschool Parents Need to Know About Their Students Earning High School & College Credit at the Same Time

As a homeschooling mom of two boys who learned in unconventional ways, I knew attending a college campus just didn't fit their dreams after highschool. So, I began to look for an alternative and it didn't take long to discover that the best option for my sons would be earning dual credit for the classes they were already taking in high school.
Today I'm sharing a guest post by Becky Muldrow, from Dual Credit at Home, that answers many questions you might have concerning your child earning college credit in High School.

8 Questions Homeschool Parents Need to Ask Before Having Their High Schoolers Earn College Credit
When I first started researching the possibility of my homeschooled high schoolers earning high school and college credit at the same time, I was blown away. “This is incredible!”, I thought. “My kids can get college credit in high school with no extra work? If only more homeschool parents knew about this!”
After more research, I eagerly began to strategically plan my kids’ high school studies using the dual credit model. Soon, they were on their way to making significant headway on their college degrees...before they had even graduated high school!
After talking with other homeschool parents, I learned that many others were interested in doing the same, but they didn’t have the time to figure out the steps to the process. I realized that I could help these parents out by creating a dual credit guidance program that takes students from start to finish in the dual credit process.
Are you new to the idea of dual credit, or want to learn more? The answers to the following 8 questions will help you better understand the process and learn how you can get started!
1. What is dual credit, and why is it important?
“Dual credit” is simply the term for course credit that applies towards both high school and college credit.
Having your homeschooled high schooler earn dual credit in high school will save them lots of money and months (if not years) of coursework in college!
2. How does dual credit work?
Credits are awarded when students take and pass select college-level exams. Students do not need to attend classes to take the exams, but, upon passing, will receive the same amount of credits as the students who actually attend the physical class. (Credits earned by exam are evaluated by the receiving college and applied to a student's transcript according to that school's policy.)
For a more in-depth explanation, click here. This article explains the many dual credit options (on-campus, online, etc.) that are available to all students whether public, private or homeschooled.
A common question parents may have is this: “Is it possible for my student to earn too many dual credits?” That question is cleared up in this article. You’ll want to check with each school you’re considering to know their particular policies.
3. How many high school credits will a dual credit course count for?
A one semester, dual credit college course (or a 3-credit exam) is equal to one year of a high school course. And a two semester course (or a 6-credit exam) equals 2 years of high school credit. Who can beat that?
4. How does earning dual credit save money?
Earning dual credit reduces the amount of money spent on college in several ways:
  1. College expenses (books, room and board, etc.) are significantly reduced or eliminated.
  2. Dual credit students pay less to take just the exam instead of the entire class.
  3. Colleges usually charge high schoolers less for credits than they charge college students (high school graduates).
5. Does earning dual credit take up a ton of time?

Earning dual credit will actually save your student time! The time your child spends on dual credit courses will apply to their college degree, saving them from months (if not years) of college study later on!
Read this student’s story about how earning dual credit has saved him a lot of time.
6. So, is it possible to earn an entire associate or bachelor's degree during high school?
Yes, it is! Our free ebook will tell you more about how that’s possible and actually doable. In our family, we’ve actually had three students accomplish this (with a fourth close to completion)!
7. Wow! Where can my student earn dual credit?
There are a few options for how your student can earn dual credit. However, the quickest and most effective way is by taking and passing a college-level exam (e.g. CLEP, DSST, etc.).
If a student’s score meets the minimum passing requirement, they may earn full college credit for that class.
8. I’m ready to get started. Where can I learn more?

Visit our website, Dual Credit at Home for more information and FAQs about the dual credit process, and to learn more about how you can get your student started earning dual credit today!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Are You Enjoying Life?

Sometimes I feel like this picture - standing on the inside, wishing and dreaming about the outside.

The place where we are never seems as exciting as the place we want to be.

Cozy and sheltered, with all the amenities, seems like a trap when we are itching to go out and play.

Do you ever feel that way?

When our kids are tiny babies, we can't wait until they can crawl or talk or ride a bike.   Then they accomplish all of those things and we can't wait until they get a job and start driving themselves to all of their own events.

When they go off to college, we can't wait until they get married and then we nag them about having children.

We're always yearning for that next phase of life, instead of just enjoying the one we're in.

Just imagine what it would be like if we just savored every good and hard thing about the phase we're in right now.

We would be more present and in the moment.  

We would enjoy every day, knowing that life is precious and not to be wasted.

But, there is something inside of us that is always yearning and it makes me think of that song that says..."This world is not my home, I'm just passing through."

Is that why the next phase always seems better than the present?

Did God wire us this way, so we would always be looking toward Heaven?

Or are we just discontented beings, always looking for more?

Those are deep questions, I know, but we need to stop and think about the answer.

Because I see all of us running here and there every day, always moving toward the next thing and I wonder how anyone is ever really enjoying life.

Are you enjoying life?

Or are you so busy running with your head down, toward the next thing, that you're missing the blessings right in front of you?

It's something to think about.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

You Don't Have to Do It All

The other night we had a storm.   Lots of wind and rain and lots of trees that just couldn't take it anymore.  

Do you ever feel that way?

Sometimes the weight of the world seems to be on our shoulders - as daughters, wives, moms - whoever we are - we can feel the pressure of carrying it all.

The world says we CAN do it all and we almost die trying.

Sometimes even the church says we should do more......and we fail at that too.

Friend, we were not made to carry the burdens of the world - or even our own life - exclusively on our own shoulders.

We need help.  

If we could do it ALL, we would be self-sufficient.
If we could do it ALL, we would be superhuman.
If we could do it ALL, we wouldn't need Jesus.

We need help.

Whether it's a helping hand with a crying baby or a friend who can listen when you need advice.

Whether it's accepting an offer to clean your house, drive your kids, make you a meal - don't let pride stand in your way.   We all need help at one time or another.

Maybe you have a friend who has a gift for decorating - accept her help.
Maybe your husband would be great at paying the bills - accept his help.
Maybe your teen can drive to the store - let him do it.

Whatever it is that has you bending under the weight of burden - ask the Lord to help you with it.

It may come in the form of peace from Him or a knock at the door at just the right time.

And, when you ask - wait in expectation.

God hears you and he wants you to know that help is on the way.

"Praise be to the Lord,
 to God our Savior, 
who daily bears our burdens."
Ps. 68:19