Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Pillowcases

A good friend of mine and I have started a bell choir with a group of kids who live in a mobile home park in our city. Most of the kids are from broken homes. 

We just wanted to share the love of Jesus with them, and God gave us the idea to start a bell choir. 
The kids love it. And we enjoy teaching them and getting to know them.

The bells are the small colored variety which are easy to play. 
Learning new songs can be pretty easy which makes it all the more fun for the kids.

With Christmas just around the corner, our church is sponsoring a dinner for residents in the mobile park. The bell choir is providing the music. The kids are thrilled.

We wanted to give all the kids gifts, but we wanted to maximize the usefulness of the gift. 
So instead of the typical wrapping paper that gets thrown in the trash, we are putting their gifts in homemade pillowcases. 
To make it extra fun and special, we made them with Christmas fabric. 

In two days I had 24 pillowcases made. 
Aren't they cute?

I think I would have loved a Christmas pillowase as a kid.

Inside the cases we are putting a book, a stuffed animal, and a toy.
I am anxious to see the looks on their faces when they see their gifts.

To make the pillowcases, I followed this fun tube method found here:  

Have a blessed, joy-filled Christmas season spreading the love of Jesus!
Read More »

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Anger: Putting Out the Fire

I come by it naturally.

It is in my nature to get miffed, upset, and/or angry when things don't go the way I expect or desire.

I can feel the tension growing inside me.

I try to suppress it,

           to keep the hot, burning "fire" contained,

but every once in awhile the fire of anger becomes wild, out of control and out


                 my cruel, raging words and dark feelings.

We all know that good things aren't going to happen when an uncontrolled, all-consuming fire is loose in the home.

That is what unrighteous anger is.

It consumes and damages all in its path.

The Bible says in James 1:20 that the wrath (or anger) of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Man's wrath damages and does not bring about any good.

This unrighteous way of dealing with anger is in my nature - my sinful nature -, but I don't want my sinful nature to have dominion over me.

In fact God says our nature needs to die and a new godly nature needs to replace it. It is the only way to truly deal with and extinguish the fire of an angry spirit.

How is this miracle of obtaining a godly nature (for it certainly is one!) to take place?

Galations 2:20 says: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I don't believe we can win the battle over our sins by ourselves. Not by a long shot. We need real, serious help. We need power to overcome.

And in Christ we have all of this through faith. He is that ever-present Help in time of need that we so desperately need.

But once we have recognized we have a problem and given it to Christ,

then what?

Are you suddenly free of anger? Never again will you lash out at someone? No more grumbling under your breath about what so-and-so did?

Sometimes God does take it away immediately, but usually it is a process that takes time.

He wants us to learn to lean on Him and to walk with Him. And THAT takes time and experience.

Learning to cooperate with God and really LONG for His righteousness so that we choose not to want to do ANYTHING to separate us from Him is the work of sanctification. It is the process of being made into His image.

Paul talks about this in Colossians 2:6,7: "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving."

Paul also said in Ephesians 4:31,32: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you".

In other words, once we have been "crucified" with Christ and given Him our sin, we are to then walk by faith the path that Christ did. The old self is dead. Live in the new nature.

This is not our works. It is Christ working in us. He will not work in us without our permission. He gives us a choice and always honors our choice. When we choose to let Him work and live in us, we must cooperate with Him and walk in His ways - not by our own strength, but by leaning and trusting and looking always to Him.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful in overcoming anger and abiding in His presence.

1). Start your day talking to God and surrendering your day to Him. I do this before I am even out of bed. It doesn't have to take very long. Acknowledge Him and ask Him to lead you today.

2). Talk with Him throughout your day. This is the "pray without ceasing" mandate found in 1 Thess. 5:17. It doesn't require getting on your knees and closing your eyes in prayer. You can talk to Him in your thoughts at any time throughout your day. He is your ever-present help and companion.

3). Read your Bible and claim promises for your life. Make them personal and believe that they are meant for you.

4). Live in His presence. Would you really get angry if you believed that He was right there in the room with you? Imagine that He is seated in the same room as you are, for really He is truly there. (Matt. 28:20)

5). Stop, drop and roll. Isn't that what we learned to do if our clothes catch fire? Well, when you are angry, you are in essence on fire! So when you become aware that your anger is rising you need to:

                                      a). Stop.  Stop what you are doing.

                               b). Drop.  Drop your expectations of that other person or situation. Forgive and trust.

                               c). Roll.    Roll with it. Do the next thing. Breathe and carry on looking onto Jesus.

6). Realize that God always has a way of escape. It is not usually difficult to find. Many times the best response to anger is silence.

7). Forgive others. Most of us have real hurts from the past. These hurts and injustices can trigger present-day anger and need to be dealt with. As God reminds you of them, give them to Him. Forgive those who have hurt you. Relinquish all your hurts and feelings to Christ and accept healing in exchange. Realize that forgiveness is an act, not a feeling.

8). Forgive yourself. No matter what you have done in the past, God can and will forgive you when you come to Him in sincerity and earnestness asking for His forgiveness and mercy. He will wash you "whiter than snow". We all need it. Continually.

Walking with Jesus through faith in Him and allowing Him to clean you up and change you into His image is a lifetime process and an absolute must for the Christian.

With Christ as our Master, our Guide, our Light, our Friend, He will douse the fire of an angry spirit that will never burn again. He will change us into His image. He is our victory.

Read More »

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pocket Purse

When I lived in Germany a few years ago, our landlord had given us the keys to the house attached to a small zippered pouch. The key could fit in the pouch, and also my credit card. Instead of lugging a big heavy purse around (and who wanted that when biking or walking to the store?) I just used the key pouch as my purse. It fit in my pocket. It was light and small. I loved it!

When I returned to the U.S., I missed the pouch purse, but had a hard time finding one similar to it in the stores. That has changed over the years, and now you can find small wrist wallets or pouches for purchase.

Recently, I stumbled on cute zippered pouches on pinterest that one can sew up with very little time or effort. I was hooked! I was going to make one of these!

I looked at my stash of fabric remnants I store in a large plastic bin and found the perfect faux fur material leftover from a winter scarf I made a few years ago. I grabbed some beautiful gold material for the lining, and I was on my way! I needed a zipper. I didn't have any new zippers laying around and didn't want to make a run to the store.

Lightbulb!  I have lots of the boys' jeans laying in my sewing closet for refashioning into quilts and rugs and such. I could just remove the zipper from the jeans! Yes! A seam-ripper and about 15 minutes is all you need.

To start, cut your exterior material, lining, and stiff interfacing into 5"x9" rectangles. I trimmed the interfacing to make it about 1/4" smaller on all edges.

You'll also need two small rectangles (1 1/2" x 3") for the zipper tabs.

Trim the zipper, if necessary, to match the width of the exterior material.
Fold the tabs in half (match the small ends), reopen, and then fold the small ends in to meet at the fold line. Insert an end of the zipper, with the folded end of the material toward the teeth of the zipper.  Hand baste and then sew with machine. Do this on both ends of zipper.

Iron the interfacing to the back side of the exterior material.

Next, sandwich the zipper between the materials. Exterior fabric facing up, zipper facing down toward exterior fabric, and the lining face down on top of the pile. I goofed on the next few pictures by forgetting to add my tabs to the zipper first.  I had to rip the zipper out partially and add the tabs. (I won't make that mistake again!)

Sew along the top edge with a zipper foot.

When you open it up, it should look like this (except yours should have the zipper
cut to size with the tabs sewn on!) :

Now set the unsewn edge of the zipper on the top of the opposite end of the exterior fabric, and top with the opposite edge of the lining, facing down. Sew this edge. It should look like this when you are done:

If you would like to have a handle on your bag, tie a knot in a piece of cording.

Insert the cording where you would like the handle to be. Be sure the loop is enclosed inside!

For this next step, be sure the zipper is half open to allow for turning. If you leave it closed, you will be in a pickle. Sew up the sides of the exterior and lining leaving a hole in the lining for turning. I wanted the zipper to be on the side instead of the top, so I sewed the exterior with that arrangement. If you would like to do the same, you need to sew the lining with the same arrangement so it fits well without bunches.

Clip your corners to eliminate bulk and then turn the fabric right side out. Sew up the hole in the lining, and voila! You have a lovely pocket purse!

 I think the repurposed zipper looks pretty good on my pocket purse.  What do you think?

Read More »

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Create a Wooden Sign from Scraps

What do you do when life gives you a pile of wooden sticks?

Create something with it!

My husband had a large pile of oak stick scraps leftover from his beautiful coffered ceiling project. He was about to throw this out to be burned when I quickly snatched these beauties. All sorts of ideas ran through my head on what I could do with these. I settled on using them to make a sign for our basement.

After deciding the dimensions for the sign, my husband and son cut the pieces a variety of lengths for an interesting layout.

Remember to measure twice and cut once!

Each row was then marked with what row it belonged to. This avoided having a puzzle to put together later.

We purchased a piece of plywood and cut it a little bit smaller than the dimensions I wanted. The plywood is just support for the oak strips. The strips will extend out a bit past the plywood so it doesn't show.
We sorted the pieces by their number and glued them down to the plywood.

Ta-da!  After letting the glue dry thoroughly, we took it downstairs to the saw to even out the sides.

Using an orbital sander, all the edges and the top was sanded smooth.

I forgot to take pictures of the staining and varnishing, but once that was done it was time for the writing!
I used photoshop to design the words and choose the fonts. I printed the words out using to get the huge size that I would need. Using white transfer paper between the wood and the printout, I traced the letters onto the wood. Then using a new fine paintbrush, the letters were carefully painted.

My wonderful husband attached some hooks on the back and hung it up for me!
I love it!!!

What scraps do you have laying around that you could make something beautiful from?

Read More »

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are You a Fan or a Follower: A Devotional

I had never thought about it before, but when I read the excerpt below, it made me really stop and evaluate my heart. 

Am I a follower of Jesus or just a fan?

What's the difference, you ask? Well, Kevin Idleman makes an interesting and compelling distinction. I shudder at the idea of being only a fan.


“It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them. 

They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus. 

Here is the most basic definition of fan in the dictionary: “An enthusiastic admirer.”

It’s the guy who goes to the football game with no shirt and a painted chest. He sits in the stands and cheers for his team. He’s got a signed jersey hanging on his wall at home and multiple bumper stickers on the back of his car. 

But he’s never in the game. 

He never breaks a sweat or takes a hard hit in the open field. 

He knows all about the players...but he doesn't know the players. 

He yells and cheers, but nothing is really required of him. 

There is no sacrifice he has to make....

And I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days....But [He] was never interested in having fans. When He defines what kind of relationship He wants, “Enthusiastic Admirer” isn't an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following Him....

They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.” 
(Excerpt from Not a Fan by Kevin Idleman).

Are you a fan or a follower?

Read More »

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Devotional: Surrendering All to Receive All

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." - Matthew 16:24.

Here we have the words of Christ which tell us in order to live, we must die. 

We must surrender our life, our way, our dreams, our will. 

Lay them at the cross. 

Give all to Jesus. 

And in so doing, we will find life, peace, joy, fulfillment - everything we really, truly desire. 
In giving our life, we find it. 

It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but that's God! 

He turns our thinking and understanding upside-down so that it is right-side-up.

Here is an excerpt of C.S. Lewis' writings that talks about this very thing.  I hope it is a blessing to you. And I hope it gives you the willingness to give all to Christ everyday. What safer place is there?

Read More »

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angst, Anxiety & Attacks of Panic - My Way Out

Have you ever experienced a panic attack? I think it is the worse feeling in the world. For a brief period of my life, when I was almost 30 years old, I experienced them almost on a regular basis. The attacks would come upon me with no warning, suddenly, and voraciously. It would take over and leave me a victim of its unreasonable, uncontrollable possession. I thought I was going crazy. I thought I was going to die. It was terrifying. I would have anxiety about when the next attack would come upon me.

My Story

I was newly married, and these attacks terrified my husband. He didn't understand what was happening to me. I would be lying in bed for the night, waiting for sleep to come upon me, and that is when the attack often struck. I would have to leave the bed. I couldn't lie there while my heart was racing and my breathing elevated. I needed to walk around, to move, and pace about aimlessly hoping that this attack would end quickly.

My husband found a Christian counselor for me. She was well over an hour's drive away, but we drove the distance to get the help for which I desperately longed. The counseling was mostly digging into my past and trying to find any unresolved relationship difficulties. My parents, siblings, and my spouse were top suspects on the list to investigate. But I really didn't have much dirt to dig up there.  Sure there were some minor issues, but they were issues that I was at peace with and had handled and not hid.

One major life event which had effected me deeply and caused me much distress and emotional trauma was a close friend who had taken her life. She was 26 years old, or so. Her grandfather had abused her as a child, and the horrifying emotions had been boxed up in her mind until recently, when the lid had opened and memories started to return. She couldn't deal with the shame, the pain, the inability to forgive her grandfather who was no longer living. Overcome by emotions, she had jumped off a bluff on the Mississippi River ending her life. I struggled over her salvation, over the horror of child abuse and its soul damage to the victim, and over my guilt as to why I hadn't reached out to help her more than I had. I brought this up to my counselor, but she didn't have any answers for me. Those I had to find myself.

The attacks continued. My counselor recommended some anxiety-cancelling drugs, and though it would bring instant relief, I didn't want to become dependent on them or have to deal with any potential negative side-effects. I wanted to be truly rid of the attacks, not cover them up with medication. (Note: I do believe their are situations when medication is the best route to take for some with mental disorders/sickness. I am not saying that avoiding medication is what is always best.)

I tried different methods to relieve my attacks. I am a very reserved person, emotionally, and keep a pretty even keel externally during episodes of high stress. I reasoned, if the nervousness was the outcrop of an overflowing internal emotional system, I would force myself to vocalize my sadness, disappointments, and anger as much as possible. I allowed myself to cry a lot - many times for no apparent reason at all. Though this exercise did seem to help in part, the panic attacks did not seem to be effected. They were as chronic and persistent as ever.

Help At Last

I cried out to the Lord, "Why is this happening to me? Please, take this away from me!" I feared greatly having to deal with this all my life. Then one day, as I was getting ready for bed and had poured my heart out to the Lord, a quiet message came to me. I'm sure it was from God. It simply was that I had the power to stop it if I chose. I had the power of my will to choose what was happening to my body. I could choose to not allow these attacks to come over me. That simple.

That night as I was lying in bed hoping for sleep to come quickly, my heart started to pick up its pace. The attack was coming on. I rolled over and said, "No!" I don't think it was an audible command. But I did say it very strongly and authoritatively in my mind and I was addressing the attack. Amazingly, the attack subsided. However, not long after, my heart began to race again. Immediately I said very forcefully and resolutely, "Go away! I don't want you!" It stopped. Every time the attack began I met it face on with my mental assault and blockade. And every time I won. I was so amazed. I was so relieved! I was so unbelievable thankful and humbled that God had helped me.


After that, things got increasingly better. The next night I had a smaller struggle with the anxiety nemesis. Then it didn't rear its ugly head for another two or three days. At every battle, I refused entry. It was another week or two when I faced it for the last time. It has been over 20 years now since I have had my last panic attack. Praise the Lord!!!  I know that what He has done for me, He can do for you too.

I believe that if I had not gained the victory over my attacks by personally dealing with them in this way, it would have grown and absorbed me. Medication would have been a necessity for my ability to function normally. By God's grace I had "nipped it in the bud" while the attacks were still relatively new to me. (I dealt with them for less than a year...each month the attacks coming more often and stronger.)

The power of the will is something that God has given each one of us. It is still a mystery to me as to how it works, but I believe it is what gave me the victory over this powerful psychological plaque. It is something I want to do more research into and understand better.

Have you suffered from panic attacks? What has been your experience in battling them?

Read More »

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Training Them Up: A Family Devotions Guide

The Bible says:
 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6.

Who should train them up?
The father and mother, primarily. Well, the father and mother... and the Lord.

Training up children is ongoing. It's 24/7. And one of the best, most important ways to train them up and lead them to Christ is to have family devotions. Many years ago, the Lord was convicting my heart about the need for it. I wanted to do it.

But I struggled with the "how". I had never experienced family devotions.
What do you do?
How long should they be?
How often should we have them?
How do you DO family devotions?
This was my struggle when I was a baby Christian raising baby boys.

Up to that time, I had been reading Bible stories aloud every day since the boys were babes. We would cuddle on the couch and enjoy reading My Bible Friends and look at the large, beautiful illustrations. After a story or two, they were ready to wiggle down off the couch and head to something else. And unbeknownst to me at the time, we were having age-appropriate family devotions! We were spending time together learning about our amazing God, and it was all they needed.

It wasn't until they were a little older - I think my oldest son was around 5, that I felt the call from God to take the next step with family devotions. So, prayerfully, almost 15 years ago, I just decided to step in the waters by faith asking God to lead. 

We started with singing songs. We sang the songs they had been learning in Sabbath School - "Jesus Loves Me", "The Trees are Gently Swaying", "Happy, Happy Home", and others. They love to do action songs, so we did as many of those as we could. Then we would work on a memory verse. At this age, the verse was short and in a children's version so they could easily understand it. We then read our Sabbath School lesson story. We read the same story every day for a whole week. Young children enjoy repetition and it really helps them to learn it. I had a set of Betty Lukens Bible felts, and my children loved to see the story presented with the colorful felts. As the week progressed, they could help tell the story and put the felts up. Sometimes we might even act out the story.
At the end of our devotions, we would have prayer.

As my sons grew, our family devotions changed with them. We started memorizing the books of the Bible in order. (Hint: start with the New Testament it's much easier! Find a song you like that will aid in the memorization process. We also started memorizing larger pieces of scripture - even chapters! One activity we really enjoyed was making memory verse booklets. We stapled several blank sheets of paper together, and the boys had to write the verses out on one side and draw an illustration on the other. This works great for learning the Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, or something similar. We also used scripture songbooks which made it fairly easy to memorize a whole psalm or chapters like 1 Cor. 13 or Isaiah 53. 

The pre-teen and teen years have brought more discussion into our devotional time. We cover our basic beliefs again and study them out from the Bible. As their reasoning skills develop, it is crucial they not only understand what we believe, but where in the Bible it supports our beliefs. They need to be able to defend their beliefs from Scripture. We occasionally review previously learned skills, such as the order of the Bible books, by recitation, or by doing Bible drills (seeing who can find a certain chapter/verse first). We also keep singing the Bible songs and hymns. 


>> Family Devotions Ideas by Age <<



Children's Bible stories on your lap

Toddlers - Age 4

Bible stories with felts
Simple memory verses
Learning to pray

Ages 4-7

Bible stories with felts
Longer memory verses
Saying prayer

Ages 7-11

Bible stories read from Children's Bible
Acting out the story
Memorizing order of books of the Bible
Memorizing 10 Commandments
Memorizing chapters and whole psalms
Make scripture booklets for memory work
Learn scripture songs and hymns

Pre-teens and Teens

Bible drills
Fundamental beliefs study
In-depth Bible studies
Acting out the story
Singing hymns and scripture songs
Leading family worship

I've learned that devotions are a spiritual observance - a meeting with God in His word, in prayer, in song, and in worship. A critical aspect for family devotions is to HAVE FUN! Learning about God and spending time with Him should always be an enjoyable time. As for how much time to spend, it will depend on your children. Don't make family devotions a drudgery. It should be kept fresh, lively, and not too long.

This is how our family devotions have evolved over the years. Do you have devotions with your children? What has worked well for you? I'd love to hear about it!

Read More »

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beets with Lemon Sauce

Some of the early spring garden plantings are ready to harvest.  My parents, who are always so generous with loading me up with goodies to take back home, gave me a sack full of fresh pickings from their garden.  Since they live 250 miles south of us, their gardens mature a few weeks earlier than ours do in Minnesota.  So I was very happy to get all these fresh, organic veggies to take back for the family.

As a kid, I was not a fan AT ALL of beets.  They gave me the shudders, in fact.  But, as I tell my boys, your taste buds change over time, so you really should give those foods you turned your nose up to when younger another chance.  And if you still don't like them, keep trying them.  Sometimes our taste buds need to be retrained to like different flavors.  In the case of beets, it is worth your while to retrain those taste buds if you still say "no thank you" when they are offered to you.  

Beets are one of nature's super foods.  They are packed full of vital nutrition, phytochemicals,  and cancer-zapping power.  They are loaded with natural nitrates which open and expand the body's blood vessels allowing more oxygen, nutrients, and energy to surge throughout your body.  These red beauties can help you retain youthful skin with fewer wrinkles.  They keep your blood pressure in check and counteract heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other serious diseases.

To fix beets, you do have to take a few precautions to avoid a mess.  If cut into, they can bleed their red juice all over, and it will stain your clothing.

Do not wash the beets until you are ready to prepare them.  Cut the stems 2" from the base.  Do not cut the tails, or bottoms, off.  Leave the skin intact.

Their are different ways to fix beets, but today I boiled them.

Fill a pan with enough water to cover the beets and gently boil the beets until tender, about 50 minutes.  Do not overcook the beets to avoid excessive loss of nutritional value.

Once the beets are cooked, they should peel easily under running cold water.  Cut or pull the stems and tail off.  Now they are ready to be sliced and diced before adding the sauce.

I made the lemon sauce while the beets were cooking.  The sauce is white, but once mixed with the beets it will turn red.

You could add some fresh herbs to this.  I'm thinking dill would have been a great thing to stir in.  That is on my list of things to try next time.

These beets are all ready for the dinner table.  You can serve them hot or cold, but I prefer them cold.  That makes for easy leftovers!  

If you have never been a fan of beets, I hope I have encouraged you to give them another try.  There are many ways to fix beets, so if one recipe doesn't meet your fancy, switch to a different way to prepare them and perhaps they will be more palatable to you.  Beets are just too nutritious to pass up.

Even more than God's power foods He has provided for us, we need to eat daily from His word and drink often from the wells of His salvation.  The Bible says in Psalm 34:8, "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!"

Read More »