Friday, August 31, 2012

That happy "snappy" sound

“Bow down and worship the LORD our Creator! The LORD is our God, and we are his people, the sheep he takes care of in his own pasture. Listen to God’s voice today!” Psalm 95:6-7 CEV

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in canning mode this week. Last week it was 14 jars of relish, 12 jars of beans, 20 quarts of tomatoes and 16 pint bags of corn for the freezer. This week I’ve canned 8 pints of beans, 13 quarts and 8 pints of tomato sauce. I still have more tomatoes, pumpkin, applesauce and sauerkraut to do, but things will definitely slow down now.

Some days I’m not sure why I put myself through all that work because it is an arduous process, but I really do enjoy it – especially seeing the filled jars on the pantry shelves and eating the better-than-store-bought items in the dead of winter.

But what I really love about the canning process are those few moments right after pulling the jars out of the canner. I find myself listening for that little metallic “snap” of each lid that proves the jars have sealed. No matter where I am in the house,, I hear it because I’ve trained myself to listen for it so I can count each ”snap” to be sure all the jars have sealed. Each time I hear that distinct sound, I feel a happy sense of fulfillment. I want to whoop for joy because I know my hard work paid off.

Though life is hard at times, I feel that same sense of fulfillment as I bow down to worship God. When I listen for and hear his voice, I know I am safe, cared-for and full of peace, even during life’s storms. Listening doesn’t come naturally – I have to work at listening for his voice, but when I hear it, it makes my heart glad.

Thank you Lord for caring for me and speaking to my heart. Help me keep my ears tuned to your voice no matter where I am or what I’m doing today. Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Family" moments

From now on you are not strangers and people who are not citizens. You are citizens together with those who belong to God. You belong in God’s family. Ephesians 2: 19 NLV

Tuesday evening, we went to see an Altoona Curve baseball game. We sat on the third base line, down in the first section of seats where we had a great view and a fair chance of capturing a foul ball in the stands.

There weren't too many children at the game because it was the first day of school, but in our immediate section, there were a group of four boys with their dads / granddads and another family with a boy and girl.Naturally, each time a ball was hit in our direction, they all scrambled to see if they could get the foul ball.

By the 7th inning, the boys had 2 balls. The little girl in front of us was growing more upset because she didn't have one yet. Then it happened. A foul ball was hit on the field just below where we were sitting. The 3rd base coach trotted over to retrieve it and the kids all gathered at the rail, hoping he'd chuck it to them. The boys kept pushing the little girl aside as they jostled for the best position.
The coach must have had a mischievous streak because he tossed the ball over all their heads into the stands behind us. A woman sitting three seats down from me was able to get the ball before the boys descended on it like vultures.

She grinned and promptly handed the ball to the girl in front of us as the boys expressed their displeasure. All the adults around us hooted with delight and applauded the woman's actions.
"If I'd have gotten the ball, I was going to do the same thing," another fan said.
It was a "family" moment as the people in our small section of the stands were united together, caring about one young member.

We are so privileged to be part of God's family, not tied together for a moment by a single incident at a ball game, but joined together for eternity by the bond we share in Christ!

Father, help me to share that bond with others so they may know the eternal joy of being part of your family as well! Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lessons from a little dog

Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” Galatians 3:28 CEV

When my daughter moved from her house into an apartment, she wasn’t able to keep her little chihuahua because the dog barked too much – so we inherited Egggo.

Since we already had an older rescued Brittany Spaniel named Danny, we hoped Egggo would get along with him. The two of them were OK together when my daughter came for visits, but an extended stay might be another thing.

Egggo seemed to get along with Danny fairly well at first. They mostly kept their distance, but over the next few days, it was fun to watch the two geriatric dogs, each with very different, very distinct personalities. Whenever Danny had to go out, Egggo followed. She did her business in the same spot and had to eat at the same times. She even took over his blankets and would have taken his bed too, except that she had to be crated at night to avoid accidents.

Just when it seemed they might start curling up together, Egggo found a pig’s ear to chew on. It was her toy and she loved it so much she was willing to destroy any shreds of friendship she had built with easy-going old Danny Boy. Whenever he so much as looked in her direction, she growled and snarled. If he walked too close to her, she worried that he would steal her chewy toy and lunged at him with teeth bared.

For as little as she is, she rules the roost. There’s no equality in her mind - she’s the queen of this household and she shows it!

But thankfully for Danny, we try to treat both dogs equally. Though she might try to boss him about, he is still on equal footing with his humans, getting lots of cuddling, love and attention – just as we give to her. Because he has specific physical needs, we do some things differently for Danny Boy, but we do care equally for each one.

God treats us the same way. It doesn’t matter to him what our nationality, religion, income status or sex is – we are all equal in his sight. Knowing our individual personalities, talents and skills, he may relate to each of us differently in order to bring out the best in each of us, but we are still equal in his sight. To put it as one Christian psychologist once did, “Wherever the Gospel goes, Jesus raises the status of the slave the poor and women. ” He offers the same salvation to all. And to all who accept that salvation, he offers the same opportunity to grow to their fullest potential in him.

Thank you Father, for caring about me! Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tomatoes and more tomatoes

Be glad you can do the things you should be doing. Do all things without arguing and talking about how you wish you did not have to do them. In that way, you can prove yourselves to be without blame. You are God’s children and no one can talk against you, even in a sin-loving and sin-sick world. You are to shine as lights among the sinful people of this world. Philippians 2:14-15 NLV

Last weekend, I bought a half bushel of Roma tomatoes to make and can spaghetti sauce. I haven't canned sauce for a while so I had forgotten what a big job it is. About halfway through the process of blanching and skinning the tomatoes, I realized I was grumbling to myself about all the extra work I had taken on. I didn't have to buy those extra tomatoes or make sauce - after all, I still had lots of tomatoes in my garden which would ripen over time. I could freeze them and make sauce later when it was cold outside.

The more I complained to myself, the harder the job seemed to become. My back started to hurt between my shoulder blades and I felt really tired. But then I decided to put on some praise and worship music so I didn't have to listen to myself complain.

As the music seeped into my soul, the job became easier and the tight muscles in my back relaxed a bit. No - not because the job had become easier, but because I had a change of attitude. I remembered why I wanted to make all that sauce; how good it would be to have a taste of summer in the dead of winter and to have some to share with my children who had families and jobs that prevented them from canning.

After I got all the tomatoes in my big roaster to cook, I remembered I needed to run some errands. On the way home, I ended up at a roadside farm stand where I bought another half bushel of Roma tomatoes to make more sauce.

No, I'm not a glutton for punishment. I know the amount of work that lies ahead. But because I can already see, smell and taste the goodness, I'm motivated for the work ahead. This time I'll start the process with praise and make the big job a lot easier!

Lord, help me to do everything without arguing and complaining. Thank you that a spoonful of praise makes everything easier! Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Pieces...Part 2

“Each one of us has one body, and that body has many parts. These parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, we are many people, but in Christ we are all one body. We are the parts of that body, and each part belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5 ERV

I'm a crafter, not a mechanic. But, I do find it interesting to see how things work. As I took apart my die-cutting machine last week to replace some damaged parts, I began to see how each gear and bearing fit together to create the machine.

The machine is made up of a steel frame to which heavy rollers are added. The top and bottom rollers are turned by two gears that fit together on one side. A smaller gear at the top fits on a crankshaft which is attached to a handle so that when I turn the handle, the two gears turn the rollers. The works are encased in a plastic and metal covering which has a flat platform and a housing for the rollers/ cranking mechanisms.

By sandwiching a piece of paper between two texture plates and sliding it on the platform between the two pressure rollers, I end up with a fancy, embossed paper that adds texture and interest to my paper crafting projects. If I use a die instead, I will end up with cut pieces which can be glued together to create a design.

The point is that my die-cutting machine is made up of many parts which each have a different job to do. Each part is important - as I found out when a small bearing in the handle mechanism broke and wouldn't turn the rollers. I had to take the machine apart, labeling each part so I could put it back together again after the replacement parts arrive. After all, I don't need to end up with "extra parts" after I reassemble it. LOL!

In Christ, we are all part of one body - one "machine" whose purpose is to glorify Christ and carry out his design plans for this earth. We don't all have the same function - but as we fit together, we do the job he created us for. We all belong to each other - each one with equal importance in the over-all design.

Lord, help me to see and understand my function as part of this wonderful "machine" of yours! Help me to see how I fit with others in the accomplishment of your awesome design plan. Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Pieces...

“Those who love Your Law have great peace, and nothing will cause them to be hurt in their spirit.” Psalm 119:165 NLV

Yesterday I wanted to make a special thank you card for a friend who recently gave us a wonderful gift. I decided on an idea that matched her personality and assembled my supplies.

As I started working on the card, I decided it needed more texture - a bit of embossing perhaps, for the background of my focal image. So I pulled out my die-cutting machine and a favorite embossing folder. But when I got ready to run the folder through the pressure rollers in the machine, the handle wouldn't turn at all. I'd been having some problems with the handle mechanism for a while, but now it was totally frozen.

Of course, my warranty had recently expired and I didn't have a clue what the problem was. All I could see were dollar signs to replace one of my favorite crafting tools. And I wasn't happy at all!
So I did the unthinkable - I began to take the machine apart to see how it worked. I wasn't sure what I'd find or even if I could fix it, but since I'd probably have to buy a new machine anyway... I decided to risk it to satisfy my curiosity.

Since you can find just about any kind of information on the Internet, I went to my favorite craft forum, Splitcoast Stampers, to see if anyone there had ever had trouble with their die-cutter. Lo and behold, I did find several crafters whose machines had developed problems similar to mine. Following their links, I arrived at one site where the photos showed a dismembered die-cutter as the crafter shared her problem and how her wonderful hubby fixed it.

Like my friend's machine, my problem was a little bearing inside the handle mechanism which rusted and broke, preventing the crankshaft from turning to move the pressure rollers. My hubby confirmed the diagnosis. But because I didn't realize it when the problem started, I had forced the handle, causing the crankshaft to twist as well, making it almost impossible for me to get it out.

To make a long story short, the owner of a local machine shop was able to get the twisted crankshaft out for me. I called the die-cutter manufacturer and was able to get inexpensive replacement parts - so in about a week, my machine will be as good as new!

Often, it's little things in life (like those tiny bearings) that build up to cause us big problems. We try to force our own solutions, without God's help, causing even more problems. But if we keep focused on God and our relationship to him, trusting in the advice from his divine "fix-it" manual, we will function smoothly, no matter how much pressure life puts on us.

Thank you Lord, for your Word that gives us peace and keeps us on track in the mists of life's pressure. Amen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


“But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” Psalm 42:8 NLT

Yesterday I finished a marathon 2-day canning project – homemade Relish!
My Mother-in-law taught me how to make her recipe many years ago and it is so much better than the commercially made product. It’s a combination of
  • 20 pounds of cucumbers
  • five pounds each of peppers (red and green), onions, cabbage and green tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. each of mustard and celery seeds
  • 3-4 Tbsp of turmeric
  • 1-2 cups of sugar (to taste) sugar
  • 1 quart each of vinegar and water.
On day one, the veggies are ground up and salted, then left to stand overnight. The next day the excess water is squeezed off the veggies until they are almost dry before cooking them in the fresh water and vinegar-spice mixture.

I have changed things up over the years. For example, I don’t stand over a hot stove and cook the mixture for one and a half hours. After I burned a batch a few years ago, I decided to let my crock pots do the cooking! The crock pots keep the mixture moist and I only have to stir things up occassionally while they cook for 4-5 hours on high. Sure it takes a bit longer, but I’m free to do other chores while the pots do all the work. LOL!

This year’s batch was about 2/3 the size of the recipe, but I ended up with 14 pints. I thought it would be enough to last for 2 years for my husband and I, but when I told my daughter about the relish, she immediately said, “I gotta have me some of that!” Oh well… I guess I can always make more next year.

Relish is a condiment – not something people usually eat by itself, but something they use to help enhance the flavor of other foods. I love the thought that God can make me into a condiment for his use. He takes all the trials and hurts that I’ve gone through and adds lots of learning experiences, interactions with others and a little heat to make me into a person who will add just the right touch to help to bring out the best in others.

It may be a marathon process, but I suppose God loves the process just as much as he loves seeing the finished product all ready to enjoy – just like I enjoy making and seeing my relish all canned on the counter!

Thank you Lord, for my relish and for preparing me to spice up the lives of others. Amen!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's a good day to pray

How often have you neglected to pray because you were having a good day?

Our good days are truly a blessing from God - but they are also an opportunity to pray for others who may not be having such good days. I belong to an online group of prayer warriors who are also writers. Each week there are prayer requests in our in-box as one or another of the group members goes through a difficulty.

But the neat thing is that not all of us have prayer requests at the same time. It kind of cycles around so that there are always a few of us who are feeling spiritually strong who can pray for those members who are having a rough time.

So next time you're having a good day - stop - and begin to pray for those around you who are going through trials.

After all, what comes around goes around. Wouldn't you like to know there are others praying for you when you need it?

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. Psalm 42:1 CEB

Deer have always fascinated me - probably because I don't remember seeing any where I grew up, except for in the zoo or local wildlife preserves where they fenced in areas for them.

So when I met my husband, it fascinated me to see the deer as we drove through his childhood haunts. He was able to spot them long before I would, because I wasn't used to looking for them. Since we now pastor here in central PA at the edge of our little town, there are an abundance of deer.

Last night at the end of the day, I took several photos of five deer who wandered out of the woods onto our softball field to nibble at the grass. One, a fawn, isn't visible because he ducked back into the woods as I approached.

I decided to try to get as close as I could for a photo and walked slowly toward the grazers. One of them watched me the entire time while the others grazed happily away, looking up at me occasionally. When I got too close for comfort, about 75 yards away in the open field, the one standing guard snorted loudly, flicked its tail and bounded into the woods, followed by the other three.

Heavenly Father, even as I crave your sweet presence today like those deer craved the sweet green grass, , help me to be alert to the things that so easily tempt me to forsake you. Help me to flee from those things and to warn others as well. Amen!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Staring at ceramic geese

My Danny Boy Dawg is a hunter at heart, but now that he's somewhere between 10 and 12 years old, with arthritis in his back and hind legs, he can't hunt like he used to. Ever since we got him from NBRAN (a Brittany rescue organization) 2 years ago, he spends his doggy days with his nose to the ground leisurely exploring his back yard or lying in a patch of warm sunlight on his soft blankets, chasing birds and other small, furry critters in his dreams.

Every once in a while, he shows his true hunting nature though. Several weeks ago when a baby bird fell from its nest during a bad storm, Danny had his nose to the front door all day long, wanting to go out and get the bird sitting on a fallen tree branch .

There's another nest of baby birds in a bush just off the front deck that he loves to watch as well - he could sit there for hours just staring at them, every muscle in his body tense and ready should they dare to leave the nest. And all the local chippies know they better hide when Danny's outside.

But my favorite Danny Dawg hunting incident happened last week when we were on vacation at our friend's cabin. We took Danny for a walk around the campground. Suddenly his body tensed and he inched as close as he could to two white ceramic geese, each about a foot tall, in a permanent camper's yard. For several minutes, he stood perfectly still, eyes focused on the pair, willing them to move so he could chase them.

Even though he's older now and apparently can't see very well, when he encounters a bird or small animal, his hunting training and instincts kick in. He focuses on that which he's been trained to do.

What a great reminder for us as Christians! "Teach me your way, Lord, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name." Psalm 86:11 CEB


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Shepherd's Rest...

“If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God.” Romans 14:8 CEB
There are times when all of us have to take a step back – when life becomes overwhelming and we need to take some time to regroup and recoup our spiritual resources. We need to sit back with the Lord and just let Him minister to us – to help us remember that we belong to him.

Last week, some dear friends offered us a “time out” by letting us stay in their cabin at a church campground in West Virginia. It seems like the Lord wanted us to rest as well because before we left for our trip, both my husband and I had to visit the chiropractor. We both were suffering from lower back pain which prevented us from doing a lot of hiking and other strenuous activities on our mini vacation. There was no Internet at the cabin so my time was spent relaxing, praying, reading and writing.

Retreating to a quiet place and spending time with the Lord helped to bring my life back into balance again, giving me the courage and motivation to go on. It helped me to refocus on the important things and to trust the Lord in the face of life’s changes and harder times looming on the horizon. I needed to be reminded that I belong to him and he cares for me.

Thank You Lord for that time spent with You and Your energizing, healing touch!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wake-up call...

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

Dogs can truly be "man's best friends" - BUT one of the cons of dog ownership is that they sometimes have to get up early in the morning to go out - when I'm not fully awake yet. But being a good doggy mama, I drag myself out of bed and take them outside.

I'm not sure how it happened, but the back door was locked when I closed it behind me at 6 AM the other morning. There I was in my jammies, no cell phone and no keys, standing on our back-door deck with two wide-awake pooches. My husband snoozed away, unaware in the bedroom at the other end of the house so he couldn't hear my frantic knocking on the back door.

I sat on the deck chair and reviewed my options.
- I could sit out there until he got up in about 2 least it was warm since it was the middle of July. But that wouldn't work since both the bathroom and my morning coffee were inside the house.
- I could break the glass window pane to open the back door... - not a good plan at all!
- I could go around to his bedroom window and thrown some pebbles at it to try to get his attention... - no, with my luck that morning I'd end up breaking the window... again, not a good idea.

I finally decided to try knocking on the front door - after all it was closer to the bedroom and he might just hear it. On my way around the house, I realized the dining room window was open with a fan inserted in it. So I squeezed through the ornamental bushes to get right up to the window and yelled inside the house - much to the amusement of the customers at the gas station across the street.......

Thankfully the early AM show was short-lived for the gas patrons. My sleepy-eyed husband heard me and dragged himself out of bed to rescue me, I don't remember if I cooked him a good breakfast that morning, but I know he deserved one!

While this is a humorous illustration, the reality is that Jesus wants to be a part of our lives. We've locked him outside of our hearts and lives, content to live without his help. Yet he stands there patiently knocking until we let him in to share our everyday lives. He's powerful enough to break down the door of our will, but he won't. He patiently waits for us to "wake up" to our need for his love and let him in.

Father, thank you for coming in to my heart: for loving me unconditionally, for sharing my everyday experiences and for always being there for me. Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012


“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
I have a confession to make - I'm a scrapbooking tool junkie....

If you ventured into my office/craft room, you'd see shelves from floor to ceiling full of paper, templates to make all sorts of shapes and 3-D embellishments and ribbon. One plastic dresser is full of different sized punches and another contains rubber stamps, markers, pencils and paints. Other dresser drawers contain fabric, brads, beads and whatnot for every occasion.

Each of my tools and supplies was purchased with a specific purpose and project in mind - carefully chosen to create just the right look for that special someone. Since many of those tools and supplies can be pricey, I usually choose carefully and use coupons!

Sure, I have a few superfluous supplies laying around - things I just had to have because they were on sale or because I saw a "really cool" card design which used that one special item. But for the most part I use everything I have here in my craft stash frequently. Since I've been creating handmade cards for over 10 years now, I have most of the things on hand that I need when I sit down to craft. But I am always on the lookout for new gadgets to make my crafting more efficient or more fun.
Best of all I love sharing those tools with my friends and grandchildren!

My wonderful Creator has been crafting my life for way longer! He has all the tools He needs on hand to create a masterpiece.
- He adds dabs of joyful colors here, dark shadows there - all designed to highlight His glory and power in my life.
- He carefully chooses from His pattern stash to provide life experiences along with God-ordained mentors which prepare me for tomorrow's challenges.
- He has all sorts of cutters to trim away excesses - those things which add unnecessary bulk and distractions.
- God stamps His image in my heart and embosses His promises on my mind as a constant reminder of His hand with me.

Everything I need - every lesson, every promise, every help along the way - all these things He freely gives me so I might live a life that glorifies Him!

Thank You Father for caring so much that you choose just the right tools to craft my life into a masterpiece fit to be used for Your glory! Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The heart wears glasses

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Time for a little quiz.

How many things can you think of that you can't see, but you know they exist?

Wind, electricity, tiny molecules.

If you can't see them, how do you know they exist?

Right again - we know they exist because we can see their manifestations. The wind moves the trees and we feel it against our faces when it blows. Electricity is there, running through the wires of our homes so that when we flip the switch, the lights turn on and our computers boot up to connect us to the world. Scientists can take objects and magnify them hundreds of times, allowing us to see tiny particles not visible to our naked eyes.

I can't see God, but I know he's there - through the answers to prayer. There have been too many of them and they have been too specific to the circumstances I faced to discount them as "coincidences."

I see him in the intricacies of nature. The animal world astounds me - how each creature has specific adaptations enabling it to live and thrive in its environment. I simply cannot accept that so many things came together by mere chance to make it so.

I see him in the beauty he brings out of the ashes of my life. No one by a loving God can take tragedy and turn it into triumph. He takes defeat and turns it into a chance to overcome. He takes abuse and turns it into an opportunity for salvation. He takes the broken shards of my dreams and fuses them together into fine crystal so his light can shine through to the world.

No, I can't see God with my eyes, but wearing the glasses of faith my heart can see him every moment of every day.

Thank you Father for being the light in my darkness, the strength for my weakened hands and the love that keeps me going when I want to give up. Thank you for being visible to the eyes of my soul. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Memorial Stones

“All you say can be trusted; your teachings are true and will last forever.” Psalm 119:160 CEV

In the allegorical novel Hinds Feet On High Places, the character “Much Afraid” is promised sure-footed hind’s feet to replace her lame ones if she follows her beloved Shepherd to the far-away high mountains.

Along the way she learns she must trust the Shepherd’s promises to get through the difficult experiences she encounters. Each time she sets aside her fears and trusts his words, she collects a small stone to remember the experience. Each one is a plain stone, not remarkable in any way, yet they are precious to her because of the memories connected to them.

At the climax of her journey, there is one scene where she must decide if she really does trust the Shepherd’s promise to heal her lame feet and to make her sure-footed as a deer. She pulls out her bag of memorial stones as she battles with the temptation to throw the useless things away. But as she pulls them out, she remembers experiences she had one-by-one. She’s not sure she can fully trust them, but she isn’t willing to part with them so she puts them back into her bag.

Later, after receiving the fulfillment of the promises the Shepherd made, she sits with him, remembering her difficult journey. She again takes out her bag of memorial stones. This time, she gasps in amazement as precious jewels tumble from the bag. Because she took his promises to heart and kept them, even through her most trying time of doubt, they were transformed into the jewels she now possessed. The Shepherd takes each one and embeds it in a beautiful gold crown he has made for her. She shudders at the thought of how close she came to throwing them away.

Have you ever doubted the promises the Lord has given you? I know I have. But each time, I come back to the realization that I’ve never met anyone like him and I don’t want to live my life without his presence or his promises – even if I can’t always see their fulfillment now. It’s a daily process, learning to trust all that he has said to me, but like Much Afraid, I can’t bear to toss his promises aside.

I’d like to encourage you to believe his words for yourself. but that’s a choice you’ll have to make.

Father, thank you for the precious words and promises you speak to my heart. I look forward to their ultimate fulfillment in eternity! Amen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My daughter Cammie visited us this weekend so we made a tried and true family favorite - Pizza! I like it because it's easy and the bread maker does the hard work while I get to enjoy my company. When the dough is ready. we get to spend some time cooking together which we've always enjoyed. And of course we all like to eat it. At about half the cost of ordering pizza from our local pizza shops, it is a frugal - and healthier alternative.

Pizza dough recipe: (makes 2 medium sized pizzas)
1 1/3 cups water
1 1/3 Tbsp of Olive Oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour ( or half whole wheat and half bread flour)
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Set your machine on dough cycle if possible.

When it's done roll the dough out on your pans and top with whatever you choose. We used sauce, cheese, garlic, peppers, onions, slices of the first ripe tomato from my garden, sautéed zucchini and yellow squash also from the garden for a yummy veggie pizza. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until it is lightly browned on bottom and crust edges.

Enjoy your family and of course, the pizza!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hidden potential...

Are you a visual person? Do you tend to judge things by how they look?

Sometimes I do that, but being a frugal crafter, I often find myself giving things a second look to search for an item’s hidden potential. For example, old books that are coming unglued or dog-eared old maps, make a wonderful supply of “design paper” for card backgrounds or embellishments. Or an empty cereal box can be turned into chipboard embellishments like fancy monograms or buttons with a little cutting, design paper and glue, mimicking their more expensive chipboard die-cut counterparts sold at the craft store.

Maybe that’s why I also enjoy certain home improvement programs like HGTV’s Property Brothers. Two brothers, one a real estate agent and the other a contractor, help people to purchase their dream homes. They start by showing their clients a move-in ready home with everything on their must-have list. This serves as a reality check for the clients because the home is usually way out of their price range.

Then they show their clients several “fixer-uppers” along with renovation plans which fit into the client’s budget. These properties which might be glossed over as unacceptable at first glance have the potential to become the show-places their future owners want. The client decided on a property and the renovations start. Ultimately, the homes end up looking as good or even better than the move-in ready house.

But, what about people? Do you judge them by how they look as well, or do you look for their hidden potential?

The prophet Samuel was told to go to the house of Jesse and anoint the future king of Israel to replace Saul. When he got there, he met and sized up each one of Jesse’s sons – all were good looking and had the appearance of great potential. But God cautioned Samuel not to pick any of them.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at the way he looks on the outside or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. For the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. A man looks at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” 1 Samuel 16:7 NLV

God had his eye on David, Jesse’s youngest son who was still a gangly, awkward teenager. He wasn’t much to look at yet, compared to his brothers who were already grown up, buff-looking warriors. But David’s heart stood head and shoulders above the hearts of his brothers because of the young man’s devotion to God. His hidden potential was what made him important in God’s plan.

We need to be careful how we judge others because we can’t usually see at first glance what’s inside. Yet God knows what they have the potential to become with a little work. and he has both the time and the patience to do it! After all, take a look inside your own heart and check out what he’s doing there!

Thank you Lord for looking at our hearts and giving us a chance to become all you know we can become. Amen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shields Locked!

“You are my hiding place and my battle-covering. I put my hope in Your Word.” Psalm 119:114 NLV

I have a group of very dear friends whom I've never met face to face. We are actually all part of a Internet writing group, sharing our love of the writing craft, critiquing each other's work,

But over the past 5+ years that we have known each other, we have become a very close-knit bunch, sharing the ups and downs of life and especially praying for one another..

I'm not sure where it started, but during a particularly difficult time for one of the gals, another one closed her e-mail with the illustration of a line of ancient soldiers in battle, with their shields locked together. As long as the army advanced together, the arrows of the enemy couldn't get through their wall of shields and they would all protect each other.  She ended her e-mail of encouragement with the words, "shields locked."

Whenever one of us is going through a hard time, we can count on the others to pray.We lock our shields together and advance into the enemy's territory, protecting our vulnerable needy, sister behind the wall of shields as we advance her prayer request to God's throne.

It's more important than ever that we band together in prayer. If we try to go it alone during these difficult times, we may become fatigued, depressed and overcome by the trials of life. But if we align ourselves with others who can surround us in prayer when we are most vulnerable, we will be better able to get through the trials

If you're not part of a group that prays, begin to ask God to help you find a prayer partner or prayer support group. Join or start  a small group Bible Study where relationships can be built - including prayer relationships.

Remember that  friendships take time and care to cultivate, but as they grow and are nurtured, will offer solid, strong support. My online writers' group grew into the supportive group it is today through several online Bible studies where we chatted in real time. It didn't just happen over night.

Check to see if there is some kind of local organization in your community that is centered with prayer. We have a Christian Women's organization in my community that features monthly "prayer coffees." I've been attending them for two years now and have been watching the group gel together and become a strong support system  through prayer.

If needed, take advantage of  ministries that offer phone-in prayer lines. While they won't give you the support you need for long-term trials, they will help in the short-term. Speak to a pastor for help in finding prayer support.

We were never meant to fight life's battles alone! Prayer is the best weapon to fight against life's difficulties and is most effective when done with others. Shields Locked!

Thank you Lord, for friends who are willing to go with me into the battle through prayer and lock their shields around me when I need it! Amen.