Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Legend of the Poinsettia

What is your favorite Christmas decoration?  I just love poinsettias.  Do you?  Have you ever heard the Legend of the Poinsettia?  I'll sum it up for you, but I really recommend an artfully crafted retelling of this story by Tomie dePaola.  You can read my summary or you can click on the link and hear the story.  I know what I'd do.  I'd listen to the story.

Lucida is a little girl living in Mexico.  We all have Christmas traditions.  In Lucida's village on Christmas Eve, everyone in the church brought a gift to lay at the figure of baby Jesus.  Lucida's mother had the honor of making a new blanket for the figure.  Unfortunately, she became ill and couldn't complete the project.  Lucida tried to finish the blanket on her own, but all she accomplished was making the yarn tangled.  Lucida had nothing to give the baby Jesus.  On her way to the church service, she encounters a mysterious woman.  The mystery lady assures Lucida that her mother will soon recover.  At her encouragement, Lucida picks some common weeds to take to the church and lay at the figure of baby Jesus.  When Lucida lays the weeds at the manger and prays to God, an amazing transformation takes place.  The weeds turn into beautiful Poinsettia flowers.

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I love this Christmas symbol so much.  I'm not Hispanic.  This isn't my cultural heritage.  I find this story full of symbolism.  I can relate to little Lucida.  At Christmas we celebrate the ultimate Giver.  God gave Jesus to the world to live a human life.  Jesus gave up His life to die on the cross as a payment for our sins.  The Holy Spirit gives us God's presence.  We are the recipients of these lavish gifts.  Because I am created in the image of the Giver, I want to give also.  I want to give something of value to this little baby lying in a manger.  Like Lucida, I find I have nothing to give.  I come before Jesus and offer up the only thing of value that I truly possess.  I offer Him my life: my time, my energy, my choices, my praise, and my material possessions.  Just like Lucida, I worry that my gift will not be good enough.  Surely I have made a tangled mess of things in the past.  Good news!  No tangled mess is beyond His redeeming touch.  Our lives might be like the weeds that Lucida picked: common and ordinary.  But in God's presence, they can be transformed into a beautiful work of art.

2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT "So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  and the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Prayer

One of the ladies at our Thursday Night Bible Study shared this prayer request and I loved it.  I tend to stay kind of busy, but I just added another commitment to my life.  Yikes!  When I feel stressed and overwhelmed with things to do, I don't always respond to people in the most loving manner.  So I loved this prayer:

Remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speeches?

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  

My stressed out response isn't going to make any situation better.  Nope, it's a Christ-like response that will really help.  The Bible even says so in Romans 12:21.

So if you're feeling stressed or attacked, I invite you to pray this one with me:

Lord, help me to reflect Jesus instead of reflecting the onslaught coming at me.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

The first time I remember celebrating Halloween was in kindergarten.  I dressed up as a leopard to my class's costume parade and Halloween party.  My family went Trick or Treating that year also.  It was a little different for me than it may have been for you.  We lived out in the country.  The nearest house was about a quarter of a mile away.  My Mom drove us to all the neighbors' houses in a two mile radius to knock on their doors.  I still remember the delight that radiated from Mrs. Paxton's face when she opened her door.  She was a widow with no grandchildren living near her.  She fed us homemade cupcakes.

When I was older, I heard that Halloween was the devil's holiday.  If you celebrate it, you're celebrating Satan.  Well, I didn't want to do that because I loved Jesus.  My parents chatted with me and left the decision up to me.  For the most part, I stopped celebrating Halloween.  I wouldn't want to give fear a foothold in my life.  I was already having enough trouble with fear in every dark night.

But as my relationship with God deepened, I learned the security that comes from being a child of the Most High King.  As His servant, I live under His protection.  I can't think He will shelter me from every discomfort.  I do know He is good and powerful.  He will be with me in everything.  He will turn all my sufferings for my good and His glory.  He did it for Jesus.  He turned Jesus' suffering on the cross into good - salvation for me.  He turned Jesus' sufferings into glory - to show His power over death when Jesus rose from the grave.

This Halloween, I'm not going to celebrate evil.  But I am going to take this opportunity to reach out to others.  It's not every night that people welcome strangers.  I am going to encourage my children's imagination.  Oh yes, I am going to eat some candy.  Most of all, I'm going to celebrate that Jesus Christ has set me free from the fear of death.  Not that I'm in a hurry to die.  But when I do, I believe that I will live eternally with God because Jesus paid the price for my sins on the cross.

"Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death where is your sting?"
1 Corinthians 15:45b-55 NLT

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: The People of Sparks

It starts as a miscommunication, a misunderstanding between people.  The people divide along cultural lines.  Each group begins to see the other group through the eyes of distrust.  People view each other as enemies instead of fellow townspeople.  They misjudge and misinterpret each other's words and actions.  Fear and hurt abound.  The misunderstanding escalates.  One side slings insults at the other.  The insulted group fires back.  The conflict intensifies to the point of violence.  What can stop it?

Want to know what happens next?  Read the book.  I read it to preview it for my 9 year old son.  I think he's ready for the concepts about conflict presented in the book.  There's no profanity or sexuality in it, but it does discuss war.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fleece Blankets

A few months ago the ladies of our church did a fleece blanket making party.  We made several lightweight, single-layer fleece blankets to distribute to homeless people in our area.  In the middle of summer, we thought a thin blanket would be perfect.  I promised the ladies to make a few videos for them to use as a reference for later.  Well, I still haven't gotten around to it!  But here are some great instructional links to help.

First question: How do you get the holes in the fleece?
I use a Skip Stitch Blade in a rotary cutter.  I cut the edges of the fleece nice and straight with a regular rotary blade.  Then I use the Skip Stitch Blade to make the holes.  You need to make the holes about 0.75-1 inch from the edge of the fleece.  Here's a great tutorial video.  I do the crocheting a little different than this tutorial.  She does a single crochet in each hole and then chain between holes.  I do two single crochets in each fleece hole (no chains).  I do four single crochets in each corner.

Second question: What fancy edging should I do after I single crochet in the holes?
The tutorial video uses a lovely shell.  I often do the very same edging.  It looks a little femine, so sometimes I do a crab stitch border, it's a little more masculine.  It reminds me of rope.  I recently learned this cathedral border.  It's a little more fancy.

Third question: How much material does it take to make a blanket?
Good question.  For an adult, I used about 2 yards of fabric.  That makes a blanket 56 inches wide by 72 inches long.  Plenty big!  For a baby or toddler, I use about 1.25 yards to get a blanket 44 inches wide by 58 inches long.  I like to buy my fleece at Joann's when it is on a 50% off sale.  Look for large remnants to save even more!  One large skein (Red Heart Super Saver) is usually enough yarn to do the edging.

Fourth question: How long does it take to make?
I don't really know.  I crochet while we watch TV.  Maybe two movies.

Thanks for reading.  Happy Crocheting!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: Praying the Bible

I digested this book in three days!  How could I read it that quickly?  It's just that good and it's only 100 pages long.  Donald Whitney gives a simple and sublime method of praying scripture in this book.  Considering 2 Timothy 3:16, he instructs readers to view each verse of a Psalm as God speaking.  The reader can respond to it in prayer just like you would respond to any other person in conversation.  Then Witney directs readers to go on to the next verse and repeat the process.  He even gives suggestions on how to handle more challenging verses like Psalm 58:6 and how to adapt the prayer model to a group setting.  If your prayer life is as dry as a popcorn fart or you mind is as distracted in prayer as monkeys running through a forest, then pick up this book asap!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fruity Ice Cream

Boy is it hot outside!  I want something frozen to cool off.  I also want to increase my family's fruit and vegetable intake.  We've been making a fruit based frozen dessert.  Want to try it?  My kids and I love it but it's a little too healthy for my husband.

1/2 cup frozen banana chunks
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon sugar

I put all five ingredients in the blender.  I use a Ninja blender system that I love.  Thanks hubby for getting it for me for my last birthday!  Puree until it is the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  This makes one large serving or two small ones.  We were celebrating Independence Day when we made this batch of ice cream, so I sprinkled on some blueberries for a red, white, and blue effect.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Review: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

This is an older book, but I really relish reading it.  I grew up around cattle, not sheep.  While they are both livestock, they are managed a little differently.  Keller's book is full of insight into the beloved 23rd Psalm.  It's broken into 12 chapters, devoting two chapters to each verse in the poem.  The reader with really meditate on this Psalm.  It also gave me insight to other passages in the Bible that discuss the Shepherd/sheep relationship.  I highly recommend it as background reading for John 10 in which Jesus tells His followers "I am the good shepherd."  Pick up a used copy at a garage sale and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review: Summer of the Monkeys

Remember Where the Red Fern Grows?  Summer of the Monkeys is by the same author, Wilson Rawls.  His cloquical, country voice echoes through these pages.  It's a story about a fourteen year-old boy, Jay Berry, and his twin sister, Daisy.  There's a dog, 29 monkeys, a pony, and a difficult choice thrown in the narrative mix.  This story has it's sad spots, but in a sweet and heart-warming way.  It's not the same story of loss as Where the Red Fern Grows.  As far as negative or inappropriate content, this book is pretty tame.  It brought up some safety issues.  Jay Berry walks in the railroad tracks.  He also prays to the Old Man of the Mountains at one point in the story.  We talked about why we pray only to God.  If you loved Where the Red Fern Grows, you will enjoy this story.  Greg (9 yo) and Phoenix (5 yo) sure enjoyed hearing it while they climbed trees like little monkeys.

'Grandpa smiled and said, "We surely do.  You know, an old man like me can teach a young boy like you all the good things in life.  But it takes a young boy like you to teach an old man like me to appreciate all the good things in life.  I guess that's what life's all about."' - Grandpa to Jay Berry

Friday, May 27, 2016

2016 Summer Bucket List

Yay!  Summer is here again.  We've planned some fun things to do.  What have you planned?

Play Wal-Mart Bingo 
Explore Aviate 
Enjoy Urban Air
Sleep Over!
Roller Skating
Play Checkers at Cracker Barrel
Visit the Wichita Art Museum
Host a Tasting Party
Visit the Humane Society and bring NO animals home
Swim at the lake
Show at the health food store with the Owens.  Get the healthy food tips.
Swim at the pool
Wii family game night
Go fishing
Go to Exploration Place
Prepare all the recipes in Greg's cookbook
Visit the zoo
Walk around Botanica
Paint with water guns (canvas or shirt)
Enjoy the amenities at Watson Park
Tie Dye
UFO day - finish a project
Play basketball
Baseball game
Camp out
Water balloon fight
Kids make supper
Backwards Day
Visit the Valley Center Historical Museum
Paper Airplane party
Build a blanket fort
Pick peaches
do Random Acts of Kindness

Well, that sounds like enough to do in summer!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Christie's Magic Muffins

My friend Christie passed this recipe to me.  I was surprised to discover the fudgy muffins she fed me had no flour!  The muffins mainly consist of pumpkin and peanut butter.  So here we go with the recipe.

2 eggs, beaten
2 cups peanut butter (I only used 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup raw honey (I used sugar)
1.5 cups pumpkin puree (that's a whole can)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I used mini M&M's)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray the muffin pan or cupcake liners with nonstick baking spray.  In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips until the dough has an even consistency.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Fill the muffin wells about 3/4 full.  This recipe makes 12 muffins.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Test for doneness with a toothpick.   

Greg eats pumpkin without knowing it!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Faboulous Body Butter

I don't know why I haven't tried making body butter before.  It's so easy!  It's a nice alternative to lotion.  If you are sensitive to certain ingredients, this is a great way to create a lotion to meet your needs without spending a fortune.  We made two different blends.  I need to give a little warning before we start.  This body butter will be preservative free.  You should try to use it up within 6 months of making it.  Also, a given container should be used by only one person.

Recipe #1 is on the left, lovely helper in the middle, Recipe #2 on the right

Body Butter Recipe #1
Yielded a softer, fluffier butter.  It resembles whipped shortening.
1/3 cup shea butter (I order mine from this site
1/3 cup coconut oil (I prefer the raw or less refined version that give a coconutty smell)
1/3 cup olive oil (the lighter the better)
1/2 teaspoon vitamin e oil (or break open 10 capsules of vitamin e)
10 drops clove essential oil (or essential oil of your choice)

Body Butter Recipe #2
Yielded a firmer, richer butter.  It smells like chocolate!  We tried using lavender essential oil with it, but the chocolate smell of the cocoa butter covered it.
1/3 cup cocoa butter (I order mine from this site
1/3 cup coconut oil (I prefer the raw or less refined version that give a coconutty smell)
1/3 cup olive oil (the lighter the better)
1/2 teaspoon vitamin e oil (or break open 10 capsules of vitamin e)
10 drops peppermint essential oil (or essential oil of your choice)

We followed the directions in this video from  After the cocoa/shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil were melted, we added the vitamin e and essential oils.  Then we whipped them with an electric mixer.  The stand type mixer worked better and faster, but a hand held mixer worked fine too.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Karlee's Biscuits

A couple of weeks ago our Women's Ministry had a Bread and Butter event.  Karlee demonstrated how to make biscuits.  Valerie lead us in a Bible Study and communion to start our year out right.  It was wonderful!  I promised the ladies to type up the recipe.  Here goes!

Step 1:
Gather your ingredients: yeast, warm water, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, shortening, vinegar, milk, butter.  You will also need a large bowl, a couple of wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons, rolling pin, and circular cookie cutter/glass.  Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2:
Dissolve 1 package of yeast (2.25 teaspoons if you buy yeast in bulk) in 1/4 cup of warm water.  A sprinkle of sugar will help your yeast start working.

Step 3:
Mix together the dry ingredients in the large bowl.
5 cups all-purpose flour (I experimented with 2 cups of whole grain wheat flour)
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix these ingredients well.  Break up any clumps of baking powder and baking soda.

Step 4:
Create a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a 1 cup measure.  Fill the cup up with milk.  Pour this mixture into the well in the bowl of flour.  Repeat this for another 1 tablespoon vinegar and cup of milk so that in the end you add 2 cups of milk/vinegar to the flour mixture in the large bowl.  Stir.

Step 5:
Add 1 cup shortening to the bowl.  Stir.  The mixture will be thick.  Use your hands to mix at the end.  The batter will be a little wet.  Turn it out onto a well floured counter and gently kneed to achieve the right consistency.  Kneed in more flour if necessary.  You want the batter to be tender but not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers.  Biscuits have the best texture if the dough is handled a minimal amount.

Step 6:
Roll the dough to about an inch thick.  Cut out biscuits using the top of a glass as a circular cookie cutter.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Roll out the scraps of dough again and cut more biscuits until all the dough is gone.  We made about 20-24 biscuits out of this recipe.

Step 7:
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brush melted butter onto the tops of the biscuits.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minuets until the tops of the biscuits are golden.

Freezer option:
Flash freeze the raw biscuits to thaw and bake later.  I placed the cut and buttered raw biscuits on a cookie sheet in the freezer for about and hour.  Then I put them in a zip lock bag and returned the bag to the freezer.  When I wanted to use them later, I put the frozen biscuits on a cookie sheet at night right before I went to bed.  I put the cookie sheet in the oven.  First thing in the morning, I turned the oven on and baked the biscuits for breakfast. It took a little longer to bake than 20 minuets because the oven was not preheated.