Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Day #3

Totally a cereal and leftovers kinda day but figured I should still post.

Breakfast: Life cereal while driving...
Lunch: leftovers from last night (l-p chicken, rice, and peas)
Dinner: Life cereal for a "snack" then leftover l-p chicken and peas....

So boring I didn't even take a picture! LOL!

Just wait...tomorrow I will be not in charge of my own dinner so we'll see what I eat then!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Day #2

Here's the breakdown of day #2:

Breakfast: a banana
Lunch: 1 piece leftover pizza, leftover potatoes from Day #1, a banana, and a protein bar
Dinner: I made lemon-pepper chicken, peas and had left over rice and rolls from Day #1

Here's what I did:

1. Put chicken tenders in glass baking dish, poured on lemon juice to taste (had to borrow some from grandma but normally I have it on hand...not sure what happened to mine), and sprinkled with pepper to taste. Covered dish with foil.

2. Baked chicken in oven at 350* for 30 minutes.

3. About 5 minutes before chicken finished, I took a bag of frozen peas and followed directions on bag.

4. Reheated rolls (in microwave but will definitely do the toaster over next time) and leftover rice mix.

**Luckily for me, when the pot holder slipped--while I was checking the chicken--down to the bottom of the stove and almost started a fire, I was able to get it and not burn myself OR start the house on fire...every good cook has some mishap, right??**

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cooking from the Pantry: Introduction and Day #1

So, there is a statistic that if you get creative and use a lot of the ingredients that are hiding in your pantry, you could save 25% on your groceries for that month or however long depending on the amount of food stashed away. Obviously you may have to replace certain things like milk or eggs but other than that, you should be good to go.

I've done this one time before but now I've got more interesting staples other than pasta, tomato sauce, frozen chicken, veggies, and a few other regular shelf-space takers!

I just decided tonight to do this so my earlier meals today were a little more simple.
Breakfast: Life cereal
Lunch: leftover pasta in tomato sauce
Dinner: I decided to make something a little more least I don't normally cook for myself like this. It included baked buffalo chicken strips, potatoes, some chicken-flavored rice/vermecelli, and crescent rolls.

So this is what I did:

1. Marinaded chicken tenders in buffalo sauce (the longer you marinate, the more flavorful they are) in baking dish (8x8 or 9x13). Covered dish with aluminum foil.

2. Cooked chicken at 350* for about 25 minutes.

3. Washed and cut up potatoes, put on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkled with italian seasoning and put in oven at *375 for about 20-25 minutes...could have been a little less and still yummy. (I used both our normal oven and our toaster oven so I could cook simultaneously.)

4. I had the rice leftover but I would start cooking it about 15 min before everything else was done.

5. I put the crescent rolls in the oven just after the chicken was done since it finished a little before the potatoes.

5. I put a serving on my plate and sprinkled parmesan cheese on the potatoes and shredded cheese on the chicken tenders.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Discovering I'm a "Turtle"...Are you a "turtle" too?

The turtle/tortoise is known for its hard shell that allows the turtle to retreat upon the threat of any type of danger. These creatures are slow and steady but always "win the race". The one in the photo is somewhat special to me. This was 'aquired' through a pool struggle in La Paz, Mexico with my students last summer (2010). Needless to say, I was going to use it to play a prank on the guys with my girls as they did to us with it but it just never happened...but I'm HAPPY about that because it brings back many awesome memories.

Yesterday, I guess I glanced at the turtle or just thought about it for some reason and I thought about how it can be a similie for people (or at least myself) sometimes. We have a hard shell. We're tough and independent. We're small. We're aware of threats and dangers around us. We EASILY retreat when there is danger or threats to who we are. We don't open up easily. We are often afraid of opening up to those around us because we don't know if we will be good enough. We don't know if they'll accept us. We don't know if we're willing to open our hearts to get hurt by letting others inside of us. However, its when we do open ourselves up to others that we become more confident, we are less afraid of what others will think. I think it's important to remember that our confidence should be in Christ and His work in our lives. He's the one that made our hearts to be shared and made our lives to be shared with one another! He's redeemed us, we're not perfect, we never will be and as much as we try to put on a 'shell' for others to see as our true beauty, there's so much more underneath it and that's where the true beauty lies in each of us. There is a song called Behind The Scenes by Francesca Battistelli that talks about this. The chorus says:
Things aren't always as they seem
You're only seeing part of me
There's more than you could ever know
Behind the scenes
I'm incomplete and I'm undone
But I suppose like everyone
There's so much more that's going on
Behind the scenes 
I think that is true at some level for each of us. We all have things that people can't imagine would be true about us. Just recently, I had someone I am developing a friendship with say they never would imagine that I, of all people, would struggle with depression. She struggles with depression and as I was sharing about what God was doing in my life, I shared that I struggled with it. She said she never would've imagined me saying that. It proved to me right there that we all have things that people don't know about us. Even those people that know us to the depths of our core, or at least we think they do, often don't know some things. I think that it takes a while for us to want to 'come out of our shell' and share our hearts and lives with people. Have you ever had those people that you meet and you feel like you've known forever and you could spend hours upon hours upon hours talking to? Do you feel like these are the people that God uses to help you 'come out of your shell'? I DO! I have been fortunate to have a few of those people in my life. One of those people I met about 2.5 years ago. We met through mutual friends and have been great friends ever since. I remember we started emailing back and forth almost daily (he lived in MN at the time) about our lives and what was happening then or some of the things we'd been through in our lives. Then we would talk on the phone often and we talked with tremendous ease and just enjoyed getting to know each other. The more I learned to trust him, the more I shared. He never judged, he never thought I was a 'crazy person'...okay, well, maybe he did but he didn't make me feel ashamed about those things that made me 'crazy'. He taught me to open my heart again after the previous few years where I had been hurt VERY badly by those who said they were my friends or even those who said they loved me and had put up lots of walls. He taught me that even though there was a chance he would hurt me at some point in time, he cared about me and loved me as a friend despite what I considered to be my immaturity, etc... He gave me a glimpse of God's love...although its something I didn't realize until long after our friendship developed and strengthened. To this day, he continues to support me, encourage me, be my 'cheerleader', be my shoulder to lean on or cry on, my friend that is there NO MATTER what happens! This friend has taught me a lot about what it means to love and to be loved. He has allowed me to open up and share with the world who I am because he cared enough to love me and support me when I felt unlovable and invisible. He believed in me...and still does. Rarely was, or is there, a conversation where he doesn't remind me that I'm important and that I can do whatever I want. He's excited for me when I tell him about new endeavors or what I want to do some day. It doesn't matter to him that I have issues...if we're honest...we ALL do. It doesn't matter to him if I break down in tears over the smallest thing. It doesn't matter to him if I look like a bum. He is there regardless. I'm so grateful to have him in my life each day.

There is another person I have only known for about 1.5 years but he is such a driving force in pushing me towards God. He's always pointing our conversation back to God and how my relationship with God is impacted by whatever we are talking about. He pulls things out of me that very few people do. He pushes me. He CHALLENGES me. I've not had many friends like him. He really shares the truth with love when he sees things going on in my life that I may not recognize or understand because I'm not on the outside. He shares his struggles and excitement with me. His example has really helped me to learn what 'coming out of my shell' looks like. I would say that he has challenged me so much and that my recent growth is largely, if not mostly, due to his proding and encouragement. He cares no matter what.

The other two people I have that are 'those people' that cause me to 'come out of my shell' are my two accountability partners. Although we formed this group in the fall of 2010 out of a desire to have community and wanting to be challenged to grow in our faith and our quiet times with the Lord. These women have been there through some mountains and very deep valleys in the past 7 months or so. They have challenged me to grow as a person, they have been there when I'm feeling completely out of my mind, they have been there when I'm just sobbing my eyes out and they've also been there to encourage me as I've stepped out in faith to start the photography endeavor. These women have helped me learn what it means to be a friend, a sister, a wife and a mother...through their wonderful examples. The three of us are at different stages in life but we are connected through our common bond of Christ and the wonderful friendship we've developed because of God bringing us together.

I always need to remember that I'm beautiful and that no matter what any one else thinks...God created me to be beautiful in His sight and that will never change. Mercy Me has a wonderful song that reminds me of this very important characteristic of Christ. It's You're Beautiful.

Please remember that you are beautiful and that God made you to be who you are, He put you where you are and He's growing you each just have to be open and willing to allow him to do the work in your heart. I love you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day Crafts and Ideas

Valentine's Day is just around the corner...literally and you may not want to spend a whole lot on this 'holiday', see my post here and you'll know how I feel about this 'holiday'. Sometimes, though, you may want to do just a little something are some ideas that cost very little but mean the world to those who recieve them.

1. Make a card: All you need is some red, white or pink paper and a fun pen or marker. (The Dollar Store has many craft supplies...super cheap! Otherwise, hit up another local craft store or big-box store like WalMart.) Obviously, you can embellish this to your heart's desire but what is important is that you took the time to make it and what you write inside that REALLY matters most. Oftentimes, we don't say what we want to say to the ones we love and, in many cases, its too late when you finally 'get around' to it. This is your time to do it whether you do it throughout the year or not. Don't wait...we're not guaranteed tomorrow and sometimes God takes people from us (whether its a move, death or something else) before we 'get around' to showing we care.

2. If you don't think you can make a card but don't want to spend a lot, go to the Dollar Store...they have a whole section and cards are only $0.50 each or you can go to Hallmark, the grocery, Walgreens/CVS, WalMart or wherever you would like but I personally like the Dollar Store because they have decent cards, with decent messages and you can add more if you'd like.

3. Make a "Top Ten Reasons I Love You" list. Type it up or write in fun handwriting/lettering and put in a frame. The Dollar Store has frames so take your pick of what size you'd like (4x6 or 5x7 for a desk; 8x10 for hanging up somewhere or putting on a ledge/mantle) and so do many other stores.

4. Make a puzzle. Take a piece of cardboard or cardstock and write a special message on it. Then decorate. When finished, cut out the shapes with an Xacto knife in funky shapes...maybe even try your hand at some hearts in there somewhere.

5. Go do something you both enjoy together. Maybe you just want to go to the gym and go for a good run or if you are in a MUCH warmer climate than Chicago during V-Day, go for a run on beach, ride bikes or just lay on the beach! :)

For those who want to kick it up a knotch:

6. Get a cheap basket (Dollar Store/elsewhere) and fill it with some of their favorite things. For example, if I were getting a basket, I'd love some Reese's, some apple cider, a Valentine's mug, a good book/magazine, a coupon for: a pizza & movie night at home/a walk at sunset, a massage from the giver of the basket or other little things. It can be as cheap and small as you want or as extravagant as you want to make it. Make it yourself and put thought into it and you will be good to go no matter what size it is.

7. Plan a "surprise night". You will make an invitation for your special someone and invite them to a "special night". [Be sure to clue them in when it comes to the attire required.] Perhaps you want to plan a night in with their favorite pizza or meal (You can tell I love pizza!). You could set the table with a table cloth, candles, your 'finest' dishes (even if you just want to go with paper ones), a flower, music, and a card or note filled with a message about your love/desire to care for them followed by a movie and popcorn. --OR-- You can take them out to a special restaurant and order a special dessert or have dessert back at your house and something else special waiting.

Whatever you choose to do, show ALL those you love that you care! Think ahead...even if it is just the day before and remember...little things can sometimes mean the world so nothing is too little! :)

More on DOING LIFE NOW...don't wait...

I got this in an email from my dad. It speaks to what many of us struggle with but rarely do anything about. I am actually in the midst of doing some "SIMPLIFYING" in my life's amazing how much more relaxed I feel.

Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven't thought about it, don't have it on their schedule, didn't know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine.

I got to thinking one day about all those people on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back. From then on, I've tried to be a little more flexible.

How many women out there will eat at home because their husband didn't suggest going out to dinner until after something had been thawed? Does the word 'refrigeration' mean nothing to you?

How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched ' Jeopardy ' on television?

I cannot count the times I called my sister and said , 'How about going to lunch in a half hour?' She would gas up and stammer, 'I can't. I have clothes on the line. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain' And my personal favorite: 'It's Monday.' She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.

Because Americans cram so much into their lives, we tend to schedule our headaches.. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!

We'll go back and visit the grandparents when we get Steve toilet-trained. We'll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet. We'll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.

Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of 'I'm going to,' 'I plan on,' and 'Someday, when things are settled down a bit.'

When anyone calls my 'seize the moment' friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips. She keeps an open mind on new ideas. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. You talk with her for five minutes, and you're ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of Rollerblades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.

My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years. I love ice cream. It's just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process. The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.

Now....go on and have a nice day. Do something you WANT to...not something on your SHOULD DO list.. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry go round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight or gazed at the sun into the fading night? Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask 'How are you?' Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? Ever told your child, 'We'll do it tomorrow.' And in your haste, not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch? Let a good friendship die? Just call to say 'Hi'?

When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift....Thrown away.... Life is not a race. Take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over.

‘Life may not be the party we hoped for... but while we are here we might as well dance!’ Yeah!!!!!!!!

Before today ends, do something you will remember and if you were to die to tonight, you'd be happy you did can be reading a book or magazine for 30 min., taking a hot shower, or calling someone to just say "hi" and "I love you".

And remember, this is the ONLY you that God gave you so honor Him and treat it well!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Being a Good Steward with EVERYTHING!

***WARNING: long and challenging post...get comfy and read on!***

I think so often, we forget that even in our hardest times, we are truly blessed. We have a roof over our head, we have food, more than one meal a day, we have clothes to wear, friends and family who love us--even when it feels like they don't sometimes, and GOD on OUR side! Although I often see people, myself included, taking everything for granted and not using their resources wisely--whether it's finances, time or talents to help others, share God with others and even at the most basic level, improve our own lives so we can better share the love and gospel of Jesus.

[I was thinking about posting on this topic for a while but was encouraged even more after watching an encounter with the man at the gym who dropped $20 to workout for the day at 4pm in the afternoon while staying at a hotel with a workout facility and a pool just across the street.-Another version of my thought process at the end of the finances section. Be sure to read for a GOOD laugh!]


Finances/money is a sore subject for many people. When it comes to finances, we are always wanting more money than what we have. We say, "if only I had a little more money...I could send it to that missionary or I could support that student's endeavors". The reality is that many of us make enough money to cover our needs and oftentimes, our wants. Over the past month (and for the rest of the year), I have created a budget using a worksheet that I found here. I also listed out renewals and expenses (with approx. $$$ amounts) by month such as professional organizations, warranties, automobile routine expenses (oil changes, etc...), license/license plate renewals, dentist, etc...There are many more templates that may fit your life better than the one I use (find them here). I only used credit and debit cards (would not suggest if you don't keep a check on it every couple of days) for purchases so I could see where my money was going and if I spent any cash--it was from gift money. I put all of my paycheck $$$ in my checking account and balanced my checkbook a couple times throughout the month. Any money made babysitting or housesitting/dogsitting was cashed and put in a separate envelope. The envelope is currently full of my 'extra' cash. I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with it yet although I have some ideas, I know that I want to use it to further the Kingdom and impact the lives of others. I also plan to use some of it throughout the year to plan for the future... One thing I've also learned is that even as careful as I tend to be with my finances, I can still do everything I need and want to do without spending my extra income. Another thing this helps to do is curve impulse buying. As I am contemplating a "FUN" purchase, I ask myself if it is worth breaking my budget and if it's something that I feel is worth spending my HARD-EARNED cash on.  
A couple things to help ensure success (or at least baby steps to it) on this financial journey:
~Write down every $1 spent (even that $ for vending machines or gifts)--I used my planner/calendar. I also noted any 'extra' money I earned.
~Keep ALL receipts in ONE place. I have a little rectangular bin (used normally for small plants) that I bought at the $ store. It sits on my desk yet is stylish.
~Be aware of how much you've used of your gas, food, entertainment/hobbie budgets...those are the three that will kill any budget.
~On the first day of the next month, enter all income and money spent into the worksheet.
~For your birthday month and December, budget a reasonable amount for your own "birthday and Christmas gifts". My birthday and Christmas happen to be in the same month so I use all the 'extra cash' I earn in the last half of November and in December (often less than other months) and use it to spend time with friends, buy myself little 'gifts' or for whatever came about that I wanted to spend it on. (I still have a good majority of it and am deciding between a few options of what to do with it.)
~Budget in fun money: I knew that every Sunday I would be having Qdoba since I didn't want to cook after a long morning at church (I counted it as part of my grocery budget) and some money for crafts, etc...
~Use coupons and LOOK at the sales ads (mainly for groceries but also for many other stores such as Michael's and Jo-Ann's for my crafty friends and teachers you can get discounts at LOTS of places so always ask if there is a teacher discount)'d be amazed at what 15 minutes of coupon clipping, looking at ads and making a list can do BEFORE you go to the store and how much you save AT the store! When possible, buy the cheapest brand...sometimes they are better than the "NAME BRANDS".
For Christmas of 2010, I used a binder and ALL cash system. For any presents or for supplies to make presents (since I like to be crafty like that), I only used cash. I listed out WHO I needed to buy for, HOW MUCH I expected to spend, and any IDEAS I had on presents for each of those people and their approximate costs. [Also, in my family, sometimes we pick out a gift for ourselves or or pick up a gift for someone else that someone else is paying for and so I take note of that money spent and set a date for that money to be repaid.] I house sat for a family for a week and cashed the check, put all the cash in an envelope and used only that money for Christmas presents. It was $400--You could do the same or save a certain $ amount each money as a part of your budget or find some other way to save up. Now, I know that may seem like a lot for some of you and very little for others. So many times I was tempted to get this "cool" thing for someone but then I thought about my budget and what that person meant to me. It was wise for me to make something for that person that would show I cared but not break the bank. I work with a lot of people and I wanted to show them I cared so for each of them, I bought a $1 mug at WalMart, used remnant fabrics squares to sew a coaster (about $1), and threw in a packet of hot chocolate or apple cider for each person (10-25 cents each), and then used paper lunch bags stamped with snowflakes as my wrapping with a little ribbon and a handmade tag to wrap it (about $1 with all the supplies needed). So for about $3.25 each, I was able to show many people that I cared without breaking the bank. I ended up with lots of supplies/tools for future projects so it will be even more economical in the long run. In the end, I only spent $350 of my cash, I still wanted to use the remaining $50 to bless someone. I immediately thought of a couple ideas and just the right timing. February is actually going to be when I will bless this person with the extra $50. I didn't feel the timing was right at the start of the new year but now I know it's right. This binder and process of using cash helps avoid the stress of paying all those bills in January into February and perhaps throughout the WHOLE following year! Talk about a NEW YEAR feeling!
I know that this is not an automatic process for some, it will make others break habits that were formed long ago, and it will take time to learn and improve. I know that this month I blew my grocery budget but I bought many staples in large quantities that will carry me through February and March so I won't spend as much during those months and actually come in under budget. Find some friends, that are trustworthy to keep you accountable and to help you along the way. DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP if you mess up...that is the quickest way to sabotage this new 'habit'.

(My sassy and slightly judgemental side--yes, I have one--comes out in this version of the man at the gym. OOPS!)
Last week as I was renewing my membership at the gym, a man walked in and asked how much it would be for a one day pass to workout. He was staying at the hotel across the I was pretty sure had a workout facility and after looking it up does..a nice one to boot!!!! So the girl at the desk proceeded to tell him it would be $20 for today was already almost 4pm. He said, "Ok, I'll probably come twice anyways." In my mind I'm thinking, "WHOA! Hold the phone here man! You are about to spend $20 to work out when you are staying in a hotel where there is a workout facility (at no extra charge to you) and pool? are coming twice in the next 8 hours????" Furthermore, "You are going to pay $10 to workout each time? Shoot...take the stairs to your hotel room after you use the free weights and cardio equipment in the hotel and maybe swim a few laps while you are at it!" I just couldn't get past the fact that he was dropping $20 like that...and I'm pretty sure the girl at the desk was just as surprised as I was by the way she told him it would expire at midnight!

Time: “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself” ~Andy Warhol

Using our time wisely is a chronic problem for most people. We say, "I didn't have enough time" or "I don't have enough time" or "When do you want me to that TOO?" To be successful in time management and effective use of time it takes LOTS of planning, effort and discipline. I am,, by nature, a planner and am fairly organized but I STILL have trouble using my time wisely...common intruders on my time management: Facebook, email, blogging--lol, SLEEP, stress, other people's "emergencies", emotional turmoil, YouTube, looking for things that I forgot to put back in their home, trying to multi-task when I shouldn't, sorting through things I don't really need, catching up from poor time usage and so much more...

Some tips to help become a succesful time manager and user:
~Spend time with God in whatever way fits your lifestyle and schedule. (I'm guessing if you take any of these tips, you will find more available time for this.)
~Create daily/weekly/monthly routines for personal health and rejuvenation as well as responsbilities around the house (a couple things or a room each day plus a 15 min. 'sweep' before bed)
~Set a time or a couple of times to pay bills and make important phone calls.
~Make lists for long- and short-term projects. (I'm and AVID list maker...because otherwise I forget everything!)
~Pick up the kitchen and bathroom before bed.
~For larger projects, choose a day or chunk of time in which to accomplish them (or specific chunks to do along the way) and the date by which you would like to accomplish them. You may also have to complete certain things before the larger project can be completed so be sure those are done ahead of your final large project. Use a reasonable timeline or you will sabotage yourself!
~If you live with others, work as a TEAM for larger, more menacing projects and DELEGATE tasks for those everyday things that others can assist you with and watch your TO-DO list shrink! :)
~If you live alone, invite friends/family over, CRANK the tunes and tackle all your projects together (don't forget to laugh). Then at the end of the day or chunk of time, order pizza and and watch a movie together! [**Be sure to offer the same favor to those same friends...otherwise you will be 'using' them! This is VITAL!]
~Find someone to keep you accountable and ask how you are doing with the routines and the goals for completing both small and large projects.
~Don't play catch up unless its completely what you can NOW! Sometimes we put things off that end up causing us extra stress when if we did it when we thought of it, we wouldn't have to worry. I learned this the hard way!
~SIMPLIFY your life...this will be a whole other post but basically take stock of where your time is going and if it isn't necessary while you try to get life together, get rid of it and only add it back in, IF and WHEN you feel like you have time or can do it without compromising what other things God has for you!
~Reward yourself when you complete tasks that require extra effort...just don't spend lots of your $$$ or eat a gallon of ice cream because then you'll have more problems on your hands! ;)

The effects of poor time management and usage often affect not only you but those around you. For example, if you promise your kids in January that you will create them a kids' only space in the basement where they can hang out with their friends by the end of the school year (late May/early June) and the next January rolls around and there is no space, your children will soon lose faith that you will actually do it. [Disclaimer: If financial or other emergencies occur, you need to explain that to them and ask for an 'extension'...kinda like kids want to do with teachers when they fail to complete that big research paper they have known about ALL semester!!! :)]If chores or responsibilities are not delegated or clearly assigned, it can cause hard feelings between those living under the same roof or even within the family. If you are having issues regarding the clarity of assigned responsibilities, have a talk...don't let it fester or things just get WORSE!

If you live with someone with a very different about of available "free work time" than yourself, such as a stay-at-home mom, the disabled, or the elderly, find ways to divide responsibilities amongst each member of the home but be respectful of their time too if you are seeking assistance. Don't assume they have the time but rather ask if they have time to help you with this or that. The dividing of responsibilities may allow them to have more time to help you. Finally, if you wish to delegate tasks to others under the same roof, give them tasks where they feel successful and not ones where you have a VERY SPECIFIC way you would like it done...this just causes more pain! This will probably eventually be its own post but for now, you get what I'm trying to say.

You will find more time to spend: glorifying God, growing in your knowledge of Him, serving in the church and pointing others towards Him when you learn to manage and use your time more wisely!

“Time is the cruelest teacher; first she gives the test, then teaches the lesson.” ~Unknown

We need to use our talents to glorify God and his Kingdom! He didn't give them to use or allow us to learn them to gratify ourselves or to gain fame, He wants them to be used to further His Kingdom and change the lives of others. It's also a way we can show others a glimpse of God's love through ourselves. We need to approach anything we do with our talents as a way to glorify God and give Him thanks and praise before we even begin. There is a couple who runs a photography business who attend my church and as I was learning and tagging along on a shoot with them, the wife told me that one of the most important things they do as they head to a shoot is to pray over their equipment, the people that are photographing and the whole shoot as well as thank God for the opportunity to capture the lives of the people they shoot. So many things can go wrong and they leave all of that in God's can fail, kids can be squirly, adults can be anxious and controlling and a whole host of other things.

You don't have to be a photographer, a musician or artist, you can be an encourager, a host, a friend or family member, a servant, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and many other things that don't require any specific "skill set". No need to go learn something new..unless you want to and God leads you there! :)

Give God the glory for your talents and use them to glorify Him and point others towards Christ and the Cross and the fruits of your servant-like heart will be fruitfully multiplied!

Let's use our resources wisely for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth one step and one day at a time!
To God be the Glory forever and ever. Amen!

Make it new...AND...make the most of it!

Borrowed from:
Over the past month or so as I've reflected on the notion of New Years' Resolutions and then read articles on how--by now--most of those have been broken, it really struck me and made me wonder why we only do this with a new YEAR. What about each new HOUR, DAY, WEEK or MONTH? Why do they not have the same power to affect change and desire to start new in our lives? I know that making each hour new may be more than we can handle right off the bat but why can't we start with a new MONTH and then eventually take it to a new HOUR? Or maybe its the opposite for you, maybe starting with the HOUR is best then slowly moving towards each MONTH? It all depends on where you are in life and how you feel...challenge yourself starting NOW! :)
In January, I was in a place where I just didn't feel the normal "newness" of the new year. I always love that feeling of a new, blank calendar and a new year to get things done but didn't feel that this year. It felt like 2010 was dragging itself and I into 2011. God was working in me and I knew that there was not going to be my normal, and much anticipated, "NEW YEAR feeling". That's when this whole idea of making each hour, day, week, month a NEW one. On January 12th, I felt like I was starting the something 'new'. God used a friend to bring me to my knees at the throne of God and strip away everything else until the only thing I had left was God! I knew that this was just the beginning of something new with God. It was a time for me to focus on God, delve deeper into my relationship with God, RELY SOLELY on God and seek HIS perfect plan for my life because I felt completely lost and empty. That's when I knew that God was asking me to do something for HIM, not for myself or this friend. Then on January 15th, God used ANOTHER friend to reinforce this. I was sharing how I was feeling inside with this friend and he spoke the hard truth with more love than most people can. It was all his opinion but I know that God was speaking through him that day and the couple conversations that followed as I figured out what all of this meant in my life.

For me January was a month where I've already have made a lot of mistakes and had to fall in repentance before God. And although I wish I had not made certain mistakes, there are things that are working in my life because I have God on my side and he is changing me 'from the inside out'--this song is sooo true. The other thing I always have to remind myself is that I AM A SINNER! God is not expecting me to be perfect. When I do sin and do make mistakes, He wants me to LEARN from them and that is certainly what I've done this month. It's been a culmination of many months where I've "tried" to learn from my mistakes...I guess God knew I needed a little more help TRULY learning these things. He used 2 ordinary (very special to me) people to help change my life and point me towards Himself.

That's why I really liked the idea of taking one word and focusing on what that word means and how God uses it in your life. Pray and think about what that word might be. For me the word is "wait"...waiting on God, learning to wait patiently in all things, learning to wait on others... There are so many things I'm waiting for and I know that in His perfect timing, I will get the desires of my heart and if I don't, God has a greater plan that I could ever have for myself. I'm excited to see what God does in 2011...I have a feeling it's going to be one of the most life-changing years EVER! :)

In my opinion, one of the most poignant Psalms is 118:24..."This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Let's rejoice in this NEW HOUR, DAY, WEEK or MONTH! Make it new! Share it with others so they can encourage you in your journey!