Saturday, September 18, 2010

A New Look!

As you may be able to tell from my new blog design, I LOVE Autumn! The cooler weather, plus the fact that most of the stores are coming out with their Autumn merchandise has prompted me to go ahead and change my design.

Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year! Cooler weather, changing leaves, the smell of a wood fire, sweaters and pumpkins always put me in a festive mood! I love taking the kiddos to the apple orchard, the pumpkin patch, our "Trunk or Treat", and, of course, Thanksgiving!

This is going to be the best season yet! I can just feel it! Let's celebrate!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's Going On ~

Oh, how I wish I had the discipline to blog every day! Seems like my daily life rushes by, and I neglect to get to the computer! I don't know how so many women do it! They must be amazingly organized! I have managed to schedule some posts, but the day to day thing is almost too much for me!

That being said, I've managed to sneak in a minute while the water's boiling for my kid's fave lunch of all time ~ mac & cheese! I still need to do a couple loads of laundry, though, as well as grade papers and record the grades. The house is vacuumed, but I need to dust, Windex and mop, as well as clean the bathroom ~ sigh ~ all before my piano student arrives later this afternoon.

My pastor asked me to direct the adult choir for the Christmas cantata, and I'm so excited! I haven't conducted an adult choir for over 10 years, so I was a little nervous! Thankfully, the first rehearsal went well. Several people told me how much fun they had and that they really enjoyed it. I was so happy! Although I love to sing and play the piano, but I believe my "true" God-given talent is in choral conducting. I find absolute delight in teaching parts and leading the choir past the notes and rhythms to realize/recognize the meaning of the songs they're singing.

That's what's going on in mi casa this rainy Wednesday afternoon!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Utterly Peanut Buttery Bars

These are delicious right out of the oven! The filling transforms into this incredibly decadent peanut butter-flavored caramel that's a dream! If you love peanut butter, this dessert's for you!

Preheat oven to 375.


For the crust:
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. flour

For the filling:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 T. peanut butter


Mix butter, peanut butter & sugar until well blended. Stir in vanilla. Add flour & mix well. (Mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1 c. of mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into 9x13 pan. (I prefer using an 11x7.)

Beat eggs & sugars together until smooth. Add in peanut butter. Spread over unbaked crust. Sprinkle with reserved topping mixture. Bake 20 minutes if using the 9x13, (If using the 11x7, bake an additional 15 minutes.) or until golden. Let cool in pan, cut into bars. Makes 2 dozen bars of rich, peanut buttery deliciousness!

Friday, September 3, 2010

God's Promise of Presence ~ Part 2

Well, yesterday showed us the way of the path when we're in the valley. Although the way was dark, we saw God's promise that He'd be with us during the difficult times.

The Walk of the Path:

Thankfully, the shepherd~king David didn't end this psalm with us in the valley of the shadow of death. Mrs. George writes, "We do not stop and stay there (in the valley) in its foreboding darkness. Neither David's psalm nor this book are meant to discourage the Lord's sheep. Oh, no! Quite the opposite! For, you see, every shadow is produced by light. It is impossible to have a shadow without light."

And, as those who are part of the flock of God, we know that "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Jesus is the Light of the world and "...lights our step at a turn at a time."

Mrs. George reminds us that:
a. We walk by divine appointment. The valleys are never accidental or some kind of cosmic mistake. We are led by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Jehovah!

One of my favorite choruses says this:
"Oh rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistake.
He knoweth the end of each path that I take.
For when I am tried and purified,
I shall come forth as gold."
b. We walk by divine presence. "No matter the twists and turns, the entanglements and obstacles along the path, 'You are with me,' David declares. We are never alone along the way. God is always with us, and He never fails."
c. We walk by divine grace. Although the walk can be fearful, we must acknowledge that God promised that His grace is and will be sufficient for all of our needs (2 Corinthians 12:9). It's comforting to know that when we need God's grace, it will be there!
d. We walk by divine purpose. This walk will ultimately bring us intimacy with the Shepherd. Mrs. George writes, "Just as we must go out into the dark night to behold the brilliance of the stars, so God's presence shines the brightest in our valleys of deep darkness."
The "I Will" of the Path ~
David wrote, "I will fear no evil." If anyone ever understood what it meant to be afraid, it was David. As a young teenager, he killed a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:32-37) and he faced a giant (1 Samuel 17:45-51). As a man, he missed several assassination attempts by King Saul and had to live on the run. Even after he became King of Israel, he had to flee from his own son's attempt to overthrow his throne. David knew fear well.
However, David also knew the Shepherd well! "He boldly declared, 'I will fear no evil.' Why? Because of the presence of God ~ 'You are with me.'"
Sisters, we are not to fear. Why? Because, just like David, we walk with the Lord. Whatever may come our way, we will walk through it with the Shepherd, in His presence. As David wrote in a later Psalm, the Lord is "a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." (Psalm 46:1-2).
I wish to conclude today's post with Mrs. George's final thoughts.
"And so, beloved...
Sing... as you pass onward through the valley of the shadow of death, and let the notes of your joy vibrate against the walls of that valley!
Seek... greater knowledge of the Lord, your Shepherd by faithfully acquainting yourself with his omnipotence and His omnipresence as revealed in His eternal Word!
Step... out in faith onto each and every path, knowing that "The Lord is my Shepherd ~ not was, not maybe, not will be. The Lord is my Shepherd ~ is on Sunday, is on Monday, is through every day of the week; is in January, is in December, and every month of the year; is at home, is in China; is in peace, and is in war; is in abundance and is in poverty. The Lord is my Shepherd!"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

God's Promise of Presence ~ Part 1

Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me..."

So far, our study of the 23rd Psalm has been uplifting, hasn't it? Our Shepherd leads and feeds us; He makes sure we have adequate rest and peace; He heals us of our soul's diseases and guides us faithfully.

However, life's going to be like the old song ~ "Give Them All to Jesus" ~ reminds us. "He never said we'd only see sunshine. He never said there would be no rain." In other words, we can't stay up in the sunny green pastures beside the glistening still waters all the time. There are times in our lives when our paths will wind down into the valley of the shadow of death.

The "valley" is associated with the wadis of the Middle East. No other term but "wilderness" fits here. It's a desert with pits, ravines, and drought. The terrain suggests nothing but danger and death.

Mrs. George writes that the term "shadow of death" occurs 18 times in the Old Testament. Each use of the word means darkness. "Deep darkness, very deep darkness, thick darkness, and a darkness as dark as death."

Sisters, have you ever experienced times in your life when the darkness seemed to overshadow you and press you down, threatening to swallow you up as you had to journey into this next step of the unknown? I have. When I was pregnant with my youngest, I had a recurring dream that I developed complications while giving birth and that I died, leaving my husband to raise 3 little ones on his own. I talked to my doc about it, and she said that those types of dreams were somewhat "normal", so not to worry. I prayed for good dreams each night, but still felt apprehensive. Fast forward to the big day. "Popsicle" arrived via scheduled C-section as planned. All went well until an hour or so later when the nurses noticed that I wasn't bleeding at all. I began to get dizzy and was out of it. I had developed a large blood clot, and had to be put under and have a procedure akin to a D&C to remove it.

I remember thinking "This is my dream, and I'm not going to make it!" I felt the icy fingers of darkness surround me, pressing me down as the anesthesiologist told me to count backwards from 10. I remember praying, "God, please be with me!" as I began to count and a peace settled over me. When I awoke and realized that I had, indeed, survived, I was overcome with a thankful heart. Even during that scary time, I cried out to God, knowing that He was right there, beside me ~ to comfort me ~ or ~ if He chose to do so, take me home.

That, my sisters, is our dear Shepherd's promise: He is with us! His grace is there to see us through those difficult times! There's an old saying that reminds us that "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you." What's even more joyous to realize is that "I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..."

Mrs. George writes, "It's true that the perilous valley is a part of life's path.... But it's also true that we can grasp the hand of God as we descent the frightening path into the valley, into the devouring darkness. We can rest in the knowledge that He, this path, has already been trod. And we are walk...calmly...with Him...remembering the words, "Yea, though I walk..."

"So walk! Don't pause. Don't falter. Don't ponder. Just proceed. Walk! Know that as the Shepherd's dear sheep and as God's beloved child and with the Lord beside you, you will walk through it. It comforts the soul to know that the Good Shepherd does not take His sheep into the valley of darkness to stay ~ but to pass through it!"

There's more to this study, but I just want to savor this thought for today!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God's Promise of Guidance

Psalm 23:3 "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

It has been said that it takes 21 days to eliminate a bad habit and replace it with a new one. Have you ever heard of this or done it? I've had failure and success. It seems that the old ways ~ i.e. "bad", "wrong", "lesser" ~ are so deeply ingrained that it almost seems impossible to improve or change them!

Why? Mrs. George sums it up with one word ~ REPETITION! She writes, "It is said that a habit is a custom/practice that's acquired by repetition. A habit is an action that, due to repetition, increases in performance and decreases in resistance. So, by repetition, an action becomes automatic, and a habit (good or bad) is born."

So, is there any hope for us to break habits that aren't pleasing to the Lord? Psalm 23:3 reveals yet another role the Shepherd takes in our lives ~ "He LEADS us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." That means that if we stay close beside Him and walk where He guides us, our habits will eventually change and will ultimately honor His name. We'll develop holy habits.

The Paths:

Webster's Dictionary defines a path as "a track or way worn by footsteps; a trail." We live near an historic site of the Oregon Trail. To this day, you can still see the lines etched into the earth by the literal thousands of covered wagons that made this venture in the 19th century! Talk about repetition! I knew of a woman who daily visited her daughter and granddaughter who lived next door to her. In a matter of weeks, she had worn a path that connected the two homes!

The Hebrew word for "paths" or more literally, "ways" means literal tracks made by constant use.

Proverbs 31:27 says, "She watches over the ways (paths/tracks) of her household." This diligent mom is, in reality, a shepherdess of her home. She notices the patterns of her home life ~ the general comings and goings; the habits and activities of the people at home. She keeps up~to~the~minute stats of her family members and the general flow of her home. She's aware of everything that goes on within its walls.

Those of us who are moms have, to some degree, experienced the pain of watching one of our little flock struggle, stumble and stray.

Let me share my own personal description of how this happened today. My youngest, who is almost 4, has been told repeatedly since the time she could crawl not to be underfoot when I'm at the stove. I'm nervous that I could trip over her and hurt her, or that she could be burned in some way. I adore my little "Popsicle" (as I call her) and love her near me, but she's always had issues with this. Constant "no-no's" and gentle pats on the bottom to move her along have worked to an extent, but she still returns to where the action is. Today, however, as I was transferring piping hot macaroni back to the saucepan from the colander, my little one (who was undetected right behind me) got a sprinkling of super-hot water on her little arm. She screamed in pain and a couple of red marks appeared on her skin. I felt terrible for her as I kissed her and wiped away tears. A cool cloth and attention from mommy made her feel better in time, but I couldn't help but remind her that if she had minded me in the first place, she wouldn't have gotten hurt.

Although this situation is on a much smaller scale, the fact that remains is this: Our mother's heart aches if those we love make choices that lead them down unhealthy paths. We hurt, but we also act! We do all we can to correct the situation ~ be it by setting new rules, narrowing boundaries, or making new disciplinary methods that carry more severe consequences. Why? Because we LOVE our little flock!

Now, dear sisters, we can grasp the Shepherd's divine love for us ~ His sheep! God notices the ways of our paths ~ He leads and guides us in the "paths of righteousness".

The Paths of Righteousness:

"Righteous" paths are stiff or straight paths. After all, God is pure and holy. He wants His sheep to be righteous. In the Bible, the word righteousness is used in the following ways:
  1. With men, righteousness indicated a full measure. Measurements and weights were to be just and right.
  2. With God, righteousness indicated a full measure in the spiritual sense. Offering God only what was sincere as opposed to half-hearted.
  3. With a court, righteousness indicated a full measure of righteous judgment. Judges and officers were to render justice and make things right.

Okay, are you as intimidated as I am right now? Do you think, "There's no way I can ever measure up to that standard!" Be encouraged, my dear sisters ~ we serve a God who promises to guide us into righteousness! The One Who states, "Be ye holy as I Am holy" will guide us!

The God of Righteousness:

Jehovah~Tsidkenu ~ which means "Jehovah our righteousness". It first appears in Jeremiah 23:5-6.

After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms; the Northern Kingdom, which was called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, which was Judah. Although both kingdoms "did evil in the sight of the Lord", Judah was occasionally ruled by kings that "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did".

However, by this writing of Jeremiah, the Kingdom of Judah was falling apart. God's chosen people were sinning grievously, even polluting the house of the Lord. God sent His prophets to warn His people, but their messages were completely ignored. Jeremiah, also known as "The Weeping Prophet" had to tell the people that they would, indeed, be taken away and made captives.

Although it was terrible news, God ~ Who is too good to be unkind ~ kept His promise to King David (2 Samuel 7:16) that Israel would be restored to their land, and that Jehovah would raise up to David a Righteous Branch ~ Jehovah~Tsidkenu ~ the Messiah, Jesus Christ!

That thrills my heart, sisters! Because of Jesus' work on the cross, we CAN become righteousness! Because of the covering of His precious blood, when God sees me, He sees righteousness! Like an old song states, "His blood was not just blood of another spotless lamb. But His blood was precious blood, for it washed the sins of man. And His blood, it heals my body, and it sets my spirit free. I'm so glad His precious blood still flows from Calvary."

The Purpose of God's Guidance:

This is the most compelling aspect for me ~ it's "for His name's sake". God wants us to be righteous to bring Him glory ~ to maintain His reputation. As Mrs. George states, "God's name points not only to a title for Him, but to his very nature."

So, how does God guide us into the paths of righteousness?

  1. Bible reading ~ Psalm 119:105
  2. Prayer

What are the desires of my heart? Is my first desire to be God's will ~ no matter what it is and no matter what it costs?

Am I living my life in a way that honors the Lord, that exhibits to the whole watching world what the paths of righteousness are?

Am I walking near the Shepherd ~ delighting in His guidance and allowing nothing to distract me from His paths?

Am I willing to go where He guides me?

Much for me to ponder on, sisters. Until tomorrow!

My Favorite Hospitality Books

Hospitality is an area I struggle with. Although I love to have people over, it seems that nowadays, everyone has such busy schedules that it's difficult to get together! Also, I've found (at least in our area) that people go out to restaurants together more than they fellowship in one another's homes. That usually leaves us out because eating out is SO expensive!

During my childhood and teen years, I remember my mother inviting other families over for dinner and get-togethers. During special holidays, there were always extra places reserved for college students who couldn't get home, families who may not have had enough money to have their own feasts, as well as the "significant others" in mine and my older brothers' relationships.

Well, sisters, I say we return to the "old ways"! What better way to let people realize how much you care by preparing a nourishing meal and planning a fun time to spend together?

In Karen Ehman's book, "A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others", Karen encourages the reader to look for someone to be hospitable with, then take the steps to actually DO IT! This books gives great ideas for dinners and parties, cleaning and decorating tips and even recipes. I LOVE this book!

Karen also penned another book with her friends Kelly Hovermale and Trish Smith. "Homespun Memories for the Heart" is a great source for making your home special for your family. There are more than 200 ideas to "make unforgettable moments". The book is divided by sections to celebrate the seasons, birthdays, milestones such as weddings, anniversaries and adoptions, celebrating our faith and even the everyday. They've included tags, labels, certificates and coupons, too. A fabulous book!

Jane Jarrell has 2 books I've enjoyed. My favorite is "Love You Can Touch". Chapter titles include "New Neighbor", "Just Because You're My Friend", and "Children Going Off to School". Each chapter gives tips for a meal or treat, as well as how to package it. This book is fun!

Her other book is entitled "Simple Hospitality". Jane defines hospitality with an acrostic.

H ~ Hospital for the Soul
O ~ Obedience
S ~ Simplicity
P ~ Prayer
I ~ Intimacy
T ~ To go
A ~ Acknowledge and Appreciate
L ~ Lifestyle
I ~ Ideas
T ~ Time
Y ~ You

She has great chapters like "Faking Homemaking" and "The Kitchen Magician". Wonderful read!

My last book is entitled "Heavenly Hospitality" by Jo Ann Janssen. Practical ideas on organization, welcoming unexpected guests, dinner parties, feeding large crowds and making overnight guests feel pampered and welcome are in this book. I really love it!