fun and easy chickadee cupcakes

My girls and I recently made these adorable chickadee cupcakes for a homeschool baking project.

chicks3Below are the fun and easy instructions…

Whip up a batch of cupcakes. We used Betty Crocker milk chocolate cake mix, which made 24 cupcakes. Pour batter into cute spring-type colorful cupcake wrappers.

Allow the cupcakes to cool. While waiting, gather Whoppers Robin Egg candies and frosting. (You can make your own frosting or store-bought pre-made frosting in a squeeze bag/tube).

b1Set out a Robin Egg for each cupcake. For the chickadee face, use orange oblong sprinkles for the beak. Attach it to the Robin Egg using Cake Mate Confetti Gel. Dot two eyes using Wilton’s green Sparkle Gel.

b2Set the Robin Eggs carefully aside. Using a “star” tip, squirt green frosting in the center of the cupcake.

Place a Robin Egg gently into the middle of the frosting.

chicks1Wah-lah! You have just created a fun and easy chickadee cupcake, perfect to deliver to friends and neighbors.

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how to become an undercover prayer warrior

After Christian historical romance, Christian suspense is my favorite genre. Especially when characters go undercover and the tension builds as covert operations are planned to catch the bad guys.

detective

It may be that I have read one too many of these novels. Or that I have watched Sue Thomas F.B. Eye too many times to count. Or that my grandfather was a retired police officer for the San Diego Police Department.

I’ve recently felt God prompting me into my own incognito activities.

I’ve become an undercover prayer warrior.

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Don’t get me wrong, I still (and always will first and foremost) intercede for family and friends numerous times a day. There is not a time during the day when I’m not in constant contact with the Lord.

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However, now I’ve added strangers to the list. People who don’t even know I’m praying for them.

Want to join me in this venture? Here’s how to become an undercover prayer warrior:

1. Keep your eyes open. There’s a woman I see each time I’m utilizing the elliptical machine at my local gym. A salt-and-pepper pixie haircut and a somber expression line her face. I’ve never seen her smile. Not once. Not when the machine she wanted was available, and certainly not to return a smile. This woman became my mission. Each time I see her, I pray earnestly for her. I pray for whatever struggles she is facing. I pray for joy and peace in her life. And I pray that if she doesn’t know the Lord, she would someday come to know Him.

Had I not been keeping my eyes open, I may not have noticed this woman and had the privilege to pray for her.

2. Keep your ears open. Ambulance sirens? Emergency helicopter? Both denote that someone is injured, or may even be possibly fighting for his or her life. Whenever our family hears either of those sounds, we stop what we’re doing and immediately pray for those who are being transported. We pray also that the Lord would provide wisdom and guide the doctor’s hands, as any necessary medical procedures are done.

ambulance

3. Keep your heart open. Whenever I pass by the hospital or local cancer center, I pray for those who are receiving treatment. I pray for God’s healing, and that He would make Himself known to those who don’t yet know Him. It’s beyond difficult to struggle with an illness, especially one that’s terminal. Prayer support is the most important thing we can offer someone.

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4. Keep your mind open. Some of the hardest people to pray for are those who are unkind. I experienced some unkindness last week from a woman in desperate need of prayer. I didn’t necessarily want to pray for this meanie, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I had to keep an open mind and pray for this stranger. (Matthew 5:43-47)

So become God’s undercover prayer warrior. Slip into detective mode and…

  • Pray for that exhausted mom in front of you at the grocery store with the seven children.
  • Pray for the clerk at the department store or the waitress at your favorite restaurant.
  • Pray for the man in front of you at the doctor’s office who has just been told to go to the E.R. because he may be having a heart attack.
  • Scan the newspaper and pray for comfort for the families of those who have recently passed away.
  • Pray for those in jails and prisons.
  • Pray for those in drug treatment facilities in need of overcoming addictions.

And the list goes on.

God always hears each and every prayer we pray.

Why not bless someone today with your prayers?

 

 

easy-to-make smiley face mini cupcakes

Want to brighten someone’s day? These adorable and easy-to-make smiley face mini cupcakes are sure to make someone smile.

Follow the directions on a chocolate cake mix. After mixing, pour the batter into mini muffin pans with liners.

pan

Bake at 325. Check after ten minutes. If necessary, continue baking until toothpick comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are baking, whip up a batch of homemade frosting. (I would provide the recipe for homemade frosting here, but I fear it would look something like our generations-old family frosting recipe: mix several tidbits of powdered sugar, a trifle of butter, and a dribble of milk…).

Once you remove the cupcakes from the oven, wait until cooled, then frost. The secret to ooey-gooey frosting is to melt a small amount in a microwave-safe coffee cup. Slather the frosting on each cupcake. Continue melting more frosting in the microwave as needed.

Before the frosting hardens, add eyeballs. We used Wilton’s candy decorative eyeballs and attached them with Cakemate confetti gel (available in a tube in the baking aisle).

eye balls

Wilton decorating icing tube frosting is easy to use when drawing the mouth.

Wah-lah! You’re finished!

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Now deliver a batch and brighten someone’s day. :)

 

21 awesome family movies you may never have heard of

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
Our family is always on the lookout for wholesome family films for our weekly Family Night. Some of the best movies we’ve ever seen have been undiscovered gems we’ve stumbled across by accident.

The 20 undiscovered treasures below are in no particular order. Some are newer and some have been out for awhile, but they all are must-see movies for your next Family Night!

 

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

The Redemption of Henry Myers (12+)

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Finding Normal

Clancy

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

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Though None Go With Me

The Gospel of John

Time Changer

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Last Ounce of Courage

The End of the Spear (13+)

King’s Faith (13+)

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Hidden Places

The Perfect Gift

Duma (12+)

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Seasons of Gray

Christmas Angel

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The Good Book

No Greater Love

Christmas Oranges

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Backroads and Lilies

Civil Love

 

For a listing of other fantastic movies, check out my Mom-Approved Movie List.  Interested in movie reviews? Go to my Mom-Approved Movie Reviews tab.

 

 

Little actions…big impacts

Nanie and me spending some time together...

Nanie and me spending some time together…

My grandma recently took part in a prison ministry project with a local church to send Christmas cards to those in prison. Always one to encourage others, Nanie didn’t just promise to send one card, but completed nearly 100 cards.

Her inspirational cards also included her favorite Bible verses and handwritten notes about the hope we have in Jesus.

Recently, the pastor of the church announced that the Christmas cards had been well-received. In particular, one man had written that he felt his life was hopeless and was about to commit suicide.

Nanie’s card arrived just in time.

The Lord softened this man’s heart and used Nanie’s card to spark an interest in the Gospel in the man.

The little action of taking the time to write a card made a huge impact.

My friend, Mariann, and her young homeschooled daughter take the time to haul their pet alpaca to nursing homes where they visit with residents, sing songs with them, discuss the projects she makes from alpaca wool, and, most importantly, Mariann shares about Jesus. If there’s an interest, she elaborates and shares her rich testimony of God’s goodness and grace.

One of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, Mariann is taking the little action of spending time with others and turning it into a huge impact on, not only the residents of the nursing homes, but also her elementary-aged daughter.

A young man named Brock who works with my husband recently attended the funeral of a fellow co-worker. While there, Brock heard the pastor speak of salvation. He later asked my husband and another co-worker about Jesus.

Two days later, Brock met with the pastor from the funeral and gave his life to Jesus Christ. Each day, he and my husband meet during breaks where Brock asks questions regarding his newfound faith. My husband blessed him with a new Bible and two other books to read to encourage his faith.

Because my husband took the time to meet with Brock and pray for this young man, Brock’s life has been changed for eternity.

Little actions. Big impacts.

A man named Philip at our church has a zest for the Lord. It’s seen clearly through his actions. Philip won’t be joining the Newboys matthew 2540anytime soon,  yet he sings his heart out to the Lord each and every Sunday.

While many worry that they can’t carry a tune and what others might think if they truly lifted their voices to Jesus, Philip pushes all that aside. To the newcomers of the church, his faith and devotion toward God are evident.

They see something in him that sets him apart from others. Something they want.

Such a small action. With such a big impact.

We must never think that those seemingly minute things we do will not influence someone.

To the contrary.

God uses us each day to be a light for Him. May we all shine our lights brightly and make an impression for the better on those around us. Friends and strangers alike.

Who knows…that impact we make may just make an eternal difference.

 

 

6 Ways to Encourage Other Moms

mom13Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love ~Mildred B. Vermont

Motherhood has been said to be the best, yet sometimes hardest job in the world. And I agree. So how can we come alongside other moms and encourage them in this job?

Here are six ways to make a difference in your mom-friend’s life:

Schedule mom time. Whether one-on-one or in a group, plan some mom-time. It can be as simple as meeting at the playground, taking the kids for ice cream while the moms chat, or spending some time at the public pool. What a nice break to chat with and catch up on all the happenings (we moms benefit from playdates too!) Here are some great ideas for arranging a girl’s night out for a group of your mom friends.

Offer to babysit. Date nights can be few and far between, especially when children are babies and toddlers. Present a coupon to your friend offering to babysit her kiddos while she and her husband re-connect. What an awesome gift for your mom-friend and her marriage!

coupon

Be a listening ear. Last week, through tears, I spoke to a fellow mom about something close to my heart. I was grateful for the time she gave me and the down-to-earth suggestions she offered to me with unparalleled grace. Ask a mom-friend how things are going, take the time to listen – really listen without judgment – and to be her sounding board. Sometimes we moms carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. To have a trusted friend with whom to share those burdens is priceless.

Offer to pray. What a powerful thing prayer is! Ask your mom-friend what her specific prayer needs are and then dedicate to praying for those needs. Sometimes telling someone we’ll pray for them can sound so cliche and can often be forgotten in the midst of our busy days. Remedy this by not only truly praying for your friend each day, but also praying with her whenever you’re chatting on the phone.

Accept her as she is. For some reason, it seems as though mothers often receive the brunt of the criticism and are held to higher judgment. Why do we moms judge each other so harshly? I’ve seen moms judge other moms regarding choices and number of activities (or lack thereof) of another mom’s children; judgment about the way other moms are raising their children; the differences in priorities in families and what they choose to allow or not allow their children to participate in; or even how many sugary snacks fellow moms allow their children to eat in a week.

Moms, this should not be so! Instead, we need to come alongside fellow moms and accept each other the way God made us. Not to say we can’t offer suggestions when warranted (or asked for!) but unsolicited and unkind advice is never appreciated.

Sadly, there also seems to be so much rivalry between moms. Case in point: stay at home moms vs. work-outside-the-home-moms; homeschool moms vs. those who send their children to public school; moms who feed their kids organic health foods vs. the macaroni and cheese moms; sports-minded moms vs. the musical moms; jeans and t-shirts moms vs. business attire moms, married moms vs. single moms; and the list goes on. Put a group of women in a room and this becomes a sad reality as we size each other up in ways we should never do.

Commit to accepting your mom-friend as she is. Be her biggest fan and her most trusted confidante.

Send an encouraging note. What about mailing a thoughtful note to your mom-friend telling her she’s doing a great job and how much you value her friendship? Such a gesture is sure to make her day.

Never more in our lives will we need close friends than as we journey through motherhood. And moms are some of the most awesome and important friendships God will ever bless us with.

How do you encourage your mom-friends?

 

This post was also linked to http://www.rosilindjukic.com/2015/02/facebook-is-not-your-frenemy.html

Top 50 Christian Workout Songs

weightsThere’s nothing quite like a good beat with uplifting words to accelerate your heart rate. Whether out for a run, mountainbiking, or in the gym on the elliptical, these songs guarantee a workout like none other. And with these upbeat tunes, time will fly by and you’ll scarcely notice you’ve been working your heart and muscles for the past hour.

Some from the past and some from the present, in no particular order, here are the top 50 Christian workout songs:

1. Greater – Mercy Me (and really, you must watch this video – it’s hilarious!)

2. Do Life Big – Jamie Grace

3. Made New – Lincoln Brewster

4. Me Without You – TobyMac

5. Big House – Audio Adrenaline (so this song is very old, but it’s still a goodie! And check out the video. We’ve come a long way with technology).

6. Restart- The Newsboys

7. This is the Time – Superchick

8. Words – Hawk Nelson

9. Overcomer – Mandisa

10. Do Everything – Steven Curtis Chapman

11. Turn Around – Matt Maher

12. You Save Me – Kutless

13. Lay Me Down – Rush of Fools

14. Take My Life – Jeremy Camp

15. All the Time – Whosoever South

16. Hurricane – Natalie Grant (Moms, can you identify with this song?)

17. I Am Free – Newsboys (another oldie but goodie)

18. This is Who I Am – Third Day

19. Drifting – Plumb

20. God’s Great Dance Floor – Chris Tomlin penpen

21. Make Believe – Seventh Day Slumber

22. Everything About You – Sanctus Real

23. Right Beside You – Building 429

24. On My Own – Ashes Remain

25. Jesus Freak – DC Talk (take a trip to the past and check out Toby Mac and Michael Tate in this video).

26. Every Good Thing – Afters

27. I Thank You – Rebecca St. James

28. Come to the River – Rhett Walker Band

29. I Believe – ZoeGirl

30. Shake – Mercy Me

31. The Only Name (Yours Will Be) – Big Daddy Weave

32. The King is Coming – Newsboys

33. Hello My Name is – Matthew West

34. Finding Who We Are – Kutless

35. Alive – Hillsong Young and Free (check out this video for some dance-move inspiration!)

36. Song of  Hope (Heaven Come Down) – Robbie Seay Band

37. Risen Today – Aaron Shust

38. You Lift Me Up – Rachel Lampa

39. Reckless – Jeremy Camp

40. Promises – Sanctus Real

41. Tonight – TobyMac

42. More Love More Power – Jeff Deyo

43. Reaching for  You – Lincoln Brewster

44. O Praise Him (All this for a King) – David Crowder Band

45. Incredible – Building 429

46. This is Love – Kutless

47.  Matchless – Aaron Shust

48. There’s Gotta Be More – Stacie Orrico

49. Fix My Eyes – for King & Country

50. I Refuse – Josh Wilson

And, as a bonus, here are five awesome “cooldown and stretch” songs:

1. Remain – Royal Tailor

2. We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

3. More of You – Colton Dixon

4. That’s What Love Looks Like – Among the Thirsty

5. Beauty of the Cross – Johnny Diaz

What are some of your favorite Christian workout songs?

 

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