Thankful for the small things…

Psalm 107 1

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving was already nearly two weeks ago.  As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am thankful for – Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my children, extended family, friends, and health. Sometimes, though, we only think of the “big” things we are thankful for, like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly “small” things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

  •  I’m thankful for water. According to an article titled World Water Day: A Billion People Worldwide Lack Safe Drinking Water “More than a billion people—almost one-fifth of the world’s population—lack access to safe drinking water.” How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought?water
  • I’m thankful I can breathe.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, “Approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma by a health professional during their lifetime.” My husband and youngest daughter are included in those statistics. How many times do we take it for granted that we can take that a breath?
  • I’m thankful for the ability to read. While doing research for 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, I discovered that “by age 17, only 1 in 17 seventeen-year-olds can read and gain information from specialized text” according to the National Institute for Literacy. Taking this statistic into account, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things everyday and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.
  • I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. I read The Voice of the Martyrs and my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make everyday to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.
  • I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. It has been a challenge to find things to eat.  Yet, so many people in the U.S. and in the world have no food to eat – AT ALL. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods  – if they still had food to eat. dinner
  • I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. A few years ago, we suffered severe exterior damage to our home and vehicles during a bad hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden was ruined, the new siding on our house destroyed, and our SUV totaled.

A few days after the hail storm, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by a deadly tornado in the southern part of the country. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humbleness that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

  • I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you heard me right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.
  • I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other believers. While my husband was going through is open heart surgery and later his dangerous staph infection, our church body stood with us in prayer and support. What a huge blessing!
  • church
  • I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my kiddos are in the living room playing a game with their dad. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their giggles! I’m thankful for sight too – the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky are such a testament to His Creation. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him! mountain 2

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for?

 

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scrumptious gluten free/egg free pumpkin bars

781603_index_boxBecause Lon and I both have gluten and egg allergies, I’m always on the lookout for delicious recipes that we can enjoy. Our daughters love to help bake in the kitchen and I’ve used that love for baking to teach them measurements.

They also love being taste-testers, although I don’t think my youngest will ever try baking powder again! 🙂

Check out this scrumptious gluten free/egg free pumpkin bar recipe. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts or any time of the year. If your diet allows gluten and eggs, simply replace the gluten free/egg free items below with wheat flour and eggs.

Scrumptious Gluten Free/Egg Free Pumpkin Bars

You will need:

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. oil

egg replacer to replace two eggs (we use Ener G egg replacer)

pumpkins1 c. pumpkin

1 c. gluten free flour (I use Gluten Free Pantry flour)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Please note that oven temperatures can vary. I usually have to instead preheat my oven to 340 degrees).

Mix all ingredients together except the pumpkin until lightly mixed. Add the pumpkin and mix thoroughly. Grease a pan with gluten free cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes until fully baked (cooking time will vary).

Frosting

4 c. gluten free powdered sugar

6 tbsp. of butter (if you are on a dairy- free diet, use dairy free substitute)

3-4 tbsp. of milk (if you are on a dairy-free diet, use an alternative milk. We use Rice Dream rice milk).

Mix thoroughly.

Allow the pumpkin bars to cool, then frost. Cut into small bars and enjoy!


7 ways to make a difference in November

It’s hard to believe that it’s already November! So what are some ways to make a difference this month in the lives of others? Here are seven suggestions:

Combine chocolate with cheer. When our church announced it was looking for volunteers to serve in the hot chocolate ministry last year, our family immediately volunteered. What is a hot chocolate ministry? It’s a stand where we handed out free hot chocolate (with a spoonful of mini-marshmallows) to those who attended our town’s annual outdoor Christmas event that happens each year on the day after Thanksgiving. What a fun way to spread Christmas cheer!

hot chocolate

Remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Engage Magazine offers a way to write to persecuted Christians in North Korea to encourage them.  According to the website, in this unique ministry, letters will be delivered one of two ways: “hand-delivered to several Christians who have escaped North Korea” or “with broadcasters in South Korea who will periodically read letters, or passages of letters, to Christians across the 38th parallel.” All of the details can be found at Engage Magazine’s website.

Also included are tips on things to say to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also the super-easy form on which to write your letter and submit online.

 

1 Thessalonians 5 11

Make a terminally ill boy’s wish come true. Little Jacob Thompson is battling cancer and will be celebrating Christmas early this year. His one request? To receive as many Christmas cards as possible. He especially loves homemade cards. Have your kids decorate homemade cards and include a little tidbit about Christmas, their home state (Jacob lives in Maine), and a thoughtful Bible verse or prayer for he and his family. The full details, including Jacob’s address, can be found here.

christmas card

Ring the bell. It’s that time of year again…time when the Salvation Army bell ringers will be wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and collecting funds to help poor families during the holiday season. Why not partner with your spouse, child, or a friend and volunteer your time as a bell ringer this year? Check out the details at the Salvation Army website.

Share with those who have no one. Sometimes while we are enjoying our Thanksgiving dinners, we forget something very important…the fact that many people don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner. Is there a widow in your church that will spend her first year alone? An elderly couple with no family nearby? A neighbor who lives alone? Why not make a difference in their lives and invite them to your home to share in your family’s festivities.

dinner

Learn CPR/First Aid. As part of my daughters’ curriculum for homeschool, they recently joined me to take a CPR and First Aid class. It was my fourth time taking CPR and First Aid, but things have changed a bit, even since the last time I took it. What better way to make a difference than to have the knowledge to have a role in possibly saving someone’s life? For more details on how to find a CPR/First Aid course near you, check out The American Heart Association’s website.

Share the love of reading with others. Our family recently boxed up several Christian adult fiction books in excellent condition that we no longer needed or read. I called a local assisted living center and asked if they would be interested in some books for their residents. They were ecstatic! Remember to always call first before making any donations.

books

Speaking of books, for more ideas of year-round difference makers, please check out my book 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others.

What are some ways you and your family are planning to make a difference in the month of November?

 

 

 

8 things I want my daughters to know

mom and daughter

As the mother of two daughters, there seems to be such a short time in which to teach them all the things they will need to know by the time they reach adulthood. Will I succeed in teaching them everything? No. But I can focus on teaching them these important truths.

Focus on the things that are eternal. Material items, popularity, sports, homework, stress…these are things that will waste away. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses of life – and there are many. But I hope you will remember that the only things that truly matter are those things that are eternal. Faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. Sharing about Him to our loved ones and friends can plant the seeds for their eternal life.

The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God endures forever.~Isaiah 40:8

God’s love is unconditional. Ask just about anyone and they will tell you they have experienced a time when someone stopped liking/loving them because of something they did or said. In a world where love is fickle, God’s love is unconditional and never changes. Nothing you can do can make Him love you any more than He already does. And nothing you can do can make Him love you any less.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies~ Psalm 36:5

Jesus understands. He’s been there. Jesus knows and cares for every detail of our lives. He, too, has had a friend betray him. He has been on the receiving end of lies, has experienced loneliness, and has been tempted. But no matter who lets you down, there is One who never will. He promises NEVER to leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5).

Hebrews 13 5

Where to find your value and self worth. It is so easy to attempt to find your self worth in others. That friend. That boyfriend. Husband. Parent. But your self worth comes only from One. If we  garner our value from another human being, we will always be disappointed.

In our looks-obsessed culture, we could tend to think our value comes from our hairstyle, clothes, or whether our figure matches that on the front of a magazine. But our value does not come from people or from any of those things. Our value and our beauty comes from within. I have known far to too many women (and men!) who appear attractive on the outside, but are far from attractive on the inside. I hope that you will seek to be the girl God made you to be – one who has the love of Jesus within and who seeks to share it with others by the way she lives.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~ Proverbs 31:30

Speaking of value, do you know how valuable you are to our Lord? He loves you so, so much. Enough to give His very life for you.

The value of prayer. How often do we say, “Well, the only thing we can do now is pray.” The only thing? How about the most important thing and the thing that should top our list? Prayer is powerful. It is effective. And it’s our way of communicating with the One who created us and wants a relationship with us.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. ~ James 5:16

God’s Word never changes. In any given day, especially in our quick-as-the-blink-of-an-eye culture, things change. Technology, the weather, fashion, styles, etc. But God’s Word is steadfast and never changes. We, as a culture, can try all we want to make God’s Word squeeze into our man-made box, but it will be futile. We should instead, with the help of the Holy Spirit, live as He commands by learning and living by the precious and timeless words of Scripture.

Give to God the unimportant things in your life, the important things in your life, and everything in between. Your future plans? Give it to the Lord. Your future husband? Give it to God. Surrender your life to Him and allow Him to use you for His glory. And He will.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah2911

Aim to please only One. Live your life to please the One who matters. And everything else will fall into place.

 

 

 

5 resolutions to make even though it’s not New Year’s

All right, so New Year’s is still a few months away, and we certainly don’t want to rush time away. However, here are a few suggestions for resolutions to make any day of the year…

1. Laugh more. In our world of stress, it’s nice to be able to find humor in the small things. “Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a new study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.”

laughing baby

The Bible talks about laughter – and let’s not forget who created laughter. He also created our mouths to turn upward, our tummies to shake, and our eyes to tear when provoked with humor. Kids provide the best humor and pets can bring about some laughter as well!

2. Stay in touch.  In our day of modern technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with those we love. One night Lon called me from his cell phone while he was in the driveway arriving home from work. I answered the house phone and we had a great conversation, continuing as he entered the door of our house and as we stood face to face with phones pressed up against our ears.

Hey, it’s good for a marriage to communicate, right? Communication is indeed important, even if you are as different as an ostrich and kangaroo. 🙂

zoo

 

3. Make healthy lifestyle changes. It’s probably safe to say that most of us at one time or another have made a resolution to lose weight and/or get more exercise.

One evening Lon said as he rested on the living room floor, “I’m getting ready to do a sit up.”

I wondered why anyone would want to do a sit up at 8:00 p.m., so I asked him why not wait until he works out in the morning. “Because I’d like to have another cookie,” he told me. He was of the one sit up equals one cookie philosophy.

Another time, he decided to do an experiment. Before Christmas dinner, Lon weighed himself. After the meal, he weighed himself again. The prognosis? He’d gained five pounds in that short time after eating my mom’s famous Christmas dinner. However, men have it good. For us women, we need only to look at a delicious Christmas dinner with all the trimmings to gain five pounds!

woman exercising

Not only can we make healthy lifestyle changes and care for the body God gave us, we can also make spiritual changes and vow to dig into God’s Word more frequently.

4. Vow to serve others.  Make a vow to serve others and truly love your neighbor as yourself as stated in Matthew 19:19.  Each morning before climbing out of bed, I pray that the Lord will show me someone to bless that day. Blessing others doesn’t have to be a huge project. Even something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you at the grocery store can be a way to bless someone.

 5. Use your gifts.

presents

God gave us all gifts to use to further His Kingdom.

Just be sure not to do things that aren’t your gifts. Case in point:  my oldest daughter downloads all my favorite songs onto my phone. Wow, what a pleasure to listen to my contemporary Christian rock music while working out at the gym! I learned the hard way, however, about adjusting to modern technology.

During my workout, I was rocking out to the fast-paced Newsboys song I am Second. I love the lyrics that speak of being second to my Savior and Redeemer and that He is second to none.

Somehow, in all my zest, I forgot that I alone had the earplugs to listen to this song. What I didn’t realize was that I was singing out loud. (Wasn’t everyone in the gym listening to Newsboys?!)

As I belted out the words to the song while running on the treadmill, I soon heard a familiar voice. One that was off-pitch. Yep. It was my voice (talk about embarrassment).

Singing isn’t my gift. Although I have won awards for lip syncing when I was a teenager.

But it is important to use the gifts we have been given. Are you gifted with kids? Why not volunteer to teach Sunday School? Are you gifted with a beautiful voice (I’ll try not to covet!) then use it to lead the worship team at church. Can you sew? Why not offer to mend some clothes for those who cannot afford new ones?

What resolutions would you make even though it’s not New Year’s?

delectable gluten free chocolate powder poo cookie recipe

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Digging through my mom’s archive of recipes, I came across this recipe for delectable gluten free chocolate powder poo cookies. They are truly addictive, and I’m not even a chocolate fan on most occasions! 🙂

Now my oldest daughter has taken the reins and regularly bakes these cookies for our family.

Mix in a medium-sized bowl the following:

1/2 c. butter

2/3 c. gf brown sugar

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg*

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp. soda

1/4 c. gf cocoa

1/2 c. milk*

2 c. gf flour

Stir until ingredients are well-mixed. Roll a ball of batter between palms, then roll through a bowl of gf powdered sugar. Place on the cookie sheet and gently push down on the cookie with your palm. Do not completely flatten!

Bake at 325 degrees. Check after 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

*if you are egg free or milk free, substitute Ener-G egg replacer and Rice Dream rice milk.

What’s your favorite gluten free dessert?

every single detail

2 Isaiah 26 3

Three weeks ago, my husband, Lon, came home from work with a swollen knee that was painful and hot to the touch. We both knew exactly what it was…a staph infection. Lon has had five of these infections since 2009, all on the left-hand side of his body in three different locations.

In the next couple of weeks, we would go through a nerve-racking set of circumstances on the path to my husband’s recovery.

Throughout this entire experience, we saw God’s fingerprints all over the situation. A testament that the Lord cares about the big and the small things in our lives – and all the details in between.

After two weeks of oral antibiotics and IV treatment, both while admitted to the hospital and outpatient, Lon’s infection was not improving. As a matter of fact, it was getting worse. It had spread at a rapid pace down his entire leg to his ankle and foot. The orthopedic surgeon ordered and MRI.

The next day, Lon and I went to the hospital at the orthopedic surgeon’s request to meet with him. We thought we were to meet with him in between patients and find out our game plan. I suspected a surgery might be in order at some point, but I didn’t suspect the news we found out when we entered the doors of the OR.

The nursing staff placed Lon in a room and said they’d be in soon to prep him for an emergency surgery based on his MRI. The doctor would be performing a surgery to remove the infection from his knee. That gave me very little time to pray and to contact the insurance company to get pre-authorization for the surgery.

But God knew all this was to happen, and He knew the outcome.

The night before Lon’s emergency surgery (that we didn’t know he was going to have) he came upstairs late at night (his night owl wife was still up reading,) and said he had a super serious craving for popcorn. This was highly unusual, so after teasing him about being like a pregnant woman, I grabbed him some Skinny Pop. God knew that night that the Skinny Pop would be the only thing Lon would be eating for over the next 17 plus hours due to the emergency surgery. Lon would have never been able to make it if he hadn’t had that popcorn, since dinner had been several hours earlier.

A testament of God’s loving care for His children.

On our way to the surgery on Tuesday that we didn’t know Lon was having, we were pulled over. The officer told us, that unbeknownst to us, we had no brake lights – they had both gone out at the same time.

No brake lights.

At all?

At first, I was like, “Really? You had to pull us over outside of the hospital?! And right now?!” But then I realized what a blessing that was as we could have been rear-ended.

During Lon’s long post-surgery recovery in the OR, the nurse told me to take a break and run some errands, so I ran to get light bulbs for the brake lights. I was chatting with the guys at our local Napa store, when one of them walked outside with the light bulbs. “Your man is down, so we’re going to fix this for you,” he said.

God knew I would be running around town like a crazy person driving back and forth from the hospital, picking up Lon’s medicines at the pharmacy, etc., with no brake lights, and placed a kind guy in our midst to help us out. I am always amazed and again reminded at how God cares about the small things, as well as the big things in our lives. 

lon knee

Tomorrow is exactly three weeks since Lon was diagnosed with this most recent staph infection. Throughout this time, we have had big concerns, such as, that the infection spread to Lon’s heart or other organs. Thankfully, it hadn’t.

But through it all, whether the concerns were small or on a bigger scale, God had our backs. He went before us and guided us every step of the way. He heard our prayers and the prayers of our dear family and our faithful friends at church.

Today, Lon continues to recover.

And I will never forget how the Lord showed me once again how much He cares about every single detail in our lives.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your tender mercies.