Monthly Archives: December 2011

An Ode to Pinterest

I have been seriously blown away by the way that Pinterest has enriched my life. I kept seeing my friend Leslie referencing it on both her blog and Facebook, and finally one day I just asked her to send me an invite so I could check it out myself.

While I participate in the other social media websites, I’ve never been as inspired by any of them as I have by the Pinterest community. This simple girl has an issue with confidence when it comes to taking creative risks, but I have been challenged to experiment in ways I would never have even dreamed possible. While I do have my Pinterest time-sucking evenings from time to time, I rarely feel that annoyed, guilty feeling that comes from reading status updates and tweets for too long because I inevitably walk away inspired to better myself, my menu, and, and, and…

I find it only fitting to share my top 10 favorite finds on Pinterest this year. It is the end of the year, after all, so why not jump on the bandwagon of list making?

Here they are in no particular order since I find it difficult to rank such a diverse list.

1. Crispy Cheddar Chicken Recipe. I hope you’ve found the blog Jamie Cooks It Up at some point in your online search for recipes. I’ve tried several of her yummy recipes and drooled over many more that I hope to try in the future.
*My personal adaptation of the recipe came out of improvising with ingredients we had on hand when I decided to try it. I use corn flake crumbs instead of Ritz. I made the sauce once, but we just aren’t a family who enjoys cream of chicken soup. I know, we’re weird. We’ve found that we enjoy it without any sauce at all with a side of mashed potatoes. Yum!

2. Barbecue Crock Pot Chicken. Everything about this recipe’s title makes me smile. Equally amazing are these characteristics: it’s SO yummy, inexpensive, and simple.

3. Cinnamon Roll Cake. Yep. It’s divine! You’ll love it if you love cinnamon rolls. Enough said.

4. Cheesy Garlic Bread. Hey, Jamie from Jamie Cooks It Up? I think you’re fabulous for making dinner time so much happier at our house this year! Thank you!

5. While finding new recipes is wonderful, I love that I’ve also become educated on other things like random facts and tips. I would have never imagined vinegar could be such an essential part of my laundry routine. Thanks to what I learned on some post on Pinterest, I’ve begun using white vinegar in place of my fabric softener. No, it does not make your clothes smell like vinegar, and yes it’s way cheaper!

6. The yarn wreaths have pretty much taken off like crazy online. Oh, and they’ve also taken off like crazy around my house! I’ve made four already, and I’m constantly eying more ideas to make cute variations. Can I just say that they make wonderful, inexpensive gifts? I personally liked this tutorial the best.

7. How adorable is this necklace?!? I know it’s not everyone’s style, but if it is yours, you’ll probably want to do a happy dance when you realize how simple it is to make one for yourself.

8. Photo coasters are a great gift for grandparents. At least, I hope the grandparents in our lives agreed since they got some for Christmas.

9. The t-shirt scarf. I would have never in a million years thought of this on my own. I had just been trying really hard to not covet cute scarves when I came across this tutorial. It took everything in me to not call everyone I know right after I made my own infinity scarf in literally two minutes. (For the record, I only called a few people and posted something about it on Facebook.)

10. Another blogger I would love to hug is Kate from The Small Things. I am pretty clueless on hair styling tips, but this girl’s video tutorials have given me some outstanding ideas along with confidence to try something new with my hair. Also, I finally learned how to put in a bobby pin properly.

So what are your favorite Pinterest finds? I would love to get more ideas from others!

Want to follow me? Here’s the link!

Also, if you’d like to keep up with my blog, be sure to sign up for email subscriptions, like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter. I always let you know when a new post is up.

Pioneer Women: Alone on the Range {Repost}

To read installment one of this series, click here.

Installment two of this series can be found here.

She stood outside her dilapidated home and took in the view. Amber fields, ripe and ready to harvest waved at her. The milk cow mooed in the distance. The hot breeze that assaulted her disheveled hair into a tangled mess whispered mockingly in her ear. “There’s no one out there. No one to offer you sympathy over how tiring it is to tend to your children while you attempt to clean up the house. No one to discuss the latest fashion. No one to hear what a great dinner idea you had.”

I wonder if, as this strong woman fought off the urge to dwell on these thoughts, she began questioning why she’d ever put herself in this position in the first place. Didn’t she know she’d be away from civilization, sometimes for months at a time, when she packed up her wagon and headed west? Surely she looked past the sparkle of adventure in her husband’s eyes and voiced her concerns for getting help in medical emergencies. Almost undoubtedly, she never talked to him about the nagging fear she wrestled into submission each mile she put between herself and the home she left behind. The fear that she would be isolated, an island in a sea of wheat, with no one to share the sweetness of friendship.

The fear was not a new one. She’d fought it as a child when her siblings said she was too little to play with them. She’d choked it back when she was a young woman trying to not look foolish while her peers giggled comfortably with each other. At church dinners when everyone else had someone to talk to and she could only seem to get in the way, she willed herself to hold back the tears. In fact, perhaps it was because of her need to get away from all the people who made her feel so alone that she decided to escape the misery and bury herself in the busy life of a farmer’s wife on the prairie.

Yet the feeling of being alone seemed to haunt her no matter what setting, season, or circumstance. Even as her children ran busily around her, her husband shared the day’s events with her over dinner, and she walked the streets of the nearest town, she felt that no one was truly enraptured with her life, feelings, or dreams. No amount of busyness remedied the ache in her heart. The more she tried pushing it out with a longer to-do list, the more hopeless she felt.

At last, she listened harder to the whispers in her mind. A promise from a still, small voice sounded just a bit louder than all of the hurtful ones that plagued her days, urging her to listen to His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Her cynical heart scoffed at this statement. Hadn’t even those she loved done one or the other to her for as long as she could remember? Hadn’t she done it to those she loved? How could it be possible that anyone would always be there? Yet there He was again saying the same thing, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

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“I will never leave you nor forsake you” – a timeless promise from God alone that is just waiting to speak to women at any time in history. No one is exempt from those feelings of loneliness, but the same percentage of us want to admit it’s true. We’re all created with a gaping hole in our lives that only God can fill. We try with all we have to deny it in so many ways, but God waits patiently for us to believe He’s there. It’s a difficult process to embrace the truth, yet it’s necessary to find peace in fully knowing that if we are pursuing after God, He is faithfully with us each intricate step of the way.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Pioneer Women: Driving Forces and Landmarks {Repost}

To read the first installment of the Pioneer Women series, click here.

What drives women to action? Many worthy causes have inspired women in history to discover a cure, fight for a cause, become an entrepreneur, and become an example and inspiration to us all. But I just can’t believe that every woman who is now dubbed a pioneer in her field started out a brave, confident lady who fearlessly took a risk.

Sometimes it’s fear that drives us. We’re afraid of being hurt or abandoned so we run away from the root of the problem for as long as we can.

Sometimes it’s grief. I can easily think of a myriad of organizations that have been founded by someone who was struck with the pain of losing someone they loved more than anything in life.

Sometimes it’s love. For what other reason does a mother take care of a sick child in the middle of the night without a second thought? Or do three thousand loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes in any given week? Or challenge unfair treatment of her child at school?

So many times it’s a need to belong to a cause greater than ourselves. When we begin evaluating our worth in this life, we naturally start to size up how much of a difference we’re making. Are we making the world a better place?

Those strong women who blazed the Oregon Trail had to be driven to action in order to willingly take the journey. Some of them were running from something; some of them loved their men so much they would give up everything to follow him to the ends of the earth; some must have looked at the life that they had and wondered what more they could do to better life for future generations.

Whatever their cause, they pushed through the brutally difficult and dangerous circumstances to reach that beautiful piece of land they made into their new home. This new home was not free of its own challenges, but it was a landmark to them – the physical proof that they had accomplished something great in life.

Isn’t that what all of us want? To reach a goal that brings a deep fulfillment, no matter how hard it was to get there. I wonder if this isn’t one of the reasons why maintaining a close relationship with Christ is so frustrating for us. We want to just reach a place where we can relax and comfortably cruise through the rest of our lives. The reality is, we’re never going to “arrive” at a place of complete perfection this side of eternity.

Thankfully, God uses our often-times flawed driving force to bring us to a place of repentance or a realization that something’s got to change. Whatever the vehicle you used to get to where you currently stand, I challenge you to get out, look around, and find some sort of landmark to symbolize how far you’ve come on the journey.

When you get frustrated with the next leg of the pilgrimage, you can look back at this landmark and know that you may not have arrived “home” yet, but God has empowered you to make some serious progress. The pioneer women who settled the West did not single-handedly establish all that was necessary to make it a thriving part of our nation, but they did not give up on doing their part to make a happy home out of the landmark they’d created. Neither should we give up on our journey through life.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Could I be a Pioneer Woman {Repost}

The time in America’s history that most fascinates me are those years where pioneers forged paths across unknown territories to a place that promised so many unknowns. Fighting off wild animals, succumbing to disease and natural disasters, traveling on uncomfortable modes of transportation – each of these challenges leave me amazed that people willingly lived that life.

And for what? Arriving at a place that looked promising to the dreamer husband while the wife, who had left every comfort she’d ever known behind, sat by his side and put on a happy face. Did she really put on a happy face? She’d most likely had to dump the few precious memories she carried from home somewhere in the wilderness when the horses could no longer bear the burden of weight. Perhaps she had buried one or more precious babies somewhere in the prairie, never able to go visit the grave. What shred of physical beauty she had to hold onto had most likely been burned away by the glaring sun or other extreme weather conditions.

And yet here she was. Sitting on her new homestead with no home to fix up and organize. All she had to look forward to was more work while continuing to live out of her beat-up wagon. Exhausted because she hadn’t slept comfortably in months. Emotional because she missed her mama and had no way of hearing her voice ever again. Trying to entertain her restless children while wishing she could give them a proper bath. Forcing back the tendency to compare what she used to call home to this desolate place that would someday contain her sod house with as many rooms as she sheets to hang for dividers.

These women seem so much different from me. I admire their bravery. I aspire to have the perspective they would have had to have gained through surviving what they did. Yet I can’t help but realize that they weren’t completely different from me. They were women. They had insecurities, mom guilt, a need for friendships, a marriage that required constant love and attention.

At the same time, we have innumerable conveniences that make our current way of life distant beyond compare to what the pioneers experienced. In spite of all of this history, from time to time, I, along with many of America’s current residents, have to fight off believing that our generation has it tougher than those who lived in a time when life was slower and without countless deadlines. God foils that way of thinking in a passage that intrigues me. Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 say this, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things,nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” So really, it’s all the same tough reality of life in different-looking packages.

No, I do not encounter a fraction of the challenges pioneer women faced, but I cannot downplay that there are so many challenges that come with living in the twenty-first century. These women battled through hardships I can’t fully comprehend, but they had to process them with the same human qualities women today possess. I know and love so many women who are facing heartbreaking challenges at this very moment. Nearly every day, God brings to my attention a serious scrimmage that I must pray a friend through with vigilance. If those around me seem to be getting a break, I’m in the thick of fighting through an attack against myself.

Christian women are a different kind of pioneer women. We’re on a journey to the Promised Land, but the days and years that it takes until we arrive will age us. They will either embitter us or help us gain a healthy perspective of life. We can’t take a day off anymore than those bonnet-clad women could. The battle is constant and requires training, love, and ultimately, a relationship with God if we plan to win.

Help me out if you will. I’m listing several ways we’re modern-day pioneer women and plan to do a series about it. What are some topics you think would be of value for me to explore and share with others on this blog? I would so appreciate your ideas by leaving a comment or sending me an email.

In the meantime, journey on, my fellow pioneers!

New Look!

If you’ve been following my blog for long, you have no doubt noticed that I have a beautiful new design! I would like to thank my wonderful cousin Jordan Taylor for taking time out of his busy life to design it for me.

I’ve always been so proud of this guy for his intelligence, wit, compassion, and willingness to be bold and useful with his talents. Not to mention, he’d sit and listen to me go on and on about nerdy ideas or books for just shy of forever. I don’t want to embarrass him too much by gushing about him or sharing secrets of how I’d dress him up when he was little while I was babysitting him. But, if you’re ever in need of a designer, I know he’ll put his heart into it, and he’ll invest the funds into a worthy cause. His heart is in the Philippines, where he’s just getting ready to head out on his second short-term missions trip before eventually heading there for a more long-term ministry.

Thank you, Jordan, for being the amazing man that you are! I have always known God has enormous plans for you, and I’m so grateful that you’re willing to follow His leading in your life. Also, thank you for spending so much time designing such a beautiful blog for this less-than-technically-gifted girl! You were so patient and listened to and accommodated my ideas perfectly.

This week, I’m planning to share some posts from the beginning of my blogging venture that some of my new followers might have missed. Then on Friday, I’m sharing my top ten Pinterest finds for 2011. I love that website, don’t you? You can follow me by clicking here.

Sometime soon in the new year, I’m also planning my first giveaway, so be sure to stay tuned for that! I’m really excited to share it with you!

 

 

Giving at Christmas

This Christmas season, I’ve felt frustrated more than once that I could not join the masses of other families participating in one of the wonderful charitable organizations promoted all over the web. I would see post after post and picture after picture then tell God that we needed to do the same thing. You can imagine my surprise when God kept saying “No. Not right now.”

But aren’t we as Christians supposed to reach out to the needy?

“Yes,” He’d say, “but needs are everywhere. Look closer at how you can be generous to the needs of those around you.”

In this season of life, we do not have much of monetary value to contribute, but God has blessed us with more than just money. He’s given us talents that are unique to us. He’s bestowed upon us time to serve others.

As I contemplated how God would have me reach out to the needy around me, I couldn’t seem to move past the view from my front window. Nestled in my happy little cul-de-sac are nine neighboring houses, all filled with people who have needs. I know each of their faces as we smile and wave when we check our mail at the same time. But I know so little about most of their hearts. Let’s be real here. My knocking on their door out of the blue and asking them where they stand with Jesus would probably not be all that effective at anything except ensuring they avoid eye contact and run as politely as they can from me from this point forward.

I can, however, use this season to show Jesus to them in a quiet yet powerful way that also allows me to include Dash in the process. In addition to reaching others, I want my son to understand that no matter how much money we have, we can share with what we have.

So that’s exactly why we got to work in the kitchen last week. A few hours and a couple of sugar highs later, we were ready to share some baked goods and a simple Christmas greeting with our neighbors. And that’s exactly what we did as a family that night. We loaded our goodies and cute little boy into his wagon and set out to wish our neighbors a Merry Christmas.

Less than a week later, I’ve been amazed at the response. The neighbors who usually avoid eye contact now initiate conversation with us. Some of the neighbors have even gotten busy in their own kitchens and come delivering Christmas treats to our door. Jesus has been honored, and relationships that were non-existent or  superficial now have an opportunity to go deeper.

My heart is blessed to see how God is working so mightily from my family’s humble investment into the lives of those around us.

I pray that if you are in a situation similar to ours, you will be encouraged to not despair if you cannot give a beautifully-wrapped elaborate gift to a stranger in need this Christmas. I believe that God will give all of us that opportunity someday, but what can you do now with your current resources?

Can you sit and chat with a lonely widow? Can you tutor someone who can’t afford to pay for it? What if you babysat for a harried couple in desperate need of a date night? There are so many ways that you can give. Your neighbors and co-workers have their own unique needs that you can help fulfill if you will just pray for the ability to do so.

 

31 Days to Pray for Your Spouse Challenge

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the statistics on marriage. I know that you have either experienced or know multiple people who have suffered through the agony of a dissolving marriage, and if you yourself are married, you know that it’s not always easy to feel loving feelings toward your spouse.

Marriage is under serious attack by the enemy, girls! I’ve spent more than a few nights with my stomach in knots after either personally feeling the effects of my own marriage being tested or listening to yet another friend who was in agony over her marriage’s current state. If you are personally experiencing attacks on your marriage, do not allow yourself to believe the lie that you are alone.

It’s because of how serious this whole issue of marriage is that I’m excited to be a part of a movement by my good friend Ashley and 31 Days to Pray starting January 1st! I am convinced by personal experience and witnessing it in the lives of others that prayer is an insanely powerful tool that will change your life and your marriage.

The challenge is simple. Spend a few minutes each day during the month of January to pray something specific for your spouse. You can also purchase a copy of Ashley’s e-book, 31 Days to Change Your Spouse (See my affiliate disclosure policy.), to have a daily guide of what to pray for each day. Sign up at 31 Days to Pray or like 31 Days to Pray on Facebook to get involved with a group of women who can hold you accountable while they pray for their men right along with you.

What do you have to lose by praying for your spouse? Nothing but heartache, my friend! Please consider joining the movement! Let’s fight for our marriages, and start by getting on our knees.