Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"It is one thing to choose to take the grace offered at the cross. But to choose to live as one filling with His grace? Choosing to fill with all that He freely gives and fully live-- with glory and grace and God?

I know it but I don't want to: it is a choice. Living with losses, I may choose to still say yes. Choose to say yes to what He freely gives. Could I live that-- the choice to open the hands to freely receive whatever God gives? If I don't, I am still making a choice.

The choice not to."

-One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Holiness embelishes our inborn beauty as nothing else can. And this fullness of beauty is freely accessible to everyone. It's all up to us: We can choose to let this beauty flourish, or we can ignore the primary importance of our spiritual life and settle for mediocre, worldly beauty alone."

-Choosing Beauty, a 30-day Spiritual Makeover for Women, by Gina Loehr

(On Day 1 of this new devotional-- I found it on Amazon when I was placing an order...needed the extra $5 purchase to get my free shipping! I am LOVING this book.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Found a Book for an Art that is Lost

I LOVE this book, my friends.

It's possibly my favorite book I've reviewed on my blog.

It's non-fiction. It's self-help. And I've never seen anything like it before.

It's A Perfect Word for Every Occasion, by Liz Duckworth.

Let me collect my happy thoughts about this book so I can share them sincerely and heartfelt through my writing--oh wait, that's exactly what this book helps me to do. ;)

I didn't know what to expect when I ordered A Perfect Word. It promised to be a helpful resource for letter-writing and notecards. I'm crazy-in-love with the old-fashioned art of handwritten letters and cards, but I've generally just searched my heart and let the words flow so I wasn't sure how much I'd actually use this book.

I was wrong. It's golden. Just golden. Everything about it.

There are chapters for each type of handwritten message-- thank you's, birthdays, sympathy, and more-- and even a few thoughts on the modern-age communications such as facebook and emails. I found the author classy, sincere, and feminine with her encouragement and inspiration for handwriting sincere messages to loved ones in our lives. She even offered writing prompts as well as neat quotes and Scripture at the end of each chapter of that particular topic. And I can't forget Aunt Me-Me, who teaches us what not to say...

Overall, a charming and helpful resource. I recommend it.

I also recommend that you take some time this week to pull out a pen and a pretty notecard. Write someone you haven't talked to in awhile. Don't let the beautiful art of handwritten communication get lost in an online world.

[I received this book at no cost from Bethany House publishing. These are my honest and original comments.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Do not pay any attention to the kind of work you do, but rather to the honor that it brings to God, even though it may seem quite trivial. Desire only to do the Divine Will, following Divine Providence, which is the disposition of Divine Wisdom. In a word, if your works are pleasing to God and recognized as such, that is all that matters. Work hard every day at increasing your purity of heart, which consists in appraising things and weighing them in the balance of God's will."

-St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thank you

I was really, really stressed. And tired. With a million thoughts in my head, let alone my heart.

I was thinking about managing my volunteers' schedules for the week. Finding time to get together with my girlfriends to lovingly keep involved in their lives. Thinking about P. and I and where we're going. How long it had been since I saw my family. How long it had been since I saw a clean kitchen floor. How in the world to give this needy dog all the attention he wants, and probably deserves.

And I was praying.

And then two words in my prayer changed my whole perspective.

Thank you.

It started as a reflex-type, half-hearted choice of saying thank you.

Thank you for the volunteers who give of their time with joy and compassion. For my girlfriends who have lifted me up and made me laugh and cry. For this gift of a man however long we're on this journey together. For my precious family who picks up where we left off whenever we're together. Even for this cute little apartment kitchen and that it's cupboards aren't empty.

And yeah, even for this needy dog who snuggles up next to me when I'm alone, who loves me unconditionally.




Friday, March 8, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday [vol. 9]

Big, happy sigh. It is soooo good to be home on this Friday night. What. An. Exhausting. Week. I really just feel like not coming out of my house until Monday. Actually, make that spring--which it just might feel like tomorrow! Fifty degrees and sunny...I'll take it! This is how my brain works lately. Multi-tasking, thinking of multiple things at one time, stringing from one topic to another and forgetting where I started. It makes for a frustrating, exhausting week. I wish I could just focus on one thing at a time and one moment at a time. But I've been trying to do that for years...

Besides being incredibly busy and tired lately, I've also been a little down emotionally (which is probably due in part to the busy-ness and tired-ness). As much as I wanted to just come home after work today, I went to Stations of the Cross service at church. (For my non-Catholic friends, it's a beautiful set of reflections on 14 different 'stations' of Jesus' journey with the cross to Calvary and His death there for us.) The particular devotional we use has a lot of Old Testament Scripture mixed in, which is just beautiful (Isaiah 53, Psalms, and more).
My fragile emotional state coupled with the beauty of the Scriptures and the renewed realization of Christ's suffering and love for us made me just about lose it right there in Church. He, too, knows weariness and struggle and pain and how it feels when evil seems to be pressing in all around. He knows what it feels like to fall face-first onto the ground. But He gets back up. And He carries His burden. And He looks to the Father.
Speaking of fathers, I heard sniffles from my dad beside me during Stations. He too was moved by reflecting on our God and His goodness. Sigh. I love my daddy. Such a strong and tender heart that reminds me of my Heavenly Father.
I also saw S., one of the men from our RCIA class who will be joining the Church this Easter. He's a quiet and humble man, but it's so evident from the joy and peace in his face that he's solid about his journey and the One who's walking with him. It really made me tear up all over again.
It helps me to remember that there really are still good men in the world, aren't there?

And three of my favorite good men are down in Florida on a mission trip this week-- my twin brothers, and the man I love. This trip is the one where sparks flew between me and P. last year. I was so sad not to be able to join them this year because of my work schedule!
Last year's trip
I'm in the mood for some crocheting. I found this pattern on Pinterest for boot cuffs. How cute are they? I think I'll be making a trip to JoAnn Fabric this weekend!!
Crocheted Boot Cuff Pattern @ Sarah's Little Random Thoughts to go with your new boots :)
My sweet little S. that I sponsor from Tanzania turned 12 in February! She was 6 years old when I started sponsoring her. How beautiful it has been to see her grow and change and learn. My dream is to visit her if you know anyone with connections to Tanzania, let me know!! Are you interested in sponsoring a child? It's an amazing and rewarding journey. I've really been thrilled with CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging). They provide not only material assistance but also a lot of education for the sponsored children and adults. They also use very little of your money for adminstrative/fundraising, so over 93% goes to the programs. Love them! And love my sweet S.!


We had our women's share group, Challenge, on Tuesday night. It was snowing and icy, so there were only four of us, but it really fed my soul. These three women are sincere and real and encouraging. Praise God for the friendships of women. Hey-- and happy International Women's Day! Here's a great quote I found on Facebook tonight (see! There goes my brain hopping around!):
Photo: 200 million women and girls are missing from the world, victims of abortion and infanticide, unwanted because of their gender. On this International Women's Day, let's recommit to fighting violence and discrimination against all women - beginning with pre-born women.
Ah! It's already 8 o'clock! I have so much I want to do, yet I have a friend coming over for muffins and girl talk tomorrow morning...hmmm...let's prioritize. Green clay mask, a cup o' tea, Pinterest, journaling, prayer time, and cleaning up dinner. NOT in the order of importance, of course. ;)
Happy Friday, dear friend! May your weekend be beautiful and blessed!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

(I know. If I had created the recipe, I would have named it something much more creative...There's just no 'scope for imagination' in this name, is there, Anne-fans?)

12 oz. lean ground beef
1 8-oz. pkg. sliced mushrooms
1/2 a medium red onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 13.8-oz. pkg. refrigerated pizza dough
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Fresh oregano and/or pizza seasoning (optional)

1. Heat oven to 425* F. Ina  12 inch skillet cook beef, mushrooms, and onion over medium heat about 8 minutes or until beef is browned and onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat. Stir in salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment. Unroll pizza dough on baking sheet. Roll or pat dough to a 15 x 12 inch rectangle. Top dough with beef mixture, keeping filling within 1 1/2 inches of all edges. Fold edges over the filling, pleating as needed.
3. Bake tart 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Top with blue cheese, oregano, and pizza seasoning. Serves 4.

From Better Homes and Gardens magazine, March 2010 issue

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wisdom for Wednesdays

“God is not a belief to which you give your assent. God becomes a reality whom you know intimately, meet everyday, one whose strength becomes your strength, whose love, your love. Live this life of the presence of God long enough and when someone asks you, “Do you believe there is a God?” you may find yourself answering, “No, I do not believe there is a God. I know there is a God.”

~Ernest Boyer, Jr.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Altar

They look at me with such kind eyes. They're rooting for me, they say. But I feel vulnerable. Is it okay that I'm not hiding the pain in my heart? That I let them see my uncertainty, that I don't have it all together? Is it okay to end a conversation with "I don't know?"

It weighs on me. I feel it pressing into my shoulders. It's heavy and unexpected and complicated.

Their kindness soothes me, but it doesn't change things. Their love washes over me gently, but my vision is still clouded. Their support brings me joy, but I still feel this burden.

I'm tired of surrendering. I wish it were a one-time deal.

But it's not.

"The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar." -Chuck Swindoll

So I crawl back, dragging along my frustration and heartache and confusion. I look for a moment with stubbornness at the familiar altar. My emotions shift from stubbornness to weariness to resolve.

I lug my backpack of emotions to the edge and push it up onto the altar. Then I climb up after and uncurl my clenched hands.

Once again I'm here with my offering, with my very self. I look up to Him with a tear-stained face.

I surrender.

I feel Him approach. His all-powerful presence nearing my altar of sacrifice. Will He accept it once again?

But the next thing I know He's wrapping His arms around me and lifting me off the altar. I'm not sure where my burdens went and it doesn't seem to matter. I rest in His strong yet gentle embrace. Oh, Abba. Is this what surrender feels like because right now I simply feel