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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fun in the Fall

I am a summer girl at heart; it will always be my first love. But as I've grown older I've been practicing being content at all times and learning to find the good in all situations. Fall is a beautiful time of year. I love to see the leaves changing colors and falling to the ground. I love to spend time outdoors, and fall is still a great time for exploring. I just throw on a light jacket, get myself a steaming hot cup of tea, and I can bask in the beauty that surrounds me.

This past weekend, we hosted a fall party for our Friendship Group. Right now our group is rather small, but we really love spending time in each others company. We had a wonderful time celebrating the season together. It was a very simple, inexpensive evening where we relaxed, played a few games, and just worked on our friendships.

We had some hot apple cider simmering on the stove, giving off a very inviting smell. This is the only time of year that I regularly drink apple juice. In fact, as I sit and write this blog post, I have a cup of hot apple cider in my hand.

If you've never tried this brand of mulling spices, you should! You can make as much as a gallon with the box, or you can just add a few teaspoons to your cup. It tastes wonderful!

Aspen mulling cider spices
We started off our evening by heading to the backyard to break open a piñata. Lately I've been spending a great deal of time playing around with paper mache. This is an acorn, if you couldn't tell from the picture. We took turns starting with the youngest in the crowd, trying to break it open.

Notice the bat bending backwards... Titus took quite a swing!
We filled our acorn piñata up with ACORNS. How appropriate! The kids helped me gather them at their school. I had a surprise for them too by adding a package of Hershey candy bars inside.

Our next game was rather fun. We had a relay race between boys and girls to see who could get dressed the fastest. I had some old clothes so we could take turns dressing up like a scarecrow. You had to run, get dressed, take a picture, undress, then tag the next person in line to go.

We said you had to make sure to button all the buttons on the shirt. It was really quite funny because Gabe doesn't know how to button, and then Ariel's shirt we didn't notice it only had one top button. So neither of them could do that part very well!

Pretty amazing that we could have the same smile, huh?
scarecrow relay race fall party games
The kids really enjoyed this game. We filled a bucket up with corn cob (bird litter) and hid a rolls worth of pennies inside. There was a surprise quarter inside that we called the jackpot. Ariel ended up finding it. They loved this! They felt so rich by the end with each of them finding about 20 pennies.

fall party game hide pennies in corn cob filled bucket
After our games were done, we all headed back upstairs and out to the backyard for some very yummy smores. The kids each had a Hershey bar from earlier that they saved just for this. There is nothing like a hot fire outside in the cool weather!

roasting marshmallows on firepit
We all brought out our cups of hot apple cider to enjoy by the fire. A perfect snack for me because I LOVE marshmallows. I don't need the chocolate or graham crackers, just give me a marshmallow and I'm in heaven.

I made some caramel popcorn to snack on too. Delicious! It tastes so good when it's hot out of the oven. It sticks together a little bit, but that just helps you pick it up all the easier!

caramel corn recipe

Just in case you've never tried making homemade caramel popcorn. It's the best!

Caramel Popcorn
Make 3 batches of popcorn. I only do 2 in my Whirley Pop.
Bring to boil for 5 minutes: 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup corn syrup, 2 sticks margarine
Add 1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pour over popcorn.
Bake in 250° oven for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pencil Vs. Permanent

Last night I was having a deep discussion with God... in the shower. The shower is my place that I have the most intimate discussions with God. It is in these times that I can be most open because I'm in my most vulnerable state. Nobody can see me, and nobody can hear me. I can cry, down on my knees, and nobody but God can know about it, because honestly, nobody but God can take care of it. He is where my strength comes from.

This time, we were discussing "Friendship", a topic that reaches down right into the core of my being. I was at a loss and I needed to cry out to God for help, wanting to just understand better. Like He always does, God spoke to me, and gave me a picture that I believe was really powerful. The answer was this, "Do you pencil people into your life or do you write them in there permanently?"

Imagine your life to be a piece of paper, when you make a friend do you write that new friend down with a pencil? When you are writing with a pencil, it can easily be erased. You can change your mind. There is not much of a commitment with a pencil. You can just focus on yourself and what you want. You don't have to worry about what the other person wants or needs, because it's all about you. If you don't like something, you just erase. Sometimes that erasing might leave a little smudge, a little hard feelings, but that's okay, you can easily write over the top of it with someone new. But the problem with a pencil is the more and more that you erase, the paper eventually tears, and you're left with nothing.

Do you pencil people into your life, or do you write them in there permanently?

Now imagine that same piece of paper, what if you were to write your friend down with a permanent marker? Permanent marker lasts a long time, and it doesn't fade away. This type of writing is much more difficult, but I believe it's what God has called us to do. When we have someone in our life, they need to be there for good. There is no changing your mind, or forgetting about them because their name is always there. There is a lot more responsibility when you write it in there permanently. It takes commitment, and it takes doing something even when you don't feel like it. It takes stability, and knowing how to keep your word. You might be a little inconvenienced at times, but it would be necessary. There are times when it can get a little messy too. When someone hurts your feelings, or you hurt theirs, you have to fix it. You can't just erase away the problems, you have to deal with it. It's not always easy, but imagine the rewards you will get from having a permanent friend. You won't have to worry about your paper ripping, it will always be there.

I've been on both sides of the paper, being a penciled in friend, or penciling in a friend of mine. Both ways are painful, and can hurt both of the friends that are involved. I know that God has been calling me to make sure my friends are written into my life with a permanent marker. I need to work at it, and keep on trying even when I don't feel like we're both writing with the same thing. You cannot change the way your friends are, but you can change the way you think about them. I would challenge you right now to take a look at the way you treat your friends, and see how you've been writing them into your life. Are you using a pencil most of the time, or are you taking the extra time and effort that it takes to write with that permanent marker? Sometimes you may get a little extra ink on your hands, but you will have a beautiful, lasting piece of artwork in the end. Take some time today and reflect on what you're doing. If you need to make some changes in your writing style, do it. Tell your friends just how much they mean to you, and make sure you can back up what you're saying. God has called us to love others, let's make sure we're doing it to the best of our ability.

"This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:12-13 (NLT)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Yesterday we stayed a little late after church because Titus had a band meeting. The kids and I kept busy talking with our friends. When Titus was finally ready to leave, Gabe was trying to help a friend of his find his ball he had lost. I was more than ready to leave and told Gabe the boy's dad was perfectly capable of finding the toy for his son. Gabe seemed very disgusted with me as he said, "Mom, I want to help others." I told him that was nice but we really needed to be leaving. So he says to me, "Do you think I just care about the people in this family? I care about others too!"

I laughed a little and said, "I'm so glad you like to help people, Gabe." So he responds to me by saying, "You know when I sing the song I really mean it." And he started to sing to me, "'I can give because God gave. That is why I'm smiling. ' See, I really mean it when I say I want to give. I don't just sing the words."

He is absolutely right! Gabriel is probably the most giving child I have ever seen, and he always does it with a smile on his face like he's just done the most exciting thing in the world. He sings those words at least once a day as he gives something away. I actually have a hard time getting him to keep the money that he earns, and gifts that he's given. Just last week he earned a dollar from selling one of his "maze books". He bought some candy from the book store at church and immediately gave it ALL to his sister including the quarter that was left over. Two weeks ago he got a dollar from the tooth fairy and tried to give it to at least 3 different people before someone would finally take it from him. You will never catch him being stingy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

"There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?" some very wise words from an aging man in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. charlie and the chocolate factory

Life sometimes gets the best of me, and can start to overwhelm me. It's in those times that I have found I need God's perspective the most. Lately it has seemed like our lives have revolved around the dollar. How much do we have? And when are we going to get more? The last two months have been a very trying time for our family and we have been stretching our money as far as we can get it to go. This time of year is always a little bit harder on us as 3 out of 5 family member's have birthdays. That's two kid birthday parties in just 1 month. Then Christmas is fastly approaching and the money in our savings starts to dwindle down.

It seems like we have just been going from one crisis to the next, and I've been praying that we can make it out on top. We've had so many unexpected "emergencies" and things requiring our time and money. Starting with my wisdom teeth needing to be pulled it has gone on from there... From a flat tire on my car and then the engine coolant light coming on, to Titus' car completely dying, to my car's air conditioning going out. We've had a garbage disposal switch go bad, a ceiling fan stop working, our tub drain started backing up, and the library tried to charge me for a book I didn't damage. On Monday we found out Titus has a wisdom tooth that has abscessed and it needs to be pulled.

Through it all I would love to say that every time one of those things happened, my first response was always, "God is going to take care of us." Unfortunately, that would be a lie if I said it. So often my first thought has been, "Come on! Why are you letting this happen to me? Don't you even care?" I am so quick to draw the conclusion that God is not there, and that's He's left me.

If it wasn't for my "3 things God has done for me" that I write down each night before bed, I think my perspective would be totally gone out the window. I have been having a harder time seeing God in everything as things haven't gone the way I've wanted. It's amazing how easy it is to see God at work when your life is going perfectly and everything just works out. It's very easy to give the credit to God and say thanks. But when life starts to get tough, we start to wonder, is God really there? Does He really care about me?

The truth is, God has been at work in all areas of my life, I have just been too stubborn to see Him. Sometimes I want to be mad and feel like it's unfair. Sometimes I just don't feel like looking for the good in everything. But I know I need to. The "God perspective" can totally change your life. We may be down to one car, but twice already God has provided a car for Titus to use, even if it's only for a few days at a time. Our bathtub drain may have backed up, but we were saved a visit from the plumber by borrowing some drain cleaner from my parents. The air conditioning in the car may have gone out, but we've had much cooler days since and haven't really needed to use it. The tires on our car did cost quite a bit of money to replace, but they ended up making a mistake and gave us really nice tires and were forced to refund us money because we asked for cheaper ones. The coolant light did come on, but after some time spent my mom and I were able to fix it by adding a cup of water. The library did charge me for that book, but after I went and explained that I did not damage it, they dropped the charges. Both Titus and I may have had to get our wisdom teeth removed, but Thank God we have good dental insurance. God always comes through for us!

Yesterday we got a letter in the mail, and I just couldn't take it anymore. After I got on my knees and cried out to God, "Help!" He answered me. My little three year old saw my tears, and said, "Mommy, I kiss you?" Then he says, "Mommy, I hug you?" They may have been the arms of a little boy but they had the power of a great big God.

I had sudden clarity that brings me back to the quote from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. "There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day." Money is really just a piece of paper. It has no real power. You may choose to give it all away, or someone may ask for all of it from you. You may work all of your life to get some of it. But it's not what really matters. "This ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be." The five people in my family are the ones that really matter. That's what this life is about. The people that God created. My children and my husband are irreplaceable. There never will be more exactly like them. Who care's about a little thing called money, when you have the love of a family? Someone could take away your house, someone could take away your car, your things, your clothes, but they can never take away the love you have for each other, or that God has for you.

"No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39 (NLT)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

This morning we were all getting ready for school, when out walks Gabriel in some khaki pants and a sleeveless tie-dye shirt. I tried to explain to him the outfit just didn't work. You don't wear dress pants and then put a tie-dye shirt with no sleeves. They just don't belong together. He needed to choose which item he wanted to wear more.

Titus being so helpful, informed Gabe, "maybe you're from California. You would fit in perfectly there."

And Gabe responds, "NO, I am not from there. I don't even speak the language!!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Italian Beef Bake

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." At least that is the case for my husband when I make this recipe. Titus will always request this meal, but I tend to save it for more special occasions. I like to have something I can make for him that he doesn't normally get, to make him feel that extra special feeling. It's usually cooked on days when I'm feeling like surprising him or when I'm just LOVING him. It's not difficult at all, it just takes a little planning ahead. I normally am a procrastinator when it comes to dinner preparation. My kids will come home from school and always ask me the dreaded question, "What's for dinner?" I usually respond to them by saying, "I DON'T KNOW! Ask me when you smell something cooking." I love to eat, however I do not like to cook. So this meal takes some planning ahead for me because you have to bake it in the oven for 2 hours.

Italian Beef Bake

2lbs beef, cut into strips
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1 green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can whole tomatoes
1 tbs. steak sauce
1 tbs. corn starch

Italian beef bake recipe
Arrange meat in pan, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with onion soup mix, salt & pepper. Top with green pepper and onion. Chop tomatoes, set aside liquid to use later, place tomatoes in pan. In small bowl combine tomato juice, steak sauce & cornstarch. I usually add another cup of water to it too. Pour liquid over meat and vegetables. Cook in 350° oven for 2 hours. Serve hot over white rice.


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