Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone! (Tks Johnny Nash!)

One of the greatest temptations in life is to become overwhelmed with its cares and obligations, and lose the optimism and gratitude that God's grace offers us.  Naturally, each of us has a unique disposition that lends to its own outlook, but when we simply pull ourselves out of "ourselves" and look around, we shouldn't be any less than humbled by the blessings of life, and that should spill out from our lips and from our actions. 

Our newest addition, Annie Marie, is growing like a weed.
She and Aunt Steph like to snuggle.
Five years ago, I turned 30.  It was difficult, and that wasn't an attention-getting emotion.  It was genuine.  Looking back, I attribute some of those struggles to a hectic life, four little children, and graduate work.  But it was more than that.  In my mind, turning 30 personified a clean break with youth, and I felt trapped becaused there were expectations that I had for myself that I had not yet attained. 
One by one, the next few years passed, and as 35 approached I felt myself anticipating it with a "bring it on" attitude.  It was just a feeling, but it was a great one. 

Mrs. Pouzar and I share a birthday week, so we celebrated
(twice) with our favorite blizzard.  Mine is Ultimate Chocolate
with chocolate ice cream and extra toppings.
 For serious chocoholics only.  :)
What has changed in the last five years?  Without a doubt, my personal level of joy.  Not that I was unhappy or miserable, but I was allowing day to day life to rub on me in a way that was emotionally counterproductive.  I didn't feel comfortable setting boundaries with people who were sucking the life out of me.  I didn't have what it takes to understand people who think differently than I.
Daily, God helps me with these three areas.  Sometimes I briefly fall back into a trap and find myself struggling with these same temptations.  My hope is in the One who gently reminds me to retreat for a few moments of calm and remember His imparted wisdom.

The brightest rainbow I have ever seen, with both ends visible.
On I-75 as Greg and I were out for my birthday dinner. :)
 (justice not done by photo)
Today, I am basking in the happiness that comes with a life of joy.  Life is still busy, I am still human, and frustrations still come, but I am so much more able to recognize the special things and special people that God brings into my life to let me know that He is walking along with me on this journey.  

Suzanna Kate...innocent sweetness
What is keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest?  What are the things that strip you of joy?  What is stealing your smile? Define it.  Defy it.  Defeat it.  God has something better than simple existence.  He wants to help us fulfill our dreams and find our destiny.  He has good intentions toward His children!

Some of the special women in my support system!
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


As I write this post, many of our people are gathered in Zanesville, OH to celebrate the life of one of my heroes.  Although I could not attend the funeral of  Judy Williams because of my Learning Center obligations, my thoughts have been flooded with memories today.
The Victory Trio are three of the most precious ladies I have ever known...and I know a lot of precious ladies!  Many of my early memories include being part of some of the greatest children's choirs on the planet.  :)  We were probably quite short on technique, but the Victory Trio pulled every ounce of "sing" out of us.  And the spiritual growth that occured during the week before those platform events ensured that our song came from the heart!  I attribute much of my ease in public performance to those times when we would receive a little note in the mail from Miss Penny asking me to do a solo at IHC or when Miss Mary would hand me the microphone for my "turn" at one of their famous choruses.  I saw how God could use children when they were properly prepared to minister.  It was fantastic, and I'll never forget it. 
I lament that my kids (especially the youngest two) did not have the opportunity to sit under these talented women, but  I treasure the moments that the boys had with them.  My favorite is when Evan at age 3, during the PHC camp children's program, sang a solo with perfect pitch and diction.  We still enjoy watching that dvd.
My world is a better place because of the Victory Trio.  Their humor, kindness, concern, consistency, and genuine passion for their calling was woven through everything they touched.  They lived the love of Jesus to us young 'uns, and I'm forever grateful!

Veggie Bake Recipe

Some are still asking for the veggie bake recipe.  It is posted "In The Kitchen" for your convenience.  The chances of me writing this out on pretty little monogrammed recipe cards is slim to none (actually slimmer than that), so I thought I would repost it in a more permanent place for easy access.  :)  This is perfect for all those summer potluck dinners, and can easily be doubled and tripled for parsonage use.
My co-worker had me all excited because she was making this recipe for our Mother/Daughter Banquet last night.  Wouldn't you know, by the time that she and I ended up going through the line (we were at the end), the pan was empty!  She offered me the remains from the serving spoon, but I declined since I was to speak in only a few minutes.  I think we're both gonna have to bake one next time!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coupon Organization

I have become one of "them". You know...the ones who enter the store armed and dangerous. Not because they want to steal stuff (well, ok...maybe they do), but they are just generally out to squeeze lots of product from a few pennies and a stack of carefully trimmed pieces of bar-coded paper.
I will admit that I have stifled a giggle as I have watched the coupon queens drape their carts with humongo binders, and carefully scour the shelves matching up sizes and prices. I was proud of my discreet "method", which included my $1 accordion envelope safely hidden inside my purse.
But, as one can imagine, it wasn't long before frustration overtook my money-saving efforts. Digging for evasive coupons isn't my idea of a fun technique.
My next move was to envelopes labeled with my 5 favorite stores. I would make my lists, pull from my little accordion file, then head out with my envelopes. I quickly found that list-making was eating way too much of my time because I was still digging through coupons searching for the perfect match. I hate wasting time!
There had to be a better way, but I needed something that was time efficient, simple, and fit for my lifestyle.
After a little online research, I concluded that a cute binder (because looks, sorted by item type (rather than brands, expiration dates, etc.) would be the best for me.  Although I had no clue how difficult it would be to locate baseball card protector sleeves, I was able to find enough to get started.

My essentials are pretty basic:  pen, scissors, calculator, notepad

I have had people ask me about couponing, and most are turned off by it because of its seeming complexity.  They don't feel like they have enough hours in the day to complete basic household tasks, let alone focus on clipping, matching, stacking, and organizing.  And some people are really feeling defeated about the fact that they can't "get it". 
Here's my advice:  Don't make yourself do something simply because it seems like everyone else is doing it.  Fads come and go, and there will likely be a time when brands are much more restrictive in the distribution and usage of coupons.  In the meantime, if you want to cash in on some free or nearly free stuff, start small.  Pick one store, and get a few things each week that you know you will use.  If it gets to be a fun challenge and you feel confident, add another store and pick up the pace a bit.  If you don't ever become comfortable and your budget is such that the added headache doesn't feel worth it, then let it go. 
Happy Tuesday!

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Friday, May 6, 2011

A New Favorite!

If you are into couponing at all, you probably received some high value coupons for the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme. I was a little skeptical at first, thinking this was like alfredo sauce in a carton, and wondering how on earth such a little container could substitute for the large jars that I typically use for a meal at our house! I purchased three (one was free, and the other two almost free), determined to at least give it a try.

One night Greg had grilled some chicken, and he was all out of the secret recipe spray that he uses, so I decided to spice mine up a bit using the above pictured creme. Using a little oil and Mrs. Dash, I sauteed some fresh green onion, tomatoes, and mushrooms until they were tender. I microwaved just a little bit of the creme, and drizzled it across my grilled chicken, then topped with the veggies.

I have to say that I was not prepared for the intensely delicious flavor that awakened my taste buds! Ruby Tuesday's (or any of the others) can't even come close to the taste of that dish!
I repeated the process again the other night, and this is what it looked like. Although the veggies sauteed a little too long, and my side dishes were less than appealing, that cooking creme does not disappoint! I'm excited to try the Santa Fe flavor in a dip sometime soon.

So...try the Philly Cooking Creme if you're looking for something to liven up the mealtime blahs. A little goes a LONG way, and the taste is well worth the $!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just Bein' Me!

She's her own girl.

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I love the concept of individuality.  I admire someone who is willing to be different simply because that is who they are.  Not to get attention or make a statement, but just as an honest part of their being.  Although I would look ridiculous in the "flower power" hat that my daughter is wearing, she wears it well and may be able to still pull it off when she's's her! 
One of the most frustrating things one of my children might say are the words, "But ______ won't like my hair like this." or "My friends will laugh at me."  I have just a few years to help them get beyond the pressure that ultimately builds in any circle, and I intend to nurture their individual preferences, talents, and gifts the best that I can. 
Obviously, in any society there are extremes, but those extremes are mostly birthed by self-image issues, not genuine flair that is part of their genetics or personality.  And, many of them fall outside of Biblical guidelines.
I really feel that God created us with much more diversity than is expressed.  We are so compelled to fit into our sub-groups, that we fail to bring our creativity and color to the table.  We have great ideas, but then squelch them because someone else might think them ridiculous. We realize a God-given "bent", but fail to develop it because of a fear of comparison or inadequacy. 
Part of serving the Lord "in sincerity and in truth" is being real, being transparent, and being confident in who we are created to be, knowing that our strengths are unique to us, and vital to the plan God has for our particular set of circumstances. 
More than likely, each of us has legitimate dreams and hopes that are suffocating for one reason or another.  And I can't say (with any certainty) that if you expose your dream you will be exempt from skepticism or cynicism.  The world is full of both, and the church has her share, as well.  But...if God is opening a door or revealing a plan, then there aren't enough skeptics or cynics alive to tear those hopes from your fingertips. 
Just be authentic.  Be ambitious.  Be fearless.  Be YOU!