Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Twinkle Toes

Yesterday was the final ballet class of the semester for my girls.  They love to dance, and I love to watch them.

The bad news is that I attempted to record both of my daughters' dances, but had major technical difficulties with my oldest daughter's video.  I almost cried.  It was sooo beautiful, but my camera wouldn't stay focused in so the whole thing was blurry. The good news is that at least I was able to record my littlest ballerina who just finished her very first year of dance class.

So here she is!

These moments are so precious to me.  The girls are growing so quickly that I treasure each little milestone.  The pink tights and ballet skirts will some day fade, but the memories are forever etched in this mama's heart.

Lovin' My Little Ballerinas,


Monday, April 25, 2011

Mom's Kitchen

Something wonderful happens when women gather in the kitchen together.  It's an environment that is well suited for closeness, bonding, and the endless conversation that ladies thrive on.  It's been the treasured destination of women for ages, and the source of great meals for generations of families.

I spent the last two days cooking and baking in my mother's kitchen. It was my first time back in her domain since her passing, and I was bracing myself for what I thought might be a tough weekend, emotionally.  But what I discovered was that it was actually quite healing to be surrounded by Mom's favorite things.  Her kitchen is filled with happy memories, and they all came flooding back to me when I returned to her favorite spot in the house.

I used my mom's prized measuring cups from the 1970's that she refused to get rid of because they contained both the 2/3 and 3/4 measuring cups: both of which she could never find in a new set.  The 1/4 cup has a melted stub where the handle used to be...compliments of me melting it in the microwave when I was a teenager.  I also used her hardwood rolling pin and the "salad shooter" that I bought her as Mother's Day gifts with babysitting money that I earned.  I rode my bike all the way to Smitty's and back  to buy her the "Salad Shooter" and I was so excited with my purchase that I could barely contain myself.  That was over 20 years ago, and she still has it!

I spent most of Saturday baking desserts for Sunday's big Easter feast.  I made a Coconut Cream Pie from scratch, the same way that my mother taught me to make it.  Then I made a strawberry cream pie, and chocolate brownies with caramel sauce.  Afterward, my sister- in- law joined me to make some appetizers.  I prepared deviled eggs, and taught her how to make my mom's delicious "vegetable pizza wedges".  Then I prepared the potato casserole to be baked on Sunday.  We laughed and shared recipes, and talked side by side for hours.  It was delightful.

On Easter Sunday, the kitchen filled the entire house with the aroma of dinner as we prepared the main meal of the day.  My dad tackled the prime rib and honey glazed ham, while I made the potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  We also had homemade rolls and fruit salad.  It was a wonderfully chaotic dance as people bumped elbows and shuffled about with piping hot entrees and steaming side dishes in their hands.  At last the meal was ready, and we all bowed our heads to pray for our first family feast without the queen of the kitchen. 

I thought that the food turned out delicious, and I'm not saying that to be arrogant, but rather to pay my mother a wonderful compliment for the countless hours she spent teaching me her craft over the years. She was the best teacher a girl could ask for.

After the meal was done, the ladies all converged in the kitchen to do the clean-up while the men sat around the table swapping stories.  We had a delightful time catching up on life and sharing memories as we scrubbed the pots and pans and traded recipes.  Many hands make light work, and things were looking good in no time at all. Good conversation makes even the worst chores seem effortless and quick.

When the kitchen was sparkling again, my oldest daughter took dessert requests from each guest and hand delivered each bowl as the orders were filled.  She has such a servant's heart and is becoming quite helpful in the kitchen.

By the end of the day, I was completed wiped out and it felt wonderful to sit down for a bit and rest my feet.  I felt equal parts weary and content as I reflected over the weekends activities.  I couldn't help but think of how much I missed Mom, and about how she worked so diligently to serve our family in the kitchen.  Cooking for her family was one of the things Mom loved most, and she left mighty big shoes to fill in her absence. 

Mom...the way I'll always remember her in the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Selecting a Good Mate

When you were a teenager, did you ever think that it would be totally awesome to hand- pick your spouse from a catalog full of hunky males, or slender super models? What if the catalog was organized by traits, and you could select the features that were the most important to you and choose from among the top suitors in each of those categories? Well, we don't get to choose our spouse that way, but I'm in the process of choosing a suitor for my bovine gals. It's a tough decision, but this guy is looking like he may be the one!!

Isn't he a hunk of a bull?
His name is "In Focus"

This year we've decided to artificially inseminate our heifers instead of throwing them in with a calving ease bull for breeding.  I've been pouring over the ABS Global catalog to make my  sire selection, and I've got to tell's a bit exhilarating! I love genetics!

During my college years, I raised hundreds of yearling bulls at the ranch for a large bull sale every spring.  I LOVED raising bulls, and all of the genetic study that goes with it. For months, we would feed and care for the bulls, and then  take semen samples, scrotal circumferences, and perform other tests on them. We would add the results to their other statistics, and those of their mothers including birth weight, calving ease, etc. Then we would catalog the bulls EPDs for sale day. Because my Animal Science degree had an emphasis on large animals (livestock), I'm a bit of an EPD freak!  I love looking at an animal's genetic potential.

For the 99.7% of my readers that have no clue what I'm talking about,  EPD stands for Estimated Progeny Difference, and it's a record of what a bull's genetics will potentially add to your herd.  There are a number of things to consider when selecting a bull and your choice has the potential to increase the value and quality of your cattle and increase profit margins.  Traits like birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, milk production, ribeye size, scrotal circumference, and carcass weight all come into play when choosing a bull.

Right now you are thinking, " Nell, Who cares about all of this?"

I do!

Alright, I'm done talking about things that you don't really care about.  What's important to know in layman's terms, is that this bull has got it goin' on! He's among the "Best of the Best" of Angus bulls.  He'll throw light weight calves so we don't have to worry as much about our heifers calving next spring.  His babies grow up to be medium sized, wide, and heavily muscled.  His sons are docile, and his daughters are good mothers.  He's quite a catch! So are his sons! Maybe we'll choose one of them instead.  Or maybe we'll go with someone else. I just can't decide.

 Wouldn't it be awesome if all of the young men who proposed marriage to your daughters came with an EPD?  Then you would know if the guy was a keeper, or not.

"I'm sorry boy, but according to your records, there is a high probability that if you marry my daughter, she will have to have a C-section, and my grand kids will be scrawny and ill-tempered.  It's best if you just move along."

Ha Ha! Totally Kidding!

I'm so thankful that God has a perfect spouse that is uniquely suited for each of my children.  They must each love the Lord with all of their heart, but beyond that, only the Lord knows the perfect combination of traits that will make for a good marriage.

I think I'll save my match-making skills for the livestock on this outfit, and leave the big stuff to God.  Besides, we've got a few years before we have to worry about suitors around here.  My girls still think that boys are totally weird, and my son says, "ALL girls have cooties".

Monday, April 18, 2011

7 Things

As the ground awakens and new life springs forth, so our days seem to be filled with a flurry of new activity.  The past few weeks have been a non-stop marathon, and finding balance is at the top of my priority list for the week.  When we don't even have time to eat a meal together at the dinner table, this momma bear starts to get grumbly.  Here are my ramblings from our busy week:

1. My children only have two weeks of  co-op left before we break for the summer months. WooHoo! Last week, they made these cute little spring time bunnies in art class out of rocks.  They have paint brush bristles for whiskers, and a cotton ball tail. I think they're kind of adorable.

2.  After a full year of pampering, Spike the succulent is in full bloom! I never thought this day would come! If you've never read about my unusual relationship with Spike, you should read about it by clicking HERE.

Isn't he beautiful?!?! I'm so proud that he's blooming!

3. My son has been taking his "Hunter's Safety" course for the past few weeks, and he passed his test with flying colors, which means that he will get to go on his very first elk hunt in the fall.  He attended his field day on Saturday, and to quote my 9 year old, "It was AWESOME!"

The field day is held at our local cinder pit.  My son's class was the largest that the instructors have ever seen with nearly 150 students enrolled! Our area is full of outdoorsmen who love to hunt and fish, and it's evident that they are passing their love for the outdoors down to the next generation.
There were 6 stations for the kids to rotate through.  Gun cleaning, muzzle loader, Rifle, Shotgun, archery, and a simulated hunt.

Here's my son receiving instruction before he loads and shoots the muzzle loader.

At another station, he shot a .22 rifle.

He was required to shoot his rifle from several different positions.  He took 1st place among his classmates. (He got his skillz from his mother. Wink Wink.)

Afterward, our favorite meat packer sponsored lunch for everyone.

My boy's had over 30 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction, and he'll finally graduate on Tuesday night. It's been fun for the guys in my house, but I'll be glad when it's over and life can get back to normal.

4. Our regular Little League baseball season is starting up again, (my son's club team goes year round) and that means that our family is pulled into 3 different directions every evening.  My baby is excited to play her first year of Tee-ball. My oldest daughter is slugging away in coach pitch, and my son is on my husband's minor league team.  We were at the baseball field three times, for a total of 7 hours, this weekend and I've got the sunburn to prove it. The first weekend that we have warmer temperatures, the entire mountain is full of people sporting pink cheeks and red legs.  We throw caution to the wind and leave the sunscreen at home so we can get a good "base tan".  Ha Ha! Yeah right.  I'll spare you the pics of the destruction.

5. I've been spring cleaning this week. It's a thankless job, but somebody's got to do it. I've finally discovered the one task that is worse than than blinds. YUCK. I loathe going over each individual slat with a rag. It's so tedious and detailed. Every tiny nook and cranny must be wiped down. It's like milking a cat.

6.  It's been w-i-n-d-y here, and my 5 year old begged me to let her check the mail by herself.  I watched from the front window as she made her way to the road and got up on her tip toes to reach in the box.  When she pulled everything out, a big gust of wind came up and blew some of the mail out of her hands.  As she was chasing it, some more mail started flying around the yard. This started a chain reaction of mail loss that had her running around stomping on paper to keep it from blowing away. Our local newspaper (that we receive by mail) and all of the advertisements and coupons were scattering everywhere! Her big brother and sister ran to her rescue, and helped her wrangle a stack of no less than 50 pages of coupons, envelopes, and newspaper sections. 

 I couldn't help but chuckle when I heard her cry, "You guys! I didn't need your help!" as she made her way up the walk. 

She came into the house half mad/ half embarrassed, and she said, "I got the mail for you, mommy!" 

"Why, yes you did!" I replied.

Close behind, her brother and sister each handed me another messy and mangled stack of papers.

I spent the next ten minutes sorting through the pile, and combing the yard for missing bills.

Poor baby. I blame it on the blustery day.

7. I am in love with giant Reeses Peanut Butter eggs, and they are an irresistible temptation for me. I will have to jog a marathon to burn off the calories from the quantity that I've consumed in the last two weeks. But it is SO worth it.  They only come around once a year, you know.

Hope you have a great Monday!


Friday, April 15, 2011

When Good Dogs Grow Old

Last night marked the beginning of irrigation season.  When we start watering the pastures, I know that longer days, warmer weather, and the smell of green grass is in our near future. It's a constant presence in our lives from April through October, and it's a chore that I've come to really enjoy during the daylight hours.  The late night watering, however, is a task my husband usually endures.  It's eerie and full of night-walking creatures, and sometimes it's spooky. But mainly it's just not fun to irrigate when you could be sleeping.

For years, my husband has completed the night irrigation shift with the help of our trusty dog, Boone.  In his prime, Boone was the perfect sidekick to have on a night mission.  When it's pitch-black outside, in the middle of nowhere, Boone will watch your "six".  He's indispensable for the night shift.  If he starts to put his hackles up and make a low pitched "woof", then there's a 99.9% chance that you will find some sort of undesirable critter nearby when you shine the flashlight around.  From snakes and skunks, to coyotes and packs of wild dogs, Boone has protected us and saved the day on countless occasions.  A good dog is worth his weight in gold!

That's why I got a little choked up last night when my husband had to go solo on his irrigation shift.  At 10:15pm,  my husband started putting on his irrigation boots, the prime signal to Boone that it's "go time".  He started to get excited because putting on boots at that time of night can only mean one thing...irrigation.  When duty calls, Boone is always the first to answer. He's loyal, hard working, and ready to protect, even if it's the 10:50pm-5:30 am shift.

But for the first time, my husband was too worried about him to take him along.  Boone's not getting up very well these days, and he's completely deaf.  His eyesight is failing him, and he has trouble keeping up when we walk through the pasture. My husband was nervous that he'd lose his way in the dark, and wouldn't be able to come to my husband when he called for him. Three quick whistles would call Boone right back to our feet in a matter of seconds, but these days, the sounds fall on deaf ears. It's heartbreaking to see my dog getting older.

I'm certain that in his mind, Boone still feels like a young pup, but he's downright flabbergasted as to why his body won't cooperate.  When he dreams, his paws move at the speed of lightening.  I just know that in his mind, he's running wild and free through the grass and hopping in the back of the pick-up truck.  In his dreams, he's taking his daily dip into the irrigation ditch, and chasing those pesky rabbits.  He's herding cattle, and looking for mice in the hay stack.

The reality is that Boone has been forced into retirement for his own good.  Most of the time, he just lays around the house and thinks of his glory days.  He follows me from room to room as I do my chores, and lounges under the kitchen table hoping for a scrap or two from the kids at meal time.  When I sit down in my rocking chair to read the newspaper, I see him perk up from across the room.  It takes him a full ten seconds to get his crippled hind legs up to standing position, but when he's up, he walks straight to my chair and nudges my arm with his wet nose in hopes of getting a scratch behind the ears. It's during those moments that I consider how blessed I am to have the love of a good dog.

We have to lift him into the back of the truck now, but he still has the occasional pleasure of feeling the wind in his jowls when we drive down the road.  I still take him to irrigate during the day, and now that the irrigation ditches have been converted to underground pipe, I don't have to worry about him getting stuck.  He still walks through the water in the fields, and shakes his wet fur with sheer friskiness.  Then he rolls on dead animals and manure piles to get that certain cow dog aroma that only comes from a life well lived.  The following day he'll be crippled up and sleep off the exhaustion next to the wood stove. But to Boone, the stiffness is a small price to pay for a few hours of excitement and adventure.

That's why he still waits eagerly at the door every time we put our boots on.

My husband gave him a scratch behind the ears last night as he put his hand on the door knob. Then he told him, "Not this time, Boone."

And my heart broke.

Thirty minutes later, I finally got up and coaxed Boone away from the front door where he was keeping vigil.

I said, "Come here Boone. Dad's gonna be gone for a few hours."

He shifted his eyes to avoid my gaze.  And then slowly, as if his will had been broken, he staggered up on all four feet and made his way back to the floor at the foot of the bed where he circled a few times.  He let out a long sigh of defeat as he gave in to his weariness and drifted off to sleep.

It's tough to watch my dog grow old, but I cherish every moment that we have with him.

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.” -Unknown

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pioneer Women

I have a fascination with the pioneer women who came west by covered wagons.  It started in the 8th grade when I made a scaled down replica of a pioneer's sod house for history class.  I couldn't even imagine what it would have been like to live in a house made of dirt.  From that point on, I devoured every book and article I came across that told the stories of these strong and courageous women.

There is something so raw and real about women of this time period that I was instantly drawn to their lives. Their stories are a contrast of hardship and hope.  They were coming out west with big dreams of land ownership and homesteads, and they sacrificed nearly everything to get the chance at a better life.

Could you imagine starting a new life with only the things that could fit in the back of your pick-up truck?  The pioneers left nearly all of their worldly possesions behind in order to start a new life.  Today, we have so much junk that clutters up our lives.  We spend hours every week cleaning our "stuff", organizing our "stuff" and working to make money to buy more "stuff".  We're a society addicted to "stuff".  It's like an idol that takes up our precious time. The pioneers didn't pack their junk.  They took tools, bedding, and food.  They let go of the rest of it so it wouldn't weigh them down while they traveled.

They also weren't obsessed with clothing like we are.  Women had a choring dress, a regular dress, and a Sunday dress.  I have an entire closet full of clothes, and still say, "I have nothing to wear" on Sunday mornings.  Pathetic.  I know.  Maybe if I had to hand- wash my clothes on a washboard with a bar of soap, I would seriously reconsider which outfits were important, and make a quilt...or 5 quilts out of the rest.  I already hate doing the laundry with a machine that does all of the work for me. If I had to wash my clothes all by hand, I would thin out the closet to one article of clothing, and hang it on a peg. 

In addition to their adventurous spirit, and their loose grip on worldly possessions, I love their tough resolve.  They define the terms "grit and gumption".  In reading the diaries of women on the trail, I gained a whole new level of understanding about the hardships they endured.  They lost husbands and children to sickness, drownings, and indian attacks while making their way west. Many times they would write an entire journal entry, and then at the very end, they would write a simple sentence about giving birth to a son that day.  One sentence.  Childbirth was one of the leading causes of death for women at that time, and some women had their babies in the back of a wagon, with no doctors and no assistance.  They didn't whine for months on end about the difficulties of being pregnant.  They pulled their weight...big belly and all.  And it was such a natural thing for them that they didn't even mention it in their daily musings. Incredible.

Pioneer women had some serious "skills" too.  They would cook anything their husbands brought in from the hunt, and utilize every part of the animal.  They could make entire meals on a campfire, sew the clothes for the entire family, and bake bread from scratch.  They could plant a garden that would sustain their family for the entire year. They were good with a gun, and great with an iron skillet.  They could do nearly anything a man could do....with a skirt on. :) We have machines to do nearly all of our chores for us, and stores to buy all of our food and clothing, and we still complain that we don't have enough hours in the day to "get it all done".  Maybe we're wasting all of our time cleaning our "stuff".

The thing I love best about these women of courage, was that many of them were also women of great faith.  Most brought along a family Bible on their journey west. They would memorize it, teach their children to read from it's pages, and keep a record of births and deaths in it. They treasured their Savior. Those women had a simple faith that would sustain them through unspeakable hardships, and times of uncertainty. 

Sometimes I wonder if the "junk" in my life holds me back.  I wonder if I'm missing out on God's best for me because I can't let go of the "stuff" that weighs me down.  I get too caught up with things of this world that don't matter. I need to re-prioritize....Sit in the back of my empty wagon, so to speak, and decide what things are crucial to the journey ahead.  Then I need to get rid of the rest of it.  I want to focus on "others" more, and "me" less.  Sometimes a person can get so wrapped up in their own drama, that they miss out on opportunities to serve those around them.  I want to keep my hands busy doing things that are productive, and helpful for my family.  I want to love God with all of my heart, and live out a simple faith.

That's why I'm so fascinated with pioneer women.  They are a snapshot of the Proverbs 31 woman.  They are everything I'm not...and it's humbling.  I always choose role models who are WAY out of my league.  Why not shoot for the stars?

How about you? What type of people inspire you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

"You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense." - Jane Pauley

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eye Glass Case Tutorial


2 pieces of coordinating fabric measuring 8"x9"
1 piece of thin  quilt batting measuring 8"x9"
pattern for sewing glass case can be printed off from the following link:

First, decide which piece of fabric that you want on the outside of the case, and which you would like for the inside.  Here's what I chose for the sake of this tutorial:

Cut the outside fabric and the batting with the pattern, then flip the pattern backwards to cut the inside fabric so that it will match the outside fabric when right sides are pressed together.

As you can see, my batting is very lightweight.  Thin felt works nicely as well.

Here are all three of my fabric pieces.

Here they are in relation to the pattern.  Note that the pink fabric has the curved edge facing the opposite direction.

Next, layer the pieces in the following order:

Bottom: batting
Middle: Top fabric with right side facing up
Top: Inside fabric with right side facing down.

(Hint: the two fabrics should be right sides together on top of batting.)

Using the edge of the presser foot as your guide, sew up the side, around the top curve, and down the other side of the three sandwiched layers.  LEAVE THE BOTTOM OPEN.

 After sewing the layers, trim the fabric close to the seam.
OK, here's where it gets tricky. Take the corner with the rounded edge(right side), and push the seam in so that it meets up with the seam on the left side which has the squared edge.

When the two seams are pushed together, it will form a tube with your inside fabric.  Make sure that the fabrics line up closely and as straight as possible all the way up the left hand seam.  You may want to pin it in place.

Here's what it will look like when it's in place. Now lay the tube flat so that it looks like the picture below.
Sew a seam all the way up the left side.  It will be close to the original seam.  Make sure your seam catches the fabric that you tucked in.

Next, you are going to open the tube of inside fabric, and flip the case so that the inside fabric is now showing on the outside.

Here's my tube, and I'm going to push my material through when I flip it.

Now, my glasses case is inside out, as shown in the picture below.

Notice that the bottom is open.  Sew a seam across the bottom.  I sewed two seams close together for good measure. :)  Next, trim the fabric close to the seam.

Now flip your eye glass case right side out, and you are finished!

 This is a quick and easy project that can be completed in under 30 minutes!

 Happy Sewing!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Bite at a Time: Part II

"Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for Thou art my praise"  Jeremiah 17:14
No one is immune from various trials and suffering.  It is a universal struggle.  At some point in every life, there will be some circumstance that will shake you to the core. Yet, when we are in the midst of a trial, we often feel we're the only one on earth that is suffering. It helps to know that we serve a God that is well acquainted with suffering himself, and therefore able to sympathize with our plight.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."- Hebrews 4:14

Hurts, trials, and suffering are sure to come our way at some point in our journey, and our response to these situations will have a lasting impact on our lives.  We can either choose to let the things of this world drag us down in defeat, or make us stronger.  They will either refine us or make us bitter. It's our choice, and it's in our hands.

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter 1:6-8.

We must learn to see every trial as a refining process that will make us more like Christ. It is a test. We must decide to believe God and respond properly, or to live in the unbelief of our flesh.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you." 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

In Kay Arthur's book, "Lord Heal My Hurts", she addresses this topic further when she states, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God, according to Romans 8:35-39.  The tribulations, distresses, and persecutions that come into our lives are not meant to destroy us.  They are designed to drive us into His everlasting arms of love.  In His sovereignty, God has allowed suffering.  The One who sits upon the throne of thrones reigns supremely.  He does "according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Daniel 4:35).  He holds you in His omnipotent hands.  God is love, and He loves you with an everlasting love.  Therefore, everything that comes into your life must be filtered through His fingers of love.  No one can touch, speak to you, look at you, or do anything to you without His permission (Isaiah 45:7)  And if it comes, it will work together for your good.  It will be used to conform you into His image."

So, when God allows tough things to enter our lives....when he serves us an elephant... he doesn't just leave us floundering about to fail.  He gives us the tools we need to get through the crisis.

First of all, he offers a healing balm. In the Old Testament, one of the names of God refers to his attribute of being The Great Physician: "Jehovah Rapha" The God who Heals.  The book of Jeremiah talks about the "balm of Gilead", a symbol of God's healing.  In chapter 8, Jeremiah was upset because the wounds of the Israelites were curable, but they rejected God's cure, the balm of Gilead. They turned everywhere else for healing, except to God. The balm of Gilead refers to the Word of God.

"He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions." (Psalm 107:17-20)

This isn't the only place in the Bible that refers to "the Word" as a tool for conquering the hurts of this world.

Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the full armor of God.  It's a passage that I've been familiar with from childhood, yet I understand its implications for my life more today than I ever have before.  One of the pieces of the armor is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (verse 17)    Not only is it capable of healing us, but it also delivers us in times of need. The Word of God is our only weapon to fight with. The rest of the armor is used for protection.  Here are the other pieces of armor that God equips us with: The belt of truth, the breast plate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith,  and the helmet of salvation.

So God has equipped us with all of these tools to overcome any trial that comes our way, but we must choose whether or not to use them.  It involves action!  When speaking about the full armor of God, Paul uses words like, "Put on the full armor of God....stand firm against the schemes of the devil...take up the shield of faith...take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit."  Armor does nothing to protect us if we go into battle without it!  We have to use the tools that God provides us with, or we will be defeated!

So many times, in the midst of life's storms we say, "God, where are you in all of this, and why didn't you help me?"  God is right there in the storm, suffering with us, and he gives us the tools for battle and healing.  We need to run to the shelter of his Word. He has not forsaken us!

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  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 8:35, 37-39).

In my last post, I made the analogy of our hurts, struggles, and sufferings as an elephant that God serves us.  It feels huge, overwhelming, and impossible to swallow, but when we turn to God for help he is faithful to rescue us in our time of need.  He gives us the tools we need to eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

He offers salvation, healing, truth, peace that surpasses all understanding, righteousness through Christ, and hope.  It's all there for the taking, but we must accept it as our own.  It requires action.  Will you walk through life wounded and defeated, or will you accept God's healing balm, and become stronger?  Through Christ, we have a glorious hope!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"One Bite at a Time"

Have you ever felt like God has handed you something so difficult, and so huge, that it seems like you couldn't possibly handle it?  Pardon the cliche', but it's like God served you an elephant on a platter, gave you a fork, and said, "Eat this".

Then you cry out to God,

"You've given me too much!"

"I can't handle this!"

"It's too big to swallow!"

Suddenly, you begin to realize that God doesn't expect you to eat the whole thing at once.  He wants you to take a very small bite and digest it thoroughly before you take the next bite.  Eventually, you know that it's going to be a very lengthy process but it is, indeed, possible to eat the elephant.

That's how I felt about my mom's death.  I was in a raging storm and I screamed, "GOD...I DON'T THINK I CAN GET THROUGH THIS!!"

But as the waves are starting to calm, I'm starting to strain my ears, and when I really listen, I begin to hear God's still, small voice speak to me. I Kings 19:11-12-

11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

I can't wrap my brain around the "big picture" yet because it's daunting.  What I can do is think about one bite...not even two or three bites...just one.  With each bite, God is right there beside me, and He's quietly revealing himself to me through his Word.  With each bite, He is sustaining me, and comforting me, and healing me.  With each bite, I'm learning to trust him more.

And because I "know that for those who love God all things work together for good"(Romans 8:28), I have to believe that eating the elephant is going to strengthen me.  It's going to somehow help conform me more to the image of God.

Sometimes when I serve my kids a big helping of veggies, or a tall glass of milk, they whine that I gave them too much.  They'd rather skip the veggies and go straight to dessert. In order to coax them into finishing their meal I firmly, but gently, remind them that eating their vegetables will help them grow super- hero muscles. I tell my girls that drinking their milk will give them shiny princess hair.  I want to have the grown-up version of these attributes after I eat my elephant.  I want to be stronger, polished, and  more Christ-like on the other side of this. Would my flesh rather skip the hard stuff, and go straight to the dessert? Absolutely.  But my spirit knows that it's the tough stuff that makes me grow. When God serves me up a big plate of something yucky, then I have to believe that he's allowing it for my own good. If not, then it's all for nothing.

God has given me every tool I need to eat the elephant.  I just have to pick up the fork and knife and use them.  I will share more about this in part II.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 4, 2011

Paintball Paradise

 Saturday morning we got together with a big group of our good friends, and we drove to a supreme location for paintballing.  The ladies all made picnic lunches, threw some chairs and blankets into the back of the truck, and we converged on the forest for some paintball mania.

Here are some of the die-hard paintballers all ready to go.

It was a beautiful day to be out in the forest! We were at the bottom of a little canyon with a creek running through it, and the gals spent the day talking, and laughing, and soaking up the sun.

This old campground was a fun spot to play paintballing games. It has lots of hiding spots.

The guys are getting ready to choose teams, and select a game.  There are no fashion statements out here.  All of the guys have on multiple layers of clothing for protection, and the boys have on everything from snow pants to homemade duct tape chest protectors to take the sting out of getting shot. 

The first game is underway and there is a mix of sneakiness and strategy as the battle intensifies.

Here's my hubby and my boy doing some father/son teamwork.  Paintballing brings out the kid in all of the dads.  I think they enjoy it even more than the boys do.

The girls spent the day playing in the creek, and took a break for a picnic lunch.

Getting ready to take a shot at Daddy with big brother's gun.

Here, the men are making a plan and telling battle stories while they wait for the other team to hide.

I love the fact that these young boys, teenagers, and fathers all come together on a regular basis to spend the day playing games, bonding, and having good clean fun.

On Sunday morning, they had their usual post-game re-cap over coffee and donuts at church.  The fleshy battle scars were proudly exposed in true "show-and-tell" fashion, and the men got that far-away look in their eyes as they shared the tales of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Another successful day of paintballing has come to an end, and the boys will dream of the next big battle.

Snowflake Fireworks & Paintball

P.S.- Click on the pic above to view the facebook page of the coolest new paintball and fireworks store around.  My husband recently bought a Tippmann "Alpha Black" paintball gun and some accessories there, and we were totally impressed. This is not a paid advertisement, we just really dig their stuff!