Friday, April 18, 2014

The Day of Differences


"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining." Luke 23:44-25a

   Darkness. "Good" Friday, a day where the sun hid and sin seemingly ran rampant, appearing to blot out every good thing. Creation seemed to be unwilling to be a part of the perceived destruction of its Creator's Son. The sun closed its eyes to the horror, and sky grew dark with terrors and heartbreak over the sight.

 "Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:46

   Death. It is finished. Jesus seemed to be done. The Great Work left with loose ends flapping. God, turning away, giving up-on His Son. On us. 

"When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away." Luke 23:48

    Sadness. Gut-wrenching sorrow, the likes of which had never been seen or felt. It ripped the soul from the body. The most heartless, unforgiving wretch could not have refused to be moved. There were no words, only horrifying, merciless wailing. Who could fail to be devastated, utterly shaken and decimated by the pain of refusing God's most precious gift. But it was too late now...

But was it?

This was the day of differences-comparisons almost out of the reach of comprehension.  What seemed was true, but that was only part of the story...

"Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”" Luke 24:26
    Light-it was hidden, but it could not be any further from being put out. It was growing stronger and stronger, gathering its rays to burst forth in perfect timing...ready to focus all its radiance on the Son...

"“It is true! The Lord has risen.." Luke 24:34b 
     Life-so vibrant, so full, so amazingly freeing that what had been would only be the faintest shadow in comparison. Real life- everlasting life...

"Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Luke 24:52
   Joy-true joy, the kind that can only be found in absolution, in redemption, in transformation. Joy from the inside out, the uncontainable, unable to destroy kind...

   They couldn't see it then. They had to wait until Sunday. But Sunday, The Sunday, has come and we see the whole picture. We know that today was the furthermost thing from the End, it was the Beginning! It was the day of differences, the starkest contrasts, the greatest distances between life and death, light and dark, joy and sadness that there ever will be. My sin was taken and replaced with righteousness, my death was turned into life, my fear with hope. And I can't get over it-because today made the biggest of differences in me...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

5 Unique, Thoughtful (and Frugal) Teacher Thank-You Gifts

     This time of year I always see tons of ideas for teacher thank you gifts. After a long year these faithful servants deserve a little special something, I think! However, you don't want just any old thoughtless thing you snatched up from the dollar bin at the grocery store, right? I love to give thank you gifts, so I have some much better (but still cheap!) ideas for you. You could also easily translate these ideas to graduation gifts, Mother's/Father's Day ideas, or if you added a gift card to bump up the value you could even use them to springboard off for wedding gifts!

 1. "Soapin' You Have A Great Summer" Hand soap sets These are always welcomed because who doesn't need soap? It is so easy to put these together, and you get to adjust to your budget. Need a super thrifty gift? Dollar Store kitchen towel and some $0.97 Softsoap. Want to get fancier? Use Bath and Body Works soap and a luxurious bathroom hand towel! The saying is so "punny"- "Your "bubbly" enthusiasm made learning fun. "Soapin" you have a great summer!"

2. "Thirst Quenching Thank You" These are such a fun gift! They are especially great if you want to thank teens or older children (think Awana LITs, VBS workers, or school "buddies") but adults love them, too! It's a whole bottle of summer fun! I filled mine with ice pops, drink mix packets, bubbles, inflatable sponges and attached a tiny water gun. You can have endless options for ice pops and drink mixes, as well, if you wanted to use them for party favors.

3. "Carnival Prize Thank You" These were for my kids VBS leaders, but think of all the cute sayings you could put for a school teacher: "Thank you for an awesome "ride" this year!",  "You are a real "prize" teacher!", "You were the "ticket" to a fun year!". I bought sweet stuffed monkeys, glow necklaces, giant Pixie sticks and put them together with bottled "vintage" sodas in popcorn bags. Colorful and unique, no one will have a thank-you like this!

4. "Basket of Sunshine" This adorable gift was for a college student, but I can't think of any woman who wouldn't appreciate the things that are in it! The color coordination is what pulls it all together, so really you could do this with any color you wanted. I love bright, sunny yellow so that made it an easy choice. I found tons of yellow goodies: nail polish, gum, a candle, matches (which I quickly covered to coordinate, of course!), a notepad and a specially selected Scripture, which I framed. When everything matches it is hard to resist!

5. "Relaxation Kit" This is the perfect gift if your budget is tight but you have lots of women that you would like to thank. The homemade bath salts are really what makes this gift shine. It gives it an incredibly thoughtful handmade touch. I don't think anyone would know that they are only about $1 for the *whole* gift, which includes bath salts, a sponge, a decorated candle, and better-than-Kisses chocolates.

   Hopefully this will get you started so that you can show your gratitude to the people who have loved, led, and instructed your child this year! And check back, because I always have people that I need to say "thanks" to, and I can't resist putting together these fun little presents and sharing them with you.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To Carson, On His 6th Birthday

Dear Carson,
           So, this has been a very different birthday for you. You were born a Colorado baby, on Ft. Carson to be exact. (In my very pregnant mind, I didn't realize that your name matched your birthplace. You had a different name up until two weeks before you were born. I decided it didn't "fit" and we selected Carson, after my grandpa.) You have celebrated all of your birthdays in Colorado. You have always lived in Colorado. Until now.
        I don't think you have realized that we have moved yet and you won't get to see your Colorado friends anymore. That probably makes me more sad than it makes you. You seem to think that we are just visiting Grammy, but we aren't. We made a hard decision, to leave the state we loved, full of sweet friends, to live closer to family. And I think you will find in the future that you are glad we made that choice. Because you already seem to realize what an amazing gift family is-one that you can't take for granted. You love to be with our little family of four, and you delight in spending time with all your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. I do, too!

     They are already noticing all the things that I love about you: you are a natural leader. You aren't bossy, but you aren't afraid to take charge. All the kids in our old neighborhood are probably missing you by now, because you are their ringleader! We were at Grammy's for six weeks last summer, and we were literally pulling into the driveway and they crowded around cheering that you were finally home. You can be a little stand-offish in new situations, but once you find your footing you are pretty secure.

    They can also see how loving you are. You might be rough and tumble (you love to wrestle with anyone!) because you are all boy, but you can be so sweet. You love to give hugs and still will let me hold you- that makes my heart so full. You are always eager to help, I think because you like to make people happy. I understand, because I feel that way, too.

    You are so perceptive, you notice when people are upset or sad. I think that is what makes you so smart. You are doing first grade math this year with ease, and you have learned how to read like a champ. You are so particular with your handwriting-if you make your letters wrong you will erase them of your own accord to fix them. I love your little bit of perfectionism because it makes it so easy to school you!

    Without a doubt, though, my proudest moment of the last year was when you accepted Jesus as your Savior. You knew that even though you are so young, that you needed Jesus. You love to ask questions about Bible stories and try to understand your Awana verses. You can always tell me what your Sunday School lessons are about-I know you are really paying attention. You still love the story of Barak and Deborah, and can recite it almost perfectly, but you also adore Samson, the fiery furnace, and Peter and the coin in the fish's mouth.

   You still love to be just like your dad, too. You put Tabasco on everything, you love your "comfy clothes" (gym shorts and a sleeveless shirt were two of your favorite presents), and talking about Avengers. You love for him to roughhouse with you, or play light sabers. He loves you so much, too.

  I am so excited to see what the Lord has in store for you. You bring so much joy to our family and I never stop thanking the Lord for giving you to us. You are such an amazing little boy, I am praying that you will be the same type of man. Thanks for loving us, and sharing your sweet spirit.

                                                                    Happy Birthday! I love you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Green Velvet Cupcakes (and a Big Announcement!)

So, I know you were all wondering if I fell off the face of the earth. Not really, but I have been out-of-the-ordinary busy. To cut to the chase- our family is moving! We are leaving beautiful Colorado (which has been my home for far longer than any other state I've ever lived in) to move to Washington! I am sad to leave our wonderful friends and church here, not to mention the gorgeous mountains, but we will be living close to so much family in Washington that I am also very excited. For the first time ever in my married life I will live closer than a two-days drive to my parents, five of my siblings, my (favorite) aunt and my grandparents. For a girl who absolutely adores her family, it is kind of a dream come true.

    However that has led to more of this:

than I have done in a very long time! Our last move was seven years ago, and we had an 15 month old and a *lot* less stuff! We also took a vacation in the beginning of March to visit my oldest sister (the only one I won't be living near, *tear*). All of that has combined with a million other things to make a hectic month indeed! Needless to say, I haven't been doing much cooking or crafting.

   But I am trying to use up all the food in the house, and when I saw this recipe, and knew I had all the ingredients, well, it was providential! Green Velvet Cupcakes had to be made!  They were so easy, I'm glad I made time for them.

The basic recipe is super simple. You prepare a boxed white cake mix according to the package directions, and simply add 1 tbsp. green food coloring and 2 oz. melted semi-sweet baking chocolate. You finish baking the cupcakes using the directions on the box. That's it! You could really make any color "velvet" you wanted, but I loved the dark green color. In case you were wondering, 1 tbsp. of food coloring is almost two little bottles! I ran out of regular green, so I ended up concocting a mixture of neon green, blue and yellow to get the same results. Just remember, your batter will get darker as it bakes, so don't make it too deep or you will have black cupcakes! I also used a vanilla cake mix, instead of white, so obviously this recipe is very forgiving.

   I didn't care for their frosting recipe, so I ended up adding 1 and 1/2 blocks of cream cheese, tons of powdered sugar, and a little more vanilla to the Cool Whip. These were even more yummy after they had been refrigerated. I didn't have any green sprinkles (I hate those anyway, and remember, moving!) so I used some decorator icing and mint M&Ms to make little shamrocks. I got the adorable chevron cupcake liners at Micheal's last year for a $0.25! Love!

These were so simple, but just adding that little bit of chocolate made them delicious! I personally believe the food coloring adds to the flavor...;)  I know this is late but I couldn't resist posting them, they turned out so cute! Definitely try it- I'm already imaging all the other colors I can make... Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Linked to:
"Turn It Up Tuesday" at Home on Deranged

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine Snack Mix Printables

         I really wanted to make a printable for the Valentine's Day trail mix I made last year. It was such a fun Valentine! I changed a couple of things before I created it, I called it "snack mix" since mine is mostly sugar, but that way you can put whatever you want in yours and still be able to use the printable. I would say, since it is "Happy Hearts", that you should include a few heart shaped things, but this time of year that is easy! I especially love the big puffy pink heart shaped marshmallows. But whatever you put in yours, I hope you enjoy using this printable! Simply print as many copies as you need. Then you can cut apart the rectangles, fold them over (the white part forms the back) and use them as bag toppers to cellophane treart bags. Or, to change it up, only cut out the colored parts of the printable, and punch a hole wherever you like, and tie them onto your bags with ribbon. If you don't want to use bags, tape the labels onto whatever container you like! Lots of choices. :)

    I really wanted to make this recipe again, and I think we will (my daughter wants to hand these out as her Valentines again this year because she loved it so much last year) but I have not had the time to put any together. Since I wanted you to be able to use the printables, you will just have to imagine them on cute little bags of snacks! Either way, these snack mix Valentines will be a fun, original treat for your kids (or you!) to bless friends and family with this Valentine's Day.

Valentine Snack Mix Recipe:
5 cups of Quaker "Whole Heart" cereal
2 cups of chocolate chips
1 bag of Twizzler cherry bites
2 8 oz. bags of conversation hearts (I know, disgusting, but I was going for looks!)
1 and 1/2 bags of Jet Puffed Strawberry HeartMallows

Gently toss all the ingredients together except marshmallows. Add the marshmallows in equal portions after measuring the snack mix into containers or bags. It will make enough trail mix for about 40 half cup servings (including marshmallows). You can add or substitute to your "heart's" content-have fun!

Right click the image to download and save, then print!

Linked up at:
"Create, Link, Inspire" at The Crafty Blog Stalker


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