Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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    • Cinema Saturday-- The 41 Most Unexpected Cat Jumps of All Time
      Why do jumping cats freak us out so much? And why do we laugh so hard at people who are freaking out?I'm one of those awkward laughers--someone who laughs at inappropriate times, such as when my husband does the splits on an icy sidewalk or when my child runs smack-dab into a doorpost. Unfortunately, compassion is not my go-to emotion. I do eventually f […]
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      Hi Angela! I'm excited to know if there is a story behind The Water Fight Professional? I wrote this years ago when my son was a preschooler. We were at a church picnic and he wanted to get involved in the water fight the older kids were having, but he didn’t know how. I gave him a cup of water and told him to dump it on someone. That person saw him com […]
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      It's a pleasure to welcome Susan here today! Tell us, is there a story behind your book Just Over the Horizon? While working as a hospice social worker, I’ve had the rare honor of being with many people as their journey here on earth came to a close.  A wise patient once told me he wasn’t afraid to die because he was looking so forward to seeing what li […]
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      I, Joey Michaels, am the Water Fight Professional. Basically this means that customers pay me to soak other people. But my super-competitive best friend is sucking all the fun out of summer. All because I made a secret bet with him. Winning the bet wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have the following three problems: 1) My dramatic mother who feels th […]
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    • NEW JUNE RELEASES for this month's CLASH of the TITLES
      It's a NEW CLASH!The best of summer reading - all in one list for you here. Find a New Author to love...I have.I'll apologize in advance...I could not cut anyone from the list, so we have MEGA LIST this month.You'll see what I mean: everything from spies, cloak and dagger to medieval to early Americana. Whew!The QUESTION ALWAYS IS:Based on the […]
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    • Taking A Break
      If you are a regular reader you'll know I didn't post last week. We had just gotten home from vacation. Yellowstone National Park is fantastic. You know how things go when you get back. Well, that was the way it was for me. Add in an unplanned dental event and an 8 hour round trip to Chicago for a TV interview about Seeing The Life and you can prob […]
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      Country  Memories Farm Christian Writing ConferenceAugust 8-9 in Manitowoc, WisconsinWe have wonderful speakers again this year: Becky Melby Ben Wolf  Kathryn SpringerFriday evening critiques by Susan Baganz  On-the-farm networking social "getting writers together" Please check us out at www.countrymemoriesfarm.com.Joy,http://LisaLickel.com […]
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      As IsBy Wendy OlestonA Wisconsin Author!.99 Kindle12.99 printISBN-13:978-1499781335Buy on AmazonFrom the publisher:Life is hard for Mara Shaw. One bad relationship after another has left her a single mother with no faith in anything. She is unable to trust in anyone . . . including herself. She decides to start afresh, and never allow herself to be hurt agai […]
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    • Book Review: The Marriage List by Dorothy McFalls
      Viscount Evers was seriously injured the Battle of Salamanca and nearly lost his life. Now he can no longer ride and can scarcely walk and the emotional scars go deep. He is under pressure to marry to produce an heir so he makes a marriage list of qualities in women who might qualify and none of it includes love.The moment he meets May Sheffers, who is every […]
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      A simple and straight forward approach for small business owners to defining your target market and using various marketing sources to reach it. With so many social media options at our doorstep, many small business owners/entrepreneurs may feel overwhelmed. Is more better?The authors pull from years of marketing experience to present an easily understandabl […]
    • Book Review—The Last to Know by Melissa Hill
      This women’s fiction book centers on three women whose lives intertwine as they look for happiness in love. Anna is engaged but can’t seem to set a date and then she finds out she’s pregnant.  Eve has lived with Liam for years and has children by him but isn’t married. All she wants is to be loved by Liam, be his wife and raise his children. Sam is a success […]
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    Thank you for your encouragement and support for the past three years. We've had fun connecting with you and hope you've found useful material here on Reflections. And here's the but... Reflections In Hindsight is closing on December 21, 2012. Elaine and Sophie and I can be found over at http://authorculture.blogspot.com; April can be found at Clash of the Titles, http://www.clashofthetitles, http://www.aprilgardner.com and watch for news for more novels from her!; Janet is ever-present on the Internet with her very special words of wisdom and grace at http://www.janetperezeckles.com, and Luther--who knows where he'll show up next, but I'd watch my back if I were you... Book Reviews are always important, so I, Lisa, will continue to offer them through my blog, as well as those promotions for your new books or book launches, or your news.
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Archive for the ‘Homemaking’ Category

Celebrate the Ordinary

Posted by Lisa Lickel on December 25, 2010

A special Christmas gift to you from my friend Diane Reed Loew. Thank you, Diane.

From 101 Ways to Celebrate the Ordinary

by Diane Reed Loew
c. 2010
Schuler Books, Chapbook Press
available from the author at http://www.randomramblingsof.com/
ISBN 978-1-936234-17-4
64 pp.
$9.95

 

For Christmas

 26. applying scented hand lotion when your hands are as dry as sandpaper

 45. making a point to tell the harried salespersons they are doing a wonderful job

 47. hiding that special piece of candy in a drawer, briefcase, shoe, or hiding place that others will be sure to find

 51. decorating a tree in the yard for the birds during the winter (Hang suet, peanut-butter pinecones and etc. Make sure you keep it up all winter.)

 73. Celebrate and appreciate…someone who believes in you

 74. Celebrate and appreciate…someone to pull the sled up the hill

 –used with permission from the author.

Diane Reed Loew brings a unique, humorous at times, peek into family, farming and fun in Michigan. Out her front door is her dairy farm complete with her Farmer of 39 years, 4 Sons, 3 Daughters-in-law, 6.7 Wigglies, 1500 + BEBs (Brown Eyed Bossies) and various critters that are brought to life through her blog http://www.randomramblingsof.com/ which is also run on http://www.mlive.com/. She has just completed her first book “Celebrate the Ordinary” which is available through http://www.schulerbooks.com/. She is also a contributing blogger to www.MichiganFamilyFarms.com.

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Happiness, Homemaking, Life Experiences | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

The Power to Live it Out

Posted by Jennifer Slattery on December 3, 2010

Last week, Kevin Adams from Wake Up My Faith, shared the importance–necessity–of having a Christ-centered marriage, but what does that mean? How can we, as Christians, move past external behaviors to true heart change? I think it’s a day-to-day struggle. A constant awareness of our sinful nature which propels us from God at every turn, and a life filled with prayer.

I don’t know about you, but more often than not, I know what I am to do. It’s the doing that is hard. When my sinful nature arises and nasty words come out of my mouth, the Holy Spirit alerts me right away to my sin. And calls me to the table, nudging me to surrender to His better way. So in actuality, I don’t think there’s much of a mystery here. I think it’s a constant surrender of all we are to God, asking Him to empower us to love with His sacrificial, initiating love.

But first, you must believe, because apart from Christ we are slaves to sin and selfishness. Without Christ, our whole perception is faulty. One summer we had a guest join us on vacation. This guest was not a Christian. Throughout the week, without thinking, I did little things…bought the woman special soda I knew she enjoyed, that sort of thing. As I said, I did this without thinking. I believe God was loving her through me, and on my end, it was really cool to feel God’s love for this woman. Only problem? She didn’t get it. Her views were tainted by sin, and because she didn’t understand the initiating, no strings attached love of God, she became suspicious. And angry. She viewed my acts of love as manipulation tactics, as if I was trying to “buy” her affection.

Sadly, I think that is what happens apart from grace. Our vision is distorted. We become suspicious and guarded. We are so used to worldly, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, love, it’s hard to understand God’s sacrificial, no strings attached love when we see it.

But, once we allow God’s love in by accepting the free gift of salvation He has offered, He changes our heart, allowing us to give and receive love freely.

That is the first step towards a Christ-centered marriage.

Okay, so must of you are already there, right? You’ve accepted Christ, but tension still fills your home. Why?

How long has it been since you’ve tapped into your power source? It’s really hard to stay angry, bitter, me-centered, when you stand in the presence of God. Yet, for me, the minute I step away from God, that sinful nature rears its ugly head.

I believe the answer is found in John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Remain, abide, draw near. Ask God to draw your heart to Him. He will take care of the rest. Notice who does the pruning in this verse. Not the believer–God. God is your gardener. He’s got His eye on you. He sees those nasty sins that hinder marital intimacy. He sees those deep wounds that result in a guarded heart. He sees your impatience, areas of deception and confusion, and discouraging tendencies, and He’s got it covered. Bit by bit, as you draw closer to Him on a heart-to-heart level, He works to remove those things that lead to marital isolation, molding your heart to your spouse.

So what’s the answer? Abide. Clear out your schedule so that you can spend more time tapping into the Vine. And ask God to soften your heart towards Him, increasing your love for Him and your spouse. That’s a prayer I say daily, followed by a request that He would remove in me all the things that hinder His work, both in me and through me.

So how do you have a Christ-centered marriage? By cultivating a Christ-centered heart.

 

Posted in Happiness, Homemaking, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Till death do we part | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is It Midnight Already?

Posted by Jennifer Slattery on November 19, 2010

As I promised in my earlier post, Robin Prater did indeed save the day! So now I will humbly move aside and let this lovely bride of Christ share her heart with you.

*                   *                   *

As little girls we dream we are Cinderella waiting for our prince to come. We dream of that white gown we will fit in perfectly. We see the aisle we are walking down and it seems just a short distance to our prince. We envision our home as a little white house, a picket fence, surrounded by two children and a dog. Many times we dream of what our parents shared or sometimes, what they did not.

The carriage picks you up, your dress is white and your prince is standing ready to take your hand, but we never really dream past midnight do we? I know I didn’t. We never ponder the struggle. We never envision a trial coming. If we are not prepared, what do we do? Sometimes we lose sight of the carriage that picked us up. We no longer see a carriage, but a  pumpkin escorting us down a bumpy road into darkness. We want to scream at the driver, “Excuse me, what happened to my carriage? What happened to my perfect night? I think you’re going the wrong way!!” We didn’t sign up for a pumpkin, but a carriage to carry us through life.

My husband and I have been married for nineteen years. Sometimes it seems like yesterday we married and others it seems like forever.
There are days the road seems smooth and others I think my carriage must have a flat, because the road is way too bumpy. Between us we
have five children. My husband came with two and I too brought my two beautiful daughters into our marriage. Together we had our son, Jacob. He was the child that tied our family together. I must say when we were raising our children, we didn’t use words as, step, half or mine. We were simply a family. Was it always easy? No, not on your life, but we found ways to make it work. We put our children first.

Now, some might think that is how you should begin your marriage, but my friends, you must put the Lord first, then your marriage. The Lord is the foundation in which everything else builds.

Next, your marriage must stand strong. It is this very relationship that your children will witness and learn from. A happy and healthy marriage makes happy children and a healthy family.

We worked very hard giving everything we had to raising children. I believe raising children is the hardest job in the world next to
building a successful marriage. They both take 100%. You can’t give a little and expect a lot. Somewhere in the midst of child-rearing, our marriage suffered. In placing our children first we placed ourselves on the back burner permanently. I focused on our children and home; my husband focused on work. He was out of town much as he drove across the country. Over time this takes a toll on your marriage and yourself.

Not only do we need to take time for our spouse, but for ourselves.

It’s doing those special things with each other. It’s sharing a quiet dinner or a walk in the park. It’s taking a few minutes a day to hold each other’s hand and dream together. It’s knocking yourself out for your husband and him doing the same. It’s making time for one another. Too often we make time for what we want and forget to make time for what is important. When we don’t make time for one another our marriage suffers and ours did.

In looking back I know I was a wonderful mother. I had a close bond with my children, but I pushed my husband aside. I didn’t mean to, but I did. Have you too been there? My husband and I would plan a night away, but inevitably, one of our children would need us. We would put our bags back in the closets and place our child first. There is nothing wrong with that, but over time we stopped planning. We stopped dreaming and became room mates instead of husband and wife. It is a trap that is easy to fall into and one that is even harder to grow out of.

We are now almost empty nesters. That is kind of scary, but also exciting. We’ve raised our children and now it’s our turn to renew, rebuild, and catch hold of a new wind to set our sails upon. A home once filled with sounds is now quiet. What a change in just nineteen years. But through these years in our ups and downs, the Lord has molded us. We’ve been through trials I never thought we would escape, but the Lord was good and saw us through each one, making us stronger and wiser. Humbling our hearts and allowing us to see what is really important.

In the last two years my husband has been laid off. He lost a job he thought he would retire from. It set us on another trial, only this one strained our marriage even more. Stress and unknown are deadly combinations that can wreck havoc on an unsteady marriage. But this trial brought me to my knees like no other. I was afraid it would break us. Satan loves to imprison us with fear. He loves to isolate us–make us feel alone. I couldn’t see past my own pain to my husband’s depression. We forgot how to reach out to one another. We forgot to put one another first. We lost sight of that carriage. Somehow midnight seemed to last  forever, but for the grace of God He brought us back together. God was doing a work in both of us.

I pray for my husband every day and he prays for me. We’ve learned not to hold in our feelings, but to share everything. We’ve learned to let other things go and take time for one another. Marriage is a gift from the Lord. May we not forget and lose heart, but go to the Lord in prayer asking Him to strengthen our marriage. To build our home on His foundation and give us a heart for Him. I learned I cannot look to my husband to complete me. I cannot look to my husband for each need to fill my soul. Only the Lord can meet those needs. When I can find who I am through the Lord I am free to be the woman God has called me to be for my husband.

If you are going through a difficult time, don’t give up. It is through those trials that we learn so very much about ourselves and each other. Struggles have a way of bringing us together when we take our eyes off ourselves and place them on the Lord. He will meet our needs and bring healing when we reach out to Him, making Him the Lord of our home. I believe it is the Lord who will help us find that slipper we lost along the way.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his
body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands,
love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of
water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be
holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she
respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33

Thanks Robin, and I love the verse you chose because it reminds us that our marriage is intended to mirror Jesus. God designed marriage to help humans catch a glimmer of the all-consuming, uniting love of Christ.

Robin is a writer, wife, mother and grandmother. If you’d like to find out more about her, her writing  and her faith journey, visit the Robin’s Nest.

 

Posted in Happiness, Homemaking, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Till death do we part | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s Life as a Preacher’s Wife

Posted by Jennifer Slattery on November 5, 2010

Welcome Shannon Taylor Vannatter, author of White Roses, White Doves and White Pearls. I asked Shannon to share with you all today because I’ve always admired her integrity and wisdom. Her gentle nature has a way of drawing you in and her wisdom has a way of making you think. Right now I’m reading White Doves, scheduled to release this spring and I absolutely love it!

In many ways, her life is under the microscope, not only as an inspirational writer, but as a preacher’s wife as well. That’s a lot of pressure! And yet, she handles it beautifully. Today she’s going to share what she’s learned over the years. (The best part of today’s post? Shannon’s giving away a free copy of White Roses! If you leave a comment on today’s post, you’ll automatically be entered in the drawing. Woo-hoo! Don’t you just love free books?)

And here’s Shannon’s story:

I married a man. A wonderful, loving, Godly man. Seventeen years in, he morphed into a preacher on me. Yes, I’ve been in church consistently since the age of twelve. Yes, I accepted Christ at fifteen. Yes, I had that deer in the headlights look when he told me he’d answered the call to preach.

Me? A preacher’s wife? I wasn’t qualified. My thoughts and deeds weren’t holy and pure enough. My actions weren’t selfless enough. I couldn’t play the piano and had no desire to teach a Sunday school class. I didn’t have a pedestal to stand on. I watched soap operas.

I searched the scriptures. There were no verses giving guidelines for a preacher’s wife. I knew that before I searched, but I checked just to make sure. There were guidelines for the preacher, the deacons, even the deacons’ wives, but nothing for the preacher’s wife.

So what did I do? I quit watching soap operas and supported my husband. I baked a horrible cake and had a nice reception after his ordination. The cake was horrible because I use my aunt’s recipe for carrot cake from scratch, which I’d never attempted before. It said to use self-rising flour and I didn’t know all purpose was any different. Let’s just say I don’t cook many things from scratch, another reason I wasn’t a good candidate for a preacher’s wife.

For the last ten years, I’ve fumbled my way through three churches as the pastor’s wife and God’s taught me a few things along the way.

1. Support my pastor.

Even when I think he’s wrong. If I think he is, I tell him about it at home. If he still thinks he’s right, I support him. In my experience, he’s been right even when I didn’t think he was.

2. Keep my mouth shut.

When there are issues going on in the church, I stay out of it. I remain neutral and try to pretend I’m clueless that anything is even going on. When I get really frustrated, I sneak in the bathroom and make faces in the mirror. Really.

3. Do not take sides.

If we have a touchy issue to vote on, I don’t vote. If I did, no matter which way I voted, some would be frustrated and always remember the preacher’s wife voted against them while others would think, at least the pastor’s wife was on our side. I tell my husband—the moderator who only votes in the case of a tie—what I think before the meeting and leave it at that.

4. Do not complain about one church member to another church member.

No matter how great a friend my confidant is. No matter how long I’ve known them. No matter how trustworthy they are. Even if they never tell anyone what I said, I’ve failed myself and them by insulting another brother or sister.

5. Dress modestly.

On this one, I break the rules a bit. I definitely dress modestly, but push the envelope on appropriately. I love to dress up. I love sparkles, spangles, lace, ruffles, rhinestones, and sequins. And yes, I wear all of this to church. I always thought if I had the money and somewhere to go, I’d dress like a modest Dolly Parton.

I shop consignment stores, clearance racks, and Goodwill and consistently ask my shopping buddies, “Does this look like a preacher’s wife?” They clear their throat and I buy it anyway. I wear my stunning finds to church because that’s the only place I have to go. On occasion, my husband asks me if I think I’m bright and flashy enough. I’ll admit to being the brightest, flashiest preacher’s wife in our small town. But I’ve got to be me. Which brings me to number five.

6. Be myself.

If I’d started out trying to be something I’m not, trying to act as if I only have holy and pure thoughts and dress down, I’d crack under the pressure. I’m only human and though congregations tend to put the pastor and his family up on a pedestal, we’re just people.

7. Be there.

Every time the doors are open. Even when I’m tired, stressed, or have a horrible headache, I’m there with a smile on my face. Sometimes forced.

8. Love the people.

This part was easy—at first. But after a few people disappointed me, turned on my husband, or left the church over trivial things, I became gun shy. It hurt and made me want to avoid getting close to anyone again. What if they get mad over nothing, leave, or decide they hate my husband? What if we leave? But, I had to shake the fear and love the people, no matter what happened. Whether they stay for a season or for life, I love them as long as they’re part of whatever church family I’m in.

9. Love the pastor.

Most important rule. Don’t know why I saved it for last. The thing my husband needs most from me is love. I listen when he’s down, pray with him when things are good or bad, hug him when he needs it. And even though, he’s my pastor, he’s my husband first. Churches and congregations come and go, but he’s my partner until death do us part. And I plan to have many more happy years down the road.

~                              ~                                  ~

Shannon is a very gifted writer. I highly recommend her debut novel, White Roses:

Pastor Grayson Sterling loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. Grayson knows he needs to move on, that the continuing depth of his grief is not healthy for him or his young son. Desperate, he convinces his church to hire Mark Welch as associate pastor to relieve him of some of his load. When Adrea Welch arrives at his church with her brother, Grayson cannot deny his attraction to her.

For years, florist Adrea Welch has been artfully arranging white roses for Sara Sterling. Now those flowers are carried to the cemetery by a faithful, grieving husband. How can Adrea be so attracted to a man still devoted to his dead wife? When secrets from Adrea’s past collide with their budding relationship, both she and Grayson must learn to lean on God’s abiding wisdom.

Wanna win a free copy? (Duh! Silly question, I know.) Leave a comment for Shannon at the end of this article and you’ll automatically be entered in the drawing. And, you can buy a copy now on Amazon. Then visit Shannon’s website to find out more about this heart-warming novel and its author.

Come see what others have to say about White Roses:

White Roses reviewed on the Christian Book Review

And find out about her shoes…yes, shoes, at Romance Writers on the Journey. (See why I love Shannon? She’s such fun!)

Come back Monday and join us as we get to know multi-published author, Laurie Kingery.

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Homemaking, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Till death do we part, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Money, money, money, money!

Posted by Jennifer Slattery on November 3, 2010

Money, money, money, money!

Now I’ve got an image of a bald man with a massive, back of the head to brow comb-over. Ah, the joys of television.

It’s almost ironic that I am talking to you all about money management. Twelve years ago, my husband and I were about as financially irresponsible as you can get. I’d brought a fair amount of debt into our marriage. Largely due to ignorance. Balance your check-book? Why do that when you can check the account balance after each withdraw? And credit cards? That’s just free money, right? Somehow the final bill never registered in my mind while I was making the purchase. Worst thing you can do to an eighteen year old is approve them for credit and give them a $5,000 limit. Bet you can imagine how long it took me to get to the mall. Yep, and those cute little sweaters and jeans I’d had my eyes on–viola! They were just a swipe of a card away.

Until the bill came and I realized I didn’t have the money to pay.

Then, when I got married, I brought my irresponsible attitudes with me. Which wasn’t a problem. My husband shared my love for shopping, and before long, the debt I’d brought quadrupled. By the time our daughter was two, we were $24,000 in debt. Not counting the mortgage and car payments.

Debt has a way of creeping up on you. One minute your out doing your thing–a quick trip through Wendy’s here, that cute little throw pillow there, convenient mart sodas every day. Each item by itself isn’t a big deal, but because they’re “no big deal”, you keep adding them to your day. By the end of the week, you’ve blown through hundreds, with nothing to show for it except a few left-over ketchup packets.

Let’s break it down:

Let’s say you and your spouse each buy a soda every day at the local convenient mart. Each soda costs $1.50. No big deal, right? Now multiply that by two, since you both got one. Then multiply that by 20. (We’ll say you passed on the soda ten days out of the month.)

By the end of the month, you’ve spent $60–on soda!

And what about all those trips to Starbucks? All those times you eat out? Or buy little Suzie that dollar toy shelved at her eye-level that instigated a twenty-minute fit?

Again, each one by itself is no big deal. But each one is never by itself because what we do becomes habit, either positive or negative.

For us, it wasn’t the occasional splurge that got us into trouble (although those didn’t help, and they were much more frequent that we wanted to admit.) What sunk our ship was the day to day dribbles–a dollar here, a happy meal there. It took some radical attitude-adjustments and some good old elbow grease to climb out of our mess, but it was well worth it! Today, minus our home mortgage, which we are working to pay down, we are basically debt free. And it’s a good feeling. However, we are also very alert that we are one purchase away from sliding back into the debt-pit.

How’d we do it?

First, we tithed. Sound crazy? Like maybe we should have paid our debt off first? Nope, God first, everything else must come second–unless you prefer going it alone. If you want God on your side, you need to do things God’s way. The minute we started following God’s financial plan, amazing things happened. Financial obedience has a way of multiplying things–just as God promised in Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Don’t believe it? Then test Him. Seriously, He’s asking you to. Let Him show you just how faithful He is when you lay it all in His hands. Which is what tithing is–trusting God to provide for your financial needs.

Our tithe is the very first thing we do each month. Before the money dwindles away. My husband gets paid once a month, so we write our check once a month. Then we make everything else “fit” with what we have left over.

The second thing we did was make a budget. This was hard at first, because quite honestly, we had no idea how much money we were spending in a given month. Which meant we needed to be more alert, and take a few months to record our purchases. This was very revealing! I had no idea how much money were were wasting on sodas and coffees!

Once we knew where our money was going, we worked to eliminate unnecessary spending. In the beginning, eating out was out. We committed to each other not to spend a dime on “entertainment” until our debt was paid off completely. Think that’s a bit drastic? Then pull up your credit card bill, calculate the amount you’ll pay in interest over the next year or two, and see if you don’t see things differently. In my mind, interest is the equivalent of throwing your check in the trash.

Next, we looked for ways to do things cheaper. I began cutting my husbands hair. Poor guy. lol. And he started taking a lunch to work. That alone saved as much as $50 per week. I also started keeping a snack bag in the car for those times when our daughter got hungry while I was out and about. You can buy a box of crackers for about $2, which will last for a while, or you can buy a happy meal for about the same price, maybe a bit more, which will last but a day.

We started to set aside “emergency” money. For car repairs, house repairs, unexpected expenses, that sort of thing. This emergency fund carried us through six months of unemployment four years ago. The rain’s coming, so start saving.

Finally, we learned–or should I say, are learning– to be content. This is an ongoing struggle for us. The media’s gotten rather sneaky with their advertisements. They know how to push our buttons–wouldn’t life be so much easier if we had that little slicing gadget? And we’d look so much prettier if we purchased those boots, that sweater, that special facial cream. Oh, and our kids absolutely have to have that new video game.

Sound like a lot of work? It’s well worth it. The stress reduction of knowing nothing’s hanging over your head is worth every penny pinched.

Wanna try it?

1. Tithe. If you want God to stand behind you, and at times, carry you, you’ve got to do things His way. He will never, ever bless disobedience.

2. Record your spending for a month or two. Every dollar. Every dime.

3. Analyze your spending and look for areas that can be eliminated. Do you really need that Vente latte? Every day? (You can see my greatest area of weakness, huh?)

4. Record your non-negotiables. (mortgage, bills, insurance, whatever.)

6. Determine how much you’d like to spend in negotiable areas. (clothing, entertainment. personal spending. Both Steve and I have an allowance”.)

7. Find ways to do what you are doing cheaper.

Can you find clothing on clearance? Can you shop in the off season? Can you pack a lunch? Could your family go on a picnic instead of a restaurant? For a walk instead of the movies?  Are those convenience foods really worth it? (You’d be amazed how much you can save slicing your own cheese or tearing your own lettuce)

8. Learn to distinguish between wants and needs. Ouch! This is a big one, and a constant struggle for our entire family! But most of the things we just had to have were soon forgotten, either in our basement collecting dust or on the shelf of a store.

9. Make a point to continually evaluate your budget and your spending. Materialism has a way of creeping up on us.

10. Think long term. How do you want to spend your retirement years and are you doing the things you need to do to make that happen?

11. Give yourself wiggle room. If you tighten the purse strings too tight, you risk getting discouraged. Make sure to allow for a treat once in a while. Knowing you’ve got a “reward” coming, big or small, will make it easier to stay focused on the day-to-day.

What about you? What are some ways you save money? Have you made positive financial changes? If so, how long did it take you to

Reflection’s columnist Ben Erlichman is participating in NaNoWriMo. Stop by tomorrow to learn what he’s done right and what can he do better. I’ll bet you’ll find a nugget you can apply to your own life.

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Cheap and Easy Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

Posted by April W Gardner on October 20, 2010

So you’ve made 5 gallons of laundry detergent and now you have a box of Borax and washing soda taking up space under your kitchen sink. What to do with it?

The first thing I did with it was make my own dishwashing detergent, as in for the dishwasher.

Dump 1 tablespoon each borax and washing soda in your machine’s dispenser, and you’re set. Nothing to it. I mixed 1 cup of each into a disposable Glade storage container to make it easier. When my last box of Cascade runs out, I plan to use a funnel to pour my homemade mixture into the box’s spout to make it even easier. Because I’m lazy.

I’ve done the math for you. (I know. Scary stuff, me doing math.) and it turns out that 46oz of the homemade stuff costs $1.74. Since I stocked up on Cascadel months ago, it’s been a while since I bought any. But I’m thinking $1.74 is roughly half of what you’d pay for a full-priced, 46oz box. You might get it down to $1.74 with coupons, but as wonderful as they are, coupons are a hassle I’d rather not deal with if at all possible.

I’ve been really impressed with how well this alternative does. It gets my dishes squeaky clean. I also added vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser and that makes a big different too. Because I’m so frugal (ok, I’m cheap), I wasn’t using a rinse aid at all before, but now I can—guilt free!

Just today, I mixed 2 tablespoons borax with 2 cups hot water then poured it in an empty (and well rinsed) Windex bottle. It’s supposed to be an excellent all purpose, non-abrasive cleaner. We just added lovely new nickel-plated faucets in our bathroom. for fear of damaging their finish, I’ve been leery of what to use to clean them. I have a hunch I’ve found something that I will feel comfortable using. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here’s a link to a web-page with 25 practical uses for borax. Give me a holler if you find a use you recommend.

Swing by tomorrow for a visit with writer and avid blogger, Lynn Rush, as she and our host, Ben Erlichman, chat about blogging.

 

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Cheap and Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent

Posted by April W Gardner on October 13, 2010

Are you ready to talk homemade laundry detergent? I am! All week, I’ve been antsy to share this with you. So as promised, here’s what I learned about making and using homemade laundry detergent.

Prep time—10 minutes

Quantity—five gallons of liquid detergent

Loads—320, ¼ cup uses

Initial cost—$12.08/five gallons plus bucket and lid

Future cost–$1.24/five gallons

Cost per load—1/3 penny per ¼ cup

Should last a family of four six months or more.

Math is not my specialty, so my numbers might be questionable. What isn’t questionable is that making homemade laundry detergent is dirt cheap—minus the dirt, of course.

I know what you’re wondering. But does it clean? You bet. I was 100% satisfied.

Here’s how to make it.

1/2 cup borax (Found in a box near the bleach)

1 cup washing soda (Not baking soda. Made by Arm and Hammer. Found near bleach.)

1 bar soap, grated (I used Ivory)

1 five gallon bucket with a lid (found at wal-mart in paint section for under $5 for both.)

  1. Grate the soap into four cups of hot water. I grated by hand, but if you have a food processor, it should work great.
  2. Stir until soap is melted.
  3. Fill the bucket half full with warm water.
  4. Add melted mixture, the borax, and the washing soda. Mix.
  5. Fill to the top with more hot water.
  6. Stir, let sit 24 hrs and stir again. It will take a few days to thicken.
  7. Use like regular liquid detergent.
  8. Optional—a few drops of essential oil

Not only is this detergent cheap, it’s safer for the environment and our skin. One of my friends (hi, Beth!) said her kids’ eczema has all but vanished (she used Kirk’s castile bar). Beth has been using hers a year and will never go back to store bought detergent.

In case you were curious, both borax and washing soda are natural minerals mined from the earth. They’re in the salt family.

I hope you’ll venture into the realm of homemade laundry detergent. If you do, let me know how it goes!

Since you’ve only used a fraction of your box of borax and washing soda, next week we’ll talk about what other great uses they both have.

Posted in Homemaking, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

John 3:16 Marketing showcases Ray Lincoln

Posted by Lisa Lickel on October 12, 2010

Ray Lincoln is founder of Ray W. Lincoln & Associates and Ray Lincoln Ministries. His services include Christian life coaching; professional coaching; seminars on parenting, marriage, personal development, and more.
He is the author of I’M A KEEPER, a book that is being used in seven countries and is receiving rave reviews from parents, teachers and psychologists. It teaches parents the most important skill they must have for successful parenting: how to understand your child. Ray is originally from New Zealand. He has worked professionally in New Zealand and Australia, and he has been in the USA since 1971 because he met Mary Jo in Texas and decided to stay. He has over 40 years of experience in coaching and counseling as a pastor. His earned degrees include a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion, a Master of Divinity, and more. He has a master’s level of training in Psychology, which has been a passion of his for many years, as he applied a biblical interpretation (rather than a secular one) to Temperament Psychology and found that this approach is, as expected, much more effective. He lives in Littleton, Colorado with Mary Jo, where they enjoy hiking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, and all the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Ray also enjoys oil painting and photography as hobbies in his “less active” moments.

What motivated you, Mr Lincoln, to write I’M A KEEPER?
First, thank you for your invitation. The motivation to understand how we are made first came from an intense desire to understand myself. Then one day a client who was a parent asked, “Would this be of benefit to me in understanding my child?” Her relationship with her child had developed into a losing battle of wills for both. A flashback of my own childhood feelings created an instant empathy in me, and before I knew it I said, “Yes. I’ll be holding a workshop on that soon, and I’ll let you know.” It was the first time I’d thought of a seminar/workshop for parents in understanding their children! So that’s how I got motivated to apply how we are made on the inside to parent-child relationships. From there the overwhelming interest of parents led to the book becoming a necessity. I might add, writing the book was nothing but a pleasurable task.
How can parents benefit from I’M A KEEPER
They can reduce the tension and stress of their parenting by understanding what urges and strengths drive the preferences and passions of their child. Knowledge of why their child behaves the way they do gives the parent a comfortable feeling and confidence that they will be successful in guiding their child, even in moments of heated meltdowns.
Parents benefit when the child benefits, and if the child feels understood by the parents a new relationship instantly begins. Bonding takes place and both the parent and the child feel like the stork dropped them in the right home, so to speak.
 
We all get lost when we don’t understand. It’s this understanding of who our child is and who we are that makes the relationship, together with the tasks of motivating, training, and teaching another human being, a manageable and pleasant process.
 
Parents will benefit from seeing almost instant changes in their children and the atmosphere of their home.
 
How does knowing more about temperaments help one to be a better parent? 
A child is in the process of learning about their world and themselves. They need and usually accept all the help they can get. A parent who can help their child develop the strengths and drives that make them who they are will be, in the eyes of the child and in their own sense of satisfaction, a much better parent.
 
The four temperaments that have been with us for about 2,500 years have only stuck around because they are useful and accurate. They help a parent know the urges and motivations of everyone in their child’s world. It will give the parent accurate insights into all their children’s relationships.

Can I’M A KEEPER, help all parents regardless of their child’s age? 
Amazingly, yes! An infant is often seen by nurses in a maternity ward as being an either very active child, a fretful child, a calm child or an alert child, each corresponding to an early glimpse of one of the four temperaments. Around age two most of the temperament’s characteristics can easily be observed. So from the earliest years parenting the child with an understanding of what the unseen urges of temperament are benefits both child and parent greatly. In teenagers it is a must, or the child will drift to those who do understand them and to where they do feel comfortable. Bonding is essential for effective guidance in the teenage years.
Does I’M A KEEPER address more challenging issues such as autism, physical or emotional disabilities, and attachment disorders in adopted children? 
Let me make it clear that I’M A KEEPER is not a medical or specialist book on issues like autism. We need the specialized knowledge of these fields for sure. But that does not discount its applicability, since all children in all of these conditions have temperaments and need to be understood. Handling a child according to their temperament can provide some unexpected solutions and help for these conditions. It can ease much distress and pain for both child and parent.
 
It certainly smoothes the path for attachment disorders in adopted children, as you might well imagine, and can do the same in cases of physical and emotional disabilities. I would feel that understanding your child on the deep level of their preferences and drives is nothing but essential for these issues. At least I have found it an important help alongside specialized treatments.
 
In emotional disorders it is paramount, because a lot of emotional conditions involve relationships and even center around our relationships with ourselves and others. Understanding what drives us and how we handle and develop those drives cannot be anything but relative.
 
I wondered if your book would help single parents like me; and how about caregivers in general, such as grandparents, teachers, and other family members? 
Single parents tell me it’s a God-send. Anything that reduces stress and creates a meaningful bond between parent and child is helpful at the foundational level, especially where the child is different from the parent.
 
Understanding our grandchildren, or the children of our family and friends, impacts the success of all these relationships. A grandparent said to me a few days ago after I gave a talk to young mothers on temperament (she happened to attend), “I need that book! I need it for me to understand my children, let alone my grandchildren, and after listening to you I feel I understand my brother better, too.” Understanding how we are made on the inside builds a respect and empathy for all relationships.
 
John 3:16 Marketing Network encourages authors to offer one-day special events related to the book. That day was last Tuesday, October 5. Please visit the link to see what the Lincolns did, and prayerfully consider joining John 3:16 Marketing Network. Thank you, Mr. Lincoln, for sharing your book; I’M A KEEPER.  
 

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Homemaking, Life Experiences, Parenting | Tagged: , , | Comments Off

Cheap and Easy Homemade Fabric Softener

Posted by April W Gardner on October 6, 2010

Every now and then, I stumble across a mind-altering concept. In this case, it was homemade laundry detergent and fabric softener. I know. Homemade laundry products shouldn’t be mind-altering, but sadly, they are.

As recently as when my parents were growing up, homemade was the norm. That wasn’t so long ago. What happened to make us think homemade=lesser quality? Advertising companies happened. That’s what.

Only their product will do and we must have it exactly like they make it. Hand soap must but be liquid and it must be thick. Watered down liquid soap isn’t as effective. We need fabric softener and its heavenly aroma must be strong enough to last a week. Oh, and it must be a lovely lavender or pale blue.

These are all untruths that have been cleverly engrained into our minds as truth. Well, I intend to break free! And save a bundle in the process. Why should the laundry product companies get our hard earned dollars?

In the past, I’ve diligently couponed to bring the price of a bottle of laundry products down to a couple of dollars, but I’ve found a way to make it even cheaper. And without the coupon hassle.

This week, I’ll share with you my discovery of homemade fabric softener. You should know that I’ve always considered fabric softener a luxury and would rarely spend money on it.  Now, I can make it for next to nothing a load.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups hair conditioner (I used TRESemme because it’s what I had on hand, but any cheap—or free, if you shop with ECBs at CVS—conditioner will work.)
  • 6 cups water

You can add a few drops of a fragrant essential oil if you’d like.

The recipe can be easily halved.

Use as you would any other liquid fabric softener. I add approximately 1/8 of a cup to my Downy Ball.

If you prefer to use dryer sheets, make your basic fabric softener recipe then dilute a portion of it (3 parts water to 1 part softener). Store the diluted portion in a smaller container with 1-2 small sponges submerged. When you’re ready to throw your wet clothes into the dryer, squeeze out the sponge and toss it into the dryer with your clothes.

I haven’t tried the “dryer sheet” option, but I can tell you that the liquid version works just as well as any store-bought brand.

If 1/8 cup is used with each load, the undiluted  batch will make 112 loads—more if using the sponge method. I already had the vinegar and hair conditioner in my house, so this batch cost me nothing, but let’s say 1 cup of vinegar costs $.30 and 1 cheap bottle of conditioner costs $.98 (Suave often sells for this price). That’s $.02/load. And it only took me three minutes to mix it up. Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve also found a recipe for laundry detergent and have collected all the ingredients. Over the next week, I’ll try it out and report back on what I thought of it.

The homemade fabric softener, though, is a keeper for sure!

~April W Gardner

www.aprilgardner.com

Posted in Homemaking | 3 Comments »

The Imprint of a Woman’s Friendship

Posted by April W Gardner on September 15, 2010

by Catherine Terry

She apologized for the snow her mukluks tracked into my home while she shed her Alaskan parka. Despite the cold, Sue radiated warmth by her happy smile and friendly look. Sue and I had met a few weeks before at church, and she offered to come by once a week in the evening to help me learn my way through the Bible.

An ordinary person like you or I, yet the gift Sue gave me by her commitment to help introduce me to Jesus and His Word has remained with me several decades. I sometimes wonder if she ever knew what a priceless gift her friendship to me really meant. I hope that someday I may see her again; either this side of Heaven or when the both of us are seated at Jesus’ feet.

Since then, I have been blessed by many friends over the years that have further enlightened my Heavenly path through their compassion and open hearts. I wonder if, I too, might have left my print on a younger woman’s life.

While studying Woman to Woman: Life Principles From Titus 2, written by Barbara Henry, I’m learning that chronological age should not be the only factor in defining the older/younger question, for spiritual maturity and life experiences have much to do with what we have to offer and how we relate. While considering this, I can easily recall friends younger in years than myself who have taught me by their Godly example. As well, I have been blessed by women older in years who have further enlightened me. Considered from this perspective, it makes friendship and discipleship quite enjoyable.

Who comes to your mind while you consider those who have left an imprint on your heart and spirit?

“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.” 1 Timothy 5: 1-2

Visit the author at:

www.athomewithchristianfiction.net

Posted in Happiness, Homemaking, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

 
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