Friday, March 29, 2013

Above All

It seems as if the Lord is testing my faith right now.  Testing its length, breadth, width, and depth.  Testing its strengths and weaknesses.  Trying its endurance and perspective.  Stretching me to points that seem painful without giving release from the pressure.  Some days I wonder if I am going pass this testing period, or if I will fail and have to re-take this test again.  Most days, I am not even sure over what exactly I am being tested.

There are days when it seems overwhelming.  Those days when you just cry out, “Lord, I believe!  Help Thou mine unbelief!”  Those days when that proverbial mustard seed just falls out of your pocket, and you are desperately trying to find it, knowing that it is necessary for your survival. 

For without faith, it is really hard  to please God.  No, wait…


It isn’t just hard to please God without faith – it is totally impossible.  You cannot do it.  You must scrounge up that mustard seed of faith and hang onto it for dear life. 

Why is having faith so difficult, so against our nature?  Because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  We cannot see what God is doing, and therefore we doubt Him.  We doubt that He is working all things for our good and His glory.  We doubt that He really has everything under control, because it seems so out of control from our perspective.  The sin that so easily besets us is, I believe, the sin of unbelief.  We are all prone to faith failures, and it can happen so quickly.  That mustard seed of faith is so easily replaced with a seed of doubt.  Is God really all He promised to be?  Is He really hearing my prayers?  Is this trial really for my good?

Perhaps you have slightly different questions, and vastly different situations, but if we are honest, we have all been there at one time or another.  Those times when our feelings tell us one thing, and God’s Word tells us another.  What is the answer of faith in trying circumstances?  Be still, and know that I am God.  Know.  Believe.  Trust.  Have faith.  Stop everything.  Focus on the fact that He is God, the all-knowing, all-powerful, everlasting God.  The One Who knows you, sees you, hears you, answers you, and loves you.  The One Who asks you to trust Him and believe that He is everything He said He would be.  The One Who knows the end from the beginning.  The One Who sees the sparrow fall.  He is there.  He is God.  Have faith.

Sometimes this “head knowledge” is denied by the way I live my life.  I am sorry to say that doubt creeps into my heart at times, and I must remind myself of these things.  Thank the Lord for His Word, which gently rebukes and corrects my errant thoughts.  Just yesterday, I was reading in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God.  I don’t know how many times I have read or heard that passage quoted.  In the light of this thought, I noticed something that had never stuck out to me before.  As it lists the pieces of armor we are to wear and carry, it says,

“Above all, taking the shield of faith…” 

I paused in my reading at that point and read it again.  Above all.  More than any other piece of equipment.  The one we absolutely cannot survive without – faith.  I read it , pondered it, and marveled as God spoke to my heart once again.  “Trust Me.  Believe.  Be still and know. Your crisis is a faith crisis.  Above all, you need to know that this is of Me.  That this is for your good.  That I love you, my child.  Just trust Me.”

I wish I could end the story with, “So she did, and she lived happily ever after.”  However, the story is far from over.  It is still being written. My desire is that one day, I will stand before God and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  May God increase my faith.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Offerings

I love the advent of spring with all of its beautiful flowers and gradually warmer weather.  After the drab and barren winter landscapes, the buds, and bright blooms bring fresh life and hope. 


The Bradford Pear trees are glorious to look at, but dreadful to smell.  The kids have decided that they smell like  old fish.  Ewwww!   I am rather inclined to agree!


You can tell Abigail didn’t really care for the fragrance of the Bradford pear blossoms!  It cracks me up to see her picking flowers and holding stuffed animals while toting her sling-shot around in her hammer-holster!  She can be quite dangerous!  :)


Daniel, not to be outdone by his sister, wanted to pick some flowers for Mama, too.  The problem is, he isn’t quite tall enough!  He first tried to climb  the tree.  That didn’t last long.  Then he tried jumping and reaching for the lower branches, all to no avail.  I had pity on him and pulled a branch down to where he could reach it, but the stems were too tough for him to break, so he moved on to greener pastures.  Dandelions…


His little self-satisfied smirk makes me laugh!  He was quite pleased.  Looking closely at the flowers that were given to me, I was amazed at the ethereal beauty of these common blooms.  What a lovely gift from God!  Purity and simplicity all around us, available for our enjoyment!


Take time to smell the dandelions!  I’d hold off on sniffing the Bradford Pears, though!  :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My “New” Hutch

For several years, I have had this hand-me-down hutch.  Not really happy with it, I was unsure of how to improve it to meet my d├ęcor standards.  I thought about getting rid of the hutch, just because it was so blah.  Brown and blah.  I even toyed with the idea of having my wonderful hubby make me another one more suited to my taste.  However, that seemed like a waste of time and money when I already had a hutch.  (Sometimes being a good steward is not all that fun. )


I decided that I would just paint it.  But what color?  I already had a lot of red due to the benches we made and painted, and I wanted something a little different  that would add some zing to the room.  Turquoise came to mind, but that is a huge step that I wasn’t sure I could make.  It would really zing, perhaps a bit too much.  I discarded the idea and thought black – nah, too dark and boring.  I kept coming back to turquoise.  I also wanted an aged look, but was trying to find out how to replicate that look.  I searched the internet, found some awesome DIY refinished pieces, and watched a few tutorials. 

Seized with the desire to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak, I ran to Lowes and picked out paint.  Yes, I did end up going with a turquoise blue.  The weather was gorgeous, so I headed out to paint just as soon as I got back.  I also bought spray paint to redo the hardware.  I liked the drawer pulls and little knobs, but they were yucky, and the hinges had been painted brown by a previous owner.


I had to get creative when I painted the hardware screws and dangly drawer pulls.  I was trying to figure out how to  paint all sides of the drawer pulls without having them rest on another painted part.  Enter the common wooden toothpick.  I wedged a toothpick into the swiveling part until it stood upright, not touching any other part of the drawer pull.  Voila!  It worked!  Fueled by this small success, I turned to the screws.  I poked them  into a piece of cardboard so that they all stood upright.  Again, success!  I could now spray paint all the surfaces without having to touch them and flip things around!


Maybe those of you who do this kind of thing all the time are laughing at me, but it was fun to figure out. :)

I looked all over for the finishing glaze to add the antique look to my newly painted hutch, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about.  Back to the internet I went, and read carefully the blogs that I had found those awesome pieces with the same finish.  I found out some brand names, and learned that I would have to mix the glaze with whatever color of paint I wanted the glaze to be.  This was going to be more work than I had anticipated.  The Home Depot was the only store in our area that actually had glaze, so I went there.  While I was looking at quart cans of clear (add-your-own-color) glaze, my eye fell on a display of Martha Stewart special painting finishes.  There were several different varieties of pre-colored glaze.  They were much smaller cans, and the price was happily less.  I decided to get the small jar and experiment.  I f I didn’t like it, I could always paint over it again.  This is what I wound up buying.


I highly recommend this product (Black Coffee is the name).  It is latex, so it dries faster and cleans up easier than the clear glaze, which is oil-based.  This little jar was more than plenty for my whole hutch.  In fact, I used over half a quart of paint to repaint the hutch, and I may have used two or three tablespoons of glaze to finish it.  A little of this stuff goes a long way!  Glazing is one of the most fun things I have ever done.  I told my husband that I have a new favorite thing to do! :)

Basically, you apply the glaze with a sponge brush or regular brush, if it is very detailed, and let it sit for 30-60 seconds.  Wipe off the glaze with a damp cloth, allowing as much or as little of the glaze to remain in the cracks and crevices of the piece.  This is where it gets a little messy, since the glaze gets all over your hands.  I had to keep changing the water in my bowl because it was paint-y after a few dips with the cloth.

The whole project took one afternoon, and I am so thrilled with the results!  I have moved the hutch into my laundry/craft room, where I will store some of the items that now reside in cardboard boxes.  I am thinking I will be able to keep quite a bit of fabric and craft items in the bottom cupboard.  Here is what it looks like now!



This is not the best picture because the sun was blazing in the windows.  You can still get a good idea of the way it looks now.  As you will notice, I left the back of the hutch brown, just for a bit of contrast.  It was not painted very heavily, and the wood grain shows through, giving it a unique look. 



The best part about glazing is that it does not have to be perfect.  If it is a little darker or thicker in some places, it just adds to the antique look.  I will definitely be using this technique again in the future!

Do you have a piece of furniture that you want to change?  Have you ever tried glazing?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Now We’re Cookin’!

Sometimes the toys that we have are much loved and often used.  Others are played with occasionally and ignored the majority of the time.  (These I try to eliminate as quickly as possible.)  I think the most popular toys we have owned are the play kitchen items.  My childhood kitchen items have been passed down to my children, and along the way we have added more food items, dishes, and miscellaneous junque. All of the kids have loved playing kitchen since they were tiny.  They frequently bring down new dishes for us to “eat.”

Thus, when my old tin stove crumbled into disrepair, it was a hard blow for the girls especially. The decal stickers had already begun to come off, the plastic window in the oven door popped out and was stepped on, the knobs fell off, and in general, it looked pretty ratty.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was the oven door hinge that broke, causing it to hang open perpetually. 

My husband had pity on the girls who could now only “cook” on the stovetop.  He found a plan for a little stove and, out of scrap lumber leftover from other projects, he made them a new one.  Alright, everybody say, “Awwww!”


I don’t know that any father has gotten so much pleasure out of making and giving a wooden stove to his girls as my husband did.  The girls were thrilled!  The little knobs turn and the oven door opens and closes with a magnetic latch.  Now we can once again have all the delicious baked plastic food that we can eat!


Here they are in their PJs, exulting over their new appliance!  Random thought: Did anyone else notice that Esther looks like a giant pink frog in this photo?  :) 

Friday, March 15, 2013

On the Shelf

I am ashamed to say that my closet is not the most organized area of my house.  At least, not usually.  My amazing and wonderful husband has helped my organizational efforts by offering to build a shoe shelf for me!  Yay!  The difference it makes is HUGE!  I am forever indebted to him for this thoughtful piece of furniture!

Okay – here it is, my seriously, shamefully, messy closet. {blush}



Some of my shoes were in boxes, some just kicked into the corner, but it was always a grief of mind to find a pair in a hurry.  This was a painful lack of organization…

Enter the shoe shelf…


While it is not extremely fancy, it is intensely practical and functional.  I love it!  You will notice it is my favorite shade of red, too.  Love this color!  (Spanish Tile 1010-5 from Lowes/Valspar paint)  Within ten minutes of this beauty entering my life and closet, the disorder and chaos of my closet was gone!  Voila!


The good news is that all my shoes fit on the shelf… for now.  :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Exciting News!

I am in the process of making my newest piano arrangements available online!  Woo hoo!  It may not be that exciting to you, but this is something that has been on my “to-do” list for what seems like forever.  I published my first book of piano arrangements, And With My Song Will I Praise Him, in 2002 (wow, that was a long time ago).  It was the work of several years of writing, and countless hours of detailed editing.  The first book had barely cooled from the press when I began receiving requests for a second book.  Seriously?!  Then along came four little munchkins, a busy traveling schedule, home schooling, and a host of normal life activities, and the piano book was pushed to the proverbial back burner where it has been simmering ever since. 
I seriously considered publishing a second set of arrangements in book format, but that is not possible right now for various reasons.   Since the advent of digital media has advanced so much since that first book, I thought the music would be more accessible if I made the arrangements available as I finished them.  They will be available for purchase individually through our ministry website.  There is also a new link on the right side of my blog - Sacred Piano Arrangements Day by Day  will be my first available arrangement, with others soon to follow!  I have several arrangements in various stages of finishing and editing at present, and this development has really given me a boost toward finishing those last few pages!  Pray with me as I work toward this goal.  Stay tuned for updates on this process! :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Faintly Fruity Pancakes

Every now and again, I try to make something in the kitchen only to find I’m out of a particular ingredient, or perhaps, just do not have quite enough for the recipe.  I hate it when that happens, because then I have to either drop everything and run to the store for one item, or substitute an item.

Recently, I have discovered the wonderful qualities of buttermilk in my cooking.  I have made several delicious batches of cat-head biscuits (yes, that’s really what they are called) and the whole family loves buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.  I forgot to pick up buttermilk at the store the other day, and although you can adjust the recipe to use regular milk, it just isn’t the same.  I began making pancakes the other morning, and I decided to experiment – not always the wisest thing to do first thing in the morning when you have a whole crowd of hungry people, but I did it, nonetheless. :)

What could I use instead of buttermilk.  I have tried adding vinegar to regular milk, and while it does curdle a bit, the consistency is not thick and creamy like that of buttermilk.  I opened the fridge, and had an epiphany!  I snatched a carton of fruity greek yogurt, and debated whether or not this was a good idea.  In the end, my creativity won out over my caution, and I dumped the yogurt into my batter bowl. 

To my great surprise, the pancakes had a very similar texture to the buttermilk version, but with a slightly fruity flavor due to the mixed berries in it.  It also had the added benefit of a little extra protein, since I used the greek yogurt.  Everyone loved them, and I now have another recipe to share!

Faintly Fruity Pancakes

2 eggs

2-1/2 c. Yogurt/milk mixture (Place the whole serving of Greek yogurt in the measuring cup and add enough milk to make up the rest of the measure)

1 tsp. baking soda

2-1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 c. oil

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Preheat skillet or griddle to 375 F.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs well.  Add the yogurt/milk mixture and baking soda and blend together until creamy.  Add flour, sugar, oil, baking powder, and salt, and beat until smooth.  Cook, turning once when bubbles begin to appear on the uncooked surface, but before they pop.  This recipe makes 16-20 pancakes.  The recipe can be halved, but it will affect the thickness of the yogurt/milk mixture, so you will have to compensate.

I love trying a new recipe and actually succeeding with it!  If you try these, let me know what you think!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Missing Teeth

Through the last several years, we have had a lot of loose teeth around our house.  We are beginning yet another round of “Snaggletooth” competition.  Esther has already lost two bottom teeth, and recently lost a top front tooth.  The other one is loose, and the ones on the sides of the missing/loose teeth are also loose.  I am considering dentures as a viable option for her this year!  In spite of all her missing teeth, she still remains just as adorable as ever!


I just love my six-year-old snaggle-toothed pixie!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fun with Cupcakes

My two older children had a church activity last week, leaving the younger two sitting at home despondantly.  I had a motherly moment of “Awww… They need to have something special to do while their siblings are bowling and eating pizza.”  I landed on the idea of making cupcakes.  I would allow them to decorate the cupcakes (shudder)  and eat some. 

What excitement reigned when I unveiled my surprise!  I gave them each some icing and sprinkles, and they set to work.


I had to remind Daniel not to lick the knife…


Esther was quite good at putting the icing on the cupcakes, but Daniel fretted over getting it on his hands, especially since he was not allowed to lick it off his fingers!




They were not the most artistic cupcakes I have ever seen, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?


And they were quite tasty!


I love the fact that we had a fun time together.  One day, they will all be gone (sniff) and I guess Paul and I will have to make the cupcakes by ourselves! :)