Flooded with Thankfulness

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God’s provision can come in an infinite number of ways. This summer my family experienced God’s provision, although at the time we did not see it that way. Looking back we are so thankful that God is always working things out in our lives, even in the trials of life.

Two years ago, my family had a chance to move into a house that would give our growing family more space. I grew up in Florida so I was used to homes that were pretty much the ranch style homes, but my husband grew up in the Midwest and he was used to living in a home with a basement. Our first home purchase in the Midwest was a ranch style house without a basement, but we felt the Lord opened a door for us to move into a different house a couple years after we bought our first home (that is a whole different story).

This new home had a basement and soon after we moved in I understood why my husband loved houses with basements. There was however one thing that I didn’t like to hear about homes with basements; they could flood. I heard plenty of horror stories about basements flooding, including one pretty disgusting one from my husband about one of his childhood homes. Even though I knew what could possibly happen to our basement one day, I just put the thought out of my head.  My basement flooding was not an option. It happens to others, but it won’t happen to my family, I thought.  Well, my pie in the sky thinking didn’t hold up too long.

This past summer our state was experiencing a rash of super-cell storms. The rain was coming down at a rate of one to two inches an hour.  It was a wet mess. What we didn’t know at the time was that our sump pump had quit working. My husband starting putting the puzzles pieces together and he told me that he was pretty certain that our basement was going to flood. I was in denial and pretty much was thinking happy thoughts about how the rain would soon stop and we would be safe and dry.

My husband decided to dash to the hardware store to buy a replacement pump. During that time he told me to keep an eye out for flooding. He gave me a quick talk about what to do in case it started to flood, but I still was in denial and  didn’t really focus in on what he was saying. Once he left,  the rain started to pick up and I kept going downstairs to look into the sump pit and make sure the water was not overflowing. On my third trip down to the basement I was shocked to see the water in the pit was at the danger level of overflowing. I called my husband quickly and told him what was happening. He again told me what to do when the basement started to flood, and he said that he was almost home to help me.

After the phone call, I went downstairs and saw my worst nightmare…my basement was flooding. Fast forward (to make the story shorter), my husband came home and he helped lead the family into an action plan of saving as many of our personal possessions as we could. We all sloshed around in water for about 30 minutes until all of our things were on higher ground and safe from the water. Our basement had flooded.

It was a surreal experience in many ways, but even from the very beginning my family could see God working in all the details. We could see God’s provisions.

-Our first praise was that our basement was flooded with rain water and not sewer water.

-When purchasing home owner’s insurance my husband told me that right before he signed the papers he asked the insurance agent if the policy covered flooding.  Well they did have a policy that would cover a sump pump breaking and that is exactly what happened to us.  We were covered up to $10,000.

-One of our best friends came to our house the night of the flood (it was almost midnight) and he helped us to install a new sump pump.  He was like an angel to us that night because my husband and I were in a state of shock.

-All, and I mean all the people that we had to work with over the next couple of weeks were phenomenal with their customer service (insurance agents and restoration companies).

-Our carpets were totally destroyed, but as far as our personal items we only lost a very small amount of things and they were not anything that could not be replaced.

-The money we received from the insurance policy would end up helping to take care of our family in a time when unexpected financial burdens were placed on our shoulders.

I could go on and list other ways the Lord took care of us through this unpleasant experience, but the most important thing I can say today is that God provides for His children. Many times in life God’s provision comes in unexpected ways, but it still is Him providing for us. Today I am reminded to be thankful for God’s provision and His goodness, and I encourage you to do the same.

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Chippy Cheese Straws

chees wiht a cheesboor

1 stick margarine
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 T. lemon juice
1 c. plus 2 T. sifted flour
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. salt

Blend margarine, cheese, lemon juice, flour, Worcestershire sauce and salt together thoroughly. Place into a cookie press (pictured below is one from Target) with a star shaped tip. Squeeze 2-3 lines on each cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper while cooling. Cut or break into about 4 inch sticks. Store Cheese Straws in an airtight container and enjoy with a good holiday puzzle!

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Texas Gold Bars

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1 Box Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix
4 eggs, beaten (used separately in two parts)
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 1 lb. box powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Mix together cake Mix (just the mix, not the additional things in the recipe to make the cake) and 2 eggs. Pat into greased and floured 13 X 11″ baking dish.

Mix butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 eggs and pour over batter.
Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Cut into squares and share! Can freeze.

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Family Favorites

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Our family is ALL about family night–we call it pizza pajama night.  When the holidays roll around, we spend days on end working puzzles, playing games and reading books aloud.  It is what we do!

Perhaps in your home, with your family or even in singleness, you find that these kinds of events never happen.  Well I can guarantee you, invite some from the youth group over or your neighbors or even a family at church. It is something that is well worth the few extra steps it takes to do it. Then just do it!

If you are of the mind that games, read-alouds and puzzles are things you despise, then I might question your joy-o-meter!  But I would suggest, too, that you give it another try and give the experience a NEW and FRESH place to grow.

There are few things that match what laughter and a bit of  shallowness can provide in the way of whole-health and wellness.  Oswald Chambers warns, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow concerns of life are not ordained of God; they are as much of God as the profound. To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps: the ocean has a shore. Our safeguard is in shallow things. Determinedly take no one serious but God.”

So do laughter.  Enjoy some shallow. It is life handed out to others and health and joy welling up in yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously!

Here are my top picks for some great holiday family games, puzzles and reads (not an exhaustive list or I would exhaust you.).

GAMES

  1. Settlers of Catan (If you have more than four, get the expansion pack)
  2. UNO Spin (My family LOVES this game, though it is not my favorite.)
  3. Whodunit (Find it on Ebay.  It is a great game of logic and clues–more challenging than just regular Clue.)
  4. Monopoly (If you have a long time to play…)
  5. Farkle (Easy peasy dice game)
  6. Pictionary (We found one on the Wii that is really fun, too!)
  7. Sorry! (Simple for 5 and up)
  8. Cranium (Fun and lots of laughter)
  9. Apples to Apples (For older kids, but they LOVE it!)
  10. Sequence, Mexican Dominoes and Pit (Couldn’t decide which one, so added all games! Pit gets pretty loud, just to let you know.)

PUZZLES

  1. Times Square
  2. Night Before Christmas (Can You See What I see?)
  3. Trump’s General Store
  4. On the Porch
  5. A Joyful Celebration
  6. Moonlight Funning
  7. Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride (Holiday Hidden Messages)
  8. Keepsakes on Santa’s Desk
  9. No Room at the Inn
  10. Wet Your Whistle and Warm Your Toes

READ-ALOUDS

  1. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Chronicles of Narnia series C.S. Lewis
  3. The City of Ember Jeanne Duprau
  4. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Rick Riordan
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L Frank Baum
  6. Henry Higgins Beverly Cleary
  7. Trixie Belden #1: The Secret of the Mansion Julie Campbell
  8. Betsy Tacy Maud Hart Lovelace
  9. Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain

How about you?

Do you have any recommendations for games, puzzles and read-alouds that we should check out?

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Stepping Back and Trusting God with Your Marriage

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'Mountain View 2' photo (c) 2009, David Steltz - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m one of those people who believes in trusting God absolutely. It’s just that I fear that in most circumstances, God could really use a hand. And I try to give it to Him!

That didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING. If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating the man who is now my husband, I barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith. I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

Lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me. I find in my marriage that “trust” is the last thing I’m able to do. Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems. So if Keith and I have a disagreement, I stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I use my brilliant insights. I give him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I end up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hasn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself?

What God has been teaching me lately is that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need to. God knows what’s best for me, and He knows what’s best for my husband. And sometimes what is best is simply giving my husband space to talk to God himself, rather than trying to manipulate the situation into what I think God wants.

That’s a hard thing to do. What if God doesn’t do what I think He should? And so it all comes back to one’s view of God: Is He really enough for your marriage? Or do you think you know best?

I am trying to wait on God, because it is in Him that I find peace. God is our refuge and strength, not our husbands. My happiness is not dependent on the state of my marriage, but on the state of my relationship with Christ.

And ironically, I’m finding that the closer I am to God, and the more I trust in Him, the happier I am in my marriage anyway. Maybe that’s what God intended all along!

Sheila writes more about marriage at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog! (http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com). She loves great conversations about how we can strengthen family and make this world resemble God’s heart. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, will be out in February with Zondervan.

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Pleasing God

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Have you heard of Enoch?

He’s the guy who lived to be 365 years old and then God took him.  He just took Enoch to Heaven.  He never had to die.  Enoch is even listed in Hebrews 11 – the Faith Hall of Fame.  His credentials are not as long as Abraham’s or Noah’s.  They are short and sweet, Enoch pleased God. 

That’s it.  That’s a lot.

He didn’t call fire from Heaven, build an ark, or father a nation.  He simply pleased God.

And what did Enoch do to please God? After all, we need to know how to please God.

He walked with Him.  The simplicity of it bowls me over.  Maybe it’s my legalistic background, but so many times I feel like a hamster on a wheel running and running and wondering if I am doing enough, saying enough, praying enough, being enough to please God.

What freedom in knowing that all God asks of us to please Him is to walk with Him!  Just walk.  Yes, walking with God implies fellowship and obedience, but I don’t need to be Billy Graham to please God.  I just need to be me.  That pleases God because He made me and loves me and wants a relationship with me.

Wow.

St. Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please.”  At first glance that might look like a ticket to live any old way, even in sin.  However, if we truly love God with all our hearts, then what pleases Him will please us.

May each of us strive walk with God and therefore, please Him.

Genesis 5:22-24 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

 

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

 

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Baklava

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2 c. sugar plus 2 t. sugar separated
1 1/2 c. water
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T. honey
1 c. ground walnuts
4 t. cinnamon sugar (1 t. cinnamon plus 3 t. sugar)
1 – 16 oz. pkg. phyllo dough
1 c. unsalted butter, melted

Combine 2 c. sugar, 1 1/2 c. water, juice of 1/2 lemon and 2 T. honey in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Boil for 10 minutes. Pour into glass measuring container and refrigerate.

Mix 1 c. ground walnuts, 2 t. cinnamon sugar and 2 t. sugar in a small bowl.

Reserve 6 sheets phyllo dough. In a 9X13 inch pyrex dish, layer 6 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with butter. Sprinkle with walnut mixture. Layer next 6 sheets of phyllo dough, also brushing with butter. Alternate layers with walnut mixture. Top with remaining 6 layers. Cut into wedges, just 3/4 of the way through. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Pour cold syrup over top. Chill overnight before serving.

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Turkey Tetrazzini

Roast Turkey and Stuffing

1 can sliced mushrooms
1/2 c. thinly sliced onions
1/4 c. margarine
1/4 c. flour
2 c.chicken broth (or turkey broth, if you saved some)
1 c. light cream
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 8 oz pkg spaghetti, cooked and drained (wonderful if you have some broth to boil this in!)
3 c. diced turkey
1/2 c. shredded Monterrey jack or cheddar cheese

Lightly brown mushrooms and onions in margarine. Stir in flour and cook ’til bubbly. Stir in broth and cream. Add salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until mixture boils. Pour the sauce over cooked spaghetti. Add turkey and mix well. Pour into 13X9″ baking dish and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly. This is a GREAT recipe for all that leftover turkey!  From my friend Melissa R.

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Joy and Peace

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I love this photo. Two of my favorite people are in it. In the foreground is Reyna, the beautiful redhead. Reyna is one of those amazing young women who doesn’t really know how truly incredible she is. Reyna is now in college, majoring in interior design. I’ve known Reyna since she was 7 years old, and I’ve watched her grow and change in many ways. Most of all, she has grown in her love for Jesus. She is a beautiful young woman on the outside, but it’s the inside love of Jesus that shines so brightly through her that makes her one of the most beautiful girls I know.

Next to Reyna is my youngest son, Sawyer. This photo is “a keeper” for me (although I didn’t take it) because that smile on Sawyer’s face is genuine. He and Reyna were having a great time when this photo was captured on Reyna’s camera by some unknown person. I don’t know what they were doing ~ probably something related to a youth group activity ~ and to be honest I don’t even know when or where the photo was taken, but someone did an amazing job of capturing the two of them having a great laugh together.

Sometimes I wonder…if someone were to snap a photo of me without my knowledge, how would that photo turn out? Would I have a joyful or peaceful look on my face, or would I appear grumpy? Or even worse, would I have an angry look on my face? My husband calls it my sour puss face. I’ve caught glimpses of my sour puss face in the mirror, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty look.

Am I always happy? No, of course not. But I can be joyful, despite my circumstances. Am I always calm, cool and collected? Not by a long shot. But I can be peaceful, no matter what is going on around me. Humans have emotions ~ they allow us to feel, to empathize, sympathize, to laugh and cry, to be excited, and to handle moments of great happiness and great sadness. We’re meant to experience a wide range of emotions. It’s the way God made us.

I find myself wanting more peace, more joy in the Lord. I want the large majority of those candid snapshots to show the joy and peace my Lord brings to my heart. My life will never be perfect, but my God is ~ and He can handle whatever emotions I feel at any given moment. And in return, He fills me with peace and joy beyond understanding.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. ~James 3: 13-18

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4: 4-7

 

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