My New Heroes

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Have you ever wished you could be a hero?  It takes a lot to be one!

It takes sacrifice.

It takes self-denial.

It takes commitment.

Those I have always considered true heroes:

  • Men and women who have given their lives for the sake of the Gospel
  • Men and women who have given their lives for our country

However, recently I’ve come to understand that there is another group of people who rightfully belong in the category with heroes:

  • Men and women who have opened their hearts and their homes to love and care for a child (or children) in foster care (especially believers who reach out to show Christ’s love to these little ones!)

You see, I’ve had an up-close look at Foster Care because our daughter and son-in-law have become foster parents in the last few months!  (That makes me Gigi to these babies, and I love it!) To watch our daughter and son-in-law’s sacrifice, commitment and self-denial for the little ones in their care has been amazing. 

They attended many weeks of training classes, had home studies, were fingerprinted, checked and re-checked before they were ever considered eligible to welcome a child into their home.

They went from freedom to go and do whatever/whenever to caring for the demands of infants literally overnight – no nine months prep for their adjustment!

They took on not one, but two children.  The demands of two infants is incredible, and to take that on yourself for ones that aren’t your own flesh and blood shows true servanthood.

They have taken numerous 5-hour trips to take the babies to doctor’s appointments because of their physical needs.

They have had to rearrange their work schedules, put their personal vacations on hold, and cut back on outings, due to the needs of the babies.

They get much less sleep caring for infants!

They have to keep up with the system’s demands – attending more classes about foster parenting (while they’re caring for the children), getting the children to family visitations, which meet the birth parent’s time schedule more than their own.

They endure some who give demeaning looks/remarks towards them because they use WIC to purchase formula.  (Wow.  We don’t always know all the facts, do we?)

They are spoken “down” to by some of the medical staff because they’re “only the foster parent.”  They’ve spent more time with these children than the birth parents have.  Shouldn’t they be given an ear because they do understand their needs?

But spite all of that, they press on with the most loving parental hearts – kissing, hugging, talking and cooing to those little ones as though they were their own.  They don’t neglect to care for one need.  Their hearts cry when one has to be poked on at the doctor’s office.  They are sympathetic to the one who is sleepless in the middle of the night and they rock and sing songs of Jesus’ love, while their own sleepy eyes fight to stay awake.

I had the pleasure this week of helping care for the babies while our son-in-law was at a conference.  I watched with my own eyes the care and concern of these heroes who love with a love that reminds me of my great God who loved me when I was not yet His, and of how He sent His Son to adopt me and make me a part of His family.  God loves me.  These foster parents love these children with Christ’s love.  God loves these foster children!  This morning  I rejoiced as I read Psalm 10:14b –

Thou art the helper of the fatherless.

And what does God do for the believer who takes care of one of these children?

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will repay him for his deed

God will bless those who serve in this ministry!  I’m watching it happen in my own family.  It’s precious!

I have known others who have opened their homes, but until now I hadn’t seen it up really close.  I salute each one who sacrifices to give a child a safe, loving environment! Let’s be looking for ways to encourage and thank these heroes who have sacrificed so that a child can have a happy household in which to grow, live, to also hear about the Lord Jesus!

Whitney at Come Home for Comfort wrote a great post about how to support those who are foster parents.  I hope you’ll go here and check it out!

Also, did you know that President Trump has named May as National Foster Care Month?

While you are on Whitney’s site, will you scroll down and read the comment left by Elaine?  She shared her sweet testimony of being a foster mom for 17 years!  Wow!  Her story may encourage you to check into being a foster parent.  So many children are in need; maybe the Lord would have you open your home and become a hero in a child’s life!

God bless each of you foster parents!  I pray many children will come to know Christ because of your sacrifice!

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(L)Oven Monday – Pictorial Guide to Strawberry Freezer Jam

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One of our favorite summer treats is Strawberry Freezer Jam.  I’ve made it for years and we smear it on toast, PB&J sandwiches, biscuits, and muffins (especially these).  I also love taking a jar as a hostess gift.  I make up several “runs” of the recipe each May, and we try to ration it out to make it last until the next fresh/local strawberry season.  It could be called a domestic crisis if we run out!

The freezer jam is quicker to make than the cooked jam, and it’s a really simple process.  Another great thing is that once you get a stash of jars stocked up your only cost is the ingredients for the jam.  This recent batch cost me $20 and I made 18 jars!  That’s a great value!

But spite the fantastic taste and the value, sometimes people are afraid to try making it for fear that it won’t set up, and then they’ll have wasted all the ingredients and money involved.  But If you’re one of those people who are afraid to try it on your own, I thought I’d walk you through each of the steps, using my pictorial guide below.

Note: I make my Strawberry Freezer Jam using the recipe on the Sure-Jell box. 

  1.  Sterilize your jars and lids in the dishwasher, or in very hot, soapy water.wp-1495049602796
  2. Wash the strawberries before hulling.
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  3. Cut off the stems. Slice berries.
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  4. Using a potato masher, mash the berries – don’t make them soup.  Leave it a little chunky  See next photo.
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  5. There should be some chunks
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  6. Add sugar.  Be sure to measure it exactly as recipes states.  Level off cups.
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  7. Let set for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
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  8. Put Sure-Jell and 3/4 Cup water in a small sauce pan.wp-1495050470442
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  9. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and boil 1 minute —–

10.  Stir cooked pectin into strawberry/sugar mixture.  Stir for three minutes, or until sugar is dissolved.wp-1495050654139

11. Ladle into jars, leaving 1/2 inch at the top.  Wipe rims and screw on lids.wp-1495051677817

12.  If you like, do a little test with a small amount of jam, just to see if it has set up —–

 

12.  Leave on counter for 24 hours, then either refrigerate for immediate use, or freeze up to a year.

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Enjoy the fruit of your labor!

Have you made jam?  If not, what is keeping you from trying?  Will this pictorial guide encourage you to try?  

Refresh your family and your freezer with some Strawberry Jam!

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Family Friday – Mom’s – It Will Pass!

If you’re a parent perhaps you can remember when you brought the first child into your home, every older person probably gave you the same advice, “Enjoy them while they’re little; they grow up so fast!”  Maybe you’re struggling today with sleepless nights, potty training, disobedience, bad attitudes, lying, or rebellion and you’re having a hard time seeing the end of the Parenting Finish Line.  I just want to remind you, friend, it’s out there, and the time is clicking away.

Instead of feeling frustrated, instead of wishing away their lives, or ignoring it all by drowning it out with entertainment, social media or a job that will take you away, can I just say this – Enjoy today!  It’s a gift from God.  All that other stuff will pass, but so will the sweet times – tea parties, bath time water wars, Family fun nights, hands held around the kitchen table, good night kisses at bedtime. It will be gone.  Oh they’ll still be your kids, but those years are gone (and we need to let them go!).  So, enjoy it today while it’s all around you.

Even if those feet aren’t so little any more, if they’re still putting their feet under your table, enjoy the day and accept it as God’s gift to you, Mom!

Refresh your momma heart!

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Creating Meaningful, Inexpensive Wall Decor

IAMaI had the fun recently of attending a decorating class focused on home accessories.  The designer said,

Your home should tell your story.

That really got me to thinking.  I asked myself, “What is my story? It’s the Gospel!  That is the whole purpose of my life! How can my home share that by the decor?”  Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to have Bible verses plastered everywhere, but beautiful art that shares the Scriptures is indeed one great way to tell the story of my Savior.

I had a space on a wall in my living room that needed a picture and I had searched everywhere looking for the right size and design, all to no avail.  Then one day when I was working on a Bible study book I’m doing I noticed these “I Am” cards in the back of the book.  They were beautifully done and there were five of them.  It was then that the idea popped into my head that I could frame those and make a grouping for that needy living room wall.  Not only would the help tell our story, it would be an inexpensive way to fill that space perfectly.  So I had the picture part, now for frames…

Instead of going to the store to buy a frame, I went to a stash that I purchased at the Goodwill store last year.  There was a stack of frames – all sizes and styles marked down – way down!  I got all of them for less than $5 and I had a huge pile!!  The one below was .52 and it was perfect for holding three of my five cards.

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I didn’t like the dark frame, so I painted it white.  Here it is, on its side while the paint dries…

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My encouragement to anyone needing a picture or two on their wall is, don’t limit yourself to just purchased art, which can be really expensive.  Look for smaller things you can frame, like cards that are themed and would help tell your story.  They could be note cards, cards you receive in the mail, postcards, etc.

Then look for frames at yard sales and Goodwill.  They may be scratched or the wrong color, but a little paint will cover that!

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The John 14:6 sign was purchased several years ago, but I didn’t have it hanging up anywhere. I realized it would be perfect to add to this grouping.  I still need one more something to hang on the right side so it will be balanced with the other side of the fireplace.  I’ll show you the finished look when that part gets completed.

In the meantime, I hope this inspires you to seek to tell your story, then be creative with how you do it.  Decorating can be done frugally with a little creativity!

If someone asked you, what would you say is the story you would want your home to convey?

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Five Ways To Reduce Your Grocery Bill

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Years ago when I was single and living on a teacher’s salary, I sewed my own clothes,I had pasta dishes for supper, and I shopped yard sales for home necessities.  Then when I got married and my husband began ministry, we took on nearly the same tactics in striving to live frugally.  It’s truly been a way of life for me.  I’ve often said that even if I ever fell into a goldmine, I’d still shop the sales!

I recently shared with a group of women some of the lessons I’ve learned to save money in grocery shopping and thought I’d share them with you, too!  There are a ton of great suggestions on the Internet, along with helpful sites that will snag the best deals and do lots of the work for you!  I’ll share a couple of my favorite places to go at the end of this post. But first, here are my best suggestions to reduce your grocery bill:

  1. Don’t start with coupons, start with the store’s sales.  
    • By knowing what’s on sale, you can purchase what you need when it’s at its lowest price.  Try not to buy foods until it’s at its rock bottom amount.  You could keep a running list of what the “bottom” price is so you’ll know if what the store is asking is truly a good deal.
    • Did you know groceries go on sale in cycles?  Usually every 6-8 weeks the most general items are marked down. You can go to Joyfully Thriving.com and download a free guide that will tell you what is cycling on sale every month.
  2. Stockpile items when they are at their lowest price!
    • When things are at their lowest price, purchase enough of what you buy to last you until the next markdown.  If you can’t buy enough to last until the next sale, buying at least couple, will also save you some money!
    • The goal is to have enough foods on hand (that your family will eat, of course) so you can plan your family’s menu around that.  Then each week, you’ll purchase fresh produce, perishable items and the new items that are reduced.
  3. Think hard about your Meat-filled meals. 
    • Having pasta, soups, salads and veggies could reduce the cost of your groceries by $1,000!
    • For the meat you do buy, buy it only when it’s marked down.
    • Don’t be afraid to buy meat that is on sale that day with a red sticker.  If you take it home and either use it immediately or freeze it, it will be safe to use.
    • Buy in bulk and freeze serving sizes in freezer bags.  Don’t forget to save yourself some time by cooking some of that chicken or hamburger and cooling it,  then freezing it so it will be ready for tacos, soups, or casseroles.  
  4. Plan your menu!  
    • When you know what’s marked down that week and what you have in your pantry and freezer, then make your menu using those ingredients.  I used to sit down with my cookbook and find all these great recipes that called for items that were not on sale and quickly learned that was not the way to vary our menu.  I learned to look at what I had, then find a recipe for those ingredients.  Here’s a cool site I just recently found where you can click on all the ingredients you have on hand and they’ll suggest recipes using those items!
    • Without a menu you’ll be scrambling to know what is for supper.  You’ll run to the grocery store at the last minute and have to pay premium price for items, and your grocery bill will be staggering!,
    • With a menu you can prepare a little ahead of time!  Thaw the meat, start the crock pot, etc.  So not only will you be saving money, you’ll also be saving your sanity!!
  5. Use coupons for the store where you shop.  Coupons can help, but it’s the last thing you need to worry about. I love Kroger because using their e-coupons keep me from having to clip them.  Often I buy an item on sale AND I have a coupon for it!  Double savings!!  I bought a pound of butter recently $1.40 because of the sale and coupon deal!

So those are my five best tips, friends.  I hope this will help you reduce your grocery costs!  One more tip I would add is, don’t be afraid of Aldi’s, if there is one near you.  Whitney at Come Home for Comfort has some great tips about shopping there.  Be sure to check out this post.

My favorite site for finding the sales in the stores where I shop is Southern Savers!

What is the most difficult part of keeping your grocery cost down?

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(L)Oven Monday – Summer Menu Family Favorites

Hello friends!  I trust you had a great weekend.  We sure did!  On top of the wonderful church service on Sunday (I’m so thankful for my church!), getting to go hear Chonda Pierce Friday night (hilarious!), and a fun day on Saturday, my cup was just running over!

We had a delicious Sunday dinner at home. I know, it was Mother’s Day, and mom’s aren’t supposed to cook, but I was glad to help. My husband did steaks on the grill for us and I happily contributed all the other parts of the menu.  Everything on the menu is literally a family favorite for summertime cuisine!  This menu is perfect in every way in our house!  I’ve shared them all in times past, but let me tell you about it –

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I usually always make a Teriyaki Marinade for our steaks because it makes them THE BEST EVER!  Spinach Salad has a crunchy element of Water Chestnuts, some boiled eggs, bacon pieces and is then topped with a dressing that is a cross between Catalina and French dressing.  Yum. Every now and then we step into the unhealthy realm and make our family’s favorite Golden Onion Rings.  Again, they’re just the most delicious recipe ever, yet very easy to make.  Lastly, dessert consisted of another family favorite – Fresh Strawberry Pie.  In case you haven’t made any of these, or if you haven’t made these recipes in a while, let me share the links so you can put them on your menu soon!!

Teriyaki Marinated Steaks
Golden Onion Rings
Spinach Salad
Fresh Strawberry Pie

I was too involved with the guests to get good pictures of the food,
but here’s a little peek…

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Dessert’s grand appearance was the Pie!

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My “centerpiece” may seem a little odd to you, but let me explain – I wanted all three of my girls represented on the table.  The Yankee Candle has a label on it with my oldest and youngest daughters pictures on it!  A sweet friend gave that to me for a Mother’s Day gift and it touched my heart so much!  Not only did it represent the girls, it gave a pretty ambiance to the table and it smells wonderful!  Then the little pink rose in the bud vase and the porcelain baby shoes were to represent our second daughter, Ashley.  She’s rejoicing in heaven, and we’ll join her before long!!

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Our youngest daughter and her husband were here with us for supper, and I got to talk to my oldest daughter and my mom on the phone, so that was wonderful!  Even though we had some of our favorite foods, the people we got to be with were the best part of the meal!

What was the best part of your weekend?

With love,

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Family Friday – Mother’s Day Dilemnas

That holiday is approaching.  You know, the one where our family bows at our feet, singing our praises for the sacrifices of

  • laundry at midnight
  • science projects aided
  • homemade cookies baked for classroom parties
  • wounds kissed and cleaned
  • A patient, listening ear always ready to fix a relationship problem.

Okay, maybe not.  In reality, likely not.  Not if you still have children in your care.  Not if you’re a single mom.  Not if your husband is caught up in the pressures and stuff of life.  But I’m not here today to shake my finger at them because it’s so easy to forget.

I admit forgetting, too.  As a little girl, I was pretty much only focused on what my mom could and would do for me. Because she was so consistant, I came to expect a hearty meal every day at 5:00, clean clothes in my dresser, hugs when I was mistreated, and words of wisdom to guide my life.  It wasn’t until I became a young adult that I realized how much was sacrificed in order for me to possess that kind of home environment.  It was then that I really learned to say thank you to my loving mom.  I began to comprehend how truly blessed I was.  Every Mother’s Day since then, it’s been my goal to express to her how grateful I am today for all she was and still is.

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So let me stop to say, Mom (Millie Ray), thank you for all you did to make home so special.  Thank you for the meals you prepared that were both delicious and graciously served.  Thank you for taking the effort to decorate our home and keep it clean, and also teach me how to do those household tasks.  Thank you for sacrificing your own career so you could be home for us.  Thank you for loving God and making sure I knew Him, too.  And thank you for loving my dad and showing me that marriage was for keeps.  I appreciated it as a child, but today I once again say thank you and I love you!

To all you readers who are moms, I say, enjoy Mother’s Day by not expecting anything from your family.  Put your thoughts on your mom, or some other woman that the Lord has put in your life to encourage you, love you and support you.  Be grateful for them.  Do something to show your gratitude.  Stop and thank the Lord for your children.  Keep your focus on gratitude, rather than on your expectations. I learned this the hard way!

This is one holiday that makes me hurt for some dear women.  To those of you who wish you were a mom and find pain on this day, I say I’m sorry, and even greater, God understands and sees your grief.  Remember that He is a good, good Father, and don’t doubt His love because He has withheld this from you.

To those who didn’t have a loving mom, I say, God saw, God knows, and that is the reason we needed a Savior.  He gave us His son so we could all understand the greatest kind of sacrificial love.

To those whose mom or child is in heaven, remember that we’ll be joining our loved ones sooner than we think, never to be separated again. I love to think about what my daughter, Ashley is enjoying in heaven at this very moment!

Let’s allow Mother’s Day to find us showing our families that our greatest desire is God’s, “Well Done,” and that the joy of His comfort is enough for every pain in our hearts.  There are many coming behind us that need to learn from us that holidays are man-made, but the joy of being a Christlike woman is God-made!  That’s a gift that only He can give us, and that is enough!

Find refreshment in Christ!

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