I am headed this morning, Lord willing, to The Wilds Christian Camp for the annual ladies’ retreat. I am going with a group from our church and it’s a group that is pumped about going! Some wonder why we would go to all the trouble to be away for one night, but it only takes going once to bring understanding to that question.

The fellowship that is shared among the small group that goes knits our hearts together. As we spend the two days together, shopping on our way to camp, having meals together, sharing a room with another lady or two, we will have a greater love and understanding for each other.
We will hear the Word of God taught in three main sessions and in a workshop time. The teaching of God’s Word is always a blessing, an encouragement, and yes, a rebuke. We need it; we’re sinners that need the continual cleansing of the Word!

The music at The Wilds is the best! Their special music is not only beautiful; it has a message that stirs our hearts. As the room-full of women sing congregationally I love to look out the wall of glass windows to the outdoors. The mountains, trees, blue sky and birds beyond the window seem to be glorifying our God with us. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork.

By the time we go home there have been many funny scenarios among our group abut which we’re either sworn to secrecy, or we use as fodder to tease one another. Our hearts are strengthened spiritually, our relationships knit closer together, and we’re ready to return back to the responsibilities we left just the day before. Though Satan tries to discourage us from going and puts many obstacles in our path before we head off, we persevere because we know it will be worth the strain. Just as Jesus retreated to a mountain place to pray, we head off to our mountain retreat today to draw nearer to our Father. I wish you were going with us!

Money-Saving Tips – Part 2

Before I begin talking about cooking, let me add one thought to the entry from yesterday. When you do comparison shopping at Wal-Mart, you cannot use the “buy one, get one free” items. You have to use price comparisons. That being said, we’ll focus our thoughts today on saving money by the way we cook.

Trying new recipes is a favorite hobby of mine, but sometimes buying all the ingredients for a particular dish can be expensive. Here’s how I cook creatively, as well as keep within a reasonable budget…

We buy nearly all of our meat when it is marked down. The meat isn’t spoiled, it’s just that the date on the package is for today or tomorrow and the Ingles near us wants to get it out of their store before that date. We may go and find chicken breasts on sale for $2 a package, ground chuck for $1.50 and steaks for $4. We’ll load up our cart and stick the meat in the freezer. If what I’m buying is in a package with many servings, I’ll repackage it into usable portions. This meat is what I use to create my meals.

I always plan a menu for the week; this is really a money-saver! If you wait until the afternoon to try to come up with a plan for supper you probably won’t have all the ingredients and will have to make daily runs to the grocery store – this is really costly. I sit down at the beginning of the week and create my menu based on what meat is in the freezer. I also look at the sale papers and see what’s on sale to consider what I’ll fix. Lasagna can be expensive to prepare with the meat and cheeses, but if I already have the beef and I see that Kroger has Kraft cheese for $1.50 a package, I’ll see that this would be a good week to prepare a lasagna. If red peppers are on sale for $1 each I may decide to use the chicken strips in the freezer and make chicken fajitas.

Have you noticed that one of my favorite tools is my freezer? My 17 year-old laughs at me because I’m always suggesting that we stick items in there. Often a recipe will make a huge dish-full and we don’t need all of it since there’s just three of us. Instead of baking the whole thing right then, I’ll assemble it, label it (things don’t look the same once they’re frozen!), then separate it into two dishes, sticking one in the freezer to use on a busy day, or to share with someone else.

When I’m making a single pie crust I’ll go ahead and make two, putting the other one in the freezer after covering it with syran and foil. It’s great to have a crust ready at another time. When I buy shredded cheese on sale I freeze what I don’t need. When we make cookies I’ll stick 2/3 of them in the freezer in a ziploc bag to keep them fresh until they’re needed. I bake small loaves of sour dough bread or sweet breads and keep them in the freezer to give as hostess gifts when we’re invited out. If I’ve made a big layer cake, like I did last Sunday for Easter, I’ll take the leftover cake, slice it into individual slices and put them into ziploc sandwich bags for the freezer. If someone wants a snack they can go pull out just one slice of cake.

If you’re wondering what things freeze well, think about the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. They sell hundreds of items that have been frozen. Look it over the next time you’re there and then use that as your inspiration! You can even buy frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with no crust! If your child is begging you to buy those kinds of prepared foods that hike up your grocery bill in a hurry, be creative and make your own!

Saving money while preparing good food isn’t a gift, it’s a matter of organizing your time to buy ahead, plan ahead and prepare ahead. With all the money you save you could buy yourself a new pair of shoes…on sale, of course!

(Do you have any creative ways you save in the kitchen? Share it with us!)


Money-Saving Tips

One thing that can really make my day is getting a good bargain. I love TJ Maxx and Ross, the Talbots Outlet in Lexington, KY or a nice consignment store. I’ll only buy my clothes when they’ve been reduced down to a bargain (I was trained by a professional – thanks, Mom!).

I also shop for my groceries with an eye out for the sales. I’ve recently found some good web sites and blogs that share bargains at stores that are all over the country like Walgreens or Target. Aside from the state our country is in economically, we’re to be good stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us, so I thought that I’d share some of these money-saving tips with you.

If you shop at Wal-Mart for your groceries (can a US citizen avoid the place?), you can get many of the specials the other grocery stores have that week without having to run all over town. Perhaps you already do this, but I’ve been surprised at the many people I’ve talked to that don’t know this money-saving tip. Take the Sunday sale ads and see what’s on sale. As you make your grocery list, write down the sale price and the store where that sale is found. You must buy that exact brand and size. If the 12 oz. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is on sale at Target for $2, be sure you get the 12 oz. box, no larger. If Kroger is selling their Kroger brand ice cream for $1.99 you can buy the Wal-Mart (Sam’s Choice) brand for that price. You can’t pick up a Bryers for the sale price – it has to be the off-brand. When you check out, tell the clerk you have some comparison prices. For instance, you may say, “lettuce is on sale at K-Mart for .99, Tyson whole fryers are on sale at Kroger for .88 a pound, and Puffs are on sale at Walgreens for $1.” To simplify things I keep all my comparison price items together and either have them ring them up at the beginning or the end of my order.

I’ve found some of the best deals are on produce, but have also gotten good prices on my Easter ham, Kraft cheeses, dressings, sugar, and on and on the list goes. It’s well worth your time to do this. I would caution you if you get a new cashier they either take forever doing the comp prices, or they’ll get the Sunday paper and look for each price before they’ll ring it up. This can take forever if you have 10 price comparisons! If you know the cashiers, find a seasoned one!
One great blog for sharing sales and freebies for the week is: http://www.moneysavingmom.com/

Tomorrow I’ll share a few tips on how I save money by the way I cook. In the meantime, please leave any of your tips for saving money in the comment section. I’d love to hear your strategies!

The End of Suffering

Does it ever seem to you that the things you are experiencing right now are lasting “forever?” There seems no end in sight to perhaps suffering, financial struggles, relationship issues, etc. You may be asking the Lord, “When will this end?”
I read this morning in Luke 16 about Lazarus, a man who knew what it meant to suffer. Here’s what we learn about him:

· He was a beggar; he was poor and had no means to provide for himself
· He is lame and was brought with someone’s help to the gate of a rich man
· He is covered with sores
· He ate from the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table
The next thing we read about Lazarus, the beggar, is that he died and was carried to heaven by the angels. His suffering is now over. Now he is seated at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God. He is no longer a pauper; he is feasting!

There is another man mentioned in this passage, he is referred to as “the rich man.”Here is what we learn of him:

· He is clothed in purple and fine linen
· He ate sumptuously every day
· He fed his dogs to the full and overlooked the needs of this hungry beggar, Lazarus

We read that the rich man died too – this is the only thing he had in common with Lazarus. Death has no partialities; And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). However, after his death he finds himself tormenting in hell. He is not there because he was rich, there is no sin necessarily in riches. He is there because he allowed his riches to be the center of his life instead of God. In his mind he thinks about Lazarus and can see him in heaven with the saints that are there. It seems that these two men have changed places. Lazarus, who had suffered on earth, is now faring sumptuously. The rich man, who had it easy on earth, is now the beggar. His plea in his torment is that Lazarus might bring him a drop of water to cool his tongue and relieve his torment in the flames. Think of it – a man who had all he could want on earth is begging for a drop of water; that is poverty!

Now, what about this thing of suffering lasting “forever?” For one that has made this earth their heaven and has rejected Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for their sins, their suffering will begin the moment of their death and will continue for eternity. Don’t let death be the beginning of your suffering; God loves you and desires that you become His child by receiving His gift of salvation. But God commendeth (proved) His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Lazarus’s suffering ended with his entrance into heaven, and so shall ours if we know Christ as our Savior. What a glorious thought!


Easter Blessings

This Easter weekend was a blessing. I had the privilege of going to Bob Jones University to view The Living Gallery. View the Link here: http://www.bju.edu/ If you’ve never been, it’s impossible to try to describe it, but you could get a little glimpse of what I saw by viewing the web page. It was a blessing as we listened to the story and saw art depicting Christ’s death, the darkness, the earthquake, the burial by Joseph of Arimathea, and the glorious report of the empty tomb!

Then of course yesterday was the blessing of being in the Lord’s house. Trumpeters began our morning service. The choir sang, “It Was For Me He Died”and then followed that with a portion of “The Hallelujah Chorus.” As I sang the last part of the chorus that repeats that “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah,” the truth of that struck my heart and I rejoiced, choking back the tears and a happy sob! What a blessed thought! No matter what happens on this earth my God reigns forever!! The message brought was “Many Infallible Proofs” – showing in Scripture the proofs of Christ’s resurrection. The proof that struck my own heart was “changed lives.” I shutter to think what I’d be like without Christ in my life! He indeed has changed me. I can verify that He’s alive, for He lives within my heart.

Another blessing of the day was having guests in my home for Easter dinner. We sang “He lives” as we gathered around the table. Because He lives we can enjoy fellowship together. Imagine the disciples after the crucifixion. They had gathered together – a sad group – to hide and I’m sure also grieve . When Jesus appeared before them in the room it removed all their sadness! After He left I’ll bet their appetites returned! Now they could share a meal and rejoice that their Savior was alive. That’s what we were able to do with our guests.

I trust your Easter was a blessed one too. We can continue to rejoice today – even though it’s Monday, because my friend, HE IS ALIVE!

The Women that Followed

There is no day so solemn as Good Friday. No day with such mixed emotions of sorrow and gladness as this day. I love to read in Luke 23 and 24 of the crucifixion and think about the details of that day. There is one particular detail that grabs my attention. In verse 27 it says, “And there followed him a great company of people, and of women which also bewailed and lamented him.” Who were these women and why did they take the risk of following Jesus right to the cross where He was nailed to die for their sins and mine? They were of the few that lingered still near the Savior. They followed, though there was great risk.

In verse 49 we read, “And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.” The crowd has thinned even more as Jesus’ acquaintance and these women stand from a distance and watch Him suffer, ask His Father to forgive those that crucified Him, speak with the thief who believed, and then bow His head and die. They followed, though on their part there was great remonstration. I’m sure at this point they still couldn’t understand the whys to His death; yet they followed.

The next time we read about these women it is in verse 55, “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.” They followed Joseph of Arimatheaea to the place where he laid Jesus’ body. These women continue to follow, though there was great remorse. I can’t imagine them just watching without weeping and mourning His death. How they missed Him already, but they’ve come through their tears to see where He was buried so they could come back and anoint His body with spices.

Lastly, we see in chapter 10 verse 24 a group of women at the cross. “It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.” The things they told the disciples were the words, “He is risen!” They followed the Lord to the tomb, and now there is great rejoicing!

May you and I as women be willing to follow the Lord though there is risk (what will people think?), remonstration (why is this happening, Lord?) and remorse (we aren’t promised a life with no suffering), because at the day when we see Him face to face there will be great rejoicing! Let’s be counted with that group of women that clung together. They had tremendous love for their Savior that kept them faithful – may we follow their example!


Open to Change

I love being around people that love life; people that aren’t afraid of trying something new and that embrace life with a smile instead of a scowl. It’s easy as we age to become leery of change. If someone does something in a way we’ve never seen done we may tend to shy away from it because it is unfamiliar to us.

I was recently with a couple that is probably in their late 60’s. They were a joy to be around simply because of their attitude. Whatever we did was greeted with a smile and enthusiasm. When we suggested they try a hamburger place near us that is only a drive through and would require us eating in our van, the wife said, “Oh, that will be fun!” When they watched our service order at church and saw things being done a bit differently (nothing unbiblical, only different) they praised my husband for his courage to not let things get into a rut.

This couple encouraged me! Proverbs 12:25 says, Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop, but a good word maketh it glad. Their words encouraged me. We can be that kind of encouragement to those around us today. When our husband suggests doing or going somewhere with him, let’s be quick to say, “Sure!” When our children (or grandchildren)are playing a new video game or our teens are texting on their cell phone, let’s ask them to teach us how to do it! If a co-worker suggests a new way to do something you’ve been doing forever, be open to their way!

Being open to change will encourage a relationship; scowling and shaking our heads will bring distance. Let’s lift someone’s heart today by our good words – even if it requires change.