Sunday, December 29, 2013

when there's a will...

WILL.

"When there's a will there's a way."

Recently I wrote about my new found ability to exercise my will in the area of morning bible studies. The past couple of months the Lord has been teaching me a lot about exercising my will, relating to much more than my bible studies.

"If only..."
"BUT..."
"Because..."

"I can't help it."
"Oh, forget it."
"It's not MY fault."

I could go on, but I'll stop there. Please tell me that I'm not the only one who is constantly making excuses for myself. When does it end? We dig down deep into our emotional background and past experiences trying to find an answer. We listen to our feelings and desires and give them control. There are reasons galore for why we do things the way we do, but when it comes down to it, we have a choice.

I love this quote from one of my new favorite book, Unglued, by Lysa Terkeurst:

"Feelings are indicators, not dictators, child. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn't mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little guide from Jesus called self-control!"

Feelings. Do they have control over you? I've given them the control time and time again. As I was sitting down to write some resolutions for 2014, I could trace my feelings to the root of my struggle with everything on my list. How often do we loose focus on our goal because we don't FEEL like it?

The word "will" is used to express a command, according to Webster. It is a choice. Our will. It's what we command to happen.

My prayer for 2014 is that God will continue to remind me to exercise my will. That he might strengthen my ability to use my will to better myself and become more Christ-like.
But mostly... as I seek to know God more through his word, I want that word to have an effect. I want it to not only define me but change me. I want to have the will to let his word change me.




Monday, November 4, 2013

growth spurt

There is always room to grow.

That's what they say, right? I believe it. My spiritual life is the perfect example, and I'm sure your's might be too. Some of the growth happens slowly and I don't really notice it until I look back and see how far I've come. Other times it happens in an instant, and I can pin point the exact moment when I realized something new that transformed my way of thinking.

I love seeing growth. The new perspectives serve as a reminder that the Lord is ever present in my life.

Last week I had one of those instantaneous moments of revelation- one that I know I will be forever changed by. Let me share with you the story....

If you know me very well at all, then you know that I am not a morning person.

 I loath them. This is a perfect description of how I generally wake up... with the exception of going to Disney World and Christmas morning.




 So anyways. The past few years I've been trying to have regular quiet time with the Lord- time to pray and study. I was not very consistant. I'd have a few great days then I'd go weeks without picking up my bible study. When I tried doing it in the mornings my excuse was that I wasn't a morning person and had absolutely nothing to give, so I'd decided to do it in the evening or afternoon. Of course, my evenings were filled with a variety of excuse- mostly being tired after work. Then there was the battle of working and not working. When I worked I felt busy and I knew I would be better when I wasn't working. Well when I wasn't working my schedule varied too often and so I'd put it aside for my more structured schedule when I would work again. 

But Satan used something even more powerful than that to keep me from my studies. Growing up the big message to my generation was that every action done in faith needed to be genuine rather than "going through the motions". So internally I had this fear of doing my studies when I wasn't "feeling it"- such as the dreadful mornings and exhausting evenings. In my heart- I was conflicted between the act of spiritual discipline versus genuine action. Satan used that to keep me from my quiet time. If I didn't feel like doing it- then I shouldn't do it because that's not what God wants. And in the mornings- I had nothing to give. In the tired evenings- I had nothing to give. 

The past couple of months I've really been praying for guidance and strength in the area of bible study and time with God. Boy... did He ever bring it. 

I recently joined a bible study group where we are studying "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World" by Joanna Weaver. Reading chapter 7 I was completely mesmerized. 

This author sounded so much like me...

"If there was an adequate pause, I'd spend some time with the Lord. But lately, more often than not, my busy days had slipped by without a quiet time. And my life was revealing what I had missed."

"One day I'm hot: "O Lord, I love you! Be glorified in me." The next day I'm lukewarm: "Sorry, God, have to run." I have found the words of the hymnist so true: Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love." 

"What it really came down to was I only met God when I felt like it. And that, I was learning, just wasn't enough."

Then she started to help me understand where I'd gone wrong and how to change that....

"I have to be willing to make room in my life if I was to experience the Better Part" (Better Part meaning intimacy with God) 

"If you don't put the big rocks in first you'll never get them in later"

"...he's (God) not looking for buyers; he's looking to buy- you and me. He wants a people who are sold out to him. All the way. Total liquidation."

"But whatever it is- whatever keeps us from spending regular time with God- it is sin."

"... learning to abandon my emotions as a compass and start exercising my will."

"I didn't have to wait until I felt spiritual to spend time with God. I just had to make a decision of the will, and the spiritual feelings would eventually come around."

And then she gave me the most encouraging reminder....

"The Better Part is not out there somewhere. It is inside us, where Christ dwells by his Holy Spirit. Isn't that wonderful? We can't misplace the Better Part." 

I realize that this has become a long post, and to those of you who've made it to this point- THANK YOU.  I promise I'll wrap this up soon! 

She talked about the idea of letting our will take control over our emotions- which is of course very spiritual. What I realized is that if in the morning I don't feel like getting out of bed to do a bible study- using my will as my driving force behind my quiet time doesn't make my time less genuine. My will can come from my desire to serve God. I don't have to wait until I feel I'm in the right spiritual mindset to begin my quiet time. It's quite the opposite I'm learning! 

I wake up at 6AM, feeling very much like that picture above, and when I'm through with my quiet time at 7:15AM I feel completely renewed. I even did this on Sunday before church- and was so amazed at the difference I felt during church. I've only done this a few days now but I've challenged my will to do this the entire month of November. This is SO out of my ordinary- and I tell you this not to brag- but to say- LOOK AT HOW THE LORD HAS CHANGED MY PERSPECTIVE! He's grown my spiritual life to a whole new level! Praise Him! 

I don't know what's going on in your life or where you are in your walk with the Lord, but take hope my friends. The Lord will help you with your challenges and struggles when you bring them to Him. The devil is luring us everyday and we must rely on God to stand firm against his evil schemes. I'm so thankful that I decided to really lift this struggle to Him~ because He is delivering me. And He'll deliver YOU too. 









Monday, October 28, 2013

my 5 favorite things about teaching pre-k

I've been teaching Pre-K for a whopping 2 months now and honestly it's been SO much fun! I really was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I have been. When I wake up I never dread going in. (However I do dread opening my eyes and actually waking up... I'm not a morning person... that will never change!) When school is going on I'm never counting down the minutes until I can go home. I'm generally always feeling happy and positive. So I thought I'd make a list of my 5 favorite things about teaching Pre-K. Here goes....

My 5 Favorite Things About Teaching Pre-K

1. The kids always love me. It doesn't matter if they've just gotten in trouble. It doesn't matter if you didn't let them go to the center they wanted. Even if you've just made them pass along their favorite classroom toy to someone else... they will ALWAYS give you a sweet hug 5 minutes later. Oh if we could learn that skill from them...

2. Songs. Songs. Songs. We sing all day long and I love it. Every thing we do can be turned into a song. The kids don't care if I'm making up the tune as I go. They eat it up. 

3. They are excited about anything you want them to be excited about and then some. They see a cloud in the sky... "MS. KRISTIN!!!! I SEE A CLOUD IN THE SKY!!! DO YOU SEE IT????" Some people might think you need a room full of toys to keep them happy but I'm convinced we could have absolutely no toys and still have a blast. 

4. The love of books. Those kids love their books. And I love to read them their books. They are fascinated with stories and I love to read stories to them. 

5. I have kiddos to do all those fun crafts with that I see on Pinterest! I can't tell you how much fun that is! For years now I've been looking all over Pinterest and have collected many ideas for crafts... but I wasn't going to make handprint firemen on my own. I needed some kids. Now I've got them! 

I could go on and on. It's been a lot of fun! These holiday times are even more fun I think! I feel so blessed to have a job that I enjoy so much. Of course, not every moment is perfect. There are times when I have to do things I'd rather not do and there are moments when my patience is tested. Those things are going to happen with any job. 

In the end I'm just happy to spend my days with the sweet smiles of my precious 4 and 5 year olds. They are a treasure! 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

so good

I came across a post I wrote on facebook a few years ago during a time in my life when I really was struggling through an emotional battle. I think life will always continue to bring hard times- as well as times rich with good things!

The important thing to realize is that the hard times come from the enemy- not God. This post was written shortly after I truly came to believe that truth. I look at how the truth has helped me through the last few years and I am amazed. We've had some tough things going on recently- and I've felt so much stronger than ever before. I think that the conviction of this truth has shown me how to turn to God through my struggles and allow His Spirit to live in me and fight for me.

Anyways, I thought I'd share this old post. Hope you find some encouragement in it!

So Good: January 2010:

There is a misconception that I think many people often face from time to time. This is that the Godly person is happy always. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely important that Christians display the joy that comes in the Lord and joy in the blessings He bestows. But let’s face it, everyone has times when they don’t feel their best. One of my favorite bible characters is David, most likely because he was a very emotional person. We can read his psalms that display much sorrow and then on the next page see God’s name being magnified. Psalm 13 is one that I personally find very comforting:
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Thinking about the trials David faced make me very wimpy, but to see how David chooses to link those trials to evil help me learn a lesson. Verse 2 is especially important. David is saying that when he is feeling down he is letting the enemy triumph over him. Now, David’s physical enemy happened to be a gigantic army and a King, but I think this is relatable to other situations.

When we dwell on our sorrows I believe those feelings can begin to take us away from the Lord. The devil wants us to become so focused on our own sorrow that we can not focus on God’s love. See how David chooses to change his thinking in verse 5 and 6? David continues to sing to God and claim that God has been good to him because he doesn’t want the enemy to overcome him. When a Christian feels down, even if it is about something small, I think it’s important to remember to praise God and trust Him- and to not let the enemy overcome! This is not easy, but fighting temptation never is. But isn’t it encouraging to know that fighting negative emotions is something that is faced by lots of Godly people? We can rest assured that the Lord understands our pains that we face and that they do not come from Him. Because the Lord has been and is and will be good to us. 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

life is just interesting

Life is just interesting.

All types of twists and turns.
Some of them easy. Some of them hard.

Sometimes you find yourself in an oasis~ a little pool of cool water near a waterfall. Those times are full of fun, laughter, and play. We find joy.

Sometimes you find yourself on a path that's not clearly marked. There are high brushes to walk through, stickers that get stuck to your shoes, but mostly you just have no clue where you are going and everything just seems hard. More than anything you just want to find a clear spot- no matter how small- so that you might at least have a moment of relief. Those times are full of frustration.

Sometimes you find yourself on a clear path, but it's got a lot of obstacles in the way. Injury, loss, rivers and hills... a storm. Sometimes there are ways to go around the obstacles but many times you just have to go through them no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it is. Those times are full of hardship.

Some times you find yourself in the dark... unable to see what lurks beyond the small circle of light that's in your presence.  You can hear noises but can't see where they come from leaving your imagination to roam free. Those are the times that bring fear or worry.

But here comes my favorite part....

Though it's dark every night- the sun always shines in the morning. Offering hope.

Though there are often many obstacles and sometimes suffering- we'll always learn something as we face them. Offering revelation and wisdom.

Though our path isn't always clear- we often find unexpected pleasures- or place of relief. Offering revival and strength.

Sure, it would be lovely is our whole life could be in an oasis, with no confusion, obstacles, suffering or worry. But God didn't design our life to work that way. He created us to experience it all. It might seem like joy can only be found in the oasis times of life- those are the easiest!

But we find joy in hope. We find joy when the light does come and we see how God brought us through it and met our needs. We find joy in wisdom- joy in understanding that's God's perfect will and plan for our life is so great that we can't even comprehend it- joy in the wisdom of who God is. And we find joy in the strength we receive from Christ. Joy in knowing that because the spirit of Christ Jesus lives inside of us- we have HIS power running through us and we can get through anything that may come.

Life is full of twists and turns.
Some of the easy. Some of them hard.

BUT if Christ is your savior than joy can abound in all of those twists and turns!

Yes, life is interesting.

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." ~ Acts 2: 38

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16







Saturday, September 14, 2013

the obsession floating on pinterest

I'm not ashamed to say that I spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest. You know... the sight full of recipes I'll never make, pictures of the dream kitchen I'll never have, DIY crafts that I'll never do, inspiring words I can't get enough of. I honestly can't get enough of Pinterest.

With this obsession with Pinterest I have to watch myself. It's so easy to get caught up in feeling like I have to make everything from scratch, craft away, decorate beautifully, dress perfectly,  exercise constantly, and just in general... be perfect.

But I'm beginning to notice another warning zone on this ever so popular social media site. The quarter dressed women. (I say quarter dressed because they are QUITE less than half dressed.)

As I scroll down the page I continually see pictures of women in their undies and bras and bikinis~ and gals are pinning these pictures linked to weight loss and fitness articles to their "Inspiration" boards. The idea behind it is~ look at how wonderful her body is... I can get there too if I keep trying hard. Or it might be in reference to the weight someone has lost. Either way these girls are dressed in next to nothing and I have to be honest- I don't want to see it.

Something I find interesting is that I can't imagine some of these women I know posting such pictures on their facebook pages. For some reason, because Pinterest has mostly women reading it, that makes it OK. This brings us to another topic. Is it OK to wear  revealing clothing when we are only around girls? I have to say, "no".

"... whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31

This includes dressing ourselves. When women dress immodestly they are dressing to glorify their body. Even (or I would venture to say especially) around other women. Why does another women need to see your perfectly flat stomach or your plump bosom? So that she might think you have a great bod? So she might think, "Oh wow! That girl is in shape!".  That doesn't glorify God. Being obsessed with our body doesn't glorify God. I'm not talking about the desire to be healthy and feel better- that is important. God wants us to treat our bodies as a temple, nurturing it and taking care of it. But this obsession we can have with our bodies, is, I fear, from the enemy. To God be the glory- not our bodies.

Now, back to the Pinterest pictures. Posting all of these pictures feeds into our obsession with our bodies and our visual appearance. It can have a huge impact on our personal security. I'm reminded of something Beth Moore wrote in her book, "So Long Insecurity".


"My generation is the first in all of history to grow up in a media driven society. What we’re dealing with is unprecedented; we cannot look to the generations before us to see how to handle it. We are drowning in uncharted waters, and it’s time we learned to swim. Most of our great-great-grandmothers had access to compare themselves to a few hundred women in a lifetime. We can now throw ourselves up against tens of thousands if we’re willing… We’d better step it up if we want to compete, and if we don’t, we might as well have the word loser inked on our foreheads.
In a telling article in Psychology Today, studies show that “women who are surrounded by other attractive women, whether in the flesh, in films, or in photographs, rate themselves as less satisfied with their attractiveness – and less desirable as a marriage partner.” Since the mark of real security is the ability to be around anyone, regardless of how attractive or intelligent, and still maintain personal confidence and contentment, that study says a lot about our need for a change. The primary point for now, however, is that we no longer feel inferior to ten other women the way our great-grandmothers might have. We feel inferior to thousands, and as a result, we become less and less satisfied with ourselves until much of our lives are lived on the slippery slope of self-loathing. We honestly talk ourselves into believing that media princesses, whether on the page or the stage, are the norm and that we are the pathetic few in the entire universe who can’t keep up. We hang these near-perfect images like an enormous collage on the walls of our brains, making common experiences like acne, extra pounds, a flat chest, or large nose twice the benefactor of insecurity that they once were."

When we post picture after picture of women with bodies that we personally desire or admire we are adding to the images in our head telling us that we are not good enough. We are also putting this picture on display for our sisters to see- putting the image into their minds too. Also, when we dress to show off our bodies in ways that are not modest we are adding to those images. 

We should definitely feel accomplished when we loose that weight we've been wanting to loose or meet a new fitness goal. But there are ways to share these accomplishments in modesty. We can see many weight loss transformations when we wear our normal clothes. And it's not necessary to see your washboard abs to know you've gotten healthier. It's amazing how modesty goes out the window when we are talking about fitness! 

Now, it's easy for me to say this all.  I've got plenty of pounds to shed and I certainly am in no position to be wearing indecent clothing. But even if I was, I wouldn't want to! God calls me to bring HIM glory- not myself. And my relationship with God is much more important than my pride. And I don't want to fill my mind with images of other women's bodies either.

 It's time we stop obsessing with the "perfect" body and realize that we are made perfect and beautiful only through Christ. It's time we stop feeding our and our sister's insecurities and focus on being secure in our relationship with Christ. 

Yes- focus on making healthy improvements in your life if you need them. Do it for the right reasons though. Don't do it for your own personal pride. Our pride is in Christ- and Christ is perfect. Christ has made us perfect too. 

And please please stop posting at and looking at pictures of quarter dressed women! 











Tuesday, July 30, 2013

summer low down

So a lot has happened recently. Here is the low down on our summer:

- I went to JourneyLand Camp with our 3rd-6th graders. ~ It was fun. It was also very hot. But really, I was really happy to get to know some of the kids more. Knowing the children of my church is one of the ways that makes church feel like home to me. It's nice to have a kid wave hello to me on Sunday mornings. And I love being able to wave hello to them back! :)

- I've got to hold my friends' babies! Amanda had Genevieve and Kayla had Juliana! So happy that I get to see both of my good friends from time to time and that I get to hold and see their precious daughters.

- Blake's sister got married. We went to Bartlesville and saw a bunch of Blake's family whom we hadn't seen in years. Always fun to have a reunion over a joyful event. Nick and Heather are now happily living in Tennessee and they are being their smart medical selves!

- Blake's been working and learning all about this new industry he is in. Definitely different from AFB stuff!

- I've been working too! I got to work as the children's ministry intern for 4 weeks at church. It kept me busy and it's been so much fun! VBS was awesome!

- Family. Family. Family. We are spending lots of time with my family. And it's fun! I'm so thankful to get to see them more that a couple times a year.

- I went to Camp Bandina. And wow did it make me feel old for SO many reasons. About a million things have changes since I last was there in 2008. But the important thing was that the kids had an awesome time. And once again... I got to interact more with some of the kids from church. Always a good thing.

- My friend Yamileth came home from China!!! She has been teaching English there for the past 2 years and I have not seen here for over 3 years!!! She is in the US for good now and it's been amazing catching up with her... though there is still so much more to do!

-And lastly, I got a job!! Very excited to be the new PreK teacher at my church's Friendship School. It's 3 days a week and just perfect. I'm doing some professional development training this week and I'm starting to get excited. It's definitely a new type of  job for me, but I have a gut feeling that I'm going to LOVE it! I'm already brushing up on my Raffi songs!

So far this summer has been wonderful and full of the Lord's blessings. It's had is moments of uncertainty and stress- but the Lord has helped me every step of the way. I'm working really hard to do the Lord's will. And I think HE knows that, and because of that desire I have... he is clearly making his presence known in my life.

And I'm telling you... that is THE best part of being a follower of Christ. It's that feeling that He is always there. No matter what happens... you know it'll be OK... because you know you'll be able to find Christ in your life always.

I hope your summer is going fabulous and is rich with blessing just as mine is. Even if it isn't... don't give up God... don't wonder where He's hiding. Look for Him.... He never leaves us. Trust He is there and you'll be able to find Him!

Wishing you many many blessings~
K. Marie

Monday, July 1, 2013

letting Him put the pieces together

I'm one week and one day into my short term job at Memorial... and I'm loving every second of it. I love being in the church office and the conversation that takes place between all of the staff. I love that the stuff we are talking about is considered work... because it's the stuff that I love to talk about! Love ordering supplies and shopping and making phone calls. Love planning. Love thinking about the Lord within my tasks. I'm in my element. 

And I'm SO thankful for the opportunity to be in my element again, even if it is for a short few weeks. 

The other day I was going through one of my older prayer journals and came across this particular entry from Friday, May 16, 2008:

"...Also Lord, please let me get an internship at Blueberry Lane Church of Christ next summer. If that's where you want me. I would love to get to work there with "my friend". If you could just put your power into making that happen... please." 

OK the church was not called Blueberry Lane and I actually did write the name of my friend instead of "my friend"...  but those details do not matter. 

What matters is that I did NOT get that job I asked the Lord for. In fact.... before I could really even be interested in it, the job was filled. And I couldn't understand. I couldn't understand why if something seemed so right.... that it wouldn't work out. Especially since it involved serving the Lord! 

Because I didn't get that job... I suddenly became available for other opportunities and by that next January I was offered a summer internship with Memorial COC in Houston. 

Which... hey... isn't that where I go now? Where I temporarily work now??! 

I had an amazing summer with Memorial that year and I was living at home planning my wedding at the same time. Funny how things end up working out huh? And the thing is... because of my internship at Memorial a few years ago, Blake and I had some good connections there and were able to feel at home there when we moved to Houston a couple of months ago. 

I could not possibly feel more led to Memorial than I do right now. And I just feel SO thankful to the Lord for working things out like he has. 

So as I bite my nails in anticipation for what lies ahead after my 4 weeks of work are up, I can reflect on that journal entry. I can reflect on God's awesome presence in my life and know that He has always been there for me and always will be. Even when I can't put the pieces together... God can. 

And He is. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  ~ Romans 8:28

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Latest Opportunity

I'm going to get a little personal in this post and talk about something that I don't usually talk about.

Jobs.

My job in particular. Or my lack-there-of.

As you probably know, I studied Children's Ministry in college. I absolutely loved it. It was such an interesting subject to study. After years and years of really struggling in school I finally found an area where I wasn't always the worst in the class. It was like I finally found and accepted my area of success.

As a college student I found the love of my life. My amazing husband. The one, who through all of our differences has helped me grow and develop in ways I might never have otherwise done. One who helped me to come down out of my narcissistic phase and realize that my way is not the only way. (Even when my way clearly seems more sensible to me!) He is ever so important to me and we faced the task that many couples who get married young and in college have to face- forming our ideals for life together. You see unlike young professionals who get married, where they already have a job and a "real life"... we had to work to mesh those things together. And quite honestly it's been pretty difficult.

How do I go after that children's ministry job in the small town in Texas when my husband needs a job in the city? Or how do I even go into a children's ministry job when my husband and I haven't had the opportunity to go to church together and grow spiritually. And then of course, there is the voice of the Lord- who we must all be listening for. These are huge factors for me.

Over the past few years I've had several opportunities but none of them were right due to factors that I listed above... and sometimes more that haven't been mentioned. It's not always easy to pass those things up. Not when I have a yearn in my heart to not only use my degree but to serve families in the church with the skills I've been working on. But those factors that I listed are so important to me. So important. I'm very thankful that Blake and I have been able to focus more on our spiritual life together and have had a phase of life where we could be in class and worship together.

God led us to Houston and I thought I knew why but I turned out to be very wrong. There were still good things in store though. He led us to a wonderful congregation that is already helping us both to grow in so many ways. But now... He has given me such a blessing of an opportunity.

Their children's ministry intern for the summer has taken an opportunity to serve a church in Brazil for the remainder of her summer which leaves behind a few weeks of intern pay in the budget. And now I have an opportunity to serve the congregation for 4 weeks as they get prepared for VBS.

My heart swells with joy about this opportuinty. Though it is only a short 4 weeks... I am so thankful. Thankful for the 4 weeks I will have to completely immerse myself in ministry work once again. And when it is all over I'm sure I will be a little sad, but the joy I receive from the sheer opportunity of it all will give me the gladness I need to make it through to the next thing the Lord has in store for me. Whatever it might be.

Praise be to God for his wonderful hand! His hand that guides me and comforts me throughout my life. My God is awesome and I love Him! And most importantly I'm so grateful for his everlasting presence in my life.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Life Without Cable

We've been without cable for about 8 months. We've gone on and off of cable before, but this is definitely the longest either of us has gone without cable in the last 10 years.

I'll never forget how cool it seemed when we got cable when I was a middle schooler. I was fascinated with "Clean Sweep", "Trading Spaces", "While You Were Out", and the Disney Channel. Also the Weather Channel! And the Food Channel! It was awesome. On a sick day, my time would consist of the TLC wonders...

"A Make Over Story"
"A Dating Story"
"A Wedding Story"
"A Baby Story"

Oh, it was so intriguing. And truth be told, a lot of TV shows are still intriguing to me! I definitely have my shows that I miss.

TLC:
The Duggers
The Little Couple

HGTV:
House Hunters
House Hunters International
Property Virgins

The Food Network:
The Pioneer Woman
Giada
The BareFoot Contessa
Paula Deen
Bobby Flay
The Big Food Truck Race
And an array of other cooking "teaching style" shows

Life Time:
Army Wives (Which thankfully I can watch online.)
Cheesy but addicting movies!

And of course.... I miss DVR!!!

Most of these shows are going on all of the time. And I liked to watch them all of the time. Nothing was more relaxing to me than a Saturday morning filled with my favorite Food Network cooking shows! And I still have my days where I really miss these shows.

But here is what has happened in the last 8 months that would not have happened had we still been cable subscribers:

- Blake and I have had to compromise to find shows on Netflix that we both will watch together.
- Blake and I have invested in a bunch of new games and we play them nearly every evening.
- I've taken up cross stitching again, which keeps me entertained when Blake is watching a game, where as before I'd go into the other room to watch my own show. Now we stay in the room together.
- I've enjoyed a few more books that have inspired me to live a better life.
- My Saturdays tend to be a little bit more productive- though not always much!
- We go to bed earlier and get 8-9 hours of sleep most nights.

And the biggest advantage.... we save over $80 a month. (Giving up DVR and cable.)

We are both sacrificing. I'm sacrificing my little shows I like, and Blake is sacrificing most of his sports games and talk shows that he likes. But we are spending a whole lot more time together than we did when we had cable. We do invest in Netflix Instant Play and Amazon Prime Instant Play but TV doesn't take up as much of our time as it used to. Some nights we don't even watch TV!

I don't say all of this to say I think everyone should do it, but I do strongly feel like it was one of the best decisions we've made. We were looking for ways to save money and that was an easy way that has really payed off by opening up time for us to develop new interests together.

I say all of this to say.... it is possible to get by without cable! We get so comfortable with certain luxuries that they become essentials to us. But they don't have to be! It's amazing how our perspectives can change!

Anyways, if you have cable or not... be sure to shut off the TV now and then. It's good for you! Have one night a week that you don't turn it on! See what new habits start to form! I dare you! :-)



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Easy All-Natural Strawberry Jam




Strawberries are everywhere right now... cheap and delicious. I've been making this succulent strawberry jam on a weekly basis since moving to Houston. I thought it would be fun to share the recipe I use with anyone interested. It would be a super fun activity to do with the kids in your life! I bet they would love to decorate some labels for the jars too!

I'm particularly in love with this recipe because of it's simplicity. It doesn't call for artificial pectin, but instead uses the natural pectin found in apples to jell the fruit. I think the apple adds a yummy twist to the jam as well.

Also, it uses a very basic method of "processing" the jars which means you don't need to invest in a large canner or many other canning supplies to make this recipe. This recipe comes from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, so I trust it to be safe. (Note: It is not safe to make changes to canning recipes. Professionals out there test them to make sure they are safe. Always use canning recipes from a trusted source.)


Here are the only "tools" you'll need to make this jam: 
- Kitchen Scale- Weighing ingredients will ensure the success of yours jam.
- Grater 
- 4-5 half-pint canning jars with self-sealing lids that have never been used and metal bands 
 * Make sure to use clean jars. Hand wash them in warm soapy water, or run them through the dish- washer. Do not put lids in the dish-washer. 
- Canning Jar Funnel- This is optional, but makes the job much easier. Find them at Wal-Mart. 


Ingredients: 
two pounds of strawberries 
Weigh berries after they have been washed, hulled, and sliced. 
one and one half  pound of sugar 
1 green apple - Skin and Flesh grated, but no core
One forth cup fresh lemon juice -  free of seeds


Let your kids help you prepare your ingredients! They can pull the leafy parts off the berries and slice them with butter knifes. Let them help you measure. Teach them about cooking, math, and opposite flavors! (Strawberries are sweet, green apples are sour) 
Let them be amazed as they watch the mixture transform! 


Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive 5 qt. heavy bottom sauce pan or pot. 
(I like to use my dutch oven.) Use a wooden spoon as you go on with your jam.
    


Bring it to a heavy boil over medium heat. (A simmer doesn't count!) Stir often and remove pink foam that rises to the top. It takes about 25 minutes for mine to get to a heavy boil. Depends on how fast your stove it! 

    


        


This is a nice heavy boil. It's what your looking for! Listen as the bubbles change from boiling bubbles to plopping bubbles. Let it boil for about 15 minutes. It smells so wonderful! Embrace the strawberry sauna and stir constantly


This is looking wonderful. The color is dark and rich and the jam is very thick. 


Test your jam on a chilled plate. If juices run from the jam when the plate is tilted, as shown below... then you need to wait another 5 minutes to test it. 


This is how your jam should be. It will go down when tilted, but it all stays together. It's ready now! 


Ladle the jam into the jars one at a time, leaving about a half inch of space. As soon as you get the jam in the jar, wipe the rim with a damp cloth if needed, top it with the lid, and screw on the band. Turn the jar upside down. The scalding hot jam will seal the lid. 
Repeat until your jars are full. 


 Let your jars sit upside down until they are completely cool. Then turn the jars right side up and press each lid in the middle. If the lid stays depressed (firm and doesn't pop when pressed), then you successfully made a jar of jam! If your lid does pop when pressed, then you need to store it in the fridge and use within two weeks. (This method has never failed me yet.) 

Keep your sealed jars in a dark cook place for up to one year! 


This jam is good for so many things, but my favorite way to eat it is 
on a warm, fresh biscuit! 



From start to finish, it takes me about an hour and a half to make this jam. It's simple and fun, and a great way to use those delicious strawberries we see at the grocery store!
 Enjoy it some time, I think you're gonna love it! 

*Recipe from Maria Helm Sinskey 
Williams-Sonoma Family Meals 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Simple and Comforting Ghoulash

I haven't done a post like this in a while and it's partly because there are so many people out there doing posts such as these and they put a lot more time into it and produce a much better product. But it's just fun... and today as I was cooking I thought to myself, "Why not?!" So anyways... I hope you enjoy!!


It's not very fancy or frilly, but I love ground beef. (Good quality beef I should add... have you seen how some of that stuff is produced?! Watch "Food INC" on Netflix!)  It's so economically friendly and let's face it... it can make a pretty cozy meal. A lot of times 1 pound of ground beef doesn't go very far. Let me re-phrase that. If you like to have a good portion of meat, it seems that 1 pound of ground beef doesn't go very far. Somehow this dish defies all odds and it magically turns into the massive meal that is so incredibly meaty. I don't get it. All I know... is that when we are a few days away from the next pay check and I'm trying to stick to the budget, this is what I turn to. American Ghoulash. 


Here are the basics: 1 lb good quality ground beef, half pound of elbow noodles, onion, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, parmesan, and red chili flakes (optional)




First get a large pot of boiling water. Add the salt and noodles. Cook al dente because nobody likes soggy noodles! It should only take about 5 minutes. (Be sure to salt the water, because this is how this dish gets it's flavor!) 



Meanwhile, chop up your onion and a couple cloves of garlic. Try not to cry. 



Oh, look! The pasta is cooked! Drain and reserve some of the pasta water. (About one third cup.)



Brown the meat and onion in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. I add salt and pepper to the meat, but that's optional. Sometimes I'm lazy and I don't.  It's important to wait until the pan is hot before adding the meat, other wise the meat doesn't brown good and it'll be gray. You can also brush some olive oil on the bottom of the pan to add some flavor and help it brown well.



Now... don't go waisting a colander. Angle the pan so all the juice runs to one side and dab it up with a couple of paper towels. So much easier that way. 
You could just leave it in there too... that never hurt anyone. 



Add the garlic and tomato paste. It's important when using tomato paste to add it before your liquids. When you stir it around in the hot pan, you release the flavors a lot better. So mix it all up and wait for it to be really fragrant. 



In come the diced tomatoes. 



 And some red chili flakes. I add just shy of a tablespoon because we really like the heat. But you certainly don't have to put it in there if you don't like spice. Or you could put less. Or more if you really want to clear your sinuses. If the onion didn't do it earlier. 



I really LOVE Bragg Organic Sprinkle 24 Herbs and Spices Seasoning. I like to put some of this in when I've got it. Or sometimes I add rosemary. The beauty of this recipe is that you really don't need any of it. But if you want to... go for it... it'll be good! 



At this point it's almost done. I usually just let it simmer as I fix whatever sides we are having. But sometimes we don't have sides. And then I just move on. 



OK. Sides are done. Add the noodles and reserved pasta water. Stir it around. Be amazed at how much food it is for one pound of meat. 



Add some parmesan. Shredded or grated it doesn't matter. Stir it all in. 



Heaven is what this is. 

 

Serve it up with something green and some bread. 

There is just two of us so we never ever finish a loaf of sandwich bread. I usually brush olive oil on leftover sandwich bread and sprinkle it with seasonings and parm cheese and toast it at 400 degrees for 10- 15 min. 

One of our favorite ways to eat this is as leftovers. We put it in a big bowl... top with cheddar cheese.... on the couch... with a good movie. We seriously get like 4 huge meals out of this. This is what we had leftover... it filled a 2.5 qt corning ware dish. 
(And I should add that we were starving because we didn't have lunch today.)


It's so delicious. So easy. So affordable. I always keep the ingredients on hand for a quick solution to being at the end of the grocery budget or being short on time. I've made this in 15 minutes many times.  And it's one of Blake's favorite meals, so that's a huge comfort to know I can make something so simple and please him. 

Make it sometime. I think you're gonna love it. 

Ghoulash

Half pound of elbow noodles
Drizzle of Olive Oil (optional) 
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1, 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tsp red chili flakes (I use a tablespoon)
3 TB Parmesan Cheese

1. Cook pasta according to directions, reserving about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. 

2. Heat a large pot or dutch oven and add oil if using. Brown beef and onion together. (Add Salt and Pepper to taste.) Dab fat out with paper towels if desired. 

3. Add tomato paste and garlic. Stir around until well mixed and fragrant. 

4. Add chili flakes and any other spices you wish. 

5. Add noodles and cheese and mix well. 

Serve with something green and crusty bread or toast. Or serve as a one dish meal in a big bowl and hearty appetite. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

What's next?

I suppose it was last fall when my dear friend Doris introduced me to Karen Kingsbury's Redemption Series. I'm not exactly an avid reader so it took me some time to actually get started, but once I did I had those 5 books read within no time. (I've yet to start the next part of that series! But I WILL read them!)

Anyways, there is pretty common verse shared throughout those books.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

If you've read the Redemption Series then you were thinking about that verse in your sleep when you were reading those books, because I'm pretty sure it's on every other page! But I love it. I loved reading about the whispers from God to the sweet Baxter family.

I've said this many times, but this is such an interesting time of life. All parts of life are interesting, of course, but this phase just feels so new. When you're in those first fews years after college, and you're watching how life if turning out for you and your friends. There are people who changed paths completely, others faced some bumps in the road that caused things to be pushed back, some are exactly where you'd always expected them to be. (Most) Everyone has grown and matured and have a different air to them than when you first met them.

The thing that I think almost all of us are facing is, "What's next?" Some have a career but have yet to find a soul to spend the rest of their life with. Some have found that soul but have yet to find a career that fills them with joy. (That would be ME!) Some have found neither. Some might be thinking about where they want to move, who and when they want to marry, when they want to buy a house, when they want to have kids, where they want to travel before they do any of that.

If these people I know are anything like me... they think, "What am I going to accomplish?"

Amidst all of these questions I find it so comforting when (thanks to the Baxter family) my mind is often silenced with the words of Jeremiah 29:11. I know I've blogged about this verse at other times, but it's just been such a comfort to me, as it's been for many others.

So we're here in Houston. Blake's got going on his new job, things are all unpacked, and it feels like home. What's next?

I've got no clue.  And that's OK, because someone has that all figured out for me. And that someone has plans that can only be good.

Wishing you many blessings ~

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our God is alive!


I've had a feeling for a while now that Yukon, Oklahoma wouldn't be home for long. We love our family that's here and our jobs were such a blessing, but we really did have a strong desire to move on.

It is so trivial, but it really was a struggle for me. I depend on stability- without it I feel stressed and irritable. Because we were not "settling down", I really felt unstable. I didn't know enough about my future to feel secure.

I wondered if it would ever happen... if God would ever pave a path for us to move on. And if he was going to pave a path... where would it lead to... and when would it happen??? My "5 year plan" from high school graduation had run out.. and so far the plan hadn't even played out according to plan! Where was my life headed? (Oh, the mid-20's crises!)

I'm not sure if you've ever seen the movie THE KID. It is seriously one of the sweetest movies ever created. And I kept picturing the scene where little Bruce Willis meets up with big Bruce Willis and can't believe that he doesn't fly jets, isn't married, and doesn't have a dog! In his eyes- he becomes a big loser!

We gets these goals in our mind and when none of it happens we wonder where God is and why he isn't helping us accomplish these things! I'd set out to do some pretty good things! Why wasn't God letting me do them!?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
~ Jeremiah 29:11

My favorite part of this verse is "plans I have for you". It tells me that God has plans for me. I don't need to make a 5 year plan for my life, because God's got my life time plan already figured out! 

So without a plan, what can I do?

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" 
~ Psalm 34:8

I can focus on God and embrace His presence. He is constantly there. His will for me is good. If I focus on Him he WILL guide me along his "pre-paved" path. 

If you've talked to me much, you've heard me tell of the awesome way God led us to Houston! If you haven't heard about it, I would love to share it with you sometime! 

God is ALIVE and dwelling in us! As you approach this Easter weekend, reflect on his presence in your life. And remember, not for a moment will he forsake us. 

Click here to listen to an encouraging song I picked out. ~ Kristin




Saturday, February 23, 2013

the gift of hope

I'm generally not a very skeptical person. I quickly and easily trust people. It only takes a tiny thought to get me completely enthusiastic. And I typically jump to good conclusions and hope for the best with all of my heart.

Is this immature? Maybe.

I just love the feeling of hope.

Now, like everyone else on this earth, I have days where I'm not feeling the hope. I have LOTS of days when I might feel down and negative... but I just love it when I listen to the Spirit and receive hope.

I love it when God brings about opportunities to have hope. Not just in my eternal life, but for my life on earth. (Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I want to place my hope in my life on earth, no no no... that's not good. But I mean in having hope that God will bless on earth.)

Anyways... even though the things we feel hope for don't always happen... there is so much joy that comes along with hope... I feel like just the gift of a little hope is such a blessing.

I think of the movie "Life is Beautiful"... the one with the little Jewish boy and his father who go off to the death camp. The father does everything he can to give his son hope. Up to his very death march... he gives his son hope. Hope that the whole awful experience is just a game they are playing to win a war tank. Hope that everything is OK. Hope, so that he didn't have to live in fear. Hear is a clip from the movie...

 Clip from Life Is Beautiful



I'd much rather have innocent hope than live in fear and anxiety for my future.

Hope is a blessing from the Lord! It is a means of making life more bearable. A way of finding joy! A way of embracing His presence.

The next time you feel anxious, listen for the whispers of hope from the Spirit. Let Him turn your day around!

Here is a sweet song I'm reminded of as I reflect on hope! If you've got some time... enjoy it for a moment! "Hold Me" ~ Jamie Grace


Monday, February 11, 2013

to the end of the age

I've been asked on several occasions in life to share my testimony, be it for a job or for a class, and I always find this a difficult thing to do. For starters, it's always changing! As I move on in life I look back and realize the impact that certain events had on my faith. Also... I want my testimony to have a clean cut happy ending, but my life isn't over yet! God is still adding to my testimony!

One of my favorite scriptures came to mind tonight- The Great Commission. And I absolutely love the wording from The Voice:

"Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age." 

      ~ Matthew 28:19-20

This passage, essentially speaks my testimony. I was discipled by my parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, and other leaders at my home congregation. I confessed Christ was Lord and that he died for me, and I wanted an eternal life with him. I knew that without Christ, I'd be bound to sin... so I repented with assurance that His grace had been and would continue to be shown to me. I was baptized on a hot Oklahoma evening in a swimming pool by one of my most respected elders, surrounded by singing peers. I've had a lot to learn about how to follow the Lord. I'm still learning. But the wonderful truth (and ending to my story) is this: God will be with me always... day after day.

I was baptized young, just going into the 6th grade. I hadn't messed up much, hadn't turned into an awful teenager just yet. But I still had a desire to serve the Lord and live for Him. Looking back, I feel like God has helped me through so much. I've been learning the whole time. Growing the whole time. Learning how to accept Christ and truly allowing Him to dwell in your heart isn't an easy task. It takes a lot of growing pains!

I've learned (and not just head knowledge learned... but truly been convicted) that hardship doesn't mean God is far. He is near through the good and the bad. I don't ever want to go back to the past. I want to only go forward, growing closer to the Lord with each passing year.

I love Matt Redmond's song, "You Never Let Go". God is with us- and he isn't letting go of us! He loves us! Someday, our life will have no problems and we will praise our Father in Heaven. But until then, we still will praise Him because He has bestowed His grace on us and offered us salvation- and that salvation means He will NEVER let go of us! It all starts on the day you allow Him to embrace you and it continues day after day.

If you've got some more internet browsing to do, listen to this song! You all know it, but take a moment to bask in the wonderful news that God will never let go of us! It'll make your day a little more hopeful!

Click here to listen to Never Let Go!





Monday, January 28, 2013

"who can laugh at the days to come"

It is with great joy that I write tonight! There is something about Monday night bible study that fires me up with the passion to write about everything that's been on my heart that past week. In this case, the last few weeks.


I've been thinking about the "Proverbs 31 Wife" ~ "She can laugh at the days to come." (vs. 25)


Girls, that has NOT been me. I want to get real with you and tell you that anxiety has been ALIVE and PRESENT in my life. It's been such a huge part of me recently, that it's caused me to wallow, complain, cry, get angry, get lazy, spend money.... everything. If anything is a threat to a joyful Christian spirit, it's anxiety. 

A sweet Sister-in-Christ said something very eye-opening to me. "There is pain when you choose to think about a problem, but there is also pain when you try to let it go."

So I began to think about that. Why is there pain when you try to let something go? How come I can't just put it aside and be happy? (If you are a black and white person like my husband, you might not understand what I'm talking about. You either choose to be happy or choose to be sad.... right? Well I'm sincerely happy that it's easy for you! For those of us who can only see gray... this can be a huge battle!)

Here is what I read: "Give up the illusion that you deserve a problem-free life. Part of you is still hungering for the resolution of all difficulties. This is a false hope!... Link your hope not to problem solving in this life but to the promise of an eternity of problem-free life in Heaven."
~ Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Hmm... maybe the pain comes from putting our hope in solutions. We want to fix everything, you know? Maybe we're putting our hope in the American spirit that inspires us to chase our dreams and pursue a better life. Maybe we're putting our hope in being able to help a loved one. Maybe we are putting our hope in our abilities to fight and stay strong through a battle.

Jesus said in John 16:33: "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Another reading in Jesus Calling said this: "Trust is a golden pathway to Heaven. When you walk on this path, you live above your circumstances."

Trust the Lord. OK? I've heard that all my life. We need to trust in God... He will take care of us. Sisters, those words can be SO powerful, if we can just find it in us to really do what we are saying.

Beth Moore says that thanks is not the same thing as trust. Sometimes after something amazing happens we go to God out of gratitude and say that we trust Him, or feel that we trust Him. But that is NOT the same thing as trusting God before the work happens... or when the work doesn't happen.

Isaiah 30: 18 reads: Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him." 

Putting our hope in God means to trust God. To trust God means to wait for Him.

God has promised us that this world will be full of troubles, but when we learn to depend on Him and not solutions, we can see that God offers us peace through the storms. Peace doesn't come from our problems being solved. Peace doesn't come through miracles. Peace comes from trusting in Him all along- through waiting on Him. Trusting that His will and His timing are perfect. Even when things don't turn out as we hope, even when things seem awful- we must let the hope of Heaven give us strength. Trusting that life in Heaven will be problem-free regardless of what we face on earth. 

I want to leave you with one of my favorite songs. We sang it on Sunday and the words couldn't have come to me at a better time. The big line is, "My hope is in you Lord all the day long. I won't be shaken by drought or storm. The peace the passes understanding is my song, and I sing, I trust in you alone."

Even if you know the song and have heard it 100 times, watch the music video. It's such an inspiring story. It really captures the idea of putting our trust in eternity, where life will be perfect... because life on earth is everything but.
My Hope is in You by Aaron Shust VIDEO


I hope with all of my heart that this encourages you. Take a leap of hope my friends! Let's be that "Proverbs 31 Lady" who can laugh at the days to come!

~ Wishing you many many blessings ~
K. Marie