The Wrong Battle

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We are in a battle, folks. The biggest battle of our lives, and most of the time we have no clue. We don’t see. We don’t see the demons. We don’t see the clever tactics of the evil one. We don’t see the spiritual reality of what is actually happening. And because we can’t physically see, we miss so much.

Who me? Fighting? I’m no soldier.

This is what we can tend to slide into. Naivety. Apathy. Plain ‘ol cluelessness. All we see is humans — flesh and blood, and we forget we are fighting against principalities and powers.

And the battle rages on with few soldiers to fight effectively.

Instead of fighting the enemy, we fight each other. Who ever heard of an army where the soldiers turned around and started shooting each other instead of their enemy? We would think they were ridiculous; completely out of their mind. You don’t kill your fellow soldiers, or your mission is pointless. There must be unity within the ranks, with the same goal in the minds and hearts of the soldiers. Without this unity, they are ineffective when it comes to slaying the enemy.

This is so often the case in our churches. We must have the same goal & purpose in our minds and hearts, or we will not be truly unified. We will turn out to be soldiers fighting each other.

It makes me sad to see us mistreating each other. Instead of building up and encouraging, there are slandering words and so much betrayal. We should be pulling each other up when we fall. We should be working together to minister in our communities and helping the other person who is overwhelmed with life and using our words to pray fervently for each other.

What would it look like if we got together to strategize and learn how to more effectively witness to neighbors, rather than talk about our brother’s faults? What would it look like if we spent less time judging each other’s actions and more time exploring the heart & motives of our brother/sister? What would happen if the church would function in its greatest potential, with everyone working together and giving their specific talents and abilities for the sake of the Kingdom?

This world would be a different place.

Oh, I know there would still be sin and evil and fallen man. But just think of how much less time we’d waste if we’d stop fighting each other and start fighting the real enemy.

Change starts in my heart. It starts in yours.

Which battle are you fighting?

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Tangy Cranberry Breakfast Cake

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This is one of my favorite holiday breakfast cakes. I make myself wait ’til December to make it, just so it’s more special. :)

Tangy Cranberry Breakfast Cake

2 c. flour
1 1/3 c. sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, divided
3/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 c. cranberries, coarsely chopped
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

Topping: 6 T. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. butter

 Combine flour, one cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; mix well and set aside. Combine one egg, orange juice, butter and one teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl; mix well and stir into flour mixture. Fold in cranberries. Pour into a greased 9″ round springform pan and set aside.

Beat together cream cheese and remaining 1/3 c. sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Add remaining egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla; mix well. Spread over batter. Sprinkle with topping. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake at 350* for 1 1/4 hours or until golden. Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing sides of pan.

Serves 12.

The topping was a fail last time I made it, so I drizzled it with white chocolate instead. Tweak to your heart’s desire. You could substitute Xylitol or another sweetener if you don’t like to use sugar. Put on a pretty glass cake stand and display in your dining room. And yes, I really need to get more Scrabble pieces. There are only so many “M’s” in one game and “Emmanuel” and “Messiah” are currently in high competition.

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Whirlwind

It’s been a whirlwind of

breakfasts with fun cousin company

orange and blue flowers

smiling for pictures

coffee drinking

solemn vows

delicious celebration food

Black Rook

cousin parties

hugs and lots more hugs

soup & salad lunch with family

happy piano music

classy churches with Christmas carolers

inside jokes

hilarious group games

And in the midst of all this, baby dear decided to wake me up at 4:30 am the morning of the wedding and there was no sleeping after that.

Three days later, I’m almost caught up. :)

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1. Those blue & orange flowers. I had the honor of assisting my capable sis-in-law florist and her friend. In other words, I stood there and held bouquets while they arranged. :) 2. Aforementioned cousin party. It was loud and fun. 3. Bride & Groom. 4. Rustic decor.

And now I am back to ordering Christmas gifts (please oh please, come in time) and pondering the age old question of “What shall I make for lunch (or supper/breakfast)?” and washing the guest room sheets for the next round and wishing the dreary rain would be snow and celebrating the third trimester entrance!

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P.S. Oh happy day! My camera works again. (!!!!!!!!!)

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December Chit Chat

It’s been a busy couple weeks. We just got back from spending half a week in Ohio, at a big farming conference. Twas fun to stay in a nice hotel, learn new things about eating healthy, explore aforementioned nice hotel (20 floors, a food court, 3 coffee shops, several restaurants, lots of cozy places to sit, and several conferences going on) and spend some time with my family. It was really special to be able to be at the first service in the newly remodeled building of my home church! It’s good to be home, though. No place like home, no matter how cliche that sounds.

We are anticipating lots of things this week: a sister’s wedding, out-of-state company, extended family gatherings, cousin parties. Lots to do along with all that! Our basement remodel project got kicked up a notch with several weekends of overnight guests in December. The bathroom is now complete, thanks to a very hard-working hubby! (The main part, anyway. It still needs a few odds & ends like towel rack, towels, decor, etc.) As soon as I can get my hands on a camera, I will post a few before/after pictures. Let’s just say the contrast is DRASTIC. We weren’t really digging the 70’s look. ;)

I’ve been busy cleaning, working on a Christmas project that suddenly needed finished now (if I want the 40% coupon code, anyway), prepping food, and finishing some Christmas decorating. Loving the effect that twinkly lights brings into a house!

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I recently started reading through the various Christmas Scripture passages, as a way of preparing my heart and mind for Christmas. So often, I rush around doing outward Christmas-y things in December, and forget about reflecting on the true and deeper meaning. This year, I determined not to do this.

O Holy Night is one of my all-time favorite carols, and several of the phrases jump out at me, every time I hear or sing it. I highlighted my favorites. :)

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

I like to try to imagine what it was like. Darkness had been covering the earth for so long. They had been waiting for their Messiah for so long. And suddenly, with a thrill of hope, He was here! A new and glorious morn was breaking!

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Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

He was not just born a King, but also our friend. He knows our weakness, because He was human as we are.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Fun fact: did you know that one of the main reasons O Holy Night was brought from France over to America was to aid in the abolitionist movement? They didn’t even sing it as a Christmas song at first, but at abolitionist rallies. If you look at the first four lines of the last verse, it makes sense. Who would’ve known?

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Peace and rest to you, this Christmas season.

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Recipe // Maple Hot Chocolate

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Mmm. There is nothing like a steaming cup of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and a good book. And seeing that my current obsession is hot chocolate (my first love has been temporarily betrayed —  coffee, I will hopefully love you again someday)… well, what better way to celebrate a cold December day?

Maple Hot Chocolate

1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. hot water
3/4 T. butter
4 c. milk
1 tsp. maple flavoring
1 tsp. vanilla
8 large marshmallows

In large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, and salt. Stir in hot water and butter; bring to boil. Add milk, maple flavoring, vanilla, and marshmallows. Heat through, stirring frequently until marshmallows are completely melted. Serve in mugs. Enjoy!

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This will always make me think of my sister, because she was the one who first discovered the recipe. :) I used to beg her to make it for me, when I still lived at home. Now I’m the one who makes it, granted that there is maple flavoring in the house. (Current problem)

Come see me and I’ll make you a cup. :)

A merry Tuesday to you!

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Hospitality // Tips From Dru

Today I’d like to introduce to you my dear friend Drusilla. She was born and raised in the deep south of Georgia, and was transplanted in central Ohio when she married Titus. I love going to her home, partly because she’s brought her southern hospitality along with her, and mostly because she is such a dear friend of mine. She is someone I immediately think when I think of hospitality. Her home is a welcoming haven, and it’s always a pleasure to visit. Tastefully decorated, cozy, and there is a sense of rest that fills her home. I asked her to share some of her secrets and she graciously agreed. So enjoy a few tips from Dru.

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I like to always have candles burning and soft music playing when guests come. 

If I am having overnight guests/friends, I like to have a little box in the bathroom with small toiletries they might need. (Shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, shavers etc.) You can pick up new/unused little bottles of these things at thrift stores if you keep your eyes open for it. I also like to put something on their pillow before they come that I KNOW they like. Example, I had a girlfriend & sister that came for a few nights. I knew my sister liked gummy bears and my friend liked Twix candy bars so I had that for them on their beds. I love when someone knows me well enough to know these little things, so I figure it would make my friends feel special as well. :)

I love to cook, so entertaining/cooking for friends is a passion of mine. I think anyone can cook but there is a difference when someone adds love to their cooking! For example, maybe you are having friends over for hotdogs. Well, instead of putting the hotdogs in a kettle and cooking them the traditional way, jazz them up. Melt some butter in a pan and sauté onion and fresh garlic together, then toss in the hotdogs and fry for a few minutes. Then pour your favorite BBQ sauce on top and cook together till hot. Instead of putting a pack of hotdog buns on the table, take them out of the bag, warm them and put them on a nice tray. Voila – you have gourmet hotdogs made with love! :)

I love decorative pillows but can rarely find any that are a good price! I discovered that Hobby Lobby has zippered pillow forms – and they are gorgeous. If you watch your local Goodwill, you can snag pillows for super cheap. After you wash them, you can either stuff them into the pillow forms or do like I did yesterday: I simply cut open some old pillows I had on hand, took out the cotton and stuffed the pillow forms full. :) I now have beautiful, expensive-looking, decorative pillows for a couple dollars each instead of $20 each.

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Thanks for sharing, Dru!

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Favorite Things

Beautiful sunrises making golden leaves sparkle.

Sister friends and happy weddings.

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Photo credits: LK Portraits

Crafting and chatter with two other newbies to the area.

Baby boots. I can resist all other baby clothing cuteness but not soft little fuzzy boots. Ohhhh my heart.

A package in the mailbox with not one, not two, but three cute new shirts for me. Two courtesy of a friend who is currently living overseas, and one from another friend who so thoughtfully sent a maternity shirt she found on sale. :)

Reunions with hunting husbands. Several long days went by, with only little one for company most of the time. I suddenly realized, as I sat down with my blueberry pancakes & bacon breakfast, that duh! I’m not eating this all by myself. Baby’s with me. :)

Friends that come help us work on our basement project. Bet you can’t guess who’s priming… ;)

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 A clean house and change of season décor.

A wonderful, merciful Saviour.

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Linky Love

Just a few favorite links I’ve run across in the last little while.

These easy Gingerbread Men from the Gratitude Journal are the way to go. All you do is make your batter, spread it on a baking tray, then cut your gingerbread shapes after the dough is already baked. It’d be super easy with children and it’s nice to skip the step of rolling & cutting out. Plus they are soft and super delicious. :) I made these today and they’re all packed in Tupperware and all ready to be eaten.

Chalkboard inspiration of the day. Of course, her chalk art is way more gorgeous than mine, but I tried. :)

Which Christmas pillows do you like best? These (#1), these (#2), or these (#3)?

Some great pregnancy meal ideas. Perfect for those of us who are rather food un-inspired at the moment.

Several blog favorites: Confessions [courtesy of Shari Zook, whom I had the pleasure of meeting back in Oct]. Beautiful Undefined is another favorite, and the food is always good over at Hopeful Things.

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Have fun looking.

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Giveaway Winner // Eight Twenty Eight

Happy December 1st to you!

Today I’m putting away the pumpkins and exchanging it for Christmas greenery. Tis the season for Christmas decorating! So while my Christmas CDs croon I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… it’s actually warm outside. All our Thanksgiving Eve snow has melted.

Sadly, my camera isn’t working right now :( so you’ll have to settle for a picture from last year. It’s too disastrous in here to take a picture yet anyway. This year I’m aiming for a simple rustic look — greens (real-looking fake this time as I am not going to be sweeping pine needles well into the spring like last year), whites, rustic wood, burlap, and lots of candles. We’ll see how it turns out. :)

On to our giveaway…

I’m happy to announce that the winner is…. Twila!!

She said: I admire my daughter Krista for the way she has come through the last year, after losing her husband so suddenly, and making the best she can out of this very difficult and painful situation in her life. It hasn’t been easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

Twila just happens to be my mom’s first cousin — fun to be sending a prize away to someone I know in real life! I’ll be sending an email your way, Twila. :)

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Winner was chosen via random.org

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Giveaway // Eight Twenty Eight

Two years ago, there was a short video floating around on that kept getting shared and reposted on facebook. You may remember Ian & Larissa. If you don’t, go search for The Story of Ian and Larissa (original) and watch it on youtube. I remember being so inspired by the type of pure love that they exemplified through their story.

It’s a beautiful story, and unlike one I’ve ever heard before.

A few months ago, I became aware that they had just released a brand-new book called Eight Twenty Eight. And then recently, I just happened to be in Lifeway and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that they had them on sale for $5.

What if that thing you really feared happened? Would the joy you hold pop? Or would you experience love and joy deeper than you can imagine?

They met in college and fell in love. They talked about getting married… They dreamed about life together, a life of beauty and joy, raising babies and laughing with friends and growing old.

They did not imagine a car accident. They did not imagine his brain injury. They did not dream about the need for constant care and a wheelchair and fear that food might choke him.

And they could not have imagined how persistent love would be. Theirs and God’s.

I was so blessed and challenged by Larissa’s honesty in her journey of going through the accident, struggling to accept the “new” Ian while still hanging onto memories of the “old” Ian, and finally coming to grips with reality. Their marriage is marked with incredible unselfishness and pure God-given love.

And now… in honor of the gift-giving season that is coming up quite rapidly, I am giving away a copy of Eight Twenty Eight. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment and tell me about someone you admire.

Open to US residents only. Giveaway closes at midnight on November 30th. Winner will be announced on Monday, December 1st.

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