Monday, August 31, 2015

When Three Prayers Collide on a Picture

by Cathy Baker

There we were, the three of us, playing on the aqua blue eyelash rug in the library. Piper, Gabe, and me. On the shelf nearby, sat a freshly framed picture of Judah, our newly adopted son from Uganda. 

It was a poignant moment as we sat on a butter-soft rug knowing that my son and daughter-in-law were battling unseen forces for Judah's freedom flight back to the US. Crucial decisions were taking place that day. I picked up Judah's picture asking Piper, who will be 4 in November, and Gabe, who'll soon be 2, if they wanted to pray together for him. I laid Judah's picture on the rug. One by one, we gently placed our hand on the picture of the one we call our own and did just that. 

The one we call our own.
I am learning that when prayers collide, regardless of place or age, there is a powerful force at work. His name is Jesus.

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” 
Matthew 18:20


 One last thing I'm learning as we close out this month's series: Based on the elaborate displays in Barnes and Noble we are never too old to color! If you would like to enter the random drawing for this "adult" coloring book on Joy by Valentina Harper, simply fill in the blank via the comment section! Winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 9th.

One thing I'm currently learning is _________________________________________. 

Purchased at Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Three Unique Questions to Begin the Decluttering Process

by Cathy Baker

I hate clutter but you wouldn't know if you knocked on my front door today. It would instead appear as a lifelong friend making itself right at home in any corner it pleases. 

Little does it know, a plan is being set in motion to pack its bag and cart it off to the closest Goodwill. (Brian, ignore the stand-up bass loaded in the truck below.)

So why have I allowed books to nestle in the corners and a multitude of notes to scatter on multiple surface tops? I get overwhelmed—quickly! But you know what they say...

If you keep doing the same thing, then you will keep getting the same results. 

I plan to share my decluttering strategy in more details down the road. Today, I share three unique questions that will lead the way:  
  • If I were shopping right now, would I buy this? Talk about a fresh perspective! 
  • Does it fit me or my current living space? I face the prospect of getting rid of my, shall I say, "spacier" clothes? That's a lot of clothes but holding onto them signals my willpower that it's okay if I gain my weight back. It's not okay.
  • Is the only thing that's keeping me from disposing of this item is that I don't want to waste money? This is a biggie. I'm learning that the ironic part of this argument is that our "stuff" often ends up costing us much more in the end -- mentally and physically. There's upkeep, the worry of someone knocking on the door which could result in two hazards: (1) our stacks will topple and (2) someone will see our stacks topple, and a whole host of other effects of clutter. 
Okay, that's all the transparency I can handle for one day. 

Which of the three questions above would motivate you most to jump on the decluttering junk wagon? 

(To read the source (Popsugar, Emily Co.) for the above questions in its entirety, click here.)

"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?" Matthew 6:25

Monday, August 24, 2015

Distress Paint With... Vaseline!

by Cathy Baker

The task was daunting for someone like me. Knowing how I want something to look is one thing, but getting it there often requires more confidence than I can muster. For instance, painting our farmhouse table legs a distressed white.

But one Fallish morning, it dawned on me that I'm not limited by own knowledge, or lack thereof. Pinterest and similar sites are just a tap away! What's the worst that could happen? I could always slap a coat of black back on the legs if needed.

Chalk paint or no chalk paint? Gloss, semi-gloss, or flat? I was inundated with hundreds of options. Then, the pins parted, revealing one of my now favorite sites -- Love Grows Wild. Liz's option was simple. So simple, in fact, that I had everything but the paint on hand. Score.

What do you need? 
Paint and brush
Damp rag

My version below will give you a glimpse into the process. When I did this last year I didn't think to document my progress so these are just random photos taken along the way. To read Liz's tutorial, visit her post on distressing here. 

To ensure I'd like the new white distressed legs, I held up a white sheet of paper against the dark tabletop. I also googled images to snatch additional ideas. How could we survive thrive without Pinterest?

Okay, that's self-explanatory, but hopefully you agree I made the right choice painting the legs white.

I began by painting a flat gray color over the black to add a layer beneath the white. This way, when distressed with the sandpaper block, gray would show through instead of black. The sweet part of this deal was the paint guy at Lowes took a flat black and simply added white to the mix until it hit the tint of gray I desired. The flat black paint was a return so I saved a few bucks which was, however, promptly spent at Starbucks on the way home.

BEFORE painting it white, I applied Vaseline, as Liz states in her tutorial. I smoothed it out with my finger, mostly around edges where natural distressing would occur over time. A few times I took my damp rag and whisked away at the edges in hopes of producing a more natural look. Remember! Wherever the Vaseline is, the overlay of paint (white, in my case) will not adhere well, so apply carefully. I painted two coats of white, waited until it was dry to touch, and then went back with a lightweight piece of sandpaper, gently sweeping across the less-adhered areas. It worked beautifully! 

I chose to live with a lightly distressed table for awhile since I can always go back and distress it more. We've lived with it now for almost a year and still love it.

I'm learning that I can do things if I'm willing to have a teachable spirit...and follow tutorials by Liz from Love Grows Wild.

What's something you've done that you didn't think you could do?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Caring for the Circles God Draws Around Your Days

--> by Cathy Baker

I panicked when I realized I had nothing prepared for today’s post.

How could this possibly happen when there’s a list of subjects ready to go for an entire month? I wish I had a good answer, but I don’t.

What I do know, however, is that God drew two hurting women into my circle of influence this past weekend. Due to time constraints today {Tuesday} I must choose between spending time on producing my blog post or coming alongside two situations that are in need of much prayer, truth, and encouragement.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
I’m guessing you know where my time will be spent today but I want to quickly share this decision with you because it is a learning experience, especially for us task-driven types.

What am I learning? People always win out over tasks. Yes, it’s something I’ve known for a long while but when surrounded by the dust of busy days it’s easy to forget the priorities that settle well with our soul. Too easy.

Who is God drawing into your circle of influence these days? And will you have enough breathing room in your days to love them well?

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4

Monday, August 17, 2015

How I Blog in Five Easy Steps

by Cathy Baker 

Greetings! Today, I'm sharing how I bring a blog post to fruition, as well as what I'm learning along the way. Some parts of the process are more fun than others, but make no mistake—churning out regularly scheduled blog posts each week is hard work. But it's worth it. Here goes!

It all begins with coffee and complementary music. I write upstairs by the window but it's muggy hot in the summer. This fall, I hope to blog from the bench seats in Buttercup, our '63 Shasta Airflyte camper. Wherever I go, Pandora music follows. Nothing boosts my writing power like George Winston's station. Did I mention it's free?

What I'm learning: Writing/blogging in the same spot on a consistent basis alerts the brain that it's time to stop playing and get to work. I'm also learning that Starbucks Cold Brew provides a swifter kick to my energy level than a latte. Go figure. 

Brainstorm. I try to remain aware of how God might prompt a thought or idea. I also plan regular brainstorming sessions with Dee Dee Parker, my go-to stormer. A tiny Moleskin journal (with pen) is tucked in my front purse pocket to fetch promptings, random thoughts, and obscure words. Also, I'm beginning to use Evernote, along with the notes app on my iPhone. 

What I'm learning: I need to consolidate my ideas to two places max. Having them scattered in too many places breeds frustration. 

Peck away anyway. Sometimes an idea comes quickly and fiercely (love those!) but most take their own sweet time. I type anyway. More often than not, once I begin the process of pecking away at the keys, the idea begins to unfold in unexpected and delightful ways. Also—and yes, this is crazy—unless I use the Trebuchet font while working on a post, the idea tends to cross its arms, pout, and storm off. Silly fonts.

What I'm learning: Mentor and friend, Edie Melson, has advised many of us for years (I'm a slow learner) to first type everything in Word and then upload it to Blogger or Wordpress. This prevents the loss of our masterpiece if something goes wonky on the site. {While typing the final few words in this post, my delete button became stuck, erasing all the words one-by-one. Um, Lesson learned.}

Spend quality time titling and formatting the post. I kid no one. I'm no Lori Roeleveld when it comes to titling blog posts. I do, however, try to allow plenty of time for developing the right title. For me, "right" would be pithy and SEO friendly, with a hint of panache. See below. 

What I'm learning: I stink at titling. I continue to study online and I'm also learning the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Check grammar, photos, and links. Then do it again. I usually save the photo search for last as I enjoy it the most. I currently use some of my own photos but plan to increase that exponentially in the coming months. For now, I pull from Can Stock Photo (buy credits at minimal cost), Pixabay, and other free sites. I'm always looking to promote others via linking in my posts and including them in the Labels section.

What I'm learning: No post is to be published until I've read it aloud at least once. Much is learned when reading our work aloud.

When you consider the above quote, what ONE word best describes your idea of a GREAT blog?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How Weight Watchers and Camping Can Go Hand-in-Hand

by Cathy Baker

Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business. Dave Barry

With an Eagle Scout for a dad, I was destined to become a camper, like it or not. 

Growing up, there were a lot of things I actually loved about it. Family time, the quietness of nature, lone walks on old trails, and bunking down at night in our tree house that sat ten feet off the ground (one of the benefits of having an outdoorsy dad and step-mom!) 

While scrambled eggs in the morning were hard to beat, I ate enough Beanie Weenies to last me a lifetime. Add bugs, bees, and outdoor plumbing and you have the reason for my choosing to stay in motels ever since. 

And then this happened: 

Buttercup, our 1963 Shasta Airflyte
With our maiden voyage just around the corner, and Beanie Weenies out of the picture, I'm now learning new recipes to take on the road! 

Here's one I can't wait to try. Thought you might enjoy it too! 

Thanks to Weight Watchers!
Grilled Moroccan Chicken Kabobs
PointsPlus® value | 5
Servings |  4
Preparation Time |  16 min
Cooking Time |  16 min
Level of Difficulty |  Easy

1 1/4 pound(s) uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast(s), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp unsweetened orange juice
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 spray(s) cooking spray
1 large uncooked zucchini, cut into 1-inch-thick half-moons
2 small uncooked red onion(s), quartered through the root

Mix the chicken, orange juice, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours.

Off heat, coat grill with cooking spray. Prepare gas grill for direct, high-heat grilling or build a high-heat charcoal bed in the center of the coal grate on a charcoal grill.

Divide the chicken, zucchini and onion among four large skewers, threading the meat and vegetables over the pointy ends and down the skewers.*

Set the skewers directly over the heat and grill for 16 minutes, turning about every 4 minutes onto each of the other three sides, so that all four sides are well browned. When turning the skewers, use tongs to gently grasp some of the meat at the center. Do not turn the skewers by their ends - or put your hands down near the heat source. Yields 1 skewer per serving.

I plan to marinate the kabobs overnight before packing them in the cooler the morning of our departure. We'll add brown rice and voila! 

I'm learning that one way I can make this new adventure of ours a pleasurable one is to dedicate time and energy to finding new recipes and ways of cooking things—to see it as as a fun learning experience that we will laugh about in our old age (which isn't now, Zach!)

Okay, your turn. Do you have a favorite recipe when camping? Please share. After all, I have a lot to learn!


Monday, August 10, 2015

First Steps Change Everything

by Cathy Baker

First steps, no matter how small, change everything. 

If you'd told me five months ago that I'd be sitting here twenty-seven pounds lighter, I would've died from exhaustive laughter. But now, as I look back, I see it all began with a first step—as does everything in life. Right?

Think about it. Both wise and unwise choices can be traced back to a first step—the step that moves life in one direction or the other. 

When Brian and I go for a walk I have to work harder because his legs are longer, as is his stride. Life is no different. Some first steps are long and strong while at other times, we topple like babes on our first attempt. It matters not as long as we're willing to pick up one proverbial foot and put it in front of the other.
  • Interested in honing your skills? Maybe the first step is signing up for an online or community course, checking out a library book, or setting aside time every day to practice.
  • Want to develop deeper friendships? Perhaps the first step could be clearing the calendar for a couple of hours to make time for one friend. 
  • Want to commit to reading Scripture every day? This doesn't replace quality study or prayer time but one of my favorite new apps is She Reads Truth. Everyday, I access this site for scripture and soon I'll be starting an online study there as well.
  • Do you desire to become a blogger, or a better one? Everyone has a story to tell. Don't let technology keep you from sharing it. A plethora of sites offer techniques to spiff up your blogging skills. My new favorite? Pinkpot. (Chaitra is one talented woman!) You'll hopefully see some of these changes on my blog very soon! 
  • Tired of huffing and puffing after a flight of stairs? I was too! Perhaps the first step could be to simply increase the intake of water every day.
God says in Psalm 119:105 that his word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. If you've ever held a lantern to walk at night you know it doesn't illuminate the entire path, only our next steps. 

God gives us what we need, step by step, not path by path.

There have been days since beginning my healthier journey that I've been tempted to get ahead of myself, asking questions like, Will I always be able to maintain this lifestyle forever? What happens if I'm locked in a room with Hot and Ready Krispy Kreme doughnuts? You know, those kinds of reflective questions. 

I'm learning that it's only when I remain focused on the choices I'm making today, in the here and now, that I stay encouraged and strengthened. Day by day, step by step.

Your turn! What's one first step you've never regretted?