Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why I'm Mentioning Christmas Today

by Cathy Baker

If you've attempted to balance simplicity with trying to create Christmas memories for the loved and lonely, maybe you've found (as I have) that it's not as easy as it seems. We're all wired differently, but for me, intentionality is the game changer. 

As mentioned in a 2008 Christmas post, we kept a Nesquik® Chocolate yellow box nearby when our boys were growing up. If they behaved, they got to pick one, sometimes two, activities from the box that afternoon. We never knew exactly what we'd be doing that evening but we were intentional about it—and our family created some meaningful memories as a result. 
The blue hand painted tray is a fave of mine.
Our boys are now adults with families of their own. Life changes, but wherever we find ourselves this year, it's never too late to embrace the season in all its beauty and simplicity as we anticipate the celebration of Christ's birth. 

In this same spirit, beginning Monday, December 1st, I'll be posting one brief, simple way to infuse a meaningful moment into your day during this wondrous season. 

I'm excited about this journey! I hope you'll make plans to join me.

[I know, I know. After this post from a week ago, it may seem a bit odd that I'm writing about a new Christmas series when we've not yet celebrated Thanksgiving, but I'm taking a blogging break next week. And December will be here before we know it!] 

So from my home to yours, I pray you and yours will have a blessed Thanksgiving. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100: 5, 6

Monday, November 17, 2014

Curling Book Pages Instead of Turning Them

Book Wreath, by Myquillyn Smith, The Nester
 by Cathy Baker

Okay, so Monday mornings may not be the most ideal time to share a creative idea but I know we can do it! Especially if there's an extra shot of espresso involved. 

You know I'm a huge fan of Myquillyn Smith's blog, The Nester. Her mantra immediately won me over: 

It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. 

Okay, back to crafting. Can you believe this wreath consists of cone-shaped book pages?  Visit Myquillyn's post from 2011 to see the tutorial. I'm blown away that she created this 36" marvel in less than an hour. I may host a DIY wreath time at my house next year, but in the meantime, let's find a book, remove the pages, and start curling those babies.
The laurel wreath on the right was created from plastic spoons.
If you have your own wreath ideas to share, you'll enjoy linking up on Myquillyn's blog, The Nester, December 2nd. Hundreds of creative beings will share their beautiful {imperfect} masterpieces. Read more about it here. 

I'd love to see yours there. Me? I'll simply be scouting for ideas. You're welcome to join me. 

So, how does your {imperfect but beautiful} creativity find its own way to flow?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When An Apple Does More Than Keep a Doctor Away

A basket of truth for our Bible Study friends.
by Cathy Baker

Searching for a way to put your Fall apples to good use? 

Here's one idea to throw in the hat:

Remind someone how special they are in God's eyes by placing one apple in a clear cellophane bag, tying the top with jute or a ribbon and adding a card that says this: 

You are the apple of my eye. 
Love, Jesus 
Psalm 17:8

It's a little something I made for the ladies in our most recent bible study, "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?" by Angela Thomas. I've also made these on other occasions because, let's face it, who wouldn't be encouraged by this truth? 

A simple but powerful reminder!
The term "apple of my eye" refers to something or someone one who is cherished above all others. David, the author of Psalm 17, was confident of God's love for him. Yes, he had his share of doubts and insecurities, but he always returned to this foundational truth.

I don't know where you are today, or what you might be facing. Maybe it's a health issue, financial woes, or just a plain ol' rough day, but know this: You are cherished by the King of Kings. 

May we walk in this truth together, confident that there is nothing we could do or say to make Him love us more, nor is there anything we could do or say to make Him love us less. Now if this doesn't put a giddy up in our step today, I'm not sure what will. 

How does it make you feel to know that you are the apple of your heavenly Father's eye? 

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 17:8 

P.S. I happened across the apple note tags at Cracker Barrel, 75% off, but I've used plain white tags as well. It's the message that counts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Baking With the Best Ingredient in Mind

Encouragement Wrapped in a Bow
by Cathy Baker

Remember this post from 2008?
  • Starbucks has the Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • The Beacon has the Hash-A-Plenty
  • My late grandmother, Elsie Knighton, had her egg custard pie
Like those "signature" dishes, my other grandmother, aka "Ma-Ma", was well known for her pound cake in Fairforest, SC, back in the day. For as long as I can remember, she baked at least one pound cake a week. She sliced it into thirds, wrapped each section in wax paper and added one last shiny wrap before delivering her thirds to the sick, lonely, and elderly. 

Unfortunately, I didn't pay close attention to either grandmother's mad cooking skills. In fact, years ago, I bought a rubber stamp that said, Don't worry. I didn't bake it myself, in hopes of putting the recipient's mind at ease. I saw no hope in sight until I received my shiny red Kitchen-Aid mixer. It revved up my baking engine as well as my interest to find my own "signature something." You know, the kind of recipe that comes to mind as quickly as your firstborn's name.

I've tried several pound cake recipes (including MaMa's) only to have the pans sabotage my efforts. Yes, it was the pan. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

However, I'm confident that a day is coming when I'll say goodbye to the rubber stamp and say hello to a tag that reads, Baked with Love, by Cathy.


My "Signature Something" baked in vintage Pyrex
Score! I may have discovered my signature something this weekend—pumpkin bread with a brown sugar glaze. The only obstacle? The glaze is so yummilicious you'll want to ditch the drizzle and smother your bread like it's a blanket. Brian called it "the kind of dish that makes you want to scrape the plate clean."

And yetwhere both grandmother's were concernedtheir signature somethings were far more than a delight to the palate. Each cake and every pie was baked with one thing in mind: other people, the best ingredient of all.

Do you have a signature something? A go-to dish that you share with others? I'd love to hear about it and if you'd like to share the recipe, I'd be honored to include it on my blog in the near future, along with my signature something. 

Whatever you do,  
work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. 
You are serving the Lord Christ. 
Colossians 3:23, 24

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Favorite Find: Life Beautiful

Fall Issue 2014
by Cathy Baker

I've been asked what magazines I buy as it's no secret I enjoy perusing the pages more than once. 

I've mentioned life:beautiful magazine in previous posts but it's worth multiple mentions, especially the Fall 2014 issue.

This issue offers up a buffet of hospitality tips beneficial to both the Mary's and Martha's of the world, along with an array of delish dishes (some gluten-free!)

My favorite feature in the Fall 2014 issue is the interview with HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines, hosts of Fixer Upper. They share both their faith journey as well as their journey as a family. 

Chip and Joanna Gaines

Other features enjoyed in every issue:
  • Calendar for daily scripture reading
  • Practical tips for turning our houses into homes
  • Stunning photography

Purchasing a magazine is an investment these days with many costing $6.95 +, which is another perk of life:beautiful. It's a bargain at $4.95 and a great way to support faith-based magazines. (They're definitely outnumbered on the Barnes & Noble shelves.)

So, what one magazine do you consider to be worth every penny?  

Joanna's blog, Magnolia Homes

Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. Psalm 127:1 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Focusing on the Holiday Grounded in Gratitude

My favorite Hallmark Christmas Movie

by Cathy Baker

I'm perfectly content siding with the those who are not prepared for Hallmark Christmas movies beginning in October or brushing up against fake-o tree limbs in the aisles of favorite stores while fumbling for the candy corn. No, not yet!

I mean, what happened to the celebration of Thanksgiving? 

Could it be that merchandisers don't begin displaying turkey platters two months in advance because of money, or lack thereof? Let's face it, tons of turkeys will give their gobble-laden necks to fill our feastly tables, but other than food, what else do people purchase for this particular holiday? Exactly.

Growing up, I was blessed to experience Thanksgivings reminiscent of Rockwell renderings. As an only child, I relished the warmth of a big family as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins surrounded the holiday table. The sound of familiar laughter, the telling of fondly remembered stories, and the faces of my family surface every Thanksgiving. We could've made our own Hallmark movie. 

This year, with our family going in all different directions, I'll be serving food on Thanksgiving to our community through a ministry Summit Upstate sponsors, Feast for All. If you're available and would like to serve in some capacity, please email me (click the "e" button on the sidebar.)

So, while I plan to enjoy Hallmark Christmas movies come December, this month I will intentionally focus on the holiday grounded in gratitude. 

How about you? 

Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...Ephesians 5:20

Friday, October 31, 2014

Three Lessons Learned from the 31 Day Writing Challenge

by Cathy Baker 

{ Day 31 }

This post officially ends the Write 31 Days Challenge but because of it, some things are just beginning, thanks to a few lessons I learned along the way:

  • The more we exercise our calling/ministries, the more creative we become. Prior to the challenge, I often struggled for blog ideas but a funny thing happened as I made my way to the laptop each day. Ideas evolved from unexpected places. It was exciting! 
Have you also found this to be true with 
your own calling or ministry?

  • God provides a multitude of practical ways His children can stay in step with Him. Becoming intentional made all the difference. I asked God to open my spiritual eyes and He led the way. He always does.  
Was there one particular step during the challenge that resonated most with you?
(See past posts below)

  • We ARE up for the challenge. Writing for thirty-one days under the umbrella of one subject was daunting, to say the least, but I needed a challenge. I'd become sluggish, taking the joy discovered via writing for granted. The non-adventurist within warned that I may not be able to follow-through with the challenge—but I did it anyway. As a result, I plan to start ignoring that non-adventurist voice more often. 
Is there a challenge you've been postponing?

I thought I'd feel relieved to have the challenge behind me and yet it feels like I'm bidding a friend farewell.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. 

{ Day 15 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Paper Bookmark
{ Day 16 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Fresh Start
{ Day 17 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via Spontaneous Service
{ Day 18 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via God's Creation, Wk. 3 { Sunday } 
{ Day 20 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Mini-Getaway
{ Day 21 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via Piped Icing
{ Day 22 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Knock at the Door{ Day 23 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via The Book
{ Day 24 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Breath of Prayer
{ Day 25 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via God's Creation, Wk. 4
{ Sunday } 
{ Day 27 } Staying in Step with the Spirit Via Honing Your Gifts