Discerning the Voice of God: Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 offered so many thought provoking take-away points:

  1. When God has a message for us, He is persistent.
  2. Circumstances in life have everything to do with God’s Will – nothing happens by chance.
  3. Sometimes crises present the best moments to bring us closer to Him.
  4. The importance of connecting with a church family cannot be overly emphasized.

God’s persistence in getting our attention isn’t always sunshine and gentle breezes – He will do whatever is needed to get our attention. While we would like to think that His work is done only through the most incredible, comforting, and happy miracles; it’s important to understand that isn’t always the case. Sometimes His persistence comes about in ways that we don’t prefer. Events that are uncomfortable, and in some cases, are downright miserable.

It’s human nature to want to avoid anything uncomfortable. The more crises we can avoid, the better, right? But just as muscle must be broken down in order to grow stronger, so too must our spirits. To think you can obtain as much growth through all the best seasons of life, as opposed to the worst, is ignorant. Building muscle while sitting on the couch drinking Dr Pepper and eating Doritos?  Yes, please! Not so much the case though…bummer!

I try to think about how my life would be currently, if I could rewind and have a do-over with all the struggle sprinkled throughout the past 2 years. If I could erase all the struggle, and insert all the details of how I wanted things to go, what I wanted to have happen, how I thought things ought to have worked out. Truth is, I can’t really even imagine what that might look like…a life filled with surface level pseudo-perfection, maybe?. Would I even be happy or would I always be longing for more? Would I feel a true sense of security, or bubbling just beneath the surface would I constantly be ill at ease? If I trace back some of the best things in my life, the road to obtaining those things was quite rocky. And, in some instances, if it weren’t for travel down those rocky roads, some of what I cherish so much now wouldn’t even be part of my life story.

I can acknowledge, accept, and even be totally okay with my trials because it took every bit of that – even complete loss of my footing – to bring me to my knees; for Him to get my attention and for me to get out of His way so that He could do a good work in me. Doesn’t mean I liked the struggle at the time(s), heck, I’ve gone down fighting on more than one occasion. But He’s patient and persistent and is using all that yuck for good, and will continue to do so, because that’s what He promises. And he is not a God that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).

If the weather in your life is cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms, remember that He is persistent, nothing happens by chance & crises present some of the best opportunities for growth. Tuck in close to Him – quietly and patiently wait for him to speak. Immerse yourself in the Scripture and connect with your church family for guidance and support. Eventually all the signals – stirrings within, Scripture and outward signs – will point in the same direction and THAT will be your answer!

New to reading this blog series on Discerning The Voice of God? Catch up here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Chicken -n- Stuff Salad

Remember that chicken I suggested you make, shred and freeze in individual portions, in this post? Well, thaw out a bag because I’ve got a quick, simple and healthy salad that’s just perfect for mixing up your lunch time routine!

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Ingredients:
-Chicken (previously cooked and shredded)
-Romaine Lettuce
-Red Onion
-Feta Cheese Crumbles
-Toasted Almond Slices
-Craisins
-Avocado
-Balsamic Vinaigrette (I sometimes make my own, but have found some I like just as well without preservatives in the cooler section in the produce department, next to the prepped salads. That’s what I used in this one!)

Instructions:
Chop and assemble all ingredients (amounts according to your liking) on a plate and drizzle with dressing.

Seriously, super easy.

I like to prep 2 salads at a time, leaving a second in the fridge to grab-and-go on a busy work day.

As the weather gets nicer, I am reminded that it’s about time to start transitioning away from hearty, heavy meals to lighter, fresher varieties. This one certainly fits that bill!

Enjoy!
H

 

 


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 4

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The way in which God speaks to us has evolved over time. During the Old Testament times, God was heard through prophecies and outward, visible signs. During the New Testament, His communication came through Jesus and miracles. Today, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and Scripture.

In my ignorance, I expected the way in which God would speak to me as similar to Old Testament times – some sort of prophecy or outward sign. A flashing neon sign, perhaps, with an arrow directing the way. A vivid dream that would provide all the detailed information I’d ever need, making everything crystal clear.

On more than one occasion, I’ve complained that it would be so much easier if He would at least give me a snippet of what His plans are for me. Promising that if he did, I would get fully on board and REALLY get to work on that plan – BUT – I needed specifics first.

I now imagine God in Heaven, smile on his face, shaking his head and thinking “oh sweet child…”

As much as I have wished for blatant signs, and even felt somewhat resentful when they didn’t come and thought surly he wasn’t answering me because I couldn’t hear him (because I wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen – see Chapter 1), I realize that I’ve really got the best of all worlds. While not His primary method of communication, God still works miracles and provides us with outward signs. It’s secondary to being guided by the Holy Spirit and Scripture, further confirming what’s already been spoken to us. If we haven’t received the message via primary communication, secondary means are going to pass us by without notice. We won’t recognize the relevance. These miracles and signs will fade into the background noise of life.

I’m guessing that if they all had a choice, everyone from Biblical times would much prefer how good we have it now.

On page 71, Priscilla writes, “I do believe that the Spirit gives to some people, on certain occasions, the divine ability to receive insight into another person’s life”.

This statement struck me in a very powerful way, soothing a nagging ache in my soul. Here’s why: I believe I am well acquainted with such a person. She is a great friend of mine, near and dear to my soul in ways no one else is, a mentor on top of all that, and a lover of Jesus. Just recently, in a long message, she made a statement that has since been etched into my heart. “I’ve been praying for you often. I’m having very good feelings about you recently”.

If Priscilla is right, and I have no reason to think otherwise, and outward signs are often used by God to confirm the messages we’ve received through Scripture and the Spirit’s counsel, then my life is going to take on the most breathtaking changes. And while I don’t know the timing or specific details about how it will all come together, I am so overwhelmed (in the most comforting way) that I’m on the verge of tears every time this passes through my mind.

For the first time in two years, I feel like I’ve finally exhaled…


Dresser Makeover

Right after the first of the year, J asked me what I thought should be our next ‘big’ project on the house. There’s a long list of many things to choose from, and I spent some time thinking on this when it occurred to me: we need to FINISH all the projects that are already started. You know, all those little finishing details that sometimes go by the wayside – and then you realize it’s been years. Things that will add up in both time and money, and that linger on the ‘to do list’.

We’ve worked our way through this house scraping popcorn ceilings and painting walls. And while these aren’t big ticket home update items, they are very messy and time consuming (especially scraping popcorn ceilings). By the time the paint is dry and the mess is completely cleaned up, I’m usually somewhat worn out on the project. Add to that the excruciating amount of time it takes me to make a decision about decor details anyway (window treatments, wall decor, etc.) and it seems that I never quite get a project FULLY done.

So, committing to FINISHING some projects around this house, I started in the master bedroom this weekend (which was ceiling scraped and painted back in Oct 2014 – lame – I know)  and wanted to share with you one element of final details (other details on the finishing touches/projects later)…this dresser makeover.

This dresser has been in my family since my dad was a kid. When we cleaned out my grandmother’s house, I salvaged it from the garage sale. It’s not a fancy piece, and it’s had a dozen coats of different paint over the years (I added another in 2009, along with new drawer pulls, pictured below), but I love the clean lines and ability to take this old, yet still functional, piece of furniture and turn it into something modern and eye catching.

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To tackle a project like this you will need the following:
-Sanding materials (electric hand sander, sandpaper, block sander, liquid sander — your choice, I used an electric hand sander)
-Wood filler (if there are any holes or dings in the furniture that need filled)
-Damp rag
-Primer
-Paint
-Polyurethane finish
-Paint brushes
-Optional: New drawer pulls

Getting started you will want to lightly  sand the piece of furniture; anywhere you intend to paint. This helps your new paint stick. Fill any holes or dings in the furniture with wood filler. If you are changing out the drawer pulls, determine if the existing holes will suffice for the new hardware. If you will need to drill new holes – the old ones need to be filled at this point.

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Once sanded and holes have been filled, wipe down with a damp rag to remove all dust.

Then, prime the furniture. I used 2 coats since I was going from a dark to light color, but also because I wanted to be sure the new paint color would remain ‘true’ without influence from the previous dark paint.

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Next, add your paint. I did 2 coats of this as well. Use your judgment as to how many coats you will need following examination of the paint after it’s dried.

Finally, after the paint has completely dried, add a coat of polyurethane to seal the piece. If you want to do more than 1 coat of poly, follow instructions on the can.

I added 6 new drawer pulls, found on sale at Hobby Lobby, just to change up the look a touch more.

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In total, this transformation cost me $51. I had to buy the paint (1 quart = $13), new paint brushes ($15), and the drawer pulls ($23). On hand I had the dresser, sanding materials, primer, wood filler, polyurethane, and the lower drawer pulls were re-used from the last makeover.

Not to shabby when the alternative could have been buying a new dresser for hundreds of dollars!image
And, I LOVE the finished product! It’s just what our master bedroom needed — a statement piece in a bright color!

Happy Monday!
H

 

 

 

 


Frugal Friday: Shredded Chicken

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a frugal Friday tip. A recent sale on chicken sparked my memory and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share with you all.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken periodically goes on sale for an unbelievable price. At my local grocery store, 88 cents per pound simply can’t be passed up.

Thing is, I don’t cook bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts all that often. So, I got creative with how to make the most of this sale…AND it’s super simple.

Stock up on several packages of the chicken breasts at the store. Then, cut the skins off and toss them in the crock pot. Once the chicken is cooked through, shred (if you have a stand mixer, a super quick and simple way to shred is to throw the cooked chicken in and let the mixer roll), portion into containers, and toss in the freezer!

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It’s an excellent way to take advantage of an awesome deal PLUS you will have cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer for the many meals calling for this ingredient….chicken salad, tacos, enchiladas, pasta, salad topper, sandwiches…the list goes on and on!

Do yourself a favor – take advantage of this tip. You will be thrilled that you did, especially when you’re in a pinch for a quick dinner!


Discerning the Voice of God: Chapter 3

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How often, during times of struggle, do we pull in closer to the Lord seeking comfort, guidance, and answers only to allow him to slowly fade into the background of our lives when the crisis has been diverted? As much as I hate to admit, I am guilty of this, time and time again.

The trouble I find is that the crisis isn’t necessarily diverted, as much as it is minimized, at which time I think I’ve got it all under control and can take it from there. How ignorant of me! It’s no wonder that the same crisis flares up again, or that another comes in its place. It’s sort of like sticking your hand back in the fire after recovering from third degree burns! And how many times must be we burned before we stop punishing ourselves?!? We ALWAYS need Him!!

An essential element of discerning the voice of God is regular meditation on, and knowledge of, the Scriptures. Regular = Daily. This can become quite a trick when life demands so much us. There’s a lot to get done. We are tired and believe we won’t be able to focus. Things are going okay, so time in the Word isn’t essential today, right? Wrong!

Time spent in the Word is time spent with God. If we want to hear from Him, we must MAKE time for Him. These moments with him are more serious than we think – even when things are going “okay”.

And, here’s the other thing that’s paramount to our prayers being answered: our desires need to align with His Will for us. How many of you want to dig in with the thought of that? The idea that what you desire may not align with His plans for you, and aside from taking things into your own hands (free will) and forcing the issue (for which there are other consequences), those desires may not become your reality?

Yea, it’s a tough pill to swallow but allow me to offer a bit of hope: permitting the Holy Spirit to work in you, and doing your part in that process (see above), means a transformation will begin taking place within. If you really get on board with this, you will find things you once desired no longer tug quite as much at your heartstrings, and the gap between what you want and what He wants for you will grow more and more narrow. Suddenly, but not all at once, your desires and His Will align and things start happening in a magical way in your life. That is what is meant in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. God really does know what is best for us, even if it’s not what we want to hear or accept at the moment, and THOSE desires of our heart are what will be given.

The reason we eventually <really> become okay with our reality not matching our dreams is because we’ve really worked on building that intimate relationship with Him. He’s working from within to change our hearts (and thus, our dreams), and we can hear Him with more clarity…perhaps leading us down a path we never would have chosen for we never knew we’d love.

In those moments that you want to be okay with things not working out as you had hoped, but you just aren’t feeling it with every inch of your being, talk to Him about it, ask Him to help you… “Lord, every day I’m trying my best, but if in any moment I lose my hope, please remind me that Your plans are better than my dreams. Amen.”.

He understands that we live in the flesh and that the natural tendency of the flesh is to crave the standards of the world rather than those of God, but he also expects us to seek, and stick close to him.


Avocado Toast with Egg

Several months ago I visited a friend in Arizona. We stopped for breakfast on our way to the airport at the end of my trip and she ordered this amazing avocado toast with egg.

I don’t remember all the details of how that dish came together at the restaurant but have been eating something similar regularly at home ever since.

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Before you begin, you have a decision to make — how would you like your eggs? Over medium? Sunny side up? Poached? Scrambled?

The possibilities are numerous, but I have to say, something about a runny yolk adds a little magic to this dish.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 slice toast
1/2 avocado, smashed
lime (or lemon) juice
kosher salt
pepper & salt to taste

Instructions:
Prepare egg as per your preference (I’m digging on soft boiled eggs these days so that’s what is pictured here)
Top toast with smashed avocado, sprinkle with kosher salt and lime (or lemon) juice
When egg is done cooking, top avocado covered toast and season with additional salt and pepper as you desire

That’s it! Healthy, easy, delicious!

Have the most fabulous weekend – meet you right back here on the blog next week!
H


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 2

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Having finished Chapter 2, I feel at peace and am beyond encouraged.

The voice of God comes to us by the Holy Spirit, already living in us, via our own conscious. Of course, we must first accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savoir and begin to WALK with Him. This is different than believing – even the Devil is a believer – we must work at a relationship with HIM . Once we do this, our conscious, initially shaped by things we absorb from the outside world – seared by sin, shaped by varying sources and made susceptible to corruption by others – is converted. It’s awakened!

I LOVE that because as I reflect on questions I believe I’ve not received answers to, it seems clear to me that I HAVE and I’ve just not known it was HIM!

I’ve always believed in God. I’ve never doubted that He has a place for me in Heaven. I wasn’t “churched” growing up, but I was taught just enough to make me a believer. I had, and still have, a LOT to learn about growing that relationship and walking with Him. God will use any means necessary to grab our attention, to draw us into him. I am no exception…

I have suffered an incredibly tough past couple of years. To the point that I can’t even believe this is my life. It’s easy to question why. Why me? Why now? When will the suffering stop? HELLO, ANSWERS PLEASE??

Without one doubt I now believe that every bit of my suffering was for my benefit, so I could grow in faith and strive to really FOLLOW God.  Now, that’s an answer I can accept and move on with…until it seems the hits just keep coming and I can’t help feeling picked on and thinking “okay, you’ve made your point – lay off a bit!”.  The honest truth is that I’ve found myself very angry with God, and wondering if my questions have gone into the abyss, never to be answered. I can admit that because he knows what’s in my heart, there isn’t any hiding. And, because of His unconditional love and grace, He not only handles it but waits patiently for me.

Truth is, I’ve gotten answers. From HIM!

Because of my continued suffering – issues have been pushed so answers could be sought and I could be connected with some of the savviest people who God will work through to get me what I need…and shelter me during the storms. Because of my continued suffering, I grow closer to the Lord everyday and feel compelled to share the Good News! Because of my continued suffering, my priorities get more and more in line. Because of my continued suffering…well…I could go on and on…

Did you know that physical and spiritual healing often times go hand in hand?
Isaiah 38:17 – You restored me to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.

That we are to suffer in this life because Jesus suffered on the cross for us? That it’s an honor and blessing to suffer?
Acts 14:22 – We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.
Romans 8:17b – …indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Did you know that the length of time you feel overwhelmed and trapped in your suffering is totally up to you? The Devil seeks us at our weakest moments; it’s when he does some of his best work.
Genesis 50:20 – You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

We have a God who will protect us and use it all for good, if only we will let him. That he promises to make good out of the storms that bring devastation to our lives!
Romans 8:28 – 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.

Read about the powerful 5 things (the 5 M’s) you should do when you feel God might be leading you in a certain way.

He’s ready to talk – Are you ready to listen?


Seedlings: Seedaholic.com

I am approximately 6 weeks into my seedling project and things are coming along quite nicely. I’ll do a more detailed update another time but today I wanted to share with you this website I came across while searching for seeds during my planning phase (you can read about that by clicking here).

For this project, I wanted to grow lots of things that I can’t generally find in the nurseries, but also a handful of plants that are tried, true and loved. Turns out, some of those tried, true and loved plant varieties that I pick up in the nursery were hard to find in seed form.

I searched and searched and searched and eventually came across Seedaholic.com. This company, overseas, has all kinds of unique seed options that I couldn’t find anywhere else and I was surprised that their prices are competitive and shipping costs aren’t all that high (something I initially wondered about when I decided to order from them).

It takes a little longer for the order to arrive but what I found when I opened that package was jaw dropping. The way in which they package their materials and the information that comes with the seeds is something I’ve just never seen before.

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Each of the different varieties came with a full color information sheet on starting and ongoing care of the plants; and all the seeds were meticulously packaged in a small envelope which was inside a small plastic zip top bag.

When it came time for me to get these seeds started, I immediately understood why they were so hard to find…some of the seeds are so small they look like no more than a teeny-tiny speck of dirt. The sticker on the outside of the envelope cautioned me about the tiny seeds and encouraged having everything ready to go before even opening the package – but I was still in awe! I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulty in harvesting these seeds from plants at the end of season.

At the time of my order I figured I’d never have to order most of these seeds again because the listing indicated something like a gazillion seeds per package. In my ignorance I figured I would plant 3 seeds of each variety per seed-starting pod and they would last forever. Joke was on me. Just when I thought I kept it to around a dozen seeds per seed-starting pod, they germinated and I missed the mark by…well…a LOT.

Regardless, I’m super impressed with this company. Everything I’ve started has come up without any trouble and is growing wonderfully — even for this girl who really doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and is making it up a bit as she goes with this project.

Give Seedaholic.com a look – they’re pretty impressive!

H

 

 


Baked Potato Wedges

 

There are about a million different ways to make potatoes; ranging from few ingredients, little time and super easy to…well…everything opposite of that.

Here is a basic (i.e. few ingredients, little time, super easy) potato recipe that can be served just like this OR dressed up with lots of different toppings, dipping sauces, etc.

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Ingredients:
-Large baking (russet) potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges
-Cooking oil (I used avocado oil because it withstands higher baking temps without damaging the oil, but you use what you have on hand)
-Seasoned Salt
-Pepper

Instructions:
-If you have time, allow your potato wedges to soak in cold water for a bit. 30 minutes is ideal, but you can skip this step all together if time just doesn’t permit. Soaking will help pull out some of the starch and allow your wedges to get crispier when baking.
-Heat oven to 425 degrees
-Drain wedges (if you soaked them first) and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel
-Place wedges into a bowl or baggie and drizzle with cooking oil (how much you need depends on how many wedges are in play here, but you want them to be lightly coated)
-Add seasoned salt and pepper (again, amount of each depends on number of wedges AND your personal preference)
-Toss together, then place on a baking sheet
-Cook until wedges are golden brown, approximately 30 minutes, turning part way through cooking

It’s a simple recipe and it pairs well with mostly all meat dishes BUT if you want to change this up from side-dish to appetizer or snack, pile up wedges when they are done cooking, top with lots of cheese and put back under the broiler to melt. Then you can finish topping with whatever other ingredients trip your trigger: sour cream, guac, tomatoes, salsa, bacon, shredded chicken, ground beef…OR…you could make one of a million sauces for dipping…OR…the possibilities are really endless…