Friday, July 31, 2015

We Have A New Front Door

On Wednesday, a small, yet BIG improvement came to our house. We had the front door replaced, and this new door really brightens things up! Take a look at these before and after pictures to see the huge color difference in the entryway...



Ephesians 5:8 - for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Declutter One Section at a Time

My great-grandmother and her daughter were perfect examples of how NOT to declutter a house (see the picture on the right). Granted, they lived through The Great Depression and learned the importance of saving and re-using anything and everything they could. However, their frugality went a bit too far when they refused to throw away hundreds of empty Cool Whip containers, bags of empty Pringles cans, thousands of newspapers, and just about anything else you can think of. Eventually, it all overtook their home and, when we went to visit, we could only use one narrow walkway to pass through from the living room into the kitchen; and seating space was also very limited. Of course, not everyone goes to this extreme when saving items they “might need later.” But, it seems, the older we get, the harder it becomes to part with certain things, and the less energy we have to do it. So, in order to keep my house from becoming like Great-Grandma's, I have made a point to declutter on a regular basis. Let me share a few suggestions that have helped me in the decluttering process.

First of all, do NOT focus on the whole picture of a decluttered and organized home, or you could become overwhelmed and discouraged with the task ahead of you. Instead, focus on one room at a time; and even just one section at a time. To tackle a bedroom, you can start with a closet, a dresser drawer, a desk, or under the bed. To tackle a kitchen, do one cabinet or drawer at a time. In a play room, clean out the toys. In a living room, clean under, behind, and on top of the couches. Continue moving through each section of the house until the decluttering is complete in your entire home. It could take weeks, or months, or even years to get your house to where you want it. Actually, it's an ongoing process, and you will never completely be done, but starting somewhere is the key.

As you begin each section, gather 3 or 4 boxes, bags, or baskets and set them nearby. Use one box/bag for items to throw away, one box for give-away, one for items to keep, and an optional box for items to sell. Completely remove everything from the closet, drawer or cabinet. Then, choose one item from the pile, take a look at it, and decide where it should go. To help you make a choice, you can ask the following questions:
  • Is this a piece of trash? If yes, then it goes into the trash box.
  • Is this item smelly and/or growing mold? If yes, then trash it.
  • Is this broken beyond repair? If yes, trash it.
  • Can the broken item be inexpensively fixed? If yes, will you (or someone you know), take the time to fix it in a reasonable amount of time? If yes, place it into the “keep” box. If not, trash it.
  • Is this item sentimental to me? If yes, keep it for now. If not, give it away. (NOTE:  Something to remember here is that, no matter how sentimental, you cannot and should not keep everything. This leads to too much clutter. One idea my sister-in-law gave is to take a picture of those special T-shirts you used to wear, or of some special knickknacks you no longer have room for on the shelf. Then, put the photos in an album to look at, and pass along your items for someone else to enjoy, or recycle them if they are no longer usable.)
  •  Is this item something I can and will eventually use? If yes, keep it. If not, give it away.
  •  If you originally set the item aside to “eventually” use, how long have you had it? If it has been more than 5 years, consider getting rid of it.
  • Is this a clothing item that I am still wearing, and is it in good condition? If yes, keep it. 
  • Is this a clothing item that I have not worn for 2 years or more? Then, give it away (unless it is something truly sentimental, such as a wedding dress. Just remember not to go overboard with keeping those sentimental items).
After the piles have been filtered, immediately throw away the trash. Then, everything that is in the “keep” box needs to be put into its proper place. Toys go into toy boxes; shoes lined up and organized; books on bookshelves; and knickknacks on display shelves. Basically, all “like” items should be neatly organized with other “like” items and placed back into a clean closet, drawer, or cabinet.

If you find the decluttering process is too much for you to do on your own, ask a friend for help. Decluttering brings so many great advantages that you won’t want to miss out on.
  1. The satisfaction you feel as you look at the freshly decluttered and organized sections of your home.
  2. The blessing to be able to find the things you need when you need them.
  3. The ability to walk through your home without stepping on things.
  4. The fun of earning some extra cash if you decide to have a rummage sale.
  5. The joy in blessing others with the items you decide to give away.
So, start tomorrow.... and have FUN with decluttering!

Monday, July 20, 2015

REVIEW: Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows

Hop inside the book, "Bash and the Chocolate Milk Cows" and you and your kids can take a trip to a country farm where Bash and his cousin, Beamer, think of fun ways (including pranks) to pass the time. While you are there, you can also follow Beamer as he learns more about Baptism and The Great Commission.

I used this book as a "read-a-loud" this Summer. I figured my 12-year-old son would enjoy it, since it is geared towards 8-12 year old boys. But, there is a lot of awkward dialogue at the beginning of the book that made it a bit hard for us to engage. My son and I sort of lost interest after the first couple of chapters, and gave up on reading it. But, don't refuse to read it just based on my initial opinion. As I scanned the rest of the book, it does appear to get more interesting. We just had other interests to pursue this Summer. I applaud the author for writing fun books for kids that also intertwines discussions on Christian beliefs.

Note:  I received this book free from Shelton Interactive for the purpose of this review. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Pizza Ranch's "Living Hope" Music CD [Giveaway CLOSED]

I have never been to a PIZZA RANCH restaurant and, actually, I had never even heard of them until just recently. But, now that I know about them, I am very interested in giving them a try sometime. For one, their food looks so delicious! But, what I really like is their vision and mission. Pizza Ranch's vision and mission is not just to feed hungry people. It is "to glorify God by positively impacting the world" and "to give every guest a legendary experience." They have over 190 locations across 13 states: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.  (You can read more about them on their blog, PIZZA RANCH SERVES.)

On June 2, 2015, Pizza Ranch released a music CD called LIVING HOPE which contains 12 songs from many of their favorite Christian artists.  Most of the songs are brand-new and written exclusively for this CD around the theme of HOPE.  Adrie Groeneweg, the President and CEO of Pizza Ranch, says, "Although Pizza Ranch is not in the music business, many things have been happening, conversations have been taking place and doors have been opening for this album.  Through these events, I believe it was obvious that God has been behind this for His specific purpose and putting it on our hearts to collectively create this project."  

Here are just a few of the songs and some of the great lyrics:

"Future" - Francesca Battistelli 
I find peace and I find comfort in the One who knows the way. You have overcome my every struggle, the God who holds my days. 

"Hold Onto Hope" - Ellie Holcomb 
I’m waiting for Your light and truth, send them forth to guide me back to You. Keep reminding me that I don’t have to choose despair, I can place my hope in You. 

"Savior's Arms" - Passion Band and Kristian Stanfill 
Even through the darkest valley, You will light the way again. Surely you will go before me, for your goodness has no end. 

"Overcome the World" - Mark Schultz 
In this life, there’ll be sorrow. Don’t lose sight, He hold holds tomorrow. Oh, behold, His love has overcome the world. 

"A Little Hope" - Bart Millard 
Everybody needs a little hope, you know the kind that turns your grey skies blue, a little something that’ll pull you through. Well, good news, that something’s living right inside of you, yeah hope. 

The CD is available at any Pizza Ranch location for only $5 plus tax, or you can purchase a download on their website through August 31st. 

I received a copy of this CD for review and have really enjoyed listening to it. If you enjoy Contemporary Christian music, I believe you will be pleased with the album. For a closer look, you can watch lyric videos, listen to many of the songs, and watch introductions to some of the songs on the official PIZZA RANCH MUSIC page on You Tube.

You also have a chance to win a copy of this CD. Just fill out the form below. The CD will be sent to the winner by FlyBy Promotions. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, July 18, 2015, at 8:00 p.m. CST.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Sunday, July 12, 2015

15 More Songs That Encourage Me

Music speaks to me in such powerful ways. On the days when I am weary or discouraged, I try to take some time to listen to one, two, or several of my favorite encouraging songs. Music, and especially the lyrics that accompany it, is often a way for me to pray when I don't have the words to say. It helps me to cope with difficult days, and it can be such a lift to my spirit. 

When I was going through treatments for cancer, I shared a blog post about 20 SONGS THAT ENCOURAGE ME. It has been over 2 years since that post was written and, since then, I have found 15 more songs to add to the list. Please listen and be renewed today as you pray these songs, and as the Lord speaks to your heart...


Monday, July 6, 2015


I remember getting a new 10-speed bike for my 12th birthday. I was walking home from school when I saw a nice, shiny, red bike sitting in our front yard. I thought someone was visiting and had ridden to our house on his/her bike, so I walked into the house and asked, "Who's here?" My mom just smiled and said, "No one." I was confused and asked who the bike belongs to. My memory has faded a bit and I don't remember much after that, but I think my parents took me outside and said maybe I should get on the bike and see if its a right fit for me since there was no one else around to claim it as theirs. I eventually figured out that it was my birthday present. I don't know if I outwardly showed it, but I was surprised, excited, and pleased. We often went on family bike rides around town and had so much fun. And, that 10-speed bike made it so much easier to pedal uphill!

I still have that bike, and surprisingly, it is still in pretty good shape after all these years. So, over the weekend, I had David get the bike down from the ceiling in the garage and see if the tires would hold air. Our 12 year old son is beginning to outgrow his little bike, so I thought maybe we could see if he could ride mine.

Yay! The tires DID hold air! 

Then, can you guess what happened next? I just HAD to try it out myself before letting our son give it a try. I've heard it said, once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget how. I honestly can't remember the last time I rode this bike, but I'm pretty sure it was before David and I had kids. That makes it at LEAST 17 years ago, maybe more. But, guess what? I DID remember how to ride it! Wow, I forgot how much fun it can be to ride a bike... and how good it is for getting some exercise.

After my legs began to beg for mercy, I let our 12-year-old son ride it, too. He says "it will do" until he can get a bigger bike of his own.

The opportunities for simple enjoyment in our lives are limitless. What a fun time we had riding bikes together, remembering old times, and making new memories as well.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #27: Should These Continue?

Hi, friends. I hope you are enjoying your Summer!

Speaking of Summer, we are keeping ourselves busy with various activities, so I will be taking a break from posting these Encouragement Challenges at least through the rest of July and August. I will still pop in on occasion, but I need some time for brainstorming new challenges for the rest of the year. (My original plan was to have 52 challenges - one for each week in 2015 - but I think 40 would be a good, even number, too.) If all goes well, I hope to start back up in September with the weekly challenges. 

Now, I have a question for you.....  Have you enjoyed or been encouraged by these challenges? Do you look forward to them continuing in September? If so, then your ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE for this week is to let me know your thoughts. I really don't write these for man's approval, but we all need some encouragement once in awhile to keep going. Encouraging me to continue these challenges would be a huge motivation. However, if you would prefer I go in a different direction for the remainder of the year, please feel free to share that with me as well. 

Thanks for reading!