Monday, January 15, 2018

The Lord Gives & The Lord Takes Away

Well, this was surely an eventful week to say the least.  Just another reminder in our lives that God is in control, and one doesn't always know how things are going to play out.

Carl left to go on a trip last Monday, and I was home with the kids.  I usually go to get coffee on Tuesdays, because it is double punch day which means I can get a free coffee after only 5 punches instead of 10.  When it comes to coffee, I like to think ahead.  You know how it is.

Anyway, my change engine oil reminder light had come on in my vehicle which is just a manually set reminder they reset every time I get an oil change.  I still had well over 1,000 miles before my oil change was due, but I had Carl check the oil in the week or so prior to be sure it was OK.  He had added a little to top it off, but it seemed fine otherwise.  

However, as I sat in the coffee line for my coffee, the actual oil light came on with an alarm accompanied by flashing lights which told me the oil pressure was low and to turn off the vehicle immediately.  I pulled the car over and had the ignition turned off within 30 seconds. 

I got out of the car and checked the oil several times, but the oil level was fine.  After calling Carl who was out of town training 2 new guys with his company, he confirmed I should not drive it.  I called a tow and had it brought to the dealership.  After about 24 hours of them looking at it to find the problem, we were told the engine was basically shot and the only thing my poor Suburban needed was a new engine which costs almost as much as the Suburban was worth.

My Suburban :-(
I probably haven't said this yet, but I love my Suburban.  I really do.  It is my favorite car I have ever had.  The thought of having to let it go was pretty sad for me not to mention the huge financial hit.  I woke up in the morning believing I had a car which was worth $10,000 let's say to the end of the day having a car which might only be worth parts.  It was a little much.

I had a lunch date with a friend on Thursday, and I was asking if she would pray for us as we made the decision on whether to fix the Suburban or get another car.  I remember I told her, "I had plans to run that car into the ground until it couldn't run anymore."  She said very matter of factly, "You did."  Yes, true words.  That is what I wanted to do, and that is what I had done.

So, after a week of car shuffling, lots of prayer, and thoughtful lists of pros and cons, we decided to say goodbye to the Suburban and hello to a used Tahoe.  This incident helped Carl and I both to see that we are probably in a new phase of life which is shrinking, not expanding.  We realized the reality that I probably wasn't the Suburban mom anymore.

I really have just loved my Suburban.  We have affectionately called it the tank all of these years.  I really wanted the same car, but just smaller.  The Tahoe was even made in Texas which Nathan thought must be a sign that it was meant to be.  

Another situation happened in our family this weekend too which was just a good reminder that you can't put your hope in material possessions.  You can't take any of it with you.  One morning you wake up with what you think is security and by the end of the day it is gone.  

Just such a great reminder that nothing is guaranteed.  Jesus is the only one who we can count on.  The only one who will never leave us or forsake us.  The only one we can find our security in.

Nathan came in the kitchen tonight when I was making dinner and read to me a verse which he had been reminded of today.  It was Job 1:21 (ESV) which says, "...'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;  blessed be the name of the Lord.'"

God has taken away this week, but we trust him to give us what we need when we need it.  I am probably going to get better gas mileage in the Tahoe, and I will surely have more room in my garage.  The Lord has taken away, but He is faithful to give us good things as well.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

"...The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away..." 
Job 1:21, ESV

Monday, January 8, 2018

Tips To Get Your Kids To Sleep In

I have had a few friends tell me recently that their little guy or gal has woken up at 5:00am, and their family days begins whenever the child gets up.  I am not talking about little tiny babies or infants either.  Oh my goodness, someone would have had to put me in a straitjacket.  

Every family is surely different.  I get that!  There are some families which I am sure are OK with the 5 o'clock hour with their kids running around, and that is great.  

I myself am not a morning person nor will I ever be a morning person.  My kids were not allowed to be up that early unless they were sick, or we had an early morning road trip.  I really did spend time and effort to train my kids to sleep in in the mornings, and I thought I would pass along some tips I used if anyone out there is not a morning person like me and doesn't want to see the clock that early in the morning.  I am personally a better Mommy when I got more sleep!

Know how many hours of sleep your child needs for their age.
According to the Sleep for Kids website1, the amount of sleep a kid needs is listed below.  I know for myself this chart was super helpful.  Sometimes, I would think my child needed more or less sleep than they actually did.  If I ever began to have sleeping difficulties, I would always look at this chart first.  

0-2 months               11-18 hours (14-17 according to the National Sleep Foundation website)
2-12 months             14-15 hours
1-3 years                  12-14 hours
3-5 years                  11-13 hours
5-12 years                10-11 hours

For example, let's say your 4 year old is getting up at 5am, and you would like him to sleep until 7am.  He currently goes to bed at 7pm and takes a 3 hours nap during the day.  So, doing the math to see how much sleep he is currently getting on average puts him at the 13 hour range which is a normal range for his age.  To get those morning sleep hours, I would try cutting down the afternoon nap and pushing the bedtime back until about 7:30pm or 8pm.

Say goodbye to your black out curtains at night
Being able to see the sunlight or the lack of sunlight coming through the curtains in my opinion is a gift you can use to teach your kids when it is nighttime and when it is morning.  If they have black out curtains, they really are not able to learn if it is day or night so they will wake often to check with you to see if it is night or day.  When my child would wake up at 5:30am, for example, I would come into their room, point to the darkness outside the window, and say, "It is still nite-nite time."  They began to know that I would not get them out if it was still dark outside.  I would lay them back down, put the covers back on and walk back out of the room.  It didn't always work, but it worked the majority of the time.

Let them cry it out in small intervals
When my kids were really little or just starting to communicate, they would either cry or call out to me from their cribs in the morning time.  If it was still dark, I would go in there like I did above and tell them it was nite-nite time.  If it was already sunlight outside, but still really early, I might let them just play in their crib for awhile if they weren't fussy or if they were crying, let them fuss it out for 5-10 minutes before going to get them unless they were absolutely hysterical.  I remember Madison got stuck for a little while in a time slot in the morning when it was 6:15am or so.  Being the non-morning person that I am, I would delay to go and get her when she would wake around 6:15am.  So, the first day I got her at 6:25, then the next at 6:35, then 6:40 and so on.  Within a couple of weeks, she was sleeping until 7:00 to 7:30am.  

Teach the kids to tell time on a digital clock
When the kids got a little bit older where they could read time on a digital clock, but Carl and I still did not feel comfortable with them roaming the house unsupervised, we had a rule on the weekends that they could not come out of their rooms until the first number on the clock was an 8.  We always made sure their rooms were child proofed such as blind cords put away, furniture secured to the wall, outlet covers on, etc.  They were allowed to get out of their beds and play quietly until 8, but not come and wake us up yet.  You could choose a different number, but that is the number we liked.

I know every family is different.  I have 3 kids and know that every kid is different in how they sleep so please take this for what it is.  Some tips for those who are struggling in this area.  It worked for me with all of our children, and it was also very important to me to get my morning sleep.  I am really not a morning person.  Did I say that already?

Copyright 2018

Monday, January 1, 2018

Skillet Cornbread

This is my recipe for good, old-fashioned Southern cornbread.  Cornbread is not really a Northern or a Southern thing per se, but from what I have seen, they just make it a little bit differently from each other.  Most Southerners make their cornbread in a hot iron skillet with little or no sugar.  However, Northerners make theirs in a pan, and it usually is a sweeter bread.

However you may like it, this is my version of my mother's Southern cornbread recipe.  I have changed it a little bit over the years, but it is mostly the same recipe.

One things I had to change were the ingredients.  In the south, you can find self-rising cornmeal mix which already has the self-rising ingredients in it.  However, in the north where I live now, you can't find it.  So, I have to buy cornmeal and add the self-rising ingredients to it myself so it will rise.  I will include both recipes so you can make it with either regular cornmeal or cornmeal mix depending on what is sold near you.

Skillet Cornbread

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup plus 4 1/2 tablespoons of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup bacon grease, divided*

Place 1/4 cup of bacon grease into a 10 inch iron skillet.  Place into an oven and preheat to 425°.  In a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients of cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix together until incorporated.  Add egg, milk and 1/4 cup of melted bacon grease.  Stir together until smooth.

The most important step to this cornbread is to make sure the skillet is very hot.  When the oven is preheated and the skillet is very hot, remove the skillet from the oven and check to see if the grease is hot enough.  If you are unsure, what I do is get my hand wet in the sink, stand back from the skillet so I don't get burned, and shake my hand quickly over the grease so a few water droplets drop in the grease.  If the water sizzles and pops, I know it is ready.  If it doesn't, you need to put the skillet back in the oven to heat some more.  When you are sure the skillet is very hot, quickly pour the batter into the skillet.  The batter should make a sizzling noise if the skillet is sufficiently heated.  This is what make the wonderful crust! 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, and the cornbread begins to pull away for the sides of the skillet.

*Although the thought of you not wanting to use the bacon grease make a tear or two come to my eye, I know there are times when substitutions must be made.  You can use vegetable oil in place of the bacon grease, but you will definitely loose some of the wonderful flavor.

To make with cornmeal mix

1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup bacon grease, divided*

Copyright 2018

Monday, December 18, 2017

One Christmas Present You Won't Regret Giving

Every year at Christmas time, we run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to buy the perfect presents for those special people on our Christmas list.  Those presents which will end up later being loved or hated, cherished or trashed, kept or returned.  This Christmas season, why not give a gift you will not regret giving.

I am struck every year at Christmas by the lyrics of some very special Christmas songs.  There is one song every year that really gets to me.  It is The Little Drummer Boy.

You may think that the song is merely about a boy who just plays his drum for a baby.  What is the big deal?  It really is so much more than that though.  It is about a poor boy who plays his drum for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, because he does not have anything else to give to the baby Jesus.  He gives Him the only gift he can, but it is also his best gift.

The Little Drummer Boy lyrics go like this.

Little baby

Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

The truth of it is we ourselves have no gift which is worthy to give our King and Lord.  He is the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), and He even made the hills (Genesis 1).  What could we possibly give to Him that is worthy?

It is true that we cannot add anything to Him, but I do believe that He chooses people to do His work.  I do believe that Jesus wants to have a relationship with every one of us.  I do believe that Jesus is pleased when we obey Him just as we as parents are pleased when our own children obey.  We don't have to, but don't you want to give Him your best?  I know I do. 

Since Jesus was the best gift we ever could receive, I wonder if you had just one gift to give Jesus this holiday season and into the new year, what would it be?  You have no gift which is worthy of the King, but are you willing to give your best for Him?

A few ideas for you to think and pray over.  Could you pick one?
Read one chapter of your Bible every day.
Seek out an accountability partner so you can encourage each other in your walk.
Start a devotional time with your children.
Start reading the Bible with your children before bed.
Say no to one obligation already on your list.
Take a break from social media.
Join a church ministry such as the children's ministry if you are good with kids.
Memorize or meditate on one scripture verse a week.
Start contributing financially to your church or another reputable Christian charity if you are already giving at church.
Do a budget to be a better steward of what God has given you.

We give because of what has been given to us.  We give, not to add another notch to our spiritual scoresheet, but because we love Him.  We do it, because we want to grow closer to Him.  

I encourage you to give one gift to Jesus this year which will help you to grow closer in your walk with Him.  Write it on a piece of paper, wrap it and put it under the tree if you want.  I know you can give your best for Him.  I just know it.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38, NIV

Monday, December 11, 2017

3 Ways To Have Money

There are several subjects which are near and dear to my heart.  Financial planning is definitely one of them.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love an Excel spreadsheet!  

Carl and I have been privileged to be able to mentor and teach others in this area.  We are by no means perfect, but we try to be good stewards of what God has given to us.  We give, because of what He has given to us.

I remember a couple of years ago, my son, Nathan, came to me and asked me to start to teach him how Carl and I managed our money.  We talked about a lot of things such as saving, investments, etc., but before any of that I told him the same thing I have told so many others too.  It is my number one rule.

Number 1 - Tithe

Give the first of your money back to God in a tithe.  A tithe means 10%, and the Bible talks about a first fruits (Deuteronomy 26).  Carl and I interpret that to mean 10% off the top which would be the first fruits.  For those that are not tithing at all, I at least encourage them to start doing something and work their way up to that number.  I have personal friends who truly stepped out in faith after we spoke with them about this, and God did some amazing things with their work situation and with random "gifts" they received.  We have seen it too many times to ever doubt it.  God definitely honors those who put Him first.  It is all His anyway. 

"'You are under a curse--your whole nation--because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'" Malachi 3:10

Number 2 - Make Money

Another way to have money is to actually make money.  I have met so many people over the years who are barely making it, because they don't make a high enough wage.  They are too loyal to their employer or too afraid to go and look for another job making a higher wage.  Get out there and see if someone else will hire you to do what you are already doing, but at a higher wage.  If you are able bodied, sling some pizzas, be an Uber driver at night, buy and resell items on Ebay, get a second job, sell some things in your garage, etc.  Encourage your kids to be entrepreneurs and to think outside the box too.  Nathan saw a Louis Vuitton small purse at a second hand store we were shopping at for $20, and I encouraged him to get it if he thought he could resell it for more on Ebay.  He sold it on Ebay for $150.  There truly are plenty of ways to make extra money.

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
Luke 16:10, ESV

Number 3 - Save Money

As a consumer, I have the choice to buy something or not.  If the item is a need, I at least have the option (most of the time) as to where I can purchase that item.  I have the option to buy it at full price or not.  When shopping online, I always open a separate tab and search for a coupon code.  I love the GeoQpon app which can save you money on purchases you make around town.  I would say that over 50% of the time, I am able to find a coupon for something I am buying.  I also love the WalMart app where I can scan my receipt, and it gives me money back if it finds a better deal somewhere else.  I save it up all year long and cash it out in December for Christmas time.  I just bought all of my stocking stuffers and several gifts this week all for free.  Cutting coupons, sale items at the store, using apps as well as reward cards are all ways to save.  For example, I try to only get coffee on Tuesdays at my favorite place, because they give double stamps on my reward card on Tuesdays.  Ten stamps or ten coffees bought equal a free coffee.  So, I am able to get a free coffee after only 5 coffees bought instead of 10, because I get 2 stamps for every coffee I buy not just 1.  Saving money is actually exciting to me!  The more money I have left in my pocket after each purchase means the more money I have to save, invest, or buy things my family needs.

"The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down." 
Proverbs 21:20, NIV

Copyright 2017