Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Begging my Heart to Praise, 30 Day Praise Challenge Week 4

One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, the Youth Pastor at our church gave a call to worship, like he does many Sundays.  This particular day, I was sitting at the piano, helping with the music.  We had just finished singing Matt Redman's Ten Thousand Reasons, one of my favorite songs.  {If you've never heard it or don't know what I'm talking about, just click here to see and hear it}.

The chorus of the song goes like this:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul.
I'll worship Your holy name.

And our Youth Pastor said something like this,
"Do you realize that this song is speaking to our souls?  It's like we're grabbing our soul by the collar and screaming, 'BLESS GOD.  BLESS GOD.  BLESS GOD'."

I've had that image in my head now for a long time.  And this is what I have to do some days, this begging my heart, my soul, to bless God, to praise Him, even when it's hard, when it seems like there's nothing to praise Him for in whatever challenging moment I'm facing.  

I love what Ann Voskamp wrote just yesterday on her blog, her own story of choosing to give thanksgiving to God, blessing Him, even when it's hard.  I could never say it like she does, so just go read her blog post, if you haven't.

The Psalms are full of verses about praising God.  And believe me, there is much for which to praise God.  Even when I have to scream at my soul to do it.

So, today, the day before we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I leave you with a Psalm that talks about blessing God.  Blessing Him for the countless ways that He demonstrates who He is and what He can do for sinful, praise-struggling-souls like me.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, 
and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.  
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sausage Stuffing Recipe, the Best Stuffing You'll Ever Eat

Thanksgiving is less than a week away!  I can't even believe it!  If you're looking for some last minute recipes to add to your menu, you'll definitely want to include this one.  Just be sure to buy an extra pound of butter; you'll need 3/4 of a pound for this recipe alone!

Four years ago we spent Thanksgiving with my husband's sister and her family in Las Vegas.  We were living in Monterey at the time, so we decided to make the 8 hour drive and it was totally worth it.  Isabella was almost one, and I was about 34 weeks pregnant with Mallory.  We had a great time with them, seeing their new home, visiting some of the sights downtown and being together.

At the Bellagio
My sister-in-law made this awesome stuffing for our Thanksgiving meal and I've made it every year since.  I'm a big fan of stuffing, so when I say this is the best stuffing ever, I mean it.  I think my younger sister might even be okay with it instead of the Stove Top variety, which is saying a lot for her! {By the way, head over to her blog for a great Sweet Potato Casserole recipe}.

Be sure to start on this the day before your feast, as the bread needs to sit out overnight.  I like to sit on the couch while I rip up bread the night before; it's much more comfortable and you can enjoy your friends and family at the same time.

Sausage Stuffing

2 loaves of bread, torn up and set out overnight {I used French bread loaves purchased the day before}
1.5 pounds sage sausage
3 sticks butter, unsalted
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion

Brown sausage in a large skillet, until no longer pink.  Place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease.  Melt butter in a large skillet with poultry seasoning, salt, celery and onion.  Cook until onions are soft.  Place the sausage in the pan and mix well.

Using a large bowl or pot, mix the sausage mixture with the bread.  Then, add 1/4-1/2 cups of water until all the bread is moist.  Place in a greased pan, cover with foil and bake at 450F until the bread starts to slightly brown, stirring every so often.  Add water if it needs more moisture.

Be sure to see this post about a new Etsy shop that recently opened and the verse print they made for me!

Roots by the Stream Verse Print from Love & a Prayer

I have something exciting to share with you today!  Right after I finished  my 31 Days to Thrive series, a friend of mine announced on her blog that she had opened an Etsy shop.  I clicked over to her store and saw some beautiful prints she had created of verses and quotes.  I noticed that she also mentioned she would do custom orders.  I quickly emailed her to find out if she would be willing to create a print based on the verse in Jeremiah that I used as my 'theme' verse for my series.

She sent me a proof, we tweaked it a bit, and I LOVE what she came up with!


This verse is available in this blue/grey shade, as well as with a chalkboard background.

I haven't had a chance to purchase a frame for this yet, but I wanted to share it with you anyway because Amanda is graciously offering my readers a discount on any print you purchase through the end of the month!

Here are some of the other items in her shop:



{Fun little fact: my husband quoted this from Pride and Prejudice when he proposed to me!}


These would make great Christmas gifts, and they're the perfect addition to any room in your home.  Her prices are very reasonable and she was great to work with in creating a custom order.

Head on over to her shop and check it out!

Love & a Prayer on Etsy

For a discount, just enter OFS10 in the promotion code to receive 10% off any print through the end of this month.

Thanks, Amanda, for this offer, and for your hard work in making this printable for me!

May we thrive today as we dig our roots deep into the Stream, trusting Christ to bring about His perfect work in our hearts.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

30 Day Praise Challenge Week 3: A Continual Sacrifice

Praise can and should be a regular overflow of my life.  It's a decision, a choice to turn my thoughts outside of myself, my circumstances, my disappointments and to turn them to the Lord.

It's in the praising that I find joy.  It's in thankfulness and reflection that my heart can be quieted.  It's in Christ that I can stand when the cares of life threaten to push me over.

I was reminded of a verse in Hebrews:

"Through him {Jesus} then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."  Hebrews 13:15

Praise is to be ongoing.  It's not something that starts and stops because we feel like it.  Praise is a sacrifice, an act that requires giving, concentration, deliberateness.

Just as I choose to not be anxious, to forgive those who have wronged me, to find my worth in God's eyes, to run to Jesus as the One who can satisfy every longing of my heart--and do these over and over again--so must I offer my praise to God.

So today, may we make a deliberate decision to praise God and praise Him over and over again.

I was encouraged by my friend's post yesterday about how God used one of the days of praise in her life.  Go visit her blog and be blessed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Uses for Leftover Halloween Candy

We're now two weeks past Halloween and there's still a lingering collection of candy in our pantry.  Part of me wants to just throw it away so the temptation to indulge will be gone.  Thankfully, my kids love the fruity sticky stuff and leave the chocolate goodies behind.  Unfortunately, this means I end up eating said chocolate goodies.

Yesterday, as I stood there debating about which kind to snack on, I started thinking about how to use up all this candy.  Maybe you've wondered that too.  I've rounded up some creative ways to put candy into cakes, cookies, or to use it for other crafty projects.  You don't have to eat it in its simple form.  With a little bit of time and some creativity you can enjoy your Halloween candy without just sneaking it in the pantry.

Chocolate Chip Snickers Cookies

Twix Cake

This next one is actually a recipe for homemade sprinkles, which look really amazing!  But, if you look at the picture closely, they resemble the candy Nerds.  Use Nerds as sprinkles on a cake for an easy colorful display.

Skittle Straws

Trail Mix

Starburst Candy Sculptures

Sorting and Graphing with Sweet Tarts

Candy Train Game

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I didn't sneak any candy yesterday :).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Day Praise Challenge, Week 2

I don't always feel like praising.  Last week was one of those weeks.  Every day it seemed like something else went 'wrong' causing frustration, weariness, anger, and a general feeling of defeat.  There was no major crisis.  Just a lot of bed-wetting, crying babies, disobedient children, and a busy schedule.

Sometimes it's the littlest frustrations in life that rob me of a praise-filled heart.

This week I had to choose to praise, even when I didn't feel like it.  The Holy Spirit indwells me, He convicts me, instructs me, and guides me into all truth.  The truth is that God is worthy of praise.  Always.  At all times.

In those moments when I feel defeated, frustrated, angry, or just plain tired, I'm learning to stop and praise God for something.  Sometimes I have to start really simple, but if I keep going, praising God for various things, more things follow and before I know it my heart has been changed by praising God.

To overflow with praise is to be filled up with the One who is worthy of praise.

If I'm filled up with Him instead of my troubles, I can live a praise-filled life that spreads the fragrance of Christ to those around me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Day Praise Challenge, Week 1

Have you ever read a book and felt like the author wrote it just for you?  That's how I have felt each day as I've read through Becky Harling's book, the 30 Day Praise Challenge, over the past few days.  There are specific things in each day that we are encouraged to praise God for.  I'll share with you a few things that I've gleaned from each day.

day 1:
I was feeling particularly inadequate on this day regarding caring for Mason.  He had two therapy sessions back to back that day and by the time it was over, I was emotionally spent.  How was I ever going to help him learn how to talk?  And, how would I be able to do it?  I was at unrest in my spirit about caring for my son.

Then, I read these words:  "Every time you feel an uncertain angst in your soul, praise God immediately that He will give you discernment for that moment."

I definitely need God's wisdom, and if I can learn to praise God in advance, I would avoid unnecessary grumbling in my spirit.  He promises wisdom; I need only to ask.

day 2:
Tired is an understatement these days.  I'm sure you all can relate!  Life is busy and there are certain seasons for each of us that are more taxing than normal; I'm in one of those more taxing seasons.  And it's not just physical weariness, although I do feel that.  There's a soul-weary that comes from challenges, changes, circumstances we didn't expect, etc.

In Becky's prayer that day she says, "I praise You that when I feel exhausted, You invite me to rest in You, reassuring me that You are not demanding or harsh in Your expectations for me."

We have strength from a God who never grows tired or weary.

day 3:
This day was all about praising God for how He has made us.  Quite timely for me, who is hanging onto more pregnancy weight than I want to right now.  It was a good reminder to me that we were created in God's image, not to be skinny and feel good about myself, but God designed us "to reflect Your {God's} beauty in a world that is often not very beautiful."

day 4:
There have been periods of time over the past 18 months, since finding out our son had Down Syndrome, that I have struggled with his condition more than others.  This fall has been particularly challenging for some reason.  Over the past two weeks, though, Mason has crossed some major milestones {I'll share more on that later this week}. I have really been thinking on the kindness of God--He always seems to give me encouragement just when I need it.

Then, I read, "Perhaps, just when you felt you couldn't handle the challenge of having a child with special needs, you experienced an unexpected breakthrough."  Yes!  That's exactly what happened!  Even when things feel unfair or hard, God is always kind.

day 5:
God never changes.  This was the theme today and I needed that reminder.  We are facing some changes in our family in the coming months, and I have tried not to think about them because I start to become anxious about the unknowns.

I love the verse that Becky ended the day with:  Psalm 26:1 says, "I have trusted in the Lord without wavering."

I want to be able to say that.  Even when I am facing all sorts of uncertainties, I don't want my trust in God to falter.

In summary, I am thoroughly enjoying this book.  I'm being challenged, blessed, and I find myself praising God more even in the mundane things that I do each day.  My heart is being turned to praise more and more.

If you're joining in this month's challenge, I'd love to hear what you've learned so far!  Feel free to share in the comments, or you can email me: onlyfromscratch at gmail dot com