Uncategorized

Choosing Life

flowers 2

Several months back, I was sitting in the car with my kids, waiting for my husband to roll out of football practice when I heard the familiar “ping” of my phone, alerting me to a new text message. As I saw the name of the messenger, I was instantly perplexed and curious. My stepson’s mom, who was disgruntled and at her wit’s end with my teenage stepson, had reached out to me.

I was particularly surprised that she was contacting me, considering our relationship is…let’s just say, less than perfect. Not going to sugarcoat it – being a stepmom for over ten years, it’s no puzzle to me that these complex relationships are a recipe for dissension. Afterall, it’s a relationship that was not in God’s original plan for the family unit (just take Sarah and Hagar, for example). And like Sarah and Hager, the enemy has been at work in this challenging relationship since Jesse and I started dating.

Resentment, blame, unforgiveness, insecurity…just a few of the tactics Satan loves to use for his evil schemes in these kind of sticky situations. Disagreements and false accusations have taken us down this dark road and has allowed room for a lot of hurt and frustration to unvoluntarily pour into our lives over the years. But it has also allowed room for personal growth, character development, and spiritual refinement.

As I read through her parental vexation, I could not help but recall all the verbal wounds incurred over the years at our expense. Every hurtful text, phone conversation, Facebook post. Every insult and attack on our character has been a tough pill to swallow. I was half- tempted to just ignore her plea altogether or respond with a quick, unconstructive tip to send her on her way. But then the Holy Spirit prompted me… why of all people, did she choose to reach out to me? Me!

So I stared at my phone, contemplating my next move. I asked God, “Lord, what would you have me say to her?” And His response was very direct: Speak Life!

Did I want to feed into my human temptation to seize the opportunity and lash out or choose a path that would lead to an eternal reward of faithfulness? Rather than taking full advantage of her vulnerable state and pin-point my tally of her failures and faults, I chose life. Not because I am the picture of perfect parenting, but because I am a child of God. Not because the high road is the easier road to take. But because it is the road He calls of His children.

I told her that motherhood is a challenging, but rewarding calling. That as moms, we battle feelings of failure on a daily basis. That all children have their strengths and weaknesses, as do adults.  I told her motherhood requires grace – lots of grace. And finally, I encouraged her to seek the Throne of Jesus to give His wisdom to parent intentionally, lovinging, and effectively.

I received no reply. But I prayed my words planted seeds of hope into her weary heart.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” -Proverbs 18:21

I am by no means trying to take an opportunity to slander my stepson’s mom. But I am making every attempt to demonstrate the formidable power that dwells within each and every one of us. And this power is not limited to the difficult people God places in our lives, but to those that are right under our roof, and in front of us in the grocery store, and the outspoken neighbor who’s beliefs outwardly defies our personal convictions.

 We speak life by encouraging, uplifting, and voicing the truth in love and grace.

There is a saying I tell my children all the time in order to teach them an applicable example of the power of the tongue: Our mouth has the power to hurt or help. A power that holds the promise of giving life or death. Victory or defeat. Love or hate. We have the power to turn on the light into a dark situation or relationship simply by choosing to speak words of grace and wisdom.

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” -Proverbs 12:18

I once heard a pastor give a profound image of what our words would look like if we could actually see them with our eyes? He went on to say hurtful words are like daggers – knives flying through the air – abrasively cutting, leaving life-long scars. But words that offer healing and affirmation – they breathe life into dry bones – into lifeless relationships and circumstances.

Even if we can’t visibly see our positive words move the mountains in our lives, we can be confident that our words did not fall on deaf ears in the spiritual realm and be certain of the victories we won for Christ by being stewards of our tongue. Interestingly, the tongue is known to be one of the strongest muscles in our body – and out of 650 muscles – that’s some strong competition.

We must diligently discern our words because once they are spoken, they can not be taken back. And the pain caused by harmful words can leave devestaing wounds that last a lifetime. But, if we tame our tongue and use our God-given speech for edification, we have the power to shatter the plans of the enemy, glorify God,  further His Kingdom, and be heirs in His righteousness.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Moms In Prayer: Being A Prayer Warrior for Your Kids

Image result for images of moms in prayer

Prayer. It’s not exactly one of the topics that ignites an immediate response in us to jump up and down with excitement. But prayer is probably one of our greatest untapped resource – and it is a resource that is always available. Oftentimes, we view prayer more like a life-line when crisis strikes or a daily redundant task, rather than a powerful, direct line to an Almighty God (who listens, by the way). We know we should pray, but that doesn’t stop us from allowing life be our excuse not to pray.

I get it – I’m a busy individual too – wifing (yes, I just made up a new verb), mothering, blogging, homemaking, and owner of an in-home daycare. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what each of these areas in life demand of me. And I’m confident your life has its fair share of responsibilities too.

Mornings are early and nights are usually late. The fact that maintaining sanity is beyond my own human capacity is becoming more and more apparent with each passing day. I hear you, moms. Life is just crazy-busy. How can we have time to pray?

With our minds constantly on super-drive, it’s so easy to become tangled in the realm of to-dos that we miss out on opportunities in the spiritual realm – intentional, intercessory and fervent communication with God.  And as a result, we miss out on interceding to an Able Heavenly Father on behalf of our children.

Last year, my daughter began the intense, life-changing journey known as Kindergarten. Oh, trust me. It’s much more than plato and carpet-reading time. Those are just friendly distractions to the real situation on your hands – your child is away from you for 6-7 hours a day.

That’s 6-7 hours where I’m not physically present, other influences are shaping my child’s life, and giving opportunity for my child to make her own choices. My single say in all this was the “I love you” note I packed in her lunchbox.

You see, I thought that was the only interaction I had while my daughter was away at school. But I was wrong. Thankfully, so wrong.

I heard about an opportunity for mothers at the school called Moms in Prayer. Even though I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was praying in front of strangers, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to go. I don’t always make great decisions, but when I do, they are truly great! And this was one of those great decisions.

A year later and now leading my kid’s school Moms in Prayer group, this ministry and its purpose has become so near and dear to my heart and has had a life-changing impact on my faith and relationship with Christ. I praise while I wash messy dishes. I repent and unfold my sins as I fold the laundry. I give thanks to God while I’m rummaging through the dairy isle in the grocery store. I offer my prayers of petition during intercession while I’m making breakfast in the moring. Learning to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) has become a way of life. And I am living proof that God hears and answers prayer!

Image result for images of moms in prayer

 

What is Moms in Prayer?

Moms in Prayer was founded by a woman named Fern Nichols about 30 years ago. Out of the desperate cry of her heart, knowing her two boys were transitioning to Middle School (another defining journey in life), she had a burden to pray for her kids – to make good choices and resist peer pressure. She formed a group of moms who shared in her passion to cover their children in prayer.

Once other women heard of the incredible ways God was answering prayer, other groups formed and now, Moms in Prayer is an international Christian organization in over 140 countries – all because of the vision of one woman and her obedience to Christ. Moms in Prayer meets one day a week for one hour. It is an uplifting time to pray with other moms and share the burdens on your heart – to pray for your kids, their school, their friends, and their teachers.

Moms can make a difference – moms just like you. Find your local school’s group and get plugged in! Your local school doesn’t have a Moms in Prayer group already? Pray and seek the Lord’s will as to whether He is prompting you to begin one! Even your homeschool co-op can start a group! Find out more info about Moms in Prayer here…

momsinprayer.org

We can be busy doing all sorts of things, but if God is not in it and we are not actively seeking God for His will, we are wasting a lot of efficiency.  Prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. Far too often, prayer is our last resource, even though we serve a mighty God who is the Source. We have been entrusted with a high calling to earnestly pray for our children. And they are so worth every second we devote to lifting them up in prayer to our loving and faithful Savior.

“The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

We are not just moms.

We are prayer warriors.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food and Recipes

Turkey Tacos with Corn & Black Bean Salsa on Butter Lettuce Wraps

turkey tacos.png

Like most busy moms I know, crockpot wonders are a life- saver and casseroles are a time-saving comfort delight. But in my kitchen, no quick and easy meal measures up to a Tex-Mex spread. Yes, Tex-Mex is quick (almost as quick as an Ohio summer) and easy (if you’re a beginner home cook) – and no – it does not have to involve heavy queso or guacamole (if you’re trying to keep it healthy). But that doesn’t mean this recipe skimps on flavor either.

Since I prefer lighter meal options during our brief encounter with the warmer weather, I decided to switch things up a bit. I chose ground turkey instead of beef – lean and heart healthy. And beautiful butter lettuce leaves instead of traditional flour or corn tortillas. Butter lettuce is crisp, sweet and ever so slightly turns up on the ends, which makes them the perfect taco vehicle. But first – it all begins with the perfect taco seasoning.

Now, I will have you know – I do not use store-bought taco seasoning – NEVER! It’s against my religion. MSG, sodium, preservatives…Oh, my! Thankfully, there is an easy solution to this – and it’s found right in your spice cupboard.

That’s right -all the seasonings you need for your tacos are probably already in your kitchen. To make it super easy, I make a larger portion of the spice mixture. That way, I have it on hand whenever I need it.

Let’s talk salsa… I’m a total chips and salsa girl, which is why I LOVE this recipe – perfect pair with your favorite tortilla chips, but also a tasty complement to my turkey tacos! This will be your go-to dish for picnics, pot lucks, and weeknights!

But the best news…this meal comes together in less than 30 minutes! Can I get an Amen?!?!

Taco Seasoning:

10 Tbs. Cumin

4 Tbs. Chili Powder

2 Tbs. Paprika

2 Tbs. Garlic Powder

2 Tbs. Onion Powder

1 Tb. Salt

1/2 Tb. Pepper

Mix it up and save in a small mason jar or Ziplock bag labeled “The Good Stuff.”

Corn and Black Bean Salsa:

1 Package of Steam Fresh Corn

1/2 Red Onion, Diced

1 Can Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed

3-4 Stem Tomatoes, Diced

1/3 Cup Cilantro, chopped

Juice of 2 Limes

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Place onion, tomatoes, black beans, and cilantro into a large bowl. Prepare corn according to box directions and add the corn to the bowl. While the corn is still hot, add the juice of 2 limes and season with salt and pepper. Stir mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.

Turkey Tacos:

1 Tb. Olive Oil

1 Lb. Ground Turkey

Head of Butter Lettuce, Leaves Separated

1/8 Cup of Taco Seasoning

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add turkey meat and seasoning. Brown the turkey, while breaking up the meat and stirring the seasoning throughout. Cook until no longer pink. Spoon turkey onto an opened butter lettuce leaf. Top with the corn and black bean salsa.

Tip: Do not over-stuff the lettuce wraps. If you want a fuller wrap, double up on the lettuce leaves for extra support.

No muss. No fuss. No guilt. These turkey tacos are the perfect summer Tex-Mex marvel!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Making Diamonds Out of Us

The Wedding Pictures 116

Yesterday, I took part in a customary emotional milestone every parent inevitably experiences – watching my firstborn graduate Kindergarten. What a roller coaster ride – tears and laughter, sadness and joy, fear and excitement – all wrapped up into one messy ball.

As I watched the tear-jerking slide show play, viewing my daughter and fellow classmates’ baby pictures grace the screen, a beautiful song played…

Diamonds

“Here and now, I’m in the fire and above my head.

Being held under the pressure, don’t know what will be left.

But here in the ashes, I’m finding treasures…

He’s making diamonds, diamonds.

He’s making diamonds out of dust.

He is refining, and in His timing, He’s making diamonds out of us.”

Today, my husband and I celebrate 10 years of marriage! Wow – like where did the time go? I don’t feel old enough to be married a whole decade! I mean, I’ve had cars last less time. But as with each passing anniversary, it’s easy to reflect on the beginning – where it all started – two naïve twenty-somethings, blinded by big dreams and marital bliss. Two spirits, merging as one, with no clue of the journey they were about to embark on or the road ahead.

As I sat, enveloped in my emotional state yesterday, I listened to the words of the song. With my hands on my lap, I glanced down and gazed upon the diamond wedding ring that adorned my fourth finger – the date 06.01.07 engraved inside – a symbol of the covenant I made with my husband that began ten years ago.

Back in 1947, De Beers Jewelry launched its now classic slogan,  “A Diamond is Forever.” This campaign, originally designed to promote sales, conveyed the historical meaning behind using diamond rings as a symbol of pure love and strength within marriage. Diamonds withstand the test of time, similarly how a marriage was designed to work. As you admire the shiny rock on your finger, consider the four major properties of diamonds: carat, clarity, color, and cut. You might be surprised to discover that marriage holds these very properties too. In fact, I am now convinced that the most beautiful and precious diamond can’t be found in a store (not even if “he went Jared”), but is found within us.

The carat measures the weight of the diamond. The larger the diamond, the more rare it is. When I read this description and the weight of a diamond, I think of Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When you enter into a marriage covenant, you are lovingly bearing your spouse’s burdens – their past, their shortcomings, their weaknesses, their sinful tendencies, EVERYTHING! Even those quirky habits that drive you crazy. But real, authentic love  is not measured by emotion,  by our own gage of contentment, or even what we can get from our marriage, but how we demonstrate Christ’s love to our spouse. I love what James Harvey wrote about bearing one another’s burdens: “Love is not merely a feeling. Love is defined by covenant and action. True love persists when emotions fail.” We know just as Christ bore the weight of our sin and shame on the cross, so real “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

The clarity of a diamond is determined by the number of tiny characteristics or inclusions it has. The smaller and less frequent the inclusions and surface blemishes, the more valuable and rare the stone. In Ephesians, Paul writes of the comparison of Christ’s love for the church and the husband’s devoted, selfless love for his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy…and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” God designed marriage between a man and wife to be the very reflection of the spotless relationship between Christ and His bride (the church). A relationship that is the very definition of atoning forgiveness, humble sacrifice, undeserved grace and perfect love. Real marriage is placing your spouse above yourself, loving without conditions, relentless forgiveness, and graceful servitude.

The color of a diamond, similar, yet different from the clarity, is judged by the hue of the diamond. Diamonds can range from colorless, to faint yellow or even brown, to rare pinks, blues and greens. Most diamonds have some distinguishable color, but the more colorless a diamond, the greater its value. In other words, a pure diamond is of highest quality. The definition of pure means “free from dust, dirt or taint; containing nothing that does not properly belong.” Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” In life and in marriage, circumstances and trials will try to “taint” your color. But when you plant your marriage in the Living Word of God, it will remain steadfast and pure – even through life’s unforeseen changes. There is a reason wedding vows say “for better or for worse,” not “for better or until the road gets rocky.”  Diamonds don’t buckle under pressure. In fact, they are refined under pressure. And just like a diamond, “love always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

The cut of a diamond is arguably the most important quality, as it determines the diamond’s reflective qualities. The cut affects its brilliance and the more precise the cut, the brighter the diamond appears. “When a diamond is well cut, light enters through the table (the diamond’s widest part), travels to the pavilion (lower cut of the diamond), and reflects from side-to-side, then pours out so the eye can see its fiery brilliance” (Ross and Simons). Just as a diamond is cut to display the brilliance of its light, so God uses marriage to shape us, refine us and reflect the brilliant light of Christ. If a diamond is improperly cut, the light is not as apparent. Only in the hands of a skilled Master Creator who intentionally molds us, marriage can become more than the dull, monotonous relationship the world makes marriage out to be. But when Christ is woven in you marriage relationship, it will eventually reflect outward and will pierce through the darkness with its beautifully crafted light.

Marriage makes us more like Christ- to be living sacrifices to our spouse, extending grace, exemplifying Christ’s love, honoring our covenant, and shining brightly for Him.  Just as the bride uncovers her face from her veil, “So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

De Beers had the right idea – a diamond is forever – purified, refined, strong, and made to eternally shine.  Out of the dust and ashes, He’s making diamonds out of us – all to reflect the brilliance of God’s perfect love.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

April Showers Bring May Flowers

flowers 2

As I listen to the pitter- patter of rain outside, I couldn’t help but bask in the joy of God’s Word and the powerful promises He has woven throughout scripture. But every promise is only made pure through the One who has promised them. If we allow ourselves to just be still and not become caught up within the business of life, the Holy Spirit has opportunity to speak to us – to encourage our hearts and reveal His specific Word for our lives.

A couple months ago, I was reading my devotions and was prompted to read in the book of Joel. As I was reading a book that appeared small and insignificant and particularly unfamiliar to me, I came to a screeching halt in Chapter 2:23. “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains for He is faithful. He sends abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

As I read this verse, the Holy Spirit stopped me. I knew that I knew that I knew I must find out what this verse means and my starting point was to first figure out the significance of the autumn and spring rains. You see, in Israel, there were two seasons of anticipated rain – the autumn and the spring. The autumn rain fell within the months of October and November, while the spring rain fell between the calendar months of March and April.

A land void of adequate irrigation, Israel depended on God’s faithfulness to provide these seasons of rain for the livelihood of their crops, livestock and well-being. The rain signifies God’s faithful provision.

Now, I have previously shared how God has provided for Jesse and I – provided a new house and new employment time and time again, which all coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally) fell within these seasons of rain. I knew that God was reminding me of His faithfulness in our lives. But what I haven’t shared yet was the new and deeper revelation He gave me just days after. As it turns out, His faithful provision was only the beginning.

When Jesse and I first met, I knew he had a coach’s heart – he has a passion for the development and success of young athletes and it is evident that football has and always will be more than just a simple game of X’s and O’s. Jesse’s coaching career began early in our marriage. Oh, how those first football seasons tested my ability to share my husband’s time and commitment. Then came a profound moment in our lives, marriage and future – a defining moment of prophetic promise.  After Jesse and I were married a couple of years, my mother returned home from a women’s conference and told us the Holy Spirit spoke to her there. And He had a message for us.

She said, “the Holy Spirit told me ‘begin to call forth coach Jesse.'” At the time, we didn’t fully understand this, as Jesse was already coaching. But it wasn’t long before we realized that maybe coaching wasn’t just an interest or even a job. Maybe God was planning to use Jesse’s coaching as his platform for ministry – furthering God’s kingdom, one football call at a time.

As I read back through this verse in Joel, I felt as though there was more that God wanted me to understand. And so I began to dig a little deeper and study the Hebrew meaning of the autumn and spring rains.  When Israel came out of the dry heat of the summer, they were desperate for the life-giving autumn rain. But rather than send a heavy rain, God sent the autumn rain (yoreh), which means “a soft rain.”

I couldn’t help but wonder, in a land so parched, why did God only send a soft rain?

Because of the brittle, dusty ground, a heavy rain would only cause devastating floods. The soft autumn rain allowed enough water to gently absorb and soften the ground in order to allow the people to work in the soil. The autumn rain was preparing the ground for the spring rain (malkosh), which means heavy rain. This heavy rainfall brought the spring harvest, hence April showers bring May flowers.

It was through this meaning that I realized Jesse and I are in our autumn rain – our preparation season – and in due time, God would bring forth the spring rain. But what was God preparing us for? What have Jesse and I gone through all these years that is bringing us to a divine pinnacle?

Continuing in my study, I came across an article that spoke of the Hebrew meaning of the word rain. References of rain in the Bible have a couple different historical meanings, but the most common use for the word rain derives from the Hebrew word gashem, which is the root word for lehitgashem. Lehitgashem means “to fulfill; to call forth something into existence that currently does not appear to exist.”

After reading the final word of this definition, I recalled the promise God had spoken into existence about 7 years ago: “begin to call forth coach Jesse.” Just as God had spoken to Abraham and said, “I will make you the Father of many Nations,” so He was calling something into existence that did not currently appear to exist.

Abraham and his wife were childless and past child-bearing years when God spoke this word into Abraham. Just like a seed being planted – the seed is placed beneath the earth and covered. Does that mean the seed doesn’t exist? It exists! – it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. It’s a promise of what’s to come and in due time, God will send rain and call forth what He has spoken.

We don’t fully understand what exactly God plans to do, we just know that He has faithfully provided for our needs, He is preparing us for His glorious purpose, and He will fulfill every seed of promise He has planted in our hearts.

If you ever question the faithfulness of God, look to His word. If you feel like you’re walking in a dry season, the God who brought the autumn and spring rain to Israel is the same God who faithfully meets your needs today. For His word proclaims, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). If you feel God has laid a specific promise on your heart and you are anticipating that promise to come to fruition, His word says, “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And if you believe you have a calling on your life, you are patiently in your autumn rain, God is preparing you, and you wonder when will the spring rain come, His word says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

I want you to think about something for a moment…talking about Israel and its complete lack of irrigation – why did God choose Israel? He didn’t choose Egypt with its mighty Nile or Assyria with its Euphrates. No – He chose Israel because He wanted to be their source. He wanted His chosen people to look to heaven for their life-giving water. And to depend on the faithful God who brings the autumn and spring rains, as before.

God’s promise to the Israelites to enter the promised land:

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains” (Deuteronomy 11: 10- 14).

God is faithful to His Word, to His promises and His people.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

There Is Life in the Valley

valley 3

The lowly valley –  dry and dreary – void of life and sustenance. Despair hangs in the air – thick and suffocating.  The winding path ahead feels twice as long as the path behind and you’ve already reached your point of sheer exhaustion. Oftentimes, God teaches us our most profound lessons of faith and perseverance not when we are sitting along the warm, sunny hillside, but as we walk through the bleakness of the oppressed valley.

The wondrous hillside would not magnify the splendor of God’s majesty without requiring our eyes to gaze upon the valley

Having spent my own sufficient amount of time following God through the valleys, I learned that while it may seem that we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” there is life to be found – planted, cultivated and preserved. We often don’t know how we end up in the valley, but the valley doesn’t merely exist for us to always understand.

As  we wrestle with our burning desire to flee for the hills and away from the valley as quickly as humanly possible, sometimes God keeps us a while longer so we can stop running in circles and just remain still. Without knowing the way, our stillness forces our perspective not only towards what lies behind us and before us, but to closely observe the valley around us. And in those still, quiet moments, we discover that we are not abandoned. God was indeed right there the whole time.

 “Don’t fret in your valleys. Farm them.” – Lester Roloff

So perhaps the secret to learning the lessons in the valley is resisting the urge to sulk in our own feelings of discouragement and frustration. Rather than barrel through the valley with clenching fists, we ought to pause, open our hands and cultivate. Every season provides new opportunity to reap a rich harvest of His lessons and His presence. In every valley – as we thirst for answers – there is something to be found, if only we sit still long enough to discover them.

I can testify that I have basked in the presence of God the most during the sun’s absence. Within the darkness of the dry valley – when we feel the most powerless – God demonstrates His divine authority and grace. The valley is not a time to retreat, worry, and doubt. It’s a time to press in to God. Only then can we stand the chance to unveil His glory and His purpose for leading us there.

In Psalm 84, David writes, “blessed are those whose strength is in you (God), whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

The Valley of Baca – also known as The Valley of Tears – was a very dry wasteland and therefore incommodious for travelers in those hot countries, especially during hot seasons. The journey through this squelching, desolate valley was an incredibly difficult highway for those trekking towards Jerusalem. How appropriate the valley is also known as “The Valley of Tears,” considering it’s the valleys in our life that often bring us to our defining points of pain and sorrow.

David writes in this Psalm that on one particular journey, Jewish travelers, who were passing through the Valley of Baca on their way to the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, chose to relinquish their struggle to press on and did the unthinkable. Through eyes of faith, they wisely concluded that maybe the valley was not just simply meant for us to aimlessly pass through. Maybe there was more than meets the eye.

Instead of seeing the valley as the abandoned, death-ridden land it was, these travelers dug and cultivated the earth until their efforts led them to cisterns supplied with life-giving water.  God honored their efforts two-fold by multiplying the valley’s water with the help of the autumn rain. God-given life had sprung up in the midst of what seemed like a forsaken valley. Not only did these pools provide necessary water for these weary travelers, but it encouraged more people as they made their way to Jerusalem.

As we walk along our own journey through the valley – if we stop searching for the exit door, remain there and farm the valley instead – we not only find our source of strength, but we encourage the many other weary travelers who are also making their long journey through their own valley.

While everyone’s valleys may be distinctly different from one to the other, God can use the valley to replenish our strength and our faith in Him. If we are willing to cultivate the valley, He will surely cultivate our hearts. And if we allow God to dig through the dry, weary, dusty soil of our hearts, He will fill our cisterns with His Spirit – the living water – so that we are full of His blessings and wonder as He continues to pour into us in our most desperate time of need.

Even when the road is winding and we feel as though the mountain is far in the distance and we find ourselves walking from one valley to the next, we can go from “strength to strength” if we learn to find God where we’re standing. Sometimes we have to dig to find our answers. But when we seek, we shall find. We find His truth, His promises, His provision, His faithfulness – right there in the valley – He brings forth life.

And perhaps one day, as we rest upon the hillside with a new vantage point, we can look down at God’s splendor in the valley and exclaim, “what great things He has done.”

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

Secrets From A Target Mom

For every Mom in the free world, there is nothing like a trip to Target. Maybe it’s because Target is our convenient one-stop shop for everything. Maybe it’s Target’s irresistibly adorable style. Maybe it’s a little something extra they’re adding to our Starbucks. Whatever it may be, we can all agree that it is nearly impossible to visit Target and walk out empty-handed. But unfortunately, over-spending has become a regular occurrence for most of us moms who are always trying to be budget-conscious.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I’m fairly convinced the Target sign is really a trick of hypnosis – disguised as a simple brand logo- that disorients our ability to rationalize and shuts off our capacity to refuse anything shiny, sparkly or marked with a red sticker.

Only at Target, can you walk in with full intention to buy milk and leave with two shirts, flip flops, new bed sheets, a dish set, and a beach ball, while somehow manage to completely forget the original purpose for your visit. And yet, we’re still utterly mystified when we hear our total at the checkout.  So how can we take more advantage of Target instead of Target taking advantage of us?

Pay close attention. What I’m about to tell you just might change your life – or at least your next Target experience.

  1. Purchase Items According to Their Scheduled Mark Down. That’s right. Target marks down prices on particular departments each day of the week:

Monday: Accessories, Kid’s Clothing, Electronics, Baby, Stationary, and Books

Tuesday: Women’s Clothing, Pets, Market Food Items, and Domestics

Wednesday: Health and Beauty, Men’s Clothing, Lawn/ Garden, and Furniture

Thursday: Housewares, Shoes, Toys, Décor, Sporting Goods and Luggage

Friday: Cosmetics, Hardware, Jewelry and Auto Items

price tag.png

  2. Pay Attention to Clearance Price Tags. The price tag says a lot about item mark-downs. The lower left-hand corner of the price tag says the original price, while the upper right corner says the discount percentage. More importantly, if the price tag ends in $0.06 or $0.08, the item will eventually be marked down again. But if the price ends in $0.04, the item has reached it’s final mark down.

target dog

3. Opt For the Debit REDcard than the Credit REDcard.  Retail credit cards are infamously high on interest. You will receive 5% off at purchase, but will pay 17-24% more if you don’t pay off your balance by the end of the month. Instead, go for the debit card. This card is simply linked to your checking account and will withdraw the purchase funds within 2-3 days – free of charge – and still saves you the 5%, even on Starbucks purchases!

4. Target Offers Price-Match. If you find an item you want in a competitor’s ad, you can bring it to Target and they will price match it – no questions asked. Then you can use your REDcard to save an additional 5% off.

cartwheel

   5. Download/Check Cartwheel. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of years, Target’s Cartwheel app brings the power of savings right to your fingertips. If you have already downloaded the Cartwheel app, be sure to check it before you head out to Target in order to take advantage of receiving discounts on your necessary purchases.

end caps

6. Shop the End Caps. Most avid Target shoppers are well aware of the clearance isle, as well as the $1/$3 isle at the front of the store, but did you know sale items are also found throughout the store at the end caps of most isles? Yes, it’s true! Make sure you don’t cut corners on saving by turning the isle corners too quickly.

  7. Combine Manufacturer Coupons with Target Deals For Ultimate Savings. Combining coupons is one of the best secrets to big savings. But considering ad hunting and coupon clipping is tedious and time consuming, what would you say if I told you someone else has already done the work for you? Go to Couponmom.com to match weekly Target deals to manufacturer coupons. Couponmom for the win!

8. Take Advantage of Holiday Clearance. Shopping at Target after a holiday can mean big savings, especially when armed with the knowledge of holiday mark down schedules. While every Target may vary some, there is a general schedule for post-holiday sales:

 50% off – the day after the holiday

75% off – three days after

90% off – one week after

    9. Grab Daily Deals. Target.com lists up to five discounted items on it’s Daily Deals page each day.  Plus, these items ship for free! So if you find something you need to purchase on here, you’ve just landed a great bargain!

   10. Shop at Goodwill. You might be wondering what shopping at Goodwill has to do with saving money at Target – a lot more than you may realize – considering that Target frequently donates their unsold merchandise to Goodwill. And since Goodwill is a thrift store, you can guarantee the savings are big – maybe even better than Target’s clearance isle!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker