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April Showers Bring May Flowers

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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

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There Is Life in the Valley

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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

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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

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  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.

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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.

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   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.

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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

 

 

 

 

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Dear Wives, What Your Husband Really Wants

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Since the beginning of time, men have wondered what women want. Men have been perplexed by our feminine complex. It’s understandably true that with our severe range of emotions, we tend to come across as – shall I say – unpredictable. We have this incredible ability in our nature to be multi-faceted – we’re strong, yet very delicate,  steadfast, but easily shaken, confident, but crave affirmation. Even when we answer with an “I’m fine,” our husbands are rightfully mystified if we are indeed actually fine (by the way husbands, most of the time, “fine” doesn’t mean fine).  It’s no wonder men are boggled by women.

My husband has been studying me for almost 12 years and I believe is still striving to completely figure me all out. What he may or may not realize is that all along the journey of our relationship, I have been studying him as well. And I’ve learned a thing or two.

Between men and women, men are often considered to be the more simple of the two. Not insultingly simple as in simple-minded, but simple in the fact that they just are not incredibly complicated creatures. This should make our job as wives easier, but instead, I find women (myself included) somehow fail to understand our husband’s core nature and thus, fail to meet his core desire.

Being a wife for almost ten years, I am by no means a seasoned woman, but if there is one very important observation I have made about my husband, it is that he is not like me. He is created differently from me with a unique make-up. He doesn’t need what I need. I deeply desire security, companionship, and love. I want to feel cherished. But my husband…

It’s not to say he doesn’t care about love and friendship (because he very much does), but those are not driving forces behind his wants. Now – I know what you’re thinking! Yes, intimacy is probably towards the top of the list for men, but there is something else all men – my husband and yours included – greatly need, but will often not admit out loud: Respect.

Men – through God’s intricately ordained design –  are natural conquerors, providers, and leaders. When we threaten his position to properly exercise these fundamental attributes, we are  robbing our husbands to freely live out who God has called them to be.  Without sometimes realizing it, instead of recognizing this desire for respect, we challenge it.

Like many young wives, when Jesse and I first married, I did not grasp how important respect was to my husband and because I failed to grasp this, I mistakenly emasculated him in so many ways. Every time I made a decision without discussing it with him first, every time I belligerently “reminded” him to do something because I felt it had not been done according to my time frame, every time I criticized him and  every time I questioned his leading – I was blatantly dishonoring him.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:33

As wives, we might be tempted to gravitate towards the first half of this verse: “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself.” But Paul clearly identifies our role in the second half of the verse and it is equally important (and should be) as it pertains to us. As the wife, we are not held accountable for how our husbands obey this command. But we are held accountable of our obedience in living out our end of the bargain: we “must respect” our husbands. And this may burst some bubbles, but this commandment is not contingent on the first part of the verse. Whether or not you feel your husband deserves your respect is completely irrelevant.

Once I realized that I was not honoring my husband as fitting unto God, I earnestly prayed for Him to show me how to be the Proverbs 31 wife – the wife of noble character. I prayed He would cultivate His Spirit within me and nurture my desire to be a respectful, humble wife.  I wanted to be less like “a constant drip” (Proverbs 19:13) who was “decay in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4) and more like a woman who is “praised at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:31).

  1. Remember Your Role. Your husband is the head of the house. You are the helpmate. Your beautifully designed role is to help your husband, not lead your husband. You help him with making decisions, not making them for him. You help foster his ministry (whatever his career may be), not simply parade around him with your own successes. Remember, you’re his wife, not his mother – it is not your job to correct him or point your finger at his mistakes. And certainly don’t expect to change your husband – only God can do that!
  2. Watch What You Say and How You Say It.  If you want your husband to trust in your opinion, it’s vital to speak with eloquence and wisdom. Offering any council using words that are either harsh, destructive or critical will eventually discourage him from seeking your opinion on future matters. Proverbs 14:1 says, “A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” He needs to trust not only in your response, but in how your response is carried out. As the old saying goes, “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” so in other words, speak sweetly. Ask God to guard your tongue and speak through a pure and reverent heart.
  3. Lavish Him With Appreciation. All throughout history, the homecoming victors from battle were highly esteemed and recognized – for their bravery, intellect, strength and leadership. Their acts of courage were awarded with honor and respect. Men not only thrive to compete and conquer, they want to be affirmed in their ability to lead. Your husband is your spiritual covering who is charged to provide for and protect his family. Honor him and the responsibility he is entrusted with. When he comes home, show him you appreciate the man he is and all his hard work. This is as easy as cooking his favorite meal or simply expressing his worth in your own words. Encourage him and edify him through your affirmation.
  4. Pray With Your Husband. If you are married to a believing husband, pray with him. We often pray for what matters to us – our heart’s desire. In your prayers, you can demonstrate your love and respect for him. Pray for God’s wisdom as He leads your husband, pray for favor in his career and callings, pray for patience and endurance through difficult circumstances, and pray for his spiritual growth. These are all aspects that concern your husband and weigh heavily upon his shoulders, so in praying for him, you are acknowledging the importance of these as well. If your husband is an unbeliever, do not be dismayed. You can still pray for him and ask that God will open his eyes and reveal Himself to him.
  5. Speak Well of Your Husband. Sometimes, the most offensive disrespect occurs not in someone’s face, but behind someone’s back. While there are times when it is necessary or appropriate to seek wise council about matters pertaining to your marriage, always try to speak of your husband in a favorable light. It is so easy to get caught up talking with a friend about our disappointments and become habitual complainers. But this is neither edifying or worthy of respect.  In our culturally accepted practice of “venting,” many wives end up actually practicing disrespect. When you are honestly seeking wisdom from another wife about your husband, your behavior will not be of a complaining woman armed with her own agenda in need of personal release, but a humble woman who upholds his reputation and has his best interest at heart.

 

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown” (Proverbs 12: 4). May we crown our husbands with prayer, love, admiration, honor and respect.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

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Simply the BEST Old-Fashioned Desserts

Today, I’m showcasing some of my favorite desserts whose classically delicious flavors have been enjoyed by families for decades – and some even longer than that!  I enjoy those 30- second recipe clips as much as any other millennial, but this is neither the time or place for such antiquated treasures as the ones I’m sharing with you.

To pay proper homage,  I’m going old school with old-fashioned written recipes – just like ones found in Grandma’s cookbook- only not with a 5″ X 3″ card, complete with greasy Crisco stains. Simply click on the name of the dessert to bring you right to the recipe! Trust me – you’re going to want to hold on to some of these! Give your family a slice of tradition with these tasty, old-fashioned desserts!

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Lemon Pudding Dessert

 I can’t think of a better recipe to start off this list of timeless confections than with this Lemon Pudding Dessert! Taste of Home delivers fresh and light flavors in this dreamy, creamy lemony delight! A buttery shortbread crust is the perfect foundation for this delicate dessert. Perfect for spring and summer potlucks and church picnics! My mom’s secret to send this over- the- top is to substitute the ordinary store-bought cool whip with some homemade whipped cream. Just trust me on this one – no one wants to live with regrets.

 

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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Salty and sweet are a match made in heaven with this summer delight! So refreshingly decadent – and since the star ingredient is strawberries, you are conveniently fitting in a serving of fruit in your dessert! I’m pretty sure that cancels out the sugar and cream cheese- it’s basic baking math. It may not be textbook, but it’s right in my book!

Hawaiian Pineapple Poke Cake

Aloha! Say hello to this bite of tropical paradise in this luscious classic! You can literally taste the sunshine in this bright treat – and in the Midwest, we could all use a little extra sunshine! Again- utilizing simple ingredients like store-bought pudding and cream cheese proves our ancestors understood the value of simplicity.  In my humble opinion, this simple cake outshines any item found on fancy restaurant dessert menus!

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Pecan Pie

What’s one thing seasoned women (Grandmas included) all have in common? They show love through food! This southern classic may be a labor of love, but it’s worth every morsel and I know your family will agree! A flaky crust + a cinnamon-sweet filling + that crunch from the pecans (there I go again with that baking math) = perfection!  Truly as warm as the south! All you need is a porch swing and some sweet tea!

Banana Bread Pudding Recipe

Banana Bread Pudding

If you have never tried bread pudding, you don’t know what you’re missing! Before you ever consider pitching that day old bread and those brown bananas, just slow your roll! Those are the dynamic duo that creates this scrumptious and satisfying dessert! Think of your favorite banana bread… this is so much better than that! You can thank me later!

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Banana Pudding

So we dropped the “bread” and are left with banana pudding! C’ mon – I couldn’t talk about old-fashioned recipes without mentioning this Southern staple! Humble ingredients, but not humble on flavor! So light and fluffy – traditionally a summertime dessert, but some rules are just meant to be broken.

Cocoa Brownies

Classic Chocolate Brownies

Before the existence of Dunkin Hines and the convenient invention of brownies from a box, recipes like this adorned a plate – hot out of the oven and ready to eat when the kids came home from school – famished from learning and craving a rush of chocolatey goodness. Gooey, fudgy, rich… sorry, Dunkin Hines, but you’ve been replaced.

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Cherry Dump Cake

If cherry pie and vanilla cake procreated, it would make this old-fashioned gem – cherry dump cake. And what a beautiful little mash-up it is. Don’t be fooled by the word “dump” in the name – it has no relevance to the flavor! In respect to both sides of the family ( cake and pie), add a scoop of vanilla ice cream – to cut through the sweetness, of course!

One of my favorite desserts of all time - Ambrosia Salad! So easy to make and always a big hit with kids and adults alike, make sure to put this salad recipe on the menu for your next party! | MomOnTimeout.com | #recipe

Ambrosia Salad

Not much else says old-fashioned like some maraschino cherries – it’s the beloved, universal staple found in every Grandma’s kitchen. With a little help from a few more simple ingredients- mandarin oranges, coconut, crushed pineapples and marshmallows- this dessert is not only delicious, but budget-friendly. Not a master baker? This dessert just became your best friend!  And with “salad” in the name, it has to be good for you, right? You don’t have to answer that.

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Carrot Cake

What’s up, Doc? Sorry – I couldn’t resist – but seriously, this dessert is a timeless French confection, dating back 1827! An oldie, but a goodie! This cake’s moist filling will raise the bar on whatever existing preconceived notions you might have about a cake made with a vegetable. And the decadent cream cheese frosting is literally “the icing on the cake” and delivers exactly what your sweet tooth desires!

Peach Cobbler

Peaches, cinnamon, nutmeg – Oh, my! This American deep-dish dessert has been serving up smiles for centuries!  With this thick, fruity filling and airy topping, it’s no wonder this recipe has stood the test of time. Whether it’s wrapping up a Sunday dinner after church, a family picnic or special occasion, peach cobbler is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

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Cookie Jar Ginger Snaps

There’s something special about a cookie jar – an ornate, ceramic container encapsulating the smell of every sugary and buttery crumb that has the privilege to reside there – well, at least until they fulfill their cookie destiny. The spicy flavor of the ginger paired with the maple flavor of molasses create this heart-warming cookie.

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Key Lime Pie

This 5- ingredient wonder is light and creamy. With a hint of tang, this dessert packs the right amount of punch. If you really want to be fancy, you can make a homemade graham cracker crust, but store-bought will do just fine – no one will even know the difference! And it’s pretty.

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Apple Dumplings

While apple pie is about as classic American as Baseball, I deterred slightly with another traditional apple-filled dessert – apple dumplings. The fork practically floats to your mouth as you live apply ever after!

Red Velvet Cake

I wisely saved the best for last. They say if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But this cake debunks that theory because it is soooo good and thank the Lord, so true! One of my all-time favorite classic desserts, red velvet cake is hands down the BEST cake- even if it has gray icing and is in the shape of an armadillo.

History never tasted so sweet! I could go on and on down memory lane with these old-fashioned desserts, but I’ve got a delicious date with a slice of red velvet cake!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

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Casting Grace

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She somberly looked down at the ground – too intimidated and utterly ashamed for the crime she had committed. She could feel their condemning eyes piercing her weary and broken spirit. Death was the only penalty for such an act against the Law.  Perhaps in that moment, she wondered what brought her to this point? How had she become so entangled by the chains of sin? Perhaps she longed for mercy and the gift of a second chance.

The Pharisees stood – stones clutched in hand – prepared to deliver their verdict. But before casting the penalty, the Pharisees looked to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?”  Jesus knelt down and began to write in the sand.  The guilty woman awaited her imminent fate – bracing herself for impact – when a gentle voice arose and hushed her merciless accusers.

Jesus replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more, Jesus bent down and wrote in the sand. Slowly, one by one, the woman’s accusers dropped their stones and walked away, until only Jesus stood before the woman. Jesus said,  “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11).

The woman was face to face with Saving Grace. When the Pharisees were ready to stone her to death, it was the grace of Jesus that interceded.

Oftentimes, we are easily tempted to cast our own stones onto others who we believe fit the bill of deserved judgement. Perhaps the pregnant teenager we pass in the baby isle at the store – completely unfit to be a mother.  Maybe the homeless man who stands by the side of the road – unkept and filthy. Or the unpolished, inappropriately dressed woman who finds her way to the front pew of church on Sunday morning.

It is so easy for us to assume our own preconceived notions about people – the teenage mom is a promiscuous and insubordinate adolescent. The homeless man is obviously nothing but a lazy drunk who is in search of a handout to fund his alcohol addiction – who refuses to work and has no one to blame for his predicament but himself. The inappropriately dressed woman in the front row is just coming off of her drug high and happened to stumble into church. She’s nothing but a distraction and will likely reject any form of truth offered to her. Surely our conclusions are without error.

But even if we assume correctly, does that give us license to cast a stone? Remember how Jesus knelt down to write in the sand? Many believe that when Jesus bent down the first time, He was writing the names and sins of the Pharisees (theory based on Jeremiah 17:13). But what did He write the second time in the sand, after the Pharisees quietly dispersed? No one really knows for sure and the Bible does not indicate as to what He wrote. Although some speculate that he simply wrote one word: FORGIVEN.

We are acting like the Pharisees, when in reality, we all are the adulterous woman. Satan stood as the accuser, declaring us guilty. Because of sin, we deserved the penalty of death. But the Cornerstone, the only One blameless from sin, withheld punishment. He interceded. Rather than casting a stone, Jesus casted grace. And His verdict? FORGIVEN.

We can conveniently stash our sins away before others can see them. We can hide behind our seemingly put together outward appearances, so it is easy for us to cast stones upon someone who appears outwardly undone. Not only do we tend to shy away from these outwardly undone people, we either inwardly or outwardly condemn them.   After all, it’s always easier to point out someone else’s sin before taking a hard look into the mirror.

Maybe the pregnant teen is in deep need of guidance, not judgement. Maybe the homeless man is in search of a new opportunity, not a handout. Maybe the woman in the pew is in search for a second chance, not condemnation.

Even in spite of ourselves and need for grace, we fail to extend the love of Christ and His grace. We instead choose to cast stones of insulting assumptions, looks of disapproval, and judgmental accusations. We look upon them and perhaps feel that the last thing they deserve is grace, when grace is exactly the last thing we deserved. We cast stones without acknowledging the fact that while we are yet sinners, our Savior chose to bestow His saving grace upon us. And by His grace, we received new life – a second chance.

The Gospel would reach a lot more hearts if we were more diligent and eager to cast a helping hand, cast the Truth, cast encouragement, and cast love. But first, we must be willing to cast the very thing that determined our salvation – grace.

Maybe if we could get off our own righteous high horse and extend God’s grace to the pregnant teenager, the homeless man or the woman in the front pew, we can become less like the Pharisees and more like Christ. Jesus did not come to either condone or condemn. He came to simply save the lost.  And because He bore our sin and shame, we’ve been given the undeserved gift to freely and unabashedly dance in the presence of His grace.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

“The lost” – like the pregnant teen, the homeless man, the woman in the front pew, and you and me. Anyone who comes to Christ was formerly enslaved in sin, but became set free by amazing grace. Grace. That is the heart of our Redeemer. And that is the heart He desires to create in us. To seek and save the lost – not to push the lost out the door with our Pharisaical verdicts.  He calls us to release our stones and cast grace.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Why My Kids Won’t Be Getting An Easter Basket This Year

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It goes without saying that I love holidays – especially the traditions and festivities that coincide as an intercal part of the celebration. For years, I have religiously obliged to culturally endorsed customs as a part of our children’s upbringing. Like most loving parents, I want my children to experience the fun, excitement and nostalgia of an Easter basket- filled with all the usual staples – jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, perhaps a toy or two, and even those borderline inedible, pastel marshmallow chicks. So why have I experienced a sudden change of heart? I mean, what harm is there in giving kids an Easter basket?

I realize this may not be a widely accepted, popular concept. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly inclined to the thought at first either. After all, it’s just a basket.

But the problem is not a basket- the problem is what the basket represents (or in better words, fails to represent). I have become rather fed up with buying into traditions that shift our focus from the real meaning of our celebration, whose sole purpose is to further encourage our innate hunger for self-centeredness. Easter and Christmas alike, have become nothing but reason to indulge our children with more stuff they really don’t need-  empty stuff filled with empty promises and temporal joy. A risen Savior is simply not a good enough reason to rejoice-  we need an Easter Basket. And what would the gift of eternal life be without candy-filled eggs and plush bunnies?

 Easter baskets are certainly not evil, but they are certainly irrelevant.

While shopping the other day, I was faced with my usual Easter dilemma of choosing the perfect vehicle for my kids’ Easter goodies. Should I opt for the classic and sturdy  whicker baskets or something more practical-  perhaps one of those beach totes from the dollar store? I couldn’t decide. Fast forward to 3 pm that afternoon. I picked up Joanna from school and she began reminiscing about the birthday party she had attended over the past weekend. She loved one of the gifts the birthday girl received and asked if she could have one too. I told her what I always tell the kids when I’m not ready to commit to any kind of purchase: “Maybe for your birthday.”

With her birthday being less than two months away, I was certain my answer would suffice and put an end to her persistent questioning. But then she asked, “How many more days until Easter?” I instantly knew where this was going right before she added, “can I get it for Easter instead?” It’s amazing to me that more kids don’t grow up to be lawyers, because they are natural negotiators.  Please refer to exhibit A (my daughter) and exhibit B (my son).  The wheels in my head began to turn when I realized my daughter was associating Easter as another opportunity to get what she wants.

Our attention can become so easily focused on creating the perfect holiday experience for our children. We carefully consider every detail from decorating the house, planning an “eggstravagant” egg hunt, and the perfectly trimmed Easter basket.   In doing so, we become distracted by tradition and lose sight of Easter’s purpose. It’s about the cross. It’s about Christ.

Driving in the car, I pondered her suggestion for a moment before I came to my concrete decision. After discussing my thoughts with Jesse, we both felt strongly to forget about the Easter baskets this year.  Easter is not about a basket. It’s about our Mighty King, whose body was beaten beyond recognition, who feebly carried His own splintered instrument of death, who paid the debt we owed, who conquered the grave, who restored us to the Lord, and to this day, the One who victoriously sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf.

Jesus’ crucifixion was not wrapped with a pretty bow. It was grotesquely horrific, but in spite of this severe image of pain and anguish, we find the very definition of love and eternal promise.  Yet somehow, even with all this beautiful truth, we have become content and complacent with overshadowing Christ with commercialized pagan traditions. And once more, the purpose of the holiday becomes synonymous with  false senses of significance .

When you place your perspective on Christ, all the man-made customs of Easter  suddenly become so trivial. It’s not that I don’t want to lavish my children with the joy from gifts, candy, and fun. But I would rather my children be lavished by the joy of redemption, not chocolate bunnies. Lavished by the joy of salvation, not battery-operated, chirping chicks. And lavished by the joy of Christ, not a basket. There is no harm in a basket, but there is harm in allowing a basket draw our focus away where the real attention is due.

So while I can conclude that Easter baskets are not evil in of themselves, they do fail to accurately represent the Son of God. The Easter holiday marks the single most important event in all human history. Jesus fulfilled His prophesied purpose when He died on the cross and rose again.  You and I were washed white as snow by the Blood of the Lamb. And that, in itself, is worth celebrating!

“And the angel said, ‘do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said'” (Matthew 28: 5 & 6).

He is alive!

Christ is risen!

Hallelujah!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker