It’s Free Sale Time Again!!

It has been a busy September, and I have to say, I’m glad it’s almost over.  Between baseball games, cake decorating classes, prepping for hunting season (not me…the hubby), birthday parties and church activities, I feel like I meet myself coming and going.  So, that’s my excuse for not keeping up with this blog.

Yesterday was a particularly exciting day.  Our congregation had its annual Free Sale.  I thought it was the 4th annual Free Sale, but I was reading my blog about it from last year, and I had mentioned that it was the 4th last year.  So, either I was wrong last year or I am wrong this year.  Either way, we’ve been doing the Free Sale for a while.

What is a Free Sale?  I’m glad you asked.  Simply put, it’s like a yard sale, but everything’s free.  Our church members and members of the community go through their closets, garages, storage sheds and donate items that they aren’t using and pass them along to people who need those items.  Mostly, we give away a lot of clothes, but there are additional household items, toys, books, movies, etc that get donated.  It’s really amazing to see more and more items show up every year.  You’d think we’d run out of stuff by now 🙂

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Like I said, everything is free.  It’s really funny to see people’s reactions when we tell them this.  We get about 3 main reactions…surprise, shock or suspicion.  Not a lot is free in this world.  If something says it’s free, you better read the fine print.  But, our Free Sale really is free.  Not strings attached.  No fine print.

So, how does it work?  Well, after we have our donations all sorted (believe me…that’s a HUGE undertaking), we set up in our church parking lot, have the participants form a line and register.  Each person gets a certain number of tickets.  The tickets are their “money” for the items.  Most items are worth one ticket, with just a few exceptions.  We do this so everyone gets a fair shot at getting items.   We have them register so we can contact them about other events we have throughout the year.

Yesterday, it took about 1 1/2 hours to get everyone registered.  It’s not a speedy process, but it’s an orderly one.  It amazed me that there were a few people who wanted to participate, but refused to register.  We didn’t turn them away, but it’s unfortunate, because they’ll miss out on other events that we offer (spaghetti dinners, coat drives, VBS, etc).  

That got me to thinking.  Like our Free Sale, God offers us all a free gift…salvation.  To bring us back into a right relationship with Him, he set a plan into action.  He sent Jesus to earth, to become man and live a sinless life.  Then He offered His only Son as a perfect sacrifice, His blood covers our sins.  Then, He raised Jesus from the death…showing the ultimate power.  Not even death could stop God.  All of this was done, so we can live one day with Him in Heaven.  

What do we have to do to accept this free gift??  All God asks is that we live for Him.  That we follow the plan He has laid out for us in the Bible.  Believe in Him…one example of this is John 3:16.  We must repent of our sins.  Repenting is not only saying we’re sorry, but making a change in the way we live our lives.  I’ve heard it explained like making a U-turn.  You go the opposite way that you were once heading.  Check out Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Another step to take to accept God’s free gift is to be baptized.  There are many, many scriptures in the Bible that point people to be baptized to be saved…to receive God’s free gift.  For some reason though, there is a great debate about baptism and many either ignore this very important step or downplay the significance of it.  

What is baptism?  Well, my hubby who minored in Greek in college, will tell you that the Greek word means immersion.  So, the act of baptism is to be immersed.  The symbolism is very important.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried and then was raised, baptism mirrors those actions.  We “die” to ourselves and our old way of life when we make the decision to follow God and obey His commands.  We are “buried” under the water…symbolizing Jesus’ burial in the tomb.  We are “raised up” out of the water, a new person, much like Jesus was raised from the dead.  Once we come out of the water, it signifies our spiritual change.  We are no longer the same person, but a Christian…a follower of God…beginning a new life. Romans 6:4-11.

Like those few people who refused to register for our Free Sale…such an easy thing to do (it only took about 2 minutes to fill out the form…maybe less), many fail to take that all important step to be baptized.  The actual act only takes a few seconds.  I often wonder why people would stop at the point of baptism and not take the next step.  This outward expression of an inward change shows your faith and full obedience to God.  

There are so many scriptures that point to why we should be baptized…so many examples of people in the Bible who were baptized to receive forgiveness for their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Here are just a few:

Acts 9 – Saul’s (later called Paul) conversion.  A persecutor of the church, later becomes a great missionary.  His letters make up most of the New Testament.

Acts 10 – The first conversion of Gentiles.  

Acts 16 – Mainly verses 11-15.  Lydia’s conversion

Acts 8:26-39 – The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch.

Like I said, this is just a few examples of people being baptized.  Acts is a great place to start and read about more examples. Romans is another great book.  Search in your smartphone’s Bible App for more stories or verses.  Check it out!  If you are searching for the truth, I can’t think of a better place to turn to than the Bible!!!

This year’s Free Sale has come and gone.  We won’t have another one until next year.  If you wanted to participate but didn’t, you’ll have to wait an entire year for the next Free Sale to come around.  Luckily for us, God’s free gift is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year kind of deal.  You can make the decision anytime to accept His free gift of salvation and be baptized.  Why wait any longer?

I Wanna Be Like (Part 2)…

So, I got to thinking last night after my last post…I should talk about my son’s role models.  Often, we worry about our daughter’s role models and completely overlook our sons.  At least that’s what I did.  I got so worried that she would become like the Miley Cyrus’ and Brittany Spears’ of this world, I forgot who my son’s “role models” are.

A lot of the time, boys look up to sports super stars.  Who does that give us?  Tiger Woods.  A-Rod.  (Those are the only sports guys I know…just kidding!).  I know lately, there have been one or two who have given us hope.  Tim Tebow certainly has made a lot of headlines.  But I think he’s an exception to the rule.  

So, who would I pick for my son’s role models?  Here’s a list my hubby and I collaborated on:

1.  Daniel.  Brave.  Not afraid to follow God, even when his life was at stake.  I wonder if he knew the new law about praying only to the king was a set up.  Whether he did or not, he showed great courage and prayed…with the window OPEN!  That took a lot of nerve…and a lot of faith.  No matter what the outcome was, I think it showed he had a great trust in God to protect and deliver him.

2.  Barnabas.  The Encourager.  This characteristic is already showing up in my son, and I hope it sticks with him in the future.  Not only did Barnabas encourage the new convert, Paul, he also gave people a second chance.  When deciding who to take with them on a journey, Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark, even though he had abandoned them in an earlier trip.  Paul didn’t want to take him, but Barnabas must have saw something promising in John Mark that made him give him a second chance.  

3.  Paul.  Passionate.  When Paul believed in something, he went at it 110%.  His deep love for the gospel and the lost fueled a fire that would carry him all over the area, and eventually to Rome where he faced his arrest.  He didn’t let much stop him from preaching the gospel…even in prison.  I hope my son has that same love for God’s message and the people who need to hear it.

4.  Jesus.  Loving.  Here’s the no-brainer choice.  As we all try to emulate the life of Christ, I pray that my son walks in the footsteps of our Savior.  That he sees people through Jesus’ eyes.  That he loves all and longs to serve God all of his life.  

5.  Joshua.  A Leader.  When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, he had a great weight on his shoulders and huge sandals to fill.  He had to not only convince the Israelites that he could be their leader, he had to convince them that they needed to follow God’s law and obey Him only (which proves to be a difficult task).  He led by example.  He declares to the children of God that they needed to choose.  They couldn’t follow God and the gods of the land they were about to overtake.  If they chose God, they had to be all in.  His rousing speech concluded with his own proclamation, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”, Joshua 24:15.

The Bible is full of strong, Godly men who followed God whole heartedly.  When I asked my hubby who he would want Brayden to model after, he said “Well, there’s certainly not a shortage of men in the Bible”.  Again, God gave us these men to learn from and imitate.

There are also some in the Bible we wouldn’t want our children to be like.  Jezebel, Ahab, Judas, etc.  I think they are also there to serve a purpose.  They show us what a life without God looks like.  They show us how terrible and dark it could be.  Even though the stories don’t have a happy ending, we can also learn from them.  

So, the next time a sports super star is arrested for doping or juicing or whatever they call it now, perhaps we should turn off the news and open the Bible and show our sons (and daughters) the type of people we want them to be.

I Wanna Be Like…

If you haven’t heard about the Miley Cyrus “incident” yet, consider yourself lucky.  I probably would have never found out about it, had it not been for Facebook.  And, thanks to Miss Cyrus, I added a couple of new words to my vocabulary.  You see, I’m a mom, so I’m current on Micky Mouse, but not on MTV music award shows.  I’m not complaining.  I actually prefer it that way.

After the whole twerking debacle, I heard a lot of complaints about her behavior because she is a role model for young girls.  I heard a lot of people commenting that she needs to watch how she acts because our daughters and sons are watching her.  While I agree she needs to watch her actions (as we all do), I don’t think it should be for the sole reason of being a role model.  I question the idea that we, as parents, are relying on celebrities to teach our children appropriate ways to act.  I figure we have two choices.  We can keep waiting for Hollywood to churn out “role models” that we deem acceptable.  Or instead, we can provide our sons and daughters with role models that we are comfortable with them imitating.

So, who do I want my daughter to look up to?  Besides the obvious ones (the women in my family), I have a list and I’ll explain why I chose each of these women:

1.  Hannah.  Here is a woman who wanted a child so badly, that she promised God that if He gave her a son, she would give him back to God…literally.  As a mother of a son, I can’t imagine waiting so long for something, getting it, and then giving it back.  It’s amazing that she actually followed through on her promise.  But what a great mother…she provided for her son in the only way she could, by making him a new cloak every year.

2.  Ruth.  After losing her husband, she left her homeland to follow her mother-in-law.  She left her parents, friends, other family members, everything she knew and was familiar with to go to a country she had never stepped foot in.  It didn’t stop there.  To provide for herself and her mother-in-law, she found a job, collecting the grain that was left behind.  And then, she married the kinsman redeemer, to provide a lineage for her dead husband’s family.

3.  Bathseheba.  Stick with me on this one.  Yes, I know we associate Bathsheba with scandal.   But, too often, we forget “the rest of the story”.  An amazing story of God’s forgiveness and grace.  Bathsheba becomes the mother of Solomon who will become the richest, wisest king of Israel.  This is a lesson I think everyone can relate with.  We sin, we mess up, but it’s not over.  If we repent, God is faithful to forgive us.

4.  Mary.  This one’s a no brainer.  Mother of Jesus.  She must have been a remarkable young woman to have been chosen for this amazing task.  I don’t know how old she was when she had Jesus, but I know she was young.  Teenage years can be terrifying.  I would hope that when my daughter is a teenager, she would have the sweet disposition that I imagine Mary might have had.  

5.  Lois and Eunice.  When I watch Sophie play with baby dolls, I often say “Awww….she’s going to make a great mommy some day!”  Being a mommy is a lot more than feeding and burping and changing diapers.  I hope she cultivates a love for God that Lois and Eunice, mother and grandmother of Timothy did.  I hope she takes every day opportunities to show how God works in our lives.  

I could really go on and on.  The Bible is filled with wonderful role models for our children to look up to.  I believe these stories were placed in the Bible to help us.  To model how to live our lives, to learn from their examples.  To see that living a Godly life can be accomplished. 

Who are your role models?

Oven Fried What?

It’s September and our garden is winding down…a little.  Right now, we have jalapenos, a little lettuce and okra still producing.  Now, I love okra.  There are really only two ways I know to prepare it.  Pickled and fried.  I remember chowing down on my great-grandma’s pickled okra.  It was sooooo good.  I was probably the only 2nd grader who packed pickled okra in her lunch.

I do love good fried okra.  My favorite is the fried okra at Cracker Barrel.  I don’t know what they do to it, but I love it!  I have been amazed at the amount of people here in Virginia who have never had fried okra.  Hey!  I thought it was a southern speciality and, as I’m repeatedly reminded, Virginia is south of the Mason/Dixon line!  The one thing that keeps me from eating fried okra everyday is the fact that it is…well…fried.  At my Weight Watchers meetings, I preach against the evils of fried foods.  So, when I found this recipe on Pinterest, I was really interested.  

I had my doubts.  The recipe boasted crisp, crunchy fried okra, without having it swimming in grease.  But, I thought, “Why not?”  So, I attempted it for our dinner tonight.

Right off the bat, I had a problem.  The recipe called for buttermilk.  I have probably bought buttermilk a total of 3 times in my life, so of course, I had none on hand.  So, I did what anyone would do, I googled “what if I don’t have buttermilk?”  Seriously.  You would not believe the number of results I got.  I ended up using regular milk & mixed a couple of teaspoons of vinegar in with the milk.  I guess it worked…I couldn’t taste any vinegar in the okra.

I served it to the family.  When my husband heard we were trying oven fried okra, he was less than thrilled.  He’s not a huge fan of regular fried okra, so any deviation from the recipe didn’t sound good to him.  However, when he tasted it, he was hooked!!  As he was eating his second helping, he kept saying, “This is really good!”  I said, “I thought you didn’t like fried okra.”  His response?  “I don’t, but I like this!”

Somehow, I managed to keep fried okra from my son.  8 years old and he had never tried fried okra.  Epic fail as a mom.  He loved it!!  He also came back for seconds, but alas, there was none!

I followed the recipe to a tee (except for not having buttermilk).  What did I like best about this recipe?  What didn’t I like?  It was fairly quick, easy and somewhat healthy.  Instead of swimming in oil, I sprayed olive oil (much healthier than vegetable oil) on a pan covered in aluminum foil.  When I put the okra on a plate covered with a paper towel, there was very little oil on the paper towel and none on the plate underneath!!

This will definitely be a dish I will make again and again.  The blogger said the leftover okra was still crispy, right out of the fridge.  I guess I’ll just have to take her word for it.  There was none leftover at my house!!

Make It Homemade

For the past couple of days, we haven’t had internet service.  At first, the internet company thought it was probably a problem with the modem.  So, I went into town and picked up a new one.  We had the last one for almost 4 years, which is old in the tech world.  So, I hooked up the new one.  I do get a bit overwhelmed with a lot of cords…if “a lot” is more than one.  But, I followed the “quick start guide” and sat back…ready to surf that world wide web.  Nothing.   I called the company again.  This was no easy task.  You see, our house lives in the black hole of phone service.  The top of our driveway, phone signal.  In the house…nothing.  We have a device called a Microcell from AT&T that plugs into our (wait for it) internet and boosts our signal.  It’s like having a tower in our house.  It’s pretty sweet..until the internet goes out.  I finally made contact with the internet company and they sent someone out to our house this morning.

After the guy checked things out on the outside of our house, he came inside and immediately found the problem.  You see, when “someone” was installing the modem, he or she didn’t plug the part that looks like the phone line into the wall all of the way.  Needless to say, I was embarrassed, but glad for the tech.  Easy fix for him.  Let’s just hope they show mercy on me and don’t charge for the house call.

My latest project might shock you.  For someone who can’t even plug in a modem, making her own marshmallows may seem a bit impossible, but I did it!  Yes, I made my own marshmallows!!!!  

I have to say I LOVE marshmallows.  When I make my own marshmallow fondant, I seem to have about half a bag leftover.  I’l find myself frequenting the pantry…gabbing one, or two or three as I go by.  

I found this pin on Pinterest a while back and have wanted to make some, but I just felt like it was out  of my league.  Perhaps my success with making my own pizza crust and crescent rolls boosted my confidence enough to tackle this recipe.

I’ve always wondered what was in marshmallows.  Now I know…unflavored gelatin, corn syrup and a LOT of sugar.  What threw me for a loop was it called for granulated sugar.  I would have guessed powdered sugar.

When I was making them, it was a sticky mess…mainly getting them from the mixing bowl to the plastic lined pan.  I let them firm up over night & every time I walked by them, I had my doubts.

The next day, I started cutting them into smaller cubes.  The recipe says it yields 36 marshmallows.  Well, they must be huge, because I got soooooo many more out of it.  I put some in an air tight container and the rest in a ziplock bag and put them in the freezer.  I wanted to test the theory that they could be frozen and taste just as good later.

The verdict?  The kids looovvvee them!!  My hubby tasted one and said “hey!  Marshmallow!”  I count that as a success, because it was identifiable by taste :).

Are they worth the time and ingredients to make them?  Hmmmm…that’s tricky.  mainly because a bag of marshmallows will run you about $1 at the grocery store.  I’m pretty sure the ingredients cost more than that.  However, I will say the taste/flavor is great.  If you’re going to have a cookout with your kiddos friends, buy the marshmallows at the store.  If you want to impress your friends at a special event, make them yourself!!  They’re not too labor intensive…just sticky.

I wonder if I can substitute the unflavored gelatin for some regular jello mix.  If I can do that, the possibilities are endless!!  

A Home Run!

My son’s fall baseball season just started up.  We got the schedule yesterday…14 games in about a 6 week time span.  So, yeah…our evenings/weekends just got interesting.

This article has nothing to do with baseball, unless you want to use vernacular to describe the most tasty, yummy easy snack type food I made today.  Then, you could say I “hit a home run”.  This dish was “out of the park” good.  It was a crowd pleaser for sure!

On Sunday evenings, our congregation splits into what we call “Agape Groups” or small groups and we have a casual Bible study in one of our members homes.  It’s really one of my favorite things.  Like all good churches in the south, we can’t meet unless there’s food involved 🙂  If you’re from the south, you know what I mean.  If you’re not…well, I bet you wish you were from the south!

I’m always on the lookout for simple, tasty, easy finger foods that will feed about 15 or so people plus kids.  Sometimes I hit a rut and mac & cheese makes an appearance.  However, the other day, I was on Pinterest & found this gem.

Ok.  Hot ham & cheese pinwheels.  What doesn’t sound good about that?  You have my 3 favorite words.  Hot.  Ham.  Cheese.  

So, I made these for our group tonight.  First of all, they look fancy.  They look like they take a lot of time to make (neither is true).  Plus, you can impress your friends because you made the bread that wraps around the ham & cheese (although I think you could probably cut some corners and use the crescent roll dough that comes in a tube).

I was skeptical because the recipe says it takes 45 minutes to make, from start to finish.  Really?  So, I timed it.  Not with a stop watch, but I did keep an eye on the clock and yep..about 45 minutes.

After I baked them, I put the pinwheels in two 9X13 pans (for easy transport) and popped them into one of my favorite things…my Thirty-One double decker casserole carrier (I know there’s an official name for it, but I can’t for the life of me remember it!).  Here’s a pic of it…yeah…you can be jealous 😉

ImageI even had it personalized…ImageYep…”Hot Stuff”!  My favorite 31 Consultant helped me come up with that one…I love it!

Anyway, so I took my “hot stuff” with me and after the Bible study, it was time to eat!  To say they went over well is the understatement of the year.  You would not believe how quickly they were eaten.  I’m sad to say I didn’t have any leftover…*sigh*.  

I was talking to some of the ladies there & we decided you could come up with a whole slew up combinations of meat/cheese pinwheels.  Roast.  Chicken.  Turkey.  Provolone.  Swiss.  Pepper jack.  On and on an on.  You could spread some honey dijon on the dough before you added the meat and cheese.  You could come up with all kinds of dipping sauces.  The possibilities are endless!

In the blog, the woman writing it says they’re great hot or cold.  I guess I’ll never know if they’re good cold…unless I make more!  She puts a couple in her kids school lunches, which I think is brilliant.  

Since everyone was raving so much about them, I can, without a doubt, say these will be making another appearance at our Agape Group.  And probably for an easy lunch at our house one day.  And maybe in my son’s school lunch.  And maybe at a potluck dinner.  And maybe…well, you get my point.  I’ll be making them a lot!!

Have a wonderful Labor Day tomorrow.  I hope you can take advantage of the day and not labor too much!!!