Friday, March 30, 2012

My Smartphone Keeps Me Connected . . . to God?

I've always been sort of a low tech kinda girl. In the past, when choosing a mobile phone, I just really wanted something I could make phone calls on, send text messages and take a picture or record video on. (Okay, I know that's not low tech to some people). So when my husband and I were in the market for new phones this past December, he was really excited that there were great deals on Smartphones. I was really hesitant to get on board with that idea, and I hoped to stick with something more basic. So I researched all my (surprisingly limited) options online, but ultimately, I chose to get an Android, all the while telling myself that if I didn't like it, I could return it and get something with fewer "bells and whistles".

Flash forward a couple months, and it turns out, I really kind of like it! (Okay, sometimes a little too much!)

Anyway, I recently came across this awesome app on my phone called You Version. It has the Bible in many different versions, as well as several other useful tools.

I had been struggling to stay in the Word for a number of reasons, and looking to find a Bible reading plan that I could realistically stick with. Well, one day I got curious, and started exploring this app, and noticed that there were Bible reading plans. Oh, my goodness! There are probably hundreds of different plans to choose from. Ranging from your basic "read through the Bible in a year" to chronological studies to week long plans for study on a particular topic.

I ended up going with one called Project 345 Plus. It includes readings from the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs as well as selected readings from the Old Testament.

What I really, really love about this app? The "Catch Me Up" button! Usually, during the week, there are four selections to read, and when you complete all of them, it congratulates you on completing a day (who wouldn't love that?) But when you don't, there's the option to catch up, and when you tap the button, it basically updates your plan so that you don't skip the readings, but you also don't get "swamped" with missed readings. As a mom of two little ones, and one on the way, I really appreciate that!

So, how does that keep me connected to God? Not only can I pretty much do my study time any time, anywhere, but it also keeps me focused. I know that I can open the app any day, and have something specific to read. While I haven't gotten back in the habit of a daily study time, I'm closer than I would be otherwise.

Does reading the Word somewhat regularly or even everyday make me perfect? Absolutely not! But at least I have a better chance to "hide His Word in my heart" (Psalm 119:11) than I would otherwise.

Do you use any "gadgets" to keep you focused spiritually?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Easiest Way to Make Rice

I used to be pretty comfortable in the way I made rice. You know, measuring the rice, measuring the liquid, etc. But I would find that whenever I made bigger batches of rice, for some reason or another, it wouldn't cook right. I would end up with rice that was crunchy and inedible.

I was sharing my issue with my mother-in-law one day when she taught me this little trick, and now I pass it on to you!

1. Pour desired amount of rice into a saucepan. (No measuring needed! Unless you really want to for some reason!)
2. Add enough water to the pan so that the level of the water (from the surface of the rice) reaches the first knuckle on your index finger.

3. Heat water on the highest setting (high for stainless cookware, or medium for non-stick) until it begins to boil. (MIL insists you should not stir it at this time at all, but I'm a stirrer and I've never noticed any issue).

4. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Remove from heat, then fluff with a fork or whatever utensil you happen to be using!

It doesn't seem to matter what size pot or pan you are using, for some reason, you get the right amount of liquid every time.

Now I can make Jambalaya without crunchy rice (and I can do so without using measuring cups)! Thanks, MIL!

What cool kitchen tips have you come across lately?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Blessings. (But Mostly the Other Stuff that Happened on Sunday Morning...)

The children woke easily to bribes promises of cereal bars on the way to church. The morning would be a little rushed, but we would make it on time to church. My son's clothes were laid out, all he had to do was get dressed, and put on his socks and shoes. My daughter got out of bed, and I started to get her ready. I thought I would get her dressed, and while she was putting on her socks and shoes, I would finish putting on my make up, and we'd be good to go.

"Mom...I can't find my sneakers!" called my almost 5 year old.

This is where it gets interesting. I finished getting my 2 year old dressed and sent her to put her socks and shoes on. The boy had just had his shoes the night before, and he's supposed to put them away on the changing table. Every. Single. Day. I tell him. (Okay, every single day he wears his shoes- the majority of the time we stay home, so it really isn't every day- but still...the 2 year old gets it!)

Mind you, I wasn't finished getting ready yet. I stop what I was doing, thinking they must be under the couch or one of the other usual hiding places for his shoes. He looked in all the places I told him, shoes.

After a few minutes of searching, I realize it's time to go. He's only wearing his shirt, pants and socks. Oh yeah...and it's raining. After a week straight of 83 degree highs and sunshine. Go figure.

I sent out an "SOS" text to the other teacher on the schedule in children's ministry letting her know we were now running late. A few minutes later, she responds letting me know that she had just been awakened by my text message!

Sigh. Okay.

I make a quick call to another "off duty" teacher to see if she can cover for me til I arrive. All I can say is "thank God for people I know I can always count on!" (Even if I'm not one of them!)

Finally, I give up on finding the boy's sneakers. "Get your sandals and put them on over your socks." In his room, I hand him a sandal. "Where is the other one?!" This is the part where I lost it. Just a little. I frantically search for the matching sandal for a few minutes whilst verbally expressing my frustration at his lack of diligence. (Yes, I know he's four). Finally, the other sandal is located, and I send him on his way, and get back in the bathroom to finish getting ready.

I hear him struggling in the other room to put them on his feet. Did I mention these are sandals he has basically outgrown? Yep. So with the too-snug sandals and socks finally on his feet, we make it out the door and on our way.

Miraculously, I was not a basket case by this point. God is so good. Remember the rain? It was still coming down, of course. As I drove along the wet asphalt, I realized how perfect His timing is. Earlier in the week, my husband was able to put four new tires on the van. And just yesterday? We had the majorly cracked windshield replaced. (Both things were LONG overdue by most standards). Amazing. Driving in the rain can be a tad scary in these parts, since it is such a seldom occurrence. Plus we have a lot of "winter visitors" with "questionable" driving skills around this time of year. I'm just so blessed to know that He saw ahead to supply new tires and a new windshield for a time I would definitely need them!

Oh, and the sneakers? We finally found them. After church. In the hamper.

What blessings (or obstacles!) have come your way recently?

Linked up w/Mommy Monday

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Totally Get Why Elizabeth Hid Herself. . .

At no other time in my life have I felt the urge more strongly to hide under a rock than now, during this pregnancy.

Six months ago, when I discovered this new little person coming into existence, I just wanted to turn inward. I guess I had felt that way with the other two, but this time more so for some reason. Maybe the timing and my responsibilities and stress levels (none of which were terribly great or anything) coincided just so, or something caused me to want to retreat.
I started thinking about the part in the Bible where it talks about how Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist. There's a verse that talks about how Elizabeth hid herself for five months (Luke 1:24). For a while, I've wondered about that. I tried to research a little into the meaning of that passage, really, to no avail.

One thing is certain: I definitely relate to that desire!

In the beginning of my pregnancy, it was mostly due to lack of energy and constant nausea. I just wanted to stay home and be by myself (which I mostly succeeded at- well, of course with the addition of my two older children). This time around, for some reason, the nausea and "morning sickness" extended past the "requisite" 12 weeks. I think I had it up until 16 weeks or so!

Since then, I've been feeling pretty good for the most part. I've had some aches and pains, but mostly, I'm embracing and enjoying this belly and the baby inside of it.

Then, recently, the comments began.

"Are you ready for that little girl to be born?" (We decided to wait to discover the baby's gender).

"You've got what? Two more weeks to go?" (I had 14 weeks left until my due date at that time).

"Wow, someone is going to have a baby soon! When are you due?" And then when I said "June", the response was "June?! Are you having two?!"

Oh, brother! I can just imagine back in the day when Elizabeth discovered she was with child, some of the comments she might have encountered. People probably would have made comments about her age, and if we read further in the story, we see that people questioned their desire to name the baby John, so there likely would have been comments about that, too. I think Elizabeth was wise to hide herself, since pregnant women seem to be a huge target for all kinds of comments and influences. It is so important to guard yourself when you are expecting.

I know I will have the grace to get through this and savor this pregnancy. I just may have to stay out of the public eye a little to make that happen! Don't worry, I really don't mind staying home as much as possible anyway!

How did you feel when you were pregnant? Did you want to be around others a lot, or did you feel the need to retreat?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Maintaining My Home Management Binder

It's a great thing to have a home management binder. It reminds me of my days as the office manager at our church when I used to go everywhere with my planner (or as I jokingly called it, "my brain"). It can make you feel more centered, more in control of your day and the goings-on of your family.'s pretty much useless, if it's not organized in such a way that you can actually utilize the information contained therein. I know this from experience.

About a year ago, when I originally got inspired to make my home management binder, I put in a few forms, some checklists, and then added some recipe clippings to that since I love cooking and baking. (I kind of have a ridiculous obsession with finding new recipes to try). Anyway, somewhere in there, I had gotten out of the habit of maintaining my binder. Needless to say, I didn't really use it anymore, except for a catch-all for my recipes found online or in magazines or wherever. It had no purpose; it was just a clutter magnet for my kitchen.

Recently, I had been seeing more and more posts on different blogs about home management binders. I got inspired again. I pulled out my binder a few weeks ago and knew that I had some work ahead of me. It was a mess. I'm happy with the progress I made, even though I still have more to do to make it totally workable for me. But at least it's a start...

  • I started by pulling out all those recipes. I went through each one, and I realized there were several that I never actually used. The ones I did use, I placed in a pile to be organized.

  • Then, I got to clippin'. I trimmed out unnecessary parts of the paper, as shown so that I could fit as many recipes as possible into my binder. 
  • I used some of those adhesive photo refill pages to organize my recipes. I managed to fit 2-3 on a page. 
  • My recipe pages are now organized by soups, main dishes, special dishes for a crowd (like church potlucks or holiday dinners) and children's favorites (like granola bars, etc). 
I still need to get some more pages, so I can also organize my massive collection of dessert recipes (still growing, now that I'm on Pinterest!)

Anywho, I had a lot of trash when I was done. (I hope no environmentalists are reading this! Lol!)

I found some helpful forms here, and printed them and added them to my binder like so: 
By the way, I'm using the Daily Docket and the Master Weekly Checklist from the above link. I'll probably add some more of these free printables gradually, so as not to overwhelm!

Basically, it's more functional now. And that's a good thing. Right now, I need all the help I can get! Now, if I can just stick with it, I think I'll be in business! Though, these days, I'm trying to be a little more forgiving of myself, since this little person is not allowing me to operate at my usual pace (that's okay!). 

Have you ever gotten off track from your organizational endeavors? How did you get back into the swing of things?