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Christian Gift Guide for Her – Cheap and Easy!

Christmas Ideas…

Do you ever draw a blank when it comes to Christmas presents? You feel like Christmas Day is coming on like a freight train, and you can’t think of anything to buy?

Yep. I’ve been there too.

I know a few people who are really good at Christmas shopping. They’re stocking up at blow-outs and garage sales all year round, and they’re got all their presents wrapped the week after Thanksgiving.

I’m not one of them. I’ll work on it, but honestly, I don’t know how they do it!

So now it’s that time of year again…  What in the world am I going to get for them this year? And how do I buy gifts without spending a fortune?!?

Christmas Gift Guide for Her - Easy and Cheap! LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com

It doesn’t have to be hard!

There are some awesome gift ideas out there, and many of them are reasonably priced. You just have to know where to look! Here are a few ideas that I’ve come across and loved, all of them less than $15. Maybe they’ll get your creative juices flowing too! 🙂

$15 or Less!

1. Wall Art

I’ll be honest with this one – it might just end up on my Christmas list too! We have an empty space next to our kitchen door, and I still haven’t found the perfect piece to hang there. But then I saw this adorable, shabby-chic wall hanging that quotes Matthew 19:26 – “With God All Things are Possible.” Honestly, it caught my eye because the pretty floral design matches the colors in my kitchen, and I love the idea of seeing this reminder every time we step out into the world!

2. Journals

I couldn’t not include this one, because I really use journals for everything. Bible study journals, thankful journals, prayer journals… I just love using them! And this particular journal is so pretty! There’s lots of pages, lined space for writing, and Bible verses scripted at the bottom of each page. I love it!

Worried that journals are an overused gift? Write a note at the beginning of the journal and recommend the specific use of your gift. Is someone you know starting a new phase in life? Walking through a trial and in need of a journal to record “thankfuls?” Or maybe looking for ways to be more consistent in Bible study or prayer? These are opportunities to bless your sister in Christ this Christmas and encourage her walk with God at the same time!

3. Encouragement Mugs

I’m not a coffee person, much to my husband’s dismay. (He hasn’t sanctified me yet!) But hot drinks are a comfort food, something to sip and pamper myself with until I feel like I can face the world again.

That’s why these feminine, watercolor collection mugs caught my eye – I’m usually in need of encouragement from God’s Word when I grab a cup of hot chocolate. And the scripted Bible verses are such a sweet reminder of God’s heart for us!

4. Travel Mugs

Okay, I know I already did the hot drink number, but I’ve got to include this one too. I bought one of these Christian travel mugs for my husband last Christmas (albeit a less feminine version), and he loves it! He was showing it to a fellow coffee-lover later, who totally loved the idea and called it a “solid Christmas present.”

So take it from the coffee lovers – travel mugs, coffee mugs, all things coffee are welcome! 🙂

5. Flip Calendars

This is my favorite brainstormer for women who work outside the home. It’s just so perfect for keeping at a desk! There are lots of flip calendars out there, lots of great humor and lots of inspirational thoughts. This one is my favorite because it’s pure Bible verses!

6. Refrigerator Magnets

True confessions here: I’m kind of stuffy about my magnets. We have plenty of magnets, all of them work great, but all of them came from local stores and dentist offices as promotional freebies. And they’re not really pretty.

But check out these cute little magnets! They’ve got Bible verses, lots of pretty colors, and they’re the perfect size for holding pictures, to-do lists, and appointment notices!

7. Blankets

They say there’s a warm person and a cold person in every house. And I’m the cold person in ours! So let’s just say I’m a sucker for these fleece blankets. I love the warm fuzzies that come from curling up with a good book while the snow flies, and a good blanket just makes the picture complete.

Oh, and if you bought me a mug and some hot chocolate? That’s some great competition for the best Christmas present ever! 🙂

8. Movie Night

There’s not many movies that I’m comfortable recommending outright; seems like even G-rated movies need to be previewed these days. But Sherwood Pictures movies created by the Kendrick brothers are worth the investment. They have great content, they are fun to watch, and each one has a Christ-honoring message that is so encouraging. I’d absolutely encourage you to preview before gifting, just to be sure; package it up with a couple microwavable popcorn packets, and it’ll make a great gift for couples!

Able to spend a little more?

9. This Collage Frame!

I’ve got a soft spot for tangible keepsakes… “We can’t throw that away, it’s a memory!” Trouble is, I don’t always have a place for all of my little knick-knacks. They’re stored away in the Save Forever box and put up on a top shelf in the closet.

But look at this beautiful collage frame! There’s lots of space for all my pictures, and the framing is extended so as to provide shelving for knick-knacks. Who came up with this amazing idea?!?

10. For Women OnlyFor Men Only

These are some of my all-time favorite resources now! I loved reading For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, and we’re having a blast as my husband now reads the corresponding book For Men Only. Check out my thoughts on For Women Only here; it’s absolutely worth the buy!

Christian Gift Guide for Her - Easy and Cheap! LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com

 

There! That wasn’t so hard! I trust these gift ideas a help to you – the holidays are busy enough, so eliminate stress wherever you can! 🙂

Happy Shopping!

     ~ Erin

Share this resource with friends and Pin it! 🙂

Christian Gift Guide for Her - Cheap and Easy!

Starting to feel overwhelmed by the holiday season? Here’s an awesome resource that can help!

Feeling overwhelmed? This FREEBIE can help with that!

Homemade Tomato Soup

Soup season really is the best!

There’s just something wonderful about coming in from the cold, dark world to find warm, comfort food simmering in the crock pot… It fills me with warm, fuzzy thoughts every time!

Want to know another perk to these awesome soups? It cuts down the grocery bill! Most homemade soups are really cheap and easy to make. And that’s definitely  true of this Homemade Tomato Soup. I spend $1.36 when I make it! But more on that later. 🙂

I found “Garden Fresh Tomato Soup” on Allrecipes.com, and eating canned tomato soup will never be the same. I’ve tweaked the recipe a little – added an extra tablespoon of butter and flour (each) for a little more thickening, and a dash of Roasted Herb and Garlic seasoning for a little extra zest. But on the whole, this recipe was pure deliciousness right from the start!

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Here’s why Homemade Tomato Soup is one of my favorites…

  1. I get to eat grilled cheese sandwiches with it! And I love grilled cheese sandwiches!
  2. We got showered with garden-fresh tomatoes this year (Thanks, Mom!), and I’m having a blast using them up. I juiced most of them, and stored them in the freezer, 4 cups per freezer bag. That makes meal prep for this recipe incredibly easy!
  3. Once the tomato juice is thawed, I can have this meal ready in 30 minutes, with only 5 minutes of prep time, assuming Little Buddy is cooperative… This soup also works great in the crockpot if you need to get supper on the table fast!
  4. This meal serves six bowls for $4.16 if I buy the tomatoes canned, and only $1.36 if I have frozen tomatoes from Mom on hand!

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Note: You can find the original recipe here!

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (OR 4 cans diced tomatoes, $0.70 ea. @ Dollar General)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
  • 2 cans chicken broth ($0.49 ea. @ Dollar General)
  • 6 Tablespoon butter (Stock up when it’s on sale for $1.99/lb!)
  • 3 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • Roasted Herb and Garlic Seasoning

Total Cost:  $4.16

Instructions:

(These instructions assume that you’re working with garden fresh tomatoes; if not, you can skip to step 3. 🙂 )

  1. Rinse your garden fresh tomatoes, remove the stems, and blend  the tomatoes in a food processor until lightly chunky or smooth. I find it works well to cut the tomatoes into quarters before I process them.
  2. If freezing, pour 4 cups of tomato juice into gallon sized freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer. Make sure you allow your tomatoes time to thaw before making your soup though – seems like I always forget that!
  3. To make your soup, combine the tomatoes, broth, minced onion, and cloves in a stock pot, and gently boil for 20 minutes; then reduce heat to Medium or Medium Low.
  4. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and mix in flour with a whisk to make a roux. Stir constantly until the mixture appears medium brown. (Don’t worry, that’s just a fancy word for the thickening agent in sauces and soups! 🙂 )
  5. Gradually whisk small amounts of the tomato mixture into the roux to prevent lumps from forming in the soup; then mix the roux in with the rest of the tomato mixture.
  6. Season the soup with salt, sugar, and the roasted herb and garlic blend, to taste.
  7. Let your soup simmer for about 10 minutes. That’s just enough time to make your grilled cheese sandwiches and set the table! 🙂

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Enjoy!

I hope you love this soup as much as I do! Give it a try this weekend, and let me know what you think of it!

Blessings,

         ~ Erin


Pin it for later!

Tomato Soup pin

Tomato Soup pin


Looking for more budget-friendly meals? Try These!

Five Questions that Simplify Life

Ever feel like you’re just treading water?

Like you’re supposed to be swimming upstream, but all you can do is keep your head above the surface?

I was behind on laundry, dishes, and dusting. The fridge was filled with food that needed to be pitched, and my hopes for a well-tended, productive garden were going down fast. Little Buddy needed TLC that I didn’t have time to give, and my husband was coming home to minor chaos after work.

Honestly, I felt like I was failing as a wife, mommy, and homemaker.

There was so much going on in life, so many things vying for my attention, and there was never enough time in the day.

That’s where I was at.

 

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Something needed to change.

God hasn’t called us to a spirit of fear, and I like to think that He hasn’t called us to a spirit of Overwhelm either. He doesn’t want us to be worried, harried, and stressed. In fact, His plans for us are very different…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” Matthew 1:28-29a

A little heart-to-heart with God helped me see the problem. I had set my expectations so high – I was going to be a great wife and mommy, I was going to keep an immaculate house, I was going to cook awesome meals and have a garden that was the envy of the neighborhood…

My goal was to excel. At everything. And my expectations for myself were not God’s expectations for me.

Now, I want you to understand… It’s not bad to want a clean house and a well-tended garden. Those are good things, things that can honor God. But when they get in the way of more important things in my life? That’s a problem.

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Pursuing God’s expectations of me…

God taught me some really good things when I hit Overwhelm, and here’s the biggest lesson I walked away with: God created us to be finite.

Really, that shouldn’t have been earth-shattering. Of course we are finite; only God is infinite. But if you’d have seen some of my to-do lists, if you’d have known some of my expectations of myself, you’d have thought this finite news was hot off the press!

Here’s the short and sweet of it: I am finite in my abilities, my time, and my energy. And that’s okay – it’s how God created me to be!

God is okay if my garden was a mess last summer. He’s okay if my fridge doesn’t get cleaned right this minute. He wants me to pursue the things that He wants for my life, and to do my best with the strength that He gives me.

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That’s where The Five Questions come in. 

As I sat down to deal with Overwhelm, I found myself dealing with priorities. Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? I can’t do everything; God hasn’t designed me to do everything. But He does want me to do something…

So I developed The Five Questions as I walked myself through my expectations, roles, and priorities in life. I compared my expectations with God’s expectations of me. And I ended with a To-Do list that only had eight things on it! (Hooray!!!)

The Five Questions simplified life, changed my perspective, and helped me align my priorities with God’s priorities.

Does that mean I’ve never dealt with the Overwhelm again?

Nope! I hit Overwhelm again last week!

God used these Five Questions to change me, and He is still using them to change me and realign my life with His plans for me.

That’s why I want to share this resource with you!

Not because these questions are a magic solution to anything. They’re not! But they are a tool that you can use to reassess your priorities and a tool that you can refer back to when the Overwhelm knocks on your door.

And guess what? Getting these Five Questions is super easy!

I would love to send them to you! It’s as easy as signing up for my email list below, and then clicking “Confirm Subscription” in the follow-up email sent to your inbox. Then you’ll receive an email straight from me with a downloadable copy of The Five Questions at the bottom – it’s yours for free!

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Not sure you want more emails filling up your inbox (and adding to your Overwhelm)? That’s okay – I understand that completely! Give us a try for a couple weeks, and you can always unsubscribe later if you want. The freebie is worth it! (And personally, I think you’ll like what you find! 🙂 )

Here’s the sign-up form!

I’d love to hear what you think of the freebie! Send me an email or post a comment below and share your thoughts!

Sending thoughts and prayers your way as you pursue God’s priorities!

                ~ Erin

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe! 🙂

 

Looking for more great posts? Here are some of my favorites!

Good News and Bad News

Faith

The word faith is tossed around a lot today. Ask anyone on the street, and you’ve got a good chance of finding someone to be a spiritual person, someone who has faith. It’s easy to give a cop-out like, “Sure, I’ve got faith,” or “Yeah, faith is very important to me.” But these kinds of comments can mean so many things that they don’t mean much at all.

Don’t get me wrong. Faith is very important to me too. But what does that tell you about me? Not much. I could be talking about my conviction that purple kangaroos live on the dark side of the moon (which is nonsense) or my spiritual connection with Mickey Mouse (which is more nonsense).

Our questions need to go a little deeper… Why should we believe what we believe? How can we know what is true?

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Here’s the starting point!

We have lots of questions, and God has already given us the answers we need! He wants us to know Him, and He has given us the Bible as our guidebook for life. Every bit of the Bible is true, and we can trust it today. How awesome is that?!? We can know the God of creation!

The message of the Bible is really simple. It has some good news and bad news for every single one of us. And God is going to hold us accountable for what we do with that news…

 

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The bad news comes first…

Evil, destruction, and death came into the picture in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they ate the fruit that God had warned them not to eat. Adam and Eve sinned, and in doing so, their relationship with God was broken.

Unfortunately, none of us is any better than Adam and Eve. Check out what God says…

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

All of us have done things in disobedience to God. Think about it – little white lies and whoppers, bad attitudes and all-out rage, the worship of immaterial things like wealth and power and the worship of wooden or stone statues – all of these put us in the same position before God.

We are sinners. All of us fall short.

Here’s an illustration of what that looks like… Imagine you and I are going to have a rock throwing contest. Our target is the North Pole, and we’re throwing from my home in Iowa. (No cheating and throwing from Canada!) Your rock might go farther than mine, or mine might go farther than yours (highly unlikely), but let’s be honest. Neither of us is going to hit the North Pole!

That’s what Romans 3:23 is talking about. We have sinned, and God’s glory is so great and holy and perfect, that even with our best efforts, our good works, our faithful charities, our baptism, our church membership… Nothing we do could ever gain us access to God’s glory. It’s as impossible as my rock hitting the North Pole.

 

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The news gets worse before it gets better…

The Bible says we are have all sinned. None of us can gain access to God. But that’s not the worst of it…

“For the wages of sin is death…”  Romans 6:23

We all know what a wage is, right? Let’s say you hire me to do some work for you. I work hard, get the work done, and you pay me fifty dollars. The fifty dollars is my wage, my payment for the work I’ve done.

God says that the payment for the sin we’ve done is death. That’s what Romans 6:23 means. All of us have sinned, and we have earned our wage – death.

Unfortunately, the wage of death isn’t just talking about physical death; it’s talking about a second, spiritual death too…

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire.”  Revelation 20:14-15

Every one of us will die someday, and we will face the holy God of the universe. We’ll stand before Him and have to give an account for the sin that we’ve done in our lives. God will see our disobedience and give us our wages, the second death.

 

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Does that concern you?

I don’t know about you, but verses like Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and Revelation 20:14-15 concern me. The lake of fire is a place of eternal torment and separation from God, and I don’t want to spend eternity there!

Here’s the amazing thing about our God: He doesn’t want us to spend eternity in the lake of fire either! This is what He says…

“The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9

Did you read that correctly? God doesn’t want us to die the second death! But what can God do? We’ve all chosen our path – we’re sinners. We’ve all earned our wages – eternal death. God is holy, and He never wavers from justice. Someone has to pay the price.

 

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Here’s the good news!

God loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ, so we could be free from our sin!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should never perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:7-8

Here’s an illustration of what happened. I know it’s an awful thought, but let’s say you have cancer. The doctors say there’s no hope, no treatments. You’ve got months to live, and then it’s over.

Then let’s say I come and take your cancer from you.

What’s going to happen to you? You’re going to live. What’s going to happen to me? I’m going to die.

That’s what Jesus did for us! He became human, lived a sinless life, and died the death on the cross that we deserved and He did not. Three days later, He rose to life again and proved to the world that He was who He said He was – the Son of God and the way to salvation!

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So how do we receive this salvation?

Remember how we started all this by talking about faith? This is where faith comes in…

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

I like to use an illustration with this verse too. I have a pen sitting beside me as I type; let’s say I want to give it to you, for keeps. (It’s a really nice pen!) I offer it to you freely, no charge, no strings attached. At what point does the pen become yours?

When you reach out and take it from me.

God is offering something to you now, something you don’t deserve, something you couldn’t ever hope to earn. He’s offering you eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. All He asks of you is to turn from your sin, ask Him for forgiveness, and trust in Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection as the final payment of your wages for sin. Have faith that He has paid it all and has given you eternal life!

“For our sake, He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21

I have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as the salvation necessary to save me from my sins. My faith in Jesus Christ has restored me to God, and now I am able to have a personal relationship with Him.

 

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What about you? Do you have faith?

I hope and pray this is a decision that you have made. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions – this is something I would love to talk to you about. 🙂

Blessings!

      ~ Erin

 

Interested in more? Try these posts!

Have you checked out my weekly email? It’s got a great freebie to go with it! Here’s the link for more information – A Little Bit of Sunshine… 🙂

 

This post has been updated from a previous post.

Great Read: “For Women Only”

Here’s the short version of this post. Ready?

You want to read this book! 🙂

     An Overview…

Someone gave me part of their library a few months ago, and For Women Only was in the mix. I had already heard of the author, Shaunti Feldhahn, so I was excited about the chance to read one of her books…

But within reading the first chapter? I was beyond excited. I was sold!

For Women Only is an intensely practical book about guys and how they tick. It’s a book that’s easy to read, easy to relate to, and easy to apply. And it’s a book that’s written by a woman who has “been there” and who understands where we’re coming from as women, wives, and moms…

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     The Author

Shaunti Feldhahn is a Christian, a wife and mom, a social researcher, and a best-selling author. Her books are unique in that they are not “how-to” or “self-help” books. Rather, they are researched-based, finding their foundation in hundreds of surveys conducted on the topics in question.

And that’s where her authority lies as the author of a book subtitled, “what you need to know about the inner lives of men.”

In preparing for her book, For Women Only, Shaunti and her team conducted “spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men with the goal of delving into the ‘common perplexities’ that crop up when men and women interact” (p 10).

(She talked to one thousand men! That’s commitment!)

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     The Content

In studying the answers that these men gave her, Shaunti found seven “revelations… things that my own husband always wished I knew, but couldn’t figure out how to explain” (p 12). These revelations are principles that many women have a surface understanding of, things like “men need respect” and “men are visual.” But chapter by chapter, Shaunti digs behind these surface understandings to bring out what each principle means in the practical, everyday lives of our guys.

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     Here’s an Example…

Men need respect and women need love. That’s common marriage advice in today’s Christian circles, and it’s based on a Biblical concept found in Ephesians 5. But that statement still leaves us hanging without a practical vision of how love and respect play out in day-to-day life. “Wives respect your husbands…”

           Well, I’m pretty sure I respect him, so I’m good right?

Shaunti Feldhahn took this principle that we’re so familiar with and gave it hands and feet. She explains what is going through the male mind in regard to respect. She points out that while “most of us do respect the man in our lives and often don’t realize when our words or actions convey exactly the opposite!” (p 23-24).

Here’s a great example (p 30): Men need us to respect their abilities. They want us to trust them to figure things out. So when I suggest to my husband that we need to ask for directions on a road trip, I am inadvertently communicating distrust in his ability to get us to our destination. My comments are meant to be helpful, but his ears hear it as a slam on his ability and his intuition. He feels disrespect!

I had to smile when I checked my husband’s opinion on this one. Yes, he told me, that’s how he felt in situations like that, don’t women feel that way too? No, we don’t! It’s a team effort! Everybody’s trying to find they’re destination together, let’s help one another out! His response: It is a team effort – and they (anybody we might ask directions of) are on the other team!

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     The Value of this Book…

Honestly, it was these practical, real life examples and the resulting conversations with my husband that were so helpful to me. Before reading Shaunti’s book, I knew that I needed to respect my husband, and I was committed to doing just that. But For Women Only shed light on what respect looks like from his point of view, and that was incredibly helpful!

Every chapter gave me a better understanding of how guys think. And in some cases, Shaunti blew my mind with how much I didn’t get about men. Men are built to be different from women, and there are some things we just won’t understand until we hear them out on their point of view.

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     Biblical Womanhood…

Part of Biblical womanhood is sharing resources with our sisters in Christ, resources that point us to Christ, teach us truth, and change our perspective. That’s how we sharpen one another, how we help one another grow.

This book, For Women Only, is one of those resources for me. I wish I’d had it two years ago when I got married! It has changed my perspective on how men think and on how marriage works. Things like not stopping to ask for directions? I understand now! I get it!

As a sister in Christ, I wanted to share this resource with you too. I would encourage you, find a copy at the library, borrow one from a friend, check out Shaunti’s website 4-womenonly.com, whatever you need to do to make sure it’s a good buy. Then put it on your Christmas wish-list and buy it for friends!

Interested in buying it now? For Women Only is reasonably priced on Amazon. Buy one now, check it out, and come back for more later! Here’s a link!

Thanks for letting me share my heart and gush a little, friends! And let me know what you think of the book – I would love to hear your thoughts and things that you learn!

Blessings! ~ Erin

 

More Resources on Marriage

10 Ways I Can Love My Husband

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Thank You!

Thank you!!!

April 15th – October 14th

1500 pageviews  ~  500 site visits  ~  21 countries

Hooray! We’ve made it to our 6-month blogging mark! I have been so encouraged by the support that everyone has given me in pursuing this Little Yellow House blogging venture, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share the progress we’ve made together!

The stats above represent the six months since I started blogging. That’s a great start for a blog, but I was even more encouraged when I broke these numbers down by three-month time periods. Take a look!

April 15th – July 14th

400 pageviews  ~  100 Site visits  ~  4 countries

 

July 15th – October 14th

1100 pageviews  ~  400 site visits  ~  18 countries

 

See why I was encouraged? 75% of my total page views and 80% of my total site visits have come in the last three months. The blog is growing!

I owe a huge thank you to everyone. Thank you to those who “like” my Facebook posts and click on my Pinterest pins. Thank you to those who have subscribed to my weekly emails and encouraged me with replies. Thank you to everyone behind the scenes who has listened to my ideas, given me advice, and bolstered my confidence. And thank you to my Heavenly Father, who has given me this unique platform to encourage the women around me.

I appreciate you all so much! Thank you!

 

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So where are we going from here?

My goal in blogging at LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com is to encourage my readers by sharing life with them. I want to share everything that I am learning about being a woman of God in today’s culture, whether that means nurturing my husband and family, caring for my home, or balancing the budget. I want to encourage the women around me to be women of God too!

With that purpose statement in mind, here are my goals for the next six months of blogging. 🙂

  1. One Hundred New Email Subscribers

Not sure if ya’ll knew this or not – the weekly emails are my favorite part of blogging!

The reason is simple – the emails are where relationships are developed. It’s where the discipleship happens. It’s where we live life together and encourage one another toward the goal of Biblical womanhood. Sure I’m excited when I get lots of pageviews on the blog. But it’s far more encouraging to receive an email from one of my subscribers!

I would love to see this part of my blogging adventure grow. Honestly, it’s going to take a little work to see 100 new subscribers in the next six months, but I think it’s possible, and we’re going to give it a try!

  1. Three Thousand New Pageviews

Part of successful blogging is putting yourself out there and being visible on the Internet. For me, that means maintaining my Little Yellow House Pinterest and Facebook pages. The relationships that I get to build here aren’t as deep as I get to build via my email list, but the visibility does allow me to be a resource for people beyond my subscriber. Ideally, this will also attract more subscribers along the way. 🙂

Three thousand new pageviews in six months sounds like a big jump from fifteen hundred. But think of it this way – most of those fifteen hundred pageviews came in the last three months. I’ve been seeing an average of 360 monthly pageviews lately. Bumping that average up to 500 pageviews per month is going to take some work, but I think we can do it!

  1. Monetization

Maybe you’ve heard of this “mommy blogger” thing floating around the internet. Stay-at-home moms are able to contribute to their family’s income by offering services via their blog. Many moms participate in various forms of affiliate marketing (that’s earning a small commission by advertising for someone else’s product; displaying ads is a great example). Other bloggers evaluate the needs of their audience and create their own product to sell based on those needs.

Honestly, I’ve only dabbled in this area so far. You’ve seen a few links to various products that I recommend, and that’s about it. But it is an area that I would like to explore in the next few months. Just so you know. 🙂

 

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Here’s how you can help!

     1. SUBSCRIBE!

If you haven’t subscribed to my weekly email list yet, I would love to have you join us! Like I said before, this is my favorite part of blogging, and I do think it’s the area with the most potential for growth. Give it a try for a couple weeks, and I think you’ll find a bit of encouragement! Here’s a link to get you started! 🙂

    2. ENGAGE!

Biblical womanhood is a sisterhood thing. Learning to be better wives, moms, and homemakers is something that we do together! Did you find something encouraging in an email? Hit reply! Do you have a thought to add to a blog article? Post a comment! My deepest goal is to be an encouragement through my blog, and I can do that better when I hear from you!

    3. FOLLOW!

I try to keep my content visible to the Internet world through my Pinterest and Facebook accounts. When fans follow my Pinterest account and like my Facebook page, it helps me attract new friends to LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com. It will help you stay connected to the great content I have there!

    4. SHARE!

Biblical womanhood is a sisterhood thing… and it’s catching. Can you think of a woman you know who might benefit from the blog or weekly emails? Maybe a sister, daughter, friend, or disciple? Send her a link! I would love to be a tool for you to use in encouraging another sister in Christ!

Thanks again for everyone’s encouragement and support in this blogging venture. You’ve been amazing, and I can’t wait to see how we’ll grow in the next six months!

Blessings!

Erin

Choosing to Love My Husband

Let me tell you our story… 🙂

I moved back on campus for my sophomore year of college with lofty ambitions. I was going to grow in my walk with God, invest in the lives of girls around me, and pursue my education as a future teacher. And I was going to steer absolutely clear of boys.

And who should I meet my first week back at college? A handsome seminarian, just back from two years of teaching in Saipan.

I distinctly remember counseling myself in that first moment. “This is a brother in Christ, Erin. Be polite, kind, and encouraging. Focus on the brother aspect…”

Bumping in to him was inevitable.

We attended the same church, rode the church van together three times a week, and served in many of the same church activities, so getting to know him was inevitable. It also helped that he was a seminarian who “lived” in the library. I just happened to be the librarian. 😉

I really did try to think of him as a brother. It helped that I was a lowly sophomore, five years his junior. It did not help that he looked so handsome every time he walked into the library with a haircut.

Remember that lofty ambition I had as a sophomore? Of steering clear of boys? Well, I finally achieved it! It was halfway through my junior year when I began really considering the gift that singleness is. It’s a season of life, just like any other season, with beautiful aspects and lots of potential. Sure, marriage was something I wanted eventually, but I was going to use singleness to the best of my ability in the meantime.

Life seemed so simple when I thought of it that way. I was content with singleness until God chose to intervene.

Then, he happened.

And the same day the gift of singleness crystallized in my mind, he happened. That handsome seminarian.

“Erin, can I ask you something? See, I’d like to get to know you better…”

He was so sweet and considerate in asking me. Very understanding of my desire to think about it. He had no idea that he had just shook my entire world, and I had no idea how close I was to finding my very best friend…

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Something I’ve been learning…

When we read love stories, relationships have a way of looking easy. Of course he’s head-over-heels in love with her and she thinks the world of him. Why not? It’s a match made in heaven, the wedding bells are ringing, and they live happily ever after.

After all, that’s how Disney promised it would happen, right?

Today’s culture has conditioned us to think of true love as a feeling. It’s a wonderful, mystical thing that happens between two people, and when it happens to you, you can’t avoid it. Apparently this powerful force is best displayed in Disney princess movies and chick flicks.

I hope you know that’s not reality.

Disney is not a great depiction of what true love really is. (Gasp!) Our culture is wrong! Just a glance at the Bible’s classic love passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, shows us that love is a sacrificial action, prompting us to do what is best for another person even when it isn’t easy. It’s true that Biblical love includes feelings, but that’s not the full extent of Biblical love. It focuses on how I can serve my husband, not on how he makes me feel.

Love is a choice…

Despite the culture’s opinions on the subject, we do have a say in who we love. Love is a choice and an action! Remember Matthew 6:20-21? Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our hearts will love what we are actively investing in.

That means the question is no longer, “How does he make me feel?” but rather, “How can I invest my heart in this man?”

So let’s get practical.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to show you what “investing” looks like in our house. These simple actions are some of the practical ways that I intentionally invest my heart in my husband.

(Make sure you read to the bottom – I’ve got some great resources to recommend if you want to learn more!)

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10 Simple Ways I Love My Husband

  1. I go all out with breakfast every once in a while.

Cereal and bagels are pretty normal for breakfast at our house, and we like it that way. Simple is a really good thing early in the morning! But my husband also tells stories about the breakfasts he had on Saturday mornings as a kid. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon…

So every once in a while, I try to surprise him. I’ll get up a little early or hurry through my morning routine just so he can come out of the bedroom and smell the bacon. You should see his smile when I make that extra effort!

  1. I wash his French Press. (I told you these were simple!)

My husband is a coffee connoisseur. While he doesn’t mind ground coffee and a coffee machine, grinding his own beans and using a French press is usually preferred. As a girl who likes the smell of coffee but not the taste, I let coffee be his thing.

But here’s the thing about French presses – once they’ve been used, they’re dirty! (Imagine that, right?) French presses aren’t the easiest thing to wash, and they are an easy thing to set aside since they’re not part of my perception of normal breakfast dishes. So I have to be intentional about washing it with the rest of the breakfast dishes.

Coffee might not be my cup of tea, but I do want to take care of that French press if it’s his!

  1. I say thank you.

Husbands need encouragement! They want to be good husbands and daddys, and they work hard to provide. Believe it or not, it’s common for them to feel inadequate for the role that God has called them to. (If you’re curious about that, I would recommend reading the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It’s about understanding how men think, and I learned a lot when I read it!)

So with his need for encouragement in mind, I try to really notice the little things that he does for us around the house. Taking out the trash or sweeping the Cheerios off the floor might seem insignificant, but it sure saves me some steps! Words like “Thank you for…” and “I really appreciate it when…” go a long way in letting him know I notice and appreciate the way he takes care of us.

  1. I leave encouraging notes every once in a while.

I want my spoken words are encouraging all the time, but written notes have an extra level of intentionality to them that make them special. They don’t happen all the time, just often enough to keep him guessing.

My favorite spots for “hiding” notes are on his to-do list, on his pulpit, and in his bathroom cabinet. I want to be just subtle enough in hiding them that he’s surprised, but always obvious enough that he’ll find them. 🙂

  1. I try to remember to clean his bathroom.

That sounds awful. A clean bathroom says “I love you?!” Well, there’s a story to that…

The bathroom on our main floor is a little feminine to say the least. We have a pink sink and a pink tub. (I’ve been told the stool was pink too, but that was replaced before we moved in.) So my husband was more than willing to claim the basement bathroom, which is not feminine at all with its cement floors and house centipedes. (Don’t look those up if you don’t like bugs.)

All of this sounds well and good until we realize that since I never use the basement bathroom, I never see the basement bathroom. Out of sight, out of mind, and that means I never remember to clean it.

There, true confessions of a forgetful housewife! I have to be intentional about remembering his bathroom, and then I have to be intentional about doing something about cleaning it. See how a clean bathroom can be a love language? 🙂

  1. I meet him at the door when he comes home from work.

This one started when I was growing up. My sister and I would begin to watch the driveway around 4:30, and “Daddy’s home!” would echo through the house as soon as his truck rolled into view. Then it was a race to the door as Dad pulled into the garage.

I love the idea of our kids doing this too, so it’s already a tradition for Little Buddy and me to watch for Daddy’s truck when he’s due home. It’s a practical way for us to show that he’s an important part of our lives and that we’ve missed him during the day!

  1. I always greet him with a smile and a kiss.

This one goes hand in hand with meeting him at the door. It’s just a little way to say “I missed you, and I’m so glad you’re home!” 🙂

  1. I’m learning to make fish, pork chops, and steak.

It’s okay if you don’t relate with me on this one. I’m a little weird.

I’ve never been a huge fan of meats – tacos and spaghetti are more my style than chicken, seafood, and steak. I prefer sandwich shops to steak houses as a rule. I’m just fine with that! But unfortunately, that means that my husband sees less meat on his plate than he might prefer…

Because it’s not my cup of tea, I have to make a conscious effort to treat him to the meat-and-potato-style meals. Pulling that meat out of the freezer every once in a while is an intentional way that I show him I love him.

(And seeing his eyes light up when he sees dinner on the table definitely makes it worth it!)

  1. I’m figuring out his favorite ways to relax and giving him time to do them.

As a stay-at-home wife and mommy, I love it when my husband comes home. Maybe this is just me again, but I’m ready to tell him all about my day when he walks in the door, blow by blow, ready or not. It’s the adult conversation that I’ve missed all day!

My husband is such a good listener, and he’s so patient with my chatter. But there are some times when he needs time to unwind. He’s been busy working, caring, and providing for us all day – he needs a break!

Giving him time to catch up on the online news or to read a book on the couch isn’t always how I picture spending the evening. But if he needs that time to unwind, it’s going at the top of my priority list!

  1. I give him my unconditional respect.

This is a hard one for a lot of women. We just don’t understand a man’s need for it. Things come into clarity a bit when we realize that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected. (Again, I have Shaunti Feldhahn’s book For Women Only to thank for that thought!)

The fact is, our husbands need us. The world isn’t going to be their cheerleader. They want to know their wives are behind them one hundred percent!

It’s really interesting that we expect our husbands give us love unconditionally (which they should!), but we give them respect conditionally, expecting them to earn our respect. The Bible is pretty straightforward on this one. “Wives, respect your husbands.” No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

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A Couple Thoughts in Summary…

It comes down to this – marriage takes work. It’s just like a bank account in that we can’t expect to have anything valuable later if we aren’t steadily investing in it now. You have to be intentional. You have to take initiative. You have to invest in the relationship, even if you don’t see the return right away.

Now, your list will probably not look like mine. In fact, I can probably guarantee that it won’t. But the goal wasn’t to give you an exhaustive list of things to do for your husband anyway. Rather, I want you to take these examples and the principles behind them and tailor them to your marriage. Come up with your own list!

Where do I start?

First, find out what God says about marriage and your role in it. Read Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3, and find verses on marriage in the book of Proverbs. Study them out and be intentional in applying them to your life.

Second, pray! Ask God to help you give you the right attitude and strength to love your husband well. That’s one of those prayers that He would love to answer. 🙂

Third, be a student of your husband. Study his likes, his dislikes, his hobbies, and his goals. This might stretch you out of your comfort zone, but he’ll love it!

Fourth, be humble. Be willing to love him even if he isn’t reciprocating. The little things you do may go unnoticed, but the focus in loving him isn’t supposed to be on us anyway…

Want some resources?

I’ve come across some great resources that have greatly impacted my theology of and practice in marriage. These are books that I have read and learned from, and I absolutely recommend them to you if you’re looking for more ways to grow in this area!

LOVE AND RESPECT by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

(explains the different roles that love and respect play in a marriage based on Ephesians 5)

THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE by Pastor Timothy Keller

(explores the philosophy and Biblical foundation behind marriage with lots of great application for today’s culture)

FOR WOMEN ONLY by Shaunti Feldhahn

(explains what men wish their wives understood about men with practical life applications – THIS IS AN AWESOME BOOK!)

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Love is a choice…

We all have room to grow in this area. Whether we’re fresh off the honeymoon or celebrating seventy years of marriage, love is still a choice, an action, an investment.

So here’s what I want to know. What are you going to do about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments in the comment section below. Biblical womanhood is a sisterhood thing, so let’s learn from one another!

Blessings!   ~ Erin

 

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Developing the Discipline of Spending Time with God

Ten Steps for Saving $ with a Menu Plan

14 Meals in 20 Minutes or Less

Developing the Discipline of Spending Time with God

We’ve All Been There…

We mean to do it. And we try to do it! But when it comes to actually sitting down and reading our Bible? Spending time in real prayer? That’s a challenge for many believers.

I find myself in this position more often than I like to admit. If I don’t make spending time with God a priority first thing in the morning, I struggle to make it happen at all. Once my day has started, my mind is focused on other things – getting the dishes washed, moving clothes from washer to dryer, keeping Little Buddy occupied while I prepare lunch… It is a challenge to set everything aside to read God’s Word and pray.

But I don’t want that to be the story of my life!

I want to be like Enoch, the man who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24, ESV). In Hebrews 11:4, we are told that he did this by faith. “By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.”

What an awesome thing to be remembered for! He walked with God, spending time with Him on a daily basis. And he pleased God because he walked with Him by faith.

Have you ever thought of it in that way before? When we spend time with God and walk with Him every day, it is an expression of our faith. We can’t see the One we’re spending time with. And we can’t see the immediate fruit of our time with Him. We do it because we are certain that He is there and we desire to know Him better.

What would God say about me? “By faith, Erin…”

Spending time with God is a discipline, a practice that is developed over lots of time through lots of repetition. Creating the daily habit is not easy or convenient. Rather, it takes time, commitment, and a lot of determination. And it takes faith.

I want to be a woman of faith.

So this post is devoted to the practical. To keeping it real and making it happen. The strategies that I’ve compiled are not mind-blowing, revolutionary, or magical. The strategies won’t do the work for you! But they can give you a place to start when you’re stuck in a side rut and God wants you walking with Him on the road. 🙂

So let’s get started!

 

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25 Strategies to Spending Time with God

1. Think through your priorities.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Take a peek at your heart – does God come at the top of your priority list? Is He worth investing your time, energy, and treasure in? I’ll admit, that’s a hard question to answer sometimes, but an honest answer here will make or break our likelihood of consistently spending time with Him.

2. Ask God for help.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). God is both willing and able to help you be consistent in Bible study, prayer, and memorization. He wants to answer this prayer!

3. Start with thirty days.

In seventh grade, the pastor gave our Sunday school class a piece of wisdom and a challenge. The wisdom? If you do something consistently for thirty days, you will have established a habit. The challenge? Spend time in the Bible every day for thirty days…and if you miss a day, start over!

4. I recommend mornings…

This one is different for everyone. Some people are early birds, and some people are night owls. I recommend spending time with God in the mornings either way – we’re less likely to be busy or distracted at that time, and I like to think that it starts my day off on the right foot.

That being said, find a time that works for you.

5. Beware of the snooze button!

I know it’s tempting – I’ve fought it too. But don’t use the snooze button if you’re going to do devos in the morning! Hit it one time too many, and what’s the first thing to skip when you’re running late? Don’t let it be your time with God!

I’ve had a lot of friends suggest setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier than I need to get up, just so I can snooze it three times and feel like I’m sleeping in. Be careful of that one! We’re training our brains to disregard the alarm when we snooze it too often, and soon we won’t be able to hear it at all!

6. Consider having an accountability partner.

Ask a friend or a mentor to hold you accountable! Commit to texting one another thoughts from that morning’s Bible reading every day. Knowing that someone is waiting to hear from you about your time with God can put some friendly pressure on your to keep priorities straight.

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Ideas for Bible Study…

7. Start small.

Don’t set out to read entire books of the Bible each day if you’re just starting! Pick a favorite book of the Bible, or a book of the Bible with a favorite story in it, and just start reading a few verses a day. You can always take on more later. 🙂

8. Read through the Bible in a year.

Every time I read through the Bible, I understand more of it and I remember more of it. Lots of Bible in a Year plans are available online, or you can just read through the Bible 3-4 chapters per day, and you’ll come out about right!

9. Try a word study!

I love this strategy! Choose a topic in the Bible that you want to learn more about, or an area where you know you need to grow, and use a concordance to find where God talks about it in His Word.

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Strong’s Concordance

My favorite tool for this is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. It indexes every word that appears in the Bible, and it includes a dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words! My only difficulty is the copy I have is based on the King James Version, which I no longer use for personal Bible study. I would absolutely recommend investing in a concordance that corresponds to your favorite Bible version!

I’ve studied wisdom, Christ’s blood, finances, agape love, and joy using this strategy, and they have been some of the best studies of my life!

Interested in buying one? They’re reasonably priced on Amazon! Click here!

10. Be consistent.

Bible study is a discipline, so pick a strategy and stick with it. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck doing word studies for the rest of our lives, but it does mean we’re not being haphazard in how we approach God’s Word. There is a beautiful cohesiveness in the Bible, and we do it an injustice when we’re always cherry-picking verses we like and never reading for the bigger picture.

11. Use a Journaling Bible.

My Journaling Bible cost about $40, and it has been an investment that I treasure. Each margin has extra space where I can write down thoughts, prayers, cross references, and sermon notes.

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Journaling Bible

I love rereading a passage and seeing what I’ve learned before in the margin. It is a priceless treasure!

Journaling Bibles are available on Amazon, with lots of cover designs to choose from! Click here!

12. Write something down!

The teacher in me can’t help slipping this one in. 🙂 In school, we learn more about a lesson when we respond to it, take notes, or summarize a thought. These notes also become a resource when you need to look back and remember what you learned.

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Bible Study Journal

I prefer more space than my Journaling Bible gives me for this kind of daily study, so I tend to keep a Bible study journal on hand when I read. This pic shows a couple of pages out of my word study on joy – rereading those verses brings back lots of memories of what I was learning at that time!

Check out some of beautiful Bible study journals here!

13. Read out loud.

This one is another teacher tip. 🙂 Our mental engagement with a text and our memory of what we learn from it is directly related to the number of senses we use when we read it. Reading out loud involves our eyes, our mouths, and our ears. The more senses we use, the better we remember! Not to mention it helps us fight distraction. 🙂

14. Ask God to teach you something new every time you read the Bible.

“For the Word of God is living and active…” (Hebrews 4:12a). God’s Word is alive, and verses that we’ve known all of our lives may still have hidden gems in them that we haven’t discovered yet. Asking God to teach you more will make you more aware of His teaching when it comes!

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Ideas for Prayer…

15. Keep a prayer journal.

This strategy has revolutionized my approach to prayer! Use a small journal to record prayer requests that come up on a day-to-day basis, and pray through that list regularly!I love using this as a tool for prayer in my daily time with God.

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Prayer Journal

I’d recommend using another journal for prayer, separate from the Bible study journal. I like mine to be pocket sized, something I can take to church with me easily. This one is actually designed specifically for prayer,  with space for dates and answered prayers included!

You can browse prayer journals on Amazon here!

16. Pray for some people every day.

My husband and sons fall into this category, and they are listed at the beginning of my prayer journal. I pray that these men in my life will walk with God, resist temptation, and stand for Christ every day. Being a man of God in today’s world is challenging enough as it is, and if anyone is going to plead with God on behalf of my men every single day, it’s going to be me…

17. Have a system for prayer requests.

I struggle to remember the prayer requests that people give me if I don’t write them down, so I keep a running list of prayer requests in my prayer journal. Often my list gets too long to pray for all of these requests every day, so I try cycle through the list on a weekly basis. The list also becomes a great reminder to ask others if they have seen any answers to their prayer!

18. Track the dates!

Since we’ve got the running list of prayer requests already, write the date you start praying for requests in your journal too. And when God answers that prayer? Write that date down! Tracking these dates teaches us to be more aware of God’s work in answering our prayers, and it is encouraging!

19. Pray Scripture.

God wants us to pray according to His will, and what better way to start than in His Word? Do a study sometime on the prayers recorded in the Bible, and use these to help you pray for the people around you effectively.

20. Pray out loud.

I treasure getting to pray every morning, but my brain doesn’t always think straight through the early morning fog. Praying through my journal out loud might sound silly, but it helps me stay focused every time. Definitely something to try if you struggle with a sleepy brain too!

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Ideas for a Daily Walk…

21. Talk to God instead of talking to yourself.

Telling God about what you’re thinking is far more productive than telling yourself! Thank Him for the beautiful day, tell Him you’re running low on patience, ask Him for grace in the busy traffic… He wants to hear from you, and telling Him the details of your day will help you keep your gaze on Him.

22. Keep a thankful journal.

This tip is another favorite! Every night, think back through your day and pick five things that you are thankful for – blessings, surprises, challenges, and lessons. Write these down and thank God for them in a small journal set aside for that purpose.

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Thankful Journal

I used this strategy consistently for about three years, and I treasure the memories that those journals hold. This little strategy taught me to be intentional in giving “thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I loved ending every day on a thankful note!

Here’s another easy link for finding a journal for you!

23. Make a habit of praising God to others.

Those blessings and challenges that you write down in the thankful journal? Tell people about them, and give God the glory! It’s such a natural reply to the basic greeting, “How are you today?” “Well, there’s this challenge in my life right now, but God is teaching me through it, and let me tell you how!”

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What If I Don’t Feel Like It?

24. I Don’t Want to be a Hypocrite…

So should I skip Bible reading and prayer until I do feel like it? No! God uses the time that we spend with Him to make us hungry for more. The best thing to do when you don’t feel like it is to do it anyway, and ask Him to give you a desire for time with Him. He would love to answer that prayer for you!

25. Read Psalm 119.

Are there days when I don’t feel as enthused about reading my Bible as others? Absolutely. And are there seasons in my life when I struggle to be faithful in walking with God? Yes, there are. That’s when I pull out Psalm 119. I can’t read through this Psalm and not be challenged to love God’s Word more. The psalmist’s love for God and His Word is catching, and God always uses it to help me love Him more.

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It Starts with a Choice.

The key to changing our lives is not in the past; it’s in the present! All of us have areas in our lives where we wish we’d made different choices, and we could spend our time focused on regret. But change happens in the present, the here and now, and it starts with a choice.

Now, to reiterate what I said earlier, these strategies don’t do the work for you. Buying lots of journals and Bible study tools only helps if you actually use them! Spending time with God takes discipline. It’s something that is practiced over lots of time, with lots of repetition. It takes commitment, determination, and faith.

I hope and pray this post will give you some practical ideas for how you can enrich your walk with God. Do you have any other strategies for spending time with God? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Blessings!

~ Erin

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Ten Steps for Saving $ with a Menu Plan

     I remember…

I remember my first week as a wife in the kitchen. I was as green as they come! Fresh back from the honeymoon and ready to cook for my husband. It was a great feeling of excitement. I get to cook for him! And then came that overwhelming feeling. What in the world am I going to make???

Honestly, that was the hardest part of being the queen of the kitchen. I was thrilled to make home-cooked meals for my husband, but four o’clock would roll around, and I’d find myself standing in front of the refrigerator, back at square one…

     What in the world do I make this time?

I started planning out our menu a week at a time, mostly because it made me feel organized and “on top of things.” Now I can’t imagine running a kitchen without doing it! This little strategy saves me from the daily dilemma of what to make for supper, and it also helps me be intentional with grocery shopping and using food that is already in the pantry. The fifteen minutes that it takes to plan out a week’s menu saves us money every time! Let me take a minute to show you how…

When people (me included!) shop for groceries without a meal plan or grocery list, they shoot themselves in the foot. Instead of buying things that they need, they buy things that they think they need… which usually also means things that they want.

Without a plan, we inevitably buy more than we intend. We buy what strikes our fancy, what looks good on the shelf. And if you’re like me, there’s a lot that looks good on those shelves!

So let’s say I walk through the grocery store without a meal plan, and I buy $5 worth of groceries that I don’t need. I misguess by $5 – that’s not too terrible, is it? “That’s okay, we can handle losing five dollars in our budget.” But what if I misguess by $5 every week? That comes out to $260 per year, assuming I’m not making any impulse buys or extra shopping trips later to pick up that one thing I forgot.

And what if I misguess by $10.00 every shopping trip? That’s a yearly $520. “That’s okay, we can handle losing $520 in our budget…”  A little harder to swallow, isn’t it?

     This strategy saves us money every week! It pays to have a plan!!!

So whether you’re fresh off the boat like I was, or you’re so used to this meal planning thing that you could do it in your sleep, this compilation of menu planning strategies is for you! 🙂

 

Ten Tips for Saving $ with a Meal Plan

     Step #1 – Pick a time that works for you.

Make the menu plan part of your weekly routine. It’s a priority! The “when” of a menu plan is going to look different for every family. The important thing is that it happens! Our week’s menu is usually planned on Tuesday mornings. That’s coupon day, grocery day, and therefore also menu plan day. After all, I won’t know what to buy at the store if I don’t have any idea what I’ll be making for supper that week, right? 🙂 Every family is different though – figure out what works best for your family, and make menu planning a household habit!

     Step #2 – Write your plan down.

It starts with a choice – be deliberate, sit down with a pencil and paper, and plan your menu! Making a meal plan won’t work if you don’t write it down! Write each day of the week on your paper, and leave the empty space for the meals you plan.

  • T:
  • W:
  • Th:
  • F:
  • Sa:
  • Su:
  • M:

I keep a planner-style notebook handy to write down my week’s menu, to-do lists, and weekly appointments. It’s a system that helps me stay organized. I’ve also seen people get really creative with their menu plan, displaying it on a chalk board or dry-erase board in their kitchen. Go all out if you want too – especially if it motivates you to stay consistent!

 

     Step #3 – Check your calendar!

This tip is crucial for making the menu plan work for you. If you’re going to be out of the house all day on Thursday, make a note to plan something simple like a crock pot meal for supper Thursday night. And if you have company coming over on Friday night, make sure you plan for something bigger than leftover hotdish for your guests. 🙂

  • T:
  • W:
  • Th:
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:
  • Su:
  • M:

 

     Step #4 – Start a new tradition! 

This may be my favorite menu planning tip. It’s meal planning made easy! Pick a meal that your family loves and make it a tradition in your home. Our family has a tradition of pizza and chips on Wednesday nights, and we also like to have a breakfast-for-supper night over the weekend. Having these simple meals picked out beforehand helps me as I plan out the week’s menu. It makes brainstorming meals for the rest of the week that much easier. (And if your family’s favorite happens to be as easy as a frozen pizza, that’s a double bonus!)

  • T:
  • W:  Pizza & Chips
  • Th:
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:
  • M:

 

     Step #5 – Transfer unused meals from the previous week.

Sometimes we get invited out to eat unexpectedly, or I have more leftovers that I’d counted on, and we end up with extra meals on our menu. These get entered right away on the next week’s menu plan. After all, you’ve already bought the groceries you need for that meal – why buy more when you already have what you need?

  • T:    Leftover Sloppy Joes
  • W:  Pizza & Chips
  • Th:
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:
  • M:

 

     Step #6 – Shop your pantry!

I’ll never forget The Macaroni and Cheese Sale of 2016. Mac and cheese boxes were on sale at HyVee for $0.29 a piece, while supplies lasted. I brought 14 boxes of mac and cheese home that day, and I was so proud of myself. After all, that’s an easy meal with hot dogs and brats, and it’s cheap! My husband’s comment? “I didn’t know we liked mac and cheese so much.” Well, we do now!

But here’s the clincher – if I buy 14 boxes of macaroni and cheese on sale and forget that I have them, I’m not saving my family any money! Take a peek at your pantry as you plan your menu. It’ll save you money in the bank and space in your cupboards!

  • T:     Leftover Sloppy Joes
  • W:   Pizza & Chips
  • Th:   Macaroni, Hot Dogs & Brats
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:
  • M:

 

     Step #7 – Brainstorm simplicity.

By the time I’ve worked this far through my tip list, I’ve usually planned out 3-5 days for my meal plan. Now it’s time to start brainstorming. I try to cook on a budget, so I like to start this stage by adding one more simple meal to our plan. Please note: simple and cheap does not have to be bland! Eggs are a good example of what this looks like at our house. They’re pretty cheap, and I can turn them into frittatas, omelets, fried egg sandwiches, or scrambled eggs!

Btw, mac and cheese works for this category too… 😉

  • T:     Leftover Sloppy Joes
  • W:   Pizza & Chips
  • Th:   Macaroni, Hot Dogs & Brats
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:
  • M:    Egg Salad Sandwiches (lunch)

 

     Step #8 – Add variety!

This is the fun part. We’ve got 2-3 meals left on our meal plan, and the recipes that we pick here will add variety to our week in the kitchen. Think of meals that your family enjoys or recipes that you want to try from Pinterest. I try to make these “real meals” – something homemade that requires more work than a frozen pizza. Sometimes we have staples like spaghetti or tacos. Sometimes I experiment with something I’ve found online. This is your chance to get creative in the kitchen!

  • T:     Leftover Sloppy Joes
  • W:   Pizza & Chips
  • Th:   Macaroni, Hot Dogs & Brats
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:   Ham & Scalloped Potatoes (lunch)
  • M:    Egg Salad Sandwiches (lunch) / Spaghetti (supper)

 

     Step #9 – Flyers and Coupons

We usually get our grocery ads after I’ve planned out my meals for the week, so it doesn’t always impact our menu, but I do try to at least glance at the ads before going to the store. Sometimes I’ll see a great deal and work that into our meal plan. If chicken is on sale, put chicken on the menu!

 

Tip #10 – Smorgasbord!

Make sure you’re using your leftovers well. I often pack them for the next day’s lunch, which is why you see I skip planning lunches on most days. But sometimes I’ll plan the leftover chicken from Thursday night to make a chicken pot pie on Friday, for example. If you can stretch one meal into two, that’s money in the bank! During weeks when we have a lot of leftovers on hand, I hoard them quite shamelessly and have a smorgasbord at the end of the week. All the leftovers come out of the fridge, we load up our plates buffet style and throw them in the microwave. An easy meal with no-stress prep!

  • T:     Leftover Sloppy Joes
  • W:   Pizza & Chips
  • Th:   Macaroni, Hot Dogs & Brats
  • F:     Baked Ziti, Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad
  • Sa:   Pancakes & Apple Sauce
  • Su:   Ham & Scalloped Potatoes (lunch) / Smorgasbord! (supper)
  • M:    Egg Salad Sandwiches (lunch) / Spaghetti (supper)

 

10 steps, 15 minutes per week, a couple of coupons… That’s not so bad!

See, you can do this! And when you think of all the money you’re saving by having a plan? That’s definitely worth the time! These strategies are implemented every single week at our house. The result directly impacts my spending at the grocery store… and my sanity when it comes time to make supper. 🙂

What strategies do you use to plan meals for your family? Any tips to add? I would love to hear them in the comments below!

In the meantime, have fun menu planning!

~ Erin

14 Easy Meal Solutions

     14 Meals in 20 Minutes or Less (for when you’re in a pinch)

My heart goes out to parents and teachers at this time of year. It seems like everyone goes from 10 mph to 100 mph in the space of a week! I’m not at that season of life yet, but as a teacher’s daughter and an elementary education graduate, I know a little of what goes on at the beginning of the school year. And it’s crazy!

So this post is in honor of Meet-the-Teacher Days and Back-to-School Nights. Life is busy, and there are some days we need all the breaks we can get. 🙂

     Disclaimer:

I had to laugh when I researched 20-minute meals online. I found recipes for orecchiette (which is apparently a pasta 😉 ), broiled snapper, and ratatouille on some of the lists. The recipes that I’m including below aren’t going to be fancy or gourmet. They’re going to be practical, real-life, and hopefully, helpful. Here we go!

 

pexels-photo-95212

     Tip #1 – Keep It Simple

There is a myth out there that a good wife makes really nice meals all the time. That the spaghetti is garden fresh and the garlic bread is always homemade.

Here’s the newsflash – that’s not true! Simple meals are just as yummy and filling as gourmet dinners. And shortcuts are definitely allowed. Your husband will not mind if the garlic bread isn’t homemade!

Below are a few simple recipes that you can pull out in a pinch. They’re some of my favorites!

Pin - Bean and Cheese Burritos
Bean & Cheese Burritos

 

  • Bean & Cheese Burritos – This recipe is delicious and easy on the budget! Heat refried beans, chili beans, cheese, and diced tomatoes in a sauce pan, and serve with taco fixings for an easy burrito night! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
Pin - Quesadillas
Quesadillas
  • Quesadillas – We like Mexican food. Especially when you can have it on the table in 15 minutes. 🙂 Heat your taco meat and fixings in a soft shell on your pancake griddle, and supper’s ready before you know it! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
DSCN0647
Homemade Pancakes
  • Pancakes – I love breakfast for supper, and pancakes are an easy go-to served with peanut butter and syrup! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
DSCN1299
French Toast
  • French Toast – This might be my favorite food of all time. So it had to make the list. 🙂 And would you like to know the easy secret that makes French toast taste sublime? Check out the link and find out! (From CountryRecipeBook.com – Link)

 

vegetables-italian-pizza-restaurant.jpg

     Tip #2 – Make Use of Traditions

I never have to wonder what I’m going to make for supper on Wednesday nights. Pizza is assumed to the point that people in our family are disappointed if we miss a Wednesday. How awesome is that?!? This little trick saves me lots of time, and our family loves it. I also try to have eggs once a week, just because they are cheap, easy, and versatile. Here are a couple family favorites for you to try!

eggs.jpg
Eggs are easy!
  • Scrambled Eggs – Scrambling eggs is easy, but there is an art form to making a perfect batch. This mommy blogger lays all the secrets out there – you’re going to want to pin that post! (From MyMommyStyle.com – Link)

 

  • Cloud Eggs – Not all of my Pinterest finds are successes, but these passed the test. (Whew! 🙂 ) Cloud eggs are as easy as whipping the egg white until it’s stiff and then baking the yolk on top. Serve on toast! (From JustATaste.com – Link)

 

  • Omelets – This one is my husband’s specialty from his bachelor days. 🙂 It’s a great option for when you’re hungry for something quick and easy, and they’re personal size, so fix up yours however you like it! (From TheSpruce.com – Link)

 

pexels-photo-94436.jpeg

     Tip #3 – Get Creative

There are lots of ways to make everyday recipes easy and fun. Check out the ideas that these bloggers have come up with!

Pin - Bean and Cheese Burritos
Bean & Cheese Burritos
  • Bean and Cheese Burritos – Try substituting refried beans for ground beef in your Mexican dishes – it’s faster and cheaper! Our family loves the variety that we get from Bean and Cheese burritos. (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
garlic-parmesan-panini-1-final
Garlic Parmesan Panini
  • Panini Sandwiches – Everyone knows sandwiches are easy, but did you know they can be exciting too? It’s true! Break out some creativity and try something a little out of the box… (From Lilluna.com – Link)

Sheet-Pan-Nachos

  • Nachos – Another Mexican dish because we loved this one so much… Spread your taco meat, fixings, and lots of cheese on top of tortilla chips and bake for an unbelievable easy solution to supper. (From GracefulLittleHoneyBee.com – Link)

 

Tip #4 – Soups for Supper

Bear Creek soup mixes are a fantastic option if you’re in a pinch! Someone in our church gave us a few mixes last year, introducing me to one of the most delicious time-savers yet. Our family has tried five of the fifteen Bear Creek soups, and we love them. Just boil your water, add the mix, and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Then you’re ready to serve a soup that really does taste homemade.

Interested in more info about this awesome soup mix? Here’s a link – Bear Creek Soup Mix – to see their selection. I haven’t tried all of their varieties, but we’ve loved the ones we have! 🙂

pexels-photo-105588.jpeg

     Tip #5 – Use Leftovers!

I’ll be the first to admit it – I love leftovers! I make big meals on purpose, knowing it will knock out two more meals later in the week. My favorite is tacos – it’s not uncommon to get three or four meals out of one batch between Doritos casseroles, nachos, and quesadillas. The recipes below take longer than twenty minutes to make… but the leftovers take less than 10 minutes to warm up! 🙂

Pin - Tacos

  • Tacos – The secret to a big batch of tacos is the rice and beans! I make three cups of rice and add one can of chili beans for every pound of ground beef, and the leftovers knock out half of my meals for the rest of the week! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
Pin - Spaghetti Success
Spaghetti
  • Spaghetti – Another family favorite! My trick here is to add a half cup or more of cottage cheese to the spaghetti sauce to stretch it a little farther. Then I cook double the noodles that we’ll need, and we’ve got leftovers guaranteed! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)

Pin - Cheesy Taco Pasta

  • Cheesy Taco Pasta – This is a Mexican spin on spaghetti that our family enjoyed. Once again, lots of noodles with extra cheese and salsa for lots of leftovers! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)
DSCN0693
Fondly known as “Egg Soup”
  • Creamed Eggs on Toast – I know, this one sounds a little out there, but trust me, it’s delicious, and it works great for leftovers! (From LittleYellowHouseAdventures.com – Link)

Stay tuned for more!! I’ll keep you posted as I find more easy recipes. Feel free to give suggestions in the comments section below! 🙂 In the meantime, check out my post on Ten Steps for Saving $ with a Menu Plan too. That simple strategy has saved me a lot of hassle on busy nights!

Blessings!   ~ Erin

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