Kids Cupcakes: Fun Cooking for Kids

Kids Cupcakes - Fun Cooking for Kids

Making kids cupcakes is definitely one of those fun activities a mom or dad (or grandma as in this case) gets to do.  Decorating cupcakes with kids is even more fun!  

It is just plain old fun cooking for kids!  

If you are wise, you will cherish these kinds of fun children’s activities and make use of every moment of that precious time you spend with your child.  These moments are a time for sharing life together in a way that is important to your child and which your child understands.  They can also be a time for sharing, for healing, for teaching, for encouraging.  They are a time of bonding and a time of building.  

When your little boy or girl feels affirmed as important to you, you have taken them a little closer to understanding how important they are to their Heavenly Father as well!  

And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.” 16 For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children.  – Romans 8:  15 – 16 (TLB) 

Plus the joy on a little face and heart is worth the time you put into having those specially-devoted moments.

Well, I kind of covered two grandchildren’s joys yesterday.

My youngest grandson Sam had his second birthday yesterday!  Yea!  

I was watching both Sam and his older brother Liam for a couple hours in the afternoon while their mommy went to a doctor’s appointment.  (Little boy #3 will be here around Christmas.)

While Sam was taking a quick afternoon nap, my 4-year-old grandson Liam (Sam’s big brother) and I baked up some kids birthday cupcakes for Sam.  

Here are the cupcakes Liam and I made together and then decorated for Sam’s birthday.

Kids Cupcakes - Fun Cooking for Kids

Liam and I did not spend a lot of time baking and decorating.  We did not buy fancy cake decorating supplies nor did we devote countless hours to perfection or detail.  

We just baked up a batch of cupcakes in cute cupcake muffin liners I found at The Dollar Tree, placed them on a colorful plate that I had found last week at a thrift shop, and topped them with some edible decorations (candy sprinkles and gummy candies).  

The two gummy candy pieces on the middle cake were Liam’s idea.  It worked!  

By the way, our cupcake recipe batch made up 24 of these cute cupcakes.  Shown above are the ones we pulled out last night as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Sam.  There were only a few of us singing and enjoying our cupcakes last night – Sam, Sam’s mommy and daddy, grandma and grandpa, big brother Liam, and Sam and Liam’s baby brother to come (inside Sam’s mommy’s belly right now still).  Since we had so many cupcakes left over, I am wondering if Sam’s mommy may have enjoyed one of those 24 cupcakes this morning at breakfast!  Not saying so…. just wondering.  (smile)

Sam was thrilled to see his birthday cupcake.  It was just right for him.

You could also see the self confidence Liam had when he handed one of the cupcakes to Sam last night, one he had helped make and had decorated in expectation of celebrating his little brother’s birthday.  

Me?  I smiled, knowing I had had a few of the best moments possible with my grandson Liam that afternoon.  It is not always easy showing someone just how much love you have for them inside your heart, but when those special moments come, and you have a chance to show at least some of it, it’s a blessing beyond measure.  

You see…. God’s gifts do not always come in elaborate forms and in big events.

Sometimes they are captured through birthday cupcakes for kids, a little time spent together, and a heart that appreciates any moment shared with a loved one.  

The 11th Hour God: Guardian of the U S Military

John's Army Retirement

I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day 2014.  It’s the 11th month, the 11th day, and almost the 11th hour my time here in Texas.   You see, this specific time has been ingrained in me to think about our military and to remember the service of our American Veterans.  

My husband John used to be in The United States Army Band Pershing’s Own in Washington D.C.  He was a military band musician with one of the military’s special bands, so he worked, and we lived, in that D.C. area for all of his 25 years in the military.  

Every Veteran’s Day, I would watch my husband either in person or on the television screen on the 11th day and 11th hour of this 11th month as he performed ceremonial duties in Arlington National Cemetery every Veteran’s Day for 25 years straight.  

It has been weird on this day since my husband’s retirement from the Army in 2006.   My husband spent 25 years at Arlington National Cemetery on this day, and as I mentioned, I was there too in some form or fashion (physically or through the TV screen) for 25 years too. That veteran’s ceremony was always kind of my focus each and every year on this 11 day of the 11 month of each year.  However, John is a veteran now, and he spends this day doing other things while we both remember fondly those precious moments of his time in service there in D.C.  I do still watch my husband’s former military co-workers (some of them still good, close friends) in action on this day, if only on the television screen from 1,400 miles away now.  

It is just kind of weird each year when this day pops up.  I kind of feel a little lost each time, a little confused or something.  Things have changed so much.  

Sometimes I need to remind myself that my husband was in the Army for 25 years.  Sometimes I need to remind myself he is now a retired veteran of The United States Army.  Yes indeed…  Some things change so much.  Some things seem to not change at all.

My dad served in World War II.  He was in the Army as well.  (It is kind of a neat feeling when your husband and dad have a bond like that.) 

My brother served in the Army during Desert Storm.  

I haven’t even begun to dig the surface of my other family members who have served in the ranks of our nation’s military.  I’m proud of all my friends and family who have given of themselves so that our country can enjoy the freedoms and blessings that we have today.   Their efforts have NOT gone in vain!

John's Army Retirement

My family in 2006 upon the military retirement of my husband John
(L – R) Chris, Amy, Scott, John, Carrie, and John’s Mom Jo

A couple months ago, an old, dear friend of mine, the wife of a now-retired Marine Corps Officer, sent a YouTube video to me.  The title of the video she sent was “U S Marines Singing ‘Days of Elijah'”.  She thought I would enjoy seeing it.  

Diana, I DID enjoy seeing that video.  I DID watch it; I pulled it back up again to see today, this 11th month and 11th day, and that video touched my heart to its core!   

I would like to share that same video with you here, but before I do, please give me a moment to share something about that video.

The video Diana sent depicts a large, classroom-type room of Marines, uniformed Marines, all together singing the jubilant, victorious song ‘Days of Elijah’.  It appears to be an organized worship service for these Christian Marines, a military worship service. 

When I started watching the video, I immediately felt a sense of joy and shared in a glorious sense of praise and worship with these men.   It was exciting as well as comforting to see dozens and dozens of Marines singing Christian music and worshiping our Lord with all their hearts.  

These Marines held nothing back.  They gave their all as they totally and completely worshiped their Lord and God.  

Watching them from afar, their uniforms reminded me they were in a career, an occupation, where they could put their lives on the line that night.  At the same time, their open, outstretched arms; raised hands, cheerful faces, and joyous dancing reminded me that should they die that night, they would all be all right, immediately safe in the arms of a loving Heavenly Father.

 It was during that back and forth toss of reality that I realized what I was really seeing on that screen. 

I was seeing them in this life that I know now.  THEY were seeing Jesus Christ in the life that they will have in the 11th hour we will all have someday.  

When you watch this video, and I hope you all do, look at these men and ask yourself if you think they are worried about that night, about tomorrow,, or the next day… or next month.  Ask if you think they are consumed with fear. 

Sure, they are humans, and I’m sure they do have concern over certain things.  For instance, if they have family, I’m sure they would probably rather not just up and leave this world out of the blue, leaving their families in sadness behind them.  They also might wonder what it would feel like to die in battle; to have a leg blown, to lose their eyesight… or their hearing…  or a friend who was just standing beside them. 

However, when you watch the moments of this video, you can see that, regardless of what they know… what we ALL know deep down.. COULD happen, whatever these courageous men may face, or whatever their families may be up against,  there should be no worries about the hearts of these men.  Their bodies are fighting machines, but their hearts are sheltered safely in the Lord’s arms.

Doesn’t that make you feel safer knowing we have men and women like this in our military, men and women of God who place their trust and their faith in Christ?  I know that sure makes me feel better about things!  

Believe me when I say you will be totally amazed when you watch this video.  The level of trust and faith shown by these men is amazing.  There is not much you can compare to when you see what is happening in this video!  

It is just an amazing, amazing feeling to understand there are military men and women among our military forces who are fighting for our safety and protection, placing their lives on the line, and watching out for our nation, men and women who are doing so only by their ability to place their own entire life in the care of Jesus Christ.  

Add to this the many veterans who, for many years, have placed this same faith and trust in their Lord as they put their own lives on the line for us all!  

If you ever wonder if we are a blessed nation still, you can rest assured we are blessed by these men and women and by the men and women who walked this same path before them.  We have been blessed, and from the looks of this video, we are blessed as a nation still!  

I just realized….  I guess I once again spent today, the 11th month, 11th day, at the 11th hour looking at our military, and I’m asking you to look at them now too on this day.   But remember… the men in this video won’t be looking back at you.  They will be looking upwards to a mighty Lord that is their rock, their fortress, their stronghold and shield.  They will be seeing their Father, their Savior, their deliverer and friend.  

They see the One who will be there for them and the One who will hold them closely under large, loving wings out of love on their 11th hour someday.  

You see…

When our military looks up, they are not alone.

I don’t know about you, but that seems to be the kind of safety and protection I would like to have.  At least I know that, so long as we have men and women of faith in our armed forces, we are all ULTIMATELY in the best of hands. 

Here’s the video.  Enjoy, and be strengthened.  Then go find a veteran somewhere to thank for his or her service, an active duty service member for his or her dedication, or a military family for their sacrifices each and every day.

Then sit down a spell, think about your life and how temporary and fragile life is for us all, and look up.   You won’t be alone.  

That same 11th hour Lord of these Marines is there for us all.  

http://youtu.be/V1my79LtsdU

 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  -Psalm 33: 12 – 16

 

Publishing a Cookbook: A Journey of Spiritual Faith

Publishing a Cookbook

I completed my cooking class last Wednesday night at the University of Texas at Arlington!  Amber Royer, the instructor, taught so many things to us during that five week time frame.  I am amazed how much she squeezed into our time together each week!  Amber, you did a great job!  Thank you! 

Amber taught us all the different facets on how to write a cookbook like:  

  1. How to set up a cookbook template
  2. How to organize a good recipe book
  3. The ins and outs of e book publishing
  4. The pitfalls as well as the benefits of self publishing
  5. How to submit a cookbook proposal to a publisher for the best chances of getting published
  6. What to expect when you get published
  7. Best angles and lighting for the best food photography shots  (That’s a tough area for me.  I’m still working on that, but I’m getting better!)  
  8. The best writing voice for a cookbook
Cooking and clicking!

Cooking and clicking in my cooking class at UTA!

As a cookbook class instructor, Amber did not present topics about anyone’s journey of spiritual faith.  The class was about  writing, not about spiritual faith.  Just as Amber was hired to do, Amber taught about writing and publishing cookbooks.

However, the Holy Spirit must have been in that class with me because I sure learned things about writing a cookbook from Him as well.  

Amber taught us:

1.  Writing a cookbook calls for perfection, so I should be willing to work hard to be accurate in my writing.  

Then the Spirit nudged me and whispered:

“And be accurate to God’s Word as well”.    

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the words of truth.  – 2 Timothy 2: 15. 

Amber taught us:

2.  Publishing a book with a well-known book publisher is not a guaranteed end result, but I have every right  to work hard  towards that goal or to find another good publishing and marketing route if I have a good idea worth sharing.  

Then the Spirit nudged me and whispered

“And if I call you to share something, if I call you to write a Christian book…or a cookbook… or a Christian cookbook… or whatever I call you to do, you have every responsibility to work hard towards that goal so that what is inside you is not left there untouched”.       

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourself fully to the word of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  – 1 Corinthians 15: 58

Amber taught us:

3.  Organizing a cookbook requires a balanced approach so that no one category is overdone while others are left with too little. 

Then the Spirit nudged me and whispered

“But let God’s Word be the foundation of it all”.    

That foundation can NEVER be overdone and without it, ALL else is too little.  

He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  – Luke 6:  48

Amber also taught us:

4.  We may need to stretch ourselves to learn new things or do things we may not have done before if we write a book that gets published.  

For me, using publishing software to set up grids for book proposals and food photography were both pretty challenging.  I almost wanted to quit the class!  Add to that the idea of press releases and interviews in the future if I write a book and get it published.  My cooking class = Eye opener!  

Then the Spirit nudged me and whispered, 

“You may not like being stretched Chris, but just do it.  Do what I give to you to do, and know that I’ll be there for you through it all… as I always have been and as I always will be”.  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:  5 – 6.

Publishing a Cookbook

Cookies from my cooking class! (And guess what…. I took this picture!)

All in all, I believe the Holy Spirit impressed upon me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my own desires… my own thoughts… my own successes… accomplishments….  feelings or failures should never come before what the Lord wants to do in my life and to do WITH my life.  I must never, ever detract from the message of Christ Jesus.   I must always do my part to let HIS message be heard.

That was quite a spiritual journey for having just taken a “Writing a Cookbook” class at a public university!   

Christians like to quote the old saying “God works in mysterious ways”.  Well, He sure did work in some mysterious ways in my life during these last few weeks!   I took a college course thinking I would get some insight into the field of writing and book publishing. I thought we were going to learn how to write a recipe book.  Writing and publishing?  Yes.  Recipes? Yes.  Cooking?  Yes.  All those things were there.  We even put a recipe book together as a class.  

However, I got schooled in my spiritual well being too, and I do mean schooled, like seriously schooled!  Like Heavenly schooled.  

Now I know not all of you have a call to write a book.  Maybe you do.  I am guessing many of you have other calls in life though, all important in God’s plans.   While I don’t know your call, you perhaps do, or maybe you are waiting for that hoped-for call, or confirmation, or even just a clue!  Maybe you just don’t know at all…. not yet anyway.  I don’t know where you are.

I know this though:  I know the Lord created you for a reason, and I know He is making good on that reason no matter what you are doing, or not.  

I also know that if you reach out to Him and step out in faith, He will be there for you, and He will bless the work you do for Him.  

Be ready though.  As I have just discovered… Those who step out to do His will may just get a little extra schooling along the way as well.  

Are you ready?  

Can We Worship Together in a Postmodern World?

Grandma and Grandson Having Fun Taking a Selfie

I just read this great article on worship on the Renewing Worship website and felt led to write a quick post here if only to share this great article with you and get you thinking a little about this today.  It seemed important, and for me, “seeming important” usually translates into “do something for me, Chris”.  Yes, Lord.  Here it is.    

The article was titled “Why Grandparents and Grandchildren Can’t Worship Together”  You can see that article here:  “…Worship Together“.  Of course, once you read the article, you will realize that yes, they CAN.. but DO they, or WILL they?  

Here’s the deal:  The article shows a great worshipful AND evangelistic attitude that both my husband John Stevens (who has been in music ministry for close to 30 years) and I have been keenly attuned to for years.   Real worship music is worship, however you package it, however you plan it, whatever groups you involve in it, and whichever people are worshiping (or leading worship) if Christ really is glorified in the process.  

The preference for Traditional Sacred music or the preference for Contemporary Christian Music is not what makes today’s church right or wrong.  It is not what makes it worth going to or not.  It is not what makes a congregation a megachurch or a small church.  

It is more, as the article denotes, a deference to traditional or contemporary worship songs.  

It is when we look more at Christ Himself than we do at what we think we should be doing… or not.  

Or course, praise and worship songs should be grounded in real Christian principles and solid theology.  We don’t want to be worshiping the wrong things, worshiping ourselves, or worshiping the fact that we worship either.  If all we sang were songs that said “we sing” and “we lift our hands up high” and “I wanna dance all day””, we wouldn’t get much from our worship, would we?  I’m kind of thinking God would not get too much from that either.  Maybe SOMETHING, but not too much and definitely not what He deserves.  HE DESERVES THE PRAISE.  WE DON’T.  

Other than making sure our theology is right on spot (and our focus is right on spot as well), if we can forget our preference and give deference to it instead, we might just find our way through the postmodern church.

What is amazing, John and I have discovered, is that many 21st Century worshipers love ALL God’s music – all types, all styles, all kinds of musical and artistic types – if it is really presented as a means of worshiping a Great God and reaching others with.  As the classic worship book “The Heart of the Artist” by Rory Noland makes clear, the intent of  leaders and “artists” within the church must be of humble servant-hood, stressing the word “servant” there.

It does help if the “presentation” of music is done well.  It seems to help more even when the “execution” is done with Christian joy and with a warmth for those fellow life travelers out there in the seats.  (Consider a populist approach where music is for EVERYONE’S use and benefit, not just for the elite.)  21st Century church goers will and do respond when they are embraced as a part of that worship experience!  Such all-inclusive worship is cherished even by those who prefer the additional or extended contemporary choices we have today.

What is also amazing though, we have discovered, is that those 20th Century worshipers who have moved forward in life and embraced the postmodern worshiper, the older generations standing right alongside the younger ones, have been some of the most amazing people anyone could ever come in contact with.  Instead of bringing the house down with sarcasm, criticism, and maybe sometimes even anger, they have built God’s House by allowing God’s entire Church to come together in an experience that only the Holy Spirit can truly understand.  

20th Century worshipers who are willing to stand with and beside Christ’s worshipers of today are what allows God’s Kingdom to expand and grow while showing the Biblical principles and lessons of yesterday are still there and relevant!  THOSE kind of 20st Century worshipers ROCK (figuratively and sometimes literally too.)  

Such deference to preference makes for a multigenerational church with multigenerational worship for a multigenerational GOD!  

Yes, I do believe it is the deference of those within the contemporary Christian church, and not the preference of any, that really allows Christ’s Church to grow and go onward throughout the years.   Without that deference from all sides, we would never get to experience a time where the older generations AND the younger generations can all come together in a special time together that can only be outdone by all the generations of all times of this entire world all together up there in God’s great big Heaven some day.  

Grandma and Grandson Having Fun Taking a Selfie

Grandma Chris Stevens doesn’t really look good in selfies, but she did one with her grandson Liam anyway yesterday. It made Liam smile, and the two had a chance to bond like they might not have had otherwise. That selfie was worth it all to Grandma.

 

Psalm 78:  6 … so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  (NIV)  

 

Hat tip to Ken Nuss, Worship Pastor at Jasper’s First Baptist Church in Jasper, Alabama, for posting the article “Why Grandparents and Grandchildren Can’t Worship Together” on his Facebook page which I picked up and which inspired this article.  Thanks, Ken for the article, and again, thanks Holy Spirit for the nudge.   

In Christ,

Chris Stevens

Praise God for All Things Not So Good

Praise God at Thanksgiving

Are you thankful this Thanksgiving Day, or are you asking questions instead?

If you are dealing with struggles on this earth, and I mean real STRUGGLES, read here to see where we found thankfulness and to see if you can find something good too this upcoming day of thankfulness.

Praise God at Thanksgiving

What’s going on in your life right now?

I’ll tell you my husband and I have had some pretty bad times these last few years.  After 25 years in the military, my husband retired, and we packed our bags and went to seminary.  We didn’t think it would be easy, but we also didn’t think it would be the end of the world as we knew it.

Let me just say this now.

We faced troubles like you wouldn’t believe.

As required by the Army at that time, my husband submitted his 9 months notice to retire, and we immediately began putting the work into getting our house into tip top shape to sell, thinking we would sell it and go live in the lower cost of living state of Texas with great ease.    We even had these great plans of buying a little, low cost house in Texas with cash and living frugally throughout my husband’s seminary training.  We could do that!  Right?

And then that $330,000 home in that nice, further-out Washington DC suburb fell to where we couldn’t even sell it to break even around $160,000.  We lost not only tons of potential equity but thousands in actual equity.

Not able to sell our home, not able to pay for it ourselves anymore on a retired income, a retired enlisted income in fact, and feeling all the obligation in the world for our word (your yes means yes, you know), we rented our home there in Virginia for more than two more years at more than a $700.00 a month loss (what we owed each month vs. what we could get in the rental market where our home was), hoping (dreaming) the market would eventually come back to where we could at least sell our house back home.

Remember, we had never lived through such a housing burst before.

The market never did come back.

We sold everything we had of worth or value, from large to small value in fact, to keep making those monthly payments and to put even a meager amount of food on our table, selling ALL we had of worth except for a few family items we knew our family back east would be upset if we parted with.

We did without.  We lived without.  We sold plasma.  (I still have the scars in the crooks of my arms.)   We knew any extra need would have to go untouched.  We learned to not even have any wants.

We sometimes only had the food we received from the seminary’s weekly food ministry to eat, supplemented only at times by $10.00 to $20.00 a week at the grocery store (and that included funds for purchasing grooming and household items needed).

My husband cashed out what little 401K savings we had which had only started shortly before he put in his retirement papers.

We eventually realized our “yes” to that house back home was going to mean “no” to the small house here in Texas we had purchased and were living in here in Texas (with a mortgage since we didn’t have the funds we thought we would have to move here to begin with).

We begged the mortgage company back home to work with us… for a reprieve… for some kind of help… just to do SOMETHING… ANYTHING to work with us.

We subjected ourselves to being an open book to them.  They knew every single thing we owned (or did NOT own by that time), every penny we had go into and back out of our bank account, and every large or small intention or thought we had throughout the time my husband’s retirement, relocation, and everything before, in between, and afterwards.

After several weeks of what seemed like a whirlwind couples relationship and almost-marriage and also the sale of our only decent remaining vehicle to make another monthly housing payment, the mortgage company gave us a financial worksheet to complete.  After competing it, they came back and said they were sorry they could not help us because we did not have enough income or assets.

We were broke, and we couldn’t get help because we were broke.

Oh, there was plenty more going on there at that time, and things only got worse for us throughout the next few years.  I have said many times , “when God gave us a calling, He sure didn’t make it an easy one.”  And He didn’t.  He really didn’t.

I’m sure we had difficulty many days being able to say even some of the kinds of  “I’m thankful for…s” you see on Facebook these days.

We really had nothing much to feel thankful about in the sense of seeing or having things we were thankful for.

But we came to understand there was ONE thing we had, and that was Jesus Christ.

Oh, God didn’t set us up with lots of comforts or even assurances for several years, but we had Jesus Christ Himself.

And what was even better to learn, we came to realize that no matter what else failed us in this earthly life, no matter what else we lost, and no matter what else we did not get, or did not have to survive even, NOTHING could take Jesus Christ from us.

I could fill you in on the rest of the story, and maybe I will someday so long as we don’t get the “you were just stupid or sinful” talks.  We know what we did wrong and what we did right.

So perhaps, PERHAPS, I’ll fill you in a little more sometime… if you want and if it makes a point I want to make someday.

(Disclosure:  our troubles and worries didn’t end there, but neither did our journey of faith and ultimate blessings.)

But for the time we have together now, I want to remind those of you who are dealing with a difficult time or very difficult situations, that if you have Jesus Christ, you really do have what counts the most of all on this earth.

There is nothing more awesome and which brings a person more to life than when they get to the point to where if Jesus Christ is really all they have, that Christ Jesus is enough.

Chew on that this Thanksgiving, and you’ll have blessings many others on this earth have no inkling of.

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God for all the toils we know.

Praise God we know more pain than most,

For we can claim the Lord foremost.

Ahhh—- mennnn.

 

Best wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving Day filled with Jesus Christ.

 

Sincerely,

Chris Stevens

Editor-in-Chief, Padoozles.com

 

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