Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Matthew 5: Beatitudes, Salt, and Light

I've been reading in Matthew since the end of Christmas break, and chapter 5 has been blowing me away!  Sunday morning at church, Pastor Dean's sermon was even on chapter 5 (which I had no idea was coming in his messages), and I was thrilled!  I love learning more and more about my Lord.  When things happen, I don't call it "coincidence" but God's divine appointment.  He controls it all anyways.
In Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes (or Be-Attitudes, as I like to think of them) are one of His beautiful messages.  Being blessed isn't just being happy, because happiness comes from the world.  Being blessed comes from the joy and peace experienced by those who have accepted Christ because that is what He gives.  Here Jesus mentions those who are humble and know their sins, the meek (not weak, but know they must depend on God and not themselves), those who desire to know Him, those who show mercy, those pure in heart, those who look to be at peace with all people, and those who a persecuted because they live for Him.  The end of this section says,
"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..."  (verse 12)
Through every circumstance, thick or thin, sky-high or valley-low, God blesses His children.  We can always be optimistic because He is saving a place for us in heaven.
In John 14:1-2, Jesus also says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.  In My Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you."
The only way to personally be able to experience and understand these blessings, joy, and peace, and to have your eternal home in heaven is through a relationship with Christ.  "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  John 14:6
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
The next section of Matthew 5 is more of Jesus teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.  To many people this would not make much sense.  --Why is He talking about salt and light?  That's food flavoring and light.--There is so much deeper meaning to it than that! 
When other things are added to salt, it makes it less salty, loses its flavor.  This same thing happens when Christians let impurities come into their lives.  They are less useful for the Lord; they lose their purpose for being "salty."  God is the shaker, and we are the salt He uses to go into the world.
When we accept Christ, He puts a light inside our souls.  Not a light to be covered, but a light to be shined into the darkness!  This isn't to shine our light so people can see "Makenzie's light," but so that they may see "God's light shining through Makenzie" and desire that same relationship with Christ.  The joy of the Lord can uplift anyone's spirit at any time, in any circumstance if you just allow Him into your heart!

Busy but Blessed

I'm getting to do a blog update today because we are out of school for probably the rest of the week!  (Tomorrow is for sure, and most likely Thursday, too)  This miracle snow came from nowhere, really quickly this morning, and it has not stopped since!  It is beautiful!
This morning, since I woke up to a wonderful surprise, I decided to whip up a big batch of pumpkin pancakes!  A random lunch conversation at school last week inspired me to make shaped pancakes one day, so today was the day.  I used a Pampered Chef squirter of my mom's to make these snowflakes.  It worked out so much better than I had imagined!
This was last Wednesday night after church with my friends (left to right) Bella and Jenna.  We were at TCBY for over an hour eating up and laughing at all kinds of crazy stuff!  Jenna is the college leader in my Sunday School class, and she inspires me so much!  She is so real, fun, and passionate for the Lord.
Tonight I got the idea to make my own apple cobbler for dessert!
I sliced up a golden delicious apple and microwaved it with honey, sugar free syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon
TADA!  This was a terrific and healthy dessert!

This is my wonderful mother!  She works in the office at a local elementary school, so she was even more thrilled to be out of school than I was.  I made a portion of my snapchat story for each line of let it snow because,
"It doesn't show signs of stopping
and I've got some corn for popping
since we've no place to go (that was where this picture came from)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"
We have had a great day today full of laughs from the minute I woke up with our cat walking across my face.
This was from before church a couple weeks ago, but I had to snap a quick pic because I had never tried these before, and they were great!  Mom finally found the Cinnamon Harvest at walmart, but I'm still looking for some Indigo Morning!  I am a cereal lover for sure.
Here are two beautiful pictures taken by two of my beautiful friends!  God has shown us blessings today in the fact that we are getting a break from the craziness of life (since there is not really anyway we can drive!) and in how gorgeous His creations are, and how He can change things in the blink of an eye!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cataloochee and Creek Cafe

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Since I didn't have school today, Dad and I took a trip to Cataloochee last night.  Except for some ice, especially when the sun went down, it was a fantastic night to ski!  After the 4:30 day pass people left, there was no lift lines to wait in at all!
"Selfies" are not my thing.  I don't like to hear the word or apply it to myself.  It's just annoying.  So this is not a selfie.  This is a picture of me at Cataloochee.
Today I did something else I've been wanting to do for a while!  That seems to be happening a lot lately, doesn't it?  After letting breakfast digest, Mom dropped me off at the Jefferson City Community Center so I could swim and run a little bit.  She went to Walmart while I was doin' work.  One of my new favorite places is in downtown Jefferson City, called The Creek Cafe.  The place is so cute inside, the workers are super nice, and the food and drinks are delicious! 
I brought my devotion book to read, too.  Today was about being fresh in desiring the Lord, not stale.  God has given us new life to desire Him and to be satisfied in Him!  When we feel stale, it is because our relationship is not focused right.  Just go to God, and He will restore your spirit! 
What I got to eat was their homemade chicken salad sandwich on fresh apple wheatberry bread.  Oh man, could I eat that every day.  That's the best chicken salad I've ever had!  They also have a lot of coffee flavors, and I got vanilla.  The flavors are so good, I didn't even have to add any creamer!  Refills on flavors are only 50 cents, too.  The ice cream they serve in their store is delivered each week from Sevierville's Apple Barn!  That is one of my other favorite places!  You just can't go wrong with a place like this.  The 4 flavors I've gotten lately are Bear Claw (which has brownies), Irish Cream Cappuccino, Caramel Turtle Fudge, and Peanut Butter Fudge.
Lately, I've really been trying to make the most of every opportunity I get, because life is so short.  I just love life and all that God has blessed me with, so I want to use every moment to do something good.  It was also a great day off from school getting to spend time with my mom, because since things are moving so fast now, we don't get to be together as often!  Today was a great day of bonding.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Walkin in a Winter Wonderland

I was so excited during the extra days we were out of school for snow, because I got to catch up on some scrapbooking!  I got the pages for our trip to Colorado last winter done!  I love being crafty, but I hadn't gotten to do any scrapbooking in I don't even know when.  I finally had some time, so I got to work!
I made a little bit of a mess on the dining room table, but that's okay; I cleaned it up.
I also decided that since we were going back to school, it was time to change my dry erase board decorations.  I chose one of my verses of the year to put up, then decorated it with snowflakes and skiiers!

Stuff I've Been Up To Lately

It has been a while since I've had any time to be on my laptop since school has started back!  So here are some things that I've wanted to share that I saved as drafts until I had a chance to tell all about it.
This was our first day back to school.  We had a 2 hour delay, so I ran with Dad before cleaning up and getting ready for school!  It was about 27 degrees at 5:45 when we started.
I've been loving some Pieces candies lately!  I got my mom some York Pieces for Christmas, and I've been eating them, too!  York, Heath, and Reeses Pieces make fantastic pancakes!
One Friday after school my friend Katlyn came home with me, and we went for a run from my house and back.  Then we each made our own half of a pizza and baked it! 
Yum, yum, and fun, fun
The next day, Saturday, I went over to the country club to help decorate for the Sub-Deb hosted formal.  It looked like Christmas in there!
AP Psychology is one of the two AP classes I am in this semester.  I think it is going to be very interesting!
Dad takes me to Cataloochee almost every weekend during the winter so we can get the use out of our snow ski season passes.  The town of Maggie Valley is small, but cute!  I love little areas like that.  They have a shopping strip down the main road that has almost every store having ice cream.  I spotted one with a Blue Bell Ice Cream sign next to its own sign, so I got Dad to take me on our way home one Sunday afternoon.  This store had all kinds of treats and goodies, and of course the ice cream.  It was also next to a coffee shop I hope to go into one day!
This picture is a little blurry, but in person, it looked amazing!  From my driveway Friday morning, you could see the moon through the trees so pretty.
Tonight on BET the movie Glory Road was just on.  I love that movie; it is such a great true story.  I thought this was a fantastic quote from the coach of the Texas Western Championship team.
There's also my Twitter if anyone wants to follow!
At 9:00 tonight on ABC Family another fantastic movie is coming on-The Blind Side!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Back to School Verses of Encouragement

Back around New Years, I picked out some Bible verses that I wanted to focus on when I'm getting back into the swing of school and regular schedules, and I wanted to share them, too!
These are the Bible verses that I have written and placed in the front page of the binder that I plan to keep with me during the school day.  Often times, I need an encouragement to keep me positive and focused, and God's Word never fails!
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of his world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing, and perfect will."  Romans 12:2
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true...noble...right...pure...lovely...admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  Whatever you have learned...put it into practice."  Philippians 4:6-9
"Be happy, young one, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth..."  Ecclesiastes 11:9 (I used this verse for a decoration the other day, too)
"He will have no fear of bad news; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord."  Psalm 112:7
"Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law...to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul."  Joshua 22:5
"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...and whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father..."  Colossians 3:16-17
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  Colossians 3:23-24
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace..."  Colossians 4:5
"Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded...Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Brothers, do not slander one another...There is only one Lawgiver and one Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy.  But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?"
James 4:7-8, 10-12
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me."
Psalm 51:10, 12
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws...I will be your God...I will save you from all your uncleanness."  Ezekiel 36:25-29
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27
I hope these verses are as uplifting to you in your days as they are for me!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day!

Like I said last night, getting a text message that we were out of school absolutely thrilled me.  I'm usually the kind of girl who is looking forward to school, working hard and learning.  Not this time.  Although I tried so hard over the weekend, I couldn't help but dread it.  I've never been like that!  Fortunately, God helped us out and sent some "heavenly dandruff," as my Honors English II teacher from last semester liked to call it.  I am very thankful to have an extra day to relax and get things done here at home.
After sleeping in and getting a morning workout done, I dug into some of the Toffee Figgy Muffins I made yesterday.  They are a success!  So yummy, healthy, and moist!  Everything you want in a muffin, right?
No way!! I just received another message already cancelling school tomorrow, too!  This is great!  Even though it is not supposed to snow much more, the temperatures are the coldest we've had all year (and maybe last year, too).  Wind chills are also sub zero.
This was the noon-time weather on my iPhone.
We're walkin in a winter wonderland....
This is off my back porch.
This is down my street in one direction from the front porch.
And the other way!  I never get my hopes up for snow anymore, because our weather people don't always accurately (or even relatively close sometimes) predict the weather.  I woke up to go to the bathroom around 5:00 this morning, and decided to walk to the kitchen to get an ice pack to cool me down, and looked out the window to a very pleasant surprise! 
Time to get to work around here!

Okay, I'm back.  Yeah, that seemed fast to you because I just saved this page and came back to it around 7 hours later.

This is a project that I had been wanting to do all winter, but couldn't find a cold stretch to make it last until today!  I started it last night so it would be good and frozen by today.  I used to do this when I was really little.  The idea came from either a magazine or show I used to watch that had examples with a couple drawings like this, but most of it was a bird feeder.  They froze bird feed and hung it up so the birdees wouldn't starve in the cold weather!
Last night when I chose this verse, I began to like it even more when I realized how ironic it was.  God "is a consuming fire," and I was freezing the verse and hanging it outside in the single digits.

All you do to make these simple decorations or deck ornaments, as I said in this case, is tear off some clear saran wrap, like what you use to cover food.  Decorate it, freeze it in a plate, bowl, or any container, stick a wire, string, or anything to use as a hanger into the water, and there you have it!  Everything freezes together, then you can bend the sides of the container when it thaws a little, and take it out and hang it up!
The verse on this one got frozen a little deep in the water, but it is Ecclesiastes 11:9.

Isn't he just precious?
Frisco is inside now; Dad bought a kennel to put him in in the basement to save him from the cold.
Dogs can photobomb, too!
I just love the innocence of a sweet pet.
Now it's almost time for that BCS National Championship game!

Life is Beautiful Project

There is a great song by The Afters that I have come to love.  It is a great reminder of all the amazing blessings God has given us.  We have every reason to be joyful each and every day.  I got the idea earlier during break to make a collage for each line of the bridge.
Life is Beautiful!
"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."  John 10:10

A father's love
A wedding dance
(a couple are from a wedding, the rest just dance!)
New Year's dreams
A toast with friends
A soldier coming home from war
(my friend Aly and her boyfriend Michael, who goes to my church and just entered the army after graduating last year; a plaque my Aunt Fran received from her service; See You at the Pole 2013 at my school)

The faith, the hope for so much more
Brand new life
A mother's prayer
(My mom and me on top; youth pastor's wife, Lindsey, and daughters on bottom)
Shooting stars
Ocean air
A lover's kiss
Hard goodbyes
(top:  going-away party for my friend Kasey in middle school-Kasey is the one on top
bottom:  One of my best friends Samantha, far right, has made a couple moves since elementary school, but now she is fairly close, just past Knoxville.)
Christmas lights
These are the things that make us feel alive;
These are the things that make us realize
Life is beautiful

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oh Happy Day!

Church is always a good way to start out a Sunday, but today ended up being an even better one.  My Christmas break has just been awesome in general.
When we came home from church I had a snack and got to work on some Sticky Toffee Muffins from the Runner's World Magazine I got last month.  They were originally cupcakes, but they aren't too sweet, so I made them without icing to have as breakfast.

In the book I have just finished reading, I Still Belive by Jeremy Camp, I found something that made a lot of sense to me. Jeremy was describing how he had gotten super busy with so many things in his music ministry career.  It is a good thing because he had such a platform to share with others from.  However, it was getting him distracted and stressed.  I often feel this way, too.  I get involved in so many things.  Although they may be good things, they consume me too much.  I need to remember the words of Jeremy’s dad, Tom, “We can get so busy doing the work of the Lord that we forget the Lord of the work.”  My work for Him won’t be efficient until I am connected with Him and fully trusting Him to guide me in the work.
Later in the afternoon, Dad and I went on a nice, long run!
Then he made his amazing chili for our dinner!  I absolutely love this stuff.  I mixed some corn bread in, too.  Now, an even better part...There's no school tomorrow!  They called it off because of weather!  Made my day.  Whooooo!

Breakfast, Birthday, and a Ski Trip

I got to sleep in for my last time for a while, unfortunately.  I just love to sleep.  I did some exercises, then around an early lunch time, I fixed this hearty healthy "brunch" to power me up for the day ahead and refuel from the night and workout.  I told my mom it was great because I got almost everything in one bowl.  Protein from egg whites and almond butter, fruit goodness from a banana, whole grains from cream of wheat and oatmeal, and healthy fats from the almond butter.  Adding eggs was an idea I got from Carrots 'N' Cake blog. 

Saturday, January 4th, was the birthday of a little girl named Alicia who I sponsor through World Vision.  When I was in 8th grade, my parents surprised me with tickets to a Casting Crowns concert as part of my birthday present.  During intermission, this organization was the "entertainment" for a lack of better terms.  It seemed like something I really wanted to do, and it is not too expensive.  All it takes is $35 a month, and you get to help a child learn and grow in life in and in Christ.  My parents and I decided that each month would come from my $20 of allowance and the other $15 from Mom's unlimited car wash pass.  (Who needs that many car washes per month!? haha)  Our letters have been coming back and forth pretty quickly recently.  Above is the translated letter.

Here is the letter Alicia wrote herself back home in Rio Verde, Ecuador.  Since I have been through Spanish I so far in school, I can read almost her entire letters without the translated one!  That makes me so excited!  There are a few words in some sentences that I don't know, but by using context clues, I can figure out the general message of the entire letter.  I can't wait to hopefully one day get to talk to her in person.

Here she is!  12 year old Alicia!

Around 2 in the afternoon, Dad and I left for Cataloochee in North Carolina.  It is fairly close, only around an hour and 15 minutes in traffic with nothing crazy holding it up, so we always get season passes.  Conditions are iffy here, like most places that are mostly man-made snow, but Saturday (and many others) was one of those days when I just don't want to leave!  Snow skiing is my #2 love, behind running.  I've been a skier since I was 4, and I hope to do it the rest of my life!  Going down the mountain on a good snow day is such a rush and another way to experience the beauty of God's nature.
This is a view from the top before we went in for dinner.
Now, this isn't the one I ate, but this picture is for explaining purposes.  This is literally the best protein/granola bar I have ever tasted in my life.  Olympia Granola had several flavors in the gift shop at Cataloochee, but the Turtle Mocha was calling my name...and still is.  I want another one. They are quite pricey though.  One bar is 2 hearty servings, but it is just too yummy to put down.  This flavor had ingreedients like dark chocolate, honey, and espresso to give it amazing taste and health boosts, and also filled with tons of grains and nuts to get you going, too.

On the way home, I broke into some more dark chocolate.  I always go for the dark because it's not too sweet, and it is healthier, too.  Milky Way and Snickers both make wonderful dark chocolate versions that I like to keep on hand!