2 Minute Warning

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game

 

It’s Friday night at a local high school somewhere in America. The stands are packed and the score is tied.  The field is covered in kids chasing a ball.  The cheerleaders are on the sidelines yelling their best chants of encouragement.  The crowd is on it’s feet praying that their team is victorious. The coaches are yelling and throwing their hands up.  It’s Friday night and it’s high school football.

From the outside looking in, it’s just a game.  A bunch of coaches barking orders.  A team of kids plowing over each other in an attempted to get their sacred ball to the end zone.

The stands are filled. Reporters are taking notes.  Photographers are running along side the players hoping to catch that perfect shot.  Tomorrow the papers will be filled with stats.  We will be informed of the best player, the best plays and the pivotal moments that formed the long sought after victory..

And we will excitedly await next week’s game while never taking the time to learn the real story..

The story of life.  The story of fathers and sons. The story of envy. The story of pride. The story of change. The story of dedication and loyalty.  The story of reliability and accountability. The story of unity.

The stands are filled with fans.  Fathers, bonding with their sons over a “game”.  Mothers, praying for their safety.  Kids, dressed their best while sitting in the stands watching a game that they have no interest in hoping, that by doing so, they will fit in with the “cool kids”.

The field is covered with players and coaches.  Players that are determined to succeed for their followers.  Players working together to accomplish something bigger than any one of them.  Players uniting, despite their differences, to accomplish the ultimate goal.  Coaches teaching respect.  Coaches showing boys how to become men.  Coaches teaching boys that success is not achieved by the actions of a single player but as a result of working together as a team.

Its Friday night at a local high school somewhere in America.  The stands are packed and the score is tied.  Reporters are taking notes.  Photographers are taking photos.  Tomorrow the papers will be filled with stats.  And once again, we will overlook the real story of what happened that night. 

 

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The Beauty of Nature

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I was transplanted to Mississippi from Louisiana many, many moons ago.  Living in Louisiana spoils you.  Growing up surrounded by the most beautiful wheat and cotton fields is breathtaking.  Driving past beautiful grass covered levees and watching cattle graze in the distance is a form of beauty many will never experience.  Passing dirty, alligator filled bayous is fascinating and eye catching.  Finding peace in your surroundings is easy.  Life is simple and community is strong. 

For many years I have told my husband that we live on the wrong side of the river.  All Mississippi has to offer is trees.  Tree after tree after tree.  If you have seen one, you have seen them all.  It’s just a tree and there is nothing beautiful about a tree.  Why would anyone want to live beneath a green cloud of pollen when just a few miles down the road there are fields of white as far as the eye can see?

I’ve never stopped to notice the beauty that Mississippi has to offer, until yesterday.  As I walked through the woods watching turkey eat, listening to owls talk and taking very slow, careful steps to avoid a close encounter with a snake I realized that Mississippi has it’s own form of beauty.  A scene much different than that of our neighbor’s but beautiful in her own way.

Life is chaotic.  We live such busy lives that we no longer take time to sit back and smell the roses.  We often overlook the beauty that God has surrounded us with.

Nature is God’s antidepressant.  A place that we can escape to for peace and relaxation.  A place filled with beauty if we will just take the time to see it.

 

Simplify Your Checkbook

Until recently a few hours of my week were dedicated to my checkbook.  Part of my budget plan is tracking all of our spending.  In the past I used graph paper as my checkbook ledger and a separate sheet was dedicated to breaking my monthly charges down by category.  This was how I learned that I was spending way too much money on groceries monthly.

This way works perfectly, but is very time-consuming, especially at the end of the month when I total up each category.  It would have been simple to make a spreadsheet to do all of this but I really liked having everything on paper.

A few weeks ago I downloaded a FREE app called Checkbook Register by Practically Simple Software on the Android Playstore.  This app does exactly what it says.  It is a digital checkbook register to log all of your transactions..but it does so much more.

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This app has been such a time saver!

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A password option is available for added security.

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Once you log in you are able to easily see all of your accounts along with the balance of each.  Sorry, I’m not sharing the balances in my accounts today 🙂 The Coupon Savings account is one that I made to easily keep track of the amount I save each month with coupons.  I enter the store name and total I saved after each shopping trip.  At the end of the month I can easily see how well (or not so well) my couponing went that month.

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My favorite feature is the customizable reports.  When entering transactions into the app it requires that you assign a category to each.  My most used are income, groceries, bills and gas.  At the end of the month I select the categories report and it instantly generates a report showing the total amount spent in each category.

This app has been exactly what I needed.  It eliminates nearly all risk of error because it does the addition/subtraction when transactions are entered.  I am easily able to mark items as cleared once my bank processes them.  After entering all of my transactions and marking ones that have cleared, my “cleared balance” matches the balance on my bank statement, if I entered everything correctly.  There is also an actual balance listed which shows the account balance after any unprocessed transactions.

This app does not require that you provide any of your banking information.  I have downloaded several in the past only to delete them moments later upon learning I would be required to sync the app with my online banking service.  I’m sure that these apps taking protecting customer information very seriously, I’m just not comfortable with doing so.

This app has made following my budget so much easier.  Do you have a favorite app that makes budgeting easier for you? I would love to hear about it in the comments below. 

 

Religious Liberty

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Religious Liberty: freedom of religious opinion and worship

Simply stated, I am free to believe what I choose and to worship without the government intervening.

This sounds like a wonderful thing.  Actually it is a wonderful thing..until the government gets involved.  Like so many other things the government, or shall I say the Governor of Mississippi, has decided that this needs to be clarified because apparently it is confusing.

I sit back in shock and disbelief at the behavior of fellow “Christians”  and wonder how we have ended up where we are.

Our wonderful and considerate Governor feels that we need a Religious Liberty and Accommodations Act.  Ok, he didn’t introduce it but, he signed it so same difference. You see, what had happened was…(That’s Mississippi talk for let me tell you what happened) Gay marriage was legalized.  In order to protect all of the Christians from the “gays” we were in desperate need of a law making gay marriage extremely difficult in the state.  Representative Gunn was kind enough to make this happen.

Cliff’s Notes version of HB 1523:
* Our religious freedoms need to be protected
*The government can recognize same-sex marriage without forcing us to conform
*Marriage is the union of a man and woman
*Sex is for only men and women that are in a heterosexual marriage (it does not specify that they must be married to each other. apparently cheating isn’t a violation of our “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions“)
*Your birth certificate determines your sex

It doesn’t sound too terribly bad so far..things quickly change.

The state government can not take any discriminatory action against a person who:
*Refuses to perform sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning services
*A person who refuses the services of accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any same sex marriage
*This includes basically every possible wedding related service in existence.. photography, poetry, disc-jockey, wedding planning, printing, flowers, dress making, and the list goes on and on.

And then it goes even further..

Business are able to establish sex-specific standards concerning employee and student dress, grooming, and access to restrooms.  (Looks like I won’t be rocking a bob since short hair is considered a “male” hair style.  Heaven forbid a man have a man bun..that’s just a sin) To clarify: I never got on board with the Target boycott.  It’s not a biggie.  I’ll just pee before I leave the house.  I do have concerns with boys and girls sharing locker rooms at school, that’s not where I am going with this so I will save that for a later time.

It goes on but these are the main points that concern me.

Why as a Christian would I be upset by shunning the gays and trans members of society? Why as a Christian would I oppose protecting my religious liberties?

Because as a Christian I don’t believe this to be the proper way for Christians to act.  I believe our number 1 goal as Christians is to do our very best to represent Christ through our daily actions.  I don’t believe that God condones hate and I view this as hate.  Because I don’t believe your sexual orientation or gender reassignment has any impact on my ability to worship and follow my beliefs. Bluntly, I don’t care who you are attracted to or what gender you feel you are meant to be. That sounds rude, but it’s not intended to be.  It’s your life.  It’s your happiness. It’s not my business so why on Earth should I have an opinion about it?

Some like to argue “God hates gays” so we should too.  Honestly, what God does is none of our concern.  The Bible commands us to “..love thy neighbor as thyself..” It’s as simple as me telling my kids to do as I say, not as I do.  God’s feelings toward homosexual and transgender people is none of our concern.  He commands us to love everyone and to witness to everyone.  It’s actually a very simple concept. Do as you are told.

Think about this situation,
A same sex male couple walk into your bakery to order a wedding cake.  As a Christian, you believe that their marriage is a sin.  You have 2 options.  1. You can be a mature adult.  You can bake their cake.  You can show them that you respect their rights as a person to make their own decisions.  You can share with them the word of God.  You can pray for them.  You can show them that we do not worship a God of hate but a God of love and forgiveness. That all Christians do not believe we are “too good” to associate with the sinners. Your actions can directly result in them wanting to learn more about God.  2. You can be a child.  You can tell them that you aren’t making their cake because they are sinners and are going to hell.  You can tell them, by your actions, that our God doesn’t care about them.  That they aren’t worthy of hearing about our God.  That there is no chance of forgiveness for them and there is no chance of salvation.

It is your decision to make. Your actions may one day directly impact someone turning to God or turning from God forever.  Personally, I would rather take the opportunity to serve these people, show them that a true Christian spirit isn’t filled with hate and pray for them.  I would rather stand before God on judgement day and learn that I am wrong for living this way than to find out that my actions resulted in even a single person feeling that they aren’t worthy of God’s love.  I refuse to have their blood on my hands.

As Christians, we are not tasked with judging others and I am thankful for that each day.  I would hate to have that responsibility.  We are also not placed on this earth to prevent others from sinning or to make it more inconvenient for someone to sin.  Each and every one of us are sinners with no sin being “more sinful” than another.

Baking a cake, taking a photo or selling a wedding dress for a same-sex couple does not affect my ability to freely practice my religious beliefs. This is discrimination masked as religion.  Anything else and the law would say you are allowed to refuse ALL sinners.

Think about this. How would you feel if someone declined to make your wedding cake based on their religious liberties because this is your second wedding, you are pregnant or you had premarital sex? Just because our sin is more socially acceptable doesn’t make it less wrong in the eyes of God.

 

Low Calorie Caramel Frappe Recipe

Welcome to Backwoods and Bayou Living!

I have spent the past couple of days trying to decide what I want my first post to be about.  So many things have been running through my head and I have had a difficult time deciding what to write about.  I finally decided I should introduce myself by writing about something very important to me.  Something that I can not imagine living one day without.  COFFEE!  Yes, my name is Mel and I am addicted to coffee.

Coming from Louisiana has left me with a lifelong addiction to Community Coffee.  No other coffee is acceptable.  It’s Community or you have to deal with me going coffee-less and that is not pleasant for any involved.  Living in the backwoods of Mississippi has left me without easy access to a Starbucks which led to my short lived addiction to McDonald’s caramel frappe.  They are so yummy but at $5 a pop reaching my necessary daily caffeine intake became rather expensive.  Plus, they aren’t exactly low calorie and with 10 months of summer a year you have to stay in bikini shape at all times.

Desperate times call for desperate measures which led to my search for a low calorie caramel frappe. This recipe is a total of 208 calories.   That may seem like a lot for a cup of coffee, but this frappe is HUGE and compared to the number of calories in a restaurant frappe you could even call this a diet friendly frappe.

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Ingredients:

1 cup cold Community coffee (you can substitute any brand, but why would you?)
3 packages of no calorie sweetener
2 tbsp light whipped topping
3 tbsp caramel syrup (chocolate can be substituted for mocha frappes)
1 cup almond milk
1 glass full of ice

Combine the ice, coffee, sweetener, caramel and milk in a blender.  I use the Ninja blender because it makes a much smoother drink than a regular blender.  Blend for a minute or so until all of the ice is crushed.  Pour into a large glass and top with whipped topping. I add a little drizzle of caramel to finish it off.

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If you do not like strong coffee you can substitute 1/2 cup of milk for 1/2 cup of coffee.  This will make the coffee taste a little less noticeable.

I’m a coffee addict and love trying new coffee recipes.  If you have a favorite recipe please share it in the comments!