Break Out of Your Box

So there are likely any number of things in your closet spilling out of bins, refusing to hang on hangers, and falling off of shelves. Some things simply don’t lend themselves to typical storage methods, and when we try to stick with “closet organizers” we end up with a mess. Or, we have to give up precious hanging or shelf space for a bulky solution which simultaneously decreases our existing storage for things that could go on a shelf or hanging rod.

These are situations when I like to explore storage options intended for other spaces. Maybe it’s time to break out of your box.

I use an office drawer organizer to hold small items on a closet shelf – change and small items I’ve collected through the day go in one spot as I undress at night, with a standing commitment to deal with the items the next morning when I am not tired and ready for bed. I have a bottle of lotion in there, small jewelry that doesn’t hang on the hooks on the wall, a list of combinations for outfits, in case I can’t decide what to wear…., a spot to keep the medical tape I need for my knee when I run. Since we have wire shelves, little things would fall right through, if I didn’t have something there, and the low edges keep small items from rolling off the edge.

I have a multi-use hanger from Ikea (KOMPLEMENT $7.99) which contains my growing scarf collection and belts.

I use office bins with labels to hold my clean pjs, slips & hose, “unmentionables,” socks, and running clothes.

We upcycled a popcorn bin as a trashcan in the closet (you wouldn’t believe how handy it is to have a trash can in the closet!).

I use a paint liner tray to keep sweaters from getting snagged on the wire shelves.

The point is, you don’t have to limit yourself to closet organization products to organize your closet.

Go to the hardware store and look at tool organizers if you need something for small accessories.

Head to the office supply store to see what options might work for containing stacked shirts or piles of athletic shorts (they can be slippery sometimes and refuse to stay in a neat pile!).

Go to a kitchen store to check out utensil bins, silverware trays, even tea storage chests, all of which make great potential storage for closet items.

Craft stores have a great selection of decorative knobs which work well as hooks that don’t leave a little dimple in items hung over them without a loop.

You never know what you’ll find!

Canvas lined fruit baskets make great containers for delicates.

Old pillow cases are great dust covers for out of season shoes and boots. You can even store clothes in them, on upper shelves, if you keep your out-of-season clothes in the closet.

Robe hooks mounted under a shelf are great for holding purses.

A file box on wheels could slide under a low shelf to contain winter scarves and gloves.

Really, the options are endless, just break out of the closet-organization aisle and get creative! (Likewise, closet organization products can work wonders in a pantry – think shoe bag + pasta bags OR hanging shelves + paper products. Don’t worry, we’ll get into the kitchen and pantry soon!)

Victory Begins with the Mind {Meditating on Scripture Part 2: Memorization}

Last week I wrote about the importance of spending time engaging with God’s word (not just reading it). Another way we can meditate on God’s word is to memorize it.

I can see your eyes glazing over now as excuses flood your mind:

  • I don’t have a good memory.
  • I’m too busy.
  • I memorized a lot of scripture when I was a kid.
  • I don’t know what to memorize.
  • You don’t understand, I have never been able to remember Bible verses.
  • Memorizing bible verses is kid stuff.
  • Memorizing Bible verses is for super-Christians.

Okay, just stop.

The Bible says we should hide God’s word in our hearts so that we won’t sin against him (Psalm 119:11). It doesn’t give qualifications for busyness, sleepless nights, age, maturity in Christ, or a poor memory (remember, God knit your mind together in your mother’s womb knowing he’d instruct you to learn his word). The Bible reminds us we are at war, and the path to victory begins with the mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-7).

Time to Decide: Obey or Not?

Bottom line: God instructs you to memorize his word. Are you going to obey or not?

If you are interested in memorizing scripture, but don’t know where to start here are some ideas:

Psalm 119:11

2 Timothy 3:16-17

John 3:16

The Romans Road to Salvation (great for reminding yourself of the nature and character of God and man – and also great verses for evangelism):

  1. Romans 3:10
  2. Romans 3:23
  3. Romans 5:12
  4. Romans 6:23
  5. Romans 5:8
  6. Romans 10:9-10
  7. Romans 10:13

James Chapter 1 (and 2, 3, 4, 5…) – Seriously, sometimes memorizing larger passages is actually easier because there is a flow to the verses that you lose when you take single verses or pairs of verses on their own.

Psalm 100

You can also do a web search for verses that speak to a specific area of temptation, or to find a verse when you can only remember a few words of it. I search for verses all the time by typing in something like, “bible verse about a talking donkey” and, Boom!, in seconds I’ve got Numbers 22:28 on my screen. {If you didn’t know there was a talking donkey in the Bible, you should really go read that story now. 🙂 }

OK, I may not need to memorize the verse about the talking donkey, but it’s really that easy to find Bible verses. Try something like, “bible verse about anger” or “bible verse about patience” and see what you find.

I’d love to hear what you are memorizing. I’m always looking for new verses to learn (though there are several memory verses in the Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study if you’d like to join us).


Let It Go

Today I’d like to revisit the idea of actually getting rid of things to make more room in the closet. C’mon, you had to know this day would come. You had to know you’d have to let it go!

Here are several quick tips to help figure out what should go.

1) Hang your hangers backwards.

At the beginning of a season, hang all your hanging clothes up with the hangers backwards, so the hook part of the hanger opens to the front instead of the back. After you wear an item, when it comes out of the laundry (or home from the dry cleaner), hang it up the right way, with the hook facing the back. At the end of the season, when you go to switch wardrobes for warmer/cooler weather, any clothes still hanging backwards are shoo-ins for the give-away bin. (Pro-Tip: bag them quickly and put them in the car, so you can’t talk yourself into another 12 months of space-wasters.)

2) Make outfits.

Again, at the beginning of a clothing season, go through the clothes, try them on, and make outfits.

Any items which don’t fit or don’t have a partner are great candidates for the give-away bin. Some caveats: If it’s central wardrobe item you wear with many different outfits, obviously it stays.

Also, if you know exactly what to buy to make it part of an outfit AND you have the money to and a place from which to buy it, hang it backwards in the closet until the partner arrives.

And, finally, if you are actively losing weight (like you weigh in every week and the numbers on the scale are actually going down, which is not the same as planning to lose weight) and the item will fit when you reach your weight goal AND it is still a current fashion, go ahead and keep it. You may not be able to afford an entire new wardrobe when you get to your new size, but PLEASE distinguish between hoping to lose weight and actually losing weight before you keep a lot of clothes that don’t fit. Here’s a helpful thought: if the smaller clothes sitting there seem to accuse or shame you when you see them, get rid of them. No space needs to be take up by items whispering condemnation.

3) Test it.

If you just really want things out of the closet, use the 5-second test. Hold up an item and ask yourself, “If I were in a store, would I buy this?” If you can’t say an unequivocal “yes” within 5 seconds, give. it. away. No caveats. (By which I mean, you don’t get to keep it because someone else bought it for you and you feel badly because you never wear it, or because you spent money on it and aren’t wearing it but should, or because you’d like to like it, or…). Seriously, if you wouldn’t buy it now, why keep it now?

4) Get help.

For the extravert (or really desperate introvert): invite a friend to go into your closet and help you choose clothes that make you look good. The trick here is to (1) pick someone who knows you well enough to be honest, (2) pick someone whose taste you like and can help you look your best, and (3) commit to following their advice/suggestions. It’s not helpful to ask someone to help and then argue with them about every suggestion. If you can’t make the decisions, get advice. And listen. to. it. So when they say, “These pants haven’t been in style since the late 90s,” you don’t get to remind them of 30-year fashion cycles and point out there are only 6 more years until that style is back. 🙂

5) Let it go. Now.

Once you’ve ruthlessly sorted and eliminated a host of items, throw away all the things that are torn, broken, or missing parts. Yes, I really mean throw it away. As in, use the trash can. Those pants have lived a good life. In the words of Ilsa, “Let it go.”

And don’t hang onto the “trash items” to upcycle them like you saw on Pinterest last week unless you have a scheduled day to do the upcycling. Throw them all away, take the bag to the curb, outside can, put the egg shells and coffee grounds in the bag, add a messy diaper. Do what you need to do, but throw them away. Now. You’ll thank me later. 🙂

Pack up the rest for charity, and put it in your car before you can change your mind. If you are really bad about these things, take it immediately to your favorite donation spot.

6) Enjoy!

Now go look at all the space you created in your closet. That should bring a smile to your face! (Unless you left all the things that fit laying on the bed and still have a mess to clean up… hypothetically speaking, of course!).

Time for Change {Meditating on Scripture Part 1: Read to Engage}

When I was growing up, I heard how important it is to spend time in God’s word on a daily basis. I heard it at church. I heard it at home. I heard it a camp, at VBS, at youth group, at Bible study. I heard it at school – and I went to public school. As I got older, my friends and I encouraged each other to spend time in God’s word each day. We even held each other accountable. And for years I’d get up and open my Bible, and even with a reading plan, I had no idea what to do in my “time with the Lord” (a.k.a. “Quiet Time” or “Morning Devotions” or “Devos.”).

I honestly thought I was the only one who ever struggled with how to spend time in God’s word until I started speaking to women’s groups. When I started speaking to groups of women, I heard a lot of, “I know it’s important to spend time in God’s word, but how?”

So, how do we spend time in God’s word? I honestly think asking how to spend time in God’s word is a very brave question for two reasons. It is brave because (1) it is an admission that we don’t know/aren’t perfect/don’t have it all figured out, and (2) because being confronted with the word of God will require change – and change can be scary. But maybe you know it is time for change.

Time for change

If you are one of the brave women who want to know how to spend time engaging with God’s word on a daily basis on your own, let me encourage you to begin to meditate on God’s word. Let me encourage you to read to engage with scripture, not to read because you are supposed to read the Bible, or to read for information, or to read for amusement (a= not, muse=think, therefore amuse = not think); or to read to check it off your to-do list.

Meditating on God’s word (you can read more about biblical meditation by reading The Search for Peace or What is Meditation?) begins with reading God’s word in a way that it engages the thoughts of our heads and our hearts. It can begin with three simple questions:

  1. What does this passage show me about the character and nature of God?
  2. What does this passage tell me about the character and nature of man? (Both the saved and the unsaved – and ultimately, what does it tell me about my own developing character and nature?)
  3. So what?

Once I answer the first two questions, I can ask the third.  “So, what does this mean for my life today as I ___________ (fold laundry, drive to work, encounter difficult people, meet my husband for lunch, educate my kids, call the plumber….)?”

You see, the more we understand about who God is and who we are, the more we are able to move from life yielded to the flesh into life yielded to the Spirit.

There are obviously (or maybe not obviously!) more questions to ask before you can fully answer these three questions. You see, before we can get to what the passage says about God, man in general, and us in particular, we need to understand what the passage actually says.

There are several steps I go through to understand what a passage says. I didn’t invent this process – it’s basically inductive Bible study and there are dozens of books available to walk you through learning inductive Bible study methods,  one little (or rather long, actually) blog post cannot do it justice! The main thing is while I do think it is important to consider what other folks have to say about the Bible, I don’t think we need to sit around and wait for someone else to tell us what the Bible means. God had the Bible written down and protected it’s message across the ages and in a variety of languages so that we could know him personally.

So, how do I spend time in God’s word?

Well, I’m a mathematician, so I approach the Word like a word problem in math.

When I solve a word problem, I go through several steps:

  1. Read the question.
  2. Read the question again to become familiar with the information presented.
  3. Establish what am I being asked to find out. What is the point?
  4. Make notes on the important details – What do I already know? What do I need to know?
  5. How does what I know relate to what I need to know?
  6. What other information/resources do I have that will help me connect what I have to answer the question? (basic math facts, operations, order of operations, formulas, variables, rules for solving problems, calculator…)
  7. Answer the question. Put it all together, what is the answer?
  8. Double check. Did I get to what the questioner asked? Is the answer reasonable? (e.g. If someone gave something away, did the number get smaller? If the number got bigger, I need to go back and see what I did wrong!)

When I approach the problem of engaging with the Word, I follow similar steps:

  1. Read the passage.
  2. Read it again. Get familiar with what it says. {I read about one pastor who had a practice of reading a book 40 times before he would begin to study it. That’s getting pretty stinking familiar with the passage.}
  3. What is the passage about? What is the general topic/event/idea being presented?
  4. Make observations about the details of the passage. This is a great time to ask reporter questions:
    • Who? Who is the author? Who is the audience? Who is the subject?
    • What? What is is the context? What is happening? What is repeated a lot? What is the author’s purpose? What was the audience’s response? What is mentioned? What is left out?
    • When? When did/will this happen? When was it written? When did it/will it matter?
    • Where? Where did/will this happen? Where was it written? Where was it said? Where was it going?
    • Why? Why did the author write this? Why did the audience need to hear it? Why did the subject of the passage respond the way they did? Why was the subject mentioned? Why were some things not mentioned?
    • How? How did this happen? How does the author hope to help/inform/instruct? How does this help/inform/instruct the audience? How does this show truth?
  5. Connect what I have observed to other scripture – put these verses in context.
    • What do these verses say?
    • What do the verses right before and after these verses say?
    • What do other verses on the same topic say?
    • What does the Bible say as a whole on this topic?
  6. Evaluate other resources/information. What other information and resources do I have to help me connect this passage to me today?
    • What was happening historically when this was written?
    • What did the readers of the day understand about this topic?
    • How were these words historically used?
    • What have other scholars (yes, you are a scholar!) said about this topic? {Here’s a hint: If you are discovering something in scripture for the first time in human history, you’ve probably made a mistake. That’s why we do the reasonability check in a minute… }
  7. Draw conclusions. Ask yourself, “So what?”
    • So, what does this mean for me?
    • So, how does this impact my life?
    • So, how am I going to respond?
    • So, what would being transformed by this passage look like? How does it renew my mind and transform my life? (Romans 12:2)
    • So, how does this passage teach, reprove, correct, or teach me how to live righteously? How does it equip me for every good work? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  8. Double check.
    • Did I answer the question?
      • What does this show me about the character and nature of God?
      • What does this show me about the character and nature of man?
      • What does this mean for me?
    • Is my answer reasonable?
      • If I re-read the passage, do my conclusions still make sense?
      • Is my conclusion reasonable in light of scripture and consistent with the whole counsel of scripture?
      • Am I making any assertions that contradict other parts of the Bible?

Now this really is obvious: approaching scripture like this does take time. Which is why you really need to spend time in God’s word on a daily basis.

A little bit of time spent meditating on God’s word like this every day will lead to a heart equipped for the work he has prepared in advance for you to do. Meditating on God’s word will transform your thoughts, your words, your actions, your motives, and your heart. Meditating on God’s word is the way to wisdom.

You know that woman who seems to pull scripture out of the air with the perfect application to a circumstance – without being all preachy?  She meditates on God’s word. She has God’s wisdom because she has wrestled with God’s word and has been changed by the encounter. She is a sinner saved by grace, just like you and me. She is steeped in grace because her heart is trained in righteousness through the regular meditation on God’s word.

You can be that woman.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5. Meditate on that for a bit this morning. 🙂


So what will you study first?

OK, I usually recommend studying books of the Bible in their entirety. Going through a whole book in order really helps with the whole context thing, BUT there is a place for themed studies, and with Easter just six weeks away, I am just starting a Bible study that focuses on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy through Christ at Easter.

Redeeming Easter Details

It’s a great place to start meditating on God’s word with a great bunch of women!

You can read all about it here: You are Invited!

You can subscribe to the emails here: Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study Email Subscription

And for fellowship, accountability, and interaction throughout the study, join the Facebook group here: Redeeming Easter on Facebook (Being in the FB group won’t really make a lot of sense without the emails… the devotions, songs, memory verses, and activities all come in the daily emails.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! {{Plus, FREE Recipe}}

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cultivate Grace! As a special treat for the holiday, I want to share a pair of recipes people request a lot from me.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker) + Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

Our whole family enjoys this delicious Indian dish. We’ve tried dozens of recipes to make this at home and this was my final attempt to create my own. It’s great because so much of the work is done in advance and smells heavenly after simmering in the crock pot all day. Every person who has eaten this at our house has declared it restaurant worthy. 🙂

Warning: This recipe makes a ton! It fills a 6-quart slow-cooker to the brim.

We’ll be eating it tonight. With it’s pretty pink-ish, red-ish sauce, maybe you’d like to add it to your Valentine’s Day traditions, too?!?!

Chicken Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker) {Serve over Rice}

Chicken Tikka Masala (Crock Pot)



3-4 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut into large pieces (2-4 pieces per breast is large enough to grill without having to use skewers))

3-4 pounds Chicken Thighs, Boneless, Skinless (cut into large pieces (2 pieces per thigh is large enough to grill without having to use skewers))

3 cups Greek Yogurt Plain

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon Ginger Ground

1 teaspoon Salt



1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Large Onion (cut into large chunks)

2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic

29 ounces Tomato Sauce

29 ounces Tomato Puree

2 Tablespoons Ground Ginger

2 Tablespoons Garam Masala

1 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon


Last Minute Additions to Sauce:

1 Large Green Peppers Chopped (cut into large chunks)

1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin (optional, but adding a little at the end livens the flavors)

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (optional, but adding a little at the end livens the flavors)

4 cups Heavy Cream




1. Cut chicken into large pieces.

2. Mix yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and salt.

3. Toss chicken in marinade & refrigerate for at least an hour.

4. After an hour, broil or grill meat on high heat for 8 minutes on each side (it doesn’t need to be cooked through, but should be grilled to just before edges blacken on the outside).

5. Begin sauce while grilling/broiling. (Grilling really does taste better!)


1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

2. Sauté chunks of onion for 2 minutes.

3. Add minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

4. Set onion/garlic mixture in bottom of slow cooker.

5. Place grilled/broiled chicken pieces on top of onion mixture. Do not stir.

6. Mix tomato sauce, tomato purée, ginger, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

7. Pour over chicken. Do not stir slow cooker ingredients. Let it cook in layers.

8. Cook 4-6 hours on high.

Last Minute Additions:

1. About 1/2 hour to 1 hour before serving, add green pepper, additional cumin & garam masala, and cream.

2. Now you can stir all the ingredients well, until the cream is well blended.

3. This is the perfect time to start cooking rice & Naan to have it all hot and ready at the same time.

(Basmati Rice is a great choice for Indian food.)

Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

3-1/4 cups All-purpose flour

generous pinch Salt

3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast

1-1/2 cup warm water

2-4 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil


1. Add yeast to warm (not hot water).

2. Mix flour and salt until incorporated. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. (You don’t need to knead the dough – and it’s a REALLY sticky mess in the bowl.)

3. Generously flour a surface and your hands.

4. Tear off an lemon sized piece of dough. It is still VERY sticky. That’s OK.

5. Push (or use a rolling pin & roll) the dough out into a very thin oval. It should be just thick enough to pick up without tearing.

6. Heat skillet on medium-high heat.

7. Brush with olive oil or melted butter and place Naan, butter side down, in pre-heated skillet. (If desired, you may sprinkle with coarse salt or garlic powder, or some other spice before placing it in the pan.)

8. Cook for 2 minutes, or until bottom side has brown spots.

9. Brush with butter and add any seasonings to the top side during this two minutes. I also prepare the next naan while I wait.

10. Flip naan and cover pan.

11. Cook for 30 seconds more (longer if your naan is thicker) and remove from pan.

12. Cover naan with a clean towel while you cook the rest. It’s best served hot – not reheated.