Give Thanks

My very favorite Thanksgiving Hymn is Thanks to God, by a Swedish man, August Ludvig Storm.  He trusted Christ as Saviour when a young man through a Salvation Army Meeting.  He wrote this hymn for a Salvation Army publication, “The War Cry,” on December 5, 1891.  As a middle-aged man, he suffered a back problem leaving him crippled for the remainder of his life.  Yet  he persevered in serving the Lord through the Salvation Army until his death.  And each line can bring to mind particular times in our lives, good and bad, and remind us to Thank God for each one.

Here are the words:

Thanks to God!

(1) Thanks to God for my Redeemer,

Thanks for all Thou dost provide!

Thanks for times now but a memory,

Thanks for Jesus by my side!

Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,

Thanks for dark and dreary fall!

Thanks for tears by now forgotten,

Thanks for peace within my soul!

(2) Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,

Thanks for what Thou dost deny!

Thanks for storms that I have weathered,

Thanks for all Thou dost supply!

Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure,

Thanks for comfort in despair!

Thanks for grace the none can measure,

Thanks for love beyond conpare!

(3) Thanks for roses by the wayside,

Thanks for thorns their stems contain!

Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,

Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!

Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,

Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!

Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,

Thanks thru all eternity!


The Ever-Evolving Wedding Gift

It all started almost a year ago when Andrea and I were deciding what we wanted to do with our wedding invitations.  We talked about it quite a bit, and came to the conclusion that we would design our own from scratch, then have them professionaly printed.  The one thing Andrea wanted the most was a monogram with our initials on it.  She is definitely more creative than I am, but I am also a bit better with computers than she is.  So, we decided that I would be doing the monogram (with her careful eye of attention always over my shoulder!).

I am no professional graphic designer, nor anywhere close to it.  However, I have dabbled around with computer graphic design before, and enjoy it some too.  I think that the first draft of our monogram came out to meet the eye of my super-observant “quality assurance officer” (Andrea) just before the end of January.  Overall, she liked the general idea of it, but it still needed a lot of work, she thought.  Back to the designing board I went.  Over the next month, that process repeated itself multiple times.  With each time, though, I was getting closer.  The normal response was. “Ohhh, I like it…but what about this?”  I am thinking to myself,  “C’mon, it’s just a silly monogram!”  One obstacle later on in the process is where the three letters: D, S, and A intersect in the middle.  As I saw it, we had two options: a funny looking polygon at that point, or just a blend of all the letters together–which didn’t look that great either.  One night I was dilly-dallying with a school paper and accidentally typed a heart with the “Wingdings 2” font.  Eureka!  I threw that in at the intersection point, Andrea liked it, and that was that.

Finally, sometime in late February of 2009, the stamp of approval was applied.  It was a go!  I finished up the rest of the invitation and sent it to the printer, Vistaprint (which I would highly recommend).  The invitaions came back just how we wanted them.

Andrea ended up liking the monogram so much that she thought it would somehow make a great wedding cake topper.  We thought of several ways to accomplish that, and eventually gave up.  Just in time, though, she had a superb idea that she mentioned to her dad, Mr. Leslie.  Maybe he could cut it out of some kind of metal and shine it up.  She declared to him that that would be his wedding present for us if he could do it.  For the next few weeks, Mr. Leslie spent time on our cake-topper.  Tin snips and a die-grinder were his main tools.  I came into the workshop a few days before it was finished and saw it.  It was perfect!  He had taken a brass door kicker and cut our monogram out of it using a blown-up cutout we had given him.  On the day before the wedding, he finished polishing it up, and gave it to our cake designer.  From there, she set it on the cake perfectly.

Also as a wedding present, my Uncle Keith and Aunt Teresa etched our invitation into a glass photo frame using the invitation we had sent them.

Moving to Pennsylvania, the monogram was packed away in a box until we moved out of the church Prophet’s Chamber and into our home in early August.  Soon after we moved in Andrea got to work on it again.  She surprised me one day with the finished product.  It was mounted in a frame, and she wrote our names at the bottom, saying, “The Dustin Speckhals Family–Established May 22, 2009.”  And there it hangs in our living room…

Coming sometime between Thanksgiving Day and Saturday: another redesigned blog banner with a Christmas theme!

Thirty-Day Challenge…How’s It Going?

Well, we are already over half-way through the month of November if you can believe that!  And today brings us to Day Eighteen of the Thirty-Day Challenge to “Give to someone in some fashion, every day in November.”  So, how is it going for you?  I admit, I could have done better some days, and others I got behind; but nevertheless, it has been a wonderful experience!  I am so glad I saw the idea on another blog and decided to do it!  In fact, I am even considering keeping it up after November is over.  After all, what is my life if it is not giving to others?  Of course, God is first, and my time with Him and service for Him are priorities; but that is just it –being Christlike and pleasing God is living by faith and obeying His Word, and part of that is living for others!

I have found many ways to share with others this month.  There is a good list of ideas at .  As I love to bake, and it is the time of year for it, I have shared lots of baked goods…from Gingerbread Man cookies, to pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, to banana bread and brownies!  I have also written cards to loved ones, and even created a smilebox picture card (seen on an earlier post) to send to a friend who has meant much to me.  One of my favorite things was giving to the lady ringing her bell for the Salvation Army outside of Walmart.  I do not normally give to charities since I give through my local church.  I believe that is the way God wants us to give; not only that, but when I give to my church, I know my money goes to a great cause…the Lord’s work!  And I can see exactly where that money is spent too!  However, having participated in many fundraisers through my life, I know it can be discouraging and tough to stand out there asking for donations.  So when I went to Walmart last Saturday, I did not give to the Salvation Army, but I gave a Gospel Tract to the lady with two dollars inside!  I told her it was for HER to purchase a hot drink or snack!  And ultimately, I pray she will read the Gospel from God’s Word included in that tract, and learn of her own need of a Saviour from sin.  May she accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross alone as the payment for her sin, trusting in Him for Salvation!  You see, even bey0nd simple giving and sharing, this Thirty-Day Challenge is an opportunity to share things with others, while also sharing the Gospel with them –the most precious Gift you could possibly give to another!

I would love to hear some of your ideas and experiences through this Challenge!  And if you have fallen behind, pick back up where you are, and begin anew today!  God is good.

Espresso, Latte, Mocha, Cappuccino, Etc.

I have never been a big coffee drinker, and Andrea is even less of one than I am.  I never really wanted to drink any until my latter years of high school; and even then, with spoons full of creamer and sugar.  Beginning college, I would occasionally drink a cup for breakfast, eventually weaning myself off of the creamer and sugar.  For the most part, when I drink coffee, I like it black.  Some may find this laughable, but the caffeine in coffee doesn’t do anything to me.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing!  When I drink it early in the morning, it doesn’t wake me up; and when I drink it late at night, it doesn’t keep me awake!  Go ahead, call me strange…

Well, since Andrea and I  have been married, I have taken to like coffee more.  As the weather has gotten colder, coffee drinks have sounded even better.  Trust me, though, I am no coffee-fanatic.  I can count the times I have been to a coffee shop like Starbucks on one hand.  However, I do know that they have some fantastic drinks.  About a month ago, Andrea and I visited one of those shops that is just a block’s walk away from our home.  I can’t even remember what the place is called, but the drink that I had was fantastic.  Andrea enjoyed her’s a lot too–Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino.

Well, to make a long story short, a few weeks ago I ended up buying a small espresso machine for our home with one of our last wedding shower gift cards.  It is just about as simple as it gets, but has everything.  Since getting it, I have discovered quite a few things about these coffee based drinks.  The first thing is that espresso is completely different from brewed coffee.  Someone said that is just about the most abuse you can put the poor coffee grounds through without killing them.  Espresso is boiling water forced through finely ground beans with very high pressure.  The ounce and a half of liquid that goes through that torment and into a cup is a called a shot of espresso.  All of the other major coffee drinks are based off of this espresso.

Steamed milk is the other major ingredient.  It is cold milk that is heated with a steam wand that is normally attached to the espresso machine.  For example, a latte is 1/3 espresso, and 2/3 steamed milk.  A cappuccino is 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foamed milk (milk with lots of air infused with the steam wand).  A mocha is a latte with made with steamed chocolate milk and syrup.  That’s just a quick rundown…

Believe me, I have not gotten into this very much.  I don’t have a bean grinder, and don’t plan on it anytime soon (though I wouldn’t mind having one some day).  My machine is about the most entry-level model you can get: thirty-five dollars.  But we really like our new machine!

That’s one way to make Andrea really happy: just make a pumpkin-spice cappuccino, carmel latte, or mocha and give it to her on a cool evening!  It is definitely a comfort drink for us!

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A homemade cappuccino