Friday, December 19, 2014

Flashback Friday: Advent - Week 4

Here's this week's Flashback Friday where I dig up an old post. If you haven't seen it before, then it's new to you! These daily Advent readings help me set the proper tone for the Christmas season in my home. I hope you enjoy them as well! 


Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Telling the Christmas Story
Supplies:
  • Wreath
  • Candles: 3 purple, 1 rose, 1 white
  • Bible
  • Jesse Tree Ornaments (or pictures)
  • Chocolate/Candy (optional)


This week marks the fourth, and final, week of Advent. Even though I wrote the material, I still missed days here and there. So, great job to those of you that have stuck with the daily devotional! I hope reading through and reflecting on these stories have helped you focus more on Jesus during this Christmas season.

The last week of Advent represents "peace". The rose candle as well as all three purple candles are lit each day this week. There are some days that I feel anything but peaceful. In my home, my kids may be driving me up the wall with their crying, screaming, or constant demanding of my time and attention. Outside of my home, there is crime in our local neighborhood; our nation appears dysfunctional; and fighting lurks in many corners of our world. How can we celebrate peace with this happening around us? Enter Jesus. He came as a baby, but he is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). One of my favorite passages that Jesus said was:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) 

God does not promise us an easy, uncomplicated life. On the contrary, he tells us that we "will have trouble". The Good News is that Jesus is the deliverer of peace. When I look in my home and at the world around me, I take refuge in the fact that Jesus has already won the battle and he is the provider of peace.


Christmas Question of the Week


Each week, I will attempt to answer a question about why we celebrate a particular Christmas tradition. I don't intend to answer all of the questions in my posts over the next few weeks, but I do hope to answer a few of the questions.

What do the Christmas colors (red and green) mean?


This is one question that I've honestly not thought about much before. I was surprised that most information I read was consistent in its interpretation. So, here is what I found:

Red represents the blood of Jesus.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a little baby, but we must not forget that it's Jesus' life AND death (as well as his resurrection) that makes him vital in the Christian faith. Jesus was not just a "good guy" that taught us important morals. He is the Son of God, and God sent Jesus to earth for a specific purpose: to die. The reason why he died was so that we can live. Jesus' perfect life qualified him to be a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all the sins of the world.

Green symbolizes eternal life. During the Christmas season, the color green is oftentimes seen in evergreens (wreaths, trees, garland, etc.). Evergreens are green year-round, thus representing eternity. As I mentioned above, Jesus died so that we can live. Without Jesus, we are doomed to live an eternity separated from God.  By simply believing Jesus is who he said he was (God's Son), believing God resurrected him from the dead, and  giving Him control of your life, you will live forever in heaven with God (Romans 10:9) who created you, loves you, and wants to be with you. 


Advent Week 4 Daily Devotional



Day 22 (December 21st)



Day 22: Dove
Symbol: Dove
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-17
Explanation:  Another man named John lived during the same time as Jesus. God had a job for John, and it was to prepare the way for Jesus. John was "unconventional" in his attire and style, but people still flocked to him because he spoke God's truth. He baptized many people (which is simply being dunked in water to symbolize your "new life" in God), including Jesus! Immediately after Jesus was baptized, heaven opened and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove. 
Question: Have you ever been baptized? If not and you believe in Jesus, is there something that is holding you back?

Day 23 (December 22nd)

Day 23: Star of Bethlehem


Symbol: Star of Bethlehem
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Explanation:  Jesus' birth is not only a big deal today when we celebrate Christmas, but it was a big deal when it actually happened. Magi (or wise men) from the east traveled an incredibly long distance to worship this baby, this king, that God sent. One bright star guided their travels; and the star led them to Bethlehem where they found Jesus. They presented this child with gifts for a king! 
Question: Have you ever traveled a great distance or paid a great price for something you valued?  

Day 24 (December 23rd)



Day 24: Baby Jesus in the Manger
Symbol: Baby Jesus in the Manger
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Explanation:  The world had been waiting for The King to arrive, and the time had finally come. Jesus' anticipated arrival is finally here! Upon the announcement of his birth, the angels sang, the shepherds were in awe, and Mary and Joseph were mesmerized by this baby God called them to raise.  He had left his kingdom in heaven and humbled himself by becoming a baby in order to love us all.
Question: What is your reaction to Jesus' coming? What can you do to celebrate and rejoice in the birth of our Savior?










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All Advent Posts: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Goodies: Date Pinwheels

During the Christmas season, I'm going to highlight a few of my favorite Christmas goodies each week. There will be some old and some new recipes. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!

Skills Level: Intermediate
Skills Attained: Jelly Roll Cookies
Supplies/Ingredients:
  • 16 ounces finely chopped dates
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 4 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • Medium-size saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mixer with bowl
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Rolling Pin
  • Knife
  • Cookie sheet

    Date Pinwheels make it onto my family's Christmas cookie tray each year. I'm not sure what makes them a "Christmas cookie" other than the fact that my mom only made this cookie around the holidays my entire life. I realize not everyone is into dates; even my husband would admit this cookie didn't sound appealing to him at first. Well, he is a Date Pinwheel convert, because he now requests these cookies each year. So, I will share with you the recipe that my mom passed down to me.


  • Prepare the Date-Nut Filling: 
  1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the finely chopped dates, 2/3 c. white sugar, and 2/3 c. water. 
  2. Bring to a boil. 
  3. Cook over low heat; stirring constantly until thickened (about 4 minutes). 
  4. Add chopped nuts, if desired. 
  5. Chill the date mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

  • Prepare the Cookie Dough:
  1. Cream shortening and 2 c. brown sugar in a mixer. (Mom's Tip #8)
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla. (Mom's Tip #9)
  3. Combine flour and remaining dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon) in a separate medium-size mixing bowl. (Mom's Tip #10)
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until combined. (You may need to mix the last bit of flour by hand.)
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

  • Assemble and Bake the Cookies:
    1. Divide the dough in half. 
    2. Tear off a sheet of wax paper approximately 18" wide, and lightly flower the surface. 
    3. On the wax paper, roll out one half of dough into a rectangle about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. (I have found a thicker dough allows the cookie to hold together better.) 
    4. Spread half of the date-nut filling on the dough up to the edges. 
    5. Roll up the long edge of the rectangular dough into a jelly roll and wrap in the wax paper. 
    6. Repeat the above steps for the second half of the dough and date-nut filling.
    7. Refrigerate the cookie rolls for at least 30 minutes. 
    8. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
    9. Once the cookie rolls are chilled, slice the rolls into 1/2" slices. 
    10. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes.  Yields 6 dozen cookies.

      For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful CounselorMighty GodEverlasting FatherPrince of Peace.
      ~Isaiah 9:6~

      Friday, December 12, 2014

      Flashback Friday: Advent - Week 3

      Here's this week's Flashback Friday where I dig up an old post. If you haven't seen it before, then it's new to you! These daily Advent readings help me set the proper tone for the Christmas season in my home. I hope you enjoy them as well! 

      Skill Level: Beginner
      Skills Attained: Telling the Christmas Story
      Supplies:
      • Candles: 3 purple, 1 rose, 1 white
      • Bible
      • Jesse Tree Ornaments (or pictures)
      • Chocolate/Candy (optional)


      The third week of Advent represents "joy". Each day you will light two purple candles and the rose candle. So often I look to other people to give me joy. If my husband disappoints me by coming home late from work or if a friend doesn't return my phone call, it's easy for me to get down and discouraged. I allow my circumstances to dictate my emotions, and my joy easily vanishes. Certainly I love my husband, children, family, and friends, but I should not rely on them to bring me joy. I must remind myself that my source of joy comes from God and God alone. He is always loving and never changing. He never fails. 

      Christmas Question of the Week


      Each week, I will attempt to answer a question about why we celebrate a particular Christmas tradition. I don't intend to answer all of the questions in my posts over the next few weeks, but I do hope to answer a few questions.

      Who is Santa Claus? 

      Most people in the western world know Santa Claus as a mystical, jolly man with a white beard and a red suit who visits our homes on Christmas Eve and delivers presents to good little boys and girls. Some people may know of traditions around the world that include characters such as Father Christmas and Sinterklauss. (You can find a brief synopsis of this on Wikipedia...I know, I know. It's not the best source.) Many people may not know that Santa Claus originates from an actual person: Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop in modern day Turkey who was known for his generosity. He was a very godly, Christian man whose generosity was rooted in his love for Christ. (Check out Advent: Week 1 for an explanation of "Why do we exchange presents?)
      The information I found on Wikipedia aligned with a recent children's Christmas video I watched with my son: Buck Denver Asks...Why do we Call it Christmas? I loved this short movie and thought it did a nice job of  explaining many Christmas traditions such as "Why do we put up Christmas trees?" and "Who is Santa Claus?" My 2 1/2 year old was engaged, and I found it entertaining and informative. The creator of this movie, Phil Vischer, is the same person who created Veggie Tales. It's definitely worth checking out!


      Advent Week 3 Daily Devotional


      Each day throughout Advent, my family will take a few minutes to read a passage from the Bible and talk about what it means. During this time, we will light our Advent "wreath". During the third week,  two purple candles and one rose candle will be lit each day during this time. The schedule below details the daily passage as well as a short description and application question. Most of this is based upon the Jesse Tree, which includes a clear, succinct overview of Jesus's ancestry and life in the Bible. Even if you don't have Jesse Tree ornaments, you can use pictures or different items around your house to represent the symbol for the day. No matter your age, I hope you glean something from these readings. 

      Day 15 (December 14th)



      Symbol: Harp
      Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-23
      Explanation:  Last week we learned about Samuel anointing King Saul to lead God's people, but even he was not perfect. So, God told Samuel to anoint another king: David. David was just a young man and the youngest son of Jesse. As we learned in the first week, Jesus would be born through the lineage of Jesse (and through King David). Although David did many honorable and noble things for the Lord, David still made many costly mistakes in his life. No one is perfect. Except one. Jesus. He is the one true king! 
      Question: Is there one person who you turn to in life to lead you or guide you? Has that person ever failed you? Have you considered turning to God for counsel and wisdom through life's decisions?

      Day 16 (December 15th)



      Symbol: Stone Altar
      Day 16: Stone Altar
      Scripture: 1 Kings 18:16-46
      Explanation:  God is mighty and powerful. He used a man named Elijah to put His power on display. Elijah lived during a time where people worshipped other gods (Baal) besides The Lord. But Elijah knew these other gods were not real and could not satisfy. He put their gods to the test, and they failed miserably. Elijah provided an opportunity for God to put His power on display, and God showed up in a BIG way. Through Elijah's one prayer, God burned a water-logged alter to a crisp. The people knew God was real and began to praise and worship the one true God.
      Question: Is there something in your life that is competing for God's attention? 

      Day 17 (December 16th)



      Symbol: Fire Tongs with Hot Coals
      Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-13
      Explanation:  Isaiah was one of the prophets who foretold the coming of Jesus. In this passage, Isaiah sees a picture of him before The Lord. Isaiah realizes that he is not worthy to be in God's holy presence. A seraph (or angel) comes to Isaiah and touches his lips with a burning coal. The angel says "your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (v. 7).  Before any of us can stand before God, we must be cleansed. God is holy and perfect and cannot be in the presence of anything imperfect. Unfortunately, nothing we ever do (or don't do) will make us worthy to stand before God. The Good News is that Jesus makes a way for us! Jesus was perfect on our behalf. He lived a perfect life; never lying, gossiping, or even thinking a bad though. He became the perfect sacrifice when He died on the cross for us. He paid the penalty for all of our sins -- past, present, and future. So, when we stand before God, God does not see our imperfections; He sees the perfect record of Christ. 
      Question: Is there something in your life that you should be "cleansed" of? Take time to ask God for forgiveness. He loves you and is waiting to accept you with open arms. 

      Day 18 (December 17th)



      Symbol: Lion
      Scripture: Daniel 6:1-28
      Explanation:  Daniel was a man that loved God and followed him...no matter the cost. Even though it was against the law to pray to God, Daniel did it anyway. He knew that God's approval was more important than the approval of man. Because he broke the king's law and prayed to God, the king -- albeit reluctantly -- punished Daniel by throwing him into a lion's den. Miraculously, God protected Daniel and closed the mouth of the lions. This could have been a horrible end to Daniel's life, but God used this situation for His glory. Many people saw God's goodness through this event. 
      Question: Has there been a time in your life that God protected you? 

      Day 19 (December 18th)



      Symbol: Big Fish
      Scripture: Jonah
      Explanation:  Sometimes God uses people in our lives to deliver messages to us. God wanted to use Jonah to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah didn't want to. So, Jonah ran away. What Jonah didn't realize what that no one can hide from God; He is always with us. To get Jonah's attention, God sent a storm after him and then a big fish to rescue him. Jonah spent three days in the belly of this fish, and it gave him a lot of time to think. He realized he needed to follow God's plan. So, the fish spit him up on shore, and Jonah headed to Nineveh. God used him to deliver a message to the Ninevites, and they believed in God and started to follow Him! 
      Question: Has God used someone in your life to deliver a message to you from Him? Has God ever used you to deliver a message from Him to someone else? 

      Day 20 (December 19th)



      Symbol: Star of David
      Scripture: Esther 4 - 8
      Explanation:  Initially, Esther became queen because of her great beauty, and unbeknownst to the king, she was a Jew. During her time as queen, the king declared an edict to kill all of the Jews. Esther's cousin, Mordecai, encouraged her to approach the king and stand up for her people. He challenged her to think that perhaps she is in this position of power for "such a time as this" -- to fight for the Jewish people (Esther 4:14). In most instances, standing up to the king would mean certain death, but Esther took a stand and approached the king. The king granted Esther's request, and the Jewish people were saved. Many people use a position of power for their selfish gain, but Esther used it for God's glory to save the Jewish people. 
      Question: Have you ever been in a position of power and needed to make a tough decision? 

      Day 21 (December 20th)



      Symbol: Angel
      Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
      Explanation:  The angel, Gabriel, delivered a message to Mary and told her that she would become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God. How could this be? She was a virgin. Her response: "I am the Lord's servant" (v. 38). She had a lot at stake when she told God she was willing to carry the Christ-child. She was just a young girl.  She risked her engagement, her reputation, and even her life; but, she humbly accepted God's request. 
      Question: Can you imagine if Mary had said no?  Where would that leave us?

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      All Advent Posts: 

      Friday, December 5, 2014

      Flashback Friday: Advent - Week 2

      Here's this week's Flashback Friday where I dig up an old post. If you haven't seen it before, then it's new to you! These daily Advent readings help me set the proper tone for the Christmas season in my home. I hope you enjoy them as well! 

      Skill Level: Beginner
      Skills Attained: Telling the Christmas Story
      Supplies:
      • Wreath
      • Candles: 3 purple, 1 rose, 1 white
      • Bible
      • Jesse Tree Ornaments (or pictures)
      • Chocolate/Candy (optional)


      Last week we began the celebration of Advent! I did some additional reading about Advent this week and found out that each week represents something different. The first week of Advent symbolizes "prophesy" where we remember those that foretold the coming of Jesus. This week, the second week, represents "love". So each day you light two purple candles, reflect on the fact that God loves you so much, and He expressed this love by sending His one and only Son to this world for you. 

      Christmas Question of the Week


      Each week, I will attempt to answer a question about why we celebrate a particular Christmas tradition. I don't intend to answer all of the questions in my posts over the next few weeks, but I do hope to answer a few of the questions.

      Why do we hang Christmas wreaths? 


      Throughout history, the wreath has been a part of various traditions, cultures, and governments. This circular object has no beginning and no end, which oftentimes represents eternity. In the context of Christmas from a Christian's perspective, the wreath symbolizes the continuous love of God found in Christ.

      God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to earth in order to make a way for us to be with Him. Without Jesus, God's holiness is too powerful for our imperfection to be in His presence. So, Jesus had to come as a man to live a perfect life and die a sacrificial death on our behalf in order to make a way for us to be with God. Through belief in Jesus, God no longer sees our deficiencies but Christ's purity.

      So each time I see a wreath hanging on a door or in a store this Christmas season, I will be reminded of God's never-ending, always and forever love. 

      Advent Week 2 Daily Devotional


      Each day throughout Advent, my family will take a few minutes to read a passage from the Bible and talk about what it means. During this time, we will light our Advent "wreath". During the second week,  two purple candles will be lit each day during this time. The schedule below details the daily passage as well as a short description and application question. Most of this is based upon the Jesse Tree, which includes a clear, succinct overview of Jesus's ancestry and life in the Bible. Even if you don't have Jesse Tree ornaments, you can use pictures or different items around your house to represent the symbol for the day. No matter your age, I hope you glean something from these readings. 

      Day 8 (December 7th)



      Day 8: Coat of Many Colors
      Symbol: Coat of Many Colors
      Scripture: Genesis 37
      Explanation:  Last week we learned about Abraham's son, Jacob. Today we read about Jacob's sons; one in particular: Joseph. Jacob loved his sons very much, but he loved Joseph the most. He gave Joseph an ornate, colorful robe because he loved him so much. This made Joseph's brothers very jealous, and they plotted to get rid of him. They sold Joseph as a slave and destroyed his beautiful robe. Joseph may have felt hopeless and abandoned at this point in his life. Can you believe that God used that awful situation for His glory? There is a reason Joseph was sold into slavery; God needed him in Egypt!
      Question: Do you believe God can use bad situations for good? Think of a difficult time in your life that you can look back on now and realize something good came from it. 

      Day 9 (December 8th)



      Day 9: Burning Bush
      Symbol: Burning Bush
      Scripture: Exodus 2:1 - 4:20
      Explanation:  After Joseph was reunited with his family, they stayed in Egypt, but generations later, his family (the Israelites) became slaves in the land. The Israelites cried out to God for help, and He answered! God used an unassuming man named Moses to free the Israelites from the pharaoh's rule. God spoke to Moses  through a burning bush. He told Moses to go to the pharaoh and demand freedom for the Israelites so that they may worship Him. After fervent petitioning, the pharaoh reluctantly released God's people. 
      Question:  Was there a time in your life that you called out to God for help? Did he answer you?

      Day 10 (December 9th)



      Day 10: Lamb
      Symbol: Lamb
      Scripture: Exodus 12 - 14
      Explanation:  Before the Israelites left Egypt, God instructed the people of Israel to slaughter a lamb for each household and put its blood on the door frames of their homes. That night God would go through Egypt and kill the first born male -- of animals and of men -- in the households as a judgement on Egypt for the mistreatment of God's people. The blood on the door frames was a sign to God to "pass over" the Israelites' homes. God protected His people and safely led them out of Egypt. 
      Question:  When was there a time in your life that you felt God's protection? 

      Day 11 (December 10th)



      Day 11: Ten Commandments
      Symbol: Ten Commandments
      Scripture: Exodus 20
      Explanation:  The Israelites were free from slavery in Egypt, but they still weren't satisfied. They were dirty, tired, and hungry. They thought their ways were better than God's ways, and their trust in God was fading. God wanted the Israelites to know Him and trust Him. One way to know God more is to live like God. So, God gave us a set of rules, or commandments, so that we can live more like Him and show others what God is like. God calls us to first love Him more than anything else. If we seek Him first with our whole heart, then everything else in life falls into place. [Matthew 6:33] This set of rules is a tall order to fill. We could not abide by this list if we tried with all of our might. That is why Jesus is necessary; only He can follow these rules perfectly. 
      Question:  Can you think of a time you bent your own rules to get what you thought you needed?  Were you satisfied with the result?

      Day 12 (December 11th)


      Day 12: Trumpet
      Symbol: Trumpet
      Scripture: Joshua 6:1-20
      Explanation:  Moses led the Israelites for many years, but after his death, God put Joshua in charge of His people. They were tired of wandering in the desert and were ready to reach their new home. However, the city of Jericho was between them and the promise land. God had a plan for the Israelites to defeat this fortress of a city, but it wasn't by conventional means. God instructed the people of Israel to walk around the city once a day for six days and have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns. On the seventh day, He told them to march around the city seven times and then the priests should blow their trumpets. After the trumpets sound, all the people should shout at the top of their lungs! Then, the wall will come tumbling down. That is what they did, and that is what happened. God delivered on his promise; the Israelites captured the city of Jericho; and they entered into the promise land. 
      Question:  Has God ever asked you to do something completely unconventional?  Did you follow his instruction?  

      Day 13 (December 12th)


      Day 13: Sheaves of Grain
      Symbol: Sheaves of Grain
      Scripture: Ruth 2:1-9
      Explanation:  Naomi and Ruth formed a special bond as mother and daughter-in-law. Naomi lost her sons, one of which was Ruth's husband. So, now they were both widowed, and their future seemed bleak. God had another plan for their lives. Ruth met a kind landowner, Boaz, while she was gleaning sheaves of grain in the field. Ruth immediately found favor in the eyes of Boaz, and they eventually married. This brought joy to Naomi, and this confirmed God's faithfulness to her. The family line continued on to the birth of Christ through Boaz and Ruth. 
      Question:  Have you experienced a time in your life when you thought all hope was lost? What did you turn to in that situation?  


      Day 14 (December 13th)



      Day 14: Crown
      Symbol: Crown
      Scripture: 1 Samuel 9:15 - 10:9
      Explanation:  God's people, the Israelites, finally had their new home in the promise land, but they were still discontent. Now, they wanted a leader, a king. Samuel had been a judge over Israel, but that wasn't good enough for God's people. So, God told Samuel to anoint Saul as the king of Israel. Although God's people got what they asked for, their leader, Saul, still failed them. There is only one who will never fail, and his name is Jesus. 
      Question:  Have you ever put your hope in a leader who failed you?  Why did they fail you?



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      All Advent Posts: 

      Thursday, December 4, 2014

      Removing Wax Stains

      Skill Level: Beginner
      Skills Attained: Removing Wax Stains
      Supplies: 
      • Iron
      • Paper Bag (or Craft Paper)
      • Butter Knife
      • Carpet Cleaner or Carpet Stain Remover & Brush

      When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! That is the essence of this post where I will show you how to remove a wax stain. My mischievous three year old son decided he needed to climb a bookshelf to blow out a candle. Needless to say, the bookshelf toppled over (thankfully not hurting my children) resulting in a broken tea set as well as green wax on my carpet and furniture. So, I'm turning this unfortunate situation into a learning experience for us all. Let's hope you don't have this problem on your hands in the future, but if you do, you'll now be prepared! 

      Here's a picture of the disaster area and the problem at hand. 



      Before diving into this task, let the wax harden. Then, take a butter knife and try to scrape off any large pieces of wax. 

       

      Heat the iron and lay the paper bag over the spot. Rub the hot iron over the spot on top of the paper bag. This is a bit labor intensive. I spent about 20 or 30 minutes on this step. DO NOT lay the hot iron directly on the wax. You will only make matters worse and ruin your iron. I also tried using a rag rather than the paper bag. The paper bag worked much, MUCH better than the cloth, because the bag was able to absorb more of the oils from the wax. 


      Depending on the color of carpet and wax, you may not need to do additional cleaning. I wasn't able to get the entire stain out using this method. So, I took a carpet cleaner to the area, and the stain is completely gone! 



      Have you ever had to remove wax stains? Any other tips worth trying?