Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Greatest Gift


How can it be - the Greatest Gift of all, beyond what we could even wish for ...

Immanuel - God with us

In the midst of our pain, and our hurting world, with broken dreams, and hearts full of the deepest of hurts. We have the greatest gift of all ... "God with us". When we walk through the darkest of times, we are held. We are carried, and we are loved.

As my hubby and I have been consumed the past seven weeks with caring for my 93 year-old father who has been in great need of our help. As he has gone from his independent living apartment at a retirement community, to the hospital, and then to the Health Center (nursing home) level at that same retirement community. As he has been confused and even upset, humiliated by his loss of some basic functions of life. As we patiently help him and encourage him day after day after day. As we communicate with family a distance away, family who would love to be here, who help from afar with love and encouragement for our father, also for us.

As we walk through this heart-breaking journey with one that we love, we realize even more than before, what a treasure we have. Our Greatest Gift is God with us.

And this Greatest Gift of all - God with us - this is how we are loved. There is no line between us and our Creator Father. There is no pain that He does not feel, no tear that He does not see. And He has set His own Spirit within us, to hold us - in our joys, and also, in our times of deepest need.

"God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need. God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the Greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet." (The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp)

In the midst of our going back-and-forth to visit my father, and keeping up with a multitude of responsibilities with home and ministry, and in all the preparations for our Family Christmas with all of our family home ... we are held by the Greatest Gift. We are held by Jesus. And I am so blessed each day by reading through Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift, daily readings through this Advent season. 

Would you please pray for my father, one who has given his life as a missionary in the land of Japan? That he would be able to rest, and to be held by God's love and peace during this difficult journey that he is on? He is often tired and confused, and needs our prayers to hold him up.
Whatever our situation, 
whatever comes our way in life ... 
we always have God with us
The Greatest Gift.

For more posts on this topic:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Place of Nourishment


Praying that you were nourished today, in every way. 
With a feast of food, good for the body.
With conversation that feeds the soul.
And with love that causes the heart to overflow.

Wishing you many sacred moments with family during this Thanksgiving weekend, and in the coming Christmas season. Taking time from the busyness of life for what matters the most, spending time with those we love.

When the table is full, heavy with platters,
wine glasses scattered,
napkins twisted and crumpled, forks askew,
dessert plates scattered with crumbs and icing,
candles burning down low -
it's in those moments that I feel 
a deep sense of God's presence and happiness.
(Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine)


Happy Thanksgiving!


Note: Special credit for the photo above - a brand new blog that opened up a month ago, Grace Table. Three times a week - thoughts on true hospitality, the sharing of heart and home, reflecting Jesus to those around us. You will be blessed by visiting, and joining in the conversation at Grace Table. I will be returning there often to listen and to be encouraged in hospitality ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Oatmeal Muffins


I love these muffins. And I especially love it that my hubby often makes them! He likes to have a nutritious breakfast, and often mixes up something early in the morning. A practice started in the days when I did not feel well for most of the months of each of my six pregnancies. Even now, in our empty nest years, my sweet hubby likes to make breakfast food. I am blessed.

These freeze well. But they won't last long. They are nutritious and they are good; easy to grab for breakfast.


Print Recipe

Oatmeal Muffins

Course: Breakfast
Serves: 24

Ingredients

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2/3 cup honey (or fructose)
  • 3 cups oats, old-fashioned
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup dates chopped
  • 1 cup nuts chopped
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Beat eggs. Add liquid ingredients; mix well.
  2. Add dry ingredients except nuts and fruit; mix well.
  3. Add nuts and fruit. Stir thoroughly.
  4. Spoon into greased muffin tins.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

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This post has been almost ready to publish for weeks, and I am finally getting it up today! Our weeks have been extra busy as we have been helping with the needs of my 93 year-old father. Driving in again today to visit him, and to meet with the social worker at the Health Center, but getting this posted while I can still post this photo with the fall decor. December is coming very soon!

Enjoy your cooking and baking for your Thanksgiving feasts ...

Monday, November 17, 2014

In the Kitchen


Menu planning has always been important to me. Of course, it was a very necessary thing when our six children were still at home. And I am finding that it is also very important for me to make the effort to plan menus during our empty nest years. It is just too easy to put off the planning, and then to struggle with what to make when dinner time draws near. 

Just for fun ... here's a little peak into my kitchen. Not a peak ahead to the coming week, but a glance back to see what took place In the Kitchen last week. Sharing what was on the menu for last week ...

Soup Night
Cheesy Chicken Chowder (doubled - a large pot)
(served to guests one night, 
another night for just the two of us,
and a meal taken to my father another night)

Sat. Night Breakfast
Pancakes & Eggs (made by my hubby!)

Sunday Dinner
Meatloaf (doubled - some for the freezer)

Lunches
Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwiches
Ham & Cheese on Flat Bread
Hashbrown & Egg Dish

Bread
Herb Bread (from this amazing cookbook,
just for bread machines)

Desserts
Pumpkin Squares (from the freezer)

It was a quieter week in my kitchen - there were several meals of fast food as we made multiple trips to help out with my father in the Health Center, and we also enjoyed a special meal out together for our Friday Date Night. I also took some time over the weekend to start on menu planning for the next six weeks, taking us through the busy and wonderful holiday season.

What have you been creating in your kitchen?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Quietness and in Trust


Quietness and Trust ...

Do these words go hand-in-hand? Do we need quietness in order to live a life of trust

I don't mean the kind of quietness that is associated with being quiet, as is a trait to some degree of those who have an introvert personality. In contrast to being an extrovert. For even an introvert, as myself, can live in a state of unrest, quite the opposite of what is implied by quietness

Quietness - a reference to the state of our hearts and our minds. 

In this age of busy, and hurry, of instant information and communication at our fingertips all through the day, where can we find the peace and the rest that we long for, and that we are made for?

In quietness and in trust
shall be your strength.
(Isaiah 30:15)

Maybe for each of us the journey to this place of rest and trust will be different. But for all of us, it surely calls for finding a way to periodically and regularly pull ourselves away from the noise and busyness of our lives. Pulling ourselves away long enough so that we can hear and connect to the heart of God.

It may be in the quiet of our home, or an hour or two at a coffee shop, or time spent outdoors in the beauty of creation, or even while driving in the car. Whatever it is that feeds our souls, wherever we are - it's a pulling away, and a quieting of our hearts and our minds. To listen, and to communicate. 

Just as Jesus did, when he often went off by Himself to pray. In need of perspective, in need of time with His Father. He needed to spend time away from the crowds and the never-ending demands on His time.

Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him.
(Psalm 37:7)

This may look different in the changing seasons of our lives. When our six children were young, time for quiet was scarce, and I learned to retreat during nap time. Always a thousand things that needed to be done, and it was a conscious effort to leave my to-do list. But it was so worth it to retreat. For that time, though short, helped fill my heart and soul with the peace, trust, and strength that I needed.

And now in our empty nest season of life, when life certainly is not empty but somehow feels very full ... finding times to pause do not take quite as much of an effort. But it still calls for a continual effort, a choosing to set aside our work and our responsibilities to pay attention to the most important. 

Two summers ago my hubby and I made the choice to pull away from our work each week for an extra, undivided time of quiet. A few hours one afternoon of each week. It all began that first day of May in 2012, the first day of our wonderful three-month Sabbatical/vacation - and we wanted to make that first day of our three months count. We wanted God's perspective and direction for how we would spend the days and weeks ahead. 

That first afternoon of pulling away to a quiet place has turned into over two years now, of leaving our work and responsibilities one afternoon each week and finding a place of rest and quiet. Pushing the pause button on life - to be still, and to listen to His Words, to journal, to gain His perspective.

The photos in this post are from one of those afternoons last month. It was a gorgeous fall day - the sounds of the fountain and the geese wandering through the park, and the warmth of the sun - all filled up our senses. And the words that we each read while sitting in our lounge chairs by water's edge gave us peace and rest. We were filled up and strengthened. The stresses and unrest that sometimes creep into our lives were replaced by a spirit of quietness and trust.

Life is full of unknowns, of the things that can bring worry and pain, of responsibilities and opportunities that can overwhelm us - and we are always in need. Of peace, of strength, of Him. Even as we left the park that afternoon last month and headed back to our vehicle, we received an emergency phone call, and we were needed to help in a desperate situation. How thankful we were that we were at peace, and we were strengthened. 

In quietness and in trust
shall be your strength.


For more posts on things of most importance in the season of life I am in, and also, in all the seasons of life:
Heart Focus

Linking up with:
Tell His Story
Coffee for Your Heart
Spiritual Whitespace

Friday, November 7, 2014

Always, Never Stop, and Be Thankful



Such familiar words ... and sometimes it is the familiar words that all of a sudden reach out to us from the pages of God's Word and grab our hearts in a new and fresh way. 

It has been a rough three weeks as we are caring for my 93 year-old father. He went from an independent living apartment at a retirement community to the hospital and now to the health center/nursing home level (for at least a month) at the same retirement community where he has lived for the past eight years. It has been a difficult ride for him, and for us as family. Lots of things to be thankful for along the way, but it has been extremely emotional and exhausting for all involved.

Last night it was these words that grabbed my heart in a new, fresh way ...

Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.
(I Thess. 5:16-18)

Even in trials and hard times? Even when our emotional and physical energies are depleted and drained? Even when we do not know what is ahead?

Especially in times of trial ...
in all circumstances.

Appreciate prayers for my hubby and me ... to Always, Never Stop, and to Be Thankful. And especially for my father that he will be given grace for the same.

For more posts on this topic:

Linking up with:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Welcome November


A new week and a new day. 
And the first week day of a new month. 
And I am starting off these fresh gifts of 'new', in need. 
In great need. Of You, Lord.

October is past. It was a glorious month. And it was a month where emotional and physical energy was stretched almost beyond it's limits. It was a month of our restful, refreshing trip to Colorado Springs, of life-giving weekly Devo Days with my hubby, of the gorgeous brilliant colors of fall that fill up our souls. And it was a month of transition as now a third (grown) child lives states away from us, of emotional grieving as my 93 year-old father faced new trauma and as he went from independent living apartment to hospital to health center nursing home (maybe for a short time, maybe longer) and we became acting Power of Attorney. It was a good month, and it was a hard month.

November is here. It will also be filled with the good and the hard. For God's good gifts are all around us, even in the midst of trial and pain. He promises to be all that we need. And I am thankful. And in the midst of a full life and a full month and as the holidays draw closer, when things can get stressful and our energies can become depleted, this is my prayer ...


May I live each day in the moment,
not governed by to-do-lists,
tasks to be completed

But may my days and my moments
be lived in the present,
fully focused on You, following You


And my God will meet
all your needs
according to His glorious riches
in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

What does this new month of November bring with it for you? May it be filled with His Love and His Presence. Each day and each moment ...