Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Light for the New Year



This new year calls to us to enter fully, though we have no way of knowing what this new year will bring. We have no way of even knowing what the next day will bring. It can bring blessing, or it can bring hardship. It can bring joy, or it can bring pain.


How in the world do we walk into each year, 
even into each day, not knowing. 


We can make our plans, but ultimately we do not know what each day will bring. But we have been told of the source of what we need, of what we need to make it through this year, and through each day. We have been told what we need in order to navigate through each new year, through each new day.


We have been given a LIGHT to show us the way.


The WORD gave life to everything
that was created,
and His life brought LIGHT
to everyone.
The LIGHT shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can 
never extinguish it.

(John 1:4-5)


Because of the WORD, because of Jesus, we have LIGHT. When it may seem that all is hopeless, when the darkness threatens us ... there is still LIGHT.

Everyday, and even throughout the day, we need to run to the source of LIGHT, for He shows us the way through His Words. For He is the Word, and He is Light. 

There is no other way to walk; 
we need the LIGHT to guide us. 

Let's make this year a year when we walk in the LIGHT, 
and when we spend time reading His WORD.

"Joshua prayed God-sized prayers because he had great faith. He knew the greatness of his God. To pray God-sized prayers, we must increase our faith. We must be in God's Word." (FIRST 5, Wendy Blight)




Sharing some of my thoughts at the beginning of this new year, as I am reading through the book of Joshua (with First 5), and through the book of John (as the church we are part of will be spending a majority of this year in this amazing book).

Thank You, Lord, for being our Light in the darkness, and that You are the Word. And Thank You for Your Word to light our path this new year, and each new day. 

(Photo from Pixabay.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Planners 2017


Though I love planning, and love planners, I am actually a bit hesitant to post about this topic, as I don't mean to imply by my sharing, that the way I do my planning is the way for everyone. For we are all different in what works for us. But, as I am occasionally asked about my system of planning, and as I love to share about it, I am writing this post! I hope it will be an encouragement to you.


The basics of my planning have remained the same for many years, but the actual planners that I use have changed over the years. For me, I like to find planners that are beautiful, as well as practical. After all, if we are going to use them all year long - and every day - they should bring us a sense of rest and joy as we use them! 

In the photo above, you see my planner choices for this year:

The bright-colored Simplified Planner on the bottom of my pile is my daily planner. Yes, I do pay more than I would like to for this daily planner, but I use it every single day

The soft blue notebook is my daily journal, where I record my thoughts and prayers as I spend time with God each day. It's not really a planner, but yet, it forms the basis for all my thoughts and my planning. I don't know what I would do without a journal to record my thoughts and prayers. Writing is how I process what I learn from God's Word, what I learn through prayer, and what I learn from others through books, speakers, and in real life. It is how I connect deeply with God. I usually fill up about 5-6 or more of these journals each year.

The lovely white notebook is new to me this year. Though the Simplified Planner holds daily pages, this notebook holds my monthly, and weekly goals and desires. I was delighted to find this Recollections binder (Metallic Ivory design) at Michael's. And especially delighted to find it on a great sale day! This binder has multiple add-ons that can be purchased: various kinds of planner pages, stickers, etc.

And on the top of my planner pile is my iPhone, which I use in a variety of ways to keep track of projects, lists, etc. I use the "Notes" app for keeping track of a lot of things, such as: a running list of books that I hear recommendations about, gift lists, medical info, home maintenance records, and much more. (This "Notes" app on my iPhone syncs automatically with "Notes" on my laptop, which makes it very easy to use, and print things out from, as well.)


The two notebooks above are my mainstay for keeping myself on target with my priorities, goals, and desires - the things that are important in caring for family, home, ministry, and personal projects. Aren't they beautiful? I am so thankful and blessed to have these notebooks that bring me joy as I use them, and also, that are so very practical and useful.

My Planning Process ...


Monthly and Weekly Planning ...

The notebook above is where I keep track of my monthly and weekly planning. It also holds various records such as birthday and anniversary lists, a list of books I would love to read this calendar year, etc.


The first step for me is my monthly planning. 

A year ago I purchased a very helpful tool to use in determining which goals to pursue each year ... Lara Casey's Make It Happen Powersheets (intentional goal planning system). It was very eye-opening, and inspirational for me to go through the process of finding the ten top goals that were deepest on my heart for 2016. 

This calendar year I am using this same concept of discovering my ten top priorities and goals for the year. And I will be using the notebook above to keep track of them each month. I was quite pleased to find some add-on pages for this notebook  - pages that hold a list of 10 items (photo above)! Each month I'll list my 10 main goals for 2017 in abbreviated form (a word or two), and then list a few specific steps to help make these goals actually happen during that month.


The next step after the monthly planning, is the weekly planning

This is where I take from my plans for the month, and break them down into specific weeks of the month. The notebook has a two-page weekly spread for each week of the year. 

Instead of using the two-page weekly spread to write out what to do each day, I have chosen to use "wite-out" over the days of the week, and instead, use it to write down the goals and tasks that I wish to focus on during the week. Writing them down by category, instead of by days of the week.

The categories I am using are: First Love (God), My Honey, Family, Friends, Cru, Home/Desk, Home/Care, Personal Projects.

At the beginning of each week (usually on a Sunday evening), I will take some time to look over my monthly list of goals, and then fill in my two-page weekly spread with those things that I want to focus on during the coming week. Also adding other tasks and responsibilities to the weekly spread, as well.



Daily Planning ...


Next comes the final step ...  the daily planning.

This step is where it all happens, and this is where this beautiful Simplified Planner comes in! This planner for my daily planning is amazing - I love it! While I take time each weekend to think and pray through the weekly planning (in my white notebook), I take a bit of time each evening to fill in the priorities and to-do's for the following day in my Simplified Planner. There is one page for each day of the week (though Saturday and Sunday are on the same page). On the left side of the page is a place to write in appointments, and events. On the right side is the "to-do" list.

You can see that I have colored in the dots (six different colors) on the right side to correlate with priorities that I learned years ago from Linda Dillow's Priority Planner. I wrote a series on these priorities here on my blog a few years ago - you can read them by clicking here. (God, My Husband, Family, Home, Personal, Outside Ministry). 

Each evening I look over my weekly list of goals/tasks in my white notebook, and then enter the ones for the next day on the daily page in my Simplified Planner under the priority category where it goes.


- - - - - - -

These steps of planning may seem like quite a process. And I do spend a focused amount of time with it at the beginning of a new year. And also at the beginning of each month. But the time spent in the weekly planning, and also the daily planning is minimal. 

And, of course, it is something that I love doing - the process of writing things down takes burdens off my shoulders. It's something that I enjoy, and yes, something I love doing! So though this process may sound burdensome to some, it is a joy and a help to me. And it helps me keep on track with what is most important.


In summary, my planning process:

1) Time spent with God is the thing of most importance - listening, learning, following His leading as to what He wants me to focus on. Each day. From this connection with God, I seek to follow the priorities and plans that He has for me. 

2) Next come the monthly goals and priorities. If I do not keep these in front of me, then the busyness of life crowds out what is most important.

3) After the monthly goals, are the weekly goals/priorities. An important step in keeping on track with what is most important.

4) The last step is to write these priorities, tasks, events, etc. onto the daily pages of the Simplified Planner. This is the planner that stays open on my desk, or my kitchen counter throughout the day. I am thankful that I only see one day at a time, instead of having everything for the entire week in front of me. It keeps things simple, and focused. For the day. Encouraging me to live in the moment

Sometimes I don't even fill in very much for the day, just the main obvious things that actually must be done that day. I'll refrain from writing in too many other things, as a long list of things can sometimes make me feel pressured. But then, at the end of the day, I will fill in those "extra" things that God gave me time to do. These "extra" things are not always "tasks", or "to-do's", but are blessings of connections with family or friends, or even extra time for pursuing some personal projects of mine. 

So my Simplified Planner actually becomes a recorded memory of not only the happenings of the day, and the things accomplished during the day, but also a record of  living in the moment on any particular day. 

- - - - - - -

And finally, even though I love the planning process, we all know that life happens, and we need to hold all of our plans loosely. We are not in control of our days, of our moments - and we need to continually surrender our time and our plans to God. 

Though God continually teaches me that it is good to plan and to set goals in order to accomplish what is most important, He also reminds me over and over that it is very necessary for me to willingly release my plans for whatever He may have planned for me on any given day. 

This brings us back full circle to our main focus: spending time with God each day, communicating with Him throughout the day, and following His leading. Each day. Throughout the moments of each day.

- - - - - - -

Thanks for reading this long post - may it be an encouragement to you in your planning during this new year! 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Welcome 2017


It's been a quiet transition here. After a full and wonderful Christmas season, I've taken my time. Moving from one year to the next is cause for quiet moments, times of reflection, and pausing from the busyness. 

Time is such a fleeting thing ... we hold a moment in our hands, and then it silently slips into the past as quickly as it came. We find ourselves treasuring our photos and our written memories, holding onto the blessings and the gifts of each day. And also holding onto how God carries us through all our days, the days filled with heartaches as well as the days overflowing with joy.

And now it is time to pause, and to start over again ... a brand new year is here. It will pass as quickly as this last one. Maybe even more quickly, as that seems to be what is happening with each year. Each one speeding up, and we need to make more of an effort to live in the moment.

Welcome 2017!

I love the new calendars, new planners, all the fresh starts. It always brings me so much joy to pick out a planner - it needs to be beautiful, as well as practical. And one of my favorite times of the year is this time right now - the transitioning from one year to the next, pausing for reflection, and starting out into a new year. (I have a post coming up soon with a glimpse into my planner system for this coming year.)

And as much as I love to write down my dreams and aspirations, goals and plans for a new year, there is something very important that lays the groundwork for the coming year, something that actually becomes part of my dreaming and planning for a new year ...

For I am learning more deeply as the years go by, that the greatest gift is to live right now, right in the moment where I am, in the present. To treasure the moment, and to hold it close. Holding it loosely, not clenching our hands - but holding it close. Cherishing it. 

To fully enter into the moment, to give my full attention to it. To give my full attention to whatever I am working on. To give my undivided attention to whoever I am with. To engage fully, with an attentive heart and mind. 

This may not be my natural focus, as often my default is to focus on tasks and to-do lists - but it is my prayer and my desire. And it is a challenge in this fast-paced world to pause, and to focus on the present. By God's grace, I am learning ...

For it starts with centering our moments on God. On connecting with Him, moment by moment. Bringing everything to Him. Bringing Him into all our tasks, our to-do lists, asking for His direction and help. Talking with Him about everything, for He cares about everything. Listening to His heart, filling our minds and our hearts with His thoughts. Each day, throughout each day. Living in the moment. With Him. And from this oneness with Him, an overflowing, bubbling stream of His love and grace - spilling out to those around us.   

Each moment, a gift from Him.
Each moment, with Him.

May all our days of this new year
 be filled with moments
overflowing with His grace and His love.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Honey-Glazed Hens with Fruit Stuffing


Closing out the year 2016 with a recipe post! If you're looking for a festive, easy, and very delicious recipe for a special day, here is one: Honey-Glazed Hens with Fruit Stuffing! 

After our very wonderful, memorable Family Christmas on Sunday, Dec. 18, with 23 dear family members in our home, my hubby and I had a quiet Christmas Day on Sunday, Dec. 25 - just the two of us. We absolutely love both: our family home, filling our home with love and joy ... and also, a quiet house, just the two of us. 

I chose this recipe to serve on our quiet Christmas Day. It was the second time preparing this recipe, as I had made it several years ago. And it was even more special than I had remembered ... we loved it! (I halved the recipe, a perfect "dinner for two".)

This menu would be great for a variety of special holidays ... Christmas, New Years, a wedding anniversary, and for any "date night" ...

To print the recipe, click on the "Source" link below ...

Honey-Glazed Hens with Fruit Stuffing


Course: Main/Chicken
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 12 cup butter cubed
  • 14 cup chopped onion
  • 14 cup chopped celery
  • 4 cups cubed day-old bread
  • 12 cup dried fruit bits
  • 12 cup water
  • 18 teaspoon ground allspice
  • CORNISH HENS:
  • 4 Cornish game hens (20 to 24 ounces each)
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 18 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery; cook and stir until tender. Stir in the bread, fruit bits, water and allspice; cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
  2. Loosely stuff hens with stuffing. Tuck wings under hens; tie drumsticks together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Combine butter and honey; drizzle over hens.
  3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until a thermometer reads 180° for hens and 165° for stuffing, basting occasionally with pan drippings. Cover loosely with foil if hens brown too quickly. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 4 servings.

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The setting was perfect - we moved our little "cafe table" right close to the Christmas tree, and had Christmas music playing softly ... a relaxing, memorable time with the one I love most. I am so thankful for my dear hubby, and for another year that God has given us, together.

- - - - - - -

Thank you for visiting my little online home during this past year! It always gives me great joy when I have the time to write here, and also it gives me great joy when I meet up with someone (either in person or online) who has been blessed or encouraged by what I have shared here. 

Thank you for blessing me with your friendship!
And have a very memorable New Year's Eve today!


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


I love Christmas!

For a wife and mom and grama, it's a most busy time of the year. And it's also the most wonderful time of the year! There are gifts to buy (for me, for 20+ family members), there are goodies to bake, food to prepare, a house to clean, and most of all - a heart to prepare ... 


It is for the heart, that we need Him most of all ~
and it is for the heart
 that God gave us the Greatest Gift of all ...


Immanuel: God with us


Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call Him Immanuel,
which means 'God is with us!'
(Matt. 1:23)

- - - - - - -

Thank You for Your great GIFT to us - Immanuel: God with us! Not a gift that is far away, out of reach, but a Gift with us. You came to our messed up, dark world to be with us. With us as we live our days, with us through all the trials that are part of living in this world. With us as we serve and love those around us, as we prepare for a special Christmas with our families. With us as we become overwhelmed at times, as we are weak, as we are in need. You came - to be with us. Your Spirit within us. A Gift to our hearts. 

Thank You for forgiveness, for peace, for joy. For family and friends, for home and food, for health and all that we have. For love, for 23 precious family in our home, around our table, a week ago today when we celebrated our Family Christmas! All gifts from You ...

And the Greatest Gift - 
Immanuel: God with us!





Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake Squares


A very festive and very special Christmas treat that I have made for quite a few Christmases ... Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake Squares! The best of both chocolate, and cheesecake ... we love this recipe!

Click on the Source link below to print the recipe ...

Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake Squares


Course: Cookies & Snacks
Prep Time: 55 min
Cook Time: 35 min
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
Serves: 49

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 14 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 14 cup butter melted
  • FILLING:
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese softened
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 14 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 12 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • COATING:
  • 24 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 3 tablespoons shortening

Directions

  1. Line a 9-in.-square baking pan with foil and grease the foil. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, pecans and butter. Press into prepared pan; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and sour cream until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust. Bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Freeze overnight.
  3. In a microwave, melt chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly.
  4. Using foil, lift cheesecake out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut cheesecake into 1-1/4-in. squares. Work with a few pieces at a time for dipping; keep remaining squares refrigerated until ready to dip.
  5. Using a toothpick, completely dip squares, one at a time, in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Spoon additional chocolate over the tops if necessary to coat. (Reheat chocolate if needed to finish dipping.) Let stand for 20 minutes or until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Yield: 49 squares.
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Press graham cracker mixture into prepared pan.

Mix cream cheese mixture, pour into pan, and bake. Cool on rack; then freeze overnight.
Foil-lined pan in background is this recipe ...

After cutting into squares, dip into melted chocolate.



This recipe takes a bit of effort to make, but it is so worth it! Chocolate and Cheesecake - the perfect combination! 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday Brownie Bars


These brownie bars are super easy to make, so if you're looking for a fun quick Christmas treat to make this week, here's one! I made these last Christmas season for the first time (photo above), and I was not disappointed - they are festive-looking, and so delicious.

You can print the recipe by clicking on the Source link below ...

Snow-Topped Holiday Brownie Bars


Course: Cookies & Snacks
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Total Time: 35 min
Serves: 20

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg. 13 x 9 family-size chocolate brownie mix
  • 1 23 cups (10-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Holiday Morsels divided
  • 1 (12 oz.) container whipped fluffy white frosting
  • Flaked coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven, grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan and prepare brownie mix batter according to package directions.
  2. SPREAD batter into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup morsels.
  3. BAKE according to package bake times for 13 x 9-inch pan size. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
  4. SPREAD frosting over brownie. Sprinkle with remaining morsels and coconut, if desired. Cut into bars. Store covered in cool place.

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I made this brownie recipe again this Christmas season, but had trouble finding the Holiday Morsels, which is one of the ingredients that the recipe calls for. After looking several places without any success, I opted for buying Nestle's Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels (see photo below) - and I think that we maybe like this choice even better than the other that we used last year. Both make for a fun, and delicious brownie recipe during the holiday season!