Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome Spring!

Lord, You know how I love spring!
And You are the One who made springtime ...
each year spring faithfully comes.
After a cold, barren winter, there is always spring.
Always faithful. Always new.
Always fresh and life-giving.
We can always count on spring.

Beautiful spring ...

A picture of how we can always count on Your love ...
Always faithful. Always new.
Always fresh and life-giving.
New every morning.
We can always count on Your love.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

I do love all the seasons, and maybe of the four, I love SPRING the most! So much new life, new inspiration, new beauty ...

Are you looking for some inspiration for gardening?
Here are a few links that I came across recently -
inspiration for planting this spring ...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Way to Grow Close

It seems that most of what we long for is connected to relationship. And it seems that we are created with this longing for relationship. For a connecting deeply. For sharing our hearts with another. For being heard, loved, and understood. And also, for having someone to love.

We are made for relationship.

Sometimes this privilege of relationship comes easily; sometimes we must learn how to grow into it. Sometimes we need to give special effort to cause it to happen. 

And maybe ... this longing for relationship begins first of all with - relationship with our Creator, the One who created us for relationship.

Shelly Miller says in her book Rhythms of Rest, that "the way of faith isn't a formula to follow but an intimate relationship of meaningful conversation."

Conversation, meaningful conversation, intimate connection. 

It's how we get to know someone. 

The key is getting to know someone. And getting to know God, first of all ...

O God, You are my God;
I earnestly search for You.
My soul thirsts for You;
my whole body longs for You
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

A longing, a desire to know God. 

It starts with a desire to know God, and a longing for time spent with Him; time spent reading His Words (His gift to us - His own words, written and recorded for us to hold in our hands and read). Giving our time to listen to His Words, and to respond to His Words ... journaling our thoughts, communicating with Him about what He has written to us, listening to His heart. Getting to know who He is, and what He is like. 

Isn't this how we come to know another? We make a conscious effort to get to know someone. We spend time together, asking questions and listening to their answers. Paying close attention, spending focused time together.

Time together, listening to His Words.

Real communication involves real listening. For me, this listening part of conversation often takes on the form of journaling. I read His Words, and often I respond by writing out His Words in my journal. Listening, thinking on each word, for sometimes we can miss the meaning if we read too quickly. Just as when I am with my husband or a dear loved family member -  and I desire to pay careful attention to each and every word when this loved one is sharing their heart. I don't want to miss anything. I long to hear it all, to hear the heartbeat behind the words. I want to memorize the words, and hold them close - for they reveal the heart of the one I love.

And then with deep, intimate conversation, there is a sharing of our heart in response; after the listening, there is a sharing.

Again, for me - this often happens in my journal. I write out my response. I can speak it, of course, and I often do ... but as written words are a key form of expression for my thoughts, I will write out my response. Sharing my heart in response to His. 

God speaks to us in His Word,
and we respond in prayer,
entering into the divine conversation,
into communion with God.

Every day - a listening, and a responding.

A continuous communication, a sharing of hearts. And sometimes, an extended time set apart for deeper, uninterrupted listening and responding. A date, a day off, a weekly Sabbath day - set apart for the One we love the most. The One who is the Bread of Life; the One who fills up our deepest needs with His Love.

And along the way, as we spend valued, intimate time together, we will find that we are growing and becoming closer to Him than we even imagined. And those around us are drawn to Him as we reflect a sweet fragrance of His love to a dark and needy world. 

(Source for this beautiful free photo)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Menu: Italian Spaghetti Bake Dinner

I've shared this main dish recipe before on my blog (click here), but thought it would be fun to post it again, together with the menu I chose for a recent Family Meal here at our home. It was a joy to have most of our family who lives nearby over for a Saturday lunch at the end of February. 

Italian Spaghetti Bake
Fresh Salad and Dressings
Cheese Garlic Bread
Strawberry Cream Dessert
Chocolate Meringue Pie

Italian Spaghetti Bake

This recipe for Italian Spaghetti Bake makes two 9x13 pans, perfect for our meal together ...

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

Italian Spaghetti Bake

Course: Main/Beef
  • 2 packages spaghetti one 16 ounce, one 8 ounce package
  • 1-12 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large green pepper chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cans tomato sauce 15 ounces each
  • 1 package sliced pepperoni 8 ounces
  • 1 can mushroom stems and pieces 8 ounces, drained
  • 1 can ripe olives, sliced 3.8 ounces, drained OPT
  • 12 teaspoon dried basil
  • 12 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 14 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 14 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese 16 ounces, shredded
  • 12 cup Grated Parmesan cheese grated
  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook the beef, green pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives and seasonings. Drain spaghetti.
  2. Spoon 1 cup meat mixture into each of two greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes. Layer with spaghetti and remaining meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses.
  3. Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Bake the remaining casserole, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
  4. To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Yield: 2 casseroles (8 servings each).
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An easy dish to prepare, and if you don't need both pans for your meal, you can freeze one to bake later. (Note: I also often leave off the mushrooms and the olives, just a family preference.)

Fresh Salad and Dressings

I also prepared a simple large salad ... mixing some romaine lettuce with a purchased package of mixed salad greens, and adding chopped cucumbers, and tomatoes, and a bit of shredded cheese.

Cheese Garlic Bread

Some type of bread is always good with a spaghetti dish, and I chose this recipe that I have used many times over the years. It had been awhile since I had made it, so it was a treat to have it again. We always love this recipe ...

Cheese Garlic Bread

Course: Breads/Rolls
  • 12 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • garlic powder
  1. Combine the melted butter and the Parmesan cheese.
  2. Spread on both sides of 12 1-inch slices of French bread.
  3. Sprinkle bread on both sides with garlic powder.
  4. Place on baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, turning once.
  5. NOTE: I double this recipe for a long loaf of French bread from the bakery - it yields about 24-30 slices.
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As we were celebrating two significant occasions, I decided to make two desserts ... a refreshing creamy strawberry dessert, and another dessert with chocolate, especially for my hubby who is a chocolate-lover.

Strawberry Cream Dessert

Strawberry Cream Dessert

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Such a treat to enjoy a sweet time with our family around the table ... and then, also fun for me to share this menu with you!

Linking up with I'm Lovin' It!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Reflections on February: Thankfulness, a Trip to Florida, Reminders, and Good Books

I've come to look forward to this monthly post - taking time to look back at the past month, while also anticipating all that the new month will bring. Just a rambling little post sharing my thoughts ...

February held memories of God's faithful love
 and His comfort and help during hard times ...

Don't be afraid, for I am with you.
Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you,
I will hold you up by My victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

Fifteen years ago, in February, my dear husband was in a life-threatening accident. We took time as a family last month to celebrate 15 years, and to thank God for the healing that He brought, and for His strength and love that carried us through those very difficult months. I am so very, very thankful!

And one year ago, last February, my husband very unexpectedly experienced a stroke. Though it was mild, with no serious lasting affects, he went through many tests to try to find the cause. This resulted in two outpatient heart procedures that were done. How we thank God for His care during those days, weeks, and months a year ago. And how I thank God for my dear husband.

February gave us a trip to warm, sunny Florida ...

Each year at this time my husband and I fly to Orlando for a Cru leadership conference. We greatly enjoy our time with other staff during the 4-day conference, and then we also always stay on a few more days, just the two of us. We just cannot fly to Florida without spending some time together on the coast. This is one of several digital scrapbook pages capturing the wonderful memories of our time together in Florida ...

February offered opportunities to learn and grow ... 

I'm thankful for God's reminders of what is most important. The image above (one that I shared from incourage on Instagram) holds deep meaning for me. It seems I need to be continually reminded where to go first. To the Bread of Life. Though it is helpful to me and encouraging for me to read multiple authors and bloggers, it is always of most importance for me to go to His Word first. For He is the Bread of Life, where we find nourishment for the deepest places of our heart. 

It was also a joy for me to focus on memorizing a passage of verses. It had been awhile since I had taken time for that, and I was so blessed (through the encouragement of a friend) to focus on memorizing again during February. Memorizing is not easy for me! But it was a joy to think on the words of Ephesians 1:3-14 ... "So we praise God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes." (vs 3-4)

February was a month for some good books ...

I finished two amazing books in February! Always a treat to have time to read, and especially so, when you find some unforgettable books to read. I finished two of those types of books the last week of February ...

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. I started out reading this book very slowly, as it is so very thought-provoking. I took a lot of notes on my "Notes" app on my laptop, wanting to remember the thoughts that impacted me the most. Later on, I read more quickly, and am so thankful I kept on to the last chapter, for it was one of my favorite parts of the book! I'll be quoting from this amazing book many times as I write in the future. "There's brokenness that makes a canvas for God's light. There's brokenness that makes windows straight into souls. Brokenness happens in a soul so the power of God can happen in a soul."

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. My favorite type of fiction to read is historical fiction. This book was recommended by a blogger who has great recommendations of historical fiction books. It was captivating, and also enlightening, giving a deeper glimpse into the life of slavery a few decades before the Civil War. It was also very sad, heart-breaking, and intense, but so good. I now will want to read the sequel, Glory over Everything, as well.                                                                                                                                                I read this book on my Kindle (a gift from my husband for my birthday last fall). If you watch the Kindle sales on Amazon, you can get some really good deals. I purchased both of these books by Kathleen Grissom for just a dollar or two each. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There are many more things I could write about the wonderful month of February, of sweet times with family and friends, but now I must stop ... and enter into living my days during this new month of March! Watching for God's gifts, and seeking to live in the moment.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Two Creamy Desserts: Strawberry Cream Dessert / Chocolate Meringue Pie

Two refreshing, creamy desserts ... good for Valentine's time, spring, summer, or anytime of year! I served these at a Family Meal on Feb. 25th, celebrating a sweet daughter's birthday, and celebrating a 15-year anniversary of my husband's recovery from a terrible accident. 

I had not made this Strawberry Cream Dessert for many years; so long ago that it felt like a new recipe to me! I don't know why I waited so long - it is so very delicious. It seems that you could also substitute any flavor of gelatin and yoghurt in the recipe, and it would still be good. Lime, lemon, raspberry, even peach would be good - depending on the occasion, season of year, and your choice of flavor and color!

(To print recipe, click on the source link below.)

Strawberry Cream Dessert

Course: Desserts
  • 2-14 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 36 squares)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 cartons (one 16 ounces one 8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • 1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
  • 12 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) strawberry yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
  • 1-12 teaspoons sugar
  • 1-12 teaspoons butter melted
  1. In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. dish. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Stir in 1 cup whipped topping. Spread over the prepared crust.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in yogurt and 6 cups of whipped topping until blended. Pour over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Spread remaining whipped topping over strawberry layer. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over whipped topping. Yield: 12-15 servings.
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It was fun to serve two desserts at our recent Family Meal! The Strawberry Cream Dessert recipe caught my attention to make first, and then I knew that I needed to include something chocolate for my husband. And he loved this pie!

My husband is a chocolate lover, and particularly a dark chocolate lover. And I was very pleased that this pie passed the test - he said that it tasted like dark chocolate. So thankful I could make him a pie that he loved, and so thankful that we could celebrate 15 years from when he was injured in a life-threatening accident!

(To print recipe, click on the source link below.)

Chocolate Meringue Pie

Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 45 min
Yield: 8 servings
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 large egg yolks beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pie shell (9 inches) baked
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 14 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  1. In a saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt; gradually add milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir about 1 cup of the hot filling into the egg yolks. Return to saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook and stir 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Pour hot filling into pie crust.
  4. For meringue, immediately beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until stiff and glossy.
  5. Spread evenly over hot filling, sealing meringue to pie crust.
  6. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until golden.
  7. Yield: 8 servings.
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NOTE: Next time I make this pie recipe, I will double the ingredients in the recipe for the meringue. I think it needed more meringue - maybe I would even triple the meringue ingredients!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Digital Scrapbooking: Feb. 2017

Preserving memories in digital scrapbook form is a fun hobby for me. It's always a treat when I can take some time here and there throughout the month to gather photos together that are on my laptop, and put them together into a digital page of memories. A record of God's gifts to us, and of the story He is writing in our lives. Here are a few of the pages that I created during the month of February ...

The page above holds memories of one of our sweet daughter's birthdays, and also from Valentine's Day ...

I created this page to honor my hubby as we celebrated 15 years from when he was in a horrible accident - so good to pause, and to thank God for how He carried us through that very scary, difficult time.

This past December was too full for scrapbooking, so I am slowly catching up - here's one of my favorite pages from our Family Christmas 2016.

Note: Most of the page templates and digital products that I use are purchased from Digital Project Life. About five years I switched from paper scrapbooking, and took some online lessons from Digital Scrapper to learn how to digital scrapbook using Photoshop Elements. (You can also click here for some great tutorials on the Digital Project Life website - maybe a quicker way to learn than the site that I used five years ago.) Also, besides being able to share my completed pages online, I also print them out at home in 8x8 inch size to fit in the albums that I purchase from Michael's.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On Valentine's Day: What is Love?

What is love? 
How do you define what love is?

It can be portrayed in a thousand different ways. It can take on a vast variety of hues, scents, and colors. Of shapes, sizes, and forms. And if given and received during each day of each year, and of each decade and millennium, would it ever run out?

It existed with the first man and woman, the first parent and child ... and it still exists today. With husbands and wives, with parent and with child, with friends of all ages. 

There is no end to love

"God is love, 
and all who live in love live in God, 
and God lives in them."
(I John 4:16)

The love that we have, is not our own. It is a gift from the One who is love.

And it is not ours to hold onto, but to give away.

As He did - giving His own beloved Son - the ultimate sacrifice of love.

And we, in turn, become a sacrifice of love to those around us.

"The art of giving is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made enough love to give." (Ann Voskamp)

"Give away your life;
you'll find life given back,
but not merely given back -
given back with bonus and blessing.
Giving, not getting, is the way."
(Luke 6:38 MSG)

The beautiful cycle of love ... let ourselves be loved by Him, then give away our own life in love to others. It's easy to focus on receiving love from others, but how much better to focus on being loved by the One who is Himself love, and then on loving others from the overflow of this love.

Happy Valentine's Day!

We love each other, 
because He loved us first.
(I John 4:19)