Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Stepping into October

I love October!

There are things to love about every month of the year, and October is no exception. The colors, the scents, the crispness in the air ... all are so lovely. An in-between-month ... not too hot, not too cold. A beckoning call of the warmth of holiday times coming. 

And I love new beginnings ...

The start of a new month always holds a special place for me ... it signifies new beginnings, a fresh start. I love to turn over the calendar page to a brand new month, open up my Simplified Planner and fill in the events for the month, and even writing in the events and plans on the daily pages gives me a sense of joy.

But most of all, a new month signifies a refreshing of my heart, my mind, and my focus. The busyness of life catches up with us as we go through our weeks and our days, and it's always good to pull aside and refocus, bringing our hearts - and our priorities and plans - back to our sweet spot, close to where God is.

I am by nature a private person, filling my journals each year with prayers and things that God has been teaching me, but I also come alive when I can share my heart and my thoughts with others. And this is the place where I am at the beginning of this new month - feeling prompted by God to share with you what is on my mind and my heart at the start of this new month. 

Stepping into October ...

Words from God that are on my heart ... 

"Are you tired? Worn out?
Come to Me.
Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with Me and work with Me -
watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
(Matthew 11:28-30 Message)

These are some favorite verses of both my husband and me - and I think that they may need to be my theme for this coming month. It is so easy for me to slip into the mindset that things depend on me and my own efforts ... but they do not. I desire to focus on my part of walking with God each day, keeping company with Him ... and He is the one who will give rest, and accomplish what He desires in our home, family, and ministry (which is also the best for us).

I'm also appreciating reading through the book of Exodus again, following along as we are learning through this book through teaching at Citylight this month. 

A continuing call to prayer ...

"Don't worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need,
and thank Him for all He has done.
Then you will experience God's peace,
which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

These words resonate with me at the start of this month, as I need to be reminded and refreshed to talk with God about everything on my mind and heart. It is too easy to slip into the mode of worry. And there is so very much to pray for ... in our homes, for our families, friends, and for our nation and world. I long to be faithful and fervent in prayer. 

Relationships to nurture ...

The most important things in life are not things, but people. And highest on my list is my dear hubby. Especially after the scare of a stroke earlier this calendar year, I am more devoted than ever to pay attention to the one that is dearest to me. We'll be working closely together to guard time for rest and refreshment as a couple amidst the busyness of life.

Nurturing other close relationships with our family (six grown kids, four sons-in-law, and ten grandkids) is also of very high priority this month ... watching for doors that God opens up for connection, loving, and serving. And a special treat ... some time with a son visiting from California later this month!

And there are more ... listening to and caring for many others, including our CityGroup friends from Citylight Church, volunteers and partners with us in ministry, and all those who God brings into our lives this month.

A trip I am looking forward to ...

I love trips! I am looking forward to traveling to Colorado with my hubby this month for a GPI MTL Conference (a regional conference with Cru). After the conference, we will spend a few extra days in Breckenridge where we found some off-season rates for lodging in that beautiful setting. It's always such a huge blessing to spend some relaxing days together as a couple! And such good timing - about midway between our summer Pacific Coast Trip, and the full and wonderful holiday season.

Responsibilities and ministry on my heart ...

I am asking God to continue to give me a servant's heart as we help with a few family members ... my husband's older brother, and my 95 year-old father. Both live nearby, and have needs that we help with on a weekly basis. (And we're so thankful for three of our daughters who live in this area, who are also a great help as we serve these dear family members.)

And it's such a joy for me to work together with my husband as a team in our Cru ministry. And this school year, I am desiring to give even more hours to help lighten my husband's load - helping with administration, with special events (this week for Cru Central High), and also assisting and being part of some support-raising appointments.

Preparations for the holidays ...

The holidays are a big thing for me - I love the holidays! They don't "just happen", though - there is much work to do to prepare for our whole family home for Christmas. My main focus this month is to start on the heavier cleaning, and also take care of various other home projects before I start the baking and gift-buying next month.

Some fun projects before me ...

An enjoyable hobby for me is to preserve our memories in digital scrapbooking form. My hopes for this month are to finish up the pages capturing our Pacific Coast Trip, as well as keep up with scrapbooking the current month. 

I'm also excited to purchase a slide converter either this month, or in the next few months. My husband and I have a project we are working on with some of our older slides, and are thankful that we had a good recommendation from a brother of mine to use for converting slides to digital format.

Books that I am reading ...

I love good books. They are a source of great learning to me, as well as a way to relax and be refreshed. I'm focusing on these two books at the start of this month:

Present Over Perfect - by Shauna Niequist
I had intended to read this book a few months from now, as I have several waiting to be read ... but somehow, it happened that this is the one that is calling me right now. I think it is a good time for me, for as the holidays approach, I tend to slip into thinking that things need to be perfect. And I need to be reminded, again, that being present is more important than perfection. I started reading this book last night, and know it will be filled with encouragement. Here's a quote from the introduction:

"My prayer is that this book will be a thousand invitations, springing up from every page, calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of comparison, competition, and exhaustion, and to redraft a life marked by meaning, connection, and unconditional love."

The Nightingale - by Kristin Hannah 
One of my favorite genre of books to read is historical fiction. This book was recommended by a blogger/friend who reads a lot of historical fiction. I just started it a few days ago, and am enjoying reading it on my brand new Kindle Paperwhite, a birthday gift from my hubby last week! The setting of this novel is France during World War II. I love to get glimpses into different periods of time through fascinating novels. So much to learn ...

And wishing you a month 
filled with purpose and meaning - 
of drawing close to God, 
a time to love and be loved.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

21 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals
 (assembled in about 5 hours)

I always like to have a good supply of freezer meals on hand for those days that I don't have time to cook. But that supply ran out during the summer. I've had to use up more than usual during this calendar year so far, as we've had some medical issues going on, and also we've been busy preparing a family home for sale - besides all our usual responsibilities of home, family, and Cru ministry. We've even had to grab fast food more often than we like in the past six months.

So in August, I decided to do something that I've been wanting to do for quite awhile ... try out some brand-new-to-me recipes for Slow Cooker Freezer Meals. This is a faster way of preparing freezer meals, as the ingredients are not precooked; just assembled and put into freezer bags. I also wanted to try out, and gather a collection of recipes for Slow Cooker Freezer Meals that will possibly be some that we may want to use in the future when my daughters and I have another Freezer Meal Day.

I had already been gathering slow cooker freezer meal recipes to try, and did some more searching online. I came up with 9 chicken/turkey recipes, and 5 beef/pork recipes to try. Some of the recipes made enough for 2 freezer meals, so I ended up with 21 freezer meals. All of these recipes are brand new to me.

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals - Chicken/Turkey (12)

First step, after shopping for the ingredients, was collecting them all on the kitchen counter ...

Next, I prepared the freezer bags with labels that I had printed ahead of time with instructions for cooking ...

All of the meals were put into freezer bags, with labels attached ...

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals - Beef/Pork (9)

21 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals
 (assembled in about 5 hours)

A few details - for my own records, and maybe they will be helpful to others who are wanting to prepare Slow Cooker Freezer Meals ...

I prepared these 21 meals on two different days in the same week: one day for the chicken/turkey recipes (3 hours), and one day for the beef/pork recipes (2 hours). The assembly time did not include the time it took to do the shopping, to gather all the ingredients in the kitchen for the recipes, and to clean-up afterwards. Also, as most all of the meat was frozen uncooked, the shopping needed to be done the day before or the day of assembly, keeping the meat fresh before time of assembling.

I'm so very thankful that I could take the time to prepare these meals for the freezer. If I use one each week ... I have enough Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for 21 weeks! Such a great help during the busy holiday season coming up. 

NOTE: As I prepare these recipes in the slow cooker during the fall/winter, I will try to come back here to record which ones we have used, and also if we liked them good enough to make again in the future or not. Probably the ones rated "Very Good" will make it to my recipe collection for future use:) 

Prepared in September:
Loaded Turkey Veggie Soup - Will not be making again (I did not care for the consistency of some of the veggies - the potatoes and the carrots).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

To Savor the Seasons, To Savor Each Day

It can come so silently that we don't recognize it,
crowding it's way into our minds and our lives.

And gradually it takes over,
dictating our days, occupying our every moment.

It happens over and over again.
And we need to be rescued over and over again.

A pre-occupation with tasks, a busy hurried mindset, a focus on the urgent. 

A missing out on seeing, really seeing, all the beauty around us, in the eyes and hearts of those we love, in what we hold in our hands, in the every day of our lives.

Sometimes all it takes is a silent prayer, a cry for help, 

and the quieting of our hearts -

to draw us back into really seeing ...

Our summer, and especially our 18-day Pacific Coast Trip were just what we needed after a very, very busy six months. When we arrived back home, we were completely refreshed, filled up in heart and soul. And we purposed to hang on to that sense of rest, even in the midst of work and responsibilities.

But the busy, the rush, and the urgent have a way of slowly and surely creeping back into our lives again, don't they? 

And there is a need to push the pause button, 

to purposely slow down. Again.

I am not alone in this. I see it everywhere I go. 

I love how Shauna Niequist describes this longing in each of us for the ability to savor our moments, our time with those we love, our every day.

"What I want to do is savor this life - my life, my children, my community, this gorgeous world God created. That's what we all want, right? To soak up the goodness all around us, to be aware of holy fingerprints everywhere, to walk through each day expecting and noticing those glints and shimmers of the divine right in the daily - in a hug. a tomato sandwich, a quiet moment, a text from someone we love.
That's what I want, and so often I miss it. I lay in bed at night frustrated with myself that I allowed the minor annoyances of life to obscure the rich melody underneath it. I rush and push and don't even see the beauty all around me. I let my fear about the unknowns in our future or my desire to control everything and everyone around cover over the deep beauty and grace and peace that are playing like a drumbeat under everything." (Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are)

What if we paused to notice,

quieted our hearts to listen,

opened our eyes to really see

what is happening all around us -

the glimpses into another's heart,

the traces of God's love, 

everywhere, everyday.

I am thanking God for showing me, again, how easy it is for me to become wrapped up in tasks, in responsibilities and accomplishments. All good things, and worthy callings. But drawing me ever so slowly away from what is most important ... to take time to sit quietly, to notice the beauty in the every day, to listen and to care deeply, to soak in the gifts of His Presence, and His Love.

Good reminders ... each day.

And on this first day of Beautiful Fall.

(Giving credit - and my thanks -  
for the free printout in photo frame above: amberhousley.com)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Dessert

This delicious Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Dessert may seem like a summer dessert, but the caramel and the pecan make it good for any time of year!

This new-to-me recipe caught my attention a few weeks ago. Anything with caramel and vanilla ice cream sounds good to me! It also seemed like a good dessert to make to celebrate a daughter's birthday the beginning of September. 

It turned out to be a good choice - so delicious! And as several of my daughters asked for the recipe, I'll just post it here for them, and for anyone else who loves the flavors that are in this very special dessert.

An added bonus is that you can make it ahead of time, and have it in the freezer all ready for your special day. (Just remember to follow the directions and take it out of the freezer at least 10 minutes ahead of serving. It was still a bit difficult to cut into serving pieces after 10 minutes, so even a bit longer may be a good idea.)

Click on the "Source" link, below, to print ...

Caramel Pecan Ice Cream Dessert

Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 35 min
Serves: 12


  • 1-34 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter melted
  • 1-12 cups caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 quarts vanilla ice cream softened


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans and brown sugar. Add butter; mix well. Spread in a thin layer in a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Crumble while warm; cool.
  2. Press half of crumb mixture into a 13x9-in. dish. Drizzle with half of caramel sauce; spread with ice cream. Top with remaining caramel sauce and crumb mixture. Cover and freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 12-15 servings.

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Thankful for the blessings of family, celebrations, and delicious food!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Praying for Deep Longings of Our Hearts

Do you have deep desires on your heart that bring you to tears? 
Longings so deep that you feel your heart weighed down? 
Your day can be carefree, 
and then a word, or a thought will enter into your heart, 
and you are all of a sudden overwhelmed 
to the point of tears. 

There are desires and longings that are in the deepest places of our heart, bursting up to the surface at unexpected times. And we wonder how we can go on with a heart so full of longing, and of the pain of waiting.

This is the case for me as a mom, as I pray for some family members. As my heart longs so much for them to follow Jesus, to be enveloped with His love that is beyond anything that we can even fully comprehend. A love that fills us to overflowing, and that gives us purpose and focus in every area of life.

And it may be the same for you, or it may be something different that fills your heart with longing, and your eyes with tears. You may long for a child to hold, or a husband to love, or your heart may be broken because you have lost someone very dear to you.

But - we can be encouraged as our tears come, 
as we pray, and as we wait ...

For as we wait and as we pray ... 
we are given the greatest gift of all - 
the gift of 'God with us'!

We put our hope in the Lord.
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in His holy name.
Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
for our hope is in You alone.
(Psalm 33:20-22)

We are filled to overflowing with His presence,
and the road we travel leads us 
close to Him, and all that He has for us.

The cross you've been given -
is always God's kindest decision.
The cross you carry -
is carrying you 
toward who you are meant to be.
(Ann Voskamp)

Sometimes it is easy to despair, 
to grow weary in prayer ...

No discipline is enjoyable
while it is happening -
it's painful!
But afterward there will be a
perfect harvest of right living
for those who are trained in this way.
(Hebrews 12:11)

The longing, the waiting, the loving, and the praying ... 
are drawing us closer to Jesus than we ever imagined. 

And those deep desires that bring us to tears? 

They show us our need of Him, and we learn to run to Him ... 
finding more than we even longed for. 

For as we wait and as we pray, 
we have Him. 

Sharing my thoughts, and my tears, as I long for, and pray for some precious members of our family ... and as I remember the JOY that made the tears and the prayers in the past all worth it when some dearly loved family members returned to Him. By His grace, and His grace alone. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Prayer for September

At the start of this beautiful month of September, when summer turns into fall, where we transition from the more carefree summer months to the more scheduled months of fall activities. Leaving the longer days of sunlight in the fresh outdoors, and entering into the warmth and soft glows of candles in our homes, spending time with those we love.

May this be our prayer as we navigate all that this month may bring to us ...

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock
where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for He is our refuge.

(Psalm 62:5-8 NLT)

Thank You, Lord, for these words and these reminders as I turn the page of my calendar to September. A month filled with joy (and my birthday month!), and the start of the beautiful, wonderful season of fall (a favorite!) ... and also, a month full of activity (many days filled with events and happenings). 

May I remember to wait quietly before You, each day, to place all my trust and hope in You alone, and to pour out my heart to You each day. For You are my refuge, and the giver of all that is good. May I watch each day for Your gifts, Your love, and all the ways You will be at work in this beautiful month of September ...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In the Kitchen: End-of-Summer Recipes

I love summertime recipes, and had the urge to try out some new ones this summer! Here are a few of the new recipes that have made it into my growing collection of favorite recipes in the past few months!

Click on the links in the captions to print the recipes, if you are interested in trying them out, as well. We loved each of these recipes ...

Loaded Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad 

Fajitas in Pitas

Grilled Herbed Chicken & Potato Foil Packs