Thursday, December 1, 2016

Entering into December

Closing out November ...

It was a lovely month ~

One of many favorite months for me, filled with: unusually warmer weather than normal, mixed with some crisp fall days; caring for grandkids, including an overnight stay for two; sweet connections with our CityGroup (small group from church); joining friends for a Thanksgiving meal at a church we served at 40 years ago; spending hours each week helping with Cru ministry; helping at a fun hayride event for Cru students; attending a Citylight Harvest Party; caring for my 95 year-old father; enjoying our Family Thanksgiving Day on the 25th, with seven precious family around our table (much smaller than usual, but our big family gathering will be for Christmas this year); and much, much more. It was a lovely month.

It was a difficult month ~

As with many families across our nation, there were times of confusion and difficult discussions. It is strange how an election can bring out things that are usually kept quiet. With a variety of political and policy persuasions in our big family, it was an interesting and tense month at times. But by God's grace, we are navigating the turbulent waters that our country is in, and we are held together as a family. And we pray the same for our country ...

And it was a month of learning and growing ~

I will always keep on learning ... each day brings new opportunities. November gave opportunity for me to take more steps in learning how to pray more consistently and more passionately. With so many things and people to pray for, I am finding that writing out my prayers helps give me focus, and keeps me on track ... sometimes it may be writing out a paragraph, or a sentence, and sometimes just a word or two. Recording it in my journal, making it real and fervent, keeping a record so I can go back and record His answers. Focusing more consistently on writing my prayers, and in bringing everything to Him ... praying instead of worrying. Praying for family, friends, happenings, news that I hear on tv or read about, praying for our leaders, etc. Every day there is much to pray for.

And entering into December ...

Gifts from God at the start of this magical month ~

Several "firsts" for me at the start of December, all things I desired - and all gifts from God! I am so thankful! Our home is all decorated already for Christmas! Our tree is up, and all the decor is up (except for the greens on the banister, which will hopefully happen this Sat.). All done in November - so thankful!

Our Christmas/end-of-year mailing for Cru was mailed yesterday, the last day of November! Another first for us - it seems that I am always working on it amidst all the preparations for Christmas in December. Such a gift to have it done now!

Christmas gift shopping began in November, and at the start of this month I am realizing that I am maybe about 3/4 of the way done. This is another first for me - I am so very thankful!

A month of preparations ~

This will be a month of preparation for our Family Christmas - baking and cooking in the kitchen, finishing up the gift buying, wrapping gifts, preparing our home for our Family Christmas.

It will be a month of preparing my heart each day, continually tuning in to what is most important ... loving GOD, and loving others. I'll continue with reading through Luke (First 5), and also reading various Advent readings. Desiring to pause and make time for what is most important.

I am looking forward to learning and growing my heart by reading through The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp. I started this book the last part of Nov., and am only reading a few pages at a time, pausing to soak in the truths, underlining and underlining, and recording key thoughts in my journal.

A month of Christmas ~

Our Family Christmas comes early this year - there will be 24-25 precious family members here to celebrate together on Sat., Dec. 17th! (One reason why I needed to start earlier with preparations this year!) Always a highlight of the whole year, and a gift from God.

There will be other Christmas celebrations and parties with friends, Christmas programs for grandkids, and a quiet Christmas Day on the 25th with my dear husband. All, gifts from God. And the greatest gift: Immanuel - GOD with us!

Blogging in December ... we will just see what happens! I will need to be completely flexible. But at this point, I am hoping to post a number of recipe posts. There are numerous holiday recipes that I would like to post, so that they are here, online, for family and friends, for years to come. So, if all goes well, look for some recipe posts this month! And maybe some other posts, as well ...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day ...

A day to remember,
with thanks, 
and to be reminded 
to make thanks 
a part of our everyday.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim
Your unfailing love in the morning,
Your faithfulness in the evening ...
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Wishing you a 
Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Every Detail, Everything

Beautiful words for today
and for our every day ...

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
(Psalm 37:23)

Letting this sink into our hearts ...
He cares about e-v-e-r-y detail.

And these words ...

Don't worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything.
(Phil. 4:6)

He wants us to pray about

Grateful for these words ...
Needing to remind myself each day -

All through the day ...
Whatever my task at hand,
or whatever is on my mind -

Busy days, full of decisions ...
As wives, moms, grandmas,
and with jobs, and friends -

Joy-filled days, days with trials ...
In our homes, in our country,
always needing God's help -

Filled with cares and concerns,
Some big, some small,
and with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g;
just pray.

Thank You, Lord ...
You delight in e-v-e-r-y detail.

* * * * * * *

Sharing my heart with a few extra thoughts ...

Is it easy to bring everything on our minds and in our hearts to God, to talk with Him about all things? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not.

Sometimes we are so heartbroken, we cannot even verbalize our thoughts into a prayer. I found myself in this situation last week ... so heartbroken over something, unable to hardly even function, think, or put my thoughts into words. It was at that time that I knew I needed extra help, and I contacted a few friends who would pray on my behalf. They did. And God heard my prayers through them. And I know that His Spirit within also brought the cries of my heart to God the Father on my behalf.

It is also in those times of heartbreak, or in times when I am in great need of strength or of understanding, that it is very helpful for me to write out my thoughts and my prayers, bringing all of it to Him, filling my journals with the cries of my heart. Spilling out and writing out the good and the sometimes ugly. It is in the process of bringing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g to Him, all of my confused, or heartbroken thoughts - it is through the process of bringing them to Him that I experience His love, His presence, and His help. 

Maybe it is in the process 
of bringing everything to Him, 
that we find that He really does care 
about every detail of our lives. 
And in realizing that He cares, 
we find the comfort and the help 
that we so desperately need.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Recipe Organization / Menus

Things have changed in recent years with my recipe organization. It has been a process, and over this past weekend, I took some more time to pretty much finish up the process of change.

The big change was switching over from collecting recipes on 3x5 cards, to collecting them on full-size paper (8 1/2 x 11 inch). I've been adding my recipes to Plan to Eat, an online resource where I store my recipes. From there, I can print them out, and also can freely copy and share them here on my blog, as well. 

But regardless of whether they are stored online or not, it is so much easier to have them printed out on full-size paper. I slip each recipe into a plastic sleeve, and store them in my various three-ring binders. 

I have one binder for my main dish and sides recipes ... and these are the label categories I use at the time:
Slow Cooker

And another binder for these categories of recipes:

And one more binder, with similar categories, for NEW recipes to try ... you can get a glimpse of this binder in the photo below. I like to print out recipes that look fun to try, and keep them in this notebook. I usually try to pick about one new recipe from this collection each week to prepare. Though I have many recipes collected in my two main notebooks, all favorites - I always love to try new recipes. It's what makes it fun for me to be in the kitchen and prepare meals ...

Each week I gather these notebooks and choose the recipes that I want to try to use during the coming week. (Occasionally I do several weeks at a time.) Sometimes it's a bit of a process, as I have collected so many recipes over 45 years of marriage! I took some time this past weekend to simplify my collection, removing those that I don't use anymore (even removing NEW recipes that I've collected and don't plan to use after all) ... and this should make it easier to plan menus in the future. 

In the photo above you see the recipes that I have pulled out of the various notebooks to try to use this week. I say "try" because I am very flexible with my menu plans for the week, and more often than not, change things around as the week goes on. 

Having my recipes easily accessible in my notebooks, and a menu plan made out for each week is a life-saver for me, and keeps me more consistently preparing nutritious meals. Maybe even more so in these empty nest years, when it is just too easy to grab food, or even pick up fast food more often than is good for us.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Welcome November

As far as blogging goes, I'm not sure what happened here last month - only one post the whole month! It was a month filled with family, Cru ministry/responsibilities, and many other things. A good month, but I just did not get to blogging ...

A sweet memory from October ...

My hubby and I had a lovely trip to Colorado in October - for a Cru regional conference in Colorado Springs, followed by a few days as a couple in beautiful Breckenridge. We loved it all - our time at the conference, listening to the speakers, and the connections we had with other staff fed our souls ... and the few days away as a couple was just we wished for! 

Sharing two of my digital scrapbook pages from our trip ...

And as always, a brand new month brings fresh opportunities to follow God each day and to focus on the people and responsibilities He has for us!

Sharing my heart at the beginning of November ...

For me and probably most of us, the beginning of November means a focus on preparing for special holiday times during these next two months. I love the holidays! And at the same time, I am very aware of my need to completely depend on God to accomplish all that needs to be done to prepare for family being home. This year, we anticipate having 24-25 family members here in our home for Family Christmas!! The preparations need to start early, as we all know as moms and grandmas. 

And I am very aware that I cannot do everything that I would love to do. And more importantly, I am very aware that the things of most importance - relationships and love between family - are gifts from God. 

So my main focus as I enter into the holiday season is to enter in with an attitude of prayer and dependence on God. He alone can do the things that we long for most of all. And I desire to choose present over perfect, being available to listen and love our family and friends - above trying to do everything perfectly. 

We need to keep our priorities right, even through the holidays - and this involves choosing carefully to focus on what is most important ...

But you can't have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you're not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to roundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection ... (From Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist) 

Just sharing a few things that are on my mind, things that I need to be reminded of, things that I need to keep before me at the start of this holiday season. And maybe you are the same?

Maybe I'll be able to keep in touch here a bit more this month - sharing ways that God encourages me during this busy season, also sharing some recipes, and quotes from a few good books I've read recently. 

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).