Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gift Above All Gifts



"... needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts."
(Jesus Calling)

The magical month of December is just around the corner. I love the holiday season, and love the excitement of preparing for our Family Christmas. And throughout the month, I love all the warmth, scents, sounds, and beauty of Christmas

And my preparations are well under way - some (but not nearly all) of the gifts have been purchased, I have started my Christmas baking, and our Christmas decorations are up (all except the tree and other greenery and lights). 

There are times already, though, when I have felt the pressure and stress mounting - how will I get everything done? We have a big family (23 will be here for Christmas) - Christmas does not "just happen", there is so much to do to prepare. 

This morning I was in need for an extended time of quiet, and listening - for just as we need extended time to prepare our home and prepare goodies and gifts for this wonderful time of year, we need time to prepare our hearts. Time to enjoy the best of gifts. For in our times of need, we receive the greatest gift - the gift of knowing Him intimately. 

~ I want to be needy this season, so that I will run to Him. I want to embrace problems, detours, and trials, for they remind me of my neediness. 

~ I am asking for an attitude of listening to Him, of waiting for His direction - instead of just racing ahead with my plans and thinking that I know best what needs to be done on any given day.

~ I long to satisfy my hunger throughout the days with frequent "snacking" on His words, in addition to full-course, in-depth, focused times spent in His Presence.

~ I pray for a thankful spirit, always looking for things to be grateful for, even in the midst of busy days.

"The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring."
(Isaiah 58:11)

(So thankful for the greatest gift of all - that we can keep company with Him through all the seasons of the year, and all the seasons of life.)

Linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped, Walk with Him Wednesdays




Cheddar Chicken and Potatoes

A new recipe I tried a few months ago ... only four ingredients, and a meal all in one dish! We loved it! I need to make it again soon.

Cheddar Chicken and Potatoes

4 slices bacon
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb.)
4 cups (1 lb.) frozen diced potatoes with peppers and onions, thawed
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese (sharp)

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet on medium heat 5 min. or until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet to paper towel; discard drippings in skillet (if desired). 

Add chicken to skillet; cook 5 min. on each side or until done.


Remove chicken from skillet; cover to keep warm. Crumble bacon. Add to skillet with potatoes; cook and stir 5 minutes or until heated through.


Place chicken over potatoes; top with cheese. Cover; cook 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, November 25, 2011

Family Thanksgiving


Full of thanks for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with 16 family members home ~ and choosing to share my weekly list of thanks early (linking up with others on Monday). 


We had a beautiful and memorable time together with five of our six grown children home, along with their families. We missed seven family members who were not able to be with us - but so blessed to be 16 around our table!

Thankful for my 90 year-old father who was with us for the day - and thankful for memories of my mother as I prepared for the meal (especially as I made the pumpkin pies - Mom was an expert pie maker, cook, and baker of rolls, and anything good from the kitchen.).


So blessed, and so thankful for four incredibly sweet daughters - enjoying sharing with Sara, Amy, and Carrie over some cooking magazines after our big feast (and missing Cristy in Texas).


And blessed beyond measure to have two sons ~ here one son, Lance, is taking time to dig out some boxes of legos and star wars figures from the storage room so that his nephew, Levi, can play with them.


A beautiful day on Thanksgiving Day ~ the grandkids had so much fun on the trampoline - they were well watched over and well photographed!


So thankful for the blessing of food ~ later, after our big feast at noon, a yummy snack spread to enjoy during evening game-playing.


And thankful for the relaxing evening with a houseful of family, playing games in the dining room, down in the family room, and grandkids and activity all around the house ...


Thankful for God's Love holding us together, for His Grace in our weaknesses, and for all the memories that we hold together as a family.

(One Thousand Gifts #776-790)

Linked to Multitudes on Mondays



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Memories of Thanks-giving

"The traditions we build within the family 
are some of the best gifts we give to our children."
(A Mother's Touch)

Our six children are now all grown, and range in age from 21 to 38 (17 years between the oldest and youngest). We are not a "perfect" family, and have gone through a lot of ups and downs - but by God's grace, we are held closely together. 

The holiday season brings such warm memories - and one memory at this Thanksgiving time is a tradition that we practiced together for many years when the kids were at home. And I'm so grateful that I kept some of these notes of memories ~ 





It took on different forms (a decorated notebook paper, paper cut into the shapes of various fruit, an index card with a sticker, a computer generated acrostic of the word "Thanksgiving", etc.) but always - the writing out of our thanks. For God, for family, for whatever came to a child's mind.






We wrote these notes and read them together at Thanksgiving time - and I still love reading them. Every single one. They are precious, memorable expressions of love.





We have had these notes sitting out in a basket at a number of our recent Thanksgiving gatherings - and they bring back a lot of memories. Memories that bind a family together.

(Note: Following how I feel God tugging at my heart - to dig up memories and share from them, also to share ideas that have been helpful to me in my years of mothering.)


Linking up at Faith Barista, and Write It, Girl





Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Following

Photo Source

"To walk along the path of freedom, you must keep your mind firmly fixed on Me.
Be content to be a simple sheep, listening for My voice and following Me.
I will lead you into green pastures and guide you along paths of righteousness."
(Jesus Calling)

"The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength. 
He guides me along right paths, 
bringing honor to His Name."
(Psalm 23:1-3)

These words that I read last week keep coming back to me. Sometimes we can get caught up in the busyness of life, and make this following a complicated thing. But it is so simple - it is listening, and then following. 

Lord, help us to be like sheep - 
resting, staying close, 
listening to our Shepherd's voice, 
and following. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanks-giving

Beautiful hand-painted artwork in Florence, Italy - a picture of peace, and blessing.

"Leave outcomes up to Me. 
Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. 
Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion.
 Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me." 
(Jesus Calling)

Such good words - for busy days, and for ordinary days. Live in the now, and always, keep in step with God, keeping company with Him throughout our days. Words that I have been reminded of during this past week.  

"Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."
(Psalm 27:13-14)


Notes of thanks, as recorded in my journal this past week:

Thank You, Lord, for:

~ several events cancelled in the beginning of what was going to be a very full week (something I had been concerned about)
~ patiently revealing to me another weakness of mine that I wasn't clearly aware of (helpful to understand this perspective)
~ a fun meal and evening together with our staff team, welcoming a new couple who will be part-time with us on our team
~ laughter and relaxing as we played Apples-to-Apples after our meal
~ our 21 year-old son coming out for the whole day, helping his dad get firewood for the winter
~ great conversation with this son, and the fun of sending him home with some home cooked food, and also some groceries
~ renewing my heart, and refreshing me with Your Words
~ a start on my Christmas baking
~ a daughter and two grandsons stopping by one evening - so good to see them
~ taking our five year-old granddaughter (in Texas) safely through her outpatient eye surgery
~ texting and phone calls with her mother during the surgery, and afterwards
~ photos, and blog posts so we can see how our granddaughter is doing with her recovery
~ improvement already evident with her eye problem
~ meeting our needs and giving us just what we need each day
~ the joy of cooking a turkey and a crock pot full of dressing for a Cru Thanksgiving meal for international students
~ a husband who helps out with the cleaning, preparing for a full house on Thanksgiving Day
~ Your provision so we can stock up on groceries for holiday cooking and baking


(One Thousand Gifts #759-775)

Linking up with Multitudes on Mondays








Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Weeks


Five weeks from today there will be about 23 family members around our table for Christmas! Yes, we will be celebrating our Family Christmas on Friday, Dec. 23rd! We had not expected our whole family to be together for Christmas this year, as it did not look like our daughter & family in Texas would be able to be home at that time. But plans have changed, and we are excited!

Twelve weeks ago I fixed up a little chart in my planner to help me keep the Christmas prep planning before me - in the midst of so many other things going on. And I cannot believe that now it is just five weeks from our Family Christmas Day.

A few of the things accomplished so far:
~ more ideas collected for some gifts from the kitchen
~ a few more gifts purchased
~ a re-vamping of gift-giving among the family (brought up by our grown kids), making gift-buying a bit easier this year - important as our family continues to grow
~ some cleaning and organization that really needed to be done this year, and I had hoped to get done before Christmas (cleaning out of the coat closet, going through more boxes of my mother's belongings and moving those boxes out of our second guest room, re-organizing of our games and books in family room downstairs)
~ baking of cinnamon rolls yesterday for Christmas morning, getting a start on all the Christmas baking (and thankful for plenty of freezer space to plan ahead)


~ our 21 year-old son came over yesterday, and worked together with my husband in getting more firewood ready for the winter - love to use our wood stove (in the family room downstairs) on cold days, as it adds so much warmth both in temperature and atmosphere. So thankful for a son's great help!

Lots left to do - also with our Family Thanksgiving coming up next week, too, with about 17 family members around the table! And always, praying for my focus to be first of all on keeping in step, and listening - to the One who is the giver of family, and all that is good.

Just thought I'd share my progress - how are your plans coming for the holidays?

Linking up to 52 Weeks of Organizing




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Path to Joy

Photo taken in Florence, Italy - beautiful hand painted ceramics - pictures of joy!

It is easy to be thankful for the good things in life, but very difficult to be thankful for the hard. Yet, thanking God for the hard things may be the true test of having a grateful heart.

"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 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I think that I have learned to be thankful, and have been walking the path of gratefulness in all situations, but recently I have found myself resisting some circumstances that are hard right now, wanting to control them, and wanting them to go away. Letting them control my thoughts. Letting them discourage me.

For when we leave the path of gratefulness, we always lose something of great significance. How can we be joyful when we are not grateful?

" ... when troubles come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy."
(James 1:2)

My heart is filled with thanks that God patiently leads us back to the path of gratefulness when we stray off. His Spirit within, always helping us. Helping us in our weaknesses, giving us insight, and opening our eyes and hearts to Truth, and to His Love. We do not need to try to control our circumstances; instead, we need to rest, and be grateful for the circumstances we find ourselves in. For these difficult circumstances give us opportunities to grow, to see God at work, and to experience true joy.

"For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow ... "

Thank You, Lord, for some present circumstances that, even though they are difficult and I want them to "go away", they are the things that cause me to run to You. And You will use all things for Your purposes in my own life, and in the lives of those I love.


Some great reading on this topic from a blog I read this morning:  click here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ham Pinwheels


Ingredients:

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1 cup shredded peeled tart apples
4 flour tortillas (6 inches), room temperature
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 thin slices fully cooked ham

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, garlic, curry and mustard until blended. Stir in apple. Spread about 2 tablespoons over each tortilla. Layer with the red pepper, onions, and ham.

Roll up tightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch slices.

Makes about 2 dozen.

(From a Taste of Home Appetizer magazine)

Our church had an hor dourves potluck a few Sundays ago, and I tried out this new recipe to take. This turned out to be a tasty appetizer - one that I will be making again.

Linking up at Tasty Tuesday


Monday, November 14, 2011

Receiving vs Earning


"My Kingdom is not about earning and deserving; 
it's about believing and receiving." 
(Jesus Calling)

We should know better than to think that we can earn anything from our great God, Creator of all the beauty around us. But it is so easy to slip into the faulty thinking that we need to earn favor with Him.

But we are made to receive, not to earn. Receiving all that we long for, from our Maker.

"For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son,
 so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." 
(John 3:16)

"Since He did not spare even His own Son  but gave Him up for us all, 
won't He also give us everything else?" 
(Romans 8:32)

With each year that passes, I am gaining more insight into this immeasurable, perfect Love, always giving to His children. It really is beyond our comprehension - we can only catch a glimpses of it (I Cor. 13:12) from our viewpoint. But someday we will see in perfect clarity.

But even the glimpses that we see and experience now are worth everything, for this is what we are made for. I am praying for an open, receptive heart, always open to receive. Not striving to earn, but watching with open eyes and heart - walking and keeping company with Him, and receiving all that He longs to give.

"When you receive My abundant blessings with a grateful heart, I rejoice. 
My pleasure in giving and your pleasure in receiving 
flow together in joyous harmony."
 (Jesus Calling)


Thanking Him for glimpses of His unlimited Love this past week:

The beautiful colors of fall.
Early morning rays from the sun, coming through the window as I type this.
The warmth from our wood stove in our family room downstairs.
Relaxing evenings with my husband, in our "empty nest", around the warmth of this wood stove.
Laptops, and wifi - ways to connect with those we love.
Words - the sharing of the heart.
Photos - ways to capture His many gifts.
Scrapbooking - the preserving of the gifts we receive.
The love of family. (And how it breaks my heart to read of those who don't experience this, such as this young boy; yet, God provides for him, even as he lives alone in the jungles of Ecuador.)
Memories of a loving, godly mother as I went through more of her belongings this past week.
Anticipation of holidays coming up, spending time with those we love.
The joy of food - the preparing of, and the sharing together around the table.
His living, active Word - communicating of the deep Love that feeds us, everyday, continually.

(photo above taken in Cinque Terre, Italy)

(One Thousand Gifts #746-758)

Linking up with Multitudes on Mondays, On Your Heart Tuesdays




Friday, November 11, 2011

Unexpected Living


Could it be that we are to thrive in living with the "unexpected"? That we are actually to expect the "unexpected"? Being someone who loves to plan and look forward with anticipation to the working out of the things planned, embracing the "unexpected" has sometimes been difficult for me.

I have found that life is primarily filled with those things that are unexpected. Difficult things that come into our lives, as well as things that are beyond our dreams. Such as our recent trip to Italy (photo above) which was totally unexpected until five weeks before our trip this past September. And things such as leukemia, a life-threatening accident, bone marrow transplant, other serious health issues - all unexpected things in our family.

These are unexpected paths that draw us closer to His heart. And there are unexpected blessings along these paths.

I read these words this past week, "After sanctification, it is difficult to state what your purpose in life is, because God has moved you into His purpose, through the Holy Spirit. He is using you now for His purposes ... I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great, personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him." (My Utmost for His Highest)

Unexpected living is to be the norm for us.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Party Popcorn Balls

I pulled this recipe out last week, and it brought back memories. This popcorn ball recipe was used for many birthday parties or special events when my kids were little - colored to match the season or the party theme. Gelatin gives it the color, so it is quite versatile - choose green, red, or orange, etc. Last week I used orange gelatin, as I was making these to include in little treat bags for our grandkids for their Halloween treats.


Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1 box (3 oz) any flavored gelatin
4 quarts popped popcorn

In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir marshmallows into the melting butter. Let them soften, but not melt completely. Add the gelatin. Stir until butter-marshmallow mixture is evenly colored. Gelatin does not have to be dissolved. Drizzle over popcorn and mix well. Makes about 4 quarts. Shape into balls.







Linking up at Delightfully Inspiring Thursday


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Strong Advocate


Whenever troubles weigh us down, when it seems that we can't go on, when we don't even know how to pray... we are not left alone.

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.
(Romans 8:26)


"For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. 
But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 
And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, 
for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will." 
(Romans 8:26b-27)


"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good 
of those who love God and are called according to His purposes for them." 
(Romans 8:28)

Thank You, loving Lord, that we are not left alone - that Your Spirit takes our deep needs and brings these to You, even when we are at a loss for words. Thank You for giving us an Advocate, and that we can trust You to work out all things for good.

"And God searches your heart, not to know what your conscious prayers are, 
but to find out what the prayer of the Holy Spirit is." 
(Oswald Chambers)


(Thanking God for these words this week as I walk along with those I love going through some hard times - so wonderful to know that we are prayed for 24/7 - and that we can rest in His care, even when our words seem inadequate.)