Monday, March 25, 2013

The Heart of Easter



"Yes, everything else is worthless
when compared with the infinite value
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
(Philippians 3:8a)


"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for Me will find it."
(Matthew 16:25)

"The course of our life is determined more by our decisions
than by our circumstances."
(Pastor Jacks)


Happy Easter Week! 

Wishing you a meaningful week,
filled with the love of family and friends.
With time to reflect on the Heart of Easter.

It will be quiet here on my blog this week
as I do the same ...

(You're invited to visit my Pursuing Heart facebook page - link on sidebar - for interaction as we quiet ourselves to listen to God's heart this Easter week, and every day. I would love to see you there ... )

Linking up with:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Baby Quilt for Sweet Eva


Completing another baby quilt - a tradition I started nearly seventeen years ago at the birth of our first grandbaby. And now a soft pink and white quilt for sweet Eva, the tenth grandbaby God has blessed us with! (How can the years go by so quickly?)

One of the baby blankets I made was crocheted (with pink hearts in the pattern), but the others have all been quilts, done with machine quilting. My goal has always been to have the quilts completed before our grandbabies turn one year old. I just made it this time, completing little Eva's quilt two weeks before she turned one in mid-March! It was such a fun day when I took it over to give to baby Eva and her mother. I always keep it a surprise with the fabric and design choice - and such fun to see how it fits so perfectly with sweet Eva. And to see how much our daughter loves it! (Thanks, Carrie, for the great photos you shared with me - of Eva with the quilt! She is such a sweetie!)

I started months ago, but as life is full, it took awhile to complete. I am so thankful for the sewing machine we purchased (about 10 years ago?), with two attachments specifically suited for machine quilting. It makes things so much easier. The most challenging part of the project was to pick out which fabric to use. I will admit that even after I had purchased some fabric, I changed my mind on one of the pieces purchased. Am so glad that I made the switch, as I discovered the beautiful ruffled white fabric that you see in the photos. The perfect touch for this soft pink and white baby quilt ...






So thankful for adorable little Eva, and for the joy of making a baby quilt - just for her.

(Credits for digital scrapbook page - Page Template: LW-Life Templates Set 12; Papers: ericamade-springtime, KSC_Beautiful; Font for heading: Simply Glorious)

NOTE:  I have had several inquires about this quilt pattern. The pattern I used, "Roses & Bows", is in "Simply Chenille Baby Quilts", a pattern book by Leisure Arts. I purchased mine from JoAnn Fabrics; click here to purchase from Amazon.

Linking up with:
In the Studio
I'm Lovin' It
Saturday Show & Tell

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Synchronize My Heart to Yours {Heart Connect}


Lord, how do I keep my heart in tune with Yours
when life is spinning out of control
Sometimes there's just too much -
 with tasks and responsibilities
 especially for the careful and the diligent,
 the ones who prefer to be in control
 With news of disease and suffering
 even, and again, in our own family
 so unexpectedly, and so suddenly

But there is no control
and there is no slowing 
One moment leads to another
with no ceasing, and no slowing
we cannot stop time

Lord, in the noise and confusion of the moment
I am in need
Please synchronize my heart to Yours
I need an exchange
Your peace for my turmoil
Rest for unrest
Trust for my worry
Focus instead of discord
Your Perspective in place of confusion
Surrender in place of control

To synchronize - to coordinate, to combine. To keep in tune. To be connected. To the Source. Prayer. The tool of synchronization and transformation. The exchange between our Maker and His creation.

"As you behold His glory, you are changed so that your heart is a reflection of His. His will is reflected in your prayers. This is not because you now have more influence on Him, but because He now has more influence on you. The secret of prayer is not how to change God, but how to be changed by Him." (Jennifer Kennedy Dean)

Prayer - the transfer of what is on His heart, to ours.

Opening up my heart and soul to Him - in need, as I go through my busy days and as I continue to process some difficult news ...

Heart Connect: Living a Life of Prayer
Click here to read previous posts on this series.

Linking up at:
Thought Provoking Thursday
Faith Filled Friday
Sunday Stillness

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lasagna


We had a lasagna pot-luck recently at our church - a variety of different kinds of lasagna, salads, breads, and desserts. Afterwards, a friend asked for my recipe, commenting that she liked that it held it's shape. That is also something that draws me to this recipe, so I'll share it here for her, and also for any others who may also be interested in it.

Lasagna


1 pound ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon basil
1 1 /2 teaspoons salt
1 can tomatoes (diced), drained 
2 cans tomato paste (6 ounces each)
1 package lasagna noodles (8 ounces) (whole wheat)
2 cartons cottage cheese, large curd (12 ounces each)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Brown meat slowly; add next 6 ingredients to meat. 
Simmer, uncovered, about half an hour.
Cook noodles until tender; drain.
Combine cottage cheese with next 5 ingredients.
Place 1/2 noodles in 13x9 inch pan; spread 1/2 cheese mixture over noodles, add 1/2 Mozzarella cheese and 1/2 meat mixture.
Repeat layers.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, covered.
Serves 6-8.




This recipe also freezes well, uncooked. To prepare, thaw overnight in refrigerator, and bake as directed.

Linking up at:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sweet, Fun, and Difficult

Last week -  filled with the sweet, the fun, and also the difficult. And thanking God for His Presence through all of life ...

First, the difficult. A heart-breaking diagnosis for a granddaughter - and a reminder to keep our eyes on God as we walk this journey with our granddaughter, our daughter, and all of the family. Click here to read my thoughts and perspective as we received the news last week. Thanking 
Him for peace that He is giving to our family amidst this difficult news.

And next, the sweet - our little grandbaby girl turned one year old last week! How can one year go by so quickly?! Eva is the sweetest little baby girl, and we love her so much. Her mommy put on the cutest cupcake party to celebrate with family. Thanking Him for the gift of little Eva to our family.



And lastly, the fun - attending a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby to watch our ten year-old grandson compete. Levi did great, and his entry (which he made) won 1st place in originality! His race car had a blinking red light in front - an extra touch that he added for the first time. Thanking God for a grandson (and his dad) who love to be creative.



And in the midst of the past week, these encouraging words and reminders:

"... take every thought captive
to obey Christ." 
(II Cor. 10:5)

"If you try to hang into your life,
you will lose it.
But if you give up your life for My sake,
you will save it."
(Luke 9:24)

"Be still, and know
that I am God."
(Psalm 46:10a)

Thanking God for His Presence and His promises last week, and also for each new day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Held Secure: His Love in Times of Trial


My mind and my heart - so tender and fragile, all consumed this week with a dear daughter, and with her sweet daughter. The rest of life is blurred and unimportant, and it is difficult to concentrate on my daily tasks. For life brings us unexpected things; things we never even imagined that we would experience. And we shake our heads, and wipe our tears - wondering what in the world is going on.

Our worlds can be turned upside down in a moment. And life as we knew it, is forever changed. My heart is still freshly fragile with the news that we received this week. Our sweet 14 year-old granddaughter, Crystal, has been diagnosed with a rare genetic kidney disease that results in kidney failure during the teen years. It is not reversible, or treatable with medication. The only treatment is a kidney transplant. Which will most likely take place in about a year for our sweet Crystal. We will live in expectation of this for a year, and Crystal will be watched and checked closely for just the right time for a transplant.

Memories are flooding my mind and heart this week - memories of other unexpected things. A leukemia diagnosis for one of our daughters during her teen years. And a bone marrow transplant a year later after a relapse of her leukemia. And memories of the horrible accident my husband was in eleven years ago that almost took his life. Of the heart-breaking years of broken relationship with a daughter. Of infertility, of appendicitis attack, of miscarriage. Of more current trials family members are going through. Of a brother suffering with Parkinsons, and a sister-in-law (his wife) experiencing complications going through chemo for her cancer. And of recent news of a friend whose cancer is back, this time in stage IV.

Broken hearts. Broken relationships, and broken dreams. These things can break us, and turn us inside out with anger and despair. And I have been there. My world has been shattered many times. And now we venture out on another journey of walking with those we deeply love, through the hard trial of a kidney failure diagnosis.

There is no room for easy answers to these trials. And many go through much more heart-breaking trials than we can even imagine. There is no way around them, for life is full of trials. And there is no easy way through them.

But I have found that there is one thing that we can always count on. That we will be held secure. That the One who gave His very life for us, is always with us. And His Love is strongest when we are most in need. Our self-sufficiency is gone, our strength is gone, and we are found empty, in desperate need. And in our need, we are held, and we are secure. And we will never be the same.

Held Secure: His Love in Times of Trial

As we walk through this trial with our granddaughter and her family, I will be following God's promptings to share from a heart filled with thanks for His Love and Presence in hard times. From the memories of the past, and from the present. Seeking to learn more and to experience more of His unending, relentless Love. And praying the same for all who read these words ...

My posts in this series will be scattered throughout the days of the week, interspersed with posts on the other topics that I write about - listening and following God's promptings to share, from His Words, and from our journey. And I would love to be praying for you as you journey through trials and hard times - feel free to contact me through email, or through a comment left here ...

Linking up with:
Faith Barista Jam
Thought Provoking Thursday
Faith Filled Friday
Fellowship Friday
Sunday Stillness

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Best-Ever Potato Soup

Soups are the perfect food for cool fall weather, and the cold days of winter. This is one of several potato soup recipes that we've used over the years - creamy, and so tasty.


Best-Ever Potato Soup

6 bacon strips, diced
3 cups cubed peeled potatoes
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon each celery seed, salt, and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
8 ounces process American cheese, cubed
2 green onions, thinly sliced, optional

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp; drain. Add potatoes, broth, carrot, onion, parsley, celery seed, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Combine flour and milk until smooth; add to soup. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add cheese; stir until cheese is melted and the soup is heated through. Garnish with green onions if desired.

Yield:  8 servings (2 quarts)




I often double this recipe, even just for the two of us. So handy to have extra soup in the refrigerator, to share if family stops by, or even to use for multiple lunches for the two of us throughout the week.

Click here to print recipe from the Taste of Home website.

Linking up with:
Tasty Tuesday
Trick or Treat Tuesday
The Creative Spark
I'm Lovin' It

Monday, March 11, 2013

Our View


One week ago, we flew to Orlando, and drove to Daytona Beach for our annual Cru High School Leadership Conference. While we were in flight, above the clouds, I was reminded, again, to focus on listening - to His Words, to the speakers, to our staff friends, and also to each other as a couple during this time away from the responsibilities and work at home.

And now, back home again - thanking Him for many things that we heard, as we listened ...

Faith: Choosing God. Our choices often involve a yes, and a no. Giving up what is temporal for what is eternal.  (Pastor Jacks)

"I once thought these things were valuable,
but now I consider them worthless
because of what Christ has done.
Yes, everything else is worthless
when compared to the infinite value
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
(Philippians 3:7-8a)

When we surrender - we gain Him. Don't hold onto our plans - hold onto God. (Darryl Smith)

"And so, dear brothers and sisters,
I plead with you to give your bodies to God
because of all He has done for you.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice -
the kind He will find acceptable.
This is truly the way to worship Him.
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person
by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God's will for you,
which is good and pleasing and perfect."
(Romans 12:1-2)

"The Scripture that rung me out regarding what I'm willing to offer up was this one: 'You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.'" (Psalm 51:16-17) (Thoughts from Holey, Wholly, Holy)

"I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
(John 12:24)

Living in the midst of tension as a leader - the key is not a long list of things to do or not to do - but the key is to walk in the Spirit. (Sam Osterloh)

When we receive a "God-idea", we need to take it captive, living it and working it for His purposes. (Draw the Circle)

"We take captive every thought
to make it obedient to Christ."
(II Cor. 10:5)

These are just a few of the things that we heard as we listened, in view of the beautiful Atlantic: summed up in one word ... surrender. Carrying this back home with us, and desiring to view all of life with this focus.

Lord, continue to work out these truths in my heart and life in the very specific areas that You have grabbed my heart with. Thank You for the memories of listening to You along the beautiful aqua-blue waters of the Atlantic - and for the rest and refreshment that we received from You.

Monday, March 4, 2013

One Word


One word - one attitude. A word that keeps coming back to me ...

" ... Mary sat at the Lord's feet,
listening
to what He taught."
(Luke 10:39)

Needing to be reminded - again. And again. For the busyness of this life, and the cares and concerns of this world draw us like a magnet, filling our minds and hearts, pulling us to the doing. Of tasks, of responsibilities. Which often are good, and are necessary. But of primary importance - before the doing, must come the listening. 

How were Noah and Moses able to hear God's clear, yet seemingly impossible-to-do instructions? To build an ark for a flood in a land where rain was not even known. To lead God's people out from under slavery, bound to a hard-hearted Pharaoh. (All so clearly portrayed in the first episode of The Bible, aired last night on the History Channel.)

Could it be that these two ordinary men were in the habit of listening to God - every day? Were they in the habit of desiring, of longing to hear from Him? And was Mary in the habit of doing the same - longing to learn from Jesus above all else? Was listening like breathing for each of them - the most basic desire and longing of their hearts? Even before the doing, did they long to hear from and listen to God? For from the listening, comes the doing of what is on His heart. 

Lord, please create in me more of a listening heart. May it be so essential to my day, my moments - as essential as breathing. My focus today, tomorrow - and every day. And from the listening, may I be doing what is on Your heart.

" they follow Him,
because they know His voice."
(John 10:4b)

(Photo: the view from our deck at the beginning of our ministry leadership conference. Of primary importance in my heart this week - desiring to listen.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Planner 2013 Update


At the start of a brand new month, I thought I'd give a little update on my planner. It is constantly changing, and adjusting to my needs - and, as I enjoy organizing so much, it is fun for me to try new ideas of organizing, etc. Sometimes I think that if I spent less time on organizing (which I love to do), I'd actually have time to get more things done! But I know better, as the planning and organizing actually help us accomplish more.

And doing our planning with our priorities before us, helps us keep on track with what is most important. From my early years of mothering, I have always done my planning with priorities in mind. You can read more about this here and here, and about some of the planning systems I have used. I use an app on my iPhone for some of the basics of my planning, such as keeping track of weekly priorities; but still need to be able to write down the daily tasks/responsibilities on paper.

For those of you who love to organize as I do, you can imagine my excitement to find a planner recently at Target that is set up perfectly to use along with weekly/daily priorities!

Photo taken this past weekend, as I started to set up my planner for the coming week ...

So, even though I started this calendar year out using some printed forms that I created, placing them in a section of my journal, I have made another switch. To this cute and practical planner that is available at Target - called "Organizher".

You can see in the photo above that the left column of each weekly spread can easily be used for listing your priorities. For me, these are the priorities that I have kept before me for many years as a wife and mom (and now "grama"): GOD (First Love), MY HUSBAND, FAMILY, HOME, PERSONAL (projects to take care of ourselves as we mother and serve others), and OUTSIDE THE HOME (for me now - Cru High ministry together with my husband, and any other needs that God calls me to).

I hope to be writing about these priorities in my mothering series on Thursdays (Forever Close: The Heart of a Mother) in the coming weeks. It may not be each week, as the next few weeks are full with travel plans, and then with family visiting. But, as the idea of living with priorities in front of us is such an integral part of this busy, full life as a wife and mother, I feel God's promptings to focus on this subject as I continue posting about mothering.

UPDATE: Click here for first post in the series on priorities, posted in the fall of 2013.

Linking up with:
I'm Lovin' It
Saturday Show & Tell