Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Priceless Gift of Joy



Joy to the world, the Lord has come.


Into this beautiful world, 
and into this world filled with chaos and tears, 
Joy has come. 
Even in the midst of the wind and the storms, 
in our pain and in our losses, 
Joy has come. 


Isn't this what all of mankind longs for? 
What we all desire?

We look for joy everywhere, 
and we look for joy everyday. 
We are made for this - to long for deep-rooted happiness, 
the kind that bubbles up from within.

And we are not left alone to find this sought-after treasure ... 
we are told where to find what we long for.


You make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand
are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)


In our times of celebration,
when we are in need ...
Wherever we are,
whatever our situation,
there is JOY close by,
with us, within. 
With Him.


I bring you good news
that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - 
has been born ...
(from Luke 2:10-11 NLT))


 ... they will call Him Immanuel,
which means 'God is with us'.
(Matthew 1:23 NLT)


Into this beautiful world, 
and into this world filled with chaos and tears, 
Joy has come. 
Even in the midst of the wind and the storms, 
in our pain and in our losses, 
Joy has come.




Lord, how can we thank You? For IMMANUEL - God with us. For JOY, as "in Your presence is fullness of joy". JOY - close by, available to us, within us ... in the sunshine and in the rain, in the hard and in the good. There is always JOY to be found, for You are with us.

- - - - - - -


Linking up with Bonnie's #OneWordAdvent


Note: My blog will be quiet for the next week or two, as I'll be celebrating with family, and reflecting on the gifts of this beautiful season. You'll find me back here shortly before we turn the page to a brand New Year! Have a blessed Christmas with your loved ones!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Baked Ham with Orange Glaze


Our traditional main dish for Thanksgiving is usually turkey, and for Christmas it is usually ham. But this year, I had the idea to serve both turkey and ham for Thanksgiving Day! With our whole family home - 22 around our tables - I figured that having both would be a fun thing to do!

I found a new recipe to use for the ham ...

Print Recipe

Baked Ham with Orange Glaze


Course: Main Dish
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 45 min
Total Time: 2 hr
Serves: 15

Ingredients

  • 1 fully cooked bone-in ham (6 to 7 pounds)
  • 2 cups apple cider or unsweetened juice
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 13 cup orange marmalade
  • 14 cup packed brown sugar
  • 14 cup Dijon mustard
  • 14 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  1. Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes 1/4 in. deep. Add cider and orange juice to pan. Loosely cover ham with foil; bake at 325° for 1 hour. Combine remaining ingredients; brush some over ham.
  2. Bake, uncovered, 45-60 minutes longer or until a thermometer reads 140°, brushing occasionally with glaze. Serve with remaining glaze. Yield: 15 servings.
  3. MY NOTE: THANKSGIVING 2015 - Prepared in oven bag the day before Thanksgiving, then cut into slices and put in slow cooker with the juice, and glaze topping. Refrigerate overnight. On Thanksgiving Day cooked in slow cooker (alternate high/low) for about 3 hours.

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I purchased a spiral-sliced ham (about 12#), and though my oven is a convection oven with multiple racks, I knew that there would be a problem with oven space on Thanksgiving morning. 

Putting a few ideas together, I came up with a plan that worked well. I baked the ham for about an hour in an oven bag (to keep it moist) the day before Thanksgiving. I then sliced it and put the slices in a slow cooker, adding the juices, and also adding the glaze on some of the layers of the ham slices, then refrigerating it for night. The next morning I heated the ham up for about 3 hours in the slow cooker ... it turned out moist and delicious for our Thanksgiving Dinner, and freed up my oven for the turkey and other hot dishes! A great idea to use for Christmas Day, as well, if serving ham. 

What will you be serving for Christmas Dinner?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Busy, and Beautiful Season of Advent

These weeks leading up to Christmas are such BUSY weeks of Christmas shopping, baking, and Christmas events ... and I am having less time to put up posts. But ... these weeks are also such a BEAUTIFUL time, as we take time amidst our busyness to pause, and to reflect on the Greatest Gift ever given.

There are so many beautiful Advent readings available, and this year I am especially loving the daily posts by inCourage on Facebook and Instagram. 25 Christmas Promises - each one capturing my heart, such beautiful gifts from God.

I've also been "sharing" them on my Pursuing Heart Facebook Page each day, together with thoughts from my heart as I reflect on God's great gifts to us. 

A few of my favorites so far (though I love them all), with my reflections that I have shared on my Pursuing Heart Facebook Page ...

Credit: incourage

Oh, I love these words ... the promise of JOY!! In the midst of our good days, and our hard days, there is one constant - God is with us!

And the JOY of the Lord is our strength. Today. Everyday.

Credit: incourage

These posts are so beautiful - one for each day of Advent. I love this one from Day One ... "IMMANUEL: God with us"! Such an amazing promise - His Presence with us!

Credit: incourage


With each passing year, I am more in awe of the AMAZING gift of the Holy Spirit. It is beyond my comprehension how we can have His Spirit WITHIN us, closer than any other. Always with us, in the deepest part of us. GOD WITH US. Always.


Thanking God at this Advent time,
and all through the year ...
for His faithful, unending gifts to us,
all that we long for.



Friday, December 4, 2015

In the Kitchen


Taking time for my once-a-month post - In the Kitchen - covering some of the things that happened in my kitchen - this time, in November!

THANKSGIVING month is the time for giving of thanks, and for celebrating with the gifts of FAMILY, and of FOOD! And, of course, for those of us who are responsible for the food prep in our homes, November was a busy month in the kitchen ...

As I planned for our Thanksgiving feast with our whole family home (22 in all for Thanksgiving Day!) ... I knew that I needed to prepare as much as possible ahead of time. My heart is so full when all our kids and grandkids are home, and I want to be able to focus on them as much as possible, so there were many dishes I prepared ahead of time: breakfast scones, appetizers, side dishes, pies and other sweets, snacks, and also one of the main dishes, ham. And I am also blessed to have four daughters who are great cooks ~ they helped by bringing side dishes, as well as appetizers and desserts for our evening snack spread!


Sausage Wonton Cups was a new recipe that I tried out - perfect, as it could be made ahead of time and put in the freezer to be heated up when needed.


Pumpkin Spice Scones was another new recipe for me - they freeze well, and are easy to thaw and microwave for a bit to serve warm. They were great to use for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.


Delicious pies are such a great part of a Thanksgiving feast! I made three of my traditional Pumpkin Pie recipe, and daughters brought three more: Apple Crumb Pie, Apple Pie, and a Coconut Cream Pie ... all so delicious! I prepared my pie crusts a week ahead of time using my Make-Ahead Pie Crust recipe, froze the pie crusts already rolled into the pie plates, then thawed them and filled to bake a day or two before Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgiving Dinner

A few of the other dishes that I prepared ahead of time, 
ready to be put in the oven or slow cooker the morning of Thanksgiving:

Herb Stuffing
Baked Ham with Orange Glaze
    (check back for this new ham recipe, as I hope to post it next week)

Our Thanksgiving Evening Snack/Dessert Spread

We were so very blessed to have our whole family home for Thanksgiving - 
click here for a few photos (in digital scrapbook form). 
I am treasuring the memories - such a wonderful time together!
And, we were so very blessed to have beautiful, delicious food to enjoy together! All a gift from God ... I am so thankful!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wait with HOPE



The Thanksgiving feast is over, family has come and gone, and the house is quiet. The snow is falling lightly outdoors, covering the branches and the blades of grass. And it is warm indoors, and my heart is full of memories to hold close.

It was a taste of heaven to have our family home ... we're not a perfect family, but I taste a portion of perfection when we are all together. There's a sense of completeness; all those I love so deeply are all together in one place. My mother-heart is often scattered across the land - from San Francisco to New York City, down to Dallas, and also in the nearby places where some of our family lives, close by to our home. But to have them all under one roof, close enough to touch and hold close ... this is a taste of heaven. And when they leave, it is hard to let go. Again.

This taste of heaven is a gift, 
and gives a glimpse into a deeper reality. 

We've also been given a glimpse into our future reality, our future home. As we come to know our great Creator God, our Savior, we are given the priceless gift of having His Spirit close by, within us - so close.

As we give our best time to read His Words, and spend precious time communicating deeply with God through prayer, we can sense His Presence with us, deep within us. It's like we are under the same roof with our loving God, close enough to touch and hold close. And we hold those moments close - His Presence so close that we can touch it and hold it. And we long to linger; a taste of heaven. It is often so hard to leave the quiet place where we have pulled aside to listen and learn from Him ... 

And with Advent, this magical season of anticipation and excitement, we are reminded to pull close, very close, to focus intently on what we are made for ... for JESUS, "God with us", and for our future home - with Him. Where there will never be any more good-byes, no more times of letting go, no more longings. For we will have our deepest longings fulfilled. We will be completely complete. No more sin, no more struggling to keep our focus on what is best - but close, so close to our Creator and our Savior, forever. 

One day we will always be home, 
together with our Maker.

And today, in the here and now, 
we live with HOPE. 

 "But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day 
when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay."
(Romans 8:20b-21 NLT)

"And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit 
within us as a foretaste of future glory, 
for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. 
We, too, wait with eager hope for the day 
when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children ..." 
(Romans 8:23 NLT)

- - - - - - -

Thank You, loving Lord, for the HOPE You give ... 
for the warmth and love of family, 
for Your Spirit within ...
all precious glimpses, offerings of Hope,
as we wait for our true Home, with You.

And as we wait, may we be faithful and wise,
focusing on the things of most importance.
May we fill our hearts and minds with You,
and may we love and pray for our families, and for others ~
that they, too, will be given the priceless gift 
of Hope for their future Home, with You.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Welcome December



Welcome December ...
     
       this beautiful month of expectations
       full of dreams, full of hope
       excitement in the air

       we stand in line and search
       for perfect gifts for those we love
       taking time to show we care

       sweet children take center stage
       all ages becoming as children again
       enjoying the simple and the surprises

       our homes are decorated
       cookies are baked, candles are lit
       warmth and love fills each room     

       our hearts are tender, longing for home
       travel plans are formed
       and loved ones fill our thoughts

       this beautiful month of expectations
       full of dreams, full of hope
       all a warm and precious picture 
       of our deepest longings and yearnings
       for a Savior, for our forever home


Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is
about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.
(Luke 1:78-79)

Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call Him Immanuel,
which means 'God is with us'.
(Matthew 1:23)


Monday, November 30, 2015

November in Review

The beautiful month of November is now past, a month filled with love and warmth, and preparations for our whole family being home for Thanksgiving! It was a busy month, and a glorious month. 

It was a joy for me to write here on my blog during the month! In case you missed some of my posts, here is my collection of posts from November 2015 - click on the caption below each photo to read each post ...


Welcome November

My devotional posts are the heart of my blog. They come from a full heart, as I draw in close to God; taking time to listen, and to share from what He teaches me.

Embrace the Small

A Prayer for Every Day

Created as a Masterpiece

It was good to focus on a few posts of thanks-giving; good reminders to pause in our busyness and to give thanks ...

A Life of Thanks

A Heart of Thanks

I love planning, and love to have a functional and beautiful planner ... so of course, it was fun to share a bit about the planner that I have purchased for the new year!

Planning for 2016

The month of November was a busy month of food prep, and it was also fun to put up three food-related posts during the month ...

In the Kitchen

Make-Ahead Pie Crust


Pumpkin Spice Scones

Our Thanksgiving was extra special this year with our whole family home, coming from San Francisco, New York City, and Dallas, to join those who live near us here in NE. My heart is filled with thanks - our time together was a priceless gift from God. Sharing some photos in digital scrapbooking form ...

Our Family Thanksgiving

And now a new month is waiting to be opened up ... filled with gifts from God, and opportunities to draw close to Him. For He is the giver of all that is good, and the One who holds us through the trials of this life.

Thanks for visiting my blog - you are an encouragement to me as I follow God's promptings to write and share from what He teaches me. You are also invited to view my Pursuing Heart facebook page where I share several times a day ... click here. It's always a blessing to hear from you ... and I pray that you have had a memorable Thanksgiving month!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our Family Thanksgiving

It was a very blessed Thanksgiving with our family home from TX, CA, and NY - joining those of us who live here in NE. It was all a gift from God - so, so wonderful to spend time together!! 

My heart is overflowing with thanks to God, and digital scrapbooking is one way to try to hold the memories close ...









Family truly is a gift from God. We have had our share of trials as a family, times of discord and problems, and I do not take the love and joy that we experience together for granted - it is without a doubt all a gift from God. And I am filled with thanks!

We also were able to have some great family pictures taken, and will be sharing those at a later date ... but for now, I am treasuring the memories of having our six sweet (grown) children here (four daughters and two sons), three of our four sons-in-law here (one was gone, visiting his own mother who is in the hospital in another state), and our ten precious grandchildren. 

Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of family -
each one, a gift from You.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Heart of Thanks



Counting the ways that You love us ~
     at Thanksgiving time, and all through the year ...

  • sending us Immanuel - "God with us"
  • peace amidst the storms
  • undeserving grace & mercy You give
  • Your faithfulness and Your unending love - each day
  • being our strong refuge

  • this beautiful life You have given us
  • the difficulties that this life brings, drawing us to You
  • Your Presence always with us - in the good, and in the hard
  • Your glorious, unlimited resources
  • promises given and promises kept - Your Word

  • caring for our sweet granddaughter Crystal
  • providing the perfect donor for her kidney transplant
  • seven months later - continued amazing recovery for Crystal and Amy
  • how can we thank You enough, Lord?

  • Your care as we helped my 94 year-old father in difficult times
  • for how my brothers/sisters-in-law rescued us in our time of need
  • a season of rest for us after eight months of great trial
  • some unexpected months of improvement for my father

  • blessings of our family - too many to contain, overflowing
  • four sweet daughters, two amazing sons, four great sons-in-law
  • ten of the dearest grandkids - five girls, five boys
  • excited anticipation of all home for Thanksgiving
  • the best and greatest life with my sweet hubby - how I love him

  • this beautiful life You have given us
  • the difficulties that this life brings, drawing us to You
  • how You use both for Your great purposes 
  • Your greatest gift to us: JESUS - "God with us"
  • May You receive all our praise, and may Your Name be lifted high.


Let us praise You at all times
and exalt Your Name together
on Thanksgiving Day
and on every day of our lives.





Monday, November 23, 2015

A Life of Thanks



The giving of thanks,
morning and evening
of every day.

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)


A life of thanks ~
during this Thanksgiving week,
and all through the year.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Scones


I don't often get around to making things that I have pinned to my Pinterest boards, but when I do, it is usually a fun treat! This pin drew my attention a few weeks ago, and I decided to give it a try this past week. 


It was a real treat to make these Pumpkin Spice Scones! I haven't made scones for quite a long time - these were easy to make. I also liked how the directions called for patting the dough out into a 4x12 inch rectangle before cutting into triangle shapes.


I used parchment paper instead of spraying with cooking spray, which made for less cleanup - and the scones also browned so evenly. 


As I usually do, I doubled the recipe. Of course! So we had some to try the day I made them, and plenty to put in the freezer to use on Thanksgiving morning. I decided to try freezing them (after doing a google search if freezing is recommended for scones), and found out that they do great! 

Store in an airtight container (with frosting on), and freeze. Let them thaw, enjoy them at room temperature ... or after thawed, put in microwave for about 10 seconds to enjoy them lightly warmed. We had to try thawing a few, warmed them up a bit - delicious!! 


From one of my Pinterest boards ...

Click below for this recipe from the blog:


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Created as a Masterpiece


We don't have to look far to see beauty. The beauty of God's creation, the beauty of what man, made in His image, has created.

There is so much beauty to be thankful for during this month of Thanks Giving, and all through the year. And maybe, if you are like me, we need to be reminded that we can and should also be thankful for how He made us.

As women, it is so easy to compare, and to wish we had more of this, or less of that. If only we could be different in this area or that area, then we would be happier and have more worth. I have fallen guilty of this comparison trap more often than I care to admit. 

And I have often needed to be reminded of the Truth ...

For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us
anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things
He planned for us long ago.
(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)


"What if we stopped listening to our hearts when our feelings don't tell us the truth and instead we chose to believe God's words more than our fear and doubts?" (Renee Swope in A Confident Heart Devotional)


I don't have to be the
strongest, wisest, or best
for God to use me.
I simply need to have a
heart sold out to Him,
willing to be used by Him.


You are His masterpiece, I am His masterpiece. Each of us created uniquely, for His great purposes and glory. And we can be thankful, and we can accept ourselves just as we are - made in His image, created as a masterpiece, to be a beautiful fragrance of His love to those around us.


Trust that God made you
just as He wanted you to be,
and then be the best YOU.
Discover and offer
the unique personality traits
God gave you
to impact those around you.



Sharing thoughts and quotes from my journal, as I continually need to be reminded of His Truth. And I am thankful ...