Friday, May 29, 2015

Project Life 2015: Week 15

I needed to set aside my digital scrapbooking for over a month as it was a very busy season for us. So I'll be sharing some of the scrapbook pages as I slowly get caught up again. On these two pages - capturing memories of time with grandkids, and also of celebrating my father's 94th birthday in April ...




Thankful for family, and for ways to preserve the memories ...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chicken Tetrazzini


This is a new recipe that I tried out a few months ago, and oh, it is delicious! You have to try it to know what I mean. We loved it!

Print Recipe

Chicken Tetrazzini

Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 35 Min
Cook Time: 25 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons butter divided
  • 8 bacon strips chopped
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 small green pepper chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups coarsely shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups frozen peas (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 jar (4 ounces) diced pimientos drained
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cook spaghetti according to package directions for al dente. Drain; transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Add 2 teaspoons butter and toss to coat.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Discard drippings, reserving 1 tablespoon in pan. Add mushrooms, onion and green pepper to drippings; cook and stir over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove from pan.

  3. In same pan, heat remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add chicken, peas, pimientos and mushroom mixture; heat through, stirring occasionally. Spoon over spaghetti. Sprinkle with bacon and cheese.

  4. Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.



I doubled the recipe, also dividing each recipe into two 8x8 inch pans -  which made enough for four meals. We enjoyed one the day I made it, and put the others in the freezer. I gave one to our daughter to use as she was recovering from being a kidney donor for her niece (our granddaughter). Amy just served it to her family last week, and texted me that same night saying how much they loved the recipe! Such fun to try a new recipe which turns out to be so good, and also a double blessing to be able to share it with others.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

In the Kitchen


Just for fun - a few things that happened in the kitchen last week ...



This happened for lunch one day - salad greens, with added chopped veggies (cucumbers, celery, peppers, tomatoes), sliced hard boiled eggs ... and topped off with sliced crispy chicken strips (from the grocery freezer section). We like to have this fairly often for lunch, sometimes slicing up chicken from the grill, sometimes using the purchased chicken strips.


This happened one day, filling our home with the aroma of freshly baked bread. I love this Herb Bread recipe from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook. I like to let my bread machine prepare the dough, and then I transfer the dough to a bread pan to rise and bake, resulting in a beautifully shaped loaf. On this day, I used the bread machine for two cycles, resulting in two loaves - one to use right away, and one for the freezer.


Last week Wednesday happened to hold a double treat at our home: a sweet granddaughter here for the day ... and, some help in the kitchen! Ali helped me make Pizza English Muffins for our lunch together. Some to eat right away, and some for another day.


Then near the end of the week last week, on a cool, rainy day, this happened ... menu planning! Sometimes I go for awhile without actually writing out my menus, but it always results in a much better week in the kitchen when I take the time to plan menus. 

What is happening in your kitchen these days?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why I Write


This week marks the five-year mark for my blog - a birthday of sorts! At birthday times we sometimes share some stats, especially when the one we're celebrating is still in the early years. So here are a few of my blog stats at the time of this five-year mark! 

It has been approximately 1,825 days since I opened up this blog, and today I am publishing my 710th post. This averages out to one post about every 2.5 days. I'm not a big blogger by any means - you'll just find quiet, thoughtful posts here ... not a lot of fanfare and not a huge amount traffic. But I've been blessed with about 161,500 page views over the past 5 years, averaging out to about 88 page views each day.

The last few months have been a slower blogging season for me, as I have needed to give extra time to family and to Cru ministry. And now as the full months of April and May are coming to a close - and I am at the five-year mark for this blog, I am taking time to refresh, and to begin writing again.

It's a good time to ask myself: Why do I write here?

You can read my very first post - here - and see the initial reasons why I started blogging. And you can read - here - the main reasons why I have continued to write.

And I am asking myself, again ... why do I want to continue to write, to step into my sixth year of blogging, and beyond?

It's easy to explain, and also maybe hard to explain. 

Maybe one of the main reasons is that writing is a little like breathing for me. It's how I think through things, how I process thoughts and ideas. It is necessary; it is a part of who I am. If there were no paper and pen, no screen and keyboard, I would be rather lost. For it is in the process of putting thought to written word that things make sense to me. 

And the next reason, very closely connected to the first, is that in some hard-to-explain way, I sensed a calling five years ago to take from my private writing (which fills up many, many journals) and to share. Sharing my words gives me a deep measure of joy and fulfillment, and if someone is blessed by reading, then my joy is doubled. Surely God who crafts us with our unique passions and gifts, also desires for us to use these to spread joy and hope to others. 

An unexpected blessing in blogging has been to find many others of kindred heart. I've made a point of collecting quotes from other writers on why they write. Here are a few of those quotes that I have identified with, and have been encouraged by over the past five years.
- - - - - - - - - -

"Write the words that you so desperately need to hear." (Lysa Terkeurst)

"If we write to lose ourselves, we'll find God." (Emily Wieranga)


"But here's the biggest thing I've learned: write from and for the heart or don't write at all." (Girl with Blog)


"And when I do write, give me the gift of hesitation with consideration. Remind me Lord, to insert a holy pause before I publish anything - be it a blog post, a letter, a tweet, a status update. Whisper in my ear. "Does this bring Me glory?" (Stacy Thacker)


"I started this blog with the direction from the Lord ... be generous with your life." (A Life Surrendered)


"Let the writing flow from the deepest places inside you. Reveal the real you. ... Embrace the process as much as the final product. Through the act of writing, we acquire a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us." (Denise Hughes)


"Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.
Put me to service, or put me to suffering.
Let me post for Thee or be put aside for Thee.
Lifted high, only for Thee, or brought low, all for Thee.
Do with me and each post whatever You will, because You alone know best."
(Ann Voskamp)


Thank you for blessing me with your visit here 
and for sharing in my joy of writing.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Held Secure through Transplant


It has been four weeks since I have written here on my blog - my longest break since I started writing here at Pursuing Heart. And it has been a necessary break, as we have been completely occupied in caring for our family during our granddaughter's kidney transplant.

If you are a regular reader here, you may know that our sweet 16 year-old granddaughter, Crystal, was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease two years ago. The prognosis was that her kidneys would fail during her teen years, and that she would need a kidney transplant. It has been quite a journey since early 2013 as we as family have watched her kidney function decline. And it has been quite a journey for Crystal, as she has experienced nausea (in the mornings, often lasting through early afternoon) for two full years now, and has lost energy day by day. She is an amazing gal, and God has given her grace and endurance to walk this journey. 

And if you are a regular reader here, you probably also know that our oldest daughter, Amy, selflessly and generously offered to be a kidney donor for Crystal. We are amazed and so very thankful for God's provision.

Now we are in the month of May, and the April 20 Transplant Day has passed. We are back home from our 2 1/2 week stay in Dallas with our family. And it is time to share our thanks to God for all that He did during the past few weeks ... for His care of our daughter and granddaughter, and all of us, as we walked through kidney transplant.

My List of Thanks will be long, for God blessed us beyond what we even dreamed possible!

  • Transplant came at the perfect time. Crystal's kidney function dipped below 10% just a week or so before the scheduled transplant. If there would have been no donor in place, and no date set, she would have been put on dialysis. And dialysis was one of Crystal's biggest fears. As family, we earnestly asked God if she could be spared going through dialysis. How we praise God for granting Crystal her desire.
  • God provided the perfect donor for Crystal. We knew that the extensive testing for Amy revealed that she would be a very good match for Crystal, and as time went on, we learned even more. We have heard from the doctors that Amy is as good a match as a parent of Crystal would be! Which means that even though both Mark & Cristy were eliminated from being a donor because their testing revealed that they both had very early stages of kidney cancer (another whole heart-wrenching story of it's own), God provided a perfect donor in their place. How amazing is that? We just marvel at God's goodness in providing for Crystal, and putting it on Amy's heart to donate.
  • Transplant Day went amazingly well. It is beyond our understanding how a kidney can be removed from one person and then placed in another ... and then to begin functioning right from the start. That is exactly what happened! We praise God for the doctors who performed the surgeries ... Amy's surgery to have her left kidney removed began at 8:30 am on Monday, April 20th, and Crystal's surgery to remove her right diseased kidney began at 9:30 am. At about 10:45 am those of us in the waiting room were notified that the new kidney from Amy was ready to be transplanted into Crystal! How completely amazing. All went well, and we were told that Crystal's new kidney from Amy began functioning right from the start. Both Crystal and Amy were out of surgery and into their hospital rooms by 2 pm that day.
  • Recovery was not easy for either Crystal or Amy (and recovery continues on even now), but it has been going just as predicted, with no big problems. Crystal was in PICU (pediatric ICU) for several days, and then moved to a regular patient room to continue her recovery. Amy was in her hospital room for three days of recovery before being released to continue her recovery at Mark & Cristy's home. And now as I write this, both of them are back in their homes, continuing on with recovery.
  • God's grace, peace, and strength were there for us as family, as well. He held us up as we waited during the surgeries ... two loved family members in surgery at the same time. How emotional, and how we needed His peace as we waited. Then after surgery, our daughter, Cristy, received the strength and peace she needed as she stayed with her daughter, Crystal, throughout Crystal's whole 13-day hospital stay ... and He also gave me the strength and peace I needed as I stayed with my daughter, Amy, during her hospital stay. And also, as my hubby and I continued on as her caregivers after she was released and needed to stay on in Texas until April 29th.
  • We are in awe of the healing that God brought for both Crystal and Amy. A normal creatinine level (showing toxin levels) is around .6 to 1. Before transplant, Crystal's creatinine had gone up to 4.3, and just a few days after transplant, it was down in the normal range! Amazing! Her nausea disappeared, and she was able to begin eating a full breakfast (as well as other meals) shortly after surgery. She had experienced daily nausea and had had difficulty eating for two full years. And Amy's recovery astounded us, as well. Her labs taken on April 29th revealed that her creatinine level was in normal range already, something that they do not expect to take place until six months post-transplant. The doctor said that if a person did not know that she had only one kidney, that from looking at her labs, they would think that she still has two kidneys. How incredibly amazing to see the healing that has come to both Crystal and Amy! Of course, they will still be recovering and healing from surgery for weeks to come, but the results at this stage are above what would be expected.
  • My hubby and I praise God for the strength He gave us to serve our family well. While I was in the hospital for several days with Amy, Gary was helping at Mark & Cristy's home with their two youngest children. Mark needed to keep up with his real estate appraiser business, and Gary enjoyed being grampa - taking the kids to and from school, including getting breakfast for them, all while also driving back and forth to the hospital each day (45 minute drive each way). When Amy was released to go to their home, I also joined in the care of Luke and Brianna, while also being Amy's caregiver. Our days were full with caregiving, visiting Crystal and Cristy, caring for Luke and Brianna, taking care of the house, getting meals on the table (many meals provided by their church family), keeping the house sanitized and free of germs during recovery, doing load after load of laundry, and more. Our days ended about midnight, and started early the next morning. How we thank God for giving us great joy and the energy we needed to serve our family.
  • And how we praise God for the timing of Crystal's release from the hospital, and also Amy's release to travel back to Nebraska. We had wondered how much of a gap there would be between our time of return to our home near Omaha and the time for Cristy to be back at their home to care for the rest of her family. It turns out that Amy was released to travel home with us the same day that Crystal was released from the hospital! In fact, we left for our home at 4 pm on April 29, and Cristy & Crystal arrived home from the hospital at 6:30 pm that same day! To me, that little gift from God of the timing was like icing on the cake! We had just enough time when we got to their home after Amy's doctor appt. in the morning, to wash all the linens and towels from our stay, place clean bleached sheets on the bed for Crystal, and sanitize Crystal's room, ready for her return. We would have loved to stay a bit longer to welcome her home, but we needed to start out on our return home (driving in two days), and it was a blessing that they could come home to a quiet house, just their family.

We could go on and on with our thanks! 
How we thank God for His love and care during transplant
 and for the healing He has brought.


You are invited to read more of the details and emotions of Transplant Day on our family/ministry blog - click here.

And for more posts written on God's care during trials:

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