Monday, August 31, 2015

August in Review

Another month is drawing to a close, and I thought it would be fun to take time to review what has happened here on my blog during the month of August.

Somehow, even amidst a full month, I've been able to post more often this month than in any other month of this year so far! Posting is always a treat for me, so I am thankful for time to do so. My posts also give a picture of what God has been drawing me to focus on. 

The inspirational posts this month all centered around one of the main topics I write on ... FIRST LOVE: What We are Made For. This is where my heart was drawn to, and where my writing took me this month. Click on the captions below each photo to read each post.


An Undivided Heart

Living Water

Turn Towards the Light

Remain in Me

It was also a month where I posted a recipe each week! That's always a treat for me when that happens. Click on each caption for the recipe post.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Campfire Bundles

Grilled Chicken Salad

Cranberry Lime Cooler

"In the Kitchen" is always a fun post to do ... a collection of things that happened in my kitchen during the month.

In the Kitchen

I'm trying to take time to read more books during this season of life. I do read multiple blogs, but am also trying to take time to read more books. There is so much I learn from good authors, and maybe posts like this will be an encouragement for me as I read more ... and maybe, it will encourage you, as well. Let me know of the books that you recommend!

What I'm Reading Now

And lastly, once in awhile I like to post a page or two from my digital scrapbooking. A fun hobby for me, preserving memories which tell the story that God is writing in our lives as a couple, and as a family.

Project Life: Week 32

August will soon be past, and a new month will be here. May we follow God closely as we step into the month of September ...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cranberry Lime Cooler


It's always a treat to come across an easy, refreshing beverage recipe. I've been preparing this recipe for a number of years now, especially during the hot summer months. I like to serve it as family or friends arrive, as they are waiting for a meal to begin. A refreshing cold summer beverage ...

Print Recipe

Cranberry Lime Cooler


Course: Beverages
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 13 cup cranberry juice cocktail chilled
  • 4 12-oz cans Fresca
  • 4 lime wedges

Directions

  1. Combine juice and Fresca in pitcher.

  2. Pour into 4 tall glasses filled with crushed ice.

  3. Squeeze lime wedge over each glass.

  4. For individual serving ... fill glass 1/2 full with ice. Fill 3/4 full with Fresca; top with juice, then lime.

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What is your favorite summer beverage for family gatherings?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the Kitchen


After a full summer, and also after being gone from home for two weeks in July, it was time the beginning of this month to stock my pantry again. So the first full week of August was filled with several grocery shopping trips with my stock-up-page list of items to purchase in hand. First stop was Aldi (the first time I have taken time to go there in quite a few months), then Sam's, and then several local grocery chain stores to fill in with the rest of the items (this month it was Family Fare, and WalMart - sometimes it is HyVee).

Meal prep goes so much better when I have a fully stocked pantry; a great encouragement to be more consistent with my cooking!

Sharing a few fun little things from my kitchen these past few weeks:


Yesterday I found room in our refrigerator for these freshly-picked garden veggies! More than we can eat, of course, and we've been sharing with our family who live nearby.


Summer lunches are so easy when there are fresh veggies in the house. This was yesterday's lunch, and one that we have fairly often. Chicken Wraps, using heated up chicken strips from the freezer, along with salad greens, tomatoes, and cheese. Add whatever else you would like for a quick and easy lunch.



This next recipe is a good one to use for a quick breakfast, and was on a recipe card that I had tucked away years ago. I pulled it out recently, and used it not just once, but on several mornings. 

Egg Cup Scramble - scrambled eggs for one, prepared in the microwave. Fast, easy, and a good source of protein first thing in the morning. 

The recipe is simple: just 3 ingredients, the number "2" for the amount of each ingredient, and 2 sets of 45 seconds for microwaving the dish. 

Spray some oil in a coffee cup, or a small dish ... put in 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix with a fork. Place in the microwave for about 45 seconds; remove and stir again with fork. Microwave again for about 45 seconds. Top with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. 

And enjoy, along with a muffin and some yoghurt (or your choice of other breakfast food).


It was also time earlier this month to replenish my bags of grated walnuts and pecans. I like to buy walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc., at Sam's in larger size bags; they are less expensive that way. Then periodically I grate up a bag of each to keep in the refrigerator, ready to use for recipes. 


Once in awhile I actually get around to making something that I have pinned on Pinterest! Here is a fun little pudding snack treat that I made this month for four of our grandkids when they were here for an overnighter. Click here for the recipe for Banana Split Parfait Jars! They were yummy, and the kids loved them. I ended up drizzling chocolate on all four of them, of course - though they were so pretty to take a photo of without the chocolate, too.  

What has been happening in your kitchen in recent weeks?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Remain in Me



Sometimes we hear things so often, and we think we've got it, that we have that thing all figured out. And then, so often, we find out that there is so much more, more than we ever realized. 

I love it that this is the case so often, most often in fact, with God's Words. We can read His Words to us and be impacted by them, and then later, when we read them again ... our eyes and hearts are opened to so much more. So much more from the same words that we have been reading over and over for so long.. 

His Words never grow old for they are alive, spoken by a living God.

And recently I have been captured, again, by the words in John 15. 

"Abide in Me ..." 
(John 15:4a ESV)

Isn't this what we long for ... to "abide" in Him? For He says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

I love how my ESV Study Bible describes this "abiding" ...

"Abide in Me - means to continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience, and joy." (added emphasis mine)

Just as a plant cannot survive unless it receives nourishment continually - just as a newborn baby needs milk continually - just as we cannot survive and thrive unless we receive water and nutrition continually  - so, we need His Words continually.

"Remain in Me ..." 
(John 15:4a NLT)

And this "remaining" isn't just about going through the motions of receiving nourishment; it implies that we are allowing the nourishment to enter into us fully. And it implies that we are putting the nourishment to action. We are not only hearing the words, but are acting on them; we are obeying them.

"When you obey My commandments,
you remain in My love,
just as I obey My Father's commandments
and remain in His love."
(John 15:10)

We can sometimes recoil from the word "obey", but it really is key to remaining, abiding. As parents, we know that our young children are truly taking our words to heart when we see them acting on our words, obeying our words. So it is with us. If we truly are taking God's Words to heart, digesting them fully, we will act on them. We will obey them.

Loving Lord, thank You for reminders to abide, to remain ... to obey. When I read Your Words, may I digest them into the core of my heart, and may I turn them into action; may I willingly and completely obey You. Receiving and also living out Your Words. For Your glory, as the resulting fruit in My life will bring much joy, and much glory to You.

"Those who remain in Me, and I in them,
will produce much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing."
(John 15:5b)



Sharing the thoughts above as I have recently been reading through the book of John, along with reading the First5 devotionals each morning. God has been working on my heart in deeper ways as a result of these thoughts I have shared here about "abiding", "remaining", and "obeying" ... particularly in connection with a weakness of mine, which is ... worry. 

Don't we as mothers resort to "worry" so very often? Sometimes we excuse ourselves for this apparent obsession of ours at times with "worry", because after all, we are mothers, and mothers love and care so deeply about our children. But as I abide/remain in Him continually ... He is drawing me to more fully obey Him when He says: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything." (Philippians 4:6a) This only can come from His Spirit enabling me as I abide in Him. His Words, His nourishment and His strength in me. And I am experiencing the resulting joy, which is the fruit that will bless those around me, and will result in bringing more praise to God. 

Continual, daily nourishment ... 
abiding, remaining in Him.


For more posts on this topic:
FIRST LOVE: What We are Made For


Linking up with:
Tell His Story
Faith Filled Friday

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grilled Chicken Salad


Summer is the perfect time for salads, and when it is a main dish salad, that is even better! This Grilled Chicken Salad recipe has been in my collection for quite a few years, and it is always such a treat to make it again. It is as delicious as it is beautiful ...

Print Recipe

Grilled Chicken Salad


Course: Main Course
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 package macaroni penne pasta or ziti (16 oz.)
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper chopped
  • 2 12 cups celery sliced
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • 14 cup minced fresh dill or 5 teaspoons dill weed
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijion mustard
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 14 teaspoon pepper
  • 23 cup olive oil
  • Leaf lettuce optional

Directions

  1. Grill chicken, uncovered, over medium heat for 5-8 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

  2. Remove from the grill and place in a single layer on a platter; sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, toss pasta, red pepper, celery, onion and dill.

  4. Remove chicken from platter; pour juices into a bowl.

  5. Slice chicken widthwise into thin strips; add to pasta mixture.

  6. To the juices, add vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper; whisk well.

  7. Whisk in oil very slowly in a stream until dressing is thickened.

  8. Pour over salad and toss.

  9. Serve in a lettuce-lined bowl or on individual lettuce-lined plates.

  10. Yield: 6 servings.

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What are some of your favorite main dish salads?

Linking up with:
Cheryl at I'm Lovin' It

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Turn Towards the Light


Are you like me, and need help to make it through each day? 

This world is a beautiful place, and this world is a difficult place. Everywhere we turn, we can see beauty, and also, everywhere we turn, we also see darkness. And in our day and in our changing culture, the darkness is becoming even darker.

There are the fears and concerns from outside our homes, and fears and concerns from within our hearts. How can there be such big changes in our country and nation? Always, something of concern in the news.

And how can there be such fears and insecurities in our own hearts? We doubt our worth, our abilities, our own strength. We are often disappointed and discouraged, and often just plain tired. This world is such a busy place, and we often try to do too much, even trying to do it in our own strength.

But there is Good News ...

I am the light of the world.
If you follow Me,
you won't have to walk in darkness,
because you will have the light
that leads to life.
(John 8:12)


There is a way to overcome the darkness. And it involves a turning.

It involves a turning towards the light. By the help of God, we have the power to turn towards His light. We have the power to call out to Him, to listen to His Words, and to follow Him. This turning towards the light, and this following Him is a gift, and it is a choice. 

It is a daily choice to call out to Him before our feet hit the floor each morning, to reach for His Words, and then, to follow. It is our priority to think on His Words each day, throughout our day. Following His light as He directs us through the moments of our day. 

For He says ...


Loving Lord, I choose to follow You, to read and listen to Your Words, to fix my thoughts on You each day. To depend on You alone even for the strength to follow. Give me an undivided heart to listen to You and to walk with You. You are the Light that leads to life.


For more posts on this topic:
FIRST LOVE: What We are Made For

Linking up with:
Laura at Faith Filled Friday

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Project Life: Week 32

Summer is winding down - and I took some time yesterday to capture a few more memories with digital scrapbooking. Here's a page holding memories from last week ... a week filled with multiple end-of-summer Cru meetings for my hubby, and also a weekend overnighter with four grandkids here!


The warmer weather will continue for awhile even though school starts up today here in our little town! How can summer go by so quickly?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Campfire Bundles


It is still grilling season, even though school has started up already! Here is a fun recipe that I came across a few years ago. We served it again one day when two six year-old grandsons were here this summer - they loved it! A meal all in one bundle!


Print Recipe

Campfire Bundles


Course: Main Course
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet onion sliced
  • 1 each large green, red, and yellow peppers
  • 4 medium potatoes cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 6 medium carrots cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 small head cabbage sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds smoked Polish sausage cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup butter cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Place the first eight ingredients on three pieces of double-layered heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square).

  2. Top with sausage; dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold foil around mixture and seal tightly.

  3. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 30 minutes (or less).

  4. Turn and grill 30 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. (NOTE: Total grill time has been as little as 30 minutes for me.)

  5. Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape.
Yield: 6 servings.

Note: Can omit cabbage and tomatoes.

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Instead of dividing up the ingredients onto three pieces of double-layered foil as the recipe suggests, I always make individual bundles for each person. It just makes it a bit more fun for each person to have their own little bundle.



I've always omitted the cabbage and the tomatoes for some reason, though I am sure these bundles would be delicious with these two ingredients, as well.

There's still time to grill out and enjoy these tasty Campfire Bundles before the fall comes; in fact, they would make a delicious fall meal, as well.

Linking up with:
I'm Lovin' It

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Living Water


What if you or I knew of a source of water that could quench our deepest longings and desires? Where the supply of water would never run out? And where it was accessible anytime, anywhere?

If we really believed that there was a source of water such as this, we would be running to it first thing each morning, and we would be partaking of it all throughout our days. For nothing else would compare. And we would be satisfied. Not once, but continually.

But those who drink the water I give
will never be thirsty again.
(John 4:14a)

This is what we long for, isn't it? Matthew Henry says in his commentary, "Christ in them; He is in them a well of living water. Provision is made not only for their present satisfaction, but for their continual perpetual comfort." 

A source of living water that feeds our innermost soul, and that never runs dry.

It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring
within them,
giving them eternal life.
(John 4:14b)

And what if this source of life-giving, thirst-quenching water filled us up to the brim, and then overflowed, spreading love, joy, and life to those around us? Pointing the way for others to also drink of this same living water.

Rivers of living water
will flow from his heart.
(John 7:38b)

If we know Jesus, we know this source of living water. We have this living water deep within us. Closer than any other. Always with us, wherever we are. 

Sometimes in this confusing, conflicting world, we listen to lies, and resort to searching for other wells of water, other things that will satisfy our deepest longings ... whether it be approval of others, recognition on social media, material possessions that we think we must have to be happy, or any other number of things. None of these satisfy; none quench our thirst. 

I can be easily led off focus to put my eyes on other wells. But they never satisfy. And then I am reminded very quickly, to pause, and to run again to the well that never runs dry, and that quenches all the dry places in my heart

"Seek My face, and you will find
all that you have longed for.
The deepest yearnings of your heart
are for intimacy with Me."
(Jesus Calling)


For more posts on this topic:

Linking up with:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What I'm Reading Now


Don't you just love a good book? Books transport us to another time and place, and books give us new fresh ideas. I have always loved books.

One of my desires this new approaching-fall season is to be more consistent in reading good books. Books were my main source of learning as a young mother, before the age of internet, tablets, and smart phones. And books continue to be a main source of inspiration and learning for me.

One that I just recently completed is Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. I've been reading Jessica's blog, The Mom Creative, for awhile now, and when I heard of her newly published book, I knew that I would want to purchase it. You can even find it at your local Target store!

Fringe Hours is an encouragement to women of all ages to pursue the interests and gifts that God has given each of us as individuals, and to seize pockets of time throughout our days and weeks to nurture ourselves. It is so easy to focus on our tasks and responsibilities day in and day out, and lose sight of some of the passions and gifts that are part of who we are deep within. This book was amazing - every woman should read it. Very insightful.

And if you're looking for short, warm, inspirational readings for each day of the calendar year, you will love to read Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, as You Are by Shauna Niequist. One of my sweet daughters gave it to me for Mother's Day, and I love to relax on the sofa in the evening, and read Shauna's thoughts for the day.

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels is another brand new book, and one which I am starting to read this week. I have enjoyed Melissa's blog, The Inspired Room, and look forward to receiving new inspiration and ideas for fixing up our home. I love how she focuses on being content with the home we have, and being creative with what we have.

On a much heavier subject, I'm also reading a book on a current world concern: The Isis Crisis by Charles Dyer. My hubby recommended this book from several he has read on this topic. Not your typical encouraging, feel-good book - but one to help me be informed, and to help me as I pray for our world. 

What are you reading this month?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


Do you love easy, delicious, one-dish meals as I do? This Creamy Chicken Enchiladas recipe from Taste of Home is one that I have made often. I made it again a number of weeks ago, and was reminded of how very good it is.

It also freezes well, which is especially helpful for busy end-of-summer days and back-to-school days. Make up a recipe, and put part of it in the freezer for another day, as each recipe makes two 9x13 pans.


Print Recipe

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Course: Main Course
Serves: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 package Cream Cheese (8 oz) softened
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups cooked chicken diced
  • 20 flour tortillas (6 inches) room temperature
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (10 3/4 ounces ea) undiluted
  • 2 cups sour cream 16 ounces
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cans chopped green chilies 4 ounces each
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, water, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in chicken.

  2. Place 1/4 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla.

  3. Roll up and place seam side down in two greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes.

  4. In a large bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, milk and chilies; pour over enchiladas.

  5. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

  6. Yield: 10 servings.

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You can add any toppings you wish for these creamy enchiladas ... I like to smother them with sour cream, salad greens, and tomatoes.

A photo from three years ago ... dividing up the recipe into four 8x8 pans to put in the freezer.

Linking up with Cheryl at I'm Lovin It.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

An Undivided Heart

Life is full of beginnings. Each day offers an opportunity for a new beginning, and each new season opens the door to a fresh start. And maybe for some, the start of a new school year also signals a time for new ideas, fresh beginnings. This is certainly the case for me. 

My life has always revolved around the school year. It did when we had six children growing up in our home (they are all grown now), and it continues as my husband and I work with high school and middle school students through Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). 

The anticipation and excitement builds at the start of a new season, a new school year ... and this year is no different. I cannot believe it is time already, but next week is the week that many schools start up again here where we live.



And I wonder ... is this a time to refresh our hearts, as well? A time for a new beginning, a recharging of our heart focus.

There are so many things that pull our hearts, our attention, our focus. And maybe we need to press the "refresh" button, and recharge our heart focus. 

Teach me Your way, Lord,
that I may rely on Your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear Your Name.
(Psalm 86:11 NIV)

Could it be that this year, the school year of 2015-2016, is a year that we need to give God our undivided attention and focus even more than before? That we need to listen and follow even more closely. The changes in our culture are calling us to depend on Him more deeply, to live with more courage, and to be clear reflections of His light. And to be bearers of His love to those around us. 

As we enter this new season, may we seek intimacy and closeness with God, listening with open hearts and minds as we read His Words. May we depend on Him in deeper ways, trusting in His faithfulness, giving Him an undivided heart. Fully focused on following Him.

And are you wishing for some help in connecting with God each morning, giving Him your undivided focus at the start of each new day?

Lysa Terkeurst and her team at Proverbs 31 ministries are offering an app that will help women focus first of all on His Words first thing in the morning. Click here to read about the heart behind FIRST 5. This is a brand new app that I have been using for a week now, and I am loving it. The study of the book of John started a week ago, and it's not too late to join in. 

"Father, remind me that You are not impressed
by my accomplishments and activities.
Instead, You are after my heart ..."
(Lysa Terkeurst, First 5)


For more posts on this topic:

Linking up with Laura at Faith Filled Friday.