Sunday, January 31, 2016

Project Life - January 2016

A brand new year of scrapbooking! I switched to digital scrapbooking a number of years ago, which has helped me keep up with scrapbooking much better. Scrapbooking is a fun, relaxing hobby for me, and a great tool to preserve memories. You can read more about my journey with digital scrapbooking by clicking here



I'll be sharing a page or two (or more) each month throughout this coming year. This month I'll share the second page in my 2016 album ... a page capturing the 7th birthday of our grandson, Cruz! 

How can Cruz be 7 already? The years are flying by, and he is growing up fast! So thankful for photos and scrapbooking to capture some of the memories. We are thankful for God's gift of Cruz - such a fun-loving, adventurous, creative, and thoughtful boy. He is really into legos right now, and his sweet mother made him this colorful lego cake for his birthday. 

I use a variety of templates for my pages, but have found that it works best to use Project Life style templates. It just goes faster to use these templates, and time is valuable, so the easier the better when it comes to preserving memories! I continue to be so grateful for the tutorial lessons from Digital Scrapper which helped me learn how to use Photoshop Elements. I create my pages right on my laptop using Photoshop Elements, and then print them out at home for my albums. So thankful for this relaxing, creative hobby! And so thankful for God's gift of family!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nurturing 101

A special gift: 2016 calendar from my daughters with photos of our sweet grandkids!

I've been kind of captivated by this word recently: nurturing. And wondering if it is a good definition of what we as women, as wives, mothers, grandmothers, and friends, do, and what we are at the core. Isn't this where our hearts are? What brings us the deepest kind of joy? To be nurturers, life-givers ... 

I looked up the definition of nurture last week, and this is what I found from various online resources:

  • the care and attention given to someone or something that is growing or developing
  • as a verb: to feed and protect or support and encourage; to bring up; train; educate
  • as a noun: upbringing, training, education, development, something that nourishes

Nurturing our children, our grandchildren, all of our relationships, can be compared beautifully to how we nurture the seeds and young plants in our gardens and homes. For with our gardens and with our families and loved ones, it really is an unconditional giving, and nourishing. And it is a daily, faithful commitment of time and energy on our part. And sometimes it even requires replanting, with very tender care. Sometimes the storms come ... and the only thing and the main thing we can do is to love and to pray. 

And always, we are nurturing: giving care and attention, supporting, encouraging, training, loving, and the most powerful form of nurturing we can provide for those we love - praying for them. For God is the most loving and powerful nurturer of those we love.


May our sons flourish in their youth
like well-nurtured plants.
May our daughters 
be like graceful pillars,
carved to beautify a palace.
(Psalm 144:12 NLT)

- - - - - - - - - -


I have a desire to write periodically on this topic of nurturing during this year, sharing thoughts, quotes, and ideas.

Nurturing has been part of my life as a mom and grama for many years. I have the great privilege of being the mother of six, mother-in-law of four, and grama of ten. A full life, and a full heart.

And I also have an important disclaimer: Though I have experience in mothering/nurturing, what I write here  is also for my own learning. In fact, I almost hesitate to write on this topic, for I know how far I fall short. For we do that as women, as mothers, don't we - we always strive for perfection. But there is only One who is perfect. And by God's grace and mercy, as we are nourished by His faithful love and care, we can continually grow as nurturers for those we love.

- - - - - - - - - -

Sharing a few nurturing hands-on tips and ideas this month:


Create a space, an individual space, for each child (or grandchild) ...




We all desire to belong, to feel loved and cared for, to feel noticed. One tangible way we can show love is to make a space for those we love. To let them know that we value them, and are thinking about them. 

Sometimes it can be expressions of the heart; a hug, a listening ear, a prayer. And sometimes it can be a tangible way that love and care are expressed ...

These "school boxes" are located on shelves in what our grandkids sometimes call the "art" or "drawing" room of our home. It came from a desire of mine to help them feel special and loved: a box of their own drawing and coloring supplies, with an extra little item added from time to time.

I have been surprised at how they love these boxes - fixed up just for them, with their own name on the box. It maybe gives them a sense of belonging, that their time in our home is anticipated and looked forward to. When a grandchild comes over, I love watching them pick out their box, and move it to the table in the room set up for their use. 


Individual time with a child:

A page from my digital scrapbook ...

One-on-time with those we love speaks volumes. But finding individual time with a child (or grandchild) can be a challenge. For usually there are multiple children to love and care for. It takes a special effort to make individual time a reality.

Our grandkids are growing up fast, and right now, there is only one who is not in school yet, though she does love the preschool that she goes to two mornings a week! Once a month, besides the times that we may be caring for her and her older brother, I love to have an "Eva Day". With just Eva. A time to focus on just her, and give her my full attention.

She always leaves our home so happy, and I end the day with a full heart ... and also, with a need to sit down and rest up from the day! It's always great fun for both of us, and also for "grampa" who also gets in a bit of time with her, as his office is in our home.

Individual time always makes us feel loved, doesn't it? It works this way with God - spending time alone with Him, reading His Words, listening, journaling ... and we are filled up. And from this overflow, we can do the same with those we love; spending one-on-one time in conversation, in listening and caring.

- - - - - - - - - -

For more of my posts on mothering:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Morning Mix-Up


Sometimes I make this Morning Mix-Up recipe for lunch, which is what I did earlier this month. But I made a double recipe, which is what I often do, even though it is just the two of us here in our home. 

It worked perfectly to divide what was left after our lunch into individual serving portions, put these portions into small plastic containers to store in the refrigerator, ready to use for breakfasts in the following days. 

A delicious and nourishing breakfast: Morning Mix-Up, a homemade pancake (heated up in the microwave from the freezer) with maple syrup and yoghurt topping, and some grapes.


Print Recipe

Morning Mix-Up


Course: Breakfast
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fully cooked ham
  • 12 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • Minced chives

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, saute potatoes, ham and onion in oil for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. In a small bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper. Add to the skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until eggs are set. Remove from the heat and gently stir in cheese.
  2. Spoon onto a serving platter; sprinkle with chives. Yield: 4 servings.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Attitude of Gratitude

Credit: Ann Voskamp

It seems that every so often we need to press the reset button. Our default attitude, and reaction to the circumstances of life, is usually to worry. It is for me. I do not need to work very hard to produce worry. It is just there, ready and waiting for an opportunity to exhibit it's emotions. And these emotions soon spiral out of control.

Maybe we need to learn to make the practice of pressing the "reset" or "refresh" button when this happens. When our emotions begin spiraling out of control, consumed with worry, then it is time to stop, to pause, and to press "refresh". And we need to remember ...


"Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times ... 
it's ultimately the very will of God in hard times." 
(Ann Voskamp)


Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.
(I Thess. 5:18 NLT)


It is very difficult for worry and giving thanks to exist at the same time. It seems that either the one, or the other will dominate our thoughts. 

It takes a training of our minds to move from an attitude of worry to an attitude of gratitude ... it takes a practice of pressing the "reset" button when we find ourselves consumed with worry.

And how can we refresh, reset, and change our perspective? It is so difficult, and it is so simple ...  

     Ask God for His help, for His perspective ...

     Read His Words, letting Him transform our minds ...

     Slow ourselves, pause, look up ...

     Look around, giving thanks for the situation ... 

     Ask God to use our situation to develop His character in us  ...

     Pray for the situation, the person, whatever causes us worry ...

     Remember how He has been faithful in the past ...

     Thank Him for His faithfulness in the past, and again, in the present ...

     Let His Words and His perspective soak deeply into our hearts and our minds.



Be transformed by the renewing
of your mind ...
(From Romans 12:2 NIV)


I will praise You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.
I will be filled with joy because of You.
I will sing praises to Your Name,
O Most High.
(Psalm 9:1-2 NLT)


------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sharing these thoughts today, as I needed to refresh and reset my own mind, needing a change from an attitude of worry to an attitude of gratitude. Thanking God for hearing my prayer for help, and for filling my heart and mind with thanks.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Purposeful Planning


Starting a new year brings me a lot of joy for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that I get to start using a new planner! I LOVE planners, and I am definitely finding more and more each year that I am not the only one who loves planners. There are more planners coming out every single year, created by people who love planners, for others who love planners.

There is something about a planner that helps give focus in the midst of a busy, and often distracted life. And as a follower of Jesus, there is even more reason to live with focus, and with purpose. There are too many things that pull our hearts away from what is most important in this life. And a planner can be a great help to keep us on track.

I know that this post is a bit late, as we are halfway through January already. But I will share a bit of my planning process, in case it is helpful to anyone reading this. It is never too late to start with planning ...



I have used many different types of planners over the years, and this year I am using a Simplified Planner for the second year in a row. I love this planner because of it's simplicity. It holds a calendar for each month, and a page for each day of the year (though Saturday and Sunday are combined on the same page). That is it. Simple. Each day I have it opened up to the current day, with the current day's events and tasks written on it. Nothing else to distract me ... just focusing on one day at a time.

In addition to my Simplified Planner, I use a smaller notebook which I purchased at Target (behind my planner in the photo above) to keep a running record of things I want to remember for each month and week of the year. I have a page for each month, and also for each week. (I use three of these notebooks throughout the year, one for each quarter.) Also in this smaller notebook are pages for whatever I need to keep track of through the year. It fits right inside the front cover of my Simplified Planner. I then take from this notebook to write ideas/tasks on my daily pages in my Simplified Planner.



In addition to these planner notebooks, I am using a new resource for the first time this year ... Lara Casey's Make It Happen PowerSheets. This is a goal-setting resource that I am finding to be very useful. Though they are sold out already for this year, you could use other resources, or read the book Make It Happen, or follow along on Lara Casey's blog, or use other resources. You can also read through my Planning with Priorities series (which I also keep in mind as I plan my goals/priorities for each year).

The purpose of setting goals/priorities is to help us keep on track during the year. To be able to more clearly see what God is calling us to focus on, and then, to keep those things in view during the days of our year. Personally, I find this very important, as there are so many things to be distracted with.

In discovering the unique ways that God has crafted us, and the ways He most likely wants to use us, here are just a very few of the questions that have been useful to me (from multiple resources I have read):

What are the things that ignite energy and passion in me? (Perhaps I should pay close attention to these things, as they may be purposes and callings that God has created me for.)

What are the things that brings tears to my eyes, things that reveal what I care deeply about? (I should pay attention to these things, as perhaps God has given me a deep-rooted desire and calling to take action on what affects me deeply.)

Where do I desire to be at when I reach the age of 80 or older? What will I wish I had focused on in my life? What will I wish I had accomplished? (Instead of having the urgent crowd out the important, why not take steps to focus on what is most important?)

And so, this year, and each year, it is important to take steps, even baby steps, towards these goals and passions that God has placed deep within us. Priorities that He has given us in His Word ... and individual passions that He has placed in each of us. To be used for His glory.

If we wait until we think that we have the time, some things may never happen. So it is important to break these goals/priorities down into small, practical, possible steps. Even 15 minutes a day focusing on something of importance to us can take us a long way over time. If we don't take time, even a little time on a consistent basis, we may find out that we missed out on things of most importance.

Planners are useful tools in helping us live in focus, on purpose, for His glory. And always, we need to be flexible, listening to Him even above all our plans. Which is our greatest goal: following Him, listening to Him, and living our days for Him.


As our greatest goal and purpose in life is to listen to, learn from, and follow closely after God - loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind - my most important notebooks are ... my spiritual journal notebook, and my prayer notebook.

The notebook on the left in the photo above is my journal where I record what I learn as I read His Words, as I listen to the messages at our church, as I read through books. It is where I process through thoughts and questions that I have from experiences and trials that we go through, through lessons learned. The process of writing out what I learn helps give me clarity, focus, and purpose for each day. Writing is essential for me, and it also becomes a record of what God is teaching me. I fill up one of these journals about every two months. 

And coupled with my journal is a smaller notebook that fits inside the front cover of my spiritual journal notebook (both purchased at Target). This smaller notebook is also of huge importance to me ... my Prayer Journal. Though many of my personal prayers are written out in my journal, this notebook is where I record things that I am praying for, for others - my family members, friends, and others that God puts on my heart to pray for. Faithful prayer for others, for our world, is one of our highest callings. I have found that writing requests and prayers down helps keep me focused. It helps me to be more faithful in prayer for my family and for others.


Planning for 2016 - 
focused first of all, on seeking after God ... 
and then on living out what He calls us to be and to do,
depending on Him, one day at a time.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One Word 2016


A New Year, and a new word. I have been choosing a "word of the year" for a number of years now. Maybe since I started blogging in 2010? Or maybe it was January of 2011, the beginning of my first full year of blogging.

My "word of the year" has remained the same for all these years since then. I have not been able to leave the word "listen". And I still cannot leave this word, for there is still so much I need to learn about really listening deeply to God, and to others. It is not my default to listen; and I am asking God to teach me more about truly having a heart to listen. 

But this year, I am choosing a new word for my "word of the year"!

FAITH - a common, well-known word to me, 
but what does it really mean to have faith
And how can I grow in faith this coming year?

In Matthew 17 Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. And maybe He would do the same for me. How many times do I hold back because of a lack of faith? How many times do I hesitate with a prayer, or an action, because I don't think I have enough faith?

But FAITH is not based on our feelings or on how much faith we have;
our FAITH is based on the trustworthiness of the object of our faith.

Jesus says that we only need as much faith as a mustard seed; a small amount. What is important is the trustworthiness of who we put our faith in.

Our faith does not come from our own efforts to have faith; our faith comes from learning more and more about the object of our faith. Our faith is not based on how much confidence we may possess, or how bold we may feel in our prayers or our actions. Our faith is not based on our faith, but based on who God is.

"Do you respond to God's invitations in your life waiting to feel self-confident and affirmed? Is your faith based on who you are, how faithful you have been or could be?
Or is it anchored in the presence of God and His profoundly sufficient character? Yes, who we are isn't nearly as important as who He is."  (Whitney Capps)

I am asking God to grow my faith; that I will grow in my trust in HIM. More faith in Him as I pray, more faith in Him in the things I do. More faith in Him for whatever He desires.

Lord, increase my faith. In You.



Linking up with Bonnie, at Faith Barista:














Thursday, January 7, 2016

In the Kitchen


Taking time for a post that has become somewhat of a monthly tradition for me! Sharing a few of the things that have happened "In the Kitchen" during the past month ...


I love the holidays! We celebrated our Family Christmas on Dec. 19, just three weeks after our big Family Thanksgiving with the whole family home. And since our Christmas came just a few weeks after our Thanksgiving, we decided to do a fun alternate to the traditional ham & mashed potatoes & sides menu that we often do for the holidays. So tempura became our menu for Christmas!

We also decided to make the meal together, which made it even extra fun! It was a highlight of the day as we prepared this delicious meal together, and of course, we made so much more than we could eat that day. We sent some home with family, and also, put some in the freezer for later (it freezes quite well). Such a fun and delicious meal!


As so much of my cooking/baking efforts were put into preparing for our Family Thanksgiving, I had less time this Christmas to bake goodies ... but we definitely had enough, together with what our daughters brought!

Here are the goodies that I made (photo above) for Christmas last month:

Holiday Brownie Bars
Wheaty Thumbprints
Chocolate Billionaires
Saltine Toffee Bark

Look for some of these recipes (above) next Christmas season!



Over the New Year's Day weekend, I made a very special treat - a recipe from my heritage, New Year's Cookies! My mother made these about every year, and I decided to (finally) make them for the very first time. 

It was a treat for me to be able to deliver some to my father in a nearby Assisted Living apartment. He was very pleased ... sweet memories from the past, and especially of my mother.

Now it is the New Year 2016 - and it will be fun for me to keep on sharing some of the things that will be happening "In the Kitchen" in the future months!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Of Most Importance

Photo Credit


This new year, and every day of this new year ...

If we are looking for focus  

If we desire a purpose and a calling 

If we want to live for what we are made for ...


Love the Lord your God with
every passion of your heart,
with all the energy of your being,
and with every thought
that is within you.
(Matthew 22:37 Passion Translation)


Sometimes reading a familiar verse in a brand new translation 
can give added insight at the start of a brand new year.


Lord, teach me how to love You more this year than before,

to love You with every passion of my heart,

with all the energy of my being,

and with every thought that is within me.

By Your strength and grace -

a response to Your perfect, unending love for me.

My highest calling, of most importance

this New Year 2016.



Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Cookies


I love this time of year! My hubby and I decided to celebrate THREE days of New Year's Day this year - just for fun, to spread out the celebration and relaxation to three days, instead of just one!

And today I took time to do something that I have been wanting to do for a few years. A few years ago my father (now 94 years old) asked if I could make him some New Year's Cookies, something that my mother always made on New Year's Day. It was an extra busy time that year, and I was not able to make them then, but I have had it on my mind each year since then to make these for my father.

A recipe from my heritage ... New Year's Cookies! I really don't know why they are called "cookies", as they are a yeast recipe, and are deep fat fried. And I really don't know why I have taken this long to make these (this was my first time) - they are yummy!


Print Recipe

Portzelky (New Year's Cookies)


Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Total Time: 2 hr 5 min
Serves: 48

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 12 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or as needed
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar for dusting or as needed

Directions

  1. Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast over the top. Let yeast activate until it forms a creamy layer on top of the water, about 10 minutes.
  2. Rinse raisins and pat dry with paper towels. Stir raisins into yeast mixture; beat eggs, lukewarm milk, and salt into yeast mixture. Beat flour into liquid ingredients until dough is smooth. If dough is too sticky, beat in 1/4 cup more flour. Cover dough and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) in a large saucepan or deep fat fryer.
  4. Scoop up dough by tablespoon and drop, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Fry until lightly browned; drain on wire racks set over paper towels. Dust with confectioners' sugar.
Note: Next time I make this recipe, I may try to add a bit more flour to make the dough a little stiffer to make it easier to work with.

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It was extra fun to make this recipe this year, as about twenty-five of my cousins and aunts are in a private Facebook message group together, and some of them have been sharing how they have made these cookies this week, as well. They are reminded of their parents as they make them, and I will have the joy of taking some of these New Year's Cookies to my father tomorrow when we visit him in his Assisted Living apartment nearby. And I know this would make my mother really happy if she could see us ...


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!


It's 2016 - a New Year, a Fresh Start!

It has been quiet here on my blog for the past two weeks or so, as I've taken time out to celebrate Christmas with our family ...

First, it was a very special Family Christmas on Sat., Dec. 19, with our three daughters and their families who live near us! We missed our other three ... a daughter and her family who live in TX, a son in San Francisco, and another son in New York City. But we were so very blessed to all be together over Thanksgiving! 

So very thankful to have 15 precious family here for our Family Christmas - a fun afternoon of gift-giving, and making a tempura meal together, followed by more gift-giving and games until 1 am!


A few days after our Family Christmas, we packed up and made a trip to TX to spend Christmas Day with our daughter & family who live there! It was a very special treat to be with them, in their home, for their Christmas - a first for us! And just two days after Christmas, we were there to witness a very special event - the baptism of our nine year-old granddaughter.


We also had the unexpected experience of being with our TX family during a tornado scare the day after Christmas, when tornadoes swept through the Dallas area, one tornado touching down just 1 1/2 miles from their home. We were so saddened to hear of the losses and devastation in that area, and also, filled with thanks to God that we were spared. 

Our return home took longer than planned, as we needed to stay an extra 24 hours at a motel to wait out the winter storm of snow and ice that was right in our path home. So very thankful for God's protection, and for a safe arrival home the evening of Dec. 29.


I love this time of year ... 
a time to look back with thanks, 
and a time to look ahead with anticipation!


Looking back ...

The year 2015 was a difficult one in many ways, filled with challenges. We watched our 17 year-old granddaughter's health decline as she waited for her kidney transplant, and then spent two weeks in TX during the month of April to be a support during that time and to also be a support to our oldest daughter who was the generous kidney donor for her niece (our granddaughter). 

Also, the first half of 2015 was a very challenging season as my hubby and I gave support to my 94 year-old father during a very difficult turn-of-events in my father's health and life. It was also a very emotionally exhausting time for us and my three brothers (and sisters-in-law) as we worked together (via many, many phone calls) to be a support to him and also to each other.

The year 2015 was also filled with praise to God as He carried us through those two very difficult seasons! How we praise Him for how well our granddaughter is doing now after her transplant, for how well our daughter has recovered after her surgery to donate a kidney! And also, how we praise Him for how my father made an unexpected recovery and an unexpected move from the Health Center to an Assisted Living apartment. And we cannot thank my brothers and sisters-in-law enough for how they supported us from a distance, and how one brother and sis-in-law flew here from Oregon to help out in a time of great need. 

How we thank God for His Love and Presence through the difficult months of 2015, and for all His good gifts to us all through the year!

And looking ahead ...

There is so much to ponder and think about as I look ahead to another year. In many ways, it feels like some heavy burdens have been lifted, and our steps are lighter as we begin a new year. At the same time, there are many concerns to pray for ... for those we love, for friends, for our world.

And always ... there is excitement as we anticipate all that God will teach us, and all that He has for us this coming year! The very best gift of all is the promise of His Presence through all of the days in the year ahead!


A Prayer for the New Year ...

Here's the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
I want the privilege of living with Him
every moment in His house,
finding the sweet loveliness of His face,
filled with awe, delighting in His glory and grace.
I want to live my life so close to Him
that He takes pleasure in my every prayer.
(Psalm 27:4 Passion Translation)