Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Just Start

 Just Start


   do we often wait until

   we have all the time we want

   until we venture to start

   something on our minds?

   Maybe we just need to start.

   Maybe we need to start with

   baby steps, 15-minute steps.

   And at the end of a week, or even

   a month, we’ll be pleasantly

   surprised to find that we are well

   on our way, making progress.

   Just take the first step, and then

   the next. And the next and the next.

   Being faithful in the present

   moment, with a 15-minute step.

   Not focusing on the finishing line,

   but taking steps; slow, but steady

   steps towards your goal.

   Desiring to focus not so much

   on the goal, or even on the task itself,

   but on being faithful with each

   step along the way, being faithful

   in the present, in the moment.

  Trust in the Lord and do good;

  Dwell in the land

  and cultivate faithfulness.

    (Psalm 37:3 NASB)

What do we care about the most?

In our walk with Jesus?

With our husband?

In our families?

In our homes?

As we serve others?

With our passions and gifts?

Why is it so easy to let other things crowd out the most important?

Why don't we give attention to the things that matter the most?

Let's take little steps, baby steps, even 15-minute steps towards the things that matter the most to us.

(I came across the words above, "Just Start", in my notes recently, written maybe 5-10 years ago? It seems to be the perfect time to share these thoughts as I am continually being reminded to take little steps, which then all together, add up to big steps. Maybe it will be an encouragement to you, as well? Click here to read another post I wrote recently, which is applicable to these words, as well.)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Cultivating ... Daily, and Intentionally

As the cold days of winter begin to fade away and as the first faint signs of spring begin to draw us in, we find ourselves longing for new life. We even may be starting to dream and prepare for our veggie and flower gardens. We begin to prepare our spaces, and also the soil for new spring life. 

In the same way, after the restful, maybe quieter days of winter, I am also reminded this time of year to prepare my heart for a new season of growth. Preparing to grow my heart for what matters the most. Maybe because a bit of the winter cold has settled in? And I find myself longing for some breaths of fresh air in my soul.

So I am welcoming these seasonal reminders to pay attention to more than just preparing the soil of our gardens for spring, but to also pay attention to and to nourish what matters the most to me. Is it the same for you? Have the cold winter days (though they do have a charm of their own) and the days of less sunlight left you longing for new life?

This is the setting for what grabbed my attention a few weeks ago, as I pulled another verse card from my growing collection of favorite verses. 

Trust in the Lord and do good;

Dwell in the land

and cultivate faithfulness.

(Psalm 37:3 NASB)

It was the whole verse, but especially the word cultivate that drew my attention. This is what we do in early spring to prepare for the growth that spring/summer brings in our gardens. 

And I wonder the same for my heart ... how can I cultivate my heart for this new season? 

But first, what does cultivate even mean? 

"Cultivate" - (from Webster's Dictionary online)

"to direct special attention to, to devote time and thought to, 

to care for with a view to valuable returns, to till, to fertilize, 

to improve by care or study."  

And another helpful list of meanings:

"Cultivate" - (from Lara Casey's book Cultivate)

"serve, nurture, nourish, prepare, encourage,

improve, refine, pay attention, foster growth,

loosen and break up hard ground,

and care for what you've been given."


Isn't this what we desire for our lives? To nurture and to till up the soil of our hearts for growth? it's a continual thing, all through the varying seasons, to care for our hearts. To be in tune to listen intently to the One who loves us more than we can even imagine. It's easy to become dry and in need of nourishment.

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

(Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Above all else, for the condition and the health of our hearts affects everything. And this is why we need the reminders to continually cultivate our hearts. To faithfully cultivate. To cultivate faithfulness

Just how do we cultivate faithfulness? Maybe it will look different practically for you, and for me. But for all of us, it begins in the heart, doesn't it? It's a desire, a longing, to spend time with Jesus. In His Word; not just the rote reading of His Words, but reading with a longing to hear from Him. To hear His heart, to hear what is Truth. And to share our heart with Him in response. A heart that also then seeks to live out His Truth in every area of our lives.

It's a relationship, not a mere religion or a task to check off our list. A relationship that needs nurturing, time, and yes, even effort. Pausing in this busy, broken world, for what is most important. And for what we long for.

Just as each plant, flower, herb are unique, each of us are created uniquely, What does the soil of your heart need now, right now in the season of life that you are in? The soil of your heart, of your life, may need different specifics of nourishment than mine. But we all need continual tilling, and ongoing nourishment to continue producing and blooming.

Right now, I am discovering that I am needing even more frequent pauses, and needing even added nutrients to refresh the condition of the soil of my heart. We have had a lot going on recently ... offering support and encouragement to a brother in need in his Parkinsons condition, preparing our home for a needed (and wonderful) remodeling project which includes going through closets and rooms that need to be simplified and organized, and at the same time, keeping up with all that is part of the many callings and passions that God has given us, including each one in our precious family. 

Cultivate faithfulness ...

So I am needing to take extra time to tend to my heart these days and weeks. Extra needs call for extra care of the soil. Daily attention and cultivating. Focused time reading His Words, listening and learning at the start of my day, pausing in the midst of my day, and quieting my heart again with journal and pen in His Presence at the end of the day. 

Tilling up the soil of our hearts, receiving nourishment from His Word, His Love. And over time, we will see sprouts, and we will see growth. Season after season. Cultivating faithfulness. Our lives will keep on blossoming and reflecting the beauty that we were created for. By His grace and mercy alone.


Lord, may I be a cultivator, faithfully making it a priority to care for  my heart, for all that You place on my heart. Taking time for the things of most importance, dwelling deeply in Your Word and in Your love. Slowly, one step, one moment at a time. You are the One who brings the growth, and I offer my heart as a sacrifice, desiring to till up the soil, and to cultivate faithfulness. For You.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

My Current Sourdough Rhythm


Learning to bake with sourdough has been a very fun and creative journey for me! You can click here to read my "Beginning with Sourdough Baking" that I posted last month. This fun journey has also been a bit challenging, as there is so much info out there ... very helpful info for which I am very grateful, and also it has required me to figure a lot of things out from the similar but also varying info that is online. I follow a number of sourdough baking accounts on Instagram, as well as reading a number of websites. From all this info, I am now attempting to record what I am currently using for my own process. This post is to summarize my current "sourdough rhythm" that fits into my life and schedule. 

I also have a few friends who are desiring to learn. So this post is a summary of my "sourdough rhythm" ... written for myself, and also to share with interested friends. 

To start out on the sourdough journey, my advice is to do as we do with every other journey ... we make the necessary preparations.

Preparing for Sourdough Baking

Read all you can about it!  It's quite fascinating, and there is a lot to learn.
A few of my favorite sites online: 
The Clever Carrot (including her book, click here)
 @everything.sourdough (on instagram)

Gather the tools you will need to begin.
Digital kitchen scale.
Two wide-mouth quart jars to use interchangeably for your starter.
Another wide-mouth quart jar (or pint jars) to use for your discard.
(OPTIONAL: a special sourdough jar, click here for an example.)
A good-sized mixing bowl to mix up the sourdough bread recipes
Plastic wrap to cover bowls of rising dough (shower caps work great)
A Dutch Oven
Bannetons (not absolutely necessary, but a must-have on my list)
Parchment paper
Unbleached all-purpose flour
Bread flour
Spring water, or bottled water

Secure a sourdough starter from a friend, or purchase one online.
If you are ambitious, you can make your own, finding instructions on the websites listed above. It can take a few weeks, or even longer. Or the easier way, get one from a friend or purchase a starter from one of the websites listed above.

Feeding the Starter

Your starter is a live culture with wild natural yeast and good bacteria, and needs to be fed regularly with flour and water to be kept alive. There are a variety of methods to use to feed your starter, and the following is my current method.

I use a feeding ratio of 1:1:1, meaning equal parts starter, flour, and water.
When storing on my kitchen counter, I feed the starter twice each day, morning and evening. When storing in my refrigerator between baking days, I feed the starter once each week. I also have a starter in my freezer, for safe-keeping in case something goes wrong with my main starter.

At the time of feeding, I gather the things I will use, and then place a clean jar on my digital scale, and press the TARE button to bring the weight to "0". Pour or spoon about 118 grams of starter from your current jar of starter, into the clean jar. Press the TARE button to bring the weight to "0" again, and add 118 grams of unbleached all-purpose flour. Press the TARE button again to bring the weight to "0" and add 118 grams of spring or bottled water. 

I stir this all together in the jar, thoroughly incorporating all the flour into the water and the starter.

There are other ratios that you can use, but 1:1:1 is the most common one, and the one I have chosen to use. 

After I have fed my starter in this way in a clean jar, I put the remaining starter in another clean jar and it becomes what is called "discard". Put this jar (with a lid) into the refrigerator to use for specific recipes that call for "discard", such as pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and many more. Use discard within one week. 

Next, I wash the original starter jar, and have it ready for the next feeding. 

If storing the starter on your countertop, put a lid on loosely, or use some type of breathable cover. If storing in the refrigerator, put the jar lid on more securely. If I bake several times a week, I keep my starter on the countertop, and I feed it twice each day - once in the morning, and once in the evening. If I am baking bread one day each week, which is my current rhythm, I keep my starter in the refrigerator between baking times.

Room temperature is also an important factor for good health and growth of your starter. The ideal temperature is 70 degrees for a healthy starter. If your temperature is lower than that, especially in the cold days of winter, you will want to find the warmest spot possible in your home.

NOTE: the amount of each ingredient can be different than 118 grams. I use that number because I learned from sources who used 113 grams, and I just chose to do a bit more. You can use a lesser amount than I use, and I may switch to that in the future.

Steps to Prepare for Baking Bread

I will now share my current rhythm for baking bread once each week. Again, if I were to bake bread several days each week, I would keep my starter jar on the kitchen counter all the time. When storing my starter on the kitchen counter, I feed it twice each day, about every 12 hours ... once in the first part of the morning, and once in the evening. An example of time would be 8 am, and 8 pm, or it can be different times. Whatever works for you.

But since I currently am choosing to bake bread one day each week, I store my starter in the refrigerator in-between bread-baking days.

Here is an example of my current rhythm of feeding and baking. It covers a span of three days, as I first prepare the refrigerated starter for baking. As I currently am choosing Wednesdays as my bread-baking day, I start my process on Monday evenings. The plan below covers a span of three days, and of course, you can pick which three days of the week work best for you.

DAY 1 (Monday) PM

I take my starter out of the refrigerator, and feed it (as described earlier), using a clean jar. I then place the discard in another clean jar to put back into the refrigerator. Keep the new starter jar on the countertop overnight. It should have a lid loosely set on top of it, not tight. Mark the level of the starter on the jar. It should be kept in a warmer spot in your kitchen, especially paying attention to this during the colder days of winter.

DAY 2 (Tuesday) AM

I check my starter in the early part of the morning, and usually notice that it has at least doubled in volume, It also will have bubbles visible on the sides and the top of the starter. These are signs of a healthy starter. (It may also have reached the doubling mark during the night, and then will have "fallen" a bit, just very slightly below the higher double level.) As you can see in the photo here, mine usually more than doubles, almost triples. 

Next I go through the same process as I did the night before, feeding it (as described earlier) into a clean jar with the 1:1:1 ratio (*118 grams - see NOTE below - each of the starter, unbleached all-purpose flour, and spring or purified water.) Mark the level of starter on the jar, and leave this new starter jar on the kitchen counter again (or put in warmest place in my kitchen), covered loosely. 

*IMPORTANT NOTE for DAY 2 (Tuesday) AM: Since this is the last feeding before I mix my bread dough, I want to be sure that I will have enough starter late afternoon or evening to mix the dough AND to keep on feeding my starter in a new jar. Because of that, I will often need to use larger amounts for my 1:1:1 ratio of feeding. As I am writing this, I have just fed my starter on a Tuesday morning, and since I want to have enough starter tonight for mixing up dough for two loaves of bread plus enough to feed the starter again, I used the same ratio of 1:1:1, but increased the amounts to 130 grams of each of the three ingredients (starter:flour:water). I know from experience that my regular quart-sized starter jar will hold that amount when doubled (or often more than doubled). If I were to use even larger amounts as needed for certain recipes, I would choose a larger jar for this Tuesday AM feeding. 

DAY 2 (Tuesday) PM

My starter should have doubled for sure by late afternoon or early evening, 
and small bubbles will be visible on the sides and the top of the starter. 

Now is the time to mix up the dough for the bread! I usually try to do this around 6 or 7 pm or so in the evening. Remember that this time there will be a two-step process with your starter. The first step will be to mix up the bread dough using part of the starter. The second step will be to feed part of the remaining starter to keep it going.

The two steps for DAY 2 (Tuesday) PM:

1) Mix the bread dough according to the recipe you are following, using your digital scale and the bowl of your choice. I take the amount of starter that my bread recipe calls for out of my jar, and use my digital scale to measure it into my mixing bowl. Press the TARE button for each ingredient you are adding from the recipe. Mix as described in your recipe. My favorite bowl to use is a glass bowl (about 2 quart size) which is a good size for dough for one loaf of bread. I have two bowls this size to use when baking two loaves of bread. Or I could use a larger bowl and mix the dough for two loaves at the same time. 

Most recipes then include an autolyse (rest) time next, before covering the bowl with plastic wrap, and setting it on your countertop to let rise overnight. In addition to resting for a bit, your recipe may call for some "stretch-and-folds", a very helpful step for good bread. (See the sources above for explanations of this step, often with photos included.)  

2) After the bread dough has been mixed and is resting, I go back to my starter jar to go through the process of feeding the starter to keep it alive and healthy for my next baking. I go through the same process of feeding as described earlier, using 1:1:1 ratio, with 118 grams of each of the starter, flour, and water. I keep this new jar of starter on the counter for two hours or so, and then put it in the refrigerator for the next week's baking process. If there is any starter left in your original jar, add it to your "discard" jar in the refrigerator.

DAY 3 (Wednesday) AM

I check my bowl of dough (kept on the counter all night, or on the top of my refrigerator, the warmest spot in our home during the cold of winter), and see that it has doubled, and usually more than doubled! 

The next step will be to turn the dough out onto a floured surface, letting it rest for a bit before shaping it as described in your recipe. 

After then putting it in either a banneton or a bread pan, depending on your recipe, you will either let it rise again a second time, or put it in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Just follow your recipe for rising method and baking instructions ...  and you will soon get to enjoy the delicious aroma and finally, the taste of your homemade sourdough bread!!

An example from a recent baking day ... after shaping my bread dough for my recipe, placing it in a round banneton and in the refrigerator for an hour or more, I turned it out onto parchment paper and scored it (left). Next photo is after I baked it in my Dutch oven!

In Summary

Does this seem like a lot of work? It definitely is a process to learn. I have found that the work it takes to learn sourdough baking is worth it. I find it very rewarding to learn the process, and to find my own rhythms. It is an opportunity to be creative; no two sourdough bakers will be exactly the same. Take your time, and also, make time for pauses as you learn, as needed. 

When you learn the process, you will find that the hands-on time is not that much, and with experience, it will start to feel very relaxing, and will come automatically for you. You can make it fit into your own life, and your own schedules. As mentioned already, my current rhythm is to bake on Wednesdays. But whatever works for you ... maybe it will be the weekend. Besides choosing a bread-baking day during the week, I often choose a weekend day to make something with my sourdough discard that is kept in my refrigerator. 

My sourdough learning continues on, and my rhythms and ratios may change as time goes on! 

NOTE: I may update this post with more photos, and possibly edit it somewhat, but am wanting to publish this now for some friends who may find it helpful.

Monday, January 29, 2024

A New Year: Journals and Planners

January is the new week
between Christmas and the new year.
(Emily P. Freeman)

Here we are at the end of January, one month into the new year already! Christmas was such a joyous time for us with all of our six grown kids home + most of those dear ones they have added to our family here with us, as well. We were 24 in all here in our home for Family Christmas on Dec. 27th! (Click here to see a photo of all of us around our big dining table for Christmas Dinner ... scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the photo.)

And since then, we have been cherishing the memories, at the same time that we have needed to enter into a New Year with all the responsibilities that life brings to us. I have also needed to totally embrace the quote above, giving myself room this whole month long, to pay attention to all the things that I love to do after Christmas and before the New Year! January has truly been my week between Christmas and the New Year.

At the beginning of a new year I love taking time to pause, to reflect on all the ways God has been with us in the previous year, and also to think through and pray through the thoughts and ideas on my heart and mind for the new year.

And so, in the midst of other responsibilities this month, I have been making space all through the month for my "beginning of a new year" process ... reminding myself not to hurry and rush with these steps, but to give my heart and mind space to take all the time that I need.

Are you a journal and planner person? Setting up my journals and planners at the beginning of the year has always been a process that brings me joy. Having a well-kept home, a home and life that is run with creativity, care, and organization are things I love. They are a reflection of the love and character of God, feeding my own soul, as I serve and love those around me. So I love to reflect back, and to look ahead to another year.

The place I start, and of most importance to me as I start out in a new year (and also each season and day of the year) are my (in)Courage Devotional Bible, and my "Devo Journal" (pictured above). (I also use other tools; my Chronological Study Bible plus various books and study guides.) These are what hold my heart and my mind together ... pausing during my days, reading God's Words to me, listening, and allowing His Truth to settle deep into my heart. I use my devo journal to write down what I learn, to often write down some verses word-for-word, so that His Words, each word, can sink in deeply to my heart. I love to make verse cards, as well, with my favorite verses, as seen in photo above. I also write down my responses in my journal as i read and learn, sharing my heart and my thoughts; writing out my thanks to God, and writing out my need of Him, asking for His help. 

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by Your truth, and teach me,
for You are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in You.
(Psalm 25:4-5 NLT)

From this connection and relationship, made possible by God's love, grace, and mercy ... I also set up my planners for the new year. I've used so many different planners through the years, some purchased, and now for quite a few years, I have created my own. It does take some time to do so, but is a joy to personalize them for myself and the interests and passions He has given me.

I've used a blank notebook (purchased through Amazon) for several years in a row now. It's divided into six sections, each section with pastel colored pages. It is my Yearly Planner, set up for the entire year. I use the first section for monthly calendars, the next four sections for the four seasons of the year, and the last section for misc ideas. I have created different charts and pages to print out, and paste into the notebook.

Within each of the four seasonal sections, I create a pretty cover page, because beauty always lifts our hearts, and encourages us! The next pages under WINTER are set up to help me keep on track with the things of priority to me. These pages cover a variety of topics: ideas for my devotional time, life together with my dear hubby, our family, friends. Also keeping track of health/exercise, home care (including cleaning), "In the Kitchen", writing on my Pursuing Heart blog, digital scrapbooking, and more. 

Also, I have another notebook I use weekly and daily, implementing the ideas that are recorded in my Yearly Planner. These weekly and daily notebooks are set up seasonally, one notebook for each season of the year. This probably sounds rather tedious, but for me, it is life-giving. Writing things down helps me to think more clearly, helps me stay on focus, and encourages creativity for me. So it is a joy.

I have a two-page spread for each week within each season. On the first page, I've created a print-out with my main focuses/priorities, where I write specifics in through the week.

Across from the print-out of priorities, I have a weekly calendar page where I record events for the week.

Next are the daily pages. At the start of the day, you would most likely see multiple post-it notes covering the daily page, reminders of things that need my attention that day. I most often choose to write down what I actually did on a given day, in late afternoon or evening, instead of listing things directly on the page at the start my day. This helps me, task-driven person that I am, to hold tasks more loosely, and depend on God to lead me through each day. And at the end of the day I can celebrate what He has helped me get done by writing the things down. (Maybe this practice is partly due to my age, in my mid-70's, helping me remember more clearly what each day held!)

Well, this is just a brief glimpse into the journals and planners that I use. They are not an end in themselves, but they help keep me on the right path. Maybe one small part could be an encouragement to you, even if you are not one who needs to write things down. We are each uniquely made!

As we journey through our days this year, in the good and the hard times, we can continually find moments to pause, to slow our busy lives and notice the gifts from our loving Father. His greatest gift to us is His presence with us. From Christmastime continuing throughout the entire year: Immanuel: God with us. Our journals and planners can be a tool to help us focus on what is of most importance, instead of being a slave to busyness and confusion.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Celebrating Another Year of "Immanuel: God with Us"

Oh, how I love Christmas! My intentions were to write here several times this month, and also during the month of November. Sharing glimpses of joy in the midst of preparations for our big Family Christmas with 24 loved ones around our tables, and filling every room of our home.

The writing of posts didn't happen, but JOY was overflowing from my heart each and every day of December. We had just had six intense weeks of caring for a family member (from mid-October through the end of November), finding a new place where he would be cared for in his needs. It was difficult, and intensely emotional, but we experienced in deeper ways than even before what it means to have Immanuel: God with us

Can we even comprehend the gift that we have? God with us. 

"This doesn't just mean
God somewhere in the vicinity.
Or God down the street.
Or God within shouting distance.
God is with us."

Our greatest gift is Jesus. What joy the Father must have had to give us His Son! Anticipated and planned for since the beginning of time. The One who would make it possible for us to know Him intimately! The One who would rescue us and bring us back to Him. The One who would send His Spirit to live in us, closer than any other: Immanuel: God with us.

And here we are at the end of another calendar year, celebrating with those we love (all gifts from Him), and taking time to pause and remember all the ways that He has been with us through another year. 

Giving us strength and joy even in hard times as we call on Him for help and He provides exactly just what we need. Giving us warm touches of His love: a hug, a smile, a timely word of encouragement, a promise from His Word. And all through the year, giving us the simplest of gifts, evidences of His love: a warm cup of coffee flavored with just the perfect blend of creamer, time with family and friends that brings us warmth and love, treasured times of adventure and also of quiet moments as we soak up His love and beauty in the deepest parts of our souls. 

I am overflowing with joy, because of Immanuel: God with us. And after all the fun of preparations all through December for our family 'Home for Christmas', It was all that we hoped for and longed for, and then some more. 

All six of our precious grown children were home; home with us, along with all the dearly loved ones that we are blessed with because of them. Missing one son-in-law, a pilot who had to fly that day. And nine of our ten grandkids were here, missing our oldest who is in Japan with her husband, and baby girl, our first great-grandbaby! Along with two brothers of ours, we were 24 gathered around our festive Christmas Dinner tables! Each one, so loved. And each one, a gift from God.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year 2024, filled everyday with glimpses of God's love and presence. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Beginning with Sourdough Baking

Sourdough baking has been around for a very long time, but it began for me in early fall of this year. And it all began for me when I received a starter from one of our dear daughters (in TX), who had received her own starter from our son's sweet gal (in NY)! This precious starter traveled home from TX with me, as I "fed" it enroute while stopping at motels, and also at another daughter's home for night. I really love beginning my sourdough journey with a starter that came from family! (Thank you, Cristy, and Fer!!)

So my sourdough journey began on an actual trip of ours! And as we enter the New Year 2024, sourdough baking is becoming one of my new hobbies! 

This post is primarily for my own records ... documenting the first things that I made with my sourdough starter in the fall of 2023. I needed to set it aside for the most part during the months of November (while we were busy helping out a family member), and also December (when I was busy with preparations for our Family Christmas with 24 family here in our home)!  

After spending a good amount of time reading about the process, and learning to care for my starter, here are the things that I made in 2023 ...

Sourdough Blueberry Muffins - made on Aug. 28 

Buttery Sourdough Biscuits - made on Aug. 28 

Blueberry Scones - made on Sept. 2 

Sourdough Banana Bread - made on Sept. 13 

Part of my birthday gift the end of Sept ... Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, a very helpful source, also with photos to learn the process.

Everyday Sourdough - made on Oct. 1 

Everyday Sourdough - made on Oct. 2-3 

I then needed to take a break for a month or more, but kept on feeding my starter every week, while storing it in the refrigerator.

I served these dinner rolls for our Family Christmas Dinner!

And now, the very end of December, I am looking forward to entering into sourdough baking more fully in the new year. There is so much to learn about this method of baking with natural yeasts to create breads that are healthy and delicious.

I look forward to sharing more about my sourdough journey in the New Year!