Friday, September 2, 2022

A Collection: Seasons, Welcoming Autumn, Banana Zucchini Bread, Zucchini Muffins, Autumn Inspiration


I'm so grateful for the seasons. Our summer was beautiful and restful ... times with family and friends, enjoying our veggie, herb, and flower gardens. And our summer also was filled with difficulty, with many phone calls with my siblings from afar as we helped our youngest brother with his increasing health concerns with the debilitating affects of Parkinson's. The last portion of summer actually went by in a blur, as the concerns and the accompanying phone calls increased. 

In the midst of a beautiful and a broken world, our loving Father continues to comfort with His Words, His Presence, and also, His gifts of the changing seasons. And this coming season is one of my favorites ...

For the first time ever, I started slowly pulling out my fall home decor the last part of August already. Partly because I love it so much, but also because we'll be traveling for part of this coming season to be with my siblings as we are present with our younger brother. 

Summer was a time of planting and growth, and Autumn is a time to remember, to draw close to each other, to be grateful. I love the reminders for both the growth and the thanks in these words from Colossians 2:7 (NLT) ...

Let your roots grow down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong 
in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

A part of my seasonal decorating, pillows have become a fun way of filling our home with touches of the seasons. It's an easy way to add the colors of fall (or the other seasons), with a cozy, warm touch. And changing them out, adding a bit of change through the year is always fun and refreshing ...

Of course, the aromas of fall, are a big part of the season. It started the end of August for me when I baked delicious Banana Zucchini Bread (above), using up zucchini from our veggie garden. Click here for a previous post that gives a link to this recipe.

Muffins is another favorite way to use zucchini. Click here for the Zucchini Muffin recipe, shown above. Zucchini, chopped raisins, and chopped walnuts make this a delicious recipe. 

I also recently made another amazing recipe, also using zucchini ... click the following link to read a previous post: BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken and Veggie Bowls. This is probably my favorite rice bowl recipe.

Yes, I love the seasons. Each has its own beauty, and are gifts from God for us to savor and enjoy in the midst of our beautiful, and challenging days. I've been loving the insight and ideas for each season in Melissa Michael's new book, A Lovely Life: Savoring Simple Joys in Every Season. Part of my Mother's Day gift from my dear husband, this book is packed full of big and small ways to enjoy and celebrate each season. And also, it's filled with such good quotes ...

Autumn is the season to reconnect your heart and soul
to the familiar pleasures of home and hospitality.

(Melissa Michaels, in A Lovely Life)

Friday, July 29, 2022

Three Summer Bar Cookie Recipes

Summer is not a time for a lot of baking for me, but there are some things that I do love to bake even when the temps are hot. I recently made three different bar cookie recipes for a family gathering, and thought I'd share them here!

Blueberry Bars
These bar cookies have been a favorite of mine to make during the summer for quite some time. It has kind of become a habit. I must make these sometime during each summer, and this summer was no exception! The blueberries are such a fun ingredient to a summer bar cookie.
Click here for the recipe that I first shared back in the summer of 2014.

S'mores Bars
A few years ago I added another favorite summer bar cookie recipe to my collection, and have made it each year since then. You have to taste it to believe how delicious it is ... a taste of s'mores cooked over the campfire!
Click here to find this amazing cookie bar recipe.

Zucchini Brownies
And this summer I have added another favorite! Even more fun as we have zucchini growing in our garden this summer. We love these brownies, topped off with a wonderful cream cheese frosting.
Click here for the Zucchini Bar recipe.
And click here for the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.

At our recent family get-together, two of our sweet granddaughters asked me for a few of these recipes. They both love to bake! So, this blog post is written and dedicated to Ali (15), and Eva (10) ... and this is also my way of sharing the recipes with them! It's such a treat for me to share recipes with my granddaughters!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Heart Connect: What We So Desperately Need


Probably a few decades ago, I started a new verse collection for a category of favorite verses on the topic of prayer. And I chose to call this new collection of verses, my "Heart Connect" verses.

"Heart Connect" captures what I believe is at the heart of prayer. It's not something that we do, or that we can check off of our list. For, we can even go through the motions of prayer, without really praying. That is the case for me, anyway.

I believe that though God hears all our prayers, and it doesn't matter the words we use, the key to grow deeper in prayer, is to realize the deeper purpose. To realize the deeper purpose of prayer ... and that is, that our hearts would become so closely connected to God's heart. So closely connected that praying becomes like breathing. 

To connect with the heart of God ... what He gave His life for, and what we are all created for. What a hungry and hurting world so desperately needs. What we as His followers, long for and desire. Each day.

The things you give to God in prayer - your worries, concerns, and needs - are the ties that bind your heart to His. Our struggles are His entry points. (Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children)

We can welcome struggles, even trials ... for they are windows that open our souls to our Maker. In our need, we become desperate for Him. And He always is there, ready to shower us with love, mercy, and grace. Just what we long for.

As a mom of six, a grama of ten, and soon-to-be great-grama of one  - plus all those each of these bring into our family, too - my husband and I have over two dozen family members to love, and care for. And each year there is more and more to draw us close, connecting with God's heart for them, and on their behalf. 

Remember the Lord,

who is great and awesome,

and fight for your families,

your sons and your daughters,

your wives and your homes.

(Nehemiah 4:14 NIV) 

All our concerns, all the things on our hearts, are all opportunities for us to draw close to Him, opportunities for Heart Connect.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A Collection: Good Books for Summer Reading, and Summer Gardens

A fun little post mid-way through the month of June, highlighting two of the many things that I am loving this month.

My husband and I both love to read - one of our favorite things to do in the evenings. During the summer, and anytime of year. The photo above shows my current collection of books that I am reading now.

I love to have an inspirational book on hand all the time, and right now I'm reading Ann Voskamp's most recent book Waymaker. She paints a beautiful picture of God's love and purposes in every area of our lives, drawing on her own personal life stories. I love her practical, very insightful thoughts, encouraging us to draw close, and trust Him in the good times, and also the hard, and painful. 

I also like to have a fiction book on hand, and currently am reading The Prayer Box, by Lisa Wingate, a new author to me. A relaxing, easy reading about the hope and healing that is brought to a struggling young mother living along the North Carolina coast.

My reading list also includes two more books that I'll be reading slowly through the year  ... 

A Lovely Life: Savoring Simple Joys in Every Season by Melissa Michaels, a beautiful coffee table style book, divided into four sections for the four seasons of the year. It's filled with ideas to "embrace the rhythms and rituals of each season with simple HOME*MAKING and SOUL*TENDING practices to help you cultivate more peace, contentment, and joy throughout the year". (quote from the back cover of the book) This book, a gift from my husband for Mother's Day, will bring joy throughout the year!

And lastly, The Lazy Genius Kitchen, by Kendra Adachi, a book I learned of through one of the podcasts I listen to. I am enjoying her fresh ideas of organizing, and tailoring our kitchens and our cooking routines to work the best for us. Yes, I've been cooking for quite a few years, but I continue to be inspired by new ideas, even in our retirement.

My husband and I also both love our summer gardens! Here are two photos to capture our veggie garden, and also our herb garden at this time, mid-way through June. 

Our 10x30 foot veggie garden has room for 4 tomato plants (including one cherry tomato plant, and one roma tomato plant), and a row each of peppers, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Also, we have cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, and also some white pumpkins. 

My herb garden is so handy, right outside the patio doors by our kitchen. This year I have sage, spearmint, basil, oregano, chives, thyme, and parsley growing. Such a joy to go out and clip leaves from these herbs to use while cooking!

In the mix of sports games for grandkids, time with family and friends, and in the midst of the daily responsibilities of life, we are often enjoying these two loves of ours ... some good books, and the joys of our gardens. All gifts from God during this season of life! 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

May Memories

The month of May will soon be over, and here I am, with my first (and only) post of the month! It has been a full month for us, as it has been for so many. We have loved the spring weather, and this lovely season of planting of our veggie garden, herb garden, and multiple spots for flowers on our patio and in our yard. What a beautiful time of year!

We've also had some special days ... Mother's Day (beautiful roses above were a gift from my honey!), and the celebration of six family birthdays! Either celebrated in person or celebrated from afar with phone calls, and  gifts/cards through the mail. Also sprinkle in some sports events for grandkids, a baby shower for a friend, gatherings with our CityGroup friends, and a fun viewing of the Downton Abbey movie with friends ... and, well, yes, the month has been full, and wonderful.

And as is the case with most everyone, there have also been some difficult, heartbreaking things where we have needed to lean in extra close to our faithful, loving God - for His strength and wisdom. The resulting peace and perspective from Him are also highlights of our month of May.

A special treat for me these past few months has been to slowly make my way through reading When Strivings Cease, by Ruth Chou Simons, and to also go though the accompanying Study Guide. I highly recommend this book, and also the study guide. And if you go through it with a friend (as I have been doing) the insight gained is doubled!

How would I describe the main message of the book in a few sentences? A bit difficult to do, but I will try ...

A brief quote from the book sums up my main take-away very well: 
"Right living overflows from right believing."

It is essential for us to get our "believing" right. If we are not anchored in the truths of God's Word, in what the Gospel really is for not only our future hope, but for our everyday, our every moment living, then we will find ourselves continually striving for what we already have. 

This book reinforced so well what I am focusing on this year for my Word of the Year for 2022 ... "Truth-Filled". It is essential for me, and for each of us, to continually fill our minds and hearts with truth, God's truth. And instead of striving for approval, acceptance, and purpose, our focus can be on abiding in what He already has accomplished and provided for us. 

The author encourages us "to take our eyes off of everything you think you need to be amazing, and be amazed, instead, at God's grace."

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Incredible Joy of Easter


The familiar words
become alive as we pause and listen ...
and year by year, new layers of understanding
come to our hearts and minds.

Though we will not even be able to contain
all that Easter brings us, for it will take an eternity
to comprehend the joys, the blessings,
the never-ending love of God towards us.

Our faith in Jesus
transfers God's righteousness to us,
and He now declares us flawless in His eyes.
This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace
with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus,
the Anointed One, has done for us.

Our faith guarantees us permanent access
into this marvelous kindness that has given us
a perfect relationship with God.
What incredible joy bursts forth within us
as we keep on celebrating our hope
of experiencing God's glory!

Romans 5:1-2 TPT

Thanking Him for a new layer of understanding and joy with reading these familiar words from Romans 5 in a new translation. How can we even comprehend that He sees us as flawless in His eyes, and that we are recipients of His unending marvelous kindness and love. Beautiful beyond description. All because of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Year 2022: One Quarter of the Way

January 1st was not that long ago, but here we are  ... one fourth of the way through this new year already. It's a good time to pause, and reconnect with ideas and thoughts that we started the year out with. Do you like to do that, as well, as the year progresses?

One important thought that I am re-visiting, is the word "Truth-filled", my 'Word of the Year' that I started out with in January. (Click here to read more.) This word/thought, this focus, has been with me, on my mind and heart, so often. I keep going back to it most every day, and throughout the day. And I'm also finding that there is another word that I need to focus on in order to live "Truth-filled" ... that is, the word listen. This additional word has been my 'Word of the Year' for quite a few years in the past. And I think it is so essential. So important as I desire to live "Truth-filled". It's really a heart issue, a heart focus, to really listen to God, and to live our days focused on Him, and His thoughts.

But what exactly does it mean to seek to be and to live "Truth-filled"? For me it means that it is essential for me to intentionally focus my mind and my heart on Truth. Listening with my heart, soul, and mind, seeking after and loving Him above all else. (from Matthew 22:37)

As Sara Hagerty says in her book Adore, "At every juncture of my life and my day I am given an opportunity to ask and respond, 'What will I feed my soul? My thoughts or His?'. Dallas Willard says it this way: 'The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.'"

Come everyone who is thirsty, come to the water,
and you without silver, come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without silver and without cost!
Why do you spend silver on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me; 
listen, so that you will live.
(Isaiah 55:1-3a CSB)

Lord, help us to consciously choose to 'Come to You', to read, to dwell on, and to store up Your Words, Your Truth, in our minds and our hearts. Then, it is the work of Your Spirit within to integrate this truth deep into our hearts/minds, giving us understanding, letting Your Words soak in deeply, affecting our thoughts and our actions. Not just reading words of Truth, but that they actually become a part of us, of who we are.