Monday, January 31, 2011

My Way, or God's Way

Sometimes the simple way seems to be too simple, and we miss out on the best way. 

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

"A simple statement of Jesus is always a puzzle to us because we will not be simple. How can we maintain the simplicity of Jesus so that we may understand Him? By receiving His Spirit, recognizing and relying on Him, and obeying Him as He brings us to the truth of His Word, life will become amazingly simple. ~ Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ."
(My Utmost for His Highest)

Reading these thoughts by Oswald Chambers this last week made me think again of the words of Jesus in Philippians 4:6-7 ...

"Don't worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything.
 Tell God what you need, 
and thank Him for all He has done. 
Then you will experience God's peace, 
which exceeds anything we can understand. 
His peace will guard your hearts and minds 
as you live in Christ Jesus."

How often do I choose the hard way, thinking that my circumstances warrant worry? And then as I travel down that lonely, dismal road, I find myself desperately searching for signs of peace. But peace is not found on the road of worry. 

The best way is so simple that we can easily miss it. And I want to learn more and more to take the simple way ... to listen to His Words, and to put one step in front of the other, and follow Him on the road to peace. 

And along this path of praying instead of worrying, I will be filled with joy, counting His unending gifts along the way.

Thank You, loving Lord, for Your gifts to me this past week:

~ A long phone call with our oldest son ... so good to hear from his heart.

~ My loving husband, so patient with me ... always.

~ Our empty nest years together ... we love these years.

~ Land purchase by a daughter and son-in-law ... will be wonderful to have them live close by!

~ Greeting our little grandson at the door, with his new cowboy boots and a backpack ... so cute.

~ Rocking this little two year-old grandson to sleep later that night ...

~ Good heart-to-heart time of sharing with a sweet daughter ...

~ Having our Honda fixed for a third of the cost ... after damage from a deer.

~ The best news ever ... one of our SV volunteers leading a middle school student to Jesus!

~ Thirty-one people now, from our church, choosing to memorize Colossians in-a-year.

~ Perfect timing of things ... our pastor teaching on Colossians for these first 4 - 5 months of the year.

~ Gathering with like-minded friends to pray before our worship time at church ...

~ Such joy to worship and learn with others who speak the same language of our hearts.

~ Your Spirit within, helping me daily, throughout each day, to pray instead of worry ...

~ And helping me back to the simple path when I wander off.

(One Thousand Gifts #201-215)

holy experience

Friday, January 28, 2011

Email, and Coupons

This blog, Pursuing Heart, is about pursuing God above all, and also ... about pursuing all things related to the heart and home. And as God is the Maker of our hearts, and of home and family, it is all connected. And within our homes, there is always the need to organize things to help our days run as smoothly as possible, and also to allow us to have more time to focus on things of most importance.

This week I knew that it was time to take care of an overflowing Inbox on my MacBook. I usually keep on top of this, but somehow, got behind over the past weeks, and found my Inbox filled with a little over 600 email messages the beginning of this week. I had answered and taken care of the most urgent as they came in, but the others had collected.

I learned a few years ago to set up some folders "On My Mac", within "Mail" ... this has been a huge help. It needed some reworking this week, and some additional folders set up ... so this was my main organization challenge for the week.

No "before" photo available ... but here is the proof: when I finished the project this afternoon, my Inbox had no emails!

All 600+ email messages have been either deleted, or moved to one of the folders "On My Mac" ...
1 - ones that need to be answered
2 - messages to print out
3 - email that requires some type of action 
four dated folders where I save emails for a few months, emails that I may need to refer to ~
then a number of folders where I put important emails that need to be saved long-term ~

Hopefully, now that I am back on track, I will keep this up daily, reading and answering emails right as I receive them, or, moving them over to a folder for future action.

Another little project that I spent less than an hour on earlier in the week was to do a bit of organizing of coupons. I am not big into clipping coupons, but there are always some that I want to save and use. So far, they have all been placed together in a ziploc bag in my purse. Not the most efficient method.

I came across an idea at iHeartOrganizing blog this week, and decided to use her idea to create several envelopes to store coupons in. With the use of some scrapbooking paper to brighten up the envelopes, and also using clear packaging tape to cover the envelopes to make them more durable, I now have four envelopes that fit right into a pocket in my Planner notebook. (I don't have a laminator as was suggested, so I just made do with clear packaging tape.) Am thankful for this fun little idea for coupons, as well as the free download with the labels for the envelopes.

Next week there will be a need for organizing of something else ... never-ending. It helps to love organizing, and to have access to good ideas.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Priority Planner

Memories of my earlier years of mothering ... and habits carried over to this day. Incorporating priorities I believe God has given me as a wife and mom into my daily planning.

Many years ago, probably in the early 1980's, I came across a very helpful resource that has pretty much become a part of my life since then. I was a busy young mom in those days, and in 1982 gave birth to our fourth child, and our fourth daughter! Life was full and wonderful. With a husband in full-time ministry, pastoring a church at that time, I also had other responsibilities, as well. How to juggle everything together was a constant effort.

A book that I read during those days led me to some helpful ideas about how to keep things in perspective, and also, in right priority. The urgent always has a way of crowding out the important, and using the ideas that Linda Dillow gave in her book, Creative Counterpart, was a great help to me. And still is.

The author suggests taking a look at the priorities God has given us as wives and moms, and keeping these in front of us as we plan our days, and go about our daily living. These are the priorities that she suggests in her book, with my brief explanation after each one:

#1 ~ God  
Nurturing our relationship with God needs to come first, for from this comes everything else. Everything else and everyone in our lives is affected by how we nurture our relationship with God. Pursuing Him above all else.

#2 ~ Husband
And close behind nurturing our relationship with God, comes our relationship with our husbands. One of the most important things we can do for our children, and for all those around us ... focus on building into our marriage.

#3 ~ Children
So important to really be present for our children ... they must be a priority, or other things will take our focus away. They are with us, in our homes, under our direct care for such a short time.

#4 ~ Home
It is the wife and mom who sets the pace in her home, who creates the atmosphere. And our homes are where our children grow and blossom, and where others can be refreshed.

#5 ~ Yourself
In order to give of ourselves to our husbands and children, we need to take time for ourselves, as well. Time to be refreshed, time to be creative and enjoy pursuing the gifts and talents God has given us.

#6 ~ Outside the Home
Even as a busy wife and mom, we can be part of the bigger picture ... the picture of God drawing people to Himself. It may look different at the various seasons of life as a wife and mom, but ... always, nurturing our hearts to care for others as God does.

In addition to learning from and incorporating ideas from Linda Dillow's book, I also purchased her  accompanying Priority Planner each year for many years.

A weekly spread from my planner in January 1984 ... 27 years ago!

Such a helpful tool ... keeping my priorities in front of me day by day, and week by week. Not a rigid thing, but a guide. Some weeks there were responsibilities in priority #6 that God placed before me, and I needed to let go of some of the other things ... and sometimes priorities #2 or #3 left no room for anything in priority #6. It's all about living and listening as God guides our days and our weeks ... and so helpful to keep a tool such as this in front of us, bringing us back to what is priority.

Some women may have other additional responsibilities, such as a part-time job, or even a full-time job ... and keeping priorities in the forefront each week in a busy and full life, helps to keep the perspective and focus in the right places. All of us, whether we work outside the home, or are stay-at-home moms, need to be pulled back continually to what is most important.

Even today in our "empty nest" years, with a family of 21 now (married ones bring their mates into the family, and also bring sweet grandchildren), and continuing in full-time ministry with my husband (now, ministry to high school students) ... I still need to keep my priorities in front of me. I have not purchased the accompanying planner of Linda Dillow's for many years now, but ... I incorporate these priorities into whatever type of planner I am using for the year. My Planner for 2011 uses very similar priorities for my weeks and days.

(Both of these products are still for sale ... newly designed and edited.)

Linked to Works For Me Wednesday

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan ~ Jan. 26-30

Jumping in a bit late this week with a menu plan ... but there are still 5 days left to plan for, so not too late!

The week started out with a sudden change in plans, as we found out at 8 am Monday morning that we would be hosting the weekly staff prayer time at our house ... starting at 9:30 am that day. (There was flu in the scheduled home, thus the switch.)

Always nice to have some little goodies to serve along with the hot drink ... and so thankful for the Pumpkin Bars and Apricot Cranberry Bread that I had in the freezer, left from holiday baking days! I don't always have things in the freezer ready for last-minute guests, but very fun when I do. Something I like to do ... and I am reminded on an occasion like this to take time to stock up.

Menu for the five days left of this week:

Wed. - Crunchy Onion Barbecue Chicken (a new recipe to try)

Thurs. - a night out

Fri. - Chicago-Style Pan Pizza (another new one)

Sat. - a breakfast menu / my wonderful husband always makes the meal Saturday evenings, usually a breakfast dish such as pancakes, etc.

Sun. - Meatloaf
           Potato Casserole (new recipe / am in the mood for some new ones this week!)

Linked to Menu Plan Monday

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sweet-and-Sour Popcorn Chicken

We recently had a family meal together with our grown kids in the area coming home for the evening ... gathering together before our youngest son took off for a job in Seattle. I chose this main dish to serve ... Sweet-and-Sour Popcorn Chicken. A delicious meal, and also an easy one. I wanted to be able to focus on our family, especially Lance, and wanted something that wouldn't be too time-consuming. And we love this recipe!

Sweet-and-Sour Popcorn Chicken

1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can (20 oz) unsweetened pineapple chunks
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 pkg (12 oz) frozen popcorn chicken

In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry green pepper and onion in oil for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain pineapple, reserving the juice in a 2-cup measuring cup; set pineapple aside. Add enough water to the juice to measure 1 1/3 cups; stir in the vinegar, soy sauce, and ketchup.

In a bowl, combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in pineapple juice mixture until smooth. Gradually add to the skillet. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes or until heated through. Microwave chicken according to pkg directions. Stir into pineapple mixture. Serve immediately, over rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Monday, January 24, 2011

All Our Moments

A beautiful fresh snowfall Saturday evening and through the night ...

"Seek My Face, 
and you will find more than you ever dreamed possible. 
Let Me displace worry at the center of your being ... 
My nature is to bless. 
Your nature is to receive with thanksgiving ... 
I am the goal of all your searching. 
When you seek Me, you find Me and are satisfied ... 
Live radiantly by expanding your focus 
to include Me in all your moments. 
Let nothing dampen your search for Me."
(Jesus Calling)

My heart was captured by these words from my Jesus Calling book early last week. Seeking Him ... pursuing His heart, the main focus of this blog place ... finding more than I ever dreamed. Including Him in all my moments. 

And my thoughts went to the brand new book I have ordered, coming in the mail soon ... One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.

I am wanting to go deeper ~ in pursuing Him, and in looking for the countless ways God desires to satisfy us in our everyday moments, our everyday living. All the beauty He shows us, glimpses of His awesome creation, His unending love, and His peace and mercy. All for us.

And, for those reading this who have not purchased this book yet (in the Top Ten Best-selling on Amazon in recent days) ... you will want to order one. Click here to watch a video, order the book, and then go over here to join in on the Bloom Book Club for weekly discussions (beginning February 6) of this life-changing book. The author Ann Voskamp, farmer's wife, mom of six, helping lead the discussions each week.

And as I wait for all that God wishes to teach me as I read this book, I continue counting ...

Thank You, loving Lord, for ...

~ showing me so clearly late last spring that I should start up this blog place ...

~ giving me great joy as I write and share here ...

~ the unexpected blessing of meeting kindred spirit bloggers through my writing and sharing in this place, and for all I am learning from their writings ...

~ the joy of sharing my thoughts, in writing, with my own daughters, also kindred spirits ...

~ encouragement from my friends and family, so sweet with their words ...

~ all the stories You have crafted into our lives, waiting to be told, for Your glory ...

~ the beauty we see in all Your creation, all those You have created, each with their own unique stories to tell ...

~ filling our hearts with thanks ...

~ giving us peace ...

~ the Greatest Story Ever Told ...

~ giving us "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ" (Ephesians 1:3)

"May you be filled with joy,
always thanking the Father."
(Colossians 1:11b-12a)

(One Thousand Gifts #190-200)

holy experience

Friday, January 21, 2011

Paper Piles

A bit different than my usual posts, but part of my life ...  a post showing the continual need for organizing all the papers, etc., that come into our home. I try to keep up with the constant paper piles, but over the busy holiday season, I let some piles accumulate more than usual. There were some piles on our corner desk (the center for keeping track of mail and financial bookkeeping for our home) that needed attention this week, and I decided that it was time to re-organize that area. These were the envelopes of items that were important enough to keep; the rest had been thrown away as they came in the mail.

With the use of piano bench moved next to the desk, I removed the piles, and began ...

I already had been using the small filing system that fits so well on the desk, but decided to add labels. Some of the labels: Receipts - Record (always recording all of our expenses into our budget system), Bills (always bills to pay), Medical Bills (important to keep track of which ones are legitimate and which ones are still needing to go through insurance ... I have learned, and have saved many dollars by always checking before I pay), BCBS (forms from our insurance used to compare to the bills).

The basket to the left has various sections where I put paper items, as well.  A few of the sections: "To Put Away", "To Do", "Family Info" (easy to grab quickly, such as emergency info for grandkids).

Organizing is fun for me ... a very good feeling to get this done.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Windows to the Soul

A window, even a small, seemingly insignificant one, can make all the difference. A windowless life allows for no view outside of ourselves. Even a small peephole in a wall can open one's eyes to a whole new world on the other side. 

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

Windows ....  open up the inside to what was unknown before, and allow what is on the outside to gain a glimpse into the inner rooms.

Our words ... our little words, even one word spoken with care, have the power to open windows. To allow a searching, needy one to see something they have never seen before, to have hope, to see the light that will lead them. Just a word or two can open up the window to a person's soul, allowing the sun to shine in. For hope to sprout, for love to grow.

And it is the words that I speak to my Maker that open up the windows of my own soul, that help me reach out to His Light, giving me understanding, letting the Truth of His Word come in. My journaling words, my words cried out in prayer, the opening up of my heart and letting my words reach out and up to His Words. My healing in trials, my growth in sunlight, all come from tilling these Words, turning them over and over again, letting them sprout and bring life.

In His amazing love, God opened the windows of heaven and sent the Word to us, to bring light to our world, to help us see Him more clearly, to give us a glimpse of what is on the other side. Jesus - the Word, Love spoken in our own language ...

"In the beginning ... the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God ... 
 The Word gave life to everything that was created, 
and His life brought light to everyone." 
 (John 1:1, 4)

The Word ... giving light to this dark world, opening up the way for us to see, to see clearly, to see God. Without the Word made flesh, we would be in darkness. But Jesus was sent to show us the way to life, to open the windows of our hearts to the Light.

And made in His image, we are made for words. To hear words that speak to our thirsty, hungry souls ... each other's words, His words. To only speak words that bring healing and balm to another's soul. To guard our hearts, from where our words spring. For in abusing this gift of words, we can do great harm ... closing the windows to another's soul.

In this dark world, filled with the hungry, and needy, the lonely and sad ... may our words open windows, and bring the Light of the Word to those around us.

"May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to You,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
(Psalm 19:14)

Linking up to Ann and Holley, as they have been sharing their encouraging and insightful letters about words.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Devoted to One

"Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. 
The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. 
It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him.  ...  
We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. 
Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?
(My Utmost for His Highest)

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

Last week ... a week full of emotion, preparing for our youngest son starting out on the path of his dreams, flying off for a job halfway across our continent. And a reminder for me again this morning ... keep focusing on First Love. The path focusing on following, on listening, and giving ourselves first of all to Jesus. A reminder to not let the urgent and the magnet of being busy for God to take away from our true devotion to God. 

So, on this day when part of my heart is on a ship that is leaving from Seattle with my youngest son on board, I choose to give my thanks to the One who holds us as mothers.

Thank You, loving Lord, for Your amazing blessings of this past week:

for the sweet voice of a three year-old granddaughter, asking her mommy if she could please call "grama" right before bedtime one night ... and my heart was filled to hear her soft, sweet words, "I love you, too" ...

for my husband, so patient and loving with me ... surely a challenge at times to understand all the emotions of a mother ...

for answering my prayers for direction about a project ... nothing is too small to pray about ...

for a good supply of wood ... keeps our propane bill down, and adds a beautiful, comforting warmth to our house ...

for not as much damage as could be, when a deer ran into our Honda  ... and for protecting my husband from harm and accident ...

for our wonderful "empty nest" ... love our children and grandchildren, and so blessed to also love our years together, just the two of us at home ...

for a sweet time with family home, two days before our son's move to Washington ... memories to carry with us ...

for holding me together during our good-byes two days ago ... thank You for love given, and love received ...

for safe arrival of luggage at destination ... always a bit of a concern, but all was well ...

for phone calls before the boat's departure, heading for the Bering Sea ... soothing ointment for this mother-heart ...

for being all-powerful, everywhere present, faithful, full of grace and mercy ... thank You, Lord.

"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning."
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

(One Thousand Gifts #179-189)

holy experience

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mother Hearts

How does a mother hold her heart together, when her heart is scattered? When her heart is in six different places all at the same time?

Twenty years ago ... overflowing hearts of joy at the birth of baby #6, our youngest son ...

I read a quote years ago ... Being a mother "is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." (Elizabeth Stone)

Wandering and in many places, my mother-heart is constantly needing to be gathered up, to be held, to be gently brought back together. Which is why I need to learn over and over, day after day, to continually run to my Maker, the one who fashioned my heart, the one I desperately need to hold this scattered heart together.

And it is a life-time of running to My Father. My children are all grown now, and my heart continues to walk around with them.

Walking around outside my body, for 37 years now ... walking around with my six children. Places like Taiwan, Macau, Japan, the Philippines (missions trips three of our daughters went on) ... in places of wandering and tears when there was discord ... in the carefree play of childhood ... in waiting rooms and hospital rooms for appendicitis, leukemia, bone marrow transplant ... on school grounds and in school rooms, sometimes in locker rooms hearing unkind words ... with a son, off to New York City, living in the middle of Manhattan while attending design school ... with four daughters as they labored to bring their own babies into the world (one who labored for many years, through tears, until her two were placed in her arms through adoption).

And now, in this year 2011 ... my heart will be on a big company fishing vessel off the coast of Alaska and up into the Bering Sea. In my heart, I'll be there for three months with my youngest son, who is made for drama and adventure, who has taken on this job of adventure to earn money for his future, bigger dreams of adventure.

And in all these places, and in all these years ... as mothers, we encourage, we love, we pray for, and we let go ... while our hearts continue to walk around with our children.

This is the way of mothers. And in the midst of this walking around, and letting go, we must hold on tight. To the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present ... always with our children, and always with us.

In the early morning hours, I hear these words ...

"Always be full of joy in the Lord.
 I say it again - rejoice! ... 
Don't worry about anything,
 instead, pray about everything. 
Tell God what you need 
and thank Him for all He has done. 
Then you will experience God's peace 
which exceeds anything we can understand. 
His peace will guard your hearts and minds 
as you live in Christ Jesus." 
(Philippians 4:4-7)

In the midst of a sometimes fragmented heart, scattered and in many different places, and mingled in with the tears that come with motherhood ... I can have Joy, and I can have Peace, and so much more. All a gift from the one who fashioned my mother-heart. All that I long for.

"And because we are His children, 
God has sent the Spirit of His Son 
into our hearts
prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.'" 
(Galatians 4:6)

Within me, in my heart, holding me together, giving me true, overflowing Joy, giving me Peace.

Loving Lord, thank You for the priceless gift of children, and thank You for Joy, and for Peace, and for holding this heart together ... 

Linked to Faith Barista, Imperfect Prose

Linking up at A Pause in the Path, sharing a favorite post from 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Part

Just a week and a half into this New Year ... and I need to be refreshed already, reminded again, with my word. My word for the year ... Listen. And to make sure that I listen to the One.

For it matters who we listen to. Listening to Him above all the other voices around me, and in the midst of all that is going on around me. The louder the noise of life, the more I need to listen to the One.

And as I listen to Him, abide in Him, I can boldly follow, with confidence.

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

Taking the next step, even though the end is not in sight. Just one step at a time ... following, listening. Always praying. And always trusting, with confidence. 

"I pray that God, the source of hope,
 will fill you completely with joy and peace 
because you trust in Him. 
Then you will overflow with confident hope 
through the power of the Holy Spirit."  
(Romans 15:13)

My part ... the listening, every day, all the day ... the daily all-through-the day habit, my life.  And the following. Boldly following whatever He says. Wherever He leads. 

His part ... the empowering, the giving of all that is needed. All that I need to confidently follow each step ... each day. 

"I pray that from His glorious, 
unlimited resources 
He will empower you with inner strength
 through His Spirit." 
(Ephesians 3:16)

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me to do my part ... and to trust You with Yours.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

Snowy days call for soup on the menu. We have had about a foot of snow in recent days ... so beautiful, and so wonderful to have a warm home to enjoy it from. And the perfect time to try out a new recipe I have had on hand for awhile ... 30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup, clipped from a Taste of Home magazine. We loved it ... and is one that I will add to my collection of favorites.

30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

4 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
3/4 cup sliced celery
3/4 cup sliced fresh carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium chicken bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups uncooked egg noodles

In a Dutch oven, combine the first 10 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in noodles; cook 5-7 minutes longer or until noodles and vegetables are tender.

(Notes: I used 2 cups of cubed, cooked turkey meat that I had in the freezer, instead of the chicken breast, and also used some homemade-style egg pasta that I purchase in a large bag from Sam's.)

Yield:  6 servings

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan ~ Jan. 10-16

Still adding pages to my new planner for the new year ... now a page for menus. Trying to consolidate more things into this one notebook. I had a larger 8.5 x 11 notebook in the kitchen for menu plans (and other things), but now want to try using my new planner for this, as well. More things all together, in one place. I love to organize and plan, so switching things around from time to time just adds to the fun.

Menu Plan for this week:

Mon. - 30-minute Chicken Noodle Soup (a new recipe to try)

Tues. - Barbecued Pork Sandwiches (cooking a roast in the slow cooker for 10 hours)

Wed. - Dijon-crusted Chicken Breasts (another new recipe)
            Corn Spoon Bread (a side dish, prepared in the slow cooker for 4 hours)

Thurs. - Cheeseburger Mac

Fri. - FAMILY MEAL (menu to be decided)

Sat. - PARTY FOR 2-year old CRUZ!

Sun. - Meal Out

Filling Up with Praise

Photo taken just this morning ...

A new week ... new opportunities to fill up the moments of our lives with thankfulness ...

"It is impossible to praise or thank Me too much. 
As it is written, I inhabit the praises of My people."
(Jesus Calling)

"When you thank Me for the many pleasures I provide, you affirm that I am God, from whom all blessings flow. When adversity strikes and you thank Me anyway, your trust in My sovereignty is a showpiece in invisible realms. Fill up the spare moments of your life with praise and thanksgiving. This joyous discipline will help you live in the intimacy of My Presence." (Jesus Calling)

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

Things jotted down in my journal this past week (and a few added this morning) ... to be thankful for:

the fun of setting up a new planner for the year ...

having a son call us right after receiving some exciting news for him ...

peace from God about the news, even though it means he will be moving far away ...

comforting, warm soup on cold winter days ....

having the opportunity to connect with someone who I was desiring to learn to know better ...

our cozy family room, with wood stove going ...

talking with my husband about plans and ideas ...

some slower at-home days last week, with my husband home recovering from a cold/illness ...

re-organizing to make room for things a son is storing here ...

finally getting all the Christmas decorations put away ...

an evening with friends on Epiphany day, sharing, and much laughter ...

a beautiful snowfall, light snowflakes ...

a very kind neighbor who surprised us and snow-blowed our driveway this morning ...

(One Thousand Gifts #166-178)

holy experience

Sunday, January 9, 2011

His Word to Heart

The beginning of a New Year ... always a good time to focus on and start new projects, new habits. Memorizing some verses last year, including a few longer sections of verses, was such an encouragement to me. I found that the actual practice of the memorizing was what was the most beneficial ... going over and over the words in my mind throughout the day. It was more difficult to retain them long term ... but even if I was not completely successful with that part, the day-by-day practice of thinking on the words was worth it. 

I was wondering (and praying) what I should memorize this year, and right at that time, one of my favorite bloggers shared a plan, complete with a free download ... to memorize the Book of Colossians in a year. Two verses a week throughout the year, and the entire book will be memorized by the end of the year!

I am so grateful to Ann Voskamp for setting this up, and for sharing it with all of her readers. The download is available to those who wish to use it. I printed it out last week, and then spent some time today making a cover, and putting it in the form that I wish to use.

A few additional amazing blessings for me ... my husband chose to take this on as his memorization project, as well (with his verses set up in a different form than mine ... no ribbons and flowers!), so we will be doing this together! And then this morning, another amazing thing ... we heard from our pastor that he is going to be teaching a new series for the first 4 to 5 months of this New Year 2011. And his series ... the Book of Colossians!

A special gift from God ... opportunity to focus on the Book of Colossians this year.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Planner

Organizing ... some of us like it, and some of us have very definite feelings of dislike for it. For me, give me a slot of time set apart for organizing, and I am at my best. I love organizing. And some may think that I have things quite organized already ... but those who are true organizers at heart, know that there is always room for more.

With six children (all grown), and nine grandchildren ... I have done a lot of organizing over the years. And now, I am finding that there are many things calling my name to be organized in these "empty nest" years. Still a busy life of family and helping my husband in full-time ministry to high school students, but maybe a little more time to take care of some of those things that have been put off for many years. And always ... the daily organizing of all that life brings us.

And at the start of the year, there is first of all, organizing of the notebook that keeps it all together. All the family stuff, the things to do, the birthdays, the gift lists, the daily priorities and lists, etc. Mom and Grama to 21 family members now. And always the need to keep my priorities before me.

This notebook has taken on various forms and sizes over the years. And this new year it is time for a change. I have been using a smaller size notebook for a number of years, and this year have the urge to go back to the bigger size ... 8.5 x 5.5 inch size. Fortunately, I had saved a zippered notebook that size that I had used earlier, still in good condition.

So, my main organizing project for this week has been to set up my new planner notebook for this New Year 2011.

On the left (photo above) a page for a compact overview of the month ... things to remember in each of the priorities I feel God has given me as a wife and mom (and now, grama). Something I started on as a young mom, to keep my priorities before me ... thanks to a great book I read many years ago ... Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow. (The subject of a future post.)

The page on the right (photo above) was printed out from a free download this week. So happy to find this, as many of the calendar pages are for full size notebooks. This one is perfect for my needs.  (Thanks, Mandi, and Sarah!) The lettering on the calendar pages are even in the red color of my notebook ...

Next after my calendar is a page where I jot down priority things I want to remember for the current week ... no need to write everything down, just some main things I want to remember. Things I don't want the urgent to crowd out. It doesn't always happen the way it's jotted down, but it helps me to keep it before me ... to plan for, pray for.

And the next page ... an important page taking it to the daily, where it happens. Or where hopefully, at least part of it can happen. Actually, I have learned (and continue to learn) to hold all my plans with an open hand, trusting God's direction for each day. It just helps me, and takes a burden off my shoulders and my mind, to write things down.

A new format for me this year with this new notebook (and one I will probably be tweaking a bit in the weeks ahead) ... but one I have been excited to start using each day this week already. (Thanks to Ann and a link on her blog to Tsh and a free download.) The free download was for a full size notebook, and so I remade it, fitting it more specifically to my life and my priorities.

This is just a start in transferring all my pages from a smaller notebook to this new planner. I'll continue with this fun job in the next few weeks, and maybe ... I might write a follow-up post about more of the pages?

And a very pleasant and fun surprise for me ... a blogger who I follow is hosting a weekly linkup post where we can share our organizing projects throughout the year. She is encouraging her readers to focus on one project each week ... 52 Weeks of Organizing. Great fun for those who love organizing! And a motivation for those who find it difficult, but yet necessary.

NOTE: Click here to see a follow-up to this post, published two years later, on January 4, 2013.

Linked to: 52 Weeks of Organizing

Closer Than Any

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

In a world of longing for intimacy, for close connection ... even in this New Year 2011. Our souls long to connect deeply. There are some who find this connection, and it is a treasure. And there are many more who search their whole lives for what they long for.

We are made for connection, for intimacy, for closeness with others. Made in the image of Trinity, of Three in One. And as we share in close communion with others, we find deep connection ... the sharing of our thoughts, our hearts, and our spirits.

But there is One ... One who longs to be closer than any other. 

Jesus said before His days on earth came to a close, before He returned to His Home ... "But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Advocate won't come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you." (John 16:7)

This Advocate, this Comforter, this ever-present One ... makes His home inside of us when we come to Jesus. And this Friend is closer than any other. God makes His home in us, closer than even our deepest friendship here on earth. Inside of us, in our innermost spirit ... a Friend.

"Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional or pitiful." (Oswald Chambers)

In the quiet hours this morning, before even speaking with my dearest friend on earth, I spoke with this Friend within, my comforter, my helper, my source of strength and all that I long for. I am not alone. Even in times of loneliness here on this earth, we are never alone. He is with us ... closer than any other.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Most Important Words

(Photo Source: Dreamstime)

Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter ... the most important thing. The most important words we speak. The words we speak to our Maker.

I, a mom of six and grama of nine, have not always known this. And I still forget. In the early hours this morning, as my mother-heart was carrying some concerns, the still small voice within, reminded me.

How do we forget? And why is it that the one thing that it is often the hardest for us to take time for is ... to pray? To talk to, to pour out our hearts ... to the One who made us, who made our children ... the One who loves us and our children, and grandchildren, infinitely more than even we do.

God has been schooling me in prayer for many years, and I am asking Him to continue. Pray is one of the three words I have chosen for this New Year. One of three main focuses. Important for everyone, and maybe especially important for us as mothers.

As mothers, the words we speak are of such high value, immeasurable value ... words of love for our children, words of encouragement, and yes ... gentle, kind words of correction, giving needed direction. But the things that we long for most of all, for our children, even ourselves ... come only from our holy, powerful, loving God. It is our words to Him, poured out to Him, that are the most important of all. It is to Him that our words should be spoken to first of all and most of all.

For we cannot control everything that our children experience, we cannot control all that enters their minds, we cannot control their hearts. We do our part, our diligent part, but we are messed up people, and we live in a messed up world. And we must depend on the only One who works in molding and changing hearts. 

Many years ago I read a book by Ruth Bell Graham that impacted me so greatly ... reminding me that as mothers we do "our part" of loving, caring for, training, etc., ... and we talk to God, and plead with God to do "His Part". His part of changing hearts and lives.

Gentle reminders this morning ... I am so thankful, and I am filled with joy. For this great God can do things much better than even our most noble efforts, our most eloquent words. And He tells us to pray without ceasing, to pray instead of worry ... and He will do the rest. May this be my daily habit this year, my moment-by-moment way of life.

"Don't worry about anything; 
instead, pray about everything.
 Tell God what you need,
 and thank Him for all He has done. 
Then you will experience God's peace, 
which exceeds anything we can understand.
 His peace will guard your hearts and minds 
as you live in Christ Jesus."
 (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

"Intercession ... that wonderful interaction between heaven and earth. There is a world with its needs, entirely dependent upon and waiting to be helped by intercession. And there is God in heaven with His all-sufficient supply for all those needs, waiting to be asked." (Andrew Murray)

Loving Lord, may this be a year of words, spoken to You ...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cheesy Potato Soup

A warm, comforting dish for the first full week of the New Year ... Cheesy Potato Soup. I decided to make this yesterday for our evening meal, on the first day of this first full week, and also chose to make a big pot of it ... enough for several lunches throughout the rest of the week.

Cheesy Potato Soup

1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
6-8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups water
2 cups milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
12 oz. (or more) Velveeta, cubed
few slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a large saucepan or soup kettle, saute onion in butter. Add potatoes and water. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in milk, soup, garlic salt, pepper, and bacon (or wait and garnish with bacon on top); heat through.
Add cheese, stir until cheese is melted.
Yield:  8 servings

(Note: add more cream of chicken soup to make a bit thicker, if desired. I usually 1 1/2 times this recipe, as that is what fits in my large Revere pot ... and I use 2 cans of the cream of chicken soup.)

Love this menu, served with crackers or breadsticks ... and made for a cozy meal as we ate it last night down in our family room by our wood stove!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Weekly Menu Plan ~ Jan. 3-9

A New Year, and always ... I love to get new ideas for every day menus, and also for special holiday and event meals. It is hard for me to resist picking up the new colorful magazines I see, especially those from Taste of Home, and especially when I find them for 30% off at Sam's. 

I'll have fun looking through these three recent purchases in the weeks ahead, and picking out some new recipes to try for some of our special meals in the coming year. I bought the "foodgifts" magazine before Christmas, thinking that I would use some ideas from it, but, I never had the time to look at it. Maybe if I start early in the year, I'll be able to collect some ideas to use next Christmas, and also on other occasions when I want to give a gift of food ...

My menu plan for this week is quite simple ... we're still going a bit slower after the busy, holiday season. And, with just the two of us here at home most days, one menu gets stretched into several meals.

Mon. - Cheesy Potato Soup (will be making a big pot of this soup, and will have it to use for several lunches throughout the week)

Tues. - Chicken Enchiladas (from a recent freezer meal day with my daughters) ... thanks, Carrie!

Wed. - Tacoritos (a new recipe I want to try)

Thurs. - Meal Out at Hartford's!


Sat. - Meal Out at Carrie & Tyler's (celebrating Cruz's 2nd birthday!) ... will be taking a dish to add to the meal.

Sun. - Teriyaki Pork Roast (another new recipe)