Monday, October 31, 2011

Walking and Keeping Company

Sometimes I get a bit hung up with the word "pray". It somehow brings thoughts of something I need to "do" into my mind, and I can feel guilty for not spending more time "praying". Or discouraged that my requests have not been granted. And at times like these, I need to ask God to remind me of what praying really is.

And I have been reminded of some words that free my mind, and tell me in a language that speaks to my heart, of what prayer is.

"Come to Me. Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.
Walk with Me and work with Me - watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Walking with, keeping company with - the words that give clarity. The focus is not on my asking and requesting things, but the focus is on the keeping company with, on my sharing what is on my heart. And listening to what is on His heart. And the sharing of words of love, His towards me, and mine towards Him. Just as in my relationship with my husband, or another family member or close friend.

When my focus becomes misplaced, when all my energy is spent on wishing for the thing I am "praying" about and desiring, then I find myself in an unsettled place. But by using my energies to keep in step with Him, communicating with Him all through my days, I find myself living freely and lightly, even in the midst of trials and hard times. 

Loving Lord, thank You for these words as I walk along the path with You - calling me (again) to focus first of all on keeping company with You, sharing my heart with You, and listening to Yours. And in the midst of this keeping company, and this walking together, I can live freely and lightly as I watch You at work.

Thanking You for blessings along the way:

~ the vibrant, brilliant colors of fall - seen on a walk through our town (photo above).
~ warm connections with our six grown children - so much love for each of them.
~ a good visit with cousins, time together with them at my father's apartment.
~ time to wash windows in our basement playroom (a much needed task done).
~ more progress learning digital scrapbooking.
~ prayer time with Campus Ministry staff, and a productive meeting with our SV staff.
~ more firewood brought to us for the upcoming cold winter days.
~ for sweet grandkids - time spent with two little boys one evening.
~ the aroma of Maple Pumpkin Muffins baking.
~ our roof replaced by insurance - the result of a bad hail storm earlier this season.
~ reminders to keep my focus in the best place - on You.

(One Thousand Gifts #719-729)

Linking up with Multitudes on Mondays, The Wellspring

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Progress

This is the month that I have caught on enough with learning digital scrapbooking that I am creating my own pages. And with every step of progress, I am finding that there is more to learn! But the process is fun for me, and is a relaxing break from the busyness of life. Am enjoying being able to capture events in photo and word - so thankful for the gift of family, for the great trip that Lance could have in Europe, and thankful for his safe return. 

Probably not very noticeable in the photos online here, but I have added drop shadows to some of the photos, as well as to the leaf embellishments. It adds a bit of a 3-D effect (especially on the printed-out pages), which one can miss in digital scrapbooking compared to traditional paper scrapbooking.

Apple-of-Your-Eye Cheesecake

Cheesecakes are a preferred dessert in our family, and we have enjoyed a variety of different ones for special occasions. Apple-of-Your-Eye Cheesecake is a delicious one for any time of year, but especially during the fall season. 

Apple-of-Your-Eye Cheesecake

Bottom crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2  cups chopped peeled apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, divided

Sweetened whipped cream
2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Combine the first five ingredients; press onto the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; cool. 

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crust. 

Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon; spoon over filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen. 

Drizzle with 4 tablespoons caramel topping. Cool for 1 hour. Chill overnight. Remove sides of pan. Just before serving, garnish with whipped cream. Drizzle with remaining caramel; sprinkle with pecans. Store in refrigerator.

Yield:  12 servings

(Note: I have substituted fructose for the sugar in this recipe.)

Recipe from a past Taste of Home magazine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


As the sun goes down, what do I use to measure the success of the day? Task-oriented person that I am, I often use my "to-do" list to determine success - how many tasks have I checked off? What do I have to give visible proof that I have been productive?

Today was a day with a lot of check marks on the page:

laundry - check
wash dining/kitchen floor - check
wash windows in the playroom - check (so good to get that done!)
clean basement bathroom - check
start writing our next newsletter - check
start printing out the envelopes for the newsletter - check
pay some bills - check
make lunch and supper for my husband and me - check
set out snacks and hot apple cider for a little gathering at our house in the evening - check
do a digital scrapbooking page - check

Yes, a successful day, if success is measured by accomplishments and check marks. But what if there is a better measurement to use?

"A successful day is one in which
you have stayed in touch with Me,
even if many things remain undone
at the end of the day."
(Dear Jesus by Sarah Young)

"Beloved, there are indeed many measures of success in the world, and most of them are meaningless. To avoid confusion, you need a rule of thumb: Seek to please Me. When communicating with me is your highest priority, I am pleased. The more you commune with me as you go through a day, the more you walk in My ways." (Dear Jesus)

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest commandment."
(Matthew 22:37-38)

Thank You, Lord, for these words, helping me to keep things in perspective. Thank You for tasks accomplished, and thank You most of all, for reminders at the end of the day - what is most important. 

Linking up with On Your Heart Tuesdays

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Stage for Beauty

"Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage
on which My Power and My Glory perform most brilliantly."
 (Dear Jesus)

"I have chosen you less for your strengths than for your weaknesses, which amplify your need for Me. Depend on Me more and more, and I will shower Peace on all your paths." (Jesus Calling)

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need." 
(Psalm 23:1)

Thanking God for our weaknesses is hard to do; so often we want to run from them. But they are the very things that draw us to God. That show us our desperate need of His Love and Grace.

From my journal, sharing my thanks from this past week:

For my weaknesses, continually showing me my need of Jesus, causing me to run to Him, the only One who can meet my deepest needs, the One who wants to be strong for me.

For life together with my husband, for 40 years now - both of us with many weaknesses, but strong with Him holding us up, and holding us together.

Times in the middle of the night when I awaken, and am prompted to pray for a family member.

Memories of my dear mother, who passed away four years ago this past week.

Words that encourage and inspire ...

Long phone call from a son, sharing his heart.

Hearing a sweet daughter's heart.

The safe return of a son from his travels in Europe, and a wonderful time together, connecting over lunch.

Family gathering at our house a few days later to welcome our son back - good times together.

Words that keep us on the right path when making decisions ...

Sweet worship and powerful teaching on Sunday.

A few days of warmer weather.

A trailer full of wood delivered to our house - warmth for colder days to come.

(One Thousand Gifts #706-718)

Linked to Multitudes on Mondays

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scrapbooking October

The time has come, and I am having almost too much fun! After deciding in the early part of this year to switch to digital scrapbooking (click here to read about it), and after spending quite a few months learning my way around Photoshop Elements, I am now ready to create digital scrapbook pages on my own. Thanks to a great online course, and to my husband's patience and encouragement as he listened to me all along the process of the decision and as I struggled at times through the learning curve with PSE. 

The four pages that I have posted here in the past months were all done as I was going through the online course, and used the templates that they provided. But now I am brave enough to venture out on my own, and create pages from "scratch". I made my first few two-page spreads this past week, covering October so far, with the help of some great supplies of digital paper and embellishments. I am thanking God for this new way of scrapbooking which gives me hope that I will be able to record more of the present happenings in our lives, as well as going back to record God's presence in our family through the joys and trials of life, giving all the honor to Him. 

So much more to learn, and these pages are really quite simple compared to some - looking forward to learning more as I continue on with more lessons from this great website.

(Paper from Digital Scrapper - "All I Have to Do is Dream" kit; embellishments from Scrap Girls - ASO Alluring Autumn kit.)

Linking up at In the Studio

Which Way to Go

On the island of Giudecca in Venice, Italy.

In our world of decision-making, of trying to figure out which way to go, we are often left perplexed and confused, not knowing what to do, which door to open or to close. I am so thankful for these words this morning, pointing to the One who can give us direction, the One who can see the whole picture and knows the best path to take.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek His will in all you do,
and He will show you which path to take."
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

Such familiar words to me; yet, when we stop to really listen, the most powerful words. All that we need as we face confusing circumstances, not knowing what to do. Instead of worry, trust. Instead of confusion, peace.

"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)

So thankful that we are not left alone. So thankful for the greatest privilege of all, that we can have an intimate relationship with the Giver of Peace, the One who gives Light to our paths. Praying these words over myself today, and also over some of our grown children as they seek and wait for direction.

Linked to Brag on God Friday

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Matters Most

Photo Source

"And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow Him.
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."
(Colossians 2:6-7)

Reading these words this morning, thinking on the beauty of trees - every season has it's own beauty. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. Soaking in nourishment through roots; unseen by others, yet so essential for growth. Reaching up to catch the rays of sunlight. And the fruit of summer, and the beautiful foliage of fall - all beauty that feeds the soul. Beauty that gives thanks and praise to the Creator of the trees.

Lord, may I be the same - always soaking down deep into Your Words, Your Love, reaching up to You with a heart of thanks, and living life as a vessel for You, spreading Your love and beauty to those around me.

And today - remembering my dear, sweet mother who lived these words, and who passed away (and is now with Jesus) four years ago, Oct. 18, 2007.

Linked to Word-filled Wednesday

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Journal of Thanks

At Vala's Pumpkin Patch.

A week-full of memories, and things to be thankful for (bits of thanks from my journal last week):

Beautiful fall weather.
A safe return of my husband from a quick 3-day trip to Houston for SV "It's Time!" Prayer Conference.
Hearing of God at work in the lives of students.
Being able to finish the posts about our Italy Trip - so many memories.
Insight for us as a couple regarding a decision.
An evening at Vala's with Amy, and Levi and Ali - beautiful fall day.
These words that I read:

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, 
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him, 
for God is our refuge."
Psalm 62:5-8

Praying together up on "our hill", a beautiful cemetery overlooking our town.
Progress with digital scrapbooking.
Daily nourishment from The Word.
Encouragement from these words in my Jesus Calling devotional book:

"Do not fear your weakness,
for it is the stage on which My Power and My Glory 
perform most brilliantly."

Time to bake bread and rolls one day - work, but also fun, and so rewarding.
Progress with some needed Student Venture office work.
Making Chicken Fajita Pizza together on our Date Night.
Printing out my first digital scrapbook page on 8x8 size paper.
Saturday lunch with Carrie and Cruz here with us - such a joy.
Fun to share the joy of grandbaby #10 on the way.
Signing up for a Pinterest account (with Carrie's encouragement and help) - looks very fun.
A phone call from a son, asking for prayer.
Time over the weekend to relax, enjoy, and rest.
These words this morning - just what I need.

"The Lord will fight for you;
you need only to be still."
Exodus 14:14

Thank You, Lord, for all these memories (and more) from this past week. For all Your gifts to us - Your help and presence in hard moments, and for all the beauty of fall, family, and friends.

(One Thousand Gifts #685-705)

Linking up to Multitudes on Mondays

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Fourth Page

Slow, but steady progress in learning digital scrapbooking! I completed Lesson 32 in the Learn Digital Scrapbooking course this week. This is something I just work on from time to time; otherwise it would go a lot faster. So fun when I do take the time - am loving it more and more.

What would we do without photos? Our trip to Italy last month for our 40th Anniversary was so incredibly wonderful. Our photos help the memories live on, and hopefully, I can preserve these memories through digital scrapbooking. (In the meantime, I have put many of the photos in posts here on my blog - see sidebar for links to our Italy Trip posts.)

What do you do to preserve photos and memories? Any tips in digital scrapbooking?

Linking to In the Studio

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Soul Hunger

Sometimes I experience a hunger, or a restlessness in the midst of my day, and I try to fill it by pulling out a favorite thing to do. This will perhaps ease the restlessness for a bit, but the feeling of emptiness is likely to return. For even though I know where to go to satisfy my hunger, it seems easier sometimes to just ignore what I know and try to bring satisfaction my own way. And all around me, I see evidences of a world looking and searching, hungry, but not knowing where to find true nourishment.

I have come to call this restlessness "soul hunger", as over the years I have learned to recognize this yearning more and more. It's a deep longing, a crying out of the soul for it's home.

This past week, though busy and occupied with many things that I love, I felt the familiar pangs of hunger. Actually, this feeling of hunger can come upon us each day, and throughout the day. For just as our physical bodies need food, so our inner soul/heart longs for life-giving nourishment.

"Man shall not live on bread alone, 
but on every word 
that comes from the mouth of God." 
(Matthew 4:4)

Nothing else will satisfy. And maybe we are made for regular scheduled meals, as well as continual snacking throughout the day, all through our day - finding nourishment from every Word that comes from God. A continual feeding of the soul ...

" ... be transformed by the renewing
(or the feeding)
of your mind."
(Romans 12:2 - emphasis added, my own)

Loving Lord, in the midst of busy days and even while occupied with things I love, I choose to be fed by You, the Maker of my soul and all that I am. The only One who can truly satisfy the deep desires and cravings of my heart. 

Linked to Faith Barista, Imperfect Prose, Brag on God Friday

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Safe Place

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him ...

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 

My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge."

(words from Psalm 62:5-8)

Thank You, loving Lord, for Your mercy, grace, and love - poured out on us every day; 
and for being our refuge and safe place to run to. 

(Photos taken in beautiful Italy, on our 40th Anniversary Trip last month.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oatmeal Apple Raisin Muffins

A delicious muffin recipe that I clipped years ago from a Taste of Home magazine. I made them again this past weekend - loved the aroma of fall that filled the house as they were baking!

Oatmeal Apple Raisin Muffins

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup raisins
1 chopped apple (aprox 1 cup)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon

(I like to substitute whole wheat pastry flour for part of the flour, and also substitute fructose for part of the sugar.)

Beat egg; stir in remaining ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Pour into 12 greased muffin cups until 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve cool or piping hot with butter.

Yield:  12 muffins

Love my convection oven which allows me to bake food on multiple racks at the same time.

Enjoy - and share with those you love! A daughter and two grandsons came over shortly after I made these, and we shared some of these muffins together. Also, I sent some home with her, and put some in the freezer for enjoying later. (I tripled the recipe when making them this past weekend.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

In the Now

"This is the day the Lord has made. 
We will rejoice and be glad in it." 
(Psalm 118:24)

"Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. 
Rejoice in this day that I have made, trusting that I am abundantly present in it."
 (Jesus Calling)

Each day - a gift, and to be lived in and embraced. For those of us who are planners, we sometimes find ourselves living in the plans, thinking ahead to the next event, the next task - our minds always on the go. But God has been reminding me this past week to more fully embrace the now. To look for Him every day, all through each day - watching for His Gifts, tasting His Goodness, loving and being loved by Him and by those around me. Living as if today is the most important day.

Thanking Him for His gifts each day during this past week ~

~ beautiful fall weather and time for a walk through our little town.

~ phone calls from Lance over in Europe, and the news that he will be coming home soon!

~ for Amy and her two kids coming over one evening (for Ali begging and wanting to go see "grama") - sweet time together.

~ time for menu planning (for three months of menus!)

~ for this verse that keeps coming to our minds over and over again: "Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)

~ for a great half-day SV staff meeting on Wednesday - so thankful for our team.

~ sharing together with our larger staff team for a Day of Prayer one day this past week - so blessed to be part of this Omaha/Lincoln team.

~ for memories of our incredible, amazing 40th Anniversary Trip to Italy last month.

~ the many photos we took giving us so much joy as we remember and carry the memories with us, also sharing them with family & friends.

~ for blogging, an avenue to share our memories (posts about our trip now completed!)

~ time for some baking (Chocolate Chip Brownies, and Oatmeal Apple Raisin Muffins) - and the start up of plans for Christmas baking.

~ the fun of having Sara and boys come over last night - good times together, such happy boys.

~ phone call from Cristy in TX.

~ texts and calls from my husband, in Houston over the weekend.

~ live streaming from the "It's Time!" SV Prayer Event going on in Houston the past two days - so good to be able to hear parts of that powerful time for student leaders and staff.

~ time to put up our fall decorations - love this time of year!

~ some much-needed, extended time reading His Words, listening, and being filled up.

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth."
(Psalm 46:10 NASB)

"Beloved, relax in My loving Presence. 
Let the Light of My Love soak into your entire being."
(Dear Jesus)

(Photo above was taken in beautiful, relaxing Cinque Terre, along the Mediterranean coast, on our recent trip to Italy.)

(One Thousand Gifts #668-684)

Linking up at Multitude Mondays

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More from Rome

(The last in a series of posts about our 40th Anniversary Trip to Italy in September ... )

Gary and I had one full day left in Rome after Lance left for Istanbul, and before we would leave to return home. We spent time re-packing and then took the Metro to an area of the city that turned out to be one of our favorite parts of Rome. Piazza del Popolo, bordered on one side by the Tiber River, is the commercial heart of historical central Rome. It was filled with old buildings and statues, with narrow streets, shops, and sidewalk cafes - we loved it.

We enjoyed our last meal in Italy at a little sidewalk cafe set right in the open area of the Piazza.

The next morning we made our last walk along the little side street from our apartment to the Metro station, with our luggage in tow, headed out on our journey home. We traveled on the subway to the main Roma Termini where we caught the Leonardo Express train, taking us the 30-minute route to the Fiumicino airport of Rome.

After a 9 1/2 hour flight, we arrived in Toronto to go through customs, continued on to Chicago, then Omaha, and finally arrived home late in the evening of Sept. 21, with one of our daughters picking us up at the airport. (Thanks, Carrie!)

The trip of a life-time, celebrating our 40th Anniversary, is now history. But the memories continue on. We had planned and saved for over a year for a big trip to celebrate our 40th, thinking we would be going to Quebec City. And one month before our trip, God gave us the unexpected opportunity to fly to Italy instead. A celebration beyond what we had even imagined - we continue to thank God for the incredible privilege of traveling to Italy!

"Now all glory to God, who is able, 
through His mighty power at work within us, 
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." 
(Ephesians 3:20)

(Sharing photos of our unforgettable 40th Anniversary Trip to Italy from September 5-21. Click on the links below for other posts in this series ... )