Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Creamy Ham 'n' Macaroni

Looking for a comforting winter dish? Here's a pleaser, for sure ...

I discovered this recipe a few years ago, and it has become one of my favorites to serve when the grandkids come over for an overnighter. It never fails - kids love macaroni and cheese, and this recipe has the addition of ham, as well. A complete meal in the eyes of children!

Print Recipe

Creamy Ham 'n' Macaroni

Course: Main Course
Serves: 6


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 1/4 cup butter cubed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups ham, fully cooked cubed
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated


  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk, bouillon and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 cup cheddar cheese, ham, Parmesan cheese and macaroni.
  2. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.

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I served this earlier this month when we had two grandkids over for two nights ... five year-old Cruz, and one year-old Eva loved it. Another grandkid who lives nearby was over for supper one of those days, as well (six year-old Ali), and it was a hit with her, too. You can't go wrong with mac 'n' cheese for children.

Linking up with:
The Inspiration Exchange

Monday, January 27, 2014

Constant Approval

Do you sometimes find yourself (either consciously or without even knowing it) looking for approval from others? From those you love the most, or even from casual acquaintances? Like it's almost uppermost in your mind as you interact and spend time together with someone? I know I do. It's so easy to get caught up in seeking after approval. Longing to feel validated, important, and of worth. 

And we even find ourselves doing the same with God. For as we switch our focus from looking for approval from others to looking for our approval and worth from God, we can adopt an attitude of needing to prove to Him that we are worthy of His love. Thinking that maybe if we do the right things, or say the right words, He will give His approval, and we can then sense His love.

But there is no need to do anything. We just need to be. To belong to Him is to be loved, to be approved of, to be of value. Every single day. Every moment.

"For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty Savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Thanking Him for reminding me again ... today. Each moment, each breath - I am loved, and valued. Constantly approved of. By our Creator, the One who knows us better than any other, and who loves us more completely than any other. And praying for the same sense of His love and approval to surround you today ...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Time with Cruz & Eva

Preserving memories from the second full week of January! It was a week of cold winter days - days for indoor work and play. A week of Cru ministry, and of family ... 

(Digital Scrapbooking Credits - Page Template: Digital Project Life - bh_TemplateA; Paper & Journal Card: Digital Scrapper - Jan. '13 Premier, Winter Wonderful by Elise's Pieces)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nothing Without Him {Heart Connect}

"I can do nothing on my own ..."
(John 5:30a)

Nothing. Not one thing. Words spoken by Jesus - the perfect, faultless Son. In the midst of His short time here on this earth, away from His heavenly home, He continually depended on His Father, and needed to pull away to spend focused one-on-one time, listening, communicating. After a full, successful day of miracles of healing, in His great times of need (as before His arrest) - He chose to find a quiet place and spend time alone with His Father. 

You would think that He would live life in His own strength and power. If any of us could manage on our own, it would be Him. But maybe the opposite was true. Because He is without sin, He knows what is essential. He shows us the way to true relationship with the Father. And this relationship was His life - essential, more important than any other. 

"His prayer life is an expression
of His relationship with His Father.
He can't conceive of Himself 
outside of that relationship."
(Paul Miller in A Praying Life)

If Jesus, the perfect, faultless Son of God, can do nothing on His own - what about us? What about me? As I go through my days, faced with numerous decisions and choices - and even at the end of a successful, full day - where do I go? Who do I choose to talk with, share my heart with, listen to? Who do I depend on?

"If you know that you, like Jesus,
can't do life on your own,
then prayer makes complete sense."
(Paul Miller)

Thinking on these words as I recently read through an amazing book on prayer A Praying Life by Paul Miller). And filling up the pages of my journal with my prayers, learning more and more from Jesus, who realized that He could do nothing without His Father.

(Photo above: Beautiful Lake Monarch, taken on our trip to Colorado this past fall.)

Click here for more posts on this topic:
Heart Connect: Living a Life of Prayer

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Four-Fruit Compote

Fruit sounds wonderful after all the sweets of the holidays. Earlier this month I was looking for a fruit salad recipe to make for a family birthday party, and came across this one tucked away in my large collection of recipes. I had not made it for quite a few years. And now I wonder how I could have forgotten it - it was so refreshing to make, and also to enjoy together with the pulled pork sandwich meal that a daughter prepared for her son's 5 year-old birthday party.

Print Recipe

Four-Fruit Compote

Course: Salad
Serves: 16


  • 1 can pineapple chunks (20 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 can mandarin oranges (11 ounces), drained
  • 3-4 medium apples unpeeled, chopped
  • 2-3 medium bananas sliced


  1. Drain pineapple, reserving 3/4 cup juice. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the pineapple, orange and lemon juices until smooth. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the fruits. Pour warm sauce over the fruit; stir gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate. Yield: 12-16 servings.

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It feels good to post a recipe again - my first one for this new calendar year! 

Linking up with:
Inspiration Exchange
Thrive at Home Thursday
I'm Lovin' It
The Party Bunch

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The First Full Week of January

The beginning of a new year is always a time to start out with good intentions of scrapbooking consistently. I have no idea if I'll be able to keep up with this, but my dream is to use a version of the digital pocket life system, and try to keep up week-by-week. I know full well that this is not of highest priority, compared to all the other things of life. But it is a fun hobby, on-the-side, for me. And I'll enjoy keeping up while it lasts!

Here are two pages capturing some of the highlights of the first full week of January! 

(Digital Scrapbook credits: FIRST PAGE - Page Template: Sweet Shoppe - mcato-simplebeauty1; Paper & Embellishments: Sweet Shoppe - kcroninbarrow-forauldlangsyne. SECOND PAGE - Page Template: Sweet Shoppe - mcato-simple beauty 2; Paper & Embellishments: Digital Scrapper Sept. 2013 Premier - Celebrate by Julie Billingsley and Scrap Girls: ASO_AlluringAutumn.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

When It's Okay to Be Helpless {Heart Connect}

We have it built into us that we need to be in control. That we need to have our act together, to have our messes cleaned up. Maybe not completely; but to a degree at least. For then God will hear, and then He may be pleased to help.

But this is not how it works; in fact, it may be the direct opposite of what is true. How we need to learn to put off our airs of self-sufficiency, and become as little children. When little children are in need, it just spills out all around. Through tears, through their complete neediness. Immediately. Not after an hour or more of trying to put themselves together. But right at the moment. And all through Scripture, we are encouraged to come to Jesus as little children. Just to come right at the moment of our need.

The daily moment-by-moment life of prayer, this breathing of prayer - comes through a door of neediness. A neediness that recognizes that we need God. Every moment.

"Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life."
(Paul Miller, A Praying Life)

"Apart from Me, you can do nothing."
(John 15:5)

Self-sufficiency does not make us wiser. We become the wiser as we become more aware of our own neediness. And through the trials of this life, through the lessons that we learn, God so gently and graciously brings us to places of need, where we find ourselves in desperate need of Him. For when we are in need, we find ourselves in the place of constant prayer.

"If we think we can do life on our own,
we will not take prayer seriously."
(Paul Miller)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stilling Ourselves to Give Thanks

Is it important to give thanks? Continually? My journal pages usually start out with a list of thanks. Usually the first words on each brand new page of my brand new journal each month (yes, I fill up a journal each month) have the words "TY Lord" (my abbreviated words for Thank You Lord), followed by a list of things that I am thankful for as I start out a new day. 

This has just become my natural pattern, a pattern formed over many days, months, and years. Sometimes it just flows, an automatic overflow from the heart, and sometimes it is a conscious effort to search for things to be thankful for. And I need to ask for His help, surrendering, depending on Him. Needing His perspective to offer Him true thanks from my heart. 

We never need to wonder if it is okay or right or necessary to give thanks.

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

And when we are most in need of Him, is when we most need to give thanks. My hubby and I started out this new year needing to rest, having just arrived home from a student conference on New Year's Eve. And at the same time, as we started out a new year, all of the planning for a new year (which I love to do) left me feeling overwhelmed with the list of tasks ahead of us. We also found ourselves very needed by my 92 year-old father, who had some concerns that called for our help for several days. Rest eluded us, and the weight of responsibilities began to weigh us down.

But by God's grace (as I called out for His help), my journal pages began to fill up more and more. With thanks. For giving thanks is the way of receiving, of slowing and living in the now. And by His Grace, as we pause to receive His gifts, and give thanks for what we receive, we are strengthened, and our perspective changes. 

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

His will is to give thanks, and giving thanks brings His perspective. And having His perspective gives us joy and strength. Each day; helping us to slow down, and live in the now.

"Live like life's an emergency and your soul ends up dead. Life is not an emergency. It's a gift. Why race past the gift? What else are you trying to get to - the presence of God is in this present moment." (Ann Voskamp)

"Be still and know that I am God."  
(Ps. 46:10)

Thanking Him for His Spirit within, giving us strength and perspective, filling us with thanks and joy. Maybe this calendar year, filled with many responsibilities and tasks (Cru ministry, family, and so much more), challenges and unknowns (including a kidney transplant for our sweet granddaughter), will be a year when I will overflow with thanks. For when we are in need, we need to still ourselves. To live in the now, to offer ourselves to Him with thanks. Giving thanks, and finding Him to be all we need. And I pray the same for you - that you will have a year of times to pause, and give thanks. Each day, throughout the day.

Linking up with:
Thrive at Home Thursday

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Does It Really Matter? {Heart Connect}

Does it really matter if I bring my needs and concerns to God? Does He even hear, or does He even care? Of the approximately 7 billion people alive in the world at this point of time (and how many total through all of time?), how can He possibly care about the little dot on the face of the earth that is me?

We, as followers of Jesus, can say that we believe that He hears our prayers, and even knows the thoughts of our hearts. But do we live this? Do we talk with Him about all of our concerns, with a faith that He hears, and that He will answer?

I need to be reminded. Again and again. For if we lived and walked in the truth that God hears our prayers, cares about our needs, and desires to help us - we would live much differently. Prayer, real communication with God, would be a priority of our days and our moments. It would be as essential to us as breathing. Not just for a few designated, set-aside moments of our day. But it would be as breath - constantly, unending, throughout our days.

This great God, Creator of all the expanse of the sky and beyond, the Creator of us, came to our little dot of the universe called earth. And He cares for the smallest thought and need of each person on this earth. Including me.

"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy;
'I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)

"The infinite God is interested in me."
(Paul Miller, A Praying Life)

So thankful for these gentle reminders - as we start off on a new year, though we are filled with dreams and aspirations, we can feel overwhelmed with all the tasks and responsibilities before us. And I am reminded that my main focus is to walk closely, bringing all my needs to Him. Walking in His Love and His Care each day, all through the day. 

Click here for more posts on this topic:
Heart Connect: Living a Life of Prayer

Linking up with:
Thrive at Home Thursday
Faith Filled Friday

Monday, January 6, 2014

Starting Out a New Year

The days, weeks, and years go by more quickly all the time - and here we are, starting off a brand new year! I am one who has the need to treasure each day and each week - and it is a very special treat when I can take the time to capture the memories in digital scrapbooking! 

Just a fun little post for me to share the memories here ... and to thank God for His mercy and His grace - new every morning. It is a bit difficult for me to go from the busy days of holiday prep and the very wonderful celebrations together with family, and then the great trip to Denver for a student conference - right back into a full week of family and Cru ministry this week. I am wishing for some more time to relax and rest after this very wonderful and also very busy season ... But I am reminded that every day (even the busy days) can be filled with rest, and refreshment - all gifts from God as we walk closely with Him. Following Him is the best way ... for as we follow Him, we have all we need. And more. Thanking Him for His Love, His Grace, and His Mercy. Every new day.

(Credit for digital scrapbooking supplies: Page Template: Sweet Shoppe - mcato-simplebeauty1; Paper & Embellishments: Sweet Shoppe - kcroninbarrow-forauldlangsyne; Red paper: Scrap Girls - ABR_PopTheCork; Calendar from Clean & Scentsible blog.)

Click here for free 2014 calendar pages you can print or use as I have on my scrapbook page above. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best Kind of Year {First Love}

Happy New Year!! A new beginning with many goals, aspirations, and dreams before us! A new slate with new starts ... and I, along with most everyone on this planet, love the feeling of new beginnings. 

We long to have our best year yet, for who wants to have second-best. Or of course, not ever the worst. We always want the best. And if we are bold enough to say it, we even secretly long for the perfect

Could it be that we could actually experience perfect in this new year 2014?

Could it be that as we go through our imperfect days of 2014 - amidst the days of mistakes, the days of pain, those days that are always mixed in with the sunny, fun days - that we can experience what is GOOD, and PLEASING, and PERFECT?

For as we let God transform our hearts into something new and beautiful this year, we will learn to know Him in deeper ways than ever before. And we will experience the very best He has, which is perfect. 

Wishing you a year-full of days that are GOOD, PLEASING, and PERFECT!

Thank You, Lord, that we can look forward to the very best kind of year - filled with Your Love, Your Presence, and Your Grace and Mercy for each of our days. 

(Credit for "Brand New Year" logo - Sweet Shoppe Designs: kcroninbarrow-auld lang syne)

Click here for more posts on this topic:
First Love: What We Are Made For

Linking up with:
Thrive at Home Thursday
Faith Filled Friday