Monday, November 30, 2015

November in Review

The beautiful month of November is now past, a month filled with love and warmth, and preparations for our whole family being home for Thanksgiving! It was a busy month, and a glorious month. 

It was a joy for me to write here on my blog during the month! In case you missed some of my posts, here is my collection of posts from November 2015 - click on the caption below each photo to read each post ...

Welcome November

My devotional posts are the heart of my blog. They come from a full heart, as I draw in close to God; taking time to listen, and to share from what He teaches me.

Embrace the Small

A Prayer for Every Day

Created as a Masterpiece

It was good to focus on a few posts of thanks-giving; good reminders to pause in our busyness and to give thanks ...

A Life of Thanks

A Heart of Thanks

I love planning, and love to have a functional and beautiful planner ... so of course, it was fun to share a bit about the planner that I have purchased for the new year!

Planning for 2016

The month of November was a busy month of food prep, and it was also fun to put up three food-related posts during the month ...

In the Kitchen

Make-Ahead Pie Crust

Pumpkin Spice Scones

Our Thanksgiving was extra special this year with our whole family home, coming from San Francisco, New York City, and Dallas, to join those who live near us here in NE. My heart is filled with thanks - our time together was a priceless gift from God. Sharing some photos in digital scrapbooking form ...

Our Family Thanksgiving

And now a new month is waiting to be opened up ... filled with gifts from God, and opportunities to draw close to Him. For He is the giver of all that is good, and the One who holds us through the trials of this life.

Thanks for visiting my blog - you are an encouragement to me as I follow God's promptings to write and share from what He teaches me. You are also invited to view my Pursuing Heart facebook page where I share several times a day ... click here. It's always a blessing to hear from you ... and I pray that you have had a memorable Thanksgiving month!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our Family Thanksgiving

It was a very blessed Thanksgiving with our family home from TX, CA, and NY - joining those of us who live here in NE. It was all a gift from God - so, so wonderful to spend time together!! 

My heart is overflowing with thanks to God, and digital scrapbooking is one way to try to hold the memories close ...

Family truly is a gift from God. We have had our share of trials as a family, times of discord and problems, and I do not take the love and joy that we experience together for granted - it is without a doubt all a gift from God. And I am filled with thanks!

We also were able to have some great family pictures taken, and will be sharing those at a later date ... but for now, I am treasuring the memories of having our six sweet (grown) children here (four daughters and two sons), three of our four sons-in-law here (one was gone, visiting his own mother who is in the hospital in another state), and our ten precious grandchildren. 

Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of family -
each one, a gift from You.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Heart of Thanks

Counting the ways that You love us ~
     at Thanksgiving time, and all through the year ...

  • sending us Immanuel - "God with us"
  • peace amidst the storms
  • undeserving grace & mercy You give
  • Your faithfulness and Your unending love - each day
  • being our strong refuge

  • this beautiful life You have given us
  • the difficulties that this life brings, drawing us to You
  • Your Presence always with us - in the good, and in the hard
  • Your glorious, unlimited resources
  • promises given and promises kept - Your Word

  • caring for our sweet granddaughter Crystal
  • providing the perfect donor for her kidney transplant
  • seven months later - continued amazing recovery for Crystal and Amy
  • how can we thank You enough, Lord?

  • Your care as we helped my 94 year-old father in difficult times
  • for how my brothers/sisters-in-law rescued us in our time of need
  • a season of rest for us after eight months of great trial
  • some unexpected months of improvement for my father

  • blessings of our family - too many to contain, overflowing
  • four sweet daughters, two amazing sons, four great sons-in-law
  • ten of the dearest grandkids - five girls, five boys
  • excited anticipation of all home for Thanksgiving
  • the best and greatest life with my sweet hubby - how I love him

  • this beautiful life You have given us
  • the difficulties that this life brings, drawing us to You
  • how You use both for Your great purposes 
  • Your greatest gift to us: JESUS - "God with us"
  • May You receive all our praise, and may Your Name be lifted high.

Let us praise You at all times
and exalt Your Name together
on Thanksgiving Day
and on every day of our lives.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Life of Thanks

The giving of thanks,
morning and evening
of every day.

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)

A life of thanks ~
during this Thanksgiving week,
and all through the year.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Scones

I don't often get around to making things that I have pinned to my Pinterest boards, but when I do, it is usually a fun treat! This pin drew my attention a few weeks ago, and I decided to give it a try this past week. 

It was a real treat to make these Pumpkin Spice Scones! I haven't made scones for quite a long time - these were easy to make. I also liked how the directions called for patting the dough out into a 4x12 inch rectangle before cutting into triangle shapes.

I used parchment paper instead of spraying with cooking spray, which made for less cleanup - and the scones also browned so evenly. 

As I usually do, I doubled the recipe. Of course! So we had some to try the day I made them, and plenty to put in the freezer to use on Thanksgiving morning. I decided to try freezing them (after doing a google search if freezing is recommended for scones), and found out that they do great! 

Store in an airtight container (with frosting on), and freeze. Let them thaw, enjoy them at room temperature ... or after thawed, put in microwave for about 10 seconds to enjoy them lightly warmed. We had to try thawing a few, warmed them up a bit - delicious!! 

From one of my Pinterest boards ...

Click below for this recipe from the blog:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Created as a Masterpiece

We don't have to look far to see beauty. The beauty of God's creation, the beauty of what man, made in His image, has created.

There is so much beauty to be thankful for during this month of Thanks Giving, and all through the year. And maybe, if you are like me, we need to be reminded that we can and should also be thankful for how He made us.

As women, it is so easy to compare, and to wish we had more of this, or less of that. If only we could be different in this area or that area, then we would be happier and have more worth. I have fallen guilty of this comparison trap more often than I care to admit. 

And I have often needed to be reminded of the Truth ...

For we are God's masterpiece.
He has created us
anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things
He planned for us long ago.
(Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

"What if we stopped listening to our hearts when our feelings don't tell us the truth and instead we chose to believe God's words more than our fear and doubts?" (Renee Swope in A Confident Heart Devotional)

I don't have to be the
strongest, wisest, or best
for God to use me.
I simply need to have a
heart sold out to Him,
willing to be used by Him.

You are His masterpiece, I am His masterpiece. Each of us created uniquely, for His great purposes and glory. And we can be thankful, and we can accept ourselves just as we are - made in His image, created as a masterpiece, to be a beautiful fragrance of His love to those around us.

Trust that God made you
just as He wanted you to be,
and then be the best YOU.
Discover and offer
the unique personality traits
God gave you
to impact those around you.

Sharing thoughts and quotes from my journal, as I continually need to be reminded of His Truth. And I am thankful ...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Make-Ahead Pie Crust

These are busy days here at our house, as we prepare to have 24 (yes, two dozen!) family members here for Thanksgiving Day! Our whole family will be home - our six grown children, four sons-in-law, and ten grandkids. With the two of us, and my 94 year-old father, and my husband's brother - we will be 24!

I'm always needing to prepare as much as possible for our Thanksgiving feast ahead of time. And of course, my sweet daughters bring part of the meal, too.

Pie crust is one item that can be prepared ahead of time. Yesterday I took time to prepare a Pie Crust Mix recipe that I have been making for years. 

After mixing up the ingredients, I rolled out the dough for several pumpkin pies, packaged up the pie plates, and then put them in the freezer. It will be so easy to pull them out during Thanksgiving week, fill with pumpkin pie filling, and bake.

The rest of the pie crust mix was divided into five freezer bags to pull out and use in future weeks/months.

You can view the recipe, along with some photos explaining the process of making the mix - by clicking here.

What kinds of pie will you be having on Thanksgiving Day?

Linking up with:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Planning for 2016

Is it too early to begin planning for 2016? And to purchase the planner that we'll use for 2016? Maybe it's too soon for some, but for those of us who love our planners, it is not too soon! 

I've used many different types of planners over the years, but this year (2015) I started using a new one ... the Simplified Planner. You can read all about it on their website - click here. I haven't posted about it during 2015 yet, as it was the first year that I have been using it. But now that I know that I love it for sure, you can expect more posts! 

I have already ordered my new Simplified Planner for 2016 (photo above) - it is a beauty! And if you click on the link and go to the Simplified Planner website, you will notice that there is a price to pay for these planners ... more than I have paid for planners in past years. But for me, and for others who place a great value on their planners, it is worth saving up for and purchasing.

The format of the Simplified Planner is quite simple, as the focus is on simplifying life, and focusing on the things of most importance. Each day. The format consists of two components: a calendar for each month, and daily pages for each day of the year (though Saturday and Sunday are on the same page). 

Very simple. All you see each day is the day that you are living in - the present. On the left side of each page is the hourly time slot for the day: 6 am through 9 pm. On the right side of the page is a place for a "To Do" list. On the lower left: a section entitled "Dinner", and on the lower right: a "Notes" section. Not a lot of clutter, and no list of tasks or responsibilities that are for a future day. Just one day at a time ... keeping it simple.

Emily Ley (creator of the Simplified Planner) makes it a great priority to focus on the things of most importance, and loves to encourage others to do the same. I love the heart behind this planner.

The Simplified Planner is what is opened up on my desk (or my kitchen counter) throughout the day, with the cover turned back, so all I see is one day at a time. Not a lot of busy work for the rest of the week. Just one day.

To keep track of broader goals, and to keep a running list of all the various things that I don't want to forget about: priorities and tasks that need to be cared for each week/month, I use a smaller notebook that fits right inside the front cover of my Simplified Planner. Each of these notebooks holds about four months of notes for me, so I'll use three different ones throughout the year. You can purchase notebooks at the Simplified Planner website, or you can pick them up elsewhere. I purchased mine at Target - they come in a set of three - perfect for one year.

In this smaller notebook, I'll have sections for each of the main priorities that God has placed on my heart, for me. And I also have pages where I break these main priorities down into monthly and weekly portions throughout the year. And in the new year I hope to share a post about how I then transfer and enter these priorities onto the daily pages of my Simplified Planner.  

You can read about my priorities, thoughts that keep me focused on the most important things, by clicking here. I started out as a young mother with these priorities as I learned from various authors and speakers, and even now, these priorities are a main part of my planning and my days.

It's been fun for me to write this post, as I love planners! I hope to share more in the new year, but wanted to share this much for now, just in case this would be helpful to any of my readers who may be looking for a planner for 2016. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Prayer for Every Day

At the beginning of the day, there is a prayer that is often on my heart - one that I will even write out in my journal many days ...

It goes something like this, though the wording varies a bit from day to day:

Lord, I long to hear from You today ...
help me to listen,
and to follow what You say.

And sometimes I ask myself, is it presumptuous to think that we, as humans, can actually hear from God? Who am I to think that I could have the privilege of hearing from God each day? Is it alright for me to ask for this? Each day? 

To listen - of high priority

For quite a few years, the word listen has been a high priority to me, for I am in need of His help to really listen well. To those I love, to family and friends, and mostly, to God. I've been asking for God's help because it is not my default to listen. It's more natural for me to want others to listen to me. It's my default to talk to God and to tell Him what I need. To be formulating my thoughts into what I can say next while in a conversation with someone. But ...

I am learning that it is most important to listen.

My sheep listen to My voice;
I know them,
and they follow Me.
(John 10:27 NLT)

To really listen, I need to quiet my mind and heart, and to focus on the one whom I am listening to. To focus on what is most important. 

Of course, there are many things that are very important in our lives. As young mothers, we are responsible for the care of our children. As wives and homemakers and those who serve through various careers and responsibilities, we have many noble things to give our attention to.

But above all, and of most importance, is to first of all, listen to our God, our Shepherd. He instructs us to listen, and if we listen, we will be able to hear and to follow. For we are known by Him. He is our Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Sheep depend on their Shepherd for everything, their every move - listening every day to their Master's voice. 

"Mary sat at the Lord's feet,
listening to what He taught ...

'There is only one thing 
worth being concerned about.
Mary has discovered it,
and it will not be taken away from her.'"
(from Luke 10:39, 42)

Loving Lord, please help us to listen to You 
with our whole hearts, each day.

- - - - - - -

Click below for a few more posts on listening:
Pray, Love, and Listen
Word of the Year
Listen, Love, and Pray

Friday, November 6, 2015

In the Kitchen

I was planning to post this the last week of October, but it's one of those things that didn't get done. So on the first week of November, here is a post with a peek into my kitchen ... sharing a few of the things that I was occupied with during the month of October.

30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup! This is maybe becoming one of our favorite soups! I made a big pot of it at the beginning of one of the weeks in October, enough for 4-5 meals for the two of us. It was a cooler fall day the day I made it, and was just perfect!

Have you ever frozen Chicken Noodle Soup? I don't think that I ever had done so, and decided to take some time to google it on my laptop. Most of the sources did not recommend it, as the noodles often become mushy when frozen. 

I decided to try it out, anyway ... and we were very pleased with the result! The soup was just as delicious after being frozen and heated up again, as it was when freshly prepared. I think that one tip might be to use the slightly thicker, homestyle egg noodles. I purchase mine at Sam's in a large bag, as I love this type of noodle to keep on hand for soups, etc. I will definitely be freezing this recipe again in the future, and will see if we continue to have good results.

Ground beef, chicken breast, and shredded cheddar cheese. I picked up these items on a trip to Sam's in October ... and then divided them up into recipe-sized portions before putting them in the freezer.

The two six-pound packages of chicken breast and the five-pound package of ground beef were divided up into smaller recipe-sized portions. And the five-pound bag of shredded cheddar cheese was divided into 20 one-cup bags of shredded cheese, making it easy to pull just the right amount out of the freezer for recipes. Everything went in the freezer, ready to use for recipes in future weeks.

NOTE: I just went to Sam's again on Wed. this week (Nov. 4), and was pleasantly surprised to find that the ground beef had even gone down in price from before. I always prefer to purchase my ground beef at Sam's, as the price is more reasonable than other places. It has been about $3.48/lb for 90% lean beef for quite awhile, and this week it was $3.28/lb! I purchased two 5-pound packages, and should have gotten even more, though I'm trying to leave room in my freezer for foods that I'll be preparing ahead of time for our whole family being home for Thanksgiving!

Early in the month of October I prepared a large batch of Creamy Ham and Macaroni, doubling the recipe. This is one of the dishes that our little grandkids love, for sure! I divided it up into three containers. It was ready to serve to grandkids when they came over that week, and then I put the other two in the freezer. It worked out perfectly to pull one out of the freezer to bake a week later when I had a sweet little granddaughter here for the day, the day after we returned from a week-long trip. I love freezer meals to help out in times like this.

We had a huge treat on Halloween this year when one of our daughters and her family drove 12 hours from their home in TX to surprise those of us here in NE! We will never forget the fun and excitement of that day! 

I had been given a heads-up on the secret, so had a special meal all ready for family who were here. Pizza Loaves were part of the meal; are easy to prepare, and so good - and also practical, as they can be prepared the day before, and kept in the refrigerator until baking the following day. I also purposely made more than we would need, as that somehow seems to be what I always do! So I also had some to put in the freezer (unbaked) for future meals.

It was so fun to have a son home from San Francisco the third weekend of October. We invited other family who live nearby over for a Family Meal, which also included celebrating a grandson's birthday. I made Chocolate Pudding Pizza for the dessert, using two numeral candles (#13) to celebrate his birthday! I made two of the desserts, as I wasn't sure if one would be enough (though one ended up being enough) ... which gave me the fun of sending one home with the birthday boy!

In summary: each of these recipes and ideas involved making more than needed for one meal ... which is how I love to do things in the kitchen! It does not take much more effort to double (or triple) a recipe, and it pays off with a meal all prepared for another day (or to share with someone else!) when there is not time to be in the kitchen!

Linking up with:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Embrace the Small

It was a beautiful fall day for our Devo Outing this week - the perfect kind of weather for a drive over to Hitchcock Nature Center for a few hours of quiet. My hubby and I have been setting aside our Tuesday afternoons for a few years now - a few hours each week to pull aside from the busyness and the noise, and head to a quiet place. Sometimes we drive to a nearby lake, or one of the parks in the area; this week we drove across the Missouri River to a beautiful nature center area. When the weather is warm enough, it is always outdoors where we spend our Tuesday afternoons ... in colder weather, it is often in our basement family room by the warmth of our wood stove.

But wherever we spend our few hours, the space becomes sacred, as our souls are nourished and refreshed. By the quiet, by a ceasing of our work, by reminders of how life is not about us and all that we do, but life is about God and His presence within us.

This week one of the books I brought along to read as we sat for a few hours along the beautiful autumn-colored hillside, was Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. An absolutely perfect place to read the last few chapters of this amazing book.

I don't know about you, but it is so easy to find ourselves drawn into the pressures and pulls of our world, striving to be noticed more, to accomplish more, to make a name for ourselves. And it is good to pull aside and to remember that smallness is good. As Emily Freeman says in her book, it is the small moments of our days that string together to make up a life. It is in the daily moments of our lives that we walk with God, and that He uses to mold us into His image, which then in turn, blesses those around us. 

It is the small moments that make up our lives.

These are thoughts that occupy my mind and heart often,
returning to them over and over again - 
to keep my focus on walking closely with God, in the present,
to embrace my smallness, and to focus on His bigness.

Walk with Me, and work with Me -
watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace...
Keep company with Me,
and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
(from Matthew 11:28-30 MSG, favorite verses of both my hubby and me) 

To know that the work will be completed by the Spirit of God and not by my effort means I can sit down on the inside as my hands are fast at work. It means I don't have to keep pace with a fast-moving world even as I am engaged in the activity of it. (Simply Tuesday)

Simply Tuesday has been a gift to my soul. And it was a gift to finish reading the last few chapters yesterday, on a Tuesday, during our weekly Devo Outing, in the gorgeous setting of rolling hills covered with beautifully colored autumn foliage. Where the beauty of God's creation made a person feel the enormity of how very small we are. In a very delightful way. 

* * * * * * *

Thank you, Emily Freeman, for putting into words what I so often find myself thinking on. Your words have given clarity to what my soul longs for; you have taken truths from His words and painted them in colors that bring them to deeper life in my heart. 

Click below to read four other posts I have written while reading through Simply Tuesday.

Linking up with:
Bloom (in)courage book club 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Welcome November

Welcome to the warmth of November,
the month of crisp fall air,
candles, and soup simmering on the stove.

The month of family and friends,
of gathering around the table,
the giving of thanks.

For those who nurture and make a home,
there is baking, and there are festive preparations,
the opening of our hearts and homes.

And for all,
there is a need for a loving Father, a Savior,
with mercy, grace, and love available
for all our daily moments.

Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him.
(Jeremiah 17:7)