PAGES: MAIN TOPICS I WRITE ON

Friday, December 25, 2020

Our True Christmas Light

 


This Christmas, maybe more than ever before, we need Light.                        
The kind of light that overshadows darkness,
that pierces right through the darkness.

This is the Light
that came to our world that first Christmas Day so long ago.
A dream come true; the very best kind of dream come true.

The light foretold and anticipated.
A plan to rescue us from the darkness,
to bring us light for our souls, our homes, our world.
*"The true light that gives light to everyone."

And this Light still shines, and still shines brightly
through all these years, and through all eternity.
IMMANUEL: God with us.

In the days of Roman rule in Israel,
in our days of pandemic, uncertainty, and deep concerns,
He is our Light that pierces through the darkness.

Let us celebrate with JOY
this Christmas, and all year through!
A LIGHT that overshadows all darkness.


*From John 1:9

Saturday, December 12, 2020

What is Bringing Me Peace and Joy this December


This most beautiful Christmas time of year came early for me, and also came slowly for me. It came early, in that for the first time ever, we put up our Christmas tree the weekend before Thanksgiving! (I'll explain why we did that a bit later.) And it came slowly for me, as the month of December began with some sadness for me. (And I'll explain that a bit later, as well.) How has it come for you? 

The coming early and the putting up our Christmas tree even before Thanksgiving, happened unexpectedly when a dear friend shared with me that she was putting up her tree early, and the thought just stuck with me. Why not? Especially this year, our first year of retirement ... why not? And coupled with that idea, is that I wanted to decorate the tree differently this time; focusing on more simplicity ... lots of tiny lights, and three different sizes and textures of silver balls. A simple, beautiful look, that actually went along with my "winter" decorating theme. Decorating first for winter, and then adding extra touches for the December celebration of Christmas!

This book has given multiple ideas that have brought me  joy this fall, and now as we move into the winter season. If you are drawn to the idea of decorating and filling our homes with beauty for all of our five senses, and also of decorating for each season with simplicity, well, you should put Welcome Home on your wish list for Christmas gifts! It was part of my September birthday gift from my hubby ... and I am loving it.

And the coming slowly and with some sadness, has been because ... well, because of this strange pandemic year that we are all in. And that means, that this year will be the first time in many years that we will not been able to host our big family gathering for Christmas. It is just not possible to bring about two dozen dearly loved family members into our home for Christmas. The reality of it hit me as I was putting up Christmas decor after Thanksgiving. It's a sadness that many or all of us share in one way or another this year. 

But even in the midst of this reality, I still have joy. There is much to be thankful for! For even though I will greatly miss having all our family home ... we'll still continue on having warm connections from a distance in all the ways that we can communicate, and we'll still be able to be with some of our family. 

Another source of deep joy this Christmas time, has also come unexpectedly. I think it has come because of the underlying current of the loss in our country of trust and fairness in elections, and of deep concerns that are occurring. How can it be that these losses could bring joy? Though losses bring sadness, they can also point us to focus on and draw even nearer to the things that never change. Loss and darkness point us to the light, and to all that God brings us through the birth and sacrifice of Jesus. The need in our world for the true light is becoming more and more apparent. 


The true joy of Christmas shines extra brightly in darkness, and this year I'm also finding so much beauty and comfort in the sounds of this season.                                                                                              In addition to a winter playlist that I've created (bringing in the beauty of all our five senses), 
I have loved creating a new playlist of Christmas music this year, which we have been listening to over and over  these days. My collection of a mix of about 40 vocal and instrumental pieces (so far), on my Amazon Music app are filling our home with so much joy, beauty, and the deep truth and joy of our Savior coming to this earth. 
In addition to the sights and sounds of Christmas filling our home, my kitchen has been filled with the scents and aromas of the fun and festive baking of this time of year. And that may be a topic of my next post here ...
 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

 


We absolute love this bread, made primarily from freshly ground wheat berries. (See the recipe below for details.) It is easily made with the help of my amazing Bosch machine, which mixes and kneads dough for six loaves of bread at a time. It's a happy day in my kitchen when I take time to make this bread. With just the two of us here now in this season of life, the six loaves last for weeks, with enough to share, as well.

After a break of a few months (summer days, and also several trips), I had a bread making day again in October. I made two batches of this bread, so besides the loaf of bread set out for that week, I could put 11 loaves in the freezer for the coming weeks/months for us, and also to share. 

We love this bread for sandwiches, or to have a slice with a soup meal, and also to use for toast. We think it is especially delicious and tasty when toasted. After you get a taste of this bread, it is really hard to buy purchased bread. There is no comparison.



Ingredients:

7 cups water, hot
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
2 Tbsp dough enhancer
1/4 cup gluten
2 Tbsp salt
6 Tbsp yeast
12 cups flour, freshly ground
10 cups additional flour (more or less, as needed)


Directions:

1. Grind 8 or 9 cups of wheat berries in Whisper Mill; enough to produce 12 cups of flour. Measure the 12 cups and set aside.

2. In another bowl, set aside 10 additional cups of flour: I use 3 cups of white whole wheat flour + 4 cups of unbleached flour. (If there is any extra of the freshly ground flour, use it in place of some of the white whole wheat flour.)

3. Microwave the oil and honey together before starting; also set the yeast out on counter to come to room temperature.

4. Put all ingredients in Bosch bowl, up through the 12 cups of flour, with the yeast on top. Pulse until the flour is completely moistened.

5. Knead on speed 1 while adding the additional flour. Add only enough flour until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Turn to speed 2 and knead for 4-5 minutes.

6. Grease counter (or my green dough mat), set the dough on the mat, cover with a tea towel, and rest for 20 minutes.

7. After the 20 minutes, slam the dough on counter seven times (to get rid of air bubbles), shape into a round shape; and cut into 6 equal pieces.

8. Slam each piece another 7 times, and shape, placing in greased bread pans.

9. Bread Loaves - set in pans and put on counter (covered with tea towel) to rise until doubled in size. 

10. Place in preheated oven (350 degrees), and bake for 35 minutes.

Hamburger Buns - shape one of the six portions of dough into 8 pieces; press down firmly on a greased jelly roll pan. Brush with egg-wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp water or milk) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rise until doubled and bake about 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.

Dinner Rolls - shape each portion into 11-12 pieces; place in a greased round pan. Brush with egg-wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rise until doubled and bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Hoagie Buns - shape each portion into 2 long pieces (or more pieces for smaller hoagies); place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg-wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rise until doubled and bake for about 15 minutes.

Cinnamon Rolls - I also use this dough recipe for my Cinnamon Rolls that I make each Christmas season, using one of the six portions for a 9x13 pan of cinnamon rolls. You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

In the Kitchen: Flatbread Pizza, Zucchini Bread & Muffins, & Pumpkin Brownies

I love to try new recipes, even after 49 years of marriage and of cooking for those I love!



Here's one I tried recently for lunch! We really loved this! I tweaked it a bit from the original, but made it as written for the most part. I used some naan flatbread that I had in the freezer from Sam's. Olive oil, shredded chicken mixed with pesto, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, spinach and basil leaves = delicious!
Look for “Pesto Chicken Caprese Flatbread” at tastesbetterfromscratch.com


Using some of the zucchini from our garden, I tried a few new recipes, including this Banana-Zucchini Bread recipe.


Another new recipe using zucchini was these Zucchini Muffins.


Click here for this yummy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Brownies recipe. Another new recipe I tried this fall!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Whatever the Season, Whatever the Circumstance



I love the seasons. And some are my favorite, like autumn. There is just so much beauty in this season! I wish these days could go on and on, forever.

And I also love it when life goes smoothly, and the beauty and joy just spills out onto everything. I wish for days that are peaceful, beautiful, and trouble-free. I don't like stress.

But what if we could train our eyes and our hearts to see beauty on any day, even on the hard days?

"When it seems as though you are facing nothing
but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity
to experience the greatest joy that you can."
(James 1:2 TPT)

"Every time we face anything that causes us to cry out to God, let's declare that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time."
(Lysa Terkeurst)

What we keep our eyes on, where our hearts rest, what our focus is on ... determines our joy. A hard day and difficult times may be just what we need, to turn to the true source of joy. Joy that doesn't need perfect circumstances. For joy is available always, a gift from our faithful, loving God. I am continually learning this, over and over. And it is true.

"The crucial detail for us to have peace
 in the midst of everything we face
 is to stay close to the Lord."
(Lysa Terkeurst)


(The last two quotes above are from Lysa Terkeurst's book It's Not Supposed to Be This Way. I just finished reading this, and highly recommend it.)


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

In the Kitchen: Dehydrating Herbs


I love my herb garden, and did not know till the past few years how amazing it is to have fresh herbs to use. You can click here to see a glimpse of the herb garden we've had for two summers now, located right outside the patio door in our kitchen/dining room. It's so handy to just take a few steps from the patio to clip a few herbs as I'm preparing a meal.

And just a few months ago, we got the idea to purchase a dehydrator with some gift money we received, to try out drying some of the herbs for winter use! 


Here's a tray of freshly picked basil leaves, on the trays and ready to be dried.


I followed the recommendation of a garden blogger to purchase this dehydrator, and have been quite pleased so far! It came with four trays, with the option to purchase more in the future.


It will be fun to use the dried basil, rosemary, and spearmint through this fall and winter. And I look forward to learning more about dehydrating other herbs, also veggies and fruit in the coming months/years.


So very thankful for our herb garden, and also for these dried herbs to use throughout the coming months!


NOTE: It's been a bit quiet here on my blog for the past month or two. We've been transitioning into retirement these past few months, and have been focusing on other things. We've also been very blessed to go on two recent trips ... a 15-day trip with kindred heart friends of ours, and then another trip to visit family in TX! And now, during this beautiful season of fall, I'm back here with another post! With more coming soon ...

Friday, August 21, 2020

How are Your Roots this Summer?


How does growth come to a plant? How did these cucumber plants grow to overflowing our garden this year?


How did these sage, basil, parsley (and more) herb plants grow so lush this summer? Producing so bountifully that this is the year that I am trying out preserving them with my new dehydrator?



And these impatience flowers on our patio, how did they grow to be so beautiful, overflowing their planter, filling us with their beauty each day?

And how about me, and how about you ... how are we doing this summer?

It has probably been the most unusual time of our lives for each of us. We've gone through five months now of a global pandemic with all the repercussions that have affected many or all of us in some way or another. And on top of all that, just when we were maybe starting to catch our breath, we have seen unrest on our streets. And in our land.

How are we doing with all this? Is it possible to not only survive, but also to thrive and grow, even in the midst of this intense heat?

I've been reminded often. I've needed to be reminded often. That bitterness, anger, and complaining do not bring results, and do not bring the beauty that we all long for in our lives. Bitterness and anger lead to more bitterness and anger. We've seen that happening.

There is a better way. In our efforts to help, to survive these challenging times, and in our need to be healthy and productive, we need to be sure to nurture the soil of our hearts. Daily, each day. To let our roots grow down to keep us strong.

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 2:7 NLT)


But how does this happen; what is it that feeds our roots, and what brings growth?

I have found that it is in the daily, in the moment-by-moment living of our days ... turning towards the Son, reaching towards the life-giving water. Picking up His Words, reading with our minds and our hearts; pausing, responding, receiving His love. To pause, be still, and receive.


To be still is to receive.
To faithfully pause, to soak up His love and His Grace.
The soaking up, the receiving, is what brings growth.
To still our souls is to open the door to receive.
To be what we were created to be.
To grow into something beautiful.
By His power alone.
Becoming beautiful and fruitful. For Him.


It's what I see in our gardens; our veggie garden, our herb garden, our flower pots on our patio. I see stillness. A receiving. A depending on the Creator to bring the growth.

But blessed are those 
who trust in the Lord, 
and have made the Lord 
their hope and confidence.

They are like trees planted
along a riverbank
with roots that reach 
deep into the water.

Such trees are not bothered
by the heat or worried
by long months of drought.

Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop
producing fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT)



Lord, may our roots grow down into Your Truth, Your Words, each day.
May we rest, even in the midst of the heat, 
as Your Words settle down into the deepest places of our hearts.
May our roots be strong, and our fruit be honoring to You,
bringing beauty and growth that will spread to a needy world.   


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

 

We have had an overflowing harvest of cucumbers in our garden this summer! It seems that many others are having the same experience in their gardens, too. 

In fact, it seemed by mid-July that our cucumbers (planted on the north end of our 10 x 30 foot veggie garden space), were on their way to take over the entire garden. We decided to put up a wire garden fence, stopping their path right before they overtook the tomato plants (in the foreground in the photo above). You can see the multitude of yellow flowers on the cucumber plants! 

We've been picking cucumbers for about four weeks now, and I knew I needed to try to preserve some of them. I ended up preserving about 23 small containers of cucumbers ... about half were put in the refrigerator, and the other half I've put in the freezer.

Click here for the Easy Refrigerator Pickles recipe that I used from Taste of Home (recommended to me by one of our sweet daughters). Several of the comments with the recipe mentioned that they do very well in the freezer, so besides using them as refrigerator pickles, I'm trying out the freezer option this year, as well. (Note: I did double the amount of brine suggested, just as our daughter also did, and as others had mentioned in their review of the recipe.)

They are really delicious, and have already been adding a tasty touch to some of our summer meals. We especially like using them on sandwiches that we often have for lunch.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

My Daily Delight


Make God the utmost
delight and pleasure of your life,
and He will provide for you
what you desire the most.
(Psalm 37:4 TPT)

Lord, may You be my delight
above all else, today ...
may I keep You always
before me, all through this day,
filling my heart with Your truth,
and Your unfailing love.

In the midst of all this day
will bring, may You be my
utmost delight, all by Your
grace and power alone.

I have always loved this verse,
and sometimes, reading it in 
a new translation brings even
deeper clarity ... may Psalm 37:4
be an encouragement to you
today, as well.

(Photo taken on our Pacific Coast Trip 2016)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Our Summer Gardens


How can gardening give so much joy? Maybe it's partly because we have front row seats to the beauty of God's creativity!

We're so blessed to live on a half an acre in the middle of small town Nebraska, very near Omaha. Close to the city where we are often, but far enough away to experience the quiet of small town living.

We love having enough yard room to have a small veggie garden, an herb garden which is right near our patio, easy to slip out to snip a few herbs as I prepare a meal. We also have a number of flower garden spots throughout the yard. It is really quite glorious, and we are so thankful!

The digital scrapbook page above gives a quick glimpse into some of the beauty that God gives us to enjoy ... all right in our own yard. Our veggie garden, herb garden, and flowers are changing day by day; such a joy as we observe the growth. It's a great time of the year!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

How Do You Wait?



When we're in need
of comfort, or direction,
wisdom, or peace,
where do we go?

And where do we go amidst
this very challenging year 
in our country, in our world.
One challenge on top of
another, running together,
never-stopping.

Keeping up with the news
is good; but keeping our eyes
constantly on the news doesn't
bring us peace, or even answers.
For our hope is not in news,
or even in man's best efforts.

But I can give my prime time,
my best time, my everyday time;
 all that I am
to waiting on God.

For our hope is in Him.
And we will find comfort,
direction, wisdom,
and peace.


"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.
He is my refuge,
a rock where 
no enemy can reach me.
O my people,
trust in God at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge"
(Psalm 62:5-8 NLT)


Praying these words for my own heart, and also for yours. And for each one in this troubled world filled with pain and hurt. He is the source of hope, of refuge, of all that we long for.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Embroidery: A New Project

Things have been quieter than usual here on my blog, and also on my Instagram account. We've just recently made a huge transition in our lives, having moved off from ministering full-time with Cru, to a new position of "Staff Emeritus"! We've loved our 29 years with Cru, and now, are loving being able to enter into this new season of retirement!

Even though we're continuing to honor the COVID-19 recommendations for the "vulnerable age" category of life we are in, life has been full these past few months! Lots to care for in big transitions, in addition to cataract surgeries for my husband and some other recent medical appointments as well. 

But in the midst of it all, I've been continuing to love a new hobby that I picked up in April ...



I have loved continuing on with some embroidery projects. A great thing about embroidery is that it can be picked up for just 15 minutes at a time, in the midst of a full life. Click here to read how I got started on it the beginning of April. I completed my first project (above) the end of May. I loved this tutorial (with videos) teaching some of the many stitches while creating these beautiful little flowers.


My second project is learning with another embroidery artist - click here. For a small price you can purchase this pattern (above), and with it comes a YouTube tutorial where each stitch is demonstrated. I am loving this project, and already have my sights on more of her patterns for the future!


What a perfect, relaxing way to finish off a day ... stitching and creating a beautiful embroidery design which points to the beauty of God's creation. I love having flowers growing outdoors on our patio and in our gardens, and also, I love these indoor flowers coming to life as I stitch!

What are some hobbies that you're enjoying these days?


Friday, June 5, 2020

A Time to Pause



As we near the end of another week filled with pain in our world, our country, our cities, may we find some moments to pause our racing hearts and thoughts, to bring our grief to our faithful, loving God, who cares and knows us better than we even know ourselves...⠀


To be still is to receive.⠀
To faithfully pause,  
to soak up His Love and His Grace.⠀
The soaking up, the receiving,
is what brings growth.⠀
To still our souls is 
to open the door to receive.⠀
To be what He created us to be.⠀
To grow into something beautiful.⠀
By His power alone.⠀
Becoming beautiful and fruitful.
For Him.

Praying for comfort, for the things that only He can do in my heart, in your heart, in every heart.⠀
And can you even grasp the beauty of these fuchsia flowers?! Some new flower buds opened up this week, and I can hardly even contain the beauty. May we be in awe of the things that only God can do - even in me, and also in you.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

After Ten Weeks of "Coronavirus Stay-at-Home"



Even during these ten weeks of coronavirus and of "staying-at-home" ...

Life continues on as always,
one moment at a time. For our days, our weeks, our months, are still made up of moments. The daily, and the present. We've viewed life through fresh eyes maybe more than ever before. And I hope we have been learning, and are continuing to embrace that life is really about the simple and the quiet, about the basic things - of faithfulness, of love, of paying attention, moment-by-moment - in the present. For this is where God is, where we can hear His still, small voice. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:23) And even though we may miss the going, and the doing ... just maybe He is transforming us for the better.

How are you doing these days?
May you be filled with His love,
His grace, His mercy. Each day.
Each moment.

And isn't it a blessing that
we've been able to welcome
the beautiful season of spring
during these ten weeks?
New life and beauty in our yard
has brought us so much joy.
The blossoms on our crab apple tree
(photo above) were so beautiful,
and now we've finished planting
our veggie garden and our herb garden.
So much beauty everywhere ...