Friday, December 24, 2021

The Greatest Gift of Christmas


Pausing midday on Christmas Eve, 
on a day filled with a page-long list -
things to do, to prepare, for
our precious family coming to 
spend Family Christmas with us.

The prep is important, and I love it,
and it is needed to welcome the
23 family members joining us next week;
preparation of food, gifts, lodging.
All a joy, and a delight.

And of "first importance"
is preparation of the heart,
taking moments to ponder ...

It comes each and every year,
the Eve of Christmas Day,
and we are filled with wonder.
This year, again, and in deeper ways,
I can hardly even contain the awe
and the miracle of that first Christmas.

"See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a Son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated
'God is with us'".
(Matthew 1:23)

"God with us,
the true gift of Christmas".
(From Gracelaced Advent cards)

"Can you imagine, God,
whose glory filled the temple,
now lay His head in Mary's arms?
Mary held God incarnate,
God had chosen to come 
into the world, free of 
temple walls and barriers, 
to dwell with man."
(From Daily Grace Advent readings)

"The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us."
(John 1:14)

JESUS ... "God with us"
I can hardly contain
the joy and the wonder
of this most precious gift.

God with us ...
in our every days, in our moments,
closer than any other.

Joining in with many, many others all over the world, marveling at the beauty of this Christmas season; and maybe more than ever, in our troubled world, we are in awe of the priceless gift of "Immanuel: God with Us"!! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Bites


I love this tasty, and also beautiful appetizer dish! It was a new recipe that I tried a year ago, and has become one of my favorites to make. It has the added plus of being a make-ahead dish. This is always important to me when preparing for the holidays, or really, for any special day.

With two dozen much-loved family members here at our home for our Family Christmas on Dec. 28, I love to do as much as possible ahead of time. It leaves more time to relax, and enjoy being together with those I love! This appetizer dish freezes well, and just needs to be heated up in the oven on serving day. 

This year, I made enough for a very special CityGroup Christmas Party that we had last night, and also have enough already made in the freezer for our Family Christmas next week. I sure love delicious make-ahead recipes, and especially one that is as good as this one.

It's quite an easy process ... after cubing the chicken, coat with a mixture of seasonings, mixing together well. Wrap each piece of chicken with a bacon piece, secure with a toothpick, and then lay on the parchment covered baking pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven to brush with barbecue sauce, and bake about 5-10 minutes more.

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Bites

Course: Appetizers

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into one inch pieces.
  • 12 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 12 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 slices bacon cut into thirds
  • 14 cup brown sugar
  • 34 cup your favorite BBQ Sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken pieces in a medium-sized bowl; sprinkle with the chili powder, seasoned salt, paprika, garlic powder which have been mixed together; then toss to coat the chicken.
  3. Wrap a bacon piece around each chicken cube, and secure with a toothpick.
  4. Place single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle bacon-wrapped chicken with brown sugar.
  5. Place into oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven, brush wrapped chicken pieces with BBQ sauce.
  7. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink and bacon is crisp.
  8. NOTE: This is a great appetizer to make ahead and freeze! Freeze in a single layer, then place in an airtight container to put back in the freezer. When using, thaw in the refrigerator, then heat up in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until heated through. (It may work well to bake straight from the freezer, but for a longer time, as well; I just have not tried this method out yet.)

(Credit: this recipe was originally shared at ... click here. Please visit to find more great recipes! I made a few changes and additions before posting here on my blog.)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Encouragement for Christmas Prep

How are you doing at this mid-month time? Halfway through the busiest, and most wonderful time of the year? 

I started out simple ... focusing on simplicity in preparations. And for me, preparations are joy-filled and fun, for they are preparations for our sweet family to be Home for Christmas! There will be about two dozen around our tables for our Christmas Dinner, and our home will be filled up to bursting with so much love! And I do love the preparations ... 

But it's easy to get off track; easy to think that we need to do more, and then easy, to over-do, to over-work. This is where I found myself recently ... 

(copied here, from my journal entry a few days ago)
"Somehow the busyness of the season has escalated, and somehow, my days have become too full. Or maybe it's just my mindset that has accelerated with all the wonderful and lovely things that I would like to do during this season. The result is that I can try to take on too much. As a result, I become worn out, tired, and then the lies from the enemy find places to lodge in the crevices and folds of my tired, worn-out life. And I slip into a performance mode ... in my own mind and heart, and also find myself looking to others, seeking for approval, wanting attention. 
And this is not where I want to be ... " 

And I'm thankful that in these times of escalating stress, that we can pause, and listen to Him as we read His Words, that we can quiet our hearts to hear the gentle whispers of God's Spirit within. Reminding us of Truth, reminding us to choose what is most important, even in the midst of busyness. A heart of trust and rest. A heart that is filled and overflowing with God's love. This is the most important ingredient for a joyful Christmas season.

So as I am preparing food for our Christmas Dinner and for the snacking and game times, as I am cleaning our rooms and setting up bedding, as I am wrapping gifts ... I need to remember. I need to not forget the most important ingredient that needs to envelop each thing that I do. And when I find myself stressed, I need to step back, pause, and remember the most important preparation, preparation of my heart. 

A few of the nuggets of encouragement I've received this first half of December, as I have paused, and listened to His Truth ...

Am I controlled by expectations, or am I filled with expectancy of what God can do? "Expectancy sets our sights on God's promises, rather than the empty pursuit of all that cannot truly satisfy in this season." (Prepare Him Room, advent readings from Gracelaced)

"When we fret over unforeseen circumstances and fuss over impressing others, we miss what Jesus calls 'the one thing' that's necessary - a posture of worship. Jesus came that we might know His presence, not impress anyone with our own." (Prepare Him Room, advent readings from Gracelaced)

Quiet your heart in His Presence,
and wait expectantly for Him.
(Psalm 37:7 TPT/CSB)

He brought me to a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delights in me.
(Psalm 18:19)

Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving
and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations
and I will be exalted
throughout the whole earth.
(Psalm 46:10 TPT)

See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated 'God is with us'.
(Matthew 1:23 CSB)

And now ... let's continue on through the rest of this month. Pausing, listening, soaking up God's love and truth. Reflecting everyday on the Greatest Gift of all, and living our days and our moments closely with Immanuel: 'God with us'

Pausing, and being filled with His peace, and His joy - in the midst of the season's activity, and in the midst of our preparations for family Home for Christmas

Saturday, November 20, 2021

In the Kitchen: Warm and Cozy Fall Recipes

It's a joy to be "in the kitchen" whatever the time of year, but when the cooler days of fall come, with the holidays following close behind, it's an extra special joy for me to spend time in my kitchen. And no doubt it is the same for you! Here are a few things that I've made in recent weeks ...

This meatloaf recipe has been part of my collection for so very many years; I cannot even remember where or who I got it from. A simple meatloaf recipe, but it's my husband's favorite meatloaf. The addition of Heinz 57 sauce makes it a bit more special than others, in our opinion. I hadn't made it for quite awhile, and it was a real treat to serve it for Sunday Dinner recently.

Meat Loaf

Course: Main/Beef


  • 1 12 pounds ground beef
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, soft
  • 12 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Heinz 57
  • 1 14 teaspoons salt
  • dash pepper


  1. Combine ingredients thoroughly. Place in a lightly greased loaf pan.
  2. Brush top with additional Heinz 57 sauce.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees oven for 1 hour.
  4. Allow meat loaf to stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  5. Servings: 6-8
  6. Note: Meat loaf may be shaped into a loaf (8x4x1 1/2) in a lightly greased shallow pan.

(This is an updated version of a previous post in 2011: to see original post, click here.)


Apple Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

We really love this moist, delicious apple cake, and enjoy it as a dessert, sometimes even topped with ice-cream! It would be good served for a special brunch, as well. It's a favorite of mine, and can be served any time of year. Warm it up slightly before serving for an extra special touch.

Click here for the recipe at "Tastes Better from Scratch".


30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

A comforting, yummy, and easy soup to prepare ... my go-to chicken noodle soup recipe! It was one of the first soup recipes I made this fall. I like to have the ingredients on hand continually, and this can be quickly made. 

One of the ingredients I like to use is a homestyle egg noodle that I used to be able to purchase at Sam's. They no longer carry it, so I recently ordered more from Amazon ... click here to view, if interested. Another favorite, easy ingredient I use is shredded, or chopped, deli roast chicken. I like to purchase one or two of these roast chickens each time I go to Sam's, and then shred or chop them up to store in 2 cup bags for various future recipes, keeping them handy in the freezer.

Also, an added perk to this soup recipe is that it freezes well.

Click here for the recipe featured in a previous blog post.


Hot Spiced Cider

Another recipe that I've prepared and served for so long that I have no idea of where I first got it from. I served it at a recent gathering in our home, and was asked for the recipe. A perfect hot drink for holiday season, and easy to prepare. It adds a warm inviting aroma to our home as it simmers on the stove.

Just put the following ingredients in a saucepan, heat, and serve!

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 6 sticks cinnamon
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in thin slices
  • 1/4 cup honey


Cinnamon Rolls

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

It has been far too long since I've taken time to make bread. The last time I had a bread-making day was this past March - the 12 loaves I made that day lasted us awhile, but we have sure missed it in recent weeks/months. This past week I set aside time for a bread-making day again, and am so glad that I did! We have missed this tasty, homemade bread! 

With the help of my Bosch machine, I can mix up dough for six loaves of bread at a time!  Or I can use one (or more) of the portions for a pan of cinnamon rolls, or another kind of rolls. Often, after one batch of dough is shaped and rising, I go ahead and repeat the process ... and then end up with either 12 loaves, or often with 10 loaves of bread, and two pans of rolls! This is what I did this past week. I'm so grateful for a good supply of bread in the freezer for the coming weeks (for the two of us, and also to share). It is also so great to have our favorite cinnamon rolls already made for our Family Christmas!

A few years ago we upgraded my much older Bosch machine ... it was my Christmas gift, purchased on a Black Friday sale! I love this machine, it is amazing. 

The photo above shows the dough after it has been mixed in the Bosch machine, set out on my pastry mat, and then risen for half an hour. The next step is to divide into six portions ... five for bread, and one to be rolled out for the cinnamon rolls.

Click here for the Cinnamon Roll recipe shared on my blog back in 2010! And click here for the Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe shared in 2020. 

(I also have an older Whisper Mill, and use freshly ground wheat flour to use in my bread recipe, which makes it extra tasty.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Collection: A Few Coffee Table Books, Beauty in our Yard, Embroidery Flowers, and the Joy of Grandkids

 A fun little post of favorites, just a mix of inspirational, fun, or seasonal things that give me joy. It has been a number of months since my last one. Hope you enjoy!

I love these two coffee table style books ...

Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons - I read through this beautiful book again during 2021 (reading it season-by-season as it is divided up that way), and just finished up the last section a month or so ago. The artwork and the words are both so inspirational. 

Here's one quote that I had written in my journal from the "Fall - Intercession" reading:
"We groan as we try to pray through life's hardest challenges, while the Spirit groans on our behalf with perfect expression of our every need in the presence of our heavenly Father. ... The Spirit is indeed our Helper, both in our hearts and in connecting ours to His own. He makes prayer not just possible but plentiful as He provides for all the longings we express, and those we cannot."

And I am loving this brand new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times. It is so very timely to read, as no one can deny that we are going through a very stressful time here in our own country, and also around the world. Here's one of many quotes that I have written down in my journal from this book that I am currently reading ...

(Holley had referred to Exodus 3:14 where Moses had inquired of God's name, and the answer was: "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.")    
"Why does this matter in stressful moments? Because I AM is present tense. ... This means the only place we can fully experience the presence of God is the present ... When we get to tomorrow, He will be there. But today He is exactly where we need Him to be - with us." 


We enjoyed our outdoor patio flowers, as well as these in the front of our house throughout October, and clear through to the end of the month! A longer season than usual ... their beauty added to the colors of fall, making a beautiful mix of summer and fall! Click here to see more of the beauty in our yard the last half of October.

And I have been enjoying these flowers indoors! I started this embroidery project about six months ago, and I just put on the finishing stitches the last day of October! It's something I picked up to do here and there, in the midst of a full life ... a little refreshing break. It was a free pattern (click here) that I chose to do this year of our 50th Anniversary. The colors are the ones we used at our wedding, and the words "Be Still" are meaningful words from Psalm 46:10 which God used to lead us into retirement a year ago. Lots of memories held in this embroidery art that I plan to purchase a frame for in the future.

It's such a joy to be grandparents to ten sweet grandkids, and we had a fun four-day visit in mid-October to spend time with two of them, and also our daughter and son-in-law. It is hard to believe how fast they grow up ... Eva is our youngest grandchild, and at 9 years old, she is definitely not little anymore! And Cruz (one of three grandsons who are 12 years old) is in 7th grade already! 

Thanks for looking through my little collection of joy! 

Have a wonderful month of November!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Fall Beauty Everywhere

There is so much beauty everywhere, even in our own yards. I recently walked around our yard, and took photos of whatever called for my attention. Here are just a few of the photos that I took. At the very end of October now, there is still a mixture of summer and fall ... the flowers in our patio pots are still blooming, while the hydrangeas and the cone flowers have already passed their prime. I'm so thankful for the seasons that display the glorious creation of our loving Father.

Earlier this month we were also so very blessed to go on an 11-day trip with dear, kindred-heart friends of ours to see the vibrant, glorious colors of fall in the northeast. We also made it all the way to the coast in Maine! So much beauty everywhere!

Here are just a few of the many, many photos that we have to treasure the memories of our trip ...

Click here for a few more photos and more details about our trip.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Most Amazing Gift in Perplexing Times

Welcome to this beautiful month of October! I am one of many who really love the fall season ... so much beauty everywhere! It's important to look for and soak up the little things, and also the big things ... the daily gifts that God gives us. Even in the midst of the perplexing days that we live in. 

Do we even realize what great gifts we have been given? And in the troubling days that we live in, do we live and breathe in the realities of all that God has gifted us with? Sometimes the depth and meaning of words is maybe more than we can even comprehend. And such is the case with the words above, from John 14.

We are not alone. We don't need to strive on our own to figure things out. There are so many confusing things going on. In our world, in our own country, and even in our own lives as we walk through the daily things.

It has probably always been the case,
but maybe even more in our present time?
We just want to know the truth.
Whether it's about a current devastation
in our world, in our own country,
or a more personal perplexing situation 
when we just need to know what we
are to think, or what we are to do.

Really, there are so many voices,
multiple ways to view things,
so many opinions - each 
speaking so loudly, and it can be 
frustrating, and so very confusing at times.

Just maybe ... our primary attention and focus needs to shift. From figuring things out on our own. To drawing in close to Truth. To the Words of Truth. Listening, reading, learning from His Words. With the help of the Spirit of Truth which He has given us. Who dwells with us. And is in us.

Truth that we need to live by. Today. With all the choices and decisions of daily life. And also when we are seeking to understand current happenings, and current events. It's best to pull in close to Truth. To immerse our minds and hearts first of all, and primarily, on the Truth in His Word, and to ask for wisdom and discernment in every area of life. As we listen to and read of current events, let us ask God for understanding of His perspective and purposes. 

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by Your truth, and teach me,
for You are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in You.
Psalm 25:4

I am so very thankful for God's Spirit, within, who gives us perspective, and points out truth to us. And also, I'm thankful for wise leaders, authors, and speakers who are seeking to do the same.

Monday, September 20, 2021

In the Kitchen: Favorites from the Past Few Weeks

Our minds and hearts can be pulled in so many directions these days , and often stress can creep in, as well, with all that is going on ... but isn't it amazing what a good meal can do? Taking time to cook and prepare beautiful and delicious meals for those we love is so important. Here are some of the things that have been happening in my kitchen these past few weeks ...

We really love this Pesto Chicken Caprese Flatbread recipe! I make it about once a week, using a variety of different meat toppings, whatever I have on hand. Most of the time I use shredded or cubed chicken ... sometimes use diced or shredded ham, and also have used leftover grilled pork chops, shredded with a fork. It's delicious and easy, no matter the topping. I've learned to always keep a supply of Naan bread on hand, stored in the freezer until ready to use.

The Twice-Baked Potatoes (pictured above) is a new recipe I've tried recently, shared by one of my daughters (thanks, Carrie!). It is absolutely amazing ... we really love it! It requires a bit of prep work, but I like that it can be prepared in advance. I have stored it in the refrigerator (before baking the second step) for up to five days, and also have found that it freezes well. Just prepare the baked potatoes, fill the potato shells, and freeze before baking the second step. (Thaw in frig overnight, add some extra cheese, and bake as usual.)

It was fun to prepare Grilled Chicken Salad again recently, after not making it for awhile. I've tried to fit in a few more grilled recipes in these past few weeks, before the warmer days leave us. The recipe makes quite a lot, and I cut it in half for the two of us, and that was still enough for several meals.

My favorite recipe for grilling salmon ... Grilled Spiced Salmon. Maybe not a traditional menu for Labor Day, but it was our choice on Sept. 6 this year! And along with this delicious main dish, we all did the following ...

We enjoyed delicious Grilled Potatoes along with the grilled salmon. Though not pictured here, I also added some sliced sweet potatoes to this recipe. The  combination of grilled potato slices along with grilled sweet potato slices was extra good, and we'll have to try that again in the future.

Photo from Tastes Better from Scratch

I never tire of trying new recipes. It adds more fun to the daily cooking routine. This Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe from the Tastes Better from Scratch site was a new one I tried during the past few weeks. A little bit of prep work, but so very good. Besides enjoying it the day I made it, there is also another meal in the freezer for another day. One of the things that I like about the Tastes Better from Scratch food blog is that Lauren always includes make ahead tips, including recommendations and details if the dish can be prepared and frozen for future use.

Well, that is it for now! We're moving into the wonderful autumn season, where the colors are vibrant, and there are so many joys waiting for us "In the Kitchen"!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Remembering, and Filled with Thanks

A month ago today
we were traveling home
from the sweetest 50th Anniversary Celebration
together with our family at a big rental home.
We were 21 of us (out of a total of 26)
gathered together for a few glorious days.
It was a blessing beyond measure!

And now, we're remembering, and thanking God
for so many blessings during that time together,
and throughout our FIFTY years!
And we're also missing the sweet ones
we were with four weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A Beautiful Hibiscus Plant, and a Few Thoughts

Unexpected joys ...
a gift from family this summer;
a little bubbling fountain on our patio,
and with it came a little potted hibiscus plant.
Every few weeks throughout the summer,
it has burst open with one or two
absolutely gorgeous yellow flowers!

It reminds me of how quite unexpectedly 
we can come across a familiar verse,
and find ourselves surprised and blessed
with rich new insight, and bubbling joy.
Here's one from a few days ago, 
from Romans 3:24 (The Passion Translation)

Yet through His powerful declaration of acquittal,
God freely gives away His righteousness.
His gift of love and favor now cascades over us,
all because Jesus, the Anointed One,
has liberated us from the
guilt, punishment, and power of sin.
(Romans 3:24 TPT)

These truths are so familiar to us, but are so completely amazing. When we pause and listen carefully as the Spirit gives us understanding, these words can take our breath away. God gives us His righteousness, all because of Jesus' sacrifice for us. So beautiful, beyond measure; a gift  ... His love and favor cascading over us. 


And a few thoughts the end of this month ...

Somehow, my writing here on my blog has slowed down. But my love of writing has continued on - in my devo journal, in my planner, and in my desire to share from my heart in cards and notes ... even in this stage of life that my husband and I are now in. Retired, both in our 70's, and having celebrated 50 years of marriage this month!

And I guess I am still finding my way, or rather, God's way, for us during retirement. He so clearly led us to retire from Cru last summer, though we originally thought we would continue on indefinitely (yes, even though we are in our 70's!). We followed His leading step-by-step to make the big change, and have transitioned to more intentionally live a quiet life. Primarily focusing on time with Him, in His Word, and next in focusing on time with our dear family (6 grown kids and their families), and with our friends. It's also been a time for us to slow down, and deeply enjoy our life together, along with time to pursue a variety of interests that we both have. All while being available for whatever He has for us. We are really loving this time together ...

And as a result of this focus on such a variety of things, writing here on my blog has slowed down. There are seasons when we just need to pull aside, pause, and be still. Though the daily things of life do keep us quite busy, our retirement has definitely been a season of being still, also accentuated by the recent year and a half of varying degrees of actual quarantines.

But now, as the fall season approaches, I am sensing a bit of a nudge to slowly start sharing here more, but in a bit of a quieter approach. Not looking for a big following in any way, but welcoming family and friends (and anyone who comes by) into this season of life through my writing. Maybe sharing a short devo that I have posted on Instagram (such as the thoughts above about our lovely hibiscus plant, along with thoughts from Romans 3:24), a fun recipe post, or something creative that has blessed me. 

Just a quiet sharing from what is on my heart ... thank you for coming by!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

My Place of Quiet Retreat

Always, wherever we are … 

our place of quiet retreat,

with us.

Not limited to time or place;

Your Word, Your Presence.

Where do we go for rest, for refreshment, and renewal? The photo above was taken at one such place we've been at many times, with beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park in view. And ocean view, or lake view are also favorite places of ours. 

But what is an everyday place, within reach at all times? Where we can go on a daily basis to be renewed in our spirit, to find the rest that we long for and that we were made for?

"Cause my heart to bow before Your words of wisdom and not to the wealth of this world. Help me turn my eyes away from illusions so that I pursue only that which is true; drench my soul with life as I walk in Your paths." (Psalm 119:36-37)

"Reassure me of Your promises, for I am Your beloved, Your servant who bows before You." (Psalm 119:38)

"May Your tender love overwhelm me, O Lord, for You are my Savior and You keep Your promises." (Psalm 119:41)

"My passion and delight is in Your Word, for I love what You say to me! I long for more revelation of Your truth, for I love the light of Your Word as I meditate on Your decrees." (Psalm 119:47-48)

I am finding in even deeper ways than before, that it is most important, above all else, to fill our minds and hearts with truth, to “be truth-filled”, as author Ruth Chou Simons describes this. For with each passing year, there is even more noise, and more voices in our culture and world that attempt to draw us away from what is most important.

Let us fill our minds and hearts - our souls - with His Truth. Continually, day-by-day, through each day. Listening deeply to His heart as we read His words, depending on His Spirit to give understanding. Letting Truth soak deeply into the soil of our hearts, so that we will bear beautiful, lasting fruit.

This is how we are renewed in our deepest places, and this is the center, or “the bullseye” (in author Christy Nockel’s description) from which all else flows.

Above all else,

guard your heart,

for everything you do

flows from it.

(Proverbs 4:23)

Verses from Psalms in this post are from The Passion Translation.