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Friday, September 2, 2022

A Collection: Seasons, Welcoming Autumn, Banana Zucchini Bread, Zucchini Muffins, Autumn Inspiration

 

I'm so grateful for the seasons. Our summer was beautiful and restful ... times with family and friends, enjoying our veggie, herb, and flower gardens. And our summer also was filled with difficulty, with many phone calls with my siblings from afar as we helped our youngest brother with his increasing health concerns with the debilitating affects of Parkinson's. The last portion of summer actually went by in a blur, as the concerns and the accompanying phone calls increased. 

In the midst of a beautiful and a broken world, our loving Father continues to comfort with His Words, His Presence, and also, His gifts of the changing seasons. And this coming season is one of my favorites ...

For the first time ever, I started slowly pulling out my fall home decor the last part of August already. Partly because I love it so much, but also because we'll be traveling for part of this coming season to be with my siblings as we are present with our younger brother. 


Summer was a time of planting and growth, and Autumn is a time to remember, to draw close to each other, to be grateful. I love the reminders for both the growth and the thanks in these words from Colossians 2:7 (NLT) ...


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.




A part of my seasonal decorating, pillows have become a fun way of filling our home with touches of the seasons. It's an easy way to add the colors of fall (or the other seasons), with a cozy, warm touch. And changing them out, adding a bit of change through the year is always fun and refreshing ...


Of course, the aromas of fall, are a big part of the season. It started the end of August for me when I baked delicious Banana Zucchini Bread (above), using up zucchini from our veggie garden. Click here for a previous post that gives a link to this recipe.


Muffins is another favorite way to use zucchini. Click here for the Zucchini Muffin recipe, shown above. Zucchini, chopped raisins, and chopped walnuts make this a delicious recipe. 

I also recently made another amazing recipe, also using zucchini ... click the following link to read a previous post: BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken and Veggie Bowls. This is probably my favorite rice bowl recipe.




Yes, I love the seasons. Each has its own beauty, and are gifts from God for us to savor and enjoy in the midst of our beautiful, and challenging days. I've been loving the insight and ideas for each season in Melissa Michael's new book, A Lovely Life: Savoring Simple Joys in Every Season. Part of my Mother's Day gift from my dear husband, this book is packed full of big and small ways to enjoy and celebrate each season. And also, it's filled with such good quotes ...


Autumn is the season to reconnect your heart and soul
to the familiar pleasures of home and hospitality.

(Melissa Michaels, in A Lovely Life)



Friday, July 29, 2022

Three Summer Bar Cookie Recipes


Summer is not a time for a lot of baking for me, but there are some things that I do love to bake even when the temps are hot. I recently made three different bar cookie recipes for a family gathering, and thought I'd share them here!


Blueberry Bars
These bar cookies have been a favorite of mine to make during the summer for quite some time. It has kind of become a habit. I must make these sometime during each summer, and this summer was no exception! The blueberries are such a fun ingredient to a summer bar cookie.
Click here for the recipe that I first shared back in the summer of 2014.


S'mores Bars
A few years ago I added another favorite summer bar cookie recipe to my collection, and have made it each year since then. You have to taste it to believe how delicious it is ... a taste of s'mores cooked over the campfire!
Click here to find this amazing cookie bar recipe.


Zucchini Brownies
And this summer I have added another favorite! Even more fun as we have zucchini growing in our garden this summer. We love these brownies, topped off with a wonderful cream cheese frosting.
Click here for the Zucchini Bar recipe.
And click here for the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.


At our recent family get-together, two of our sweet granddaughters asked me for a few of these recipes. They both love to bake! So, this blog post is written and dedicated to Ali (15), and Eva (10) ... and this is also my way of sharing the recipes with them! It's such a treat for me to share recipes with my granddaughters!

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Heart Connect: What We So Desperately Need

 

Probably a few decades ago, I started a new verse collection for a category of favorite verses on the topic of prayer. And I chose to call this new collection of verses, my "Heart Connect" verses.

"Heart Connect" captures what I believe is at the heart of prayer. It's not something that we do, or that we can check off of our list. For, we can even go through the motions of prayer, without really praying. That is the case for me, anyway.

I believe that though God hears all our prayers, and it doesn't matter the words we use, the key to grow deeper in prayer, is to realize the deeper purpose. To realize the deeper purpose of prayer ... and that is, that our hearts would become so closely connected to God's heart. So closely connected that praying becomes like breathing. 

To connect with the heart of God ... what He gave His life for, and what we are all created for. What a hungry and hurting world so desperately needs. What we as His followers, long for and desire. Each day.

The things you give to God in prayer - your worries, concerns, and needs - are the ties that bind your heart to His. Our struggles are His entry points. (Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children)

We can welcome struggles, even trials ... for they are windows that open our souls to our Maker. In our need, we become desperate for Him. And He always is there, ready to shower us with love, mercy, and grace. Just what we long for.

As a mom of six, a grama of ten, and soon-to-be great-grama of one  - plus all those each of these bring into our family, too - my husband and I have over two dozen family members to love, and care for. And each year there is more and more to draw us close, connecting with God's heart for them, and on their behalf. 


Remember the Lord,

who is great and awesome,

and fight for your families,

your sons and your daughters,

your wives and your homes.

(Nehemiah 4:14 NIV) 


All our concerns, all the things on our hearts, are all opportunities for us to draw close to Him, opportunities for Heart Connect.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A Collection: Good Books for Summer Reading, and Summer Gardens


A fun little post mid-way through the month of June, highlighting two of the many things that I am loving this month.

My husband and I both love to read - one of our favorite things to do in the evenings. During the summer, and anytime of year. The photo above shows my current collection of books that I am reading now.

I love to have an inspirational book on hand all the time, and right now I'm reading Ann Voskamp's most recent book Waymaker. She paints a beautiful picture of God's love and purposes in every area of our lives, drawing on her own personal life stories. I love her practical, very insightful thoughts, encouraging us to draw close, and trust Him in the good times, and also the hard, and painful. 

I also like to have a fiction book on hand, and currently am reading The Prayer Box, by Lisa Wingate, a new author to me. A relaxing, easy reading about the hope and healing that is brought to a struggling young mother living along the North Carolina coast.

My reading list also includes two more books that I'll be reading slowly through the year  ... 

A Lovely Life: Savoring Simple Joys in Every Season by Melissa Michaels, a beautiful coffee table style book, divided into four sections for the four seasons of the year. It's filled with ideas to "embrace the rhythms and rituals of each season with simple HOME*MAKING and SOUL*TENDING practices to help you cultivate more peace, contentment, and joy throughout the year". (quote from the back cover of the book) This book, a gift from my husband for Mother's Day, will bring joy throughout the year!

And lastly, The Lazy Genius Kitchen, by Kendra Adachi, a book I learned of through one of the podcasts I listen to. I am enjoying her fresh ideas of organizing, and tailoring our kitchens and our cooking routines to work the best for us. Yes, I've been cooking for quite a few years, but I continue to be inspired by new ideas, even in our retirement.

My husband and I also both love our summer gardens! Here are two photos to capture our veggie garden, and also our herb garden at this time, mid-way through June. 


Our 10x30 foot veggie garden has room for 4 tomato plants (including one cherry tomato plant, and one roma tomato plant), and a row each of peppers, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Also, we have cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, and also some white pumpkins. 


My herb garden is so handy, right outside the patio doors by our kitchen. This year I have sage, spearmint, basil, oregano, chives, thyme, and parsley growing. Such a joy to go out and clip leaves from these herbs to use while cooking!

In the mix of sports games for grandkids, time with family and friends, and in the midst of the daily responsibilities of life, we are often enjoying these two loves of ours ... some good books, and the joys of our gardens. All gifts from God during this season of life! 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

May Memories


The month of May will soon be over, and here I am, with my first (and only) post of the month! It has been a full month for us, as it has been for so many. We have loved the spring weather, and this lovely season of planting of our veggie garden, herb garden, and multiple spots for flowers on our patio and in our yard. What a beautiful time of year!

We've also had some special days ... Mother's Day (beautiful roses above were a gift from my honey!), and the celebration of six family birthdays! Either celebrated in person or celebrated from afar with phone calls, and  gifts/cards through the mail. Also sprinkle in some sports events for grandkids, a baby shower for a friend, gatherings with our CityGroup friends, and a fun viewing of the Downton Abbey movie with friends ... and, well, yes, the month has been full, and wonderful.

And as is the case with most everyone, there have also been some difficult, heartbreaking things where we have needed to lean in extra close to our faithful, loving God - for His strength and wisdom. The resulting peace and perspective from Him are also highlights of our month of May.





A special treat for me these past few months has been to slowly make my way through reading When Strivings Cease, by Ruth Chou Simons, and to also go though the accompanying Study Guide. I highly recommend this book, and also the study guide. And if you go through it with a friend (as I have been doing) the insight gained is doubled!

How would I describe the main message of the book in a few sentences? A bit difficult to do, but I will try ...

A brief quote from the book sums up my main take-away very well: 
"Right living overflows from right believing."

It is essential for us to get our "believing" right. If we are not anchored in the truths of God's Word, in what the Gospel really is for not only our future hope, but for our everyday, our every moment living, then we will find ourselves continually striving for what we already have. 

This book reinforced so well what I am focusing on this year for my Word of the Year for 2022 ... "Truth-Filled". It is essential for me, and for each of us, to continually fill our minds and hearts with truth, God's truth. And instead of striving for approval, acceptance, and purpose, our focus can be on abiding in what He already has accomplished and provided for us. 

The author encourages us "to take our eyes off of everything you think you need to be amazing, and be amazed, instead, at God's grace."

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Incredible Joy of Easter

 



The familiar words
become alive as we pause and listen ...
and year by year, new layers of understanding
come to our hearts and minds.

Though we will not even be able to contain
all that Easter brings us, for it will take an eternity
to comprehend the joys, the blessings,
the never-ending love of God towards us.


Our faith in Jesus
transfers God's righteousness to us,
and He now declares us flawless in His eyes.
This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace
with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus,
the Anointed One, has done for us.

Our faith guarantees us permanent access
into this marvelous kindness that has given us
a perfect relationship with God.
What incredible joy bursts forth within us
as we keep on celebrating our hope
of experiencing God's glory!

Romans 5:1-2 TPT



Thanking Him for a new layer of understanding and joy with reading these familiar words from Romans 5 in a new translation. How can we even comprehend that He sees us as flawless in His eyes, and that we are recipients of His unending marvelous kindness and love. Beautiful beyond description. All because of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Year 2022: One Quarter of the Way



January 1st was not that long ago, but here we are  ... one fourth of the way through this new year already. It's a good time to pause, and reconnect with ideas and thoughts that we started the year out with. Do you like to do that, as well, as the year progresses?

One important thought that I am re-visiting, is the word "Truth-filled", my 'Word of the Year' that I started out with in January. (Click here to read more.) This word/thought, this focus, has been with me, on my mind and heart, so often. I keep going back to it most every day, and throughout the day. And I'm also finding that there is another word that I need to focus on in order to live "Truth-filled" ... that is, the word listen. This additional word has been my 'Word of the Year' for quite a few years in the past. And I think it is so essential. So important as I desire to live "Truth-filled". It's really a heart issue, a heart focus, to really listen to God, and to live our days focused on Him, and His thoughts.

But what exactly does it mean to seek to be and to live "Truth-filled"? For me it means that it is essential for me to intentionally focus my mind and my heart on Truth. Listening with my heart, soul, and mind, seeking after and loving Him above all else. (from Matthew 22:37)

As Sara Hagerty says in her book Adore, "At every juncture of my life and my day I am given an opportunity to ask and respond, 'What will I feed my soul? My thoughts or His?'. Dallas Willard says it this way: 'The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.'"


Come everyone who is thirsty, come to the water,
and you without silver, come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without silver and without cost!
Why do you spend silver on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me; 
listen, so that you will live.
(Isaiah 55:1-3a CSB)

Lord, help us to consciously choose to 'Come to You', to read, to dwell on, and to store up Your Words, Your Truth, in our minds and our hearts. Then, it is the work of Your Spirit within to integrate this truth deep into our hearts/minds, giving us understanding, letting Your Words soak in deeply, affecting our thoughts and our actions. Not just reading words of Truth, but that they actually become a part of us, of who we are.

Monday, March 28, 2022

In the Kitchen: Winter Soups and Bread

Nothing in my kitchen can quite compete with the warmth and taste of soups during the cold, winter days and months. The beginning of January I made up a very flexible menu plan for January to March ... click here to see. I love to try new recipes, but this time I focused on using recipes from my favorites, some that I had not even made for awhile. And a favorite thing on my menu plan was to prepare one of my favorite soup recipes each week. 

Now, about three months later, I just have two more soup recipes to make! We've enjoyed twelve delicious soup recipes, with two more to go. Even though it is officially spring now, the days have continued to be in the lower temps, so soups for a week or two yet will be just great. 



Even though it's just the two of us here now (in contrast to years ago when all six of our children were still at home), I continue to make the regular size of recipe, and often even double it. Did you know that most soups freeze well? I love to have multiple meals of soup in the freezer, ready to pull out on a day when I don't have time to cook, or just prefer not to cook. 

Here is a list of some (about half!) of my favorite soup recipes:

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup (photo above)

30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

Best-Ever Potato Soup

Cheesy Chicken Chowder

Lemon Chicken Soup with Rice and Peas

Taco Soup

White Chicken Chili

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup


And another favorite during winter, and also all year through is homemade bread! I usually make a double batch of bread every 3 months or so, and have a ready supply in the freezer. My lovely Bosch machine mixes and kneads six loaves of bread dough at a time. I took time to make some more just recently. The aroma that fills our home is almost as lovely as eating the bread itself!



Click here for a post from the past about this tasty bread.

And now, spring weather is just around the corner! A few days ago I took some time to make up another of my very flexible menu plans for the months of April and May. No soups this time around, but I'm looking forward to other favorite recipes for spring meals. Click here to see my winter season menu planning process, which I repeated again for this spring, just using different recipes.


Sunday, March 6, 2022

Be Still: In the Secret Place



I always love these tiny little flowers that so very quietly open up on our indoor kalanchoe plants ... a sure promise of spring to come outdoors.

And at the same time, I am reminded of how we grow and how we bloom ... just quietly listening, embracing His Truth, His Words, soaking up the life-giving waters of His faithful, unending love. Pausing in secret - waiting, listening, abiding ...

The secret place is a place where God answers and speaks to us. Nothing is more sustaining and life-giving than hearing His voice. God is always longing for an intimate relationship with His people in which we hear His voice and respond accordingly.  (Secrets of the Secret Place)

 

A little devo post shared on my Instagram this past week ...
 

Monday, February 28, 2022

A Collection: Inspirational Reading, Word of the Year, Desk Organization, and Remembering 20 Years Ago

Taking time to share a few highlights of this month, right before we step into the brand new month of March. I'm ready for this new month that brings the start of beautiful spring, and I'm also thankful for these February memories ...


It was the right time for me to start reading When Strivings Cease by Ruth Chou Simons. I purchased this book last fall when it was first released, but I waited until after the holidays to start this very insightful book. The subtitle says the main focus of the book very well: "Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace".  I am always so encouraged and refreshed by the writings of this author. I'm going through it very slowly, along with the accompanying Study Guide, and meeting with a good friend every few weeks as we share together what has impacted us.



Do you choose a 'word-of-the-year' each year? I have been doing so for quite a few years now. On January 1st of this year, the word that came to me to focus on throughout 2022 was one that had been on my heart often in the previous weeks, maybe even for a few months. And that word is:

Truth-filled

I am finding that it is of most importance for me to focus my mind and my heart on Truth; maybe more so with each passing year. Is it the same with you? I can be so easily prone to resort to worry, or to trying to figure things out on my own. And I can use up precious time by over-thinking, and depending on my own understanding. Maybe more than ever before, we need to fill our minds and hearts with Truth - His Truth, God's Word. I am continually adding more verses to my card collection of "Truth-filled" verses that I desire to keep handy, and pull out to think on through the days and weeks.




A bit of a tedious task this first part of 2022, but a much-needed one, and definitely worth all the work ... a re-organization of our "Home Desk" files. So much to always keep track of, and it was time to clean things up quite a bit. I especially like having my most frequently used files in easy reach, and was pleased to find these pretty file folders, and the decorative basket at Target - and also the pretty greenery plant at Home Goods. I love having this right on top of my "Home Desk", in easy reach for the weekly home office tasks.



February also held a memory of a very significant time in our family twenty years ago, when my dear husband was in a horrific accident. We share our thanks and praise to God for the big and small miracles during that very difficult season ... click here to read on our blog.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Loving Good Books: Favorites from 2021


It was a great year for reading ... 20 books completed in 2021!

For a few years now, I've been keeping track of the books I read on goodreads, a fun online place for recording, and also sharing about books. It also is a good motivator to read more. I set my goal for 2021 to read 15 books, and I surpassed this goal with reading 20 books!

The photo above shows seven of my favorites from the year, although I would say that I enjoyed each and every one of the 20 books.


I read this coffee table style book through season by season through the year. The focus is on simplicity, and decorating naturally, with a special focus on the beauty of the various seasons. Also an emphasis on using all five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. I incorporated multiple new ideas from the book into my decorating. I highly recommend this book.


The Mystery of Catastrophe - by Joel Richardson and Nathan Graves
This very insightful book "presents a clear, biblical case for God's plans and purposes amidst tragedy". A very timely book for me to read. At a time during the fall of 2021 I was searching for answers and understanding in the midst of many things going so very wrong in our country and world. As I prayed for some clarity, desiring to gain more of God's perspective in the midst of difficulties, my dear husband directed me to this book. He had read it recently, and thought it might be helpful for me. It was excellent, and I highly recommend it to others.


My review on goodreads:
This book was absolutely amazing, and I would rate it as the very best book that I have read on this topic. I connected deeply with each chapter throughout the entire book. This is a book I would highly recommend for all introverts ... written by a fellow introvert, who shared so clearly her own struggles and resulting insights, gave valuable info from helpful scientific data, and included many examples from the lives of others. I will be keeping this book handy to refer back to for continuing insight and encouragement.


Gentle and Lowly - by Dane C. Ortlund
My review on goodreads: 
It may be difficult to adequately put into words how this book impacted me. It had been referred to me by a friend, and also is a book that our pastors and interns at the vibrant, growing church we are part of have all been reading, as well. The author focuses on a verse, or a quote in each chapter, and gives us a deeper, beautiful, insightful understanding of the heart of Christ. That from which everything He did on earth, and all that He is, flows from. Each chapter captured my heart in understanding more deeply what a loving, merciful, compassionate God we have. I highly recommend this book, and wish that each person I know would have an opportunity to read it.


The Fisherman's Lady - by George MacDonald
My review on goodreads: 
It has been on my mind in the past few years to read some of George MacDonald's novels, and came across this one (and also it's sequel) at a used book store while on a trip with friends last fall. And now was the time to read it! Though it took me a bit of time to adjust to the style of writing, even with the great editing done by Michael Phillips for contemporary readers, I absolutely loved this classic originally published in 1875! The characters are fascinating, and the deep plot kept my attention all the way through. I will be watching for more treasures from this author, whom C.S. Lewis learned so much from.


Between the Wild Branches - by Connilyn Cossette
This historical fiction book, set in the time of the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant, was the second in "The Covenant House" series by this author. A relaxing, yet engaging read, and also full of great insight into the time period. I've also read her "Out from Egypt" series, and her "Cities of Refuge" series, and recommend her books.


This very practical, encouraging book was another very timely read during 2021. Filled with scriptural truths, practical ideas, and inspirational stories and quotes - it was the perfect short read for me to pick up during the fall season. I have already purchased one to give away as a gift to a friend, and highly recommend it. Anything by Holley Gerth is sure to be treasured.


These books are just seven of the twenty that I read in 2021. All twenty of the books are shown below. I was not disappointed in any of them, and recommend each one very highly.




Reading good books is of high importance to both my husband and me. A way of relaxing, and also as important, a way of learning and growing. One of our favorite things is to curl up in our living room during the cold winter days, or also to sit out on our patio during the warmer days of the year with a good book in hand. I usually have several books in hand at any given time ... an inspirational book, and also a fiction book. And maybe another one, as well. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

In the Kitchen: Menu Planning

Having a menu plan is a necessity for me. If I go through a period of time when I don't plan out my menus, it's difficult for me to consistently serve good meals. Part of the reason for my need of a plan, is that I have collected so very many recipes over the years, and the decision of what to make each day can feel a bit overwhelming. And then it becomes too easy to just put something together quickly, or else pick up fast food to take home. But if I have a plan with a few ideas right in front of me each week, then I'm much more apt to prepare a tasty meal, even just for the two of us. And besides, it's fun for me to menu plan!


But it's crucial for me that it needs to be a simple and flexible plan. I like to be able to move things around, changing the dates of when to prepare a specific recipe, depending on what is going on each week. 

My current menu planning allows for this flexibility. I spent a bit of time last week planning out my meals for the next three months, through the end of March. I'm continuing to use the same spiral notebook that I used in 2021. Each week has a printed weekly chart that I created on my laptop. And for each week, I have chosen three main dish recipes to put on post-it notes. 


When I actually prepare the recipe, I'll write it into the chart itself, and place a small check mark on the post-it-note. The reason for using post-it notes is that they can be easily moved around to a different week than originally planned for, if I wish. I am loving the simplicity and flexibility of this plan.

I like to switch up my categories of recipes that I pick from during the different seasons of the year. For January through March, I picked from three main categories of recipes in my collections:

One recipe from my SOUP section.

The next from my collection of CHICKEN main dishes.

And the third, changing off between FISH, PORK, or BEEF main dishes.

I'm only choosing three main dish recipes for each week (in this empty nest season of life we are in), as that is most likely the number I will need to prepare each week.  The other days we will use left-overs from previous meals, or use a frozen meal that I've made on a previous week, or else we may be gone from home and need to pick up fast food wherever we are that day. 

Also, at the bottom of each menu planning page is a space where I often put other ideas for the week as well: lunch ideas, sides or breads or desserts to make. Usually on post-it notes, as well, so they can be moved around, if needed. But the most critical planning for me are the plans for the main dishes each week. 

I'm always looking for ways to live creatively in the home, and also, to simplify the responsibilities of life, leaving more time for the things of ultimate importance ... loving God, and loving those around us. Preparing tasty, nutritious meals is just one way to let His love shine through us. And menu planning is a big part of making this happen! 


Friday, January 7, 2022

A Practice, A Habit, A Way of Breathing

 


It’s a daily practice,

a habit, a way of breathing,

as I take the first steps

into each day …

Before I continue on in my

reading through His Word

chronologically, now in the OT.


First of all … pausing, and

writing out my gratitude,

recounting His gifts, glimpses

of His love and care from

the day before, with thanks

and with adoration.


And then …

pulling out a verse card,

just one, from my collections.

Writing it out word for word,

letting His truth sink into

my heart and soul, truth to

hold close throughout the day.


Today’s verse, beyond my

comprehension, love beyond

compare. Our greatest gift,

to be loved by Him. A lifetime

and an eternity of being loved.

Each day, each moment.



I love each of you with the same love

that the Father loves Me.

You must continually let My love

nourish your hearts.

If you keep My commandments,

you will live in My love,

just as I have kept My Father's commands,

for I continually live nourished

and empowered by His love.

My purpose for telling you these things

is so that the joy that I experience

will fill your hearts

with overflowing gladness!

(John 15:9-11 TPT)