M’m M’m Monday! 6/27/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Can you believe that June is almost over and Independence Day is a week away? It’s been a busy month here!  Our grandson turned one. I went on a mountain retreat to celebrate a dear friend’s retirement. We enjoyed the wedding of my daughter’s best friend on our 33rd anniversary. We’ve pretty much celebrated the month away!

I’m going to make this short and sweet tonight because as busy as my June has been I’m sure yours was full, too and you don’t have time to read the wandering words of this chaotic mind. So, let’s think Fourth of July for a minute.  It’s a weekend full of parades, picnics, and fireworks.  There’ll be hotdogs on the grill, cool watermelon slices, and ice cream churned by hand.  Flags will be flying, horseshoes tossed, and “I’m Proud to Be an American” will play on the radio.  We’ll laugh, light sparklers, and hug family members. We’ll celebrate the holiday away!

In the midst of all our fun, let’s not forget that there are service men and women who instead of celebrating are putting their lives on the line, fighting for the freedom we so often take for granted.  Let’s take time to gather together and say a prayer for those brave soldiers and for their families who try to carry on even though there’s a person missing at their picnic table. And at days end as we gaze into the night sky watching the trails of light dance between the stars; may the music fill our souls, singing: “Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God Bless the U.S.A.!”

Need an idea what to take to the picnic?  Here’s an old standby all decked out for the Fourth!

Red Velvet Rice Crispy Treats

Ingredients

  • 1 10.5 oz. bag of mini marshmallows or approximately 40 large marshmallows
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Red Velvet cake mix (the more cake mix the redder the treats)
  • 6 cups Rice Krispy cereal
  • Red, White, and Blue sprinkles (if you want to add a little pizazz)

Instructions

  • Spray pam generously in a 9 x 13 pan and on a spatula.
  • Melt butter and marshmallows over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  • Add vanilla and cake mix until blended.
  • Remove from heat and stir in cereal until evenly coated.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan. Press down with prepared spatula.
  • Shake sprinkles over top if you choose.
  • Cool and cut into squares.
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M’m! M’m! Monday 6/20/16 (Please Pretend it’s Monday)

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

I’d like to talk about toilet paper…..well actually, the lack there of! I don’t know why it is, but it seems every time I’m in need of some, the roll is empty. Upstairs in the middle of the night; two squares barely covering the cardboard roll. Downstairs  when I first wake up; one lone sheet dangles precariously. And Sunday? Out to lunch after church, waiting in line for the ladies room. One occupant emerges, another goes in. She emerges, I go in. WHAT??? Another empty roll! Can’t anyone but me fill the toilet paper dispenser?

As usual, this got me to thinking….that’s right people, toilet paper…. about being empty and getting filled. I hate to admit this but my faith often wears thin and I feel I can barely cover all that I’m facing. At other times I worry, am fearful, or discouraged and feel as if I’m left to dangle on my own. More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve looked to others to do something I’m obviously suppossed to do but am low on confidence and afraid I’ll fail. In each situation a change is in order.  Trying to do everything; face everything on my own just leaves me empty, spinning, and unable to get the job done. I need to be filled!

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

Being unwound and empty is a human condition. One I’m all too familiar with! Have you been there?  “Strengthen, power, love……fullness.” “Dwell, rooted, grasp…..filled“. How amazing it is that we don’t have to stay that way! God is waiting for our invitation to have Him fill our empty places with that wide, long, high, and deep love and not just fill but give until we’re overflowing!

So the next time I’m face to face with a cardboard tube instead of a full roll, (and I’m sure there’ll  be a next time), I’m going to try and whine less and remember Who it is that I can count on to fill me up as many times as needed!

Now, speaking of being filled; if you remember last Monday I vowed to try some healthy recipes. I usually associate “healthy” with leaving me hungry and needing more to fill me up. Not so with this healthy, (even though bacon is involved) easy, chicken skillet meal. I think I’m on a “roll”! Get it?

Chicken, Squash, and Asparagus Skillet Dinner

Ingredients

  • 3 slices of the bacon of your choice
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I didn't know these guys existed, but sure enough found them in the chicken section of the meat department)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus, trim the ends
  • 2 small yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 4-6 green onions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • Coursely cut bacon slices (I used my kitchen shears) into a 12" skillet.
  • Lay chicken on top of bacon, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium high heat for 12-16 minutes, turning halfway until browned.
  • Add broth and onions to skillet and cook five minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Meanwhile, combine asparagus, squash, and two tablespoons of water in a microwave safe dish. (I also salt and peppered them)
  • Cover with plastic wrap and using a knife, cut evenly placed vent holes.
  • Cook on high power for 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  • Combine vegetables with chicken mixture and serve.
  • Makes 4 servings.
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M’m! M’m! Monday 6/13/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Things here are on the rise…..my blood pressure, the number on the scale, and my pants size!  Arghhhhh! You know what that means……visiting those two evil twins…….diet and exercise! I would much rather stay home with the more pleasant and comfortable ones…..cooking and eating!

Counting calories, sweating, and feeling hungry are not my favorite things.  In fact, I’ve obviously tried to avoid them; that is, until now. Being a “MiMi’ has started me thinking.  I want to be able to jump in the ocean, hike in the woods, and a million other things with my grandson.  I want to see him graduate, even marry, and be around to cherish him for as long as I can.  To do that, I have to be healthy!

Being healthy is a good thing, so why do I dread it so?  I’m pretty sure it comes back to my age old problem of self. I want to be comfortable, satisfied, and in control. Those aren’t words I associate with losing weight and getting into shape.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Whoa!  I haven’t ever really thought about it in that way, have you? These words challenge me and to be honest, make me feel a little uncomfortable (just like the waist band on my jeans). I guess it’s time for an attitude adjustment; focusing less on the what (what I’m giving up, what I have to do) and more on Who.

Tomorrow I go and pick up my new increased dosage blood pressure medicine. I’ll also continue to clean and sort through my closet where I’ve found way too many clothes that no longer fit. Now that I think about it,  a visit to diet and exercise may not be a bad idea after all; and maybe they shouldn’t just visit, they should move right in, so this ole temple will be around for a long time to come; keeping up with grandchildren and honoring the One who bought it with the highest price of all.

I know and you know that this won’t be easy, especially for a gal who loves to cook.  Here’s where I’m going to challenge myself.  In addition to losing weight and lowering my BP, I’m going to begin to search for recipes that still are easy and comforting, but healthy, too!  No better time to start than now!

Zucchini Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 large or 4 smaller zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 -1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Prego Heartsmart)
  • grated mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9X13 pan with Pam.
  • Combine turkey, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a skillet, cook until turkey is browned.
  • Layer zucchini in the bottom of the pan. Don't leave gaps.
  • Spread ricotta on the zucchini, then 1/3 of the turkey, then 1/3 of the sauce. Start with zucchini again and continue the layers three times.
  • Top with a light layer of mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  • It will be juicy. You can attempt to pour some off but be careful. (I just left the juice)
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I have to tell you, I was skeptical at first about this recipe but I LOVED it! If you have healthy recipes that you love, share them with me in the comments section.

P.S.  I’ll keep you up to date on how the “evil twins” and I are getting along as we learn to live together!

 

 

God Will Provide

 

Agape Science Lab nearing completion.

Agape Science Lab nearing completion.

This is the fifth in a series of miraculous true stories about Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya.  Stories that share the divine inspiration and dedication to helping students of poverty, who once had no hope, reach their full potential.

“And God will generously provide all you need.  Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Marilyn and her students settled into a daily routine at the “cave school”. A breakfast of milk tea and a boiled egg or porridge began their morning.  Classes were held throughout the day with a short break for lunch. In the evening traditional meals of thick grits and greens cooked in a spicy sauce, beans and rice, or corn and beans were prepared for dinner. Each meal was cooked outside as there was no room for an inside kitchen.  Outside, there was no space for the children to safely play a game of soccer or even run off some extra teenage energy. It was obvious they already needed more space. Marilyn had also recently discovered that for a school to be recognized by the Kenyan government it had to have grades 9-12 with at least twenty students per grade. She knew without a doubt that this was her calling and so the prayers to find a larger, permanent place for her school began.

God answered Marilyn’s prayers in 2013 when she chose an eight acre property that included a long hut similar to their “mud cave” and a small mud house.  Neither were much to look at but that didn’t stop Marilyn from seeing the beauty and potential there. It would take a huge amount of work and they would need vision and help…..lots of help, and constant prayer!

It took time to jump through the governmental hoops AND most of the money Marilyn had left in her savings to purchase the land; but it now belonged to them! Reaching out to the surrounding villages, Marilyn was able to find the twenty freshman she also needed.  What started as a seed of an idea, had been planted and nurtured,  and now Living Hope had become an official Kenyan High School. In the years leading up to this moment God had provided everything she’d needed just as He’d told her that fateful day back in her kitchen and she was already seeing His continued provision as she took this next step in her journey.

It was a challenge in the beginning. There wasn’t enough building space in either place so the 45 students traveled between their rented mud classroom and the dormitories on the new property.  The journey was a precarious one as they hiked the mile and a half each way and like tightrope walkers, had to balance on a single log that lay across the rushing river that separated the two locations. That wasn’t all.  Acutely aware of her dwindling funds and determined her kids would not “go to bed hungry”, Marilyn decided  she needed to reach out to her sisters for help. Through their commitment and dedicated work God began providing sponsors for the students, salaries for staff, and donations for needed furniture and supplies. Hope was alive and well!

Living Hope High School has thrived since the days of the first rudimentary buildings.  The school still receives no funding except through the generosity of sponsorships and donations  The property today is close to ten acres, has five classroom buildings, an assembly hall, a computer lab, kitchen, eight dormitory cottages, and a science lab is under construction. Each building is constructed of bricks, hand- made by the students.  A deep well was dug to provide running water and electricity has been connected to the computer lab, kitchen, and office.  The students tend a 2 acre garden, take care of milk cows and chickens, and play on their own soccer field.  This past year the students at Living Hope High School earned the highest test scores out of the 291 schools in their district! The 13 teachers and all the students work very hard and take nothing for granted. It isn’t always easy; the budget, sharing textbooks, the ongoing battle against Malaria and Typhoid,  the unpredictable weather, and  the political climate all pose challenges for Marilyn and the school;  but without hesitation, she will tell you of the miraculous God who through the generosity of others, provides just what is needed to help one teacher, who answered His call,  share an abundance of “Living Hope” with others.

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

 

As we continue Marilyn’s story you’ll hear more God designed, miraculous events that have happened to her, the students,  and the school since its beginning. For more information on Living Hope High School go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Marilyn’s sister, Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

M’m! M’m! Monday! 6/6/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

It’s my grand baby’s birthday today!  One year old!  Just imagine all he’s experienced in those twelve months!  Some good, some bad, and all the in-between! He’s learned so many new things! Walking, chattering, picking up small objects; just to name a few, and he’s becoming more independent by the minute. I’m still waiting to hear his sweet voice say “MiMi”, but when his little hand reaches out to me, my heart melts.

Of course, we had a big celebration over the weekend with balloons, streamers, presents, lots of food, and cake, can’t forget the cake!

Carson vs. cake. Carson wins!

Carson vs. cake. Carson wins!

Summer is just around the corner so our party food was typical summer fare:  hot dogs, hamburgs, potato salad, and baked beans.  Everything was delicious but I must tell you the baked bean dish was clean when the party was over.  They were mighty fine if I may say so myself!  So, somewhere in the midst of the good, the bad, and all the in-between of life celebrate by taking a little time to enjoy a picnic meal with family and friends. Reach out your hand to let someone know they’re appreciated by inviting them for a summer feast or if you need a dish to take along to a poolside get together try this easy recipe for baked beans! And DON’T forget the cake!  Enjoy!

"Mighty Fine" Baked Beans

Ingredients

  • 6 bacon slices
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 64 oz. pork and beans
  • 1 cup root beer (not diet)
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. hot sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Fry bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Saute diced onion in hot bacon drippings over high heat until tender. (maybe 5 minutes)
  • Combine pork and beans, root beer, BBQ sauce, dry mustard,and hot sauce.
  • Crumble bacon into mixture.
  • Using a slotted spoon remove onions from drippings and add to beans. Stir well.
  • Pour into a lightly greased 9X13 pan.
  • Bake uncovered for 55 minutes or until sauce is thick and bubbling.
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Maybe…..Tasty Tuesday?

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Well, it happened again…..twice!  I’m so sorry I missed Mm! Mm! Monday two weeks in a row! A week ago Monday, I was sick, sick, sick and you don’t want to hear about that!  And then there was yesterday….

I had all intentions of posting on schedule and then the unexpected happened. My better half, while working in his wood shop cut his finger with a newly sharpened knife, right through his glove.  As it turned out we ended up in the ER and waited FIVE HOURS for him to get five stitches and a giant bandage! After getting discharged we ate an McDonald’s hamburger at 10:30 p.m. (not highly recommended) and drove the thirty-five minutes home.  Needless to say, writing my blog post never happened.

So, here I am today to remind you to always expect the unexpected!  We never know what life’s going to throw our way but we DO know Things. Will. Come.  I never expected to move to West Virginia, to retire at 55, or even to be writing my own blog; and those are all GOOD things!  But then there are those circumstances that come out of nowhere and blindside us.  We all have them, whether it’s a health issue (or a knife issue), a difficult stage in our marriage, a loss of someone we love, or a challenging job.  The list is different for each of us and somehow we have to be prepared to be unprepared for them to come. I think I’m safe when I say that none of us long for times of trouble, I know I’d like it to stay as far away from me and those I love as possible. Unfortunately, there’s evil in the world and it touches us all.  Isn’t it reassuring to know:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Expecting the unexpected is only half the story. The more important half is that We. Are. Not. Alone. God, who is NEVER surprised provides for us even through our darkest times AND uses those times to help us become more of who He intends us to be!  I don’t know about you, but that’s an “unexpected” comfort to me!

Now to the business at hand…..Here’s an unexpected flavor combination that tickles your tongue and this is perfect timing too, because the rhubarb is ready to pick! I hope you are pleasantly surprised by this dish!

Cinnamon Rhubarb Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless Pork Chops
  • 1 cup diced Rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 TBLS. Flour (for a Gluten free recipe use a gluten free flour)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 cup Applesauce

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Place pork chops side by side in a baking dish.
  • In a bowl, mix together the rhubarb, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. (I had cinnamon applesauce on hand so I used that and cut back on the actual cinnamon)
  • Spoon mixture evenly over the pork chops.
  • Cover with foil.
  • Bake for 30 minutes then remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until pork chops are tender. (I was worried about the meat getting done, but it was moist and tender!)
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Commercials In My Worship Time?

image

I’ve been on a quest recently to improve my personal worship time; to make it more meaningful and fervent. My goal was to take time (linger for the right reason) and create an atmosphere of thanksgiving, adoration, and prayer.  Because I love music I knew that’s where this special time with God would begin.  I don’t know about you, but praise music makes me feel about as close to Heaven as anything can.  I grabbed my iPad, hit the Pandora app choosing the Praise station and soft notes filled my room.  The uplifting words filled my soul.  My breathing slowed and my heart soared. “WOULD YOU LIKE TO IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN?” What was happening?  “TOUCH THE AD NOW TO LEARN MORE!”  Startled, I became drawn away from God by a commercial in my worship time! 

Now, thinking back, this wasn’t the first time I’ve experienced a “station break” while in worship.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created grocery lists, to-do lists, even written blog posts in my mind in the midst of a prayer. Have you been there? Or as I’m in a time of praise and thanksgiving, an unanswered prayer or unmet want vies for my attention changing my attitude in a moment. My wandering mind tends to be more focused on the propaganda of my life than it is on being in worship with the One who died to save my life!

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 (NLT)

When I’m creating a new “personal worship time” instead of worshiping the Creator, thinking about things I have to do instead of thanking Him for all the things He’s done, or holding onto feelings that I shouldn’t instead of praising the One who holds me in His nail-scarred hand; my focus is on “the things of earth”…ME!

In the end, God doesn’t care if I have a new and improved worship time.  There isn’t a worship script He asks us to follow.  The truth is that worship isn’t about us at all.  Worship is ALL about God and who He is…..”setting our sights on the realities of Heaven”. 

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth:  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.   Give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”  Psalm 100

So let’s not just think about it; let’s play the music, sing the songs, lift the prayers, give the thanks, and Worship “for the Lord. Is. Good!” Oh, and those commercials?  There’s always the mute button!

Magnify

Uplift

Thank

Exalt

 It’s #livefreeThursday an today at http://www.tsuzanneeller.com the prompt is worship.

 

The Stuff of Life

image

One of many loads of stuff from my classroom as I retired.

I am an expert on stuff!  Stuff and I have an intimate relationship.  Everywhere I go stuff seems to follow.  My classroom was “stuff central”. My house? Stuff City.  Need something?  “Let me dig in the stuff in my purse.  I’m sure I have it!” Oh, and then there’s my brain….more stuff rattling around in there than I can handle or you want to know about!

Up until recently I was comfortable with my stuff.  I felt safe amidst the clutter. But now? Something’s changed.  As I’ve told you before, I am going through every room in preparation to move.  Somewhere in this process my perspective shifted. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy for this memory collector to let things go. Tears have been shed.  Things have been in the trash or give away pile that I’ve struggled to leave there. But as I look around a finished room I feel an unexpected feeling of freedom. A lightness that wasn’t there before.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

As I linger (as I so love to do) with this new attitude I’ve come to realized that in having old greeting cards, letters, awards, artwork, ticket stubs, souvenirs from happy times; I somehow found reassurance of my self-worth. (I know, I’m worse off than you thought!) As I continue to sort through my stuff, I’m also sorting through all these emotions , but what I’m learning is: life is full of good stuff and bad stuff. When we (I) focus and are tied to that stuff, it can become a burden.

Let me just confess to you now that as hard as getting rid of my tangible stuff is; releasing my “worry stuff”, scary stuff”, “sad stuff”, “angry stuff”, “unforgiving stuff”, to God is even more difficult for me! Oh, I might put it away for awhile, but all too often I think I know what’s best so I open that “box of stuff”, comb through it, and even add to it! Oh how that stuff weighs on my heart, my mind, and soul!

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Did you catch that?  The burdens I create, and maybe you too, by collecting stuff, whether in drawers, boxes, closets, or in our hearts; we don’t have to carry! Unburdening ourselves from the stuff of life allows us to open our arms and soul to the “yoke that is easy and the burden that is light” Jesus offers us.

The process of eliminating stuff from my life is an ongoing one.  I’m happy to report that recently I sat and went through four boxes of memories from my elementary years forward and when I was finished I only filled two back up.  I laughed, cried, and shook my head in wonder in all that I’d kept. And yes, as hard as it was, I had to let go of these precious items!

Bobby Sherman still makes me swoon!

Bobby Sherman still makes me swoon!

I pray that as I prepare to move into a new house, God continues to work on moving me forward. No more looking behind to find myself but setting my eyes on Him who’s known me all along.  Maybe you have some cleaning out to do like I do.  Will you join me in releasing the stuff of life so that we can begin to store our treasures right where they belong; the only place “where moths and rust cannot destroy them.”

 

Joining Suzi Eller for #livefreeThursday where her prompt this week is “It’s just stuff”. (Oh so timely for me!) Want to read more?  Jump over to http://www.tsuzanneeller.com to see what others are saying!

 

 

 

M’m! M’m! Monday 5/16/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

Is it Monday again already?  Time passes so quickly these days it seems! I’m sorry I missed last Monday.  I was lucky enough to be babysitting my little grand.  He’s mobile now so needless to say my attention was on him ( and his keen interest in the dog’s water) and not on my keyboard.

Being in church on Mother’s Day with my daughter, son-in-love, and grandson brought me such joy.  As part of the service they recognized the oldest mother present in the congregation.  (She was eighty-eight.)  Then they asked for the youngest mom and it turned out to be MY daughter!  Boy, talk about overwhelmed with feelings!!! I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see my baby girl taking care of her own baby!  It’s a feeling so amazing that I find it hard to put into words (and you know I love my words)!

Having Hannah standing beside me as the congregation applauded her took me back to being a young mother myself. I remember being so tired that I didn’t think I could do one more thing; but I did.  I can remember feeling afraid I would make mistakes; of course I did. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love that I thought I might cry; and yes, I did that too.  Pulled in every direction: home, school, church, community; there were times I didn’t think I could handle it all…..and some days I didn’t, but some days I did!

Being a mom and now MiMi is my greatest blessing!  It isn’t easy. And for those of you just starting out like Hannah, I’d love to tell you it gets easier….but it doesn’t, just different.  I think back now and wish I’d lingered in the everyday just a little longer.  I wish I’d soaked in the tiny hand hugs and sticky kisses just a little more deeply. I wish I’d prayed more, read more nursery rhymes, and said fewer words out of anger.

My grandparents used to tell me that the older you get, the faster time seems to go.  I didn’t understand back when I was a young mom and wife, but I’m living it now! Whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, or friend I remind you to cherish each moment you’re given! Good, bad, ups, downs, happy, sad….life happens so quickly and all too soon you’re looking back and wondering where that young person went and how the person in the mirror could possibly be you!

I remember one thing about being a young mom very clearly and that was suppertime!  By the time I’d worked all day and picked the kids up from the sitter, making dinner felt like slaying Goliath!  Those were the days of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Hamburger Helper. Spending time now with my kids, I know the challenges for young families are the same today, if not greater, and I must admit I still like a quick meal too! So for those of you feeling stretched thin, overwhelmed, or like me; just like easy, I thought I’d share another easy chicken recipe that takes about as much prep time as Kraft Mac & Cheese and the clean up is easy, too!

Well, now that I’m the grandparent I’ll tell you to sit down with your family or friends around your table, say a prayer, enjoy some good, easy food, talk, laugh, and hold tight because you’ll find out that time passes in a blink of an eye, like I did!

Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice (I used Minute and it worked fine-maybe not quite as firm)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen(thawed) broccoli florets ( I used frozen because it was easy)
  • 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs (I didn't use quite this much)
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (or cheddar if you prefer)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a bowl, mix soup, water, rice, broccoli and onion powder together and pour into a 9 X 13 pan.
  • Lay chicken on top of rice mixture and season with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumbs on the top of the chicken and rice mixture.
  • Cover pan with foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Uncover, top with cheese and replace foil. Let stand on counter for 5 minutes to let the cheese melt.
  • Serve with fresh fruit or a salad.
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A Light in the Dark ~ A Living Hope Story

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:15 (NLT) Pixabay

This is the fourth in a series of miraculous true stories about Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya.  Stories that share the divine inspiration and dedication to helping students of poverty, who once had no hope, reach their full potential.

When Marilyn returned to her storage building classroom she found things much as she had left them. The teacher she’d hired before she left and her freshman class welcomed her back. She embraced her role of teacher again right away. They spent long days together in the dark shed using every moment of daylight they could for learning.  The students flourished academically and they developed a respect and admiration for Marilyn.

Because the students and Marilyn ate and slept at Rehema Orphanage, she encountered the Director regularly.  He was an influential man who flaunted his position, wearing suits while those around him wore meager clothing. He owned a car while others walked for miles. His quarters were equipped with running water while the children in his care had to haul theirs.  Marilyn suspected he’d been the one to take the money she’d donated instead of using it for firewood. As time passed, the Director couldn’t hide his jealousy of Marilyn’s success.  He also made it clear that he knew about her bank account and he coveted that money.  The situation became so unbearable she knew she had to find a way out!

When Marilyn heard of an empty building down the road, she planned to leave with the kids in the dark of  night to find it.  Once again, God had a better plan!  “Unexpectedly,” the Director was called away from the orphanage in the middle of the day.  Taking advantage of his absence, Marilyn packed everything she could and with her partner teacher, led their 25 students away from the only home they’d ever known. In the light of the afternoon sun the students and teachers walked four miles until they came upon a long, abandoned, mud building. Peering through one of the many doors that lined the hut, Marilyn discovered it was much like looking into a cave.  The inside was dark and the air was damp.  There were no windows, no electricity, no bathroom, no water of any kind, dirt floors, with small spears of light piercing the darkness through holes in the old, rusty metal roof. What was she going to do?  A kind looking gentleman and a gruff looking, wild-haired woman approached the worried teachers and their exhausted students. After some negotiation, the old man and his wife agreed to rent the dilapidated building to Marilyn at a reasonable price. Unpacking began and soon the two rooms on each end of the building were designated as the dormitory rooms, boys on one end, girls on the other. The two middle rooms became classrooms leaving only a small space for each teacher.  School was back in session.

All was not smooth sailing, however.  Marilyn was on her own in an unfamiliar place, conditions were primitive, and she was now a teacher/mother to 25 teenagers. She was also receiving threatening messages from the Director she’d left behind.  He found subtle ways to instill fear into the students and teachers.  He attacked her confidence and caused her to doubt her ability.  Finally, when he went as far as sending one of his workers to lie in wait for the opportunity to run Marilyn off the road; she’d had enough!  She rallied the students and together they began to pray as they never had before, asking God to put the “devil” behind them! Those dark days soon faded as their prayers were answered and the threats stopped. The challenges however, kept right on coming. Marilyn was quickly learning that starting a school literally from the dirt up entailed much more than just buying books.  Basic things like pots and pans, mattresses, food, and kerosene lamps needed to bring light to their dark rooms, were just the beginning. Her dwindling savings account was a reminder of the enormity of this undertaking.  On top of that, the landlord was unable to make the needed improvements so Marilyn found herself building a latrine, patching holes, AND teaching the students!  It soon became clear, that if she was truly going to establish a school she had to have more space! Marilyn didn’t know how she’d find her way; but God had been her light in the dark many times before and she had faith He’d show her the way this time, too.

~copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma Kenya

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)