Sisters ~ Wise Wednesday 9/21/16

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It’s been there from the beginning.  That bond. The connection. Stronger at times than others, but always there…..sisterhood. I’ve recently returned from seeing my sisters. It was a quick trip, but being in their presence, even for a short time, fills an empty place in my heart. I’m lucky, no, blessed to have the two beautiful (inside and out) sisters that I do. They get me. They challenge me. They support me. They cheer me on.  We may be separated by miles but we share a relationship so close that when one of us is suffering, we all three experience the pain. Celebrating? Joy abounds! Sad….tears are shed in unison. My sisters are part of me as I am of them. We walk through life together sharing experiences, observations, frustrations, and victories. And laugh?  Oh my! Do we ever laugh! (mostly at each other and ourselves)  As the big sister of the family, I couldn’t be prouder of the women my sisters have become!  They truly are my “Gifts from God”!

“Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” Proverbs 31:25 (KJV)

Murunga’s Miracles: The Secret Weapon

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya could not happen without God. She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows. Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways even when she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Pixabay

Murunga’s Miracles:  The Secret Weapon

At times, Murunga still worried that he would wake up and the life he now knew would be nothing but a dream.  No longer would he be a graduate of Living Hope High School or a Hospitality Major in college. Thinking back to where he was just a few years ago to where he was now, felt almost too good to be true.

But here he was, on his detachment (internship) at the museum.  Murunga enjoyed the work and had so impressed the museum manager that he’d left Murunga in charge while he was away. Things were going smoothly until Murunga looked out the window.  What he saw sent chills down his spine and put fear in his heart.  FIRE! Smoke and flames rose from the grass down the hill from the museum and were headed his way.  Not knowing what to do, he picked up the phone and called the only person he knew he could depend on.

Marilyn listened to Murunga’s panicked voice on the other end of the phone line.  He quickly reported that he thought someone must have thrown a cigarette down and now the grass was ablaze.   She heard a click on the other end and Murunga was gone.

Not five minutes later Marilyn’s phone rang again.  The pitch of Murunga’s voice told her that the situation had worsened.  Words spilled rapidly as Murunga described what he saw out the museum window.  Not only had the fire grown but now the wind was whipping the flames in a path that led directly to him and the museum he’d grown to love. All he could think about were the ancient artifacts and precious pottery that would be lost, never to be replaced, if the fire reached the walls of the museum. Murunga needed a miracle and he needed it at that very moment!

Rushing outside, Marilyn found a large group of girls sitting together washing greens for supper.  She recounted all Murunga had told her.  They immediately put down the greens and with Marilyn, they began to pray together: some in English, some in Swahili, and still others in their own tongue.  They prayed fervently in unison, their voices becoming louder and louder with each word.

The ringing of Marilyn’s phone sent a hush through the group.  It was Murunga. In disbelief he announced that for no reason at all, the fire had died.  He couldn’t understand why the flames that had been furiously consuming the dry, brittle grasses had suddenly gone out.  His confusion didn’t last long however, as Marilyn explained that she knew why the fire had been extinquished; they had used a “secret weapon”…..prayer.

That day has significant importance for Murunga, Marilyn, and the students.  Not just because God provided the miracle of extinguishing the fire, but also because it was the first time the “secret weapon” had been used.  Oh, prayer is a regular part of the day on the Living Hope campus, but on this day there was nothing regular about that prayer!  Those Spirit filled words lifted to Heaven-when everyone was praying for the same thing, at the same time, and determined not to stop until something happened-changed everyone. They gained a new understanding that together, their prayers are powerful!

The Secret Weapon is now a vital part of life at Living Hope High School.  Murunga continues to learn much as he works in the once threatened museum. But the most important lesson he’s gained is the knowledge that God offers us great power in prayer; a power we don’t use often enough; a power that can put out a fire in a field and at the same time light one in the souls of those who accept it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org

Wise Wednesday 9/7/16

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) / Pixabay

Funny how things work out. My last post compared a TV show ending with a season of my life coming to an end (“It’s a Wrap”) and today I actually watched the last show of a favorite series of mine. In this final episode, the writers “wrapped up” the life stage each character was in and let us get a glimpse of what new season awaited them.  If a wonderful show has to end, this was a perfect ending.

My wise words today come from the farewell lines of character, “Detective Vince Korsak” and oh, how they spoke to me!

“I hate endings, the truth is I hate beginnings too.  I like middles, the steady sameness- comfortable- forever. But, I know you don’t always get to pick when life changes so I have no choice but to embrace this and I’m going to make it the best version of the next step that I can.”

I so often find myself digging in my heels and clinging to the “steady sameness-comfortable-forever”, but we all know that isn’t how life works. Change happens! Our endings probably won’t be perfect and we may not have a clear vision of what’s to come; but whether you’re retiring like Detective Korsak was or walking into a new career, welcoming a baby or leaving your “baby” at college,  keeping pace with teenagers or slowing your stride to care for a parent, or even moving forward with tearing down an old house while waiting for a new one like me; let’s embrace the path we’re on and be determined to make it the “best version of the next step that we can!”

 

It’s a Wrap! (M’m! M’m! Monday in Disguise)

"The season has shifted and changed so I let go of what I am use to and walk bravely into the unknown because I know God is right beside me with each step." A Modern Day Ruth / Pixabay

“The season has shifted and changed so I let go of what I am use to and walk bravely into the unknown because I know God is right beside me with each step.” A Modern Day Ruth / Pixabay

“That’s a wrap!” Words often used to signal the end of a storyline or season of a T.V. show, but today they’re words reverberating around in my chaotic mind. Part of MY story, a season of MY life is wrapping up and I’m going to have to wait for the new season to begin to see how things work out.  Just so you know; I don’t like waiting……I don’t like change…….and I don’t like not being in control……even when the new season promises to be good, great even!

Our new house was ordered today.  I’m packing the remaining odds and ends and we’re moving out this weekend. In six to eight weeks our house should arrive and we’ll begin to write a new story; live a new season! That means in this in-between time we must say goodbye to our old, blue house. In the world of television the time between seasons is full of reruns and it’s no different really for me.  This time of farewell to our home of 18 years is sure to generate lots of memories to relive and retell.

I’m not really sure how to say goodbye to walls that protected our family and gave us space at the same time.  To let go of bedrooms where books were read, sleepover giggles quieted,  bedtime prayers whispered, and goodnight kisses shared. The upstairs porch with its once grand brick-a-brack railing , a place where little girls could get lost in their imaginations, will be hard to see go. Conversations while we ate together, games played, homework done, and Christmas cookies decorated made our dining room the heart of our home. As I sat this morning in “my chair”, a place made for lingering, a place that allows me to gaze out to our majestic pine tree and the bird feeders that hang there, a tightness formed in my chest as I realized that my view will never be exactly like this again.

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That’s life isn’t it? We take the familiar for granted and then it’s gone. We get caught up in the day to day and forget we are creating memories. We blink. Things change. WE change. The season ends.  

“For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-7 (NLT)

Yes, For now: “It’s a wrap!” It’s time to tear down. However, I’m so grateful it doesn’t end there.  It’s also a time to build – build a new house – build new memories – Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 goes on and says:

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.”

We all find ourselves leaving seasons behind and venturing in to new ones.  What a wonderful promise that even when we can’t see where they lead; God has the whole beautiful journey planned for us, all the way to eternity!  So let’s “wrap” ourselves in that! 

Now for this weeks recipe……I couldn’t miss this opportunity to share with you a tasty WRAP recipe!

 

Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbls. olive oil
  • 1 Lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C. BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2/3 C. pineapple tidbits
  • 1/4 of onion, chopped
  • 1-2 hearts of romain, chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh chopped cilantro
  • 4-5 large wheat or white tortillas (I used white)

Instructions

  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add chicken pieces to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring to be sure chicken is cooked through and a golden brown.
  • Remove pan from heat.
  • Add barbecue sauce and pineapple to the pan and toss with the chicken.
  • Warm tortillas.
  • On each tortilla, put a spoonful of chicken, sprinkle with cheese, onion, and romain.
  • Put cilantro on top. (I found this to be very strong and would not use near the amount again)
  • Roll burrito style and serve immediately.
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Miracles of Living Hope: Murunga’s Faith

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya could not happen without God. She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows. Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways even when she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Praise/ Pixabay

Murunga’s Faith

Murunga had come to Marilyn and Living Hope High School hoping for a new, promising future.  He was now a member of the first graduating class looking forward to attending college, but college takes money and money was something Murunga didn’t have.  That didn’t stop him from planning, however.  He had complete faith that God was going to work a miracle that would enable him to go on to school.

On the Sunday night before classes were to begin on Monday, Marilyn looked in on Murunga. She had given him a little money to buy new socks and under clothes. He had washed, ironed, and folded those and was singing as he packed them and his other clothes into his suitcase. The fact that he still needed over four hundred dollars….$476.00 to be exact…hadn’t chipped away at his rock solid faith.

Marilyn’s faith, on the other hand, was shaky.  She was worried that God was going to let Murunga down.  She considered anonymously paying the fees herself so God wouldn’t look bad to the young man. Marilyn just didn’t believe God would work it out at all. With a heavy heart she headed to the computer lab to catch up on her email.  There was a message from her sister, Helen; so she opened it and began reading.  Suddenly, she rose from her chair, went and woke one of the students telling him to wake all the others and gather in the computer lab in five minutes. The small, brick building quickly became jam packed with students, standing shoulder to shoulder inside, others crowding outside the door; all wondering why they were there.   Marilyn asked Murunga to sit down and read the email she’d received.  As he began reading he reported that someone had donated several pairs of tennis shoes to the school.  “That was nice.” Continuing, he read that a new sponsor had been found for a student in need. “Great news!” When he recounted the last of the email message, prayer and singing flooded the room!

As it turned out, Helen had attended Main Street United Methodist Church in Petersburg, WV that morning. She was not scheduled to speak during the service but, God had other plans..  Standing up, she made a plea for support for Murunga. The congregation graciously took up an offering and when the money had been counted, it was not the $476.00 he needed. No, it was $486.00!

Murunga, Marilyn, and the students continued to sing and dance for an hour; expressing overflowing joy that Murunga had received his miracle from God! Marilyn knew that she had been the “ye of little faith,” while Murunga’s faith had been unwavering.

The next morning before dawn, Murunga gathered up the bag he’d packed, no longer a high school student, he was now college bound.  The extra ten dollars raised at Main Street Church allowed him to purchase a bus ticket and even a rare bottle of water for the trip.  God knew exactly what Murunga needed; Murunga knew that God would find a way; Marilyn knew that the offering was a perfectly-timed miracle; and that Murunga’s great faith would serve as an example to her and to all who heard his story!

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

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 8/15/16

"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

What happens when opposites get together? I’m left handed, he’s right. He’s a morning glory, I’m a night owl. I love my music up loud, while he prefers the volume to be down low.   My husband and I are completely different in almost every way possible and after 33 years together, we STILL find ways that we contrast each other. Yes, night and day, up and down, left and right, Cindy and JD…..as unlike as can be! It reminds me of Paul when he was struggling with opposites in Romans 7:19:

“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (NLT)

Good and bad, right and wrong, somehow we find ourselves attracted to both! I can’t count how many times I’ve set out to do the right thing and only a short while later find myself doing the reverse. It’s not necessarily the big things that send me in the wrong direction, but rather those little, I know it’s not right but “maybe no one will know”, “what can it hurt”, “everyone else is doing it” kind of things that bring me straight to the same place that Paul was: in deeep “do do”! (do, do not do, do, etc.)

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Thank goodness God knew we’d need help! He doesn’t wait until we’ve got it all right.  He met Paul then and he meets us today, right where we are; even if it’s in messy, deep do do. There’s nothing more radically different than our sin and the perfection of Jesus! But….put those two opposites together and We. Have. Victory!

Sweet and Sour

Opposites: Sweet and Sour = Tasty

Like JD and I, today’s recipe takes two opposites, puts them together, and makes something great! I first had this dish while on a girl’s get away to the lake with my mom and sisters. The sweet pineapple, sour sauce, crisp vegetables, and juicy chicken make it a family favorite here! And it’s pretty too! So, remember in people and in food…..different can be good! Enjoy!

Lake Isabella Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups Minute Brown Rice, uncooked
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbls. all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbls. vegetable oil (I used Sesame oil for that oriental flavor)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas
  • 1 jar sweet and sour or duck sauce (2/3 cup) Found in the oriental cooking section of the store
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • sliced green onions (optional) I liked them!

Instructions

  • Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Measure reserved juice and add enough water to make 1 3/4 cups of liquid.
  • Prepare rice according to directions on the box using the juice/water mixture.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Toss chicken pieces in the flour.
  • Cook chicken about 5-7 minutes or until golden.
  • Add pineapple chunks, pepper, and snap peas and cook until slightly softened (3-5 mins.)
  • Add sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, and orange juice to mixture in pan. Cook until sauce begins to boil and thickens.
  • Serve over rice.
  • Top with green onions if desired.
  • Makes 4 servings.
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Running for Shelter

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“He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge..” 2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NAS)

 

“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!” Famous words spoken by the Big Bad Wolf in the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs”. (Second Grade teacher at heart and mind, remember?) Each Little Pig had built themselves a house: one of straw, one of sticks, and the last pig built his of brick.  As the story goes; the Big Bad Wolf is true to his word and blows the house of straw down.  The first Little Pig runs for shelter in his brother’s house of sticks.  After a visit from the Big Bad Wolf, the house of sticks lay on the ground and the two Little Pigs run for shelter in their brother’s house of bricks. Ending happily (for the pigs), the wolf huffs and puffs, puffs and huffs, and huffs and puffs again but is unable to blow in the house of bricks. The Three Little Pigs learned a valuable lesson….seek shelter in a solid place!

What about us? Where do we run for shelter when trouble is huffing and puffing all around? I don’t know about you, but I first tend to rush and dwell in my emotions. Whether sadness, anger, disappointment, fear, or whatever I’m feeling, I move in and try to become a permanent resident. In reality, I wallow. Taking longer than I hate to admit, it eventually becomes evident that like the Little Pig in the straw house, staying there while things are falling apart around me isn’t an option.

Where do I run for shelter next? You guessed it. The “stick house” of worry. Ever lodge there? Somehow I, and maybe you too, think that by residing with worry we’ll  be protected from all that lurks around us until WE can find a solution. Wringing hands, churning thoughts, spinning stomach, all become familiar roommates and if we stay too long we end up in a heap beneath the weight of our trouble.

I’m realizing that in times of trial, trying to find refuge in emotional “straw” or “twigs” of worry keeps me exhausted and hopeless as I’m battered by what’s raging around me. Surprisingly enough, I’m learning the same lesson as the Three Little Pigs! Stay with me…..Jesus said:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 (NIV)

There are always going to be “Big Bad Wolves” knocking on our doors. Even though they’re different for each of us our reaction is often the same…..to run for shelter.

The Pigs learned to seek shelter in a solid place and So. Should. We.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection, my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Psalm 18:2 (NLT)

Isn’t it comforting to know that even when we’re still living in places that so easily crumble; we have a fortress: a place of safety, a place that will not fall, waiting for each of us. Just as the Third Little Pig welcomed his brothers, God waits for us to find our refuge in Him. I wish I could say that I’ve left my straw and twigs behind and run straight to the house of brick every time. I’m working on it and reminding myself and you, that OUR happy ending comes when we’re running for shelter straight to the One who saves us!

“Running for shelter” is this weeks discussion at http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

 

Wise Wednesday 8/10/16

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Mine is on the “Most Wanted” list! 

Anyone else out there looking for a lost (stolen) dream and then realized YOU left the door unlocked so the thief could get in? These words have been a huge Ah-Ha for me! Procrastination is one of the biggest personal struggles I face!  I’d love any input/advice you have on “arresting” it ! Meet me in the comments!