Monthly Archives: May 2016

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?

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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

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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)

 

His Perfect Plan

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This is the third 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 we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for him.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

Marilyn knew that her answer to God’s call was back in Kenya, yet here she was on the other side of the world in Tennessee. Summer had ended and responsibilities forced her return.Her job at school, her house, her truck, and her beloved dog, Jesse, all things she was grateful for, had drawn her away from the children she loved and the make-shift high school she’d planted and cultivated.

Although others were skeptical about the voice Marilyn had heard in her kitchen, she didn’t waver in her conviction that God had spoken to her.She didn’t pretend to understand why He had chosen her or how He was going to use her; but she knew without a doubt that somehow He would be sending her back to Kenya.

As teachers often do, Marilyn began preparing in advance, both mentally and educationally for the new school year. A few days into her preparations she received an unexpected visit from the Superintendent of schools. Sitting in the same chair she’d been sitting in when she’d heard God’s call, she now listened to another voice; this time telling her that because of federal cutbacks there were no financial means to continue the Behavior Disorder Program Marilyn had been in charge of.The news didn’t stop there though.Marilyn was also the lowest on the seniority list and so not only was her program being terminated, so was she. A sense of panic began to take hold. She had house and truck payments to make! So, without much of a plan Marilyn embarked on a frantic job search.

Despite her best efforts, Marilyn’s job hunt came up empty. The only option now was to try to sell her house so she’d have a little money to live on until she knew what to do next. Not wanting to put off the inevitable, Marilyn began painting every room in her little house and laying down new flooring. Boxes began stacking up as she started packing her belongings. The improvements on the inside being almost finished, Marilyn headed out to her flower beds where she’d so often found respite. Weeding, working the soil, and planting colorful flowers brought a much needed peace to her soul. It also caught the attention of one of her friends who inquired about what was going on. Marilyn told her the whole story and before she had barely gotten the last word out, her friend excitedly exclaimed that she was looking for a new home and that Marilyn’s would be just perfect!

While the paperwork for the sale of her house progressed, Marilyn knew she couldn’t afford to keep her truck. She’d need something smaller, older, and more economical if she was going to get by on a tight budget. Soon after the “For Sale” sign was placed in the window, Marilyn was placing the keys into the hand of its new owner. No job, no house, no truck. It was just her and her faithful companion. Feeling restless, she called Jesse to follow her outside. She needed fresh air to clear her thoughts. Marilyn threw the frisbee. Jesse leaped into the air catching the disc before it hit the ground and returned it to Marilyn. The two continued this familiar game until suddenly Jesse jumped up but missed the frisbee and fell to the ground. He lay motionless cradled in Marilyn’s arms. Oh, how she loved this dog! He’d always been there for her even when people hadn’t. He’d listened to her, comforted her, accepted her. Now here they were sprawled in the grass: Jesse, unable to move physically and Marilyn, unable to move emotionally. Four days later, Jesse died.

Marilyn sat in her chair at the table straining to hear the voice that had once filled her kitchen. Somehow in the silence His message was clear. She’d lost her job and then she’d found a buyer for her house, sold her truck, and lost her precious dog all within one week. She heard Him speaking to her as only He could… through His perfect plan. He’d called her for His good purpose; the children in Kenya. What had once drawn her away was now gone. She would return to Kenya as she knew she would but, what would His plan be once she arrived?

Copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

M’m! M’m! Monday 5/2/16

"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 doesn’t take much to excite me.  Something little can fill me with glee!  Something tiny like a Hummingbird!  Each spring I wait with great anticipation to hear the buzz, buzz (or hum, hum I guess) of their wings and to catch the first glimpse of their quick movements among the limbs of my pine tree.  This year has been no different and I’m happy to report the feeder is out and guests have arrived!  My other feeders are busy too, as pairs of Cardinals, Nuthatches, and Finches flit in and out. It’s nesting time and the trees are alive with activity!

I always love it when my “nest” is busy too! Whether it’s having my mother-in-love for dinner, craft night with the girls, or having all the beds in the house filled with our kids and their families; I’m one happy “ole bird” when I have others to feed and take care of!

Anyone who knows me will tell you that breakfast is my favorite meal.  I love making (and eating) a big french toast brunch for my family on Saturday mornings or pancakes and bacon for supper on a cold winter evening. Breakfast foods are nectar to my soul!  They’re favorites I come back to time and time again!

The recipe I want to share with you today is for Breakfast Bird’s Nests.  It takes breakfast from the griddle to the muffin tin AND they are great anytime of day! You can make them ahead of time, change up what you add to suit your taste, and they’re easy grab as you “fly” out the door!  I hope you enjoy!

Breakfast Bird's Nests

Ingredients

  • Frozen shredded hash browns (30 oz)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 8 slices bacon, fried and crumbled (I used more because I LOVE bacon)
  • Additional cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and generously grease 2 muffin tins (24 muffin cups)
  • Mix hash browns, salt, pepper, oil, and 2/3 cup cheese together in a bowl and then divide between prepared muffin cups. Use fingers to shape into nests with hollow middles.
  • Bake 15-18 minutes or until hash browns are browned on the edges and cheese is melted.
  • While baking, whisk eggs and water until combined; season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Once browned, remove pans from oven.
  • Pour an equal amount of egg mixture into each nest; sprinkle with bacon and a teaspoon of additional cheese.
  • Return to oven and bake 13-16 minutes until eggs are set.
  • Let cool in pans. Remove by slicing a knife around the outside of each nest.
  • These can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated to eat anytime!
  • Experiment with different meats, maybe mushrooms, peppers...the sky's the limit!
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