Category Archives: Gratitude

M’m! M’m! Monday 10/10/16

"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 the Little Things

Challenging times can cause me to have vision problems. Oh, I can see just fine… but I find myself focusing on the big (or perceived big) hurdle ahead and I miss the gift of little things. Ever been there?  So today, I’m trying to take notice of those little things God has recently brought my way:


~A
friend’s offer to sit with me during the demolition of our house
~Familiar birds at my newly moved bird feeders

~Offers to help with my laundry
~An entertaining chipmunk outside my temporary kitchen window
~Kind, reassuring words
~The support of our children
~A car that’s dependable (ever think about that?)
~Safe travel
~Time with my grandson
~A patient husband (and believe me, he’s needed to be)
~Answered prayer
~Brightly colored leaves against an even brighter blue sky
~Music that touches my soul
~Time to type a list of little things…

It occurs to me as I reread my list, that maybe these things aren’t so little after all; for it’s through these gifts that we recognize God’s presence. Whether you’re lost in the midst of a storm, finding your way in the dark, navigating a hard road, or in a time of wait and see like me; seek out the little (or not so little) things that remind us that when we are blinded by worry, we’re not walking alone.  We have a guide who will see us through!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)

And now for a “little” recipe….

Little because it has few ingredients, takes little time to prepare, and there’ll only be a little left because it’s so good!  I know when you read this recipe you might question it, but I promise it’s my husband’s most requested dish (even on his birthday!) and everyone I’ve ever served it to has cleaned their plate. It’s been in my family since I was a “little” girl (that’s a loooong time), given to my mom by our neighbors, the Irons family.

Iron Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. lean hamburger
  • 0nion, chopped
  • 1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
  • 1 can Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • 1 soup can full of milk
  • Hamburger Buns

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, brown hamburger and chopped onion over medium heat breaking meat apart like making sloppy joes.
  • Drain, if necessary. (I like to use hamburg with 7% fat to avoid this step)
  • In bowl, combine soups and milk. Stir to make smooth sauce.
  • Pour sauce into skillet over meat. Stir.
  • Simmer until bubbling, stirring occasionally.
  • Lay opened hamburg buns on a cookie sheet, inside up. Place in oven under the broiler until golden brown. Keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn. (You can also use your toaster if you have a bagel setting)
  • To serve: lay bottom of bun on plate, spoon meat mixture over bun. Add top of bun and place another spoonful of meat mixture over it all.
  • Eat with a fork to get it all....you won't want to leave even a ....little!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.myseaofthought.com/2016/10/10/mm-mm-monday-101016/

 

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! Mmmmm-uesday!

"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

So, me and this Monday thing are just not working out! Somehow I keep missing it!  Retirement’s to blame, I think.  It’s taken a while but, I’ve finally reached the point where Sunday night stress doesn’t set in anymore and so…. I now hardly recognize Monday. (I’m sorry to all you young working people out there. Don’t worry I remember what it’s like and it makes not getting up to go to work everyday oh, so much sweeter! Don’t despair! It’s what you have to look forward to!)

I’m excited to report that one of  the last members in my circle of teacher friends retired in June! Now we are all hoping to spend a lot more time together…..OUTSIDE of school! Between us, we have well over 200 years of teaching experience.  That’s a lot of lesson plans and hours supporting each other through tears, laughter, frustration, achievement, sickness, health, bad days, good days, bad years, and good years. We’ve been sounding boards, cheerleaders, advocates, listening ears, and so much more for each other. Anyway, now it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday or the weekend; we are overjoyed that we can get together whenever we want to!

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Whether you’re retired like us, close enough to be counting down the days, or just starting out; don’t forget to “rejoice”!  It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday of life (even for us retired folk) that we miss out on the everyday of life. I’m speaking from experience so listen to your elder……Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, trying. Yes, sad, scary, and hard! It’s also short. Don’t. Forget. To. Rejoice. Dinner with your family, a call from your mom, reading a bedtime story, a hug, a touch, a rainbow, a car that works, pets, a dishwasher, and a million other things!

Yep, I missed posting on Monday, BUT I’m not going to miss out on finding reasons to rejoice no matter WHAT day it is!  And for starters, here’s a delicious reason! In honor of my dear friend’s retirement, I’m going to share one of her recipes that’s also one of my favorites! Enjoy and….I’d love for you to go to the comments section and let me know what you’re rejoicing in today!

Robin Ann's Squash Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of yellow summer squash, cubed
  • Small-medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of Minute Rice (uncooked)
  • 1 can Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Grated cheddar cheese to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook squash and onion in a small amount of water until soft.
  • Drain excess water. (I leave a little in)
  • In a bowl, mix together rice, soups, and squash/onion mixture.
  • Put in a 9 X 13 greased pan.
  • Top with cheese.
  • Bake 30-40 minutes.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.myseaofthought.com/2016/07/12/mm-mm-mmmmm-uesday/

This is a perfect recipe for this time of year as the Summer Squash are ready to pick right now!  I’ve thought about adding ham to this recipe but haven’t tried it yet.  We just had it as a side dish with grilled steak and fresh strawberries! Did I mention REJOICE?

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.

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.

 

Plumbing 101

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-think about such things.'  Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-think about such things.’
Philippians 4:8-9

It’s been cold, no frigid here lately! There’s been snow, wind, and ice! Our furnace has run overtime and the house still isn’t warm. It’s been so cold that we’ve had to leave the water in our faucets moving so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. The song of drip, drip, drip filled the house and it also got me thinking. My husband likes to tell me; “you’ve got to watch that thinking”, even so I do a lot of it these days. Anyway, in the midst of churning thoughts in my little mind, I wondered how we can keep our own pipes from freezing?

In today’s world it’s easy for me and I would guess for you too, to let our hearts become hardened, frozen if you will. We help others only to find it was a scam. We need help but no one comes to our rescue. We do our best yet our efforts go unnoticed. People we respect disappoint us. We disappoint others. Senseless violence and hatred fill the news and maybe our lives. Little by little our defenses go up, our enthusiasm diminishes, the flow of love and compassion slows as our heart slowly solidifies.

The Bible warns us about having a hard heart. Having a hardened heart clogs up our ears so we don’t really listen and shuts up our eyes so we don’t clearly see . Our lives lose joy and we move through our days on autopilot. Our feelings become frosty and backed up. No longer do we function as we were designed to. It is a bleak, bitter place to be.

So, back to my question. How do we keep our own pipes and hearts from becoming frozen? Believe it or not, I think the answer is the same for us as it has been for the plumbing in my kitchen sink. First, we must keep moving in the right direction. Even when everyone and everything around us tells us to stop, we must continue to drip, drip, drip:
Do right
Resist quitting
Invest in others
Pray, Praise, and find your Passion.

In addition to keeping the water dripping, I also opened the cupboards so that warm air from the furnace could surround the pipes. We too, must be open to the warmth around us. Whether it’s generated by the love of our family, caring friends, the beauty of nature to name a few, we must not close ourselves off from the glowing possibilities around us.

Finally, in my attempt to keep the water running, I closed all the blinds to put a barrier between the rooms and the threatening temperature outside. Pulling a blind is easy compared to turning a blind eye to the grim side of life, but I find when I’m focused on the cold, harsh happenings around me I tend to develop a frosty attitude, freezing me in my tracks and making it pretty much impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile. I was blessed today to hear an excellent sermon on this very thing. (I love when God does that!) The message of the sermon was to seek out the positive. Look for the good in people and situations even when they are small and hard to find. The message also included the importance of acknowledging our blessings and expressing our gratitude for each one. And maybe most importantly, sharing our positive attitude with others. The lesson isn’t an easy one. It’s something I’ll have to work at everyday but I truly believe it’s the secret to keeping our hearts on fire and being able to radiate that warmth into a chilly world that desperately needs it. And who knows? Maybe our spark will ignite a flame in those around us and before we know it, we’ll feel the hope of Spring and our plumbing problems will be solved!

Wonder as You Wander

"Wisdom Begins in Wonder" Socrates

“Wisdom Begins in Wonder” Socrates

While glancing through my husband’s recent issue of “Reader’s Digest”, I ran across the story entitled “A World of Wonder”. It is described as an “Appreciation in Words and Photographs”. In honor of that cover story the editor listed things that have filled her with wonder and it got me thinking…..What fills ME with wonder? So, after much pondering and in no order of importance here are twenty things that have filled me with wonder lately:

1. My baby girl having a baby
2. The rhythm and song of the sea
3. The colors, sounds, and dynamics of birds at my feeders
4. The glistening, crystal world created by ice on trees
5. Strength given to people in crisis
6. Bulbs that lay dormant underground and then at the perfect moment burst forth into the sunshine
7. The unbreakable bond with my sisters
8. The utter silence after a snow storm
9. Pure and perfect artistry found in nature
10. Holding hands with a child
11. My son’s faith
12. The effect of music on my soul
13. How as teachers we can predict the weather by our students’ behavior
14. The life cycle of a butterfly
15.  That no matter how old I get I still need my mom
16. The smell of a bookstore
17. Reading the same piece of scripture and finding something new and meaningful each time
18. Notes left for me on the kitchen counter
19. The infinitude of stars visible on a clear night
20. Grace

The amazing thing is I could list 20 more and then 20 more. I find the longer I focus my attention on those things that defy logic and common sense. Those things that are beyond my understanding and those things that just leave me speechless, the longer my list becomes. The homey smells of bacon and coffee. Friendships that last a lifetime.  A brand new box of crayons.  Happy tears….. Life is full of wonder if we just take the time to notice. Think about how different our world would be if we shifted our attention to wonderful things instead of noticing our differences, the negatives, and the disappointments around us. Just as Liz Vaccareillo, editor of “Reader’s Digest”, challenged her readers to make their own list, so I challenge you, my readers, to stop, look around, and recognize those things in your life that fill YOU with wonder. I think you may be surprised at how many there are and the difference identifying them makes on your outlook. We live in an amazing world surrounded by miracles every day. Why don’t you begin today to Wonder as you Wander through yours.

Scoop’in Frogs

Scoop'in Frogs

Scoop’in Frogs

Well, I had a new experience this week.  Something I’ve never done before.  What was it you ask?  For the first time ever (and maybe last) I scooped dead frogs, eight to be exact, out of my daughter’s pool. Now, I’ve had the reputation as “the teacher who loves frogs” and it is true, I loved to decorate with frogs, but touching them?….that’s another story….AND a fact I never let the kids know.  So, to see motionless frogs with their little arms stretched out, floating on the clear pool water was just a little disconcerting for me.  Wanting to be a helpful mother however, I ignored my squeamish stomach, bravely grasped the pool net, scooped those bloated, gelatinous amphibians out of the water and launched them over the fence where they plopped right onto their final resting place.  I’m sure that wasn’t the plan they had when they jumped into the cool, evening water.

I don’t know what caused the demise of those poor frogs.  Chlorine maybe or smothering under the solar cover.  Whatever it was wouldn’t have happened though if they hadn’t been somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. How like us humans is that?  We see something we want and ignoring the consequences we dive right in after it.   Food?  Relationships?  Spending?  The list goes on and on and it’s different for all of us.  We’ve all been there.  We want what we want.  Just like bugs to a light or frogs to a pool, we leap in head first after the bright and shiny, rich and juicy, attractive and available ignoring common sense or the voice of reason setting off alarms in our heads.  At that split second before impact we sometimes realize things might not be as they seemed, but it’s too late.  Splash! We are in over our heads.

I’m also curious why the frogs wandered to the swimming pool in the first place when there is a beautiful stream flowing nearby.  Were they misguided by the notion that what they had wasn’t good enough or did they blindly follow the frog crowd? Whatever the reason they’d been better off staying where they belonged.  We too, often overlook our blessings and presume that we deserve more.  Listening to popular culture we are led to believe there is a better way than our way.  I have fallen for these mistruths more times than I’d like to admit.  For example, while focusing on what I wish to weigh I have forgotten to be thankful for the food I have.  When worrying about whether my clothing is in style or the right brand I lack gratitude for my full closet. And so on and so on.  Wanting more leads to wanting more until we can become so weighted down with our wants that we sink in despair.  It is a lesson I need to take to heart and wish I could have learned sooner!

As fall quickly approaches I am challenging myself  to not wait until November but to have an attitude of Thanksgiving NOW! I am going to purposely look for blessings in everyday things. I want to express gratitude to those who are “hopping” along this journey with me.  I want to embrace who I am and where I belong.

Scoop’in frogs again isn’t in my future anytime soon but I am going to try to scoop up blessings until my net overflows. What about you? Have you thought about having an “attitude of gratitude”? Now’s the time!  Jump on in the water is fine! (if you’re not a frog that is)