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Welcome to my corner of the world. I believe our experiences are not only for our benefit, but should be shared. I hope you will find something in my journey to encourage and inspire you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walking by faith



This is a very challenging time for me. Our youngest has started college and our older children are beginning to step out on their own. I've spent twenty five years raising our family and now I need to find what God is leading me to do with the next twenty five years. I've been anxious and unsettled about the future because I want to see what my life will look like years from now instead of  looking for what God is asking me to do today. I'm living by sight, not by faith.

When I think about living by faith, I think of Abraham’s journey with God which was filled with times when he had to walk by faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith this way: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (NASB)

Abraham's life reveals the way to follow God a day at a time. Only the eyes of faith could see that seemingly impossible things would come to pass in Abraham and Sarah’s lives. I can’t imagine having to leave my home and family to follow God to an undisclosed land. He must have met tremendous  resistance from his family and friends. How many times was he tempted to give up and turn back as the difficulties of the journey overwhelmed him?

Not only did God promise Abraham land, but numerous descendants. Abraham and Sarah were already old. That must have seemed impossible, but Abraham chose to believe God when there was no human way for them to have a child. When they finally had their precious son who restored laughter to their lives, God told Abraham to sacrifice him. The Bible doesn't reveal his internal struggle, but it must have been fierce. Why would God give this child only to take him away? Without Isaac, how would the promise be fulfilled? Abraham trusted God, believing in resurrection long before it had been seen.

Faith wasn’t dependent on anything Abraham had to offer, or on his limited human abilities. Faith depends only on how trustworthy the object of our faith is. God’s promises are always true – He is completely trustworthy and faithful. If we have enough faith, we will trust Him for everything. Because we have a God who is always faithful, we have no need to fear. This requires keeping our eyes on God and not our circumstances. My anxiety can be a thing of the past if I learn to walk by faith.

God had a plan. He knew what was on the horizon even though Abraham couldn’t see what was to come. God revealed His plan to Abraham a little at a time, when the time was right. Abraham trusted and took one step at a time.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

He has a plan for my life too. And He will reveal His plan as I need to know the details. I can choose to trust and follow Him in faith and help bring His plan to pass, or I can walk by sight and fumble around in anxiety and insecurity hindering God’s plan. It is up to me.

Keith and Kristyn Getty's song By Faith shares how the theme of faith is woven through God's word. The chorus says:

We will stand as children of the Promise.
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul's reward.
'Til the race is finished and the work is done.
We'll walk by faith and not by sight.

Here is the video of the entire song:


Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Better Marriage Requires a Better Me



We live in a microwave culture. We want everything NOW! We eat fast food, and get angry when we are stuck behind someone driving the speed limit. Texting and the internet allow us instant communication. And we want instant results when our lives need to change.



I’m working through Enhancing Your Marriage by Judy Rossi right now with a bunch of ladies over the internet. The strange thing about this study is that we are beginning week 4 and still haven’t learned anything about marriage. I was skeptical at first, but as I have taken time to consider my own spiritual life, I’ve realized that my marriage can’t grow much if I don’t change and grow first.



When I see attitudes and character qualities in my life that need to change, I think I should be able to pray a quick prayer and presto – the fruit of the Spirit will be perfectly lived out. I have spent so many years asking God to change my heart and mind without seeing the results I expected.



OK, until the last couple of years, I was trying to change in my strength instead of trusting God to change me. I still clung to my pride and selfishness. I wanted to change some or only in some areas. That just isn’t how God works. He asks for all of our heart and soul and mind and strength.



As I have learned to yield to Him, I have still been frustrated by how easily I fall into old habits. I still want that quick fix. As I read Exodus this week there was a verse that I hadn’t noticed before. (Does that happen to you too? A verse jumps out at you that you have read a hundred times before and never noticed.)



“Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (23:30) God was going to remove the inhabitants of the Promised Land, but not all at once. If He did, wild animals would have taken over much of the territory. If God worked little by little, the population of the Israelites would increase so they could inhabit all of it.



The same is true of our spiritual lives. If God revealed everything that needed to change at once, we would be overwhelmed and give up. So God works like a sculptor, patiently chipping away at a piece of marble until a masterpiece is revealed. When I look back over the last couple of years, I see how I have changed and grown. No, I am not where I think I should be, but I’m not the person I was either. God continues to work. “He says trust me. If I brought you into this, I’m going to bring you through it. JUST DO AS I COMMAND AND WATCH ME REVEAL MYSELF.” (Judy Rossi)



So I will give God my life and my obedience and will trust Him to change me in His time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cheeseburger Soup

On this bitterly cold day, it seems like a good time to share this hearty soup recipe. Cold, dreary days make me long for the comfort of a hot bowl of soup. This is our middle daughter's favorite dinner. I did not anticipate how emotional I would be when I made it for her last week. I won't be able to make it again for her for a while since she just got married and moved out of state. 

The first step is to brown the beef and soften the vegetables with the basil and parsley in a large pot over medium heat. If your family doesn't like basil, substitute oregano or leave it out altogether.




Then add the chicken broth and potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Mix the flour into 1/2 cup of cold water in a small jar with a tight fitting lid (or combine with a whisk in a small bowl).








 Add the flour, water mixture to the soup stirring constantly until the soup thickens. Turn the heat back to low and add the remaining ingredients except the sour cream. Heat, stirring occasionally until the cheese is melted. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sour cream. I serve this soup with rolls and fresh fruit or carrots and celery.

To make the soup in a slow cooker: Brown and drain the ground beef and add it to the slow cooker with the vegetables, parsley, basil, chicken broth and potatoes and cook on low for four to five hours. Turn slow cooker to high and bring to a boil, add flour mixed with 1/2 cup water and stir until thickened. Stir in the milk, cheese, salt and pepper and continue cooking and occasionally stirring until cheese is melted. Turn off heat and stir in sour cream.  

To freeze the soup: I don't like the texture of potatoes that have been frozen, and sour cream tends to separate when it has been frozen so I don't freeze the completed soup.  The way I get around this is to double the beef, vegetables and herbs and cook them as for the original recipe. At this point, I remove half of the mixture and cool before placing it in a zip top bag and freezing it. This does make assembling the soup quite a bit quicker. You could simply double the recipe and freeze half if these aren't issues for you.

 Cheeseburger Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrot, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups water and 3 bullion cubes)
4 cups potatoes, cubed (1 3/4 pounds)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
8 ounces American cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

Brown ground beef over medium heat in a dutch oven, drain.  Add vegetables, parsley and basil and saute until tender.  Add broth and potatoes; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Mix flour with water, stir into boiling soup.  Cook and stir for two minutes.  Reduce heat to low.  Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper, cook and stir until cheese melts.  Remove from heat; blend in sour cream.

8 servings (about 10 cups)

Friday, November 8, 2013

What is love?

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Has there ever been someone you have struggled to love? A family member? One of our daughters has been a challenge for me pretty much from the start. We thought our family was complete with three children, but God knew that with three children, it was too easy for me to rely on myself instead of leaning on Him. 

I was head over heals in love with our fourth child, knowing that she probably would be our last. She was (and still is) funny and filled with joy. Along with her Daddy, she was challenging me to be less serious. Then her determined nature began to show itself. I should have known we were in for quite a ride when she was about eighteen months old and told me "No, that!" as I took an outfit from the dresser that she did not want to wear.

The more I did things that seemed loving - an extra story, letting her choose an outfit, ... - the more she wanted. I said no to more in an effort to preserve my sanity. Then she became more difficult and I felt my heart start to harden towards her. At some point I realized love isn't always pretty, sometimes it has to say no, stand firm, and endure the backlash. I just didn't know how to love this little girl God gave us to raise.

What is love anyway? Is it mushy, gushy feelings?  Is it just feelings of deep affection for someone? It really goes far beyond feelings. Jesus tells us to love our enemies! You can't do that on feelings alone. I think God's love is based on the high value He places on each person, the same value He wants us to place on people.

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God and that the second is like it - love your neighbor as you love yourself. I can try to do that, but my selfish nature really doesn't want to put much effort into loving others. I mean what have they done for me anyway?

Then in John 15:12, He gives a new commandment:
"...that you love one another, just as I have loved you."
That will look a lot different than loving as I love myself. And a lot better.

I know there is only one way to love like that - lay down all that I hold onto that gets in the way and let God love through me. That is scary. The things I hold onto are what keep this protective wall built around me so no one can see the insecure, frightened woman behind the "has it altogether" facade.

As I started to consider how God loves us and what that would look like if I live it out, I headed to my concordance. I just love research, digging into a topic to learn all I can. I searched for all of the places the Bible tells us about God's love.

I found some of its characteristics: it provides and protects, is just, merciful, everlasting, lavish, unchanging,  compassionate, sacrificial, tenacious, and for everyone.

Somewhere in the middle of all that study, all that knowledge I was trying to stuff into my head, I realized I had missed something vital:

God's love isn't learned by studying it.
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We learn how God loves by LOVING others and experiencing God's love ourselves.

I understand God's compassionate love when I walk through cancer with a friend.

I understand God's sacrificial love when I give up my desires in order to serve.

I understand God's unconditional love as we raise our children.

I've come to the conclusion that I don't really know how to love, not like God does anyway. If I want to know more about God's love, I have to let go of my fears (which usually are the result of my selfishness and pride) and just love people more. I can learn how to do that by watching those who really know how to love and by soaking up God's love letter to me.

It has been a rocky ride, but that little girl is eighteen now. She loves Jesus with all her heart and loves people, especially children. She has stretched me, often to the breaking point. Maybe that is the point - I have to be broken before I can love as God does. There have been many times I have cried out to God asking Him to teach me to love her - I'm still learning.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Emotional Transition - Life after being a full-time mom

The other day I took this mug out of the dishwasher and started bawling...


 because I didn't see these beautiful young ladies.

Photo by Gabrielle Handwerk

 Those grins made me think of these little girls who used to play and giggle as they ran through our home.


Photo by Dan Blackwood

The little blond is a college freshman and the brown-haired sweetie will graduate from college and get married in the spring.

This all left me wondering...

what's next for me.

I've been a full time mom for almost twenty five years. We home schooled for nine of those. The years when there were four (these cuties have an older brother and sister) little ones around my legs all wanting my attention at once were the most fulfilling years of my life so far. I was tired most of the time, and there were days that I wanted to quit, but my days were filled with purpose and joy. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was doing what I was made to do. 

And now as our house empties, I wonder where I am to pour all of the energy that went into nurturing and training our children.

Then that still small voice reminded me that my husband would love more of my time and attention. We have a good marriage and have worked to make time for each other, but it isn't the same as before kids. Then there are the friends who I've always longed to spend more time with. God will lead me if I trust Him to show me the way. 

And so I wept for:

 days gone by and the sweet little girls and boy who take part of me with them as they go,

and for the love in our daughter and her fiances eyes and a wedding that will give us another wonderful son,

and for joy as I look at who our children are and consider how God will use them to change their worlds,

and with fear as I wonder what employer will be willing to take a chance on a fifty plus year old whose only experience is managing our home and home school,

 and with  anticipation as I wait to see where God will call me next.

All of this makes me think of this quote:
E.E. Cummings

 I have more questions than answers right now, but I will trust that God has a plan and wait patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) to see where He leads.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

I'll confess before I say anything else - I Love Pumpkin! Pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin granola, pumpkin creme brulee, even pumpkin pie, but I don't like the crust. I'm making myself hungry. Here's another pumpkin recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. (This recipe is gluten free because it uses oats instead of flour. They are more dense and chewy than muffins made with flour, but just as tasty.)

These bars are moist and not too sweet., and closer to cake than cookies. The original recipe is from this cookbook that I have had for over twenty five years. I have used many of it's recipes in all of those years and definitely not just at Christmas. Even though I have always preferred savory foods to desserts, close to half of the recipes in my personal cookbook are desserts. I wonder why.

Note: I used the stoneware pan because my metal sheet pans that are the right size were in the dishwasher. This was a mistake. By the time the bars were cool enough to serve, they were overcooked and tough. I should have taken the pan out of the oven a few minutes early to adjust for the heat the pan holds - I wish I had thought of that before I baked them.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine flour, baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs, pumpkin, 1 ½ cups sugar, oil, and vanilla extract until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread in an ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Stir together remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool and cut into bars.

32 bars

Monday, September 30, 2013

Strength When You Are Weary










 
“Bless the Lord
O my soul
and all that is within me, praise His holy name...
Who satisfies your years with good things; 
so that
your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
Psalm 103:1, 5 (NASB)










These verses struck me last week. Wow! God fills my years with good which gives me strength. 

They also reminded me of this passage:
      "Do you not know? 
Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is beyond human reach. 
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 
Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; 
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Humans get tired. We get discouraged. We run out of energy. – That is part of the human condition. We are not created to take on life on our own. Our mortal bodies are weak and prone to wear out.

BUT:

Our infinite, immortal, everlasting Father knows that. IF we will call on Him, He will fill us with the energy and other resources we need to run this race called life well. We will be equipped for every challenge and prepared for the battle. Though we grow weary, He never does.

We do have to slow down long enough to talk to God and let Him fill us. We will have to acknowledge our inability to do everything for ourselves and recognize our dependence on Him; to confess our independence and self-sufficiency, and the PRIDE that keeps us from calling on Him.


  I will have to trust the people God has placed in my life with my heart (PRIDE gets in the way of that too when I don’t want anyone to see my weakness.) so God can use them to build me up. I struggle so much with that. I'm afraid if I let people see the real me with all my insecurities and faults that they won't like me or accept me. (Of course those are the very things that make me me.)

God could have created us to live and work independently of each other, but He didn't. We are created with an innate need for fellowship. He could supernaturally meet all of our needs, but He chooses not too. God often uses the family members and friends He has placed in our lives to encourage and strengthen us. I miss that blessing when I choose not to share my struggles with others.

Are you weary?
What is troubling you?
Turn to Jesus.