Friday, June 29, 2012

Beauty Was Just Around the Corner

Recently, I ended my 90 day journey with David and started another 90 day journey, this one with John, the beloved disciple.  I was sad to wrap up the final lessons on David.  Yes, he was flawed.  Yes, his life held great successes but also devastating failures, as well as mistreatment from people who should have known better. However, through it all his soul was knit to God's.  He was a worshiper.  I am a worshiper.  And I was moved to read of David worshiping, even in his final days when it had all been said and done.

I am now 16 lessons into my 90 day journey with John (written by Beth Moore), and there is already so much I could tell you.  Oh, how I sometimes wish you could all pile in my living room and we could drink coffee, eat scones, and share what we have been learning from God's Word with no time limit or duties awaiting us!  For now, I'll choose to share one thing that spoke to me the other day.

The text was Luke 22:7-13.  The assignment was a Passover meal, and Jesus chose Peter and John to prepare it.  If you know anything about a Jewish Passover meal of this time, it would involve having to slaughter a spotless sacrificial lamb.  Later on, both Peter and John would refer to Christ as the Lamb. Perhaps their preparations of this last supper together would make Christ's fulfillment as our perfect sacrifice even more poignant.  John refers over 20 times to the Lamb in the Book of Revelation.  Peter wrote in I Peter 1:18-19,

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 

Beth pointed out that God can do anything he wants.  He could have prepared the supper himself.  Rather, "He sovereignly chooses to employ mortals to flesh out an invisible work in the visible realm."  

God uses people.

She went on to say, "If He gives us a task or assigns us to a difficult season, every ounce of our experience is meant for our instruction and completion if only we'll let Him finish the work."

How true.  Philippians 1:6 immediately came to mind.

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

She wrote of how as Peter and John prepared that Passover meal, they were privy to secrets that would become clearer to them as time passed.  God often works that way.  He doesn't always reveal everything to us immediately.  His work in us is often gradual.  

The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.  (Psalm 25:14)

One of my favorite moments of insight was this.  Beth wrote,

"Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God makes everything beautiful in its time.  I truly believe that if we're willing to see, God uses every difficulty and every assignment to confide deep things to us, and that the lessons are not complete until their beauty has been revealed.  I fear, however, that we have such an attention deficit that we settle for bearable when beauty was just around the corner."

I was caught by that.  We settle for bearable when beauty was just around the corner.

We allow fear, hurt, anger, bitterness, distractions, discouragement, exhaustion, and a myriad of other possibilities to let us miss the beauty.  If we would have just held on a little longer, let God complete His work, we would have seen it.  

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss the beauty.  Especially when it could be right around the corner.

Don't give up.  Hold on.  Let Him complete His work.  Then enjoy the view.

(images I captured on a recent visit to the gulf)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Good News Is...

The bad news is, a lightning strike hit our house a few days ago and our internet has been down, not to mention we now have several appliances to replace, including a garage door and washing machine.

Trying not to dwell on that right now.  

I am at my mom's house borrowing her internet to catch up with you for a minute.  Let me tell you, if I thought May was a busy time for our student ministry schedule, June is even busier.  We have been in full camp prep mode around here and camp is right around the corner! I am so excited, and have been praying for God to do mighty things in the lives of the students going.

And despite the bad news of appliances to replace and not a lot of communication with the outside world, there is some good news to report.

The good news is I have portable Almond Joy flavored coffee creamer.

Bring on the mediocre coffee in the outdoor eating area where we will be dining, triple high bunk beds and sleeping bags, late nights and action packed days with people less than half my age.

Packed or not, I am now officially ready for camp!

P.S. Would absolutely appreciate your prayers for this upcoming physical and spiritual journey and adventure!  Teenagers matter to God, and there is something special about camp that helps draw their attention to Him. Anticipating an amazing time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I wish I could be one of those bloggers who has a garden in her backyard and everything she cooks is homegrown and whole.  That would be pretty awesome.

But that is not our reality.

It might also be fun to be a blogger who after every weekend shares a new independent restaurant or two she dined in, posting pictures of delicious and unique (and costly) fare.

But that is not our reality either.

Here is our reality.

We are a mostly cook at home, eat at home family.  The majority of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks come right of our kitchen.  I know because I make them - and because I do the never ending stream of dishes! 

Eating out at restaurants is very rare.  Also rare are fast food runs (though we sometimes order pizza and you can bet we eat Chick-Fil-A every time we make a day trip to the beach!). I try to provide balanced meals and snacks on a budget to a family of four people, three of whom who have varying degrees of pickiness.  Ahem.  :)

I often have to do this in a hurry, though.  There are seasons that are extra busy and that is when it can get really tricky.  So I have definitely learned to take shortcuts to keep us eating at home.  I thought I'd share some of those shortcuts with you!

Take last Sunday afternoon, for instance.  I admit I didn't have a plan for a meal or the money to go out to lunch.  So after church, I ran into Publix hoping for some quick inspiration!  First stop, produce section.  Asparagus and lemon were on display, bagged spinach leaves were buy one, get one, and I picked up a bag of potatoes.  On the other side of the store I saw that they had rotisserie chickens on sale.  So there was a quick meal - when we got home I quickly chopped and boiled the potatoes to mash, sauteed the asparagus, and warmed the chicken in the oven to serve plain or on a spinach salad.  We had a filling lunch in about half an hour.  If I had to cook the chicken it would have taken much longer.

Another shortcut I use, even though it can be slightly more costly, is prepped and washed fruit.  We are crazy for these apple slices around here!  Trevor in particular will gobble them up which is great since he is my pickier child.  They come in handy at lunch time, or with peanut butter as a snack, or right out of the bag when we are at Disney or other outings since I always pack our lunches.

This if for me, myself, and I since I can't seem to convince anyone else in my family to eat grapefruit. But I love it and boy is this easier and less messy than cutting up grapefruit, especially for a busy mom.

When the individual packets are on sale, I will pick some of these up too.  Fresh and fast!

Another shortcut snack I go to is almonds.  I often buy the large bags of plain almonds, but my mom knows I love these Wasabi and Soy almonds that have a serious kick, and she bought me some the other day when she saw them buy one, get one.  (Ice cold bottled Coca-Cola is optional, but definitely a good paring on a hot summer day!  Don't worry - my main beverage is water.  These are just my occasional and very much enjoyed treats!)

Another shortcut I use is this squeeze from the tube, reduced sugar jelly.  I never thought I would use such a thing!  But somewhere along the way, probably as I was making my 987th peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I thought I would give this a try and never looked back.  It saves a little time, a lot of stickiness, and has half the sugar of the regular Welch's jelly.  Probably costs a few more cents, but worth it to me.

I love to bake, as you know, and always enjoy trying new recipes.  But sometimes I go to muffin mixes for a shortcut, and the Fiber One Blueberry Mix is absolutely one of our family favorites!  The house smells amazing when they are baking and come out of the oven.  These don't last long in our house, and are a quick and easy breakfast.

I would like to give whoever invented steam-in-the bag vegetables a hug!!  This is another shortcut I use all the time, and is worth a little extra money to me.  No pot to clean and delicious, perfectly steamed veggies in a few minutes!  My very favorite is the broccoli florets.  Though I still can't convince my kids to eat broccoli (I continue to make valiant efforts), Jimmy and I eat these all the time. We also like the mini corn on the cob, regular corn, peas, and have even made the rice a time or two.

And speaking of frozen foods, every now and then I will trust the Gorton's fisherman for dinner.  This is what I call a "Better Than McDonald's" meal.  If we are in a super hurry, I'd rather throw in some fish sticks, tots, and sweet potato fries than make a fast food run.  Fruit, canned green beans, or applesauce make for convenient side dishes. It's not fancy, or grown in my backyard, but it works.

Another shortcut meal I make now and then are sandwiches using Hormel Italian Beef.  Jimmy and I both love Italian Beef sandwiches and though these aren't as good as homemade or getting one from Portillo's in Chicago, they are actually pretty tasty. All you have to do is microwave the meat for four minutes.  I then put the meat on French hamburger buns with some of the au jus and provolone cheese, and put them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  The buns get crispy, the cheese melts, and my husband is super happy!!  One package makes 6 sandwiches and is around $5 at Walmart or when it goes on sale at Publix.

I made these for dinner Saturday night.

I made a quick corn casserole, then also added steam in bag broccoli and canned green beans on the side.

Not only do I rely on these types of shortcuts, but also simple recipes like these that I have shared here before...

Popover Pizza

And there are always good old standbys like spaghetti, tacos, and breakfast for dinner.

We are not always fancy.  I don't always have the budget or time to cook everything I would like to.  But we eat at home, as a family, even when we are busy.

I hope some of these shortcuts and ideas will help you do so too!

Lions, Tigers, and Memorial Day

With the crazy end to the school year, I never did get to tell you about our Memorial Day!  

We had plans to go to Animal Kingdom with some friends.  Though the forecast was gloomy, we decided to go anyway - our passes are now on freeze for the summer, so this would be one of our last chances to get some Disney in for a few months.  We were up and at 'em and got to the park fairly early.  At that point, the sun was still shining and the lines were short.  We got to meet quite a few characters which the kids love doing, especially when there are no waits!

After meeting up with our friends, we set off on one of the jungle treks.  We were having fun spotting animals and finding Hidden Mickeys when the thunder started to rumble and a storm blew in mighty quickly.  Luckily there was a shelter nearby and we ran for cover.  We had no idea that our shelter would provide us a front row view of a tiger, who ended up giving us quite a show!  

We have seen a tiger or two napping or walking on this trek before, but it was from a distance, peering over the crowds. From our little shelter from the storm, the kids sat in a window mesmerized by the tiger a mere few feet away from us.  He played and stretched and ate and meandered - it was awesome!

One of his friends came over and tried to get him play ball which was so cute - but he didn't act very interested.

In fact, he decided to lie down like he was taking nap.

But then he got up...

While the other tiger took the ball to play by himself!

It was quite an experience to sit and watch these tigers from such a great vantage point.  We stayed dry, which was actually kind of silly because later we would go on the Kali River Rapids ride and get drenched, but that's another story!

Not only did we get to see the tigers, but the kids were absolutely captivated by these enormous South American fish!  Well, Trevor was!  They made Madi a little jumpy when they swam by. There were a bunch of these fellows in the water and they were huge!  

After getting soaked by the water ride and another passing storm, we decided to head home and dry off.  When we got back, my mom had a meal waiting for us.  Ribs, zucchini and squash casserole, cucumbers and tomatoes in vinegar, corn on the cob, cantaloupe, potato puff.  The produce was fresh, much of it right off the ranch of one of our church members.  It was a veritable southern feast!

And speaking of southern fare, that week I snacked on freshly picked watermelon and an ice cold bottled Coca-Cola...

And was given this box of pralines from Savannah from our sweet friend Miss Linda! She brought these back to us from her vacation and they were divinity!  I don't think this photo does the size of those pecans justice.  My, my, my.  I nibbled on these all week long.

It was a great Memorial Day and week to follow living in the land of the free and home of the brave.  We ate, played, worked, studied, learned, worshiped, celebrated, just as we are able to do year round.  We are truly and abundantly blessed.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lots of Happy

Oh my goodness.  It is a good thing I had not put on any eye makeup before picking up Trevor from his last day of Pre-K on Thursday.  I walked into his classroom to find his two sweet teachers bawling their eyes out as they started saying their goodbyes. Which meant that all of us moms responded appropriately and started bawling our eyes out too!

It was an emotional thank you and farewell.

On our way to the van, Trevor was asking me why everyone was so sad.  I explained to him that it was because his teachers loved the students so much, and we loved them so much, and it has been such a great school year.  Trevor, always Mr. Positive, responded in his typical upbeat manner.  He kept making all sorts of "The good thing is" statements.

"The good thing is we can have a playdate with them this summer."
(He has already invited half the school staff and their families over for playdates.)

"The good thing is they will still get to see me next year."  
(Not one to lack confidence, that is for sure.)

And then he made this statement that is certain to be one to make me smile for years to come.

"The good thing is now I get to have lots of happy with you."

I know he has had lots of happy with his teachers this year.

And I recall lots of happy in summers past.

So to put things Trev's way, I'm looking forward to lots more happy as sweet summertime rolls in!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Where I've Been (And The Graduation Of A Hero)

I know I haven't been nearly as present on this blog as I would have liked to lately, and I have the best of intentions to have a cup of coffee with you and catch up!  

Just like the past couple months, the past few weeks have simply been undeniably busy.  Whether helping Jimmy out with senior events for the high school, going to graduations, awards ceremonies, and school programs, cleaning the house for company, stimulating the economy by going back to the grocery store yet again, making and buying presents, finally putting away the Easter decorations (better June than July, right?), volunteering at the school, or other miscellaneous duties as assigned, this home stretch of the school year has been nothing short of an aerobics routine!

In the middle of the craziness, I had some fun putting together teacher treats for the one who loves cupcakes, and the ones who put in a request for more homemade chocolate chip cookies...

I owe a debt of gratitude to their teachers.  Last summer, I prayed intently that God would place Madi and Trev with just the right teachers for them.  He went above and beyond in answering that prayer of a mother's heart.  It has been an amazing year!  Not only have my children been taught and loved well, I feel we have gained new friends.  What a gift.

I also watched a piece of my heart walk down an aisle of the library in cap and gown to receive his Pre-K diploma.  His little moment was absolutely in perfect Trevor style.

We got to hear what each graduate told their teachers they want to be when they grow up.  Apparently Trevor's latest goal is to be an actor in an Indiana Jones stunt show.  That's my boy.  A little hero and adventurer who gives us an action-packed life.

Next stop - Kindergarten! 

But not until after summertime with Momma.  

Yes, I'm thankful my little hero will be home with me for a couple months before I send him off for his next big adventure.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Easiest Homemade Iced Mocha Ever!

See this pretty little coffee drink?  All I did to make it was...


Last weekend, I was picking up some BOGO iced tea at Publix for a Memorial Day Weekend get together with friends, and this caught my eye.  There was a $1 off coupon right there, so I thought for $3 it couldn't hurt to try it since that is the price of only 1 or 2 iced coffees at a coffee shop or such.  I used my coupon and took a chance and what do you know, this is actually quite tasty!

You can drink it as is or even mix it with 1% milk to thin it out and make it go further.  I actually prefer it that way. Today we sat outside baking in the sun at a graduation, and a glass of this hit the spot when we got home!  Simple pleasure and unexpected treat!