Encouragement · Responding to trials

Read This Only If You’re Discouraged

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If there has been one request that has been repeated in my prayers it has been, “God use my life!”  I truly desire that my days and years count for Christ.  I want treasures to lay at His feet. I want to make a difference in others’ lives for the sake of eternity. But the means in which God will accomplish that request has not been part of my request.  You see, God’s school is often through hardship, trials and difficulties.  Who wants that?

Did Jonah enjoy the fish’s belly?

Was the widow woman excited about having only one more portion of food left for her and her son?

Did Moses relish being berated by his own people?

Did Elijah’s bucket list include being chased by a wicked queen?

Was Paul looking for people to persecute him?

The answer to all of these situations is, “Of course not!” But the result of every one of those trials was that God used them in mighty ways!  It came after.  After what?

After a mess.

After being frighteningly low on daily provision.

After ugly threats.

After pain.

Then blessing came.  Then provision.  Then nearness to God.  Then usefulness.  Then their stories were written in Scripture for our encouragement. Then they became our examples, our heroes!

If you’re in a difficult time right now, let me share a truth with you that I heard Sunday night from one of our dear missionaries –

 

The most important thing that God wants to accomplish
through you might still be in your future!

What if our Bible heroes had quit during their hardship?  We wouldn’t have their example, and God couldn’t have used them to encourage us and bring glory to Himself.  What if you and I quit in the midst of our trial?  We, too, could miss out on the most important thing God wants to do in our lives.

So…

DON’T QUIT!

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baking · Bread

The Easiest Bagels Ever!

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I’ve always wanted to make bagels, but the making of the dough, then boiling, then baking just seemed too laborious.  But when I came across a recipe for Two-Ingredient Bagels that require NO BOILING and had awesome reviews, I knew I had to give these a try!  They were:

  1. Made of only flour,  Greek yogurt (and leavening agents if you don’t use Self-rising flour)
  2. Fast!
  3. Easy
  4. DELICIOUS!!

One word of caution – you have to let the dough come to room temperature, so leave time in the baking process for them to sit out an hour.  You can make the dough the night before, let them set out, then bake them.

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The savory topping is so good!  We had a wonderful toasted sandwich using these bagels and I’m telling you, it was a gourmet-tasting lunch!  Here’s how to make them:

Two-Ingredient Bagels

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all purpose flour, whole wheat or gluten-free mix*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (make sure it’s not expired or it won’t rise)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (use less if using table salt)
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (not regular yogurt, it will be too sticky)
  • 1 egg white, beaten (whole egg works fine too)
  • (optional toppings: everything bagel seasoning, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic flakes, dried onion flakes)**

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Place parchment paper or a silpat on a baking sheet. If using parchment paper, spray with oil to avoid sticking.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork or spatula until well combined, it will look like small crumbles.
  3. Lightly dust flour on a work surface and remove dough from the bowl, knead the dough a few times until dough is tacky, but not sticky, about 15 turns (it should not leave dough on your hand when you pull away).
  4. Divide into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into 3/4-inch thick ropes and join the ends to form bagels. (or you can make a ball and poke a hole in the center then stretch it slightly)
  5. Top with egg wash and sprinkle both sides with seasoning of your choice. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.
  • You can wrap leftover bagels in plastic and reheat the next day without refrigerating, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • To freeze, slice open and wrap individually with foil or plastic wrap. To reheat pop them back into the oven, toaster

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Ready for the oven!
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Lovely, brown bottoms!
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How good does that look?!

These are only 152 calories, friends!  You will love these soft, savory bagels!  There’s a seriously delicious breakfast or lunch in your future if you make these!

Guess what?  My weekly video on Thursday will be a step-by-step tutorial on making these bagels!  So if you’re not sure you can pull this recipe off, be sure to tune in for some simple instruction!

Happy baking!

With love from my country kitchen,

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Marriage · memories · Refreshment in marriage

Family Friday – Invest in Time Away

This week during our Valentine’s dinner, I pulled out a dating journal that my husband and I kept for quite a few years.  We recorded lunch dates, overnighter’s, and weeks away that we were blessed to share during the years our girls were home.  Wow!  It was filled with special memories we had forgotten.  But one thing rang true – we missed our girls while we were away, but those times alone helped shape our relationship.  It made us better parents, and it made our marriage stronger.

We literally had to scrape together every dime  to go on these outings, but it was so well worth it!  I’m thankful we have that journal to remind us of the joy those times away were for us.  Some dates were simply a shared ice cream cone, or a picnic lunch at a nearby park.  As a matter of fact, most outings were minimized in extravagance, but maximized in enjoyment AND effectiveness!   It was always profitable for our relationship.

For any married couple to spend time away together so they might invest in their relationship, will require an investment.  That simply means it is costly.

  • It could require a financial investment.  There are lots of things to do that don’t cost, but most overnighters aren’t free.
  • It will require time – time away from family, away from work and away from all other distractions.
  • It will require a willingness to get honest with one another so you both can make changes that are necessary.
  • The sacrifice of your pride is crucial so you can listen to your spouse without thinking about what you want to say.

After 36+ years of marriage, I would have to say that time away from pressures and demands – even for an hour – is time that helped build our marriage.  It’s so easy to get on two separate tracks when things are so busy.

May I ask you – are you making a true effort to spend time with your spouse – just the two of you so you might talk in depth, pray together, have times of rest, laugh, strengthen one another in the daily grind, and pour into your marriage so you can both be ready to move forward?

Let me encourage you, if you’re wanting to share these times but your husband is reluctant, plan a short outing.  Do something you know HE would love.  Keep it lighthearted and encouraging.  Pour into him.  Bless him with what he needs.  Pray about it, asking the Lord to make your time special.  Keep doing these little outings and work your way into a weekend away.  Allow the Lord to move in his heart.

God has a plan for your marriage and you can trust Him to make it what it needs to be.  But again, time with just the two of your is one important ingredient.  Even though there are no longer children in our home, my husband and I have to get away to really have time to talk and share uninterrupted.  We still need it.  We still love it!

Let me end by sharing some photos of the weekend Sweetheart Retreat my husband spoke at last weekend at The Wilds.  It was a wonderful blessing to our hearts to gather with 80 couples and pour into their lives for two days!  If you’ve never experienced a couples’ retreat at The Wilds, you don’t know what you’re missing!  These pictures will give you an idea of the fun we shared!

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My favorite speaker!
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Fun Time is always full of the good medicine of laughter!!

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This baking skit…oh my!
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Old friends surprised us!

 

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Does this look like CAMP FOOD?!
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More old friends that blessed our time there!
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Love the bookstore!

Valentine’s day is behind us, but you live in your marriage every single day.  Make the most of it by making investments that will benefit your relationship for years to come!

Refresh your marriage – Why not start planning now for an outing?

Who attends couples’ retreats?  Where do you go?

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Family life · Kitchen gadgets · Marriage · Tips and Tools

Some of My Favorite Things

Today’s video is a compilation of some of my favorite things.  They’re a bit random, but from laundry duties to kitchen needs, we all have our favorite tools.  I’m also sharing a couple of favorite ideas to show care and love for others. Watch the video below or you can view it on my You Tube Channel...

 

Arm & Hammer with Oxi Clean

Milk frother

Magnolia 

To  Be Where You Are – Jan Karon

Taco seasoning recipe

Friendship ball 

Did you have a favorite from the things I shared?  

Thanks for stopping to watch!

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God's character · Responding to trials

How We Turn Our Treasures Into Curses

Treasures and Curses

When I was a 7 year-old girl, I really, really wanted a bike.  The children in our neighborhood rode their bikes on the sidewalks, and had such fun.  I knew I was missing out not being able to do the same!  So, for Christmas I asked, begged and prayed for a bike.  What a special surprise to find my longing fulfilled on Christmas Eve!  It was a purple/pink Schwinn with a bell and streamers.  I could hardly wait to join my friends, once the Michigan snow cleared.

Finally spring came, but there was just one problem – I hadn’t learned to ride a two-wheel bike yet!  My dad came to the rescue, doing what dad’s do best – holding onto my wobbly bike’s seat and running along side, yelling out instructions –

Keep your eyes in front – not on me.

Keep pedaling.

Keep your body in the center of the bike.

It was much harder than I imagined it would be! The afternoon when my bike met the tree trunk, and my lip the met the dirt, I was sure this bike wasn’t such a great idea!  Who thought of trying to stay upright on two wheels, anyway?! From that day on, when my dad would try to get me out to try to learn to ride, I’d run!  That bike wasn’t a special gift; it was a curse!

Yesterday’s post  showed us how Joseph’s brother’s assumed God was cursing them when they found the money for the food they’d gotten in Egypt was still in their sacks.  They assumed they would be severely punished for this.  When they told Joseph’s servant, he answered that God had given them treasure in their sacks. It was a gift of kindness, put into Joseph’s heart by their God! If only they could have seen the gift for what it was they wouldn’t have had to take that Pepto Bismol for their upset stomachs (okay, the Scripture doesn’t say that, but you know their stomach’s were churning in fear!).

What a difference a biblical perspective gives us!  Joseph’s brothers jumped to the same conclusions we do!  Consider how we respond in these kind of situations:

  • Those children for whom we prayed, begin a pattern of poor behavior and defiance, and suddenly the gift of motherhood has become a curse!
  • We moved into the house of our dreams.  It was roomy and big enough for our family AND for guests.  But we look at all the that hardwood and see so many floors to mop, and suddenly that gift of a house is a curse!
  • We prayed to be married, and he was the man of our dreams at the altar.  But over time we see his sinfulness and are disappointed.  He’s no longer a treasure; now he’s a curse!
  • We watched God give the perfect job and we were grateful.  But when we meet up with a difficult fellow-employee or two, that job becomes a curse!
  • To have a computer at home to work with eases so much – we can pay bills, shop or connect with friends, but on the day there is no Internet service that thing turns into a curse!
  • When we found our church we were thankful for its teaching, it’s congregation and it ministries, but when we see that not everything is done the way we think it should be done, those blessings are now a curse!
  • …You add whatever difficulty has touched your life recently.

All along, those things were all “treasures in our sacks,” only we didn’t have eyes to see it!  Instead we’re staring down in the deep well of the bag  and we become consumed with our own self-focused thoughts instead of what God could do in that darkness. 

If something seems to be a drudgery, a source of sighing and heaviness, or not what you wanted, take that need to the Giver of that blessing.  Ask Him to allow you to see with new eyes the joy of this gift, and what He can do in the midst of this time. A right perspective on the “hard things” in life can help us see that God is not against us, as a matter of fact, He just might be up to something really, really good!

When you have eyes of faith to look for the treasure, you’ll have peace while you wait.  You’ll have hope in your heart.  You’ll realize that that “thing,” whatever it is, truly is a TREASURE in your sack!

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God's character · Responding to trials

Treasure In Your Sacks

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Imagine that you have just gone to the grocery cart and filled your buggy with all the things you’ll need for the next month.  The cart is overflowing, and now your pocket book is empty!

After getting home, you begin the process of putting away all your groceries. In the bottom of the last bag you unload, you gasp because of what you see in the bottom of the bag.  There in the dark corner of the sack is the exact amount of money you thought you had paid for all this food!

How would you respond?  Would you:

  • Rejoice, skip and leap for joy?
  • Moan and wail, being sure you were headed to jail?

This scenario is pretty much what happened to Joseph’s brothers after they came to Egypt to get food during the famine.  Joseph recognized them, but they didn’t recognize Joseph.  He sent them back home to get their younger brother, Benjamin, but before they left for their journey, Joseph loaded them down with food, and then had their money put back into their sacks.

When they got home and “unloaded the groceries,” they found their money and feared for their lives!  They were sure Joseph would punish them severely, thinking they hadn’t paid for this load of food. They cried out, ”

What is this that God hath done unto us?

It was a curse to them.  It felt like God’s hand was against them, when all along, it was the Lord’s kindness, revealed through their brother, Joseph.

Have you ever felt that way when something difficult happened?  Our first response is to point a finger at heaven and say, “God!  Why did you do this to me?!”  We don’t recognize that this might be God doing something for us, rather than against us.

When the food was gone and the brothers returned back to Egypt, with their little brother in tow, one of the first things they told Joseph’s servants upon their arrival was about the “cursed money.”  But listen to the servant’s response:

Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks:

The very thing that was supposed to be a BLESSING to them, they looked at as a curse.  But all along, the Lord was going before them to provide for their needs.

 

Friends, let’s lift our heads out of the darkness and up towards God to see the plan for the “treasure that He has tucked into our sacks.”  See it with eyes of faith.  He has gifted you and me in ways we could never have planned.

Instead of fretting and fuming over what seems like a difficulty, rejoice!  There’s a treasure in our sack! If you don’t see the treasure today, keep looking; God will reveal it in time.

What treasure have you turned into a curse?  I pray this helps you get a biblical perspective!

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P.S. Tomorrow we’re going to take this principle and apply it in a very practical way to our everyday lives.  Hope you’ll come back and read!

baking · Cooking · Cooking for Two

Tips For Cooking For One Or Two

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Recently a reader wrote and asked a good question regarding making meals.  She wrote:

I was wondering how you manage nutrition, food, leftovers, etc. as an empty nester. Do you reduce the recipes to make less, do you eat a small portion of the finished item and freeze leftovers for another meal, do you split the meal and pass one on to another or is a combination of things the solution?

When my husband and I were first married, I had been single and living on my own for a couple of years, so I easily cooked for just the two of us. As our family grew, I increased the meals to feed four on a regular basis.  But as the girls got married and we became empty nester’s, I found out quickly that something had to change.  We would either have to learn to love eating leftovers for more than one day, or I would need to adjust my cooking methods.

Here’s how I have learned to manage our meals for two without eating leftovers for an eternity!

  1. Cut the recipe in half.  This is an obvious one, right?  But sometimes we get stumped with ingredients like,
    1. “1 can of mushroom soup.” I simply put in half a can, then put the other half into a freezer bag, label it, and pop it into the freezer!
    2. “1 egg” – go ahead and use one egg.
  2. Make a whole recipe and freeze portions and put them into the freezer, again, with good labels.  You might think you’ll remember what it is, but when it gets into a frozen state, it’s really hard to tell meatloaf from goulash!  So many things freeze well – just take a look on the freezer aisle at your store the next time for some ideas of what you could store in there! This is truly cooking once and eating two or three times from that little effort!  This is one of my favorite ways to prep ahead for busy days!
  3. Make a whole recipe and share the other half with someone who needs a meal – a shut-in, new mother or a family with sickness.
  4. Make meats where you can use portion control – 2 chicken breasts,  1turkey kielbasa or 2 pieces of fresh salmon.  Then I just add fresh vegetables and salads.  This doesn’t’ have to be boring.  Don’t just cook the meat the same way.  You could make one-pan dishes with cut up pieces of chicken, with fresh veggies roasted in the oven.  Make a baked potato with chicken sautéed in herbs and olive oil.  The possibilities are endless.
  5. Make individual servings – pot pies, pizzas, or meatloaves, etc.
  6. Make soup and freeze it in muffin pans as I described here.
  7. Bake small cakes and use only one layer.

There’s also a great web site on Taste of Home for recipes for Cooking for two.  This site has cakes and muffins as well as the standard fare for main dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I enjoy checking here if I want a special recipe without having too much remaining when the meal is over. Too much of a good thing doesn’t end up tasting like a good thing!

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As far as nutrition is concerned,

  • I rarely ever fry anything.
  • We eat low-fat meals, with the exception of special meals or times guests are here!
  • Sweets are limited.  I love to bake, but I send most of it away to others so we won’t be tempted by it.  Then on those occasions we do have it, it’s really special!! (I see chocolate in my future come Valentine’s Day!)

But you know what?  We eat really good food every single day.  Fresh fruit.  Fresh veggies.  Homemade breads – I’ve found some great lighter versions like these biscuits.

If you cook for just one or two, what are your tips?  How do you maintain a healthy diet?

If you have questions about meal planning, cooking or baking, feel free to email me (address is in the contact info) or leave a comment here.  I’ll do my best to answer it!

With love from my country kitchen,

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