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Archive | Everyday things

Friends Don’t Divide, They Multiply!

We are moving this week. In fact, the movers are scheduled to arrive this morning. If things go according to plan, there will be two days of packing and loading here in Houston, then we will unload at our new home just north of the Dallas/Ft Worth area on Wednesday.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that carries a lot of implications. New utilities. New doctors. New church. And even some new friends.

What’s wonderful about the friendship thing is that even while you get new local friends, you can keep the ones you move away from. Physical distance does not have to divide friends. Instead a new place means additional friends. Friends don’t divide, they multiply!

 

friends

We have moved seven times during 34 years of marriage. We have made new friends each time. Although we don’t regularly stay in touch with all of them, we still count them as friends. We can easily reconnect. In fact, this has happened multiple times. We may go years without speaking to an old friend, then life brings us together again and we discover the bonds of friendship remain.

friends

And then there are others. Friends we have “carried” with us from one place to the next. Both of us have made the effort needed to stay in regular communication. To work out face-to-face visits. These relationships have actually grown, deepened, over time.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9, NLT

friends

All these friendships reveal God’s great grace and sweet love to us. He knows we need connections to others. He knows we need others in our lives to encourage, strengthen, exhort, and comfort us. And He knows they in turn need us. He designed us that way. As relational beings. And He created friendship to meet those needs.

friends

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friendProverbs 27:17, NLT

Although it is bittersweet to move away from local friends, I can anticipate the new relationships God has in store for us in our new town. And I pray I may be the friend they need.

How you experienced friendship that survives time and distance? In what ways do you foster these relationships?

 

 

 

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My Top Ten – Plus One – Chocolate Favorites

Chocolate FavoritesChocolate is my love language and I speak it fluently. In honor of the Chocolate Holiday (aka “Valentine’s Day), I’d like to share some of my chocolate favorites with you.

I do have a few “chocolate quirks.” For instance, I LOVE chocolate and I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t particularly care for chocolate ice cream. I like nuts covered in chocolate, but not nuts in my chocolate. And yes, there is a difference. Same goes with chocolate and fruit. Fruit dipped in chocolate is great, but don’t put fruit in my chocolate. In fact, there is something just wrong about chocolate covered cherries.

Top Ten Chocolate Favorites (Plus One)

Without further ado, here are my chocolate go-tos. (In no particular order)

  1. Dairy Milk chocolate bar – quite possible the creamiest chocolate bar ever!
  2. Hershey’s Best Brownies (recipe below!) – I’ve been making these brownies for probably 25 years!
  3. M&Ms – a truly classic fav!
  4. Cadbury Mini-Eggs – only available around Easter. Ya’ll, I can’t stop eating these. So I try NOT to buy them. If you have more discipline than I do, try them out. You can order on Amazon and get them tomorrow with Prime!
  5. Cadbury Mini-Eggs Christmas version! – Oh yes!
  6. Lindt Milk Chocolate Lindor Balls – These may be my #1.
  7. Mocha Truffles – The perfect combination of chocolate, cream cheese, and chocolate. I traditionally make these at Christmas. Here’s the recipe! 
  8. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake – ate it every night on our last Carnival Cruise. They actually gave me the recipe, but when I tried to recreate it, it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it’s because I messed up converting the recipe from 200 servings to 12! I found this recipe online. Not sure if it’s legit, but it’s probably worth trying. And it only makes 6 servings!
  9. Hershey’s Peppermint Bark Bells – If you like mixing peppermint with your chocolate, check these out next Christmas!
  10. Fudge Richey – from “Susie’s South Forty” in Midland, Texas (Ladies, it’s chocolate-covered fudge!) And you can order online. And although their Pecan Toffee doesn’t have chocolate, it is fabulous!
  11. Rolo Pretzel Delights – I was finished with my top ten when I remembered this brand new favorite, so you get a bonus. A friend brought these to a ladies’ lunch in December and I could not get enough. I had to go home and make some. Super easy, but super addictive, so watch out. Here’s the recipe! 

I’d love to hear about your chocolate favorites and any quirky chocolate rules!

Hershey’s Best Brownies

I got this recipe off the back of a canister of Hershey’s cocoa many years ago. However, the chocolate chips are my addition!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add cocoa, beat. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat well. Mix half the chocolate chips into the batter and spread into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake 30 minutes only!

 

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Changes Ahead

ChangeSome of you read this blog regularly. Over the years, you’ve read about my family and my travels and my ministry. And you’ve shared with me. And even though most of us have not met face to face, we have a connection through Christ and shared experience. I love that!

So, with that in mind, some of you may be interested in a little update about my life. We are in the midst of some changes and the next few months will be hectic – maybe even overwhelming.

First, my husband retired in December after 37 years with Conoco-Phillips. It was kind of sudden. He had planned to work two or three more years, but pretty much every oil company had layoffs last year, so when the opportunity came up, we prayed and talked and he volunteered.

In addition to adjusting to the new “retirement” schedule, for the next few weeks, Wayne and I will be busy “decluttering” the house so we can put it on the market. Our plan is to move closer to our daughters and their families.

Of course, as so often happens, this is not the only major thing happening for us. My parents are not well and neither my brother nor I live in the same city with them. It is really hard to give them the care they need long-distance. I’ve spent a lot of the last few months on the road. But God has finally brought everything together for us to be able to move them to the city where my brother lives.

That move will happen before our move. In fact, I’m heading there tomorrow to do some packing and visit my folks.

I have been fairly faithful to blog twice a week – every Monday and Thursday. I love sharing with you and I love hearing from you. And I have this thing about being consistent.

But when I sat down to write the post for today, I thought “I’ve got nothing!” So, instead of some interesting illustration or devotional thought or brief time in the Word, I decided simply to share what’s going on with us. And maybe you’ll remember it in case I miss a day – or two – of posts in the weeks ahead.

I’d love to hear from you! What big or little thing is dominating your life right now?

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Are You Content with Your Stuff?

contentOur family calls it the flood of 2003. One Saturday morning I stepped into ankle-deep water in the hallway outside our bedroom. I could hear water gushing somewhere close by and hurried to find the source. In the guest bathroom, water from the toilet supply line was shooting across the room. I turned off the water and began to survey the damage.

Carpets and other flooring upstairs were ruined. But the bigger mess was downstairs. The ceiling directly under the bathroom had fallen and paint slid down the walls. Water saturated everything in that half of the bottom floor of our house. We spent the rest of the summer repairing, replacing, and renovating.

The accident and the resulting damage to our home hit me hard. The physical challenge of the cleanup overwhelmed me, but I also grieved the loss of our stuff. Later on – when I was ready to hear it – God showed me my reaction to this material loss revealed much about what I treasured most.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed this very issue (Matthew 6:19-21). He knows we humans tend to value the wrong things. We seek satisfaction, joy, and security in the fleeting things of this world. But jobs, possessions, money, and people cannot meet our deepest needs. They may temporarily mask our real need, but eventually discontentment rises to the surface again.

Stuffing lots of stuff isn’t the answer

We’ve been taught by the world that “stuff” is the answer. So we stuff all we can into the empty hole, but it never fills up. Only God can fully and permanently satisfy our spiritual need. When He becomes what we value most, then we will find true contentment.

During short-term mission trips, I’ve seen firsthand that Christians can be joyful and content without all the stuff we have in America. Believers in mud huts with dirt floors and thatched roofs ooze the joy of Christ. Brothers and sisters living in tiny Soviet block apartments experience the full life Christ gives.

Only Jesus can make us truly content

In fact, I believe our material “abundance” can foster discontent. Since we are used to having so much, we have convinced ourselves we need it all. We trade in perfectly good cars on ones that are newer, brighter, or faster and we up-size our homes even when we can’t afford it.

The apostle Paul learned contentment in material need or plenty because he did not base his attitude on his physical circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul looked to Christ for strength in every situation, including physical need. The only thing Paul could not do without was Christ.

I wonder, can we say the same?

If we are completely honest with ourselves, what would be on our list of things we can not do without?

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Perfect for Fall: Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger SoupThe air is crisp in Houston today with the early morning temperature in the upper 50’s. Finally, it feels like fall.

Fall brings many wonderful things, including soup. So, I decided this was a perfect day to break from my usual kind of blogging and share one of my favorite soup recipes with you – Cheeseburger Soup!

I found the original recipe in a “Taste of Home” magazine about 25 years ago. (Yes, that’s when I still got printed magazines delivered through the mail.) But I have adjusted it here and there to make it my own.

The whole family loves it. My kids even loved it when they were young, so chances are it will please your family too, no matter their ages. The recipe is below, but here’s a PDF you can print!

If you make it, I’d love to hear back from you on how it turns out!

Cheeseburger Soup

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup shredded carrots
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup sour cream

Brown the beef in a 5-quart pot. As the beef is browning, add the onions, carrots, celery, and basil to the pan and sauté all together. When beef is no longer pink and the veggies soft, add chicken broth and potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet. Add flour, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Add flour mixture to soup and stir until thoroughly mixed. Bring soup to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add cheese, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Slowly add a small amount of the hot soup liquid to the sour cream and stir until smooth. Then stir sour cream mixture back into the soup. Makes 8 servings.

 

 

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Today’s My Birthday. Am I “Old” Now?

BirthdayToday is my birthday. I am 55 years old. Some days I feel old. Some days I feel like I’m just getting started good.

But this specific number –  “55” – comes with an “old age” stigma. I keep thinking about this group they had at church when I was growing up. They called it the “Double Nickle” club. It was for the “old people” at church and they met once a week for lunch and games. Probably Bridge. That strikes me as a game for old people because my grandmother played Bridge every week with a group of friends. But I digress…

So, one day not long ago, I was thinking about turning 55 and it hit me – the “Double Nickle” club was for people 55 and over. I am now old enough for the “Double Nickle” club.  And for the senior menu at iHop.

I must look it too. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new Star Trek movie. He dropped me off to buy the tickets while he parked. The young man at the ticket booth quoted me a price less than I expected for two tickets. When I questioned him, he told me that included the “senior discount.” Turns out the “senior discount” is for those 62 and above. The young theater employee just assumed I qualified.

But I really don’t feel “old” – most days anyway. But, ask me again some morning after I worked in the yard for hours the day before. Funny, my Bridge-playing granny told me something about aging when I was little that I still remember. She said, “Your body ages, but your soul never does.” I didn’t really understand her statement then, but now I think I do.

God created us for eternity. Oh, yes, we have a temporal, physical “tent” that breaks down and falls apart. But God’s purposes for His children are eternal. And He wants to keep using us here on earth as long as He allows us to remain.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:12-15

Here’s my conclusion. I am not necessarily “old,” but I am “older.” And until God is finished with me here on earth, I am certainly not “done.”

So no “retirement” for me. Nope. As long as I’m able, I want to serve the Lord and His people. On that day when God calls me home, I want to be able to declare with the Apostle Paul:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

And discounted movie tickets and cheap pancakes are just an added bonus!

 

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The Trees Sang in Praise

Have you ever heard trees sing? Yesterday, I heard them. Oh yes, they loudly praised our glorious God.

I am in Alberta, Canada this week. Yesterday, some friends and I drove into Banff National Park to go hiking. Our destination – the Larch Valley. The Larch tree – the only deciduous conifer in the world – grows only in this area. Its green needles turn to gold in mid to late September. The timing was perfect.

The trail head begins at Moraine Lake about 20 kilometers above Lake Louise. It then rises 1,500 feet providing incredible views of Moraine Lake below and the famous Ten Peaks that surround the valley.

A view of Moraine Lake after a few switchbacks of the trail.

A view of Moraine Lake after a few switchbacks of the trail.

Every turn in the trail revealed new wonders. I snapped dozens of photos in an weak attempt to capture the rare, raw beauty. The golden trees, the majestic mountains, the cascading water all sang praise to the One who formed them.

The first sight of the golden Larch trees!

The first sight of the golden Larch trees!

They lifted their voice to glorify our Creator God. And we heard their song.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
Let the trees of the forest sing,
let them sing for joy before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.  1 Chronicles 16:31-33

Larch Valley with an incredible 360 degree view!

Larch Valley with an incredible 360 degree view!

Praise be to the LORD God , the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. Psalm 72:18-19

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When was the last time you “heard” creation praise they Creator? When was the last time you listened?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Upgrade!

In the last month, I’ve spent 76 hours on planes. And I’m not exaggerating. I actually added it up just now. Those hours do not include the time sitting on the ground in airplanes or waiting in airports or traveling to and from airports. Those almost “two full work weeks” of hours are strictly in-the-air flying time. Makes me tired all over again just thinking about it.

On this last trip though, I discovered there’s a BIG difference between economy and business class. But before I tell you about that, let me set the stage.

I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat for a church in Stavanger, Norway. I invited my friend Lisa to accompany me. Lisa also led a workshop at the retreat and really blessed the ladies there! Both of us enjoyed our time with the ladies there so much. (Thank you North Sea Baptist Church!)

North Sea Baptist Church Retreat

Me and Lisa with Kelly and Joy from North Sea Baptist Church, Norway

The Norway trip came 5 days after a mission trip to Bangladesh and I was a little road weary before we even started this new journey. Lisa and I flew from Houston straight to London on the first leg of our trip. Soon after we boarded the British Airways plane and found our seats we began to notice things. For instance, we were offered water or juice while the plane was still boarding. When the really nice dinner came we had real glass, real utensils, and cloth napkins. None of this plastic or paper stuff. And we had a lot of leg room.

Unfortunately, we were practically over the UK before we realized that not everyone on the plane had it so nice. For about 9 hours we had been saying a lot of really nice things about British Airways. We completely missed the fact that hundreds of people in the section behind us had been suffering through leg cramps, plastic utensils, and less seat space. We didn’t even get to enjoy our “privileged position.”

North Sea

Me and Lisa in a strong North Sea wind!

Then the time came to head home. We went online and tried to snag seats again in Business Class without paying extra, but no luck. (We still have no idea how it happened going over.) During our entire 5-hour layover in London we complained to each other. “Ugh! We have to suffer through the long flight in economy.” “It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t know how the other half flew.” And so it went…

Then our group was called to board. Lisa handed her boarding pass to the agent on the left and I handed mine to the one on the right. Lefty said to Lisa: “Ma’am you’ve been upgraded.” As I was taking a breath to say “What?!”, Lisa selflessly told Lefty she was traveling with a friend. Lefty quickly responded, “Oh, she’s been upgraded too.”

We practically skipped down the jet way in anticipation of what lay ahead. Glorious leg room. Smaller, curtained-off section that kept the noise down. Almost personal attention from a flight attendant. Better food. Water before take-off. (I even had my own water bottle, but still, the lowly economy section didn’t get this.)

Lisa and I giggled like school girls as we settled into our spacious seats. We sipped our water and watched the poor economy passengers file by to their cramped quarters. We felt a little guilty. We had done absolutely nothing to get the nicer seats. We certainly didn’t deserve it. But we were thankful. When we blessed our beef tenderloin later, we would be certain to voice our gratitude to God.

Then I caught a glimpse of First Class. Their seats literally made into beds. They had this little cubicle surrounding their seat that gave them a lot of privacy. “Hmmm. I wonder what it would take to get in there.”

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the more you have the more you want? Or that “getting” sometimes fosters discontent? What are some ways we can practice and foster an ongoing attitude of gratitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Get Off the Rickshaw

Bicycle powered rickshaws are a common form of transportation in Bangladesh.  But during my recent visit to the country, I wasn’t sure I wanted to ride in one. You see, the traffic can best be described as a chaotic free-for-all, with everyone jockeying for position on the road. The larger vehicles usually win. Which does not bode well for the rickshaw.

Rickshaw in BangladeshI broke the ice by climbing into one for just a photo. Then a couple of days later, I took my first ride. Three grown women piled onto a seat that would have been crowded with two small children. Thankfully we only had to travel a few blocks while I hung half off the seat and clung on for dear life. But that was nothing compared to my next experience.

A couple of days later, six of us divided up into three rickshaws. We only had one interpreter, so she gave directions to all three drivers and emphasized they all had to stay together.

Rickshaw BangladeshMy rickshaw buddy – who just happened to also be named Kathy – is an experienced traveler. And I am so glad. A few blocks into the trip, she grabs my arm and says, “I don’t want you to panic, but we’ve lost the others. We are on our own.”

Great. The rickshaw with our interpreter had turned off and our driver did not follow. We were separated from our interpreter. We could not speak Bangla. And we were going the wrong direction. Seemed like a pretty good time to panic to me.

Kathy pounded our driver’s back with her index finger several times. When he looked back, she gestured largely and asked harshly, “Where are our friends?” He may not have understood the words, but I’m sure he understood the tone.

When he kept pedaling – in the wrong direction – Kathy pounded again and pointed to the curb. “Stop!” He seemed to get that one. He pulled over and stopped.

Kathy turned to me and said, “Don’t get off this rickshaw.” She didn’t need to worry. I had no intention of going anywhere.

Rickshaw BangladeshAbout a minute later the third rickshaw from our party came within view, pulled up beside us, and stopped. One of the women was a short-term volunteer working with our translator host. She had a local cell and immediately called the translator who gave our drivers the directions to our destination. For a second time.

Rickshaw BangladeshMinutes later we pulled up outside the building where the translator was waiting for us. As we climbed off the vehicles, she began to tell the drivers exactly what she thought. As it turns out, they had conspired on the separation. We aren’t exactly sure of their motives. It could have been as simple as a larger fare or something more, uh, dangerous.

But God protected us. We once again experienced the power of prayer. And I learned when to stay on the rickshaw and when to run and not look back.

 

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Black Friday Freebies and Deals

Read to the end to hear about a great deal and a freebie!

I love Black Friday. And yes, I am one of those crazy people who will get up in the wee hours of the morning and stand in a long line waiting for the store to open. (I am not so crazy, however, to camp out overnight.)

In past years, my daughters and I have done this together several times. On Thanksgiving evening we scour the sale papers to make our plan. We make a list of what we want to get where. Then we decide which store we’ll hit first, then second, etc. There’s a coffee stop somewhere in the middle. We are home by late morning with half of our Christmas shopping done!

For us, the point of Black Friday is to find deals on things we would buy anyway. You could make an argument that we’re good stewards of the money God has given us. Plus, it’s fun.

However in recent years, I’ve spent less time and money in the brick and mortar stores and purchased more online.  In fact I’ve already made a big dent in my Christmas shopping without leaving home!

Another thing I love to do is share great finds and deals with my friends. That’s what this post is really about. On Black Friday, New Hope Publishers is offering three specials you won’t want to miss!

Black Friday Deal1. Every New Hope ebook will be available for $2.99 all day! – Christian Book Distributors will definitely carry the sale. It may also show up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble so check both! This deal will include my books Unshakeable Faith, Fed Up with Flat Faith, God’s Truth Revealed, and Before His Throne.

2. An interactive, digital version of “Unshakeable Faith” Bible study workbook will be FREE from 2-4pm CST!!! – New Hope Publishers recently launched a fabulous women’s Bible study site. Exciting new resources include four Bible study workbooks with interactive features that few publishers yet have. Check out a sample now.

3. The other interactive Bible study workbooks for $2.99 from 2-4pm CST.

These deals are good enough that you don’t have to feel guilty about getting them for yourself. Load up for holiday reading and enjoy!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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