Friday, April 11, 2014

Hope realized...

My garden is coming alive - just in time for Easter! I planted a bunch of bulbs that I got on sale at Walmart last fall and they are beautiful.  The tulips and grape hyacinths are my favorite.  Along with the pansies, the front gardens are looking colorful...ugly dryness redeemed, hope realized.

Plants in the back yard are starting to bud, as well.  The grass is finally turning green.  Yay!  There won't be any dried grass brought in the house by dogs and small children...until next winter.  I'm very excited that this year I will get to enjoy our lilac bush in bloom.  It does have some drought damage, as does the snowball bush in the front yard, but it is blooming!  I love the delicate scent of lilac.  Just two weeks ago, I checked the dry empty branches of this bush to see if it was still alive...

Towards the end of winter - and this year seemed to be an extra long winter - we look forward to the hope of spring; green returning to the landscape, budding trees and bushes, flowering bulbs, warm earth in the gardens.

It reminds me of my favorite TV shows which all have the same theme:  redeeming what seems impossible to redeem.  These are shows like Restaurant Impossible (we've enjoyed several of Chef Robert's recipes) where Chef Robert comes and rescues failing restaurants by helping the owners understand the problems that are causing them to fail, helping them resolve their conflicts, remaking recipes for tasty food and remodeling their dining rooms to appeal to customers.  He gives the owners hope.

Another favorite TV show is Property Brothers.  Each episode features a couple who have an expectation of their first home being their dream home.  The brothers' first assignment is to help the couple understand the reality of their expectations on a limited budget.  Then they help the couple choose a fixer upper that can be remodeled to be the home they would love.  The couple always comments that they would rather have the dream home without the work and they just can't see how a fixer upper can be turned into what they want.  The brothers confidently tell them that it can be done with a lot of hard work and can be done on their budget.  The brothers talk a lot about the homeowners' need to trust their expert experience.  In the end, even with the inevitable unforseen problems that come up, the home is everything the new owners dreamed of...another avenue of hope.

I had an "ah hah" moment when I realized that I enjoy shows like these because I have come to appreciate and am beginning to recognize the hope that God offers me time and time again when I feel overwhelmed by life.  I was definitely a "fixer upper" when I became His as a child.  It's been a long and sometimes painful process as He has stripped away the old (it must be done before the new can be seen), shown me my failures covered by His grace, and has been and continues to be by my side giving me strength during the "remodeling" process.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 1:6

Chef Robert's Chicken with Kale and Sweet Potatoes
I'm not much of a greens fan, but this sauteed kale was delicious and so nutrition packed. 

2 chicken breasts - pounded, seasoned and cooked in butter in a skillet.  Remove chicken from skillet, keep warm.  Put some red wine vinegar or red wine in the skillet, scraping up the bits of chicken and spices.  Reduce to make a nice sauce.  When reduced, add a tsp of butter and whisk.  Set aside.

Baby kale (it cooks down so fill a large skillet with the kale)
1/4 cup chopped bacon (I used 2 Tbsp real bacon bits)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tsp diced garlic

Saute in skillet until vegetables are translucent and kale is wilted.  Add:
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp butter
crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Saute until butter is melted.  Serve in a pile on a plate with a cooked chicken breast on top.  Drizzle reserved sauce over the chicken.

Serve with oven roasted sweet potato cubes.

Serves 2

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blinded by emotion...

The last recorded encounter of a woman and Jesus is found in John 20.  Jesus had died on the cross and had been buried in a borrowed tomb.  Then he had risen from the dead, just as he had told his followers he would.  And he appeared first to a woman!  Here's the story...

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early in the morning a couple of days later.  She was there so early that it was still dark.  But she was able to see that the stone at the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away, leaving the inside and the One buried there vulnerable to people with less than honorable intentions - at least that's what she assumed, because she ran to alert Peter and John.

They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.  Assumption based on fear...

The disciples took off to check out her story and, sure enough, the tomb was empty.  But they found something very strange.  The linen cloths that had wrapped the body of Jesus were lying neatly on the burial shelf.  And something very significant; the face cloth wasn't with the linen wrappings but was rolled up and found in another spot.

Here's why that is significant - it was Jewish custom in those days when guests enjoyed a meal at someone's home to use their napkin to indicate whether or not they enjoyed the hospitality and food.  If the napkin was crushed and placed back on the table, it meant the guest intended to return. If the napkin was rolled or folded and laid aside, it meant the guest intended never to return.  Are you getting shivers yet?!

Jesus left a sign for the disciples that he would never return to the grave!  They didn't get it, though, and went home... wondering...

Evidently, Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John back to the tomb because John 20:11 states that after the men left, she was standing outside the tomb weeping.  She had to see for herself what the disciples had described to her.  So, she bent over to look inside and was surprised to see two angels sitting on the shelf where Jesus' body had been placed.  They asked her why she was crying and she told them that she was afraid that someone had taken Jesus' body and she didn't know where they had put him.

She was in such an emotional state that it didn't register in her mind that she had just talked to some angels!  She turned around and saw someone else, but was crying so hard that she didn't see that it was Jesus.  She assumed he was the gardener and begged him to tell her where Jesus' body had been taken.

Can you relate to Mary?  I cause myself emotional stress when I assume things without checking out the facts before I respond.  She was so overwhelmed with her emotions that she didn't recognize Jesus when she came face to face with him.  Think about that for a moment...

Jesus saw her and knew what she was feeling.  It was time for her to live based on reality instead of faulty assumptions.


Even through the tears, she recognized his voice in the way he said her name and turned to look at him.


I'm sure she was shocked and relieved at the same time.  She reached out to grab hold of him - to never let him leave her sight again.  It's interesting that the Greek word for touch in this verse means: touching for the purpose of manipulating.  He stopped her and told her that he couldn't be touched yet.  He knows us so well!

Jesus sent her to tell the disciples what she had seen and heard him say.  She probably didn't want to take her eyes off of him, but she turned and ran, carrying her incredible news in her heart. 

I have seen the Lord!!

Do your negative emotions keep you from recognizing the Lord's presence in your life, especially during difficult times? Are you allowing yourself to be blinded by assumptions?

He's there, calling you by name, waiting for you to recognize him...

Cake In A Mug
Do you ever want just one piece of cake?  And we all know that if you bake a cake, you will eat more than one piece and pay the price in added pounds and feeling yucky.  This is a recipe from Trim Healthy Mama that makes just one piece of cake in a mug.  The cool thing about this cake is that it is sugar-free, quick to make and actually good for your body.  Woo hoo! 

1 egg
2 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
4 tsp Truvia (from the small container, not the baking Truvia with sugar)
1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
dash of vanilla
1 Tbsp water
1 level Tbsp coconut oil

Crack the egg into a large coffee mug and whisk with a fork.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well blended.  Microwave for one minute.  Enjoy your cake!

If you like a fudgy cake, just microwave for 45 seconds instead of a minute.  I eat mine plain, but you can "frost" it with whipped cream cheese or whipped "cream" made from coconut milk. Yum!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Adulterous Woman...

The encounter of Jesus and an adulterous woman is recorded in the eighth chapter of John.  Jesus was at the temple where he was sitting and teaching the people who came to him.

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"

Well now, isn't that an interesting situation?!  As a woman, I've always wondered what happened to the man that was part of that adulterous act, the very act...but I digress.  Back to the story...

These men weren't really interested in seeking justice or God's will.  They wanted to test Jesus, hoping he would say something so that they would have grounds for accusing him in court.  These men did not see the woman as a person with feelings and a past that had shaped her present world.  They saw her as a pawn for their misled purpose.

Can you imagine Jesus looking each man in the eye after they voiced their challenge, then bending down to write something in the dirt?

But the men kept after him for an answer.  So Jesus stood up and answered them.  It wasn't what they were expecting to hear.

He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

That's all he said.  Then he bent down and began writing in the dirt again.

Jesus put everyone there on a level playing field - they were all sinners, the men and the woman.  And they'd better be very careful about how they treated other sinners.

One by one, starting with the oldest first, the men all quietly left leaving the woman standing by herself.  That's when Jesus stood and looked at her and she knew he saw her.

Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?

Then she understood that the men who had left were sinners just like her.  I'm sure relief flooded over her and tears of gratitude stung her eyes.

No one, Sir.

Jesus loved her right where she was and told her how to move on from where she was.  She needed to make a decision to live a life of freedom in obedience to God instead of slavery to sin.

Neither do I condemn you; go your way.  From now on, sin no more.

Who do you relate to - the scribes and Pharisees who caught someone sinning?  Do you find yourself all too often pointing out other peoples' sins?  Jesus puts everyone on a level playing field.  We are all sinners and we'd better be very careful about how we treat other sinners.

Or do you feel like you are the one caught in sin?   Jesus doesn't condemn you but offers, instead, truth that leads you to freedom from the slavery of sin.  It's a choice we all have.  What will you choose? Slavery or freedom?  Everything you need to know is in His Word, the Bible.  Pick it up, read it and discover love and freedom.

Chef Robert's Steak and Watermelon Salad
One of the shows I enjoy watching is Restaurant Impossible.  Chef Robert goes in to help failing restaurants.  He deals with personnel issues, personal issues and usually dirty and outdated dining rooms.  The owners are always appreciative because they understand that Robert has helped them refocus to provide a nice atmosphere and tasty food for their customers.  The owners and staff also feel a unity in purpose and everyone is happy and free to do a great job and enjoy their jobs.  The owners also have to make a decision to learn from Chef Robert, to do what he told them because he leaves.  Sounds amazingly like the story of redemption in the Bible...

This steak and salad are amazing!  He served it with street corn.  I forgot to buy corn so I served this recipe with roasted cauliflower sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese.  But I will include the recipe for the street corn. 

 Tri-tip steak or other lean steak of your choice

1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
2 garlic cloves, roasted and mashed (or 2 tsp minced garlic)
1 Tbsp Siracha sauce
1 jalapeno, chopped (opt)

Mix the marinade ingredients.  Put the steak in a plastic bag or flat dish.  Pour the marinade over the steak, making sure both sides are covered.  Close the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

Before grilling, remove the steaks from the marinade. Save the marinade and heat in small saucepan.  Grill one side of the steaks.  When steaks are turned, put a spoonful of heated marinade on each steak and finish cooking.  Serve, thinly sliced, over watermelon salad.

Watermelon Salad
2 cups watermelon, diced in 1/2" cubes
2 cups tomato, diced in 1/2" cubes (or halved yellow cherry tomatoes)
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
whole mint leaves (opt)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (opt)

Gently mix all ingredients and let sit at room temperature before serving under steak. 

Street Corn

Drizzle small ears of corn with oil, salt and pepper.  Grill until slightly charred.  Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with Monterrey Jack cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over corn before serving.
Sauce:  Blend mayo, chopped tomato and Sirachi chili sauce.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Woman, you are freed...

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath
And behold there was a woman who for 18 years 
had had a sickness caused by a spirit
and she was bent double and could not straighten up at all.

And when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her,
"Woman, you are freed from your sickness."

And He laid His hands upon her 
immediately she was made erect again
began glorifying God.

A synagogue official who was angry because Jesus healed (worked) on the Sabbath confronted Jesus in front of the the multitudeJesus exposed his hypocrisy by pointing out that he untied his oxen and donkeys from the stall and led them away to water them. Jesus exposed the official's sinful heart and his unloving attitude that even his animals were more important than this woman...whom Jesus saw.

And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is,
whom Satan has bound for 18 long years,
should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

And as He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated;
and the entire multitude was rejoicing
over all the glorious things being done by Him.
Luke 13:12-17

Jesus always sees right to the heart of every person at the moment and states and meets the needs that He sees!  Are you more like the official or the woman who had a need?  Either way, Jesus is who you need!  He sees you!

Mushroom Jambalaya
Serves 4
I've been trying to come up with some meatless meals to save money at the grocery store.  So I came up with the idea to marinate chopped mushrooms in sausage spices overnight, hoping they would be a good substitute for sausage in jambalaya.  It was pretty tasty!

For the mushroom "sausage":

8 oz Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced or diced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp dried sage
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Marinate overnight in fridge.

For the jambalaya:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 recipe mushroom "sausage"
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water

Saute the mushrooms, onion and bell pepper in the oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat until the rice is cooked.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Martha, Martha...

Are you familiar with the story of Mary and Martha?  Just in case you aren't, here's the scoop.  These two women were sisters that lived in a village with their brother Lazarus (the guy Jesus brought back to life after he died) and they were dear friends of Jesus.  Martha was a little bossy and wasn't afraid to tell Jesus that He wasn't doing things the way she would do them. She does it in this story and when her brother, Lazarus, died, as well.  In this story, Jesus told Martha off in the kindest of ways, letting her know that the universe did not revolve around her.  Yep...

The story found in Luke 10:38-42 tells about Jesus being welcomed into Martha's home.  Her sister, Mary, was seated at Jesus' feet, listening to Him teach while Martha was focused on putting together a meal that would wow everyone at the table.  She was into the details and everything had to be just right (my interpretation of the situation...from personal experience...).

Well, Martha became frustrated because there was so much to do to pull off this fantastic feast and Mary wasn't helping at all.  She walked into the room where Jesus was talking to Mary and interrupted Him, demanding that He make Mary come help.  Then she inferred that He didn't care because He hadn't already figured out that Martha needed help to pull off the meal she had planned. After all, her hospitality plans were the most important thing happening at her house that day!

 I love Jesus' response to Martha's demands.  I'm sure He chuckled and shook His head as He looked her in the eye.

Martha, Martha,
you are worried and bothered
about so many things;
but only a few things are necessary - 
really only one
for Mary has chosen the good part
which shall not be taken away from her.
"Fume if you want, dear, (I imagine Him saying) but what Mary is doing is more important than your complicated plans for one meal.  I'm not going to tell her to help you, but you can plan something simple for us to eat and come join us as quickly as  you can. I would love to fill you in on what I've been teaching Mary."

There's no record of Martha's response, but I think she adapted her plans quickly and joined them.

The problem was not Martha's heart for hospitality.  The problem was that her plans for the meal became more important than her relationship with Jesus. 

My frustrations usually come when my plans and dreams become more important than my relationship with Jesus...sitting at His feet...learning.

Speaking of quick meals...

Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
Makes 2 servings

I first had this dish at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas, when I went on a business trip with my honey.  It is spicy and delicious and oh so satisfying! And it only takes about 15 minutes to make.

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk (I use almond milk)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup organic corn grits (uncooked polenta)
1/2 cup shredded shard cheddar cheese
2 cups shrimp
1/4 lb organic cooked chorizo sausage, sliced

1.  Saute the sausage until the pieces begin to carmelize (the edges turn golden brown). Using a slotted spoon or a fork, remove the sausage into a small bowl and cover the bowl to keep the sausage warm - leave the oil from the sausage in the saute pan and turn off the heat.
2.  In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat just until it begins to boil.  Slowly, whisk in the corn grits.  Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, turning the heat down a little if the grits start popping out of the pan.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.
3.  Saute the shrimp in the sausage oil until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Turn off the heat and add the sausage back into the saute pan.  Stir to mix the sausage and shrimp. 
4.  Divide the cooked cheesy grits into two soup bowls.  Ladle the shrimp and sausage over the grits, drizzling the oil in the saute pan over the shrimp, sausage and grits. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Sinful Woman...

The story of this particular woman is found in Luke 7:36-50.  Again, it is a familiar story, but I stopped and really looked at the details of her story and how the men in the story responded to her actions. 

Let's set the stage for the story:

Who:  Simon the Pharisee, Jesus, other guests, the sinful woman (immoral woman)

What:  the men were enjoying a meal at Simon's house, this woman appears with a very expensive vial of perfume to anoint Jesus' feet, Simon assumed that Jesus didn't know who she was and that Jesus couldn't know his thoughts - but Jesus knew both!  Simon learned an important lesson that day.

When: while they were reclined at the dinner table (they didn't sit at the table, but reclined beside the table - how was that comfortable?!)

Why: the woman had heard that Jesus was at Simon's house and she wanted to bless Jesus because she loved Him for loving people like her

How:  she stood behind him, she cried so hard that her tears wet his feet, she wiped his feet with her hair then anointed his feet with her expensive perfume, she kissed his feet - and he stayed where he was and let her do what she came to do

As I was going over these facts of the story, some questions came to mind -

What had she seen and heard about Jesus that made her want to approach a famous but controversial rabbi?

Why did she bring expensive perfume to anoint him?  How could she afford such an item?  Was she a high profile prostitute with wealthy clients?

How did she have access to Simon's house and why did he not have her removed when he clearly knew who and what she was?


I love the result of her brave actions.  Jesus knew who she was, what she was.  But he also knew her heart and her love for him.  Because she took a chance to show him, he provided three things to her:


He offers the same three things to any of us who approach him with repentance and love - regardless of who or what we are, what we've done...

Sadly, I can't get any pics to upload so today's recipe (Shrimp and Cheesy Grits) will have to wait.  It's a good one, too!  I'll keep trying...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Her son was dead...

Returning to the stories of women Jesus "saw"...

In Luke 7:11-16 we find the story of a widow who's only son had died.  In those days, this was a tragedy!  She now was going to be cast on to the benevolence of society to have her needs met...or not.

The Word says that there were lots of people with her in the funeral procession, but it also makes it clear that she now had no one else to care for her.  Well-meaning friends and neighbors get busy and forget...

Jesus could have kept on His journey, but He SAW her and felt compassion for her...a woman other people would avoid because she wasn't their responsibility.  He knew why this widow was weeping...every reason why she was weeping and said to her, Do not weep.  She probably looked at Him in shock.

But, our Jesus doesn't just say comforting words.  He does things that show us His love. 

The Bible says that He walked up to the coffin and touched it.  The men that were carrying the coffin came to a halt

Young man, I say to you, arise!

The widow's son sat up and started talking!  Can you imagine how freaked out the people were who witnessed the young man's coming alive?!  The passage says that fear gripped them all and they began glorifying God.

I LOVE the next phrase - And Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Jesus, who saw every aspect of the widow's heartache made sure that she was the first person to hold this young man in her arms.  I'm sure she felt as if her heart would burst with the joy of it all.  And Jesus did that for her...a woman who just moments before had had no one to care for her...

This same Jesus sees you and me and our struggles and hurts; our weeping...

He tells us, do not weep...because He cares for us!  Do not weep and look expectantly for what He will do...our hearts will burst with the joy of it all!

Egg Stuffed Tomatoes

I recently made this for my honey and me for a weekend breakfast.  It was pretty yummy!

Recipe found on Pinterest  from Give Recipe
Serves 3

3 large round tomatoes
3 tsp butter
3 eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cut the tops of tomatoes.

 Remove all the pulp and seeds inside with a spoon. (It helps if you cut around the rim with a sharp knife first.)

Place baking paper in a baking dish and put tomatoes in dish. (I put ours in a muffin tin.  Next time, I will bake them in ramekins.)

Put 1 tsp butter in each tomato and crack one egg in each tomato.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and herb of choice (I used oregano).

Cook for 25-30 minutes or until egg is cooked to your satisfaction.
Serve hot with toast.  It would also be good with toast sticks for dipping, if you like the yolk runny.