Sunday, August 24, 2014

I LOVE this salad!!

I was just thinking that I could be writing about some important things -- the study we just finished on Tuesday nights (which was excellent) or the book I'm reading for staff retreat (we are all reading it) -- instead I'm going to tell you about my new favorite salad and it is really delicious -- of course, I have no pictures!!  I had something similar at a shower and so I searched until I found a recipe that I liked and I did a lot of tweaking.

BLT Chopped Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Feta and Avocado


8 cups romaine lettuce - washed, dried and chopped
1/2 pint - or you can use the whole pint - grape tomatoes - cut in half
1 package of pre-cooked bacon -- heated, cooled and crumbled
1 can sweet corn (I love shoe peg) - drain if needed
1 can black beans (drained)
chopped green onions - two . . .or the whole bunch - depending on how much you like onion
orange or yellow bell pepper - chopped
2 avocados chopped
8 ounces feta - crumbled

I washed and chopped the lettuce and had it in a big bag with the tomatoes (in the fridge).  I had the other ingredients all ready to go (also in the fridge so that I could add at the last moment -- except the avocados they were in the garage ripening until the last minute)- - I peeled and chopped the avocado and added right before serving.

For the salad dressing, I took a bottle of light ranch - Hidden Valley - salad dressing and poured it into a bowl.  I added the juice of one to two limes and a healthy dose of  Tastefully Simple Fiesta Party Dip Mix (you can order here)  They have no idea I'm promoting their product nor have they paid me any money.  I love this stuff - made into dip or salad dressing!!
Whisk together and put in a mason jar (or container) until ready to serve.

Place all ingredients into a bowl and add dressing - a little at a time - and toss - until well coated.  There is one problem with this salad - once it is tossed, you don't want the leftovers, they are a soggy mess -- so you might want to toss smaller amounts if you think it is not going to be all consumed in one meal.  You can also make a much smaller salad using the same ingredients - smaller quantities.  

THIS IS SOOOOO GOOD!  Hope you enjoy as much as we have!
If you wanted to make it a complete meal, you could add grilled chicken - to the salad or on the side.  Also great served with the mexican casserole we served in this post.

I served to our young adults a couple of weeks ago and they loved it.  I probably added more lettuce to that salad - that is the good thing about this recipe - you can adjust for the number of people you will be serving.

Gotta go get ready for church -- see you soon!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Will You Hold My Hand?

Sooooo . . .first off - just in case you don't know this about me . . .I'm a little bit of a germ-a-phobe.  I don't drink after my husband and children.  I wash my hands off and use hand sanitizer (yes, I've read the studies.)  I also am just a little funny about "my space" - you know - that space around each individual that some people don't respect???  If I love you, you may invade my space . . .if not, back up please :-)  . . .said with lots of love!!

Now that I've admitted my weirdness (just SOME of my weirdness - I won't share all in one post!!), let me tell you about what happened yesterday.

In my job, I am expected to re-present not only our church (yes - I meant to hyphenate that), but also to re-present Christ to others.  (actually - we should all be doing that but if you are like me, you fail miserably most of the time -- as a matter of fact, I feel like I miss MANY opportunities every day . . .).

Yesterday, someone showed up in the office and asked if I would go and pray with them.  I said, "sure" . . .and told another employee where I would be (just to be on the safe side).

This person and I went down to our chapel and we "chatted" as we went down the back steps.  When we entered the chapel, I lit the candles on the altar and I asked if he was able to kneel.  


He said "yes" so we knelt there in front of the cross. 



 I asked him what he wished to pray about and he shared with me . . .and then he said it.  Yes, he said it to ME, the germ-a-phobe . . . "will you hold my hand?"  Such simple words . . ."will you hold my hand?"

Those of you who know me well will be surprised - I immediately answered in the affirmative.  I think I even said something like "certainly."  While I prayed, I never thought about the fact that we were holding hands.  Of course, as soon as I finished praying, I disengaged myself.  We chatted a few more minutes and talked about hope and how praying gives us hope sometimes when nothing else will.

I started back up the steps and when I came out on our floor, I immediately walked into the bathroom and washed my hands . . . (sorry!) . . .but as I was doing so, I thought to myself, "I think I just held the hand of Jesus."  Maybe I did . . . Maybe I held the hand of Jesus . . .maybe . . .

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  (addition according to Lisa -- When did you ask me to pray with you?  When did you say, "Will you hold my hand?")
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

UPDATE -- P.S. I FAILED MISERABLY AT 3:45 TODAY . . . I DID NOT RE-PRESENT CHRIST . . . . . . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

God is Awesome

I snapped these sunrise pictures from our front porch(es) last week . . .this morning, when I went out to walk at 5:00 a.m., the stars were twinkling brightly - I could see the big dipper along with other formations.  When I looked up and saw those stars, I immediately started humming the old praise song, "Our God is an awesome God, he reigns with heaven above . . ."

Our God is indeed awesome - see his creation?  No words necessary.









Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Fourth of July . . .and six months


I married into a large extended family - and I love it.  It can be overwhelming at times but I still love it.  We've been celebrating the Fourth of July holiday together with some of Mark's first cousins and their families for as long as I can remember - since our kids were small.  Mark's cousin, Mollie, and her husband Roger have a place on Lake Mitchell and they graciously invite us to invade their space for the day.  We've dragged all sorts of folks with us - from friends of the kids to my nephew to a children's intern at Trinity - what was her name??  Mollie always graciously welcomes us all.

This year was different.  This was our first year without Nancy.  We still had fun being together but we were all keenly aware of her absence.  Goodness gracious, we miss her.  This grieving business is hard work.  Mollie and Roger have not been spending much time at the lake so imagine her surprise when she opened a cabinet and there on top of the paper plates . . .as if it had been gently placed there . . . was an appointment card written in Nancy's own handwriting.  It was like a tiny piece of Nancy - letting us all know that she was indeed with us.  I thought there would be lots of tears but I was amazed.  We laughed a lot.  Nancy would have loved that.



I cannot tell you how many hours Nancy and I sat in chairs down by the water - sunbathing and watching the kids . . .and also in the water . . .floating around on noodles . . .just fyi - we talked about everything.  Sometimes I felt like surely we were going to solve all the problems of the world in our chats.

We were unable to go to Mollie's last year.  The house and property had sustained some major damage in one of the tornadoes.  This picture was taken two years ago.  We also have always spent much time in this little glassed in room - collapsing in a chair in the air conditioned space after getting too much sun or after eating too much homemade ice cream.


So . . .the six month part of the title . . .it has been six months this week since Nancy left us.  Oh my goodness.  I've watched the girls - some from afar and some from up close.  Nancy would be so very proud.  They all have her strong will.  They are all standing upright.  They are all smiling.  They are all successful.  She would be so very proud.  Yes, she would be so very proud.  We miss her so much.  Just finding the pictures for the blog and sitting here typing has made that wave of "I miss you" wash over me.


This picture of Nancy was taken in 2012.  A few of us gathered together at Edgar's at the Colonnade to celebrate her birthday.  She looked especially beautiful that day, didn't she?


This picture was taken not even a year ago - in September - at her surprise party.  Oh Suzan Brandt - you were such a wise woman and I am so thankful that you planned this party for your sunday school class to celebrate Nancy (and that you invited us to celebrate, too).

Nancy - we miss you lots!  Give Jesus a hug from all of us.  Thank God that we will meet again some day!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do you have a mother-in-love?

I have a friend who calls her mother-in-law by the name of "mother-in-love" and I think that is such a neat name.  Those of us who have good mother-in-laws know how true that title can be.  I've certainly heard my share of many "demon" mother-in-laws . . .and "not so good" mother-in-laws (there are more than two categories that I could list but I decided that you could fill in the blanks from really, really bad . .. to just sort of bad).  I was blessed with a good one and she is getting older and I know we need to enjoy every moment with her (of course, I'm the one who skipped out on lunch yesterday).  Speaking of lunch, she still cooks lunch for the family EVERY SINGLE Sunday.  She is in ____ years old.  I can't tell you because she would kill me if I posted it on the internet.  She got mad at Mark and George when they were little boys and they told everyone in the neighborhood that she was 30 so I can't even imagine how mad she would be at me if I told everyone in the world just how old she is.  I also can't tell you because I don't know FOR SURE.  I think I know but I'm not sure.  Hope  you are chuckling by this point.  Let me just tell you that it is amazing that she is cooking lunch for us every week at this point.  Most people are sitting back giving orders to someone else . . .waiting on someone else to take care of them . . .at this point in life.  Not my mother-in-love.

So, it was a honor to cook lunch for her for her birthday in July.  She loves flowers so I used roses for the centerpiece.  We gave all our vases to the Salvation Army when we moved but Hunter (one of our Tuesday night guys) brought flowers to me on the first Tuesday night in our new house!!  So . ..I had his colorful mason jar and was thankful to have it!!  I'm not a flower arranger but I kept cutting stems (under water just like my mother-in-love taught me to do) and I think I made a nice centerpiece.  



We had birthday balloons for the birthday girl and "happy birthday" napkins.  Everyone - no matter their age - should feel special on their birthday!



My MIL is also one of the best cake bakers around.  Anytime there is a bake sale at the church, her cakes are pre-sold long before they arrive at the church.  The problem with that is that none of us feel up to the challenge of attempting to bake a cake for her.  Thank God (and I mean that!) for the ladies from other parts of Alabama who make caramel cakes and sell them at the Piggly Wiggly (local grocery store -- fondly called "the Pig" . . .as in, "I'm going to the Pig to pick up a loaf of bread).  She loves caramel cake and I bought THE VERY LAST ONE at my Pig.  I keep pecans in the freezer (doesn't every southern woman? we can't cook without them!!) so I decorated the top and sides with big pretty pecan halves (she also LOVES pecans).





I have no idea whether or not I still own a cake stand . . .it may be at the Salvation Army also (at the end of packing . . . a lot of things went to Salvation Army . . .we couldn't get everything on one truck and it had to stay overnight and both cars were fully packed . . .soooooo a few things went bye bye and I know I'll have to replace them . . .BUT there are also things still in "the unit" (Mark calls the storage unit - "the unit").  For all I know, that cake stand may reappear.  This cake is perched gingerly on the top of a Steuben glass compote dish (which we found when we were packing - we evidently inherited it from Aunt Nelle and it has been packed away for 20 years!!).  Susie (no . . .I never call her Susie to her face - Grandmother, perhaps . . .but never Susie!) started to tilt the cake to blow out the candles and you can see that hand shooting out from one of the guys to steady it!  That would have been bad.  Bad daughter-in-law!!


I think she looks quite pleased, don't you?  We tried hard to make her day special.  We served shrimp and grits and feta slaw and some other veggies along with caramel cake and butter pecan ice cream.
She deserves to feel special - she works hard to make all of us feel special!!




Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Old Am I?

In reality, I'm pretty old.  I've been dragging some boxes to and from the garage - up 18 stairs to my craft room . . .and that is after walking about 50 minutes - from 5:00 - 5:50 a.m. . . .and I'm feeling a tad old today.  Not mentally (because I'm taking a day of much needed vacation to wait on workmen -- woo hoo!!!) - just a few aches and creaks and pains.  That is what happens when you carry around way too much weight - yes, I know it.  If you've ever wondered should you tell me that I'm overweight - no need to tell me . . . I know!  BUT on Tuesday nights, starting around 6:15, I don't notice my age nor my weight nor my creaks and pains.  On Tuesday nights, I am not old.  It is the most amazing thing.  It is as if God gives a mega vitamin with an extra energy shot to me as the young adults begin to arrive.

We have been studying "The New Rules of Love, Sex, and Dating" by Andy Stanley.  Since we started this study, attendance on Tuesday nights has jumped way up again.  If you are single - even if you are in a relationship but not married - watch his sermons online.  Please.  You won't regret it.  You deserve to hear what he has to say!!  Here is the link for Designer Sex (no wonder our crowds have been larger -- with titles like Designer Sex!!) - the one we watched on Tuesday night.

Back to feeling old vs. not feeling old. . . .there is just an amazing amount of energy in our house when 25 young adults between the ages of 22 and 29 walk through our door.  I feel like I'm sucked right up into a vortex of "youngness."  It is GREAT!!

We always have an ice breaker question.  A couple of weeks ago, the question was, "Where is your hometown"?  We only had a small handful of folks who called the Greater Birmingham area home.  We have folks from Kentucky and Georgia and Louisiana and Mississippi and Illinois and Tennessee and Lineville, Al to Oneonta, AL and Gadsden, AL and everything in between.  After everyone left that night, Mark and I tried to recreate the list - matching the names with the towns & states.  It is just amazing.  Sometimes I feel like we are living in "A Field of Dreams" - if you build it, they will come.  I sometimes feel like God must have said, "if you offer it, they will come."

God has and is continuing to do amazing things in the lives of these incredible young adults.  Remember that old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks"?  Well  -- that is wrong.  God is teaching Mark and me (surely Mark is the only old dog . . .:-) ) so very much every single week.  When I see the things these young adults are learning and when I hear their opinions, I am constantly amazed.  They teach us so much.  They look at the world in an entirely different way than my generation -- and I'm so glad.  When we have discussion, my eyes are often opened to truth from God that I've never even thought about.

I want to share just a few pictures.  (we now have plantation shutters on all our windows and the bolt of fabric standing in the corner by the window is now on those two wing chairs -- just had to throw that in there!!)

On this night (pictured below), Kelly was sharing about her recent mission trip to Mexico.  Kelly is in seminary and she is a youth minister at a local Lutheran Church (you don't have to go to Trinity or be a Methodist to participate).  She drove a van of students across the border and lived for a week with no indoor plumbing among other things.





On this night (pictured below), the group was making 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the church of the reconciler in downtown Birmingham -- a United Methodist mission congregation.  Reconciler provides a warm meal everyday but Saturday -- they send a sandwich home with those who might go without otherwise.


We had enough folks to divide into two groups of sandwich makers.  This is one of our ongoing projects.  We probably make PB&J's for Reconciler at least four times a year.



A week or so ago, we made chicken sandwiches and packed lunches for Urban Kids -- a part of Urban Ministry.  There are about 35-40 kids/leaders who attend a summer program at Urban.  There are folks there to love on the kids; to let them know that someone cares.  There are activities - lots of fun, also.  Different groups provide lunch throughout the summer.  We tried to make the lunches kid-friendly but we also wanted to include some healthy choices.  Our juice boxes were 100% fruit juice - one whole serving of fruit!  We also packed carrot sticks and small containers of low fat ranch dressing - everyone loves to dip!!  We did include a serving of cookies and a serving of chips, along with the sandwiches.  (I don't seem to have a picture from that night - probably because it only took them about 10 minutes to do the work!!)

Everyday, I thank God for this awesome opportunity.  Yes, sometimes I feel old . . . and sometimes I feel tired . . .but oh my goodness, Mark and I are so very blessed.  So . . .how old am I?  Not too old . . .not too old!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What? Hands in the air?

God continually amazes me.  I have no idea where our printer is hiding . . .so I've been emailing the sunday school lesson to myself and I've been stopping by my office to print it out.  I printed in a very large font and double spaced so the lesson was about 40 pages long.  I walked to the copier and all that printed was 15.5 pages.  I ran back into my office and opened the email on my phone thinking that surely there was a mistake . . .nope - I somehow screwed up and only emailed the work I did at first . . .not the completed work.  So I had from 8:45 until 10:15 to worry  pray about the lesson.  I MADE myself focus on the sermon (and it was good) and I prayed feverishly until the service was over.  I then picked up a pen and scribbled some notes on the back of that page 16 . . .and prayed some more.  It wasn't the best lesson that I have ever taught but God showed up.  He is faithful.  Yesterday, that phrase was in my head all day long -- He is faithful.  Yes, he is.

So that was this morning.  We spent the rest of the day with family and now Mark has gone to the storage unit to bring another load home.  (are we ever going to get all our belongings into this house?  Maybe I should have asked him to look for the printer!!!)  The house is totally quiet - even the washer and dryer have ceased to make noise.  I just watched this week's lesson from "The New Rules of Love, Sex, and Dating" by Andy Stanley.  Oh my goodness - so very powerful.  Andy Stanley ended his sermon by having the praise band sing the song below.  I already have powerful memories from a prior Discovery weekend of this song.  I'm sitting at the dining room table in the dark . . .listening to this song . . .weeping . . .and holding my hands in the air (what?  I don't do that!!) OH HOW HE LOVES US!!

Anyway . . .wow!  God is amazing.  The words to this song are amazing.  Andy Stanley's sermon was amazing.  Get the point yet?  Wow!  Just Wow! 



He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don't have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way...

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us...
Oh, how He loves us...
Oh, how He loves us.