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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Casserole Favorites, Anyone?

Some of my favorite dishes are casseroles. I love the smell of them baking in the oven and the way they make me feel cozy and warm. Casseroles equate to comfort food, and there is no better time of year to prepare them than during the frosty winter months.

Everyone loves getting a new recipe to try, so I thought it would be fun to post our favorite casserole recipes here. Just click the comment button below and post your recipe so we can all enjoy it!

One of my all-time favorites is King Ranch Chicken. For those of you who like to add a little spice to life, this one's for you!

King Ranch Chicken
serves 8

1/4 cup margarine
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans Rotel diced tomatoes
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
12 corn tortillas, torn into bite size pieces
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2)Saute bell pepper and onion in margarine.
3) Add soup, Rotel, and chicken. Heat thoroughly.
4) Layer half the tortillas, half the chicken mixture, and half the cheese.
5) Repeat step three.
6) Bake 40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"How to" Series: Cooking a Turkey

A delectable turkey is a done deal if you carefully follow these tried and true turkey tips.

1) A turkey needs adequate time to defrost (at least 4 to 5 days in the fridge). Check your turkey the day before your gathering to make sure it is defrosted. If you need to defrost a turkey in a pinch, fill up your kitchen sink with cold water so that the turkey is completely covered.

2) After your turkey is fully defrosted, open packaging and discard. Rinse turkey well, and pick off stray feathers. Remove neck and paper pouch under the skin containing gizzards. Pat dry with paper towels.

3) Butter bird inside and out. Use approximately one stick of softened butter and a paper towel.

4) Season well with Tony’s Chachere and garlic powder or salt and pepper if you like less of a kick. Rub seasoning inside turkey and underneath skin. Then sprinkle seasoning on top of skin and rub well.

5) Stuff bird loosely right before cooking. Stuffing too early can cause food borne illness. For each pound of turkey, plan on ¾ cup of stuffing.

6) Tie legs together with kitchen twine. This is called trussing your turkey. It helps it to cook evenly.

7) Put turkey in roaster breast side up.

8) Tent breast with foil. Add 2-3 cups of water to roaster so turkey does not burn. About every 45 minutes, remove foil tent and baste bird with pan juices. Re-cover breast with tent after basting. Remove foil tent during the last thirty minutes of cooking. Return to oven to brown breast.

9) Bake turkey at 325 degrees for the amount of time specified on the packaging. Be aware that a stuffed bird takes approximately one hour longer to cook. Cook until the stuffing reaches 165 degrees and the deepest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees on a meat thermometer.

10) Let turkey rest for 30 minutes while making gravy and finishing up side dishes. To make gravy, fill measuring cup with 2 cups of cold water. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup of flour. Make sure there are no lumps. Boil pan drippings from roaster and then slowly add flour mixture, stirring constantly until thickened. Season with salt and pepper as needed. If you like your gravy thinner, add a little more water to the pan. If you want it thicker, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to 1/3 cup of cold water and slowly stir into gravy mixture.

Enjoy! And have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Serving up a Helping of Hospitality

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many of us are hustling and bustling in order to have our homes picture perfect for various gatherings. If you are like me, this may even involve some conflict...between you and your man as he wonders where in the world your sanity has gone. Why, oh why, he wonders, must you spit shine the floor? And clean compulsively until seconds before company arrives?

Now listen up ladies...he may have a point.

You see, as women, we often let our view of hospitality become jaded by the world. We forget that fellowship is the key, not a fancy meal or a perfect home. We tend to be just like Martha.

In Luke 10:38-42, we find the familiar story of two sisters from Bethany, one consumed with the "fixins" and one consumed with fellowship.

"As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."

Like many of us, Martha had a heart for hospitality. If she didn't, she wouldn't have welcomed Jesus into her home. But she became distracted by the details. She took her eyes off her Savior and placed them on her circumstances. And then she began to whine about the work involved in ministering to her precious Jesus. Satan stole an opportunity that was intended to bless her and robbed her of her joy.

Thankfully, Jesus loved Martha enough to gently rebuke her. He reminded her that Mary had discovered the most important thing....fellowship with Him. Sitting and His feet and soaking up every life-giving word that flowed from her Savior's mouth. Basking in His presence. Experiencing the fullness of His love. Knowing that it would not be taken from her.

This holiday season, I pray that you and I, like Mary, will remember that it's all about relationships. Let's not become distracted by the details, but instead examine our motives and purify our hearts so that we are able to joyfully extend hospitality to others.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fixated...On Me, Myself, and I

Do you ever feel like God has called you to serve Him in a certain area and then find yourself in critique mode after you've done what He has asked you to do?

Tonight I had the opportunity to share a brief teaching from Scripture with the ladies at Bible study, but before I even sat down afterward, I was listing all of the things I should have said, how I could have used better analogies, etc., etc., etc.! I began to wonder why I am so often fixated on me, myself, and I.

And then, God, in His merciful voice, whispered to me... It's not about you, Stephanie. It's not your words...it's my WORD. All I have called you to do is proclaim its truth. To be in passionate pursuit of Me and allow others to see that passion. My Word is amazing all by itself. Even if you had not uttered one word in addition to mine, your message would have been complete because my Word lacks nothing.

Ahh, the freeing truth of Scripture. That God does not require perfection, just obedience. All we have to do is open our mouths and speak, knowing with full assurance that the outcome is in the hands of the One whose Word never returns void.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Tribute to my Husband

You may be wondering where I've been. We've been in party mode at our house, with my husband Mark's birthday, my son Noah's birthday, and my mother-in-law Lorraine's birthday all in October. I especially enjoyed throwing Mark a surprise party for his 40th birthday two weeks ago.

But now that all the excitement is finally dying down, this monumental milestone in my husband's life has inspired some reflection on my part. FORTY. Wow. It seems like just yesterday he was a hunky 29 year-old who made me look twice the first time I laid eyes on him. Yet in just ten short years, my husband has probably taught me more than any other person in my life ever will.

That's because Mark is not a regular run of the mill guy. He’s the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it. Really. He is a servant in the truest sense.

I’ll never forget the snowy Saturday morning when I was four months pregnant with my daughter Grace. Mark and I had a pre-baby tradition of going out for bagels every Saturday, and this particular morning I was having especially strong cravings. Mark told me he was going outside to shovel snow and that we would leave when he was done.

Ten minutes passed…then fifteen.

Now mind you, my pregnancy hormones were raging, so you can imagine that I was not too happy when I glanced out the window to find that he had finished shoveling our driveway and was busily shoveling the three elderly ladies' driveways next to us. He thought they may need to go somewhere. You see, my husband just does nice things for people without being asked. I on the other hand was bellowing for a bagel and really couldn't understand where three old ladies might possibly be going at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Mark is also a conqueror. He has taught me much about perseverance, resolve, and utter dependence on God as I have watched him battle Diabetes, Epilepsy, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Three chronic illnesses…all before age 37.

I honestly cannot imagine what it would be like to willingly allow someone to drive me everywhere because of a seizure disorder. Or go from a 185 pound athlete to a 139 pound patient in a wheelchair. To not know if I would ever walk again. To wonder whether I would ever run another triathlon or ride bikes with my children. I mean, I can complain like no tomorrow if I’ve had a rough day with the kids. And woe is me if I happen to get a sinus infection or the flu. I’ll gladly take a week in bed, thank you very much!

But not Mark. In the midst of adversity, my husband is silent. I have never once heard him complain about the fact that he still needs a cane to walk, that he tires easily, or that he takes more medicines and injections than an elderly person. He lives out loud Philippians 2:14-15, which exhorts believers to do everything without complaining or arguing so that they may become blameless and pure, without fault, in a crooked and perverse generation... in order to shine brightly in this dark and often dismal world. He radiates resolve in the midst of suffering and in doing so reflects the character of Christ. I know I would not be the woman I am today without my better half.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the treasure you have unearthed in my husband.

So what about you? Do you have a tribute to your husband that you’d like to share? Let’s rejoice together that God in his infinite goodness saw fit to bless us with the covenant of marriage.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"How to" Series: The 10 T's of Time Management

Time. No one ever seems to have enough of it. Sometimes the days of our lives fly by so fast we can't even remember what we did three hours ago much less what we did last week. But how we choose to spend our time is important because it reflects what we value in our lives. As believers, our heart's desire is to steward our time on Earth wisely so that our Father in heaven is glorified. The 10 T's of Time Management are tried and true time-saving tips that will help you find more time for what is truly important!

1) Trust each and every minute of your life is in God’s hand. Psalm 31:15 (KJV)

Notice God only needs one hand to hold all our times. We are tempted to think God somehow needs our help to figure out what we should do next. The God of the universe is perfectly able to direct every minute of our lives by His mighty power!

2) Tithe a portion of your time each day to the Lord. Psalm 34:1, Ephesians 6:18, Psalm 119:10-20 (The Message)

The average person is awake 15-16 hours per day yet spends less than 10 minutes per day with the creator of time. (Watch 40 million minutes here.)

Can you imagine what would happen if believers became intentional about tithing a portion of their time each day to the Lord?

I don't think we can fathom the global impact that would occur if millions of Christians worldwide began investing 1 1/2 hours of their time each day to deepening their relationships with Christ. The reality is, we become like the people we hang around with. I don't know about you, but there is no person I'd rather be like than Jesus.

3) Take captive extra minutes. Ephesians 5:15-16

Taking captive extra minutes requires discipline! If you find there is never enough time in your day to get everything accomplished, wake up earlier. It is amazing how much you can accomplish if you get up before your kids.

Also, plan and organize each evening.1 Implementing a nighttime routine saves you headaches when morning rolls around. Take baths at night, lay clothes out before bed, make lunches a day in advance, and meal plan so you do not waste time wondering what to cook for dinner. Sorting laundry in the evening and throwing the first load in the washer prepares you for a calm start to your day.

4) Tune out distractions. Colossians 3:2

Ok. This one is simple. The reason we have such difficulty doing what God has asked us to do in our homes is because we are too busy doing other things. So let's get honest. How much time do you spend watching TV, talking or texting, surfing the Internet, or using social networking sites?

If you want to be more productive, carve out a window of time during your day to return phone calls, check e-mail, or use the Internet.2 If it's not time to do those things, don’t do them! You'll be amazed at how much time you save.

5) Test yourself. 1 Corinthians 9:24

If you have a hard time getting motivated (don't we all?), see how fast you can complete tasks by setting a timer.3 This is crucial because if you don't set a timer, you will continue a project inevitably especially if you struggle with perfectionism!

Parkinson’s Law says,“Work expands to fill the time allowed for completion.” So don't let household chores rob you of precious minutes! Set a timer and then move on to the next task when it dings. I promise you, your toilet will still be waiting for you next week.

6) Trade places, not spaces. Matthew 6:19-20

If something doesn't have a home pitch it! In other words, avoid moving an object from one space to another in your home. If you cannot find a place to store it, it's time to get rid of it. So often we forget less is more. When you throw or give away things you don't need, you'll find your home more orderly and peaceful.

7) Tell people no. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Now are ya'll ready? We are going to practice this one together. Out loud say the word "No!" Let me hear you. With a little force. Good job!

For many women, this is the hardest two-letter word in their vocabulary. So many of us feel obligated to do what any and everybody asks of us. After all, we are the caretakers, the nurturers, and often, the crux of the church.

But let me tell you a freeing truth. You are only obligated to do what God has called you to do. And when you choose to do what God hasn't asked of you, you might just end up stealing someone else’s blessing.

8) Track your progress. Proverbs 21:5 (The Message)

Many of us tend to buck structure in our lives. We do what we want to do when we want to do it. The problem with this philosophy is that structure is crucial to getting tasks accomplished.

We often forget God is a God of order and not of chaos. With order comes peace and eventually joy, which is what we need to focus on when a job seems insurmountable.

One way to track your progress is to set realistic goals and make reasonable lists. Notice I used the words realistic and reasonable! Next divide your lists categorically before you prioritize. This will prevent you from trying to prioritize a mile-long laundry list. One way to do this is to divide tasks room-by-room or by various life-areas such as home, job, ministry, etc.

Realize that aspirations and responsibilities are NOT THE SAME! Goals are something you desire to accomplish; responsibilities are what you must accomplish. There is a difference! Sometimes I get so focused on achieving my goals that I forfeit my responsibilities all together. I need to always remind myself that when I steward well over the responsibilities God has entrusted me with, He will expand my territory in His time, not mine.

9) Tackle the toughest jobs first.4 Job 7:1

The reality is we procrastinate when tasks are disliked or difficult. Doing the most difficult job first will give you momentum to do the easier ones because you feel a sense of accomplishment.

10) Tame the desires of your flesh. Matthew 26:41

We may be tempted to swing to one of two extremes: idleness or perfection. Either we don't want to do anything or we must do it perfectly. Or better yet, if we can't do it perfectly, we won't do it at all.

When we begin to venture toward either extreme, we need to run to the feet of Jesus and confess our sin! Neither one of these extremes is healthy ... one is rooted in slothfulness and the other in pride. And both will rob us blind of precious minutes we desperately need in our day.

All in all, our lives are but a vapor. Let's live on purpose!

I'd love for you to leave a comment and share your favorite time management tip so that we might all glean from one another.

“Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." James 4:13-14 (NKJV)

1. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 181, 184.
2. Landers, Robert L. and James A. Hawkins. Mosby's Nursing Leadership and Management Online. (St. Louis: Mosby, 2006), 190-191.
3. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 183.
4. George, Elizabeth. A Woman After God's Heart. (Eugene: Harvest House, 2006), 183.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Word is our Weapon

I believe one of the most exciting things about God’s Word is that we can use it! Our Bibles need not take up residence on the floorboards of our car from one Sunday to the next. God’s Word is powerful, everlasting, and limitless, and He instructs us to study the Word so we can be thoroughly equipped to handle any situation that comes our way. Jesus is the most powerful example in Scripture of someone actively using the Word of God. We see His strategic use of Scripture in Luke 4:1-14.

Like Jesus, we must be ready and willing to use God’s Word in every area of our lives but especially in combating the lies of the enemy. Jesus knew the Word in context and was able to spoil the Devil’s scheme to replace truth with deception. Notice three interesting concepts in this passage: the timing of temptation, the techniques of temptation, and the tools used to triumph over temptation.

The timing of Jesus’ temptation was crucial. Satan tempted Jesus when He was most vulnerable, waiting until He was weak from hunger. Satan attacked Jesus when the desires of His flesh had the opportunity to overcome the desires of His Spirit! While His hunger made Him vulnerable to Satan’s attack, it also made Him powerful. During this period of fasting He was free from the distraction of food and could focus completely on combating the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. What Satan intended for evil, God used for good!

The techniques of temptation used by Satan should make us sit up and take notice. Satan tempted Jesus by taking God’s Word out of context. The enemy knows Scripture and is able to twist the Word in a complex way. This is why it is vital that we study and understand the whole of Scripture in context rather than just memorizing our favorite verses now and then. Satan used Scripture to appeal to Jesus’ fleshly desires: His desire for food (Luke 4:3), His desire for power (Luke 4:6-7), and His desire to prove Himself (Luke 4:9). Satan’s tactics have not changed in over 2000 years, and he appeals to our flesh as well when he tempts us.

The tools Jesus utilized to overcome temptation included speaking God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus did not speak the truth of Scripture to the Devil only one time. Jesus rebuked the enemy three times before he left Him. We should not think we will immediately overcome temptation either.

I love Beth Moore’s notion that God puts us through spiritual battles so He can teach us to fight.1 Spiritual warfare is a divine process that strengthens our resolve and our faith. In order to prepare for the battle, we need to be feasting on the Word so we are armed with holy ammunition!

The first and last verse of this passage demonstrates the importance of a Spirit-filled life. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and after Satan departed He returned to Galilee still full of the Holy Spirit’s power. We must always rely on the power of the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, even when He escorts us into battle with the fiercest enemy we will ever encounter. Rejoice with me today that the Word of God is an unlimited reserve of everlasting truth and yields powerful results when applied to our lives.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Do I stand strong or fall into temptation when the enemy appeals to my fleshly desires?
  • Did I study God’s Word today to equip myself with holy ammunition?
  • Am I proclaiming the truth of Scripture to the enemy when he lies to me?
1. Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press, 2008), 188.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

12 Amazing Attributes

One of my greatest passions in life is mining the treasures of Scripture. I love the Word because I never walk away from it unchanged. Even if I have read a verse or a passage before, it always has something fresh to speak to my heart because of its living power. I have come to understand that when I run to the Word instead of to the world I will find truth. Jesus is referred to as the Word in John 1:1 and then calls himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life in John 14:6.

Just because I love God's Word doesn't mean I never struggle with discouragement and doubt. Honestly, I can be the queen of pity parties, and I don't necessarily need anyone in attendance to throw one! {wink} When I find myself in a spiritual rut, I try to carefully evaluate my focus, and what I often find is that it has somehow shifted from God above to self below. It is unbelievable to me how self-focused I can be.

During these times, what I need most is to dwell on the amazing attributes of the Word. To reflect on the totality of Scripture. To know that tucked within its pages is everything I will ever need for life and godliness. Only then can the Lord perform much needed heart surgery, ridding me of fleshly desires that war for control and replacing the lies the enemy whispers in my ears and attempts to weave throughout my mind with Truth.

Rejoice with me today that God's Word is:

1) PERFECT- “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul…” Psalm 19:7 a

2) POWERFUL- "Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17

3) TRUSTWORTHY- “The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7 b

4) TRUE- “The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.” Psalm 19:9 b

5) RIGHT- “The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart.” Psalm 19:8 a

6) PURE- “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Psalm 19:8 b

7) HOPEFUL- “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.” Psalm 119:114

8) DESIRABLE- “They (the laws of the Lord) are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.” Psalm 19:10

9) EVERLASTING- “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

10) JOY-BRINGING- “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143

11) LIFE-GIVING- “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” James 1:18

12) LIMITLESS- “Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.” Psalm 119:96

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jesus is the Word

Have you ever wondered how some women are so intimately connected with Jesus and why they look forward with great expectation to spending time in His Word? For the first three years after re-dedicating my life to Christ, I pondered this very question. Frankly, I really couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. I had enough to accomplish each day and adding Bible study to my never ending to-do list seemed impossible. And when I did actually try to read the Bible from beginning to end, I always got stuck somewhere in the middle of Deuteronomy. The problem, however, was with my perspective.

What I eventually realized is that reading the Bible is not something that we do; it is someone we encounter. That someone is Jesus Christ. John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The simple and beautiful truth of Scripture is that true intimacy with Jesus occurs when we become willing to linger awhile in His Word. This is because Jesus is the Word.

The reality is, if we want to know more of our Jesus, we have to know more of His Word. As we become grounded in God’s Word, we cultivate a depth of intimacy with Jesus that leaves us with an unquenchable thirst and an insatiable hunger for more of Him. Through His Word, we discover His attributes, His character, His likes and dislikes, and His plan for our lives. We can then experience abundant life because we are aligning our hearts and minds in accordance with God’s pleasing and perfect will.

I'll leave you with this question to ponder.

If your husband wrote you a love letter, what would you do with it? Would you only read it on Sundays?

Or would you cherish it...read and re-read it... until it was barely legible, tattered and tear-stained from the fullness of joy found in its presence?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Kind of Friend I Want to Be

Have you ever thought much about what kind of friend you are to others?

Lately, I have really been searching my heart to determine the kind of friend I want to be. The answer I keep coming up with over and over is that I want to impact people. I want them to be changed for the better because they know me. I want to encourage them, challenge them, and together pursue this thing called godliness.

This is just the kind of friend Jesus was. People knew the disciples had been with Jesus because they were different after encountering Him (Acts 4:13). I so want to ooze Jesus in my relationships that His impact on my life rubs off on the lives of others.

My friend Katie recently scratched a short note to me at the end of our last GEMS session. It said, "I thank God I met you." Now you have to understand, Katie isn't thankful she met me because I am some sort of fashion diva or the funniest girl on the planet. Katie is thankful that God saw fit to set up a divine appointment for two strangers in a coffee shop because I am purposeful about leading her to the feet of Jesus.

My prayer is that through this blog I can be that kind of friend to you and vice versa. Together we can encourage and exhort one another to passionately pursue Jesus. In the process, we will become polished into beautiful gems who sparkle to reflect His glory.