Saturday, July 25, 2009

At Last!!!

Hello friends! Hope this finds you well. Can't believe it's been almost 3 weeks since my last post. During that time, we enjoyed a wonderful family vacation in Florida. We arrived back home last Sunday and literally hit the ground running. It has been a very busy week! Now that things seem to be slowing down a bit, I want to share with you some vacation highlights.

I have to be honest. Initially, I really didn't want to take this trip. Although things had settled down somewhat with my Dad, and my niece did not need surgery, it still seemed like a bad time to go away. Tom has been awaiting word for three months now about a possible outsourcing of his job, Brennan's wedding is only a couple of months away, etc.
Tom reasoned if his job were outsourced, he could very well lose any vacation days he had earned and this would be our last opportunity to take a vacation with Brennan before his wedding. Lastly, he reminded me of our 25th wedding anniversary this year. (We had agreed a few months back to postpone any big plans to celebrate until after Brennan and Breezy's wedding.) Tom persisted. I called my sister, who confidently assured me things were well under control at home. Soon, the Lord begin to set my mind at ease about the other details. Things fell into place and before long, we were boarding a plane to Florida.

If I told you everything went perfectly (without a hitch),that would be untrue. Like most vacations, there were a few disappointments. HOWEVER, in the big picture, those things pale in comparison to the incredible memories we made on this trip. We spent several days in Naples, Florida, visiting our favorite beaches, spending hours talking and playing in the pool, enjoying great dinners, etc.

We then headed north for a few days to Longboat Key and surrounding areas. As it turns out, Brianna (Brennan's fiancee) was there with her Mom visiting her Grandparents at the same time (Tom and I had no idea of this when we planned our trip.) We spent several days doing things together with them, which proved to be great bonding time for our two families. Brianna's Grandparents have been coming to Longboat Key every summer for 10 years now, so they know about all the wonderful restaurants and fun things to do. One of their absolute favorite things to do (and also one of ours) is simply enjoying the gorgeous beach, particularly at sunset. We spent hours walking, shelling, playing in the water and talking.

Truly, the most amazing memory of the entire trip was something I can still hardly believe we did. Tom, Brennan and I went PARASAILING!! It was incredible! Before this trip, I would have NEVER thought of doing such a thing. First, because I'm afraid of heights and second, I can't swim! It was Tom's idea, so he was very excited. Brennan loves adventure, so he was definitely onboard. With the assurance I would have a life jacket and the potential we could all go up together, I agreed. (Scared or not, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to experience something so exciting with my guys!) Now, after having done it, let me just tell you it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. I would do it again, in a heartbeat! The winds were favorable that particular day, so all three of us were able to go up together. You may be surprised to know it was incredibly quiet and peaceful. Believe it or not, we were able to talk to one another the entire time in a normal tone of voice. AMAZING! We all loved it and unanimously decided the experience is in our top 5 family memories of all time. If you've never done it, I highly recommend it.

This truly turned out to be one of our best family vacations, I'm so very glad we went. If you'd like to see some of our photos, click on the album below...enjoy!

Florida - 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

from Streams in the Desert

(photo courtesy of Google images)

He made me into a polished arrow. (Isaiah 49:2)

Pebble Beach, on the California coast, has become quite famous for the beautiful pebbles found there. The raging white surf continually roars, thundering and pounding against the rocks on the shore. These stones are trapped in the arms of the merciless waves. They are tossed, rolled, rubbed together, and ground against the sharp edges of the cliffs. Both day and night, this process of grinding continues relentlessly. And what is the result?

Tourists from around the world flock there to collect the beautiful round stones. They display them in cabinets and use them to decorate their homes. Yet a little farther up the coast, just around the point of the cliff, is a quiet cove. Protected from the face of the ocean, sheltered from the storms, and always in the sun, the sands are covered with an abundance of pebbles never sought by the travelers.

So why have these stones been left untouched through all the years? Simply because they have escaped all the turmoil and the grinding of the waves. The quietness and peace have left them as they have always been -- rough, unpolished, and devoid of beauty -- for polish is the result of difficulties.

Since God knows what a niche we are to fill, let us trust Him to shape us to it. And since He knows what work we are to do, let us trust Him to grind us so we will be properly prepared.

O blows that strike! O hurts that pierce

This fainting heart of mine!
What are you but the Master's tools
Forming a work Divine?

~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Friends, wherever God has us right now, let us fully surrender our hearts to the task. May we allow Him to do his best refining work through our greatest struggles and difficulties. I'm praying for you. Be blessed this day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Independence Day Weekend!!!

Hope you and yours have a glorious weekend celebrating all the wonderful blessings we have in this great nation. We'll be celebrating with Brianna's family tonight. No doubt it will be a great time! Tomorrow morning, the 5K run will pass in front of our house as we play patriotic music and cheer people of all ages (especially our friend, Jennifer taking part this year!) Tom has nearly 50 small flags decorating our front yard. = ) Tomorrow night, we'll watch our city's annual fireworks display. Always an impressive show.

I've been busy in the kitchen today, making desserts for tonight. I'm going to share two of them with you! First...a long-time family favorite, Banana Split Cake!

Although it's name suggests "cake," there is absolutely no baking involved in making this little treat. It's a graham cracker crust, covered by a layer of creamy (or more appropriately.... "dreamy") deliciousness, fruit, whipped cream, maraschino cherries and today, (in honor of 4th of July) blue sprinkles! I received this recipe from a co-worker many years ago. It's always a hit! (Particularly during the summer when you may not want to use your oven.)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of margarine, melted

2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 eggs
3-4 bananas (peeled, sliced and spritzed with lemon juice or Sprite)
1 can (13 oz) crushed pineapple (drained)
Large bowl - Cool Whip
2 sticks of margarine, softened
maraschino cherries, drained (optional)
nuts, crushed (optional)

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Spread into 9 x 13 pan and refrigerate. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, confectioner's sugar and 2 sticks of softened margarine, beat at a high speed for 15 minutes (this is not a typo). Pour this mixture over the crust. Slice bananas and layer on top (remember to spritz them with Sprite or lemon juice so they don't brown). Then, using a fork, gently place crushed pineapple over the entire layer. Cover this layer with Cool Whip. If desired, sprinkle with finely chopped nuts of your choice. (I usually offer them separately as I cut each serving, instead.) Garnish with maraschino cherries. Refrigerate. Serves 12-15. (Tastes best if it can sit for several hours.) Enjoy!!!

If you're looking for something a little more low-fat, try this one...Weight Watchers Crustless Strawberry Pie! Loaded with flavor and couldn't be simpler to make. Best of all, only 1 point per slice!!! = )

(photo courtesy of Google Images)

4 cups strawberries, sliced
1 small box, vanilla cook & serve pudding (not instant)
2 cups water
1 small box of sugar-free strawberry gelatin

Pour strawberries into pie plate (deep dish works best), set aside. On the stove, combine the pudding and water. Stir occassionally while heating. When mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and pour in the strawberry gelatin (powder). Stir with a wisk so that all the gelatin dissolves. Let cool to room temperature, then pour over strawberries. It's that simple!!! (Truly, this is a huge payoff for minimal effort.) Refrigerate for several hours or even better, overnight. Serve with Cool Whip, if desired. Of course, you could also use a pie shell or graham cracker crust. We like it just as well without it (and it helps keep it very lowfat, too!) Enjoy!!!

I'd love to hear if you try either of these recipes...either this weekend or anytime!

Once again, Happy 4th of July, everyone! Have a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends, reflecting on the joys and amazing privileges of being an American! Stay safe!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009 Scripture Memory Challenge #13

Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. ~ Philemon 1:7 (NLT)

Since most of my readers appear to be women, you can hopefully paraphrase the passage above with the word “sister” or “friend” in place of “brother.” (lol) In either case, I want to thank you for your continuing prayers and kind concern for my family. I wish I could express just what an encouragement they have been! There have been several blessings as of late, no doubt a testament to your prayers:

* Dad received new casts last week. They are still non-weight-bearing. (As the swelling continues to diminish, the original casts were no longer as tight as they needed to be to best support healing.)

* Mom is doing extremely well with overseeing Dad’s care and medications. Her own health seems to be improving in the face of this challenge. Despite the frustrations that undoubtedly come from spending nearly every waking moment together (most of the time confined to their home) they seem to be growing closer.

* My uncle and cousin built a very nice ramp for my Dad so that he can go outdoors when he would like.

* A large local Sunday school class (a friend of my sister) provided meals 3 nights a week for the past three weeks. This has been a HUGE help, not just to Mom, but to my sister and I as well, who along with a few other friends, are providing meals.

* My niece does not need surgery to repair her collar bone!!! She is still having pain and still pretty limited in what she can do, but is improving and healing. Although this is not at all the summer she had planned before her senior year of high school, she (and all of us) are grateful she doesn’t have to factor surgery and recovery into the mix.

* My Dad has not smoked since the day of his injury (May 27th). At first, it was because he was hospitalized. As days went on, however, he had no desire to do so. He indicates he has no cravings whatsoever. My Dad has been smoking cigarettes for years, so this is such an incredible blessing! = )

These are but a few of the many ways we’ve seen God’s hand through you, your kind friendship and your prayers. Once again...thank you. I’m choosing this passage as my current Scripture Memory Challenge verse because of its evidence in my life. I pray it encourages you, as well.