Chicken and Dumplings Time

Last Friday night we were sitting around the table as the freezing rain (not snow, thank goodness!) pounded on the skylights and the wind howled an ugly melody none of us wanted to hear. We had guests coming for dinner the next evening, and I had no idea what to fix. All of a sudden, it hit me. What more appropriate warm comfort meal than good ol’ Eastern Shore chicken and dumplings! Definitely one of Ben’s favorites, and something neither of our friends had enjoyed before.

So chicken and dumplings it was! Except I had no chicken. No problem, just go buy one the next morning, right? That got a bit tricky, however, because when Ben went to the store for me, the first three grocery stores he went to were totally out of chicken. Seems the upcoming predicted snow storm produced a run on chicken. Who knew? Fortunately the butcher at the last store he visited said they didn’t have any whole chickens left in the meat department, but the deli department did. I guess the butcher felt bad for him when she saw the look of disappointment on his face as he explained how his wife had offered to fix chicken and dumplings for him, and he HAD to find a chicken! Of course, the deli department manager said they couldn’t sell the uncooked chickens because they weren’t cooked! Yes, that’s what he wanted them for…to cook! After some convincing by the butcher, the deli manager packed up two uncooked chickens for Ben, and he happily brought home his two prized birds!
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Ben grew up in the Midwest where they had chicken and dumplings as well, but the ones he’d always had were biscuits cooked on top of a pot of chicken. Not at all what we make on the Eastern Shore. When he first looked at my mother’s chicken and dumplings and saw this concoction of flat white squares of shiny dough, he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do with them. He didn’t want to insult my mother, but, well he’d made up his mind that he probably wouldn’t like them.

Surprise! They instantly became his favorite meal!

There were many Sunday afternoon family dinners when I was growing up that featured chicken and dumplings. LOTS of dumplings. My uncles would always argue good naturedly over who got the last bit of them, and there were never any left. And even better, when my grandmother would bake one of the chickens from her henhouse, sometime eggs would be inside; just the yolk, no shell. Now THAT was some good eating! And reserved for us kids only!

I’ve fixed this for years, and introduced lots of friends to the joy of chicken and dumplings. Our daughter loves them, too, and they’re actually one of the first things I taught her how to fix. As a kid she liked rolling out the dough and cutting it into squares to drop in the chicken stock.

If you’re counting calories, or carbs, this dish isn’t one you can eat too often. If you need gluten free, well, I don’t know which gluten free flour to recommend, or even if it would work with gluten free flour. That’s up to you to try, but be sure to let me know if you’re successful.
dumplings
Chicken and Dumplings – Eastern Shore style

1 oven roaster or whole frying chicken (if the chickens are small, depending on number of guests, you may need two)

Bake chicken in covered roasting pan with a little water at 325 degrees until done, usually 30 minutes per pound. You can season it with salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, whatever you want. When chicken is done, remove to serving plate, cover to keep warm. Do NOT drain the juices from the pan, because that’s what you will cook the dumplings in, on top of the stove. I put the pan on the stove, lengthwise, over two burners, and bring the juice to a slow boil. You’ll probably need to add extra water to it so you’ll have enough for the dumplings.

About 20 minutes before the chicken is done, start preparing the dumplings. How many you make depends on how many people you are serving. My rule is normally 1 cup of flour mixture per person.
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tbl shortening (I use Crisco)
1 tsp flour
Water to make the dough

That’s it. Combine the ingredients, using a pastry cutter for the shortening. Add water slowly and mix enough in until the dough is a consistency to roll out. Roll out on a floured surface until it’s about ¼” thick (if you’re like me and using several cups of flour, you’ll do this several times, rather than using one big hunk of dough; trust me, it’s easier).

Cut into 2”-3“ squares and drop the dumplings into the chicken juices. Since you’re making them in advance before the pan is ready, just stack them on a plate and cover until you’re ready to cook them. Cook 20 minutes. Scoop up into a bowl and serve immediately. With the chicken, of course!

And don’t fight over who gets the last helping!

Selling a Piece of My Heart

The following is an excerpt from “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart”, to be published this spring on Amazon.com. “Memories” is a memoir of the last years of my mother’s life, and discusses dealing with dementia, as well as overcoming the grief that follows the death of a mother.

“…I have heard the Lord Almighty say, ‘All these big fine houses will be empty ruins.’” (Isaiah 5:9) Granted, all of our earthly homes will one day be gone, and replaced with beautiful heavenly mansions, but at the time I didn’t think of it that way. I didn’t want to lose the last of my physical reminders of my mom, but I had no choice but to sell her home.

It took me several months before I could bring myself to do it. Fortunately the house was paid for, I didn’t have to rush into making decisions. As much as I wanted to be able to keep it, and possibly use it as a second home, I knew it just wasn’t practical. Taking care of one home is difficult enough some days, let alone two.Image3

I’d thought about it long and hard before I made my decision. There were so many wonderful memories there, it broke my heart to sell, but the house needed a family to live there full time. A family that would make new memories of their own life in that house. And the house needed a family that would live there all the time, and enjoy it like it should be enjoyed.

Our daughter Ashley was heartbroken over the decision. Like me, she didn’t want to give up the last part of her grandmother that she still had. But in the end, she realized like I had, that it was inevitable. So almost a year after we lost my mom, we ventured back to the Eastern Shore of Maryland from Virginia Beach, and began that very difficult task.

Right before we began packing, I walked through the house again. It was lonesomeDaddy Older and empty. Vacant. A house with just pieces of furniture and no life. I went from bedroom to bedroom, and when I got to my mom’s room I sat on the bed and looked at her vanity. Most of her things were still on it, her shoes were still under the vanity seat. Daddy’s picture was still on the table by her mirror where she could tell him good morning and good night. And all of a sudden the tears came again, with a vengeance! It hurt so much.

There is such finality when we pack away and dispose of the tangible physical reminders of our loved ones. Although we’ve known for months there is no turning back, there’s just something about the physical act of disposing of their possessions. If you haven’t gone through it, you can’t understand it.

There are moments, though, during the process, when you laugh. Moments in which you make new memories. Like finding my mom’s wedding dress and her satin robe she wore on her honeymoon, and finding my aunt’s prom gown as well as her wedding dress. Of course Ashley and I tried them on, and we took photos for our own book of memories, playing “dress up” like two little kids would have done.

Without my faith, and without my certain knowledge that my mom was now living eternally in heaven, I do not know how I would have been able to do this. Although we aren’t supposed to put our hearts in these worldly possessions, we’re human, and at these times, it’s the only tangible remembrances we have left. Yes, our eternal treasures are in heaven, but because we are still here on earth, we still treasure these earthly possessions our loved ones leave behind.

When we go back to the area to visit friends or just take a break, I ride by the house and wonder what it looks like inside now. But even though the new owners said we were welcome to come by any time, I would never do that. I want to remember it as it was. The memories have to be enough. The past has to stay in the past.

A friend of mine wrote about riding past her family home recently. “Family homes can become homes for new families to live in…things can be forever changed. But I can stand still in your front yard, close my eyes and feel it all. I can see the family holidays, the kids’ table, croquet, the crickets, lightning bugs, smiling faces. I can smell bacon frying, freshly mowed grass and cow manure. I can close my eyes and swear I’m only 13 and I’m here for my summer visits. But I’m not…I’m all grown, with kids and even grandkids of my own now. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone and change can be so bittersweet, it’s painful. But no matter what changes, my memories will not. I will keep them in my heart forever.”

Letting God Direct Your Feet

God has a way of getting us to do what He wants us to do. Or should I say directing us to do what He wants us to do.

Several years ago the Lord told me to do something. Something I didn’t want to do. I couldn’t even imagine doing it.

So what did I do? I ignored Him.

But He kept after me. He kept telling me I had to leave something behind I’d worked with for over seven years!

“Lord, are you sure? Have you forgotten what I’ve put into this?”

Of course He was sure. And He hadn’t forgotten my work.

He had other plans, and in order for those plans to be accomplished, certain things had to happen. And one of those things was me stepping away from this particular endeavor. Until I stepped away, He couldn’t do what needed to be done in another situation.

Being human, and wanting things my way, of course I fought it tooth and nail. I put off my decision, because I thought if I put it off long enough maybe He’d change His mind, and I wouldn’t have to do what He told me to do.

But God doesn’t do that. Would God ask us to do something if he didn’t have a reason?

He always has a reason. He knows better than us what we need to do! Even if we’ve been doing something for what seems like forever, when He tells us it’s time to move on, we need to listen.

Jeremiah-29-11-LONGGod knows the plans He has for us. Who are we to question?

So I set a deadline for doing what He asked. I actually set several deadlines for doing what He asked, because I still thought He’d say, “Hey, you don’t have to really do that. It’s ok. Forget it.” But He never said that. So reluctantly, after much heartache, I finally did what He’d been telling me to do.

And as soon as I’d sent the email leaving this thing behind, I thought to myself, “Why did I do that?? Can I call it back??!!”
email
But the next morning I felt at peace, relaxed. In fact, I felt something I hadn’t expected to feel. Anticipation. He obviously had something else for me. Something I couldn’t have until I was obedient. When God directs our feet away from where we are, or where we’re planning on going, our natural inclination is to say, “NO! I want to go my own way.” We don’t like change. We’re afraid of the unknown, because we don’t know what it’s going to be like. We have our comfort zone, and we like it!

Staying inside our comfort zone is certainly more comfortable than going outside of it. My comfort zone was fixed up just right. I had my favorite little spot to curl up in, with a good book, a bowl of dark chocolate candy in one hand (non-fattening of course), a bowl of Fisher’s caramel popcorn, hot and freshly popped in the other, and a big cold Diet Coke on the table! And my favorite kitty in my lap. That’s comfort. And it was good for a time. But staying in our comfort zone doesn’t allow us to grow. And that’s what God wants for us.

If we don’t grow, we can’t survive. We plant seeds and watch them grow into flowers, and we watch our children grow up. As much fun as they are as babies, would we really want them to stay babies forever? We want them to grow and mature, and that’s what God wants for us.

I didn’t realize I was so involved with the thing He had me leave behind; that it was taking so much of my time I didn’t have time for anything else. But the Lord knew it, and He had more for me.

And in order for me to experience the “more” God had for me, I had to make changes, and I had to listen to Him. And take my feet where He directed them….to follow in His footsteps, instead of trying to get Him to follow MY footsteps.
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Does He force us to walk where He wants us to walk? Certainly not. We have free will. We walk where we want to walk, but that doesn’t mean the Lord is always happy about where we’re walking. And when we go off the path, He’s going to do what He can to get us back on there. He doesn’t force us, but He certainly makes strong suggestions, and sometimes even puts people and circumstances in our way to help guide us back on His path.

It’s now been several years, and I don’t yet know what all of His reasons were when He told me to make that change. But ever since I obeyed Him, I’ve found new doors and windows opened that I’d only dreamed about previously. If I were still doing what I stepped away from, I could have missed out on a big part of God’s plan for me, and the next part of my life. And I could have blocked someone else’s future as well.

Now my comfort zone has expanded from that little spot, to a big warm sandy beach, under an umbrella, with a soft breeze and the sound of the waves running up on shore, while sea gulls fly around waiting to steal one of my Thrasher’s French fries. The caramel popcorn is still there, still hot and freshly popped! And my kitty is purring happily on a beach towel beside me.

All because I was finally obedient to God’s word. I followed His footsteps. And I’m so glad I did.
beach
Author’s Note: Unless you’re from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, near Ocean City, you won’t know the awesome delights of Fisher’s caramel popcorn and Thrashers French fries, but trust me, they are worth the discovery, and will probably end up in your comfort zone as well!

Snow Cream…A Special Treat

When I was a child/teenager growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, snow happened a bit more frequently than it usually does now (except for the past couple of years when they’ve gotten slammed!). Schools would be closed for up to a week because we got so much, the road crews couldn’t keep up with it all, especially on all the back roads in the area.

One year it snowed so much, my mother’s white car was literally impossible to see. She had parked it at the end of our long driveway, thinking she wouldn’t be able to get it out if we had a lot of snow. We did. And one of our neighbors had to dig the car out for her, but only after a couple of days when the roads were clear enough to drive on.

My friends who still live there still talk about how one of our friend’s fathers hooked all of our sleds up to his tractor one evening and pulled us around the field for at least an hour, had us warm up by a roaring bonfire (complete with roasting marshmallows on wire coat hangers!), and then his wife had us all inside for hot chocolate. I think most of us were sophomores in high school then, and of course, we were all invincible! I can’t remember how many of us there were, but it was a blast! Now…he’d probably be arrested for child endangerment…if our parents even let us go!

Yes, those were the days….we all had sleds, and would go to a hill in town and sled down for hours. We got chilled to the bone, our clothes got soaked…but who cared! We threw snowballs at each other, and at some of the adults unlucky enough to be in our way. And no one got mad at us. We were young and having fun.

So in honor of the snowstorm, it’s only fair that this weekend’s recipe is snow cream. Which of course, you can only make when you have clean fresh snow. So those of you in Florida or California, you’re probably out of luck on this one! I haven’t been able to find any substitutions for snow!

Basic Snow Creamsnow cream sprinkles
1 c milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Whisk ingredients together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. (Note: Be sure to pour the SNOW into the mixture; not the other way around!) Mix together; re-freeze, covered, if necessary, and serve. (You might also add colored sprinkles or colored sugar on top, or even mini chocolate chips)

NOW…that’s not all. While I was researching, I came across several variations of this basic recipe that sound extra yummy. So….how about these:

 

Chocolate Peppermint Snow Creamchocolate snow cream
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp peppermint extract

Mix together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Cover, and re-freeze an hour or so til it’s the right consistency.

 
Amaretto Caramel Snow Cream
snow cream1 c white chocolate chips
½ c thick caramel sauce
1/3 c milk
½ tsp salt

Mix together in microwave for 30 seconds; stir and repeat until smooth. LET COOL (or you’ll have caramel water!) I’d put it in the freezer and check it often til it’s chilled.

Add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. And the best part, ¼ c amaretto. Resist temptation to try immediately; cover and freeze to desired consistency.
 

Cake Batter Snow Cream
snow-ice-cream-0131/2 c sweetened condensed milk
¼ c yellow cake mix
3 tbsp cake flavored vodka (the recipes just keep getting better…)
2 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine above ingredients and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Take a taste if you must, then cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Now….after finding all of these goodies, I can only say one thing…

BRING ON THE SNOW AND LET’S MAKE SOME SNOW CREAM!

The Beauty in a Snowfall

There’s a forecast for snow in our area, and there could be a lot, depending on where you are. The grown-up me who still has to go to work in it or lose a day’s pay, says, “Oh please, no! It’ll add at least another hour or more to my already too long drive! Plus it’ll be dangerous! And the grocery stores will be nuts, and we haven’t done our regular shopping yet….”

But the little child I try to keep hidden inside of me is jumping up and down and saying, “Yes, Yes! Snow! No school! Snowball fights and sledding and snowmen! Hot chocolate and snow cream! Bring it on!”

And the writer in me suddenly wonders, when did the grown-up me lose the wonder and excitement that comes with a snowfall? Especially the first one of the winter. Yes, it makes my work life miserable, and possibly dangerous if I have to drive in it, but when did I stop seeing the beauty in another one of God’s gifts?

“He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth.’” (Job 37:6)

“He spreads the snow like wool…” Psalm 146:16.

When was the last time I actually stopped and thought about the beauty of it all? When snow blankets the world around us and makes everything look clean and fresh…a glistening cover of sparkling diamond-like beauty. Like a new canvas ready for paint, or a blank page ready to be filled with words to a story not yet written. It’s a new start…a new beginning.
backyardWhen was the last time you just stared out the window at the new fallen snow in amazement, and even wonder, at the beauty and the stillness…the quiet that only a fresh snowfall can convey? The world, for just a few minutes, at least outside your window, is changed. There’s total peace. No one has yet disturbed the blanket of sparkling whiteness, and for just a few minutes, you wish it could stay just like that.

And when was the last time you thought about how no two snowflakes are ever exactly the same? The Lord takes His time to make each one individual, each one different. If he takes His time to do that for the millions and billions of snowflakes that fall during each storm, shouldn’t we take the time to appreciate it?

Take the time to grab a cup of coffee, sit by the window, and watch P1060343the flakes softly fall, each one adding just a tiny bit more depth to that soft blanket covering all of the “junk” outside. Discarded flowerpots and yard tools disappear, and no longer remind us we still need to put them away. In my case, during the last snow I watched my backyard flamingos just barely keeping their pink heads above the rising thickness, and wished I had some little sweaters and scarves for them so they wouldn’t be cold (they’re plastic, for heaven’s sake!).

Obviously, snow is another of His gifts to us, possibly at a time we need a change, or a new start on something, or to get us to just slow down and one again appreciate the beauty in the world around us. He sends the snow to remind us it’s never too late to start a new canvas, or a new story. And because the snow makes traveling a bit difficult, He’s also reminding us to slow down, look around us, and see what we’ve been missing in our face-paced and stressful lives.

But this new canvas doesn’t stay blank for very long. The world intervenes, and tire tracks, snow plows, footprints, and shovels take over. Schools are closed, and snowmen of all sizes and shapes pop up in almost every yard. Parents and children find the nearest hill, even if it isn’t very big, and race down on sleds, boogie boards, and trash can lids. And a new story has been painted in that blank canvas.

What story are you going to paint, or write, if you get a snowy canvas to work with this weekend?

Jumbled Dreams

During one of those restless nights, which I’ve unfortunately had a lot of recently, I woke from a very weird dream. We’ve all had those from time to time. But this one was so strange I had to immediately write it all down, because I knew it had a meaning, and I knew after I’d written it down the meaning would become clear.

In my dream I had put a pan of cinnamon buns in to bake. Nothing unusual about that, but instead of an oven, I used a wooden chest of drawers my father had made for me one Christmas. I recognized it immediately in my dream, with its white and blue paint and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” decals on the sides. I guess it sort of could have looked like an oven, if I were still a kid playing make believe. But I was an adult, even in the dream.

I even set an imaginary dial for the temperature and a timer to set the cooking time. And even stranger, the chest/oven was in the middle of a bedroom! A very messy bedroom. There were clothes all over the floor that I’d never seen. Who they belonged to, I have no idea, nor did I know why any of this was where it was. At the time it seemed normal.

Suddenly I went downstairs (from somewhere upstairs in whatever house I was in) and started telling a bunch of people I don’t think I even knew, about the special treat I’d prepared for a meeting we were all getting ready to attend. Then I realized I wasn’t ready for the meeting, so I started looking for my briefcase which had my meeting notes and laptop, and it was gone! I searched everywhere for it. I even told some of the people I had to find it because all of my memories were on there, and I hadn’t backed them up yet. (“Memories” was the word I used…keep reading)

Still looking for my laptop, I went outside to look in my friend’s car (why I didn’t have my own car I have no idea, and I’m not sure I even knew this “friend”) and her car was gone. I ran inside and asked her about it, and she said she had no idea what had happened to it. She didn’t act concerned at all, and said my stuff wasn’t in there anyway. I was beside myself by that point, so I ran upstairs to check my oven, and that was gone, too. The only thing left was an indentation in the carpet where it had been.

By that time I was frantic. I kept saying over and over again, “I’ve lost my mind. What’s going on?” I ran back downstairs and tried to turn on the lights, and none of the light switches would work…I was in a panic, and didn’t know what to do. I was running in circles….

And then….I woke up, almost shaking. I had the strangest feeling, and I knew this dream meant something, but I didn’t know what.
As I wrote all of it down, the Lord spoke to me and said, “This is what it’s like as dementia and Alzheimer’s start to set in.”

We’ve all had strange dreams from time to time. But this particular one struck me, especially because of the familiarity of some of the components. Now I knew why.

Brain GamesIt also made me start thinking about what our family members may go though as memory loss sets in from the aging process.

Daily everyday tasks or just day-to-day living can become jumbled and difficult. Routine activities such as cooking can become complex, and sometimes even dangerous. One of my aunts slowly ventured into the world of dementia after her husband passed away. At the beginning of her adventures in this strange new world, her actions, although a bit bizarre at times, were harmless, and the caregivers hired to stay with her during the day were able to easily prevent her from situations in which she could harm herself.

Unfortunately this strange new world became the norm for my aunt, rather than the exception and some of her new activities combined previously normal activities with some rather interesting twists. Her caregivers had to remove the burner knobs on her stove before they left in the evening, because several times they had come to the house in the morning and found her “cooking” her good jewelry in a saucepan on the stove, stirring her rings and brooches with a wooden spoon, just like she used to do when making sauces. A few times they even found food that had been prepared and placed in a drawer to bake, similar to the dream I described above.
stirring
I wonder, was what I was experiencing in my dream what my aunt was experiencing in her mind? How awful that must have been for her. Or worse, did she even know at that point what reality was?

We all forget where we park our cars at times; even our 27 year old daughter does that! And we know that brief scary feeling when we think our car’s been stolen, until we find it in the next row of parked vehicles. Dreams of being unprepared for meetings or tests in school (even if we’ve been out for years) are also commonplace for many of us, especially under stressful conditions.

But the reality of losing control of our memory is totally different, because we cannot control it. And as frightening as it is to watch our loved ones going through this, think how frightening it is for them, as they begin to realize what’s going on, while they still can. We can escape our dreams of being out of control; they cannot. They’re forced to repeat different variations of the same dreams until they cannot reason reality from the captivity of dementia.

Whshutterstock_memorylossat can we do in this situation when a loved one is beginning this journey? Aside from making sure they are protected and cared for, all we can do is continue to love them, be patient with them (which is sometimes tough), and go along with some of the things they say, because they don’t know what they’re saying, and correcting them won’t help. It’s never something we’re prepared for, but unfortunately for many of us it’s something we have to go through. And eventually we’re forced to make decisions about their care that we’d never ever imagined we’d have to do.

Think about this the next time you have one of those crazy, mixed up dreams. I know I will. Because I’ve been through it with my aunt and my mother, and over the next several months, I will take you through some of the storms we went through, as detailed in my upcoming book, “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart”.

But be encouraged. There are better days ahead for all of us.

Mom Rachel’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there were always certain items on the big family dinner menus that just had to be included, no matter what the entrée. Sure, fried chicken almost always demanded this particular side, but so did Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas dinners, and lots of other meals in between.

Sweet potato biscuits obviously originated in the South. Thomas Jefferson served sweet potato biscuits at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, back in 1774. His recipe contained cinnamon, ginger, and chopped pecans. But there are lots of other variations on the standard recipe, including a brown sugar “crust” on the top (that sounds really good), as well as adding diced bacon and chives, cheddar cheese, orange zest, and an idea that sounds really good…miniature marshmallows (guess it’s a variation on sweet potato casserole).

sweet-potato-biscuits-2
Now, I’ve never tried any of these added ingredients, in fact, I’ve only attempted to make sweet potato biscuits once. You see, I don’t like sweet potatoes. I don’t like sweet potato casserole, or sweet potato pie. Or baked sweet potatoes which our daughter loves! And yes, I AM from the Eastern Shore where almost everyone seems to like them! (One of the popular local chain restaurants in my area when I was growing up was known for their sweet potato biscuits. They finally published their recipe because so many people begged for it. The restaurant has since closed, but the recipe lives on online!)

But I did like my mom’s sweet potato biscuits, and I have to admit, when I was doing the research for this blog, and found those ideas for extra added ingredients, well I just may have to try making them again. With my mother’s recipe of course. So here it is. Let me know what you think!

Mom Rachel’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

1/3 c + 1 tbl sugar (I’d probably add a little bit more than that)
1 c cooked mashed sweet potatoes (you can use canned; I would)
2 c Bisquick (Did you know Bisquick has been around since 1931? I didn’t.)
2 tbl shortening

Combine ingredients and knead together for one minute. Place dough on floured surface and either roll out or pat flat to about 3/4″ thickness. Cut out circles with either a biscuit cutter, or the standard in our household, a drinking glass with the rim dipped in flour. Place on greased baking sheet and cook at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool and serve with butter and/or honey.
10886_sweet_potato_biscuits_6202139

Note: If you’re going to add the miniature marshmallows, roll the dough a bit thinner, put marshmallows on top of one, put another biscuit on top of it, and crimp the edges together. I actually may try this.
And if you don’t like this recipe, there are tons of them on line, and I think I just might try a few!

Ready For Paint

A few nights ago, I had a dream.

I was walking through a house, and each room was empty. Very empty. There wasn’t even carpeting on the floor; just a few windows with no window coverings. For a brief moment I thought it was my mother’s old house, except the layout wasn’t the same. And it didn’t feel like her house.
Spackled walls

But the walls…the walls REALLY needed painting. They seemed to be speckled, with big white splotchy dots everywhere. I couldn’t figure out who in the world would have painted walls like that. They looked so…unfinished. So messy. Even worse than this picture shows.

But the Lord spoke to me, and then it made perfect sense!

He said, “These rooms are ready to be painted. I have filled in the holes and cracks. I’ve patched them all, and now the room is ready for fresh paint; for a whole new look. This is your own blank canvas to paint however you wish, in any colors you wish. Use your imagination, for I have prepared it just for you. Each room is a project, and as you paint, all the holes, the disappointments and rejections from the past, are wiped away. It’s a new beginning. Use your imagination and the talent I have given you and you’ll be amazed at what you can do!”

“Behold, I make all things new….” (Revelation 21:5)

Yes, there are several things I need to have made new in my life. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the Lord is going to do as I begin painting over those patched walls with fresh color, and fresh ideas. I’m going out now to buy the paint and brushes! Because I have some great ideas, and I can’t wait to get started!
paint-brush-and-cans-17

What do you need made new in your life? What walls do you need repaired or patched? All you have to do is ask Him, and He’ll help you fix them even better than new. And then go pick out your paint, because when you come back from the store, your walls are going to be ready for their new look! You may think you don’t know how to paint, but bear in mind, the patching and priming are the hardest. And the Lord has already done that for you! So as you paint, just remember, He’s looking over your shoulder, watching you and smiling, as you accept your new beginning. And it’s going to be beautiful!

A Lesson of Faith

Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

She was diagnosed in 2013 with systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disease which involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowels), lungs, kidneys, heart, and other internal organs. It can also affect blood vessels, muscles, and joints. The tissues of the involved organs become hard and fibrous, causing them to function less efficiently. The term “systemic sclerosis” indicates that sclerosis (hardening) may occur in the internal systems of the body. This is not a pretty disease.

As the skin starts to harden it makes movement very difficult. A couple of times during the course of this disease she has been threatened with amputation of toes or even feet because of low circulation, which can cause deep ulcer-like sores, which would turn gangrenous and cause tissue death. But God has intervened. Her rheumatologist has put her on medication which is usually given to heart patients that “blows open” the blood vessels as much as possible, giving her extremities all the blood and oxygen her body can offer.

She still has both feet and all of her toes; both hands and all of her fingers.

One of her favorite hobbies is crocheting. She may have trouble some days holding the crochet hook, but that doesn’t stop her from picking up that hook and making something beautiful for her grandchildren, including the newest one that’s on the way.

She loves to cook. But right now her husband has to do the cooking because she can’t hold the pans or the utensils. She can’t bake because she can’t put the pans in the oven or take them out without dropping them. But one day again, she believes she will.

But this piece is not about her disease. It’s not about how long tumblr_m8xzyugI7N1rce0e2o1_r1_500she will live with this, because the Lord is the only one who knows that answer. It’s about faith. And I can honestly say I wish I had the amount of faith this woman and her husband have. During the entire course of this disease, neither one of them have lost their faith in what the Lord can do.

I’m sure they’ve both asked God, “Why me?” Or, “Why her?” I don’t know whether they’ve gotten any answers or not; if they have they haven’t shared them with us. Which is fine. That’s a very personal answer, and I don’t know whether I would share it or not either. They’ve prayed for a miracle. Their whole family continues to do so, and so do many others.

About six months ago she started having trouble eating. Her food was not digesting, in fact it seemed her stomach was shrinking so that she couldn’t eat very much at each meal. She started having to eat six or seven very small meals each day in order to get nourishment. It became increasingly harder for her to eat, and she wasn’t getting the proper nutrition she needed to fight this disease.

She consulted her doctors and discovered after a number of tests that all of her internal organs had rearranged themselves. Her stomach and intestines had migrated to her left upper body. Her esophagus had shortened. Her left lung had not been inflating properly because of the overcrowding, and as a result she was not able to do much of anything because of lack of oxygen. Her lower body cavity was basically empty. She was unable to eat normally, surviving on several very small meals each day. This condition is known as diaphragmatic hernia; more about this condition can be found on line. An emergency repair was needed to head off gangrene, necrosis, strangulation, the risk of stomach contents becoming toxic, and other major digestive issues.

They consulted a team of doctors who had actually successfully done this type of surgery before, and several times. However, with her systemic scleroderma, her odds of even surviving the surgery were only 20%. And the odds of recovering from it were about the same. No other scleroderma patient has been known to have this particular surgery before.

During the course of testing to see if she was a candidate for this surgery (because of the scleroderma) the doctors discovered that her blood vessels and major organs are now showing better function than they had even ten months earlier. It appeared that the disease may be in remission! Why? There’s no known medical reason, but we all know the reason. Prayer works!

As Calms the stormshe quoted when she wrote announced this, “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Psalm 107:29

But back to the surgery, and the decision that had to be made. What would you have done? She and her husband prayed about it and with no hesitation called the doctors and scheduled the 10-12 hour procedure for the week before Christmas. As they both said, it’s in God’s hands, and He will keep His promises.

That’s faith. True faith. True trusting in the Lord, no matter what man says.

Shortly before the surgery, she wrote on her Facebook, “If it is my time to go, my family will need your support and prayers. It is well with my soul, so I will be dancing with the angels and worshiping my Father. I will have no more pain. My spirit is eternal so I will BE…. He is my God. Either way. No matter what, I will worship Him.”

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The operation was long, but not the ten hours originally quoted. A little over eight hours, actually, which is still a long time to be under general anesthesia. Her husband was anxious of course, but he remained calm and relaxed as we sat in the surgical waiting room. Friends, family, and pastors came and went, keeping her husband company the whole time. We prayed; we laughed; we talked; we read magazines; we even discussed football and politics; and waited for news. Nurses came in off and on to give updates that all was going well. And we rejoiced.

Shortly before 11:00 that night we got the news. She was out of surgery and in ICU. The next day she was moved to a step down unit where she started using her new elongated esophagus to swallow ice chips, and over the next few days, other clear liquids and jello.

Three days before Christmas, just six days after the surgery that had offered only a 20% chance of survival, let alone recovery, her husband drove her back to their home to spend Christmas with their family. Her Christmas dinner was most likely to her, one of the best she’d ever had, even though it was only juice.

On New Year’s Eve she downed an entire package of instant cheese grits. While it may not sound wonderful to you or me, to her, it was an enormous step towards recovery.

Today she continues her miraculous recovery, and she and her family and friends thank the Lord every day for what He has done, and for what He continues to do.

This is faith. And it is the miracle of the Lord’s blessings upon this woman and her family.

After reading this, where is your faith? I only have to think of her when I am downcast, and be reminded of His faithfulness.
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And My Cornbread is Blue…Blue??

Now, last week it was chocolate in chili, and this week we’re talking blue cornbread? Really?

Well, yes. And it’s actually quite good. It’s another of those recipes that weren’t handed down from Grandmom to me, but it’s still special. And really quite delicious. And just a bit different.

It’s not your everyday typical cornbread recipe. Which is why I like it, because if I’m forced to cook, I don’t like to make ordinary items. I want them to be memorable enough for someone to ask for the recipe. Whether they really want it or not. Maybe they’re just being polite, but that’s fine. As long as they don’t tell me that’s the only reason they asked!

The first time I made it, Ben thought I was nuts. Well, that wasn’t the first time he’d said that, but I just ignored the comment, as usual. Then he tried a slice, and decided maybe I wasn’t quite as crazy as he thought, because he actually liked it! Ah ha! Another kitchen victory! (One of not very many, but that’s the way it goes!)

So if you’re adventurous, or really want to try something new and different, give this one a try.
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Note: This recipe calls for buttermilk, and if you’re like me, you don’t want to buy a whole carton of buttermilk just to use a cup, so you can substitute 1 c. milk plus 1 tbl. vinegar mixed together. Let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the mixture.

Blue Cornbread with Pineapple (yes, pineapple!)

4 chopped dried pineapple rings (in the produce section of the grocery store)
1 c. dried blueberries (yes, dried, not fresh or frozen)
½ cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup blue cornmeal
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Stir above ingredients together. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or substitution above), 2 eggs, and 4 tbl. melted butter, stirring just til combined. Pour into an 8-9” square buttered baking dish lined with parchment paper. (I think the butter makes the parchment paper come out easier.)

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares, and serve warm with butter. You can also heat it up in the microwave later and it will still be good!

Let me know what you think!

Walking Across the Rainbow Bridge

All of us pet owners have heard of the Rainbow Bridge. There’s nothing scriptural about it, but for those of us who love our pets, and grieve over them when they leave us, we know about the Rainbow Bridge.

Legend has it that the Rainbow Bridge is very close to heaven, maybe even a part of heaven. When a beloved pet passes away, that pet crosses over the Rainbow Bridge, where it meets and plays with all of its friends in rolling fields and meadows and beaches, chasing balls and Frisbees, waves and butterflies (maybe even a few mice, in the case of cats), and enjoying the warm sunshine on their fur. These pets are also totally restored to health, just as we receive new healthy and glorious bodies when we enter into heaven.

It is said that one day, each of those pets will suddenly see their former owners. There is a joyful reunion, and these pets and their owners are finally reunited for all of eternity.

Over the years, my mother had three dogs she absolutely adored. Two of tAngel Doghem had passed away before her, and my husband and I took her Pekingese home to live with us after Mom died. Knowing the love my mother had for these special animals, and the joy and companionship they brought into her life, I totally believe her first two dogs were waiting for her in her mansion when she arrived at her heavenly home. I also believe when her Pekingese died almost 9 years later, that sweet little dog ran across the Rainbow Bridge and bounced up the steps to Mom’s heavenly mansion, barked to be let in, and they had a glorious reunion! I’m sure all three dogs quickly began playing together as my mom smiled in approval.

The Lord loves us. You can open any page in your Bible and find a verse which tells you that. And He knows how much we love our pets. In the book of Genesis God gave man dominion over the earth and all of the animals on it, as well as all of the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. If He gave us dominion over them, He entrusted us with their care. And He commanded Noah to take two of each species of animal with him on the ark so the earth could be totally replenished after the flood.

Scripture clearly gives us instruction about taking care of our animals. Although animals are not mentioned specifically as pets, it is obvious we are to care for them and watch over them. Ecclesiastes 3:21 tells us: “All (referring to animals and man) have the same breath (literally “spirit”); humans have no advantage over animals.”

Let’s also not forget animals are mentioned as being in heaven. Isaiah tells us “the lion will lie down with the lamb.” And Revelation refers to the Lord and the armies of heaven coming forth riding on horses.

I truly believe the Lord knew how much we would come to care for those certain animals He entrusted as our companions. Of course He knew. He created them as well as He created us. Because He knows the depth of our feelings for our special pets, why would He not have them waiting for us in heaven?

“…with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) I am believing and trusting that my favorite pets will be waiting for me, too, inside my heavenly mansion. With a heavenly “welcome home” party. And what a reunion we will all have!

What pets have you had that you are looking forward to being reunited with one day? Share your comments with us.

When the Confetti is Gone

Times Square was filled with people. Thousands of them cheering and screaming and waiting for the ball to drop. There were party hats and noisemakers. Streamers and confetti. Entertainers and TV cameras. Each and every one couldn’t wait til that magic moment.

You could almost feel the anticipation as we watched the activity on TV in the comfort of our home, like millions of others across the country and the world.

Like us, they were waiting. Across the globe other time zones had already passed into the new year, and the cameras would occasionally switch to show the other celebrations that were already over….almost as quickly as they began.

In the scope of mere seconds, another year had ended, and another had begun. We were all excited, as we celebrated a new beginning, watched fireworks and tossed confetti, called and texted friends and wished them “Happy New Year!”, and then….what next?

Within a half hour Times Square was almost empty, except for those whose job it was to clean up after the party was over. The celebrants had left, moving on to other parties to find another reason to celebrate, or going back to hotel rooms or homes, as the feeling of euphoria and excitement they’d just experienced slowly left them, and the same old feelings they’d tried to leave behind returned. The confetti and streamers that had been tossed in the air a short time ago, were already being swept away and discarded…forgotten. They were no longer needed or wanted. Because there was no more anticipation or excitement; nothing to look forward to. Really? Are you sure about that?
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Life often hits us like that. We spend so much time preparing for and anticipating an important event…and when it’s over, we’re let down. Almost depressed. We dissect what took place, look at the pictures, share memories with friends, but we can’t quite seem to capture that exact feeling again. We keep looking for that same excitement to reoccur, and we’re disappointed when it seems to be back to business as usual.

Or is it back to business as usual because we allow it to be?

We forget how to look ahead with expectancy and excitement, unless it’s for some big special event coming up. We forget there are little things to be excited about, as well as the excitement and anticipation of things to come that we don’t even know about. There are things we’ve been hoping for, and praying for, but we’re almost to the point of giving up on them. Because we’ve been waiting so long, and we just don’t think it’s going to ever happen.

But guess what! It is! Isaiah 43:19 tells us, “Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it?” (NCV) We only need to look with our spiritual eyes and heart. We need to see it as already accomplished and begin thanking the Lord that it’s already done. Because He has promised us, and we know that those promises are always fulfilled!

I’m guilty of feeling that way, too. More often than I’d like to be. But this year I’m making a serious effort to change that! I am determined not to go back to that old way of thinking, and I’m going to start seeing all of those things as already done. There’s so much to look forward to in this coming year. The birth of our first granddaughter in May is the only one I really know about, but I know there are many more exciting blessings coming our way! I just don’t know when they will occur, or exactly what they will be, but I know they are coming.

So I’m getting out the confetti and the streamers (and maybe a few balloons), and I’m getting ready!


How about your joining me in the celebration?