Saturday, January 7, 2012

just keep praying

"The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying... The prayer of the feeblest saint on earth who keeps right with God paralyzes the darkness--that's why he tries to keep our minds fussy in active work until we cannot think in prayer."
~Oswald Chambers, as quoted in A Busy Woman's Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller

Thursday, January 5, 2012

word(s) - 2012

As much as I love new beginnings, I have to admit I've been a bit slow at setting my goals and intentions for 2012. Last year was my first year to put my goals in writing and my first time to choose one word that summed up where I felt God was leading me. To be completely honest, my vision of 2011 being a time of travel, dedication, and action was nowhere near how the year shaped up.

In a way it is disappointing, to set up a plan only to have it go awry a few months into the year. But in other ways, it is interesting to examine where God led me to other paths. And get-real-confession time: it's painful yet eye-opening to reflect upon how my lack of discipline and faithfulness in some areas led me to dead ends and extreme frustration.

Yet, here it is a new year and here I am again, choosing words (yes, more than one this year!), setting goals, and saying prayers for God to do what He will with these feeble plans of mine. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. ~Proverbs 16:9

Words :

Develop consistent Bible study habits
Dig into prayer through reading and practice
Find and get involved in a church family (prayerfully, in cooperation with my husband)

I'm still working on goals in other areas, such as housekeeping, homeschooling, travel, and personal growth (including blogging), but these spiritual goals are really the most important to me and ones I know God is pushing me toward. They are also foundational goals that I know will be key in helping me achieve success in those other areas of my life. In the coming days, I hope to share more of my specific plans on how I can work toward each of these goals.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hearty Minestrone

I'm one of those nerds who reads almost anything for fun--cookbooks included. An oldie but goodie is one I borrowed (permanently--oops!) from my mom. I can never recall its title or who published it without looking, so it is perpetually known as the "Purple Cookbook". As in, my mom will call me to ask "Do you still have my Purple Cookbook that you took 11 years ago?" (once again--oops!)

The Purple Cookbook is a compilation, similar to one you might find being sold as a church or community fundraiser. While the recipes aren't gourmet, what sets Purple apart is the variety. You won't find 50 versions of ye olde Jell-o salad/cream-of-something casserole/Velveeta cheese dips; instead there are recipes like the inspiration for tonight's dinner: Hearty Minestrone.

As a newlywed, I made this soup exactly as written in the Purple Cookbook. As I became a more experienced cook, I tweaked the recipe to our tastes and penciled my adjustments in the book. It has evolved into what is entirely my own creation, the version below. This minestrone is fabulous served with cornbread or grilled cheese sandwiches, and it tastes great (maybe better?) after a couple of days in the fridge so make ahead or save some for later.

Hearty Minestrone
from Pure & Simple Beta Sigma Phi
(otherwise lovingly known as "Purple Cookbook)
1 T Olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz. chicken broth
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (with or without basil--Muir Glen is by far my favorite brand)
1 - 19 oz. can cannellini beans, including liquid
1 t. dried basil (can use fresh--just use more and add toward end of cooking time)
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. each dried thyme & Italian seasoning
8 oz. small shell pasta
1 1/2 c. frozen mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic; cook for about 1 minute (careful not to let garlic burn).
2.  Add the broth, tomatoes, seasonings, and beans. Bring to a fast simmer.
3.  Meanwhile, cook pasta to slightly firmer than al dente. Turn off the heat and add the frozen vegetables. Stir and let sit for a couple of minutes to help thaw the veggies.
4.  Drain water from pasta/veggies, then add them to simmering soup. Cook at medium-low heat to heat through. Check that pasta is tender and the vegetables are hot.
***Note: You can cut out steps 3 and 4 and just throw the uncooked pasta and frozen vegetables right in with the other ingredients. I don't like the starchy flavor and texture of the soup like that, so I go through the additional cooking/draining steps unless I'm extremely pressed for time.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan, if desired.

I'm back!

It's a new year! Even though turning the page on the calendar doesn't actually change much, I'm so thankful for the related feelings of new beginnings and freshness. I like to view this time of year as a reminder of the new life that we are offered through Christ. It brings to mind this passage, which I have burned on my brain (haha--in a pleasant way, of course) from years of singing it (much like this) at church camp:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." ~Lamentations 3:22-24